the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘horror

King David Spiders from MarsI recently reviewed King David and the Spiders from Mars, and last year I got a kick out of She Nailed a Stake Through His Head, the first two anthologies in Tim Lieder’s series of Biblical horror story collections.  It’s easy to say “The Bible is full of violence”, because yes, it is.  But what about the violence we don’t see?  What about the horrific reasonings behind why people did the oh so strange things that they did? Is that *really* the a Temple of Dagon over in the next valley? Why yes, yes it is.  This is what makes historical fantasy so much fun – the authors have free range to take the tiny details that speak to them and go crazy with them. The result? Stories that speak to me.

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In my interview with Tim Lieder, we discussed lessons learned in the publishing industry, the Bible as Literature (and seeking different translations),   the importance of diversity in your TOCs, and more. So let’s get to it!

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LRR:  Tell us a little about yourself.

T.L.: I’m a writer. I live in New York. When I was in college I decided to convert to Judaism which was a surprise to everyone, including me, especially since the original inspiration was from an academic class on Biblical literature. I did convert but it took a long time. I have four cats. I started Dybbuk Press (Dybbuk Press facebook page) back in 2004 and I have published 9 books through it. I named it after the Ansky play The Dybbuk which takes liberties with the Jewish legends of the Dybbuk put is one of the spookiest plays ever written (the movie was put on by the 1939 Warsaw Yiddish Theater so that adds even more disturbing subtext). Currently, I make a living at writing but most of the writing is freelance for several clients and includes personal statements, editing jobs and term papers. Still, I manage to sell a few stories every year and I keep working on the fiction.

LRR: How did you get involved with editing and publishing? Any big lessons you’d like to pass on to anyone thinking of a career in editing?

T.L.: Ten years ago, I thought it’d be fun to edit a multi-author anthology and stick my story in it. I was unpublished and thought that it’d be my big break. I think I made every mistake that you could make when trying to edit an anthology. I didn’t offer much money. I tried to work with friends who were also amateurs. I agreed to work with a small press publisher whose only interest was self-publishing (something I learned when I realized that he had thought that his girlfriend’s terrible vampire story was going into the anthology). I didn’t even copy edit. About the only thing I did right was naming the book Teddy Bear Cannibal Massacre. I think that’s the only reason why it ever made a profit.

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King David Spiders from MarsKing David and the Spiders From Mars, edited by Tim Lieder

published March 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the editor (thanks Tim!)

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I don’t know about you, but I love mythology. I especially love it when authors take liberties with unexplored details. What was the backstory of that minor character? That other person must have had a good reason to do something strange/wonderful/awful/unexpected, right?  When I think “mythology”, I often think Greek, Roman, or Norse mythos.  But there is a mythology that’s even closer to me. One that I grew up with. One that’s rarely referred to as mythology, but that’s what it is. The Bible: history, literature, mythology, and faith, all rolled into one,  mythology in the most revered definition of the word: stories of the days that created a culture.  It’s books like King David and the Spiders From Mars that make me want to open up my big fat Myths and Legends of Ancient Israel book, or go to the library and find some dusty tome that will tell me the ending of the story they only told the beginning of in Sunday school.

King David and the Spiders From Mars is the second anthology in editor Tim Lieder’s series of Biblical Horror stories. I enjoyed the hell out of the first one, She Nailed A Stake Through His Head, (read my review) and I’ve been looking forward to more of the same ever since.  Same as with Nailed a Stake, you don’t need any kind of Biblical or Judeo-Christian education to enjoy these short stories. In fact, you’d be better served by being familiar with Chthulhu mythos.

