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Epic Update: October 3, 2022

Hello and happy Monday, Epic friends! We hope the new season is off to an Epic start for you.

No announcements at the moment, so let’s dive into our reading chat!


I get to be your What Are You Reading guide through October (universally known as the best month of the year)?? It’s an honor, friends, a true honor!

Spooky Season calls for an exploration of horror. It’s an experiment that I’ve been lightly exploring in my reading life: where do I fall on the spectrum of scary? It’s true that I do tend to gravitate toward books that have a smidgen of darkness — I love a reading moment where I find myself holding my breath, maybe with a couple hairs standing on end — but it’s a delicate balance. I don’t want a book that will make me sleep with the light on. I don’t want a story that is creepy just to be creepy.

I know that I do love a gothic vibe and I do love when the creepy, dark element draws from — but does not demonize — folklore or legend. I love an ambiguous darkness that is not synonymous with evil.

Lapvona Book Cover

In September, I unintentionally tested some of those boundaries. First with Lapvona by Ottessa Moshfegh. This one was not at all what I expected. I was thinking it would be more folkloric, and once I had finished it, I could see it for the bleak sort of fairy tale that it is and appreciate that mastery in crafting it. But I’ll tell you, with each page turn I was hoping with all my might that the story was going to take a drastic turn. It’s gruesome, disturbing, morbid. It feels folklore-adjacent in that it’s like a window into the worst parts of medieval life with elements of a pre-Disneyified fairy tale, but while I can handle uncomfortable moments throughout a book, this one had zero moments of relief and seemed to be daring me to DNF (which, respect).

Next, I tried The Witch in the Well by Camilla Bruce (which comes out October 4th). This one was much more my scene. What starts as a feud between two very unlikable characters — a “spiritual” wellness influencer-type and her (jealous) childhood best friend — over their shared interest in the history and legend of their town’s witch(?) many centuries ago, ends up with them both getting in far over their heads. This book built to the dark parts, and because it’s somewhat epistolary (written entirely in journal entries and Facebook posts), I loved that for much of the story I couldn’t rely on the narrators to know what was real and what was a dramatization.

Finally, I just finished reading The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward. I can’t explain my full feelings about this one without spoilers. Much of the twist of this story is specifically something that bothers me as horror story material. However, if it must be done, I feel like Catriona Ward did a pretty good job of ending it on a note that I could feel okay with. I do love a story that keeps me disoriented and guessing until the end, and this one certainly delivered in that regard.

But I’m not sure if I’m going to continue the horror into October (you never know, my reading queue system leaves much of that up to fate). What I do know is that up next I’m finally going to complete Octavia’s Earthseed duology. I read Parable of the Sower a little over a year ago and needed a good year to sit with it before continuing on — I wonder how I would have felt about it in 1993 because in 2021 it felt a little too close to home. So with a deep breath, I’m diving into Parable of the Talents.

Are you having a scary reading month? What are you reading? Let us know in the comments!

— Caitlin

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Epic Update: September 26, 2022

Happy Monday, Epic folks! May it be the best week possible, given our continued :waves hands: existence. No announcements again, just books!

What Are You Reading?

Since I chatted with you last, I’ve finished Our Wives Under the Sea, which was creepy and surreal and exactly what I’m looking for in an autumn read.

the cover of Other Ever Afters

I also read Other Ever Afters: New Queer Fairy Tales by Melanie Gillman, who is one of my favourite artists. They also wrote As the Crow Flies and Stage Dreams. I support them on Patreon, which means I have some of these stories in a zine format! They’re absolutely beautifully drawn in pencil crayon, and Gillman has a knack for knowing the precise moment to end a story, leaving me wanting just a panel more, but knowing that I’m wrong: this is the best place to leave them. It’s a middle grade collection, but I think readers of any age will appreciate it.

I’m now starting A Scatter of Light by Malinda Lo, which comes out at the beginning of October. Despite getting Last Night at the Telegraph Club in hardcover and then buying another signed copy, I somehow have not read that one yet. It’s faced out on my bookshelf, admonishing me. I know I’ll love it! I can’t tell you why I pick up the books I do. This one, though, is a loose companion book to Telegraph Club, so it will be interesting reading it without that prior knowledge — but it can absolutely stand alone. Also, if you haven’t seen the cover yet, go check it out. It’s gorgeous.

