A Long Time Coming: Seanan McGuire’s The Unkindest Tide

Many, many ages ago, I read and reviewed this excellent novel. That review was lost to the sands of time. I recently reread this, however, and I never regret revisiting this world.

With The Unkindest Tide, McGuire begins cashing checks that were written closer to the beginning of this series. Promises that were made have now been kept. There’s so much more that happens, though. It’s hard to summarize everything that happens here, so I’m just going to suggest that if you’re interested in the book, just read it. Do NOT start with this book, though, if you’re not already familiar with this series. You could, theoretically, but it’s not a great jumping off point. Something big and important happens here that’s going to have very little impact if you’re not already caught up.

McGuire always shines with her characters. It is telling that, in one book, she manages to not only craft entire, layered, complicated characters but make them sympathetic and believable is a great example of how well she writes this series. She truly loves this series and it shows. The care with which she crafts her characters is by far the best part of the series. The plot elements are excellently done as well, but the characters, even the less important ones, are all beautiful, fully realized beings. Watch out for the amazing Captain Pete, who is by far my favorite.

As for the plot, in addition to the enormous, important point that has been on the back burner for several years and as many books, there’s an intricate murder plot that is masterfully crafted. Old issues are revisited and old enemies which were gone are most certainly not forgotten pop out of the woodwork. And politics! So many different kinds of politics come into play here! The political systems that McGuire’s fae societies operate under are almost characters in their own right. The Selkies are not the Merrow are not the land fae and so on. I was intrigued by the Selkie clans and their system of leadership. Which is an unfortunate interest of my own, for, uh, reasons. That I won’t get into right now.

At the end of the day, this is an absolutely amazing addition to the series. I love it. It’s not my favorite entry to the series, but it’s most certainly in my top five. The scene where October and Annie work together to bring Annie’s wishes to fruition (again, trying not to spoil) gave me chills and made me cry a little. Another scene with Annie working with her sister on another task made me tear up for a different reason (I’m getting a little teary just thinking about it). I don’t know what it is about this series, but it has its hooks very firmly in me.

Please read it. You won’t be disappointed.

The Pharmacies Aren’t All Right

Reader, this is a different post. If you’re looking for pop culture, this isn’t for you. Instead, I am going to talk a little about a big problem. There will be discussion of suicide*.

I don’t talk about my day job much. I suppose at this point I should say my former day job. I side-stepped from retail pharmacy into a different sector in late September. For sixteen years, however, I was a retail pharmacy technician with one of the big chains. I was one of the lucky ones. I got out.

A pharmacist who had no business managing one of the busiest pharmacies in my town killed himself the other day. His name was Josh. He was young. The pharmacist in charge at my current job used to have Josh’s old job. He was livid when he learned this information, despite never meeting the man. The other two pharmacists that I now work for knew Josh. One of them had worked with him for a short period of time. The other knew him from school. We don’t know why this young man made the decision to end his life, but one thing is for certain: his work life definitely wasn’t making things any better for him. How do I know this? Reader, I lived it. I’ve been there.

For the last four years, prior to my new employment, I was miserable every single day. My home life deteriorated. My hobbies crumbled, taking away my dreams of ever having a career that let me write words for money. I almost stopped reading entirely. My days consisted of getting up, drifting through the bare minimum of housework that was required to keep my household from descending into utter chaos, going to work, making it through a shift, and then coming home. I was bitter and depressed. Relationships suffered. I frequently thought about just going to sleep and not waking up. I began to experience suicidal ideation. It became commonplace for me; there were fewer days when I didn’t experience those thoughts than when I did.

The company that I worked for has no empathy for its employees. Tasks were increased even as labor hours were cut. It happens in every single field, but in healthcare, this is a harmful, dangerous trend. I was a pharmacy technician. If I made a mistake and the pharmacist didn’t catch it, someone could get hurt, sick, or worse. It’s happened before. Feel free to search for “pharmacy errors” on Google and you’ll find more results than I can discuss here. These things happen because corporations like CVS and Walgreens have decided that it’s more important to make money than to work safely. It’s been deteriorating for years.

In 2020 everything became exponentially worse.

