Favorites

Richard Leis cannot help sharing his favorites (and sometimes his thoughts on things that are not his favorite.) Follow along with what he’s reading, watching, and listening to now, and read his reviews of books, TV, movies, and music.

More Favorites & Reviews

Book cover for Black Tide by KC Jones, with a car on the beach with scattered small impact craters, next to a dark ocean.

Black Tide by KC Jones

Black Tide by K.C. Jones My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Oregon Coast becomes the site for a spectacular and unexpected meteor shower, followed by a grueling struggle to survive by two people already struggling to survive their day-to-day lives. I grew to care about these characters as their story unfolds over an action-packed […]

Girls from the County by Donna Lynch poetry collection on black tabletop with sticker

Girls From the County by Donna Lynch

Girls From the County by Donna Lynch My rating: 5 of 5 stars Haunting, heartbreaking, and highly accomplished. The razor-sharp poems in Donna Lynch’s latest collection mix the real and all-too-common with folklore as powerful commentary about the dangers women face, most often from men, but occasionally from themselves, too, especially while dealing with the […]

tempImage97E9Rb Cradleland of Parasites by Sara Tantlinger, paperback and hardcover editions on bookshelf

Cradleland of Parasites by Sara Tantlinger

Cradleland of Parasites might be Sara Tantlinger’s best collection yet, a sequence of frightening, gruesome, breathtakingly beautiful poems about the Black Plague and other very real pestilence horrors up through modern times.

“It Was Another Time”: James Bond and Andrew Cuomo

I love the James Bond films. This weekend, I finished the fourth in the series—Thunderball (1965)—in my latest rewatch.

I acknowledge, however, that most of the films in this franchise are filled with offensive and derogatory content, including racism, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny. There are too many of these scenes. I don’t love these films during those scenes. I don’t forgive the films these scenes.

Review: Final Destination (Film Franchise)

I resisted watching the films in the Final Destination franchise for a long time because I was afraid of how extreme the gore might be. I’m getting a little braver and I kept hearing good things about the first one, so I finally watched the first film last night.

And then binge-watched the other four films today.

Nightmare Issue 93 June 2020 cover art by Grandfailure / Fotolia with character in full face mask and red digital eyes, surrounded by haze and pixelated rectangles of various colors. Text: Nightmare Horror & Dark Fantasy, list of included authors G.V. Anderson, Laird Barron, Ashley Deng, and Robert Shearman, Issue 93 | June 2020, Edited by John Joseph Adams

Nightmare, Issue 93 (June 2020)

I really love every story in this issue. Everything had the right amount of tension, chills, and ambiguity. There’s an image of attendees at a party after the party is over in “Girls Without Their Faces On” by Laird Barron that will haunt me forever. As will the Dorset Ooser from “We, the Folk” by G.V. Anderson, which can you can find on Wikipedia and elsewhere. It’s real. AHHH!

Fantasy Issue 61 November 2020 Cover art by Alexandra Petruk/Adobe Stock Image with tree-like deity holding a human in their branch hands and staring at them intensely. White text for magazine title and issue information, with editor names and names of included poets and writers.

Fantasy, Issue 61 (November 2020)

Fantasy Magazine has been on hiatus for several years, but new editors Arley Sorg and Christie Yant have relaunched the magazine starting with Issue 61 and four short or flash prose pieces and two poems, along with interviews. In their opening editorial, Sorg and Yant discuss why they’re bringing the magazine back now; it’s a timely relaunch, to be sure.

Lightspeed Issue 126 November 2020 cover art by Roman3d / Adobe Stock Image with character in headgear and mask with heads up display crossing forearms in an x in front

Lightspeed, Issue 126 (November 2020)

There’s a humorous tone to some of the stories in the latest issue of Lightspeed Magazine I don’t think I’m really in the right place emotionally right now to completely appreciate, which might explain why my favorite story in this issue is probably “Burn the Ships” by Alberto Yáñez. It’s dark, but also deeply satisfying by the end.

Book cover for Autumncrow by Cameron Chaney with farmer's skeleton holding a carved pumpkin on Halloween with the town of Autumncrow Valley and a full moon in the background

Autumncrow by Cameron Chaney

I truly love Autumncrow by Cameron Chaney, a perfect-for-October and Autumn book, with fun and wicked, but frequently dark and troubling, stories that whisper to me about my own trauma and personal history, suggesting dark and light new ways for me to look at things. Chaney has a knack for seeing right into the soul.

True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik

True Crime by Samantha Kolesnik is a difficult book to read, for sure, but what’s so remarkable about it and why I continued reading is how the author navigates this brutal material.

Coppice & Brake book cover with illustrated crows standing on top of an illustrated doorway open to a picture of trees stand stark and tall in the snow

Coppice & Brake Edited by Rachel A. Brune

One of the most exciting and enjoyable reading experiences I’ve had this year. I’m enthusiastic because in a year of great anthologies, Coppice & Brake from Crone Girls Press and Editor Rachel A. Brune is an absolute favorite. I love every single story, which I cannot say about most anthologies.

