Alix E. Harrow

ALIX E. HARROW recently got her MA in History at the University of Vermont, and has circled back to her Old Kentucky Home with her partner Nick Stiner. She spends her time desperately repairing their newly-purchased home, reading fantasy books, throwing a frisbee for their neurotic border collie, and trying to cook authentic Mexican food. She makes a hilariously small amount of money writing high school history curriculum. Alix is dipping her toes into the blogosphere at The Other Side of the Rain, in an attempt to sharpen her writing skills and also not-incidentally talk about the books she loves. Some of her favorite authors include Neil Gaiman, Ursula LeGuin, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Susanna Clarke.

WWWednesday: December 4, 2013

Well, considering that it was a long holiday weekend in which I accomplished nothing, I kind of expected the rest of the world to be lolling around on their Mom’s couches too. But they weren’t. The first news is that the GoodReads Choice awards have been announced, with almost 2 million votes. The Ocean at the End of the Lane won the fantasy category, which is fun because people keep trying to label it as a “kid’s” book. Even more entertainingly, Atwood won the science fiction category with MaddAddamThis is awesome because she’s been very vocal about how nobody should call Her Great Literature “science fic... Read More

WWWednesday: November 27, 2013

There wasn't a ton of action this week on the prize and list-making front, possibly because the entire commercial world is sliding into that pit of shame and horror that we call Black Thursday. That said, the British Science Fiction Award is now open for nominations, and I recently found the monthly book drop at Geek Exchange, which helpfully lists the important speculative fiction releases for the month. Oh, and here’s an all-time list of the best horror stories ever.

But there were about a bajillion (that’s a metric gazillion) interesting and awesome articles about the books we all love so much. First up, in honor of the release of the very well-received Catch... Read More

Delia’s Shadow: Ghosts, mystery, and good fun

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Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

Delia’s Shadow, Jaime Lee Moyer’s first novel, is a fun and light read highly recommended for anyone who just wants to see a hard-edged detective solve a murder mystery while falling in love, with ghosts and Edwardian outfits as excellent window dressing. If that sounds satisfying, then Delia’s Shadowis a perfectly pleasant way to spend a Saturday afternoon. The characters fall into well-worn but very likable categories, the mystery-solving proceeds in neatly-ordered steps, and the romance is sweetly predictable.

Within the first few pages, we’ve met Delia Martin and her Shadow. Delia is a mousy young schoolteacher who goes home to San Francisco to deal with a ghost that haunts her. There she reunites with her foster-sister, a charming socialite who shamelessly schemes to find Delia a good, upstanding young man. But, oh, ... Read More

WWWednesday: November 20, 2013

On this, my inaugural Websday address, I’m pleased to say that the interwebs have risen to the occasion and provided me with a veritable sea of links for you all. First, in prize-giving news, we’re now in the final round of Goodreads Reader’s Choice Award, which is primarily useful as a book-recommending tool. The SFWA is now accepting nominations for the Nebula Award, although it’s a members-only affair, and Analog’s Award Ballot is also up.  Finally, Tor.com offers some thoughts on the Women’s Prize for Fiction, and why the SFF community rarely gets within spitting distance of it.

My favorite of the... Read More

Masks: An inventive adventure with a few flaws

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Masks by E.C. Blake

Like The Hunger Games,E.C. Blake’s Masks is the beginning of a "young adult friendly" trilogy about a young female protagonist who must overcome an oppressive system and defeat an evil dictator. In the isolated island-world of Aygrima, every adult must wear a magical Mask. Should the Mask-wearer think any disloyal or rebellious thoughts about the Autarch, then the Mask will reveal their crimes to the emperor’s private police force. Our heroine, a fifteen-year-old girl named Mara, looks forward to apprenticing to her father to become a Maskmaker in service to the Autharchy. She eagerly awaits her own Masking but — gasp! — the Masking ceremony goes awry, and she is swept off with the other teenagers who fail their magical test of citizenship. This initial premise is the most original and interesting piece of the book. The rest of the novel is a series of... Read More

Ammonite: Plays a sly trick on us all

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Ammonite by Nicola Griffith

In Nicola Griffith’s Ammonite, we find a world without men. If you’re imagining a serene society ruled by wise matriarchs, or a planet of space-babes waiting for Kirk to rescue them, then perhaps this book is not for you. Because Griffith’s world is different. Her book is about reworking the familiar ploys of science-fictions past and making them wonderfully new. It’s classically science fiction, in that it pushes irreverently against the boundaries of classic science fiction.

The first few pages of the book are filled with enough airlocks, sliding doors, and food dispensers to satisfy the most rigid sci-fi fan. An anthropologist named Marghe is in space, preparing to descend to the planet Jeep. Jeep, we learn, was once colonized by the Company for its valuable resources. But then a virus swept through the settlers and killed all the men and m... Read More

Shadows: Young Adult fantasy at its best and worst

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Shadows by Robin McKinley

Shadowshas all the beloved elements of a Robin McKinley novel: the strong female lead, the endearing team of animals and talismans, the never-quite-articulated magic, the laconic romance, and the tendency to give characters one-syllable names. For those familiar pieces alone, Shadows is worth reading. But McKinley’s horizons are smaller than they used to be, and fit more easily into the bounds of young adult fiction.

When we meet Maggie, she’s a sulky, quiet teenager who volunteers as the local animal shelter and spouts unlikely future-slang (loophead, dreeping, dead battery). Her widowed mother has recently remarried an enigmatic man named Val, whose shadow moves eerily and hugely around him. As Maggie tiptoes fearfully around Val, we are introd... Read More

The Etched City: Plenty of brains and courage, missing a heart

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The Etched City by K.J. Bishop

The Etched City is a story about a deteriorating tropical city whose denizens include the monstrous, the deranged, and the metamorphic, circling each other in rainy alleys and hot cafes. It’s been lauded as an intelligent and alluring novel. Bishop has been compared flatteringly with Miéville and Moorcock. While The Etched City certainly has plenty of brains and courage, it may be missing its heart.

The book opens on the dusty fringes of civilization, in a desolate Western landscape distantly reminiscent of King’s DARK TOWER books. Gwynn and Raule, our not-heroes, were both on the losing side... Read More

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