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Welcome to SamanthaHolloway.com!

I'm a writer, a crafter, a nail polish mixatrix, a tea drinker, an unconventional life-liver, and a cool chick.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Book Riff - Buffalo Soldier and Within the Sanctuary of Wings


This has been a slow first quarter for reading, hasn't it? But here's two that I finished a few days ago, both in one week! Having the maintenance men cutting off power two days in a row was incredibly annoying, but it forced time for reading--because what else was I gonna do, right??

SO!

Buffalo Soldier is one of the many Tor mini-novels that are probably my favorite thing to come to publishing in a long time...except I didn't love this one as much as I wanted to, or as much as I've loved other ones in the imprint. Which makes me sad, and I hope there's more books in the same world so it'll maybe make up for what it felt like this one was lacking.

The back cover:
Having stumbled onto a plot within his homeland of Jamaica, former espionage agent, Desmond Coke, finds himself caught between warring religious and political factions, all vying for control of a mysterious boy named Lij Tafari.
Wanting the boy to have a chance to live a free life, Desmond assumes responsibility for him and they flee. But a dogged enemy agent remains ever on their heels, desperate to obtain the secrets held within Lij for her employer alone.
Assassins, intrigue, and steammen stand between Desmond and Lij as they search for a place to call home in a North America that could have been.
Buffalo Soldier is a steampunk adventure from Maurice Broaddus.
Which sounds like an awesome thing, right? And the worldbuilding and visuals are actually pretty great. It's a world where England's imperialism was blocked by advanced steampunk and borderline-solarpunk tech in the people who were taken over and wiped out in our world, so it's very different from how actual history turned out. There's some very cool stories told by the characters inside it, and everything looks really cool in the mind's eye.

But it's also strangely light on emotional connection and character motivation. Everyone's just doing things, and it's hard to say why, especially when they're just coming in and out of the story like chess pieces.

It feels like it's setting up for something else, or like it's a test run for a full-length novel that hasn't been finished yet. Both would be awesome: a series of other stories in this world might make characters work better in it, and / or a full-length novel would give them space to really inhabit the world instead of just moving around in front of it.

I give it a three out of five, because it has stuff steampunk as a genre needs: diversity, anti-imperialism, other points of view, and actual sooty fallout from a world powered by steam, but it's hard to care about people you never really get to know.

PROS:
CONS:
Mostly non-white characters
Great diversity
Cayt could be a super-kick-ass chick if we get to know her more
Awesome worldbuilding
Really neat tech
Realistic side-effects of steampower
Lij is such a cool idea
Vague motivations almost across the board
Vague timing--feels like Victorian, but makes modern references?
Feels unfinished
Not enough character development, but a lot of characters
Lots of talking instead of acting
Lots of telling instead of showing
Feels like it either started too late and that's why it's expositioning too much, or too early and that's why it doesn't feel whole

AND

Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the last Lady Trent novel, five of five, and dudes, I'm so sad to see her done telling her tale.

The cover text:
Within the Sanctuary of Wings is the conclusion to Marie Brennan's thrilling Lady Trent Memoirs
After nearly five decades (and, indeed, the same number of volumes), one might think they were well-acquainted with the Lady Isabella Trent--dragon naturalist, scandalous explorer, and perhaps as infamous for her company and feats of daring as she is famous for her discoveries and additions to the scientific field.
And yet--after her initial adventure in the mountains of Vystrana, and her exploits in the depths of war-torn Eriga, to the high seas aboard The Basilisk, and then to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia--the Lady Trent has captivated hearts along with fierce minds. This concluding volume will finally reveal the truths behind her most notorious adventure--scaling the tallest peak in the world, buried behind the territory of Scirland's enemies--and what she discovered there, within the Sanctuary of Wings.
I liked this one so much more.

Also Tor, which has been such a fantastic place to find good fantasy the last few years. Honestly, like 70% of the new books I read are from them, and Isabella, Lady Trent, is one of my fav fictional ladies. She's a scientist who takes no crap and is braver than I could ever be, and she gets to watch half a century of her world's history unfolding. It's a world kind of like ours during the top of the English Empire, but it's different enough that she can tell about a world much more poetic than ours, where smart ladies get to prove themselves right, things that would be romantisization in hour world are accurate--and more realistic--than we'd know, and science and rationality always win out. That last one is especially great reading while the Science Marches were going on.

