Archive Introduction

A brief note on how I’ve set up my reviews archive:

The tags represent where a review ran the first time around, whether online, or in print. This includes defunct magazines such as Absolute Magnitude, Science Fiction Chronicle, and Realms of Fantasy.  All reviews that appeared in those magazines can now be found here, with the exception of a very few that were lost along the way. Reviews originally posted at The Green Man Review (and its sister site, The Sleeping Hedgehog), SF Site, and Tor.com remain on those sites indefinitely.  They are uploaded here at irregular intervals after their original publication, and are reprinted for my archives with all due credit and permission.

The categories, obviously, represent where a particular item falls into the grand scheme of things. This is pretty obvious, but a few things bear a little further explanation. Historical means that the book is set in the past of a world either meant to be ours, or pretty darned close. I’ve applied the Fairy Tales/Folklore/Mythology label to anything which I feel takes inspiration or influence from those themes, and as such, this is both a specific and nebulous category, applied at my whim and discretion. The Zombies, Shapeshifters, Vampires and Superheroes are in place simply because it amuses me to do so. Lastly, I’ve also marked some books as being of greater than usual interest because of LGBTQ themes – featuring a gay or lesbian character, for instance, or dealing with gender issues, or addressing matters of alternate sexuality. In all cases, this is a work in progress, to be fine-tuned and adjusted until I’m satisfied…whenever that might be. More categories may appear, some may vanish. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and comments, especially if you feel a certain book deserves (or doesn’t!) a specific, existing, category that I’ve overlooked.

Enjoy.

Schoolbooks & Sorcery Kickstarter Launches June 1st

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Ladies and Gentlemen:

As the title states, I’m pleased to announce that the Kickstarter for Schoolbooks & Sorcery will go live on June 1st. The campaign will run for the full month, and end on or around June 30th. Obviously, I’ll have more information once we launch, but I wanted to give everyone a heads up. I’m thrilled, I’m excited, I’m even terrified. It’ll be awesome. This has been a long time coming, and I hope the wait will be worth it. So come back next week, and join us as we get this party started.

 

 

Roanoke PotterFest Presentation, Part 1 of 2

This Saturday the 13th of May, I attended the first ever PotterFest here in Roanoke, a massive celebration of all things Harry Potter. Wearing my hats as a book reviewer and student of childrens’ literature, I gave a presentation on “The Hogwarts Library.” Amanda Cockrell, head of the Hollins University Childrens’ Literature Program, joined me to discuss the mythological underpinnings of Harry Potter, and the literary inspirations, and books worth checking out if you’re a Potter fan. For the sake of common interest and spreading the knowledge, I thought I’d reproduce my half of the presentation here. Mind you, it’s not fancy, and it’s not nearly as thorough as I’d have liked, but we only had so much time, and we didn’t know exactly what sort of audience we should expect or prepare for. Also, these are sort of the bare bones from which I improvised and extemporized as needed, so it’s lacking some of the details I added in the actual talk. Still, enjoy!

In the first part, I tackle Harry’s precursors and literary cousins.

Predecessors, Influences, and Similar Books

 

The Harry Potter series didn’t emerge from a vacuum; it’s a synthesis of familiar and original elements, fused together to create a story which feels both timeless and fresh. Rowling drew from innumerable sources for her inspiration, both consciously and unconsciously. Her work is, moreover, the product of growing up in a specific place at a specific time. Her influences are quintessentially British, mid-to-late 20th Century, and eclectic. Trying to name all of them would take all day, but I’ve taken the liberty of collecting several of the most obvious inspirations, as well as other books which existed in the same veins as Harry Potter before or during its original publication, books to which Potter has been compared favorably, or which share its core aspects.

 

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1) Tom Brown’s Schooldays by Thomas Hughes

This is where the entire subgenre of English boarding school stories started, with this Victorian-era drama about an 11-year-old boy who goes off to school and comes of age while having numerous adventures. It basically lays the seeds for Hogwarts and Harry’s own journey.

 

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2) The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White

One of the essential books on British lore and myth, this tells the story of young King Arthur; in it, you’ll find an orphan, an owl, and an old, absent-minded magician, among other things. Young Arthur, or Wart, is supposedly “Harry’s spiritual ancestor.” Also known for its animated Disney adaptation.

 

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3) The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

Rowling has claimed that this book, about an orphaned girl sent to live with her guardian in the West Country of England, where she encounters a unicorn, was one of her major influences. It’s part of why there’s such a huge focus on, and descriptions of, food in her series.

