for the love of all things wordy

Gimbling in the Wabe – Words, Words, Words

Polonius: What do you read, my lord? Hamlet: Words, words, words. ~William Shakespeare Although it can certainly be argued to the contrary, it seems that humans are the only creatures who use spoken language as opposed to creatures that “merely” communicate.  And although human language has existed for ages, written language has been around for only 4,000 years […]


LitStack Recs: Paris Stories & Javelin Rain

Paris Stories, by Mavis Gallant In this month of celebrating the short story (#ShortStoryMonth), there must be mention of one of my favorite collections, Mavis Gallant’s Paris Stories. Published in 2002, the book contains one of my favorite stories, Mlle. Dias de Corta. It concerns Mademoiselle, the boarder of a financially strapped Parisian widow, a […]


LitStack Review: The Spider’s War by Daniel Abraham

The Spider’s War Daniel Abraham Orbit Books Release Date:  March 8, 2016 ISBN 978-0-316-20405-7 In 2011, Orbit published The Dragon’s Path, the first volume of Daniel Abraham’s fantasy series “The Dagger and the Coin.”  Five years and four books later, The Spider’s War brings this superlative series to a close – and what an epic […]

spiders war

Gimbling in the Wabe – Peanuts and Crackerjacks

This is my favorite time of year.  Baseball season.  Early spring, and it’s still cool out.  We’ve yet to hit the heat and humidity of summer.  So far from October, and the post-season, there is still hope in the air, regardless of the team’s record so far.  This year, for my team, it’s a scant […]


LitStack Review: The Brotherhood of the Wheel by R. S. Belcher

The Brotherhood of the Wheel R. S. Belcher Tor Books Release Date:  March 1, 2016 ISBN 978-0-7653-8028-9 I grew up in the 1970s, mostly in small towns in the Midwest.  The truckers that would go rumbling down the highways that invariably transected our tiny burgs were legendary in their mystique.  As kids, my sisters and […]

brotherhood of the wheel

2015 Nebula Award Winners Announced

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) announced the winners of the 2015 Nebula Awards in a50th anniversary ceremony held in Chicago over the weekend, hosted by comedian John Hodgman.  Also announced were the awards for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science […]


2015 Bram Stoker Award Winners Announced

At this year’s StokerCon convention, in the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas, the Horror Writers Association – the premier organization of writers and publishers of horror and dark fantasy – announced the winners of the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards (named in honor of the author of the seminal horror novel, Dracula). The winners and […]

StokerCon 2016 Facebook Banner

The Love of A Good Woman, stories by Alice Munro

The short story has few practitioners as skilled as Alice Munro, now 84, who as far as I’m concerned, is a writer who’s all but required reading in #ShortStoryMonth. Munro famously began writing stories as a young mother, finding the story took “less time.” Lucky for readers that the genre turned out to be one that suited her. Since her first collection appeared in 1968, she has produced fourteen in all—and garnered numerous awards and prizes, including Canada’s Governor’s General Award, PEN/Malamud Award, the Rea Award for the Short Story, O. Henry Award and many more.

Munro is known for stories set in her home landscape of western Ontario, Canada, and focus on the intricacies of relationships in ways that are never sentimental. Her stories are told in a voice that intimates the deepest thoughts and feelings of a character, but are never cloying or sentimental. Munro is the furthest thing from it: her narrators are sharp-witted, sardonic, even biting in their observations.  So where to begin when first entering Munro country?

My recommendation is to begin mid-career. It’s there you’ll find her classically novelistic stories—where the density of novel is packed into thirty or so pages. The stories of this period may not be as stylistically daring as those in recent collections like Runaway, but there is something classically satisfying about the stories written 1982 and 1998, and the collections are, in this reader’s view, vintage Munro. “The Moons of Jupiter,” “The Progress of Love,” “Friend of My Youth,” and “The Love of A Good Woman” are some of Munro’s classic stories. As impossible as it is to choose, I’d direct first-time Munro readers to the collected titled The Love of A Good Woman. There you will find such classic stories as “The Children Stay,” a chilling tale of adultery and its effects viewed from the perspective of years later. Or “Before the Change,” an epistolary account of the adult daughter of a widowed country doctor, who, moving back home learns the secret the housekeeper had been blackmailing him with for decades. The title story of the collection is a domestic murder mystery, with an ailing husband, a devoted nurse, curious boys, and clues set down in a collage of time and memory.

Munro revels in what she calls “knotty” situations, where she can hold a mirror up to the complexity of life and apply her astonishing eye to the details, gathering time and events in her own unique fashion. Munro has famously referred to her narrative structure as that of a house, in which the reader is free to wander through its rooms in any order she pleases. It’s a way she herself prefers to read stories, she’s said. Though in the end, read them in any order you prefer, just be sure to take your time and savor them.

—Lauren Alwan

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LitChat Interview: Kimberly Brower, Rebecca Friedman Literary Agency

Kimberly Brower represents a wide range of authors, particularly those who write contemporary romance, women’s fiction, thrillers and young adult. Her clients are New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Amazon best selling authors, who are both traditionally and self published. Although she loves all things romance, she is also searching for books […]

Kimberly Brower

LitStack Recs: Thunderstruck & Other Stories & Seven Brief Lessons on Physics

Thunderstruck & Other Stories, by Elizabeth McCracken With April declared National Poetry Month, May is now officially Short Story Month, dedicated to reading, sharing, applauding and promoting the short story. On Twitter, Knopf has launched the hashtag #shortreads with links to stories, events, appreciations and advice. Given my deep appreciation of short stories, it seemed […]


LitStack Review: Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown Zen Cho Ace Books Release Date:  September 1, 2015 ISBN 978-0-425-28337-0 Magic and mayhem in proper English society during what feels to be the Regency era?  A Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers, a Sorcerer Royal who is (gasp!) a black man, and a small but growing movement to allow women to […]

Sorcerer dragon

2016 Locus Award Nominees Announced

Quickly becoming one of the premier science fiction/fantasy literary awards out there, the Locus Awards are determined by polling the readers of Locus magazine (subtitled The Magazine of The Science Fiction & Fantasy Field), both in print and online.  Locus was founded in 1968 and the awards themselves were first handed out in 1971. This […]

Featured artwork by Galen Dara, one of the 2016 Locus Awards nominated artists.

2015 Shirley Jackson Award Nominees Announced

If you are a reader of horror stories, or those that invoke psychological suspense, then you probably know the name Shirley Jackson.  Ms. Jackson wrote such classic novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as the well known short story, “The Lottery.” To honor the legacy of Shirley […]

Shirley Jackson Awards

LitStack Review: Arkwright by Allen Steele

Arkwright Allen Steele Tor Books Release Date:  March 1, 2016 ISBN 978-0-7653-8215-3 Allen Steele is a prolific science fiction author who has won three Hugo Awards, serves on the Board of Advisors for both the Space Frontier Foundation and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and is well known for his Coyote Series […]

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CR Banner - Thick & Thin

Title: Thick & Thin (Thin Love, #3)
Author: Eden Butler
Genre: NA | Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 25, 2016

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My love was thick.
Her faith was thin.
Somewhere in the middle is where life found us.

I claimed her when I was a boy.
I held her until I was a man.
She was my first thought every morning, my last smile at night, and a million memories in between.
Then one night, with her warmth still lingering on the sheets, Aly King walked away from me, from us, from our life.

They say time heals all wounds, but not for me.
Not when my heart is empty.
Not when there is nothing but a sea of meaningless faces wherever I go.
It always comes back to her.
Aly needs reminding of how drunk our love made us, before she forgets completely.
Before we lose our chance.
Before we are irrevocably broken.


Books in the Thin Love Series

About Eden Butler

Eden Butler is an editor and writer of Mystery, Suspense and Contemporary Romance novels and the nine-timEden Butler Pices great-granddaughter of an honest-to-God English pirate. This could explain her affinity for rule breaking and rum.

When she’s not writing or wondering about her possibly Jack Sparrowesque ancestor, Eden patiently waits for her Hogwarts letter, edits, reads and spends way too much time watching rugby, Doctor Who and New Orleans Saints football.

She is currently living under teenage rule alongside her husband in southeast Louisiana.

Please send help.


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Arthur C. Clarke 2016 Finalists Announced

Now here are some awards finalists that we can feel good about! The Arthur C. Clarke Award is given for the best science fiction novel first published in the UK during the previous year. The award was established with a grant given by Sir Arthur C. Clarke and the first prize was awarded in 1987 […]

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LitStack Rec: Memoirs of Place & The Bassoon King

On Memoirs of Place: A Quick List I always appreciate a good memoir that centers on place. And luckily, there are writers who view setting as a key element of experience. For this reader, when place, any place, has a role in the account—a crumbling childhood home in Far Rockaway, N.Y., a remote mountain road […]

bassoon king

2016 Hugo Finalists Announced

The finalists for the 2016 Hugo Awards have been announced.  They include: BEST NOVEL Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie The Cinder Spires: The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin Seveneves by Neal Stephenson Uprooted by Naomi Novik   BEST NOVELLA Binti by Nnedi Okorafor The Builders by Daniel Polansky Penric’s […]

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Gimbling in the Wabe – Our Shakespeare

Saturday is the 452nd anniversary of what we believe was the birth date of William Shakespeare, and the 400th anniversary of what we know was the date of his death.  The assumption is that he was born on April 23, 1564, not because there is a definitive record of his birth, but because we do […]

William Shakespeare wallpaper

LitStack Rec: my name on his tongue & Hild

my name on his tongue, by Laila Halaby In the climate of inflamed rhetoric about immigrants that has predominated in this election year, a small, quiet book like Laila Halaby’s my name on his tongue can speak volumes. In her first book of poetry, published in 2012, Halaby mines issues of identity, geography and the […]


2016 Pulitzer Prizes Announced

The Pulitzer Prizes are awarded annually for achievement in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition in the United States.  They were established in 1917 by provisions in the will of Hungarian born Joseph Pulitzer, the esteemed publisher of the New York World and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  They are administered by Columbia University. This […]


Crash Course: essays from where writing and life collide, by Robin Black

The third book from short story writer and novelist Robin Black collects her recent essays, many of which first appeared on the great, and sadly erstwhile literary blog, Beyond the Margins. Crash Course, subtitled essays from where writing and life collide, is aptly divided into two sections. Part One, LIFE (& Writing), is followed by WRITING (& Life), and both perspectives offer insights writers will find instructive and heartening. Crash Course, while lending wisdom on a range of writing and business-of-writing topics, also reads like a memoir, showing us the writer as she reckons with her past and the self that has emerged. I especially appreciated the forthright stance Black takes with her struggles, aspirations, doubt, and sense of accomplishment, all delivered in the deft prose for which her fiction is highly praised.

There is, for example, the late start to her work as a writer—re-married with two small children, battling the dread and desire to write, while at the same time being derailed by agoraphobia. There is too, the sorrow and shame of the years of delayed work, a regret that Black sometimes finds hard to shake. Years later, despite the leap of enrolling in a graduate creative writing program and the subsequent success of two books (a story collection If I loved you I would tell you this, and a novel, Life Drawing), the worry can still persist:

“On any given day, I don’t know if I will be able to write, I don’t know if I will like what I produce…I don’t know whether, if published, it will find readers for whom it ‘succeeds’…I don’t know if I will be publicly insulted or lauded for the work I have done, or ignored.”

That unpredictability, and uncertainty, she points out, is also a state writers seek, even though (or perhaps because) it’s uncomfortable. As Black wisely observes, the rewards that come with its risks are “something for which to be grateful.”

The essay “AD(H)D I” looks at the futility of trapping oneself, and others, in a cage of perfection. As an adult with Attention Deficit Disorder, there is a period in which Black’s life is in a general state of upheaval with lack of focus and follow-through. She encounters the proverbial opposite upon meeting the man who would be her second husband, an organized, seemingly unflappable person who, as Black tells it, brings a sense of order to the chaos—though not without its complications. This orderly, attentive man unwittingly throws her own qualities into a less-attractive high relief:

“…he found my left sneaker, cleaned our clogged gutters, replaced our souring milk, and remembered to pay our bills. The bastard!”

What this essay achieves, as do so many in this collection, is the quick pivot from life to writing. In “AD(H)D I”, the turn takes place as the couple comes to an understanding based on mutual empathy—an event that for Black brings a revelation—that her husband isn’t the one who needs to change. This epiphany, as she next points out, though groundbreaking in real life, isn’t as effective in fiction, adding, “the bar for plausibility is higher in fiction than in fact.” This essay runs early in the collection, but in the facile shift from life to writing we understand how Black means to show us the way each is informed by the other.

 Crash Course is also a lesson in the short essay. Most pieces run two to five pages yet each feels complete, and effortless. Black looks at a range of issues, among them: on writing query letters (including the author’s own. Tip: think voice); on inaction in fiction; revision and letting go of first ideas; on the excellence of adverbs (shout out to Truly, Madly, Deeply); true-life anecdote versus the narrative needs of story; and some qualities of distinctive fiction (hint: momentum, authority, and “a confident intelligence”).

One of the most fascinating threads in this collection is Black’s relationship with her father, a brilliant, complicated, and troubled man whose role in her personal history is clearly powerful. In matters of achievement, we learn, the elder Black’s view was “If it isn’t to be a work of genius, it isn’t worth writing,” a standard that rendered Black, in her words, “a study in blockage.” She writes, “Even as I battle the toxic standards of success that my father breathed into my dreams, I find myself grateful for his example of how fiercely one can try to fight a demon down.”

That personal history made me wildly curious about this larger-than-life formative relationship and its role in forging the writer from her nascent self. I can guess an author as inventive, smart, and anchored by deep feeling as Black has plenty of projects in the queue, any of which I’d eagerly read, and it would be thrilling if that memoir were among them.

Read more about Robin Black here.

—Lauren Alwan

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National Library Week: How a Library Saved My Life

April 10 – 16 is National Library Week, and this year’s theme is “Libraries Transform“, reminding all Americans that today’s libraries are not just about what they have for people, but what they do for and with people. Have you been to your local library lately?  They really have become amazing places.  If you’ve been to one […]


Gimbling in the Wabe – Sometimes It Snows in April

Since my plans for an original Gimbling in the Wabe went a bit off the rails this week, I’m taking advantage of this morning’s snow to dust off a former offering.  Even though today’s snow was nothing even remotely like what came down in 2013 (when this essay was first published), it nevertheless was honest to goodness snow, and this […]

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LitStack Recs: Changing My Mind &

Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays Zadie Smith This collection of essays came about by accident, Zadie Smith tells us in the foreword, but the voice and curiosity behind it makes this read seamless and satisfying. My hope, as a reader of essays, whether the topic is snow camping or religious fanatics or Monarch butterflies, is […]


2016 Aurora Awards Shortlist Announced

The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association has announced their shortlists for the 2016 Aurora Awards, honoring the best works and activities by Canadian science fiction/fantasy authors and enthusiasts, both professional and fan-based, in 2015.  The winners will be announced in August at Canvention, to be held in Calgary, Alberta. The nominees for the Aurora […]

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Blog Tour: Catching Serenity by Eden Butler

  TITLE: Catching Serenity (Seeking Serenity Book 4) AUTHOR: Eden Butler GENRE: Contemporary Romance BLOG TOUR: April 1 – 9   SYNOPSIS It began with a look. Just one, thrown my way. A mad, dizzying rush of desire cracking across the patio, bouncing around my friends, ignoring everything but the heat bubbling between his eyes […]

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Gimbling in the Wabe – Tangible Authors

I am an extremely lucky person.  At times when I am feeling particularly magnanimous, I would even say that I am blessed. I live in an existence where I am surrounded by books.  I own books, I can download books electronically, I have a library nearby where I can not only check out books but […]

The featured photo this week is of Hugo Award winning author John Scalzi ("Redshirts", "Old Man's War", "Lock In", etc.) with one of his cats.  His kitties have their own Twitter account: "The Scamperbeasts", with over 6,000 followers.  They have a ways to go to catch up with Scalzi, though - he currently has more than 97,000 followers on Twitter.

2015 BSFA Award Winners Announced

The British Science Fiction Association announced the winners of the 2015 BSFA Awards on March 26 at the British National Science Fiction Convention (known as Eastercon), held in Manchester.  For the first time ever, the award for Best Novel and for the Best Short Story went to the same person:  Aliette de Bodard.  Of winning both […]


LitStack Review: The Past by Tessa Hadley

The Past Tessa Hadley Harper Release Date:  January 5, 2016 ISBN 978-0-06-227041-2 As I read Tessa Hadley’s newest novel, The Past, I had the same feeling as when I eat brussel sprouts.  To be honest, I don’t particularly care for brussel sprouts; they are somewhat of an acquired taste for my rather pedestrian palate.  But […]

(Photo credit:  Author Tessa Hadley walking through an abandoned house and gardens in Somerset, England, by Gareth Phillips for the Wall Street Journal.)

Announcing the Winners of the 2015 Aurealis Awards

The winners of the 2015 Aurealis Awards – Australia’s speculative fiction awards, named after the esteemed literary magazine – were announced this weekend at CONTACT2016, the 55th annual Australian National Science Fiction Convention, held in Brisbane, Queensland.  Also announced was the recipient of The Convenors’ Award for Excellence, which recognizes a particular achievement in speculative […]


2015 National Book Critics Circle Awards Announced

The National Book Critics Circle has announced the winners of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Awards, as well as honoring the recipients of three direct (non-shortlisted) awards. Take a look! FICTION WINNER: The Sellout by Paul Beatty Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff The Story of My Teeth by Valeria Luiselli The Tsar of […]

Natl Book Award Fiction Winners 2015



They are the lost boys.

Sons of mafia mistresses expected to keep their fathers’ sins in the shadows. The lucky ones are forgotten.KM_TheEnforcer

Unfortunately for Valentino “Tino” Moretti, his brother Nova was too smart to be forgotten, and too valuable to risk when he resists a life of crime. So they punished Tino instead. Forced into the cruel world of the Sicilian Mafia at twelve, Tino was broken before he was old enough to know the man he was supposed to be. Now he’s what the mafia made him.

The enforcer.

A trained killer forbidden to love, but he did anyway. He’s loved Brianna all along.

Raw and beautiful, their romance was all consuming and far too dangerous. They were ripped apart a long time ago. It’s not until the borgata puts out a hit on her that Brianna falls back into Tino’s arms, churning up their dark past and unraveling all the Moretti brothers’ closely guarded secrets.

This isn’t the end of the story. It’s only the beginning, and it is brutal.

There’s a reason enforcers are considered too deadly to love.




Hello! It is Kele Moon, hopping through the internet to spread the word about my latest book, The Enforcer. Finally, Tino’s book is out. Here is a little snippet from the story. Thank you to all the blogs hosting the tour! Be sure to enter the rafflecopper and comment on tour posts for a chance to win a chance for one of four $10 Amazon gift certificate or one of two books of Viper.  The giveaway starts March 20, 2016 and ends April 2, 2016.



Brianna stepped back when she saw Tino staring at her.

Her cheeks flamed with embarrassment.

She glanced away from Tino still spread out on the couch, thighs apart, cock straining against his jeans, with his washboard abs, broad chest, and thick biceps all on display. His full lips were illuminated in the moonlight from the glass windows showing off the six-million-dollar Midtown view Moretti money afforded Carina.

He was a fantasy come to life, and she would have to be dead not to look, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t mortified to be caught. “Y-you were talking in your sleep,” she lied. “I was checking to see if you were okay.”

“I wasn’t sleeping.”

His voice had a rough edge to it that gave Brianna goose bumps. Still she avoided looking at him as she argued, “You made a sound. You were dreaming.”

Tino quirked an eyebrow at her. “I knew you were watching.”

“Oh.” She closed her eyes when she realized that low groan and the arch of his hips were for her benefit. “You wanted to embarrass me. You succeeded. So congratulations.” She didn’t know if she was angrier with Tino or herself. “I’m going back to bed.”

She turned to leave, but he called out, “I’ll let you watch. If that’s your thing…I’ll do it.”

Brianna turned back to him with wide eyes, because she really couldn’t believe he meant what it sounded like he meant.

Who would do that?

Tino stared at her, unblinking, bedroom eyes hooded and dark in the moonlight. “Is it your thing?”

“Is what my thing?” Her voice was raspy with fear and desire. Her heartbeat was thundering, and the ache between her thighs was overwhelming. “Watch what, exactly?”

“Watch me jerk off thinking about you,” he said without even flinching. Then he cupped himself through his jeans like he had before when she thought he was sleeping, and arched his hips up. “Want it?”

She felt hypnotized by him and the raw sexuality that was choking the air out of the living room. She nodded silently, her gaze on his hand and the way he grabbed himself.

“Yeah,” she said, not sure if she shocked him more or herself when she admitted, “I want it.”

He raised his eyebrows skeptically, making it obvious she surprised him, but he pulled at the button to his jeans anyway. “You sure?”

Brianna looked to the opened fly, the zipper sliding down from the strain of his cock pressing against it. She nodded again. “I’m sure.”

Maybe she just wanted to know she could meet him halfway.

There was such a hard, deadly air to Tino now. Life made him feral, and no matter how beautiful he was, touching him now was dangerous, but she still wanted it…desperately.

He forced the zipper the rest of the way down, still watching her intently, making Brianna very aware of the spaghetti-strap nightgown she wore. The way his gaze ran over her body had her realizing the city lights behind her caused the thin blue material to be see-through. He stopped and stared at the V of her nightgown, unapologetically eyeing her tits.


Brianna’s nipples had tightened, and Tino noticed because he missed nothing. She folded her arms over her chest and shifted where she stood.

“Yes. A little,” she admitted and looked toward the closed door to Carina’s room. “Aren’t you?”

“Nope.” Tino pushed his jeans down to prove his point, exposing a pair of tight blue designer briefs that made him look like an underwear model.

Brianna knew he was big, but seeing the way his cock filled out those briefs, curving to the left and nearly pushing past the waistband, had her gripping at her grandmother’s cross around her neck simply because she needed to do something with her hands.

He actually went so far as to kick off his jeans and push the blanket to the floor, leaving himself vulnerable to Carina or Paco walking out. More so, putting himself on display for Brianna, and she couldn’t help but ask, “Aren’t you embarrassed?”

He cupped himself again. “Do I look like I have something to be embarrassed about?”

“No.” Brianna shook her head.





A freckle-faced redhead born and raised in Hawaii, Kele Moon has always been a bit of a sore thumb and has come to enjoy the novelty of it. She thrives on pushing the envelope and finding ways to make the impossible work in her story telling. With a mad passion for romance, she adores the art of falling in love. The only rules she believes in is that, in love, there are no rules and true love knows no bounds.

So obsessed is she with the beauty of romance and the novelty of creating it, she’s lost in her own wonder world most of the time. Thankfully she married her own dark, handsome, brooding hero who has infinite patience for her airy ways and attempts to keep her grounded. When she leaves her keys in the refrigerator or her cell phone in the oven, he’s usually there to save her from herself. The two of them now reside in Florida with their three beautiful children, who make their lives both fun and challenging in equal parts—they wouldn’t have it any other way.


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Gimbling in the Wabe – A Thousand Words

* This Gimbling was first published in 2013.* Anyone who has eaten a ripe, juicy peach knows how messy they can be.  No amount of slurping will keep the juice from running down your chin, if you eat it straight from the pit with no napkin to contain it.  Eating a ripe, juicy peach – […]


LitStack Rec: My Misspent Youth & Three Parts Dead

My Misspent Youth, essays by Meghan Daum My introduction to Daum and her essays was Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, her account of wanting, finding, losing and finding the ideal home. In a way, it’s a memoir of coming into one’s own, though in the context of money matters—real estate, […]


LitStack Rec: The Empty Family & The Last Witness

The Empty Family, by Colm Tóibín  Colm Tóibín’s story collection, The Empty Family (released January 4, 2011) is one I always keep close by, dipping into the pages to take in the voices of its starkly vivid narrators. The prose is emotionally precise in the tradition of William Trevor and Edna O’Brien, as Tóibín’s stories […]

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2016 Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Longlist Announced

On Tuesday – International Women’s Day – the longlist for the Baileys Woman’s Prize for Fiction was announced.  The British prize, now in its 10th year, celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world. Works on the longlist include: A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett […]

Baileys longlist 2016

Happy Birthday, Tee!

    We here at LitStack couldn’t let the day pass without wishing a very happy birthday to our illustrious leader, Editor-in-Chief Tee Tate!  Not only is Tee a wonderful boss who has put so much love and effort into this website, but she’s a talented novelist, a good friend, and an all around incredible […]

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2015 Kitschie Award Winners Announced

The winners of the 2015 Kitschie Awards – the most tentacular of all literary prizes (!) – which rewards the year’s “most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic,” were announced last night in a ceremony in London, England.  (The awards are sponsored by Fallen London, the award-winning browser […]


LitStack Review: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley

The Providence of Fire Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, Book II Brian Staveley Tor Books Release Date:  December 8, 2015 ISBN 978-0-7653-3641-5 Brian Staveley seems like such a nice young man.  Former teacher, editor at a small press specializing in poetry, he lives in Vermont and “divides his time between running trails, splitting wood, writing, […]

Providence of Fire

Gimbling in the Wabe – Too Many Books

An oldie, but a goodie.  Enjoy! Too Many Books I have books upon the windowsills and books piled up on chairs. Books stacked high in corners and books upon the stairs. I have books packed tight on bookshelves and on top of them more books. Books piled high on nightstands and almost everywhere you looks. […]


LitStack Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows Leigh Bardugo Henry Holt and Company Release Date:  September 29, 2015 ISBN 978-1-62779-212-7 For many years, I have had a favorite rapscallion literary character of ill repute:  Jack Dawkins, better known as the Artful Dodger in Charles Dickens’ classic, Oliver Twist.  But now, the Dodger has some mighty strong competition:  Kaz Brekker, […]

Six of Crows

Finalists for the Bram Stoker Awards Announced

This week the Horror Writers Association (HWA), the premier organization of writers and publishers of horror and dark fantasy, announced the nominees for the 2015 Bram Stoker Awards.  The awards, named after the author of the horror masterpiece, Dracula, are given annually to works that exhibit superior writing in the horror genre. The nominees include: […]


2015 Kitschie Awards Shortlist Announced

The Kitschie Awards, now it their sixth year, rewards the year’s “most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic.”  They are sponsored by Fallen London, the award-winning browser game of a dark and mysterious London, designed by Failbetter Games. This year’s shortlist for “the most tentacular of all literary […]


Tiptree Award Looking for Reader Input

The James Tiptree, Jr. Literary Award is an annual award an annual literary prize for science fiction or fantasy that expands or explores our understanding of gender.  According to the Award’s website, “he aim of the award is not to look for work that falls into some narrow definition of political correctness, but rather to […]

James Tiptree Award banner

2015 Nebula Awards Nominees Announced

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) have announced the nominees for the 2015 Nebula Awards, as well as the nominees for the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy. According to the SFWA’s eligibility rules, all works first published in […]



Today we are sharing the cover for BENNETT (On the Line, #2) by Brenda Rothert. This book is currently up for pre-order and will be released on March 15th! KILLIAN, the first book in the On the Line series, also has brand new cover.