Starting at the literal beginning, the first story is nicely tragic, but not end-of-the-world destructive. And then everything slowly ramps up, with the last two stories having the potential to really fuck you up.

here are my thoughts on a few of my favorites:

Moving Nameless, by Sonya Taaffe – How many wives did Adam have? According to myth, God made a woman right in front of Adam, built her from organs and bone and muscle and sinew, and Adam was so disgusted (you might be too, seeing a person built from the inside out!) that he never again looked up her.  And she’s been wandering the Earth ever since, looking for an Adam who might be able to love her.  Her name isn’t Eva, but that’s what her current boyfriend, Adam Loukides, calls her.  He’s a book collector, has a fondness for out of print books, can’t wait to show her around his apartment, he never questions the fact that she doesn’t talk about her family.  It doesn’t matter that this latest Adam doesn’t believe in God, or doesn’t believe her story, that doesn’t make her story any less true or the curse any less painful. He will come to be disgusted by her, no matter if he believes in her story or not. Shunned forever, for something that was outside of her control, it makes me wish the nameless woman got another opportunity to interact with the original Adam.

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You’ve been seeing this banner all over the place, yeah?

 

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This is 300 and some pages of unexpected short fiction.  Stories that transport you, that surprise you, that burrow behind your eyes and make a home for themselves in the recesses of you mind.

Because I know you’d love to have this beautiful book on your bedside table or snuggled into your e-reader, we’ve got some bloggers doing give aways as part of the tour. Act fast, and win yourself a brilliant collection!

Dab of Darkness is giving away an e-book (international) ends at midnight on Feb 22

Fantasy Review Barn also has an e-book up for grabs (international), ends on Feb 25

My Shelf Confessions has a print copy up for grabs (sorry, US only), you’ve got about another week to enter.

 

So what are you waiting for?  Go get yourself some unforgettable short fiction!

vandermeer annihilationAnnihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

published in February, 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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If you’re familiar with the works of Jeff Vandermeer, you know he enjoys playing with the theme of infection. How we’re infected by physical things, how we’re infected by ideas, how by the time we noticed we’ve changed, it’s far too late.  The word infection itself, it has negative connotations, but it doesn’t have to.  No, not infected, that’s not quite right for what’s happening here. The word I’m looking for is colonized.

Near the beginning of Vandermeer’s Shriek: An Afterword, when Duncan returns to the surface, covered in barnacle looking fungi, he’s glittering, glowing, changed forever, infected, colonized. It’s around page 50 I think, and I still remember the beauty of those paragraphs. Duncan was infected, his insides were possibly being changed against his will, but he was fascinated and curious by what was happening. The reader was, perhaps supposed to be disgusted. But instead, I found it completely beautiful, I was fascinated, I was curious, I wanted to go deeper into the caverns. Later, In Finch, characters are also changed, are infected. Finch is horrified by it, so the reader picks up on that disgust and physical horror too.

And now, in Annihilation, our protagonist, known only as the Biologist, becomes infected with something.  She has no way of knowing how exactly it is changing her, and she teeters on the triple razor’s edge of curiosity, disgust, and terror of what’s happening.  She is not the only one in the story to be infected/colonized.

So, how do you feel about being infected? Will you grab the antibacterial soap, or open your mouth wide? The answer lies in how you react to Annihilation.  Maybe you’ll see this as a horror novel, a nightmarish, unfathomable moaning thing to run from. Or maybe you’ll see it as something beautiful, something to explore further, a place not to be feared, or at least not much. Maybe you’ll feel like you’ve finally come home.

No characters are ever named in Annihilation, the characters are only known by their occupations: the psychologist, the anthropologist, the linguist, and our narrator, the biologist.  The only things that are ever named are within the context of Area X, a nameless place itself. There’s something telling in the fact that the only proper nouns are distinct places in Area X, the base camp, the lighthouse, the ruins of a village. As if only things that we believe won’t ever change deserve to be named and put on map. When someone asks the biologist what her name is, her response is to ask why that matters.

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This post is part of the Book of Apex Vol 4 blog tour!  We’ve got about 20 authors involved, traveling the blogosphere doing interviews and guest posts here and there. Today it’s my pleasure to have Ian Nichols, author of “In The Dark”, visit and answer a few questions.  Ian doesn’t mention it below, but you can read his short story “Mortal Coil” at Daily Science Fiction.

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LRR: In “In The Dark”, Morgan doesn’t recognize the language the gypsy is singing in. What do the words of his song mean? What language is the gypsy boy singing in?

