Sunday, July 31, 2016

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter, #8)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Aaaaand... Read. :)

How was it? Was it everything I'd hoped it would be? Potterfan that I am?

Hell yeah. Sure, if you all want something edgy, look elsewhere. No hot slant fiction here. This is a great buddy, father-son, father-daughter fiction. It easily fits into the cannon, with tons of revisited scenes from the originals in the form of dreams and timey-wimey stuff, but there's a reason for all of that and it's not a lack of imagination. At this point, it's both nostalgia and crazy emotional crap for the poor kids of Harry and Draco, who just happen to be best buds. Gotta love the drama around those households when the parents get into their shit, right?

What's surprising is how much of a pain it is being the sons of these particular famous peeps, and just how much it turns them into loners and losers and misunderstood outcasts, and therefore ripe for our sympathy. It's a tried and true method, even for Rowling, but it's no less effective here than it was for Harry. It's odd how the same sins are always revisited, right? Well it's true across time and surrogate parentages and all the mistakes that everyone keeps making despite the very best of intentions.

The drama is pure.

And if you're worried that there won't be enough magic and excitement and NUTSO altered realities on huge scales and truly horrific reversals, then just relax and get very anxious, because I sat on the edge of my seat as I saw this play performed in my mind. :)

Will I scream bloody murder if this doesn't get made into a movie down the line after the play-cycle has ended?

Yes. Yes I will. It's a good Harry Potter book, damn it. It changes the meanings of books 3 and book 4 in their interpretations and their importance. It makes me want to do another close read of them to pick out the pieces and see where they tie back into the play. :) There's some pretty cool nit-picky stuff here for us, folks. I'm loving the easter eggs.

Satisfying? Very much so. Fathers and father figures were always big in the series and it's even better now with Albus and Harry. I got all teary. :)

Don't worry about all the haters. This stuff is good. :)

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Stranger in a Strange LandStranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one transformed and cemented me as a young adult, totally screwing me up and enlightening me at the same time, showing me that living in a crazy christian culture doesn't mean I have to stay there, or that great imagery can be used soooooo damn subversively. :)

And above or below that, it was a fantastic tale of striving for wisdom, learning that semantics MEANS something, and that I can be blown away by the fact that so much philosophy and striving and understanding, (read Grok,) could be thrown into one single novel and still be a wild tale.

So why all the hate, Ya'll? Oh good ole' Jubal is a stand-in for Heinlein's soapbox tendencies, sure, but he's also a wild character in the sense that he is what he is. He loves women, but says awful things, but on the other hand, these women respect him enough to throw him in the pool and blow raspberries at him, too. As we all should, today, to all men who act as a Mad Man from 1962, all heavy-drinking, heavy-opinions, and "apparently" sexist. But no one really believes that about him when they get to know him. He's a good man and a loudmouth author and all his other progressive ideas like equality between the sexes are SHOWN to us, repeatedly and repeatedly, by actions and deeds and a closer look at all the philosophies. It's the difference between expression and reality. He expresses as the time allows, but in reality he supports everyone. That's Jubal for you.

But he's not even the main character, just the most loud one.

Mike is. He's an alien, yo, born of man but raised by Martians with heavy-ass psychic powers, yo. And he's innocent of mankind, too.

This is his story. Who tries to capitalize on the man who owns Mars, who protects him, how he learns to adapt and later to understand us crazy humans, and what he does with his gifts.

The novel could be an indictment of modern times, a brew-on of absurdity when it comes to religion and religious thinking, a wildly prescient vision of the sexual liberation movement just a few years down the road, (or perhaps the seminal novel that informed the sixties love movements,) or it could be a wonderful shout-out to us all to start trying to UNDERSTAND one another, for grok's sake.

So I think it's wonderfully delicious. You know. To say that Heinlein is a sexist reactionary? When he, like, is the spirit of the sixties? Huh, water-brother? You Grok?

This is easily one of my favorite, if not my most favorite Heinlein, not just because it got into my soul when I was a kid, but because it's just one of those works that lives and breathes and still brings a big smile to my face. :) Oh, and it's one of my top 100 works of all time and it won the Hugo of '62, not that anyone really cares, because it just SPEAKS to so many people. :)

That's controversy for you. :)

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Glory RoadGlory Road by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Re-reading my least favorite of Heinlein's works, because who knows? Maybe an older eye can shed some light upon this most shameful of tales rife with sexism, unabashed fantastical thinking (that works because this is a fantasy), or the fact that there *might* be a good reason why Heinlein only wrote one fantasy novel.

Results of my analysis are pretty much the same as when I was a kid. Odd, that. I mean, sure, there's the fighting of dragons and lots of really cool swordplay, geometrical magical symbols and magic flying everywhere, and adventure, adventure, adventure, and while none of that is particularly noteworthy in a world literally overwhelmed with such things, there is a certain odd quirk to this novel that at once feels way out of place for a fantasy novel and later how it becomes almost the entire focus.

It's a book about relationships.

Not heroism, guts, luck, or doing one's manly duty.

It's about getting in the girl's pants, discovering that she's playing him for the same reason, marrying her because of a sense of "that's what men do", learning she's a galactic empress in a high-tech interstellar kingdom, learning he's filthy rich, and then, even though he's "wildly in love" with her, gets bored within months and drops her to go back to earth and act like a screwed-up war vet, all the while obsessing over her, the fact that he'd just given up high-tech immortality and endless wealth, and he dropped her all because she's freaking old, too, and it doesn't even matter if she looks like she's in her early 20's and she's an empress that has been ruling for a long time. He's upset because she went out to sow her wild oats, and he was the result.

Wild sexism is rampant throughout this novel. Absolutely. All on his part. He's pretty much the perfect example of "do as I say not as I do" idiocy that men tell each other about the women in their lives, and because this is a poor fantasy because it is just as fantastical to see this dipshit as a lady's man that all the chicks flock to, it IS a condemnation of such thinking, too.

I mean, I think I'd have preferred to have read the book from Star's PoV, not Scar's. After all, she's out there playing the game and even offering this dipshit not just the world but her wonderful self, endless wealth, immortality, and the respect of a whole empire for the heroic deeds that he (and she) accomplished. She played the game as only a smart and sexy woman of 1964 could play it, hamming it up for the benefit of the idiot male and giving him what he expected at every turn. All she really wanted was fun and companionship and a bit of love. She'd already had three children and 50 born ex-vitro. She has experience, she's smart, and she's bored.

It's just a shame that we had to follow along with this asshole, instead. If the novel had been written the way that Heinlein had written Maureen from Sail Beyond the Sunset, this novel would probably be a long-enduring classic. But it wasn't.

I did like the full synthesis of other-universal conditions that changed the laws where certain tech isn't feasible but magic is. This makes the novel Science-Fantasy rather than standard SF, but I have no problems with it. It was nominated for the Hugo in '64 and Way Station won instead. That was a smart move. Way Station was awesome. :)

I knocked off a star from my original review for all the reasons listed. It may be unfair to judge a work that is of its times this way, kind of like judging the men in Mad Men in the early 60's for their behavior by our standards, but it is what it is. *shrug*

Let's see how some of my better-beloved Heinleins will hold up! :)

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Down StationDown Station by Simon Morden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I came into this one pretty blind, but one thing is clear: Starting out in modern London, it pretty much finishes as far away as you can get from there, at least in terms of being grounded in the normal.

There was a slight hint of SF, but all in all, it's a fantasy more reminiscent of a blend of Donaldson and Palladium Rifts, with a heavy blend of Ley-Line Geomancy and deep-core transformation magic. I was worried, at first, that the appearance of werewolves might turn it into something a little less original, but the wild transformations that both the characters go through in their psyches and their bodies makes this a much more interesting fantasy than it first appears.

