Showing posts from 2018

[Book Review] The Forever War

The Forever War  / Joe Haldeman Well.  I can certainly see where comparisons between Old Man's War  and The Forever War are made.  I love that Scalzi wrote his book without having familiarity with this one, and his introduction to this edition is kind of precious. The Forever War  is a 40 year old novel, deliberately set so that characters could have served in Vietnam.  In some ways it has aged poorly, and in others it seems like something written today.  But then, some themes are as relevant now as then.  It's a space opera about war, about the world changing around you, and perhaps the vagarities of chance. This was technically the July Virtual Speculation read, but at this rate I don't have to pick a list for next year, just finish up this years...  Life has been a bit, overwhelming. Discussion Fodder There are some markedly different cultural structures at the start of the story, including the bed rotation roster, the "Fuck You, Sir" response, and t

[Fiction] Magic & Shadows

The following is a narrative and epilogue for a character I played in Pandaemonium, at HLG Con, October 12-13, 2018. Once there was a child, like any of us.  Playing the games we all play.  Running wild with friends, due home by dark to be welcomed back by parents A child grows and changes, the pieces not always fitting the mold set by the parents.  Algebra seems so… tedious compared to the thrum of a tuned engine, the just so fit of a pair of jeans, to secrets held in the shadows.  Childish mischief transmutes into the usual adolescent rebellion.  Or started as such.  There were so many fascinating things to learn, interesting things to try, expanding the consciousness. It was a laugh when the straights started crossing themselves instead of laughing or mocking.  Why not take on their scorn and wear it as a badge of pride.  Watch out for the scary witch. It only takes a moment for everything to change, one decision made so quickly you don’t even remember making a choice.  Some

[Book Review] Night and Silence

Night and Silence (October Day #12) / Seanan McGuire Previously reviewed: Once Broken Faith The Brightest Fell   Oh Toby. When I began my review for The Brightest Fell , I remarked from the start that it felt like the book marked a turning point, that we had hit a new stage, that debts were starting to come due.  That isn't to say that she never pays a price, but the prices are becoming more dear.  What she stands to lose more precious, and what she retrieves is not quite whole. Toby starts this story vulnerable.  There's the humor we all love and expect, but she is raw and exposed, her network weakened.  Tybalt is keeping distant and Gilly has been taken.  Threads of Toby's family history are starting to show, and at it's heart, Night and Silence  is a book about family. The ending is uneasy, uncomfortable, and it should be.  This isn't a happy ending.  Things are too raw, too forced by necessity.  There is hope, but there is also grief from change

[Giveaway] Phoenix Unbound & More!

To celebrate the publication of Phoenix Unbound by Grace Draven, Penguin RnadomHouse is offering a Paranormal Romance "Starter Kit" giveaway! I mean... look at these books.  I'm a huge fan of Patricia Briggs' writing across the board, and I quite enjoy Anne Bishop's novels of The Others .  The collection overall is a great starting point for sampling fantasy romance. The giveway runs through the 19th!  Check it out. PHOENIX UNBOUND by GRACE DRAVEN Ace Trade Paperback | September 25, 2018 A woman with power over fire and illusion and an enslaved son of a chieftain battle a corrupt empire in this powerful and deeply emotional romantic fantasy from the USA Today bestselling author of Radiance. Every year, each village is required to send a young woman to the Empire's capital--her fate to be burned alive for the entertainment of the masses. For the last five years, one

[Book Review] Islands in the Net

Islands in the Net / Bruce Stirling Like this book, my life has been a bit of a hot mess lately.  This isn't entirely a criticism of the book, Islands in the Net is a book about futureshock and war, so if it wasn't a hot mess I'd probably be a bit dubious.  We follow along with Laura as she is buffeted along the shockwave of wars and conspiracies fought across corporate rather than national lines.  An interesting read looking back through the years at how things change and how things stay the same.  I read this back in May as my Virtual Speculation read, and then missed a few months.  Almost done with the July read (which I mixed up with Augusts). Discussion Fodder: What can you say about the different political, social, and economic systems present in the book?  How are they different or similar from what you know?  How are they different or similar from each other? What do you think of the Data Pirates and their havens? How is technology represented.  Is, as Pr

