Once again it's time to brush the cobwebs off this blog. I'm still finding it necessary to let others do the heavy lifting, so here is another guest review from the depths of my e-mail.

This is written by Frank Raymond Michaels, writer of horror and dark fantasy; his website can be found at and he blogs at

Take it away, Frank.


No Sleep Till Wonderland by Paul Tremblay
2010, Holt Paperbacks

Mark Genevich is a Private Eye on a case. He’s not a very good private eye; his business is faltering, his landlord mother requires him to take group therapy sessions as a condition of his lease, and he’s just bungled his latest case by following the wrong woman for last two nights. It’s not all his fault; you see, Mark Genevich is a narcoleptic. What that means is he can fall asleep at any time without warning, or slip from wakefulness into a dream state without noticing the transition. When a suspicious new acquaintance gives him a job protecting a young woman from a stalker, Mark is sucked into a whirlwind of arson, murder, and blackmail from which he’ll be lucky to escape with his life.

So begins No Sleep Till Wonderland, the sequel to Paul Tremblay’s The Little Sleep. This is a delightful little thriller that reads like a 40’s noir mystery recast with a gaggle of contemporary Boston neurotics (any story that begins with the main characters meeting at a group therapy session should tell you what you are in for). Semi-conscious gumshoe Mark Genevich is the star, we spend half the book inside his fuzzy head, listening to his interior monologue as he wrestles with the ghosts of his past and the demons of his present; he’s witty, morose, hopeful, cynical, and insightful in phases, but overall he’s a likeable smart-ass who bulls onward despite the odds, and we root for him. Tremblay’s prose is peppered with gallows humor, pop-culture references, and snapshots of life in Boston. He puts you right into the thick of things, sweltering in the July heat, stumbling along the streets of Bean Town, viewing the world through his protagonist’s heavy eyelids.

The book is more character-driven than plot-driven, and the characters in No Sleep are drawn from real life; Tremblay’s PI doesn’t swim among the high-and-mighty. These are regular folk -- if anything, they’re denizens of the lowest tier of our Great Society, bottom-feeders, broken people in and out of trouble with the law and social services, living on a crisis curve of desperation. Even the nastiest of them are petty criminals dragged along by events that get out of control.

And events certainly, alarmingly, get out of control. One of the fun things about reading No Sleep is just when you think you’ve figured out where it’s going, it pulls you in a completely different direction, and even our hero Mark Genevich, has, at best, a marginal grip on everything that’s going on. As he’s told by the local detective: “You’re simultaneously on the outskirts and in the middle of the whole mess.” The plot twists, playing out like a Greek tragedy, and there were some shocking moments toward the end that made me go back and re-read them to make sure I’d read them right.

I enjoyed the time I spent between the pages of No Sleep Till Wonderland, with Paul Tremblay’s circus of offbeat losers and his flawed hero. This is a truly original mystery novel that defies the genre.


Feedback for Frank can be left at

Thanks for reading!


[Mirrored at Bookseller By Night @ Comments are welcome there as well as here.]


[Horror/Urban Fantasy] Review: UNCLEAN SPIRITS

A guest review for you, Gentle Readers, while I try to thrash some of my to-do list into submission. This one is again written by Crystal L. Woods, my intern at Mike's Comics, who has done her own time in the bookselling trenches.

Take it away, Crystal.


Title: Unclean Spirits - Book 1 of The Black Sun's Daughter
Author: M.L.N. Hanover
Publisher: Simon and Schuster/Pocket Books, 2008
$7.99 U.S./$9.99 Canada
ISBN: 978-1-4391-4305-6

The strengths of this book lie in its dedication in attention to character personalities and creativity by the author in constructing a unique world and taking a different perspective on the subjects of spirits, monsters, and magic.

I found this book to be particularly interesting as it has taken the time to create a world and system of magic all its own. The world runs by its own rules and has deep intrigue on multiple levels. Nothing is without cost, everything has a price - usually high - and consequences will follow whatever actions are taken. It was interesting to watch the heroine of this series begin coming into her own. She is uncertain, frequently bewildered, but not only does she learn - like most of us through mistakes - but when she finally decides to step up and become the heir to her Uncle Eric Heller's legacy, she does it for her own, very human and personal reasons.

This isn't a typical, 'I'm the hero and I know it' story. She is disbelieving, reluctant to accept what she is told, and still needs time - as many people in life do - to make up her own mind and figure out exactly what she believes and why.

It is a definite plus that she has relatability. Family difficulties on top of being thrust into the metaphorical 'rabbit hole' into a world she has never even known existed, but now that it knows about her, isn't going to simply leave her to her own devices, regardless of her own initial wishes.

