Showing posts from 2017

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : II. Of Aulë and Yavanna

Valanar to me seems almost a Garden of Eden, but Ilúvatar proves rather more benevolent than Yahweh.  Rather than a forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge we have the creation of life.  Which by Christian standards and morals strikes me like the larger transgression.  So Aulë so desired Children to pass on his knowledge to that he formed the Dwarves, and Ilúvatar shows compassion in the face of Aulë's demonstrated humility, awarding the Dwarves a place in the world.  Even if that place comes after a long hibernation so that the Elves can still be the First.  I guess the crime in Eden could be considered Pride, a sin Aulë debased himself against.

The Seven Father of the Dwarves are laid to rest, to reawaken once the children of Ilúvatar come forth.  Perhaps most interestingly is the Dwarven belief of the afterlife, where they go to their maker's halls, and to serve beside im in the remaking of the world after the Last Battle.  While clearly different, it brings to mind Valh…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : I. Of the Beginning of Days

In the early days, while the world was still being formed, a powerful spirit came to the aid of the Valar against Melkor, driving him off with his "wrath and laughter."  And thus did Tulkas the Strong come to reside among he Valar and become one of their number.  It also earned him the life-long enmity of Melkor, but let's be honest if you can face down Melkor, earning his enmity isn't exactly a huge surprise or challenge.

Melkor's retreat to regroup and fortify gives everyone else some breathing room, and the Valar take it as an opportunity to tend to the world and bring life and beauty to it.  Two mightly lamps are built, blessed, and set to the North and South (Illuin and Ormal), spreading light across the land.

Then after their labors, they celebrated and rested.  Since no one bothered dealing with Melkor in this time, well, we know where this is going.  While the Valar shaped the world, Melkor was seeding spies among the ranks.  As his stronghold grew in siz…

[Book Review] The Blind Assassin

The Blind Assassin / Margaret Atwood

I really wanted to do some Atwood, and while much of what she writes is regular literary fiction, some of it does fit within SF/F, or general Speculative Fiction.  I made a deliberate choice not to do The Handmaid's Tale (instead choosing The Core of the Sun), and I didn't really feel like re-reading Oryx and Crake, or using the second book in the series as a book club pick.  So, I stumbled across The Blind Assassin which teased of a historical fiction with a science fiction story intertwined.  So there we go, a June read.

Yeah, I'm writing the review in August.  It took me a bit to get through this one.

I've come to discover that with most of Atwood's novels the first half tends to slog for me, then somewhere around halfway through they pick up and suddenly become significantly more interesting.  That definitely proved true here, at least for my experience.  The "science fiction story" was less than I was hoping for …

Silmarillion Blues : Valaquenta

In which the Elves (Eldar) tell us about the Valar and Maiar.

Remember last week when I paraphrased a Bible verse?  Well, we get some Book of Genesis here.

In the beginning... Iluvatar created the Ainur, who made his Music and set forth to fulfill the visions of Earth and Iluvatar's beings within.  Which, we've already covered, so let's keep going into the nitty gritty of pantheons and numerology.  Or at least lightly brush up against them.

Of the Valar, the "angels" and the Ainur on Earth we go from less exciting "beings without sex but their own gender determination" to two nicely matched sets of seven Lords and seven Queens (plus Melkor of whom they don't like to speak).  The Ainur are often viewed as gods, and are at the very least, the intermediaries that are most likely to have any impact on one's life.  They preside over different areas of the Earth, in a manner familiar to Greek mythology, including Manwe and Varda residing in halls in t…

August Read: A Canticle for Leibowitz

Waiting for this one to come in via ILL.

I went back and forth on whether or not to include this one.  Some descriptions sound amazing, others I shy away from.  Now that I'm about to dive in and flipping through some more detailed summaries, I'm pretty sure this is a book I need to read, and not just because it's considered a seminal piece of speculative fiction.  My worry now is that it won't live up to my expectations.

