Winter Rose: A dreamy and mysterious tale of family secrets


Winter Rose by Patricia McKillip The first time I read Patricia McKillip, I didn’t get very far. The book was the Riddlemaster of Hed, and I was completely unprepared for her...

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The Farthest Shore: One of the strongest books in the series


The Farthest Shore by Ursula Le Guin The Farthest Shore is the third book in Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea series, and the concluding one for several decades. Since it’s...

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Railhead: Imaginative and entertaining from beginning to end


Railhead by Philip Reeve If the idea of a heist aboard a sentient train traveling at faster-than-light speeds appeals to you; if said heist involves assumed identities, the theft of...

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Shadrach in the Furnace: Intriguing, exciting, tense


Shadrach in the Furnace by Robert Silverberg It’s the summer of 2012 and the Earth is a disaster. A deadly virus has killed most of the world population and those who remain...

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Recent Posts

The Wheel of Time: The wheel spins a little too slowly

The Wheel of Time on Amazon Prime

Let’s face it, this is a Big One for sci-fi/fantasy fans. The first three episodes of The Wheel of Time dropped on Amazon Prime, and I promptly watched all three. In the spirit of full transparency, let me say that while I quite enjoyed Robert Jordan’s first three books, I felt the series started to decline at that point and kept going south, such that my final word on the series (which I did finish in masochistic fashion) was that I wouldn’t recommend the time investment to anyone thinking about starting it. So why watch the show? My hope is that it greatly streamlines a heavily bloated series, cleans up the many gender issues, and gets rid of all the writerly tics (if I never see a braid get “tugged” I’ll nominate the show for an Emmy). I can’t tell yet if that’ll be the case, but here are my thoughts so far.

I... Read More

WWWednesday: December 1, 2021

A single topic column today, and a book review at that. I’m not using our review format, but this was a four-star book for me.

Home Before Dark (2020) is a haunted house story written by Riley Sager, a pseudonym of a Princeton, New Jersey writer. If you like atmospheric, unsettling haunted-house stories and strong female protagonists, you’ll probably enjoy this. I did.

Maggie has grown up with the ugly effects of fame—or infamy—her whole life. Her father’s book House of Horrors, a supposedly true story of twenty days spent with her parents in a haunted house, Baneberry Hall, culminating in them fleeing with only the clothes on their backs, continues to be a best-seller twenty-five years later. Little Maggie, five years old, was the star of the book in many ways, even though adult Maggie remembers none of it.

With her father’s death, she discovers to her shock that he never sold Baneberry Hall, a... Read More

Exiles of the Stars: Krip and Maelen meet some body snatchers

Exiles of the Stars by Andre Norton

Exiles of the Stars (1971) is the second novel in Andre Norton’s MOONSINGER or MOON MAGIC series and a direct sequel to the first book, Moon of Three Rings (1966). These two novels have been combined into an omnibus edition called Moonsinger which was published in print in 2013 by Baen books and in audio format this year by Tantor Audio. The narrators of the audio edition, Chris Abernathy and Chelsea Stephens, are well-cast. They give an excellent performance. I recommend this edition but, in whatever format you read them, make sure to read Moon of Three Rings first. There will be some spoilers for that novel in this review.... Read More

Aurora’s End: Squad 312’s galactic conflicts in the past, present and future

Aurora’s End by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Aurora’s End, the final book in the AURORA CYCLE YA science fiction trilogy by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, begins and finishes with a bang — literally, lots of them — and sandwiches all kinds of wild events in between. (Note: this review includes some spoilers for the prior books in this series.)

When we left Squad 312, a group of young adult space academy grads trying to save the galaxy, at the end of book #2, Aurora Burning, they were split into three groups, ALL of them on the verge of being murdered in one way or another. As I commented in my review of Aurora Burning Read More

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