LEECH - Hiron Ennes
I have never read a novel like this before. I have…feelings about it. Can you be repulsed and engrossed at the same time??
Body horror: ★★★★★
My enjoyment: ★
I love body horror books. Or at least, I used to say that. I think Leech broke my brain and has redefined the threshold on which we determine "body horror" in the realm of medical trauma, consent, and what it means to be a person in, essentially, meat suits.
If the phrase "meat suits" makes you uncomfortable, please take that as your cue to stop reading this review here—and to avoid this book.
Leech is very hard to describe. I commend whoever was tasked with writing the blurb for the inside jacket... it couldn't have been easy. How does one describe a novel like this?
Every monster is the hero of its own story... that could be said about this book.
When our society collapses in on itself and future versions of humanity exist in a very bleak, grim, and macabre future... that could be said about this book.
Let's combine the idea of parasites with a gothic, moldering castle and make it mentally insane... that could be said too.
Leech has a LOT going on in its pages. It's dense by every meaning of the word-- paragraph-wise, character-wise, worldbuilding-wise, and horror-wise. It is a LOT. And it makes no apologies for being that way. (It doesn't have to apologize, but it could have done with a stronger warning label! Lol.)
To say "I enjoyed this reading experience" would be a lie. I did not have a good time.
I loved the first bit of the book a lot—it's confusing, but intriguing and interesting at the same time. I thought the middle was a very dense attempt at trying to figure out the setting, worldbuilding, and sense of pacing. It took me ages to get through the middle sections because it was terribly easy to put the book down and simultaneously very hard to reengage with it when I tried to pick it back up. The ending... was both absolutely horrifying to my personal reading tastes and also a wild trip into the ether in terms of character arc upheaval.
If you've made it this far into my review, you might be wondering why I'm giving this novel a generous 4 stars despite being viscerally upset by its contents. I, too, am a bit confused by myself. But at the end of the day, I think the author deserves some very high praise for instilling such a unique concept into such a horrifying package that dealt with literally every single variant of medical body trauma that could possibly exist in our human minds. All of it. It's all here in this book.
If, for some reason, you're not yet turned off from this book by my review, then I do recommend it. Hiron Ennes is an author to watch—they are doing very unique things in the horror space.
Thank you to TOR for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
SHIP WRECKED - Olivia Dade
Such a satisfying end to this series! A slow-burn friendship with tension, lots of room for quiet dramas and growth, and a sweet romance at its core.
Characters: ★★★ 1/2
Please Note: This book is the third installment in the Spoiler Alert series by Olivia Dade. While this is technically a standalone romantic story between two characters, I highly recommend reading this series in order to get the full context. There are a TON of references to the first two books in this one, and Maria and Peter's story exists in a dense bubble of context references from the other books.
Maria and Peter are both costars on the same TV show, Guardians of the Gates. It's a Game of Thrones-esque show with an international following and a lot of drama and character arcs.
Their characters play two isolated gods who have been stranded on a remote island with just the two of them.
It's just them. And a small production crew. On a very small island. Staying in a limited-space boutique inn.
Why does this matter, you ask?
Because Maria and Peter had an explosive, no-holds-barred sexy one night stand the night before they both landed roles on Guardians of the Gates. After one night of perfect passion, the last thing either of them thought would happen would be to see each other again. And now they're not just seeing each other—they're acting face to face, in a remote location, for several years of filming.
It's not... shall we say... ideal. Especially when their passion still exists, and yet personal hang-ups and a desire to maintain professional boundaries keeps them from ripping each other's clothes off and resuming their hot-HOT chemistry.
Can these two costars make it through the slowest burn of their lives? What will happen once they have the space to make their own decisions?
Ooooooh, oh. Ship Wrecked was fun, y'all. I enjoyed it very much. The tension, the soft drama, the dual points-of-view of two characters and their unique torture of falling in love while being unable to admit it?? Delicious.
This was a very sweet end to a wonderful romance trilogy. I think fans of Spoiler Alert and All the Feels will be quite satisfied. I definitely was! While this one had the most worldbuilding context and the least amount of fanfiction references—the first two books were heavily influenced by fanfiction internet culture—I do think Maria and Peter's story fit the series. And, just as important, Ship Wrecked provided a happily-ever-after ending for all of the people we've grown to love over the series.
Thank you to Avon for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
LAVENDER HOUSE - Lev AC Rosen
A locked room mystery, a 1950s queer haven manor, and an interesting soap side plot. This was so wonderful—and remarkably cozy even with its dark themes.
Mystery(s)/Reveal(s): ★★ 1/2
Andy is a former detective at the end of the line. He's ready to call it quits in a very real way—trigger warnings right out the gate—and he has nothing left to strive for. He's gay in 1950s America. Recently outed at a raid by his own former police officer coworkers and ruthlessly fired from the force, Andy doesn't know what is next, and if it's worth finding out at all.
The last thing he expects is to be offered a job sitting at the bar, blind drunk at 11 am. A well-dressed, wealthy older woman wants him to solve a murder. Well, maybe it was a murder. Either way—she wants to know what happened, and she's willing to pay Andy and house him for his trouble.
Oh, and the best part? This woman and her surviving found family live in a hidden utopia of queerness. The dead woman is her wife, and their blended family are all queer on the estate.
Andy doesn't know how to receive this news, but he takes the lifeline for what it is and accepts the job.
However, the family is hiding secrets. (Aren't they all?) And Andy's stepping into a much bigger scene than he's anticipating. When you factor in the dead woman's soap dynasty... things are about to get interesting.
Lavender House was the perfect read for me at the right time. It was surprisingly cozy, the right blend of serious with quaint, and a remix of the classics bringing something fresh to the character tableau of the "classic" murder mystery setting.
It also deftly handled the line of realism vs. utopian ideals surrounding the concept of a hidden queer family living happily in the 1950s. They were a wealthy family who kept to themselves and had the resources to keep their happiness separate from harsh realities, true, but the doses of reality in this novel kept this story grounded for me.
I will caution my queer friends and those reading this review—given the contents, there is a lot of potentially triggering content for period homophobia and other elements. Please proceed with caution.
Overall, a fantastic cozy read that I would be happy to pick up again when I'm in need of a quaint escape.
Thank you to TOR Forge for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.