Sunday Short feature: Top Shorts for 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014 0
Around the interwebs, others have been listing out their favorite stories published this year. I thought it would be a good idea to compile them -- there are some great recommendations here (and my to-read list has skyrocketed).


Sabrina Vourvoulias's Looking for the best Speculative fiction of 2014 in expected, and unexpected, places

Fran Wilde's 2014 Favorite Reads


Sword & Laser Discussion - Potential 2015 Hugo Nominees - Short Stories

Do you have any favorites from short stories published this year? Leave them in the comments!

Karen Lord's The Galaxy Game

Friday, December 19, 2014 0
Disclaimer: I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord


I really wanted to like this book -- I've always enjoyed my space opera with a side of political intrigue before. The Galaxy Game follows one teenage boy, Rafi, as he escapes government investigation for his psychic powers, travels to another planet, and tries to play his favorite game (wall running) with the elites.

But... I couldn't finish this book.


I spent the first 15% of this book confused -- so many different cultural references, so many different planet/base/city names to try and keep straight. I am a reader of epic fantasies and complicated space operas, so I like to think I can keep my character straights with the best of them... but this book was out there. I haven't read Lord's other book set in the same greater world (The Best of All Possible Worlds), but this book is being marketed as a standalone. As a standalone, it has a rather large learning curve for the backstory. 

I kept trying until Chapter 6 / 34%, but I couldn't do it anymore. The central character (Rafi) isn't really all that likable. When the adults in his life let him make a potential disastrous decision to go on the run from the government and then... they pout about it... I couldn't convince myself to continue to try and put the work in. I was just not all that interested in the central characters. 

One bright moment for me was the first time Rafi tries wall running. It was fun, as a reader, trying to keep up with the way gravity shifted with each level (and noting how quickly clumsy me would fail). But it was an interesting aside for a story that overall confused and frustrated me.

Rating 2/5.

Sunday Short: S. L. Huang's Hunting Monsters

Sunday, December 14, 2014 0
One of the funnest parts of this review feature, for me, is finding new sources of short fiction. I was particularly excited, then, when I found out that the Book Smugglers were starting a short story publishing venture. On their website, they explain: 'With the goal of discovering the best voices in speculative fiction from across the world, Book Smugglers Publishing publishes original short fiction featuring subversive, feminist, and diverse perspectives.'

Book Smugglers Publishing first story, S. L. Huang's Hunting Monsters, was published back in October, and is the short I am featuring this week.

A beautiful retelling of two fairy tales (Red Riding Hood and Beauty and the Beast), it is a story told from the perspective of Xiao Hong, a girl raised by her mother Mei and 'aunt' Rosa. In the world that Huang crafts here, there are beings called Grundwirgen -- humans in animal form. Xiao's mother is arrested and accused of grundwirgen murder, and when Xiao begins to search for evidence in her mother's defense, secrets from the family's past come to light.

I loved this story -- each of the characters was memorable and the retelling unique to my experience with fairy tale retellings. I also enjoyed that the family were all hunters and all female -- anything to promote something other than the traditional 'women are the gentler sex' role in fantasy fiction is a win in my book.

Favorite lines:

My mother taught me to shoot, but it was Auntie Rosa who bought me my first rifle. It was long and sleek and shiny, varnished wood and brass and just my size. I fell in love at first sight.

“Isn’t she a trifle young for a firearm?” said my mother.

“Too young? Ha. Seven is almost too old,” said Auntie Rosa. She reached down and ruffled my hair as I ran my fingers along the stock over and over again, marveling at the living smoothness of the wood. “Happy birthday, child. Careful not to shoot any grundwirgen.”

Apologies for the relatively quiet on the blog lately -- my family was all stricken with colds again and work has been busy. I've still got great plans for the next year and reviews upcoming -- they'll just not be on my original schedule. :(  With that said -- next week, the Sunday Shorts feature will be a little different: I am going to highlight blogs listing their top short stories for 2014. Do you have any favorites?

A.M. Dellamonica's The Color of Paradox

Sunday, November 30, 2014 0

This Sunday's Short is another sci-fi story for Sci-Fi November -- A. M. Dellamonica's The Color of Paradox, published via Tor.com.


In this story, we read the experiences of one time traveler in a series of many, sent back in time to Seattle in the 1920s to delay the end of the world (during WWII, I think). The story is full of little references to important events of the later war and Seattle's involvement in some of them (as the child of a Boeing employee, I definitely enjoyed the snippets involving that company!). 

And honestly? I love the character Willie-- the take-no-nonesense time travel agent who has sacrificed so much to help save the world and now help her fellow time travel agents recover from the journey to the past. The narrator (Jules/Julie) is sexist and cocky, but he makes an interesting transformation through-out the story that makes him tolerable. I'd love to see a longer story surrounding these two characters (or at least Willie!), as this short seemed just a glimpse of what would be possible to explore in the telling of their stories.

Favorite line:
But something was wrong with the color of the future, seven weeks out. Seattle, below, the sky above, even the air around me . . . it was all splashed with color I’d never seen before. Everything was off the accepted painter’s wheel of red, blue, yellow.
Rating: 4/5.

Any thoughts on this story or any of the other sci-fi short stories reviewed this month for Sci-Fi November? Leave them in the comments! 

