Showing posts from 2017

[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…

[Book Review] Etched in Bone

Etched in Bone / Anne Bishop

Previously Reviewed:
Vision in SilverMarked in Flesh Etched in Bone marks the fifth installment of Anne Bishop's novels of the Others and picks up right where Marked in Flesh left off... and I like where it goes for the most part.

The book seemed to focus more on the inter-species politics than the first four... and by that I mean actual attempts at politic and civil resolutions (instead of just eating the offenders).  We have the humans who want to work with the Others to ensure their own survival, the Others who have come to care for their human pack (and some of the technologies they've never bothered to master on their own), the humans who court extinction, and the Others who are only just starting to pay attention to the events going on in the world at large.

One thing I can say for Bishop is that she knows how to write characters that you love to hate, especially manipulative, self-important, abusive men.  There are times when civilization doe…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 6, Chapter 8

The Sundering of the Shire stood out more than anything else in this trilogy when I read it as a kid.  Something about the hobbits rising up and taking back the Shire made it one of my favorite parts.

There should be little surprise at the actors in the play here.  Lotho Sackville-Baggins, Bill Ferny, Saruman, and Wormtongue.  These players clearly know their roles and trade, managing to effect change without provoking revolt.  At least until the war-weary hobbits return and encounter the absurd totalitarian state fallen over the Shire.  Not that absurdity indicates a lack of danger or threat, merely that the transformation of the sheltered Shire and the rule it suffers under truly stand as examples of shocking absurdity.  Our company brazenly stomps through the road blocks by dint of their expectations of their home, their unfamiliarity with the changes, and their transformative experiences.  The ruling powers fail to effect authority over them as they rely on fear and respect, neith…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 6, Chapter 7

If there is any single chapter that pulls on Tolkien's experiences serving, this one stands out the most to me.  Tolkien could have gone the route we see Jackson choose in the film, with a clean return back home and even if they are dramatically changed from who they were, the seeds of how their lives will grow going forward plain to see.  He could have gone even more traditional happily ever after, and I think one of the strongest points of this story is the handling of coming home.
"There is no real going back.  Though I may come to the Shire, it will not seem the same; for I shall not be the same.  I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden.  Where shall I find rest?" I don't know enough about Tolkien's personal experiences serving, but he's at least speaking from close, if not personal experience, when he writes about coming home from war.  The hobbits have gone through changes and injury that will never fully heal.

But it's not ju…

[Book Review] The Thing About Love

The Thing About Love / Julie James

Six years ago, Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd got off on the wrong foot... repeatedly.  What he considered encouragement and motivation she took as insulting and demeaning.  Then she might have come across a bit more vindictive than intended, and it all got even more tangled up from there.  But Agent Harlow has come home to Chicago after a failed marriage and been assigned to work with the newly single Agent Shepherd on an undercover mission before he leaves to join the Hostage Rescue Team.  Working together brings old grievances to light, and gives a chance for explanations and mending.

Of course, once they no longer exist in states of perpetual irritation with each other their not-so-latent attraction rears its head.  Things proceed about as expected (clothes on the floor and the two of them even sometimes on the bed).  Only, John's leaving, which may have assuaged the initial concerns about co-worker romance... but what if they could be some…

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

The time has come for the Fellowship to disband and our adventurers return to hearth and home.  The shadow smited, Gondor stands in glory with Aragorn and Arwen on the throne and the White Tree growing once again.

Perhaps for the first time Arwen's choice is explicitly stated here.  She has made Luthien's choice, the elf-maid who chose mortality to be with her mortal love.  Interestingly enough her im/mortality, perhaps due to her role as a half-elf, functions almost like a ticket.  With the gift of a token she gives her place on the boats to the Grey Havens to Frodo in exchange for his actions and sacrifice.  Perhaps life itself is the only way to properly repay Frodo for bearing his burden.

