Review | As the Last I May Know by S.L. Huang

An alternate history short story looking at decisions and consequences, and what it takes to pull the trigger.

This story was very impactful, even though it was short. The concept that an innocent child must be slaughtered at the president’s hands in order for them to get access to missile codes, essentially forcing the president to take the life of one of their own citizens before taking the lives of another nation’s citizens. It’s a moral dilemma that is enough to give someone pause and make them really think on their decision. In this story we follow Nyma, who is the one that has the codes inside of her and who the president has to kill should he want to use the missiles against those they are at war with. Seeing this experience through her eyes, all of her interactions with the president as the war is ongoing, seeing his struggle through his eyes and also her conflict, fear and anger over the situation. It’s a hard story to read especially in times that are so politicized and divisive, but the moral components of it made it a compelling read.

Happy reading!

Review | Midway Relics and Dying Breeds by Seanan McGuire

“The trouble with wanting to do the right thing is that frequently the right thing today is the wrong thing for tomorrow, or the wrong thing for the people who are standing between you and your perfect, platonic future. The wild was the wrong place for our elephant, just like the recycler was the wrong place for Billie, and the cities were the wrong place for me.”

A tale of bioengineering, a carnival, and the cost of finding one’s right place.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I really enjoyed the way McGuire built this world, which was a futuristic look at Earth when bioengineering and changes due to things such as climate change border on the extreme. Beyond that there was also the theme of this carnival and the carnival life within the family that ran it. It was the perfect length for the story it was trying to tell and I could see it as part of a bigger story, but it did move at a pretty slow pace for me. At times it felt like the language just didn’t flow as well as McGuire’s writing typically does, so that did bring down my enjoyment a bit.

Happy reading!

Review | Waiting on a Bright Moon by JY Yang

Xin is an ansible, using her song magic to connect the originworld of the Imperial Authority and its far-flung colonies— a role that is forced upon magically-gifted women “of a certain closeness”. When a dead body comes through her portal at a time of growing rebellion, Xin is drawn deep into a station-wide conspiracy along with Ouyang Suqing, one of the station’s mysterious, high-ranking starmages.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I really enjoyed the glimpse of the world that Waiting on a Bright Moon introduced us to, but I did find myself wishing there was backstory and more depth to some of the characters. As a snippet into another world this was a good taste and introduced integral characters to the main plot point. The writing style was really lyrical and immersive, which was beautiful to read. I just wanted more from this one and could see a whole novel built on some of these characters or their back stories.

Happy reading!

Review | Ring the Bell by Josie Jaffrey

Scale the mountain. Ring the bell. Buy your freedom. Or trade the prize to change the world.

Mia’s life is defined by the Surge. The race comes every five years, and she’s determined to win it. She’ll make it to the top first, ring the bell and set her family free.

But victory comes at a price. The faster she runs, the more people she’ll condemn to death in the valley below.
In Unterstrom, only the strongest survive.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I went into this short story pretty blind, but really enjoyed the world that Jaffrey crafted in its whort length. It follows Mia as from when she is a small child, living through something in her community called The Surge. What that actually is is revealed slowly throughout the story. If you’re a fan of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, this certainly has some similar tones and themes to it, but in a different way. Jaffrey’s writing, even in this short length, is engaging and I look forward to reading more of her stories.

Happy reading!

Review | Hazel and Grey by Nic Stone

Two anxious young lovers lost in the woods. A beckoning mansion in a dark clearing. A short modern-day retelling of Hansel and Gretel by the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dear Martin.

It’s bad enough that Hazel and Gray have defied the demands of Hazel’s foul stepfather. The Monster has forbidden their romance. Now they’ve awakened in the forest, phones dead, hours past curfew. But not far away is a grand estate in the middle of nowhere. The door is open. In this short story about choosing your own path, the fury of the Monster that awaits them back home may be nothing compared to what lies ahead.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This one was definitely not what I was expecting when I thought of a Hansel and Gretel retelling. While I did like the twists in the story and the darker elements, I found it to be very predictable and had guessed who the ‘bad guy’ was going to be, and the connections between characters. I was not expecting what the house they found would be and didn’t realize just how far it would go with that, so I’m not sure how I feel about that. That being said the story did fly by and I found Nic Stone’s writing style compelling and easy to read.

