A little called out there.

(scene opens in cluttered dinning room, merit badge work in progress)

Carrot: (typing around Delta in her lap) Okay, requirement #2b says you have to pick a book of a “best of” list that you think you’d like to read and write it down.

Beta: (unenthused)

Carrot: (after the third list heavy on the “Live, Laugh, Love” bullshit) Wow, its a lot harder than I thought to find something to read.

Beta: Try narrowing it down to just best science-fiction of 2021.

Carrot: Here we go. (starts to scroll, points to the screen) Read that one. Don’t recommend. Oh! I read the first one of this series! (camera cuts to screen, showing Harrow the Ninth)

Beta: (skeptical)

Carrot: Stay with me. It’s got a very Warhammer 40k setting.

Beta: (skeptically interested) …..yeah?

Carrot: And everyone has a different flavor of necromancy.

Beta: (explodes) What is it with you and necromancers!? First its necromancer vampires! Then its necromancer space marines! (waves arms in Muppet flail) Look over there! Necromancer ponies!

Carrot: (loses it completely, laughs copious fat tears into Delta’s moppy blond curls)

Beta: Seriously. What the hell is wrong with you?

Delta (echoing) Yeah mom! What’s wrong with you?

(Carrot laughs until it hurts, fade to black, cut to car commercial)

Carrot’s Book Review: Crime Pays

Since it was a duology, I figured I’d finish both books before I said anything.

Here we revisit the Grishaverse with Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom.

(Ed. note: I was not paid for this review and for all those that wish to avoid the Amazonian empire, links connect to an independent bookstore)

Loved! It!

It follows the heist and tribulations of a group of thieves and con-men. If you’d seen the Shadow & Bone tv show on Netflix, we’re talking about Brekker, Inej, and Jasper. I might have mentioned before that the show and books deviate a great deal by combining characters/plots, making them all one big story arc rather than separate one (there’s a duology after this one with another charcter years after the Sun Summoner drama).

I do speculate, however, with how the first season of the show ended and how Nina and her Fjerdian boyfriend came to questionable ends, I suspect that the meat of these books are what will be on the plate for our loveable thieves in the next season.

But moving on. I really love Brekker. Love me some cold and highly competent crime bosses. Thanks to having watched the show first, I envisioned the actors rather than my brain creating them from nothing. I’m not entirely sure I could see that much competence in a gang of teenagers, but then I never had to hone my wits and my skill to survive an uncaring underworld that’d chew you up and spit you out the first chance they’d get.

It was also better written, I think, than the Shadow & Bone trilogy. Ms. Bardugo upped her game. Mad props.

Even better? There was an accidental necromancer! We’ve already discussed how much I love necromancers. So it was like I got my cake and ate it too. I really hope that if there are any more novels set in this world, we get some more Brekker, Inej, and Jasper. They are really the best thing about the Grishaverse.

Except maybe the coats. I’d love a kefta.

Giving these books a Double the Pleasure.

Carrot’s Book Review: Undead Edition

We come here together to talk about Gideon the Ninth, written by Tamsin Nur.

I love Necromancers as a general rule. Most gaming systems (eventually) offer them as a class choice and I love playing them. There’s not a whole lot of variation, sadly, almost as if people really don’t know what to do with Necromancers save “raise the dead” and “summon ghost”. It means that while you get the option of playing one, you’re very limited on what you’re allowed to do. No one wants to make Necromancers more deadly than Tanks for some reason. Like its an offensive threat to the Nerd Gods to up-end some sort of classic and traditional “He-Man Protects Nerdy Weak Magic Class” dynamic. Can’t have freaky Goth Kids saving the Captain of the Football team, right?

But I digress.

The fact that Gideon the Ninth is a book entirely about futuristic space necromancers (bear with me) was a big draw. Not gonna lie. I would not be surprised to find out that the author is a closet Warhammer 40k fan. Or at least has spent a goodly amount of time flipping through lore books. There are nine – count them nine! – noble houses all with their own variation/flavor of necromancy, and they serve/worship their Undying God Emperor who apparently is battling some space war with something never specified.

Its the never-specified that gets me. Were I to go with a traditional Five Star Rating, I’ll have to go with a Four just because while I really liked it, I had no goddamn idea what was going on for the start of the book. It opens cold into this universe with no explanation and you have to scramble to fill the holes as you find them. I don’t mind scrambling if the story is good, its like a treasure hunt and the map unfurls oh-so very slowly.

