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The Women of Weird Tales: Some of the Weird Tales ladies get their due

The Women of Weird Tales by Greye La Spina, Everil Worrell, Mary Elizabeth Counselman and Eli Colter

If I were to ask you to name some of the famous writers who had work published in the pages of the legendary pulp magazine Weird Tales, odds are that you might reply with some of the following: H. P. Lovecraft, whose Cthulhu stories sprung up in Weird Tales; Robert E. Howard, who placed his Conan stories therein; Robert Bloch, Henry Kuttner, perhaps Clark Ashton Smith. Readers who are ... Read More

Blood Heir: The return of Julie, princess incognito (Blog Tour Review!)

Blood Heir by Ilona Andrews

This review is part of the Blood Heir blog tour (#BloodHeirKD).

Julie is returning home to Atlanta after a long eight-year absence. Kate Daniels’ adopted daughter is now twenty-six, and she’s been busy the past eight years: fighting with the Canaanite god Moloch, the Child Eater, stealing one of his eyes for herself after he ripped out one of hers, being remade inside and out by the magical eye, learning about ancient powers and civilizations from her adoptive relatives … and still pining for Derek, the shapeshifter wolf she’s had a crush on since she was thirteen. But now she’s moved on. For sure. Definitely.

But it’s not the hope of seeing Derek again that brings Julie (now going by Aurelia Ryder) back to Atlanta, or even of seeing Kate.... Read More

The Fires of Vengeance: Best served cold

The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter

The Rage of Dragons was a well-realized and propulsive debut for author Evan Winter, though the main character was such an Edgy Boi™ that he could probably have gone ice dancing without skates. Winter's gifts for pacing and his novel world-building nevertheless left me with a good impression, and when I saw that the sequel was available, I immediately purchased a copy. To be clear, there are relatively few series that I buy on release day anymore, so it says something about Winter's abilities that I felt instantly motivated to continue THE BURNING.

For the most part, The Fires of Vengeance (2020) is your typical fantasy sequel in that it's more of what worked the first time around while also clearly being a transition to the next Bi... Read More

The Rage of Dragons: A classic style in new clothes

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

There's a vogue lately for fantasy inspired by cultures other than medieval western Europe or modern America, and to that I give a hearty cheer. To be clear, you'll hardly find a bigger lover of medieval Europe in particular than I am — I spent the last couple of weeks before Christmas grading papers on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, for example — but even I will admit that the neverending conga line of plucky yeomen rising up to shake wartorn kingdoms can sometimes get old. It's therefore nice to see new cultural ideas coming into play. That said, I have to wonder how far some of these stories are really straying from their predecessors in the genre. The Rage of Dragons (2019) is a good example: it features African-inspired names and themes, but it's also inescapably a story about a plucky yeoman rising up to shake a wartorn kingdom.

Still, Th... Read More

Catfishing on CatNet: A clowder of catastrophes, catalysts and catharsis

Catfishing on CatNet by Naomi Kritzer

In this worthy Nebula (Andre Norton Award) finalist by Naomi Kritzer we meet Steph, a girl who has spent most of her life on the run with her mother. According to her mom, Steph’s abusive father is extremely dangerous and, after spending a couple of years in jail for arson, he’s stalking them. Steph and her mom keep fleeing to small towns, trying to get lost, but eventually her mom gets nervous again and wants to move on. This means that Steph keeps starting at new schools and never has time to settle in and make friends. Her mom, anxious and paranoid, is not a good source of comfort or companionship.

Steph’s only source of stability is CatNet, a social media site where users are assigned by the site’s administrators to chat rooms called Clowders. At CatNet, Steph is known as LittleBat and she ... Read More

A Deadly Education: Sharp character insights, fantastic originality

Reposting to include Tadiana's new review.

A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik

I honestly had a very hard time with the beginning of Naomi Novik’s newest novel, A Deadly Education (2020). But based on my experience with her prior work, I kept going and though I don’t think this novel nears the strength of ones like Spinning Silver or Uprooted, I was happy I did.

El (short for Galadriel) Higgins is a student at the Scholomance, a sort of sentient, no-professors-here, boarding school for sorcerers. Students have various tracks of magic, the school presents them with lessons, suppli... Read More

The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories: Historical horror done to a turn

The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories by Marjorie Bowen

At the tail end of my recent review of D. K. Broster’s Couching at the Door, I mentioned that I so enjoyed this volume of creepy stories that I was minded to immediately begin another book from British publisher Wordsworth Editions’ Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural division … and I’m so glad that I followed through on that! My latest discovery from this wide-ranging series is Marjorie Bowen’s The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories, and in retrospect the two books have happily paired quite well together. Both were released in the 1940s (1942 for the Broster book, 1949 for the Bowen) and are the products of British authoresses more well known for their historical fi... Read More

The Ministry for The Future: An optimistic but unlikely scenario

The Ministry for The Future by Kim Stanley Robinson

Kim Stanley Robinson’s new novel, The Ministry for The Future (2020), feels like a blueprint. Set in our near future, it follows a set of diverse characters living all over the world who are trying to solve the climate crisis, repair our world and, essentially, save the human race.

