Chuck Wendig: Blackbirds, Mockingbird

The first time Miriam Black touches you, she can see how/when/where you’re going to die. (The death scenes delivered to the reader usually have an ironic or morbidly slapstick component, kinda like the pre-credit sequences of Six Feet Under; seems Miriam rarely touches people who slip away uneventfully.) When we meet Miriam she’s given upContinue reading “Chuck Wendig: Blackbirds, Mockingbird”

Chuck Wendig (ed.): Don’t Read This Book

I picked up Don’t Read This Book because it featured a few dark fantasists I like and several more I was curious about. Foremost among the latter was editor Chuck Wending, whose @ChuckWendig twitter account and http://terribleminds.com/ramble/blog/, which jointly offer irreverent entertainment and lean, mean writing advice, have zoomed him to the top of myContinue reading “Chuck Wendig (ed.): Don’t Read This Book”

Jo Stanley: Bold in Her Breeches: Women Pirates Across the Ages

A history of female pirates faces formidable challenges: career criminals tends to be systematically sensationalized and mythologized, pirates were overwhelmingly from a socio-economic class virtually ignored by traditional historians, and the doings — or even presence — of women is likewise ignored by many historical sources. A handful of female pirates left a verifiable historyContinue reading “Jo Stanley: Bold in Her Breeches: Women Pirates Across the Ages”

Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim: Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won

Ye gods, someone wrote a sports book for me. Except it’s not, quite, because a lot of it is not specifically about baseball. But there was more than enough baseball to keep me engaged throughout. Moskowitz and Wertheim apply scientific rigor to analyzing why perplexing issues like why teams and managers consistently make suboptimal decisions,Continue reading “Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim: Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports Are Played and Games Are Won”

Jess Walter: The Financial Lives of the Poets

After the first couple of chapters I thought I knew what I was in for (and was onboard) — a well-executed, but fairly standard, dark-humored, mildly-delusional-early-21st-century-guy’s-life-in-freefall story along the lines of David Gates or Donald Antrim, but less incisive and less boundary-pushing. You know, the sort of book where complaining about a hard-to-swallow plot elementContinue reading “Jess Walter: The Financial Lives of the Poets”

Kevin Wilson: The Family Fang

There were a lot of things I really liked about The Family Fang, which is mostly about Annie and Buster, the somewhat damaged children of Caleb and Camille Fang, a pair of notorious conceptual artists. Somewhere in the middle I was struck by how Wilson’s characters reminded me of filmmaker Wes Anderson’s — I feltContinue reading “Kevin Wilson: The Family Fang”

John Warner: The Funny Man

There’s a lot of craft I admire in The Funny Man. Initially, chapters alternate between the titular character’s first-person narration of his manslaughter trial in the present, and third-person narration of the funny man’s career arc. (For a while I was mildly irritated by the funny man’s namelessness, but it’s eventually justified; the novel isContinue reading “John Warner: The Funny Man”

Patricia C. Wrede: Dealing with Dragons

Dealing with Dragons shares several traits with the fantasies of Dianna Wynne Jones. It assumes familiarity with fairytale conventions and tropes, and reworks and subverts them, with a particular focus on excising sexism and adding subtle metatextual humor. Princess Cimorene is the sort of strong, quick-witted, and self-reliant protagonist who could easily be at homeContinue reading “Patricia C. Wrede: Dealing with Dragons”

Lawrence Watt-Evans: The Final Folly of Captain Dancy and other Pseudo-Historical Fantasies

It’s a bit tricky to describe The Final Folly of Captain Dancy without sounding like I’m damning it with faint praise, so maybe I should say up front that I definitely enjoyed this enough to read more. Watt-Evan’s stories have a bit of an old-school vibe; it’s easy for me to imagine him as aContinue reading “Lawrence Watt-Evans: The Final Folly of Captain Dancy and other Pseudo-Historical Fantasies”