Tag Archives: chuck wendig

Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig

mockingbird coverPsychic Miriam Black returns in Mockingbird, the second book in the series named for her. As the novel opens, Miriam is attempting something she hasn’t done for years – she is trying to settle down and live with Louis. She even has a real job, working as a checkout girl at a grocery store in Long Beach Island. But it isn’t long before Miriam becomes restless, and starts looking for a way out. Hoping to appease her psychic powers, which are clamoring to be used, Miriam’s boyfriend Louis takes her to meet a teacher at a school for troubled young girls on his trucker route. The teacher, Katey, is convinced she is dying, and Louis hopes Miriam can use her ability to give Katey some answers. Things are never that easy for Miriam, though, and while she is at the school she bumps into a young girl and sees her shocking and terrifying murder. Not even Miriam can ignore this, and the unwilling psychic is set on a quest to uncover a murder plot and save the lives of teenagers almost as messed up as she is.

In Mockingbird, Wendig brings us another snarky, drama-filled story centering around the reluctant heroine Miriam. As Miriam learns more about her powers, we learn more about her world. Miriam doesn’t just randomly see the death of everyone she touches – she has been given this “gift” by a higher power that expects her to use it, whether she likes it or not (for her, usually not). We don’t know much about the higher power, aside from the fact that is has a obsession with birds, using them as its messengers. It isn’t some cute, benevolent higher power that manifests with bright lights and the scent of roses. It’s violent and demanding. It may be trying to save lives, but it doesn’t have much regard for Miriam’s in the process. I like this switch for the norm in fantasy writing. Miriam sees death. It wouldn’t make sense for whatever is controlling this power to be calm and polite. Instead  it manipulates and threatens Miriam into doing what it wants. It’s dark and a little terrifying and I like it.

We get a smidgen of this novel told from Louis’s point-of-view. Truthfully I don’t remember if we got any of his perspective in the last novel but I am like 95% sure we did not. For me, this was a nice break to get out of Miriam’s head, which is a very scary place. But Louis’s story is still dark and tragic, and leaves the reader wondering whether Louis would be better off if he just let Miriam leave him. Why is Louis so desperate to stay with Miriam despite how badly she treats him? Perhaps this question will be answered as the series continues.

3 stars

3 stars out of 5 for Mockingbird. The plot is creepy and surprising. I saw part of the ending coming, but definitely not all of it. I love when authors can surprise me. Unfortunately I don’t think this book series is for me. The stories I like. But Miriam Black is just too harsh and obnoxious for me to get emotionally invested in her. It’s not that I don’t like reluctant heroes, and sometimes I can even get behind protagonists who are not likable. I liked Jalan in Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War series, and he was an ass. Maybe it’s because Miriam is a woman that’s an ass? I bet there’s some long, psychological name for not minding a male protagonist who is a jerk, but disliking a female. Although, Miriam is not the same sort of terrible person as Jalan. I don’t know. I haven’t had enough coffee yet to complete this self-analysis. I just know that I won’t be continuing with this series. I do intend to seek out Chuck Wendig’s other writing, though, like the books he wrote in the Star Wars universe. Like I said, I like the books, I just don’t like Miriam. I still recommend this series for fans of urban fantasy who don’t mind a brash, profane, obnoxious heroine.

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Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig

I wanted to like this book. I really did. And, OK, its not that I disliked the story. But dude. Miriam Black is NOT a likable character. Drove me a little nuts.

blackbirds wendig coverMiriam Black can see a person’s death when she touches them. Any sort of skin contact. Even a brush on the shoulder when moving through a crowd. She has spent the past several years taking advantage of this skill. She sees a person’s death, and if its soon enough, finds them at the moment of their death and robs them – just enough to stay alive and on the move, guilt free. After all, she doesn’t cause the deaths. But then she hitches a ride with a trucker named Louis. She shakes his hand, and discovers he dies in a month – and calls her name at the moment of his death. Miriam has never been able to prevent a death she has seen. But now, convinced she is the direct cause of Louis’s death, she knows she has to try.

I picked this up after I saw Chuck Wendig speak in Philly with Kevin Hearne and Fran Wilde. He was hilarious. I started following him on Twitter, where he is also hilarious and snarky. I expected his book to be snarky as well, and I was not disappointed. The story was great, but…

Let’s go back to me not liking Miriam. It’s not just that I personally didn’t like her. She wasn’t meant to be likable. I get that. She had a shitty life, and it turned her into an obnoxious, profane, gritty, heartless alcoholic. Well, not entirely heartless. She did want to save Louis. Most of the time – she waffled. I was invested in Miriam’s story, but not her. I wanted her to be less…annoying, I guess? I don’t know how to describe it exactly. I can’t say “nicer.” Blah, nice is such a terrible word. Kinder? More compassionate? Less gross? Less aggressive? Sigh. I just didn’t like her. I know theoretically you don’t have to like a character to like a book. But I do. And she got on my nerves.

