#2356

The library is, perhaps, Liberty Palace’s ultimate gift to Mage. It has been so very long since she was cast out of her first home, and so long since she has let her thoughts dwell on that time, that she had almost forgotten the reason for her banishment. The true reason, at least; not the council’s fabrications.

Knowledge.

What her people had seen as a thirst for power was a thirst for knowledge, and a belief that all knowledge should be free to those who would seek it. Even knowledge which could be misused. Even knowledge which had been misused. But no, their fear ruled their hearts and clouded their minds. They locked that darker, truer knowledge away behind glass cases and sealed doors. They forced ignorance on their people. That was what she had rebelled against; not the lack of power, but the lack of choice.

It would not be an exaggeration to say the library in Liberty Palace contains every book which has ever existed. In fact, it would be an understatement. The library in Liberty Palace contains not just every book but every scroll, every parchment, every scrap of papyrus. It contains texts long lost to the histories of a thousand different times on a thousand different worlds. It contains writings no eyes but those of their authors have ever seen. It contains books thought mere myth from lands thought mere legend. Even given an eternity, one might not reach the end of the words contained in this one room.

Some of the texts do contain exceedingly dangerous information, of course. In the wrong hands such knowledge could enslave nations or destroy whole planets, slay gods or raise them from the dead, even tear apart the very fabric of space and time. But Mage has been there and done that, and her interest in such things is only academic now. She finds infinitely greater satisfaction in rushing to show her latest discovery to Alice or in spending an evening together by the fire translating and discussing some cryptic passage.

This is not a side of herself Mage shares often; even back on the island she guarded it closely, recalling with bitterness how easily her passion and knowledge could be turned against her. Yet it feels natural to bring these things to Alice, who finds them fascinating as well, and so Mage never notices the fond glances or amused smiles on her companion’s face. She doesn’t realize that Ali is watching a flower slowly uncurl upon a vine that has for so long grown only thorns.

#2316 – 2019 Book List

Another year, another book list! Some of this year’s gems included Dread Nation, The Rise of Kyoshi, An Unkindness of Ghosts, and the Jacob’s Ladder trilogy. On the other hand, The Abominable was frankly quite abominable. Only 23 books with queer characters, though, so I gotta do better next year!

  1. The Illustrated Man – Ray Bradbury
  2. The Machineries of Joy – Ray Bradbury
  3. The Spoon River Anthology – Edgar Lee Masters
  4. The Terror: A Novel – Dan Simmons
  5. S Is For Space – Ray Bradbury
  6. Long After Midnight – Ray Bradbury
  7. The October Country – Ray Bradbury
  8. The Ruins – Scott Smith
  9. The Cat’s Pajamas Stories – Ray Bradbury
  10. Death In The Ice: The Mystery of the Franklin Expedition – Karen Ryan
  11. The Egyptian Book of the Dead: The Book of Going Forth By Day – Dr. Ogden Goelet
  12. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
  13. The Troop – Nick Cutter
  14. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R Tolkien
  15. The Two Towers – J.R.R. Tolkien
  16. Dust (Jacob’s Ladder Book 1) – Elizabeth Bear
  17. The Return of the King – J.R.R. Tolkien
  18. Mutiny on the Bounty – Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
  19. Men Against the Sea – Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
  20. Pitcairn’s Island – Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall
  21. Chill (Jacob’s Ladder Book 2) – Elizabeth Bear
  22. The Archer’s Heart Book 1 – Astrid Amara
  23. The Archer’s Heart Book 2 – Astrid Amara
  24. The Archer’s Heart Book 3 – Astrid Amara
  25. Dread Nation – Justina Ireland
  26. An Unkindness of Ghosts – Rivers Solomon
  27. The House of Dust: A Symphony – Conrad Aiken
  28. The Fur Person – May Sarton
  29. Grail (Jacob’s Ladder Book 3) – Elizabeth Bear
  30. The Oathbound (Vows and Honor Book 1) – Mercedes Lackey
  31. Oathbreakers (Vows and Honor Book 2) – Mercedes Lackey
  32. The Ancient Egyptian Prayer Book – Tamara Siuda
  33. The Buying of Lot 37 (Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 3) – Joseph Fink
  34. Oathblood (Vows and Honor Book 3) – Mercedes Lackey
  35. Magic in Ancient Egypt – Geraldine Pinch
  36. Dreamdark Book 1: Blackbringer – Laini Taylor
  37. Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat – L.A. Vocelle
  38. Hathor: A Reintroduction to an Ancient Egyptian Goddess – Lesley Jackson
  39. The Wicker King – K. Ancrum
  40. Who’s A Good Boy? (Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 4) – Joseph Fink
  41. My Name Is Inanna – Tamara Albanna
  42. My Name Is The Morrigan – Tamara Albanna
  43. From a Cat’s View: An Anthology of Stories Told By Cats – Robin Praytor, et. al.
  44. Avatar the Last Airbender: The Rise of Kyoshi (The Kyoshi Novels) – F. C. Yee
  45. The Abominable: A Novel – Dan Simmons
  46. Sekhmet and Bast: The Feline Powers of Egypt – Lesley Jackson
  47. Mesopotamian Goddesses: Unveiling Your Feminine Power – Weam Namou
  48. Cleopatra’s Daughter: A Novel – Michelle Moran
  49. Five Dark Fates (Three Dark Crowns Book 4) – Kendare Blake
  50. The Heretic Queen: A Novel – Michelle Moran
  51. Nefertiti: A Novel – Michelle Moran
  52. Remember Me – Christopher Pike
  53. The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt – Kara Cooney
  54. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. 9: Okay – Gillen McKelvie
  55. Tremontaine: Season 1 – Ellen Kushner, et. al.
  56. The Hidden Life of Deer: Lessons From the Natural World – Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
  57. Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World – Vicki Myron
  58. Tremontaine: Season 2 – Ellen Kushner, et. al.
  59. Tremontaine: Season 3 – Ellen Kushner, et. al.
  60. Tremontaine: Season 4 – Ellen Kushner, et. al.
  61. Swordspoint – Ellen Kushner
  62. Heathen, Volume 1 – Natasha Alterici
  63. Heathen, Volume 2 – Natasha Alterici
  64. The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire Part 1 – Brian Konietzko and Michael Dante Dimartino
  65. The Legend of Korra: Ruins of the Empire Part 2 – Brian Konietzko and Michael Dante Dimartino
  66. 100 Cats Who Changed History: History’s Most Influential Felines – Sam Stall
  67. Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl – Mary Mycio

#2248

They say the world of the dark sisters is all shadow and that is why only in the light of moon or flame may they appear in ours. If that were the case, I would never spend a moment in daylight again. I would shun the day and wake only once moonlight or candlelight could call you forth. I would only ever want you by my side, even if that meant I’d never feel the warmth of the sun again. Your presence would be worth any sacrifice. I would wait every day, every night, every heartbeat for you to step forth from your dark world. No matter how long it might take, I would wait. I will wait. I am here. Sister, will you join me?

#2217

There and Back Again, or: How The Hobbit Trilogy Let Me Down (and I’m clearly not over it)

So I’m a little late to this particular party (haha, party pun for ya), but having recently reread The Hobbit and finally finished the associated movie trilogy, I need to get some things off my chest. Before I get into all that, though, let’s establish my ring-cred so you understand why I feel so let down. The Fellowship of the Ring came out in theaters when I was in eighth grade and I, along with many of my friends, was immediately obsessed. I probably saw it ten or fifteen times in theaters and attended the midnight releases of the second and third movies in costume. My friends and I religiously attended our local Lord of the Rings (LOTR) convention and were so well known in the fantasy con/renaissance faire circuit that everyone called us The Fellowship. My room was filled with LOTR posters, figurines, replicas, games, books, trading cards, and just about every other related thing I could beg my parents to purchase. I even had a LOTR-themed birthday party with a buffet spread of which any hobbit would be proud. So when I say I was a fan, I mean it – and I still am. My wife and I routinely quote the books/movies and I’m currently rereading the trilogy. Hell, I took a LOTR-themed writing class in college! What I’m saying is, this is a love that will never die. I am loyal to LOTR until the end.

All that being said… I was supremely disappointed with the Hobbit movies. In fact, I was so disappointed by the first two that I didn’t even see the third one in theaters (sacrilege!). I rewatched them recently hoping to change my mind, thinking perhaps my expectations had just been too high the first time around, but my opinion remains the same: they’re just not good movies. And believe me, it truly pains me to admit that. I feel like I’m betraying a piece of my childhood merely by offering criticism where criticism is justly deserved. Maybe cloaked figures will show up at my door in the middle of the night to whisk me away to Mordor, or other fantasy fans will cross the street to avoid passing by me, yet still I have to speak this truth no matter how it breaks my geeky heart.

Many critics have already dissected the movies’ main weak points – mediocre special effects, bloated plots, and unnecessarily lengthy action scenes to name a few – so I won’t repeat them here, but all of these issues lead back to what I believe is the real flaw in the trilogy: its creators just tried too hard to recapture a magic that can’t be forced. You see this with many popular franchises that have become very dead and very beaten horses (like my beloved Jurassic Park, alas!), so it’s obviously an easy pit into which creators frequently stumble. The thought process seems to be something along the lines of, “They liked what we did last time, let’s just do that again exactly the same way” without actually considering what they did and why it was so successful. Sequels in these franchises become copy/paste plots with so many allusions to the previous movies that even the most faithful fan grows tired of being pandered to. We don’t want old characters and old plots dressed up in different outfits, we want new characters and new adventures!

