29 Sep

Reading Challenge: September 2019

Slow month bookwise, but I made good choices with what scant free time time I had.


Cover of Shiva's Bow by Skyla Dawn CameronSHIVA’S BOW by Skyla Dawn Cameron: I have to start with a first-chapter spoiler that otherwise might make this traumatic and impossible for a lot of people to read. Livi’s not-quite-7-year-old daughter is examined for sexual abuse, but THAT IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED. It’s a different medical issue. She’s safe.

In this fourth novel in the series (yes, you must read the novels in order to appreciate the relationships, though each adventure is self-contained; no, I still don’t believe the novellas are especially relevant to the books), Korean tiger shifter/secret agent Dale West hires supernatural artifact retrieval expert Livi Talbot to go on a mission to Nepal, where some earth-shaking force has knocked the side off a mountain, revealing a temple that has violently repelled everyone else who’s tried to get inside. Livi takes her usual organizational/tech/muscle squad, and West brings in a team of mostly strangers (including another woman who provokes irrational jealousy I could have lived without, but I can forgive it because it’s otherwise so good). They’re racing against a murderous baddie to get to the temple and retrieve a weapon presumed to be therein.

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27 Aug

Reading Challenge: August 2019

Anybody else fed up to here *waves hand far above head* with people who say they were misled by unanimously 5-star reviews for a book that actually had absolutely no redeeming qualities who then immediately say they don’t leave negative reviews because “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” ensuring the unanimously 5-star reviews on the irredeemably awful book remain unchallenged to mislead the next unsuspecting reader? Given a choice between protecting an unprepared writer’s fee-fees and protecting an innocent reader’s time and money, the priority ought to be the reader who deserves better, not the person who published a book and enlisted pals and family to lie about the quality.

(This isn’t about any book listed here, by the way, just general venting. I’m fairly safe since my policy is to never read anything that has no 1-star reviews because, ironically, unanimous praise is a red flag for a shit book no one has actually read. Nothing is universally beloved, and somebody who doesn’t believe coddling the author is the most important thing would say so.)


Cover of N. K. Jemisin's The Killing MoonTHE KILLING MOON by N. K. Jemisin: This is a complex, many-threaded story that doesn’t lend itself well to a quick summary, but here goes. Most of the spotlight falls upon Ehiru, who survived massacre of the royal family as a child only because he’d been claimed by the church for Hananja, goddess of dreams, to become a Gatherer—one who ushers souls through the dream world into the afterlife, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes as the penalty for corruption. Usually by his side is his new apprentice, Najiri, who is deeply in love with and devoted to Ehiru. Najiri’s first observation run as an apprentice is supposed to be Sunandi, a political operative from another kingdom whom Ehiru is told to gather because she’s corrupt, but she appeals to his sense of justice by revealing she’s up to her neck in corruption of another’s making. Surprise, surprise, the church is being used as an assassination service by the palace.

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27 Jul

Reading Challenge: July 2019 (Part 2)

Round two for July!


Cover of Karen Lord's The Best of All Possible WorldsTHE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS by Karen Lord: The story begins with stoic Dllenahkh receiving the news that his home planet is gone and only the few (mostly men) who were off-planet at the time remain. Some time later, a team goes on a mission looking for settlements of refugees with Sadiri lineage who are interested in volunteering for a marriage registry and working to sustain their cultural identity. The story is told mostly from the point of view of bubbly Grace Delarua, a linguist along to translate.

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11 Jul

Reading Challenge: July 2019 (Part 1)

Doing a two-parter again since this post is already approaching 4,000 words not even two weeks into the month.

In this installment, I present to you nonfiction about fiction, four novellas that came in Tor’s Pride bundle of LGBTQIA+ authors, and romance… in… spaaaaaace that reinforced my decision to stay away from romance. It hasn’t been a great month so far, so strap in if you like book bitching, and here’s your warning to click away now if you don’t.


Cover of Damn Fine Story by Chuck WendigDAMN FINE STORY by Chuck Wendig: This is a writing book, and my assessment is colored by the angle from which I’m approaching it as a writer, so bear with me as I blab about me first. I don’t like it any more than you do. Scroll past if you don’t want context.

I’ve been published for 23 years. I’ve read a lot of writing books. I’ve been to a lot of workshops (and helped develop more than a few). I’ve been studying writing nonstop for two and a half decades, picking locks in hope of finding treasure that will help me advance to the next level. A lot of writing advice is absolute shit that no one should ever follow. Some is applicable in such a limited number of circumstances, hardly anyone will ever need it. Most of the good stuff is recycled—which isn’t inherently bad. Delivery matters. One source might be too formal and bore a seeker of knowledge before the point gets through. One might be too informal for another seeker of knowledge to take seriously. My biggest resistance point is rigidity and absolutism because anyone who says their way is the only way is a controlling egomaniac I wouldn’t trust to guide me into the next room. As a result, sometimes you have to hear the same info from three or four or ten different sources before someone says the magic words that make the lightbulb go on in your particular brain. Knowing this, I go into all how-to-write guides with the assumption I’ve already heard everything elsewhere but looking for one little nugget of wisdom presented in a way that illuminates old info I haven’t fully appreciated up to this point.

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25 Jun

Reading Challenge: June 2019

I wasn’t kidding last month about bingeing (binging? I feel like the “e” is necessary for pronunciation, but every reader would probably get it in context without…) on T. Kingfisher and Kelly Barnhill. Despite favorable conditions book-wise, though, I didn’t get a ton of reading done thanks to lots of 16-hour workdays.

I’m not linking to Amazon going forward, since the ~$20/year in affiliate money isn’t worth the stinkface I make every time I run up against their bullshit. (My ad blocker recently began blocking the Amazon-linked book covers and stripped the images from the posts, too, so I took that as a further sign it’s time to sever ties.) Now everybody will be equally inconvenienced having to manually search for books at their preferred stores!


Cover of Kelly Barnhill's The Witch's BoyTHE WITCH’S BOY by Kelly Barnhill: Sister Witch had twin sons who fell into a river. Only one of them could be saved from drowning. The one who survived fell ill with fever. Because she couldn’t bear to lose both of them, she caught the dead twin’s soul and stitched it with magic thread to the ailing twin to strengthen him. That twin, Ned, recovered, but it became difficult for him to speak or read or be around people. His father can’t even look at him, and the villagers call him “the wrong boy”—as in, the wrong boy survived. (Fuck them all very much.)

After Áine’s mother died, her father fell into a deep depression, which breaks only after they’re penniless and facing eviction and he realizes there’s nothing left to lose. He reverts to his premarital banditing ways, stocks up on stolen supplies, and returns to his childhood home in the scary forest with Áine. Then he gets high on a magic amulet and decides to steal the witch’s power, at which point the lives of these children collide. Áine has to help Ned escape from her father, not because she gives a damn about Ned but because if her father gets his hands on that magic, he’ll be further corrupted and she’ll lose him entirely.

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