“The Burning,” by S. O. Esposito

“The Burning,” by S. O. Esposito, is a fast paced thriller about a woman with Disassociative Identity Disorder (DID), formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD). It’s an aggressively feminist book that looks at the many different ways rape culture is the status quo, enforced both actively and passively by both men and women. There’s also arson. I should note that I received this book as part of a GoodReads give away in exchange for my honest opinion. Every time I run into a book featuring Disassociative Identity Disorder, my hackles go up. It’s a flashy, vilified mental disorder often used cheaply and meanly to indicate someone is a villain or just flat out CRAZY!!!!!!!!!. It’s a cliche that further stigmatizes a very real mental illness that affects marginalized people. Esposito seems to have done her homework, however, and her protagonist Alice Leinenger is a person and a character with attributes outside of “just” living with DID. Alice is married to a lawyer and is a stay at home parent (with a nanny) to two young kids. They live in a condo that is impossibly expensive and have more money than I can realistically comprehend. She and her friends casually…

“Rivers of London,” by Ben Aaronovitch
3 star , novel / May 25, 2018

“Rivers of London,” by Ben Aaronovitch, has been described as adult-Harry-Potter unexpectedly tumbles into Terry Pratchet’s world, a description that usually means that a book is… really, aggressively bad but convinced it’s clever. This is a book that manages to carry it off, though. Young Peter Grant is a probationary constable eager to be promoted to an exciting department investigating murders or something. To his dismay, he’s told that he’s destined for a desk job instead. That is… until an Inspector named Nightingale hears he’s waiting around an abandoned plaza for a ghost and decides to take Grant under his wing. It turns out that ghosts exist, magic exists, vampires exist, and more. And Grant, as it happens, has the knack for seeing into this world and interacting with it. “Rivers of London” covers one of my favorite tropes: hidden rivers. Chicago has a river whose flow was reversed, so it has two currents that run in opposite directions. London has several rivers that were encased in brick, turned into sewers. It has rivers that bubble up out of nowhere, rivers that start out as fresh water and end up as salt. And in a world jammed with ghosts and…

“The Púca,” by Terri Squires
2 star , 2017 Publication , novel / May 22, 2018

I received “The Púca,” by Terri Squires, as part of a GoodReads give away. It’s a book that has… many issues, most of which could have been resolved with editors– both for content as well as copy editing. “The Púca” follows Mairin and Josh, orphaned twins adopted by their aunt and uncle who live in steamy Florida. They are both excellent swimers, 13 years old, excited about going into 8th grade. The school year ends a bit rockily when Mairin, who has a short temper, instigates a fight with the school bully. Although he has a more even temper, Josh has ADHD and poor impulse control which leads to another bit of excitement: a swimming race in the ocean that goes awry. It’s at that moment that Mairin discovers she can turn into an animal. The two are excited by this, of course, and decide she’s a Púca, which doesn’t really make sense because Púcas are a mythical creature that is a fairly demonic horse that likes to torment dudes that falling-down drunk. As mythical characters to pick it seems kind of random. Anyway, they decide to go about their summer as usual, after first telling their best friends but…

“Last Shot” by DJ Older
2018 Publication , 3 star , novel / May 16, 2018

“Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel” by Daniel José Older, is an interesting look Han Solo’s past as well as a lovely bridge between the original trilogy and “The Force Awakens.” Why does he leave Leia and Ben? Why does he go off on his own? Why is he so unstable? Lando Calrissian gets examined as well. What happens when a ladies man and inveterate gambler starts growing up, or at least getting older? The book explores this against the back drop of an exciting story involving space battles and mysterious objects and gang cartels and a droid uprising, but that’s not the main focus of the book. The main focus of the book is on Solo and Calrissian being vulnerable and talking about their problems with each other. It’s not all conversations all the time, but their growth is very evident in the pages of the book, and they hash stuff out with each other a few times. I know. I didn’t expect that from a Star Wars novel, either. Not even with all the fan cannon (fannon!) about Poe Dameron and Finn hanging out and sharing jackets and hugging all the time. THAT is a book I…

“Sucks (to be you)” by Katherine Duckett

“Sucks (to be you),” by Katherine Duckett, appears in the May/June 2018 issue of “Uncanny Magazine” and is an interesting take on succubi. There are a lot of stories about Succubi, of course, and their brothers called Incubi. The oldest stories focus on the horror aspect of them. They come in the night! They make you DO THINGS! They steal your VITAL ESSENCE and/or GET YOU PREGNANT!!! More recent stories spin the whole sex thing into a positive and erotic thing, almost as through the Succubi themselves are writing them. Aren’t they sexy? Don’t you want them? “Sucks (to be you)” takes a slightly different view: an emotional one. Ducketts Succubi, at least the protagonist of her story, don’t just need sex. They need an emotional connection. What I want—what most of us want—is far simpler, and gender is immaterial in its pursuit. All I want is a little space in your head. A siphon, giving me a bit of you, ever-flowing: that bit of you that can’t seem to stop thinking about me. As sexual as these Succubi are, they’re also emotional. While some view the effort of getting this attention as a chore, the way that some humans…