I'm going to miss the constant cavalcade of new kinds of dragons that make actual biological sense. The wonderful and healthy relationship she has with her princely husband Suhail. Her many travels around a big and vibrant world that manages to be exotic and fascinating without being othering or rude to the actual cultures they're based on. And her matter-of-fact but clever telling of her tale. But also, it's a good last volume in a series, where everything comes together for a really neat payoff, and she gets to finally get the acclaim she's deserved since the first book. May all our biographies come out as well!

PROS:
CONS:
Lady Trent!
Dragons!
Basically all the characters
Awesome payoff, emotionally and plot-ally
The worldbuilding is phenomenal
Science ftw
Adventure-scientists like in old pulps but so much neater
Draconeans!
There's plenty of space to keep telling stories in this world (nudge nudge)
Mews are the new firelizards

It's the last in the series
I only own the last two

Here's my reading notebook pages for these two:


Not super-fancy, but I'm still figuring out how I'm gonna do these pages.

What books have you guys read recently? What was the best part of them, the thing you'd tell people to make them want to read? Let's talk in the comments!

My actual reviews are here:

GET THEM HERE:

- Affiliate links in those books!


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And on Youtube myself and with Joy for (un)Professional Fangirl

Monday, April 24, 2017

Did you know there's a collection of awesome old Scifi on Amazon?


I was looking up book info for my latest reviews, and I saw this! There's a collection of vintage first editions of scifi books\, a collection of paperback old scifi, and a collection of signed scifi! It's so neat, I don't even. I had to share. Go look! Maybe your favs are there, waiting for you!

- Not even affiliate links, I just thought it was cool.


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Monday, April 17, 2017

#MusicMonday - Week 16 2017's Spotify magic playlist!


I've had Spotify less time then I've had Pandora, and it's less tuned to my tastes and moods, but this is the third week since I noticed this was a thing, and it's really pretty accurate. Three pretty good goth music mixes in a row!

Tho I do sort of wonder what I'd have to do to get something other than goth on my list? Like, how many pop songs would I have to listen to? Could I survive the experiment?

Maybe it's better if I just don't do that...

What are you guys listening to this week?



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Monday, April 10, 2017

Have you guys SEEN the new Thor: Ragnarok trailer?


I love everything about this and it looks so cool and I cannot even. What do you think?

And it even had a little Loki looking all badass in a new helmet in it.



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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Book Riff - Geekerella by Ashley Poston


Guys, I am so here for these geek-girl romcom books that are starting to crop up all over. Fangirl opened my eyes, and this book, I think, can sit right next to it on the bookshelf, once I have a bookshelf built and get all my books out of storage.

Here's the official synopsis:
Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.
 
Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.
 
Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.
You can FEEL how much Poston loves geek and con culture in this book, and you can tell she knows what she's talking about. As someone who is very into these things, and who has some fandoms that mean a whole lot to my very existence*, it's so great finding a book that loves them as much as I do. There's no sly "look how weird these people are"; this is 100% "fandoms are where people find family".

I read this whole book in one day when I should have been, like, cleaning my room or something, and I don't regret it for a second. It's sweet, it's charming, it's believable both as a contemporary story and as a fairytale, and it's just so neat. She works at a food truck. Her best friend has green hair and takes no shit. Her dad founded a con that's still running. Darien is the new lead of an old fandom getting revived by movies, and he loves it as much as everyone else in the fandom does. There's a great You've Got Mail-ness woven in. She solves her own problems. It's all just So Good.

Anything where geeks and misfits find family instead of being converted to normalness or treated as weird and Other, I'm already on it's side. But then when it's also a romance as sweet as when romcoms remembered that sweetness is what they're for, AND it's a total nerdfest? It's like it was made for me. It's wish-fulfillment of the best kind. We need more books like this.

Go read it. And if you've already read it, come here and let's talk about it. The saddest part about reading mostly new books is that no one else has read them yet, and it makes it a lot harder to gush about my new favs!

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books (April 4, 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594749477
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594749476

You can see my actual (less squeeful) review here at New York Journal Of Books soon!

-the amazon link is an affiliate link and I might make a few cents off of it if you click!
*I don't think I'd be who I am today without Star Trek and Star Wars at a very early age. Farscape was my first online fandom. XFiles is how I met my best friend in high school. 12 Monkeys literally saved and changed my life two years ago. Fandom is a wonderful thing and I'm so glad it was so lovingly treated here.


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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi Day!


