Supernatural adventures for girls and women.

[writing] Project List, February 2017

First writing update of the new year. I am sometimes still struggling with writing in the face of facist regime — what is the point of creation? I struggle with this a lot, though, because creating, especially the story of fiction I write (and art I make), seems futile. (It was supposed to get better as the world gets better, or at least that’s what they used to tell me.) But writing can be resistance, too, and so I create.

(On a more mundane note, I was finally able to work editing into my schedule better. My writing numbers for the month took a hit, but I try to focus more on year-long numbers than individual days, weeks, or months. [Try. Mostly fail, because I have OCD-tendencies with the bipolar, and can focus on the numbers too much.] But at least things are getting editing now.)

Current active projects:

Stand Alone Books:

1. Monsters in the Trees
Young adult horror. Friends, makeouts, and monsters in an isolated cabin. Status: Draft one on hold. Need to revisit the outline.

2. Winter Cabin
New adult or adult paranormal romance. There are monsters in those snow-filled trees. Status: Draft three complete, and with my early readers. Once I receive their feedback, I’ll begin the next edit. Goal is to submit by late summer.

3. Monsters and Music
Young adult horror. Ghosts and werewolves, oh my. (witches and dead people and haunted things, too.) Status: Draft two on hold. Had an epiphany about the main romantic relationship, which I think will help structure the story.

4. Frozen World Fantasy
Adult fantasy. Brainstorming and talking to JBJ, another fantasy author, about how to write a fantasy novel. Doing some research on the writing side, working through world building before I start outlining.

5. Marching Rock Band
New adult or adult contemporary romance. Drumlines and rock bands and romance. Status: Draft two in progress. Goal is to get it to early readers by this summer.

6. Siblings Saving the World
New adult or adult supernatural adventure. There are monsters in the world — and sometimes we become them. Reworked the outline this month (while talking to JBJ, I described it as having to draw a new map while lost in the middle of the forest), and am back into writing mode. (I lost the path of the story for awhile, but going back to the outline helped.) Goal is to finish the first draft by the end of June.

7. Rocks Fall, Everybody Dies
(cowritten with Sarah)
Young adult horror. Seven friends go off on an adventure. Not everyone comes home. Sarah and I decided we needed a break from series writing to focus on a one-off, a palate cleanser as it were, where we can just build a world for one book, and write completely within that boundary. We are reevaluating how we want to handle our co-writing career, though, so we’ll see how this goes.

UK Horror Project
(cowritten with Sarah)

1. Talking Dead
Young adult supernatural adventure. Ghosts, monsters, and killers, oh my. Status: Fifth draft in progress, plus a fun side project that will be released as a companion piece once this is published. (We hope we’ll reach the day this is published.) Progress has slowed a lot; sometimes we don’t even get an entire chapter done in a session. Having so much down time between writing sessions is hard. And now we’re reevaluating how to manage our co-writing career, so this is on hold.

2. Halloween Horror
Young adult supernatural adventure. Flirtatious werewolves and incorporeal monsters. Tam needs the supernatural world to shut up a second so she can get laid. Status: Second draft outline in progress. More fallout from the big series breakdown. Monsters & Magic used to be #2, and then it was rolled into #1, and now a very different story has been pulled out of #1 and made into #2 again. *hands*

3. Supernatural Slumber Party
Young adult supernatural adventure. It’s a slumber party of supernaturals, see? Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Halloween Horror draft 2 complete.

4. Wicked Witches
Young adult supernatural adventure. Witches, dude, always with the witches. And the world goes BOOM. Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Supernatural Slumber Party draft 2 complete. Second draft combines Wicked Witches and Monster Mash into one book.

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[writing] Project List, December 2016

Another year nearly done. This year, unlike last year, I wrote a lot and finished a ton of first and second drafts, but I need to work on building more time to edit those drafts into my schedule, because I do want to take the next step of submitting to agents and publishers soon. I’m not quite back on my writing feet after November, but I’m getting there.

Current active projects:

UK Horror Project
(cowritten with Sarah)

1. Talking Dead
Young adult supernatural adventure. Ghosts, monsters, and killers, oh my. Status: Fifth draft in progress, plus a fun side project that will be released as a companion piece once this is published. (We hope we’ll reach the day this is published.) Progress has slowed a lot; sometimes we don’t even get an entire chapter done in a session. Having so much down time between writing sessions is hard.

