Today I read…Agent of Chaos

Image result for agent of chaos kami garciaToday I read X-Files Origins #1: Agent of Chaos by Kami Garcia.

Fox Mulder’s younger sister Samantha disappeared 5 years ago. He blames himself, and he doesn’t know how to get over it. It broke his family apart. Now he’s in a new city in a new school for his senior year of high school, and something weird is happening. Children are disappearing, and turning up dead. The disappearances remind Mulder of Samantha. Could they be linked? The cops won’t listen. It’s up to Mulder and his friends to track down the clues and find the killer before he strikes again.

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I tend to go to through phases where I get obsessed with a particular show, and through high school it was the X-Files. I loved it, even the bad episodes. I even watched the spinoff, The Lone Gunmen. Though if you want to talk real-life conspiracy theories, it premiered the spring of 2001, and the first episode was about a conspiracy by the government to hijack a plane and crash it in to the World Trade Center to start a war…

When I found out there were new X-Files books, I really wanted to read them, especially because season 11 premiered last week. I’ll save the rant about how it’s really season 10.5 and how they mistreated Scully. I enjoyed this one, and the look we got at Mulder as a teenager. We only got bits and pieces during the series. While now Mulder and Scully seem so young at the start of the show, they were both adults in the middle of their careers, had completed their educations, and had their basic personalities already established. In this book, Mulder is still in high school, still actively grieving his sister, and trying to figure out not only what happened to her, but how to forgive himself for not saving her. The fan of the show knows that he never really does, and that it becomes one of the defining moment of his life. But this book shows where he found his coping mechanism-psychology, and using his intelligence to profile serial killers and psychopaths and to stop them from hurting people, especially children like Samantha. In season 1 of the show, we see Mulder as the former golden child of the profiling department. He was considered to be one of the most gifted profilers they had, until he became obsessed with the X-Files and became damaged, as so many of his colleagues saw it. Here he learns about profiling, which was still in its infancy in 1979 where the book takes place. It is a little pat that Mulder is so naturally talented at it, but it fits with his characterization in the show.

Writing a media tie-in novel takes a particular skill, since you have to take established characters and put them in a situation you make up, and make the fans believe they would act this way and say these things. Garcia does a good job with this. This book feels like a young Fox Mulder. We also see the beginning of how his life interacts with the Syndicate, since we know they have been around for a long time, and they had something to do with Samantha’s disappearance as a way to control their father. Mulder’s friend Gimble and his paranoid father Major Winchester also introduce Mulder to conspiracy theories that may sound crazy, but may also be true. The worst character is his other friend, Phoebe Larsen, whose name recalls his dislikeable lover Phoebe Green from Oxford who we meet in season 1. They also share quite a few traits, to the point that I thought they were supposed to be the same character until I went hunting for the book character’s last name to confirm it. Phoebe is there to be the girl, and she never quite escapes that role. Then again, this is a book about Mulder, and his relationships with women can be… problematic. Again, that’s another rant.
All in all, the characters worked, the conspiracy worked, and the mystery worked. I’m not sure how many teenagers watch the X-Files these days, though it is on Netflix, and the new season is airing. This book would likely be more popular with people like me, who watched the show, as a non-fan would not get many of the references.

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Today I Read… Devil’s Advocate

Image result for devil's advocate jonathan maberryToday I read X-Files Origins #2: Devil’s Advocate by Jonathan Maberry.

Dana Scully’s family had just moved to a new town, and she’s having enough trouble being the new girl again without the disturbing dreams she’s been having. Devils and angels and shadows and blood… Now she’s seeing visions even when she’s awake, of teenagers who recently died in car crashes. There have been quite a few teenage deaths lately in this small town. Must be kids doing drugs. Or is it? And why are they appearing to Dana?

There’s something going on, and it’s up to Dana, her sister Melissa, and her new friends in the science club to figure it out, since it looks like the cops some believe them.

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So, everything I just said about Mulder in Agent of Chaos? Does not apply in this book. Rather than showing us the start of Special Agent Doctor Dana Scully, Catholic, skeptic, and firm believer in science, Maberry makes her a pale shadow of her older sister Melissa, the believer. This Dana does yoga, has psychic dreams and visions, and hangs out in a New Age store. Her father is downright cold to the point of being vicious, instead of the stem but loving military father from the show, and her mother is so repressed you forget she’s there half the time, instead of being the one who helps her family together through her husband’s deployments. The only connection this Dana has to my Scully is the red hair.

