What I’m Reading: Apex Magazine 121

Banner image of Apex Magazine issue 121 blurred with same cover superimposed on top of it. Text reads "What I'm Reading."

Before you say anything, YES I’ve posted a few of these What I’m Reading posts in a row. I’m in-between reviews at the moment and will have one go up as part of a book tour next week. I also happen to be reading two things at once which is abnormal for me. Anyway, here’s another What I’m Reading post, this one about Apex Magazine issue 121.

Cover of Apex Magazine Issue 122
Apex Magazine Issue 121
Cover Art by Vicki Be Wicked
Cover Design by Justin Stewart

Apex Magazine is a bi-monthly zine that publishes, “short stories filled with marrow and passion, works that are twisted, strange, and beautiful. Creations where secret places and dreams are put on display.” Here’s what they say about their mission…

We strive to entertain you with interesting, diverse, and thought-provoking fiction. Our goal is to challenge your perceptions, rattle your beliefs, and shake you free of the expected path.

We want you to read our content and then afterwards think now that’s only a story you’d find in Apex Magazine.

Apex Magazine Mission Statement

I first discovered Apex Magazine with issue 105 from February 2018 which included Alix E. Harrow’s story “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Short Compendium of Portal Fantasies” which went on to win a Hugo Award. I like to think of Apex as my local zine as it’s kinda based hear in Lexington (or at least this is where its editor-in-chief is from) and that makes me want to support it even more. I picked up a couple more issues in 2018 which I enjoyed but I didn’t become a subscriber because…well because I got lazy. Then in 2019 the magazine went on a hiatus due to some health issues experienced by its editor-in-chief. In 2020 Apex launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to relaunch itself in 2021. I decided to go all in and pledged enough for a subscription to the entire year. This is the first of 6 bi-monthly issues that will be published in 2021.

This issue includes new fiction by Fargo Tbakhi, P. H. Lee, Cassandra Khaw, Alix E. Harrow, Elana Gomel, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor Charles Payseur and as well as other stories by Tonya Liburd and LH Moore. There’s non-fiction by Usman T. Malik, Malka Older, and AC Wise. There’s also interviews of Fargo Tbakhi and P H Lee by Andrea Johnson, and of cover artist Vicki be Wicked.

I’m reading through the issue slowly, one story a week or so and just sort of enjoying it in small doses as I work through my books. So far I’ve read “Root Rot” by Fargo Tbakhi, “Your Own Undoing” by P H Lee, “Love, That Hungry Thing” by Cassandra Khaw, and “Mr. Death” by Alix E. Harrow. I’ve enjoyed them all and absolutely LOVED “Mr. Death.” Click the link for the review. That story broke me and mended me all in the space of a few pages.

I can’t wait to finish issue 121 and eagerly anticipating issue 122 which just had a cover reveal.

Cover of Apex Magazine Issue 122
Apex Magazine Issue 122
Cover art by Thomas Tan
Cover Design by Justin Stewart

I hope to post additional reviews of stories out of Apex. I’d love to do at least one from each issue. We’ll see how it goes. But review or not, I know I’ll get to experience some great short fiction in a zine that in my opinion punches above its weight class. I hope more readers decide to pick up Apex Magazine this year and get to join in the experience.

If you read Apex or have a subscription let me know. I’d love to chat with you about the stories you love, whether they lift you up, break you, or make you ponder what could be.

– Jason

Short Fiction Review: Mr. Death

Banner image of Apex Magazine 121 cover superimposed on top of same cover zoomed in and blurred. With "Short Fiction Review" and "Off The TBR" text added.

I don’t normally review short fiction but I do hope to change that in 2021. Why? Well, because short fiction can be utterly amazing and move you to tears. Some of my new favorite authors are those I first came across because of their short fiction. One of those authors is Alix E. Harrow whose short story “A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Short Compendium of Portal Fantasies” from issue 105 of Apex Magazine won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story.

Harrow has written a number of short stories the last few years and I eat them up. Her latest, “Mr. Death” comes in the recently relaunched Apex Magazine issue 121. For those who don’t know, Apex Magazine went on a hiatus in 2019 due to health issues experienced by its editor-in-chief. After a Kickstarter campaign in 2020 the zine has been relaunched with 6 new issues coming this year. The first issue (no. 121) dropped last week.

Continue reading

Off The TBR’s Best Reads of 2018

Well it’s time for another best of list. You didn’t think the year would end before having to read mine did you? You could skip it I guess…but that would make you a sucky person and you’re not a sucky person right? I mean if you’re really tired of these then go ahead and skip it, but I’m taking the time to compile it so yeah I’d love for you to at least skim for the results and pics.