The Hobbit trilogy tries so damn hard to be dark and edgy like LOTR and it just doesn’t work. It’s obvious the creators threw the book out the window, along with its humor and lighthearted vibe, and just pasted Bilbo and co. into the LOTR framework. All of our heroes are updated with tragic backstories and noble, selfless motives: Thorin becomes the burdened, exiled prince trying to save his remaining people, Bard is now a widower forced to smuggle so he can care for his young children, and the dwarf who falls in love with an elf (because every movie needs a star-crossed romance) is somehow stabbed with a morgul arrow so his lovely lady can dramatically save his life in the nick of time. It’s just all so cookie-cutter obvious and feels like LOTR played out with different actors. They even managed to shove Legolas in there because why not? We definitely need another ten-minute action scene of Legolas shooting arrows and surfing on vines.


There’s no heart in The Hobbit. I don’t doubt that it was a labor of love, of course, because you can’t produce a movie trilogy that complex without people who love what they’re doing, but it lacks the essential magic that made the first trilogy so captivating. The action scenes feel meaningless, primarily because there are so fucking many of them that you become oversaturated with the constant high-stakes drama, and the plot bits in between feel too repetitive to be truly engaging. By the third movie this horse is not only dead and beaten but practically unrecognizable as a once-living creature. All you really want to do now is kick some dirt over the remains and leave. And that sucks, honestly, because I went into this trilogy ready to renew my obsession with a childhood passion and yet came out of it feeling… well, tired, mostly. Like butter scraped over too much bread, if you know what I mean.

I didn’t really have a point to this rant; I mostly needed to get it out of my head so I would stop harassing my friends about it. I just… I really love the LOTR universe and I strongly believe The Hobbit could be made into a fantastic movie. By pandering to the box office, though, we missed out on that potential awesomeness and instead got a LOTR prequel trilogy that didn’t really add anything to the franchise. There’s probably a good metaphor here about what happens when you’re driven by money (*cough* gold *cough*) instead of a more noble desire, but I’m ready to bury this horse once and for all. Rest in peace, mellon.

#2190 – 2018 Book List

Another year, another read list! And a great year it was with a mix of historical fiction, nonfiction, and a lot of revisiting books (mostly of the comic or fantasy persuasion) from my shelves that haven’t gotten any love in a long while. I didn’t read as much queer fiction as I usually do, but I made up for that with a good haul of queer comics. The highlight of the year was obviously Patrick O’Brian’s age of sail series lovingly dubbed by fans as the “Aubreyad” or the “Aubrey/Maturin novels”, which I already gushed about here.

  1. The Mauritius Command – Patrick O’Brian
  2. Desolation Island – Patrick O’Brian
  3. One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns Series #2) – Kendare Blake
  4. The Fortune of War – Patrick O’Brian
  5. The Surgeon’s Mate – Patrick O’Brian
  6. It Devours! A Welcome to Night Vale novel – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  7. The Young Queens (Three Dark Crowns Novella) – Kendare Blake
  8. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. 6: Imperial Phase Part 2 – Gillen McKelvie
  9. The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part 2 – Bryan Konietzko
  10. The Ionian Mission – Patrick O’Brian
  11. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli
  12. Treason’s Harbour – Patrick O’Brian
  13. The Far Side of the World – Patrick O’Brian
  14. They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera
  15. Meditation for Beginners: Techniques for Awareness, Mindfulness, & Relaxation – Stephanie Clement
  16. Tarot Spreads and Layouts- Jeanne Fiorini
  17. The Reverse of the Medal – Patrick O’Brian
  18. Bingo Love – Tee Franklin and Jenn St-onge
  19. The Letter of Marque – Patrick O’Brian
  20. Heathen: Volume One – Natasha Alterici and Rachel Deering
  21. Kaibyo: The Supernatural Cats of Japan – Zack Davisson
  22. I Was the Cat – Paul Tobin and Benjamin Dewey
  23. Love is Love – IDW Publishing
  24. Wilde Stories 2017: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction – ed. Steve Burman
  25. My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness – Nagata Kabi
  26. The Biography of Goddess Inanna; Indomitable Queen of Heaven, Earth, and Almost Everything – Sandra Bart Heimann
  27. All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages – Saundra Mitchell et. al.
  28. Nagasaki: The Massacre of the Innocent and Unknowing – Craig Collie
  29. The Thirteen Gun Salute – Patrick O’Brian
  30. Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident – Donnie Eichar
  31. The Oracle Queen: A Three Dark Crowns Novella – Kendare Blake
  32. Circe: A Novel – Madeline Miller
  33. The Nutmeg of ConsolationPatrick O’Brian
  34. The TruelovePatrick O’Brian
  35. The Wine-Dark Sea – Patrick O’Brian
  36. The Commodore – Patrick O’Brian
  37. Titanic: A Very Deceiving Night – Tim Maltin
  38. The Yellow Admiral – Patrick O’Brian
  39. The Hundred Days – Patrick O’Brian
  40. Yurei: The Japanese Ghost – Zack Davisson
  41. Band vs Band: Volume 1 – Kathleen Jacques
  42. Band vs Band: Volume 2 – Kathleen Jacques
  43. The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens – Morgan Daimler
  44. The Runes – Horik Svensson
  45. I Am a Cat – Soseki Natsume
  46. Blue at the Mizzen – Patrick O’Brian
  47. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 1: The Faust ActKieron Gillen
  48. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 2: Fandemonium Kieron Gillen
  49. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 3: Commercial SuicideKieron Gillen
  50. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 4: Rising ActionKieron Gillen
  51. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 5: Imperial Phase Part 1Kieron Gillen
  52. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 6: Imperial Phase Part 2Kieron Gillen
  53. Fairies: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk – Morgan Daimler
  54. Black Sun Rising – C.S. Friedman
  55. Locke and Key Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  56. Locke and Key Vol. 2: Head Games – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  57. Locke and Key Vol. 3: Crown of Shadows – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  58. Locke and Key Vol. 4: Keys to the Kingdom – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  59. Locke and Key Vol. 5: Clockworks – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  60. Locke and Key Vol. 6: Alpha and Omega – Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez
  61. Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt – Yekaterina Barbash
  62. When True Night Falls – C.S. Friedman
  63. Crown of Shadows – C.S Friedman
  64. Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers, and Magical Rebels on Summoning the Power to Resist – Katie West
  65. Flesh and Spirit – Carol Berg
  66. Breath and Bone – Carol Berg
  67. The Poisoner’s Pocket Guide Vol 1: Book of Saturn – Coby Michael Ward
  68. Two Dark Reigns (Three Dark Crowns Series #3) – Kendare Blake
  69. Nine Princes in Amber (The Chronicles of Amber Book 1) – Roger Zelazny
  70. The Poisoner’s Pocket Guide Vol 2: Book of Mercury – Coby Michael Ward
  71. The Guns of Avalon (The Chronicles of Amber Book 2) – Roger Zelazny
  72. Sign of the Unicorn (The Chronicles of Amber Book 3) – Roger Zelazny
  73. The Hand of Oberon (The Chronicles of Amber Book 4) – Roger Zelazny
  74. The Wicked and the Divine Vol 7: Mothering Invention – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie 
  75. The Courts of Chaos (The Chronicles of Amber Book 5) – Roger Zelazny
  76. Sister Light, Sister Dark (Book 1 of the Great Alta Saga) – Jane Yolen
  77. Transformation (Rai Kirah Book 1) – Carol Berg
  78. Revelation (Rai Kirah Book 2) – Carol Berg
  79. White Jenna (Book 2 of the Great Alta Saga) – Jane Yolen
  80. Restoration (Rai Kirah Book 3) – Carol Berg
  81. Creatures of Light and Darkness – Roger Zelazny
  82. Eye of Cat – Roger Zelazny
  83. The Dream Master – Roger Zelazny
  84. The One-Armed Queen (Book 3 of the Great Alta Saga) – Jane Yolen
  85. Lord of Light – Roger Zelazny
  86. Unicorn Variations – Roger Zelazny
  87. A Night in the Lonesome October – Roger Zelazny
  88. The Ritual – Adam Nevill
  89. A Sound of Thunder and Other Stories – Ray Bradbury

#2131

Reading Master and Commander, or: Meet Your New Fandom

Last winter my father told me to read Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian. This might not seem very odd or momentous to you, but my father has been dead for eleven years. However, when I dreamed of us walking through a bookstore, looking for this exact title, I took the hint and grabbed the book off his shelf where the series has sat untouched all that time. I figured even if I didn’t like the book, I would read it in his honor and move on. Certainly I wasn’t going to attempt reading the entire 20-book series! I know next to nothing about the Napoleonic Wars, the British navy circa 1800, or Georgian society – while I might like the book okay, I just couldn’t imagine liking it enough to read the rest. So I started it with some trepidation… …and then my mind exploded and I developed a new and undeniably intense obsession. Hello, new fandom!

I’m here now to pass on the favor by telling you why you should read what is quite possibly the best western historical fiction of the 20th century, if not western fiction in general. But let’s start at the beginning. I’m betting most of you have no idea who Patrick O’Brian is or what Master and Commander is about, but you may know more than you think. Remember Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, that boat movie that came out in the early 2000s, the one with Russel Crowe and Paul Bettany as BFFs Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin? If you don’t, ask your dad – I think the movie is required viewing for all fathers. Either way, I will try with my mediocre literary powers to convince you why you should read this entire series right now. So here we go!