Very strong opening. Starting in London like this was exciting and strange and winding up in a new world was particularly great. I did kinda wish that it got right into the faster pace of the later novel, though, or at least skipped the mundane survival bits. That might just be me, though. I really enjoyed the wild action later, though, and I think this will be a real treat for those of us that miss the old 80's Fantasy scene with a modern feel and updated magic sensibilities. I mean, Geomancy, people!

Fun stuff!

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Tunnel in the SkyTunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Stargate! Minus all the gods and the missions and the ascension crap.

Add survival, walls, and GOVERNMENT! Wooooo.... um... well at least the survival bit was fun. :)

Seriously, this YA is still a very can-do Americana book, with a seriously heavy Liberterian bent, but I have no issues there. I love that crap.

Still... I think I prefer Miles Vorkosigan's conception of the most important survival tool better. Tipping the invisible hat was one of Bujold's greatest inventions. But Heinlein had the same idea. Screw guns or even shoes, the one thing that any hardscrabble colony needs is the concept of a politics where people can actually work together, and that's what this book is really about.

YA? Sure, more like New Adult in today's classifications. Are you civic-minded enough?

As an adventure and a straight story, it's pretty great all the way to the point where they start voting, then my attention started wandering a bit. Still, some other crazy goes on and we flash forward to see how they all turn out and we even get a complete wrap up, so it's not like the tale went nowhere. It just didn't really do all that much for me. Plus, even though the women were all pretty strong and as can-do as the men, I didn't quite like how the old stereotypes came out in conversation... EVEN IF they were slapped down by a woman right in the group immediately afterward. I just hate the idea that women have to pretend to be men to be treated like men. It's just a sign of the times kind of story, unfortunately, but fortunately, there was very little of this kind of crap and Heinlein's stance on it is pretty egalitarian and equal rights and equal responsibility, so it's more of a me thing hating older cultural trends than a "I blame Heinlein" thing. Petty jealousies and toxic encounters in a closed group, indeed. Of course, she turned it right back and said the same thing about men in any closed group. It may not be clever, but it's true.

I loved the whole stargate survival business and the worldbuilding that led up to it. That was pretty great. :)

It's just the other stuff that made me knock it a star from my original review. Let's Vote! *blech* :)



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ContactContact by Carl Sagan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really hate it when I lose reviews. Okay, take two.

I was just reminiscing on my younger self's condemnation (or at least his valid annoyances at the plot holes and some of the straight story elements), or the fact that I was trying to compare this classic SF work with other classic SF works that I was making my way through at the time and comparing them unfavorably because I wanted a lot more of the psychedelic naked singularity stuff and aliens, not just a long-winded optimistic synthesis of science, religion, politics, and philosophy.

But now, after having read a lot of so-so average SF, I can easily bump this one up because it balances everything on a good tightrope, including the story elements and the characterizations...

And I'm gonna face it... I'm SERIOUSLY in need of good science and heavy optimism and reconciliations between disparate camps of philosophies.

Whoa... was this novel exactly what the doctor ordered, or what?

I rocked to all the good science. I jammed to the intelligent discussions, whether they were religious, political, or even the ethics of science. Of course, the novel is about aliens and whether or not we're grown up, too, but that's all part of the big package, and what a huge package!

Sagan is rightly considered a god. :) I'm not alone in thinking he should have been writing tons more novels, either, and not just this single masterwork.

So if I ever get the chance to travel back in time and slap around my younger self, I'll do it joyfully. Sure, the novel has a few plot and element faults, but overall, I'm rather amazed that so much was able to come out of the text. As a whole, the book itself is a synthesis, and not only its message.

Oh, and other than that, I've seen the movie like a 10x24 times, as if each iteration was a point in pi, so it was also fun as hell picking out all the divergences between the book and the movie. I was always pretty amazed that not only the spirit was intact, but so was most of the pieces.

Sure, she wasn't alone on her little trip in the book, but both ways were pretty great. Want visual? Or do you want extrapolation and discussion and theory? Pick one. Watch or Read. :) Good, either way. :)

I can enthusiastically recommend this novel to anyone. :)

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Jersey DevilThe Jersey Devil by Hunter Shea
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sweeeeeet.

I mean, I was expecting a cryptozoologist's nightmare with a focus on building sympathetic characters even in New Jersey, and all of this is right on target, but I didn't expect to love the whole damn redneck family or their never-ending bullets and their heavy-set will-to-revenge.

I had a great time reading this. This is horror done right. The build-up wasn't too long, the reveals were properly horrific, and the end was extremely satisfying. And bloody. Oh goodness, do any of you like a good gorefest? I do.

Hell, I love it. Especially when we get to ride with a bunch of lovable red-necks that have fallen in way too deep. Old School. Get your heart pumping in time to the shotgun barrel.

No spoilers, but keep your eye on that octogenerian. He's not only a man with a plan and a cadre of kids. He's an action hero. :)

Thanks to Netgalley for a wild ARC!

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Have Space Suit—Will TravelHave Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Adventure!

Originally a serial, then published in '58, this well-beloved SF has been in the hearts and minds of many YA and adult readers pretty consistently since it came out. It's a toss-up whether people love it more for the good-science lodged right in rip-roaring adventure tale that includes being a space pirate or running on the moon in a space-suit of your own construction from bug-eyed-monsters (BEMs) or whether it's just because there's a delightfully well-written story with equally delightful smart children full of action, gung-ho, bravery, and the willingness to stand up and fight against enormous odds.

Adventure!

This is a re-read for me, and I think I might have judged it too harshly in my youth. Back in the 80's, I really didn't have much patience for optimistic YA Americana of the 50's. It felt like so much brainwashing. But today? The pendulum has swung the other way entirely, and such bright-eyed can-do attitude feels as mysteriously heroic as wearing a cape and plucking a crashing airplane out of the sky.

What? Read books for knowledge? Do the calculations yourself? Use duct-tape to jerry-rig mismatching valves to save your young friend from asphyxiation before she runs out of oxygen? Stand up and fight for our species' right to live against impossibly unfair odds against a galactic security council that *rightly* imagines that we're likely going to be a danger to countless alien species? Check, Check, Check, Check.

RAH!

(Robert A Heinlein) RAH! RAH! RAH! ;)

Seriously, when it comes to the nay-sayers, the little Americana-isms like soda-jerks and jingles, it's all part of history, and after so much dystopia, just imagining this brighter Earth is a real treat and a half.

Oh, and Peewee is cute as hell and really spunky.

And no. I don't worry for Kip's mental health. Really. Oscar is *not* an imaginary friend. He has physical substance and he's a sight more useful than Peewee's dolly, thank you very much.

Now where's my short-band radio? I'm suited up and ready to go. :)

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Heroes or Thieves (Steps of Power #2; The Kings #2)Heroes or Thieves by J.J. Sherwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say except that this is a much stronger continuation of the greater tale, proving that Epic Fantasy is far from losing fresh voices.

Both books end on fantastically evil revelations, and while I must be honest in saying that I actually welcomed the surprises, whether they were deaths, increasing power, massive reversals of fortune, or simple betrayal, the one surprise I wasn't quite prepared for was the option of a middle path.

Alvena proves to be a leaf on the wind for most of the book, alas, while Jikun proves to be a fairly consistent ass to his steady friend and massively powerful necromancer friend. At least Jikun, Navon, and one crazy Elf managed to rise above their thieveries even if they never quite matched either title in this book's title. As for the jackass nobel? Well, all raspberries go to him, not because he was a poorly written character, indeed, all characters were written well and were all interesting, but because of his actions and interactions with everyone. He's truly unlikeable in my opinion, but then, all these elvish nobles are so damn flawed. Just look at how they still behave with every human, and it informs us all of their character. *sigh* I'm looking forward to more bloodshed.

