Any­body else using Live­Mocha? Espe­cially to learn French? I just joined (as Tech­noMom, of course) and would like to have “friends” there. I started with the begin­ner level, lesson one, and actu­ally learned a few new vocab­u­lary words. (My wee bit of for­eign lan­guage instruc­tion in high school sucked, to put it mildly.) You’re sup­posed to ask your “friends” for feed­back on your lessons, but I don’t have any and don’t really want to ask total strangers about how badly I did.

Sam and Katie have been at Dragon*Con for the past few days. We had a house guest, David, but I didn’t really “meet” him because of the late con hours and hav­ing a really bad pain flare. Sorry David! He went home this after­noon. I’m glad Sam has the day off tomor­row to recover. I’m glad Hope got to come to D*C, but pout­ing because I won’t get to see her while she’s in town. I know that she has bright­ened Sam’s week­end.

I fin­ished read­ing The Jen­nifer Morgue by Charles Stross last night, and started Phae­dra Weldon’s Wraith. I liked Morgue, but it wasn’t quite as strong as The Atroc­ity Archives. The short story at the end of the book, “Pimpf,” didn’t do too much for me, but I’m not a video gamer so that prob­a­bly has a lot to do with it.

I’m really lik­ing Wraith. A lot. The fact that it’s set in Atlanta is nice, because I can fol­low along the geog­ra­phy as the char­ac­ters move around. (Usu­ally, such things go right past me, even if there’s a map.) Thanks to Good Reads, I know that there’s a novella, “Out of the Dark,” on Weldon’s site that takes place between this book and Spec­tre.

I’ve also been brows­ing through the archives at Two Lumps, thanks to a link from . I had a pair of Rus­sian Blues who were entirely too much like Ebenezer and Snooch! If you’re a vet­eran of cat cohab­i­ta­tion, be care­ful when read­ing. I rec­om­mend not hav­ing a drink in hand (or in mouth) and being care­ful to empty your blad­der before you start read­ing.

Kyoshi is busy telling me that he still doesn’t want to cud­dle with any­body but Katie, but he wants her home NOW! RIGHT NOW! And that we really have to stop let­ting the kit­ten out of the house with­out his per­sonal super­vi­sion.

Review: Maria V. Snyder’s Study Series

Fire Study (Study, Book 3) Fire Study by Maria V. Sny­der

My review

rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars
I strongly rec­om­mend read­ing Poi­son Study, Assas­sin Study, Magic Study, and Power Study all at a go. The two novel­las are optional, but canon­i­cal and fun. 

Snyder’s world seems to be made up of just two coun­tries: Ixia and Sitia. Ixia has been ruled by Com­man­der Ambrose and his gen­er­als for about a decade when Poi­son Study starts, after a mil­i­tary coup over­threw the old monar­chy. There are no beg­gars, every child is enti­tled to an edu­ca­tion, nobody has to go hun­gry or home­less, and pro­mo­tions are based solely on skill, with no gen­der or racial discrimination—but every cit­i­zen also has to wear a uni­form declar­ing his or her proper loca­tion and job func­tion, gov­ern­ment approval is required for mar­ry­ing, mov­ing to a new home, or chang­ing jobs, and any­body iden­ti­fied as hav­ing magic tal­ent is killed imme­di­ately. Every­one is sub­ject to the Code of Behav­ior, and there are no excep­tions for any kind of exten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances. If you kill some­one, you are sen­tenced to death, even if you were defend­ing your­self or another.

Yelena has been in the Commander’s dun­geon for most of a year after killing the son of Gen­eral Brazell. Valek, Ambrose’s spy­mas­ter, gives her a choice: go to the gal­lows, or become the Commander’s food taster. The job doesn’t have a long life expectancy, as poi­son­ing attempts are fairly com­mon, but Yelena sees a chance at life bet­ter than imme­di­ate death, and takes the job.

Yelena man­ages to sur­vive sev­eral attempts to mur­der her. The fact that Brazell wants her dead is under­stand­able, but the other attempts are mys­te­ri­ous. Why would a Sitian mas­ter magi­cian try to kill her? Who would slip poi­son into her wine?

