Reading Round-Up: August 2019

Continuing the monthly summaries of what I’ve been reading and writing.



To keep my numbers consistent with what I have listed on Goodreads, I count completed magazine issues and stand-alone short stories in e-book format as “books.” I read or listened to 14 books in August: 11 in print, 2 in e-book format, and 1 in audio. They were:

1.       Lightspeed Magazine #111 (August 2019 issue), edited by John Joseph Adams. The usual fine assortment of sf and fantasy short stories. This month’s favorites for me were Carlos Hernandez’s “The Macrobe Conservation Project,” Rhajan Khanna’s “Card Sharp,” Sam J. Miller’s “Calved,” and Domenica Phettleplace’s “Robot Country.”

2.       Desdemona and the Deep by CSE Cooney. CSE Cooney gives readers a wonderful new fantasy world to explore in this novella with overlapping layers of human, faerie and goblin realms linked by a mysterious house and an ancient pact. Full review coming soon.

3.       In The Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant. When Seanan McGuire writes as “Mira Grant,” I expect the work to fall in to the “science-horror” realm (things like fungal/epidemiological end-of-world scenarios, or killer mermaids, or computer/AI-based horror). This one is a mash-up: part Scooby Doo pastiche, part haunted town, part Lovecraft … but the parts add up to a fun, genre-blending whole I found really enjoyable and scary.

4.       The Other Log of Phileas Fogg, by Philip Jose Farmer. This was my third, or possibly fourth re-read of Farmer’s classic “story behind the story” take on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. Farmer adds science fiction and world conspiracy flavors to Verne’s already fun adventure story, along with his classic penchant for sly (and sometimes not-so-sly) literary references. This book is one of the cornerstones of Farmer’s Wold Newton Family world.

5.       Hunt the Avenger by Win Scott Eckert. When you think of classic Pulp Magazine adventurers, you think Doc Savage, the Shadow, and Richard Benson, The Avenger. This “fix-up”/mosaic novel pulls together several of Eckert’s previously published Avenger short stories and adds two new chapters to the mix to tell a complete story about Justice Inc.’s battles with The Countess and The Iron Skull alongside pulp heroine The Domino Lady. A fun romp full of Farmerian winks and nods to other classic characters. Full review for this one also coming soon.

6.       Phileas Fogg and the War of Shadows by Joshua Reynolds. Meteor House is the official publisher of all authorized continuations of Philip Jose Farmer’s works. This novella picks up a few decades after The Other Log of Phileas Fogg and continues the story of Fogg, Passpartout, Nemo and the remaining Eridanean and Capellian agents on Earth. It’s a fast-paced adventure romp and of course has nods to other classic literature, as does….

7.       Phileas Fogg and the Heart of Osra by Josh Reynolds. Reynold’s second Fogg novella picks right up where War of Shadows left off, moving Fogg further across Europe, this time visiting the nation of Ruritania and revealing more folks we never knew were connected to the Eridanean/Capellian conflict. Just as fast and fun as the first book. Sadly, Meteor House has to date not continued this series (although I believe Reynolds planned five novellas total).

8.       The Shadow: Midnight in Moscow by Howard Chaykin. The art is classic Chaykin, the story a nice mix of Chaykin and the feel of the pulps. There’s lots of gunplay, lots of mind-control, and plenty of blood around cutting edge technology and the Cold War. (Kudos to Chaykin for including a short scene featuring The Shadow having dinner with his Wold Newton lineage cousins, with a shot of the Wold Cottage Meteor Monument in the background.)

9.       Lumberjanes Volume 12: Jackalope Springs Eternal by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Brooklyn Allen, and others. Another fun Lumberjanes adventure, with a twist. This time it’s their counselor Jen urging them to go out and do something potentially dangerous (search for the legendary Jackalope!) instead of the girls heading into trouble while Jen tries to keep them in their cabins and safe. There’s lots of character growth in this one stemming out of the events in the previous volume.

10.   Tarzan and the Valley of Gold by Fritz Leiber. Leiber was the first writer officially authorized by the Burroughs estate to write a new Tarzan novel, based on the script for the movie of the same name. Leiber doesn’t just deliver a novelization, he delivers a fully-realized, totally Burroughsian take on the story. It’s easy to see why this one is considered by the Burroughs estate to be a part of the Tarzan canon. I intend to get around to watching the movie and then writing a blog post comparing book to movie.

11.   Books of Magic Volume 1: Moveable Type By Kat Howard, Tom Fowler and others. I was a fan of the tossle-haired, bespectacled British boy wizard Tim Hunter long before Harry Potter came along, and I followed the character in his original Vertigo series(s) from adolescence to adulthood. Part of me wanted to be skeptical when DC Comics announced that their “new” Sandman Universe would include a Books of Magic series that returned Tim Hunter to his starting point – but then I saw that Kat Howard was writing the book and I knew our boy Tim was in good hands. And I was correct. This is a great new take on the character, a slow-boil version of Tim coming into his magic and the forces trying to stop him. And Tim Fowler’s art is expressive in a slightly cartoony way that further sets this new iteration apart from the source material, in a good way.

12.   The Quest of Frankenstein by Frank Schildiner. Like Win Scott Eckert, Frank Shildiner is one the current masters of “new pulp,” especially the type with a classic horror bent. This is the first in his new series of novels following up on the French “Frankenstein” novels which were in their turn sequels to the Mary Shelley original. This is a bloodier, more coherent-minded Monster than fans of the Universal movies of the 30s and 40s might be comfortable with, but I enjoyed the book. Oh, it also features a lot of classic vampires and weird scientists.

