Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Suspect Genome by Peter F Hamilton, SSM - Interzone

We are so chuffed to complete our Short Story Month with a guest review by Mark Chitty from Walker of Worlds. Now, I have a lot of respect for Mark - the guy knows his sci fi. Between him and Gav and MFB's Mark, they do encourage me to read outside my comfort zone, and I've yet to be disappointed. Here is his review he submitted to MFB for SSM.


The Suspect Genome is a short story by Peter F Hamilton, published in Interzone and winner of the British Science Fiction Association Award for best short in 2000. It’s a Greg Mandel story, the main character from his first three novels (Mindstar Rising, A Quantum Murder and The Nano Flower), and set just after the events of A Quantum Murder.

While the story features psychic former soldier Greg Mandel (he can essentially see when people lie), and I label it as such, it doesn’t focus solely on him, but rather on both him and Detective Amanda Patterson, a character that also featured in A Quantum Murder. The Suspect Genome is a detective story that follows the investigation into the death of Byrne Tyler, a c-list celebrity who was found dead at the foot of his stairs with the skin of an unknown attacker under his fingernails. The story follows Amanda’s investigation into the murder and also the story of Greg and his wife Eleanor whose father was killed in a hit and run accident.

First things first, the story is set out in such a manner that we see different aspects at different times. It’s split into three parts: The Dodgy Deal, A Suspicious Fall and Degrees of Guilt, each focusing on different aspects of the story. The first part sets the scene with a set up being made, while part two introduces the actual investigation, and part three contains the explanations and various other bits of important information. Of course, as such stories go it’s very difficult to balance what I say so not to give away the ending to anyone wanting to read it but hasn’t as yet. So, if you don’t want to know the specifics then just skip the next paragraph…

Byrne Tyler has been found dead, and while it looks like an accident the forensic report throws up the skin of an unknown person under his fingernails. He’s in a relationship with Tamzin Sullivan, another minor celebrity, but is also sleeping with her younger sister Claire on the side, and unbeknownst to anyone else. Tyler not only limits his relations to these two women, but has slept with a string of celebrities - and filmed each one. Claire was the last person to see Tyler the night he died and protests her innocence, her sister and mother think she’s responsible, while she is left to look after her younger, and very visibly upset, 10 year old brother. Meanwhile, Richard Townsend is trying to get hold of the land that Eleanor’s father and family live on as part of a kibbutz, but her father refuses all offers made. After an apparent accident her father is seriously injured and dies later on. With me so far? As there is no direct evidence that Townsend had her father killed, but him being the obvious suspect, Greg manages to come to an arrangement with the agency that he can set him up to take the wrap for Tyler’s murder, with a little trickery and conning going on to cement the evidence. However, Amanda knows that Greg is playing her, but doesn’t know why – until the final line of the novel reveals the identity of the true murderer.

Okay, spoilers now over! What Peter F Hamilton has done with The Suspect Genome is create a very interesting and well plotted detective novel. That’s not to say it doesn’t have its bad points, but on the whole it was a very satisfying read. The suspect genome of the title is that little bit of evidence that they find under Tyler’s fingernails, and with advanced techniques the DNA from this evidence can be used to provide an image of the murderer. It can show the person at different ages throughout their life and the tests they run can’t identify him at all. It’s all pretty good stuff, but ultimately it leads to some dubious moral questions, perhaps the biggest downside to this story.

This is where I have issues with The Suspect Genome – it just feels wrong that things go the way they do. I doubt I’d do it any differently if I was in the same position, but after reading the three Greg Mandel books I didn’t put his character down as doing what he does, to me it feels slightly wrong.

However, despite this concern I thoroughly enjoyed The Suspect Genome and it’s written with such precision, always laying everything in front of you and letting them drop into place. Fans of Peter’s Greg Mandel novels should pick this up, but it’s also short enough and self contained enough that not having read the two novels that are set before this time is not a drawback at all. Definitely recommended from me!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tome of the Undergates : Sam Sykes


The name never uttered without scorn, they are long loathed for their knowledge of nothing beyond violence and greed and their utter disregard for human life, least of all their own.

And Lenk, a young man with a sword in his hand and a voice in his head, counts them as his closest company.

Charged with retrieving the Tome of the Undergates, a written key to a world long forgotten by mankind and home to creatures determined to return, Lenk is sent after ancient evangelical demons, psychotic warrior women and abominations lost to myth. Against them, he has but two weapons: a piece of steel and five companions as eager to kill each other as they are to help him.

At its heart, the premise of Tome is the classic quest novel- a group of heroes banding together to seek out a lost treasure, danger at every turn and failure spelling the rise of an unstoppable evil which will destroy them and doom the world.

And then Sam got hold of it and pulled, stretched and twisted it like some sort of literary playdough, squeezing out characters that aren’t at first people you’d really like to know. They’re adventurers, and in the world of Tome, that makes them one step below something that a hobo’s scraped off his shoe.

It opens with pirates having boarded the ship that the characters employer has chartered, and while it’s always good to have a bit of action upfront, you really are dropped into the middle of things. It felt a bit like I’d missed the first 10 minutes of a movie I’d been waiting to see. The characters are launched into play with little ado and it takes a bit of wrangling keep track of who’s who and who’s doing what as the battle rages on. All of which isn’t helped by the main character having some kind of schizophrenic episode and the pirates’ grandiose manner of speaking.

But here’s the thing. Keep at it, and by the time the nigh invulnerable sea-demons replace the pirates, things are inching into place.

It’s an ongoing process all the way, but the characters endless griping and in-fighting does evolve into something less distracting as the group dynamic becomes more recognisable. Initial wobbles aside, Sam’s characterisation is good, and while the teasing glimpses of the characters respective pasts that he drops in amidst the bickering and battles never explain how such a disparate group got together, there’s a sense of each having come from a dark, desperate time in their life.

It took me until about halfway through to start getting along with Tome as well as I’d hoped I would, but I’m glad I stuck with it. There are niggles that remain, sure – there’s still some fat that could have been trimmed from the manuscript, the combat could have been tightened up, along with some of the more over the top language, but Sam’s vision holds it together. That he was having buckets of fun putting his characters through the wringer of his world comes through clearly, and that spark is notoriously infectious.