Magic Study finds Yelena in Sitia, learn­ing to cope with a very dif­fer­ent way of life. Magic is almost taken for granted, and a strong family/​clan struc­ture forms the back­bone of the gov­ern­ment. But why are there beg­gars in the streets, and why is it that only those who can afford it are edu­cated? Every­one in Sitia believes that life in Ixia must be hor­ri­fic, but look­ing around her, Yelena sees that Ambrose’s rule does have its ben­e­fits.

Fire Study moves between Sitia and Ixia, involv­ing the lead­ers of both nations and intriguers who want to bring both of them down by pitch­ing them against each other. Yelena and her friends are try­ing to pre­vent a war and reveal the trai­tors, but they’ve been declared out­law and have to sneak around try­ing to fig­ure out what’s going on.

Another reviewer found Yelena too tal­ented for belief, but I found her fairly real­is­tic. She cer­tainly isn’t good at everything—she could use a lot of help in terms of social skills!—and the skills that she begins with and gains over the course of the tril­ogy do make sense. She trained as an acro­bat when she was a child, so it does make sense that she is able to learn some types of self-defense with­out too much trou­ble. Some of her apti­tudes make more sense after she learns more about her fam­ily back­ground. She does find that she has mag­i­cal abil­i­ties, but she isn’t good at every­thing, and indeed, can­not seem to mas­ter some tasks that other magi­cians con­sider rudi­men­tary.

I did find some of the betray­als to be dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend, as some of the trai­tors would have no defense against men­tal scans. There’s a Sitian Eth­i­cal Code of Con­duct that pro­hibits non-con­sen­sual scans, but it doesn’t apply to crim­i­nals, and in a war sit­u­a­tion, I found it hard to believe that nobody ever did a lit­tle tele­pathic peek­ing at the peo­ple around them.

These were fun books, and they could be use­ful in look­ing at the pros and cons of dif­fer­ent types of gov­ern­ments with teens. There’s some sex in the books, but noth­ing ter­ri­bly explicit. The vio­lence is more trou­ble­some, but the author never dwells on it.

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Review: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

The Atrocity Archives The Atroc­ity Archives by Charles Stross

My review

rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars
I don’t give many 5-star rat­ings, but The Atroc­ity Archives deserves one. You may need to read it with a web browser open to look up ref­er­ences using Wikipedia or Google, but if you enjoy Torch­wood, Men in Black, or Snow Crash, I think you’ll enjoy this one.

The vol­ume actu­ally includes the novel and a novella, The Con­crete Jun­gle. Both are good read­ing, and I rec­om­mend giv­ing your­self time to enjoy the fore­word and after­word, as well.

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American Accent Quizzie

What Amer­i­can accent do you have?
Cre­ated by Xavier on Memegen​.net

North­ern. Whether you have the world famous Inland North accent of the Great Lakes area, or the radio-friendly sound of upstate NY and west­ern New Eng­land, your accent is what used to set the stan­dard for Amer­i­can Eng­lish pro­nun­ci­a­tion (not much any­more now that the Inland North sounds like it does).

If you are not from the North, you are prob­a­bly one of the fol­low­ing:
(a) A South­erner who hates South­ern accents and tries really hard to “talk right”; or
(b) A New Yorker or New Jer­seyan who doesn’t have the full accent

Take this quiz now — it’s easy!
We’re going to start with “cot” and “caught.” When you say those words do they sound the same or dif­fer­ent?

Then again, it could be that I’m a south­erner who grew up in the metro Atlanta area, where we hear all kinds of accents. Or that I watched too much tele­vi­sion as a child, and broad­cast­ers use the same stan­dard. In any case, the author of the quiz seems to be a bit out of touch as far as the expla­na­tions of dif­fer­ent results go (and a bit defen­sive, as well).

Review: Selene by Lilith Saintcrow

Selene Selene by Lilith Saint­crow

My review

I was just as annoyed with this lit­tle 5-chap­ter novella as I was by the bit that was in an anthol­ogy—Hot­ter Than Hell, maybe? We get a good idea of who Selene is, a glimpse of Niko­lai, and lot of Selene being an utterly ungrate­ful bitch to him, hot sex, and NO res­o­lu­tion in the plot. None. At. All. Blah.

