Stranger Things, the hit Netflix series created by the Duffer Brothers, tapped into the heart of all that was the 1980s. Not just the neon-steeped '80s of California and New York, but a rural, homey '80s. A world where Dungeons and Dragons had just come to pass; where home computers were just about to change our lives; where the threat of world war had become a distant memory. It's little wonder the series became a runaway success. The combination of snappy dialogue, a breakout cast, and a penchant for turning tropes on their head was everything watchers had hoped for.

Welcome to a world where the past, present, and future all echo each other, the paranormal is the only way to understand the normal, and everything happens for a reason. Elizabeth Crowens’ page turner creates wonder and intrigue into the mystical possibilities of everyday life and the ways that decisions shape the future.

“And whenever my mother or anyone else well-meaning asks me why I spend so much time in a darkened room, staring at a glowing screen, I answer with a question of my own: Why do you live one life?  As in: Why be content with one life when you could live one thousand and ninety-five?  A few of them are bound to be more interesting that your own.  Or in my case: most of them.”  - Chapter 1, This Book Is Not Yet Rated

The first thing you need to know about Samantha Spinner and the Spectacular Specs is that it’s, in fact, a sequel to another book. The second thing you need to know is that the plot synopsis on the inside flap of the book is almost entirely describing the first book, Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans, rather than the book you’re currently holding. In fact, even what the synopsis does say about the second book still happened in the first one to lay the groundwork for the sequel.

Young Michael struggles with feelings of wrongness and inadequacy and longs to become the “good boy” that will make his parents happy; however, Michael possesses a unique power: He has retained the ability to use magic into his tween years instead of forgetting that magic is real.  When adult magic user Jonathon appears in the boy’s life, a battle between supernatural and mundane starts in Michael’s mind.  Will he trust the stranger and learn how to harness his abilities, or will the monster under Michael’s bed conquer all?

Short story collections tend to get overlooked by readers. I’m not sure when, why, or how that happened, but it’s an unfortunate truth in the fiction world. As a kid, I was hooked by all of Stephen King’s horror collections – thankfully so. There are so many amazing stories out there that I would have missed out on if I only read novels.

In space, no one can hear you . . . make all the little, embarrassing noises that the human body is so good at producing.

I first learned about author Rebecca Roanhorse while I was vending at WorldCon 76 last year. (She won the John W. Campbell award for Best New Writer.) I didn’t get a chance to meet her (though GRRM wandered by the table a few times); however, I did make a point to add her book to my Christmas list and was not disappointed.

In October, the Bram Stoker Award-winning small press, Omnium Gatherum, specializing in “dark fantasy, weird fiction, and horror,” released The Fat Lady Sings, a novella written by native Los Angeles writer Sean Patrick Traver.  This is the first of eight novellas to be collected in Bruja Chica: The Education of a Witch and is part of the Temple, Tree & Tower series.  Traver introduced this series, which focuses on the underground occult scene in Los Angeles, with Graves’ End: A Magical Thriller (2012), followed up with Red Witch: The Tales of Ingrid Redstone (2017), and expands this world with The Fat Lady Sings.

The Lupanarium: Book 1 of the Many Trials of Matt-Lin and Jak is a pornographic, neo-peplum novella written by the anonymous Adele Leigh. The novella continues the dialogue of exploring sexual debauchery of Rome of antiquity as allegory for other issues, a path explored by predecessor works such as Tinto Brass’ Caligula, the Spartacus series on Starz, and even the Czechsploitation films from Lloyd Simandl’s Boundheat Films (Slave Tears of Rome, Caligula’s Spawn, etc.).

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