Diversion

Jul. 27th, 2017 10:11 pm
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Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

I might have spoken too soon when I said I was feeling better, so let’s just do Karmic Balancing gifts and try not to think about it. I’m taking today and knitting a sock, and working on catching up on paperwork, and trying to put my business to bed for the week that I’ll (hopefully) be away, and I’m trying not to whine. Thanks for the donations my petals, you guys are so amazing that I’ve now met my public goal – I’m looking now to blow it out of the water. Last year you guys took me way, way over my private and public goals, and I know that there’s no force out there like knitters. None. Every ding on my phone makes me feel a little better, and makes me more hopeful that this is going to be okay. Let’s hope that Karma works, and that trying to put something good out there does something good for how I feel. A miracle cure by tomorrow would be nice.

Anne at The Twisted Fleece has two beautiful gifts the first one is for Grace T:

Annehook 2017-07-27 Anneroving 2017-07-27

100 g of handdyed Shetland roving. Dyed by Anne, and the fleece came from her friends’ flock. Comes with a handcrafted (again, made by Anne) orifice hook, of sterling silver, embellished with a handcrafted lampwork bead.

Anne also has 3 skeins of 100% merino worsted weight yarn. Dyed using food safe dyes. 120 yards/skein, 1.75 oz, 50 grams, and she’ll be mailing those to Kay W..

Anneyarn 2017-07-27

Belinda went for a stash dive, and came up with these two beautiful skeins of Malabrigo Lace. Turns out they’re for Helen H. Enjoy!

belindamalabrigolace 2017-07-27

The Oswego NY Coffee Connection knitters would like to donate two skeins of Berroco Weekend in colors 5947 (salmon swimming upstream) and 5966 (blue sky in summer). They’ll be mailing it out to Peg L, and I hope she loves it.

berrocoweekend 2017-07-27

Helle has two beautiful skeins, going out into the world to make a little magic. Heritage Yarns 100% tencel, colour is Sunrise Serenade 8 ounces; 1680 yards for Donna G.

heritageyarnsunrise 2017-07-27

and Knitted Wit Worsted, 100% Super wash Merino, Colour: She Persisted (how appropriate) 4 ounces, 200 yards for  Lisa B.  Thank you Helle!

knittedwitworsted 2017-07-27

Our good friend Kathleen Sperling has three lovely gifts of e-book pattern collections. First, her blanket trilogy, consisting of Cervelli, Around the Block, and The Celtic Knotwork Baby Blanket. That’s for Donna B.

blankettrillogy 2017-07-27

Then an Accessories Quartet, that’s Dambrod, Balthazar’s Jumper Socks, Jianzhi cowl, and the Addis Abeba shawl. Those are going to Jessica R.

accessoryset 2017-07-27

Last, but not least, she’ll be sending her Darling Layette eBook to Maggie B.

layetteset 2017-07-27

Tim has a set of four 3 X 4 1/2″ wonder wallets, each with five pockets. They are great for extra credit cards or cash or for giving gift cards. Those are going to Pippi S.

wonderwallets 2017-07-27

Next, a copy of a great new book from Tracy Purtscher, Dimensional Tuck Knitting.

tuckknitting 2017-07-27

It’s not out until September, so there will be a tiny delay in getting it, but when Tracy H does, I hope she loves it.

We’ve got a few from an amazing person who would like to be an anonymous Balancer, one 8oz bag of Elsie’s Discount Roving & Dyes “Amethyst”, and one in purple. The secret Santa will be mailing those to Rhea K.

purple top 2017-07-27 amethysttp 2017-07-27

Our mystery person also has approximately 20 batts, each weighing about 40 grams, of a creamy white Finn-cross roving. Hand processed by Anonymous Balancer, those are for Robyn R.

batts 2017-07-27

She’s also parting with one 40 oz. bundle of Plum Crazy Ranch Fiber Art Mulberry Silk Sliver, and one 1oz bundle of blue-green, hand-dyed Firestar, and mailing it to Linda L.

silksliver 2017-07-27

Last but not least, she’s somehow parting with THREE braids of Upstream Alpaca “Hand Painted Combed Top 100% Baby Alpaca” in “Pinot Noir” – 4 oz each braid. Those will be winging their way to Kelly M.

upstreamalpaca 2017-07-27

Emily has an amazing gift. 8 balls of gorgeous blue angora, in its original box. Emily says “It is old, though I don’t know by how; I received it from a fiber artist friend who is retiring and downsizing. Her only condition of giving it to me was that I “make something awesome”, and since you are doing that with PWA and the Rally, it only seems fitting.” I hope Holly W makes something awesome!

angora 2017-07-27

Karen Fletcher’s got a good one, TEN free copies of her pattern The Texture Block Cowl.  It’s a good one, takes a single skein of worsted weight yarn, and looks like a charming defense against the elements. (And a good Christmas present, if you’re in the mood.)  She’ll be sending those along to Kathleen R, Cherilyn P, Sarah R, Barbara J, Tara W, Jaime P, Beth W, Maggie H, Alicia R, and Belinda H.

textureblockcowl 2017-07-27

Finally, a gorgeous “Rainbow is the new black” project bag from Jan Smiley. (Peek at her shop, it’s all lovely.) This bag is for Janis M, and I hope she loves it.

orangisthnewblack 2017-07-27

Now, if you’ll all excuse me, I’m going to go lie down and wait for my miracle. I’m sure it’s on its way. Cross your needles, everybody.

The 2017 RITA Awards Livestream!

Jul. 27th, 2017 10:00 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Amanda

This year, RWA is live-streaming the festivities once again at 7:00pm EDT this Thursday, July 27th! We hope you’ll be watching along with us and cheering on your favorite books from last year.

Earlier this afternoon, The Ripped Bodice accepted the award for the 2017 Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year! Congrats to Leah and Bea! You can see their acceptance speech here.

If you’d like to look through the books up for a RITA this year, check out the reviews from this year’s RITA Reader challenge! Here they are broken down by genre:

Romance Novella
Short Contemporary
Short Historical
Mainstream Fiction with a Central Romance
Mid-length Contemporary
YA Romance
Romance with Spiritual or Religious Elements
Paranormal Romance
Best First Book
Romantic Suspense
Long Contemporary
Erotic Romance
Long Historical

If you’d prefer the quick and dirty overview, we’ve compiled all of the grades this year in a spreadsheet. Be sure to click on the GRADES tab at the bottom of the sheet.

Check back tomorrow with a more in-depth breakdown of the reviews, grades, and the winners in each category!

Which books do you think will take home an award? Any betting pools going on?

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Posted by Liz Williams

LONDON —  A march against wildlife cruelty will be held in London August 12.  The joint protest is being sponsored by The Badger Trust, the Make Hunting History coalition, and Care2.

Organizers write, “The key aim […] will be to call on the new Conservative minority government to bring an immediate end to the cruel, costly and ineffective badger cull policy and to strengthen rather than seek to repeal the Hunting Act.”

They also want to “raise public awareness of the barbarity of fox-cub hunting, otherwise known as ‘cubbing’ or ‘Autumn hunting’, which is currently in season and has started across the UK.”

Additionally, the driven grouse season starts August 12, the same day as the march, and is reportedly “detrimental to the much persecuted Hen Harriers.”

According to the organizers, the march is “expected to be the largest ever British wildlife protection protest” and will bring together “thousands people united in their determination to stop the government from playing politics with the future of our wildlife.”

Although opinions among UK-based pagans obviously differ on the issues surrounding various forms of hunting, the community in general remains opposed to wildlife cruelty as described by the host organizations. UK Pagans, across various spiritual paths, support of the ban on fox hunting, and a number of Pagans are currently engaged in activism against the more recent badger cull.

