Five Reasons You Should Read Seanan McGuire’s October Daye Books

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The latest book in Seanan McGuire’s long-running October Daye urban fantasy series, Once Broken Faith, came out a little over a month ago. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m a McGuire fangirl. I love her writing, and I recommend this series every chance I get.

But now we’re 10 books in…and frankly, it can be a little intimidating to start a long-running series. I’ve seen many series lose steam and direction after a few books are out.

That’s not the case here.

I thought I’d break it down, point by point–the five reasons you should pick up the October Daye books if you haven’t already:

1) The long-term payoff. One of the big problem with long-running series is that they often lose focus as they go on. Not true with the October Daye books. You can tell that McGuire has a firm hand on her world and characters. Information will be revealed in one book that may not pay off until several books later. Even 10 books in, we are still waiting for answers to a lot of important questions. A lot of the tension in the story builds from the fact that other people know things that Toby herself does not. McGuire uses this tension skillfully, and it’s very much to the story’s benefit.

2) Fantastic worldbuilding. One of the things I’ve always admired about McGuire’s writing is her amazing ability to build worlds. Whether it’s the ghostly Midwest of yesteryear in Sparrow Hill Road or the mythological creature-rich world of her InCryptid series or a boarding school for kids who have been sucked into parallel universes in Every Heart a Doorway, McGuire has an incredible ability to create a world out of the fantastic that feels real in its vividness and complexity. In this series, fae live among humans, hiding in plain sight. There are rules, social norms, dress codes, territories, and conflicts, and they are all drawn out so vividly that you feel like you’re there.

3) Slow-burn romance. These books definitely sticks more to the urban fantasy side of the urban fantasy/paranormal romance spectrum, but that doesn’t mean Toby is completely romance-free. But it takes a long time to get there, and it may not be with the person you initially expect. But by the time you do get some payoff from the romance, you really feel like they’ve earned it. In addition, it’s not—shall we say—graphically depicted, so those who prefer less explicitness in their fiction are in the clear.

4) Real consequences. Some writers seem to believe that “fantasy” is essentially a “get out of jail free” card. Killed off a beloved character? Just bring them back to life! Burned down a major city during your epic battle? That’s okay, you can just use the magic restoration potion to fix everything. But in the October Daye universe, things stick. Bad things happen, and there are sometimes long-term consequences. McGuire is also—be warned—willing and able to kill beloved characters…permanently. But the bad things in Toby’s world make the good things seem all that much more special.

5) Great side characters. Sometimes in urban fantasy, the side characters don’t feel as complex or developed as the protagonist. Not so here. Everyone from the King of Cats to the ancient sea witch to Toby’s teenage squire to Toby’s death omen (long story, don’t ask) have rich, compelling inner lives. As a bonus, McGuire has written several short stories and novellas set in Toby’s world featuring many of these characters as protagonists. (Many of these stories are free on McGuire’s website.)

And as a bonus…

6) LGBT representation. McGuire is a very outspoken advocate for inclusion in fiction, and she practices what she preaches. Bisexuality is the norm in fae culture, particularly among pureblooded fae, so you get to see many of the characters engage in same-sex relationships. One of the secondary characters is also transgender, but we don’t find out until well after the character has been introduced, and it’s dropped into the story so casually you might forget about it. But the coolest part about the inclusion is that it’s not a big deal within the story. Nobody makes an issue of it, and it’s not the defining characteristic for any of these characters. They are not included in the story as the “token” queer characters; they each play roles in the story that have nothing to do with their sexuality or gender identification.

So there you go. If you haven’t done so already, pick up Rosemary and Rue. It’s a great book, and the books get stronger as you go along. And if you have, let me know what you think!

 

DemonWithin CoverOn another note…

My Goodreads giveaway is still running through November 11. I’m giving away 15 signed, personalized copies of my urban fantasy novel, The Demon Within, about a young woman who finds out that she’s half demon–just in time for the entire angelic population of Manhattan to start hunting her down. If you’re interested, you can enter here.

 

Cat Life

The Wake-Up Call

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Annabel in all her adorableness.

ANNABEL: (Jumps on my bladder. Purrs. Hopes for the best.)

 

ME: Blergh. Five more minutes…zzzzz. (I roll over.)

SHAY: (Jumps on my chest. Purrs. When he sees that’s not working, he begins to meow. When he sees that’s not working, he starts making a loud, chewing noise in my ear, kind of like a cow chewing cud. Then he meows some more. Loudly.)

ME: Zzzzzzzzz… (I pull a pillow over my head.)

JUPITER: (Jumps on my head. Gets pushed off the bed. Runs back and forth across the house several times. Jumps back on the bed again. Bites me.)

ME: Ow! What the fu–

JUPITER: Oh, you’re up.

Feeding Time

ME: Okay, it’s time to get food!

(All three cats run into the kitchen.)

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Shay, our scaredy-cat and our chatterbox.

SHAY: I’m so hungry! So hungry! I’m probably dying! I haven’t been fed in five hours! If you ever loved me at all, please feed me!!!

