June 2020 in Retrospect

This past month sure has been a month, hasn’t it? I know I haven’t talked much about it on the blog, but… June has been a bit of a hellish month for me. I’ve been experiencing chronic pain for years, but due to my lousy experiences with medical professionals, I’ve largely just been dealing with it as best I could on my own. But nearly a month ago now, I hit the point where I just can’t do that anymore.

My pain has gotten worse, and I still don’t know why it’s even happening, let alone why it’s now worse than it used to be. It’s affecting my ability to sleep, so lately I’ve just been grabbing a few hours here and there as best I can, on the crappy too-short couch at night (I toss too much to make it worth attempting to sleep in bed with my partner, and not being on any particular sleep schedule doesn’t help that), and in bed during the day, when my partner is busy or at work. Brain fog is making it hard to do anything. I have ongoing muscle weakness that makes it difficult to walk or stand some days. I am, to put it mildly, a fucking mess right now. I’m waiting for an appointment with a rheumatologist, and I’m just hoping that when I see one, I get some answers and a treatment plan and can get bits of my life back.

This is the point where I do the awkward uncomfortable thing and plug the fact that I have a Ko-Fi account, and I’m trying to save up enough to get a new computer chair that won’t make my back and hip pain even worse and isn’t falling apart, so if you have a few spare bucks and like what I do here and want to help out, let’s just say I’m not going to refuse, and I’m going to be ridiculously appreciative.

Also let’s just say that I hope you all had a better June than I did!

But enough of that. Let’s take a look at the few things I managed to accomplish here this past month!

Reviews

Ormeshadow, by Priya Sharma
Or What You Will, by Jo Walton
Of Dragons, Feasts and Murders, by Aliette de Bodard
Silver Phoenix, by Cindy Pon

I didn’t realize that nearly all of the titles I reviewed this month began with the letter O…

I wrote a fun post about all the delightful books I was able to get for my birthday, and I wrote I less fun post about the utter shitstorm of harassment reports rocking the SFF book community, and how, combined with a similar shitstorm in the video game community, I’m starting to wonder if any hobby is actually safe, or worth the risk to be involved in.

I also finished the video series telling the story of the PS1 classic RPG, Chrono Cross (sequel to Chrono Trigger), if anyone’s interested in learning what happens in the game but doesn’t have the 40+ hours to sink into playing it right now.

Upcoming in July

Honestly, at this point, I’m kind of just working on coping and doing the best I can. I want to get out the usual 4-5 reviews, but I can’t guarantee anything, so let’s just say that content is upcoming, and the future will determine what exactly that content even is.

Stay safe and happy, my friends, as best you can, and I hope the future looks brighter for us all.

No More Heroes

It has been a rough fucking week for the SFF book community.

Twitter has been an absolute dumpster fire these past few days. Accusations of sexual misconduct against author Myke Cole, which prompted him to do nothing more than to repost an apology he made in 2018 for similar allegations, not even bothering to make a fresh apology for fresh accusations. Author Sam Sykes also getting accused of sexual misconduct. The discovery that both Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon have said some incredibly transphobic things. Mark Lawrence, the guy instrumental in starting the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off that has helped so many self-published authors find a larger audience, encouraging fans to harass an author who criticized the portrayal of sexual assault in fiction. And that’s just what I’ve seen this past week!

To say nothing of the news of other authors doing similar things to people. I don’t know any of those authors well enough to speak on the subjects, but… sweet holy fuck, I am just so blown away. And exhausted.

Mostly exhausted.

I’m not stranger to discovering that people I once admired have some terrible things, but to be completely honest, there’s only so much of that a person can take before they start to wonder if there’s a point in even liking anything anymore. It sounds hyperbolic, but it’s legitimately how I feel. I can’t tell who is safe to like, who is safe to associate with, who won’t betray me and others down the line when the inevitable revelation comes out that they’ve been little shits the entire time, but were just able to hide it or pressure people into silence for longer than others. I’m seeing the dirty side of so many people whose work I’ve admired and promoted in the past, people whose work has inspired me to want to create wonderful things of my own, and every time it happens, I feel increasingly like there is no safe space to be creative, to try, to enjoy things, because chances are you’re surrounded by people who are privately mocking you for being queer, sexualizing you for being a woman, and ignoring you for not being white.

