#ConstitutionCheck 24 Hour Charity Stream on Twitch

Hi all. I hope you’re having a nice Saturday. I wanted to take a minute to share this with you because my husband is playing in the Constitution Check 24 hour D&D charity stream on Twitch this afternoon at 3 PM EST. He’ll be roleplaying a Dragonborn Barbarian named Palax, and your donations can help him survive in-game.

The stream is raising money this time around for Planned Parenthood, which offers a wide variety of affordable options to women, ranging from sexual education and testing, to birth control and counseling. If this is something you support, drop by the Twitch stream and take advantage of their donation options.

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So if you’re sitting inside because it’s rainy where you are, drop by the Twitch stream, say hi to Palax, donate to Planned Parenthood and have a fun Saturday! Oh, and btw, they are giving away prizes in the chat for every $100 raised up to $2400, so sweet loot, ya’ll!

 

Wicked Deeds: Witches, Warlocks, Demons, & Other Evil Doers Anthology

I am super excited to finally be able to share this with you guys. Last year I sold a short story I wrote called “Shiv” to the Sirens Call Publications anthology: Witches, Warlocks, Demons, & Other Evil Doers. 

I just discovered this anthology has gone live at long last, so it is officially available for purchase. I’m excited you can finally read it, as “Shiv” is one of my most favorite short stories I’ve ever written. A heart wrenching tale about losing oneself to dark magic and vengeance, it’ll leave you asking just how far you’d go, how much of yourself you’d sacrifice to avenge the one person in your world who means everything to you.

wicked deeds

Sometimes wicked people do wicked things simply because they can…

The twelve stories in Wicked Deeds tell tales of witches and warlocks with ill intent, devilish demons bent on destruction, and other doers of evil who make the world a terrifying place. What is a mother to do when her daughter is gifted but lives under the thumb of her fanatical preacher husband who will brook no talk of the supernatural? What of a demon so desperate to free himself of a trap that he will force another to repeat his atrocities and condemn a young boy to his demonic fate? Or maybe the story of a crotchety old witch with a score to settle against the town she lives in is more to your liking – what evil will the seemingly harmless town-crazy call upon when faced with an ultimatum?

If you’re looking for wicked people with supernatural abilities doing wicked things, this is the collection for you!

Now available in eBook and paperback format from Amazon.com

Mass Effect Andromeda: Nexus Uprising by Jason M. Hough and K.C. Alexander

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Before I even start this review, be forewarned: I am going to talk about Mass Effect like you already know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re not a gamer, my apologies. I live in a weird bubble where I just assume everyone passionately loves the same things I do.

I'll meet you across the sea, Thane.

I’ll meet you across the sea, Thane.

Okay, so… You know me, right? Chances are, if you’re coming to this blog to read something I’ve written, you know at least a little something about me. If that something isn’t the fact that I’m a gigantic Mass Effect fan, I feel a little ashamed because my fan love for that franchise is more epic than my love for the Dragon Age franchise, and that love is pretty solid. I have played the original Mass Effect trilogy more times than I can count, I still cry at all the right parts, I love my imaginary drell boyfriend deeply, and I showed up at Gamestop at 8:45 the night before ME: Andromeda released wearing an N7 hoodie to pick up my pre-ordered, super duper fancy deluxe copy of the new game the minute they were ready to hand it over to me. I came home, started building my Sara Ryder before the game even finished installing, and was on Ark Hyperion faster than you can say, “NORMANDY!” Basically, this review is going to be me going on for a thousand words about how much I love space and aliens and Mass Effect, so fire up your jump jets and let’s leap into this thing.

Of course I was going to read the books they put out to coincide with the new game, the Dark Horse comics, too (keep an eye out for my review of the full collection once it’s done running). I rushed out on release day to pick up Nexus Uprising because after finishing my first playthrough of the game, I wanted to know more about how the Andromeda Initiative wound up in the state it was in when Liam, Cora, and I docked with the Nexus that first time.