The book starts out hundreds of years after a nuclear war, the fall out of which was beyond the immediate cost of life, nuclear contamination, and environmental destruction, but extended to a rejection of intellectual growth and invention.  Leibowitz smuggles, archives, and protects what he can, and the basis of his work later becomes a monastic order, and even further in the future we see it in the face of another nuclear war.

This will not be a light happy read.  That's OK, I deliberately chose light fare for July, and there's a value to well…

[Book Review] Old Man's War

Old Man's War / John Scalzi

July has proven to be a horrible month for me, so I went for a light read as the Virtual Speculation pick.  Old Man's War is a light military SF read, written in a similar tradition of Starship Troopers, but it also manages to act as both a tribute and satire.

In general I enjoy Scalzi's work.  Fun, light reads, and he's proven to be a pretty good person as well.  This is the second Scalzi read I've done, the first being Lock-In (which I've still failed to post an actual review of).  I've also met Scalzi several times, the last time being several months ago where, as the inscription on my copy of Old Man's War indicates, I brought brownies to the author event.  In case you were wondering, it was a giant star brownie.  Sadly, I was trying a new recipe for making them from scratch, and it was not my best baking result.  (Sorry, John).

I ended up sitting down and reading the book in three days.  It would have been fewer, but I re…

Silmarillion Blues : Ainulindalë

In the beginning was the Song, and the Song was with Ilúvatar, and the Song was Illúvatar.

Please forgive me the paraphrasing, and regardless of my atheist status, no disrespect is intended.

The thing is, I cannot read Ainulindalë without thinking of the Bible.  This is going to sound super weird, but I used to read the Bible in church because I was bored out of my mind during the sermon.  Plus one of my college English classes did some readings so I have an Oxford Study Bible living on my shelves with all my folklore, religion, and mythology texts.  I find study of religion, myths, and folklore fascinating, and I don't separate out popular modern religion from those of days past.

Instead, the above paraphrasing is a deliberate invoking of a well known Bible verse to draw attention to mythology parallels within Middle Earth.  And we see many parallels, from the angelic chorus, to the creation of a world for peoples with Free Will, and to the dissension and fall of the greatest of …

Valerian from Page to Screen

On a whim (and due to a complete implosion of plans for D&D today), I ended up catching Valerian, which timed nicely with the fact that I borrowed Valerian, Vol 1: The New Future Trilogy from my library to read.

Right off the bat I have to say the movie is utterly gorgeous.  Absolutely breathtaking, with moments of travel that I think if I watched in 3D or IMAX I'd end up trying to fall out of my chair.  Some of the aesthetics and feel look like the work of the Wachowskis.  Overall, a fun, consistent story, if a bit heavy on the romance.  Though I'm forced to ignore the implications of all the structural damage inflicted.

I started out a bit hesitant.  The trailers made me think the film was some hot new YA series, and I had stumbled across a few reviews saying the movie lacked in substance.  That our first interactions with Valerian and Laureline involves heavy flirtation and a clear statement of romantic intent on Valerian's part increased my wariness.  But you …

Silmarillion Blues

We're about to kick off a pretty intense leg of this journey, diving into The Silmarillion.

Christopher Tolkien published The Silmarillion after the death of his father, a book created from the living body of work J. R. R. Tolkien created in his notebooks encompassing the mythology, legends and annals of Middle Earth history.
Ostensibly, The Silmarillion is made up of five texts, Ainulindalë, ValaquentaQuenta SilmarillionAkallabêth, and Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age.  Some will be familiar through direct mention or vague reference from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  Other pieces of lore will require extrapolation to connect to the world we've been reading through for two years.
I will primarily be reading from my library's copy of The Silmarillion, illustrated by Ted Nasmith.  I own a paperback copy of the text, and I will likely dig through it as library loans require I relinquish the borrowed copy now and again.  My paperback copy also has notes pe…

[Book Review] Curse Words, Volume 1

Curse Words Vol 1: The Devil's Devil / Charles Soule & Ryan Browne

A dark wizard has come to our realm to destroy our world for his master... and decides to become a hero (or something) instead.  Clearly nothing can go wrong with this plan.  Clearly.