Oddly enough, Maberry has actually edited at least 2 anthologies of X-Files short stories, which one would assume would give him at least a passing familiarity with the characters. The two anthologies are sitting on my to be read bookcase, so I can’t comment yet on their quality. Still, Agent of Chaos is by far the better book of the two. The Syndicate in this one is badly shoehorned in and the villain’s identity is obvious.

The two books aren’t really connected. They take place over the same few days, and they share a few locations, but they are careful never to let Mulder and Scully meet, or to have their separate stories connect. It would actually have been more interesting if they had connected in some way-why else put them both in the same small town? How many killers are there in small town Maryland are there anyway? Do the branches of the Syndicate never talk to each other?

If they publish more books, it might be interesting to keep doing them in pairs, and to show where they could have met, before they finally do meet in the basement of the FBI building. The best part of the X-Files had always been Mulder and Scully and their relationship, and it would suit their story to have their lives be a series of unknowing near-misses of meeting. Destiny or the Syndicate, you know they will meet, but what if they met before and didn’t remember-would they still grow to be the Mulder and Scully that we know and love?

Just please, learn who Scully is before writing her again. Please.

Today I read… The Slip

Image result for the slip mark sampsonToday I read The Slip by Mark Sampson.

It wasn’t that bad, was it? What I said. I mean, I got a little carried away, but everyone is making such a big deal out of it. My wife and my students and the university and the media, they’re all blowing things way out of proportion. I mean, it’s an extreme view, and I realize I was wrong to say it, but if you put it in the proper context of Western philosophical thought…wait, that’s what everyone is angry about? Shit, did I really say that?

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This was another ARC I got at the last OLA Super Conference. My backlog of both to-read and to-review is, well, let’s say those categories are separate bookcases. Not shelves. This was definitely an interesting read, especially in light of our current culture of public apologies and shaming for misbehaviour. The protagonist, Dr. Philip Sharpe, is a politically centrist philosophy professor with a specialty in ethics. While appearing on a tv spot, he says something in a heated moment about a company that recently crumbled, that he thinks everyone is angry with him about. He genuinely thinks that everyone is badly overreacting, and he ignores all online comments and attempts by the people in his life to discuss what he said. It’s not until over 200 pages and six days later when his teenage stepdaughter sits him down, plays him the video, and forces him to face what he actually said. People are not angry with him because of an abstract legal and ethical point. They are angry because what he said sounded like a rape threat against the woman he was arguing with. He didn’t mean it that way, his opponent didn’t interpret it that way, but a lot of the public did hear it that way. Philip is a very defined character- 50’s, highly educated, white, technophobic, high-functioning alcoholic, and liberal but not at all woke. He’s a little racist and a lot sexist. His 14 years younger wife is a stay-at-home mom and a writer, with a monthly column and a few failed children’s books. He is very resentful of her not working and contributing financially to the household, while he doesn’t recognize or value the work she does do in the home. Everything she does to take care of their two daughters he refers to as “motherwork,” which is a particularly irritating term, especially when she’s doing something like tending to their 3 year old who just scalded herself on a broken faucet she has asked Philip to have fixed.

This isn’t my usual style, but I did enjoy it. Well, perhaps not enjoy, but I found it very interesting. I found Philip to be dislikeable on a personal level but understandable. He has basically never had a functioning relationship of any kind with a woman in his entire life- even his mother left when he was very small- and while he’s a sexist jerk, to a degree he really doesn’t know any better. Of course, I’m also reading this from a perspective of a woman several years his junior, which is definitely not a perspective he would have ever considered. Philip is a representation of a lot of middle-aged white men who say something horrific in public who need to have it explained to them exactly what they said and why it was wrong before they understand. It depends on your own perspective if he is just stupid for not knowing, or ignorant and in need of education. One is willful, and the other is something that can be corrected with effort. Philip, being conveniently fictional, is properly aghast and genuinely remorseful when he finally understands what he said, and the reader can hope that he will be a little more aware of his words and actions and his relationships with his family and friends in the future. Shame real life isn’t always so tidy.

It is a thoughtful book that could encourage a lot of discussion. This could be a great choice for a book club that enjoys debate.