2. Halloween Horror
Young adult supernatural adventure. Flirtatious werewolves and incorporeal monsters. Tam needs the supernatural world to shut up a second so she can get laid. Status: Second draft outline in progress. More fallout from the big series breakdown. Monsters & Magic used to be #2, and then it was rolled into #1, and now a very different story has been pulled out of #1 and made into #2 again. *hands*

3. Supernatural Slumber Party
Young adult supernatural adventure. It’s a slumber party of supernaturals, see? Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Halloween Horror draft 2 complete.

4. Wicked Witches
Young adult supernatural adventure. Witches, dude, always with the witches. And the world goes BOOM. Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Supernatural Slumber Party draft 2 complete. Second draft combines Wicked Witches and Monster Mash into one book.

Stand Alone Books:

1. Monsters in the Trees
Young adult horror. Friends, makeouts, and monsters in an isolated cabin. Status: Draft one on hold. Need to revisit the outline.

2. Winter Cabin
New adult or adult paranormal romance. There are monsters in those snow-filled trees. Status: Draft two complete. Edit in progress. Still need to figure out where in my writing schedule to edit.

3. Monsters and Music
Young adult horror. Ghosts and werewolves, oh my. (witches and dead people and haunted things, too.) Status: Draft two on hold. Had an epiphany about the main romantic relationship, which I think will help structure the story.

4. Frozen World Fantasy
Adult fantasy. Brainstorming and talking to JBJ, another fantasy author, about how to write a fantasy novel. Doing some research on the writing side, working through world building before I start outlining.

5. Marching Rock Band
New adult or adult contemporary romance. Drumlines and rock bands and romance. Status: Draft one complete. I’m going to let it sit for a month or so before I delve into editing/writing draft two, but I want to send it to first readers early next year.

6. Siblings Saving the World
New adult or adult supernatural adventure. There are monsters in the world — and sometimes we become them. Outlined, draft one in progress. Loving it so far, though it’s slightly on hold due to holiday stuff until the beginning of January.

7. Rocks Fall, Everybody Dies
(cowritten with Sarah)
Young adult horror. Seven friends go off on an adventure. Not everyone comes home. Sarah and I decided we needed a break from series writing to focus on a one-off, a palate cleanser as it were, where we can just build a world for one book, and write completely within that boundary. We started brainstorming over the weekend, and it is great.

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[reading] Review of Dust Bath Revival by Marianne Kirby

Book: Dust Bath Revival by Marianne Kirby (Amazon link)
Genre: YA horror/supernatural adventure
Series: Feral Seasons, Book One
USA Release Date: November 21, 2016
Source: Advanced ebook copy from the publisher. No compensation received for this review, and it is my honest opinion.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Recommended?: Yes, absolutely. It is a gorgeous, haunting southern fairytale about hunger and danger and how little we see even when we try to look at the world.
Content note: Non-explicit violence to animals.

Summary: 16-year-old Henrietta Goodness – Hank to all that know her – has heard all the stories about how the Dust made the dead rise. She’s heard about how life changed.

But that was a long time ago, and Hank is ready for another normal dry and dusty Florida summer. She knows the thunder doesn’t really promise rain. Instead, Hank and her brother will do their chores, run into town as much as they can get away with, and lock up tight and safe in their Aunt Marty’s house once the sun goes down. That’s the plan, at least, until an itinerant tent revival rolls onto their land, with a Reborn – one of the risen dead – traveling caged with them.

The arrival of an unknown cousin connected to the revival starts Hank on the road to solving a mystery that even the government might not want unraveled. There’s nowhere to go when the night isn’t safe and there’s no one to trust when everyone might be part of a conspiracy to keep the Reborn walking.

Review:

Dust Bath Revival is a gorgeous, haunting southern fairytale. The story is a slow burn build, and the world opens up for the reader in a slow, sensuous way that meanders and loops, and even the things we see, the things Hank sees as she is shoved out into the world, aren’t what we want them to be, or fear them to be, both and neither at the same time. This is Hank’s story, her creation story, and it is lovely.

Kirby’s writing is gorgeous, and she captures a dark, twisty southern gothic feel. The slow pace of the book feels like a story being told around the campfire, late into the night; there’s an otherworldly quality to the descriptions that holds the reader at a distance and weaves a compelling, complicated world around them.

