‘Rising’ Tension Drives ‘Malibu’

All happy families are alike, as Tolstoy says, but that’s not the case in Malibu Rising, which follows a quartet of super-close siblings who would probably describe themselves as a happy family—even if poverty, fame, and necessity have made their version of happiness looks a little more complicated than most. Nina Riva, a 25-year-old modelContinue reading “‘Rising’ Tension Drives ‘Malibu’”

‘Upright’ Lets Characters be Themselves

A few months ago, I read and loved Anna North’s Outlawed so much that it made me give the side-eye to Sarah Gailey‘s Upright Women Wanted because the premises have so many similarities. Both feature fierce young women who chafe against the bleakly misogynistic Wild West backdrop to the degree that their lives are threatened.Continue reading “‘Upright’ Lets Characters be Themselves”

‘Spy’ Too Compelling to Put Down

Every good spy story has coded messages, secret info drops, tense crossings of international lines, sordid love affairs, stakes of life or death and the threat of world war, and a few good turncoats. Ben McIntire’s The Spy and the Traitor has that and more—and perhaps most notably, is nonfiction. Oleg Gordievsky is a goodContinue reading “‘Spy’ Too Compelling to Put Down”

‘Sensor’ Sends Chills

I’ve mentioned before how much I love a good spine-tingling tale. I have to say, though, few stories have as tight a grip on the macabre and the uncomfortable as Junji Ito, for whom the ordinary is only fodder for nightmares. I got my introduction to the manga writer through Uzumaki and have shuddered everyContinue reading “‘Sensor’ Sends Chills”

‘Blackened Teeth’ Will Devour You

I was once told the pacing for a novella should be no different than that of a novel, just scaled down to an appropriate size. While I can see some argument for that, I disagree. Novellas can pack big stories into a slender volume, but they get to the point much faster. There aren’t asContinue reading “‘Blackened Teeth’ Will Devour You”

‘Voyages’ a Journey of Women at Sea

I love unusual histories and I love puns, so right out of the gate, Siân Evans’ Maiden Voyages appealed to me—and that’s besides the lush romance of early twentieth-century ocean travel. (You’re telling me the Edwardian glamor of the ship is not why Titanic became a blockbuster?) Much like a voyage or vacation, the beginningContinue reading “‘Voyages’ a Journey of Women at Sea”

‘The Survivors’ Doesn’t Need Murder to Succeed (but it has that, too)

There’s no shortage of mysteries and thrillers set in small towns. That was basically the bread and butter of Masterpiece: Mystery for decades (not that I’m complaining), to say nothing of the dozens of murders Jessica Fletcher solved singlehandedly in her twee little Cabot Cove. Despite the proliferation of cozy mysteries, it’s rare that theyContinue reading “‘The Survivors’ Doesn’t Need Murder to Succeed (but it has that, too)”

Hench Asks Tough Qs Between Explosions

Everyone loves a good superhero story, according to box office figures. I used to be obsessed with the lore, Marvel, DC, and those weird, discount characters in tights and capes that someone invented with the sole purpose of getting a slice of that sweet superhero pie—I’m looking at you, The Cape (though to be fair,Continue reading “Hench Asks Tough Qs Between Explosions”

Can’t Shake the Underworld in ‘Harlem’

Morally gray characters are a special breed of protagonists (or antagonists). Their actions are one thing, but the reasons creators give for those actions are often far more interesting. In the case of Harlem Shuffle, Colson Whitehead keeps his main character’s reasons simple: money, and a racist social system set up against him. As easyContinue reading “Can’t Shake the Underworld in ‘Harlem’”

‘My Heart’ Cuts Like a ‘Chainsaw’

Typically the term “unflinching” is used when talking about works of Very Serious Fiction or Nonfiction (an even more serious genre than Very Serious Fiction), of which genre fiction like horror is not typically a part. But the more I read of Stephen Graham Jones’ work, the more I can’t get past that word asContinue reading “‘My Heart’ Cuts Like a ‘Chainsaw’”