Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Books Received in November 2021

Many thanks to the publishers who granted my book requests on Netgalley in November. These aren't my usual requests but I've been getting more into art and history (and art history) lately.

The History of Tarot Art by Esther Joy Archer and Holly Adams Easley - I find the history of tarot pretty fascinating and so am looking forward to learning more about the history of art used to depict the cards and how the artwork evolved over time and was modified by various artists to fit how they wanted to use the cards.

The History of Tarot Art offers a fresh and accessible look at the art styles, artists, and history behind more than a dozen of the world’s most noteworthy tarot decks.

Guided by Holly Adams Easley and Esther Joy Archer, hosts of the popular Wildly Tarot podcast, this deluxe collector’s book provides a fresh look at the influence of tarot from its beginnings to today. The elegant slipcase, 24 removable Sola-Busca tarot cards, and illustrated fold-out timeline with important dates in tarot development make this package a must-have for any tarot fan.

The History of Tarot Art shows how tarot morphed from a fifteenth century card game to a popular modern activity. Learn more about the stories behind the art of tarot’s most influential decks, like Rider-Waite-Smith and Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot, as well as the female artists whose work was often overshadowed in their time.

The History of Tarot Art also takes a close look at the Visconti, Sola-Busca, Tarot de Marseille, Aquarian, Morgan-Greer, Motherpeace, Cosmic, Druidcraft, Wild Unknown, and Deviant Moon decks, alongside dozens of contemporary decks. In many cases, you’ll see how tarot art reflects its era. The Morgan-Greer deck, for example, could only have been born in the 1970s. More recent decks, such as Black Power Tarot and Fifth Spirit Tarot, aim to represent more diverse experiences in regard to race, gender, and sexuality.

The book also provides tips for doing your own tarot readings and a cheat sheet on the meanings of the Rider-Waite-Smith, Thoth, and Tarot de Marseille cards.

Whether you're a longtime tarot practitioner or a newcomer to the practice, you'll find fascinating new insights in this retrospective.

Drawn on the Way: A Guide to Capturing the Moment Through Live Sketching by Sarah Nisbett - A few years back I saw some travel sketchbook/journals and thought it would be cool to learn how to quickly illustrated important (or just interesting) moments better. I also like the idea of using sketching to relax in the middle of a hectic day/trip. I've read the first few chapters already and love how the author is encouraging and insists that doing art should bring you JOY. This is something I've forgotten with my other creative pursuits, so it's a timely reminder.  Out December 21st.

Discover how drawing on the way—in-the-moment sketching on a train, in a café, at the laundromat—can improve your drawing skills and let you unplug and engage with the world.

In Drawn on the Way, Sarah Nisbett shares her techniques for creating captivating line drawings that capture moments and moods: a young woman lost in thought, a pair of hands clasped on a lap, a peppy beagle, a pair of jeans-clad crossed legs. Sarah invites readers to see the people they draw with “compassionate curiosity—as more than a stranger, as someone with a story worth knowing or imagining.”

By learning how to create sketches from start to finish employing techniques such as contour drawing, using line work to add texture, and adding spot color, you’ll see how each sketch tells a story. You’ll begin to focus on important details that reveal something about the person you’re drawing: the graceful drape of a hand over a purse, the shy way someone tucks their feet underneath them.

In this book you’ll discover:
  • How to translate what you see into a compelling drawing
  • How to silence your inner critic and find joy in drawing what captures your interest
  • Techniques for drawing figures and creating quick portraits
  • How key details can take a sketch from plain to captivating
  • How to draw scenes and backgrounds without becoming overwhelmed
  • Ways to find the extraordinary in the everyday
  • How to transform mistakes into likeable elements
  • Tips for becoming a visual storyteller
  • Life lessons learned from years of live drawing 
We spend most of our lives on the way, rushing and running from place to place, task to task. When we have a spare minute, we usually reach for our phones and shut everything else out. The techniques, projects, and ideas in Drawn on the Way are designed to help you be more mindful about drawing, to capture the people, places, and things you encounter each day. By doing that, you’ll connect with humanity in a deeper, more meaningful way—and discover a lot about yourself.

A Guide to Medieval Gardens by Michael Brown - I love medieval gardens and learning what plants were grown and how they were used. There aren't that many books on the subject so I can't wait to dive into this one. Out March 30th, 2022.

