Book Review – This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity #1) by Victoria Schwab

Blogland,

This book was not on my radar until I finished reading the Shades of Magic series. V.E. Schwab pretty much blew my mind with those books, and left me with a desperate need to read more of her work. I looked at a couple of reviews and decided that the Monsters of Verity series would be the right series to start with in my quest to read her entire bibliography.

Goodreads Rating: 4/5 Stars

this savage song

Verity is a city cut in half. South City, where people band together to fight back the monsters, and North City where the people pay for protection from Callum Harker who brought the monsters to heel. Civil war split the city down what’s called The Seam, where violence overflowed the world. Violent acts lead to the birth of literal monsters. There’s even a little song to help you remember them!

Corsai, Corsai, tooth and claw,
Shadow and bone will eat you raw. 
Malchai, Malchai, sharp and sly,
Smile and bite and drink you dry.
Sunai, Sunai, eyes like coal,
Sing you a song and steal your soul.

So, a breakdown for you, because I found the monsters fascinating. The Corsai are… scary. They’re made of shadow, teeth and claws, as the song would lead you to believe. They hate UV light and will literally tear you to shreds. The Malchai are like vampires on crack. They have a mouth full of super sharp needlelike teeth and bright red eyes, and though they are weaker in the daylight, they can move around in it. Then there’s the Sunai, the rarest of them all.

August Flynn, one half of the two-perspective narration, is the youngest of the only three Sunai in Verity.  The eldest Sunai believes they are akin to avenging angels, sent to reap the souls of sinners and cleanse the city. But August doesn’t want to be an angel, all he’s ever wanted is to be human. And when word reaches South City that Kate Harker, daughter of North City’s mob boss-esque leader, is back in town, he finally gets his chance.

What could be more human than going to high school?

Kate Harker, the other half of this duo, is a quintessential problem child. She’s burned (in one case, literally) through boarding school after boarding school until her father finally lets her come home. Now is her chance to prove that she isn’t weak, that she deserves to be in Verity, and that she is the rightful heir of Callum Harker.

But she didn’t plan on making friends with the quiet boy with a violin and one hell of a secret. Just like August didn’t intend to actually like Kate, he was just supposed to spy on her.

Hot damn, what a premise!

What I loved:

  • The monsters!!! They are just familiar enough that I’m not confused by them or get them confused with one another, but they’re new too. They are scary in new ways, and I just found them really interesting.
  • August! I love his complexity, his inner-turmoil and how much he struggles with the concept of what he is versus who he is. I also love that, though music is the Sunai method of feeding on souls, he also seems to just legitimately love music. His attachment to his violin goes beyond the fact that he needs it to feed. He cares about it. It’s an extension of himself.
  • Kate. She reminded me a lot of Lila Bard from Shades of Magic, which is never a bad thing. She’s angry, she has a chip on her shoulder and something to prove. But, despite her tough act and her gritty resolve, she isn’t cold. She wants to be, but she isn’t there yet. It’s that humanity in the face of monsters that makes her likable.
  • The music. Music is super important to this series, and I think Schwab’s writing reflects that. She’s a wonderful writer, I learned that with Shades of Magic, but I do feel like she upped her prose game with this book. There were a couple lines that made me pause and reread them, and there’s a lyrical quality that echoes throughout most of the book. I came away from each reading session feeling impressed.

What I didn’t love:

  • The beginning was a little slow. I get that there’s world building to be done and character development has to happen somewhere. But I wished we’d got to August and Kate in school sooner. I don’t really know if that’s a reasonable complaint, but there it is.
  • It felt a little… YA-y. Okay, this complaint ISN’T reasonable. It is a YA book after all. But, especially in those first 100 pages, everything felt too familiar. Almost cliché. I haven’t read much YA in the last five years or so, so maybe I’m just out of touch with the market, but it felt a little trope-y. Then the book shifts once Kate and August meet, and from there things really find their stride and I became immersed in the story.

So there you have it. A little slow to start, but ultimately a really great book with high stakes, amazing characters, and a super imaginative world and premise. Once I got through the first 100 pages, I was hooked. Thanks to Schwab’s previously fantastic works, I trusted her to give me an experience I would enjoy. I’m glad I did.

I’m on to the sequel already and am enjoying it so far. I’ll be back soon to talk about the state of the blog in the first half of the year.

Until then, Bloggarts.

 

BZ

SFWA Reading in Portland!

SFWA reading april 2019.png

Last night’s  reading was wonderful! I always have so much anxiety leading up to any sort of writing event that my brain convinces me that I will have a terrible time. Surely, I will embarrass myself beyond any hope of repair. I will somehow literally drool on someone. I will trip and/or fall, breaking something (inanimate or otherwise) and drawing every eye in the building. I will, once face to face with the author I like, be suddenly incapable of forming a coherent sentence as simple as “Hi, I really like your book. Will you sign it for me?” That, in my nervousness, I will gulp alcohol and get tipsy and then be forever remembered as “That drunk chick at the reading.”

I am proud to report that I did not drool on anyone. I did not get drunk, although I did enjoy three very delicious beers from Lucky Labrador Brewing, where the reading took place. Though my hands were basically made of lava thanks to how anxious I was, I was able to introduce myself to all three readers (and Caitlin Starling who was in attendance as a fan!), and shake their hands. I said my name to all of them, I complimented their readings, spoke about their work and thanked them for coming to see us in Portland.

I had normal human interactions with four writers I respect very much!

SFWA swagAnd, I won a bag of ARCs via the SFWA’s raffle! I maybe hit a pretty high pitch when I raised my hand and said, “That’s ME!” But I NEVER win anything and I’d had such a wonderful time that I was understandably pumped.

