Book Review: Bone Dance by Emma Bull

I recently read Bone Dance by Emma Bull as part of my Asexual Reading list for 2018.

“Sparrow’s my name. Trader. Deal-maker. Hustler, some call me. I work the Night Fair circuit, buying and selling prenuke videos from the World Before. I know how to get a high price, especially on Big Band collectibles. The hottest ticket of all is information on the Horsemen – the mind-control weapons that tilted the balance in the war between the Americas. That’s the prize I’m after. But it seems I’m having trouble controlling my own mind. The Horsemen are coming…”

“Here before me was the familiar exercise of my faith, the Deal. The exchange was only its sacrament, the symbol of larger principles. Nothing Is Free. One way or another, you will pay your debts; better you should arrange the method of payment yourself.” (Page 48).

I’ve been really far behind on my reading goals and also not doing a very good job of posting book reviews when I finish a book. I’ve read a lot more than indicated by the silence here for the last several months. My Asexual Reading list for 2018 had me reading this in September and it’s now November. My concept of time is completely skewed right now so I have no idea when I actually read this, other than it was sometime fairly recently.

This book was unbelievably far ahead of its time. The main protagonist is non-binary before there was common terminology for it. Sparrow is also touch and sex-repulsed, making this individual the first truly asexual character I’ve read without any romantic subplot whatsoever. So while no romantic or sexual subplots existed, Sparrow still found love and acceptance through friendship that turned into family. I found this positive example of interpersonal relationships refreshing.

I also found this book to be incredibly imaginative, as it clearly showed a realistic dystopian future where we would have remnants of our previous world. The rich and powerful sought out nostalgic memories of movies from the past and paid high prices for them on the black market. The rich and powerful also control the use of electricity throughout the city, which is a clear demonstration of how classism crosses all realms, even the dystopian future. The technology use in this book, and the reverence for that technology, interested me and also caused a severe emotional issue during later chapters in the book. But since I don’t want to ruin the book for anyone who hasn’t read it, I’m not going to go into detail about the extra-powerful, heart-wrenching scene that caused me genuine distress.

Page 130 described the world before the future this book with a dialogue between two characters: ‘”Having never lived in a nation,” I said, “I wouldn’t know.” Frances turned her face away, as if I’d slapped her. “Don’t worry, you’re not missing much. A wretched anthill of peaceful, productive, useful life with hardly any invigorating biting and scratching. Where people flossed once a day and mowed the lawn on Sundays.”‘ This description of what’s actually our current world amused me greatly.

Which brings up a very good point about this book. There are two extremely potent and very traumatic events in this book, one of which involves rape. So if that’s a trigger for you, be cautious when reading this book.

The book also understands what it means to be an introvert. There’s a section on page 211 where Sparrow is thinking about what it means to be someone on your own in a crowded world: “I’d never wondered why I could be comfortable here and twitchy in a group of four people. The answer, now that I thought about it, was easy. The streets and stalls of the Night Fair were the opposite of intimacy. To be one of four was to be a focal point; to be one of hundreds was to be anonymous as sand on the shore.” The characters in this book are so absolutely human that the relationships are natural and the interactions real. The later chapters even deal a lot with rebuilding yourself and your life when you’ve lost everything. That whole section hit me really hard as a keen reminder of everything I’ve been through, especially around page 248.

Overall, this book was far more than I was expecting. It hit me in a very powerful and memorable way. I absolutely enjoyed having a non-binary and sex-repulsed person as the main character and having that main character not wind up being a bad person. I would actually rate this book as a low four on my rating scale. I’m glad I purchased it and I will likely read it again in the future.

Bull, Emma. Bone Dance. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, 1991.

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WTF is wrong with us? (a massive life rant)

While I was out walking around and cleaning roads and sidewalks from hurricane debris, I got a little frustrated with everything because I was the only one outside actually doing something. I was moving giant fallen tree pieces from the roads and sidewalks, clearing storm drains, clearing the track, and generally just making conditions safer.

But I was the only person I saw outside doing anything. While I was clearing the track, I saw three runners trying to run the track, two walkers around the outside, and a couple with a stroller. None of them moved any of the debris – they just went around it.

It reminded me of the pictures I saw of Hurricane Katrina over a decade ago, where you saw photos of people just sitting in lawn chairs with a trashed yard. No one was trying to do anything to clean things up or make things better. They were just waiting around for someone else to deal with it.

And still there were others who continuously demonstrated that the rules clearly don’t apply to them. I watched at least one car go speeding through a housing area and didn’t stop at any of the stop signs. Because, you know, “all direction” stop signs only apply to everyone else and not them. Clearly.

It’s like everyone lives in this stupid “magic” world where “other” people clean up the mess. Where “other” people take responsibility for making the world a better place. Where “other” people vote and try to fix a broken system. Where “someone else” will take care of taking out the trash or doing the chores. Where “other” people get paid to clean up spilled popcorn in the movie theaters instead of people just putting their popcorn containers in the trash on their way out.

