Storm Front by Jim Butcher


Rating: ★★★1/2

This is really a 3.5 star read for me. Harry Dresden is a wizard, and consultant for the police on all things arcane. He’s called in to investigate a double homicide where the victims were murdered with magic. Add to that a Chicago drug/turf war, and things get very sticky for Harry very quickly.

The writing was pretty good. I did catch myself skimming some overly descriptive parts in what felt like the middle of action scenes. It often read to me like a teenage boy’s idea of the best action movie ever featuring magic. This came complete with smokin’ hot babes, bar fights, fiery explosions, and a skid out in a thunder storm in an ’89 trans am. I’m not knocking it. I’ve enjoyed plenty of novels like this before.

I think the disconnect for me came with Harry. He’s not a bad character. He’s flawed. He’s not invincible level powerful. Trying to write this now I’m not even sure I can pinpoint where the disconnect was.

I have read another short story set in Dresden’s world with John Marcone, and I remember liking that Harry much better, so I’m going to chalk it up to this being the first in a series and Butcher maybe still trying to find Harry’s voice. I loved Bob, and Murphy was pretty great.

The magic system was neat, if a little standardized. I loved the potions, talismans, protective circles, third sight, etc. I think Butcher managed to include it all. Not having read many novels involving wizards (no- not even that wizard) I’m not entirely sure what the difference is between a rod and a staff, other than that there is a difference.

I know this is a beloved series for many, so I think I will give book two a shot. I’d recommend this to fans of Urban Fantasy.


Top Ten Tuesday – Authors I’d Like to Meet!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

EDIT: Apparently I’ve grabbed the wrong topic for this week! Sorry guys!

I’m cheating a bit with this one- as I’ve only listed eight authors here.


8. Leigh Bardugo – She wrote the Six of Crows duology, as well as the Grisha Verse trilogy. Truth be told- I wasn’t a huge fan of the Grisha Verse, but I absolutely LOVE Six of Crows. I saw on GoodReads there is a possible third book for this duology, and I hope it’s true!


7. Sebastien de Castell – If you aren’t familiar with de Castell’s work, please pick up book one in either of his quartets: the Greatcoats or Spellslinger.  The Greatcoats was one of my favorite series last year and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a three musketeers style fantasy.  Spellslinger is also wonderful and please don’t be put off by it’s YA label.  I know some love it and some don’t, but I think it is one book that can satisfy both sides.


6. Jo Walton – I only recently started reading Walton this year.  I burned through her Thessaly series and adored every minute of it.  I’m still trying to figure out where I want to go next with her.  I follow her on twitter and really admire the research she did for Thessaly and just her writing in general. (If you have recommendations on where to go next- please comment below!)


5. Karen Moning – Moning ranks as one of my top read authors on GoodReads at 15 novels read.  My mother handed me Darkfever (at least I think it was Darkfever) one day and said “I think you’ll like this.”  I devoured it and every other novel she’d released up until that point.  I still need to read High Voltage, which is #10 in her Fever series.


4. Bernard Cornwell – How could I not want to meet the creator of Uhtred?  I imagine this meeting would go something like this:

Me: “Soo… more Uhtred?”
Him: “Actually I’m working on something new. It’s set during Tudor England!”
Me: “Right.. but when are you putting out more Uhtred?”
Him: “I’m not.”
Me: *big hopeful eyes* “So next year then?  Great! I’ll hold you to it.”

And if you haven’t read The Last Kingdom yet… What are you waiting for?!


3. Michael Crichton – This is sort of embarrassing because I’ve been a fan of his ever since  the Jurassic Park movie was released, but I’ve only read three of his novels: Jurassic Park, The Lost World, and State of Fear. His books are just as good (if not better) than his movies.   Crichton writes absolutely phenomenal female characters.  Sure they’re all bombshells- but they’re bombshells that kick ass.  Not only do they never play damsels in distress, but they generally spend plenty of time time rescuing the men. (Sarah Harding carried Dr. Malcolm out of that trailer hanging off a cliff in The Lost World, not the other way around, thank you very much.)