The exchange between Gimli and Eomer regarding the beauty of Galadriel and Arwen is possibly one of my favorite moments.  It stands as an aside that Tolkien had no need to include, but it suits so well in light of hope and friendship across the pages here.  It also reminds me of some of t…

[Book Review] Signal to Noise

Signal to Noise / Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Signal to Noise is an all-to-realistic piece of magical realism.  It took me quite awhile to actually get to starting this book, languishing on my to-read list for over a year.  So I made a deliberate choice to include it as a book club pick and read it, hence it's place as my February read.

While the book gives a coming-of-age magical realism front, the story eschews many of the all-to-common patterns.  Moreno-Garcia's prose possesses a rich lyricism that fits well in a story so filled with music.  The story has its bright spots, but much of it is harsh and scrabbling, a story of friends struggling to overcome the hands they were dealt, a story of consequences, and a story of resentment.  For all of that, the story is beautifully told, but one that I personally felt reluctant to read at times, a result of seeking extra escapism in reading than normal as of late.

From Wikipedia: "Signal-to-noise ratio is a measure used in science and …

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 6, Chapter 5

Of course, whilst everyone it out on their various daring adventures, there are those who are left behind.  And with their leaders dead, their heirs wounded, and their heroes far away facing a terrible enemy.

I really can't help knocking Eowyn as a romance figure.  It annoys me because both in various interpretations and in the source text it always seems to take away from her as a person of power.  Not that powerful women can't be romance figures, but in how she's handled always seems to reduce her.  I suppose the bright light in their romance is that Faramir sees and respects her, "For you are a lady high and valiant and have yourself won renown that shall not be forgotten."  Yet she is considered "tamed" and that just doesn't sit right with me.  She shouldn't need to be tamed, even if Gondor is now at peace.

To me the bonding of Eowyn and Faramir is less of a romance, at least in the traditional sense, but rather a bonding over shared trauma …

[Book Review] Silence Fallen

Silence Fallen(Mercy Thompson #10) / Patricia Briggs

Previously reviewed:
Fire Touched In which Mercy, through no fault of her own, gets in a whole heap of complications... and largely on her own gets back out, whilst everyone else runs around in a panic because they know things are likely end well for anyone (except maybe Mercy).

Vampires really like politics and power games.  Which means when Wulfe tells Iacapo Bonarata, the Master of Italy and the vampire that banished Marsilia to the US, that Mercy Thompson is the most powerful person in the Tri-City's area there are all sorts of games afoot.
Also, Iacoapo maybe should know better than to take anything Wulfe says at face value.  Because really, it's Wulfe.

So Mercy's out seeing if vampires and werewolves can get white hair from stress as she says "no, thank you" to captivity, while at home the troops rally... requiring Marsilia and Adam to work together as they travel to Europe to extract their coyote.  Shena…

[Book Review] Magic for Nothing

Magic for Nothing(InCryptid #6) / Seanan McGuire

Previously reviewed Chaos Choreography (InCryptid #5) TL;DR review: go read this book, it's loads of fun.
Read on for actual details.
At the end of Chaos Choreography, Verity Price fought off a summoned snake god on live television as a competitor on the reality TV show Dance or Die (turned out this special season was taking that title a bit too literally).  And if that wasn't enough to blow the Price family cover... once Verity realizes the fight was broadcast live and her disguise is ruined, she tells the Covenant of St. George to stay the hell out of North America.
So now the Covenant is gearing up for war against the Price family, and looking to purge as many 'monsters' living in North America as possible while they're at it.  Oh joy.

The youngest of the Price children, Antimony isn't the one to make waves or seek out trouble (she leaves that to her older siblings).  She hasn't had to really step up.  But …

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 6, Chapter 4

In which some shit has gone down.  Also, Eagles have a comeback tour.

With the destruction of the Ring, Sauron's power breaks... and the counter power falls on our allies.  I note that it does not say Sauron is gone, just that he is defeated at this moment.  But Gandalf knows the power of careful oration, and of leaving the actual combat to the leaders of the armies, so he and Gwaihir the Windlord seek out two hobbits on the slopes of an erupting volcano.