Sam J. Miller, author of The Art of Starving and Blackfish City, read first. He read his short story “Kenneth: A User’s Manual” and an excerpt from Blackfish City. He did a wonderful job, and the short story was pretty funny. It was nice to hear one of his stories I hadn’t read yet. I bought a copy of Blackfish City while we were there and got Sam to sign the book! And guys, I’m striving for transparency here, mortifying as it is, and I really love Sam’s writing. So, when he asked my name I told him to just write BZ, and then he looked up at me and said, “do we interact on twitter?”Sam J Miller autograph.jpg

Y’all. I about died. While every cell in my body screamed with joy, I smiled and said, “Yeah!” Cool as as a cucumber you left out on the counter. He shook my hand and said it was nice to meet me, and then finished signing the book. I walked back to my seat ready to just float away. It was such a brief, delightful interaction. AND I WASN’T A WEIRDO!

Kari Maaren went next and she gave an outstanding reading from her YA novel Weave a Circle Round. Her performance was really wonderful, so vibrant and real. I felt those characters, from an entire beer hall away. I made a point to tell her how much I loved her reading, and she confessed she has a background in performance, so that’s why she was so delightful!

Note to self: start practicing reading now! If I wait until I actually have one booked, I’ll be a complete doofus in front of a crowd.

Last came Rebecca Roanhorse. If you don’t know, she wrote Trail of Lightning, which has been nominated for this year’s Hugo for best novela slew of short stories, and her sequel Storm of Locusts just released this week! GO BUY IT! I’d planned to buy her books at the event, but they were already sold out once we got there. Wah-wah.

She read the first half of her story “Harvest” which is in the new anthology New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl, and an excerpt from her multiple award winning story “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience”. Her voice is fantastic. I don’t know how to describe it. She speaks with clarity and strength, her voice carried through the room and commanded attention, even when it was soft and whispering of the Deer Woman. She has range when she reads, her voice moving up and down, hitting the beats of her stories with precision.

Contents from my bag of swag! See anything you like?

It was spectacular. Even Trevor, my notoriously non-reader husband was blown away by her reading. He closed his eyes and absorbed her words, let them wash over and through him, and I was blessed with being able to watch him experience her work in a way I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I maybe teared up a little. Shhhhhusssssh. Don’t tell him. He’ll never go to a reading with me again.

When she was done, he turned to me and said, “we need to buy her books. If we buy them, I’ll read them.” So yeah, I’d say he was impressed.

Next was a Q&A session which I always loathe. I never have a question. I can never think of anything I want to know badly enough to single myself out and ask someone I admire to talk to me. I don’t want the attention. I don’t want the focus of not only the authors, but the whole crowd. So, I sit and I listen and generally smile a lot because I’m happy to be surrounded by book people.

But, last night I asked a question. It was a meaty one, about how to twist and mold existing places into dystopian or post-apocalyptic settings. I apologized afterward because it was a large ask, but they all did such a great job answering! And Sam even said it was a “great question”! So there, self-conscious, anxiety-ridden self! You asked a question and you didn’t die!

After the reading, Trev and I stayed to have dinner with Kat and Obadiah (of The Audient Void) who were also in attendance. It was a really nice evening, one that I’m eager to repeat. Hopefully I won’t be a nervous wreck next time.

Or, at least less of one.

Until Monday, Bloggos!

 

BZ

 

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 10

Hello Blogland,

It’s another sunshine-y day in the Pacific Northwest, and a wonderful 65 degrees! The windows were down on all my drives today, Snow Patrol blaring and a smile on my face. I can’t ask for more than that.

What did I want to do last week?

  • Publish two book reviews
  • Review/submit The Seasons 
  • Write 1000 words on Sanctified chapter 34
  • Finish listening to The Scorpio Races
  • Edit 2 chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Review and return Madhu’s pages

The results are in!

  • Publish two book reviews
  • Review/submit The Seasons
    • Yep! The submission process has begun. I’ve received one rejection all ready, which I fully anticipated. Waiting to hear back from the most recent market, and I’m planning a post about the whole process sometime soon.
  • Write 1000 words on Sanctified chapter 34
    • Yarp. Knocked this one out early in the week, and I’m feeling really good about finishing it this week.
  • Finish Listening to The Scorpio Races
    • Totes done. I’m ready to talk all about it.
  • Edit two chapters of The Steel Armada
    • Barely. It was another close call this week. Chapter six required extensive cutting and rewriting, which then made me hesitant to tackle chapter seven. Luckily it required much less work than its predecessor, so I was able to tack it on to the end of my week.
  • Review and return Madhu’s pages
    • Done. Reading her book is always nice because she writes stories that are different that the ones I read and write. It’s a refreshing break from my other projects. And, let’s be real, I enjoy editing work that isn’t mine.

Weekly Word Count: 3,326

Overall, I’m pretty happy with my output last week. Getting stuff done and moving the year right along. Feels good, man.

What’s next?

  • Publish two book reviews
  • Another round of edits on Lifelike
  • Finish Sanctified chapter 34
  • Finish reading Gunpowder Moon
  • Edit two chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Review Madhu’s pages

Really, I’m just in a holding pattern of productivity. Which was the point of establishing all these goals. So, my plan is working! Hooray! I don’t expect to hear back about The Seasons for at least another three weeks, so I’ll want to keep myself busy so the nerves and doubt to make a comeback.

Also, this week is officially “mid-March” which means I could hear back about that writing conference any day now. Keeping busy will be the key to my sanity over the next two weeks.

It has been a little bit of a struggle to edit the two chapters of The Steel Armada each week. It’s difficult, especially because there is so. much. rewriting. Like, so much. I cut two scenes, totaling over 1,000 words, and still managed to add another 650 words to the chapter. But, it’s a good kind of challenging. I feel amazing when I complete a chapter, if more than a little exhausted. I’m going to stick to that goal for now, and if it proves too much to handle I can always drop it back down.

I’ll be back sometime mid-week to talk about The Scorpio Races, and if all goes well, again over the weekend to talk about Gunpowder Moon. My reading is slowing slightly, since Snow Patrol their new album(!!!!!!!!!!), so we’ll see if I can keep up with two book reviews a week.

