Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Blood of the Demon (Kara Gillian, #2)Blood of the Demon by Diana Rowland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I see character development on the rise.

I mean, sure, it's fun and all to come back from the dead, deal with a co-worker's murder/suicide, get courted by one the kings of hell (or whatever PC version you want to call it since demons aren't really evil, they're just morality-challenged), or just try to live your life without having to use the arcane version of Google because the price is just too high.

Or is it?

Despite everything, Kara seems to be hanging on by her fingernails as she explores the wide world of human and demon politics. Honestly, I don't really see that much difference. It *IS* a shame that she isn't getting a few unexpected powerups other than the occasional help from her demon lover's yes men, but she's still trying to find her way. A few tidbits of skills from hell does seem to be helping her a bit.... oh wait... she's on the arc I expected. :)

Fun stuff! Demons and Detectives for the romantic win! Now if only we could get rid of that third wheel Ryan... :)



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Monday, October 30, 2017

Mark of the Demon (Kara Gillian, #1)Mark of the Demon by Diana Rowland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a stronger UF than I would have guessed from my other impressions. It's very much a police procedural with demon summoning thrown in the mix. I was actually rather surprised that it felt a little bit like a burgeoning romance, too, but there it is! Demon lovers, unite! :)

I was getting the whole Kim Harrison vibe here for a while but I was pleased to see that this is very much its own beast.... or demon. An uber-powerful demon slumming it, a serial murderer, and a mystery. Pretty simple, but I don't mind. I had fun! It's an easy popcorn read and I'm curious to see just where the blood will go. :)

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

Under the DomeUnder the Dome by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ever wonder what it'd be like to turn your small town into a snowglobe?

I saw this Superman cartoon where Braniac turned Metropolis into a miniature, too, but this book ain't that. :) Indeed, the SF elements are strong in Under the Dome, but they don't mean much to the basic story other than the setup. It wasn't a Tommyknockers thing, either, although I was very curious to see if SK would go there.

Indeed, what we've got here is a bit of a Slaughterhouse Five thing. Insects in a dome, but naturalist style. Let's see all the insects eat each other!

Poor Maine. SK has done so much to hurt those poor people.

Or maybe it's just the meth makers and dealers. And here's the great part, I haven't seen such a kingpin since Breaking Bad, and that was AFTER this novel! :) Big Jim is one hell of an evil dude.

SK really lets his hatred of humanity out in these pages. True horror is in us, after all, and not in his monsters.

Honestly, I probably would have latched-on to this one of SK's novels much more had I been more of a lightweight in the whole growing dystopia thing. It only lasts a week for a whole town to go to hell, which I don't really have an issue with. We're all about as civilized as bellies are full, after all. The only thing I have a problem with is the bloat.

Bloat?

Yeah, sadly, there was a lot of multidimensional characters that may not have needed much rounding out. Indeed, a lot of them are nothing more for the fodder for the hell that's heading their way. :) I don't need much in the way of shadowy pasts or rounding out for any but the biggest characters. We might have saved on a good 500 pages in the novel, too. ;p

Not my favorite King novel, but it had its moments. Not too bad. Could have been a lot tighter, but it did have SK's trademark wander and a bible's worth of characters. Hillbilly bible thumpers go nuts, yo.

As an experiment, however, I think I'm on the side of the aliens in Slaughterhouse Five. :)

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

We Have Always Lived in the CastleWe Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Such a classic.

Even when we know what's going on and why it's happening, it's so easy to fall into the character and root for her. I can't stand the things that people put her through, from the town, to Charles, or even to her own parents. (Although to be sure, we only get a tiny little glance at her parents from a few repeated lines.)

When reading this I was thinking of Paul Tremblay's Head Full of Ghosts for the murder (some say accident) of most of the family at dinner, but of course, this was the spiritual mother of that tale. All the little hints and reveals weren't precisely news, of course, but the real treat was in the psychological nuance.

