Book Review: The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

V. E. Schwab’s latest book, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, cast a long spell on me. I read it weeks ago now, but I couldn’t manage to articulate what the story had done to me because it was still doing it. I haven’t felt haunted like this since reading Phantom by Susan Kay when I was in my teens.

About 300 years ago, Addie made a deal with a demon in exchange for her freedom. She avoided a marriage she didn’t want, and what she saw as a one-way trip to dying in childbirth. But her handsome demon was something of a trickster, and now, whenever someone looks away from her, she’s erased from their mind. If she pays for a room to sleep, she’s kicked out when the landlord forgets she did so. If she falls in love, they will not remember her the next day, but they might fall in love with her again… and again… and again, until she grows tired of being forgotten. If she sleeps with them, come morning they’ll have forgotten, embarrassed and thinking her a prostitute they’d hired after too much drink. She moves from broken heart to broken heart, stealing food and clothes where she can, and moves like a ghost through history.

Desperate to be remembered somehow, in defiance of the demon who made her like this, she becomes something of a muse, inspiring arts and words and music.

When she meets Henry, she is astounded that someone remembers her at last. They fall in love, and she experiences what a real relationship can be, what it’s like to have a shelter she hasn’t stolen. Through him, at last, she finds the means to be remembered. But.


This isn’t quite the love story one might have expected at the outset. I leave it at that to avoid spoilers, but I will say this: V. E. Schwab managed to transcend romance (this will make sense when you read it) and the ending, which I did not anticipate, is perfect. Addie’s strength of character and will just blew me away.

I will remember Addie. And I highly recommend this book. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: Boulders Over the Bermuda Triangle

Peter J. Foote’s debut novella, Boulders Over the Bermuda Triangle, is the third episode in Engen Books’ multi-author Slipstreamers series featuring the adventures of Cassidy Cane. In the series, risk-loving anthropologist Cassidy Cane is hired by one Professor Gamgee to explore a series of portals that may lead anywhere. Think Indiana Jones meets Doctor Who, with the portals acting as TARDIS.

In Boulders Cassidy flies through a portal over the Bermuda Triangle that lands her in deep space. Her aircraft fails and her only hope is what looks like a space station ahead. With a bit of luck, an adolescent, reptilian alien named Agnoix, notices Cassidy’s plight and launches a rescue. What Agnoix doesn’t know is that she’s about to save a human, one of the reptilian Xik’en species’ mortal enemies. Rather than turning Cassidy in, Agnoix decides to fight her learned prejudice and see the human as simply another soul in need of help.

While the youth’s struggle to overcome her cultural bias was my favourite part of this book, there were many other elements that delighted me. Foote knows his way around reptiles and it comes through in his imagined space station: organic tunnels lined with plants and humid, smelly air. He has also employed a clever work around to keep the mining station safe from the asteroid field they work in, but I’ll let you read those details on your own.

I give this book a solid 4/5 and highly recommend this book, especially for Doctor Who fans like me. Which brings me to one more not insignificant detail…

(cue suspenseful music)

I am also writing an episode in this series! Eee! Come back tomorrow for more details!

Book Review: Riverland by Fran Wilde

Fran Wilde’s Riverland isn’t a particularly easy book to read, but it is worth it. The difficulty comes from the abuse the young protagonists face. Wilde articulates the constant edge of living in an abusive household, the careful interpretation of every twitch, every air, and every mood, waiting for the monster to appear. There were moments my chest was so tight I swore I’d never put down the book again until it was finished. I couldn’t leave sisters Eleanor and Mike there, I couldn’t leave myself there.

To feel safe enough to sleep, the sisters hide under Eleanor’s bed, where she has set up socks on the sharp coils of the springs, and Christmas lights for cheer, blankets positioned to hide the light from outside their protected space. She’s been reading The Hobbit to Mike, a brief escape, when one night a river appears beneath them, and the girls tumble into another world.

Once inside a strange world of herons, birds, ponies made of rags, nightmares made of smoke, and a lighthouse with a light solid enough to travel by, the girls learn their matrilineal ancestors had promised to protect this place. They’d set up glass fishing buoys to catch the nightmares and stop them from entering the “real” world. The girls know these buoys, they once hung in their house before their father smashed them in a rage.

The girls’ worlds soon collide, the weight of keeping their family’s dark secret against the girls’ mission to save Riverland sending shards of glass into the impossible foundation of their lives. There’s a friend and a grandmother who offer hope, but the girls are in a terrible place. Everything they face is too much for their tender ages. I spent the last third of the book clutching it, white knuckled and muttering, “Oh, Fran, please save them. Don’t leave them there, don’t leave them there.”

I guess I’d call this middle-grade horror fantasy, and it got to the core of me. Protect yourself if this kind of content triggers you, but for me? I give it 5/5 stars.

