Foreigner (Foreigner #1) by C.J. Cherryh


Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Date Read: April 10 to May 5, 2017

This book ends when the story is just about to get interesting. And that’s the most effective way to lose an audience.

Up until the ending, it’s a real repetitive uphill slog, and I say that as someone who liked it more than most people. Reading it was a labor-intensive task that I never thought would end and I would never have been able to get to the end without the help of the audio–again, speaking as someone who liked the story. The prose and plotting could use a lot of editing, and the inner monologues could use some deleting. But the alien world and cultures were interesting, and they seemed to have the potential to become even more interesting. For that alone, I would pick up the second book.

Back to the ending and what I think most people don’t know about this book: it’s not an ending, but it’s not quite a cliffhanger either, and thus the reason behind so many frustrated reviews. While it’s not an ending, it does leaving you in the middle of a scene that could potentially be interesting if you were already invested in the story and characters. But if you weren’t, it wouldn’t be a huge loss to not know how it all ends or whether or not Bren Cameron survives and is able to navigate the delicate relations between humans and atevi.

I wouldn’t say I’m invested, but I do want to know what happens next–alien worlds and political intrigue are an interesting combination. Maybe not right away though because a break is in order after that slog, but as soon as the audio for the second book is available, I’m on it.

Full review when I get through the first the books or a complete story in the case of this series.

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* * * spoilers below * * *

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Ten Bookish Questions

Stealing this meme from a bunch of people because I really like the questions–they’re just too hard to resist. Feel free to do the same and let me know. I love reading these.

1. What book is on your nightstand now?
Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson
– Space is big and scary. NdT makes it less so. He makes me think about all the possibilities and how they really are possible.

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
– Permanent nightstand staple. I will reread this book until it’s no longer fun*.

Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman
– I can’t seem to finish this book. Don’t know why. It’s not even a difficult book. It’s just really slow, like unbelievably so.

Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey
– Yet this 800+ page hardcover doorstop that heavily features a host of uncomfortable things is… a breeze. Go figure.

* which is never

2. What was the last truly great book that you read?
Ah… too many to choose from, so I’ll just stick to this year. So far the short list looks like this:
The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin
Way Station by Clifford Simak
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
but I’m sure there’ll be more. I’m getting pretty good at choosing stellar reads. The trick is to really, really know what you like and choose according to your current mood.

3. If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?
Octavia Butler. Everything. I would want to know everything about her, starting with where she got her ideas. There isn’t much written about her, and she rarely gave interviews. So much of her life and career is still a mystery, and now we’ll never know.

4. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?
5 different editions of Pride & Prejudice. I don’t think it’s that surprising to people who know me, but casual friends and acquaintances are always taken aback. It’s probably because they’ve only seen me read genre.

5. How do you organize your personal library?
It used to be by favorite books, but now it’s by priority. Must-reads get quality shelf space–front and center, so that I can actually see them–while everything else gets whatever space I can squeeze them into.

6. What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?
– The rest of Octavia Butler’s backlist: Kindred, Fledgling, the Patternmaster series, the Earthseed duology, her short story collections. It’s only a matter of time before I get to them all. For now, I’m saving them for when I’m emotionally ready because there’s so much packed into her writing that I can’t just read her books, then move onto to other things. I absorb them and they stay with me forever, and anything I read after pales in comparison.

– I’m kind of embarrassed I haven’t read more China Mieville than just Un Lun Dun or more Guy Gavriel Kay than just Tigana. Will have to try harder this year since I own most of their backlists.

7. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didnt? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
– It’s a tie between The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Both seemed tailored to my taste at first glance, yet neither turned out the way I’d hoped.

– Does reading a sample chapter and deciding not to buy count as not finishing a book? Because I do that a lot, and I don’t really remember the last book I sampled and passed on. It was probably Before the Fall by Noah Hawley.

8. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?
– Things I’m drawn to always have elements of sci-fi and/or fantasy, and really, that’s all it takes to get my attention. Another thing I’m drawn to, when I’m in the mood, is a gripping vengeful revenge story that’s got bite and a tight plot (and SF/F).

