Book Reviews, Bookworm Blogging

Near the Bone [review]

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Near the Bone by Christina Henry
Published by Berkley on April 13, 2021
my rating: 5 stars
Goodreads avg:
3.77 (as of 2022-03-11)
Spoiler-free review

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This book was scary as hell. I felt like I didn’t breathe for the three hours it took me to read it — in one sitting, since I literally could not bring myself to put it down. I found Mattie to be an incredibly compelling main character and loved rooting for her. I will say that at times William felt almost cartoonish in his evil and I wish he were a bit more three dimensional, but that’s really my only complaint. The tension in this was so thick, and I truly didn’t know what would befall any of the characters. I’m really excited to pick up more by Christina Henry and think this is going to end up being one of my top books of the year.


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Dead Silence [review]

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Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes
Published by Tor Nightfire on February 8, 2022
my rating: 4 stars
Goodreads avg:
4.12 (as of 2022-02-16)
Spoiler-free review

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Okay yes, this did fit the ‘Ghost Ship in space’ bill everyone was assigning it, and did a great job at it. Dead Space follows Claire Kovalik and her crew as they find a seemingly abandoned luxury spacecraft that had gone missing two decades prior. As expected, spookiness ensues. Sidenote, do not read this if you have an issue with body horror or gore. It’s not on every page but it’s certainly prominent enough.

I did really enjoy this, the vibes were immaculate and I found myself putting it down for a minute every couple chapters to breathe. But then I would pick it right back up again and keep chugging along. Barnes really succeeded in creating a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere and an intriguing mystery. I fully did not see that plot twist coming!

It did have a couple weaknesses, though. Claire is supposed to be in her mid-thirties, but I found her somewhat juvenile. I know that’s probably because of her PTSD, but that’s another thing that bothered me. I felt like her backstory was pushed a little too hard. This might just be me, but I get really bored with books where the MC has a ~tragic backstory~ that is CONSTANTLY alluded to. I found her really frustrating to read at times because of this.

The romance subplot also seemed completely unnecessary to me. I did like Kane, but I was just like [shrug] we’re in a ghost ship in space! Why are we talking about romance! I think if this had been removed, the book could have leaned in a little farther with developing the creep factor.

All in all, though, I really enjoyed this and found it to be a unique reading experience. If anyone has recs for books similar to this, I am ALL ears. I am definitely going to be recommending this to horror fans and hope to see more from Barnes in this genre!


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The Stand [review]

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The Stand by Stephen King
Published by Anchor on June 24, 2008 (originally 1978)
my rating: DNF
Goodreads avg:
4.34 (as of 2022-02-04)
Spoiler-free review

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DNF @ 69% (~930 pages)

I really tried with this one, y’all. I found it really compelling to start! The first third or so was interesting but had me wondering ‘where is this going?’ The next third kind of answered that question, but I just didn’t find the answer something I cared about. I did intentionally read the ‘uncut’ version and I found it way too long for its own good. In addition to being bloated, it also contained some really disturbing imagery that I didn’t find worth it. I know this is SK and I know this is horror, but there was some animal cruelty that made me downright nauseous and haunted me throughout my day even when I wasn’t reading. I think this interested me so much at the start because it felt similar to Covid in a lot of ways, which I wasn’t expecting! But I just could not bring myself to finish it and definitely won’t be going out of my way to recommend it. I’m really glad I looked up a thorough summary of the last third because it truly wasn’t going to be worth it.

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Nothing But Blackened Teeth [review]

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Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
Published by Tor Nightfire on October 19, 2021
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
2.89 (as of 2022-01-12)
Spoiler-free review

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One girl each year. Two hundred and six bones times a thousand years. More than enough calcium to keep this house standing until the stars ate themselves clean, picked the sinew from their own shining bones.

Okay, I was genuinely shocked when I came on here to give my rating and saw the average goodreads rating. I can see how this wouldn’t work for some people — most of the characters are insufferable and the clarity is a bit lacking at times. But I found the writing so lyrical and the main character, Cat, so immensely relatable. As a queer person with depression, yeah I felt very seen. The atmosphere was truly immersive and I felt like I was standing right there with Cat as we watched our bad friends make bad decisions. It also had a little bit of a The Cabin in the Woods feel with its self-awareness, the characters knowing they were essentially living through a horror movie and making their decisions accordingly. I found that the dread built so well, even if it lost itself a bit in the climax. I was impressed by this and look forward to reading more of Khaw’s work!

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The Only Good Indians [review]

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The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Published by Gallery/Saga Press on July 14, 2020
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.73 (as of 2021-12-06)
Spoiler-free review

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Holy shit. This was, like, a lot. I can easily see why so many people love Stephen Graham Jones so much, and I can also easily see why his work may not be for everyone. I felt this might have worked better as a novella, as there were a few points where I was like, “…okay, get on with it.” The last lengthy ‘scene’ is one example — while it was incredibly tense, it started to lose that for me the longer it dragged on. But this is a minor qualm, most of the book had me on the edge of my seat in anticipation or terror.

The characters are all flawed in their own ways, but you can’t help but root for them even as you see the damage they’ve caused and the things they’ve done. I’m not very well-versed in Native American culture and SGJ doesn’t hold your hand through the slang and the customs. It takes a little bit of adjustment, but the way he contextualizes everything makes the learning curve an easy one. I also struggled at first with the way SGJ hones in on minor details, but quickly came to appreciate it and the way it informed readers.