2. Ada Palmer – Did you all read the Hugo nominated Too Like the Lightning last year? I know that this book is not for everyone.  It’s a really difficult book. Had I not read it with a group of really amazing and brilliant people, I don’t know that I would have loved it as much as I did.  It was unlike anything I’d ever read and yet still somehow feels like a real place.  I would absolutely love the opportunity to discuss Terra Ignota and the world of with Palmer someday.  Preferably after multiple re-reads of the whole series. As an alternative, I wouldn’t mind sitting in on one of her philosophy classes at Harvard either.


1. Stephen King – So Stephen King ranks as the author I’ve read more than any other at 23 books total.  This is particularly impressive considering only three of those books were part of a trilogy/series.  What’s not particularly impressive is how many more I have left to read!


State of Fear by Michael Crichton


Rating: ★★★★

This book was not quite what I expected. I mean it’s all there in the plot summary: environmental extremists are running around the globe trying to cause or amplify “natural” disasters. Peter Evans, lawyer for billionaire and environmental enthusiast George Morton, is unwittingly sucked into the race to expose the bad guys and foil their plans.

Usually climate fiction strives to warn people of the dangers of global warming. I read Kim Stanley Robinson’s, New York 2140 this year, which imagined a New York underwater. In Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse, the world outside the walls of a Navajo reservation is drowned in rising tides.

Crichton, interestingly enough, argues not that there is no such thing, but that it doesn’t pose the dangers we think it does, and that even if it does, we have no idea how much of global warming is caused by human behavior and how much of it is caused by natural climate cycles. The media has put the civilized world into a “State of Fear” based on random, targeted, singular research studies, conducted perhaps by scientists whose funds are granted via organizations who have a stake in global warming.

I’m not saying I agree or disagree here, but I do think his argument is one worth examining. It is worth noting his bibliography is 27 pages long. 27 pages. In the author’s note he claims he studied climatology for three years. He has footnotes, charts and graphs littered through out the text. Having read the book, it’s really hard to just ignore that. Clearly- he knew more about the topic than I did.

As for the book itself- I won’t lie. The plot felt pretty ludicrous, almost to the point of being comical. Poor Peter Evans is caught in life or death moments every five chapters. But it was a fun thrill ride, and the settings were awesome. We get to see the jungles of New Guinea, the desolate landscape of Antarctica, the majestic Sequoia forests of California. The conspiracy isn’t exactly twisty turny. The one twist there is you do sort of see coming.

The characters were great. I have a lot of respect for the way Crichton wrote the women in his novels. I mean… I haven’t by any means read all his work, but The Lost World gave us Sarah Harding, and here we get Jennifer Haynes and Sarah Jones. Neither ever plays the damsel in distress role, and spend a good deal of time being braver than the men. I absolutely love that about his female characters.

It wasn’t a full five star read for me- I did think it was a little slow in places, too caught up in the details, and the ending was mildly unsatisfying. An epilogue would have fixed the ending right up.

I definitely recommend this for fans of Crichton, or anyone interested in climatology.

Infomocracy by Malka Ann Older


Rating: ★★★★

This is a political science fiction thriller set in a future world where countries are replaced by units of 100,000 people called centenals. This is referred to as microdemocracy. Each of these centenals is able to vote on their own form of government, and the government with the most centenals (known as the supermajority) acts as the intergovernmental peacekeeper.

Ken is working on the campaign for Policy1st, who believe that you should vote for them based on policy, and is unique from other governments in that policy rules, not a singular particular person.

Mishima works for Information. Information has replaced TV, radio, and internet. It’s built into handhelds and visual chips. You use it to pay for things, see the history of various objects around you, read news feeds, watch advids. Basically, Information is working to give the people all the information they could ever want. I saw them as truth keepers.

Ken and Mishima are brought together by the circumstances of their pre-election work, and kept together by a twisting turning election conspiracy.