Until later,

 

BZ

Book Review – The Dire King by William Ritter

Hello Blogland,

We’re here today to talk about the fourth and final book in Ritter’s Jackaby series. I have read and reviewed them all, Jackaby, Beastly Bones, Ghostly Echoes, and now The Dire King.

If you don’t want to be spoiled, know that I rated this book 5 stars on Goodreads. It made me laugh a lot, and I cried a couple of times. I think this was Ritter’s best book so far, and I look forward to what he will do next, now that Jackaby is concluded.

There are spoilers ahead, as usual. So, you’ve been warned.

the dire king

The Dire King finds New Fiddleham in quite a state. The Mayor has not coped well with the fact that his beloved wife was an Nixie in disguise for the last 10 years, and has decided to arrest every non-human citizen of New Fiddleham.

Turns out, the city is chock-a-block full of all kinds of faeries and goblins, giants and gnomes, and everything in between. When Jackaby goes to the jail and witnesses the chaos of so many fair folk behind bars, he earns his place among some of my favorite characters ever.

He’s furious, and full of this righteous anger that was beautiful to witness. “We cannot make the world less awful by being more so ourselves.”

That’s some powerful shit right there, and I had to stop reading for a moment to let it sink in.  I hope you do too.

Anyway, Mayor Spade releases them all, telling them that Jackaby’s house is the only safe place for them, so suddenly the quirky house on Augur lane is bursting at the seams with supernatural folk.

Including something that even Jackaby had never seen. The creature is called a Twain. It’s ancient and full of pure, old magic, and typically comes in pairs. It’s described as tiny, and furry, but bipedal. I pictured a tiny, brown Lorax.

the lorax

Apparently this is something that Ritter created, because I cannot find anything about Twains on the internet that aren’t related to Mark. And I have to say he did a wonderful job! The Twain, which was alone (a red flag for a creature that comes into being with a soul mate), was enigmatic and interesting, and extremely foreboding.

the Twain explains that his mate gave her life to create the Crown, Shield, and  Spear of the original Dire King, saving his life. Twains are incredibly powerful creatures created of raw magic. Giving their lives is the greatest magical act possible, and giving their life is the greatest gift a Twain can do.

On top of all this tension in the household is the fact that Charlie Cane is preparing to propose to Abigail, a fact that Jackaby makes a point to share with his assistant. I was pissed when he did that; you can’t just spoil a proposal! Come on , man!

Oh yeah, and the fact that the evil Unseelie forces are working together to revive the Dire King and sunder the veil that separates the Anwynn and Earth. You know, little things.

Despite all this tension, the book flies along, and I laughed a lot, because this book feels like a reunion. All my favorite characters from the past books come back. Hank Hudson, Charlie Cane, Hotun, Nudd the Goblin Pirate Captain, Miss Lee, among others.

So, Jackaby and company must figure out who the Dire King actually is, and how to stop him. Unseelie forces are growing, and even Jackaby’s ragtag army of supernatural beings can’t come close to beating them.

But, they get help from an unexpected source. Pavel, the fangless vampire that tried to kill Abigail in the third book. He was betrayed by the Dire King, and seeks his revenge. So, he leads Jackaby,  Jenny, and Abigail through a rend in the veil, and into the heart of the Dire King’s stronghold.

jackabt

He then, of course, tries to kill them, and of course, dies himself. But, not before he breaks Jenny’s amulet that lets her travel beyond the house on Augur lane. She fades away, and neither Abigail nor Jackaby know if the ghost could survive her dissolution from the Anwynn.

They move on, and discover the giant machine that the Dire King has developed to tear the veil. The key to the machine’s success is the eyes of the Seer, which means he needs Jackaby.

Things get out of control from there very quickly. Jackaby is captured, the Seelie forces arrive, only to be drained by the machine, and Jackaby’s militia storm the stronghold.

And Charlie Cane dies.

Yep.  I didn’t believe it at first. I freaked out, screamed, cried. Charlie was hands down my favorite, and I was not in a place where I was ready to accept that Charlie was dead. He never even got to propose.

I had to stop reading for a bit at that moment. But I held out hope. Jackaby had just taken a spear to the chest a chapter before and survived, so I thought maybe something like that would happen for Charlie.

charlie cane

So, Abigail is crushed, she watched her boyfriend die at the hands of the Dire King, and Jackaby is hooked up to this terrible machine that will use his Sight to destroy the world as they know it. And he can only see one way to save everyone.

When the Seer dies, the Sight goes to the person they are looking at. And so Jackaby stares at Abigail and whispers, “I’m sorry.”

He dies. Yep. People are dropping like flies in this book and I was not okay with it! Please stop murdering all my favorites!

And the Sight flows to Abigail. It’s overwhelming and beautiful and gives her what she needs to convince Charlie’s sister to join her and defeat the Dire King. The backlash of the power of the machine unloading and repairing the veil is too much for Abigail and her new capability, and she passes out, but not before seeing Jenny hovering over Jackaby, her ghostly hands submerged into his chest.

She nearly dies in the darkness of her unconsciousness, and the Reaper visits her, offering to take her to Charlie. But, Abigail refuses, because the world needs her, and needs the Sight.  Because she wants to continue Charlie’s work.

When she comes to, Jackaby is alive, resuscitated by Jenny who literally pumped his heart back to life in her hands. But, the Sight is hers now, for as long as she lives. Charlie is still dead, and the casualties to both the Seelie and Unseelie forces are great.

Alina, Charlie’s sister is made Queen of the Anwynn, although she treats it more as a Stewardship, vowing to make her brother proud and pay for her treachery.  But, Abigail is numb to it all, distracted by her new Sight and her pain at the loss of Charlie.

A couple days go by, and Jackaby is there for her, helping her learn to understand what she sees, but she’s hollow. She recognizes the beauty of the library now, she can see the magical auras around the books and understands Jackaby’s methods, but she can’t feel it.

abigail rook

And that’s when the Twain returns. He speaks with Abigail, acknowledging her pain, and realizes that Charlie was her Twain. He asks why she didn’t take the Reaper’s offer of death, why she didn’t go to Charlie. And she tells him that she could honor Charlie more in life than she could in death. The Twain is surprised, but vanishes.

