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Fantasy Review – Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries: A Novel

Tuesday, October 24th, 2023


Emily Wilde’s Encyclopaedia of Faeries: A Novel by Heather Fawcett

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


An expert on faeries, Emily Wilde sets off to a small town in Norway in search of the Hidden Ones. It is one more step in the completion of her encyclopedia of faerie lore. Unfortunately, once there, Emily finds she doesn’t fit in well with the townsfolk and it is becoming harder and harder to do things on her own. When her academic partner shows up unannounced, she is not sure if she should be grateful or angry. For one, he does bring an entourage of people to help get the fire going and make the place cozy. Not only that but the townsfolk adore him. Yet, Emily knows he is just there to take all of the credit.  Even so, she decides to grin and bear it. Which is a good thing because she ends up doing something quite irrational and will need Wendall’s help to save the day.

This book was full of enjoyment. I was caught up in the story from the beginning. Things only got better when the fair folk showed up as well as Wendall. There were times that I laughed out load but there are also some slightly dark times. It ended up being a great mix. There was even romance thrown in. I can be the first to tell you that most romances make me do an eye roll but this one was quite light-hearted and gratifying. I am very excitedly waiting for the next book in the series.

Horror Review – Head Like A Hole

Saturday, April 8th, 2023

Head Like A Hole by Andrew Van Wey

Melissa B. (dragoneyes)


I don’t consider myself a person who has OCD but every time I picked up this book, I felt vexed with it. To start, I would have to look at the beautiful cover trying to absorb every detail. Then I would have to sing the chorus to NIN’s Head Like a Hole. Once that was done, I was able to open up the book and continue with the story.

What a story it was. Set in the trippin’ 90’s, the vibe was fly with the author throwing in popular music titles, bringing up the grunge and skater look, and having the characters using a payphone.  Ah, the good old days. It was enjoyable to reminisce but the horror kept you from getting too settled and mystery kept your brain scrambled.

The tale is about young adults who had lost touch since school. Through a series of bad dreams and bad events, they try to connect. Somewhere else, pulled from the netting of a fisherman’s catch, a creature that is terrifying and yet beautiful. Together they hold a secret and that secret seeks revenge.

This was a fun book that kept a good pace. The ending was not what I expected and threw me for a loop. It ended up being one of the creepiest parts. Look forward to more by this author.

Mystery Monday Review – The Black Camel

Monday, April 3rd, 2023

The Black Camel by Earl Derr Biggers

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This mystery from 1929 is the fourth novel starring homicide detective Charlie Chan. Shelah Fane, star of the flickering silver screen, is found stabbed to death on the beach at Waikiki.

Chan must deal with a complicated weave of alibis, puzzling clues, and Hollywood personalities. Sure, Biggers sometimes over-writes in an old-fashioned flowery way. And the plot is excessively complex. But the descriptions of the beauty of Hawaii still resonate. Plus, his satire of boosters and Hollywood show people still amuse us post-modern readers. His characters are plausible, from brash young go-getters to crusty cops.

Charlie Chan is interesting. Intelligent, logical, droll, sympathetic to both victim and perp. Like many first-generation papas do, he bemoans the too-casual respect his Americanized kids pay him. Like many who have had to struggle with learning a second language as an adult, he envies the unearned English proficiency of his kids and bemoans their slangy English.

Believable and humanizing details like this add to the appeal of the Chan novels and their staying power. At the same time, we modern readers sometimes have to make allowances for attitudes that nobody nowadays can hear without wincing.



Mystery Monday Review – The Barbarous Coast

Monday, March 27th, 2023

The Barbarous Coast by Ross Macdonald

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

This 1956 mystery calls to mind hard-boiled PI novels by Raymond Chandler. It features series hero private detective Lew Archer. He is hired to find a Toronto man’s runaway wife. She has star-struck dreams of becoming an actress but the husband is annoying enough that we readers suspect she just wants to get away from him for good.

The husband getting in Archer’s way is hardly Archer’s only problem. MacDonald was a writer who returned to the theme of the past refusing to stay in the past. Earlier misdeeds haunt the present in the form of blackmail and an unsolved murder. And several more deaths occur in the course of Archer’s investigation.

The barbarous beach is Malibu, playground of the rich, but this is not as important as the web of relationships in the novel. The characters are a movie studio mogul and his somewhat schizoid wife who has quite a few proteges; a thug; a Latin lover posing as a movie star; the runaway wife’s mother and sister who is a presence though she is among the dearly departed; the director of an elite club in Malibu; the doorman of the same club, who is the Latin lover’s uncle. And so on. Despite the large cast, the case is not hard to follow.

Archer goes from one person of interest to the other and tries to put the pieces of puzzle together despite being conked on the head three times. The reveal is a model of economical writing and plausibility.

Recommended, especially for Macdonald fans.





Mystery Monday – Yesterday’s Papers

Monday, March 20th, 2023

Yesterday’s Papers by Martin Edwards

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)


The fourth of eight mysteries starring Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin was released in 1994. The author is a mystery writer who respects the traditions of the Golden Age of Whodunnits. So though set in the Nineties, this mystery has a steady rhythm and red herrings typical of the “corpse in the library” type of Golden Age mystery by Christie, Sayers, or Allingham. Also in the tradition: the surprises are great and the stilted dialogue is pleasant in its awkwardness.

Basically, our hero Devlin’s task is to investigate a cold case. Tall but bent over due to excessive reading of true crime, Ernest Miller asks the well-known lawyer help him solve a crime that took place thirty years earlier, in 1964 during the heyday of the Four Mop-tops and Liverpool swings like a pendulum do. Miller claims the wrong person had been accused of the terrible strangulation murder of a teen-aged girl, convicted on a false confession, and then killed himself in jail before he could be hanged.

