Nicholas is a bookseller and writer of fantasy and science fiction. Though Nicholas' proclivity usually lies with those two genres, he does make it a point to often step outside of his comfort zone and read a little bit of everything. Some of his favorite stories involve rich and vibrant characters, as well as worlds that lie seemingly just below the surface of our own. When not reading or selling at the store, legend has it that he can be found hiding in a coffee shop, brooding over his latest story.
One of the reasons why I love Neil Gaiman’s stories is that he can take the seemingly boring, mundane aspects of our everyday world and turn them on their heads. In Neverwhere, we follow Richard Mayhew who after helping a strange young woman found dying on the sidewalk, soon finds himself magically expelled from his very own existence in the city of London to the subterranean world of “London Below.” Accompanied by Door, who has the strange ability to open a doorway to any place imaginable, and “the Marquis de Carabas,” a mysterious man whose name is just as ridiculous as himself, Richard must traverse the many twisting tunnels and hidden areas of London Below to find a way back to the life that left him behind. Populated with the likes of supernatural assassins, rat talkers, vampire-like beings called “Velvets,” and a guardian angel, Neverwhere is an imaginative journey through the unseen and discarded places and stories of London.
In the not so distant future, Wade Watts is one of many who prefer to escape the problems of everyday life by living in an online-video game called “The Oasis.” When a high-stakes contest arises that promises the winner complete control of this digital paradise and the company that runs it, countless users devote every waking moment to its pursuit. As Wade becomes the first person in years to advance in the contest, he soon finds out that there is more than money and notoriety on the line. Ready Player One reads like a love letter to 1980’s pop-culture, all wrapped in a “Willy Wonka-esque” contest. While it is largely an enjoyable nostalgia trip filled with enough movie, video game, and other pop-culture references to make your head explode, there are also elements of corporate intrigue and a teenage love. A must for fans of the 80’s and John Hughes love stories.
I have always enjoyed how writer and author Neil Gaiman could take an either well-known or obscure mythology and weave them into a new tale that drips with his trademark storytelling style, as evident by his magnum opus American Gods. With Norse Mythology, however, Mr. Gaiman has done his utmost to preserve these timeless stories of Asgardians, Aesirs, giants, and even the origins of humanity while still managing to imbue his iconic voice. He has also managed to make the stories fresh and entertaining for today’s readers, arranging them in a manner that resembles an actual novel. If I were to ever have children and grandchildren, I could see myself reading these stories to them like Peter Falk and Fred Savage in the movie Princess Bride. Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is in many ways familiar as it is new and inviting.
Half personal history of his life in writing, half instruction for fledgling writers, Stephen King’s On Writing is a fantastic glimpse into the mind of one of the most influential authors in modern times. King is very candid with his stories; childhood, early career, and even his struggles with substance abuse are all discussed in an open manner. The latter half of the book is just as inspiring as King pulls from his decades of writing experience and shares the various tools of the trade that he has collected along the way. It is as if we are taking a peek at the figurative man behind the curtain, seeing what ticks inside this creator of monsters and nightmares. Whether you are a fan of the “King” of horror or are a writer yourself, On Writing is an inspiring discussion and journey led by one of the most prolific writers to date.
Though this book is often seen as the reason a generation came to fear clowns, there is much more to be had from Stephen King’s It. At its core, the novel is a horror/thriller, but the inclusion of a coming of age story makes it a more well-rounded narrative. Themes such as children dealing with loss, loneliness, and fear coupled with the hopefulness of friendship introduces a lightheartedness that serves as both a reprieve from the horrors they face, as well as magnifier for the intense and emotional scares. However, this isn’t to say it’s appropriate for kids. Because of some adult themes and imagery, this is definitely recommended for a mature audience. Regardless, It is both a dark and emotional tale that will leave the reader thoroughly entertained, and perhaps a tad weary of clowns.
The first novel in the Imperial Radch Trilogy, as well as a winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, “Ancillary Justice” is pure gold. The story follows main-character “Breq” in their journey of self-discovery and revenge that spans galaxies. Author Ann Leckie has managed to combine science-fiction, religion, sexuality, class, and questions of individualism into a page-turning adventure that unfolds like a space opera. The various worlds and people of the novel also come complete with their own unique cultures, each one rich with enough history and detail that it’s hard to believe that they are works of fiction. A narrative that leads the reader through the vastness of space just to discover what it truly means to be a person, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice is a gem of the science-fiction genre.
