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This one feels rough. Like I feel like the author has talent, significant talent even,but this is the first time in a while that I’ve ranted about a book while trying to get the review together. And a lot of that is down to my somehow entirely missing that it’s a re-imagining and a romance that I just couldn’t get into for various reasons. That all said, this one is thanks to netGalley, here’s Mary Baader Kaley’s Burrowed. Enjoy!

Burrowed cover

Generations past a genetic plague swept through humanity, killing many and leaving those who remained split between strong, healthy Omniterraneans and sickly Subterraneans who must dwell in underground tunnels for the sake of their health. In this split world brilliant but sickly Zuzan Cayan’s short life expectancy leaves her with no chance at her dream job, raising the next generation of Subter children. Despite this, she is pushed to join one of the preeminent research Burrows to study the genetic codes of Omnits and Subters. To find a way to bring the shattered remains of humanity back together. At least, that was supposed to be her job until a plague sweeps through the Omnits, threatening humanity as a whole if Zuzan cannot find a cure.

Reviewing Mary Baader Kaley’s Burrowed almost feels unfair. I somehow completely missed that it was a Jane Eyre reimagining and have to admit that I probably would not have picked it up had I noticed. Not that I have anything against Jane Eyre, I simply have not read it and find that other genre retellings tend to feel a bit off, like the author had something interesting they wanted to do but felt constrained by the source material. There is also that going from recombining two vastly different offshoots of the same species to curing a plague that only affects one offshoot is a lot to cover in one book. But I was curious and the idea of a sci-fi post-apocalyptic medical drama has serious promise.

This one moves slowly. There is extended time given to our protagonist’s childhood from leaving her inexplicably terrible nurse maid to her arrival at Cayan Burrow, home to what are apparently simultaneously the sickest Subter children as well as the brightest and most promising, to the days just before her graduation to adulthood. A lot of it feels unnecessary, but it is also some of the more enjoyable writing in the book. Past it we get the introductions of Zuzan’s soon to be boss slash love interest and the almost comically awful antagonist with the promised plot following shortly after, somewhere around the halfway mark of the book.

The romance eats way more page space than it feels like it deserves. Maven Ringol is Zuzan’s boss and is quite happy to pull the boss card on her to make her do things his way, usually her actual job. Seems to be deeply attracted to her and absolutely repelled by her by turns because she refuses to just do her job without all the information needed and without questioning him. And just generally seems to bounce between being a decent guy and a complete jerk. Zuzan also cannot seem to decide if she hates him with every fiber of her being or desperately wants him to love her. None of it works for me as a reader which, unfortunately, means that a lot of the second half of the book feels like a drag. Especially when a lot of the science feels like it was skimmed over in favor of rushing to Zuzan butting into someone else’s project and showing that she is so much better than everyone else at functionally everything.

Like, Zuzan is the rare character that I have little issue with calling too perfect. She has perfect memory, not eddic memory, specifically perfect memory as though she has the actual information right in front of her. She is not allowed to be wrong in significant ways or allowed to fail beyond what it takes to rachet up the drama of a single scene. She is not even allowed to stay ugly by Subter standards and keep her protective goggles that allow her to see. And I hate that so much. Like, the goggles are introduced as something she desperately needs in order to see and interact with the world around her. She has to take tests on paper because the projector tablets everyone else uses do not work with her goggles. This is a big deal and a major part of how Zuzan is more fragile than other Subters. But then she gets to Ringol’s Burrow and they just get replaced no problem.

Cayan Burrow with its highly respected, often imitated medera just did not have the funding to get her anything other than the goggles. It just feels like a weird conflux of Kaley needing Zuzan to be pretty for the romance to happen and the world building not quite being complete. Here is an item that can so totally change Zuzan’s life and, given the existence of the replacement contact lenses, presumably the lives of many other Subters. So, even if not the super expensive version given to Zuzan, why is there not something similar that would be better than her goggles? The Subters have short life spans and need as many people as possible doing as much as they can for society as a whole and this would improve both people’s lives and their chances of helping Subter society. It is kind of similar to my wondering why, despite relying heavily on them for building and maintaining the caves, the Subters and Omnits do not seem to communicate at all. Talking to them could have solved half of the plot to Burrowed or at least given it a bit more depth than just telling the reader that Omnits are dumb and aggressive.

