Rating: 3


The Malevolent Seven: Bitterness needs nuance

The Malevolent Seven by Sebastien de Castell

Sebastien de Castell’s 2023 antihero novel The Malevolent Seven has good magical action and lots of sarcastic banter. It has an emotionally tortured male main character in a world that is filled with suffering, death, betrayal and a sense of hopelessness that swamps every action. Generally, I enjoy de Castell’s work, but while this book had enough to keep me reading, ultimately, it doesn’t rank among my favorite works of his.

I say, “enough to keep me reading,” because I very nearly put this book down during the first 50 pages.

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Darkness Below: A romp through dark academia with tentacles

Darkness Below by Barbara Cottrell

2023’s Darkness Below is the first book in Barbara Cottrell’s new THE SHADOWS OF MISKATONIC series. We’re heading into warmer weather, with the promise of road trips and vacations. Here’s a shivery tentacle-horror story for fans of Lovecraftia, complete with a sprinkle of dark academia on top, that’s perfect for the road or that lounge chair by the pool.

Ellen attends Miskatonic University and lives in the town of Arkham with her guardian, Uncle Joshua (who probably isn’t her uncle.) Ellen is a strong psychic whose past is a mystery.

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How to Mars: Solid but feels like a missed opportunity

Reposting to include Marion’s new review.

How to Mars by David Ebenbach

In David Ebenbach’s How to Mars (2021), humans have made it to Mars, but not via the usual major government initiative. Instead, a group of six was sent as a reality TV show produced by Destination Mars, a corporation whose owner is “pretty eccentric.” Sadly, Mars turned out to be kind of dull (lots of rocks, no life, monotone color) and as the six scientists grew bored so did the audience,

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Tread of Angels: Exquisite setting, disappointing story

Tread of Angels by Rebecca Roanhorse

The setting in Rebecca Roanhorse’s 2022 novella Tread of Angels is eerie and vivid, like a strange dream, both ethereal and concretely described. The conceit of this world is wonderful and I would like to read more stories set here. This particular one was disappointing, with fairly flat characters acting out a familiar plot.

Long ago, the battle of the rebel angels against heaven actually took place. In the setting of the story, Lucifer’s great general Abaddon was vanquished and fell to earth.

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Yellow Jessamine: A dark, disturbing treat

Yellow Jessamine by Caitlin Starling

Having thoroughly enjoyed Caitlin Starling’s 2019 novel The Luminous Dead, I was very happy to learn that I wouldn’t have to wait long to read more of her work.

Yellow Jessamine (2020), Starling’s new novella, is completely different from The Luminous Dead but similarly features creepy atmosphere, a background of family trauma, and relationships filled with dysfunctional tension and longing.

Evelyn Perdanu is a wealthy woman in the city of Delphinium,

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Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse (Vol. 2): It Only Hurts When I Pee: The slapstick horror continues

Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse (Vol. 2): It Only Hurts When I Pee by Ben Templesmith

The slapstick horror of Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse continues in volume two, It Only Hurts When I Pee. Wormwood is an “intergalactic, interdimensional, immortal, happy-go-lucky larval worm thing” that “wears corpses likes suits.” You can see the worm he is in the eyeball of each corpse. And he has his gang: Mr. Pendulum a “robotic drinking companion”; Ms. Medusa, ex-girlfriend and manager of Wormwood’s favorite bar, The Dark Alley; and Phoebe Phoenix,

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Unquiet Spirits: Essays by Asian Women

Unquiet Spirits: Essays by Asian Women edited by Lee Murray & Angela Yuriko

In Unquiet Spirits: Essays by Asian Women, edited by Lee Murray and Angela Yuriko Smith, twenty-one Asian writers (all women as one might have guessed from the title) offer up a single personal essay each that both explores their heritage of ghost stories/folklore and charts their own experiences navigating the in-between world of shared cultures. Like many collections, it’s a mixed bag. For me, the collection as a whole didn’t wholly succeed, though it contains several strong essays.

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The Spare Man: Nick and Nora Charles in space

The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

Uber-wealthy inventor and heiress Tesla Crane and her husband, retired detective Shalmaneser Steward, plan to enjoy their honeymoon on the interplanetary luxury liner Lindgren as it travels from Earth to Mars. Horribly, the trip is interrupted when a person is stabbed to death right outside their luxury suite, and to make matters worse, Shal is arrested for the crime. As the evidence against him mounts, will Tesla be able to prove he’s innocent? Will she and her gallant Westfield terrier service dog Gimlet discover the true killer?

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The Lost Metal: Brings this series to a solid, if not wholly inspired, close

The Lost Metal by Brandon Sanderson

The Lost Metal brings to an end Brandon Sanderson’s MISTBORN ERA TWO series, and does so I’d say in semi-satisfying fashion, bringing some plots lines and character stories to a close and opening up the world of the Sanderson’s expanded universe (the Cosmere) more fully.

Waxillium returns here in his Senator role, along with his partner Wayne, Wayne’s new partner constable Marasi, and Wax’s wife Steris as they continue to battle against the secret society (The Set), which has amongst its high-ranking members Wax’s own sister,

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The Infinite Noise: A delightfully cute teen drama

The Infinite Noise by Lauren Shippen

THE BRIGHT SESSIONS is a trilogy of spinoff novels set in the world of the podcast of the same name, both media written by Lauren Shippen. I am generally a fiction podcast fan, so when the third book in the trilogy – Some Faraway Place – hit my radar, something about it sounded familiar. Turns out, on a long road trip a few years ago, I had listened to several episodes of the podcast. I remembered liking it so I wanted to give the books a try.

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June 2023