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”

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”

Gina X Grant: The Reluctant Reaper

The Reluctant Reaper is an urban fantasy drawing on Dante’s Inferno with plot and setting elements not entirely dissimilar to similarly inspired works by the likes of Piers Anthony and Amber Benson. Grant’s style is is short on description and long on puns, as this early paragraph demonstrates: Leaping up, I threw myself against theContinue reading “Gina X Grant: The Reluctant Reaper”

Mick Farren: The Quest of the DNA Cowboys, Synaptic Manhunt

Farren’s “DNA Cowboys” trilogy had been on my to-read list for a long time, and I finally decided to give it a go. It’s a simultaneous homage to and send up of Burroughs-style “planetary romance,” raunchier, more overtly parodic, and much less structured than Philip José Farmer’s “World of Tiers” novels, but not entirely dissimilar.Continue reading “Mick Farren: The Quest of the DNA Cowboys, Synaptic Manhunt”

Andrea Hairston: Redwood and Wildfire

I finished Hairston’s harrowing and beautiful Redwood and Wildfire about a week ago, and I’ve been struggling to write about it in a way that does it justice. But it’s today that I learned about the acquittal of one George Zimmerman in the murder trial of one Trayvon Martin, and that — and what itContinue reading “Andrea Hairston: Redwood and Wildfire”

Alyssa Goodnight: Austentatious

There was a lot I enjoyed about Austentatious, but also a fair bit I found problematic. The novel scored big points with me early on by dropping a reference to The Princess Bride without belaboring it with an explanation. And I enjoyed its breezy, nerd-culture-reference-spiked tone throughout. I’m generally favorably inclined toward modern spins onContinue reading “Alyssa Goodnight: Austentatious”

Greg Ketter: Shelf Life: Fantastic Stories Celebrating Bookstores

Greg Ketter, owner of Minneapolis’ DreamHaven books describes this volume as a labor of love, and that’s evident. But its thematic focus is so narrow that it’s probably better dipped into than read straight-through: it’s a bit too easy to play spot-the-trope (haunted bookstore, haunted books, store-of-books-never-written, store-of-books-that-warp-reality), and I found the quality uneven. IContinue reading “Greg Ketter: Shelf Life: Fantastic Stories Celebrating Bookstores”

Dia Reeves: Slice of Cherry

I liked Reeves’ first novel Bleeding Violet so much that I ordered her second in advance of its publication date. And then I didn’t read it until now thanks to a quandary familiar to me: I didn’t want the new book to be the same as the one I just read, but I wanted toContinue reading “Dia Reeves: Slice of Cherry”

Jim C. Hines: The Stepsister Scheme

I first heard of Jim C. Hines via his project of challenging the objectification of women on “urban fantasy/paranormal romance” book covers by painstakingly (literally) re-creating the poses with himself in the starring role. Like much of my favorite activism, it’s funny and serious at the same time. (He even tackles a book where IContinue reading “Jim C. Hines: The Stepsister Scheme”