Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway - coverARC Review:

Title: Every Heart a Doorway

Author: Seanan McGuire

Publisher and Year: Tor, 2016

Genre: fantasy, young adult, new adult

 

Blurb from Goodreads:

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

 

My Review:

An eARC of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

How have I not read any of Seanan McGure’s work before?! Especially given my love of urban fantasy?! In any case, this was my first foray into McGuire’s work and I could not put the book down. Every Heart a Doorway is simply magnificent and is an instant favourite for 2016, without question.

Every Heart a Doorway has one of the most interesting fantasy premises I’ve come across in a long time and it’s beautifully executed. The world building for the story is sublime and I want to read so many more stories set in this universe! Not only were the setting and world building engaging, the characters leapt off the page and brought the story to life for me. I could imagine their voices, the way they looked, everything so clearly.

My heart went out to Nancy and I was particularly taken by her experience having tumbled into a world that wasn’t sunshine and rainbows, as some of the worlds in the books were described, but one that is more silent, deeper and a bit darker. I am absolutely a fan of sunshine, unicorns and rainbows without question, but my experience of that is enhanced when there is shadow and darkness to the lightheartedness. I also love how well McGuire demonstrates that sunshine and rainbows do not inherently equal benevolence or fairness, and that the darker or creepier worlds are not necessarily malevolent or evil.

What especially struck me about this novella, and I think it’s an aspect that makes this particularly good reading for young/new adults is the way in which Nancy experiences isolation and difficulty with her family after she returns from her world. Nancy’s experience parallels the experience of many who are struggling personally with something that their families don’t or can’t understand. Across the experiences of other characters in the novel like Kade, Jack, Jill and Sumi, the concept of family and the relationship with family as being complex, fraught and difficult on several levels is explored including having family, not having family, being loved and wanted, or unwanted and misunderstood by family.

Additionally, the novella includes a spectrum of characters with different experiences, not all of them are white, one is asexual and another is transgender, and this too mirrors the experience of people reading who want to see themselves in fiction, and see how other characters think about their lives, feelings and experiences and process them. I sincerely wish I had a book like this for when I was growing up, I needed this book growing up and I needed it now to look back on my past and growing up and the impact of being misunderstood and out of place on me. That profound sense of not belonging so much that you lose yourself in fantasy trying to cope – for the characters in the story that’s more literal than metaphorical but it really hit home for me. Wanting to belong and trying to find that place, finding it and losing it, trying to find a new sense of home and belonging afterwards. This story is profound on several levels.

I also love the overt feminism of the story in considering why there are so many more girls than boys who go through secret doors into hidden worlds. The idea of boys being too loud to be easily missed, and the expectations and assumptions about how boys play and what will happen to them versus the way in which we seek to protect girls, but also how we impose upon them a silence and stillness that means that it is easier for them to be misplaced, should they find a door and go wandering. This is a pointed commentary and it draws on the generalisations bound up in traditional gender roles reflecting not only a bitter truth contained within, but also the constraint that is imposed upon people to be, to not be, to conform a certain way.

I have no criticisms to level at this novella, as one reviewer put it: it’s damn near perfect. It packs an emotional punch, it’s beautifully written, the length is accessible – it’s neither too long nor too short and it leaves you wanting more. I am my own doorway, I am the only one who gets to choose my story and I make the decisions that govern my narrative. Every Heart a Doorway will stay with me for the rest of my life.

 

 

AWW16: Love and Romanpunk by Tansy Rayner Roberts (Twelve Planets #2)

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016: Book #4

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016 BadgeTitle: Love and Romanpunk (Twelve Planets #2)

Author: Tansy Rayner Roberts

Publisher and Year: Twelfth Planet Press, 2011

Genre: fantasy, alternate history, historical fiction, urban fantasy,

 

Love and Romanpunk - coverBlurb from Goodreads:

Thousands of years ago, Julia Agrippina wrote the true history of her family, the Caesars. The document was lost, or destroyed, almost immediately.
(It included more monsters than you might think.)

Hundreds of years ago, Fanny and Mary ran away from London with a debauched poet and his sister.
(If it was the poet you are thinking of, the story would have ended far more happily, and with fewer people having their throats bitten out.)

Sometime in the near future, a community will live in a replica Roman city built in the Australian bush. It’s a sight to behold.
(Shame about the manticores.)

Further in the future, the last man who guards the secret history of the world will discover that the past has a way of coming around to bite you.
(He didn’t even know she had a thing for pointy teeth.)

The world is in greater danger than you ever suspected. Women named Julia are stronger than they appear. Don’t let your little brother make out with silver-eyed blondes. Immortal heroes really don’t fancy teenage girls. When love dies, there’s still opera. Family is everything. Monsters are everywhere. Yes, you do have to wear the damned toga.

History is not what you think it is.

My review:

This review is presented as part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016, and as part of the Journey Through the Twelve Planets Reading Challenge


I like to think that I’m someone who appreciates history. I like to think I have an interest. If I’m honest, it’s an interest where I’m easily distracted and I’ve rarely taken the time or opportunity to dig deep into the history of something and really become immersed. So reading this collection by Tansy I see what comes out of the possibility of such immersion – where you come out the other side of what can be factually established, what is theorised, what evidence tells us (what little there is for women’s history at least), and into the realm of pure speculation. The result is glorious.