Like The Haunting of Hill House, it's not the outright horror scenes that make the book shine, but the way the characters are unstable, what it means, and how it drives the details and the horror of the final scenes. For anyone in love with psychology, Shirley Jackson is a treasure trove of discussable characters. Hell, Shirley Jackson herself suffered from quite a few of them, herself, and brought the feels to the page in a way that few others could dream.

The townsfolk were walking nightmares, all color drained out of them. Paranoid delusions or not, I was always rooting on Merricat. Did I get very disturbed by her imaginings? Not really. People can be real *hits. Was I disturbed by her reciting of poisons or the magical incantations she made up in order to protect her house? Not at all. Again, I like weird people and she was, despite what we figure out on a careful first read, mostly just dancing to her own drum. She grew up strange and was always told she could do no wrong. After the deaths, who wouldn't get a lot stranger when every single person in the town believed you did it? Even if she hadn't, it'd drive most people insane.

Shirley Jackson is a master at turning normal people into monsters, and this book is no different.

I know a ton of modern horror writers who give this author major props and I have to say, it's all very well deserved. :) Bravo!

Now if only we as a people hadn't driven this author into agoraphobia, seclusion, and persecution... until she died, alone, before she had even turned fifty. She wrote about what she knew, after all.

Chilling.

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Cyclops RoadCyclops Road by Jeff Strand
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

ROAD TRIP!

Ah, but what kind of zany awesome awaits us?

Cyclops? HELLO?

Really, it's not my favorite of Strand's novels, but it's still easy and entertaining and it takes on a whole new riff of RPG gaming meets road trip. All the great prophesy and gaining new adventurer cliches are perfectly intact, including tragic backstory, weird and vague plot points (on purpose, mind you,) and pure streamlined adventure.

Why kill the cyclops? Better question... why is some 44-year-old who had just lost his wife a week earlier then quitting his job and helping out some stray woman that kicked some robber's butts? The answer is... WHY THE HELL NOT? Depression and denial make people do the damndest things. You know, like bloodsports. And climbing down ancient trap-filled wells. It's perfectly reasonable!

Did I say zany?

Oh, yeah. And entertaining. I really like Strand's stuff. It brings out my inner twelve-year-old. :)

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Haunted NightsHaunted Nights by Ellen Datlow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This new collection of Horror (or I should say strictly Halloween stories,) was probably the best surprise I got this month. I generally don't expect all that much about made-to-order stories based on a theme, but every single one of these was consistently awesome. Some were rather extraordinary.

Something else that comes as a rather nice surprise was the fact that I've been following most of these authors anyway, so I'm getting a feel for what they'd do naturally and I can even get a sense as to whether their stories are up to snuff. And if you've been reading this far, you can tell I think so. :)

BUT. And here's the odd part... some of my favorite authors aren't getting their top marks in this collection! Seanan McGuire's story, "With Graveyard Weeds and Wolfsbane Seeds", actually fell near to the bottom of my list of favorites! *gasp*

"Dirtmout" by Stephen Graham Jones, was absolutely gorgeous and atmospheric and creepy as hell. This is where I knew I was going to rock to this collection.

Jonathan Maberry's "A Small Taste of the Old Country" was pretty good for a history lesson and a traditional ghost story vibe and I have no complaints even if it didn't strike fear into my heart.

I really loved Joanna Parypinski's "Wick's End". It really captures the taste of sitting around a campfire telling stories about how to beat the devil... even if it's a game in a pub. I LOVE these kinds of stories within stories.

"The Seventeen-Year Itch" by Garth Nix was a good one for hospitals and obsession but it didn't really grab me that much even though it was entertaining.

"A Flicker of Light on Devil's Night" by Kate Jonez was pretty atmospheric even if it was more just a mild horror. :)

"Witch Hazel" by Jeffrey Ford was a decent witch story with twins for all you people who are naturally freaked out by those freaks of nature. :) :)

"Nos Galan Gaeaf" by Kelley Armstrong wasn't part of any of my favorites, unfortunately.

