Book review: Fade (Book 1 of the Ragnarok Prophesies)

Fade (The Ragnarok Prophesies) By A.K. Morgen

Goodreads review

Fade (The Ragnarök Prophesies, #1)

A struggling young woman searching for meaning in her life, a tragic family event, a mysterious man…this story starts off with all the paranormal fantasy hallmarks. The main character Arionna reminded me of Elena from the first season of the Vampire Diaries when she was introduced; this is not a bad thing. Remember how you used to care about Elena? Back in the day when she had agency and choices? Me, too. If you liked that version of Elena, Arionna is the protagonist for you. Arionna cares a lot about her dad and friends. That said, Arionna falls into the trope of lost-little paranormal heroine once and a while; the bonus is she doesn’t need constant saving, so that’s a thing.

On her first day at school, Arionna meets Dace, a mysterious man with something dark inside him. It’s not love at first sight—more accurately lust at first sight. This is not a meet-cute; this isn’t going to be a sweet romance filled with sighing and love notes. These two want each other in a physical way. The romance element picks up quickly, so there’s no will-they-won’t-they time wasted. (Hint: they definitely will, but there are some trust issues in the way.)

The murder mystery mid-book was a pleasant surprise; it takes the story in a slightly different direction than I was expecting it to go in. The side characters (the triplets, Mandy, Ronan) didn’t annoy me, but the death of a character gives weight to their characters. There’s also a genuine question about why that particular character was murdered, and that event kicks of the major mythology plot of the book, which is a modern weaving of the Norse end-of-days.

The mythology about the Berserkers is interesting, and it’s fresh enough that it works, continuing to build and build until the climax. I wasn’t super crazy about Dace being an Alpha, but the saving grace of this book’s mythos is that it doesn’t dwell on anything too long for it to get annoying. Instead, more layers of myth are revealed. The story is set in a world where mythology kitchen sink exists; as an urban fantasy fan, bring it (love this trope). I was a bit disappointed at the mythology drop about Gage; I wish the reveal would’ve been, well, cooler. However, the author saves the best myth reveal for the end of the novel with Ronan.

A personal pet peeve did crop up in this story for me, which kept me from loving it. The characters comment on how weird or special they are. It’s not just with one or two characters, but every single character is ‘an unusual girl’ or ‘attracts weird things.’ That put me into auto-pilot through a chunk of this story. If the character is special, I should be able to tell that without every conversation being about how unique said character is. Dace is a Berserker; Arionna has a connection to the Berserkers that doesn’t become clear until later in the novel. However, the reveals themselves are satisfying. Both of these things didn’t need to be dressed up by having the characters waste time telling each other how different and unique they were.

Random thoughts:

  • Parents hiring professional bartenders. That made me laugh out loud. Does that happen at small colleges in the US? As far as I know, that’s never been a thing.
  • A large number of shout-outs in the naming of characters (Dace, Michealsons, Edwards, Jacobs…you get the idea).

Read if: it’s romance you want. This is the major focus of the book. Also, if you like NA (contemporary) reimaginings of mythology, this is a go, but it’s a darker reimagining and is definitely an NA book when Dace and Arionna’s relationship progresses. This book also has some twists in the mythology reveals that give the romance element a larger meaning.

Beware if: you don’t like the general set-up of paranormal books. My warning about characters goes double here, I think.

Rating: 3.5 – the beginning of the book is closer to a 3, but the mythology reveals elevates the later half to a 4.

It’s Alive!

God’s Play is out today! If you like urban fantasy with a wry sense of humor, check it out. I’ll post more about the book and inspirations for it as time goes on, but for now, here it is, in all it’s weird, dark glory.

Sixteen-year old Toby was trained by a family of hunters to kill shape-shifters—but he has a unique weapon in his arsenal. With a touch of his hand, Toby can lift the magical protection shape-shifters use to disguise themselves as human. It’s an unusual skill for a hunter, and he prefers to kill monsters the old-fashioned way: with a blade.

Because of his special skill, Toby suspects he may be a monster himself. His suspicions deepen when William, a jackal-headed shape-shifter, saves him from an ambush where Toby’s the only survivor. And Toby doubts William helped him for purely altruistic reasons. With his list of allies running thin, Toby must reconcile his hatred of shifters and the damning truth that one saved his life. It’ll take both of them to track down the monster who ordered the ambush.