I.N.: The gypsy is singing Portugese fada, sad songs abut the harshness of life and love. I heard these for the first time when I visited Portugal in 1996, and they are the blues of Portugal. The words mean “I was dancing in my boat besides the Cruel Sea, and the sea was roaring that I was stealing, and I wonder if the sea will have reason to see my heart dancing.” That’s a very loose translation of a sad song.

LRR: What inspired this story?

I.N.: I was born in Wales, but came to Australia when I was three. I didn’t go back to Wales until I was forty-six. Down in those valley towns, it’s not like “How Green Was My Valley,” or even like Dylan Thomas. The mines have always been dark, dangerous places, and when Maggie Thatcher closed them down in the eighties, the mining towns fell to ruin. Unemployment was running at well over 50% in Blainah, where I was born on the kitchen table at No. 12 Part St, alcoholism was rife and so was dependence on social services. There were holes in the hillsides where the old mine working had collapsed for lack of maintenance, and every now and then part of the hill would slide down into the valley from this and bury a house or two. If you were lucky, no-one was killed. The older people still talked about what it was like down the pits, and I took this mood, this feeling, as the basis of my story about how the mines can have a darkness that is theirs alone, a darkness of the soul.

LRR: Where else can we find your fiction? What work of yours are you most proud of?

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I’m a terrible blog tour host. I didn’t even *read* the entire book before the tour started. But there’s a silver lining here! It means as the month goes by I’ll be posting additional reviews of different stories in the book! My terrible reading habits is a win for you! I might even be a completist about the whole thing. Yes, yes I shall. my goal for 2014 is to be a completist.

Today’s reviews include short stories by Ian Nichols, Cecil Castellucci, Sarah Dalton, A.C. Wise, Alethea Kontis, Katharine Duckett, Cat Rambo, Tim Susman, Mari Ness, Brit Mandelo, and David J. Schwartz.  Think that’s a great combination of authors? it is, but it barely covers one third of the awesomesauce that is this volume of fiction from Apex Magazine.

interested in reading these stories for yourself? of course you are! Head over to Dab of Darkness and enter to win a copy!

In the Dark, by Ian Nichols – In the mining town, the men sing on their way home from the mines. Songs about the sunlight, about beautiful women, about farming, songs about nothing at all. You don’t ever sing about the darkness of the mines, and you don’t ever sing alone. These are easy rules to live by, rules that keep everyone alive. Until the gypsy boy came. He flashed his dark eyelashes and caught the eyes of the officially unbetrothed. His nimble fingers graze the strings of his guitar and his voice is a caress on the air. But he sings alone, and he sings of the sad and the tragic and the lonesome and the dark. He hasn’t grown up around the dream-stealing darkness of mines, he has no way of knowing the danger he’s in. Morgan should really warn the boy about the dangers of singing about the dark, so near to the Dark. So he takes the gypsy boy over the mines, to show him, to warn him, to get him to shut the hell up already. This is a story that sneaks up on you, like a growing evening shadow that leaves a chill on your shoulders.

Always the Same. Till it is Not, by Cecil Castellucci – I am not a fan of zombie stories. This is a zombie story, and I loved the shit out of it. My enjoyment came from how the story was presented, from the style of the prose. I’m not being told “a story”, but watching a metamorphosis take place. Our nameless narrator is some type of zombie. Words are useless, vocabulary unecessary. Days consist of sleeping, night consists of feeding. The sky is yelled at, flesh is consumed, the horde moves on, often consuming its fallen members. They find themselves in a cemetery, and eat the flesh of the bodies that are presumably in shallow graves. Our narrator seems to realize this is a different place, a special place. When the horde moves on, he hides and stays. As is his lifestyle,he continues to consume the flesh found within the cemetery. And begins changing. As the protagonist’s mentality changes, the prose changes. Sentences that were fragments a few pages ago now have nuance and structure, thoughts that once consisted of “eat. sleep.” now involve complexity and forethought. He comes to understand that eating the flesh of those buried in the cemetery is what allowed him to change. If everyone in the horde ate of that flesh, perhaps this shambling shuffling disease could come to an end. When the horde returns, he knows what he has to do.