The novel begins in India where Frank May is working at a charity organization’s neighborhood clinic. Heatwaves have become a regular occurrence there. When the worst one yet arrives and power is shut off, Frank desperately tries to help the citizens in the neighborhood but is unsuccessful. He is the only survivor of an event that kills millions of people, results in a stubborn case of PTSD for Frank, and sets off a global effort to make sure that it never happens again.

Back in Switzerland, Mary Murphy heads the Ministry for the Future, an ... Read More

Ninth House: Black magic in Yale’s secret societies

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

Galaxy “Alex” Stern (the name courtesy of her hippie mother) seems an obvious misfit at prestigious Yale University. Wealth, athletic talent and academic stardom are nowhere to be found in Alex’s life. Instead she’s a high school dropout with a history of dead-end jobs and drug use, and the survivor of a traumatic multiple homicide. But she has a rare talent that to date has brought her nothing but grief: Alex sees the ghosts of dead people.

As it turns out, that talent is highly useful to Yale’s eight elite secret societies, and they’ve had their eye on Alex for a while. Each of these houses specializes in a different type of black magic — Skull and Bones, for example, performs ritual vivisections of living people, examining their inner organs to predict stock market changes — and these dark rituals attract ghosts. A nin... Read More

Abe Sapien (Vol. 2): The Devil Does Not Jest and Other Stories: Abe flies solo

Abe Sapien (Vol. 2): The Devil Does Not Jest and Other Stories by Mike Mignola (writer), John Arcudi (writer), Patric Reynolds (artist), Peter Snejbjerg (artist), James Harren (artist), Dave Stewart (colors), and Clem Robins (letters)

Abe Sapien (Vol. 2): The Devil Does Not Jest and Other Stories is a collection of three stories:

In “The Haunted Boy,” Abe thinks he is going out on a simple mission, a regular, run-of-the-mill haunting: Two boys fell through the ice into a pond. One died and the other survived. Recently, there have been sightings of the ghost of the dead boy. The B.P.R.D. has been contacted to assess the situation. The professor sends out Abe Sapien to investigate. Not surprisingly, the case takes a strange, and much more dangerous turn. But first, we get to watch Abe do fieldwork by diving into the pond at night to reveal the secret behind the mystery. There’s a dramatic action scene... Read More

Batman: 100 Greatest Moments: Fun reference with a lot of illustrations

Batman: 100 Greatest Moments by Robert Greenberger

Batman: 100 Greatest Moments (2019), by Robert Greenberger, like his Flash: 100 Greatest Moments which I previously reviewed (and will borrow some of here due to the similarities) is a browser’s reference book that offers up a comic reader’s cornucopia of illustrations, something one always hopes for in this sort of book. As the title says, it’s a look at an (obviously subjective) list of highlights from the near-century the classic character has been around. While some fans might quibble here and there, the list as a whole is most likely going to find general consensus.

As noted, while one can read it cover to cover, it’s more a browsing kind of book. I say that because it doesn’t go in chronological order, nor does it go into a deep di... Read More

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: It’s not about aliens, it’s about us

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Disclaimer: As my students know, I’ve had a crush on Hank Green for years. I will try to not let this bias my review.

In the middle of the night when April May, a graphic designer, is on her way home from work in Manhattan, she’s the first person to notice a huge new statue on the sidewalk. It’s totally out of place, but she appreciates its artistry, so she calls her friend Andy and asks him to help her make a video about the statue (which she names Carl). When Andy uploads it to YouTube, it goes viral. When other Carls are discovered in other major world cities, April, the first person to report on the Carls, becomes famous and begins to relish her role as their spokesperson. Her fame opens many doors but also causes problems and, eventually, becomes dangerous.

