Monday, 29 February 2016

Books Received in February 2016

I've been keeping my book requests down so I have time to go through older titles that have waited (in some cases years) to be read.

So there's only one title today, from Saga Press, the new science fiction and fantasy imprint from Simon & Schuster.


Borderline
 by Mishell Baker - I'm keen to see more disabled protagonists in fiction, so I was drawn to this book.  I really enjoyed this book and have already reviewed it.

A cynical, disabled film director with borderline personality disorder gets recruited to join a secret organization that oversees relations between Hollywood and Fairyland in the first book of a new urban fantasy series from debut author Mishell Baker.

A year ago, Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth-talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

Shout-Out: Where Futures End by Parker Peevyhouse

Five teens, five futures. Dylan develops a sixth sense that allows him to glimpse another world. Brixney must escape a debtor colony by finding a way to increase the number of hits on her social media feed so she’ll attract corporate sponsorship. Epony goes “High Concept” and poses as an otherworldly being to recapture her boyfriend’s attention. Reef struggles to survive in a city turned virtual gameboard. And Quinn uncovers the alarming secret that links them all.

These are stories about a world that is destroying itself, and about the alternate world that might be its savior. Unless it’s just the opposite.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Update on Medieval Posts

Sorry for the lack of medieval posts so far this year.  They take a long time to research and I've been busy trying to read a ton of stuff to get books off my floor again.  I keep saying I'll go down to a review every two weeks to free up some time, but I'm actually happy doing 1/week, though that means some things may get ignored until I build up my review buffer (which I've currently done again).  

I started working on the next Cathedral post yesterday, on Notre Dame de Paris, but there are a lot of modifications I have to make on my floor plan and exterior sculpture cheat sheet before it's ready to post, so that may be another week or two.  I've also realized that I didn't take as many detail shots as I'd intended and a few of my other shots (of which I only got 1) came out blurry or backlit.  More motivation to go back at some point (when Chartres and Reims are done being renovated).

In the meantime, here's some of the central / Last Judgement portal sculpture of Notre Dame de Paris, depicting demons sending souls to hell and torturing them.


Thursday, 25 February 2016

Shout-Out: Bluescreen by Dan Wells

Los Angeles in 2050 is a city of open doors, as long as you have the right connections. That connection is a djinni—a smart device implanted right in a person’s head. In a world where virtually everyone is online twenty-four hours a day, this connection is like oxygen—and a world like that presents plenty of opportunities for someone who knows how to manipulate it.

Marisa Carneseca is one of those people. She might spend her days in Mirador, but she lives on the net—going to school, playing games, hanging out, or doing things of more questionable legality with her friends Sahara and Anja. And it’s Anja who first gets her hands on Bluescreen—a virtual drug that plugs right into a person’s djinni and delivers a massive, nonchemical, completely safe high. But in this city, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and Mari and her friends soon find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy that is much bigger than they ever suspected.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Videos by Nerdwriter1

I recently discovered Nerdwriter1's youtube page and have been slowly going back through his thoughtful videos.  He's got some videos on films and art like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: Why it's the Best, Pan's Labyrinthe and Disobedient Fairy Tales, Neil Gaiman's Sandman: What Dreams Cost, and  Inside Out: Emotional Theory Comes Alive, he's also got videos on science and social science topics (the only one of which I've seen so far is How Donald Trump Answers a Question, which is good - and kind of scary).

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Book Review: Borderline by Mishell Baker

Pros: fascinating protagonist, thought-provoking, interesting mystery

Cons: 

Millicent Roper, director and UCLA student, is in an institute for borderline personality disorder and an attempted suicide that left her with two prosthetic limbs and a lot of physical and emotional scars.  When Caryl Vallo approaches her with a job offer, she’s intrigued by the secrecy surrounding it.  The Arcadia Project regulates travel between our world and Arcadia, and one of their nobles hasn’t returned as scheduled.

I picked this book up because the protagonist has several physical and mental disabilities.  I kept reading because the writing is so damn good.  