Unfinished Tales : Part One : The First Age : II. Narn I Hin Hurin

Wow.  I did not budget my time appropriately for the length of this chapter.  Almost 100 pages plus notes.  Whoops.  Also, it seems that while Emily was doing a subsection every two weeks, I thought we were doing the whole thing in two weeks.  So I'm both late and early on this I guess? For my next statement I also need to beg forgiveness, because I could very well be completely off the mark.  But this section reminds me of a Greek tragedy.  But maybe it's just the incest?  Regardless, the story of Turin is that of a Tragedy.  The tale of Tuor is one of gold and light, that of Turin is of dark and tarnish, though great deeds happen in both. He is born of Hurin, in a house of legacy and sorrow.  His sister dies young and her name to never be spoken but he remembers her still and speaks of her in his own way to a man of the house, Sador.  Tragedy continues, as Hurin himself is lost to Morgoth, and then the Easterlings come and Turin at nine is sent away for his safety to find

[Book Review] Empire of Silence

Empire of Silence ( Sun Eater #1) / Christopher Ruocchio This month I got my hands on a pre-pub copy of Empire of Silence , Christopher Ruocchio's debut novel.   It is, at this point, already out and on bookstore shelves, but I've been busy and at about 600 pages it took a little longer to get through. As a side note, my copy has a quote from James S. A. Corey rather than David Drake on the cover as shown in the image here. Empire of Silence gives us an Space Opera with flavors of epic fantasy, starting us at the very end with our narrator awaiting execution.  I'd say it's a good read for fans of Pierce Brown's Red Rising. From the publisher: Hadrian Marlowe, a man revered as a hero and despised as a murderer, chronicles his tale in the galaxy-spanning debut of the Sun Eater series, merging the best of space opera and epic fantasy. It was not his war. The galaxy remembers him as a hero: the man who burned every last alien Cielcin from the sky. They remem

[Book Review] The Girl in the Green Silk Gown

The Girl in the Green Silk Gown (The Ghost Roads #2) / Seanan McGuire Previously Reviewed Sparrow Hill Road If you're reading The Girl in the Green Silk Dress you should already know all the major players.  Rose Marshall, Bobby Cross, Apple, Emma, Gary, Laura, the Ocean Lady, and even Persephone.  They all had their parts to play in Sparrow Hill Road This is in many ways the first true novel about Rose, Sparrow Hill Road being a collection of short stories.  As a protagonist Rose is a mix, she is a force to be reckoned with, but at the same time spends much of the story being pushed or pulled through obstacles (or by obstacles), while avoiding her primary goal of the story... defeating Bobby Cross.  In her defense, no one knows how to achieve that, and he's put her in a situation she doesn't have the tools to defeat him with until it's fixed. Rose also has growing pains, at the end of the last novel she was reunited with her teenage love, and they a

Unfinished Tales : Part One : The First Age : I. Of Tuor and his Coming to Gondolin

According to the bibliographic notes, that the "Fall of Gondolin" was the first story Tolkien wrote in this saga, putting it down during sick leave while in the Army.  We've read elements of this story already before, a theme that will remain consistent likely through this whole book.  Some elements will be new, others may contradict, as starting with the Silmarillion everything we're reading going forward is based on manuscripts and notes, not yet gone through a cohesive editing process by their creator to match for consistency. Tuor, son of Huor, was born with a Destiny hanging over his head just like his father before him.  Of men, raised by elves.  Captured and held thrall to the Easterlings for years, before making good his escape and seeking the Gate of the Noldor.  This story is one of the guiding hand of Fate on the life of a Bard.  A Doom hangs over him, one that he is not to fulfill ahead of time, so unknowing of the forces that steer him he tallies until

[Book Review] Beneath the Sugar Sky

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) / Seanan McGuire Previously Reviewed Every Heart a Doorway Down Among the Sticks and Bones Set in our world, in "reality," Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children is where those that have fallen through the cracks into other realms and then stumbled back out again find a home.  Our world is not kind to the children remade by worlds of Nonsense and Magic. "Children have always tumbled down rabbit holes, fallen through mirrors, been swept away by unseasonal floods or carried off by tornadoes. Children have always traveled , and because they are young and bright and full of contradictions, they haven’t always restricted their travel to the possible. Adulthood brings limitations like gravity and linear space and the idea that bedtime is a real thing, and not an artificially imposed curfew. Adults can still tumble down rabbit holes and into enchanted wardrobes, but it happens less and less with every year they live.

