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A House with Good Bones by T. Kingfisher

A House with Good Bones

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 by Liz Kerin

Night's Edge

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.*

Hive of Blood by Shantel Brunton

Hive of Blood

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.*

Boys in the Valley by Phillip Fracassi

Boys in the Valley

*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.

No Heart for a Thief by James Lloyd Dulin

No Heart for a Thief

No Heart for a Thief is a great fantasy debut. It's rife with imagery, character, and unique magic without leaning too heavily on one aspect. The novel is well rounded, inviting, and simultaneously heart-wrenching and hopeful.

I found Kaylo and Tayen's budding relationship sweet and light in a world full of discrimination, colonialism, and bloodshed. If you like two overlapping stories wrapped into a single novel, kind of like The Kingkiller Chronicles, I'd recommend giving this one a shot.

James Lloyd Dulin is an emerging author to keep an eye on, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.*

The Sharp Edge of Silence by Cameron Kelly Rosenblum

The Sharp Edge of Silence

I picked up The Sharp Edge of Silence because of the main plot—a rape at a private high school. As my debut novel, Lipstick Covered Magnet, tackled rape, acceptance, and healing, I knew this book would be for me.

The novel follows three narrators: Q(Quinn), Charlotte, and Max. They each hold a vital piece to the puzzle and offer varying perspectives on the culture (and secret organization) of Lycroft Phelps. As someone who has struggled with sexual harassment and assault, Q's journey and rage sat with me in a way only I believe a fellow victim can understand. Q's story was raw, painful, and honest about living with trauma, and I believe Rosenblum did a phenomenal job conveying the struggles of living through sexual assault and how—until you've healed—your body no longer feels like yours.

While Q's narrative was compelling and important, Charlotte's and Max's felt bloated. I enjoyed their commentary on jock culture and the secretive nature of Slycroft but ultimately felt their sections lagged and only offered something of real importance near the latter quarter of the novel. I also didn't need 20+ pages of Max rowing with the crew. After a while, I began glazing over those scenes.

Overall, I loved Q's plot—from depression to rage to eventual acceptance and healing. I just felt it would have been more poignant and rich without so much commentary from Charlotte and Max.

I recommend this novel to anyone interested in YA novels that tackle sexual assault, healing past traumas, or toxic sexual expectations.

*Thanks to NetGalley and Quill Tree Books for the ARC.*

Untethered Sky by Fonda Lee

Untethered Sky

*Thank you to Tordotcom and NetGalley for the ARC.*

Untethered Sky is a story about grief, vengeance, acceptance, and loss. Ester becomes a ruhker (a roc trainer) to avenge her mother and brother's deaths after a manticore attack. It is a tale simultaneously about love and loss and the bittersweet acceptance of a fleeting bond between woman and beast. I didn't believe a story about training and hunting with a large bird would win me over so completely, but I found myself falling in love with Ester and Zahra's story. I adored Lee's prose and can't find a fault in her compelling yet compact novella.

I recommend this to anyone looking for a book about slaying enemies and finding an unflinching love for nature along the way.

The Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw

The Salt Grows Heavy

The Salt Grows Heavy is rich with descriptions, gore, and ingenuity. As a story about a murderous mermaid attempting to tear down the cult of three grotesque surgeons, this novella delivers on body manipulation, viscera, and terror. While the prose is luscious, it is also overwrought with high-brow vocabulary that often took me out of the story. While I like the usage of uncommon words, there comes a point where it's a detriment to the story. I also found that, when it came to world-building, there was next to none.

While I believe this would do better in a longer format, I enjoyed the gruesome visuals and romantic undertones. I'd recommend this to anyone looking for a quick and bloody read.

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

Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

Under the Whispering Door

After receiving an ARC for TJ Klune's upcoming novel, In the Lives of Puppets, I wanted to give his first two books a go.

The feel-good, heartfelt novels aren't usually my cup of tea, but this one sounded cute and light—a reprieve from my usually intense, serious, or otherwise grandiose reads.

Under the Whispering Door is hopeful, cozy, and much like a good hug after a cry... but it's also repetitive, saccharine, and obvious. The main message is living life to its fullest because you never know when it'll end. Unfortunately, after Hugo and Wallace share their feelings, and you're left to believe that Wallace must pass through the door the following evening, the Manager (a tight-lipped rule follower) changes his mind because he's bored and resurrects Wallace to see how things play out. (There's a little more context, with the Husks, but that doesn't make this decision any more warranted.) So, the theme—savoring every moment you have—is undermined by the bullshit ending. I get it's a feel-good book, and it's targeted at those who have lost someone close to them, but the ending doesn't make sense when the whole book was leading up to a bittersweet conclusion.

All in all, this book was okay. I'm hoping TJ Klune's other works are more my speed.

Tell Me I'm Worthless by Alison Rumfitt

Tell Me I'm Worthless

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

Tell Me I'm Worthless, at its core, is a story about trauma, identity, bigotry, and fascism. The novel follows two women and centers around transgender rights and the politics and ideologies that inevitably come along with it.

While I can only attempt to understand the difficulties in being a trans woman, I found the internal conflicts Alice faced compelling and wrought with emotion. Her raw, and often ugly, truth and unflinching self-awareness gave me insight that I never would have known if it weren't for this book.

My only complaint is that I didn't find the novel scary, at least not in a traditional sense. There is a tone which this novel hits about politics and identity that I can grapple with and understand as a real threat, but the House and its terrors felt alien to me, even if they were strange and grotesque and dripping with body horror. I ultimately finished the novel unsure what truly happened within the House's dilapidated walls.

While it wasn't what I expected, I enjoyed the read and would absolutely pick up another of Rumfitt's books down the line.

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