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!


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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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Traveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert SilverbergTraveler of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg by Alvaro Zinos-Amaro
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a rather satisfying look into a SF Grandmaster's life. Robert Silverberg had been on the scene since 1955 but had decided to stop writing, go into full retirement, about a decade ago. That doesn't mean he ignores the SF community, however, nor has he gone recluse. He just retired.

These transcribed conversations with Alvaro feel like a very comfortable and wide-ranging exploration on many topics, all of which were very well organized and compiled and I never once got the impression that this was anything other than a near-biography of this fascinating man.

For one, I never realized that he was quite this accomplished or aware of his prose and how it fit in with so many of the previous fiction greats, and I mean the classics such as Faulkner and Hemingway, not only the SF masters that had come before him. He's hyper-aware of everything he did and he is, or was, extremely aware of all matters of craft even when he was doing hack work. When he was popular enough to write his preferred medium-- his Silverberg medium--, he flourished like never before.

It's an old story perhaps, but it's truly fascinating to me to see just how moderate and professional the man is, never taking anything to extremes despite what might be considered relatively outrageous subjects in some of his novels.

His personal code was always writing as work and he took all his craft very seriously, at all stages. It really sheds a lot of light upon his body of work for me. I've only read something like five of his novels, but knowing all that I now know about him, I respect him a lot more.

This is a very enjoyable and informative read. And it might possibly be my top pick for the non-fiction nominations for this year's Hugo... and that's including Carrie Fisher's charming prose and Neil Gaiman's collection of essays and speeches.

We shall see. Only one more to go and then I'll be properly informed. :)

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Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 with a Journal of a Writer's WeekWords Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 with a Journal of a Writer's Week by Ursula K. Le Guin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nonfiction nom for the 2017 Hugos, this collection of essays and book reviews are good for what they are, being honest and rooted very firmly in Le Guin's mindset and fierce defense of Science Fiction in general.

Hell, I was rooting for the same points the entire time! Mainstream Lit-fiction stealing old and traditional SF ideas and then having the nerve to say it's not SF and has nothing to do with it, all the while thumbing its nose at a long tradition is NOT COOL, yo. Give credit where credit is due. Don't write SF and call it something else just because you think the genre is trash.

No genre is trash. Individual writing can be trash, and that's true for EVERYTHING. But the converse is true, too. There are really fantastic examples of good writing everywhere, in any genre, lit-fic, mainstream, or any number of subcategories. Even erotica.

I added the erotica point and the rest is based on Sturgeon's Law, but we share the same point. Don't be a dick.

Le Guin's book reviews were fun for what they are. They're book reviews! I think there's some sort of website out there that is really popular for just this kind of thing... but I can't quite put my finger on it. Still, it's true that we like to see what others think about books both neglected and hugely popular. :) I find myself liking Le Guin more and more and more as I read this book.

Still, as a work of non-fiction, it's mostly just a collection of defenses and book reviews. Pleasurable for what it is but hardly more than that. I'm not being won over to a cause because I'm already a staunch defender, and I love to read book reviews, so this was, in the end, a light read.

Does it deserve a Hugo? Frankly... no. But it was fun and I'm glad to have read it. Did it serve to make me want to read more and more of her works? Yes. It did. I've just bumped up her Earthsea books. :)

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Taste of HoneyA Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's a lot to love in this novella that has been nominated for this year's Hugo award, not least being the exquisite worldbuilding, the delightful mastery of SF tropes in a firm fantasy (and godly) base, and wonderfully drawn characters over the span of their whole lives.

But what I believe people are going to be most focused on is the fact that this is a male on male romance for the ages as seen through a unique culture that has roots deep and familiar but not so familiar as to be ordinary at all. Star-crossed lovers? You bet.

And gods walk the earth, interbreed, have tech that let them do fantastic science things, but first and foremost, this is a tale of love found, thwarted, and renewed. It's a very pretty tale and it's certainly a crowd-pleaser.

On the style side, I really should note that anyone who loves Jemisin's Thousand Kingdoms is going to love this. It's quite dense with goodies but none of it overwhelms the tale. In fact, the tale is king. It was, indeed, like a Taste of Honey.

There's a lot of great choices this year. If it wasn't for some other very, very strong choices, I'd have picked this one for this year's Hugo Winner just on the strength of its world building and romance, but alas...

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Whispers Under Ground (Peter Grant, #3)Whispers Under Ground by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've mentioned how these books go down as smooth as jazz, and there's a lot of honesty in it, although the jazz bits are downplayed almost entirely in this book in favor of a little traditional artistic murder.

Not that art is being murdered, though that certainly might be the case, or that the artists might be doing the murdering, which also might be the case, or that the murder was done in such a way as to be considered artistic, which is certainly not the case.

But above all, this is a fantastic police procedural with wonderful characters dealing with everyday life on the force, of working around disabilities every day on the job (poor Lesley with her missing face), of being "proper" police with very droll humor, of catching the bad guys.

The magic is just integrated matter-of-fact. Peter's a wizard on the force. Lesley has begun to learn magic, too, but she has a bit more of a drive, I think, with her whole missing face bit. As for the magic bits, they're really rather understated and made smooth and delightful. Magical races are just a part of London and it's really all about building relationships and contacts and informants. This IS, after all, a police procedural. :)

The story is a lot of what you might expect out of one, too, with lots of talking and footwork, but I think what I enjoyed most about the book is the nerdy humor. Our copper Peter Grant loves his Cthulhu RPG, his LoTR, and his sophisticated puking Hermione jokes. :)

These aren't a flashy UF. They're solid and deeply grounded in normal London life. It's very smooth and enjoyable. :) As they say, the devil is in the details, and that's where this shines. :)

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Passion PlayPassion Play by Sean Stewart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There's a lot to love about this book if you are a reader who loves literal morality plays wrought from a dystopia made up of a religious dictatorship, a-la Blade-Runner meets V for Vendetta meets religious nutters.

However, it's not quite so clean as it may appear. It's not a perfect Passion Play that recreates Christ and his death and resurrection... rather, we have empaths and telepaths, hunters and a murder mystery revolving around Mask, a very interesting and important actor who has been murdered and our MC must go deep immersion into his life, unlike a standard Sherlock tale, in order to gestalt the whole mystery, untangling all threads by getting to know everyone.