Rarely on the surface. Not until the shield slips and somebody sees just a little too much and then all the pieces fall into place. The odd comments. The things you overlooked, handwaved as just being “that person being a little weird.” The stories come out, again and again, and you start to think to yourself, “Is anywhere actually safe? Can I even enjoy this hobby without fear that I’m enabling someone else’s bigoted power trip?”

People make mistakes. People learn. But the thing of it is, a lot of these people have had plenty of opportunities to learn, have associated with people who have openly talked about problems in the industry, problems they’ve faced with representation or fair treatment, people who would likely cheerfully give further education to those asking in good faith… and it seems, again, like all of these opportunities have been overlooked, ignored, and the perpetrators of injustice stand there begging for people to give them a second chance, swearing they’ll do better, they’ll try harder, they’ll be stronger allies next time.

You had your chance. You had lots of chances. You have so many opportunities to not do the things you did, to understand why those things were wrong… and you did them anyway.

Why should you be given another chance? Why should people trust you to do better next time when you had so many chances to do better last time, and just didn’t.

Some people do change and improve. I’d love to be able to say that the current batch of accusations, of truth being outed, will lead to a safer and more understanding community.

But the horrible reality is that all it’s done is highlight just how safe it never was, to convince people that it’s not worth it to put their safety on the line, and to crowd out people who might have thrived, were it not for abusers and the risks they pose.

youkillhope

It’s at the point where I’m just hoping that somebody makes a list of safe authors, because right now, I can’t fucking tell who’s safe. People I once thought were safe, were decent, were maybe even friends, aren’t. Weren’t.

And I can’t, in good conscience, keep supporting them.

Arguments always get made for separating the art from the artist. And to a degree, I agree with that sentiment. But only insofar as it means that, say, an author who writes about a rapist isn’t necessarily condoning rape, anymore than an author who writes about a thief is condoning stealing. Authors don’t necessarily share the mindsets of their characters. Hell, just look to Orson Scott Card for a great example of that one. Speaker for the Dead‘s moral lesson was that you can’t judge one culture by another culture’s standards, because everyone has different ways and reasons for doing what they do, and we have to understand that before we pass any judgment. Great lesson. Card, on the other hand, has long worn his homophobia on his sleeve, calling gay people degenerates, pedophiles, the victims of pedophiles. Apparently his own story failed to make much impact on him, since I don’t see a whole lot of, “Don’t judge, because you don’t necessarily understand the truth of the matter,” going on here.

But I can’t stretch that mentality to continuing to read and review and enjoy an author’s books when I know that author has done terrible things, because every book I buy is a royalty payment, or one step closer to a royalty payment. Every review is publicity. It doesn’t matter how much I enjoy a story when I know that the mind who wrote that story is also a mind that thinks harassing or abusing is justified.

I don’t know who’s safe anymore. And every one of you that has been named in this post, every single fucking one of you, has contributed to that.

As I said, I’m no stranger to this sort of disappointment in people. When I first wanted to get into making videos on YouTube, I was heavily inspired by JonTron. Then came the news that he was a racist douchnozzle. I was later inspired by the work of ProJared, who legitimately seemed like a feminist ally, one of the good ones. Until word spread that he cheated on his wife, lied about their open-relationship status, and eventually claimed that it wasn’t cheating because the husband of the woman he cheated with was okay with it. (No comment on the accusations that he exchanged sexual messages with minors, because when last I checked, a lot of that stuff turned out to be without evidence. Also no comment on his ex-wife’s role in the subsequent divorce, because everyone may have flaws but that still doesn’t excuse what Jared did.)  The gaming community has been rocked by racist and sexist scandal after racist and sexist scandal these past few weeks too. Enough disappointments have come from people whose work I was inspired by that I am already afraid for other creators I enjoy, because with the way all this shit is going, they’ll all turn out to be abusers and bigots too. This sort of thing can only happen so many times before you start to doubt yourself, doubt your own judgment and taste, and you wonder if there’s even any point to continuing with the things you love, because, as I’ve repeatedly stated, nowhere feels safe.

Not the places you go. Not the people you associate with.

I can’t blame people for thinking that the only way to keep themselves safe is to back away from everything and to not bother anymore. Time and again, that’s what communities are demonstrating. That’s the message that the marginalized get, over and over and fucking over again.