The cast of characters accompanying the heroine is certainly an eclectic group, each with their own personalities, excentricies, and ideas about what is right and wrong. Of course, this complicates matters at the most inconvenient times, but it keeps the reader guessing and waiting to see what happens next and I eventually grew to like all of them for just those reasons.

My only major drawback was in finding the amount of expletives being used.

That may have been understandable in some sense with trying to keep character and believability, but I personally found it to be mildly excessive and a bit of a put-off at its heavier moments and thus wouldn't recommend this book for anyone under age 15.

Other than that, the story kept a great pace and I am looking forward to seeing the next book 'Darker Angels' and where this ongoing adventure takes the young Ms. Jayne Heller and her companions next.


Feedback for Crystal can be e-mailed to clwoods at mikescomics dot com.

Thanks for reading!


[Mirrored at Bookseller By Night @ Comments are welcome there as well as here.]


It happens to us all.

We've all done it.

You get so wrapped up in a book you borrow from your public library that you just can't let it go.

Or you have the best of intentions about returning the book or books promptly, but somehow Time just slips away from you.

George Washington racks up late fees at NY library.

...Both books were due on Nov. 2, 1789.

New York Society Library head librarian Mark Bartlett says the institution isn't seeking payment of the fines, but would love to get the books back.

The ledger also lists books being taken out by other founding fathers, including Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and John Jay....

I confess to having kept out a copy of a prose translation of ORLANDO FURIOSO from my college library for an entire summer. I'd just discovered Theodore Sturgeon through the short story collection STURGEON IS ALIVE AND WELL..., and the tale "To Here and the Easel" struck an anvilicious chord with me.

But I did return my book and pay my fine, eventually. Perhaps George will, too.


[Mirrored at Bookseller By Night @ Comments are welcome there as well as here.]


Bookseller mufti, storyteller joys.

This morning dawned gray - the hue of dirty socks, not the crisp jagged grey of stone - and thus the perfect way to combat it is by donning brilliant attire.

And it paid off at the bookstore, where a little girl and her baby brother found common ground with me in the colors we both wore. They were fascinated by what I call my Crayola vest, with its dark purple base, inset mirrors, and patchworks of gold, green, orange, tan, and pink, as well as by my hot pink stockings and hot pink sash.

Children will always notice what you're wearing. I still have neighborhood kids who are now teenagers or college-bound tell me that they remember my storyteller outfits from more than a decade ago, like my playful rendition of Miss Spider's Tea Party by David Kirk, or my terrifying recounting of the Bloody Beast of Ruddigore as imagined by Judy Sierra.


Three fictional characters who serve as sartorial-bibliophiliac-polymath muses for me are: Miss Frizzle, especially when she goes into astronomy-mode; Crinkleroot, who is my eldest brother in disguise; and Miss Bindergarten, who always reminds me so much of one of my former coworkers, down to the chunky-alphabet-block necklace.

And there's plenty of real-life counterparts in the professional storytelling world... Story Guys, Story Ladies, teachers, bards, naturalists, and plenty in between.

The Professional Storytellers Network on Ning

Make someone's world brighter. Share a book, tell a tale, grow a scientist.


[Mirrored at Bookseller By Night @ Comments are welcome there as well as here.]

Nearly drowning in delight.

I'm on a lucky streak, it seems, since the books that have wandered across my path of late have all had something in them that have spoken to me on a gut level, and seem to have been written just for me.

* Paul Tremblay kindly gave me a copy of PHANTOM when I met him and John Langan at Boskone 47 in February. I've been dipping in and out of it ever since; the stories "Kinder" by Steve Berman and by Nick Mamatas jumped out at me first for name recognition. "Kinder" made me giggle fiendishly in righteous happiness, and "A Stain on the Stone" punched me in my Long-Island-born-and-reared guts, as it was probably supposed to do. Then I went back to the beginning and read "The Cabinet Child" by Steve Tem, and whoa Nellie, I was right back to the days when I first discovered Manly Wade Wellman. I can't wait to go back to reading the collection from cover to cover.