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Scattered throughout the month, I’ll be posting reviews of selected stories of The Book of Apex: Volume 4 of Apex Magazine.  If something you read here or on any of the other blogs participating in the blog tour gets your attention, I encourage you seek the story out on the Apex website. And if you like what you see? Consider purchasing a subscription to the magazine, or one of their anthologies.  Consider leaving a comment on their website, or on twitter, or on the blog post. You’ve got an opinion and thoughts? I’d like to hear ‘em.

What I love about the fiction published by Apex is that it’s not straight up scifi, or straight up fantasy, or straight up anything, really. It’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that. It’s true fantastika. Stories that can’t possibly happen in real life, but as you are reading, you so very much *want* it to be happening.  The ultimate in suspension of disbelief. Many of your favorite authors have been published in Apex magazine, along with new authors who are soon to become favorites.  And that’s what Apex does – they take the cream of the crop of the strangest of the strange, scratching that itch you hadn’t known you had until it was relieved.

This is the stuff you can’t get anywhere else, it’s that flavor that’s part bloody sunset, part crystal constellation, part fever dream. It’s like walking into that weird little bar on the corner (you know, the one with no windows? that one.), and playing it cool. You ask the bartender what they recommend, and they bring you a pint of something dark.  You think you know what it is, but that first sip tells you this is something very different. It starts out gentle, even a little sweet, but then ends with an unexpected bite, so sharp you wonder if you’ve bit your lip because you swear you taste blood in your mouth. This is that unlabeled, brewed in the back, only available for people who ask for it by name type of drink.

The 24 Hour Brother, by Christopher Barzak – The first thing you need to know about this story is that you’re not going to get through it without crying. Lewis is excited to finally be an older brother. After the complications of Lewis’s birth, no one expected his mother to be able to carry another child to term. But a miracle happened, and little Joe was born.  but Joe didn’t stay little for long. He cut his first tooth shortly after being born. Within the hour they were chasing him around the hospital.  He’d nearly grown out of his baby clothes by the time his father caught him for the taxi ride home. Within 12 hours he was fully grown, and leaving his 15 year old older brother behind when he went out drinking.  You can see where this is going, can’t you? Joe’s mother knew, the first time she saw him, that she was going to lose him.  There’s something especially tragic about stories where you know from the opening paragraph that it’s going to end badly.  Like I said, you’re not going to get through this one without crying.

The Leavings of the Wolf, by Elizabeth Bear – Dagmar runs to get away from her divorce. Well, it’s a little more complicated than that.  She runs to lose weight.  If she loses enough weight, she’ll be able to pry that wedding band off her finger, that gleaming golden reminder of everything that went horribly wrong in her life.  And interspersed with her running is a floating story line, a dialog between her and an ex. But the thing is, this extra story line? You don’t know when exactly it’s happening. Was it years ago? a few weeks ago? yesterday?   The weight of these few extra lines here and there are like the mark a wedding band leaves on your finger after years of wear: you don’t know anymore who you are without the mark.  Anyways,  on her morning run, Dagmar often sees the same murder of crows, it’s that group she’s been studying, anklebanding, and researching for the University. The crows know her, she knows the them, and she even makes the occasional Thought and Memory joke.  One day she meets someone who might be a God, it’s not a joke anymore. And he tells her why she’s still running.  We’re all running from something, and sometimes it’s only the fear of losing a mark that tells us who we thought we were supposed to be.  I’ve run hot and cold with Bear’s fiction in the past, and this one hit me hard.  In a good way.

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Hi Everyone,

Seems like January flew by in the blink of an eye, and February is upon us. That said, welcome to The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine Blog Tour! We’ll be journeying through The Book of Apex: Volume Four of Apex Magazine, which includes all the original fiction published in Apex Magazine during it’s fourth year.  All throughout the month of February, authors will be showcased, short stories will be reviewed, parties will be had, minds will be blown, giveaways will be won.  Maybe coldmageddon will even end and your kids will have an entire week of school without a snow day.