Who knew murder could be so chic? If you took Hannibal Lecter, gave him a sex change, dressed him up in this year’s Prada or Michael Kors, and set him loose on the snooty, stuck up, and disgustingly overprivileged of the fashion world, you’d have author Amina Akhtar’s main character, Anya St. Clair. Ms. Akhtar had worked in the fashion industry for nearly a decade before writing this book, which is why many of the references within feel entirely authentic. As for her main character, when she goes ignored by her supposed work BFF, Sarah, and is bullied into crash dieting by the head editor of the women’s fashion magazine they work for, the already psychotic Anya decides to take matters into her own well-manicured hands, in designer shoes no less. I ate up every page of this dark and witty look into the cutthroat fashion industry. It was so good, it must have been fattening.
In a not so distant future, the public execution of felons becomes the hottest and goriest show on air. Streaming live from the island of “Alcatraz 2.0,” the mysterious figure only known as “The Postman” soon has most of America obsessed with this twisted hybrid of justice and entertainment. Think Big Brother with more screaming and much more blood. It’s here that seventeen-year-old Dee Guerrera becomes the next convicted murderer offered up for this cruel game. The only problem is that she’s innocent. But, instead of lying down and dying, Dee is determined to fight for survival and discovering the real killer who purposely set her up. Gretchen McNeil’s #murdertrending borrows cues from the likes of The Running Man, The Hunger Games, and The Purge, adding dashes of pop culture references and humor, all wrapped up in a bow of teenage-girl power. Tune in as Dee, soon known as #CinderellaSurvivor, slays ridiculously-themed executioners and show ratings.
A fever dream that you can’t wake up from; that’s what it felt like when I read Vita Nostra. Originally a Russian novel published in 2007, Vita Nostra has since become an international bestseller, only just now seeing a definitive English translation more than a decade later. The young Alexandra has found herself gripped in a fantastical situation where she must heed the instructions of a stranger in dark sunglasses, lest her mother becomes a casualty to mysterious forces. These instructions lead Alexandra to a facility that masquerades as a university, where the lines of reality are further blended with those of the impossible. A constant ride of emotion, wonder, and difficult decisions, where Vita Nostra ultimately arrives at is a commentary on the briefness of life and the things that have gone unsaid.
Death comes, and it is swift. However, what if you found that death didn’t mean the end? What if life began again, picking up decades prior as a younger version of yourself? Like a skipping record whose needle travels back over the ridges of vinyl, Charlie Moment wakes up thirty-two years earlier, sixteen again. But eventually in his “Charlie Two” life, he discovers that he isn’t alone in this game of reincarnation. And these other players play for keeps. Rewrite is a gem of a novel that is best described as an experience. A companion to his bestseller Timescape, its story radiates with feelings of déjà vu and countless possibilities for the taking. In my opinion, it is a worthy addition to Gregory Benford’s book list, right next to his and Larry Niven’s Bowl of Heaven, and a must read for fans of the multiverse theory.
Best known for his novel Altered Carbon, now also a popular Netflix series, Richard K. Morgan returns with another fantastical look into the possible future in Thin Air. Think Blade Runner meets The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Still believing in the idea of “Manifest Destiny,” mankind has reached out into the stars. Here, even after centuries of being colonized by the people of Earth, Mars still proves to be a wild land where money talks, under-the-table deals are part of everyday life, and only the hard survive. Richard has turned the much dreamed of Red Planet into a wild-west frontier filled with technological wonder while still retaining a constant threat of danger. His gritty writing and sometimes crude-sounding narration mirrors the harsh landscape and reality that is life on Mars. Complete with investigative intrigue and thrilling action, Thin Air is a techno-western for today’s times.
A follow-up to the novel Lock In, Head On was a book I simply couldn’t put down. The story reads like an Agatha Christie murder mystery, but with more corporate conspiracy and robots. Beyond the mystery and sci-fi, there are also elements of social commentary that had me questioning humanity’s shared beliefs on race and minority. While I enjoy the story’s alternative take on the near-future, I simply love the balance between the often-humorous banter of the main characters and the narrative’s action-packed moments. All this combined with the even pacing of the story, as the author avoids inundating the reader with too much information all at once, makes for a smooth and enjoyable read. If you’re a fan of crime dramas, sci-fi, and some humorous dialogue, you’ll love John Scalzi’s Head On as much as I did.
