ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
The Turn of the ScrewThe Turn of the Screw by Henry James

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A slow-burn classic of supernatural horror, with a side order of psychological suspense. This is pretty much the definitive Evil Children/possession tale, but James' writing style takes some settling into. The payoff is well worth it, however.

Probably best for those willing to enter into the Gothic game of shadows, suggestions, and ambiguities. If mysteriously troubled country houses and imperiled governesses don't enhance your horror experience, this might be one to avoid. If they do, though, this one's your catnip.





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I don't usually post about crowdfunding projects, but I've recently backed one (also rare for me!) that I'm pretty excited about.

Tony C. Smith of the District of Wonders podcasts is doing a Kickstarter for a new SF/F anthology.  It's entitled Everyone: Worlds Without Walls.  Its stated goal is to:

explore and celebrate how we are greater together – and, conversely, the need to tear down walls of ignorance, prejudice, and injustice.

The TOC for this one is international, diverse, & impressive -- and will expand as stretch goals are met.   Dr. Amy H. Sturgis[livejournal.com profile] eldritchhobbit will be writing the introduction. At this point, there are 21 writers involved!

With 10 days to go,  the project's original goal and one stretch goal have been met.  Pledge levels range from the extremely reasonable -- which gets you a e-copy of the anthology -- to more generous amounts for additional rewards.

All details, including that expanding TOC, can be found here.

(Full disclosure: I am backing this, but I am not one of the writers or otherwise involved with the project.)
ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
Penric’s Mission (World of the Five Gods, #3.7)Penric’s Mission by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This third entry in Bujold's Penric & Desdemona series (long may it prosper!) has a distinctively darker tone than the two previous novellas, though it never veers into grimdark territory.

When the young Temple sorcerer and his much more experienced demon find themselves betrayed during a diplomatic mission, they must use all their skills to escape from almost certain death. The action and interpersonal intrigue never stop after that. Bujold delivers a coherent magical system, well-crafted fight scenes, and even a touch of honest romance in this one, and any fan of her World of the Five Gods will find this a must read.

Those new to these novellas should definitely start with Penric's Demon, since the plot is quite serialized. A fourth adventure -- Mira's Last Dance -- should be available soon, and I'll be preordering that for my Kindle at the earliest opportunity.




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Sacrificial NightsSacrificial Nights by Bruce Boston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a dark and effective novella-in-poems (with some prose / prose poem passages), weaving the lives of several characters into a compelling plot. The collaboration of Boston and Manzetti is nearly seamless, and the pages turn far more quickly than one would expect. The overall effect is one of noir hallucination, with several photomontage illustrations (by UK artist Ben Baldwin) enhancing the experience.

Aficionados of free verse, modern prose poetry, or noir fiction will probably find this a five-star ride. I prefer a little more structure and music, but still found myself unable to look away before this urban apocalypse reached its conclusion.

Full disclosure: I was supplied with an e-copy for Bram Stoker Award consideration.





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ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


If you enjoy figuring out unreliable narrators, this one is definitely for you. Told through the perspectives of three young (to me, anyhow!) women, all of whom have serious problems in their lives, a fairly ordinary whodunit becomes something very hard to put down.

Recommended for those who enjoy female-centered thrillers, modern UK atmosphere, and a heavy dose of interpersonal drama. I found myself liking this one more than I expected to, possibly because I've ridden the London area commuter trains that figure so heavily in the plot.





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Buddhism for BeginnersBuddhism for Beginners by Thubten Chodron

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I'm rating this three stars rather than four due to the audio format. It's very well presented, but there is simply too much information in this short book to absorb in audio.

That said, this is a very good introduction to Buddhism for the curious, with an amazing amount of data packed into four hours of listening! It's clear and well-organized, and covers several different traditions. I suspect a hard copy or Kindle edition is the way to go with this one -- it seems intended for reference, as well as for reading straight through.





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ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
Penric and the Shaman (World of the Five Gods, #1.6)Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Another delightful return to Bujold's World of the Five Gods, though with a somewhat confusing look into how shamanism works in that culture. (I've been told that reading The Hallowed Hunt first might help. I have somehow missed this one, & definitely intend to do that!)

This is very clearly the second in a series, so reading Penric's Demon first will let the reader get the most out of another right-sized fantasy adventure featuring a very young "full-braid divine" and his much more experienced demon. I'm already looking forward to reading the third of this series, now waiting on my Kindle.



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ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
dust
of a waning moon
last footprints


                      -- Ann K. Schwader

                Gene Cernan, last astronaut on the moon, is gone at 82
                http://wapo.st/2jpCsXf
ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
I'm still catching up with contributors' copies, etc. from the end-of-year deluge, but wanted to mention that Colorado's own Centipede Press has recently released Weird Fiction Review #7.