"We're Never Inviting Amber Again" by S.P. Miskowski, was, okay, pretty forgettable, too. :)

BUT Brian Evanson's "Sisters" really knocked things out of the park. I loved the fish out of water aspect. :)

"All Through the Night" by Elise Forier Edie was sweet and bittersweet and thoughtful.

"A Kingdom of Sugar Skulls and Marigolds" by Eric J. Guignard was pretty awesome as an adventure through thug territory living through the Day of the Dead for real. It was pretty brilliant.

Paul Kane's "The Turn" made me turn for real. Nice and scary and a perfect pick me up. :) Boo!

Pat Cadigan's "Jack" was pretty much a pumpkin king. Familiar, full of myth, and decent fun, but kinda middle of the road.

John Langan's "Lost in the Dark" blew me the **** away. This one is easily my absolute favorite of the bunch, half-way a documentary, a horror movie, a barroom expose, and a thoughtful and smart addition to the shaky-cam genre that blows most of the shaky-cams out of the atmosphere. I actually got creeped out and started biting my nails a bit.

And for the last story of the bunch, we got a SF! "The First Lunar Halloween" by John R. Little wasn't particularly scary but it felt like a great lunar/archeological experiment in trickery. :)

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PressurePressure by Jeff Strand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes it's really fun to let yourself go down the abyss. This is one of those super-fast reads that pretty much never lets up as it drags you through the mud. We open with a trademark suicide watch to set the tone and then sit back to see what turned Alex into the quivering wreck he becomes.

The novel is deceptively simple: he's hounded by a psychopath who thinks Alex is just like him and only needs a little push to blossom.

Of course, one push becomes a constant stream of pressure, and it's thanks to the happy times in-between that this novel succeeds so well. Its simplicity lends itself to some really great scenes throughout. It's deceptive and quite wonderful.

That, and there's the humor. There are some really twisted moments scattered throughout.

All in all, it's a super tight thriller that aims for the guts and the heart and the pure, unadulterated rage. In other words, this ain't a tale that's good for little children to read. *insert bloodcurdling scream of murder/suicide*

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After the End of the WorldAfter the End of the World by Jonathan L. Howard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes it seems that this world doesn't have enough Cthulhu adventures. It's a real fault.

Fortunately, JLH has a cure in mind.

Granted, he may have helped unfold the world we all knew and loved to send us right into an alternate timeline where Nazis got the atomic bomb and wiped out Stalingrad, leaving poor Carter and Lovecraft stranded with memories of both timelines but stuck in the new one. My heart goes out to them!

Really, this book should appeal to anyone who loves Strange Tales, Private Investigators, rampant Lovecraftian universe references, and monster romps in remote locations. This novel has it all, including some rather good explorations of what such a timeline would include, not limiting itself to some of the obvious oddities, but getting subtle on us, too.

It's really delightful and tickles most of my funny bones.

My only complaint is a personal one. A lot of people might enjoy the traditional mystery feel and the buildup by way of sidequests before we get to the bottom of the Zero Energy experiment, but I personally wanted things to move along to the goodies a bit quicker. Not a big complaint, just a preference. :)

Thanks to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this! And just in time for October, too! :)

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Monday, October 23, 2017

BlisterBlister by Jeff Strand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wonder if I'm a rare one to consider this a rather sweet, if twisted, romance novel. I mean, sure, some elements are demented like a horror novel... but for the most part, it reads like any other boy meets girl story. :)

I mean, sure, the girl has a flaw or two, but being horribly disfigured shouldn't really count as a huge flaw. We all have our faults. :)

Here's the interesting part: I actually liked the whole vibe of practically every single character not being particularly good at their jobs or lives. It was charming and a bit funny. Old papa failed at being a complete redneck, the Sherrif absolutely failed at being good at upholding the law, the cartoonist never had a good hold on understanding people or himself, and don't even let me get started on the bad guys. Totally incompetent! It was fun as hell.

