Book Reviews

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Review: 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.

Review: 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 the SFPA 2020 Rhysling Anthology with a waterfall falling from a large mushroom mountain

Review: 2020 Rhysling Anthology edited by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Book cover of the SFPA 2020 Rhysling Anthology with a waterfall falling from a large mushroom mountain

What bliss to read the latest Rhysling Anthology from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (SFPA) and edited by David C. Kopaska-Merkel, but what torture to select the best three short and long poems nominated for the 2020 Rhysling Award.

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

Review: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

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

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.

Review: In the Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland

Book cover of In the Scrape by James Newman and Mark Steensland with silhouette of deer in high grass against huge full moon at night and a cabin in the woods

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.

Review: Cricket Hunters by Jeremy Hepler

Book cover of Crickets Hunters by Jeremy Hepler with grandmother protecting her granddaughter in bed with crickets nearby and two stakes stabbed into the bloody ground

Cricket Hunters subverts the usual tropes and nostalgia of coming-of-age horror by reaching for something even darker in this tale of friendship and rivalry

Review: Phreak by JE Solo

Book cover of Phreak by JE Solo with shadow of a person in hoodie against a chainlink fence

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.

Review: Snow by Ronald Malfi

Book cover for Snow by Ronald Malfi featuring a tree with a eerie blue figure peering out at the snowy landscape and a gate

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.

Review: We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk

Book cover for We Are Monsters by Brian Kirk with a man in shadows and a straight jacket

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.

Recommendation: “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.

Review: The Low Passions by Anders Carlson-Wee

Anders Carlson-Wee’s poems in The Low Passions feel like they have exactly the right words; the perfect, accessible, blunt, beautiful, challenging, and surprising words.

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

Review: Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

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

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.

Book cover of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Book cover of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is beautiful, emotional, full of love, humor, and hope, and also horror and tragedy. It’s devastating.

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

Review: Nightmare Magazine, Issue 10

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

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

Review: 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

Review: 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.

Recommended: “The Mushroom Hunters” by Neil Gaiman

Book cover of The 2018 Rhysling Anthology edited by Linda D. Addison with a mermaid leaping from water

“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!

Review: 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.”

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Book cover of Simon vs. the Homo sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli with stylized cutout of teenage boy in dark clothes with no head and a dialogue box including title against a red background

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.

Review: The World to Come: Stories by Jim Shepard

Book cover of The World to Come: Stories by Jim Shepard with the title text displaying an image of the blue sky and clouds against a black background

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.

Review: 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.

Review: 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

Recommended: “Leave” By Katie Predick

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

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

Book Review: Lucky Fish by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Book cover from Goodreads of 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.

Shard Atlas by Wren Awry book cover from Goodreads

Book Review: Shard Atlas by Wren Awry

Shard Atlas by Wren Awry book cover from Goodreads

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.

Short Story Review: The Price of Oranges by Nancy Kress

Sliced oranges

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.

The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster book cover from Goodreads

Review: The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster

The Drowning Eyes by Emily Foster book cover from Goodreads

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

Review: Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang

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

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

Book Review: Caliban’s War by James S.A. Corey

Caliban's War book cover from Goodreads

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

Review: Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #204

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #204 magazine cover from Goodreads

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

Review: Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #203

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #203 magazine cover from Goodreads

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

Review: Nightmare Magazine, Issue 46

Goodreads image of Nightmare Magazine Issue 46 cover

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

Review: Jonathan Issue 11

Jonathan Issue 11 journal cover, image from Goodreads

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.

Review: The Machinery Second Edition

Cover for The Machinery Second Edition. Image from Goodreads.

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.

Review: Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #202

Cover of Beneath Ceaseless Skies issue #202 edited by Scott H. Andrews

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.

Review: Nightmare Magazine Issue 45 June 2016

Cover of Night Magazine issue 45 edited by John Joseph Adams

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.

Review: Clarkesworld Magazine Issue 117

Cover of Clarkesworld issue 117 edited by Neil Clarke with beasts on a desolate alien landscape and a sky full of nearby planets and a rocket

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.

Review: 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.

Review: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin

All the praise. There are many aspects about The Fifth Season to praise, but it certainly tapped my interest in fantasy with science fiction trappings, especially a healthy dose of geology.

Review: A Month of Writing Prompts 2016 by Julie Duffy

Julie Duffy, the creator of StoryADay May, provides a great roadmap for successfully writing a story a day in May 2016, with prompts organized by weekly focus topics including constraints and craft elements.

Book Reviews: Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

Book cover of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson with image of Steve Jobs

Issaacson’s biography of Jobs is a fantastic book, and it confirms my suspicion that the coming decades are going to be devastating, hopeful, terrifying, and haunting, all at once, simply because we humans have yet to fully comprehend what technology has unleashed.

My Favorites Books in 2013

Most of my favorite works this year were not published in 2013; this just happens to be the year I finally got around to them.

Book cover of The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil

The Singularity Is Near – Book Released

Book cover of The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil

Raymond Kurzweil’s latest book about the Technology Singularity, this time focusing on the merger of humanity with our technological creations, was official released today in bookstores everywhere.

Several Astonishing X-Men comics laid out against black background

Astonishing X-Men

Several Astonishing X-Men comics laid out against black background

The best movie, the best television show, and the best novel of the past year is not a movie, television show, or novel. Instead, it is a comic book.

Book cover of The Demon-Haunted World Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

Fighting Xenophobia Using Skills from The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

Book cover of The Demon-Haunted World Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

To discern true scientific breakthroughs from the fantasies of pseudoscientific wishful thinking and to avoid rampant xenophobia when faced with our intelligent creations, we will need “skeptical thinking and an aptitude for wonder,” two skills Carl Sagan repeatedly highlights in his book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.