– I stay clear of contemporary fiction (“literature”) that feature family drama or political drama or just basically drama. The worst would have to be contemporary fiction that wins all the awards but is really about nothing but pretty prose and first world problems. Those are the worst.

9. If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
Oh wow, where to begin. I seem to have a theme going here, so I’m gonna say anything by Octavia Butler. Any one of her books would do because they’re all relevant and necessary, and I would love it if someone in the position of president reads her work. Not for show or to gain polling points or “to appeal to a diverse demographic” or what have you, but really read it.

10. What do you plan to read next?
Might be too ambitious of me to say, but I’d like to finish Jacqueline Carey’s whole Kushiel series. I didn’t think I’d like Kushiel’s Dart, I could barely stand it at first, but I reached a turning point in the story today and now I’m kind of hooked. It went from the Splendors of Versailles to Vikings (that show on the History channel) in a blink of an eye, and I’m hooked. It’s hard to explain… I’m not sure why I’m so into this story. It’s… uncomfortable, extremely so. And so sad. The main character has such a sad, lonely life. What makes it even sadder is her convincing us, the reader, that it’s not all that bad, but it is. She was born into prostitution, raised to be an exemplary prostitute, and to play political intrigue games and be another tool in the court. There’s artistry and beauty to it, so she says, but all I can see is someone who’s stuck in a life she cannot escape and she’s convinced herself it’s what she wants. Yet I want to read on, to follow her story to the end.


Forgot to mention in the last post that this is an ongoing meme circling around twitter, and I was tagged by a few people whose tweets I can’t find anymore because twitter is a mess and looking for specific tweets always gives me a headache. So I’m doing the questions here.


Just recently I had to shelve Eye of the World for the third time. No reason other than a case of “wrong time, wrong book,” which happens to be a recurring theme for me when it comes to traditional high fantasy. Eye of the World was picked by one of my GR book clubs and I had every intention of finishing it by the end of May. And I actually got past all the world building this time around, but then my work load piled up and other books, more interesting and more time consuming, got in the way–specifically The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi, which took me longer to get through and unravel than I intended. Then Stories of the Raksura, Vol II arrived in the mail, and all my focus and energy went into not devouring it in one night. And that was it for the rest of May. There was just no chance to finish Eye of the World and I got tired of pretending like I could, so back on the shelf it went.

Best Ending of book or series

In terms of execution, it’s a tie between Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell and House of Leaves by Mark Danielewksi, which is funny because they’re polar opposites. One is order and the other chaos. But they both experiment with different styles and voices to weave several narratives together, and I think the result is the most interesting I’ve ever read. Both endings are astounding and stay true to the structure and nature of the books. Cloud Atlas ends in an orderly fashion, just like how it starts. Everything comes full circle and it’s quite poetic to see all the pieces falling into place. House of Leaves, on the other hand, ends with a feeling. You know that feeling you have as you’re drifting off to sleep and you suddenly find yourself diving head first into an abyss and you jerk awake with your heart and adrenaline pumping full force? House of Leaves left me with that feeling. I’m still not sure what that means though.

But in terms of surprise, I would have to say The Giver by Lois Lowry. The ending is left wide open, and that surprised me most about this book. Since it’s YA, I was expecting most loose ends to be wrapped up in a tidy (albeit rushed) ending, but the book ends abruptly in the middle of a scene, if I remember correctly. I haven’t read the sequels, so I don’t know how Jonas’ life turned out or what became of the baby Gabriel, and I think it’s better that way, not knowing. Because knowing would ruin the jarring impact of the book.

Book that gave you the most FEELZ

Basically everything I’ve read by Octavia Butler. Unexpected feelz are the best and most memorable feelz, and unexpected feelz about ambiguous shapeshifting gender-defying aliens are feelz that stay with you long after you finish reading.

But if I had to pick just one book, it would have to be… A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. The writing is beautifully devastating. Even though I knew what would happen, I still wasn’t prepared for the ending.

“I wish I had a hundred years,” she said, very quietly. “A hundred years I could give to you.”

Gets me every time.


