Category Archives: Reading

Read This: The Once and Future Witches

By Alix E. Harrow
Redhook Books/Orbit
Hachette Book Group

During the first few months of the pandemic, I’d pick up books that I probably would have enjoyed in normal circumstances and I couldn’t make the words on the page mean anything interesting or relevant. 

Then around mid-August, I discovered Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic and then N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became (as an audiobook, brilliantly narrated by Robin Miles). I was back. 

Not everything I’ve read in the interim was as fabulous as those two novels, but I was able to enjoy reading (and the occasional audiobook) more than I had in months. 

Another book that delighted me was Alix Harrow’s Ten Thousand Doors of January.  The characters and concept immediately hooked me, and I can recommend the book to anyone who likes portal fantasy. I read everything I could find by Harrow (she has some great short fiction available online), but I really waited for her next novel breathlessly, based on the title alone: The Once and Future Witches. It came out in October of 2020.

I’m a huge fan of Arthurian legend reboots, and the teasers I read about the novel also promised there would be suffragists. And naturally, with that title, there had to be witches.

I read it. I loved it. It might just be my perfect book. Feminist witches? Fascinating characters to love and hate? A plot that zips right along? Terrific use of language deployed in the service of all of the above?

I’m thrilled to enjoy reading again. I’d hate to imagine not appreciating this novel as much as it deserved. For me, the book succeeded so well that I chose it as my study book for the DIY MFA Writer Igniter Challenge

If you like your fantasy liberally spiced with alternate history and a feminist bent, you really should pick this one up.

Read this: The City We Became

By N.K. Jemisin

Re: The City We Became

When I say “read,” I mean listen to the audiobook. I like audiobooks–some more than others. This one left every other audiobook I’ve ever heard sitting on the side of the road wondering wtf happened.

The story itself is great, no question. Jemisin kind of bitch-slaps Lovecraft (only in the most entertaining way). But for me the audiobook took it to the next level. I was able to borrow it through my library, which I always appreciate. I’m not always able to get the audiobooks I want at the library.

While the production values were great and the director’s choices and special effects were apt and very enjoyable, it still wouldn’t have been as wonderful without Robin Miles’s narration. She channeled the myriad voices of Jemisin’s novel brilliantly, but my favorite touch had to be the way she recycled Pat Carroll’s Ursula (of Disney’s 1989 Little Mermaid).

I have more book recommendations in store, but I just finished this one (and was left sitting by the side of the road wondering wtf happened), so that’s my tip for today.

Neko and Kiy

I’ve met several talented people through my local writing group, The Writing Journey. We’ve enjoyed putting story anthologies together, doing informal readers’ theater versions of Shakespeare plays, and going to see some of our members perform.

Neko Zujihan is someone I know from the group (mostly online) and he’s created something remarkable that I wanted to share:

His book is now available on severable platforms, and I hope you get a chance to experience the rich world he’s given us. Look for Kiy: Jumoku No Musuko (Son of the Forest) on his publisher’s web site, or on Amazon.

Nebula Reading Time!

What the Nebula Award looked like in 2015

It’s that time of year. The Oscars are over, and weren’t they interesting this year!?!

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have announced the finalists for the 51st Annual Nebula, the Ray Bradbury Award for an Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book.

You can see the whole list here.

Possibly for the first time ever, I’m slightly ahead of the game, having acquired Borderline by Mishell Baker and Everfair by Nisi Shawl the minute(s) they were available. They were both incredible!

I’m now listening to the Audible release of All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, and enjoying the hell out of it.

That leaves only two novels still to read: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin, and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. I’m looking forward to them!

I’ve also seen all the Bradbury nominees except the Westworld episode. I don’t do HBO. I may have to see if Cookie will let me come over and watch.

I’ve probably read some of the shorter fiction, but  I usually have to refresh my memory before voting; l usually can’t match a title to a story until I’ve read a paragraph or so. And this year I haven’t read any of the nominated YA titles, so I’d better get on that.

