The Glittering and the Tatterdemalion in “In an Absent dream” by Seanan Mcguire

“Wood does not customarily glitter. Few things do, unless they are attempting to lure something closer to themselves. Sparkle and shine are pleasures reserved for predators, who can afford the risk of courting attention.”

“Their offers should not charm us, 
Their evil gifts would harm us.” 

In An Absent dream – Seanan McGuire

Stats

  • 5 out of 5 Stars
  • 187 pages
  • Published January 8th, 2019 by Tor.com
  • Original Title In an Absent Dream
  • Edition Language English
  • Series Wayward Children #4

About

From the publisher, “This is the story of a very serious young girl who would rather study and dream than become a respectable housewife and live up to the expectations of the world around her. As well she should.

When she finds a doorway to a world founded on logic and reason, riddles and lies, she thinks she’s found her paradise. Alas, everything costs at the goblin market, and when her time there is drawing to a close, she makes the kind of bargain that never plays out well.”

My Thoughts

“In the way of bookish children, she carried her books into trees and along the banks of chuckling creeks, weaving her way along their slippery shores with the sort of grace that belongs only to bibliophiles protecting their treasures. Through the words on the page, she followed Alice down rabbit holes and Dorothy into tornadoes, solved mysteries alongside Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, flew with Peter to Neverland, and made a wonderful journey to a Mushroom Planet.”

In An Absent dream – Seanan Mcguire

In an ordinary town, on a very normal garden path, Katherine Victoria Lundy came to an incredible tree with an impossibly carved door. Through it, she strolled down a hallway whose walls are carved from a single piece of wood that seemed to have no beginning nor end, and came upon signs in neatly done cross stitch declaring rules for this realm, this place that could not be:

  • Rule One – Ask for nothing.
  • Rule Two – Names have power.
  • Rule Three – Always give fair value.
  • Rule Four – Obey the curfew.

Katherine Victoria Lundy was six years old. This is her story and how she came to the Goblin Market.

In 1964 six-year-old Katherine, never Kat, Kitty, or Kathy, always Katherine, realized that her life was going to eventually end someday. Before that fateful day, her life would be full of planned moments all taking part in a sequence she could already see: School, husband, work as a librarian, eventually children, then death. She neither dreaded nor welcomed the impending onslaught of events, it just was. Even her family was remarkable in its lack of remarkability. Her father is a plain and ordinary school principal. Her mother was round with the impending birth of her younger sister, and her brother was not interested in his much younger sibling. Everything just…was.


“She was ordinary.

She was remarkable.

Of such commonplace

contradictions are weapons made.” 

In an absent dream – seanan mcguire

Katherine is in many ways a typical 8-year old, but her personality shines in many unique ways.  Like many kids, she does not understand the vagaries and behavior in her peers – yet she surpasses other children (and probably adults) in her ability to understand the broader picture. It is as if Katherine has a gaping hole in her sense of self and how it is to be a socialized person. Katherine is calm, collected and assured of herself, but she knows that the social aspect of being a kid is something she lacks. So she yearns for that connection. Time passes in the story as it does in life, both very slowly in the minute to minute and all at once like a gale force wind.

Katherine is now 8 years old.

The story progresses, and Katherine becomes more of herself if that is even possible. She is more secure in the knowledge of who she is and what she likes. This is mostly books, something I can identify with. What I enjoy about Seanan Macguires ability to write can be summed up in this chapter, “When is a Door Not a Door.” Children have personality and souls. They are people in all respects except for age, and authors tend to write about children as if they are not people, but characterizations of what we, as a reader think a child should be. Seanan does not. Katherine is a fully developed, albeit young character.

