About me

I am a bookseller-turned-librarian with a deep love for reading fantasy, and all of its sub-genres. I have also been known to dally with a historical or literary novel or two now and then. I review for Library Journal and Netgalley, and have my nose into all manner of books, large press and small. If there is something you would like me to take a look at, please do drop me a line. aprilmsteenburgh @ gmail. com

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In Calabria by Peter S. Beagle

Claudio Bianchi lives alone on his farm in Southern Italy, a self-professed grump who just wants to enjoy his little bit of land, his animals, and write his poems when the mood strikes him. But an unexpected and impossible visitor changes everything.

For how can a person stay determinedly grumpy and insular when faced with the grace of a unicorn?

Bianchi’s world becomes much larger than he had ever intended or wanted with the addition of a unicorn, and he faces the reality that this is a secret that is going to resist being kept.

In Calabria is a gorgeous story shaped with elegant prose and stunning imagery. In Bianchi we have a very human protagonist who shifts and changes bit by bit as the story progresses. Once could say all the changes are a result of contact with the unicorn. It is this reader’s opinion that the unicorn might be the catalyst, but Bianchi grows through his own volition. Its an ancient story, humans changing after meeting a unicorn. Beagle has provided a modern incarnation of the tale, and it is a much needed bit of beauty and quiet joy.

It is a unicorn story. It is a coming of age story. It is a story of forgiveness and a story of love. In Calabria will speak to each and every reader that ventures through its pages.

The Babylon Eye by Masha du Toit

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Elke Veraart used to be a gardag handler, working with modified canines. After losing her canine partner, an altercation led her to prison. And it is there her old bosses have pulled her from. They will free her, and keep her free, if she does this one thing for them:

Locate a gardag that has gone missing with her handler inside the Babylon Eye. There is just one catch- gardags are illegal within the Babylon Eye.

The Babylon Eye is a beautifully written story rich with a mix of people and cultures all set within a world where the Real has become intertwined with the Strange. du Toit does a magnificent job making the world of the Strange come vividly alive, luring readers to turn page after page so they can see more, learn more, meet more of the deeply human and effortlessly diverse cast of characters. The Babylon Eye will appeal to fans of the harder scientific edge of the science fiction genre, as well as those who crave the exploratory excitement that can make the genre so vivid and full of imagination.

And through it all is the love of a woman for the dogs she has raised, trained, worked and fought beside.

The Babylon Eye has a little of bit of something for everyone, and it all pulls together into a story that is absolutely enthralling and will keep you reading far longer than intended. Highly recommended.

 

Menagerie by Rachel Vincent

The Reaping was an event that caught the United States by surprise. Families that had been harboring surrogates- inhuman children passing for human- met with disaster, and the surrogates were rounded up and taken away. After the Reaping, inhuman and mythical entities ceased to have rights and became possessions, curiosities, and some were caged for display in menageries.

Delilah’s mother wanted a good child, a quiet child, but was not prepared when…something….took her wailing baby away and replaced it with smiling Delilah. Delilah was raised never aware that things were not quite what they seem. When a trip to a traveling menagerie pulls a supernatural part of Delilah out in public, she is outed as less than human and sold to that same traveling menagerie.

‘Menagerie’ is a look at humanity in every light possible- the kind as well as the cruel. It is a book about grey areas, the actions and intentions and entities that do not fit well into the black and white. It is not always an easy book to read as supernatural and magical beings are brought as low as possible. But it shines, subtly beautiful in a way that will keep it churning in the back of your head long after you have finished reading.

Thirty-three Cecils: A Novel by Everett De Morier

In 1992 — when Amy Fisher dominated every news channel — there lived two men. The first was a once-prominent cartoonist who had a very public fall from grace. The other was an alcoholic who worked in a landfill. Both lived in different parts of the country and led completely separate lives — until their paths crossed.