You know what?  I have no shame in admitting Frodo and Samwise facing their own mortality makes me tear up.

The biggest sign that the war is over, that they are safe and recovering, is the return of laughter.  Reunions with friends, returning of treasures, and reminiscing are all tied up, but that they can experience joy again is something long missing.

They are all changed, deeply and in ways that are both visible and invisible.  The growth of Merry and Pippin is comical, but they are truly nothing like the hobbits they were whe…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 6, Chapter 3

This chapter is a lot like wading through depression.  You know you need to keep going, and if you can badger yourself enough, you might just manage to keep going.  Friends may try and help, but it's not something you can necessarily share the burden of.  Food and drink are necessary, and maybe even desired, but joy is rarely derived from it.  Left unsaid is that they can shed gear because they are unlikely to survive long enough to need it again.

And of course, we get Sam's iconic line, "I can't carry it for you, but I can carry you."

A question I suppose for the hypothetical pondering jumps out at me... I wonder if the similarity between "Gorgoroth" and "Golgotha" is deliberate?

The agency that has offered gentle aid and protection to this quest again extends its hand.  Sauron's eye is held by the conflict at the gates, and both Frodo and Samwise feel the urging that the time to move is now.

In previous readings I seem to have missed som…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 6, Chapter 2

This chapter is a mix of a brutal slog and fortuitous timing.  Tolkien is weaving together elements of plot happening synchronously, and in many ways this is the only thing that keeps Samwise and Frodo on the path of their quest.

To be honest, their situation sucks.  Volcanic fumes, enemy territory, and no water... and that's without the whole Ring deal.  I want to be sympathetic to Frodo, and I know I'm not the best person when fighting a depressive cycle... but I get seriously annoyed at how useless he is and how he treats Sam.  Much of this chapter involves Frodo whining and Samwise making sacrifices.  Sam holding Frodo's hand while Frodo sleeps just breaks my heart.

Mordor itself is not a united land.  It's troops are fractious and frustrated, and even the land itself is struggling between life and death.  No one looks at the two hobbits as anything but two goblin deserters, not bothering to look beyond an initial assessment of their armor.  A poetic irony consider…

[Book Review] Small Favors

Small Favors : the Definitive Collection / Colleen Coover

Annie's all about some self-love... so much so that a personification of her conscious steps up and assigns her a keeper in the form of the adorable (and just as horny) Nibbil!  Abundant sexy adventures ensue.  The graphic novel beautifully inked, and near the end we get a story in absolutely gorgeous watercolor.

This one came up in NetGalley almost right after I'd talked about sexy comics/graphic novels at Arisia... and man do I wish I had known about this one before the panel.  In itself, the story isn't fantasy where you get magic and elves, but a contemporary setting with just a hint of the fantastic in the form of anthropomorphic representation of a character's inner self.  However, for the other meaning of fantasy... yeah, this book is all that.  Small Favors proudly wears the label of "critically-acclaimed girly porno comic."  It's a fun and creative celebration of sexual fantasy and affecti…

February Read: Signal to Noise

For some reason I've delayed reading this book for over a year.  No clue why as Signal to Noise has also been on my To Read list for over a year.  Maybe it's the promise of coming-of-age magical realism, which I've found all to often disappointing.  Or maybe it's just I'm always in the middle of too many books I need to read.  Either way, I have a copy in hand and it's this month's book pick.

What I can say is that Moreno-Garcia has a lyricism that serves her fiction well.  All of her story concepts grab my attention, and I'm repeatedly torn between reading reviews or just staying with the teaser text.  I don't want expectations and third party descriptions to ruin the text, though if you're looking for a review, NPR does a decent job of handling it without destroying anything.

At this point I'm a few chapters in, but reading with a slight reluctance as I wait for the hammer to fall.  We're warned early on that "magic will break you…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 6, Chapter 1

Our story turns back to the Ring itself.  Frodo has been taken, Samwise is now the Ring Bearer and alone within the realm of Mordor.