Devlin thinks it’s a long shot, but he agrees to read the lawyer’s file on the accused and interview people of interest that are still among the quick in Ireland’s Second Capital. Devlin compares and contrasts the various testimonies and tries to clarify attitudes and emotions obscured by the passage of time. While recognizing the pointlessness of his task, since it is now impossible to undo the mistakes caused by the vagaries of human behavior, Devlin wants to get to the bottom of the story to discover the truth. The only thing left is to restore the reputation of those who have been unjustly blamed.

Recommended, it stands as a readable mystery because it mixes elements of the classic and modern mystery.




Sci-Fi Review – Embers of War

Saturday, March 11th, 2023

Embers of War by Gareth Powell

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)



EMBERS OF WAR by Gareth Powell is an action-packed fast-paced space adventure. It’s the first book in a trilogy, but it has a complete story arc that comes to a decent conclusion, so you could stop here and not feel like you were left hanging.

The prologue sets up the rest of the book.  There’s a war, and a decision is made to annihilate an entire planet, one with a sentient forest that’s millions of years old. One of the sapient warships who participated was the Trouble Dog.

Trouble Dog cannot forget what she did. She resigns her commission – unheard of for a warship – and joins the House of Reclamation, an organization dedicated to rescuing spaceships and others in distress. “Life Above All” Is their motto.

Captain Sal Konstanz was the captain of a hospital ship on the opposite side of that war, but she also has renounced war and is now the captain of Trouble Dog.  While on a rescue mission, their medical officer is killed by an alien creature. Sal is blamed for it by crew member Alva Clay as well as her superior officer, but punishment must be delayed – a passenger ship has been attacked in a far corner of the galaxy and Trouble Dog is the closest who can assist.

When they stop to refuel, they’re approached by Ashton Childe, an intelligence officer for one of the warring factions. His superiors have ordered him to get on board Trouble Dog by any means possible and find Ona Sudak, a passenger on that attacked ship.  Why her, he doesn’t know, he just follows orders.

They quickly realize the rescue mission is going to be highly dangerous. Trouble Dog receives an ominous warning from her sister and brother ships, who are still fighting. Konstanz has other problems too, with a new medical officer with no training at all, Childe and his frenemy who came on board during a firefight, and the sullen Clay, who might at any moment decide that mutiny is the way.

Sapient spacecraft are nothing new in science fiction, but I really liked Trouble Dog’s personality and descriptions of what it’s like to travel in space. The book switches rapidly between first-person POVs of Trouble Dog, Konstanz, Childe, Sudak and Nod. Nod’s chapters are very short but interestingly strange – he is Druff, an alien species that specializes in repairs to starships – but it’s Trouble Dog and Konstanz who stood out in my mind.  I also really liked the idea of the House of Reclamation.  The big secret they find was quite fun too, I’m sure that’s going to be the basis for the rest of the trilogy. I also very much enjoyed that the characters (all but one, apparently) have a moral sense, even Trouble Dog – that war is an awful thing, that killing your enemy is not something to celebrate, and that if you take a life to save others you might be right, but you still can’t escape what you’ve done.  It’s an excellent start and I’ve got the next two on my list.



Fantasy Review – The Angel of the Crows

Friday, January 13th, 2023

The Angel of the Crows by Katherine Addison

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

In 1893, a British army doctor is wounded in Afghanistan. His leg injury is bad enough that he’s discharged and goes back to London. Unemployed, and with his pension unable to provide enough for both food and rent, he is in search of a flatmate.

If this all sounds familiar, I’m delighted to tell you that yes, it is familiar. And yet, not quite. Instead of Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, we have Dr. Doyle (get it?) and Crow, the Angel of London.

In this London, supernatural beings are everywhere. Vampires, werewolves, and angels all walking around with humans. Especially angels. Not the Christian heavenly kind, these angels do have wings, but are beings mostly tied to a place. They need habitations – a place to belong to – or they become Nameless and just drift about.  Sometimes, horrifyingly, they Fall and become evil killers. And then there is Crow, the Angel of London. He is an oddity among the Angels, who calls all of London his place; an angel who investigates crimes and calls himself a “consulting detective”.  Most of the other Angels don’t trust him, as he doesn’t have a habitation but is not Nameless nor is he Fallen.  But he needs a flatmate.

Addison takes a number of very familiar Holmes stories and gives them just a little twist.  A Study in Scarlet is almost scene for scene. The others have a few more differences but any Holmes fan will recognize them instantly. Frankly I would have liked a bit more surprise, considering the new milieu. What I thought was really fun are the bombs she drops about Doyle and Crow.  Lestrade is still there and much the same. Moriarty of course makes an entrance but is not (maybe not yet) the enemy of the great detective. It’s also the same time period as Jack the Ripper, and the two get involved in that investigation as well.

Addison says in an afterword that this novel grew out of “wingfic”, fan fiction where familiar characters have wings. (I read a lot, but I don’t read fan fiction, and never even heard of wingfic)  There are gruesome bits. There are more than a few funny bits. The pacing…maybe just a tad slow, with the Holmes stories inserted into the Ripper framework. Doyle and Crow are both well-portrayed, and even though it’s Doyle’s POV we see, I thought Crow really stole the book. But Doyle is not the bumbling Watson from the original books and he plays a big role. I would have loved more about the angels themselves and how this society works. Again, I also would have liked bigger differences from the original canon, because I knew whodunit and why,  but these worked fine. If you have never read any of the original Holmes stories, they will be even better for you.

I don’t currently see signs that this is going to be a series, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it goes that way.