You can purchase the book by clicking the links below.



Bennett (On the Line, #2)

Releasing: March 15


Amazon | iBooks

Add Bennett to Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Bennett Morse devotes his time to chasing two things: an NHL career and women. He’s the easygoing member of his three-man line on the Fenway Flyers, content to play the game he loves and soak up the female attention it brings – as long as it’s from a different woman each time. He learned the hard way that choosing only one leads to heartache.

Newly single attorney Charlotte Holloway finds just what she needs in Bennett – a sweet, sexy man to ease the burn of her recent breakup. One night is all she wants from the left winger who seems to have all the right moves. Soon circumstance draws her back to Bennett, and the sparks between them become a fiery blaze. But with the stakes high, will they risk it all and put their hearts on the line?


Killian, the first book in the Out of Line series, had a make-over!


Killian (On the Line, #1)


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Add Killian to Goodreads

Book Blurb:

Killian Bosch knows he’s his own worst enemy – he just doesn’t give a damn. The star forward of a minor league hockey team, he’s unstoppable on the ice. His reckless behavior, devil-may-care attitude and complete disregard for consequences have made him a major source of headaches for the Fenway Flyers’ brass.

But the new Flyers owner is more steel than brass. Sidney Stahl is a disciplined woman who parlayed earnings from a college job into a real estate empire. She’s determined to transform the Flyers from marketing nightmare to hockey powerhouse. Once she gets Killian in line, she knows the rest of the team will follow his lead.

The seduction of his sexy new team owner is a challenge too forbidden for Killian to resist. Sidney plays into his attraction as a means of controlling him, but soon finds that she’s the one surrendering. It’s all on the line as Killian and Sidney are forced to choose – business or pleasure?




Brenda Rothert is an Illinois native who was a print journalist for nine years. She made the jump from fact to fiction in 2013 and never looked back. From new adult to steamy contemporary romance, Brenda creates fresh characters in every story she tells. She’s a lover of Diet Coke, chocolate, lazy weekends and happily ever afters.


Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | | Wattpad | Amazon

InkSlinger Blogger Final

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, friends and fans of American novelist, Harper Lee who passed away at the age of 89. HARPER LEE

On July 11, 1960, Lee’s novel To Kill A Mockingbird was published and garnered critical and commercial success. Last year, a prequel to Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman was published after being discovered in 2011 and was regarded as one of the year’s best selling books.

During her career and fiercely private life, Lee received an honorary doctorate of letters from The University Of The South in Sewanee, Tenn, a Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts, presented to her by President Barack Obama, in 2010.

2015 Aurealis Awards Finalists Announced

Americans have the Nebula Awards.  The Brits have the BSFA Awards.  And the Australians have the Aurealis Awards. Aurealis is an Australian speculative fiction magazine, launched in 1990 to provide a market for Australian speculative fiction writers, and with a further aim to raise authors’ public profiles; they instituted the Aurealis Awards in 1995.  New […]


Compton Crook Award Finalists Announced

The Baltimore Science Fiction Society, Inc. (BSFS) created the Compton Crook Award in 1982 to honor the best first novel of the year written by an individual author in the Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror genre.   This year, the nominees for the 2016 Compton Crook Award are: 5 to 1 by Holly Bodger Owl and the Japanese Circus […]


Vote For Your Favorite Locus Award Nominees

Along with the Hugos and the Nebulas, the Locus Awards are some of the biggest awards handed out for works in the science fiction and fantasy genres.  But did you know that you can vote for your favorite nominees without belonging to any organization or attending any convention?  Well, you can! Locus Online has posted the […]


LitStack Rec: The Films in My Life & Planetfall

The Films in My Life, by Francois Truffaut This past week, Francois Truffaut would have turned 84. The revered French filmmaker, who died in 1984 is the subject of numerous books,  dearth of books that cover the director’s life and work, but few directors step into the role of critic. Truffaut, one of the founders […]


2015 BSFA Shortlist Announced

This weekend, The British Science Fiction Association announced their shortlist for the 2015 BSFA Awards – the premiere British science fiction literary awards.  The nominees include:   Best Novel: Europe at Midnight by Dave Hutchinson Mother of Eden by Chris Beckett The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard Luna: New Moon by Ian […]


The People’s Choice Awards for Books Are Announced

The results are in, and the winners have been announced for the first annual People’s Choice Awards for Books (sponsored by the People’s Choice Awards and!  And the voters’ favorite books are: Favorite Fiction – The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah Favorite Nonfiction – Why Not Me? Mindy Kaling Favorite Crime & Mystery – Pretty […]

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Gimbling in the Wabe – The View from Here

Recently, there was a bit of hullabaloo and a great deal of chortling when rapper B.o.B. “dueled” over Twitter with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson about the Earth being flat.  I had heard about it only tangentially until Tyson did a bit on Comedy Central’s The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, as the first responder in […]


“A Darker Shade of Magic” Rights Acquired

After “sitting on the news for over six months”, author Victoria Schwab excitedly announced on Facebook on Tuesday that the rights to her critically acclaimed fantasy novel A Darker Shade of Magic have been picked up by G-BASE, an entertainment development company partially owned by actor Gerard Butler.  “And I am writing the pilot!!!!!” she […]


LitStack Rec: Bridge & A Tale for the Time Being

Bridge, by Robert Thomas “Welcome to the prayer-strewn pews of my brain,” Alice, the narrator of Bridge tells us, and quickly, we understand that this intellectually gifted young woman sees the world, and herself, in unconventional, and often dangerous ways. Robert Thomas’s powerful debut novel, published by BOA Editions in October, takes place in fifty-six […]

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“The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps” Wins the Crawford Award

Kai Ashante Wilson has won the 2016 William L. Crawford Fantasy Award for his debut novel The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. The Crawford Award is presented annually by the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts (IAFA), a scholarly organization devoted to the study of the fantastic as it appears in literature, film, and […]

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A Month of Letters Challenge

So, when I took the parcel I was going to send out for the first day of the 2016 A Month of Letters Challenge to the local post office, I was the 10th or 11th person in line.  There was only one person working at the counter, and she was off in the back looking […]


Gimbling in the Wabe – In Praise of Letters

I promise, I won’t make this a diatribe on the lack of personalization in society today, nor will I bemoan the loss of the art of letter writing, or even shed a tear at the passing of cursive writing.  That’s something my grandmother would do, and even though I loved her dearly, I don’t want […]

A Month of Letters Challenge

J. K. Rowling, Michael Pietsch to receive PEN American Center Awards

The PEN American Center has announced that author J. K. Rowling has been named as the recipient of the 2016 PEN/Allen Foundation Literary Service Award “for the extraordinary inspiration her books have provided to generations of readers and writers worldwide.” Of the award, PEN President Andrew Solomon wrote: “Through her writing, Rowling engenders imagination, empathy, humor, […]

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Have you ever watched The People’s Choice Awards, rooting for your favorite movie or television show, and wondered, “Why isn’t there a People’s Choice Award for books?”  Sure, there are lots of literary awards for “the best”, but how about an award for a book simply because we really liked reading it?

Well, now there is!

The People’s Choice Awards have teamed up with respected literary website The Reading Room to launch the first ever Favorite Books 2016, and you can be part of the process!  Five books have been nominated in each of six categories (Fiction, Nonfiction, Crime & Mystery, Young Adult, Fantasy, and Romance).  All that left now is for you to vote!

But you have to do it quickly – voting ends on January 28, 2016.  That’s only two days!

So what are you waiting for?  Click on the link and vote!

Blog Tour & Giveaway: Extreme Honor by Piper J. Drake

  EXTREME HONOR by Piper J. Drake (January 26, 2016; Forever Mass Market; True Heroes #1) HONOR, LOYALTY, LOVE David Cruz is good at two things: war and training dogs. The ex-soldier’s toughest case is Atlas, a Belgian Malinois whose handler died in combat. Nobody at Hope’s Crossing kennel can break through the animal’s grief. […]


LitStack Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted Naomi Novik Del Rey First Edition:  May 19, 2015 ISBN 978-0-8041-7904-1 Agnieszka is a girl who lives in a quiet village in a green valley.  She is sweet natured, and indistinguishable from the other children save for the fact that she always seems to be disheveled and dirty, constantly spattered with mud or with […]

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Gimbling in the Wabe – Winter and Reading

The bulk of this Gimbling in the Wabe came from one I had posted three years ago; it’s also, I think, my favorite “winter” installment of this feature.  So, since I’m running short of time and inspiration this week, I thought I would run it again, albeit with a bit of adjustment from the original.  […]

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2016 Edgar Awards Nominees Announced

The Mystery Writers of America announced the finalists for their 2016 Edgar Awards on January 19.  The nominees include: BEST NOVEL The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter The Lady From Zagreb by Philip Kerr Life or Death by Michael Robotham Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy Canary by Duane Swierczynski Night Life […]

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LitStack Recs: Stoner & Speak Easy

Stoner, by John Williams John Williams’ 1965 novel went out of print after selling only 2,000 copies, but since its re-release by Vintage in 1995, this novel of a Midwestern academic’s insular life has appeared on bestseller lists in Europe and Israel and sold over 100,000 copies. Stoner seems at first an unlikely candidate for […]


National Book Critics Circle Finalists Announced

The National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for their 2015 awards, as well as the recipients of three annual awards. Take a look! AUTOBIOGRAPHY The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander The Odd Woman and the City by Vivian Gornick Bettyville by George Hodgman Negroland by Margo Jefferson H is for Hawk […]


Newbery, Caldecott and Other Youth Literature Awards Announced

On Monday, January 11, the American Library Association (ALA) announced the top books, video and audio books for children and young adults for 2016 at its Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits in Boston.  The list of award winners include: John Newbery Medal (for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature) – Last Stop on Market Street, […]

Last Stop on Market Street and Finding Winnie

LitStack Rec: Examinations of Hitchock & Fangirl

A Definitive study of Alfred Hitchcock, by Francois Truffaut, trans. by Helen Scott (1966) & Hitchcock/Truffaut, a documentary film by Kent Jones (2015) Before he began directing, Francois Truffaut was a film critic, and before that, a voracious viewer of films. A director and a founder’s of the French cinema’s New Wave began his movie […]


LitStack Review: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil Robert Galbraith Mulholland Books Release Date:  October 20, 2015 ISBN 978-0-316-34993-2 Career of Evil, the third book in the crime thriller series starring private detective Cormoran Strike, is the grittiest one yet.  It’s no wonder that author J.K. Rowling stuck to her non de plume of Robert Galbraith long after news of […]

Career of Evil

Blog Tour: Crimson Cove by Eden Butler

Title: Crimson Cove Author: Eden Butler Genre: Paranormal Romance Release Date: December 31, 2015 Tour Hosted by: As the Pages Turn Synopsis Ten years ago Janiver stole a kiss from the meanest boy in school. He never forgot. Senior year. One minute before the tardy bell rang, Bane Illes would slip through the door. He […]


LitStack Review: Fishing With RayAnne by Ava Finch

Fishing With RayAnne Ava Finch Lake Union Publishing Release Date:  November 3, 2015 ISBN 978-15-0-39476-89 At first glance, RayAnne Dahl is a typical native 30-something Minnesotan.  She loves the changing of the seasons, embraces winter (even the driving), wears Scandinavian sweaters with “armorlike pewter closures and hasps”, and loves the outdoors.  She especially loves fishing, […]

Sarah Stonich

Release Day Blitz and Giveaway: Crimson Cove by Eden Butler

Title: Crimson Cove Author: Eden Butler Genre: Paranormal Romance Release Date: December 31, 2015 Synopsis Ten years ago Janiver stole a kiss from the meanest boy in school. He never forgot. Senior year. One minute before the tardy bell rang, Bane Illes would slip through the door. He never smiled. He never spoke. Each day, […]


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Here’s your chance for one copy each of USA Today Bestselling author Willow Aster’s In the Fields & True Love Story.

Comment below to qualify. Two winners will win an e-book copy of each title.

In the Fieldsin the fields
Willow Aster

1971—In the tiny, backward town of Tulma, Tennessee, optimistic, bookish Caroline Carson unwittingly finds herself in the middle of a forbidden romance. Severely neglected by her family and forced to flee Tulma to protect her secrets, Caroline’s young life comes crashing down around her. She finds refuge in a new town, but the past always has a way of stretching around time and stirring up trouble.
When a new love comes into her life, she has to decide if she can give her heart to someone else, or if she will always be tied to someone she can’t have.

Willow Aster is the author of True Love Story and In the Fields, and many more to come. She loves her crazy life with her husband and kids.






True Love Storytrue love story
Willow Aster

Sparrow Fisher is transforming. No longer dressed up in antiquated clothes and ideals, she is finally trying on her freedom.

Before she moves to New York City, she meets Ian Sterling, a musician Sparrow has dreamed about since she first saw him. The attraction is instant, but their relationship isn’t so simple.

Over a five year span, Sparrow and Ian run into each other in unusual places. Each time, Sparrow has to decide if she can trust him, if he feels the same for her, and finally, if love is really enough.

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The Rub Downrub down
Gina Sheldon

Luke Stratton spends his days making clients moan in pleasure. His hands hold the ability to drive a woman to the brink of ecstasy. As a rule, his professional touch is the only thing he gives any female client. Until a Boston marathon trainee seeks his services.

Bare skin

One year after the tragic Boston Marathon bombing, Alexa Williams must overcome horrible memories of that day. She struggles to put her fear aside to meet the challenge of the run. A rigorous training schedule leaves her body aching, and with Luke’s help, Alexa finds soothing release at The Rub Down.

Healing Hands

Will Luke hold onto his rules and let Alexa go, or will they be able to cross the finish line together?




12/22/15 December Giveaway: Eden Butler E-book Bundle

Here’s your chance to pick up one of TWO e-book bundles by Eden Butler, including the Serenity series, the Thin Love series or the Shadows and Lies series. Two winners will win ALL e-books in EACH series. THE SERENITY SERIES: Chasing Serenity Graduate student Autumn McShane has had her share of heartbreak. She’s been abandoned […]


dec giveSparrows for Freesparrows
Lila Felix

There are skeletons in every closet. Some stay quiet—and some rule your soul with an iron fist.

Ezra is ruled by the ghosts of his past—and needled by the guilt they create. Not only does he have to manage his own guilt—his friends are forced to bear the weight as well. He lives in limbo, never dreaming of anything that lies beyond the grave.
In his mind, he’s a murderer, pure and simple.

Hide and seek is Aysa’s game. She begs for small spaces and empty places. But, she secretly desires so much more.
When they find each other, a hope for something new is sprung.
But Ezra’s skeletons are out for blood.

“I hide shock well. I’m a pro at hiding. I have no idea that whatever he had to tell me would be so personal—so heartbreaking. But, I quickly remembered that heartbreak was all around him every time he turned around. He needs no more empathy or sympathy in his life. He craves someone to give him a different take on a tired situation.
And different is practically my middle name.”




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Here’s your chance for one copy each of NYT best selling author Penelope Douglas’ brand new releases Misconduct and Corrupt.

Comment below to qualify. Two winners will win an e-book copy of each title.



I was told that dreams were our heart’s desires. My nightmares, however, became my obsession.

His name is Michael Crist.

My boyfriend’s older brother is like that scary movie that you peek through your hand to watch. He is handsome, strong, and completely terrifying. The star of his college’s basketball team and now gone pro, he’s more concerned with the dirt on his shoe than me.

But I noticed him.

I saw him. I heard him. The things that he did, and the deeds that he hid…For years, I bit my nails, unable to look away.

Now, I’ve graduated high school and moved on to college, but I haven’t stopped watching Michael. He’s bad, and the dirt I’ve seen isn’t content to stay in my head anymore.

Because he’s finally noticed me.


Her name is Erika Fane, but everyone calls her Rika.

My brother’s girlfriend grew up hanging around my house and is always at our dinner table. She looks down when I enter a room and stills when I am close. I can always feel the fear rolling off of her, and while I haven’t had her body, I know that I have her mind. That’s all I really want anyway.

Until my brother leaves for the military, and I find Rika alone at college.

In my city.


The opportunity is too good to be true as well as the timing. Because you see, three years ago she put a few of my high school friends in prison, and now they’re out.

We’ve waited. We’ve been patient. And now every last one of her nightmares will come true.

***Corrupt is a stand-alone dark romance with no Cliffy***



From the New York Times bestselling author of the Fall Away series who never fails to deliver a “powerfully written contemporary love story…”*

Former tennis player Easton Bradbury is trying to be the best teacher she can be, trying to reach her bored students and trying to forget her past. What brought her to this stage in her life isn’t important. She can’t let it be. But now one parent-teacher meeting may be her undoing…

Meeting Tyler Marek for the first time makes it easy for Easton to see why his son is having trouble in school. The man knows how to manage businesses and wealth, not a teenage boy. Or a young teacher, for that matter, though he tries to. And yet…there is something about him that draws Easton in—a hint of vulnerability, a flash of attraction, a spark that might burn.

Wanting him is taboo. Needing him is undeniable. And his long-awaited touch will weaken Easton’s resolve—and reveal what should stay hidden…

Gimbling in the Wabe – My Gift to You

I’ve posted this before, but it bears repeating, especially at this time of year. My father was a minister, and one of my fondest childhood memories was watching him conduct Christmas Eve services.  In lieu of a sermon, he often would read a story that would touch our hearts. This was one of his favorites […]

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Seeking Havokseeking
Lila Felix

Her life is just as messed up as her name.

All she wanted was a friend—one that knew her and not her circumstances. She needed somewhere to call home. Hers was an open door for countless men looking for the services her mother offered them. She camouflaged herself against lockers and blackboards to avoid the stares and whispers at school.

And then she found Cal…and Fade.

Cal lives like Frankenstein, rising at night to work and just trying to make it until dawn. He avoids most relationships, afraid of the things he will be asked to do. He moonlights as Fade, a radio station DJ who spends hours counseling his peers on their troubles. It was all mundane until Jocelyn called the station.

Cal and Havok pursue a friendship.

Jocelyn and Fade pursue a relationship beyond the confines of the radio waves.

But when Havok disappears, Cal will find that Havok has been guarding a lifetime worth of secrets. And when Fade and Jocelyn’s all night phone conversations cease, he finds a link between them he never saw coming.


LitStack Recs: Without & Winterdance

Without Donald Hall This book is the only one that when picked up, is read from first page to last—no matter what I was doing before, or what time of day or night. In twenty poems, the poet Donald Hall traces the illness and death of his wife, the American poet and translator Jane Kenyon. […]


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The Moondust Sonatas: Movement No. 1, a Hunters Moonmoondust
Alan Osi
Cleveland Writers Press

A drug that lets you see God. Imagine the possibilities Percival, a young Brooklyn DJ, awakens from a night of debauchery with clear instructions on how to produce moondust. He discovers that this mysterious grey powder provides the ultimate high and gives users a glimpse of the divine. After months of quietly selling it to artists, however, Percival attracts deadly attention from a gang of drug dealers. Facing threats from all sides, he decides to go public with its secrets, although to do so he must risk his both his freedom and his life. The danger he faces pales in comparison to that caused by moondust. In a world that’s a tinderbox of smoldering conflict, moondust could be the match that ignites a global cataclysm. An edge-of-your-seat thriller, Movement #1: A Hunter’s Moon,” the first volume of the The Moondust Sonatas takes readers on a wild ride through the underside of the city, the birth of a remarkable new drug, and an impending drug war while raising provocative questions about spirituality and what we’re really craving.”


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Haunting Investigation haunting
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
(Historical Mystery/Ghost Story)
Cleveland Writers Press

Spring 1924. The world has clawed its way back from the ravages of WWI and the Spanish Flu pandemic. The 20’s are beginning to roar. Poppy Thornton lives with her Aunt Jo and her excitable cat Maestro in upper-crust Philadelphia. Poppy is determined to make a name for herself as a serious crime reporter, but is stuck reporting on garden parties and ladies’ fashion. Then one day her editor assigns her to collect background information on the suicide of a prominent businessman. She soon discovers it was actually a murder but her surprising source for this information is the ghost of a man killed alongside her father during the Great War. Even if she dared tell anyone, who would believe it? Together Poppy and her “gentleman haunt” follow the trail of a string of murders. But as their investigation narrows in on an all-too-familiar suspect, Poppy becomes a target herself and wonders if her ghost of a partner will appear in time to keep her from joining him in the after-life.”



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Blue Voyageblue voyage
Diana Renn
(YA) Viking

Zan is a politician’s daughter and an adrenaline junkie. Whether she’s rock climbing or shoplifting, she loves to live on the edge. But she gets more of a rush than she bargained for on a forced mother–daughter bonding trip to Turkey, where she finds herself in the crosshairs of an antiquities smuggling ring. These criminals believe that Zan can lead them to an ancient treasure that’s both priceless and cursed. Until she does so, she and her family are in grave danger. Zan’s quest to save the treasure—and the lives of people she cares about—leads her from the sparkling Mediterranean, to the bustle of Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, to the eerie and crumbling caves of Cappadocia. But it seems that nowhere is safe, and there’s only so high she can climb before everything comes tumbling down.


LitStack Review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things Jenny Lawson Flatiron Books Release Date:  September 22, 2015 ISBN 978-1-250-07700-4 Jenny Lawson is the woman behind The Bloggess website, which has won numerous awards for its brilliant writing and its biting humor.  She herself says of the site, “It’s mainly dark humor mixed with brutally honest […]


LitStack Rec: Brooklyn and Viva Frida

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin Toibin’s 2009 novel, which won that year’s Costa Award, is a lovely and haunting story set in 1950s Dublin and New York. It tells of Eilis Lacey, born and raised in Enniscorthy, in Ireland’s County Wexford, and her immigration to the United States as a young woman. Her well-meaning sister, Rose, […]


The Cuban Connection
ML Malcolmcuban

Set in New York and Havana during 1960, The Cuban Connection introduces ace reporter Katherine O’Connor, who has a nose for news and an inclination to use it in very dangerous places. Working undercover in Castro’s Cuba, she gets a little too up-close-and-personal with Castro’s thugs, a priest who may be working for the CIA, and a little boy whose survival is mysteriously linked to the welfare of Katherine’s own mother-not to mention falling for a man who may be a Soviet spy. The Cuban Connection incorporates actual historical events into a page-turning tale that is by turns riveting, poignant, and hilarious-not unlike Katherine O’Connor herself. M.L. Malcolm is the author of two previous novels, Heart of Lies and Heart of Deception, both published by Harper Collins.




THROTTLEHere’s your chance to pick up the entire Men of Inked series from Chelle Bliss.

Follow the Gallo family as they navigate the irresistible perils of love and life.

We’re giving away ONE e-book set of the entire Men of Inked series which includes the following:









    Author: J.D. Hollyfield Release Date: January 2016 Find on it Goodreads Synopsis: Fake it till you make it. That’s Lexi Hall, the wild socialite’s motto for how to live life. Single and allergic to commitment, Lexi is having the time of her life. Or is she? With a new promotion at the art […]

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dec giveDeadly Lullaby by Robert McCluredeadly

Fresh off a nine-year stint in San Quentin, career hitman Babe Crucci plans to finally go straight and enjoy all life has to offer—after he pulls one or two more jobs to shore up his retirement fund. More than anything, Babe is dead set on making up for lost time with his estranged son, Leo, who just so happens to be a rising star in the LAPD.

The road to reconciliation starts with tickets to a Dodgers game. But first, Leo needs a little help settling a beef over some gambling debts owed to a local mobster. This kind of thing is child’s play for Babe–until a sudden twist in the negotiations leads to a string of corpses and a titanic power shift in gangland politics. With the sins of his father piling up and dragging him down, Leo throws himself into the investigation of a young prostitute’s murder, a case that makes him some unlikely friends—and some brutally unpredictable enemies.

Caught up in a clash of crime lords, weaving past thugs with flamethrowers who expend lives like pocket change, Babe and Leo have one last chance to face the ghosts of their past—if they want to live long enough to see their future.


LitStack Rec: Bird Cloud: A Memoir of Place & Moon Girl

Bird Cloud: A Memoir of Place, by Annie Proulx The memoir by this award-winning novelist (The Shipping News) and story writer (“Brokeback Mountain,” from Wyoming Stories) centers on the experience of building a home in the titular tract of Montana wilderness—a place, and a house, Proulx comes to love. We learn of the house she builds […]

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Goodreads Choice Awards 2015 Announced

The results of the voting are in, and the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2015 have been announced! Although this is one of the most “popularity contest” awards – determined by votes of Goodreads members – it’s still a fun barometer of what can be considered a reader’s list of the best of the best.  Over […]


dec giveFires of Invention by J. Scott SavageCOVE

Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime and “invention” is a curse word.

Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, whose father died in an explosion—an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the danger of creativity.

Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlike anything they’ve ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on—and quite possibly their very lives.