A little background to set you up: About fifty-thousand colonists drawn from the major races who comprise the Milky Way Galaxy have decided to explore and settle beyond our home galaxy. Five arks are set to travel millions of light years to the Andromeda Galaxy, cryo-sleeping through the journey and waking to settle seven golden worlds large enough for all the species to thrive and grow. The Andromeda Initiative will be the Milky Way’s legacy, the first seeds to spread across the universe and make a new life, a new mark outside the home galaxy. They will leave all their old grudges and prejudices behind and start anew. Sounds great, right? When you look at the specs, it sounds damn near perfect, but since they made an entire game about it, and there are plans for at least three books and a comic series, it’s totally not going to go anyway at all like they planned. It never does.

mass-effect-nexus-uprising_470716The Nexus is a central hub, a space station meant to arrive several months before the arks so its staff can set up to welcome new colonists and get them ready to explore their new galaxy as they’re woken from cryo. The thing is, if the Nexus can’t get itself together before the arks begin to arrive, there’s gonna be trouble. Big trouble. I imagine you can already guess how this book is going to go… The Nexus totally isn’t going to be ready, and this book explores why.

Immediately upon entering the Heleus Cluster in the Andromeda Galaxy, the Nexus station takes heavy damage from an unknown force that will become known as The Scourge. No one quite knows what The Scourge is because getting close enough to study it is damn near impossible, and it’s already taken out more people than anyone ever imagined they’d lose in the moments after they were woken from cryo.

With the head of the Initiative and several other important players killed before they’ve even had a chance to rub the sleep from their eyes, it falls to Security Director Sloane Kelly to maintain order as the Initiative dream crumbles all around them. With the line of succession hacked down to the bare minimum, it falls to Deputy Assistant of Revenue Management for the Nexus, Jarun Tann, to take the reins as Director. As Tann’s ego clashes with Sloane’s desperate attempt to restore order, alliances form that promise to tear the very fabric of the Nexus to pieces. All those prejudices they were meant to leave behind rise like cream to the surface, curdling and festering until nearly everyone who’s been woken to help rebuild the Nexus is at each other’s throats. Mounting tension and drama mingle with secrets and lies to create a volatile cocktail guaranteed to explode in the very faces of the leaders meant to hold the organization together.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book because we really got some insight and perspective into a character from the game I wanted to know more about. Sloane Kelly, as much as I loathe her in-game, is an intense and dynamic woman who found herself at odds, her leadership and her and her morals called into question, with a leadership that never should have risen to power in the first place.

Very well written, this was a great prequel and introduction to Andromeda. Hough and Alexander touched on all the right issues, and developed Sloane in a way that made it harder for me to hate her. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I still think she’s scum, but I know what lurks under her layers now, and I sometimes feel kind of guilty about hating her.

I gave it four out of five stars, and definitely recommend it to players of the game who’d like to know exactly how the Nexus wound up off the rails long before you even arrive. If you’re not familiar with this franchise, but you love space and sci-fi, what are you waiting for?

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

norse mythologyFor the first time in a really long time, I was disappointed in a Neil Gaiman book. Usually, I am that person standing strong against the howling naysayers who cry things like, “This book is the worst book ever written. Neil Gaiman has disappointed me for the last time!” I am a devout Gaimanite, and like to believe I will remain so until the day I die.

As one of my writing heroes, there’s a strong possibility I will adore nearly every word that pours from his pen, but not so much with Norse Mythology. And I don’t the reason had to do with Gaiman himself, so much as it had to do with the fact that in my lifetime I have read so many Norse mythology books and stories, I already knew every single story he decided to retell in this collection. There are plenty of stories that don’t get lumped into those collections, and honestly that is what I hoped for with this book because Neil Gaiman has an incredibly creative mind. Even if there aren’t a ton of details to those lesser known stories, I feel confident he could take them to the next level.

That being said, the writing wasn’t poor. It was about what I’d expect from a Neil Gaiman book, though his own voice didn’t seem to shine through even half as much as I’d hoped it would. I did hope for a bit more dialogue, considering I knew so many of these stories, flesh them out a bit, I don’t know. Give those of us who already love Norse mythology something we haven’t already sunk our teeth into.

I gave the book four stars, which probably doesn’t seem low enough, considering the amount of complaining I’ve done in these four short paragraphs, but like I said, the writing itself wasn’t bad. And though I’ve read them all many, many times over the years, I do still love the stories he retold. I just hoped for something more than I got, which seems to be one of the things a lot of Gaiman naysayers chant these days. Odin’s missing eye, I hope I’m not becoming a Gaiman naysayer!

