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Book Review: The Iron Hunt – Marjorie M. Liu August 27, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Book Series, Urban Fantasy.
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To be honest I had no idea what to expect going into this particular book.  I’d seen some very positive reviews and the cover was pretty, though I was wondering if all the tattoos would actually make an appearance in the book.  I get rather tired of the ‘tramp stamp’ tattoos which are put on our warrior heroines and then never show up in the book.  Same with the big weaponry they never use.  Happily in this case the cover is a pretty good representation and is the first of many good things about a good book.

Maxine Kiss is a woman set apart by a call to guard humanity from the demons who slip in and out of their spiritual prison and possess the bodies of the hopeless, feeding on their agony and their lives.  She herself carries five demons who guard her flesh by day as tattoos that make her nearly invincible to damage, and as bodied guards at night.  Their agreements with the women of her family go back more than ten thousand years and one day they’ll move on to her daughter, just as they came to her from her mother.  I have to admit I feared this was going to be cheesy, but it’s done in a lovely way.  The ‘boys’ are Maxine’s family and friends and while the move to her one day daughter is just another turn of the circle they love her and do their best to take good care of her.  As well they all carry their own personalities…and a disturbing desire to rip teddy bears apart.

In the pursuit of her duty there are rules about not getting attached…not to anyone or anything.  Maxine has done both and it makes her a nicely rounded character.  She’s got plenty of ‘kickassitude’, but it’s tempered by an honest caring about the people around her from the crazy lady who grows pot in the basement of the homeless shelter, to her boyfriend Grant, a musical wonder with a twisted leg but a sense of hope that he can make the world a better place.  As you get to know them both you want them to succeed.  I loved the romance here because it was the comfort of people who have been together for a while and live in a world which could tear them apart.  They offer strength and comfort and understanding to each other.  Perhaps my favorite line in the book was after Maxine had a rotten night and Grant was waiting for her in bed.  He just looks up and says:  “I’ll make it better.”  And all through the book he does.

There’s a lot of mythology twisted through this book and a very solid new world emerges.  Liu has a fun new take on demons and on zombies which I’d never considered.  Her heroine walks a line where she knows that she could be someone who will save the world or doom it, and she surrounds herself with people from both sides of the black and the white in order to remember this and make the right choices.

There were a few places where I found myself a little twisted up in the plot, but these resolved and I feel like Liu has a strong idea of where this is going and I’m enjoying the ride.  This is very obviously a first in a series as we don’t get even a fraction of our questions answered, but I didn’t mind that…only that I can’t have all the rest of the series right now, though Darkness Calls is out and my birthday is in October.  Oh husband mine…

Genre:  Urban Fantasy

Age:  15+

Content: violence, a few deaths, implied sexuality

Overall:  Buy



Tech Savvy? August 24, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Life, Musings.
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So I used to consider myself moderately tech-savvy, until I attempted to manage the behemoth known as Blackboard. What is it about a system for College Professors, whose mean age I would still wager is 50… that defies all easy logic? Usually it takes me around 20 minutes to get into a system, read through the control panel and figure out how to make it do what I want. Instead… I ended up staring like some computer luddite for about 2 hours, until I finally gave up and sent an email to all my students with the syllabus. The strange thing? Somehow my University of Houston Blackboard system was far easier to work with than the Community College one, and searching online got me four or five different sets of instructions for different colleges.

Whatever happened to User Friendly, I ask you!

Fie on you Blackboard.

That said, obviously Professor Mac started up work again, we’ll see how Year 2 of the Great PHD project goes. It’s also time to really get serious about getting back to a writing schedule, since the lazy days of Summer Vacation are over.

PPS. Happy Birthday Kelly!!!!

Book Review: Book of a Thousand Days August 21, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Book Review, Fantasy, Young Adult.
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This wasn’t the book I was going to review, but it’s sticking in my brain, so there you have it.

Book of a Thousand Days is a young adult book by Shannon Hale.  I’ve long loved Ms. Hale’s books and this was no exception.  Book of a Thousand Days is written journal style from the point of view of a lady’s maid who is bricked up in a tower with her Lady, who has refused to marry the man her father has chosen.  The two are to stay there for seven years or until the Lady comes to her senses.  So the book is split into two.  The time in the tower and what happens afterwards.

This is a charming book with a lot of fun fairy tale aspects and some twists which keep you guessing as a reader.  There are some fun cultural aspects built into the story which give it a feel of being something very foreign, not simply the Westernized fairy stories most of us are accustom to.

I got this one from the library, but it’s on my list to purchase the next time I’m at the bookstore.