Of course, this means we get to know the dead actor, his part and his hypocrisy as a spokesman for the church, and all the people who knew and might have wanted him dead. It's quite fascinating, if simple on the surface.

The best part of the novel is it's clear prose and often poetic turn, the way this plays on a very old literary form, and how it also manages to remain fresh and timely for us modern peeps.

I can appreciate this novel more than I outright enjoyed it, but that's kinda the point, too. It is, after all, *important* the way a tragedy is *important*. It's not often pleasant, but it rolls around ideas in a very heavy way.

It's a very decent novel, but it's really only for those who like or have the patience for Christian allegories. The conclusion isn't precisely what most people would think, either. I personally thought it was quite dark and rather counter to normal Passion Plays. :) In that respect, Sean Stewart writes for himself. :)

Thanks to Netgalley for a copy of this ARC!

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The IslandersThe Islanders by Christopher Priest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Christopher Priest is one hell of a writer.

What first appears to be a rather dry travelogue of islands, fauna, and different societies, traditions, and mirroring interconnectedness in physical location is, in fact, a novel of tricky space-time confusions, and many-layered lies told both among the inhabitants of the islands and also of lies between the two big continents that are waging an endless (and staged) war, supposedly leaving the Islands like a fascinating Switzerland between them.

But wait! That's just the big stuff. The mirroring goes deeper when we discover and revisit the murder of a mime across so many stories within this novel, going from mismanaged justice to deeper mysteries of interconnectedness, always coming back to the stories of death and taking care of the estate of the relative who has died, with great reveals hidden like stunning jewels throughout.

We get connections to the other Priest novels, including the letters of the main character of The Affirmation. It's quite complicated but not at all a chore to read. In fact, Priest has a glorious way with characterizations, always returning to fascinating sexual encounters, death, loss, and searching. He's also devoted to writers, musicians, mimes, sculptors, and painters.

The picture we get for all of the islands is probably the most complex and odd I've ever read... as in almost entirely recognizable, but deeply suspicious and ever-increasingly and fundamentally strange.

The biggest bit like that is the one where flying around a single island gives you a different island depending on which direction you go around it. Or that from the surface you can see staggered and nearly immobile airplanes locked in time.

This is definitely science fiction. We get everything from native viewpoints to high-tech drones and warfare with enormous research facilities. Moreover, though, it's a novel of unreliable narration and narrators, an unravelling puzzle of life and especially this location that seems to be an island locked within a vortex of time. I say "seems". There is no spelling this out. And yet I don't care. It's thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish.

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Monday, June 12, 2017

Conspirator (Foreigner, #10)Conspirator by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series is still proving to be my go-to feel-good alien-human political machinations with a good mixture of comedy and in-depth world-building.

Bren is a solid guy now and we're seeing a lot more of Cajeiri, the eight-year-old son of the head of the Association, from his PoV. And none of these novels are right without Ilisidi, his great-grandmother, and close friend of Bren.

Cajeiri always seems to get into HUGE amounts of trouble, but that's to be expected by an Atevi alien that grew up on a human-run spaceship. He's an alien of both worlds and so is of neither. He's also a breath of fresh air and errors. :) I'm honestly rather happy with this turn. Bren is still a big part of it all, of course, but Cajeiri keeps it fresh.

Bren is a full Lord of the Atevi now. It still shocks me how far he's come, and I can't say the change is undeserved. He's done more for both the Atevi and the Humans than anyone in this world's history, and he's freakishly loyal. :)

This is feel-good adventure and politics. Don't think it's all that light, though. It isn't. It's played close to the cuff and we're always forced to live through the big reveals as they come. As a thriller, it's fantastic.

There's always some lord somewhere wanting to kill someone. That's the problem with a society run by assassins. :)

Great stuff!

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Delirium Brief (Laundry Files, #8)The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'll be honest, I've been a long-time raving fan of the Laundry Files, so when I got the next pre-release from Netgalley I practically fell over.

For those of you who've never had this on your radar, let me synopsize: It's part Spy-Novel, part Gibbering Cthulhu horrorshow, and part bureaucratic nightmare. Oh, and it's wickedly funny and charming and I love all the characters in this SF-UF. Sound good?

Oh yeah, and we get a huge dose of Bob in this latest one. Lately, we've been getting great Mo and great Alex and Cassie, too, but Bob has been my main go-to guy here, from his days as computational magic-tech-support all the way through his rise in active-duty Spy to middle management and THEN to... *gasp* upper-management. His wife Mo with her ex-eldritch-murder-violin has had her own bump into Senior Auditor status, never to be left behind.

But what about now? What is the Eater of Souls doing?

Oh, nothing much. Just fielding the Elvish invasion/sanctuary application fallout on English Soil, fencing with mind-numbing horrors and other paperwork, and a full-scale liquidation of the Laundry Files. Oops. Political nightmares! But what about all the demons in the basement? What is to happen with them or our Special K or our beleaguered fanged civil servants?

Here's the best part, however... we get a huge dose of Bob AND Mo AND Alex and Cassie in this novel, yo! All the mainstays get their time in the light, and good thing, too, because things have never been this dire.

What about the (magical) Oaths of Service, man??? Oh man...

Is it the end of the world? Very likely.

I won't spoil this because it hasn't even been released yet, but the twist is absolutely horrifying. I read the entire thing with a huge smile on my face. It's just one of those kinds of novels.

Utterly enjoyable, that is.

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

An Unimaginable LightAn Unimaginable Light by John C. Wright
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I wanted to be fair and give this a real shot, and don't get me wrong, I did finish it and was mildly surprised by the ending twist, but all in all, I just didn't enjoy it.

I mean, I should have because it is set in Asimov's Robot stories universe.

And I could have really enjoyed it because it's trying to be very diagrammatically logical mixing philosophy with SF.

BUT it was heavily overladen with Christian themes that would have felt flat in the 1950's. Just imagine how modern readers should be feeling with that kind of thing now?

I'll skip the big-time psychosexual sadism that was meant to prove a point because the point was made. Heavily. Overmuch, even.

And then there was the language. Yeah. Not bad language... just that it was basically a bloodthirsty lunatic in conversation with a Jesuit. Odd. Kinda unpleasant. But anyway.

I did read this because it was a nom for this year's Hugo. It's also rather weak, unfortunately. I'm probably going to not give this story a place on the ballot.