I was taken aback when I first started Black Leopard, Red Wolf. What first began as a testimonial story similar to the likes of Edgar Allen Poe’s A Cask of Amontillado soon turned into a fantastical journey through grand landscapes and wild terrains of ancient Africa. Marlon James has woven together a collection of stories that is somewhat reminiscent of One Thousand and One Nights, albeit much more violent and sexual in nature, where most of the tales are connected to by the novel’s narrator, the wild and world-hardened “Tracker.” What completely took me by surprise was Marlon’s choice to make the subject of sexuality and identity deeply ingrained in this story’s foundation, managing to use the subject to both enhance the narrative and to engage the reader. Black Leopard, Red Wolf is indeed one of those stories that after reading the last line will leave the reader lost in thought for some time to come.
When reading a story co-written by multiple authors, one may enjoy a final product that neither of the writers could achieve on their own. With Good Omens, the master storyteller Neil Gaiman and the beloved creator of the Discworld series Terry Pratchett have not only created just that, but also something inherently magical. I especially love the large cast of over-the-top characters, such as the bookish angel Aziraphale and the earth-loving demon Crowley. A heaping portion of whimsy, a pinch of action, and a general covering of heartwarming innocence makes this book a must read. Never before have I read a story that made “doomsday” sound like such a good time. And now that there will soon be a Good Omens miniseries produced by the BBC, I’m hoping it will bring renewed attention to such a fun and heartwarming tale.
One day, when Neil Gaiman and his then young son found themselves in a graveyard, the author couldn’t help but notice how at home his child appeared to be, happily riding his tricycle through the gravestones. That’s where the idea for The Graveyard Book, a response to Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, came to be. Or at least that’s how the story goes. Regardless of its origins, this book is charming, albeit a tad morbid, just like Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was enjoyable to follow the orphaned boy named Nobody Owens grow and adapt in a graveyard surrounded by ghosts, a werewolf, and a very protective vampire mentor. In classic Neil Gaiman fashion, the bad guys, the “Jack of All Trades,” are over the top and delightfully detestable. Though marketed for a younger audience, I find this tale lovely and poignant for people, ghosts, and monsters of all ages.
Sequel to Hugo Awards Finalist Trail of Lightning, Rebecca Roanhorse’s Storm of Locusts is yet another fine tale of action and fantasy, packed with Native American representation and pro-feminist themes. Roanhorse has introduced a bevy of strong female characters, both human and human-like, who show they have what it takes to survive in this new world forever reshaped by flood waters and supernatural characters. I particularly enjoyed seeing the character of Maggie, or “Godslayer” as she’s sometimes called, evolve throughout the story. Her strong front gives away with the admittance that she’s not a super-woman; that even she must sometimes depend on others. A gentler side is also explored as she finds in her care a young girl dealing with her own set of clan powers. Overall, this second installment to The Sixth World series is a great example of equal representation that we’re fortunate to experience in our world today.
Some of my favorite stories are the ones that grab you by the hand and gently, yet resolutely lead you through our familiar, shared world until both you and the story come upon the fragile and ever-flexible boundaries of reality and fantasy. Typically, if I’m in the mood for such a tale, I turn to anything Neil Gaiman or Brom. This time, Seanan McGuire’s Middlegame ticked all the boxes for me: believable world, fully-developed characters with their own thoughts and motivations, fantastical and gripping imagery, moments of terror offset by humor, and more. Her references to other famous works and authors were also a delight, akin to Easter Eggs in video games. Oftentimes brutal, gut wrenching, and gory, Middlegamewas at the same time touching, heartfelt, and inspiring. Overall, a coming of age tale for the likes of teens, adults, and wannabe gods.
Rich with wondrous imageries, fascinating cultural etiquettes, and polished dialogue just as arresting as it is hilarious, A Memory Called Empire is a fresh and welcoming addition to the bulging shelves of science fiction. Curated with numerous fictitious excerpts from the likes of ship manuals, ancient literature texts, and garbled ship transmissions, the world within the story is vividly alive. Arkady Martine has not only produced a space opera the likes of an Ann Leckie or James S.A. Corey, but also a social discussion on how things, places, and people are remembered; whether in word or something much more personal. There is also a strong commentary on world politics and borders set on an interstellar scale. A Memory Called Empireis truly one of the few books I will reread again and again, not only for personal pleasure, but also as a reminder of great storytelling done right.
