Making It

Ever since I went out on my own and really struggled I would always think of the things I would own to really show that I had made it. I suppose the things I thought of only show the limits placed n my finances, but I’m sure everyone has that thing they would buy if they had enough money.

After years of research I have had a Eufy 15C robotic vacuum sitting on an Amazon wish list since last year. I watch the price go up and down and back up depending on sales, but I could never justify spending that amount of money on something that seemed so frivolous.

I’ve also always wanted to get the cats a tree to play/sleep on. They were always too expensive, plus they are so big that it would have been difficult to move when we were moving so many times. Chloe loves to be up high though, and Toby loves something to scratch on.

So when I logged into my employee portal today to check on the husband’s bonus check coming Friday and discovered that I had one coming too, we decided that it was time. So both the vacuum and the cat tree will be here soon. Thanks unexpected money!

I can’t wait to post videos of how angry this DJ Roomba will make the floofs, and how happy the tree will make the cats. I’m discovering that the more financially stable we become, the more I enjoy getting the few things that just make life a little easier, even if it means spending a little more money.

Videos and pictures to come. Two more reviews on the way next week!

The Perfect Assassin (The Chronicles of Ghadid #1)

The Perfect Assassin was provided to me as a free digital advance copy by Tor Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review. The Perfect Assassin will be available for purchase on March 19, 2019 but you can also preorder anytime.

When I started reading The Perfect Assassin I was reminded of a trilogy of books that is one of my absolute favorites. The Rebel of the Sands trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton introduced me to dangerous shapeshifters and legendary djinn, all of which must be decrypted and understood before goals could be reached. Another such series is the An Ember in the Ashes line by Sabaa Tahir. Through both of these series I have discovered a love of the stories and mythology from the middle east and desert realms.

This particular series begins with the final entrance exam for a school of assassins. We follow the main character Amastan as he sweats through his worst fears and completes a physically strenuous trial to join all his classmates as freshly minted assassins in the city of Ghalid. The problem is that the drum chiefs that run all the neighborhoods put an end to assassin’s contracts a long time ago, with no indication they will be issued again anytime soon. So the young assassins are told to bide their time and stay sharp in case contracts start up again.

One of the rules of being an assassin is that when they kill they have to do it so the body will be easily discovered, because if they aren’t then the special priests who quiet jaani (souls?) won’t be able to get there in time and the jaani becomes an angry ghost that floats around trying to possess people. These jaani start showing up and attacking Amastan, and he and his assassin cousins start discovering bodies on the rooftops, meaning that there are more and more unquieted jaani preying on the people in Ghadid. It’s up to Amastan and his friends to uncover the murderer and restore peace to Ghadid.

My only complaint was that the ending doesn’t make me salivate for the next installation in the series (chronicles). Everything is nicely tied up and everyone seems to be where they should be. Usually when I finish the first book of a series I am on Twitter demanding the next one post haste, but here it felt more like a standalone tome.

Balancing out this complaint is my delight in the normalcy with which the sexuality of Amastan is presented. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I want more books where LGBTQIA+ individuals are just a part of the world. Their presence is normal, not a red flag or something to be overcome or something they have to hide or convince others of. Just normal. I love this in a representation book. Thanks to K.A. Doore for making this a part of her writing.

Oh my goodness do I apparently love me some desert mysticism and stabby murder. I couldn’t stop reading, I had to know what happened next. Even though most of the elements were fantasy, this book is a mystery/thriller in its own right too. I strongly recommend giving this one a go.

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C’est si bon!

Over the past couple of weeks I have found myself getting overwhelmed by good things. It’s a foreign feeling, and what tends to happen if I dwell on them is that my brain shuts down and I start to hear excited dolphin sounds.

