Tag Archives: #SelfAcceptance

Ronald, M. (2011). Soul Hunt. New York: Eos.

Artist Ron Sipley

As the last installation of this trilogy, Soul Hunt completes our look into life Evie Scelan and the choices she makes to keep people away from the part of herself that she fears. How people see us and the way we view ourselves might not coincide. Evie’s inability to accept her odd talent as intrinsic and of worth has kept her trying to hide it, and indeed from herself. In Soul Hunt this battle comes to a conclusion.

Credit: NPS.gov

All of this meant that on this particular Halloween, instead of threading my way back to Mercury Courier for another job on my beat-up loaner bike (the replacement ever since a curse-riddled jackass had turned my old bike into aluminum salad), I needed to stop for a moment’s rest. Not that it helped much; even the salt tang of the harbor couldn’t quite cut through the day’s murk. I locked up my bike by the Boston Aquarium, made my way through a screaming gaggle of kids on their way to see the seals, and damn near collapsed out on the end of the dock.

Since we last met her in Wild Hunt, Evie has been exhausted. Resting, eating or living healthy has not had an effect. In fact, her exhaustion seems to be getting worse. So much so, that even her nose begins failing her. Her exhaustion is so intense she is no longer capable of comprehending how bad things are. In fact, Evie is tired enough that she no longer cares about how her beloved Red Sox are doing or about her self-imposed responsibilities. Her friends suspect something is seriously amiss.

… “For the love of all, what is wrong with you, Evie? You seemed okay for a while, you were finally getting some from your skinny-butt guy, you’d faced down worse things than I like to think about, but then it just … you just drained away. It’s like you’re a bad recording of yourself.”

The three novels that make up the Evie Scelan trilogy are Spiral Hunt, Wild Hunt and Soul Hunt and may be found on used and new-book sites like Thriftbooks and Amazon. They can also be found in various e-book versions (e.g. Kindle and Kobo). My version is paperback. Soul Hunt is about 300 pages long. Artwork for all three covers is by Ron Sipley and I’m pleased by the way they look. Fortunately they are not representative of the under-dressed female protagonist typical of that and this cover-era. Content-wise, Soul Hunt should fall within US explicit safe zones for most ages. Soul Hunt, like the other two novels, is an Urban Fantasy Mystery. Ronald succeeded well with her stated goals for Soul Hunt:

I wanted to explore the consequences of the bargain Evie had made, I wanted to put her in a place where all her options were gone, and I wanted to explore the nature of dread. (MR)

The author likes a bit of complexity to her mysteries and her way of letting the problems that are brought to Evie meet and divert through the story adds to the fun. Mysteries that need solving are whatever terrified Tessie (seamancer), Deke’s (pyromancer) Roger, Sarah’s (hedgewitch) neighbourhood watch, Nate’s shapechanger curse, the cause of Evie’s declining health, and Evie’s midwinter date.

Moving on from Mystery to Urban, Soul Hunt introduces us to the wetter parts of Boston and their history: Fort Point Channel (Deke’s house), Georges Island (customers), Little Brewster Island, Gallops Island, Nix’s Mate, Lovells Island, and Quabbin Reservoir (spooky). Recognizing the scenes in this novel was simple when I encountered the above links and saw the above video. Getting to research the veracity of Ronald’s writing has been (as usual) the best part of writing these three reviews. Ronald certainly seems to know her bits of Boston and delight in manipulating them.

I found him down by the waterfront, on the footbridge across Fort Point Channel. I locked up my bike by the courthouse and started across, whistling through my teeth, waving once he saw me.

They’d done their best to spiff up this part of the city – luxury hotels, new construction, a fragment of a park – but fragments of the old waterfront remained. Namely one big house out in the middle of the channel itself, on decaying pilings like dead man’s fingers …

As we continue to the Fantasy part of the genre, we discover that Ronald has added to her Celtic mythology with some Greek.  Like much of Greek mythology, the version created in Soul Hunt is extremely unpleasant. However, without it  Soul Hunt would have been much poorer. One of our antagonists is drawn from the story of the Gorgon and the Graeae and what a nasty antagonist this is. Finally, there is the usual Boston Fiana magic. In Soul Hunt Ronald explains some of the odder details. Many of the Fiana (e.g. Deke) of Boston use soul loci to fuel their spells. Shadow-hunters steal another person’s shadow while adepts such as Byron Chatterji use a principle called “severance and return”. Most of our usual crew are magical, although their magic has other sources and does not rely on bits of soul to work.