Loud, brash and crazier than sack of weasels on angel dust, Tome is a shot across the bows of the fantasy genre and I think we have lots to look forward to from Mr Sykes in the coming years.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The First Heretic by Aaron Dembski- Bowden

Amidst the galaxy-wide war of the Great Crusade, the Emperor castigates the Word Bearers for their worship. Distraught at this judgement, Lorgar and his Legion seek another path while devastating world after world, venting their fury and fervour on the battlefield. Their search for a new purpose leads them to the edge of the material universe, where they meet ancient forces far more powerful than they could have imagined. Having set out to illuminate the Imperium, the corruption of Chaos takes hold and their path to damnation begins. Unbeknownst to the Word Bearers, their quest for truth contains the very roots of heresy…

Reeling in the wake of the reprimand levied by the Emperor, the foundations of his belief undermined , Lorgar, Primarch of the Word Bearers, returns to his homeworld to contemplate the future of his Legion and the nature of his service to the Emperor. He finds comfort in the ancient rituals of Colchis, the same religion that he had quashed in a bloody civil war. With this an obsession is born, one that echoes the voice that calls to him in his dreams, beckoning him towards the edge of the galaxy.

The story begins 43 years before the infamous betrayal at Isstvan V and follows Argel Tal, a captain of the Legion, as his loyalty to Lorgar sets him on the route that will culminate in the ultimate heresy taking root in his flesh.

Aaron has dug deep here, giving us a solid character who you can’t help but empathise with, even while you know that what he is doing is wrong on so many levels; because you can get under his skin, and understand who he is, and what drives him and his battle-brothers, the tragedy of what is unfolding around him carries that much more weight. Right to the bitter end, when he and the remnants of his company stand bloodied and tattered in body and soul on the ravaged battlefields of Isstvan, their erstwhile brethren lying broken at his feet, Argel remains an engaging and sympathetic character.

This isn’t an action heavy story, although Aaron is certainly no slouch in this department- his visceral depiction of the carnage of Isstvan flies off the page. The First Heretic doesn’t suffer for that though in the slightest; it’s an intelligent and gripping portrayal of a once loyal Legion’s slow fall into the grip of Chaos. The road to Hell is indeed paved with good intentions.

If there was ever any doubt or worry about Aaron’s ability to do justice to the Horus Heresy series, it hasn’t so much as been dismissed as shot into the heart of the sun. This is brilliant stuff.

You can read an extract here.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

THUG by Gail Simone, Masked Anthology, Lou Anders

THUG by Gail Simone, Masked

Reading Gail Simone's offering in the Lou Anders edited Masked really blew me away.

We meet Alvin Becker who is a particularly large young man - in tallness and in muscle. The story is written in Alvin's words, and we read it in journal format. The writing is painstakingly detailed and is a feat of genius on Ms. Simone's behalf.

Opening two sentences:

hello, my name is alvin becker but i guess you know that already becuz i am the only one that will read. my pee oh said i wasn't learning from my mistakes so I should keep a JOURNAL.

In just thirteen pages we are told the deep and complex story of Alvin's life and how he came to be THUG. Viewed from the outside, without the benefit of his story, we would see him as a bad guy, a bruiser, not a pleasant person, someone always in trouble, bullying others, someone who will only work as a heavy for an Evil Villain.

Yet, Alvin doesn't hold back when telling his story. The simplicity of his language, his utter guilelessness, all serve to give us an insight into the mind of what outsiders would view as a monster. What we find instead is a young man who has a strict code which he holds within himself and one that he never ever lets go of. His dedication to the memory of his mother and that one girl he didn't manage to help when he was only a kid, forms the basis of the rest of his life.

THUG is an extremely likable and intense short story that both lifted me up and made me sniffle into a hankie - as a reader I felt deeply about Alvin within a short space of time. I felt invested in him, his actions and I hoped that things would go well for him.

Ms. Simone proves in this short story that she understands the dynamics of creating an engaging and sympathetic character, but also effortlessly draws the reader into the character's world, showing you the other side of the coin and making you root for the THUG.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Some girls are bigger than others - by Sarra Manning from Queen of Teen Anthology (SSM)

Before my review, just some random thoughts that have been bubbling beneath my surface for some time now:

Much has been said in the past few months about pink books for both adult females and younger female and teen readers. I'd like to offer my tiny five pence piece here which is basically: I used to be one of those who turned their noses up at pink books. They scream overly girly relationship soppiness to me and boy, that is so not what I like to read about. But after five years of reviewing and shoving my preconceptions firmly in my pocket, I have to say that I'm still not fond of the pinkness, but each book should be taken on its own merits. A lot of hard work has gone into these books by very dedicated authors and honestly, if a reader is too shallow to not look past a pink cover book, and not "get" that that 9 times out of 10 these stories are far more than what meets the eye, well then, it's that reader's loss. I'm sure you'll be happier with those dark romance covers instead where invariably the heroine is dull and gormless and the heroes are all alpha males in training and invariably quite abusive towards said heroines. Pink cover books may seem overly girly but let me tell you what I've discovered about them: the heroines are invariably sweet, caring, tough and ready to learn the error of their ways and usually, by the end of the book, our main character has managed to grow as a person and has probably learned valuable lessons along the way - usually one of independence and how to think for yourself and have a life. I'd rather spend time with these girls who have funny charming characters and eccentric ways than deeply sighing melodramatic heroines who can't think their way out of a Kellogs box.

I also love the dark cover dark romances for teens, but have become so inured to the soft weepy heroine who can't stand up for herself, I'm rapidly falling out of love with them. Are these the type of heroines we like to read about? Personally for me, not so much. Which is probably why I like books like Takeshita Demons, Hattori Hachi and Michelle Harrison's books so much - strong can-do female characters that are wonderfully thought out and engaging. Yes, give me books and characters like that I don't care what those covers look like!

From that, let me segue into my review for Sarra Manning's truly excellent Some girls are bigger than others. It is the last story in the Queen of Teen anthology and to me, a strong contender as one of the very best.

In a summer that is meant to be a summer full of boys, secret kisses and sundrenched days at the beach, Cath has the misfortune of having to stay at home whilst her best mate goes off on holiday abroad. She gets a job at the local ice cream stand on the beach and prepares herself for an awesome time of flirting with boys and generally having a great time. Sadly, what she gets instead is a lot of rain and a mousy workmate called Rosie whose only asset seems to be her tremendously large bosoms.