There are no more heroes.

You can’t trust anybody.

This is the world you have fostered.

Belated Birthday Book Haul!

I know my birthday was technically over a week ago, but I’ve been messed up for a variety of reasons and forgot to post the fantastic book haul that I was able to get my grubby bibliophile hands on!

Written in RedMurder of CrowsVision in Silver
Marked In FleshEtched in BoneLake Silence

Now yes, I have read every single one of these books before, but they were all library books I borrowed while I was on PEI, and since I enjoyed them so much, and really want copies of my own. Similar to Bishop’s Black Jewels novels, these are comfort reads for me (one of these days I’ll probably go into details as to why, because knowing me, you’d think that novels about predators and gender essentialism and a whole load of traumatic events would not be my cup of tea, but… it’s complicated.)

Also I didn’t order a copy of Wild Country, the 2nd spin-off novel, because I got a copy for review a while ago, and while it was okay, it was the one with the lowest priority on my wishlist. I can wait a while to complete the collection, so long as I have the books I enjoy more.

But more than that, I was gifted with some surprise book money from two good friends, so the book haul got to grow even larger!

Silver PhoenixThe Darkest Part of the ForestColdest Girl in Coldtown

I’ve started reading Silver Phoenix and I’m really enjoying it, so that’s off to a good start!

I am so happy to be buried in books right now. :3 I spent so many years not getting books as gifts, not because people thought I didn’t read (seriously, have you even met me?) but because most people around me knew I reviewed and knew I got review copies and either didn’t know what to get me that I might not already have, or just judged it “not worth it” to buy me more books because I already had books, what did I need more for?

The answer to that is, of course, that there are always books that I want. Some I have as ebooks that I’d love physical copies of. Some I’ve read because I got them from the library and would love to read them again, at my leisure. Many books I would love are ones I don’t get as review copies, so I don’t have them, haven’t read them, and want to read them. Book are always a good gift! XD

Oh, and also anything to do with this guy:

velvet

I have an absolute crush on Adam Lambert, his music makes me happy, and so his latest CD was also part of the birthday haul.

Turning 36 may have happened during the year of the apocalypse, but I can’t say that the little things in life don’t still bring me some joy.

May 2020 in Retrospect

Hey friends, how are you all doing? Are you staying safe? Are you anxious about things opening back up? I most most of my readers live in places where the coronavirus pandemic is still raging and yet businesses are expected to open up again and employees return to work, and that seems like a deeply anxiety-causing problem.

My partner has returned to doing on-campus work. Any lab-oriented class is done on campus where the pure didactic stuff is still taught via online classes, in an effort to keep contact to a minimum. This brings with it its own problems, like having to be on campus to lead labs and then get home in half an hour to teach the afternoon’s classes, which would likely be far less of a problem if we owned a car.

But we manage, even if it’s difficult.

Anyway, on to the usual monthly recap of what was done on the blog!

Reviews

The Hills Have Spies, by Mercedes Lackey
Eye Spy, by Mercedes Lackey
Spy, Spy Again, by Mercedes Lackey
Finna, by Nino Cipri
Flame in the Mist, by Renee Ahdieh

As you can see, I finally caught up with all the Valdemar novels by starting and finishing the Family Spies trilogy, so I can check that off my list. Combine that with another YA novel and a novella, and that makes 5 titles reviewed this past month. Not my best by a long shot, but also on par for what I expect to do from here on, since I’m balancing reviewing with other projects.

I also wrote a less bookish post about a case in 2015 where a woman tried to sue all gay people, and the fantastically bullshit way she went about it. I feel like if people want to get to know me and how I think and what I stand for, that post is probably a good place to start.

Upcoming in June

Honestly, I don’t have any particular plans for June. Keep reading and reviewing, basically. Likely I’ll end up thinking of other things to write about in the meantime, but I don’t have anything particular in mind, and I’m not going to attempt to force myself to become a content mill. There are 3 reviews I know I’m going to write, 2 more books that I plan to read and likely will end up being able to review next month, but if I only end up posting 4 reviews, that’s fine too. A book a week is nothing to sneeze at, really.

