Category Archives: books

James Melzer’s Mother Load

If you’ve ever needed an excuse to preorder a fantastic zombie apocalypse story, James Melzer has provided for you. His story Escape will be available in a dead-tree form soon, but to sweeten the deal for those who commit to the journey, Melzer came up with a brilliant treat.

If you preorder his novel and send him a copy of the receipt, he’ll email you a free e-collection of original short stories The Mother Load. The authors collected are fantastic, and I am seriously excited to get to read it.

So go check out James Melzer and The Mother Load!

Personal Effects: Dark Art on Starz

To begin with, J.C. Hutchins is one of my favorite authors, so the news that his Personal Effects: Dark Art is developing into a TV show on Starz made me smiley all afternoon. The story woven there, and in the prequel Sword of Blood, captured my attention and imagination. I still look in the corners of dark rooms to make sure that there’s nothing crazy going on.

In the novel, the only element crazier than the patients is the circumstances that surround their admittance to The Brink. Other people have said it’s equal parts CSI and X-Files, and those people aren’t wrong. Zach Taylor, art therapist at The Brink, accepts the insane circumstances that surround his work, like an ancient cursed sword being the cause of one patient’s incarceration, and works to solve the mysteries of their lives so that they can live as normal a life as possible.

So the thought of getting to watch Zach Taylor follow other paths to solutions for other patients in The Brink sounds fantastic. With the great foundation Hutchins provides, the show should be one of my favorites.

Now to confirm I get the Starz network…

Discussing Special Topics in Calamity Physics with teenagers 2

Well week two could have had a better discussion, but it wasn’t terrible considering the sophomores had just completed the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) and the seniors were all caught up in scholarship deadlines. So the number of students who had not completed the reading outnumbered those who had.

But we started with some predictions. For those that had completed the reading, they had a chance to predict some of what Blue will face. Most of them suspect that life for Blue will take another turn for the worse, but they still don’t have specific predictions.

For those who hadn’t completed the reading, I had them write their predictions for the chapters based on the paragraph synopses of the books the chapters pull their names from. Some of them were able to predict fairly well, but others did not draw a solid connection between the title and what could happen.

What I learned this time was that foreshadowing is more difficult if you haven’t read much. Most of the students in the reading group aren’t readers (yet), and I am learning that what seems obvious to me and jumps off the page as contrived or trite appears new to them. I have some suspicions as to why they are in high school and yet lack the skills to point to examples of foreshadowing.

Next week we will meet more of the characters who will play a larger role in the remainder of the story. We will also hit some of the longest and slowest parts of the novel, but I’m hopeful that the students trust my judgment enough to stick it out. I’d forgotten, until I reread it, that Pessl does a great job laying a solid foundation for the rest of the story to stand on. Why this fantastic world building may trip up several of the students is that so few authors do it anymore. And since many of the students prefer stories that keep up the action (and yet don’t like fantastical elements in their stories), the initially slow pacing may get the better of some of them. But I have faith in the students.

Discussing Special Topics in Calamity Physics with teenagers 1

Special Topics in Calamity PhysicsI facilitate a book club with the high school students at work. We started with Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell over their winter break. And we when finished it in Feb., I brought in several books for them to choose from for what we would read next. The consensus was Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl.

The book is a fantastic first-person recounting of the narrator’s, Blue van Meer, senior year in high school on the U.S. east coast. It’s an interesting choice for the kids I work with, because there will be little common experience. Most of the students have lived their whole lives in the city and have little experience with life outside of Southern California or Mexico. Continue reading Discussing Special Topics in Calamity Physics with teenagers 1

Goblin Market

If you’ve been around this blog at all in the last year, chances are you’ve read at least something from me about Jennifer Hudock. I love her dark fantasy stories, and she has the added bonus of being a genuinely kind person.

Most of her work is available in electronic forms, so if you like podcasts and ebooks, there are numerous stories for you to check out.

If you prefer reading on dead trees, Jenny is releasing a limited number of print books for her novella The Goblin Market!

She released the first version as a podcast, which is great. Her story pulls on Christina Rossetti’s poem by the same name, but develops a path completely its own. Jenny’s creates emotionally resonant characters who often act in surprising ways.

I already ordered my copy, and my excitement pushed me to write all of this down. So go and buy your print copy. Or the ebook copy for whatever ereader you own. Or check out her podcast. Jenny’s captivating writing will have you searching through her archives to get more.


A couple of months ago FATED by S.G. Browne showed up on my doorstep. A friend I made online suggested that I review it, and a review copy headed to my house.