And the thing that every Canadian will be able to relate to, no matter your age, gender, or political viewpoint, is Philip’s vain attempts to keep his poppy from getting lost multiple times. The struggle is real.

Today I Read… Die Kitty Die

Today I read Die Kitty Die written by Fernando Ruiz and illustrated by Dan Parent.Image result for die kitty die

Kitty used to be the teen witch with the hottest comic around, but sales haven’t been so great lately. So the CEO of Kitty Comics has come up with a brilliant idea to generate interest and sell more Kitty comics. Kill Kitty- for real! Can Kitty survive old friends, old relatives, and worst of all old husbands? Or will Kitty die, Kitty, die?

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The cover caught my eye at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival this year, and I’m glad I picked it up. This is a satire of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, drawn of course by Dan Parent who drew the Archie comics. The entire book is set up like an Archie comic, with the one page shorts, fashion pages, and silly ads of the classic series, but with a more adult, sexual, satirical bent. The most obvious example is the recurring joke of Kitty’s enormous boobs. This is a book meant for adults who grew up on Archie comics, and definitely not a book for kids. You really need to have read Archie comics comics to get the jokes, as this book is very meta. This was a Kickstarter project, but I asked them and they are planning volume 2, which I for one am planning on keeping my eye out for. This is a hilarious look at what might happen if Sabrina was real and really pissed off about how she’s been treated in her own comics. Characters can get as sick of reboots as readers, you know. Maybe comic companies need to try being a little bit nicer to their characters. After all, you might not know who you’re dealing with…

Image result for die kitty die

Today I Read… Vigilante

Image result for vigilante kady crossToday I read Vigilante by Kady Cross.

Magda is dead. She was my best friend. She was drugged and gang-raped by four of the most popular boys in school, and they filmed it, and they got away with it. She’s the one who was violated. She’s the one who was humiliated. She’s the one who got slut-shamed by everyone in town and everyone on the internet. And she’s the one who swallowed pills and died.

And me? I’m angry. I want justice. I want revenge.

Same thing, right?

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I only meant to read a couple of chapters before bed. Instead, I finished the book and started my review immediately. I picked this ARC up at the OLASC17 conference this year. As I recall, the author was supposed to be there but I think she was ill. Any way, it seemed interesting, and to be honest I’ll take just about any ARC I’m given and I’ll give it a read.

And then 2017 happened.

Pink Pussy Hat marches against the fact that a rapist was elected as the President of the United States started the year, and it ends with #metoo and the house cleaning that so many companies are finally starting to do. This book is aimed at teens, and I’m older, but I’ve heard the things that Hadley, the main character, hears. I’ve felt her rage, and her sorrow, and her sense of helplessness. Cross does a fantastic job of articulating the experience of so many- too many-#yesallwomen. It’s just that Hadley gets the satisfaction of doing something about the rapists that hurt her friend. Yes, I suppose I should be all Responsible Adult and say something about how violence is never justified, but hell you probably know that. The ending is a little bit pat- I won’t spoil it, but it is more satisfying than realistic- but all in all this is a fast, compelling read, that women from around ages 14 and up (and sadly probably under) will be able to relate to. I won’t say it’s enjoyable- did you read the summary above?!? But I will say that this is the perfect book to have come out this year.

Today I Read…Ella: a Stepmum’s Tale

Today I read Ella: a Stepmum’s Tale by J.L. Higgs. Image result for ella a stepmum's tale

Ah, the story of Cinderella. Every one knows it, right? The beautiful girl, the handsome prince, and the Wicked Stepmother who tried to keep them apart. Well, gentle viewers, this is celebrity reporter Sylvia Stark here with an exclusive interview with Charlotte Johannson Baker, the Wicked Stepmother herself, with her side of the story. You decide who is the innocent one and who is the villain.

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I was excited when I won this book from a Goodreads First Reads contest, because I love rewritten fairy tales, and I have a soft spot for the villains. I wrote a short piece defending Cinderella’s stepmother myself for a high school assignment. Unfortunately, this one just wasn’t that great, due in large part to a main character who is a complete twit. Reporter Sylvia Stark keeps claiming she is very bright and deserves to be an investigative reporter instead of a celebrity news reporter, but she misses every clue and sounds inane both on camera and off. Her asides to cameraman Stuart (who is as smart as Sylvia thinks she is) are unprofessional and annoying. Sylvia claims it is all an act, but when she’s not “acting” for the cameras she behaves exactly the same. At one point, she thinks “I try to sound as intelligent as possible.” But the next sentence is “Hey, I am blonde and beautiful so why do I need to be brainy as well?”