The Setting
Master and Commander throws us into a world at war – it’s the year 1800 and Napoleon is fucking shit up all over Europe, much to the chagrin of the British Navy and her allies. Against this historical backdrop we are taken all across the world, from the icy waters of the Arctic to the blazing deserts of Africa, from the prim and proper society of Georgian England to deserted tropical islands beset by pirates, and everywhere in between. Many books take you to other places but this series does so with a depth of detail and historical accuracy that will leave you feeling like an expert historian.

But I don’t know anything about that time period! you say. Never fear! You don’t particularly need to. Look, high school history class failed me too – I know more about Napoleon from Assassin’s Creed: Unity than I do from any teacher I’ve ever had. Thankfully O’Brian understands the need for accessibility and flawlessly weaves any necessary explanations or information into the text in a way that educates without boring. As for the immense amount of nautical terms thrown back and forth, the reader is comforted in knowing Stephen Maturin has no idea what they mean either. However, I promise you that upon completing the series you could convince anyone that you’re an expert in early 19th century naval history, social status and etiquette, biology, ornithology, entomology, hydrography, naturalism, mathematics, astronomy, religion, medicine, imperialism and colonialism, and just about any other topic you could think of. The amount of research O’Brian had to do to make these books so believable is absolutely mind boggling.

The Characters

This series is most commonly referred to as the “Aubrey/Maturin novels” or the “Aubreyad”, as the two main characters are naval captain Jack Aubrey and doctor/naturalist/spy Stephen Maturin. Theirs is one of the most beautiful, realistic, and enduring friendships I’ve encountered in any form of media and forms the true heart of the series. These two are such utter dorks that you can’t help but fall in love with them and turn eagerly to their next set of adventures.

Jack Aubrey

On the outside Jack Aubrey is an ambitious naval captain who passionately loves the navy, his crew, and doing anything to foil Britain’s enemies by sea. On deck he’s a dashing master of his ship, called “Lucky Jack Aubrey” for his skill in battle and his frequent taking of prize ships. He bears a number of nasty scars as evidence of his firm belief that a captain must lead, not direct from the sidelines as his men head into danger. Even more, Jack is a man who sees the silver lining in every bad situation and always manages a smile in the face of danger or disaster. His seemingly endless fount of optimism endears him to the reader immediately, especially since we are offered glimpses of the emotional turmoil beneath which he hides not from pride but from the necessity of leadership. I would sail into battle with this man in a heartbeat.

On the inside, however, Jack Aubrey is a big squishy teddy bear and the king of dad jokes (even before he becomes a father). This man finds puns so funny that he laughs at his own before he says them, and laughs even when he can’t think of one to fit the situation. He’s just so tickled by puns and it’s adorable. He’s also quite fond of food and good alcohol, as well as a talented amateur violinist and astronomer. Jack appears at first like our usual dashing hero, eager for battle and flirting with all the pretty ladies, but this James Bond facade masks a dorky, good-humored man with a heart of gold who loves his family and friends fiercely. I love him so much it hurts.

Stephen Maturin

On the outside Stephen Maturin is a singularly intelligent and talented surgeon and famed naturalist with a focus on ornithology (i.e. a huge fucking dork). He’s the most hopeless landlubber ever to fall into the ocean while trying to board a ship, his mastery of multiple languages no help when it comes to naval jargon, and the crew of the HMS Surprise has to constantly keep him from dying at sea. Stephen will go to extreme lengths to observe a particularly interesting bird and can happily monologue for hours about a new species of beetle. He’s your classic nerd: cranky, socially and physically awkward, unkempt, and simultaneously unbelievably smart and totally oblivious to everything around him. He’s everything I want to be.

tenor

On the inside, however, Stephen is a man driven by love of his home countries, Ireland and Catalonia, and his resulting abhorrence of all forms of colonialism and oppression, especially slavery. This leads him to become a valuable member of Britain’s spy network to stop Napoleon. Few characters know his secret but the reader is gifted with insight into Stephen’s activities and we come to understand just how dangerous an enemy he can be and how valuable an ally. Stephen’s nerdiness and clumsiness lead to some of the best laughs in the series, yet he can be colder and scarier than any other character. What he is at his core is a good man driven by higher principles and a truly exceptional love for weird birds.

Everyone Else

Jack and Stephen might have stolen my heart by the end of the first paragraph (in which they get into a fight at a musical concert because Jack won’t stop air conducting), but the secondary characters are where this series truly outshines its contemporaries. Every single side character is as richly developed and complex as our protagonists and will capture your heart just as easily. From Jack’s loyal crew and officers to Stephen’s odd collection of wayward souls (many of whom are ex-slaves), both men manage to form an extended family of lovable and loving characters. One of my personal favorites is Tom Pullings, one of Jack’s young officers whom we watch grow from little midshipmen to captain of his own ship. His utter adoration for Jack is so sweet it makes me want to throw my book across the room:

“…All except for Pullings, who had the watch, and was walking the quarterdeck with his hands behind his back, pacing in as close an imitation of Captain Aubrey as his form could manage, and remembering, every now and then, to look stern, devilish, as like a right tartar as possible, in spite of his bubbling happiness.”

The Writing

I know what you’re thinking. That’s great, but this just isn’t my genre. I know I’m gonna be bored. I need magic/sci-fi/paranormal-whatever. And you know what? That is FALSE. Look, I have extremely high standards for my fiction and while I’m a sci-fi/fantasy girl at heart, I’m drawn primarily these days to queer speculative fiction. Historical fiction set in 18th century England is not at all my cup of tea (pun intended)… or so I thought. But please understand the gravity of the following statement:

I have never read a more beautiful, well-written work of fiction than this series in my entire life.

It’s true! In just one book Patrick O’Brian surpassed Ray Bradbury as my Biggest Writing Hero Ever and every single book in the series is as fantastic as the next – how often does that happen? The prose is flawless, at once accessible and laden with historical accuracy, a fast-paced read rich with minute detail. What O’Brian does best, though, is his weaving of subtle humor into every scene; a reader paying close attention is rewarded with some truly humorous, one might even say silly, little scenes and asides. I have to share my two favorites, though they’re a little long:

“The sloth sneezed, and looking up, Jack caught its gaze fixed upon him; its inverted face had an expression of anxiety and concern. ‘Try a piece of this, old cock,’ he said, dipping his cake in the grog and proffering the sop. ‘It might put a little heart into you.’ The sloth sighed, closed its eyes, but gently absorbed the piece, and sighed again.

Some minutes later he felt a touch on his knee; the sloth had silently climbed down and it was standing there, its beady eyes looking up into his face, bright with expectation. More cake, more grog; growing confidence and esteem. After this, as soon as the drum had beat the retreat, the sloth would meet him, hurrying towards the door on its uneven legs: it was given its own bowl and would grip it with its claws, lowering its round face into it and pursing its lips to drink. Sometimes it went to sleep in this position, bowed over the emptiness.

“In this bucket,” said Stephen, walking into the cabin, “in this small half-bucket, now, I have the population of Dublin, London and Paris combined: these animalculae – what is the matter with the sloth?” It was curled on Jack’s knee, breathing heavily: its bowl and Jack’s glass stood empty on the table. Stephen picked it up, peered into its affable, bleary face, shoot it, and hung it upon its rope. It seized hold with one fore and one hind foot, letting the others dangle limp, and went to sleep.

Stephen looked sharply round, saw the decanter, smelt to the sloth, and cried, “Jack, you have debauched my sloth.””

And from the very first book in the series…

“‘I was contemplating on the Pongo,’ Stephen said aloud as the door opened and Jack walked in with a look of eager expectation, carrying a roll of music.

‘I am sure you were,’ cried Jack. ‘A damned creditable thing to be contemplating on, too. Now be a good fellow and take your other foot out of that basin—why on earth did you put it in?—and pull on your stockings, I beg. We have not a moment to lose. No, not blue stockings: we are going on to Mrs Harte’s party—to her rout.’

‘Must I put on silk stockings?’

‘Certainly you must put on silk stockings. And do show a leg, my dear chap: we shall be late, without you spread a little more canvas.’

‘You are always in such a hurry,’ said Stephen peevishly, groping among his possessions. A Montpellier snake glided out with a dry rustling sound and traversed the room in a series of extraordinarily elegant curves, its head held up some eighteen inches above the ground.

‘Oh, oh, oh,’ cried Jack, leaping on to a chair. ‘A snake!’

‘Will these do?’ asked Stephen. ‘They have a hole in them.’

‘Is it poisonous?’

‘Extremely so. I dare say it will attack you, directly. I have very little doubt of it. Was I to put the silk stockings over my worsted stockings, sure the hole would not show: but then, I should stifle with heat. Do not you find it uncommonly hot?’

‘Oh, it must be two fathoms long. Tell me, is it really poisonous? On your oath now?’

‘If you thrust your hand down its throat as far as its back teeth you may meet a little venom; but not otherwise. Malpolon monspessulanus is a very innocent serpent. I think of carrying a dozen aboard, for the rats—ah, if only I had more time, and if it were not for this foolish, illiberal persecution of reptiles … What a pitiful figure you do cut upon that chair, to be sure. Barney, Barney, buck or doe, Has kept me out of Channel Row,’ he sang to the serpent; and, deaf as an adder though it was, it looked happily into his face while he carried it away.”