SFWA members have from March 1 – March 30 to vote, so I’d better read (or listen) fast!

Which of the nominated works have you read? What would you vote for?



Sorry I’ve been MIA lately. It has really been hard to keep up with the blogging, between the writing and the reading I’ve needed to accomplish lately.

Speaking of reading, as soon as I’m finished with some reading I need to do for work, I absolutely know what I’m reading next.

Borderline by Mishell Baker

I preordered this for Kindle and got it as soon as it was available (March 1). I read the first page aloud to BK, and we’ve both found our next book. He doesn’t do e-books, so I bugged my library to order it. So far it doesn’t show up as being available in my home library, but here’s what the system says about it:

A cynical, paraplegic screenwriter with borderline personality disorder is recruited into a secret organization that oversees relations between Hollywood and Fairyland, receiving as a first assignment a search for a missing film star with ties to Tinseltown’s darkest secrets.

Thank god for interlibrary loan!

Readings for Black History Month…and after


I’ve read a few things that remind me that we Americans are not done, that there’s plenty of work needed to make our country live up to its stated ideals.

Internet articles:



I still want/need to read the following books:


Yes, I know there are more books I could (and should) read, and if you have something in particular to recommend, please share it in the comments.

I also know that reading alone won’t get me/us there. That requires action. But reading can enlighten us, inspire us, and set us on the path.


A Squee for Uprooted


The novel I most recently could not put down was Uprooted. Unless I have the opportunity to buy a signed copy, I tend to get my novels from the library, as I seldom reread books.

I finished my library copy, and then I bought this book.

I wish I could write the way Naomi Novik does. I have enjoyed all her Temeraire novels, but I really wanted to study Uprooted, see what Novik does to make it work so well. A little deconstruction, if you please. I have only barely started that work, but I’m looking forward to it.

This post does have a few gold stars about some of the awesomeness I found in the book. If you’re worried about spoilers, go read the book first!

We can start with the protagonist, Agnieszka. I found her completely believable as a peasant girl. She starts out in awe of people who might consider themselves her betters. Still, she has a wonderfully strong sense of self, an unwavering conviction about what’s right.

The novel’s stakes are big, and ones I applaud, having to do with love of family, friends, and home. Sure, there’s an ancient evil in the land that must be dealt with, but you learn about it through the eyes and ears of characters you care about.

Then the world-building is wonderful. You get totally immersed in this eastern European, medieval fantasy world, but Novik takes her time getting you there. First you care about Agnieszka, then you care about her family. You care about the Dragon, for Pete’s sake. There’s romantic tension between Agnieszka and the Dragon, and despite their different statuses, you have a feeling that deep down, they’re equals. That thread takes a while to reveal itself, however. In the meantime, you learn that the Dragon has lived long enough to know more about the Wood (the location of the aforementioned ancient evil) than anyone else, but not as much as he needs to know in order to take care of the problem. Which is where Agnieszka comes in. I expected her to be crucial to fixing things; the book seemed to promise that much early on. I don’t want to say too much about how things work out.

One thing I especially appreciated was that when Agnieszka does an amazing job dealing with a problem (like the abduction of her bestie, Kasia), it usually brings on more difficulties. This is not because she does anything stupid; she usually just has to deal with a horrendous event in a short time with little help. However, aforementioned difficulties sure keep the plot clicking along. Masterful!

Love, love, love this book.

Voices from the Dark


The original release date for the latest Writing Journey anthology (I have a story in it!) was going to be today. It actually came out a couple of days ago, but either way, it’s available! In time for the holidays! Woohoo!

Here’s a little information about our anthology, Voices from the Dark:

Within each of us lies a darkness. A deep, unnerving essence that lurks at the fringes of our consciousness.

Eleven members of the Writing Journey set out to explore the darkness that lies in all of us. The Writing Journey beckons you to experience their darkness.

You can order the print book directly from CreateSpace here or from Amazon here.

