Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne

I received this book for free from NetGalley, Purchased in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: A Plague of Giants by Kevin HearneA Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne
Published by Random House Publishing Group on October 17th 2017
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal
Pages: 640
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley, Purchased
Goodreads
four-half-stars

So I received an eARC of this book from Netgalley, and then ended up with a(n annotated by the author) hardcover copy when I subscribed to PageHabit. The annotated copy was quite interesting, and I’m glad that I waited until after I finished the book before reading those.

I really don’t know what to say about this book except it was practically perfect. I’m only giving it 4.5 stars so that the series has some room to grow. It is a brutal book. It deals with an invasion and war, after all. I say war, but that war really begins with several massacres and while they’re not gratuitous, there is no guarantee in this novel that your favorite character(s) won’t end up dead. In fact, if this first volume is any indication, they probably will.

An aside (not actual spoilers): View Spoiler »

More than war, though, is that this book deals with the effects of war on ordinary people. You see all the different responses to horror and loss that one would see in real life – when one is so unlucky as to encounter it. The characters run the gamut in their responses to trauma and grief, and this book holds them up to the light and turns them about in interesting ways.

I think this book is a sign of the times. I think dealing with the aftereffects of horror and war and grieving for loved ones taken far too soon is something a lot of us are worrying about these days.

This isn’t a happy book. It’s not a depressing one either. Reading these characters’ stories gives me hope, and strength. I am very much looking forward to the next one.

Purchase your copy here [affiliate link].

