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Review: Wonderland

Wonderland, edited by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane

From the greatest names in fantasy and horror comes an anthology of stories inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Join Alice as she is thrown into the whirlwind of Wonderland

Within these pages you’ll find myriad approaches to Alice, from horror to historical, taking us from the nightmarish reaches of the imagination to tales that will shock, surprise and tug on the heart-strings. So, it’s time now to go down the rabbit hole, or through the looking-glass or… But no, wait. By picking up this book and starting to read it you’re already there, can’t you see?

Brand-new works from the best in fantastical fiction.

This anthology is a wonderful mix of excellent stories, all themed around Alice in Wonderland/Through The Looking Glass, but ranging from Westerns to sci-fi to horror to surreal to sweet.

The first story is a poem, Alice in Armor by Jane Yolen – a good starting poem about a warrior Alice, preparing for the battles of Wonderland!

Wonders Never Cease by Robert Shearman is a modern-world story of what happened after Alice came back; it’s a very good and well-themed study of the very practical, hard-hearted and chilly Alice in a modern world, with a child! She always seems very uncaring in Carroll’s stories, and Shearman brings it out wonderfully. Several of the other stories present real-world Alices, or look at how Wonderland affects them: in Good Dog, Alice by Juliet Maeillier a child with a new dog finds Wonderland, and it helps her with a real-world problem; and George Mann’s About Time is a sweet story about childhood and facing your monsters. Six Impossible Things by Mark Chadbourne makes lovely use of some real-life moments from Alice, mixed with a dose of Cheshire Cat surreal; and Vanished Summer Glory by Rio Youers is about psychoanalysing the Rabbit… and dreaming of vanished youth and those long gone. Alison Littlewood’s Eat Me, Drink Me is a surreal story of growing up, childhood, death, change – and also, as the title suggests, makes liberal use of Alice’s strange Wonderland experience.

There’s a brilliant range of genres in the book, too. In MR Carey’s There Were No Birds To Fly, Wonderland meets the apocalypse; what happens when wonderland comes into the real world? Smoke ‘Em If You’ve Got ‘Em by Angela Slatter is a Wonderland-meets-Western take on a hunter, chasing a fugitive. Temp Work by Lillith Saintcrow is about a futuristic spy/assassin infiltrating a party – it’s a twisted, dark world of technology and broken things, but still has some hope, and it’s definitely a favourite story. LL McKinney’s What Makes A Monster is a Victoriana lady duo fighting monsters that get through into this world; The Night Parade by Laura Mauro is a haunting, surreal horror about rescuing a child from Wonderland – but if the parade of monsters sees you, and not everything is as it seems… The White Queen’s Dictum by James Lovegrove is a lovely, sad and haunting story about believing six impossible things, including ghosts; and my favourite story, The White Queen’s Pawn by Genevieve Cogman, is a spy-thriller style about someone trying to train as an agent, and getting far more than they bargained for…

Some of the stories make lovely use of Carroll’s language and characters; Cavan Scott’s Dream Girl is a very weird, wonderful Wonderland absurdity with a nice twist at the end, and The Hunting of the Jabberwock by Jonathan Green is a story of the young adventurer out to kill the jabberwock, and a story about morals and humanity into the bargain, and is full of wonderful jabberwocky language too. How I Comes To Be The Treacle Queen by Cat Rambo has a really fun voice, and a story about liberation and freedom – and treacle – and in Black Kitty by Catriona Ward, we see the two Queens growing up, and their separated mother trying to tempt them from their father… until the magic goes wrong. Or right?

The final poem is Jane Yolen’s Revolution In Wonder – dark and full of nursery and Wonderland-inspired tales, flipped onto their heads!

Overall; a wonderful and surreal mix of stories, bound together by Alice’s experience, and all using different aspects. A fun, surprising and interesting collection.