New Job: New Outlook

I have had 4 different jobs in the last 2 years. Online, to in-classroom, to another school, and then back to the school I was at before I went to online. It’s been like riding the teacups at Disneyworld. Now that I’m back I’m in a position I’ve been looking for (teaching AP Statistics and Precalculus) and I am working to help the programs grow. I hopefully have new textbooks coming for next school year, I’m excited to see my very first AP pass rate, and in two more years I’ll be able to become an AP grader – teachers who are paid to travel and grade ALL THE THINGS for ten days in the summer.

I feel settled and happy where I am right now. The husband also teaches where I am, so that’s good too. It’s a good situation and I am hopeful that it will continue to be into the future.

Fantasy Novel: Stage Two

I AM SO EXCITED TO SIT DOWN AND REVISE!!! I’m bringing in outlining and research and expansion ideas to really bring this first book of a series (at least a trilogy) to a place where I might feel comfortable querying either at the end of this year or early next year when agents open back up after the holiday.

I know what this book is going to do. I know where I want it to go. I have a clear vision and I am itching to sit down and work with the dough. I’ll do a little over spring break, but I don’t want this to be a stop and start process, which means I have to wait to really get into it until June. BUT I DON’T CARE I AM SO EXCITED IT IS WORTH THE WAIT.

Professional Development

After such a positive experience at the AWP Conference in Tampa last year, I booked a flight and hotel room and will be heading to Portland, Oregon at the end of March. I’ll get to see one of the largest bookstores in America (I’m looking at you Powells!) and I have already earmarked revision and querying sessions in my conference schedule on the AWP app. I’ve also looked on Google Maps around my hotel and have found several restaurants that I will be ordering food from. Plus I just like staying in hotels, and I’m excited to fly after not having flown since our trip to London back in 2015.

International Affairs

When the husband and I got married he wanted to have kids and travel the world. After a conversation about realistic goals, we decided that saving to travel the world was the most important goal. We visited London in 2015, and since then have been working hard to save up to go to Paris next. 2019 is the year! We’ll be flying to Paris at the end of the year. I found a perfect hotel in the city – close to a Metro stop and right across the street from a grocery store – and there is a great selection of flights to choose from when I have to book them at the end of March. I’m really looking forward to eating everything and seeing Versailles and the Louvre.

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Despite there being many positive things for me to hang my hat on there are still a lot of struggles that we are working through. Progress is a positive thing, though, and I wanted to spend some time celebrating that.

You have probably noticed a dearth of personal posts here as of late. Between my job, my mom, and that creepy foot fetishist I have shied away from being personal or opinionated here anymore due to its public face. I’ve been dialing back things to being mostly just reviews – book, movie, or otherwise.

If you are interested in keeping up with my life, I have been making more personal style posts behind a paywall of sorts on Patreon. Patrons as low as $1 a month can see more personal posts and starting in the next month or so will also have access to my first attempts at flash fiction and short stories. I want to earn your patronage with more than just book reviews, and this is how I plan to do that. I even have a type of serial in the works, where you would get bits of story either weekly or monthly, so we’ll see how that goes.

As always I am thankful for your readership and these posts will always be ad-free and free overall. But remember, if you read my work and you feel like contributing towards my financial well-being, you are more than welcome (but not required!) to avail yourselves of the links included below. I am working on saving for travel to both the AWP conference in San Antonio and the BookExpo in New York in 2020, as well as an updated computer to move my writing out of Google Drive and into something more sophisticated like Word. Any contributions you make will help bring me closer to those goals.

Two new reviews are coming your way next week! Have a great weekend.

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The Kick-Ass Writer: 1001 Ways to Write Great Fiction, Get Published, and Earn Your Audience

I am a huge fan of online ruffian Chuck Wendig. He is hilarious on social media, his website Terrible Minds (terribleminds.com) is funny and informative, and he has his tentacles in long novels and comic books and everything in between. He’s the fun uncle (funcle?) with the bushy beard that you want to get all your life (and writing advice) from.