This annual journal -- so big that my contrib arrived in a box of its own! -- is edited by S.T. Joshi, and offers over 350 pp. of fiction, poetry, essays, interviews, reviews, and artwork, all in a very handsome sewn paperback edition with color covers & much interior color.

The fiction this time around is by Steve Rasnic Tem, Mark Howard Jones, Jonathan Thomas, John Shirley & Don Webb, and Nicole Cushing. Poetry is by Christina Sng, Ian Futter, K.A. Opperman, John Shirley, Wade German, Ashley Dioses, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard -- & Yours Truly.

There are also articles by Charles A. Gramlich, Jason V. Brock, Chad Hensley, and others; a column by John Pelan, and more.

For more information, or to order at a discount, please check here.
ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
The Obsidian Chamber (Pendergast #16)The Obsidian Chamber by Douglas Preston

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This latest Pendergast adventure was both satisfying and oddly disappointing. Unfortunately, despite it being devoted to winding up a number of mysteries and family secrets, the disappointment prevailed for me.

Without revealing any plot points -- almost anything in this one could be a spoiler! -- I've got to admit that this one felt way too much like a mundane thriller. It was certainly well-crafted, with plenty of military details & exotic locales, but it seemed to lack that hint of Otherness most books in this series have. Pendergast never goes fully into the supernatural, but he frequently skirts the edges of it, or at least leaves the reader wondering whether something truly strange might be going on. This time, however, he stuck to the real world (or at least his variant of it). Black ops, yes. Black rites, not a sniff.

This may simply be a matter of personal preference. Most regular readers of this series are likely to be fascinated enough by seeing several long-running plotlines come together, or by picking up yet more esoteric details of Pendergast's background. I will definitely continue reading this series, but I'll be hoping for a bit more of the weird/ horrific next time around.





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The Highwayman: A Longmire StoryThe Highwayman: A Longmire Story by Craig Johnson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A genuinely spooky bit of modern Gothic, with twists all the way to the end. Familiarity with at least some of the other books -- or the TV adaptation -- might be helpful, though this tale doesn't appear to fit into a particular point in the series.

Johnson's evocation of northern Wyoming in the early spring is bone-chillingly accurate (I'm a native of the state), and his continuing cast of characters all feel like old friends. The plot justifies its novella length without overstaying its welcome. A must read for fans of the series -- though anyone interested in contemporary Western mysteries would probably enjoy it.



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It Can't Happen HereIt Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is a dated (especially in some of the language relating to minorities) but still deeply disturbing piece of speculative fiction. First published in 1935, it does an excellent job of showing the life cycle of a "regime change" in a democratic society unable to sustain itself.

Lewis is more than occasionally dogmatic, but there are memorable ideas and phrases in nearly every chapter. The protagonist is flawed enough to be sympathetic, and the plot does move, though I felt the ending was a little rushed. As with most dystopias, some suspension of disbelief is required -- but I found the effort more than worthwhile.








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ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
When it comes to reviews, glad tidings are always welcome!

Hippocampus Press publisher Derrick Hussey recently let me know about some very kind words re my 2015 fiction collection Dark Equinox & Other Tales of Lovecraftian Horror. In Wormwood #27, reviewer John Howard finds that


. . . Schwader unflinchingly shows the disintegration of the personal and the cosmic: and nothing is, or ever again can be, secure. (re 'When the Stars Run Away')

Intense and with a superb sense of place, each tale refers obliquely back to one or more stories or concepts from the Cthulhu Mythos, and runs with it in a refreshingly distinctive way. Lively and intriguing, they are utterly Lovecraftian in spirit. (re my five linked tales of Cassie Barrett)


Dark Equinox is available from the publisher, or from Amazon in both print and Kindle formats.
ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
Highway of Sleeping TownsHighway of Sleeping Towns by Deborah P Kolodji

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I nibbled through this one, a few at a time last thing in the evening. Haiku are concentrated things, & it seemed like the perfect way to consume this remarkable, very 21st century collection.

Although nature is not neglected in these pages, the overall tone is deeply personal & highly individual. There's a touch of the cosmic, as well -- Kolodji acknowledges science as a full part of nature, & the reader benefits.

Recommended for all haiku enthusiasts, or anyone interested in experiencing this form at a very high -- yet accessible -- level of quality.







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ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
The ElementalsThe Elementals by Michael McDowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A solidly crafted Southern Gothic take on the classic haunted house novel, with characters the reader actually comes to care about. (Which is unfortunate, given the body count!)