A great part of Soul Hunt is about the friendship between our main characters. Ronald has done an excellent job in fleshing out most of them, and the way they interact with and without Evie helps me believe in them. It seems obvious to me that the author must have been great friends with all of them.

“He was supposed to be a wizard,” Katie stage-whispered to me. “To go with my costume. but he forgot and he had to get something at the last minute.” She turned and gave him a look that I swear she must have learned from Sarah, the see-what-inferior-materials-I-must-work-with look. “So instead he’s an evil scientist who’s kidnapping fairies and turning them into trolls.”

Her interactions with Katie differ enough from her same-age interactions for me to see how strong the focus on the costs and benefits of friendship is in the series and how difficult it is for Evie to believe that she is worthy of such friends. Evie has many characteristics that I can relate to. For one thing, she lies to her friends and rationalizes those lies with “protecting them”.  Other people and situations are judged through the lens of her talents and experiences and sometimes that leads to poor decision making, e.g. lying to her friends about her condition. Humour (dry and hilarious) plays an important role in how Evie deals with other people.

… What was the rule for telling proper New England spinsters that yes, you were sharing a bed with their nephew? Did Miss Manners even cover that?

Quabbin Reservation

The ending was satisfactory. All of the aforesaid problems were resolved in one way or another and I was left with a sense of sadness that this friendship is over. I am fortunate in being able to return to it at a later date. I definitely recommend that UF fans read Soul Hunt. In fact, start with Spiral Hunt, then move on to Wild Hunt before you finish with Soul Hunt. More people need to meet Margaret Ronald’s writing.


My reviews of:

  1. Spiral Hunt
  2. Wild Hunt

McKinley, Brian Patrick: The Chermasu (Order Saga) (2007/2012)

The Chermasu by Brian Patrick McKinley

“Alia went still as she remembered exactly where she’d seen him before. It swept out from her childhood memories like canyon debris washed out by a flash flood …”

Memories have power. In Alia’s case these memories were triggered at a point in her life where a choice needed choosing. That choice brings her deeper into lore and traditions she loves. Following those traditions and that lore has the potential of making her more of an outsider than she is already.

While reading I wondered if McKinley was Navajo/Hopi himself. At the very least he must have researched the matter. Skinwalkers at one time worked for the benefit of the people but are now considered evil. Alia also believes they are evil until she discovers that everything depends on what side you are on.

Brian Patrick McKinley clearly has a talent for writing and has added to the joys of my reading obsession.


The Chemasu is available at amazon.com

Helgadóttir, Margrét: The Stars Seem So Far Away (2015)

Cover artist: Sarah Ann Langton
Cover artist: Sarah Ann Langton

I am glad Ms. Helgadóttir asked me to review her book, The Stars Seem So Far Away. Its completion left me feeling weepy and I have been trying to figure out why that is.

How much loss can we endure before we decide that death is for us? I have never truly been alone. Somewhere, within my ability to contact them, have been people I have cared about. I am 50 and both my parents and all of my siblings are still fairly intact. My husband and my children are close, both geographically and emotionally, to me. In each of Ms. Helgadóttir’s stories we meet people who have, or think they have, lost all who they cared about.

When we meet Aida, she is in her early teens and on her way to becoming all alone once again. Her father and mother had died and her brother had disappeared during the plague. Another caretaker turned up, but he is also dying. We meet her grief and her decision to try to survive.

Could I keep from losing a sense of decency in my interactions with other humans in a world where those I encountered were likely to kill me? Nora did and her choice makes all the difference in a world where survival is, at best, a chancy thing. I loved her handling of the piracy situation that arose.

How do you reintroduce yourself to humanity if you have been alone for years? Bjørg has had to manage on her own with her isbos as her only company for some time. Her living conditions have been far superior to those of the other characters. Yet her mission, as set by her father and the Commander, has been traumatizing for her. Somehow she has muddled through it all. Finally, she is unable to do her “duty” yet another time, and that brings the soldiers of Svalbard into her life. Going from a solitary life to one filled with people (even if there are only four others) changes everything for her.

Loss of parents, siblings, children and friends are all losses that our characters experience. Loss of home and safety in a world where the only surviving animal seems to be human is another factor that adds to their burdens. Most plants are gone and the environment makes life difficult, or impossible, in most of today’s temperate zones. Ms. Helgadóttir’s future is entirely believable.

