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Book reviews Writing Life

Writer Reading Report: Peace Talks

I received an ARC of Peace Talks by Jim Butcher through NetGalley. The one drawback? I’ve already read it, so now I have to wait longer before I can read the NEXT book.

Peace Talks is (will be?) a solid entry in Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, but it wouldn’t stand well on its own even if it wasn’t novel #16. It concentrates on setting up big-picture conflicts, and it ends on a chapter-break cliffhanger of epic proportions.

True confession: I loathe cliffhanger endings with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns. I have quit following series after being subjected to gotcha cliffhangers. 

I enjoyed Peace Talks despite the lack of ending, which says good things about Jim Butcher’s ability to sort out plot points in a satisfying way.

It’s been five years since the last book released, and at least two since I did a series re-read, but I was immersed from page one, like settling into my comfy chair after a long trip away from home.  Peace Talks has all the fun elements I’ve come to expect from a Dresden Files novel: Harry demonstrates the self-awareness of a kumquat but is shepherded to A Revelation by his friends;  scenes bounce from snarky dialogue to tender affection to outrageous hijinks and back; and conflicts of duty, honor and heart-ties abound.

A sense of Impending Events hangs over every small moment, and the plot was a typical Dresden Files rollercoaster, careening from one disaster and/or painful, no-win decision to the next.  By the end, when some elements were resolved, it felt like reaching the eye of a hurricane, a welcome breather for characters and readers alike.

I think that’s the main reason the cliffhanger didn’t bother me. I was ready to set down the book and take a break from the intensity.

I was honestly ready for a break from Harry, too. Peace Talks also has all the usual sketch-stereotype Dresden Files characters and the main characters make a lot of problematic value judgments about sexuality, race, gender, consent…yeah.

One of the things about the series that keeps me reading is that it doesn’t shy away from moral conflict, but that doesn’t make it comfortable, especially when the murkiness is presented in first person POV. Things are getting darker and darker, and Harry’s choices are getting…iffier and iffier. So. Break good.

And here’s a third reason the cliffhanger didn’t bother me: events in this series have been heading toward a cliff for several books now, so I’m more inclined to forgive it reaching one it had to jump off. Despite all the action, the plot of Peace Talks was mainly setup. All the various characters who’ve been introduced (over what, sixteen books?) are shifting into new ( and final?) configurations.  It isn’t a short book, but to break out yet another analogy, it only had enough pages to show the opening moves in a chess match that may take the rest of the series to resolve.

So brace yourself, because major shenanigans are about to ensue.

 

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Authoring Book reviews Media Consumption Writing Life

Writer Reading Report: Smoke Bitten

Thanks to NetGalley, I received two ARCs (advanced reader copies) of upcoming novels by two of my favorite authors. Here be my short but heartfelt reviews of the first one I finished. It’s out now, so you don’t even have to wait!

Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs.

I expect most people interested in Smoke Bitten have read some or all of the preceding books. Smoke Bitten is the twelfth in an urban fantasy series about Mercy Thompson,  part-time coyote, full-time auto mechanic, Volkswagon owner, seer of ghosts, and neighbor to a werewolf alpha.

So if you’re checking reviews because this book looks interesting, you’re right! It is!

I always recommend starting at the beginning of any series as well=established as this one–or at least with a book closer to the beginning.  That said, if this is the only Mercy Thompson book you can find, it’s a great chapter in the ongoing saga, and a decent introduction to the complex, entertaining dynamics between members of an ever-increasing cast.

Honestly, any plot summary without spoilers would be either redundant or too vague to be useful. The important points. First, as with most other books in the series, the events in Smoke Bitten take place over a very short time frame.  Second, the action is local, and the stakes more personal than world-changing.

The plot shines brightest when Mercy is dealing with her friends and family. Often she’s making hard choices between people and rules, between principle and practicality. In this book, a problem arises from the solutions to problems resolved in previous books.