Happy reading!

Review | The Manticore’s Vow by Cassandra Rose Clarke

A vain assassin takes an assignment with dire consequences. An aristocratic lady fleeing her past is besieged by pirates. And a manticore princess sets out on a life-changing adventure.

The Manticore’s Vow collects three stories set in the world of Magic of Blood and Sea, all exploring the origins of some of its most memorable characters: Naji, the scarred assassin, Marjani, the pirate queen, and Ongraygeeomryn, the man-eating manticore. Explore a world of dangerous magic and thrilling adventures with this trio of gorgeous, swashbuckling tales.​

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book is a collection of three short stories in Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Magic of Blood and Sea universe. I really enjoyed Clarke’s writing style and the way she’s given voices and personalities to these characters. My favorite of the collection was definitely The Automaton’s Treasure as it really felt like you got to know Marjani without really getting the full story of her past. I feel like this is a great taste of the world and if you’ve read the novels, then it would expand upon it. All three stories were enjoyable and entertaining, so it was a solid read.

Thanks so much to Interstellar Flight Press for sending me a copy of this book!

Happy reading!

Review | Wait for Night by Stephen Graham Jones

Wait for Night by Stephen Graham Jones is horror story about a day laborer hired to help clean up a flooded creek outside of Boulder, Colorado, who comes across what could be a very valuable find.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This one definitely took a turn I didn’t expect. I can’t say much about the story itself since I don’t want to spoil anything but I love the abrupt twist that Stephen Graham Jones wove into this one. He’s definitely an auto buy author for me and his short stories are just as enjoyable as some of his novels. This one sucked me in fast and the writing flowed so well that it was over far too quickly. It definitely satisfied my need for a quick, creepy story.

Happy reading!

Review | The Little Witch by M. Rickert

A strange dark fantasy about an elderly woman visited every Halloween by a trick or treating child dressed as a witch. Over time, they development a tenuous relationship.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

What drew me to this short story initially was the cover. I immediately loved the imagery and the fall feel of it, and this feeling translated into the story itself. One thing I really enjoyed was the way each season and the passing of it was described as we followed the main character through those seasons. I just found myself wishing for a little more detail about the world and the rules of it a bit more, like I wanted just a little more world building. It did serve as a good vignette into this world, but it was a little too spare on certain aspects so it did leave me wanting more explanations.

Still it was an enjoyable read and I did really like the writing style. It’s a great short bite for a fall story with a slightly creepy tone.

Happy reading!

Review | The Girlfriend’s Guide to Gods by Maria Dahvana Headley

Gods won’t save you. Gods will break you. Nevertheless, you will persist. And become anew.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I don’t usually like things that are written in 2nd person, or as kind of stream of consciousness, but I really enjoyed this short story. It hit so many points at once while also tying in themes from different relationships in mythology and proving that a woman can make herself happy more than any other person can. It was uplifting and inspiring while also being a bit tongue in cheek. I really enjoyed Headley’s writing style and may definitely check out more of their work in the future.

Happy reading!

Review | Two Truths and a Lie by Sarah Pinkser

Stella thought she’d made up a lie on the spot, asking her childhood friend if he remembered the strange public broadcast TV show with the unsettling host she and all the neighborhood kids appeared on years ago. But he does remember. And so does her mom. So why doesn’t Stella? The more she investigates the show and the grip it has on her hometown, the eerier the mystery grows.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Most of this story I spent not really knowing where it was going, but I did enjoy how the different pieces fell into place. I didn’t quite feel the ending suited it, but I think that was the result of what often happens with short stories – you end up wanting more. Whether it be more background, more foundation or just more plot to the story. I would have liked to delve more into who the Uncle Bob character was and find out the why of how things were, but I understand the author’s motivation in leaving such things out. At its core this is a psychological story and some of the elements are left open for the reader’s interpretation.

Happy reading!