This was a world hopping adventure. We get to visit Tokyo, Lima, Paris, the Adapted Maldives. The settings were kept interesting and worked well with the plot given that country borders aren’t really a thing anymore. I also enjoyed the world building, the tech and gadgetry were cool, but it’s most definitely the societal and political structures that stole the show.

The characters were fun and fairly diverse (more diverse than most books for sure). I adored Mishima right from the start. She’s a no nonsense, don’t take no crap from nobody, kind of character that I couldn’t help but respect. Ken took longer to grow on me I think because he’s sort of just a go with the flow kind of guy. It was hard to know where he really stood on anything.

The plot definitely kept me guessing. It takes right to the end to see how everything fits together, but the ending is the part that I had the most issues with. It felt very rushed, and it sucks because we’d been treated to such a high level of detail prior to that. It was almost like her publisher gave her a word count she couldn’t exceed and as she neared it she just cut chunks out of the ending instead of trimming earlier parts of the novel and balancing it all. Those last two chapters just didn’t fit with the rest of the book.

I still have some burning questions about other details too. A lot of it has to do with the tech. Mishima uses some different tools for her work that are given some misleading names (e.g. crowd cutter?) and I couldn’t piece together what they were or how they worked.

But I mostly enjoyed it and never found it difficult to pick back up or wanting to put it off, so 4 stars for me. I will definitely pick up Null States.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books on my fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

10.  The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell – In truth- I forget why this one had me so excited, but I know that it had me really excited at one point.  I’ve had this buddy read scheduled for months, and now I’ve forgotten why I wanted to read it, you know, other than the fact that it seems to come highly recommended.

9.  Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor – My first experience with Okorafor was earlier this year- Akata Witch.  I adored that book, and that’s high praise coming from someone who hasn’t read middle grade anything since she picked up Stephen King at 12 and never looked back.  I liked it so much, Okorafor is on this list twice.  Add to that alien sea monsters… Yup.  I’m totally sold.

8.   Relic by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child – I told you have a thing about the 90s and monster movies right?  Well this gives me all that all rolled up into one.  Relic, for anyone who hasn’t heard of it, was made into the movie of the same name in 1997.  This book will fulfill my PopSugar prompt: “Set in the decade you were born” and I can’t wait!

7.  The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin – I’ve never read Le Guin… and she’s one “classic” author I’m really embarrassed not to have read.  She seems to cover a lot of topics that got me sucked into sci-fi in the first place, feminism, racism, ecology, etc.  Hopefully this isn’t the worst place to start.

6.  Binti by Nnedi Okorafor – Here she is again.  This is one of those: “Everyone has read this but me,” books.  I’ve been enjoying more short fiction this year than I have in the past and I think that’s what put me off it for so long.  Now that the whole trilogy is released, I’m think the length will probably be a point in its favor.

5.  The Lost Queen by Signe Pike – I only heard about this one recently, and I’m not entirely sure I will actually read it in fall 2018, but I hope to.  Two reasons: 1. King Merlin’s twin sister.  2. 6th century Scotland. 3. Druids. 4. Pagans and Christians. 5… Oh, look at me I’m rambling.

4.  The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker – This is another historical fantasy about Helen of Troy. I’m actually much more fond of ancient Romans than ancient Greeks, and therefore, more familiar with their history, but let’s face it, the Romans owed a lot of their culture to the Greeks, and Helen of Troy is a pretty classic, romantic story.  I also read Jo Walton’s Thessaly series earlier this year, which pretty much sold me on anything else Greek.

3.  Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill – I’m getting back to my roots with my top three picks.  I’ve been reading and watching horror since my mother ever made the mistake of letting me read Stephen King (not that I’m entirely sure she could have stopped me, and look, I turned out mostly okay).  If you haven’t heard of Joe Hill.. do me a favor, and pick up N0S4A2 as a Christmas read.  Sure it’ll totally ruin Christmas for you.. but it’s worth it.  So Heart Shaped Box will be my Halloween read.

