Tag Archives: J.A. Pitts

Top 10 of 2013

31 Dec

Happy New Year’s Eve, world! I won’t be like everyone and say, “I can’t believe how fast this year went by,” so I’ll just say, “I can’t believe how slowly this year went by.” We get 365 days and I only managed to read a handful of books! Here’s to a fuller 2014 with more books and more book reviews! For now, it’s time to wrap up the year by reflecting on the important things. Here is my list of the top ten books I read and reviewed this year with excerpts from and links to my reviews on each of them! Enjoy, and thanks to all my followers, casual readers, friends, and family for helping me enjoy myself with this little, whimsical blog.

The Top Ten of 2013

To Be or Not To Be was a smashing success on Kickstarter. Now Ryan North is working on another Shakespeare-Choosable Adventure mash-up featuring none other than Romeo and Juliet.

To Be or Not To Be was a smashing success on Kickstarter. Now Ryan North is working on another Shakespeare-Choosable Adventure mash-up featuring none other than Romeo and Juliet.

10. To Be or Not To Be  by Ryan North

Welcome to the chooseable-path review of Ryan North’s new chooseable-path adventure, To Be or Not To Be, which hilariously takes one of William Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies and recreates it as a humorous, illustrated, maybe-but-maybe-not tragedy! North joins with dozens of the internet’s best/most popular Web comic artists to gamify Hamlet: “play” as Ophelia, Hamlet, or King Hamlet Sr., make choices throughout the book, and see where your will can take your character! This was originally a Kickstarter project that set the bar at a low $20,000 goal, but its novelty and the inclusion of some heavy-weight names (plus, who isn’t interested in Shakespeare …? No, really, who isn’t? Because I’m going to give you a scolding), catapulted the book to a lofty $580,905. Although it’s too late to donate to the project, you should still check out the site to see what it took to get this thing off the ground. …

My first experience with James Baldwin was filled with sighs and my own broken heart. Giovanni's Room takes the win for saddest book of the year.

My first experience with James Baldwin was filled with sighs and my own broken heart. Giovanni’s Room takes the win for saddest book of the year.

9. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

How does one even begin to talk about Giovanni? I’m so overwhelmed still, and I can confidently say, that Giovanni’s Room is my favorite book of 2013 so far … maybe. This novel speaks to James Baldwin’s ever-present awareness of his foreignness, his separateness, his Otherness. Giovanni’s Room is one of the truest most tragic novels I’ve read in a long time because it speaks to my sense of Otherness, too. …

Neal Stephenson tackled massive multiplayer online role-playing games AND terrorism in Reamde. What more do you want?

Neal Stephenson tackled massive multiplayer online role-playing games AND terrorism in Reamde. What more do you want?

8. Reamde by Neal Stephenson

Richard Forthrast—the billionaire, draft-dodger, former drug-runner, T’Rain founder—and his niece Zula find themselves invited to a figurative party of Chinese hackers, Russian mobsters, ex-military rogues, MI6 agents, and Islamic terrorists (obviously) that even Gatsby would envy, it’s so elaborate and wrought with confusion and angst. The plot that began with relatively simple, moneymaking scheme/computer virus becomes frightening and life threatening. But isn’t that how it always goes? …

Italo Calvino wrote a lot of letters in his relatively short life, and many of them are collected here in Princeton University Press' Letters.

Italo Calvino wrote a lot of letters in his relatively short life, and many of them are collected here in Princeton University Press’ Letters.

7. Italo Calvino: Letters, 1941-1985 by Italo Calvino

The bizarre thing about reading other people’s letters, is you get to thinking that they’re writing letters to you… Then you start developing some kind of strange celebrity obsession with those people, maybe more like an infatuation, or maybe like True Love. Not saying that happened to me or anything! But with Italo Calvino: Letters 1941-1985, it’s hard not to fall in love (or fall in respect, whatever) with this magnificent writer, Italy’s premier postmodern author, and one of my personal favorites. …

Forged in Fire by J.A. Pitts is the third installation of the Sarah Beauhall series, and arguably the best (so far). Make sure you start reading from the beginning.