Through Cath's observations we learn that Rosie is quiet, shy, reticent and a reader. Cath and Rosie couldn't be more different. Rosie wears clothes not suited to her body and clearly has no idea about make-up, how to style her hair or dress, especially when it comes to the bra department.

The girls aren't really friends, but when one of the guys from the face-painting hut keeps coming around for ice cream and chatting to Rosie, Cath decides to step in and help her work colleague who clearly has some negative body-issues going on. She drags a very reluctant Rosie to local shopping centre and introduces her to the wonders of stylish underwear and decent clothes.

Rosie turns to Cath at one point and says: "I'm having this major epiphany," Rosie confessed. "I always thought it was superficial to care too much about clothes and hair and it was the inner me that counted. But maybe the outer me should look more like the inner me."

She really needed to come with sub-titles. "What does the inner you look like?" I asked.

Turned out that Rosie's inner me looked like the girls in the books she read: quirky and mysterious which I translated as a muter colour palette and lots of v-neck and wrap tops to minimise her mammaries.

Cath knows that they aren't really friends, but sees their relationship more of a teacher/student variety. She encourages Rosie to talk to David, the boy from the face painting stand and eventually she manages to get them to go out to a movie - The Great Gatsby. As Rosie starts to come into herself, both in confidence and personality, Cath's character reduces slightly. I don't think she initially realises it but she becomes a bit more brash, shinier, a false shine that attracts the wrong type of attention from the local hotshot, Kieran, who eventually asks her out.

The night end in disaster with Cath's deepest shame revealed - the fact that she stuffs her own bra with inflatable bits to make her breasts look bigger. She eventually reveals to Rosie that she desperately wants her boobs enlarged as she knows her looks are her only way out of the shitty seaside town. She wants to marry a rich bloke, maybe a footballer and just get away from her mum and the seaside town. But Rosie, being Rosie sees past this and tells Cath that as she's a very goal orientated person, that maybe what she should do is not wait for a man to take her away, but to do it for herself. Go to uni, get a decent job that pays a lot of money, make herself happy instead of waiting for some man to do it. Cath is completely taken aback. By the end of the summer, Rosie hands Cath a big mysterious box and sends her home. Once there, Cath opens the box and founds a variety of music cd's and books, all of which she's seen Rosie read during their summer at the ice cream stand together.

The letter that comes with the box reads:

"Dear Cath

Before I met you, these were the people who showed me that there's a whole big world out there and that who I am isn't who I'm going to be. I hope they do the same for you.

Love, Rosie."

I regret as a reader that the story had to end - I loved both Cath and Rosie as both were silly and wise beyond their years. I genuinely hope that Sarra Manning maybe takes us on a ride with the full story of what Cath gets up to once she digs out one of those books and starts on her journey of self.

So, the lesson I'd like to impart with this review is: don't knock it till you've tried it. I've learned my lesson and I am trying not to fall back into the trap of turning up my nose at pink books, especially for younger readers. I'm still cautious of pinkish looking adult novels, but I'm pretty sure that my aversion will be overcome. I mean, I already love the girls over at Little Black Dress Books! It's a slippery slope, this reading malarky! It threatens to open your eyes!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Night Vision by Maria V. Snyder

Synopsis for The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance edited by Trisha Telep

Fall in love with someone out of this world.

If love transcends all boundaries then paranormal romance is its logical conclusion. From the biggest names around, here are 24 tales to take you to another time and place.

Let Alyssa Day, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Cheyenne McCray, Jeaniene Frost, Ilona Andrews, Kelley Armstrong, Maria V. Snyder, Carrie Vaughn, Allyson James Marland and others show you powers beyond your wildest imaginings.

Within these pages mythical beasts, magical creatures of all shapes and sizes, heart-stoppingly handsome ghosts, angels, and mortals with extra-sensitive sensory perception play out the themes of extraordinary desires.

I'm a big fan of Maria V. Snyder's Poison Study trilogy so was interested to read this short story and turned straight to it. I'm not sure what I expected, possibly a short story set in the same world as the Study books - however, Night Vision is something completely different. It begins with Sophia Daniels, out biking in the forests of North Carolina in the middle of the night. She comes across a normally deserted farmhouse to find a captive Federal Agent about to be killed. Sophia is more than just a skilled biker; she also has perfect night vision and can't tolerate any light. She successfully rescues the agent, Mitch Wolfe but then finds that her act of kindness means she has to invite him into her life and explain her rare condition. Sophia's father has died and she lives a solitary life, too afraid to tell people about her sight.

Night Vision is a rare combination of touching tale and full-on action. Mitch and Sophia race to rescue his sister who's been kidnapped by the gang that were going to shoot Mitch. Alongside this daring rescue is the gentle tale of Sophia finally opening up to someone and getting the chance to finally use her talent to help others instead of hiding away. We visit Sophia some months after the incident and see how it's changed her attitude to life. Obviously, I was also hoping that Sophia and Mitch would meet again but I won't spoil the ending for you.

The Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance is full of other great authors such Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Caine and Sherrilyn Kenyon and is full of variety. I highly recommended it as a way of getting your fix of paranormal romance and checking out some authors that you may not have read before.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Who is Mr Satoshi

"One afternoon last October, on the concrete of her patio garden, my mother had a fall...That was the last time I really had any options."

Reclusive photographer Rob Fossick has come adrift both from society and his creative urge. But when his mother dies, Rob is suddenly presented with an unwanted yet intriguing problem to solve - minutes before her death, he discovers that she was hoping to deliver a package to an enigmatic character called Mr Satoshi, but the name and the contents of the parcel are shrouded in mystery. So begins a quest that takes Rob out of his isolation and plunges him, anxious and unprepared, into the urban maelstrom of Tokyo. With the help of a colourful group of new acquaintances - an octogenarian amateur detective; a beautiful 'love hotel' receptionist; an ex-sumo wrestler obsessed with Dolly Parton - Rob edges closer to uncovering the mystery surrounding Mr Satoshi, and in the process comes face to face with some demons of his own. Combining several interlocking mysteries - both past and present - Who is Mr Satoshi? is a uniquely inventive and unforgettable story of a fragile soul coming to terms with the fact that no one, in the end, is quite who they seem to be.

