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Original Essays | July 24, 2014

Jessica Valenti: IMG Full Frontal Feminism Revisited

It is arguably the worst and best time to be a feminist. In the years since I first wrote Full Frontal Feminism, we've seen a huge cultural shift in... Continue »
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What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank by Krista D. Ball
What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank

MelHay, June 10, 2014

An insider look to foods and drinks in fantasy worlds to help make the story feel more authentic to the time. The types of food available can also help draw a darker or enlightened picture of a world. How long does it take to make rabbit stew? And catching the rabbit? How about dressing a deer? Spices and breads and so much more to look into!

We love food. So why not make learning about it fun too? Krista does that here.

For those writing, Krista gets you thinking more in depth of what you are creating. For those loving history, this shares in fun foods at different centuries along with recipes.

This book opened my eyes to how food can reflect and create a world. Food is touched on in different aspects of living. From the poor to the rich. On the move or city living. Even sailors/pirates out at sea. So many aspects and all live very differently. This book of information helped me thinking on the foods in stories, even worlds I've created. Krista tells you how things work and suggestions for the heroes on the run in the woods. How to survive with or without food. Some references are given to help match the food in your land, culture, stature in society, and along with taxes.

Even specific diets. Some of us can think out the diets from what we know of history, but this pins it down for us. There are reasons why there may not be many children born in a time frame. The woman may have been missing certain items from their diet that could result in miscarriages.

Krista presented this book in a fashion that reading about food and history felt like sitting down and talking with an old friend. This book was NOT like reading a history book. Krista made the topic fun. She shares recipes and her experiences. Yes, she's tried making some of the foods and drinks and shares how it was to make it or even taste it. Some good, some not so good. lol. There are myths that surround foods and the times, Krista talks about that and if they are true, false, or a touch of both and why.

But the neat thing with food, it touches different aspects of world and people. Krista talked about health in the middle ages and further back. There are herbs for all things from health to sick to in foods and drinks. Then on to who healers are, even a few thoughts to get you thinking as to a history to your healer choice.

This book was fun to read and learn. I will be using it as a reference guide to help me along. It can be used for anyone wanting to write fantasy, historical, steampunk or Victorian era.
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Earth Girls Are Difficult by Frances Pauli

MelHay, April 11, 2014

Overall thoughts:
I enjoyed listening to these short stories. On several of these stories I felt Frances turns short stories into a poetry feel with amazing word choices. I love the impact of each word to draw the images and short stories to a full size. The words grow the scene around us with each word. The image's come into focus from the center to around it.

Francesca, the narrator, does an amazing job of growing with the stories. Several of the stories I felt the narrator was the story. She seemed to take them on and her voice and accenting worked perfectly to grow the stories with what Frances had created in words.

Bad Dog
First Sentence:
The hellhounds were born in the witching hour under the dark of the moon.

Hellhounds are born at the stroke of witching hour. Thirty-five seconds afterthe top of witching hour, she had another. He has a white spot on his head and he whined - that doesn't happen.

Hatach fought his way through life to age with his pack. He is different, and they don't let him forget it. He's not like all the other hellhounds, and they know it. Then one day a woman comes to his home that he guards to steal. She calls him a 'Bad Dog' and Hatach has a reaction to it.

This story will attract pet lovers. This is very short and through the hellhound, Hatach's, eyes. I found it cute and really liked it. There is a connection between the female and Hatach, and I felt it.

Idol Games
First Sentence:
Candice took her bearing from the slapping of the sea against stone.

Candace is on her way, by sea, to a hidden cave with a bundle she can not get away from. For years beyond years she's cared for this bundle. Will this day be any different?

Now this one I liked. Really liked. There was a deeper feel to what Candace is doing, you feel it the further you go with the short story. I even found I was hoping for one turn out, but loved the true ending. The setting and creation of the long history with the perfect word choices is fantastic.

El Emperador
First Sentence:
Jessie squinted at the dusty corral and shook her head.

Jessie needs a horse. A fast horse. She has a train to catch and the right horse to do the job. El Emperador performs for her and seems to be suitable to the task, though a tad shabby. Will he live up to his traders word?