four-half-stars

What I’ve Read So Far in 2017

  1. The Broken Earth  by NK Jemisin 5 Stars
    • I would give this series 7 stars if I could.
  2. Girl Over Paris #1 by Kate Leth/Ming Doyle/Gwenda Bond 4 Stars
    • I liked it. Great art. Need to get back to the rest of it.
  3. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman 4 Stars
    • It’s Neil-Freaking-Gaiman.
  4. The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe 4 Stars
    • Loved these as a kid & I’ve been re-reading them. They still capture me.
  5. Mirabile by Janet Kagan 4 Stars
    • Actually a series of short stories. Funny & compelling.
  6. Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine 3.5 Stars
    • An interesting premise, but the narrator is unlikable. Will read the rest eventually.
  7. Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings 5 Stars
    • Has it’s issues, but this is a childhood favorite. I re-read it for a gender-flipped retelling I’m writing to amuse myself with.
  8. Nighty-Nightmare by James Howe 4 Stars
  9. Acorna’s People by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Anne Scarborough 3.5 Stars
    • I take issue with the “Every Woman MUST Reproduce” narrative in ALL of McCaffrey’s writing. But damned if I won’t admit that she writes a good story.
  10. Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars
    • A beautiful, lyrical, cautionary tale of suicide and ghosts. Also, can be abbreviated to DoDoDoD (I’m pronouncing it doo doo dodd), which provides me endless entertainment.
  11. Return to Howliday Inn by James Howe 4 Stars
  12. Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flwelling 4.5 Stars
    • A fantasy world where all* sexualities are shown as valid. Heroes are bisexual — though the author doesn’t use the B word. *The only maybe-ace individual in the book isn’t outright named as such, and there’s a tiresome bit about how she’s in looooove but they can’t be together because no sex. Or something. In between everyone figuring out their sexy feelings, there are some damned good female secondary characters, a matriarchal monarchy, and a decent start to a hero’s journey tale.
  13. The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe (DNF) 2 Stars
    • I’ve met Alex at Jordancon and he seemed like a decent enough guy, but after the 4th brutal death of a female character in 1.25 books, I decided this series isn’t for me. YMMV.
  14. Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone 3.5 Stars
    • I give this entire series 4 1/2 stars. I love mad gods and monsters and the humans trying to rebuild the world around them.
  15. Stalking Darkness by Lynn Flwelling 4 Stars
    • Book 2 in series above. Also good. Wishing there was a female narrator. Sigh.
  16. Rebel Flight by Mindy Klasky 3.5 Stars
    • Won this from LibraryThing! Seems like a really short book (novella?), and it’s a YA tale, but I really liked it. Part of a series.
  17. Bunnicula Strikes Again by James Howe 4 Stars
    • No one will ever drain my love for Bunnicula, okay? (Get it?)
  18. Conspiracy of Ravens by Lila Bowen 5 Stars
    • Transgender biracial cowboy in a fantastical Old West. I almost cheered at the moment when Rhett’s pronouns changed. (It was night. It would have been rude.)
  19. Curse on the Land by Faith Hunter 4 Stars
    • I like this series even better than Jane Yellowrock (sorry, Jane).
  20. Magic for Nothing by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars
    • I went into this book not wanting to like Annie because Verity is my favorite girl. By the end, I was cheering (and weeping) for her. If you haven’t picked up this series, I have to question your intelligence.
  21. Etched in Bone by Anne Bishop 4.5 Stars
    • Still has that icky self-harm theme running through it, and I’m still not sure she’s doing anything constructive with it. But *dammit*, I love this world.
  22. The Cold Eye by Laura Anne Gilman 4 Stars
    • Man, is Isobel in over her head. I have a tendency to mix up Bowen’s & Gilman’s worlds because the 1st volumes came out around the same time. Not since the 2016 elections have I worried so much about America’s ill-intentions. (Naw. I’ve been worrying this whole time. But that’s another article.)
  23. First Test by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
    • Can you believe I haven’t read all of Tamora Pierce’s work yet? I’m ashamed.
  24. Power Lines by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Anne Scarborough 3 Stars
    • This series shouldn’t make any sense. Sentient planet? Seal shape-shifters? A whole world with *gasp!* NO ELECTRICITY?!? I’m in the middle of the sequel anyway.
  25. The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch 4 Stars
    • I feel like this series is moving So. Slowly. Would like it to be a TV show so I can binge watch, pls.
  26. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs (DNF)
    • I knew this was popular but had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it up because I hadn’t heard much of the story. The 4th time I fell asleep before the time-traveling even started was when I gave up. No rating.
  27. Acorna’s World by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Anne Scarborough 3.5 Stars
    • Why do I like this series so much? Pacifist bipedal unicorn people and giant evil bugs make literally no sense. (And why are insects always your villains, Anne? Isn’t human evil enough of a big bad for you?? It certainly is for me.)
  28. Johannes Cabal: The Fear Institute by Jonathan L Howard 4 Stars
    • Johannes Cabal is a bad guy. He’s a bad guy with a pretty standard supervillain origin story, actually. If I think too much about this, I would probably feel like I shouldn’t read it. So I’m not going to, because I like the steam-punk-y world.
  29. The Warrior’s Apprentice by Lois McMaster Bujold 3.5 Stars
    • Someone tried to get me to put down this series (written by a woman) to read Honor Harrington (written by a man). This individual tried to persuade me by saying Weber’s work was “more feminist”. So I’m continuing this series 75% for spite.
  30. Power Play by Anne McCaffrey – CURRENT READING!

 

You may notice that not many of these books are brand new. This is because I probably have 2,000 books on my TBR shelf (virtually, thank goddess, because I’m not sure where I’d put them otherwise.) If there are any immortals out there willing to share their secrets, I could really use the reading time. Thanks.

NEW American Gods Edition

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

NEW American Gods EditionAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman
Published by HarperCollins on March 28th 2017
Genres: Action & Adventure, Contemporary, Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy, Fiction
Pages: 576
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars
Now a STARZ® Original Series produced by FremantleMedia North America starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, and Pablo Schreiber.Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself. Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. Soon Shadow learns that the past never dies . . . and that beneath the placid surface of everyday life a storm is brewing—an epic war for the very soul of America—and that he is standing squarely in its path. “Mystery, satire, sex, horror, poetic prose—American Gods uses all these to keep the reader turning the pages.”—Washington Post

 

If you need me to tell you that this book is by Neil Gaiman, well… You should just go pick this up and read it, and never tell a soul you’d never heard of him before.

I’m a bit late in posting this, but I was so thrilled when this book from HarperCollins showed up on my doorstep unexpectedly that I had to get something put up. Even if the process of mailing — as usual — beat the thing all to Hell. Is it somehow fitting that the bends and rips in the cover give testament to the book’s journey across American soil, so similar to the plot? Eh. How am  I supposed to know? I just work here.

