ARC Review: THE DARK TIDE (#1) by Alicia Jasinka (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Dark Fantasy
Year Release: August 2020
Source: NetGalley eARC
Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Barnes and Noble

Read my NetGalley eARC

Every year in Caldella, a boy is taken to be sacrificed by the witches to prevent the dark tide from rising and swallowing the city. When Lina realizes her brother, Finley, and her crush, Thomas, are potential targets, she offers herself up.

The language throughout has the whimsy and atmosphere like a classical fairy tale. The atmosphere is just perfect and the reverence towards legends makes the world feel lived in. Every scene uncovers a new, dark secret about the world of witches and serpents, with some wonderful gray morality throughout.

Throughout, the book focuses on sibling relationships and takes a very deep dive into selfishness, grief, and what heroics mean. The tensions are very individual, but it never lets off the focus on saving the city. I wish we had gotten to spend more time in Thomas’s head to get to know him better, but perhaps that will be further explored in the next tome.

A fabulous tale that’s queer and dark, perfect for fans of Alexandra Cristo’s To Kill a Kingdom.

 

Author to Author with Rory Power (#BurnOurBodiesDown)

AtoA_RoryPower

If feral girls who just want to know where they came from are your jam, definitely check out Burn Our Bodies Down, the latest release from Rory Power. Read on to learn more behind the inspiration for this book about a ferocious queer heroine digging into her past to learn more about the deadly family secrets hiding in a farmhouse just one town over.

Buy links: Bookshop |Unabridged Bookstore| Barnes and Noble

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June 2020 Reading Recap

June2020RR

June was my birthday! I wound up reading a whole bunch of ARCs, a few new favorites, and even interviewed K.A. Doore to celebrate the release of the Chronicles of Ghadid finale, The Unconquered City.

In addition the blog, you will now be able to find my reviews on The StoryGraph, in addition to Goodreads. My handle is JoReadsBooks

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ARC Review: MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: June 2020
Source: NetGalley eARC (wish granted)
Buy links: Bookshop |Unabridged Bookstore| Barnes and Noble

Read a NetGalley eARC

Haunted house stories are great because you’re lured in with the promise of a lavish home and maybe some romance with polite homeowners, and then things go down into a trash bin faster and more strangely than expected. When Noemí received a strange letter from her cousin Catalina, she goes to High Place in an old mining town Pachuca. Eerie visions and awkward encounters unfold, spiraling into eldritch horror.

The atmosphere in this book is simply perfect. The descriptions are lush, and the reader feels the same amount of dread as Noemí as she uncovers unexpected secrets and peels back the many layers wrapped around Catalina’s illness. There is a perfect sense of time too. The book takes place in 1950s in Mexico, and the little details about pop culture really help put together that sense of setting, even if the plot beats are familiar to those who enjoy gothic haunted house tales.

Noemí is also the perfect protagonist for this story. She is a socialite and never loses that lively air around her, even as things get progressively worse around her. She has a very strong sense of self-preservation and empathy for those she interacts with. When she fights, she fights and I loved that tenacity about her.

A perfect gothic haunted house story that doesn’t take place in Victorian England.

 

ARC Review: BURN OUR BODIES DOWN by Rory Power (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Horror
Year Release: July 2020
Source: NetGalley eARC
Buy links: Bookshop |Unabridged Bookstore| Barnes and Noble

Read a NetGalley eARC

Mothers don’t always tell their daughters anything, but Margot Nielsen just really wants to connect with the family she had never known. Some secrets lead to a rabbit hole and the truth puts Margot and her new friends in danger.

Much like her debut, Wilder Girls, Power has such a knack for writing feral, unlikable main female characters. Margot is determined to survive and not afraid to put up a fight. The stream of conscious writing is excellent because it allows room for these asides that show just how pissed off Margot is at, well, everyone around her. In addition, even though it has no real bearing on the plot, Margot is a queer girl who loves girls and it’s on the page.

The book is steeped in this creeping dread as the reader explores the notes and diaries left behind by Margot’s mom. Gram is also sweetly unsettling, and to say anything more would absolutely be spoilers territory. There’s definitely a sense of history in the farmhouse and the ruined cornfields, and the layers keep going and going.

A delightful Midwest horror in which family secrets are kept tucked away for good reason.

 

ARC Review: THE REDPOINT CRUX by Morgan Shamy (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Thriller
Year Release: June 2020
Source: NetGalley eARC
Buy links: Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Read a NetGalley eARC
Trigger warning: Suicide, mental illness episodes, murder, blood

Phantom of the Opera was one of my major fascinations when I was a child and it’s exciting to find a book that’s a beat-for-beat retelling with a bit of a different focus. In this tale, Megan Van Helsburg has been running from her theatrical past until her mountaineering career tanks and she finds herself back at a theater once terrorized by the Bridegroom Killer. The murders have started again and a mysterious stranger has taken a liking to her.

