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It begins.

Again.

Soon.

My next semester of library school is about to start.

I’m sitting at about 2 1/2 weeks before my second round of classes kicks off. I’m grateful to Clarion University for providing me with the opportunity to take a course that’s 100% online (I mean, it kind of has to be for me, since the school’s in Pennsylvania).

I’m better prepared this semester than I was at the beginning of the year. I’ve already gotten my financial aid paperwork completed, and my textbooks are already being shipped. I’m not scrambling to get anything ready.

I’m taking three classes again this semester: Administration and Management of Libraries, Integrated Systems in Libraries, and Library Literature and Young Adults. I’m especially excited about the YA literature class. It’s my first elective of my grad school career, and is right in line with my current library job.

I’m nervous, though that’s more to do with the current global situation more than anything with school. Regardless, I’ll move forward as best I can.

Stephen Graham Jones wrote one of the creepiest novellas I’ve ever read, Mapping the Interior. Naturally, I leapt at the opportunity to grab an eARC of his new novel, The Only Good Indians. I’m glad I did, too.

Ten years ago, four young Blackfeet men went on their last hunt together. One last chance to get an elk before winter. Ricky, Lewis, Gabe, and Cass. It was supposed to be their shot to prove that they weren’t the screw-ups that so many folks on the reservation thought they were. One opportunity to prove that they were good Indians. Only it all went wrong, didn’t it? They weren’t supposed to be hunting in that part of the reservation. They would pay the price.

Ricky died the next year. “INDIAN MAN KILLED IN DISPUTE OUTSIDE BAR,” the headline had read. But he’d run from home. Left the reservation after his little brother overdosed, looking for work. He never made it to Minneapolis like he’d planned. But what if the headline didn’t get it quite right? What if there was more to it than a handful of roughnecks getting drunk and angry in a parking lot? More than a lone elk wandering into the lot, trashing the men’s pickups, leaving them to believe that Ricky had been causing the damage?

Now the tenth anniversary of their hunt is coming up, and Lewis is trying to find the courage to tell his wife the truth of what the four men did that day in the snow. The truth about the elk they killed, and the fate that they sealed for themselves with each rifle round. Lewis left the reservation too, though he never went as far as Ricky tried. But lately, Lewis hasn’t been feeling quite right. He’s been seeing things, impossible things. A cow elk dead in his and Peta’s living room. Dead? Or was her eye following him as he climbed the ladder? And it couldn’t be the same cow. Lewis killed her that day. Distributed her meat to the reservation elders. Still has her skin balled up in his freezer. Was it an elk that he saw? Or was it a woman with an elk’s head?

Meanwhile, Gabe and Cass are still at home on the rez, preparing a sweat lodge for a friend’s kid who needs to get put back on a proper path. A classmate of Gabe’s daughter, Denorah. The sweat will be a chance for Gabe and Cass to embrace their heritage, and pay respect to Ricky’s memory. Teach the kid, Nathan, a little too. Maybe a little bit of atonement for their elk hunt, now a decade back. At the very least, the kid’s dad will throw Gabe some extra cash that he can use to buy something for Denorah. But then, Lewis is in the headlines too…

Something survived that day, ten years ago. Something vengeful. Something patient. Something with horns.

Elk, the Blackfeet elders say, have a long memory.

The Only Good Indians is a fabulous novel. Stephen Graham Jones did not disappoint with this heartbreaking work. Part contemporary commentary on Native American lives, part slow-burning horror, it’s everything I could’ve wanted.

Happy publication day at long last, Mr. Jones.

My thanks to NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for a fair review.

 

I’m sorry for the delay in posting this, but it still needs to be said. I’ll no longer be supporting Sam Sykes or Myke Cole. I’ve removed my reviews of their work from my blog and from goodreads, and blocked both of them on Twitter. I’m sincerely sorry for any harm I may have caused my readers by supporting their work in the past few years.

While no author is perfect, the folks that I’ve mentioned in the last couple of posts have shown consistently that they’re unwilling or unable to make changes to their behavior necessary to make other people feel safe around them.

To those who have spoken up against the harassment, I thank you.

Hey y’all. This has been a bit of a rough afternoon. It has been brought to my attention that an author whose work I have promoted on here and on Twitter, and with whom I frequently engaged in conversation via Twitter, is a serial harasser. As such, I have made the decision to delete my review of Paul Krueger’s book from my blog, and I have blocked him on Twitter. I’ll be deleting my review from goodreads as well. The last thing that I want to do is provide promotion for a man who has injured so many people that I care about.

I am sorry for having promoted him, and for boosting his reach. I’m sorry that I didn’t recognize his behavior at the time that I met him. I believe you. I will strive to do better when it comes to boosting authors’ voices.

It’s done, y’all. I made it through my first semester of grad school.