There was no real sense of fear for me as a reader; the story unspools in a way that feels inevitable and comfortably familiar, a beloved tale that I’ve returned to a hundred times before, though this is my first reading. (It will not be my last.) The ending is less a satisfactory conclusion and more a pause; Dust Bath Revival is clearly the introduction to a much larger world, and though I am eager for the next book, I do wish the end had felt more like a resolution. That’s not to say that the book doesn’t resolve; the story that it sets out to tell is finished, but it so well sets up the next part of the story in such few words at the end that I was left wanting more.

That in itself is a delightful bit of writing. I am left hungry and wanting and frustrated by it, as is Hank. And it is in that hunger, that wanting, that Hank must find her answers, and in her search, exactly what I want more of, too.

Dust Bath Revival is the story of family and need, betrayal and hunger, and it will stick with you long after you finish. It will leave you, always, wanting more.

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[writing] Project List, November 2016

November is on track to be my worst writing month of the year. None of my anger or fear is new, because I am constantly worried about my beloved friends and family who face racism, homophobia, ableism, sexism, transphobia — but it is particularly terrible right now, and it is hard to focus when I alternate between rage and terror, for my beloveds, for myself.

My current writing playlist was already full of angry music, but it is so, so necessary right now.

Current active projects:

UK Horror Project
(cowritten with Sarah)

1. Talking Dead
Young adult supernatural adventure. Ghosts, monsters, and killers, oh my. Status: Fifth draft in progress, plus a fun side project that will be released as a companion piece once this is published. (We hope we’ll reach the day this is published.) Progress has slowed a lot; sometimes we don’t even get an entire chapter done in a session. Having so much down time between writing sessions is hard. This month in particular; we don’t have a single writing session scheduled, due to how many things happen on weekends in November for both of us.

2. Halloween Horror
Young adult supernatural adventure. Flirtatious werewolves and incorporeal monsters. Tam needs the supernatural world to shut up a second so she can get laid. Status: Second draft outline in progress. More fallout from the big series breakdown. Monsters & Magic used to be #2, and then it was rolled into #1, and now a very different story has been pulled out of #1 and made into #2 again. *hands*

3. Supernatural Slumber Party
Young adult supernatural adventure. It’s a slumber party of supernaturals, see? Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Halloween Horror draft 2 complete.

4. Wicked Witches
Young adult supernatural adventure. Witches, dude, always with the witches. And the world goes BOOM. Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Supernatural Slumber Party draft 2 complete. Second draft combines Wicked Witches and Monster Mash into one book.

Stand Alone Books:

1. Monsters in the Trees
Young adult horror. Friends, makeouts, and monsters in an isolated cabin. Status: Draft one on hold. Need to revisit the outline.

2. Winter Cabin
New adult or adult paranormal romance. There are monsters in those snow-filled trees. Status: Draft two complete. Edit in progress. Still need to figure out where in my writing schedule to edit.

3. Monsters and Music
Young adult horror. Ghosts and werewolves, oh my. (witches and dead people and haunted things, too.) Status: Draft two on hold. Had an epiphany about the main romantic relationship, which I think will help structure the story.

4. Frozen World Fantasy
Adult fantasy. Brainstorming and talking to JBJ, another fantasy author, about how to write a fantasy novel. Doing some research on the writing side, working through world building before I start outlining.

5. Marching Rock Band
New adult or adult contemporary romance. Drumlines and rock bands and romance. Status: Draft one in progress. It is particularly difficult to finish this one right now, because writing a contemporary story feels a little like writing torture porn at the moment, but I’m so close to the end that I am going to knock this draft out before I go back to my beloved supernatural stories.

6. Siblings Saving the World
New adult or adult supernatural adventure. There are monsters in the world — and sometimes we become them. Brainstorming this one, because I figured out some big changes. Pretty sure I’ll start this one next month.

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[writing] Project List, October 2016

Writing is going very slowly this month, which is a downer after the past few months of putting up big numbers. I’m sitting at 450k out of 500k for the year, though, so still ahead of schedule. Trying to finish the marching rock band story I’m writing now, and I think I’ve chosen the next project.

Still need to figure out how to work hardcore editing into the schedule, though. The winter cabin story needs to be cleaned up and sent out to first readers.