Fox hunting in the UK has been a practice for several hundred years, until a ban was introduced in 2004.  That legislation bans the hunting of wild mammals, most notably foxes, deer, hares, and mink, with dogs in England and Wales.

Drag hunting – the practice of dragging a bundle of scented material across the countryside to allow the dogs to follow a trail – is still permitted. Therefore, traditional fox hunts across the UK are still active.

Policing the ban is obviously problematic. Hunts are wide-ranging and often occur in remote areas, and the police are overstretched. Whether these hunts actually keep within the law remains a concern.

Badger culling was trialed in the South West of the country in 2013, in an attempt to control bovine TB. The theory was that badgers were contracting the disease and spreading it to cattle.

However, there is significant scientific controversy over whether this is actually the case. Now concerns are being raised over the way that the culls have been conducted.

This particular issue has raised concerns in the Pagan community.  Colin Lovelace said, “I just hope DEFRA [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] see sense and at least stop killing badgers whilst they re-examine the huge amounts of data and evidence that shows culling badgers will never stop btb [bovine TB] transmission.”

“In my area, North Cornwall, there were relatively few farm breakdowns until culling began last year and since then the breakdowns reported by DEFRA on ibtb website has exploded,” Lovelace went on to say.

“As predicted, culling badgers increases outbreaks. All the research recently carried out shows infection from badger to cattle is minute, less than 5% as previously known from previous culls. 95% of infection is cattle to cattle or from contaminated slurry spread on fields. The weight of evidence against culling badgers is enormous but DEFRA refuses to look at it.

“The only way to control btb is better testing methods, vaccinating, and tighter movement controls of cattle…Very angry, very active doing everything in my power to obstruct this cruel and damaging cull.”

London March 2014 [See Li/Flickr]

Maggie Bond, a representative of the Pagan Federation said, “The badger cull is despicable and there is no scientific evidence to prove that badgers are spreading bovine TB. With regard to fox hunting, this is a so-called ‘sport’ and serves no useful purpose.”

She added, “Blood sports are archaic and have no place in the 21st century. The majority of the British public do not want the hunting ban to be repealed.”

Activist Diane Evans said, “The Badger culls so far have been inhumane, astoundingly costly, caused prejudice and violence in communities and not achieved the desired result ….yet they are still going on. The elephant in the room is the demand for cheap food and greed in the western world for choice and plenty of it regardless of the cost to animals’ lives and the Earth…

Evans has been involved in actions against Badger Culling and theFox Hunts. “Millions of people protest against Badger Culling and Fox Hunting and a good part of these follow a Pagan path,” she said. “I don’t believe we stand up against such barbarism just because we are Pagan but because we are in the main, decent people trying to protect these animals and the Earth we all live on. I guess the fact that we hold them in such high regard is why we followed a Pagan path in the first place.”

The level of feeling against these practices continues to run high, both within and beyond the Pagan community in Britain. There will be reportedly a considerable Pagan presence on the forthcoming march in the capital.

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Posted by Guest Reviewer

A-

The Problem with Forever

by Jennifer Armentrout
May 17, 2016 · Harlequin Teen
RomanceYoung Adult

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by Coco. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the YA Romance category.

The summary:

For some people, silence is a weapon. For Mallory “Mouse” Dodge, it’s a shield. Growing up, she learned that the best way to survive was to say nothing. And even though it’s been four years since her nightmare ended, she’s beginning to worry that the fear that holds her back will last a lifetime.

Now, after years of homeschooling with loving adoptive parents, Mallory must face a new milestone—spending her senior year at public high school. But of all the terrifying and exhilarating scenarios she’s imagined, there’s one she never dreamed of—that she’d run into Rider Stark, the friend and protector she hasn’t seen since childhood, on her very first day.

It doesn’t take long for Mallory to realize that the connection she shared with Rider never really faded. Yet the deeper their bond grows, the more it becomes apparent that she’s not the only one grappling with the lingering scars from the past. And as she watches Rider’s life spiral out of control, Mallory faces a choice between staying silent and speaking out—for the people she loves, the life she wants, and the truths that need to be heard.

Here is Coco's review:

I picked up this last-minute review of Jennifer L. Armentrout’s The Problem with Forever last week because I felt like doing one more of these RITA reviews when the opportunity came, but, well, it was a push to get it done and written before the deadline! I hadn’t read the book—as YA isn’t normally my happy place within the romance genre, despite the odd fact that I reviewed another YA RITA earlier this year—but I thought it’d be fun, and then life happened, and it didn’t go quite according to plan. Instead of a leisurely full seven days to read and write a simple review, I, of course, didn’t get the time to do it until two days ago. Luckily, reading it quickly wasn’t a problem as I was drawn into the story by the midpoint and raced to finish it.

A gif of a cat flopping pages of a book

At the beginning, however, I was dubious. I thought it was going to be another melodramatic YA story chock-full of painful childhood experiences, which were then overcome quickly at the end by the power of young L-O-V-E. You know. And, I think it’s far to say, there is an element of that in this story that might turn off some readers. (When I was adding the TWs, I was like, damn, this story sounds majorly dramatic!) But—BUT—it’s not that simplistic. I was ultimately submerged in the story and impressed by the author’s commitment to talking about the long-term effects of childhood neglect and abuse. I’d say it’s a pretty even mix of a coming-of-age story with a YA romance. I wasn’t familiar with the author, but she appears pretty prolific, and has done a mix of independent press, self-publishing, and major pub houses (like this one from Harlequin Teen); she writes predominantly YA, YA fantasy, and New Adult. I like to find out a little bit about authors, and while I didn’t have the time to do that here, I liked the impression I got of her simply from her Acknowledgements section, especially when she refers to the way in which someone else “adeptly dubbed this book one of my horcruxes even though the last time I checked I didn’t commit a great evil. I think.” It makes me think that this story was important to her, and I like the idea of authors putting little pieces of their souls into their books—but, you know, without the evil part.

In The Problem with Forever, Mallory (“Mouse”) and Rider (…of course his name is Rider) spent several years together (maybe, like, from ages 4-13?) in the same unsafe foster home. The foster sibling thing wasn’t emphasized that much—helped in part because the house was so dysfunctional that they were nothing like a family—and instead their relationship was framed in terms of friendship.

Perhaps most importantly, Mallory’s survival mechanism was to be as silent as possible and to hide alone to avoid the wrath of the foster “parents”, whereas Rider sought to attract (negative) attention in hopes of protecting Mallory.

They are eventually separated as tweens and lose track of each other. Mallory ends up adopted by two doctors (in a rather miraculous turn of events) and begins the hard work of dealing with her trauma, seeing a psychiatrist and a speech therapist, and working through (but, thankfully and more realistically, not simply overcoming everything) her issues, the most tangible of which is her difficulties around people and with speech. This was fairly well fleshed out, considering it’s a romance and can’t focus entirely on her recovery. After homeschooling for a few years, she wants to try high school for her senior year in order to see if she would be able to eventually handle college. On her first day at school, she sees Rider again for the first time in three (or four?) years. Despite the fact that he tried to find her, and she asked her foster parents about him, they never reconnected or even knew if the other one was still alive. But, luckily, they’re in the same speech class!!! Bam! Insta-romance-plot-development!

A gif from the TV show Castle with the caption Don't ruin my story with your logic

I appreciated how Armentrout eventually complicated the early depiction that Mallory (and the reader) had of Rider. At first, Mallory views him merely as a White Knight figure but she ultimately realizes he has self-destructive tendencies and doesn’t see his own self worth, which led to behaviors that one might mistake for heroic but, with maturity, she could recognize as potentially problematic. This is an example of the tightrope that Armentrout walks when playing with both traumatic storylines and classic bad-boy-saves-shy-girl tropes.

