Sunday, November 12, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: A More Perfect Union

Disclaimer: NetGalley provided this copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley, Bold Strokes Books, and Carsen Taite.

People often seem surprised when I say I read romance. I don’t read them as often as I’d like because I’m a fairly slow reader and generally focused on sci-fi and fantasy and because there are so many romances books out there that sometimes it’s hard to dive in. I requested this on a whim from NetGalley, and I’m glad I did! I read the majority of this in the space of a day.

The setup is fairly standard (not a bad thing). Lt. Colonel Zoey Granger is a whistleblower scheduled to testify in front of Congress on a corruption scandal. Rook Daniels is a hotshot spin doctor who “fixes” scandals when they appear. Their paths cross, sparking both attraction and frustration, but neither thinks it will go very far. Then their professional lives collide, and they have to investigate a case close to Zoey’s heart while navigating their growing connection.

I liked both the main characters. Zoey is a stand-up person with a strong sense of morality. She’s also a bit lost since the army’s been her family for years and exposing the corruption scandal has partially ostracized her. Rook is charming and devoted to her job but, like the best love interests, has a painful past that she doesn’t like to talk about. Their quick attraction to one another feels real, as do the issues that initially keep them apart. Zoey, who is honorable and truthful, dislikes Rook’s profession and feels spinning stories is akin to lying. Rook has a distrust of the military that stems from her past and can’t understand Zoey’s comfort with taking orders and her devotion to the army.

Despite the military being a large part of this story, there’s pretty good gender balance. While a lot of the characters in the military are male, women hold powerful positions, too. One of the driving forces behind the plot is Rook’s friend Sarah, who is the White House Chief of Staff. In a smaller part is her girlfriend, who’s a Chief Justice. (Details might be a little off because I read this fast.) There are some cool women on Rook’s team, and Zoey is shown to be respected by her higher-ups and to know the men who don’t respect her aren’t worth it. I liked that it took place in D.C. and the military world. I don’t know much about the military, but things seemed accurate. I especially liked the climax and the phones (can't give anything away, but you'll see when you get there). The writing was nice and clean and kept the story flowing.

One area for improvement would be the diversity. On the one hand, I enjoyed that the characters didn’t have to deal with homophobia. In a sense, it would be more realistic if they did, but it’s nice to see a lesbian couple treated like any other couple. They have their issues, but they’d have the same issues regardless of sexuality. I think there’s room for telling both kinds of stories. On the other hand, I’m pretty sure most of the characters are white. If there were clues to the contrary, I missed them. Maybe I was reading too fast!

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book, and I’ll definitely read more from Taite in the future.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Road to Book Two--Part 2

I'm back with an update on Book Two, tentatively titled The Shadow of the Endless Night! If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen that I posted a picture of the complete first draft. Here it is in all its glory, which isn't very much, to be honest! Right now, it stands at about 96,000 words, which is on par with what the first draft of Book One looked like. For reference, the final version of Book One is around 129,000 words.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: The Wife Between Us

Disclaimer: NetGalley provided this copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

The tagline for The Wife Between Us is, “A novel of suspense that explores the complexities of marriage and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.” The synopsis doesn’t tell you anything, really, because it’s hard to talk about the plot without giving anything away. The books starts out alternating between two points of view. One, told in the first person, is Vanessa’s. She’s recently divorced and has found out her ex-husband is getting remarried to a younger woman. The other point of view, told in the third person, is Nellie, who is the younger woman marrying Richard. On the surface, it seems fairly standard, but the seeming simplicity of the plot is meant to draw in the reader and make them question what they know.

In this respect, The Wife Between Us is very good at keeping the reader off-balance. Hendricks and Pekkanen make full use of their unreliable narrator, to the point that when you think you’ve got your feet, they add another wrench to the mix. However, I almost felt like some creative decisions, particularly one at the end, were made for the sake of throwing readers for a loop. In that sense, it’s a thrilling read. The writing is smooth, and the story keeps you interested.

One of the things that’s always on my radar as I read is how female characters are written and treated. Without giving anything away, I was pleased with how this tackled issues women, in particular, face and how it portrayed relationships between women.