Enjoyable. Simply enjoyable. Kill the Farm Boy is a giant pun on the classic fantasy story, but instead of just poking fun at themes of damsels in distress, cursed kingdoms, and evil wizards, this story also turns them on their heads. The writing reminds me very much of a Terry Pratchett novel; rich with dry, British humor and oftentimes head-smacking moments of ridiculousness. The pacing moves very well too, keeping the reader’s attention while still advancing the plot. Above all, the unlikely cast of characters is what makes this story stand out. From the seven-foot barbarian of a girl who wants nothing more than to live in peace with her flower garden, to the talking goat named “Gustave” who fantasizes about old-leather boots, there is a lot to love. Kill the Farm Boy is a delightful and silly romp through the fantasy tropes of new and old.
Imagine if The Lord of the Rings movies were produced by the fellas of Monty Python; that is how I saw No Country for Old Gnomes play out in my head. The writing talents of Delilah Dawson and Kevin Hearne have joined once again and produced another hilarious gem of a fantasy novel. No trope is deemed too sacred to not be made fun of by this author-pair. Every page was a delight, filled with cheeky humor and countless references to other well-known fantasy stories. For those who’ve been left reeling after finishing a seriously thrilling fantasy series, this novel is also a perfect palate cleanser for the brain. After reading No Country for Old Gnomes and its predecessor Kill the Farm Boy, I can’t wait to see what the third and final book in the Pell series will have in store.
A princess, freshly awoken from a long sleep, finds herself alone and much hairier than before; a misogynistic centaur looking for a way to rid himself of the magic that conjures tea and cupcakes when he’s stressed; a pirate-parrot captain who sails upon “The Puffy Peach.” Wickedly irreverent, The Princess Beard stays true to the first two book in the Tales of Pell series, keeping the fantasy tropes rolling and the laughs flying. But this time, it takes to the high seas! Who doesn’t love pirates!? Kevin Hearne and Delilah Dawson have done it again, crafting a fantastically hilarious world, complete with a bevy of colorful and inclusive characters that I feel need more exposure in the genre. Though the books aren’t really connected beyond the kingdom it takes place in, readers of the first title, Kill the Farm Boy, will enjoy a nice surprise that makes everything almost feel like it came full circle.
A mysterious disorder called FMS (False Memory Syndrome) is slowly spreading, people finding themselves suddenly flooded with memories that never happened; memories as small as skipping dinner, to as large as having lived completely different lives. During a suicide investigation, New York detective Barry Sutton finds himself falling down a rabbit hole he can’t escape, leading him to something so large that it can remake, or destroy, the entire world. Blake Crouch’s Recursion is a jumping narrative of voices and time, twisting through timescapes like a laboratory rat in a maze. I applaud the utter creativity that went into the story’s premise. A must read.
When Emily Hsu, a young, forgotten druggy, goes missing, what soon unravels is an exploration of the human soul and the ways we try to connect to something bigger than ourselves. Patrick Coleman’s The Churchgoer is a modern-day noir mystery, sans the seasoned and grizzly detective. Instead, we’re treated to Mark Haines, an ex-pastor turned crass security guard who has turned his back on family, meaningful connections, and God. Though he no longer saves souls, he finds himself compelled to save the mysterious Emily who he feels some kinship for. Oftentimes, I felt like yelling at Mark for his innate ability for screwing-up his life, but I couldn’t help but feel some common ground with him; that this middle-aged man somehow embodies the weary, over-stimulated, and fed-up parts in all of us. Best yet, the story’s setting of San Diego was a delightful treat. A stimulating read through and through.
The introduction and subsequent rise of ebooks have sparked fierce discussions that they are killing what we recognize as the “traditional” book. But based off recent sales numbers for the last few years, paper-based books are again on the rise. What then could possibly be threatening what we know as the book? Book historian Leah Price has brought together not only a quick and comprehensive study in people’s reading habits, but also explores the deep history of the book format; be it done on papyrus, scroll, or the codex that people universally recognize. I learned so many factoids of books that as a book lover I feel utterly enriched. For any voracious reader and book fan, this is a simple must.
A veritable modern-day Hansel and Gretel with an escape room in lieu of a candy house, Megan Goldin’s The Escape Room is a well-crafted, heart-thumping thrill ride of mystery, suspense, and scares. The novel chronicles Vincent, Sam, Sylvie, and Jules, four New York financiers, as they’re lured into a sleek, modern elevator converted into an escape room, each one of them believing they’re participating in a compulsory team building exercise. It doesn’t take too long for the four to realize that this isn’t a game, but instead an act of revenge. Switching back and forth from the claustrophobic horrors of the elevator, to a first-person recanting by a mysterious fifth person, The Escape Room reads like something between The Wolf of Wall Street and Gone Girl.