The Wicked + The Divine

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 0
Disclaimer: I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

First things first: I am a graphic novel newbie. I started reading Saga about a year ago, and I'll occasionally pick up a title that has been getting positive reviews to browse. The Wicked + The Divine has been getting buzz, so when I saw the opportunity to review the first volume via NetGalley I took it!

The Wicked + The Divine: Faust Volume


Every ninety years, twelve gods incarnate as humans. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are dead... Welcome to The Wicked + The Divine, where gods are the ultimate pop stars and pop stars are the ultimate gods. But remember: just because you're immortal, doesn't mean you're going to live forever.

The premise of this series is that 12 gods are made incarnate in teenagers. These 12 gods live for adoration... and then they die, within two years. The first volume collects issues 1-5 of the comic and tells the story of Luci / Lucifer and one of her fans as Luci is framed for murder (or was she?). And so begins the story of what would happen if hormonal teenagers were made into gods.

The art and coloring for this series is truly gorgeous. Each of the covers featured in the collection (and showing one of the gods or goddesses) is stunning. The storyline itself is interesting at parts and a little overplayed at others (but I think that is partly because nuance does not an interesting graphic novel make). I loved the gender-bending on the gods and goddesses. I didn't love the way we are introduced to the main character when she has already fallen for all the gods and therefore isn't as easy to relate to.

Overall, I think this series definitely has a ton of potential. It is packed with a ton of mythology and beautiful artwork. I'll definitely pick up the rest of the series as it comes out.

Favorite line:  We don't get to change anything, we get to change you, and then you choose what to do with it. - Baal

Rating 4/5.

Chris Evan's Of Bone and Thunder

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 0
Disclaimer: I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Of Bone and Thunder by Chris Evans


I read a lot fantasy outside what is considered the norm. It is not that I have anything against medieval Europe (or Lord of the Rings), but I enjoy the way authors have managed to mash up fantasy tropes with many different times in human history. So, when I saw Of Bone and Thunder pitched as fantasy in a Vietnam-War era, I was definitely interested.

And in that regard, the book did not disappoint. I am not a historian (far from it!), but I recognized a few pivotal Vietnam War scenes remade in this story of the Kingdom's war in Luitox. The story may have been fantastic (dwarves and dragons and elven people, oh my!), but it discusses very human issues of racism, drugs, authority, disenchantment, guerrilla warfare, and more.

One major element of the book is the multiple points of view. While these viewpoints will seem all over the map at first (a new mage, a commander of the dragonriders, a few perspectives within a ground unit of soldiers), they do eventually connect in a satisfying way.

Occasionally the remaking of the war into a fantasy setting just didn't work for me. The whole storyline of the giant catapults being dragged around in the jungle took me out of the story every time. And I was definitely annoyed that one of the only females in the story ended up being there only to sleep around with the soldiers.

Overall, I would recommend this story to someone who enjoys remaking history to explore history's lessons.  This story isn't a fantasy that tells just one epic tale. It is a story of stories, with fantastical elements, that explores the gritty reality of war.

Favorite line:
"It isn't about the valley," Vorley said. "Maybe Weel thinks it is, but he's wrong. It's about you and me and Jawn and that shield leader Carny and everyone else. The criers can tell the people back in the Kingdom we're fighting for ideals and philosophies at odd sounding places on a map, but what we're fight for is each other. Our sacrifice out here isn't for this valley --it's for them."
Rating 3/5

Sunday Short: Carrie Vaughn's The Best We Can

Sunday, November 23, 2014 0
This Sunday's short is another sci-fi short story for Sci-Fi November -- Carrie Vaughn's The Best We Can, published via Tor.com.
First contact was supposed to change the course of human history. But it turns out, you still have to go to work the next morning.
It is no secret that I love the short story format and the science fiction genre at this point, right? I love the variety and diversity of ideas and viewpoints. This story had a unique viewpoint (the science academic) that I can relate to as a former (disgruntled) graduate student.


The main character has made a discovery -- an unidentified object in our solar system. She was the first to grasp the significance of the image, and she has become something of a crusader to get started a project of studying the object closer / bringing it back despite all the hopeless (and depressingly accurate) bureaucracy holding up any effort. Because identifying an object from another civilization would be a really big deal for humanity, right?

I loved this story even if it was more than a little depressing. I loved this story because it actually tells a pretty accurate tale of the current field of research at large.

So much of science fiction is optimistic views of scientific communities working together to bring about the greater good for all. And honestly? Science is a lot like that. Scientists love their science and most want to do something to impact the future in a positive way. But scientists are humans, too. Scientists have a sense of ownership over their day to day work that can be borderline obsessive / possessive. Science, in the present day incarnation, does involve a battle with other scientists for a finite amount of resources. And it is fun to have a story that depicts that all pretty accurately with a fair amount of well written prose about how wonderful it would be to actually find proof of other intelligent life outside Earth.

So, this week's story doesn't feature mythical creatures or fancy new technology -- but I like to mix my sci-fi up on occasion. I love that sci-fi short stories give me (and others) the opportunity to explore both far away future technology and it's implications in addition to modern day issues. And I happen to love an ambiguous ending such as what we are left with here (even though I know many -- such as my husband -- aren't!).