 

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4) Matilda by Roald Dahl

An orphan discovers amazing magical powers while living with horrible family members. While there’s not a significant comparison to be found here, Roald Dahl’s stories certainly borrow from the same well of wonder and whimsy.

 

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5) The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

Another classic of British children’s literature, this 5 book series draws deeply from myth and folklore. The second book, The Dark is Rising features an 11-year-old boy who comes into great power while being mentored by the figure once known as Merlin. The heroes battle evil throughout the British Isles, across time and space, and encounter all sorts of legendary heroes and artifacts. Again, this is basically an older cousin to the Potter series, stemming from the same cultural subconscious.

 

 

 

 

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6) The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

A young witch deals with bullies, stern teachers, and magic, while attending a boarding school for witches. Despite similarities to Harry Potter, this series started in 1974, with seven books as of 2013, and there’s no indication that Rowling was specifically influenced by it. It’s also inspired several television series, and enjoys significant popularity.

 

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7) The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman and John Bolton

In this graphic novel collection, published by DC Comics, a teenage boy is taken on a grand tour of magical realms and concepts by a quartet of mysterious figures, in order to prepare him for his own destiny as an immensely powerful sorcerer. While it later inspired several ongoing series, the original story hews the closest to the same archetypes Harry embodies, as acknowledged by author Neil Gaiman… again drawing from T.H. White’s earlier work.

 

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8) Wizard’s Hall by Jane Yolen

A 1991 fantasy about a boy named Henry who attends a school for wizards, where he has to fulfill a prophecy and battle an evil wizard. Any similarities are thought to be simply coincidental, and Yolen has expressed a mild dislike for Harry Potter and Rowling’s writing style. Still, an extremely fun book.

 

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9) So You Want to be a Wizard by Diane Duane

This long-running series, now up to ten books, mixes science fiction and fantasy to tell episodes in an ambitious, universe-spanning conflict between good and evil, life and death. In the first book, a girl discovers her wizard’s manual in a library, and along with her wizard partner-to-be, undergoes a trial in a nightmarish version of New York City as part of her initiation. This series tends to raise complex philosophical and moral questions as the heroes wrestle with vital decisions while saving reality.

 

secret of platform 13

10) The Secret of Platform 13 by Eva Ibbotson

An orphan is raised in the real world, but is introduced to a magical world by passing through a portal in King’s Cross Station—but not platform 9 ¾, obviously. Ibbotson has gone on record as saying that she’d love to shake Rowling’s hand, and that they all borrow from each other as writers.

 

There you go: a tiny sampling of books which inspired Rowling, and books which come from the same cultural, social, and mythological sources… Harry’s extended literary family, if you would, from the great-grandparents to the distant cousins.

 

 

Roanoke PotterFest Presentation, Part 2 of 2

This Saturday the 13th of May, I attended the first ever PotterFest here in Roanoke, a massive celebration of all things Harry Potter. Wearing my hats as a book reviewer and student of childrens’ literature, I gave a presentation on “The Hogwarts Library.” Amanda Cockrell, head of the Hollins University Childrens’ Literature Program, joined me to discuss the mythological underpinnings of Harry Potter, and the literary inspirations, and books worth checking out if you’re a Potter fan. For the sake of common interest and spreading the knowledge, I thought I’d reproduce my half of the presentation here. Mind you, it’s not fancy, and it’s not nearly as thorough as I’d have liked, but we only had so much time, and we didn’t know exactly what sort of audience we should expect or prepare for. Also, these are sort of the bare bones from which I improvised and extemporized as needed, so it’s lacking some of the details I added in the actual talk. Still, enjoy!

In the second part, I recommended a number of books and series which have come out in recent years, as things Potter fans might enjoy, or which I felt needed attention.

Recent Releases and Helpful Recommendations (in no particular order)

In the wake of Harry Potter, the childrens’ literature field has exploded into a truly wild and wondrous place. While Harry can’t get all the credit for the vast wealth of magic and adventure we now enjoy, he’s certainly left his mark. These following books and series share the same sort of wonder, excitement, action, mystery, and joy, and are well worth exploring by readers, young and old alike.

lightning thief

1) The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson) by Rick Riordan

In this immensely popular series, which has also seen several movie adaptations, Percy Jackson discovers that he’s the son of the Greek god Poseidon, and, after meeting numerous other demigods at Camp Half-Blood, embarks on many adventures. Subsequent books and series have brought in the Roman, Egyptian, and Norse gods, while his most recent series focuses on Apollo trapped in the form of a teenage boy.