So, far from being scary, as you might expect from a cover like this, we've got a very dark romantic comedy from the start, when the cartoonist scares off a bunch of asshole kids with a fake chainsaw and the kid breaks his arm trying to get away, to the end where it feels like everyone is going to let everything slide no matter how horrific it gets.

And then the very end happens.

And I'm like... WTF?

Uncool, man. Uncool.

I mean, sure, the end message was kinda or very romance-y ... in a way ... but still!!! WTF! I totally expected the other trend to continue, not get blindsided like that.

For amusement, I was going to give this a full five stars, but for that end, I'm knocking off one and I'm frowning furiously. ; ;

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Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Lottery and Other StoriesThe Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The one thing that really stands out about this collection of Shirly Jackson stories is this: the subtlety.

It's not over the top horror in any shape or fashion. Rather, it's regular folk doing regular things and as we peel back layers and layers to their surroundings or their individual psyches, everything twists subtly. The normal quickly becomes a twilight zone nightmare even if it's only a tiny little thing that's changed.

A dog caught killing chickens. *shiver* My goodness, that one killed me. Dead.

Some, like the Witch, was totally awesome and people of my generation would have just found it great fun, but I can see why the mommy freaked the hell out. Of course, the little kid was rocking hard to it and why wouldn't he?

I loved the Tooth. It was damn surreal and I was thinking along the lines of all the similar kinds of tales and novels to come after it. Body-hopping tales, indeed. :)

But more than that, I was really impressed and fascinated at the look into '40's racism, subtle or not, how badly women were treated and how badly they treated each other, and the general miasma of inhumanity everywhere.

Some tales were all about the unspoken silence that surrounded mental illness and the insane pressure to keep a lid on it and remain "normal". Things like this may not be completely horror as the genre but the tension was definitely all horror.

Shirly Jackson's stories were absolutely macabre, quite brilliant, and completely understated. It's all about looking through the darkened mirror, seeing our normal lives, living them, and then seeing just how horrible we really are. :)

Great stuff!

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Montauk MonsterThe Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Creature Feature! B-Movie Madness! Evil bloated hairless raccoons who don't sound like Bradley Cooper!

What's not to love? It's chaos! Start out with a sleepy tourist town like the one in Jaws, throw in a large cast of characters including toss away potheads, add conspiracy theories, disease, sharp claws, and no cybernetic implants, and we've got some delicious treats falling into our couch, only to be found the next time we do a thorough cleaning. :)

This here is the closest Hunter Shea novel to his Jersey Devil that I've read! There's nothing like getting to know and enjoy a wide cast of characters who you just know are going to get torn apart or burst from within later on in the novel. Then we can have this little guessing game that goes a little like this:

Who's gonna survive this nightmare? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller?

I like the Deep Blue Sea effect, too. :)

So fun. So light. So damn bloody. :) Total trash.

(But I love it so.)

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Wolf HuntWolf Hunt by Jeff Strand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Gotta love me some horror/humor!

I can totally see myself watching this as a low-budget horror! Two thugs, a hapless girl, and a truly monstrous werewolf. Make it a road trip. Add tons of cool quips and sassy dialogue and make sure everything that can go wrong, does.

Simple? Hell yeah. Trashy? Hell yeah. But I should point out that it's also funny as hell and when it gets bloody, it's just as delicious. I can't believe that Ivan the Werewolf can be so damn evil! Like, utterly nasty. Such a relief from Team Jacob. (Of which there was a reference.) :)

*hoooooooowl*

Why haven't I ever read Strand before? It takes a certain kind of genius to write B-Movie madness so well off the screen. This novel zipped by real quick, dirty, and fun. :) Total mindcandy. I mean, what else can you expect when you throw two idiot bounty hunters at a werewolf? They're completely unprepared!

