Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins: The Merciless Book of Metal Lists

The world of heavy metal music is broader than almost anyone who hasn’t spent time in it is likely to guess, so if you’re contemplating this book as a gift for a metalhead in your life and/or yourself it’s helpful to know the focus and bias. For Abrams and Jenkins the core of metal isContinue reading “Howie Abrams and Sacha Jenkins: The Merciless Book of Metal Lists”

Maureen Johnson: 13 Little Blue Envelopes

13 Little Blue Envelopes is tricky to write about while avoiding spoilers, but I found it satisfying, surprising, funny, and even insightful at times, and it almost entirely steers clear of opportunities to veer into sappiness. Protagonist Ginny is cast in the classic mode of A Wrinkle in Time‘s Meg: definitely older, but similarly clever,Continue reading “Maureen Johnson: 13 Little Blue Envelopes”

Robert Jeschonek: Heaven Bent

Heaven Bent was published as a weekly serial ebook, a format which intrigued, but ultimately disappointed me. Perhaps I’m being unfair and it was tightly plotted from the get-go. But it felt like it could actually have been written week-by-week, with many plot threads introduced and then discarded, ill-supported twists late in the game, andContinue reading “Robert Jeschonek: Heaven Bent”

Alexander Jablokov: Brain Thief

The short version: Brain Thief absolutely floored me. If you think you’d like a post-modern noir that’s dark and funny, packed with quirky characters and hair-raising thrills, and has some near-future science fiction flavor, it’s run-do-not-walk time. Bernal Hayden-Rumi works for a wealthy eccentric who funds oddball research projects, something is going identifiably wonky withContinue reading “Alexander Jablokov: Brain Thief”

Beard, Donihe, Duza, et al: The Bizarro Starter Kit (Orange)

I hoped The Bizarro Starter Kit would help me figure out if I’d like bizarro fiction, a genre self-defined by a loose collective of writers with a shared love of cult/trash cinema. It didn’t. The Bizarro Starter Kit makes the case that there’s too much going on for me to dismiss it, and too muchContinue reading “Beard, Donihe, Duza, et al: The Bizarro Starter Kit (Orange)”

Catherine Jinks: Evil Genius

About a quarter of the way through Evil Genius I was pretty sure I had it sussed: a dark parody of the Harry Potter series. By then titular genius Cadel Piggott, who by early adolescence is well down the path leading to an eventual Antisocial Personality Disorder diagnosis, has been packed off to the AxisContinue reading “Catherine Jinks: Evil Genius”

Liz Jensen: My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time

Harlot Charlotte finds herself catapulted from late 19th-century Denmark to 21st-century England in Liz Jensen’s odd fantasy. Charlotte is a mildly unreliable narrator somewhat given to giddiness and entirely given to elaborately structured sentences: When Franz finally departed for a place he referred to mysteriously a the Halfway Club, I resolved to confront Professor KrakContinue reading “Liz Jensen: My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time”

A.J. Jacobs: The Year of Living Biblically

So here’s the elevator pitch for The Year of Living Biblically: this guy, technically Jewish, but secular — an avowed agnostic, actually — decides that for one full year he will follow the laws and commandments of the Bible. All of them. Literally. (Except for those it would be criminal to follow.) (He also ignoresContinue reading “A.J. Jacobs: The Year of Living Biblically”