Bout of Books 21

Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 8th and runs through Sunday, January 14th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 21 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

Too bad Bout of Books wasn’t last week. I was sick (just an annoying cold), but I got so much reading done! This week is going to be catchup, but hopefully I’ll still manage to read and have a little BoB fun.


The Sorrows of Young Werther The Box Jumper The Secret Life of Mrs. London
  • The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – for FrankenSlam!
  • The Box Jumper by Lisa Mannetti – an impulse add.
  • The Secret Life of Mrs. London by Rebecca Rosenberg – an ARC

And short stories:

  • “The Musgrave Ritual” by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • “The Wrong Foot” by Stephanie Burgis (for Deal Me In)
  • “In a Wide Sky, Hidden” by William Ledbetter

Continue reading “Bout of Books 21”


Deal Me In, Week 1 ~ “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”


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

“A Dead Djinn in Cairo” by P. Djeli Clark

Card picked: 5
Found at:

The Story
A bit of a longer story for my first of the year, but one I was especially looking forward to when I put my list together. Why? Djinn. They are underused in my opinion and I’m always interested in what different authors do with them.

Clark puts one in the center of a mystery…as the corpse.

Fatma el-Sha’arawi, special investigator with the Egyptian Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments, and Supernatural Entities, stood gazing through a pair of spectral goggles at the body slumped atop the mammoth divan.

A djinn.

In this history, the border between our world and a world of the supernatural has been breached. There are ghuls, “angels,” and, of course, the djinn who have brought their brand of steampunk-ish technology to the era. This is still Victorian/Edwardian Egypt, though. While the djinn have helped remove the English from Egypt, Fatma, a woman, is still unique in her position as an inspector. On the surface, the death of the djinn seems to be a strange suicide. With unknown runes left inscribed around the body and an “angel’s tongue” found at the scene, Fatma suspects more but her theories are dismissed.

The investigation takes a world-endangering turn, which felt a little abrupt. The world that Clark created for this story is a lot of fun and it was surprising that Fatma and the Ministry don’t currently live on in other works.

The Author
P. Djeli Clark is an Afro-Caribbean-American writer of speculative fiction. He can be found online at The Musings of a Disgruntled Haradrim and on Twitter.

Review ~ The Ramshead Algorithm and Other Stories

This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review. (And trust me, if he knew about the extended metaphor in this review, he probably would have thought twice about asking…)

Cover via Goodreads

The Ramshead Algorithm and Other Stories by K.J. Kabza

Ramshead Jones has a billionaire father, a dysfunctional family, and a shocking secret nestled in the hedge maze in his backyard: Earth’s only portal to hundreds of other realities. When Ramshead’s unwitting father decides to rip the hedge maze out, Ramshead is forced to use dangerous magic to move the portal before it’s destroyed, too—unless the deadly maze of other family secrets that come to light destroys him first.

In THE RAMSHEAD ALGORITHM AND OTHER STORIES, sand cats speak, ghost bikes roll, corpses disappear, and hedge mazes are more bewildering than you’ve ever imagined. These 11 fantasy and science fiction stories from KJ Kabza have been dubbed “Sublime” (Tangent), “Rich” (SFRevu), and “Ethereal” (Quick Sip Reviews) and will take you deep into other astonishing realities that not even Ramshead has discovered.

Cover design and interior illustrations by Dante Saunders. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
Ages ago, I reviewed a Best Horror of the Year anthology that included Kabza’s “The Soul in the Bell Jar” (also included in this collection). I’ve been a fan ever since.

What Worked
Short story collections are like a box of chocolates. Sure, looking at the glossy bonbons, you don’t know which is going to be coconut cream and which one is, uh, pink, but you do roughly know what you’re getting when you buy a box of Whitman’s or Russel Stover. Such is the case when you pick up a collection or anthology—a certain quality author or editor is going to provide certain quality stories, despite inevitable pink cream equivalent. The way to avoid that is to buy a better box of chocolates. The Ramshead Algorithm, my friends, is a box of top-end Godiva.*

Every story in this collection is excellent. I had read over half of them in the past between Kabza’s self-pubbed collection Under Stars and some of his more recent publications. I decided to reread them in order to have the full experience of the collection. I noticed certain details (gardens, hedge mazes, ruins, and oceans) that repeat throughout as well a theme of searching and finding which I might have missed if I had only read the new-to-me stories.

I believe in my review of Under Stars I mentioned how well-done the world building is and I want to reiterate that. The short story form necessitates brevity, but every detail in these stories creates the world, whether the flash fiction-sized “All Souls Proceed” to the novella “You Can’t Take It With You.”

What Didn’t Work
My one and only beef was that I had scheduled out the stories from this collection not realizing that the final one in the collection “You Can’t Take It With You” was indeed a novella of a hundred pages. My entire reading schedule was messed up and it was basically my own darn fault.

