Sunday, March 29, 2015

March Book Reviews - Warm Bodies, The Sculptor, Shutter, The Girl With All The Gifts, The Midas Flesh, Leaving Time






This month, my chosen books were an eclectic mix. The Sculptor by Scott McCloud, Shutter by Courtney Alameda, Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey, The Midas Flesh by Ryan North, Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion and Tenth of December by George Saunders.

Of course, my to-read list grows every day, with new, fantastic books slated for release, as well as classics I haven't gotten around to yet. And I don't think I'll ever reach the end of it. This is at once discouraging and exciting. On to the reviews!


The Sculptor by Scott McCloud

This modern-day fable, about art and love and the high cost of passion, is just lovely. When David Smith, a down-on-his-luck sculptor, meets Death in a diner one day, he tells Death that he would give anything for his art. Death takes him at his word, and gives David the ability to shape anything with his bare hands, in exchange for his own life 200 days later. David agrees, and so begins a frenetic six months, full of creation and despair and a fatal deadline that looms ever closer with each passing page.

In those 200 days, David creates some of the most profound works of his life, but he struggles to find validation in the world of fine art. He also meets a girl and falls in love -- real, vulnerable, messy love. And as the end of his gifted powers and his shortened life  race toward him, he begins to realize how much he really has to lose.

I loved this book for a few very specific things:

1. As a visual artist, I'm floored by the art in this book. Every page is just oozing with gorgeous depictions of New York, and tiny moments of beauty that are found in David's everyday life. Also, as David nears the end of his allotted time, small detailed panels flash by, granting the reader a real sense of urgency. Gorgeous splash panels draw the reader in from the beginning. Just brilliant art all around.

2. As someone who has intimate knowledge of mental illness, I so appreciate McCloud's portrayal of clinical depression and bipolar disorder. These illnesses are real, visceral, and so so difficult, and works like McCloud's help to break through the stigma surrounding them. Thank you, Scott McCloud, for writing these struggling characters with such empathy.

3. As a writer of speculative fiction, I love the narrative style. Giving the reader an otherworldy glimpse at the beginning -- an enigmatic taste as an unknown girl looks out at the viewer -- just a few thought-provoking images to whet the reader's interest -- and then at the end, these images come full circle, to bring a wholeness of meaning and context to David's story.

And yes. I cried at the end. Sobbed actually. So there.

Highly recommended.

Warnings on: prevalent language, sexual situations, mature themes.


Shutter by Courtney Alameda

Alameda's debut novel, Shutter follows the four or five days following Micheline Helsing's infection with an ancient evil called a soul chain. Micheline is a tetrochromat, a person born with the ability to see auras around paranormal creatures. She and her team, Oliver Stoker, Ryder, and Jude, hunt these creatures. But this week, they're the ones being hunted.

Okay, I first heard about this book last year at WIFYR. Courtney stood up to introduce her agent, John Cusick (who is a lovely person, btw), and mentioned Shutter, which would be debuting in a few months. The moment I saw the cover, I was drawn into the concept of this story. Look at this cover art. Isn't it so good? I mean, really. Geez.

This book reads like a high-budget horror movie. And I mean that in a good way. I could see everything playing out on the silver screen. Pacing, atmosphere, characterization: it's all tailor made for film. If this book isn't optioned soon, I'll be very surprised. The world building here is absolutely stunning. It does take a bit to get the mythos in place (which isn't surprising, considering how detailed it is), and there are a few info dumps, but really, once it's all there. Wow.

Can I just say I'm glad I don't live in this world? It's terrifying. I've never had to stop reading a creepy YA novel before, but around 3am one night, I had to put Shutter down and wait until daylight. That's probably the best compliment Courtney Alameda could receive.

For any lovers of horror, thriller, and monster fiction, Shutter comes highly recommended. Sensitive readers, beware.

Warnings on: language, violence, gore, general ickiness.


Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I read several Picoult novels (Harvesting the Heart, The Pact, My Sister's Keeper, Nineteen Minutes), years ago at the recommendation of a work colleague. For reasons I'll not go into now, I decided I probably wouldn't read another Picoult novel. Then I started hearing a buzz about Leaving Time. Authors that I admire and follow were tweeting about it, so I decided to take a chance. And I'm so glad I did.

