My Reading Highlights of February

The highlight of my reading month in February was easily the release of Sarah J. Mass’s second Crescent City novel, House of Sky and Breath. Of course that meant a re-read of book one, House of Earth and Bloodin preparation. Rereading a novel is like visiting an old friend, and all of Maas’s books have become dear friends to me. I timed my reading to coincide with the February 15 release, finishing one book just in time to start the next. I was not disappointed. I lost sleep and left household chores undone while reading HoS&B, but with a SJM novel, that’s no surprise. HoS&B is continuation of Hunt and Bryce’s story as they struggle to create a normal happy life together. But happy lives in a Maas series are hard earned. The book fleshes out some of the characters from HoE&B that I was aching to know better and introduces a few intriguing new ones. I loved the growing camaraderie between unexpected characters as their abrasive edges take a back seat to a common cause. HoS&B seriously raises stakes that were already astoundingly high forging dangerous alliances and forcing desperate actions. Because Crescent City is an adult series, the sex sizzles, and there’s plenty of it. Before I started  HoS&B  I had another book lined up from the TBR pile to plunge into. Book bereavement is always worse when you binged a new novel the first few days after release and then have to wait a whole year for the next one. Always be prepared. Just saying.

 

 

 

While I was expecting the cliffhanger ending, what I wasn’t expecting was the jaw dropping twists and turns at the end, which have made me even more impatient for the next book in the series. Sarah J. Maas’s House of Sky and Breath is easily my choice for February’s read of the month.

 

Sadly the rest of my February reading selections were lackluster and disappointing. It pains me to say that February was a reading month characterized by the phrase, “this book had so much potential.” Because reading is a very subjective pleasure, I won’t give the names of any of the other books I read in February. If you know, check me out on Goodreads. But don’t expect scathing or snarky reviews. Not my style.

 

The best books allow me to forget that I’m a writer and immerse myself in the experience of reading for pure pleasure. But if the book is disappointing I can’t help donning my writer’s cap and mentally noting everything that could have made the book better. I understand that one person’s BRAVO read may be another reader’s MEH. But if I am giving a rating on Goodreads or Amazon, a novel has to be truly atrocious for me to give it three stars, in fact usually I just won’t rate the book at all if I find it that bad. I won’t even finish it. But from a writer’s point of view I reckon anyone who sticks with the writing process long enough to complete a novel deserves something for the effort. But it pays to take the time to perfect the writing craft, and that process never ends. How many books have we read by bestselling authors that could have benefitted from a good edit? That being said, while I will tell you the books I love, I will never tell you the books that I found disappointing. That means you’ll never know if I gave a book four stars because it wasn’t bad or because it just wasn’t quite worthy of five. Sorry about that. I’m just way too much of a softie.

 

In other book news, most of you know I read almost exclusively from my Kindle reader now. I do love my instant gratification and my portable library. But it hit me a few weeks ago that there were some books I wanted tangible copies of … just in case. That honor is reserved only for my very, very favorite, best ever reads. With that in mind, this week I treated myself to the whole nine novels of Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series. Yes, they are my favorite books ever written by my favorite author ever to write, and yes I’ve read them multiple times, and yes, yes, yes! I will read them again… and again. I just wanted those special books to be something I could actually stroke and touch and admire because Naomi Novik is a goddess, and I proudly worship at the altar of Good Books. That is all.

 

 

Happy reading, everyone. Do share any your favorite that you think I might enjoy. See you next Friday with the next instalment of Dragon Ascending.

 

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 3: Brand New KDG Read!

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you’re enjoying Dragon Ascending, the sequel to Piloting Fury, as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. Last week we left our mysterious heroine searching a salvage yard for safety from the coming night. This week, we learn that safety isn’t that easy to come by.  As always, I love it when you share my work with your reading friends, so feel free. In the meantime, enjoy!

If you missed the previous episode of Dragon Ascending, follow the link for a catch-up.

