I keep intending to make a “Hope for the Genre” post about some of the books I’m reading, but honestly? There are so many good novels and story collections out there, I’m having trouble picking one to highlight. Therefore the only sensible thing is to post about 3-5 exciting genre or genre-bending books every so often. And feel free to friend me on Goodreads if you’re so inclined.

1. Johannes Cabal: Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard: This gem came out in 2009, as many of you probably know, but I like to recommend the beginning of a series. Howard’s brilliant for-now trilogy kicks off our introduction to Johannes Cabal with a few of my favorite things: demonic carnivals, deals with the devil, the undead, killer freak shows, and razor sharp humor. Cabal is one of my favorite anti-heroes of all time. Fear Institutethe third book of the series which was released in the UK this year, takes us deep into Lovecraft’s Dreamlands. If you can get your hands on it, it is well worth it!

2. Fantastic Women ed. by Rob Spillman: A collection of surreal stories published by women in Tin House. Now, if you’re one of those people who thinks literary magazines are stiff and stodgy, you have to check out this collection. Enjoy work by Aimee Bender, Karen Russell, Kelly Link, Alissa Nutting, Kate Bernheimer, and other geniuses. My absolute favorite of this bunch is Link’s “Light” which deals with pocket universes, women with two shadows, and hurricanes, among other things. But there isn’t a dud in the whole set. If you love fantastic short stories, this is the collection for you.

3. Southern Gods by John Horner Jacobs: Nominated for a Stoker award, this collision between Lovecraftian and Southern mythos is a thrill ride steeped in blues music and 1950s culture. WWII vet, Bull Ingram, gets hired to track down a mysterious bluesman, Ramblin’ John Hastur, whose music supposedly drives men mad and makes the dead rise. As in all Lovecraft-inspired tales, Ingram finds himself in way over his head. Jacobs doesn’t pull a single punch in this horrific story and you’ll find yourself wanting to look away before the end–but if you’re like me, you probably won’t.

4. After the Apocalypse by Maureen F. McHugh: Published by the incomparable Small Beer Press, McHugh’s second collection is a goldmine of science fiction, horror, fantasy, and a few things in between. In these nine beautifully written tales, you’ll find zombies, bird flu, the development of artificial intelligence, medical testing, and an entirely man-made apocalypse (natural disasters and the walking dead need not apply). McHugh is a master storyteller who builds worlds and characters with the same care. My absolute favorite of this set was, surprisingly, “The Kingdom of the Blind,” which follows the story of IT employees who discover that the system they monitor may have developed awareness.

5. The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson: This YA novel came out last year, but I’m recommending it anyway, because the second book of the series is due out in January 2013 and if you haven’t read it, you should now! Johnson paints a meticulous picture of modern London entranced by the possibility of a Jack the Ripper mimic. CCTV cameras and rabid media dominate the case. But the heart of the story lies with Rory Deveaux, an American high school student studying abroad in London. Rory discovers more than the terrifying truth behind the copycat Ripper murders, as she comes in contact with the Shades of London. Definitely a page turner and a must-read if you’re into genre YA fiction.

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