I was a little afraid that I wouldn’t like the protagonist, as she’s introduced as bitter and sarcastic. But as the story’s told from her point of view, the reader’s included in her thought process - why she acts the way she acts, and therefore gets to see the disconnect between her thoughts and feelings and her actions.  In other words, she’s not a particularly nice person from the outside, but from the inside you really sympathize with her.  Much of the division between what she feels vs what she does comes from her borderline personality disorder, but there’s also an element of ‘I’ve been hurt before so I’ll keep others away so I can’t be hurt again’.

I’m not qualified to judge the accuracy of Baker’s depictions of prosthetics, wheelchair use, and mental disorders, so I’d be interested in hearing from those who are.  It was wonderful to see a protagonist deal with physical and mental disabilities - especially referencing the psychiatric treatments that help her deal with the borderline personality disorder.

The book is interesting because Millie works with several other damaged people, who aren’t very polite towards her but are likely just as sympathetic, if you saw inside them.  It’s understood that they’ve all got issues of some sort - like Millie, but she’s not always told what their issues are.  On the one hand, I understood that as a privacy issue it should be left to the individual to decide if they want to tell their story.  On the other hand, I suspect some of the personality clashes in the book could have been resolved if everyone understood what everyone else is going through / what their diagnoses are - so they could avoid triggering negative reactions in each other.

One of my favourite things in the book was the calling out of unintentional/unconscious insults/racism.  These include things she does and things she notices others doing to her.

You’re slowly introduced to what the Arcadia Project does and it’s quite interesting.  The world expands a little at a time with each revelation to Millie about what’s really going on.  And she’s a very clever protagonist, seeing minor clues and putting things together in ways I didn’t catch.  The mystery was really interesting, with several twists I didn’t see coming.  The world is soundly built, with rules - quite specific ones - and lots of room to expand.


This is an excellent urban fantasy novel that doesn’t follow the trends.  There’s no romance, no ass kicking, just damaged people trying to get by in a damaged world.

Out March 1st.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Shout-Out: The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

Nix's life began in Honolulu in 1868. Since then she has traveled to mythic Scandinavia, a land from the tales ofOne Thousand and One Nights, modern-day New York City, and many more places both real and imagined. As long as he has a map, Nix's father can sail his ship, The Temptation, to any place, any time. But now he's uncovered the one map he's always sought—1868 Honolulu, before Nix's mother died in childbirth. Nix's life—her entire existence—is at stake. No one knows what will happen if her father changes the past. It could erase Nix's future, her dreams, her adventures . . . her connection with the charming Persian thief, Kash, who's been part of their crew for two years. If Nix helps her father reunite with the love of his life, it will cost her her own.

Friday, 19 February 2016

Popin' Cookin' Obento!

I've heard of Popin' Cookin' Japanese candy mixes before but they weren't a thing when I lived there, so I've never tried one.  Well, my husband located some and here's the one we did:


Inside the box is a foil packet that you cut apart for the box and accents, little packets of fruit flavoured candy powder, and a container for making the shaped candy that includes a little cup for measuring the water.

Here's a video by Kawaii Kakkoii Sugoi showing how to make the various components.



And the finished bento box with broccoli, spaghetti, fried chicken (meatball shaped), fried egg, hotdog octopus, and rice balls (onigiri).  I've displayed everything in the containers made from the foil packet.


The taste was... interesting.  I found some a bit grainy (maybe I didn't mix them long enough) and while I really liked the soda and grape flavoured onigiri, some of the others weren't that great.

Still, it was a lot of fun making everything.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

Shout-Out: A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly



Washington, DC, 1926. Sorcery opponents have succeeded in passing the 18th Amendment, but the Prohibition of magic has only invigorated the city’s underworld. Smuggling rings carry magic contraband in from the coast. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters’ crime sprees. Gangs have even established “magic havens,” secret venues where the public can lose themselves in immersive magic and consume a mind-bending, highly addictive elixir known as “the sorcerer’s shine.”