Book Review: The Drowned Country

The Drowned Country, by Emily Tesh, is the sequel to Silver in the Wood and as such, I cannot properly review it without revealing spoilers regarding Silver, so please, be warned.

The Drowned Country opens upon a bereft and sulking Henry Silver, his grand house a shambles, his mood dark, and Bramble furious with him. Silver is the Green Man now and Tobias has left, called to aide Henry’s mother in her magical work, and their brief romance ended in anger. Heartbroken and still struggling with the new weight of an immortality he’s ill-equipped to handle, Silver is ruled by multiple waves of deep grief.

Then his mother appears, engaging his assistance in the rescue of a girl from a vampire, and he agrees for the chance to see Tobias again. Upon their reunion, Tobias’ stoic exterior plays further tricks on Henry’s tortured mind. When they find the girl, her situation not quite what they expected, Henry catches a glimpse of the Drowned Country, a remnant of fairy land lost, and a sharp spark of hope ignites in his woebegone heart that leads the three of them deep into a world hidden by a dark sea and full of unexpected danger.

I’ll stop there. I enjoyed this novella, missing Tobias myself as much as Henry Silver, but the tone shift from Tobias’ stoic, gentle focus on nature to the twisted torture of Henry’s grief was hard for me, living in Pandemica as we are. It works to get us empathizing with Silver, but I would have given anything to slip into the sweet soothing mind of Tobias for a moment. I begrudgingly took a star off for this, leaving the book with a more than respectable 4 out of 5 stars.

I like the way the story ends, it feels cozy, and there is a reveal and a kindness that pleased my storied heart. Sorry, no spoilers, but this is an easy read in a few short hours to get at that ending on your own. I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Book Review: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

Before we get started, I’d like to put out a content warning about partner abuse in this book. The abuse isn’t gratuitous, it’s pivotal to the plot, and you can’t skip over it. Please protect yourself.

The Space Between Worlds follows the story of Cara, a woman who travels between worlds, quite literally, thanks to a technology that allows her to travel through the multiverse. The caveat to this travel is that should a version of yourself already exist on the world travelled to, you will not survive the initial arrival. Because of this, people who have endured high-risk lives, such as Cara’s impoverished upbringing and life in Ashtown, a town exposed to the harsh elements of a heavily polluted Earth. Cara has died enough times that she is able to traverse to over 300 worlds safely, offering her the appearance of safety in the rich, environmentally-protected city of Wiley. But that protection pivots on the Eldridge company’s need for her particular skills and a secret she must keep at all costs.

In every parallel Earth Cara travels to, she meets different versions of her loved ones. Her mother ranges from loving prostitute to a disapproving zealot, her sister from innocent to cunning. Her once and former lover, Nik Nik, is always cruel, always abusive, and always the Mad Max-like emperor of Ashtown when she finds him. Sometimes he knows her, sometimes he doesn’t, but her Ashtown family remains under threat beneath his rule and their history. When she finds a version of Nik Nik that is not, everything in the all the worlds she thought she knew begins to unravel and Cara discovers that she’s not the only one at Eldridge with secrets.

Johnson’s novel makes for excellent commentary about privilege. The disparity of life between the rich Wileyites and the Ashtowners holds no secrets: we see the trauma of Cara’s lives, the terror of the Runners as a child, the rare kindness she found in the safety of her mother’s brothel. We see the obliviousness of the Wileyites, who have little idea what life is like outside their protected bubble.

I found the abusive sections difficult to read but the ending of this book, oh the ending. It is a breath of beauty, an ending so perfect I had to close my eyes and hug my e-reader for a moment. No, I’m not going to spoil it, but as a writer? This is the kind of ending I aspire to, an ending that takes into account everything that has come before, the story it is telling, and the world that has been built. I give the book 4 out of 5 stars, but the ending gets 6 out of 5.

Book Review: A Song for a New Day

TW for discussion of the pandemic

The weirdest thing about Sarah Pinkser’s book A Song for a New Day is that it was written last year but reads like it’s about this year. The plot follows two paths and characters, beginning with musician Luce Cannon. Let’s have a moment of appreciation for that name. I love it. Luce is a musician about to play her first big stadium gig when terrorism shuts the world down. She still plays, earning her the dubious honour of being the last known musician to play a live show in the future that follows.

Next, we meet Rosemary Laws, years into the digital future, and from her we understand a scarring pox virus hits soon after the bombs, and life changes drastically. The world goes into lockdown and everyone isolates. School goes digital, dating goes virtual, concerts become a virtual, online event, usually through the StageHolo venue, a link in the monster Superwally conglomerate which monopolizes the future. Packages are delivered by drones and thanks to virtual reality tech, life goes on from isolation.


This section of the book was enormously comforting to read from my own lockdown and isolation. Many of us are worried about how life is going to look post-pandemic and here is an easily believable future already imagined for us. We survive, and it isn’t that bad at all.