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Phantom Pains (The Arcadia Project, #2)Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The fae and a Borderline Personality Disorder main character... what could go wrong?

Well after the first book, we know that the answer is plenty, and Millie is outta there... but the second book proves that anyone can be dragged back in. All you need is a murder charge, someone you love someone you can destroy, and a mystical contract to keep your mentally-sick-butt in one place long enough to keep your mouth shut and not destroy all your chances at happiness.

Seriously. From a psychological thriller viewpoint, this UF is spot-on and awesome. Being a borderline in the world of the fae just means that you have permission to be as crazy as they... except that they have power and you don't, and while your life is swirling down the toilet, you just don't care what you have to do while you're in the grip of your Thing.

It's a delightfully wicked turn and all of that continues quite nicely in this sequel. Phantom Pains may not be quite as shocking as the first, but the build-up for the world is solid. We get more of the LA movie studios, a lot more fae, and the inclusion of some cool new seelie and unseelie court people and beasties, a lot more politics, and some magical slavery that makes for a rather big ending.

I'm going to be following this UF very closely. The characters are quite awesome. I especially like Millie's echo even if he feels a little flat. Of course, ANYONE is going to feel a little flat before our flamboyantly destructive Millie, so I think it's a very nice balance. :)

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Jewel and Her LapidaryThe Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know I've only read two of Fran Wilde's tales, but I'm getting the impression that I'm just not her audience at all.

I was reading this for her Hugo nomination this year and I had high hopes because some authors can really kick butt with the shorter stuff even if their longer works fall short for some readers. (Read: me).

Unfortunately, the whole concept of jewels of power is a very, very old one, and while she tries to make it fresh by doing the whole linking them to their wearers and then having the added dimension of social caste rebalancing going on... well... it was kinda dull for me. I'd rather have the jewel action be a MacGuffin or something far-off rather than this. It's hard not to compare it to some really big classics, either, and in that comparison, this will always fall short. Alas.

Maybe this is fine for a younger YA reader who's never read anything else. I don't know. I just know that it didn't really do the job for me.

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Invisible CitiesInvisible Cities by Italo Calvino
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this short fiction is quite beautifully drawn, a dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Kahn that consists mostly of one enormous travelogue consisting of cities, their differences, and eventually, only their consistencies and made-made up features.

There's nothing much more to it except cities and brief descriptions of each, from ancient all the way to modern cities and even cities magical and purely imaginary. On a few occasions, there's a philosophical discussion about what is perceived in reality and what is expected, of ennui and excitement, of grief and happiness, but in the end, it's all just cities.

It's enjoyable for what it is. It's almost purely description in conversation. Very little plot or character development, but we do get a little.

Even so, not bad, not bad.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Divine InvasionThe Divine Invasion by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This happens to be my third read and like the one that immediately precedes it, it's well worth the extra effort.

Absolutely amazing is only a part of what it is. It's also a complicated exploration of comparative religions, a roaring tale of a battle between God and the Devil, and it's also about totally re-writing reality because it's all a hologram... or is it?

It has the Living Torah, it has the Kabbalah, it has Zoroastrianism and Maat and the Fairy Queen and Palas Athena. It has a brain damaged kid that holds the universe in his mind, Elijah traveling through time as the spirit of the Holy Ghost (who was once Mozart), and Herb Asher, the god-smuggler, the lover of music, the *mostly* dead and frozen Job of the novel, constantly being pulled between good and evil. :)

In short, it seems to have everything, no?

But in fact, it's a very readable SF adventure with Yah an exile on another planet trying to take back the dominion of Earth from Belial, full of cool reveals and twists, and also quite a few down-to-earth mini-quests as if the fate of the world rests on the shoulders of one man's choices.

Oh yeah, and he's just the *legal* father of God. Not the real one. Can't let people think he's crazy or anything. :)

This *is* a companion to VALIS, Radio Free Albemuth, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. All of these books explore the same themes and tie wonderfully together as if the ideas are seen through a different part of the same prism. Even the dead cat from VALIS has is place as a dead dog in Divine Invasion, on this time it isn't just an angry man talking to a mad one, but two Gods making a point with each other. Oh, and Mother Goose even gets a cameo! :) Ohhh, Bowie...

I used to rank this lower in my mind with Valis, but in fact I think it belongs on an equal footing, now. It's quicker and a more traditional SF than VALIS but that shouldn't count against it. Indeed, it makes its points quite clearer in some ways. :)

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The Dream-Quest of Vellitt BoeThe Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novella is a real delight! I love all things Lovecraftian, with or without the inherent racism of the original, but fortunately, almost EVERY hand put to the task of building upon the mythos has recreated it into something egalitarian and deep while still retaining the rich, rich imaginings.

This continues the quest within the Dreamland but from the point of view of a middle-aged teacher of mathematics from *within* this other world, helping out a student from our world who had fallen in love with a man in the Dreamland who, if allowed to continue, would set all the gods of creation on a tear to destroy everything because the two SHALL NOT mix.

My favorite bits are the fact that this woman doesn't have any special skills. She settled down from her wandering days to become a prof but still dropped it all to go on a long and wonderful quest filled with monsters and demons and whatnot with nothing more than her perseverance. :)

Imaginative. So imaginative. This continues Lovecraft's original, sure, but Kij Johnson flows deep within these rivers that are at once familiar and very unfamiliar, evoking a blase attitude to things that are richly disturbing and strange, evoking awe with simple concepts like the number Pi that *doesn't* change its value, and so many other cool bits with Ghasts and Gouls and Gaunts.

After reading this I'm thrilled and pretty well amazed and totally on-board with reading anything else this woman has ever written. Anything that can evoke awe in this old reader has got to be cherished.

This one might make my top pick for the Hugo Novella category for this year. It's either that or Every Heart a Doorway

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Monday, June 5, 2017

River of TeethRiver of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reading this because it is a Campbell nom for this year, I'm walking into this as a properly fascinated reader. I mean, it's a western alternative history where hippos are the next big meat and it was ACTUALLY A THING. It might have been a bad idea in the real world, but the concept for a SF novella is pretty spectacular.

So how did it pan out?

Well. I like revenge stories as well as anyone and having these big monsters that crunch people with a single bite always makes for great river fiction, but I found my attention wandering. I think it might have just been me. The concept is great and the writing is okay, but it just wasn't enough for me to hang my hat on.