Also, there’s literally a chapter in one book where our heroes escape from France by buying a recently skinned bear, turning it into a costume, and tricking everyone into believing Stephen is a traveling entertainer and Jack is his pet bear. They walk hundreds of miles to the freedom of the Spanish border over harsh terrain, sometimes acting for pennies in the town square, as Jack just suffers in this stuffy, slowly spoiling meat suit and no one suspects a thing. IT’S THE BEST.

These books aren’t just about laughs, though. They elicit emotions across the spectrum from joy to sorrow, anger to triumph, disbelief to nerve-wracking anticipation. They utterly captivate the reader from page one – twenty books won’t be enough once you get caught up in the Aubreyad! I’ve never read a series that made me want to simultaneously hug and throw my books as often as this series and I truly will be bereft when I finish the last book. This is a stunning example of “genre” fiction raised to the very heights of literature and a must-read for anyone who appreciates complex characterization and masterful prose. You will not be disappointed, I can absolutely promise you that.

#2087

Top 10 Fiction Books with Feline Main Characters

If you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of a cat person. Next to queer literature, cat literature is probably the genre I read most. When it comes to cat fiction I’ve read a good number of the non-children’s books out there and so I know the genre has some real hidden gems. Therefore, I want to share my top ten cat books so other cat lovers out there can check them out!

10. Warriors – Erin Hunter

If the immensely popular cat series Warriors had existed when I was a kid it would have been my number one obsession. Even as an adult the books hold a certain charm despite being marketed to readers less than half my age. The first set of six books center around Rusty, a pet kitten who finds himself thrown into the world of the “clans” – tribes of feral cats who live in unsteady alliance in the forest beyond his home. Our protagonist desperately wants to leave his comfy “housepet” life and become a warrior, cats who defend their clans and are therefore respected and admired. But is there more to this majestic, adventurous life than meets our young hero’s eye? You’ll have to find out for yourself!

These books can feel a little formulaic after a while, but characterization and action keep them interesting and the first six, which compose the first main plot line, are quite worth your reading time. Despite being aimed at young readers, though, these books have some gruesome and painful moments. The life of a feral cat isn’t easy, and the books thankfully don’t sugarcoat this issue too much. They’re a good balance of whimsy, reality, and that special something that all animal books seem to share.

The first book in the series is Warriors: Into the Wild.

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9. Ghatti’s Tale – Gayle Greeno

Remember in the late 80s and early 90s when fantasy novels went through that popular phase of having human characters bonded with magical animals? And it was amazing because who doesn’t want to communicate telepathically with their animal BFF? Well, this craze produced the Ghatti series, which involves the bonding of humans stranded on the planet Methuen with alien creatures which look like very large housecats. These creatures, called ghatti, can read human minds in order to sense emotions, deception, etc. Bonded pairs therefore have become an integral part of society called Seekers, traveling from town to town to solve disputes and crimes. This first trilogy follows the human Doyce and her ghatta Khar’pern, who are being targeted by an unknown force hostile to the Seekers. Detailed world-building and loveable characters round out an interesting and well-executed sci-fi/fantasy concept in this series, one that fans of similar books like The Heralds of Valdemar with come to love as well.

The first book in the original trilogy is Finders-Seekers.

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8. The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford

Here’s a little factoid about me: Homeward Bound always makes me cry. Always. I can probably make myself cry just thinking about it, honestly. I can’t even watch the scene when Sassy goes over the waterfall, even though I know she’ll be okay. So I was a little nervous about reading The Incredible Journey, the book on which the movie is based. I’m pretty sure the book made me cry too, but it was so worth the read. The animals don’t talk like our trio in the movie, but the book still captures their personalities, determination, and the magnitude of their adventure. The Incredible Journey is a must-read for anyone who likes the movie, and is a powerful (if fictional) testament to the devotion of our beloved pets.

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7. Catfantastic – ed. Andre Norton

In the 80s and 90s anthologies called “[insert noun]+fantastic” seemed to be very popular in the sci-fi/fantasy community. Of these series, Catfantastic was obviously the best because it was about cats. The collection of five anthologies features sci-fi/fantasy stories from a variety of well-known authors who approach the feline subject in a myriad of ways. Unlike other anthologies, many of the stories in the Catfantastic books build on earlier stories, giving readers a chance to revisit favorite characters and settings. Like all good anthologies, the stories in these books run the gamut from humor to horror, hard sci-fi to high fantasy, and everything in between. They’re hidden jewels you’re likely to find in your local used book store; if not, you can get them off Amazon for real cheap. Totally worth the cost of shipping, I promise!

The first book in the series is Catfantastic: Nine Lives and Fifteen Tales.

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6. Yeshua’s Cats – C.L. Francisco

You’re wary of that title, aren’t you? You’re wondering why I, proud pagan and (newbie) witch, am reading Christian fiction. Well, obviously because it has cats in it and you can’t be too picky about your cat fiction. I’m so, so glad I have this series a chance though. The first book in the Yeshua’s Cats series is told from the point of view of a cat named Mari who is healed by Yeshua after a vicious dog attack. She then travels with him for many years, including the year of his crucifixion. Through her we see the (obviously fictional) origins of a lot of his teachings, and the Yeshua painted by C. L. Francisco is one of immense patience, love, and understanding. The book is beautiful, touching, and at times heart-wrenching, as are all of its sequels/prequels. There are currently five books in the series, some focusing on other cats whose lives have been touched in some way by Yeshua, and I’ve loved each one.

Before you ask, the books really aren’t that preachy. As a follower of Bast, I was highly sensitive to anything in the books that felt judgmental of pagan religions and was overall pretty satisfied with how other religions are handled in the books. The “mother goddess” believed in by the cats of this world is explained as simply a different face of the Christian god, instead of something fake or demonic. This is still Christian fiction, of course, so it’s not entirely free of Christian themes, but I think non-Christian cat lovers will still enjoy these books and appreciate this particular cat-loving depiction of Jesus.

The first book in the series is The Gospel According to Yeshua’s Cat.

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5. Tomorrow’s Sphinx – Clare Bell

Tomorrow’s Sphinx is a rare book, even when used, but so worth tracking down. I probably checked it out from the library a hundred times as a kid; some scenes from it are forever branded in my mind. The book is set on a far future earth and follows Kichebo, a black cheetah whose unnatural coloring causes her to become alienated from her family. When she discovers an abandoned human toddler and chooses to care for the creature, she’s thrown into a strange psychic link between herself and another black cheetah – one living during the reign of Tutankhamen. Kichebo must understand how and why this bond exists while protecting her new cub not only from other predators, but from the strange creatures in the sky.

Tomorrow’s Sphinx sounds super weird when you try to explain the plot, but it comes together masterfully in a strange, beautiful tale of the bonds possible between human and animal. If you get the opportunity, give this book a chance; you won’t regret it.

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4. The Named – Clare Bell

Clare Bell is on this list twice for a good reason: her books capture the essential wildness of big cats while establishing feline characters and societies as believable as our own. She is probably most known for her Named series, books set on an unspecified planet during a prehistoric age in which the top species are not humans but large, highly intelligent cats who call themselves the Named. The series follows Ratha, a young adult who is banished from her clan when she accidentally discovers how to tend and wield fire – what she calls her “creature”. Her journey will take her to very dark places, both physically and emotionally, but she will come to lead the Named into a new era. For a book about prehistoric cats, this series manages to touch on a variety of different issues such as xenophobia, PTSD, abuse, betrayal and forgiveness, mental illness, and what it means to be part of something bigger than yourself. These books are absolutely a must-read for any cat lover – but I’m warning you now, you’re gonna cry.

The first book in The Named series is Ratha’s Creature.

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3. Varjak Paw – S.F. Said

You know how you sometimes read a children’s book as an adult and think “this is way more disturbing than it should be”? That’s Varjak Paw. The book is aimed at third through seventh graders, but the content is creepy enough (including the illustrations!) to not only satisfy an adult reader, but to help it stand out among its competition. Varjak Paw tells the story of young Varjak, a kitten who lives with his family in an idealic house away from the rest of the world. However, when a threatening gentleman takes over the care of the cats, Varjak escapes the house to find help and winds up in the middle of a mystery bigger than anything he could imagine. He must use the newfound powers given to him by his ancestor and the assistance of an unlikely group of friends to save his family and all the cats who have been disappearing without a trace.

Varjak Paw is book one of the duology; be sure to check out its sequel, The Outlaw Varjak Paw, which is a direct continuation of the events in the first book. Varjak is an unforgettable protagonist who will have you cheering for him from page one.

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2. Tailchaser’s Song – Tad Williams

If you’re a cat lover, you knew this book would be on the list. And it deserves to be; it’s a beautiful, heartfelt story that masterfully weaves fantasy, horror, and adventure into a tale worthy of Tolkien or C.S Lewis. Fritti Tailchaser, our courageous young hero, goes on a quest to find his friend after she disappears. Much like Varjak, Tailchaser uncovers a mystery much bigger than any could have expected – one that will have him facing off with the gods themselves to save his very species.

Like many of the other books on this list, Tailchaser’s Song is partly so engaging because it builds us an entire world for our feline protagonists. The book includes vocabulary, religion, and social etiquette unique to the cats of this world that feel completely real. Despite being thrown into an entirely different society from the first page, the reader lands on their feet (pun intended) and becomes entirely immersed in the fantasy world Tad Williams is building.

I utterly love this book, but it does come with a warning: it has some seriously dark themes and several disturbing scenes. It’s a hard read sometimes, but one that will leave you in that perfect post-book daze.