Fortunately, these novels are getting quite novel in that department, and I can also honestly feel righteously giddy with all the rising necromancy, no matter what side is using it. These are easily my favorite parts. :)

Or perhaps it is the inclusion of Jerah, while slow at the beginning, turned out to be a breakaway awesome character, and it's not just because of his wings or claws or how he towers above all those lowly mortals. :)

I'm hooked. And it's not just because I was given a copy to review in trade for an honest review. It's because the tale is becoming more and more solid, the characters are becoming a true delight, the worldbuilding is as solid as they come, and because the reveals are truly, truly nasty. I'm fascinated!

By the way, I may be alone in this pronouncement, but I loved the surprise death. :) It tickled my fancy. :)

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Hawk (Vlad Taltos, #14)Hawk by Steven Brust
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fantastic!

This is the Vlad I know and love, right down to the horrendously complicated plot, the refusal to explain to us what is going to happen until it happens, and now, an actual return to business as usual.

What? He's found a way to return to his home town, make things good with the Jhereg, that long-lived race that does everything better than everyone else? I mean, sure, Vlad has been assassinating them for most of his life and even though they made him a Lord even though they despise puny humans, he eventually screwed over the entire race pretty heavily... I mean... just how could he make things right after THAT?

Well, he could always make them an offer they can't refuse. Right? Godfather style. :) Oh Vlad, you're one insane mother. At least he'll be done with running, either permanently or not, and I believe it is TIME. :) Well past time. Hell, I'm gonna dance for joy that he's back...

Sure, he can never make everyone happy, and by making good with the Right hand he just happened to piss off the entire Left, but really, just how bad could that be? I mean, it's just the whole damn guild of sorcerers. I ask, just how bad could that be???

Seriously, I love this series. Always clear writing, always wonderfully humorous voices, great action, great friends, great enemies, and tension like you wouldn't believe. This is pure classic fantasy done really, really right.

Now what else does Brust have? Nom nom nom. :)

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Tiassa (Vlad Taltos, #13)Tiassa by Steven Brust
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was rather interesting in that the main thread of the tale was in a little god-made figurine with incidental characters handling it throughout a space of ten years, including a young Vlad, an older Cawti, his estranged wife, and, oddly enough, the Captain of the Phoenix Guards, of which apparently has his own series, so I just got to enjoy *his* strong voice, which was a pleasure and quite different from either Vlad's or Cawti's.

Suffice to say, strange things are afoot. There could be a horrendous invasion on its way and only stoppable by this little artifact, or it could be just some rather desperate and complicated attempts on Vlad's life. Who knows? I mean, it's not like Vlad has ever given anyone reason to dislike him or anything.

No. Not him. He's as sunny as the Demon Goddess is explicable.

Fun tale, split up quite a bit differently than any others that I've read by Brust, but that's only natural if the main character in focus doesn't actually have a voice. :)

Still loving the series!

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Iorich (Vlad Taltos, #12)Iorich by Steven Brust
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm always so pleased with these novels! I love them, but let me be entirely clear. I love them more now that Vlad is back in town. He's a city boy at heart and I feel so much more comfortable when he's getting into trouble with the Jhreg on his home turf.

It's so fun to see him get interested in the laws at long last, too, but not more than I like seeing him get to know his little son. Things might not be getting all that much better with him and his ex-wife, but at least with a weapon of power and a whole society of long-lived nobles after him 24/7, he doesn't have all that much time to worry about what she thinks of him.

Or what his other friends think of him. Or why they're being set up by different factions of the empire or the Justice of it. Even the Empress is caught in a really hard spot.

The novel takes place in the latest time slot, thank goodness. :) I like a lot of the out-of time novels, but I'm very, very curious about everything that happened after his Weapon of Power was awoken.

But last, but not least, I do need to mention that Brust's deleted scenes at the end of this novel nearly stole the freaking show and had me giggling furiously the entire time. This man knows his shit. Of course, I already knew that. Still, it's nice to pit Vlad up against all those other tired fantasy tropes and skewer the living shit out of them directly rather than indirectly. :) So Delicious. :)



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Dark MatterDark Matter by Blake Crouch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

This was a very tight SF action adventure that was full of twists and turns and wonderful imaginings and much better characters. A thriller? You bet. Perfect pacing and surprises. All of it is based in modern day Chicago. Or should I say Chicagos?

So what makes it SF? Oh, it's an old concept, but since it's written well and it's focused on making a wild ride that is pure popcorn fiction, I can enthusiastically give it two thumbs up. But what is it, you ask?

Many Worlds Theory.

You know. Sliders. Only better. Jason is very likable. :) The core story premise is a mix of pure thriller and classic SF, but it really holds together mainly because of the characters more than anything else.

The first thing that ran through my mind was how well this would translate to a cool action-adventure movie, and I still hold by that. Have fun, hold on to your hat, and just hope that love helps you find your way back home. :)



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Sunday, July 24, 2016

House of SunsHouse of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading some really awesome reviews from Cecily and Apatt, and despite the fact that I've already read ten of his novels and short story collections, I've been feeling quite ashamed that I still hadn't read this well-regarded novel. So I sat my butt down and made it my eleventh. :)

Could I possibly be disappointed at this point? Nope. At least, not for the sheer scale and scope of this post-humanity romp of over 6 million years, where a certain girl named Abigail clones herself and her mind up to a certain date in her early adulthood for the purposes of colonizing space... and while she isn't the only one to have done this, she's certainly our MC 6 million years down the line, with all the little pieces of herself meeting every once in a while to share their wildly divergent pieces and sometimes throw a planetary-wide funeral (and I mean, literally, a projection the size of a whole planet to memorialize the dead,) or sometimes mess around with ringworld swarms or machine-intelligence genocide or causality loop breaking wormhole jaunts to Andromeda Galaxy, rather than just stomping around in the Milky-Way at sub-light speeds, which is rather the norm.

I did mention that this is post-humanity with the ability to copy and send out their minds, edit and delete huge swaths of memory, go into stasis or wildly different time-frame-references, either speeding up or slowing WAY down to make the sheer immensity of either time or space reasonable to a human, didn't I?

It's very fascinating, and the ideas hardly end there. In fact, Reynolds's vision of the deep future is both fascinating and full of actual story, too! We really don't deal with alien intelligences much unless you talk about the machine divergences from ourselves, but as in the other connected Space-Operas of his, there's always something bigger and greater on the sidelines just waiting for the smaller fish to swim by, and this is no different.

What about the First Machines from long before humanity? What about the Solar Dams that can reasonably halt a supernova indefinitely but still managed to break and wipe out a whole alien species? Who's at fault here? We've got mystery, deaths among the near-immortals, and huge questions regarding the sanctity of really, really long-term memory devices, and of course, the whole novel is charged with betrayal. But who's? The Shatterlings are, after all, based on relatively few people, and just who is at fault when they're all one?

Well, obviously, experience can change everyone, and after 6 million years, it's actually kind of funny that these people are still so fundamentally relatable to readers like us. :)

A lot of energy and ideas were thrown into this novel, and it's definitely worth reading if you're at all into really "serious" Space-Opera works of the deep future. :) In general, probably the best part is the fact that everything is basically based on real science and possibility, and yet it still manages to go wwwwaaaaaaayyyy out there in scope. :) That's my favorite part, anyway. :)



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Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Purloined PoodleThe Purloined Poodle by Kevin Hearne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novella was a pleasant Little trip to Portland, full of murder, intrigue, and lost doggies... But particular to this series, we don't really care much about when people die. It's really all about the dogs.

You know those traditional mystery novels where the main character's girlfriend enters into the picture and begs the MC to help with that personal project that becomes one nightmare after another? Well scrap the girlfriend. The MC is the dog and he's enjoining his Druid meat-provider, read Doggie-friend, to transform his way away from a vampire war and right into the dark, dark world of poodle-napping and fixing a bit of doggie nervousness.

Hey! This is great! And it's also delightfully funny and a very nice respite from all the hellish goings-on from before.

The best parts are all the witty repartees. ;)

Definitely a light repast, but also a wonderful return to a dog and his best friend. :)

Thanks to Netgalley for the Arc!