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from the backwoods of Norfolk County, accepts an offer to work for DC’s most notorious crime syndicate, The Shaw Gang, when her family’s home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws. When Joan meets Alex at the Shaws’ magic haven, she discovers a confidante in her fellow partner and he begins to fall under her spell. But when a new breed of the addictive sorcerer’s shine is created within the walls of the magic haven, Joan and Alex are forced to question their allegiances as they become pitted against one another in a dangerous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Video: Amendment 10/60

I saw this on SF Signal a while back.  It's an interesting film written and directed by Akis Polizos.

In a post nuclear era where owning books is a felony and the intellectual community is persecuted, a group of scientists is trying in vain to find a way to save the world. A Professor's assistant will be called upon to make the most difficult decision of his life.
The story takes place in a world a little different from our own; an alternative reality. In this parallel universe history took a different course.


Amendment 10/60 from Akis Polizos on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Book Review: The Burning Dark by Adam Christopher

Pros: interesting characters

Cons: slow moving, unsatisfactory explanations, ending was a let down

Captain Abraham Idaho Cleveland, hero of the battle of Tau Retore against the Spiders, is completing his last duty before retiring from the Fleet.  He’s overseeing the deconstruction of the space station U-Star Coast City, which orbits an unusual purple sun.  But things aren’t right on the station.  The crew haven’t heard of the battle of Tau Retore, interference from the sun is disrupting communications with Fleet Command, and people are starting to see and hear things that aren’t there.

I found this book really slow.  While the mystery of whether or not Ida is lying about his hero status is kind of interesting, the book takes its time getting to the real mystery of what’s up with the sun and the visions and the voices.  

I liked Ida as a character.  His confusion in the face of the missing files and his questioning of his own memories was really interesting.  Serra was also interesting, though I was disappointed that nothing was explained concerning her psi abilities.  I waffled on Carter, liking him at times and disliking him at others.  I did, however find his black ops past horrifying when it was revealed.

One of the plot twists was very obvious and I was annoyed the characters didn’t figure it out earlier.

While there are minor horror elements that show up towards the end, they’re not particularly scary.  And the long stretches between strange happenings means any tension generated has left by the time something new comes up. 

The last 50 pages or so were quick to read, but by this point the explanations offered didn’t clarify things as well as I’d have liked and I found the climax a real let down.


*** SERIOUS SPOILERS ***











First off, I was very disappointed that there was no finale scene from Ida’s point of view.  Seeing the demise of the sun from the shuttle didn’t have the impact that Ida’s POV would have had as he helped pilot the spider in.  Similarly, I would have loved a scene at the end from Serra’s POV when she was using her psi powers.  Since they were never really used elsewhere in the book they didn’t feel real at the end, and all her moans and collapsing didn’t help me feel any tension at the fear of her failing because I didn’t understand the level of difficulty she faced.

I was left with a lot of questions.  The most glaring is: How did the Fleet Command keep news of the Tau Retore battle quiet.  It was a victory.  People talk.  Soldiers write their families, saying they’re alive - and they won.  The people from the planet who were evacuated would have talked.  I found it easier to believe that Ida was insane than I did that a large number of people didn’t mention this battle.  Similarly, if Ida’s so special as a captain that he was denied promotions so he could be kept on the front lines, how is his name unknown?  Well, maybe that’s understandable, given how many captains the fleet must have.

I rally didn’t understand why the principle characters weren’t taken right away.  If they had to agree to come when their dead relatives spoke to them it implies that whole groups of soldiers all agreed at the same time, which I find hard to believe.  It seemed like Izanami could take people she wanted, so why not the special ones who were specifically sent to her?

This question bothered me too:  If the fleet had to send a piece of spider tech to Izanami so she could study it, why did they think she could defeat them?  All they know about her is that she needs thousands of HUMAN souls to regain her strength and that she likes to eat HUMAN souls.  What made them think she’d help them rather than just eat humans when she’s free?  And did they really mean to free her with no plan of containing her later? 

