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It’s October, and the month that I spend in celebration of Hallowe’en is one of my favorite times of the year. Nearly five weeks of spooky stories, movies, games, all building up to a night spent in costume asking strangers and friends alike for candy? I’m 100% in.

This year, one of the best scary stories that I had the pleasure of reading was Cassandra Khaw’s new novella, Nothing But Blackened Teeth. I’m a big fan of horror novellas, as I love seeing how an author can build suspense over shorter texts, and Khaw absolutely shines here. They skillfully blend Japanese myths and history with a modern setting, leaving me wanting so much more.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth is the story of a group of friends, horror fans all, who have overcome their intertwining pasts to gather at an ancient Heian-era mansion so that two of them can get married. Why not have a destination wedding in a haunted house? After learning about one of the spirits that is said to occupy the grounds, the friends soon find that their planned night of drinking and telling ghost stories may have gone a step too far. An ohaguro-bettari, the ghost of a bride-to-be, has claimed one of them as a replacement for the man who died before he could become her husband a thousand years ago.

Khaw presents us with a group of protagonists who are clearly genre-savvy, but their own interpersonal connections have grown strained, and may prove to be their undoing. “This is the problem with horror movies: Everyone knows what’s coming next but actions have momentum, every decision an equal and justified reaction. Just because you know you should, doesn’t mean you can, stop.”

I loved Nothing But Blackened Teeth, and devoured the novella in a couple of hours. It’s available for you to buy today!

My sincere thanks to NetGalley for an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

So, you’re planning a trip to England.

You’ve watched Midsomer Murders from start to finish, and read every Agatha Christie. You know what to expect.

Or so you think… Maybe there’s one more thing you should read first. Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village is a short but brilliant tongue-in-cheek book, preparing you for your inevitable demise in, well, Tongue-in-Cheek, or whatever little town you’re preparing to visit on your holiday. Maureen Johnson presents a very quick read with Gorey-esque illustrations provided by Jay Cooper. The guide introduces you to the titular village and its denizens and their various quirks (beware the vicar) before moving on to the nearby manor and the residents therein.

I loved this book. It took me maybe 30 minutes to read from beginning to end, but I vastly enjoyed every minute of it, spending a large portion of the time stifling my laughter so as to not wake my sleeping family members. Johnson’s humor is spectacular, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s out in the world today. Go find it. Just… Maybe don’t go to the little bookshop in the quaint English village to pick up a copy.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley for an eARC of this book in exchange for a fair review.

Okay, y’all. This was one weird book, and I absolutely loved it.

When Rainbow wakes up, she doesn’t remember anything. She doesn’t know who she is, where she is, or how she got there. She finds herself in a video game-like world, with memories slowly being returned to her. In order to fully regain her memories and (maybe) return home, she has to complete a quest. Chad01, the warrior assigned to escort her, is tremendously upset about being paired up with a Nobody, a character without an assigned class. They reluctantly set out across a bizarre world full of nightmarish creatures and magic that no one seems to fully understand.

Rainbow manages to retrieve some more of her memories along the journey, leading her to remember her time with her brother CJ and her struggles with her own mental health and suicidal ideation. The quest to find herself may be more destructive to her than she initially would have expected.

Sean McGinty has crafted a unique story here, with some parallels being drawn to The Wizard of Oz as far as a quest within a questionable reality. It’s a difficult story to describe, and a difficult one to read, but it pays off pretty well. 4/5 stars. It’s out in the world as of *oops* yesterday, so go check it out.

My most sincere thanks to NetGalley and Clarion Books for an eARC of Rainbow in the Dark in exchange for a fair review.

Eleanor Zarrin has come home from boarding school at last, back to the family home in Winterport. She’s longed to be back among her family for years, but never had any word from them after being sent away. She remembers bits and pieces of her life before, though, and some of her nightmares may have more grounding in reality than she ever would’ve dared to believe.