Katherine is presented a door in a twisted Oak tree with the words, “Be Sure” carved across it. And for reasons that even Katherine does not fully understand, she passes through it into the Goblin Market. Here she is assailed with exotic sounds, adventures, and creatures out of imagination and myth rather than reality. As a reader, I can almost picture this scene like when we meet the worm from Labyrinth, “don’t go that way…” We also meet a character that becomes a friend, her first therefore best friend, Moon. Katherine, who is now Lundy because true names have power, learns from Moon and The Archivist, another important character, the ins, and outs of the Goblin Market.

The Goblin market is both a setting for the story and even in its own way, a character. The Market is entirely based on perceived fairness. If any deal is struck, words spoke, or actions are taken within the confines of the Market, the Market weighs it against its own standard of fairness. If one fails to make a fair deal, or what is called “fair value,” the market takes action against the perpetrator in the form of debt. Debt, rather than being its typical elusive and abstract concept, actually makes a physical change on the wearer. If the wearer of the debt continues to act against fair value, they will eventually physically transmogrify into a bird. This is the crux of the story. What is fair value?


“She was Katherine,

she was the teacher’s pet,

and when she grew up,

she was going to be a librarian,

because she couldn’t imagine

knowing there was a job

that was all about books

and not wanting to do it.”

In an absent dream – seanan mcguire

Does Lundy want to come back? Does she want to stay? How does she give fair value to her family both blood (the human world), and adopted (the Goblin Market.) How does she live in two worlds, and give fair value to herself? Because the Goblin Market is always watching and taking account? I am not going to give it away, and even with the ending of the story and what will be a beginning for Lundy, it is oddly unsatisfying. This isn’t a book that wraps morals in a tight and tiny little package to be opened at a later date. Even if I wanted a sweet and happy ending for Lundy, that isn’t in the character of the Market and in the bigger picture, The Wayward series. Fairy tales and fairylands are unique and magical and very seldom kind or gentle.

Each of the Wayward Books touches on essential lessons. Seanan creates a character and place around a crucial social concept. This is no different. The resounding lessons I took from reading this book were two-fold. Firstly, a chosen family is as strong and vital as a blood family. Secondly, Fair value is up to the user and is becoming increasingly scarce in our world of apathy. What is fair for one, is not fair for another. Context and experience flavor the users perspective. This story is a small allegory for that concept.

In an Absent Dream can function just as easily as a standalone novel as it does as the fourth in the Wayward series and it is a masterpiece folks. An utterly magical story and I highly recommend reading it.

Acquisition

Thank you to the publisher, Tor.com for providing me with an ARC of this in exchange for my honest review.

About the Author

From Goodreads, “Hi! I’m Seanan McGuire, author of the Toby Daye series (Rosemary and Rue, A Local Habitation, An Artificial Night, Late Eclipses), as well as a lot of other things. I’m also Mira Grant (www.miragrant.com), author of Feed and Deadline.

Born and raised in Northern California, I fear weather and am remarkably laid-back about rattlesnakes. I watch too many horror movies, read too many comic books, and share my house with two monsters in feline form, Lilly and Alice (Siamese and Maine Coon).”


10,000 Bones – A Science Fiction Action Packed Thriller that Asks the Question, “What if there were no Calcium?”

eARC Review – 10,000 Bones by Joe Ollinger

Stats

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Paperback
  • 240 pages
  • Expected publication: February 5th, 2019 by Diversion Books
  • ISBN 1635760569 (ISBN13: 9781635760569)
  • Genre: Science Fiction

About

From the publisher, “On the planet Brink, calcium is cash. The element’s scarcity led the world’s government to declare it the official currency. In the decades since, the governments of other colonized worlds have suppressed shipments of calcium in order to maintain favorable exchange rates, while Brink’s Commerce Board has struggled to negotiate importation quotas to keep the population alive and growing.

Taryn Dare is a Collections Agent, a specialized detective tasked with finding black market calcium and recovering it so that the Commerce Board can recycle it and distribute it as currency. Taryn is fueled by one goal: to save up enough currency units for a one-way ticket to a better world. But when a job recovering a human corpse uncovers a deadly conspiracy in the system, Taryn is drawn into an investigation that may threaten her life, and the very fabric of her society.” 