Yeah... things go wrong.  In a splashy, chaotic, rock music video sort of way.  All in the company of talking rat/koala/being that's a bit more charismatic and moral than Wizord.  Probably for the best.

Entertaining and unhinged.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Image Comics; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Bilbo's Last Song

Probably the most fitting way leave The Lord of the Rings behind is to visit Bilbo's Last Song.

A poem written as a gift to his secretary, Bilbo's Last Stand was published posthumously and serves as an epilogue to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  Illustrated by Pauline Baynes, the poem makes a graceful transition to picture book, with paired scenes from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings as Bilbo pens his farewell to Middle Earth.

[Book Review] Meddling Kids

Meddling Kids / Edgar Cantero

Scooby-Doo meets H.P. Lovecraft.  With an absolutely fantastic cover.

If you want to read someone singing praises of this story it's not hard to find (NPR: In 'Meddling Kids,' The Scooby Gang Grows Up — Hard, USA Today: 'Scooby-Doo' fans will dig Cantero's 'Meddling Kids').

My reactions are a bit muddled, and probably more in line with the Kirkus review.

Is the book fun?  Undoubtedly.  Familiar enough to evoke Scooby-Doo, but different enough to skirt violation of intellectual property.  Even better, Cantero has injected some actual diversity and complexity to the characters.  In true Scooby-Doo fashion, even as they encounter horrors from the gates beyond, the story holds fast as an adventure rather than a horror or thriller.

My copy was a pre-publication galley, so I'm not sure how much has changed in the final publication, but as I still lack access to the final piece, I have to go forward with the above caveat.  Can…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix F: II. On Translation

This is it folks.  The end of The Lord of the Rings.  A few pages of linguistics and then this book is closed, a brief visit to Bilbo's Last Song and then on to the Silmarillion.

Tolkien presents his work as a translation of what essentially is a found tale.  The journeys of Bilbo, Frodo, and assorted companions through events that ultimately began a new epoch in Middle Earth.  He wants us to treat this story as a translated work, with all the attendant changes that implies to the actual words spoken.

However, neither in our world nor in the world of Middle Earth is there truly one universal language.  There is a "Common Speech" but as a language it still has its derivations and differences across the different cultures and races.  So instead we get cultures that have expressed accents or different grammar rules.  The use of exceptional precise (or imprecise) English is a deliberate reflection of archaic forms of speech in cultures that view language as a core area of kn…

July and Mental Health

To be completely frank, July is an utter shit show for me.

This is not helped by my life-long coping method of suppression and keeping so busy I don't have time to think about the problem.  I'm not sure when July started being so difficult for me emotionally, but based on the snippets of writing floating around (some hopefully to never see the light of day again), almost every July since I was 11 or 12 I've struggled with very deep depression.

I guess I don't have to worry about it being Seasonal Affective Disorder, right?

(Never mind, according to the Mayo Clinic, SAD sometimes does involve summer depression.  So, who knows?  Not me, definitely not what I went to school for.)

One of these days I hope to have both the time and the income to allow me to see a therapist.  But I'll be honest, money is tight and thanks to working multiple jobs, my schedule ends up highly irregular.  And the fun thing about anxiety and depression is it makes the idea of finding a therap…

[Book Review] Paperbacks from Hell

Paperbacks from Hell: the twisted history of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction / Grady Hendrix

This book might be the best thing I've read ever.

OK, slight exaggeration there, but it's totally worth the exaggeration.

Hendrix takes you down into both the well known and less well known corners of '70s and '80s horror fiction, exploring the trends and connections to the world at large in a wonderfully engaging and absolutely hysterical narrative.  Broken down by subgenre, we go from the familiar (haunted houses, vampires, etc) to perhaps the less familiar (knife-wielding crabs, homicidal vegetation) in a veritable tour of the horrific and absurd.

Highly recommend to fans of horror and non-horror alike, and a must read for anyone with a taste for kitsch and cult.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Quirk Books via Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix F: I. The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age

Words, words, words.