With the first chapter, I wasn’t sure how the listing the main character/narrator Fabio used to convey his meaning would work out. But I knew that I wanted to know what Fabio would experience in the course of the story.

See, FATED follows Fabio, the incarnation of Fate, as he navigates the practicalities of assigning fates to billions of people. He also has to navigate the interpersonal relationships with his fellow immortals, which leads to some entertaining public discussions. He has existed for millennia, and the novel opens with him battling a combination of ennui and apathy.

And then Fate falls in love. With Sara Griffen, a human.

The novel focuses predominately on Fabio as a character, so his falling in love functions as a catalyst for his concern about humanity to grow. But even if he didn’t fall in love, the novel is clear that it follows Fabio at a life changing moment. Fate is bored with his job and frustrated with humanity. And, because Fabio has a stubborn streak, he begins facing this crisis on his own.

Which speaks more to the point of the novel. The novel masquerades as a subversion of nearly every major mythology literature and Western society pull from, but the mythological elements are the mode Browne uses to communicate a larger point. Because, at its heart, FATED is about the desire and ability of humans to connect with each other and positively impact the world.

And it succeeds in communicating our need to create lasting bonds in order to make sense of the world. Fabio is lost until he truly connects with Sara, and though his connection makes him break the rules, he truly finds a purpose in his existence.

I really enjoyed reading the story because I quickly fell in love with Fabio. There’s an excerpt on S. G. Browne’s website, and you really should read that as you buy the book. It’s entertaining, thought-provoking, and definitely worth every moment of reading it.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, a young adult novel set in the very sad future of the United States of America, is a fantastic story. Suzanne Collins obviously knows her apocalyptic fiction, as she crafts a story with characters that remain human in an inhuman world. The novel fits very nicely within the grand tradition of life after the end of the world under a dictatorship.

I really love the characters, especially Katniss. Her emotional growth and conflict rise about the brutal conflict we watch her struggle through. Much like Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, I care what happens to the narrator, even as I am confused by the world she lives in. The optimist in me thinks that this world could never come to be, but the realist sees the world of George Orwell’s 1984 becoming reality and knows that it just takes the right conditions.

Why this novel isn’t a 5 star for me is because of the length. I wish that the trilogy was condensed to 1 book. Continue reading The Hunger Games

Persian translation of Little Brother

Cory Doctorow is one of my favorite authors, and Little Brother is one of the main reasons why.

The novel is a fantastic depiction of what can happen when teenagers decide to fight back against an oppressive system.

Seriously, pick it up if you haven’t yet and hand it off to a teenager after you’ve read it.

But this post isn’t a review. It’s about the newest fan translation.

It’s finally made it into Persian and is available for free online!

A group of people (who are pretty vague on identities) got together to hire a translator with the intent to get this story into the hands of Iranian online activists.

The book encourages people to stand up and fight for the right to free speech and privacy and non-oppressive systems. It’s set in the U.S. but easily applicable anywhere people feel like it could fit.

So check out their site, spread the word, and donate money to cover translation costs.

I love this book , and if anyone reading it, no matter what country they live in, sees a way they can use to speak out against systems designed to oppress people – I think the entire system will consistently run better.

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Scott Sigler stops by Los Angeles to talk Ancestor

Scott Sigler stopped by Book Soup in Los Angeles the other day. He read from his newly printed Ancestor, answered as many questions as we had, and signed a whole bunch of books for everyone who showed up.


It’s always fun when Scott comes to visit, and if he’s headed to your town this time around, you really should go to the reading and the bar stop after. He’s very generous with his time and tells lots of funny stories.

My favorite moment from this stop was Scott’s joy as he showed off the cover for The Starter, which comes out close to the start of football season. It’s a really cool cover, but what makes me love it already is how proud and excited Scott and A (the other half of Dark Overlord Media) are for it.

Also, sometimes you get lucky and end up in the video podcast.

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From the Dark Side Anthology

I’m extraordinarily excited for this anthology. Jennifer Hudock posted that she wanted to edit an anthology full of stories that look on the other side of the glass. And so she did. The proceeds go to the Letters and Light Organization.

It comes out soon. July 9! She’s already posting excerpts from the short stories, so you get an idea of what made the cut. The three that’s she’s posted so far have me scared and smiling.

These are some of my current favorite authors, which makes having them all in one place pretty fantastic. So check out the excerpts and be sure to leave your comments on Jenny’s site.

And don’t forget to buy the entire anthology on July 9!

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