There are a few other instances of life-and-death drama (including a fatal shooting and a potentially life-altering disease) that serve as turning points in our protagonists’ lives, and I feel somewhat conflicted about their treatment. I think one is handled with more care than the other, but they still felt at times like literary devices to spur changes in the characters. But, then again, things that happen to other people obviously can have a big impact on us, especially at that age, when it’s easy to turn everything into something about yourself.

There are some moments of awareness that touch on class and race and the incredible role luck (good and bad) can play in determining young people’s lives and their prospects. I wish she would have gotten more into those issues and be more explicit with regard to the drugs and gun violence present in many young people’s lives, but I didn’t have a huge problem with Armentrout’s depictions and at times oblique explanations.

Armentrout uses is Margery Williams’ 1922 classic, The Velveteen Rabbit—which is available to read online here, in case you’ve forgotten this harrowing children’s story—to nice effect (or it might seem overly saccharine and unrealistic, depending on your point of view and if you’ve been sucked into her world). The story is a common refrain throughout the book and is used when developing Mallory’s and Rider’s backstories, their relationship, and each one’s personal growth.

A quote from The Velveteen Rabbit about how something that's real can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.

 

The other theme that occurs throughout the book, and the titular inspiration, is the concept of forever and its connotations. Again, the story begins somewhat simply as Mallory remembers how Rider said he’d always protect her—forever—which doesn’t happen. Again, by the end of the story, I was somewhat impressed with Armentrout’s ability to deepen Mallory’s understanding of what all “forever” implies, both good and bad.

Forever was something we all took for granted, but the problem with forever was that it really didn’t exist… Then there was me. I’d thought I’d be stuck the way I was for forever, always scared, always needing someone to speak up for me. I’d learned to cope with my fears, found my voice, and realized that Carl and Rosa would love me even if I wasn’t perfect. Forever wasn’t real. And I guessed, for me, that I was lucky it wasn’t. But for others, I wished it was real, that they had forever.

As soon as I returned to find a few quotes pertaining to Mallory’s self-realizations in the latter half of the book, I felt a little dubious about their effect as, once again, I wondered it was too over-the-top. But, to Armentrout’s credit, when I was reading, I didn’t have those doubts; I was fairly engrossed and simply present in the world she’d created. It’s only looking back that I question myself and the somewhat dramatic prose, like “Forever wasn’t a problem. Forever was my heartbeat and it was the hope tomorrow held.” Dramatic, yes. But, shit, I mean, she’s not wrong?! And only teens can get away with the kind of bold and sweeping statements.

A gif from Ferris Bueller's Day Off with the caption - so it's a little childish and stupid, but then so is high school

Even though now I tend to look back at that time of life, and teen characters in fiction, with a somewhat more jaded and indulgent half-smile, I still kind of love teens and young adults for this very reason.

And Armentrout does lighten the tone at times. For instance, she has Mallory observe that “our story was something straight out of an Oprah special or an ABC Family movie” and later Mallory quips that Rider looked “good in the way I didn’t know a teenage boy could look. Like they did on TV, when played by twenty-five-year-olds.” And Ainsley, Mallory’s one real friend before starting at the public high school, rants about another boy, “Do you know, one of his friends last week actually argued with me about that? He was all like, let me wannabe mansplain this to you while incorrectly explaining the First Amendment.” I’m not sure this is how teens talk, but I liked it and it was nice break from the intensity.

And though I don’t tend to want to read YA romance too often, a good author can pull me back into that mindset.

And it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I mean, it doesn’t last forever.*

A gif from The Sandlot of a man enunciating every syllable in forever

*C’mon, you knew I had to do it!!!

Urban Fantasy, Mafia Heroes, & More!

Jul. 27th, 2017 03:30 pm
[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Amanda

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

RIPPED BODICE RECOMMENDED: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation is $2.99! This has romance, a bit of mystery, and some historical elements. On a podcast episode with Bea and Leah of The Ripped Bodice, Leah mentioned that she recommends this book pretty frequently. Have you read this one?

Deciding that true romantic heroes are a thing of the past, Eloise Kelly, an intelligent American who always manages to wear her Jimmy Choo suede boots on the day it rains, leaves Harvard’s Widener Library bound for England to finish her dissertation on the dashing pair of spies the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. What she discovers is something the finest historians have missed: a secret history that begins with a letter dated 1803. Eloise has found the secret history of the Pink Carnation the most elusive spy of all time, the spy who single-handedly saved England from Napoleon’s invasion.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation, a wildly imaginative and highly adventurous debut, opens with the story of a modern-day heroine but soon becomes a book within a book. Eloise Kelly settles in to read the secret history hoping to unmask the Pink Carnation’s identity, but before she can make this discovery, she uncovers a passionate romance within the pages of the secret history that almost threw off the course of world events. How did the Pink Carnation save England? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly find a hero of her own?

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

Blood of the Earth

Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter is $2.99! This urban fantasy novel is the first in the Soulwood series, which seems to be a spin-off of Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series. It was also recommended during our SBTB Reader Recommendation Party at RT 2017. I remember because I immediately added it to be TBR pile.

Set in the same world as the New York Times bestselling Jane Yellowrock novels, an all-new series starring Nell Ingram, who wields powers as old as the earth.

When Nell Ingram met skinwalker Jane Yellowrock, she was almost alone in the world, exiled by both choice and fear from the cult she was raised in, defending herself with the magic she drew from her deep connection to the forest that surrounds her.

Now, Jane has referred Nell to PsyLED, a Homeland Security agency policing paranormals, and agent Rick LaFleur has shown up at Nell’s doorstep. His appearance forces her out of her isolated life into an investigation that leads to the vampire Blood Master of Nashville.

Nell has a team—and a mission. But to find the Master’s kidnapped vassal, Nell and the PsyLED team will be forced to go deep into the heart of the very cult Nell fears, infiltrating the cult and a humans-only terrorist group before time runs out…

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

Dare to Run

Dare to Run by Jen McLaughlin is $2.99! This is the first book in the Boston-set Sons of Steel Row series. The heroine is a bartender and the hero has criminal ties, which I know isn’t for everyone. Readers loved the pacing and action, but wanted the heroine to have more of a backbone. It has a 3.7-star rating on Goodreads.

The New York times bestselling author of the Out of Line Novels takes readers to Boston where one gang of criminals knows how being bad can be so good…
 
She knows what he’s like on Boston’s mean streets. Now she’s going to find out if he’s got some heart.

Lucas Donahue is not ashamed of his criminal past, but after a brief stint in prison, he’s ready to go legit and live a normal life. The problem is, no one leaves the gang without permission—even if he is one of the boss’s top men. Plus someone’s placed a hit on him. And then there’s that feisty little bartender who’s going to cause him even more trouble.

Heidi Greene knows to keep her distance from a ladies’ man like Lucas—even if she can’t keep her eyes off him. When he rescues her from an attack in the alley outside her bar, she’s forced to stay by his side for safety. But the longer she spends time with him, the greater her chances are for getting hurt in more ways than one.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth by Tracy Anne Warren is $2.99! This is a contemporary workplace romance set in the world of advertising. Readers loved the antagonism between the heroine and hero, but found the hero was a bit of a jerk overall. It’s the first book in The Graysons series.

From New York Times bestselling author Tracy Anne Warren comes a sexy and romantic new contemporary series about corporate combat in the boardroom and under-the-covers passion in the bedroom……

Idealistic good girl Madelyn Grayson believes in doing what’s right. Even as a high-powered executive in the mad world of advertising, she doesn’t cut corners, making her ad campaigns sizzle without having to burn anyone along the way.