And as an aside, she wants us to believe that photography didn’t exist just a few years ago when she was in school, but now she can do on-location camera spots for television as a young reporter? Either understand how technology develops, or say it’s magic. As it is, the world-building is a mash-up of fairy tale and real world that just doesn’t work.

And the scene with Cinderella and the stepmother playing naked Twister is just plain weird. And that is not a euphemism or a joke.

I wish this book was better than it is, and it has an interesting premise, but it desperately needs a good editor.

Today I Read…The Silenced Tale

theSilencedTale-frontFinal-REUTSToday I read The Silenced Tale by J.M. Frey, book 3 of The Accidental Turn trilogy.

They have survived two adventures, and finally Lucy and Forsyth Turn Piper can settle down in the Overrealm and raise their daughter Alis. Life is peaceful for them, as they get ready to celebrate Alis’ first birthday.

But for Forsyth’s Writer, Elgar Reed, things are slightly less peaceful. His typewriter has been stolen from the Smithsonian, he is trying to help prepare for the upcoming and top-secret TV show based on his The Tales of Kintyre Turn series, he can’t write a word for fear of what might happen to his characters, and he has some kind of a stalker. But he doesn’t want to worry Forsyth. After all, any enemy he has is human, right? The cops can handle it. It’s not like the Viceroy has come back for a third time. Except Lucy keeps muttering something about “Fucking trilogies”…

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I posted the cover reveal a couple of weeks ago as part of the blog tour for the book, and today is the actual launch day for the final part of the Accidental Turn trilogy (Though I am assured by J.M. Frey that there will be a third novella coming at some point to join Ghosts and Arrivals). The Silenced Tale follows The Untold Tale and The Forgotten Tale, and brings the adventure into the Overrealm along with Forsyth, Pip, and Elgar.

This book focuses on Elgar Reed even more than The Forgotten Tale did. We spend a lot of time with him and his problems. He has always been a very specific type of person, and he’s very set in his ways. Frankly, he’s a sexist, selfish jerk, who has been coasting on writing a very popular fantasy series a long time ago. He is someone who is probably pretty familiar to anyone in fandom. Now we see his own problems, and how he is slowly starting to change thanks in large part to meeting Forsyth and having him bring Pip into Elgar’s life. They are family, which he hasn’t had for a very long time, if ever, and he does care about what they say. Even if he needs to be told a few times until he remembers. And occasionally needs Pip to verbally smack his nose with a rolled up newspaper about assuming women are there only to fetch him coffee and be groped. Though even Pip needs to work on her intersectional feminism, as we see in one particular scene.

The most important thing to remember is that this is, as Pip puts it, a “fucking trilogy,” and things must always come in threes. Three trips between Hain and the Overrealm. Three attempts to defeat the villain. Three deaths…

I’ve read an early draft at the start of this year that J.M. sent me, and recently a more finalized draft that I received from her last month. What I take away the most from the end of this book, is my dissatisfaction. I want more! I think the main story is done, but there is so much more to be discovered about this world, about both Hain and the Overrealm. I want to see what happens with the Tales of Kintyre Turn  TV show. I want more information about what has been happening in Hain, and what will happen now that Elgar has stopped writing, and how will the characters’ lives develop even more away from what he had planned. I want to know about Kintyre and Forsyth’s early life together as brothers. It’s getting my fanfic instincts going, and I just don’t have the time to write all of the stories I want. And I know that while J.M. does have one more novella planned, she has other projects in the pipeline that I won’t spoil here. So if anyone finds any fanfic, let me know? There is one particular scene in The Silenced Tale when Forsyth is telling Elgar stories about growing up with Kintyre, and I really want those stories…

Also, J.M., was that first death really necessary? You’re still not forgiven for killing Kalp, you know. What do you have against cute characters?

Also, regarding character X from The Forgotten Tale? I was totally right, and I want that story too.

