The City in the Middle of the Night: On my “Best of 2019” list


The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders The second novel by Charlie Jane Anders, The City in the Middle of the Night (2019), surprised me. Having read her...

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Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies


Weird Tales: The Magazine that Never Dies edited by Marvin Kaye Marvin Kaye’s Weird Tales: The Magazine That Never Dies anthology from 1988 takes a slightly different tack...

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Revelator: A high-proof distillation of horror


Revelator by Daryl Gregory Stella Birch sees her family’s god when she is nine years old, in 1933. Her father has dropped her off in a sheltered valley, the cove, in the Smoky...

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The Orphan’s Tales: Each story is brilliant and brilliantly told


THE ORPHAN’S TALES by Catherynne M. Valente I haven’t read any fantasy quite like Catherynne M. Valente’s The Orphan’s Tales duology. This is the story of a...

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Recent Posts

Moon of Three Rings: A promising start to the MOONSINGER saga

Moon of Three Rings by Andre Norton

Krip Vorlund, an assistant cargo master on a trade ship, is visiting a beast show with some of his crewmates on a frontier planet called Yiktor. There he meets a woman named Maelen who takes care of the little furry creatures that perform in the show. It’s obvious that she controls them, yet they seem more like children than slaves. In fact, when a messenger arrives and tells her that a man is abusing a creature somewhere in the town, she gets angry and goes to intervene.

Krip, concerned about the beautiful young woman’s safety, accompanies Maelen and promptly gets in trouble when he uses an illegal weapon to protect her. Then he finds out that he had actually been unknowingly lured to the beast show by a political faction on Yiktor that wants to get their hands on his off-world weapons. They were forcing Maelen to entice Krip, threatening to out her as a moonsinger if she doesn’t comply. ... Read More

Sunday Status Update: November 28, 2021

Kat: Due to a very busy week, plus Thanksgiving, I have not progressed much since last week. I continue to listen to Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES with my daughter. We will probably finish the fourth book, Winter, today. I’m also still reading Poul Anderson’s The Boat of a Million Years. As I mentioned last week, it’s long!

Marion: Read More

Understanding Genes: Might be tough reading for some, and too easy for others

Understanding Genes by Kostas Kampourakis 

Understanding Genes (2021), by Kostas Kampourakis, sits in a sometimes-awkward position betwixt and between a popular science book and a textbook. As such, lay readers looking for simple, smooth, easy-to-follow explanations may want to look elsewhere or be prepared to struggle and/or skim. Those with some background in biology (beyond their high school/early college courses) will fare better.

The intent of the book is a caution against genetic essentialism or fatalism and against the over-simplification, over-aggrandization, and over-simplification of the role genes play in human development generally, but especially (and mostly) with regard to disease. Here’s where the betwixt and between is a bit awkward, because while those who read about genetics only via the newspaper or online/TV news might be subjected to such ... Read More

WWWednesday: November 24, 2021

This Guardian UK story follows the process of restoring an ancient book of psalms.

Articles about the Dragon Awards always draw me in, because the Dragon Award is fairly new and it’s a chance to watch an award evolve in the wild. That said, the title of this one baffled me for several paragraphs, but rest assured, Goodreads does make an appearance!

The Huntington Museum is offering an exhibition of graphics demonstrating how authors have “mapped” their fictional works.  (Thanks to File 770.)

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The Girl and the Mountain:

The Girl and the Mountain by Mark Lawrence

The Girl and the Mountain (2021) is the second installment in Mark Lawrence’s BOOK OF THE ICE series. It follows The Girl and the Stars, which you need to read first. There will be a few spoilers for that book in this review.

The Girl and the Stars introduced an icy world inhabited by tribes that follow a spiritual leader who, every few years, chooses each tribes’ weakest children and throws them into a hole in the ice where they, presumably, die. But when our hero, Yaz, jumps in after her brother, she discovers a new world below the ice where the children who’ve been disposed of have built their own civilization. When she realizes that ... Read More

Scribe: Come for the bleakness, stay for the poetry

Scribe by Alyson Hagy

Alyson Hagy’s slim 2018 literary novella Scribe mines Appalachian folktales for a bleak, harrowing and poetic story about loss, guilt, love and honor. By deliberately setting the story in a world outside of our time and space, Hagy forces attention onto the characters, which at times gives the book the feel of a stage-play more than a story or a poem.

In spite of an otherworldly setting, this novel isn’t speculative fiction. Hagy isn’t raising questions about how people live in a world like this one. She’s exploring the effects of isolation, guilt and trauma against a folkloric setting, and asking, “In a terrible situation, how do we find the good in each other?”

In order to help set expectations, I will engage in a mild spoiler. In this world, there has been an historic civil war. There have, it seems, been several wars. There have been mi... Read More

The Green Man: Screwball sci-fi

The Green Man by Harold M. Sherman

A short while back, I had some words to say about Festus Pragnell’s 1935 novel The Green Man of Graypec, which had originally appeared in the pages of Wonder Stories magazine and had given us the tale of a green-furred caveman living in a subatomic world. Now I am here to report on another green man, but one of a wholly different nature; one who hails not from the infinitesimally small microverse, but rather from a planet over a trillion miles away. The book in question is fittingly called The Green Man, was released over a decade after Pragnell’s novel and is very much lighter in tone. Most importantly, though, the book has revealed itself to be a delight to... Read More

Sunday Status Update: November 21, 2021

Kat:  I continue to listen to Marissa Meyer’s LUNAR CHRONICLES with my daughter. We finished the third book, Cress, last night. We’ll be starting the fourth one, Winter, today. I’m also reading Poul Anderson’s The Boat of a Million Years. It’s long, so it will probably take me a while.

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A Gift for a Ghost: Four young women express themselves through art

A Gift for a Ghost by Borja Gonzalez (writing and art)

A Gift for a Ghost is a comic book of two intertwined stories, one from 1856 and the other from 2016. In 1856, a young woman, Teresa, talks with a skeleton, asking him why he is crying. After a short conversation, they go look at the stars. This scene is typical of the visions that Teresa has throughout the book. In 2016, another young woman, Gloria, gets dressed in her room, which is covered in music posters. A butterfly connects the two stories, flying out of 1856 into 2016, landing in Gloria’s room on the lampshade.

Gloria meets up with her two friends, Cristina and Laura. The three of them want to start a high school punk band — The Black Holes. Only they have one problem: None of them can play any instruments, of which Cristina has plenty in her basement, which is set up as a rehearsal room (decorated with rock posters and littered with horro... Read More

Comfort Me With Apples: All happy families are (not) alike

Comfort Me With Apples by Catherynne M. Valente

Sophia’s life is perfect. She adores her husband, her company is much sought-after in the luxurious gated community she and her various neighbors share, she has endless tasks and joys to fill the long days while she waits for her husband to return from his various freelancing jobs. So why does everyone keep asking if she’s happy? Why has her husband forbidden her from breaching their home’s basement? Everything is perfect … right?

It would be easy to call Comfort Me With Apples (2021) a retelling of the “Bluebeard” folktale, and that’s part of what Catherynne M. Valente is doing in this slim novella, but that’s not where the story ends — Valente’s also drawing from other, older, darker so... Read More