Medieval gardens usually rate very few pages in the garden history books. The general perception is still of small gardens in the corner of a castle. Recent research has shown that the gardens were larger than we previously believed. This book contains information and pictures that have not been generally available before, including the theory and practice of medieval horticulture. Many features of later gardens were already a part of medieval gardens. The number of plants was limited, but was still no less than many modern gardeners use in their own gardens today. Yet medieval gardens were imbued with meaning. Whether secular or religious, the additional dimension of symbolism, gave a greater depth to medieval gardens, which is lacking in most modern ones.

This book will be of interest to those who know little about medieval gardens and to those with more knowledge. It contains some of the vast amount of research that the author carried out to create the medieval gardens at the Prebendal Manor, Nassington, Northamptonshire. The author has tried to use previously unused sources and included his own practical experience of medieval gardening methods that he carried out to maintain the gardens. Some worked, others certainly didn’t.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Shout-Out: Year of the Reaper by Makiia Lucier

The past never forgets . . .

Before an ambush by enemy soldiers, Lord Cassia was an engineer's apprentice on a mission entrusted by the king. But when plague sweeps over the land,leaving countless dead and devastating the kingdom, even Cas' title cannot save him from a rotting prison cell and a merciless sickness.

Three years later, Cas wants only to return to his home in the mountains and forget past horrors. But home is not what he remembers. His castle has become a refuge for the royal court. And they have brought their enemies with them.

When an assassin targets those closest to the queen,Cas is drawn into a search for a killer...one that leads him to form an unexpected bond with a brilliant young historian named Lena. Cas and Lena soon realize that who is behind the attacks is far less important than why. They must look to the past, following the trail of a terrible secret--one that could threaten the kingdom's newfound peace and plunge it back into war.

Monday, 22 November 2021

The Reinvented Detective Anthology open for submissions

 Got an email about a new anthology currently open for submissions:


The Reinvented Detective

BOOK 2 IN THE REINVENTED ANTHOLOGY SERIES

Edited by Jennifer Brozek and Cat Rambo

https://www.arcmanorbooks.com/thereinventedanthology

As we move forward into the age of information, what happens to our ideas of detection and crime? How do you handle it when your smart car blackmails you or you need to murder the downloaded personality of your enemy? What acts to enforce society's norms and catch those violating them in the future? Will our definitions of crime or punishment change, and what new forms of either might appear?

Among the stories we hope to see:

  • Updated tropes like but not limited to the hardboiled detective, the police procedural, or the locked room mystery.
  • Kidnapped AIs, stolen memories and identities, virtual crimes vs physical ones.
  • What constitutes murder when the victim's got a backup? What if you accidentally unplug someone's server?
  • Stories that experiment, astonish, and entertain.

This is our open call. Writers of color, QUILTBAG writers, writers with disabilities, and neuro-diverse writers are actively encouraged to apply, as are writers from outside the United States.

Guidelines:

Open for submissions: November 15th, 2021 through January 15, 2022. All submissions should be submitted through our Moksha portal. Please remove identifying information from the manuscript, but otherwise use standard manuscript format. In the cover letter, list your full author name, the title of your work, and the word count.

Length: 1500-5000 words (5k is going to be a tough sell)

Buying: Original fiction; exclusive rights for 18 months with standard "best of" anthology exceptions.

Paying: 8 cents a word (SFWA pro rates)

No multiple submissions. Simultaneous submissions are okay but you must notify us immediately if the story sells elsewhere.

Timeline:

Submissions open November 15, 2021 and close January 15, 2022

The first round of reading will run February 1 through April 1. All submissions will be informed by May 1 whether or not they are being held for further consideration.  If you have not heard anything by June 1, please email us.

The book will be published in 2023 by by CAEZIK SF & Fantasy, an imprint of Arc Manor Publishers.

Submissions can be made by going to our Moksha portal at: 
https://arcmanorpublishers.moksha.io/publication/the-reinvented-anthology

Jennifer Brozek

Jennifer Brozek is a multi-talented, award-winning author, editor, and media tie-in writer. She is the author of the Never Let Me Sleep, and The Last Days of Salton Academy, both of which were nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. Her BattleTech tie-in novel, The Nellus Academy Incident, won a Scribe Award. Her editing work has earned her nominations for the British Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the Hugo Award. She won the Australian Shadows Award for the Grants Pass anthology, co-edited with Amanda Pillar. Jennifer’s short form work has appeared in Apex Publications, Uncanny Magazine, and in anthologies set in the worlds of Valdemar, Shadowrun, V-Wars, Masters of Orion, and Predator.