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Never read anything from Apex Books? The fiction they publish defies categorization and pushes the boundaries. These stories are edgy, dark, and surreal, sneaking up on you, and demanding to be chewed on for a while. If you’re looking for something a little strange, a little odd, tilted from mainstream and sure to keep you reading, you’re in the right place: you’re in the Book of Apex Blog tour.

Here’s the tentative schedule, and as you can see, there is a ton of bloggers and authors (and an artist and a publisher!!) involved:

Feb 2 Review at Little Red Reviewer, My Bookish Ways interviews Jason Sizemore

Feb 3 Little Red Reviewer interviews cover artist Julie Dillon

Feb 4 Review at Dab of Darkness, Cecil Castilucci guest posts at Just Book Reading

Feb 5 Review at Rinn Reads, Little Red Reviewer interviews Michael Pevzner, A.C. Wise guest posts over at My Bookish Ways

Feb 6 Review at Lynn’s Book Blog, Rinn Reads interviews Rahul Kanakia

Feb 7 Review at Over The Effing Rainbow

Feb 8 Review at Tethyan Books, Dab of Darkness interviews Kat Howard

Feb 9 Books Without Any Pictures interviews Thoraiya Dyer, Katharine Duckett guest posts at Two Dudes in An Attic

Feb 10 Review at Many A True Nerd, Ian Nichols guest posts at Susan Hated Literature

Feb 11 Review at Two Dudes in an Attic, Rinn Reads interviews Adam Troy-Castro

Feb 12 Review at Books Without Any Pictures, My Bookish Ways interviews A.C. Wise

Feb 13 Little Red Reviewer interviews Ian Nichols, Adam-Troy Castro guest posts at Rinn Reads

Feb 14 Review at The Bastard Title, Alex Bledsoe guest posts at Lynn’s Book Blog

Feb 15 Review at Just Book Reading, Alec Austin guest posts at Many A True Nerd

Feb 16 Books Without Any Pictures interviews Marie Brennan, David Schwartz guest posts at The Bastard Title

Feb 17 Review at This is How She Fight Start, Lettie Prell guest posts at Worlds in Ink

Feb 18 The Bastard Title interviews David Schwartz, Sarah Dalton guest posts at Dab of Darkness

Feb 19 Review at Worlds in Ink, Little Red Reviewer interviews Alethea Kontis, Rahul Kanakia guest posts at My Bookish Ways

Feb 20 Review at Nashville Bookworm, Marie Brennan guest posts at Books Without Any Pictures

Feb 21 Review at My Shelf Confessions, Little Red Reviewer interviews Cecil Castellucci

Feb 22 Many a True Nerd interviews Alec Austin, Thoraiya Dyer guest posts at Tethyan Books

Feb 23 Review at Confessions of a Bibliomaniac, Little Red Reviewer interviews Tim Susman, Alethea Kontis guest posts at Over the Effing Rainbow

Feb 24 Review at Worlds in Ink, Michael Pezvner guest posts at My Shelf Confessions

Feb 25 Review at Susan Hated Literature, Lynn’s Book Blog interviews Alex Bledsoe

Feb 26 Dab of Darkness interviews Sarah Dalton, Tim Susman guest posts at Nashville Bookworm

Feb 27 Review at Fantasy Review Barn, Two Dudes in an Attic interviews Katharine Duckett

Feb 28 Worlds in Ink interviews Lettie Prell and Jason Sizemore guest posts at Confessions of a Bibliomaniac

Wow! Makes me wish there were more days in the month!