Current active projects:

UK Horror Project
(cowritten with Sarah)

1. Talking Dead
Young adult supernatural adventure. Ghosts, monsters, and killers, oh my. Status: Fifth draft in progress, plus a fun side project that will be released as a companion piece once this is published. (We hope we’ll reach the day this is published.) Progress has slowed a lot; sometimes we don’t even get an entire chapter done in a session. Having so much down time between writing sessions is hard.

2. Halloween Horror
Young adult supernatural adventure. Flirtatious werewolves and incorporeal monsters. Tam needs the supernatural world to shut up a second so she can get laid. Status: Second draft outline in progress. More fallout from the big series breakdown. Monsters & Magic used to be #2, and then it was rolled into #1, and now a very different story has been pulled out of #1 and made into #2 again. *hands*

3. Supernatural Slumber Party
Young adult supernatural adventure. It’s a slumber party of supernaturals, see? Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Halloween Horror draft 2 complete.

4. Wicked Witches
Young adult supernatural adventure. Witches, dude, always with the witches. And the world goes BOOM. Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Supernatural Slumber Party draft 2 complete. Second draft combines Wicked Witches and Monster Mash into one book.

Stand Alone Books:

1. Monsters in the Trees
Young adult horror. Friends, makeouts, and monsters in an isolated cabin. Status: Draft one on hold. Need to revisit the outline.

2. Winter Cabin
New adult or adult paranormal romance. There are monsters in those snow-filled trees. Status: Draft two complete. Edit in progress. Still need to figure out where in my writing schedule to edit.

3. Monsters and Music
Young adult horror. Ghosts and werewolves, oh my. (witches and dead people and haunted things, too.) Status: Draft two on hold. Had an epiphany about the main romantic relationship, which I think will help structure the story.

4. Frozen World Fantasy
Adult fantasy. Brainstorming and talking to JBJ, another fantasy author, about how to write a fantasy novel. Doing some research on the writing side, working through world building before I start outlining.

5. Marching Rock Band
New adult or adult contemporary romance. Drumlines and rock bands and romance. Status: Draft one in progress. I’m not sure I will ever be able to write a contemporary story — I tend to get bored writing without monsters — but damn it, I keep trying. More than 50k into this, and just hitting the emotional climax. On the downhill slope to the end now.

6. Siblings Saving the World
New adult or adult supernatural adventure. There are monsters in the world — and sometimes we become them. Brainstorming this one, because I figured out some big changes. This may be the next project.

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[writing] Project List, September 2016

It is amazing how much more I write when I track my daily writing. That’s not to say I have a specific daily goal (well, I do, sort of, because I have an annual goal, and that is broken down into monthly, weekly, and daily numbers to hit, but mostly I ignore it), but I just write down what I write each day. (Some days, that number is 0. Those days are okay, too.) I knew I wrote more when I tracked it, but it is startling to see just how much more I’ve written this year.

My goal for 2016 was 500,000 words, and I’m currently sitting at just over 400,000. That means I have less than 100,000 words to write over the next three and a half months. That is pretty amazing.

Current active projects:

UK Horror Project
(cowritten with Sarah)

1. Talking Dead
Young adult supernatural adventure. Ghosts, monsters, and killers, oh my. Status: Fifth draft in progress, plus a fun side project that will be released as a companion piece once this is published. (We hope we’ll reach the day this is published.) After tearing apart the outline yet again, we’re in a pretty solid place, writing-wise, though we’ll see how long that lasts.

2. Halloween Horror
Young adult supernatural adventure. Flirtatious werewolves and incorporeal monsters. Tam needs the supernatural world to shut up a second so she can get laid. Status: Second draft outline in progress. More fallout from the big series breakdown. Monsters & Magic used to be #2, and then it was rolled into #1, and now a very different story has been pulled out of #1 and made into #2 again. *hands*

3. Supernatural Slumber Party
Young adult supernatural adventure. It’s a slumber party of supernaturals, see? Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Halloween Horror draft 2 complete.

4. Wicked Witches
Young adult supernatural adventure. Witches, dude, always with the witches. And the world goes BOOM. Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Supernatural Slumber Party draft 2 complete. Second draft combines Wicked Witches and Monster Mash into one book.

