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The Singing Bones: Haunting fairy-tale sculptures

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The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan

I’m not quite sure how to review The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan. It’s not quite like anything else I’ve read, and I’m not sure I know how to review visual art in the first place. But I can certainly recommend it.

This unique book contains photographs of small sculptures by Tan, each illustrating one of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. Each sculpture encapsulates its respective tale in one haunting image, often enhanced by the lighting and arrangement of the photo, and accompanied by a short passage from the tale.

"Mother Trudy"

You will be familiar with some of the tales. Others, you might not be. ... Read More

Lost Gods: Death is not the end

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Lost Gods by Brom

If you’ve seen any buzz about author/illustrator Brom’s newest novel, Lost Gods (2016), in which the words “Dante” or “Inferno” are heavily featured, I’d advise you to read that buzz with a pinch of salt; to rely on the similarities between Lost Gods and Inferno is to neglect the breadth and depth of Brom’s creativity and imagination, and I would sorely hate to see this level of world-building and inspiration reduced to the bare-bones concept of “guy goes to Hell” when there’s so much more presented here.

Lost Gods does feature a man who travels to the netherworld, it’s true: Chet Moran, aged twenty-four, is fresh out of county lockup and trying to set his life s... Read More

The Shores of Space: Matheson X 13

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The Shores of Space by Richard Matheson

The four novels that I had previously read by New Jersey-born Richard Matheson  — namely, 1954’s I Am Legend, 1956’s The Shrinking Man, 1958’s A Stir of Echoes and 1971’s Hell House — all demonstrated to this reader what a sure hand the late author had in the fields of science fiction, fantasy and Read More

The Secret Horses of Briar Hill: finding magic and wings in dark times

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The Secret Horses of Briar Hill by Megan Shepherd

Emmaline knows a secret: Briar Hill, a Shropshire mansion which has been turned into a children’s hospital during World War II, has beautiful winged horses that live in the mirrors of its elegant rooms. They move in and out of the mirror-rooms, walking through doorways, nosing half-finished cups of tea. But only Emmaline can see them, and she keeps the secret to herself. She knows the boys like Benny and Jack will tease her mercilessly if they knew. She doesn’t even tell her best friend Anna, who’s the most ill person at the hospital, for fear that she’ll distress Anna.

One day Benny steals a treasured piece of chocolate from Emmaline and eats it. Upset, Emmaline runs outside and (breaking the hospital rules) climbs over the ivy of a walled garden on the grounds. Inside the abandoned garden, a beautiful white horse with a soft gr... Read More

The House of Secrets by Steven T. Seagle and by Teddy Kristiansen

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The House of Secrets written by Steven T. Seagle and illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen

The House of Secrets is a twenty-five issue series that started in 1996 and is written by Steven T. Seagle and illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen. It features a lying, unreliable runaway named Rain Harper; a young girl she takes under her wing named Traci; and a group of musicians, one of whom, Ben Volk, becomes the third central character in the series. Right after Rain and Traci meet, Traci tells Rain a valuable secret: She knows a place to squat where they will be safe. Rain, therefore, joins Traci and moves into the House of Secrets. And then all the fun starts.

This series brings with it a long history: House of Secrets, an old horror series that started in 1956, was mainly a platform for one-off stories in the tradition of all the old classic horr... Read More

Black Wolves: The hearts and minds of Elliott’s characters are wonderful

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Black Wolves by Kate Elliott

I’m not going to spend much time summarizing the plot of Kate Elliott’s epic fantasy Black Wolves. I don’t think I could. Black Wolves (2015)is the first book of a series, also called BLACK WOLVES. It is 780 pages long, and the story spans nearly fifty years (although there is a large gap in the timeline). It involves a nation called the Hundred, which sits on the northern border of a large, powerful empire. It involves the murder of a king, the crowning of another, and a dynastic dispute between two queens. It involves a shift away from indigenous beliefs to a state-sponsored religion imported from the Empire — and a corrupt priesthood. It includes people from various cultures who have come to the Hundred a... Read More