Nottingham & Cat Cafe

So Otter and I just had a weekend in Nottingham, which involved donuts (ohmygoodness Doughnotts), far too much amazing pizza (Oscar and Rosie‘s, highly recommended), modern classical music (Ludovico Einaudi), a lot of walking up hills (looking at you, Lenton), a very good comic book shop (Page 45), multiple charity shops, really good apple & mint tea at Patisserie Valerie, lots of random Christmas-present-buying, absolutely amazing hot chocolate in a cute little chilled-out cafe (CookieShake, which was really quirky and fun; definitely somewhere to go back to!) and Carcassonne (Otter kept winning), and a CAT CAFE.

Which, obviously, is the content you’re reading for.

So, without further ado:

The cat on my lap is Toast, who was very interested in the cream on my plate and did manage to sneakily swipe a pawful of Otter’s before we caught him! He did submit to scritches after being informed that we weren’t going to let him have any more cream, and was a small blissed-out heap of purrs for about five minutes before being distracted with someone else’s cream…

The cafe itself was large; it had two main sections and each was at least twice the size of the Newcastle cafe! The cats were all quite curious, but didn’t much care for people, although they were friendly enough (as Toast proved) – but as the cafe must have quite a throughfare, I can understand the cats not being particularly affectionate. They were very adorable though, and we got a lot of fun watching them all. There was also a HUGE ginger Maine Coon who spent the entire hour asleep in a box.

Beyond that; we had a great weekend, and it was a lot of fun wandering round Nottingham again too! My happy pills are definitely making me better; I was a little anxious at times but nothing nearly as bad as I’ve been previously, and I coped with all the things! Whee!

Only got a few chapters of two books read, though, so I need to keep on with that…

NaNoReMo: Novel Reading Month

Cat on the middle shelf of a bookshelf
Image via Pexels

So, I’m not doing NaNoWriMo – I still don’t have a story I want to tell, and I know from experience that if I don’t, I’ll just scribble random words and then give up. (Otter is doing it, though! I’m going to be cheering them on.)

However, I do have a very large TBR pile… and I could spend a month reading…

So, I’m going to get as far through my reading pile as I can in a month!

I’m going to list 30 books here: I don’t think I’ll get through half of them, but it’s still something! (Even I can’t do a book a day…)

  1. The House of Shattered Wings (IP)
  2. Distaff: A Science Fiction Anthology
  3. The Three-Body Problem
  4. Embers of War
  5. Witchsign
  6. Kavalier & Clay
  7. A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe
  8. Unwrapped Sky
  9. The Winter Queen (IP)
  10. The Poppy War (IP)
  11. The Green Man’s Heir
  12. Everless (IP)
  13. Sorcerer To The Crown (IP)
  14. The Written
  15. The Tethered Mage (IP)
  16. The Secret of Ji
  17. Starborn
  18. The Ninth Rain
  19. Sanyare: The Last Descendant
  20. Valley of Ember
  21. Where the Waters Turn Black
  22. Touch of Iron
  23. Spectris
  24. Shattermoon
  25. The Bone Season
  26. The Book Thief (IP)
  27. Moon’s Artifice
  28. The Adamantine Palace
  29. The Confession
  30. Dreamwalker
  31. Stranger of Tempest
  32. The Affinity Bridge
  33. Within the Sanctuary of Wings
  34. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (IP)
  35. Truthwitch
  36. Autodrome
  37. Prince Thief
  38. Ten Thousand Doors of January
  39. The Bard’s Blade
  40. The Raven Tower
  41. The Golden Grave

Ok, that’s slightly more than 30. It’s most of my TBR, anyhow! We’ll see how many I get through…

I reserve the right to add more and also decide I hate one and stop reading, and I’ll try to review them all – although it may not be as I go!

5 Happy Things – October 2019

No post on Monday because this weekend completely wiped me out; I didn’t make BristolCon and barely made it off the sofa on Sunday!

But, happy things for October?

1.I feel like an editor!

“Hi, [Agent]. If you’re after David, he’s probably covered in paint while entertaining a small child. It’s half term.”

“Actually, I wanted to tell you I’ve got the latest by [novellist] ready, but I need a million pounds.”

“Uhh… nope. I can draw you a treasure map, how’s that?”

“Oh, that would be a wonderful diversion. So no million pounds?”

“No million pounds. How about a hat?”

“A fabulous hat?”

