A Dead Djinn in Cairo

by P. Djèlí Clark

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I’ve had to think hard about my rating for this novella, as the story did show some fantastic creativity and I loved some of the descriptive passages & I found the end very exciting.

It’s just that I wasn’t totally engaged at the start – in fact, I was more than a little confused! This could say more about me as a reader than Clark as a writer.

Anyway a 3.5★ from me means that i have enjoyed the story enough that I want to read more work by the author & I’m hoping to get to The Angel of Khan el-Khalili very soon.

Uncanny Magazine Issue 25: November/December 2018

By Lynne M. Thomas

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I was led here after reading an absolutely wonderful poem by Hal Y. Zhang in an issue of Strange Horizons. I’m not sure if Strange Horizons magazines are allowed on Goodreads & I don’t want to find out by having my review deleted, so I will review here.*

From Strange Horizons 22/02/21 Issue
Go Agile I thought this poem was mad, fragmented and absolutely wonderful. Read it on Goodreads 5★

I was so intrigued I wanted to read more. Cardioid for me was not the equal of Go Agile, but it was still an evocative, intriguing poem. 4★.

Now that I am here, I will be reading more.

& here I am, reading more!

The Rose MacGregor Drinking and Admiration Society
I enjoyed this short story, I thought it was funny and quirky. Wasn’t really what I was expecting from a fantasy short story, but I am a bit of a novice in this genre. 3.5★

The Thing About Ghost Stories I think Naomi Kritzer is a good fit for me! How can I not love an author who manages to work books by two of my favourite authors ([author:Jane Austen|1265] & [author:Georgette Heyer|18067]) into her short story. & this short story captures so well the off-the-wall, almost callous way a caregiver starts to feel about the most beloved of Alzheimer’s/Dementia cases – and the way your feelings suddenly turn back to love. I have never read a ghost story like this one! An easy 5★

How to Swallow the Moon by Isabel Yap. This story is a combination of so many wonderful, magical ingredients – a love story, fairy tale, fantasy and the supernatural with a good dose of Phillipines culture. I was completely enchanted and some of the twists and turns took my by surprise. Unusually in a short story I really cared about the two heroines.

I also read Caroline M. Yoachim’s interview with Ms Yap – she is quite the overachiever – Harvard, no less. I enjoyed the insight Ms Yap gave to this work. Rated together 5★

Monologue by an Unnamed Mage by Cassandra Khaw. I have heard good things about this short story writer and she did not disappoint. A science fiction love fragment. Beautifully written. 5★

Osiris by Leah Bobet I was about to wrap this review up, as I have so many books/magazines on the go at the moment, but then I spotted that this poem was an award nominee…

… which did restore my faith that entering awards on Goodreads data base is worthwhile. Like all excellent poems this one is open to interpretation, & mine was that this was a war survival poem. I loved it. 5★

& I was going to leave but the title of the Valentinelli entry has me intrigued. Just one more…

…but first I have another stray. Martha Wells & her Murderbot series has long been recommended to me & this wonderful little story The Future of Work: Compulsory appeared on Wired. You can read it here https://www.wired.com/story/future-of-work-compulsory-martha-wells/ NB: there has just been a change in policy on how Goodreads handle short stories and poetry published in a non book form (NABs) I’m excited about it but not ready to remove my entry from here just yet. This is a big change for Goodreads & not all librarians are members of the Librarians’ Group.

I loved this story that did remind me (a lot) of Naomi Kritzer’s Cat Pictures Please Quirky & funny is a science fiction sub genre I can definitely get behind. 5★

My Name Is Cybernetic Model XR389F, and I Am Beautiful by Monica Valentinelli At first this story had me giggling, but there is a more serious message behind it. Very well done. 5★

Not so the interview Caroline M. Yoachim did with the author. Talk about being programmed! I felt I was being told how I should interpret the story 2★

Translatio by Sharon Hsu Not science fiction but a poem about culture being lost. Elegant & achingly sad. 5★

An Account of the Land of Witches by Sofia Samatar. This is billed as “reprint fiction.” I did a spot of research & it looks like Samatar started being published around 2012. This story was wonderfully evocative, giving two versions of a truth. it shows a lot of the author’s Sudanese heritage & her multiculturism. Although some parts were evocative, it didn’t totally hold my attention. 3.5★

There is still some non fiction I haven’t read but I will finish my read of this magazine with smile by Beth Cato. To be honest, a poetry title in lower case always makes my heart sink a bit. Poetry fragment. I’m not big on fragments. 2.5★

I cannot leave this magazine without without saying how much I love the cover by John Picacio. It is unusual to see a portrait of a female character from this angle – which denotes power. I love it!