You don’t need me to tell you what happened in 2020 that might have made anyone in healthcare a great deal more stressed. No, a retail pharmacy isn’t on the same level as a hospital or even a clinic. Nevertheless, we were still out there on the front lines, dealing with people who couldn’t or wouldn’t stay home. We were wearing masks, but we weren’t permitted to enforce the mask rule. And as far as protecting the employees? My company’s answer was a goddamned joke. Acrylic barriers were shipped to the store months after the pandemic started. They were approximately 24 inches wide and comically flimsy. People poked their heads around them constantly because the spaces between the barriers and the walls were larger than the barriers themselves. Posters proclaiming that we were heroes appeared on doors. We got a small bonus, once.

It was decided that technicians could be trained to give COVID-19 immunizations. I agreed to do the training and began giving shots the same week that the CDC lowered the age limit to include 12-year-olds. I didn’t get a raise for taking on this new responsibility. To be clear, intellectually, I was happy to contribute to the effort to help people become immunized. In reality, it caused incredible amounts of anxiety that broke my brain. I’m still trying to recover from the experience of regularly shutting myself up in a small cubicle with a non-immunized person several times per day, wondering if I was going to get sick from this and potentially carry it home to my spouse (who works from home anyway, even prior to the pandemic).

I might have made it if corporate hadn’t decided to start offering same-day COVID tests through our drive through. To be clear, the pharmacy staff was responsible for taking samples of potentially infected mucus and testing it for a harmful virus. We didn’t get a raise when this new, potentially dangerous responsibility was thrust upon us. We were responsible for dozens of tests every single day on top of our regular pharmacy workload. This workload included making phone calls to patients to urge them to enroll in various services that we offered at the pharmacy, inquire as to why they were late refilling their prescriptions, and to offer to convert all of their future maintenance prescriptions to a ninety day supply. We had the least amount of employees in the pharmacy that I had ever seen in my entire career.

It was killing me. And I was, again, a technician. I couldn’t imagine doing that job and being the person responsible for all of that. I was crying every single day, even the ones that didn’t require me to go to work. I thought about taking my life. I thought about it every single day. I couldn’t see a way out of the situation that I was in. I had tried, fruitlessly, to find work at a hospital pharmacy (because I wasn’t going to move to a new retail chain — that way held only more pain and suffering on top of having to learn a new system).

I got out in time. Josh didn’t. Who knows how many in the profession aren’t? If you search for statistics you’ll find disappointing information. Corporate lack of empathy for employees in this field is staggering. You cannot and should not treat the pharmacy the same as the dairy or canned goods section of a store. The metrics that have been designed to increase profit are ruining lives on both sides of the pharmacy counter. Nothing’s being done and I’m so angry that I can’t see straight.

The entire American workforce is experiencing problems unlike anything that I can remember. I’m not implying that pharmacy employees are somehow worthier of respect or consideration, but we walk the line between healthcare and retail, and it’s a hard place to be. The individuals in the stores are breaking and none of the top individuals at these companies care.

So if you’re in line at the pharmacy, and the line isn’t going as fast as you want? Or if the person at the register doesn’t seem as personable or friendly as you would like? Try to be patient.

*If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, please know that you are not alone. If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Nothing Ever Stays Buried For Long: Why You Should Read Mira Grant’s Feedback

Gather ’round, my dearest little chickens. Once upon a time, I thought that I had retired from reviewing books. Indeed, I thought that I had retired from even semi-serious blogging. Life has a way of Happening, you see, and it has been Happening to me in great, terrible quantities for the last six years. I broke in 2019, in ways that wouldn’t let me write or review with any kind of reliability. So I stepped back.

I’m not entirely sure that I’m un-retired. This is a special performance; I’m one small voice, but if even one person is inspired to read the book that I’m about to discuss, then it will be something. That might be enough.

I’m here to talk about Mira Grant’s Feedback.

Not nearly enough of you have read this book. I know this, because of something that I found on Twitter. Here, just take a look:

Further digging reveals that Into the Drowning Deep has done well! Feedback, sadly, still needs to catch up.