My Thoughts

Stop Taryn, breathe.

You’re a professional.

If you let this world and what it

has done to you get a grip on you,

it will swallow you whole.

10,000 Bones by Joe Ollinger

The Author, Joe Ollinger’s timing is just right. The science fiction genre is saturated with dystopian novels that ask questions of the reader, “What if there were no water? Or Food? Or Sunlight?” None I have seen until now have asked the question, “What if there is no calcium?” It is a perfect question to ask. In the reader’s mind, calcium is the most benign of things, and it surrounds us. Ollinger creates a vibrant world built around the procurement of calcium tinged with mystery, adventure, and a kick-ass female protagonist. 

The world Ollinger creates resembles a world that, to me, is a cross of a wild west town and a city from the TV show Firefly. Named Brink, it is all hot and bright with a thin patina of red dust the encapsulates everything. It is full of inhospitable people scrabbling out a living in the dirty, dusty land, and always in need of calcium and water. Ollinger describes it as “…a last chance gas station on one of Earth’s old, long highways – a staging area, a waypoint to more promising, more hospitable worlds…” Also present is the very visible Oligarchy of the rich described as having more elegant clothes, healthier bodies and a distinct lack of hypocalcemia bruising often found in the poor.  The dichotomy of the poor versus the wealthy is fascinating here. Something as simple as drinking a glass of milk is considered the highest of high falutin living. 

This book is in the classic “who done it” style. We have our heroine, Taryn. A rough and tumble collections agent described as muscular and robust that wears body armor. Her job is to seek out leaks of unauthorized calcium currency and return it to the government. In this world, calcium is cleverly written as tradeable currency.  Doing her job, she is always surrounded by the unlawful, the dying and the dregs of society. This brings up shattering moments from her past that often play a part in her decision making in the present. She also has a wealth of empathy, tho to function in her position as a collections agent, and by extension survive in this society, she has to suppress it. She reminds me very much of Marvel’s Jessica Jones. She has a similar attitude and position minus the superpowers. 

The story progresses with Taryn becoming enemy #1 of the state as she hunts for who is stealing the calcium supply. It is exciting and turbulent all within the context of an investigator type mystery. Along the way, we meet various side characters including a sidekick/romance interest of a sort in the form of a wealthy calcium auditor, Brady. He is a described as “looks more like a business executive than a bureaucrat.” The absolute only complaint I have in this story is I found Brady to be a tad unbelievable. His motivations as a character and dialog were muddy. This threw me out of the story at points. I just could not suspend belief when it came to Brady’s and Taryn’s interactions. However, this book could easily have a sequel. If so, as a reader I would love to know more about Brady’s backstory and have him fleshed out as a more substantial character. 

There are beautifully created images throughout the story that keep the pages turning as the reader seeks out the “who did it.” All of this climaxes into a rather explosive denouement. This, in turn, finalizes into an open ending that is rife with a possibility for sequels. 

The author asks us, “What if there is no calcium?” As a reader, I can say “I know that one. It looks like this…”


About The Author

Joe Ollinger grew up in a small swamp town in Florida. After graduating from the University of Southern California, he worked for several years as a reader and story analyst for an Academy Award Winning Filmmaker. Currently residing in Los Angeles, he works as an attorney when he’s not writing

Book Review – Urban Arboreal: A Modern Glossary of City Trees by Michael Jordan, Kelly Louise Judd (Illustrations)

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From the publisher, “Trees are an important part of the life of many cities. Whether in avenues or parks they provide shade, a green resting place for the eye, comfort for the mind, and as we increasingly know from research, help keep the atmosphere cool and fresh. Some cities are famous for a particular species, such as the orange trees of Seville, London’s plane trees, or Washington DC’s cherry blossoms, whereas others are renowned for trees in general, such as the remarkable diversity to be found in Delhi.

