Lightning Round – The Thief Taker

51wrwqo7ssl-_sx332_bo1204203200_The Thief Taker by CS Quinn

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer/ Brilliance Audio

Source: Audible books, my own library

Time: 11 h 28 m

Thoughts: I loved this book. For one thing, I have probably an unhealthy obsession with plague, so just about any book set during the Black Death or the Great Plague is going to grab my attention. Also, this was a gross, gripping mystery. So much gore and death and a genuinely interesting story! I loved Charlie Tuesday. He reminded me a kind of a lot, actually, of Crispin Guest, only a lot later in time. Not a perfect match but similar. The story was intriguing and I did NOT see the twist at the end – well done, CS Quinn! I usually spot the twist a mile away! I listened to this on Audible and the narrator had a dead sexy voice. Not a Benedict Cumberbatch level of knee-melt, but still an appropriately British level of sexiness that made me want to meet Charlie Tuesday in a dark alley sometime.

Lightning Round – Tattoo Atlas

51y1kxrutzl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Tattoo Atlas by Tim Floreen

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Year: 2016

Pages: 370

Source: library hardback

Thoughts: I read this because it fit one of the 2017 Read Harder challenge tasks, and it just sounded good. Overall, I thought it was ok. I thought it could use a little more character development and back story. The ending was, admittedly, totally unsatisfying to me. I had kind of predicted it quite early in the book, but it was something I had hoped would not happen. I highly approve of it for its openly gay main character. More of these, please. In general, I think for teens, this would be a good read and probably have quite the twist. I enjoyed it but the ending ruined it for me because I predicted it and I thought so many other, more interesting things could have been done with it. For adult fans of YA, it left a little something to be desired.

Women in Star Trek #2 – Janeway

janeway_season7For International Women’s Day, you just KNOW I’m going to write a post about Captain Kathryn Janeway. Honestly. Janeway kicks ass and leaves a footprint. She will do anything for her crew. She will fight for them and with them and drag them beyond themselves and what they think they can do on their own. Of all the captains, I truly believe that Kathryn Janeway gave the most of herself to her crew. As much as I love Jean-Luc Picard, or Will RIker, or even James fucking TIberius Kirk, I really don’t think any of them could have gotten their crew home under the same circumstances. Not even close, or at least not with their sanity as intact as it was. Janeway was more than their captain. She was their mother, their big sister, best friend, and most demanding mentor in the universe all rolled into one. Janeway is, hands down, my favorite captain. Love ya, Jean-Luc, but Kathryn Janeway rocks.

Kate Mulgrew herself is also badass. Whether it is giving life to a beloved Star Trek character, giving ALL the sass to a Russian inmate-mafia-smuggler-cook-ruler of the world in Orange is the New Black, to putting the full strength of her voice to an audiobook recording, Mulgrew seems to live her life to the fullest. She is a great supporter of Alzheimer’s research and has helped to raise millions of dollars to fund various charities and research devoted to curing the disease.

Favorite Janeway quotes or scenes:

  • As long as you’re alive, there’s hope. “Hope and Fear”
  • One voice can be stronger than a thousand voices. “The Gift.”
  • I realize that I’ve been hard on you at times. But it was never out of anger…or regret that I brought you on board. I’m your captain. That means I can’t always be your friend. “Hope and Fear.”
  • Keep a docking bay open for us. “Pathfinder.”
  • There’s coffee in that nebula. “The Cloud.” The real reason Janeway was so determined to get everyone home. The Delta Quadrant coffee blows.

Other female captains I’m drawing attention to today:

  • Silva LaForge (TNG, “Imaginary Friend,” “Hero Worship,” “Interface”). LaForge captained the Hera. She was often stationed on outposts near the Romulan Neutral Zone, according to Geordi. Silva LaForge was lost and missing in action, along with the rest of the crew of the Hera. Despite extensive searches, no trace of the ship was found and no one ever discovered what became of them.
  • Captain Rachel Garrett (TNG, “Yesterday’s Enterprise”). Garrett captained the Enterprise-C. She and her crew got stuck in a time loop – those pesky things are always causing trouble – and came out of it in the 24th century. But she chose to go back, even knowing her ship would be destroyed, because in doing so, she went to the aid of a Klingon ship in distress and averted a disastrous war between the Klingons and Federation. Timeline restored! She also took Tasha Yar with her, who was on the wrong ship.
  • Erika Hernandez (ENT, multiple eps). Hernandez captained the Columbia NX-02. She helped rescue Dr Phlox from Klingon space while he was there helping to cure a virus.