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The Green Pearl (Lyonesse, #2)The Green Pearl by Jack Vance
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And now that we've entered firmly into the mid-eighties Fantasy, I'm startled by just how much a giant like Vance was either influenced by or was the influencer of such notable works as many, many of the D&D compendiums. After all, hasn't he been around so much longer? Ah, but never mind that.

What we've got is not dwarves and elves in a fantastic other-realm, but a continuation of the Gaelic isles, the Elder Realm, the lost continent near Avalon, with christian priests still blackmailing, kingdoms still plotting, and parentages still not known to all the pertinent peoples.

The plots are delightful and adventuresome, when they're not political and crafty, and when they're not adventuresome, they're still magical (Ten Realms, so much so,) and full of confidence games, tricksters, and Fae. And even kings play these same games.

Most impressively, at least for me, is the clever and clear and pertinent retellings of old fairy tales, yet again, including the redoubtable Green Pearl that enhances greed and bad luck, various old tales of mistaken identities, and yeah, I'm looking at you, Murgen, and so many other interspersed tales that I cannot even begin to crow about, because they should all be savored and enjoyed.

This may take place hundreds of years before Arthur, but it is no less delightful or lacking in any way when it comes to the sheer weight of myth, great characters, and sheer enjoyment.

Anyone looking for some great fantasy?

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Friday, July 22, 2016

Suldrun's Garden (Lyonesse, #1)Suldrun's Garden by Jack Vance
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. What a wonderful surprise!

For an early eighties fantasy, it reads rather fantastically easy, with a near perfect blend of adventure, spry heroes and heroines, and an almost mythical command of myth, history, and magic in a hugely creative blend. We're not even bogged down in any such weird concepts like "historical accuracy", either.

And actually, I loved the whole idea of slap-dashing a whole continent next to Gaul and throwing in Merlin (Murgen), Mithra, evil christians, the fae, chivalry, high Celts, and so much more.

None of it overwhelmed the taste of adventure, where three kingdoms vied, played, made alliances, and started wars during a span of 30 years, and the characterizations were pure fantasy boilerplate, but lest you get turned off by that idea, just know that they all go through tons of changes... heck, they went through nearly as many as what happen to the plot, itself.

Is that a problem? Hell no. Not for me. I was actually rather amazed at the sheer scope of where we started, from a princess's childhood (Suldrun), her setup as a fairytale, then the betrayal of her wonderful prince (Aillas), their love, and their tragedy merely sets the stage, even if it takes up a sizable portion of the book. The rest of the tale happens to be one of the best written and most imaginative, quickly paced, and thoroughly satisfying traditional fantasy novels I've ever read, staying firmly on the road of adventure, adventure, adventure.

Aillas's tragedy is only the starting point, after all, and making a ladder out of bones is just the beginning, especially after he learns that his lost Suldrun had a child.

Tons of trigger points for me, and I've never gotten tired of such tales. I just can't believe how awesome the adventure was, or just how much was accomplished all the way to a mostly happy ending.

And now that I've finished the first book in the trilogy and loved it, I have absolutely no reason not to enthusiastically dive into The Green Pearl. :)

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The funny thing about this novel is not how enlightened it is for the time period, because it really isn't all that enlightened, right Mr. Rochester? How's that first wife hanging in the attic?

Or how closely aligned to modern ideas of equality between the sexes and finding an equitable arrangement between them it is, because it only happens to conform to the standards of romantic literature of the time, where happy endings happen. Windfall out of nowhere? Really? Trope, much? And how does that subvert anything except as to put Janet on an *externally* equal footing? Being balanced in monies and station is not the same thing as having a true meeting of minds and hearts.

Fortunately for us, all the plot twists are secondary to the one thing that she and Mr. Rochester have in common, and that is a true meeting of minds and hearts, and while the idiot manages to really crap it up, it seems that only an enormous act of god or authorship or pandering to trope could possibly put Jane back into a position of strength where she can tell the rest of the world to **** off and do what she wanted to do, originally.

And that's what this novel is really about. It's not about the plot. It's about the internal character of Jane Eyre. She's wholly her own person, and that, more than anything, is more subversive than anything else in this novel. She's not bucking the male-dominated world. She's not setting off to have adventures. She's not even telling people off unless they push her to it, and she has no qualms about being subservient or going dropping all of her happiness in a big pile and storming off to hold to her personal ethics.

That's the point. She knows herself. She knows her limits. She knows what she wants. And even if she doesn't always know how to get what she wants, she knows what she'll settle for and precisely what she won't settle for. She follows her heart, her own judgement, and nothing that anyone might ever say to her would ever change that.

There's plenty in this novel that might annoy or outrage modern readers, of course, but this one simple fact about Jane is what lets it transcend all other considerations, or indeed, time itself.

This is a great novel. :)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Urth of the New Sun (The Book of the New Sun, #5)The Urth of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I knew things were going to get interesting the moment we started the book on the spaceship "Yesod", the ninth branch on the tree of life directly above the root, the kingdom, in the Kabbalah. Yesod is the ship that is outside of time and Maya, and the source of the Sun's renewal and the place where Sevarian must make or break his new covenant, the place of the new foundation for humanity.

Nuts? Hell yeah. There's plenty of crazy going on in the whole series, but the fact we start moving up through the branches to Hod, witnessing the splendor of Tzabaoth, kinda sealed the idea for me, and it didn't really matter if these were aliens outside of time who were once on the same road as humanity until we spread throughout the galaxy and did horrendous things and broke the covenant. The underlying shape of the story is clear even if it isn't actually Severian dealing with angels. ;)

Things are also a bit more complicated when we move from the flaming swords of Gabriel and return to earth to deal with the personal issue of fractured times and places making Severian deal with the qualities of Glory, Victory, Beauty, Severity, Mercy, Wisdom, and finally the Crown.

Unfortunately for me, I was reading purely for entertainment value, so I didn't actually sit down and track every scene to a branch on the tree, but I picked up on at least 4 or 5 of them, easy. :)

Impressive? Yeah, I think so too, and we've even got the whole feel of Slaughterhouse Five, the coming resurrection, the return of the king, and a lot of other hints, too, but let's face it... the story is very odd. Scenes feel all right by themselves, but they often take very odd directions from one another, and I can't quite tell if it's because it's following the Tree regardless of the natural progression of story, or whether the story is just odd for its own sake.

Having read the previous four, I'd soooo love to say, outright, that it's fundamentally incomprehensible, but no, I think I've actually found a pretty decent roadmap.

I'm impressed, but, not quite engrossed in the tale enough to put in the extra work of truly deciphering it. :) Still! Props.

:)

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Fix ('Mancer, #3)Fix by Ferrett Steinmetz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

HOOKED HOOKED HOOKED I'm so hooked to this series, but that's hardly the half of it. Ferrett continues to shock and amaze and simply improve upon everything he's accomplished so far.

So. As of right now, I'm positively quaking from the need to just rave and gush and talk about all the spoilers that I'm super obsessed on, where I obsess so much that I start 'Mancing about a book about 'Mancing.

Look. I'm sorry. The book hasn't been published yet, and all I want to do is tell everyone just how spoiled I am to have read about how all of my favorite characters from the previous novels went through the ringer, got fleshed out even more in the most delightful and painful ways ever, and just how surprised I was with not just the twists and turns they took, but how the resolution panned, too!

Of course, it's even worse than that. The characters are the heart of the story, but I can't even begin to truly gush about the fact we've gone to destroyed Europe, or just how, exactly, the rising action and final shocking and crazy and delightful and painful and awe-inspiring action resolves.

From the start, this series has been an amazing UF with damn amazing twists to both characters and plots, and this third (and probably final, at least for Paul and family,) lives up to all the surprises and twists of the previous ones. And then some. There's never ever a dull moment and the emotions are real.

