Book Review: The Wicked + the Divine

6358968060753326911867408242_WickedDivine01-2ndPTGI sure do love a book that leaves me saying, “Holy crap, what just happened? Did that really happen?” The comic book series The Wicked + the Divine by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie is full of such moments, none more than in Issue #11 which was so WTF that I had to rummage around online to make sure that I actually read what I read (I did).


The premise of The Wicked + the Divine is that every ninety years a pantheon of twelve gods is reborn. The gods have great fame and great powers but are fated to die within two years of being granted godhood (before that they are humans with no knowledge of what lies ahead). Each god is recognized and deified (by an immortal, Ananke) with these words:


You are of the Pantheon.

You will be loved.

You will be hated.

You will be brilliant.

Within two years you will be dead.


The first two volumes (Issues #1 – #11) involve a human, Laura, who becomes friends with Lucifer (modeled on David Bowie’s Thin White Duke Persona). Laura tries to solve a mystery that involves Lucifer and in doing so she becomes part of the Pantheon’s world. Laura longs to become one of the gods even though her life would be short – she’s a very frustrating character in her endless obsessions and her angst, which seems at odds with her supportive family life but which is also in keeping her with her being a lonely teenager.


The gods are massive celebrities, literal and figurative rock and pop stars. The book is a commentary on mortality (the author was inspired to write the series by his father’s diagnosis with terminal cancer). But it’s also a commentary on how we worship, hate, and discard our celebrities. Of course in reading the series, the reader becomes another level in this examination of how we consume people we think are glorious and beautiful and how their deaths add to their fascination. The comic book characters are fictional, but the reader’s process is much the same as the rock star fan’s process – the characters entice us because they are beautiful and gifted, and the tension of the comic comes from the fact that most of the characters are fated to live no more than two years from the time the story begins.


In her insightful essay, “The Assassination of Cordelia Chase,” Jennifer Crusie points out that readers “want to be surprised; they don’t want to be betrayed,” and that “The choice between honoring character to show growth and mutilating character to serve plot spells the difference between the delighted reaction, ‘I can’t believe she did that!” and the betrayed protest, “I don’t believe she’d do that.’” W+D is full of moments that are insane and yet don’t feel like a betrayal. You don’t see these moments coming, particularly the end of Issue #11. But after it happens, there’s a sense that all along this moment was inevitable.


The coloring and lettering of the comic is brilliant. Everything you need to know about Laura’s fascinating with the Pantheon can be seen in the contrast between the coloring of the everyday world and the coloring of scenes that include a deity. The comic includes male, female, transgender, and gender queer characters, including several who are bisexual. Many of the characters, including Laura, are people of color (a running theme is that Ameratsu was previously a Caucasian girl named Hazel and that therefore she is committing cultural appropriation by assuming the identity of a Japanese Deity).


This is a dark comic, not a happy romp, definitely for older teens and adults. However, it is incredibly textured and original and compelling. I have no idea where it’s going but it’s an exciting and chaotic ride.

In Which I Brag Shamelessly

IMG_1578.jpgI recently finished my last belt in Tae Kwan Do. No, I did not become a Grand Master, the level at which presumably you finally learn to fly across rooftops like those people in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. No, I made it all the way to Low Green Belt. Those who know about the belt levels in Tae Kwan Do are not impressed, because frankly, that’s not very high as belts go (I completed white, orange, and yellow). Those who know my medical history, however, realize that this makes me a total badass. Here, for example, is a picture of my ankles, which, as you can see are very confused about their job. Ankles, your task is to hold the leg up. It’s not rocket science. Ideally, the leg is at a 90 degree angle from the foot. My left ankle in particular stomps so far over that I basically walk on the inside edge of my foot. My toes are weird because the foot bones grew improperly. So doing things like balancing on one foot, or pivoting on one foot, or heck, even standing upright? are harder than you’d think.


I also have mild to severe problems with my knees, my hips, my back, my shoulder, and my neck. In the last two months of class I adjusted to a new medication that turned me into a drooling zombie, I battled an evil death virus, and I got a cortisone shot in my hip. I took Tae Kwan Do for six months, three times a week, and this is what happened when I came home every single time:



I took a class mostly with kids, all of whom bounced around like rubber bands while I limped from one spot to the other. I did not look like I thought a martial artist should look. I looked like a middle-aged, slightly overweight, very short, very confused woman with glasses who could not remember the moves. I was like the Panda in Kung Fu Panda without the bouncy quality.


So. Confused.

Still, the fact remains that I hauled my arthritic butt to class three days a week (more or less) for six months and limped my way through my forms. Eventually my doctor grounded me, and frankly that came as a relief because by that time EVERYTHING I did in class hurt. It hurt just to stand around. So it is with a relatively light heart that I toddle off to the heated therapy pool to do, I dunno, water aerobics or something – hopefully something that won’t make my knees feel like my patellas are about to shoot across the room.

