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Reading Summary, 2020

Possibly due to the plague, I read more books this year: 58, compared to 2019’s 39. Genre breakdown:

Fantasy: 28

Science Fiction: 9

Horror: 17

Historical Fiction: 1

Mystery: 0

General Fiction: 1

Nonfiction: 0

Mixed Genres: 2

My reading this year was more horror-heavy than it has been in previous years, possibly due to my joining a horror-focused book club. Despite the higher count overall, I didn’t manage to work in any nonfiction or mystery stories.

Favorite Book: The Empire of Gold, by S.A. Chakraborty. The conclusion to her Daevabad Trilogy brings this complex, fascinating story to a satisfying close. I would love to read more work set in this world.

Least Favorite Book: The Nightjar, by Deborah Hewitt. I really wanted to love this, because a world where nightjars act as psychopomps and one class of magic-users derive their powers from birds is totally my jam. But the main character lacked agency, and her relationship with one of the other characters wasn’t convincing.

The Return of Stories to Read on Halloween with the Lights Off

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In October 2015, I wrote a blog entry about my thirteen favorite short horror stories. In the reading I’ve done since then, I’ve come across a number of newer pieces of short fiction that are creepy, eerie, or downright terrifying. I wanted to highlight some of these works, so below is a list of thirteen “short” (novella-length or shorter) horror stories I’ve read for the first time during the past five years and greatly enjoyed.

“The Night Cyclist” by Stephen Graham Jones (on A chef who bikes home late at night after his restaurant closes forms a bond with a fellow cyclist who’s more than he appears. This was a riveting story, one of the few I can say I truly got lost in.

“Mr. Harrigan’s Phone” by Stephen King (in If It Bleeds): As I said in my review of the collection, this felt like a classic campfire ghost story.

“He Sings of Salt and Wormwood” by Brian Hodge (in Ellen Datlow’s The Devil and the Deep: Horror Stories of the Sea): This was my favorite story in a strong anthology. A competitive diver witnesses something during a training run gone wrong that may be a hallucination induced by oxygen deprivation or may be something weird even for the deep sea.

I’ll Bring You the Birds from out of the Sky by Brian Hodge: This is another one I blogged about on its own. Its descriptions of folk art and its concern with the ecological devastation wreaked on Appalachia by coal mining serve to ground the story. It also gives a fresh take on the “sinister piece of art” trope.

In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant: A group of teen detectives set out to handle one last case before adulthood scatters them to the winds. Naturally, it ends up being a lot more than they bargained for. The way in which the main character is eventually forced to choose between biological family and found family adds a level of poignancy to the tale.

“How Love Came to Professor Guildea” by Robert Hitchens (in David G. Hartwell’s The Dark Descent): This is one of the most unusual ghost stories I’ve ever read, because it manages to be unsettling despite the fact that no human or spiritual entity seeks to do any harm whatsoever to the main character.

“Sticks” by Karl Edward Wagner (also in The Dark Descent): A great Lovecraftian tale with an interesting premise. And, like “How Love Came to Professor Guildea”, one that hasn’t been appreciated or reprinted as much as it should be.

“Spectral Evidence” by Gemma Files (in her collection of the same name): This one is tough to describe without giving too much away. It’s a mystery story involving a group of parapsychologists, and the way in which the clues are presented is a big part of what makes this story so intriguing.

“Standing Woman” by Yasutaka Tsutsui (in Jeff and Ann VandeMeer’s The Big Book of Science Fiction): The past four years have led to a resurgence in the popularity of dystopian fiction, and this story presents a subtly horrific tale of life in a totalitarian state.

“Crispin’s Model” by Max Gladstone (on This story has some similarities to “I’ll Bring You the Birds from Out of the Sky” in the central role played by art. Here, though, it’s not only the artist who gets drawn into the world he portrays, but his model as well.

“Snapshot” by Joe Hill (in his collection Strange Weather): An ominous man with an even more ominous camera threatens a young boy. This is one of the stories that really proves Joe Hill is his father’s son.

“The Emperor’s Old Bones” by Gemma Files (in Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror: Thirteenth Edition): The interpersonal relationships in this story are just as disturbing as the supernatural element. This story won the International Horror Guild Award for Short Fiction in 1999, and it’s easy to see why. Though it isn’t explicitly gory, it’s not for the faint of heart.