Stand Alone Books:

1. Monsters in the Trees
Young adult horror. Friends, makeouts, and monsters in an isolated cabin. Status: Draft one on hold. Need to revisit the outline.

2. Winter Cabin
New adult or adult paranormal romance. There are monsters in those snow-filled trees. Status: Draft two complete. Edit in progress. It is mid-September, and I have not sent it out to first readers. I need to figure out where editing fits into my daily writing; I have writing sessions with Sarah scheduled, and my (more or less) daily writing sessions scheduled, but I don’t yet know how I’m going to work the editing into that. I thought I could spend the first half of each day’s session editing and the second half writing, but that is not working for me.

3. Monsters and Music
Young adult horror. Ghosts and werewolves, oh my. (witches and dead people and haunted things, too.) Status: Draft two on hold. Had an epiphany about the main romantic relationship, which I think will help structure the story.

4. Frozen World Fantasy
Adult fantasy. Brainstorming and talking to JBJ, another fantasy author, about how to write a fantasy novel. Doing some research on the writing side, working through world building before I start outlining.

5. Marching Rock Band
New adult or adult contemporary romance. Drumlines and rock bands and romance. Status: Draft one in progress. I’m not sure I will ever be able to write a contemporary story — I tend to get bored writing without monsters — but damn it, I keep trying. I’m about 40k into this one and loving it so far.

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[writing] Project List, August 2016

Both day job and writing work exploded the past couple months. Both for good reasons, but I’ve been pretty scarce here and across social media (though I did document some of my day job adventures, including OMG GIANT PUMPKINS, on Instagram). Still, it is well past time for a project update.

Current active projects:

UK Horror Project
(cowritten with Sarah)

1. Talking Dead
Young adult supernatural adventure. Ghosts, monsters, and killers, oh my. Status: Fifth draft in progress.

Quite a change from May’s update. We scrapped the fourth draft completely, pulled apart the outline of both the fourth draft of book one and of the entire series, and completely redesigned the first half of the series, though big picture, the last half remains pretty solid. We then wrote ANOTHER outline of Talking Dead, and are making steady progress on draft five, though we’re down to only one or two writing sessions a month due to my exploded schedule. Things should calm down a little soon. (Though then we’re headed into the end of the year holidays, which is also a busy time. Crap.)

2. Halloween Horror
Young adult supernatural adventure. Flirtatious werewolves and incorporeal monsters. Tam needs the supernatural world to shut up a second so she can get laid. Status: Second draft outline in progress.

More fallout from the big series breakdown. Monsters & Magic used to be #2, and then it was rolled into #1, and now a very different story has been pulled out of #1 and made into #2 again. *hands*

3. Supernatural Slumber Party
Young adult supernatural adventure. It’s a slumber party of supernaturals, see? Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Halloween Horror draft 2 complete.

4. Wicked Witches
Young adult supernatural adventure. Witches, dude, always with the witches. And the world goes BOOM. Status: First draft complete. Second draft on hold until Supernatural Slumber Party draft 2 complete. Second draft combines Wicked Witches and Monster Mash into one book.

Stand Alone Books

1. Monsters in the Trees
Young adult horror. Friends, makeouts, and monsters in an isolated cabin. Status: Draft one on hold. Need to revisit the outline.

2. Winter Cabin
New adult or adult paranormal romance. There are monsters in those snow-filled trees. Status: Draft two complete. Originally this was going to be a 20k novella, and it ended up being a 60k novel, but I did finally finish a draft. I’ll start editing draft two shortly, and plan to have it out to first readers by mid-September. (This will be published under the pseud if it is ever published.)

3. Monsters and Music
Young adult horror. Ghosts and werewolves, oh my. (witches and dead people and haunted things, too.) Status: Draft two on hold. Had an epiphany about the main romantic relationship, which I think will help structure the story.

4. Frozen World Fantasy
Adult fantasy. Brainstorming and talking to JBJ, another fantasy author, about how to write a fantasy novel. Doing some research on the writing side, working through world building before I start outlining.

5. Marching Rock Band
New adult or adult contemporary romance. Drumlines and rock bands and romance. Status: Draft one in progress. I’m not sure I will ever be able to write a contemporary story — I tend to get bored writing without monsters — but damn it, I keep trying. I’m about 13k into this one and loving it so far.