seaborne lost prince

2)  Seaborne: The Lost Prince by Matt Myklusch

In this historical fantasy set in the Caribbean, a boy in service to the feared Pirate King has to pose as a long-lost prince in order to discover a legendary lost island and plunder its riches. But as he tackles the challenges which will supposedly prove his identity, he dreams of escaping his master and seeking freedom instead.

the map to everywhere

3) The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

A girl from modern-day Arizona teams up with a thief who can’t be remembered, journeying from one world to the next aboard a pirate ship in search of a map which could take them home… or destroy all of creation. Fun and fantastic, it’s the start of a great series.

school for good and evil

4) The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

This series follows several girls as they’re sent to schools which will prepare them for fairy tale lives, but they soon discover that good and evil are not necessarily black and white issues. Will these best friends become sworn enemies, or will they carve out their own happily ever after, despite their apparently inescapable destinies?

rebel genius

5) Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

In this world inspired by the Italian Rennaissance, artists and creative types have been outlawed, due to their magical connection to powerful birdlike creatures called Geniuses. But when one teen discovers his own Genius, he joins a secret society trying to save the world from those who would misuse long-lost artifacts. This is by the co-creator of Avatar: the Last Airbender, and also features some great art.

york shadow cipher

6) York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

In this alternate version of New York, fantastic architecture and bizarre technology make this a city where anything can happen. In order to save their apartment building from destruction, a group of kids set out to solve a centuries-old riddle which supposedly leads to a fabulous treasure. Action and mystery abound! This book comes out on Tuesday, so be sure to grab it as soon as it’s on sale.

tut

7) Tut by P.J. Hoover

Imagine the famous Egyptian King Tut… as an immortal 12-year-old, unable to escape the torture of middle school. With evil cultists, a power-hungry god, and other problems to deal with, he may not have to worry about never reaching high school.

the dungeoneers

8) The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson

In this brilliant homage to fantasy and gaming tropes, a young thief-er, rogue—is accepted into a school which prepares the next generation of dungeon-crawling adventurers for a life of monster-slaying, trap-solving, and treasure-hunting. But is he destined for fame and fortune, or a horrible demise before he ever loots his first chest?

the ministry of suits

9) The Ministry of Suits by Paul Gamble

In this tongue-in-cheek adventure, an Irish teen is inducted into a mysterious organization which investigates and deals with the strange, unusual, and impossible. Part handbook, all action, it’s a humor-filled romp through a world filled with danger and excitement.

foxheart

10) Foxheart by Claire Legrand

In this fantasy, a 12-year-old thief capable of performing forbidden magic escapes her orphanage just before it’s destroyed, pursued by the mysterious Wolf King. But when she’s catapulted into the past along with her dog and best friend, she’s given the opportunity to save the kingdom.

These books are just the tip of the iceberg, but hopefully they’ll give you all something to read, and maybe you’ll discover a new favorite along the way…

Two Publications and Two Sales

I’m pleased to announce that I have two more stories for your enjoyment.

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The first is “Saturday Night Science,” and it can be found in the first issue of the new magazine, Broadswords & Blasters, available in both electronic and print formats. This is, as with so many of my stories, set in Puxhill, and it’s… well, it’s about dating in the modern age. And mad science. And maybe a little light-hearted bondage. And breaking the universe. You know, just like -your- first dates tend to go, but with more SCIENCE!

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However, if you’re in the mood for something different, there’s “The Miller’s Daughter,” which can be found in Sacchi Green’s new anthology, Witches, Princesses, and Women at Arms. This is my witchy, sexy, lesbian retelling of Rumplestiltskin, and I loved getting the chance to turn the tale around while still keeping true to its roots.

 

Finally, I can also reveal that I’ve sold “The High Cost of Answers” to the upcoming anthology, Utter Fabrication: Tales of Haunted Houses and Weird Places. This is a more family-friendly sequel to my erotic detective tale, “The Strange Case of Rebecca Rice,” and sees Nat MacDonald, the Gaslight District’s best private detective, looking into recent disappearances. If you like my Puxhill/Gaslight District work, this will definitely be worth reading when it comes out…

Also forthcoming (yes! so many stories!) is “An Afternoon in the Park with the Coyote Brothers,” which will appear in Pole to Pole Publishing’s Dark Luminous Wings collection. What happens when Raoul and Merle, the infamous Coyote Brothers (and their cat Skeeter) decide to teach a young woman about her previously-unknown supernatural heritage? Wacky hijinks ensue, of course.