I’ve seen several comments about how this collection is what decided people on becoming a Tansy fangirl – and I can really see why! I am a fangirl already (the Creature Court series really hooked me). These stories, although set in the same overarching universe are distinct from each other and self contained. However they also create an overall narrative that is a joy in the unfolding as you the reader discover.

Julia Agrippina’s Secret Family Bestiary

At first I was a little bit lost when I started this story, but I soon found my feet. I’ve got no familiarity with Roman history – beyond that Julius Caesar existed. Getting to read something of the family history of Caesar – heavily fictionalised or not was really interesting. I also love the way in which adding the supernatural and mythological elements to this family history also speculates about the nature of the history and the events surrounding the family. This was thoroughly charming as a story and I fell in love with the idea that being a ‘Julia’ was something special. How neatly is the context of women in Roman society explained here? We have the ordinary and the extraordinary contextualised alongside one another so beautifully, this particular thing I admire a whole lot.

Lamia Victoriana

Once again my lack of familiarity with the history where the story is set meant I was scrambling for a little while – I’ve no doubt if you’re familiar with the Wollstonecraft family history that there are additional layers of joyful discovery contained within this piece. It doesn’t disappoint if like me, you don’t have that background. Fanny and Mary are interesting, and I love this tiny look into their lives and of happiness in amidst the supernatural glimpsed. I’m a little enamoured of a vampire story from the point of view of being the food, the prey, the needed one. When this story ended I wondered how or if it would fit into the bigger context of the narrative begun in the previous story and though it’s subtle, looking back after finishing all the stories I can see and appreciate the links a whole lot.  I love the queerness in this story, the lush connection between Fanny and the Poet’s sister was so sweetly erotic, unapologetic and without guilt. And yet, also so very subtle – I loved it.

The Patrician 

Here I hit my stride because we leave the past behind and instead we’re in a present day alternate Australia where a replica Roman City has been built and is staffed by residents for tourists who play the part of Romans. Here we meet Clea Majora, my favourite character in the book (though Julia Agrippina comes a very close second). I love the strange relationship that evolves between Clea and Julius, friendship, curiosity and discovery in between bouts of fighting monsters. I love the sense that the real world is never quite enough for Clea, and yet she’s not so restless that she needs to leave her daily life behind completely.

I love the idea that for once a woman at age fifty and above is still considered young, and that someone thousands of years old as Julius is presented to us, only starts to think of her as a romantic companion at that point – that she’s too young before. This trope is one that is abused most often and is often well and truly into creepy territory in modern urban fantasy. It’s not that it’s impossible, just that it is so often badly done, explained flippantly or explanations make it *more* creepy and not less. The evolution of Clea and Julius’ connection is my favourite part of this story. More urban fantasy romances spanning the ages like this please!

Last of the Romanpunks

And here we have both a conclusion and a beginning. On the one hand, I feel like Clea should probably have known better than to leave artefacts of supernatural Roman history lying around easily picked up. On the other hand, it was all supposedly dealt with, so I don’t blame her too much. It was such a difference to see through Sebastian’s eyes the unfolding of this story, but also his memories of his grandmother Clea’s adventures and stories. I love that he’s resourceful and recognises an awesome Julia when he finds her. Not only does he find a Julia to help him to save the day from a Romanpunk themed airship filled with lamia descend upon the cities below to wreak havoc, but the original Julia Agrippina joins in through Sebastian in order to continue trying to set right the wrongs of her family and their history. This story brings together all the elements of the previous stories, winds them down and then leaves us with the kind of conclusion which is really just another beginning. That’s rather delightful actually as I could read Tansy’s portrayal of Julia Agrippina any day!


In conclusion, this collection was beautifully put together. It delivers a wonderful experience for the reader comprised of separate, bite-sized chunks of story while also creating a deeper narrative that threads throughout all of the stories. I learned something and I got to immerse myself in a world and characters that I loved fleetingly but deeply. This book is the second of the twelve books in this collection and like Nightsiders which I previously reviewed, it’s an exceptional addition to the project and is also a book that I’m calling one of my best reads of 2016. Yes, in February. I loved this book so very much – it reminds me that even though I’m a terrible student of history I love to appreciate others’ expertise in the field, especially when they create such fictional delights such as this.

AWW16: Nightsiders by Sue Isle (Twelve Planets #1)

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016: Book #3

Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016 BadgeTitle: Nightsiders (Twelve Planets #1)

Author: Sue Isle

Publisher and Year: Twelfth Planet Press, 2011

Genre: science fiction, dystopia, young adult

 

Nightsiders - coverBlurb from Goodreads:

In a future world of extreme climate change, Perth, Western Australia’s capital city, has been abandoned. Most people were evacuated to the East by the late ’30s and organised infrastructure and services have gone.

A few thousand obstinate and independent souls cling to the city and to the southern towns. Living mostly by night to endure the fierce temperatures, they are creating a new culture in defiance of official expectations. A teenage girl stolen from her family as a child; a troupe of street actors who affect their new culture with memories of the old; a boy born into the wrong body; and a teacher who is pushed into the role of guide tell the story of The Nightside.