At the funeral, Abigail sees the Twain, but no one else does. He walks up the center aisle and stands on Charlie’s casket. He looks at Abigail and tells her that he hopes she makes good on his gift and will use it to make the world a better place. Together.

The Twain drops down into the casket and there is a bright flash of light as Abigail sprints up the aisle.

THAT’S HOW THE BOOK ENDS!!!!!

WHAT?! Like…. WHAT? How can you end the book like that? It’s the last book!!! How can you leave me hanging? I mean, I believe in my heart that Charlie was resurrected by the Twain, but damn, a reunion kiss would be nice…

What this really means is that I really hope Ritter will continue his New Fiddleham stories. This is the last Jackaby novel, but at the end of this novel Abigail Rook is the Seer, and even the house recognizes her as a Private Investigator as she enters. So, all my hopes and dreams are pinned on the continuation of this franchise, but with Abigail as the Seer.

Please, William Ritter. PLEASE! I need more! I need more time in New Fiddleham, and I need more Abigail and Charlie! PLEASE!

Sorry this was so long, but this book had a ton of stuff going on, and all of it was important. I think this was some of Ritter’s best writing, and he juggled the multitude of plot points and character arcs really admirably.  I’m heartbroken that this could be the end for New Fiddleham, though I understand that he probably wants to write something else, at least for a little while.  I get it… just, come back someday? Please?

Anyway, I’ve got Audient Void business tonight, and am listening to the next Dresden book, and slowly reading The Stone Sky. Hopefully you’ll see another book review next week.

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

Book Review – Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter

Hello again Blogland!

Yesterday ended up being very productive. I wrote the Interlude for From the Quorum from start to finish, wrapping it at 3,508 words. For the time I sat writing, that was extremely productive. This book is writing itself!

Beyond that, I also finished reading all the installments of Locke & Key, as well as Low, vol. 1. That’s all the graphic novels I had checked out, so I get to return a bunch of items to the library today and move on to reading Arcanum Unbounded, which I’ve put off for far too long.

But, before I get too wrapped up in that, let’s talk about Ghostly Echoes. Beware the spoilers!ghostly-echoes

This was the largest of the three Jackaby books so far. The other two were under 300 pages, but this one had 352. And that’s because there’s a lot happening.

The book opens with Jenny and Abigail experimenting with possession. Yep. You read that right. Now, most of us sane folk would say, “that’s a terrible idea.” And it is. But, Abigail adores Jenny and wants to help her anyway she can. Even if that means subjecting herself to the disorienting and painful process of letting her friend take over her body.

But, the catch is, that when Jenny is in Abigail’s body, Abigail has access to Jenny’s memories. That’s really useful since Jenny can’t actually remember the circumstances of her death.

That’s the case they’re working on, by the way. Jenny’s murder.

Well, as they investigate they learn that Jenny’s murder is tied into the string of murders from the last book, and it’s all one big case. Add in some political ties, and this book gets interesting fast!

Charlie arrives out of concern for Abigail’s safety as she tackles this enormous case with Jackaby, much to her delight. I was a little bummed because he’s not very critical to the story. I mean, he plays an important role, but he doesn’t get as much screen time as I’d like.

So, all kinds of crazy things happen in this book. Possession, Abigail throws a brick in a vampire’s face, forcefully pushing him from their home, they cross into the Anwynn, a place between life and death, and Abigail is the one chosen to cross the river Styx to try and find a particular spirit that could help them solve the case.

jackaby-with-quote
Except, she doesn’t find who she expects, but Jenny’s fiancé.

Yeah, this book is all over the place. But, when you’re reading it everything makes sense. It’s only in this summation that I see how wild some of these events are, but I ain’t even mad. This book was fast-paced fun!

Anyway, they learn that a group known as The Dire Council is behind all these deaths, and that they’re trying to create some sort of enormous scientific device, that has something to do with energies. And while Jackaby and Co., catch the main murderer, a henchman for the Council, they are no closer to actually thwarting their dastardly plan.

And that’s where the book leaves off. The next (and final) book is titled The Dire King, and I am ready for it now! I don’t want to wait until August!

Now, my favorite aspects of this book are Abigail’s newfound confidence. She loves these people she’s met and built a new life with, and she feels empowered by them to do anything for them. It’s a good look on her.

I also really loved the tender moments where Jackaby opens up about himself. There’s a lot of Jackaby’s history in this book, because The Dire Council needs him to complete their device. And so the history of how he acquired the Sight and how he coped with that gets fleshed out a bit. I loved it! He’s also more vulnerable in this book than in the others, because of his concern for Jenny. He’s hesitant to solve her case because he doesn’t want her business to be finished. He doesn’t want her to leave.

douglas-and-jenny
Two of Jackaby’s companions

It’s not like Jackaby has a lot of friends.

There was a moment in the book that, while not critical to the plot, was really powerful for me. Early in the novel Abigail and Jackaby come across a transgender woman being attacked. They stave off her attackers and get her home, Jackaby never faltering in calling her ‘her’ and treating her with respect. Abigail does her best, but she’s a little bewildered by the encounter.

When she asks Jackaby if Miss Lee was, in fact, a man, Jackaby’s response is perfect.

“‘Underneath she was herself- as are we all. Lydia Lee is as much a lady as you or Jenny or anyone. I imagine a midwife or attending doctor probably had another opinion on the matter, but it only goes to show what doctors really know’

‘Shouldn’t a doctor be able to tell at least that much?’

Jackaby’s expression clouded darkly. ‘I have great respect for the medical profession, Miss Rook,’ he said soberly, ‘but it is not for doctors to tell us who we are.'”

It struck me as immensely profound, coming from this man who most doctors would label insane. And a true representation of his character that he would stand up for Lydia Lee and defend her in a manner less defensive and more educational, even to Abigail.