Tolkien uses this section to illuminate us on the nature and history of languages in Middle Earth, including the "true" language of the saga (ie. not English).  The different races, and sometimes the different strata of races, have their own linguistic histories that have brushed against each other over the centuries.  The older languages retain an air of higher order and sophistication, particularly the Elvish tongues (aided, no doubt, by their longer years and deep dedication to lore) and that of the Numenoreans.

While many of the languages influenced each other, the Black Speech stands alone in its form, a likely creation of Sauron himself.  While it bled into other languages, it was a language with such a limited and focused use that reciprocal adoptions would be stagnated.  It only served as a "common tongue" for those in deep service to Sauron, and I also do not see him as someone responding lightly to attempts to reshape his language.

I …

[Book Review] Bitch Planet (Volume 2)

Bitch Planet (Volume 2) / Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro

Also reviewed:
Bitch Planet, Volume 1 Look, I'm going to be honest,  if you've read Volume 1 you should already be interested in reading Volume 2 (that or you're offended by it's strong feminist agenda and therefore have no interest at all).  If you haven't read Volume 1, why are you looking for a review and not reading Volume 1?

Volume 2 continues the story that started in Volume 1, while also expanding on the histories that led to the current regime and imprisonments.  Not all of the women are imprisoned for simply spurious crimes.  Some of their pasts tie directly into the present.  And things on Auxiliary Compliance Outpost #2 are coming to a very explosive head.

Strongly recommend.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Image Comics; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

[Book Review] Wired

Wired (Buchanan/FBI #1) / Julie Garwood

FBI Agent Liam Scott knows there's a security leak, and he's sure it's from inside the agency.  Enter the gorgeous and too smart to be believed Allison Trent, a brilliant programmer who takes refuge from her manipulative family in code.  Scott learns enough about Trent to know that she is in a class of her own when it comes to coding and hacking skills, and believes that they need someone from the outside to find the leak.  Trent is a little less enthusiastic, she knows she can do it, but regardless of intent she's done quite a bit of illegal hacking that could get her into serious trouble.  Even if that hacking has resulted in the return of millions of dollars and the apprehension of scammers by the FBI and other agencies.  But there's more to the crimes she faces down than just lines of code, and things start hitting close to home, while Scott and Trent struggle with keeping things if not professional, at least casual betwe…

5 in 15 - All Tied Up

So, my second 5 in 15 Reader's Advisory video I went a little scandelous... and even with an attempt to restrain the word play, I had way too much fun with the puns.  Video recorded in February, and released on June 15th.  I'm both proud of and incredibly self-conscious about this one because I went with a touchy subject.

Please excuse my over-enunciation of acronyms, I figured it was better to over- rather than under-enunciate.  I also butcher the pronunciation of at least one author's name.  :/

I probably should also invest in a slightly better microphone...
All Tied Up: Alternatives to 50 Shades of Grey

Script Slide 1 Welcome to this Massachusetts Library System 5-in-15: Member Edition!
Slide 2 Hello, my name is Tegan.  I'm a librarian, reviewer, and technology consultant, and am most often found these days at the Monson Free Library.

I'm always in the middle of far too many books, but to name two, I'm reading Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and list…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix E. Writing and Spelling

This section... is not very useful for me, except when linked to specific examples.  Translating a word I've only ever read to something I say is often a painful and awkward process.  I add vowels, consonants, and sometimes even whole syllable... and there's no guarantee I'm even saying the parts of the word in the right order.  I'm assuming this is all tied into my dyslexia, and sadly most of this chapter becomes little more than a jumble to me as it focuses on letter sounds and combinations.

However, I cannot help but respect the work Tolkien put into the languages and scripts of his world.

Some pieces here are taken out of the history of writing and printing in our world, such as "double" consonants, something anyone who studies ancient manuscripts will ultimately experience.  These would have their own letters, so a long/double consonant would be it's own piece instead of using the same letter twice.  Of course, predating this, we see it in script, whe…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix D. Calendars

Look, just a little bit more of this and we'll be on to narrative again.  I promise.  We have Bilbo's Last Song scheduled for 7/16, and then my partner in crime and I go on to... *gulp* The Silmarillion.  I have read it before, so I know what I'm getting into and I'm looking forward to tackling it with analysis in mind.