Ficciones: Innovative and challenging fantastical stories

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Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Ficciones is a classic collection of seventeen short stories by acclaimed Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, originally published in the 1940s in Spanish, and winner of the 1961 International Publishers Prize. These stories and mock essays are a challenging mixture of philosophy, magical realism, fantasy, ruminations on the nature of life, perception and more. There are layers of meaning and frequent allusions to historic figures, other literary works, and philosophical ideas, not readily discernable at first read. Reading Ficciones, and trying to grasp the concepts in it, was definitely the major mental workout of the year for me. My brain nearly overloaded several times, but reading some critical analyses of these works helped tremendously with my understanding and appreciation of these works ... well,... Read More

The Time Traveler’s Wife: A haunting and bittersweet love story

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The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I'm certainly late to the party when it comes to reading Audrey Niffenegger's first novel — I remember it making a huge splash when it was first published, and was astonished to flip open my copy and realise it was released back in 2003. Time certainly flies, which is an apt idiom to recall when reading The Time Traveler's Wife.

Clare meets Henry for the first time when she's six and he's thirty-six. Henry meets Clare for the first time when he's twenty-eight and she's twenty. This is made possible by the fact Henry is born with a rare genetic disease that sporadically pulls him into his past or future, often depositing him in strange locations where he's left stranded and alone.

What makes matters worse... Read More

Kingfisher: A Camelot-type court in the modern era

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review:

Kingfisher by Patricia A. McKillip

Knights dress in black and ride motorcycles, sorcerers and sorceresses run restaurants, and maybe your grandpa isn’t actually crazy. Such is the world in which Patricia A. McKillip’s Kingfisher takes place. Though it may begin with a deceivingly simple quest of a young man looking for his long-lost father, Kingfisher becomes much more than that very quickly. It ends up following the stories of four young people as they navigate their changing worlds and values as well as deftly interweaving their lives in surprisingly satisfying ways. I was leery (and a bit confused) at first, but Kingfisher delivers an enchanting tale of anci... Read More

Magic Binds: Wedding planning is rough when your father’s a homicidal tyrant

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Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

Note: Some spoilers for earlier books in the series

In Magic Binds (2016), the ninth book in Ilona AndrewsKATE DANIELS urban fantasy series, Kate, a mercenary with awe-inspiring sword-fighting and magical abilities, and Curran, her shapeshifter mate and the former Beast Lord, have decided to officially tie the knot. After dealing with several obstacles to get to the home of their friend Roman, the priest of Chernobog, the Russian dark god, including a pony-sized black scorpion (“If we killed his pet scorpion, we’d never hear the end of it”), they ask Roman to marry them. Roman is absolutely delighted ― as the Black God’s priest, no one ever asks him to marry them ― and in one of the funniest running ... Read More

Daughter of Blood: The third instalment in an ever-growing fantasy epic

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Daughter of Blood by Helen Lowe

Daughter of Blood (2016), is the third book in Helen Lowe's four-book WALL OF NIGHT series, preceded by The Heir of Night and The Gathering of the Lost. It's been a while since I read the last book, so it took a few chapters to untangle the far-reaching web of characters and plotlines, but soon I was back on track and re-immersing myself into the world of Haarth.

The Wall of Night is a vast mountain range that is garrisoned by the warlike Derai clans. Made up of Nine Houses in all, the Derai defend the wall against the destructive and demonic Darkswarm — but internal strife and civil war has weakened the vigilance of the Houses, and the power of the Swarm grows stronger ev... Read More

Ghost Talkers: Thought-provoking, action-packed paranormal spy drama

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Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal leaves behind the British Regency period in Ghost Talkers (2016), setting this paranormal tale during World War I. The British have learned that spiritualism is real, and they are using a circle of mediums to interact with the spirits of recently killed British soldiers, who seek out the mediums to provide whatever information they can from the scene of their deaths. Ginger Stuyvesant is an American medium, engaged to a British intelligence officer, and the main character of this action-packed paranormal spy drama.