My biggest complaint is that after each big revelation, the pace slows way down. This could have been cut by fifteen or twenty percent, and the story would’ve been much tighter. Although it was an enjoyable read, it left me a little unsatisfied. You rush right through it, which makes for an enjoyable reading experience, but it doesn’t stay with you for very long. That knocks it down to a 3.5 for me, but I rounded up because no half stars.

I would recommend this to readers who enjoy fast reads and to fans of suspense novels, especially ones who want something familiar but a little different.

Friday, October 20, 2017

FRIDAY FIVE: Favorite Supergirl Episodes

The third season of Supergirl started last week, and so far, I've been enjoying it! I'm not invested in much television anymore, and I didn't agree with every creative decision they made in season two, but this show is always a solid bet for me. So, this week, I'm talking about my five favorite episodes, which were frustratingly hard to narrow down. These are in chronological order. First up:

Episode 1.06, "Red Faced"
Kara faces frustrating circumstances in her job at CatCo and in her life as Supergirl. Meanwhile, in the non-superheroic story line, James has dinner with Lucy and her Army general dad who disapproves of him. What makes this episode stand out for me is the exploration of anger. Kara and James bond while boxing (James with a punching bag and Kara with an actual car) and talking about how, as a woman and a black man, they're often told not to express their anger. It's a good reminder that anger can be a force for good.

1.13, "For the Girl Who Has Everything"
I'm a sucker for episodes focused on the Danvers sisters. They're definitely my favorite relationship on this show (with Alex and J'onn being a close second) and pretty much my favorite relationship on television. With that said, it's no surprise this episode is on my list. It features Kara succumbing to a Black Mercy, a parasite that traps her in a vision of a life on Krypton had the planet not been destroyed, and Alex risking her life to save her. I love that the show allows Kara to be saved because it argues that strength doesn't have to mean being the hero and being alone all the time. Sometimes, it means letting people help you. It's pretty wonderful, too, that Alex is the one doing the saving because fiction, in my opinion, doesn't focus enough on relationships between women, sister relationships included. The Danvers sisters save each other because they love each other, and I love them.

2.04, "Survivors"
I love this episode not because it's heavy on the drama and mythology (as much as I appreciate the feels) but because it's just bad-ass and fun. Dichen Lachman guest-stars as Roulette, a villain who runs an underground alien cage-fighting club. That single sentence in promo form was enough to get me excited about this episode, and it really followed through with the premise. This episode also introduced us to M'gann M'orzz, a white Martian living in self-imposed exile, and lets Alex get to know Maggie, who was introduced in the previous episode, a bit more. And since Maggie's a National City detective with the science division, I like getting to know her more.

2.09, "Supergirl Lives"
Another one of my favorite things this show does is explore Supergirl's humanity. Sometimes, that exploration is figurative, like when Kara has to deal with very human emotions. But sometimes, like in this episode, it's literal. She ends up on the planet Maaldoria, which has a red sun. Since her powers come from Earth's yellow sun, she has to figure out how to be a hero without them. The ending isn't a surprise. She's our protagonist. Of course she's going to save the day. But the fun comes from watching her figure it out, and there's something to be said for stories where you know the good guys are going to win.

2.15, "Exodus"
This episode has so much going on. Jeremiah betraying Alex and Kara. Forced alien emigration. Alex getting benched at the DEO. Maggie figuring out just what "ride or die" means when talking about a Danvers sister. Kara facing a crisis of conscious at her job. But amidst all that, this episode has what might be my favorite moment of the entire series. Alex hops onto the ark that Cadmus is using to forcibly emigrate aliens right before it launches, because she's selfless like that. The only catch is once it hits the upper atmosphere, it's going to jump right to FTL and take her and everyone else to who knows where in the galaxy. Supergirl diverts from her original mission to help stop the ship, but it seems she might not be strong enough. She's pushing against the ship right below the windshield, which means she can see Alex in the cockpit and Alex can see her. Alex puts her hand against the windshield to give her sister strength, and I'm getting all goosebumpy just writing about it because it's such a great moment between the sisters. They use the same music theme from "Red Faced," and I love the Supergirl soundtracks (by Blake Neely) in general, but that's one of my favorite themes.

Friday, October 13, 2017

FRIDAY FIVE: My Favorite Things from The Last Jedi Trailer

REY being a complete bad ass. This is what I've been waiting for since she first picked up that lightsaber in The Force Awakens.