The whole book is kind of a mess like that. Clearly Kaley is a pretty decent writer, but I want to see what she does when not constrained by trying to adapt someone else’s work. I want to see what happens when she digs into her world building a little more and pokes at the mechanics of her world to see what works and why. So, while Burrowed was really not my cup of tea and gets a two out of five from me, I really do want to pick up something she writes again, maybe two or three books from now.


House Keeping 5/30/23

It is absolutely wild to realize that May is nearly over. Like, absolutely wild. Especially since yesterday was busy enough to feel like a week on its own.

But that means that Pride Month is right around the corner, so, you know, bright side to the weird fast forwarding of time.

But, let’s see. I have a book review close to ready for tomorrow. A little more work and it should be as good as it’s going to get. A good way into the TTRPG Taster Starfinder post, still working on it when and where I can. I swear, at some point I’m just going to finish what I’ve got all in one go and get it posted.

That’s about it for this one though.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. Either way, stay safe and have a great rest of the week!

Monday again and not only do I get to talk about dice, I get to talk about locally made dice. These guys are crafted by local artist and author Dana Fraedrich, I was just lucky enough to run into her at a craft market not too long ago. So, introduction in order, dice on the table, let’s roll!

Beautiful and Toxic (3)

Beautiful & Toxic are a lovely looking set. I love the teal and the almost aggressively bright yellow and the weird, almost grimy green that comes from the way they mix. Part of what makes them interesting is that I’m not quite sure what sort of pigments were used for them. It’s pearlescent and a little glittery, but it looks like there’s variations on how densely pigmented areas of the dice are. It gives a nifty striated effect and leads to the dice being semi-opaque around the edges. They’re a nice fit for both parts of the set name I think.

With that, I do admit that the teal of the inking can be a little difficult to see on sides that are mostly teal. This is real dependent on the lighting where I’m trying to read the dice. It isn’t such a big issue that I want to re-ink the set, the teal of the inking looks quite nice with the set, I just have to be careful to make sure I roll them out in the light rather than under my computer stand or something similar.

Beautiful and Toxic (1)

As to the hand feel for the set, Beautiful & Toxic are a sharp edged set, so most of them have pointy corners. This does mean that they aren’t the most pleasant to just roll between the palms, but they are a delight to roll. They’re also quite well polished. While I could find a couple places where they had been shaped a bit by the polishing, I had to look really hard for those places.

Testing them out, none of the dice seem to have favorite sides and they all seem to roll with a good degree of randomness. Holding them up to the light, I couldn’t see fully through them, but what I could see of them did not seem to have any signs of bubbles.

Beautiful and Toxic (2)

These dice are an absolute delight. I dig the colors and their interactions. They’re a delight to roll and roll nicely. And they leave me wanting to find a character for them. They get a five out of five from me.

As to what sort of character I want to use these for, my first impulse is some kind of sorcerer someone bright and fun and more than a little bit of trouble. Definitely chaotic, probably riding the line between neutral and good pretty hard. The sort who would help an NPC and then suggest robbing them half a scene later. My other thought might be some kind of cleric, like, maybe to a god of healing or to a water deity. Still bright, but perhaps a bit more scaled back and serious. I kind of want to try writing up both.

House Keeping 5/23/23

We’re coming up on the end of the school year here, not sure I’m looking forward to that. The shop is going to get much busier because of it, but I’ve been moved away from the main shop to another, more recently opened, location. Place isn’t quite dead, but there’s a whole lot of empty shops and a whole lot of folks who just show up to walk  laps in the air conditioning.

Can’t say I blame them for that though. It’s been more than a little warm out.

But, second verse same as the first this week. I’m running behind with the book review because I’m working on reviews for stuff that isn’t going to come out for a while yet. It’s being really useful for making sure that I don’t have big gaps in the schedule later on and also making sure that I get the books I’ve read lately reviewed as close to when I’ve read them as possible, but it’s a lot of work to make things easier for my future self that’s putting present me in a bit of trouble.

I’m sure I’ll get over it. It’s trouble easily dealt with the longer I work on it.

That does also mean that I’m still picking away at the TTRPG Taster for Starfinder. I’m running into some serious pitfalls with the writing where I keep wanting to veer off into other thoughts and I find myself slightly worried that, having come to it after playing Pathfinder second edition, I might need a sources section at the end of my write up. It almost feels like I went into it braced for problems and so went looking for fixes to them ahead of time instead of going through the game on its own merits first.

That’s about it for this one though. I’ll get more work knocked out as I can and see what all I can do to make that easier on myself. There’s not a lot of point to all this if both you as my readers and me as the person writing aren’t having a good time after all.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. In either case, stay safe and have a great rest of the week!