Book cover of White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo with white text including text that appears shattered over a black background

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo is a great place for White people to start, learn a little humility, and start building stamina for grappling with race and racism. I learned a lot while experienced many head-smack moments and moments of shame while reading this short, accessible, blunt, and necessary book.

In the Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland

At 94 pages, In the Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland is a quick read, but be warned that the mounting tension might require an occasional break to catch your breath. You’re going to need the oxygen: the final third of the book, when the breathless pace escalates and characters become even more desperate, becomes unputdownable.

Phreak by JE Solo

Phreak often worked against my narrative expectations with its fragmented, time-jumping, and vignette-style approach, and in the process delivered a singular character whose clear and deeply felt recollections warn us how close we are to delivering a similarly bleak future to the next generation. You’ll want to get your hands on this novel as soon as possible.

Snow by Ronald Malfi

The rapid pace doesn’t get in the way of good details and atmosphere; I felt the cold, eeriness, and rising tension along the way. What they encounter is creepy as hell and led to heart-pounding horror and heartbreaking deaths.

We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk

It took me several pages to adjust to the direction Kirk takes later in the novel, but I was rewarded with an unexpectedly humane, emotional, and satisfying ending. Despite its challenges, We Are Monsters left me with a lot to enjoy and think about.

“Forever Baby” by Dana Diehl in Cartridge Lit

Dana Diehl’s latest flash fiction piece titled “Forever Baby” and inspired by the game Stardew Valley is available on Cartridge Lit in the new “The Double Click Temple Issue.” Her story is awesome, sad, allegorical for so much, and you don’t need to know anything about Stardew Valley to appreciate it.

Movie Review: Assimilate (2019)

Assimilate isn’t the cheap and nauseating found-footage film the trailer led me to believe it would be, but instead an effective low-budget thriller that relies too much on jump scares but tempers these with earned emotions and suspense.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

🎥 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a fantastic movie! I love the energy, art style(s), story, and characters. If this is the future of the Spider-Verse (and Venom 2 turns out to be a major improvement on the first one), then I’m eager for the franchise to expand.

Alice Hatcher Craft Class

📚 I participated in a fantastic craft class today with Alice Hatcher, author of The Wonder That Was Ours. She was interviewed by Reneé Bibby, Director of the Writers Studio Tucson, and local students in the Master and Advanced workshops.

Book cover of Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting That You'll Ever Need by Blake Snyder, with a cat on the cover hanging from a frayed rope

Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

The tone and humor might be a little dated, even insensitive and problematic at points, but there’s no question that Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is a book packed with useful, easily digestible, but comprehensive information.

Magazine cover for Nightmare Magazine, Issue 10 with art by Adam S Doyle

Nightmare Magazine, Issue 10

The highlight of this issue is most definitely the interview with Joe Hill. I haven’t read any of his work yet, but I’m really interested now that I’ve read this interview.

Book cover of The Wonder That Was Ours by Alice Hatcher with cockroaches

The Wonder That Was Ours by Alice Hatcher

The Wonder That Was Ours by Alice Hatcher is a deeply moving novel that makes smart use of its narrator—the collective “we” of cockroaches—to explore the legacy of colonization. Hatcher’s collective cockroach narrator is funny and astute, and finds the disturbing and heartbreaking parallels between our species, while pointing out the ways humans might be far worse.

Book cover of TV Girls by Dana Diehl

TV Girls by Dana Diehl

With TV Girls—six incredible flash fiction stories in one fantastic chapbook—Dana Diehl’s compassion for reality TV stars flattened by the medium recovers their individuality and complexity by exploring in gorgeously-crafted prose how they are vulnerable, exploited, and managing the relentless attention.

“The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman

“The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman is one of the best poems I’ve read this year. It was my top pick when voting for the 2018 Rhysling Awards, and must have been for many others because it recently won in the long poem category!

The 2018 Rhysling Anthology

Neil Gaiman’s “The Mushroom Hunters” was my personal favorite in the collection, along with Mary Soon Lee’s “Advice to a Six-Year-Old” and all her other poems, Linda D. Addison’s “Sycorax’s Daughters Unveiled”, Cislyn Smith’s “Hot”, and Shannon Connor Winward’s “The Raven’s Hallowe’en.”

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon and the other characters are the highlight of Simon vs the Homo sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, about a high school student on the verge of coming out as gay dealing with doubt, first love, and blackmail.

The World to Come: Stories by Jim Shepard

Every single story in this collection of historical fiction and contemporary fiction pieces is breathtaking, full of incredible and often all-too-real details, and features characters (whether based on real people or not) that leap off the page.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

An incredible if interminable reading experience made nauseating by deplorable racist interjections (sometimes an excruciating chapter long) and gory slaughter.