Women in Star Trek #1

Since March is Women’s History Month and Star Trek is my favoritest ever, I thought it would be excellent to combine the two things. I know, I’m a genius! But honestly, there are some badass women in Star Trek. I want to take a few days over the course of the month to look at a few of them closer.

nichelle_nichols_star_trek_1967From day one, Star Trek has been pretty progressive in terms of women’s inclusivity. Nichelle Nichols was not only a black woman in a 1960s prime-time show, she portrayed a command officer. Uhura could give orders to a very great number of men on the Enterprise. She was instrumental in the visibility and empowerment of black women and other women of color in film and TV, and she had a very notable influence on the young Whoopi Goldberg.

Perhaps it is cliche of me, or disingenuous, to start with such an obvious choice from the Trekverse. But come on. Given the prominent role both Uhura and Nichelle had, the struggles all women today still face – for equality, the right to control our own bodies, the right not to be slut-shamed or victim-blamed for being raped, and so on and on and on. No one would dare do that to Uhura, and if they tried, I have a strong suspicion that he would find himself wearing his testicles as earrings, if he was even lucky enough to retain possession of them. So yes, I think it is perfect to start with Uhura. Nichelle has been a lifelong advocate for space exploration and equality, and was even employed by NASA from the late 1970s to the late 1980s to help recruit more women and minorities to the space program. Among her recruits were Sally RIde, the first American astronaut; Guion Bluford, the first black American astronaut; and Judith Resnick, who died on Challenger (space.com). Her spirit of fairness and exploration fit in wonderfully with many of the ideals of Star Trek.

Some of my favorite Uhura moments:

  • In “The Naked Time” when Sulu thinks he is a swashbuckler and tells Uhura “I will defend you, fair maiden!” and she replies with “Sorry, neither.”
  • In The Search for Spock when the pain in the ass young officer is commenting about how it’s ok for an officer like Uhura, who is old and at the end of her career, to like the quiet posts where nothing ever happens, but he wants something more exciting. Then Kirk, Bones, and Sulu come in, the young’un is agog at the living legends, and Uhura pulls a phaser on him and tells him “this isn’t reality, this is fantasy. And you’re going to sit in the closet” and then proceeds to beam the men where they need to go on their clandestine mission before she joins them later.
  • Any time she said “Hailing frequencies open.” Because, come on. Those were the words that heralded a new adventure. What would it be? A new alien race? Someone in need of help? Some threat to the galaxy that only the crew of the Enterprise could fix? All of the above? And she got to hear about it first. That’s really exciting, every time, even now when I know every mission they’ve gone on and what’s going to happen and who isn’t coming back.

Other female comm officers I’m giving a shout-out to today include:

  • Lt. Palmer (TOS). She sometimes stood in for Uhura, which, like, big go-go boots to fill. She did her best.
  • Janice Rand (TOS). One of my favorite non-starring characters. She was sassy. That is all.
  • Lt. Trilya (TVH). Her ship was one of the ones that got toasted by the whale probe in The Voyage Home. She reported it to Starfleet HQ.

The Confessions of Young Nero

516-ss-grll-_sx331_bo1204203200_Margaret George has done it again –  she’s delivered another vivid, dramatic historical fiction that sweeps readers along on a journey of exhilaration and betrayal. This time, her focus is on ancient Rome, beginning around the year 40 AD, and the early life of Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, later called Nero Claudius Caesar Drusus Germanicus. The novel opens with an early memory of Lucius, when his uncle, the infamous Emperor Caligula, tries to drown him in the sea and allows a sympathetic sailor to rescue him. From then on, Lucius’s life is one set of traumas, upheavals, and betrayals to the next as he struggles to find his place in a dangerous political world he doesn’t yet understand. When he does eventually and unexpectedly rise to power as the youngest man ever to become the emperor of Rome, he must learn to trust himself and figure out the intricacies of Roman politics while still coming into his own as a man.Read More »

Lightning Round: Grayling’s Song and Black Man in a White Coat

513x9-sswyl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Grayling’s Song by Karen Cushman

Publisher/Year: Clarion Books, 2016

Format: Hardback

Pages: 213

Source: my own collection

Thoughts: It was ok. I got it from Amazon on sale and couldn’t pass up a YA book about hedge witches. That’s totally in my wheelhouse and I was excited to read it. But the writing wasn’t very tight, I got tired of all the whining and complaining the travelers did real quick, and I felt the ending left too many unanswered questions. Overall, it was fine for younger readers but for teens, adults, or advanced young readers, it would likely fall pretty short of the mark. 