For one thing, I love elephants. LOVE them. I find them fascinating, I through my own amateur research, know quite a bit about them. So I was very happy to find elephants prevalent in Leaving Time. Other than that, I don't want to give away much, so I'll just say that Picoult's novel combines: elephants, zoologists, a teen trying to solve a murder, a psychic, a detective, and portrayals of mental illness. All of this is woven into a highly-satisfying tale of mystery, love, and loss.

If you decide to read this book, I would suggest going into it blind. Don't read any reviews, so as not to be accidentally spoiled by some spoilerific spoiler. You really just want to let the story unfold naturally and go along for the ride.

Highly recommended.

Warnings on: language, sexual situations.



The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

I found this book through a bookseller recommendation at Changing Hands in Tempe.  I would have to agree. Also, Joss Whedon blurbed The Girl With All The Gifts, and his blurb was enough right there for me to pick up the book and read it.

Told in alternating PoVs, The Girl With All The Gifts is beautiful and sweet and horrifying and altogether wonderful. It explores the ins and outs of what it really means to be human and I really can't gush enough about it. It's EXTREMELY difficult to review this book without giving away important things that should be revealed naturally in the narrative, so I'll just say that I'm still thinking about it two weeks later.

If you read this, please please message me so we can talk about it. There's so much I wish I could say, but to do so would compromise the thrill you'll experience by allowing it to all unfold by itself.

HIGHLY recommended.

Warnings on: language, violence, gore, sexual situations.



The Midas Flesh by Ryan North - with art by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb

I ran across this Vol. 1 edition at Changing Hands. It collects the first four issues of the sci-fi adventure steeped in mythology.

Wow. I mean, wow. The cover, pictured here, complete with gold-foil fingerprints, is enough to jump off the shelf into my hands. But the fact that it's made by the creative team behind the Adventure Time comic? That seals the deal.

An intrepid crew of three (1 dinosaur, 1 self-possessed female captain, 1 female pilot in a hajib), pursued by the oppressive Federation, find the object of their quest: a planet completely covered in gold. They've discovered a super-weapon, and just in time.

The art is fantastic. The characterization is (not surprisingly) fantastic. The narrative, dialogue, and pacing? Fantastic.

Again, I don't want to give anything much away. It's exciting, touching, funny, and surprising. Everything you would expect from this team.

Looking for a new graphic novel? Read The Midas Flesh.

Highly recommended.


Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion

Here's another party to which I am late. But I've finally arrived, and boy, what a great party.

I saw the movie first. The movie is cute. It's charming. If you didn't like it for some reason (that reason being something other than you don't like zombie stuff), don't let that turn you off from trying the book.

Here's the official synopsis:

R is having a no-life crisis—he is a zombie. He has no memories, no identity, and no pulse, but he is a little different from his fellow Dead. He may occasionally eat people, but he’d rather be riding abandoned airport escalators, listening to Sinatra in the cozy 747 he calls home, or collecting souvenirs from the ruins of civilization. 

And then he meets a girl. 

First as his captive, then his reluctant house guest, Julie is a blast of living color in R’s gray landscape, and something inside him begins to bloom. He doesn’t want to eat this girl—although she looks delicious—he wants to protect her. But their unlikely bond will cause ripples they can’t imagine, and their hopeless world won’t change without a fight.


What the synopsis doesn't hint is how well-written this book is. The prose is beautiful. And the background to the zombie plague is surprising and rather wonderful. There's a depth to this world that isn't portrayed in the film. Besides being a captivating rendition of Romeo and Juliet, Warm Bodies also has this going for it: R is a modern Frankenstein's monster, and I haven't met a monster written with such empathy in a long time. It's a beautiful world we live in, and R reminds us of that.

Highly recommended.

Warnings on: language, sexual situations, violence, gore.



Tenth of December by George Saunders

This collection of short stories is a real gem. I do not say that lightly. George Saunders is a master of voice.

HIGHLY recommended.

Warnings on: language, sexual situations, violence.






Thursday, March 26, 2015

New Dreamscapes YA Short Story up on Patreon

The new short story is up on Patreon. This week it's YA. . . something. I don't really know. But we all know it's speculative, right?

Here's a preview:


They Never Even Asked Me Why I Did It

A Dreamscapes Story
by Alicia VanNoy Call

It wasn't even that big of a deal. Or it wouldn't have been if the neighbors' house hadn't caught on fire too. It's been a dry summer, so the roof went up pretty quick. All licked with flames and then when they started moving down the walls, like flames literally crawling down the walls, paint curling and stuff, the firemen showed up. 