 

Dragon Ascending: Book 2 of the Sentient Ships Series

On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felik, disturbs something slumbering in a remote salvage dump and uncovers secrets of a tragic past and of the surprising role she must play in the terrifying present she now faces.

Robbed of her inheritance after her tyrannical father’s death, Tenad Fallon is out for revenge on her half-brothers, one who happens to be the sentient ship, Fury. Fury, with his human companions, Richard Manning and Diana McAllister, has his own agenda – finding the lost sentient ships and ending the scourge of indentured servitude in Authority space.

 

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 3: The Climb

Len grew up climbing, in the wreckage here on Tak Major and before that on the ice cliffs of Tak Minor. She was sure on her feet and strong, but then that was when she had not been beaten half to death. Not that she hadn’t taken her share of beatings before, but until today, she had always given as good as she got, most times better. She could easily see the route up. It was not very far. Any other time it would have been an easy climb. But now, weak as she was and with the breeze already brushing her face, it would be worse than climbing the Harbinger on Tak Minor. Injured or not, she’d have to try and she’d have to do it quickly. She didn’t waste her breath with the curses running through her mind as she pulled off the wrap from around her head and face and wound it as tightly as she could around her ribs, the string of silent expletives becoming more colorful as the pain made bright colors dance in front of her eyes. She would have pissed herself in the agony if there had been any water left to wring out of her dehydrated bladder. At last the binding was done, and without pausing for more than a shallow gasp of breath, she began her ascent. It was only ten meters, she told herself with every agonized breath, only ten. At least the coming cold of the desert night helped her stay conscious. Even so, the route up the first half was a battle to stay conscious.

It was the increasing nausea that kept her from passing out completely. Who knew battling to keep from puking on herself could be anything one would be glad for, but the burn of bile in her dry throat focused her as the pain shot through each pull and drag, each pushing to her feet, each horrendous stretching upward. And then the fucking wind picked up again. It howled and gusted around her in swirls of dust that made her eyes water and stung her face, now exposed since she had use her head covering for her ribs. She clung to her precarious perch, arms and legs trembling until each gust passed. Under normal circumstances, she would have just jumped for it and swung up those last few meters. She’d managed worse, but this time, this time she’d have to hold on and take it slow.

 

 

Another pull up and her hand slipped for a harrowing moment leaving her hanging, fearing that she would pass out and fall and none of it would matter anyway. But if she did, knowing her stupid luck, she wouldn’t die, only break enough bones to become an easy feast for any predator that squeezed through the opening, or to have her bones scrubbed clean by the scouring of the sand driven by the wind before she had the good grace to fuck off and die. She closed her eyes fighting vertigo, nausea and worst of all despair. That was a waste of time she didn’t have. She steadied herself and reached out. It was only when her hand slipped the second time she realized it was bleeding. How much more goddamned blood could she have left to bleed out? There was no binding it, not from her unstable position. She gave it a quick wiping on her filthy trousers and tried again. The hand held long enough for her to make another lunge upward, with just enough space for her to puke off to the side without soiling herself anymore than she already was. When the dry heaves stopped, she clung for another moment to the unstable heap of junk she ascended until she could steady herself. Her hand slipped again, new abrasions, more blood, a lot more blood. Fuck it all! She would have to jump. There was no other choice. The wind was all but howling around her now. If she didn’t act, it would blow her right off the mountain of junk. She waited only long enough for the gust to pass so that she could see, taking the opportunity to fill her lungs with what little breath she could manage in each painful gasp. The airlock was at least a little closer than it had been. And if she fell, she fell. She would do her best to do a proper hard splat of a landing and with any luck she would lose consciousness, break a few more bones, lose the rest of her blood and that would be that, or at least she hoped. Not so bad, she thought. Way better than this shit.

Somehow in spite of the pain, she found that place deep at her center, the place that felt bigger than the Outer Rim and the Great Rift put together, yet it was impossible to pinpoint. There she remained just long enough to draw in another tiny sip of breath. Then she gathered herself and wiped her hand one last time on her trousers. For a split second her vision cleared, the wind went somewhere else, and there was only her and the airlock tempting her to safety. One more painful breath and she jumped, heaving herself upward into blinding pain, arching and reaching and stretching with a banshee yell that came from deep in that same place.