 

My review:

This review is presented as part of my contribution to the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016, and as part of the Journey Through the Twelve Planets Reading Challenge


 

This book is the first of the Twelve Planets, single author collections produced by Twelfth Planet Press and is a strong start to such a unique project. This collection by Sue Isle features four interwoven stories, each complete in its own way and each contributing to a larger sense of a dystopian future Australia. This world is painted so vividly and I join the chorus of others who hope that the author may venture back into this universe with a novel at some stage.

The Painted Girl

What I most appreciated about this story is that we’re introduced to the world of Nightside through the eyes of Kyra who is both young and confused. In some ways her understanding of the world around her is solid and broad, but in other ways there are many unknowns and her naivety shows. I appreciated that Kyra’s understanding of things centred around rules – but that where you were and who you were engaging with meant the rules may be different. I also liked that it is kindness, that Kyra reached out to Alicia that motivated the girl from the Drainers to help her in turn when Nerina turned against her.

This story is a subtle introduction to post apocalyptic Perth, called the Nightside because only the Drainers walk the day time any longer. The story that Isle has written presents both harsh realities of a broken-down society post apocalypse but also connection and hope, how people come together and work together too. Of particular note is the idea of choice, for Kyra, who has had so little choice in her life. The notion of choice is what lingers after this story has finished. The Painted Girl is a fantastic introduction to this world and its stories.

Nation of the Night

This was one of my favourite stories of the collection. Ash is such an interesting character and following his journey to pursue self-hood was powerful. In the present day, pursuit of identity presentation and representation, aspects of gender and the sexed body are fraught and difficult to achieve. In this story Isle explores what it may look like for a transgendered person in a post-apocalyptic society, where medical care is much more scarce and choices seem both more and less limited.

What really stayed with me was the difference between the present I am reading from, and the present in which Ash finds himself. Although many of the difficulties that exist outside the book in the present day, still exist in some form for Ash, the simple acceptance of him by Prof. Daniel, the doctor and those he meets in Melbourne. The question is only around his capacity to make adult decisions about himself, his body and his life – not interrogating the truth of his experience of self and gender. Such a sharp commentary on the state of things here in my present as a reader.

My only criticism with this story was that although the journey to Melbourne and home again was described as difficult that didn’t really seem to be the case. Instead, it was that Ash was an outsider in Melbourne, even as a temporary visitor that seemed more difficult to navigate – the lack of accommodation, lack of familiarity with the city and it’s particular rules. Additionally, even the constraints on the doctor in doing the favour for Ash in performing the surgery, what was possible and what his recovery would look like.

I appreciated the New Zealand family and their point of view that Ash met. Their experience and point of view provided more context as to the Eastern States and how the evacuation from the West had affected them. How, the city was trying to keep people out because of overcrowding and limited resources, how some people were lesser than others as immigrants and what the effect of this was. How, Nightside might seem like a better life to some if you found you couldn’t keep things together in Melbourne. That juxtaposition of difficulty and nod to the idea of the grass being greener on the other side was well done I thought. I found myself wanting to know what happened to the family as Ash headed home back to Perth, ending the story.

Paper Dragons

One of the themes that I thought this story highlighted, was the nature of interdependency, connection and reliance on others for shared wellbeing. The Elders rely on others to help support them, and they in turn provide support, care and knowledge. I am curious as to how Tom’s play troupe came together and why it holds such importance in their small community – there seems like there’s a story there. Not that I dispute the importance of story and community in a society like Nightside, just it seems interesting that it is prominent and held with such respect alongside survival activities – as though it is of equal importance. The why of that is interesting to me and I wish that had been explored more.

Although it’s suggested that the pages that Shani finds of a screenplay could stir up more trouble than they are worth (is the title a reflection of this I wonder?), the trouble itself doesn’t really manifest. Although the Elders do leave their houses and come to see the play – but I’m never sure what actually makes this play different from the rest put on by Tom’s troupe – why is it that the youngsters putting on the play is what shifts the balance and awakens the Elders somewhat?

I feel like this is a story of questions, that this is a story that provokes but doesn’t satisfy and that is perhaps one of the points. So much is unknown, by the youngsters, so much is forgotten or painful to the Elders, what they create together is the in-between. This is an intriguing story and I loved that we got to see Ash again, back from Melbourne and happier in himself and also accepted by the others.

 The Schoolteacher’s Tale

My other stand out favourite from the collection. I loved the way that we started the book with a confused young girl, who introduced the reader to Nightside, and that the collection ends with the story of Miss Wakeling an old woman adapting for a the future and being confronted with the need for change. I love that Shani and Itch are getting married, and have sought out the Aboriginal Elders out on the fringe of the Nightside, specifically because they see the importance of change and growing together, sharing knowledge and moving forward. There was so much hope in this story, and so much suggestion of coming together in a way that hadn’t happened before. I also love that the notion of knowledge and school and what education is useful in a dystopian future? This was such a great ending to the collection and also seemed like a beginning. I would love a novel from Miss Wakeling’s point of view about her journey out to the sea.

Overall 

There was so much to enjoy about these stories, diverse characters and situations, points of view, parallels to the present day that were nicely pointed. I loved that both Melbourne and Perth were so recognisable to me! I love that the apocalypse has already prompted adaptive changes from the inhabitants of Nightside – the children see better in the dark for example. There are so many women here and they are simply capable and interesting in their own way – even Nerina who is cast as perhaps the only unlikable character in the book. I almost didn’t notice this because it just seemed so normal and comfortable to read – and then I remembered how rare that is. Also, I love that this is not a gritty story of horror-survival but one of massive change, but still with community at its heart. I just want to reiterate how  much I’d love a novel from this world, it’s so interesting and I want to spend more time here.

