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My Goodreads review: The House Next Door

Posted on 2019.05.13 at 17:02
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The House Next DoorThe House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a deeply creepy & well-written haunted house tale that suffers slightly from being dated. The book originally appeared in 1978, & it is very much of its time. People Magazine is still a new, sensational publication; cocktails are less a trendy art form than a way of life, and social mores are much different. This last item is particularly important to the story, though disclosing much more would be a spoiler.

Set in an affluent Atlanta suburb, this novel achieves a Southern Gothic feel without most of the traditional trappings. I don't recall ever reading about a (brand spanking new) house being haunted in quite this way. A lot depends upon whether or not you find the first-person POV character sympathetic, however. I had no problem with her, but some members of my reading group did.

One caveat: Bad Things do happen to pets in this one. Not in graphic detail or often, but late enough that I'd already been hooked by the plot.

Recommended for: ghost story enthusiasts looking for something different, & fans of contemporary slow burn horror.

View all my reviews

It's the last day of National Poetry Month already. Great sadness.

Since May is a busy, busy month for a lot of us, I'll end the month with some haiku websites to sample in the weeks to come. No matter how busy you are, surely there's time for a three-line poem! (Or two. Or three. Haiku are a bit like literary potato chips, once you discover how tasty they are.)

The Heron's Nest


(Fully on-line haiku journal, with 12 pages plus Editors' Choices to explore.)

Autumn Moon Haiku Journal


(Another fully on-line journal, though not paginated. I just discovered this one myself.)



(One new haiku a day, on this site or in your Inbox.)



("A daily haiku or micro-poem," on this site or in your Inbox.)

Modern Haiku


(A print haiku journal, but with fairly extensive online sample pages. Includes essays.)



(The print journal of the Haiku Society of America, with extensive online sample pages. Includes essays.)

The Haiku Foundation


(Fascinating site with Per Diem daily haiku & many articles, plus whole older collections of haiku available on-line.)

[Truth in blogging: aside from Autumn Moon, I've had work in all of these publications at some point.]

National Poetry Month is already winding down -- but there's still time to get a nice big dose of speculative poetry, free!

Eye to the Telescope #32, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association's online journal, is up now at


Edited by Lisa Timpf, this Sports & Games issue offers a wide variety of approaches to the theme, from formal verse to haibun to haiku and beyond.

Here's the ToC:

The Briar Witch • Colleen Anderson
The Ashes, 3150 A.D. • PS Cottier
2074 Hall of Fame Game • David E. Cowen
ground-breaking • D. A. Xiaolin Spires
Death Spiral, Korolev Crater • Ann K. Schwader
“Saturn’s rings” • Stewart C. Baker
drag strip drag • Francine P. Lewis
bulletins from the First Intragalactic Peace Games (2443) • Brittany Hause
A Game of Astral Pool • Marge Simon
“stardust” • LeRoy Gorman
Blood and Dominoes • F. J. Bergmann
The Arbiter • John C. Mannone
The Commandant of Mars • Mary Soon Lee
Ten-Card Tarot, Pentacles Wild • F. J. Bergmann
Lost Palace, Lighted Tracks • Oliver Smith
The Third Shoe • David C. Kopaska-Merkel & Ann K. Schwader
Noughts and Double Crosses • Andrew J. Wilson
Hide and Seek on Colony Twelve • Juleigh Howard-Hobson
Coliseum Reborn • Herb Kauderer
Games Wizards Play • Jennifer Crow
The Trophy Room • Andrew J. Wilson
Galactus Sends Regrets to the Earth • David E. Cowen

Truth in blogging: yes, 1.5 of the poems in this issue are by Yours Truly.


My Goodreads review: The Coming Storm

Posted on 2019.04.12 at 15:02
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The Coming StormThe Coming Storm by Michael Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another right-sized Audible Original I obtained as a free item for members. It's a deeply frightening, well-researched look at weather forecasting in America, & how data all of us pay (through taxes) to obtain is becoming more & more privatized. Loaded with good science and fascinating personalities, & narrated by the author in a clear though sometimes overly dramatic fashion. Although Big Data is a major part of the narrative, I never felt bored or confused. Lewis weaves his information into anecdotes, rather than dishing it out in indigestible lumps.

There is some political commentary here, but nothing overt or extreme. Recommended for the scientifically curious, or anyone interested in how high-level decision making actually affects ordinary Americans (farmers in particular) in risky situations. I'm not sure the length justifies spending a whole credit, but it's definitely something to pounce on as a discounted or free item.

View all my reviews

The PowerThe Power by Naomi Alderman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an effective & unsettling listening experience, at least partly because the book did not deliver what I was expecting. And that's probably a good thing.

I'd heard The Power described as a feminist dystopian novel, sometimes compared to The Handmaid's Tale. For me, at least, this wasn't accurate. Rather than being centered on the USA, or triggered by abusive religion, this is a global dystopia triggered by a truly science-fictional concept. (I suspect everyone reading this knows the concept, but no spoilers from me.)