13.   Untranslatable by Alma Alexander. The theme of this short story collection is words from other languages that are not directly and simply translated into English. Some of the stories are reprints and some are new, and all are intriguing and excellent. I’m planning a longer review, but speculative fiction short story lovers should be picking this one up.

14.   Justice, Inc. by Michael E. Uslan, Giovanni Timpano and others. A graphic novel that gives us an alternate original for Richard Benson, the Avenger, and his ties to Doc Savage and The Shadow. Uslan tells a fun, high-stakes story, and the art is solid throughout. There are beautiful covers painted by Alex Ross as well.




I have a goal of reading 365 short stories (1 per day, essentially, although it doesn’t always work out that way) each year. Here’s what I read this month and where you can find them if you’re interested in reading them too. If no source is noted, the story is from the same magazine or book as the story(ies) that precede(s) it:

1.       “Robot Country” by Domenica Phettleplace, from Lightspeed Magazine #111 (August 2019 issue), edited by John Joseph Adams.

2.       “Calved” by Sam J. Miller

3.       “No Matter” by Kendra Fortmeyer

4.       “The Macrobe Conservation Project” by Carlos Hernandez

5.       “The Rock Eaters” by Brenda Paynado

6.       “The Final Blow” by Scott Sigler

7.       “Card Sharp” by Rajan Khanna

8.       “A Leash of Foxes, Their Stories Like Barter” by Cassandra Khaw

9.       “Dreams and Sighs” by Seanan McGuire, on the author’s Patreon page.

10.   “Death and the Countess” by Win Scott Eckert, from his mosaic/fix-up novel Hunt The Avenger.

11.   “Happy Death Men” by Win Scott Eckert

12.   “According to Plan of a One-Eyed Trickster” by Win Scott Eckert

13.   “The Glass Lady” by Win Scott Eckert

14.   “Toil and Trouble” by Win Scott Eckert

15.   “Black Wings of Kjellmar” by Alma Alexander, from her collection Untranslatable.

16.   “Dreamshare” by Alma Alexander

17.   “The Bucket List” by Alma Alexander

18.   “Equinox” by Alma Alexander

19.   “To Remember Riobarre” by Alma Alexander

20.   “Color” by Alma Alexander

21.   “Go Through” by Alma Alexander

22.   “Leaving Via Callia” by Alma Alexander

23.   “Night Train” by Alma Alexander

24.   “She Wore Yellow” by Alma Alexander

25.   “Something That Would Shine” by Alma Alexander

26.   “The Flying Dutchman” by Alma Alexander

27.   “The Painting” by Alma Alexander

28.   “The Bones of Our Ancestors, the Blood of Our Flowers” by Alma Alexander

So that’s 28 short stories in August, keeping me way ahead for the year so far. (August 31th was the 243th day of 2019.)


Summary of Reading Challenges:

“To Be Read” Challenge: This month: 0 read; YTD: 3 of 14 read.

365 Short Stories Challenge: This month:  28 read; YTD: 319 of 365 read.

Graphic Novels Challenge:  This month: 4 read; YTD: 21 of 52 read.

Goodreads Challenge: This month: 14 read; YTD: 92 of 125 read.

Non-Fiction Challenge: This month: 0; YTD: 5 of 24 read.

Read the Book / Watch the Movie Challenge: This month: 0; YTD: 0 of 10 read/watched.

Complete the Series Challenge: This month: 0 books read; YTD: 0 of 16 read.

                                                                Series fully completed: 0 of 3 planned

Monthly Special Challenge: I may not do something like this every month but August’s monthly special challenge was in honor of PulpFest and FarmerCon, the annual overlapping conventions that celebrate the fiction of the Pulp magazine era and the work of author Philip Jose Farmer. By my count, I read 8 books towards this mini-challenge. One by Philip Jose Farmer, two directly inspired by and involving his creations with his estate’s approval, and 5 featuring pulp characters like The Avenger, The Shadow, Domino Lady, Tarzan, and the French pulp version of Frankenstein’s Monster, Gouroull.

September is Hispanic Heritage Month, so I’m setting a goal to read as much stuff by Hispanic/Latinx authors as possible.


So the lovely and talented Adam, aka Roof Beam Reader is once again running his TO BE READ BOOK CHALLENGE. This year, I’m actually going to sign up properly so I have a chance at winning the prize he’s offering.

TBR Book Challenge

TBR Book Challenge

Adam’s rules for the TO BE READ (TBR) CHALLENGE are simple. In his own words:

The Goal
To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile, within 12 months


1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2011 or later (any book published in the year 2010 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile.

So here are my choices:

1. GRIFTER’S GAME by Lawrence Block
2. THE GATHERING STORM by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
4. MAINSPRING by Jay Lake
5. BLIND FALL by Christopher Rice
6. A SECRET EDGE by Robin Reardon
7. THE FIFTH CHILD by Doris Lessing Finished February 12, 2012
9. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
10. MYSTERY OF THE SEA by Bram Stoker
11. THE SUNNY SIDE by A.A. Milne
12. THE TIN DRUM by Gunter Grass – started in Feb 2012, finished in December 2012

and the alternates:

DANGEROUS LAUGHTER by Steven Millhauser

This is not necessarily the order I will read them in. But they are all books I’ve been meaning to read for more than a year. I think it’s also a nice mix of genres and formats, too.