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Blender Update April 2019

Have you visited the Blender lately?  Although I haven’t been adding new content to the blog in many moons, I have been adding new titles to the blender now and again. Recently I finally made a big push to update the blender, adding over 90 titles. These titles range across all genres, and include older titles and titles published since my last big update about a year ago. I have also been making a push to include more diversity in selections included in the blender. This was no hardship, as there are fantastic books by authors of color and from the LGBT community that tell stories that skillfully blend genres. I’ve also added some additional YA blends, although the focus of the blender remains adult titles. And one other things I’ve tried to do is cast my net beyond the big five publishers, showcasing some small presses and indie author. There’s a lot farther I could go with promoting diverse books, and I know it. But I’ll keep trying.

Now that the Blender database is getting close to 1000 titles, I also hope to add some Top Ten lists to the results (and this space) so that folks don’t get overwhelmed when they get close to 100 titles for the more popular blends.

So I hope you keep blending away and enjoy some of the new content.  Here are just a favorites and notable books from the most recent update:

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

Did you know that at the turn of the last century, the US government considered importing hippos as a source of food? True fact. And this whackadoodle but true fact is the germ that grew into an alternative history novella set around 1890 where ranchers raise hippos like cattle, while riding the more intelligent breeds like horses. Quite a visual! Winslow Houndstooth is putting together a crew for a job that involves hippo wrangling and revenge. The story combines alternate history, magic, non-binary romance, and–my favorite–a caper plot. This was a lot of fun, and those wanting to read it and the sequel novella can get them both in the single volume (with some additional stories) titled American Hippo.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

This had one of the best opening scenes of a book that I have ready in a long time. Six clones wake on a spaceship surrounded by dead bodies of their former selves. The crew soon realize that the ship is in trouble and they have all had their backup memories wiped. They’ve all been convicted of crimes in their past lives and have taken the trip as a way to earn pardons, so there are no shortage of suspects. This is a tense locked-room mystery as one of the crew must be a brutal killer and they have no idea who. Those interested in the ethical quagmire of cloning will have plenty to chew on, but the mystery wins this blend.

Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff

The Jim Crow-era was fraught with everyday dangers for African Americans. As Atticus Turner heads home to Chicago to visit family, his life is in repeated danger from the distressingly commonplace racism of the era. But soon he is in danger of a more esoteric variety, as he and his uncle are lured to a small New England town.  It seems a strange cult want to use Atticus as a part of a sorcerous summoning ritual. This is just one tale in a collection of linked stories about the Turner family and their friends. They range from the Lovecraftian horror of the opening story, to more subtle ghostly horror and science fictional tales. The historical setting is an important part of the success of this work, adding the mundane evil of bigotry and racism.

Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet

Bouchet, who wrote the excellent fantasy/romance blend that started with Promise of Fire, here starts a new series of science fiction romance. Tess Bailey is the captain of the Endeavor, but she is hiding a secret. On the run from the government, she is a smuggler in a Robin Hood kind of way, but once the government police realize who she is, the stakes get higher. After her ship gets beat up, she and her crew are stranded on a planet while they try to make repairs. Shade Ganavan agrees to help her with repairs, but things get sticky when the two can’t keep their hands off each other.  I loved the fast pace, the plucky heroine, the hot romance, and the promise of future adventures.

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole

This historical romance novels is a winner not only because it is a welcome change from all the regency settings that crowd the romance shelves, but because of the skill of the author, Alyssa Cole. Set during the Civil War, An Extraordinary Union is the first in a series of romances that focus on the activities of the Loyal League, a secret society of freed blacks and slaves who funnel information to the Union. Elle Burns is a former slave working undercover on a Southern plantation when she meets Malcolm McCall. Malcolm looks every inch the Confederate gentleman, but in actuality he is a Pinkerton detective. When the two agree to work together, there is romance and danger and spying and a story based on actual historical events.  Genre blending gold!

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

While fantasy/mystery blends overwhelmingly trend toward the real world settings of urban fantasy, there are some delightful exceptions. One is the Divine Cities series that began with City of Stairs. The gods of Bulikov are dead and the city conquered, its people forbidden from studying their own history. When a foreign scholar is murdered, diplomat and spy Shara Thivani is sent from Saypur to find his killer. She discovers Bulikov’s gods might not be as dead as everyone thinks.  I love this series mostly for the fascinating characters and memorable setting, but the tightly plotted mystery does pull you in.

