Archive for What I’m Reading

A Book Review: Howard Odentz’s Little Killers A to Z

LittleKillersAtoZ200Continuing in the creepy tradition of his earlier books, the novels Dead (a Lot) and Bloody Bloody Apple, Howard Odentz’s new effort, Little Killers A to Z, is a project that may seem more innocent than what’s come before, at least superficially. It’s no children’s book, though. Once you start reading, in fact, you start to realize just how expertly this author is able to plumb the depths of weirdness and horror.

Each story in this collection introduces us to a new character, with rhyming titles like “A is for Andy Who Watches His Dad” and “B is for Boris, and Rifka, and Vlad,” then, almost immediately, we discover the terror that lies beneath the surface. For instance, in “O is for Oz Who Has Piss Poor Genetics,” there’s a young boy whose controlling mother is determined to correct all the biological disadvantages he’s inherited; “M is for Maura Who Builds a Partition” gives us a girl who really, really wants to be alone; and in my personal favorite, “E is for Emmett Who’s Always Behind,” we meet a boy who just can’t seem to co-exist with his twin brother, no matter how he tries.

Essentially, Little Killers A to Z is a book of stories about children who do bad, bad things. Anyone who’s read horror or watched scary movies knows there are few things more terrifying than creepy kids, and Odentz takes this premise and runs with it for all its worth. For lovers of the genre, there’s a bit of everything here: killers, stalkers, chasers, revenge seekers, apocalypse survivors, evil twins, serial killers, supernatural critters, you name it. This collection employs many of the go-to tools of the horror story, but it manages to defy expectations at every turn. And be warned, it’s habit-forming.

Some of the stories in Little Killers A to Z will leave you with your mouth hanging open, a few will make you laugh (even as you hope no one hears you), while others have endings that will immediately make you want to re-read them. One or two just might even give you an excuse to mosey by the front door and check the lock. (You know, just in case.) And even when you think you know what’s going to happen, it turns out you really don’t.

Edgar Allan Poe once said that the ideal short story should be readable within one sitting. The tales in Little Killers A to Z fits this standard perfectly, with one significant drawback: You won’t want to stop at just one. Trust me on this.

Fiction of the A-Ha Moment: Foust’s Sins of Omission


Foust’s Sins of Omission

I’m an over-writer, and I know it. No matter what I’m working on, I know I’m going to have to dial myself back, get rid of all the extraneous material. Even then, I know it’s going to be too long. It’s something I’ve learned to live with.

Enough about me.

Here’s the thing: I am in constant awe of writers who can pull off short-short fiction. Serious awe, in the truest definition of the word. No hyperbole here.

Once, when I lived and played music in San Diego, a guitarist walked up to the stage during one of our breaks and asked if he could check out my guitar. Reluctantly, I said yes, and he promptly flipped it over and played it left-handed. A guitar strung for me, a right-hander. He was brilliant, too.

I’m talking about myself again.

My point is this is the same way I feel when someone like Foust, the author of the new collection Sins of Omission, does what she does. I’m amazed, confused, and yes, damn it, I’m all kinds of envious.

I’ve heard people say that flash fiction is a gimmick, that those kinds of stories don’t have an arc, a beginning, middle and end. Short short stories leave you hanging, in other words. To those people, I say, yes, anything can be a gimmick. Oh, and I also say they haven’t been reading good flash fiction.

Good flash fiction does what all good stories do. It changes you in some way, leaving you in a different place than where you were when you started. It gives you a new view into the world, into an a-ha moment you never knew you couldn’t live without. You can occasionally go through an entire long story or novel and never experience that moment, by the way. The good news is every story in this collection has at least one of those moments.

The forty-two short-short stories in Sins of Omission are small only in the actual amount of paper they cover. Every other thing about them is huge. Plus, you’re always going to want to go back and read them again, so there’s that.

So trust me. You should buy this book.


My October Reading List

Here’s what I’m working on for October. Close readers will notice that some of my September books are still on the list.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

The Waking Dreamer by J.E. Alexander

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Lungs Full of Noise by Tessa Mallas

A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon

Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Parasite by Mira Grant

The Delphi Room by Melia McClure

The Stench of Honolulu by Jack Handey

Unsoul’d by Barry Lyga

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust

The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice

Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

Duma Key by Stephen King


My September Reading List

So here’s what I’m working on right now. What are you reading?

John Connolly’s The Gates

William Meikle’s The Hole

John Connolly’s The Infernals

Connie Willis’ Remake

Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls

Tessa Mellas’ Lungs Full of Noise

Kay Kenyon’s A Thousand Perfect Things

Mir Grant’s Parasite

Melia McClure’s The Delphi Room


What I’m Reading This Week: Banks, Holt, and Others

This week’s reading: Finish Iain M. Banks’ Consider Phlebas, move on to Tom Holt’s Doughnut,  and try to work in a bit of the new Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.