Speaking of the spider, we’re told so little about them that I was surprised that the spider and Ida were vaporized at the end.  My initial thought when he decided to go in it was that it was a suicide mission, but then I thought, this is what the spiders do, surely they have some way of surviving their own main mode of attack.  But no.  Apparently not.

And how is Izanami alive?  Is it because she started as an entity from subspace?  How did she get to Earth in the first place (I know she arrived in an asteroid, but how did that asteroid become imbued with her essence/life force)?  What happened to the others of her kind who invaded Earth with her?  Why did her husband lock her away when he found her echo in the hellspace?  Did he know she was now evil?  Wasn’t she eating human souls when she was on Earth?  How did she (and the others of her kind) not depopulate the planet given her voracious appetite?  Is her husband also still alive somewhere?  

(The Japanese myth of Izanagi and Izanami explains why her husband traps her in the land of the dead, though I wonder why I had to look the legend up on wikipedia to understand part of the backstory of this novel.)


Sunday, 14 February 2016

Shout-Out: Burning Midnight by Will McIntosh

Sully is a sphere dealer at a flea market. It doesn’t pay much—Alex Holliday’s stores have muscled out most of the independent sellers—but it helps him and his mom make the rent.
No one knows where the brilliant-colored spheres came from. One day they were just there, hidden all over the earth like huge gemstones. Burn a pair and they make you a little better: an inch taller, skilled at math, better-looking. The rarer the sphere, the greater the improvement—and the more expensive the sphere.

When Sully meets Hunter, a girl with a natural talent for finding spheres, the two start searching together. One day they find a Gold—a color no one has ever seen. And when Alex Holliday learns what they have, he will go to any lengths, will use all of his wealth and power, to take it from them.
There’s no question the Gold is priceless, but what does it actually do? None of them is aware of it yet, but the fate of the world rests on this little golden orb. Because all the world fights over the spheres, but no one knows where they come from, what their powers are, or why they’re here.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Discover Sci-Fi Site

A group of 10 indie authors (some of whom have traditional publishing deals as well) have started a new website to promote their work and connect with readers: Discover Sci-Fi.

They are: Jay Allan, Evan Currie, Joshua Dalzelle, Michael Grumley, Autumn Kalquist, Matthew Mather, Samuel Peralta, Nicholas Sansbury Smith, Darren Wearmouth, and Nick Webb.

They're currently running a contest to win quite a few books.  The grand prize is 40 signed trade paperbacks, followed by 2500 prize packs containing 10 ebooks each.  The contest is open internationally though, according to their rules, people from the following countries are ineligible: Taiwan, South Korea, Portugal, Italy, Austria, China, Russia, Hong Kong, Greece, France, Japan, Spain, and Czech Republic.

You get a free ebook for entering the contest and/or signing up for their newsletter.

There are tabs at the top right of the screen to navigate the site.  Currently there's only the giveaway and a few blog posts.  I corresponded with Matthew Mather, one of the founders, who told me what readers can expect from the site:

Each week we will be featuring a new book release and/or free/deep discount on a book from one of our ten “partner” authors, plus we will be curating a list of deals from other authors that we like, have read, can recommend etc…

The group intends to add more authors to their line-up over time as well as a forum for discussion, but they want the site properly established before branching out.


Thursday, 11 February 2016

Shout-Out: Caretaker by Josi Russell

Fifty years in space—alone.

Ethan Bryant was supposed to fall asleep on a ship leaving Earth and wake up fifty years later with his family on the planet Minea. Instead, after the ship’s caretaker—the lone human in charge of monitoring the ship’s vital systems—suddenly died, the ship’s computer locked Ethan out of his stasis chamber and gave him the job. That was five years ago. Five years of checking to make sure everything runs smoothly on a ship Ethan knows almost nothing about.