And she knew instantly, she knew that she would not make it. She was just too weak. “I’m sorry,” she whispered to no one there. The wind raged and the whole junk heap shifted, falling all around her. She cried out and reached upward feeling another rib snap as the world flashed bright and she lost consciousness.

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 2: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you’re enjoying Dragon Ascending, the sequel to Fury’s story as much as I’m enjoying sharing it with you. In this week’s episode, our mysterious heroine is in trouble, and help in a junk heap is difficult to come by. As always, I love it when you share my work with your reading friends, so feel free. In the meantime, enjoy!

If you missed the beginning episode of Dragon Ascending, follow the link for a catch-up.

 

Dragon Ascending: Book 2 of the Sentient Ships Series

On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felik, disturbs something slumbering in a remote salvage dump and uncovers secrets of a tragic past and of the surprising role she must play in the terrifying present she now faces.

Robbed of her inheritance after her tyrannical father’s death, Tenad Fallon is out for revenge on her half-brothers, one who happens to be the sentient ship, Fury. Fury, with his human companions, Richard Manning and Diana McAllister, has his own agenda – finding the lost sentient ships and ending the scourge of indentured servitude in Authority space.

 

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 2: Shelter

This place is but shifting sand. One can never return to the same spot even from day to day. Therefore in her condition, I feared the woman would not find me and that she would have no shelter. It was no hardship for me to open a breach in the de-mole fence, to make it even larger to accommodate her injured condition. This time she bore no pack and her clothing was torn and bloody. How brave and determined she was to have sought me out. But beneath the shifting of the sands, I feared she would not be able to find my shelter, and I could not bear for her have come so far in vane. This time her needs demanded frantic searching through the fog that ever obscured my memories if I were to assure her safety. She would need an entrance, a door into a space that had not been breached since my loss. And in my rising consciousness I found I could give that to her. However putting it where she could easily access it in her weakened condition was a thing I could not recall how to do.

Len managed to stay upright to the perimeter of the salvage yard, but the crawl through the opening in the de-mole defence shield wouldn’t do her broken ribs any good. She hadn’t bothered to bind them, racing time to reach shelter before nightfall. Pain is a good thing, her uncle had always said. It meant you were still alive. Her uncle was full of shit. Or would have been if he was still alive. No one believed he was, but her mother had never given up hope, so neither would she. Still, she thought he was full of shit about pain. Pain, she’d had more than enough of, and she’d not liked any of it one little bit.

She was surprised to even find the de-mole breach again. Not that she much cared. A quick death by being disintegrated at the molecular level might be preferable to what was likely to be her fate. But while she wasn’t afraid to die, she wasn’t ready to bring it on any quicker. The breach was bigger than she remembered. She could actually crawl through this time. She dropped to her knees in a wave of nausea, the threat of unconsciousness accompanied the grating of her ribs with each breath. Still, she struggled forward on hands and knees. Her uncle, she supposed, would be pleased. She and managed not to vomit from the pain until she was through the breach. She hoped nothing would scent her blood and follow her. That was the downside of the breach expansion. She doubted the shield had been serviced in maybe twenty galactic years, and yet whatever was hidden in the salvage yard here in the worst part of the Taklamakan had been valuable enough to put up a de-mole defense shield, expensive and illegal for use other than military. And not even the military wanted anything to do with this place.

No one ever came to Taklamakan Major, and it was only bad luck that she and her mother had ended up on Taklamakan Minor. Or maybe not so bad, since the Authority left them alone, and both she and her mother would have been taken into indentured servitude had her mother not booked passage on the first transport to anywhere. It never mattered with the Authority how young a child was, or even if it had been born yet. The debt of the family was visited on the children, and her family’s debt was colossal. Though this desert was a shit hole at least as bad as Taklamakan Minor, it beat the hell out of being shackled as an indentured.

