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Showing posts from 2017

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : X. Of the Sindar

We change gears for a bit, looking at the Sindar, those that started the "Great Journey," but who stayed in Beleriand instead of crossing the ocean.  After all, there's more than just Valinor.

I have to assume if you're reading The Silmarillion  you're at least vaguely familiar with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.  But if you aren't, I hope that the fact that Tolkien makes specific mention of the birth of Lúthien stands out.  Spoiler, she's kind of a big deal, and not just because she's the daughter of the Maiar Melian and the Elven King Thingol.

The focus here is of the meeting of the Dwarves and the Elves, and what came of that meeting.  The
Elves experienced a bit of a shock on learning they were not the only creatures who spoke and crafted (Valar and Maiar excluded, of course).  The dirty secret being, of course, that the Dwarves predate the Elves, and were just in forced hibernation for awhile.  The Dwarves keep their secrets though, and le…

[Book Review] A Scandal in Battersea

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A Scandal in Battersea (Elemental Masters) / Mercedes Lackey

The Christmas season has come to London, along with a new moon, and there are things that take advantage of the dark of night (reviewer aside - why Christmas Eve and not Solstice?).  Among all the gifts and cheer, a Book finds its way into the hands of a resentful young man who desires power.  What starts as a sacrifice and invocation, soon proves dark and alien, to a dangerous end.

So.  Mercedes Lackey has written a story with Lovecraftian flavor.  This has resulted in probably the coziest "C'thulhu Mythos" story I have ever encountered.  Note: there is no direct reference in name or language to the Mythos, but the traits are heavily present throughout.  It also gives us more of her vision of Sherlock Holmes & Co, as introduced in A Study in Sable, and stars the ever steady Nan, Sarah, and their birds.  If you want more Nan and Sarah, or just want cozy Mythos story, give it a try.  If the idea of a cozy Lo…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : IX. Of the Flight of the Noldor

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The Trees are dead, their light existing now only in the Silmarils wrought by Fëanor.  So, of course, they ask Fëanor to release the light within his Masterwork so that Yavanna might heal the Trees.  Of all the Valar, only Aulë the Maker understood exactly how much they asked of Fëanor, the destruction of his life's work and a piece of himself, and being asked by beings of greater power and authority so that a request weighs as heavy as an obligation.  During this debate of action, Melkor slips into the home of Fëanor, killing his father and Silmarils.  In his anger and grief Fëanor curses Melkor, naming him Morgoth, and holding Manwë in part responsible for keeping him away from his father and his home in a time of need.  In this grief he claims the kingship of the Noldor and calls on his people to leave "the kin of my father's slayer and of the thief of my treasure."  And in this he calls for freedom from the Valar, speaks of what the Noldor lost by coming to this …

October Read: Viscera

Sometimes I put a book on my book club list because I desperately want to read it but other books keep getting in the way.  Yes, this is a problem in my life.

I discovered Gabriel Squallia when we were co-panelists for Lovecraftian Intimacy: Body Horror & Mind Melds at Arisia 2016.  Long story short, I found Squallia inventive and fascinating, descriptions which I would both apply to their first novel, Dead BoysViscera promises fantasy, horror, comedy, wit, and wonders.  Sounds like a good October read to me.

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : VIII. Of the Darkening of Valinor

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For a time Melkor avoids those hunting him, still empowered with the ability to change shape or pass unseen.  Meanwhile, Ungoliant, a creature of whom her origins are wondered at by even the Eldar, made her home within Avathar, taking on the form of a giant spider, and consuming any Light that fell within her grasp and spinning it out into shadowy webs.  Ungoliant is the progenitor of the Spiders we meet throughout The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, Shelob and her ilk, dark creatures in spider form that are burned by blessed Light.  Melkor seeks her out, taking on his guise of a Dark Lord he bore in Utumno, a form in which he remains, and strikes a deal.  "Do as I bid; and if thou hunger still when all is done, then I will give thee whatsoever thy lust may demand."

Under a cloak of darkness woven by Ungoliant, Melkor strikes at Valinor in the midst of a celebration of thanks giving and forgiveness.  Fëanor comes in simple presentation, and reconciles with Fingolfin before…

[Book Review] Sweet Revenge

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Sweet Revenge: Passive-Aggressive Desserts for Your Exes & Enemies / Heather Kim

Sometimes I'll pick a book up just for it's title or it's cover.  If it's a cookbook we're talking about with the promise of gratuitous puns, well, I'm pretty sold.