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[reading] Review of BEAST OF BARCROFT by Bill Schweigart

Book: BEAST OF BARCROFT by Bill Schweigart (Amazon)
Genre: Adult paranormal horror
USA Release Date: currently available
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Summary: Ben McKelvie believes he’s moving up in the world when he and his fiancée buy a house in the cushy Washington, D.C., suburb of Barcroft. Instead, he’s moving down—way down—thanks to Madeleine Roux, the crazy neighbor whose vermin-infested property is a permanent eyesore and looming hazard to public health.

First, Ben’s fiancée leaves him; then, his dog dies, apparently killed by a predator drawn into Barcroft by Madeleine’s noxious menagerie. But the worst is yet to come for Ben, for he’s not dealing with any ordinary wild animal. This killer is something much, much worse. Something that couldn’t possibly exist—in this world.

Now, as a devilish creature stalks the locals, Ben resolves to take action. With some grudging assistance from a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the crackpot theories of a self-styled cryptozoologist, he discovers the sinister truth behind the attacks, but knowing the Beast of Barcroft and stopping it are two different animals.

Recommended?: No. I wish I could recommend it, because at times it is a super entertaining story, with a main male character who was a billion times less irritating than when I read and reviewed NORTHWOODS (which is actually the sequel). For a lot of this story, it is creepy and wonderful, and I absolutely adore the main female character, Lindsay Clark, who is an awesome lesbian zoologist.

And then the part of the book came that I was braced for: the introduction of the rich white cryptozoologist and his sidekick Indian. I knew this was coming, because Alex Standingcloud, who is during this book estranged from his Ojibwe family, plays a huge role in the second book, which is set, in part, on his reservation. I really like him in the second book, and the little we get to see of him here in the first, he’s just as great, but his whole purpose in the story is to show up as the Magical Indian: he’s there to bring information about Native American beliefs and lore, get hurt helping the white dude hero, and disappear off screen when his work is done. And that is such a tired old trope. So is the use of Native American beliefs to drive the horror.

JK Rowling was recently deeply criticized for her cultural appropriation of Native American beliefs, and a lot of what was said about that is applicable here, too. Dr. Adrienne Keene talks about this extensively at Native Appropriations: Magic in America Part 1: Ugh and Magic in North America: The Harry Potter Franchise Veers Too Close to Home.

So, this is where I’m going to perform what Audra Simpson calls an “ethnographic refusal,” “a calculus ethnography of what you need to know and what I refuse to write in.” In her work with her own community, she asks herself the questions: “what am I revealing here and why? Where will this get us? Who benefits from this and why?”

I had a long phone call with one of my friends/mentors today, who is Navajo, asking her about the concepts Rowling is drawing upon here, and discussing how to best talk about this in a culturally appropriate way that can help you (the reader, and maybe Rowling) understand the depths to the harm this causes, while not crossing boundaries and taboos of culture. What did I decide? That you don’t need to know. It’s not for you to know. I am performing a refusal.

What you do need to know is that the belief of these things (beings?) has a deep and powerful place in Navajo understandings of the world. It is connected to many other concepts and many other ceremonial understandings and lifeways. It is not just a scary story, or something to tell kids to get them to behave, it’s much deeper than that. My own community also has shape-shifters, but I’m not delving into that either.

What happens when Rowling pulls this in, is we as Native people are now opened up to a barrage of questions about these beliefs and traditions (take a look at my twitter mentions if you don’t believe me)–but these are not things that need or should be discussed by outsiders. At all. I’m sorry if that seems “unfair,” but that’s how our cultures survive.

The other piece here is that Rowling is completely re-writing these traditions. Traditions that come from a particular context, place, understanding, and truth. These things are not “misunderstood wizards”. Not by any stretch of the imagination.

This is applicable beyond just Rowling’s work, and beyond skinwalkers. This is applicable here, to BEAST OF BARCROFT, and that Schweigart chose to take this path ruins an otherwise really fun and interesting book.

Things I loved: Lindsay Clark, bad ass curator at the National Zoo, lesbian, and all-around hero. Officer Stacy Cushing, bad ass officer and all-around hero. Great, tense scenes and a fast, interesting story. Good, engaging storytelling (except for that big giant problem).