This is a fascinating idea and Kowal develops it thoroughly. Realistically, most soldiers who died in a trench aren’t going to have useful intel to bring back; Kowal, a consummate professional,... Read More

Death, the Deluxe Edition: A treasure for SANDMAN fans

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Reposting to include Stuart's new review

Death: The Deluxe Edition by Neil Gaiman

Death: The Deluxe Edition, was published by Vertigo in 2012. It’s a handsome book, slightly outsized (7 ¼ by 11 inches), perfect bound with a hard cover, dust jacket and matte black endpapers. The cover has a collage look, filled with shades of black and shell-pink, with Death in profile. The spiral tattoo below her right eye is prominent, and her hair sweeps in a curve like a wing.

All the stories in Death: The Deluxe Edition were written by Neil Gaiman. This collection includes the following stories, most of which are reprints:

"The Sound of her Wings" -- artwork by Mike Dringerberg and Malcolm Jones III
"Façade" -- artwork by Colleen Doran, Malco... Read More

Night Flower: Romantic and bittersweet prequel

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Night Flower by Kate Elliott

Night Flower, currently only available online, is a prequel novella to Court of Fives, the first book in Kate Elliott’s YA fantasy trilogy (also titled COURT OF FIVES). The relationship between Doma Kiya and Captain Esladas — the parents of Jessamy, teenaged Fives adversary and central figure of the trilogy — is a matter of speculation for many, especially the Saroese nobles who view this pairing with disgust and disdain. In this novella, Elliott takes readers back to when Kiya and Esladas first set foot in the city of Saryenia, when they were young and seeking their fortunes, and reveals the circumstances which drew them together.

Newly arrived in Saryenia with a small group of comrades from Old... Read More

The Empty Ones: We laughed, we cringed, we kept turning pages

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The Empty Ones by Robert Brockway

The Empty Ones (2016) is suspenseful, scary, action-packed and occasionally gross. This is the second book in Robert Brockway’s THE VICIOUS CIRCUIT series, following 2015’s The Unnoticeables. The Empty Ones crackles with tension, and I found that several of the questions that plagued me at the end of Book One are answered here. By the end of this one, I am even more worried about young stuntwoman Kaitlyn than I was before.

The Empty Ones picks up the 2013 storyline just shortly after The Unnoticeables ended. Kaitlyn, her fr... Read More

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

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Editor's note: Won the 2016 Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story

Reposting to include Stuart's new review:

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman & J.H. Williams III

Most monthly comics come out, well, monthly, but DC decided to drag out The Sandman: Overture and release it every other month, and that seemed reasonable given how long it takes for J. H. Williams III to create his exquisite artwork. However, the comic ended up taking a full year longer than announced — from October 2013 to October 2015. After the first three issues, I quit rea... Read More

The Sunlight Pilgrims: Chills to the bone

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The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

The premise of Jenni Fagan’s 2016 novel, The Sunlight Pilgrims, is entirely plausible: in the not-so-far-off future of November 2020, winter has descended upon the globe, the Gulf Stream is both slowing and cooling, a gigantic iceberg is making its way from Norway to Scotland, and the Thames is overflowing from the extra water created by melting polar ice caps. Rather than focus on climatologists or environmental and economic protestors, however, Fagan presents three average people and the ways their lives intertwine and change as they try to survive the worst winter on record.

Until recently, Dylan McRae lived in a Soho art-house movie theatre with his mother and grandmother, distilling homemade gin and sharing the joys of classic cinema with their dwindling patrons. Both women have died, unfortunately, and... Read More

Poisoned Blade: Will Efea rise?

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Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott

Warning: may contain mild spoilers for the previous book, Court of Fives

In Poisoned Blade, the second novel in her COURT OF FIVES trilogy, Kate Elliott builds on the strengths of Court of Fives and expands upon it, weaving tangled webs of intrigue, deceit, and impressively multi-layered political schemes. Anyone who thinks Young Adult fiction can’t successfully handle themes like a culture’s endurance in defiance of colonialism, the myriad socio-economic factors leading toward revolution, or racial and/or gender inequality, needs to read these books: Elliott covers these issues and much more while cr... Read More

Girl in the Shadows: Pick a card, any card

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Girl in the Shadows by Gwenda Bond

Gwenda Bond has a real gift for writing believable, interesting teenaged protagonists, and puts that gift to use in Girl in the Shadows (2016), the second installment in her CIRQUE AMERICAN series and a companion to the first novel, Girl on a Wire. Though not a true sequel, many primary characters from Girl on a Wire return as supporting characters in Girl in the Shadows, and key events from the first book have a definite effect on the second. While it’s not necessary to read them in order, enough hints are dropped regarding previous mysterious and tragic events that new readers are sure to be interested in the entire series.