What I do know is that this is quite a nice paperback edition, with the author’s preferred text. Since I’ve read the book before, but not the preferred text, I look forward to a re-read. I suggest you do the same.

four-half-stars

It’s Time to Save the World

Hello from 2017, and holy shit, has the world gotten pretty bad since Jan. 20th, hasn’t it?

First of all: YES, this is bad. This isn’t normal. We are not just being overly dramatic here. Even if you are middle-class and white and think that none of this will affect you — yes, it will. Also, stop being a selfish chump, okay?

Let’s recap the last week:

First of all, our current “leadership” has moved forward with repealing the ACA, and has already started making lists of people who “don’t deserve” to have it replaced. (Not that they have a plan to replace anything anyway.)

They’ve threatened to send the military against citizens of one of our own US cities over exaggerated and untrue claims of crime stats that don’t exist. The Superintendent of the Chicago Police literally said, “I have no idea what he’s talking about.”

Let’s not forget to mention that after the Jan. 21st Women’s March(es) on all seven continents, they still proceeded with their plan to punish and directly or indirectly cause the deaths of women seeking safe, legal healthcare, both domestically and around the world.

This is on top of the fact that one of the top advisors is a white supremacist who has gleefully gone on-record as wanting to “destroy the state” and “today’s establishment”. And this guy now has access to our National Security Council. I have to say — I don’t feel very secure!

But if that wasn’t enough, they also want to build a useless wall and starve our families and friends. Or that pesky little executive order from yesterday that’s already been blocked (but the fight’s not over yet).

Protest sign that says: "First they came for the muslims and we said not today motherfucker."
Photo from: https://twitter.com/amyharvard_/status/825593307229278208

This is NOT OKAY.

Yes, this blog has historically done book reviews. If you’re about to message me and tell me to keep my political opinions to myself?

First of all: fuck you. Second of all: THIS IS WHAT I’VE BEEN PREPARING MY WHOLE LIFE FOR, MOTHER FUCKER.

Did you think I’d spent hours as a kid searching Goodwill for a real-life copy of So You Want to Be a Wizard? so that I could sit back and let this shit happen? Did I check the back of every closet I came to for a door to Narnia to not go in? Bullshit. Ever since Ce’Nedra fought for her armor and jumped on a horse with all of the West at her back, I’ve been preparing for this. The purpose of supernatural power is to use it to defend the defenseless. That’s what we need now.

If you’ve ever said something along the lines of, “I’d never let that happen…” about Germany in the 1930’s? THIS IS YOUR TIME. Put up or shut up time, kiddies. And if you’re sitting there reading this and thinking, “That could never happen. She’s being melodramatic”? You’re part of the problem. I’d like to say I don’t care how you voted, but I do. If you voted for this shit, or abstained from voting against this shit, you have betrayed everything the women in novels from The Wheel of Time to Discworld to a hundred others have tried to teach us. I’m ashamed of you. But there’s also time for forgiveness. I’m putting my hand out. Help carry this bag of Cheetos to Mordor and we’ll throw it in the goddamn volcano together.

So what do we do to stop this?

First of all: be the kindness you’d like to see in the world. That doesn’t mean be a doormat. You should still stand up, speak out, and punch Nazis. Compliment someone. Smile on the street — especially if it’s at a person of color. They need our support right now. Buy small gifts for those you love. Bake cookies. Recharge. Put on your own oxygen mask first.

Donate to the ACLU or Planned Parenthood, if you can. Volunteer if you can. Voice support if you can’t do anything else. These organizations are fighting for us, and they also need our support.

Go to a march. I’m seeing signs that they’re planning one for scientists and another for LGTQBIA+ folk. Watch. Listen. Be vigilant. If you can’t march, voice support for those who do. Knit a hat.

If you want more to read or to do, check out the following resources:

Indivisible

Resistance Manual

Digital Security for Protestors (EFF)

5Calls.org

Be safe, and know that you are loved and valued.

Work. Fight. Resist. Persist. Rest. Repeat.

We can do this together.

What I’ve Read in 2016 (Micro Reviews!)

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction, Technological, Thrillers, Urban

Well, it’s been a while, but let’s not bother with excuses. Let’s just take a look at what I’ve managed to read in 2016, shall we?

Note: This post will include affiliate links.
  1. Chapelwood by Cherie Priest 4 Stars(Buy).