I fell in love with Jonathan Lee’s writing. Deeply funny, wry and satirical we are taken on an exploration of self – and others - , in Who is Mr. Satoshi. When Foss’s mum dies, he is at such a low point in his life that he just can’t move on with things. He is still trying to cope with the death of his wife. His life is dark and hollow and grey. His mum’s unexpected death doesn’t really galvanise him as much as prod him into doing something different, something outside his comfort zone.

He takes on this quest his mum left him: find Mr. Satoshi and give him this box. Easier said than done because Satoshi is not really the guy’s name...

Besides the fact of: who is this Satoshi guy, questions are raised about the life his mum lead before she met Foss’s dad. I mean...how much do we know about our parents anyway, before they were our parents?
As Foss’s takes up the quest and travels to Tokyo, meeting a variety of truly bizarre and colourful characters along the way, we come to see how Foss views himself from the outside rather from the inside out. Deeply interesting from a characterisation point of view, this literary debut by Mr. Lee really rocked my socks. In theory, none of us should really like Rob Fossick. He is not a warm, friendly kind of guy. He is not the usual male hero we see touted. He's not even an anti-hero to be honest - he's just a guy who is sliding towards the darker scale of things and he suffers from sadness and probably some ennui. But what Lee manages to do, by very careful observation, is make Foss be you and me at our lowest point. We can identify with this stunted man, with his negative reaction to being around people, being asked question, putting himself out there. And by doing so we learn to like Foss, we realise he's an okay guy, if he allows himself to be.
The novel works well as an overall narrative too - Lee uses Foss's point of view and fills it in with newspaper articles and letters and includes a secret service transcript. All of this works to layer the mystery so that even when Foss meets Mr Satoshi...we still don't know who he is, working on the premise that even though we may think we know people, we don't really.

What I also liked is Lee's descriptive passages which vary from wonderfully eloquent and sometimes surreal to deeply stark and remorseless. Full of unexpected humour and sadness, this is a bittersweet novel that will stay with you long after you’ve read it. Literary fiction has a new star on it’s horizon and its name is Jonathan Lee and I'm proud to be one of the fan-girls.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cursed by David Wellington

Revenge in the face of bloodlust is seldom sweet…

There’s one sound a woman doesn’t want to hear when she’s lost and alone in the Arctic wilderness: a howl. For Cheyenne Clark, there’s a bad moon on the rise. When a strange wolf’s teeth slash her ankle to the bone, her old life ends, and she becomes the very monster that has haunted her nightmares for years. Worse, the only one who can understand what Chey has become is the man - and wolf - who’s doomed her to this fate. He also wants her dead.

Yet, as the line between human and beast blurs, so too does the distinction between hunter and hunted…for Chey is more than just the victim she appears to be. But once she’s within killing range, she may find that - even for a werewolf - it’s not always easy to go for the jugular.

Like me, you will possibly look at that and think: "another werewolf book?" or "definitely a re-hash of Kelley Armstrong" and like me, in both cases, you would be wrong.

There is nothing at all romantic about Chey or Powell, the man she meets after she's attacked by a lycanthrope. The story is fierce and gripping and harsh and brutal. I close my eyes and I can see the setting the author has decided to use to portray the isolation Chey finds herself in. The place sounds insane and only the toughest of the tough survive up there, in the lands of the Inuit and timberworlves.

This story is all about Chey's character growing stronger and tougher to cope with an impossible and unpleasant situation. After she escapes drowning in a flash-flood, Chey stumbles through the wilderness, heading north, towards civilisation. But then she gets chased up a tree by a pack of wolves, Chey thinks life can't get shittier. Well, it does. The "normal" wolves scatter with the advance of something altogether scarier, the larger werewolf that makes itself home in this forbidding wilderness. Chey shimmies higher but her ankle gets swiped by the wolf's claws. She looks down in those eyes and recognises their colour and their shape. She knows she's found the thing she's come out here to hunt.

Chey manages to stay in the tree until the wolf disappears. She stumbles through the forest, keen to find someone to help her. And eventually she does. His name is Dzo. Dzo decides that she needs help and takes her to his friend, Powell. Yes, Powell and the wolf is the same being. Chey realises this but plays her game carefully. She gets as much information from Powell as she can about him, about where they are, what is likely to happen to her as a wolf, etc.

Slowly, a camaraderie builds up between them and Chey has to struggle very hard to bite down on the those feelings because - well because there is something we're not told yet. We don't know why Chey's come out here to the middle of nowhere. We know she's after the werewolf, but why? Also, how does her hunting the werewolf affect her as she's been bitten by him and will be changing into a wolf herself? How far is she prepared to go to extract revenge?

I genuinely thought that Cursed by David Wellington ranks up there with some of the best horror / dark urban fantasy we've seen for several years. I think it worked so well for me because of Chey's character. She wasn't necessarily just a kick-ass heroine, but she was definitely strong and determined and driven. She thought with her heart and her head and not her groin (sorry, I had to put that in there) and kept moving forward, all the time, no matter what she went through. I admire Chey hugely and would like to say to the author that he definitely has a new fan.

Cursed is not a very big book, but it took me a while to read it. I did it in several readings because it felt so much heavier (in my mind) than I initially thought it would be. I'm a very visual reader - I think I've said this before in other reviews - so if I can't picture my characters I'm reading about or their setting, a book loses me. In Cursed I wanted to hide in my bedroom, with the light on and my electric blanket turned on full. Deeply atmospheric and more thoughtful than some readers may expect, I'd recommend Cursed with two big thumbs (paws?) up.
Cursed is out in the first week of September, published by Piatkus.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Poisoned House by Michael Ford


Abigail is a maidservant in Greave Hall, an elegant London household governed by the tyrannical housekeeper, Mrs Cotton. Whilst the widowed master slips slowly into madness, Mrs Cotton gradually usurps the position of gentlewoman of the house. She wears his dead wife’s jewellery and clothes, entertains guests as though the house is her own and reserves her most despotic treatment for Abi.

In the dead of night, Abi makes a desperate bid for freedom, but is soon captured and returned to Greave Hall. As Mrs Cotton’s malice intensifies, a ghostly presence distracts Abi with clues to a deadly secret. And Abi now realises that she can trust no one in the house.

