What I’ve Been Reading… February 2017

How the heck is it that February has already come and gone? I know that it’s the shortest month of the year, but it still went by faster than I could blink. I’m okay with it, though, because I’m ready for spring.

I also managed to read more books than I expected this month. Here’s a look at what I’ve been reading:

22318363Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King
~Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes thought they finished their investigation they for the future Emperor of Japan in 1924, but the appearance of a decorative stone and a dark-haired woman a year later speaks to the contrary.
I haven’t come across a Mary Russell book that I didn’t like, and Dreaming Spies was no different. It was refreshing to see Holmes and Russell on equal footing when it came to learning about Japan and its culture.

11330806Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead by Christiana Miller
~Mara is a witch whose luck just keeps getting worse, even after she inherits a mysterious cottage after her Aunt Tillie dies.
I had a blast reading this urban fantasy romp, even though the GoodReads summary gives away a bit too much. Mara is such a likable character who obviously is doing the best she can with what she has to work with.

23460958Zeroes by Chuck Wendig
~Five hackers are recruited by Uncle Sam to work as cyber spies for the next year, but they soon find themselves hacking the U.S. government.
Zeroes had the right blend of tension, enough to keep me turning the page but not enough to make the pacing frantic. Plus all the characters  had enough personality that I didn’t get confused with who’s who in the huge cast.

18627360Squirrel Terror  by Lilith Saintcrow
~A series of blog posts from Lilith Saintcrow’s website that chronicle the goings-on in her backyard.
I’ve kept up with Saintcrow’s blog during the past six months and absolutely love the stories about the squirrels that frequent her backyard and her dogs. Squirrel Terror is just as much fun, with different squirrels and birds getting into loads of trouble.

The One with Canine Houdini


Find Houdini…

When I chatted with my dogs on FaceTime the other day, Grace kept nudging Sampson. He sighed and said that she wanted him to talk about the new game Dad plays with him.

What game?

“It’s not really a game,” Sam said. “Dad just tries to keep me in the kitchen, and I break out.”

Sampson Stone…

“It’s not a game. But if it was, I’d be winning. Dad’s only kept me inside the kitchen once, and I’ve escaped four times.

“The first time, Dad put one of those black gates in front of one doorway and the little wooden one in the other doorway. Then he went downstairs to do laundry. When I was trying to remind him that he can’t do laundry without my help, I bumped into the black gate and it moved.

“I looked at it for a second, trying to figure how that happened. So I tried bumping with my nose on purpose, and it moved again. There was also this gap between the gate and the edge of the doorway. The more I pushed, the bigger the gap got, and eventually it got big enough for me to fit through.

“Dad looked at us weird when Grace and I came downstairs. It was like he couldn’t figure out how we got out until he saw with his own eyes. Which is weird because he’s always calling me a smart shit.

“The next time, Dad put two of the black gates back-to-back and left the wood one where it was. That wasn’t a challenge either because I already knew how to move them. Then he tried putting chairs in front of it, so I went over to the wood gate and slid it to the side. The fourth time, I had to knock over the black gate, but I still got out.”

Jesus Christ, Sampson. If you keep this up, you’re not going to be able to stay in the kitchen when Mom and Dad go out. You’ll have to go to your crate.

“I don’t mind my crate. But Dad thinks he’s got me beat. He put the chairs in front of the gates before he went out today, and I couldn’t get them out of the way.”

I swear, if you figure out how to move chairs… Why the hell are you learning all this stuff after I move out? 

“I dunno. I figure  it won’t take me long to figure out how to move them,  so I should have worked it out by the time you come see us again. Don’t worry, I’ll show you how I do it.”

I can hardly wait

***Update: Sampson has since learned how to move chairs and has escaped again. I don’t know what I’m going to do with this dog.

What I’ve Been Reading… January 2017

6617104Persuader by Lee Child
~Jack Reacher is tasked by the DEA to rescue their agent from an undercover mission gone wrong.
This was the first Reacher book written in first person that I’ve read. It humanized Reacher, which was a different experience than his “mysterious stranger” aura and raised the stakes. I actually doubted his ultimate success more than once.

15790895The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty
~Zoe Norris thought finding a job in New York City was tough, but surviving her coworkers and the new world of the undead.
I loved how Zoe interacted with the fantastic creatures from the very beginning. Plus the mix of absurdity, humor, and tension made it tough to put this book down. It’s guaranteed that I’ll be reading the second Shambling Guide book.

31423215Taking the Titanic by James Patterson & Scott Slaven
~A pair of thieves pose as newlyweds aboard the Titanic to pull off the biggest heist of their lives.
Despite a slow start, the story eventually picked up to become interesting. There were a number of subplots, and the historical elements felt genuine to the story. My one complaint was that the end was pretty unrealistic.

