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Murderbot is back!

Martha Wells has crafted another spectacular novella in the Murderbot Diaries series. Taking place between the events of Exit Strategy and Network Effect, Fugitive Telemetry is another solid adventure for everyone’s favorite misanthropic SecUnit.

While trying to settle in aboard Preservation Station as Dr. Mensah’s bodyguard, Murderbot is having a difficult time adjusting. It’s not that it isn’t relatively happy to be somewhere outside of the Corporation Rim. It’s that Station Security isn’t pleased with the idea of a rogue SecUnit wandering around. With the various agreements in place to allow Murderbot to keep its freedom, it has almost no access to the security systems that it would normally rely on to do its job. No hacking of the station SecSystem, only a handful of drones to be able to deploy…

All of these things aren’t a real problem, as Dr. Mensah is fairly safe from Corporate assassination attempts on Preservation Station. This far from their territory, real action against her is unlikely. However, everything gets turned upside down when a dead body is found on board. There’s been a murder on the station, and Station Security needs Murderbot’s help to solve the mystery of who killed our victim and why. No witnesses, no camera footage, no DNA evidence. With only limited resources at its disposal, Murderbot must find a killer who might be a true rival in covering their tracks.

I love the Murderbot Diaries, y’all. I’ve read every one of these books since I first heard about All Systems Red back in 2017 and I have never been disappointed. Fugitive Telemetry is available on April 27th. If you’re a sci-fi fan, or just love mysteries, check it out.

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

Today marks one year since my library first closed for the pandemic. We’d been working toward it for some time, cancelling in-person programs, ramping up our cleaning, and so on. My last day of work before the closure was Saturday, March 14th. I’d been planning to attend the last library event, a used book sale at my old location, that was scheduled for the 15th. I remember texting one of my friends who would always go with us, telling her that we had changed our plans and wouldn’t be going in that Sunday after all. Instead, I started a re-watch of the extended cut of The Fellowship of the Ring, with the intention of getting maybe a few days off while the country rallied.

Six weeks or so later, we came back to our building. We started putting things back together, getting ready to serve patrons via curbside service. We were using our makerspaces to produce masks and other pieces of personal protective equipment. We were installing barriers at staff areas, prepping cleaning supplies, and cordoning off areas that would be for staff-use only. After a month and a half or so, we started allowing patrons back into the building, albeit on a limited basis. Since then, we’ve updated our curbside procedures (and found a far better workflow thanks to our park & text system). We’ve closed and reopened our collection for browsing as local numbers spiked and dropped. We’ve slowly started to allow more access to library services other than checkouts and computers.

It’s too slow for most of the patrons’ feelings on the matter, and too fast for the comfort of many of my coworkers. Some people have quit rather than deal with the stress and uncertainty of the constantly shifting conditions. Many others have been trained to do tasks that were never supposed to be part of their job. It has been exhausting. We’re doing everything within reason to keep pace with patron demands, but it’s all a lot of change in a very short period of time. We’re still not doing in-person programs. Between that and the shift to online learning at local schools, I have only seen a handful of my regular teen patrons within the last year. By the time they’re coming back to the building, they may have aged out of the teen section. There are some that I may never see again, due to moving out of town (or just to the other side of the city) in the middle of the pandemic.

It hasn’t all been bad, mind you. My youngest child is walking and talking, and I’ve gotten to spend way more time at home than I would’ve otherwise. I’m making solid progress on my master’s degree. I got to build a new computer for myself (my first ever attempt at building a PC), and then one for V as well. I’m getting pretty good at it, really. I’ve ramped up my home bartending skills, adding a dozen or so new cocktails to my repertoire. We started a small backyard garden, and are still getting use out of the veggies from it. I started to listen to more audiobooks, since my ability to concentrate on non-academic reading was kind of shot. I kept up my weekly running (15 – 18 miles per week on the elliptical, or now 90 minutes per week on the treadmill), getting myself into better shape than I’d been in some time. And, thanks to work, I’ve gotten my first round of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Life looks a lot different on this side of 2020, and I can’t say that it’s what I was expecting a year ago. Regardless, I’m still here, and still pushing forward. Here’s to better days ahead.