Favorite line: 
Essentially, there are two positions on the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence and whether we might ever make contact, and they both come down to the odds. The first says that we’re here, humanity is intelligent, flinging out broadcasts and training dozens of telescopes outward hoping for the least little sign, and the universe is so immeasurably vast that given the odds, the billions of stars and galaxies and planets out there, we can’t possibly be the only intelligent species doing these things. The second position says that the odds of life coming into being on any given planet, of that life persisting long enough to evolve, then to evolve intelligence, and then being interested in the same things we are—the odds of all those things falling into place are so immeasurably slim, we may very well be the only ones here. 
Is the universe half full or half empty? All we could ever do to solve the riddle was wait. So I waited and was rewarded for my optimism.
Rating: 4.5/5

Any thoughts on The Best We Can? Read any good sci-fi short stories you'd recommend to others this month for Sci-Fi November? Leave a comment below!

Sci-Fi November: Interview with Tobias Buckell

Wednesday, November 19, 2014 0

As an awesome Sci-Fi November feature, today I am happy and honored to feature my interview with Tobias Buckell, the sci-fi author of the novels Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, Sly Mongoose, Halo ®: The Code Protocol, and Arctic Rising!


Tobias S. Buckell is a New York Times Bestselling author born in the Caribbean. He grew up in Grenada and spent time in the British and US Virgin Islands, which influence much of his work.
His novels and over 50 stories have been translated into 17 different languages. His work has been nominated for awards like the Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus, and the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Science Fiction Author. 
He currently lives in Bluffton, Ohio with his wife, twin daughters, and a pair of dogs. He can be found online at www.TobiasBuckell.com

What inspires you to write science fiction? What excites you about the genre?

I've always loved science fiction’s boundless imagination. There’s a lot of room in the field for me to pursue whatever excites me. When I started reading it, my mind was always blown by these big ideas, this imagination, the daydreaming. Thinking about what the future might be like. Or other worlds. It took me to places far away from my humble and strained childhood.

Now I get the entire universe to play with as a writer, including time and space. What if is a question I get to ask every day. And whether I want to experiment with different styles, or kinds of stories, there is room for it. It gives me tremendous freedom as a creator.

Who are some of your influences?

They range extremely wildly, from John D. MacDonald’s Florida mysteries, to oral folk tales I heard growing up, and to the science fiction books that left a big impact on me as a kid. Arthur C. Clarke was a favorite well known writer, but Cordwainer Smith is one of my favorite lesser known authors. The cyberpunk writers of the 80s got me started writing, William Gibson and Bruce Sterling featured people from the Caribbean in their books and that convinced me there was room in the genre for me to write the stories I had in mind.

You wrote in the foreword for the anthology Diverse Energies that you 'wanted to see all the sides of families in your stories about the future... the whole human race'. Do you think that sci-fi fiction is moving toward a more diversity/inclusive space or exclusivity?

The field has come a long way since I first joined it. But it still has a long way to go to represent the demographics of a rapidly changing US, or just to reflect the world at large, which is the field we all stand on. Western culture at large struggles with inclusive space and diversity, and a lot of the genre’s struggles mirror that back. I see similar struggles in many other genres to bring diversity to it, so I think it’s a society-wide thing. In our genre, we are getting more voices, but I’d like to see many more.

Do you have any recommendations for someone new to sci-fi?

Sample widely! It’s a genre like any other else, with a wide range of authors and books, not everything will be to your taste, but I’m betting something will be. I usually recommend a friend just read a number of first chapters, and if you find yourself still reading, you’ve found a book! A lot of people are intimidated by the ‘science’ in the name of the genre. That’s just a reference to where some of our original artists found, and still find, inspiration. But that doesn’t mean you need to have a science degree to read it anymore than you need a degree in couple’s counseling to read a good romance, or be a detective to read a mystery; a good writer can bring the reader along and get them up to speed on the way.

What are you working on right now? Any projects you want to highlight in particular?

My current projects are still under wraps, sadly, but I’m still doing some promotion for my most recent novel, Hurricane Fever. It’s a thriller set in the near future in the Caribbean. It was a tremendous amount of fun to write, including a research trip to Barbados to see the ruins of an experiment to launch satellites into orbit using a massive cannon.


A big thank you again to the author for taking the time to answer my questions!  Readers -- have comments or thoughts on the interview?  Leave them in the comments below!!

Sunday Shorts: Tobias Buckell's Toy Planes & The Found Girl

Sunday, November 16, 2014 0

Sci-Fi November continues! I'm excited to note that this week, I'll be posting an interview with sci-fi author Tobias Buckell! 

To start the week off right, this Sunday I am going to highlight two of his short stories - Nature's Toy Planes & Clarkesworld's The Found Girl (co-authored with David Klecha).
Toy Planes was published as part of Nature magazine's Futures series. In this story, we follow a Caribbean rocket pilot preparing for his first flight. The story deftly discusses racial identity, thoughts on what someone might owe their hometown, and questions of whether basic science research is worth it. And I loved it. 
My favorite part of the story was the sense of wonder in exploring the awesome that is space. Buckell conveys it beautifully in my favorite quote: 
We weren't even the first, but we were the first island.
The countdown finished, my stomach lurched, and I saw palm trees slide by the portholes to my right. I reached back and patted the package, the hammered-together toy, and smiled.
In The Found Girl, we learn about a world wherein technology has advanced to a point where humans can fully integrate their consciousness with machinery and one another. The adults that fully integrate into a community are said to have transcended, and humankind has reaped the benefits of advanced thinking/computing. The story is told from the perspective of a girl, Melissa, who has been left behind after her mother died. She lives in an orphanage run by a group of transcended called collectively The Street. 