23308084The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
~After being separated from Khalid, Shahrzad must figure out two things: how to break the curse and get back to her husband.
I knew that I wanted to read this book as soon as I finished The Wrath and the Dawn. It was just as good as the first book, with fantastic romance and plenty of action. Plus the ending was absolutely perfect.

29214703Let’s Play Make Believe by James Patterson and James O. Born
~Divorcees Christy and Martin embark on a wild, romantic game of make-believe that won’t end well.
The best part of this novella was that it didn’t feel like a novella. It was intense from the very beginning, and I didn’t see the twist coming.

23341259Violent Ends by Shaun David Hutchinson (Editor), Kendare Blake, Steve Brezenhoff, Delilah S. Dawson, Trish Doller, Margie Gelbwasser, E.M. Kokie, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Tom Leveen, Hannah Moskowitz, Elsa Nader, Beth Revis, Mindi Scott, Neal Shusterman, Brandon Shusterman, Courtney Summers, Blythe Woolston, and Christine Johnson
~It only took twenty-two minutes for Kirby Matheson to change his high school forever, but it took a whole lot longer than that for him to become a monster.
This book was nearly impossible to put down, and it painted a multi-dimensional picture of Kirby and the others impacted by a school shooting.

The Affordable Care Act

Image result for 1990 buick regal silver coupeImagine that you have a car. Maybe this car: a 1990 Buick Regal.

It’s not the greatest on gas mileage, but it gets you where you need to go. To work. To the store. To the doctor. Out and about to where you need to go.

Now you don’t have any plans to just abandon it on the side of the road simply because it only gets 15 miles to the gallon . I mean, it still gets you where you need to go. Plus it makes absolutely no sense to just abandon it on the side of the road and wander along until you happen upon a new car.

That’s what the GOP is asking the American people to do. To leave the Affordable Care Act in a ditch on the side of the highway and continue on in hopes of finding an alternative.

The ACA isn’t perfect. No one is debating that. But it’s evened the playing field for millions of Americans who otherwise wouldn’t have access to healthcare, whether due to preexisting conditions, to employment status, or for any other reason. Someone with a family history of cancer or with high blood pressure isn’t barred from getting health insurance. And people who work for employers who don’t offer benefits (whether for full-time or part-time work) or who’re self-employed, they get access to healthcare.

That’s not all. ACA doesn’t allow insurance companies to put a cap on coverage, so they can’t drop someone who’s needed more than $200,000 worth of treatment for a spinal cord injury. It also forces insurance companies to charge men and women the same premium. All forms of birth control are covered. Preventative treatment–whether wellness exams or flu vaccines–are covered.

There’s one thing to consider above all: some people are alive today because of this law. They were able to afford lifesaving medication or treatment that they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.

As I said, ACA isn’t perfect. It’s far more expensive than it should be. Plus health insurance companies can choose not to participate in health exchanges, meaning limited choices for people in certain states.

But I’d much rather be driving a 1990 Buick Regal that gets crap gas mileage than walk along the side of the highway and hope to find a nicer car along the way. I’d rather have health insurance that’s imperfect than to have only promises that the government will come up with a plan soon. Because soon isn’t now. And I–along with 20 million other Americans–need health insurance now.

On Season 4 of Sherlock

Warning: This post contains spoilers for season 4 of Sherlock.

This most recent season of Sherlock definitely had some good moments. Mainly when it came to character development. But when it came to story and re-imagining the original short stories, I felt like this season fell flat. Which was a disappointment after the impressive season 3 and the strong The Abominable Bride.

The Six Thatchers
I have mixed feelings about The Six Thatchers. It was a Mary-centered episode, which is always a good thing in my book because I love her character. Plus John and Sherlock’s character development (both with John cheating and Sherlock’s devotion to Mary) were fantastic.

However I had a hard time with how this episode linked to the original cannon. One of the hallmarks of Sherlock is that it re-imagines the original Holmes stories, and this episode was obviously referencing “The Six Napoleons.” But it felt more as a means to an end, as a plot device for Mary’s story. It was a letdown after how well the series did it before, like with The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Empty Hearse.

The Lying Detective
Without a doubt, The Lying Detective was my favorite episode of the season. It had massive stakes–Sherlock’s life was on the line–for John. Should he believe his best friend? Or should he walk away from the man he blamed for Mary’s death? Him imagining her still being there made things even more interesting.

The villain–Culverton Smith–also made the episode memorable. Even though I knew that he was the bad guy and knew that he was a serial killer, I still doubted Sherlock’s deductions. He was too charming. He had too many reasonable explanations. And that was amazing.