While we've read descriptions of the Ring changing the wearers perceptions, but I think this is the first time the bearer has registered that they truly see clearer with the ring off.  But Sam always was different than the others, perhaps that's what leads him to observe what others overlook and to notice details such as Mordor's construction to keep people in rather than out.  I think that Sam understands the Ring on a level that I only see demonstrated by Gandalf and the elves such as Galadriel and Elrond, but perhaps in a more visceral than intellectual way.

This chapter is also all about Team Samwise.  He's center stage, taking actions and experiencing the type of luck that only Heroes can count on.  The Lord of the Rings doesn't overlook Sam persay... but it rarely features him, instead letting him remain in Frodo's shadow.  …

5 in 15 - Urban Legends

In December I recorded a Readers' Advisory video for the Mass Library System, it's since been processed and uploaded (though it's official share date will be 2/15).  Of course since I recorded it, I've had a chance to read Battle Hill Bolero, but at the time I had to leave my review of it slightly vague.
Urban Legends: Urban Fantasy that's not Paranormal Romance
Script Slide 1 Welcome to this Massachusetts Library System 5-in-15: Member Edition!
Slide 2 I’m Tegan Mannino, and among the many hats I wear I can be found as the Circulation Supervisor and Cataloger at the Monson Free Library, as a book reviewer, and as a freelance library technology consultant.

I’m also in the middle of far too many books, but a few are:
Snow Queen / Joan D. Vinge You Can’t Touch My Hair / Phoebe Robinson (audio) Slide 3 This month I’m talking about Urban Legends – Urban Fantasy that is not Paranormal Romance, and for something a little different I’ll be talking about series ins…

[Book Review] Norse Mythology

Norse Mythology / Neil Gaiman

Gaiman has put together a lovely little introduction to Norse mythology in this collection of cleanly written tales.  The narrative voice is one that you could imagine belonging to a storyteller, sharing stories.  Some of my favorite myths are found in these pages, and several I had not yet read.  Overall the selection reads like a continuing story, rather than simply a collection of individual stories.  An enjoyable read for both those new to and familiar with Norse mythology. 

Advance Reader Copy courtesy of W. W. Norton & Company via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review; changes may exist between galley and the final edition.

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 5, Chapter 10

Some of our party rides out to meet battle, but not all.  Merry, and others still healing, are left behind in Gondor.  This journey is neither quick nor subtle, and that Sauron prepares a trap in wait is no surprise.  Their presence is a clear and deliberate provocation of Sauron, and one that is nearly countered by the brief capture of Frodo.  I think that if it were not for Gandalf the armies would have quailed, recognition by items that the Mouth of Sauron is referring to one of the hobbits.  Of course, the key piece not mentioned in all of this is the Ring... and the fact that if Sauron had the Ring already the parlay would not even be necessary.

This chapter is definitely one that was ripe for translation to the screen.  Cinematically it is both an apex and a cliffhanger, on top of the whole launching into likely doomed battle.  Jackson made some pretty good decisions here to visually ramp up the tension.  I can't really argue with the decision to have all of the Fellowship p…

[Book Review] Sunstone

Sunstone (TPB Volumes 1-5) / Stjepan Sejic

Sunstone is a beautiful story about two women who fall in love with each other, as well as some of the misunderstandings that get in the way.  When I say beautiful here I mean that in more than one way.  The artwork itself is stunning and sexy, and for all of its erotic content, manages to appear more like exotic pin-up artwork than erotica.  The story is just so human in its emotions and developments.

At the risk of a spoiler, the story arc does have a happy ending, but they have to work to get there.

The story starts with Ally and Lisa going from an online friendship (and flirtation), to meeting in real life to explore their kinks and fetishes, to navigating the difficult transition from friends-with-benefits to an emotional relationship.  Along the way we meet new and old friends, learn about skeletons in the closet, and get to learn Ally and Lisa beyond the faces they present to the world and each other.