Currently reading:


Magic Rises (Kate Daniels, #6) by Ilona Andrews

With Magic Shifts (#8) coming out later this summer and Magic Breaks (#7) arriving in the mail today, I figured it was time to get reacquainted with Kate Daniels and her chaotic, over-the-top, post-apocalyptic world. It’s a world I love with characters I’m fond of. My only complaint though is the focus of the series shifting away from Kate with the addition of so many new characters. It’s become more like an ensemble cast but with Kate still as the main POV. Another thing is the shift from Kate’s life as a lone-wolf mercenary to her domestic life as Curran’s mate. Just seems odd is all and somewhat difficult for me to adjust to, mostly because I find Kate being on her own much more interesting than her settling down–figure of speech, of course, since nothing settles down in this world.

While I recall books 1 through 5 just fine, I’m having trouble remembering the events of Magic Rises. I tacked it on on the tail end of an energetic UF marathon and I was just short of burning out by the time I finished, so there might have been some breezing through and skimming past key sequences of the plot. The only things coming back to me now is Kate settling into her role as the Pack’s mistress, the Pack’s trip to Europe to help solve the European Pack’s problems, a beloved character dies, and some new ones are added to the ever-expanding Pack family.

Since I recall so little of this book, it’ll be like reading it for the first time.


TBR soon:

something by Tanith Lee (haven’t decided yet)

She passed away recently and a post on bookriot lists 3 books as possible starting points for people who have never read her. And I’m among them but I’ve always been meaning to read her–is what we all say. Don’t know why I kept pushing her books further down my list in favor of other lesser works, but no more. I’m gonna read something by Tanith Lee this summer.

People say she wrote great stories and had a beautiful way with prose.

Though we come and go, and pass into the shadows, where we leave behind us stories told–on paper, on the wings of butterflies, on the wind, on the hearts of others–there we are remembered, there we work magic and great change–passing on the fire like a torch–forever and forever. Till the sky falls, and all things are flawless and need no words at all.

(quote from io9)



Author you’ve read the most

In terms of number of pages, it’s Charles Dickens since I’ve read most of his books and each must be somewhere 700 to 900 pages (MMPB editions).

But in terms of number of works (including short stories, novellas, and sometimes essays), it’s Brandon Sanderson.

Though neither are authors I read anymore these days. I think after surpassing the 10,000-page mark I just got sick and tired of both authors, and it didn’t help that both are/were formulaic writers who have/had a tendency to rehash the same kinds of characters and problems. After a couple of books, starting a new one by either was like reading the previous one over again. The writing got too repetitive and predictable for me.

Best sequel

It’s a tie between Adulthood Rites by Octavia Butler and Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon. If I finish both authors’ body of work, Butler would become my most-read author in terms of number of works and Gabaldon in terms of number of pages.

Best cover art

Another tie, this time between Liz Williams’ Detective Inspector Chen series (original hardcover editions) and Martha Wells’ Books of the Raksura series.


Currently reading:

Three great books


The Reapers are the Angels (Reapers #1) by Alden Bell
Somber, eloquent, and quite beautiful. The writing style reminds me of early contemporary American. “Faulkner-esque” is what some reviewers call it. This book definitely rivals The Girl with All the Gifts in execution and could very well be the best post-apocalyptic book I’ve read this year.


Three Parts Dead (Craft Sequence #1) by Max Gladstone
A surprise, a pleasant surprise. I was lured in by the urban-fantasy-ness and blown away by the setting and world building. As a rule, I have low expectations for all urban fantasies, regardless of hype. So I went into this book expecting it to be average at best, but the depth and scope of Gladstone’s world building won me over. Looking forward to continuing this series.


Stories of the Raksura, Volume II by Martha Wells
What else is there left to say about this series that I haven’t said in my last two posts? When an author hits her stride, it shows in the strength of the narrative and the writing is simply wonderful. Wells just gets better and better with every new Raksura installment. I’d prefer a full-length novel because I just love the Three Worlds and every single character in it, but the short stories and novellas are just as great and fulfilling in their own way. The ones in this second volume fill in the gap between the previous books and from past events before Moon’s time, but these are more than just fillers because each story adds something new to the continuous arc and expand on wonders of the Three Worlds.