Time to claw out some eyeballs for fun! :) Truly delightful. :)

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep #1)Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seven years after the fateful voyage of a doomed mockumentary hunting for signs of life in the deep, the fateful Mermaids, a truly scientific voyage is finally put together. The quest? To put the horrible rumors and/or the innuendo to rest. Or, as a few would prefer, to come back with proof positive that:

Mermaids are REAL.

Mira Grant, aka Seanan McGuire, has done it again. She's got this great talent at weaving horror into science fiction and bringing it right back into the horror foreground, and what's more, she's made it into an epic Mermurder tale.

Mermurder. Mermaider. Mermurder. I love the sound of it. Mermaider

To be fair, though, this is more of a science fiction tale than anything else. Grant goes through all the great stuff associated with marine biology, specialty forensic science, and all the red-tape that might be associated with such a venture into the dark deeps over the main Trench. She even gets into sign language in a big way and it was delightful because of another great story that she had written, unrelated to Mermaider. :)

Eventually, it becomes survival horror, but all the way through, it's fun as hell. Great science, great character development, and then... bloodshed. More bloodshed. Even more bloodshed.


I'm so happy I got this from Netgalley in October. It's so perfect. *evil laugh* *more evil laugh* *even more evil laugh*



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Thursday, October 19, 2017

End of Watch (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #3)End of Watch by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, it looks like SK has gone back to his roots in this one, and far from complaining, I had a great time.

Mind you, it wasn't the plot or the supernatural element that I loved, although the development and the execution were interesting, very Shocker-like.

Instead, I liked the characters. If you don't like the characters, you won't like these books. Bill, the Ret-Det, and Holly, his Lisbeth Salander partner make up the bulk of this one, making a full circle back to the first book and firmly casting these as a solid and non-continuing series, not only continuing the story of the Mercedes Killer but following Bill to his natural end.

BUT, lest this review devolve into a "I like it, damnit," gonzo thing, I should bring up that it does some really solid justice to a really big issue.

Suicide.

Oddly enough, what felt like a cliche in the first book turned into something a lot more complicated and terrifying in the third. Let's take it supernatural. Let's make it a bit sick. This is King, after all. :)



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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #2)Finders Keepers by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If anything, the second book in the Bill Hodges Trilogy is better, but not because Bill doesn't show up until much later in the tale. Indeed, I loved it because the characters were extremely vivid and interesting and more than practically any other King novel, I felt the avalanche of events pile up beautifully.

It's like Misery in that we've got obsessions gone really awry, but it goes a bit further, not limiting us to a closed bedroom, but over thirty-five years, several kinds of obsessed fans, and a Salinger-type writer who's killed for the value of his hidden writings.

It's pretty awesome. King has a way of getting deep into the heads and reasons of the baddies and the innocent, alike. Morris isn't as bad as some of King's characters, but he's enough like us book nerds that the sympathy magic works some wonders. Of course, I simply like Pete. He drives the emotion in the tale, and Bill and crew come to save the day, somehow. :)

It's a great tale and it moves really well. :) There's very little of the cliche stuff here. Instead, just a great story.

Oh, and now there's just a tiny, tiny hint of supernatural. I laughed.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Halloween TreeThe Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mr. Moundshroud proves to be a delightfully light (read leaves on the wind) Virgil as he takes a group of kids on a roaring fast ride through time on Hallow's Eve to give us the "real" rundown on mummies, witches, druids, and all the creepy crawlies of history, summing things up with a quintessential Bradburian moral *and* prosaic reveal.

It's perfect for what it is: a totally fast YA ride that might get even better justice as a full production Spielberg production with a gazillion dollars behind it, with Disney and Lucasfilms playing a big role, with Neil Gaiman providing about a thousand hours worth of consultancy to boot.

Sound good? Yep! It needs a lot of firepower to amp it up and make it look absolutely spectacular and feel like it has the depth of ages. It feels like Mary Poppins and Bednobs and Broomsticks would if they were actually good movies. And maybe it could be an excellent movie, too!

But for me, I feel like I should have loved this long before I ever watched Nightmare Before Christmas.