I'm sure others might get more out of this! I DO recommend this highly for anyone who loves the whole Western thing. I think I might not have been in the right mood, unfortunately.

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

The Light Fantastic (Discworld, #2; Rincewind #2)The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-read with buddies!

I'm still very much enjoying these early Pratchett books, especially in mind that I'll be seeing a *lot* more of these folks in the near future. And even if I'll mainly be focused on folks I haven't seen yet, anyway, I'm still enjoying what may as well be an overview primer of the whole Discworld universe.

That being said, I think Rincewind is given a bad rap in the series. I love the hell out of him. He's the ultimate bumbling idiot under the geas of a penultimate Eighth Spell, the casting of which will make or destroy the universe or something, and the making and breaking is ultimately left up only to him.

And he's a wizard with a hat that says "wizzard" on it. You know... to make sure people understand that he's actually one of their kind. :) I particularly loved the bits with the floating rocks and the computers of the universe and the dungeon universes and, of course, Cohen the Barbarian.

It's funny, it's BIG, and we even get to see the tourism industry take off in a really big way, even going so far as to have the very first tourist play a big part in a very special birth. Awwwww... So sweet! :)

Plotwise, I think it's well up to the standards of the rest of the series and while Rincewind falls away in people's favor, *cry* He'll always have a very special place in my heart.

And by the way, that sword is definitely smarter than him. Oh well!

Great fun! Even better the second time!

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Girl Last SeenGirl Last Seen by Nina Laurin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thrillers are an addiction. Ask anyone. Sometimes they just thrill and sometimes they get under your skin and tie you up for years at a stretch, doing unspeakable things to you... and then they let you loose, making you feel like a monster for years and years.

Well, it hasn't been years, rather... minutes since I finished this book, and I can tell right away that I'm going to stay in a bit of shock.

This is a dark one.

I love the premise, the connection over many years, but I probably love other kinds of entanglements even more. I'm talking about you, Ella and Shaw. :)

There's a good deal of perfect twists and turns in the plot, but it's the downward spiral of poor Ella that takes center stage, the victim blaming the victim all the way, and yet, always holding onto tiny little sparks and obsessions to keep her going. I love it!

If this doesn't become the next big thing, I don't know what will! It goes down smooth. Real smooth. And scary.

(The fact that I know the author has nothing to do with my judgment of the book. I literally couldn't put it down from the time I picked it up.) :)

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Princess DiaristThe Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm not usually one to read memoirs or even a slice of a tiny and specific autobiography like this, but I was tempted both because of my sadness for her death and the fact that it was nominated for the Hugos this year.

That being said, I wasn't prepared for how much I enjoyed her quirky and excellent and witty writing, her unabashedly honest reveal about her on-set fling with Harrison Ford, or the nearly unbearably sweet and conflicted original diary, itself.

Don't go into this expecting a behind the scenes expose or anything, but you can truthfully come out of it feeling a sense of awe and joy for having been a part of something so big... even coming from the actress in the metal bikini. :)

Reading this is both sweet and heartbreaking at the same time.

I, like so many others, love Star Wars, but as with so many people like me, I tend to forget that the people involved with it are just as fascinating in their own right. I learned that Carrie Fisher was rather freaking cool. :)

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Friday, June 2, 2017

The Cults of the WormThe Cults of the Worm by Scott Hale
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Is it really fair to say this book is a Hell of a Horrific ride even before it's been edited, long before it's meant for public consumption?

Hell Yes.


Comparing this book to most of the horror genre is like wondering what it would be like to see Clive Barker step up his game in a very big way, but instead of piddling about with normal modern tropes before stepping off the deep mythological and epic horror themes, we get right down to the nitty-gritty good stuff.

Yes. The blood and the gristle are everywhere. So are the gods of nightmares, worldwide corruption, characters we've grown to love from the previous novels, and the sheer terror that makes us wonder if this entire future earth after the Trauma is, indeed, Hell. It's really hard to tell.

People are alive. A lot of them aren't and they just don't recognize the need to lay down. Some straddle the fence so much and explode with red veiny stuff occasionally, too. And then we get into the really colorful stuff.

Suffice to say, I really loved everything about this novel and indeed the whole series. It makes my mind explode with delicious gore and beautifully insane reality and very strong stories interweaving it all.

Vrana is back, ya'll. *sings Changes by Bowie*

I also had a bit of a heartbreak. This stuff is fantastic and fantastically evil. It's a must-read for all you people who think you're horror fans. Nothing is sacred. Everything is fair game. :)

A special thanks goes to the author for providing me an early-early copy! *two thumbs up* Still loving it! I can only say, "Please! More!"

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Assassin's Fate (The Fitz and the Fool, #3)Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fantastically satisfying read. I mean, seriously. It only took three doorstopper Fitz trilogies, the Liveship trilogy, the Rainwilds trilogy to make this book shine... but shine it does. Like silver on the fingertips.

Hobb has Skill! No one can doubt that. I feel like I've invested so many of my memories and hopes and fears and anger into these books... it's almost as if something of a monumental world-building is shaking off its rocks and leaping off into the distance to hunt itself some prey.

I'm frankly amazed that Fitz's story took him through all of the tales of the Elderlings and the Dragons and the Liveships all the way to the Servants, held together with the singular intent to save Bee. It's just ... so immense.

Hobb's writing is always pretty much a careful construction and total immersion that builds to a howling wind that then explodes into some of the most memorable scenes in fantasy, but in this trilogy, she ties ALL of these trilogies together and let them ALL explode into something really grand.

Wit, Skill, or a synthesis of the two, it doesn't matter. She's got magic.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Fool's Quest  (The Fitz and The Fool, #2)Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Picking up right where the last book left off, but still agonizingly slow to action for very good reasons, I'm sucked right into the Buckeep palace and torn between Chade, Fitz's old assassin teacher and the Fool, his long lost and scarily far-gone friend. One wants Fitz to take up his job because he's old and failing and the kingdom needs a spy-master and the Fool tugs on every emotional string Fitz has due to his many years of torture and craving revenge... and the fact that Fitz's daughter has been taken by the same people.

The first portions of the book were agonizing because Fitz just didn't know that his daughter had been taken and his keep raided, his people brutalized, raped, or killed. We get that knowledge as readers, and I, for one, was torn to pieces by the knowledge.