I’m still waiting for my stack of Laid-Back Camp manga to accumulate at the library, but I’m very much looking forward to devouring them when I have another five or so at my disposal.

What are you reading this week? Share in the comments!

-Danika

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Epic Update: September 19, 2022

Hello and happy Monday, Epic Insiders! No announcements today, just books.

What Are You Reading?

Since I wrote to you last, I finished the stack of four Laid-Back Camp manga I had out from the library and have requested the next eight or so, because I can’t get enough. Every year, when the weather starts to cool off, I hit a brick wall of tiredness and general malaise. These sweet and gentle manga volumes are exactly what I’m looking for. I’ve since learned there’s a word for this genre! Iyashikei, or “healing” manga/anime. Isn’t that amazing? I need more healing reads in my life.

cover of Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield, a peach background with a dark ocean floor at the bottom

But the other thing I want in my fall reading is all things spooky and seasonal, so I’m midway through a horror (or at least horror-adjacent) book, Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield. Fun fact: I love stories that take place in the deep ocean, which I have been obsessed with ever since I went on an ocean exploration “ride” at the museum as a kid. (Okay, it was an elevator. But it left an impression.) So when I read the premise of this book, I could not wait to get my hands on it. It’s about a woman whose wife comes back from a submarine expedition gone wrong, where she was trapped at bottom of the ocean for six months… and she’s come back different. We alternate between both wives’ points of view, slowly learning what happened. It is tense and atmospheric and I can’t wait to get back to it!

What are you reading this week? Add your list to the comments!

—Danika

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Epic Update: September 12, 2022

Hello Epic folks! We took last week off for a long weekend, but now we’re back with booky goodness.

Just one note: the New Release Index-only level is now live for anyone and everyone, so if you’ve got a friend you think might be interested, feel free to clue them in!

What Are You Reading?

I just got back from a small outdoor wedding, which was my first real trip since the beginning of the pandemic, even though it was just an hour’s drive out of town. I packed a full ereader and a couple of paper books to read by the lake, but of course I didn’t get around to them, so it looks like they’ll be done this week instead!

cover of Laid Back Camp

As soon as I saw the title and cover of the Laid-Back Camp manga series, I knew I needed to pick it up ASAP, and now I’m three volumes in. It’s exactly what it says on the tin, and just what I wanted to squeeze the last drops of summer out of my reading life — though, they’re actually winter camping. I guess camping is less common in Japan, because I was delighted by the earnest instructions on how to do things like put up a tent and start a fire. At this point it has about zero conflict, which — I know it’s an unpopular opinion — I love in a book to break up my more bleak reads.

Next up, I have the upcoming anthology Queer Little Nightmares: An Anthology of Monstrous Fiction and Poetry edited by David Ly. Need I say more? This should be the perfect transition into my seasonal reading. Fun fact: I hate horror most of the year, but when October comes around, I can’t get enough of it. Looks like this year, I’m starting a little bit early. But who can resist queer monsters any time?

What’s on your TBR pile this week? Let us know in the comments!

— Danika

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Epic Update: August 29, 2022

Hello and happy Monday, Epic folks! May your August finish up well and your September bring some joy. No news today, so let’s get right into our book-chat.

What Are You Reading?

I know I said last week was the end of the month, but it turns out August had one more Monday to throw at us. That means you get one more week of me talking books with you all! 

cover of empire of the wild by cherie dimaline

Reading horror really doesn’t have a season in my opinion, but with the weather finally turning a little chillier this week, I was inspired to get back into the genre. This week I read Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline and revisited a classic, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Both are shorter reads that pack emotional intensity, plenty of creepy vibes, and outright scares. 

Empire of Wild is a contemporary fantasy that follows Joan, who one day is stunned to find her missing husband, Victor, preaching in a revival tent in their town. Even stranger is that he insists he doesn’t know her. Joan quickly comes to realize that in order to save her husband, she will have to defeat a monstrous creature from Métis lore known as a rougarou— a vicious man-dog hybrid that has taken control of Victor. I love how grounded the story is in the relationship between Victor, Joan, and the community, in spite of it being a creature-horror. There are multiple points of view to follow, but each one adds layers of perspective and richness to the story. 