“Coming Soon” by Stephen Millhauser (in his collection Voices in the Night): We’ve all had the experience of returning to a place we used to frequent and finding it irrevocably changed. “Coming Soon” takes the feelings of dislocation this experience provokes and makes them the foundation for a compelling horror story.

Reading Summary, 2019

I’ve read 39 books this year, pretty much the same as last year’s total of 40. Genre breakdown:

Fantasy: 17

Science Fiction: 10

Horror: 8

Historical Fiction: 1

Mystery: 1

Mixed Genres: 1

Other: 1

During the year, I felt like I was reading more sci-fi than I have in previous years, but looking back at 2018, the proportion of science fiction is about the same. I also did not manage my goal of reading any nonfiction this year.

Favorite Book: Oathbringer, by Brandon Sanderson. At 1240 pages, it’s a doorstopper of a book, but it was worth every page. The continuing journey of the Knights Radiant, the return of a few favorite minor characters, and an epic climactic battle scene all made this novel riveting. Honorable mention to Tim Pratt’s The Wrong Stars.

Least Favorite Book: Ghost Wall, by Sarah Moss. There’s a great deal of social commentary in this book, as well as an understanding of how our knowledge about history is often incomplete. How much can we really say for certain about “how things used to be,” and how does that affect the way we view the present? However, the philosophical complexity of the narrative was undermined by a one-dimensional villain.

Young People Read Old SFF

James Davis Nicoll started the “Young People Read Old SFF” project in response to an assertion by author Adam-Troy Castro that the classics of the SFF field are unlikely to inspire a life-long love of the genre in modern readers. The first iteration of the project presented young-ish readers (born after 1980) with older works in the genre, such as Jerome Bixby’s “It’s a Good Life,” Octavia Butler’s “Bloodchild,” and Daniel Keyes’s “Flowers for Algernon.”

Nicoll followed this up with a more focused version of the project. The readers in this new group would be looking at stories from Journey Press’s anthology Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963). I’m one of the readers for this part of the project, and so far we’ve read and discussed two stories: Katherine MacLean’s “Unhuman Sacrifice” and Judith Merril’s “Wish Upon a Star.”

2018 Hugo Award Nominations

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Nominations for the Hugo Awards closed on Friday. Here’s what was on my ballot, in no particular order for each category. Some stories are available to read for free online; where that’s the case, I’ve included links.



Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik. A compelling story that draws on Eastern European folklore, with several clever, determined protagonists.

The City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty. A superb debut novel that made me immediately preorder the sequel.

Foundryside, by Robert Jackson Bennett. The magic system in this story is fascinating and refreshingly different.

Fire and Blood, by George R.R. Martin. It’s not The Winds of Winter, but I loved the historical feel of the story, and there are definitely some interesting implications for the main plot of the ASOIAF series. The artwork is lovely too, and made me glad I bought the hard-copy edition.

A Veil of Spears, by Bradley P. Beaulieu. The continuation of the Song of the Shattered Sands series ups the stakes even further.



The Freeze-Frame Revolution, by Peter Watts

“We Ragged Few” by Kate Marshall (in Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

Elevation, by Stephen King

“The Last Biker Gang” by Wil McCarthy (in Analog)

“Bury Me in the Rainbow” by Bill Johnson (in Asimov’s)



“You Know How the Story Goes” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (

“Do As I Do, Sing As I Sing” by Sarah Pinsker (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“The Sweetness of Honey and Rot” by A. Merc Rustad (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“The Tragedy of Zayred the Splendid” by Grace Seybold (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“The Last Banquet of Temporal Confections” by Tina Connolly (


Short Story

“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies” by Alix E. Harrow (Apex)

“Suite for Accompanied Cello” by Tamara Vardomskaya (Beneath Ceaseless Skies)

“Strange Waters” by Samantha Mills (Strange Horizons)

“Three Meetings of the Pregnant Man Support Group” by James Beamon (Apex)

“Loss of Signal” by S.B. Divya (


Graphic Story

The Sandman Universe

The Order of the Stick. 2018 was a great year for this comic, with one of the most dramatic and emotionally satisfying moments in the storyline to date.


Editor, Long Form

Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link. I was very impressed with some of the books put out by their Small Beer Press in 2018, such as Su Wei’s The Invisible Valley.