Review: Ree Reyes Series by Michael R. Underwood

Geekomancy coverTitle: Geekomancy (Ree Reyes #1)

Author: Michael R. Underwood

Publisher and Year: Pocket Star, 2012

Genre: fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk

 

Blurb from Goodreads:

Clerks meets Buffy the Vampire the Slayer in this original urban fantasy eBook about Geekomancers—humans that derive supernatural powers from pop culture.

Ree Reyes’s life was easier when all she had to worry about was scraping together tips from her gig as a barista and comicshop slave to pursue her ambitions as a screenwriter.

When a scruffy-looking guy storms into the shop looking for a comic like his life depends on it, Ree writes it off as just another day in the land of the geeks. Until a gigantic BOOM echoes from the alley a minute later, and Ree follows the rabbit hole down into her town’s magical flip-side. Here, astral cowboy hackers fight trolls, rubber-suited werewolves, and elegant Gothic Lolita witches while wielding nostalgia-powered props.

Ree joins Eastwood (aka Scruffy Guy), investigating a mysterious string of teen suicides as she tries to recover from her own drag-your-heart-through-jagged-glass breakup. But as she digs deeper, Ree discovers Eastwood may not be the knight-in-cardboard armor she thought. Will Ree be able to stop the suicides, save Eastwood from himself, and somehow keep her job?

My review: 

There’s a lot to appreciate about this book, it revels in geekery in a way I can completely get behind. However, it is definitely a debut novel and suffers from some of the clunky-ness that I’ve associated with those at times. I liked this book, enjoyed reading it, but didn’t love it. I grabbed it from Google Books because I was invited to review the third book and wanted to read the others beforehand. It was definitely worth reading! And I definitely enjoyed it enough to keep reading the series.

I love Ree as a character, she came across really realistically to me. City mid-twenties woman, working, trying to become a screen writer, huge geek, dealing with the aftermath of a breakup. I loved the way she interacted with her friends over this – the way her friendships came across was one of my favourite parts of this novel! I loved the Rhyming Ladies and really enjoyed their supporting roles in the story. I also loved Ree’s Dad and I adore how supportive he is, takes the supernatural in his stride and supports his daughter. Ree is entirely the reason I kept reading, even though the initial writing was quite clunky and explained more than showed me and let me immerse myself in the story – that did improve. Ree is absolutely the kind of urban fantasy heroine that I can really get behind, she’s unique and interesting, her own person and not a cut out of anything – but I love that she recognises all the tropes and pop cultural references, it’s a bit tongue in cheek and I was quite amused by it.

I hated Eastwood’s character, if he’d been the protagonist or if Ree had liked him more I’d have been put off the series entirely. However, I adored Drake! He’s interesting, unique and I love the way he comes to this x-mancy world with his own brand of steampunk and science from a kind of Victorian era. Drake rocks. Drake is everything I ever want in a support character, and he’s not the burly hyper-masculine type of character either, he’s a much more interesting, unique male character that doesn’t rely on tropes of masculinity – it’s not his strength that matches up well with Ree, but his willingness to work with her, listen and be an awesome team capitalising on their mutual strengths. This was my other favourite aspect of this book (and series).

I really enjoyed this, it was so much fun and even though I didn’t get half the references, I appreciated the book being utterly full of them and I revelled in Ree’s enjoyment of pop culture. My geek is different to her geek but it definitely left me feeling somewhat validated in my own experience of geekery.

 

Celebromancy coverTitle: Celebromancy (Ree Reyes #2)

Author: Michael R. Underwood

Publisher and Year: Pocket Star, 2013

Genre: fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk

 

Blurb from Goodreads:

Fame has a magic all its own in the no-gossip-barred follow-up to Geekomancy. Ree Reyes gets her big screenwriting break, only to discover just how broken Hollywood actually is.

Things are looking up for urban fantasista Ree Reyes. She’s using her love of pop culture to fight monsters and protect her hometown as a Geekomancer, and now a real-live production company is shooting her television pilot script.

But nothing is easy in show business. When an invisible figure attacks the leading lady of the show, former-child star-turned-current-hot-mess Jane Konrad, Ree begins a school-of-hard-knocks education in the power of Celebromancy.

Attempting to help Jane Geekomancy-style with Jedi mind tricks and X-Men infiltration techniques, Ree learns more about movie magic than she ever intended. She also learns that real life has the craziest plots: not only must she lift a Hollywood-strength curse, but she needs to save her pilot, negotiate a bizarre love rhombus, and fight monsters straight out of the silver screen. All this without anyone getting killed or, worse, banished to the D-List.

My review: 

This book picks up soon after events in Geekomancy finish. One of Ree’s major dreams looks like it’s about to become true with a screenplay of hers having been picked up to shoot a pilot for pitching. I love that the show itself is not as much the focus and instead the business of getting it made is. I love Jane as a character and I found the magic division of celebromancy really interesting – and seems way too close to the truth of the cult of celebrity we see in play via  the media. Well played Underwood!