And Toby needs his unlikely alley because he has a vicious enemy—the infamous Circe, who has a vendetta to settle against the hunters. Toby has to unravel the mystery of his dual nature. And he has to do it on the run—before Circe finds him and twists him to her own ends.

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This is where you buy it. See? I make things easy for you.

The Revolution Will Be Blogged

I’ve be horrifically absent from this blog for several reasons, but the BIG GLARING ONE is that I’ve published my book! It takes time, homefries, to get a book ready for publication. As a n00b, I was not prepared for how much overthinking I would do during each round of edits. (Do I need to add a thought here? Is this dialogue line funny? Should I cut that sensory word? I’ve stared at this for hours and don’t know.) But it’s happened, the book is coming in September, and the blog needs to be reborn from the dark realms of the internet where it’s lingered. That said, I’m going to be announcing a new focus for the blog, updates, and changes.

Author interviews and book reviews:

The blog is called Throw This Book at Me. I loved the name, even when I struggled with focus in the nascent days of my writing. I’ll still keep some of the dinosaur archive, but I’m going to be turning my attention to book reviews now! I love to read and write, and this is a really natural out growth of that for me. I’ve been on the CP/beta track for years, too, so I’d love to spread the love about books and authors I’ve worked with whom I adore.

My books!

God’s Play is going to be a series. I’m planning the second book and working on another massive adult fantasy project. These things will start to pop up more on my blog. I also added a page for the books and changed the header to what is the cover of the first book (God’s Play, duh) because I love that cover.

But I followed your blog for hiking/snark/randomness!

Don’t worry, none of these things will be going away. I’m going to still do personal essays and other types of posts, but the focus is writing now. (Sorry not sorry) The snark is here to stay, but I want this site to have a focus now. If you started following me for the many other things I do in life, I would highly suggest my Twitter or Octopus Dive Bar (my personal tumblr blog, which has more of less morphed into my original vision of this site), both of where I talk about TV, movies, books, food, yoga, hiking, science, nature, and anything else I just happen to be thinking about.

A Season in the Show

H.D. Lynn:

Every writer needs to read this ASAP. You never know where your career is going, so just keep on it. Something will happen.

Originally posted on Whatever:

This last weekend I had an enjoyable time at the Confusion convention, which is no surprise, as I usually do — it’s one of the reasons I’ve gone back to it now for nine years running. I mostly hung out in the bar and talked to writers, doing the usual combination of business talk and complete idiocy, as writers generally do at conventions when they chat with each other.

One evening I talked to a couple of different authors about writing careers and the ups and downs careers have, and how from time to time we’re all filled with frustration with them, especially during a downturn. We all want to be on award lists; we all want to have bestsellers. If those things don’t happen we can wonder if what we’re doing matters much at all. As we were talking about it I came up with a metaphor which I…

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The sickness in your head

When I did 30 hour famines to raise money for world vision, it was easy for me. I was already going every other day without eating — or subsisting on two yogurts and two cans of peaches a day. I figured I could at least put my ‘diet’ to good use. No one in my life knew what to do about this. I was naive enough to think they didn’t notice; they did, but no one knew what to say, what to do. My not eating was shameful, and it was easier to everyone to pretend it wasn’t happening.

Which didn’t make it go away.

The first time I googled trichotillomania, I cried. Ugly cried — tears all over the key-board, chest heaving sobs. Who wants to go bald? Why did I keep pulling? I had fantasies of shaving my head and just getting rid of all my hair that night. It didn’t want this disease to be my life, but it was. It still is. I can’t get rid of it. Saying, “Why don’t you try not being obsessed with your hair and skin pulling?” is like saying, “Why don’t you just trying not to be depressed?”

It doesn’t work that way.

Trich and anorexia are both fueled by shame, but it’s taken me over a decade to learn that. And keeping quiet, pretending these things don’t exist, isn’t a way to deal with them. Like a weed, shame is the root, and that’s what I target when anorexia or trich springs up in a new and exciting form in my life.

If you’re struggling with a mental disease, I wish I could say there was one guaranteed way to kill it off. There’s not, but I know that, and you probably do, too. I wage my own personal war against shame and worthlessness everyday, and sometimes I win, but other times, I’m unable to climb out of that spiraling pit that opens in my head when I start pulling my hair.

I want whoever googles trichotillomania to have a different experience than I did. There is behavioral therapy out there. There are people who won’t treat your disease like it’s gross. You’re not alone. Does it get better — sometimes. Does it go away — no. But it’s real, and you have permission to take care of yourself, to decide that you want something else besides your disease to define your life.

