Review ~ Wicked Wonders

This book was provided to me by Tachyon Publications via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cover via Goodreads

Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages

The Scott O’Dell award-winning author of The Green Glass Sea returns with her second collection: a new decade of lyrical stories with vintage flair.

Inside of these critically-acclaimed tales are memorable characters who are smart, subversive, and singular. A rebellious child identifies with wicked Maleficent instead of Sleeping Beauty. Best friends Anna and Corry share a last melancholy morning before emigration to another planet. A prep-school girl requires more than mere luck to win at dice with a faerie. Ladies who lunch keeping dividing that one last bite of dessert in the paradox of female politeness.

Whether on a habitat on Mars or in a boardinghouse in London, discover Ellen Klages’ wicked, wondrous adventures full of brazenness, wit, empathy, and courage. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
I almost didn’t read this book.

I saw it on offer at NetGalley from Tachyon Publications (the only publisher that I’m auto-approved with—why they put up with my grumpy reviews, I don’t know) and I was interested. But then I remembered that I had just purchased a Glen Hirshberg anthology, and I didn’t really need another short story anthology, and I have a never-ending TBR pile mostly because I request too many ARCs and…I let Wicker Wonders pass by.

But then I got an email from Tachyon about widgets or something, and I guess I clicked a request link, and BAM! Wicked Wonders was ready for download. So, I read it, as one does when books show up.

And I’m glad I did.

What Worked
Ray Bradbury is one of my favorite authors. I especially love his tales of childhood: adventures on bicycles to dark carnivals in the midst of summer thunderstorms. Great stuff, but it occurred to me sometime  in my 30s that all of Bradbury’s protagonists were boys. Makes sense since that’s his experience of the world, but I kind of wished that there were some of those kinds of stories with girl protagonists. Because, why not? Girls have adventures too.

Enter Ellen Klages and Wicked Wonders:

She intends to be a good girl, but shrubs and sheds and unlocked cupboards beckon.

Yep, Klages hooked me right there with that line.

The stories range across the spectrum of speculative fiction. “Singing on a Star” and “Friday Night at St. Cecilia’s” are strongly fantastical and “Goodnight Moons” is a straight-up sci-fi tale. On the other end, “The Education of a Witch” is only fantasy tinged and “Amicae Aeternum” is more of a bitter-sweet best-friends(who are girls!)-on-bikes story than space opera. There are even a couple of stories with no fantastic elements what-so-ever, including my favorite “Hey, Presto!” Had I known there was going to be a well-done historical fiction story with magicians I would have never hesitated to request this book!

What Didn’t Work
I am really picky about science fiction. For me, the most science fictiony story of Wicked Wonders, “Goodnight Moons,” was also the least successful. Happily, for me, science fiction is in the minority on this anthology.

Overall
I’m fairly sure that I haven’t read any Ellen Klages in the past. Coincidentally, I had also almost requested her latest novel Passing Strange from NetGalley when it was available, but had decided against it as well on the grounds that my TBR pile was too high. After reading Wicked Wonders…well, that TBR stack is just going to have to get stratospheric. Ms. Klages, you have a new fan.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle/Adobe Digital Edition, Tachyon Publications, May 23, 2017
Acquired: NetGalley, 3/13/2017
Genre: speculative fiction

It’s Monday, What Are You… 5/22

…Reading?

Finished Ellen Klages’s Wicked Wonders last week. I should have a review of that on Thursday. (Spoiler alert: I thought it was pretty darn good.)

The Last Train The Lost World (Professor Challenger, #1) 

This week I’ll be continuing with Michael Pronko’s forthcoming thriller The Last Train. So far, so good. I’ll also be starting the May/June issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. If I stick with the schedule I’ve set (two stories a week), I’ll finish the issue before the next one is delivered.

I also remembered this morning that I had signed up for the Pigeonhole’s read of The Lost World. I haven’t read much Doyle outside of his Holmes mysteries. Poor ACD should be warned though; Wells has given me an appetite for the scientific romances and H. G.’s  shoes are big ones to fill.

May 22nd is Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday!
Happy Birthday, ACD!

Arthur Conany Doyle by Walter Benington, 1914.png
By Walter Benington – RR Auction, Public Domain, Link

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

Deal Me In, Week 20 ~ “Trust Me”

(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)
(Deal Me In logo above created by Mannomoi at Dilettante Artiste)

Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
What’s Deal Me In?

“Trust Me” by Joseph Lyons

Card picked: 7♠
From: The Architecture of Fear, ed. by Kathryn Cramer and Peter D. Pautz

The Story
A few weeks back I read a story in this anthology by a very famous horror writer, but I didn’t post about it. The story was quite long, involved a lot of back story, and really lacked any creepiness or tension. The prestige of the author probably sold copies of this anthology back in 1989 when the mall bookstore had a horror section that was at least a good two sections of shelves.*

I’m guessing that no one bought this anthology for Joseph Lyons’ “Trust Me.” Which is a shame. Weighing in at a mere two pages, it packs more punch than Mr. Big-Time author’s 26 pages. It begins with fed-up parents and a little girl suffering from nightmares…

“That’s right. I don’t believe you.” He glared at her until she looked down. “And I don’t think you were asleep, either.”

After doing some internet searching, “Trust Me” seems to be Joseph Lyons’ only writing credit. Anthologies are great for finding new authors, but sometimes a little depressing when you realize that the rare gem is actually singular.

The Architecture of Fear is available through Open Library.