  • * Of course this is my blog, not Goodreads. so I could review Zhang’s poem separately. But I’m so far behind with my blog, that I am not going to edit this review.

A Wrinkle in Time

by Madeleine L’Engle

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Unlike some other (Goodreads) reviewers I didn’t think this book went downhill after the first three chapters.

I liked the first two chapters very much, but for a few chapters after that some of the writing felt a bit clumsy and I was starting to lose interest.

But the final half of the book was genuinely thrilling and I found it very hard when I had to put the book down!

I also very much enjoyed the portrayal of the children (in particular Meg) as flawed and often socially awkward human beings. In this regard this book reminded me of the early Harry Potter books (I’ve only read the early ones) and also in the way the children find their own strength.

I’m curious about what happens to Megan, Charles Wallace and Calvin, so will almost certainly carry on with this series.

Extra note: My edition also carries an afterword by L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voikis, which I found very helpful in understanding who L’Engle was as both a writer and a person.

The Once and Future Witches

by Alix E. Harrow

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I was so disappointed by this book, that even doing a c&p from Goodreads seems a chore.

If I was going to use one word to described this book, it would be “bloated.”

For others, another word could be “over-hyped”, but this book couldn’t be over-hyped for me. I have read (& loved) some of Ms Harrow’s short stories – in particular the magical A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies which I read in an Apex magazine. This story completely enchanted me & I was excited to reading Harrow in a longer format.

Unfortunately The Once and Future Witches underwhelmed me.

I do freely admit I normally prefer shorter works of fiction, so this book was always going to be a hard sell. But even allowing for this, this book needed a really good pruning – it was at least 100 pages too long. Ms Harrow is the mistress of creating really beautifully descriptive prose, but this didn’t always drive the story forward. My attention did wander. A lot.

The other problem for me was how profoundly unlikeable the three Eastwood Sisters/Witches were in the first half of the book – & they didn’t improve that much in the second. Fortunately at around the 40% mark (just as I was about to DNF) the plot did improve and for a time I was really engaged by roughly the middle third of the book. By the end I was losing interest again, although the twist  was a deft touch – I was taken completely by surprise!

I am no longer in a hurry to read The Ten Thousand Doors of January but I will certainly read more of Ms Harrow’s short stories. It is too early in Ms Harrow’s career to say that she should stick to that format.

Burnt Sugar

by Lish McBride

Rating: 4 out of 5.

After a DNF on a dull & dreary historical novel, I needed something short & snappy.

This novella definitely hit the brief

Taking inspiration from Hansel & Gretel, this story moves along at a breakneck speed. I really liked Ava and the other bounty hunters and hope I get to meet their boss Venus in a later episode. She sounds like a treat!

Short Story Review: A Whisper in the Weld by Alix E. Harrow

Shimmer 2014: The Collected Stories

Shimmer 2014: The Collected Stories by E. Catherine Tobler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★

The cool thing about reviewing on WordPress is that I can review a short story only – not have to use the entry for a whole collection! I understand Goodread’s reasons but sometimes it is frustrating!

Another amazing story from the most exciting new writer I have read this year. This is an earlier effort from 2014.

Isa dies in a tragic accident at the mill. She yearns for her dead husband, (killed in the war) but her main priority in protecting their orphaned daughters from a life at the mill. Her ghostly love encircles them.

I don’t think I can say more without spoiling this evocative and stunning story.

Read it here https://www.shimmerzine.com/a-whisper-in-the-weld-by-alix-e-harrow/

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Short Story Review: A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies

Apex Magazine Issue 105, February 2018

From; Apex Magazine Issue 105, February 2018 by Jason Sizemore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


My review is for A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix Harrow and Interview with Alix Harrow by Andrea Johnson only.

Enchanting

Really the only word that can be used to describe this longish short story. I entered the Witch Librarian’s library – and I didn’t want to leave.