I loved this graphic novel, and eag…

Still alive, but recovering

This weekend left me utterly wrecked, but in a good way.  The second game in a LARP I staff went off fantastically, but like anything that takes significant personal energy and emotional investment, it's a little rough when it ends.  Totally worth it, though coming back to the current political dumpster fire is adding a gut-wrenching anxiety flare to the post-event crash and recovery process.

My Sunday LotR post clearly didn't happen, and I'm not sneaking it in today.

I have a back log of stuff (including writing about Arisia) that I will get to soon.

But not today.  Today is for recharging and readjusting to real life.  And quite possibly naps.

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 5, Chapter 9

This chapter can largely be viewed as two sections; the first part consisting of reunions and filling in backstory, the second part looking forward at hard decisions and action.  The reunion of the fellowship stands as a focal point to pull us in at this juncture, some joy taking part in this brief calm.

The real action of the chapter however is decision.  Denethor has good reason for his despair, the seeing stones do not lie... and the fight they all face against the shadow will not be won by strength of arms alone.  In terms of the narrative of the page, their hopes rely mostly on the shoulders of two hobbits.  In a more layered take, the battle they face isn't just that of weapons and physical force, but of psychological maneuvering and propaganda.  Sauron has relied on feeding misinformation and doubt to those who stand against him, now the opposition seeks to do the same to him.

By and large, the updating details supplied by the fellowship members to each other in this chap…

[Book Review] Dreadnought

Dreadnought (Nemesis #1) / April Daniels

Danny Tozer tries to stay under the radar, right now that's the easiest way of surviving and staying sane.  Then the world's greatest superhero is struck down and passes his mantle to Danny.  When young men have taken on the mantle of Dreadnought they've physically changed, becoming taller, stronger, more to their ideal form.  Danny takes on the mantle and finds herself for the first time in her life in a body that matches who she is... only everyone else still remembers Danny as Daniel.  Now when she should be learning what comes with these superpowers and stepping into the void left by the previous Dreadnought, she has to deal with suspicion, disgust, and all the baggage of being seen as an attractive young woman.  She has to get a handle on things fast, because she may be the only one capable of stopping the cyborg Utopia's plans.

I started reading this book with high levels of both excitement and reservation.  Kickass trans …

[Book Review] Battle Hill Bolero

Battle Hill Bolero(Bone Street Rumba #3) / Daniel Jose Older

This book.

This fucking book.

I just can't even come up with the words to review it, so please bear with me.

Battle Hill Bolero is angry and joyous and lyrical and triumphant.

Book one was good, book two was great, and this book is why you read the first two.  To get to this glorious point.  If it's been awhile since reading Half-Resurrection Blues or Midnight Taxi Tango, take the time to reread them before diving in to Battle Hill Bolero.  Get back on first name basis with the characters.  The book dives forward and takes no prisoners.

Advance Reader Copy courtesy of Roc (Penguin RandomHouse) in exchange for an honest review; changes may exist between galley and the final edition.

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 5, Chapter 8

A chapter titled "The Houses of Healing" stands as breathing space for the reader and the characters.  Men start cleaning up and repairing the battle damage, friends reunite, wounds are tended, and legacies unveiled.

Coming into Gondor, Aragorn chooses caution rather than claiming his power, respecting the long sovereignty of the Stewards.  It is here that they find both loss and hope; Denethor gone, Theoden lying upon a bed of state, but Eowyn and Faramir lying in the house of healing.  The shadow of Mordor is long, one that inflicts wounds beyond even Gandalf's power and knowledge, but ones that may be cured by some nature within a King.

Aragorn's unusual life as an uncrowned King perhaps gives him a unique modesty and self view.  In the high tongue he admits to beign known as the Elfestone and the Renwer, but the name he claims is one often applied to him in mockery, that of Strider.  We've seen him all along take the mantle of leadership, but as part of his c…

[Book Review] Dark Matter

Dark Matter / Blake Crouch

Jason Dessen has a good life.  Not the life he once foresaw for himself, that of a brilliant research physicist.  But he's married to the love of his life, well employed, and has a wonderful son.  Then a masked man assaults Jason, takes him outside of town, drugs him, and when Jason wakes everything has changed.  He's still Jason Dessen, but his work in quantum physics was never set aside for a family, the his son never born, the woman he loves is dating his best friend and is a celebrated artist, and the man everyone believes him to be has done the impossible.  But some mysteries should never be broken open, and everything is now at risk.