I love this eccentric, fictional man. A shame I have to wait all summer to see what happens…

You probably won’t hear from me again this weekend, but I’ll see you all on Monday!

 

BZ

Book Review – Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Hello, Blogland.

I’ve been a busy little reader these last few days, and have completed both Jackaby novels, as well as a few installments of Locke & Key. Pop over to the “What I’m Reading” page to get a full update.

Today we’re here to discuss the second novel in the Jackaby series, Beastly Bones. If you’ve not read my review of Jackaby, now would be the time.

beastly-bonesIn this installment, Abigail and Jackaby find themselves on a case in Gad’s Valley, which is lovely since that’s where Charlie Barker, formerly Charlie Cane, now resides. There’s been a string of murders, seemingly unrelated save for a peculiar wound to the neck: a single puncture surrounded by bruising.

Along the way they catch up with an old friend of Jackaby’s, Hank Hudson. He’s a hunter and trapper, with a focus on unusual creatures. He’s also huge. I pictured him like a frontiersman Hagrid, but less approachable.

On this adventure, Abigail is torn. The official reason they’re sent to Gad’s Valley is to track down a stolen fossil, and her paleontology roots call to her. It was really great to see Abigail in her element, and she had several occasions to one up the male experts who were quick to disregard her. Jackaby was proud of her, but her interest and aptitude meant that he spent a bit of his time on his own, hunting the unseen forces behind the theft.

being-clever
I’m still waiting for a moment like this…

As the story goes on, things remain relatively light. The two paleontologists bicker and argue over all sorts of minutia, there’s a femme fatale reporter who befriends Abigail, and Abigail has a few delightfully awkward encounters with Charlie, who is even more endearing in this book.

 

But, when it appears that an actual dragon, thought extinct for a few thousand years, is terrorizing the valley, things get dark quick. Houses are razed, a nearby couple are killed, and in the final battle the reporter, Nellie Fuller, sacrifices herself to give Jackaby and Abigail time to figure something out.

And, Abigail does. That was my favorite part of this story. Abigail saves the day, and Jackaby’s life. She’s the hero, finally the strong female character, even if she refuses to see herself that way. But, as they say, the proof is in the pudding. Abigail even kisses Charlie by the very end! Very bold indeed.

But, the events of Gad’s Valley also trouble her immensely, giving Jackaby the opportunity to wax philosophical, as he often does, and it’s always a treat. But, the events also set the stage for the next book, and help establish a larger arc for the series.

I would say that this book is very much Abigail’s. Though she’s the main character of the series, the first book had to introduce us to Jackaby and his unique place and function in the world. Now, with all that established, Abigail had the opportunity to really grow and shine.

Ritter did a good job of making his likeable narrator even more so, and keeping things fun while he did.

william-ritter
William Ritter

That would be my number one selling point of these books. They’re fun. The characters are endearing and well-developed, and the city of New Fiddleham feels like home. I want to spend time in this world, with these people. I’m happy to report that the third book is probably the best of them all, and the next book is due out this summer!

There’s no shortage of time with Abigail and Co., just yet.

Unrelated to the actual plot or books, I found out that William Ritter is a local author. He lives in Springfield, Oregon, about an hour south of Salem, near Eugene. He’s an educator, and I look forward to catching him during his promotion of the next book, The Dire King.

Aaaand, I just read that it’s the conclusion of the series. I am not OK with that. Not in the least. How can that be the end? There’s too many possibilities! You can’t just wrapghostly-echoes everything up in one book, right?

Now I’m sad. Damn it. Well, I’ll see you all tomorrow when I return with the book review for Ghostly Echoes.

Until then, Blogland…

 

BZ

Goals Summary Wk 5

Well, I was hoping for an über productive day today. Get up early, drink coffee, have a small breakfast, maybe load the dishwasher, and then sit down at the desk and do all kinds of work.

It’s currently 11:30am, I am in pajamas, feeling the barest remnants of yesterday’s migraine, praying for the coffeemaker to hurry the hell up.

I’m scratching the kitchen off my to-do list today.

Last night, mid-migraine, I still found some energy to finish hole-punching the second draft of The Steel Armada, and to empty the recycling bin that was overflowing. Then I spent the remainder of the evening reading.

The goals for last week were:

  • Finish chapter 12 of From the Quorum
    • Done and done! Finally! It took an additional 1,924 words, but it’s done.
  • Read The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
    • Also done, and you can read the review here.
  • Publish two blog posts
    • Actually published three!
  • Print, read, and plan edits for The Steel Armada
    • This was a close one. I printed it, as previously mentioned, and did a rough outline of the editing schedule, but did not get a chance to read it.

So, I’d call last week a success. It feels good to keep meeting, or getting really damn close to meeting my goals each week. What’s the plan for this week?

  • Write the Interlude for From the Quorum
  • Read Beastly Bones and Ghostly Echoes, both by William Ritter
  • Publish two blog posts
  • Read and plan edits for The Steel Armada, ideally complete chapter 1

That’s the plan. The weather is shit today, and it hasn’t really stopped raining since mid-afternoon Saturday. Half the town is threatening to float away, and the dog is extra reluctant to go outdoors.

I have zero plans to leave the house today, or to change out of my pajamas. I might though, I have a terrible preference for jeans over all other pants. Plus, it’s just hard to feel productive in fuzzy grey snowflake pajamas.

Anyway, I look forward to chatting at you all later this week. I have a rough outline of an editing themed post for tomorrow, and of course there will be book reviews, as usual. So, a busy week ahead of me.

Now, where’s that coffee?

 

BZ

Book Review- Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

Hello Blogland,

I almost didn’t write this post today. I had a pretty terrible migraine yesterday, which made me leave work. I’ve been at the Library for just over a year, and have never called out or left early, until yesterday. That’s how bad I felt.

And so, though I feel so much better today, I seriously considered just lounging in bed until I had to get ready for work.

