Sunday, June 25, 2017

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Even though I knew this was somewhat a prequel to the first Wayward Children, I still kinda hoped for more.

HOWEVER, as a straight story and judging it on its own merits, I can find absolutely no fault.
This is a story of twins being mirrored darkly, rather messed up by their short-sighted and self-consumed parents, twisted by circumstance and then later by their own choices, this entire novella is a frame and a mirror to highlight the differences between gender expectations and how it can pull a big number on these poor kids.

Later on, we're given some rather nasty service when we add a vampire Master and a necromancer Doctor into the mix. Separating the twin sisters by their own desires adds a separate mirroring effect... in effect of how to create a monster or how to heal one, applying it to great story effect.

It's a story of identity and love, of influence and choice, and all told, it's quite beautiful to behold.

But to be honest? I still love the first one more for its sheer imaginative effects. :)

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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #1)Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just look at that cover! Doesn't that scream sexytime and burning fluffy wooly-headed desire? There's even a hint of magic in there, right?

Granted, anyone who knows this writer-team can fully expect there to be a huge amount of magic and very decent world building and a solid UF action- and sometimes mystery- novel, but for me, that's the ONLY REASON I picked up this book at all... because I respect the writers... not because I was corralled into reading this with a bunch of friends who were sad because the Kate Daniels books are so slow in the coming. :)

But look at that cover! It screams trashy romance!

Alas!

But then I read it and was very pleasantly surprised that it was mostly magic, mystery, family, and a bunch of wild investigation times with things blowing up. The world is full of magic unlocked by a handwavium juice and boosted by particular genetics and families, but more than that, it's an adventure.

It also has a light romance touch with the obligatory ultra-alpha male and the MC damsel that must have told us on the page that, "NO. Indeed. She Will Not Succumb To His Sexy Wiles."

Ahem. Romance. Yes, there's romance. It hardly takes up ten percent of the whole novel, but it is an ever-present thread. :)

And, if I'm going to be entirely honest... it grew on me. :) I had fun.





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Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Geek Feminist RevolutionThe Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the 5th book I've read of Hurley and out of all of them, I'm going to have to rate this the best.

Why? Is it because it's full of rage at the real injustice in the world? Or because it's a call to action for every one of us to do and think better than we have been?

Both of these, I think.

But because I'm a White Male of traditionally acceptable sexuality...

Who has read Adrienne Rich and has generally read voraciously about feminism and the problems of the culture we live in, thinking and believing that women's studies are not only for women but is everyone's responsibility to consider seriously as we are responsible adults living lives that we can be proud of...

I'm honored to take up Hurley's call to action or at the very least continue the dialogue in all seriousness. Feminism isn't only for women. It's just as important that men understand what's at stake here. We're either all victims lashing out or we can grow the hell up and treat everyone we know with respect.

That being said, I also loved these essays for Hurley's honesty, her story, and even the redefinitions of her life. I respect her for passing through the gauntlet of those bad times and refusing to back down when she sees things that are wrong. We should all be this brave and stand up to fight for that which we honestly believe rather than fall back on the trap of politeness when it's not getting the job done. :)

I think this book out of all of this year's Hugo Nominees for Best Non-Fiction work is best suited to win, and it's not only because it deals with the writing process, issues with storytelling in culture, or even because it drills down into Gamergate and Sad/Rabid Puppies, but because it's plainly excellent and cohesive writing that packs a punch.

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CosmicomicsCosmicomics by Italo Calvino
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one pretty much floored me. The scope and the way this was written kinda blew my mind.

What do I mean? Well, it's one hell of an accomplished SF... encompassing all time and space from a single viewpoint in what may as well be god... but isn't.

It's a love story with a very complicated relationship of an alien with another alien, it's a love story with time, physics, genetics, and all sorts of real math. I will admit that a very great deal of my enjoyment of this novel stems from the fact that I'm conversant with real science in a big way and this book incorporates it all very heavily in the narrative.

The book is kinda like this: think of five or six hella great popular science writers, turn them into short-story writers, let it have the feel of Marvel or DC cosmic-stage stories, and then have it feel right at home with Neil Gaiman's Sandman.