I mean, hopefully it won't be considered too much of a spoiler to mention that at the beginning of the book, our happy magical family is directly responsible for opening a rift to demon dimensions to consume Kentucky, and the fact that Paul's unable to fix it, thanks to the scared and unthinking actions of normal folks, sends him and the rest of the underground 'Mancers into a spiral of run and regret... and that's just the opening.

The Unimancers are a really big part of this one, and after that setup, it looks like all their resources are now rather focused.

Yeah, things have taken a rather more global turn, this time. We've moved away from NYC. The political activism has just been completely scrapped. Even Fight Club is on the ropes.

I can't believe how good this one was. #totalfanboy.

Thanks to Netgalley for putting me through the hell of reading such a damn good book and being unable to spoil the living hell out of what happens because I've gone total obsessional fanboy over it.

Thanks.

;)

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SupernovaSupernova by C.A. Higgins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So we return to the explosive events of the end of Lightless and return to an almost completely dead ship and a Solar System embroiled in revolution. I picked this one up because of the promise of an explanation or real action or at least the development of, or that I might eventually get to see

A: an AI that grows super powerful (check)
B: a reason to get behind or care that the revolution was even going on (um.. no)
C: slightly better developed characters (most of them are missing from the page-time except one, and she's just caught in a slide of horror without hope, so... no)
D: things blow up. Seeing lots of things blow up. (Yeah, hearty check)
E: a rather surprising focus on a bad girl, (antihero, outright villain?) who practically dominates the entire novel, and what happens to her. (check)

There's competent plot going on here and plenty of slide into despair, so if that's what you're looking for in a space opera based in the Solar System with lots of planet hopping revolutionaries and a single ship on the outskirts causing a lot of unintentional damage to everyone, then hop on this book.

If this is the standard book two of a planned trilogy, I'm willing to let the slight (or even more pronounced greater dissatisfaction,) with the resolution of the book slide, because taken together, the first ended as a traditional first act and this one ended as an even darker second act. The third novel must therefore come out on top with some sort of happy ending.

We're talking about making sure that the readers come away from the read with some sort of satisfaction other than just being happy to see the worlds burn.

But then, who knows? Maybe that's the point. Pure downs without the ups? Possibly. Then again, maybe it's just me. The book held my attention even if it was a bit slow for plot development for my tastes, and discussions of ethics are always a high point for my reading, especially when not much else is going on, but at this point, all I can really wish for is a serious underdog reversal that makes a... um... any hero come out on top in the third novel.


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Monday, July 18, 2016

Late Bite (Toronto Chronicles, #1)Late Bite by John Matsui
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just when you think you've just been reading a truly fascinating and creative courtroom drama including a vampire with some rather unique abilities to wipe away all the bad things that happen to his victims for the price of a little blood, as the ultimate psychologist, we then get a fun and funny look at his life as a celebrity. Doesn't that sound fun? Like a better, more streamlined and interesting version of Lestat?

But wait! All those victims from the courtroom from years ago are being murdered, and this courtroom drama cum satire of the entertainment industry has just become a dark and complex murder mystery with our likable hero being set up for everything.

Or is there something else going on?

Well, shoot! Roast me alive and call me damn bloodsucker, because things aren't nearly what they seem, again, and all these genres executed flawlessly for the bulk of the novel just happens to be mere lead-up to a much more interesting life-story as the past fills in and comes back to haunt our hero, gladiator style, with just as much blood and guts and pathos and family drama as you could ever want in a horror or a thriller or a satire OR a courtroom drama. Although, lets be honest, most courtroom dramas don't usually go for the whole blood and guts thing, BUT THIS ONE DOES. YAY!

Am I surprised as hell?

Well, no. Not really, because I just got done reading the author's second book before reading this, his first book, and I already knew to expect a ton of fantastically-done and effortless genre-mashing and great characters in the middle of great plot twists.

Does it lessen my enjoyment even a whiff? Hell no!

I choose to call this a SF horror with UF leanings enmeshed fully in the whole mystery drama only because, technically, the vampire himself says that he's just an offshoot of the species from something like 30k years ago, and there really isn't anything truly supernatural or anything. As opposed to just throwing him, willy-nilly, in fantasy. I feel justified after all the time spent in court establishing just what Homo Sanguinis IS. :)

Again, I repeat, This Author Is Someone To Watch Out For. :) Anyone who can consistently bend the shit out of any form of tale, like this or Gravity Games, has got to be something of a god. Suffice to say, he has expert control over all these multiple genres and makes it look like child's play.

Truly Fantastic!

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Gravity GamesGravity Games by John Matsui
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When presented as a Foodie Thriller with a title like this and a flashy meteorite on the cover, just what the hell am I supposed to think? Is it Kitsch? A comedy come-on with either a virtuoso display of genre-mashing or a literature equivalent of Sharkanado?

Oh, lordy, I never would have guessed that it all ties right back in to a very well crafted mystery with extremely interesting characters right up and down the line, from Nate Sherlock, the man with the eidetic nose, his horribly patient and brilliant female sidekick who might blow up waiting for him to make a move, the social justice warriors who con the world, or fantastically crafted villains ranging from the top .01% to a nasty biotech guy who messes with the lives of other "specially sensed" people and their roles in governmental investigatory teams.

The characters could have been enough to carry this novel, mind you, but no, it's also a plot of very finely crafted gears and super-satisfying games that had me chortling and had me nodding my head when it came to the big issues, too.

It was fun, fascinating, and I haven't had this much fun with antigravity in... um... EVER!

This was my first book by John Matsui, and while neither of the currently released titles are that closely tied to one another, there *was* a walk-on of Late Bite's MC that put to rest ANY reservations I might have had about reading what otherwise appeared to be an urban fantasy gimmick. I'm actually quite afraid that I've just gone off the deep end with only one read and this author has just become one of my automatic reads from here on out.

Yup, instant fanboy.

I'm soooooo happy that the author asked me to review his stuff. I probably never would have picked this up, otherwise, and my life would have been much poorer for it. I can't believe how much fun I had.

You know when I mentioned that it was a mash-up? It was. From Foodie Thriller to Government Conspiracies to one hell of an awesome Con Game, all the while having all the trappings of SF, fantastic characters, and really tight plot? The novel not only shifted gears effortlessly, it even made it reasonable and not at all unusual in a bad way. I was hooked with any one of the baits, and yet he kept giving me awesome morsels to chew on anyway, adding and adding to the pile until I'm just a greedy greedy foodie, myself, until I gorged myself and sighed at the end and said, "More, please?" Oh yeah, I'm good for more. :) And I'm RIGHT ON to the novel of his that I missed. I'm ready for a Late Bite, because, I'm, like, late. :)

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Kings or Pawns (Steps of Power #1; The Kings #1)Kings or Pawns by J.J. Sherwood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Epic Fantasy or Political Thriller? Good question, with all the awe-inspiring kingdom to view, the warlord battering at the gate, centaurs roaming the fields, and elves ruling a corrupt empire that Prince Hairem wants to change, idealistically, from within.

This isn't an average fantasy entry. It's meticulously thought out, with tons of PoV's, a lot of plot and attempts to weed out the unstable or illegal elements of the empire, like the use of necromancy, or just trying to prevent yourself from being on the assassin's list. It reads a lot like a political intrigue, with humans on the bottom and the elves being the long, long standing old-guard. In that respect, it reminds me a lot of the notable The Goblin Emperor without the goblin.

At least with this one, we've got actual battles and a very memorable warlord to contend with, too.

And mute, ass-kicking servant Alvena, of course, who was a breath of fresh air.