So, there is nothing that didn’t work.

(Btw, “You Can’t Take It With You” is what Ready Player One would be without the nostalgia nods every .5 seconds. And this story is the better one.)

Readers might be interested to know that Kabza is a LGBTQ+ writer and some of his characters are LGBTQ+ as well. If your doing a diversity-in-reading challenge, sure, go ahead, this is a great collection to add to your pile. But, please, don’t let that be the only reason you decide to read The Ramshead Algorithm. Read it because who doesn’t want a box of Godiva?

* Okay, I’ll admit it, I have pretty middle class tastes and Godiva is what comes to mind when I think of classy chocolates. With a little googling, Godiva does make it to many “luxury” lists. Plus, most people have heard of Godiva while many of the other Swiss/French/etc. chocolatiers don’t really roll off the brain. But if you have a favorite high-end chocolate, go ahead and substitute it.

Publishing info, my copy: PDF, Pink Narcissus Press, 1/16/18
Acquired: 10/10/17
Genre: fantasy, science fiction, a dash of horror

2017 Wrap-Up

Top 10 Books of 2017

(in order read, not including rereads):

  1. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
  2. The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
  3. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells
  4. Wicked Wonders by Ellen Klages
  5. The Janus Tree by Glen Hirshberg
  6. Adelaide Herrmann, Queen of Magic by Adelaide Herrmann
  7. “The Ballad of Black Tom” by Victor LaValle
  8. Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
  9. The Overneath by Peter S. Beagle
  10. The Ramshead Algorithm and Other Stories by K. J. Kabza

Three classics, four collections of short stories, a novella, a graphic novel, and one nonfiction title (a memoir!).  That’s a slightly different break-down than usual.


# Books Read: 41
Average Rating: 3.4/5
Fiction/Nonfiction: 76%/24%
Rereads: 7%

# Short Stories Read*: 110
*This doesn’t include anthologies and collections NOT read for Deal Me In.
Average Rating: 3.22/5
Rereads: 5%

January 2018 TBR & BoB 21

Bout of Books

I’ll have an update post on the date, but for now this is not only my January TRB, but my Bout of Books 21 sign up post!

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 8th and runs through Sunday, January 14th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 21 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team


Continue reading “January 2018 TBR & BoB 21”

Writing Update, 12/27

How’s It Going?
I’ve been working slowly and steadily on a rewrite of One Ahead #3. Some of the situations were a little plain, and I shifted the intent of one of my characters. Still haven’t quite figured out an ending.

Research Topic of the Fortnight
The History of Cigarette Productions

Obviously, doing sleight of hand with such a small, common object would seem to be a no-brainer, at least in a past era when people smoked more. But when I did a quick search, the majority of cigarette performances and tricks seemed to originate in the 1920s-30s. (My stories are set in 1915.) To some extent, these results are limited by when magic publishing became a thing, but it also led me to the question: when do cigarettes become a common enough item that you can do the equivalent of street magic with them? Wikipedia puts the technological turning point at 1850 with James Albert Bonsack’s cigarette-making machine and the cultural turning point around the end of the Crimean War 1856. Using Magicpedia, I searched for earlier and earlier performers and tricks. For example, Cardini, who comes to my mind when I think of cigarette tricks, didn’t really get into magic until WWI—past 1915.

Eventually though, I did come across mentions of Walter Baker performing a cigarette trick in a 1916 issue of the Magical Bulletin of the Magical Shop of the West which also includes ads for Louis Christianer’s “Cigarette Tricks” pamphlet in January  of the next year. Close enough to let me know that an impromptu cigarette production might not be too out of place in 1915.

(I also read about a Card in Cigarette trick that was performed as early as 1883 in London, but that’s a little different.)

About This WIP
One Ahead is a series of mystery novellas focusing on David P. Abbott, a magician who lived in Omaha, NE at the beginning of the 20th century. Aside from being an accomplished magician, David Abbott was a debunker of fraudulent mediumistic practices. I’ll be delving into the history of Omaha in 1915 as well as visiting some of the magicians, mediums, and skeptics that lived in that era.

It’s Monday, What Are You… (12/25)


The Linking Rings (An Eli Marks Mystery Book 4) Fangirl

I’m well on my way to finishing 40 books this year (which was my goal). The only wrinkle in my planned TBR list for December is a reread of Fangirl. The residence hall where I lived and worked for the majority of my time at UNL, which is also where Cath lives in Fangirl, was demolished on Friday.

Any sadness about the end of an era is mostly eclipsed by the coolness of the demolition. Still, it seemed a good time for a reread.

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


Enjoying Christmas at my parent’s house. There are way too many goodies. For me, feast-wise, Thanksgiving has nothing on Christmas.

What Was I Doing?

I didn’t think I posted much on Christmas, but I guess I’m wrong.