Who wouldn’t dread the years ahead? Who wouldn’t long for their once-bright future now stolen away?

Ethan is resigned to his fate, until the ship suddenly wakes up another passenger: a beautiful engineer who, along with Ethan, soon discovers a horrible secret—a navigation room hidden from even the ship’s computer. The ship is not bound for Minea—but to somewhere far more dangerous.

With the ship nearing its sinister destination, Ethan soon learns he is the only one who holds the key to saving all 4,000 passengers from a highly-advanced, hostile alien race.

Book 2, Guardians, is out today.

After fifty years in stasis, Caretaker Ethan Bryant and his passengers have finally arrived
on Minea. But life on the new planet isn’t the utopia that the shiny brochures back on Earth promised. Freed from the mind shackles of the Others of Beta Alora, the colonists are now enslaved by the dusty Yynium mining industry that sustains the new civilization.

When a mysterious shadow passes across the face of the planet Lucidus, it brings with it an ominous threat. Before he can find out the extent of the danger, Ethan is plunged into the vast cave system under the blue karst mountains outside the city of Coriol. There he finds evidence that his greatest fear may be realized: Humans are not alone on Minea.

Aria, a crop geneticist and Ethan’s wife, struggles to find him and to solve a deadly epidemic that is sweeping the population. Kaia, the beautiful engineer who awakened early on Ethan’s stasis ship, and her father, Admiral Phillip Reagan, prepare for a battle with a species they know nothing about. The colonists must call upon their unique gifts and work together. Human survival depends on these guardians of Minea.

The publisher is hosting a giveaway for the books.  Amazon.com currently has Guardians on sale for 0.99.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Kickstarter Projcet: BLACK

I finally got around to backing the POC Destroy Science Fiction kickstarter (which is funded but has 9 days left), and the site recommended some other projects I might be interested in.  Turns out it was right and I am interested in BLACK, a graphic novel kickstarted by Kwanza Osajyefo, Tim Smith 3, Jamal Igle, and Khary Randolph.

The premise:

In a world that already fears and hates them – what if only Black people had superpowers?

Here's the longer synopsis:

After miraculously surviving being gunned down by police, a young man learns that he is part of the biggest lie in history. Now he must decide whether it's safer to keep it a secret or if the truth will set him free.

The $10 mark gets you the 6 issues of the first volume of the comic.  $25+ shipping for the physical book.  It's already funded and working towards the stretch goals.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Book Review: Harry Harrison! Harry Harrison!: A Memoir by Harry Harrison

Pros: fascinating story, engaging

Cons: ending feels abrupt

This memoir is split into two parts.  The first details the surprisingly fascinating life of science fiction author Harry Harrison.  The second part is a series of essays that were meant to be incorporated into the main text but the author, unfortunately, passed away before that could be completed.  As the essays contain some overlapping information, it was decided to keep them separate from the main text.  These essays provide more in depth information into aspects of Harrison’s life that were otherwise skipped over or barely touched on in the book: his friendship with John Campbell, turning Make Room! Make Room! into the film Soylent Green, how he played with some of his writing ideas to make book series out of them, etc.

I haven’t read many memoirs.  Most people - frankly - don’t live particularly interesting lives.  Interesting, I mean to say, to people other than themselves.  Harry Harrison, who was born in 1925 and passed away in 2012 just days after completing this book, lived a fascinating life.  He served in World War II (in the US), he lived in Mexico, England, Italy, Denmark, and Ireland.  He knew a lot of the early movers and shakers of the SF world, and participated (sometimes ran) conventions around the world.  

The text is pretty engaging, keeping me reading long past the parts I thought I’d find interesting (his WWII service, living overseas after the war).  He keeps the book upbeat, mentioning that things were bad at certain times but not dwelling on the details.  While the story is told in a linear fashion, he does jump ahead at times.  So, for example, the same paragraph that introduces the woman he married - and spent 50+ years with - also explains how and when she died.