2. Elevation by Stephen King – A novella set in the Castle Rock universe.  He writes them faster than I can read them but at 150ish pages, I’ll have no trouble squeezing this in on a rainy afternoon.

1. War of the Wolf by Bernard Cornwell – I saved the number one spot for my number one most anticipated read.  I’ve been waiting two years for this book.  TWO YEARS.  I mean it was better than knowing another one wasn’t coming.. but seriously.  As much as I enjoyed Fools and Mortals, the unfortunate Richard Shakespeare was no replacement for Uhtred.  I haven’t read as much historical fiction or even historical fantasy this year (30+ historic or historically inspired in 2017 vs. a little over 10 in 2018) and lately I’ve kind of been feeling it’s absence.  Yeah- it’s great that I’ve been able to ponder how to make the world a better place through all the fabulous sci-fi I’ve read, but bloody sword fighting and shield walls are a lot of fun too.


What about you? What’s on your fall TBR?

Kraken by China Miéville


Rating: ★★★

My first Miéville! And it only took me nine months to read. Okay- that’s an exaggeration (it was put on hold for many of those months), but it sure wasn’t easy. Miéville sort of feels like a modern Lewis Carroll to me. He’s much smarter than I am, so I can’t say with any certainty that he invented a lot of these words, but I’m reasonably sure he invented a lot of these words, and the words he didn’t invent aren’t easy by any means. Then there’s the London lingo my kindle refuses to define for me.. but I digress.

The very simplistic plot summary: the world’s first discovered, and preserved, Architeuthis specimen is stolen from the Darwin Center where Billy Harrow works. A special police unit is brought in to investigate, and Billy’s life becomes irrevocably weird.

The first 20% of the novel is pretty straightforward and relatively easy to follow. Then Billy gets nabbed by a guy who eats people and introduced to a talking back tattoo and the difficulty increases pretty sharply from there. Sounds weird? Those things are probably the most normal to be found. We are introduced to a whole London Underground of all things cultish, magical and arcane. I have to say- even if I didn’t love this, it was easy to appreciate Mieville’s brilliance. It’s not easy to create something that feels totally unique, but he definitely succeeds.

I think what held this back from being a 4/5 Star read for me was the characters. Billy didn’t feel like he came into his own until late in the book. The characters I adored had frustratingly few POV chapters. Kathy Collingswood was pure gold, and it felt like she got shuffled off into a corner to play the waiting game. It seemed like she was only there to deliver funny punchlines and infuse some humor into the book. Meanwhile we are given way too many chapters with a character that I felt was totally unnecessary and I never ultimately cared about, not even in the end.

The conclusion was fantastic and though it was hinted at, I didn’t actually guess the ending, which is always a plus. I will definitely give Miéville another try, but I think my brain needs a break for a bit!

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark


Rating: ★★★★★

Creeper is a New Orleans teen surviving on the streets circa 1871, but Creeper longs to see the wider world.  When she hears rumors that a Haitian scientist is hiding in New Orleans with a powerful object known as The Black God’s Drums, she sets to work trying to trade that information for a ride out.

I read this in one sitting. It’s only a hundred pages or so, but they are an excellent hundred pages and I am sincerely looking forward to a full length novel with Creeper and Ann-Marie (and the nuns… and Feral… damn it can we just bring the whole gang along?!). Also- please tell me there is a full length novel in the works!

So world building: it’s a like a steampunk alternate history New Orleans- where New Orleans has become its own free territory in the midst of confederate states where slavery still happens. We glimpse a bit of Mardi Gras, a little Cajun and a little creole, a brothel and beignets. I ate the setting up and sincerely wish I had seen more of it.

The characters, though we don’t have much time to get to know them- felt fully fleshed out, with their own voices and insecurities. I loved the little bits of humor peppered through out. The captain is my favorite. But Creeper is a keeper too.