It's all about timing. At my late age, I want to start taking exception to some of the conclusions that Bradbury makes, nitpick about the history, complain about the lack of girls, and give a horribly injust condemnation to the book because it lacks the whole modern Halloween and horror awesomeness that us moderns have to offer.

For shame! Shame on me!

But then, that's also the reason why I mentioned bringing in a bunch of the heavy hitters of today to update the tale. I'm sure THIS is one of those old books that could be turned into something special again for a whole new generation. It already has magic. :)

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Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1)Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm going to put aside the fact that I've been a lifelong SK fan for a moment because it doesn't really have much bearing on how I like this book.

Why?

Because even though it has King's easygoing and watery style of story-crafting, it really doesn't connect with his dark fantasy and horror titles the way that so many point fingers at Derry or the Crimson King. Indeed, King goes right to the core of what he used to call his triad of horror. The lowest level is the gross-out, the higher level being the horror level, and the highest order being the thriller. Stephen King has gone for the straight thriller.

Cops (or Ex-cop) and Robbers (techno-murderer).

He really shines in characterization and flow and detail. I like this side of King and always have. No supernatural stuff, just sick-ass people doing sick-ass things and a cliche-ridden ret-cop wanting to eat a bullet or at least check that one nasty little item off his unsolved list.

Sound fine to you? Me too. And his plot is nice and twisty, too, feeling out all the edges of a long tradition of detective fiction and turning a few bits on their edges and sidelining to great effect in others. No genre grows up in a vacuum, of course, and King knows (and loves) the whole shebang. It's obvious.

And I think he had a great time writing this, too. I may be wrong, but I doubt it. He didn't have to write a whole trilogy with Bill Hodges, but he did, and if anyone had the right to say no to a thing, it'd be the King.

Now, I should mention that I don't think this is his best work, but I'm judging it on one simple category.

Did I have a great time?

The answer is an unequivocal yes. :)

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Monday, October 16, 2017

The RitualThe Ritual by Adam Nevill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Survival Horror!

Just in time for October. Wanna dive into some very nicely creepy atmospherics and get reacquainted with your old buddies on a camping trip, just getting away from the old world, finding out what the big deal about Scandinavia is?

Welcome home.

Of course, these four men are a bunch of ponces. They eventually grow on me after some of the real festering shit comes out, but before then, there's very little positive I can say about it other than the fact that the atmospherics are pretty awesome. And that's fine. We're used to horrors that are filled with all manner of flawed characters and they either eventually step up to the plate or they're served on it.

Welcome home!

Of course, that's only half the novel. The second half was much better, in my opinion. It kept up the oppression and atmosphere but changed it into a glorious death metal tribute full of cliches and old school satanism tripes AND remained a survival horror with the same creepy vibe as before. We've just added new layers to the creepy. The payoff is pretty sweet, too, and all my struggling with the initial characterization was worth it.

It's so hard to see a character grow with something like genuine understanding, but when it happens, it is delightful. :)

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Black Mad WheelBlack Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed Malerman's first novel Bird Box and picked up on the See no Evil, Hear no Evil vibe going on between both of these novels, looking even more toward the next which will have to be a Speak no Evil one or I'm going to give up on reviewing anything forever.

That being said, oh so melodramatically, I wanted to like this particular Hearing Evil novel much more than I did. All the setups in 1957 with a rock band getting propositioned by the US Government on a super secret project was delightful. The back history was great. Unfortunately, I wasn't all that impressed by Philip.

He was the ultimate English Patient, too, filled with a long recovery and memories in a prolonged reveal, and while the base story was damn interesting and the waits were well worth it, I still didn't connect all that much with the MC. Maybe I've just been spoiled by some recent excellent authors. Maybe it really is the MC. Either way, it reduced my overall enjoyment. Things happened to him. A lot. And while he does get some actions on the page, it wasn't all that satisfying.