So I’m here to contribute to the cause. Let me see if I can remember how to do this…

Continue reading

The Days of Our Animals

I didn’t expect the world the US to still be a burning pile of tires here, in August, but here we are. How have you been coping? Me? I’ve become deeply invested in the lives of a bunch of pixel animals and their fictional dramas.

Yeah, I’m talking about Animal Crossing: New Horizons, because that is how I have been getting through the days and nights of life during this trying time. This is my first real game from the franchise. I played Pocket Camp for a little while (and re-downloaded it long enough to get the exclusive items for New Horizons and damn, has it gotten micro-transactiony), but I don’t really count that one as a true Animal Crossing experience.

I delight in how beautiful this game is. There is meticulous detail in so many things. The first time that I actually docked my Switch and played on television, I sat and just stared at the flowers for several minutes, just marveling over how lovely that they looked. As for the rest of it, I obsess over how much my animals like me. My best friends are a small squirrel with a unibrow, a blue unicorn horse, and a cat with heterochromia. I have become utterly charmed by a zebra horse called Savannah, who keeps refusing to love me. My fairy godmother is an alligator who resembles a wealthy widow in both looks and personality. I have taken as a mentor an octopus that resembles a snack:

© Nintendo РI realize that Zucker is meant to resemble takoyaki, but my first thought was that he looked like fried ice cream. My apologies.

Indeed, Zucker. Let all of us yell “bloop” hard today.

And you know, sometimes that’s what it’s taken for me to get through the day. The idea that this shall be the day that I, too, will go hard. It doesn’t always work out that way, but I try.

To say that I am obsessed would be a gross understatement. Sometimes the only reason that I wake up and keep going is the fact that I don’t want my beloved animal friends to miss me. It’s been a very therapeutic experience. I will take any light that I can find in this dark place, and this game has been a huge ball of sunshine for me. Further, this game has managed to enrich my life in other ways, namely in allowing me to connect with people both already in my life, and utter strangers that I may chat with one time.

Continue reading

I Do Not Care If You Do Not Read E-Books

Okay, here’s a fun fact about me: I don’t care how you read your books.

Let that sink in. Breathe deep. Read it again: I don’t care how you read your books. For some reason, however, there exist people who care deeply about how I read MY books. It doesn’t happen as often as it used to, but when I tell people that I have just downloaded Whatever Novel by This Certain Author, I used to get a disproportionate number of responses that include “Oh, I would never read on a Kindle. I just can’t. For this set of reasons that I will now tell you.” I am forced, by the rules of polite conversation, to nod and smile and listen while this ridiculous person sings the virtues of the paper book. Ever since I decided to take pruning shears to the people that I associated with, the frequency of this phenomenon has decreased dramatically. I still run into it online, fortunately not always directed at me.

Ever since Kindles and Nooks arrived on the scene, I have seen way too many people feeling the need to proclaim that they hate e-readers and e-books. Like, okay? How would you feel if somebody went around shouting about how they couldn’t stand to read hardcovers? If you read online, constantly, that reading paperbacks just wasn’t as good as reading on a sleek, slim e-reader? What if, and I’m just imagining amusing scenarios here, an e-book reader felt the need to tell you that they hated the way that paper books smell?

Reverse that feeling and you have me, every single time I encounter another person who feels the need to announce that they refuse to read e-books. Okay, I’m delighted for you. Go somewhere else now.

I loved Stephen King novels growing up. I’ve never read The Stand or IT (don’t start with me). As an adult, when I have tried to knock these bricks off of my book bucket list, I’ve failed several times due to sheer size of the things. Even the paperbacks are more unwieldy than I am truly comfortable with. I have a Kindle now; I can read those books if I really want to. My day job taxes my hands and arms tremendously. I’m frequently in pain at the end of the day. So reading e-books is an accessibility issue for me. I couldn’t read books if I didn’t have an e-reader. Imagine, if you will, the sensation of having your entire arm slammed in a door. Not just a finger; your ENTIRE ARM. This is a feeling that I deal with regularly. Now imagine having that feeling, being a book lover, and facing down a 400+ page hardcover. Screw that, imagine being unable to manage a semi-illustrated, 200 page paperback. Furthermore, I enjoy comics and graphic novels but I have literally no space to store a collection of them. Enter e-comics. I CAN READ COMICS NOW. An entire new world of reading has opened up to me.

