Thursday, August 29, 2019

Pile of Bones

Pile of Bones (The Legends of the First Empire #0.5)Pile of Bones by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The mystic Suri hears the sound of Elan itself. It helps her in times of trouble and at times reveals things she wasn't meant to find. Pile of Bones takes us back to a time Suri stumbles on a secret even her wolf Minna wasn't able to help her with.

Pile of Bones is a solid short story that displays Suri more like she was in Age of Myth. Suri's a wide eyed explorer. She listens to the trees, the Earth, and animals. Listening, learning, and exploring is Suri's life. It was nice to be reminded of the character at a younger age when things were simpler. There's not much I can get into that won't spoil the story. Needless to say if you loved Suri in Age of Myth, then this is a must read short story.

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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Warrior Prime

Warrior Prime (Ink Mage Legacy #1)Warrior Prime by Victor Gischler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The threat of war has brought the Helvan envoy Peyne Erlich to Fryia. Unfortunately, his stay is short lived. The King's Ambassador sends him back to Helva with an urgent message about Ink Magic before Peyne can even unpack. However the ship he sails on holds an unexpected challenges and Zayda. Zayda's father's financial failure led to her being sold as a slave to pay his debts. Rather than being forced into prostitution, she finds a different path. Zayda has been made into an Ink Mage and forced into a magical collar meant to control her. Peyne and Zayda find themselves forced to trust one another in order to survive.

Warrior Prime is a continuation of the series A Fire Beneath the Skin. Many years have passed since A Painted Goddess, but some old characters are seen and mentioned in the book. The story has it's own compelling factors as Zayda is fighting to remove the magical collar that's use to control her while Peyne is trying to reach Helva to warn the King about Ink Magic.

The main characters felt similar to Ink Mage as Zayda resembles Rina and Peyne reminds me of Brasley Hammish. Zayda is a young woman who receives the prime suddenly like Rina. They are both forced to seek out new tattoos to assist them towards their goals. They each set out on significant treks with the hope of restoring their lives. Peyne and Brasley are both womanizers who drink, gamble, and steal. I realize Brasley was forced to change over the course of A Fire Beneath the Skin, but Peyne is nearly Brasley in Ink Mage.

I did appreciate the villainous Meddigar. He's a wizard who inadvertently stumbled onto Ink Magic and used his knowledge to ingratiate himself to the Fryian royalty by not only making them Ink Mages, but also providing a way to control them. Meddigar isn't completely evil, but he's truly selfish, self centered, and justifiably paranoid. Meddigar would rather take his money and secrets and disappear rather than deal with Fryia, but the Grand Sultan wants his cash cow protected, at least until he can gain the secrets for himself.

Warrior Prime felt just a little too similar to Ink Mage, but was an enjoyable story.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Saturday, August 10, 2019

Taking Turns: Stories from HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371

MK Czerwiec
Penn State University Press
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars


In 1994, at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the United States, MK Czerwiec took her first nursing job, at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, as part of the caregiving staff of HIV/AIDS Care Unit 371. Taking Turns pulls back the curtain on life in the ward.

A shining example of excellence in the treatment and care of patients, Unit 371 was a community for thousands of patients and families affected by HIV and AIDS and the people who cared for them. This graphic novel combines Czerwiec’s memories with the oral histories of patients, family members, and staff. It depicts life and death in the ward, the ways the unit affected and informed those who passed through it, and how many look back on their time there today.

Czerwiec joined Unit 371 at a pivotal time in the history of AIDS: deaths from the syndrome in the Midwest peaked in 1995 and then dropped drastically in the following years, with the release of antiretroviral protease inhibitors. This positive turn of events led to a decline in patient populations and, ultimately, to the closure of Unit 371. Czerwiec’s restrained, inviting drawing style and carefully considered narrative examine individual, institutional, and community responses to the AIDS epidemic—as well as the role that art can play in the grieving process.

Deeply personal yet made up of many voices, this history of daily life in a unique AIDS care unit is an open, honest look at suffering, grief, and hope among a community of medical professionals and patients at the heart of the epidemic.

My Review

Never have I been so moved by a graphic novel as I have with this account of M.K. Czerwiec’s career as a nurse in an HIV/AIDS care unit.

Her story begins in 1993, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, and before effective retroviral drugs existed. Though much of this story centers on patient treatment and interactions with other caregivers, there is a lot of thought-provoking exploration of living with a terminal disease, the fluid boundaries between caregiver and patient, and the emotional toll death takes on us all.

This thoughtful, simply written story is deeply moving, powerful, and a worthy addition to modern AIDS literature. While this graphic novel deserves every one of its 5 stars, I have a few minor quibbles that didn’t at all detract from my enjoyment.

One of the sentiments expressed towards the end bothered me a little. “This was our plague. It was devastation of a generation, a couple of generations…” I never liked that AIDS was referred to as the “gay plague.” This implies the disease only affected men and was a punishment.

The art was simple, and there were annoying blank pages between sections. This may just affect the e-book.

Some of the panels contained too much text and were at times difficult to read.

Though much progress has been made, many people around the world are still dying of AIDS because of fear, social stigma and ignorance, so I am glad for this novel’s existence. I was happy to find the e-book at my local library, as I can’t justify paying over $20 for a graphic novel.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

A Hero Born

A Hero Born (Legends of the Condor Heroes, #1)A Hero Born by Jin Yong
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Two men who are brothers at arm's befriend a Taoist. The Taoist helps choose names for their unborn children and leaves them. These two men are betrayed and murdered. Their wives are captured and their family lines are in jeopardy. That's only the beginning of this generational tale.

A Hero Born is a story that struggles from things outside of it's control, at least in the US. It's an old book that was first published in the 1950s. On top of that it's translated into English which undoubtedly costs it much of it's flair. The writing just feels simplistic even though the foundations of a strong story are undoubtedly present. The descriptions are lacking, but that's largely a factor of the time period it was written in more than anything.

My biggest disappointment may be that the book just doesn't describe the fighting in a compelling fashion. I thought that the fighting may be the books saving grace, but it was mostly forgettable.

A Hero Born is a story out of time and it's native language. Unfortunately nothing really stood out about it.

2 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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