2019 Resolution Project: Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9) by Ilona Andrews

My 2019 Resolution Project over at my other blog, Speculative Chic, is to read the entire Kate Daniels urban fantasy series by Ilona Andrews, finishing up with a first read of the final book in the series.

I’ve read the ninth book, Magic Binds, before, and originally reviewed it in June 2017. You can find NEW my full review here.

An excerpt:

Though they might have incredible power, a minor quibble over who gets to claim the territory of Atlanta doesn’t stop Kate from having a (highly dysfunctional) relationship with her father. He wants her to serve by his side. She’s pretty sure he’ll destroy everything and everyone in Atlanta. He has opinions about the dining options at her wedding. She would like him to not kidnap and torture her allies. They discuss this over beer. They also discuss it a few times while screaming at each other in the ancient language of magic. You know, typical father-daughter spats.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars.

Review: The Churn (The Expanse #3.5) by James S.A. Corey

Despite it’s placement in the series order recommended by Goodreads, I’m glad that I read “The Churn” after book 8, Tiamat’s Wrath. Names are important in this book, and Amos hasn’t always been known as Amos Burton.

In a way, this novella is as much about Earth as it is about Baltimore, and as much about who Amos used to be as about the society he left. We also visit Jim Holden’s family and original home on Earth in both the books and the series, but the two men’s origins are as different as an Inner and a Belter, despite being from the same planet and even the same continent.

“The Churn” is even more intriguing to read for someone who now claims Baltimore as her adopted city. Neighborhood and even individual street names are recognizable to my lived experience, creating even more intense layers in the amazing universe created by Corey.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: No Rest for the Wicked (Immortals After Dark #3) by Kresley Cole

I adored everything about this book — except for the two main characters, who fell short in contrast to the scope of this exciting tale.

Sebastian’s character arc may have been typical of alpha romance heroes when this book was first published, but it doesn’t hold up as well in 2019. He starts the book a bit stalker-ish, he has some minor consent issues when he and Kaderin do interact sexually, and he has a massive dose of “nice guy” syndrome. As in, “I’m such a nice guy, I’ve done a bunch of favors and given her lots of gifts, why doesn’t she want to be with me?”

On the other side of things, we have a woman who is experiencing emotions again for the first time in centuries. This could be a fascinating roller coaster, but everything interesting about it is buried under Kaderin’s angst about her relationship with Sebastian.

All of this takes place against the backdrop of an epic world-wide scavenger hunt with bonus timey-whimey shenanigans at the end. And that’s what saved this story for me, because Sebastian and Kaderin’s interactions in the scope of this event dragged me through the book.

This book was a fun escapist read. But the characters had so much lost potential.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: “The Butcher of Anderson Station” (Expanse #0.5) by James S.A. Corey

I’m on a mission to read all the short fiction installments in The Expanse series before season 4 of the television show premieres in December 2019. This story was a good place to start, especially if you’re a fan of both the books and television version of this series. It does a lovely job of filling in Fred Johnson’s back story in the books and elaborating on what’s shown in the show.

In this expanded (pun not intended) version, we get two important events: Fred’s actual involvement in the events of Anderson Station and his crucial first meeting with Anderson Dawes. Fred gets his hands much dirtier in both events, and we also learn more about Dawes’ character despite him not being the point-of-view narrative.

Definitely worth reading for fans of the show, book series, and especially both.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Beguiled (Enlightenment #2) by Joanna Chambers

Two years later, David Lauriston and Murdo Balfour meet once again. The events of this book revolve around King George’s visit to Scotland, which personifies one of the things I’m most enjoying about this trilogy. So much of Regency(ish) romance takes place in London and English estates. Shifting the location to Edinburgh brings to life a different aspect of “British” life during that time period, especially relating to the politics and lifestyles of those who are not firmly in the aristocratic class.

David and Murdo’s developing relationship is almost a secondary story line to this book, after the drama of how to help a friend in an abusive marriage. However, I enjoyed reading about the rekindled romance and evolution of trust between the two characters.

I’ve already purchased the final installment and I’m looking forward to reading it.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Provoked (Enlightenment #1) by Joanna Chambers

The list of romance authors I follow seems to be growing, as I add yet another writer whose books I shall now proceed to devour all of. I read this title in a single evening and immediately purchased the next in the series.

Many romance books star lovers from vastly different backgrounds, but David Lauriston and Murdo Balfour also possess seemingly opposite perspectives on how life should be lived. This conflict weaves within the other conversations our heroes have about the current political situation. Sex-charged political discourse might be my new favorite “kink” in romance novels.

My biggest quibble in this story was that there were multiple instances where I found myself wishing for scenes from Balfour’s perspective. I got the impression that his desire for David was much more nuanced than just “he’s sexy and I want him,” and I wanted to see some of that developing attraction.

I look forward to following these characters on a multi-book journey. Though this installment didn’t even really end with a “happily for now,” I was entirely satisfied with the resolution.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Review: Invincible Volumes 24-25

And we’ve reached the end! Overall, this was a fantastic, highly enjoyable series.