Shekhinah by Eleanor Wilner

I find Wilner’s style to be very straightforward and clear (as is her reading style) and her poems full of beautiful sensory detail and movement, featuring persona narrators who are typically distant and generally focus almost all their attention on the subject and themes of the poem.

Adelaide Literary Magazine magazine cover, Year III, Number 10, November 2017

“Leave” By Katie Predick

I’ve been fortunate to have been in several workshops with Katie Predick, a poet I highly regard. Her poetry is rich with images and surprises as she explores myth and nature and themes of womanhood and parenthood, relationships, science, and human impact on the environment (she’s also an accomplished scientist.)

Book cover from Goodreads of Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

I know when poems are working for me when the images suddenly erupt in vivid virtual reality in my mind and I gasp; several poems in this collection had those effects on me.

Screen Shot Everything is Free

Everything is Free

When I say that Brian Jordan Alvarez’s queer film Everything is Free is not afraid of penises, I mean that as high praise … and this is your opportunity to bail out of this review if this isn’t subject matter you’re comfortable with.

Shard Atlas by Wren Awry book cover from Goodreads

Shard Atlas by Wren Awry

A micro-chapbook of impactful poems concerned with what needs to be preserved, what needs to be acknowledged, and what needs to be torn down. Beautiful and timely.

“The Price of Oranges” by Nancy Kress

One of my absolute favorite short stories. I’ve read “The Price of Oranges” many times, but I always seem to forget how it ends, making each new read a magical, emotional experience all over again.

Beyond the Gates movie poster

Beyond the Gates (2016)

Beyond the Gates is one of those slow-burn horror films that may bore some viewers but the nostalgia and character building are going to make fans of the rest.

The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster book cover from Goodreads

The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster

The characters in The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster are so engaging, their world so compelling, and the book cover art so gorgeous that I feel bad giving this novella only three stars, but the truth is I personally wanted more details and more time in this world with these characters.

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang book cover from Goodreads

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

Ted Chiang’s collection of his stories published between 1990 and 2002 is now one of my favorite books ever, full of some of my favorite stories ever. There is not one story in this collection I did not enjoy, and all of them left me in awe. Yes, I’m going to be a little breathless with this review, but it’s how I’ve been feeling for days now ever since I started reading Stories of Your Life and Others.

Caliban's War book cover from Goodreads

Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey

What I like most about The Expanse series of books by James S.A. Corey so far are the characters. In the second book, Caliban’s War, a few new characters are introduced, including my new favorite, Bobbie Draper, a Martian Marine. Her story is one of two frames, beginning right after the prologue that introduces the mystery, and takes a particularly satisfying story arc from a PTSD-inducing attack to recovery and justice of sorts.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #204 magazine cover from Goodreads

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #204

This was a difficult issue to rate because these two stories were to different degrees a little opaque and difficult for me to read and understand. They both rewarded my effort, however, and gave me much to think about, in terms of their content and their craft.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #203 magazine cover from Goodreads

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #203

Both stories in issue #203 of BCS deal with transformation, gender, and the strict roles of women and men in two very different societies and two very different settings.

Goodreads image of Nightmare Magazine Issue 46 cover

Nightmare Magazine, Issue 46

I found some of the stories in Issue 46 of Nightmare Magazine to be a little opaque, making for interesting reading and leaving me to think about possible meanings.

Jonathan Issue 11 journal cover, image from Goodreads

Jonathan Issue 11

With issue 11, Jonathan diversifies from fiction written by gay men to fiction written “by self-identified queer writers from all across the LGBTQ spectrum.” I haven’t read the previous ten issues, but the quality of the stories in issue 11 convinces me to purchase the back issues and also look forward to upcoming issues.

Cover for The Machinery Second Edition. Image from Goodreads.

The Machinery Second Edition

The artists and the writers are from various parts of the world and part of the charm and enjoyment of The Machinery is how writer and artist from different backgrounds are paired together.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #202

Although I found these two stories somewhat opaque (especially the second one), they feature strong writing, memorable characters, and vivid world building. I was left after reading both wanting to know much more about their worlds.

Nightmare Magazine Issue 45 June 2016

Oh, wow, this is a great issue. I haven’t read a lot of horror short fiction in recent decades and I’ve been curious to see what writers are writing about. Thus, I’m a new subscriber; it has already been rewarding.

Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 117

Brief descriptions I read about “And Then, One Day, the Air was Full of Voices” by Margaret Ronald and “Things With Beards” by Sam J. Miller convinced me to subscribe right then to a year of Clarkesworld Magazine, and I’m so glad I did.

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue 200

The four vividly imagined worlds in these four fantasy stories are populated by characters on journeys through time and space, their loyalty to existing systems sorely tested, similar in their resolve to see their way through, but different in the complexities of their own unique personalities and how they forge ahead.

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