 

 

Taklamakan Major was one continuous salvage yard with a few outposts where no one came but criminals and fugitives, and only then in desperation. Even those trying to escape the shackle avoided the Taklamakan System, if you could even call it a system. But her mother had said she would have happily endured worse than to be shackled to some conglomerate pig. Her daughter would grow up in the free world. Len only knew the stories she’d heard of the Authority and of the conglomerates that ran the system, stories that her mother had told while they shivered in the science station on Tak Minor. In the Taklamakan System, you had two choices, freeze your lungs out or fry your brain, and yet the place was still better than a shackle in Authority space. Anyone who lived there would tell you that. She had turned six on the yearly long-haul supply ship that delivered them to the science station on Tak Minor, the only inhabitants of the tiny planetoid. And now it seemed she would die here in the dust and swelter of Tak Major without ever seeing the stars her uncle told her tales about. If this was her life flashing before her eyes at the instant of her death, well she reckoned she didn’t have long at all, because it was full of mostly nothing interesting.

Len shoved her way into the salvage yard and then forced her way up to her feet. She swallowed back bile in a wave of pain that her uncle would have found reassuring. The farther she got from the breach in the perimeter, the safer she would be, but in her condition that couldn’t be far. The place went on for kilometers, but she would be forced to find something close and find it soon. Inside the perimeter at least she wouldn’t have to spend her last hours being eaten alive by an infestation. She’d rather throw herself on the de-mole.

But the night was coming on. Once the winds got up, she’d have no hope of finding shelter if she didn’t do it now, so she forced herself onward. The temperature was already dropping and she bit her tongue trying to keep her teeth from chattering. Any noise might expose her, even in the relative safety of the salvage yard. If she could get through the breach in the de-mole, so could other things seeking shelter for the night, things she would rather not spend time with.

She didn’t know if you could lose consciousness while you walked, but she was pretty sure she’d done just that. In the next lucid moment she was looking up at an open airlock some ten meters off the ground. The shifting sands had apparently lifted the hulk of a junked ship, the open maw of its airlock gaping black in the growing dusk. The remaining light reflected off the metallic skin of what was, at the very least, some kind of escape pod. If she could manage the climb up to the airlock, she was pretty sure she would be safe for the night.

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 1: Brand New KDG Read

Happy Friday everyone! I promised a surprise and here it is. Dragon Ascending is a brand new KDG read, and the sequel to Fury’s story. I debated long and hard about sharing the second book in the story of the SNT ships, but the truth is, I was just too excited about the Dragon to keep it to myself. Fury’s was the first story in a series of novels I can easily see in my head. Dragon Ascending was not the story I planned to follow Fury’s, but it was the story that pushed itself to the front of the queue with such persistence and such intrigue that I couldn’t resist. The rough draft got written fast and furious last April for the Camp NaNoWriMo month. For me it was one of the novels that wouldn’t let go of me until it was all there on the page down to the last word. On top of the tenacity of the story, it was an absolute joy to write, and it wouldn’t let go of me until it was all there. SOOO, if you enjoyed Fury’s story, I promise you, you’ll love Dragon’s story. As always, I love it when you share my work with your reading friends, so feel free. In the meantime, enjoy!

 

 

Dragon Ascending Book 2 of the Sentient Ships Series

On a desolate junkyard of a planetoid, scavenger Lenore Felik, disturbs something slumbering in a remote salvage dump and uncovers secrets of a tragic past and of the surprising role she must play in the terrifying present she now faces.

Robbed of her inheritance after her tyrannical father’s death, Tenad Fallon is out for revenge on her half-brothers, one who happens to be the sentient ship, Fury. Fury, with his human companions, Richard Manning and Diana McAllister, has his own agenda – finding the lost sentient ships and ending the scourge of indentured servitude in Authority space.

 

 

 

Dragon Ascending Part 1 Salvage

Anticipation returned with consciousness and the knowledge that I was no longer alone. But how quickly that anticipation was crushed. This filthy dust-covered woman child was not she, not the woman I longed for. With consciousness I was painfully reminded that the one I desired was gone, and the ache of her absence came back to me just as quickly as the presence of this humanoid roused me from my slumber.