Rival exec Zack Douglas never wastes an opportunity to land the next big deal—especially when it benefits him. A bad boy with a reputation to match, he has no qualms about doing whatever it takes to get ahead, no matter who gets in the way.

When a hot promotion pops up at their company, both Zack and Madelyn wind up on the short list for the position. But as the two square off, they discover that being heated rivals in the office makes for scorching bed play behind closed doors. Will Madelyn’s steamy, secret affair with Mr. Vice make her compromise her ideals—or worse, lose her heart?

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

Barnes & Noble Kobo Google Play iBooks

and

amazon

 

 

 

HIT IT WITH THE ROCK

Jul. 27th, 2017 01:00 pm
[syndicated profile] cakewrecks_feed

Posted by john (the hubby of Jen)

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Steven C., Elizabeth E., and Jennifer S. for remembering that it could always be worse.

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

And from my other blog, Epbot:


The Big Idea: Adam Christopher

Jul. 27th, 2017 12:33 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Congratulations! Your book was a success! Now do that trick a second time! In discussing Killing is My Business, author Adam Christopher talks about doing the thing that you did so well all over again — but different this time.

ADAM CHRISTOPHER:

You know how it goes, the difficult second album: a band spends years meticulously crafting a collection of songs, polishing them through endless live sets until they shine, and these songs form their incandescent debut album.

Then they need to produce the follow-up and essentially come up with an entirely new repertoire on demand. That second album can be a difficult one indeed.

Now, I didn’t spend years crafting the Ray Electromatic Mysteries – Made to Kill, the first full-length novel after the Tor.com novelette Brisk Money, came out in 2015 and was something like my seventh published novel – but somehow the series has a certain kind of weight, just like that debut album of your favourite band. I think it’s because that original big idea was very big indeed – I was writing Raymond Chandler’s lost science fiction epics, a series about a robot assassin working in Chandler’s near-future Hollywood of 1965. That idea sprang from Chandler’s own letter to his agent in 1953, in which he complained about sci-fi, saying “people pay brisk money for this crap?” Clearly, this was a front, the famed hardboiled author conducting a fishing expedition, seeing if his agent would bite.

Sixty years later, I wrote a story named for Chandler’s letter – Brisk Money. The idea was everything – a whole world was open to me, enough not just for a novelette but for a trilogy of hardboiled novels and another in-between novella, Standard Hollywood Depravity – the title, again, taken from Chandler’s letters.

So far, so good. Made to Kill was a blast to write.

And then came book two.

I wouldn’t call it a sophomore slump. Far from it. The three novels were pitched together, right from the start, so I knew what I was doing and where the books were going. But there was one thing in back of my mind while I was working on what became the second novel, Killing Is My Business.

What would Raymond Chandler do?

That mantra, in essence, became the big idea of the book.

The concept of the Ray Electromatic Mysteries is simple: the robot revolution came and went in the 1950s, and Ray is the last robot left in the world, designed to be a private eye working in Hollywood. The only snag to this is that his supercomputer boss, Ada, was programmed to make a profit – and she quickly figured out you could make more money by killing people than finding them. A little tinkering with Ray’s CPU and Ada turns him into an accomplished hit-robot.

Simple enough, and, importantly, an open-ended concept. You could write a hundred stories about a hitman.

Which was actually the problem – because while I could easily write endless hardboiled, noir-ish stories set in Chandler’s seedy LA underbelly, a world full of wiseguys and dames and crooked cops and the mob, that’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before a thousand times. Hell, that’s basically Chandler’s oeuvre and people have been calling him a genius or a hack for the last seventy-plus years.

No, what I had to do was to write science fiction. There was no point in Ray being a robot if that wasn’t vital to the story. Ray had to be the central player in the trilogy – he’s unique, literally, and that has to drive the story arc that stretches across all three books.

So: what would Raymond Chandler do?

More specifically, what would Raymond Chandler do… with a robot?

In Killing Is My Business, Ray’s unique character is used to rather unsubtle effect when he uses his virtually indestructible chassis to protect a mob boss from a drive-by shooting, literally placing himself between the crime lord and his would-be executioners. This is something that only Ray could do. It’s a key scene, the first piece of the story that I had thought of.

And it was also a scene that I knew had to happen – if Ray is a robot then being a robot is the story. With that thought foremost in mind, I could write book two and I could make sure the series as a whole is more than just a set of pastiche crime novels, it was something original.  

Now, if he only Ray Electromatic knew what I torment I had in store for him in book three…

—-

Killing is My Business: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.


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Posted by SB Sarah

Here at Bitchery HQ, we are constantly recommending books, music, and podcasts to one another, and it occurred to me that our podcast recommendations, both for particular episodes and for entire series might be of interest – and that you probably also have episodes and shows you like, too. So, hey, there, new feature!

Seriously, this is one of the things I love about blogging: New idea? Cool! Run it up the flagpole, see who salutes.

Actually, let’s be honest: “Run it up the flagpole, see who salutes” is how I do most things creatively. It’s like the cousin to, “I can’t be the only one who finds this freaking fascinating, right?

Now, I can’t recommend my own show (HA YES I CAN It’s right here) but in part because I host and produce a podcast, I listen to a ton of others. Here are some episodes and new shows I’ve really enjoyed while walking the dogs or cross stitching.

By the Book - Podcast By the Book is a new-ish show from Panoply wherein the hosts, Jolenta Greenberg and Kristen Meinzer, try a different self-help book for two weeks and record their results with interviews, candid conversations with their spouses, and a post-book conversation between the two of them. There’s also an epilogue for each where they respond to reader and listener feedback.

One episode in particular that was deeply touching for me was their focus on French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano. The conversation dealt with self-harm, eating disorders, and Greenberg and Meinzer’s relationships with their own bodies, and the epilogue was equally affecting for me. It also created a new guideline for their show: no more diet books. That episode is available at Panoply’s website, on Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your fine podcasting programs.

Still Processing Podcast header with photographs of the two hosts back to backStill Processing is a podcast from the NY Times, hosted by Wesley Morris and Jenna Wortham. They discuss culture, current events, music, television, BBQ, and the ways in which the media they consume affect them. From the description: “Still Processing is where they try to understand the pleasures and pathologies of America in 2017.” It’s terrific.

One episode that resonated with me is their recent discussion, “We Revive Tupac and Side-Eye Sofia Coppola.” You can listen on the NYT website, on Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

RedHeadedGirl, who has her own podcast, Anglofilles, recommends the Dunkirk episode of Stuff You Missed in Historyand says that pretty much every episode is great.  You can listen on Stitcher or at the podcast website.

Amanda says, “I’ve been loving The Daily! It’s produced by The New York Times and focuses on one or two current events, complete with interviews with the people who cover said events at the NYT. It’s Monday-Friday and is usually less than a half an hour. Because it focuses on current events, there’s no pressure to go back and listen to the archives. Unless you really want to!” It’s available on Stitcher and at the NYT podcast page, too.

Elyse recommends Knit 1 Geek 2 which she reviewed here. We also interviewed Super Karen, one of the co-hosts, in a recent Smart Podcast Trashy Books episode.

Friendshipping with Jenn and TrinAnd finally, my never-ending perennial recommendation to anyone who loves uplifting, funny, and engaging podcasts to try: Friendshipping with Jenn and Trin.

Every time there’s a new episode I squee, and my Thursday afternoon or Friday dog walks, depending on weather and download times, are my favorites. They take questions from listeners about friendship problems, they have the best theme song, and they offer advice from a place of incredibly warm empathy and kindness. It’s one of my very, very favorites, and I’m so happy I found it.

