Recent Reviews

Emily Wilde's Encyclopaedia of Faeries By Heather Fawcett Cover Image
Encyclopedia of Faeries

When prodigy fae scholar Emily Wilde hauls herself off to cold and snowy Hrafnsvik for field study, she does so with a plan to finish the world's first definitive encyclopaedia of fairies. She doesn't anticipate Wendell Brambleby—her all-too-appealing academic rival, (unfortunately) her only friend, and perhaps a member of the fae himself if her suspicions are correct—to follow her to the edge of the world like a lost puppy. She ESPECIALLY doesn't anticipate violating her rules of scholarly detachment to help the villages of Hrafnsvik to rescue their kidnapped loved ones from the fae. Emily's ferociously curious nature invites whimsy, literal enchantments, and adventure. You'll find yourself not just falling in love with the oddball sunshine-grumpy romance, but the complex lore of this fantasy haven and the villagers of Hrafnsvik as Emily bumbles her way through social interactions as any true scholar would—awkwardly at best. Recommended by Wulfe

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Natural Beauty: A Novel By Ling Ling Huang Cover Image
Nature Beauty

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop has NOTHING on Holistik. Or…let’s hope it doesn’t! Absolutely everything about Holistik is wrong, from their scientifically questionable and unaffordable procedures to their purportedly “diverse” staff that looks to be entirely young, blonde, white women. The unnamed narrator of Ling Ling Huang’s Natural Beauty discovers all of this firsthand. The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she gives up her life as a child piano prodigy and finds herself deep in the bowels of the wellness phenomenon that is Holistik. As she becomes personally entwined with the family that owns Holistik and notices startling trends in her physical health, she’ll start to ask herself: What exactly is beauty and who do you have to look like to attain it? The parallels Huang draws between striving for musical perfection and yearning for physical beauty are both striking and haunting. Throughout this book, it was impossible not to root for the narrator, even as she kept foolishly walking into the belly of the beast, because she had to continually fight the way her own desires were subsumed by those of her white, wealthy “benefactors.” Natural Beauty is truly chilling. Recommended by Wulfe

Tell Me I'm Worthless

Tell Me I’m Worthless by Alison Rumfitt is a trans, leftist haunted house story that’s not for the faint of heart—it will eviscerate you. You know from the start that the house is a metaphor for fascism because the author tells you as much. What you have to confront for yourself are the ways fascism seeps into your life seemingly unnoticed and the dark things you hold in your mind where you think no one else can listen in. Nicky Endres’ narration is enflaming, putting me in mind of the theatrical yet hypnotic performance of The Magnus Archives. Heads up to check the (abundant) trigger warnings before you read this one, friends!

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Brainwyrms By Alison Rumfitt Cover Image
Brainwryms

I finished Brainwryms by Alison Rumfitt in a frantic haze when I couldn’t sleep, and I had to write my review for it immediately. Otherwise, my brain would take that whole story, put it in a box labeled “traumatic content,” and shove it to the back of my memory closet. Heck, I’ve never read a book with a content warning placed right in the middle, encouraging me to touch some grass before I proceed to the next chapter. This story is obviously brutal—and my first foray into extreme horror—but I couldn’t imagine following any other author down such a fraught path. As she does in her debut novel Tell Me I’m Worthless, Rumfitt extracts the scariest elements of fascism, transphobia, xenophobia, and exploitation in extreme kink spaces, but this time she presents it with a cosmic horror bent and an unhinged character who just reeks of J.K. Rowling. Rumfitt also breaks genre in the most brilliant ways with transgressive autobiographical moments, extensive use of the second person, and direct addresses to the reader throughout. I will dutifully inhale all of her work until one of us kicks the can, but I can’t imagine consuming her stories without Nicky Endres’ expert and unnerving narration in audiobook form. Recommended by Wulfe

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True Grit: A Novel By Charles Portis, Donna Tartt (Afterword by) Cover Image
True Grit