This story was a little tough to get into at first, because it is told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator in the young girl Melissa. Her mother seems to have been pretty superstitious, and we read of Melissa's beliefs of demons such as Llorona roaming the streets outside the safe confines of The Street. I was actually delighted when I realized what was happening (explained slowly through Melissa's discussions with The Street), and I love when science fiction can truly delight me. My only disappointment is that the story felt rushed at times; the plot could have easily been fit into the novella or novel format. I wanted to hear more about Melissa's world.

Favorite line: 
Technology got faster. Better. And then technology started designing technology. Evolving. What used to take a lifetime took a decade, then years. And then last year, months. Weeks. Days.

People transcended. Became other things. Many other things. Some were still here. Some had left. Some were different. 
Some stayed the same. The Found Children had been left behind.
Ratings: 4/5 Toy Planes, 4.5/5 The Found Girl

Any thoughts on either of these short stories? Read anything lately that delighted you? Leave a comment below! And don't forget to check back later this week for the interview with Tobias Buckell. 

Sci-Fi November: Weeks 1 & 2 - my favorite posts so far!

Friday, November 14, 2014 1

I'm back from the sunny and sandy shores of my vacation to Maui! It was a great time to refuel my energy tank, and I am ready to blast off with new and fun things planned for the blog. (And I have some grand plans a-coming!)

Most importantly --  I'm still catching up with all the awesome that has gone around with Sci-Fi November so far, but a few of my favorite posts on other blogs so far: 

Oh The Books: Blogger Panel #1 - Defining Sci-Fi: I am loving these blogger panels -- it is great to get a variety of opinions on the questions posed! 

Rinn Reads: Blogger Panel #2 – Scientific Knowledge: Do you think science knowledge is necessary to enjoy sci fi? 

Oh The Books: Get Your Sci-Fi On: I love love love the bingo card! I'm going to try and see how many I can complete via short stories / novels / tv / movies this month and update with a post at the end!

Worlds In Ink: Blind Book Challenge: Can you figure out any of the books based on the clues? I'm going to be puzzling on some all month long, me thinks! 

Annie Jackson Books: The Genre Divide: I loved what she had to argue against a division in sci-fi/fantasy:
 If the explainable and the numinous exist side by side, however, it’s a scary world… and an efficient one; beautiful and understood and wild all at the same time.
Upcoming posts to look forward to from me: two Sunday Shorts this weekend + an interview with the author Tobias Buckell next week! I'm also still planning some reviews and other sci-fi fun, so stay tuned! 

Have you been following Sci-Fi November (via twitter #RRSciFiMonth)? Any great posts to share that caught your eye? Leave a comment below! 

Sunday Short: Seanan McGuire's Each to Each

Sunday, November 2, 2014 4

Welcome to all who might be stopping by via Sci-Fi November! One of the regular features of my blog is the Sunday Short, where I highlight great short stories / novellas available online. You can check out the past stories featured on my Sunday Short page.

This week's short is a science fiction from Lightspeed Magazine -- Seanan McGuire's Each to Each.

Originally published in Lightspeed. Art by Li Grabenstetter.
Each to Each blends science fiction with mermaids. Yes, mermaids... and bad ass military mermaids, at that. And it is incredible! In the world that McGuire creates here, mankind has decided to explore the depths of our seas in search of resources and space. The US navy has started all female crews of submarine bases that survey underwater areas. These bases are all female because women are smaller / get along better with one another in tight spaces, and the government has asked these women to be modified genetically / anatomically to better survey / protect the US's interests underwater.

While the basic premise is pretty awesome, I was surprised at how rich this short story really was! Not all mermaids are alike; some are modified to be like sharks, others jellyfish, others eels. McGuire creates a culture within the mermaids that is eerie and not entirely human-like; the narrator points out that no one has ever chosen to be modified back after service. Overall, Each to Each does what sci-fi I love does -- it uses a plausible science fiction to present a plausible future that challenges my expectations.

Rating: 5/5. Favorite line: 
The Navy claims they’re turning these women into better soldiers. From where I hang suspended in the sea, my lungs filled with saltwater like amniotic fluid, these women are becoming better myths.
Have any thoughts on this story? Any recent great sci-fi short reads you'd suggest for the group? Leave them in the comments below! 

Next week, I'll be taking a break -- it is vacation time for me with my family. I had hoped to maybe have something more lined up before I left, but alas -- work and life conspired against my best laid plans! I'll be back for double Sunday Shorts on November 15, though. 

Sci-Fi November Intro

Saturday, November 1, 2014 2

After a few months of anticipation, the month of science fiction is finally upon us! Sci-Fi November is hosted this year by Rinn Reads & Oh, the Books -- the official website tracking everything can be found here. Essentially, Sci-Fi November is a month long event celebrating the awesome genre of science fiction. There are over 80 blogs participating this year, and it is going to be amazing!

I've been a fan of science fiction since discovering Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series oh-so many years ago. I was captivated by the world created (also -- dragons!), and then I found other wonderful worlds by other sci-fi authors.

Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible.  
- Rod Sterling

I have a bachelors degree in bioengineering and a masters in human genetics, so I love when I read a new story take on the biological sciences. Outside of reading, I tend to watch an embarrassing amount sci-fi TV (Doctor Who / Fringe / Orphan Black / Defiance ... etc) and movies. And I am so excited to share in my favorite genre with others this month!