Things I loathed: First character we meet is Manny Benavides, who is, I believe, a Hispanic man, an animal control office, kind and good at his job and well loved by his family — and who is immediately killed off so the white characters can take center stage. Obviously, the use of the Native American beliefs is a problem. Lots of low key sexism that is both pushed back against and supported by the text at the same time. And a huge amount of bullshit over the mental health crap and ableism throughout, particularly his belief, fully supported and encouraged by the text, that he needs to come off his depression meds in order to be really present in life and to be the hero. Which is seriously fucked up.

(Also, the damn dog dies in the first chapter. I hate when that happens.)

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[reading] Review of HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano

I’m a Book Depository affiliate, and will receive a small credit if you order from BD using any of the BD links below. There is no additional cost to you. I’ll mark the source of links.

Book: HOLDING SMOKE by Elle Cosimano (Book Depository)
Genre: YA paranormal murder mystery
USA Release Date: currently available
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 3/5 stars
Summary: John “Smoke” Conlan is serving time for two murders-but he wasn’t the one who murdered his English teacher, and he never intended to kill the only other witness to the crime. A dangerous juvenile rehabilitation center in Denver, Colorado, known as the Y, is Smoke’s new home and the only one he believes he deserves. But, unlike his fellow inmates, Smoke is not in constant imprisonment. After a near death experience leaves him with the ability to shed his physical body at will, Smoke is able to travel freely outside the concrete walls of the Y, gathering information for himself and his fellow inmates while they’re asleep in their beds. Convinced his future is only as bright as the fluorescent lights in his cell, Smoke doesn’t care that the “threads” that bind his soul to his body are wearing thin-that one day he may not make it back in time. That is, until he meets Pink, a tough, resourceful girl who is sees him for who he truly is and wants to help him clear his name. Now Smoke is on a journey to redemption he never thought possible. With Pink’s help, Smoke may be able to reveal the true killer, but the closer they get to the truth, the more deadly their search becomes. The web of lies, deceit, and corruption that put Smoke behind bars is more tangled than they could have ever imagined. With both of their lives on the line, Smoke will have to decide how much he’s willing to risk, and if he can envision a future worth fighting for.

Recommended?: Yes. I thought it was a fast, fun read with some really interesting world building, and a main character I cared about, which is rare for me with straight male main characters.

Things I loved: The murder mystery itself, the details of how Smoke travels outside his body, the layers of corruption and intrigue.

Things I loathed: The ending is weak, and more than a little cheesy. While the pacing is good in the second half of the story, it seemed to take a long time to get started. And again, that ending — cheesy and weak. I’m not sure how much I buy that he wasn’t tried as an adult for the two murders he’s in juvie for committing, and that was really distracting at first, but once I was able to suspend my disbelief, the pacing of the story had picked up, and I was along for the ride.

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[reading] Review of THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry

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Book: THE GIRL I USED TO BE by April Henry (Book Depository)
Genre: YA murder mystery
USA Release Date: currently available
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
Summary: When Olivia’s mother was killed, everyone suspected her father of murder. But his whereabouts remained a mystery. Fast forward fourteen years. New evidence now proves Olivia’s father was actually murdered on the same fateful day her mother died. That means there’s a killer still at large. It’s up to Olivia to uncover who that may be. But can she do that before the killer tracks her down first?

Recommended?: Sort of. It was entertaining enough, but I had serious issues with the way mental illness was treated, both in how fast and often the accusations of someone being “crazy” flew, but also because in the end, the deaths were blamed on mental illness, because crazy people kill, AMIRITE? And that trope is one of my most hated tropes. So while the story as a whole was a fun look at how the stories we tell about murders can be terribly wrong, I had a hard time pushing through the part.

Things I loved: The use of YouTube to access old video of her family’s appearance on America’s Most Wanted, and how technology drove her research a lot. Some of the side characters were really well drawn. It was a fun murder mystery (I mean, if you can call a “murder mystery” fun, which I can and do, but I can see how that’s a little weird, too), and I really liked the way she kept pushing through everything to find the truth.

Things I loathed: The treatment of mental illness. The weirdness about a failed adoption that not only didn’t make a lot of sense in the details, but also didn’t add anything to the story and was pretty much a terrible representation of adoption that felt like it was just there to give her a more painful backstory and to prey on the fears a lot of adopted kids have that their new family will give them up. (And frustrating treatment of single mothers, to boot.)

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