Upon her return, she finds that most of the people of Winterport are utterly terrified of her family, and by extension, her. For good reason, too. You see, the Zarrins are monsters. Eleanor’s father, grandfather, sister, and cousin are werewolves, hunting around the grounds of the family estate. Her mother spends her days in a washtub to soak the polyps that live on one side of her body. Grandma Persephone funds the family through her crafting of love potions and poisons, and reads tarot. Aunt Margaret doesn’t speak, but takes care of the house. Then there’s Arthur, the family’s assistant, who doesn’t seem to have aged a day since Eleanor left.

When tragedy strikes shortly after Eleanor’s return, the family is left in disarray, and Eleanor takes it upon herself to reach out to her mother’s mother in France for assistance. Little does Eleanor suspect that her Grandmere holds a dark secret of her own, that might just put an end to everything that the family has worked for. And then, of course, Eleanor herself is still a Zarrin…

What Big Teeth is a fantastic gothic fantasy that will wrap you up in its shadows and refuse to let you go. A debut novel from Rose Szabo, it’s available today. Go get yourself a copy.

Thanks to Netgalley for the eARC in exchange for a fair review.

Seanan McGuire has done it again. The Wayward Children series has been consistently amazing, and Across the Green Grass Fields is no exception. One year ago tomorrow, I posted a review for Come Tumbling Down, and I can’t believe that much time has passed since the last time I had a new book in this series.

The Wayward Children books, as you may know by now, are a series of novellas about young children who wander from our world through a magical door into another world. Eventually, once their adventures have come to an end, they make their way back into our world. Many of them are unable to cope with this, and end up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a boarding school for those who have left and come back, and await the return of the magical door that will take them home once more. In this series, the odd-numbered books are set mostly at Eleanor’s school, and follow the adventures of the children waiting for their doors to come back. The even-numbered books tell the stories of children beyond our world. Across the Green Grass Fields is book #6, and serves as a solid standalone novella within the series, an excellent starting point for new readers, as our young protagonist, Regan, has not yet made her way to Eleanor’s school.

But it all starts at school.

Regan, you see, loves horses more than anything. Her best friend Laurel, however, does not tolerate the presence of anything that she deems “un-girly.” This means ostracizing another former friend for daring to bring a snake to school, and shunning anyone who dares to trample upon her ideals. Luckily, Laurel doesn’t seem to take umbrage with Regan’s love of horses. As the girls grow older Regan learns from her parents that she is intersex, and therefore won’t be undergoing puberty in the same way as the other members of Laurel’s group. Trying to make sense of it all, Regan tells Laurel what she was told by her parents. Laurel doesn’t understand, mistakenly believing that Regan was a boy, and was lying about being a girl. Regan, now scared of the one school friend she thought she could trust, flees the school and begins to head toward home.

She won’t be seen by another human for six years.

In her stumbling journey to her parents’ house, Regan encounters her door, the words “Be Sure” written above it. Upon entry, she finds herself in the Hooflands, home of unicorns, centaurs, kelpies, and more mythical hooved creatures. Adopted by a small herd of centaurs, Regan learns that it is a human’s destiny to come to the Hooflands at a time of great change. What that destiny may entail is a little fuzzy, but she will need to eventually be taken to see the Queen.

But Regan isn’t ready for destiny. Not yet. She needs to take her time, finding herself before she’s ready to change the world.

Y’all, I can’t accurately express how much I love this series. Across the Green Grass Fields is another strong entry, bringing fabulous new characters into the world via a magical door we hadn’t yet encountered. It’s out in stores today. Please go grab a copy and find out for yourself.

My utmost thanks to Netgalley and Tor.com books for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Esther’s best friend is dead.

She’ll blame herself, no matter what. See, Esther’s best friend, a young woman named Beatriz, was engaged to be married. She didn’t love her fiance, Silas, though. She loved Esther. That was something that the world would not allow. Esther loved Beatriz too, of that, there was no question. When Beatriz was caught with unapproved materials, she refused to deny who she was, and so she hanged. Rather than be forced to marry Silas herself, Esther fled from her home and stowed away with the librarians.