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she first just transcribes their conversations, but soon is pulled in deeper. Ten years later, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. The shifting time periods adds to the drama and suspense, and that nothings is as it seems.  Atkinson is a master at taking a genre we know and classing it up with writing that sparkles and characters that are murky and real.  I love a good historical espionage story, and Kate Atkinson, who wrote another fascinating novel that played with genre in Life After Life, is always a pleasure.

Updates to the Blender

blenderApologies up front how long it has been since the blender last got an update. I had a hell of a year last year, and had to focus on my work and my health. I hope to be much better going forward about making regular updates to the blender, to make sure that not only do new titles get added but I continue to add older titles that exemplify interesting blends.

Since the last update, I have added over 200 titles, mostly published in 2015 and 2016. Here are some of my favorite titles among those newly added to the database. The bulk of what I tend to add seems to trend toward science fiction and fantasy blends. One reason for this bias is that I read those genres for review, and just come across the blends most often. But I also think some of the most interest blends are happening in the speculative fiction genres. These are genres that just naturally like to take narrative risks. But there are plenty of blends of all genres that are new to the blender.


Historical mystery is one of the most popular blends, to the point where it is usually considered a genre of its own. There are plenty of historical mysteries published every year, but I have included a few that were very well-reviewed and brought something new to the genre. Two that I would draw attention to are The Strangler Vine by M.J. Carter, set in 1930s India, and Girl Waits with Gun set in 1914 New Jersey. There’s also the bonus blend of A Murder in Time by Julie McElwain, which adds a time-traveling FBI agent.



Another blend that takes up a sizable market share of its genre is historical romance. Regencies still dominate the historical romance scene, and I’ve added a few great ones, including The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean. But there are other eras to explore, like the Gilded Age New York setting of Joanna Shupe’s Magnate. I also beefed up Romance/Adrenaline (aka romantic suspense) with titles like Virtue Falls by Christina Dodd, an example of a book that is not new, but new to the blender.



Horror edges into other genres in interesting ways, bringing its monsters and its sense of dread. A couple of good historical horror novels got added, notably Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff that looks at a family in the Jim Crow-era South and their encounters with the occult. And If you like your horror with the excitement of a heist thriller, I offer up The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp and promise you will thank me.


sleepinggiantsScience Fiction

There’s a lot of ways to mix it up in SF. One of my favorite ways is to add a mystery, and there are a few new SF/Mystery blends in the blender, including The Ark by Patrick S. Tomlinson (locked room-type mystery on a generation ship). Depth, by Lev A.C. Rosen brings the noir to a drowned New York, and The Cold Between by Elizabeth Bonesteel offers a murder on a colony with a bonus romance. If you want SF with the pacing of a thriller, I highly recommend The Fold by Peter Cline about a man looking into a research team who claim to have figured out teleportation or Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel about the discovery of an alien artifact.



Oh so many fantasy blends. If you like it historical, try the regency set Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho or Prohibition era A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly. A bumper crop of weird west have been added like Silver on the Road by Laura Ann Gilman. And if you want mystery mixed in (and it is my biggest category), you could sample some great urban fantasies like Borderline by Mishell Baker or a rural take on an urban fantasy with Charlaine Harris’s Midnight Crossroad. Epic fantasy can get blendy too, as evidenced by the terrific City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, which combines great worldbuilding and a mystery.

Of course there is plenty more to explore, with the blender now topping 725 titles. I hope it continues to be of use to those who like their fiction mixed, crossed, bended, and blended. Enjoy!

Online Readers’ Advisory Sources

As part of a presentation I’m doing for the Biennial National Conference of Librarians Serving Blind and Physically Handicapped Individuals, I have gathered together some of my favorite online RA sources.  I thought I would share them here.

Keeping track of what you read:

Keeping current:


Books in series:

Can you find me a good book?


