Our Bloody Pearl by D. N. Bryn

This book was super cute and super fun. Our Bloody Pearl sits on the cusp between YA and adult fantasy, somewhat similar in this regard to authors like Mercedes Lackey or Brandon Sanderson – albeit completely different in terms of themes and style. If you want an easy weekend read featuring murder mermaids (!!!), a kind and caring found family (!!!!),  and an adorable ace romance (!!!!!), then this is absolutely the book for you! All of these things are completely my catnip, and I’m so, so happy that the author reached out to me offering a review copy since it might not have made it onto my radar otherwise. There’s even wonderful representation of disability and disability accommodations!

Brimstone and Marmalade by Aaron Corwin

Brimstone and Marmalade is one of those stories that I simply have to pull out of the woodworks every year around Halloween. Most Halloween themed stories are spooky, filled with horror and fright. Aaron Corwin, however, bucks the trend with this adorable little short story about a girl and her demon. 

Fortuna by Kristyn Merbeth

Fortuna’s premise snagged me in an instant – a whole family of space smugglers! Devastating massacres! A young, roguish captain! How could I resist? Yet, while it didn’t disappoint… neither did it impress. Advertised as “Perfect for fans of Becky Chambers and Catherynne M. Valente,” I came in expected both interesting twists and turns combined with a cast of truly lovable, yet kind characters. Ultimately, the characters were decent, the setting cliche, and the plot mostly straightforward and with a few straggling ends. Many interesting ideas that it could have delved into, such as recovery from child abuse/neglect, were only touched on briefly at best and stranded high and dry at worst. 

The Deep by Rivers Solomon, Daveed Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes

The Deep is a compelling tale focused on the importance of history as a part of identity, specifically within black culture. This short novella is focused, coherent, and was written with a clear message in mind: no matter how painful, our past leaves an indelible print on our present and on our identity as individuals and as a culture. 

Escaping Exodus by Nicky Drayden

I love weird, squishy, biological scifi, and I was impressed by how perfectly Escaping Exodus delivered on this front. When I originally read the premise on Goodreads – “a city-size starship carved up from the insides of a space-faring beast” – I knew I had to get my hands on this book. I’ll admit that I came in feeling a hint of trepidation: what if the beast is relegated to being in the background? What if it’s a normal spaceship that’s only “alive” when it’s plot convenient? Etc., etc. Fortunately, we were wading through ichor and entrails from the very first page. My worries were utterly baseless. Nicky Drayden embraced every bit of icky organic goodness right from the start.

Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko

Marina and Sergey have crafted a unique and strange experience in Vita Nostra, one requiring effort and attention from the reader to unravel. While it is a book set in a magic school, it is dissimilar to most everything else I’ve encountered in the magic school subgenre. The students sit under constant threat of severe retribution should they fail to perform – up to and including the deaths of their loved ones. They are assigned strange and esoteric mental exercises, forced to run until they can’t any more, forced to prostitute themselves. It is a book without chapters, without clear plot or goals.

Duchamp Versus Einstein by Christopher Hinz and Etan Illfeld

This book held promise, and kept me interested by introducing new ideas and premises as it progressed. It was short and a quick read. The prose was more than serviceable. However, every promise the novelette made to me as a reader ended up unfulfilled. I think this book needed to pruned back heavily, and perhaps would have been more appropriate as a short story instead of a novelette. 

A Lush and Seething Hell by John Hornor Jacobs

This is not a comfortable book. It is brutal. It is often gory. It is violent, torturous, and painful. It is not palatable. And yet, A Lush and Seething Hell is perhaps one of the most polished and seamless books I have read. As Chuck Wendig put it in the foreword, “his magic tricks remain pure fucking magic. These murder ballads are ones we have not heard before.” I cannot find it in myself to disagree with him. When I review a book, I tend to pick it apart to see what makes it tick. Then, I reduce it down into a format that will give a reader a good idea as to the tone and content of the book while also allowing some of my own biases and voice to come through. I fail to pick this book apart. I fail to see the specific gears that make it tick, though I can certainly see the hands turning and hear the bells chiming.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade and Shadow is a light, fairytale-esque read focusing on Mayan and Mexican history and mythology. Set in the 1920s, the midst of the jazz era, the setting comes across as different and refreshing given how infrequently Mexico is featured in non-translated fantasy. I would recommend this to people who are looking for fantasy that straddles the line between adult and YA content. It’s quick-moving with characters who conform to existing archetypes. Although there is nothing particularly ground-breaking in this novel, it is overall competently written and something I’d consider to be a good vacation read.

The Miracles of the Namiya General Store by Keigo Higashino

The Miracles of Namiya General Store is a book of interconnected short stories focusing on the lives of individuals who were helped or shaped by both the store and a nearby orphanage, called Marumitsuen. It follows a group of delinquents, an Olympic fencer, and a real estate tycoon amongst others. It’s a book about how everyone’s lives are connected to one another, how one small action can lead to much larger impacts spanning across generations.