Tying her short stories together in the manner that she has was well done. Her prose is lovely and her portrayal of the Nordic is well done.

Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


The Stars Seem So Far Away available at Amazon here (UK) and here (US)


A copy was given to me by the author


Svalbard Global Seed Vault

2013: Melting Sea Ice Keeps Hungry Polar Bears on Land

Turner, Tej: The Janus Cycle (2015)

The Janus Cycle by Tej Turner
Cover art: Alison Buck

A common theme in all of these short stories seems to be bullying of one sort or another. Needing to dominate others is part of our human history. Countries bully other countries into subservience and oblivion. Two countries are well-known for their tendencies to bully militarily weaker countries while decrying other nations when these do the same. Tej Turner shows us the one-on-one form of bullying and the mob-on-one kind of bullying in his semi-short stories.

All of these short stories are more or less stand alone stories. They are all tied together by Frelia. Frelia has an interesting power that could cause her death if the ones who “rule” it find out about her having that power. But bullies have been part of Frelia’s past and she will not be forced into obedience just because some mysterious stranger tells her she has to. That decision is an essential one to the stories of Pikel, Kev, Tristan, Neal, Namda, Halan, Sam, Pag, Faye and Tilly. Frelia’s intervention changes lives, hopefully for the better.

Mobs with a charismatic leader are a frightening thing. Poor Tilly has the great misfortune of having one of those in her school and she has the kind of aura that many victims end up with. Sadly, this aura attracts predators like Jarvis and his gang.

Bullying (for whatever reason) drags your sense of self-worth down until it seems impossible to gain any of it back. The bullied person becomes so used to people being mean that trust is difficult to come by. At one point things became so desperate for her that Tilly was ready to kill herself. Being treated like a verbal and/or physical punching bag almost every day makes her need to be true to herself something I both admire and understand. Poor little Tilly. Tej Turner made me want to hug her.

“They carried on kicking her. In the face, the head, the stomach. They stamped on her legs, and one of them even spared a moment to spit at her. I desperately tried to intervene, but there were too many and I couldn’t reach them. They were killing her, but they carried on regardless. So long as the rest of them were doing it they seemed to feel it was okay, and none of them wanted to be the first to hesitate.”

In one way or another we all seem to become part of various kinds of mobs.

Definitely recommended.


The story behind the Janus Cycle


Janus Cycle available at Amazon US



I was given an ARC copy by the author

Sagara, Michelle: Cast in Secret (Chronicles of Elantra III)

Once again, my son and I have finished reading a book together. He enjoyed the first two books of the Chronicles of Elantra, which is why we just finished the third one, Cast in Secret. My son’s conclusion about Cast in Secret was to get me to begin reading the next in line. He laughed a couple of times, giggled some and seemed touched by certain parts of the story. I had similar feelings in about the same places of the story as he did.

Kaylin’s attention deficit disorder is a good thing for us, the readers. This way Sagara has an excuse to introduce us to concepts Kaylin missed in class. Even though Kaylin knows she needs to learn certain principles about magic and ought to know more about racial relationships in Elantra, she seems to struggle with the same inability to pay attention to subjects she considers irrelevant to her job as I do. In social settings this proves a problem for her, and Lord Sanabalis is clear on her being a long way from ready to meet the Emperor (unless she wishes to be eaten). Some people need to learn from experience rather than theory (well, actually, I think that most of us only get true learning through experience). Kaylin needs this more than most people. This inability to learn any other way tends to get her into trouble.

I like Michelle Sagara writing about a person like this. With one dyslexic son, one autistic son and one autistic mother in this family, we are all stuck in that mode. My reading ability, age and gender have probably all contributed to the theoretical understanding I have of people. Face to face encounters can go really well, but like Kaylin I tend to break social rules. Admittedly, some of that disobedience comes from not seeing the importance of the rules, but there again Kaylin, I and both of my sons find common ground. Other rules are broken because we do not understand them.

Words. Such a powerful tool. And what a difficult tool it is to wield. Sagara does a great job portraying the difficulties that arise from not understanding what is being taught. Kaylin has a theoretical understanding of what the Tha’laani are, but she is petrified of them. Her terror is a common one in humanity – fear of the unknown. In this sense, all humans are autistic. But just because a race is physically able to read your secrets, does not mean that they want to. Unfortunately, we humans seem wired to think that if a person is born a certain way, then that means that they wish to wield that “power” over you. We seldom stop to think that the other person might be just as afraid of us, disgusted with us or simply does not care about who and what we are. I suppose that comes from our ego-centrism.