They put it out pretty quick, so it really wasn't that big of a deal. And the firemen were all pretty hot, (they didn't even put their coats on, so you could see their muscles and everything) so no one was really complaining. Even the neighbors whose side of the house got a little burnt, they told the hot firemen that the whole thing was an accident. So they never asked me.


But everyone knew. Long before the firemen rolled up their hoses and ran the siren for the little kids one more time and pulled out of the cul-de-sac, everyone knew. . ..


If you like it, and the other stories, consider becoming a patron!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Some Of Us Had Been Threatening Our Friend Colby



Have you ever read a short story that you still remember decades later? But then you can't remember the title? This happened to me. 

It's incredibly frustrating.

This week, thanks to the power of Google, I randomly ran across the story again. Every few years, since first reading it twenty years ago, I would try to locate this story, only remembering bits and pieces of it. I would ask people if they had ever read it. I would search the internets (before Google.) 

As I'm sure you know, Jeeves is infuriatingly ignorant.

I never asked the right people, apparently, because I know tons of people NOW who would recognize this tale, but I was just telling Tyler last week about this story I read in 1996 about this guy whose friends decided he had gone too far and they decided to hang him and it was super hilarious, but I had never been able to find it again.

AND THEN I FOUND IT.

Some of us had been threatening our friend Colby for a long time, because of the way he had been behaving. And now he'd gone too far, so we decided to hang him. . ..

This is a well-known short story, written by Donald Barthelme, read in intro-to-lit classes across the country, and the subject of animated discussions in liberal-arts buildings everywhere.

When I first read it, I was struck by the matter-of-fact style, the vague assertion of Colby's guilt, and the dry, dark humor injected throughout. If you've never read this, or you haven't read it in twenty years like me, do yourself a favor, click the link above, and take a few minutes to (re)acquaint yourself with Barthelme's (literally) unforgettable fiction.




Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Fantasy Flash Fiction on the Dreamscapes Patreon Project

The new short story is up on Patreon! This week: noir urban fantasy.

Here's a preview:


A Perfect Spiral
A Dreamscapes Story

by Alicia VanNoy Call

If only I'd gone out there ten minutes earlier.
The body was warm. Electric-blue light still coming off of her like steam. She lay on her side, legs splayed between the refuse of soggy cardboard and Hefty bags, mane tangled across the wet asphalt. My hand was red where I had checked for her pulse. She smelled like lilacs.
I knew she was dead -- eyes glazed and staring skyward -- but I stood in the drizzle, blood pooling around my wingtips, and called for an ambulance.
Homicide showed up first.

Want to read the rest? Head on over to the Fictions & Dreamscapes Patreon project. If you like it, consider becoming a patron. Only $1.50 more per story and we'll reach our first funding goal!


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Taming and Training the Wild Leprechaun



Excerpt from 
End of the Rainbow: Taming and Training the Wild Leprechaun 
by Lochlan McShane

Now that you have set up your charms of protection, it is important to make sure your leprechaun is comfortable. Remember, DO NOT skip this step. Leprechauns are fae. If they feel they have been dealt with unfairly, they will not hesitate to kill you in your sleep.

Your leprechaun will require a cushion made from the golden pelt of a selkie, four changes of clothing tailored by elves, and a steady stream of recorded Irish reels played on an antique phonograph.

Your leprechaun will need space to dance. If there is not enough room, he will cast your furniture into a bonfire. This is especially true if you have furnished your home at IKEA.

He must have plenty of mead to drink. He will drink three times his weight in druid-brewed mead at every meal. If you must, substitute sun-cured sugar water stolen from a vicar's hummingbird feeder.

Leprechauns are accustomed to feeding at least six times a day. Here is a list of acceptable foods:
  • Dandelions (new) harvested under a full moon by a virgin wearing red shoes
  • Candied storm clouds
  • Salamander giggles (must be mixed with equal parts mermaid tears. See Harvesting of Magical Creatures, Kelly and Brannigan, 2nd ed., chapter 4)
  • Lattice-top currant pie baked in an active volcano
  • Biscuits dipped in disappointment marmalade (disappointment must be well-aged)
  • Chocolate-covered shamrock chips (must be sprinkled with sea salt)

If none of these are readily available, a leprechaun will happily dine on The  Riverside Shakespeare (1st edition.) A leprechaun will only eat the sonnets and the tragedies, but he loves the appearance of variety, so make sure the entire volume is intact.

Under no circumstances should you attempt to feed your leprechaun Lucky Charms breakfast cereal. To do so will bring about dire consequences, not limited to your "accidental" dismemberment and/or death.