Unfinished Tales: Return of Silmarillion Blues

Yeah... remember this little project ? Well, we're starting things up again, so if you want in please join us! Emily and I will be doing a chapter every two weeks (life is busy, yo), going through Unfinished Tales  as we continue reading through Tolkien's works.  So our first posts should be going up on July 1st!

[Book Review] Sparrow Hill Road

Sparrow Hill Road (The Ghost Roads #1) / Seanan McGuire Some ghost stories we've all heard, or heard some version of.  Sleep over stories, campfire tales, urban legends.  They change, they fade, but they still make the rounds, even as new stories like the Black Eyed Kids or the Slenderman take root. In Sparrow Hill Road we get the story of one of those undying ghost stories, in the form of Rose Marshall, the phantom prom date, the vanishing hitchhiker, the girl in the diner.  She died in 1952 when she was run off the road on prom night, and hasn't been able to truly go home since.  Riding the roads, both  mortal and dead, ushering those to their final exit, or helping others find their way home. Even the dead have something to fear, some of the living have power over them, the Crossroads where bargains are made, and sometimes those who well their souls at the expense of others.  Rose is not only the vanishing hitchhiker, but the girl who got away, her death to pay fo

[Book Review] Brief Cases

Brief Cases (Dresden Files) / Jim Butcher So.  Imma make a recommendation here.  Stop reading my review, and just go pre-order the book , or place a hold at your library. Go on, I'm not going anywhere. The Dresden Files cast and setting has expanded a lot since the first few novels, and the first few collections of stories.  In Brief Cases we get stories of Dresden's adventures and debacles, but there is also so much more, and the additional voices are fantastic. Things kick off with a weird West story featuring Luccio and an introduction about how Butcher has an idea for a full series based on this short story.  Let me just say I'm so ready for this. The stories in this collection span the range from fun to touching to sad.  We learn how Molly got in good with the Svartalves, the price she's paying as a Winter Queen.  We get three stories about "Bigfoot," one about Butters as a Knight, and even get to hear both Maggie and Mouse. Usually ant

[Book Review] The Sheep Look Up

The Sheep Look Up / John Brunner I almost put this book down several pages in.  Narrative voices, even those true to the character the story is focusing at the time... can be a challenge, and in this case the book slapped me in the face with racism that made me concerned for the whole story.  The story is a lot more than one character's bigotry, that being a single piece of a multi-faceted puzzle shaped together by different and divergent experiences throughout.  Warring ideologies and biases are central to the overall plot.  The picture it paints of a potential future pulls uncomfortably on many things that resonate as much today as they did when the book was written. In terms of outlook and despair it puts me in mind of Peter Watts' work, a destructive nihilistic view of humanity's future.  An interesting book, and one that I'm not sure I would have picked and read on my own, were it not for a chance discovery and impulse. Discussion Fodder: As a book se

[Book Review] A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time / Madeleine L'Engle   I went with an "easy" read for March, shorter than many of my picks and by and large considered accessible to children.  Going in I remembered the concepts surrounding a tesseract, that the children were helped by something like angels, and there being some dark force that they had to combat. I actually re-read this in two formats, the graphic novel adaptation as well as the traditional novel.  The graphic novel adaptation is very well done, and I highly recommend it.  The religious aspects of the story stood out starkly to me, which is something that I often struggle with encountering.  At the same time, other concepts stood strong on their own, both of metaphysics and philosophy, and I definitely enjoyed both of those.  Worth the reread, and I wish I had read this when I was in the target audience range. Discussion Fodder: What do you think of the attitudes towards Meg and her mother?  What about attitudes towards Charle