Young Gideon will do anything to get away from the Ninth House’s dust and grimed-filled halls. Since she was a baby, she has only known the deep pit that is the kingdom, filled with crumbling tombs, decrepit nuns, temperamental necromancers, reanimated skeletons, and, suffice it to say, death. When offered her only real chance to truly leave the Ninth House and its heartless young ruler, Harrowhark Nonagesimus, bone witch extraordinaire, Gideon can hardly refuse. The girl’s task takes her far away to the illustrious and legendary First House, home of the King Undying, and closer to death than she has ever been before. A terrific marriage between science fiction and fantasy, Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth is filled with gothic imagery and satisfying, high-adrenaline action. Think Dante Alighieri’s Inferno on steroids. Truly, this book is an imaginative, albeit macabre, wonder whose writing keeps the reader constantly in awe.
Fans of Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth cheered for the kickass, aviator sunglass wearing lesbian cavalier with a tongue as sharp as her sword. So, it was only to be expected that the next installment, Harrow the Ninth, would follow suite. However, instead of a mystery and action-packed story oozing with cheeky humor, we are presented the bits of the first book, smashed into millions of pieces like a mirror; just as messy, distorted, and dangerous to handle. Harrow’s tale is an ever-rotating tide of past told in unreliable third person, and present told in dreamlike second person that reflects the madness of her mind. Though at times messy, Muir makes us realize that sometimes we just got to get our hands dirty to get the real work done. Where Gideon the Ninth left me in a delightful drunken stupor, Harrow the Ninth proved to be a worthy and sobering successor.
I didn’t quite know what to expect with NONA THE NINTH. Having since devoured the novel in the span of a weekend, I can now say is that this is my favorite entry in the series. Tamsyn Muir has gone from strength to strength on her path to this third installment, and with a brilliant burst of thalergy she has left me nearly speechless, as well a bit teary eyed. From the onset, I fell in love with the girl called Nona. The found family dynamic in the story took me off guard at first, but ultimately it gave the series a needed jolt of lightheartedness. Don’t get me wrong, there is still plenty of action to be had: lyctor battles, resurrection beasts, and more! And yes, more GAY! If you’re a fan of The Locked Tomb series, rest assured: NONA THE NINTH delivers.
Everything was going wrong for Coraline Jones: Bad weather, grumpy parents, and a strange house called “The Pink Palace” with neighbors who always messed up her name. But one rainy day as she explored her new home, she came across a door almost too small for anyone. Inside, young Coraline found a world that seemed tailor made for her, along with a woman called "The Other Mother." Everything there seemed too perfect… until Coraline is asked to sew buttons into her eyes. That is when the dream quickly turned into a nightmare. Neil Gaiman's Coraline is a rare treat that caters to both kids and adults, playing on our own fear of change and the dangers of getting everything we could ever want. In Gaiman's iconic storytelling writing, Coraline isn't too graphic for young readers, yet subtle enough to send chills down the spines of most adults.
Rob Hart’s not-so-distant future of The Warehouse is a cautionary tale of capitalism at its extreme; a corporate entity becoming the “big brother” that the literary classic 1984 warned us about. In the face of economic and civil unrest, compounded with the world news reporting overpopulation and resource shortages overseas, the corporate monopoly known as Cloud, an even grander version of (and I’m certain inspired by) Amazon, becomes the largest company in the world. Paxton, an ex-executive who is forced to work for Cloud after they put his company out of business, and Zinnia, a corporate spy hired to infiltrate Cloud, show how all too easy it is to hand over one’s personal freedoms for promises of safety and convenience. The Warehouse is a chilling, sobering, and altogether thought provoking tale of greed and survival in uncertain times.
Nami is dead. Instead of eternal peace or pearly gates waiting for her, it’s an afterlife crafted by collected consciousness, ruled by the iron hand of an artificial intelligence that has a personal vendetta against the once living: Humans. The once high school senior turned recently deceased must not only deal with the sadness of a promising life gone too soon, but also choose a side in in a war that she has fallen straight in the middle of, one where the non-humans have all but won. I thoroughly enjoyed the colorful and crafted world of “Infinity,” which is just as vast and mysterious as the human psyche itself. A mashup of The Matrix, The Hunger Games, and Alice in Wonderland set in the hereafter, The Infinity Courts is an emotional journey of loss, longing, hope, and the desperate struggle to be true to yourself and not sacrifice one’s ideals when the odds are against you.