I can’t say that I learned all that much Tae Kwan Do – I mean, I learned a lot, but I’m still at a very low level. But I learned a lot about myself. I learned that I’m more interested in exercise for the sake of the long game (managing my arthritis and overall health) than in mastering any particular skill. I learned that I’m capable of much more than I thought I was. I learned how to throw a punch and how to do a front kick and how to block.



Front kicks are AMAZINGLY satisfying. I mean, you can really get some force behind a front kick. They are THE BEST.


Above all I learned how rewarding it can be to get off the bench. For months I was so embarrassed to get up in class, with all the little kids, in front of the parents who were hanging out on the benches waiting for class to get over. I felt self-conscious. I felt ridiculous.

Now that I’m done, I feel badass. Because I tried something, and I learned something (and as a side note, my pants all started to fit again, so that’s a win). I’ll miss it, although I won’t miss the specific sensation of getting my bad hip to swivel into a round kick. And I’ll still be around because my daughter (who took these photos) is also in Tae Kwan Do. Her goal? Grand Master!




Between the Lines Book Club Announces Our June Book: Updates

between the lines book club logoMy dear book clubbers, I’m so happy to report that I have confirmation on our next series of books (June through November 2016! Arden Dimick Library is reopening in June and our next in person meeting is at Arden Dimick Library, in the Community Room, at 10:30AM on June 25th.


Our book for June is All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. Book Club copies will be available on June 7th. Just go to the circulation desk at Arden Dimick and ask for a book club copy and they will give you one.


All The Light We Cannot See won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2015. It tells the story of two young people who attempt to survive WWII. Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind girl who sends out radio messages on behalf of the French Resistance during the occupation of France. Werner Pfenni is a German soldier who specializes in locating enemy radio signals. They only meet briefly, yet they permanently change each other’s lives.


The book begins by exploring the parallel lives of Marie and Werner in the their prewar childhoods, and explores the confusion and surrealism of war as well as details of survival. It’s a very lyrical book with poetic imagery. While widely praised by critics and by readers, some have criticized its portrayal of Marie as overly helpless and passive. We’ll have more posts about this book on Fridays throughout the month of June.


We usually meet on the fourth Saturday of every month, but please note that in July we are meeting on the fifth Saturday (July 30). Our book for July is The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough. This non-fiction book tells the story of how the brothers invented the first airplane, focusing on the invention and aftermath of the brothers’ flights.


Subsequent books are:

August 27: The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins

September 24: Behind the Beautiful Forevers, by Katherine Boo

October 22: Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

November 19: The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

Note that the November meeting is early to accommodate for Thanksgiving weekend.

These books were selected by Book Club vote, with the exception of Girl on a Train, which was suggested by the Arden-Dimick head librarian (Goldfinch, one of the vote results, was not available, alas, but we thought this would be a good substitute, and we’ll put Goldfinch on the list at a later time). I can’t wait to see you all again – and if you follow us long distance, be sure to leave comments about the books so you can participate online!

Wednesday Videos Meet Potter Puppet Pals

WednesdayVideoI love Potter Puppet Pals. I do. But here’s the thing – my tween has been walking around going “Snape…Snape…Severus Snape” for DAYS. I am LOSING MY MIND. And if I have to go to the asylum, YOU ARE ALL COMING WITH ME.

So, if you dare, watch “The Mysterious Ticking Noise.” And may God have mercy on your soul.

Baycon or Bust!

f1676fa4-208a-4155-8136-f8a9f9536b1eI’m so excited to be a guest at Baycon this year. This convention is one of my favorites because so many of my friends are there. I can’t wait to spend a few days hanging out with my besties while my child joins a gang (or rather, does a lot of LARPing). Bacon (which autocorrect swears is “Bacon”, we can only wish) will be at the San Mateo Marriott from May 27 – May 30.

However, it’s not all hanging out at the pool for me – I have PANELS! Here’s my schedule:


Raising Kids In Fandom Culture

Saturday 13:00 – 14:30, Collaborate 2 (San Mateo Marriott)

Dr. Ellen Coatney, JC Arkham, Sarah Williams, Carrie Sessarego, Linden

Frankenstein at 200: It’s Alive!

Saturday 14:30 – 16:00, Synergy 4 (San Mateo Marriott)

Ms Sarah Stegall (M), Bob Kanefsky, Jason Malcolm Stewart, Fred Wiehe, Carrie Sessarego

Delphic Oracle

Saturday 16:00 – 17:30, Synergy 5 (San Mateo Marriott)

In which our intrepid panelists answer the deep questions of life. One. Word. At. A. Time.

Todd McCaffrey (M), Jon Del Arroz, Stacy Ferguson, Steven Mix, Sarah Pugliaresi, Carrie Sessarego

Todd McCaffrey Hosts, “Are You A Werewolf?”