Ree and Drake continue to be one of my favourite hero pairings, they work so well together. I found the romantic tension believable and I loved the way Ree made a point of dealing with her issues herself and not making them someone else’s problem. I also really loved the romantic fling she ends up in with Jane – I loved the spontaneity of how it happened, I could really picture them together as the story unfolded. In this story Ree is mostly the hero of the story messing with her tv show and big deal, she does call Drake in to help, and others but it’s mostly about Ree saving the day and actually, I really fucking love that. I love Ree.

I continue to love the geekery – I love the way it’s pointed out that different people with different focuses to their x-mancy have a different set of specialised knowledge. That little moment was one of my favourite things. I also think that Underwood hits a better writing stride here, it’s far less clunky and explainy, things just happen and you’re taken up for the ride.  The queerness included in the book is delightful, it’s underplayed where necessary which comes across very genuine and natural, but it’s also a key part of what drives Ree’s motivation for the plot and saving Jane – I think it just works without being heavy handed.

Another great thing was a distinct minimising of Eastwood. I just dislike his character so much – I think that we’re actually supposed to do that, but it doesn’t really make for fun reading. On the other hand, I really liked Grognard and the tavern and that Ree gets to have another job that’s not with Eastwood. I’d absolutely frequent a tavern like this (not that I’d drink beer… but the cider sounds nice).

 

Attack the Geek coverTitle: Attack the Geek (Ree Reyes #2.5)

Author: Michael R. Underwood

Publisher and Year: Pocket Star, 2013

Genre: fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk

 

Blurb from Goodreads:

A side quest novella in the bestselling Geekomancy urban fantasy series—when D&D style adventures go from the tabletop to real life, look out!

Ree Reyes, urban fantasy heroine of Geekomancy, is working her regular barista/drink-slinger shift at Grognard’s when it all goes wrong. Everything.

As with Geekomancy (pop culture magic!) and its sequel Celebromancy (celebrity magic!), Attack of the Geek is perfect for anyone who wants to visit a world “where all the books and shows and movies and games [that you] love are a source of power, not only in psychological terms, but in practical, villain-pounding ones” (Marie Brennan, award-winning author of the Onyx Court Series).

My review: 

I really enjoyed this side quest, I especially liked the epic wave battling with all the other characters helping out. I adored getting to know Grognard better too! This was an out and out hero battle story and these are not usually to my taste, but I really enjoyed this. Ree continues to be an awesome protagonist and I adore her massively! I still hate Eastwood.

I was surprised when Lucretia turned out to be the villain, but not surprised that she used someone else to give up the rest of the crew – I was surprised that she involved so many that weren’t directly related to her grievances – it kind of goes against the way the community manages itself. However, I did like how people reacted and banded together.

This isn’t a big plotty novel, that’s not it’s point, it’s a fun little tangent that does further the overall story, but without taking itself too seriously. It’s a chance to see Ree demonstrate her awesomeness (and the others too).

 

Hexomancy coverTitle: Hexomancy (Ree Reyes #3)

Author: Michael R. Underwood

Publisher and Year: Pocket Star, 2013

Genre: fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk

 

Blurb from Goodreads:

When Ree’s long time nemesis Lucretia is finally brought to trial and found guilty for the deadly attack on Grognard’s, the Geekomancer community breathes a collective sigh of relief. But Ree and her crew soon discover that Lucretia has three very angry, very dangerous sisters who won’t rest until Eastwood—a fellow Geekomancer—is killed.

What follows is an adventure packed with epic battles, a bit of romance, and enough geeky W00t moments to fill your monthly quota of adventure and fun.

My review: 

An eARC of this book was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Finally I reached the book that I set out to review in the first place! I’m not sorry though because I enjoyed the ride so very much. While the first book in this series was quite clunky, as the series and the writer developed it improved greatly – as is often the case. I’m almost always willing to forgive first-book-clunk, if the story or characters are worth it. Ree is definitely one of those characters, she’s become a favourite for me and I love reading about her adventures!

Hexomancy picks up not long after the battle at Grognard’s in Attack the Geek. While Lucretia is held accountable for her actions (via a rather epic duel fought by Ree), trouble soon escalates as Lucretia has sisters who keep coming to finish off Eastwood. Now, personally, I don’t mind this – because I still really dislike his character. Part of how much I like Ree is that she also doesn’t like him much and trusts him even less. The plot of this book is as epic as the one in Celebromancy, and that really works for the kind of magic we’re talking about here – no half measures. I loved the differences in attack style between the different sisters and once again it was great to see Ree and Drake teamed together.

I’m also delighted that the romantic tension was address more directly in this book, I’m impressed at the way the breakup was handled and how Ree comes clean about her new secret life with her friends. I like their reactions too – it really came across to me as believable. Love, connection, and expectation of honesty and respect – and making amends, showing forgiveness when people mess up, recognising that inevitably, they do. It was great. Loved Drake’s realisations and love the way there’s still such a culture clash between Drake and Ree. This book spans much more time than the previous ones – months, almost a year as opposed to a few days or weeks and so it was nice to see the way Ree and Drake’s relationship developed over this time as well as how they were working to beat the sisters.

I appreciated the way the end game became cyber, from Eastwood’s old life. I am also pretty impressed with how one of the long story threads was incorporated into the is book arc and was resolved. The demon was back and was defeated, but not without a price – but it’s also one that makes sense and is one I like given the rest of what has come before in the story. Eastwood redeems himself here (but I still don’t like him).