The book delivers on promised tone and puns both, fun, snarky, and well explained.  The recipes veer into the unexpected, with the inclusion of various snack foods such as Doritos and Hot Cheetos as part of the flavor, texture, or highlight of sweet treats.  But even if you're conservative when it comes to flavor combinations, there's plenty for you here, and a number of recipes you can make a more traditional version of by simply sidestepping the inclusion of the salty munchie in question.

A fun addition to your cookbook collection, and if you're in a library one I think that will definitely circulate on amusement value alone.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Capstone via Netgalley; differences may …

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : VII. Of the Silmarils and the Unrest of the Noldor

During this time Fëanor creates his Masterwork, the Silmarils, in which he captures the light of the Trees.  Varda imbued the rings "so that thereafter no mortal flesh, nor hands unclean, nor anything of evil might touch them," (which leaves me wondering how the Silmarils and the quasi-mortal half-Elves would interact) and Mandows foretold that the very fates of Middle Earth lay within them.
I'm going to assume no one here is surprised that Melkor wants them for himself?  I actually find Melkor's desire and frustration regarding the Silmarils backing for his claims about teaching Fëanor being little more than lies.  He could make many great and terrible things, but these lay beyond his power.  That being said, there's nothing to say how much knowledge from Melkor made its way indirectly to Fëanor.  What cannot be denied, however, is how skilled and insidious were Melkor's lies.  He spoke to them of favoritism, of ambition, and glory.  And, it cannot be denied…

[Book Review] Rat Queens Volume 4 : High Fantasies

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Rat Queens, Volume 4 : High Fantasies / Kurtis J. Wiebe & Owen Gieni

Previously Reviewed:
Rat Queens Deluxe Hardcover Volume 1 (contains Volumes 1 & 2)Rat Queens Volume 3: Demons This is undoubtedly the Rat Queens I've come to love, but there's a lot missing and I don't know where it went.  It's not just the missing story between the end of Volume 3 and the beginning of Volume 4 that's jarring and confusing, no matter how happy I am to see Hannah back in the heart of things.  Even with an overarching plotline, Volume 4 reads like a series of vignettes rather than  cohesive story.  There are pieces missing, and some of those pieces belong to the very heart of the story.
Don't get me wrong, I laughed at walking in on Hannah's dad with the ghost of her mom, the adventure that boiled down to a dick joke by a bored magical frog/pufferfish/thing, and I love pretty much everything Braga.  But I know these unruly, riotous women can do more than make me laugh…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : VI. Of Fëanor and the Unchaining of Melkor

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All good things must come to an end.

Things start out quite nicely, with Melkor locked away, the Eldar gathering and enjoying a time of peace.  We even have a love story.

Spoiler: it all ends horribly.

As soon as I read that Míriel could only stand to bear a single child and that Finwë wanted more my first thought was "Well, this is going to end poorly."

Tolkien enjoys his epic love stories, ill fated or destined for greatness.  And so we have the marriage of Finwë and Míriel, deeply in love and from whom comes perhaps the greats of the Noldar artisans, Fëanor.  Birth is never easy, something that we often forget when it happens behind the closed doors of hospital rooms.  Women undergo intense physiological and psychological changes during pregnancy and at the end of it they suddenly have another life they are responsible for.  Actually, one of the biggest fears I have regarding spawning is that with my baseline neurochemical imbalances (and other factors) I have a deep seat…

[Book Review] A Canticle for Leibowitz

A Canticle for Leibowitz / Walter M. Miller, Jr.

The back of my copy in hand lists an excerpt from The New York Times review, "Angry, eloquent... a terrific story."  I can't disagree with that.  A Canticle for Leibowitz is bleak assessment of humanity in a continual cycle of self-destruction and struggle for survival, with strong themes on information literacy, morality, and anti-intellectualism.

I think I would have been far happier reading it... maybe last year.  However, it is definitely worth reading and I'm glad I got to it.

Discussion Fodder:
This book in many ways is about cycles and patterns.  What cycles and patterns did you notice (themes, civilization, narrative, etc)?Does the Church as an archivist change the preservation and passing on of knowledge, and how does that manifest?  What are the differences between Science as a secular or as a religious practice?wWhat do you think of the permutations of society and cultures present?  What about taboos and supe…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : V. Of Eldamar and the Princes of the Eldalië

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This week, a picture says a thousand words.