A healthy leprechaun will have a round belly, rosy cheeks, and bright green raiment. If your leprechaun's color begins to drop off, apply an infusion of childlike amazement directly to the leprechaun's jowls. This should bring your leprechaun back to a healthy glow.

Follow these guidelines for the proper care and feeding of your leprechaun, and you'll be able to enjoy his charming antics for at least three weeks. By the time the next full moon rises, you'll be halfway to your pot of gold.

In the next chapter, we will cover tips and tricks for compelling your leprechaun to talk. Most enthusiasts will tell you, possessing a healthy and happy leprechaun is pointless without the location of his hidden treasure. Follow our sure-fire method and you will:


1. Convince your leprechaun to spill his guts
2. Obtain untold wealth
3. Avoid banshee curses or entanglements


Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Blog Tour - My Writing Process

So Liz Hedgecock asked me to participate in a Writing Process Blog Tour. I had done a round in a blog tour a couple of years ago, but I had no idea until just now that it was the same one. It's still going. How cool is that? Anyway, I told Liz I would do it, and since some of the answers will be different now, I suppose it's okay to do it again. I met Liz through the flash fiction circuit, and she's a great writer and a lovely person. Here's her blog.

The post will be illustrated with images from my Sickfish Stories. Cuz every post needs images, right?

Here are the questions:

1. What are you working on right now?




As usual, I have a bajillion projects. Here they are in no particular order:

  • The Fictions & Dreamscapes project. This is a Patreon series, illustrated speculative-fiction short stories.
  • The Apocalyptic Nursery Rhymes. I post these when I have time.
  • Querying my first novel, The Angel Room, contemporary literary YA.
  • Drafting my second novel, HOR1ZON, sci-fi YA.
  • A new series, Nerfherder Haiku. Fandom-based micro-poetry.
  • Various flash fictions per week.
  • I dust off the SickFish Stories once a year and add 30 or so new illustrations in October.


2. How does it differ from other works in its genre?



All of my works have a dark flavor, even the funny ones. Read this cool review of my book Quicksilver Breach on Amazon and you'll get an idea of what sets my work apart. Everything I write puts things a little off-kilter. Even things set in fantasy worlds are close enough to normal to feel familiar, but far enough off to feel uncomfortable.

3. Why do you write what you do?


Because my brain won't shut up. I just write what's kicking around upstairs and it's all in the speculative fiction arena. I have a hard time being satisfied with just one thing, since I'm a visual artist as well, so I dance around in different genres and projects. I just write what feels RIGHT.

4. How does your writing process work?


Sometimes I feel like Dennis here. As any writer does, I spend a lot of time in my own head. Even when I'm with other people, in a public setting, or engaged in other activities, my brain is filing things away to use later in a story. There's a sweet little indie coffee shop around the corner from my house, so I go there to work several times a week. It's good to get out of the house and let the sun shine on you every once in a while.

Apocalyptic Nursery Rhymes: I write the verses first, and then I do an illustration.

Sickfish Stories: It's a toss-up as to which will come first, words or images.

Flash fiction: I'll look at the prompt (various websites run FF contests every week), turn on my jam (currently dubstep and trance electro) and pound out the story until it's finished. When I work on the illustration for Dreamscapes, I listen to some show on Netflix. Currently it's Bones. No, wait, I just finished season 9 last night, so I'm going to be listening to something new. Any suggestions?

Short fiction: I'll look at my story list and pick an idea, then turn on my jam and get to work.

Novel WIP: I turn on my jam, open www.ilys.com, and set a word-count goal. Usually something between 2,000 and 4,000 words. I write without being able to see the words (Check out ilys. Seriously.) and when I reach the goal, I paste the words into my .doc and save it. I haven't read through my WIP yet. I'm just moving forward. Which is something I had a very hard time doing on my first book. Now, thanks to ilys, it's easy. That sounded a lot like a paid testimonial. It's not. I just really like ilys.

I've actually been writing a lot on my phone, which seemed an alien thing to do at first, but now it feels very natural. The only thing I write by hand now are quick notes, journaling, and correspondence. I take a lot of photos and make a lot of sketches and read a lot of books. Like a LOT. Sometimes I think I read too much.

So that's it for my current process.


Below are the awesome authors who will be continuing this lovely blog tour. Go check out their work while you wait with bated breath to find out the secrets to their success. (Hint: The secret is hard work, dedication, and a little splash of genius.)