General RA sites


General Fiction/Nonfiction sites

Audiobook Websites:

Mystery & Crime


Science Fiction & Fantasy


Historical Fiction & Westerns

Inspirational Fiction


General Fiction/Nonfiction

Genre Fiction Awards



Science Fiction & Fantasy


Historical Fiction & Western

Inspirational Fiction





Genre Blend New Releases – December 2015

December has a lot going for it. Holidays, cookie baking, carolling, my birthday….  But for new books, it’s usually a bit of a slump.  There’s always new blends, though, even in the low tide of publishing.  I enjoyed TIME AND TIME AGAIN quite a bit, if you are in the mood for time travel goodness. And in the historical romance subgenre, two of my favorte authors have new books, Sarah MacLean and Loretta Chase. Alternate History is rarely done better than Ian Tregillis, who continues the series begun with THE MECHANICAL. Finally, I am a huge fan of the weird west branch of steampunk, where the action takes place in the American Old West.  THE CURSE OF JACOB TRACY is another strong entry in this exciting subgenre.  No matter what your tastes, hopefully there is a blend here for you!





December 15


December 22



Genre Blend New Releases – August 2014

Dog days of summer might mean days by the pool, or if the heat index is over 100 where you are it might mean days in the air conditioning.  Either way, you’ll be looking for some books to read.  Here are August’s genre blending titles to seek out and enjoy. Some things I am especially excited about? A not-new-but-new-to-Americans Murakami release of his first two short novels Wind/Pinball; Magic Shifts, a new entry in one of my all-time favorite urban fantasy series by Ilona Andrews; a new book about death from the always reliably amusing Christopher Moore called Secondhand Souls; The Veil, the series opener for a new urban fantasy set in New Orleans from Chloe Neill; and the charmingly quirky The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks. What are you looking forward to?








Almost back!

Genrify readers, I apologize most sincerely for the dearth of new content here over the last couple of weeks.  Moving cross-country and starting a new job took a little more out of me than I expected. But I hope to get back to regular postings next week.

Thanks for your patience!


Genre Blended Comics

The blending trend of mixing and matching elements from different genres to tell a story is not limited to novels.  Visual media are often the perfect way to tell a blended story, and while TV and movies get a lot of attention, comic book and graphic novels have been genre-blending for a long time.

The storytelling technique of comics really blends the best of the written and visual worlds, allowing the creators to (literally) illustrate scenes that a novelist can only describe. But you still get to keep some of that imaginative work that happens when you read novels – filling in the details in your head that are only inked on the page with soundtracks and special effects and how the character sounds in your head. It also is a format that allows you to proceed at your own pace, lingering over panels and pages that catch your fancy, whipping through scenes that somehow manage to convey movement and action through pen and ink.


Genre Blend New Releases – January 2015

The turn of the calendar, another year of blending goodness to look forward to. If you are looking for new books that don’t conform neatly to the big genre categories, but mix elements from multiple genres, I’ve got some picks for you.  January doesn’t traditionally yield a bumper crop of new books, but there’s always something coming out. Genres are listed in my best estimation as to the order of prominence to the story. For example, if the first genre listed is SF, that is probably the first audience for the book. What are you most looking foward to?


January 6

January 13

January 20

January 27

A Year in Reviewing

I completed my first full year as a professional reviewer recently, having started with Library Journal as their columnist for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror with the January 2014 issue.  Deadlines being what they are, I actually completed that first column in early December 2013. So one year of actual paid reviewing! Mind you, the pay isn’t very good… But a seemingly endless supply of free books is a pretty nice perk of the gig.

Some stats (more…)

Writing negative reviews

Like many reviewers and bloggers, I read the article from author Kathleen Hale in The Guardian with the perspective of fascinated revulsion (The Digital Reader is just one place you can get some background on this mess). Although she had a few sympathetic authors on her side, most readers of the piece were chilled by the thought that an author might go to such lengths to confront someone who had negatively reviewed her work. I saw many book bloggers around the web had done a blogging blackout as a statement in support of all book bloggers who need to be able to state their own opinions of a book in their own space and not be stalked by crazypants authors.  I read today about the SF blogger reviewer Requires Only That You Hate (again, there are plenty of roundups of this situation, but the tl;dr is that she is a blogger – and apparent some-time troll under another name – who is getting called out for the extreme and hateful rhetoric of her reviews, especially now since she is gaining success as a short story writing under yet another name). The whole bizarre situation made me think. It made me think about the act of reviewing.