Lately I’ve been on a roll with my book choices and have come across a bunch of great ones these past few weeks, and I’d like to tell everyone about them, but there hasn’t been enough time to write. When I do have time, writing and reviewing just seem like too much work. And it doesn’t help that I’ve been writing a lot for work. Not fun things like books and new releases, but reports and proposals and answering dumb questions that anyone could find the answers to on google. *internally eye-rolling forever*. So the inclination to sit down and type out a post, no matter how short and to the point, makes me want to take a nap instead, even if it’s a post about books I actually enjoy.

And besides, it’s summer. There’s always something to do and dogs to walk and backyard gatherings to attend, if only for the free booze. Someone I know always wants to break out the grill and torch a few burgers every weekend that it’s not raining, and someone else always wants to have “a few people over” or go out and “try this new place,” and at least one other person always invite me to their kids’ birthdays–like why? I didn’t even know you had kids… but that’s beside the point.

The point is it’s summer and I have a short attention span. My reading list has been great and I want to let everyone know about all these awesome books I’m breezing through, but writing complete reviews isn’t something I can accomplish. So posts from now on will most likely be a mash-up of updates, short reviews, memes, and a few other things.


7 Deadly Sins of Reading


This tag was created by BookishMalayza on YouTube, and I’ve been tagged by JJ on twitter. I’m doing it here because twitter gives me a headache.


1) What is your most expensive book, and what is your most least expensive book?

My most expensive book to date is probably the History of Botanical Science set. It came with the original text and a beautifully illustrated updated edition. My least expensive books are those I rescued from library and yard sales. They ranged from a penny to a quarter, and they’re all older, out of print SF/F hardback editions.

2) Which author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Neil Gaiman. Love his writing, don’t like his stories. Does that even make sense? I like his way with words, but I don’t particularly like how his stories turn out. They always seem to stop short of a full ending, which I have no problem with if the books were part of a series, but they’re not, so that’s a bit unnerving. Before Gaiman came along, this spot used to belong to Stephen King but for the exact opposite reason–love his stories, hate the way his writing drags on.

3) What book have you deliciously devoured over and over again, with no remorse whatsoever?

I rarely reread books, not even ones I love, because of time constraints. But I do revisit books I didn’t like the first time around, just to give them a fair chance. None has wowed me yet though. If anything, I end up taking away a star following the reread. The only books I remember reading more than twice are Wild Seed, Outlander, and The Hunger Games.

4) What book have you neglected reading due to laziness?

I don’t neglect books out of laziness but rather a desire to avoid whatever unpleasant subject matter those books contain. Needless to say they’re all nonfictions jam packed with unpleasant politics. Most times my desire to learn win out, but sometimes I have to work myself up to do some prelim research before I start reading.

5) What book do you most talk about in order to sound like a very intellectual reader?

I…don’t do that, at least I don’t think so. I mean, if sounding “intellectual” was important to me, I’d do what everyone is doing, and that’s bringing up Bret Ellis Easton and Donna Tartt in almost every breath. Or I’d casually drop a reference or two about Infinite Jest that only those who’ve actually read it would understand. But I don’t do it because I’m not an intellectual (read: asshole). 😉

6) What attributes do you find most attractive in male or female characters?

I don’t…know? I don’t find characters attractive. I mean, I understand when other people say they’re attracted to certain characters or call them their ideal mates or whatever, but that doesn’t happen with me. I “gauge” characters by how believable they are to me, how believable their thoughts and actions are to me, and whether or not I’d like them if they were real people. Does that make sense? Whether I’m attracted to certain characters doesn’t apply into the equation, which is why I have no problem reading about unpleasant or deplorable characters.

7) What books would you most like to receive as a gift?

One sure way to get me to read a book is to gift wrap it. Usually I have no preference and welcome any book as a gift because, like people say, it’s the thoughts that count. I’m more interested in what the book means to the gift giver and why they want me to read it, than I am in the book itself. But currently I have one book-thing in mind: the hardback editions of Chris Wooding’s Tales of the Ketty Jay, preferably the editions with the original cover art. If anyone has been able to find the complete series and send it to me, I’d appreciate it greatly (and love you forever!).