Ayrich Mutch: I met Ayrich what seems forever ago when I was going to school in Utah. His debut novel, a conspiracy/espionage thriller, Miranda, came out last year. His blog hasn't been updated in a WHILE, since his super-writer alter-ego fights crime by night and he's a busy busy business man during the day, but he promised to write a process post for us.

Taya Okerlund: I met Taya at WIFYR. She a soft-spoken, intelligent, and kind person. Her debut novel, Hurricane Coltrane, will be out next month. I got to read a portion of the manuscript last year and it is excellent. It's currently available for pre-order!

Jay Fosgitt: I met Jay almost ten years ago on deviantART. Wow, that's a long time. I've been following and supporting his work ever since. His current main project, graphic novel Bodie Troll is brilliant. Jay is one of those rare people who are equally comfortable in both the writing and illustrating realms, and the clever stories from his Necronomicomics, Dead Duck, and Bodie Troll are evidence of that.





Wednesday, March 11, 2015

New Dreamscapes Story - Horror - Patreon

The new Dreamscapes story is up on Patreon. This week it's horror. You might say it's light horror, because, as with most of my horror stories, there's only a glimpse of horror. Just a little taste. Just enough to make you shiver.

Here is a preview.




Well
A Dreamscapes Story

by Alicia VanNoy Call


“Devil's in the well,” says Rhoda.

She says it over breakfast while she forks two pancakes. She adds a slice of bacon, a fried egg from the pile, and drenches syrup over the lot.

I freeze in mid-pour, Brad's glass filling as I stare at her.

“Mom,” says Brad. I look back. Orange juice is just cresting the rim. I pull the pitcher away.

“Sorry,” I mutter.

I push at the window to let out the smell of burnt bacon, the lingering haze of smoke. The window always sticks and I grunt a little. When it finally slides open, I wave my hand in front of my face. I was distracted during the last batch.

Rhoda stuffs a wedge of pancakes into her mouth.

“That's too much, sweetie,” I tell her.

She grins, cheeks full.

I pull her plate across the table and slice her pancakes into pieces. I accidentally split the yolk. Yellow viscous fluid pools. Brad sips at the edge of his glass, eyes on a fly that buzzed in.

“What were you saying about the well?” I ask her.

She taps her fingers on the checkered tablecloth. Still chewing.

“The Devil is in the well,” she says. A glob of syrup sits at the corner of her lip. It glistens. “I saw him.”

Want to read the rest? Head on over to the project page on Patreon and read it for free. If you like it, consider becoming a patron!

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Best Movies Streaming on Netflix Right Now

I haven't done one of these almost a year, and since Netflix pulls films from their streaming lists, and then inexplicably adds them again, it's good to keep track of what's available. I won't repeat anything from previous lists, but if you want to see the excellent movies I recommended before, you can find them at the bottom.

Remember, my tastes are eclectic. I like anything that's well-written and visually appealing to my dramatic, artistic, or geek nature. But if you liked the other lists, you'll like these.


Chef (R)
Part foodie, part road-trip, part father-son film, this Jon Favreau film
watches like a modern fairy tale. 
And it's a real treat.


Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (PG-13)
Just watch it. 


 Good Will Hunting (R)
The film that catapulted Matt Damon into stardom.
Beautifully written, captivating performances.


K-Pax (PG-13)
I really. Really. Really. Really. Love. This. Film.


Labyrinth (PG)
If you haven't seen this Jim Henson classic, complete with singing/dancing/evil David Bowie
RECTIFY YOUR LACK IMMEDIATELY. 


Mud (PG-13)
Matthew McConaughey is so compelling here.


 Night of the Living Dead - 1968 (R)
Curious from whence The Walking Dead sprang?


Silver Linings Playbook (R)
The winning team of Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as two crazy people in love?
Hilarious and heart-breaking in turns.


 Snowpiercer (R)
Remember The Host, that Korean monster flick recommended in the June list?
This is by the same director. 
Dude.


 What's Eating Gilbert Grape? (PG-13)
Quiet little drama film, when Leonardo DiCaprio wasn't anyone yet,
but his performance is spectacular.



Best movies on Netflix as of 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

New Dreamscapes Patreon Story - Nature of the Beast

This week's story is up on Patreon!