I hope everyone’s June is better than everyone’s May. Whether you had a lousy May or a good May, I wish that the coming month will keep improving for you all.

April 2020 in Retrospect

I feel like April returned to moving about as fast as months are supposed to. Unlike March, which felt like it took an entire year. I guess that means I’ve settled into the new normal that is this pandemic situation, at least to a degree. I’m settling into routines, at any rate.

Whether that’s good or bad…

I did at least get some good reading and reviewing done this past month. Let’s take a look.

Reviews

Of Honey and Wildfires, by Sarah Chorn
One Word Kill, by Mark Lawrence
Kings of the Wyld, by Nicholas Eames
Turning Darkness Into Light, by Marie Brennan

I participated in a blog tour for a book-inspired music album, the Bookshelf Symphony Orchestra, which I recommend people check out if they haven’t already. Sarah Chorn also shared a wonderful guest post about the LGBTQ+ history of the American Wild West, which is long but also a great read!

I wanted to do more this past month, but eh, I blame a sinus infection for slowing down multiple projects. Also working on a video talking about the story of Chrono Cross, so if you’re into JRPGs or just really cool stories in video games, it’d be awesome if you took a look at the video, even if it’s only 1/3 of the story so far.

Upcoming in May

I do want to get back to the Deep Dive posts for Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels novels. I wanted to start them again this past month, but eh, you can see how well that turned out.

I have an article in mind about mid-grade novels and what kids can handle in their reading.

I know I’ll have at least 3 reviews, though I’m still aiming for 4-5. I have so many review copies I need to catch up on, and I’m trying to get through more of them even if they’re not upcoming books or even books from this year, because I have reviewer guilt over not having dealt with more of them. I’m trying to arrange my list of review copies to make it easier to get through more of them, depending on the time I have available, so hopefully that extra work now will lead to less guilt later.

I’ll also be working on more videos, which I’ll link to as well, just in case anyone’s interested in that side of my life.

Anyway, that’s pretty much all I have to say for the moment. I hope your past month hasn’t been too terrible, and I hope that quarantine restrictions lift for people soon. Assuming lifting them makes medical sense, that is. The province I’m in is starting to roll out a return-to-normalcy plan, and we’ve had almost 2 weeks of no confirmed COVID-19 cases, and I am very well aware that we are freaking lucky in that regard. New Brunswick acted fast and locked things down quickly, and it seems to have paid off. I wish other provinces, other countries, could have had the same luck we did here.

Take care, my bookish buddies!

March 2020 in Retrospect

What a year this past month has been! I mean, just… I don’t think there are any words to succinctly describe the way the world has fallen to shit since the beginning of the year, but especially this past month. It boggles the mind.

If any visitors from the far-future are reading this by extra-dimensional historical hyperInternet, then look up COVID-19. That’ll tell you what you need to know.

But as much as life has been thrown into utter turmoil by the novel coronavirus pandemic, it also goes on much as it always does. Filled with books, and the community spirit of those who love books. So with that, and the hope of a sense of normalcy in mind, let’s go over what happened on the blog this past month.

Reviews
Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear
Shattered Pillars, by Elizabeth Bear
The Queen’s Bargain, by Anne Bishop
The Immortals, by Jordanna Max Brodsky
I Still Dream, by James Smythe

I also wrote about why I have to be concerned about the COVID-19 outbreak, though what boggles my mind is that I wrote this piece mid-month, when many people were only just starting to take it seriously, and now only a few short weeks later the vast majority of the world is going through hell from this virus. I wrote that before my province had declared a State of Emergency and forced non-essentially businesses to close. We only had 7 cases, not the 68 we currently do. It seems like a completely different time.

Again, what a year this month has been!

I did also review the new Miss Fisher movie, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears!

Is This Real Life?

Things are a bit odd at home at the moment, with my partner now teaching lab science classes from home because the college has been temporarily shut down. Again, pandemic. So we’re trying to figure out new ways of doing things so that we can both work in the limited space that we have. It’s a work in progress. We’re slowly getting things figured out, though some adjustments have definitely been made.

Otherwise, we’re both doing well. We have plenty of food and supplies, due to the fact that limited modes of transportation result in us doing one massive grocery shop about once a month, rather than smaller ones every week or do. We were well stocked before things started shutting down, and we’re not running low on anything we can’t get.