I really enjoyed how Shamy incorporated her expertise in ballet throughout the narrative. It felt very organic to the story. The new additions, like the mountaineering, also folded in very well, both from a character growth perspective and from a way that different types of physical activities build on each other. In addition, the book takes a Black Swan angle when it comes to the depiction of mental illness. It worked for me, but this might not be true for other readers. I appreciated the nuance of there being no cure and that sometimes “love” becomes mistakenly coupled with cruelty and this is challenged throughout.

The romance between Bellamy and Megan also worked, but what really struck out to me was how much there was a focus of friendship between Megan and Jane and Megan and Luke. In the original narrative, these side characters did not get much of a spotlight. Luke gets his own POV, and I really liked Jane’s arc.

A darkly romantic, twisted tale of legacy and the things people will do for the people they love, all taking place in a ballet theater.

ARC Review: A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN by Roseanne A. Brown (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year Release: June 2020
Source: Edelweiss eARC
Buy links: Bookshop | Unabridged Books | Barnes and Noble

Read an Edelweiss Arc

This book had me physically reacting to every plot beat. In A Song of Wraiths & Ruin, we follow Mailk and Karina. Malik brought his sisters to the city of Ziran with him, fleeing turmoil in their homeland, only to have his younger sister Nadia kidnapped by vengeful spirit Idir. Karina is the crown princess overseeing Solstasia, a once-every-50-years celebration of a comet’s return, but there might be more magic to it than that.

I loved both the main characters. They had such compelling storylines and particularly the representation of anxiety and migraines for Malik and Karina, respectively. The way magic tied into it and affected their character arcs at all stages really worked for me. In addition, Brown crafts a swoony enemies-to-lovers story between them, as they both want to sacrifice the other to save their families. The side characters also kick as, and, again, I audibly gasped at the reveals throughout the way.

The world-building in this one is a delight for anyone looking for dubious politics, betrayals, and intrigue. The framing of the Championship helped give the story a . As most people know, I am a fan of attempted necromancy and spirits that speak to the main characters.

An epic tale inspired by West African folklore with all of my favorite tropes wrapped into one fantastic package.

 

May 2020 Reading Recap

May2020RR

May featured the Nebulas and continued work on myself during this unemployed time.

No special posts this month, but definitely an interview with K.A. Doore coming your way in June.

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Review: BLOOD COUNTESS by Lana Popović (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library audiobook

Listened to the audiobook
Trigger warnings: torture, gore, vomiting, abuse

Blood Countess is a young adult historical horror which reimagines the crimes of Elizabeth Bathory through the eyes of a midwife apprentice who becomes her chambermaid.

This book is short, but what a wild ride of lust, murder, and redemption, all in that order. Anna’s voice is wonderful. She’s brave in her compassion and proves a formidable adversary to the cruel and cunning Elizabeth. Their chemistry hums on the page, and I do appreciate the effort Popović put in making a version of 1500s Hungary where the crime wasn’t that they were two girls in a relationship, as twisted as it was.

Gothic, gory, and full of tension, definitely a must-read for readers with a villain-romance-shaped hole in their hearts.

 

ARC Review: THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA by Maggie Tokuda-Hall (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult LGBT+ Fantasy
Year Release: May 2020
Source: NetGalley eARC

Read an ARC granted through NetGalley

A noble escaping an arranged marriage, a rogue pirate finding family, an opportunistic witch, and the Sea itself being a main character, this stand-alone fantasy has all the trappings of a sea-faring adventure.

I enjoyed the sweet romance and devotion between Flora/Florian and Evelyn. Though they had come from opposite sides of the class spectrum, they had good chemistry and a common tenacity which made them perfect for each other. Personally, I would have enjoyed a bit more of a slow burn, but the pacing fit the plot so well.  In addition, it was such a relief that Flora/Florian’s gender went beyond presentation and clothing. By the end of the book, her/his gender identity is not stated, and that’s okay. That implication of further exploration during the happily-ever-after provides a different perspective.

The magic system also felt unique, with telling stories and truths being the vehicle for spell-casting. Flora spends much time with Xenobia, the witch, in which stories are exchanged. Some are folklore, others are true. They all add to the richness of the world Tokuda-Hall built, which already felt quite lived in, between the Imperials and their colonies, the pirates and their factions.

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is a must-read for fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise who wants more commentary on colonialism and imperialism, magic, and a whole lot of queer norm.