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1. The Wild Road – Gabriel King

I’ve seen this book compared to Watership Down, which is fair in the sense that they are both sweeping epics focusing on the lives of everyday animals and both are astoundingly good. The Wild Road, however, employs fantasy elements in a way which Watership Down does not, making it more comparable to Tailchaser’s Song. Also like Tailchaser’s Song, this book is dark. Not just dark for a kid’s book, I mean DARK dark. It deals with the topic of animal experimentation, after all, and the villain known only as the Alchemist is as evil as they come. However, the blend of fantasy and horror, combined with an unforgettable ragtag group of animals who must band together to stop the Alchemist, makes this book beautifully heart-wrenching in all the right ways. Like Tailchaser and Varjak Paw, little Tag must leave the safety of his home to save a world he knows nothing about – and to do so he will grow and change in so many ways.

The Wild Road is my #1 absolutely must read cat book. Definitely read its sequel, The Golden Cat, as well to see how the story plays out.

Caution: Apparently two more books came out in the series last year, much to my surprise. They have no reviews on Amazon, though, and seem to focus on human characters with pet cats, so… read at your own risk, I guess. Seems fishy to me. The first two books are AMAZING, though, and you should probably end there.

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Honorable mention: The Unadoptables –  Margaret Chiavetta

I promote this fledgling webcomic on every social media site possible because it deserves so much more attention and acclaim that it receives. The story centers on a cat cafe where all the resident cats are up for adoption. The twist, however, is that the cats are what most people would consider “unadoptable” in some way; too sick, too old, too aloof, pair bonded, etc. The story follows both the cats and the humans who run the cafe, where all are hopeful that the next visitor will take one of the kitties home. The cats are all loveable characters in their own way, of course, but the human characters shine as well (and are some great POC representation, too) and in general the comic gives you a lot of warm fuzzy feelings. It has its tenser moments, though, as you’ll see if you check out the first story arc!

Check out The Unadoptables and consider supporting them on Patreon to get a sneak peek at new pages, character designs, and other cool behind-the-scenes stuff!

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Think another cat book should be on this list? Let me know, I want to read all of the cat books that ever existed!

#2046 – 2017 Book List

2017 wasn’t my best reading year ever; I blame that whole planning-a-wedding thing. Still, I managed to read a total of 65 books (okay, books AND comics), including 31 with queer characters or content and 42 by non-male authors. Also, I read Atlas Shrugged, which I think should be counted as a feat unto itself (it’s good! but also hella looooong).

  1. Wilde Stories 2016: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction – ed. Steve Berman
  2. Bedtime Stories for Cats – Leigh Anne Jasheway
  3. Catfantastic Vol. 2 – Andre Norton and Martin Harry Greenburg
  4. Catfantastic Vol. 3 – Andre Norton and Martin Harry Greenburg
  5. Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics – Jason Porath
  6. Your Magickal Cat: Feline Magic, Lore, and Worship – Gerina Dunwich
  7. Great Speeches on Gay Rights – Ed. James Daley
  8. Catfantastic Vol. 4 – Andre Norton and Martin Harry Greenburg
  9. Catfantastic Vol. 5 – Andre Norton and Martin Harry Greenburg
  10. Atlas Shrugged – Ayn Rand
  11. Heiresses of Russ 2016: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction – Ed. A M Dellamonica and Steve Berman
  12. The King of the Cats and Other Feline Fairy Tales – ed. John Richard Stephens
  13. The Tribe of Tiger – Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
  14. Summer in Orcus – T. Kingfisher
  15. Mystery Cats – ed. Lilian Jackson Braun & Patricia Highsmith
  16. Toad Words and Other Stories – T. Kingfisher
  17. The Moment of Change: An Anthology of Feminist Speculative Poetry – ed. Rose Lemberg
  18. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke
  19. A Song of War: A Novel of Troy – Stephanie Thornton et. al.
  20. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories – Susanna Clarke
  21. Keeper of the Dawn – Dianna Gunn
  22. Arcane Perfection – ed. Pat Mosley, et. al.
  23. An Alphabet of Embers: An Anthology of Unclassifiables – ed. Rose Lemberg
  24. Tailchaser’s Song – Tad Williams
  25. A Year of Ravens: A Novel of Boudica’s Rebellion – E. Knight et. al.
  26. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  27. Jackalope Wives and Other Stories – T. Kingfisher
  28. Paradise Lost – John Milton
  29. The Wicked and the Divine, Book 5: Imperial Phase I – Kieron Gillen
  30. Summerwode (The Wode Book 4)  – J Tullos Hennig
  31. The Miseducation of Cameron Post – Emily M Danforth
  32. The First Time She Drowned – Kerry Kletter
  33. Iron Peter: A Year in the Mythopoetic Life of New York City – Charles Ortleb
  34. Lumberjanes Vol 1: Beware the Kitten Holy – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  35. Dreadnought: Nemesis Book 1 – April Daniels
  36. The Price of Salt – Patricia Highsmith
  37. Two Boys Kissing – David Levithan
  38. Scourge of the Righteous Haddock – Ashley Schwellenbach
  39. The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars Part 1 – Irene Koh et. al.
  40. The Wheel Diver – Ashley Schwellenbach
  41. Through the Woods – Emily Carroll
  42. Welcome to Night Vale: A Novel – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  43. Lumberjanes Vol 2: Friendship to the Max! – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  44. Lumberjanes Vol 3: A Terrible Plan – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  45. Lumberjanes Vol 4: Out of Time – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  46. Mystery of the White Lions: Children of the Sun God – Linda Tucker
  47. Lumberjanes Vol 5: Band Together – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  48. Lumberjanes Vol 6: Sink or Swim – Noelle Stevenson and Grace Ellis
  49. The Steel Remains (A Land Fit for Heroes) – Richard K. Morgan
  50. A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson
  51. Homer’s Odyssey: A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat – Gwen Cooper
  52. Journey from Yesterday – Roma Niles Burke
  53. Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami – Gretel Erhlich
  54. The Cold Commands (A Land Fit for Heroes) – Richard K. Morgan
  55. The Dark Defiles (A Land Fit for Heroes) – Richard K. Morgan
  56. Psychic Abilities for Beginners: Awaken Your Intuitive Senses – Melanie Barnum
  57. How To Meet & Work with Spirit Guides – Ted Andrews
  58. Mostly Void, Partially Stars: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 1 – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  59. Master and Commander – Patrick O’Brian
  60. The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe: Welcome to Night Vale Episodes, Volume 2 – Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
  61. Intuition: Knowing Beyond Logic – Osho
  62. Post Captain – Patrick O’Brian
  63. H.M.S Surprise – Patrick O’Brian
  64. Yeshua’s Loom: A Tapestry of Cats (Yeshua’s Cats Book 5) – C L Francisco
  65. The Essential Rumi – trans. Coleman Barks

#1939

“Tangaloor, fire-bright
Flame-foot, farthest walker
Your hunter speaks
In need he walks
In need but never in fear”

– First-Walker prayer, Tailchaser’s Song

As Fritti Tailchaser spoke this prayer into the darkness of his final moments, goosebumps crept up my arms. Though ancient texts do not name Tangaloor Firefoot or his brothers as children of Kemet’s Bast, in the moment I read that passage Her presence was overwhelming. I felt compelled to memorize the prayer, should I ever need to call on Lord Tangaloor’s aid, and I have been mentally repeating it like a mantra for days. I can’t seem to let it go; its words slip over my tongue like prayer beads and bring me as much comfort.

The experience has me considering the role fiction can play in our worship, and in the wills of the gods themselves. After all, the gods speak to us in myriad ways. If we listen, we find their messages are everywhere, in forms and faces we might not expect. I think it is thus with Bast, who can be found in the religion of the felines in Tailchaser’s Song (Tad Williams) and the creation myth in The Wild Road (Gabriel King). Rereading these books as an adult, I finally recognize Bast’s purposeful influence in these stories. Their authors are extremely talented, and I don’t mean to say they couldn’t invent such a story on their own, but Her role is too obvious for me to overlook. When I mentally smack my head for not realizing the connection sooner, I hear Her gentle laughter. She made these stories come into being. She wanted them to be read. She wants them to mean something to me. They feel like scripture, like missing pieces, but I can’t yet figure out where they fit. If my thoughts seem scattered and incomplete, it’s because they are. I’m going mostly by feeling, here.

Below are the creation stories from both Tailchaser’s Song and The Wild Road. I feel compelled to preserve them somewhere, to make them available to other followers of Bast. Do with them what you will – and let me know if you feel the same power within their lines as I do. Luck dancing, friends!

Continue reading

#1870 – 2016 Book List

[ I read a lot of fantastic books this year, especially in the realms of non-fiction (29 books), queer fiction (15 books – rather low for me), and just about anything featuring cats (19 books). I challenged myself with Guns, Germs, and Steel near the end of the year, and will be picking up Atlas Shrugged on January 1st. Then maybe I’ll just read comic books for the rest of the year… (joking!)]