A prequel to Sea of Rust, Day Zero covers the classic sci-fi tale of robots versus humans with a heavy smattering of high-stakes action and drama. However, it’s the relationship between 8-year-old Ezra and his nanny bot named Pounce that kept me invested from start to finish. Given the choice to either massacre in the name of robot liberation, or to serve the purpose he was designed for, Pounce chooses the side that protects the child that he has essentially raised, all the while dealing with some moral and existential dilemmas. Is it programming that drives him, or love? We’re all familiar with the idea of “a boy and his dog” and how it conjures warm and lighthearted feelings, but after reading Day Zero, it’s the thought of a boy and his “tiger-nanny-robot” that will now forevermore give me the warm fuzzies. C. Robert Cargill’s Day Zero will be a forever book on my shelves.
Mystery, space thriller, and buddy comedy are all the ways I would describe Project Hail Mary. Unlikely astronaut Ryland Grace must find a way to save the inevitably doomed Earth, all the while piecing together the events in his damaged brain that led up to his current situation and performing a lot of scientific experiments. A LOT. Author Andy Weir belongs to that breed of writer who invests countless hours into researching the science involved in their stories, proving the science fiction involved could actually be “science possible,” and it shows with the plentiful fragments of information that he feeds to the reader like a slow drip IV. Though I appreciated the work into the research, the story is what personally kept me invested. Without giving too much a way, I never thought I could develop sentimental feelings for a sentient rock spider. For this, the only person I can blame (and emotionally thank between sobs) is Andy Weir.
The world is often seen as being divided into two factions: light and dark; right and wrong; good and evil. Therefore, in a world where super-powered individuals exist, you're either a superhero, or a supervillain. But what if hero or villain was just a word? What if those who were supposed to uphold truth and justice had the most blood on their hands? After a debilitating encounter with one of the world's most powerful heroes, Supercollider, the hench-for-hire named Anna quickly finds herself unhirable. What's worse is that she isn't even given an apology for her troubles. As she convalesces, she wonders just how many lives the super-powered jerk has destroyed. The answer is staggering. But why stop there? What about the others? Natalie Zina Walschots' Hench is very reminiscent of Netflix's The Boys. Whether you're good, bad, or many shades of grey, you'll agree that Hench is simply super.
Whether you’re one of the good guys, or an evil genius hellbent on bending the world to your whim, life is going to be tough. For Doctor Impossible, the smartest man in the world, the only accomplishments he’s made in his long career of villainy is continuously landing himself in prison. For Fatate, the unemployed cyborg with no memory of how she came to be, the high-financial burden of upkeeping her new, technologically advanced body has forced her to fight crime just to pay the bills. Soon I Will Be Invincible is a delightful blend of “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” (minus the singing) mixed with “The Boys” (minus the gratuitous gore). Comic readers and geeks alike will enjoy Austin Grossman’s imaginative writing and smart prose. Filled with dark humor, action, and a lot of snark, Soon I Will Be Invincible is sure to resonate with readers on many levels.
The game is like no other; The playing field: the world. The players: anyone who is willing and able to spot inconsistencies throughout recorded human history. The common theory among secret player chatrooms is that the winner will receive their heart’s desires. But the cost for playing could be your very life. Based off and inhabiting the same world as the pseudo-documentary podcast of the same name, Rabbits is a maddening treasure hunt filled with conspiracies and danger. Fans of Ready Player One will enjoy the use of pop culture as the game’s keys, where those enriched in internet and deep-web culture will be treated to creepypasta-esque mysteries the likes of “Slenderman” or “Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared” of YouTube fame. Rabbits is a perfect read for those who love a good technothriller and don’t mind being kept up all night with thoughts of creeping shadows and faceless grey things.
Psychotherapist Mariana Andros is still grieving over the death of her husband when she receives a disturbing call. The body of a girl has been found near her niece’s college – quite possibly that of her niece’s best friend. Soon after, Mariana is on her way to Cambridge University, the same college she herself had attended. But soon after arriving and meeting the charismatic professor Edward Fosca, Marina discovers dangers from outside, within, and even the mythical. The Maidens is the latest novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides. Intensely dark, mysterious, and intelligent, The Maidens is reminiscent of Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs. The charming and brilliant Edward Fosca provides ample moments of tension in this game of cat and mouse. To top it off, the use of Greek mythology that weaves throughout the narrative lends an aura of the fantastic that makes the story all the more delicious.