Finally, I’ve succeeded in consuming the holy grail of True Grit content with the Donna Tartt-narrated audiobook! I’d seen both film renditions—the 1968 movie starring John Wayne and the Coen brothers’ 2010 interpretation—which engaged me at a very young age in a way other Westerns did not, as our story’s narrator is a girl who doesn’t put up with tomfoolery or allow anyone to sideline her. Now, after listening to Tartt’s essay on the Charles Portis classic novel that rounds out this audiobook, I found it fascinating to learn about the ways the films flattened out the text and contributed to its near-death in literary circles. The book is a relic of its time in many ways, so it does demand some critical reading; I wasn’t approaching this as an earnest adventure story, but more as a picture of a literary era. Portis did intend the story to be partially satirical of the American West, and that wry cleverness propelled my listening. Tartt’s narration brought to life the main character Mattie Ross, the true star of the story in my eyes, flaunting the full glory of her unintentional dry wit and her own—forgive the pun—true grit. Recommended by Wulfe

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Full of Myself: A Graphic Memoir About Body Image By Siobhán Gallagher Cover Image
Full of Myself

I love a good body image book and reading Full of Myself by Siobhán Gallagher was like flipping through the pages of my teenage diary. This graphic novel memoir is a brutally honest tale of being taught as a child that to be a woman is to always be wrong and imperfect; and that to be a woman means punishing your own body. Caught at the crosshairs of a deeply misogynistic culture and teen trends at odds with her sense of self, Gallagher demonstrates how she continually comes to terms with eating disorders, internalized misogyny, depression, and messy human relationships. Full of Myself will resonate with readers on their own journeys of body liberation and who, like me, admire Gallagher’s extreme vulnerability. I especially loved her penchant for illustrating idioms, turning them into poignant visual metaphors. Recommended by Wulfe

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The Dead Cat Tail Assassins By P. Djèlí Clark Cover Image
The Dead Cat Tail Assassins

The Dead Cat Tail Assassins by P. Djèlí Clark brings a welcome levity to the fantasy genre with a rip-roaring tale that would rival Eveen the Eviscerator’s beloved Terribles (a.k.a. her world’s version of penny dreadfuls). Eveen is an undead contract killer serving the goddess of knives/death/culinary delights, and the guild of the Dead Cat Tails Assassins. When a new contract binds Eveen to the murder of a peculiar girl connected to her past, she breaks the cardinal rule of her trade and keeps the girl alive. Chaos ensues. All of the characters are human and relatable (even the undead ones) and my heart swelled with fondness for them by the end. I laughed, I didn’t cry because I was still laughing, and I held my breath throughout the dynamic action scenes. This book is brief, but the writing has a verve that quickly magics life into Eveen’s world—if you’re seeking an extraordinary adventure story, look no further. Recommended by Wulfe

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Your Blood, My Bones By Kelly Andrew Cover Image
Your Blood, My Bones

Wyatt Westlock spent her summers growing up on her family’s isolated farm with ominous secrets to keep her company, from the cultish men who collected around her father to the mushrooms that sprouted beneath her tears when she cried. Her two best friends moored her: Jamie, the sardonic protector, and Peter, the shunned boy who seemed to belong to no one. After her father’s death and five years away, Wyatt wades through the darkening forest to reach the farm and burn it to the ground. Only, she finds Peter chained in the basement with his own sinister motives and stories of immortality and eldritch beasts she can hardly fathom. Your Blood, My Bones is the kind of high-stakes romantic horror that I would have worshiped as a teenager, and that I feverishly consumed as an adult. This book had no right to hurt me the way it did, but it hurt so good. Recommended by Wulfe

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Timid: A Graphic Novel By Jonathan Todd, Jonathan Todd (Illustrator) Cover Image
Timid

Jonathan Todd's loosely autobiographical graphic novel, Timid, perfectly captures teenage awkwardness and loneliness. When Cecil moves to a new school in Boston, he faces the eternal question: Who do I eat lunch with. He must decide whether to try to meet other black kids to avoid being called an Oreo or to be friends with white kids to. He must also learn to set boundaries with everyone, including his father, who discourages him from becoming a comic-book artist since there's "no future in it." A great underdog tale. Recommended by Kelly

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While We Were Burning By Sara Koffi Cover Image
While We Were Burning

Find your favorite reading spot and settle in. You very well may not get up again until you have finished this page-turner. Two people have been killed. Two women are trying to figure out who is to blame for each of their deaths, and one is also out for revenge. Secrets and deceit abound among this novel’’s characters. They are all wonderfully unlikeable, even while some occasionally evoked my sympathy. As truths are revealed one by one, the characters find themselves questioning themselves and each other, and wondering whether having the answers they sought is bringing them any closer to happiness. Recommended by Nancy