A bit late in the day on a Monday for this, but it’s still Monday and I still get to talk about dice. Always worth looking forward to, for me at least. These guys are from Lindorm Dice’s Sea Shanty collection, I’m finally getting to play with them in a game. So, that said, without further ado. Let’s roll!

Drunken Sailor (3)I do love me some dice with swirls of different colors and interplay between opaques and clears that turn three colors of resin into about a dozen depending on the blending and the light. Drunken Sailor’s swirls of clear blue and purple and an opaque cream color makes for a delightful set that catches light quite nicely without the presence of glitter or foils. It makes me think of blueberries and vanilla ice cream or the sky just past twilight before true night has set in.

The sticking point in that line of thought is the inking. The plain white works well for visibility, standing out against all three colors and their various combinations. But it feels like a bit of a boring choice. I feel like a sandy brown might have been more dynamic, maybe gone a bit better with the theming, but that’s likely not one of the readily available colors from most manufacturers. So, this might be a set I want to re-ink down the road, but I’d want to make sure that I had the color just right first.

Drunken Sailor (2)

As with other Lindorm sets I’ve had the chance to play with, Drunken Sailor features rounded edges and corners. This makes for a smooth feel in hand and dice that roll readily. I haven’t noticed any favorite sides or any bubbling in the dice, and they all seem to roll with a good degree of randomness.

There is some clumping in the inking, which is a little annoying but not something that most players are likely to see any effects from. That is one of those, thinks I’m sure I only notice because I’m looking for problems. And also, despite the clumping, the inking is neatly cleaned up around the numbers themselves for the most part. There’s an odd bit on the d20 where it looks like one of the faces got over polished and so the number is partially lost in the paint, thought still visible enough to not cause confusion.

Drunken Sailor (1)

Drunken Sailor is another set that I quite like and because I like it, I want to change the bits that I didn’t enjoy as much. I want to get just the right shade of sandy brown to re-ink them. I want to see if, when I de-ink them before doing the re-inking, I can work around that slightly over polished side and make it look nicer. But I want to do those things because the dice are already a five out of five for me. Like, I love the color selection on them. The hand feel is good. It’s a solid set of dice.

As to what sort of character these make me think of, I confess that I pulled them out for my punchy Tiefling Magus part way through our first session in the fey realms. Before we wound up taken into our presumed big bad’s kingdom under the hill Jimmie might have found an important clue to where some missing kids had gone in the form of an abandoned basket full of berries and then proceeded to eat the evidence. So they got pulled for reasons of  they put me in mind of blueberries and vanilla ice cream rather than anything class related.

Ok, so, late with this one on two levels. I did not realize that this had been out for more than a year until I saw Aconyte talking about the next Rosemary Jones Arkham Horror novel coming out here soon. I’m real excited for that just like I was really excited for this one. So you know it was worth the read and then some. This one is thanks to the nice folks at Aconyte Books, here’s Rosemary Jones’ The Deadly Grimoire. Enjoy!

The Deadly Grimoire cover

Three years ago Betsy Baxter was to be part of a Sidney Fitzwilliam film, The Mask of Silver. Three years ago she barely escaped the burning Fitzwilliam house, nearly caught in a mirror that was not a mirror as something went terribly terribly wrong. Despite the years of success that have followed, owning her own studio and the wildly popular The Flapper Detective serial, despite staring in said serial and filling her time with death defying stunts and maddening amounts of paperwork, Betsy cannot help but worry over the friends who disappeared during that fateful filming. Her personal investigating finally bears fruit when she receives word that one of her friends has reappeared. With one returned, another attacked, and rumors of a tome with a truly storied history and mysterious powers, Betsy Baxter returns to Arkham with new allies in tow to find a way to mount a rescue and, perhaps, prevent supernatural horrors from breaking loose and devouring so many more people.

When I heard that Rosemary Jones had written a follow up to Mask of Silver, I knew I very much wanted to read it. That The Deadly Grimoire is both a sequel to a book I enjoyed greatly and focused on one of the more fun side characters leads to some fantastic opportunities for a vastly different book that still follows through from Mask of Silver while also feeling like it is expanding into another big mystery rather than continuing a different facet of the same one.

