Claire Thorne

Claire Thorne

Favorite Book: The Lord of the Rings
Favorite Apocalypse: The Stand . . . no, The Walking Dead . . . no, The Road . . . no, definitely The Stand.
Favorite Soundtrack for the Apocalypse: Anything by Tom Waits

The creators of Bayani and the Old Ghosts bring us an all-ages adventure tale, steeped in Filipino folklore.  This is the first installment in a planned four-volume run titled Bayani and the Nine Daughters of the Moon and is currently the focus of a Kickstarter campaign (about 80% funded at the time of this writing) to cover the publication costs of the series.

The review I should write about The Girl with All the Gifts is, “Super, super good.  Go and read it right now.  Don’t read any reviews, don’t look for a plot synopsis, and avoid any and all spoilers.  If you don’t know anything about this story, all the better . . . Why are you still here?  Get to reading already.”

But, that would do nothing at all to satisfy my strong need to talk about this book at length.  I’d love to preserve the slow reveal in the opening chapters for everyone.  The “twist” in these opening scenes isn’t particularly hard to guess, but the descriptive power in this early section is masterfully done and deserves as unsuspecting an audience as possible. 

All that being said, if you proceed with this review from this point forward, I’ll going to be blowing the top off Pandora’s box and flinging out many of the secrets.  You are warned.

“A young woman awakes trapped in an enclosed space. She has no idea who she is or how she got there. With only her instincts to guide her, she escapes her own confinement—and finds she’s not alone.” –Excerpt from the Goodreads Synopsis


Beyond this short descriptive blurb, almost anything that can be said about the plot of Alive by Scott Sigler is going to be some degree of spoiler.  This is a story about waking up in a puzzle with only your most basic instincts to guide you from clue to clue.  The main character, Em, is presented to us as a completely blank slate on which the author could write any story.  This feeling of wide-open possibility pervades Alive to its very final moments.

Over the last decade, I’ve been involved in my fair share of crafty pursuits. Embroidery, cross-stitch, quilting . . . then more cross-stitch, with instructions entirely in Japanese. My brief forays into crochet and knitting, however, were fairly frustrating attempts that resulting in unrecognizable blobs of tangled wool and scarves with ungainly stretch marks reaching to my knees. There is something architectural about manipulating loose strings into 3D objects that run circles around my mental powers.

So much of the end-of-the-world literature I read focuses on circumstances that, if not entirely fictional to begin with (say zombies or vampires or alien invasion), are at least comfortably removed from the reality we know today.  Not so much with The Water Knife, in which we find ourselves knee-deep in a Climate Change Apocalypse that is made extra creepy by the increasing numbers of drought-related headlines we are currently seeing.  You know the ones . . . ”California Unveils Sharp Cuts in Water for Agriculture,”  “California Drought Resurrects Population Growth Concerns,” “More Historic Water Cuts for Farmers,” . . . and so on.

I am a long-time X-Files fan and an equally rabid supporter of pretty much everything Gillian Anderson has ever tackled in her career. (Bleak House! Great Expectations! Hannibal!)  I was very intrigued to see she had tried her hand at writing a book . . . especially since this was something other than the standard career memoir, behind-the-scenes tell-all, or other non-fiction fare.  I was equally nervous about the chances that this would turn out to be a worthwhile read, so it was reassuring to see that Ms. Anderson worked with Jeff Rovin, a collaborative veteran of the thriller genre with Tom Clancy’s Op-Center Series, from the very earliest stages of the story development.

In my review for Storm Siren, the first book in Mary Weber’s Storm Siren series, I noted that its primary strength was the main character, Nym.  I loved her intelligence, wit, and strength of will.  She struggled to find her place in a world where those of her kind were feared, killed, and sold into slavery.  She struggled internally with powers she couldn’t control, and that put innocent people around her at risk.  She suffered from self-loathing and guilt.  At the close of the Storm Siren, she had learned some degree of control over her powers, forged more than one close relationship, and begun to see herself as something more than just a weapon to be wielded by others.

The first page in Anna Banana and the Chocolate Explosion is a rogues gallery lineup of adorable characters: Zigzag, the ball cap-wearing bunny; Fuzzball, a green and widely grinning fuzz ball; Pingpong, the penguin with the ursine appetite; Foxface, the fox; Whaley, the whale; and Grizzler, the independent bear. 

And, of course, there is Anna Banana, the leader of the pack, stuffed animal orchestra conductor, and culinary teacher extraordinaire.  

If there was one book out there that I knew I was way behind in reading, it was Ready Player One.  Every conversation I’ve had about geeky books over the last year has included the question, “Have you read Ready Player One yet?!”  followed immediately by the statement, “You need to read it RIGHT NOW!”

Okay, people,  I heard you.  And, boy, were you right . . .

Stick your head out pretty much anywhere in the internet these days, and you’re going to get whacked with some form of commentary attempting to be smart, funny, and satirical.  Memes, tweets, blogs, posts, likes . . . everything on the internet serves the person trying to get a laugh and draw some attention.  Interesting target for laughs pops up on your radar? You can have your entire social media arsenal engaged and destroying the mark in less time than it takes to order a latte.

So, it’s refreshing to find someone out there willing to put the time and effort into planning, editing, and crafting an honest-to-goodness, hold-it-in-your-hands, hard-copy publication.  The creators of The Devastator, a series of satirical magazines on a wide range of pop culture topics, are doing just that.  Founders Geoffrey Golden and Amanda Meadows have corralled a massive group of wildly talented contributors from the wide world of comedy writing and editing, mixed them together with an equally strong group of artists and illustrators, and are serving up one heck of a cocktail menu of humor.

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