Marion chats with Jon Courtenay Grimwood


Jon Courtenay Grimwood was born in Malta and grew up in Southeast Asia, Norway and Britain. He won the British Science Fiction Association Award for best novel in 2003, for...

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Heart’s Blood: I was deeply moved by this novel


Readers’ average rating: Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marillier Sometimes a book comes along just when you need it. Heart’s Blood was like that for me. Between Juliet...

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The Fairy-Tale Archetype of the Sexy Witch


Welcome to another Expanded Universe column where I feature essays from authors and editors of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction, as well as from established readers and reviewers....

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Rate books, Win books!


We’re interested in your thoughts about the books we review, and we know this information will be helpful to other readers, so we’re asking YOU to rate books...

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Recent Posts

The Ship of the Dead: Rough sailing for Magnus in the Nine Worlds

Readers’ average rating: 

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

When Naglfar ― a ship made out of the fingernails and toenails of the dead, eek! ― sets sail, carrying hordes of giants and zombies warriors to fight the gods of Asgard, Ragnarok and a world-ending battle aren’t far behind. Ragnarok can’t be entirely avoided (unfortunately, it’s an inevitable prophecy), but perhaps it can be delayed for a while longer?

As The Ship of the Dead (2017), the third and final book in Rick Riordan's MAGNUS CHASE AND THE GODS OF ASGARD series, begins, Loki has escaped from his imprisonment by the gods and is getting the dreaded ship Naglfar ready to sail against the gods, tr... Read More

Cast No Shadow: Good premise but weak execution

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Cast No Shadow by Nick Tapalansky & Anissa Espinosa

Cast No Shadow, written by Nick Tapalansky and illustrated by Anissa Espinosa, is a mostly muddled graphic story that mixes the paranormal, teen romance/angst, and coming of age in a blend that never really coheres.

Greg Shepard is a boy born without a shadow in a small town whose mayor regularly tries to rejuvenate the town via a string of cheap tourist-trap draws (The World’s Biggest fill-in-the-blank). Being without a shadow is the least of his issues though:  his mother died when he was young, his father has a new girlfriend (Ruth) whom Greg refuses to engage with, he’s regularly annoyed by the mayor’s son, and adding insult to injury, his best friend Layla is dating said annoyance. When he and Layla visit the town’s abandoned and decrepit mansion, Greg meets Eleanor, the ghost of a f... Read More

Inferno: A “mater” of life and death

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Inferno directed by Dario Argento

In Dario Argento's 1977 masterpiece, Suspiria, the viewer learns that the ballet school known as the Tanz Akademie, in Freiburg, Germany, was the home to a coven of witches led by a being later revealed to be the Mater Suspiriorum, Latin for "Mother of Sighs." And three years later, in Argento's semisequel, Inferno, the viewer learns something even more disturbing. The Mother of Sighs, the oldest, was apparently only one of three sister entities; living somewhere in Rome, there exists the Mater Lacrimarum (Mother of Tears), the most beautiful of the three (we DO get a look at her in Inferno, I THINK, in the guise of a music student played by Ania Pieroni), while in New York City abides Mater Tenebrarum (the Mother of Darkness), the youngest and cruelest of the bunch. Together, the trio has caused woe to mankind for untold ages.

And when a young ... Read More

Sunday Status Update: October 15, 2017

Character update will return next week.



Bill: Not much reading this week between a sprint to finish the first draft of a new play by Friday’s rehearsal and finally grading the 45 essays I’d put off in order to do so. Though that didn’t stop me from binging the first season of Fortitude all the way through. So nothing completed, though I’m about halfway through Peter Brett’s The Core, the concluding volume of his THE DEMON CYCLE.
 

Marion: I’m writing this on Thursday morning. This hasn’t been a great week for me. Half of my home county is in flames, and three friends lost their houses – they evacuated safely with themselves and their pets, but family photos, antiques, original art, books, wedding dresses safely stowed in ... Read More

Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One by Alan Moore (An Oxford College Student Review!)

Saga of the Swamp Thing: Book One by Alan Moore (An Oxford College Student Review!)

