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Cassie Barrett gets some really good news

Posted on 2018.09.12 at 15:52
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My most recent Cassie Barrett tale, "Pothunters," just received an Honorable Mention in Vol. 10 of Ellen Datlow's Best Horror of the Year!


"Pothunters" first appeared in Black Wings VI (PS Publishing, 2017) , edited by S.T. Joshi.

And I'm scaring my poor Corgi with my home office happy dance.

The Ocean at the End of the LaneThe Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Audible version is read by the author, which really enhanced the experience for me. Gaiman's voice gives this dark, engaging modern fantasy a real touch of fairy tale -- something being told to a child, by the child we all were at one point.

Most of the plot points in this short novel would qualify as spoilers, but suffice it to say that Gaiman has captured the otherworldly feelings of an imaginative child, confronted by evil both of this world and utterly not of it. Charming without being cute or cloying, and genuinely touched by the shadows as all good fairy tales are. The writing isn't elaborately elegant, but it does the job of conveying the viewpoint of a bookish, sensitive narrator recalling a long-ago childhood.

Recommended for anyone interested in modern (not epic) fantasy, and willing to be dumped into the deep end of the tale right off.

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Rogue Protocol (The Murderbot Diaries, #3)Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Murderbot Diaries continue to hold my interest, improving with every installment. The plot of this third offering, though still action-oriented, focuses as much on Murderbot's relationships with humans (and another bot, who seems to be a sort of pet) as it does on Murderbot's own still-murderous combat skills.

This shift from full-out SF action ( All Systems Red) to action plus interpersonal focus didn't slow down Wells' dialogue in the least, either. Murderbot remains snarky and wryly observant of the humans around it, despite its own adventures & travels as a rogue SecUnit. One of its most poignant comments came near the end:

I hate caring about stuff. But apparently once you start, you can't just stop.

I'm having the same problem with this series, so I was glad to see that my local library has The Murderbot Diaries #4 on order. With any luck, I'll be the second person to dig into it this fall.

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Happy 128th Birthday, H.P. Lovecraft!

Posted on 2018.08.20 at 13:12
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To celebrate, here's something from my last collection, Dark Energies (P'rea Press 2015).

Of One Who Dreamed

The old gods wake! From pole to pole, that cry
Disquiets midnight in a thousand tongues
Both common & unknown to prophesy
Some cataclysm. Since this world was young,
Its gods have come & gone; their praises sung
In temples or in battle, their rites kept
With incense or with sacrifice fresh-wrung
From writhing flesh. Yet elder powers slept
Beneath our seas. Beyond our stars. Adept
At camouflage, they shaped the waking dreams
Of one whose bleak imagination leapt
To correlate its contents -- into reams
Of warning left behind for all who sense
The stirrings of a darker Providence.

--Ann K. Schwader


My Goodreads review: The Pirate

Posted on 2018.08.15 at 14:59
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The PirateThe Pirate by Harold Schechter

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A well-crafted nibble of historical true crime, circa 1860s USA. One of a series of novella-length pieces being offered to Amazon Prime members, in both Kindle & Audible format.

True crime fans & readers who enjoy sensational history would probably find the entire series of interest. I downloaded the series (in both formats) when it was first offered free. This first sample makes me glad I did.

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The Good HouseThe Good House by Tananarive Due

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A decent modern Gothic horror novel -- feels like Southern Gothic even though most of it takes place in the Northwest --with some really fascinating Vodou aspects. The story is female-focused with a sympathetic protagonist who refuses to be a victim. All good! This is the first Due novel I've ever read / listened to, and I was hoping to broaden my horror reading experience.

In some ways, the novel did this. Unfortunately, it felt much too long, even given that it was a generational story. Combine this with a nonlinear storytelling style (the entire plot zigzags back and forth, sometimes by decades at a time) and an unsatisfying ending, and you wind up with a book that's rather hard to get through.

I think I may have stuck with it because the Audible narrator was doing an excellent job. I'm not sure I would have been so persistent if I'd had, say, a paperback.

YMMV, especially if you're really looking for a chewy late-summer chiller.

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Artificial Condition (The Murderbot Diaries, #2)Artificial Condition by Martha Wells

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fine sequel to All Systems Red (which you should definitely read first, if you haven't), & expands upon Murderbot's world of humans, augmented humans, & bots of various flavors. If anything, Murderbot's observations about both humanity & itself are more pointed.

The plot of this one starts directly after All Systems Red. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that it involves suppressed information, stolen files, at least a couple doses of good old-fashioned SF violence, & a transport with an AI every bit as snarky as Murderbot itself. Murderbot also goes through certain modifications to appear more human (at least augmented human), which gives him no end of psychological grief.

I continue to find these novellas great -- & thoughtful - fun, though the pricing problem remains. This time around, I checked out a Kindle copy from my local library.

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I've just received my early contributor's copy of Wishbone Moon (Jacar Press), a really lovely little haiku anthology.

Billing itself as "a groundbreaking anthology of haiku by women in the international haiku community," this perfect-bound volume is edited by Roberta Beary, Ellen Compton, & Kala Ramesh.

These three editors hail from Ireland, the USA, and India respectively, and their selections are equally diverse. I haven't finished this anthology yet -- it begs to be nibbled through and paused over! -- but a quick flip through its pages reveals haiku poets from Singapore, Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and many other places. This is not a themed anthology, so there's a lot of variety in the haiku themselves as well.

The official publication date for this one is September. It will be available on both Amazon & the Jacar Press website, http://www.jacarpress.com/


49 years ago today . . .

Posted on 2018.07.20 at 15:39
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with room
to spare now
moon dust footprints

-- Ann K. Schwader

Night-Gaunts and Other Tales of SuspenseNight-Gaunts and Other Tales of Suspense by Joyce Carol Oates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I checked this out (in Kindle format) from my local library simply to read "Night-Gaunts," & found myself unable to stop. I'd read a certain amount of Oates in the past, but never a full collection of her tales . . .wow. Definitely a mind-altering experience, though one has to get used to her ambiguous endings. In most cases, the reader is never going to be 100% sure how a particular story ended -- though this is not the same as a story dribbling away into nothing. These definitely end, but with a lot of uncertainty for both the reader and the characters.

The title tale is actually the final one (yes, I read it first), & will probably work best for those with some knowledge of H.P. Lovecraft's life. I didn't agree with all the author's plot choices in this one, but enjoyed it anyhow.

The other five stories do not have a Lovecraftian flavor (at least, they didn't to me), & could probably be appreciated by anyone with a taste for slow-burn creepiness. These are, indeed, tales of suspense rather than horror. Most of the horror is hidden between the lines of breathtakingly elegant prose. All six tales are reprints, but from such obscure sources that most readers won't have encountered more than possibly one of them before.

Highly recommended for fans of quiet/literary horror & suspense, and a great summer read for those of us who find our tastes running to darkness this time of year.

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