At this point, I’ve actually been done for over a month. I turned in my last assignments during the first weekend of May, and I’ve already received my grades. Despite the anxiety brought on by COVID-19, I managed to power through my online classes and secure an A in each of my three classes for the semester.

I’m registered for my next round of classes, beginning this fall. I’ll ideally have knocked out all of my required classes (aside from my capstone) within my first year, leaving more room for exploration through elective classes next spring.

Right now, then, it’s just a matter of getting through until the fall. Hang in there, y’all. It’s been a wild year so far, and it’s not even halfway through.

When I found out that Gene Luen Yang was going to be writing a Superman story for younger readers, I was ecstatic. Imagine my joy to learn that the book was titled Superman Smashes the Klan. Yang is an exceptional cartoonist, and no stranger to writing stories for DC Comics. His New Super-Man series was one of my favorite things to come out of the Rebirth line, and American-Born Chinese was brilliant as well (Boxers and Saints are still in my to-read pile).

Superman Smashes the Klan is a phenomenal adaptation of an early Superman radio serial, in which a Chinese-American family, the Lees, moves from Metropolis’ Chinatown to the suburbs, pursuing a new, better life. Roberta and Tommy and their parents are adapting to the changes, and meeting new people. Daily Planet cub reporter Jimmy Olsen is quick to befriend the young Lees and introduce them to other kids their age.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for the Lee family to draw the attention of the Klan of the Fiery Kross. The Klan does not take kindly to a Chinese-American family settling in any part of Metropolis, let alone outside of Chinatown, and make their hatred known by burning a cross on the Lee family’s lawn. The Daily Planet sends Lois Lane and Clark Kent to investigate, and soon, Superman is on the case as well. With help from Roberta and Tommy, Superman must face off with the Klan and show them that Metropolis and America have no place for their bigotry and violence.

Gene Luen Yang’s story seamlessly weaves the updated tale of the Lee family (this version gives names and characterization to all of them!) and a younger Superman, still coming into his own powers (no flight, no heat vision, and no super-breath yet, for starters) and finding his own place as an outsider. Clark flashes back to his early years in Smallville, learning the truth about his origins as an alien. Yang effortlessly manages the most difficult part of any Superman story, too, in making both Clark Kent and Superman relatable and fun to read. Roberta serves as the primary narrator for the Lee family, trying to fit in with a new group of friends in a new part of town. Ostracized by her old friends from Chinatown now that she’s living in the “better” part of of Metropolis but not fully welcomed in her suburban neighborhood, she struggles to establish herself. Her keen observation skills make her an essential ally in Lois and Clark’s investigation of the violence aimed at her family.

This is an incredibly timely book, and Yang nails the importance of narratives in which immigrants are welcomed, not hated. Superman Smashes the Klan is the type of Superman story that America needs in 2020. I’m grateful to NetGalley for providing the eARC copy in exchange for a fair review.

“This looks like a job for Superman.”

I can see the finish line, y’all.

I’m a week (roughly) from the end of my first semester of my MLS. Two big papers, one little paper, and it’s done. I’ll be 1/4 of the way to my Master’s degree.

It’s been odd doing this in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak, since the library closures have meant that I’ve had way more time at home than I would’ve initially expected. On the other hand, though, it’s given me great insight into how libraries handle a pandemic, both good and bad.

I’m trying to decide if I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Because I’ve worked in libraries for 14 years or so, there was a lot of overlap with my existing knowledge base. I’ve learned stuff about specifics of library science that I didn’t know in the same way before taking these classes, though. I’m glad that I’m pushing for this degree right now. I know that the working world I’ll return to after COVID-19 is not going to be the same one that I left. Still, I want to be striving for something by way of professional development. I look forward to advancing my career, and I look forward to my classes that I’m registered for in the fall.

Time to wrap this up.

I like comics, and I like horror stories, and I absolutely love when they come together well. James Tynion IV’s latest project nails that blend. Something is Killing the Children first hit comic shops in single issues starting in the fall of last year, and my attention was immediately drawn to the series. I first discovered Tynion’s writing on Detective Comics back at the beginning of the Rebirth arcs, and quickly shifted to his and Rian Sygh’s Backstagers series. Tynion’s a versatile writer (with series published under BOOM!, BOOM!Box, and DC), with a real skill for subtle, underlying horror themes. Something is Killing the Children is a much more overt horror, and it shines because of that. And unlike Backstagers, Something is Killing the Children is definitely not for the younger readers out there.

Our first chapter opens with a group of four young boys playing truth or dare at a sleepover, and a story about a monster living in a nearby ravine quickly draws scorn. They set out to investigate, just in case. We soon learn that three of those boys are now dead, and the 4th, James, is under suspicion for the deaths. Almost a dozen kids in town have died recently, with another dozen or so missing over the course of the two previous months. James is struggling to understand what happened, because what he saw that night in the ravine should’ve been impossible.