The Orisha gods and magic are outstanding. Reflecting, it’s truly amazing how much Clark crammed into this novella without ever losing sight of what mattered- the story. I loved the description of Oya and her relationship to the other gods.

The story is quick and straightforward- not too many twists and turns but I think it worked here, one because of the length, and two, because he gives us so many other wonderful things to think about.

Now excuse me while I go figure out how much of Clark’s other work I can get my hands on.

Top Ten Tuesday: Bingeworthy TV

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

So when I decided to start this blog- I asked my goodreads buddy, Melanie at Mel to the Any if she had any advice. She kindly and patiently answered all my questions and if you haven’t met her yet, you should head over to her blog because she’s awesome!  The main piece of advice she gave: do a Top Ten Tuesday.

I was hesitant to do this yet, seeing as my blog so far has all of five reviews and zero readers, but on the other hand, I have to start somewhere… right?  So here goes, my first TTT is “bingeworthy” TV.  Be prepared to go old school, and venture into horrendous reality tv territory.


10. SpongeBob SquarePants – Yeah, I went there.  So I know SpongeBob is something you either love or hate, but I love it. It was one of the few cartoons my siblings and I all agreed on growing up.  Now I have a five year old, and she is just getting into SpongeBob.  It’s one of the few shows she watches that doesn’t make me want to gouge my eyeballs out. (Parents who hate it, you have my deepest sympathies.)


9. Real World Road Rules Challenge(s) –  The drama between these “characters” is never ending, but it’s really their triumphs that I enjoy. Personal Challenge MVP? Derrick Kosinski.  Not being anywhere near the height or weight of most of the other male players, he was a consistent underdog, but never a quitter.  That time he won against Syrus, I remember jumping up and screaming my head off, sort of like when your favorite team wins the Super Bowl… yeah, I was that big a fan.


8. Supernatural – I mean… Sam and Dean Winchester and a ’67 Impala. This doesn’t really need more explanation than that… does it?  I would have this higher on the list- but honestly, the show got way too complicated for me after season two or three, and I sort of missed the monster hunting.


7. Malcolm in the Middle – This is another show from my childhood.  I absolutely, positively, loved this show.  I remember this one the way most people my age remember The Simpsons or South Park.  There wasn’t a single one of these characters that could have been replaced for me.  Favorite character?  Reese of course.


6. Blue Mountain State – This comes from my years of only having internet and Netflix.  I think there is a cultish following of it out there, but most people I meet have never heard of it. Normally- college football is not my thing.  College football following the screw up, happy-to-be-second-string quarterback, and a team captain who can’t pronounce his own name?  Sign me up!  Although I feel like I should put a warning here- this show, and the humor, really is geared to 20 year old college boys, but funny is funny to me.  (Psst- if you like the show- there’s a movie too!)


5. My Name is Earl – Petty criminal learns about karma and decides to right all his past wrongs.  This stars Jason Lee, Ethan Suplee, and Jamie Pressly.  The tragedy is that there are only four seasons.  You can’t not laugh at this show.


4. Naked and Afraid – I am unabashedly obsessed with this one, especially the 40 day XL challenge.  No, the draw isn’t the naked people, who are, generally speaking, not all that attractive (which I find refreshing).  It’s watching them make fire with two sticks and wet kindling.  Watching them get eaten alive by all manner of nasty insects.  Watching them figure out what to eat on a desert island that doesn’t have so much as a coconut laying around.  What I love- is the rare episode where the teams actually manage to hunt something, and I don’t mean mussels or the occasional (and really gross) tarantula, but the episodes where they catch a huge eel, a gazelle, or even a wild boar.  The worst part?  They suffer through all that and don’t even get a cash prize. Just a boost to their totally meaningless PSR (Primitive Survival Rating).


3. Destination Truth/Expedition Unknown – So I’m cheating with this one, because these are technically two different shows, but they have the same host.  Josh Gates.  He has a degree in archaeology, but seriously, I swear the man was born to be a tv show host.  He’s one of the most entertaining people I’ve ever seen on tv.  Destination Truth gets a leg up on Expedition Unknown, simply because I’m more interested in knowing whether chupacabras and yetis exist then where Jean Lafitte buried his treasure- but both shows are great.