We don’t take ownership for the places we inhabit. We don’t participate in being a part of a community.

And it means that what would be a very easy burden to bear when shared by many is instead overloaded on a very small amount of people who keep trying to save everyone and everything all on their own.

It’s breaking those small amounts of people. It’s destroying those who are good and helpful. Why? All because no one wants to get involved in anything. People are so hopeless right now that they feel like nothing they do or say matters, but at the same time, everyone and everything is disposable. Oh, you dropped your really expensive phone and cracked the screen? You should totally just throw the whole thing out and get a new one! Oh, climate change is a problem and certain groupings are working really hard to take away people’s rights? You totally shouldn’t vote because your voice doesn’t matter anyway and you’re just playing their corrupt game; things will never get better anyway. (Side bar – you absolutely SHOULD VOTE and here’s where to register). Oh, that person who loves you more than anything was going through a rough time and made a lot of mistakes and hurt you? You should totally ditch them and never talk to them again, even when things get better and they become a decent person. Because, you know, they hurt you really bad that once so they totally aren’t worthy of a redemption arc and they are an absolute loser; totally not worth your time.

The same thing is happening with me at work. Because I live close to work and because I haven’t lost power, water, or internet during the entire hurricane and tropical storm, I now get to go in and cover someone else’s 26 hour shift tomorrow. This happens to me all the time when these shifts come up. Everyone else has all these excuses why they can’t do it, because of their family or their church obligations, or their physical limitations, or god only knows what else. So every time my section has to provide a person to deal with the 26 hour shift, it winds up being me. Because I don’t have a life or a family so no one feels badly about me having to come in and work extra. No one even blinks about it because they know that the job will get done and they didn’t have to worry about it.

And it just makes me fucking angry and frustrated. Like, if everyone pulled their weight, then the load would be lighter. But that’s not how it is. The overworked have to carry the fat and lazy. And the good people get broken.

I really need to get a job where I actually get to HELP people. I need to move back to my home coast so I can live somewhere my fellow citizens aren’t continuously working to give their fucking GUNS more rights than human people. I need to live in a place where my right to marry or control my body aren’t subjected to massive religious indoctrination restrictions (of a religion that isn’t even MINE!). I need to live in a place where I could maybe go on dates or make new friends without having to worry about work restrictions. I need to live in a place where I can spend more time with my family, who is on the opposite coast as me right now. Maybe I need people who I care about who I have hurt in the past to give our friendship another chance, if for no other reason than to make amazing graphic novels together.

Key take-aways:
-be a part of a community. Go out and help clean up your actual neighborhood. Whether you’re in an area impacted by a natural disaster or you just see trash on the streets, clean it up. If everyone did just one small thing a day, I’m positive it would all add up.
-be kind to everyone you meet. You have no idea what they’re going through or where they’ve been. Just because they work in fast food, in retail, at a grocery store, or at an entertainment center, their job is no less important than yours. In fact, their job is probably infinitely more important than yours because they actually make the world keep moving forward and society would collapse without them. Being kind costs you nothing.
-do your part to be the change you want to see in the world. The top of that list is voting because your voice absolutely DOES matter. Anyone who says you shouldn’t vote is high on the list of people who are greedy and robbing this country of all the things which used to make us decent human beings. I know it’s hard, but maintain hope. Keep trying. Vote. And absolutely do NOT stand by and allow the rights of others to be taken.
-give people a chance. We are all only human. Sometimes we make horrible mistakes and if we’re decent human beings, we learn from those mistakes. Try to be better every day. Be thankful more often. Express your gratitude and your love for those in your life. Everything can change so drastically and you may not have another chance to show someone how much you care. Being alone sucks. If you love someone, tell them. Always.
-keep working on your dreams. Always. Nothing has to be accomplished at this exact second and sometimes your timing is just off but never give up. One step forward a day is still moving forward. There is no schedule for success or happiness – you just have to keep moving forward.

If by chance Adventure Buddy who took me to the hospital is reading this – it’s been several years now. I really am sorry for everything that happened but I understand that things needed to happen the way they did in order for me to learn how to do better. Drop me a note and say hi; it’d be great to reconnect or even work on a creative project together. You remain the most talented artist I’ve ever seen and I think you would really like making my Explorers trilogy into graphic novels.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

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Book Review: Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee

I actually read Tash Hearts Tolstoy (young adult 367 pages) by Kathryn Ormsbee quite some time ago but I haven’t been doing a very good job lately with keeping up on my reviews. That really just means that now I’ll be playing catch-up for the foreseeable future.

