A Game of Thrones: An impressive start to an excellent series


A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones is set in Westeros, a continent that was divided into Seven Kingdoms until the Targaryens and their...

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The CYGNET duology: Early Patricia McKillip


CYGNET by Patricia McKillip She walks the path of time toward this house… Two Patricia McKillip books in a single volume, what could be better? As two of her earliest works,...

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Blue Mars: A must-read work of science fiction


Blue Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson Earth is powerful but overpopulated, and its many billions of people now look at the Martian frontier with desperate envy and resentment. Is war...

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A Gathering of Gargoyles: A Lost Masterpiece


A Gathering of Gargoyles by Meredith Ann Pierce A Gathering of Gargoyles is the second of Meredith Ann Pierce‘s Darkangel trilogy, beginning with The Dark Angel and...

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Recent Posts

Beasts Before Us: The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution

Beasts Before Us: The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution by Elsa Panciroli

Let’s face it. When it comes to discussion and portrayal of ancient/extinct life in modern culture, dinosaurs rule. They rumble, lumber, sprint, pounce, trumpet, and roar across our screens and pages, across bedspreads and pajamas. Their names trip merrily across the tongues of children as they reel off Latinate terminology and eras like an auctioneer at a livestock sale. The “Rex” in T-rex may as well refer to the King of the Lizard’s place in our collective minds as much to its role as an apex predator of its time.

Pity then the poor early mammals, who can’t help but be overshadowed (literally and figuratively) by their massive cousins. Well, no more. Paleontologist Elsa Panciroli speaks for the mammals! And luckily for us, she does so in fantastic fashion. In sharp, concise, vivid prose, she’s here to tell us to forget everything we... Read More

Breath of Earth: Alt-history and magic in a high-stakes adventure

Reposting to include Marion's new review.

Breath of Earth by Beth Cato

Breath of Earth begins a new fantastical alternative-history series from Beth Cato, in which hydrogen-filled airships dot the skies, giant beasts in the ground cause earthquakes, and Teddy Roosevelt became an internationally-renowned Ambassador rather than the 26th U.S. President. (There’s also a nationally touring opera prominently featured in a side plot; if Lincoln isn’t a sly nod to a certain massively popular Tony-winning musical, I will eat my least-favorite hat.)

In an almost-recognizable San Francisco, a permanent establishment of geomancer wardens keeps the city and the surrounding countryside safe from tremors and other manifestations of magical energy. By absorbing the earth’s power and transferring it to crystals of a special mineral known as kermanite, the wardens all... Read More

The Doom of the Haunted Opera: The kids encounter a necromancer

The Doom of the Haunted Opera by John Bellairs & Brad Strickland

The Doom of the Haunted Opera (1995), the sixth book in John Bellairs’ and Brad Strickland’s LEWIS BARNAVELT series for middle grade readers, has best friends Lewis and Rose Rita back together again after having separate adventures in the previous two novels, The Ghost in the Mirror (Rose Rita) and The Vengeance of the Witch-Finder (Lewis).

The adults are away — Uncle Jonathan and Mrs. Zimmerman have gone to Florida to execute the will of a frien... Read More

Sunday Status Update: September 19, 2021

Marion: If you’re looking for a spooky “dark carnival” book to head into fall with, I finished Bacchanal by Veronica G. Henry, and I recommend it. I liked the complex loyalties of the carnies, the touch of an all-Black carnival working the American south and southwest (with all the mundane danger that implies) and the creepy little stories about the carnival that Henry weaves into the tale. I read two comic book collections: Batwoman: Elegy. I loved the art,and  the backstory about Kate getting kicked out of West Point was good. Overall, though, while Kate mouths words about finding a “way to serve,” the story is all about her, and personal vengeance. I also read Book One of The Old Guard. For ... Read More

Courtney Crumrin: The Night Things: A Young Witch in the Making

Courtney Crumrin (Volume 1): The Night Things by Ted Naifeh (writer and artist) and Warren Wucinich (colorist)

Courtney Crumrin is an instant classic of a children’s tale. There is no doubt that this entire series, over seven volumes long now, is a five-star production, with fantastic art and dark, nightmarish storytelling. This is not a light-hearted fairy tale about a nice little girl. Courtney is decidedly not good-natured, and she’s always got plans that get others in trouble.