Ree grows as a character, so does Drake. Grognard opens up more and the whole universe just becomes so much more like an old friend. This is not a standalone book, it benefits from being read as a series and I’m glad I decided to grab the books via Google Books to read them before reviewing book 3. The writing and voice in this book is much more confident, much smoother. I still really enjoy all the pop culture references – and I really like that Ree is developing her style of geekomancy with the media and power ups that she finds most useful – and I love that they’re the in between ones for maximal effect and not about showing off for the sake of it.

This is a great urban fantasy series, especially if you enjoy geek humour – I would suggest that you don’t have to get all the in-jokes or references to appreciate it, but that might be just me. If that kind of thing does bother you, this might not be for you. This book, this series was epic, awesome, fluffy, entertaining and satisfying on both story and character levels. I also really liked the covers, they look like how I’d imagine Ree to look and she’s not dressed or posed in ways that make me angry – she looks like a hero, my kind of hero.

73rd Down Under Feminist Carnival!

Wow! How is it June already?! There is quite an incredible array of interesting links for your appreciation this month. Many thanks to all of you who submitted! Many hands make light work and I am grateful for the support.  I have tried to include some interesting projects and small positive things in amongst what is overall a very heavy reading carnival. I wanted to try and balance the sombre with a little hope and some attempts to actually make the world a better place around us in tiny, ever so important ways.

To begin this carnival, we pay tribute to the late Maya Angelou, a great lady who made the world a better place, and certainly made me want to work harder at doing so myself.  Orlando writes beautifully at Hoyden About Town celebrating Maya Angelou as a Friday Hoyden.

Media, Texts and Arts

Scarlett Harris brings us an insightful review of “The To Do List” over at Bitch Flicks as a film aiming toward sex-positivity but with mixed results in Enjoyment isn’t an item on “The To Do List”.

Stephanie Convery discusses Helen Razer’s latest contribution to feminist debate in her Overland article Talkin loud but sayin nothin. This is not a simple case of ‘if you can’t say something nice…’. Razer is by this point well known for tearing into ‘armchair feminism’ as though contemporary feminism is too busy shouting about things to do anything about them, and also as though she herself isn’t doing precisely that. Lastly, as though the reactions and responses aren’t also just as valid, even if there is also reason to be critical.

In the article Oh, what can we do with The Taming of the Shrew, I can give no better introduction than Flaming Moth’s own. “The Problem: why do we still like it, and can we, in all good conscience, allow ourselves to continue to do so?”

Clementine of Feminist Killjoy To The Stars shares Some thoughts on students, protests, Q and A and the moral indignation of a lazy public, namely that the role of protesting is to draw attention and that doing so isn’t necessarily a failure to go about change in a more ‘appropriate’ way.

Over on the blog for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, Alisa of Twelfth Planet Press writes If you’re not part of the solution… She discusses the impact of the challenge on people reading Australian female authors and the way it is still all too easy for women writers to become invisible in the current climate.

Tansy Rayner-Roberts is celebrating her birthday blog-style by undertaking a gender-swapped Musketeer project in  her post A birthday Musketeer Space web serial introduction. Over the next eighteen months she aims to post weekly chapters of a space opera retelling of “The Three Musketeers”.

Bethwyn of Butterfly Elephant shares her book reviews books about Zita the Spacegirl finding many positive things to say about the series. If you want some comfort reading, or need some new children’s story books, you may like to take a look.

Liz of No Award writes about the iconography of the Virgin of Guadalupe printed on fabric in her post Your Fabric is Problematic.

Poetry from Erin of Erinaree, On the Side of Angels [broken links removed]. Reflection on feminism, misogyny, fear, and not wishing these for men.

Violence and Rape Culture

Trigger warning: content in this category may be difficult reading.

Scarlett of The Scarlet Woman talks about Walking While Female criticising the surge in comments about women walking on their own at night, which is a little too close to blaming the victim for my taste. People have a right to walk the streets in safety without being interfered with by others.

Sarah at Radically Visible on why misogyny kills, in Sexism, Entitlement and Santa Barbara writes that discussing the Santa Barbara killings and dismissing them as the act of a ‘madman’ with no consideration of the inherent misogyny or rape culture behind the act reinforces the same social structures that make it possible for such tragic events to happen.

Jo of A Life Unexamined writes about Rape in the News: better, but not there yet where she finds that the fact that the perpetrator is the main focus of the news story to be well worth noticing, rather than the usual focus on the victim(s), often blaming.

Steph from the National Union of Student’s Women’s Department writes Some thoughts about the UCSB shooting, and how the background to gun violence is often one of rape culture and that we ignore this at our peril.

TigTog posts at Hoyden About Town a Nugget of awesome: Sex and love aren’t earned focusing on the creepy idea that if you’re a ‘nice’ guy you somehow ‘earn’ sex and love that is unsurprisingly a pertinent topic of discussion following the Santa Barbara shooting.

Clementine of Feminist Killjoy to the Stars rants about #Notallmen and how just for a moment if people wanting to say that, stopped for just a moment and instead actually listened to what those around them are saying, actually considered what it’s like from the opposite perspective.