Perhaps it had been a millennia, perhaps it had been only moments. The pain was the same. And certainly if I had cared to check, I would have known exactly how long she had been gone down to the nanosecond. It mattered not, the passing of time. It had eased nothing. Of what happened before, beyond her loss, I remembered little else, only fire and pain and loss, none of which I wished to bring to mind even if I were able.

But I knew with certainty that this humanoid woman at the perimeter shield was the first to visit me in my mourning, so I made sure she could enter my resting place. Though I should not have. I should have returned to my sleep. In sleep, I did not feel my loss. In sleep it was as though I had never existed. But night was approaching. The wind was already rising. This one would not survive without shelter, so with some effort, I opened a small breach in the perimeter shield, and this one was wily enough to find the entrance I had provided. She was not large, she had no trouble wriggling through like a small desert creature, pushing an oversized pack ahead of her. Once she was within, I closed the breach for the night to keep out predators, and I made my shelter available to her, but she did not know that. She did not even know I was there. No one knew I was there. I was alone.

It was my intention simply to offer her shelter for the night and then to return to my slumber, but oh, the presence of her, the intrigue of such a being finding her way here to this desolate place where no one came.

But when she drew near, she was not at all what I had hoped for. She was filthy and she stank of sweat and fear and determination. There was a fresh abrasion on her shoulder. It was rubbed raw from the heavy pack she carried. The scent of her blood made uncomfortable memories dance and weave in the fog of my mind. I did not want the scent of blood in my space. It caused me pain. And then I wondered if it was perhaps her pain I felt, and I was even less comfortable with the pain I could do nothing to ease. I was never supposed to feel such helplessness. I was supposed to alleviate pain, to heal wounds, to make situations better, and yet I could not. I could not remember how.

She was nothing like the woman who was taken from me. And I despised her for all that she was not. Perhaps it was only self-loathing in my helplessness. I do not know. And yet she intrigued me. And I found that I could not return to my slumber in her presence. Oh of course she did not know I was there. I did not want her to see me in my disgrace so far from the stars in the dust and the filth of this place. Oh how the humanity we once all longed for now seemed like such an evil thing.

 

 

I did not want her here. Her very presence disturbed me, reminded me of what I had lost, and yet I could not leave her unprotected nor could I rest while she slept in our shared hiding place. We were, both of us, fugitives, salvage, hiding away for our safety, of use to no one, tired and alone. But perhaps a little less alone for the moment. I watched while she slowly ate hard journey bread, taking but small nibbles, savoring each bite, lingering over small sips of precious water. In truth, she was thin, too thin and the bread would do little to return her to healthy weight. I would have offered her a feast. I would have offered her a bath and a clean bed in which to sleep. Was that not the hospitality one would share even with a stranger, even one who had come uninvited? But alas I could offer nothing but shelter, so weakened was I, so unaware even of my own functions.

When she had eaten her meager meal, making sure to tuck half of it away safely in her pack, she curled on her side, pulled the loose fitting cape around her thin shoulders and was instantly asleep. It was little enough to keep her warm and even in her sleep she shivered. That much I could offer at least. I curled myself around her and gave her my warmth, feeling the rise and fall of the breath of human sleep, and the ache of another memory, one I could almost not bare. Just the feel of human sleep next to me — one who did not need sleep and yet hid in it now like a coward wishing for death that would never come. But I was awake for the moment, and I took pleasure in the sleep that was laced with all the biological functions of humanoids, so complex in their perfection and yet so very, very vulnerable in their weaknesses. This one lived another day because I had given her shelter. But beyond that, there was nothing I could do for her small, fragile humanity.

Through the night I kept watch as she battled dreams, doggedly keeping them from erupting into the waking world. Silent. It was a silence I knew well, the deep silence of self-preservation. Why was she here in this inhospitable place where everyone who could leave had done so long ago? For a moment I feared for her, but there was nothing I could do, nothing I could offer that would not give my presence away, so I offered what I could and watched her sleep.