Silmarillion Blues : Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age

For a lot of us, this final chapter is what we started this journey for.  This is the final pieces in the set up for the story of the One Ring that leads us to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings . Sauron, long sided with Morgoth, claims to repent of his deeds under Morgoth, but not his pride.  So when summoned to Valar for a sentence he departs to hide within Middle-earth and fall back into his old ways.  Meanwhile, life goes on in Middle Earth.  Cultures rise, cities succeed and fail.  Men multiply and "most of them turn to evil."  Middle Earth seems forgotten by the Valar, at least to Sauron, so he moves forward with his plans and manipulations. With his One Ring he perceives all things done by the lesser rings, but the Elves were aware of his use of the Ring and so removed theirs and hid them away, refusing to hand them over when he demanded them.  Thes were imbued with the power to ward of the toll of time, and were forged by Celebrimbor, untouched by Sauron even t

March Read: A Wrinkle in Time

Look.  I made a mistake.  I thought it would be great to re-read the book the month the movie came out.  I know  better.  But I have a copy in hand, and it shouldn't take too long to read. I never read A Wrinkle in Time as a kid.  My first foray into the story was at 17, shortly before going off to college.  It was a neat odd little story to me then, one that I left being well aware that certain parts didn't make sense but that I enjoyed it overall none the less.  So giving it a go again while I play catch up on the rest of my life, the reasons for which are a whole different post!

Silmarillion Blues : Akallabêth

Here we are in the end, the Downfall of Númenor.  The story tells us of the division of Men, those that fell under the Shadow of Morgoth, those who refused all calls, and those who allied with the Eldar and Valar, known as the Edain or the Faithful.  After the fall of Morgoth the Edain were given a land of their own in the West, enriched by the gifts of the Valar, and they were led to it by a star in the sky.  So begins the history of the Dúnedain.   The Dúnedain resemble the Eldar in many ways, tall, wise, glorious, long-lived, and with few children.  They grew skilled in crafts and loved the sea, though forbidden to sail further West than they could still see their shores.  To them the Eldar brought the seedling of Celeborn, the White Tree that marks their standards.  Eventually the Dúnedain returned to Middle-earth, unable to sail West.  To the men living under the Shadow, the Númenóreans were glorious and aweful, strong and skilled, bringing back to Middle-earth something resem

[Book Review] Tricks for Free

Tricks for Free (InCryptid #7) / Seanan McGuire Previously reviewed Chaos Choreography (InCryptid #5) Magic for Nothing (InCryptid #6) Ok folks, I have some really bad news about this book. There are no Aeslin mice in it.  But they have their own novella at the end (and it's kind of adorable). In Magic for Nothing I was a little harsh on Antimony... and what I said still holds true, she needed to grow up and she did.  So now we get an Annie who has learned in a way she never knew before what exactly it means to be a Price, perhaps still with resentment and issues with Verity, but that is tempered with understanding as well.  I like this Annie. Hiding out from the Covenant (and her family), Antimony has donned an old identity and getting by as an employee at the Lowryland amusement park while she attempts to get her life back together.  Life, on the other hand, has its own plans for her.  Lowryland turns out to be run by a cabal of magic users who offer to tea

[Book Review] Bingo Love

Bingo Love / Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge (ill), and Joy San (ill) I... don't even know where to start summarizing this story or reviewing beyond this: you will cry.  This story brings all of the Feels and will rip out your heart.  And you will love it all the more for it. Buy, read it, add it to your library, it's worth it. From the publisher: When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid-’60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage. From TEE FRANKLIN (NAILBITER’s “THE OUTFIT,” Love is Love) and JENN ST-ONGE (Jem & The Misfits), BINGO LOVE is a touching story of love, family, and resiliency that spans over 60 years. Advance Reader Copy courtesy of Im

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XIV. Of the Voyage of Eärendil and the War of Wrath