Soon, her presence among the supplies is uncovered, and she tells her story to Bet, Leda, and Cye.

Much to Esther’s shock, the librarians are not what she expected them to be. Bet and Leda are a couple, a relationship that the government would definitively not approve. Additionally, Cye is non-binary, only presenting as female while in towns, to avoid trouble. Cye takes Esther under their wing, an apprentice to the apprentice. Esther soon learns that the librarians are more than she ever would’ve guessed. 

Ostensibly, their mission is to distribute Approved Materials across the West, but the Librarians carry much more than that. Bet, Leda, and Cye have a mission to transport three women safely to Utah, home of a large group of Insurrectionists who are revolting against the oppressive state rule. Now, it’s Esther’s mission too, and it’s not going to be an easy ride. 

Sarah Gailey’s writing is always a damn fun time, and their latest novella, Upright Women Wanted, is no exception. This novella is full of classic western action: horseback chases, gun fights, and more. It’s a fast-paced read, and left me wanting to know so much more about Esther’s world.

You’ve met Addie LaRue. You’ve met her a thousand times, and you’ll meet her a thousand more, and you’ll never remember her.

You might hang on to a trace of her. Some faint, lingering tune she hummed in the hours you spent together will come back to you, and you’ll have no idea where it started. You’ll paint a picture of a girl with seven freckles on her face, a constellation that you know you never saw in the night sky, but a pattern that tiptoes around your brain for the rest of your life.

You know Addie LaRue, though you never heard her name. She goes by so many, she can’t even keep track of which one she told you. It doesn’t matter. You’ll turn away from her for a split second, and when you see her again, it’ll be as if she never existed to you before. Out of sight, out of mind.

Addie LaRue can be seen, but not remembered, even by film. Addie LaRue is a living ghost. Addie LaRue… is cursed.

When she was young, Addie LaRue was engaged, but she was not in love. Fleeing from an arranged marriage, Addie pleaded to whatever gods might have heard her. In her desperation, she made a mistake. “Never pray to the gods that answer after dark,” she had been warned. But night had fallen, and her prayer was heard, and a bargain was struck.

Now, three centuries have passed. Addie has traveled the world, learning to survive on her own. Three centuries with no one able to say her name, save for the dark being who came to her on that darker night, and who returns on occasion to see if she is tired of being forgotten. Three centuries to live as little more than a fleeting shadow.

From the fields and cities of France, Addie eventually made her way to New York, a bustling place just perfect for her to blend into. She grew comfortable there, pushing at the delicate edges of her curse to leave seed ideas in the minds of artists. “She has scattered herself like breadcrumbs, dusted across a hundred works of art.” Still, the real Addie was just as easily and quickly forgotten.

Until she wasn’t.

One day, Addie met Henry, a young bookseller. Against all odds, and in defiance of everything Addie had come to learn in 300 years, Henry remembered her. Somehow, he remembered her, and her carefully built world twisted beneath her. Soon, she is falling for Henry, and wondering if this might be what love feels like.

But Addie isn’t the only person in the world to have made a desperate plea, and she’s not the only one to have had it answered in an unexpected way. Now, everything is poised to change forever, and Addie must decide how much she is willing to risk in order to save man who remembers.

Victoria Schwab has crafted another fantastic world, equally as wondrous as the myriad Londons explored by her other heroines. This book has had my heart for months, and now it can have yours as well.

Today, Addie belongs to the world. Go find her. May you never forget her. I know I won’t.

My most sincere thanks to NetGalley for an eARC of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue in exchange for an honest review.

Warning: This review may contain spoilers for Gideon the Ninth, the first book in the Locked Tomb trilogy.

Seriously.

