There’s a fun diversity of narrative forms on display in Paul Tremblay’s Growing Things and Other Stories. Notes from the Dog Walkers gives us a story told exactly how the name indicates. Nineteen Snapshots of Dennisport is a yarn unwound by descriptions of old photographs. A Haunted House Is a Wheel Upon Which Some Are Broken is a choose your own adventure. Tremblay also gives the reader stories that defy easy subgenre categorization and transcend typical tropes by being more nuanced and layered than expected. My favorite stories in this collection all have a Weird/Lovecraftian vibe, which is fitting since I just saw Tremblay at NecronomiCon in August. Notes for “The Barn in the Wild,” Where we All Will Be, and Our Town’s Monster are three that I loved, but my absolute favorite was Something About Birds. This is a story about a story with references to other stories, and I just marveled at how well crafted, entertaining, and unique it was. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I consumed it. It’s a must-read. So, to end this nutshell review, I must ask, “would you prefer talons or beak?”
And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe has the honor of being the first book I read completely digitally. That is a testament to its readability. I loved having it in my pocket to page through whenever I had downtime over the past month. This is a fantastic collection of short stories. Each one has its charms. The Man in the Ambry was a particularly spooky standout that had me glancing a little longer at the closet by my bed, while The Five-Day Summer Camp and The Tower Princesses provided Twilight Zone-esque social commentary. Kiste’s prose is often beautiful as she mixes tragic romance, nature, and societal flaws into a delicious cocktail. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of And Her Smile Will Untether the Universe is how well the tales fit together on a thematic level. While I pick up a copy of Kiste’s novel, The Rust Maidens, I highly recommend you pick up a copy of this collection.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book about “Papa Poirot.” Agatha Christie’s prose style is simple and easy to read while her plot is fascinatingly complicated. No wonder she’s remained popular for just about a hundred years (her first novel was published in 1920). This tale starts with a murder on a golf course (links as it’s called in the title). Poirot and his friend Hastings, the narrator, quickly line up a row of suspects, all of whom have secrets to be revealed. While the mystery at the heart of the novel is compelling, I might’ve enjoyed two of the subplots a little more. The first was Poirot’s rivalry with a fellow investigator, Giraurd, who spends his time comically scouring the ground looking for clues. The second was Hastings romance with a girl he terms “Cinderella.” Based on Hastings romantic sections, I’d wager that Christie could’ve been just as famous a romance writer as a mystery writer if she’d chosen to do so. I started this book because I wanted to read an Agatha Christie novel, and I am very happy I did. While I have no plans to read more mystery novels anytime soon, I will probably pick up another Poirot tale in the future.
Fans of pulp should love this story. While I’d never read a Two Hawks adventure before this novella, I was able to step right into this world and easily grasp what made the character and Farmer’s universe interesting. This is a testament to Heidi Ruby Miller’s prose. She details a wild aquatic world for Two Hawks to explore alongside his partner in crime, Dakota. Miller manages to make both her protagonists feel equally interesting, and Dakota never becomes a cliché damsel to be rescued. If you like pulp, Two Hawks, Philip Jose Farmer, or fun, I can’t recommend the book enough.
LaValle created a novella that takes The Horror at Red Hook and improves on all it’s worst elements while staying true to the themes and tropes of the Cthulhu Mythos as made famous by H.P. Lovecraft. The central character of the novel, his struggles in a racially divided New York, and his fury, propel the reader through this tight read. The novella also does a fabulous job of explaining why elements of The Horror at Red Hook don’t sync up completely with The Ballad of Black Tom. I can’t recommend this story enough if you’re fan of the Cthulhu Mythos.