In the mean time, we have Calendars... which is not completely trivial since Tolkien uses and refers to multiple different calendars throughout the story.  I personally appreciate the "every month has the same number of days" with holidays filling in the gaps.  The fact that Tolkien included different cultural calendars is also significant, especially with largely segregated cultures that have their own relationships with the world, time, and even lifespans.  From a comprehensive world building stand point, it would probably be stranger if the elves, men, hobbits, and dwarves all had the same calendar, but often in fiction that's exactly w…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix C. Family Trees

Here's a bit for you visual folks out there who'd like to know a bit more about Hobbit family trees.  An enjoyable bit is the genealogies are presented as written by hobbits, rather than by Tolkien himself, though this is not exactly unusual for him.  Not much to say about this besides I find it far more useful than a written list of "begats."

[Book Review] The Quantum Thief

The Quantum Thief (Jean le Flambeur #1) / Hannu Rajaniemi

At it's core, The Quantum Thief is a heist story, but within its post-human setting the object of the heist is nothing so simple as something like the Hope Diamond or a Casino vault.  Instead we journey through theft and reclaiming of time and memory.

All-in-all, it makes for a blistering smart and layered hard sci-fi adventure.

This book had a little less specific discussion questions for me to draw out, but it was a fantastic and fascinating read.  Should I actually sit down with other people who've read it, there's definitely a lot to knock about, but the questions and discussion prompts themselves are harder for me to quantify.

Discussion Fodder:
Let's talk about the Prisoner's Dilemma.  What is it, and in what ways is it used in this story?  What do you think of the Dilemma Prison?What are the different ways humanity and cultures manifest in the story?  How are they shaped by technology (or vice versa)?A…

[Book Review] Believe Me

Believe Me : a memoir of love, death, and jazz chickens / Eddie Izzard

Eddie Izzard's comedy is like a cultural language in itself.  You can identify people by their jokes and quips. 

"Cake or death?" 

"I was on the moon, with Steve!" 

"Obviously, Hitler never played Risk as a child." 

Et al.  There's a joy in discovering another fan and playing with the shared joy of Izzard's humor, and I've adored him since I discovered him and his embodiment of genderfuck while in my early teens.

Believe Me is like a conversation with Izzard.  The voice is so unmistakable that reading the book one cannot but help hear Izzard narrating in one's head.  The memoir is poignant and touching, with a deft seasoning of Izzard's humor, and a careful handling of painful and difficult subjects.

I also highly recommend the audiobook, read by Izzard, and enriched with "live footnotes" as Izzard makes on-the-fly additions to the text and existing foo…

LibraryReads List - June 2017

So, I couldn't mention this before, but the list is out so I'm in the clear!

My (edited down) review for Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire was featured in the June 2017 LibraryReads list!  (And there's a pretty print out of it all here).

My full review can be read here.

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix B. The Tale of Years (Chronology of the Westlands)

You're not going to get a whole lot from me here, because this whole section is basically a summary of Middle Earth history.  Appendix B is largely made up of a timeline with some summary paragraphs.  But you know what?  It's fantastic for me in terms of getting a grip on the major points of Middle Earth history and when they fall.  History has never been my strong suit.  I love the narrative passages, but in terms of time scale and actual image of history, I can't structure it from the narrative text alone.

Most relevant to The Lord of the Rings are "The Great Years", starting some 8 years after Bilbo's farewell feast, and gives a timeline broken down by month instead of simply years of notable events.  This goes into "The Chief Days from the Fall of Barad-Dur to the end of the Third Age" and "Later events Concerning the Members of the Fellowship of the Ring," giving us an extended epilogue.  The Later Years were good to our hobbits and t…