“Virtually yours. After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral. Her show is a modern adaptation of Anna Karenina – written by Tash’s literary love, Count Lev Nikolayevich “Leo” Tolstoy. Tash is a fan of the forty thousand new subscribers, their gushing tweets, and flashy Tumblr GIFs. Not so much the pressure to deliver *the best webseries ever*. And when Unhappy Families is nominated for a Golden Tuba award, Tash’s cyber-flirtation with Thom Causer, a fellow award nominee, suddenly has the potential to become something IRL – if she can figure out how to tell said crush that she’s romantic asexual. Tash wants to enjoy her newfound fame, but will she lose her friends in her rise to the top? What would Tolstoy do?”

I needed a book to read after a very extensive period of intense work-related stress so I picked up Tash Hearts Tolstoy, as it’s been recommended repeatedly to me as a fantastic asexual book and, quite frankly, there’s so little positive representation of asexual main characters that I figured I’d give it a try. This book is on my list of 2018 asexual reading books but not until November. I needed something a little simpler than the giant books that are next on the reading list.

I freely admit that I am probably not the intended target audience for this book, as I am older, not very internet savvy, and I am not a heterosexual asexual. I also acknowledge that there were a lot of references and small jokes within this novel that I probably didn’t get. I’ve never read Anna Karenina and I am not very well-versed in Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, YouTube channels, Golden Tubas, and other parts of modern internet culture mentioned throughout this book. I feel that having a stronger background in any of those things would have given me a lot of “ah-ha” moments where I was in on the little jokes and references throughout this novel. As it is, I read this book cold with no expectations.

I absolutely understand why this book is such a highly recommended book. The book has a lot of small references to things people who spend most of their time involved with on the internet will understand and sympathize with on a more comprehensive level than I could. There are some genuinely interesting moments for those who have a more deeply ingrained knowledge of internet culture than I do, as well as some great moments for those who have a background in Tolstoy and Anna Karenina. The asexual representation was an accurate representation of the experiences of a het-ace and was demonstrated in a variety of methods throughout the story which I felt would be easy to understand for someone who isn’t asexual.

I think this book was an interesting look at internet culture and how so much pressure can accumulate on people so young who are just trying to express themselves through the most common artistic venue of their age, which right now is the internet. I was impressed with the level of dedication exhibited by the characters in the novel and how professionally all of them worked within each of their roles. Though still in high school, the actors for Unhappy Families performed their roles very well. The scenes were set up and edited effectively and even though no one was getting paid for their work, they all took it seriously. I think that’s a solid reflection of the work ethics of the younger generation and clearly highlights how hard they work, even though most of the very old generations give them lots of crap. The book also showed what happens as soon as something becomes “popular” in the sense that there will always be those people who just want to pick things apart just because they can (which is a very ironic thing to say while typing up a book review).

The struggle with finances also clearly demonstrated issues relevant to pretty much everyone under the age of 50 right now. Your entire savings can be destroyed by a weekend trip or the life savings for your entire family can be demolished by illness. The success of Unhappy Families didn’t change any of the creators’ financial aspects, though it did open more doors for all of them and gave them opportunities they may not have otherwise received.

Overall, the book was a fairly light read, though there were definitely two parts which had me worried about whether this book was going to end well or not. The story made sense and flowed well and the characters were all distinct. I’d probably rate this book as a low three on my rating scale. I’m glad I bought it to support other asexual authors and I’m positive I would have had a very different experience with this book if I was closer to the target audience for this story and all the internal references.

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Book Review: Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie

Hullmetal Girls (young adult science fiction 311 pages) by Emily Skrutskie has been on my list of books I must buy ever since I heard about it several months ago on tumblr when something about asexual protagonists came up.

“Aisha Un-Haad would do anything for her family. When her brother contracts a plague, she knows her janitor’s salary isn’t enough to fund his treatment. So she volunteers to become a Scela, a mechanically enhanced soldier sworn to protect and serve the governing body of the Fleet, the collective of starships they call home. If Aisha can survive the harrowing modifications and earn an elite place in the Scela ranks, she may be able to save her brother. Key Tanaka awakens in a Scela body with only hazy memories of her life before. She knows she’s from the privileged end of the Fleet, but she has no recollection of why she chose to give up a life of luxury to become a hulking cyborg soldier. If she can make it through the training, she might have a shot at recovering her missing past. In a unit of new recruits vying for top placement, Aisha’s and Key’s paths collide and the two must learn to work together – a tall order for girls from opposite ends of the Fleet. But a rebellion is stirring, pitting those who yearn for independence from the Fleet against a government struggling to maintain unity. With violence brewing and dark secrets surfacing, Aisha and Key find themselves questioning their loyalties. They will have to put aside their differences, though, if they want to keep humanity from tearing itself apart.”

What little information I had about this book basically centered on the fact that there were two main protagonists, both women, at least one was asexual, and it took place in space. That’s literally all I knew about the book before I purchased it. But since I am devouring most books with even the remote possibility of asexual protagonists, especially women, I made a note of this book. When I actually found it at my local Barnes and Noble after dinner several nights ago, I was absolutely astounded and naturally purchased the book immediately.