Forged in Fire by J.A. Pitts is the third installation of the Sarah Beauhall series, and arguably the best (so far). Make sure you start reading from the beginning.

6. Forged in Fire by J.A. Pitts

I think, at this point, I can officially classify myself as a Sarah Beauhall fangirl. When I saw the series as Powell’s for the first time, I decided I’d read it on a whim, not expecting anything more than brief entertainment or maybe something to write a scathing review on later. Lo and behold! I have to take back those thoughts of an unbeliever! Forged in Fire is J.A. Pitts’s third Sarah Beauhall installation, and I had more fun than ever. Pitts created a cast of full characters and a massive enough world to keep this series going strongly as Sarah Beauhall uncovers more dark magic, learns about a new secret order, and forms some important human bonds that help her understand the meaning of family. …

As troubling as it is genius, A Handmaid's Tale is a cautionary novel written in Margaret Atwood's iconic prose.

As troubling as it is genius, The Handmaid’s Tale is a cautionary novel written in Margaret Atwood’s iconic prose.

5. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

I finally read Margaret Atwood’s dazzling The Handmaid’s Tale and got a bitter taste of how scary religion can be. From my comfy seat in America, looking through my blinders out at the world, I can safely say I feel pretty free in comparison, and that other religions (*ahem* Islam) have gotten a little out of control. But Atwood’s beautiful novel is more like a slap in the face: America, already a so-called Christian nation, is short skip and a hop away from a society mirroring modern-day Iran’s or Afghanistan’s, a society that forbids the interaction between men and women, that “shelters” women with thick cloth and heavy restrictions for their “protection” and “purity,” that uses indoctrination and propaganda to destroy hope, to remove all routes of escape. Atwood’s dystopia is, in the end, much more frightening then the dystopias I grew up with—1984 and Brave New World—because it’s infinitely more possible. …

Do you love mysteries? Do you not love mysteries? Either way, start your 2014 with quality reading and pick up Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy.

Do you love mysteries? Do you not love mysteries? Either way, start your 2014 with quality reading and pick up Paul Auster’s The New York Trilogy.

4. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

It’s never more apparent how brilliant Paul Auster is when you start reading him just after you have finished a mediocre novel. The New York Trilogy is one of Auster’s most renowned works of fiction, and–you guessed correctly!–it’s actually three separate novels. In New York, where all magical things happen, several mysteries are being investigated by several characters, some metaphysical shit goes down, people talk a lot about people talking or not talking, excuse me, my name is Peter Stillman. But all that aside, TNYT is a mystery of mysteries. It is the meta-mystery. It transcends. Best to read it while either completely high or sleep deprived.

I don't usually read nonfiction, but when I do, it has to be creepy, like Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City.

I don’t usually read nonfiction, but when I do, it has to be creepy, like Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City.

3. The Devil in the White City by David Larson

This is the story of two architects, tested on the sooty, soiled grounds of late-19th Century Chicago: Daniel Burnham, an architect of buildings in the age of steel and the director of works of the great World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893; and H.H. Holmes, an architect of manipulation, murder, and the macabre who killed dozens of people while staying hidden from the police, just blocks away from the fair’s entrances–both were equally ambitious and worked incessantly toward their respective goals. At the World’s Fair, they represented the city’s two faces: the White City and the hell hole, the symbol of hope and the harbinger of horror. …

John Fowles's first novel The Collector blew everyone out of the water. I myself have been out of the water since I read it in April this year.

John Fowles’s first novel The Collector blew everyone out of the water. I myself have been out of the water since I read it in April this year.