 

And for those interested in my editorial pursuits, rest assured that both Like a Haunted Trail, and Schoolbooks & Sorcery are moving forward behind the scenes. I was just up in Boston for the annual Circlet Retreat, where I consulted with my beloved and feared publisher about what we need to do to finish these projects. I know both have been in the works for a long, long time, but they’re both in very good places and getting better. All delays were my fault, and I’m just not one to speak overly much of private stuff to a public audience, so all I can do is ask people to trust me just a week bit longer. Thanks!

New YA Releases

I am pleased, nay thrilled, to announce that more of my work is now out in the wild and available for your enjoyment and enlightenment.

First up is my brand new story, “A is for Anger,” which can be found in the anthology D is for Dinosaur, edited by Rhonda Parrish. While the title sounds pretty explanatory, I’ll share this excerpt to whet your interest.

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Tanith Murray is always angry. Not the cool sort of angry that comes with superpowers, because at least then she could save the world and feel like she was making a difference. No, the awful kind of angry involving lots of yelling and slamming doors and hitting walls. The sort of angry where everything sets her off, from burned toast to an accidental bump in the hallway at school. The sort that always ends with bruised and bleeding knuckles.

She hates being sixteen and half-white, half-black and not fitting in with either race. She hates being poor, she hates being unattractive, unpopular, unloved. She hates the way she doesn’t fit in with her family. She hates the way everyone else seems so confident, so accomplished, the way they have their crap together when she doesn’t. She sees the world through the red haze of perpetual fury, stomping around like Godzilla and people scatter out of her way. She hasn’t hurt anyone yet, but everyone knows it’s a matter of time until punched walls become punched people, or worse.

At night, when she’s tossing and turning in the too-hard, too-small bed tucked into what used to be a storage space in the basement until she demanded she not have to share a room with her little sister, she dreams of something ancient and reptilian. It squirms inside her, restless and hungry.

In her dreams, Tanith rips at her skin, tearing away big flaky chunks to reveal green scales underneath. She picks and shreds and soon there’s nothing but a pile of Tanith-skin, of clothes and hair and everything that makes her her. Oh, and the dinosaur. There’s a dinosaur standing where Tanith used to be. It’s human-sized, whip-thin, built for speed and meanness all scales and tail and teeth, radiating menace and hunger.

Oh, she knows that supposedly dinosaurs had feathers and weren’t really green, or whatever, but Dinah, as she thinks of her dino-self, doesn’t care about scientific accuracy, she’s something dredged up from the foulest part of Tanith’s psyche, anger made real, and in her dreams, Dinah runs free.

Does this one end in tears and bloody gibbets of people all over the hallways? Buy the book to find out.

 

Meanwhile, the audio market Far Fetched Fables has just released their adaptation of “Sea of Strangers,” which first appeared over at the short-lived but fondly-remembered Inscription magazine. This one takes place in Puxhill, my go-to setting for all of my favorite urban fantasy pieces, and stars the team of Audrey “Aud” Martinez and her girlfriend Charm as they try to figure out why everyone at school is acting so -weird- lately. Go read it for free at Inscription, and listen to it for free at Far Fetched Fables, then tell me which version you prefer! And an excerpt…

There was a weird vibe in the halls before first period today. As I made my way towards homeroom, weaving between people with experienced ease, I picked up a thousand different emotions– everything you’d expect from a building packed to the gills with hormone-ridden teenagers and long-suffering adults– and something new, strange, and impossible to identify. A slippery, elusive, emotional flavor that tinted the rest without revealing itself. It poked at my subconscious, put me on edge, made me just a little careless. I bounced off a man-mountain wearing a football letter jacket, and got a snarled, “Watch it, lesbo,” for my troubles. The shove he gave me wasn’t gentle; I stutter-stepped away, trying to regain my balance.

It was going to be one of those days. Some people hate Mondays; this was proof that Tuesdays could be just as bad, given the opportunity.

Sometimes, it really sucks to be queer and out in high school. I blame the combination of pack and herd mentalities. Those who aren’t preying on the weak and different, are shunning those who don’t belong… and every group has a different idea of what’s appropriate. Unfortunately, when you draw a Venn diagram of “different” and “doesn’t belong,” the overlap tends to include people like me. The black-clad loner types with few friends and a thing for the same sex.

That’s it for now. Remember, authors rely on word of mouth and reviews, just as much as they do on sales. So please, write a review, leave a comment, share on your Facebook, rate us on Goodreads.

More news to come very soon.

