Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi

Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi, written by John Scalzi, was published in 2016 by Subterranean Press. 

4 star

Miniatures is a very small (and easily read) book full of very short stories (and one poem) by the sci-fi great John Scalzi.

I am a huge fan of Scalzi’s blog but haven’t read much of his fiction – just Redshirts (which I did not like, even as a Star Trek fan) and Old Man’s War (which I loved). I do plan on reading more of his stuff, but nothing fit nicely with /r/fantasy bingo (and we all know /r/fantasy bingo is the most important aspect of book selection). So when I saw such a small tome at the library, I thought it would work well as a palate cleanser that wouldn’t interfere with bingo.

Scalzi's Miniatures

And it was! Miniatures is an extremely quick read, with cute little blurbs of commentary and extremely quick, light stories. It’s a fun book.

My favorites were a couple of stories set in a shared setting: an Earth where aliens are no longer extraordinary and are now a part of everyday life. I would love to read an entire book (or even another collection of short stories) set here; they were hilarious, creative, and intriguing.

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 6: Who Run The World? Squirrels

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 6: Who Run The World? Squirrels, written by Ryan North and drawn by Erica Henderson, was published in 2017 by Marvel. 

5 star

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 6: Who Run The World? Squirrels is another winner from North and Henderson.

All of the usual praises apply – the jokes, the expressive artwork, the wholesome characters. Especially for this volume, we get more time with Doreen’s allies; this book has entire issues just for them. They’re unique, they’re cute, and they’re really fun to read about.

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I see a lot of complaints about the plot – which I definitely think is a valid criticism – but I don’t read Squirrel Girl for the plot. I read it for Doreen, for the hilarity, for the cleverness, for the silliness. In this case, I gladly trade a little bit of solid plot for more funny ridiculousness.

The Decoy Princess

The Decoy Princess, written by Dawn Cook, was published in 2005 by Ace. 

4 starThe Decoy Princess starts out very slow, and I struggled to maintain interest, but after the first twist (and you’ll recognize it as soon as you get to it), the book picks up significantly and doesn’t ever really let up.

Decoy Princess

Though the main, surface-level story is great, the teases to an underlying world are intriguing, and the best part of the book.

Most of the characters are unashamed tropes, but it works well and it results in some really interesting characterization. In particular, there is a relationship between the main character and another woman which feels at the same time tropey and very, very real.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, written by Stephen King, was originally published in 1999; my copy was published by Pocket Books. 

5 star

Stephen King (along with Mark Lawrence and Kameron Hurley) is an author I admire, am a fan of, and enjoy following, but don’t actually read because of my own personal tastes. When I was little I tried many times to enjoy King’s novels, but even his non-horror books just don’t work for me.

The exception, as a girl, was On Writing, which acted as a huge inspiration; rereading as an adult, I was happily engrossed again. The “how-to” section is chock-full of basic, simply-written writing advice, and the memoir section is a superb example of how to make nonfiction fun to read.

On Writing

On Writing works surprisingly well as a thriller, too. King alludes several times throughout the book to the car accident which almost kills him, but we don’t get to hear the story until the very end (and what a story it is).

Though I don’t personally like his books, King’s prose feels like something that’s possible for me to attain in my life (I’ll never be flowery, as much as I’d like it!). Learning from the master himself how he actually comes to that prose was not just educational, but inspirational.

Even if you have no interest in writing, and even if you aren’t a fan of King’s, I highly recommend On Writing.

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1)

Magic Bites, written by Ilona Andrews, was published in 2007 by Ace. The audiobook was narrated by Renée Raudman and published by Tantor Audio.

1 star

This book. This book. It absolutely enraged me.

I don’t know. Maybe I should be raging about the genre, not about the book. The Dresden Files, also urban fantasy, is one of my very favorite series; I love the diversity of characters, the epic overarching plot, and Harry’s obnoxious snarkiness.

Since Dresden Files author Jim Butcher has slowed down his writing pace pretty significantly, I’ve been searching for a few years for something that would scratch the same itch. Lots of characters! Powerful magic! I mean, I will definitely take a female MC over a male one if I can get it! And more romance? Yes, please!

So why has every single other urban fantasy series I’ve tried been a humongous disappointment?

Magic Bites

It seems like urban fantasy tropes are so dang sexist. Every person of the opposite gender to the MC is a) hot and b) evaluated for fuckable-ness. This is true in The Dresden files as well, but at least in that series at least some (and really, many) of the women are powerful mages, intimidating, or even using glamours to create that hotness.

Until two-thirds through Magic Bites, literally every woman (aside from the main character and narrator, herself, Kate), is either a victim (and therefore absent from the narrative), a secretary or a waitress. I am not exaggerating here. Out of ~30 characters, major and minor, 20 are men, 4 are victims, 3 are secretaries, and 2 are waitresses. What. WHAT. ARE THERE NO FEMALE WEREWOLVES?! The main love interest is guarded by a were-bear. How incredible would it be if that bear were a woman. The badass love interest – guarded by a MOMMA BEAR!!

But no. All men, except for those waitresses, secretaries, and victims.

And before I forget – almost every man is a potential love interest. Every single non-vampire man is described by how bone-able he is. Every. Single. One. Every man comes onto the main character, even the ones she’s been friends with for years and years. It’s just. Sad. And gross.

At one point a character is described as ugly, is not a bad guy, and is in a position of weakness to Kate. Here, I thought, was finally a chance for there to be a character who would NOT proposition Kate.

Two paragraphs later he’s saying how much he’d like to ravage her, and would she be interested? AHHH.

Reading the Goodreads reviews makes it clear that Magic Bites is significantly worse than the rest of the series. I sympathize highly with that fact – Dresden Files is the same way, after all! Still, I think I’m done with this particular style of urban fantasy, sans Dresden Files. All it seems to do is disappoint and enrage me.

The Mighty Thor, Volume 3: The Asgard/Shi’ar War

The Mighty Thor, Volume 3: The Asgard/Shi’ar War, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Seve Epting, was published in 2017 by Marvel. 

3 starIn The Asgard/Shi’ar War, we spend very little time actually in the titular war, and instead learn a whole lot about very random side stories, settings, and characters. Even though it’s lightly explained in-text, this deviation seems like a weird and unnecessary break from the huge war that’s happening. We spend one issue dealing with the war, and then very suddenly are fighting a much smaller and less impactful threat. I find it hard to believe that all of these heroes would be so easily distracted.

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Still, the book is full of Thor being a badass, which is the main reason I read and love her books. I am very sad that it all seems to be coming to an end.

The Unstoppable Wasp, Vol. 1: Unstoppable!

The Unstoppable Wasp, Vol. 1: Unstoppable!, written by Jeremy Whitley and drawn by Elsa Charretier, was published in 2017 by Marvel. 

5 starI really love The Unstoppable Wasp, Vol. 1: Unstoppable!. I love the art style – it’s simple, colorful, and full of character. I love the characters – Nadia is just adorable; even though she’s been through untold horrors, she remains naive in the best possible way – optimistic, trusting, and ready to make a difference in the world.

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Above all, I love the message of the book. Though the book is very blatant about empowering girls, there’s a subtle feminism present as well – except for Jarvis, all of the main characters, and even many of the villains, are girls or women. So even while Nadia is trying to recruit women and girls for her Genius In Action Research Labs, she’s also surrounded and supported by them.

I’m sad that this is yet another promising new title canceled after just 8 or 12 issues. I honestly don’t understand who Marvel is trying to sell to, nowadays.