Aug. 16th, 2016

duncandahusky: (huskyface)

Wolfsong, by T. J. Klune

Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road, the boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.

Ox was seventeen when he found out the boy’s secret, and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.

Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.

It’s been three years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.

Wolfsong is a truly remarkable book. Although I found it through the m/m romance genre, it is so much more than that – if anything, I would place it more in the modern fantasy category. It’s an epic story with werewolves, but also the story of an enduring relationship and friendship.

Klune skillfully employs some great world-building here, not only basing some of the ideas on traditional werewolf lore, but also introducing new concepts that explore what it means to be human or wolf, family or pack, and what it means to be Alpha. The ideas are solid and well-thought-out. I am left wanting to know so much more about this world and the Bennett family.

With this setting as a backdrop, the author explores themes of family, belonging, and loss, but most importantly the concept of choice – when you have a choice, when you do not, and what the ramifications of those choices can be. Sometimes we find that we make the wrong choices in life, but once they are made, you have to live with that. These themes are interwoven into the narrative with frequent callbacks to earlier conversations and events that make the book a tightly-woven tapestry.

I’ve been wracking my brain to figure out why this book struck so viscerally, why the climactic scenes had me caught up in the excitement, why the heartfelt moments moved me to tears (multiple times!). The author has a talent for characterization, for one. The main characters are believable and three-dimensional. They can be intelligent and wise, but they can do stupid stuff, too. We start off seeing Ox as a shy, slow boy who feels his father’s scorn, but we learn that he is so much more, and capable of so much more. Watching this evolution engages the reader and you find yourself cheering them on, though also being disappointed when poor choices are made as well.

From a literary construction standpoint, Klune’s writing is fascinating to read. Ox’s story starts with short, simple statements, but as we learn more about who he is and as Ox matures into a man, the writing gets more complex. Repetition of certain phrases throughout the book ties the story together and invite the reader to compare the characters now versus where they were earlier in the story. Best of all is the dialogue, spoken and unspoken. The banter is funny and smart, and the characters speak like you, your family, and friends might. It’s believable and makes the reader a part of the story. The unspoken dialogue (an oxymoron, I suppose) is excellent as well, showing communication through the wolves and the pack, often more emotions than words.

This is hands-down the best book that I have read this year, and in fact in many years. I rate it 5 out of 5. If you like stories of werewolves, of modern fantasy, or of an enduring romance, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Originally posted 03 July 2016


Aug. 16th, 2016 09:46 am
duncandahusky: (huskyface)

A couple of folks have asked what podcasts I listen to so I thought I would document them somewhere…

  • Ask Me Another - An enjoyable and sometimes silly quiz show, with extra geek cred courtesy of Jonathan Coulton

  • CBC’s Under the Influence - A look into the hows and whys of advertising. There’s a lot of great back stories presented here.

  • Kevin and Ursula Eat Cheap - Take two very smart and funny people, add terrible food and a lot of alcohol. Hilarity does indeed ensue.

  • My Dad Wrote a Porno - Exactly what it says it is. A son does a straight-faced reading of the (egregiously terrible) erotica his father has written, with commentary provided by his sometimes-bewildered friends. It’s notable that his father is in on the joke (and even does a Q&A at the end of Season 1!), which removes any concern of mean-spiritedness.

  • NPR’s Planet Money - A collection of pieces run on various shows, this always has a smart, accessible explanation of matters financial

  • NPR’s Politics Podcast - A bit more free-wheeling than the usual on-air discussion. If you’re a political wonk, you’ll enjoy this weekly podcast.

  • Pop Culture Happy Hour - My favorite! A discussion of all things pop culture by a group of hilarious writers and reporters. Bonus for NPR fans - occasional appearances by folks like Audie Cornish and Ari Shapiro that show they’re interesting and engaging people. (Also: Glen Weldon is my Gay Nerd Hero!)

  • Pop Rocket - Comedian Guy Branum hosts this sister-in-spirit to Pop Culture Happy Hour. It’s a little looser, a little more profane, and a lot of fun.

  • Sampler - A meta-podcast? This shouldn’t work, but it succeeds spectacularly. An overview of all kinds of podcasts out there with clips and interviews with the creators. A great way to find podcasts you never would have heard otherwise. Brittany Luse is a fantastic host for this one.

  • Switched on Pop - The combination of pop culture know-how and a little music theory features in this podcast that deconstructs the music out there in a very engaging fashion. Their breakdown of Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling” and tracing it back to Pharrell, Michael Jackson, Gregorian chant, and Handel was amazing.

  • The Memory Palace - Short (<10 minute) episodes on obscure historical facts. Nate DiMeo’s writing and delivery make this podcast absolutely hypnotic.