One thing to note: I will be on vacation for my sister's wedding this week and next. I have awesome stuff scheduled, but I wont be checking + responding to comments regularly.

Top Ten Books/Movies To Read/Watch To Get In The Halloween Spirit

Tuesday, October 28, 2014 2


This week's Top Ten Tuesday (a meme by The Broke and The Bookish) is pulling double duty by including my picks for scary books/movies/TV for Horror October.  

Books/Movies/TV To Get In The Halloween Spirit 

Books

I don't read much straight up horror, but I do tend to read post apocalyptic / disaster books at times and have a few I'd recommend for anyone looking for something scary this week: 

1. Justin Cronin's The Passage: This book had me so engrossed/terrified on my first read that at one unfortunate point my poor cat Sophie jumped up next to me in bed, and I scared us both by jumping out of bed and screaming (because that'd keep the creepy vampires away, right?). The next in the series (The Twelve) is just as good, but I am still trying to get over the fact that they moved the publication date for the final book in the trilogy to 2015. 

2. M. R. Carey's Girl with All the Gifts: My full review can be found here. I think this different take on a post-apocalyptic world could be perfect for Halloween. 

3. Max Brook's World War Z: If you haven't seen the abomination that is the movie by the same name, don't. But read this book. WWZ contains interview-type stories from survivors of the world's zombie war, and is really fantastically poignant at times (so, not all scares). 

4. Stephen King & Peter Straub's The Talisman: I read this novel earlier in the year as it has tie-ins to the Dark Tower, but it is definitely something that can be read alone. It follows a cross country (and cross dimension) journey of a boy, Jack, for a mysterious item to help heal his mom. Jack's journey was depressing and distressing and horrifying at times, but I found the ending really superb, and this time of year would be perfect for reading it. The sequel (Black House) is on my to-read list. 

5. Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects: I think that Flynn's great talent is crafting thrillers with disturbing but well crafted female characters who are not the victims. I actually liked Sharp Objects one more so than Gone Girl, but either is a good choice for creep factor.

Movies

Maybe it is because I am just so easy to scare, but I am not much on the horror / gore movie thing. Unless it is funny/wittty, and then sure! Here are my picks for scary movies:



6. The Cabin in the Woods: You think you know what is going to happen in this movie, but you don't. I'm planning on watching this one again this week while getting ready for Halloween. 

7. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil: Hillbillies and chainsaws and college kids... in not your usual combination for horror. Lots of gore, but hilarity. 

8. Shaun of the Dead: This was my introduction to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and probably the one zombie movie I can actually watch more than once. 

TV Episodes

I watch old shows. By that I mean I'm very rarely caught up with the latest season of anything, but I do usually catch up at the end (if I haven't been spoiled by everyone else). I've watched some of the Walking Dead and American Horror Story (and you guessed it -- both gave me nightmares), but here are some scary selections from a few of my favorite shows that you might not immediately attribute with horror. 


9. Doctor Who: S1 Ep 9 The Empty Child. S3  Ep 10 Blink. S4 Ep 8/9 Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead. S4 Ep 10 Midnight
I love Doctor Who for all it's goof, but these are a few of my favorite scary episodes. If you have time for only one, watch Blink. And then try and not notice all the angel statues everywhere. EVERYWHERE.

10. Supernatural: S1 Ep 5 Bloody Mary. S3 Ep 2 The Kids Are Alright. S4 Ep 11 Family Remains
I am such a wimp that I spent much of the first season watching this show with a pillow in my lap to hide behind at moments. These three episodes scared me more than most. 



Have any favorite books, movies, or tv shows that you recommend for Halloween scares? Leave them in the comments below!

Sunday Short: Lavie Tidhar's Selfies

Sunday, October 26, 2014 0

With Halloween coming up and as part of Oh The Book's Horror October, I am highlighting an awesome scary Sunday Short this week - Selfies by Lavie Tidhar, published in Tor.com. 


From Tor.com, Illustration by Greg Ruth
In this short, we read snippets of life captured in selfies by a teenage girl (Ellie) found dead in her neighborhood playground. We learn that Ellie bought a used cell phone from a weird shop in the mall, and she almost immediately starts to experience weird stuff, like the reflection of herself in the mirror smiling back when she isn't.

I loved the blending of modern tech with the mythos of camera obscura / ikiryo. If you want something scary (but not too scary) and quick to read for Halloween, I recommend this short. (And if you want to think twice the next time you get ready to take that selfie, this is probably also a story for you.) It had a cinematic quality, to me; as some of the comments pointed out on the story page -- this could make a great scary movie.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite line: 
#73 Dinner with Mum and Dad and Noah. We’re all smiling. Noah has his arm around me and he’s grinning stupidly into the camera and so am I. I’m feeling like there’s a fire inside me, burning from the inside out, like light falling on a negative, and it’s reaching everywhere, it’s touching everything with light.
Starting next week and for the whole month of November, I am going to be highlighting recent Sci-Fi short stories for Sci-Fi November, starting with Seanan McGuire's Each to Each. Have a favorite sci-fi story published recently online? Leave it in the comments below!

Change of plans

Thursday, October 23, 2014 0
More review posts coming soon, I promise! My family has been struck with sickness this week, and work has been busier than ever... so my blogging (and more sadly, my reading) plans have been tossed out the window.