What about you? What podcast episodes or programs do you love? Any that you’ve just discovered? (And would an entry on how you listen to podcasts be helpful? Let me know in the comments and I’ll put one together!)

 

Max Seventeen by Kate Johnson

Jul. 27th, 2017 08:00 am
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Posted by Carrie S

C+

Max Seventeen

by Kate Johnson
October 31, 2017 · Kate Johnson
RomanceYoung Adult

Max Seventeen is a science fiction romance that has a lot of problematic elements (several of which ambushed me near the end of the book). On the other hand, it has an action heroine of color, a rickety spaceship with a motley (and diverse) crew, and mosasaurs. Once I started the book I couldn’t stop reading it, and every time I said to myself, “Wait, WHAT?” another mosasaur or some other shiny plot device popped up to distract me.

Our story begins with a trial and a heist.

Our heroine, Max, is busted for various crimes and sentenced to one year of slavery. She winds up shoveling fuel into a train engine. Meanwhile, our hero, Riley, signs on to a rickety spaceship (the Eurydice) as engineer in order to escape from being a soldier with The Service, a military group. After Riley and the rest of the crew rob the same train that Max is on, Max ends up on the Eurydice as Riley’s property. It’s all very complicated, but basically, there are technical reasons why Riley can’t free Max until her year of servitude is over. The ensuing plot includes, but is not limited to:

  • Found family
  • A lot of explicit sex and violence
  • Dry humor
  • Competence porn
  • Potentially triggery descriptions of child abuse and rape
  • Children, mosasaurs, and many adults in peril
  • Discussion about consent
  • The defeat of a massive conspiracy
  • A plot twist I truly did not see coming

The first two-thirds of the book contain some content that I was ambivalent about. I honestly could not tell if this book is sex-positive or slut shaming. Sometimes Max’s joyful tendency to sleep with every willing person she can find comes across as a celebration of her agency and seize the day mentality, but she also worries that people see her as a toy, and her eventual decision to be monogamous is portrayed as a sign of her increasing self-esteem. Sometimes sex work is portrayed sympathetically, but sex workers are also portrayed as disloyal and dishonest (although frankly, so is everyone else).

The book does a better job when it comes to the problem of power imbalance between Riley and Max. Riley refuses to have sex with Max for quite a while because even though he is only Max’s owner in the technical sense he still (rightly, in my opinion) believes that Max can’t truly consent because of the power imbalance. When they finally do have sex, Max has consented verbally and specifically over and over again, but she calls Riley out later when he refers to them as equals. While Max insists that she has enough agency and control to honestly consent to sex, she also points out that as long as Riley owns her she can’t be, and isn’t, his equal in their relationship. Although they establish a relationship while she’s still serving out her sentence as a slave, there’s always an understanding that they won’t, and can’t have a true HEA until she’s free.

One of the interesting things about these characters is that Riley has been both falsely accused of rape (one of my least favorite tropes EVER) and a victim of rape. He was raped by a female military superior who threatened to ruin his career if he didn’t sleep with her. Meanwhile, Max is the survivor of a rape in which she was physically overpowered. Given their experiences, it makes sense that Riley is so alert to the idea of rape stemming from an abuse of power whereas Max is comfortable with power structures (she ignores them) as long as she feels physically safe.

In the last third of the book, a few of my very least favorite tropes pop up out of nowhere and Riley acts like a jerk. Seriously, it’s as though a different author jumps in, seizes the story for about 50 pages, and then jumps back out. Spoilers regarding Riley’s behavior:

Show Spoiler
Riley figures out that Max is pregnant before she does. She has an abortion and he is furious that she didn’t consult him.  Then he pulls a power play with regard to owning her.

Just as I was about to toss the book aside, we suddenly find ourselves in a science fiction Regency novel and of course I had to see how that went. Everything sort of magically resolves itself, and there’s going to be a sequel which I will inevitably read in one glorious, confusing day. The sequel, Firebrand, came out on July 4, 2017.

Clearly I had a rocky journey with this book, and yet it’s amazingly fun. There’s constant action and intrigue. Max and Riley are both very good at what they do (she’s a programmer and he’s an engineer). There’s a wild, madcap quality to the story, fueled by Max’s high energy, her unpredictable behavior, and the science fiction setting, which is like a crazed mash-up of Firefly, The Expanse, Mad Max, and Pirates of the Caribbean. There’s a ton of humor, from slapstick to wry, like Max’s lament when she realizes she’s about to be fed to a mosasaur:

“Fuck it! I was going to die old, in bed, surrounded by five young men.”

In case you are wondering about the mosasaurs Max later explains:

Actually, interesting biological sidebar, apparently they aren’t mosasaurs, really, because they died out on earth millions of years ago, but no one knows what they are so that’s what they call them.

I read this book in May and for various reasons I didn’t sit down to review it for several weeks. What stuck in my head weeks after finishing the book was the character of Max careening defiantly through life. Max is hyper-vigilant, violent, uncouth, and wonderful. She’s determined to enjoy life even though she has suffered. Even though she and Riley get a happy ending, they also both have serious issues that they will probably always need to deal with, and I found that to be realistic and honest. She has a shaved head and when Riley first meets her she’s covered in sewage and yet she is irresistible (after having had a bath) because she has so much energy.

I loved this character and I enjoyed the book, even though I’m still not sure if it was a liberating read or problematic as hell. Am giving it a C for the major problems that I couldn’t escape, such as the inconsistent portrayal of sex workers and of Riley’s attitude in the last third of the book, but a ‘+’ for solid and energetic writing and a fun, creative, exciting story.

The Rec League: Virgin Heroes

Jul. 27th, 2017 07:00 am
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Posted by Amanda

The Rec League - heart shaped chocolate resting on the edge of a very old bookI was shocked – SHOCKED – when Reader Jessica left a comment about virgin hero recommendations and my deep dive through the SBTB archives turned up nothing.

Of course, there are some obvious choices and probably a handful of lists on Goodreads, but personal recommendations of books you’ve loved and why go much further, don’t you think?

Redheadedgirl: There’s a virgin hero in one of the stories in the Rogue Desire anthology ( A | BN | K | G ).

Amanda: Also…the anthology is currently 99c. Just thought you all wanted to know.

Elyse: When the Duke Returns by Eloisa James ( A | BN | K | G | iB )

Amanda: I don’t think I know of any virgin heroes, but I’ve read a few sexually inexperience heroes that I really loved. The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan ( A | BN | K | G | iB ) has a man-bunned, NFL hero who has never had penetrative vaginal sex. His first sexual experience was traumatic for him, so trigger warning for that.

There’s also Ripped by Edie Harris ( A | K | G | iB ). The hero (if I recall) has only had sex once. He’s a grumpy lawyer and the heroine is a British assassin.

I know you have virgin hero recommendations! Let us have ’em!

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Posted by Jen


It's like a fireball rose! SO PRETTY.

****






Alex Monroe released some of the sweetest Beauty and the Beast themed jewelry I've ever seen:








 Look at the details on Cogsworth! And there are Lumiere earrings!




There's quite a bit more, so hit the link up there to see the whole collection - but be prepared to faint over the prices. (YOWCH.)


****


Speaking of jewelry, look what Sevione on Imgur made:




It's a Niffler jewelry stand! AAAAAAAA!!!! 


Can you believe that's 3D printed? That's some incredible finishing on Sevione's part.


For those of you making grabby hands at the screen like I am, I have good news: you can print your own, too! Just go download the free files here on Thingverse. (If you don't have a 3D printer, go butter up a friend who does.)