 

JUPITER: I will eat your food, and your food and your food, and ALL THE FOOD!

ANNABEL: (Waits patiently.)

ME: (Gives Annabel her medicine.)

SHAY: What is taking so long??? Can’t you see that I’m DYING over here? Literally dying! I’m dead. I’m dead.

JUPITER: I want chicken, I want liver, Meow Mix, Meow Mix, please deliver!

ANNABEL: (Takes meds. Strolls to water fountain. Drinks.)

ME: (Opens cans of food.)

SHAY: I’m almost dead! Seriously! I mean it this time!

JUPITER: Whee! (Jumps on counter. Eats all the food from the can in one bite.)

ME: Jupiter, dammit! (Carries Jupiter to office–where his food bowl is located, by the way–and shuts door behind him.)

JUPITER: (Crying from behind door.) Torture! Murder! What hast I done to deservest this cruel fate?

SHAY: You? I haven’t eaten in five hours and FIVE minutes!

JUPITER: Whose fault is that? There’s a whole smorgasbord right in front of you.

SHAY: We’re not all heathens who eat Styrofoam take-out boxes from garbage cans! You know how that messes with my digestion!

ANNABEL: (Grooms self.)

ME: (Puts bowl in front of Shay.) Here you go.

SHAY: Finally! (Takes one bite. Throws up.)

ME: Dammit! (Cleans up puke. Turns to Annabel.) All right, Annabel, your turn.

ANNABEL: (Strolls up to bedroom. Waits patiently.)

ME: Here you go. (Sets food down.)

ANNABEL: You know, I was really in the mood for chicken tonight…

Bug Invasion

(A bug crawls up the living room wall.)

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Jupiter makes a friend.

ANNABEL: (Glances up from her perch on the side of the couch. Sees bug.) So there’s a spot on the wall that’s moving. Is someone going to get that? Or something? Whatever. (Goes back to sleep.)

 

SHAY: Oh my God! It’s an insect! It’s so big! It’s got to be about an inch long! It’s going to eat me! I know it’s going to eat me! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! (Runs away.)

ME: (Walks into living room upon hearing commotion.) What’s wrong, Shay? (Sees bug.) OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, there’s a bug, it’s got to be at least two inches long, I’m going to die!!!!! (Runs away.)

JUPITER: (Walks into living room.) What’s going on? Where’s everyone going? (Sees bug.) Ohhhh, protein! (Eats bug.)

ME: (Dragging husband downstairs) There’s this HUGE bug on the wall, I mean, it’s got to be about four inches long, with these gigantic tentacles…

HUSBAND: Where? I don’t see any bugs.

JUPITER: (Licks lips.) Could use more salt.

Demon Within Giveaway!!!

DemonWithin Cover

I am so excited!!! I am giving away 15 free copies of The Demon Within on Goodreads. The giveaway runs from now until November 11, and I will sign and personalize each copy for the winner.

The Demon Within is what I’d consider “dark urban fantasy”–it has paranormal elements, and it’s set in a contemporary, realistic world. But it’s darker and grittier than some other urban fantasies you may have heard of, like the Sookie Stackhouse books (on which the “True Blood” TV series was based). It’s not YA; I’d say the appropriate age group is probably 16+.

Here’s the book description:

Heaven is hunting Dale Highland…

For 10 years, she’s been on the run, plagued by violent blackouts and increasingly baffled by a growing array of superpowers–mind control, super strength, enhanced healing abilities.

What Dale doesn’t know is that Heaven’s greatest bounty hunter, John Goodwin, has been on her trail the whole time. When John finally corners her in New York City, he reveals the source of her powers: her mother was a demon.

The forge an unlikely connection and go on the run. In pursuit are his fellow bounty hunters, a deadly guild of angels known as the Thrones. Their goal: eradicate all demons–which includes Dale. As they flee across New England, Dale delves into the mystery of her own heritage and discovers that she’s a key figure in the ancient war between angels and demons.

Only this time, the angels are the bad guys.

Fine print: the giveaway is open to readers in the United States and Canada. Winners are selected at random by Goodreads, and I won’t get the winner list until after the drawing.

I’m very excited about this, and I hope to have more giveaways coming up in the near future.

 

 

Stranger Things: Eight Burning Questions Season 2 Needs to Answer

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I loved “Stranger Things,” this summer’s sleeper Netflix hit. I loved the 80s nostalgia, loved the mystery and horror, loved the endearingly realistic pre-teen and teen characters. I especially loved Eleven. The bald, fragile-looking 12 year old who is actually the most badass character on the show. How can I not love Eleven?

(Also Barb. Poor Barb.)

And now, we know there will be a season 2! (Yay!) But season 1 left me with a lot of questions. I’ve seen some of these questions discussed in great depth in various online forums, but others…not so much. So for this blog entry, I’m ignoring the obvious questions (Is Eleven Alive? Is Hopper in league with the Department of Energy folks?) and focusing on the ones I haven’t heard too many people talking about.

