Nightmare Magazine, issue 94

Nightmare Magazine, Issue 94 (July 2020)Nightmare Magazine, Issue 94 by John Joseph Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Carlie St. George’s “Spider Season, Fire Season” is the stand-out story of this issue for me – the intersection of domestic violence, ghosts, spiders, and setting operated together in some serious spooky action. Adam R. Shannon’s “We Came Home from Hunting Mushrooms” is a tight slice of tragedy. I’ve never really read Joe R. Lansdale before, and was surprised how much I liked the creepy thrill of the classic horror chase in “The Folding Man,” when I usually avoid stories about inexhaustible relentless pursuit. Ama Patterson’s “Hussy Strutt” was too real to read, and oh so important for the same reason. I’m glad it ended with empowerment, and I’m sad that Patterson is gone.

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The Likeness (Dublin Murder Squad, #2) – Tana French

The Likeness by Tana French

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tana French is masterful at character work, as always, keeping me right on the edge of like and dislike for nearly every character in this novel, in a deliciously gratifying way. I was swinging wildly between sympathy and suspicion the whole time, and she just kept turning those screws. Even on the occasions when the “big reveal” or turning point moments seemed to drag on for just a little too long, I realized afterwards (sometimes immediately, sometimes not for another chapter or two) that what I was experiencing was impatience for relief from the excruciating tension and the emotional payoff, not frustration with boring or overblown writing. And she always got to the emotional payoff, even when it didn’t come at the expected moment. The complexity of Cassie’s mental and emotional landscape, the messiness and strain of the situation she’s in, the pendulum of her desires and goals, all imbued with a twist of the Gothic, made for one satisfying read.

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Waters of Versailles – Kelly Robson

Waters of VersaillesWaters of Versailles by Kelly Robson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“You are a striver.”

I loved this scene. Usually I hate it when a story that’s otherwise leaning toward literary states what it’s about, but I loved this, I think because striving is the protagonist’s guiding principle, and he tries so hard to hide it. Every person in the court is striving and pretending they’re not. And by making this statement so baldly, it allowed everything else room to breathe. I wasn’t on an emotional journey with Sylvain to admit he was striving (that was pretty fucking obvious). I was along for the ride as he reached his limits, realized what all this striving was costing him and everyone else, admitted what he really wanted. All stories are about someone wanting something, and the revelation of the story was Sylvain’s suppressed desires.

Also, this is a dramedy about toilets set in a court that reached new absurdities of behavior. In short, this story is fantastic.

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Magic for Liars – Sarah Gailey

Magic for LiarsMagic for Liars by Sarah Gailey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

3.5 stars. I adore Sarah Gailey, and loved American Hippo. While I enjoyed reading Magic for Liars, it didn’t surprise me very much. I think the magic-school setting overtook the L.A. noir elements, so it didn’t feel like the true genre mash-up I was looking for. I will say, the ending is depressing af, and that nailed the noir mood.

I recommend Magic for Liars to those who like character-driven detective stories, magic school settings, sibling relationships, and adult-coming-of-age stories.

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A Natural History of Hell – Jeffrey Ford

A Natural History of HellA Natural History of Hell by Jeffrey Ford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can’t believe I let A Natural History of Hell sit on my shelf for two and a half years before I read it! I’d enjoyed a story or two by Ford, but I can’t recall what made me want to buy this collection. It was probably a blurb describing the stories in a way that piqued my interest, followed by a review gushing about how good Ford is. That usually does it. I’ve purchased many a short-story collection this way.

I loved it. His stories have such interesting premises delivered on by great characters.

My journey through the book was a little trippy. There was a story I’d read years ago in an anthology that I had no memory of reading, and I thought it was great. I don’t know how it got so completely erased from my brain, but I’m okay with a little bit of weirdness to keep my life interesting. When I closed the book, I felt that I-need-to-read-more-by-this-person feeling. Lucky me, Ford has quite the body of work for me to add to my tbr bookcase. I hope I don’t take two and a half years next time.

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