* At our local used bookstore, Annie's Book Stop, I recently found two new-to-me titles from authors among my old favorites. THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR by Anne Rivers Siddons spoke to the same domestic gothic part of me that spurs my annual re-read of Peter Straub's GHOST STORY. And somehow Christopher Golden managed to get into my head and view the eight-year-old me-that-was who started writing an epic fantasy called THE REALM OF THE RAINBOW when he created Thomas Randall and gave us the book STRANGEWOOD. I now have to wonder what has happened to Eiderdown the talking cat, to Krimson Fleetfoot, and to the Gremlins in *my* decades-long absence from the world I thought *I* had created. [shudder]

* Last but not least, I got a lovely box of new and recent urban fantasy titles this week from a colleague at Simon and Schuster. Last night I started reading EMBERS by Laura Bickle and was charmed by her description of a creature who could double as everyone's pet, including my own deceased cat, and was intrigued by the level of detail she put into her protagonist's crime investigation. These two seemingly disparate elements create a balance in this book that I think is utterly necessary for good storytelling.


I'm sure I'm probably due for some clunkers after such a feast of goodness. But for now I'm gleefully fed with dark fiction.


[Mirrored at Bookseller By Night @ Comments are welcome there as well as here.]


Passing it along for Jeanne and Spider Robinson.

A note from the webmaster for Spider Robinson's site:

"Spider would like to remind everyone that his collection of his own personal reading copies of the existing 12 (of 13) volumes of the North Atlantic Books edition of the Short Work of Theodore Sturgeon is now finally up for auction on eBay, to help raise money for Jeanne’s medical and other cancer-related expenses. There are only 8 days left to make your bid for this most special item. The books are all first edition hardcovers, each read and lovingly cared for by Spider, and he maintains they are bound to contain countless samples of his DNA in the form of dandruff, eyebrow hairs, skin cells, etc. “In my canon,” he says, “Theodore Sturgeon and Robert Heinlein are tied for Greatest SF Writer Of All Time. This remarkable collection of Ted’s work, the eggs of the Sturgeon, is pure caviar. It’s only because I was recently given a complete new set for becoming a contributor to Volume XII that I can bring myself to part with my own library copies.” If the buyer wishes, Spider’s willing to sign each volume, though not on the title page.

To see photos of the books in question, follow the bidding, and/or place a bid, follow this link:

Dream For Jeanne Auction

Best wishes,
Colin MacDonald

It's been a tough year for many, and donation drives seem to be springing from the woodwork everywhere. I post this because it's a simple exchange of goods for services - in this case, literary goods for medical services/expenses - and there's a lot of historic and sentimental value in what Spider's offering up for sale in this auction.

Ted Sturgeon's been a huge part of my personal canon, as are Spider and Jeanne, and if I wasn't so close to needing a donation drive myself, I'd love to bid on these.

I present this auction to you, instead, Gentle Readers, if you are in a better position than I to offer assistance.


[Mirrored at Bookseller By Night @ Comments are welcome there as well as here.]

[FEATURE] On the Nightstand, January 2010.

I have to admit that I was an inattentive blogger in 2009, and I will try to right this slackness in 2010.

A little late, since we are more than halfway through the month, but let's get a discussion started.


I had taken home a big pile of 2008 advance reader copies at one point, and am only now getting to read them, mixed in with some re-reads.

Currently on the headboard of my bed are the following books....

1] ARCs:

* GRACELING by Kristin Cashore - completed, need to review. I was impressed with this debut novel and now need to dig up FIRE.

* NICK OF TIME by Ted Bell - halfway through. Enjoying immensely for the subject matter, even if it has some definite narrative flaws.


* SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE by Austin Grossman

* THE GIRL IN A SWING by Richard Adams



What's on *your* nightstand, Gentle Readers?


[Mirrored at Bookseller By Night @ Comments are welcome there as well as here.]


And a Happy Book Year...

I'm enjoying the electronic age just a wee bit more these days, as I watch people "live-blogging" and Twittering the ALA Midwinter Conference and its awards ceremonies.

I was unable to be there this year in Boston, but am thrilled that, with all the current networking platforms out there, others are helping fill me in as events unfold.

Rebecca Stead, Jerry Pinkney, Libba Bray Win Newbery, Caldecott, Printz

A Cybils Awards judge liveblogs while viewing the ALA webcast

Even if I have to be on the sidelines this year, it's still a vicarious thrill.

Did *YOUR* choices win, my Gentle Readers?


[Mirrored at Bookseller By Night @ Comments are welcome there as well as here.]


American Library Association Midwinter Conference 2010.

Will any of my Gentle Readers be going to the ALA Midwinter Meeting in Boston from January 15-19, 2010?

Yes, I am aware that it conflicts with Arisia this year. No help for it.

If you'll be there and would like to meet up for a coffee or other beverage, please reply here with your e-mail or cellphone number, or both. Comments screened for your privacy.

[Cross-posted to p_m_cryan]