  1. The Outlaw Varjak Paw – S.F Said
  2. Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo – Lawrence Anthony
  3. Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia – Jean Sasson
  4. I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban – Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb
  5. The Good Man of Nanking: The Diaries of John Rabe – John E. Woods
  6. Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War – Karen Abbott
  7. Ten Days in a Mad-House – Nellie Bly
  8. The Demon in the Freezer: A True Story – Richard Preston
  9. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. One: The Faust Act – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  10. Descent to the Goddess: A Way of Initiation for Women – Sylvia Brinton Perera
  11. The World Peace Diet: Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony – Will Tuttle
  12. In the Wake of the Goddesses: Women, Culture, and the Biblical Transformation of Pagan Myth – Tikva Frymer-Kensky
  13. Unit 731 Testimony – Hal Gold
  14. Outsider in the White House – Bernie Sanders and John Nichols
  15. Survivor – Chuck Palahniuk
  16. Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach
  17. Ashes and Snow – Gregory Colbert
  18. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. Two: Fandemonium – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  19. My Sister’s Keeper – Jodie Picoult
  20. In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom – Yeonmi Park
  21. Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America – Jon Mooallem
  22. Prisoner of Tehran: One Woman’s Story of Survival Inside an Iranian Prison – Marina Nemat
  23. The Art of Forgetting: Rider – Joanne Hall
  24. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. Three: Commercial Suicide – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  25. Geisha: A Life – Mineko Iwasaki
  26. The Art of Forgetting: Nomad – Joanne Hall
  27. The Wild Road – Gabriel King
  28. Vestal – Ashley Schwellenbach
  29. Nimona – Noelle Stevenson
  30. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – JK Rowling
  31. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – JK Rowling
  32. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – JK Rowling
  33. The Raven and the Reindeer – T. Kingfisher
  34. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – JK Rowling
  35. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – JK Rowling
  36. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – JK Rowling
  37. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – JK Rowling
  38. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir – Felicia Day
  39. Sharp Ends: Stories from the World of the First Law – Joe Abercrombie
  40. Catfantastic: Nine Lives and Fifteen Tales – ed. Andre Norton and Martin H. Greenberg
  41. Beast of Never, Cat of God: The Search for the Eastern Puma – Bob Butz
  42. The Golden Cat – Gabriel King
  43. Shadow Cat: Encountering the American Mountain Lion – ed. Susan Ewing and Elizabeth Grossman
  44. North of Hope: A Daughter’s Arctic Journey – Shannon Huffman Polson
  45. Inanna, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess – Betty De Shong Meador and Judy Grahn
  46. The Scourge of the Righteous Haddock – Ashley Schwellenbach
  47. Swallow You Whole – Jasper Black
  48. The Red Tent – Anita Diamant
  49. Delphi Complete Works of Sappho – Sappho of Lesbos
  50. The Sign of the Cat – Lynne Jonell
  51. Suicide Watch – Kelley York
  52. Sinful Cinderella (Dark Fairy Tale Queen Series Book 1) – Anita Valle
  53. Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa – Kevin Richardson and Tony Park
  54. Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper – JL Bryan
  55. Tarot: Plain and Simple – Anthony Louis
  56. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – JK Rowling
  57. Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books – Azar Nafisi
  58. The Ghatti’s Tale, Book One: Finders-Seekers – Gayle Greeno
  59. Heiresses of Russ 2015: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction – ed. Steve Berman and Jean Roberta
  60. The Ghatti’s Tale, Book Two: Mindspeaker’s Call – Gayle Greeno
  61. The Tygrine Cat – Inbali Iserles
  62. The Ghatti’s Tale, Book Three: Exile’s Return – Gayle Greeno
  63. The Wicked and the Divine Vol. Four: Rising Action – Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
  64. Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories – ed. D. Alexander Ward and Doug Murano
  65. Egyptian Paganism for Beginners: Bring the Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt Into Daily Life – Jocelyn Almond
  66. The Gayer-Anderson Cat (British Museum Objects in Focus) – Neal Spencer
  67. Cat Born to the Purple: A Sequel to Yeshua’s Cat (Yeshua’s Cats Book 4) – C. L. Francisco
  68. This Is How You Die: Stories of the Inscrutable, Infallible, Inescapable Machine of Death – ed. Ryan North, et. al.
  69. The Girls of No Return – Erin Saldin
  70. BaneWreaker: Volume 1 of The Sundering – Jacqueline Carey
  71. Godslayer: Volume 2 of The Sundering – Jacqueline Carey
  72. The Island of the Blue Dolphins – Scott O’Dell
  73. Moth – S.E. Diemer
  74. Julie of the Wolves – Jean Craighead George
  75. The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
  76. To Reign in Hell: A Novel – Steven Brust
  77. The Call of the Wild – Jack London
  78. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies – Jared Diamond
  79. White Fang – Jack London
  80. Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake

#1856

Moth: Darker, Realer, and (Way) Gayer than The Hunger Games


“Five years ago, I wrote a YA novel. Like all my novels, it had a lesbian MC. But this one was different from anything I’d done before. With this novel, I got an agent. It was put out on submission & every editor who read it said it was awesome. But. Well written. But. It was too controversial. Something that they said, and I quote, “American kids wouldn’t believe.” … I wrote it because I was angry. And anger, right now, is SO important. Anger will save us. Anger will give us strength, help keep us brave. I’m releasing the book editors said was too controversial. The book that made them uncomfortable. The book American kids “wouldn’t believe.” I told this story for all of us. For every pain I’ve suffered. For every pain you’ve suffered.  Stay angry. Stay brave. Don’t fall asleep.” – S.E. Diemer

Back when The Hunger Games fandom first exploded, the books were recommended to me by my sister when I told her I was looking for more fiction with “badass women”. I read the books, mildly enjoyed the first two, and rolled my eyes through much of the third. I didn’t hate them, but they didn’t speak to me like they did to so many others. In the end, I think that’s because the world they’re set in, an unspoken but clearly post-apocalyptic-style future North America, didn’t feel realistic. The story was good – dark, but full of hope; real, but just fantastical enough to keep you reading – but I didn’t believe it. I didn’t believe Panem was once my America, and so the terrible future in the books never felt like a real threat.

Cut to the recent US election. Cut to the quote I shared above. Cut to Moth, a book about a future America where being black, queer, non-Christian, dissenting, outspoken, even just a little too rebellious can get you sent to re-education camps to be burned, electrocuted, and brainwashed (if you’re lucky) – or simply killed. This book, like The Hunger Games, is YA. It’s meant for teenagers, for the exact audience editors apparently didn’t think would buy its setting. Let me tell you – I buy it. Because this isn’t post-apocalypse, this isn’t mutant monsters, this isn’t crazy sci-fi technology and vast conspiracies…

This is North Korea. Now. Everything that happens in this book, everything our heroine experiences, has happened or does currently happen in countries across the world. It’s not impossible to imagine queer kids being forced to undergo traumatizing, sometimes deadly attempts to “fix” them. That happens. It’s not impossible to have a character whose father is killed just because his skin is dark. That happens. It’s not impossible to learn about an underground railroad ferrying kids up to Canada (the border of which is soon to be blocked by a giant “freedom” wall), nor that the European Union has cut off all aide to the country. Those things happen all the time, and have throughout history.

This is an America ruled by a dictator who claims to speak the very will of God. There are no mutants or science experiments here – just fanatical people who think the world should run their way because They Are Right. I don’t know about you, but these days that doesn’t seem like such a far-fetched future.

This book has its little flaws, like all books do, but no major detractors. More importantly, what it has at its core is the anger and fear not of someone looking into a possible sci-fi future hundreds of years from now, but someone living right here with us who sees a path our country could easily take. As much as we’d like to pretend democracy is unassailable, our form of government is as vulnerable to corruption and dissolution as any other. Will we ever become a totalitarian dictatorship in which we gleefully watch children murder each other for food and fame in gigantic stadiums full of technological death traps? Probably not. Will we ever become a theocracy in which dissenters are “re-educated” to fit the Christian model of good citizens? Maybe, yeah.

So read this book. It’s worth it.

(For those who need it, here are the book’s major trigger warnings: Homophobia, racism, physical and mental/emotional abuse, suicide, violence)

#1791

“What do you mean, you’re not coming back?” Anna stopped cold in the corridor, staring after her girlfriend as if not quite believing what she had heard. Jessryn turned back to see she had stopped walking, then took hold of her robe and pulled her to one side. “Are you telling me are?” she whispered furiously, keeping her voice low so as not to be heard over the sound of students moving between classes. “Of course!” Anna made no such attempt. “We have to!”

“It’s not our fight, Anna,” Jessryn glanced around, but no one seemed to be eavesdropping on their conversation. She moved closer to Anna and lowered her voice further, just in case. “My family’s going into hiding once the school year’s over. They want to wait for things to calm down, or fall out, or whatever’s going to happen. It’s not safe here anymore, not at Hogwarts and not in this country; I doubt even this continent. I don’t know where we’ll go, but you can bet it will be far, far away from here.” She cupped Anna’s face in one slightly trembling hand. “You should come with us. You’d be safer.”

“I’m not running away like a coward,” Anna stuck her bottom lip out, a stubborn expression Jessryn normally adored – now it only made her go cold. “So I’m a coward?” she asked, dropping her hand. Anna’s mouth fell open. “No! No, I just mean… this is our school. It’s been like a home to us the last six years. If it comes to a fight, shouldn’t we defend it?”

“Not if it costs us our lives,” Jessryn turned away, desperate to end the conversation. They rarely quarreled, and never over anything this serious; neither of them was saying what they really meant, or how they really felt. “I don’t want to talk about this right now. We’ll be late for Potions.” And with that she stalked off down the hallway, willing herself not to listen to check if Anna followed.

#1766

[ And MORE questions about Tanim and Daren, courtesy of the girlfriend. Once again, if you have any of your own, leave them in the comments below. Thanks! ]

19) If they could own any famous piece of art, what would they own? 