Disability on the Shelf - MLA 2017

I had the opportunity to present at the 2017 Mass Library Association with two other librarians, looking at disability representation in library collections and libraries themselves.  I originally put out a call for co-panelists mid-206 looking for others interested in the same topic to the statewide mailing list and got very little response.   Fortunately, the two that replied were fantastic and I took their areas of interest and experience, combined them with my own, and was able to construct a proposal to submit.
Disability on the Shelf: Going beyond Large Print
When providing library services how often do we think about accessibility beyond the physical?  When looking at our collections with an eye to diversity do we remember disability?  Let's explore the challenges and opportunities in finding positive representation, and take a look at tropes and stereotypes, controversy over lauded titles, ableism in the library, and helping patrons of all ages and abilities find characters …

[Book Review] User

User / Devin Grayson, John Bolton (ill), and Sean Phillips (ill)

User is the queer coming-of-age on the Internet story I didn't know I was looking for (but really should have been).

I grew up discovering the Internet as it grew from a specialist resource and message board hub into the complex sprawling hodge-podge it is now.  Not that Internet is not still growing and changing, but it's become something a bit more ubiquitous rather than something that's limited special interest or hobby.  There's still a divide in how people view friendships and relationships developed in person and online, but those relationships do occur and can be incredibly meaningful as are the worlds we create with each other.

User is a story about all of that and more.It's about finding refuge in shared fantasy and friendship, as told by a young woman who discovers text-based online fantasy gaming.  The story is heartfelt and raw, dealing with difficult subjects frankly.  I highly recommend.

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: III. Durin's Folk

And on to the dwarves!

Dwarves, beyond Gimli, are almost an afterthought in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Maybe it's a balance to their primary role in The Hobbit, and by extension, the role they've played in the destruction of the One Ring.  For whatever reason, perhaps because they're less "pretty" or ethereal than the elves, dwarves are often the red-headed stepchildren of LotR fandom and mainstream lore.  Not to say they don't have their fans, but even when they are they key members of the cast they barely have personalities as we see in The Hobbit.

So, we get some filling in the lines here of dwarven history and lore.  Some of it we're already familiar with, about the delving deep in search of mithril and finding the Balrog.  This section repeatedly cites The Hobbit while expanding the story beyond that known (or shared) by Thorin Oakenshield.

I have to assume that Thorin was not aware of the Great Ring his father held.  His obsession on family tre…

[Book Review] The Core of the Sun

The Core of the Sun / Johanna Sinisalo

The Core of the Sun is a must-read for fans of The Handmaid's Tale, set in an alternate historical present Finland 'eusistocracy' that revolves around public health and social stability, and where women are bred for beauty and subservience. Women who meet the beauty and subservience standards are allowed to breed and known as ‘eloi’ or ‘femiwoman’ while women outside their beauty standards or who display intelligence are sterilized and labled ‘morlocks.’ The narrator passes as an eloi and has an addiction to capsaicin, an illegal substance under the ‘eusistocracy.’

This was a re-read for me, it seemed timely for a number of reasons, but with The Handmaid's Tale being so highlighted lately I liked the contrast of this title and had a previous interest of including it as a book club read.  The fact that I ended up with two Finnish authors in a row wasn't intentional, but let's go with it (this one for April and The Quantum …

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: II. The House of Eorl

The House of Eorl gives us the history of the "Eorlings" or the Rohirrim, and their longstanding connections with Gondor.  The horse lords claim kinship with the people of Gondor, but have a more migratory lifestyle with finally settling in a permanent homeland after being awarded territory for helping Gondor against it's enemies.  The name "Rohan" comes from Gondor, and "Rohirrim" meaning horse lords.

We also learn the history of Shadowfax's lineage, a horse that threw Eorl's father and later called to account by Eorl himself and named Felarof.  Horses of that line were called mearas, who would bear only the King of the Mark or his sons and none other, until Shadowfax.  It helps put a little more in context why perhaps there was upset to exploit in Theoden about Gandalf riding off with Shadowfax.