Oh you terrible tease!

Once you settle in and come to terms that some things will not be explained, like most of the worlds and their cultures, you can focus on the characters, which are a delight. Gideon is a straight up Sassomancer and who doesn’t like some mouthy chick with a sword, amirite? Every house has a necromancer at the lead, and every one of those house scions has a dedicated sword master to serve them. Nice to see the Goth Kids in charge for once, even as there’s still the thug-protecting-the-scholar set up. This story centers around Gideon as the sword master (they call them cavaliers) to the Head of the Ninth House. Personality conflicts ensue.

I can only guess that there will be more explanation of WT Ever Living F (“ever living” ha ha, see what I did there?) is going on with this never ending necromantic war and why everything seems to be multiple millennia old and crumbling around them. Maybe how they got an Undying God Emperor, how you resurrect an entire solar system, and for what purpose? Where are all the regular people?

I guess this is more of my map slowly unfurling. There are four books in this run, the fourth not yet published. I only recently discovered there’s a couple Point(tm) in this series. And by Point I mean this new (and weird trend) to publish books slightly out of order and “to the side”. Example? Having just finished Book #1, I discovered there’s a Book #0.5 (which is NOT in my local library!). Book #1 was published in 2019, book #0.5 published in 2020. I suppose all the explanation I didn’t get in Gideon the Ninth was published in a later game supplement back up novel? There’s also a #2.5 novel which seemed to be published in correct order between #2 and #3. Does that mean I don’t have to read it to make the novel make sense? And if I do have to read it, why isn’t #2.5 just #3? I guess I’ll figure out when I get there.

I would like to know why this is now a thing in writing. It’s a bit aggravating.

But I digress again!

Some of it was way sciencey. I glossed over that a little bit, wanting to get back to the witty sassomancer and her necromancer. It gets a little deep with the science experiments and the alluding to previous studies. Like, the actual scientific theorems of various necromantic abilities. They put a way lot of thought into what Necromancers can/could do if given the ability to really stretch their magic class. A little hard science in your sci-fi-fantasy, I guess. Hey – DMs & STs – read these books and take some damn notes so your Necromancers can do more than just tag along behind the party to question the guy you accidentally killed.

This here book is getting Four Stars because I don’t have a witty rating for it that doesn’t somehow involve Bela Lugosi.

Mysteries of the Universe

(scene opens in cluttered dining room)

Me: (to husband) I found one of Gamma’s stories in my Google Docs. I don’t know if it got emailed to me or what.

Husband: Yeah?

Me: It was amazingly complicated. There’s a deep and wide ranging mind in that child. Alarmingly and creatively intelligent.

Husband: I know. I’ve read some of her stuff.

Me: (looks out window, Gamma running around in circles talking loudly to herself and swinging a scooter by the handle) Y’know how some of our other friends have really smart and clever and deep children?

Husband: (warily) Yeah?

Me: How come they’re all self-possessed well spoken polite little mini-adults and ours is swathed in chaos?

Husband: Swaddled.

Me: Swathed. Swaddled. Difference?

Husband: Swaddled is comforting.

Me: (thinks) Fair.

Literature

(scene opens in Pandemic Homeschool)

Me: (miserable between two zoom meetings)

Delta: (fascinated by sing song story time)

Gamma: (talking to speech therapist) I have to read something out loud?

Me: (looks around quickly for suitable reading)

Gamma: (to screen) I have a copy of Terry Pratchett’s “The Hogfather” if that’s okay? (hold up book taken from stack of stuff)

Me: (dumbfounded)

Gamma: (begins to read “The Hogfather” outloud to teacher)

Me: (silently)

Distance Learning: K Edition

(scene opens at cluttered table)

Me: (bent over stale coffee gritting teeth) Again, Delta. Makes the “N” sound? List or Note?

Delta: (wailing) But I don’t know!

Me: Delta. What starts with the letter “N”? List or Note?

Delta: I don’t know!

Me: (surrenders, picks up toddler, tucks under arm, heads for stairs) Well, I guess you’re too tired to do your work. Nap time.

Delta: NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!

Me: (stops) What letter does “No” start with?

Delta: THE LETTER N!

Me: (drops child) Is it the same sound as List or Note?

Delta: NOTE!

Me: (points to laptop) Go over there and push the right button so we can finish this level and move to the next one.