This was another great year for speculative fiction. Unfortunately for me I didn’t get to read as many as I would have liked and I reviewed even less. You’ve read all my rants and moans about my schedule this year so I won’t rehash it, but I’m disappointed I didn’t get more reviews posted. That being said here’s my “Best Of” list for 2018. This isn’t strictly a best of books published in 2018, but rather the my best reads for the year regardless of publication date.

If I’ve kept an accurate count I read 40+ books so far this year. One was a Beta read that I can’t talk about yet. The first five books in this list are my five star reviews that I actually wrote up. The last six are books that either were a 4.5 – 5.0 most of which were read during a time I didn’t have the bandwidth to post a review. Finally I have a couple of short-stories I fell in love with that I have no choice but to add to my best of list.

And as you scroll down notice how many self-pub/indie books made the list. Yep…I’ve become a fan. Continue reading

Month In Review: June 2018

Month In Review2

Wow is it already July? Half the year has already gone by. That just feels crazy. Well, it’s time for another Month In Review And A Look Ahead, and this one is pretty interesting. To me at least.

June was a pretty spectacular month at Off The TBR and at the same time not much happened. I didn’t post a single book review and I had the best month ever in terms of traffic on the blog along with the single most viewed post I’ve ever had. Now, that isn’t saying much since this little ole blog has only been around since November 2017, but I’m kinda excited about it. Ok…here’s what happened… Continue reading

Still Around…Still Reading…

In case you were wondering, yeah I’m still here. As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my Is The Month Over Yet post things have gotten a little hectic around here. Between the kids’ extra-curricular activities and a crazy busy work schedule that hasn’t calmed down for nearly a month my average night lately has me sitting down to relax somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00 PM. At that point I just don’t have it in me to blog. The weekends haven’t been much better. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not really complaining…well maybe a little…but seriously I enjoy the kids’ stuff and being busy at work is good job security (in theory) so I’m only partially complaining.

Now, I may be too tired to blog, but I’m not too tired to read! Which means I’m starting to get way behind on reviews, not just random posts about anything book related. And I feel really bad about this guys. Most of what I’ve been reading lately are books I’ve either requested, or that have been sent to me by a publisher/publicist (which I agreed to accept)…which means I kinda owe it to them to get the reviews done. The only problem is my best time to write is on the weekend and I will probably be working the next couple of weekends. This sucks. But whatever, it is what it is.

Anyway, below is what I’ve been reading and what I hope to get reviews up about soon.

img_3604Smoke Eaters by Sean Grigsby

Dragons VS Firefighters. Need I say anything else? I really enjoyed this one. Fun sci-fi/fantasy mash-up with hints of Ghostbusters. If you don’t want to wait for the review just know that I really liked it and think you will too. Unless you don’t like dragons or firefighters, or ghostbusters…but then you’d just be weird.

 

 

img_3605-1The Song Of All by Tina LeCount Myers

Fantasy in a Scandinavian setting. Have I ever told you how much I like snow? I kinda love it. This book actually hit on a bunch of my reading goals for the year. Debut author…check. Non-western European setting…check. Independent/small press or self-published author…check. Books with snow…check. OK that last one wasn’t on the list but c’mon. I even ended up with an extra copy of this one and held my first book giveaway. The problem was I didn’t really like it. I’m still trying to figure out why and how I want to review it. Like is it just not for me or something else? Stay tuned…

IMG_3798.jpgApex Magazine: February 2018 Issue

One of my goals this year is to read more short fiction. One solution to that has been to buy more short story collections in book format. The other solution I hit upon…crazy I know…was reading some sci-fi/fantasy magazines. Then two things happened. I discovered Apex is published right here in Lexington, and I read one of the short stories for the month and absolutely loved it. So I bought the issue. This will be my first review of a magazine and I’m kind of excited about the different format.

img_3599Gedlund: A Tale Of The Verin Empire by William Ray

This is my current read and I’m about half-way through. So far I’m loving it. It’s blackpowder fantasy (which I thoroughly enjoy) with goblins, elves, and the undead. yeah.

Ray has also done his homework when it comes to some of the details of 19th century army life and it gives me all the feels. In a previous life I was a re-enactor (story for another day) and as I read I’m like “that! exactly that!” Ah memories. Anyway I’m really looking forward to the second half of the book.

Well that’s it for now. I’m gonna try really hard to get a new review up sometime in the next week.  But then again I had said I wanted to get one posted last weekend and it didn’t happen. We’ll see. In the meantime happy reading, and let me know what you’ve been enjoying lately.