Great concept, somewhat middling execution unless it is meant to be a riff on old movies and novels all the way down to the style and devices. And if that was the case, then I'd have to say it succeeds. Nurse falls in love with a patient and notions of duty conflicting hard with personal limits. There's even a cool number of old-style scares, both hazily scientific and religious, all of which feel very period.

I'm not complaining. Seen from a certain viewpoint, this is a very successful novel in that it captures a very specific feel. Unfortunately, that feeling may or may not be agreeing with me. Nor, I presume, with a few others. Honestly, it feels like a partial modern novel, cherry-picking classic tropes and killing it with clever newish ideas and sealing it with a solid mystery-horror vibe, all the while falling into the trap of awkward pacing and lack of agency.

Like I said, I wanted to like this more, but that's not to say I didn't enjoy it... because I did. I was fascinated for grand stretches of the novel and the promised reveals drove me on. The core is all sorts of wonderful. :)


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The ChangelingThe Changeling by Victor LaValle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my second Victor LaValle and after the Ballad of Black Tom having washed through me and left me wanting so much more, I was very, very happy to be reading this.

It has a very different feel in one way, but in another, it's exactly like coming home. Being in the story you always want to be in. What do I mean?

The devil is in the details. It's very homey, feeling like delightful snapshots of family and home, full of the sweet and the bitter and the genuinely odd stuff that always comes along with life, and this feeling never lets up even after the really funky stuff starts messing with the MC. I felt warm and wrapped snugly in the story in a way that I rarely do, or at least, not this deeply. Maybe it's because of the new parenthood threads or maybe it's because of the geeky book-nerd outlook or maybe it's because the deepest thread in the novel happens to be one of the darkest myths handed down through the ages, but anyway that I looked at it, I was invested.

From high hopes to deep stress to tragedy, horror, and a long, wrought quest full of very emotional reveals, this novel manages to put us through the ringer. I loved all of these characters. And I mean love, love. I'm still thinking of them in the same way that I keep thinking of Black Tom. It's the realization, amazing ability that all these characters come right to life and stay with us.

And of course, it's the story, too, and what a mindf*** that was. :)

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Friday, October 13, 2017

AutonomousAutonomous by Annalee Newitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Pirates and bounty hunters on the high chemical and electronic frontier! Add a bit of transgendered robot issues, a bit of do-gooder pharmaceutical mayhem, and time split between labs, parties, sexual repression, and a few really big questions explored deftly and interestingly, and we've got ourselves a very interesting SF.

Let's look at the top layer a little. Slavery issues. The novel takes them on for both robots and humans equally. I'd expected that from both the blurb and the cover, of course, but I don't think I expected the writing to have such good world-building thrown in. The whole chemical and big pharm complications were neither simple or dismissable, and that was only on the human side.

What would a world be like with open patents and sharing of chems and development, all of which is still being slowly strangled by capitalism? Take it a bit farther. Now let's start programming or deprogramming ourselves since we're so reliant on our own biologies.

Seriously, this is some pretty neat stuff and while we've had a bit of a discussion in this field for decades already, Newitz makes a cool tale and makes some very deft comparisons and mirroring here.

The tale itself if good if not spectacular. I had a good time. Still, I obviously appreciate the explorations of the messages more than anything else. :)

Thanks, Netgalley, for the ARC!

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Ghost Road Blues (Pine Deep, #1)Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I managed my expectations pretty well for reading this one. I wanted regular horror and got it. It's October, after all, and isn't this the season to enjoy a run of scary?

Or is it simply the desire to see evil as plain as day, to root for the underdogs, to gather up all the misfits and see all the jerks and the ultraviolent assholes of the world get their comeuppance?

Maybe a bit of both.

Fortunately, there's a lot of bigger-than-life characters in this small town and the good guys are good pretty much all the way through. The bad, however, are really bad. :) And did I mention a recurring string of gruesome murders in a small town known for it's spectacular Halloween festivals meant to scare your pants off?