The slow build-up of characterization and the building upon all that history from the previous books makes me wish that Fitz would do as EVERYONE wishes him to do, but of course, it's not possible.

Still torn by the Fool, he learns of all the horrors back at his old home and goes off to save his daughter. This part of the adventure is by now one of the most emotionally pain-wrecked pieces of the novels and it gets even worse when we discover how and why he's unable to find her. In fact, he's given up because of the unique way he knows he's lost her.

All that's left is either going on a suicide run with the blinded and broken Fool against a whole powerful kingdom by himself, or settling in with his old friends who love him like the hero that he is, trying to enfold him back into their graces despite his deep reluctance.

The conflict here is so hard, so good.

And when he finally decides to sacrifice his life on a Fool's quest, he even leaves the Fool behind, fully intending to go at it alone.

But Fitz has more friends than he knows, and things are NEVER easy or go as expected.

This has got to be one of the best of all the stories of Fitz. I'm so damn invested. Like, completely. It's truly amazing. What might objectively seem like a slow tale is actually very deep and very rich, full of the whole wide spectrum of posibilities and relationships. And when I say that his relationships are vast, it's also true. This author has the ability to slam home the force of the previous events in fresh ways, making us feel and remember all the special things that made the earlier books so great.

It's one hell of an emotional ride, and far from having the middle-book blues, it is even more engaging than the previous. If I had any complaints, it's only that I didn't get as much Bee time as I wanted.

Fortunately, Hobb is tying all the related novels of this fully-realized world and is bringing all of the Fool's other guizes in different lands together in a truly spectacular way.

I'm plowing through to the last of this trilogy now. These books are absolutely amazing.

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Fool's Assassin (The Fitz and the Fool, #1)Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I mean, WOW.

I've read something like nine, now ten of her books at this point and they were all epic doorstoppers split as trilogies, and this one may actually be my favorite of them all.

Why? Well, it wasn't because there was a ton of death and grief in it. Indeed, middle-aged retired Fitz having a well-deserved life with his childhood sweetheart and bringing a new winter baby into their lives was probably the sweetest damn thing the author could have done for him.

She writes it so well that I don't even miss all the epic dragon battles or the battles with the Forged or the battle for the kingdom on the high seas, with Skill and Wit fighting together for once. No. In this case, it's introspection and memories and trying to put all the hard crap behind him and settling into the life of his dreams.

Too bad he's aging slower than his wife and he fears that she's going mad because of a pregnancy that lasted two years.

But what is the real kicker is the fact that she wasn't crazy.

In fact, his kid has both the Wit and the Skill.

This is where it gets really interesting, because we see this kid grow up with our favorite hero, the Catalyst without the White Prophet, and we as readers are making all the connections as Fitz does not, safe in his marital and familial bliss, even after his poor wife has died. On top of that, his daughter Bee is easily one of the most fascinating characters in the book.

No, the thing is... this book is objectively sedate. The currents of being a dad, missing his old friend the Fool, loving his wife... all these things are written so well that it's gripping and fascinating, but as we keep feeling the tension build, knowing that something will inevitably go wrong, we're left hanging on the edge.

Nearly the entire book is a setup. We know this. We're just reveling in a gorgeous span of time, giving Fitz the peace he'd always desired after having become the most deadly assassin and mass-killer of the land.

I just didn't expect to be completely bowled over by this slow boil and the emotional reunion or the rest that immediately follows it.

I cried. I stopped reading and I cried. That's the kind of effect this book had on me, and I generally don't cry with any books. I'm too used to plots and situations.

This one caught me unawares. Hard. So. Ten stars. :)

I'm gonna plow through all three of these doorstoppers in a row. :)

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Thursday, May 25, 2017

InfluxInflux by Daniel Suarez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*cackles with glee*

I love me some WILD technology! I love me so much technology I roll about in it like it was a king sized bed full of money, money, money! I love my technostravaganza!

Oh yeah, besides the tech tech tech tech tech tech coolness, this is a pretty decent technothriller, too, fluctuating from awe and surprise... to a bit of tech-explanation... to a bit of tech-horror, dark humor, tech theft, dark humor, action, action, tech-action, more tech-action, and finally, a laugh-out-loud chortle of dark laughter.

From myself, of course.

I love wild rides! And this one is definitely one! My head is buzzing around and I'm lost in admiration and awe for all the great pure SF tech goodies that they all play with. It's almost like golden-age SF except that it's proper modern-dark and sarcastic and cynical and yet, in the end, totally optimistic.

I love Daniel Suarez. Or, more properly, all his writing. I can't believe how much fun I have every single time I pick up one of his novels, or how thrilled I am to see so much science and tech and full explanations for each and very well developed consequences and social side-effects.

For me, it's not even about the techno-thriller. He's quite good with his characters and stories and twists, too, but all the SF goodies are the real stars that shine so bright. :) Maybe that's just me. Maybe not! I just know that there's no way in hell I'm ever going to avoid reading his works. He's got my undying trust.

Fantastic SF, ya'll!

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Stockholm SexyStockholm Sexy by Logan Keys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Death never stepped so lightly or with such fervor.

Like noir? Like dark comedy noir with a bit of sexy time and a lot of violent death? Yup. Me too.

The thing is, I love it when it's light and fun and quick, and this fits the bill. It has all the modern quick dying and moving on, each death a punchline, a question-mark.

But of course, it always goes south, as each death digs her deeper and deeper in trouble, despite an already established career of doing the hit-thing already!

It just goes to show. Don't go freelance!

Totally worth getting into. Pain fun!

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The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm checking it out, yo. I mean, it was supposed to be this big thing and I was kinda meh on the whole concept of dystopias about when this was all over the feeds, so I just didn't do it.


But now is a brand new day.

And today is all about the mass deaths. Let's do it in waves, each one so much more impressive and deadly than the last. Now let's add aliens and make them the perps behind it all.

Now make it a survival novel with a smart and logical and ruthless girl who's set to do whatever is necessary to survive.

Honestly, I thought this was pretty much a 5 star novel well past the mid-point. The style and pacing and the character and the dire feels were pretty awesome. I liked her family and I loved the effect that her brother going away had on her.

So where did I lose interest?

With the boy. Sorry. Also with the possibility that her little bro might be alive and the subsequent plot.