This one offers pretty much everything a reader might want in such a tale: a creepy Victorian summer home -- three, actually -- an increasingly menacing setting cut off from civilization, generations of family secrets, occult protections that don't work, and a memorably nasty ending with a twist. The writing is first-class, and most of the characters are very well drawn. McDowell knows how to make his descriptions visceral without being gratuitous, which is a real plus.

One caveat: this 1981 novel might feel slightly dated to some readers. Supernatural horror fans who appreciate a quieter, more literary approach won't be disappointed, though.




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ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
Issue #22 of Eye to the Telescope, the SFPA's online journal of speculative poetry, has gone live!

In keeping with the season, this is the "Ghosts" issue. Edited by Shannon Connor Winward, it offers 27 spectral poems ranging from Gothic horror to folktale to spooky SF. There's a range of forms as well, though this issue runs pretty heavily toward free verse.

And, yes, Yours Truly does have something here: the terza rima sonnet "New World Haunting."
ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
The Nightmare Stacks (Laundry Files, #7)The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Charles Stross just keeps ringing new changes on his popular Laundry Files. This time around, he's added urban fantasy. Or rather, the Secret History behind it. As newly minted Laundry employee -- and PHANG -- Dr. Alex Schwartz discovers, elves are not only quite real, but remarkably unpleasant. At least, most of them are . . .

The Laundry, Leeds, and possibly the planet are all under attack in this one, as CASE NIGHTMARE RED (alien invasion) picks an otherwise ordinary weekend to manifest. The result is a bizarre but satisfying blend of military thriller, occult adventure, & just a touch of very strange romance.

Regular readers of this series won't be disappointed, though some may find Stross's worldbuilding into the fey realm a bit of a stretch. (I did not.)





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ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
Editor S/T. Joshi has announced the full TOC of the newly completed Black Wings VI: New Tales of Lovecraftian Horror. As per his blog post of 10/4/16, here it is:


Pothunters -- Ann K. Schwader
The Girl in the Attic -- Darrell Schweitzer
The Once and Future Waite -- Jonathan Thomas
Oude Goden --Lynne Jamneck
Carnivorous -- William F. Nolan
On a Dreamland’s Moon --Ashley Dioses
Teshtigo Creek -- Aaron Bittner
Ex Libris -- Caitlín R. Kiernan
You Shadows That in Darkness Dwell -- Mark Howard Jones
Mask of the Imago -- John Salonia
The Ballad of Asenath Waite --  Adam Bolivar
The Visitor --Nancy Kilpatrick
The Gaunt -- Tom Lynch
Missing at the Morgue -- Donald Tyson
The Shard -- Don Webb
The Mystery of the Cursed Cottage -- David Hambling
To Court the Night -- K. A. Opperman
To Move Beneath Autumnal Oaks -- W. H. Pugmire
Mister Ainsley -- Steve Rasnic Tem
Satiety -- Jason V Brock
Provenance Unknown -- Stephen Woodworth
The Well -- D. L. Myers


I'm happy to report that there are no fewer than four poems in this anthology, though none of them are mine. Ashley Dioses, Adam Bolivar, K.A. Opperman, & D.L. Myers are the contributors.

"Pothunters" is a new (sixth!) installment in the continuing adventures of Cassie Barrett, my Wyoming-based Mythos investigator.

A firm publication date has not been announced by PS Publishing, but Black Wings VI is likely to fly some time late next year.
ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
I don't make a habit of posting about -- or participating in -- crowdfunding projects.

However, the Lovecraft Arts & Sciences Council in Providence, RI is trying to get that city a statue of its literary native son -- using no public funds whatsoever. Only a page on Generosity by Indiegogo, which opened for donations about two months ago.

No, there is no statue of H.P. Lovecraft in Providence.

Yet.

But there will be, if enough advocates of the weird want there to be. It's a well-planned endeavor, featuring the work of a local artist who will be paid fairly. For more info about the Lovecraft Providence Statue Project (and a spooky video!), check here. Or here. And if you can, please consider helping. I have.
ankh_hpl: (DEquinox)
If you're a Sinclair Lewis fan, a dystopian devotee, and/or a political junkie of any stripe, StarShipSofa's most recent segment of Looking Back on Genre History is a must listen.

In Episode # 451, Dr. Amy H. Sturgis[livejournal.com profile] eldritchhobbit offers an entertaining -- if chilling -- discussion of Lewis's 1935 dystopian novel It Can't Happen Here. Lots of fascinating background on the book's origins, with (I think) a minimal number of spoilers. I haven't read this one yet myself, but it's just gone to the top of my Kindle's virtual Read Soon pile.

Find the episode here, or on iTunes.

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