It’s a tangle of big personalities, old grudges, and buried mysteries, with all the emotionally satisfying, complicated I’ve come to expect from this author.

 

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3. Other Things Authoring Book reviews Media Consumption Writing Life

What’s up in my world

There’s a long list.
  • Getting all my book covers updated so I can order more copies of my books for summer cons.
  • Looking into adding Ingramspark for paperback distribution & ordering.
  • Eyeballing the need to redo interior graphics because see above. (also because I think one of the files might be corrupted or I screed up page breaks somewhere)
  • Finalizing plans for Indy Pop Con & Printers Row (I won’t be there, but my books will, thanks to awesome, awesome friends.)
  • Working on character card graphics. second-guessing myself over whether I should bother with getting those printed because who cares?
  • Waffling over doing pins with the Unity logo and/or the Poz hazard symbol. (see above)
  • Deciding whether to do more patches or not bother yet. (I still have lots)
  • Trying not to worry about not doing ebook promotion on social media. Freaking out about the total lack of sales lately.
  • Hammering away at a blurb for Sharp Edge of Yesterday.
  • cleaning up old graphics & book drafts on my hard drive. So. Many. Obsolete. Files.
  • Revising, revising, revising! Sharp Edge is getting shinier by the day. My nerves are getting more frayed by the day as I run low on TIME.

<deep breath> It will all work out. I know. I’m just…revving really hard on the inside, even when I seem perfectly calm from the outside.

Reading

I am in “read low-brain-power things to recharge” mode.  I have now re-read all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s fantasy works, and am working my way through Anne Bishops Others series. The more I re-read Bujold, the more I am awed by how effortlessly she unfolds the stories and interweaves world-building description with description/plot action.  The books really hold up over time & through multiple re-reads. Anne Bishop…weeeell, now. I am in a mood where plot structure quirks and iffy gender role presentations are irking me bigtime, but I still love the concept, characters, and overarching story of this series.

Movie Viewing:

AQUAMAN aka “Underwater Thor.” Good fun. Okay, not really GOOD, but totally fun.

CAPTAIN MARVEL. I am so totally in love with this movie. SORTA SPOILER ALERT? Vaguespoilering, anyway. Tons of fighty fights but no Huge Climactic Boss Battle, a woman protagonist who is unabashedly kickass because she wants to be, not because angsty or tragic or conflicted or Cuz A Man Helped, and oh, wow, the sub-plot with the gas-lighting and all that foggy, gray moral ground.  <happy sigh>

Television Viewing:

VICTORIA ON MASTERPIECE. I waited until it was all done to watch it through. This show is…problematic.  So much celebration and happy-ending-making and literal whitewashing of historically horrible events, decisions, and people. The progressive, enlightened attitudes of mant characters are pure fiction,  and the subtext of “see, they weren’t such bad people, they did X and Y and that was GOOD?”  is far from subtle.

But. Oh, but-but-but. The costumes and characters and the writing come together to make a fluffy fantasy narrative that is a delight to my eyes and brain, and so I enjoy it.

THAT ONE TORNADO SHOW ON THE WEATHER CHANNEL. Yes, they have like, umpteen storm shows, but the only one I can stand is the one that’s basically a minute-by-minute documentary of the specific tornado, with as much rasw footage as they can scoop together from eyewitnesses.

I tried to watch some of the others, but they were…painful reality TV, with worse talking heads who say nothing and information diced up so fine and fed out so slowly it HURT. Cannot Watch. Maybe if I had the flu.

And that’s about it.

I mean, there’s lots of other things, sure, between garden, and family, and playing with my Instant Pot but nothing for blog yet, and this post has run on long enough.

Until later!

Categories
1. Storysculpting Book reviews Writing Life

Inside my head right now

Recent random doings:

Read:

Ardulum Book 1. Juicy space opera goodness. I saw a recommendation by Seanan McGuire online,  and I second the recommendation and third it and give it many thumbs up.

