Thursday
Feb212019

No Man of Woman Born

As I understand it from what the author, Ana Mardoll, has tweeted about this collection, it was a response to/inspired by Eowyn from LotR and her slaying of the Witch King who no man could kill. This is a collection of short stories full of similar tales with trans and non-binary people as the main characters.

The stories overall are delightful and the characters are often precious cinnamon buns too pure for this world. Some of them fall pretty flat, but some of them are incredible and I love them (so par for the course with most short story collections).

I loved a lot of these stories, some of them original and some of them giving a fun, queer twist to classics like Sleeping Beauty and The Sword in the Stone. It was great to see such a queerly diverse array of characters out living their best lives and saving the day.

I especially liked seeing the gender fluid character and another questioning his gender and where he fits on the binary. The stories gave me a greater understanding of just what gender fluid means. And it was also nice to see someone going through the process of questioning gender, even if he didn't quite get to any decisions (most of us never do anyway).

My only real problem with this collection is the writing itself. There's often too much telling and too much backstory, often delivered in the form of lengthy flashbacks that honestly got distracting and killed the momentum of many of the stories. But they're also really short, so it wasn't that hard to push through and get to the end. And the end of each story was absolutely worth it.

This is a great collection for allies looking for a deeper understanding, people who like fantasy and aren't squicky about queer content, and for anyone trans, non-binary or questioning who are tired of the Bury Your Gays trope and just need to see someone like them be the hero.

Monday
Jan282019

Vultures

It's the final book in the Miriam Black series and it is a fantastic end to this series. Wendig totally nails the landing. If you're already a fan of the series, you won't be disappointed. If you've been waiting for the series to end before you start reading, now is the time and this series is worth it!

You can find my review of the first book, Blackbirds, and the previous one, The Raptor and the Wren. Chuck wraps up all the threads in a satisfying way that's true to the dark grit of this series. I have a 6-book hangover now.

The book is gritty, gory, hard-hitting and snarky. Everything you expect and love about the series.

Miriam doesn't have much time left to stop the Trespasser and save both Gabby and the baby. She meets a delightful ace/aro trans dude named Steve who is an absolute cinnamon bun and totally made the book. He's like that rug in The Big Lebowski. Ties the room together.

Steve and Gabby are Miriam's sidekicks while she tries to save them all, get rid of her powers, and stop a new serial killer.

And that's all I'm going to say spoiler free, because it's hard to talk about a book like this without spoilers. You don't like spoilers, stop reading now.

Anyway, at the end of the last book, Miriam is pregnant and sees that her baby is going to die. This book starts with her waddling miserably through the shitshow nightmare of pregnancy. It is a morbidly un-sentimental take on pregnancy and motherhood and is so much the way I felt through pregnancy that this book could have been written about me.

There are so many things to love in this book, but I love that pregnancy doesn't really slow Miriam down. That motherhood doesn't fundamentally change who she is. That, much like me, she ends up teaching her kid context (don't swear in school) rather than quit swearing. (haha, yes, there's a spoiler, the kid lives)

Wren's 5-second cameo was SO GOOD, though it did leave me a little baffled. I know there's a side novella about her out there somewhere that I'm probably going to need to read to be less baffled about how she ended up where she did and when she did. It felt a touch deus ex machina, but I also don't have all the info.

But anyway, as dark as this series is, the ending is a hopeful one. True to the series, but still full of hope. Get out there and read it!

Tuesday
Jan222019

Voyage of the Dogs

DOGS IN SPACE!!!!! This is a kid's book, but I loved it just as much as my daughter did. It's got the perfect balance of humour and heartbreak as it follows this pack of very good dogs on their adventure through space. It's tense and fast-paced, but full of heart. You'll laugh and cry and laugh until you cry.

There are four dogs, called Barkonauts, aboard the interstellar ship Laika. There's Lopside the wonder mutt, Bug the corgi, Daisy the great Dane puppy, and Champion, their doggy leader and a golden retriever. They are the first explorers to travel to a distant planet called Stepping Stone.

