Justin chats with Alan Dean Foster


I recently had the opportunity to chat with Alan Dean Foster about his new book Predators I have Known. Mr. Foster is a highly regarded and best selling author with over 30 years...

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In Dreams Begin: A seductive dream indeed


In Dreams Begin by Skyler White For better or for worse, I have a habit of comparing books to other books. It helps me sort out my own thoughts, and it makes recommendations easier,...

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Harbinger: Omega Rising by Joshua Dysart


Harbinger (Vol. 1): Omega Rising by Joshua Dysart (writer) and Lewis LarRosa (artist) and Khari Evans (artist) and other various artists Until recently, I’d read only a few...

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Our favorite books of 2014


Here are our favorite books published in 2014. Hover over the cover to see who recommends each book and what they say about it. Please keep in mind that we did not read every SFF...

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Recent Posts

Marion talks to Chris Willrich, and gives away a book

Chris Willrich is a novel and short story writer. His most recent book, The Chart of Tomorrows, completes the GAUNT AND BONE fantasy trilogy (here are my reviews). Recently, Chris took time to talk to me about writing, poetry, and being a librarian.

I've got a copy of The Chart of Tomorrows to send to one commenter with a U.S. address.

Marion Deeds: The GAUNT AND BONE series started, with The Scroll of Years, in a land very much like our China. In The Silk Map you introduced a nomadic people similar to the Mongols, who use hot-air balloons. In The Chart of Tomorrows, we have magic based on Scandinavian folklore… and even a bit of Celtic influence, I think. Do you just love folklore? I guess the mor... Read More

The Dinosaur Lords: Even dinosaurs can’t fully save it

The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán

It takes no effort at all to imagine what the “elevator mash-up pitch” for Victor Milán’s The Dinosaur Lords was: “It’s Jurassic Park meets Game of Thrones!”  And darned if that wholly predictable selling phrase isn’t the main blurb (provided by none other than George R.R. Martin himself) sitting right above the title of my copy. And herein lie two of the problems with The Dinosaur Lords. One is that, like that mash-up blurb, there are no surprises awaiting the reader here; it’s pretty much same old same old European medieval historical fantasy with the usual smidgeon of magic. And two is that it rises nowhere near the level of either of its metaphorical parents (and yes, you can include Jurassic Park 2 ... Read More

The Lost Stories: Fun episodes from RANGER’S APPRENTICE

The Lost Stories by John Flanagan

The Lost Stories, book 11 in John Flanagan’s RANGER APPRENTICE series for young readers, is a collection of short stories that fill in some gaps and give us supplemental information about Flanagan’s characters and world. The collection begins with a short frame story which takes place in July 1896 in the Republic of Aralan States which was formerly the medieval Kingdom of Araluen. An archaeologist and his assistant are excavating a site and looking for evidence of Castle Redmont and the Rangers of Araluen. They find a chest full of manuscripts that contain these tales:

“Death of a Hero” — (Takes place about 15 years before The Ruins of Gorlan.) Pauline has convinced Halt to finally tell Will the truth about Will’s parents, whi... Read More

Horrible Monday: The Mist in the Mirror by Susan Hill

The Mist in the Mirror: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill

The beginning of The Mist in the Mirror is lovely, evocative of turn-of-the century London and the surrounding English countryside. I felt like Susan Hill had been there and merely transcribed her experiences:
It was early afternoon but already the light was fading and darkness drawing in. A chill wind sneaked down alleyways and passages off the river. The houses were grimy, shiny and black-roofed with rain, mean and poor and ugly, and regularly interspersed with more, looming, sheds. The air was filled with the hooting of tugs and a plaintive siren, and there was the constant thump of boxes onto the wharves.
If that doesn't set the mood for you, then nothing surely will.