The province we live in declared a State of Emergency last week and all non-essential businesses were required to close. We’re not quite under the “shelter in place” restrictions that some places are doing, but it’s close enough. We don’t go out unless we have to, except for short walks, during which we avoid coming into contact with other people as much as possible. My partner is kind of paranoid about contracting COVID-19, mostly because I’ve got crappy lungs and other assorted health problems (not like my partner doesn’t, but for some reason I seem to be the primary concern *shrug*), so we’re doing everything we can to stay safe and healthy.

I was originally scheduled to return to the UK to visit my family for the first 3 weeks in April, but for obvious reasons, that plan got cancelled. I’m still planning to go, probably in early autumn, and hopefully by then the pandemic has stopped raging so badly. It’s stressful, though, since all of my relatively are there. Except my dad, who is a long-haul trucker. But my gran is 85 years old, and I’m absolutely terrified that she’s going to pass away before I get the chance to see her again, and also that this might happen and I might not even get the chance to attend a funeral because international travel is a no-go. Right now, I’m living in a horrible state of uncertainty about whether I’m going to be able to see loved ones ever again, and frankly, that’s a feeling I could do without.

Upcoming in April

I want to get back to doing those deep-dive posts I started a while ago for Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels series. I was doing an in-depth examination of the novels, chapter by chapter, and it was time-consuming but fun, and so I do want to start doing that again.

I’m also aiming for 3-4 more book reviews, because book reviews are love. Support your favourite authors by talking about how awesome their books are, y’all!

So how was your March? Are you safe? Do you have what you need? Are you okay? Please remember that it’s okay to not be okay, and that it’s okay to mourn the loss of the lives we got so used to before all of this happened.

Please take care of yourselves, and hopefully we’ll all be here to recap the end of next month too.

February 2020 in Retrospect

I deemed February to be Manga Month, where I caught up on a few manga titles that had been languishing in my To Read pile for what felt like forever.

Reviews
Dekoboko Sugar Days, by Yusen Atsuko
RePlay, by Tsukahara Saki
The Fox and the Little Tanuki, vol 1, by Tagawa Mi
My Hero Academia, vol 1, by Horikoshi Kohei

I also wrote a piece talking about what I thought of the first 4 Alien movies, which I recently watched for the first time. Spoilers: I didn’t like the 3rd and 4th movies for a lot of reasons, but I’m given to understand that a lot of people feel the same way, so…

I did intend to read more manga during this month, but I actually ended up dedicating more time to working on making videos, which I’m also going to link to because I”m pretty freaking proud of them. Many of you reading this may know that I’ve started doing video game reviews on YouTube, but this month I started a project I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, which I call RPG Recap. In a nutshell, I want to be able to bring the stories of many of my favourite RPGs to people who don’t enjoy video games as a medium, or who don’t have time or ability to play through the entire games themselves (or watch someone do an entire Let’s Play series) but who still want to know what happens in the story. I really enjoy story-driven games, and many of my friends are more into books than video games, and I can’t help but feel there are a lot of stories they might appreciate even if they don’t appreciate the games specifically.

So this month, I recapped the entirety of the story of Final Fantasy V. I had to do it in 2 parts (Part 1, Part 2), each part roughly half an hour long.

If this is the sort of thing that might interest you, feel free to check out the first game covered in the RPG Recap series, or subscribe because I have so many more recap episode planned for the future and I’m really looking forward to being able to open up the stories of these games to a wider audience!

Upcoming in March

March will see a return to regular book reviews, as I still have a few of those on the back burner, plus whatever else I read in the meantime. Reviews won’t come as heavily as they did in January, but I’ve still got plenty of books to read to keep me going, and I look forward to sharing those with you as well. No special theme, just some good solid SFF happiness.

Happy reading!

January 2020 in Retrospect

What can I say about this past month? I mean, I decided to get back into doing book reviews here, so that’s a thing. Still in the process of rewriting and posting some of the shorter reviews I posted elsewhere while I was going, but I’m catching up, and it’s helping me remember why I loved doing this blog in the first place.

So, what did I accomplish here over January? Let’s take a look.