This is honestly a more thought-provoking epic fantasy than a bloody one, and while it does suffer from what most epic fantasies suffer from, a plethora of PoV's that may or may not get lost in the shuffle without a good roster and a glossary, a good handful of characters are sufficiently awesome to pull even an audiobook reader through without the visual aid. Mostly. Though, I do kinda wish I had one, regardless. :)

The reveals were pretty handy, though, as a way to pin the tale down pretty solidly, and the last one? Oh lordy, well, that certainly puts a whole new spin on the rest of the novel, so be prepared. :) It's subtle and deadly. Or not so subtle for us, the reader, while being supremely so for everyone else. :)

I really enjoyed the book. My only desire was more descriptions. I felt twinges of awe when the empire was described visually, and many other little times, and found myself just praying for more. Also, I'd have loved a more robust handling of the character-drawing to make all the players pop out for me so as to keep things grounded and real in my mind, but these things might be purely personal quips and not a deal-breaker by far. I'm looking forward to reading more. :) I'm certain that all fans of Erikson and Abercrombie will appreciate this book.

Oh! And thanks goes to the author for the audiobook version to review from! It was a very pleasant surprise. :)

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Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels, #8)Magic Shifts by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book slows down from the break-back pace from the previous novel, but for good reason, given the events that had just transpired.

Unfortunately, the stakes have also risen in a different direction, one that I happen to like, and the greatest threat of all looms on the horizon... Marriage. Oh! But don't worry, that doesn't happen in *this* book. You'd think that a love as strong as theirs would have plunged them into the abyss by now, but things keep happening... you know, armies of ghouls and genies, pack politics and the taking over of a certain Guild, multiple near-tragedies, and papas. Especially papas. Papas can be such a pain in the life.

I'm fine with this direction mostly because this books marks a brand new chapter in their lives, a new beginning, and a certain amount of growing up, too.

Oh, screw that. I doubt Kate or Curran will ever grow up. They're both honor-bound, strong-ego'd idiots. They both have great reasons to do all the things they do and they stick by them, unfortunately, its always a never-ending conflict between them. Will love win the day?

Well, perhaps. As long as they keep loving.

This series has been pretty good for the heart, and I think the romance has grown pretty damn robust in-between all the head-explosions, vampire-heisting, blood-armor, and giant-takedowns.

But even so, I still like book 7 better than this one. (And I'm saying that even though I loved the final action in this one and the amount of trust it took to accomplish it.)

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Just One Damned Thing After Another (The Chronicles of St Mary's, #1)Just One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a surprisingly delightful Time Travel novel!

I mean, if it wasn't for the great characters, and there were a ton of them, this book was still full of snark right down to the foundations. (And even sometimes under the foundations!) But even so, no one could hold a candle to Maxwell. I've never read a character so simultaneously dense about sex and love and so very, very brilliant and adaptable than her, while all the while being brainy, clumsy, and eventually able to go out and kick ass with the best of them.

Because, after all, nothing says Historian than a woman with a big gun. Right? Right! And raptors really are a bit more tiny than she expected. But, of course, the real predators are other Time-Travelers.

Do you like plot? OMG there's so much plot, and so much happens, and all the while I'm like... the author's touching upon so many great periods and so many historians are dying because they're idiots and how the hell were they trained and that's NOT RIGHT, but hell that's funny and I found myself telling myself that this has got to be one of the most comprehensively well-thought-out time travel novels I've ever read. At least, it's a lot more stable and a lot less outright weird than most, firmly rooted in all the things we know or we think we know, while focusing on being damn realistic about achievable goals, keeping the tech out of the public's hands because we know they'll fuck it up anyway, and just HOW did St. Mary's come to be? Oh, lordy.

I've read good Time Travel books, to be sure, but none of those had quite the breadth or the wide stretch of character change and development as this. Have I finally found my modern go-to SF series for plain frolicky fun and hijinks? Perhaps!

It's a bit more complicated than most of the Time-Travel books I'm used to, and while it has a lot of light moments, it's packed to the gills with the serious, too, and not always about personal safety. It's clever right down to the core.

And exciting. :) I can't wait for more. :)

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Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels, #7)Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Want epicbadassery? Well, don't let the opening of the book fool you, this one ends with a real bang.

And you know what? There's a MINIMUM of relationship miscommunications! WOOOO WOOOO... of course, that's only because Curran's out of town for a big portion of the book, but isn't that how it always is? The only way to prevent relationship troubles is to make sure there's lots of out of town business meetings. Yeah. Right? No.

Of course Kate gets thrown into the blowback from the previous novel. Of course she had to face an armageddon of undead and shifters, filled with many reversals, betrayals, and one heartbreaking scene where (view spoiler), but do you think that's enough to carry a whole book? Well, yeah, it might have been, but this is where things get really funky.

Roland's here.

Who?

Daddy's Home!

....And we have a showdown. Whew. Awesome. Totally cool. Feels like a series ender, even, but relax! We know there's more books coming, and the end of this one is a really cool twister. :) I'm perfectly happy with the series and I think this might be the very best yet. :)

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Magic Rises (Kate Daniels, #6)Magic Rises by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ah, this one got me in the gut. Not short of misunderstandings between lovers, the gang goes to the old world and rubs elbows with a really old clan and can I really, in my heart, decide who's more to blame with the fallout between Curran and Kate?

At least we know those two love each other, even if the pressure's on for greater alliances, Panacea shipments, love rivalries, get in the way.

And then there's the totally gratifying reveals about Kate's past. Yummy.

And I know it's kinda a cheat to keep saying that This Book is now my favorite of the series, because, chances are, at this rate, the Next Book will be my favorite, according to basic pattern recognition, but I can unequivocally say that I had an immensely grand time reading this.

Could this series quickly be becoming one of my favorite UF's? Possibly. It's kinda scary. I've already read a ton of UFs.

Of course, nothing is purely silver linings. I'm still reeling from a favorite character's death. It was a great sendoff, but still, it hurts. I just don't understand why it couldn't have been the self-styled pervert, instead. At least I could have chuckled a little bit. But no. It has to be... but alas, I can't spoil such things here...

*cry*

*cry*



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Epivision, Vol. 1 (Domino Galaxy, #2)Epivision, Vol. 1 by Matthew Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Epi-G, Domino Galaxy. I love novels that tie into a much larger universe, in general, so even though Twin Souls by the same author is a YA adventure taking place in this universe, it's about as far away as you can get from this novel in tone or subject matter as you can get while still being firmly rooted in the afterlife.

Yup. Afterlife. Of course, the novel reads like a police procedural, a cat and mouse of hunting down unauthorized angel blessings from both sides, but for me, the real joy is in picking up all the details about the half-multiverse/half-galactic colonization feel of the setting, for where else can we dump Marakech and Hong Kong into the center of the USA, copy-and-paste fashion on some distant world and welcome in the newly dead, like Bruce Lee and other Ultimate Celebrities, and generally get on with our lives regardless of language and cultural barriers.

All the mismatches and the inherent conflicts were delicious. Angels who may or may not be human-ish or alien-ish, working for or being used by much more powerful alien entities that set up all these many, many after-death colonies across the galaxy, become just pawns or fugitives rather than the mental-imagery of good and divine winged emissaries. I mean, let's face it, all societies, galactic or otherwise, are subject to bureaucracy and regime changes, too, not to mention failures of Vision and tech. :)

My only complaint was how slow such concepts came to be developed, instead focusing on rather long sequences of rather average police procedural stuff rather than the good stuff. (Or what I'd call the good stuff, the mind blowing stuff, the fast action, the really weird.) It gets good for this by the end, but the times in-between was just... okay.

Oh, and the fact that the end was too cool to end right there. Meany. Of course, two books in the series, now, and I'm hooked. Crazy, crazy good when it's good.

Thanks to the author for the ARC!

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Magic Slays (Kate Daniels, #5)Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Okay, this is easy. Since I'm a fanboy, it's super easy to write reviews because I can usually just do a gonzo.

Suffice to say, it's really fun to be getting into the characters. There might have been a little hiccup with Curran in this one... like there ain't hiccups in all of them... but it's nice to see the interplay.

I can't believe that Derek is actually growing on me, at long last. But Julie? Awwwww.... pooooooor kid! This is definitely going to bite everyone in the butt. I know it.