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“THIS IS ABBY,” Elgar says, about twenty minutes later. He is smiling too widely, and his eyes are too bright – he is in what he calls ‘Convention Mode’: gregarious, energetic, his jokes flat and desperate, his smile false. As a fellow natural introvert, I can see how exhausting the performance is. He is trying too hard and he is too ‘over the top’ as a
result.
He slings his arm around a young woman with large dark eyes, and long dark hair. She is dressed in a great deal of bubblegum pink and misty mint, from her sneakers to her leggings, to her knee-length skirt, which is patterned with ice-cream cones, and the matching scarf over a long-sleeved shirt. She is terrifically pretty, too, very carefully
made up with false lashes and the careful sort of artistically intense makeup that Pip has called ‘contouring’ and ‘a massive pain in the ass’ and ‘a waste of a perfectly good hour of my life.’ Bless my wife, but she does reject the traditionally feminine with a vigor that nearly borders on insulting to those that embrace it.
However, the young lady before me seems to be the exact opposite of a simpering femme, wearing her pastels and makeup with a sort of warrior-like pride which I admire. She is clearly of Indian descent, not African, but I am reminded so intensely of Captain Isobin for a moment that the déjà vu fills my breast with a brief, intense stab of
homesickness. Though, of course, this young woman is neither pirate, nor captain; and unlike Isobin, not filled with the raucous self-confidence required to push my Creator back on his arse for his presumption. She is clearly not comfortable with the way he has not only taken liberties with her personal space without asking, and he has just as
clearly gotten her name wrong. Her badge, which marks her as a guest liaison,
says “Ahbni”.
“Hi,” Pip says, holding her hand out for a shake, and Ahbni uses the excuse to duck out from under Elgar’s arm.
“I’ll be able to tell her apart from the rest of the brown girls because she’s the hot one,” Elgar goes on, sticking his foot further down his throat.
Pip pinches the bridge of her nose and groans. “I honestly can’t tell if it’s the meds talking, or the stress.”
“Actually I–” Ahbni begins, but Elgar talks over her.
“You can get my friend a coffee or something, right, Abby?”
“I’m the assistant guest liaison, Mr. Reed, and I need to talk to you about–“
Elgar laughs. “Cute. No, no, grab your boss and send him my way, okay, sweetie?” And then he gives her a little shove. She steps away, off-balanced, and Elgar’s eyes drop to… oh. They drop with the full intention to watch her walk away.
Beside me, my wife makes a noise like a strangling cat.
“Lucy?” Elgar asks, having heard the sound as well, bushy eyebrows knitted with confusion. “Are you okay? Abby can you –“
“It’s Ahbni,” the liaison corrects.
“Ahbni,” Elgar repeats, not entirely sure where he missteped. “That’s a cute fantasy handle.”
“Nope. It’s my name,” she corrects.
“Oh!” Elgar laughs. “Were your parents fantasy fans, then?”
“They’re Telugu,” Ahbni says and I get the distinct impression that she is considering using her badge lanyard to garrote my creator. I am doing my best to control the urge
to laugh.
“I might use it though, you know. It’s a good name. The beautiful Princess Ahbni, with skin like fresh roasted cafe latte–“
“No,” Pip snaps, smacking Elgar’s good arm like an errant puppy. “Bad Writer. Women of color are not dessert products.”
Elgar jams his hands into his pockets and scowls. “It’s supposed to be a compliment–”
“I swear to fuck, one of these days I’m going to throttle you myself,” Pip says, deadpan and staring straight at Elgar. She’s got her index finger stretched out and tapping him right in the chest, finger-nail clicking against his plastic button. “You know that being terrified out of your mind is no excuse to fall back into bad habits, right?”
Elgar immediately looks ashamed. “I… you’re right. I didn’t think–“
“Try to,” Pip says. Then she blows out an annoyed breath, then forces herself to flex her fist out, runs her fingers through her hair, and pointedly turns away from him. “Ahbni, if you’d like to tell us where the coffee is, I can make sure that my husband fetches it for his
own damn self. And then you and I can review where Mr. Neanderthal over there needs to be, and by when.”

Today I read…Arrivals

Image result for arrivals j.m. freyToday I read Arrivals, An Accidental Turn novella by J.M Frey. 

The quest is over. The Reader has been returned to her home, the villain is defeated, and the hero has found his One True Love. And now the hero rides off in to the sunset with his sidekick, who is also his true love…wait…is that right? Is this the way it’s supposed to go?

This is not the way things are Supposed To Go.

So…what happens next?