Book reviews
The Rage of Dragons, by Evan Winter
The Walled City, by Ryan Graudin
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, by Mackenzi Lee
The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, by Mackenzi Lee
The Lady Rogue, by Jenn Bennett
Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire
The Night Tiger, by Yangsze Choo
Hunter, by Mercedes Lackey

I posted a list of all the books I’d read in 2019, which looks impressive-ish if you ignore that there are a few children’s titles on there that I read for nostalgia’s sake. I also reviewed the terrible J-horror movie, Sadako vs Kayako.

Upcoming in February

I’ve decided that February is going to be the Month of Manga, so expect pretty much exclusively manga reviews. I know that won’t interest everyone, but I’m honestly using it as an excuse to go through a lot of my manga backlog, which is extensive and daunting. Even if I only review 2 volumes a week, that will cut down the backlog by 8 titles, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

I know there’s at least one more movie I’d like to review, so stay tuned for commentary on a truly weird and obscure piece of J-horror I came across not too long ago. (Ectoplasmic worms, anyone?)

How did your 2020 start? Well, I hope. I hope it was a good and productive month, full of enjoyable things and progress in your life. And I hope that trend continues as the year moves on.

The Lady Rogue, by Jenn Bennett

Buy from Amazon.com or B&N

Author’s website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – September 3, 2019

Summary: Traveling with her treasure-hunting father has always been a dream for Theodora. She’s read every book in his library, has an impressive knowledge of the world’s most sought-after relics, and has all the ambition in the world. What she doesn’t have is her father’s permission. That honor goes to her father’s nineteen-year-old protégé—and once-upon-a-time love of Theodora’s life—Huck Gallagher, while Theodora is left to sit alone in her hotel in Istanbul.

Until Huck arrives from an expedition without her father and enlists Theodora’s help in rescuing him. Armed with her father’s travel journal, the reluctant duo learns that her father had been digging up information on a legendary and magical ring that once belonged to Vlad the Impaler — more widely known as Dracula — and that it just might be the key to finding him.

Journeying into Romania, Theodora and Huck embark on a captivating adventure through Gothic villages and dark castles in the misty Carpathian Mountains to recover the notorious ring. But they aren’t the only ones who are searching for it. A secretive and dangerous occult society with a powerful link to Vlad the Impaler himself is hunting for it, too. And they will go to any lengths—including murder—to possess it.

Thoughts: When I first heard this book described as something that fans of A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue would enjoy, my attention was caught. Despite me having problems with it’s sequel, I really enjoyed Gentleman’s Guide, and the idea of a book in that vein but with the legend because Vlad the Impaler thrown in, The Lady Rogue sounded like something I would similarly enjoy.

And it wasn’t bad, really. It just wasn’t something I was able to get into as much as I had hoped.

The Lady Rogue is primarily told from the perspective of Theodora, daughter of a wealthy adventurer who is frequently left behind in the care of tutors and caretakers while her father travels the world on grand adventures, seeking lost artifacts and mysteries. Suddenly reunited with her previous boyfriend, who was supposed to be traveling with Theodora’s father, she finds herself caught up in an adventure of her own as she not only attempts to track down her missing father, but also a lost ring connected to Dracula’s legacy and the dark power that runs through her veins.

In between many of the chapters are short interludes from her father’s journal, where we see the entries dated in the late 1930s. I will be completely honest here — I spent a good amount of the novel thinking that the reason Theodora’s father was missing was because he had somehow traveled back in time. I came to this erroneous conclusion because none of Theodora and Huck’s sections were dated, and they both talked as though they were far closer to today than to almost 80 years ago. Almost nothing was given to indicate the time they existed in, and I based my cues on their behaviour and speech, and it wasn’t until I noticed that I wasn’t seeing any indication that time travel was actually going to be a plot element that I had to look up when the entire book took place.

Now yes, there are some things that do indeed indicate the time period, but I think many of them, to a reader less inclined to look things up, might just assume that they could be explained away by east Europe being, well, not North America. Of course rural European settings would use small mail delivery planes. Of course people would take trains and buses rather than going by car. That’s just how it’s done over there.

It didn’t help that I found two instances (at least, two that stand out in my mind) of characters using slang that is entirely inappropriate for the time period. At one point, Theodora is telling her father off, and comments that, “FYI, [thing].” Now, FYI as an abbreviation for “for your information” did certainly exist in the 1930s, but primarily in a journalistic sense, from what my research has led me to conclude. You would see it in marginalia and in newspaper corrections, that sort of thing. It’s hardly something you would have heard many people say aloud as though they were 90s teens.