An ... Read More

The Dark Chamber: Grandisonant and venust

The Dark Chamber by Leonard Cline

Just recently, I had some words to say concerning British author J. B. Priestley’s chilling second novel, Benighted, which was released in 1927. But, as it turns out, that was not the only atmospheric and genuinely unnerving horror exercise to come out that year. On the other side of the pond, Michigan-born author Leonard Cline, in his third novel, The Dark Chamber, would create a work so very macabre that it would later earn enthusiastic praise in H. P. Lovecraft’s renowned essay entitled “Supernatural Horror in Literature.” Cline, who was 34 when this novel was released, would ultimately gain some minor renown as the author o... Read More

Flash: 100 Greatest Moments: Fun, fully-illustrated reference

Flash: 100 Greatest Moments by Robert Greenberger

Flash: 100 Greatest Moments (2020), by Robert Greenberger, is a browser’s reference book that doesn’t stint on illustrations, always a plus for this sort of subject.

As the title says, it’s a look at a (obviously subjective) list of highlights from the eight or so decades the character has been around.

While some fans might quibble here and there, the list as a whole is most likely going to find general consensus.

As noted, while one can read it cover to cover, it’s more a browsing kind of book. I say that because it doesn’t go in chronological order, nor does it go into a deep dive in any particular area.

So it’s not meant to be read as an analysis, say, of the character’s changes over time. One picks up on those changes while reading, but as the entries shift around in time, it’s not a unified... Read More

Serpentine: A tiny tale of great significance

Serpentine by Philip Pullman

Serpentine (2020) is a tiny tale set in between the two trilogies that have defined Philip Pullman's writing career. Whilst at a mere seventy pages it may seem, by Pullman's standards, brief, it plays a vital function in understanding the adventures the future Lyra will embark upon in the THE BOOK OF DUST.

A note from the author explains that the story was originally written 2004, before Pullman had any idea that he would return to Lyra and her world.

Yet the story marks a pivotal point in Lyra's understanding of herself and her relationship with her daemon, Pantalaimon; this very understanding will, in fact, dictate the entire course of the subseq... Read More

Sorcery of a Queen: Good blend of humor, character, and plot

Sorcery of a Queen by Brian Naslund

Honestly, I could give Brian Naslund’s Sorcery of a Queen (2020) a four just for the following jail-break exchange:

“Stay exactly two paces behind me at all times ... Stop when I stop, move when I move.”

 “So, your plan doesn’t involve putting on pants?”

 “No.”

 “Could we maybe restrategize so that it does?”

I got to that bit of dialogue around three a.m. and let out a “Hah!” loud enough that I immediately cowered in expectation that my wife, asleep in the room next door, was about to offer up a none-too-happy commentary on my waking her three hours before work. Luckily, she slept through my outburst, which meant I got to keep my m... Read More

Battle Ground: Pretty much what it says on the tin

Battle Ground by Jim Butcher

THE DRESDEN FILES is a weird series, even for urban fantasy. My go-to example for non-aficionados is a wizard riding a polka-powered zombie T-rex through downtown Chicago, and that's not even the wackiest thing that's happened. So it's saying something when I have to acknowledge that the series is in a weird place right now. Maybe I should call it weird plus. Weird squared?

For once, though, when I say "weird," I'm not talking about the content so much as the form. The DRESDEN books have generally followed a pretty straightforward formula: Harry Dresden (wizard private eye, basically) is minding his own business when life ambushes him with at least two crises at once. In the process of juggling his A and B stories (and trying to figure out which is which), Dresden uncovers some kind of complication or dastardly adversary. After a heartfelt discussion with a friend over his doubts that ... Read More

Hatch: Oppel’s alien invasion remains full of action

Hatch by Kenneth Oppel

Hatch (2020) is Kenneth Oppel’s continuation of his MG alien invasion tale that began with Bloom. Oppel maintains the fast-paced excitement, keeping his focus on the three young protagonists Petra, Anaya, and Seth, while adding a few new characters as well. Fans of book one will not be disappointed, save by a killer of a cliffhanger ending. Inevitable spoilers for book one ahead.

In the first book, aliens were softening up Earth and preparing it for their impending invasion by seeding our planet with various deadly plant species that weren’t just dangerous to touch or eat but were actively carnivorous, though their biggest danger was a growth rate that was quickly obliterating humanity’s food crops.... Read More

Bloom: A scary plant pandemic that now seems possible

Reposting to include Bill's new review.

Bloom by Kenneth Oppel

Three kids battle an invasive plant in Kenneth Oppel’s latest middle grade fantasy. Bloom (2020) is mysterious and thrilling all the way through. Our heroes are:

Anaya, who’s allergic to almost everything.

Petra, who’s allergic to water. She used to be Anaya’s best friend until Anaya betrayed her.

Seth, the new kid in town who’s being fostered by farmers.

When black weeds appear suddenly and grow tall overnight, nobody knows what they are, even Anaya’s botanist father. The townsfolk pull out and chop down the weeds but they just come back the next day. Nothing kills them.