It’s only when Erica Slaughter arrives in town that James finds someone who believes his story. Erica knows that there’s a monster somewhere nearby, and she’s here at the behest of her mysterious boss to kill it before any more kids go missing. As the only known survivor of any encounters with the creature, James is going to be able to provide Erica with some much-needed intel before she sets out after it with a chainsaw.

Erica Slaughter

Meet Erica

Who is Erica, and where did she come from? Why does she carry around a stuffed octopus? Why can none of the adults seem to see the monster when it’s right in front of them? Something is Killing the Children is a dark, gory blend of Locke & Key (some bizarre things happening that adults seem weirdly oblivious about) and Stranger Things (monsters chasing teens), and I am 100% here for it. Werther Dell’Edera’s art is beautifully disconcerting, a perfect match for Tynion’s brilliantly paced writing. I’m compelled to track down more of his work now, because he’s crafted images that are going to linger in my head for days after reading this book.

The print version of volume one of Something is Killing the Children is due in stores on May 26th. The book contains the first five chapters of one of the best new horror comics I’ve picked up in years. It’s really no surprise that I loved this first volume, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. If you’re a horror fan, do yourself a favor and give it a read.

 

Thanks to NetGalley for an eARC of this book in exchange for a fair review.

In which I am supposed to leave my home only for the essentials.

I’m in the 4th week of not working, and it’s more than a little surreal. My library has been closed since the middle of March due to COVID-19. In the last few days, I’ve played on the backyard swing set and slide with my kids, shoveled 4 – 5 inches of snow off of my and my neighbor’s driveway, read a couple of books, re-dyed my hair (thanks, V), participated in a couple of games of D&D online, soloed the last few missions of Halo 4 on Heroic, maintained my elliptical running schedule, and done some baking.

But I’m keeping up with my grad school stuff, first and foremost. 

It’s kind of fun, because a lot of the information from my classes has places where it overlaps. At this stage in the semester, I’ve been able to cycle through some material faster because I’ve already covered a form of it in a different class. 

Oh, and I’ve registered for classes for the fall, too. Right now, I’m signed up for a library admin/management class, a class on integrated systems in libraries, and a course about literature and young adults. I’m pretty psyched for the YA class, because it will be my first elective! If all goes well, I’ll have knocked out all but one of my required classes within my first two semesters. That’s pretty exciting. Oh, and the integrated systems class is a half semester course, too. It’ll be a front-loaded semester, but once I’m halfway through, it’ll ease up a lot going into the winter break. On top of all of that, one of my classes is supposed to be with a professor I currently have. It’s shaping up to be a really good semester. 

Our governor has ordered residents to stay home whenever possible until at least April 26th, so I know that I have at least two more full weeks of quarantine ahead of me. I’m going to try to knuckle down and get through the last few weeks of the school year. My semester ends on May first. Holy shit, my semester ends on May first… Uh… Anyway…

After that, I may have some free time for whatever again. I’m trying to read/write more, but I always say that. I always mean it, too. 

But tonight, it’s late, and I’ve got to help teach/grade some homeschool stuff for my stepdaughters in the morning. Gonna go curl up in bed with a non-textbook and fall asleep. 

Emily Skrutskie has a knack for queer YA sci-fi, and Bonds of Brass, out today, is no exception. This novel starts with a bang and builds up to the first kiss.

Seven years ago, the Umber Empire crushed the Archon Empire in a victory that shattered the capital world of Rana. As a way of cementing their hold on the planet, the Umber Empire established a military academy there. Two years ago, an Archon survivor named Ettian joined the academy, quickly rising through the ranks to become the top pilot in his class. His roommate (and crush), Gal, is a decent pilot himself, but tends to have his mind elsewhere.

Ettian’s world comes crashing down around him (and not for the first time) when, in the middle of flight exercises, 2/3 of his squadron abandons their planned formation to attempt to shoot Gal out of the sky. During a desperate attempt to save his best friend, Ettian learns the truth of Gal’s identity: he is the heir to the Umber Empire’s throne. Forced to flee the academy, Ettian and Gal begin to piece together a plan to return to the Umber capital, but there are lots of secrets both young men have been keeping from the other. If they’re going to survive long enough for Gal to take the Umber throne, they’re going to have to start talking.

Bonds of Brass is a strong first entry in a planned trilogy, with loving nods to Star Wars (the obvious parallels to Finn and Poe), Firefly, and more along the way. Skrutskie’s love of these characters is evident, and her action sequences and humor blend seamlessly. I eagerly look forward to the next entry.

 

Thank you to NetGalley for providing the eARC of Bonds of Brass in exchange for a fair review.