Don't be put off by the size of this book, it's not the biggest but it's crammed with gothic goodness and atmosphere. The book opens with Abi running away from Greave Hall. Once returned by police it becomes clear that Abi has an unenviable position as Mrs Cotton's most hated servant. Abi's days start at 5.30 and go on until 9.00 with little chance for personal time. Although this was the case for many servants in this period Abi has more than hard work to cope with. Her mother, a servant at the same house, died a year before and since then Abi has been dealing with the grief and Mrs Cotton's persecution.

It soon becomes apparent that something else is going on at Greave Hall. The master is struggling with insanity and often refuses to leave his room. The house already has a feeling of uncertainty and menace. One night Abi wakes to find her window open and the room freezing. When she gets up to close it a hand reaches in and grabs her wrist. Poor Abi screams and wrenches her arm free only to get into trouble for waking Mrs Cotton. From this point onwards the house, or something within it, makes it clear that something awful has happened. Along with the escalation of the spirit's activity, Mrs Cotton becomes more evil with every passing day; she's a classic love-to-hate character. The secondary characters of Lizzy, Rob and Samuel are all well-formed and loyal. I was relieved after reading the synopsis that Abi actually had some friends at Greave Hall to provide a little lightness in the book.

I loved this book from beginning to end. Every page is loaded with suspense and terror. I was genuinely chilled at times - the scene where Abi discovers a photograph that had been left to develop was wonderful. Abi is likeable and resourceful; the steps she takes to try to discover more about the presence in the house are believable. She drives the book along with her desire to find the truth. I sat down one morning expecting to read a few chapters but got to a point where I had to know what happened and was turning the pages like a maniac. This is a perfect ghost story, beautifully told.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Abrams and Chronicles Intern chat to MFB

I "met" Kat when she kindly emailed MFB about some books to review. I was naturally thrilled to be approached by Abrams & Chronicle Books and of course said yes. She kindly let me have a stack of books, one of which is Troy High (review) and some others which I'm lining up for September. Kat and I got on really well and I decided to ask her to write a small post about what she got up to as an intern and this is her response:

Liz at MFB very nicely asked me to write a review, unfortunately not of a book, but of my time spent as an intern at Abrams & Chronicle Books. Firstly, to quickly introduce myself, my name’s Kat, I’m 20, about to go into my 3rd year at Manchester University, and for the last 6 weeks I’ve been an intern at Abrams & Chronicle Books in London.

I should start off explaining how I got the internship. I’ve had quite a bit of work experience with general PR companies over the last 5 years; however I didn’t find it extremely interesting when I didn’t enjoy the client I was promoting. Books, on the other hand, I can be extremely interested in promoting! In January this year I emailed loads and loads and loads (I could go on) of publishing houses and didn’t hear a peep! So in April, time to take action, I decided to go to The London Book Fair at Earls Court. Although a Marketing and Sales Show, I thought I’d just go, wave my contact details under people’s noses and generally show some enthusiasm. What had I got to lose? I met Chuck Lang (the Managing Director of Abrams & Chronicle Books), very briefly, and we talked about why I was there and the work experiences I had had. He gave me his card and I didn’t really think anything of it. However, at home, I emailed everyone that I got cards from at the book fair. A little while later, Chuck emailed me back, and he offered me a job for 6 weeks starting June 5th. Progress!

Throughout the past 6 weeks I’ve been working with the Publicity Team and I have been involved with numerous activities surrounding A&C’s authors and clients.

I was initiated and have been mentored by Jane Pickett (Publicity & Marketing Manager) who went through all 5 catalogues and introduced me to all the Autumn 2010 titles.

Due to the recent merger of Abrams Books and Chronicle in London they had no fully functioning social networks. In my time spent there I’ve set up Twitter (@AbramsChronicle), Facebook and YouTube accounts, which are now all pretty active and hopefully well received by the literary online community. Before this internship, I had never really step foot into the Land of Tweets and now, very much to my surprise, I love it! I’ve now got a much better understanding of how the three social networks interact and generally I’ve learnt what makes Tweeters tick, what Tweeters actually like and that the shameless plugging of a book most definitely doesn’t get the most clicks!
I’ve also delved into the world of YA literary bloggers. Honestly, it shocked me. These blogs, MFB being a perfect example, are so dedicated in writing their reviews and have such a dedicated fan base, which is so unheard of if you’re outside the loop, its amazing! Publishers need to sit up and see this, relatively new, platform as a key publicity tool and use it effectively (but of course, not corruptly!). No matter if it’s a blog involving YA fiction, foodies or crafters, I certainly won't be underestimating them from now on!

I’ve spent a lot of the last 6 weeks also doing general admin and filing, which is indeed a part of any internship. I’ve also been writing many press releases, mailing blads (if you don’t know what these are – they are basically a small hard copy sample of the book) , sending out press releases, pdfs and books to media types (all via the use of some fancy company programmes).

I have indeed been out the office a few times. I’ve been to an events meeting at a particularly nice department store and a book launch in Covent Garden. Both, probably being perks of the job. I’ve also been in contact with the US offices in New York and San Francisco quite a bit, which has been really good and gets you thinking out of the London box you sometimes feel yourself falling into.

Every Monday I read all the weekend papers. As a student I barely read 2 papers a week and here I’ve had a news overload which has, in retrospect, been really good for me. Keeping up on all the publishing news is really useful for any publishing house, from finding out about the latest e-book news to what your fellow competitors are up to. Never underestimate the power of the printed press!

So, that’s pretty much it! The people I’ve been working with have all been lovely, given me lots to do and actually listened to my opinions, which has been really nice. I’ve found my time here really rewarding and it’s given me a real insight into how publicity in publishing ,and generally how publishing houses, work. Thankfully, working at Abrams & Chronicle Books my passion for books hasn’t been squashed (which was a worry!) and I am most definitely glad that I jumped on a train down to Earls Court last April, leaving rainy Manchester behind me.


Fantastic write-up, thanks Kat. It is so glad to see someone new to the industry take to it like a fish to water. It is also flattering to see how quickly Kat realised how hard us bloggers worked at getting the word out there about cool books.
And speaking of cool books - this is one that Kat sent along (amongst others) which I am incredibly excited about. Isn't it just delicious looking? We wish Kat the best of luck with the rest of her interning at another publisher's house and I hope we'll be able to hear from her again soon.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Winter's Wife by Elizabeth Hand - Dark Alchemy (SSM)

Wizards and witches have lived in the human imagination for centuries. From ancient to modern times they have held great power in our literary lives. Here for a brand new audience is a collection of electrifying stories that show us benign and evil, ambivalent and determined characters that will stalk our imaginations and thoughts for some time to come. From the pens of Eoin Colfer, Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen and many more spring an incredible array of stories that will thrill readers young and old.

