To be frank, I'm not sure how to go about reviewing this novel.
There was potential here, but I had an issue with the front-and-center fetishes and the problematic, vicious children's author who was obviously just an exaggerated and hateful JK Rowling. From a writing standpoint, it was lazy.
I thoroughly enjoyed the first quarter of the book, but I wanted more body horror and less gross-out sexual scenes in the latter three quarters. I was fine with the political commentary, though I wish it was more original and not just a regurgitation of current internet bullshit.
*Thank you to Tor Nightfire for the ARC.*
Wild Spaces tackles the monsters we inherit from our families and what it means to face the horrors of our lineage head on. This novella is succinct and achingly beautiful, and I recommend it to anyone seeking a horror-infused novella that will suck you in and wrap its tentacles around your heart.
*Thank you to Tordotcom and NetGalley for the ARC.*
Fractal Noise is the prequel to Paolini's To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, a book I've yet to read. That being said, I appreciated the world building and horror elements of this book. While it takes place in the same series as TSIASOS, it works as a standalone first contact novel.
Paolini does a phenomenal job setting the scene. I could visualize every step of the crew's journey, and the thuds really added a level of intensity the story would have otherwise lacked. Alex's narrative is simultaneously heart-wrenching and hopeful, and I believe many readers will relate to his grief and lack of self-preservation.
While the setting and main character were fully formed and intriguing, the pacing was tortuously slow. Many scenes dragged, and I believe the plot would have benefited from a shorter length. The ending also left much to be desired. I saw it coming, but it still disappointed.
Despite my gripes, Paolini's prose is evocative and I'm interested in reading his other work. I just wish this one had been more succinct and explored the unknown a bit more.
*Thank you to Tor for the ARC.*
Beyond Forsaken Worlds is a fresh intergalactic romp dappled with action, multi-faceted creatures, and desire.
Going in, I had no idea what I was signing up for... but that only elevated my enjoyment. McDonald's prose is beautiful, weaving vibrant descriptions with satisfying world building. The characters are unique, and I found something to love about each and every one of them.
Also, that cliffhanger! I'm so glad I don't have to wait for the answers like everyone else (the perks of being a beta reader).
My only criticism pertains to the intimate scenes and sexual tension throughout the novel. It isn't the main focus, but it might put off readers who aren't looking for sexy sci-fi. As a reader who generally strays away from books with a fair amount of sex, I found the scenes surprisingly interesting and in aid of the group's dynamic.
If you dig foul-mouthed heroines, conservationist plot lines, dystopian themes, or space travel, this one's for you.
I picked up Grey Matters on a whim when I saw it on NetGalley and it far exceeded my expectations.
Costello's pieces are full of emotion, unfiltered honesty, and hope. I've lived through every single one of the challenges—depression, anorexia, self-deprecation, and eventual acceptance and healing—and Costello writes from the perspective of someone who has obviously gone through them all.
While many of the poems are only a sentence or two long, they are all beautiful and compelling in their own concise way.
I recommend this to anyone who's ever struggled with self-esteem, burnout, depression, or anorexia.
Some Desperate Glory is a space opera set after Earth's destruction. Gaea Station, home to a radical group of warbreed humans, has pitted itself against the majo race, the ones who annihilated their homeland. Without spoiling anything, the novel is a whirlwind of moral turmoil, intergalactic politics, and the Wisdom's immense power over all of existence.
Valkyr, our ornery and entitled protagonist, is tough to love but easy to understand. While there were times I wanted to throttle her for being so short-sighted and petty, I often felt she desperately needed a hug. Mags and Avi were fun characters, and I believe their presence really rounded out Valkyr's dominating personality. However, Yiso (the majo prisoner), was my absolute favorite of them all.
It took me about 100 pages to really get into the story, but after that I was hooked. The novel is formatted into five parts, and by the false peak, I couldn't put it down. The science behind the tech is wonky, fascinating, and certainly absurdist if given much thought... but it's still done with finesse and ingenuity.
I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys space operas, crazy space tech, or complicated friendships.
*Thank you to tordotcom for the physical ARC.*
A House with Good Bones is a light contemporary gothic novel. Based on the blurb, I expected something more atmospheric and creepy. What I got instead was something far more bizarre.
As a narrator, Sam is fun, witty, and sarcastic. I loved her inner monologues and felt they added a lightness to the novel that it wouldn't have had otherwise. But I could have done without the entomology lessons.
I liked the build up of oddities. Without spoiling anything for potential readers, the first two acts are slow, delivering tension and unease by the teaspoonful. Then you're thrown into what reads like a fever dream and leaves you scratching your head, pondering how everything got so far off the rails. The last 50 pages were disappointing. It all felt too odd in the context of the story, and I found none of it scary because it was so outlandish.
While this book ultimately didn't land for me, there was a great deal I did enjoy.
*Thank you to Tor for the physical ARC.*
Night's Edge follows Mia, a 23-year-old woman who has been taking care of her Sara (vampire) mother for thirteen years. While the novel focuses on Mia's relationship with her mother and her budding romance with a rocker chick, at its center it is about toxic family and the potential freedom from such bonds.
I enjoyed Kerin's writing style and loved the 2010 sections. They were full of emotion, action, and intriguing exposition. Unfortunately, the Now chapters weren't as strong and the ending left much to be desired. It could have done with another thirty pages to tie up all the loose ends.
Overall, I liked the book and would read Kerin's future works, but it was difficult not to compare Night's Edge to Sunyi Dean's gorgeous debut, The Book Eaters.
Despite its flaws, I'd recommend Night's Edge to anyone looking for a contemporary vampire novel with a queer subplot.
*Thank you to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for the ARC.*
If you're looking for a unique dark fantasy read, look no further than Hive of Blood. Nathaniel, our protagonist, is kidnapped and tortured after he moves to the north to distance himself from the girl he loves. After a traitorous truth is revealed, Nathaniel turns to a desolate farm, hoping he'll find reprieve in the wilderness. Instead, he's taken and tormented for months—but all of it will stop if he agrees to join the ranks of his captors.
While the novel has a significant amount of torture (in varying degrees of detail), the story centers around Nathaniel's trauma and acceptance. Though there's also an aspect of found family, there's a great deal of soul searching and healing that goes along with it.
If you dig dark themes, body horror/torture, and light fantasy, I recommend giving Brunton's latest work a try.
*I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.*
*Thank you to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for the ARC.*
Boys in the Valley is a coming-of-age novel that falls between Lord of the Flies and The Exorcist. Set in an isolated valley, a Catholic boy's orphanage is attacked by a vengeful spirit after one of the priests exorcises it from a wounded occultist. What follows is a gruesome tale of demonic proportions. Boys, who had once seen each other as brothers, are pitted against each other in a battle of good versus evil.
Fracassi's prose is excellent, and the characters were intriguing. The changing POVs added layers to the story, though Peter was by far the most prominent voice. The scenes were visceral, gory, and full of emotion. I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for Fracassi's future works.
I'd recommend this to readers looking for an adult Lord of the Flies, stories about demonic possessions, or isolated horror.