I didn’t start the book immediately, though, as other life concerns interfered rather heavily but I did have a lot of time waiting in a hospital on Monday morning so I figured that would be a great time to get some reading in. In retrospect, I’m quite happy that it was not me going in for surgery while reading the first several chapters of this book. The beginning of this book takes place where a lot of really painful and intense surgeries happen, many of them do not go well. Naturally, I shared my amusement with my friend who was getting ready to go into surgery. Now, I’m not a mean person, so don’t think that I told her what the beginning was about, but I definitely told her that I would not recommend this book as a pre-surgery book in the first several chapters.

The characters in this book actually admit their different sexualities, which is something I don’t think I’ve seen in print very often. There are a lot of characters whose sexuality is often implied in books I’ve read but it’s very rare to see the actual sexualities defined. On page 96, Aisha flat-out states she’s aroace, Woojin is pansexual, and Praava is heterosexual. Aisha is also strongly religious and her beliefs are very much a part of her. Seeing the balance of religion, sexuality, and technology was interesting for me, as I wasn’t expecting that kind of representation in a science fiction book with mechs.

This book has a very interesting social commentary, showing the perspective of a world with massive classism, poverty, privileged rich, and the illusion of freedom. I could see a lot of parallels in our modern world and the world within the Fleet. The rich felt entitled to live in luxury at the expense of the lives of those “beneath” them. Those who are working hard to take care of their families and live their own lives struggle every day just to survive. In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, where you have two factions fighting for control with the “normal” people stuck in the middle. Leadership on either side doesn’t really care about the cost of their actions and they are willing to sacrifice anyone except themselves for what they believe is the greater good, and also to prove their point to the “mindless masses”. The moral to the story in Hullmetal Girls, to me, focused a lot on being true to yourself, following your heart, and understanding that family doesn’t necessarily mean people with whom you share bonds of blood. You can find yourself sharing your life with people from all walks of life if you just give them, and yourself, a chance.

I really enjoyed everything that happened in space, especially the adventures required when travelling from ship-to-ship in the Fleet. Woojin was a very non-standard character and the unpredictability of his presence generated uncertainty and extra problem resolution for Aisha and Key, which I enjoyed. Aisha and Key had a very interesting interpersonal relationship arc. I appreciate how their personalities interacted and the individual growth required by each.

I can’t really say that this was a positive or uplifting book, as the content tended to be rather dark. I guess that’s the best kind of fiction, though, in that it forces us to look at ourselves in the mirror and see all those patchy, shady places that don’t react particularly well to sunlight. Books like this force us to see our world and the rampant corruption plaguing all our lives right now. Overall, I’m glad I purchased this book and I am likely to reread it in the future. I would probably rate the book as a solid three on my rating scale.

Skrutskie, Emily. Hullmetal Girls. New York: Delacorte Press, 2018.

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Book Review: Lioness Rampant by Tamora Pierce

I tend to be inclined to binge things, so if I have all the books in a series or all the shows, I’ll go through them until I’ve finished everything. This was true with the Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce which I recently refinished with Lioness Rampant (Young Adult Fantasy 384 pages).

“‘I’m not sure I want to be a hero anymore.’ Having achieved her dream of becoming the first female knight errant, Alanna of Trebond is not sure what to do next. Perhaps being a knight errant is not all that Alanna needs … But Alanna must pusher her uncertainty aside when a new challenge arises. She must recover the Dominion Jewel, a legendary gem with enormous power for good – but only in the right hands. And she must work quickly. Tortall is in great danger, and Alanna’s archenemy, Duke Roger, is back – and more powerful than ever. In this final book of the Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna discovers that she indeed has a future worthy of her mythic past – both as a warrior and as a woman.”

This is the finale book in the Song of the Lioness quartet. The story is really good because it shows that if you work hard enough, you can achieve anything. In the series, Alanna becomes a knight, then a shaman, and even gets to train with a Shang warrior. She defeats her nemesis, who attempts to kill the royal family and take the throne, and even wins an artifact of power to help her kingdom. She continues to work hard and she earns her place in history.

While I do enjoy this book, and it’s the final book in the series, I have one issue with how the book ended. The main heroine finishes her adventures, saves the day, then makes plans to get married and have a family. I appreciate very much that the ending was Alanna’s choice and that neither the marriage nor the family was actually shown in the book. I also appreciate that she realizes what a horrible thing it would be for Alanna to marry Jonathan and take the throne because of what that would do to the kingdom. They both put the needs of the kingdom over their own individual desires and eventually, they both realized that they loved other people and those other people made them individually happy. Overall, this book is a low three on my rating scale. I’m glad that I own it and I will continue to reread this book at the end of the quartet in the future.