Includes stories by Neil Gaiman, Garth Nix, Mary Rosenblum, Kage Baker, Eoin Colfer, Jane Yolen, Orson Scott Card, Patricia A. McKillip, Elizabeth Hand, Andy Duncan, Peter S. Beagle, Nancy Kress, Tanith Lee, Terry Bisson, Terry Dowling, Gene Wolfe, Tad Williams and Jeffrey Ford.

I've chosen to review Winter's Wife by Elizabeth Hand because I am in love with it. Also, because she is in theory a new to me author to read. Although Elizabeth Hand has been an author whose books I've seen often, I've never for no reason other than laziness and overcrowded shelves, picked them up. I now want to read her back-catalogue, because of this short story.

There is nothing over the top in Ms. Hand's writing. Justin's voice as a young boy is spot on, as are his observations about Winter, the area they live in, and subsequently, Winter's wife which he goes and fetches from Iceland.

Vala sounds fantastically odd and quirky and the second she shows up in the short story, you know things have changed, you're just not sure if it's for the better or worse.

Justin is employed by Winter to help them build a decent house as Vala is pregnant. Progress is good but then Winter discovers that his neighbour has sold his land to a developer and all-round nasty piece of work. Things kick up a further notch and come to blows when the developer guy starts chopping down ancient trees in the forest.

It's Vala who steps forward and acts. I'm not revealing what happens, but it's pretty twisty and scary and you will fistpunch the air...just a tiny bit.

Why this works is because Winter and Vala are so patently suited to one another. Ms. Hand does an amazing job of creating a new mythology here and it held me rapt. I've read the short story maybe five times now, it is that good. And I'm thinking to myself that if she ever wrote the rest of Vala and Winter's story, I'd be there in a flash, cash in hand.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Poison Eaters by Holly Black

Holly Black is one of my must-buy authors so I was excited to get my hands on her first short story collection. I must admit I've yet to read the last few stories in this anthology so I'm sure I'll be back before the month is out with another favourite. I'm quite spoilt for choice already but one of the most poignant was Virgin.

It's written from the viewpoint of Jen, a girl who's run away from her foster home. She's living on the streets of Philadelphia during the summer, mulling over what she should do when the weather gets colder. She meets Zachary, a homeless boy who juggles for cash and is instantly drawn to him. He's quiet, kind and completely different to the other people she knows from the streets. They bump into each other in the library where's he's researching Unicorns.

Zachary lets Jen in on a secret. His mum was a drug dealer who sold information to the police. She and Zachary are dumped in some woods and, as they walk aimlessly, she's shot and killed by the people she betrayed. As Zachary is crying and scared in the woods a unicorn arrives and changes his life. Jen is enthralled but she tells her friend and Zachary's story soon turns into something to mock him with. The events that follow are a mixture of touching and tragic. I felt desperately sorry for Zachary, the innocent with the awful past who trusts too easily.

As with all of the stories I've read so far from this collection, Virgin is a perfectly formed gem which had a flavour of Valiant where beauty and magic can be found in the most desperate of places.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Zombie Britannica - Thomas Emson

In 2009, Canadian researchers warned that a zombie plague would wipe out civilisation.. unless we were ready. We weren't.

As temperatures reach unprecedented levels, the dead rise- and eath the living. There is no warning. There is no time to prepare. And with tens of thousands dead or infected, another waking nightmare comes to terrorise the survivors- the victims now rise up, a new wave of zombies hungry for human flesh.

As the nation teeters on the edge of extinction, those who survived the onslaught fight for their lives, and for the lives of their loved ones..

When Thomas Emson’s zombie apocalypse hits the UK, sweltering in the hottest summer on record, it hits with a bang. It hits the ground running, the Usain Bolt of apocalyptic visions. By the end of the second page the body count is in the hundreds, and the zombie tide is flowing unchecked through the capital cities, a tsunami of gnashing teeth and spurting fluids.

ZB begins with working mom Carrie’s story as she sets out to make her way back home, where her young daughter is hiding from the dead and her good for nothing father and his newfound hunger for living flesh. Her story is the central theme but it shares ZB with two other windows into the apocalypse.

In Wales, the initially surly and emotionally stunted Vincent, struggling to connect with the girl he fancies, reluctantly shows her around the local castle, unaware that its walls will save their lives long before their first kiss.

On the congested highways outside of Glasgow, a dysfunctional argues their way to the airport, heading for a traffic jam that will see them lose far more than their seat on the ‘plane.

ZB reads at a ferocious pace, reflecting the pace at which the apocalypse spreads. This is no gradual rising; all around the country the dead erupt from the earth, hungry for flesh.

It’s a classic scenario and one that lets Emson explore the effect the psychological trauma of seeing a horde of ragged, decomposing cannibals feasting on the living would have on people; there’s no mistaking the dead for any kind of rampaging drug addicts or mysterious infectees here. As it would, the reaction varies from person to person, from group to group depending on the brand of psychosis hidden deep beneath the skein of their mundane, everyday selves, brought violently to the fore as their minds try to process armageddon. Sure, it calls for you to take a leap of faith on a few points, but if you enjoy this genre then you would most likely understand that civilisation is a veneer, and one that gore encrusted nails would quickly scratch away.

Zombie Britannica is an incredibly easy and more-ish read; fast, edgy and bloody good fun.

By the way, the 2009 study into a zombie attack that the blurb (italics above) refers to can be found here if you're interested.

Monday, August 09, 2010

The Non-Event by Mike Carey from Masked, edited by Lou Anders (SSM)

Superheroes have come a long way since the "Man of Steel" was introduced in 1938. This brilliant new collection features original stories and novellas from some of today's most exciting voices in comics, science fiction, and fantasy. Each marvelously inventive tale shows us just how far our classic crusaders have evolved—and how the greatest of heroes are, much like ourselves, all too human.

As a big fan of comics and to a lesser extent superheroes (I'm just weird that way) I became very excited when I saw that Lou Anders was releasing an anthology called Masked. I became near hysterical when I saw the line-up contained within: Liu, Chadbourn, Willingham, Simone, Carey, Cornell, Sturges. My gods man, it was like a geeky wet dream.