All of the required spooky set pieces are on full display in this tale: a pale, dirty boy of roughly thirteen years who appears when there is trouble and... Read More

A Tolkien Bestiary: As engrossing as Tolkien’s novels

A Tolkien Bestiary by David Day

David Day’s A Tolkien Bestiary may be the greatest companion book ever. Even if it’s not, it’s still my favorite. Day provides an overview of people, places, races, and Middle Earth’s history. Although Day explains why he refers to the work as a bestiary, I usually think of it as an awesome encyclopedia.

In A Tolkien Bestiary, readers can lose themselves for hours at a time. I have encountered this book in many places — classrooms, libraries, and, of course, my childhood bedroom when visiting my parents during the holidays. Each time that I see it, I can’t resist opening it, thinking to learn more about the Istari or Elrond or Strider. Then, I go on to spend the better part of an hour reading about Melkor or the Valar or Gollum.

Barrow Wights ... Read More

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja: The gang’s all here

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan

The Emperor of Nihon-Ja, book ten in John Flanagan’s RANGER’S APPRENTICE series, was supposed to be the “final adventure” for Will Treaty and his friends. (It wasn’t, but I’ll come back to that later.) I suppose that’s why “the gang’s all here” in this installment. Flanagan has to work hard to get them all to the same place, but he manages.

The story takes place in the country of Nihon-Ja, which is modeled after the Empire of Japan (if you couldn’t tell by its name). Horace and George had travelled there on a mission and Horace went missing. All of his friends, including Will, Alyss, Princess Cassandra, Pauline and Gundar, go to Nihon-Ja to find him. When they get there, they discover that someone is trying to overthrow the emperor, an... Read More

Sunday Status Update: August 2, 2015

This week, Frodo fields a question about technological advancement in Middle Earth.

Frodo: Someone asked me the other day why it is that Hobbits have things like clocks and umbrellas. Apparently he was very surprised at the sight of them, and hinted that even the most inventive dwarven craftsmen did not appear to have come up with things like that yet. How then, he asked, had Hobbits come up with such things when they are not known for their industry? Well, perhaps we aren't famed as a people for building things bigger and better all over the place, but that doesn't mean we'll have no progress at all. Honestly, Gondorians: it's been thousands of years, and Aragorn's sword is still cutting-edge (ha!). Time to start paying inventors again.

Jana: This week I made some progress in ... Read More

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks

Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks

I am giving Sam Zabel and the Magic Pen by Dylan Horrocks my highest recommendation with one qualification: Unless you are easily offended by depictions of male sexual fantasies — even those written and depicted in order to critique those fantasies — then you should read this book. Without a doubt, Dylan Horrocks has written and drawn a five-star graphic novel. The book offers various answers to this question: What is the nature of fantasy? In doing so, Horrocks considers fantasy from a variety of angles, so the book is not solely about sex.

The story is about a fictional comic book author Sam Zabel and his travels inside the worlds ... Read More

Endless Sky: The Story of a Swiss in America by David Boller

Endless Sky: The Story of a Swiss in America by David Boller

In the past few years, I’ve gained an appreciation for comic book memoirs, and Endless Sky by David Boller is another enjoyable work in this category. It doesn’t have the brilliant poetry of Fun Home or the powerful genius of Brooklyn Dreams, but it’s still worth seeking out, particularly if you are interested either in the story of a comic book writer trying to make it in the industry or in the culture-shock a man from Switzerl... Read More

Speak Easy: Dark, scintillating Jazz Age fairy tale

Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente

I held off on reading Speak Easy by Catherynne M. Valente for a few weeks after it arrived because I knew once I started reading it, I’d want to do nothing else. When you look at the novella, this doesn’t seem like such a big problem. The advanced reader’s copy is a slim volume, thinner than my pinky finger (the signed limited-edition volumes for sale at Subterranean Press might be bigger; they are hardcovers, bound in cloth). But take a peek into the first page of Valente’s novella, and you get a sense of the denseness and beauty of her language:
There's this ragamuffin city out east, you follow? Sitting pretty with a river on each arm, lit up in her gladdest rags since 1624. She'll tell you she's seen it all, boy howdy, the deep down and the high up, champagne and syphili... Read More