I picked up this book recently, figuring it to be a good companion to his very well written and helpful book Damn Fine Story. When I received it, I saw that it was a series of advice in 25 item groups, similar to the #TenThings threads I’ve been following with Delilah S. Dawson, another writing guru and dreamboat. I began reading, figuring that a bunch of lists would be quick work and I would be able to bookmark where the currently relevant information was and come back to it later.

Oh dear reader, I would not recommend this. Not even close. Look at this Table of Contents.

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The Kick-Ass Writer should be viewed as a dictionary or a quick reference guide. If you are writing a book and you need inspiration concerning setting you might pick this up, read the chapter “25 Things You Should Know About Setting,” and then immediately put it down again. It is painfully obvious that these chapters must be sitting on his website somewhere and I could have gotten this advice on the interwebs. I tried to read this like a book and that is not what it is meant for.

Aside from the structure lending itself to reference instead of reading through, there is the subject of Wendig’s humor, which I love but admittedly lost a taste for after about 4 “25 Things” lists of it. I still love it, especially when it pops up on my Twitter feed to give me a giggle, but this as well as other Books From Blogs (TM) tend to lose their flavor when smushed into book format. I’m supposed to have these to enjoy once a week, not necessarily to binge read for motivation.

Chuck is one of my top five authors whom I trust, follow, and look to for advice as I begin my journey in the traditional publishing world. This book will remain on my shelves, but as reference and reminder, not as a read-through novel. If you are an aspiring writer, you should pick it up too and check out his website. You won’t be disappointed.

The Belles (Belles #1)

I bought this book a year ago with the generous funds I received on Patreon. It’s been sitting on my shelf since then. I’ve tried to start it several times, it’s popped onto my ‘currently reading’ list on Goodreads a few times, but then other books always took precedence either due to release date or being on hold at the library. But recently I was granted an advanced copy of its sequel, The Everlasting Rose, via NetGalley and since The Everlasting Rose is releasing on March 5th its the perfect time to read The Belles.

Despite it being a kind of dystopian fantasy novel, the setting and storyline were almost completely brand new to me. The magic is similar to the Corporalki Grisha in Leigh Bardugo’s universe, but there are only six girls in the current generation of Belles who can do what’s necessary to bring beauty and color to the kingdom of Orleans. They perform for the royal family at the Carnaval of Beauty and then the queen picks the Favorite, who will be the Belle of the palace. The rest of the Belles are places at teahouses around the islands of the kingdom.

The narrator Camille wants to be the favorite, but she is reckless in her performance and her sister Amber is picked over her. But something disastrous happens at the palace and Amber is sent away, at which point the queen summons Camille to take her place. Once we get a glimpse in the palace, especially Princess Sophia, it’s obvious that something really sinister is brewing under the surface, and Camille is just too naive to pick up on it. Things become darker and darker until Sophia’s true plan is revealed, which threatens everything that the Belles believe and stand for.

The racial elements being laid out in this novel are obvious. Clayton presents the pursuit of beauty in a sugar coated, shiny way, but you’ll find yourself asking whether this system is sustainable in the long term, especially with the number of Belles dwindling. Finding connections between the novel’s description of Belle-products and procedures to African-American beauty products and procedures is something you should be able to do without much prompting. I imagine any young black person would read this book and feel an immediate connection to the story.

My only real criticism is that while the descriptions of this new world begin as lush and gorgeous, as the story moves forward they become repetitive and unclear. The number of times we hear that “belle-roses” are on display is legion, and belle-buns, belle-products, and on and on. I feel like while some scenes were easy to imagine, many others left too much to my own imagination when this world was new and needed to be built more for me to envision what it looked like.

It was easiest for me to compare this book to Marie Lu’s Legend series. We see a main character who is a prodigy in her field, expects to be a part of the system, and works hard to qualify to be a leader in that system, only to inevitably see the darkness that bolsters the system and therefore become a rebel against it. While this plot fell apart for me when I moved on from Legend to Lu’s second book Prodigy, I am hopeful that Clayton’s The Everlasting Rose (out 3/5/19) will keep my interest piqued. I am very curious about how this re-Belle-ion will work out, especially given how the entire population requires beautification and is almost addicted to the process.