I read Mike Carey's The Non Event over breakfast this morning. We are introduced to the tough talking Lockjaw who relates to us a story of a robbery attempt in London of the DeJong's bank on Aldwych. A handful of superpowered humans decide to stroll into a vault and empty out a lot of its contents, jewellery, bearer bonds, gold bullion etc. To fight their way clear of the superpowered cops and heroes who would no doubt answer the silent alarms.

It's a bit Oceans 11 without such a big cast and without Danny Ocean's charisma. Lockjaw's voice is matter of fact, veering into dislike and bitterness on occasion as he recounts how he agreed to bring in Gallo, the man he subsequently shot dead at the scene of the crime. We learn how they get into the vault, we learn how the almost pull it off and get as far as the main bank foyer when things go more than just pearshaped.

I liked the The Non-Event as Carey brings home the difficulty of being a superhuman with powers, using Lockjaw's stark retelling of the botched burglary attempt to reflect on how one small action, one of their number, tripping over a bucket and broom, completely changed how the entire game should have played out. How one thing managed to escalate the action into a truly unpleasant event with a very unpleasant outcome.

Sad, poignant and thoughtful, The Non Event is summed up by this excellent phrase on page 81 of the anthology: "Funny, huh? How you can be dead and buried and still keep right on walking, not knowing you took the hit."

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John


When orphaned Laura Marlin moves from a children's home to live with her uncle in Cornwall, she longs for a life of excitement just like the characters in her favourite detective novels.

A real life adventure is on hand as she is deposited at her uncle's spooky house . . . Why does her uncle, Calvin Redfern, forbid her to go to Dead Man's Cove? What's the truth about Tariq, the silent Indian boy who lives with the flamboyant Mukthars? Who is J? Who has left the message in a bottle for Laura to discover? Mysteries abound and who better to solve them than Laura Marlin, ace detective?

Accompanied by her trusty companion, Skye, a three-legged husky, the dog she's always wanted, Laura's adventures begin.

This is my first Lauren St John book. It won't be my last by any means.

Meeting Laura in Dead Man's Cove has shown me what a skilled writer can do with voice and character but also setting. Within the first few pages of picking this up, I was smitten. I wanted to run off and join Laura in St Ives on her adventure. Here is a heroine I wanted to be friends with. Funny, clever and brave, she shines like a shiny thing as she carefully feels her way through her new relationship with an uncle she never knew she had, deals with a very miserable and nasty housekeeper who seems set on making her life hell and with her budding friendship with the mysterious Tariq.

I loved everything about this book. The writing is excellent, the story is clever and full of twisty turns, our main character is charming and likable and the supporting cast of characters are more than just walk-ons.

I especially liked Laura's new uncle Calvin. Here is a man who gives Laura a vast amount of freedom and he trusts her implicitly. He doesn't know her from Adam yet he is prepared to trust her to be a stand-up kind of person. And his trust is not misplaced. Laura revels in being allowed to roam free around St Ives. She grew up in foster care and in a Home and everything was determined by rules. Now that she has no rules imposed on her, she feels like she can breathe, she can be her true self.

Deeply immersed in her reading of mysteries and thrillers, Laura loves the excitement of moving to St Ives, after she gets over the initial shock of the dark gloomy house she has to stay in. She sees mystery everywhere and wonders mainly about her uncle. He works odd hours and is hardly at home, but when they do have a chance to spend time together he is caring and lovely and treats her as an important someone in his life.

Then there is the mystery of Tariq - the son of the local shop-owners the impossibly glamorous Mukthars. He has no freedom and has to work all day in the shop. He speaks no English so Laura holds a lot of one-sided conversations with him. As their friendship grows, Laura realises that there is definitely something going on with Tariq and his "parents". Then she notices the bruises, that he looks really rough, like he's not slept for days.

As the author unfolds the story, we realise exactly how much danger Laura is in. On the surface Dead Man's Cove appears a nostalgic look at the innocence of childhood of a long ago time, but as we read further, we are transported to the here and the now and immersed in a world of crime and danger.

It is clever writing. Lauren St John is definitely - in my opinion - a master storyteller, keeping plot and pace steady, letting us run with Laura as she makes her discoveries. Her realisation that the situation she finds herself in is not just a small time mystery but something altogether bigger and that she needs to be brave and clever to see it through - well, pure magic.

I read the article Lauren St John wrote for the Waterstone's Books Quarterly magazine and I went home, picked up my copy of Dead Man's Cove and read it from cover to cover in a day during commuting and lunch the following day. Here is something special for both girls and boys to read. It has enough mystery and excitement to keep everyone entertained. Laura Marlin is a fantastic creation, irrepressible, gutsy, clever and very likable and I am very pleased to have met her and I look forward to her other adventures.

Dead Man's Cove is out today - hurrah - so make sure you head off as soon as possible to pick up a copy of this brand new series. Find Lauren's author website here.
Edited to add: COMPETITION TIME!
Just heard from the awesome Nina at Orion Kids that she's letting MFB have a signed copy of Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John to give away. So, to enter: comment below on your favourite holiday place to visit, be it UK or abroad, and why you love it there. The only rule is: UK entrants only, please! Entries close on 12th August. Get replying!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Tasty Teeth by Guilermo Del Toro & Matthew Robbins, Odder Jobs (SSM)

In 1994, Mike Mignola created one of the most unique and visually arresting comics series to ever see print: Hellboy. Tens of thousands have followed the exploits of “the World’s Greatest Paranormal Investigator” in comics form and novels. In 2004, writer/director Guillermo del Toro made Hellboy the number one film in the country, reaching millions more fans. Now see Mike Mignola’s creation as seen through the eyes of some of today’s best writers in film and literature.

The above is the write-up from the back of the anthology: Odder Jobs as edited by that amazing man, Christopher Golden.

This is one of my favourite anthologies of all time. Not just because it's about Hellboy whom I love, but because Mr. Golden has pulled together some fantastic names to write some of the short stories including friend of MFB, Tim Lebbon, Frank Darrabont, Charles de Lint (swoon) to name but three of the big names. He also managed to entirce Del Toro and Robbins on board to play in the sandbox and their offering Tasty Teeth is both creepy and surreal and I loved it.