Alice and the love of her life, Leo, have just moved into a new house in the middle of London. It is in a quiet gated community and the neighbors are lovely. Everything seems too perfect to be true. It’s only when Alice discovers that a brutal murder took place there almost a year ago that an ever-growing number of lies and secrets emerge into the light. What are her neighbors hiding? Is Leo who he says he is? And who has been breaking into her house at night? The Therapist is an intriguing suspense mystery that shows nothing is truly what it seems, and even those closest to you are capable of lies. As the list of possible suspects grew, so did the thrills. It has been quite a while that a book has kept me guessing until the very end, but B. A. Paris did just that.
What if gruesome murders like that of I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream, or The Texas Chain Saw Massacre actually took place? What then happens afterward to the girls who survive the ridiculous combination of crazy guy, improvised weapon, and spooky setting? Nearly 2 decades after their respective brushes with death, these “final girls” still meet in an unamusing church basement in hopes of moving on. But when one of their own ends up dead, it’s possible their pasts have finally come for them. The Final Girl Support Group is a frenzied ride through horror movie tropes come to life. Fans of ‘80s and ‘90s slasher films will get a kick out of this satire mixed with realistic characters and topped off with ample servings of crazy. Grady Hendrix has outdone himself with this novel that runs both hard and fast, as well as realistic and over the top. An entertaining commentary on the slasher genre, through and through.
Apprehensive is the mildest way to describe how Nate Graves feels about the return to his childhood home. But why? This is a fresh start for his teenage son, and the perfect creative space for his artist of a wife. Most of all, Nate’s abusive father is dead. So why can’t he shake the feeling that this is all wrong? It doesn’t take long to get his answer. Not only do the memories of his childhood threaten to harm him and his family, but something entirely supernatural, and altogether evil… The Book of Accidents is a spooky dark fantasy with the twisty turns of a multiversal thriller (quite popular for the last decade). It reads as a love-letter to all of author Stephen King’s greatest hits, including Pet Sematary, It, and The Stand, but with much more heart, hope, and love. A definite triumph for author Chuck Wendig.
A thug hired to beat up students and journalists alike, Elvis dreams of more as he stares into the night, listening to records and chain-smoking cigarettes. As for Maite, a thirty-year-old secretary who lavishes in stealing inconsequential items from her neighbors, playing her music, and reading thrilling Romance comics, she can’t help but feel lost. Though worlds apart, events soon have them spinning in a dangerous whirlpool of political conspiracies… and murder. Velvet Was the Night is a historical noir thriller set in Mexico City of the early 70s, inspired by true events that involved the Mexican government, students, and an unofficial shock group named “the Hawks.” Silvia Moreno-Garcia captures the era artfully, crafting the story into something as smooth and smokey as the classic jazz and pop hits it often references. Despite the main characters being far from innocent people, I couldn’t help but feel entirely invested in them.
In 1933, Stella was only nine years old when she came face-to-face with the god in the cave – her family’s god. And it’s dying. What follows is a twisting narrative that jumps back and forth in the span of yen years. Revelator is a great piece of Southern Gothic horror, mixed with a healthy smattering of body horror. What Daryl Gregory has done was give us a slice of early 1900s Americana, revealing dark things that lie in the hearts of man and in the shadows of a mysterious cave in the hills. Heaping with devotion, belief, and the ways man will try to capitalize on them, Revelator is terrifically engrossing. As his first foray into horror, Daryl Gregory doesn't disappoint! The tale of the Birch women and their god in the hillside will keep you on the edge of your seat.
Highly imaginative and incredibly ambitious, Cloud Cuckoo Land is a story within a story that is about stories. Though the premise, like the title, sounds maddening, I found Anthony Doerr’s novel to be rich, intricate, and deeply profound. Like the thread that binds together a vibrant tapestry, the story within the story, also named Cloud Cuckoo Land, weaves the tales of Anna, Omeir, Zeno, Seymour, and Konstance as it defies time and space to ensure their stories endure. A love letter to the tales that have survived the cruel test of time and to the stories that take us away to magical realms above our own, those who’ve read Cloud Atlas and The Ten Thousand Doors of January will take pleasure and delight in Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Unit Four and the rest of its sisters are unique; they are biological soft robots that live, die, and are made again from the same soup of living human tissue, purposed with maintaining and protecting the deep-space mining facility that provides much of Earth’s power from lightyears away. When Unit Four is chosen to intercept the alien spacecraft that threatens the mine’s operations, a confusing situation soon arises, putting into question all the data Unit Four has amassed in its short lifespan. Activation Degradation is a futuristic thrill ride far away from Earth, deep in the reaches of Jovian space. Filled with wild speculation, imagination, and some body horror, fans of Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series and Martha Wells’ Murderbot series will get a kick out of this novel.