If you’re a paper-books-only person, congratulations! You are part of a sector of readers that is different from the one where I live. That doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. But unless we’re having a discussion that actually merits you saying it, and you feel the need to tell me that you just can’t get into e-books, or that you refuse to read e-books, take that need, throw it in a mental sack, and toss it deep into the depths of your mental basement. I don’t need to hear it, and you don’t need to say it.

Retail Pharmacy in the Time of a Pandemic

Note: I don’t usually talk about my day job, but I can’t not right now. COVID-19 has only just now arrived in my city, but coronavirus panic started at least two weeks ago.

You get up. You get ready for work, wearily going through the paces. You kiss your spouse goodbye and head out into the world. You are a pharmacy technician, and you are exhausted.

The streets aren’t as sparsely populated as you wish they were, but then you remember that you work on the main drag of your small city; Lowe’s, Walmart, Kroger, Sheetz, Pet Supply Plus, McDonald’s, and another retail pharmacy other than your own all live on the same street, along with two urgent care clinics. Aside from McDonald’s, all of these businesses are considered essential during this entire crisis, and for lower income families, McDonald’s might as well be essential. Grocery stories, pharmacies, home improvement stories, gas stations, and pet stores are all considered essential businesses. The antiques mall is closed, and so is the little bookstore that you like to visit, among the other small businesses and local restaurants that populate the downtown area.

Get to work. Clock in. Do your best to smile, even as a gentleman who doesn’t understand English enough to read the signs (which ask the customers to please maintain at least a three foot space between themselves and the employees) gets right up in your face while he waves his phone at you, indicating that he’s looking for Airborne tablets. You can tell what that man had for lunch that day because he’s speaking less than a foot away from your nose. After he’s gone, quietly have a panic attack while you splash hot water on your face and wash your hands, all the while wondering whether gargling with some Listerine would do any good.

Answer the phone. No, we’re not closing. No, the store is, at this time, still entirely open. No, we don’t have any hand sanitizer, toilet tissue, rubbing alcohol, disinfectant wipes, or Lysol spray. Keep that smile in place while you’re waiting on people. You are the calm, cheerful center of this little corner of the universe, and you’re doing what you can to keep people as relaxed as possible. You make little jokes. You chat about inconsequential things. You bid the patients to take care and stay well as much as possible.

The drive-thru is always busy. Nobody wants to come inside. Of course, you would be happy to fetch a box of Benadryl for the elderly lady who’s too afraid to come in. No, we don’t have any hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes. No, we’re out of stock on Tylenol, you’re very sorry to say. Even the store brand. Keep smiling, even as the young woman in a mask sprays her insurance card with a little bottle of alcohol before she sends it in, then begs you to please wash your hands and wipe down the drawer after she’s gone. She’s on her way home to self-isolate because she was just tested for the virus, you see, and she’s terrified of infecting anyone else.

Most people are so very nice. So grateful that we’re still open so that they can come in and pick up the medications that they need. There’s an uptick in anxiety medication going out. You’re not surprised.

Some people are less nice. No, you don’t have any hand sanitizer or masks. No, you don’t know when you’ll be getting more. Indeed, yes, somebody should have made sure that we didn’t run out. The customer is correct, this is an incredibly irresponsible move on somebody’s part. Probably the people who came and cleared the shelves before the restrictions were put in place, but you can’t say that. Keep smiling.

No, you inform someone. The pharmacist does not have the authority to dispense a narcotic without a prescription. Indeed, yes, we are in a state of emergency. Nevertheless, some laws still apply, which means that if you want some Vicodin, you’re still going to have to get a prescription. You’ve never seen this person before in the seven years that you’ve been at this store. It’s hard not to think that they’re attempting to take advantage of the situation as they storm off in a giant huff. You wish that this part wasn’t true.

Keep smiling. You chose to be here, rather than take the offer to stay home with no consequences other than not getting paid once the PTO runs out. You chose to stay here because, even with the retail environment and corporate overlords, you’re in the health care profession and you still take that part seriously, even if a lot of people don’t.