51zdrdf1ypl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Black Man in a White Coat by Damon Tweedy, M.D.

Publisher/Year: Picador, 2016

Format: audiobook

Time: 8 hours 44 min

Source: Audible.com

Thoughts: I read this for a book club I joined at work. I am glad they picked this one because I have always been interested in medical memoirs anyway, even though I tend not to care about memoirs in general. I also appreciated learning more about how race affects the medical treatment and practice of American society. Intellectually, I knew race affects medical care and how healthy people are in general, but I liked learning about it in more detail. I could have done without the multiple references to Ben Carson, though. Surely there are at least a few other black doctors he could have referred to who aren’t politically insane.

H is for Hawk

51fjfqmnabl-_sx327_bo1204203200_

A MUCH shorter version of this ran initially on Book Riot. I’m just now getting around to posting my full review here. BR post: http://bookriot.com/2017/02/01/riot-round-best-books-read-january-2017/

When I first saw this book at the bookstore, I picked it up because I thought the cover looked vaguely medieval. I thought maybe it was a historical fiction that I might want to read. Then I saw that it was a memoir and dropped it like a hot rock. Personal memoirs have never really been my bag, although I’ve read a few of them. I’m typically not too into personal memoirs unless you are Dr. Salk and literally cured polio or something. However, once I started writing for Book Riot, everyone there who had read this book raved about it. The more I heard about it, the more interesting it actually sounded. Then, when I saw that it was available for free on the Audible Channels, I figured what the hell. I started listening to it. And it consumed my brain like some kind of bookish zombie hawk.

The author, Helen Macdonald, was very close to her father. Naturally, she was devastated when he dropped dead unexpectedly one day. She was a falconer, so to work through her grief, she decided to raise and train a goshawk. Previously, she had only ever trained smaller birds of prey like merlins and peregrines. The goshawk is apparently one of the largest and wildest and most difficult to train. So, challenge accepted.

I learned so much from this book. I mean, it would have been impossible for me not to, since I knew absolutely nothing about falconry before reading it. But now I know what jesses are (I’d always wondered when I read the term in historical fiction novels. I don’t know why I never figured it out from context, or why I never looked it up. Usually I do.); what bating is and why it is upsetting to Macdonald when Mabel does it; and, from one of my very favorite scenes in the whole book, that goshawks love to play and have expressions indicating joy and bird laughter. Mabel really fucking loves paper balls (they’re crunchy!) and sticking her head into rolled up magazines while Macdonald talks to her through the other end of it. LOL. I learned that there are very good reasons falconry is so classist and why birds such as the peregrine are considered the elite of the falcons. I learned that goshawks, or at least Mabel, have breath that smells like “pepper and musk and burned stone” and now I hope BPAL makes it into a perfume. I learned that it is a falconry tradition (or superstition?) that if you give your bird a badass name like Nazgul or Killer, it will be a shit hunter, but if you give it sweet little old granny names like Opal or Rosie or Mabel, it will be death on wings.

I loved the writing style. Macdonald makes beautiful words. One of the first sentences that caught my attention, and apparently the attention of many other readers, was when she stated that “Looking for  goshawks is like looking for grace – it comes, but not often, and you don’t get to say when or how.” And when Macdonald talks about her scars: “One is from her talons when she’d been fractious with hunger; it feels like a warning made flesh. Another is a blackthorn rip from the time I’d pushed through a hedge to find the hawk I’d thought I’d lost. And there were other scars, too, but they were not visible. They were the ones she’d helped mend, not make.”

H is for Hawk is, to me, a perfect blend of memoir and nature writing. I got to learn more about falconry, got to know and love Mabel, got to ramble along through the Cambridgeshire countryside with them as they went looking for things to kill (which isn’t as fucked up as it sounds), and got to learn some comparisons to other kinds of hunting birds. I was sad when I got to the end.

Now I am off to find falconry groups in my area to see if any teach total n00bs.

I read it as an: audiobook

Source: Audible.com Channels

Time: 11 hours 6 min

Publisher: Grove Press

 

Treehouse Monster

My daughter, who is six, has decided she also likes to write stories and begged me to put hers on the internet. So I did. I think it’s cute, and not too bad for a little kid. Of course, I’m terribly biased. 🙂

Chapter One

The books

It was almost nigt, and to freinds, little Harry, and little Angilina, were going to the tree house, and they were reading a monster book called ‘the monster of dawn’ and it was scarey.

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Read More »

A monster they understand

This is a guest post by my friend Anne Graue. She was invited to write a review of Hag-Seed by the Margaret Atwood Society. Of course she said yes! She retains the rights to her review, so it is reposted below, with her permission.