In the meantime, look for another Sunday Short (scary style for Horror October) this weekend!

Now, back to reading!




Top Ten Tuesday: Series I Want To Start Reading

Tuesday, October 21, 2014 0

Welcome to another post for the weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, they post a new Top Ten list, and then bloggers respond with their answers. Without further ado, this week's list (in no particular order)! 

Series I Want to Start Reading

Science Fiction and Fantasy are genres full of awesome series. Awesome long, epic series. I have a special love for series; they give you the time to really get to know a set of characters and world better. There are so many great series coming out this year and next, but since I have an epic to-read list, this week I am listing out already-out series I want to delve into sometime in the next year.

My fantasy picks:


1. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files: I am hoping to tackle this series at the beginning of next year. As in, I already have books 1-6 on my Kindle, waiting. (What? Nobody else watches the Amazon daily deal every single day for books on sale?)
2. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander: Multiple people have recommended the TV show to me, but I am planning on reading the books (or at least first book) first. But time-traveling and men in kilts? Who is not going to love a story like that?
3. Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archive: My husband has read both of the first two books in this series, and keeps telling me that I must. I do like Sanderson's impressive world-building, so I am looking forward to getting into this saga at some point.
4. Catherynne M. Valente's Fairyland series: I haven't read anything by Valente, but I am hoping to change that soon. An Alice in Wonderland-like story seems like a great deal of fun to me!
5. N.K. Jemisin's Dreamblood series: I loved Jemisin's Inheritance Trilogy series (non-traditional fantasy for the win!), so I am looking forward to delving into the series sometime soon.

My science-fiction picks (three of which I am hoping to start next month for Sci-Fi November, ambitious me!)

6. Lois McMaster Bujold's The Vorkosigan Saga - I loved Bujold's fantasy / romance series, and I am looking forward to this award winning / beloved sci-fi space opera.
7 + 8. Ian Bank's Culture Series + Dan Simmon's Hyperion Cantos:  For a sci-fi fan, my reading history with space opera is pretty sparse. I am hoping to get into these two sci-fi epics soon. Very soon. (Next month, soon.)
9. Daniel H. Wilson's Robopocalypse: I saw Wilson speak at a panel at Comic Con and put his series on my to-read list afterwards. I have a thing for post-apolocalyptic worlds, and I'm looking forward to a fresh robot-fueled take.
10. Mira Grant's Newsflesh: Did I mention that I have a thing for post-apocalyptic worlds? :) I don't know why I haven't read this series yet, multiple people have recommended it, but I plan to start it soon. 

Sunday Short: Ruthanna Emrys' The Litany of Earth

Sunday, October 19, 2014 2
This week's Sunday Short is Ruthanna Emrys' novella - The Litany of Earth, published in Tor.com. 

Art by Allen Williams, published via Tor.com
The protagonist of Litany of Earth is Aphra Marsh, a woman from Innsmouth. Out of fear of her religion and magic, Marsh (with the rest of her family and town) are kidnapped, imprisoned, and tortured by the government. We meet Aphra as she is living in San Francisco and working in a bookstore. At this bookstore, she is approached by a government agent asking for help in investigating a neo-Aeonism cult that may be harming others. 

The story drifts between moving scenes of Aphra explaining her religion and magic to Charlie (her boss), remembering her childhood, and interacting with members of the cult. In my opinion, Emrys crafts a story here that delves into Lovecraftian mythos while also calling out the racism intrinsic in the original works. There is no horror (as Lovecraft is known for), but an intrinsic sense of wonder and bewilderment of the greater unknown in our existence.

It is a complicated but beautiful story, and I for one am hoping that there may be more Aphra Marsh in the future. 

Some favorite lines of mine: 
"The power that can be found in magic is less than what you get from a gun, or a badge, or a bomb.. What magic is for is understanding. Knowledge. And it won’t work until you know how little that gets you.

"What our religion tells us is that the gods created life to try and make meaning. It’s ultimately hopeless, and even gods die, but the effort is real. Will always have been real, even when everything is over and no one remembers."
Rating: 4.5/5 

Next week, the Sunday Short will be a modern spooky story from Tor.com - Lavie Tidhar's Selfies. Read and then try to take a selfie. I dare you! 

Soundtrack Saturday: Jake

Saturday, October 18, 2014 0

And here we are -- the last of the Soundtrack Saturdays, as originally created by The Hardcover Lover. You can catch my playlists for the other main characters of Stephen King's Dark Tower series - Roland, Eddie, and Susannah - in my previous installments.

This week, I'll also post my review on the final installment in the series - The Dark Tower. And then I'll probably just continue thinking about this series. Because it is so good. Luckily there are still graphic novels to read and movies/tv show rumors to hope for.

This week, my playlist is devoted to Jake Chambers, the boy who lived (after dying seriously too many times). So relax, and press play to listen along to the playlist I compiled.



1. Pinback  - Good to Sea: Jake of The Gunsinger is so fraking accepting. The lines 'Go then, there are other worlds than these' rival the opening lines. Children can accept so much, and it breaks your heart.

It seems to me to be a sign / I don't believe in such and yet
It seems to me to keep one eye on the situation's best.

2. The Black Keys - Fever: This song reminded me of Jake going crazy in The Wastelands. The desperation to get back.

Fever 'cause I'm breaking / Fever got me aching
Fever, why won't you explain? / Break it down again.

