Deal Me In, Week 16 ~ “Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World”

(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?

“Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World” by Saladin Ahmed

Card picked: 9♣
From: Engraved on the Eye, available for $0 at Amazon!

The Story
With a dual-saber-wielding tough-talking rabbit-woman named Hai Hai, I wish this would have been last week’s story. But, alas, I drew the nine of clubs this week instead. Such is the fickle nature of Deal Me In.

This is mostly a straight-up fantasy tale that feels like it could easily be the upshot of a good table-top gaming session. Zok Iron Eyes is our main character. He’s a tough warrior with an enchanted broadsword. His wife was killed a decade ago by a toad-headed demon and he’s vowed vengeance. He carries one of his wife’s earrings as a token of remembrance. Joining him on his adventures are Hai Hai and Mylovic, a cleric with un-clericly penchants for money and poppy derivatives.

The story is set in motion when the earring is stolen from Zok’s money purse by a young man that seems to be a part of the weak, soft generation that surrounds Zok and his compatriots. There is a little twist to this story which isn’t hard to guess at, but the tale is nicely told, all in all.

Continue reading “Deal Me In, Week 16 ~ “Iron Eyes and the Watered Down World””

Deal Me In, Week 14 ~ “Bluebeard’s Wife”

(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?

“Bluebeard’s Wife” by T. Kingfisher

Card picked: A
From: Available online!

The Story

He had apparently been a very evil man, but not actually a bad one. Althea had spent the last few months trying to get her mind around how such a thing was possible.

What if Bluebeard’s wife hadn’t looked into the forbidden room? What if, with two boundary-defying sisters in her past, she has no problem letting her husband have a room of his own? It’s not like she’s giving him the key to her diary. A room full of dead bodies isn’t something that can be kept a secret forever, but what if remains truly a secret for twenty-seven years of fairly happy marriage?

The classic story of Bluebeard is a weighty tale. T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon) handles it with her signature light touch and knowing nods to the original.

Personal Trivia
For many years, I confused the tales of Bluebeard and Blackbeard. I found it very strange that a pirate would keep a room full of dead wives on his ship. The only other things I have a similar problem with are kingfishers and the Fisher King. So, it seems inordinately appropriate that “Bluebeard’s Wife” is written by T. Kingfisher.

Standout Stories from the Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan-Feb 2017

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The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, January-February 2017 edited by C. C. Finlay

I reviewed the Nov-Dec issue on January 27th. Here it is only March 22rd and I’ve finished the Jan-Feb issue. Progress! These are the standouts from the issue. Note: I didn’t say favorites.

“Vinegar and Cinnamon” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

I could lead a comfortable rat-wizard life.

Maura is the golden child of the family; she has some ability with magic and is being taught how to use it. Sam is the good child of the family; he does his chores and then some to help the family get by. One day, by mistake, Maura turns Sam into a rat. And as a rat, Sam could have a very different life… Lovely story full of fairy tale and sibling rivalry.

“Alexandria” by Monica Byrne
This only slightly a science fiction story. Beth is a widower. A native of Kansas, she married a man, Keiji, from Japan. On their honeymoon, they went to Egypt to see the Lighthouse of Alexandria, not realizing it no longer existed. After that, they both “traveled” through their mutual love of books and maps. But now that Keiji is gone, Beth is left with farm land and very little to remember her husband by. So she builds a monument. The sci-fi elements are the sectional epigraphs from the future describing the confusing archaeological artifact found in what was once Kansas. It’s only March, but this might make it to my year end “best of.”

“Wetherfell’s Reef Runics” by Marc Laidlaw
According to the introduction, Marc Laidlaw lives on the island of Kauai. Therefore, I’m going to take his use of Hawaiian culture and slang as genuine and well-intentioned. I hope so, because it’s that Hawaiian flair that gives this light Lovecraftian story some extra omph.