After all, what struck me as fantastic in the first more-than-half novel was the sheer "alien-ness" of the aliens, the disregard for us, their total commitment toward getting rid of us at all costs. I didn't want to ascribe a human-ish motive to anything that could go that far out of its way to destroy us, from flooding to making us bleed out almost universally. Even just letting us take ourselves out was fine. Doppelgangers, too. They wanted our world as a resource, but not us upon it. Got it.

I probably would have been great with The Road ending. I just didn't want to see a real romance situation. Not here. Not like this. There just seemed to be so much potential for learning and discovery, even trusting others again. There was some of that, but it still felt like a waste with the big action scene we did get.

Am I getting picky and personal about this? Possibly. It's just that so many great premises these days just have to go the way of dinosaur plots. And for what? A cheap sex thrill? At the end of the world? Meh. Even Saving Private Sam was pretty predictable. Maybe I just didn't want a happy-ish ending with such much perfect dark setup.

Whatever happened to tragedies, yo? I expected tragedy. Horrors get this right. This could have been a great horror/sf.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Punch EscrowThe Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

And a very special thanks to the author for writing Hard-SF in a really fun and engaging way. This is often much harder than it might seem at a casual glance.

Fortunately, the light tone and the clear explanations of the science prevailed and served only to propel the story forward. And what kind of story is it? It's a fast-paced thriller! And no, before you ask, this isn't a clone of Dark Matter. Far from it. We're dealing with a better version of Star Trek's transporter problem from a quantum entanglement viewpoint, and far from getting bogged down in an introductory reading of such a story, (which has been done a lot), we jump right ahead into the social and technological implications of a society that has come to accept it and the actuarial realities of checksumming your torrented self across great distances. How boring, right? But boring gets people moving, and moving, and moving... aaaand ... I really shouldn't spoil this, but all the cool stuff happens after the poop hits the fan from after this point.

Copy, paste, delete. We know the concept. No problem. Now skip the last step. Hello, me! :)

The author carries two PoV's wonderfully and keeps it light even when really bad things are happening. I loved it, from the marital problems to the chase, the ambulance, the AI, the conspiracy, the nutjobs AND the nutjobs, and of course, arguing with yourself. :) I like to think that I wouldn't have any such problems with myself, but let's be realistic here. A perfect teleportation clone is going to be competing with your resources right off the bat. There's a lot of real conflicts right there.

So, bravo! for keeping it real.

This was a very nice surprise. I asked for this one just on a whim and I am very pleased I did. I totally recommend this for all kinds of clone-fans who love thrillers. This one happens to be a lot better than most and I can say it feels rather more original than most. PLUS! It has the benefit of sticking close to real science to the best of our current understanding!

The same goes for all the multitudes of the great little idea-gems we visit in this future world. The carbon-sucking mosquitos are a delight. So are the self-driving cars that alert each other on emergency channels whenever some monkey is taking the wheel. :) Scary. :)

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The Dream ArchipelagoThe Dream Archipelago by Christopher Priest
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This superb collection of short stories by Christopher Priest lives up to its title, being both subtle and subtly off.

Off not as in bad... but off as in we're being carried away by deep waters that are subtly carrying away our sense of the universe.

You see, these stories feel awfully familiar and normal, or if they're evidently and obviously on an alternate Earth, at least everything seems ultimately recognizable... until it isn't. And this, let me tell you, is damn awesome. There's practically no way we can't fall into his trap. He lulls us along and then stops the stories at places that confound and make us ask really deep questions.

At first blush, we keep seeing big themes of incompletion, usually surrounding unsatisfying sexual encounters, synesthesia, all kinds of off-art, and the sense that the war is just WRONG.

But expect no resolutions. These aren't those kinds of stories. They're deeply personal, intimate, and often disturbing, focused almost entirely on the inner or nearby worlds of the main characters, usually involved in what might be characterized as a travelogue of the Dream Archipelagos.

And like the other Dream Islands, the islands are a character in themselves, they're both disturbing and fascinating, and they're set right in-between two warring nations that have been going at it for up to a few thousand years. They're not going to defeat each other. They have too much invested in just keeping the conflict going.

There's undercurrents under the undercurrents, references back to real and fictional novels, themes that are both profound and familiar, and it's always heavily sexual.

These are almost impossible to truly describe. They're just that good. Expertly crafted, confounding, intimate, and interrupted. A few of them are truly wonderful, especially the last novella, but after reading them, it really is as if I've been living a dream... Not wild. Just carried away with the currents.

If you can't tell, I'm kinda at a loss for words. I feel like I'm one of the characters in these stories, all fish out of water and simultaneously horrified and caught in the beauty. :)

Anyway. They're absolutely worth the read. Really amazing, actually. :)

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Monday, May 22, 2017

The Stars Are LegionThe Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Memory, bio-punk, world-building extravaganza, betrayal, adventure, horror.

There's so much to love in this book. It's full to the brim with fantastic living "world/ships" and the special parasites that are living aboard them. (Us, or some kind of alien that's near enough us that makes no odds.)

I originally thought that it was going to be a lot like Starscape with the living ship, but in reality, this is much, much larger. At least the ship is. In fact, aside from a few quick space battles, most of the events take place across vast distances inside the ships. Worlds. :)

Here's another great bit: The women. It's all women. The ships manipulate and bring them back as clones (although it's never really described as such) and their memories come back slowly. This gives us a lot of really awesome plot devices that lead to so many horrible discoveries, but more-so, it gives us a really tangled web of social and interpersonal nightmares. And it's all women.

This is a fairly unique world-building exercise, and while it's not completely original, I've rarely seen it done this well while also being completely immersed in truly strange alien-tech, or being fully realized for huge story and biological reveals later. Suffice to say, I'm loving the hell out of the world-building.

The story is pretty cool, too, full of distrust and dire situations and nearly hopeless striving, neither side ever truly being able to come to grips with one another... or do they? It's truly a nightmare of social tangles when you include memories being lost or the fact that you might have been doing this same quest, futilely, over and over. The despair is palpable.

This is the fourth book I've read of hers and this is the one I probably like the most, all told. She always has fantastic world-building, full of wonderful ideas, explorations, and implications.

What can I say? I wish there was a lot more of this out there. I love this stuff. True playground of the mind. :)

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And this was exactly what I've been looking for.