And the mystery in this one is just flat fun with a strange seaweed creeping its way into Arkham and a doctor down in Innsmouth who just so happens to be offering a seaweed therapy to his patients. We have Betsy, the woman who can do it all, who uses death defying stunts as a means to relax, who is brilliantly competent and kind. We have a fearless ace pilot, Winnifred, and a poor cursed bookseller, Tom, who has found himself on the hook for a one-of-a-kind grimoire with two legitimate and legitimately dangerous buyers. All fantastic characters, and that is before I even start in on the antagonists. I feel like I could talk about the antagonists for ages with the way they are a study in contrasts from the word go.

I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed Nova Malone. She respects Betsy and Winnifred, likes them even, while also being very willing to do whatever it takes to ensure the prosperity of Innsmouth and its people. Contrast her to Dr. Ezra Hughs, he of the seaweed treatments, a man of standing and wealth who seeks only to further enrich himself despite being in a position to help a great many people. This book made me want to see a novel starring one antagonist and left me wanting to see the other punched squarely in the nose and I am entirely about it.

If there is one place where it felt like The Deadly Grimoire was a little less than expected, I admit that it felt a little light on the horror aspect. Part of this might be down to the focus being more on the human side of things, finding the grimoire, stopping the antagonists, saving Max from his disappearance. Part of it might be that Betsy herself seems to cope with the horrors by trying to fit them into ideas for movies, like there are places where she is clearly terrified, but also there was a big set piece moment and I cannot for the life of me remember it as standout horrifying. The mystery was also a little light, but that is hardly a complaint because I found myself here much more for the characters and the introduction of Innsmouth than Betsy trying to find Max or the question of the grimoire.

I very much enjoyed The Deadly Grimoire and I very much look forward to seeing what Rosemary Jones does next. This one leaves me wanting to ramble about the characters, especially the antagonists. I want to talk about how Betsy is absolutely ridiculous as a character, as in preposterous, and I love her for it. For being kind before anything else and clever beyond being an actress, director, producer. I love how weirdly kind the book felt for being set in the 1920’s and being cosmic horror. The book gets a five out of five from me.

House Keeping 5/16/23

I continue to be exhausted y’all. Lots of stuff going on all at once, not a lot of space for rest.

Working on a book review, but, but, the book I’m working on a review for right now doesn’t come out for awhile. I just wanted to get my thoughts down while my excitement for the story was fresh. So, the review for this week might be on time, if I can get something written tonight, or it might be a bit later in the week.

TTRPG Taster post is, likewise, still in the works. Brain has not been braining well and while I have a lot to talk about, I’m also having trouble getting everything ordered and lined up nice. I keep veering off into stuff about the story we played rather than the game system itself, and the story isn’t really useful to how the game goes as an alternative to D&D.

That’s about it for this one though.

Standard stuff, if you like what I’m doing here feel free to leave a comment or a like. In any case, stay safe and have a great rest of the week!


Monday again and after a busy, but quite enjoyable, weekend I get to talk about dice once again. This is one of those treating myself sets that I’d had my eye on for ages at my local games shop and finally just got because they’re fun looking. That all said, it’s Monday, I have dice, let’s roll!

Magenteal (3)

The Mintgenta dice set is part of Gate Keeper Games’ Aether Dice line. Which is to say, their blended multi color dice with glitter inclusions. These guys are a bit brighter in person than my camera gives them credit for. The teal is contrasted nicely by the magenta glitter, making it almost seem to glow in some lights and the magenta is complemented by the glitter nicely while also boosting that lovely teal. The pale grey of the inking, plus the semi-opaque nature of the dice, gives the whole set an almost dream like vibe that I dig.

Likewise, I haven’t brought up the quality of the inking on a dice set in a while, but it’s really nicely done on this set. Few notable bubbles in the paint, no mess to speak of, and very little in the way of clumping.

Magenteal (1)

As to hand feel, the dice are smooth in hand, like exceptionally smooth. The company does talk about their dice being heavier than average for resin dice but, while the set is probably heavier than a Chessex or HD set of similar size, I don’t know that I would have really noticed that aspect without being aware of the advertising. I haven’t really noticed anything in the way of favorite sides or anything that would indicate that any of the dice are notably unbalanced and they feel nice to roll.

Magenteal (1)

So, all told I’m really pleased with the Mintgenta set. The colors are good and work fantastically with the glitter chosen. The set feels nice in hand and rolls nicely. It’s a very conventional set, but one that I greatly enjoy. Five out of five from me.