As you might have noticed, I’m very particular about book editions and cover art, but that’s only when it comes to books I buy for myself. I don’t expect anyone to understand my–sometimes ridiculously specific–book specifications. I appreciate all gift books in whatever shape and form they come in because it’s the thoughts that count.


I’m tagging everyone who wants to do this, and I look forward to your answers!


Some thoughts RE: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

The ever-hilarious Jon Ronson is back with another investigation into pop-psychology, or rather the collective psyche of that mob mentality on social media. Some call it a social movement. I have no idea what it really is, but I’m fascinated by its energy. Here is a snippet from Ronson’s meeting with Jonah Lehrer, the now infamous self-plagiarist.

For the last hour Jonah had been repeatedly telling me, in a voice strained to breaking point, ‘I don’t belong in your book.’

And I was repeatedly replying, ‘Yes, you do.’

I didn’t understand what he was talking about. I was writing a book about public shaming. He had been publicly shamed. He was ideal.

Now he suddenly stopped, mid hiking trail, and looked intently at me. ‘I am a terrible story to put in your book,’ he said.

‘Why?’ I said.

‘What’s that William Dean Howells line?’ he said. ‘“Americans like a tragedy with a happy ending”?’

The actual William Dean Howells line is ‘What the American public wants in the theatre is a tragedy with a happy ending.’ I think Jonah was close enough.

Hah, way to kick him when he’s down.

Aside from self-plagiarizing, Jonah Lehrer has also been found guilty of misquotations and, in some cases, mangling Bob Dylan’s words. That was his downfall–mangling Bob Dylan. It was a small, barely noticeable, lapse in Lehrer’s huge body of work. By the time anyone (Michael Moynihan) found that tiny piece of loose thread and pulled, Lehrer had already become a popular successful author. And he’s so young too. Everyone had been amazed. So when the boy genius fell from grace, it was a big deal. It rocked the publishing world. But the fall out didn’t stop there. People went back and meticulously combed through everything he’s written and found that almost every essay and two books, now pulled from publication, contained self-plagiarism.

You may not think that’s a big deal–so he didn’t cite himself a couple of times, so what? Here’s what: he did it repeatedly and, I would assume, deliberately. But you’ll have to read Moynihan’s side of the story and decide for yourself. Anyhow. The point isn’t that Leher “forgot” to cite himself. The point is he recycled old material and passed it off as new…and got paid handsomely for it. If Lehrer were to cite himself properly in each of his essays, almost every single paragraph would have been a quotation taken from essays he’d written in the past. Very little of the new essay would contain new or original content. So if not for the recycled material, there would have been no new material to publish or sell. It was essentially a scam, and Lehrer did it knowingly. That is the point. Another point is no one looked twice because he’s a young educated fellow from a prestigious background, but that’s another thing entirely.

So far I haven’t learned much about the concept of public shaming, other than how it plays out, but I did learn what self-plagiarism is in the publishing world. And yes, it’s a difficult thing to avoid when you’ve written so much for so long on just one topic. Sometimes you’ll end up repeating what you’ve already written in the past; the lapse in memory is bound to happen sooner or later. It’s an honest mistake… if it happens once or twice. But in almost every essay? That shows intent and deliberation.

Jon Ronson writes in a very funny and engaging way. I find myself reluctant to put this book down.


[ETA] I did some digging and it looks like Jonah Lehrer’s transgressions extended further than self-plagiarism. People have found actual plagiarism in the two books that were pulled and many of his essays from and The New Yorker. Only 18 essays were pulled for closer examination, and of those 18, 17 were found to contain plagiarized material. People have also found instances where Lehrer pulled a Stephen Glass, formerly known as a Janet Cooke, and made up facts and sources to pad his writing (source).

Jon Ronson seems to think we’re all being too hard on Lehrer. Maybe it’s time to forgive and forget? Maybe. After all, “we’re not monsters.” Hah hah…hah. Ahem. We’ll just have to see how much plagiarism is in his new book to determine whether or not it’s forgivable. Oh btw, he’s sold a new manuscript (source).


