American Rapture by CJ Leede

American Rapture

American Rapture, on the surface, is a horror novel about a lustful virus that spreads across the US. (If you're someone who can't handle sexual assault or rape depictions, I suggest skipping this one.) But this book is also about grappling with desires in a world where lust is deadly, finding yourself and your truth after being raised Catholic and sheltered, and coming to grips with the beauty and wretchedness of being human, all amid a national pandemic.

While apocalyptic stories aren't my usual go-to read (or watch), I found this book compelling and traumatizing... but in the most beautiful, heart-wrenching way. Leede's descriptions are visceral, poignant, and altogether immersive—exactly what you want from a horror narrative.

I recommend American Rapture to anyone looking for a coming-of-age horror with smatterings of religious trauma, unique pandemics, and a diverse cast of characters.

*Thank you to Tor Nightfire for the advanced reader copy.*

Knock Knock, Open Wide by Neil Sharpson

Knock Knock Open Wide

I'm not sure how to adequately review this novel. Sharpson writes with elegance and poignancy, but I felt I was missing a great deal of context. There are so many references to Irish folklore and culture that breathe life into the story, but I ultimately finished this read with a longing for more. And perhaps that's part of the point.

If you're a fan of horror steeped in folklore, this is sure to whet your appetite.

*Thank you to Tor Nightfire and Netgalley for the ARC.*

First Light by Liz Kerin

First Light

After reading Night's Edge last year, I wanted Mia's arc to reach a satisfying conclusion. She was left floundering after her mother's death, and I'll admit to feeling disappointed and let down by the second half of her story. While the duology ended on an okay note, there were many missed opportunities and pivots I didn't fully appreciate.

My biggest gripe was with Devon and how the author seemed to be hinting at a more nuanced relationship between him, Mia, and Izzy (Mia's mom). There were some almost heartfelt scenes between Devon and Mia, and I thoroughly enjoyed the mixed emotions Mia had after hearing his side of the story. She even unearthed the reality of his influence on ADAPT, the Sara (vampire) movement. But it all seemed gratuitous and a waste of time by the last forty pages.

I wanted to love this duology. I adore vampire stories, and the pandemic similarities were appreciated. The prose is also vibrant and compelling. It's a shame the character arcs and plot beats didn't do it for me.

*Thank you to Tor Nightfire and NetGalley for the ARC.*

Your Shadow Half Remains by Sunny Moraine

Your Shadow Half Remains

In a post-apocalyptic world where making eye contact with another human being means a violent death, Riley finds herself tempted by a new neighbor after years of isolation.

Your Shadow Half Remains is about loneliness and what happens to the human psyche after years of isolation. It's a story about simultaneously craving and fearing companionship and touch. It's unhinged and unsettling in a beautifully written package.

If you enjoy psychological horror, I recommend giving this one a read.

*Thank you to Tor Nightfire for the review copy.*

City Song by Oliver Blakemore

City Song

Reg Thursday, a struggling musician, stumbles into a world full of magic. His journey is down to earth but also amazing in that you get the privilege of watching a hidden world in the Denver metropolitan area reveal itself through well-crafted world building. The characters are deep and distinctive, and you'll find yourself rooting for the multi-faceted main cast. Blakemore's descriptions are plentiful and beautiful, the prose as inviting as it is unique.

I recommend City Song to anyone who enjoys urban fantasy with great attention to detail and magic systems that lean heavily on music and rhythm.

Brainwyrms by Alison Rumfitt


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 by S.L. Coney

Wild Spaces

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 by Christopher Paolini

Fractal Noise

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 by J.P. McDonald

Beyond Forsaken Worlds

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.

Grey Matters by Kristen Costello

Grey Matters

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.

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