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This is the novella that was published in the spring of 2017 (I’m still behind on my reviews, if you can’t tell), and it takes place immediately following The Untold Tale. Like Ghosts, this story is told from Bevel Dom’s point of view, and about how his life is turned completely upside down. For years, he and Kintyre have saved the day, and then ridden off together towards their next adventure, possibly after sharing whatever damsel they have rescued. They sleep together, but only with a woman in between them. They return to Turn Hall, but only for a visit. They are partners for life, but the aren’t life partners. And maybe neither of them is really happy, but it’s The Way Things Are. And as a storyteller, Bevel always knows the way the story is supposed to go.

But now things really have changed. Forsyth is gone, with his Reader lover Pip, and someone needs to go back to Turn Hall and run things. To take care of the tenants, and the free schools Forsyth established, and be the local Lordling. And of course, to tell everyone back home that Forsyth will not be returning (maybe they’ll leave out the bits about how he’s left for another realm with a legendary creature though, that just gets complicated). There is no longer a Shadow Hand of the king, to run the kingdom’s intelligence service. And thanks to Lucy Piper, Kintyre and Bevel have finally declared themselves to each other–it’s not just sex, it’s love. It’s commitment. It’s hard and scary and confusing and what on earth does it all mean? I mean, they’re together, but they’re not married, and Kintyre needs an heir, and how will their relationship be different, and how should it be different, and should it be different, it’s been working for years, was it really working, but they’re not happy, are they happy, Kintyre just takes Bevel for granted, but now he’s doing things for Bevel and he’s doing them WRONG!

This is a story about how Happily Ever After is actually pretty complicated, and requires a whole lot of work to make sure that you both really are happy.

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As soon as I get close enough, Andvari grabs my hand and pumps it energetically, her grin sharkish behind her fire-red beard. Her hair is down for the night, the braids of rulership now loose, waist-length waves which swing around when she turns to punch Kintyre in the kidneys.

“About time, you clueless granite-skull!” she bawls joyfully.

Kintyre doubles over, not expecting the blow, and Sviur rises from where he and their son Virfur – by the Writer, how he’s grown! – was practice-strumming his father’s lute. Sviur’s lost none of the grace his dancing days instilled in him, and he offers both of us a polite greeting. We shake hands, clasping at the elbows to check for concealed daggers in the Dwarvish way. Sviur’s golden fall of hair is loose too, as it must be because of his common birth, but now it’s threaded with white. The braid at his chin is almost entirely colorless. Much moreso than I was expecting.  Virfur comes to stand beside Sviur, shy in the way young children are. He’s probably just on the brink of ten years old, but that is still young for a Dwarf – closer to our two or three. When we saw him last, though, he was still a babe in arms.

Some small secret part of me pangs with hurt. I was hoping to hold the baby again. How silly of me to have forgotten that the world below the Cinch wouldn’t just freeze like winter ice and wait for us to come back. Ridiculous.

“Sit, sit,” Nyrath admonishes. She bustles us onto cushions on the floor, which is what we prefer in order to be eye-level with the Dwarves when we’re in casual company. Sviur passes us both cut-crystal glasses of the clear root-vegetable liquor that dwarves specialize in. Kintyre downs his immediately, in one gulp. I shoot Sviur a look of apology, but the Dwarf shakes his head. He’s used to Kintyre’s manners by now, and just refills the glass without comment. Kintyre sips this second one, at least.

Virfur, curiosity overcoming his shyness, crawls immediately into Kintyre’s legs and stretches up to stroke his naked chin with wonder. Kintyre clamps down on his grimace and picks the toddler up from under the armpits and deposits him on my lap. I set aside my glass hastily, putting it up on a side table, out of the child’s reach. His parents laugh.

“Not one for children, Kintyre?” Andvari asks in that rumbling contralto of hers.

Nyrath narrows her eyes at Kintyre, but says nothing. Neither does my lover.

“It’s not that Kin dislikes children,” I say, and I’m reminded, sharply, that Pip had once called me Kintyre’s Walking Apology. At the time it hadn’t annoyed me, or registered as an insult, because that was part of my relationship with the man who had been my master, then my friend, and then my brother-in-arms. But now, sitting beside him on the floor of a Queen’s salon, holding the heir presumptive, and as Kin’s Paried elevated in rank and supposedly now equal to Kin, I’m still making excuses for his poor behavior. I am frustrated by the lazy, entitled assumption that I would smooth things over, that I will hold what Kintyre doesn’t want to, that I will fetch and carry and cook and bow my whims to his.