Some thoughts RE: Bill Browder and Red Notice

This book came to me highly recommended by people I work with. It’s not the type of book I normally read, but every once in a while I pick up a nonfiction exposition to, you know, keep up with current events.

The premise is an American businessman, Bill Browder, in the early 1990s saw an opportunity in Russia and went for it. After setting up shop and working with the Kremlin for some time, he found himself in over his head when his work was pulled out from under him, and then he got kicked out of the country and charged with a list of crimes against the government for trying to expose corruption. It’s a whirlwind of a story, full of intrigue, suspense, corruption, and murder.

It’s an interesting story and well written overall, but what I’ve been able to skim from the book so far leads me to believe that Browder’s troubles could have been avoided had he done his homework ahead of time.

Continue reading


RE: Foxglove Summer (and snow)

Nothing says “welcome home” like over a foot of snow at the start of November. We don’t usually get buried under until after New Years, but it looks like winter is kicking off early this year. While I was bemoaning the amount of snow and taking the day off, I got a surprising email from Gollancz about Foxglove Summer. More about this below.

Foxglove Summer has 2 release dates, Nov. 13 for the UK and some day in January for the US. Since I didn’t want to pay the shipping price, I placed my order through a US seller which means my copy won’t arrive until next year. [*headdesk*] This is the kind of thing publishers should let retailers know ahead of time, before allowing advanced orders. I won’t even ponder the reasons for separate release dates or why the dates are so far apart. If I’d known, I wouldn’t have ordered ahead of time.

But then the people at Gollancz came to the rescue and offered to send me the ebook, which I did not expect at all. I expected a refund, but this is better, much better. I don’t know whether or not this is a common thing for publishers, and I don’t know that many people who order books early, so I can’t compare notes. It must be a rare occurrence though because the people I talked to were like, “Be honest, how many times did you yell at them before they gave in?” So tbh, none. I didn’t reach out to them or even talk about it online until now.

The ebook will be sent to my account this Thursday, and I can hardly wait.

Continue reading


In which I read books people left on planes

They’re all terrible but in their own unique ways. Terrible in that they’re not to my taste and also because the content are insufferable, but the writing and delivery…aren’t half bad. Readable overall, although very gimmicky at times. Each book amp up the shock factor to keep the pages turning, and I admit I fell for it.

This post isn’t meant to deter anyone from picking up these books. I think you should give them a try if any one of them ever held your interest in the past. Each book is more or less an examination of glamour, sex, violence, and pushing the envelope, though not an intelligible examination, might I add. What these books lack is interesting relevant commentary on our morbid fascination with these topics. IMHO, the authors really missed their chance to say something to tie their stories together or at least show their awareness of this morbid fascination.

I never leave home without at least one book on hand. So I boarded each flight in the hopes of getting a few quiet hours with Bill Bryson or Tana French, and I did get some time to read my books, but then on 3 of the flights, the people who’d sat in my seat before me left behind paperbacks in crisp condition. Quite a coincidence, but not surprising.

And here they are in no specific order:

Doesn’t surprise me one bit that these three books got left behind.


Some thoughts re: Storm Front by Jim Butcher

Giving this book another try because I’ve been on an urban fantasy kick these past few weeks and would like to actually finish it. I hate leaving books I own unread, and people always tell me I’m missing out by not giving this series a chance, so now that’s what I’m gonna do. I might even reach the end this time, with help from James Marsters of course.

I tried the first chapter several times, but it just never clicked. For whatever reason I kept putting off the second chapter and then eventually abandoning the whole book altogether. Then I’d go on another UF bender kick, like now, and suddenly want to get through this damn book once and for all, if only to cross it off the DNF list.

The biggest obstacle is clearly Harry Dresden, wizard extraordinaire, and his good-guy personality. There’s just something inherently unlikable about him and I find his inner thoughts extremely annoying, which makes reading from his POV a real challenge. But then people keep saying the writing, including Dresden’s characterization, gets a lot better with each book. I’m inclined to believe them, and so here I am again, giving Storm Front another try.

ETA: Finished it. Here’s the review.