Pierce, Tamora. Lioness Rampant. New York: Simon Pulse, 1988.

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Book Review: the Woman Who Rides Like a Man by Tamora Pierce

I tend to be inclined to binge things, so if I have all the books in a series or all the shows, I’ll go through them until I’ve finished everything. This was true with the Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce. Obviously, this means I recently reread The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (Young Adult Fantasy 284 pages).

“‘Let her prove herself worth as a man.’ Newly knighted, Alanna of Trebond seeks adventure in the vast desert of Tortall. Captured by fierce desert dwellers, she is forced to prove herself in a duel to the death – either she will be killed or she will be inducted into the tribe. Although she triumphs, dire challenges lie ahead. As her mythic fate would have it, Alanna soon becomes the tribe’s first female shaman – despite the desert dwellers’ grave fear of the foreign woman warrior. Alanna must fight to change the ancient tribal customs of the desert tribes – for their sake and for the sake of all of Tortall.”

One of the parts about this book that really struck me is the inclusion of a desert culture in a very positive manner. The desert culture in this book, the Bazhir tribes, are such a different view from the northern people who live in castles and have a hierarchical structure that Alanna’s encounters with them could have gone very poorly. Instead, Alanna does everything she can to abide by their own cultural views and norms. This might be a little easier for her because she doesn’t exactly fit within her own cultural norms, either, and is used to finding ways to belong in an environment not designed or suited for her. She earns a place in the tribe through combat, which is how a man would be accepted into the tribe, and then becomes a shaman to help protect her tribe. She thinks of their codes and their honor and works to uphold their traditions without sacrificing who she is.

I also liked some of the more relatable parts of this book, such as on page 53 when Alanna is talking with Ali Mukhtab, the Voice of the tribes, about how she doesn’t behave as they believe a woman should. She gets annoyed and says, “Men don’t think any differently from women – they just make more noise about being able to.” I actually chuckled out loud when I read that, even though I’ve read this book before, I still found that section and the entire dialogue amusing.

On page 91, Alanna is trying to provide guidance to other members of her tribe who are struggling to perform an exercise. She tells them, “It’s like anything else in life – becoming a warrior, or a good shaman, or a cook – it will happen if you want it badly enough.” This is something that a lot of people forget a lot of the time. Hard work and effort, working towards your dreams, will eventually pay off but it takes dedication, tenacity, and a little bit of luck, to will your dreams into reality. Things don’t always work out the way we would hope, but with enough time and effort, things really do work out. Alanna had to work for eight years to earn her shield and become a knight of Tortall. She got up early and worked harder than anyone else in her peer group and that’s the only reason she was as successful as she was when she faced the trials of her training, including the Black City and the duel with Roger. She was prepared for those events because she worked hard. Just because she worked hard, though, didn’t guarantee her instant success. Things could have still gone horribly wrong. She never gave up on her dream of becoming a knight and going adventuring and that’s the important part about this.

I keep feeling as though there are echoes of similar story lines in other things I reread constantly, most specifically Mercedes Lackey’s Arrows of the Queen trilogy and it got me thinking about writer styles. Mercedes Lackey made a lot of trilogies in her Valdemar books, which many of the early books came out around the same time as these books by Tamora Pierce. Also, interestingly, Tamora Pierce writes a lot of quartets. So Mercedes Lackey writes trilogies and Tamora Pierce writes quartets. The main villain in both sets is a noble sorcerer/wizard and the main protagonist is a young woman who attends training to be a servant of the kingdom. The parallels are very interesting and I would think that people who appreciate one will appreciate the other.

Overall, this book is a solid three on my rating scale. I like the cultural background and the continuation of Alanna’s story. I am happy I own this book and will happily reread it again in the future.

Pierce, Tamora. The Woman Who Rides Like a Man. New York: Simon Pulse, 2005.

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Halfway through 2018

So I decided to revisit my goals for 2018 and see where I’m at with my year so far.

Here’s what I’m looking at for 2018:
1. I’d like to read a book a week and post a review of it. That should get me 52 new book reviews by the end of 2018.
2. I’d also like to post a movie review a week, for 52 movie reviews. I’m not really good with getting enough movie reviews, but if I’m reading a lot, I’m usually okay with that.
3. I definitely need viable drafts of both Academy and Surveyors and I’d really like them ready to pitch in June. My actual deadline is actually 30 March 2018 to have a viable draft of Academy so we’ll see how well that goes.
4. I would very much like to attend IYWM again this year and this time, I want to teach a module about clothing and weaponry.
5. I’d like to be selected to move up at work.
6. I want to continue my workouts and drop some more weight and body fat percentages.
7. I definitely want to keep putting 10% or so into my retirement efforts, with the goal of being ready to buy land or a house sometime in 2019.
8. I have a booklist prepared from a variety of sources that all have Asexual characters, sometimes even the protagonists, and I’d like to read at least one of those per month and write up a review for it. I’ll do another separate post on that later, so if you want to read along, feel free!
9. I am definitely going to continue cleaning, organizing, and shredding old paperwork. My goal is to get down to only two boxes for official paperwork, which is saying quite a lot.
10. I continue to maintain hope that someday, the 2013 Adventure Buddy will give our friendship another chance. That individual has a birthday this week and I hope that wherever they are and whatever they’re doing that their life is filled with happiness, laughter, friendship, family, joy, shenanigans, and love.