Aaannnddd I Quit

Given that it’s been … I don’t know how many days since I’ve read the book I was referring to on Monday, I think it’s time to declare the book a DNF. I haven’t even thought about it. I am clearly just not into it, so it’s time to move on.

It’s freeing to decide that my time is worth more than a book that’s doing nothing for me. It means that I value myself enough to know when I’m wasting my time. It also means that I have a lot of books to read, and I’m not going to spend precious reading time on this particular book anymore. Oh well. They can’t all be winners.

Meanwhile, I’m deep into The Hanging Tree and have reached the point where I’m beginning to fret a little about having no more books left in this series just yet. I have one novella and one novel left, plus three graphic novels. There will be new installments later this year, and while I know this, I’m impatient and I want moar. I’ll live.

[Books] When To Quit?

Are you one of those stubborn, determined readers who finishes everything that you start? Because I have learned that, while I think it’s an admirable quality, I’m not that kind of person. I used to think that I was! I’d get to a point in a book where I was stalled because of one reason or another. Usually, I just wasn’t gelling with some aspect of the story. More often than not, I fail to care. Something within the book has to make me care. I’m at that point with one of my current reads, and while part of me truly wants to finish the book due to other factors, I find that I just do not give one good goddamn about what happens. Nothing in this book has me interested in what happens at the end.

Cut because I’m going to talk more. I won’t be naming names. But cutting anyway. Continue reading

Panic! Attack

If you didn’t read my recent Favorite Things column over at Speculative Chic (and why not?), you may have missed me geeking out about one of my newer found loves: Panic! At the Disco.

I know, the band’s been around for a while. I’m sorry for my lateness to the party. To be fair, when the band debuted, I was obsessed with classic rock. I pretty much missed the first ten years of 2000-era music while I was listening to Queen, Pink Floyd, Def Leppard, and others. Mr. Price was the one who sparked my Panic! obsession a few years ago. As you may have read in the post that I linked to above, I came home from work one day in 2016 to Mr. Price being all excited to show me this video that had started playing while he had YouTube on in the background during his day. It was “Death of a Bachelor,” and I was utterly smitten. Behold!

And now the part where I use the “read more” tag, because I love you. Always remember that I love you. Continue reading

Spreading (And Eventually Curing) The Virus

My husband is a board game enthusiast. He’s really fond of hobby games. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s a broad descriptor for those expensive board games that you might have seen in places like Barnes and Noble. We’re not talking about Scrabble, or any of the myriad Monopoly games. These are games that can take hours to play. We used to play regularly with another couple, but we had a pretty major falling-out with them a few years ago and haven’t had any “board game” friends since.

Well. Being who he is, Mr. Price has infectedintroduced a new set of friends to the world of hobby games. This all started with¬†Escape Room in a Box: The Werewolf Experiment. Having observed our friends’ enjoyment with that game, Mr. Price decided to attempt to ease our friends a little further into the world of hobby games with one of the best introduction games: Ticket to Ride.

The game has a deceptively simple premise. One is given tickets, which are routes that you must complete with your tiny plastic trains. You complete these routes by drawing color cards that line up with various lines between major cities. Any routes that you do not complete by the end of the game result in negative points. As I said, it’s deceptively simple. Children can play the game. However, a ton of strategy comes into play. I’ve had to make backup plans for my backup plans in past games. We ended up playing this game with our friends during the last two weekends. After the first game, our friends enjoyed the game so much that they both bought the mobile version. Last weekend, we played twice. One of them solidly trounced both Mr. Price and myself. We’re planning to go a little further and introduce them to Pandemic, which is a cooperative game. It’s you and your compatriots versus the game itself, which intends to destroy the world. It’s kind of like a reverse Plague Inc. (where you play as the plague which aims to destroy the world, and which I’m terribly fond of…I’m not certain what that says about me).

It’s been a ton of fun, and I hope that they catch the bug a little bit stronger than they already have. It would be nice for Mr. Price’s enormous collection of games to finally get some usage. Plus, we all know how much I love sharing the things that I love. It’s pretty much my rasion d’etre these days. Hopefully, within a few weeks, I can report back on our attempt to save the world from an unknown plague.