New Short Story Releases

Hello, all! Once again, it’s been far too long since my last update. And while I work furiously behind the scenes on some projects, I thought I’d take the time to alert you to some of my stories which have surfaced in various places around the net…

First up, we have “Raven Takes Flight,” a very short piece which appears in Flight, the third annual Queer Sci Fi Flash Fiction Contest Anthology. It’s a fun story about Izzy Sparks, the Raven of Puxhill, and how she copes with stress…

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Next is “Home by Halloween,” which is a YA story about a changeling who didn’t die as expected, and how she just wants to go home. How do you survive in a world where you’re allergic to almost everything? What would you do to live? This appears in Fitting In: Historical Accounts of Paranormal Subcultures, and is a story I dearly love and am thrilled to share.

 

If you’re in the mood for something a little spicier, I have several offerings.

First, “The Last Bite Before Dawn” is a lesbian vampire erotica story, in which a vampire tired of spending her life in the shadows has the opportunity to change… or end… things once and for all. This is in Blood in the Rain II, a fun vampire erotica anthology perfect for the cold autumn nights.

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“Sun Chases Moon,” which originally appeared in Puxhill by Night, makes an encore performance in the anthology Like Myth Made Flesh. It’s another classic tale of love and desire between a mortal and a goddess…

Meanwhile, “The Sea’s Bargain” appeared in audio form over at the Nobilis Reed Podcast back in July. Check out Episode 352 for all the sexy details of what happens when a young woman is obligated to fulfill her family’s bargain with an ancient sea creature.

Finally, “The Fairy’s Reward” appears in Ever Dream of Me: An Erotic Romance Anthology, from Fantasia Divinity. This is my riff on a certain subset of fairy tales, in which an act of kindness is rewarded in unusual ways…

So whether you’re in the moon for vampires, fairies, sea monsters, or goddesses as your supernatural partner of choice, I have you covered!

 

New Story Release – Taste Test

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I can also announce that my story, “Taste Test” has been released in the Cleis anthology Sex Objects: Erotic Romance for Women, edited by Delilah Devlin. One of my very rare non-speculative/supernatural/paranormal stories, this is about a food critic who receives an invitation to a private menu showing at the hottest new restaurant in town. But when he shows up, he gets an encounter that’s not on any menu… It’s a fun piece, and I’m happy to see it finally out in the wild.

 

 

New Audio Release: Your Name is Eve

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No, I’m not dead yet. It’s just that grad school always eats my brain for about six weeks every summer, and while I love it, it’s really hard to do anything else that doesn’t involve school or work. But once again, I’ve emerged, mostly unscathed, and ready to tackle the world.

Today’s news is that my story, “Your Name is Eve,” which originally appeared in Clockwork Phoenix 3, edited by Mike Allen, is now available in audio format from the delightful online magazine, Far Fetched Fables. Pop on over and give it a lesson, why don’t you?

I know I owe a lot of people updates, and those will also be coming in due time. There is progress, it’s just behind the scenes, and I’m working as fast as I can as I reset my brain to “not grad school” mode…

New Story Available: The Sainted Pirate Nicholas

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Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to announce the release of my newest story, “Regarding the Sainted Pirate Nicholas,” available right now over at Metaphorosis Magazine.

Pull up a chair, draw yourself a pint of ale, and thrill to the terrifyingly bizarre tale of a former pirate who encountered that scourge of the Emerald Sea, that terror of the deep dark waters, that fearsome figure who punishes the guilty and rewards the innocent… the Sainted Pirate Nicholas.

 

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Ho.

Ho.

 

Brag Shelf – Level 1 Achievement

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I know I promised cat pics last time, but this is just as pleasing to me, and I figured it deserved an update all its own.

Many authors have what’s known as a brag shelf… or bookcase… or room, where they keep copies of everything they’d done. I, being a relatively normal person of some small ego, have my own brag shelf, where I can see the tangible, physical evidence that I occasionally accomplish things.

With the arrival of physical copies of Puxhill by Night (you may have heard of it), I have finally filled an entire shelf. Okay, so many of these items are multiple copies, but the principle remains the same. I earned these, fair and square. And I am very very happy. I might even get to start working on a second shelf by this time next decade! :)

Okay, cat pictures. Why not?

Gideon: The belly is not a trap.

Gideon: The belly is not a trap.

Molly is not impressed.

Molly is not impressed.

Jenny and Sebastian have important cat bed business to handle.

Jenny and Sebastian have important cat bed business to handle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll close out by reminding people that my Amazon and Goodreads giveaways are still live and going strong, and you too can obtain copies of my books. Just about everything has been linked to Amazon through my Bibliography page, so feel free to check them out.