31 August 2015

Book Review: Breakout, by Ann Aguirre

Breakout (book three of the Dred Chronicles trilogy by Anne Aguirre) picks up pretty much right where book 2, Havoc, ended and, in keeping with the rest of the series, is pretty much action-packed all the way through.

Our heroes (Can you refer to a group of murderous convicts as heroes? In this series, yes, yes you can.) are in dire peril from page one and the tension barely lets up *at all* until at least ¾ of the way through the book. That last ¼ is largely epilogue-ish and that is completely okay with me. Readers *needed* that well-paced resolution and closure after going through so much physical and emotional trauma with these characters.

And these characters. I love them. People: She made me love hardened killers. What else is there to say about how great this series is?

If you’ve already read Perdition and Havoc, I can’t imagine any reason you wouldn’t be picking up Breakout and, like me, devouring it as soon as possible. 

But for anyone who hasn’t started the series yet … if you’re into action-packed (violent) Space Opera with thought-provoking subtext on human nature and peppered with dark humor and unexpected turns … The Dred Chronicles will satisfy.

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01 July 2015

Harley Quinn: Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes

Harley Quinn: Preludes and Knock-Knock JokesHarley Quinn: Preludes and Knock-Knock Jokes

by Karl Kesel
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fun read. The art was great, the stories were fun and interesting and had more depth than I was expecting, in some cases (and a little less in others.) And Harley was ... Harley.

Though she's been portrayed as a much darker character in other series (which I've also enjoyed), I really had fun with this return to a lighter, funnier version of Harley. This Harley is very similar to the Harley of B:TAS, visually and personality wise. Though this Harley gets a little more depth and credit for her brains. Which is one of it's points of appeal to me.

One of my favorite things about Harley is that, yeah, she's totally crazy (and has terrible taste in men), but she's also smart. I think it's a disservice when writers "forget" her backstory as a brilliant psychiatrist - there's so much more meat to her when it's acknowledged and integrated that Harley "gets" people: She understands their damage and how they think and she plays on that to her advantage. She even understands her own damage, though she chooses not to acknowledge it. Those traits make for a more interesting character with opportunity for real depth, even when it's played "light".

There are some neat, subtle moments in this volume that touch on Harley's personal psychology and backstory and speak to the fact that she's smarter and deeper than others give her credit for. I'm hoping for more of that in the next volume, which I'll be reading asap.

Overall, I liked seeing Harley "take a break" from her Mistah J and step up from sidekick status in these not-always-entirely light-hearted stories. There were some very funny moments mixed in with some great scenes of Harley just being a totally kick-ass chick, which is always one of my favorite character traits. What's not to love?

View all my reviews


15 June 2015

Tech Support Blues

Technically, I don't actually do "tech support".

But the reality is, when you have a tiny department, you do a bit of everything. So, as much as I'd love to just hide in my office all day doing my happily antisocial, introverted admin stuff... I end up having to actually *gasp* talk to our staff users pretty frequently.

I thought it might be fun (or at least cathartic) to jot down some of the more interesting and frequent conversations I have as an in-house “IT Guy”. (And by “interesting” I mean, “aaaaarrrrrggghhh” and by “frequent” I mean, “OMFSM IF I HAVE THIS CONVERSATION ONE MORE TIME, MY HEAD MIGHT EXPLODE.”)

So, counting down the Top 5 conversations I have pretty much every week, ranked on a scale of 1 to I-Will-Cut-You:

5) If it was a snake ...

User: I know I asked you this before, but ... (insert very simple question or task here)

Seriously, would it KILL you to just save the answer/instructions from the LAST 10 times I sent it to you? No, hey, it's cool. I totally have nothing better to do than to Google stuff for you allllll day long.

4) The Accuser

User: My password doesn’t work. It worked yesterday. *side eye* Did you change something?

Me: Is your capslock on? Did you accidentally type a comma instead of a period in your email address? Can you try carefully typing your email address and password one more time?

User: Oh, it’s working now. What did you do?

Yes, dear, it's a conspiracy. I get off on logging in and changing passwords at night, just to fuck with you.

3) I have no idea how this happened.

User: I’m getting all these funny pop-ups?

Me: Turn it off. Don’t touch anything. I’m sending someone.


2) Just Make It Happen 

Manager: I want X.

Me: OK, here’s a few questions we need to answer to make that purchase.

Manager: *provides partial answers to half the questions*

Me: Okaaaay. How about I give you a call and we can have a chat and figure this out?

Manager: OMG why are you making this so hard? I told you everything you need to know.

You filled in the line next to "Quantity?" with the answer "Sure". How is that even a thing?

Just Make It Happen 2.0

Manager: I want THIS device.

Me: Okay. You know that can't do X, right?

Manager: Yes, yes. I want THIS one.

Me: Here you go.

Manager: Good. Now make it do X.

Me: Um, remember when we told you it can't do X? That was because it can't actually do X.


Okay, are you just gaslighting me now, or what?

And in the coveted #1 spot: 


Less frequent, but still highly stab-worthy, are the occasional men (and it's almost always men), either of the vendor/sales flavor or the new-to-our-organization variety, who don't realize the feminine voice on the other end of the phone is, in fact, the friendly neighborhood "IT Guy".

THAT conversation usually follows some variation of them assuming I’m a secretary and asking me to get a “real” IT guy for them.

Yeah. I’ll get right on that, Sport. You totally just moved to the top of the list. Probably not the list you were expecting, but it's a list. 

