All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders If Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (one of my all-time favorite books) was a tale of dueling 19th century English magicians, then All the Birds in the Sky is the tale of a present day/near future duel between witchcraft and technology in the US. Only, instead of meeting the magicians as adults, we meet a powerful witch and brilliant technological geek when they’re still just kids. But this isn’t another Harry Potter or The Magicians , where so much of the story unfolds at a secret special school for secret special people. The bulk of All the Birds in the Sky takes place in the mundane world and I loved the juxtaposition of magic and science with everyday life and how they each propose to address pressing global problems such as climate change, environmental catastrophe, and overpopulation. It’s a wonderfully creative, diversely cast book that’s full of humor and wit. At times its humor and humanity reminded me fondly of the work of Tom Robbins, but this book is still very much its own thing and I look forward to seeing what Charlie Jane Anders writes in future.
The Wilds by Julia Elliott When my favorite authors take the time to recommend books, I pay close attention. The Wilds was recently recommended on Twitter by Carmen Maria Machado, so I wasted no time in acquiring a copy. She didn’t lead me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of decidedly dark and wonderfully weird short stories. There are lots of great genre flavors to enjoy herein, some science fiction, some horror, some magical realism, and lots of wonderfully creative in-betweens.
The Dark Dark by Samantha Hunt Like The Wilds, The Dark Dark also came highly recommended by a favorite author, this time Kelly Link . Some of the subjects of these stories weren’t as compelling for me as the variety found in The Wilds, but that’s a very subjective judgment on my part. They were all very well-written, gripping, and thoroughly haunting from start to finish.
Mr. Higgins Comes Home written by Mike Mignola, art by Warwick Johnson-Cadwell This hardcover one-shot comic is Mike Mignola’s homage to The Fearless Vampire Killers and the Hammer Horror vampire movies. My appetite for vampire and monster stories/comics with a whimsical bent knows no bounds. It was a treat to see Mike Mignola spin a brief yarn of this nature, which made for a delightful bedtime read.
By Chance Or Providence by Becky Cloonan A trilogy of haunting short stories; brief, deeply unsettling, supernatural flights of fancy chronicling love, loss, terrible choices and ruinous curses. Actual storytelling is sparse, but Becky Cloonan’s rich, atmospheric visuals bring each tale to vivid, startling life–and the beautifully rendered drawings from the sketchbook section in the back, alone, are worth the scant cost of the book.
Snow And Rose by Emily Winfield Martin As a child, I would have read and reread Emily Winfield Martin’s fanciful and thoroughly enchanting reimagining of the fairy tale featuring sisters Snow & Rose a thousand times, until its sweet illustrated cover was tattered and shabby and eventually lost under the bed or on a family trip, and its pages turned from pristine to well-thumbed, grubby, and worn. As an adult, I shall enjoy its curious charms and gentle mysteries just as often…but I promise–I take better care of my books now.
Satania by Fabien Vehlmann (Author), Kerascoet (Illustrator) Satania was an engrossing, amusing, and delightfully grotesque journey following a group of subterranean explorers as they plunge headlong into the bowels of the earth and discover the strange inhabitants of a hellish otherworld. The beautifully uncomfortable visuals and the narrative’s weird dream logic recalled for me the dreamy, surreal wonder I experienced when I first uncovered piles and piles of my father’s collected back issues of Heavy Metal magazine. But without the weird sexual awakenings, I guess? YMMV on that point.
Off Season by Jack Ketchum First published in 1980, Off Season was heavily edited for a market where horror was not the freeforall it is these days, and I enjoyed both the reissued book and Dallas’ postscript detailing the cuts made to his original work. In this novel of young people in a house in the country — which, remember, wasn’t quite a trope in the 80s — versus cannibals, the publisher went to town on trimming vulgar material, like how to make jerky out of human flesh. I was reading Off Season when Dallas William Mayr, aka Jack Ketchum, passed away, which added another layer of emotion to this book.
Valentina by S.E. Lynes I signed up for a free trial of Kindle Unlimited and have been hacking away at the horror and thriller sections; Valentina popped up as a recommendation in what I’ll call the “Gone Girl” genre. It’s a delightful little psychological thriller set in rural Scotland. Perfect for evenings in bed sipping bourbon or long plane rides.
The Other Side of the Wall by Andrea Mara Another Kindle Unlimited Gone Girl (KUGG) book, and again it was delightful — perhaps even moreso than Valentina. Though the blurb made it seem like it might be a spooky house story, The Other Side of the Wall shows that what’s really spooky is OTHER PEOPLE.
House Beneath the Bridge by Iain Rob Wright Thanks to Kindle Unlimited, I did not spend any money on this book which, upon ending, made me remark, “the fuck did I just read?” to my in-flight bloody mary. There was a lot of nonsense and also people worshipping a frog god. Apparently it has good reviews though?
Piercing by Ryu Murakami A new father, worried he might stab his daughter the way he once stabbed a prostitute a decade earlier, decides to murder a stranger so he can get his stabby ya-yas out and not hurt his child. Then his planned victim is even weirder than he is. A good book!
Experimental Film by Gemma Files My favorite January book. It’s about movies, but also ghosts.