But on the last leg of their journey, the dogs wake up from hibernation to find the ship critically damaged and the human crew missing. They bark Morse code into the transmitter, hoping for guidance from Earth. Since I read this book out loud to my daughter, I also got to bark Morse code.

Each of the dogs has a specialty on the ship, making this a great ensemble story. And all of them pull out a few surprises, most of all Daisy. They're beset by one catastrophe after another as they do their doggone best to fulfil their mission: reach Stepping Stone to establish a base for future travellers.

Sweet, fun and full of adventure, I absolutely 100% recommend this book to anyone who likes dogs, sci-fi and space.

Now for the spoilers, especially if you're like me and critically need to know if the dogs live.

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Good news! None of the dogs are (badly) harmed in the making of this story! The humans do not fair so well, though the dogs end up not totally abandoned. Yay!

Thursday
Jan102019

Echoes of Understorey

So at first, this book was a bit jarring because it wasn't about Unar, the MC of the first book in the trilogy. But it appears that the setting (and secondary characters) are the only real constant with these books. The final book looks like it will be about yet another character.

Which is fine, especially since the MC of this book, Imeris, who was just a baby in Crossroads of Canopy, is a much more compelling character than Unar ever was. Where Unar was arrogant and self-righteous, Imeris is a practical, humble badass.

Everything about this book is so much stronger than the first. And since it follows a new MC, you can read Echoes of Understorey without having read Crossroads of Canopy and probably not be confused at all. Unar makes an appearance, as do many of the side characters from her journey. The familiarity is nice. But Imeris is a much stronger character, not just in terms of her abilities, but in terms of the author's craft.

Anyway, Imeris is out with one goal in mind: to kill the body-snatching sorceress who was at the root of Unar's problems in book one. A lot of stuff gets in Imeris's way, most notably being swept up in a historic Hunt called by the rulers of Canopy.

Imeris is quite possibly the best warrior alive in her world, but she is humble about it and just wants to do her duty to rid her world of the sorceress and then maybe take up farming like Unar has. Unlike Unar, Imeris doesn't want to be a legend at all, though she doesn't shun her legendary status once she achieves it. She uses it for good.

Like with the first book ending with Unar on a new, vastly different adventure, Imeris finds herself on the cusp of something new and exciting. The next book will focus on her brother Leaper, but I hope to see some of Imeris in her new role.

Anyway, the setting is superb, the action is excellent and the characters are all wonderful and well-crafted. Highly recommend checking this out!

Saturday
Dec292018

Hope at the End of the Longest Year

Like in 2017, this year was hard fought and draining. Trying to get things done amidst creeping fascism has been incredibly hard. And because having fascists loose everywhere else in the world wasn't bad enough, the greedy idiots here in Ontario had to go and elect Thug Fraud to premier. I truly, deeply hope that horrible man goes the way of his equally horrible brother VERY soon.

Anyway, when I'm not wishing death on The Worst people in power, I'm probably reading a book. Maybe writing one. I still hit a lot of my writing goals, though I've been lagging behind all of December because of severe depression.

Heh, you want your favourite creators to keep creating? STOP ELECTING FASCISTS

Anyway, here's the breakdown of how I did this year, despite all the bullshit.

Writing
I hit most of my writing goals this year, and the ones I didn't hit were because I swapped them for something else. I've done a lot of work on Blueshift 1, revised book 2 and rewrote book 3 for NaNoWriMo. Books 2 and 3 still need work, but I'll get to them later. I'm happy with the trilogy as it is right now and look forward to polishing the rest. I've been querying book 1 and getting some good feedback from agents, though no contracts yet.

I got Fireborn polished and out into the world and it's also had some positive feedback from agents. I will continue to query both books in the new year.

I wrote and submitted three short stories but, while one of my stories got shortlisted for an anthology, ultimately nothing has gone into print this year. It's a tough industry, but I'll keep working to improve my craft until I can wriggle my way in.