01 January 2015

Of Zombies and Happy Endings: 12 months, 78 books, 19,364 pages

Happy New Year!

The end of the year means my annual "What I read this year" post.

As always, this is more of a record for myself. But I love recommending books I enjoy to others, too. So if someone peruses this list and sees something they might not otherwise have read, that's awesome, too. Let me know! :)

Happy Endings
(or: "Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.")

It seems 2014 marked the end of several favorite series for me:

The Witch With No Name
The Witch With No Name (The Hollows #13) by Kim Harrison
Thirteen books. Do even need to tell you how much I love this series, if I've eagerly pounced on all 13 books? Rachel Morgan is my favorite itchy witch and I will miss her and her found-family in the Cincinnati Hollows more than is probably mentally healthy. 

Shaman Rises
Shaman Rises (Walker Papers #9) by C.E. Murphy
This Urban Shaman series has a great protagonist, a fantastic supporting cast and an interesting take on Native American and Celtic shamanism. Joanne Walker feels very "real" throughout her massive story arc from book one to book nine. And I'm half in love with her septuagenarian sidekick and totally in love with her purple muscle car.

Agave Kiss
Agave Kiss (Corine Solomon #5) by Ann Aguirre
Ann Aguirre writes great women and great worlds. Corine Solomon, she of small magics and big destiny, is no exception. This book is probably tied with book 2 in the series as my favorite.

Wild Justice
Wild Justice (Nadia Stafford #3)
by Kelley Armstrong
I actually re-read the first two books in this trilogy that centers on a hitwoman and her mentor before starting this final book. I was glad I refreshed my memories on the first two, because the character development arc of the heroine's journey probably would have lost of some momentum by the long break in between if I hadn't. As it was, this was a satisfying conclusion to the story.

Wild Card
Wild Card (Raine Benares 0.5) by Lisa Shearin
Okay, this one is cheating the theme just a tiny bit, because it's technically a prequel to the Raine Benares series. But I don't even care. I loved it. I loved re-visiting this fantastic heroine and her world. For the record, you can totally read this without reading any other books in the series. So it's fine to start the series with this one and them move on to the main books. Which you should. Because, they are great fun stories with a kick-ass heroine. My (obviously?) favorite kind of book.

I have mixed feelings about most of these books, not because they were unsatisfying: They were all good reads, every one! But because ...

... yeah, it's like that.

I'm going to really miss some of those worlds and characters.

Maybe my mourning for those imaginary friends had something to do with the other interesting trend I noticed for 2014 ...


I don't think I'd read any "zombie" books before 2014. But apparently I must enjoy this previously unexplored genre, because, unplanned, I ended up reading more than a few books - whole series even! - on the subject:
This was my favorite zombie series of the year. It was a really interesting premise to me: Superheroes in post-zompocalypse L.A.? Sure, why the hell not? I expected a fun, light read. And this was that, kinda. But it was a little more, too. It had some storytelling weaknesses, but I really liked the characters and the world; I ended up quickly devouring all four books in this series and I look forward to the fifth.

My Life as a White Trash Zombie
This was the start of a funny and interesting series. I ended up reading all of them that are out so far and will definitely pick up the next. It's a very different take on the typical zombie mythos, addressed in a very irreverent fashion, and yet it made for a really compelling story and I ended up quite interesting in Angel and her Zombie white trash zombie blues.
Out of Darkness
 To be honest, I was kinda "meh" about this first book in this trilogy by about halfway through it. But I'm glad I stuck with it and read the next two, because I was definitely emotionally invested in the characters and their world by book three. Overall: Not brilliant or amazing, but still a good story. 

But wait, there's more!

There were, obviously, many other books I read in 2014 that didn't fit these categories. A few other favorites:

The Silent Grove
A graphic novel trilogy sequel to my most favoritest video game ever? YES, PLEASE. 
It can't be easy to build characters the reader can relate to when you set your series in a prison full of hard-core lifers. But, as usual, Ann Aguirre has created a really interesting world and characters in her latest series. You really want to root for Dred and her crew, even if they are killers and cons. The second book, Havoc, was great, too. Can't wait for Breakout. I'll miss these characters when they're gone. (Note: This is set in the same universe as Aguirre's Grimspace series, which I would also recommend, But you don't need to have read those to completely enjoy these.)

Takedown Twenty
 Nope, I don't think I'm ever going to get tired of the hilariously ridiculous adventures of Stephanie Plum, Bounty Hunter, and her certifiably insane family and friends.
Heist Society
This YA series was not exactly what I expected when I picked up the first book. But I liked it a lot. I love outrageous "heist stories" so I thought all of the books in this series were a blast. I ended up reading her "Spy Girls" YA series, too. Somewhat silly, but also fun. 

Magic Breaks
I love everything I've ever read by Ilona Andrews and she's on this year's book list several times. In addition to this most recent book in the Kate Daniels series, I re-read the whole series this year. For the third time. I don't re-read books a lot, because, well, so many books, so little time, right? But Kate and her world are just too awesome and I love re-visiting them. Can't wait for the next book in 2015.

Traveling with Your Octopus
Since I have his art tattooed on my body, I might be biased. But I love all of Brian Kesinger's publications. (I even have his coloring book!) Santa brought me this latest Otto and Victoria adventure this year and it's absolutely gorgeous. 

The Whole Shebang
12 months, 78 books, 19,364 pages

My bookshelf: 2014