E. Nesbit: Five Children and It

I learned about E. Nesbit and Five Children and It from Delia Sherman’s The Freedom Maze, which predisposed me to wonder if the reason I didn’t know Nesbit’s name while I did know the names Baum, Barrie, Lofting, Grahame, etc. was rooted in sexism. (Then again, I did know the names Travers and Norton.) AfterContinue reading “E. Nesbit: Five Children and It”

The Girl Who Would Be King

The Girl Who Would be King uses alternating first-person narration to tell the stories of two young women who discover that they have unusual abilities, their struggles to understand and adapt to them, and the conflict those struggles eventually draw them into. Along the way Bonnie and Lola become, more or less, a superhero andContinue reading “The Girl Who Would Be King”

Mark Z Danielweski: House of Leaves

House of Leaves, is more or less, a purported transcription by a guy named Johnny Truant of a manuscript he finds in a dead man’s apartment. He gradually becomes convinced the work of transcribing it is causing a malevolent supernatural presence to manifest in his life. Truant is nothing if not an unreliable narrator. HeContinue reading “Mark Z Danielweski: House of Leaves”

Andrea Phillips: The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart (so far)

I wouldn’t normally write about a novel that’s half-complete, but I just tore through the available chapters of this serial novel-in-progress like a bag of movie popcorn, and this seems like a great jumping-on-point. I think the overall title does a fantastic job of setting expectations: Smokeheart sails in waters that remind me of ErrolContinue reading “Andrea Phillips: The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart (so far)”

Mur Lafferty: The Shambling Guide to New York City

The Shambling Guide to New York City is an urban fantasy that starts out with an intriguing exploration into how the human world might interact with a Buffy-esque any-myth-system-is-fair-game secret supernatural world. I was aware that the major plot arc doesn’t really get cranking for quite a few chapters, but I didn’t mind, because Lafferty’sContinue reading “Mur Lafferty: The Shambling Guide to New York City”

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”

Sarah Rees Breenan: The Demon’s Covenant

This didn’t have a surprise to compare with the plot twist in The Demon’s Lexicon, but I thought it was much stronger overall: more satisfying character development, better prose, a plot that’s less reliant on coincidence. Brennan is particularly adept at depicting the emotional messiness of adolescence and burgeoning sexual awareness.

Rachel Lynn Brody (ed.): Hot Mess – Speculative Fiction About Climate Change

The handful of stories in Brody’s collection clearly have an agenda of raising consciousness of and concern about the implications of climate change. Socially or politically motivated art is tricky: it can succeed in communicating its objectives without necessarily exhibiting the general hallmarks of literary merit. In literary terms, I found Hot Mess a mixedContinue reading “Rachel Lynn Brody (ed.): Hot Mess – Speculative Fiction About Climate Change”

S. S. Taylor: The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon

I wanted to love this book, and perhaps I didn’t because my expectations were too high. It’s published by an arm of McSweeney’s, and it features steampunk trappings, secret societies, cloak and dagger intrigue, a wide subversive streak, strong female characters, and subtle, but deliberate, I think, allusions to Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Becky, andContinue reading “S. S. Taylor: The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon”

Laura Resnick: Disappearing Nightly

I liked Disappearing Nightly, but I have a bit of trouble explaining why. It’s a light contemporary fantasy with a whodunnit flavor and a dash of romance. It partakes of several genres, and I didn’t think it succeeded particularly well at any one of them. A mystery novel, for instance, needs a bit more misdirectionContinue reading “Laura Resnick: Disappearing Nightly”