In which it begins again. Or middles?

Grad school semester #3 (out of hopefully only 4) is well under way. This semester’s classes include an introduction to cataloging, web technologies in libraries, and research methodologies. The research course is useful because it will build into my capstone class for this fall. The web tech class is building on one that I took on integrated library systems last semester. The cataloging one is honestly the toughest to wrap my head around, because there’s so many little intricacies within the creation of MARC records. It seems like the answer to the same question can always be different. I’ll get there. Web technologies is technically over at this point, actually. Yay for a more positive experience with a half semester course!

In the meantime, we’re coming up on a year since the initial COVID-19 shutdown here at work. Today is the one year anniversary of our last regular day of operation. It’s kind of amazing and kind of terrifying to see what changes have occurred. Since then, we’ve gone to curbside pickup for materials, and opened, closed, and re-opened access to our physical collection for our patrons. It’s chaos, and it’s exhausting, but it’s still good to be helping people.

Anyway, I must go study for my cataloging midterm. Be well. Get the COVID vaccine as soon as you can.

Eleanor Zarrin has come home from boarding school at last, back to the family home in Winterport. She’s longed to be back among her family for years, but never had any word from them after being sent away. She remembers bits and pieces of her life before, though, and some of her nightmares may have more grounding in reality than she ever would’ve dared to believe.

Upon her return, she finds that most of the people of Winterport are utterly terrified of her family, and by extension, her. For good reason, too. You see, the Zarrins are monsters. Eleanor’s father, grandfather, sister, and cousin are werewolves, hunting around the grounds of the family estate. Her mother spends her days in a washtub to soak the polyps that live on one side of her body. Grandma Persephone funds the family through her crafting of love potions and poisons, and reads tarot. Aunt Margaret doesn’t speak, but takes care of the house. Then there’s Arthur, the family’s assistant, who doesn’t seem to have aged a day since Eleanor left.

When tragedy strikes shortly after Eleanor’s return, the family is left in disarray, and Eleanor takes it upon herself to reach out to her mother’s mother in France for assistance. Little does Eleanor suspect that her Grandmere holds a dark secret of her own, that might just put an end to everything that the family has worked for. And then, of course, Eleanor herself is still a Zarrin…

What Big Teeth is a fantastic gothic fantasy that will wrap you up in its shadows and refuse to let you go. A debut novel from Rose Szabo, it’s available today. Go get yourself a copy.

Thanks to Netgalley for the eARC in exchange for a fair review.

Good morning, internet. This morning, I received a notification that I first started this blog just over ten years ago. That’s a hell of a long time to be writing a bunch of stuff mostly to myself, but here I am, one decade on. Life has changed a great deal since 2011. I’m still writing, albeit less frequently for creative purposes than I would like. I have a little family of my own, and I’m making progress in my career. I’m about to start year two of my Master’s degree, and I hope to carve out a little more time for writing for fun after that wraps up.

In the meantime, I’d just like to say thanks to those of you who’ve been around since the beginning of this, and welcome to those of you who are new.

Seanan McGuire has done it again. The Wayward Children series has been consistently amazing, and Across the Green Grass Fields is no exception. One year ago tomorrow, I posted a review for Come Tumbling Down, and I can’t believe that much time has passed since the last time I had a new book in this series.

The Wayward Children books, as you may know by now, are a series of novellas about young children who wander from our world through a magical door into another world. Eventually, once their adventures have come to an end, they make their way back into our world. Many of them are unable to cope with this, and end up at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, a boarding school for those who have left and come back, and await the return of the magical door that will take them home once more. In this series, the odd-numbered books are set mostly at Eleanor’s school, and follow the adventures of the children waiting for their doors to come back. The even-numbered books tell the stories of children beyond our world. Across the Green Grass Fields is book #6, and serves as a solid standalone novella within the series, an excellent starting point for new readers, as our young protagonist, Regan, has not yet made her way to Eleanor’s school.