Four out of five stars. I suppose I’d recommend it to someone who has never read a single Norse mythology book in their life, and then I’d tell that person not to stop with Gaiman, but go deeper and explore the mythology that inspired him to retell these stories in the first place.

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks

the broken eyeBy the time I got to The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks earlier this year, I was fully immersed in this world and on a MUST KNOW basis with the characters and their states of affairs. Any reservations lingering from my slow read of The Black Prism were extinguished somewhere near the end of The Blinding Knife, and made obsolete by the reading of this third book in the Lightbringer series.

The Broken Eye begins in chaos, as you might expect. With Kip and Gavin both tossed overboard and left for dead at the end of the previous book, a great deal of fretting was done over the state of their life threads. Had they been snipped? Were they drowned? Dead? WHY WAS THE BOOKSTORE TAKING SO LONG TO GET A COPY OF THIS BOOK FOR ME TO READ? I was completely at the mercy of my imagination while I waited for the third book in this series to arrive at my local Books A Million, who seem to get only the second book of most series, completely disregarding the first and any others that might have followed in its wake. Needless to say, it was an exercise in patience, but I finally got my hands on the book and dove in to find out what fates were doled out to characters I was deeply concerned for.

The Chromeria has been led to believe by Andross Guile that Kip and Gavin are dead, a new Prism must be chosen, and in the interim he assigns himself as promachos. Meanwhile, out to sea, Gavin is taken captive by pirates, and fat, flailing Kip is picked up by his nasty half-brother, Zymun, who believes the only way to get what he wants is to wipe out all who stand in his way, including his brother. In the meantime, the Color Prince continues his efforts to overtake the seven satrapies, having already swallowed two into his ranks. As Kip escapes Zymun’s clutches and makes his way back to civilization, Andross’s claims that the Prism is dead find themselves contested when Kip returns and claims his father is still alive. But until Gavin is found, the Chromeria must have a new Prism at its head. Andross begins priming Kip for the position, promising to raise him up if he hands over the Nine Kings cards that were stolen from him, and pitting against his half-brother in a deadly game that promises to end Kip’s life if he doesn’t comply.

The thing about Kip the Lip is that he’s come face to face with death so many times since the world around him started falling apart, he’s not nearly as terrified as he should be of the future. And to make matters that much more confusing, his Blackguard brethren have begun researching The Lightbringer, several of them whispering behind their hands the one thing every boy daydreams about: What if Kip is the Lightbringer, if everything he’s suffered and endured has been preparation for his rise to messianic greatness? As the pieces begin to fall into place, it seems more and more likely, but seeing that nothing in his life has ever deigned to go right, Kip isn’t sure he can allow himself to believe the truth.

Meanwhile, Gavin’s losing his colors one by one. Blinded by his own secrets and lies, and destined for execution, nothing can save him now but the truth he’s buried so deep inside him even he no longer knows what’s real and what’s false. Add to the mix Karris’s precarious position within in the Chromeria, and Teia’s troubles with a secret guild of paryl-wielding assassins, and you’ve got an action-packed read that’ll leave you breathless right up until the last page.

I have come to love this series more than I can express. The character struggles, their trials and triumphs, have endeared me to this imaginary group of people in ways I never anticipated while reading The Black Prism all those moons ago. And I’m dying to lose myself in The Blood Mirror, the fourth installment, but I have to wait until July to read it because it’s only out in hardcover right now, and all my copies are paperback, and OCD dictates all the books are in the same format on my shelf, or it’ll be chaos.

The Broken Eye is the first Lightbringer book I gave five out of five stars without the slightest hesitation. I am fully invested in these characters now, and I cannot wait to see where Weeks takes us next. Hopefully I’ll have a review ready sometime in early August for The Blood Mirror because I cannot wait to read that book.

The Blinding Knife by Brent Weeks

the blinding knifeWhile I did enjoy The Black Prism to an extent, I remember feeling as though something was missing from the Lightbringer series, some kind of connection I felt instantly while reading Weeks’ The Night Angel trilogy. I often share the books I read with my best friend, and as I recall she came away feeling the same way, a part of her wishing there’d been something more to that first book to make the time investment feel worthwhile. I took a break from the series, but deep down I had hope for The Blinding Knife.