2. Impractical Jokers – These guys are hysterical. I’ve been watching them since season one and I’ve probably seen every episode at least five times.  I’ve seen them in person twice.  I hope they’re still making the show when they’re 90. Favorite episode: That one where Joey Fatone subs in for Q and proves he should have been in comedy all along.


1. Vikings – If you read my About Me page you had to know where this was going right? I re-watch every season as the new one is about to air.  The actors are amazing, this attention to historical detail is incredible, and unlike Game of Thrones, the battle scenes are genius.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal

TCS_MRK Rating: ★★★★★

I promise- this is the last time I’ll steal a blurb from goodreads.. maybe: “A meteor decimates the U.S. government and paves the way for a climate cataclysm that will eventually render the earth inhospitable to humanity. This looming threat calls for a radically accelerated timeline in the earth’s efforts to colonize space, as well as an unprecedented opportunity for a much larger share of humanity to take part.

One of these new entrants in the space race is Elma York, whose experience as a WASP pilot and mathematician earns her a place in the International Aerospace Coalition’s attempts to put man on the moon. But with so many skilled and experienced women pilots and scientists involved with the program, it doesn’t take long before Elma begins to wonder why they can’t go into space, too—aside from some pesky barriers like thousands of years of history and a host of expectations about the proper place of the fairer sex. And yet, Elma’s drive to become the first Lady Astronaut is so strong that even the most dearly held conventions may not stand a chance.”

This was a group read with the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Book Club! I read it earlier than planned because it’s due back today but oh my gosh I want to sit here and gush for twenty paragraphs.

The first thing I want to say is that there are other short stories set in this alternate space flight history, and I believe they are all available online for free. I started with: The Lady Astronaut of Mars, and it was absolutely beautiful and a reminder that fiction doesn’t need to be long to be compelling. I do wonder if my reading of that boosted my enjoyment of this or if I would appreciate The Lady Astronaut more if I had started here. (If anyone has any insight- please leave a comment below!)

The research that went into this is amazing, and must have taken months, maybe even years. The result is a novel that fully immersed you in its world and its timeline. The history behind the book was treated with equal levels of importance as the science. The moods, the mindsets, the setting, all of it felt so incredibly authentic, and brought the world to life in a way that I don’t know if even a movie could do. The science is equally impressive and complicated, and while I appreciate it, I’m also not going to pretend I understood it. That is not to say the book was a difficult read- it wasn’t. I’m just not good at physics.

I enjoyed the plot. I wouldn’t call it action heavy- but it never feels boring or bloated. This was a very empowering novel. Elma’s struggle didn’t feel like a private struggle (although of course, it is at times) it felt like a struggle for all women. It made me grateful for the women that came before me, and got us to this point, and also angry that for all their hard work, these are struggles we still have.

I loved the characters. Absolutely loved them. Almost all of them. They all face their own private struggles and have their own flaws. I felt like I was picked up and inserted into this alternate timeline as some sort of mute observer. The relationships between them felt incredibly real- especially that of the relationship between Nathaniel and Elma, but also between Nicole and Elma, Elma and Parker, Eugene and Myrtle, the list goes on.

Ugh- there is so much more I want to say here, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers. I think this book is so important- and I sincerely hope it gets the recognition it deserves in the wider world.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Nimona Rating: ★★★★

Blurb from “Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.”

“I’m not a kid- I’m a shark.”

No really- she’s a shark. This was a lot of fun. There was plenty of humor and it kept me laughing almost all the way through.

The ending turned a little dark, which is why it wasn’t a full five star read for me. But otherwise I enjoyed it.

The plot kept me guessing- nothing on the surface was quite what it seemed.

I loved the mashup of medieval fantasy and modern technology. I would definitely check out more Nimona!