This is another I think animal lovers will enjoy. I chuckled at the relationship between Jessie and El Emperador. I like the horses reaction to Jessie, but felt in the end I wanted more of their train chase.

This short was more about the connection between the horse and his new owner.

First Sentence:
They fed her to the maze.

She finds her way from her dark prison to the outside world. She finds herself in a maze and relics of a god at a temple. And learns of herself.

Wow. The phrasing and words used really made a strong feeling of the maze for me. This short sounded like a poetic short story. So beautiful by words and narrator. The narrator felt so comfortable in this story to me, that she brought it out more.

First Sentence:
Lorenzo pulled the black cloth tighter around his shoulders and closed his eyes.

Lorenzo, a vampire of old, wants something more than blood tonight. He wants the days of old on the night of his birth. She searches out the same scent each year, for a taste.

LOL! I loved this story. The humor in it. Oh, the play on the new curious youth looking for love with a vampire, the want of fear for vampires, and more. I really enjoyed the twist to this story and his desire for the night.

The story made me curious, then laugh, curious again, and happy. Really a fun read.

Silent Partner
First Sentence:
"Charles!" His significant other's high-pitched voice drifted through the glass building at a volume that made the conservatory walls vibrate dangerouly.

Charles is with his wife at the flower festival she does. He's to be the good husband that listens. Then he leaves to go to the restroom, and surprised by what he finds in the garden.

This seemed like a short vision quest for the husband, who loves his wife even if she is a bit of a...nag. It wasn't really my favorite of the selections, but worked for the husband and his quest to learn what he wants and is to his wife.

First Sentence:
Unan never meant to steal it - at least, not at first.

Unan is cleaning her sword when she hears the two men, one fat and one a sorcerer, talking. The sorcerer is selling something to the fat man, and Unan knows a treasure when she hears about it. She has to have it! And once she does, the places she goes and her interpretation of what she sees is beyond her world.

Mmm, not sure if this one was for me. Okay and good, but I got a tad bored with it. I laughed at the speed dating moment though. You will recognize where Unan is when she walks through scenes of the world though.

First Sentence:
The frog had stars in its eyes.

A princess is playing with her favorite treasure, a ball. She throws it to a frog and it falls into the Dark Well. Her favorite toy and it is gone. She wants it back! The frog talks to her and can help her get the ball back for a promise - to take him home with her, comfort him, feed him, and give him a kiss.

Now this I like! Twisted fairy tale and dark. I like, like. Wonderful end. I like the tale weaved here with the frog and the princess. This is my kind of tale. Honor and Deception both found in one place. Nicely done.
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Dawn's Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novels) by Pip Ballantine
Dawn's Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novels)

MelHay, April 11, 2014

Things are still simmering in England after the Janus Affair. Sound has sent Agents Braun and Books as "Goodwill Advisers" to the Americas agency, the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical, while the heat of the last case cools a bit. Working with their counterparts of the Americas, they help with the case of ships of ocean and air are disappearing off the coast of the Outer Banks. Mysteriously, no debris is washing up on shore, that many are noticing. But there is one who has seen something. A bright light and debris that is gone the next morning. The Ministry Agents were requested for their experience with the aether gate commandeered from the House of Usher. The light ray takes the four agents to additional cities in the Americas, following Thomas Edison, working to stop the next deadly disaster. Things become suspicious for Dr. Sound as the Queen of England wants her son to visit the Americas, for a clankerton convention and he hears of the troubles stirring in the America's.

Amazing fun with Eliza and Wellington once again! Enlightening on several levels, and will blow you away. We get to see Wellington in action, and the beautiful Eliza as well.

Eliza is reinstated to active field agent. Wellington receives a promotion with her. Nothing is ever relaxing and calm for our duo. On the airship a thief is spied leaving Eliza's room and a race is under foot. There is always trouble in the line of duty that Eliza and Wellington serve.

A shoot 'm up bang, bang of American West blended with the elegance of Europe. Exciting! The American partners Eliza and Wellington meet are just like them, but maybe not as elegant as the British Agents. 'Wild Bill' Wheatley and Felicity Lovelace. I'm sure you can guess which is of Eliza's gun-shooting ways and which is the Librarian. And there is a bit of attraction to the, or from, their counterparts.