One of the issues I had with the first book in this series was how much terminology Weeks introduced. When your book’s glossary is larger than many of the chapters in your book, that can be a real issue, but the thing about all that terminology was that it paid off to a certain extent. I didn’t need a glossary to immerse myself in this world again, and the concepts felt immediately familiar from page one. The characters had also started to grow on me a little, so as he reintroduced them in the early chapters of The Blinding Knife, they felt like people I’d met before. By the end of the book, they came to feel like old friends. I guess we could say it was a slow warm up to more comfortable relationships.

I really didn’t care much for Gavin Guile in the first book. He was trite and egotistical, but as the story expanded, so, too, did his character. Unraveling the intricate relationship he had with his brother did wonders for strengthening him as a character I originally felt very little for. Discovering near the end of the first book that Gavin wasn’t even who we thought he was at all was one of the only things at that time that kept me intrigued with him, and Weeks really rewarded that fascination in this second book, fleshing Gavin out in ways I honestly didn’t expect. Gavin knows he’s dying, knows that he’s already long outlived the ruse he’s been performing for years, and it’s only a matter of time before the people around him begin to recognize him for what he truly is: an impostor, a liar, a fake.

Kip Guile was my favorite character from the first book, so I was eager to see him continue to grow and explore his new surroundings. He went from sniveling whiner with no hope for a future worth living for into occasional whiner who all but refuses to just lay down and die, no matter how many times you try to kill him. He is the underdog, the hero you long to see come up because maybe he’s just as insecure and self-deprecating as you are, and if he can rise to the top with the cream, maybe you can too! He endures so much between these first two books, it’s almost impossible to image what he will become before all is said and done. He’s still ‘fat’ and at times that’s all he really thinks about, which makes his internal dialogue sad but genuine. The things he’s been his entire life hold him back now that everything’s changed–even him.

The full introduction of Andross Guile, Gavin’s awful father, makes from some very interesting interactions, pushing Gavin to take matters into his hand he might not have otherwise pursued, while also pressuring Kip to become the man he is obviously meant to be. The sessions during which Kip and his grandfather play Nine Kings are as terrifying as they are exciting because Andross’s entire life has seemingly revolved around mastering Nine Kings.

Kip is also introduced to a number of other students as he trains to become a Blackguard, and as he makes friends the narrative includes an interesting new character, a slave named Teia, whose adventures and peril (if you’ve already read these books, you’ll think that was the worst dad joke ever) coincide with his own. She almost began to outmatch Kip as my favorite character, if that tells you anything.

The concept of magic in this world is unique and intriguing, with each chromatic color only allotted so much power they can expend before they go rogue and become wights. Their belief system is built around this concept, with people offering themselves up at the end of their lives peacefully before they become wights. The opposition they face believes there is nothing wrong with breaking the halo, that becoming a wight is only the first step on the ladder to greater power than any of them could possibly imagine. And that opposition is just as invested in tearing the world apart as Gavin is invested in holding it all together–even if holding it together is a sham, a lie, a smokescreen.

By the time I reached the end of this book, I was more than eager for book three, the review for which will be forthcoming shortly. I gave it four out of five stars and definitely recommend it for readers who love relatable characters and intricate fantasy plots that grow more interesting as they advance. I’d say if you read The Black Prism, but felt lukewarm about it, definitely give The Blinding Knife a chance. It was well worth it.

Book Reviews Incoming…

Since I was slacking in the review department this last year, I have a ton of reviewing to do, I suppose. I’ve read a lot of books since last June… like… a lot. I’m definitely not going to go back through and review all of them, but there are several books I absolutely loved, and I will be reviewing as I have time over the next few weeks. Stay tuned. :)

Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell

Isn't it beautiful?

Isn’t it beautiful?

This year’s birthday brought with it one of the most bittersweet gifts in the world: Tyrant’s Throne, the final installment in Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats series. I received this book (signed by the author) as a birthday gift from one of my musketeers (who is super awesome, btw, and you should totally go follow Shiri on Twitter because she writes some pretty excellent stuff for nerds like you and me!) It was a fitting gift, you see, because Shiri actually turned me onto the Greatcoats a couple of years ago, a recommendation I have been eternally grateful for because I adore this story and these characters more than you can even imagine. Every year when a new book came out, Shiri ordered a signed, hardcover edition from the UK because they always seem to get the these books about two months before us. This year, she ordered one for me as well because the release just so happened to fall around my birthday. I have the most amazing and thoughtful friends, seriously!