Bard From Another Timeline

(scene opens in cluttered dinning room)

Alpha: (stares angrily into space)

Me: (notices this, takes off headphones) What can I help you with?

Alpha: (frustrated) I’m supposed to read these short stories and write something about culture and how it defines us. You can’t help me.

Me: (sips coffee) Tell me about one of the stories. Maybe I can help you break down some thoughts.

Alpha: You can’t!

Me: Try me.

Alpha: Well, one is about this girl who’s embarrassed to stand in front of a 14 year old man and her dad burps when he eats fish. See? You can’t help me.

Me: (sips more coffee) By any chance is the 14 yr old boy the son of the pastor? A boy she has a crush on? When they come over for dinner, she’s totally embarrassed by the way her Chinese family is eating, and about dies when her dad offers her fish cheeks as the best part of the meal?

Alpha: (stares)

Me: So, yeah, that story is called “Fish Cheeks” and I read it when I was in school. A hundred years ago.

Alpha: (stares louder)

Me: (slurps coffee) Wanna tell me about the other two?

Alpha: (pouts, gets up, collects headphones) I’m going to join the Zoom classroom and ask questions.

You Had Options

(scene opens in pandemic living room, kids strewn about for reading hour)

Husband: (comes in looks around)

Me: (takes off head phones) Reading hour ends at 2.

Beta: (looks up) Maybe picking a book about a fast spreading virus was a bad choice.

Me: (no pity) Hey, I gave you one about aliens and horses and you didn’t like it. This is all on you.

Book Club

(scene opens in quarantined parlor)

Beta: (sullen) I finished folding laundry. Now what.

Me: (fiercely) Excellent. Time for one hour of book reading.

Beta: (collapses bonelessly into chair, reaches for laptop)

Me: What are you doing?

Beta: Logging on to the school library for an audio book.

Me: (outraged) No! Reading! Re-ah-ding! Silently! With your eyes!

Beta: (hysterical) But I’ve read every book in this house!

Me: (evil laugh) You have not.

Beta: (sullen again) I’ve read every book in my room.

Me: (standing up from table) I bet you haven’t, but follow me.

(camera cuts to messy but obviously parental bedroom)

Me: Behold (waves hand at stuffed bookshelf) I have over a hundred Dr. Who books. Pick one. Pick two, they’re short. I have books you’ve never seen before. I have boxes of books in the back of the closet. I have books in boxes in the attic. I have boxes of books in the basement. I have more books than you can possible read in two pandemics. The one things you can never say to me is “I’ve read everything”.

Beta: (collapses onto the bed in tears)

Me: (hands him “Novels of the Jaran” by Kate Elliot) Start reading. You’ll like this one, it has aliens. And horses.

How am I not ruling the world?

(scene opens in a tossed parlor)

Me: For the last time today, sit down and do your reading for English.
Beta: (whining) But I did my reading!
Me: That was for your Merit Badge. Different book. English class. Now.
Beta: (more whining, gravity suddenly triples in effort to reach paperback)
Me: (refuses to be baited, sips coffee)
Beta: (studies book as if having never seen it before) What page was I on?
Me: (temporarily looses vision) What makes you think I would know that?
Beta: (guileless) You’re supposed to be keeping up with my homework so I know what I’m doing.
Me: Find. Your. Page. Read. The. Whole. Book. Tonight.

Math is hard

(scene opens in sweatshop living room)

Beta: (getting up from laying on the floor reading) Going to the bathroom, mom. I must have read…like…thirty pages!
Me: (tracing pattern) Well, considering that the pages are numbered, if you’re on page thirty you did indeed read thirty pages.
Beta: True. (leaves room)
Me: (puts down chalk, checks Harry Potter book on the floor.)

(Camera close up on pg 75)

Reading for Success

(scene opens in crowded middle school cafeteria orientation night)

Alpha: (pushing through milling crowd) Mom! Mom!
Me: (looks up from a signing a million pieces of paperwork) What?
Alpha: I need five dollars (points to bake sale table). I want to get a blunt cake.
Me: (pauses, processes) Blunt. Cake.
Alpha: Yeah! Little round cakes with vanilla frosting!
Me: Oh. Those are bundt cakes. Bun.d.nt. (draws out sounds) Not blunt. Those aren’t legal. Yet.
Alpha: (confused as well as stubborn) Really! They’re blunt cakes. I saw the “L” in there!
Me: Then you’re really not getting one apart from me not having the five dollars.