Kelly chats with Louise Hawes


Kelly recently interviewed Louise Hawes after reading and enjoying her book Black Pearls: A Faerie Strand (2008). You can read Kelly’s review here and learn more about Louise...

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Marked: I admire Adam the drug addict


Readers’ average rating: Marked by Alex Hughes For a couple more days you can still enter to win a copy of Clean or Sharp, the first two MINDSPACE INVESTIGATION novels. My...

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Myth & Fantasy


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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Our rating system


We realize that we’re not professional literature critics — we’re just a group of readers who love to read and write about speculative fiction — but we...

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Recent Posts

Indispensable Issues: Digital Comics on a Budget

Indispensable Issues: Digital Comics on a Budget

In this regularly updated column, I will be giving very brief plugs for digital comics that can be purchased on Comixology for $1 to $10 (along with a few free ones, too!). Over time, I want to build up a good list of affordable comics for those new to the art form or for those comic book fans who want to find hidden gems on Comixology.

I hope to feature plenty of independent comics, both new and old, though I will not avoid DC and Marvel. I merely won’t give them preference. Also, though I might include superhero comics, this list will reflect a wide variety of genres from the autobiographical to the western to SFF.

Here are my guidelines for inclusion in this column:

Great One-shots (“one-offs”)
Great First Issues
Free Comics
Great stand-alone single issues or great stand-alone short story arcs in the middle of a series
... Read More

Mr. Meeson’s Will: Half adventure novel, half legal thriller

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Mr. Meeson’s Will by H. Rider Haggard

Editor's note: Mr. Meeson’s Will is free in Kindle format

Mr. Meeson’s Will was first printed in book form in October 1888, after having first appeared earlier that year in The Illustrated London News. It was H. Rider Haggard’s 11th novel (out of 58), and one in which his experiences as both a writer and aspiring lawyer were given vent. The novel is at once a tale of adventure, a critique of the publishing industry in late 19th century England, and a satire on the English legal system.

In the book’s first half, Augusta Smithers — our heroine and a successful author, who has unwittingly entered into an unfair contract with Meeson’s pub... Read More

Shadows of Self: A breezy weird Western romp

Readers’ average rating:

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Bill: Let’s see, last week in September. That means I’ve got to grade my first-years’ first essays. Call the guy to clean the gutters. Make sure the furnace and gas fireplace are set to go. And, oh yeah, it’s been a month, that must mean I have a new Brandon Sanderson novel to review. Yep, Shadows of Self, the second book in his second MISTBORN trilogy (or, if you prefer, the fifth book in the entire MISTBORN series). Apparently it’s due out in two weeks, which means I better get on this now or the third book will be out before I review the second (I swear, if Brandon Sanderson and Joyce Carol Oates ever had a child, their love child would be a high-speed printing press).

Interestingly... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Identify last month’s book covers

Today’s covers all come from books we reviewed in November 2016. Once you identify a book cover, in the comment section list:

1. The number of the cover (1-16)
2. The author
3. The book title

Please identify just one cover that has not yet been identified correctly so that others will have a chance to play. If they're not all identified by next Thursday, you can come back and identify more.



Each of your correct entries enters you into a drawing to win a book of your choice from our stacks. Winners are notified in the comments, so make sure to check the notification box or remember to check back in about 10 days. If we don't choose a winner within 2 weeks, please bug Marion.

And, as always, we've got Read More

Do Elephants Have Knees and Other Stories of Darwinian Origins: Sometimes convoluted, thoroughly informative

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Do Elephants Have Knees and Other Stories of Darwinian Origins by Charles R. Ault, Jr

In Do Elephants Have Knees and Other Stories of Darwinian Origins (2016), Charles R. Ault, Jr. takes a unique path to explaining the complexities of evolution, using children’s books such as Morris the Moose, Treasure Island, Diary of a Worm and others as springboards to discussing Charles Darwin’s path to discovery, from his time as an insatiably curious child to his adventure-filled twenties to the twilight years he spent focused on the lowly (though not to him) earthworm.

The focus is, as the title notes, on origins, and so we learn about the early ancestors and evolutionary route to those elephants (yes, by the way, they do have knees), whales, tetrapods, and p... Read More

The Prefect: Complex detective procedural set among orbitals

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The Prefect by Alastair Reynolds

The Prefect is the fifth Alastair Reynolds book I’ve read in his REVELATION SPACE series, though it is a stand-alone and set earlier in chronology than the other books. By the time of the main trilogy Revelation Space (2000), Redemption Ark (2002), and Absolution Gap (2003), the Glitter Band of 10,000 orbitals has already been destroyed by the corrosive Melding Plague, so we see only its wrecked aftermath. With such tantalizing hints, it is ... Read More

WWWednesday; December 7, 2016

Today’s word for Wednesday is the noun flummadiddle, which means something worthless or foolish, a bauble. It used to be the name of a bread-and-pork-fat based pudding with sweet spices like cinnamon and allspice (that doesn’t sound worthless). It might come from the word “flummery,” also a kind of dessert, which is believed to be of Welsh origin.

You will see this word again later in the column. 

Dreamer of Dreams by Edmund DuLac



Gift Recommendations and Giveaway:

I’m always amazed and impressed by the knowledge base of our readers, so I’m turning part of the column over to you today. Since it’s that time of year, please go to the comments and tell us all your best gift-book recommendation. If you are a writer, it might be your own book (if indie published, please provide the purchase details.) It does not have to have come out ... Read More

Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood: Perfect for fans of the cult TV series

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Heiress of Collinwood by Lara Parker

Heiress of Collinwood (2016) is the fourth DARK SHADOWS novel written by Lara Parker, who happens to have been an original cast member on the gothic horror soap opera Dark Shadows, which ran on American television from 1966 – 1971 and has inspired a large number of tie-in novels. (Ms. Parker starred in the role of Angélique Bouchard Collins, in addition to a few other characters.) Contrary to the comedic tone of Tim Burton’s 2012 film based on the show, the original soap opera was quite serious and melodramatic, and Heiress of Collinwood follows that same vein.

Book 1



Our tale begins in Collinsport, Maine, in the distant year of 1797. The Collins family’s young governess, Victoria Winters, previously became... Read More

Spellbreaker: An imaginative and challengingly complex fantasy

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Spellbreaker by Blake Charlton

If someone is offering to sell you a spell that predicts one hour into the future, one excellent way to test whether the spell really works is to try to murder the man selling it to you. If you succeed in killing him, clearly it wasn’t a valid prophetic spell. In any case, that’s Leandra Weal’s rationale for poisoning the blackrice liqueur she offers to the smuggler selling her the spell. Luckily for both Leandra and the smuggler, the spell warns the smuggler not to drink the puffer fish liver-infused drink. Unfortunately, once Leandra tries the spell, making a small spelling adjustment to allow her to see twenty-four hours into the future, she sees that she will either have to murder someone she loves or die herself. If she tries to run or avoid the prophecy, everyone she loves will suddenly die.

With this compelling start, Spellbreaker Read More

Stephanie Burgis chats CONGRESS OF SECRETS and gives away a book!

Stephanie Burgis established herself as a middle grade fantasy writer with her KAT, INCORRIGIBLE series. In 2015, she expanded her repertoire with the romantic fantasy novel Masks and Shadows, set in an alternate 18th century Austria. She followed that up with Congress of Secrets, which is set in Vienna in the early 19th century and includes hidden identities, political secrets and elemental alchemy. Burgis lives in Wales. She took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with Marion about her work, living in Wales, and how history can repeat itself if we’re not careful.

One random commenter with a USA or Canada address will get a copy of Congress of Secrets. Read More