I think Tanim would want to own Michelangelo’s Pieta. I mean, go big or go home, right? Tanim would appreciate the piece for its pure artistry, but also for the emotional impact of it as well. He in some ways is drawn to the story of Christ, though that’s another question for another day. I can also see Tanim preferring classical art and antiquities more than modern art, mostly because he would have been raised around fine art and probably be kind of a snob.

I think Daren might like to own The Anguished Man, or a similarly creepy and supposedly cursed/haunted work of art. He’d half want to own it just to prove he wasn’t afraid of a stupid rumor, and half to see if the rumor was actually true. I think he’d relish the challenge of facing off a ghost or whatever was causing trouble, and be secretly pleased to be able to say a big “fuck you” to the spirit world, as well as the real world. Or maybe he’d just enjoy the chaos it would cause for those around him – who knows?

20) If they were in the Inception universe, what would their totems be?

Daren’s totem would be his silver lighter. Only he would know its specific weight and feel (smooth, but dented and scuffed in certain placed), and only he would know if it would light in the dream or not. Tanim’s totem would be a bullet modified to a specific weight and filled with a rolled up slip of paper instead of gunpowder. Only he would know the weight of the bullet and what was written on the paper. I think Tanim would need a very original and complex totem, because he could otherwise be lost in the dream quite easily.

Oh, and although she didn’t ask, let me expand on this enough to say Tanim would be the dreamer and Daren the architect. And yes, it would be as creepy and terrifying as that sounds. I might have to write something about that… hmm…

21) What gardening implement would each of them use as a murder weapon?

Tanim would go for something blunt – maybe a shovel or a hatchet of some sort. Or a hammer, if that counts as a gardening tool. Daren would, of course, go for something sharp – maybe shears, a cultivator, or a small saw. He’d love a scythe, of course. I think either of them would have fun with a nail gun.

22) If they were gods from The Wicked and the Divine, what would their stage personas look like?

Being the Sun and Moon, they would probably perform together. They would both dress in all black, though Tanim would show more skin, and both would wear stylized half-masks – silver for Daren and gold for Tanim. They would also wear silver and gold jewelry, respectively, with a celestial/pagan theme. Their style of dress and music would be very reminiscent of Placebo. The one thing I’m not sure about is their hair… I’m not sure if it would be long, like their original Sun and Moon forms, or more modern. They might switch between the two. After all, they’re gods.

23) What would they dress up as for Halloween?

Well, I’ve already written something where they dressed up as Vicious and Vincent from Cowboy Bebop, but that was just me being a fangirl. (It totally works, though!) Anyway, I can see Tanim really getting into the Halloween spirit. I bet in his single years he loved having a holiday completely themed around being anonymous for the night. I could see him going as anything for which he could wear a nice suit and maybe a mask; vampire, demon, Phantom of the Opera, Dorian Gray, perhaps a particularly well dressed werewolf. (Oh! Or Baphomet from WicDiv.) I’m not sure how easy it would be to get Daren to wear a Halloween costume, though. He might refuse to dress up, wear his usual all black, and get mistaken for the Grim Reaper anyway. Or a vampire. Or a ghost. Or a murderer. I mean, really, Daren’s scary enough that he doesn’t really need a costume. And everyone would do a double-take when they realized the knife in his hand wasn’t fake. That being said, the man looks pretty damn cool with skull makeup.

24) What books would they re-read often?

Tanim would probably re-read the Under the Poppy trilogy by Kathe Koja and Swordspoint by Ellen Kushner often. He might also really like Roger Zelazney’s Chronicles of Amber; I can see him identifying in many ways with the main character, Corwin. I think Tanim would also like queer fiction, especially queer speculative fiction, so he’d read things like the Wilde Stories collections that come out every year and other collections by Steve Berman.

Daren would probably re-read a lot of Kathe Koja’s work, especially Strange AngelsThe Cipher, and Bad Brains. I can definitely see him liking her strange, almost delusional style of writing and her supremely fucked up characters.  I think he’d also like Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill and other similar horror, especially anything by Lee Thomas.

I’m not sure if either of them would be drawn to a book like Bel Canto, but I know they’d both love the ending – though for different reasons. And I think they would both be drawn to reading religious books like the Bible, Quran, and Torah, though again for different reasons.

#1701 – 2015 Book List

[ I read a total of 76 books this year. As you can tell, I was on a bit of a cat kick thanks to becoming a follower of Bast – but I managed to fit in quite a few queer books too, as well as some Classics and even some poetry. All in all it was a good year for reading, though I don’t think my heart will ever recover from Bel Canto or The Bastards’ Paradise. ]

 

  1. Clariel – Garth Nix
  2. The Gospel According to Yeshua’s Cat (Yeshua’s Cats Book 1) – C.L. Francisco
  3. A Cat Out of Egypt: The Prequel to Yeshua’s Cat (Yeshua’s Cats Book 2) – C.L Francisco
  4. Per-Bast: A Tale of Cats in Ancient Egypt – Lara-Dawn Stiegler
  5. Make Much of Me – Kayla Bashe
  6. The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford
  7. Varjak Paw – Sf Said
  8. Ratha’s Creature (The Named) – Clare Bell
  9. Clan Ground (The Named) – Clare Bell
  10. Ratha and Thistle-Chaser (The Named) – Clare Bell
  11. Tomorrow’s Sphinx – Clare Bell
  12. Ratha’s Challenge (The Named) – Clare Bell
  13. Ratha’s Courage (The Named) – Clare Bell
  14. Warriors #1: Into the Wild – Erin Hunter
  15. Warriors #2: Fire and Ice – Erin Hunter
  16. Warriors #3: Forest of Secrets – Erin Hunter
  17. Warriors #4: Rising Storm – Erin Hunter
  18. Warriors #5: A Dangerous Path – Erin Hunter
  19. Warriors #6: The Darkest Hour – Erin Hunter
  20. Warriors: The New Prophecy #1: Midnight – Erin Hunter
  21. Warriors: The New Prophecy #2: Moonrise – Erin Hunter
  22. Warriors: The New Prophecy #3: Dawn – Erin Hunter
  23. Warriors: The New Prophecy #4: Starlight – Erin Hunter
  24. Warriors: The New Prophecy #5: Twilight – Erin Hunter
  25. Warriors: The New Prophecy #6: Sunset – Erin Hunter
  26. Warriors: Power of Three #1: The Sight – Erin Hunter
  27. Irregulars: Stories by Nicole Kimberling, Josh Lanyon, Ginn Hale, and Astrid Amara
  28. Downtime – Tamara Allen
  29. A Day of Fire: A Novel of Pompeii – Stephanie Dray, et. al
  30. The Seventh Bride – T. Kingfisher
  31. Strange Angels – Kathe Koja
  32. Hogfather – Terry Pratchett
  33. Invoking the Egyptian Gods – Judith Page and Ken Biles
  34. Shadowscapes Companion – Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore
  35. Deerskin – Robin McKinley
  36. A Night to Remember – Walter Lord
  37. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  38. Hell’s Pawn – Jay Bell
  39. Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes: A No-Bullshit Guide to World Mythology – Cory O’Brien
  40. Bad Brains – Kathe Koja
  41. The Mythic Tarot – Juliet Sharman-Burke, Liz Greene
  42. Song of Bast – Judith Page
  43. Swordspoint – Ellen Kushner
  44. Blue on Black – Carole Cummings
  45. Don’t Date a Writer – Maj Alyasa
  46. Bel Canto – Ann Patchett
  47. Lost – Gregory Maguire
  48. Wilde Stories 2015: The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction – Steve Berman, et. al.
  49. Bryony and Roses – T. Kingfisher
  50. The Fox’s Tower and Other Tales – Yoon Ha Lee
  51. Listening to Cougar – Marc Bekoff and Cara Blessley Lowe
  52. Wolfs-own: Ghost – Carole Cummings
  53. Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet – John Bradshaw
  54. Bast and Sekhmet: Eyes of Ra – Storm Constantine and Louise Coquio
  55. Heiresses of Russ 2011: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction – JoSelle Vanderhooft, et. al.
  56. Heiresses of Russ 2012: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction – Katherine Fabian, et. al.
  57. Heiresses of Russ 2014: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction – Steve Berman, et. al.
  58. Winterwode (The Wode Book 3) – J Tullos Hennig
  59. The Queen of the Sky Who Rules Over All of the Gods: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Bast – ed. By Rebecca Buchanan
  60. Where Thy Dark Eye Glances: Queering Edgar Allen Poe – ed. Steve Berman
  61. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War – Max Brooks
  62. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz
  63. The Halloween Tree – Ray Bradbury
  64. Lord of the White Hell: Book One – Ginn Hale
  65. Lord of the White Hell: Book Two – Ginn Hale
  66. Strange Things in the Woods – Steve Stockton
  67. Ghost Stories of Washington – Barbara Smith
  68. The Bastards’ Paradise – Kathe Koja
  69. The Cats of Rekem: The Sequel to Yeshua’s Cat (Yeshua’s Cats Book 3) – C. L. Francisco
  70. The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats: A Journey into the Feline Heart – Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson
  71. Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book 1 (The Cadeleonian Series Book 3) – Ginn Hale
  72. Champion of the Scarlet Wolf Book 2 (The Cadeleonian Series Book 4) – Ginn Hale
  73. Innocence – Jane Mendelsohn
  74. Sharp Teeth – Toby Barlow
  75. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  76. The Conqueror’s Wife: A Novel of Alexander the Great – Stephanie Thornton

#1681

“Dum spiro te amo”

kiss and raise a fist
give your bow, gentlemen
this stage won’t forget

[ If you haven’t read Kathe Koja’s stunning work Under the Poppy, or its equally as heart-wrenching and powerful sequels The Mercury Waltz and just-released The Bastards’ Paradise, do yourself a favor… read them all. Now. ]

#1566

Devotion to the Mother Cat

I’m now three months in to my devotion to Bast. So far things are going well – She seems to approve of my approach to devotion and is clear when She wants something done, or done differently. One thing I have found, though, is that it can be difficult to fit devotions into a busy day, especially if you don’t have the time/energy/wellness to conduct something extended. I know most spiritual people struggle with this, so I thought I’d just mention some of the simple things I do during the week for Bast.