Urban fantasy, when done well like this, is really some of the most effortless reads out there. It gets rather special for me, though, when we get a who's who of mythology showing up, like Greek gods overcharging for body bags and large refrigerated units, or Baba Yaga giving cute little gifts to little girls. Hmmm.. wait... she has a tendency of doing that anyway... oh well. :)

The switchover back to tech comes at a very nice time for me. I really wanted a good return to that world-building quirk, and I couldn't be happier. I love mad geniuses. :)

And as always, great apocalyptic shit for the end. Total popcorn madness. :)

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Star Wars: BloodlineStar Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I decided to read this for three reasons.

My love for the Star Wars universe is deep and wide, but not wide enough to devour every novel that comes out, so this only brings me so far.

My second reason is that other reviewers have raved about this title, so that makes me warm up inside and open my mind to new possibilities.

And the third reason, the one that tipped me over the edge? Well, it's Claudia Gray. I read Lost Stars last year and was very, very impressed. Not only did she pull it off again, but this novel directly ties in to the events before Ep 7.

What more could I want? I get the establishment of the First Order, the collapse of the New Republic, the semi-disgrace of Leia, which explains why so very little of the might we'd seen in from the rebels was now available to our heroes in the new film. It was delicious, and while we don't get things explained from the Dark Side, I have nothing but good things to say about the developed complex relationships and friendships coming from opposing sides. It was rather heartening, even if this was, in fact, a novel of tragedy.

If this had been a standalone SF without a franchise, I would have merited it just as broadly. In fact, I might have gushed more, because let's face it... franchise novels lend themselves wonderfully to fans looking down on them. Or maybe that's just me. Regardless, I loved this one and I think I might just pick up any Tie-In novel that Claudia Gray decides to pen. If the quality remains this good, then I have no excuses not to. :)

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Terms of EnlistmentTerms of Enlistment by Marko Kloos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Surprisingly awesome, clearly-written, endlessly fascinating mil-sf, where it's not enough when just one or two things go wrong and things seem completely out of control, but where the entire population of humanity has to suffer right along with you.

Was anyone so bright-eyed and innocent before signing up? Alas, I'm reminded of the shiny adaptation of Starship Troopers when I started getting into this book, and then it seemed to take a turn for the right-wing worst when the fighting against the welfare state began, but no, things didn't stay that simple.

Some things are bound to go right, but conflict is truly the name of this game, and it's no fun just fighting against ourselves.

Let's get us some ALIENS!!!!

Okay. So I think I've just gone off the deep end and have just admitted to Really Liking a Mil-SF title. Not just enjoying, but actively Liking. :) I'm gonna hop on the sequels rather sooner than later, even. :)

Now where's my soundtrack?

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Twin Spirit (Domino Galaxy, #1)Twin Spirit by Matthew Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an enjoyable YA adventure tale set on earth and in one of the more interesting afterworlds I've read.

I mean, what YA SF adventure could be good without killing off the characters and sending them right into the hereafter, right? Goodbye mortal coil.

Oh? The characters are ghosts? Well, one may be, but she's kinda angry to be entwined with her twin, and the only way to separate them is through a quest among the lands ruled by the Govern, the aliens made of spirit that control, to good and ill effect, the many, many worlds, the cut-and-paste duplications and innovations from earth and earth's people.

Imagine my surprise when this world-building got even better, when I discovered that all the dead have colonized the galaxy in grand fashion, that the dead can either stay the same age on earth or decide to move on and grow old, elsewhere. So pretty, and varied, too, where minor rulers and even people from earth can temporarily make their own realms however they wish, but don't think this is a heaven. The alien overlords provide plenty of conflict even without the human bad-guys. :)

Like mobsters, bandits, steampunk-like innovations? How about tentacled beasties and teleportation?

And let's not forget our MCs, either, who are richly drawn and provide a very satisfying tale to us.

I'm looking forward to reading the adult novel set in the same universe, now!

Thanks definitely goes to the author for the ARC of this pleasurable and easy read. :)

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Monday, July 11, 2016

A Confederacy of DuncesA Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enter in a long list of posthumously published manuscripts from young authors who committed suicide and this one will probably reach the top of the list along with David Foster Wallace, with the difference being that DFW had garnered fame before his untimely demise.

That being said, this one is full of 50's and 60's humor, more a lambast of society as a whole, of racial perspectives in specific, and a whole lot more of business and miscellany becoming a modern retelling of a certain classic of Cervantes, although, in actuality, I saw a lot more in common with Voltaire with its hyperbole.

I found it mostly enjoyable in a kind of throwback kind of way, chuckling with all the communist jokes, the temporary insanity pleas, and perhaps a bit less with all the reverse black stereotype humor... in that our funny fat man is amazed and disappointed that any self-respecting black man would ever want to join the mindless hoard of the middle class...

It's funny on the surface, a lambast of the middle class, but this kind of humor does little for me when it comes to all the black vagrancy charges, the lower-than minimum wage jobs, and the rest of the caricatures, an obvious period piece despite the pulitzer win of 1980.

Still, the snappy dialogue, the over-the-top absurd situations, and even the rather funny portraiture of feminism and protests were pretty damn good.

I'll remember it fondly, but I am not quite certain that this will be remembered through the ages like some people seem to think. Sadly.

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A Blade of Black Steel (The Crimson Empire, #2)A Blade of Black Steel by Alex Marshall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one surprised the hell out of me.

I mean, I liked a lot of the aspects of the first in the series, all the cussing, girl-chasing, older matron ex-queen bent on reclaiming her lost queendom, the heavy-metal aspects of getting the evil band back together and being the underdog villains amidst wonderful dialogue and demon-strewn wastelands (that they may or may not have had a part in bringing about). I was even thrilled by the effortless way that the world-building automatically assumes that sexual orientation or even reorientation or simple desire is never a negative thing. Women and men are pretty much people who do whatever the hell they want to do, and it's all grown-up choices without cultural or religious bullshit getting in the way. F/F, M/F, M/M, transgender, it doesn't matter. Things swing with story, circumstance, and plain surprising desire. I swear, if this series wasn't all about war, revenge, murder, torture, and all sorts of hellish magic and demons running the land (or sitting on one's shoulders), I'd be yelling from the treetops that this whole world was an easy, unstrained utopia that even Star Trek couldn't touch on any one of its pleasure planets.

That being said, all of this is even more evident in the second book, only it seems even more effortless and I'm loving ALL of these crazy characters even more than before.

What? The whole action from the first novel has just been superseded by a whole rising island of demons? Oh hell, what are our badass bad-guys going to do? Finish what they started, or freaking save the land?

Seriously, this book is too interesting to miss. I didn't even know which way the coin was going to toss, and I frankly didn't even care. This ride was just too fun.

It may be coming off the heels of grimdark epic fantasy, but this feels like something a lot more genuine and funny and emotional than most of the stuff I've read. Yeah, funny grimdark. Whodavethunk? I think it's the old matron's cursing as she swings her heavy metal around. Or the way her eyes can't get pried by that pretty girl's bottom while two brawny old men who'd lay their lives down for her look on like puppydogs in the old woman's direction, forlorn. Awwww.

And then there's so much awesome demon shit, warlocks, totally nasty battles, and totally emotional battles, too, wrenching the way only a good story can wrench.

I've gone over, pretty fully, to this dark side, this bad boy (or girl) of epic fantasy. I've read quite a few and somehow, this one is just kicking my ass in a really good way.

Now, I'm pretty much going crazy with the idea that I'm going to have to wait for the next. Grrrrr...

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Coinman: An Untold ConspiracyCoinman: An Untold Conspiracy by Pawan Mishra
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thanks to the author for allowing me to review his book!

This one is a fairly difficult book to review, because while certain elements were dong very well, the book didn't stay within the lines of how it began, how it progressed, or how it ended. It started out as a pretty funny Milton-like office satire, with tons of details that really showed us how horrible the corporate world is in bright and shiny satire.

