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Road of Bones

Road of BonesRoad of Bones by Christopher Golden
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A short novel that moves quickly, ROAD OF BONES is a grueling horror adventure that never lets up. Author Christopher Golden locates the action on the real-life Road of Bones, the Kolyma Highway in Siberia, Russia, a setting with a dark, tragic history. In fact, that history is so unsettling I kind of wish it had played more directly into the horrors with which Golden confronts his characters. However, the novel goes in a different direction, one that I found equally compelling. No spoilers here, but Golden dips into Russian folklore that dates back much further than the Road of Bones itself and even nods toward cosmic horror.

The characters are okay. You don’t get a lot of time to get to know them before they’re running for their lives, but none of them felt unrealistic or cartoonish to me. My favorite character, and also the character I think is the strongest, is Ludmilla, an old woman who has taken it upon herself to bless the spirits of the road. My only real complaint about the novel is that I wish she had played a larger role in the story.

Aside from its fast-paced plot, the novel’s atmosphere is its strength. You really feel the brutality of the subzero temperatures and unforgiving wilderness, and Golden doesn’t shy away from describing what those conditions can do to a person. Novels, especially horror novels, are made or broken by their endings, and here Golden absolutely nails it. When you reach the end, you won’t be disappointed, save perhaps for the fact that this high-octane, heart-pounding novel is over.

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A Study in Emerald

A Study in EmeraldA Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The famous detective from Baker Street investigates the murder of a member of the royal family only to find the corpse isn’t human in this graphic adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2003 short story of the same name. A fun, fast-paced adventure filled with Easter eggs and homages, A STUDY IN EMERALD is Gaiman at his most cleverly playful, with an intriguing twist at the end. Rafael Albuquerque’s art perfectly matches the story’s tone. A fun little gem!

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The World’s Worst Assistant

The World's Worst AssistantThe World’s Worst Assistant by Sona Movsesian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Written in the guise of a business how-to, THE WORLD’S WORST ASSISTANT is a very funny and surprisingly earnest memoir of Sona Movsesian’s ongoing career as Conan O’Brien’s assistant. Fans will know Sona well from filmed bits on Conan’s TBS show and as an important part of Conan’s podcast. She’s smart, she’s funny, she takes no shit, and her sharp comedic chemistry with Conan practically elevates her to celebrity status herself.

Don’t read it looking for a tell-all on Conan O’Brien. He and Sona are tight (even if they bicker constantly). There’s no dish here. But you should read it for a fun and sometimes embarrassing glimpse behind the scenes of Sona’s job and her life. Also, Conan comes off as a pretty great guy, which is refreshing to hear about a celebrity.

THE WORLD’S WORST ASSISTANT is fun, charming, and well written. Sona’s voice and sense of humor come through loud and clear. (Conan would say, “Emphasis on the loud.”) I really enjoyed it. It’s a fast, breezy read that will leave you smiling and, if you’re anything like me, racing to YouTube to watch Sona and Conan’s clips.

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A Slice of the Dark and Other Stories

A Slice of the Dark and Other StoriesA Slice of the Dark and Other Stories by Karen Heuler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another excellent story collection from Karen Heuler, an accomplished fantasist more people should be reading!

Among my favorites in this collection are the title story, in which a man gets a taste of the dark and craves more until things get out of control; “Bone Broth,” which gives a fascinating pre-history of New York City (and the world) through the eyes of a discontented waitress; “Unquiet Dreams,” one of Heuler’s few straightforward forays into horror, which tells of something stalking the patients in a sleep disorder clinic; “Teeth,” in which a woman literally becomes Death but enjoys it a bit too much; and “The Afterlife of Books,” which is a story that will speak to any writer or avid reader.

All the stories share Heuler’s surreal sensibilities and unique, playful writing style. (As a side note, I think the cover art is fantastic, one of the best and most evocative I’ve seen in a long time!) If you’ve read Heuler’s recent novel THE SPLENDID CITY and are interested in exploring her short fiction, or if you’ve just been curious about her work, A SLICE OF THE DARK AND OTHER STORIES is a fine place to start.

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