Thinking of what sort of character I would use these for, I kind of want to use them for my upcoming Tiefling rogue. I’m going for a sort of wiz-rogue blend here to help fill out party necessities, also because it just feels fun and I miss having off magic. But yeah, fae themed campaign where the party has accidentally wound up wondering under the hill, the dice feel like they fit the campaign while also being the sort of thing that fits a playfully spooky rogue with a handful of spells at her disposal.

I was later finishing this than I would’ve liked, but this is one I’ve wanted to talk to for a little while now. Like, I feel like it’s obvious that I really like horror and this was the kind of horror that I just wanted to sit and chew on as I read it. So this was my chance to sort of go back and do that a second time and now I just want to read it again immediately. This one is courtesy of netGalley, here’s Ness Brown’s The Scourge Between Stars. Enjoy!

The Scourge Between Stars cover

The bright hope for a future among the stars has failed. The planet humanity chose for their new home proved inhospitable, far more so than any of the colonists or their descendants could have expected. It was generations ago now that the ships turned around and began their trip back to Earth. Jacklyn Albright has been threading the needle of keeping order on the Calypso as the ship limps its way homeward, balancing the needs of her people with the reality of supplies that simply cannot last them to Earth. As acting captain, she feels the sharp edge of failure with each report of unrest among the ship’s Wards, and the shadow of her father looms over every choice she makes. When a grewsome discovery reveals a new danger, a mysterious being ripping crew members apart, Jacklyn will have to lead her crew in a desperate hunt that might cost the Calypso its very future.

Ness Brown’s The Scourge Between Stars is a delightful bite of science fiction with fantastic character work and excellently handled tension. The setting of this generation ship that absolutely cannot make it to Earth in the condition it is in with the supplies it has lends the whole narrative a feeling of being doomed from the start that only sinks in further as the story goes. Which means that is what I want to talk about first.

The first third or so of The Scourge Between Stars is given to building this slow, sad doom. This doom of never enough. Of being stuck in middle of a war between powers the people of the Calypso cannot comprehend. Of the world that this ship represents to these people unraveling lifetimes away from the home they desperately hope will still be there for them. Novellas do not have a lot of space and every bit of it that this set up is given is beautifully used, especially when the first person disappears and the highly experimental data droid, Watson, freaks out about a door that is about to open while on deck, causing a ton of damage and, indeed, hurting crew members. It is a new flavor of tension and a breaking point that lets that new tension build up quickly, and it works so well because of the slow build that came before.

And amid all that stress and the building horror of the situation, the thing that makes it bearable is that Jack cares. And that, more than duty or the need to live up to her father’s work as captain, informs every choice she makes. It is caring that drives her into the teeth of these mysterious invaders and caring that slowly changes her views on Watson over the course of the novella. I live for characters like this, for seeing someone who is determined to see their people safe no matter what. For the kind of protagonist who shoulders the mantle of authority as best they can for the people they lead and serve. And, as much as the story is a one and done situation, I found myself wanting to spend more time with Jack and with Watson and the rest of the significant characters, Brown did a really good job with the character work and it more than shows.

And that is sort of where I land on The Scourge Between Stars. Ness Brown did a really good job with their characters and maintaining tension and making the setting of the Calypso feel like a character in its own right. I want to see more of their writing as soon as possible. The Scourge Between Stars earns a five out of five, well worth checking out if you get the chance.

House Keeping 5/9/23

It occurs to me that I didn’t do anything here for my birthday this year. Feels like something of a shame, but that’s not the worst thing to have happened. I had a delightful weekend and am hoping the good vibes will last a while.

I am working on a just for me review project though. Not sure when that’ll be ready to talk about, but it’s being fun so far.

And the Saturday markets have opened up again for the year, so while I’m still drinking on that pack of Jasmine Dragon House Blend, I’ve also picked up a pack from the same tea makers of their Witcher’s Elixir. Looking forward to trying that one out.

That all said, things’ve been a little rough at work. Change of seasons, seasonal third location opening up, just a general lack of supplies and the boss not seeming concerned about it. I’ll either weather it and come out the other side humming if not singing or I’ll find something else, hopefully something better.

As to things for the blog, still working on the TTRPG Taster for Starfinder. Hoping I’ll get that done this week. I’m picking away at a book review that I hope can go live tomorrow, but it might be a touch later in the week. Busy, chaotic times here.

That’s about it for this one. I’m still working on getting back into the swing of things, but I’m making progress and that feels good.

So, standard stuff, stay safe and have a great rest of the week!