1/2/8. Every year, I try to review 52 books and 52 movies during the year. As it’s now halfway through 2018, I should have read 26 books and watched 26 movies. I have so far only read and reviewed 20 books and 8 movies. Normally, I don’t mind if I don’t get anywhere close to my movie goal, so long as I’m making progress on my reading goal. This year, I also wanted to read at least one Asexual book per month and that goal has, sadly, also not been going as well as I had hoped. I made it through March and then my book schedule was derailed in April, May, and June. I still have hopes that I can catch up, but we’ll see.

3/6. I do not have viable drafts of either Academy nor Surveyors in any semblance of positive order, but I do have a firm deadline of 01 August 2018 to have the entire Academy story done and with the Developmental Editor and that deadline absolutely will be met. I’m actually working on editing, revising, and rewriting Academy right now and I’m so far about 122 pages in, which is huge progress. I’ve also learned that I can edit while on the treadmill, which means that both editing and working out are on my list of tasks I now enjoy and look forward to. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed this story because I’m writing as story I want to read.

4. I absolutely did attend IYWM this year, and I taught a module on Women’s Weapons! It was fantastic! I also attended several other modules that were incredibly informative. I should probably write up a con review at some point but I really haven’t had the energy for it.

5. I was absolutely selected to move up at work! I’m very excited about this because I worked really hard to get this opportunity. While I haven’t actually moved up yet, I hope it will be soon. It’s just a matter of time 🙂

7. I am doing very well with my financial management and am still on track with those goals.

9. I continue to make solid progress on getting rid of my old paperwork, so this goal has a great chance of also being completed by the end of the year.

10. Boy, howdy. This goal is one that I’m not really sure about. This time of year is a bit rough for me because it’s the anniversary of the first weekend we spent just hanging out and watching movies and stuff. I like to think that I’ve made a lot of good progress towards becoming a better person but I do spend a lot of time missing someone who left my life. While that individual was right to leave, I still miss them and sometimes I even allow myself to daydream about a life where the things I write are turned into graphic novels by the most talented artist I’ve ever met. But I have no way of knowing where I stand in that individual’s life, whether I’m the villain of the story, a forgotten memory, or a missed and absent friend. And it’s something I’ll never know. They don’t owe me an explanation and it’s not my choice whether we ever talk again or not. Maybe next year, as my goal for 2019, I won’t keep hoping that things will be mended and for us to be back in each other’s lives, even if it is just to make fantastic graphic novels together. Maybe next year, I’ll set up an adventure goal of a different nature.

Overall, I think I am pretty satisfied with where I am with my goals for right now. I still have half a year to finish them out and I’m pretty sure I can keep making a healthy dent and maybe even finish them all! Well, except for 10. I think 10 is going to have to go into the pile of hopeless daydreams that are completely unattainable and need to be placed in the box of “happy memories with no basis in reality”. We all have to grow up at some point, I guess.

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Book Review: In the Hand of the Goddess by Tamora Pierce

Continuing with my mental break, I reread In the Hand of the Goddess (Young Adult Fantasy 264 pages) by Tamora Pierce.

“‘I don’t want to fall in love. I just want to be a warrior maiden.’ Still disguised as a boy, Alanna becomes a squire to none other than the prince of the realm. Prince Jonathan is not only Alanna’s liege lord, he is also her best friend – and one of the few who knows the secret of her true identity. But when a mysterious sorcerer threatens the prince’s life, it will take all of Alanna’s skill, strength, and magical power to protect him – even at the risk of revealing who she really is … Filled with sword and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s second adventure continues the saga of a girl who dares to follow her dreams – and the magical destiny that awaits her.”

As much as this book has a lot of near-death experiences for Alanna, a good portion of this book is also dedicated to Alanna working to accept all the different aspects of who she is. She starts learning how to dress and act like a lady in secret with the help of George’s mother, a healer in the city.

I think it’s interesting that the men in Alanna’s life interact with her differently as soon as it’s revealed that she is actually a woman and not a man. Jonathan, though he knows who she really is, forces her to dance with ladies at the balls and he alternates between being jealous over the ladies Squire Alan dances with or then forcing Alanna to continue catering to the ladies at court. Alanna even tells Mistress Cooper that she’s frustrated with Jonathan for being hot and then cold and how it was very confusing and frustrating for her. Alanna reiterated repeatedly how she didn’t want anything to do with love and less to do with men because the only thing that mattered to her was earning her shield and going off on adventures. Honestly, I see a lot of myself in that kind of attitude so I understood Alanna’s motivations very well.