12/1/15 December Giveaway: Slavemakers by Joseph Wallace

Slavemakers by  Joseph Wallace Twenty years ago, venomous parasitic wasps known as “thieves” staged a massive, apocalyptic attack on another species—Homo sapiens—putting them on the brink of extinction. But some humans did survive. The colony called Refugia is home to a population of 281, including scientists, a pilot, and a tough young woman named Kait. […]


NaNoWriMo Progress Report – Week Four

*  Week Four – I Win!  * Yup, I did it!  I crossed the 50,000 word finish line in NaNoWriMo the day after Thanksgiving, and went from being a Participant to being a Winner! At first I was confused when I read about “winning” NaNoWriMo.  I thought, “It’s not supposed to be a competition, is […]


American Writers’ Museum Announces Location

Ah, Chicago!  The Windy City!  City of Big Shoulders!  Millennium Park and the “Bean”!  The Art Institute, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum!  Navy Pier and the Magnificent Mile! And soon – the American Writers Museum! It was recently announced that the proposed American Writers Museum has leased space at 180 North Michigan Avenue […]


NaNoWriMo Progress Report – Week Three

*  Week Three – Almost There!  *   It’s the third week of my inaugural NaNoWriMo experience, and I’m ecstatic to report that I finished the week with a 49,060 word count – only 940 words away from the 50,000 word “winning” target!  (I actually paused in my writing at this point, as I knew […]


Cover Reveal: Enshrine by Chelle Bliss

Title: Enshrine Author: Chelle Bliss STANDALONE Release Date: January 2016 Cover Photo: Eric Battershell Photography Cover Models: Ani Saliasi & Anna Medvedeva Synopsis: EVERYTHING CHANGED IN AN INSTANT. I thought I knew what was important, but one phone call sent my life into a tailspin. Alone and afraid, I clung to the one man I […]


2015 National Book Award Winners Announced

On Wednesday night, the National Book Award winners were announced at a gala celebration in New York City.  Without further ado, here were the results: FICTION WINNER: Fortune Smiles by Adam Johnson Refund by Karen E. Bender The Turner House by Angela Flournoy Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara […]

Havanas in Camelot: Personal Essays, by William Styron

Though William Styron is best know for his novels (The Confessions of Nat Turner, Sophie’s Choice), and a late memoir chronicling his depression (Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness), he wrote wonderful essays that draw on his power of insight, intellectual acuity, and deeply felt experience of the world, all couched in the same gorgeous sentences that define his fiction. This makes sense, after all. Styron’s forays into the consciousness of a character like Sophie Zawistowska are the same he trains on himself.

The title essay is a reference to the cigars favored by John Kennedy, and recounts a White House state dinner that Styron (who died in 2006) and other prominent writers attended to honor the recent Nobel Prize winners. It was April, 1962 and the President and First Lady  were at the height of their influence and glamour.

The title’s non-ironic allusion to the Arthurian court lends the essay, and all the essays in this collection, a sense of the past seen with a yearning backward glance. “The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” Faulkner said, and with Styron, you get the sense that the glittering as well as the duller episodes take on a lovely sheen when viewed in hindsight.

Here’s Styron on the Kennedy state dinner, as the President and First Lady arrive to receive their guests:

…Jack and Jackie actually shimmered. You have had to be abnormal, perhaps psychotic, to be immune to their dumbfounding appeal. Even Republicans were gaga. They were truly a golden couple, and I am not trying to downplay my own sense of wonder when note that a number of the guests, male and female, appeared so affected by the glamour that their eyes took on a goofy, catatonic gaze.

An aspect of Styron’s voice that has always appealed to me is what I can only describe as a generational drift. I hear in his use of vernacular, his reverence for heroes and distrust of power, a tone that resembles my father’s. Both share a Greatest Generation-inflected style that to some may sound dated, but to this reader’s ear is a comfort, and brings nostalgic passage to an era of mid-century men whose rebellion was rooted in their artistic natures. Like Frank Wheeler in Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road, it’s a generation who went to war, and against the grain of their time, broke the conformist mode with a devotion to art, not commerce.

Among my favorites here is “A Case of the Great Pox.” It recounts a stay in a military infirmary after Styron was diagnosed with syphilis. He served in the Marine Corps during World War Two, and before basic training ended, was on a ward at the Navel Hospital in Parris Island, South Carolina, otherwise known as The Clap Shack.

The piece encompasses the best of the personal essay form. It combines personal and political history, informative detail (in this case, a history of STDs), and a sharply structured plot that takes us with Styron on the various stages of his syphilitic journey.

Voltaire never let the horrid nature of the illness obtrude upon his own lighthearted view of it—he wrote wittily about the great pox in Candide—and throughout Casanova’s memoirs there are anecdotes about syphilis that the author plainly regards as excruciatingly funny. Making sport of it may have been the only way in which the offspring  of the Enlightenment could come to grips with a pestilence that seemed as immutably fixed in history as war or famine.

The fourteen essays in the slim but affecting collection are astute and readable, and cover such topics as the author’s longtime rivalry with his peer Truman Capote, an early experience with publishing and the censorship of the 1950s; his beloved Vineyard Haven in Martha’s Vineyard.

Mostly I love the soft collision here of harbor and shore, the subtly haunting briny quality that all small towns have when they are situated on the sea. It is often manifested simply in the sounds of the place—sounds unknown to forlorn inland municipalities…these sounds might appear distracting, but as a fussy, easily distracted person who has written three large books within earshot of these sounds, I an affirm that they do not annoy at all.

You could sit down with this book mid-afternoon and consume it by nightfall. It will go too quickly, I guarantee, and require that you start from the beginning and read it again.

—Lauren Alwan

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Costa Book Awards Shortlist Announced

The Costa Book Awards are a set of annual literary awards recognizing English-language books by writers based in Britain and Ireland.  The awards, which have been handed out since 1972, are given both for high literary merit but also for works that are enjoyable reading and whose aim is to convey the enjoyment of reading […]

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EXTREME HONOR by Piper J. Drakeextreme
True Heroes Series #1
January 26, 2015; Forever Mass Market;

David Cruz is good at two things: war and training dogs. The ex-soldier’s toughest case is Atlas, a Belgian Malinois whose handler died in combat. Nobody at Hope’s Crossing kennel can break through the animal’s grief. That is, until dog whisperer Evelyn Jones walks into the facility…and into Atlas’s heart. David hates to admit that the curvy blonde’s mesmerizing effect isn’t limited to canines. But when Lyn’s work with Atlas puts her in danger, David will do anything to protect her.

Lyn realizes that David’s own battle scars make him uniquely qualified for his job as a trainer. Tough as nails yet gentle when it counts, he’s gotten closer to Atlas than anyone else—and he’s willing to put his hard-wired suspicion aside to let her do the same. But someone desperate enough to kill doesn’t want Lyn working with Atlas. Now only teamwork, trust, and courage can save two troubled hearts and the dog who loves them both…

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Coming soon! True Heroes Series #2, Ultimate Courageultimate

Release: July 26, 2015; Forever Mass Market

Elisa Hall is good at starting from scratch. Leaving an abusive relationship in her rearview, she packs everything she owns into the trunk of her car and heads for refuge with her friend in Hope’s Crossing, North Carolina.

Alex Rojas returned from his second deployment as a Navy SEAL to find his condo empty and divorce papers on the breakfast table. Now he’s building a life for himself and his daughter at Hope’s Crossing kennels training younger dogs and handlers to search and rescue, struggling to adjust to life back in the States and as a single father.

When Elisa shows up at the kennels, it’s obvious she’s running from something. Luckily, the dogs and trainers at Hope’s Crossing are more than capable of warding off trouble. And with every minute he spends with Elisa, Alex becomes even more and more determined to protect the woman he’s certain he won’t be able to live without…

Pre-order the book!

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About the author:piper

Piper J. Drake (or “PJ”) spent her childhood pretending to study for the SATs by reading every interesting novel she could find at the library. After being introduced to the wonderful world of romance by her best friend, she dove into the genre. PJ began her writing career as PJ Schnyder, writing sci-fi & paranormal romance and steampunk, for which she won the FF&P PRISM award as well as the NJRW Golden Leaf award and Parsec award. PJ’s romantic suspense novels incorporate her interests in mixed martial arts and the military. The True Heroes series is inspired by her experience rescuing, owning and training a variety of retired working dogs, including Kaiser, a former guard dog, and Mozart, who was trained to detect explosives.

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Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year

The venerated Oxford Dictionaries group has announced its Word of the Year for 2015, and that word is… not a word!  For the first time ever in its history, the Oxford Dictionary (actually, “Dictionaries” but that just sounds wrong) has honored a pictograph as its Word of the Year – specifically the “face with tears […]


Goodreads Choice Awards Voting Happening NOW

Are you a member of Goodreads, or been thinking of joining this “social cataloging” website for book lovers and those who love to read?  If you answered YES to either of these questions, then you need to head on over to the Goodreads site to vote for your favorite books in the annual Goodreads Choice […]


NaNoWriMo Progress Report – Week Two

*  Week Two, The Grind  * So we’re two weeks into the National Novel Writing Month, halfway there, and “everyone” said that this would probably be the hardest week.  The shine and enthusiasm of beginning would have worn off, the flush of excitement at tackling a dream would have given way to the grind of […]


‘Tis the Season – for Best Books Lists

It’s time for the start of the Best Books of the Year lists, especially if those lists are being compiled by retailers who are looking to entice consumers to add books as gifts under the tree (as if we needed any urging to do that, am I right?).  And yes, we know this is free […]

Amazon best lists 2015

2015 World Fantasy Award Winners Announced

The winners of the 2015 World Fantasy Awards were announced Sunday night in Sarasota, New York at the annual World Fantasy Convention.  So let’s get right to the winners! NOVEL WINNER: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, Area X: The Southern Reach Trilogy […]

Sam Araya

NaNoWriMo Progress Report

* Week One, the Learning Curve * According to the metrics on the NaNoWriMo website, aspiring authors must pen the equivalent of 1,667 words every day during the month of November to attain the 50,000 word minimum.  Every.  Single. Day. So.  Week One is in the books.  And how have I done?  Good.  Really good.  […]


giftsA Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople, by Patrick Leigh Fermor

A classic of the travel memoir genre, A Time of Gifts is Patrick Leigh Fermor’s account of his trek by foot from the Netherlands to Turkey in 1933-34. Though, famously, Fermor didn’t actually write the book until decades later. Published in 1977, A Time of Gifts comprises the first of what would be a three-volume memoir. Described by The Guardian as “one of the most romantic books of the twentieth century,” A Time of Gifts is perhaps the best known installment, and tracks the initial leg of the journey made when Fermor was not yet eighteen. The plan was to take little else but his knowledge of history, languages (including Greek), a book of Homer’s Odes and a few letters of introduction. Fermor, who died in 2011 at the age of ninety-six, was famously peripatetic, described in his NYT obit as “a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene.” Like Hemingway, he had a similar penchant for life abroad and fighting in foreign wars, but the prose style of the two men is poles apart.

Fermor in Greece, 1946.

As Nosey Parker writes in the Toronto Sun, Fermor’s “near-eidetic” memory enabled the memories to steep. Parker compares a journal entry from Fermor’s teenaged years to its published counterpart written forty years later (the real-time entry comes first in italics):

Bucharest amazing town … Wandered around ages, soaking it in … Lovely town.


The flatness of the Alföld leaves a stage for cloud-events at sunset that are dangerous to describe: levitated armies in deadlock and riderless squadrons descending in slow-motion to smouldering and sulphurous lagoons where barbicans  gradually collapse and fleets of burning triremes turn dark before sinking.

The decades between Fermor’s journey and the writing proved, to say the least, advantageous (a trireme, by the way, is an ancient Greek or Roman war galley with three banks of oars).

Fermor’s maximalist style may be too rich for some, especially for fans of Hemingway’s action-packed, gorgeously austere prose. Yet for readers so inclined, like Ben Downing, the rewards are vast. Here, Downing describes his experience of reading those first pages:

I stumbled across a used copy of A Time of Gifts [and] began reading straightaway, but after a few pages stopped and rubbed my eyes in disbelief. It couldn’t be this good. The narrative was captivating, the erudition vast, the comedy by turns light and uproarious, and the prose strikingly individual—at once exquisite and offhand, sweeping yet intimate, with a cadence all its own. Perhaps even more startling was the thickness of detail, and the way in which imagination infallibly brought these million specificities to life.

I count myself among those who search out “thickness of detail” in their reading. Call it a weakness, or a fixation, or maybe some inherent trait that processes experience bottom-up rather than top-down. It’s simpler to say that detail draws me in, and in the tradition of stylistically “thick” prose, I seek out writers, in fiction and nonfiction, whose detail is permeated by imagination. Given Fermor’s approach to detail, it makes perfect sense that some have designated his books a kind of “psychogeography.”

The second volume, Between the Woods and the Water, picks up in Czechoslovakia, and follows the trek further east, to the gorge where the Danube separates what is now Serbia and Romania. The final volume, assembled posthumously from Fermor’s diaries and letters, was released in 2013 as The Broken Road: Travels from Bulgaria to Mount Athos, edited by Artemis Cooper.

Read Ben Downing’s interview with Patrick Leigh Fermor in The Paris Review.

—Lauren Alwan

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It’s November! That Means It’s Time for NaNoWriMo!

It’s got a utilitarian name, a bizarre abbreviated name, and it feels kind of silly to say out loud.  But anyone who follows the writing landscape has at least heard of National Novel Writing Month – or NaNoWriMo.  Started in July 1999 with 21 participants, it now has grown to an international effort with hundreds […]


NBC to Adapt Charlaine Harris’s Midnight, Texas Series

New York, NY (October 30, 2015) – It was announced yesterday that NBC plans to adapt Charlaine Harris’s Midnight, Texas books into a drama series for the network’s fall 2016 season. The show will be written/executive produced by Monica Owusu-Breen (Lost) and executive produced by David Janollari (Six Feet Under). This is Harris’s third book […]

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LitStack Encore Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown  Holly Black Little, Brown Books Release Date:  September 3, 2013 ISBN:  978-0-31621-310-3 In honor of the upcoming Halloween holiday, here is a slightly updated review of one of our favorite spooky novels.   Enjoy!   Now THIS is what a vampire tale should be like.  Forget that it’s written for […]

Coldest Girl in Coldtown

2015 British Fantasy Award Winners Announced

The winners of the 2015 British Fantasy Awards were announced on Sunday, 25 October 2015, at FantasyCon 2015, which was held in Nottingham, England.  Here is the full list of nominees and winners:   BEST FANTASY NOVEL (the Robert Holdstock Award) WINNER: Cuckoo Song, Frances Hardinge Breed by KT Davies City of Stairs by Robert […]

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The Perfume Collector
Kathleen Tessaroperfume

Last week, I loaned out my copy of Kathleen Tessaro’s lovely 2013 novel The Perfume Collector to two friends; the first one to borrow it ended up buying it for her e-reader, the other one told me that she was close to the final pages but was reading it very slowly because she just didn’t want it to end!

The novel moves effortlessly between Paris in the spring of 1955, and New York City in 1927 (and beyond). Young, Oxford-reared socialite Grace is newly married and restless in her role of supportive wife when word comes from Paris that she is the sole beneficiary of the estate of a woman she has never heard of and to whom she can determine no ties that bind. At the request of Edouard A. Tissot, Esquire, of the law firm Frank, Levin et Beaumont (who is handling the estate), she tentatively travels from her home in London, purportedly to sign the necessary papers but mainly to find out more about this mysterious inheritance which she suspects may involve a case of mistaken identity. While in Paris, and with Monsieur Tissot’s help, Grace begins to uncover bits and pieces about the intriguing recluse who has named Grace her heir.
Eva d’Orsey. Mistress to Jacques Hiver, owner of one of the most glamorous cosmetic companies in France. We meet Eva close to 30 years earlier in New York, when, at age 14, the immigrant orphan is taken on as a chambermaid at the posh Warwick Hotel in the heart of the city. At the Warwick, Eva is exposed to wealth and avarice in silks and sequins: dancers, performers, actors, gamblers, politicians, prostitutes and other hangers on, each with their own quirks and debaucheries. Quiet Eva discretely performs her duties even as she keeps track of all that is going on around her.

How the life of this guileless young hotel maid becomes entwined a generation later with a sheltered British socialite is the framework on which The Perfume Collector is drawn, and it’s a strong, engaging story. Equally compelling is author Tessaro’s ability to bring to life two cities, two eras and the personalities that fill them, with a razor sharp clarity and gentle humor that eschews sentiment while acknowledging the humanness of even the most glamorous or destitute of characters.
As the fate of the two women draws closer, we see them as separate people, one breathlessly, warily open to possibility, the other struggling to fill a well defined role in which she is uncomfortable. Yet they have their commonalities, too. Both are smart, observant, and within the confines of their worlds, unafraid to voice their opinions. Both have an extraordinary way with numbers, which will be a comfort and a bane to each in very different ways. And both are open to wonders that manifest through the senses, although they may not actively seek out those wonders, nor be able to create them.

This wonderment is beautifully articulated by the importance of perfume in the story line. While at the Hotel, Eva is assigned to service the suite of the ambiguous, aristocratic Russian master perfumer, Madame Zed, and the adjoining room of her young apprentice, the arrogant Valmont. While her relationship with the pair gets off to a rocky start, Eva grows to respect and even admire the eccentricities of Madame Zed, and Valmont discovers that he is drawn to Eva, not as a young woman but as inspiration.

Indeed, as the story progresses, the impact and mystique that perfume has played in our society continues to unfold. Madame Zed and Valmont move on and Eva later grasps an opportunity that will allow her to leave the Hotel and the life of a maid. Grace, while searching for clues to Eva’s life, stumbles across an abandoned perfumer’s shop which takes her to the Guerlain boutique on Champs-Elysees to seek clarification of what she has found. Adept both in moving the plot forward and in immersing the reader in the art and artistry found in the essence of fashion and couture, author Tessaro teaches without lecture, shares without hyperbole, and leaves the reader with an appreciation both authentic and vital.

The layered way that Kathleen Tessaro reflects the process of distilling elements of Eva’s story to recreate sensorial memories which then end up impacting Grace is very compelling. Just as disparate elements, some of which, at face value, are off-putting, rare, or crude, when combined in the proper proportion and after painstaking refinement, will create a thing of beauty, so too does Ms. Tessaro’s story take heartbreak and uncertainly – along with friendship and love – to bring forth a novel that is rare and utterly captivating.

—Sharon Browning

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Celebrating Ursula K. Le Guin

Today is Ursula K. Le Guin’s 86th birthday,  and what better day to celebrate this icon of American fiction?  Most often associated with the fantasy and science fiction genres, she has won numerous  Hugo, Nebula, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards.  Yet her works, especially those geared for younger readers, have defied labels to become some […]

Ursula K Le Guin

LitChat Interview: Sarah Younger of Nancy Yost Literary Agency

Sarah Younger has been with Nancy Yost Literary Agency since 2011, having previously been an eBook editor at Press 53. She earned a graduate degree in publishing from the University of Denver and grew up on a horse farm in North Carolina. Sarah is specifically interested in representing all varieties of Romance, some Women’s Fiction, […]


Gimbling in the Wabe – Having Fun With Stories

I had the good fortune last week of attending the first ever NerdCon: Stories, a two day convention dreamed up by “internet guy” Hank Green (half of YouTube’s popular Vlogbrothers) and author Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind, The Wise Man’s Fear), held right here in my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Undoubtedly I will […]


National Book Awards Shortlists Announced

The lists have been pared down from ten to five!  Here are the shortlists for the National Book Awards: Fiction: Karen E. Bender for Refund: Stories Angela Flournoy for The Turner House Lauren Groff for Fates and Furies Adam Johnson for Fortune Smiles: Stories Hanya Yanagihara for A Little Life   Nonfiction: Ta-Nehisi Coates for […]

NBA 2015 finalists

LitStack Recs: A Writer’s Notebook & The Glamourist Histories

A Writer’s Notebook by Somerset Maugham Somerset Maugham’s A Writer’s Notebook was first published in 1949, and though his work may have fallen out of fashion since then, in his time he was a literary light, outselling contemporaries like Joseph Conrad and Robert Louis Stevenson. The Guardian called Maugham “the first superstar novelist.” At the […]

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LitStack Review: The Hummingbird by Stephen P. Kiernan

The Hummingbird Stephen P. Kiernan William Morrow Release Date:  September 8, 2015 ISBN 978-0-06-236954-3 Deborah Birch, the heroine of Stephen P. Kiernan’s novel, The Hummingbird, must not have been an easy character to write.  She is no sharp tongued dilettante nor sharp eyed detective, no struggling artist confronting her past nor wide eyed twixter dipping […]


NEW YORK, NY October 8, 2015—Ace, an imprint of the Berkley Publishing Group, announces today the acquisition of Ninth City Burning, the first book in a stunning new science fiction series from debut novelist J. Patrick Black. Ace will publish Ninth City Burning in hardcover in September 2016.ace

Senior Editor Jessica Wade acquired world rights to the book and two sequels from Kirby Kim at Janklow & Nesbit. Series rights have already been sold in Germany, Brazil, and Poland. Film rights are being handled by Jon Cassir at CAA.

Ninth City Burning is a sweeping epic that takes place five hundred years after an alien invasion almost destroyed all of human civilization. They were wielding a mysterious force…but it turned out we could wield it too. Now, Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending the power to their will are gathered into elite military academies, while those who refuse to answer the call struggle to survive the wilds of a ruined Earth. But a new invasion looms, and the last hope for humanity will fall to an unlikely collection of allies: a gifted but reckless young military cadet, a factory worker drafted as cannon fodder, a reluctant adept of the power, an outlaw nomad, and a brilliant scientist with nothing to lose. Together they will face a war that has brought their world to the brink of destruction.

“This thrilling debut marks the arrival of a major new talent. Ninth City Burning has unforgettably strong characterization, storytelling with amazingly grand scope, and a seamless melding of science fiction and fantasy elements.  It will really speak to fans of both classic science fiction novels, like Ender’s Game, and modern, like Red Rising,” Wade said.


Svetlana Alexievich Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature

For only the 14th time in its 111 year history, the Nobel Prize for Literature has been awarded to a woman, and for the first time, to a journalist working strictly in the nonfiction genre:  Svetlana Alexievich, from Belarus.  In her highly intimate and very human works, Ms. Alexievich collects hundreds of interviews chronicling the […]

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LitStack Review: The Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young

The Gates of Evangeline Hester Young G. P. Putnam’s Sons Release Date:  September 1, 2015 ISBN 978-0-399174-001 It’s a compelling story. A woman is haunted by the sudden death of her young son.  That it was from “natural causes” does not assuage mother’s grief, ease the sudden emptiness, blunt the pervasiveness of memories.  She tries […]

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LitStack Rec – Jerusalem: A Cookbook & All the World

Jerusalem:  A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. Some cookbooks are defined by a generation. Your grandmother’s shelf likely held The Joy of Cooking or Julia Child’s The  French Chef. Your mother’s, The Silver Palate or The Moosewood Cookbook. Jerusalem is a cookbook that has similarly struck a culinary-cultural nerve, tapping into an unbridled […]


Finalists of the 2015 Kirkus Prize Announced

Founded in 1933, Kirkus has been “an authoritative voice in book discovery for 80 years”.  The associated  Kirkus Reviews magazine gives industry professionals a sneak peek at the most notable books prior to their publication date, and releases book reviews to consumers on a weekly basis.  The Kirkus Star icon affixed to selected reviews signifies […]


Three Writers Receive MacArthur “Genius Grants”

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is proud of being “one of the nation’s largest independent foundations. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, strengthens institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media.” Perhaps most […]

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The American Library Association’s Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2014

Each year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the top ten most frequently challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship in libraries and schools. The ALA actively condemns censorship and works to ensure free access to information, which is certainly something to celebrate during Banned Books […]


LitStack Recs: Wonder Woman Unbound & Blue Highways

Wonder Woman Unbound The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine Tim Hanley I’ve made this recommendation before, but with television’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returning for a third season recently, as well as the DC Comics television tie-in Gotham back for season two, lots of superhero movies on the horizon, and a Wednesday […]


LitStack Review: The Trials by Linda Nagata

The Trials Linda Nagata Saga Press Release Date:  August 18, 2015 ISBN 978-1-4814-4095-0 NOTE:  This review, by necessity, contains spoilers for the first book in the series, The Red:  First Light. The Trials is the second book of Linda Nagata’s marvelous military sci-fi series, “The Red Trilogy”.  It picks up about five months after The […]

The Trials

LitStack Review: Nightwise by R. S. Belcher

Nightwise R. S. Belcher Tor Books Release Date:  August 18, 2015 ISBN 978-0-7653-7460-8 Wow.  What a difference a bit of experience makes. I read R. S. Belcher’s debut novel, The Six Gun Tarot, shortly after it came out, and was very impressed with this supernatural Western thriller/morality tale, and especially with Mr. Belcher’s skill in […]


Jackie Collins, 1937 – 2015

Bestselling author Jackie Collins, who in 2013 was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to fiction and charity, died on Saturday of breast cancer.  She was 77. Ms. Collins wrote hugely popular romance novels depicting the glamour and debauchery of high society Hollywood.  She wrote 32 novels, all […]


2015 National Book Awards Finalists Announced

After a week of reveals, we have a complete list of finalists for each of the four categories of the National Book Awards.  They include: FICTION: A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg Refund by Karen E. Bender The Turner House by Angela Flournoy Fates and […]

Natl Book Award Fiction Finalists 2015

LitStack Recs: Blue Nights & Beautiful Ruins

Blue Nights, by Joan Didion Joan Didion is an author I’ve long revered, whose books have had a titanic effect on me. But when Blue Nights came out in 2011, I couldn’t bring myself to read it. The memoir is a counterpart to Didion’s 2005 memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, which tracks the aftermath […]


2015 Man Booker Shortlist Announced

The shortlist for the United Kingdom’s most prestigious literary award has just been announced, and the six finalists are: A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Jamaica) Satin Island by Tom McCarthy (UK) The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria) The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota (UK) A Spool of Blue Thread […]

Man Booker shortlist 2015

Gimbling in the Wabe – Blinders

(In which there is profanity as a point of discussion and talk of partial nudity in the same vein; even though it’s all pretty genial, consider yourself warned.) I was perusing Pinterest the other day, looking for ideas for a dinnertime meal that all the disparate palates in my family maybe, just maybe, might agree […]

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Joy Harjo Wins the Wallace Stevens Award

The Academy of American Poets announced on Thursday that Joy Harjo has won the Wallace Stevens Award, recognizing her outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry.  The award carries a $100,000 stipend.  Ms. Harjo was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma (where she still lives), and is a member of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation.  She received […]

Joy Harjo
The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden cas girls
Published by: Skyscape
Publication date: November 17th 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Young AdultSynopsis:

After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne and her father are among the first to return. Adele wants nothing more than to resume her normal life, but with the silent city resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.

Strange events—even for New Orleans—lead Adele to an attic that has been sealed for three hundred years. The chaos she accidentally unleashes threatens not only her but also everyone she knows.

Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, Adele must untangle a web of magic that weaves the climbing murder rate back to her own ancestors. But who can you trust in a city where everyone has secrets and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless…you’re immortal.

Revised edition: This edition of The Casquette Girls includes editorial revisions.


ALYS ARDEN grew up in the Vieux Carré, cut her teeth on the streets of New York, and has worked all around the world since. She still plans to run away with the circus one day.