Edited: I’m informed that this isn’t just a novella, and that it is still being released. So I’ll wait and review the whole thing when it’s done, if it is inter­est­ing enough to read. What I said so far is absolutely true — Selene is a bitch and Niko­lai is inex­plic­a­bly devoted to her — but that seems to be part of Saintcrow’s for­mula. Maybe there will be more plot soon.

Protect Your Dogs and Boycott Four Paws Products Ltd.

First, if you dog has a Pim­ple Ball With Bell (what an icky name!), take it back wherever you bought it and ask them to refund your money for the dan­ger­ous thing, and take the rest off the shelves.

After read­ing about the injuries at least four dogs have expe­ri­enced due to the absolute refusal of Four Paws Prod­ucts Ltd. to mod­ify or recall their pro­duct after being informed of these prob­lems. One dog had to be euth­a­nized.

The com­pany and its insurer (I wish I knew their name) have been irre­spon­si­ble, at the very least.

Please talk to pet stores in your area about remov­ing the “pim­ple ball with bell” from their shelves. Warn other dog own­ers about the prob­lem. Con­sider talk­ing to your vet, so he or she can do the same. 

Con­sider writ­ing to Four Paws, as well. E-mail isn’t nearly as effec­tive as a mailed or faxed let­ter, or even a (polite!) phone call. 

I didn’t find the name of any exec­u­tives on their web site, but will add that after I try call­ing tomor­row. Here’s the mail and phone infor­ma­tion:
50 Wire­less Blvd.
Haup­pauge, NY 11788
Phone: (631) 434‑1100
Fax: (631) 434‑1183

Their par­ent com­pany is Cen­tral Gar­den & Pet Com­pany. The pres­i­dent of the “Pet Group” is James V. Heim
Pres­i­dent of Pet Group
1340 Treat Boule­vard, Suite 600
Wal­nut Creek, Cal­li­for­nia 94597
Phone: (925) 948‑4000

I haven’t found a fax num­ber. Yet.

Review: The Iron Hunt by Marjorie M. Liu

The Iron Hunt The Iron Hunt by Mar­jorie M. Liu

My review

rat­ing: 5 of 5 stars
The Iron Hunt is a beau­ti­fully writ­ten book with some inter­est­ing twists on estab­lished fan­tasy memes. To some extent, I felt that I’d come in to the world on book 2 or 3, but as far as I know (and from what Ama­zon says) this is the first book of the Hunter Kiss series. There was a bit of Buffy and a lit­tle Witch­blade, with other ele­ments I’m sure I’m over­look­ing.

For once, it’s good to see a novel in which an estab­lished cou­ple has a seem­ingly-healthy rela­tion­ship. Max­ine and Grant have very dif­fer­ent skills, but they work together well. That said, this is not a romance, so some of Liu’s read­ers may not enjoy it.

Edited to add: I just learned that there is, in fact, a pre­quel to this book in Wild Thing (an anthol­ogy), which I hadn’t heard of before. I’ll cer­tainly be look­ing for it.

Next up: The Down Home Zom­bie Bluesby new-to-me-author Lin­nea Sin­clair

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Review: The Watcher Series by Lilith Saintcrow

Mindhealer (Watcher, Book 5) Mind­healer by Lilith Saint­crow

My review

rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars
I’m actu­ally review­ing all five of the Watcher books. They’re quite short—novella length, really—and very much inter­re­lated (espe­cially the first four). I read all of them in about a day and a half, despite doing other things. I do advise tak­ing them all in row, which is the equiv­a­lent of read­ing one “nor­mal” novel.

Dark Watcher opens in San­ti­ago City (aka Saint City), with a quar­tet of witches. Mind­healer is the only book that takes place out­side of San­ti­ago City, which seems to be the pri­mary set­ting for all of Saintcrow’s nov­els (from what I’ve read in their descrip­tions).