I'm not joking. It's really that good and that odd. And while the science bits and how it's written is very heavy in a way, I don't think it overwhelms the actual stories at all. It's unusual and it's very smart, but I wouldn't let that deter you from reading it. Indeed, I think everyone should read this and have it be a solid staple of the mind.

My only complaint might be a bit idiotic. I really think these stories would translate perfectly into a real comic. I know it's kinda implied in the title, but still... I think it would be improved, making it even more readable and brilliant... that is, assuming that the artist is up to snuff. :)



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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Crossing Limbo: Deep Moments, Shallow LivesCrossing Limbo: Deep Moments, Shallow Lives by Shane Joseph
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This collection of compelling short stories matches its title... shallow lives met with deep moments.

I mostly read SF/F but I've taken a liking to Shane Joseph's writing. The characters in this collection all share a number of unsavory features, sometimes just flat with no expectations for their future, and sometimes they're a tight mixture of baddies with tiny redeeming virtues. I like them all for what they are. I'm not supposed to LIKE them, but that's not the point.

We as readers are meant to draw our own judgments, our own ideas about what to take from the stories. I don't mind that at all. It just means a bit of extra work and a bit of extra involvement and investment, but who wants it utterly easy all the time?

I will say one thing about "Shock and Awe". I loved this story the best. It's not every day you get a dog as the main character and this one felt cool all around, from an indictment of humanity and a murder mystery, too. :)

The rest of the stories are all just flawed people encountering twists both big and small.

I can't say that I got all that much actual edification out of them and it was sometimes hard to truly identify, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed the collection as a whole. The writing is compelling.

Thanks to the author for an ARC of this collection!

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dead Men NakedDead Men Naked by Dario Cannizzaro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dylan Thomas! *points at the title*

That being said, I really enjoyed the heart of this novel. It really is about Heart and also about having a road trip with Death, with all that implies, but more than that, I really enjoyed the humor and the depth of feeling that was expressed.

What? At the same time? Yeah. I could actually see the author bleeding out on the page even as I grinned at the Tequila-inspired Seances, the buddy-Death escapades, or the total wish-fulfillment fantasies surrounding the sisters (of whom take up even more of this tale than even the MC).

It's a quest novel, to be sure, but more of an inner-world-become-fantasy as told through modern anthropomorphism. Hello, Death! :)

Quite a smooth read and very entertaining, all told, but the best part was the heart.

Thanks to the author for a copy! I was genuinely pleased with the read!

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Promise of Blood (Powder Mage, #1)Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been hearing a lot of good things about this book and while I was somewhat skeptical at first, I am quite pleased to announce that it was delightful. :)

Delightful as in lots of blood and guts, gun-mages, sorcerers, revolution, plain war, resurrected gods, a very sneaky Chef and a fantastic investigation that's all gumshoe mystery in a fully-realized fantasy realm.

What makes this stand out, though?

I think it's mostly the characters, the bright pacing, and the magic system.

A lot of these epic fantasies get bogged down with too many characters, IMHO, but this one keeps a great balance with three PoV's, truly interesting storylines for each, and a few that are sufficiently non-standard that it was just a breath of fresh air. I mean, where else are we going to get octogenarian generals in the forefront of a big action tale and pull it off well enough that it's exciting and crusty and never boring? I tell you, it's a treat! Or an investigator who used to run a printing press being pressed into service as an investigator again for the revolution? :) Good stuff.

But what really stuck in my mind was the writing. I may be wrong about this little intuition, but there were enough stylistic callbacks in this novel to make me think I was reading some of Brent Weeks. Not only that... but some of the naming choices seemed to be a loving shout-out to Weeks as well. I was tickled pink. Again, I may be wrong about this, but I don't think I am.

I'm putting this series on a "must grab" status in my mind. It reads quickly and deliciously and it was never a chore. It's a long book, to be sure, but it was still never a chore. I can't wait to see what the gods are going to do to us poor mortals. :)




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