Ok, here's the thing.  I wanted to like this book.  Alternate-universe, hard science fiction thriller?  Sounds amazing.  It's not a bad book, though I find it works better as audio rather than print due to a narrative style favoring short, abrupt phrases.  But I ended up bored (and to be honest, at times an…

Lord of the Rings : The Return of the Read - Book 5, Chapter 7

What strikes me the most here is the differences in gravitas and tragedy between the two versions of the same scene.  While at their core, the same basic events occur, but their executions turn them into completely different events.

Watching the film, we know explicitly that this scene is coming, being led to it step by step.  In the book, something is clearly long, but we're left with a more ambiguous dread before being whisked off to other battle scenes.  Pippin is sent away and on his way to the big guns (ie. Gandalf) starts putting things in motion to delay permanent consequences.  After all, he knows Faramir still lives, and has a much less regimented place within the hierarchy of the city guard.

The choice to save Faramir is not without cost, Gandalf makes a choice to save one man over helping on the battlefield.  The battle still rages on, no matter the order that we come across the chapter in the text.  The decision on some levels is that of visual effect - the potential l…

Virtual Speculation 2017 Picks

It's that time of year again, when I put out a list of 11 books to read and discuss over the upcoming months, and hopefully folks will join in.  This year I have two Finnish authors (plus one Russian), a few SF/F classics, and two repeat authors from previous years.

On my own, I've previously read The Core of the Sun, Old Man's War, and Grass, though the last two I only vaguely remember.  The vagueness of memory is honestly what prompts this re-read of Old Man's War, and I want to look at it this time with Starship Troopers in mind.  I actually wanted to take a look at Sideshow by Tepper, but as it turns out to be the third book in the series started by Grass, and I barely remember anything about any of the three, I wanted to start in the beginning.

The other books were all chosen based on reviews specific to that book, or based on a desire to read something by that specific author.  It would be a good year to reread The Handmaid's Tale, but with The Core of the Su…

[Book Review] Hard Rhythm

Hard Rhythm (The Secrets of a Rock Star #3) / Cecilia Tan

Previously Reviewed
Taking the LeadWild Licks Set revolving the band and the kink club we've come to know in the previous two books, Hard Rhythm follows hostess Madison and drummer Chino.

Unfortunately, this is probably my least favorite of the series, little details just bothered me and I don't generally expect my favorite parts of an erotic romance to be the ones that have nothing to do with the relationship or sexy times.  That being said, it's a pretty good series overall.

Ironically perhaps, I felt the public D/S scenes were just too showy for me to even enjoy reading about.  Yeah, I get where that's sort of the point of a public show, but they felt like just show and no substance.  I also felt we were a bit teased by a chance of a relationship with Madison as the dominant, or some element of switch.  The story opens with her thinking about Chino submitting to her, then turns into her regularly going almost …

Upcoming, but not New Year's resolutions

I hope everyone had the type of New Year's celebration they wanted.

There is no LotR chapter today, my partner in crime has had a hell of a last week of the year and declared this week a hiatus.  We'll continue with Return of the King next week.

Romance Book Bingo starts today.  Thank god, I have a stack of romance novels from the library that I've deliberately not read, and usually they're next day returns.  There's definitely a few squares that I'm not going to actively seek out filling, but if I come across them I'll go with it.

Coming up in a few weeks is Arisia, I'll be moderating two panels on the 14th and spending the rest of the convention largely in the background of things.
Disability in Speculative Fiction, Saturday, 2:30 PM
SFF doesn't always represent people with disabilities well. A flawed model for dealing with disability in SF is that technology is a panacea that can be always, desireably, and often preemptively applied to disabled…