Invincible Vol. 24: The End of All Things Part One
Robert Kirkman (writer)
Ryan Ottley (penciler, inker)
Dexter Vinces (inker)
Mark Morales (inker)
Nathan Fairbairn (colorist)
Rus Wooton (letterer)

We’ve reached the end, kids. Along with an immediate reminder that Mark has no class. To be fair, it’s easy to forget he’s still in his early twenties.

On the other hand, he’s experienced a lot in his short life, and he and Eve have even progressed through the hero’s journey to the evolution phase beyond that of the hero. The two of them are better together, and as a pair, nothing can stop them.

This collection is excellent at showing the true cost of war, even what amounts to a civil war between the Viltrumites. Thragg’s clone army is absolutely terrifying on multiple levels. Ryan Ottley portrays gory battles extremely well on the page, showing the visceral horror of combat without tipping over the top to caricature.

I’m not surprised that the final showdown will occur over Earth. Nor am I surprised that Rex isn’t able to keep himself out of things in the most terrifying way possible. In a way, he’s become even less human than the Viltrumites who have come to call Earth home.

Time to jump immediately into the finale, even though I don’t want this epic to finish.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.


Invincible Vol. 25: The End of All Things Part Two
Robert Kirkman (writer)
Ryan Ottley (penciler, inker)
Cory Walker (penciler, inker)
Mark Morales (inker)
Nathan Fairbairn (colorist)
Rus Wooton (letterer)

Villains should always get an proper comeuppance, and I appreciate how Kirkman showed that Thragg ultimately created his own downfall. The final combat between Mark and Thragg was more than just a lot of punching, and good versus evil is not so simple. With the battle raging above Earth, Rex becomes a wartime ally — for now.

But of course, Rex’s actions in the previous collection mean that uneasy truce cannot last. The true growth of Mark’s character is shown in his final solution to the Rex problem, which I can’t really disagree with.

This final volume closes out a lot of story lines, including some I’d completely forgotten about. We also get a glimpse into the future, especially Mark’s legacy in the forms of Markus and Terra. I could easily read a couple dozen more volumes set in this world, especially if it showed Terra’s story.

Overall, a satisfying conclusion. I’m looking forward to the television adaptation.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

Con Report: Starbase Indy 2019

Looking for the full slide set for my “Alternate History: Creating Stories by Changing the Past” presentation? See below!


Usually I try to have my convention reports posted on the Wednesday after the con, but this month I had the crazy idea that I could do two events in a row. So because I traveled straight from Starbase Indy to the Biomedical HIV Prevention Summit in Houston, you’re getting it today. Better than not at all, I suppose!

THURSDAY

It is significantly cheaper to fly on Thanksgiving than the day after Thanksgiving, so I sacrificed delicious dinner with my extended local family for a delicious Friendsgiving meal at the hotel that evening. It was lovely to have an evening to recover from travel rather than jumping straight into convention shenanigans.

FRIDAY

Which is what happened promptly on Friday. I was invited to this convention to be part of the Writers Workshop hosted by Rook Creek Books, so I helped set up the suite and spent the afternoon participating in the excellent workshops and panels held there.

In the evening, the suite switched from SERIOUS WRITER BUSINESS (aka writing) to SERIOUS WRITER BUSINESS (aka drinking). Rook Creek Books is also known for their “Books & Beer” evening events, and I’m so glad I got to participate in one! I also finally got to see the full Ghosts in the Yew LEGO movie, which I got to see Blake work so hard on when I visited Chicago last summer.

SATURDAY

I always say that I’m going to get work done at conventions. That has NEVER happened–until now. There’s something to this dedicated writer space at a convention concept, because I was able to prep my monthly blog post, my monthly newsletter, and catch up on writing six book reviews. This was all interspersed with more writing activities such as sprints, plotting activities, and world-building exercises (I’m so pleased with a major idea I came up with for the UFO book, too).

I was scheduled to participate/lead a few of the activities, so I was more than pleased to discuss writing and editing with anyone who showed up with questions. I especially had a lovely time brainstorming ideas for someone who wanted to write a non-fiction book!

That night, Rook Creek Books partied hard again, this time to count down to the end of author Deanna Sjolander’s Kickstarter supporting her atom-punk/noir serial, beginning with Sophie and the G-Man. I was honored to support this project for such a good friend, and I’m thrilled to report that she concluded the night at 120% funded!

With Deanna Sjolander and Blake Hausladen of Rook Creek Books

SUNDAY

The weather threatened to be scary on the final day of the convention, which led to a lot of people leaving early. A few brave souls stuck around for my afternoon alternate history presentation. This convention, our nexus point creation was “What if the Internet never left the realm of academic engineering programs?” This led to some fascinating discussions of how the world would be technologically, economically, AND socially different. For our true alternate history, we played with the oldie-but-goodie “What if all the gods were real?” idea.

Will there ever be a good picture of me talking in front of a group? Probably not.