Saturday 17:30 – 19:00, Connect 6 (San Mateo Marriott)

Complete with Fluffy!

Todd McCaffrey (M), Stacy Ferguson, Taunya Gren, Megan O’Keefe, Queen Rhawnie Pino, Carrie Sessarego

Frakking Piece of Shaz-Bat

Sunday 13:00 – 14:30, Collaborate 2 (San Mateo Marriott)

Are made up swears and slurs acceptable in speculative fiction, or are they just a form of slipping crude language into stories without offending readers?

Jacob Fisk (M), Carrie Sessarego, Juliette Wade, John O’Halloran

Wonder Woman After 50

Sunday 14:30 – 16:00, Connect 4 (San Mateo Marriott)

Ageism in fandom, or, Mom aren’t you too old to dress up in silly costumes?

Debbie Bretschneider, Taunya Gren, Deborah J. Ross, Carrie Sessarego, Denise Tanaka, Eva Carrender

Something Wicked

Sunday 20:30 – 22:00, Connect 6 (San Mateo Marriott)

To Be Determined

Jenni Brush, Jon Del Arroz, M. Todd Gallowglas, Steven Mix, Cody Parcell, Susie Rodriguez, Carrie Sessarego




Between the Lines Book Club: Fantasy

between the lines book club logoOnly one more month until Arden Dimick Library is done with renovations, and the Sacramento area Book Clubbers can meet in person! Our next meeting will be on May 6, 2016, at 10:30AM at Arden Dimick.

In the meantime, I’m encouraging readers to try reading something outside their usual genres. This month, if your usual tastes lean towards mystery or romance or mainstream fiction, try out a fantasy genre novel. Here’s a link to an earlier post I wrote in which I suggest some great fantasy novels for readers new to the genre. From J.R.R. Tolkien to Saladin Ahmed, the genre continues to delight readers.

Enjoy your month, and tell us what you are reading these days!

The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin

61rH8sThrbL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Geek Girl Heather Thayer discovered N.K. Jemisin and she has much to say!

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin is a book that I had to read twice in one week. The first time, I devoured it; I gulped it down in frantic, too-large bites. My desire to find out what happens/what is happening/what happened outpaced my ability to digest what I was reading. As soon as I finished the last page I turned back to the first page to start over, but to slowly savor this time.


Let’s start this again. The end of the prologue tells it like it is:


This is what you must remember: the ending of one story is just the beginning of another. This has happened before, after all. People die. Old orders pass. New societies are born. When we say “the world has ended,” it’s usually a lie, because the planet is just fine.

But this is the way the world ends.

This is the way the world ends.

This is the way the world ends.

For the last time.


And so it is. Or will be. We aren’t there quite yet. The book is set at a time when the Earth is plagued by earthquakes and other seismic events. Some of these events are so severe that they cause massive death and long periods of famine – often near-extinction-level events. These periods are called “seasons.” There are people — politely called “orogenes,” offensively called “rogga” — who can reach into the earth and use its seismic power. A trained orogene can do amazing things, move mountains as it were (literally). An untrained one can unintentionally cause seismic events or release/draw power that kills. Often a young orogene is discovered because someone gets killed or hurt in a moment of anger or annoyance. People are terrified of them and they are ostracized – exiled when lucky, killed when not.


The book is written in a conversational tone – it flips from past to present, third person to second, gives little hints and asides that sometimes don’t make sense until suddenly they do. One can almost picture an old auntie at a fireside telling the tale. I won’t say anything about what actually happens in the book because the inherent pleasure of the book is letting it unfold around you. It can be initially quite confusing until one gets one’s bearings, but that is part of the enjoyment – that moment of “oh, I know where we are!”


N.K. Jemisin is an author who has become famous for writing stories that feature outsiders. By creating worlds and characters that have to grapple with the idea of “other” she takes on issues of diversity and identity, without (in my opinion) getting all preachy about it. I found The Fifth Season much more compelling than her previous series, The Inheritance Trilogy, which also addressed concerns of being an outsider. I read that series recently and it was fine, but it didn’t stick with me. This book was more compelling, largely due to the writing style and an important difference. Orogenes are not a good stand-in for diversity issues facing America today — unlike non-whites, women and LGBT people, orogenes are decidedly different and have powers that can make them inherently dangerous. Of course, they can also be immensely helpful, so the story addresses how society chose to balance the two. Spoiler alert: (horrific) mistakes were made.


This book is the first in The Broken Earth series. The next book, The Obelisk Gate, is due out this year – probably in autumn. In the meantime I will undoubtedly read and re-read this wonderful book with chapter titles like “Syenite breaks her toys” and “you’re getting the band back together” to see what other gems I can find hidden in this intricate tale.