2. The Collector by John Fowles

John Fowles’s debut novel certainly set the bar high. I felt the need to start by reading this book because it seemed to suit me (or suit my obsession with Law & Order: SVUCSI, andCriminal Minds; a girl can’t have too much crime TV), and I stand by my choice. The Collector follows Frederick Clegg in his project to stalk, kidnap, and woo the object of his affections, Miranda Grey, a young art student of the upper middle class. If Clegg were a young gallant knight or the Earl of Rochester, this story could be romantic, or at the very least, kind of kinky. But Clegg is a loner, a man with little to no social graces who happens to really, really like collecting butterflies, so the story has to go the creepy rout. Fine by me, since Fowles can definitely pull off creepy and pull it off well. …

And the winner of the LitBeetle’s Pick of the 2013 is …

Gone Girl is the 2012 thriller by Gillian Flynn and tells the story of Nick Dunne, under suspicion of killing his wife Amy.

Gone Girl is the 2012 thriller by Gillian Flynn and tells the story of Nick Dunne, under suspicion of killing his wife Amy.

1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I came to this book without expectations. It seems everyone but I had heard of it and already added it to their Goodreads “Want to Read” bookshelf, but it’s all in character for me, so I shouldn’t be surprised. That being said, I only got to page 16 before I decided I loved this book. Gillian (like my name, so we’re practically twins!) Flynn’s Gone Girl is a perfect specimen for a morbid curiosity. The girl in question is Amy Elliott Dunne, the supposed victim in a missing person’s case. Her husband Lance Nicholas “Nick” Dunne is the supposed perpetrator (because it’s always the husband, right?). Amy and Nick are beautiful, successful, clever, and bursting with love for each other, but when both are laid off, the initial spark of their marriage dies out, and a family crisis uproots them from their beloved Manhattan and lands them in Nick’s rural Missouri hometown of North Carthage, the two are embroiled in a battle of wit, sadism, and manipulation. You won’t be able to tear your eyes away from this train wreck, and you may think you can predict the outcome (and maybe you’re better at that than I am), but you will enjoy the unfolding of this disastrous relationship the whole time. …

A special runner up mention goes to …

A Memory of Light is the final installation of Robert Jordan's beloved fantasy series Wheel of Time.

A Memory of Light is the final installation of Robert Jordan’s beloved fantasy series Wheel of Time.

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

So I didn’t technically review this book, but I spent the better part of the first quarter of 2013 rereading Robert Jordan’s modern classic fantasy series The Wheel of Time, which culminated in this joint effort with author Brandon Sanderson. A Memory of Light ended a fourteen-book series and what was, for a lot of fantasy readers, an era of genre bliss. The Wheel of Time was my escapism from the minor horrors of high school, and A Memory of Light was a fitting end.

It would be a mistake to say I’m not obsessed with morbid mystery novels. I am. Just going to come right out and say it. Gillian Flynn’s novel goes above and beyond, taking morbidity to high entertainment. I won’t say Gone Girl is great “Literature,” but I enjoyed it the most out of all the books I read this year, and I think it will stand up to the test of time.

I can’t wait to read another several dozen books next year! Thanks, again, to all my followers who tagged along with me on my silly adventures through literature (and not-literature)! Send me book recommendations and help me make 2014 a more exciting year for books than 2013!

The Complete List

The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan

Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan

A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan

The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan

Winter’s Heart by Robert Jordan

Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan

Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan

The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus

A Spy in the Ruins by Christopher Bernard

The Collector by John Fowles

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Reamde by Neal Stephenson

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

The Hours by Michael Cunningham

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Ganymede by Cherie Priest

The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley

The Inspector and Silence by Hakan Nesser

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud

Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts

The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

To Be or Not To Be by Ryan North (and Shakespeare)

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Vurt by Jeff Noon

Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn

Italo Calvino: Letters 1941-1985 by Italo Calvino

The Lifted Veil by George Eliot

The Stranger by Albert Camus

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Honeyed Words by J.A. Pitts

A Lifetime by Morris Fenris

Underground by Haruki Murakami

The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy

Nightlight by The Harvard Lampoon

Forged in Fire by J.A. Pitts

Bleeding Edge by Thomas Pynchon

The Wrecking Yard by Pinckney Benedict

A Sudden Wild Magic by Diana Wynne Jones

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro

A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Fall of the Stone City by Ismail Kadare