I love Eliza's spunk. Welly even gets a gun, or two, in hand. It seems trouble finds our boy Welly as well. Now that he's in the field, he seems to find the right spots to be with his reasoning deductions. We see Wellington in full action, even though he doesn't want to. Mostly, he's paired with his counterpart in the Americas. With doing so, Welly steps up his game and is more active with guns and actions. Having his counterpart present gives us someone to compare and reflect on Wellington's past ways (in previous two books).

We even get views from England. We learn Queen Victoria would like her eldest child, Bertie, occupied out of town for a time. He's taken to much of an interest in her health and away from his own enjoyments. She requests Dr. Sound to arrange for Albert to go to the Americas for a Clankerton Symposium. There is...bad blood between mom and son, Queen and heir to the throne.

Aaah, if you have read this series thus far, you know there are feelings to be sorted. Eliza tries to sort out her own and what relationship she has with Wellington, who seems to have forgotten the kiss he planted on her. There is no time with all the action, and interruptions, for Eliza and Wellington to talk. But, at one point Eliza is ready to explode and makes the time. Hahaha! Perfect timing.

Oh! Are you curious who the Maestro is? Well, you will learn who the person is behind the armor. We learn a bit of Wellington as well. He's picked up some habits from Ms. Eliza Braun, but he has his own secreted talents. I love his bloody car!! He has crafted it with great care and thought! All I will say...Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang.

The story here is complete. But in the end leaves me anxious as to what's to come to pass in England. There is much to look forward too. Oh how things are moving there. An amazing adventure with our favorite duo that leads us to so much more to come.
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Quarter Share
Quarter Share

MelHay, April 11, 2014

Eighteen year old Ishmael Horatio Wang was to start University, where his mother taught, on Neris. Then like the breeze, his life drasticly changes with a series of bad news, starting with his mother's death in a flitter accident. In order to stay on Neris, a company planet, he has to find work. There is no work for him. Even though he and his mom lived comfortably, there is no credits for Ishmael. Even with his one time payment for 90 days rent, he's still short to pay for transport off planet. Needing a job to get off planet with his lack of skills for Neris work, he makes a quick friend at the Union Hall who helps Ishmail enters work on a freighter ship at Quarter Share, the lowest rating level and pay at starts. But, Ishmael has a quick mind and learns fast.

First I want to mention. I've been wanting to read or listen to this story for over a year now, since I heard about it at Balticon 2012. However, I was afraid I'd be bored as well, so I dragged my feet at getting to it. That was a mistake. Thanks to a small push from View from Valhalla, I dove in and listened while working the day away at the office. I found myself getting irritated at people when they started talking to loud (there are only 3 of us in the office) as I wanted to hear EVERYTHING that was happening. And thankfully, my desk was on the quieter side with the phone these days.

The story is in First person, which I don't read very often. I got nervous when the story started in the first podcast, but I quickly found I enjoyed hearing from Ishmael and it really drew me to his character. Made him friendly to me.

One of Ishmael's talents is making quick friends. Even though he has limited friends on Neris, people seem to take a quick liking to him in the freighter business. My heart went out to Ishmael. He's young and new to the world outside of his comfort zone at home. My heart twinged a bit for him as he faced what he had with his mothers unexpected death and left home for the first time, alone. Yet he's smart. He downloads things what he can on his mothers account at the University so he can keep studying. Ish starts in the mess hall cleaning up. But the chef has an insight of Ish's personality with a quick test of the thick, grimy coffee test. The kid has initiative. And there could be a great deal more in his future, if only he knew what he wanted to do. But Ish takes that and runs with it as well. He wants to learn everything to see what he wants to do. And he does it!

To me this is a tale from a commoner's position. Ish is no superhero but this is what drew me to the story more. I liked the mention of common things. Oh, poor kid and his mothers underwear drawer. lol. They are quick mentions, not ones to bog down the story and slow it, but brings the feel of normal life to the forefront as well. Makes the story feel closer to real and Ish as a person to me. Even the work that Ish does is common stuff, but Nathan draws you in to the characters in an amazing way. I never thought common everyday things could be interesting. And they are! Because of the sparking mind of Ishmael.