I have a DRC of The Everlasting Rose, and will have that review out to you shortly. As for The Belles, it is an interesting concept and worth reading and exploring if only for a fresh take on fantasy. I enjoyed and finished it. Give it a try.

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Two Dark Reigns (TDC #3)

Three Dark Crowns (#1)

One Dark Throne (#2)

Book 3 of the Three Dark Crowns series has us in three different locations with one central purpose driving everyone: Katherine is wrong for the throne and must be dealt with.

Mirabella and Arsinoe live with Billy, Arsinoe’s suitor, at his estate with his mother and two sisters. None of them know that his father has been killed, and they are all just waiting for him to return. His mom is pushing women on him to marry, but he’s still devoted to Arsinoe. Problem is that Arsinoe has started having strange dreams about the last great Blue Queen (a queen that is a fourth born automatically becomes a Blue Queen, and her other three sisters are killed) and is being shown how the prison mist they fought so hard to escape came to be, and why they must return to the island.

Jules has gone to Bastian City to learn to use her war gift (which when paired with her naturalist gift makes her “legion cursed”) but discovers that the warriors there plan to set her up as a replacement queen to end the triplet queen tradition and forge a new path forward for the island. She does not like this, but apparently rumors are being spread and events are being set in motion to turn the people against Katherine and towards Jules.

Katherine is trying to set up her new Black Council and begin her rule, but dead bodies of regular people that have been killed by the mist that surrounds the island keep washing up on shore, some decayed for longer than they were ever out at sea, implying that the mist isn’t just dangerous, that it might warp time as well. The people are whispering about her Undead Queen nickname, saying she has brought the curse of the mist upon them. When these whispers are added to the Legion Queen rumors spreading from Bastian City, Katherine finds herself dealing with a fair amount of unrest in Volroy as well as unrest from the multitude of dead queen spirits that reside within her own self.

This shit takes so long. I shouldn’t be 66% into book fucking three of this series wondering (1) what the fuck is going on, (2) WHY the fuck are things happening, and (3) what is the point of what is happening?

I loved the first two books, even if the second one was a little flat. This third book feels like someone put ideas on darts and threw them at the wall to see what stuck. There is no tension, no build up, and nothing has any meaningful connection to the mythology of this universe. This third book left me confused and unmoored instead of craving the conclusion. I finished it, but I won’t be reading the fourth.

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The Fog Comes on Little Cat Feet

I’ve started to feel different lately.

I’m not sure if its due to my efforts to have a cleaner, more organized home.

Or perhaps my dedication to leaving work on time and leaving work at work, including my laptop.

Maybe it’s the result of going to the gym on a regular basis.

I mean, I did power wash part of the pool deck this weekend. Maybe that’s it?

Slowly but surely this house is becoming clean, manageable, and little by little I attack the darkness and grime and clutter and my mind becomes clearer every day.

I look around and I’m actually proud of my efforts. I can say, “I did that” and know that I feel better because I did something. Maybe it’s washing the sheets or vacuuming the living room rug, or something as simple as grabbing a Lysol wipe and dusting the tops of everything until the wipe is used up.

Home is starting to feel like home and not just a place where I come to sleep and store my stuff.

My fridge is almost empty and my pantry half full, but only because I don’t have to store extra food to feel safe right now. Washing the inside of the fridge is something that is actually on my radar.

The toilets are clean.

I’m not sure what I’m trying to say with this post. Only just that over the past month or so I’ve felt like a fog is lifting. A thick, dark cloud that’s been choking me and smothering me for years is lifting. I am not sure which part of my new routines are contributing to it or if it’s just luck or age or hormones or whatever.

All I know is that I like how I’m feeling, and I want it to get even better. So I’m not going to stop. I’m gonna keep going to the gym and cleaning and organizing and writing and reading and living my life in a better way. I just hope it keeps getting better.