It turns out that the Superwally’s of the world were making a little too much money off of this new status quo, so much so that they developed a vested interest in keeping people isolated and using their gear. Twenty or so years on, there are congregation laws that dictate people aren’t allowed to meet up in any numbers but there hasn’t been any outbreaks or terrorism in a long time. Luce is heavy into an underground scene of speak-easy like illegal concerts where people attend to experience live music, elements of which never quite translated to the virtual space. The artists chafe against StageHolo’s monopoly of the music industry.

Meanwhile, Rosemary has been hired by StageHolo as a talent scout and is venturing outside her family bubble and meeting people in the real world for the first time, which both terrifies and exhilarates her. She’s about to find out that her safe digital world might be an economic prison fabricated with methods she doesn’t agree with.

This book is a good read, especially from a mid-pandemic perspective. I like that it gave me hope and rang true while also projecting a few cautionary elements that are based in corporate nature. I thought a lot about my musician friends, especially the ones who have been hosting facebook live concerts since March, while I read this book, but I also thought about my own situation.

As a writer, I can handle a degree of isolation without my art suffering for it (unlike Luce). As a mother of young children living in eastern Canada, I’m largely left out of the wider social world of writing conventions, so when conventions went online, I felt like a kid in a candy store. Some aspects of this digital world have far-reaching benefits and I’m not in a place to accept their downsides without a fight. Therefore, the second half of this book made me as grumpy as the first half comforted me. People in similar situations, or people who have disabilities that keep them isolated, may feel the same.

Ultimately, the story wins over my own moodiness. If your mental health is in a place where you can read about a pandemic, do yourself a favor and grab this book. 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.


Book Review: The Medusa Effect by J.S. Pailly

I seem to be overcoming my anxiety-related reader’s block. It’s also possible that the compounding anxiety has just cancelled the old anxiety out, welp. All told, it’s good news, because I’m excited about the Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella by J. S. Pailly.


I finished this one the same day it came out: it’s that triple-threat of a great premise, easy to read writing, and excellent pacing.

The story’s teenage protagonist, Milo, is something of a screw-up. He lives with his family on a lithium mining colony on a far-flung planet. He has no memories of Earth and struggles with his grades and agriculture duties. When not overwhelmed by the science of the mines, Milo spends his time with his girlfriend Lianna, watching Talie Tappler and the Tomorrow News Network online as they travel through time and space recording the great tragedies, disasters, and events throughout the universe.

When he sees Talie and her cameraman, a cyborg addicted to illegal emotions named Cygnus, at his colony, he knows something terrible is about happen. I’ll stop here before I spoil the story.

Something that stood out to me with Pailly’s writing is the hard science embedded into the story that can easily confuse readers who may be unfamiliar with the more complicated concepts. Pailly glides the reader through these tricky bit with easy to understand explanations and admirable clarity. I suppose this is to be expected from a writer who also publishes a science blog.Click here if you’d like to visit that blog for yourself (I recommend it). Pailly is also a wonderful artist, as demonstrated on his blog and his cover artwork (did I already mention triple-threat? Yeah? Okay, I won’t say it again, then).

The Medusa Effect ends all too soon but there is a also a bonus short story at the end that introduces a rival time-travelling network (!!) and hints of more Tomorrow News Network stories to come. I’ll be first in line for those. I give this one 5/5 stars.

The Medusa Effect: A Tomorrow News Network Novella is currently available as an ebook for kindle. Click here to go check it out.


Book Review: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

This week I’m reviewing Seanan McGuire’s Come Tumbling Down (2020, Tor), the fifth in the Wayward Children series which began with the award-winning Every Heart A Doorway. I am a huge fan of this series and I look forward to each new installment every January on tenterhooks.


In Come Tumbling Down, we return to the lives of the Wolcott twins: scientist Jack and vampire-in-training Jill. We first met the twins in Every Heart a Doorway and visited their Moors world in Down Among the Sticks and Bones (book 2 in the series). All of the books in this series revolve around the students and teachers of Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a sanctuary for youth who once entered a portal into a magical world but were not allowed to stay. They are safe to suffer their broken-hearted longing for their magical worlds at the Home, and to spend their time searching for the Door that will take them to their worlds again.

After Jack’s girlfriend Alexis arrives at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children with a Wolcott in her arms, we learn that Jill has exacted a terrible revenge upon Jack. Because Jack had murdered and resurrected her (Book 1), Jill is no longer able to become a vampire as her precious “father” intended to make her. To circumvent her dashed dreams, she has switched bodies with germaphobic Jack via Moor science. Jack, now trapped in Jill’s vampire-nibbled body, has arrived at the Home for Wayward Children to seek help. She must regain her old body before Jill is reborn as a vampire and Jack is trapped in Jill’s body forever. With Jack’s severe cleanliness issues, she knows her mind will break within months. Wild and sugary Sumi, mermaid Cora, skeleton Christopher, and stoic Kade follow Jack and Alexis into the monstrous Moors.