1) If Eleven is the 11th super-powered child, where are One through Ten?

Are they dead or alive? Are they still at the DOE facility? Are they off fighting the Russians? Are their powers as strong as Eleven’s? Could they be even stronger? Seriously, how is no one talking about this?

2) Is it weird to ‘ship a romance between two 12 year olds when you’re a grown-ass adult?

Because I do. I completely do. The budding, innocent romance between Mike and Eleven was one of my favorite things about the show. (The moment where Mike assures Eleven that she’s still pretty even after she’s lost her wig melts my heart.) I just want Mike and Eleven to go to the Snow Ball together. If Eleven can go through the night without snapping the arms of all the mouth-breathers, it will be a success.

3) Why doesn’t anyone ever offer Eleven a tissue?

I could attribute this to the fact that her best friends are 12-year-old boys, and they probably wipe their noses on their sleeves/pants/the dirt/whatever happens to be convenient, but c’mon! There must have been a little old lady in Hawkins somewhere who would have taught Eleven to stuff a few into the sleeve of Nancy’s dress.

4) Does Eleven have a connection to Chief Hopper’s deceased daughter?

We see flashbacks of Chief Hopper’s daughter in the final episode when she’s dying of cancer. She’s bald from chemo. Eleven has a shaved head. Could be a coincidence. Or maybe not. Also, Hopper seems to be leaving “presents” for Eleven in the woods–Eggo Waffles, mostly. Could this have something to do with whatever deal he made with the Department of Energy folks to get him and Joyce released from custody? Or is it more personal?

 5) Were 80s parents really this negligent?

In 2016, our helicopter-parent inclinations get a lot of shit, but if this show’s parents are actually representative of what parenting was like in the 1980s, I can see why we went in the other direction.

 

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Sadly, I think I had that shirt in high school. Hell, I think I might still have that shirt now.

When Barb disappears, Nancy has the following conversation with Barb’s mom:

 

NANCY: Have you seen Barb today?
BARB’S MOM [sounding worried]: No, I thought she was with you!
NANCY: Uh, oh yeah. I think she’s, uh…at the library.
BARB’S MOM: Oh, okay! [Blithely goes about her day.]

Then when the Hawkins PD (more on them later) conclude that Barb’s run away from home, we hear not word one from Barb’s family. I guess it was no big deal for your teenager to disappear without a trace in the pre-Amber Alert era. I mean, she can take care of herself, right? She’s almost graduated from high school. Never mind that she’s busy being eaten by a monster slug from the inside out.

But maybe Barb’s family was just crappy, right? Except Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler, the picture of nuclear family perfection, are so oblivious that they fail to notice that their teenage daughter has snuck two different boys into her bedroom in one week, and that their pre-teen son has a girl living in their basement. (And it’s not like Mike tries very hard to hide her. At least Elliot made the effort to keep E.T. in the closet!)

Joyce Byers is obviously a devoted mom, clinging to her sureness that her younger son is alive when everyone else thinks she’s crazy. But she’s so busy chopping holes into her walls and talking to Christmas lights that she fails to notice her older son has been stockpiling ammo and bear traps.

With parents like that, it’s a wonder any of us survived to adulthood.

6) How the hell are the Hawkins PD’s deputies still employed?

Because they must be the most moronic, incompetent—not to mention insensitive—police officers of all time. Seriously.

First, a 12-year-old kid disappears, and they act like it’s no big deal. Whatever. He’s probably around here somewhere. Maybe he ran away? Could he be hiding somewhere? Is he with his deadbeat dad? Anyway, he’ll turn up eventually. Probably.

But even after Chief Hopper realizes that this isn’t just a case of childish mischief, his deputies continue to act like the douchiest of all the douches. (Describing a frantic mother with a missing child as “crazy” is just not cool, and also kind of sexist.)

And then, there was their reaction to Barb’s disappearance. After literally no investigation at all, they conclude that she’s run away. Yes, because socially awkward teenagers with big glasses and mom jeans run away all the time. As a former socially awkward teenager with big glasses and mom jeans, I can tell you that we were way more likely to be doing extra homework or hanging out at the library on a Saturday night than running away to parts unknown. I mean, c’mon…this is a girl who almost cut her hand off while trying to shotgun a beer. (Sidenote: That is also totally something that would happen to me.) Do you really think she just decided to ditch her car at the bus station and take off? Fifteen years after my high school graduation, I have yet to do anything that badass.

strangerthingssteve7) Did the cool, popular boys back in 1983 really have Steve’s hair?

Because seriously, it looks like a Flock of Seagulls reject had a baby with an Elvis impersonator. Just how much mousse does it take to get it looking like that every morning, Steve? How many hours do you spend with your hair dryer? Makes me kind of glad I was still in diapers in 83.

8) Why did the monster kill Barb, but spare Will Byers?

Because seriously, it’s not like hiding in his clubhouse amounted to some mad survival skills on Will’s part. Of course, given that bloody slug Will puked up into the sink during Thanksgiving dinner, maybe he didn’t survive after all…