General Organa. I'm going to miss Carrie Fisher and her presence in both these movies and the world, but I'm excited to see her on the screen again. 

I've been completely entranced by this red sand (soil?) since the teaser trailer. Excited to see at least one new planet and explore the Star Wars galaxy more.

This ice fox thing will probabyl have no function beyond giving detail to this world and will probably appear only briefly, but I love it.


Monday, October 9, 2017

APPEARANCE: Indie Author Day at Westlake Porter Public Library

This coming Saturday, I'll be at the Westlake Porter Public Library to help them celebrate Indie Author Day

My event starts at 2:00 PM. Join me as I discuss the process of independent publishing--from writing and editing to formatting and marketing--as well as the experience of setting up Sky Forest Press, my micro-press that focuses on fantasy and science-fiction novels featuring female protagonists.

Also joining me will be fellow local authors, including K.W. Taylor and Matt Betts. We'll have a panel and answers questions. Additionally, there will be a training on Self-Publishing with Pressbooks & SELF-e at 10:00 AM.

See you there!

Friday, September 29, 2017

FRIDAY FIVE: Five Comics that Changed My Reading Life

I've had some issues lately with people driving a wedge between what they see as "important" research, information, and culture and the things I like and try to bring focus to. That's vague, I know, but what I'm trying to say is in reaction to being implicitly told that comics are juvenile, I'm writing this blog post to explore some of the reasons I enjoy them so much. So, here are five comics that have changed my reading life.

Pride and Prejudice
Getting into comics was daunting for me. Part of it was because the history of superheroes is so long that I didn't know where to start, but a lot of it had to do with being a girl. It was hard because every time I'd walk into the comic shop that was down the street from my college, I was always the only woman in there. That took some getting used to, but one way I did it was by finding something I really wanted to read. I've been a nerd for 19th-century lit since I was a teenager, so Jane Austen was a natural entry point into comics for me. Haven't read this one in a while, but it taught me that comics aren't all superheroes. There are lots of different stories for lots of different readers.

DC's Bombshells
I love the idea of superheroes, but I never knew where to start with reading them and it was hard for me to find any female superheroes outside of Wonder Woman and Supergirl (not that I don't like them--I love them--but it's nice to have more than two characters). Then a friend recommended this, and it combines so many things I love, namely history and a good number of women from the DC universe. This series plops them down in WWII. It jumps around to different story lines to introduce you to more characters and let you take a look at how the war affects different people in different places. And, obviously, I love the amount of girl power in this one.

Morning Glories
My feelings about Nick Spencer aside, this title sucked me in. I picked up volume one at the comic shop on a whim. By the time I finished it, I was itching to get my hands on the next volume. (And I'm currently contemplating reading it all again.) Like Pride and Prejudice, this isn't a superhero comic, though people have strange powers and there are unexplained phenomena. The approach to storytelling in this series is interesting and roundabout--a lot of secrets and questions and little answers that get you reading in hopes of bigger answers. It makes for a fast read. While ultimately, I was disappointed in the lack of resolution, I'm still hanging on and waiting for the day Summer Vacation #1 drops because Casey remains one of my favorite comic characters.

The Legend of Wonder Woman: Origins
By now, I've read a good number of Wonder Woman comics, and, honestly, they don't thrill me too much. I hardly ever get beyond volume one. But this one is heads and shoulders above the rest. The art is gorgeous, the storytelling is lovely, and de Liz makes great use of Etta Candy. The story makes use of Diana's long history while still making it feel fresh and exciting. This is just a joy to read and demonstrates that comics can be accessible to a wide audience.

Listen. I can't even explain this comic. It is so. good. The art is stunning. Stunning, people! (And yes, I love this so much that I can't really be coherent.) But the characters? Also stunning! They're complex and move through a richly detailed world, and Maika is one of my favorite kinds of characters--damaged and prickly and in possession of a big heart. Kippa and Master Ren are also standouts for me. Just . . . I can't even explain what this is about. Please just go read it. The next issue comes out in January, and I think I'm going to start reading them issue-by-issue because I can't wait. I cannot wait.

In conclusion, I believe value is what you make of it. I've learned things--about comics and about fiction writing and about life--from each of these titles and from many more. Popular culture is valuable even when it's not being studied simply because people enjoy it, and that's that. But if you want me to prove it with a twenty-page paper, I will for sure do it.