“One Way” by Rick Norwood
Oh man, this story annoyed me. We start out with Harvey (has-been physicist), Jerry (boy genius), and Sam (uh, does the soldering). Together, just the three of them, build a perpetual energy machine…that just might destroy the world. My first objection to this story is the built-in-a-basement style engineering. That isn’t how things are developed and made. To recuse myself, I’m married to an engineer. The majority of my social circle are engineers. I’m a little protective of the fact that it takes many more people that anyone realizes to create the electronic wonders we use daily. And then there was Deloris, Jerry’s girlfriend. Deloris is an English major. Deloris doesn’t know science. Direct quote from Deloris: “That sounds important. I don’t know any science…” Deloris’s only purpose in the story is to have one of the male characters explain to her (and to us, the readers) what’s going on. It really bothered me that a story in one of the more prominent sci-fi literature magazines had such a poorly depicted female character. To further recuse myself, I have a degree in English literature. I also know some science.

Review ~ In Calabria

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

Cover via Goodreads

In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle

From the acclaimed author of The Last Unicorn comes a new, exquisitely-told unicorn fable for the modern age.

Claudio Bianchi has lived alone for many years on a hillside in Southern Italy’s scenic Calabria. Set in his ways and suspicious of outsiders, Claudio has always resisted change, preferring farming and writing poetry. But one chilly morning, as though from a dream, an impossible visitor appears at the farm. When Claudio comes to her aid, an act of kindness throws his world into chaos. Suddenly he must stave off inquisitive onlookers, invasive media, and even more sinister influences.

Lyrical, gripping, and wise, In Calabria confirms Peter S. Beagle’s continuing legacy as one of fantasy’s most legendary authors. (via Goodreads)

Why was I interested in this book?
The Last Unicorn is one of my favorite books ever, and Peter S. Beagle is pretty much on my auto-read/buy list. (It’s really a very short list.)

As I did in my review of Summerlong, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some mention of the controversy between Beagle and his former business manager Connor Cochran. Peter S. Beagle filed suit against Cochran back in 2015. There are also ongoing complaints from fans who have purchased items from Conlan Press, but never received products. I would advise that if you’re going to buy any of Peter S. Beagle’s books, do not do so from Conlan Press and avoid ebooks edited by Connor Cochran. In Calabria, as well as some of Beagle’s backlog, is published through Tachyon.

What Worked
A hallmark of Peter S. Beagle’s work is his light touch with weighty subjects. In Calabria is about a man entering the winter of his years. He has regrets and is alone. It’s the quirky details that make Bianchi’s life real. His farm is populated with Cherubino the goat, Garibaldi the dog, and the cats: Sophia, Mezzanotte, and Third Cat. He has a comfortable life, but perhaps a life devoid of poetry. His visitor, a unicorn, changes all that. For better and maybe worse.

The writing is lovely, of course. Lyrical and poetical, though we are rarely treated to Bianchi’s work. 😉

The story winds out to a conclusion that might not be satisfying for some, but I liked it well enough.

What Didn’t Work
I’m not sure Beagle’s forte is ever works set in the “real” world, in the present day. Would an older man manage to survive such violence against him that is presented in the book? Eh… I don’t know.

This is also the second work in a  row for Beagle in which an older male character ends up in a relationship with a much younger woman. At a certain point in my life, I might have found these May to December plot lines to be charming. But now? I guess I’d like to see an older man in a new relationship with an older woman.

Publishing info, my copy: ePub, Tachyon Publications, January 16, 2017
Acquired: 11/15/16, NetGalley
Genre: fantasy, magical realism

Favorite Stories from Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nov-Dec 2016

Cover via ISFDB

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November-December 2016

I purchased a subscription to The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction back in Sept. 2016 due to one short story. While the subscription only cost me $5, I decided that if I was going to justify this, I was going to actually read each issue…unlike every other time I’ve had a fiction magazine subscription.

My reviewing of issues might get better as the year goes on, but for Nov/Dec 2016 I’m just going to highlight what I found to be the outstanding stories. All of these authors were new to me.

“The Rhythm Man” by James Beamon – Would you make a deal with the devil? If could, what would you ask for? What is that thing in your heart of hearts that you’d sell your soul for? All that bluesman Horace wants from the Rhythm Man is a song… Great mythology and a marvelous sense of place in the setting.