The way the Coinman was shown to us, I was frankly expecting this to turn into a fantasy where the coins jingling in his pockets annoying all his coworkers would turn into some sort of magical realism, and especially when they ganged up on him and made his life a living hell, I rather hoped for some sort of dire revenge or a setup for a greater fall for Coinman, himself.

But no. Instead, the novel became a pretty decent setup for a horror novel, with Coinman's early life, troubles, social isolation, obsessions, and a number of truly pathos-inducing incidents that make him what he is in the modern Office-Space. I felt the dire-build-up. I felt like we were headed toward tragedy town, with Coinman being the tragic hero. The novel set up me up for a few anxiety attacks. Hell, perhaps there should be a trigger warning on the novel for people who are introverted and isolated. By this point, I wanted some serious resolution in a positive way for the man.

But then, the novel took another turn and we got to know his wife, his home situation, and things only get worse for him.

Where's the satire? Well, it's there, still plowing away at us and it's still good, but the humor has given way to sadness, and I'm not entirely sure that the novel worked well for me at this point.

The whole office conspiracy was a pretty good setup, and I did eventually like Coinman, even if he was a very flawed individual, and each of the elemental setups were good by themselves, but they were promises that weren't really filled by the end of the tale.

In this respect, it's more of a mainstream novel. Maybe a bit arty. Let you make up your own mind who's the hero or even if there was one at all. Unfortunately, it's not really my kind of thing.

Fortunately, I was never really bored by the book, though, even if the ultimate satisfaction wasn't there.


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Saturday, July 9, 2016

A City DreamingA City Dreaming by Daniel Polansky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ah, this one is going to be somewhat difficult to define as a genre, for while it seems to have the trappings of an Urban Fantasy, what, with magicians in New York City, it's something a bit more and a bit less than what the genre usually offers.

What do I mean? I mean that it feels more like a collection of short stories with the same characters, with each story being a commentary on life, living in the city, on friendship, on love, on action and inaction, on power and apathy, on pure, plain luck.

The title is very close to what the whole book is about, too, oddly enough, and while it's never entirely about a dreaming city, the amount of magic, the oddness, the weird doors to steampunk realities, subways as open maws, or pirates kidnapping the wrong Boy, it's a strange New York, even by the standards we all seem to hold for the city. :)

I had a great time reading it, but I learned very quickly not to expect more than a number of vignettes, not an overarching plot... although there are definitely threaded themes.

Is this about M and his life? Or is this actually about the city? Maybe it doesn't really matter. The writing invites us into careful reads and very interesting interactions among friends, of funny commentaries and fairly awesome magical surprises. But more than anything, we're invited to come along for a ride with a lucky slacker, M, who isn't always as he seems and sometimes even rises above his Switzerland to venture upon a tiny, tiny taste of heroism.

This is definitely the right book for you if you love much more substantial magical realism stories that have a lot to say about living in the modern world, about growing up, or not growing up, and finding balance in it all.

Thanks, Netgalley, for the ARC!


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Jhegaala (Vlad Taltos, #11)Jhegaala by Steven Brust
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This 11th book takes us back in time to the point where he'd just left his wife and needed a place to hide away from all the hoards and hoards and hoards of people he'd pissed off, long before he became a godslayer.

Wanna move back home, Vlad? All fine and dandy, except these human yokels have never heard of you and the reverse is also true. Oh, Vlad, what are you doing here?

Well, suffice to say, he gets embroiled in a murder investigation, gets tortured, and discovers that going back to the old world is generally never a good idea. Plus, it's smelly. And corrupt. And pretty much just like the place you came from except for the whole short, brutish, lives they live and the witchcraft, but, you know, DETAILS.

I may not really like this novel for the same reasons I don't like most of the Vlad In Exile books, mostly because I think he works best as a city boy, but let's be honest here... Brust writes a better fantasy than most writers out there, with such clarity of vision and interesting characters that it's hard not to just put him in a class of his own. When I say I dislike one of these books, I'm only saying I dislike it for purely personal reasons and preference, not because the book is at all uninteresting, has story-related problems, or that it isn't satisfying.... Because it was interesting, it didn't have any unresolved issues, and it was satisfying. :) It just happened not to be up to the same standards as the REST of his books. :)

And yet, I'm fully looking forward to the next in the series. :)

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Friday, July 8, 2016

ArkwrightArkwright by Allen Steele
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This SF was pretty much awesome, and more, it was awesome for entirely different reasons as the book progressed.

I've never read Allen Steele before now, but he's just made a fan of me. It's obvious he's well read and respectful of the entire genre from the get-go, and reading about the early days of SF was a huge treat. Nathaniel Arkwright was a fictional author, sliding into one of the Big Four Golden Age SF masters, ranking up there with Heinlein, Clarke, Asimov, Anderson, Pohl, Williamson and so many other great names that I, too, have read and loved, and we read about hob-nobbing and the sheer wonder and the excitement that they all felt about a singular dream of imagination, hope, and, in a few very specific cases, SPACE.

Is this all it's about, though? Of course not. I grew to love Arkwright's granddaughter as she discovered what her estranged grandfather was up to with his colleagues, how he wanted his legacy to continue after his death, and beyond all the damn cool nostalgia aspects, we then get into some very nice riffs with other classic SF tales, such as Sagan's Contact as a plot device, then Anderson's Boat of a Million Years, then Asimov's Robot series about not putting all our eggs in one basket, and then we're suddenly in space, for real, and it's all about Real Science, Real Hope, and then we've even got a taste of dystopia and a classic Big Save for the planet, and if that wasn't enough, we even get a full world-building plot and a classic Save From Ignorance plot, and I was absolutely delighted.

Why? Because the author not only made all my favorite Golden Age SF authors into walk-on characters involved in their own schemes of greatness, but we also changed the whole world into some of the greatest SF ideas and explored so many of the most wonderful plots and hard-science beauties to ever grace the page, as well.

What could make such an SF novel better? Good writing, clear characters, and the love of the genre that just oozes across the page, and here's the beauty... Allen Steele has it. :)

I am FANBOY! :) And this is even better if you're conversant with the old field, too. :)

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Age of Myth (The Legends of the First Empire #1)Age of Myth by Michael J. Sullivan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

This happens to be my entry tome into Michael J. Sullivan's fantasy, so all I'm bringing into it is what I know of the epic fantasy genre.

That being said, a few themes really stood out, with Art-wielding immortals, the Fhrey, looking down upon the ignorant savages, the Rhunes, who are nothing of the sort, being tribes of normal humans taught to revere and fear the gods which inhabit the lands, with one new twist: A man named Raithe killed a god.

It shouldn't have happened, and it sparked many questions and conflicts between the two peoples, kinda like the trigger of an avalanche, creating an eventually delightful mix of cultural and magical explorations, with both sides learning to be both more and less prejudiced with the other side. Of course, this is a story of rebellion, of David versus Goliath, and as the natural allies gather to their respective sides, we get a taste of what the series will eventually deliver: All-Out War.

We do get a treat of characters, of course. We can't have a building tale without memorable sub-plots, either, and it's a toss-up for me whether I love Suri and her wolf Minna more than Raithe, the God-Killer. All the sub-stories were rather fine, and the action and adventure speaks volumes as to what could actually come to us in the later books, but there is a formula here that I can't ignore. This is going to be a long series, so the book reads like the clearing of a beachhead, an island of establishment, a bright and violent spark before a grand conflagration. We don't have the grand conflagration, yet. Maybe it will come, maybe it won't. This is where we as readers need to either trust the author or not, to learn to prolong our expectations over grand sweeps of volumes, or not.

And maybe that's just me and my thing with grand epic fantasies. Maybe this is a non-issue with fans of the sub-genre of fantasy. :) As it is, here, we have a generally satisfying opening to a war between gods and mortals, but it's still going to require a good deal of personal investment.

Fortunately, there is a glossary. :)

Looking forward to a many-book epic sweep. :)


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