But, discipline won out, and here I am, excited as ever to talk to you about Calamity! Now, if you haven’t read my Firefight review, now might be a good time to get yourself caught up. I’d suggest the same for Steelheart, except I read that before I started writing reviews. But, if you’re reading this review before actually reading the series, tsk tsk. Because, here there be spoilers…
Calamity_book_cover

I just wrote about 600 words of this review and had to stop. There’s just too much. There are so many minute details that turn out to be important, and things twist and turn in very complex ways. I can’t retell it here. Not if this post is going to make any sense and be any fun to read.

So, key facts.

  • The Reckoners are on the run after Prof snapped in Babilar. He’s killed most of the Reckoners, leaving David in charge of Cody, Abraham, Mizzy, and Megan.
  • They track Prof, aka Limelight, to Ildithia. Formerly Atlanta, it’s been transformed into a moving city of salt. Yes, you read that right. And Sanderson does a really great job making the setting believable and undeniably cool.
  • Larcener, the former ruler of Ildithia, shacks up with the Reckoners in an effort to hide from Limelight, who would like nothing more than to kill the power stealing Epic. He’s lazy and petulant, and hilarious. And dangerous.
  • David’s convinced that, if they can just make Prof confront his fears, he’ll come back to himself. This is what the Reckoners plan for.
  • Turns out, it’s not that simple, and in the process Prof accidentally kills Tia. The destruction from his anguish pretty much dooms Ildithia.
  • Meanwhile Megan keeps testing the limits of her powers, which allow her to “borrow” from alternate dimensions to create illusions. The more she practices, the more real her illusions become.

This is where I have a hard time. The real twist in this story happens right about here. The team fights Prof one last time, using an impressive combination of tech and Epic powers, but they still can’t beat him.

calamity
UK Cover, cool as ever…

And then some crazy shit happens. Like, Obliteration showing up and (sort of?) helping David. Like, Larcener, who’s been chilling with the team through the entire book, turning out to be Calamity himself.

And Calamity?

He’s basically an alien, sent to this world on some sort of mission, which he misinterpreted as expediting man’s destruction of the world. When he’s shown the innate goodness of man, and how, if released from the bitterness and darkness created by Calamity’s own perspective, Epics can use their powers for good, he basically crumbles and poofs away.

And now Epics are free to be themselves, whether they’re good or bad. Now they’re just people. Epic people with Epic powers, that is.

Oh, and David gets to see his father, because in another reality Steelheart killed David instead, snapping his father into becoming one of the first good Epics, who then joined forces with that dimension’s version of the Reckoners.

And that’s basically how it ends.

Oh, except Obliteration shows up, spouting more scripture, and threatening doom on all the world. David points out that Calamity is gone, and Obliteration doesn’t have to be evil anymore. To which Obliteration says he knows. But, in fact, he faced his fears over five years before, and has been acting as his own crazy self this entire time! And he’s given David a warning. Toronto will melt in three days, more or less.

That’s how the book ends!

And Sanderson has already said that this is the end of The Reckoners.

And for this reason, despite the wonderfully written action sequences, and the nuanced build-up of wonderfully character interactions, this book is my least favorite Sanderson story.

Usually, Sanderson ties up his loose ends. But this books ends looking like an Afghan that’s been sitting in the entryway for over a decade. So many questions are left!

What about Prof? His anguish over the death of Tia, at his command. He has to live with that, and so much more, as he remembers all the atrocities he committed as Limelight.

What bout Knighthawk’s wife? She’s been in stasis for over a decade, waiting for a time when Knighthawk could get some of Prof’s tissue to try and heal her. Now he has the tissue! Did she wake up?

What about Cody and Abraham? Both of them were very seriously injured in the final battle with Prof, and though it’s hinted at that they made it, I could really use some details! Like, did Abraham’s arm grow back?!

And now David has powers, what’s he going to do with them?

This might be the end of The Reckoners, because they’ve ended the absolute tyranny of the Epics, thanks to the destruction of Calamity. But, there are so many details left that I’m left feeling quite dissatisfied.

I think this is the most negative review I’ve written of a Sanderson novel. I’m not sure I realized how attached I was to these characters before I finished this book. I’m not ready for this to be the end, not with so many answers still kept from me.

But, it was still a really great read. I was 100% invested in this book, even when things took that sharp turn into the weird. There were ending elements that I enjoyed, like David’s flying lessons with his Dad, and meeting the actual Firefight. I even cried at a couple parts.

So, it’s still a great book. Just be prepared to be left demanding more, and know that, you may never get what you want.The+Reckoners+Series

I’m still struggling through Red Rising. I’ve got less than a week to finish it, so I need to stop wasting time. But… it’s so boring. At least so far. Hopefully I can finish it and move on to the next read before too long.

See you then, Blogland.

 

BZ

Book Review- House of Many Ways by Diana Wynne Jones

Hello Blogland!

Just a quick update before we dig into this book review. Edits on The Steel Armada are now complete!

(insert applause)

I’m just writing up a quick epilogue, mainly because I’m not sure about the ending. Granted, I’m not sure about the epilogue, but that’s what Beta readers are for, amiright? I should have the novel sent to said Betas this weekend, and I can hardly believe it.

Stories are still coming in for The Audient Void, and since I’m editing them as they roll into my inbox, I feel confident that we’ll release Issue #1 in a timely manner. If you enjoy Weird Fiction, à la Lovecraft and Bierce, check us out here. We’re accepting submissions of short fiction and poetry, through March 20th. So if you want to submit, you still have some time, and if you’re waiting for the issue, like our page and keep an eye out for sometime in April.

The What I’m Reading page has been updated, so take a peek, and follow me on Goodreads to see real time updates and annotations.

Anyway, enough gibber jabber! On with the review!
House_of_Many_Ways

House of Many Ways is the third and final installment of the Howl’s Moving Castle series. I’m not sure if it was intended to be that way, because the ending definitely leaves the door open for Sophie and company to have further adventures.

Published in 2008, 18 years after its predecessor and a whopping 22 years after the original title, House of Many Ways is a very different book.