American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling)

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

Paprika by Yasutaka Tsutsui

City of Glass by Paul Auster

Ghosts by Paul Auster

The Locked Room by Paul Auster

Suicide Game by Haidji

Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein

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SFWA Pacific Northwest Reading Series – October

16 Oct

Part of my motivation for starting my book review blog was to become more involved in the supportive, intimate, amazingly fun community of writers and readers in my area. You know, that fuzzy feeling you get when you walk into a small bookstore and someone else is knee-deep browsing in your favorite section? You do that little head nod. Maybe you even smile or say, “Hey.” (Who am I kidding? I don’t talk to people.) But there’s a special connection between people with common interests, especially interests as life-changing and lifestyle-forming as reading. This is what I’ve been looking for. Last night, I think I finally found my fuzzy niche community with a little more conversational opportunities than run-ins at the local bookstore. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) hosted their Pacific Northwest Reading Series in Kirkland, WA, yesterday, and yours truly attended.

Super connected!

Super connected! (Am I not a master with Paint?!)

Three questions:

1) What’s better than a reading in a pub (the kind with beer!)?

2) What’s better than a reading at a pub with authors Peter Orullian, Kay Kenyon, and Greg Bear (GREG BEAR)?

3) What’s better than a reading at a pub with those authors hosted by my new recent favorite J.A. Pitts?

The answer to all those questions is, “NOTHING.”

Peter Orullian, author of the fantasy novel The Unremembered (book #1 of The Vault of Heaven), read from the opening of the second in his second series, currently a work in progress. Not only does he write with obvious enthusiasm for such an historically rich genre, but he also happens to work in marketing for XBox and make some pretty decent music. Oh, and did I mention he sang karaoke with George R.R. Martin’s assistant in a mostly empty bar in Missoula? That belongs on his list of Wikipedia accomplishments, if anything. But Orullian’s writing sets him apart, too. Of what I heard, the language of his world (always a hard thing for an author to tackle well) felt natural, appropriate to the events of the short selection, and by the end of his reading, I was ready to cry. Orullian is an author to watch out for, because he’s going to take the fantasy world by storm.

There's Peter Orullian, being an awesome dude. In the background, you can kind of make out Kay Kenyon's superb Brave New World shirt.

There’s Peter Orullian, being an awesome dude. In the background, you can kind of make out Kay Kenyon’s superb Brave New World shirt.

Kay Kenyon is an author of 11 books. That’s ELEVEN books. XI books. That’s a lot of books, and for some reason, I haven’t read any of them. I picked up a copy of A Thousand Perfect Things, her first fantasy novel after a string of critically acclaimed sci-fi (her novel Maximum Ice was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award), and it will come next in my docket. Something to look forward to. Kenyon read from a draft of At the Table of Wolves, a new novel about a rewritten history where Nazis and British spies use psychic talents to undermine each other in an alternate WWII. No crying during this one… It was more of a shiver and a deep, abiding sadness. Interested yet? You should be. Kenyon’s writing had me literally on the edge of my seat, and it’s not just because I had four glasses of water and two pints of amber ale.

Don't worry, I got it signed. Looking forward to reading Kay Kenyon's A Thousand Perfect Things and posting the review soon!

Don’t worry, I got it signed. Looking forward to reading Kay Kenyon‘s A Thousand Perfect Things and posting the review soon!

Finally, the prolific father of literary nanotechnology, one of the progenitors of cyberpunk, the inimitable Greg Bear read from upcoming novel War Dogs: Last Exit to Hell. It was a little Catch-22 and a little Apocalypse Now and very much like The Forever War. But don’t get me wrong, I loved it. Bear’s ear for military lingo and mentality is always spot on, because it turns out he was raised by Marines, so there you go. His words flow with an easy cadence, despite the jargon and futuristic setting. I found myself entranced, willing to be transported across the galaxy. Turns out, I only had to go as far as Mars as Bear told about a mysterious space battle against mysterious foes. I guess I’ll have to pre-order this one. Life is hard.