It’s really hard to talk about Harrow the Ninth without major plot reveals from Gideon, though I will do my best. If you haven’t read it yet, well…

First things first. Gideon the Ninth was probably the best book that I read in 2019. Like, hands down. I went all out to try to track down a first printing.

2nd.

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Y’all.

Like.

Y’all.

Harrow’s back, but she’s not altogether all together.

She passed the Emperor’s test back at Canaan House. She survived the trials, and solved the mysteries of Lyctorhood. She succeeded, as only the genius Reverend Daughter of the Ninth House could do. She gained supreme necromantic power.

And she lost her mind.

Unless she didn’t.

Now she finds herself on board the Emperor’s space station, preparing for a war the likes of which she never could’ve imagined. God himself is there, the Necrolord Supreme, with the rest of his remaining Lyctors, helping to train Harrow in the use of her newfound abilities. But something, or someone, is stalking Harrow through the halls, bypassing every layer of protection she can come up with. Her talents with skeletal constructs alone will not be enough, and if she can’t fully tap into her Lyctor powers, she will die. Not even God can help her if she can’t acknowledge the reality she faces.

But…

Now she finds herself at Canaan House, arriving for the first time to begin her training to become a Lyctor. The heirs to the other seven houses are there as well, and Teacher bids them welcome as they begin studying the ancient arts of necromancy that will help them to unlock their greatest power. Familiar and wrong as the same time, most seems well until something, or someone, begins to track them, killing them off one by one. Harrow’s cavalier stands as bravely as he can beside her while… wait…

He?

Where’s Gideon?

Tamsyn Muir skillfully ties her timelines together, blending Harrow’s present-day trauma to that of her past, leaving readers to spend much of the novel pondering the necromancer’s reliability as a narrator. Muir provides a much wider view of the world of the nine houses and the magic blending life and death that powers so much of it. New characters and old try their best to help Harrow navigate a vast universe in which she may well be her own worst enemy. Harrow the Ninth is just as difficult to put down as its predecessor, and it left me yearning for the release of Alecto the Ninth, currently scheduled for 2021.

“Are you sure this is how this happened?”

 

“One for the Emperor, first of us all;
One for his Lyctors, who answered the call;
One for his Saints, who were chosen of old;
One for his Hands, and the swords that they
hold.
Two is for discipline, heedless of trial;
Three for the gleam of a jewel or a smile;
Four for fidelity, facing ahead;
Five for tradition and debts to the dead;
Six for the truth over solace in lies;
Seven for beauty that blossoms and dies;
Eight for salvation no matter the cost;
Nine for the Tomb, and for all that was lost.”

Harrow the Ninth is available for purchase tomorrow, August 4th. Gideon the Ninth is available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and digital.

My utmost thanks to NetGalley for providing an eARC of this book in exchange for a fair review. It made 2020 bearable.

Stephen Graham Jones wrote one of the creepiest novellas I’ve ever read, Mapping the Interior. Naturally, I leapt at the opportunity to grab an eARC of his new novel, The Only Good Indians. I’m glad I did, too.

Ten years ago, four young Blackfeet men went on their last hunt together. One last chance to get an elk before winter. Ricky, Lewis, Gabe, and Cass. It was supposed to be their shot to prove that they weren’t the screw-ups that so many folks on the reservation thought they were. One opportunity to prove that they were good Indians. Only it all went wrong, didn’t it? They weren’t supposed to be hunting in that part of the reservation. They would pay the price.

Ricky died the next year. “INDIAN MAN KILLED IN DISPUTE OUTSIDE BAR,” the headline had read. But he’d run from home. Left the reservation after his little brother overdosed, looking for work. He never made it to Minneapolis like he’d planned. But what if the headline didn’t get it quite right? What if there was more to it than a handful of roughnecks getting drunk and angry in a parking lot? More than a lone elk wandering into the lot, trashing the men’s pickups, leaving them to believe that Ricky had been causing the damage?