It’s soon discovered that these weeds are growing all over the planet and causing sev... Read More

Attack Surface: All too scarily plausible

Attack Surface by Cory Doctorow

Attack Surface is Cory Doctorow’s newest book in a loose series that begins with Little Brother, though one needn’t have read the other two (thus “loose”) to follow and enjoy this one. It’s a taut techno-thriller, though I’ll admit to glazing over at times in long sections of techno-speak.

The novel is two-stranded. In current time, Masha is a computer security expert working for a transnational company who sell their services — hacking, surveillance, tech manipulation and control, etc. — to anybody willing to pay with no attempt to distinguish any of their clients’ morality/ethics. Which is why we first find Masha helping an old Soviet-satellite country’s dictator surveil and jail those annoy... Read More

Hilda and the Midnight Giant: A return to Hilda’s world

Hilda and the Midnight Giant by Luke Pearson
The second in Luke Pearson’s HILDA series of graphic novels once again returns to the Scandinavian countryside and the adventures of Hilda, a blue-haired little girl who lives with her mother in a remote cabin. She spends her days wandering about with her sketchbook, exploring the natural world and the mysterious creatures that live within it.

Mother and daughter are relaxing at home one evening when stones suddenly fly through their windows, and a little voice announces that they’re to leave the premises or be forcibly evicted. There’s no sign of anyone, though Hilda grabs a broom and starts sweeping the invisible intruders to the door — where she’s stunned to see a giant looming over the house.

That’s two mysteries for the price of one, and being as... Read More

Dark Ark (Vol. 1): Forty Nights: A ship of horrors

Dark Ark (Vol. 1): Forty Nights by Cullen Bunn (writer) & Juan Doe (artist)

Dark Ark is a wonderfully disturbing horror story about the flood of forty days and forty nights. But this story is not about Noah’s ark. This is about a different ark — one that we have never heard of. Noah’s ark saved the natural creatures for the new world, but the dark ark saves the unnatural creatures. It’s a great premise that allows Cullen Bunn to put a bunch of vampires, monsters, and other unholy beings together in one place.

Issue one gives us the backstory, which explains why these creatures do not go ahead and feast on the animals in Noah’s ark: The counterpart to Noah on the dark ark is a sorcerer commanded by Satan, or some such demonic being, to build this ark. If he does not, he and his family will suffer eternity in hell. However, if he successfully builds the ark and saves the creatures aboard, maki... Read More

The Trials of Koli: Feels like a middle book, but a good one

The Trials of Koli by M.R. Carey

M.R. Carey’s The Book of Koli was one of my favorite reads this year. I loved everything about it and was eagerly awaiting the sequel, The Trials of Koli (2020), which was, thankfully, released only a few months after The Book of Koli appeared. There will be some spoilers for The Book of Koli in this review, so beware.

Koli is still on the run. He misses his mother and sisters but can’t go back home or he’ll be hanged. He continues to travel with Ursula, the strange woman who knows a lot about science, medicine, and technology and who is accompanied by a piece of “tech” that is able to diagnose illnesses, shoot down enemies, and other such han... Read More

Wolfen: There goes the neighborhood…

Wolfen directed by Michael Wadleigh

I well remember loving Whitley Strieber’s 1978 novel The Wolfen, back when it was first released. The book was atmospheric as could be and managed to do something that all good horror novels of its ilk should do: make the reader believe in the possibility of the supernatural. The book was most assuredly unsettling, and one that this reader has not forgotten, even 40+ years after experiencing it. But despite my love of that book, somehow, I never got around to seeing the film that was made from it, three years later. Released in July ’81, Wolfen (why the name was changed is a matter best asked of the Hollywood production team that doubtless spent hours wondering if the dropped “The” would lead to more ticket sales) turned out to be something of a box office flop, pulling in only $10 million after being produced for $17 million. Today, the viewer can only wonder why, as it is most assur... Read More

Verdigris Deep: Be careful what you wish for

Reposting to include Rebecca's new review.

Verdigris Deep by Frances Hardinge

A glance back at former reviews of Frances Hardinge’s work reveals that I have overused the word “weird.” Hardly the nicest word, and yet I meant it as a compliment. It’s a testament to my struggle to pinpoint what it is that makes Hardinge’s books stand out. Nevertheless, stand out they do.

Verdigris Deep (2008) is a weird book and, once again, that’s meant as a compliment. Ryan, Josh and Chelle get stranded in a forbidden village when they miss their bus home. Finding they have no money for the next bus they resort to pinching coins from an old wishing well hidden in the wood. What they don’t know is that the well is inhabited by an angry well spirit who doesn't react well to h... Read More