“Lord Elgin at the Acropolis” by Minsoo Kang – The director of a museum is certain that paintings and sculptures are being replaced by forgeries. Except, there’s no evidence. The art is re-certified as original; the security tapes show no tampering. Is he going insane? Or is technology beyond current comprehension to blame? This is half story, half thought experiment, and all good.

“Special Collections” by Kurt Fawver

We only have two rules at the library. The first is that you don’t go into Special Collections without a partner.

I’m lying when I say I don’t like cosmic horror. My problem, I think, is one of scale. To abruptly see some grand transdimentional horror and claim that it is so incomprehensible that it inspires insanity—that doesn’t work for me. But show me the little things that get under a character’s skin, show me the creeping obsessions that lead to questionable moral choices. Then, I’m all in. “Special Collections” is a deliciously spooky tale.

Publishing info, my copy: Kindle (the navigation is really nice!), Spilogale, Inc., Nov. 2016
Acquired: Sept. 2016
Genre: science fiction, fantasy, horror

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Review ~ The Raven and the Reindeer

Cover via Goodreads

The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher

When Gerta’s friend Kay is stolen away by the mysterious Snow Queen, it’s up to Gerta to find him. Her journey will take her through a dangerous land of snow and witchcraft, accompanied only by a bandit and a talking raven. Can she win her friend’s release, or will following her heart take her to unexpected places?

A strange, sly retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “Snow Queen,” by T. Kingfisher, author of “Bryony and Roses” and “The Seventh Bride.” (via Goodreads)

As T. Kingfisher (or, Ursula Vernon as she’s otherwise known) points out in her acknowledgements, Hans Christian Andersen “was a weird dude.” When a witch, a sarcastic raven, a magical reindeer skin, and a half dozen giant white otters are added in, you don’t notice so much. As in the shorter stories I’ve lately read by Vernon, I enjoy her humor and her mixing of myths and religions.

“Are you a witch?” asked Janna.

“No,” said the old woman, “I’m a Lutheran. But we’ll make d0…”

In modern life, we often have the family we’re born into and the family we choose. Often what is expected of us is deeply connected with that first kind of family. Greta is expected to become a weaver. She’s expected to marry the boy (literally) next door and expected to live ever after, even if not entirely happily. Kay’s kidnapping sets this plan on end. As Gerta fights to regain status quo, she finds a new type of family and new paths that aren’t expected.

With snow and reindeer and a Snow Queen, this was pretty much a perfect read for Christmas week. The beginning is maybe a little slow to start, but the plot is threaded together more tightly than I was expecting. The payoff for early misadventures is at the end.

Publishing info, my copy: kindle, Red Wombat Tea Company, 2016
Acquired: Dec. 7, 2016, Amazon
Genre: fantasy, fairy tale

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Mini Reviews, Vol. 6 ~ Two Long Overdue Shout-Outs

MiniReviews

 

The Faerie Key: (Into the Faerie Forest: Book Two) The Faerie Key by Denise D. Young
(Into the Faerie Forest: Book Two)

Paranornal romance isn’t usually my thing, but “six-foot-something, muscled house-elf” in the description kind of sold me on The Faerie Key. I’m a sucker for a play on mythologies. And (apparently) hunky elves. The writing in this novelette is solid, and the story is fun with some nice twists on fae lore. Somehow, I missed that this was story #2 in a series, but the events of #1 are covered well enough that I wasn’t lost. I haven’t gone back and read The Beltane Kiss (story #1) yet, but it’s definitely on my list for when I’m in the mood for a little magical romance.

“Diet of Worms” by Valerie Valdes
(read at Nightmare Magazine)

In “Diet of Worms,” Valerie Valdes does something I thought was impossible. She uses second person present narration, that didn’t drive me up the wall, and actually really made sense for the story. The “you” narration is ideal for the type of discombobulation and vertigo that the story aims to elicit. Very intriguing read!