Race and Racism

Kathleen Joy of so much joy it hurts, writes about Australian ignorance of Indigenous cultures and our disrespect to Indigenous cultures and way of life and why Chris Lilley in brownface as “Jonah from Tonga” is disrespectful.

Siv of OnDusk uses Star Wars as a metaphor for the importance of Twitter as a way for black people to speak, to be heard and to know when people – on three continents no less – say horrible offensive things and try to pretend that this is actually okay.

Celeste writes about the appalling state of racism and Indigenous rights in her post Thoughts for Sorry Day over at Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist. The post is short, stark and honest about the real impact of the present day institutionalised racism in Australia and that we have much to be sorry for.

Deborah at A Bee of a Certain Age talks about making space for people with different cultural needs around a proposal to have a few hours set aside as Women only swimming hours at a local swim centre. There is intolerance in the idea that people should just change and act like ‘the rest of us’ and just swim with everyone else. It’s an intolerance that doesn’t respect cultural differences and does exclude women from public spaces and certain activities.

Celeste of Rantings of an Aboriginal Feminist writes Aloha from Oahu sharing about her excitement at attending the World Indigenous Peoples Conference and the difference this event has made for her in the past.

Work, Value and Unemployment

Snoringcat writes Today, I am Angry, her rant is heartfelt and hits very close to home from my experiences last year. Job hunting is soul-crushing, exhausting and the impact and cost of long-term unemployment and job-hunting is woefully misunderstood.

Politics

At Global Comment, Chally writes Eurovision: A Referendum on Putin’s Russia providing insight into the politics of the Eurovision Song Contest, neatly capturing a summation of responses to the 2014 winner, but also to the extent of European political commentary on Russia.

Deborah writes in The New Zealand Herald We all deserve a fair go, talking about the importance of fairness and how this is a nuanced idea, that numerous approaches to something could be described as fair in their way, but it depends on the aim of being fair overall.

In Quiet, the men are talking about misogyny Liza of Fix It, Dear Henry talks about the difference between men and women’s reactions to the Santa Barbara shootings in that, largely women already understand why it happened – it’s something we live with. While men are experiencing something of a revelation around misogyny right there in front of them, and while a lot of the discussion is good to see, some change to go with it would be great.

Liz at No Award talks about the politics in her escapism in relation to Mass Effect 3 and Australian border protection policy, saying that the similarities between the two is strong enough to be disquieting.

At The Filing Cabinet, in her article Megan asks Are the abortion wars about to begin? She talks about the political shots fired across several states over abortion rights and considers the overall threat to Australian women’s reproductive rights.

Shakira and Helen at The New Matilda discuss the offensive double standard around freedom of speech in their article The powerful already have free speech.

The Budget

Stevie of Stevie Writes {link broken so removed} shares her views about how the budget will affect working class families, talking about how I’m glad my mother isn’t alive to see the Budget 2014, {link broken so removed} based on her mother’s sense of deep betrayal as a working class person having thought that working hard meant being taken care of later in life. Like Stevie, I hope this sparks change, but in the mean time the future looks bleak for all but the elite few.

Sandra from The $120 Food Challenge {link broken so removed} calls the 2014 budget All Sticks, No Carrots {link broken so removed}. The reality of the budget’s impact on jobseekers, young people, and even their parents is bitter. On the backs of the vulnerable and disadvantaged does Australia build it’s economic ‘future’.

In Disability in Budget 2014, El Gibbs provides further insight into the 2014 Budget impact on people with disabilities. While the funding for the NDIS remains unchanged, other surrounding changes will have a massive impact on the services and care available to people with disabilities, their families and carers.

Kaye originally posted her open letter to Mr Hockey on Facebook, but her words about what $7 really means resonated with many people. That dilemma of unexpected single-parenthood and whether to spend your last $7 on food, petrol, or nappies.

At Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear, Chrys talks about the budget apportioning $245 million to further fund and expand the School Chaplains program in her post School chaplains – making disciples. There are real concerns that while Chaplains may mean well, they are not trained professionals in social work, psychology or counselling, they come from a religious background that may not be appropriate for a large number of school students. Criticism of the program has been seen in the High Court, but Chrys emphasises the need for the debate to occur in the public sphere over the appropriate use of public funds to best support students.

Over at Global Comment, Chally writes about Australia’s budget attack on its poor, young and vulnerable. She highlights the disproportionate difference between the effects on wealthier Australian citizens in comparison to pretty much everyone else.

Jennifer at No Place For Sheep looks at Joe Hockey’s response to his budget in her post I’m Joe Hockey. You’re not. Hockey’s comments clearly position the poor as immoral and undeserving of pleasure and being wholly responsible for their situation, while he himself enjoys a cigar and a glass of Grange.

Fat Activism

As a fat woman, Fat Heffalump talks honestly about why It sucks to be a fat woman. She talks about the pressure to be positive all the time and that this can silence people around the difficulties and horribleness that being fat and a woman in Western society involves.

Health

Avril writes When you discover you are at the mercy of your hormones and talks about going through peri-menopause and how it has really taken her by surprise and taken over how she goes about life right now.

Queerness

No one is exempt from instances of poor behaviour, but in saying that there are definitely behaviours that speak ill of us and the messages we wish to put forth. In The King’s Tribune {broken link removed}, Brocklesnitch speaks In painful defence of Pyne {broken link removed} against her wishes, but does so eloquently in relation to gay ‘joke’ slurs being used.