Since I wasn’t heading out until the next day, I enjoyed a lovely, chill evening alternately reading a book and chatting with my lovely roommate, editor Anna LaVoie. Looking for a developmental editor for your current project? I can’t recommend her highly enough.

MONDAY

Did you know that there’s a Doctor Who museum right outside Indianapolis? Neither did I, until Deanna suggested a visit when I complained about not having anything to do before I headed to the airport. It was worth the trip to see over 50 years of official Doctor Who merchandise collected in one place, especially the older stuff. It’s very cool to think that I’m part of such a long-lasting global fandom. My own purchasing was limited by what I could still fit in the suitcase, but I managed to snag some neat stuff.

The less said about the travel shenanigans to Houston that night, the better (7 hour delay, anyone?). But it was nice to spend two days in a warmer climate before returning to Baltimore late Wednesday night. I’m happy to be home with no travel plans until March.


THE FINAL HAUL

From the dealers room:

  • “J.L. Gribble” + “Steel Empires” in Gallifreyan & holiday tree Ornament by Mary J. Winters-Meyer of Tangitude Artworks
  • TARDIS enamel pin & Sabine Wren (Masked) Funko Pop from The Zocalo Connection

From the charity auction:

  • Solar system socks, Mars pendant, and handcrafted penguin ornaments by Deanna Sjolander

From Who North America:

Review: Invincible Volumes 22-23

Looking for my Starbase Indy convention report? I’m still traveling (in Houston now, where at least it’s not freezing), so that post is getting delayed to Friday. In the meantime, after a long (too long) hiatus, I’m ready to finish this epic series!


Invincible Vol. 22: Reboot?
Robert Kirkman (writer)
Ryan Ottley (penciler, inker)
Cliff Rathburn (inker)
Jean-Francois Beauliue (colorist)
Rus Wooton (letterer)

Things are not going well back on Earth, but that completely depends on the perspective. Perhaps things are going a little too well? Either way, the heroes back home are divided in their loyalties. If Mark ever goes back, he’ll have an interesting homecoming.

In the meantime, Eve is not having a good time on Telescria. Either Kirkman intentionally made some commentary here on the trials of a stay-at-home spouse in a environment without a support system, or he couldn’t decide what to do with her beyond “stay-at-home mom.” I’d like to assume it’s the former, but I’ve never been super impressed with Kirkman’s depiction of women in this series.

But before I could be too disgruntled with the story line, Kirkman hit me with my favorite plot device. Time travel shenanigans!! Or are they? A visit to a familiar past forces Mark to make a really important choice. We won’t find out until the next volume what affect that will have on the world, but we’re left with a pretty strong cliff-hanger to carry us there.

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.


Invincible Vol. 23: Full House
Robert Kirkman (writer)
Cory Walker (artist)
Nathan Fairbairn (colorist)
Rus Wooton (letterer)

The throwback to art by Cory Walker for this volume is distracting, but the dramatic revelations of Kirkman’s storytelling drag you back in. Time has passed. Everything is weird. Oliver has a mustache.

The passage of time gives Kirkman some great plot opportunities. For example, Terra is a much more interesting character now. At first, the Viltrumite drama seems like same old-same old. It quickly becomes obvious, however, that the empire has grown to the point of becoming a bit of a problem once again. But after a bittersweet visit to Earth, Mark and Eve are done with it all.

Too bad the Viltrumite Empire is still not done with them. The thrilling conclusion to this collection of issues sets our heroes up for the final show-down.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) stars. Cross-posted to Amazon and Goodreads.

November Wrap-Up & December Goals

I hope everyone had a fabulous month full of NaNoWriMo and/or delicious food. I’m in the midst of traveling (3 airplanes, 2 conferences, 2 cities), so cross your fingers that the ridiculous cold I had 2 weeks ago doesn’t return with a vengeance. Ironically, because of the traveling and the cold, I did not have a successful NaNoWriMo or turkey! Such is the writing life.

I have blue hair again, though!

November Wrap-Up

  • I’m still working on my rewrite of Steel Victory (due to that cold), but I’m really pleased with my progress so far. No major character or story changes, but I’m definitely amping up the writing itself. I think new and old readers will be pleased.
  • Whooooo beta reading!
  • The single day conference I attended in Washington DC on ending stigma was full of inspiration. It’s good to know that the projects I work on for the day job are leaning in the right direction. At the moment, I’m in Indianapolis for Starbase Indy
  • But I’m about to hop on another plane for Houston. After a visit to Who North America, of course!

December Goals

  1. Get home safely and make sure that my Starbase Indy con report goes up on time!
  2. Finish the Steel Victory rewrite.
  3. Yeah, yeah, beta reading.
  4. Survive the holidays!

In Case You Missed It

Book Reviews

On the Website

  • Sorting Hat: Characters from the Steel Empires series get their Hogwarts houses!
  • Fan Cast: Who would play Victory and Mikelos in the movie?

Around the Internet


Hello, we are here to snuggle.