Cory Doctorow’s “Little Brother” Optioned by Paramount

The Tracking Board broke the news, and Cory Doctorow confirmed it on  Little Brother, Mr. Doctorow’s phenomenal (and highly acclaimed) young adult novel has been picked up by Paramount Pictures for development into a major motion picture. Little Brother is the story of white-bread middle class kid Marcus Yallow, a kind of nerdy gamer […]


Wonder Woman UnboundWW
The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine
Tim Hanley

College level English classes are one my daughter’s least favorite scholastic experience, but I love ’em, because I get to play research assistant for her papers. She learns organization, thesis concepts, citation usage and all sorts of structural skills, and I learn new stuff about interesting topics. So I was especially excited when the topic for her newest assignment was “It’s Time for a Wonder Woman Movie”, because I got to learn about – you guessed it – Wonder Woman!

During our search for reference material, we came across the book “Wonder Woman Unbound – The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine” by Tim Hanley, and oh, my – while I normally scan books obtained for reference, this one grabbed me from the onset and I found myself devouring the entire thing, regardless of its applicability to my daughter’s needs. Poor thing, my daughter! I think she had to draw on quite a bit of patience as I regaled her with story after story of not only Wonder Woman’s comic origins and development, but also how it played in with – or against – societal movement and pop culture development.

Author Tim Hanley is quite the subject matter expert when it comes to Wonder Woman, but he does it in an effortless, conversational and enthusiastic way that makes what could have been somewhat dry material instead a very intriguing and entertaining read. He is able to pull in lots of elements – comic book development, the growth (and in some cases, the decline) of the comic book publishing industry, the whims and triggers of society and historical elements – and blend them in a thoroughly engaging and easy to follow read that not only shines a light on Wonder Woman but our society as a whole. He obviously is a fan, but one who is able to share his enthusiasm with devotee and novice alike.

“In Wonder Woman, Marston (psychologist William Moulton Marston, creator of Wonder Woman in 1941) presented a brand-new kind of character. While his ideas about female superiority never really caught on, the long-term impact of the first powerful, independent female superhero cannot be understated. In a genre that so rigidly enforced typical gender roles and relied on a very narrow view of femininity, Wonder Woman shattered those expectations for millions of young readers each month. It’s sometimes hard to see the ingrained societal structures that dictate daily life, but by inverting these structures Wonder Woman comics shed a light on the tenets of these systems, along with a sharp critique.”

Whether you are a Marvel Cinematic Universe buff, a DC comics die-hard, a Wonder Woman fan or simply someone who likes to gather knowledge, “Wonder Woman Unbound” would be a great read for you. Fun, captivating, charming, and chock full of information, stories, and clear deduction, “Wonder Woman Unbound” will not only expand your horizons, but give you a greater appreciation of this trend-setting industry that birthed not only one of our greatest cultural heroines, but harbors one of our most enduring pastimes – the comic book universe.

—Sharon Browning

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Stephen King is a 2014 National Medal of Arts Recipient

On September 10, President Obama will present this year’s National Medal of Arts.  One of the eleven recipients will be prolific horror, suspense and fantasy author Stephen King.  According to the official announcement, “Mr. King combines his remarkable storytelling with his sharp analysis of human nature. For decades, his works of horror, suspense, science fiction, […]

Stephen King signs the copies of his book 'Rivival' at Barnes & Noble Union Square in New York City on November 11, 2014.

Gimbling in the Wabe – Filters

In Linda Nagata’s excellent real world sci-fi thriller, The Red: First Light, the main characters struggle to grasp the concept of an external agent, in the form of an autonomous digital program, which is working to engineer the distribution of information through the Cloud (the network of servers that stores and shares digital information).  This […]


LitStack Recs: Vanity Fair & The Cage

Vanity  Fair William Makepeace Thackeray The mid-nineteenth century didn’t have reality television, but it did have William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, and the novel’s social-climbing, backbiting and profligate behavior rivals any episode of Real Housewives. Subtitled A Novel Without a Hero, the book was published in 1847 and made Thackeray a wealthy man. And though […]


2015 Chesley Awards Announced

The Hugo Awards weren’t the only awards given out recently at the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention held recently in Spokane, Washington!  The Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists (ASFA) also awarded their 2015 Chesley Awards, recognizing individual artistic works and achievements within the fantasy and science fiction literary genre. Here is a list […]

Chesley michael-hayes-alegretto-lowres-1024x758

Oliver Sacks, Neurologist and Author, Dies at 82

Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure. ~  Oliver Sacks, February 2015 When my son came home from college after declaring a psychology major, one of the textbooks he brought with him was Oliver Sacks’ The […]


LitStack Review – The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson

The Affinities Robert Charles Wilson Tor Books Release Date:  April 21, 2015 ISBN 978-0-7653-3262-2 Facebook.  Twitter.  Tumblr.  Instagram.  Snapchat.  LinkedIn.  Pinterest.  Google+.  Reddit.  Social media.  These and other sites keep us connected to friends, family, and strangers with like interests (or not, as the case may be).  But what if the germ of the idea […]


Tour Banner - Thick Love

Title: Thick Love (Thin Love, #2)
Author: Eden Butler
Genre: NA | Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 31, 2015
Hosted by As the Pages Turn




He doesn’t ask their names.

He doesn’t deserve to know them.

Ransom Riley Hale’s friends think his life is charmed: first string as a freshman on a championship-winning college football team. A father with two Super Bowl rings. A mother with platinum albums and multiple Grammies under her belt. But that brilliant shine on the surface hides the darkness beneath; it’s all Ransom has ever known.

Despite the shadows he walked in, once there was a blinding light fracturing the darkness. It brought the promise of hope and happiness. He’d been careless, filled with pride and stupidity and lost that light. Ripped it from the world.

Now, the shadows are dimming again. Aly King surges into his life threatening to pull him from the darkness. She is everything Ransom can never be again. Her light feels too warm, promises him that there is more waiting for him beyond the shadows.

But the shadows are relentless, resurfacing when he thinks he is safe, and Ransom knows he must keep Aly from them too before he pulls her down into the darkness with him.

Purchase Thick LoveAmazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

Thick Love – Excerpt

“Dance with me,” I said. He only stared up at me blankly.

“I don’t feel like practicing.”

“I’m not asking you to practice. I’m asking you to dance.”

Ransom’s body stiffened when I picked up his hand, but he didn’t fight me. “Just be here with me. Me and you and the music.”

We came together in the center of my living room with that slow, soothing music wrapping around us. There was no Kizomba, no prequel to a seduction we both wanted to avoid. There was just Ransom bending low, arms around me, hand taking mine to hold against his chest. After a few seconds, the tension lessened, and his body did not feel as rigid. It felt peaceful, and safe, and simple—just two people, holding each other, swaying to the music.

His mouth hovered near my forehead and as we moved together with no form or practiced steps, Ransom’s grip on my waist got tighter. “I wish I could breathe again. I want that so bad.” The words were whispered, low.

I closed my eyes, reminding myself that I couldn’t touch him.

“Ransom. You can.”

He looked down at me and right then I saw just how lost he was. This realization didn’t come from flippant comments he made to me or desperate excuses I overheard him make. It was all there right in his eyes—the loneliness, the pain, as though each mistake he’d made was etched into the rise of his cheekbones and the worried, faint lines on his forehead. He was still drifting; he had been drifting for so damn long.

The pain in his eyes drew me in. There was nothing I could say that would make his hurt lessen. There was nothing that would take him from the lingering sorrow he’d created for himself. So I didn’t speak, didn’t give him advice I knew he’d never take. I just watched Ransom’s eyes, and felt the slow way he moved. And then with my hand on the back of his neck, I pulled his face towards me, I took his lips, kissing him, pouring into that kiss everything I’d held back from him since we first met.

This is who I am. This is what I want. That voice came from someplace hidden and secret inside me.

It was minutes, minutes of nothing but my mouth on his, nothing but two people finding solace in each other, before

I realized I’d messed up.

He didn’t seem to want me to pull away, but didn’t stop me when I did. Shaking my head, I smoothed the collar on his shirt, unable to look at him. “I’m…modi, Ransom, I’m sorry.”

Ransom pulled my chin up and smoothed his thumb over my cheek, down the slope of my chin before he returned his attention to my eyes. “I don’t think I am.”

It was a moment I thought I’d always wanted. Him looking at me like I was real, like he saw me, finally saw me. I’d seen that look once before, just as Ransom whispered my name and kissed me over and over the first time. It wasn’t the look of someone hopeless. It was open and raw and I realized right then that I’d give anything for Ransom to never stop looking at me.

But this was against our rules. This wasn’t how we were supposed to be. I took his hand, thought of pulling it away from my face but didn’t have the strength, liked how it felt on my face too much. “Friends don’t kiss, Ransom.”

A small nod, and his eyes narrowed. His grip around me tightened. The music around us swelled. “No, they don’t,” he said, still touching my face, inching closer and I knew, right then, he was definitely not my friend.

Books in the Thin Love Series

Thin Love My Beloved THICK_LOVE_COVER
Thin Love Series Purchase LinksAmazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | iTunes

About Eden Butler

Eden Butler PicEden Butler is an editor and writer of New Adult Romance and SciFi and Fantasy novels and the nine-times great-granddaughter of an honest-to-God English pirate. This could explain her affinity for rule breaking and rum. Her debut novel, a New Adult, Contemporary (no cliffie) Romance, “Chasing Serenity” launched in October 2013 and quickly became an Amazon bestseller.

When she’s not writing or wondering about her possibly Jack Sparrowesque ancestor, Eden edits, reads and spends way too much time watching rugby, Doctor Who and New Orleans Saints football.

She is currently imprisoned under teenage rule alongside her husband in southeast Louisiana.

Please send help.

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Tumblr | Blog | Goodreads

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Horror Film Writer, Director Wes Craven Dies at 76

Horror films don’t create fear.  They release it. – Wes Craven On Sunday, August 30, 2015, horror genre legend Wes Craven succumbed to brain cancer; he was 76. Writer, director, executive producer, cinematographer, editor (even actor), he left his touch on many of the most iconic (and top grossing) American horror films:  “A Swamp Thing”, […]


Gimbling in the Wabe – Acknowledging Who We Are

On Wednesday, August 26, a television reporter and her photographer partner were gunned down while conducting a live interview during a morning telecast in Moneta, Virginia.  The woman being interviewed was also shot and had to undergo emergency surgery, but is expected to survive.  The gunman, a disgruntled employee of the station, later shot himself […]


August 24th → Totally Booked Blog

August 25th → Short and Sassy Book Blurbs

August 26th → The Book Vigilante Reviews

August 27th → LitStack

August 28th → As the Pages Turn

Pre-Release Banner - Thick Love

Title: Thick Love (Thin Love, #2)
Author: Eden Butler
Genre: NA | Contemporary Romance
Release Date: August 31, 2015




He doesn’t ask their names.

He doesn’t deserve to know them.

Ransom Riley Hale’s friends think his life is charmed: first string as a freshman on a championship-winning college football team. A father with two Super Bowl rings. A mother with platinum albums and multiple Grammies under her belt. But that brilliant shine on the surface hides the darkness beneath; it’s all Ransom has ever known.

Despite the shadows he walked in, once there was a blinding light fracturing the darkness. It brought the promise of hope and happiness. He’d been careless, filled with pride and stupidity and lost that light. Ripped it from the world.

Now, the shadows are dimming again. Aly King surges into his life threatening to pull him from the darkness. She is everything Ransom can never be again. Her light feels too warm, promises him that there is more waiting for him beyond the shadows.

But the shadows are relentless, resurfacing when he thinks he is safe, and Ransom knows he must keep Aly from them too before he pulls her down into the darkness with him.

Pre-Order Thick LoveAmazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | iTunes


A quick flash of memory, those violent, vicious images of Emily, of me, and I felt the dread, the burning pain filter through my body, making me desperate to forget everything else. To simply, single-mindedly, do my job.

“I…I can make you feel good.” I doubted she heard my promise. Either of them.

The girl laying in front of me was still nervous, hands trembling, matching the quick shiver of my fingers, but I couldn’t stop her from worrying, from feeling whatever it was that had her shaking as I came closer, lowering those pink straps, running my tongue over the curves of her generous tits.

“You’re beautiful here, sugar.” She tasted like her lilac-smelling perfume. She was delicious and the sounds she made as I kissed up her neck, over her collarbone encouraged me. “And here…” I said, marveling at those perfectly round nipples I uncovered, smiling at the shocked, awed expression on her face when I grazed my thumbs over those peaks. “Pink and hard, and so damn sweet.” She moaned, the sound louder, breathless when I took one nipple between my thumb and forefinger. The sensations rose up then, her voice like a melody, those raspy intakes of breath heady, shooting straight to my chest, speeding my heart. “That feels good, doesn’t it?”

“Yeah…yes.” And the rasp in her voice only caught, became breathless when I rolled the nipple with a little more pressure. “God I’m…”

I caught the signs, knew what she wanted, knew that she was scared, still nervous around me, but that she was ready to fall. She gripped her inner thigh, tugging on her loose skirt and I couldn’t help but grin, knowing she was just on the edge of having what she wanted. She was right there and I’d gladly see her off that cliff.

“Touch yourself if you need to.” Red’s quick glance, her widened eyes and the return of her blush pulled a small laugh from me. “You don’t need to worry about me, sweetheart. Nothing you do leaves this room. On my hon…” No. I couldn’t say that. I had no honor. Not anymore. I wanted it back, I wanted to earn it, but it wasn’t mine, not yet. “I promise.”

“I don’t know…how.”

“I’ll show you.” I was careful to watch her face, gage her reactions, see if she’d change her mind, but my fingers on her skirt, pulling it off, then slipping down her too sweet, too girly cotton panties did nothing to make her stop me. “Relax. Just take a breath.” And she tried, nodded again but dug her fingers into my sheets as though she needed some grip to keep gravity in check, like she couldn’t manage to trust touching herself. It was fine. I’d do it for her.

She was pink everywhere. Pink and wet and pulsing like a grape on the vine full and ready for the taking. This wouldn’t take long, I knew that. This girl was hungry for something she couldn’t quite reach. Something she probably didn’t even understand. So I was gentle as I lowered over her, as undressed her completely, separated her folds with my big fingers and brushed my tongue against that swollen clit. I thought she probably felt my smile against her pussy when I watched her, when the flush on her skin and those panting breaths made her skin glow. God, she looked beautiful. Ready to burst. “Is that good?”

“So…so good. God…”

“This is better.” Red bucked against my fingers when I slipped them inside, feeling the searing heat, the tight, tight muscles that wrapped around my fingers. Those smells, the feel of her, the wetness, the hiss of her throaty voice when she groaned, it was like a slice to my chest, feeling all of this at once, knowing I could only taste, could only touch.
My penance. My punishment for taking something that had never been mine.


My fingers dipping deeper, tongue flicking fast, Red only became wetter and she dug her fingers so hard against my sheets that her knuckles turned white. “Squeeze my fingers.” And she did, tight, her inner muscles greedily gripping around my fingers and then the memory came back, like it always did. That small body, that sweet, sweet taste, the first I’d ever had.
The way she’d call my name, how she’d tasted on my tongue. That memory crippled me. Every damn time. The memory stung, but I opened up and let it in, taking that pain, cradling it—Emily’s tight, wet body gripping my fingers, pulsing against me. How fascinated I’d been by her reactions, by how responsive she was. I had felt like a god. I’d felt powerful and strong and so very astounded that it was me, the clumsy, senseless sixteen year old that made Emily writhe against my fingers. Me that had her pulling at my hair, pushing me deeper into her body. Me that she loved.

The same me who had wrecked everything.

Red’s climax was hard and I took her scream, her arching, quaking body, her pulsing wetness, and let her ride it out with my fingers still deep inside of her. Then I slowly slipped out of her drenched pussy, and laid my hand flat on her mound, helping her to ease down. Once she was calm I took the opportunity to dry my face, to scrub my palms into my eyes, hoping that the memory of Emily would fade; hoping that her face, her taste, would finally be erased by the girl laying next to me.
But she always came back, my girl, my favorite redhead. Her voice, her touch, the smell of Emily’s hair was embedded into my skin, every recall of her, every devastating memory was part of my body, ran deeper than my cells.

There was no erasing her.

Maybe it was the red hair. Maybe it was the freckles, but for the hundredth time it seemed, touching another girl, tasting someone else’s body, hadn’t managed to pull Emily from my thoughts.

I didn’t think anyone ever would.

When the girl’s breaths evened out and she rolled to her side, I took her hand, laid next to her. “When you’re alone, when you want to feel this again, touch yourself deep.” I picked up her hand, kissed her knuckles. “Use those beautiful hips to ride your fingers.”


I liked that she was shy again, as though she was just realizing that it was her voice that shouted out into the room, her body that had washed over in pleasure. But the blush didn’t return.

“Don’t ever let anybody tell you what your body needs. Only you can know that and don’t you settle until you find someone that will give you what you need.”


I shook my head, knowing what she’d say. Knowing what the pull of her frowning lips meant. Sympathy. Pity. I’d seen it a hundred times before. “I’m good, sweetheart, really.”

“You…you were crying.”

It would be so damn easy to talk to this girl. She didn’t know me. She knew nothing about my folks or my baby brother or that my mother was about to have another one. She didn’t know about the years Mom and I spent in Nashville, how I’d know football superstar Kona Hale was my father since I was thirteen. Red didn’t know about all the fuck ups I’d made. She didn’t know about my anger and my need to excel.

She didn’t know about the biggest shadow clouding my life. It had nothing to do with having successful, famous parents or the Great Love of theirs that the media loved to wax on and on about.
Red only knew what her friends had told her about me. She only knew that I was the first person to make her come. She knew nothing else, and sometimes it was easier telling a total stranger about all the bullshit weighing you down than your own blood.

But I couldn’t take the pity.

Finally, I reached down to drop a quick kiss against her lips. “Nah, sugar. Just a little sweat. You’re sweet to worry, but I’m fine. Really.”

“You look, I dunno. So lost.” Eyes snapping to hers, that defensive anger shot into my blood, but I pulled it back, reminding myself that she had no idea who I was. She was worried about me, a complete stranger worried about me. If she only knew how misplaced that concern was.
“I just thought maybe you would want…”

But I cut her off, standing to pick up her clothes. She dressed in silence with me waiting for her near the door. It was a little harsh, but seemed to work. They’d come for a release. I’d give it to them gladly, easily. There was no need to linger.

“Thank you, really.” Red looked me in the eyes, all the hints of shyness now absent from her features. She reached for my face, likely meaning to comfort me, but I pulled away from her, catching her hand before she did. Another smile and a single nod and the redhead didn’t try again. “You’re a good person, Ransom.”

Behind my closed eyelids, I said a little prayer, wishing that it could be true, and Red took her cue, leaving my room with the smell of her climax and the scent of lilac perfuming the air.
“No, sweetheart. I’m not good at all,” I whispered after her.

Books in the Thin Love Series

Thin Love My Beloved THICK_LOVE_COVER
Thin Love Series Purchase LinksAmazon | Amazon UK | B&N | Kobo | iTunes
Want more? Head to As the Pages Turn tomorrow (August 28th) for the last installment. The blog will be revealing the final section of the prologue and chapter one of THICK LOVE sneak peek. If you haven’t read the previous three sneak peek installments make sure to head back to Totally Booked Blog (Part I), Short and Sassy Book Blurbs (Part II) and The Book Vigilante Reviews (Part III).

August 24thTotally Booked Blog

August 25thShort and Sassy Book Blurbs

August 26thThe Book Vigilante Reviews

August 27thShh Mom’s Reading

August 28thAs the Pages Turn

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About Eden Butler

Eden Butler PicEden Butler is an editor and writer of New Adult Romance and SciFi and Fantasy novels and the nine-times great-granddaughter of an honest-to-God English pirate. This could explain her affinity for rule breaking and rum. Her debut novel, a New Adult, Contemporary (no cliffie) Romance, “Chasing Serenity” launched in October 2013 and quickly became an Amazon bestseller.

When she’s not writing or wondering about her possibly Jack Sparrowesque ancestor, Eden edits, reads and spends way too much time watching rugby, Doctor Who and New Orleans Saints football.

She is currently imprisoned under teenage rule alongside her husband in southeast Louisiana.

Please send help.

Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Tumblr | Blog | Goodreads


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A Fort of Nine Towersfort
Qais Akbar Omar

From a young boy’s memories comes a remarkable true story of the changes in Afghanistan in the last few decades, a story that is full of strength as well as fear, and one that overwhelmingly testifies of a love of family, and strong ties to the land. While it does not flinch from atrocities, terror and a simmering sense of outrage, it also does not hesitate to show that even in desperate times there can be beauty, joy, and life well lived.

The book begins with Qais as a young boy in Russian occupied Kabul, shortly after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 and right before the arrival of the Mujahedin, or Holy Warriors, in 1991. While life in an occupied country was not ideal, especially with the lack of recourse against hostile troops and the repression of religious traditions, there was at least an aspect of stability; business proceeded as normal, the economy functioned, trade flowed between Afghanistan and its neighbors. Qais’ father was part of the family carpet selling business, providing them with a solid income and a well known presence in the city. His mother had a good job at a bank, and the children were well schooled and lovingly tended. Still, they, like many Afghans, they were hopeful that a shift in power from foreign occupation to the groups of Mujahedin who had banded together not only throughout Afghanistan, but also in Pakistan and Iran, would bring about a resurgence in Afghan self-governance, justice, and independence.

Things were good for a few months. Markets were full and prices were cheap, people could travel wherever and whenever they wanted without being afraid of being caught in the crossfire between Russian troops and Afghan rebels. The mood of the country was one of great optimism. But before long, small squabbles between different Mujahedin factions turned into fights that literally exploded in Kabul and across Afghanistan. Qais and his family were caught in the middle.
What would you do if your family’s livelihood was stolen, and you were afraid to leave your home because there were snipers in the hills and on the rooftops who would shoot anyone for target practice, regardless of who they were? If bombs and mortar shells fell constantly, leveling trees, buildings, everything that once was green and beautiful? What if you had no way of communicating with friends and relatives, of knowing if they had fled or been killed or were holed up in their homes? If the city of your birth and where you have lived your entire life is now the center of chaos and lawlessness engulfing an entire nation?

If you are like Qais Akbar Omar, you learn to endure. You take advantage of what you can, you learn how to cope, you lean on your family and the contacts you have made over the years, and you listen to your father, your uncles, your grandfather. Sometimes you fight. Sometimes, you can’t. Sometimes you flee. But you never give up hope. You never let go of those around you. You hold on to your faith, you learn where you can, and you live your life as best you can.

In 1996, the bombs suddenly stop falling in Kabul. The Taliban has come to Afghanistan, and everything changes again. Factions no longer fight in the street, but they have been replaced by an ever greater threat – one of ignorance and rigidity, bloodily backed by heavy handed and strangling ideologies that are based more on power than they are on religious principle, strictly enforced through edict, indiscriminate seizure, torture and fear with no recourse, no tolerance. Bombs no longer fall, but the fear of the people is even more razor sharp. This is the backdrop of Qais’ adolescence. But rather than be broken, Qais and his family endure. They hold on to each other, they scrap for everything they can. They hope – and they teach those of us who will stop to listen to their story.

A Fort of Nine Towers is a remarkable book in that it is simply written about a time and a life that is certainly not simple. Author Omar’s voice is courteous, clear, and personal. This is not a book that spends a lot of time speaking of histories and ideologies, of relating philosophies or religious dogma, other than what is needed to understand what is happening. He is not trying to convince us of anything, but simply to share his story with us, and in doing that, to give us an understanding of his life and country. And he succeeds, because of his honesty. In that honesty, we learn so much more than we would from newspaper articles or history books.

For many of us, knowledge of Afghanistan is limited to the actions of September 11, 2001, military actions against the Taliban, hostilities spilling in from Iraq, Iran, and Pakistan, and the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. But this land and this people have had an advanced culture for thousands of years before the birth of Christ. They are a people who deserve the understanding of our world. A Fort of Nine Towers is a gripping and vital part of that understanding.

—Sharon Browning

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2015 Hugo Awards Announced

The Hugo Awards were handed out on Saturday night at Worldcon in Spokane, Washington, and although the balloting process was contentious and full of drama, in the end the community of science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts came together.  The awards ceremony, hosted by David Gerrold and Tananarive Due, was by all accounts warm, witty, and […]

Julie Dillon Artificial Daydreams

Gimbling in the Wabe – Miserable Fiction

This Gimbling first appeared in November 2013.  I was reading a book the other day.  It was a very good book, extremely well written, very imaginative.  The images it evoked were sharp and emotive; it was clear what the author was trying to convey, her motives unfolded sensibly and organically.  This particular book had been […]

rain border

The Presidential Summer Reading List

As The Hill reported last week, President Barack Obama chose six books to read during his 16-day vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. Here’s a rundown.

Between The World and Me, by Ta-Nahisi Coates. An educator and journalist for The Atlantic Monthly, Coates set out to write this memoir in the form of a letter to his son, inspired to pen a  contemporary version of James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time. Called “powerful and passionate” by the New York Times, Coates’ exploration tracks, as Toni Morrison described, “the hazards and hopes of black male life,” and what it means now to be black in America.


All That Is, by James Salter. The esteemed novelist and short story writer’s final book was published to high praise in 2013, two years before his death at age 90. Considered a departure from his previous work, known for its compression and tightly controlled narratives, All That Is tracks the life of one James Bowman from his deployment to the Pacific theater in World War II, through divorce, marriage and old age. In his 2013 review, Malcolm Jones called the novel a “work that manages to be both recognizable…and yet strikingly original.”

All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. Winner of this year’s Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, Doerr’s novel, his second, and fifth book, is a braided narrative of two children during World War II, the blind Marie-Laure, part of the French Resistance, and Werner, serving the Thousand-Year Reich. Structured in short chapters, and told in alternating points of view, the brevity serves to deepen the portrayals. Amanda Vaill, in her 2014 The Washington Post review, said, “I’m not sure I will read a better novel this year.”

The Sixth Extinction, by Elizabeth Kolbert. In lucid mix of storytelling and reportage, Kolbert, a staff writer at The New Yorker, gives an account of the what Al Gore, in his review called the “violent collision between civilization and our planet’s ecosystem.” In her examination of the environmental effects on endangered and fragile places like the Andes, the Amazon rain forest, the Great Barrier Reef, Kolbert shows what is at stake, and what can be lost, if governmental policy continues to ignore real effects upon evolution and extinction.