We did actually get onto discussing another book – and it felt like everything was there. I could chat, knew what I wanted to ask, knew when to check with my colleagues… you know when you feel like something just clicks? It doesn’t happen often but it was really good – I felt like I knew my stuff!

2.Happy pills – literally!

I’ve been on anti-depressants for a month now; they are doing some good (I have been baking, although no small birds have been helping me yet) but I’m still feeling a bit grey. I had a discussion with my doctor about upping the dose, so I’m just going to keep trundling along for a bit and see how I do.

I can feel things slowly breaking up, though – I get flashes of what feels almost like spotlights. The sunlight through the trees, an offhand comment that sparks a moment of story or character, a brief moment of hope for the future – and then it goes again, but it gives me hope that it will lift eventually.

It is very weird feeling again when you haven’t been able to for a while, though. I’m expecting it to be a bit rocky when everything does hit in again!

3.BOOOOOOOOKS

Erin Lindsey’s A Golden Grave turned up in the post; I’ve finally got Kindle editions of  Three-Body Problem, Witchsign and Embers of War; I’ve started reading The House of Shattered Wings (I adore Aliette’s short stories and I’m enjoying the novel so far!); and I’ve had some wonderfully fun books at work.

Add to that my haul from FantasyCon and it’s been a good month for reading!

I need to do some reviews…

4.Cake

We’ve been given a bagful of pears, so I previously did a pear & almond & dark chocolate cake, and this weekend tried a pear & pecan cake – both from the BBC Good Food Cakes & Bakes book, which is one of my favourites. It’s got flour stains, folded corners, post-it notes, butter splashes and sugar in the spine. It’s well-loved, basically.

I also made sweetcorn muffins from Jack Monroe’s cookbook – I’m making more things from that, which has been fun!

5.Friends

It was really good to see people at FantasyCon, and it’s been lovely connecting with people on social media recently – I actually feel like I can cope with the world! (Ish). Everyone is absolutely lovely and supportive too, and it keeps making me cry (in a good way).

I’m also planning birthday and Christmas presents for various people, and that’s lots of fun! I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed it!

Also, I’m really looking forward to Christmas!

FantasyCon 2019 & Some Updates

Went to FantasyCon, had a good time, came back. Going involved loud singing and random conversation about time travel (don’t ask). Coming back involved even more singing but no time travel. It did have a traffic queue at Oxford, though.

The con itself was good; quieter than other years, I think partly due to location (which wasn’t great as it was pretty inaccessible from Glasgow city centre) and partly due to people having other commitments. It was really great to catch up with people though, and I’m starting to see more friends – which is a really nice feeling! Had some great conversations and enjoyed chatting to everyone I managed to speak to. The Redcloaks team were amazing as always and the panels that I went to were excellent and interesting, so it was worth the trip. Next year is Sheffield, anyhow, so that will be fun!

(I did have a bit of the “I’m not doing enough” and “I should be talking to everyone” and social anxiety, but it was manageable. I’m now getting kicked in the head by the backlash from that so I’m very glad I booked today off work!)

I may be trundling down to BristolCon this weekend; I admit that I haven’t actually decided yet… it partly depends on my energy levels!

In other updates… BOOOOOOOKS. I got The Ten Thousand Doors of January because I adore Alix Harrow’s writing, The Bard’s Blade was my freebie book (I originally got the excellent The Hanging Artist but I’ve already read that…), Ann Leckie’s The Raven Tower on Womble‘s suggestion, and Wonderland, which I’ve already read and will review shortly! I did also spend about an hour at the Waterstones stall, taking pictures of book covers and spamming our work thread with “THIS IS SO PRETTY” and “Foil. Foil? AND SPOT. WE NEED TO DO THIS” and driving Dee insane trying to pick a book to buy. I almost did the same at Leaf’s stall (The Portal Bookshop, and in entirely related news, I need to go to York again soon…) but unfortunately I’d read a bunch of them already. In related news to that, though, The Library of the Unwritten is great!

And also; I have a story idea! I don’t know how far it will get but David used the words “creepy as fuck” twice when I was explaining it, so I think that’s a good sign…