Vampires Don’t Sparkle!  edited by Michael West

published in 2013

where I got it: purchased new

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Vampire fiction has been mostly a turn-off for me lately. I don’t want to read about vegetarian vampires, vampires who don’t want to hurt humans, vampires who are lonely and just waiting for the right mortal who could make this all worth it. I don’t want my vampires to be family friendly. Sexy vampires are always fun, and well, sexy, but I’d rather have the read thing. Give me some violent amoral bloodsuckers any day, give me some Jasper Kent, some Kim Newman, some gold old traditional Bram Stoker any day!  Good thing Vampires Don’t Sparkle! came along. Fifteen authors who agree with me. Fifteen stories where the vampire is the bad guy, the dangerous one, the thing to run away from. As editor Michael West says in his introduction, pop culture (and one particular author who changed the face of vampire fiction) stole vampires from us, and made them into something they’re not. It’s time for us to take them back! These stories aren’t all horror, not in the slightest. Some of them are laugh out loud funny, some of them cover the lonely and dangerous reality of what hunting humans entails,   there is a truly disturbing one about how one man learns how to destroy a vampire. They are all a throwback to what so many of us have been missing. Sick of sparkly vampires? This anthology is for you.

If you’re on the fence about if you want your vampires gentle and sparkly or violent and uncaring, be aware that there is straight up making fun of Twilight. No bones about it, some of these authors are pretty pissed at what Vampire fiction has become.

Each story opens with a short bio of the author, and who (or what) the author’s favorite type of vampires are, with shout-outs going to I am Legend, Salem’s Lot, The Historian, Kim Newman, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even Sesame Street’s The Count among many others. I appreciated that editor West solicited stories from authors who have loved this type of fiction their entire life.

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Beyond the Rift, by Peter Watts

available November 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher

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Peter Watts is the kind of story teller who doesn’t let us lie to ourselves. His writing style is aggressive and unrelentingly honest, he understands how easy it is, how natural human arrogance can be. We always think we know best, don’t we? Especially when it comes to people we’ve never met, or creatures we don’t understand.  That book, Blindsight, that’s on everyone’s “most important science fiction books” list? This is that guy.

Including two award winning short stories, The Things (which I reviewed here) and The Island, this collection could easily be subtitled “the best of”. Past the award winners, you’ll find the mind blowers – the stories that take what you think you know about how we think about our universe and flip it all inside out.  Thought crime control, the crushing dangers of the ocean’s bottom, a new way for religion to work,  a woman torn between her own body and that of a four year old child, a prequel to the Rifters trilogy, and so much more await you in Beyond The Rift. Head over to the Tachyon tumblr page to read some excerpts.

Be sure to read the Outtro, an intro of sorts, that comes at the end of the book instead of the beginning. It’s important that you read that part, and it’s important that you read it *last*.  Watts has a pretty good idea of how most people are going to react to his work, and now he’s going to explain himself.

confused yet? intrigued yet? a little  of both? Here are my thoughts on my favorite stories from Beyond the Rift.

The Island – Like the other workers on the Eriophora, Sunday and Dixon only wake up when they’re needed. The ship’s chimp brained AI has found a good spot, so it’s time to start building. A gate, that is.   Yes, Sunday, Dixon, and the other sleeping crew members are glorified highway construction workers. Sleeping most of the way, they travel far ahead, building transit gates in every corner of the galaxy. Humanity evolved, and left their road crews behind.  Sunday can barely even recognize what comes through the gates as human anymore. There is some brilliantly tight world building happening in this story, that’s for sure. Dix is still young, he wants to be awake all the time, he thinks there’s so much he can learn from the ship’s AI, no matter that Sunday tells him she ripped her port out years ago, and for good reason.  He’ll barely stand still long enough for her to try to explain what happened all those years ago. Regardless, they’ve found a spot, and construction has begun.  And then they find something strange, someone no one has ever seen before. The star they are near, it is surrounded by a sphere of organic material, it’s one huge organism. Sunday even describes it as a giant dyson sphere. She doesn’t want to hurt anything that might be intelligent, even if it’s not sentient, or is, and can’t communicate with them. After studying the star, she realizes it is benign and helpless, and that if she doesn’t move the gate, she’ll kill it. How arrogant, how human she is, to think she can understand this creature.  Maybe it can’t communicate in any meaningful way, but it knows how to get what it wants.

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.