In this column, I feature comic book reviews written by my students at Oxford College of Emory University. Oxford College is a small liberal arts school just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I challenge students to read and interpret comics because I believe sequential art and visual literacy are essential parts of education at any level (see my Manifesto!). I post the best of my students’ reviews in this column. Today, I am proud to present a review by Jacob Brummeler:

Jacob Brummeler is a sophomore at Oxford College of Emory University and is pursuing a double major in Playwriting and Media Studies. He lives on Long Island, New York and enjoys telling stories in any medium. Jacob aspires to be pla... Read More

Provenance: A coming-of-age tale blended with a murder semi-mystery

Readers’ average rating:

Provenance by Ann Leckie

Whether you’ve read Ann Leckie’s IMPERIAL RADCH trilogy or not (though I highly recommend you do, as it’s excellent), there’s plenty to enjoy about Provenance (2017), a new and stand-alone novel set within the reaches of Radchaai space. The Empire-shifting events of Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy have an effect on the political schemes in progress within Provenance, but the primary focus is on genera... Read More

Ruin of Angels: Gods, sisterhood and venture capitalism collide

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Ruin of Angels by Max Gladstone

Ruin of Angels, published in 2017, is Max Gladstone’s sixth book in the CRAFT series. This story follows Kai, a priestess we met in Full Fathom Five. Kai is a, well, a “venture priestess.” She creates internal spiritual spaces for clients, and invests in projects that reach into the metaphysical — as everything in this world does. A project has brought her to Agdel Lex, a modern city nested in the time and space of Alikand and a dead city as well, while outside the squid-powered protection of Agdel Lex, starving remnants of half-dead gods ravage anyone who tries to enter the Wastes. Kai’s sister, Ley, an artist, suddenly approaches... Read More

The Bloodstained Shadow: Eerie canal

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The Bloodstained Shadow directed by Antonio Bido

A practically goreless giallo coming fairly late in that genre's cycle, The Bloodstained Shadow (1978) yet manages to provide all the requisite thrills that Eurohorror fans might reasonably expect. This was the second picture from director Antonio Bido, whose initial giallo entry, The Cat With Jade Eyes (aka Watch Me When I Kill), released the year before, seems almost forgotten today. Drawing liberally from 15 years' worth of giallo tropes and conventions preceding it (Bido, on this Anchor Bay DVD, acknowledges his debt to Dario Argento during a modern-day, informative interview), the film remains a very worthwhile contribution to the genre.

In it, the viewer meets a pair of brothers, Stefano and Paolo D'Archangelo. When Stefano, a college professor (played by Lino Capolicchio, who some may recall as the leading man in P... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Thoughts about Blade Runner and similar films (giveaway!)

As I mentioned in my review of Blade Runner 2049, I thought the film was engrossing, atmospheric, and evocative, combining a deeply thoughtful and philosophical story with visual flare.

Whether you've had a chance to see it or not, here are some questions I'd like to discuss:

1) What are some other films (or books) that do a good job of questioning and/or blurring the concept of identity between humans and the Artificial Intelligence that we create?

2) Can you think of a film series that should have ended rather than adding one or more sequels? If there were multiple sequels, where should the series have ended and why?

3) What would a Blade Runner prequel look like/involve?

4) Where would a Blade Runner 3 go? (Let's try to avoid spoilers for Blade Runner 2049.)

One random commenter will ch... Read More

Blade Runner 2049: Visually stunning

Readers’ average rating:

Blade Runner 2049 directed by Denis Villeneuve

Despite a very few missteps, Blade Runner 2049 is a true visual wonder and a rich, multi-layered narrative that feels languorous and evocative rather than slow, despite its nearly three-hour length.

The story picks up thirty years after the original (we get a bit of textual exposition to fill in the gap at the very start), with Ryan Gosling as K, a replicant serving the LAPD force who, in the opening scene, is charged with bringing in an allegedly dangerous replicant. Though he succeeds (painfully), the job also leads to a revelation that could topple the society, sending K on another seek-and-destroy mission that eventually leads him to Harrison Ford’s Deckard. Aligned against K is a new corporation, headed by Wallace (Jared Leto), a genius who helped feed the world and has been manufacturing more obedient replicants, though not fast enough for de... Read More