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.*

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.