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.
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.).
If the Stranger Things series turned your world upside down, then you will be happy to know that there is a new book out titled How to Survive in a Stranger Things World (published by Random House). Compiled by Matthew J. Gilbert, the selected images and statements of and by Dustin, Steve, Eleven, and many other characters represent highlights from the first two season of the popular Netflix show.
In the final pages of The Vexation of Vampires, Penny’s engagement with Peter fell apart when they realized they could not compromise on one of their most important differences: whether to have children. Author Chrys Cymri forces her protagonist to cope with her sorrow over the lost bond while torn between her duties to Earth and Lloegyr. A dead merwoman in an orca pool at a Sea World-like facility, a stolen submarine assignment from Sue Harkness, and providing spiritual guidance to both Skyler and Clyde give the priest plenty to do, and learning how to manage multiple commitments may just be part of Penny’s post-break up journey.
Both seasons of the Netflix series, Stranger Things, have combined the familiarity of the 1980s and the terrifying unknown of dark fantasy worlds. Creators Matt and Ross Duffer and producer/director Shawn Levy have mastered the art of balancing multiple genres and emitting an array of moods that leave viewers perplexed, terrified, and nostalgic. Gina McIntyre’s Stranger Things: Worlds Turned Upside Down: The Official Behind-the-Scenes Companion is a compelling look into all of the creative pieces that have come together to create a pop culture sensation.