For this week’s other dose of horror, I reread a classic I’d first picked up a few years ago after watching the Netflix show by the same name. I’m normally not one to watch the adaptation first, but thankfully the show is a pretty loose interpretation Jackson’s novel. Even the premise is entirely different: in the novel, the characters have gathered at the titular Hill House for an academic study in to the existence of ghosts. The tension slowly builds as the narrative follows Eleanor, a young woman participating in the study, as she and the other occupants become increasingly convinced that the house is home to a sinister presence. I get a shiver just thinking about it! It’s clear to see how Jackson’s work has influenced the haunted house genre as a whole and Hill House certainly stands the test of time. I haven’t read any of her other novels, but We Have Always Lived in the Castle is next up on my list.

Well, that’s all from me (for real this time)! 

What are you reading this week? Weigh in in the comments!

Amanda

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Epic Update: August 22, 2022

Hello Epic folks! An announcement today that you’ll see go out to everyone later this week, but as always y’all get first notice and crack at things.

In response to some requests, we’ve introduced a New Release Index-only level. If you love that feature and don’t find yourself needing all the other perks of Insiders, it’s now available (only for current supporters, while we finish testing). We love you no matter which level you’re at ;).

-Jenn

What Are You Reading?

Can you believe it’s already the last week of August? I’m back for one last round of talking books with you all. I finally reached a huge unpacking milestone this week: I successfully unpacked and found places for all of my books!

cover of The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea

Reorganizing my books meant I rediscovered a few titles that had slipped off my mental to-be-read shelf. One of those was The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall. A magical piratey adventure with queer romance? Sign me right up. I’ve been a big fan of high-seas adventures since I devoured the Bloody Jack series by L.A. Meyer as a kid. The Mermaid, The Witch, and the Sea definitely did not disappoint! I enjoyed how each of the characters’ voices came through so strongly and the world building was rad. The story follows the pirate Florian, formerly an orphan named Flora, and Evelyn Hasegawa, a young noblewoman who crosses paths with Florian on the way to marry the man her parents chose for her. As you might have guessed, the two begin to develop feelings for each other while sailing the seas. There’s also forbidden magic, political intrigue, a nonbinary boss pirate, and of course, mermaids. 

Another read I unearthed in the shuffle and started this week was The Farm by Joanne Ramos. So far it reminds me somewhat of The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan with its emphasis on reproductive control and themes of motherhood. I love dystopia novels, but The Farm is feeling chillingly relevant right now. It’s about a facility that houses and tightly controls women serving as surrogates to wealthy clients. I still have to finish it, but I’m invested in these characters and their reasons for coming to the farm. For my next read, I might just have to pick up something a little lighter and less realistic.

What are you reading this week?

-Amanda 

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Epic Update: August 15, 2022

Hello, Epic folks! Things have finally cooled off enough by me for my brain to start working again, with the added bonus of it being a reasonable temperature in which to cook, so I broke out the waffle iron this weekend. Sending you all hopes for literal and figurative waffles in turn!

No announcements this week, so let’s talk about books.

-Jenn

What Are You Reading?

Hi there Insiders!

Deciding what to read this week was easy since many of my books are still packed in boxes. Side note: figuring out how I’m going to organize my shelves feels like a big undertaking. Do I do it by genre? By color? By general vibe? Some vague combination of the three?

do you dream of terra two

Even with all the unpacking after my move last week, I’ve made it a good way through Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh. The story takes place in a near future where scientists have discovered a planet that is suitable for human life, which is handy since the Earth is dying. Terra-Two is so far out in the solar system, however, that it’s a twenty-three year journey to reach it. Enter six teenagers, chosen from an elite training program after preparing their entire lives for the chance. The chapters alternate between the characters’ points of view as the cracks begin to form in each of them. It’s a more character-driven story than I was expecting, but I’m enjoying getting to know each character and their motivations.

Speaking of character-driven sci-fi, another book I enjoyed recently was We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen. It follows Dr. Grace Park, a psychologist aboard a ship crewed by a mix of humans and androids destined for an unexplored ice planet, as a mysterious illness causing violent outbursts starts to infect the human crew. The crew start to suspect the androids, and Park — who has always been closer to the android crew members than the humans — is accused along with them. This one is packed with psychological horror and the most claustrophobic setting I’ve found in a while. 

For next week, I think I’ll steer away from sci-fi and go for a different genre to mix things up. Assuming I unpack the rest of my books that is!

What are you reading this week? Click through to add your reading list to the comments!