Jennifer has been a freelance author and editor for over fifteen years after leaving a high paying tech job, and she has never been happier. She keeps a tight schedule on her writing and editing projects and somehow manages to find time to volunteer for several professional writing organizations such as SFWA, HWA, and IAMTW. She shares her husband, Jeff, with several cats and often uses him as a sounding board for her story ideas. Visit Jennifer’s worlds at jenniferbrozek.com.  

Cat Rambo

Since first appearing on the SF scene in 2005, Cat Rambo has published over 250 fiction pieces, including Nebula Award winning novelette, Carpe Glitter, and nonfiction works that include Ad Astra: The SFWA 50th Anniversary Cookbook (co-edited with Fran Wilde) and writing book, Moving From Idea to Finished Draft. Their 2021 works include fantasy novel Exiles of Tabat (Wordfire Press) and space opera You Sexy Thing (Tor Macmillan). Rambo has been short-listed for the World Fantasy Award, the Compton Crook Award, and the Nebula Short Story Award.

A former Vice President and two-term President of the SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), Cat continues to volunteer with the organization as part of its mentorship program and Grievance Committee. They founded the online school The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers in 2010, specializing in classes aimed at genre writers, which now offers dozens of classes from some of the best writers currently working in speculative fiction.

Cat has lived in Seattle the last few decades and considers it their home, but is prone to wandering sometimes. They share Chez Rambo with a palindromically-named tortoiseshell cat, a jumping spider, way too many houseplants, and a spouse.

Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Video: Medieval Bardcore Holding Out for a Hero

 Two youtubers I greatly admire, Whitney Avalon and Hildegard von Blingin' teamed up to create a medieval bardcore version of Bonnie Tyler's Holding Out for a Hero. Their music video, inspired by the artwork from books of hours is fantastic.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

The Undertakers by Nicole Glover

This is book two of the Murder and Magic series. My review of book one is here.

Pros: excellent worldbuilding, fun characters, community, interesting mysteries

Cons:

Henrietta and Benjamin Rhodes’s funeral parlour hasn’t drummed up much business, but their work as sparrow and finch, solving murders and mysteries, has them questioning all the fires that have been breaking out around town. Fires that seem to have magical help. Fires the local firefighters aren’t putting out. A fire killed Raimond Duval, a friend of their friends. The most recent fire burned down an entire street except for the house of Valentine Duval, Raimond’s son. The Rhodes soon learn of stolen goods, a hidden treasure, and discover one of their old enemies is in town.

The book takes place a few months after the events of The Conductors. While you don’t need to have read that to understand this book, it does introduce all of the characters and their interpersonal relationships, which along with the mystery is what makes these books so fun.

I love that there’s a loving couple at the heart of the book. I love that Hetty has several female friends to talk to about everything. I love seeing the Rhodes interact with their group of friends. This sense of community is strangely missing in a lot of fantasy literature and it’s so wonderful to read.

The setting is Pennsylvania in the late 1800s, with several flashbacks to some of the jobs the couple undertook as part of the Vigilance Society (basically the underground railway). It’s a world where magic is real, and most cultures have their own kind of magic, with white Americans using wands for sorcery and the black Americans using celestial magic. In the background are mentions that laws are being considered to limit the use and teaching of celestial magic. Magic is integrated into every aspect of life, showing up at baseball games, balls, gunfights and for daily tasks. There’s also potion craft, which one of Hetty’s friends excels at.

The book touches on many goings on so it’s not always apparent what’s part of the central mystery and what isn’t. Much like real life the characters learn things in offhand and unexpected ways.

This is a great series and I highly recommend it.

Monday, 1 November 2021

Books Received in October 2021

Many thanks as always to the publishers who allow me to review their books in advance. There are some amazing books coming out in the next few months.

Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson -  If you're looking for a unique space mystery, give this a try. Out now. You can read my review of it here

The colony ship Ragtime docks in the Lagos system, having traveled light-years to bring one thousand sleeping souls to a new home among the stars. But when first mate Michelle Campion rouses, she discovers some of the sleepers will never wake.

Answering Campion’s distress call, investigator Rasheed Fin is tasked with finding out who is responsible for these deaths. Soon a sinister mystery unfolds aboard the gigantic vessel, one that will have repercussions for the entire system—from the scheming politicians of Lagos station, to the colony planet Bloodroot, to other far-flung systems, and indeed to Earth itself.





Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire - I really enjoy McGuire's Wayward Children books and can't wait to learn about the second school. Out January 4th.

"Welcome to the Whitethorn Institute. The first step is always admitting you need help, and you’ve already taken that step by requesting a transfer into our company."

There is another school for children who fall through doors and fall back out again.
It isn't as friendly as Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children.
And it isn't as safe.

When Eleanor West decided to open her school, her sanctuary, her "Home for Wayward Children," she knew from the beginning that there would be children she couldn’t save; when Cora decides she needs a different direction, a different fate, a different prophecy, Miss West reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the other school, where things are run very differently by Whitethorn, the Headmaster.

She will soon discover that not all doors are welcoming...

Mickey7 by Edward Ashton - Clones in space? Sign me up! The plot makes me think of No Way by S.J. Morden, which I enjoyed. Out February 15th.

Dying isn’t any fun…but at least it’s a living.

Mickey7 is an Expendable: a disposable employee on a human expedition sent to colonize the ice world Niflheim. Whenever there’s a mission that’s too dangerous―even suicidal―the crew turns to Mickey. After one iteration dies, a new body is regenerated with most of his memories intact. After six deaths, Mickey7 understands the terms of his deal…and why it was the only colonial position unfilled when he took it.

On a fairly routine scouting mission, Mickey7 goes missing and is presumed dead. By the time he returns to the colony base, surprisingly helped back by native life, Mickey7’s fate has been sealed. There’s a new clone, Mickey8, reporting for Expendable duties. The idea of duplicate Expendables is universally loathed, and if caught, they will likely be thrown into the recycler for protein.

Mickey7 must keep his double a secret from the rest of the colony. Meanwhile, life on Niflheim is getting worse. The atmosphere is unsuitable for humans, food is in short supply, and terraforming is going poorly. The native species are growing curious about their new neighbors, and that curiosity has Commander Marshall very afraid. Ultimately, the survival of both lifeforms will come down to Mickey7.

That is, if he can just keep from dying for good.

A Forgery of Roses by Jessica S. Olson - This book just sounds incredible. Out March 1st.

Myra has a gift many would kidnap, blackmail, and worse to control: she’s a portrait artist whose paintings alter people’s bodies. Guarding that secret is the only way to keep her younger sister safe now that their parents are gone. But one frigid night, the governor’s wife discovers the truth and threatens to expose Myra if she does not complete a special portrait that would resurrect the governor's dead son.

Once she arrives at the legendary stone mansion, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. A killer stalks these halls--one disturbingly obsessed with portrait magic. Desperate to get out of the manor as quickly as possible, Myra turns to the governor’s older son for help completing the painting before the secret she spent her life concealing makes her the killer’s next victim.

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Book Review: Far From the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson

Pros: interesting characters, great world-building, unique

Cons:

AIs fly ships, and AIs have never failed in flight.

When first mate Michelle ‘Shell’ Campion is woken after the last bridge-jump to the Bloodroot colony, 10 years into her mission, she finds the starship Ragtime’s AI reduced to its basic operating system and 31 colonists missing from their sleeping pods. This is not the way the now acting captain foresaw her first mission going.

Bloodroot sends an investigator in answer to Shell’s distress call to find out what’s happening on the quarantined ship, but murder is just the start of the mysteries he uncovers there.

The world-building is great. While most of the action takes place on Ragtime, I loved Lagos station and learning about the Lambers. I also appreciated that the human characters were considerate towards the AI, even asking what pronouns they prefer.

The plot begins with the mystery of how the colonists died, but that’s quickly overshadowed by the weirdest series of events as things on Ragtime quickly spiral out of control. You’re not going to figure out ‘who dunnit’, or foresee any of the other twists that come completely out of left field, but the ending explains why everything happened, which I greatly appreciated.

The pacing can be on the slow side at times, reflecting the actualities of space travel and communication. Having said that, the characters never have enough time to solve a problem before the next one comes up, making the story feel claustrophobic, rushed, and tense.

The characters are intriguing and unusual. Shell is calm and collected even under the worst pressure. Fin hates space though he’s excited to be practicing his trade again after screwing up his last assignment. Joké is… unique and kind of fun.

This is a different kind of science fiction novel, something the author mentions in an afterword at the end of the book. So if you want something outside the norm give this a try.