“The Sea Half-Held By Night,” by E. Catherine Tobler

“The Sea Half-Held By Night,” by E. Catherine Tobler, is from the 63th issue of The Dark magazine. This short story takes us to Red Bay in New Foundland, a settlement of Basque and Portuguese whalers, and the things that come up out of the sea. I am he that walks with the tender and growing night; I call to the earth and sea half-held by the night. Press close bare-bosomed night! “…sea half-held by the night” is a quote from “Leaves of Grass,” a famed collection of poems by Walt Whitman. The volume of poetry, containing anywhere from 12-400 poems depending on its publication date, emphasizes the body and physical world, as opposed to spiritual, and nature and human kind’s place in it. It’s a lovely bit of poetry, it’s a lovely line, and it’s a fitting title for a story about humans and whales and death. The story is told from the point of view of Tota, a young woman married to a whaler. She works with the whales as well, harvesting spermaceti, the wax-life stuff found in a specialized organ of a sperm whale’s head. It was used in candles and lamps and to make medicines. It’s…

“Tender Loving Plastics,” by Amman Sabet

“Tender Loving Plastics,” by Amman Sabet, comes from the May/June 2018 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. Harry Harlow is remembered for his “wire mother” experiments, raising baby rhesus macaque monkeys in isolation save for a vaguely mother-shaped dummy. There were two kinds of “mother”: one was wire and wood and had a bottle of formula, while the other was covered in cloth and had no formula. The baby monkeys vastly preferred the cloth covered monkey and visited the wire one only for feeding. Regardless of the type of substitute mother, however, all rhesus monkeys in Harlow’s experiments grew up with mental issues. As cruel as his experiments were, they vastly changed the treatment of human infants for the better. With all the talk of “attachment parenting” it’s easy to forget that relatively recently parents were advised not to pick up or interact with their babies/children too much lest they “be spoiled” by attention. Primates are hard-wired for loving interaction. We need mothers and fathers, or at least guardians, who provide emotional and physical care including holding and cuddling. Neglect is a pernicious form of child abuse, and can be difficult to prove to child protective services….

“Being an Account of the Sad Demise of the Body Horror Book Club,” by Nin Harris

Being an Account of The Sad Demise of The Body Horror Book Club by Nin Harris looks at “body horror” in an interesting way. What is body horror? It’s a genre of horror that deals with the body and the way it can be intruded upon, changed, taken over. Common themes include possession, parasites, mutations, body parts falling off, infection, etc. Certain bodies– those with uteruses and vaginas– have their own special body horror elements surrounding menstruation, pregnancy, and the vagina/uterus as some kind of holding cell/pocket dimension out of which slugs, snakes, demons, aliens,etc are free to come out of at will. There’s an entire genre of horror films centering around menstruation, for instance. “Being an Account…” takes 3 approaches to body horror: Lila imagines bodily horror/torture/mutilation/etc happening in the flat above hers Lila’s “body” in the form of her home/surroundings are invaded by a malevolent force The group discusses books and folklore that feature bodily horror Noise is common in shared living spaces. In Lila’s case, she’s in a very large gated condo development. She’s had many upstairs neighbors, plenty of them loud and irritating. But one neighbor is more than irritating, he scares her. Not that they’ve…

“No Man of Woman Born,” by Ana Mardoll

No Man of Woman Born, by Ana Mardoll, is an anthology of reworked short fairy tales/fantasy stories about dragons and swords stuck wantonly into stones and prophecies, most of which are gender based. Mardoll is bisexual, on the ace-spectrum, transgender, and autistic and these stories very much reflect xer lived experience, assuming that their lived experience also had dragons and prophecies and polyamorous warrior clans, etc. Xie is also a very good writer. I should note that I received this as a review copy, and that I’ve known Ana for quite a while and am friends with xer. I haven’t received any compensation for this review, and my opinions are honest and my opinions alone. They’re colored by my friendship with xer, of course, but they’re still true opinions. Reworkings of traditional fairy tales are nothing new. There’s a million anthologies with their own spins on fairy tale retellings. They’re set in outer space, they’re set in modern times, everyone’s a witch of some sort, the bad guys are redeemed or are secretly working for the benefit of the good guys, there’s a bureau of fairy tale characters investigating other fairy tale characters, everything is feminist either earnestly or satirically….