Theodora, earth witch and healer, runs the Caul­dron, an occult book and sup­ply store. Mari­amne Niege (water witch, prog­nos­ti­ca­tor) and Elise Nichol­son (fire witch) work for her in addi­tion to being, respec­tively, a grad­u­ate stu­dent and a musi­cian. Suzanne (air witch, I don’t believe we ever learn her last name) is Elise’s fos­ter mother and their teacher, some­thing of a high priestess to the lit­tle group.

The four women know that they’re psy­chic and that “mag­ick” is real. They don’t know that they are “Light­bringers,” that there are groups and crea­tures in the world that hunt them, or that a group called Cir­cle Light­fall trains and sends out “Watch­ers” to pro­tect (and recruit) Light­bringers in order to coun­ter­bal­ance the dark­ness in the world. 

Watch­ers are for­merly wicked men with some psy­chic tal­ents who have been given a chance to redeem them­selves. They are bonded with a tanak, a dark sym­biote that gives them super­nat­u­ral speed, strength, heal­ing power, and longevity. The tanak also makes it pos­si­ble for them to sense dark­ness, but it causes the Watch­ers to expe­ri­ence pain when­ever they’re around Light­bringers.

The catch is that for every Watcher, there is one Witch whose pres­ence and touch will be intensely plea­sur­able instead of tor­tur­ous. The hope of find­ing that one witch is what keeps each Watcher going, fight­ing and sur­viv­ing hor­ri­fic wounds for one chance at hap­pi­ness.

The use of the tired soul­mate meme (though that speci­fic word is never used) is annoy­ing, and it detracts from what is oth­er­wise a fairly orig­i­nal con­cept. The fact that there are only male Watch­ers, though there are a few (mostly queer) male light­bringers, is a big­ger dis­ap­point­ment. The rea­son­ing given is that women do not have the vicious­ness to kill with­out hes­i­ta­tion. That’s sim­plis­tic, at best. Male light­bringers are also painted as weaker than females, and that, in com­bi­na­tion with the pedestal upon which Watch­ers place Light­bringers, unbal­ances the nov­els.

Theodora is the main sub­ject of the first book. Mari­amne is the focus of Storm Watcher. Fire Watcher, of course, is pri­mar­ily about Elise. We meet a new air witch, Anya Har­ris, in Cloud Watcher. And finally, Mind­healer is about Caro Rob­bins, whose brother plays a small part in Fire Watcher. 

The books should cer­tainly be clas­si­fied as romances first, although they do have very strong para­nor­mal themes. Every book fol­lows the clas­sic romance novel for­mula. The fact that I kept read­ing despite my dis­like of romances is a tes­ta­ment to Saintcrow’s tal­ent.

I sus­pect that the author either is pagan, or is very famil­iar with pagan prac­tices. The rit­u­als in each novel are nicely done, and I wouldn’t be sur­prised to hear peo­ple using some of the invo­ca­tions used in Cir­cle.

I do have to pro­pose the Watcher drink­ing game. Take a shot every time there’s any men­tion of treat­ing a Watcher “dread­fully,” and every time a Watcher moans about how unwor­thy he is to be in the pres­ence of a Light­bringer. You’ll be past notic­ing any for­mu­lae in no time!

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Review: Night Child by Jes Battis

Night Child Night Child by Jes Bat­tis

My review

rat­ing: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoyed this book, and hope Bat­tis returns to this world. His prose is lyri­cal, engaging—a major depar­ture from most of the urban fan­tasy genre. There were a few lit­tle con­sis­tency blips that made me think that the book had been edited with less care than it deserved, but they didn’t detract seri­ously from the plot.

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Review: In Legend Born by Laura Resnick

In Legend Born (Chronicles of Sirkara, Book 1) In Leg­end Born by Laura Resnick

My review

rat­ing: 3 of 5 stars
Well-writ­ten high fan­tasy, but hon­estly, it just went on too long. So far, every­body has lost some­one impor­tant. Any­body who loves any­one seems to be doomed. Betray­als are every­where, and that’s some­thing I find pro­foundly dis­turbing.

The book did end on a note of hope, and I want to know what hap­pens next. I just don’t know if I want it enough to slog through (at least) two more vol­umes.

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