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The Joys of Working Your Ass Off

Hurry up and wait — it’s the most frustrating emotional loop to fall into. This makes my life choices — research and writing — a hell of a patience test. I’m low on patience and not fond of surprises. This summer? It was trying. The moving, the constant travel, the settling in, and the endless check list.

And there’s only one solution to this: meaningful work. A new lab means new machines, new experiments. I got more into backpacking this year. I’ve written nearly 300k words in the past six months. These things? They’re the only antidotes I know to tedium.

On the hiking end, I got to go back to the Olympic Peninsula. And it’s awesome and beautiful, so I’m going to leave my favorite pictures from that trip here. Because, if nothing else, you can always have the mountains.

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15 Camping Hacks That Actually Make Sense

I love me some nature — the animals, the walking, hunkering down in tents, snuggling in cabins, a good fire, the smell of the dirt, and the pure feeling of being immersed in scenery porn. There are many ways to go and be outdoors. I’m not about to tell anybody the ‘right way’ to enjoy nature or what parts should be most important to them. At this time of the year, people are gearing up to go camping and hiking. (Hey, I got a new tent. I’m ready!)

There are things you do in your own backyard or at your friend’s cabin that you can’t do in the back country — or even at a campground designed for car camping. Going into a public space — and most nature in the US is public land — means respecting the ecosystem and rules set up to protect you and the wildlife. If you haven’t hiked or camped a lot, things that seem ‘fun’ or ‘easier’ really fall under the category of ‘unnecessary’ or even ‘dangerous’. And the 41 Camping Hacks article has more than a few tips that aren’t nature friendly. Hell, they aren’t even real hacks. Here is my improved list of 15 tips that’ll help you have a better hiking and camping experience this summer.

That blue heron caught several fish -- I was just too slow to photograph it

That blue heron caught several fish — I was just too slow to photograph it

1. By an inflatable mattress and double it up with a yoga mat. You actually will be able to buy and find the yoga mat — you may already have one. And log onto Backcountry.com and you’ll be able to find plenty of deals on any level and price of inflatable mattress you want. Or just use a mattress — a foam or inflatable one depending on personal preference.

Inflatable mattress + yoga mat. Because let’s face it: many of you probably don’t even know where you can buy those foam pads

2. Using tin cans as a ‘portable food option’ to store bread is nonsensical. Let me give you a tip: the only thing you need to protect your food is a bear canister. This goes for car camping and backpacking. You can usually rent one, some campsites already have them at your site, and you can buy them for around $80. There are places that specifically require canisters, and that’s because canisters reduce the rate of bear/human incidents. Here’s a basic list of where bear canisters are required and where they’re highly recommended. It’s not just bears that get into your food. It’s ‘mini-bears’ — raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, ect. — and they are vicious little vermin.

3. Don’t glue sandpaper to your match box. Buy storm proof matches and bring a second lighter option (I use a Bic cigarette lighter) for good weather.

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4. Biodegradable toilet paper and sanitary wipes should cover all the pooping materials you need. Put them in a ziplock bag. If you’re in an area where you have to pack it out, place the TP bag inside of a second ziploack bag filled with a bit of backing soda. I’ve also used leaves and smooth rocks for TP, but if that thought makes you sad, just don’t go on prolonged wilderness backpacking trips.

I don’t know why you would do this — even when car camping. There are usually running water toilets when you’re car camping — so bringing toilet paper is unnecessary. And are you really going to lug around a coffee can on a hike?

5. Hammocks are cool — in theory. Everyone wants to go outdoors and lounge in a hammock. And you can. No problem. I just think there are cheaper ones than these ones that remind me of baby swings and cost $399.

It’s a $400 baby swing.

6. On the topic of soap and cleanliness: you’re in the outdoors. There is dirt. There are bugs. Don’t try to over-sanitize it because nature will just blow a big, dirty kiss at you. Dr. Bronners soap (unscented) soap is great for camping, and it’s affordable and easy to find. I use it to wash pots, pans, and myself.

This is a day hike during a car camping trip. Charlie's messenger bag is what we carried to keep snacks, water, and first aid in.

This is a day hike during a car camping trip. Charlie’s messenger bag is what we carried to keep snacks, water, and first aid in.