Eventually, Alanna does start being intimate with Jonathan and their relationship is treated as a simple fact of life, which I appreciated. Alanna had a charm to prevent pregnancy and she did learn about physical intimacy with Jonathan, but it’s not treated as anything taboo or unnatural. Jonathan doesn’t degrade her for spending her nights with him and he never does anything demeaning towards her because of their physical intimacy. I thought this was a really positive way of addressing sexuality for younger individuals, perhaps presenting the idea that your value as a person is not determined by your sex, or by with whom you sleep, but by your actions and deeds and the content of your character.

Alanna, just as in the previous book, continues to work harder than all those in her own peer group. When finally taken to a war campaign, she still finds ways to be useful, including helping out the healers with those wounded during combat. I think it tells you a lot about a person when they learn that warfare isn’t filled with glory but rather with death and wounds that will never heal. Alanna is scarred by her battles and I think that helps with the reality in this book quite a bit.

Overall, this book is easily a solid three on my rating scale. It’s one of those books I’m happy I own and will continue to reread in the future.

Pierce, Tamora. In the Hand of the Goddess. New York: Simon Pulse, 1994.

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Book Review: Alanna: the First Adventure by Tamora Pierce

As a mental break from everything, I reread The Song of the Lioness  quartet by Tamora Pierce, which starts with Alanna: The First Adventure (Young Adult 274 pages).

“‘From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight.’ And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Disguised as a girl, Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page. But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies. Filled with swords and sorcery, adventure and intrigue, good and evil, Alanna’s first adventure begins – one that will lead to the fulfillment of her dreams and the magical destiny that will make her a legend in her land.”

I did not actually read this series when I was younger and instead read them first around my undergrad days, I think. I know that one of my roommates gave me The Woman Who Rides Like a Man as a present sometime in my senior year. I also remember looking at the book and thinking about how it was the third book in the series and I’d never read any of the other books. Eventually, I did buy the books and read them all. In fact, I might have purchased them recently in the last five years or less and read them for the first time in the last five years or less. I honestly don’t remember.

This story has a lot of really good aspects to it and a lot of really good internal messages for readers. When Alanna and Thom decide to switch places, it’s done so that both of them can follow their own hearts’ desires. Alanna wants to be a warrior and a knight for the kingdom while Tom wants to be a sorcerer. Neither is suited to where they are each intended to go and so they work together to achieve a mutually beneficial solution.

Alanna, going by Alan and pretending to be a young boy in order to learn how to be a page in the King’s court, winds up bullied by another noble named Ralon. She takes the beating and never tells on him or his activities. To combat this issue, she gets up earlier than the rest of the pages and goes to sleep much later, having Coram, her man-at-arms, teach her boxing and wrestling. When she isn’t making the kind of progress she wanted with her hand-to-hand fighting styles, she even enlisted the aid of George, the King of Thieves. She took every opportunity she could find and sacrificed her own time to learn how to do better and then continued to practice everything she could learn. Alanna did the same thing when it came to learning sword work, starting out with Coram’s sword, a sword larger and heavier than any of her practice blades.

When Prince Jonathan finds out Alanna’s secret, he doesn’t betray her trust, and neither does George. Those who know her secret respect her wishes and many of them show every inclination of being true friends. This book has a lot of really good parts about what it means to be a friend and also what obligation and duty mean. This book really does have a lot of positive aspects.

Overall, I’d say this book is a high three on my rating scale. I’m happy that I own it and I have reread it multiple times and am highly likely to continue rereading it in the future. Alanna is a heroine who works hard for everything she wants and that’s admirable and the other characters in the book are loyal and honest.

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Book Review: Humans Wanted edited by Vivian Caethe

I’ve been really bad about reading books and watching movies lately and not posting reviews for either. I also ordered and purchased a lot of books recently so I’m hoping to start making a dent in the pile of books that I’m reading. Another book I read last week was Humans Wanted (science fiction 218 pages) edited by Vivian Caethe.

“Humans are tough. Humans can last days without food. Humans will walk for days on broken bones to get to safety. Humans will literally cut off bits of themselves if trapped by a disaster. You would be amazed what humans will do to survive. Or to ensure the survival of others they feel responsible for. If you’re hurt, if you’re trapped, if you need someone to fetch help? You really want a human. Twelve authors provide their perspective on human ingenuity and usefulness as we try to find our place among the start. From battletested to brokenhearted, humans are capable of amazing things. Humans Wanted shows not only what we are, but also how awesome we can be.”