    • Lizzie Borden novel. The last? Very good horror, and I don’t even like much horror.
  2. Lyon’s Pride by Anne McCaffrey (re-read) 4 Stars
    • This read-thru I was bothered a lot more by the “a woman is more valuable as brood mare” themes in this series. Blech.
  3. Wake of Vultures by Lila Bown 4.5 Stars (Buy)

    • Genderfluid(?)/Trans cowboy with magic in the Old West. (The character doesn’t know the modern words & doesn’t label themself so it’s hard to know what word to use.) I read this one and Laura Anne Gilman’s Silver on the Road close to each other, so they’re kind of twisted together in my head even though they’re Totally Different other than being Old West themed.
  4. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Would have probably been better in print given the formatting, but was a surprise win for me. This convinced me to read A Lot More Science Fiction this year.
  5. The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s Jim Butcher, of course it’s great. Looking forward to more world-building.
  6. Back Lash by Devon Monk 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • If you love Shame & Terric, you’ll love this. If you haven’t met Shame & Terric yet, go read the Allie Beckstrom series.
  7. A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark  by Harry Connolly 2.5 Stars (Buy)

    • Elderly protagonist FTW!
  8. The Circle Opens: Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
    • Realized I’d never read any Pierce beyond Alanna, so I’m rectifying that.
  9. The Circle Opens: Street Magic by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  10. The Circle Opens: Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  11. The Circle Opens: Shatterglass by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  12. Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars(Buy)
    • Seanan is as solidly wonderful as Jim Butcher always is, in different ways.
  13. Snake in the Glass by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
    • Did I mention these are FREE??
  14. Swamp Bromeliad by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
  15. The Way Home by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
  16. The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe (re-read) 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I needed to read Daughter of the Blood because of having an ARC but had no idea where the story had ended.
  17. The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe (re-read) 3.5 Stars
  18. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (nonfiction) 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Completely worth being the only nonfiction I’ve read this year. Also, hilarious.
  19. Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly 2 Stars
    • Middle aged female narrator!
  20. Daughter of the Blood by Helen Lowe 4 Stars
  21. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (review copy) 1.5 Stars(Buy)
    • This book was… not that great, in my opinion. I hate when folks try to do “it has magic but it’s still LITRACHURE”. But I’m also very Anti-Apocalypse stories. I find them bleak. YMMV.
  22. Kin by Lilith Saintcrow 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Go back & read the whole trilogy; there’s one for Snow White, Cinderella, and Red. About the various ways abuse marks us forever, and the ways we rise through the muck.
  23. Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop 4 Stars(Buy)
    • TW: Self Harm. Still a little weirded out by this whole cutting business, honestly, but it’s a GOOD story. Bishop has a history of being gratuitous anyway, in my opinion. YMMV.
  24. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold 2.5 Stars
    • I was amazed by how many old-school Sci-Fi I’ve missed. Bujold’s science fiction is as solid as her fantasy. Some of this book is now in Trope Territory, but can I really hold that against it when it’s taken me this long? SOMETHING set the trope, after all.
  25. Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Content warning here for drug use. Readers who haven’t been That Low may not get Chess. (I didn’t at first but it was because I didn’t want to.)
  26. Burned by Benedict Jacka 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Is it insulting to call this ‘discount Harry Dresden’? It’s not meant as an insult, believe me. I really like this series.
  27. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I loved this but also it broke me a little. As I have very little sense of my own ancestors or what the hell my inherited culture should even be, I put this down feeling sad. IMO, this is the #1 reason you should Read This.