The refuge known as Helm's Deep earned it's name for King Helm Hammerhand, a King of some renown and some fighting skill.  It was there that…

[Book Review] The Saint

The Saint (The Original Sinners: The White Years #1) / Tiffany Reisz

Readers of The Original Sinners series will already know Nora Sutherlin, and her relationships with Soren and Kingsley. In The Saint, Nora has left everyone behind to be alone with her grief after her mother dies. But she is unexpectedly joined by the handsome Nico, with whom as pillow she shares the story of how she first came to meet Soren, Kingsley, and the world of BDSM as 15-year-old Eleanor.

Soren comes into Eleanor's life as the new priest at her mother's church, and quickly becomes the center of her fantasies, and then becomes bound to him in a private agreement after he rescues her from a father who pushes his daughter to steal cars to pay off his debts. Their relationship is drawn out, Soren trying to stay his distance until Eleanor reaches adulthood before she's fully introduced into the world of BDSM, and then waiting further before 'consummation' of their relationship due to the emoti…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: I. The Númenorean Kings (v) Here Follows a Part of the Tale of Aragorn and Arwen

Everything in the appendices ties directly to the saga of the Ring, that goes without saying and Tolkien held the history and language to higher importance that the story itself.  But to me, this section is particularly tied to The Lord of the Rings.  Maybe it's because it's not just backmatter, but specifically the the backstory for two living characters that have a full arc within the saga?

The section is illuminating in several areas, actual age and expectations of Duindain stand out, with Aragorn being born to a 58-year-old man and to a woman considered young for motherhood among their people.  Long life-spans tend to correspond with a longer immaturity/childhood, so regardless of expectations and adult behavior, it makes sense that expected reproduction occurs decades later in life than it would for regular folk.  Aragorn's blind fostering by Elrond also explains much, including some of the peculiarities of their relationship and Aragorn's general lack of royal as…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: I. The Númenorean Kings (iv) Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion

To me this section could come with the following alternate titles:

Power, Hubris, and the Inevitable DeclineThe Good Old Days Weren't Necessarily All That Great TL;DR: Bloodlines falter, they go crazy for ships (which is great, except we also know they're not supposed to sail in a certain direction, and we know where this is going to go), and the Great Kings of Old aren't really all that great.
Gondor most clearly falters with Atanar Alcarin, who liked his wealth and power, but really couldn't be bothered to maintain it (and neither could his sons).  Among his various failings we can list laxity towards Mordor.  Then we go forward to Narmacil who decides actually being King is just too much hard work and names Minalcar Regent of Gondor.
Then we get a little bit of racism mixed in, since the son of a Regent married a bride from the Northmen, and the Dunedain fear the degradation of their long-lived and majestic race.  Unsurprisingly, when their child Eldacar, who proves …

[Book Review] This Alien Shore

This Alien Shore / C. S. Friedman

So this made it onto the Virtual Speculation reading list based on curiosity and recommendations of this novel as a key piece of SF literature.  I expected a Space Opera with some of the normal dissection/discussions of society that one often finds in rich speculative fiction.  What I did not expect was to find a book that respectfully not only included non-neurotypical characters, but actively embraced neurodiversity.  Overall an excellent piece of speculative fiction.

Discussion Fodder:
In this story, what is alien?  What makes it alien?How do the different societies embrace or reject neurodiversity?  What do you think of the handling of neurodiversity by the author?  What is done right/wrong?How do the Hausman societies contrast with that of Earth, be it Earth of today or the Earth of the novel?What points does the story make about hacking and security?  How do they hold up as the book has aged?  How does malware differ (or not differ) in this advan…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: I. The Númenorean Kings (iii) Eriador, Arnor, and the Heirs of Isildur

Remember that list of names we just read... now we get to read about them!  This week we'll gander at the Northern Line, next week the Southern Line.

The narrative here splits between a speaking tone, as if someone is relating this history to us (including use semi-personal references) and more prosaic recitation of history.

It starts out rather similar to the decline of most Kingdoms.  Several generations (if they're lucky) of strong union and continuance, then the inevitable decay as quarrelsome siblings split kingdom.  Though, eight generations spans a few hundred years easily in modern lifetimes, let alone the extended lives of the Western men, so they definitely had a good run.