One thing I’ve really liked about some of the anthologies I’ve read in the past was that each story in the anthology contained a tiny, one sentence summary of the story right at the beginning, which helped me get in the mindset of what I would be reading next. This anthology had such an eclectic collection of stories with so many imaginative aliens and cultures that it was a little jarring to go from one story to the next without a little transition about what to expect from the next story. A key thing to note about this anthology is that all of the stories are told from the perspectives of the aliens and not the perspectives of the humans in order to show us as the space orcs we are and exactly how weird humans are from alien perspectives.

Sidekick (21 pages) by Jody Lynn Nye. This story was one of my favorites in the anthology. The main character in this story is instantly relatable, as a young one fleeing captivity who encounters a very helpful human who wants to help her get home. I have witnessed and taken part in many random acts of kindness in my life and I’d like to hope that as we progress into space, our helpful and caring nature will be one of those things we carry with us throughout all our travels. One of the other things I really liked about this story was the nebulous nature of gender, both of the other aliens involved and of the human who works to help Tinis get home. Additionally, there are peacekeepers on the planet in the story and they have xi/xir pronouns, which I thought was a very neat and unique way of beginning to normalize gender neutral personal pronouns.

WWHD: What Would Humans Do? (20 pages) by J.A. Campbell. This was another of my favorite stories in the anthology, as it looked at how aliens could use positive aspects of human behavior to learn how to work together for a common cause.

Then There Was Ginny (11 pages) by Sydney Seay. I also liked this story quite a bit, as the writing style and tone was one of the easiest to read in the anthology. This was also another story that highlighted the best parts of humanity while still showing some of the things which make us extraordinarily odd in the eyes of aliens.

The Dowager (21 pages) by Richard A. Becker. This story was interesting from the perspective of a conquered planet and how humanity would adapt to no longer owning our own home. The story was creative but left me feeling at the end as though some part of whatever happens next was missing.

New Union Requirement (11 pages) by Gwendolynn Thomas. I was reminded heavily of the bureaucracy in the Douglas Adams books during this story, which amused me greatly. The use of pet names and such for other members of the crew was a very amusing part because of how often in my own life I rename things so that I can create easier memory links to certain things and it’s nice to see that I am not alone in my naming of things and people.

The Sound of His Footsteps (17 pages) by Mariah Southworth. I think this was the first story in the anthology which highlighted the survival aspect of humanity and just how far we can go, even in horrible conditions and when we’re injured. I really liked how Ciliaso/Liaso was so convinced that this was the end of everything and that they would be best suited to just accept their fate and yet, their human just kept going. I’m not really sure why that was so amusing to me, but it really was and I enjoyed that aspect of this story.

No Way This Could Go Wrong (21 pages) by Alex Pearl. This was another of my favorite stories in the anthology, as it used some of those aspects of culture which never really translate to successfully coordinate interstellar operations. I’m not going to give up the spoilers for this story but it was probably the most fun to read out of all of the stories in this anthology, though the compressed words of the Grzzh were a little hard to read at times.

Through the Never (16 pages) by Eneasz Brodski. This was not one of my favorite stories, though it was interesting to see the psychological impact of extended space travel on the psyche.

Human Engineering (15 pages) by Marie DesJardin. This was a really fun story and clearly showed how difficult it is to motivate humans to do anything by appealing to our “marketable” traits. The innovation and creativity often found in humans is something that can’t really be predicted or forced and this story really showed the motivations behind the better parts of humanity. I enjoyed this story and the manner in which it was presented.

Once Upon a Time There Was a Xurt Named Xcanda (18 pages) by Alex Acks. As much as this title is an absolute mouthful, the story is a really interesting cultural look at how communication across species is bound to have a lot of disjointed parts. I liked how this showed that humans don’t like just giving up on a problem and I was absolutely envious of the entire concept of being able to download cultures and languages into my head. I think that would be one of the single most useful things I could imagine as an additional skill.

A Second Zion (21 pages) by Amelia Kibbie. The mercenary aspect of this story was highly amusing to me, as was what felt like a combination of Farscape and Firefly because of the feel of the story in general. I also liked how the different species worked together as a mercenary team, each using their own strengths to compensate for the weaknesses of their team mates. I can easily see this kind of future for humanity amongst the stars.

Brightened Star, Ascending Dawn (18 pages) by A. Merc Rustad. This was another story I enjoyed quite a bit. It reminded me a bit of In Fury Born by David Weber and also the Brain and Brawn ships from The Crystal Singer Trilogy by Anne McCaffrey. It was a neat story and one of my favorites from this anthology.

Overall, this was a fun anthology and I’m glad I purchased it. Some of the authors have such interesting voices that I might investigate some of their other works or be on the look out for their names in the future. All the stories were definitely unique and I really enjoyed seeing humanity from the alien perspective.

Works cited: Caethe, Vivian (editor). Humans Wanted. Denver: Cuppatea Publications, 2017.

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