The second instance that comes to mind is Huck saying toward the end that he was getting “hangry,” and no, I’m sorry, but that portmanteau gained popularity in the 90s, even if it was used as far back as the 50s, and neither of those decades are the 30s.

Now, I admit that I read an ARC of this book, and those issues might not be in the final release, so I admit that those particular problems might not even be problems in the version that most people will read. However, that doesn’t eliminate any of my commentary on why I was confused about the time period of the book. Neither Theo nor Huck talked or behaved as though they came from any time period but “timeless modern,” and considering this book is meant to be historical fiction with a touch of the supernatural to it, so much felt so out of place for so long.

I did, admittedly, enjoy the story of The Lady Rogue, when I was getting distracted by how anachronistic many of the characters acted. The mystery of Theodora’s father’s disappearance powered most of the book, though along the way, as they made their way from Istanbul to various Romanian cities and towns, the subplot of the ring slowly overtook all else. Theodora’s father was initially searching for the ring, on the premise that 3 identical rings were made but only 1 was real, and supposedly connected to dark magics that gave the wearer great power but also brought death and ruin down around them. In this, I can see how the comparison to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue were made; both are historical fiction, and both feature a possibly-magical item as a motivation for the characters to progress through the story. Whether that item is actually magical or not is irrelevant; what matters is that people believe it to be, and act accordingly.

The ring was magical (the rest of the legend surrounding it wasn’t quite accurate, though I’ll refrain from giving too many details so that at least something in this book isn’t spoiled for future readers), though it really only proved itself to be at the very end. There were signs building up to it, signs which certainly convinced Theodora even if they didn’t quite convince Huck, but similar to Gentleman’s Guide, the magic itself wasn’t what compelled people. It was the belief in the magic, the legends themselves that made people seek it out, committing sometimes terrible acts in the name of legends and folklore, and I find that sort of thing fascinating. It interests me, to see what people will do in the pursuit of perceived power, what they might be motivated to do to get closer to something they only believe is the truth but don’t have definitive proof of. It’s a testament to the power of myth and belief, and I’m glad to have seen this appear in multiple novels over the past few years.

Unlike Gentleman’s Guide, however, there was no queer element to this story at all. It shares the same element of historical adventure with a supernatural element, but that’s where the similarities end, and I know many people enjoyed Gentleman’s Guide because it was all that and more, a good piece of queer representation. Readers looking for something similar in The Lady Rogue are only going to find superficial resemblance, I think.

The Lady Rogue is certainly an adventure, with a few interesting mysteries that the characters must solve along the way, usually employing a bit of cryptography and sleuthing. The characters are decently developed, though I admit that if you asked me to describe them outside of the context of the story within this book, I’m not sure they’d be that recognizable. Theodora is hot-tempered, intelligent, and in many ways spoiled. Huck is… Irish, and Theodora’s ex-boyfriend-but-it’s-complicated. Theodora’s father is… I don’t know here. An adventurer. Selfish and thoughtless. That’s about it. But within the context of the novel itself, they are distinct from each other when it comes to tone, dialogue, behaviour, and so it wasn’t difficult to tell who was doing or say what if you picked a random line in the middle of a random page.

But on the whole, I didn’t close out The Lady Rogue with many positive feelings toward it. Not many negative, either, for what it’s worth. I had an awkward start with it due to the anachronistic issues I mentioned earlier, but I enjoyed the mystery of the ring well enough, and I think the two sort of cancel each other out, leaving me with a rather neutral impression overall. I don’t think this is one I will ever get the urge to reread, and I think I can feel confident in recommending it to those who enjoy YA historical fiction with a bit of a twist, but that’s likely a fairly niche group, and I’m not sure it has much appeal beyond that. It wasn’t bad, but it’s not one I’d recommend going out of your way to read.

(Book received in exchange for an honest review.)