Moira Mitchell wa... Read More

Four Roads Cross: Gladstone’s books get deeper but don’t skimp on the fun

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Four Roads Cross by Max Gladstone

I can’t describe how much fun it was to be back with Tara Abernathy in Alt Coulumb in Four Roads Cross, Max Gladstone’s fifth book in the CRAFT SEQUENCE. In Tara’s world, a year has passed since Three Parts Dead, and Tara has been working hard in the city of the god Kos the Ever-burning. Now, a new threat, aimed at the nascent goddess Seril, the Lady of the Skies, emerges, forcing Tara to take even greater risks, and making her friends question nearly everything about their lives in the city.

Seril was believed to have been killed during the God Wars. Among the citizens of Alt Coulumb she is a fearsome myth, a mad god used t... Read More

Dark Matter: The yellow wood contains more than just those two roads

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Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Dark Matter (2016) is a tense science fiction thriller that was nearly unputdownable. It sucked me in almost immediately and didn't spit me out again until I was on the other side of about a four hour reading marathon.

Jason Dessen is a brilliant physicist who in some respects has "settled." Fifteen years ago, on the cusp of a scientific breakthrough in quantum mechanics, his girlfriend Daniela, a gifted artist, unexpectedly told him that she was pregnant. After an internal struggle, Jason proposed to her. Their son Charlie was born prematurely, weighing less than two pounds, and required expensive medical treatment. Between that and Daniela’s crippling postpartum depression, Jason was unable to spend enough time on his research, lost his funding and career momentum, and dropped off the fast track to scientific recognition. He now ... Read More

Icon: A tense fashionpunk political thriller

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Icon by Genevieve Valentine

I think Genevieve Valentine has invented a new subgenre: the fashionpunk political thriller. So far both books in THE PERSONA SEQUENCE, Persona (2015) and Icon (2016), fit into this fashion-forward category, where appearance is everything... or at least, so it appears.
… In this light they looked like ghosts or witches, something powerful and untouchable and lovely, even in pencil skirts and jeans and sequin tops and Kipa’s sensible cardigan with the top button of her blouse left undone.
Suyana Sapaki is the Face for a young political jurisdiction called the United Amazon Rainforest Coalition. Faces appear at diplomatic events,... Read More

Sandman (Vol. 8): Worlds’ End by Neil Gaiman

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Sandman (Vol. 8): Worlds' End by Neil Gaiman

Brief Lives, volume 7 of Sandman, told a single story, a road-trip, about Dream. It was preceded by Fables and Reflections, volume 6, in which nine separate tales were told of varying quality. Volume 8, Worlds’ End, blends the two approaches via Gaiman’s Chaucerian narrative: There are a series of separate stories told in Worlds’ End, but they are unified by a framing device. The framing device is that travellers from different worlds and r... Read More

Cuckoo Song: Weird, scary and utterly unexpected

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Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

As usual, I am late to the party. Published in 2014, Cuckoo Song is Frances Hardinge’s sixth novel. Her debut novel, Fly by Night, won the Branford Boase First Novel Award and her 2015 novel The Lie Tree won the Costa Book Award, (the fi... Read More

The House: Genuinely creepy domestic thriller

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The House by Christina Lauren

Parental figures can be hard to deal with, especially when you’re a teenager. It seems like they’re always yelling at you to study, or to stop going out all the time, or else they’re stalking your significant other, or they’re making doorknobs vanish so that you’re trapped inside your own house as punishment for wanting to move out after you graduate from high school. It’s a rough time, no mistake, and explored to chilling effect in Christina Lauren’s The House.

Delilah Blue, seventeen years old and obsessed with horror movies, has returned to her childhood home after several years at an expensive private school back East. Her wealthy grandmother’s money has been forcibly reallocated to her end-of-life care and her father has lost his ... Read More