I've looked into novellas and have read plenty of what Tor puts out. I haven't attempted to write a novella yet, but I've started to outline one.

I didn't end up outlining the next two books in the Fireborn series for a few reasons. One is that I'm just not as interested in the series as I was, though I'm sure that will change once I deal with the fact that I'm not entirely sure where I want the next two books to go. And finally, there are a lot of compelling reasons not to work on the rest of a series until the first book is published. So instead of working on books I can't sell/publish right now, I plotted and started writing something different: The Spider's Eye, a stand-alone epic fantasy.

I'd wanted to get a good portion of Spider's Eye written by now, but I was sick for most of November so my NaNo goals fell short, and then I've been severely depressed all of December and didn't get anymore writing done. I've done some more research and some planning on Spider's Eye, but that's it.

And my shiny (not so new) idea is still percolating in the back of my mind. I'm still not entirely sure what I want to do with it, though I'm leaning toward the novella format. And then I've got to do an epic amount of research and... I just really hate research.

Anyway, I've learned now to keep my writing goals flexible because I'm inevitably going to be more interested in certain projects than I think I will be and less interested in others. And I've got enough ideas to work on that I don't have to force myself to finish one thing if I (temporarily) stop loving it. So I didn't necessarily hit the things on my list, but I still did about the same amount of work.

Reading
So I hit this one out of the park this year. I've read 66 books! If I finish the one I'm currently reading over the weekend, it'll be 67! About a third of that has been the children's books I've read to my daughter (chapter books only, not counting any picture books). I've read a lot of novellas this year too, including a double-read of the Murderbot diaries because I love them so much.

I've read loads of books from the library and the vast majority of the books I read this year were by white women. I'd like to keep reading more diversely and I'm still not reading as many books by people of colour as I could.

Family
I've gotten really bad at family stuff, and a lot of it is the stress of the current political climate. I just don't have a lot of energy for things. What energy I do have goes more toward time for my daughter than to my spouse and the extended family. So we still did plenty of family activities, but my spouse and I have spent another year not having many date nights. We're both just so tired. Not sure what to do about it other than just keep trying.

Health
Hey, this one was a smashing success! I did all the walking until the weather got cold. I did plenty of kickboxing. And I even lost weight! I lost and have kept off 10 lbs! Now that I've found something that works (I'm using the MyFitnessPal app), I'm hoping to keep up this trend until my knees stop hurting. We'll see how it goes.

Travel
So this year was all about the travelling. I suspect that travel is partially my midlife crisis? It's also my creeping-fascism coping mechanism. So I went to more than two new (to me) national parks in both Canada and the US, including Yoho NP in BC and Volcanoes NP in Hawaii. I went to a lot of new places this year, and it was magnificent. I went back to the national parks in Tobermory as well, and returned to Sequoia NP with my daughter for a week before we went to WorldCon76. I am now out of money, but it was well worth it!

2019 Goals

Writing
Submit 3 short stories
Write Blueshift short story "Making Waves"
Plot & write Mage War novella
Plot Mage War novel
Finish, revise, and polish Spider's Eye
Do NaNoWriMo
Look into writing a MG series
Keep querying Blueshift 1 and Fireborn
bonus/swap in:
Research and planning for shiny idea
Start writing shiny idea
Start querying Spider's Eye

Reading
Read 30 books
Read 15 books from my shelves
Read 15 books by POC

Family
One family event per month
One date night per month
Continue after school activities

Health
Regular kickboxing
Regular walks in warm months
Lose some weight (any amount will do)

Travel
One mother/daughter trip
One family vacation
Anniversary vacation

Anyway, 2018 has been the longest decade of my life. Congrats for surviving! We all deserve cookies just for that alone. If you managed to actually accomplish anything this hellscape of a year, bonus! Here's hoping we're all still here and kicking ass at the end of 2019.