Looking Back and Forward (2018-2019)

2018 was… a year. It had a number of ups and downs, and honestly, the downs were large enough to leave a very bitter taste in my mouth about the year as a whole. (For a general summary of the massive upheaval I had to deal with this summer, read this post.) I did start reviewing again, which is something, and I have my health, such as it is, but honestly, as far as I’m concerned, I want to put 2018 behind me and try to move forward. I lost a lot this past year, and I’d like to spend 2019 improving rather than trying to barely keep my head above water.

I mean come on, for the first time in years, I couldn’t even manage to achieve my reading goals. And I set fairly reasonable ones. A book a week. 52 books. I just barely made it to 49.

But that was still 49 books, which is better than no books at all, so I thought I’d take a minute to do a quick accounting books (along with links to any reviews I’ve written for them, even if I didn’t write them in 2018).

Read in 2018

Marked in Flesh, by Anne Bishop
Etched in Bone, by Anne Bishop
Daughter of the Blood, by Anne Bishop
Heir to the Shadows, by Anne Bishop
Queen of the Darkness, by Anne Bishop
The Invisible Ring, by Anne Bishop
Dreams Made Flesh, by Anne Bishop
Tangled Webs, by Anne Bishop
The Shadow Queen, by Anne Bishop
Shalador’s Lady, by Anne Bishop
Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
Autoboyography, by Christina Lauren
Owlknight, by Mercedes Lackey
Exile’s Honor, by Mercedes Lackey
Exile’s Valor, by Mercedes Lackey
Vampire’s Kiss, by Sonny Barker
Among Others, by Jo Walton
Starlings, by Jo Walton
A Darker Shade of Magic, by V E Schwab
A Gathering of Shadows, by V E Schwab
United States of Japan, by Peter Tieryas
The Whitefire Crossing, by Courtney Schafer
First Nations in the Twenty-First Century, by James S Frideres
Lady Henterman’s Wardrobe, by Marshall Ryan Maresca
I Hear the Sunspot, volume 1, by Fumino Yuki
The Girl With Ghost Eyes, by M H Boroson
Japanland, by Karin Muller
Wake of Vultures, by Lila Bowen
Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
My Brother’s Husband, by Tagame Gengoroh
Shards and Ashes, by various authors
My Real Name is Hanna, by Tara Lynn Masih
Roses and Rot, by Kat Howard
Head On, by John Scalzi
Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
Invitation to the Game, by Monica Hughes
The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman
The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass, by Philip Pullman
The Story of Buddha: A Graphic Biography, by Ota Hisashi
Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin
Son of Rosemary, by Ira Levin
The Gathering Storm, by Robin Bridges
In the Vanishers’ Palace, by Aliette de Bodard
City of Brass, by S  A Chakraborty
The Radium Girls, by Kate Moore
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
The Copper Promise, by Jen Williams
Jade City, by Fonda Lee

Yeah, I read a lot of Anne Bishop last year. And a lot of comfort rereads. Like I said, 2018 was a year. Some of the books that haven’t been reviewed yet will be reviewed in the future, too, so keep an eye out for them.

So what about this coming year? What do I want to do for Bibliotropic in 2019?

I’ve set my reading goals at another 52 books, 1 per week, and with luck I’ll actually be able to manage that this time. Fingers crossed, anyway.

I plan to continue the deep dive posts for Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels novels, the in-depth chapter-by-chapter look at a series that has become more comforting to me than I ever would have expected, and that I think is a sorely underappreciated dark fantasy series. Especially once you get past the sheer trauma of the first novel, anyway.

There are some books that I’d like to re-review, too. Opinions and tastes change over time, as do critique skills, and honestly, some of my early reviews are sheer crap. Some I don’t link to on my Reviews page, and others I removed from the blog entirely. There are some books, though, that I think could stand a fresh look, and a new review written for them, and I’m looking forward to taking that step back in order to look at some old things with more experienced eyes.

Really, that’s about it. 3 projects, and 1 of those projects is just continuing to run this blog and write reviews for it. Given that I’ve still been dealing with mental and physical health problems, I think that’s enough to be dealing with right now. Maybe things will improve in the future and I’ll take on more projects, maybe not. But at the moment, those are my plans for the upcoming year, and I’m looking forward to making blogging and review a more active part of my life once again.

Thank you for your patience while I sort out the muddled mess that is my life, and for your continued support. It means a lot. I’ll stand by all of you, too, in the days ahead.