As for the rest of the story, I liked it quite a bit. Even though I didn’t like Miriam, all the characters were fabulously written. Louis, the trucker, was such a genuinely nice guy. (I know, I know, I just said “nice” wasn’t a good word, but I swear it works here!) Ashley was a total douchebag who you hated almost the instant you met him, and then despised him once you got to know him. The creepy pseudo-cops gave me the actual chills. At the beginning of the novel, you couldn’t figure out how everything was going to tie together. But of course it did. And the snarky chapter titles were particularly fabulous.

I’m only giving this book 3 stars out of 5, because Miriam got on my nerves A LOT. But its aaaaaaaaaaaalmost a 4 out of 5.  And yeah, I’m definitely going to read the next Miriam Black book, Mockingbird. It looks interesting. I have a feeling the series is going to get better, and I think Miriam might grow on me.

Authors in Real Life!

This past Friday, I had the privilege to see one of my favorite authors, Kevin Hearne, along with Chuck Wendig and Fran Wilde in a Q&A and autograph session at the Philly library. It was awesome!!

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From left, Fran Wilde, Chuck Wendig, and Kevin Hearne. The lovely lady on the right is the Sci-Fi/Fantasy librarian and led the Q&A. 

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The beautiful Fran Wilde and the cover image for Updraft!

This was my first time meeting authors in person, and it was pretty freaking cool. I went specifically to meet Kevin Hearne, but instantly discovered Fran and Chuck are also hilarious and fabulous and their books have been added to my lengthy To-Read list as well. For those who do not know, Fran Wilde writes the Bone Universe trilogy, including Updraft, Cloudbound (just released) and Horizon (releases later this year…September? I can’t remember. They mentioned so many book release dates…). I haven’t read them yet, but Kevin Hearne described them by saying, “They are great books and you are happily reading them and then all of the sudden you need new pants.” Unfortunately, my local libraries don’t have these so I will have to wait to get them through Inter-Library Loan, but as soon as I read them I will review them!

blackbirds wendig coverChuck Wendig is also a hilarious human who has written a ton of books. I knew he wrote in the Star Wars universe, but he also mentioned the Miriam Black series, about a psychic who sees your death when she touches you. THAT sounds like an AWESOME concept. The first book, Blackbirds, is pictured to the right. I assured him I would be reading it ASAP. His Star Wars: Aftermath series (if I am understanding timelines correctly) occurs between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and is part of the new canon. This isn’t at the top of my reading list, but I am intrigued so I will be checking it out at some point. Like a good little nerd, I do love me some Star Wars.

plague of giants hearne coverAt the signing, I purchased Kevin Hearne’s new book Besieged, a collection of short stories from the Iron Druid Chronicles. Obviously I am going to have to go back and re-read the entire series, with the new short stories in the correct order. I already adore Atticus, Oberon, and the rest of the characters from the Iron Druid Chronicles, but I am very excited for Kevin’s new book Plague of Giants, releasing hopefully in October. Totally new universe, completely different sort of fantasy story (from Iron Druid), and 11 different POVs throughout the novel. I’m stoked. I own the Iron Druid Chronicles books, so I may just pre-order Plague of Giants. If I don’t love it (which I suspect is pretty unlikely) I can always donate it to my library. Kevin also mentioned a new book series he is writing with Delilah S. Dawson. I have not read her work, but intend to now. The new series, which begins with a book called Kill the Farm Boy, is a satiric take on formulas and tropes found in, you know, every fantasy book ever. And I need it. Immediately. I believe Kevin said it comes out in November.

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Look!! I met Kevin Hearne!!

In addition to finding out about what they write, I learned some cool things from these authors, like they did a lot of (sometimes crappy) jobs before they achieved writing success. They also talked about their writing process, and how everyone is different and, as a writer, you need to figure out what works for you – and if what you are doing isn’t working, don’t be afraid to change it. Which, when you think about it, is kinda a good rule for life as well. Anyway, I found it inspirational and it makes me want to get off my couch and write more, and hearing “regular” people talk about what they did really helped. If you get a chance to go meet authors, do it!