Here's a preview:


Nature of the Beast
A Dreamscapes Story

by Alicia VanNoy Call

I wake up bleary in a pile of fallen leaves, sunlight through the branches to hit me in the eye just so. The whiskey has turned to bile. The thought of alcohol starts saliva running as my stomach clenches and I turn over, heaving beer nuts and cocktail shrimp into the bushes. I retch and tears stream. I lie back for a moment and the forest clearing materializes around me, along with the knife of a headache behind my right eye.

Full moons are hell.

When I finally get to my feet, I stagger, shaky, from tree to tree for a while before I find my bearings. I need to get home. Hazel will be waiting for me. I strike off through the ferns. The woods are dense with sounds, smells, the light too bright – a buzzing hive of yellow jackets, an enthusiastic woodpecker, songbirds a little too happy to greet the morning. Or late morning. Early afternoon?

A breeze picks up, trembling twigs and leaves. It sets the forest whispering. I stumble over a twisted root and the waft of my own odor flares my nostrils. Vomit and cheap perfume and a night of indiscretions.

The creek not far from home crosses my path. I slide down the bank and splash through the water, crouching to rinse the sour taste from my mouth. The water is an ice-cold shock, but it wakes me up. I dunk my face. Maybe it will wash away some of the stench. I'm urinating into the stream when Hazel's voice sounds over my shoulder.

“Where have you been?”

Want to read the rest? Head on over to the Dreamscapes project on Patreon.

If you like it, consider becoming a patron!



Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Reviews - Sharp Objects, The Night Circus, Trigger Warning, and More - February 2015

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I've been thinking about this book all month and thinking about what to say, but in the end, I'm not sure what to write, because my brain feels too full of the intense imagery. When I say intense, I mean description-laden, chewy-gerund, detail-driven prose that paints such a gorgeous picture, it's really impossible to ignore. While many of the characters are interesting, and the plot (though it meanders somewhat) is curious, the real star here is Le Cirque de Reves, which is to say, Morgenstern's dazzling descriptions of the circus.

Morgenstern has created a magical Victorian setting in a brilliant chiaroschuro of black and white with steampunk trimmings on which to stage a Prestige-like contest that morphs into a forbidden love. I have no idea what genre this book would fit into, and that's fine with me.

I found the book difficult to engage with on a plot level at the beginning. I never struggled with the descriptions; the prose is just lovely. I just couldn't figure out what it was all FOR. It felt that the book had some faltering missteps in the beginning, BUT it all fell together for me in the end. In fact, I think it has a built-in second read. Now that I know how it all fits together, I want to go back and explore it again.

In fact, I was so taken with the book as a whole that when I finished it, I penned (keyed) a letter (email) to the fictional proprietor of Le Cirque de Reves using the email address provided in the text. A circus attraction in the story brought up some things I've been working on in therapy, so I wrote a little about that. I wonder if he'll write me back...

Highly recommended.



Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

You've all heard me expound on the subject of Neil's brilliance. While he is extremely prolific, with fingers in almost every kind of art and entertainment pie, I find that he is at his strongest -- or that I like his work most -- when he's writing comic books, fiction for middle grade, or short stories. I adore Neil's short stories.

Trigger Warning is Neil's newest collection of short fiction and verse. It's difficult to say which piece I liked most in this collection. Without a doubt, the most disturbing story is Feminine Endings, followed by Click-Clack-The-Rattlebag, and you know I love a good disturbing tale. I loved his Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who fanfics, and while I followed his Calendar of Tales when they were first introduced online, it was really a pleasure to enjoy them again in print. That story about the ducks has been stuck on reply in my brain since winter 2012. 

Neils expertise is undeniable, and the worlds he creates beg to be visited again and again.

Highly recommended.

Warnings on: language, thematic material, sexual situations.



Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Reporter Camille Preaker, following a recent stay in a psychiatric ward, is called on assignment to her hometown to investigate the deaths of preteen girls. She stays in her childhood home, with her high-strung mother and teen half-sister, determined to keep her own dark past at bay while she does her best to unravel the mysterious and disturbing murders.

This book is just as twisted and disturbing and dark as Gone Girl.

I loved it.

Not for sensitive readers.







These Broken Stars - Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

When their luxury spaceliner is pulled out of hyperspace and crashes, heiress Lilac and soldier Tarver are thrown together as they attempt to survive the harsh landscape of an uncharted planet. They face starvation, infection, exposure, and the strange presence of an unknowable force that threatens Lilac's fragile psyche.

This is YA sci-fi with a distinctly space-opera feel. I'm not a huge fan of romance, and there was a lot of romance here, but I think that the target YA audience would love it. 

And honestly, this book cover is absolutely gorgeous.