Other than that, I’ve been reading seed catalogs, longform online articles about sunscreen & vitamin D. Also re-reading my own writing a lot in the process of revisions.

View:

Venom. Much more fun than I expected. Tom Hardy was entirely believable as a loser coping with an alien parasite. Slight letdown at the end with the alien.

 Smallfoot. Um. It could’ve been worse? I don’t feel the 90 min of my life were wasted.

First two seasons of The Good Place, and caught up with the current season.

Kitchening:

It’s “eat all the summer’s saved fruit!” season. I am perfectly willing to eat frozen blueberries as-is, raw & rinsed off, but Spouseman much prefers me to bake them into things. So. Faux cobbler gets made a lot (what’s that? I take a baking dish, pour in some rinsed frozen fruit w/a little sugar & lemon stirred in, dig out a couple of frozen apple doughnuts, enough to cover the fruit when chopped up and sprinkled on top, and bake until bubbly, browned on top, and delicious.)  I make it with sliced, peeled apples too, but mostly berries.

Gardening:

Garden things in January? In Chicagoland? WEIRD, right?  I helped with a seed bank seed-sorting project at Chicago Botanic. It was lovely. I got to play with screens, and pans, and an air column . Bergamot, penstemon, and prairie dock. My hands smelled like summer all day long, both times. Hoping I get to do that again.

 

Flashback cat pic:

Atop the chair, Bruce the Magnificent. Beneath it, Scootercat in Lurking Evil mode.

No Context WIP snippet. I post these because I like them but am uncertain whether they work, by the way.  Yes, I would like to know if they’re totally meh, or if you like them too.

Jack saw the rising column of smoke in the distance as soon as the teleport haze cleared around him. The tree-lined neighborhood street was empty, but shouts and wailing sirens were audible at a significant distance.

He bit back a snarl. The smoke meant they were going be late to the incident site no matter what they did, when every second counted.

And that’s a wrap.

Categories
1. Storysculpting Book reviews Media Consumption Writing Life

Inside my head in the new year

First life update of the new year…for whatever extra that’s worth. This edition is a real grab bag of random tidbits.

The latest in random thoughts & searches:

  • How long is a giraffe’s neck? (1.8m, if you were wondering.)
  • Capybaras in Japan why?
  • Breyer black horse white mane
  • alpacas compare llamas
  • biochemistry neurotransmitters

Recent doings:

Reading

  • Blackfish City by Sam J Miller. Epic amazing wonderfulness. Bleak, beautiful, but brimming with hope.
  • a variety of romance re-reads. Fluffy and forgiving of my inability to focus on ANYthing.

Viewing

  • The Lord of the Rings extended editions & the Hobbit (yes, again…)
  • All of Game of Thrones including the animated history prequel.
  • WestWorld season 2. And then, because I needed a long, cleansing bubble bath for the inside of my brain…
  • Wreck-It Ralph and season 3 of The Good Place. Ahhhh, much better.
  • Crazy Rich Asians arrived at the library, so I watched that too. SO GOOD!!!

Kitchening

lotsa cookies. Lotsa soups n casseroles. Many breads. Because winter = great excuse to use the oven as much as possible.

Acronyms which resulted in long, meandering internet click-journeys from site to site to site : ASMR, BDS, PEDD, ILOH, TNVR, HGH.  None of them are related to each other, and none of the official definitions come from Urban Dictionary, so it’s safe to satisfy your initial curiosity if it’s been piqued.

Have a random cat pic:

(edit to add pic that didn’t ADD the first time)

Flashback to Scootercat’s third Christmas.

And a bit of the WIP because it makes me smile. It might be the new first line for Sharp Edge. I’ll post the other possibility in the next update. (I have two scenes that are equally suitable as openings, haven’t decided which to use.)

Nothing made Valerie Wade more nervous than meeting someone else’s eyes for the first time. Would her vision reveal inner beauty or hidden monstrosity? She saw essential truths as well as externals, and that made every introduction an exercise in courage.

Until next time!