The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri. Political upheaval, two brothers, immigration and separation occupy this saga of divisiveness and war in the social and political world of 1950’s Calcutta and the Naxalite Movement. Nominated for the 2013 Man Booker Prize, Lahiri’s novel, her second and fourth book, looks at the saga of upheaval, immigration, and as Maureen Corrigan in her 2013 review said, a place where “Geography is destiny.”

Washington: A Life, by Ron Chernow. Published in 2010, Chernow’s book is a comprehensive look at the United States’ first president. Six years in the making, the biography was six years in the making, and Chernow, who was once a business journalist, first began the book while writing another on Alexander Hamilton. Drawing largely on Washington’s extensive record-keeping, the book won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.










So what did The President leave out? Here’s Mark Lawson at The Guardian on what’s not on the list:

“In fiction, the striking absences are Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman – possibly because the president has already read the racially contentious companion novel to To Kill a Mockingbird, or because he doesn’t want to be seen reading it – and any crime or thriller titles, which have been the genres most favoured by previous recent occupants of the Oval Office. Bill Clinton helped to popularise the novels of Walter Mosley and was an admirer of PD James, while both Clinton and the first President Bush were declared fans of Richard North Patterson. Obama, though, prefers the sort of stories that please the judges of the fancier writing prizes: Doerr won the Pulitzer, Lahiri was a finalist for the National book award. “

And as other literary observers have also done over the past week, Lawson unpacks the Presidential reading list as what the choices might signify.

—Lauren Alwan




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CBS Snaps Up Ian McDonald’s “Luna: New Moon”

You gotta love it when there is a bidding war amongst entertainment conglomerates for the rights to a science fiction work that hasn’t even been published yet.  But such is the case with prolific British sci-fi writer Ian McDonald’s new novel, Luna: New Moon, set to be released on September 22. In an article dated […]


Gimbling in the Wabe – The View from My Soapbox

Every time I see one particular television commercial for the Hyundai Tucson CUV (which I learned is an acronym for “crossover utility vehicle” as opposed to an SUV, or “sports utility vehicle”… one site called a CUV as “a car on steroids”), I get really, really pis…. er, upset. I shouldn’t.  I mean, we should […]


A Brief Look at Father Memoirs

Stories that center on fathers have a distinct place in the memoir genre. For better or worse, fathers hold a place that intersects with the world and experience in a way far different from that of a mother’s. As in Jung’s archetypes, fathers are symbols of worldliness and action, yet many of the fathers depicted in these memoirs embody qualities both maternal and paternal. They are both figures of power and the bearers of a powerful and necessary love. That love is often complicated by flaws and (as is so often the occasion in memoir), a distance that incites yearning. The genre further complicates as it subdivides into father memoirs by sons and by daughters. Yet the constant is often that of distance—geographic, emotional, or both. This is especially true in the now-classic memoir, President Barack Obama’s Dreams of My Father.

It’s as good a place as any to start. This father memoir (published in 1995) portrays the mix of longing and mystery that fathers so often hold. Early on, we find the young Barack struggling academically and socially under the specter of his distant father, the elder Obama, a brilliant, commanding, but ultimately absent figure who  exists at a remove. As a result, he occupies a near-mythic status. He appears once, when the young Barack is ten years old, a proximity that is affecting enough to instill in the young son a persistent need to meet the father’s expectations. The memoir tracks this odyssey, which is as much an internal journey as external, and charts the young Barack’s love of history, books (by James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Nietzsche and St. Augustine among them), and of course, law and governance. In a review, the New York Times observed that in his portraying himself and the search for identity as a fatherless son, President Obama “is at once the solitary outsider who learns to stop pressing his nose to the glass and the coolly omniscient observer providing us with a choral view of his past,” which is as good a definition of a father memoir protagonist as I’ve yet to read.

Fairyland: A Memoir of My Father, by Alysia Abbott.


As mentioned here in last week’s LitStack Recs, Abbott mines both the distance and closeness that defined her relationship with the father, the poet and activist Steve Abbott, who became her primary caregiver after the death of her mother. Raised by her single father after the death of her mother, Barbara, in a car accident, the young Alysia is raised with both love and a lack of convention. Though at the heart of the story is her father’s art, but also his closeted life as gay, eventual coming out, and his  death from AIDS in 1992. Like Dreams of My Father, the account is as much a personal one as an important social document.


Epilogue, by Will Boast

Both a remembrance and a elegiac account of the loss of a family, Boast’s 2014 memoir (a recipient of The Rome Prize) tracks the tragic early death of his mother  Nancy, the untimely death of his younger brother Rory, and the family secret left behind after his father Andrew’s death (when Will was twenty-four). In straightforward, and often painfully honest terms, Boast portrays the years growing up in Fontana, Wisconsin, and the assimilation sought by his English-born parents (who met and married in 1970s Southampton). But what drives this gripping memoir is the discovery after Andrew’s death of a first marriage and the wife and two sons he left behind in England. This is the inciting event that drives Will’s aim to connect with them, and as he does, unravels the mystery of his father’s life. As with the best memoirs, the story belongs to its narrator, both in the grief and loss Will suffers at losing his family of origin and his search to find the family he has left.


The Shadow Man, A Daughter’s Search for her Father, by Mary Gordon

This now-classic memoir (published in 1996), by acclaimed novelist Mary Gordon, tracks another father secret, Gordon’s discovery in her mid-forties that her father was not Catholic, but Jewish. In a review by the LA Times, Gordon’s memoir was called an investigation of deception and self-deception, an apt description of this memoir’s mystery-like mood. David Gordon’s flaws, he is a novelist manqué and man about town, are more than apparent to the reader, yet Gordon idealizes her father. Though rather than impede the author’s believability, her stance only adds to the sadness and tension of her account. A “first family” enters into the storyline here as well, but instead of offering hope, as it does for Boast, the discovery serves as the initial crack that ultimately dismantles the falsehoods.

This Boy’s Life: A Memoir, by Tobias  Wolff 

Published in 1989, Wolff’s memoir has since become a classic of the contemporary genre. The preeminent story writer and novelist has said This Boy’s Life began as notes written to himself about his boyhood on his peripatetic and often tumultuous boyhood after his mother flees her marriage. And though for young Toby, his mother is essential to the story—in her tragic uncertainty and unfortunate choices—it’s the absence of the father that drives Toby’s yearning and so many of his actions. In a voice that is both cutting and honest, Wolff looks at the damaged men, like his stepfather, Dwight, and the distant father in  who seems most influential in the ambition Toby sets for himself, to be accepted at an elite boarding school—a feat that requires no small amount of deception and self-reinvention.


Patrimony: A True Story, by Philip Roth

Roth’s 1991 memoir, charts the illness and death of his father, Herman Roth, from an inoperable brain tumor. In Roth’s trademark penetrating and melancholy style, he charts the account of his widowed, eighty-six year old father, and in a decidedly anti-Rothian stance, offers one of the more tender entries into the Roth canon. Roth shows an unvarnished, full-faceted picture of what it’s like to care for an elderly parent—the humiliations, the tensions and the exhaustion—while showing us the man Herman had once been, and in many ways still is, powerful, competent, charismatic. For me, as a woman reading Roth (and often in awe of the prose) it’s an understatement to say there are moments when it feels like I’m reading dispatches from an unfriendly country. Yet in this memoir, Roth adopts a different stance, one informed by filial respect and clear-sightedness. Though no memoir can possibly be “true,” what of the truth can be known surely has its source in the son’s love for his father.

—Lauren Alwan

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When Alan Cheuse, writer, reader, teacher, and champion of books, died on July 31, the literary world lost one of its most influential advocates. A longtime book critic for NPR (review titles for All Things Considered for more than thirty years), Cheuse’s reviews were famously deft and insightful. And as a writer of literary fiction whose love of reading extended across genres, he loved a good story well told. Here’s a passage from a recent review of The Black Snow, by Irish writer Paul Lynch, an indication of Cheuse’s regard for close observation and careful language:

As Lynch presents the story, it becomes an out-of-the-ordinary creation, a novel in which sentence after sentence come so beautifully alive in all of the fullness of its diction and meaning that it makes most other contemporary Irish fiction seem dull by comparison, such as the description of the face of the doomed farmhand, Matthew Peoples, a face like a lived-in map. “The high terrain of his cheekbones and the spread of red veins on the pads of his cheeks like great rivers were written on him or the farmer looking up and seeing a fault over the earth that rived the morning sky with a ridge of low cloud-like dirt snow sided on a road.”

In an obituary published last week, the New York Times quoted Cheuse’s advice to, “Live as much as you can, read as much as you can, and write as much as you can.” The author’s family asked, via his web site, that in his honor, remember to “raise a glass of wine (or whatever you may be drinking), tell a joke, hug someone that you love, be kind, and read a great story.”

Read the New York Times remembrance here.

LitStack Review: Finders Keepers by Stephen King

Finders Keepers Stephen King Scribner Release Date:  June 2, 2015 ISBN 978-1-5011-0007-9 Finders Keepers is Stephen King’s love letter to literature.  A blood drenched, visceral, scary love letter to literature. The story centers around writer John Rothstein, who is considered by some to be one of America’s greatest authors, akin to Hemingway, Salinger, Vonnegut, Steinbeck, […]

Stephen King
Sex Criminalssex criminals
Volume 1 – One Weird Trick
Volume 2 – Two Worlds, One Cop
Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky

My recommendation is going to be a short one this week, because I’ve got beaucoup things on my plate and not even enough time to use a knife and fork. But I really wanted to give you a head’s up on a really fun couple of collections of the addictive and hilariously written comic, Sex Criminals.

Matt Fraction is possibly one of the comic industries most beloved writers. He’s an Eisner Award winner (think “the Oscars of comic books”), and his Hawkeye series for Marvel (August 2012 – July 2015) is considered one of the major industry’s best. His droll humor and ability to humanize the larger-than-life keep folks coming back time after time. Partner him up with Chip Zdarsky, and it’s a par-tay!

Let me say this upfront: Sex Criminals is not pornography. However, it is very explicit, adult humor. If you’re okay with having fun with sex, or the idea of fun sex, or the idea of sex being a vehicle for a fun story, then you’re going to enjoy Sex Criminals. If that’s not your thing, then I’ll see you next week.

In Sex Criminals, we meet Jon and Suzie. Jon works at a bank, Suzie at a library. Jon hates his job; Suzie loves hers but the library is in danger of foreclosure from the very bank that employs Jon. The two don’t know each other at the start of the series, but they find each other due to what they thought was a unique “talent” that both of them possesses: when they orgasm, time stops. Not just for a few seconds – long enough for them to wander around and marvel at things and, um, do things. So…… what does a newly infatuated couple do? They have lots of sex. And when it turns out that they need a lot of money, fast and desperate? They have a lot of sex and rob banks. Easy peasy, right? Well, yeah – until the Sex Cops show up.

Listen, the joy of Sex Criminals is not in the plot of the story, except in the broadest strokes. It’s not even in the sex, except in the fun its being the driver of the plot. The joy is in the absurdity of the storylines, the unguarded (and sometimes raunchy, sometime poignant, always genuine) dialog, and the incredible laugh-out-loud humor tickling and spanking you on every page. Even the dedications, biographies and extras (especially the extras!) are freekin’ hilarious.

So if you want to laugh and you don’t have a problem with explicit humor, check out Sex Criminals. You might be able to find individual issues, but your best bet is to pick up one of the collected volumes (Volume 1 is issues 1 – 5; Volume 2 is issues 6 – 10). And be prepared to laugh. A lot.

—Sharon Browning


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Last week, we featured a review of Scott Wilbanks’ debut novel The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster. As part of the blog tour for this book release, we sat down with Scott to chat about his writing journey, where the idea for this book came from and his idea (and our editor’s) idea of a perfect day. Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster

Be sure to pick up your copy of The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster, available now!


LS: Every writer struggles on their journey to publication. What was your writer’s road like and what was the most valuable lesson you learned in the process?

Do you mind if I start with something a little off point?

LS: Sure.

Sharon’s latest Gimbling In The Wabe struck a chord with me. I’m a consummate daydreamer, so much so that I have a hard time keeping my head in “real time,” if you know what I mean. The fall out can be pretty comical. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve wasted looking for the keys that are in my hand, the glasses that are atop my head, or trying to start a car that is out of gas…
That being said, struggle? Me? If you don’t count the 100+ rejections over four years, I’m an overnight success.

In all seriousness, that endless parade of rejections served a useful purpose. If it weren’t for every last one of them, coupled with my absolute refusal to give in, I would have never actually learned how high to set the bar to become published, nor would I have acquired the level of craft to achieve that goal. It was a painful, poignant, and incredibly rewarding process.
I wrote (badly), and queried, then rewrote (less badly), and queried again in so many cycles that each successive draft of my manuscript became something like the outer ring on a tree, possessing a character and depth greater than the previous iteration. The end result became so much better for it. More importantly, that struggle provided me a rudimentary understanding of the craft of writing, something that I’ve been able to build upon while working on my sophomore effort.

As to the most valuable lesson I learned? I suppose it is that agents are people, and people err. I can’t tell you how many agents told me that I must either pull out LEMONCHOLY’s secondary story line—the one involving Christian Keebler and Edmond Marden—or my manuscript would never see the light of day. As you can imagine, the advice was upsetting. Either pull out a story line that was of tremendous personal importance, or watch my manuscript languish. In the end, I chose to be contrary. I doubled down. I poured so much of my heart into those men that two very odd things happened. First, I couldn’t help but notice that the passion I poured into them began to light up the primary storyline. They made it better. And, second, people began to comment on how much they were moved by the two men. By the time everything shook down, I’d received three agency offers, not in spite of the secondary storyline, but because of it.

LS: What is your writing process like? Do you outline?

I’m of the opinion that I have an outlining allergy, not that my agent cares one whit. She had me plot the second manuscript while the first was in production.
I write in ripples, at the center of which is a question. To better explain, I’d like to acquaint you with a visual. Picture two women—one a young, modern day San Francisco eccentric with a penchant for Victorian clothes, and the other a cantankerous, old schoolmarm living in turn-of-the-century Kansas wheat field —pen pals who get off to a rather rocky start, depositing their correspondences in a brass letterbox that stands in some common magical ground between them.

From that picture in my head came a horribly written, stream-of-consciousness first draft—four hundred fifty pages of it. And from that came a series of questions, the first of which was the following: what would happen if Annie (my protagonist) reads about a murder that took place over a hundred years ago on her time line, yet will take place in three days on Elsbeth’s?
The question was like a pebble dropped in a pond. It was the cause, and the responses I generated were the effect, creating little ripples that radiated throughout my manuscript, oftentimes redirecting the plot entirely. To further complicate matters, each ensuing question created other ripples that expanded from the point of origin while also deflecting or changing the trajectory of the ripples created by the prior questions. This led to a lot of rewrites.

As to the questions, themselves, they were simple, and always fell in one of two categories: how can I raise the stakes for my protagonist, and/or how can I complicate both their inner and outer journey?

LS: You once told me that you wrote Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster in a very stream-of-consciousness sort of vein. How different was the writing of your second manuscript as opposed to Annie’s story?

The answer goes back to the first part of the prior question. I didn’t really have the luxury of “pantsing,” or stream-of-consciousness writing for the second manuscript, because the option clause in my publishing contract had matured, and my agent needed a synopsis and opening chapters pronto.

Opening chapters weren’t a problem, but a synopsis? Unless you have the manuscript written, the only way to create one of those is to visualize the entire story line. And the only way I could figure out how to create that story line without simply writing the darn thing was to outline.

LS: There are elements in the novel that touch upon hot-topic issues that are certainly present in the media today. Is this something that happened organically during the process of writing the novel or was it something you consciously made a point to tackle?Scotty

OMG, you’re wayyy too tactful, Tee. I’m gonna give you a hug.

It was exactly that “hot-topic” issue that agents insisted I pull from the manuscript. It was also the same issue that led me to move to New Zealand. I jokingly refer to myself as a DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act) refugee, having chosen to move here when my frustratingly perfect husband was not allowed to establish residency in the United States six years ago.

To answer your question, though, everything I wrote had organic origins. The direction of the time-travel component, the mystery, the epistolary war of words between Annie and El, it all came from my subconscious. When I became aware of where that secondary story line was taking me, however, I began to make deliberate decisions. It was important that I introduce my audience to the idea that all love is rooted in innocence. It was also important to me that my audience begin to understand the terrible sacrifices some people make for acceptance. Luckily for Christian, Annie (the book’s protagonist) cares for him too much to allow that to happen.

LS: I know you’re a fan of the Outlander series and other great genre works. Did anything you read previously influence you when you chose to write this story? If so, what books were they?

This is going to sound so weird considering the fact that LEMONCHOLY is, first and foremost, commercial women’s fiction, but I was inspired by the seminal work of fantasy—The Lord Of The Rings—primarily because it whetted my appetite for that particular genre. And it was that genre that fueled my imagination. Tolkien was solely responsible for turning me into a book-a-day nerd from the age of fourteen on—all of it (and I do mean all of it) either fantasy or Sci-Fi.

My mother, on the other hand, can’t stand fantasy. I mean, she has a deep-down-in-the-bones loathing for it. So, I decided to wrap a fantasy element in a more commercial premise to see if I could turn her to the dark side, so to speak.

“Did it work?” you might ask. Uh… no, though she’ll never admit it.

LS: What was the genesis of the novel?

A botched first date, I kid you not.

We were having coffee, and I thought everything was going swimmingly; that is, until he said, “I think we’re destined to be great friends.” The conversation took a cataclysmic decline at that point, and I drove home with my tail tucked between my legs. It was during that drive that I decided outcomes are only inevitable if you accept them as such, and immediately conjured up Annie, a contemporary San Franciscan obsessed with Victorian clothes, and Elsbeth, a cantankerous Victorian schoolmarm with an arsenal of curse words to make a sailor blush and a take-no-prisoners attitude, using my hyperactive imagination. When I got home, I had Annie write a letter to El, asking for advice regarding her lovestruck friend—me—and fired it off to my failed date’s email address.

The next day, I received a call… from him… at work. Apparently, my email had done the rounds at his office and was a bit of a hit.

“Annie needs to write more,” he said.

“Sadly, she can’t,” I responded.

“Why not?”

“El has to write back,” I answered, as if nothing could be more obvious.

That snippy little retort got me an email in return (from Elsbeth), and a second date. And a third, which led to a regular correspondence in which I acted as the director, and which, ultimately, cemented the personalities of my two leading ladies.

LS: Many of the elements writers include in their stories are informed by their backgrounds, specifically their childhood experiences. What in your childhood informed you as a writer and how different do you think your work would be had you not had the same experience?

My mom tells a story about me marching into the kitchen one day to declare that I had a book in me. I don’t recall ever having said that, but she insists I did. All I can tell you is that I was a voracious reader, making my way down to Waldenbooks in the local mall, or B Dalton’s, where I’d park myself in the sci fi/fantasy section for hours before walking out of the store with a handful of books.

LS: What’s your idea of a perfect day?

Spending the afternoon on the Champs Elysees with my best bud Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson before heading to a barbeque with the All Blacks rugby team in the Latin Quarter. Oh, wait… that might just be your idea of a perfect day, right Tee? Mea Culpa. (For those of you who don’t know, Tee is a bit of a fan…)

I’m such a creature of habit, really! This’ll bore you to tears, but my idea of a perfect day begins with having written 2000 of the best words ever while sitting in the window seat of my little home office as the perfect New Zealand sunlight splatters all over the room. After that, Mike and I will head onto the back deck to count a gazillion Monarchs (I kid you not) fluttering over the backyard while we chow down on Tex Mex takeout. From there, I’ll walk through Victoria Park to my gym for a quick work out before heading home to write 2000 even better words. If I win control of the TV remote after dinner, which means that I don’t have to watch yet another show about home repair, that’s just icing on the cake.

LS: Tell me something about yourself that no one else knows.

Ha! How about this? I was a national title-holder in the sport of gymnastics. And, as the result of a career ending accident in which my left arm was, for lack of a better explanation, severed off at the elbow—yep, you read that right—and reconstructed through surgery, it’s an inch shorter than my right arm. Makes for some pretty interesting cocktail conversation, let me tell you.

* Editor’s Note: Yep, that would be my idea of a perfect day. I have zero shame. Thanks, Scott! *

2015 Man Booker Prize Longlist Announced

Direct on the heels of the 70 title longlist for The Guardian’s Not the Booker award, is the actual authentic longlist for the actual authentic Man Booker Prize! The Man Booker Prize debuted in 1969, and according to its website, it “aims to promote the finest in fiction by rewarding the best novel of the […]

Man Booker 2015

Gimbling in the Wabe – Beer and a Brat

This week, a friend gifted me with tickets to the Twins game that happened to fall on the day I normally would be writing “Gimbling in the Wabe”. So, in the spirit of sitting back and having a good time, I am re-running a “Gimbling” that I wrote in 2013 outlining my love of the game. Thanks, Stacy! […]

Brian Dozier

Gimbling in the Wabe – Daydream Believer

We humans are so divergent in who we are, how we react and respond, in how our minds work and our ideas play out.  It’s glorious. I’m not talking ideologies or dogma or beliefs or rationalizations.  That’s not quite as glorious.  I’m talking about how we relate to our private selves, and to others around […]

How to Read to Read a Sentence and How to Write One, by Stanley Fish

The sentence is the coin of the realm, the catch that holds a reader fast to a story. And I love that Stanley Fish wrote a book just about sentences.  A professor of law and dean emeritus at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois, Fish looks at both structure and content in a way that is intellectually rigorous and personal—and he is clearly a fan of the well-crafted sentence.

Here, for example is his description of how sentences move a reader:

“…words so precisely placed that in combination with other words, also precisely placed, they carve out a shape in space and time.”

Fish is a keen advocate of literature, and once he defines his view of what sentences are, what they do, and how they do it, he moves into examples. He also looks closely at language construction. Just as carpenters love the smell of timber and the sound of a hammer on the head of nail, writers (those for whom language is part of the job—and the pleasure of writing) are prone to a fascination with the nuts and bolts of a sentence. Fish examines structure, syntax, grammar and usage, all in his clear, easy style. Words can be lumbering, maddeningly opaque things, a point Fish affirms: “Before the words slide into their slots, they are just discrete items, pointing everywhere and nowhere.”

I wholeheartedly agree with his advice for writers to “make language so transparent a medium that it disappears and interposes no obstacle or screen between the reader and the thing it points to.” Though it’s one thing to intend and another to achieve. I learned a lot from this book, and felt well-advised by Fish. As a curator of sentences, he has excellent taste. Here, he cites a line from Anthony Burgess’s novel Enderby Outside (1968):

 And the words slide into the slots ordained by syntax, and glitter as with atmospheric dust with those impurities which we call meaning.

As sentences go, I’d say that one definitely grabs.

—Lauren Alwan

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Earlier this week, NPR book reviewer and author Alan Cheuse was seriously injured in a car accident in California. A champion of books, the famously insightful Cheuse, whose reviews have been a regular feature on National Public Radio, is currently in a coma in a Santa Clara hospital. LitStack joins the writing community in sending our support and thoughts to Cheuse and his family. Details here.



2015 British Fantasy Awards Shortlists Announced

The 2015 British Fantasy Awards shortlists have been announced!  Are any of your favorites nominated?   The Robert Holdstock Award for Best Fantasy Novel Breed by KT Davies City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar The Moon King by Neil Williamson The Relic […]

Daniele Serra

E. L. Doctorow, 1931 – 2015

E. L. Doctorow, author of towering works of historical fiction such as The Book of Daniel, Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and The March has died. Born Edgar Lawrence Doctorow (he was named after Edgar Allan Poe) in the Bronx to a family of Russian descent, he graduated from Kenyon College in Ohio and attended one year […]

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer
by Vivian Maier (Author), John Maloof (Editor), Geoff Dyer (Contributor)

For forty years, Vivian Maier worked as a nanny in Chicago and took photographs on her days off. That may not seem extraordinary, but her work is quickly proving to be our era’s preeminent artistic discovery—the kind that comes along once in a lifetime.

The body of work left by Vivian Maier (1926 – 2009), primarily black and white photographs (including color slides, documentary films and audio interviews with her subjects) was posthumously discovered in 2007 by a local historian, John Maloof. Seeking neighborhood history for a project, Maloof purchased several boxes of her undeveloped photos at a storage warehouse auction in Chicago, on the block due to unpaid storage fees. Though as the negatives were printed, he soon understood he had something remarkable. And indeed, Maier’s work is not only receiving universal critical acclaim, but has been compared to some of the twentieth century’s most revered street photographers—Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Weegee, and Garry Winogrand.

Photograph by Vivian Maier.

Earlier this year, Maloof, along with the Geoff Dyer, released a pictorial collection of her photos. In an introduction, the authors observe Maier’s mystery and contradictions:

Vivian Maier represents an extreme instance of posthumous discovery; of someone who exists entirely in term of what she saw. Not only was she entirely unknown to the photographic world, hardly anyone seemed to know that she even took photographs. While this seems unfortunate, perhaps even cruel—a symptom or side effect of the fact that she never married or had children, and apparently had no close friends—it also says something about the unknowable potential of all human beings.

And indeed, no one knew of Maier’s work, save for the children she nannied who sometimes accompanied her on photographic expeditions. It seems Maier herself never chose to see her work in print form. Whether for a lack of money, or lack of interest, she never printed her negatives. She simply processed the film and left it in the can. But she continued to take pictures, favoring the grittier streets of Chicago as her subject, often with her charges in tow.

The lot Maloof purchased at auction contained 100,000 negatives taken over forty years. Maier worked primarily from 1957 to the late 1990s, and with no formal training, or peers, her work emerged solely out of her own vision, one largely facilitated by a singular eye and expert control of her Rolleiflex camera. Her work is lush, perfectly composed, and her point of view true to the social causes she favored. According to Maloof, the children she cared for (and who the last years of her life, cared for her, by the way), described her as “…a Socialist, a Feminist, a movie critic, and a tell-it-like-it-is type of person. She learned English by going to theaters, which she loved.” Maier was born in New York City and raised in Europe, and the influences she absorbed can only be speculated upon, but it’s clear that once exposed to the medium of photography, her understanding of its possibilities was immediate, and from the outset, nearly complete.

A documentary film, Finding Vivian Maier, was released in 2014. Learn more at the website of the Maloof Collection, which features some not-to-be missed shots of Maier’s collection of cameras and bathroom darkroom, here.