  28. The Root by Na’Amen Gobert Tilahun 2.5 Stars(Buy)
    • This was a highly, highly interesting premise with a sort of not stellar execution. I’d still be willing to read sequels, though.
  29. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Women with agency in the Old West! Prostitutes even! Who knew? (Also a black US marshall, ok, read this.)
  30. Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Basic love-triangle YA fantasy with the added bonus of showing us all what living under a murderous dictator is going to look like. Ho ho ho!
  31. San Diego 2014: Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (novella) 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I’m not even a Browncoat but this story got me right in the feels.
  32. Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter 4 Stars (Buy)
  33. The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler 2 Stars(Buy)
    • I think sequels to this would be rated higher, the first one was a lot of Protagonist Being Clueless.
  34. Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger (novella) 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s a sexy story, okay? A girl’s got needs.
  35. Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Just. Frickin’. Read. It.
  36. The Tower & the Hive by Anne McCaffrey (re-read) 3.5 Stars
  37. Citadel of the Sky by Chrysoula Tzavelas 2.5 Stars(Buy)
    • I can’t really explain it, okay? But it’s a good read if you like fantasy that’s not of the warrior/elf/bard/dwarf type.
  38. Acorna: The Unicorn Girl by Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Ball 3 Stars
    • Okay so this is a Wee Bit patronizing, but I like Acorna so I’ll eventually be finishing the series.
  39. Imprudence by Gail Carriger 5 Stars(Buy)
    • I love Prudence almost as much as I love Sophronia, okay? READ.
  40. Wicked as They Come by Delilah Dawson 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Worth it for the bludbunnies.
  41. The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • ZOMG
  42. The Circle Reforged: The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce 3 Stars
  43. The Circle Reforged: Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  44. Petaybee: Powers that Be by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough3 Stars
    • I’m still not sure how I feel about this.
  45. Six Gun Snow White by Cat Valente (DNF) 1 Stars(Buy)
    • I wanted to like this so much I kept reading to the point where I kind of hate it now. But it’s lyrical and beautiful and I’m pretty sure recommended by Neil Gaiman so you should at least TRY to like it.
  46. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • WHAT is this world?! I like it! More, please.
  47. Ghostbusters (2016) novelization by Nancy Holder 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Ladybusters are MY Ghostbusters and haters & trolls can fuck right off. Kthxbye.
  48. Staked by Kevin Hearne 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • OBERON!
  49. Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars(Buy)
  50. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett 3.5 Stars
    • Rincewind honestly isn’t my favorite wizard. But Equal Rites made everything better.
  51. Acorna’s Quest by Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Ball 3.5 Stars
  52. The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes 3 Stars(Buy)
    • A really good twist on the “troupe” fantasy à la Final Fantasy or Dragonlance. But also I pretty much disliked every single one of the narrators on a personal level, too, so there’s that.
  53. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie 4 Stars(Buy)
    • This won awards for a damn reason.
  54. Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan 3.5 Stars
  55. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett 4 Stars
  56. Tainted Blood by ML Brennan 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • I don’t know why I like this so much because it’s basically weird-creature-of-the-week urban fantasy and that’s been done before but dammit if I don’t really like this anyway.
  57. Star Wars: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig 4 Stars(Buy)
    • GAY STAR WARS! STAR WARS IS GAY NOW! Get over it.
  58. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold 3.5 Stars
  59. The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (current reading) (Buy)
    • I’m still reading this so I’m not gonna rate it yet but daaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