In an attempt to get my life back where I want it to be, I've been taking refresher courses* in math. Which means I'm thinking about math a lot more than usual. Which means this is the first Pi Day in ages when I'm equally as interested in Pi as I am in Pie!

Here's Pi to the first 100 digits just in case you were wondering. Did any of you have a math teacher that had it printed up around the border of the classroom like I did? I suck at memorizing numbers, so thank god the internet happened and let me just look this up:

3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679

Lookit all those numbers!

Since the first part of that is 3.14, March 14 is Pi Day. And since mathematicians are nerds and nerds like puns, we celebrate with Pie! I always did appreciate a good pun (and a good pie).

Some random facts about Pi that I like:


Here's my Pinterest board for all things pie:


My fav pie recipe is super easy:
Mix four egg yolks with one can of sweetened condensed milk and half a cup of key lime pie; pour into a prepared gramcracker crust; cook at 350 for half an hour. Key Lime Pie!

What's your favorite pie? OR How do you feel about math?

*I say 'refresher courses' when a lot of the stuff I'm learning I don't think I ever actually learned the first time around...


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Monday, March 13, 2017

A Full Moon reading for March 2017!


ACETIC (r) - MAN - MIND

This month's Full Moon reading starts with Acetic reversed, which is generally a warning to not be so sparse in things. Don't hoard resources, don't deny them to yourself or your people, don't ration things that don't need rationing. When it's reversed, the idea of doing fine with less is a problem.

Man is all the masculine-coded* stuff we as people and cultures do. Since it's upright, it's in a positive tone: thinking, acting, being active, getting things figured out and built and done. Positive forms of masculinity (not the toxic forms), out in the world doing good, is what this card means. 

Mind is kind of a related card: it's all the stuff that happens because we have conscious thought. Thoughfulness, forethought, figuring things out, deciding what futures we'll aim for, philosophy and which ones we'll pick and apply, using our minds to solve the problems of the world, since it's in a positive tone.

All together, I'd say this month's reading is an encouragement to use our big human brains to solve problems and make things work, not to cut each other off from resources and make things worse. We're in an important part of history right now: which path will we take? This months cards say to figure it out in a dynamic and forward-thinking way that uses our collective active-bright-outward-building-talking-thinking skills in a way that makes more not less for the people.

*As in, traditionally masculine-coded, not meaning stuff that girls can't do. I have other gards for other gendered things and non-gendered things in the deck too!

If you'd like a personal reading, I offer them at 3$ a card, as many cards as you like (pick your fav number!). Contact me at pirategirljack at gmail dot com, or come talk to me on Twitter and we'll set up a reading!


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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

We Need Diverse Books is giving away awesome looking picture books to elementary schools!



We Need Diverse Books is doing a contest sort of deal to give away a set of diverse picture books to elementary schools! If you work at one, or have a kid who goes to one so you can forward the link to their teachers, you can enter: Go See.

These are the books:
  • Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra
  • Round is a Mooncake by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by Grace Lin
  • Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper, illustrated by Raul the Third
  • Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson
  • Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes, illustrated by Sanjay Patel
  • Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini
  • You Can Do It Too! by Karen Baicker, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
  • I Can Do It Too! by Karen Baicker, illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max
  • Bintou’s Braids by Sylviane A. Diouf, illustrated by Shane W. Evans
  • The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Frank Morrison

- I'm not associated with the giveaway, I just think kids should get to see themselves in books + white kids should grow up from the very beginning knowing that there's other perspectives and ways of being out there.


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Monday, March 6, 2017

February writing report! Score: kinda lame


I say "kinda" because it's not a total wash: I only wrote new pages two or three pages all month, but I typed up thirty pages to exchange with my crit partner for the first time in almost a year! I also wrote something like 20 poems* (some of them were at the end of January, don't really remember how many), filled a bunch of pages of my journal, and wrote four fanfics**.

So it's not like I'm not writing, it's just that I'm not moving as fast as I'd like on the Big Project, so this month I'm going to work on getting back in the habit of writing more new pages for the novel...because it needs to get finished before it destroys my brain with all it's lingering around. It's been there too long--time to get it into other people's heads!

How did your writing go last month?

* Probably not all of them are good, but I'm dealing with existential dread by writing poetry, like I did when I was 14-21, and it's refreshing. A lot of them are political; only slightly less than that are about Mars. Brains make strange connections.
** I'm aiming for a minimum of one story a week, but I'm two weeks behind right now; I need to pick up the pace, I think. Aiming for three this week to get even again.


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