—Lauren Alwan

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LitStack Review: Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal

Of Noble Family Mary Robinette Kowal Tor Books Release Date:  April 28, 2015 ISBN 978-0-7653-7836-1 PLEASE NOTE:  This review, by necessity, contains spoilers for the first four books in The Glamourist Histories series. * * * * * It’s been almost six years since the first volume in Mary Robinette Kowal’s lovely The Glamourist Histories series, Shades […]

Mary Robinette Kowal

2015 Shirley Jackson Awards Winners Announced

The winners of the Shirley Jackson Awards were announced over the weekend at Readercon 26 – and without further ado, here they are: NOVEL Winner: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer Bird Box by Josh Malerman Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes Confessions by Kanae Minato The Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman The Unquiet House by Alison Littlewood […]

Shirley Jackson Awards banner

World Fantasy Awards 2015 Ballot Announced

The final ballot for the 2015 World Fantasy Awards was just announced; trophies for the winners will be handed out during the World Fantasy Convention, to be held November 5 – 8 in Sarasota Springs, New York. The World Fantasy Awards were established in 1975.  Each year, a longlist of nominees is determined by a […]


The Empty Family, by Colm Tóibín 

The Empty Family, Colm Tóibín’s most recent collection of stories (released in 2011), is a book I always keep close by, dipping into the pages that on each reading  remain fresh and affecting. Tóibín’s stories unfold with searing emotional accuracy. For me, the narration has an almost hypnotic quality, and the perceptions finely turned, whether relaying a character’s thoughts or the landscape, say, of Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland where Tóibín was born and grew up.

Tóibín now lives both in Ireland and the U.S., and is the author of numerous books of nonfiction as well as novels, including The Blackwater Lightship (1999) and The Master (2004), winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the recent, Nora Webster.

The nine stories in The Empty Family center on characters who confront the absence or presence of family experience in which there exists some unrecoverable loss or distance. Whether they live outside their native country or have returned after years away, they  grapple with the pull of home, with the heightened sense that comes from being an outsider, and the tensions of character and place. We are never the same, after all, once we leave home, and Tóibín’s work beautifully mines how shifts in identity come into conflict with personal history.

The novelist Jane Smiley observed that “Tóibín’s tone is so quiet and interiorized that we even believe that the narrator is doing what he has been told to do as we are reading his story.” That deliberateness, what Tóibín has described as something like an dictating an instruction manual, makes his stories addictive and utterly satisfying. As here, at the conclusion of “The New Spain.” A young woman, Carme, has returned to the Balearic Islands after years of self-exile in London, and finds herself in control of her grandmother’s estate and the finances of her estranged family, though not before a falling out that launches this unexpected revision of
her life:

The first thing she would do, she thought, was find a contractor to knock down the new wall that cut her grandmother’s house off from easy access to this beach. She would consult no one about that. She would begin the search in the morning when she had paid the antiques dealer for her grandmother’s furniture. In the meantime, she would read in in the newspaper about England, where she had been for eight years, and then she would have a good night’s sleep, alone, in peace. As she raised the glass of cold beer to her lips, she felt a contentment that she had never expected to feel, an ease she had not believed would ever come her way.

-Lauren Alwan

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The Water KnifeThe Water Knife
Paolo Bacigalupi
Alfred A. Knopf
Release Date:  May 26, 2015
ISBN 978-0-385-35287-1

We read the news; we hear of the drought in California, the suggested restrictions rarely enforced, the warnings that it won’t be enough to stave off disaster.  We hear of defiant affluents who feel their net worth exempts them from constraints, of towns fearing they will run out of water in a week and then receiving a reprieve but only for a few months; “water rights” has suddenly become a buzz phrase.  Yet most of us hear all of this and say, “So what?”

Paolo Bacigalupi’s speculative fiction novel The Water Knife is so what.

Mr. Bacigalupi is not afraid to take on non-glamorous social issues and put them at the forefront of his exquisitely crafted novels.  He is the author who showed us a gritty future where genetic modification had unexpectedly brought blight and disease to most of the world’s crops triggering wide spread famine and political upheaval in his Nebula and Hugo Award winning novel The Windup Girl.  He is the author who took on PR spin doctors who deflect corporate pharmaceutical greed at the expense of a trusting public in the YA novel The Doubt Factory.   The author who took a fun and freaky middle school aged book about zombies and seamlessly wove in themes of diversity and illegal immigration in Zombie Baseball Beatdown.  Each of these books employ corporate greed as part of the classic conflict, and personal ethics (or lack thereof) as a plot device.  And each one is a whopping good tale.

Now he takes on the politics of water in The Water Knife.  Set in the near future, Carver City, Arizona is in dire straits.  Due to a political loophole, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has been given about fourteen hours to enforce a “cease and desist” order at the water treatment plant that serves over 100,000 people, suddenly severing their access to water from the Colorado River.  By the time Arizona is able to file any appeals to stop the action, it will be too late. (“Vegas in the house!  Grab your ankles, boys and girls!”)

Heading up the strike force is Angel Velasquez, favorite fist of SNWA’s water rights titan, Catherine Case.  By the time Angel and his squadron of gunships, backed up by helicopters from the Nevada National Guard, is done, the water treatment plant in Carver City will be a smoldering ruin.  (“Clear out!  All of you!  You got thirty minutes to evacuate this facility.  After that you’re obstructing!”)  Never mind that suddenly thousands of people will be without water – any water.  (“Judges say we got senior rights.  You should be glad we’re letting you keep what you already got in your pipes.  If your people are careful, they can live on buckets for a couple of days, till they clear out.”)

And Carver City is not an anomaly.  Due to the drought and the political clout of those holding water rights, America is no longer the land of the free and the home of the brave, at least not in the Southwest.  Texas has been jettisoned, unable to sustain itself with too many bridges burned to garner any real sympathy; in social strata, Texans are the new Mexicans.  Borders have been closed.  Arizona is slipping away due to political maneuverings from Las Vegas and California; Phoenix is barely holding on through largesse shown to it from aid agencies and wily corporations, such as Chinese conglomerate Taiyang International,  who have swooped in to pick its bones.

The people of Phoenix aren’t  going out without a fight, though.  They somehow find a way to keep going, even if life has changed drastically – and almost without exception, for the worse.  But folks such as journalist Lucy Monroe are determined to get the story of what is going on in Phoenix out into the world, even though it often seems like the rest of the world just doesn’t care; people who still get rain, who still function under the illusion that their underground aquifers can be managed, are willing to sit and watch as the Southwest slowly succumbs to political manipulation and corporate opportunism.

But then a rumor starts to gain purchase, hinting that a way has been found to trump the Catherine Cases of the world, the Taiyang Internationals, the Colorado River Compacts, who care nothing for the Zoners, and the ranchers, and the people who have lived on the land for generations.  If true, this would be the Holy Grail of water rights:

What if I gave you senior rights that you could take right up to the Supreme Court?  Rights that you could count on the feds enforcing.  No bullshit.  No he-said, she-said; no Vegas did-or-didn’t pump how much water; no farmer did-or-didn’t divert how many acre-feet into his field.  None of that.  The kind of water rights that could get the fucking Marines posted on every dam on the Colorado River and would make sure the water spilled straight down to you.  The kind of rights that would let you do what California does to towns all the time… What would you think of that?  How much would you pay?

The problem is that everyone is hearing those rumors, and the shadowy forces that shift behind the powers that be have been set in motion, not to determine the veracity of the rumors but to secure the rights, or bury them where they will never be a threat.  And suddenly, people start dying.  Gruesomely.

One of those people happened to be someone who had been close to Lucy.  So now, what used to be a activist crusade for her becomes intensely personal.  But she has to be incredibly careful, because there are people like Angel Velasquez out there, also looking for answers.

Of course, this is Paolo Bascigalupi, which means that nothing is quite so clear cut.  Angel, while clear of focus, is not the villain that so many other, lesser novelists might make him out to be.  As with Anderson Lake in Windup Girl, a cutthroat purpose does not preclude a man of conscience as filtered through his own reality – which is just as valid as a character who may be deemed more sympathetic.  And all of Mr. Bascipalupi’s characters’ motivations and internal ramblings are seamlessly layered (not obtuse – layered), whether they be Angel’s, Lucy’s, or Maria’s (the young Texas migrant who unknowingly gets caught up in the drama).  No cookie cutter characters here.  No clichéd situations, nor outlandish fare for the sake of ratcheting up the drama.

But what is most compelling about The Water Knife is that it lays open a frighteningly plausible future.  A future not of sweeping plague and almost romantic dystopia, but one of dirt and numbness and corporate avarice.  We’ve already seen the whispers of this future in the disenchantment of our inner cities, in the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United rulings, in our penchant for hoping if we ignore problems such as climate change and dwindling resources, they’ll just go away.

Read this book – and for goodness sake, stop watering your lawn, take shorter showers, and don’t leave the faucet running when you brush your teeth.  None of these things may help that much, but at least you’ll be more aware.  And that’s the first step towards meeting the future, rather than letting it just happen.

Don’t say Paolo Bascigalupi didn’t warn you!

Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son, essays by Michael Chabon

You know a book on fatherhood is going to be interesting when the title includes the word amateurs. The trope of fatherly wisdom, borne of experience and dispensed with measured calm, is a wonderful thing, but how realistic it?

There are some great recent memoirs about fathers. Alysia Abbott’s Fairyland and Will Boast’s Epilogue come to mind, narratives in which fathers run the spectrum, from brave to flawed and back again.

Rarer is the memoir that reflects on what being a father is actually like, and for that matter, how men come to be fathers after being sons and boyfriends and husbands. Chabon’s collection is not a memoir per se, but a series of essays grouped thematically around personal and cultural ideas and behaviors connected to fatherhood, as well as nostalgia for sixties childhood and seventies youth, and the flaws and failures that influence how one fathers his children. There are essays too, on boyhood, and boyfriend-hood, which indirectly, and sometimes directly speak to that same self, to the complex mix of parenting and maleness.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.” The book’s epigraph by G.K. Chesterton forefronts the deprecating stance, but Chabon has more to tell us. At the supermarket, he is complemented by a stranger simply for taking care of his kid, a double standard he quickly points out (to the reader, anyway), “The handy thing about being a father is that the historical standard is so pitifully low.” The differing criteria for what makes a good father and a good mother is skewed, to say the least, and pointing it out early in the book lends authority, credibility and likeability. Here’s Chabon on his own father:

My father, born in the gray-and-silver Movietone year of 1938, was part of the generation of Americans who, in their twenties and thirties, approached the concepts of intimacy, of authenticity and open emotion, with a certain tentative abruptness, like people used to automatic transmission learning how to drive a stick shift.

One of my favorite essays, “The Wilderness of Childhood,” is  unabashedly nostalgic, but also serves an a kind of think-piece, an important one, on the detriment of too closely watching our children, not allowing them the historical freedom children have had to explore, to wander, and the cost to their with imaginations and experience of self:

The sandlots and creek beds, the alleys and woodlands have been abandoned in favor of a system of reservations—Chuck E. Cheese, the Jungle, the Discovery Zone; jolly internment centers mapped and planned by adults with no blank spots aside from doors marked STAFF ONLY. When children roller-skate or ride their bikes, they go forth armored as for battle, and their parents typically stand nearby.

There is rumination on the failure of his first marriage (“The Heartbreak Kid”), a sad but inevitable arc that ends in “operatic arguments, all night ransackings of the contents of our souls,” as well as on cooking, (“The Art of Cake”), that nicely braids the book’s larger ideas of contemporary fatherhood and its “dissolving boundaries, shifting economies, loosened definitions of male and female, of parent and child.” Circumcision, Jose Canseco (held up for reflection alongside Roberto Clemente), comic book heroines and Legos, are some of the objects of the author’s contemplation.

Chabon is not a perfect father, but that, the essays help us understand, is a false expectation—one that needs to evolve and change, and that’s an opinion you can trust.

—Lauren Alwan

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Lisa Rodgers grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and graduated from California State University, Sacramento, in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and a minor in Germanlisa_rodgers literature-in-translation, history, and culture (sadly, she doesn’t speak German, although it’s on her bucket list). She moved to New York City in 2012 to attend NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute and joined the JABberwocky team a few months later. She’s previously worked at San Francisco Book Review and Barnes & Noble, interned at Levine Green Rostan Literary Agency, and was a submissions reader for Lightspeed Magazine.

LS: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. We’re honored you’re here. I read in your bio that your education is in English Literature. How did your education prepare you for the business of publishing?

I took a mixture of “classic” literature classes (Hemingway, Austen, etc), as well as genre classes. It was very interesting to see how authors from both ends of spectrum handled characterization, plot development, tropes, and how contemporary events or philosophies affected what was being written at the time. That directly ties in to my job, where I’m evaluating manuscripts for all of those things, and how they can fit into the current marketplace. And, of course, do I connect with the material? That last one just comes down to taste, which is constantly developing.

LS: What in your childhood informed your love of reading and what was your favorite book growing up?

My parents are extremely pro-reading, and they took an active role in encouraging me to read. There were many weekend trips to the bookstore, where they essentially allowed me free rein (within reason, of course) to purchase whatever I wanted.

Choosing a “favorite book” is so tough! There are so many books I loved, and still do. I’m going to cheat a little and pick two. Both were very formative, and I’ve re-read them several times each: BLACK SUN RISING by C.S. Friedman and MAGIC’S PAWN by Mercedes Lackey.

LS: As someone whose career is focused on great fiction, are you ever able to read a book for pleasure without editing it?

Yes, but it can be tough. Sometimes I need to remind myself to just let certain things go, because there isn’t a whole lot of input I can have on a published book, is there? So it’s also a bit freeing, in that regard.

LS: Many writers seem eager to query before their manuscripts are ready. What are the top five elements you believe a manuscript should have before querying?

Internal consistency, organic worldbuilding, plot/character development, an assured writing “voice”, and an understanding of its place in within its genre.

LS:  Traditional publishing models are changing, particularly how books are distributed, (Self-publishing and the e-book). What are your thoughts on the future of publishing?

I love that there are so many options for writers now. If you want to publish traditionally, you can. If you want to self-publish, you can. If you want to write short fiction, there are no shortages of places to submit. If you want to write an experimental piece but don’t think there’s a market for it, you can set up a Kickstarter or a patreon account and see if people are willing to support it. The opportunities are endless! That being said, because there are so many options, sometimes it can be very difficult for new writers to “break in.” Determination and perseverance are two very important traits a writer should cultivate.

LS: What’s the one thing you wish writers knew before they begin the query process?

Read widely and deeply in your genre, more than just the bestsellers. Knowing how your work compares to less popular but still successful authors can help you more accurately describe your manuscript, and help avoid common genre clichés.

LS: What do you look for in a book as a reader that makes you take a second glance? Is this the same for all the genres you represent?

I look for authenticate voices and well-developed characters. The specifics of both can change depending on the genre (for example, an unlikeable protagonist can be fine for SFF, but usually isn’t for romance). In general, though, those qualities are things I look for regardless of genre.

LS: What are you not seeing enough of in terms of genres and what would you love to see in your Inbox?

When I open again to queries, I’d love to see more science fiction set in space. Anything from space opera to military science fiction, from interstellar politics to intraship squabbles. If it’s space, I want to see it!

Find out more about Lisa on JABerwocky.



The Song of David
Amy Harmon
ISBN-10: 1514185016

25361480I won my first fight when I was eleven years old, and I’ve been throwing punches ever since. Fighting is the purest, truest, most elemental thing there is. Some people describe heaven as a sea of unending white. Where choirs sing and loved ones await. But for me, heaven was something else. It sounded like the bell at the beginning of a round, it tasted like adrenaline, it burned like sweat in my eyes and fire in my belly. It looked like the blur of screaming crowds and an opponent who wanted my blood.

For me, heaven was the octagon. Until I met Millie, and heaven became something different. I became something different. I knew I loved her when I watched her stand perfectly still in the middle of a crowded room, people swarming, buzzing, slipping around her, her straight dancer’s posture unyielding, her chin high, her hands loose at her sides. No one seemed to see her at all, except for the few who squeezed past her, tossing exasperated looks at her unsmiling face. When they realized she wasn’t normal, they hurried away. Why was it that no one saw her, yet she was the first thing I saw? If heaven was the octagon, then she was my angel at the center of it all, the girl with the power to take me down and lift me up again. The girl I wanted to fight for, the girl I wanted to claim. The girl who taught me that sometimes the biggest heroes go unsung and the most important battles are the ones we don’t think we can win.


This is David ‘Tag’ Taggert’s book, a supporting character introduced in The Law of Moses. This is a stand-alone story, but it is highly recommended that The Law of Moses be read first to avoid spoilers.


Amy Harmon doesn’t tell conventional stories. There is no obvious climax or conflict that is cliche. What she does beautifully is weave stories that are unique. They are about the silent faces that sometimes get overlooked and often, go unheard. The Song of David echoes shades of Making Faces where the unlikely hero isn’t what you’d expect and the true champion of the story is the smallest, unpredictable soul.

The book centers around David “Tag” Taggert, a secondary character in Harmon’s previous release, The Law of Moses. It is both Tag and Moses who tell the story of how Tag fell in love with Millie, a blind, fiercely independent dancer who never lets her limitations stop her from seeing the brightest possibility in the world around her. Millie and Tag loved each other deeply and when Tag disappears and Moses sets out to discover what happened to him, the reader is treated to a unique narrative–the curious discovery of the young couple’s love seen both through Moses’ eyes and in the audio files Tag left for Millie.

This isn’t simply a love story. Told with vivid, poetic language, Harmon excels at painting a picture of a couple in the throes of new love and the desperate attempts they face to overcome the hurdles laid before them meant to derail any hope of that love growing.

“If heaven was the octagon, then she was my angel at the center of it all, the girl with the power to take me down and lift me up again. The girl I wanted to fight for, the girl I wanted to claim. The girl who taught me that sometimes the biggest heroes go unsung and the most important battles are the ones we don’t think we can win.”


Yet again, Harmon has set the bar sky high for writers who desire to pen stories that are honest, brutal and a perfect reflection of how life can destroy, abandon and the impossible hope that love is never forgotten.

High, highly recommended.

We are giving away TWO e-book copies of The Song of David to those of you who comment below.

Good luck!

2015 Locus Award Winners Announced

Established in 1971, the Locus Awards are spearheaded by the monthly science fiction and fantasy magazine Locus (Locus Online debuted in 1997 as a semi-autonomous web version of the magazine); award winners are selected by poll of magazine readers. The votes have been tallied, and the winners of the 2015 Locus Awards were announced on […]

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Thanks so much to Amy Harmon, our June Featured Author for taking the time to sit down and chat with us. We hope you LitStackers will check out Amy’s books and look her up on all her social networking spots ath the following:

Website / Facebook Twitter / Amazon / Goodreads  / Instagram

LS: Amy thanks so much for sitting down to chat with us. I’d love to hear about the genesis of your writing career. Have you always written? What were those early AMY HARMONstories like?

AH: I have always written. I have stories with Snoopy as the main character that my mom held onto. Writing for me has been my most comfortable form of self-expression. Some people dance and sing and talk and have sex. I write. Although I’m not opposed to dancing, singing and the rest. 😉

LS: I’m curious about the setting of many of your novels, particularly the connection between many characters and the town of Levan. What about your hometown informed the settings in your novels? Do you think you will always write about small towns?

AH: I think it’s important to write about things you understand, about settings that you truly know. I am a small town girl. It would be much more difficult for me to write about a big city or a European city and get it right. I worry a lot about getting it right. It’s important to me to be honest in my portrayals.

LS: Has there been one stabilizing force that has kept you motivated to publish? Has that changed since your first book?

AH: I wish I’d been more aware of what was going on in the self-publishing world, but I was teaching and pregnant and not as plugged in as I could have been. I had already written Running Barefoot long before I ever published, but it was the financial mess my family was in, along with my oldest son’s health and the fact that I had a new baby and wanted to stay at home. I just jumped off the proverbial cliff and started doggie paddling. I am so glad I wasn’t afraid to go for it.

LS: What variables led you to write Song of David? How did those variables impact the consistent validation of the work moving forward?

AH: When I wrote The Law of Moses, David Taggert was such a compelling character that I really wanted to delve a little deeper into his story, and The Song of David was born. It’s not sold very well, but I think it’s a pretty fantastic story. I am so proud of The Song of David and really believe it is an original, well-written, compelling read. Hopefully, people will pick it up. I’ve been very, very discouraged lately with what sells, what doesn’t, what is lauded, what isn’t. I can’t figure it out. And it is hard to work as hard as I do and not feel like it pays off. I know many authors feel this way. I would like to disappear for a while. Seriously. Just go off the grid and write, with no plans to ever publish again. Chipper today, aren’t I?

LS: Indie publishing has been very generous to you. Do you think there would ever be a circumstance that would have you turning over your work to a traditional publisher?

AH: I feel like I haven’t reached my audience yet. That is the only thing that spurs me toward wanting to possibly do a deal with a traditional publisher. I feel like there is a huge audience out there that would embrace my stories, but I can’t reach them. I’m not cutting through in the Indie world. That is the only thing that would make me want to publish traditionally. The only reason. I love self-publishing. I love the freedom and the readers and the fact that I’m steering my own ship. But I do feel like I haven’t found my home. Maybe I never will.

LS: Talk if you would about the element of strong families and spirituality in your books. How does your personal life and your own spirituality influence your stories?

AH: I am a spiritual person. I’ve said before that books without spirituality are, for me, like cake without icing. I think there is incredible beauty in the world, and the source of that beauty is almost always spiritual in nature. I’m not talking about religion. I’m truly talking about seeing beyond the obvious, embracing goodness, expecting miracles, being open to something larger than ourselves. To me, writing without spirituality would be so limiting.

LS: What is your idea of career fulfillment?

AH: That’s a hard question. But if I’m being honest, I want to be the next Jodi Piccoult. I want that kind of reach. Crazy? Maybe. But I never dreamed I’d hit the New York Times list, and that happened. So I’m choosing to believe this could happen too. I have had many fulfilling moments in this journey. Huge moments. But I can’t rest on them, nor do they register with me, beyond the brief joy in the moment. Because, truthfully? Nobody cares about the accolades. It’s all about the stories. And a writer has to keep writing. So that’s what I’m going to do.

LS: What’s upcoming for you?

I have started on a story, but I’m thinking I’m going to step back from it and spend a quiet summer working on something totally different. Something just for me. And I will most likely let my agent shop it. I haven’t shopped anything seriously, so that’s what’s next for me. We shall see.

Thanks again, Amy!

The Sheltering Sky
Paul Bowles

Bowles is one of my favorite writers, stark yet rich; prose with a darkness so lush it draws you in no matter how unsettling the image. So when Bowles writes a love story, you can expect it’s bound to be a dubious one, not the kind you’d ever want to live out. The husband and wife at the center of Bowles’ novel (number #97 in the Modern Library’s list of 100 Best Novels), are Port and Kit Moresby, who leave the U.S. during wartime in 1939, and arriving in north Africa, take up a peripatetic existence with a third wheel, an American friend, Tunner. Port and Kit have hit a rough spot in their marriage, but the triad never takes hold, since Tunner doesn’t have the power to permeate Kit’s detachment, or Port’s ego. Though with the arrival of the Lyles, a questionable English couple—well, a mother and son—the inciting event occurs, and the group is drawn further into the Sahara. The journey that takes place, to the center of a world and a soul, is as much interior as it is exterior.

If you have yet to read the novel, or any of Bowles’ celebrated stories, you have a discovery to look forward to—in Bowles’ spare and cruelly beautiful prose, his sense of place, his tempered way with terror and delirium—all can be relished in this novel. But if it’s love story you’re after, The Sheltering Sky is about a place far more remote and unfathomable than love.

—Lauren Alwan

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Sunburst Awards Shortlists Announced

The shortlists for the Sunburst Awards, honoring Canada’s finest in “literature of the fantastic” were announced recently.  The finalists in the two categories of Adult speculative fiction and Young Adult speculative fiction written by a Canadian author in the last calendar year, include: Adult Speculative Fiction The Troop by Nick Cutter The Back of the […]

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin

Toibin’s 2009 novel, which won that year’s Costa Award, is a lovely and haunting story set in 1950s Dublin and New York. It tells of Eilis Lacey, born and raised in Enniscorthy, in Ireland’s County Wexford, and her immigration to the United States as a young woman. Her well-meaning sister, Rose, wants a better life for her, and so arranges for her passage, along with employment and a place to live with the help of a local priest, Father Flood, who oversees a Brooklyn parish in the Irish enclave. Eilis, whose nature is retiring and unassertive, goes along with the plan, to please both Rose and their widowed mother, and any hesitance, or uncertainty is put aside for Eilis’ betterment.we

We see Eilis’ transition to American life, the heady and bewildering discoveries of life in Brooklyn. Toibin portrays her transition between worlds in his ordered, elegant prose. Here he describes one of her first walks to work:

” She liked the morning air and the quietness of these few leafy streets, streets that had shops only on the corners, streets where people lived, where there were three or four apartments in each house and where she passed women accompanying their children to school as she went to work. As she walked along, however, she knew she was getting close to the real world, which had wider streets and more traffic. Once she arrive at Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn began to feel like a strange place to her, with so many gaps between buildings and so many derelict buildings. And then suddenly, when she arrived at Fulton Street, there would be so many people crowding to cross the street, and in such dense clusters, that on the first morning she thought a fight had broken out or someone was injured and they had gathered to get a good view. “

Eilis acclimates, and soon Ireland becomes a distant place, its attachments more tenuous. She meets a boy, Tony, who introduces her to his family. Soon after, Eilis receives news that her sister Rose has died, and she returns Enniscorthy for the funeral. She finds her mother aged and unwell, and feels she must stay on, though she misses the new life she’s made for herself. The novel centers on this tension of place, of a character torn between places, and looks at the immigrant story from a deeply personal viewpoint, giving full importance to the longing for what seem like small things—a street, the look of sky, the sound of voices you know—but for Eilis Lacey, as Toibin shows us, those are things that bind her to place.

Toibin has said that the act of writing is that of giving an event language for the first time, an act that requires patience, focus and persistence in order to make clear. The last pages of the novel are satisfying in a way an open-ended conclusion rarely are, due largely to what Liesl Schilling calls Toibin’s ability as an “expert, patient fisherman of submerged emotions.” In Brooklyn, this elevates a seemingly ordinary account to unforgettable.

In 2014, Brooklyn was adapted for film by John Crowley, with a screenplay by Nick Hornby, and filmed on location in Enniscorthy, Ireland, and Brooklyn. The film premiered at the Sundance Festival in January to great praise, and is due to be released throughout the U.S. this November.