The Final Problem
There’s no other way to say it: The Final Problem was over the top. It felt like I was watching a PG-13 version of Saw with all the tasks that Eros forced the Holmes brothers and John to complete. Plus there was the whole “secret, evil sibling” angle that felt like it came from left field, especially Eros’s ability to seemingly hypnotize people.

The saving grace for this episode was the character development. Not so much forJohn apart from cementing that he’s actively trying to do the best that he can. But absolutely for Sherlock and Mycroft. They emerged on the other side as far more human than they’ve ever appeared in the series. I’ll never forget Mycroft burying his face in his hands and turning away when the prison governor was about to be killed. That was my favorite moment.

With how season 4 ended, it’s not absurd to think that this might be the end of Sherlock. I hope that it’s not. And that’s not just because I want to seem more re-imaginings of my favorite Holmes stories, but it’s because there are so many more layers to these characters that are just waiting to be exposed.

Image result for sherlock season 4

An Open Letter to the North Carolina GOP

Dear North Carolina GOP,

Class is gracefully bowing to the will of the people. It is keeping your chin held high when citizens express opinions that differ from yours or when election results are not in your favor. It’s a defining characteristic for any upstanding politician. Or any respectable human being.

I could go on and on about class in respect to House Bill 2, but I shouldn’t have to. Anyone with an iota of class understands that everyone deserves respect. It doesn’t matter what gender they identify as, who they love, or the color of their skin. Even if you disagree with their beliefs or how they live their lives, class is getting along and giving respect anyway. Class is also standing that they are as much your constituents as anyone else.

I am thoroughly disappointed with the lack of class shown by the North Carolina GOP over the past year. You passed HB2 in a hurried, dead of night session, and you later blamed Democrats when the legislature failed to repeal that law. Class would be admitting your stipulation that communities be able to indefinitely delay the passing of anti-discrimination laws.

Let me give you an example of what class looks like.

This past fall, a Republican campaign office was firebombed right here in North Carolina. Democrats and Republicans from around the country donated thousands of dollars to rebuild it. A great many of them probably disagreed with the views of your party, but they donated anyway. Because no one should feel targeted for their beliefs.

We may disagree. We may call each other out when we see things that aren’t right. But we still offer respect.

That is class.

I implore you–men, women, and those in-between–of the GOP to take a step back. Examine the mark you will leave on history and the people of North Carolina. It takes courage to admit that your actions will put you on the wrong side of history. And it takes class to act and change that.


I should not be allowed unsupervised at Lowes

So. I went to Lowes a few weeks ago. I came home with four cinder blocks, two halves of an 8-foot board, a bird-feeder hook, and bamboo.

The thing was that I didn’t plan on buying anything when I wandered into the store. In fact, heading to Lowes wasn’t even on my agenda for the day when I left the apartment. It was just supposed to be a quick trip out of my apartment for a new clock to replace the one that’d fallen off my wall.

Ever since I was bitten by the DIY-bug, there’s an outdoor shelf that I’ve wanted to build for a while. It’s an easy project. No tools needed, just a bit of paint. And my brain decided that today was the day for that project to get done. I have no idea why. I long ago gave up trying to figure out how my mind works.

So I bought all the supplies I needed for the shelf, a bird-feeder hook to hang my wind-chimes, and a stalk of bamboo. The shelf has been assembled, and the bamboo has found its new home. I’ve named her Sophia, by the way.

What’s the moral of this story? I should not be allowed into Lowes on my own when there are DIY projects dancing around in my head.

The finished project and my windchimes

The finished project and my windchimes

Goodbye 2016, and Hello 2017

Fun Fact: My parents used to tell my brother and I that the New Year started at 8PM on December 31st. It wasn’t until one of my friends pointed out that midnight was the magic hour when one year turned into the next that we convinced Mom and Dad to let us stay up.

I still stay awake until midnight, though the adult in me is often tempted to crawl under the covers before then. It was the same this time around: I fought keep my eyes open while watching the ball drop in Times Square.

There was ample time–of course–to reflect on 2016 and to look forward to 2017.

It wasn’t a bad year on a personal level (which I feel a bit guilty about since it turned out to be a dumpster fire as a whole). I accomplished my biggest goal of the year: moving to Charlotte, North Carolina. I’ve wanted to move south ever since graduating college, so this was a major deal.

Then there was the Collaborative Writing Challenge. I wrote five chapters in total for The Map and Eslyd’s Awakening, and four of those chapters were chosen to go in the books. Plus I wrote a starter chapter for a CWC project that I decided I liked too much to submit and will be writing the novel this coming year.

And I downsized my Goodreads Reading Challenge from previous years (30 as opposed to 52), which turned out to be a good thing because I finished it with a couple days to spare.