(In unrelated news, dear internet friends who have a 3D printer: You look SMASHING today. Is that a new haircut? :D)


****


San Diego Comic-Con happened last weekend, which is when all sorts of awesome new geek toys and art and figures get debuted. My favorite? This Otto and Victoria music box by Brian Kesinger:


» Read More

i have an idea…

Jul. 26th, 2017 10:47 pm
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Posted by Wil

I have this idea to make something as a unique art project. It is either the craziest, dumbest, most impractical thing ever … or it’s a crazy, dumb, impractical thing that will be awesome.

I will need exactly one million people, from anywhere in the world, to make it happen. I wonder if that’s possible.

Feel free to speculate, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Gift

Jul. 26th, 2017 09:23 pm
[syndicated profile] yarn_harlot_feed

Posted by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Hello Petals, and greetings from the other side of yesterday’s long, dark teatime of the soul. I don’t know if it’s the rest, ice, baths, massage, chiropractic, physiotherapy, drugs, whiskey, homeopathy or donations that helped, but today I feel hopeful and optimistic, and my arse and I have resumed speaking terms. It still doesn’t feel great, but it feels better, that much is sure, and last night I slept the whole night through. It took a lot of pillows, but when I woke up I felt like maybe things are improving for sure. (I will not be getting on my bike until Sunday to be sure, and I’m going to keep doing all the things I’m doing. One of them is working.) I also had a rather fantastic snuggle with Elliot this morning, and the healing impact of his glorious cheeks cannot possibly be understated.  He is the most delicious chunk. Fat and happy, and slept the whole hour his mother was in the dentist, while I walked him up to the drugstore and back, and then, wonder of wonders,  resisted the urge to scream in the car. (This is his favourite trick. He resents the carseat and all that it is, and generally acts like he’s experiencing death by a thousand cuts all the way wherever he’s going, then brightens right up the minute he’s free of it – though a minute before you would have sworn he was starving or had mere minutes to live. It’s really not hard to tell he comes from a cycling family.)

elliotsling 2017-07-26

Also, a minor fibre miracle.  The other day, tidying a basket I keep spinning things in, one tucked way back in the cupboard, I found two bobbins of camel/silk singles.

twospindles 2017-07-26

I pulled them out and for a minute, couldn’t even remember spinning them, but then it came back to me. They’re spindle spun, wound onto the bobbins to empty the spindle each time it filled, and I spun them at least ten years ago. Ten years! (Let us gloss over entirely what it means to my housekeeping skills that I can lose things for ten years in a tiny house.) My wheel was still right there, oiled and clean, and so I popped them onto my Kate (I refuse to call it a lazy kate. I has a sexist ring to it. Why is it always a lazy woman? Lazy Susan, Lazy Kate… how come nothing is called a Lazy Gary?) A little while later I had the most delicious tiny skein of laceweight camel/silk. Just a weensie 210m, but still, it’s delicious, and when I told Joe what I’d found and done, I realized that his conversion to Fiber-support-spouse is complete. “Wow honey” he said, “That’s like finding $50 in your winter coat pocket when you put it on in the Fall.”

cameldone 2017-07-26

That’s it exactly.

Karmic Balancing gifts? Let’s do them until I run out of time. Tonight is our last Steering Committee meeting for the Rally, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to say that. It turns out that my dedication does know bounds, and it’s meetings. Only because I can knit at them is this all  possible.

First up, Gauge Dye Works has two beautiful skeins for Virgina Y. One skein of classic sock, one shawl. (Man, Catherine who runs that place is so clever. That’s the yarn my most recent pair of socks were knit from.)

Gaugedyeworksyarn 2017-07-26

Tia has three skeins of Shibui Knits sock weight yarn in 50’s Kitchen (I love that, it’s the colours of my kitchen!) that she’ll be sending to Susan G.

shibuitina 2017-07-26

The lovely Suzanne Visch is donating the pattern of their choice to five lucky knitters. (Lucky is right, what gorgeous things!)  Congratulations to Nichole B, Heather K, Mary Jo M, Anisa S, Jennifer W, and Susan D.

Suzannepatterns 2017-07-26

By the way, yesterday’s yarn went happily to the highest bidder, who asked only two things. That I not mention their name, and that the yarn not go to her, but to someone new to knitting who would adore it, and be inspired by it. I love that idea, and I know just the knitter. Thanks to everyone who bid, it was charming, flattering and made the world a better place for people who need help. You guys are amazing.

More tomorrow – It’s a desk day.  Thank you all for everything, you’re my favourite.

 

A Blessed First Harvest

Jul. 26th, 2017 07:31 pm
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Posted by The Wild Hunt

TWH — This weekend and next, many modern Pagans, Heathens and polytheists are observing the summer festival of Lughnasadh, also called Lammas, Lughnassa, and Harvest Home. Typically celebrated on Aug. 1, Lughnasadh is one of the yearly fire festivals and marks the first of three harvest celebrations.

It traditionally honors Lugh, the Celtic god of light and many talents, and his foster-mother, Tailtiu.

wheat

[Sybarite48, Flickr/CC.]

In addition, the weekend brings the Ásatrú festival of first fruits called Freyfaxi. Both celebrations are celebrated with feasting, songs, games, thanksgiving, and the reaping of the first fruits and grains of the season.

There are many other late summer religious and secular holidays around the world, some of which are related to the harvest and some are not.

In Tibetan Buddhism, for example, followers will be celebrating Choekhor Duechen, or the first turning wheel of Dharma, July 27. The day marks the time when “the Buddha Shakyamuni first taught the four noble truths in Sarnath, India, and first turned the wheel of the dharma.”

The Order of the Black Madonna, based in California, hosts a number of feast days in August, including an annual dinner in mid-August to honor the Queenship of Mary.

During this time, several Native American nations celebrate the Green Corn festival. This was particularly true of “Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Timucua, and others, who used corn (maize) as their single most important food source.” The ceremony and festival, also called puskita or Busk in English, was “an expression of gratitude for a successful corn crop.”

Outside the U.S., the Slavic communities celebrate Dozhinki, a pre-Christian harvest festival that happens in late August. This year, the holiday is dated Aug. 28.  

In the Southern Hemisphere, Pagans, Heathens and polytheists are readying for Imbolc, and other holidays focused on late winter and the coming potential of spring.

This year, the full moon arrives Aug. 7, and a total solar eclipse is coming to America Aug. 21. According to reports, the entire country, from Oregon to South Carolina, will be able to witness at least a partial eclipse.

Here are a few recent quotes about the seasonal celebration:

“Lammas is basically about work, coming and going. Mind you, there are three harvest sabbats, and the trick with this first harvest that it falls midpoint of the fiery sign of Leo, which lends its ‘fixed’ energies of sustaining the cycle, to bring our work to full fruition; no slacking behind now! Magick demands much of us at this time. Toil and sacrifice are required if we are to claim the big prize come Mabontides.” — Heron Michelle, Lammas Ritual of Integration and Sacrifice

 *   *   *

“This August 1st, I suggest we forget everything we have heard about Lughnasadh or Lammas. Instead of treading that well-worn path, let’s forget about Celtic myths from long ago and the agricultural customs of 18th century English peasants.  Forget even the words ‘Lughnasadh’ or ‘Lammas.’  Instead, go outside. Look. Listen. Breathe in and breathe out. Bend down and touch the earth. And then ask what the world is telling you.  Listen for what calls to you. Discover what needs to be celebrated, or what needs to be mourned. And if the season still speaks to you of harvest or sacrifice or making bread, then so be it. But if not, don’t force it.” — John Halstead, “Why I’m Boycotting Lughnasadh Again