1) Music – I’m lucky that I can often listen to music in my cubicle at work. This gives me an opportunity to honor Bast during the day while otherwise being a boring adult. Below are some of the songs Bast enjoys (with Youtube links):

The Lion King Broadway soundtrack (especially Grasslands Chant, The Lioness Hunt, and Shadowland)
When You Believe – The Prince of Egypt soundtrack
Alegria – Cirque du Soleil
Adiemus – Karl Jenkins/Enya
Awake and In the Land of Twilight – Yuki Kajiura

2) Reading – One thing Bast demanded pretty quickly in my devotion was a focus on cat fiction. Since January I’ve literally only read books with feline characters and She absolutely loves them. Below are some of the books I’d definitely recommend not just to followers of Bast, but to anyone who likes feline fiction – or just really good books in general. (Be warned, though; all of these books are darker than you’d expect and at least two of the Warriors books so far have made me bawl.)

The Named series – Clare Bell
The Warriors series – Erin Hunter
Yeshua’s Cats (books 1 and 2) – C.L. Francisco
Tomorrow’s Sphinx – Clare Bell
Varjak Paw – Sf Said
The Incredible Journey – Sheila Burnford
Per-Bast: A Tale of Cats in Ancient Egypt – Lara-Dawn Stiegler

3) Jewelry – I’ve been a cat person since I was born, so I already had a lot of cat jewelry when Bast came calling. I’ve asked Her to bless these pieces one by one as I wear them, and now consider them symbols of my devotion. I’ll choose certain ones to wear on days when I feel I need extra strength, guidance, or protection, or just when I want to feel closer to Her.

4) Writing and Art – Two ways I try to honor Bast in my spare time are through writing and art. I can handle the writing part – hymns, prayers, etc – pretty easily, but art not so much. So I’ve taken up practicing drawing cats, mostly doodles on my notes at work, and when I get home I sometimes play dollmaker games online and make depictions of Bast. I think Bast enjoys these because I put time and effort into them, so even though I’m not the one actually drawing the picture, I’m still being creative and thoughtful in Her honor. bast1 Doll-Divine-Creation-wide (2) bast

#1537

Dear favorite character,

There’s no easy way to cushion this blow, no delicate way to break this news, so I’m just going to say it:

You’re going to die.

I’m sorry. There’s no avoiding it. It’s a curse I’ve inflicted upon you, one neither of us can reverse. It’s easier to simply try to accept your fate, as I do. Once I realize who you are, I know it’s over. There’s no hope. The ending is written in blood. I’ll still mourn you – gods, how I’ll mourn you – but I know it’s inevitable.

Please don’t ask me for exceptions to the rule. There are none. It doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re just a minor character or on the cover of the comic. You might be a villain who just redeemed themselves, or a friend who just betrayed the good guys. You might be the antihero, the best friend, the mentor, the star-crossed lover, the silent guardian, the cute sidekick. Human or animal, young or old, good or evil. It doesn’t matter. Nothing will keep you safe.

Even the form of media doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you live in the book; you’ll die in the movie (I’m looking at you, Muldoon). It doesn’t matter if you live in the movie; you’ll die in the book (and you, Malcolm). It doesn’t matter if you’re off the show; they’ll bring you back in season four just to kill you off (I can’t say your name yet – I’m not ready). You’ll be the only one to die in a Disney movie or a children’s book. On a show filled with violence, in a movie where everyone dies, your death will still be the worst. There’s a very good chance you’ll be played by Sean Bean.

I can’t tell you for sure when it will happen. It may be when you’ve just grasped a small measure of happiness for the first time; it may be when you think you are most triumphant or have revenged a lost lover; it may be after a long, painful battle against your worst enemy or a cruel illness. It might even be so completely unexpected, so shocking and nonsensical, that your death will leave me staring wordlessly at nothing, trying to comprehend what just happened. You might even do it yourself, as if hastening the ending you already know is inevitable.

I really am sorry. I didn’t mean to get you messed up in all this. You’re just so interesting or creepy or cute or cruel or tragic, and I like you, and now you’re completely fucked. That’s just the way the world works, apparently. You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last. But I’ll always remember you.

– Elyssa

P.S If you have white hair, I’m especially sorry. And no, I wouldn’t ask why if I were you. Some things are better left unknown.

#1522 – 2014 Book List

[ This year has been very busy with new job(s), moving, several illnesses, and other things, so I didn’t read nearly as many books as usual. However, I think most of the books I did read were of good quality so hopefully that makes up for my low number. I read 20 books this year with GRSM (gender, romantic, and sexual orientation minorities) main characters; it probably would have been more but I got distracted near the end of the year by historical fiction. Extreme praises go to The Mercury Waltz, The Tiger Queens, and Conservation of Shadows. ]

  1. ElfQuest: The Quest Begins (novel) – Wendi and Richard Pini
  2. The Mercury Waltz – Kathe Koja
  3. Night Shadows: Queer Horror – Various
  4. Unspeakable Horror: From the Shadows of the Closet – ed. Vince Liaguno and Chad Helder
  5. Project Unicorn, Volume 2 – Sarah Diemer and Jennifer Diemer
  6. Sappho’s Fables, Volume 1 – Jennifer Diemer and Elora Bishop
  7. Heiresses of Russ 2013: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction – various
  8. Roses and Thorns: Beauty and the Beast Retold – Chris Anne Wolfe
  9. Fire Logic – Laurie J Marks
  10. The Queen’s Librarian – Carole Cummings
  11. American Studies – Mark Merlis
  12. ElfQuest: Journey to Sorrow’s End (novel) – Wendi and Richard Pini
  13. The Lies of Locke Lamora – Scott Lynch
  14. Dawn of Darkness – Lee Brandenburg
  15. Funeral Games – Mary Renault
  16. Red Seas Under Red Skies – Scott Lynch
  17. The Republic of Thieves – Scott Lynch
  18. Ash – Malinda Lo
  19. Greenwode – J Tullos Hennig
  20. The October Country – Ray Bradbury
  21. Long After Midnight – Ray Bradbury
  22. The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury
  23. Wilde Stories 2014 – Steve Berman
  24. Half a King – Joe Abercrombie
  25. The Princess Bride – William Golding*
  26. Ebenezer – Joselle Vanderhoof
  27. Ask the Passengers – A.S. King
  28. The Betrayal – R.L. Stein*
  29. The Girls of No Return – Erin Saldin
  30. Conservation of Shadows – Yoon Ha Lee
  31. The Secret – R.L. Stein*
  32. The Girl From the Well – Rin Chupeco
  33. Alice + Freda Forever: A Murder in Memphis – Alexis Coe
  34. Tipping the Velvet – Sarah Waters
  35. Fingersmith – Sarah Waters
  36. Shadows on the Moon – Zoe Marriott
  37. The Burning – R.L. Stein*
  38. The Bread We Eat in Dreams – Catherynne M. Valente
  39. Carmilla – J. Sheridan LeFanu
  40. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
  41. The Tiger Queens: The Women of Genghis Khan – Stephanie Thornton
  42. The Phantom of the Opera – Gaston Leroux*
  43. Starvation Heights: A True Story of Murder and Malice in the Woods of the Pacific Northwest – Gregg Olsen
  44. Daughter of the Gods: A Novel of Ancient Egypt – Stephanie Thornton

*Books read out loud by my wonderful girlfriend.

#1488

With a twist she slips from the officer’s grasp and runs for the dock, legs pumping, perching a second on the railing to gather energy before launching into the water with a dive that cuts the icy waves. Above the surface chaos erupts, shouting and arguing, but she is too deep and too far already to catch words. She swims. Limbs slicing through the water like blades, sharper than the Exacto knife she’d wielded in triumphant frenzy, she swims. Away from the useless counselors. Away from the father who buys love with diamonds and Gucci. Away from the memory of a mother, somewhere and yet nowhere. Away from the gnawing emptiness inside that makes her control, manipulate, destroy everything and everyone who reaches out. They will catch her, but until they do she swims toward the horizon and thinks only of the water buoying her forward.

[ Had a dream I was several different characters from The Girls of No Return, a book about a wilderness camp for delinquent girls. I very much recommend it! ]

#1484

Bradbury has followed me through the years, both companion and guide, close to my side as any holy book. I have read him in dorm rooms late at night and New Mexican laundromats at high noon; in hotel rooms in Switzerland and Portland; on trains down the continent, planes across the ocean, buses through the city; in the deepest wilderness and in bed by sick, slumbering lovers. I have read him when I needed rekindling, when I needed reminding, when I needed a rescue. I have read him desperately, ravenously, wondrously.