The essays provide a lot of interesting side information, though the repetition of things from the text and the lack of narrative momentum given the rest of the text made the last few harder to get through.  The ending feels a bit abrupt as a result.  While the main text has a nice conclusion, the essays - not meant to stand alone - don’t.  Having a short conclusion by someone else would have fixed this.  By pure accident I read the acknowledgements after the book (I must have skipped the page by mistake), and it actually forms a nice conclusion, with some remarks by Harrison’s daughter. 


While this isn’t a book I would have picked up on my own (I was sent a copy for review a while back), I’m glad I gave it a chance.  And having enjoyed Harrison’s writing style, I may need to expand my reading of his works beyond Make Room! Make Room!.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Shout-Out: Graft by Matt Hill

Manchester, 2025. Local mechanic Sol steals old vehicles to meet the demand for spares. But when Sol’s partner impulsively jacks a luxury model, Sol finds himself caught up in a nightmarish trans-dimensional human trafficking conspiracy.

Hidden in the stolen car is a voiceless, three-armed woman called Y. She’s had her memory removed and undertaken a harrowing journey into a world she only vaguely recognises. And someone waiting in the UK expects her delivery at all costs.

Now Sol and Y are on the run from both Y’s traffickers and the organisation’s faithful products. With the help of a dangerous triggerman and Sol’s ex, they must uncover the true, terrifying extent of the trafficking operation, or it’s all over.

Not that there was much hope to start with.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Sarah, Please Keep Doing Special Needs in Strange Worlds

I don’t normally comment on controversial issues in SFF, but sometimes you can’t stay silent.

SF Signal posted a Special Needs in Strange Worlds entry titled, “We are all disabled” that has caused a lot of hurt. (The post has been removed from the site but @eilatan took this screenshot of the post and asked that it only be shared with a TRIGGER WARNING)  While I was not personally affected by it (I found it more confusing than anything, and didn’t agree with the premise), I understand that many in our community were.  

I have learned a lot from the Special Needs in Strange Worlds column.  I have also learned a lot from the responses I’ve read about this particular post - responses that explained why it was insensitive to post, offensive, how it fed into stereotypes associated with autism.  How it hurt to read on such a well respected site as SF Signal.

SF Signal messed up.  Sarah messed up.  

I was taught that three things are necessary when you make a mistake:
1. Apologize 

2. Make restitution 
You have to somehow make up for what you’ve done.  First, they removed the post.  Good start.  Some other possibilities to help in this instance could be to post on SF Signal one or two responses to the original post, explaining why it was offensive and different ways negative stereotypes hurt.  Several posts by autistic people, showing different viewpoints, would be wonderful - to get more voices out there and counteract the inaccuracies of the offending piece.

3. Try to do better / Don’t make the same mistake again
I’m sure Sarah will be more careful going ahead - assuming she decides to go ahead with the column.  Maybe a panel would be more appropriate for screening responses for this column than one individual, and some people will volunteer to help her with it.  Maybe more people will send her their experiences to post in the column so it’s more representational.


Criticism is good.  We need to be able to point it out when people do things wrong.  But if we go too far and push people out of the genre for making mistakes, we’ll soon be in a very small, very empty room.  Because we all make mistakes.  All of us.  We can all do better.

And education is one way of doing better.  Education that this column usually provides.

I NEED this column.  I want to learn more about others, about what makes us different, and similar.  I want to know more about people’s experiences with disabilities so I can better understand my fellow man.  But like most people, I’m lazy.  I’ve stumbled across the occasional other post on this topic, but I don’t go out of my way looking for them.  We need posts about representation, about difference, about disability on sites like SF Signal that get a lot of genre traffic.  Because I’m not the only one who needs to learn about these things who won’t go looking for them.  

They need to be front and centre in genre if we want change, they need to be on the sites that get traffic, views, discussion.  

Mistakes hurt.  Sometimes they hurt a lot.  But if we don’t pick ourselves up and try again, if we give up, then we learn nothing from the mistakes.  And the mistakes simply repeat themselves in different venues at different times, with different people.  