—Lauren Alwan

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LitStack Review: Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew

Born With Teeth:  A Memoir Kate Mulgrew Little Brown and Company Release Date:  April 14, 2015 ISBN 978-0-316-33431-0 In the summer of 1975, I spent a week in bed suffering from some unnamed ailment that kept me weak and listless.  While I normally never watched television during the day, out of sheer boredom I switched […]

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Law of Moseslaw of moses
Amy Harmon
ISBN-10: 1502830825

If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.

Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.
It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.
And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.

And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all . . . a love story.


Amy Harmon is a great writer. There is a lyric and gravity to her stories, those that have her readers coming back again and again to read about characters they can relate to, the ones that straddle the line between fiction and reality. What Amy excels at, however, is the exhibition of clarity that her characters and, as a result of her mastery of story telling, her readers garner from the journeys the characters take.

Law of Moses is no exception. Here we have the story of two start-crossed (though I really hate using that sort of trite, over-used phrase), Moses and Georgia who could not be more different or more compelling as a match. Like the summary explains, Moses was left to die as an infant, crack addicted with the world giving him very little shot of making things easy for him. Georgia, by contrast was raised with a loving family, an extended family of foster kids and a willingness to fix things that are broken. Initially, Moses is one of the cracks she’d like to mend.

What happens after their initial dramatic beginning is the slow burn of love and attraction, the defiance found in young lovers so out of their depth yet so compelled by the emotions their relationship invokes in them that reason, responsibility both become an afterthought.

There is only the connection they find in each other and the fight they wage against the odds set before them.

And so Moses and Georgia, like thousands of lovers before them, fight the good fight, quickly coming to understand, with time and age, that love is the most complicated, most irrational battle they’ll likely ever undertake. It’s the price they pay for that lesson, however, that makes this story both bittersweet and breathtakingly satisfying.

Amy Harmon is best when she is telling stories that surprise, when she places a mirror up to her readers and tells them that what they read in her characters is a reflection of what we each feel in life. Improbable paranormal elements in the book notwithstanding, Law of Moses is yet another gem from the clever mind and giant heart of an author well suited and criminally talented enough to craft a fine, engaging story.

Highly Recommended.


Juan Felipe Herrera Named Poet Laureate

The Library of Congress announced on Wednesday that Juan Felipe Herrera had been named as the Library’s 21st Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, for 2015-2016.  In making the announcement, the current Librarian of Congress, James H. Billington, said: I see in Herrera’s poems the work of an American original—work that takes the sublimity and largesse […]

Juan Felipe Herrera

Vote for the David Gemmell Awards for Fantasy

Have you ever seen the nominees for a major science fiction or fantasy award, and wished that you could have a say in who won, but weren’t a member of the organization parceling out the votes?  If so, here’s your chance! David Gemmell was a bestselling British fantasy writer who wrote over 30 novels and […]

David Gemmell

BBC Announces “Dickensian”

Collaborations.  Supergroups.  Mash-ups.  Taking individual confections and putting them together to make ooey-gooey magnificence.  Crosby Stills Nash & Young.  The Highwaymen.  The Traveling Wilburys.  Any number of All Star Games.  Cronuts.  Labradoodles.  Batman and Superman.  The Justice League.  The Avengers.  Heck, the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. And now:  Dickensian. Set to start broadcasting later this […]

(c) Beamish, The North of England Open Air Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Nebula Award Winners Announced

The winners of the 2014 Nebula Awards, as well as the Ray Bradbury Award for Outstanding Dramatic Presentation and the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy, were announced Saturday in a ceremony in Chicago, Illinois, hosted by Nick Offerman.  Voted on by the active members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy […]


The Fictional Places We’d Love to Call Home

Fiction is an amazing tool of escapism. With it, we dive into worlds that exist only in the writer’s mind, breathing air that is clouded by zombie-forming gas or stars that fall from the sky and walk among us. Today we’re discussing those beloved settings that have inspired us, nurtured us, made us jealous for […]

Jacqueline Woodson Named Young People’s Poet Laureate

The Poetry Foundation announced on Wednesday that Jacqueline Woodson had been named its Young People’s Poet Laureate for 2015 – 2016.  According to the Foundation’s website, “The laureate advises the Poetry Foundation on matters relating to young people’s literature and may engage in a variety of projects to help instill a lifelong love of poetry […]

Jacqueline Woodson

The Varying Poverties of Now

In the appendix to his brief but radiant 2010 manifesto ‘Reality reality hungerHunger’—a supremely confident and practically pedagogical collage of quotations and personal observations published in order to define a perceived new age of literature—David Shields writes with this kind of over-excited, unnecessarily aggressive tone. He’s explaining why those hundreds of quotes were used throughout his book without any acknowledgement of their sources.

…I’m trying to regain a freedom that writers from Montaigne to Burroughs took for granted and that we have lost. Your uncertainty about whose words you have read is not just a bug but a feature.

A major focus of ‘Reality Hunger’ is approbation and plagiarism and what these terms mean… However, Random House lawyers determined that it was necessary for me to provide a complete list of citations; the list follows…

If you would like to restore this book to the form in which I intended it to be read, simply grab a sharp pair of scissors or a razor blade or box cutter and remove pages 207-221 [the citations, which immediately follow the appendix] by cutting along the dotted line [which Shields actually published on those pages].

Who owns the words? Who owns the music and the rest of our culture? We do—all of us—though not all of us know it yet. Reality cannot be copyrighted.Stop; don’t read any farther.”

 We could wonder why Shields, after constructing a text which he intended to be the ‘Ars Poetica’ for early-21st-century artists, was still concerned enough to remind us that the scissors should be sharp. Or why he spent 200 pages tapping into the wealth of Western wisdom and then felt such an urgent need to, I guess, sum things up—to make a somewhat politically tinged statement like “Reality cannot be copyrighted.” Or why he decided to use that one-size-fits-all Picasso quote, “Art is theft,” both as one of the book’s epigraphs and as one of the introductory lines of the tenth chapter. Why the fuck would you use it twice?

But, I’d rather use Shields’ argument as the backdrop for a brief ramble on the first chapter of Book XII of Henry Fielding’s 1749 novel ‘Tom Jones’—a novel that, along with helping to spark a new era of long-form fiction, employed a mixture of criticism, personal essay and narrative similar to what Shields seems now to be calling for in his manifesto (albeit within a very different context, of course, and not in quite the same way). And, funny enough, this particular chapter begins with almost exactly the same leading thought used by Shields to begin his appendix.

 The learned reader must have observed that in the course of this mighty work I have often translated passages out of the best ancient authors, without quoting the original or without taking the least notice of the book from whence they were borrowed.”

In this case, Fielding is really just talking about his use of Greek and Latin passages, either for strictly his own purposes or through the mouths of his variously virtuous, erudite and purely zany characters. But his aim in first employing the uncited quotations and then explaining to the reader his reasoning is really the same as Shields’; it just so happens that he’s doing it within the defining years of different modern age.

I think it’s kind of weird that Shields wrote that whole book without once addressing Fielding’s ideas, or referencing him in any way. Maybe because the ideas weren’t quite hip enough for Shields’ purposes (which is kind of a bullshit reason), maybe he forgot, or maybe he’s just never read him. I think it’s the first—bullshit—reason. So, let’s see what exactly Fielding had to say, and we’ll notice once again how similar his tone can be to someone writing in protest of digital-age copyright laws over 250 years later. Here, he’s justifying his use of Greek and Latin quotes without acknowledging their sources.

 …The ancients may be considered as a rich common, where every person who hath the smallest tenement in Parnassus hath a free right to fatten his Muse. Or, to place it in a clearer light, we moderns are to the ancients what the poor are to the rich…

 In like manner are the ancients, such as Homer, Virgil, Horace, Cicero, and the rest, to be esteemed among the writers as so many wealthy squires, from whom we, the poor of Parnassus, claim an immemorial custom of taking whatever we come at. This liberty I demand and this I am as ready to allow again to my poor neighbors in their turn…

 Nay, I absolutely claim a property in all such sentiments the moment they are transcribed into my writings, and I expect all readers henceforwards to regard them as purely and entirely my own.”

 One could say that Fielding and Shields are in fact equally aggressive in defense of what they see as their liberty, freedom, property, etc. Except that Fielding, to his credit I think, doesn’t take the slightly more manic route of attempting to directly co-opt the reader—he expects readers to respect his personal authorial boundaries, rather than imploring them to rebel against the current practice of his publisher.

But Shields probably didn’t feel like mentioning any of this because Fielding’s declaration stops far short of aligning with ideals of the totally free sharing, remix, sampling culture the hippest cats are currently trying to push. Which makes sense, because he was writing in fucking 1749.

Fielding draws the line at pulling uncited text from work published by his contemporaries, whom he considers just as “poor” as himself, and unable to afford a petty theft quite as easily as Homer or Horace.

 …all I require of my brethren, is to maintain the same strict honesty among ourselves which the mob show to one another. To steal from one another is indeed highly criminal and indecent; for this may strictly styled defrauding the poor (sometimes perhaps those who are poorer than ourselves) or, to see it under the most opprobrious colours, robbing the spital.”

Basically, Fielding was defining his conception of a strictly literary sense of public domain, right around the same time that copyright law and the general notion of a legal public domain were entering European society. It was definitely fresh stuff to the first readers of ‘Tom Jones,’ especially coming in such a forceful tone from the author—but I guess the truth is that now, to people like Shields, this firmly delineated thinking represents some kind of satanic opposition to the new age 21st-century, all-access sharing, genre mish-mash, fiction/non-fiction supreme, essay remix whatever that we’re all supposed to be clamoring for if we want to call ourselves good critics or writers.

Or maybe Shields just never read the book. Who the fuck knows. Maybe I should ask him someday. He probably wouldn’t want to talk about it. I’d probably have to start talking about something else and then try to weasel it into the conversation. Kind of like sampling, I guess. Who knows.

I do have to say, of course, that it’s nice that we eventually grew out of Fielding’s idea of robbing the rich ancients and protecting the poor contemporaries. In fact, as I’m writing this I’m listening to Roland Kirk play two horns on a 1962 recording of his tribute to Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus, which carries the long title of ‘Where Monk and Mingus Live/Let’s Call This’ (the second half of which is a Monk tune). It’s better than electronic sampling—but what the fuck do I know? All I know is that, for all our gripes about 21st-century culture—most of which are probably purposely ironic and disingenuous anyway—it’s nice to live the era of access. Sure, I would’ve rather had the chance to buy Roland Kirk a drink; but at least now I can pretend I once knew him.

That’s the illusion, right? Shields never actually met Montaigne, right?

LitStack Review: Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson

Europe in Autumn Dave Hutchinson Solaris Release Date:  January 28, 2014 ISBN 978-1-78108-194-5 Shortlisted for the Arthur C. Clarke Award and a finalist for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, Europe in Autumn is a sharp, zig-zagging espionage thriller set in an alternate near-future where economic instabilities have splintered Europe into a myriad of tiny […]

Dave Hutchinson

FAThis month we return to our Featured Author segment and will spend the month highlighting the backlist of one of our favorite authors. For June, we will be hosting multi-best selling author AMY HARMONAmy Harmon. Harmon is a USA Today, Wall Street Journal and New York Times Bestselling author of seven novels – the USA Today Bestsellers, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as  The Law of Moses, Infinity + One, Slow Dance in Purgatory, Prom Night in Purgatory, and the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue.

Her newest novel, The Song of David, will be released on June 15, 2015. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to  entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in several countries, a dream come true for a little  country girl from Levan, Utah.

Connect with Amy at the following:

Website / Facebook Twitter / Amazon / Goodreads  / Instagram

We begin our June Featured Author segment with a review of Making Faces. 

Making Faces
Amy Harmon
ISBN-10: 1492976423

Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.Making Faces
Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.



Sometimes I wonder what writers think when they write. Do their bad days, their best days, somehow end up between those long descriptions and dialog? Do they discover who they are, what they believe in the words that appear in bleeding black font across the empty screen? Maybe the very best of who we want to be, perhaps who we never want to be, becomes clearer when it finds its way through conflict and toward the climatic conclusions that neatly finish a story.

Maybe, for some writers, the words are nothing more than bits and pieces of their imagination. Maybe for them, it’s simply a nice way to spend their time. Amy Harmon isn’t one of those filling-the-time authors. There is a synergy to her stories that begins with the succinctly layered characters that struggle eternally, externally to find parts of themselves on the page. They are subtle reflections of human nature and the bitter and beautiful paradigms of who we all are.

In Making Faces, Harmon paints a vivid picture. It isn’t one that is overtly complex. In fact, at its basest level, Making Faces is a contemporary retelling of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale with the once flawlessly handsome Ambrose Young finding his way from high school and the legendary reputation of being the town’s athletic darling, to hearing the gnawing call inside himself for justice brought forward after the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Ambrose does not take the road well traveled, the one he is expected to glide along. He instead leads the charge which his friends follow, foregoing college and career for the military life. Yet Ambrose is the only one to return, and what is left of him isn’t the beautiful, charming boy he once was. He is scarred, he is broken and believes that he can only exist in his hometown post-war hidden beneath a hoodie and under the cover of night.

He is comforted only by his guilt and finds no beauty in his life, just the hollow remains of what and who he once was.

Fern Taylor has loved Ambrose since she was too young to understand the concept. She played Cyrano to Ambrose, hiding behind the beautiful face of her best friend when the girl sought Ambrose’s attention. Fern couldn’t, wouldn’t admit what she felt but luxuriated in the words she and Ambrose sent one another. It didn’t matter that her best friend reaped the benefits of how fiercely, intimately Fern stroked Ambrose’s mind. Fern was able to see the true nature of who Ambrose was; she saw what he kept hidden from the world.

And then, their world fractured. Violence, departure, the end of high school, the beginning of a strike against the enemy, and Fern lost Ambrose to time, to pain, only to have him return home more closed off than he had been years before.

So, again, Fern took to the written word, insistently trying to let Ambrose know she remembered who he was, saw a beauty in him that had nothing to do with his past or present face. Ambrose could not accept that he deserved to be loved, despite Fern’s steadfast attention.

‘Could you belong to someone who didn’t want you? Fern decided it was possible because her heart was his, and whether or not he wanted it didn’t seem to make much difference.’

Two young people learning to grow– one away from who he once was, the other toward something she doesn’t fully understand. And in the middle of the two is the voice of reason, passion and the unyielding determination to never, ever give up: Bailey, Fern’s cousin.

These three people are bonded by history, by family, by the love of sport, of hope, of what lies ahead. The future is uncertain, unclear and looming beneath the surface is a heart break that would fracture anyone. But these characters are not carbon copies of angst-ridden stereotypes recycled from romances written over and over. They are real, they are unique and they feel the ache of life with the bitter realism and heartfelt pain we all do.

“Thing about it. There isn’t heartache if there hasn’t been joy. I wouldn’t feel loss if there hadn’t been love.”

It is the depiction of that unwavering love that Harmon excels at. We see the realization of life, all the humor, all the pain in each conflict, in every hurdle (self-inflicted and external) that Fern, Ambrose and Bailey endure. We see them all because Harmon is able to bridge the distance between reality and fiction, beautifully blurring that connection so that we forget these these characters aren’t part of our lives, that they don’t deserve our empathy.

I defy anyone to read Making Faces and not fall instantly in love with the tortured, haunted Ambrose or identify with the awkward, stumbling Fern. I dare you not to want Bailey to get stronger, not want to fight the very big battle life has set before him.

In the end, Making Faces quickly became one of the books I return to when I want to feel the whoosh of emotion felt at first love, the awkward way we’ve all struggled through adolescence. Certainly when I want to remember how precious life is and how important it is to say “I love you” again and again.

Highly recommended.




Today, I did something that was – honestly – repugnant to me.  I returned a slew of books to the library, many of which I had not read.  Books that had either been nominated for a major award, or had been recommended by Bellesomeone I trusted, or had been reviewed well and had piqued my interest or been mentioned by someone I admire as being a really great read.  Books that I had requested but had spent days, weeks, just sitting there on my side chair in silent rebuke at their enforced idleness.  Idleness that my poor planning had caused.

Despite some of these books being new releases and not available until now, despite some of them being very popular with a very long queue so that timing of their availability was impossible to gauge, this mass of latent books was getting to be a huge problem for me, like a weight around my neck, drawing me down into deep and chilly waters.

It’s not “socially correct” for a book person to admit that books and/or reading causes any kind of problem in life.  We’re supposed to put books pretty high up in our list of priorities, and proudly proclaim our dedication to all things literary.  Extra points to those who wear Alice in Wonderland quotes on their scarves or carry Jane Austen book totes, or have cushions printed with the J. L. Borges line “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library” nestled on their sofas.

Seriously, that warrants extra points.  (I, myself have a J.R.R. Tolkien book tote.  “Points!”)

But I have to admit that sometimes, books for me do become a problem.  Oh, not the books themselves.  Heavens to betsy, no!  But rather, my sense of obligation in feeling like I have to read all the books, all the time.  That’s when books, which were my lifeline (when I lost my longtime job and suddenly found myself with scads of empty hours in my day), and then my anchor (giving me purpose and challenging my heart and brain again), instead became  deadweights – visual reminders that I had bit off more than I could chew, that I had mismanaged my time and squandered my organizational skills.  That I had failed.

Now, I have to voice a huge disclaimer before I go any further.  I am fully aware that the opportunity to spend hours reading whatever book suits my fancy and then write about it is a tremendous, tremendous gift.  When I look back at all the years I spent only able to read during bus rides to and from work, or while waiting at the airport terminal for my flight, I give thanks for being able to sit on my porch in the summer shade with a cup of coffee and a good book.  Heartfelt, heart-bursting thanks.  That I live in a country where I have access to books, and that I live near a library where virtually any book my heart desires can be available to me – at least eventually – is something for which I will be forever grateful.  I know that I am blessed.

I am also aware – truly, I am – that in harping on this, and obsessing on it, I am making a mountain out of a molehill.  That with a simple shrug and an, “Oh, well!” the problem – if it really can even be called that – is solved.

But I still can’t help but feel a weight of failure, even if it is a weight that only I have fitted over my own shoulders.  I feel like I have failed the authors of the unread books that I actually own, those that I keep pushing aside simply because they do not have a return date attached to them.  A few have come from publishers, or my editor; a couple I have even bought myself because I wanted to read them so badly I simply could not wait for the library.  But yet there they sit, day after day, collecting dust while the library pile waxes and wanes.

I feel like I have failed all those authors who have brought forth marvelous works, for not reading and reviewing them, an action which may give them some tiny boost, some small validation that they so richly deserve.  That I have failed all those librarians who maintain the request system, shuttling books daily to those of us who queue up for them; I made these folks work unnecessarily, their good deeds gone unutilized.  That I have failed all those readers who are behind me in the queue, who have had their desire to read the book sitting idly on my side chair thwarted yet another day, another week, while I gamble on whether or not I’ll have time to “get to” that title before being forced to give it up.  How selfish of me!

And I feel like I have failed all of you, who may come to this site looking for a recommendation, who may be seeking guidance for a good book to read, and instead of helping you I have been watching the finale of Survivor or the final shows of Late Night with David Letterman, or binge watched Netflix’s Daredevil  or finally catching up on House of Cards.  Or instead I have spent endless, floating hours trolling the internet, watching videos of cats jumping in and out of boxes or a of key scene in the movie Aliens being recreated with a photograph and a stapler, or reading articles entitled “I’ll Never Shampoo My Hair Again, EVER! (Seriously!)” or “Top Ten Scandals of the Middle Ages”.

But…. but…. you know what?  I enjoyed those things, too.  I spent time with my family, I laughed, I learned.  And the librarians will get paid to shuffle those books along the queue whether I read them or not, and that’s a good thing.  And the reviews will be written when the books have been read; whether this week or next month or in the months to come doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. Validation is validation, regardless, and sometimes it’s best when it’s unbidden, rather than coming all in a clump, eh?  And there are lots and lots and lots of places to get great recommendations on books – to think that someone might be hanging on my review is the most ridiculous of hubris that I have spouted in a heckuva long time!

So maybe it’s time I stopped whining and simply promise to check these books out again, in a more leisurely fashion, in the days and weeks to come.  So I think I will do just that.  Publically.  So here is a list of books I vow to read sometime – when I have the time, when the time is right.

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta
Depth by Lev AC Rosen
Black Moon by Kenneth Calhoun
The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton
The Tiger’s Wife by Téa Obreht
No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
The Grace of Kings by Ken Liu
Infandous by Elana K. Arnold
The Hammer by K. J. Parker
Hausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
Ruby by Cynthia Bond
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
The Dog: Stories by Jack Livings
I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb
The Red Knight by Miles Cameron
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

Whew!  Thanks for indulging me while I worked through all that.  Now, let me go take this deadweight off my shoulders – there’s absolutely no reason for it being there.  And then once I draft this, I’ll settle in with Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life by Eric Greitens.  It was one of the four books waiting for me to pick up when I returned the 23 books that had been sitting on my side chair.  And I’d better get to it right away – there are others who have requested it after me.

I wouldn’t want to keep them waiting.

Donald Hall

It doesn’t matter what I’m doing or what time of day or night it is, when I pick up this collection, it’s the only one I read from first page to last. Published in 1998, Without traces the illness and death from leukemia of Hall’s wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, in an arc of elegiac and starkly beautiful language. Hall, the esteemed poet, writer, critic and 2006 U.S. poet Laureate, first met Kenyon when she was his student at the University of Michigan, and the two were married in 1972. It was a proverbial May-December marriage, lived out nearly twenty years on his grandparents’ Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmont, New Hampshire. Then, in 1989, when Hall was in his early sixties, he discovered he had colon cancer (“I was the one who was supposed to die first,” he wrote). Three years later it metastasized to his liver. Yet after surgery and chemotherapy, Hall’s cancer went into remission, but two years later, in a tragic turn, Kenyon was diagnosed with leukemia. “Without,” as the book’s cover describes, is both a testament and a lament to the marriage, Kenyon’s illness and Hall’s life after her death.

I read these poems to better understand both life and art: to remember that time is short, that living is important, and that what might seem like fleeting images are often the most enduring, shattering contact we have with life.

This first Advent alone
I feed the small birds of snow
black-oil sunflower seed
as you used to do. Every day
I stand trembling with joy
to watch them: Fat mourning doves
compete with red squirrels
for spill from rampaging nuthatches
with rusty breasts
and black-and-white face masks.
I cherish the gathered nation
of chickadees, flashy
with immaculate white vests,
with tidy dark bibs and feet,
spinning and whirling down
from the old maple, feather
ounces of hunger, muscle, and bliss.

—from “Letter at Christmas,” by Donald Hall

—Lauren Alwan

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Tanith Lee, 1947 – 2015

The science fiction and fantasy community is mourning the loss of another huge personality, writer Tanith Lee, who died on Sunday, May 24, at age 67.  She died in her sleep following a long illness. An incredibly prolific author who wrote in various fantasy and horror genres, Ms. Lee wrote in a very poetic style […]


LitStack Review: The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

The Dead Lands Benjamin Percy Grand Central Publishing Release Date:  April 14, 2015 ISBN 978-1-4555-2824-0 When author Stephen King endorses a newly released book with, “Good God, what a tale.  Don’t miss it,” a reader has a pretty good indication that they’re in for a ride. He was right. Benjamin Percy’s The Dead Lands is […]

The Dead Lands

Spectrum Award Winners Announced

When we think of books, we think of words.  Of course!  Words contain the idea, the grace, the feel, the story.  But in many, many books, artwork is a partner to the story.  Book covers, illustrations, promotions – these can really enhance what we read, especially in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. The Spectrum Awards were established […]

Sung Choi — The Parade

Over at The Millions, LitStack contributor Lauren Alwan looks at the use of colloquial titles in literary fiction. Her “brief history” includes an analysis of titles, including works by Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver, Lorrie Moore, and Richard Ford. Here’s a preview:

There is a certain power in hearing phrases we know and may have used ourselves. When a title speaks to us in everyday language, it’s not so different from any voice aiming to get our attention. I read a colloquial title and hear a speaker with an urgent message.

Read the article here.

The Best American Essays, 2013, edited by Cheryl Strayed

The Best American series, which in 2014 featured editions of short stories, travel, mystery and sports writing, along with comics, infographics, nonrequired reading and other genres, has become an institution on its own. My introduction to Best American was through the short fiction series, and a now-classic edition edited by Tobias Wolff. The stories chosen that year (1994), such as Stuart Dybek’s “We Didn’t,” “Things Left Undone,” by Chris Tilghman, and Laura Glen Louis’ “Fur,” made up my introduction to contemporary short fiction, and it’s no accident, I think, that those voice-driven, deeply intimate stories instilled in me a very specific excitement about what a short story could do.

It’s with some embarrassment I confess my introduction to the essay series (which launched in 1986) turned out to be 2013’s, edited by Cheryl Strayed (the series editor is Robert Atwan). And yet, I feel that in a similar way, the essays n that volume will turn out to influence me in a similar way. Strayed has selected a range of voices, each with its intimate, usually confessional tone, and as she notes in the introduction, “made me feel, for the brief time I spent reading them, as if the rest of the world had fallen away.”

Still, the subjects couldn’t be more different. From Walter Kirn’s great “Confessions of an Ex-Mormon,” to Zadie Smith’s meditation on Joni Mitchell, “Some Notes on Attunement,” the investigations run from deep in memory to responses to the cultural moment. And while the term “essay” has become increasingly broad, the selections here encompass a dizzying set of categories—memoir, creative nonfiction, cultural and historical interrogations—it seems to have become an umbrella designation for a range of approaches and sensibilities, and extends to essays that are downright story-like.

From a contemporary standpoint, it would seem that the essay is a kind of literary rock star, and with a charismatic forefather in Montaigne, but according to series editor Robert Atwan, that was not always the case. During his years as a grad student of literature in the 1940s, the essay had a very different standing:

…literary works then were so exclusively identified with poems, novels, and plays that the privileging [of fictive over nonfictive works] barely went noticed. When int eh mid-sixties I took a seminar on Ralph Waldo Emerson with the brilliant critic and quintessential Emersonian Richard Poirier, we concentrated on Emerson as a thinker and a prose stylist, as the central figure of American literature, but I don’t recall a single bit of discussion that regarded Emerson as an essayist, as a writer wholly engaged with a particular literary genre….Essays were a minor genre, at best…

In Strayed’s selections you’ll find remembrances of the counterculture sixties, a memoir of a harrowing car crash, a nostalgic look at an out-of-print encyclopedia, and a heart-rending remembrance of a father unable to love his wife and daughters.