7. I don’t even know what to say about the laundry detergent one. I’ve never seen anyone do this — nor have I ever had a ‘hand washing station’ even when car camping. This isn’t a hack at all — it’s more time consuming to construct and use than just pouring some drinking water over your hands. If you must, get a water filter and use the filtered water to wash your hands. Soap does kill germs, I promise.

This isn’t smart at all. Just use regular water and some soap.

8. This isn’t a hack, either. At the end of the day, all of your pots and pans should either go back in your car or into your bear canister. If you’re not car camping, make sure they’ll fit into the bear canister if you’ve done anything but boil water in them. Despite where you are (established camp ground or primitive site), your pots and pans should definitely not be handing on a tree. I just don’t understand the logic of this one. You can’t wrap those pots in a microfiber towel or put them into a trash bag to ‘keep them clean’? Remember the part about bears and mini-bears? If you’ve cooked food with those, you’re going to have guests coming to sniff at those pans.

Not a hack. If you want animals to come over and investigate your campsite looking for food, do this.

9. The ‘portable washing machine’ is hilarious (and tragic), and it’s another thing I’ve never seen anyone do. Ever, not even in my years of car camping. If you’re out for just 2-3 days, you can bring enough clothes to not have to wash any of them. If you’re on a more extended hiking trip, or feel you really need to wash something, that is what creeks are for. Or, my favorite trick, is to find camp ground showers and crawl in with my clothes on and wash them when I wash myself. Once again, this really isn’t a hack — you’re bringing more things with you that aren’t going to add to the enjoyment of camping. The real hack is showering with your clothes on.

I have never seen anyone do this.

10. There’s a lot of focus on creating lamps and light for your campsite. First, you’re probably going to get plenty of daylight (I’m assuming it’s summer). If you light a campfire, you’ll definitely have enough light. For extra light, flashlights and headlamps are all you should need. If you want ‘mood lighting’, go for it, but don’t use homemade oil lamps. They’re going to be more of a fire hazard than anything. If you’re in your tent, use headlamps when it’s dark. But don’t make hotel shampoo bottles into oil lamps. You will start a forest fire.

Pictured: an unsafe fire hazard

11. This is a picture of what is called ‘disposable hiking tape.’

Uses: none

If you’re hiking, here are two very important things you should do: 1) bring a compass (and know how to use it) and 2) bring a map. If you have problems using a compass and a map, you shouldn’t be going off trail. Hell, in many national parks and forests, there are areas where you specifically should not go off trail because if everyone did this, the ecosystem would get severely damaged. I posted my Olympic hiking photos from March, and we were told that the trail in the Hoh rainforest was a sludge path, but don’t go off the trail because if everyone did, the surrounding plant life would get trampled into mud. Trails are there to keep your clumsy, human feet from stomping all over nature. Many trails are well maintained or at least clear enough that a good (topographic) map should keep you from getting lost.

12. Don’t use a bucket and a milk crate as a disposable toilet. I’ve never seen this done, and it’s just as asinine as the laundry bucket idea. If you’re car camping, there are usually running water toilets. At some more primitive campsites, there are pit toilets. If you’re in the back country, you’re going to be digging catholes. If you’re not comfortable digging a hole and pooping in it, you shouldn’t be camping in the back country. Also, I don’t think I’d want to hike a full minute trying to carry a ‘disposable toilet’.

13. Once more with the light sources: don’t bring unnecessary fire hazards. Your best bet is to bring extra batteries for headlamps and flashlights. The phrase ‘emergency light source’ should equal ‘extra batteries’ in your mind.

Pictured: more terrible advice

14. Another quick word about food: Use bear canisters. If you’re car camping, coolers are great, but there’s a reason bear canisters have quickly become the norm in food storage regulations on federal lands — it’s because they work. Most of the food tips on this list aren’t bad — hell, one of the reasons I still go car camping is to bring the dutch oven and make some awesome food over an open fire. But I pack up my food properly at the end of the day.

15. Honorable mentions: there are some tips that are actually good. The instant coffee and the microfiber towel are things I do carry on all my camping trips. They’re easy — and they work for car camping as well as in the back country. A lot of these tips are not applicable if you’re hiking and camping when you have to lug stuff on your back before you get to your campsite. The food ideas are fine for cabin BBQs or car camping, but I won’t be hauling spices with me on the 4 day 45 mile hike I’m taking this summer.

Pictured: all you need to enjoy nature

Pictured: all you need to enjoy nature