What if you could go back in time, and all it took was the price of a cup of coffee?
Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a fun and touching speculative tale revolving around an innocuous café that not only offers friendly service and delicious homemade butter, but an unassuming way to revisit the past; the only caveat is that you must finish your coffee before it gets cold… or else. Originally published in Japanese, this English translation retains most of the cultural charm from the original text, offering Fantasy Island vibes in an indoor setting. From its revolving cast of characters who seek the rumors of a café that can transport them back in time, to its Japanese flavor, Before the Coffee Gets Cold simply hits the spot.
Japanese high school student Rintaro Natsuki has never been good at making friends. Instead, he keeps to his books and helps his grandfather, Rintaro’s closest family member and guardian, run a quaint and well-loved used bookstore. But when his grandfather suddenly passes, Rintaro is faced with the possibility of closing the shop and moving away with a distant aunt. Just when everything seems bleak, a strange talking cat appears with an odd request: “Help me save books in trouble.” By Sosuke Natsukawa, the #1 bestselling author in Japan, The Cat Who Saved Books is a touching tale of loss, human connections, finding your own way, and the importance of books. Fans of Studio Gibli movies will especially adore this read.
Holding the worst job in the universe, Mickey, or “Mickey7” as he’s currently known, is tasked with the most dangerous missions his colony can throw at him – from being on the frontline of an attack, to being the guinea pig of an experimental drug. Each time Mickey dies, he wakes up in his bed disorientated and covered in goo. It’s only when a mistake is made and his replacement, “Mickey8,” is made while Mickey7 still lives that this expendable man questions his entire existence. Edward Ashton’s Mickey7 boasts the imagination of Richard K. Morgan’s Altered Carbon with the snark and humor of Andy Weir’s Project Hail Mary. A fun speculative peak into the distant future where humanity abandons a war-torn Earth to perpetually spread across the cosmos, Mickey7 is a fun and intelligent read.
Cora hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks; her nightmares of the Drowned Gods won’t let her. Even in the daylight hours, she can just make out their slimy tendrils creeping out of the dark spaces, reaching for her; Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children was supposed to help Cora. In a desperate attempt, Cora requests to be transferred to the Whitethorn Institute, another school for kids who return from strange worlds and can’t cope, but this school’s methods are…extreme. Where the Drowned Girls Go, the 7th book in the Wayward Children series, is a bitesize wonder. I loved Seanan McGuire’s world building and ability to create tension with a scant collection of words. Seanan also does a superb job of feeding the reader all necessary information to understand the story, making it possible to read these books as standalones or out of order.
Sammy “Two Toes” Tiffin, the bartender with a heart of gold and a magnet for trouble, is back! A follow up to Christopher Moore’s Noir, Razzmatazz is a truly entertaining rollercoaster of mystery, thrills, humor, and downright absurdity (of which I thoroughly enjoy when done right). And boy, Christopher is the duke, if not King, of absurdity. Set in post-war era San Francisco, Razzmatazz not only boasts action and a heavy helping of noir mystery, but throw in a serial killer, some badass lesbians, a magical rain dragon, and a moon man with an affinity for women’s breasts, and what we’re left with is downright gold on the page. Despite all these various narrative threads, Christopher Moore successfully ties them together in a neat, albeit gaudy, bow. If you want something entertaining and far from boring, pull this book off the shelf and give yourself the ol’ Razzmatazz.
Melanie and Harry are teenage sweethearts. Harry, the high school quarter back, has wanted to marry Mel since they were 8 years old; they’re pretty much two sides of the same coin. The only setback is that Mel has a chronic illness and could succumb at moment. Though this has all the makings of becoming a Nicholas Sparks story, a strange occurrence shows that these young lovers have a connection much deeper, and magical, than they first thought. Throw in Jack Frost, alchemy, and a contest ala Hunger Games to become Winter and Summer, and you have Seanan McGuire’s Seasonal Fears. A follow-up and second novel to Middlegame (series now called Alchemical Journeys), I might even say this was a better read than the first book, which is a strong thing to say. If you loved Middlegame, Seasonal Fears will surely not disappoint.