Blame my awful, awful phone that can't take a clear picture from 10 feet away. Greg Bear, ladies and gents and Martians.

Blame my awful, awful phone that can’t take a clear picture from 10 feet away. Greg Bear, ladies and gents and Martians. And no, he’s not attached to the Halo movie project. I asked.

Truly, there’s is something singularly magical about a gathering of this kind. Not only do we exist in the same landscape and share the quirky qualities of Pacific Northwesterners, but we share the passion for a specific genre of fiction. I was enthralled the whole night with that kind of energy, and I can’t wait for the next SFWA event in Seattle.

On J.A. Pitts’s “Forged in Fire”

25 Sep
Make sure you grab a copy of Sarah Beauhall book #3, Forged in Fire!

Make sure you grab a copy of Sarah Beauhall book #3, Forged in Fire!

I think, at this point, I can officially classify myself as a Sarah Beauhall fangirl. When I saw the series as Powell’s for the first time, I decided I’d read it on a whim, not expecting anything more than brief entertainment or maybe something to write a scathing review on later. Lo and behold! I have to take back those thoughts of an unbeliever! Forged in Fire is J.A. Pitts’s third Sarah Beauhall installation, and I had more fun than ever. Pitts created a cast of full characters and a massive enough world to keep this series going strongly as Sarah Beauhall uncovers more dark magic, learns about a new secret order, and forms some important human bonds that help her understand the meaning of family.

Not that FiF is all touchy-feely. Don’t worry, Beauhall gets more than anyone’s fair share of epic fight scenes. This third book reads more like an action-packed, dragon-filled murder mystery as Beauhall investigates some gruesome deaths in the area–all of which seem to be connected to her and seem to be committed by a dangerous necromancer. In the meantime, Beauhall must find a way to pacify an ever-agitated Nidhogg, save a missing person, reconnect with her sister Megan, and raise several children (not all of them human), so to say she’s got her hands full would be to say necromancers are nasty business: a gross understatement. (Was that too much?)

Pitts's necromancer may just be scarier than Castlevania necromancer, but you'll just have to determine that on your own.

Pitts’s necromancer may just be scarier than Castlevania necromancer, but you’ll just have to determine that on your own.

The structure of this novel felt a little shakier, not quite as compact as the first two, and that may be due to the length, since Forged in Fire is a lot longer. But Pitts managed to hold my attention for a couple of reasons: 1) I’m a sucker for murder mysteries, especially serial killers (how did you know??); 2) as usual, the believable, fascinating, admirable characters demand a reader’s attention; and 3) I think I was under a compulsion spell.

I am thrilled that Pitts is working on Sarah Beauhall #4, because Forged in Fire opened up a whole slew of new questions, introduced new characters, started a new quest for our favorite modern day blacksmith. Maybe Pitts is working on it right now! I think I’d be satisfied enough as long as he doesn’t take George R.R. Martin gaps to write the next installation. Wouldn’t that just be the best! In the meantime, I’ll be dreaming of dragons. And drinking coffee at Monkey Grind Espresso in Seattle…

I'm ready for more badass dragons!

I’m ready for more badass dragons! …And Sarah Beauhall.

On J.A. Pitts’s “Honeyed Words”

10 Sep
Life (and the cover art of this sequel) gets better for Sarah Beauhall when she inherits a Ducati. Watch out, dragons!

Life (and the cover art of this sequel) gets better for Sarah Beauhall when she inherits a Ducati. Watch out, dragons!