Genre:  Fairy Tale

Age: Young Adult

Content: mild violence, mild romance, mild scares

Overall:  Buy

Book of a Thousand Days

Book of a Thousand Days

Contest results and Sucked back in August 19, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Contest.
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I really don’t mind my day job all in all.  It’s interesting for the most part, with a few boring or highly exciting moments tossed in.  The only thing that gets me is the Murphy’s law regularity of work emergencies.  Just when I think I have a schedule and time to call my own I get sucked back in!  This week is another good example of that, but we’re geting better at it with each release and it’s not nearly what it could be.  So all in all I’m okay, but less blogative than usual.

So the big focus of today’s missive is the results of the Jeaniene Frost contest.


You gets the books.  🙂

Please email us at realitybypass at gmail dot com with your home addy or wherever you’d like your books shipped.

Back to the grind for me.  Book reviews are still coming.  I have a stack now and just need to compose my brain.


Writers and RPG August 18, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Inspiration, Life, Musings.
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Like a lot of writers, I enjoy RPG games. As much fun as it is to create your own story, sometimes writing in a vacuum of your own mind can get fairly lonely. There’s some inherant joy in creating a story with other people and participating in it actively, even as other people change it. That’s what I’ve always loved about RPGs, it’s like reading a book and participating all at once.

Some of the other benefits I find from RPGs are being able to “playtest” and get into the head space of a character and see how other people react to them, and it’s great for generating ideas for a character. Any other people like to try to write a game character and then use it later in a story?

Movie Musings: The Librarian August 17, 2009

Posted by kmcalear in Fantasy, Movies, Musings.
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Happy Monday!

Jana is right, we really should keep up more with this blog. There are days though I feel like I don’t have all that much to say about me. Not to mention, I’ve been so busy grading tests, essays and working my 3 part time jobs that it’s been hard to find time to sit down and watch anything straight through or finish anything I’m reading. I’m currently in the middle of a couple books and will talk on them soon, but I have managed to watch a couple movies from Netflix.

I rented The Librarian: Quest for the Sphere  because I often like cheezy adventure movies. Unfortunately the Cheese factor on this one was very high and the “Ability to Act” factor was very low. It’s designed to be a spoof/tongue-in-cheek and so it has some genuinely funny moments, but for the most part it’s far fetched to the point of unbelieveability and the character interactions simply leave the series wanting. I wouldn’t reccomend it.

Contest Extension August 10, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Uncategorized.
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Due to a few requests and not nearly enough blogs for people to comment on we’re going to extend the contest for the Jeanine Frost Grave books through the rest of this week! So winner to be announced on Sunday August 16th. 🙂 We’ll provide the blogs, you provide the comments, someone wins three books.


Kitten Conversation and a Contest! August 6, 2009

Posted by Realitybypass in Uncategorized.

Okay, we’ve been REALLY bad about posting.  Not just a little bad, but really bad, so I’m going to make it up to folks.

There’s going to be a contest here at RealityByPassBooks (mirrored on my LJ).  I found out I have a complete set of the first three Jeaniene Frost books, the Kat Crawford Grave Series. (One Foot in the Grave, Halfway to the Grave and At Grave’s End).  Soooo…collecting comments of what you’re reading now and whether you’d recommend it to me.  One lucky commenter gets the whole stack of books, just in time to go with the release of Destined for an Early Grave.  So get commenting on any post from this one until Sunday night and the winner will be announced on Monday.

In other news my DH and I got a kitten.

Old Mystique

She’s a bengal cross so very good for my allergies and is a pretty thing.  The bengals are only a few generations removed from the Asian Leopard Cats and Mystique proves every day that she’s still got those wild instincts.  Today I proved that I have none, particularly when it comes to survival.  I decided I was tired of the kitten shredding things and a pedicure would be just the thing.  I grew up farming where most of the time the cats just ran wild, but occassional vet grandpa would trim up their claws and explain how it didn’t hurt them as long as you didn’t clip into the quick.  He’s right…it doesn’t hurt THEM.  He never mentioned what the human involved goes through.  This was my morning:

Me:  Okay, kitty we’re gonna do this and it won’t hurt a bit.

Kitty:  Wanna bet you with the soft squishy furless skin?

Me:  Just hold still for a second.

Kitty:  I have more claws than you have hands!

Me:  Come on, knock it off, no hissing!

Kitty: I hiss because you suck.  Let go!

Me: Just a few more.

Kitty:  I kiiiiillll you!

Me: Ouch!  Dammit!  Knock it off!

Kitty:  You first!

Me:  Bandaids…where in the heck are the bandaids.

Kitty:  Stupid human.

So I lost some blood and the kitten was mad at me for about twenty minutes.  Now she’s asleep on my lap and the feeling is slowly returning to my scratched fingers.

Stupid human…that’s me.