-Amanda 

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Epic Update: August 8, 2022

Hello Epic Insiders and Happy Monday! No special announcements today, so let’s get into books:

What are you reading?

It’s Amanda again, back for more chats about what I’m reading this week! Things have cooled down a little in the last few days which has been great, especially since I’m moving this week and packing in the heat is not my favorite activity in the world. I haven’t had a ton of time to sit down and read this week, which definitely IS one of my favorite activities. But that’s okay! My books aren’t going anywhere (except across town to my new apartment of course).

I did manage to finish up I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick before I got too busy with packing. I won’t spoil the ending, but I can say it was a solid summer read with fun twists!

paper girls cover

And since I find reading graphic novels is great when you’re strapped for time and attention span, I also reread the first volume of Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang. It’s one of my favorite series and it’s been on my mind recently since the TV show adaptation is being released on Amazon Prime soon. I’m normally wary of TV or movie adaptations of books I love since they tend to fall short of the book in my opinion. But the casting for this adaptation seems so spot on that I’m willing to give it a shot. Fingers very crossed!

Once I’m more settled into my new place, I’m planning on starting either Do You Dream of Terra-Two? byTemi Oh or Persephone Station by Stina Leicht. I’m clearly in the mood for some sci-fi spacey adventures!

What are you reading this week? Let us know in the comments!

-Amanda

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Epic Update: August 1, 2022

Happy August, Insiders! [Insert incredulous “how is it already August?!” exclaimations here.] Jenn is on vacation this week, so forgive me if I’m out of practice with what I’m supposed to share here in the intro part of this newsletter, but I’m been sharing this with anyone any everyone in my life, so please enjoy this horror/masterpiece of a mascot for the Halifax Oyster Festival.

Alright, no announcements so let’s get on with the actual bookish stuff!

-Caitlin

What Are You Reading?

Happy August, Insiders! It’s Amanda, coming in hot (literally) with the first installment of this month’s What I’m Reading. 

The summer heat has arrived with a vengeance here in Portland and I pretty much only want to starfish on a cooling mat. Luckily, that’s an excellent position for reading. 

Book cover of I Killed Zoe Spanos

I’ve definitely been in the mood for some fast-paced summery thrills, so I picked up I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick. I’ll be honest, I gravitated toward it because the cover has a character in a pool and I would very much like to only exist in bodies water for the next week until this heat wave passes.

The novel is about a recent high school grad and party girl, Anna, who takes a summer job nannying for a wealthy family in the Hamptons. The locals all remark that she bears a shocking resemblance to a girl named, you guessed it, Zoe Spanos who disappeared without a trace several months before. The book opens with Anna confessing to having accidentally killed Zoe and then jumps back a few months to the events that lead to the confession. 

I’m only a few chapters in but I already am sucked into the mystery and enjoying how unreliable of a narrator Anna is shaping up to be. Did she have something to do with Zoe’s disappearance? And if not, why is the world would she tell the police she did? 

Anyway, I’m off to park myself in front of a fan and probably read the rest of this book in one sitting cause I need to know what happens next! 

What are you all reading this week? Click through to add your reading list to the comments! 

-Amanda

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Epic Update: July 25, 2022

Good morning and good Monday, Insiders! I hope your week is off to a good start — and it help it along, I thought I’d share this amazing conversation between Ed Yong and Alice Wong about perspective, nature, and science. A friend texted it to me this morning, and it was the best way to kick my day off.

No announcements, on to the good stuff!

-Jenn

What Are You Reading?

Hey Insiders!

Can I tell you something? I’m still reading the same lone book from last week. I am really enjoying True Biz by Sara Nović, and I’ve been chipping away at it slowly not because it’s not great but because my time to just read is….well, it’s there but my motivation and energy are not. I’ve done a lot of solo parenting this week, as my (wonderful) nanny takes a much-needed vacation and my partner has been working 12+ hour days.

photo of a young child holding open a book

Despite not reading, I have done a number of fun bookish things. The best one? My kiddo got her first book prize for summer reading club at the library. Though they did not have board books for her to choose from, she did get a really neat National Geographic Kids paperback about safaris. She picked it from a few, and you’ll see she quite enjoys it!

Hopefully next week I’ll have more to report on the reading front. But if not, here’s your reminder it’s okay to go through periods where you read and periods where you simply do not. It doesn’t make you any less of a book person.

So, what are you reading?

-Kelly Jensen