From there we get into the back matter of our saga, from the corruption of the Barrowdowns to the wandering state of the Dunedain.  We're also gifted with some of the future beyond The Return of the King, as we learn that the Shire becomes off limits to the Big People and that good relations co…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: I. The Númenorean Kings (ii) The Realms in Exile

I'm going to be honest, I can't tell you a whole bunch about this appendix.  We have two family trees, the Northern Line/ Heirs of Isildur and the Southern Line/Heirs of Anarion.  The take us through to the "present" with minor elaboration.  I'm utter shit at names, and even worse at dates, so I can't be sure of recognizing more than a few names that we've encountered within the saga so far, be it as characters or as names in lore.  It does make note of the disruption of the royal line and the emergence of Stewards, but this is a listing not a narrative.

This will probably become more useful as a reference as we go forward into the other appendices (and other Middle Earth history books).  But otherwise, we'll just call this a light week!

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Appendix A: I. The Númenorean Kings (i) Númenor

The next ~2 months of posts will vary greatly in content and length, corresponding with the variety of the actual sections.  I'm going to strongly recommend that folks check out my partner-in-crime on this project for much better analysis of the various nuances of the appendicies, starting with this week's.  What we're dealing by and large here is the back matter, the supporting documentation for the saga.  To be honest, whenever I survey the body of his Middle Earth writing or delve within, I rather suspect Tolkien of monomania.

We've actually read much of Appendix A:I.i. already, through the lays and verses shared throughout.  Here we also read the seeds of the saga we have just completed, the coming of the Eldar and Edain to Middle Earth.  Or as we more commonly know them, the Elves and the peoples of Men.  The marriage of Arwen and Aragorn is more than a romantic conclusion to a story arc, but a cyclical one as well.  It does stand out to me that Arwen's great-…

[Book Review] Geekerella

Geekerella / Ashley Poston

A modern-day geeky fairy tale, mashing up the classic tale of Cinderella with the world of Science Fiction fandom.  On one side we have Elle, a life-long fan of Starfield, the Star Trek-esq TV show she grew up watching with her father.  On the other side is Darien, teen heart-throb slated to play the leading role of Federation Prince Carmindor in the pending series reboot, closet nerd and written off as little more than brainless eye candy by the fandom.  In between the two lie conniving step-family, a job on the Magic Pumpkin food truck, the internet, and the deep seated passion of fandom.

This book is absolutely adorable.  I sat down and read it in a day.  A must-read for fans of Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl or Jen Wilde's Queens of Geek.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Quirk Books; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

[Book Review] Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) / Seanan McGuire

Previously Reviewed
Every Heart a Doorway

In Every Heart a Doorway we meet Jack and Jill, two sisters bound together yet alienated.  Both exiled from their realm and their different masters, both seeking to return home.  But for all of their core participation in the events of that novella, it was not their story nor even a story of any specific realm.  Down Among the Sticks and Bones lets us peek at what shaped the Jack and Jill we meet in Every Heart a Doorway, and lays bare the motivations for their actions within.

The story starts with a couple having children for the wrong reasons.  Falling in love with the idea of having children, of parenting, but being unable to discern the difference between a dream and reality.
"It can be easy, in the end, to forget that children are people, and that people will do what people will do, the consequences be damned." It's a story about love, hate, and the thin l…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 6, Chapter 9

While the journey is not done yet, we have other books we plan to explore and the Appendices yet to read, I want to take a moment to note that we're at the last chapter of this part of the journey.  After this we'll be moving on to Bilbo's Last Song and then tackling the Silmarillion.

This final chapter is more than just an ending to The Return of the King and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  It stands as the conclusion of a saga, tying up threads started outside Lord of the Ring with the finishing of Bilbo's book, the ending of the feud with Lobelia, and other events.  The Shire, like England, prevails, though I feel a good bit of it's recovery is due to Samwise (and Galadriel's gift).

While Merry, Pippin, and Sam all fit back well into society, they had their tethers.  Frodo was always something of an outsider, and now with the changes brought on by the Ring and the trauma he bore, he is left somewhat afloat.  We don't actually know what wounds Merry and P…