Of course, on the day it arrived I dropped everything else I was reading and dove right in because I knew this was it… the grand finale, and I was anxious to see how this story ended. We followed Falcio Val Mond, Kest Murrowson, and Brasti Goodbow through a great many terrible things, and I was beginning to wonder how de Castell could possibly make their lives any worse. I never doubted him, honestly. He is an authorial mastermind, and he did not disappoint.

Squeeee!

Squeeee!

After years of hardship and more near-death encounters than one man should ever be forced to endure, Falcio Val Mond continues to hold true to his king’s plan: put Aline, the king’s heir, on the throne and restore law and order to Tristia. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong! The nobles, who’ve dominated the kingdom since they dethroned and killed King Paelis, follow their own set of laws. They have no love for the peasantry, and even less for the Greatcoats. It’s no surprise to discover they will stop at nothing to prevent the child who would be queen from taking the throne. To make matters worse, the trio’s longtime nemesis, Trin, has been stirring trouble. Sent to capture and bring her back for trial, Falcio not only uncovers Trin’s next plot, but what happened to the missing Greatcoats he’s been searching for, and they’ve got plans of their own.

As powers collide, the fallout is enough to destroy a kingdom that’s been on the verge of collapse for years. For once, Falcio’s skills as a lawful orator committed to his king’s vision don’t seem as though they’ll be strong enough to hold it all together. As everything he’s worked for crumbles through his hands like so much dust, even Falcio has no idea how in the world he’s going to save Tristia this time.

As far as final installments go, this was an incredibly satisfying read. Adventure, swashbuckling, justice, hardship, and joy… I used half a box of tissues during the last half of the book, but I used them gladly. Tragic, beautiful, gripping… I was sad to see the adventures of my three favorite Greatcoats come to an end, but a part of me is hopeful we haven’t seen the last of Falcio, Kest, and Brasti.

Five out of five stars, I highly recommend this entire series to lovers of adventure, fantasy, and outstanding storytelling!

If you’re interested in my thoughts on the overall series, check out my reviews of the first three books here:

Traitor’s Blade

Knight’s Shadow

Saint’s Blood

I’m a Monster

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It has been nearly a year since my last post. No book reviews, no clever memes, no updates on ongoing projects. Nothing. Silence. Maybe you wonder why. Maybe you didn’t even notice. Either way, I’m here today to talk about the void that has become my life these last eighteen or so months.

The last thing I wrote and published was Boys Don’t Cry, a new adult romance novel I released in September 2015. That novel was the last novel I finished. All other projects, save for the occasional short story, have come to a standstill. Much of the time my many ongoing projects simply stare at me when I open their files, cursor blinking in cold accusation, and the worst part is I’m not even sure why.

It feels like something strange happened to my mind, something I don’t even know how to put into words. Brain fog? Creativity parasite? That is terrifying because putting things into words has always sort of been my… well… thing. If I’m angry with you, the best way for me to express those feelings has always been to write them down. If I’m happy, my jubilance is best expressed in writing. Depression, torment, elation, excitement… it has always been my greatest joy to put such emotions to paper, just as I have always been happiest writing stories and poems. For decades, I pumped out so many words, both meaningless and meaningful. Short stories, poems, novels, essays, papers…

Now, I feel as though I have no words at all. It’s taking just about everything I have inside me to write this blog post, and I’m already judging every single word so hard I’ve considered hitting delete at least nine times since I started writing it.

Where did the words go? Why can’t I make them come out anymore? Have they abandoned me? Am I being melodramatic? Considering how much of my life revolves around words, this is a distressing turn of events, and it feels incredibly dramatic to me… especially as it’s gone on so long. The simple things don’t seem to be working at all. Just sitting down and letting the words flow doesn’t seem to work. Plotting and planning don’t seem to help. I sit down and attempt to write something every single day, but words elude me. It’s not just a matter of judging the words I’ve written, it’s an issue of no words actually getting on the screen/paper. Struggling with the order in which they should arrive sometimes when they do actually attempt to come out.

Is it some kind of mental issue? Depression? Melancholia? Late-life attention deficit disorder.

I don’t know the answer, but I feel like I’m drowning. I feel like… a monster, or rather a ghost of who I used to be when words made sense.