*And only 33% of those shelves were taken up by Stephen King. He’s not the guy with the long, boring story, btw. King’s short stories are generally very solid.

 

Writing Update, 5/17

Progress
I didn’t finish my rewrite of the first nine chapters by the end of last week, but I did finish it on Monday. That has to be the quickest I’ve ever finished 25K words of rewrite. Next chapter involves some bigger changes.

What is This?
Wicked Witch, Retired is my current writing project. It is the sort-of sequel to a flash story I wrote, “Wicked Witch for Hire,” which is currently available in the anthology Bounded in a Nutshell.

#1lineWed is a Twitter event hosted by @RWAKissofDeath. Every Wednesday writers share a line of their current work-in-progress based on a theme.

It’s Monday, What Are You… 5/15

…Reading?

I ran out of Bout of Books steam by Thursday. Brain fog on Wednesday meant I got behind on my writing work, and I weirdly slumped in my reading enthusiasm too. But I had fun Monday through Wednesday!

This week:

Wicked Wonders The Last Train Adelaide Herrmann Queen of Magic

I should be finishing Wicked Wonders and starting The Last Train with a little Adelaide Herrmann thrown in.

It's Monday! What Are You ReadingIt’s Monday! What Are You Reading, hosted by Book Date!

…Watching?

We went to see Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur yesterday. There is a type of storytelling that Guy Richie does very well, some of which is on display in the trailer above. I liked all the parts of the movie that were like that. Unfortunately, the last half hour devolved into an epic showdown, which is not the sort of thing Guy Ritchie does well. Visually, I did rather enjoy some of the references to Frank Frazetta’s work.

DeathDealer.jpg
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, Link

…Doing?

Spring league finals were Saturday. My team, Succulent Deez, finished out our pool with two wins, but the loss of our first pool game meant we were out of semis. Eric’s team did similarly. Both our teams were there #2 seed in our respective pools and lost to the #1 seeds. My body is doing pretty okay; Eric and I started doing sprints again on non-ultimate days last week. We’ll continue this week.

Aside from writing and reading, I also have to set up for summer league this week/today and online classes to keep up with. Yes, these are my “quiet” days.

Review ~ Curiosity

Cover via Goodreads

Curiosity by Gary L. Blackwood

Philadelphia, PA, 1835. Rufus, a twelve-year-old chess prodigy, is recruited by a shady showman named Maelzel to secretly operate a mechanical chess player called the Turk. The Turk wows ticket-paying audience members and players, who do not realize that Rufus, the true chess master, is hidden inside the contraption. But Rufus’s job working the automaton must be kept secret, and he fears he may never be able to escape his unscrupulous master. And what has happened to the previous operators of the Turk, who seem to disappear as soon as Maelzel no longer needs them? Creeping suspense, plenty of mystery, and cameos from Edgar Allan Poe and P. T. Barnum mark Gary Blackwood’s triumphant return to middle grade fiction. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
When I’m at the library, I do subject searches just to see what might come up. On this particular occasion, I searched for “mechanical Turk.” The mechanical Turk and automata in general are something I’ve been interested in since reading about Joseffy’s mechanical creations. Anyway, the search lead to my finding Curiosity, a historical fiction about the Turk. I was game…even if it was middle grade fiction.

What Didn’t Work
What didn’t work for me is the usual stuff that doesn’t work for me when I’m reading fiction aimed at young people. There is often a lack of depth to the plot and themes. The clean-slate “Who am I in this world?” questions don’t generally hold my interest.

What Worked
Despite my reservations, I really enjoyed Curiosity because it was very well done. There are other plot devices in this story that sometimes go awry, but Blackwood uses them with such a light touch.

Rufus is a chess prodigy.  Sometimes I find the kid genius trope hard to swallow because it ends up being a child with a whole suite of specialized skills. Being really good at one thing at a young age (like chess or a musical instrument) is a lot easier for me to believe than being something like a child assassin, which would involve talent and training in many different areas. Rufus’s skills are pretty limited to chess. At all other things, he’s pretty much just a twelve year-old.

I also didn’t realize when I picked up this book that Edgar Allan Poe would have as large of a part in the narrative. If I had, it might have been the thing to make me leave it on the shelf. After reading a few books involving fictional Poes, I decided that they were not a good idea for me. Poe for me is something of a sacred cow: I’m going to get grumpy when an author’s idea of Poe doesn’t match my idea of Poe. Again, Blackwood surprised me with a really good rendering of a slightly obsessed Poe.

The history? Also solid. Sure, there is some literary license taken, but the Turk is done right and I can see Maelzel being villainous.

Overall
This was another perfect read for the Readathon. Great pacing and setting, decent mystery, believable young character.

Publishing info, my copy: hardback, Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014
Acquired: Tempe Public Library
Genre: historical fiction

Writing Update, 5/10

Progress
I had Eric read last Thursday. He read the first 50 or so pages and then we talked. We hashed out a couple of things that had been bugging me and it was decided that the story needed to be a little bigger. If there’s one thing I do, it’s try to keep my narratives on a drawing room scale. That isn’t always appropriate.

So, I’m doing a rewrite this week of the first ten chapters or so to nail down points that need to be firm before I write more story. I want to finish this rewrite by the end of the week.

What is This?
Wicked Witch, Retired is my current writing project. It is the sort-of sequel to a flash story I wrote, “Wicked Witch for Hire,” which is currently available in the anthology Bounded in a Nutshell.

#1lineWed is a Twitter event hosted by @RWAKissofDeath. Every Wednesday writers share a line of their current work-in-progress based on a theme.