 *   *   *

“What will I do during those 100 or so sacred seconds [of the solar eclipse]? Will I hold a ritual? Just revel in it? Hug my kids?[…] Would the descent into darkness (and then the return of the light) be better times for ritual activity? After all, those times are ~90 minutes long each, and that would make the whole time of totality part of my ritual if I started before totality and ended after it.  […] All religions have sacred times and sacred places. For those of us with a Pagan spirituality (as well as for many others), reality itself – and especially our Earth, moon and sun – often show us those sacred times. For many of us (and certainly me), this August 21st will be one of those most sacred times. What will those 90 seconds be like for you? I don’t think that can be predicted – we can’t decide when the sacred will touch us.” – Jon Cleland Host, “The Spirituality of the Eclipse

 *   *   *

“Lugh was the first god I got to know as an individual being. Before that, most of my practice revolved around the Wiccan idea of the Goddess and the God, or other concepts that some would describe as panentheist and others would describe as vague. This was before my encounter with the Ennead of Egypt that put me firmly on the road to polytheism, and I honestly don’t remember what I thought about Lugh. But I clearly remember how I related to Lugh – as an individual deity with his own sovereignty and agency. Did Lugh call me or did I pursue Lugh? My notes from the time are sparse and I can’t begin to remember. I just remember I felt a strong affinity with him. I am no master of all arts, but I’ve always had a wide range of interests, and Lugh seemed like he would be the perfect patron for me.” — John Beckett, “The Birth of Lugh

 *   *   *

“Lughnasadh is a very good time to express gratitude to the gods and the earth spirits for their blessings and gifts that we are now receiving. In times of microwave and frozen pizza it may seem anachronistic to thank for the harvest. Many of our modern foodstuffs make it hard to still recognize the waving grain on the field in them. And yet there is a way to connect with nature via the food that we eat. This is especially valid for self-harvested fruits. But also conscious eating, eating with focus on the food and not on TV or newspaper, is one way of expressing our thanks for the harvest – all year round, but especially at Lughnasadh.” — Eilthireach, Deeper Into Lughnasadh

[Pixabay.]

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Posted by Guest Reviewer

C

The Distance from A to Z

by Natalie Blitt
January 12, 2016 · HarperTeen
RomanceScience Fiction/Fantasy

This RITA® Reader Challenge 2017 review was written by PamG. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best First Book, YA Romance category.

The summary:

Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk.

Here is PamG's review:

I am not a big fan of YA. Oh, the books are fine, but as a genre label, YA is meaningless. Meant as a marketing ploy, I think this faux genre is just an excuse for lit snobs to be dismissive of some of the truly magnificent literature for young people. Unfortunately, The Distance from A to Z would not provide a great argument against the genre label. It’s totally YA.

Abby is the storyteller of Distance. She’s going into senior year in her Chicago high school and is spending her summer at a college in New Hampshire where she’ll be taking an intensive eight week course in intermediate French. Abby adores the French language as passionately as she hates all things baseball. Her family are baseball maniacs (Cubs fans), but she has long since eschewed the masochism for the joys of French. Needless to say, she meets the requisite cute guy on day one and is revolted by his baseball shirt and cap. The rest of him, on the other hand, is pretty damned pretty, from the golden curls peeking out from under the hat to the hot athletic bod beneath. Nice to know sports are good for something.

Zeke (get it, get it?) is also taking the intermediate French course, much to Abby’s surprise. What’s more, he’s better at it than she is. As the only two high school students in the course, the two of them are forced to work as partners and frequently find themselves in proximity almost as close as a mountain cabin in winter. Abby pre-judges Zeke based on his athletic wear and he doesn’t hesitate to call her on it. Their subsequent exchanges are pretty entertaining.

Aside from Abby and Zeke, the most developed character is Alice, Abby’s roommate. Alice is a talented and superbly disciplined poet, who is taking an intensive poetry seminar. She entrances Abby from their first encounter.

She’s using a fountain pen.

I think I’m in love.

“Sec,” she whispers, more to herself than me.

I’ve found my spirit animal.

I know this moment for her like it’s mine. I know the feeling of being so deeply invested in something that the idea of forcing yourself out feels like a tooth extraction. Like the tight grip of a book you don’t want to put down.

Alice suffers from a fairly severe anxiety disorder. Abby adores her on sight, but still needs to be schooled in how to respond to Alice’s anxiety issues. Actually I kind of adored her on sight myself. Within her comfort zone, she totally kicks ass. More on this later.

I had problems with both Abby and Zeke. That’s probably why Alice seemed so refreshing. She was more mature than any of the other characters. Perhaps part of my problem with A & Z is that they do act like total teenagers. Abby narrates so we get her point of view much more than Zeke’s. Done well, I like first person POV and I think it can convey quite a lot about other characters. Unfortunately, the inside of teen’s head may be a little too self-absorbed to convey those telling details about the people surrounding her. Of course Abby’s single minded focus makes her interesting but also annoying. Loving French language and culture is appealing, but her loathing for baseball gets old. Once she loved it, but too many people have let her down over baseball. So–boom!–she hates it, my preshussss. She develops a bit of self awareness later in the book, but maturation should be a process, not a revelation in the last couple of chapters. At one point someone calls her mean, and she’s all “Who? Me?” And she isn’t mean. What she is is thoughtless. See “self-absorbed” above.

Abby is attracted to Zeke, but as they work together she begins to separate his personality into two distinct Zekes. There is French speaking Zeke who is quite delightful and whom she really begins to care for, and English speaking Zeke who’s kind of a major toque de derrière. Much of Abby’s narrative consists of her internal dithering about which is the real Zeke and do they have any sort of chance as a couple. This waffling got extremely tedious. Of course, Zeke has a Big Secret which later explains his dual personality, though in less detail than is warranted by his hot and cold running behavior. Trouble is, his big secret is so blatantly obvious to the reader that the big reveal makes your eyes roll like a ground ball on a T-ball field. So what is Zeke’s peculiar behavior?

Possible Spoiler
He has some physical issues that he won’t talk about. He’s addicted to his phone and keeps his conversations extremely private. He makes mysterious trips into Boston on a regular basis. He slowly unveils the reasons for some of these things, so when it’s finally revealed, you just want to go “Oh, puleeze.”

However, none of this explains why Zeke is so frequently spotted with girls hanging off of him. Abby tends to be mildly shut shamey in her response to college girls Stephie and Chloe, rather than putting the blame where it belongs, squarely on Zekey. One of my favorite scenes, featuring Alice, takes place when both girls are in their dorm room and Stephie is using her feminine wiles on Zeke in the hall right outside their door.

“Oh yes,” she whispers, her voice all breathy. Though unfortunately for me and Alice, the fact that she’s directly in front of our door means that even if she was in our room we couldn’t possibly hear them more clearly.

“Please kill me, ” I mouth to Alice, conscious that if we can hear them from in here, they can hear us from out there.

“Your Zeke?” she mouths.

I think of shaking my head because there’s no my Zeke, but that seems like splitting hairs.

Alice presses her lips together and then opens them wide. “Abby!” she shouts. “I’m not going to hang out in the common room and wait for you guys to finish making out. I want to go to sleep, and I’d rather be able to do it without listening to you guys suck face all night.”

Her speech is so shocking, from the lie to the fact that it’s Alice bellowing it out, that I don’t even think to stop her until she’s looking at me triumphantly.

“And I can’t believe you guys are watching that movie together . I mean, get a room. Not my room. A room where you can be alone.”

“Alice!” I squeak, not knowing whether to high-five her or slap my hand over her mouth.

“Rawr”, I hear Cloy Voice say, which makes me want to go out there and pull her off of Zeke. Because what kind of girl says rawr in real life?”

“C’mon, we should get out of here,” Zeke says, and he doesn’t sound nearly as flirty and happy as he did before.