In this story, McGuire reveals more of the Moors, the gods and monsters of the sea, and offers hints of the creatures who live beyond the dark valley. She gives us more of the mythology behind the vampire-scientist duology, though admittedly it didn’t play out the way I expected with the twins. Yet.

This book, unlike the first four in the series, doesn’t open with the rich storyteller voice I’ve come to associate with the series. It works for the story as a small hint that we will be deviating from the usual rules, but I will say that I dearly missed the opening feast of words I found in the other books. I give it 4/5 stars and eagerly await book six.

book review: Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh

When I picked up Silver in the Wood by Emily Tesh (Tor, 2019) I warned myself, “don’t get too excited, it might not be as good as it sounds.” It was, though. I finished it the day I started and happily give it 4.5/5 stars.


This magical novella follows the story of a Green Man (of pagan lore), happy in his woodland home with his dryad friends, who befriends his flirtatious new landowner, the handsome Silver. Silver is a folklorist fascinated by Green Hallow’s history whose giddiness over his subject matter is both familiar and endearing. Our 400-year-old Green Man can no more resist the nerdy sweetness of Silver than he can act upon the lad’s flirtations. Our pagan friend, it turns out, has something of a curse upon himself and his past is about to threaten his new love interest. I’ll stop there before I spoil it for you.

I’m a sucker for the Old Ways and Tesh writes about the woods like someone who’s spent a childhood or two under trees. That’s rare. But they also bring in Silver’s mother and manage to make her one of the more intriguing characters in the story. That’s doubly rare. I am delighted by to see the overbearing, demonized mother trope flipped on it’s proverbial head. Now let’s kick into a Nixie’s pond and leave it there forever, hmm?

If you’re looking for a passionate love story, this slow burn Victorian affection isn’t it, but if you’d like a story that leaves you as refreshed and bright as a walk in the woods, choose this one. It’s lovely.

Submit Your Stories Sunday: Darkness and Chillers

Welcome to this week’s edition of Submit Your Stories Sunday. Every week I bring you a unique call for submissions to help you find a home for your stories or inspire a new one. Each call will contain a speculative element and will offer payment upon acceptance. I’ll follow it up with a book to inspire your writing and a small collection of writerly articles to fuel your craft.


Curse the Darkness: an Anthology of Dark Fiction

Eligibility: Original, speculative stories written on the theme of darkness from 3 000 to 10 000 words. Think Doctor Who‘s Vashta Nerada.

Take Note: the editors specifically request stories that will make them “afraid to turn off the lights.”

What makes this call stand out: this is Unlit Press’ inaugural anthology and they are offering writers good rates from the start. This suggests they are confident that their marketing strategy will put this book, and potentially your story, in the hands of a large audience. Offering writers a print copy further suggests they are not relying on selling copies to said writers to offset their costs.

Payment: 75 Euros and one print copy of the anthology

Submit by: December 31, 2018

Click here to go to the original call for details.

A Book to Inspire You:

Chillers From the Rock is an anthology of twenty-five creepy tales written by Atlantic Canadians and published by Newfoundland’s Engen Books. For readers outside of Canada, the province of Newfoundland is often referred to as ‘The Rock.’

sorry ’bout the raindrops, but they do beat snow

I must admit a few of these stories made me hesitate to turn off my lights. Eryn Heidel’s mysterious, foggy adversary in The Pursuit made me put off going to bed entirely. Do not read it on a foggy autumn night like I did.  Samuel Bauer’s tense take on the Scottish legend of the Nuckelavee made me sink deeper into the safety of my couch cushions. Peter Foote’s wonderful A Friend in Shadow made me pull out my flashlight against the darkness threatening in the corners of my room. The flashlight’s name is Scorch-Bite now. Kelley Power’s oddly hopeful tale Treatment is a horror/fairy tale for the helpless. Depending on which side of the spectrum of evil you may fall on, you’ll either sleep tight or not at all. Read at your own risk.

There are tales here from mildly creepy to full-on supernatural horror, with a handful of paranormal beasts and gore thrown in. The quality of the stories, however, is consistent across the genres. I’ll be reading this one again.

Writerly Links Worth Reading this Week:

I’m still deep in NaNoWriMo and most articles aren’t making it through the writing fog, but the Suicide Bomber Sits in the Library drama certainly did. Facing a strong backlash for the possibly well-intentioned but extremely harmful stereotypes in the graphic novel and the violence it could inspire against Muslim individuals in an environment of seething white supremacy, Abrams decided to pull the book. I think the biggest take-away from this situation is the need to consider what damage can be caused when writers play fast and loose with their imagined perspectives of marginalized people.