Instead of a whirlwind love story, as the two previous books, this one is more of a coming of age story. It follows teenage Charmain Baker on an unexpected, and rather unwanted adventure. You see, her Great Uncle William, the Royal Wizard of High Norland, has taken ill, and needs someone to watch his house while he’s away being treated.

In true Wynne Jones style, Charmain gets very little say in the matter, and before she knows it, she’s at Great Uncle William’s house, forced to take care of it, the multitude of chores left behind by the ill man, and his dog, named Waif.

Sadly, Charmain is pretty miserable at first. Both as a character in the book, and as a character for the reader. She’s cantankerous, entitled, and snobbish. She doesn’t clean anything, which is the whole reason she’s been brought to the house, and just complains the entire time that she can’t read and eat all day. Brat. It doesn’t help the that house is giant, full of magical hallways that require precise movements to navigate, and a long, 3-Dimensional map to keep track of everything. There are even segments that haven’t been mapped yet! Charmain is mostly annoyed by the house, and refuses to learn more of its secrets, until she’s forced to.

If you can’t tell, Charmain and I didn’t quite jive. I identified much more with Sophie’s determination and optimism than I did Charmain’s bitterness and laziness. But, I agreed much more with the book when Peter showed up.

Peter is the son of the Witch of Montalbino, good friends with Great Uncle William, and his new apprentice, which of course is all unbeknownst to Charmain. She immediately takes a stern disliking to the boy, and yet he weathers her various stormy moods, and helps take care of William’s house. Though, he’s a bit clumsy and accident prone, so he often causes Charmain more trouble than he is help.

Serves her right!HouseofManyWays

Anyway, Charmain, in the midst of supposedly caring for the house, has taken up a job with the King, sorting through and cataloging the vast Royal Library. This is where the plot really comes in. The Royal family is in a bit of a pickle. Their fortune is disappearing, to the point where they’re selling artwork off the walls.

Usually, they would consult William, him being the Royal Wizard and all, and yet they sent him off to the Elves, on account of his illness. So, in their desperation they’ve called upon a dear, old friend.

Sophie Hatter. Or, rather, Sophie Pendragon, as she’s now called. And in tow she has not only toddler Morgan (who we met in the last book) but small, eerily golden-haired boy, with a very suspicious lisp. And attitude.

I knew early on that this Twinkle, as he calls himself, is none other than Howl in an infuriating disguise, and felt rather badly for Sophie who now had to pull double mother duty. Between Howl’s antics and Morgan’s demanding nature (he takes after his father) Sophie is hardly much help to the Royal Family, but true to her nature, she does her damnedest to find the missing money.

So, Charmain realizes that the King is near destitute and that the gold has been hidden somewhere. Through a vast series of interlocking coincidences, which are never actually coincidences, Twinkle (Howl) finds the gold, Charmain discovers who’s stealing the tax money, and Peter and Charmain out the Prince and his waiting man as Lubbockins.

Lubbockins, for the record, are inherently evil, half humans identified by purple eyes or patches of skin.

There’s much running about and yelling as Twinkle fights the Lubbockin Prince in order to free Morgan (who was taken hostage by said Lubbockin) and Sophie chases after him promising murder. If she means the Lubbockin or Howl, I’m still not quite sure.

But, in the end, the evil is vanquished, the money returned, Uncle William is restored to health, and Sophie and her family return to their castle, still yelling and arguing, as is their way. Charmain learns valuable lessons in patience, kindness, and the joys of a job well done, and Peter gains an unexpected champion and defender in Charmain.
Howl Jenkins

As per the usual storytelling of Diana Wynne Jones, every detail comes together at breakneck speed in the last 20 pages or so, living you laughing, mystified at the perfect, shiny bow that is the ending.

Usually these types of ending seem convenient and unsatisfying, but I’ve yet to feel that way with the Howl’s Moving Castle books.

I will say, this was my least favorite of the three. Maybe because I knew it was the last one, so my expectations were set pretty high. I expected this massive sendoff for Howl and Sophie, a grand adventure. Instead I saw them in glimpses and spurts, while I was forced to follow along with Charmain and her complaints. Perhaps I’m too far removed from her and her concerns, and much closer to Sophie and Howl’s. I don’t know. But, it was a little difficult for me to care about Charmain.

I did thoroughly enjoy Waif and Peter, who ceaselessly made life difficult for Charmain, who thoroughly deserved it. And of course, the moments shared by Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer were magical. They will forever be some of my favorite characters, and they will always have a warm spot in my heart and memories.

Again, House of Many Ways was not my favorite installment, but it was an extremely quick read. I will say that this one felt more like a children’s book than the last two, and that could be another reason why I didn’t enjoy it as much.

I’m glad I read it, mainly because there’s never a good reason to leave a perfectly good series unfinished. I can now say that I’ve read them all, check them off the TBR list, and move on with my reading life. Howl's Castle Series

Right after I buy a copy of Howl’s Moving Castle

Tomorrow’s my long work day, but I’m planning on finishing the Epilogue for The Steel Armada tomorrow night. Then I’ll send it to the Betas on Saturday. Book Club meets Wednesday to discuss Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey. I usually don’t post book reviews for those until after the meeting, but I leave for Disneyland the next day, so I’ll probably post it before Thursday.

So, if all my planning goes well, there should be some activity here before Thursday! See you then, Blogland!

 

BZ

Book Review- Silence by Becca Fitzpatrick

Hello Blogland!

Today is the first real day of winter break, and for some ungodly reason I was up and at ’em with my alarm at 9am. So, here I sit at Starbucks ready to edit a chapter or two of Vessels and, of course, bring you a long overdue book review!

Also, I just want to note how wonderful it felt to wake up, acknowledge my sudden sense of free time, and immediately want to work on my original fiction. All this time away has worried me. I thought that I might abandon my fiction for more leisurely pursuits (read, video games). But here I am, thrilled to be working on something of my own again!