And suddenly I’m quite sure that as utterly humiliating as Alice’s speech was, high-fiving her wasn’t nearly enough to thank her.

So I tackle-hug her instead.

I got a kick out of this scene and there were others I really enjoyed.

However, one in particular I absolutely hated. In one of her off-again phases with Zeke, Abby decides to go out with some of the other kids in the program, most of whom are college age. Since she’s feeling defiant, she accepts drinks from a seemingly bottomless flask that gets passed around. Unsurprisingly, she gets falling down drunk and Zeke finds her with some clown’s hand on her thigh and rescues her. My problem with the scene is that it’s completely gratuitous, adds nothing to the story except to give Zeke an opportunity to “rescue” Abby. This scene and A’s inability to figure out Z’s Big Secret pushed her into TSTL territory a couple of times. Then when she did discover Zeke’s secret, she reacts explosively–as one does–and accuses him of lying to her. Didn’t happen. True, he didn’t tell her. For reasons. But he didn’t lie. Yes, there’s that whole omission thing, but I felt she accused him of lying to ramp up the drama and justify her extreme reaction. Earlier in the story, she was devastated because Zeke called their first kiss a “mistake” when in point of fact, she interpreted what he said as mistake. As written, he didn’t actually say that. Be pissed, but be pissed about what happens.

Needless to say, our young lovers achieve their HEA which, considering that they are high school students, one based in Chicago and one in San Diego, is more of an HFN, Unfortunately, by the end of the book, I didn’t have the energy to really care any more. Hence, the C grade. Might have been C+ if I were sixteen. (I didn’t like baseball either.)


The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt received a D in a previous RITA Reader Challenge Review.

trip prep!

Jul. 26th, 2017 05:18 pm
[syndicated profile] carrievaughn_feed

Posted by carriev

As I might have mentioned ten or twenty times this summer, I’m up for a Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “That Game We Played During the War.”  The voting deadline passed a week ago, and by now the votes have all been tallied and the winners decided. The rest of us won’t find out until August 11, however.  I AM VERY EXCITED.  I have no idea if I’ll win. Really, it doesn’t matter, because it really is a big deal to be a finalist at all, and I get to go to the party in any case.

I love an excuse to get all dressed up and make a night of it. This is an excellent excuse. I found a dress that makes me look like Lena Luthor on Supergirl (I’m not even kidding about that), got some cool accessories, and today I’m getting only my second pedicure ever so that even my toes will look fancy.

Did I mention I’m very excited?

I’ll try to get lots of pictures on the big night.

 


[syndicated profile] smartbitches_feed

Posted by Amanda

Workspace with computer, journal, books, coffee, and glasses.It’s Wednesday Links time! Which is news to me, because it certainly doesn’t feel like a Wednesday. RWA 2017 is kicking off in Orlando. If you’re attending, make sure you say hello to Sarah who is also there!

A GoFundMe campaign is underway to turn Beverly Jenkins’ Deadly Sexy into a feature film:

The making of Deadly Sexy is a significant step for all authors. It will give hope to those who dream of having their book made into a film. It also open doors of opportunity for actors and crew members who desire a chance to show their skills during the production. It also gives independent film makers a chance to show the advancement of our products to the masses.

Jenkins is also receiving the RWA Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award this year!

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han was  a previous SBTB Book Club pick and now it’s being made into a movie!

 


USB Wall Outlet Adaptors!

What do we want? More USB ports! Where do we want them? EVERYWHERE!


Leah of The Ripped Bodice made an appearance on the TV game show Hollywood Game Night. You can check out her appearance here.

Thanks to Reader Suzanne for letting us know about this Gothic romance comic anthology on Kickstarter. Here’s what she said:

Gothic Tales of Haunted Love, a new comics anthology currently funding on Kickstarter, is updating the gothic romance genre with tales that are diverse and not-rapey, but still dark and spooky. The full-color book will contain 200 pages of new comics, some licensed Lou Marchetti prints (he’s the guy who did all those MM paperback covers), and a Korean gothic comic from the 70’s. You can find more about the anthology, the creators, and lots of sample art over at their Kickstarter page.

All right, who’s interested?

Lastly, I recently watched this trailer for Bright. It’s an urban fantasy movie coming to Netflix on December 22. It starts Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, and Lucy Fry. After watching it, some say it’d work better as a series and I’m inclined to agree, but it still looks pretty damn fun.

Don’t forget to share what super cool things you’ve seen, read, or listened to this week! And if you have anything you think we’d like to post on a future Wednesday Links, send it my way!

Don’t miss a thing with Daily SBTB updates!

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[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Leaving aside everything else that is wrong and immoral about this proposed ban, at the moment there are something like 11,000 trans people currently serving openly in the US services and reserves. They are there legally, and it is currently their right to serve openly. Trump’s ban, at first glance, appears to take away their right to serve their country, and takes away their jobs, their incomes, their benefits for themselves and their families — for no other reason than something which yesterday was not illegal nor an impediment to serving their country with passion and distinction.

Make no mistake: Trump is affirmatively and explicitly taking away a right from American citizens, a right they already had and enjoyed. This is a big right: The right to serve in one’s military openly, without fear of punishment for who you are.

If Trump will take away one right from Americans, he’s not going to have a problem taking away other rights as well. Why would he? Trump is the living embodiment of “If you give a mouse a cookie” — if he gets away with one thing, he’ll go ahead and try to get away with something else. He’s already trying, of course.

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that I support the right of transgender people to serve openly in the military, a thing they already have done, any more than it will come as a surprise that I support the rights of transgender people generally. But as important as it is for me to explicitly say I support transgender rights, I think it’s also worth asking people who oppose these rights, or other rights enjoyed by people not exactly like them, whether they are comfortable taking away fundamental rights these American citizens already have — and if so, what leads them to believe that their own rights, rights they already enjoy, are not also placed in jeopardy by that precedent.

If the answer boils down to “well, that will never happen to me,” as it inevitably will, it’s worth examining why they think they will forever be immune. The answer will be instructive for everyone.

And also, they’re wrong. If you can take away an existing right of an American simply because of who they are, then you can take away a right of any American simply because of who they are — or what they are, or where their ancestors came from, or what they believe, and so on.

I said on Twitter this morning, “Today, as has almost every day in this administration, offers each us of a chance to understand the dimensions our own moral character.” And so it does. And so it will, every day, I expect, until it is done.


[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Coke announced today that it’s rebranding Coke Zero to “Coke Zero Sugar”:

Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is the new and improved Coke Zero. We’ve made the great taste of Coke Zero even better by optimizing the unique blend of flavors that gave Coke Zero its real Coca-Cola taste. Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is our best-tasting zero-sugar Coca-Cola yet, and it will be available across America in August.

Basically, it’s the same new formula it’s been introducing in foreign markets as “Coke No Sugar” but Coke is keeping the “Zero” branding here because it’s been successful and they don’t want to confuse us poor Americans any more than we already are in these trying times. Or something.

As I noted previously (see the second link, there), I am perfectly fine with Coke attempting this revamp — by all reviews I’ve seen the “Zero Sugar” version tastes more like standard Coke than Coke Zero, and since “actually tasting like regular Coke” is why I drink Coke Zero in the first place (Diet Coke shares its flavor profile with the late, unlamented New Coke), I’ll willing to give this new version a shot. If it turns out I hate it, well. I guess then that August 2017 will be a fine time for me to drastically cut down my soda drinking. I suspect I’ll probably continue calling the new stuff “Coke Zero” rather than “Coke Zero Sugar,” because it’s two fewer syllables and I’m all about efficiency.

So in effect, I think that this is less like Coke Zero dying than it is Coke Zero regenerating, timelord-like, into its next iteration. And I suspect I will remain its constant companion.


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