Anne is a wonderful poet, as well. She has her first chapbook coming out in the fall, writes reviews for a ton of various literary journals, and has her own poetry published in a multitude of print and online journals an magazines, including The Fem Lit and The Five-Two. You can (and definitely should) follow her at @agraue on Twitter. And buy her chapbook when it comes out this fall. I can guarantee I’ll be writing about it when it comes out!  ~KM

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This Brave New Rendering: A Review of Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold

By Anne Graue

It’s all there: the isolation, the vengeance, the forgiveness. Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold is the story of Felix Phillips, a modern-day Prospero making magic in the theatre until he is set adrift by those who want him to disappear. His boat is a cabin without modern amenities, and he’s accompanied by the spirit of his dead daughter Miranda. Her presence “began when he was counting time by how old Miranda would be, had she lived….Call it a conceit, a whimsy, a piece of acting: he didn’t really believe it, but he engaged in this non-reality as if it were real” (45). He renames himself Mr. Duke and becomes a teacher with revenge always on his mind, consuming him as it would any of Shakespeare’s protagonists. Atwood’s novel takes the reader from exposition to denouement with Shakespearean precision, demonstrating how Shakespeare’s characters and themes are universal and eternal while shedding important light on the themes of literacy, art, and human nature.

Hag-Seed is primarily the story of Felix, the Art Director of an annual theatre festival. His attention to Shakespeare’s work and language in his theatre productions is unappreciated and misunderstood by coworkers with aspirations of ascending through the ranks of local politics. Felix’s plans to stage a production of The Tempest are thwarted, and he vows revenge on those who have unseated him. With careful attention to dramatic irony, readers are told that Felix “needed to get his Tempest back” and that “he wanted revenge” (41). The second story in the novel is the retelling of the play as social commentary on the need for education in prisons. The characters in this play, the medium security inmates of the Fletcher County Correctional Institute, read and perform in Felix’s class; they are the ones deemed most unworthy, the ones who most identify with Caliban in his exile and disgrace. He is a monster they understand. Atwood explores the connections her characters make with literature and the resulting connections to their own humanity.

Atwood’s meticulous use of Shakespeare’s language is so nuanced that the movement from one episode to the next is seamless and credible even as readers are invited to understand the presence of spirits and even magic in lives that on the outside might appear ordinary. Time is masterfully handled with titles and subtitles that indicate the divisions of the work that mirror those of the play. As Felix’s plans for revenge meld with the performance at the prison, he is sure that “whatever the form the thing assumes, it will depend on exact timing” (113). Atwood’s storytelling dexterity takes readers through Felix’s years of teaching until time catches up to the opening scene, and readers, with dramatic irony in tact and waiting with baited breath, experience the denouement with all of the catharsis expected from Shakespearean drama in this brave new rendering of archetypal themes.

Works Cited

Atwood, Margaret. Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold. Penguin Random House, LLC., 2016.

Graue, Anne. “This Brave New Rendering: A Review of Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed: The Tempest Retold.” Margaret Atwood Studies Journal, vol. 10, 2016, https://english.sxu.edu/sites/atwood/journal/index.php/masj/article/view/103. Accessed 22 February 2017.

 

The Dark Days Pact

the-dark-days-pact-alison-goodman-133x200Picking up the narrative in 1812, just a few weeks after the end of the preceding book, The Dark Days Pact jumps right back into the action with Lady Helen Wrexhall and Lord Carlston. Now removed to Brighton in disgrace, Lady Helen begins her Reclaimer training in earnest with Carlston and his Terrene (a sort of supernatural bodyguard), Quinn, learning about her new abilities to fight the Deceivers and keep them from overrunning England. At the same time, Carlston seems to be getting overwhelmed with the Reclaimer vestige, the residual dark energy all Reclaimers retain over time from killing Deceivers and which, if ignored, will render him insane. Adding to Helen’s burden, Lord Pike, the odious bureaucrat in charge of the Dark Days Club, has tasked her with a secret mission to track down a lost journal written by a renegade Reclaimer which has the power to destroy all Deceivers or Reclaimers. And Duke Selburn just doesn’t know how to take no for an answer to his marriage proposals…

Sequels often have a hard time living up to the hype. Many times they do not compare in quality to the first book of a series, or are not as fun or well-written or any number of other sins. Such is definitely not the case with The Dark Days Pact. Goodman keeps the pace going strongly throughout while still generating a lot of terrific character development along the way. And the ending! I am not sure I will be able to stand the wait until the third book in the series. Hugely fun, highly recommended.