3. Feist - I Feel It All: Having a child gunslinger? It was more than a little creepy at first. And then I knew Jake was going to break my heart.

I'll be the one to hold a gun / I know more than I knew before. 
I didn't rest, I didn't stop / Did we fight, did we talk? 

4. Florence + The Machine - Dog Days Are Over: Listening to this song, I can see Jake running with Oy (Oy! I loved you so!) and Benny through the fields near Calla Bryn Sturgis. He was the kid he was always supposed to be there.

The dog days are over / the dog days are done
The horses are coming / So you better run.

5. Mumford & Sons - Little Lion Man: Jake is in many ways the opposite of this song. He is brave and full hearted. When Roland slips and Jake steps in in the final book, I needed a few hours to recover from the hurt. (Damn you Stephen King. I have feels!)

Tremble for yourself, my man
You know that you have seen this all before.

But it was not your fault but mine / And it was your heart on the line
I really f-ed it up this time, Didn't I, my dear?

6. Of Monsters and Men - King and Lionheart: Jake's relationship with Roland, the redemption of it for both characters... it was one of the best parts of the series to me. (Sniffle. Feels.)

Taking over this town, they should worry
But these problems aside I think I taught you well.
That we won't run, and we won't run, and we won't run.

But you're a king and I'm a lion-heart.

7. Mumford & Songs - Sigh No More: I think Jake's take away message was really the unconditional love and respect he showed Roland (because, honestly, I am not sure I could have loved Roland the way he did). I am not sure if Roland fully understood it, at the end, which is definitely a tragedy in itself.

Love that will not betray you, dismay or enslave you
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be.

Have you read the Dark Tower series? Do you have any suggestions for songs that reflect Jake or the other characters in the epic? Leave them in the comments below! 

Top Ten Tuesday: Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit

Tuesday, October 14, 2014 0

Welcome to another post for the weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish. Each week, they post a new Top Ten list, and then bloggers respond with their answers. Without further ado, this week's list (in no particular order)! 


Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit

This week's list was tough for me to compile (and thus, only 5 books long -- apologies!), which is probably the result of reading too many dystopias / apolocalpytic books. Just because I love a book and a world doesn't mean I want to live in it! But worlds I do love include:


1. Pern. As a child, Anne McCaffery's books and world captivated me. The whole premise of being imprinted on an awesome dragon to save the world? Sign me up!

2. Steampunk Victorian London ala Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate. I loved the way Carriger's books melded my favorite parts of steampunk (all the cool inventions!) and urban fantasy and the Victorian age.

3. Hogwarts. Who doesn't want to be a witch or wizard educated at the secret school of wizarding?

4. Eretz. I have only read the first book in Lanini Taylor's trilogy (I know -- bad reader, bad reader!), but I loved the world she created in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone with chimera and seraphim.

5. Ringworld's Earth. Larry Niven created a book with snippets of an interesting future Earth and vast spread of humanity's knowledge of space and neighboring species. I would love to live in a time like this. I wouldn't even mind living on the mysterious Ringworld with uncertain creators or purpose.

Anyone have a favorite world from a book they'd love to visit? Comment below!

I am taking a break on posting this week as I prepare for a family vacation (Maui -- be jealous!), catch up on some bookclub reading, plus prepare some content for Sci-Fi November. As a result, there will not be a post this Thursday like usual, but check back this weekend for another Soundtrack Saturday and Sunday Short! 

Sunday Short: Polenth Blake's Never the Same

Sunday, October 12, 2014 0
This week's short is from Strange Horizon -- Polenth Blake's Never the Same.

Martin Pasco, Strange Horizons
In this story, you get snippets of a building world-wide mystery with a dose sibling rivalry from the perspective of an unnamed psychopath. In fact, he/she is the world's only known psychopath, but it is a world is not our own. A group of scientists is trying to terraform this world unsuccessfully, and the narrator's sister is running for president of the world, while the narrator suspects that their brother is doing nefarious things to jeopardize the world's progress (most of which get blamed on the narrator).

First off, I'll admit that this story was not the easiest for me to get through. I am not entirely sure why, but I think it might have been the combined result of shifting time-frame, no character names, and weird gender conventions -- some of which I realize was probably the result of the unreliable narrator.

I did find the world Blake created here interesting, with the central mystery of why the terraforming wasn't succeeding in addition to the growing sibling tension alluring enough to push through to the finish. The narrator had some great lines about what it truly means to be a psychopath, too.

Overall, I'd recommend this short story to someone who likes mind twisty sci-fi and is willing to put in the effort to read. I was ultmately satisfied with the ending
, but I'll admit it took me reading this story a few times to understand it (and I think that may have been a few too many times).

Rating: 3/5

Favorite line:
...others liked to suggest I wasn't truly human. That made us even. But that wasn't the main point. Everyone is an object, including me. The idea of self is a delusion to keep fear at bay. I don't feel fear, so I don't need the delusion. 
What's important is objects can be unique. They need care and they can be hard to replace. When I care about an object, I'll look after it. When I don't, I'm indifferent to it. People murder because they care too much, not because they don't.