Review: Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Blood of the Earth by Faith HunterBlood of the Earth by Faith Hunter
Series:
Published by Penguin Publishing Group on August 2nd 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Paranormal, Urban
Pages: 384
Format: eBook
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars
Set in the same world as the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, an all-new series starring Nell Ingram, who wields powers as old as the earth. When Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her. Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville. Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…

Releasing today, this is a second series in Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock universe. The only problem I had with this book is that I’m at least 3 books behind on the JY series (soo many books to read!) and so I spent the whole book thinking that this series was a prequel to Jane’s story and kept trying to figure out how it fit together. I’m still not sure whether it is or not, because I like to get my thoughts on paper before I start reading too much information about the book.

Not having been in an actual cult, but having grown up around a Southern Baptist church, I believe the author has done a really good job here of depicting the kind of misogyny that can breed in an evangelical, uber-religious setting while also being careful not to paint everyone involved as either evil or stupid. Don’t get me wrong! There’s certainly some evil in the book! Our protagonist needs something to fight against. But the people are also fully realized and not at all one-dimensional. View Spoiler » in particular are depicted as being good people who have some less-than-mainstream beliefs but are trying to do the best they can with what they have — including with their cultural history and the way that they’ve been raised.

Nell’s powers are mysteriously powerful… She spends most of the book unsure of how to use them or where they come from but always manages to instinctively save the day. I didn’t mind that because I enjoyed Nell’s interaction with the PsyLED team so much. It would feel fake to complain about how powerful Nell is in a book that has vampires and werecats and magic. It makes sense within the world, and her power is balanced by what is effectively PTSD from her upbringing. Nell is a lonely, solitary woman, and I loved seeing her being forced out of her self and into the world.

All in all, an entertaining read that doesn’t make you think too hard, and — given my lack of keeping up with Jane  — there’s no need to have read anything else first. This is an excellent jumping on point for someone who doesn’t want to commit to Hunter’s extensive Jane series.

four-stars

What I’ve Been Up To

My attempt at making tiny clay animals led to my purchasing some acrylic paints. A sale at Michael’s led to… Well. This.

image

I’m rather proud of this one, although it’s not finished. It got too wet, so I’m taking a break for it to dry some. A really cool bit is that I had some glow in the dark paint I used on the moon.

This next one I’m less proud of, but it was actually my first one, so not bad for a first try, I guess?

image

Both of these were painted along with/inspired by some tutorials I found on YouTube channel called Pandemonium Art Videos.

It was a bit harder for me, since my canvas is 5″x7″ and they tend to work on 12″x16″, but I made it through. Think I need a better quality of paint, though.

What have you all been up to lately?

Black Friday Madness {Gift Offer Inside}

It’s that time of year again. Where we celebrate the obliteration of an entire continent of cultures by gorging on food and pretending to be thankful for our drunken familial arguments over politics and religion and then wake up hellishly early the following morning in an orgiastic display of America’s One True Religion: Capitalism.

Let me be clear, I don’t have a problem with people celebrating Thanksgiving. I think we should be thankful. I think it should be every day, but I’ll take 1 day a year over none. What I don’t appreciate is Black Friday. I don’t appreciate being told that I need to show my love for family and friends with dollar signs. I don’t appreciate the encroachment of commerce into one of the only days of the year that retail & service industry workers — including members of my own family — were guaranteed to have off from their labor.

I was willing to stay home on Friday and be quiet about it, but these “early Black Friday”, “forcing people to skip dinner with their families”, Thursday sales are bullshit. ESPECIALLY when your workers aren’t getting holiday pay. (YES, I’m looking at YOU, McDonald’s franchise my mother works for!)

So to all of this I say, fuck it. Fuck Black Friday, fuck forcing low income workers to work on one of the few days they were previously guaranteed a rest, fuck commerce, fuck all of it. I’m not doing it. I urge all of you not to do it either.

I’m going to be away from a computer when this posts, but here is my counter offer: if you’re going to give gifts this holiday season, make them. If you can’t make them, support small businesses and artists by making your purchases next week.

For those of you who are thinking, “I’d love to get a person I love a gift this season, but I can’t afford it.” Or maybe, “I don’t have anyone who’ll be getting ME a gift this year, and that makes me sad.” For those people, I have a counter-counter offer.

Let me help. I’ve donated to Worldbuilders this year, but I want to do more. I want to, but I’m no Patrick Rothfuss. I don’t have a NYTimes best-seller to my name to rate me celebrity friends to help and bigger clout. So I’m going to start small, but I’m going to do what I can.

If you know someone who could use a gift this season, let me know in the comments. Maybe you know someone who could use getting a package in the mail to make them smile. Maybe that someone is you. Tell me.

Obviously, you need to be willing to share your mailing address with me in order to participate. I’m in the US and don’t have a budget for international postage, but I’m hoping more people will chime in wanting to give.

Here’s what I have on offer: a few books of the SF/UF/F variety that are gently used to send to someone who will love them. I’m a crafter who sews and works in polymer clay. I’m still learning at both of those things, but I’m willing to share what I have. I like to make wallets and bags, and tiny strange creatures in clay. I can’t promise the seams will all be straight or the creatures won’t have lumps and bumps. But it’ll be a promise, from me to you, that I care. That I’m thinking of you. Even if I don’t know you.

These are a few things I’ve made in the past.

There are no strings attached to this offer. I’m not sure if/how I’m going to do international packages but I could probably manage a letter if nothing else. I’d prefer people who sign up be truly in need, but I don’t have any way to check up on that. So if you tell me you need it, I’ll believe you. I’ll do what I can.  I’d also like it if people who are able could also offer to help send someone else a gift. Otherwise, I’ll try to fulfill as many as possible myself.