Gods, dreams, epic fantasy, a richly detailed world, and more importantly, characters I can wholeheartedly love.

But what about originality? Oh, there's plenty here. I'm gonna name drop some titles to let you folk know a tiny bit of what's in store, but don't assume that because this book shares some elements of each, that it is a knock-off, because it isn't.

Think about a love child of City of Stairs and The Dragonbone Chair with a very healthy dose of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and a smidge of all the best modern epic fantasies, and you've got what does NOT feel like a tired YA romance... rather, it feels like a wonderful modern fantasy that tugs at you in all the right places and even lets you feel a bit of Gaiman's Dream magic. :)

But the best part of this is the writing, from the characters to the overarching arc of the story. It's good. Plain and simple. Very, very, good.

I love being blown away by hints and tragedies and enormous somethings in the background and the build-up to make it truly delicious when it all comes home to roost.

But if you're thinking that this is a standalone novel, then think again. Nothing can stand as it is now. Buckle up tight, because it's going to be a really big ride.

And yes, this is officially billed as YA but I don't think it should be limited to that sobriquet. It's perfectly adult. :) Perfectly dark and dire, in other words, and simple? This is not. :)

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Moon Over Soho (Peter Grant, #2)Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Must love jazz.

Well, not really, but I could almost taste the love for jazz throughout this novel. Peter's dad was once a jazz legend, after all, and so it's not so hard to have his son pick up a bit of the love, if not the talent. This aspect of the novel was pretty nigh awesome. :) Flitting around the London Jazz scene, hunting down Jazz vampires... you know, those pesky varmints that nest in the musician's ear and suck out their brains and make them do really stupid things...

Or something like that. Maybe Jazz people are naturally messed up. But that doesn't mean that there aren't Jazz Vampires!

This second book in the series is spot on and very cool in the character department. There's less of the tropes and more of being a damn fine human being. The opening of the novel highlights this. I think I'd give it ten stars all by itself. Less guilt and more being a good friend. Hell yeah. :)

The rest of the novel runs like a jazz song... smooth, reoccurring riffs, and a baseline that, while not always steady, always came back into fine form.

That, and it's a great police procedural.. um... JAZZ POLICE... and magician-in-training novel. :) I continue to be very impressed. This is some of the very best detail-oriented and depth-of-character Urban Fantasies I've ever read, and I admit to having read a TON.

Totally recommend.

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Thin AirThin Air by Michelle Paver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoy ghost stories in general, so getting into this modern rendition of a historical mountaineering thriller turned ghost story was pretty fun.

Granted, such stories about climbing mountains in the 30's have a long tradition. And of course, so do ghost stories. But regardless, this mash-up was first and foremost WELL WRITTEN. Modern style, of course.

I had a good time. That's pretty much all. It has brotherly angst, a fight against the elements, tragedy, pettiness, and above all, really great foreshadowing. Most of my enjoyment came from trying to find out what Kind of ghost story it would become, and when I learned, I was mightily pleased. Nuff Said about that.

It was pleasing. Thrilling, full of pathos, and it even included a great dog. What more can we ask for in a popcorn horror?

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Gameshouse (Gameshouse, #1-3)The Gameshouse by Claire North
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had to waffle between 3 and 4 stars, so call this 3.5.

But WHY? It's Claire North! You've never read anything of hers that you've disliked!

Well, I didn't exactly dislike this one. The first of the three novellas was pretty raveworthy, like a Machiavellian back-stabby game of thrones for people in Venice a couple hundred years ago, making and breaking kings in the Great Game they play.

It's smart, it's almost over-the-top, and it's quite delicious for an alternate-history high-stakes secret society story.

The second, by contrast, was good for its cool setting of 30's Thailand with rather deep descriptions... But, it just didn't have the same impact OR importance that developed in the first. For, after all, the winner of THAT game became the head of the order. (The rewards were somewhat unspecified except that it's so much better than kingships, etc.) This one was okay. The rewards for playing the game are getting fantastical, now. A real fantasy story mixed with a huge number of pieces (read human resources) being used up.

I honestly didn't care that much about this one.

The third novella had its ups and downs in a modern setting with an even bigger location. Note, we go from ONLY Venice to ALL of Thailand, and now, the world.

It was *okay* until it neared the end, with resources dwindling and piling up in a truly topsy-turvy game between order and chaos, and THEN I was like.... "Okay, this is pretty damn cool."

In fact, if any of you folks have been following the author's North-Only titles, you'll see a pretty big and awesome trend that includes immortality in one sense or another. This, in my honest opinion, is probably the very best feature of her novels. Identity, immortality, and often enough, a lot of fantastic locations.

This one was in line with the rest. It just didn't have the same punch for me as any of her other novels.

Still, it's decent. Not bad, taken all together. BUT I'd say just read the first novella if I was really recommending this to anyone except the Northian Die-Hards like me. :)

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Raven Stratagem (The Machineries of Empire #2)Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I think it's safe to say that I'm a fanboy of this writer. I was blown away by the flashy greatness of the first novel, the quantum-perception nature of a whole society versus other whole societies, and especially the absolute craziness of having an undead general in your brain to help you fight impossible battles in space.

This one continues in that same vein, but it does so with a heavy dose of mystery and sadness and three other viewpoints while all eyes are focused on the resurrected General who's dead set on taking on absolutely everyone.

Continue the campaign? No problem. Do it over your dead bodies? No problem. Do it even when the people who thought they had him on a leash now just want him dead at all costs except for the one that says he's taking care of their enemies for them so why not let him continue on for just a bit longer? No problem.

Of course, the novel becomes a long exercise in truly scary mind-control loyalty games and the introduction of a long-term strategy to accompany the most brilliant tactician anyone has ever seen.

And perhaps the overthrow of the Calendar. Oohhhhh!!! THE HERESY!

Honestly, this one doesn't require as much effort to learn new things as the first one does. It does, however, suffer a little bit with the middle-book-syndrome. I'm also not quite sure I like the direction the end took, but the middle reveals were freaking fantastic.

And best of all... relieved.

There was a bit of difficult tension I had to go through while reading this, and it's all story and character. It had me almost in tears.

Now how in the world am I going to wait for the third book?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rivers of London (Peter Grant, #1)Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm giving this top marks for an UF for several reasons.

