Category Archives: Reading List

On the bookshelf: Hysteria

It’s almost impossible to describe Hysteria by Elisabeth de Mariaffi, for it moves not only through a wide range of genres but also beyond their limits, into strange and uncharted literary terrain. Domestic thrillers, psychological thrillers, fairy tales, ghost stories, historical fiction, detective stories – they’re all present in Hysteria in one form or another. But they’re also transformed into something else, a narrative of resistance for a world gone mad, for a world that has perhaps always been mad. The book’s title is a clue to the eerie nature of its story: it’s a state of mind, not a fixed and stable plot with the clear and unambiguous ending of a conventional thriller. In other words, Hysteria is a book better experienced than described.

That said, here’s the book description if you want to learn more:

Heike Lerner’s life looks perfect from the outside: she’s settled into an easy routine of caring for her young son, Daniel, and spends her days wandering the woods near their summer house, while her nights are filled with clinking glasses and charming conversation. It all helps to keep her mind at ease—or at least that’s what her husband, Eric, tells her. But lately, Heike’s noticed there are some things out of place: a mysterious cabin set back in the trees and a strange little girl who surfaces alone at the pond one day, then disappears—while at home Eric is becoming increasingly more controlling. Something sinister that Heike cannot quite put her finger on is lingering just beneath the surface of this idyllic life.

It’s possible Heike’s worries are all in her head, but when the unthinkable happens—Daniel vanishes while she and Eric are at a party one night—she can no longer deny that something is very wrong.

Desperate to find her son, Heike will try anything, but Eric insists on a calm that feels so cold she wonders if she can trust him at all.

Could Eric be involved in Daniel’s disappearance? Or has some darker thing taken him?I Remember You sales cover The closer Heike gets to the truth, the faster it slips away. But she will not rest until she finds her son.

And there’s also a Walrus piece on the book for more thoughts. Excerpt:

Hysteria is a novel about many things—a mother’s love, the institution of psychiatry. But at heart, it is a novel about the ordinary corruptibility of plot: how certain men wield narrative to manipulate women, to convince them that they are crazy and the world that denies them their happiness is sane. De Mariaffi purges this corruption, turning one genre against another, fighting plot with plot.

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What would you give up for magic?

Followers of this blog likely know by now that I’m a fan of Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats series, about a ragtag band of wandering magistrates trying to save a fallen land. And I’m not just a fan because of that one time de Castell bought me beach French fries! These are damned fine books – solid fantasy novels written by a literary master who’s concerned about real-life issues of honour, ethics and what makes a person good rather than just law-abiding.

Now de Castell has a new series out – the Spellslinger books. They follow the misadventures of Kellen, a young man in a society where almost everyone is a mage – except Kellen. Sounds like high school, doesn’t it? It has certainly has that YA vibe about it, but like the Greatcoats series there’s plenty of politics, interrogations of history, ethics, philosophy and Issues with a capital I here. De Castell is that rare kind of writer who tells a good tale while also exploring the things that matter in real life to all of us. I don’t want to talk about the first book in the series too much because the plot is all about the twists and surprises. I’ll just say if you like your fantasy worlds complex and your characters flawed and fallen, then you’ll want to read Spellslinger. Plus, there’s a talking, homicidal squirrel cat! (I’m personally convinced it’s a stand-in for de Castell himself, but that’s a subject for another blog post….)

If you like Cross, you may also like Kincaid Strange

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If you like my Cross books, you may want to check out Kristi Charish‘s new Kincaid Strange series. Strange is a voodoo practitioner in Seattle who lives with the ghost of a dead grunge rock star and solves supernatural mysteries. What more do you need to know than that?

Charish is also the author of the Owl series of books, about a relic hunter who travels the world encountering various magical artifacts and supernatural baddies. It would make a great video game!

Check out the interview I did with Charish about the first book in the new series, The Voodoo Killings, if you want to learn more.

Bookshelf: Waters of Versailles by Kelly Robson

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I enjoyed the hell out of this novella by Kelly Robson, who happens to be an amazing person as well an insanely gifted writer. You can read it for free at Tor or buy it through Kindle, etc. Here’s the blurb:

“Waters of Versailles” by Kelly Robson is a charming novella of court intrigue in 1738 Versailles as a clever former soldier makes his fortune by introducing a modern water system (and toilets) to the ladies of the palace. He does this with magical help that he may not be able to control.

It’s witty, charming, funny and surprisingly touching. Joy.

A welcome diversion

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I’m happy to be reading the latest poetry from my pal George Murray. It’s a crazy little book, with poems made of the ceaseless babble of modernity’s data streams (here’s a teaser). They read like Facebook updates crossed with news headlines crossed with overheard conversations and all the rest of the cacophony of our daily lives. Only, you know, poetic. Plus, the quote on the back cover is from me!

Read This! The Burning Dark

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I just finished The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher and I loved it. What’s not to love, after all? It’s a space station ghost story starring a troubled war hero who won an important victory against the mysterious alien Spiders — at a great personal cost. A war hero whose war records have strangely disappeared when he arrives at the space station, which orbits a dark star that will fuck you up. It’s a little bit of action, a little of military sci-fi and a whole lot of suspense. If you’re a fan of the sci-fi film Event Horizon, you’ll like The Burning Dark. Plus, it looks like there’s a sequel!

Thanks to My Bookish Ways for the recommendation!

Read This! – Operation Arcana

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Swords and sorcery! Assault rifles and arcana! Elves and evil! Wizards and weaponry! Military maneuvers and eldritch evasions! What more do you want out of an anthology?

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Just finished the fine Shakespeare’s Rebel by CC Humphreys and now I’m off to interview him about what it was like to write the character of Shakespeare into his book. It’s a challenge, as I know all too well….

Read This! – The Devil You Know

devilThe Devil You Know follows Evie, a young reporter working on the breaking Paul Bernardo story. (For those of you who don’t remember Bernardo, he was a serial killer and rapist who terrorized the Scarborough area in the 1980s.) Evie is haunted by the memories of a childhood friend who was murdered — which parallels author de Mariaffi’s own life. She spends her time researching other murdered and missing girls, to the point where she spends more time with the dead than the living.

Evie is also being stalked by a man who lurks on her fire escape, just outside her kitchen window. Or is she? The stalker is a phantom, never truly seen. He may be a killer waiting for the right moment to strike or he may just be someone she’s dreamed up. To say any more would be to give away too much of the story.

The settings of The Devil You Know are modern-day gothic: a newspaper vault that bears more than a passing resemblance to a tomb, the eerily empty cottage at the edge of civilization — hell, the man on the fire escape invokes the spirit of the vampire at the window. It’s a creepy, eerie book, one that’s made all the more powerful because it makes you realize that this is simply the daily life for many women around the world. The Devil You Know is the devil we all know.

B.C.’s bookish blades

I’ve published a piece called B.C.’s Bookish Blades over at the Province. It features three insanely talented writers from B.C. talking about their new books: CC Humphreys, Sebastien de Castell and Ian Weir. These are the writers who make other writers insane with jealousy because they have both the commercial chops and the literary language. Great stuff. Check out their books today!

Historical thrillers are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been around since we started recording history. What are The Odyssey and Beowulf if not their era’s version of Dan Brown or Andrew Pyper?

But a trio of B.C. authors are writing a new chapter for the historical thriller genre, and they’re turning to past masterpieces for inspiration. C.C. Humphreys, Sebastien de Castell and Ian Weir are also breaking down some of the walls between genre fiction and literary fiction to write perhaps the most literary thrillers yet.