The graphic horror is something that I think will lose a lot of people, which is fair. There are a lot of gruesome descriptions of both animals and humans. But the violence doesn’t feel gratuitous to me; it all feels like it has a place, not that it’s just there for shock value (as shocking as it all may be). At times I would have to put the book down for a moment just to breathe because of how impactful some of the depictions can be.

I will say I was also left with some questions and couldn’t pin down some of the ‘rules’ of this entity, although perhaps there are no rules to follow. The timeline just didn’t make sense to me, although I can’t really say more without risking spoilers. While this wasn’t a five star read for me, I do still wholeheartedly recommend it to folks who find themselves interested, but caution that you check out the content warnings and avoid this if graphic animal death is a no-go for you. Stephen Graham Jones is a great writer and I’m really excited to check out more of his novels!

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The Lost Village [review]

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The Lost Village by Camilla Sten transl. Alexandra Fleming
Published by Minotaur Books on March 23, 2021
my rating: ★★★ (3 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.56 (as of 2021-10-27)
Spoiler-free review

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disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

The comps for this were spot on — it truly is Midsommar meets Blair Witch Project, but somehow less compelling than either of the two. It was incredibly readable, but really fell apart in the last act for me. There was a hint of a paranormal element that just wasn’t fully explored in any way, and some plot points that I wish had been expanded upon were just glossed over. By the end, I just kind of felt like “that’s it?”

The treatment of mental illness in this was also… not great. I did like that the author addressed how draining it can be to be the sole support of a friend in the midst of crisis, but that was canceled out by writing off an entire character as psychotic and violent because they [checks notes] take abilify.

The concept itself was really interesting and could have turned out so much cooler with some more thought-out writing. I will say that I got pretty creeped out at some parts and it was an incredibly atmospheric read. This would be a fun horror read if you’re not looking for anything too well put together.

(SPOILERS HERE)
Side note — I got huge queer vibes between Alice and Emmy and was so disappointed when nothing happened between them. I thought it was obvious that they were in some kind of intense queerplatonic relationship with unspoken (or forgotten?) feelings between the two of them and can’t believe that wasn’t the case.


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A House at the Bottom of a Lake [review]

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A House at the Bottom of a Lake by Josh Malerman
Published by This Is Horror on October 31, 2016
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.23 (as of 2021-10-26)
Spoiler-free review

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disclaimer: I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for review consideration. All of the opinions presented below are my own. Quotes have been taken from the advanced copy and are subject to change upon publication.

I was nervous to pick this up after seeing so many middling-to-low reviews of it, but am glad my curiosity won out! I thought Bird Box was fantastic and had to pick up more of Malerman’s work.

The concept itself is so interesting – a mysterious house at the bottom of a lake! It took me a few pages to gel with the writing (it’s a lot of teenagers being teenagers), but I was both literally and figuratively at the edge of my seat the whole time. The plot itself is relatively slow-moving, but the tension really got to me. It felt like I was holding my breath through half of this book and I had to put it down a few times to take a quick breather here and there. I kept texting people to be like, “this book is freaking me out!!”

I tore through this in just one sitting and have already recommended it to several other people. If the concept interests you, give this a shot!


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The Dead and the Dark [review]

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The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould
Published by Wednesday Books on August 3, 2021
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.00 (as of 2021-10-24)
Spoiler-free review

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this was so fun and spooky with a really nice sapphic romance! the small town energy was on point. i was really glad to see such an upfront portrayal of comphet and how easy it can be to lose yourself in others’ expectations. i didn’t realize this was a debut until i hit the acknowledgements and was really impressed with Gould’s writing. i think some things in the final act didn’t quite work for me, but this was still so compulsively readable that i tore through it in just a couple sittings. i’m so excited to see what Gould comes out with next (more lesbians, she’s promised) and have already decided that she’s an auto-buy author for me.

content warnings: Homomisia & homomisic slurs; Hate crimes; Death of a child; Murder & attempted murder; Gun violence; Attempted drowning; Vivisepulture (being buried alive) (per the Trigger Warning Database)

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The Girl With All the Gifts [review]

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The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey, narrated by Finty Williams
Published by Hachette Audio on June 6, 2014
my rating: ★★★★ (4 stars)
Goodreads avg:
3.94 (as of 2021-06-15)
Spoiler-free review

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I went into this knowing pretty much nothing except that the general plot ‘zombies but different’ and think that was the right way to do it. I think this was an incredibly creative take on the zombie genre and was very impressed with the science of it — although I can’t attest to how accurate it was. I really loved Melanie and getting to know the rest of the characters was great as well. My only pet peeve was that it was very apparent that this was written by a man; there were bits where the group would be in life-or-death situations and the men would be thinking about having sex or masturbating. The sex and romance felt shoehorned in and took away from the story imo. Aside from that, this was an incredible book that I’ll be recommending quite a lot.


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House of Hollow [review]

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House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers on April 6, 2021
my rating: ★★★★.5 (4.5 stars)
Goodreads avg:
4.18 (as of 2021-06-07)
Spoiler-free review

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This is by far one of the most inventive and well-written YA horror novels I have ever read. I picked it up after seeing Sarah rave about it and am so glad I decided to prioritize it. It’s the story of three strange sisters who are plagued by strange circumstances. Emphasis on the strange. I loved how atmospheric this was and how I felt truly wrapped up in the story; I probably would have read it all in one sitting had I not started it so late. While I wondered for a bit how it would all wrap up, the ending was truly better than anything I could have expected. I highly recommend this if you’re a fan of horror — although I’d steer quite clear if body horror bothers you at all.

content warnings: body horror; sexual assault; kidnapping; child death.


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