You know their names. And for over twenty years, you thought you knew their story — until their journals were found and authenticated in 2014.

And what we thought we knew — what the old news clips and the old stories wanted us to think — were all wrong.

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On Friday, June 12th, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, River Read Books in Binghamton NY, will be hosting a meet-the-author event, to celebrate the release of De Morier’s new novel, ‘Thirty Three Cecils’ — a book set in Binghamton in 1992.

View the Book Trailer

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

“The official record says all hands were lost at sea. We believe that something far worse occurred. We believe they were found.” -Mira Grant, Rolling in the Deep.

It started as an expedition from the Imagine Network, a ‘documentary’ set to find proof of the existence of mermaids. The liner was populated with its crew, scientists who signed on for the research opportunities, representatives from the Imagine Network, and a troupe of mermaid performance artists. In the event no mermaids were found, some would be provided to tease the cameras every now and then.

No one anticipated there would actually be mermaids in the deepest part of the ocean, or that somewhere while telling tales of mermaids through the ages we got some very important details wrong.

Rolling in the Deep is a beautiful, lethal story about human dreams and desires. It is a short, but very careful book- characters are all thought out and breathe life into the story, and ultimately contribute to pull of the final horror and while bread crumbs of foreshadowing are laid out well for the readers, the end still hits with stunning impact. It is science all twisted up in a fairy tale, and that fairy tale takes its cues from the old cautionary stories we have mellowed over time and tellings. It is for people who look at the ocean with equal parts captivation and distrust, for those who like their fairy tales with a twist, an edge. Highly recommended. Just not, perhaps, before a trip to the beach.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by by Sarah J. Maas

When Feyre lets her ash arrow fly, she knows she might be killing a faerie. But she does not expect the beast that breaks into her home, demanding her life in return for that of the one she had taken. Her life, not her death. Thus begins Feyre’s time in the Spring Court of Tamlin, a High Lord of the faeries. As Feyre starts to sort out her new life she learns that not all is well in the land of faerie- there is a curse upon the land, upon Tamlin and his court. Feyre also learns that not all faeries are dark and vicious as her fear and antagonism towards Tamlin starts to shift to something warmer.

A Court of Thorns and Roses builds the familiar tale of Beauty and the Beast with elements taken from other corners of folk lore and fairy tale. It is the best sort of love story, the slow and natural coming together of two very different people. Feyre and Tamlin fit- the romance is not forced, Maas pulls them together with deft hands. It is also a story of curses and dark magics, the things that go bump in the night and cause you to stop and glance behind you in the woods. It is a wonderful book and will keep you reading far longer than you might have intended, needing to see how it all turns out.

A Different City by Tanith Lee

‘A Different City’ is a book containing three stories, each connected by their presence within the city of Marcheval. From demons slipping human skins, idols concealed in attics, exquisite monstrosities- Lee weaves a decadently horrifying tapestry.

The first story, ‘Not Stopping at Heaven’, tells of a marriage where both parties had different motives behind their nuptial vows. Sometimes the targets perceived as easy are not the ones you want to tangle with. The second, ‘Idoll’, tells of a discarded child growing up in the vast home of her relatives, and the unfortunate truths often faced by women of no independent substance. When backed into a corner, one will sometimes walk a path not considered before. The final story, ‘The Portrait in Gray’ is built loosely upon the armature of ‘The Portrait of Dorian Gray’. The prettiest of creatures are not always as beautiful as their exterior might suggest, and revenge is not always an overt undertaking.

To read ‘A Different City’ is to plunge into a world that slips so skillfully into your subconscious that it is hard to remember to come up for air. Lee’s prose is, as ever, deft and a pleasure to read. The world she builds within Marcheval’s walls is enthralling, terrifying, and impossible to ignore. Each story within ‘A Different City’ is unique, but works with the others to strengthen the feel, the tale, of the city as a whole. It is a living, breathing, stalking entity. And it is magnificent.

A Different City