The book offers multiple sympathetic viewpoints from diverse characters: an emotionally scarred African-American girl "savior," a politically driven American mother with a troubled daughter, an ambitious male Nigerian journalist, a vengeful young woman from a British criminal clan. Within the novel's framing story (again, no spoilers here), the setting is disturbingly modern, complete with Eastern European chaos and social media trolls. When the author's SF concept changes just one thing, the world begins to fall apart with alarming rapidity.

In the end, this may be less a feminist dystopia than a human dystopia, more about humans & power than humans & gender. It's a thrilling listen (or read), but I can't say the ending gave me a lot of hope or warm fuzzies. Recommended for those ready to accept a solid dose of SF plus a touch of dark fantasy in a thought-provoking novel.

View all my reviews

If you live in the U.S., April is National Poetry Month! (And if you don't, it's still National Poetry Month here in the States, so feel free to join in. Please.)

Here are a few links to get you started:

What the heck is National Poetry Month, anyhow?


How can I read more poetry in my Inbox, for free?



Knopf Poetry Poem a Day


(this one only officially runs through April, though poems sometimes show up at other times)



(there's a drop-down menu with a link to subscribe -- good online / print poetry magazine)

Poetry Daily


(for now, this will get you signed up for a weekly newsletter with poem links -- but soon, there will be a daily poem offered as well)

Sad confession: I subscribe to all of these. And no, I don't always get every one read every day -- but it's wonderful to have something I actually look forward to in my Inbox.

I'll be posting again this month with more links / poem sources, for both haiku & speculative poetry. Poem on!

The Garden of Blue RosesThe Garden of Blue Roses by Michael Barsa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I suspect that many fans of the modern Gothic would give this one at least four stars. It has pretty much everything one expects, with a few extras. Creepy family in privileged country-house life? Check. Mysterious death of parents? Check. Dark family secrets several layers deep? Check. Seriously unreliable narrator? Double, triple check.

Unfortunately, the famous horror-writer father who haunts (figuratively? literally?) so much of this story just did not work for me as a character. Most jarringly, this writer made his name as "the Master of the Slasher who writes in rhyming couplets." There are numerous quotations from his work throughout the book, and almost all of them felt forced. This poetry simply did not strike me as being something that would sell horror novels -- though, again, YMMV. Like much else about this character, these quotations seemed over the top.

That said, there's a lot to admire about this novel. In addition to the skillfully wrought Gothic atmosphere, the plot plays with reality vs. fiction in a completely disorienting way. Despite the intrusion of those couplets, suspense builds steadily, even when the reader is fairly sure whodunit -- if not why -- early on. This is a thoroughly stylized tale, but an absorbing one for those who are willing to let it unfold at its own pace.

View all my reviews

The Labyrinth Index (Laundry Files, #9)The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This ninth & latest entry in the Laundry Files is narrated by Mhari Murphy, head of the Lords Select Committee on Sanguinary Affairs, and thoroughly cynical PHANG. (Yes, PHANG means exactly what you think it does -- but if you are not familiar with Charles Stross's Lovecraft-flavored version of vampires, this is not the place to start. The Laundry Files are definitely best read in order. Begin with The Atrocity Archives. )

The overall mission this time takes Mhari & several other unhappy Laundry operatives to the USA, where the whole country has forgotten its President. An occult American intelligence service is also trying to bring back Cthulhu from His watery grave -- thus annoying Nyarlathotep, currently in charge of the UK. And potentially destroying our planet.

Are we having fun yet?

Yes, we are. Or at least I was. Stross is at his wittiest & snarkiest when describing some aspects of the US, though he never lets the snark overshadow the dark. This Lovecraftian post-apocalypse spy thriller delivers pretty much everything fans of this series expect, though I found personal relationships occasionally overshadowing the action. Mhari's POV still works for me as a female reader, & I'll be preordering the next Laundry File when it's announced.

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bright saucers
out from Andromeda
our sisters next door

-- Ann K. Schwader




Recent Weirdness Available Now

Posted on 2019.03.07 at 16:53
Tags: , , , , ,
I'm a happy weirdie!

Weird Fiction Review #9 (listed as Fall 2018, but appearing in early 2019) and Spectral Realms #10 (Winter 2019), both edited by S.T. Joshi, are now available.

And I've got new poems in both of them.

Weird Fiction Review #9 -- a truly massive (over 400 pp.!) annual compilation of fiction, poetry, articles, & reviews -- is available from Colorado publisher Centipede Press. Find more information & a sale price here:


Spectral Realms #10, THE twice-yearly journal of weird verse & reviews, is available from Hippocampus Press. This issue offers a full index to issues #1-10. Find ToC & ordering information here:


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