Next Sunday's short will be Ruthanna Emrys' The Litany of Earth, published via Tor.com. I posed the question in the Sword and Laser goodreads group a few weeks ago for everyone's favorite short stories this year, and this one was definitely a favorite of many -- so I am excited to read it! Per Tor.com "The Litany of Earth is a dark fantasy story inspired by the Lovecraft mythos." What better way to start the Horror October fortnight than Lovecraft, right? I hope you will read along! 

Soundtrack Saturday: Dark Tower's Susannah

Saturday, October 11, 2014 0

This Saturday, I am again participating in Soundtrack Saturday, a meme created by the blogger The Hardcover Lover. Each week, I have been posting the playlist for one character from Stephen King's epic Dark Tower series.


This week's character is Susannah, Odetta, Detta... the woman of many personalities. Honestly, as a reader, it took me awhile to come to terms with her. But by the end, I loved her (even Detta) just as much as Roland, Eddie, Jake, and Oy. We meet Odetta/Detta in Drawing of the Three, and learn that she lost her legs (and some of her sanity) at the hand of another man.

It is Saturday morning, so hit the play button and listen in on songs that remind of Susannah.


Susannah Dean


1. Imagine Dragons - Demons: There are probably better (more profanity filled) songs to describe Detta, but I think by the end of the series I realize she was really just trying to help protect Susannah in the only way she could. Enjoy mahfahs

I wanna hide the truth / I wanna shelter you
But with the beast inside / there's nowhere we can hide

2. The Lumineers - Ho Hey: With each new member, the ka-tet opens up for each member and makes them family. I was unsure how it'd work with Susannah after seeing how well Eddie & Roland work together, but work it did.

So show me family
All the blood that I would bleed

I belong with you, you belong with me...

3. Lorde - Team: The most memorable image of Susannah I have from the series is when she is slinging plates with the Sisters of Oriza. I can see the opening of this song playing while we watch her rise on her knees and kick ass

Wait 'til you're announced / We've not yet lost all our graces
The hounds will stay in chains / Look upon Your Greatness and she'll send the call out.

4.  Mumford & Sons - Awake My Soul: When Susannah realizes that she is still battling an unknown personality (that takes over her body), the fear she feels is palpable. She had thought that was over with Odetta and Detta.  

I struggle to find any truth in your lies
And now my heart stumbles on things I don't know
My weakness I feel I must finally show.

In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die.

5. The Submarines - 1940: To me, this song fits with Susannah & Mia's weird relationship in Song of Susannah.

Somethings wrong when you regret / Things that haven't happened yet.
But it's a glorious day when morning comes / Without the feeling of alarm.

So rise, and shine
Now's the time to be alive
To stay awake with me a while and smile.

6. James Blunt - Bonfire Heart: Susannah is the heart of the ka-tet. I didn't realize it until they were separated, but she is the one to greet them all with 'sugar' and hugs. (Also, I just LOVE this song.)

Your mouth is a revolver / Firing bullets in the sky
Your love is like a soldier / Loyal 'til you die

Days like these lead to / Nights like these lead to
Love like ours.
You light the spark in my bonfire heart.

7. Ellie Goulding - How Long Will I Love You: Guys, I swear I am not going to spoil anything. But this song reminds me of when Something happens in the final book and Susannah has all the feels. (Damn you, Stephen King! All the feels!)

How long will I love you?
As long as stars are above you
And longer, if I can.

Next week, we'll wrap up the ka-tet playlists with Jake Chambers. Have any thoughts on songs that fit Susannah better? Leave them in the comments below! 

Battle of the Books: Weird West

Thursday, October 9, 2014 0

Welcome to another edition of my monthly feature, Battle of the BooksEach month, I will read and review two books that take a spin at a similar topic/subgenre in speculative fiction, be it broad or narrow in scope. There will be two posts a month -- one to introduce the topic and books, and another with my reviews and verdict.

This month's books are both considered Weird Westerns. Also sometimes called flintlock fantasy, books in this subgenre combine a wild western setting with fantasy, horror, or sci-fi.

Why this somewhat obscure subgenre with a horrible history in Hollywood, you ask? If you have been reading my blog, you know that I recently finished Stephen King's Dark Tower series, which has elements of westerns, sci-fi, and fantasy. And that I am still recovering from That Ending. I need a couple good gunslingers in my literary life.

Also: 


So do yourself a favor, get this song on (I'll wait), and scroll down to catch a glimpse the books in this month's duel. 

For this to be a fair fight, I am going to take books from two well known fantasy authors who each happened to have written a standalone western recently - Joe Abercrombie's Red Country and Brandon Sanderson's Alloy of Law. Both are books also set in the respective author's already established epic fantasy worlds (Abercrombie's First Law & Sanderson's Mistborn). 



Red Country follows Shy South and her stepfather Lamb as they chase after her siblings' kidnappers in the wild Far Country. Everyone on the frontier seems to have a bloody past worth forgetting. I'll admit, I love the jacket blurb, too: They burned her home. They stole her brother and sister. But vengeance is following. Shy South does not seem like the type to be trifled with. 

Set 300 years after the original Mistborn trilogy (of which I'll admit I've only read the first, eep), The Alloy of Law is set in a city on the "verge of modernity", with railroads, electricity, and beginnings of skyscrapers. The story follows Waxillium Ladrian, a man who can use both allomancy and feruchemy, as he returns from the Roughs to assume the head role of a noble house. But is the city really safer than the wild country?

Have you read Red Country, The Alloy of Law or another Weird Western? Have any suggestions for fans of the sub-genre? 

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