In this final chapter of Quenta Silmarilion, I would like to propose we rename (or subtitle) the "Quenta Silmarillion" to "Fëanor & Sons ruin everything." When Tuor and Idril sailed West they left behind their son Eärendil, who likewise heard the call of the sea.  We also know of Eärendil to some extent because of one of his sons, the so called "Half-elven" Elrond.  I'm not sure how being born of a half-elf father and an elven mother makes him a half-elf, but so be it.  So with the aid of Círdan the Shipwright , Eärendil built a shift and explored the sea, leaving his wife behind. Guess what comes next! If you guessed Fëanor's sons ruin everything, you are correct!  They go storm the castle, slaughtering the defenders and ruining Sirion.  Elrond and Eros are taken captive, but Elwing is rescued by Ulmo... yet again demonstrating that no one ever listens to the powerful figures they should.   Elwing, in the shape of a bird, reaches her hus

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XXIII. Of Tuor and the Fall of Gondolin

Why no, I didn't completely forget to do this post... (yes, yes I did). After looking at Húrin and the fall of Doriath, we now look at his nephew and the fall of Gondor. Tuor was raised in fosterage among the Grey Elves, until they sought to make their way to the Havens of Sirion, and he was captured by the Easterlings.  There is something of a literary tradition at work here, a Hero captured and enslaved, only to escape before meeting his Fate/Doom.  After three years in thraldom he escaped and proceeded to make life a living hell for the Easterlings, until their king placed a price on his head and Ulmo called on Tuor.  And so Tuor makes his way to Belegaer the Great Sea, where he met Ulmo who bade him to seek out the hidden kingdom of Gondolin, gifting him with a cloak to hide him in shadow from his enemies, and with a message for the Elves of Gondolin. Well, what happens next falls within a bit of a pattern.  Tuor goes forth, and gives Ulmo's message/warning to Turgo

February Read: Chill

Dust  by Elizabeth Bear is one of my favorite novels, and was one of the easy selections for when I started doing this book club thing.  But while I reread Dust  with some frequency, I think I only read Chill (Jacob's Ladder #2)  once, immediately after purchasing it.  There's a good chance that my reading of it was too colored by my expectations and memories of Dust , a younger me wanting the exact same thing as before, only new and different.  Similar to  my experiences with American Gods  and  Anasazi Boys , except Chill  is a true sequel. What I remember is that this is a story of after and of pushing through.  The Jacob's Ladder is again in motion, reduced through deliberate effort and through the abuse of its rough relaunch.  Similarly, the characters are in a state of flux, challenge, and recovery.  Perceval struggles with the unwanted mantle of Captain, the cost of power and conflict, and the ghost of Rein that now lives in the AI of the ship. Tristen and Benedick

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XXII. Of the Ruin of Doriath

Wherein Morgoth spreads the misery though puppetry.  Releasing Húrin to the world after years of captivity, he aims to increase strife among Men and Elves.  His reception is varied, with his own people shunning him as in league with Morgoth.  Even the Eagles state that " Húrin Thalion has surrendered to the will of Morgoth."  This reception makes me think of Gandalf speaking of how to treat Gollum, and the importance of mercy.  I wonder how this story would have changed if people had shown him kindness and acceptance, while acknowledging that Morgoth had his plans for Húrin still.  But again, that is often the beauty of the "curses" Tolkien lays against his characters, their fated doom often not of divine or infernal end, but the result of deliberate action and self-fulfilling prophesy. We some of what could have been, when Melian speaks kindness in face of his twisted perceptions and grief, but it leaves Húrin bereft of purpose and so he passes away.  It also hap

Webinar - by me!

So in a few weeks I'm presenting a webinar for the Massachusetts Library System! Disability on the Shelf – Looking for Representation in Library Collections When asked, we all can think of a book, movie, or TV show that features a disabled character, but we don’t often think about the representation itself. With diversity and representation increasingly a part of our Collection Development practices, it is important we don’t continue to overlook this aspect. In this webinar, we invite participants to learn about disability, to gain an awareness of representation, and learn vocabulary and resources to evaluate materials. Learning Outcomes: Introduction to disability as a facet of diversity representation Concepts of disability Awareness of tropes, stereotypes, and representation in popular media Vocabulary to discuss and evaluate materials Resources Interested?  Sign up here:

[Book Review] We

We / Yevgeny Zamyatin Several things drew me to We .  Comparison to 1984 is unavoidable, yet it predates it by several decades. A science fiction dystopia written in 1921 Russia that is still being read and discussed today seems like the type of foundation literature I should be familiar with. The book is definitely an interesting read, pulling on themes we expect to see in any modern literary dystopia with investigation and discussion of what it means to be an individual.  It is also difficult to read, a short novel that makes use of uncomfortable descriptions and has passages that are undeniably racist.  What remains is to untangle what is relic of the environment in which the book was written, what is an aspect of the horror of the setting, and what is true bias of the author.  Philosophically interesting, but for me the discomfort rides heavy even if took minimal space in the text. Discussion Fodder: What aspects of this book are due to its dystopia setting, and what aspe

Virtual Speculation 2018 Picks

So begins another year and another set of books to read, hopefully you'll join me.  The selections this time around include three long-overdue rereads, one a sequel to a book I picked my first year, and eight books that have popped up and looked particularly worth reading.  There were actually a good half-dozen more titles at various points I had meant to jot down for this list... and apparently never did so.  Hopefully they'll come across my desk again some time soon.  Otherwise, we'll see how this goes!  I only vaguely know what to expect for most of these. February: Chill  / Elizabeth Bear March: A Wrinkle in Time / Madeleine L'Engle April: The Sheep Look Up / John Brunner May: Islands in the Net / Bruce Sterling June: The Shore of Women / Pamela Sargent July: The Forever War /Joe Haldeman August:  The very best of Kate Elliott / Kate Elliott September: Infomocracy / Malka Older October: Lovecraft Country  / Mike Ruff November: Autonomous / Annalee Ne

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XXI. Of Túrin Turambar

As previously related, Húrin was captured and his family cursed.  Now we get to read about it "in brief."  It's worth mentioning that The Children of Húrin exists as its own novel. As it stands, this is a story of mistakes, pride, and overall bad decisions.  Maybe at some point folks will start learning to listen to Maia.  I'm considering just calling Melian "Cassandra" from now on. Túrin was sent into Thingol's fosterage, where he does well until news of his mother and sister stopped, and he went searching.  On his return he was worn, unkempt, and probably not in the best head space... and a councelor decided to be petty and a few clashes ended with Saeros falling into a chasm and Túrin deciding he was an outlaw rather than risk judgement and imprisonment.  He goes a little edgelord there, becoming the captain of outlaws and naming himself Neithan, or "the Wronged."  Seriously, dude?  Then when Thingol sends someone out to make sure Túri

So much for taking it easy

A few months ago, I mused that I had a lot going on .  Truth be told... I did.  Maybe that led indirectly to the misjudgements of time and work load that led to where I am now.  Whoops. Gaming-wise things have quieted down... with some regular contributions to the monthly Sabbat game I help run, and apparently writing Regional Plot when I get horrible ideas for our monthly Space game (that I do not help run).  I am attached to a few large projects, but they're on the back burner until things kick off in a bit.  Thankfully.  Panic for all of that is due to start this summer most likely. Professionally things are quite interesting.  I'm in the middle of trying to write (and appropriately beat into shape) an essay for a professional publication on immersive play in libraries.  I was hoping to have it already done but things keep being busier than expected.  On top of that next month I'm giving a webinar on disability representation in libraries.  This shouldn't be a b

Silmarillion Blues : Quenta Silmarillion : XX. Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad

We start out with Beren and Lúthien in their (literal) new life together, visiting their family and then leaving to live their own life (and reproduce) "until all tidings of them ceased." And then we go on to a different story.    Maedros takes heart from the deeds of Beren and Lúthien in their blows to Morgoth and tries to unite the different Eldar peoples to stand against him.  Sadly, sons of the father and all that, this is less effective than it could be, though they make a showing.  Also, I think we can all agree showing up and making ultimatums rarely goes well, so haughtily demanding that Thingol hand over the Silmaril or become their enemy. What follows is a hot mess. Morgoth has his plans, the Elves do their best to out-think and overpower them.  Unexpected aid shows up, but the forces are also drawn in when they should stay back.  The Elves might have had a chance but for betrayal by allies.  The Dwarves stood against dragon fire and foe, but Balrogs struck do