Editor, Short Form

Ellen Datlow. In addition to her work as acquiring editor for, I was blown away by some of the stories in her anthology The Devil and the Deep: Horror Stories of the Sea. I’d love to see the anthology as a whole win its category in the Bram Stoker Awards.

Scott H. Andrews. Editor-in-chief of Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

C.C. Finlay. Editor-in-chief of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Trevor Quachri. Editor-in-chief of Apex.

Neil Clarke. Editor-in-chief of Clarkesworld.


Professional Artist

Doug Wheately. As mentioned above, I really liked his work on the illustrations in Fire and Blood.

Todd Lockwood. He may be familiar to Dungeons and Dragons players as one of the artists for the Monster Manuals, including the classic metallic and chromatic dragons. More recently, and qualifying him for a 2018 Hugo, he did the cover and interior illustrations for Marie Brennan’s Memoirs of Lady Trent series.



Beneath Ceaseless Skies. This was the clear standout last year, with a number of excellent stories.


Fantasy and Science Fiction




Rocket Stack Rank




Song of the Shattered Sands by Bradley P. Beaulieu

A Song of Ice and Fire, by George R.R. Martin

Wayward Children, by Seanan McGuire


Campbell Award for Best New Writer

S.A. Chakraborty, for The City of Brass


Lodestar Award for Best YA Novel

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

Reading Summary, 2017

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I read 59 books this year, which is a bit more than double last year’s total of 27. (Admittedly, quite a few of these were novellas.) Genre breakdown:

Fantasy: 25

Science Fiction: 5

Horror: 22

Historical Fiction: 3

General Fiction: 1

Nonfiction: 1

Mixed Genres: 2

Last year, my reading was heavily skewed towards fantasy. This year’s distribution was bimodal, with a pretty even split between fantasy and horror. I read more science fiction than last year, but no mystery. I finished N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, which I started last year, and continue to be an avid follower of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona novellas. I also started Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Song of the Shattered Sands series, which has rapidly become one of my favorites.

Favorite Book: Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, by Bradley P. Beaulieu. Last year, my favorite book was a fantasy based on Eastern European folklore (Naomi Novik’s Uprooted), and I really enjoyed a similar book this year, Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale. But Twelve Kings is full of compelling characters, acting in an interesting setting, and it began what has become one of my favorite fantasy series. I’ve read all of the companion novellas and have already pre-ordered the next book, A Veil of Spears.

Least Favorite Book: The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse, by Louise Erdrich. As with last year, this isn’t a case of the book in question being bad. But it did leave me feeling a bit “bait-and-switched,” since a character who was billed as being the focus of the book faded into the background for most of it.

Reading Summary, 2016

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This year, I read 27 books, up from 2015’s total of 22. Genre breakdown:

Fantasy: 11

Science Fiction: 2

Horror: 3

Historical Fiction: 1

Mystery: 1

General Fiction: 2

Nonfiction: 3

Mixed Genres: 4

This year’s selection is more heavily skewed towards fantasy than my reading list from last year. On the other hand, I read three nonfiction books this year, whereas I didn’t read any in 2015. I also read into five(!) new-to-me series this year: N.K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth, Paul Cornell’s Witches of Lychford, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Penric and Desdemona/World of the Five Gods, Sylvain Neuvel’s Themis Files, and Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children.

Favorite book: Uprooted by Naomi Novik. It was hard to choose a single favorite between this and N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season, as both were engrossing stories set in interesting worlds with compelling characters.

Least favorite book: The Narrator by Michael Cisco. Most of the books I read this year were excellent, so calling this my least favorite book isn’t saying that it was bad, just that it wasn’t quite as good as the others. Despite being set in a fantasy world, the novel brings a sense of realism to the war that the main character is drafted into, partly by showing the characters spending most of their time waiting or planning rather than actually fighting. While there’s a lot to be said for this approach, it did lead to some problems with the book’s pacing, and there were sections where I found it hard to stay interested.


Introductory Post

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Hi there!

I decided to make this blog to talk about the books I’m reading.  Most of these will likely be speculative fiction (sci-fi, fantasy, horror) with the occasional historical fiction or nonfiction book thrown in.

The blog title is from a Mark Twain quote: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”