Urban Arboreal looks at city trees and their stories in all their complexity – how they have become synonymous with their cities is often an untold story. By knowing more about these trees we come to know more about the very spaces we inhabit, or wish we did! It celebrates their glories and the symbolic place they have in the lives of city dwellers, and at how they are increasingly seen as important allies in improving the quality and health of the urban environment. Above all, this is a clarion call for bringing more life into urban communities. Through 70 trees we travel the world and come to learn the hidden histories that are wrapped up in these botanical giants.”

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Sample page from Urban Arboreal by Michael Jordan, Kelly Louise Judd (Illustrations)

I don’t often talk on here about some of the other non-nerd books that I read. But, I do read quite a few gardening books as I am a garden enthusiast. So I am throwing out there a wonderful book I had the privilege of doing an “Advanced Reading Copy” on.

This is a book that successfully intertwines great design and simplicity of focus with educational and informative information that is useful to the reader. The imagery was done by Kelly Louise Judd, and it is absolutely lovely. Often when perusing gardening books the reader is forced to endure one badly lit picture after another of plants that are difficult to differentiate. But, in this book, the pictures are just as much a selling point as the information itself. If you are a gardener or a traveler, or just a person who enjoys looking at beautiful things; this is a good book for you. At 12.99 on Amazon currently, do yourself a favor and pick it up so that it can look all pretty on your coffee table. Plus the added bonus of learning all sorts of useful information about trees throughout the world.

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Sample page from Urban Arboreal by Michael Jordan, Kelly Louise Judd (Illustrations)

ARC – Unicorn Food by Kat Odell

 

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I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

From the Publisher: It’s among the hottest trends in the food world today—magically colorful dishes and drinks that are as bewitchingly beautiful as they are incredibly tasty and nutritious. Now, Kat Odell—a food journalist, author (the just-published Day Drinking), and entrepreneur who started selling her popular unicorn nut milks in 2015—celebrates the unicorn food movement with a rainbow of 75 recipes.
The recipes are vegan. The ingredients are all-natural and super-nutritious, from fresh fruits and vegetables to superfoods like flax, coconut oil, spirulina, chia, and bee pollen. And the offerings are exactly the kinds of hyper-colorful, super-fun dishes that healthy-forward eaters love, including gently flavored nut milks, grain bowls loaded with vegetables, probiotic breakfast custards, toasts with slathers and spreads. This is health food as never seen before, filled with joy, and words can’t do the colors, the (all-natural) sprinkles, the whimsical decorative touches justice—the deep glowing yellow of a Frozen Turmeric Lassi, the greens of Soba Noodles with Arugula and Arugula Pesto, the intense oranges and purples of Sweet and Sour Radish Tacos,  the tie-dye rainbow effect of Veggie Summer Sunset Rolls with Pineapple Kimchi, and the pastels of Chamomile Milk Tea Pudding with Fennel and Pistachios and Strawberry Pink Peppercorn Ice Cream Sticks.
Filled with dazzling full-color photographs, published in a package as special as the dishes themselves, Unicorn Food is a cookbook of real beauty, in the look, in the recipes, in the spirit of the food itself.

bad-ass-unicorn-300x300Joy and ever-freaking rapture! My trapper keeper carrying, hair band loving, Lisa Frank buying, side ponytail wearing inner child of the 80’s,  just did a squee and a backflip.

Drink and eat the Rainbow man. Preferably wearing glitter.

I seriously loved this cookbook for the simple fact that I can pretend that I am a hoity-toity chef making things with the words fennel, kimchi, and infusion at the same time as playing with my colorful food like I would play with playdough. I am absolutely and unequivocally sold on the concept. Plus, it is just a really lovely book to look through.

ccc668a4a949c0fa2054c17194c54a97As far as the writing is concerned, she did a great job. It feels slightly whimsy and straightforward at the same time. I have a real issue with cookbooks that take themselves way too seriously. She doesn’t. Lastly, the book inspired me to try some of these concoctions for both the chance of prancing around my house as a unicorn. (see photo below) But, also my health. I would recommend this to anyone, serious chef or novice. It is just a whole lot of fun.