Sarah Beauhall, the drunken lesbian blacksmith with super Nordic deity powers, is back! Honeyed Words is the second installation of J.A. Pitts’s Beauhall series, and it comes with more punch than the first. We rejoin Sarah Beauhall, her girlfriend Katie, and Qindra the dragon-serving witch–along with a host of new characters–five months after the end of Black Blade Blues. Beauhall is busy hammering out her guilt from the reign of destruction she brought down on her friends in the form of Jean-Paul Duchamp/dragon dude, but she’s too notorious now to avoid the attention of some big baddies. She tries to move on with her life by returning to the trade she loves: blacksmithing. But when she temporarily apprentices with an artsy woman named Anezka (who just happens to have a giant dragon sculpture out back), Beauhall starts noticing her life getting screwy again. And not screwy in a happy, lesbian way. With much darker magic, fire kobolds, and necromancers, Pitts throws us back into his universe of modern fantasy, and I had more fun with Honeyed Words than with the first installment for a few reasons: 1) Beauhall is a fuller, more well-rounded character, not the angsty psuedo-teen from book one; 2) side characters like Bub the kobold and Qindra as a returning player make the story more multidimensional; and 3) Pitts leaves us with major a cliff-hanger. I’m talking “Lara Croft dangling by a handmade pickax from a rocky outcropping over a hundred foot drop onto spikes in an ancient tomb’s booby-trap” cliff-hanger. Will she make it?!

This sequel is so hardcore that even the dragons go metal. Don't worry, you can buy one for yourself.

This sequel is so hardcore that even the dragons go metal. Don’t worry, you can buy one for yourself.

I’m not all love and fuzziness, though. Awkward injections of pop culture feel contrived, as if to say, “Hey, I’m a nerd just like you! Love me!!” Don’t get me wrong; I like Firefly and X-Men and The Hobbit as much as the next girl, but there’s already plenty to love in a world of smithing and dragons and Nordic mythology without the jarring references. I imagine Pitts used it to shed light on Beauhall’s geeky side, but without enough context in the story, it sheds more light on Pitts’s geeky side. This whole series has a pretty firm grip on a niche readership here, and I don’t think there’s a need to make that more selective.

Pow! Right in the references! It's not like I'm not guilty, too. I just made a reference to Lara Croft. Can you find her in this image? (From Stuff Nerds Like)

Pow! Right in the references! It’s not like I’m not guilty, too. I just made a reference to Lara Croft. Can you find her in this image? (From Stuff Nerds Like)

Enough complaining. What I loved about Honeyed Words (and yes, it was a romp of a plot) was Beauhall’s development as a person. She’s growing up, filling her role, actually changing. Also, Pitts didn’t make her the end-all, be-all of the series. She’s the muscle, and she certainly has the guts and the fancy sword, but for the majority of the book other characters take on the leadership roles. Jimmy is the brains and the coordinator. Katie has the faith. Even Qindra is, in many ways, more of a hero than Beauhall. Props to J.A. Pitts for not only creating a well-balanced, flawed hero and three-dimensional, crucial secondary characters. I’m looking forward to reading more about these lovable characters in the third book, Forged in Fire, and I am stoked! (So to speak.)

On J.A. Pitts’s “Black Blade Blues”

9 Aug
Pick up a copy, if you need some straightforward, unadulterated entertainment! (Well, there's some adultery, but you know what I mean.)

Pick up a copy, if you need some straightforward, unadulterated entertainment! (Well, there’s some adultery, but you know what I mean.) And check out J.A. Pitts’s Website!

OK, OK, I know you’re all judging me right now. I’m judging me, too. Just look at that cover art! Check out that exposed bra! Oh, my god, midriff and dragons and a really big, black sword! But sometimes a girl just needs some pure, trashy, unabashed escapism. Well, I accomplished the “pure” and “trashy” parts, but I’m feeling pretty abashed about my newest selection of fiction, J.A. Pitts’s romping urban fantasy Black Blade Blues. In the modern-day American Pacific Northwest, Sarah Beauhall is trying to stay alive with two jobs–designing and making props for an independent filmmaker and apprenticing with a local blacksmith–while trying to reconcile her conservative upbringing with her budding relationship with girlfriend Katie. Not easy tasks, even in the freethinking, free-loving Seattle area. When a real live dwarf pays her a visit, uncovers a secret of Beauhall’s recent sword-forging project, and commissions her with a quest to kill an incognito dragon, all hell breaks loose. Pitts combines a fun, if sometimes laborious and awkward, colloquial language with some old-fashioned swords and magic to start spinning a unique world. Sarah Beauhall is anything but a stereotypical heroine, and despite the novel’s flaws, I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

