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.*


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.


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.*


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.


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.*


Unexpecting by Jen Bailey

Unexpecting

Unexpecting is a YA novel about unplanned pregnancy, expectations, parenthood, and found family. While it is compared to Juno and Heartstopper, it is much closer to the former. There's a budding romance, but you'll be disappointed if you're expecting something reminiscent of Charlie and Nick's relationship.

Ben, the sixteen-year-old gay narrator who gets his best girl pal pregnant after a science camp experiment, is immediately adamant about keeping the baby, despite Maxie's (the mother's) wishes to give it to a couple wishing to adopt. While his intense drive to make young parenthood work, everything seems to stack against him. He lets down his team at the robotics tournament, consistently breaks dishes at his bussing job, and cannot seem to find the time to study on top of enrolling in parenting courses and sitting in on adoption interviews. In many ways, the constant wave of shit makes it unbelievable.

While the prose was written well and Ben was easy to empathize with, some plot points were too over the top, and Ben's drive to be a teenage father didn't make sense halfway through, given how many opportunities and academic programs he would have to give up—things he had been planning for since elementary school. I was also hoping for more when it came to his relationship with Gio.

Despite some of the issues, I thought it was an interesting read. I haven't read many novels about teen pregnancy, and never have I come across one written from the perspective of the expecting father. I commend Bailey for taking on this subject and would readily pick up her future works.

*Thank you to St. Martin's Press, Wednesday Books, and NetGalley for the ARC.*

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