One thing I learned here, even the little things we take for granted (even as simple as coffee) means a great deal to others. Ish's small actions accent this and by the end of this book, you see how much he's raised the whole crews spirits in such a short time.

I enjoyed the characters surrounding Ish. This crew is one kind group and they enjoy what they do here, you can tell the captain and her staff make this a comfortable place to be. I want to stay here! There is humor with the characters and they do make me smile. I've become curious about the whole crew, even the Captain and what history she may have for us to learn.

The set up of rating and shares earned are rather interesting and Ish thinks broader and takes it all to a new thinking and level. One you admire him for. Ish learns a great deal and influences others in the same share. Well thought out and constructed system here. The universe is interesting and each planet has it's specialty of product. We learn the universe through trade, which Pip and Ish heavily get involved in. Well defined worlds on each planet and a rather well oiled system to earnings.

I don't know how to explain it. It's not the end of world battles and wars I'm use to. But I couldn't stop listening to know how their lives go. I'd become caught up with Ish and his pal Pip along with the other crew members.

I found I kept wanting Ish to succeed in the trade and on the ship. Rooting for Ish to succeed and strive for more. Not only for him, but to see more of this world and the characters. The tale of a common man making his way in the world, influencing those around him as he goes. How one man can make such a huge difference. I found I really enjoyed this traders tale. Learning of different worlds through their trades.
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Shadow Sight by E. J. Stevens
Shadow Sight

MelHay, April 11, 2014

Ivy has a new client appointment. One her over competent assistant can't remember the name of. When he shows, Ivy learns he's a Demon. That's why Jinx couldn't remember his name. The case Ivy grudgingly, but willingly takes when she learns it will help save her town and the people in it, is to find the kidnapped Kelpie Kings Bridle and return it to the Kelpie. Then the Kelpie will stop the attacks of a dangerous and deadly sea fey that is behind all the bad happening in town. The case brings Ivy and many more to a battle between fey they never thought would come.

We get an introduction that is done in a tour fashion. The voice is the tour guide and introduces us to the world, and Ivy who is a detective in Harborsmouth. Telling us there is many strange creatures here, but humans can't see them. The first chapter starts in as Ivy, which you don't realize it's her, at the age of six upset over her missing cat. Then how she gets a vision as to what happened to her beloved cat. This is the starts of how Ivy came to her powers and who she is. And how she met her best friend and business assistant, Jinx.

The story is in first person POV from Ivy. There is a lot of set up with Ivy's history and ability then meeting Jinx and setting up the company. We didn't get to the case until the sixth chapter.

As Ivy combs the town and those that could help her save the city from emanate death, we come across many different fey here. With each character we meet, we get a story about them and their kind. Feels like it slows the actual story for me. There is lots of information drops throughout the book. Lots of details and world setting in chapter one. It's a neat world but slow for me getting to the case. I know we need to meet everyone but...I was ready to move on. It feels like a tour though the city, Maybe I'm an assistant tagging along for her first day, with Ivy as she tells me about different places and fey and their story as we go.

The voice (reader) has done different tones and voices for Ivy, Jinx, and other characters through out the story. It makes it easy to differentiate them all while reading. The reader, or maybe word choices of the author, makes me feel like the story is a bit for older young adults. The story was a relaxed story and Ivy sounds young. I think it was the voice talent with this story, but I didn't feel my normal kick butt feel for Ivy. I felt like the voice was trying to make to much fun into the story. There were little jokes, but trying to make the story too lighthearted. The story came across as a mid-line feel.

This is a vast world created. There are creatures from Brownies, Demons, Trolls, and Witches (or hunters) to much more. Vampires, Kelpie, Selkie, and rare fey of the ocean and land.

When we get into action and doing things with Ivy, I'm right there with her. I'm looking and wondering what will happen.

I think I'll read the next book, not listen to it. I like that there are many magical beings here in the world. It opens this detective series up to many things. By the end I think Ivy has grown. I'd be curious to see more of where she goes.
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