First, we meet Butterworm, a creature lurking in the backyard of Professor Crumrin’s house. He gives us an introduction to the professor and the rumors in the neighborhood that surround him. The professor is Courtney’s uncle, and when Courtney comes to stay with him, her adventures begin. She brings along with her a pair of vapid parents who care only about getting ahead and what the neighbors might think.

Courtney is apprehensive ... Read More

Among Thieves: A fun, light read

Among Thieves by M.J. Kuhn


Among Thieves (2021), by M.J. Kuhn, is a sort of two-tier book for me. On the one hand, it’s a fast-paced heist novel that speeds along amiably, easily, and with some humor. On the other hand, it’s somewhat of a paint-by-number heist novel that doesn’t really add anything new to the genre and skimps a bit on characterization and world-building. If it’s your first experience with this type of story, or you’re a younger reader, and/or someone who prefers plot-driven rather than character-driven stories, then it’s probably in the 3.5-4.0-star range. If you’ve read similar works, though, or look for more substance and originality in your characters, it’s more likely a 3.0 or, if you’re grumpy that day, a 2.5.

Ryia Cautella, aka the Butcher of Carrowwick... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Identify last month’s covers

Today’s covers all come from books or films we reviewed in August 2021. Once you identify a cover, in the comment section list:

1. The number of the cover (1-16)
2. The author/director
3. The book/film 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 at noon EST, 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 (if you're in the U.S.A.) or a $5 Amazon gift certificate (outside the U.S.A.). Winners are notified in the comments, so make sure to check the notification box and/or remember to check back in about 10 days. If we don't choose a winner within... Read More

Ace of Spades: Dark academia meets Gossip Girl, and no place is safe

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Ace of Spades (2021) is Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé’s first novel. It’s a YA thriller and doesn’t have any speculative elements, but if you like good prose, good characterization and high-suspense thrillers this book might be for you. I was not the target audience for this book, but after the first couple of chapters, I could not put it down.

Chiamaka and Devon are students at an upscale private high school called Niveus Academy. It’s senior year, and the two are each selected to be Senior Prefects (the school, while located in the USA, follows certain British school traditions.) For Chiamaka, this simply ticks another box on her personal to-do list, which include being crowned queen of the school ball and accepted into Yale premed. Devon, a scholarship student, is stunned that he’s been made prefect, because he has no friends and k... Read More

WWWednesday: September 15, 2021

File 770 provides part one the Emmy Creative Arts award.

You are probably already wondering what to get your children for Christmas, right? Of course  you are. How about a robot unicorn, suitable for riding? Child sizes only, sorry.

The UK Guardian provides a long story about three techbros, their vision of a libertarian utopia, crypto-currency and a decommissioned cruise ship. What could possibly go wrong? (Spoiler alert…) (Genuine spoiler alert—I knew libertarianism was out the window as soon as they started talking about pets.)
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Intrigue on the Upper Level: My kind of Hell, Chicago is…

Intrigue on the Upper Level by Thomas Temple Hoyne

Just recently, I had some words to say about Jack Williamson and Dr. Miles J. Breuer’s 1931 novel The Birth of a New Republic, in which a group of citizens (living on the Moon) rises up in rebellion against the despotic corporate forces oppressing them. Well, now I am here to tell you of another sci-fi book of the early ‘30s dealing with still another revolt against the powers that be. The book in question this time is called Intrigue on the Upper Level, by someone named Thomas Temple Hoyne. The chances are very good that you are unfamiliar with both this nove... Read More