The divisions between the Elves partially came down to luck, which I have various grumbly feelings about.  That those who were too far away to hear Ulmo's summons are a sub-classification in terms of Elven standing and lore is a bit snobbish.  Especially since the Valar could have reunited the groups much earlier than they did.

That being said, residing in Valinor and among the Valar wrought changes on the Quendi, so there is reason behind the division between the different groups.  And, while I generally bitch about the Valar failing their duties, even those doing some of them, Ulmo actually does seem to take care of the Elves, including forming an island for the Teleri and their love of the sea.  The Valar variously had their favorites, those inline with their own inclinations.  After all, they are only fallible, so such a human favoritism is almost to be expected.  But to their favorites they impart knowledge, wisdom, and skills, enri…

September Read: Dhalgren

Somehow Samuel R. Delany managed to stay under my radar for most of my life.  Reading about him and his works, I feel like the fact that I have yet to read any thing by him is absurd.
In Bellona, reality has come unglued, and a mad civilization takes root A young half–Native American known as the Kid has hitchhiked from Mexico to the midwestern city Bellona—only something is wrong there . . . In Bellona, the shattered city, a nameless cataclysm has left reality unhinged. Into this desperate metropolis steps the Kid, his fist wrapped in razor-sharp knives, to write, to love, to wound. So begins Dhalgren , Samuel R. Delany’s masterwork, which in 1975 opened a new door for what science fiction could mean. A labyrinth of a novel, it raises questions about race, sexuality, identity, and art, but gives no easy answers, in a city that reshapes itself with each step you take. This sounds exactly like a book I will love, and hopefully that proves true for the September Virtual Specula…

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : IV. Of Thingol and Melian

Considering the significance of the moment covered by this chapter and Tolkien's treatment of epic love stories, this chapter stands out as shockingly short.  Elwë (referred to in the chapter title as Thingol), an was one of the elves to visit Valinor then come back to their people to offer the choice of haven in the Light of the Trees.

And then he comes across the Maia Melian, and that whole plan of residing in Valinor goes out the window.  We've met the Maia before, the name Gandalf probably rings a bell.  Melian brought song to the twilight of Middle Earth.

Beyond inspiring Elwë to abandon the life he convinced what would become a whole subset of his own race to follow, they are the first couple in a lineage of epic love stories that transcend race.  Melian births Lúthien Tinúviel, of Elven song and lore and her marriage to Beren.  The line continues through to Elrond, and then to Arwen who marries Aragon in her own repeat of the trials of Lúthien and Beren.

On the other ha…

[Book Review] The Brightest Fell

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The Brightest Fell (October Daye #11) / Seanan McGuire

Previously reviewed:
Once Broken Faith
Most of Toby's stories drop you into the action and feed you necessary bits of exposition as they barrel along.

This book takes the time to introduce you to the world setting, and in that marks a note of gravity and weight that has been absent at the start of the stories, but has always lain lurking.  In that, the novel starts off feeling like we've reached a new step, gone past some point of no return in both Toby's life and in Faerie itself.  Fitting, since ina the author's own words, Toby is starting to pay off debts created five or six books ago.

We know something is coming, hints have been dropped and there's the looming matter of Toby's debts to the Luideag.  Matters which were both brought starkly to light in Once Broken Faith when Luideag mentions it would take too long to replace Toby, and then later when she saves Tybalt's life.  But much of that is for a …

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : III. Of the Coming of the Elves and the Captivity of Melkor

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Wherein the Valar largely avoid doing their job, let things get bad, then scramble to make up for it.

"Through long ages the Valar dwelt in bliss in the light of the Trees beyond the Mountains of Aman, but all Middle-earth lay in a twilight under the stars."

Dwelling in their own private Haven is really not what they were sent to the world to do.  Yavanna moped about, but at least did what she could to protect the life that couldn't grow under the twilight.  Besides that...well, Melkor certainly took advantage of the situation, digging in and fortifying his position.  Most notably we learn about his fortress, Angband, commanded by his lieutenant, Sauron.

Finally the Valar realize maybe they should see about that assignment to prepare the earth for Iluvatar's children?  From this we see the greatest of all works of the Valar since they first came to Arda, that is the making of the new stars.  Not fully bringing light to the world, but bringing some... and this is the…

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 …