Now the tenth anniversary of their hunt is coming up, and Lewis is trying to find the courage to tell his wife the truth of what the four men did that day in the snow. The truth about the elk they killed, and the fate that they sealed for themselves with each rifle round. Lewis left the reservation too, though he never went as far as Ricky tried. But lately, Lewis hasn’t been feeling quite right. He’s been seeing things, impossible things. A cow elk dead in his and Peta’s living room. Dead? Or was her eye following him as he climbed the ladder? And it couldn’t be the same cow. Lewis killed her that day. Distributed her meat to the reservation elders. Still has her skin balled up in his freezer. Was it an elk that he saw? Or was it a woman with an elk’s head?

Meanwhile, Gabe and Cass are still at home on the rez, preparing a sweat lodge for a friend’s kid who needs to get put back on a proper path. A classmate of Gabe’s daughter, Denorah. The sweat will be a chance for Gabe and Cass to embrace their heritage, and pay respect to Ricky’s memory. Teach the kid, Nathan, a little too. Maybe a little bit of atonement for their elk hunt, now a decade back. At the very least, the kid’s dad will throw Gabe some extra cash that he can use to buy something for Denorah. But then, Lewis is in the headlines too…

Something survived that day, ten years ago. Something vengeful. Something patient. Something with horns.

Elk, the Blackfeet elders say, have a long memory.

The Only Good Indians is a fabulous novel. Stephen Graham Jones did not disappoint with this heartbreaking work. Part contemporary commentary on Native American lives, part slow-burning horror, it’s everything I could’ve wanted.

Happy publication day at long last, Mr. Jones.

My thanks to NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

 

When I found out that Gene Luen Yang was going to be writing a Superman story for younger readers, I was ecstatic. Imagine my joy to learn that the book was titled Superman Smashes the Klan. Yang is an exceptional cartoonist, and no stranger to writing stories for DC Comics. His New Super-Man series was one of my favorite things to come out of the Rebirth line, and American-Born Chinese was brilliant as well (Boxers and Saints are still in my to-read pile).

Superman Smashes the Klan is a phenomenal adaptation of an early Superman radio serial, in which a Chinese-American family, the Lees, moves from Metropolis’ Chinatown to the suburbs, pursuing a new, better life. Roberta and Tommy and their parents are adapting to the changes, and meeting new people. Daily Planet cub reporter Jimmy Olsen is quick to befriend the young Lees and introduce them to other kids their age.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the Lee family to draw the attention of the Klan of the Fiery Kross. The Klan does not take kindly to a Chinese-American family settling in any part of Metropolis, let alone outside of Chinatown, and make their hatred known by burning a cross on the Lee family’s lawn. The Daily Planet sends Lois Lane and Clark Kent to investigate, and soon, Superman is on the case as well. With help from Roberta and Tommy, Superman must face off with the Klan and show them that Metropolis and America have no place for their bigotry and violence.

Gene Luen Yang’s story seamlessly weaves the updated tale of the Lee family (this version gives names and characterization to all of them!) and a younger Superman, still coming into his own powers (no flight, no heat vision, and no super-breath yet, for starters) and finding his own place as an outsider. Clark flashes back to his early years in Smallville, learning the truth about his origins as an alien. Yang effortlessly manages the most difficult part of any Superman story, too, in making both Clark Kent and Superman relatable and fun to read. Roberta serves as the primary narrator for the Lee family, trying to fit in with a new group of friends in a new part of town. Ostracized by her old friends from Chinatown now that she’s living in the “better” part of of Metropolis but not fully welcomed in her suburban neighborhood, she struggles to establish herself. Her keen observation skills make her an essential ally in Lois and Clark’s investigation of the violence aimed at her family.

This is an incredibly timely book, and Yang nails the importance of narratives in which immigrants are welcomed, not hated. Superman Smashes the Klan is the type of Superman story that America needs in 2020. I’m grateful to NetGalley for providing the eARC copy in exchange for a fair review.

“This looks like a job for Superman.”