Curse of the Blue Tattoo, by L. A. Meyer

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Yup! This one is pretty good too!

It’s almost a different genre though. Where the first book (*very mild genre spoilers*) was largely historical fiction and adventure, with a dash of romance towards the end, this one is more of a school social drama (still historical fiction), complicated by romance and a dash of adventure (*end spoilers*).

I’d say it’s still worth reading, but if you were only here for the sailing ships I’m afraid you’ll be rather disappointed. On the other hand, there were a few ships on the side as set dressing and I’m sure there will be more ships in the next book. And, of course, it’s still tremendous fun.

However! I should note that there’s some sexual harassment featured in this one, more so than in the last. The first book had a little, which ultimately ends rather poorly for the abuser (thank goodness). This one has more, at lower intensity for the vast majority, in other situations. I don’t think it’s been too much so far, but I’m not sure that I like this as a pattern.

On the one hand, sure, it makes sense to include some of this. I’m more willing to accept it in part because it doesn’t overshadow Jacky in any way, and her reactions to it feel quite real. It makes it clear how uncomfortable and unwanted that behavior is, and how confusing and difficult it can be to react to receiving it. If nothing else, it might be a decent learning experience for young not-female readers, where they can come away from it thinking “oh, that’s fucked up, we shouldn’t do things like that.” But on the other hand, I don’t want to keep reading about sexual harassment and assault in every Jacky Faber book. If that is an underlying theme of the series… well, I’d really rather that it weren’t.

This hasn’t been a terrible sticking point for me so far. But it might become one, and it may already be one for you. Forewarned is forearmed, etc.

And again, I still like this one and I’m planning to read the next book damn soon. So it obviously hasn’t stopped me yet.

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Bloody Jack, by L. A. Meyer

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Publisher’s Weekly certainly isn’t wrong. I’ll warn you though, some of the other covers for this series are bizarrely out of keeping with the text and themes. I’m talking about you, weirdly sexualized romance-cover blond girl.

Fortunately, reading this book doesn’t involve long hours of staring at its cover! It’s a fast read, and is excellent historical naval adventure fiction with a female protagonist. I’m not certain what to think of Jack’s characterization at a few points (Jack gets a period, feels emotional, I don’t know whether to say that it’s well or poorly done), but goodness the rest of the book is fun.

Fun. Yes. That’s a good word for this book. It’s wonderfully fun late middle grade / early YA adventure fiction, with just enough in the way of messy emotions near the end to leave it straddling the two camps while still feeling very much like a middle grade adventure story. It puts me in the mood to write more Miska, and also to read the rest of this series. It’s good stuff. I recommend it.

Flora Segunda, by Ysabeau S. Wilce

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I have to say, I rather enjoyed this book. It’s not without its oddities (failings in some cases), but dang. Maybe it’s because I’ve had to read so many other books that I’ve liked less, but I really liked this one.

It’s worth knowing that there’s some real weirdness to what’s going on in the setting, if you spend much time looking at it and trying to explain it in relation to our world. For example, I’m not sure why so many people are described as blond / red-haired, despite apparently being in close contact with a maybe-Aztec country. The geography is almost certainly what we think of as California, but the history certainly isn’t. The truth is, we aren’t told enough about the history of this setting (in this book) for me to be able to say much more. Maybe there’s a good reason for all of this.

All I know is that it felt weird reading about a bunch of people in a magical quasi-California, none of whom seemed to be non-white. It helped when I consciously separated everything from our own world, despite the similarities, but that can’t solve everything.

Setting that aside, I had a good time. Strange and distinct magic, jam-packed with events and adventure and obvious future plot hooks, fun characters, a believable recent history if you’re willing to accept the overall premise… it’s good stuff. Potentially complicated by other factors, but good stuff.

Also, it somehow straddles the weird space between middle grade and young adult in a way that I really appreciated. It’s more or less where I’d like Barium Deep to be, though not in exactly the same way.

MICE: Lady Knights Comics Ride Forth

While I was at MICE (Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo) a little while ago I found two new comics about female knights, both of which seemed worth following and sharing. In the hopes that you too may enjoy these good things, check this out: Hannah Fisher’s Cosmoknights is a gorgeous webcomic and promises lady knights in space upending the patriarchy, and Alyssa Maynard has an excellent short piece called “I Am Not A Knight” which is intended as the opening of a much larger story.

These both look seriously good. I hope you can find and enjoy them. I’ll try to update this with a direct link to “I Am Not A Knight” when I can find one, but until then I suggest that you check out some of Alyssa Maynard’s other rad art.

The True Meaning of Smekday, by Adam Rex

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This book is a quiet piece of genius. It’s hilarious, and far deeper than I had expected it to be. And somehow it delivers on its premise without beating you over the head, even as it makes its commentary abundantly obvious to anyone who’s willing to pay attention. I think I’d be hard pressed to find a middle grade adventure novel that I liked more.

I wouldn’t say it’s the best, because I don’t like committing myself to statements like that, but you’d damn well better do yourself the favor of reading this book.

Rat Queens kicks ass

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Have you got a hankering for classic badass swords & sorcery adventures?  How about a comic full of that, but with four women as the central characters instead of the usual sausagefest?

Rat Queens makes me want to tell epic and gritty fantasy stories like nothing else does.  This is a comic that left me scrawling “RAT QUEENS IS INSPIRATIONAL” on random notes late at night so that I wouldn’t be able to let it pass me by.  And of course somehow I forgot to tell YOU about it.

This is where you should go to order your fix online.  If you have a decent local comic store, you should go there instead!

Holy fuck I love this comic.

Child of a Hidden Sea, by A.M. Dellamonica

Wheee, portal fiction!  When done well, this stuff is great.  I got this book for free somehow, though I can’t remember why.  I’m glad that I did.  It’s quite enjoyable.  I’ve already seen the next book in the series in my local library, and I’m looking forward to getting my hands on it.

I don’t want to spoil the fun for you, but I do want to say a few more words in favor of you reading this book.  It’s got a female protagonist and non-hetero characters, it’s got lots of sailing and boats, and it has a climax that I found very appealing.  Lots of fun.  It’s intrigue and sea-adventure wrapped up in a portal fiction premise.  What’s not to like?

Miska Redux

I’ve been working on my Miska story for class, and as such have more material for you.  Some of it is rewritten old stuff, some of it is new.  I think I’ve done a better job of firming up her voice, and showing off her life.  I hope you enjoy it!

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Writing Exercise: Experimental Miska Piece

In the course of writing an exercise piece for class, I ended up writing what might work as a short scene for my Miska story.  It’s a bit odd, given that I changed narration style, but the core conflict feels right.  I hope you enjoy it!

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The Golden Princess, by S.M. Stirling

It’s been a while since I read any S.M. Stirling, and I picked this one up more on a whim than anything else.  I’d gotten tired of the most recent spate of Change novels, probably because of a disconnect between my expectations and what Stirling was delivering.  I wanted Stirling to write an active story about a smaller group of characters, with palpable progress in the plot achieved in the course of each book.  Stirling did create that progress but it was far slower than I’d hoped for, and he spent more time focused on the milieu of the story rather than advancing the story that I wanted to see resolved.  In fact, after the first trilogy the pace of progress slowed precipitously, until it was almost a crawl.

The Golden Princess doesn’t change that pattern.  What did change was my expectations of what I’d find in reading the book.  And I have to say: reading these books as milieu fiction, as much about the world in which they take place as they are about any of the characters, is far more fun and rewarding than reading them with expectations of tight and fast plot.  Definitely worth starting up the series again.

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