1. Plain enjoyment! (This one should be obvious but it doesn't always work even with a lot of other titles I respect across the board. I may love bits and pieces of them, but then you come across writing that is a breeze to fall into and enjoy throughout, and then you know you've got a real winner on your hands. That's this one.)

2. Geeky, rather a loser London Police Constable with a bit of a new magical talent, a heavy steeping of modern sf/f culture, and an even heavier steeping of police procedural and depth of characterization. It feels real and I just love this guy.

3. It's not light on the Londonite scene! This is great grounding and full of great humor and history, bringing in some of the weirdest tidbits of the past centuries like the proverbial grab-bag and shaking it about a bit and giving us a hell of a weird novel. It's a total blast.

Any one of these reasons should have been enough, but damn... who cares! It's a great read! Some of the best UF created, in fact. I can't wait to delve into the rest!

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The New Voices of FantasyThe New Voices of Fantasy by Peter S. Beagle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I really liked, sometimes loved the stories in this volume. A lot of them are reprints, if not all, and I remember a number of them quite fondly from previous reads, such as, and especially, Alyssa Wong and Brooke Bolander.

However, there were a number of newcomers (the definition is flexible) that I really enjoyed or I've already had the pleasure of reading some of their actual novels, such as stories from Hannu Rajaniemi, Sofia Samatar, and Max Gladstone. Hannu is a personal favorite author of mine, and Max is rapidly getting there, too, for me.

Let me tell you... I really loved the one from Max. Dracula in the modern city. It was far from being overdone, rather, it was absolutely delightful. :)

Ben Loory's short of "The Duck" was an awesome surprise, and I'm really beginning to look forward to every Ursula Vernon story I'm running across, too.

All in all, though, I am very impressed and pleased by this collection and if its primary intention is to say, "Hey, look at these authors and revel in their glory!", then I think it did a wonderful job. Most of them have quite a few awards under their wings, too.

I totally recommend this for all modern fantasy lovers. (And btw, there's a TON of great OLD fantasy retellings, usually quite unique and unusual tales in their own right. If you love hard to find legends retold for modern sensibilities wrapped and layered in fantastic characters, this is ALSO your book.)

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Seven Secrets of the Silver Shoes: Principles for Success on and Off the FieldThe Seven Secrets of the Silver Shoes: Principles for Success on and Off the Field by Joe Washington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll be honest, books about sports (or sports in general,) generally can't strike my fancy.

But it is rather cool to hear anecdotes from a football legend that really feels like a genuinely nice guy. The general advice for living isn't heavy-handed or inappropriate. Indeed, I really enjoyed the last section on using your imagination even more than just listening to your coach, giving credit where credit is due, or even accepting the fact that we all have to back up.

It's very light fare, true, but it's also charming and it should be a huge delight for Football fans.

Hell, when I used to live in Oklahoma, I remember hearing all about Joe, too! It's odd how life turns us around and jogs our memories. :)

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Saturday, May 13, 2017

VALIS (VALIS Trilogy, #1)VALIS by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Update 5/13/17:
I had to dive back into VALIS because certain tales continue to resonate with me... and this one is still one of the very most important.

Who knows? Maybe I am just a crazy as PKD because I'm obsessed with the perception of reality, holographic universes, the edict of "As Above, So Below", and the nature of consciousness.

Or maybe I'm just a naturally curious person that happens to be heavily stimulated by PKD's intelligence, his humility, his sincerity, and his travails.

Any way that I look at it, however, I am still in awe of this man's writing. This one more than all his other novels, in fact, for the way he bleeds all over the page with his personal experiences, his deep searching, and his willingness to look practically everywhere for an answer.

So beautiful. Of course, after all these years, I can now see this as the capstone to the great pyramid of his other works and words. From Ubik and the nature of reality, to Galactic Pot-Healer for both the genetic regression and memory, and even to The Man in the High Castle for the alternate dimension mystery... for which all four of his last novels tie so well together.

I disagree with the blurb, of course. It wasn't a trilogy.

There were four, with The Divine Invasion exploring the return of Elijiah and how Sophia and the Logos reworks reality and the Earth, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer for the exploration of immortality in the form of a mystical mushroom and Pike (otherwise the most down-to-earth and charming of the tied-in-books), and Radio Free Albemuth which has the closest ties to VALIS out of the entire bunch since it IS the story of Brady from the movie VALIS and his troubles with president Faris F. Freemont in the police state that was the Black Iron Prison. :)

All of these diverse novels sprang, fully formed, from the brainchild that was VALIS. So rich a novel!


It's easily one of my favorites of all time. :)

Old Review:

This book has everything except plot. I still love the fraking hell out of it. As a mind experiment gone horribly, horribly awry, I felt myself slipping into PKD's mindset and taking every point seriously, as you could just tell that he was. It felt like the ramblings of a man who had gone through something he couldn't explain and did his damned awful best to figure it out, but that includes religious horror, classical Greek authors, a ton of philosophy, and a life that is falling apart.
I've since read his Exegesis, or at least the edited parts of it, but I was personally horrified by his own accounting of the Exegesis that he was currently writing at the time of, and within, this novel. A million words. Ten novel's worth. All densely populated with thought experiments, rationalizations, religious thought, humor, self-deprecation, and so much more.

Knowing what I know now hasn't diminished my respect for this novel, just given it more dimension. At the time I first read it, I honestly thought that PKD had specifically picked this highly intellectual, spooky, crazy method to tell a story in a novel, while using himself as a split personality as a foil. I thought it was Brilliant. I know now that he just took out a lot of his salient points from the exegesis and made a slapped together novel. That being said, it still doesn't deplete the depth and the density of this great novel.

I shook myself after reading it the first time and sat around dazed for a day. If I'm going to rank my favorite novels by the effects they had upon me, by their lasting effects upon my life, then I'm going to slap this one up near the very top. It still gives me shivers, and it made me feel small in a huge world of thought.

I've since read all of the authors that he name-dropped, and have explored the catacombs, and can rebut and argue with PKD now; but first I had to be bitch-slapped by this great man before I could get back up and try again.

It was NOT an easy read, but it was a fairly short novel. It was also a heart-wrenching piece to get through, as well. More than all of this, it was also an extremely rewarding piece of fiction, if you're willing to put the effort into not only it, but into PKD's thoughts and your own growth as a person.

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