  • The Nerdist - Chris Hardwick and company interview famous people. Interview podcasts usually don’t do it for me, but they have a way of getting their interviewees to open up and just chat comfortably, not the usual stilted same-old-same-old. Their interview(s) with Jon Favreau was quite revealing, and showed that Jon is a guy I would absolutely have a beer with.

  • Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! - Just listen to it if you haven’t before. You’ll laugh, a lot. Trust me.

  • WBEZ’s Curious City - Amazing investigations into what makes Chicago tick. This is exceptionally well-researched and presented.

Originally posted 02 August 2016
duncandahusky: (huskyface)

Wolves of Black Pine (Wolfkin Saga #1), by S.J. Himes

An ancient civilization long hidden from humanity is on the brink of chaos and war.

Peaceful for thousands of years, the wolfkin clans are mysteriously losing packmates, kidnapped and killed by unknown foes. Among the dead is Luca, youngest grandson of the two most powerful wolves in the Northern Clans, but he is forced into a half-life, hidden in the far northern wilds of Canada and cut off from his kind. Those who raised him have no idea the creature they harbor in their midst, and name him Ghost. He begins to lose himself over the long years, and though he barely recalls his true name, the one wolf he never forgets is Kane.

Heir to the wolfkin clan Black Pine, Kane is charged with hunting down the traitors who them to the humans. Years fly by, and more wolves are dying. He refuses to give up, and he vows to never again fail another of their kind, as he failed young Luca years before. His heart tells him Luca lives, but his mind tells him that it’s foolish hope, his guilt eating him alive.

Fate and magic change the course of their lives, and the two wolves long separated by the years find their paths intertwining, though the reunion does not come without cost…

Rating: 4 out of 5

I really liked this book. I liked the setting, I liked the characters (even if there was a little much of The Ace trope going on), and the world-building was sound. All of the parts of a great book are there.

What’s not there is fitting all the pieces together as well as they could. The pacing is problematic, and it can make the book a bit of a slog at times. The best example that comes to mind is in a climactic action scene, we take a break for a page or two of exposition. There’s also a number of scenes repeated twice, from different character’s points of view. I think it comes down to narrative efficiency - tell the story as cleanly and efficiently as possible. I think with a little more editing this could go from a really good book to great book.

These quibbles aside, I enjoyed this book very much and I look forward to reading the sequel.

Oh, and fair warning for those reading for the hot man-on-man sexytime: it’s there, but only gets started 60% into the book. After that the times sexytime occurs starts to get a little ludicrous, but it doesn’t negatively impact the story.

Originally posted 12 August 2016
duncandahusky: (huskyface)

Soul Seekers by Jake C. Wallace

Nineteen-year-old college student Levi Reed has spent his life with hollow emotions and a darkness so deep that he’s convinced he’s losing his mind. He’d give anything to feel something, anything, real.

When a mysterious stranger appears, Levi is convinced the man is trying to kill him. When he’s near, Levi experiences head-crushing pain and something surprising—real emotions for the first time. Jeb Monroe is arrogant, self-assured, closed-off, and handsome, but he isn’t the harbinger of doom Levi assumed. Jeb’s mission: help Levi find his missing soul.

Levi is pulled into the secret world of Seers and Keepers, those born with the innate ability to manipulate souls and tasked with balancing the negative energy they can produce. Levi learns he possesses a rare gift, and he’s in danger. As Jeb and Levi grow closer, they discover a group of zealots who want to harness Levi’s power to cleanse the world of damaged souls. Everyone Levi cares for is threatened unless he agrees to become their tool of death. But agreeing could spell the destruction of humankind. With no one to trust and nothing as it appears, it’s up to Levi to save them all.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

This is a really clever read, and I enjoyed it. It provides an interesting viewpoint from someone who is in the middle of a very complex situation and can’t see all of the moving parts - all they can do is keep their head down and push through it. The conceit of souls and Keepers and Seers is an intriguing one, and I would read more of this series if there are any sequels.

So why only 3.75 then? Two big things: the first and most glaring thing is that the theory of manipulation of souls and the consequences thereof is WAY to tangled and confusingly explained. I could never get a clear picture of what the energy issue was between Levi and Jeb. I think I got a clearer picture at the end, but the avalanche of explanations tended to really muddle things by that point.

The other issue is that while I love Levi and Jeb together (HOTNESS!), Jeb was a bit of a cipher for a huge portion of the story, which left his motivations and “insta-love” for Levi puzzling. In the end I get what the author is going for, but in the middle of the story is was just awkward and confusing.

These quibbles aside, I did enjoy the book, and I will happily seek out other of Wallace’s books.

Originally posted 14 August 2016

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