Bloody aggravating.

“Then why?” Nyrath asks, forcing me to continue the lame half-explanation, half-veiled request for forgiveness for the insult of passing off a prince like he was a sack of rotten meat.

“He just… doesn’t really know what to do with them until they’re old enough for him to roughhouse with,” I say lamely. “He likes my gaggle of nieces and nephews to be sure enough, but more so now that they’re all walking and talking on their own.”

The dwarves seem to take this at face value, and attention turns back to conversation. In my lap, Virfur wobbles his way upright. The boy doesn’t seem to mind whose lap he’s in, as long as he can explore this oddity of a smooth face. Kin and I indulged in a shave with hot water and proper lotions before we answered the Queen’s bidding, and it feels fantastic to finally be scruff-less, after so long on the road.  Must be odd to the boy, though.

Oh, that will be one of the advantages of our return to Turn Hall, to be sure. A daily shave, with proper tools. Sublime.

But Pip’s words are circling in my mind, distracting me from what’s being said, taking on a sharper and sharper tone with each repetition. Kintyre’s Walking Apology. Aren’t you sick of it, Bevel? Something querulous and cranky lodges in my guts, something shapeless but quickly solidifying, something unspoken but pushing against the hollow of my throat.

Something… something…

I’m the only one in my immediate family who is unmarried and childless. While Kin and I are officially Paired, we haven’t made is known that we are a Romantic Pair by pledging our Troth. It hadn’t seemed important before, when all I wanted was a visual acknowledgment that Kin was mine. Let others see our shared Colors and assume we were only pledged as Brothers In Arms, if they prefer. What does it matter to me if their assumption is wrong?

But now, with watching Andvari pull her pregnant wife in beside her on the wing-backed chaise, the pleased curl of their mouths and the striking picture of their very different skin tones mixing together as they clasp hands, seeing the way Sviur joins us on the cushions so he can lean back against his wives’ legs, the way they are all so content and unashamed and casually public in their displays of affection… I’m struck, suddenly and hard, with a kind of envy I never thought I would ever experience.

Married.

I want… I want to… I want. But I don’t know what it’s that I want.

It’s not skin, or warmth, or sex. I have those. It’s not even affection, because Kin gives that freely, too. Gifts it like a Lord bestowing bags of grain to the pathetic, needy, starving peasants he has made pathetic, and needy, and starving by his own blind and selfish nobility.

No, it’s something else that I want.

Kintyre is too busy chatting, already sharing news of our latest quest – how we had fled Turn Hall in our individual rages, how we had separated and come back together, how we had confessed and hashed out our relationship, how we had scented Bootknife’s trail when we had stopped in Nevand to commission our Colors, how we had followed him down to the Valley of the Kings – to see the upset on my face.

I feel it growing out of my guts, infecting my expression, my posture, and I’m … I’m angry and I can’t… I can’t…

Virfur catches it, and babbles something sweetly soothing at me in the secret language of the Dwarves, one that I haven’t had the privilege to learn.

If you put on the Shadow’s Mask, you would know it, I think, and the thought jars against my wallowing self-pity so quickly that the room spins. You would understand the boy if you put on the Mask. You would understand everything.

“And what about you, Sir Dom?” Sviur asks me, and I blink hard, trying to wrench my brain around to the question he asked.

“What?”

“I asked you how you felt the morning of your Pairing. I had a stomach filled with bubbling sulfur the whole week before Andvari and I got married.” He flashes a brilliant smile at his first wife and she threads her free hand through his hair, affectionate. “What were you like before your wedding?”

Resentment boils up faster than I can contain it. “Yeah, well, we’re not really married, are we though?” I say, and then click my teeth shut hard enough that the whole room can hear it.

By the Writers’ left nutsack, is that what’s been brewing in the cauldron of my frustration?

“We’re Paired, though, Bev,” Kintyre says affably, like all the hurt in what I just spoke has passed him by completely. “And it’s not like two blokes can get married among the humanfolk anyway. Not married married.”

“And since when have we ever cared about what humanfolk normally do?” I say, and in my arms Virfur plops down on my knees, making me wince. He reaches for the lute and strums the strings, a discordant twang, and looks up at me with the expectation of praise and a grin that matches his father’s. Instead I hand the boy off to his mother. I cannot bare to have a child in my arms right now. A child that’s not… that’s not… but there never will be, never could be a child that’s…

Andvari gathers Virfur up, and he hides under her beard, both of them startled by the abrupt arrival of my foul mood.