If you’re interested, leave me a message in the comments about why you feel you (or your friend) could use a gift. Tell me a little about the things you like. Then fill out the form with your personal info.

If the form doesn’t show up below, click this link to reach it directly.

Review: Zer0es by Chuck Wendig

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Zer0es by Chuck WendigZeroes by Chuck Wendig
Published by HarperCollins on August 18th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Political, Science Fiction, Technological, Thrillers
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-stars
Five hackers—an Anonymous-style rabble-rouser, an Arab Spring hacktivist, a black-hat hacker, an old-school cipherpunk, and an online troll—are detained by the U.S. government, forced to work as white-hat hackers for Uncle Sam in order to avoid federal prison. At a secret complex known only as "the Lodge," where they will spend the next year working as an elite cyber-espionage team, these misfits dub themselves "the Zeroes."But once the Zeroes begin to work, they uncover secrets that would make even the most dedicated conspiracy theorist's head spin. And soon they're not just trying to serve their time, they're also trying to perform the ultimate hack: burrowing deep into the U.S. government from the inside, and hoping they'll get out alive. Packed with electric wit and breakneck plot twists, Zer0es is an unforgettable thrill ride through the seedy underbelly of "progress."

Cross Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother with The Matrix, add a dash of I, Robot and you’ll have the plot of Zeroes. The scariest part of this book is how absolutely plausible the scenario is. Perhaps the technology isn’t quite ready yet, but with NSA spying, Citizens United, and all the other craziness going on in our government over the last couple of presidencies, it’s not really all that far-fetched to think about the kind of shadowy conspiracies that could be happening behind the scenes. Which is why I usually avoid this type of book. Our world is getting dystopian enough in real life, I don’t need it in my fiction too.

Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t recommend this book to folks who disagree with that need. Written in Wendig’s signature third person present, this book vibrates with intensity. Which is hard to do when half of it involves the main characters sitting around in front of computers. Far less technical than Doctorow’s Little Brother, you won’t need to know much about computers here.

I’ll be honest — this is no Miriam Black book. None of the characters here have Miriam’s dark anti-heroic charisma. These are just regular, flawed, unextraordinary people. The “Anonymous-style rabble rouser” is a loser hick whose best tricks are all social engineering and who’s exposing rapists in order to make up for high school inaction that resulted in a girl’s suicide. The “Arab spring hactivist” acts self-righteous because her hacking skills are being used as political leverage for the oppressed. (Not that she’s wrong, just that she gets annoying about it.) The old school cipherpunk is a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist and doomsday “prepper”.

I’ll admit to having a soft spot for the “black hat hacker”, who was just trying to buy his mom a house when the SWAT team burst in and arrested him. Sure, he was purchasing it with the ill-gotten gains of a credit card skimming scam, but since he was the most Leverage-like of a crew which has been compared to the Leverage team, I might be a little prejudiced. I always liked Hardison the best. (Just a note: this book is, in my opinion, only by the barest of margins comparable to Leverage. They seem almost totally different in both character and operation to me.)

I liked the troll the least. I will always like the trolls the least. Wendig does a good job of humanizing her with her own checkered past, and she does have a redemption arc of her own. But she’s also the worst kind of mean girl — humiliating and tearing down other people to make herself feel better. She even uses the old troll victim-blaming logic: if they didn’t want their secrets being found, they shouldn’t be stupid enough to have them in the first place. The sick sense of superiority is palpable.

I always feel like if the characters are real enough for me to dislike, then the author has done their job. None of the characters in this novel are heroes. They are ordinary people, with skills that anyone could learn, whose bad choices lead them almost by accident to discover a conspiracy. They step up to fight the conspiracy not out of any real heroism, but more out of self-preservation. Most of them aren’t even particularly likable, but they don’t have to be. In the end, it doesn’t matter why they stepped up — only that they did. Ordinary people, people who were convinced they were screw ups or criminals or just lesser in every way, who took a breath, grabbed hold of their courage, and fought back.

With the Hugo awards being announced the night prior to my writing this, the lesson becomes more powerful. Little people, ordinary people — screw ups and rejects and weirdos, like we all think that we are — when we join together, we can make a difference. We can save the world.

four-stars