Anyway, we’re here to discuss Silence, the third book in the Hush, Hush Saga by Becca Fitzpatrick. Prepare yourselves for spoiling.
Silence

So, this book is a lot different than the previous two, and almost feels like starting the series over. I still haven’t decided if that’s a good thing or not.

Basically, Nora was kidnapped by Hank, her biological father, and badass Nephilim supreme known as The Black Hand. What actually happens to her during her three months in his care is never really explained. We know she was subjected to a lot of sensory deprivation, and used as collateral against Patch. But, whatever hardships she faced are effectively erased by Hank upon her release in the fall. He literally wipes her memory clean of the last five months, meaning she has no memory of Patch, or any of their misadventures over the course of the last two books.

So, this book picks up with Nora grasping at fleeting memories, and trying to fit the few pieces she has back together.

Her new life features Hank dating her mother, and generally being creepy. Scott makes a reappearance which was a relief. He adds humor and some limited sensibility. He’s still a bit rash, and in this book Nora doesn’t need that kind of impulsiveness. But she gets it. She and Scott are desperate to find The Black Hand and bring him to some sort of justice, which makes no freaking sense, but whatever.

All the while Patch, going by his given name Jev, is working behind the scenes (AGAIN) to keep Nora safe. Also, he’s working for Hank, as part of the bargain they struck to release Nora. Basically, Hank is plotting a Nephilim revolution, and Patch is a spy among the Fallen Angels. All of this is of course happening off screen. Of course.

Here’s where I think Becca Fitzpatrick really screwed the pooch.

You see, there are really complex and compelling political tensions happening all over this series. The Fallen Angels, struck from Heaven, are devoid of physical sensation. They don’t feel pain, but they don’t taste or feel warmth, or enjoy the touch of another. Pretty terrible considering they’re damned to walk the earth for all eternity. But, every year, during the two weeks of the Hebrew month of Cheshvan, they can  possess the body of a Nephilim and basically live it up. They can feel any and everything, and have a tendency to get inventive with their two weeks.

Needless to say, the Nephilim don’t really like Cheshvan. During their possession they are completely aware, but basically locked away in their own minds, watching and feeling everything along with their Fallen Angel body-snatcher. Also, they are hunted on their sixteenth birthdays, when they have… I guess, matured, and are able to swear fealty to a Fallen Angel.

So, basically, Nephilim are hunted and then persuaded (read, tortured) to swear fealty to a Fallen Angel, which is basically the Angel calling dibs on that Nephilim for the rest of time.

All the while, the Archangels and the other angels still in Heaven are keeping a close eye, but don’t really care one way or the other. In fact, they seem to think the Fallen Angels have a right to the Nephilim, since Nephilim are the offspring of Fallen Angels.

Oh right, forgot that bit. Nephilim are basically abominations. Fallen Angels that slept with humans created Nephilim, which was never intended to happen. The Nephilim bloodline can then descend through into people like Nora. She has strong Nephilim blood, but isn’t actually Nephilim.

Anyway, all of this is far more interesting than Nora’s struggles, in my opinion, and yet provides a vague background to the series, instead being the focal point.
nephilim

Back to the review.

So, Nora slowly but surely puts the pieces back together. Except for one gaping blank spot. Patch. She’s heard the name, and from the way her mind jolts and her body reacts (ew?) she knows he’s important. And of course, there’s the mysterious Jev who keeps swooping in and out of her life, helping and scolding her in turns. And of course, she’s inexplicably drawn to him.

Honestly, Nora’s kind of dense.

About halfway through she finally gets it all figured out, mainly because Patch helps her by showing her his memories of the months she was gone. The experience acts as a sort of key to the locked part of her mind, and everything comes back to her.

Then they devise a plan to take Hank out. Do you see the problem here? Over half of the book was Nora reconciling her past. Over 800 words of this review were spent explaining that over half of the book was a really laborious and kind of boring rehashing of the past two books. The actual plot and meat of the book happens in the last 200ish pages, and a lot of it doesn’t make sense.

So, Patch has a plan, and tells Nora to stay put. Of course, Nora can’t stay put, she has to help Scott. Which, ok, I like the guy, so she did good. Oh, except the bit where they both get captured by Hank’s Nephilim Army.

So now Hank has Nora and Scott, and Hank coerces Nora to swear a “Changeover Vow” and an oath to lead his army in the event of his death. This means that Nora has become pure blood Nephilim (it doesn’t really make sense, but whatever) and is now committed to Hank’s cause, otherwise she and her mother will die.

She leaves, confused and shocked, returning to Patch’s place after taking her mother home, where he consoles her. Then he reveals that he has caught Hank and has him in what is more or less a dungeon. Why Patch has an underground dungeon attached to his swanky underground studio apartment, no one thinks to ask.
Patch and Nora

Patch, ever doting and faithful, has kept his bargain with Nora. He hasn’t hurt Hank, but he has negotiated with the Archangels, who have rendered Hank mortal until sunrise. Terms of the agreement? Nora call off the Nephilim Rebellion. But, Nora decides not to kill Hank, and to instead leave him to rot in Patch’s dungeon for all eternity.

Great plan, it leaves the Nephilim without a leader, and will free her and her mother.

Except, through devilcraft (which is never fully explained), Hank attempts to burn Patch’s feather, which would condemn the Fallen Angel to Hell. So, mid-make out session, which was weird because Hank was right there, Nora sees this and basically caps his ass.

End of book. Seriously. They briefly talk about the ramifications, and then continue making out.

Basically, this book is a harried retelling of the first two books, with a ton of convenient plot developments that are never fully explained. Things like Devilcraft, and the Changeover Vow are crucial to the plot of the entire series, but I have no idea what they really are, and had no further information than that they simply exist and are being used.

I had hoped that the next book would offer answers, but instead it’s a bunch of teenage melodrama, with some awesome stuff happening in the background.
Finale

I should have Finale finished in the next few days, so keep an eye out for another frustrated review!

See you soon, Blogland!

 

BZ