Sarah, you made a mistake.  But I respect you.  I respect your work on the Special Needs in Strange Worlds column.  I’ve learned so much from you and that column.  This genre needs you.  Please, please keep doing it.  Don’t let this mistake be the end of this wonderful work you’ve done.

----------------------------------
ETA: I've just read this enlightening post on Flat Out which explains more of what was offensive about the original SF Signal post.  It's worth checking out.

And here's a response by Foz Meadows, which dissects the post, again pointing out some of the problematic language.

-----------------

2nd ETA: Sarah has decided to close down the Special Needs in Strange Worlds column on SF Signal but she's teaming up with Shana DuBois to create a website, tentatively named Own Voice, which will expand the ideas of SN in SW to include more content, interviews, essays, etc. with a panel of people okaying content to avoid another mistake like the one that prompted the above post.  I think this is an excellent idea, and am excited to see how it expands.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Shout-Out: Winterwood by Jacey Bedford

It's 1800. Mad King George is on the British throne, and Bonaparte is hammering at the door. Magic is strictly controlled by the Mysterium, but despite severe penalties, not all magic users have registered.

Ross Tremayne, widowed, cross-dressing privateer captain and unregistered witch, likes her life on the high seas, accompanied by a boatload of swashbuckling pirates and the possessive ghost of her late husband, Will. When she pays a bitter deathbed visit to her long-estranged mother she inherits a half brother she didn't know about and a task she doesn't want: open the magical winterwood box and right an ancient wrong—if she can.

Enter Corwen. He's handsome, sexy, clever, and capable, and Ross doesn't really like him; neither does Will's ghost. Can he be trusted? Whose side is he on?

Unable to chart a course to her future until she's unraveled the mysteries of the past, she has to evade a ruthless government agent who fights magic with darker magic, torture, and murder; and brave the hitherto hidden Fae. Only then can she hope to open the magical winterwood box and right her ancestor's wrongdoing. Unfortunately, success may prove fatal to both Ross and her new brother, and desastrous for the country. By righting a wrong, is Ross going to unleash a terrible evil? Is her enemy the real hero and Ross the villain?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Video: Americapox - The Missing Plague

This video by CGP Grey answers several questions I never knew I had. The question this video deals with is: Why, when the Spanish arrived in the 'new world' and spread plagues, did no 'new world' plagues spread through Europe?  The answer is quite interesting, and goes over where plagues come from. (And part 2 isn't out yet.)

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Book Review: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

Pros: quick moving, suspenseful, action packed

Cons: no down time to consider the questions the book posed, didn’t feel emotionally connected to the characters

For Parents: swearing, some sexual content (mostly kissing, nothing graphic), lots of violence

Picking up immediately where The 5th Wave ends, Ringer leaves the group’s temporary shelter to hopefully find a safer place where they can spend the winter.  Meanwhile, Cassie still has hope that Evan survived the explosion and will meet up with her again, though each passing day makes that less likely.  Fear, paranoia, rage, hope, and love all come into play as the characters struggle against their new world.  And the big question remains, why?  Why did the aliens create such an elaborate series of ‘waves’ to annihilate humanity instead of one catastrophic event?

This is a very fast moving book.  There’s little time to think about what’s happened before the next calamity hits.  On the one hand, it makes for a suspenseful, action packed novel.  On the other hand, it doesn’t give you any time to consider the questions the book poses.  And I found that my emotional attachment to the characters wasn’t as strong as with the first book (though I suspect if I’d reread the first book before picking this one up that would have been different).  When bad things happened to the kids I didn’t feel it as deeply as I should have. 

I like that we got to learn more about some of the kids’ pasts.  Through POV flashbacks we learn how Poundcake got his name and why he doesn’t talk, we also learn a bit more about the aliens.


It’s the second book in a trilogy so the ending leaves you wanting the final volume, The Last Star, where all the questions will - hopefully - be answered.