But it all starts at school.

Regan, you see, loves horses more than anything. Her best friend Laurel, however, does not tolerate the presence of anything that she deems “un-girly.” This means ostracizing another former friend for daring to bring a snake to school, and shunning anyone who dares to trample upon her ideals. Luckily, Laurel doesn’t seem to take umbrage with Regan’s love of horses. As the girls grow older Regan learns from her parents that she is intersex, and therefore won’t be undergoing puberty in the same way as the other members of Laurel’s group. Trying to make sense of it all, Regan tells Laurel what she was told by her parents. Laurel doesn’t understand, mistakenly believing that Regan was a boy, and was lying about being a girl. Regan, now scared of the one school friend she thought she could trust, flees the school and begins to head toward home.

She won’t be seen by another human for six years.

In her stumbling journey to her parents’ house, Regan encounters her door, the words “Be Sure” written above it. Upon entry, she finds herself in the Hooflands, home of unicorns, centaurs, kelpies, and more mythical hooved creatures. Adopted by a small herd of centaurs, Regan learns that it is a human’s destiny to come to the Hooflands at a time of great change. What that destiny may entail is a little fuzzy, but she will need to eventually be taken to see the Queen.

But Regan isn’t ready for destiny. Not yet. She needs to take her time, finding herself before she’s ready to change the world.

Y’all, I can’t accurately express how much I love this series. Across the Green Grass Fields is another strong entry, bringing fabulous new characters into the world via a magical door we hadn’t yet encountered. It’s out in stores today. Please go grab a copy and find out for yourself.

My utmost thanks to Netgalley and Tor.com books for an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.

It’s done.

Grades are in. I passed all three classes, with two As and a B. Considering the B was in a class that was compressed into half a semester, I can’t be upset with that.

Now it’s time for winter break, some unexpected (in a good way) vacation time, and a whole lot of catching up on my for-fun reading.

I’m looking forward to taking some time to get some non-blog writing done too. There’s at least two magazines that I’m planning to submit to in the next few weeks, plus an upcoming opportunity to submit work to Tor’s Nightfire imprint. All of this means that I’ll keep decently busy over the next few weeks between now and the spring 2021 semester starting.

That’s the halfway point, though, folks. If I can keep this pace up for another year, I’ll have finished my Master’s degree. Let’s do this.

It’s been a bit since my last grad school update, but I’m nearly done with my 2nd semester. Right now, I’m pushing through on some final assignments, getting ready for assessments, and planning for the spring semester. I still need to check in with my academic advisor and look at what class options are ahead of me.

Right now, I’m looking at some coursework that will lead me toward a position in collection management. I’ve gotten registered for my classes for the Spring 2021 semester, with an eye on what requirements are needed for the fall. My goal is still to graduate within two years, and I’m well on track for that. I’ve gotten signed up for LS502: Cataloging and Classification, LS550: Research Methodologies in Library Science (and a pre-req for my Fall 2021 Capstone course), and LS589: Applying Web Technologies in Libraries.

It’s all looking good so far. Now I just have to knock out my finals for my library management and young adult literature courses between now and Friday afternoon. Wish me luck.

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts…”

As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII

A man has died, and I am undone.

On Monday morning, as I was preparing for work, I received notice that Clark Ginapp, my high school English teacher and theatre director, had died. I had been told that he had at most, a few weeks left, and that was less than 24 hours before. I’d been drafting a letter to him that I intended to mail. I didn’t feel it was my place to try to call him, despite some reassurances that it was. Now that letter, an update on how my life had gone in the years since our last class together, remains unwritten.