There should eventually be an e-book available as well. If you’re waiting for that to happen, please let me know (comments below would be great!) so I can poke and prod the powers-that-be to make it happen.

A brief word from our sponsor – Voices from the Dark

As the days grow short and the nights ever longer, the season for enjoying chilling stories by your fireside creeps in. What luck, then, that a Writing Journey anthology is coming out to fulfill your needs!
Within each of us lies a darkness. A deep, unnerving essence that lurks at the fringes of our consciousness. Some hear it as a voice whispering secrets from the dark shadows. Others feel its presence as a cold chill sent tingling down the spine. However it makes itself known, the darkness is there. It’s real, and it wants to be freed.

Voices from the Dark is to be released very soon; I’ll keep you posted through my various online presences as soon as it becomes available.

I have a story in it and have read many of the others, and I think this will be a good anthology.

If you’d like to get a taste of it ahead of time, you can do so here:

Storytelling Event: Once upon a Samhain
Sunday, November 1st 2015  from 6pm to 8pm
Atlantic Bar on 5062 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago IL 60625
(Will be held in the back room; mwa-ha-ha!)

About K.T. Bradford’s Challenge

KT Bradford, aka Tempest

K.T. Bradford, also known as Tempest, recently issued a controversial* challenge to speculative fiction readers. The headline of her piece, appearing in xojane, is: “I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year”

Hmm. Intriguing. There’s a lot more to the piece than its title and  I can’t do it justice by writing “about” it. It’s not long; I’d go read it if I were you. The rest of this post will be waiting when you get back.

Predictably, there was foofaraw, mostly from a certain small, vocal segment of White, Straight, Cis** Male people whom I suspect reacted as much to the title as anything else. Like many other folks, I was curious about what one particular writer who fits that demographic thought about the piece and the surrounding foofaraw. I figured I had a pretty good idea what John Scalzi would say, and that it wouldn’t be a lot different than the way I thought. I was mostly right.

Where Scalzi and I agree:

  1. It’s only a year
  2. It doesn’t have to start and end on any particular date.
  3. In the grand scheme of publishing, it’s extremely unlikely that a large enough group of people will be avoiding white straight cis male authors to ruin anyone’s career. If I don’t read a book by John Scalzi (or some relatively unknown white straight cis male) within a particular span, nothing says I can’t read it once the year is up. There are unlikely to be a ton of people doing it the exact same time as I, so White Guy will still sell pretty close to the same number of books within a given year as he would have otherwise.

Where Scalzi and I differ:

He’s satisfied that what he reads is varied enough. He doesn’t feel the need to accept the challenge because he already reads, enjoys, and learns from many diverse writers. Besides, if he stopped reading white, male, straight, cis writers, he wouldn’t be able to read his own work, and since he makes his living as a writer, he’d be up a creek.

On the other hand, I think my reading list could use some shaking up.  Plus, I don’t have the same problem he has. I could choose to take Tempest’s challenge and still be able to read/revise/proof my own work.

My plan:

This challenge isn’t a boycott. It’s a way of opening one’s eyes to other viewpoints that have not, historically, gotten much exposure. There are so books by different kinds of writers out there. The time I spend reading something from the dominant viewpoint is time I can’t be spending expanding my horizons in a way I find especially intriguing.

So I think I’ll give it a try, once I’ve finished reading this year’s Nebula-nominated works by regular white dudes. Because I’m probably going to the Nebula weekend this year…it’s finally in Chicago!

Tempest provides a few handy lists of interesting writers, providing 1- books by women, 2- books by writers of color, and 3- books in translation. I can’t wait to see what I’ve missed.

*Controversial to some people, though not so much to me. Upon reading this challenge, I felt like I was part of the choir to whom Tempest was preaching. There are a few white, straight, male, cis folks who are not pleased. To put it mildly.
**For those not familiar with the term “cisgender,” it means a person identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth, rather than being transgender.