Books can do magic, can create a world for the lost, bewildered and lonely. Ms Harrow understands this.

I’m excited by the depth and complexity of Ms Harrow’s imagination and look forward to reading more of her work.

It’s only September, but I am going to call this my best short story read of 2019.

Great interview by Andrea Johnson – which shows she also has a vivid imagination! Brief, but witty and informative. 5★

I’m a Librarian on Goodreads and I always feel a faint bit of dread when friends review online magazine stories individually on Goodreads. There is always much angst when the story is inevitably merged with the magazine.Want to change Goodreads policy on short stories? I don’t think there is much chance of that, but you need to contact staff rather than posting about it on your review. Here is the link. https://www.goodreads.com/about/contact_us

Librarians are volunteers – we have little to no influence on Goodreads policies. On the rare occasions that Goodreads backs down, you need Librarians prepared to do the reversals and there is usually a consequence where active Librarians either stop doing the edits or only do their own. Just saying.

More chance of success would be to ask if the authors concerned if they would put the short stories on their own website. If the story is on their website, it would have to be unconditionally available. (readers not required to join a mailing list for example) to be added to the Goodreads database.

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Book Review: The Eyre Affair

The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1)

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


3.5★

This book did sound so up my alley and I’m a bit worried because it is a very busy book , so maybe it wasn’t the right book to start in a very active holiday. I’m hoping my rating is fair.

I found it very hard to get into the start -as I said busy. It reminded me of The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts but the style was much colder – I just couldn’t warm to any of the characters at all. That did make it a struggle for me to keep going with the read.

However, Every time I would consider giving up there would be another witticism

“I was in ’78 recently,” he announced. “I brought you this.”
He handed me a single by the Beatles. I didn’t recognize the title.
“Didn’t they split in ’70?”
“Not always. How are things?”

or some lines that were laugh out loud funny;

“Can’t we wait for the Chronoguard?”
“They’d never get here in time. It’s easy. A lobotomised monkey could do it.”
“And where are we going to get a lobotomised monkey at this time of night”

The wild and uncertain tone of the book improved for me at around 64% – although I didn’t really like the ending.

So it was a real mixed bag and I may have to read another Fforde to decide if I like his style or not.

A bonus review!
3.5★
https://www.theguardian.com/books/200…

Read December 2018

The Locked Room Mystery

I spent a lot more time trying to find a place to post this review than I did reading this short, short story.

Light, frothy & fun. I doubt I will remember anything about it in a week.

This doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy reading it (I did) or that I won’t try something else by Fforde (I will)

And, in fact, I did!

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The Ghost Bride

The Ghost Bride

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


4.5★

“The problem with the dead was that they all wanted someone to listen to them.”


Now, I wouldn’t have thought this was my sort of read at all, but it shows how wrong you can be.

More than what I was expecting as I knew there would be the fantastic and paranormal,this was also a (somewhat tepid) romance and a murder mystery. Ms Choo’s use of evocative language is assured – quite amazing that this book was a debut. Ms Choo allows us to pick delicately through Li Lan’s complicated beliefs – every bit as complicated as life in nineteenth century Malaya would be. I just accepted everything I was shown.

Quite wonderful. I’m only knocking half a star off, because in the middle it dragged a bit & because I guessed the two twists quite easily.

Another quote from this very quotable book

“It was strange to think that power in this world belonged to old men and young women.” 

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Queen Lily

Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 102 (November 2018)

Lightspeed Magazine, Issue 102 by John Joseph Adams

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This review is only for Queen Lily by Theodora Goss (Goodreads policies mean that the short story has to be shelved as it was published – & there no individual publishing of this story) But, I really enjoyed this short story, so I don’t rule out trying some more writings in this issue at some point.

Very definitely you have to be in the mood to work hard as a reader, be a big fan of Alice in Wonderland, have some familiarity with Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell’s backstory – and love the fantastic.I had vague memories (at one stage I was worried this was going to become an extremely uncomfortable read!) of Carroll’s (Charles Dodgson’s) creepy obsession with Alice. But this story is way more than that, and I was carried into a world that was so inspired – and I don’t say that lightly.

It is a wonderful, but not an easy read. Grateful thanks to Tadiana’s delightful review for filling in the gaps in my knowledge.



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