Read more, here.

—Lauren Alwan

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2015 Campbell and Sturgeon Awards Finalists Announced

The finalists for the 2015 John W. Campbell Memorial Award (for the best science fiction novel published in 2014) and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award (for the best short science fiction of 2014) were announced earlier this week.  Finalists include: John W. Campbell Memorial Award The Race by Nina Allan A Darkling Sea by James […]

Science fiction 2

I love a good book cover, because the artwork itself tells a story. Lately, I found a few covers that made me want to buy the given title right away, not even a question. The Horror by Randy Shafferwitch presents well with a cover containing elements of simplicity, subtlety, and composition considering the placement and style of the graphics on either end of the traditional “bloody hand-print” feature. The latest collection by Stephen Graham Jones titled After the People Lights Have Gone Off has a close-up of a dilapidated haunted house that well represents that realistic “next door” fear factor so popular lately, and for pure fun, there’s the woman with the look of shock on her face on the cover of Stephen King’s Joyland. Of course, there have been so many classic executions of cover-art through the years it would be impossible to give proper tribute in one little blog entry, but for giggles it might be fun to move past “horror” stuff for a moment, and give a shout-out to E.L. James for the eerie theater mask cover art for Fifty Shades Darker. Maybe it is not the most intricate artistic presentation, but considering the dynamics of the shadows and silvers, it makes one stop and say, “Hmm..what is this?”

On the other hand, book covers and genres can be deceiving, and in saying this I am not making the claim that I do not like the cover art for my latest novel, The Witch of the Wood. On the contrary, I admire the artist Hippocampus brought in to represent my character April Orr, the lovely shape-shifter coming on from our hidden past to execute her sweet revenge. It is colorful, unique, and most of all seems to contain a “wow” factor that makes the work attractive. In terms of genre, I similarly do not mean to deconstruct the horror category. I love horror. It interests me for any number of reasons, including the idea that one can alter timelines as well as put characters into bizarre situations that test their morals and resolve.

It is just that one can look at the cover of The Witch of the Wood, and assume any number of things the book is not, like “Witch-Porn,” or “Splatter-Farce.” I would hope that Witch is an absolute page turner with attractive characters drawing the reader into moment after moment of pleasurable amazement. The book is an exercise in chain reaction, one shock leading to the next, all with beautiful women along the way metaphorically winking at the male readers and pouting and raising their chins at the females. And as for “horror,” I do not quite know what that is at the moment. There are so many sub-genres that I am inclined to say that horror is the spice, the condiment, the accent behind a good story where interesting characters walk on the dark side.

So, what is your favorite cover for a book put out in the last decade? How about your favorite classic cover-art? Is there a cover you recall that advertised one thing, yet wound up yielding “different goods?” And finally, was what you found inside a dud or a pleasant surprise?


guest authorMichael Aronovitz published his first collection titled Seven Deadly Pleasures through Hippocampus Press in 2009. His first novel Alice Walks came out in a hardcover edition by Centipede Press in 2013, and Dark Renaissance Books published the paperback version in 2014. Aronovitz’s second collection, The Voices in Our Heads was published by Horrified Press in 2014, and the above featured novel, The Witch of the Wood, came out through Hippocampus Press recently. Aronovitz’s first young adult novel Becky’s Kiss will be appearing through Vinspire Press in the fall of 2015 and his third hard core adult horror novel titled Phantom Effect will be published by Night Shade Books in the fall of 2015. Michael Aronovitz is a college professor of English and lives with his wife and son in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. His website is

Gimbling in the Wabe – A “Wild” Week in the City

It’s been a pretty “wild” week in the city. No, I’m not talking about civil unrest, political wrangling, professional sporting adulation, haute cultural stimulation or jaded, cynical urban ennui. I’m talking critters. Earlier this week, a bald eagle flew into the dog park that the Mighty Belle and I frequent during the week, and roosted […]

Bald Eagle 2

Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays
Zadie Smith

This collection of essays came about by accident, Zadie Smith tells us in the foreword, but the voice and curiosity behind it makes this read seamless and satisfying. My hope, as a reader of essays, is to learn something, whether the topic is snow camping or religious fanatics or Monarch butterflies, but I also hope to learn something personal, something about the speaker who knows these things. And with Smith, whether the subject is Nabokov or Forster, her person is an intrinsic part of each smart interrogation.

The book is divided into sections: Reading, Being, Seeing, Feeling, Remembering. Smith dips into culture and modernity, the writing life, personal history, and current and classic literature, including Kafka, Foster Wallace, Zora Neale Hurston. In “Middlemarch and Everybody,” Smith provides a thorough and elegant case for George Eliot’s empathic treatment of her characters by way of Henry James (who thought the novel “too copious a dose of pure fiction”), and Spinoza’s concept of conatus, or self-striving. That quality of doing good for society by doing good for the self, Smith shows us, can be found in the novel’s many characters, more than a few of which James deemed insufficiently complex. Eliot was nothing if not an empathic, an all-inclusive writer, and Smith shows us how how radical a thing it was, in 1873, to take that approach, one that laid the groundwork for twenty-first-century novelists.

Smith excels at effortlessly unpacking complex subjects. From the foreword, we know many of the essays were commissioned: “I replied to the requests that came in now and then. Two thousand words about Christmas? About Katharine Hepburn? Kafka? Liberia? A hundred thousand words piled up that way.” There is the essay on Forster, of whom Smith has a strong and longstanding affinity; a moving personal history in “Smith Family Christmas”; and a trio of essays on film, including a great dispatch from the Academy Awards, “Ten Notes on Oscar Weekend,” an essay so effacing yet razor sharp in its tone, I can’t imagine any other writer narrating the spectacle that is Academy Awards:

Hollywood has many tiers. Sitting by the pool are hot girls in bikinis and their jock guys, ordering twenty-dollar cocktails and lobster maki rolls, watching the dreamy water of the Hockney pool lap at the edges of the terra-cotta tile surround. Nobody swims. A young black couple, dressed in the Versace knockoffs they believe appropriate to this scene, pose in a lounger and get a waitress to photograph then, living the dream. This is repeated several times that afternoon, by Italians, English, Australians. Everybody speaks of the Oscars, loudly. It’s the only conversation in town.

Here too is a version of a lecture given to the students of Columbia University’s writing program in 2010, now a staple of online creative writing links. “That Crafty Feeling” features Smith’s classic perceptive yet personal delivery in which she advises on a range of issues: starting, finishing, influences, routines, writerly devices. It’s all there in wonderfully digestible nuggets of common sense and humor. For example, the term for setting aside a draft for a spell before revision is called, “Step Away From the Vehicle.”

Watch Zadie Smith deliver the lecture, “That Crafty Feeling,” here.

—Lauren Alwan

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Six years ago, deep in the swamps of Louisiana, Delilah’s face was marred forever at the hands of her sisters by the point of her mother’s kitchen knife. Despite her protest, her parents insist she make haste in finding a husband. But finding a husband isn’t an easy feat with a scar running the length of your face.
Porter Jeansonne keeps to himself. He lives in his mansion, set apart from the town he’s grown to detest. One night, walking through the town, seeking to collect a debt, he hears a man selling off his daughter in the most deplorable part of the darkened streets. He chooses to take pity on her and set her free from her despicable family. Until he sees her face.


He then knows that maybe she is the mend for his haunted heart.

 I am a stay at home mom from the South and wife to the most giving and hardworking husband ever.  I love to cook and try out new recipes even if they don’t always turn out like I want them to.  I refer to my kids lovingly as the Three Stooges as they are constantly coming up with new ways to wreak havoc in the house.  Most recently that included putting a rubber-band on the kitchen sink sprayer so it would douse me when I did the dishes.  I love to go to roller derby bouts and read in my spare time.  I write mostly at night when the house is silent and I can sneak cookies without having to share!  If you’re into stalking, try under the Cypress trees in the swamps of Louisiana, but watch out for gators!!


2014 Shirley Jackson Awards Nominees Announced

Shirley Jackson wrote such classic novels as The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle, as well as the well known short story, “The Lottery.”  To honor the legacy of Shirley Jackson’s writing, the juried Shirley Jackson Awards were established in 2007 to recognize outstanding achievement in the literature of psychological suspense, horror, […]

Shirley Jackson Awards logo

Station Eleven Wins the Arthur C. Clarke Award

Emily St. John Mandel has been awarded the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award for her genre-arching novel, Station Eleven. In the novel, the world has come to an end as we know it.  A deadly virus has eradicated over 90 percent of Earth’s population within the space of a few weeks, too quickly and too […]

Station Eleven

Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in That House
Meghan Daum

The moral of this story might run be careful what you wish for, especially if the house you get doesn’t live up to the fantasy you’ve been harboring. For Meghan Daum, novelist, essayist, L.A. Times columnist and extreme home aficiando, the pursuit is ninety percent of the game. Dreaming of houses, looking at houses online, making the rounds of open houses, even property stalking is all part of the condition Daum refers to as “house lust.” And we’ve all been there—I know I certainly have—pining after a place because it embodies the ideal life that might be lived there.

I bought a house because I was thirty-four years old, had been self-employed most of my adult life, had never been married, was childless, had no boyfriend nor any appealing prospects in that department, and was hungry to the point of weakness for something that would root me to this earth.

Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House is a kind of residential coming of age story, in which Daum tells of how she came be a homeowner. She also tracks growing up in places that never quite lived up to the dream and her formidable mother’s influence in seeking and improving the many homes the family occupied, from Texas to New Jersey.

There’s an inherent narrative to be found in the places we’ve lived, the serial addresses are a document of our peripatetic student years (or, in Daum’s terms, “tapestry-covered, grad-student-style impermanence”), to the single years of work and career, and if we’re lucky, to a relatively stable adulthood. It’s all there in the places we’ve lived, though through it all, Daum is plagued by a persistent nagging sense that there’s a better house down the block, or uptown, or on the coast. It’s that hankering for the indescribable transformation arrival to a new place brings, and it drives this memoir of house-yearning.

…this is the story of what happens when, for whatever reason, your identity becomes almost totally wrapped up not in who you are or how you live, but in where you live.

Daum, the author of a novel (The Quality of Life Report) and an essay collection, My Misspent Youth, has a confessional, chatty style that complements her subject. After all, what is a house but details? Post and beam, tongue and groove, flooring, cabinetry, the colors of the walls and the contours of the land it sits on. And though the detail can at times overwhelm, happily this tale of what it’s like to settle for—and settle down—shows us what it’s like when the house-hunting stops and life finally begins.

Meghan Daum’s new collection of essays, The Unspeakable and Other Subjects of Discussion, in due to be released in November.

Lauren Alwan

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CR Banner - Catching Serenity

Title: Catching Serenity (Seeking Serenity, #4)
Author: Eden Butler
Genre: NA | Contemporary Romance
Release Date: July 14, 2015

Catching Serenity

Cover Designed by Steven Novak of Novak Illustration
NOTE: Catching Serenity will be multi-media with illustrations by R.N. Laing



It began with a look.

Just one, thrown my way. A mad, dizzying rush of desire cracking across the patio, bouncing around my friends, ignoring everything but the heat bubbling between his eyes and mine.

That’s when Quinn O’Malley came into my life.

We were inevitable.

We were senseless.

He wrecked me.

He saved me.

I still haven’t recovered.

Sayo McIntyre didn’t want the complications that came with Quinn O’Malley.

But life doesn’t care what we want. It gives us what we need.
CATCHING SERENITY is the last full-length novel in the Serenity Series.


CS Teaser 1.1

••• Books in the Seeking Serenity Series •••

Seeking Serenity Series

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••• About Eden Butler •••

Eden Butler PicEden Butler is an editor and writer of New Adult Romance and SciFi and Fantasy novels and the nine-times great-granddaughter of an honest-to-God English pirate. This could explain her affinity for rule breaking and rum. Her debut novel, a New Adult, Contemporary (no cliffie) Romance, “Chasing Serenity” launched in October 2013 and quickly became an Amazon bestseller.

When she’s not writing or wondering about her possibly Jack Sparrowesque ancestor, Eden edits, reads and spends way too much time watching rugby, Doctor Who and New Orleans Saints football.

She is currently living under teenage rule alongside her husband in southeast Louisiana.

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2015 Locus Awards Shortlist Announced

The Locus Science Fiction Foundation has announced the shortlist for its 2015 awards.  The Locus Awards are determined by polling the readers of Locus magazine (subtitled The Magazine of The Science Fiction & Fantasy Field).  Locus was founded in 1968 and the awards themselves were first handed out in 1971. The shortlisted nominees for the […]


The Girl at Midnightgirl
Melissa Grey
Random House Children’s Books


Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All humans but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known. When a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, Echo must help the people who have aided and cared for her.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it. But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they

seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.



To celebrate the Blog Tour for The Girl at Midnight, Random House Children’s Books is offering TWO print copies to US and Canadian residents.
Comment below for your chance to win!

Flash Review: Jacaranda by Cherie Priest

Jacaranda Cherie Priest Subterranean Press Release Date:  January 31, 2015 ISBN 978-1-59606-684-7 When are we going to learn?  You don’t use ancient artifacts as household decorations, you don’t plow over native burial grounds, and, as Cherie Priest so articulately shows us, you don’t cut down a jacaranda tree that honors the dead and has been […]


The Invention of Wings

Sue Monk Kiddinvention


Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.



We are giving away ONE print copy of THE INVENTION OF WINGS to US residents. Please comment below for your chance to win!

Spring and All, 1923 ed.

 Spring and All,

William Carlos Willams

In the frenzy that was my final term of grad school, I signed up for a seminar on Spring and All, by the classic American poet, William Carlos Williams. It would have been fine had I been studying poetry, but I was on the fiction track, and so began my dizzying encounter with this seminal work. For a good portion of that seminar I was completely lost, but reader, I’m hear to say I love this book, and it’s now among my favorites.

The volume, first published in 1923, is one of the major collections published by Williams (who was born in 1883), who is perhaps the best known of contemporary literary physicians, one that defined him as a major influence of the American Modernist movement. While his peers, like Pound, lived and worked abroad, finding influence in European and Asian forms, Williams intently remained in his hometown of Paterson, New Jersey, aiming to forge a distinctly American language—raw, vernacular, reflective of the time and place in which he lived. And he achieved it in Spring and All, which is a hybrid form of both poetry and prose.

Even if you don’t know the collection, you likely know it’s most well-known poems, I and XXIII. The first, the title poem begins:

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast—a cold wind.

Or the its most well-known poem, The Red Wheelbarrow:

so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white

During that grad seminar, I clung to the familiarity of those works, and yet there were other pleasures, less understood by me in my reading, but which all the same stunned with impressions, objects, moments.  “Civitas,” the instructor stated, was the locus from which Williams meant to make his art—a language arising from, and for, the social body. The patient in the ward, the overworked hospital staff, each poem was Williams’ attempt at a new American form, revivifying a desolation of consciousness. Williams rejected the European-influenced, elevated images and tone, and like American realist painters of that post WW1 period, found meaning and relevance in the realistic, in unembellished subject and form that reflected a contemporary consciousness.

Williams famously described his creative method as “No ideas but in things,” and though I struggled with the form his ideas took, his work taught me how life is contained in things, and in voice on the page.

Watch Allen Ginsburg read from Spring and All, here.

—Lauren  Alwan

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The Galaxy GameThe Galaxy Game
Karen Lord
Del Rey
Release Date:  January 6, 2015
ISBN 978-0-345-53407-1

Have you ever read a book where you weren’t exactly sure what was going on?  Where you could follow the big picture, but all the little details – and there were a heckuva lot of little details – seemed just beyond your grasp?  I have, and it drives me crazy; nowadays, I don’t even usually finish books like that.

But it happened to me recently while reading Karen Lord’s new novel The Galaxy Game – and I absolutely loved it.

So what is different about The Galaxy Game than all those other meticulous, complicated books?  Pretty simple, really.  The author doesn’t go out of her way to explain the world, because her characters are too busy living in it.  And since it is such a wonderfully realized world, to be constantly reminded that we are outsiders looking in would have been disingenuous.  So, we hold on by our fingertips and enjoy the ride.

It’s hard to even explain the book in other than really broad strokes, but I’ll try.  Set far in the future, there are a handful of inhabited planets (both natural and terraformed) of which Terra is one of the oldest in various states of development and alliance.  We meet Rafi and Ntenman, two boys attending the Lyceum on Cygnus Beta, a school for the psionically gifted.  But undeveloped Rafi – who’s not exactly from a stellar background, although his homestead (extended family) is well known and well connected – is perceived by some to be a potential threat, so he is subjected to controlling techniques that not only are humiliating, but cause him horrendous nightmares.

The only real release Rafi has is Wallrunning – a team game of “speed and agility played on vast vertical surfaces that are riddled with variable gravity fields” (I think of it as a kind of group parkour where the vertical playing field moves and flows).  Diminutive Rafi isn’t all the good at it, but on the Wall he feels free.  Beefier Ntenman, from an established merchant Ntshune family, isn’t all the good at it, either, but he’s much more outgoing and confident than Rafi, and can afford better equipment, so his participation on the team is welcome.

Eventually, however, Rafi cannot take the stigma he lives under at the Lyceum – or the tensions he has to navigate at home – and, aided by some sympathetic relatives (who point him in the right direction then look the other way), he leaves his homestead and his estranged mother, and clandestinely flees to Punartam where he can have himself declared an adult and try to make a life for himself.  Ntenman, also bored at the Lyceum, follows Rafi (Ntenman is not big on rules, which with his gregarious and somewhat roguish nature, often does him well), where both young men’s futures turn in ways neither of them could ever have imagined.

Full disclosure:  that synopsis is a cop out.  There’s so much more going on than what I’ve outlined, so many secondary characters that may not have as much page-time but are nevertheless integral to what is occurring, and what is occurring is a swirling stew of political and socioeconomic happenings that incorporate amazements such as mindships (sentient creatures, handled by a rare breed of especially gifted – and fiercely independent – human pilots, which provide interstellar transportation by, in effect, biting passengers and injecting them with a kind of coma-inducing toxin), and strict societal norms that govern everything from honorifics to  “kinship contracts” (of which marriage is only a tiny, almost insignificant part) to what one wears, where one goes and even what pins or ribbons should or should not be added to lapels or belts.  This is a world where not only the physical and the emotional aspects of life need to be taken into account, but also the telepathic and the empathetic aspects, with all their rules and dictums and civilities…. like I said, it’s complicated.

And it’s wonderful.

But to dig a little bit further:  why is such a complex and elaborate narrative so good?  Because it all fits.  It works.  Even without understanding every bit of it, it feels coherently whole without having to manufacture bits to explain other parts, or work really hard to attempt to have it make sense.  It may not be intuitive, but it makes sense.

And whereas other authors would spend an extraordinary amount of time building explication into their story, Karen Lord doesn’t spend time explaining much to us.  If a character is learning something, we learn something along with them, but if it’s something they intrinsically understand, then we are meant to simply learn off their cues.  (Such as when Ntenman makes fun of Rafi when he unknowingly commits what feels like a country bumpkin faux pas in highly structured Punartam society – we learn along with Rafi just why what he’s done is considered embarrassingly naive; without Ntenman’s reaction, we would have no indication the depth of the social relationships that exist.)

So we get the sense that we have actually entered this world in which we are strangers.  It’s not a tale being crafted for our sensibilities, it’s a world – or worlds – into which we have slipped, and we have to learn from observation, not explanation.  Sometimes it’s bewildering, yes, and often we have to hold situations and reactions – even on the part of the main characters – in abeyance before we can make sense of them.  But with the thoroughness of Ms. Lord’s imaginings, it’s an exhilarating experience.

It wasn’t until after I had read the book that I came to realize it actually had a kind of precursor novel in Karen Lord’s 2014 work, The Best of All Possible Worlds.  While The Galaxy Game is not a sequel to this earlier book, it apparently does have some of the same characters and employs the same universe.  According to some reviewers, reading The Best of All Possible Worlds makes The Galaxy Game more… understandable.

Doesn’t matter.  To push a metaphor, reading The Galaxy Game is a journey worth taking, even if you can’t read the roadmap that tells you where you’re going.  Just sit back and enjoy the scenery, and eventually not having a destination won’t matter anymore.  It’s all good.

And with The Galaxy Game, it is indeed all good.

Genevieve Valentine
Saga Press
Release Date:  March 10, 2015
ISBN 978-1-4814-2512-4

Oh, my!

I didn’t really know what to expect from Genevieve Valentine’s third novel, after reading and enjoying her 2014 book, The Girls at the Kingfisher Club.  That one was a sensitive, somewhat nostalgic retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale of “The 12 Dancing Princesses”, set in New York in the Roaring 20s.

What I got in Persona was a taunt, gripping, amazing read that was a flawless synthesis of politics, glamour, suspense and intrigue.  Oh – and it was unlike anything else I’ve ever read.  I’m still reeling.  And dang, I’d sure like to reel some more.

It’s the near future of our world, and politics has evolved into a game of stylized and cutthroat diplomacy.  Gossip and policy go hand in hand, in a smooth synthesis of the superficial and the deeply entrenched.  Think of “Entertainment Weekly” in the role of “Newsweek”, or if politics were curated by Facebook rather than a more, um, legitimate means.  (Perhaps that not being so hard to imagine is part of what fuels the suspense.)

Suyana Supaki is the Face of the United Amazonian Rainforest Coalition (a country made up of the unification of Brazil and Peru), and operates within the realm of the International Assembly (think the United Nations, but with teeth…. fangs).  She’s pretty enough, and charming on camera (which is 90% of diplomacy, she has been told), she appears to be the perfect mouthpiece for the UAFC and yet she’s sharp as a whip underneath her polished veneer, even though she’s still very young.  The UAFC used to be a rising player at the IA until a bombing scandal by an eco-terrorist group had their so-called allies scuttling away like roaches under a bright light.  Suyana lost her handler in the bombing, the only person that she had come close to trusting since she had been recruited to be a Face.

Her new handler, Magnus – she doesn’t trust him at all, but he’s very good at what he does.  He’s even finagled her into a possible physical contract with Ethan, the US Face, which is quite a coup as the US is one of the Big Nine who hold virtually all the power in the IA.  It’s possible that the US is pulling lots of unseen strings behind the scenes with this move, positioning itself for some major PR push, but if the public sees Suyana and Ethan as even a potential couple, it has to bode well for upcoming votes and further liaisons.  Magnus and Suyana head to the hotel where the contract negotiations are to take place – a “first date”, as the rest of the world sees it.

Outside the hotel, a lone photographer lurks in the adjacent alleyway.  He’s a free-lance “snap” in a world of networked competitors, and he’s been following Suyana Supaki on a hunch that the assignation she’s on carries more weight than it appears.  His name is Daniel Park, and he has his own reasons for staying off the grid.  But suddenly, what had been a scheduled and routine afternoon erupts in gunfire, and a wounded Suyana is lurching into the alley where Daniel has been steadily clicking away.  Torn between hope that he’s gotten some lucrative photos of the actual assassination attempt (or is it just a publicity stunt?) and a humanistic need to help the wounded young woman who, due to the continuing gunfire, appears to still be in danger, he ditches the camera (but not before pocketing the memory card) and they run.

Welcome to the first 18 pages.

The writing in Persona is just superb.  It is sparse and concise, conveying much within few words, which is exactly why this novel succeeds on so many levels.  The world in which the book revolves is superficially bland and processed, yet every word spoken, every gesture, heck, every nuance has a meaning that speaks volumes in the pointedly unacknowledged yet highly scrutinized actions that happen behind the scenes.  How Ms. Valentine is able to covey the depth and complexity of such a society without rambling on and muddying the prose is simply inspired.

She’s very stingy in explaining her characters, as well, which really helps to crystallize the focus of the story.  We get to know exactly what we need to know, and not much more – and yet, it is this dearth of explanation that makes what we do see so very rich.  The only characters we learn much about are Suyana and Daniel, and the depth in which we get to know them feels incredibly intimate.  Yet their interactions with the other players in the book – and each other – bristle with intent and personality.

While Daniel is an intriguing character, and a lot of the action hinges on his reactions, it is Suyana who grounds the novel.  She is such an amazing heroine.  Young, idealistic yet realistic, entrenched in the theatrics of her position and yet completely aware that they are necessary theatrics, she is a young woman who grew up in difficult circumstances and has been meticulously groomed to play a role for a few years that is rife with political manipulation – of her, and by her.  Yet she would fall flat if that were all she was.  There is so much more to this character, other aspects of who she is and what she does and why she does it, that opens up the story to so much more intrigue, so much more connivance, so much more spirit and strength – and this, this is another way that Persona excels.

I know that we’re not even halfway through 2015, but I’ve already got Persona pegged as one of my favorite books of the year, and I can guarantee that I’ll be watching Genevieve Valentine to see what she comes up with next.

Traveling Light: Unpacking a Story

So there I am, in a small hotel between the Costa Brava and Sitges, once again unpacking the bag I’ve carried through France and Spain. It’s been five weeks, and by now the contents are painfully familiar: five t-shirts, two pairs of shorts, and various smaller items, including an excellent pair of sandals purchased on […]


Giveaway: Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Thanks to our friends at Penguin Random House for giving you LitStackers the chance to win one of THREE print copies of Charlaine Harris’ Midnight Crossroad in celebration of the paper back release to US and Canadian residents. To qualify, comment below. Good luck! ABOUT MIDNIGHT CROSSROAD Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many […]


LitStack Rec: Women in Their Beds & Ilium

Women in Their Beds — Gina Berriault Her admirers include Richard Ford, Grace Paley and Robert Stone, but American fiction writer Gina Berriault may be one of most revered writers you’ve never heard of. Cynthia Ozick described Berriault as the quintessential writer’s writer—the recipient of professional admiration and “dim public recognition.” Though I’d say she’s […]


LitStack Review: Aces Abroad: Wild Card IV edited by George R. R. Martin

Aces Abroad: Wild Card IV Edited by George R. R. Martin Tor Books Re-release Date:  January 13, 2015 ISBN 978-0-7653-3558-6 In the 1980s, a group of New Mexico residents, many of them writers, were involved in a superhero role-playing game, grand mastered by author George R. R. Martin (of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice […]


Cover Reveal: Drawn by Chris Ledbetter

We are so excited about this upcoming release from LitStack friend and extraordinary YA debut author Chris Ledbetter. If you love YA, mystery and suspense, then you will devour Drawn from Evernight Teen. Look for Drawn launching in June. Synopsis Caught between the sweltering fall landscape of Wilmington, NC beaches and southern illusions and expectations, […]