ARC Red Rising – Sons of Ares by Pierce Brown

 

 

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The book of meh. image courtesy of goodreads.com

 

I received a Kindle Arc from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.

I really wanted to like this. No. Scratch that. I really wanted to love this. The four book story of red rising; “Red Rising,” “Golden Son,”  “Morning Star,” and “Iron Gold” is some of the best new fantasy I have read lately. Some say that it is too similar to Hunger Games but when I read it I didn’t get that vibe at all. The only thing that is similar to me is the factions for occupations. The characters are interesting and intriguing. The story has a great arc. That is why this is such a letdown. I wanted to love it but really I was only, “meh.” 

A little backstory on this graphic novel, it is a prequel to Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Series and revolves around one of the subsidiary characters in the 4 novel story, However, other characters that are in the Red Rising series are featured. That being said, this graphic novel can be read on its own but the reader will not get the nuances had they read the entire 4 book story beforehand. What is missing is Brown’s great writing. It just doesn’t have the same flow and storytelling that the novels do.  It seems much flatter. If you are a diehard fan of the Red Rising series, absolutely read this. Otherwise, you might skip it till you read the novels.

ARC – Burn Bright (Alpha & Omega #5) by Patricia Briggs

I received this as an advanced copy from Netgalley.com for an honest review.

 

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Image courtesy of goodreads

When I first started reading this novel I felt pretty strongly that the story could have stood a trim and be better served as a novella. The plot felt too small and specific to carry an entire novel. This may be because I haven’t read books 2, 3, and 4 of the series and I am not as familiar with the characters as some. However, Patricia Briggs is, in general, a fantastic writer. I am a rabid fan of the Mercy books and pretty much anything she writes in that world. I didn’t think it would be a problem coming into the novel a little out of sequence, and it wasn’t. This is how I felt for the first 100 pages or so. It slogged a bit and the characters and setup just didn’t gel. Why is this plot important? Why do I care? What is the mystery that is trying to be solved? None of these questions came to much of a head till about 250 pages into the story. It is worth the wait. The climax of the story is absolutely worth the wait. But, I just don’t think this is one of her best books. It is heads above most writers out there, but all in all, it felt to slow for her normal pacing.

 

ARC of The Bridge: How the Roeblings Connected Brooklyn to New York by Peter J. Tomasi, Sara DuVall (Illustrations)

I received this as an advanced copy from Netgalley.com for an honest review.

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There are countless stories rich in history interlaced in the concrete, wire, and foundations of human civilization;  whether it be a tower in Pisa or a bridge that spans the waters between New York City and Brooklyn; every brick, trestle, and pylon could tell a story.  It is up to us, the stewards of the past, to recognize, learn from, and appreciate these works.  We would not be where we are as a society without people like the Roeblings. I can now say after reading this novel the Roeblings are added in my mind to the likes of Guggenheim, Olmstead, and Vaux.

The novel is not the dry telling of pounds per square inch of pressure in the caissons or the tensile strength of the wires; It is the story of a monumental project and the people who dedicated their lives to see it through. Specifically, a husband and wife team whose love and respect for each other are tantamount, as well as their mutual intelligence shines throughout the story much to the credit of the author Peter J. Tomasi. Graphically it is beautiful. They set the historical tone without being overly fussy and fastidious to detail. Sarah Duvall did her research into the period. Pictures of the bridge are not overly technical. I would assume this is a stylistic choice, yet they convey all the necessary information to the reader. This allows the story to move at a good place and pause when necessary for reflection. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who appreciates a good history lesson that is so intriguing it could be written as a work of fiction. I look forward to reading many more works by the author and enjoying the art of the illustrator.