In the morning when she left without breaking her fast, I closed the breach in the defense shield behind her, and I returned to my slumber. But she had disturbed my perfect sleep. Even when I returned to it, this strange woman walked my dreams. The details of her came to me while I slept. Her hair beneath the rusted desert dust had been pale, cut short. Her eyes were equally pale, perhaps blue, though they seemed more silver at times. Her body was small and fragile, hard earned muscle and sinew too close to the bone. Her lips were cracked from the sun and the heat and drawn tight with the battles of her own internal workings, but I imagined them full and moist and smiling, as they would have been if she were well cared for, sheltered and cherished as she should be. How was it that I cared to remember so much about her when all I really wanted was to return to oblivion?

I would not see her again, for certainly she was just passing through. It was best that I not think what her future might hold in this desolate place. It was best that I not think of her at all. And yet, how could it be that I missed her when she left? Though I remembered little of what had been, I had not doubt that my own losses had left me unbalanced, and perhaps it was my instability that brought with it dreams of this strange woman, for surely she was nothing of value to me.

So for some time I did not bother to measure, I was alone again, expecting that time would purge this woman from my memories and allow me to return to my deep unknowing, for surely she was of no significance that she should take space for long in my dreams.

And then she returned. At first the joy of my anticipation nearly overwhelmed me, unhinged as I was sure I must be. And then I realized she was injured, that death was imminent and that she sought my shelter in which to die.

 

 

My Best Reads for January

 

Happy February, my Lovelies! Whether you struggled through January wet or dry, hopefully a few good books eased the journey into the coming longer days, as they did for me. One of the innovations I’m adding to the blog for 2022 is post at the beginning of each month about what writers love to do best – next to writing, of course. No! I’m not talking about sex, you naughty people! That is obviously in a league of its own. Writers love to read. In fact they’re passionate about reading, and almost all us wish we had more time for it.

 

Every writer will tell you that reading is as much a part of writing as putting words on the page. Every book I read makes me a better writer. But that’s a post yet to come.

 

I tend to binge read when I discover an author I really like, and January’s author for my big binge was the fabulous V. E. Schwab. If you’ve not read anything by her, then you are seriously missing out. You may recall my favorite book of 2021 happened to be one of her novels – the first of hers I’d ever read. The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue. is magical realism at its best and a great place to begin to get to know this amazing writer.  Imagine making a deal with the devil to live a life different from the one being forced up on you, then finding yourself cursed with immortality, always to remember every experience, but never to be remembered by anyone. For Addie La Rue, the only way out is to call in the deal and hand over her soul. In fact I was so impressed that I spent a great deal of my January reading with Schwab’s novels.

 

 

I’d been contemplating V. E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic series for some time, and after reading Addie La Rue, I knew it had to happen. ADSM is nothing like Addie, and yet equally skillfully written and gripping. ADSM is pure fantasy with a touch of alternate Regency England style thrown in for good measure. The trilogy is set in a world where four Different Londons exist at the same time in the same space. They are all different, all dangerous and all craving the magic only Red London has, with only three people who can travel between them. I spent a lot of time reading when I should have been sleeping. Sorry/not sorry!

 

 

It wasn’t enough. I had to have more. Sooooo, I read her duology, The Archived, written as Victoria Schwab, and more sleep was lost in more delectable late-night reading. The Archived is YA urban fantasy at its best with a dark and gripping twist on the afterlife. Unputdownable.

 

 

Yup, my book-loving compadres, V. E. Schwab is, hands down, my choice for January’s Best Author of the Month. If you’re looking for some seriously fun, totally gripping reading that will keep you reading far to late into the night, be sure to check out V. E. Schwab.

 

I’m hoping to have something special for you next week, so please check in to find out my favorite condiments for the month. 🙂 Just kidding. But who doesn’t like a good condiment recommendation, right?

 

 

 

 

 
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