It’s been a slippery slope, my friends: first the Wheel of Time extravaganza, then the gory Scandinavian mysteries, and now lesbian fantasy novels. I’ve come a long ways from my high-brow English literature days. There was a time when I only read Don DeLillo novels and poetry written by women in open marriages. There was another time when I refused to read Harry Potter books because I had heard J.K. Rowling didn’t know what a run-on sentence was. (It turns out she does know what a run-on sentence is, and she just really likes to use them.) But those were times when I believed reading to be a only thought exercise, and if it makes you feel anything it should be a sense of awe in the face of literary mastery. Reading, I’m discovering, is a million different experiences: academic, entertainment, erotic–you name it. Black Blade Blues is pure fun.

What's next, LitBeetle?! Confessions of a Shopaholic?! When will it end?! Yeah. I have to draw the line somewhere. I have standards: they start with dragon-killing lesbians and get higher from there.

“What’s next, LitBeetle?! Confessions of a Shopaholic?! When will it end?!” Yeah. I have to draw the line somewhere. I have standards: they start with dragon-killing lesbians and get higher from there.

The novel is the beginning of a series, so I can forgive Pitts for dwelling on Beauhall’s identity crisis for the first half of the book. The second half, though, is where the swords come into play, and where the author gets to have some fun with a massive, fast-paced (but not entirely inelegant) battle sequence. How does one have a massive battle sequence in modern American, you say? Why, with Ren Faire nerds, obviously, I say! Beauhall’s friends, the people she comes to think of as family, are all members of a society of the nerdiest of nerds. The people who affect Olde English accents, don bodices or chain mail, drink a lot of terrible home-brewed mead, pretend eating utensils don’t exist, learn to play the lute, call every woman “lass” or “wench,” joust with Styrofoam lances, and generally don’t care what you think because they’re having a grand time of it. It also turns out that these are the folks who actually believe our protagonist when she comes to them saying a dragon is bearing down on their heads, and it turns out these are the folks who actually fight it. So don’t knock it ’til you try it!

The new superheroes of our time, ladies and gents (and giants and trolls and dragons and Scandinavian gods). I'd feel pretty safe around these guys. (Photo by Shannon Cottrell at blogs.laweekly.com)

The new superheroes of our time, ladies and gents (and giants and trolls and dragons and Scandinavian gods). I’d feel pretty safe around these guys. (Photo by Shannon Cottrell at blogs.laweekly.com)

Pitts also bravely tackles a character who is facing the conflict of her unorthodox sexuality. He shows Beauhall’s self-doubt and self-hatred. He lets us know that much of his protagonist’s shortcomings stem from this deep-seeded bigotry, and it’s wonderful to watch the character grow away from that.

But Pitts does manage to miss one thing: Beauhall and Katie have supposedly been dating for a year … and there is no way in hell that these two ladies are waiting one year and still calling it a new relationship, and there is less than “no way in hell” that they both wait one year before someone says, “I love you.” Among lesbians (and I have first-hand know-how), the one year mark is wedding bell season, is “let’s get a puppy” season, and “what size U-Haul will we need” season, not the flip-out-because-she-said-the-L-word (not that “L Word”) season. That being said, Pitts did an admirable job, being male-gendered and writing a queer female protagonist, he did a decent job writing a fantasy novel, and I will most likely read the rest of the Sarah Beauhall series.

You all know the joke: What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A U-Haul. Yep, that's me in a U-Haul. I waited longer than two dates, though. A little bit longer.

You all know the joke: What does a lesbian bring on a second date? A U-Haul. Yep, that’s me in a U-Haul and the girlfriend took the picture. To be fair, we waited longer than two dates. … A little bit longer.