I can’t overstate the importance of Mr. Ginapp in my life. I grew up attending almost all of the high school theatre department’s shows. When I was in high school, I leapt at the chance to take part in them. As a director, Mr. Ginapp guided me through seven shows (three plays and four musicals):

The Wizard of Oz – Munchkin Lawyer/Winkie/Jitterbug
The Wind in the Willows – Clerk of the Court/Weasel (The British/Gay Weasel)
Little Shop of Horrors – Radio Show Host/Chorus
The Egg and I – Hi-Baby
State Fair – Harry Ware
I Remember Mama – Peter Thorkleson
Grease – Kenickie Murdoch

Each year, he cast me in bigger roles (with the exception of The Egg and I, because I was going to be out of the country for two weeks in the middle of rehearsals). Each show, he put that much more faith in me, put me under that much more pressure to be better. He believed in me, and I, in turn, came to believe in myself. We learned about proper blocking, and how to project our voices. We learned that the average human being is a dull-witted slug. We learned that “nobody’s cool, everybody sucks.” When I delivered Harry’s final farewell to Margy during dress rehearsal for State Fair, he said that if I could do it with that much emotion on opening night, that I wouldn’t leave a dry eye in the house. During Grease, he told me that if I ever grew into my feet, I’d be a giant. These sort of stories just stick with you. More and more have come back to me this week as I’ve tried to write this.

As a teacher, he was my instructor for sophomore English, as well as AP English during my senior year. He introduced me to Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which I can now quote along with in my sleep (I have witnesses). He showed me the surprising depth of The Simpsons, and made me memorize Marc Antony’s soliloquy from Julius Caesar (and he had all of the cues prepared to help students remember the next lines). He taught me Macbeth, and that we should only refer to it as “The Scottish Play” while we were backstage (note that this reading was assigned while we were in the middle of a show). He is profoundly, and terrifyingly responsible for my sense of humor.

In college, I majored in English. I took a theatre class, and continued to support the local arts community in Colorado Springs. I further developed my love for literature and poetry, and made that my career when I began my work in libraries. I’m not a teacher, but I hope to have as much of an impact on the teens that I work with as he had on me.

This week, I have seen the beautiful notes left to him by my fellow students. I have shared in the grief of my community, and I have reflected for many hours on my time with him. I would not be the person I am today without Mr. Ginapp. Clark taught me that there was a bigger world beyond the city limits of Holyoke, and more importantly, he taught me that this was not something to be feared, but to be embraced.

I haven’t been able to decide which Shakespeare quote fits best now. On Monday, after first hearing the news, my mind immediately went to Hamlet’s speech, which I shared on facebook at the time. Several others have arisen since, and I think I’ll share each of them with you here. Mr. Ginapp, I hope, would be proud that so many of his lessons have lingered.

*********************************************************************

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

-Marc Antony, Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene II

*********************************************************************

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

The Tempest, Act IV, Scene I

*********************************************************************

“Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint: now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardon’d the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands:
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.”

-Prospero’s Epilogue, The Tempest

*********************************************************************

You have taken your final bow, my friend. The stage is dark. The curtain falls.

Farewell.

When I was growing up, one of my favorite things to do was to visit my grandparents. My dad’s parents lived just a few miles away from us, and so I saw them frequently (once a week, if not more).

Both Oma and Opa loved to watch Jeopardy. I quickly fell in love with the show as well. I couldn’t wait to see the list of categories appear across the top row of screens, hoping to see something that I might know. I was elated on the occasions that I could answer before the contestants.

When I was in high school, there were two occasions where I participated in the regional academic bowl. The first year, I was on the second place team. I’m only a little bitter that we lost on the final question to a lucky guess… The next year, though, I was the captain of the first place team. Fast forward ten years, and I was on a first place team at my first-ever Geeks Who Drink trivia contest, an event hosted by my library system. All of that love for trivia comes back to one thing: sitting on the couch with Oma and Opa, watching Alex Trebek host Jeopardy.

My grandmother died last November, and my grandfather back in 2010. Now Mr. Trebek has passed away as well. I still love Jeopardy, though I haven’t watched regularly in years (not having network television will do that). I’m grateful to Alex Trebek for instilling a love of knowledge (useless or otherwise), and for helping me to forge that bond with my grandparents. Thank you, and farewell.