I swallow hard, trying to pull this strange, roiling ball of emotion and confession back down into my chest. But I’ve repressed my discontent for so long it seems like now that the cork has been popped from that bottle, I can’t jam it back in.

“I… thank you for the invitation, and the drink,” I say, waving at my untouched glass. “But I’m tired.”

“Bevel—” Andvari and Kintyre say at the same time, but I’m already on my feet.

“Goodnight, your majesty, your highnesses,” I say with a curt bow, and then I retreat with my tail between my legs.

The Silenced Tale Cover Reveal

I have previously reviewed The Untold Tale and The Forgotten Tale from J.M. Frey’s Accidental Turn trilogy. I am excited to say that it’s almost time for the conclusion, The Silenced Tale to be released on December 12, 2017. The cover is being revealed today as part of a blog tour, and I am happy to participate. It’s as beautiful and evocative as the previous two, and the book inside is sure to be the same. I have read (and enjoyed) an early draft thanks to author J.M. Frey, but my formal review is still to come as I have received a more finalized copy in return for a review.

For anyone in the Toronto area, I’d like to mention that the book launch party will be at Bakka-Phoenix Books in Toronto on Tuesday, December 12, at 5:30 PM. If you’re not in the area, you can also order the e-book in advance from the publisher REUTSfor $0.99 and get it by Friday, December 8, a weekend before everyone else.

While I usually like to write my own synopsis, and I will for my review, I’ll enclose here the synopsis from the publisher:

Forsyth Turn never wanted to be a hero. And yet, even in the Overrealm, a hero is what he’ll be.

After their last adventure in Hain, Forsyth expected to return to the life he’d built with Pip and Alis, his days of magic and heroics behind him. But then Pip starts suffering night terrors laced with images of glowing ivy and Elgar Reed calls with fears of bizarre threats and a man garbed all in black.

But there is no magic in the Overrealm. Forsyth refuses to believe that anything other than mundane coincidence is at work—until Elgar’s stalker leaves him a message too eerie and specific to ignore. Now, he has to face the possibility that Pip’s dreams and Elgar’s fears are connected . . . and that maybe they weren’t the only ones to escape the pages of The Tales of Kintyre Turn.

And if that’s the case, it’s going to take more than a handful of heroes to save the day this time. It’s going to take an army. Luckily, Reed fans are legion.

A stunning conclusion to the series, The Silenced Tale is a genre-bending whirlwind that breathes life into the idea that the power of story lies not just with the creator, but with the fans who love it.

And at last, the cover!

theSilencedTale-frontFinal-REUTS

See you in the book…

Today I Read…I Like Myself!

Image result for i like myself karen beaumontToday I read I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont, and illustrated by David Catrow.

I like myself. I like my insides and my outsides and what I think and what I do. I like who I am, when I’m silly or creative or messy or quiet or wild or calm. I like me!

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I know I’ve been reviewing a lot of picture books lately, but a) I seem to have a lot of small children in my life who need new books lately (all small children need new books), and b) you all seem to like these reviews a lot more, based on new likes and followers whenever I post reviews of picture books compared to posts about anything else.

I found this book at the book store while I was searching for a first birthday gift for Second Niece, cousin to Tiny Niece and Giant Nephew. (Still working on a better name for Second Niece.) I like Karen Beaumont and David Catrow–I’ve previously reviewed their collaboration I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More. It’s a very positive message about self-esteem and being who you are, and liking it. And kids will laugh at things like polka-dot lips, pig snouts, and giant warthog tusks. The little girl in the book is creative and active, roller-blading, pretending to be a rocket ship, and riding a bicycle worthy of Dr. Suess. It’s a good book for very casual diversity as well–the little girl is black, though it isn’t directly relevant to the story, but one particular picture has her waking up in bed with truly wild natural hair, about four times bigger than she is. It is powerful to have that image paired with the lines “Even when I look a mess, I still don’t like me any less,” since I know there are still controversies about attitudes towards natural black hair. This isn’t a new book by any means, as it was published in 2004, but this is still a great lesson I would like to have Second Niece (and Tiny Niece and Giant Nephew too) grow up knowing. After all, I like her an awful lot, she should like herself too.