Thankfully, Kaylin is also the kind of person who tries her hardest to face her fears. Facing our fears is so stinking hard. But sometimes a situation arises that forces us to do so. And what do we usually discover? Well … The answer is given considering the story and the obviousness of the question. In Kaylin’s case, the Tha’laani children helped her face and overcome her fears . Children are great fear-breakers that way – if we let them be.

Definitely recommended.

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Reviews:

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Cast in Secret available at Scribd.com

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My review of:

  1. Cast in Shadow
  2. Cast in Courtlight

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Translations:

Le secret d’Elantra: T1 – Le Cycle d’Elantra

At the Intersection of Gender and Autism – Part 3

“Yea I was always baffled at how the women who had post partum like me or raising kids or depression always seemed to do a little better. It was confusing because it always seemed a little harder for me and I felt so alone when they’d say, “Ive been there too” but I saw that really- they hadn’t in the way I had and I could not figure it out. It hurt and felt like a failing tender point. Now that I know I am Autistic, I expect that result and it makes the world of difference to just know that fact. Now I know it will always be a little different, perhaps harder, than my non autistic peers…but at least I have words for it and reasons now. It’s still a baffling struggle at times but most of the confusion has cleared.:) (Kmarle)”

Musings of an Aspie

The final post of a three part series (read Part 2)

While many of the intersections of autistic and female in my life have been social, there are undeniable physical intersections too.

The arrival of adolescence brought with it hints of what it would mean to be an autistic adult. My first real meltdowns. My first experience with depression. My first confusing encounters with physical intimacy.

With nothing to compare those experiences to, I assumed they were a normal part of being a teenager. Everyone said that being a teenager was hard. I couldn’t dispute that. It didn’t seem necessary to look beyond the explanation of “this is hard for everyone.”

That would become a theme. Pregnancy. Breastfeeding. Postpartum depression. My body’s reaction to birth control pills. Countless books and magazine articles assured me that these things were no walk in the park. Not knowing that I was autistic…

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Cane, Laken: New Regime (Rune Alexander V) (2014)

New Regime - Laken CaneThe Rune Alexander serial is dark. Probably too dark for a lot of you out there.

Life hasn’t gotten any easier for Rune. Others against humans, others against others and humans against others does not make for a quiet life for the Shiv Crew. Racism is a strange thing. Inside my head my logical part tells me that the oppressed should be above being racist themselves. But that just isn’t so. The Others have been killed for sport by many humans. Turns out the Others aren’t any better themselves really, because there is always another person whose looks/qualities places them lower on the value-ladder. In New Regime the ones who seem to be the lowest of the low are the Pikes. And the Pikes know it.

Rune asks Owen if he thinks she is evil. Owen’s answer is that she is who she is. And really, how do you define evil? Is it even possible? I doubt it. Rune fights for the people she cares for. In her case those people are the Shiv Crew and their unofficial mascot, Gunnar. For them she would do anything. To her enemies, Rune and Shiv Crew are evil. But the world is like that. We are divided into us and them and the evil ones happen to be all of THEM. The Others, the Humans, the Magic, the Strangers, the Fanatics and on and on the list goes. All of these groups have branches that consider the Shiv Crew disposable, usable or tortureable. And the feelings are often mutual.

Rune is her monster and her monster is Rune. Finally, Rune is coming to terms with that. Both want to be in control and finding the balance between the two is a struggle. While few of us will have to wade through the blood and gore that the Shiv Crew do, some people have to live lives fraught with life and death situations daily. How do people balance their monsters and kinder sides in such situations? Probably the way Rune has had to, by accepting that she is becoming the person she is and needs to find a way to live with.

There is plenty of blood and gore. Some humor. Some romance, although not of the “sigh” variety. Plenty of friendship. Plenty of action. Some really sad situations. Definitely recommended.

Majorly cool ending! Just saying.

I received a reviewer’s copy.


Reviews:


New Regime available on Amazon US, Amazon UK


My reviews of:

  1. Shiv Crew
  2. Blood and Bite
  3. Strange Trouble
  4. Obsidian Wings