Instead of doing resolutions for 2017, I’m setting goals.They are primarily writing-related. I’ve already outlined what I want to get done this year, and it includes two novels, three short stories, finishing a novella, and revising said novella. It’s a lot. But I’m up for the challenge. I’d also like to get back to a regular schedule for blog posts.

I plan on tackling another Goodreads challenge, keeping up my tradition of visiting somewhere new, and putting myself in a position where I can buy a house in 2018.

What’re your plans for 2017?  I hope you had a Happy (and safe) New Year’s Celebration!

Image result for new years

What I’ve Been Reading… December 2016

I embarked on the Goodreads Challenge this year (like I have the past few years) and decided to read 30 books. I read 52 books the past couple years, but I knew that there’d be far too much happening–between moving and everything else–to realistically read a book a week. Thanks to cramming three books into my head the last week of December, I officially completed the challenge!

32370233The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
~Shahrzad must enchant Khalid–her husband and the Caliph of Khorasan–with stories night after night if she hopes to stay alive.
This book is one part “Beauty & the Beast” and one part “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights”. The characters–along with their different agendas–jumped off the page, making me want to pick up book 2.

28186322A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn
~Veronica Speedwell finds herself inexplicably bound to a boorish natural-historian named Stoker to solve a murder and the mystery of her past.
I’m a sucker for historical mysteries, especially if they’re set in Victorian England. This one also had a badass female lead and a compelling male sidekick.

23719489Arsenic in Assinippi by John F. Gallagher
~A non-fiction book about the trial of Jennie May Eaton for her husband’s murder.
Though obviously well-researched, this book was a bit dry for my tastes. But it was still a fantastic study of a high-profile trial that took place near my hometown in Massachusetts.

24885744Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig
~Miriam Black must track down a serial killer before he starts killing teen girls.
Miriam Black is one of my favorite anti-heroes, and the only anti-heroine that I can recall coming across. There’s such a frantic energy that follows her–and the story–throughout the 300 or so pages, making it easy enough to read in a day.

21848263The One You Want by Gena Showalter
~Kenna Starr wants nothing more than to overcome her reputation in her small town, but heartthrob Dane Michaelson’s arrival in town throws a wrench in her plans.
This had everything that I could ever want from a contemporary romance: a sweet heroine, a smoldering hero, and a sappy ending. It’s a novella (only 109-ish pages), so it’s a quick read.



It Was Never About Patriotism

Patriotism (n): love for or devotion to one’s country

~Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Questioning someone’s patriotism has long been a tried and true tactic for shutting down protest. Americans who questioned government surveillance after the attacks on September 11th were chastised for not being patriotic or supporting our fighting men and women overseas. Those who spoke out against Joseph McCarthy’s witch-hunt for Communists and communist-sympathizers found themselves black-listed in the 1950’s for being un-American.

The Republican establishment in Washington, D.C. has even recently used this patriotism tactic as a weapon against Hilary Clinton and her supporters in reference to the 2012 Benghazi attacks.

Patriotism is–according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary–love for or devotion to one’s country. There’s nothing in that definition that excludes someone who questions the government’s actions from being patriotic. They can love and be devoted to their country and also question the actions of its government.

I’d argue that those who question their government are actually the most patriotic. Because they’re the ones forcing our leaders to justify their actions and to call them out when their actions don’t align with the goals of the people. It’s plenty easy to go round and round defending one’s patriotism in light of questioning the government. But going round and round proving one’s patriotism takes time that a person won’t be spending questioning the government.

It’s a diversionary tactic. It distracts from the real issue–whatever that issue is–while the person justifies their patriotism. And that gives the accuser plenty of time to keep doing what they were doing before they were questioned.

It’s never really about patriotism.

Two very important pieces of news broke in early December: a secret CIA investigation revealed that Russia attempted to sway the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump and certain Republicans knew before Election Day. One Republican who knew, Mitch McConnell, purposefully withheld that information from the public. And interestingly enough, his wife has been appointed to a position in the presidential cabinet.

The Republican identity has long been associated with the American flag and the Pledge of Allegiance and soldiers. It’s all about patriotism and loving one’s country and the good ol’ boys. Republicans are often the ones accusing others of being un-patriotic.

For a group of people who routinely questions other people’s patriotism, it’s awfully telling that they’re okay with a foreign government interfering in our presidential election. How do I know that they’re okay with it? Because they didn’t shout it from the rooftops the moment they got the information. Because they kept that information close to their chests throughout the election and even after Election Day.

It was never about patriotism. It was about distracting everyone as the Republicans got exactly what they wanted, whether it was passing legislation or getting themselves into positions of power. They do not care about this country or about ensuring that the government serves the American people.

They’re in it for themselves. Period.