In her article I am woman hear me The Roar, Brocklesnitch also discusses language of discrimination in relation to a sporting incident pointing out that when slurs are used, whether they’re true or untrue doesn’t change the pejorative nature of the slur. If an insulted sports person isn’t actually gay, using a language slur doesn’t just suddenly become bad language, because that’s not the way that language and discrimination work.

Beauty Culture

In Daily Life, Michelle shares her experiences of being a single female who is also bald and trying to date. Her article, How dating works when you’re a bald woman, draws attention to the insidious negativity that beauty culture builds around women’s experience of themselves, their physical presentation and the reactions of others to that presentation.

Fat Heffalump talks about her realisation about her personal experience in discovering she didn’t feel the need to be beautiful, being Unapologetically ugly. This is a thoughtful piece that considers beauty culture from a different angle – one that doesn’t redefine or recontextualise beauty itself, although it emphasises the subjectivity of beauty. Instead, the focus is not needing to be considered beautiful and it is a refreshing read.

Motherhood, Parenting and Children

Orlando posts at Hoyden About Town that Lego is refusing to get the message, sharing a recent catalogue depicting which Lego is for boys and which for girls, with colour being the least of the differences.

Andie of Blue Milk writes for Daily Life responding to the question of Can you protect your children from living your mistakes? Andie’s take is that we’re none of us separate from our upbringing, from our environment and histories, that parenting is often in response to how you remember your own childhood. The piece is insightful and unsurprisingly doesn’t provide an easy answer, but does invite self reflection and some gentle self-acceptance.

At Pesky Feminist, {link broken so removed} Amy talks about On Mother’s Day {link broken so removed} and the depth of feeling that this day of recognition often fails to encompass. She talks about her bravery and the importance of the woman as well as the mother, it’s a poignant piece and well worth reading.

Making the World a Better Place

Bec of of Opinions @ Bluebec writes about The legacy we leave in that it is important that we strive to not pass on the racism, sexism, homophobia and other nastiness to our children, even as we teach them about these things to enable them to deal with them when they (inevitably it seems) happen.

The End!

That’s it for this month, hopefully there was some new and interesting reading to you all and that all the bleak commentary doesn’t get you down too much. Many thanks again to everyone who sent in links and suggestions, it’s greatly appreciated.

Also, I’d love to encourage you to take on hosting the carnival for a month – it’s generally pretty simple, and there’s support if you need it. Talk to Chally about it, she has all the information. If you’d like to host a Carnival, email  her at chally [dot] zeroatthebone [at] gmail [dot] com or head over to the DUFC page to find out more about how it all works.

The next Down Under Feminist Carnival, the Seventy-Fourth Edition planned for 5 July, will be hosted by Pen at Pondering Postfeminism. Submissions to drpen [dot] robinson [at] gmail [dot] com for those who can’t access the blogcarnival {link broken so removed} submissions form.

On my struggle with thinking about my marriage, my wedding…

This isn’t a post about marriage or weddings in general, though it’s drawn from that space. This post is specifically the result of the fact a dear friend was talking about planning her wedding and how the desire and the fantasy and the reality and ethics and values are all mixed up and intermingled. I was making a comment and it seemed better to post it here because it was about me and my confusion and angst, and not about her experiences and planning.  

So. I just don’t know how to come to terms with wanting a marriage and also wanting a wedding (of some kind) but where I’m deeply conflicted about both of those things. 

I’m thinking that maybe what I want is a ceremony and not a legal marriage – because it better reflects my belief that marriage has less place as a legal distinction and that there could be more attention paid to the way in which people consciously choose the contracts they go into (like for property, or decision making in the event of for different things). 

That’s a bit melancholy or overly practical for my usual romantic ideals. And oh, I have romantic ideals… but they don’t seem to fit wedding related expressions and I really struggle with that and feel… out of place thinking wedding stuff. Perhaps it’s just further ways in which I don’t see my life and desires and hopes and dreams reflected around me with positivity and options and acceptance… (like television and media and magazines and books and movies etc…). 

And I *love* K, like I love *breathing* and *laughing*

He’s absolutely the person I want to marry – but I feel like my reasons aren’t good enough or are suspect because of my other relationships and beliefs. 

And there is child-me who also fantasised about the day and the dress and how it was – but not the person I’d marry, just me, and all that ritual and prettyness without substance. And now… at 31 I want substance. And I struggle also as a feminist with all the symbols and ritual associated.

And I’m no closer to figuring it out.  Which is just one reason I’m still engaged and not married, with another significant reason that I just can’t bear to until marriage equality happens here in Australia.

But I still want an aspect or several aspects of both a marriage and a wedding… but I just don’t know how to do this and feel like it’s *me* and *K*, what we both believe and want and what we’re both creating for our lives. 

(And what about cohabiting, and what about other significant relationships that may grow and what if x, y, z… I lack useful context for how to frame and process and think through this as a queer and poly person who never plans to be monogamous, never plans to necessarily cohabit with one, any or all partners consistently.

And…  you see how I might be a bit angsty and tied up in knots about it. I suspect I could logic it all out, but my heart and feelings are not in that place yet. So I shall continue musing and inwardly flailing and talking with K about it so that we do what works for us… and only when and how it works for us.