It's right at the end of the anthology and much shorter than I would have liked, but if you have seen Hellboy II (I loved loved Prince Nuada) you may remember that the team fight against a bunch of small creatures called the tooth fairies. This short story is very much the precursor to that scene.

In the story Hellboy is on the trail of some missing kids. He finds only dry bones within the lair of some kind of monster...soon he discovers two kids locked up and instead of being scared of Big Red the stare at the things behind him. It's the tooth fairies and they like nothing more than eating your bones.
Needless to say, Hellboy does things his way and with a giant explosion he saves the day, rescuing two of the missing kids.

The story is short, as I mentioned before. In fact, it's more a scene / vignette, but it's a pretty cool way for the anthology to end regardless. Stay tuned for other reviews from Odder Jobs.

Cold Kiss Extract and pre-view review - John Rector

I picked up a copy of Cold Kiss by John Rector during my S&S visit last month. I read it in one sitting and I am DYING DYING to tell you guys about it, but as it isn't out for a long old while yet, I can only point you to this extract from Ally over at S&S and to urge you to pre-order a copy on Amazon to read as soon as it comes out.

So, pop by here to get that extract.

But, before you do, here's an extract of email I sent to Ally, which will give you a glimpse of my enthusiasm for this imaginative thriller:

I really lost myself in it whilst reading it – I kept telling Mark about it. It will make an excellent movie, too, I think. I really hope he does well! It reads really easily and the suspense is insane! I am deathly jealous that he can pull it off with such apparent ease!

Need I say more? Yes, okay: you know you're reading a good book when you talk back at the main characters, mainly berating them for being too nice, too trusting, not listening to their inner voice. This is such a book. Rector literally teases you along and within minutes you have this heavy dark feeling inside you - it's called premonition - and you just know things are going to go pearshaped but you aren't entirely sure HOW it's going to play out. And boy, he does a good job stringing us along and with each twist and turn you just want to throw that book across the room and shout at the characters but you don't, because it will mean that you don't finish it...and you have to know what happens...and how it happens.

And that's all I'm saying on that.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

In beauty, like the night - Norman Partridge - The Living Dead (SSM)

One of the 34 short stories comprising ‘The Living Dead’, I chose to read this more or lessly at random, although it’s safe to say the title played a part in the decision making process.

Set in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak, it’s the story of a young media type named Nathan who, on the verge of having the perfect apocalypse hideaway, finds that the zombies he’s inadvertently sharing the island with have a very different agenda.

Nathan’s character is quickly established, and the situation is built with successive strokes, before it’s all shaken up as the zombies make themselves known. And they’re the stars of the show, defying expectations and being suitably bitey. They rock Nathan’s world, and his descent into the legion of the living dead begins.

It’s quick, gripping and fun – everything a short story needs to be. Now to read the rest!

Monday, August 02, 2010

Chivalry - Smoke & Mirrors by Neil Gaiman (SSM)

Mrs. Whitaker found the Holy Grail; it was under a fur coat.

In Chivalry by Neil Gaiman from his anthology Smoke & Mirrors, we meet Mrs. Whitaker, a lonely widow, with no children of her own. We assume she leads a quiet and uneventful life - she collects her pension, visits Oxfam to buy various bits of bric a brac and the occasional Mills & Boon novel for a few pence. She has tea with an equally elderly lady and visits a friend with a damaged hip in hospital. She is unremarkable in every way. An elderly person none of us would like twice at.

Yet, she manages to find the Holy Grail in Oxfam. Her reaction is one of quiet surprise and she buys it, along with two M&B novels and she takes it home, where she washes out the red dusty stuff in the cup (!!!) and then lets it soak for a bit, before polishing it to a high sheen. She places it on her mantelpiece along with an old photo of her husband (now deceased) and a small soulful china basset hound.

Sir Galaad appears at her door, a knight in shining armour, on a Right High and Noble Quest, to procure the Holy Grail. Behind him his giant horse is tethered to her gate. Mrs. Whitaker takes to the young man, but only after she sees his credentials to make sure he is who he is. Sir Galaad spots the Holy Grail, the Sangreal, and begs Mrs. Whitaker to let him have it. She refuses. She is kindly but refuses.

Galaad visits a few more times. He offers her an amazing sword in return for the cup but she turns him down. He visits again, and he is a bit more battle weary than before. This time around her the Philospher's Stone and the Egg of a Phoenix. But he also offers her the Apple of Life. As Mrs. W holds the apple in her hand, some of the juice leaks onto her fingers and she licks it. She remembers what it was like being young, being married to her husband and to feel the eyes of handsome young men on her. She carefully places the apple back down, handing it back to Galaad. She gives him the grail and keeps the egg and stone, replacing the grail on the mantelpiece.

Galaad rides off on his giant horse, still a paragon of beauty and youth, grail quest fulfilled. Mrs. W visits Oxfam again shortly thereafter and notices that the young girl behind the till was no longer in attendance. Turns out she had run off with some handsome youth on a horse. She smiles to herself and putters around the shop and finds an ancient looking lamp...she looks at it carefully, considers it. Then puts it back, only buying the single paperback romance novel.

Wonderfully descriptive, this has to be one of my favourite shorts by Mr. Gaiman. It is humorous and filled with pathos. Overall it works so well as a keyhole view into the life of a solitary elderly woman who is, despite her advanced age, still very able, still very much aware of a bigger picture, even if she lives a small life and has become all but invisible to everyone else.

Sweet and hopeful this short story never fails to make me smile. Definitely a favourite and one that I enjoy re-reading for the sheer pleasure of the storytelling and tongue in cheek humour.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

August is Short Story Month

Completely and utterly stealing Nextread's fabulous idea from a few months ago, MFB have decided to host our own Short Story Month.

There will be short story reviews up each day for this month - just because they are fun and we felt the need to celebrate the importance of short stories in general. These vignettes and novellas are glimpses of greatness and have inspired me greatly in the past.

Short Story Month also means that all four of us here at MFB get the chance to share with you some of our favourite authors who have contributed to a large variety of really good anthologies. We will be doing science fiction, literary, new weird, horror, romance, YA and some kids fantasy anthologies, as well as some magical realism/urban fantasy stuff. A plethora of goodness in short form.

We hope you enjoy this feature as much as we will.

Long live anthologies and short stories!