Yeah, well, aside from a few great scenes and pretty epic buildup, I'm gonna have to hold my horses to see the grand explosion because this is a trilogy!

That's fine, of course. Sometimes a tale is very long. I just have to wonder what it might have been like to have this as one gigantic tome like the good old days of epic horrors instead of the bite-sizes publishers think we want. *shrug*

So maybe I'll just pretend it's one book. That's the ticket! And people think that readers are without imagination! I'll show them!

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Weaver's Lament (Industrial Magic, #2)Weaver's Lament by Emma Newman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This second novella in the Industrial Magic series picks up nicely where the previous leaves off... with one exception: we're left with a fairly interesting historical footnote but not much of that does our MC Charlotte much good in terms of character development or interesting plot other than something like a one-off.

I personally would have been ecstatic with a firmer grounding in the magic and the training if she's going to be bucking the Royal Society like this. Even an untraditional schooling is better than this, and just slapping the previous baddie onto this tale might work when we finally get down to it, but I thought there was enough possible growth in the world to make this tangent both unique and poignant without falling back on an already familiar plot point.

That being said, however, both the writing and story were interesting enough to negate a huge portion of my gripe and getting a heavy and oppressive feel of the Cotton Gin, even under the auspices of being a spy, was quite clever and cool.

I figure, as long as a consistent stream of new situations and chances to flex those magical UF muscles keeps coming along, I'm not going to have much of an issue.

I had fun, regardless!

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Brother’s Ruin (Industrial Magic, #1)Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few years ago I would have been startled to think that there was such a thing as Historical Urban Fantasy, but yeah, it's a thing now.

And now that we've got cotton gins and the Royal Society deeply involved in the magic business, with all sorts of fear and corruption and intrigue, I shouldn't really be surprised. So the question is: is this good?

I think it's quite fun, personally. It's a simple setup and Charlotte is a pretty cool character with a magical secret. And she deeply mistrusts the Society... for good reason, as it turns out. It's a simple story, a comedy of error and circumstance that becomes a cross between a heist and a romance.

Wait... simple?
Well, yeah, it's a short setup for a longer series, obviously. It's gonna require investment. Fortunately, it was fun and I don't have any problems with that. :)

Historical UF is fun!



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Dogs of WarDogs of War by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What at first appeared to be a straight tale of totally augmented dogs and other animals refitted with all the glorious technology of war, designed to be true monsters completely obedient to their masters, eventually became a tale of ethics and morality couched in legal-drama, societal commentary, and complicated decisions.

I'm quite impressed. This isn't just a war-dog story taken literally. It's a full-blown discussion on what makes humanity, transhumanism rights, and the pitfalls of certain kinds of tech, focusing more or less on those that remove free-will, but it's not always about the tech.

What are any of us? Truly? We hide behind entities and justifications just as damning as the operant conditioning so tightly discussed in this novel.

Good boy, Rex, you're a good dog. lol yeah, indeed.

It's similar to Tchaikovsky's other novels in that he's got a big thing going on about personified animals or a wide variation on the theme, but like his other SF novel, Children of Time, I really like his SF much better than his fantasy. :) There's a lot more depth that I can sink my teeth into, IMHO. It's not as epic as CoT, either, but it's certainly a very interesting ride.

Don't go into it expecting the same thing it starts out with. The novel changes with the MC... or I should say the MCs. Damn, I love Honey. It's worth reading just for her.



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Monday, October 9, 2017

Wyrd Sisters (Discworld, #6; Witches #2)Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There have been many great reviews on this old favorite of Sir Terry Pratchett's Discworld, and I won't wax eloquent, (or otherwise), save to mention that it's full of Headology and Shakespeare references, between murdered kings and lost heirs and crowns and a mummer's farce and a showdown between Witches and the King, but even so, it's all fun as hell.

I think this is the first novel of the Discworld series that truly comes into its own... or the first one that Pratchett uses as the template for all the ones to come. Since this is a second read of the whole series, I found this one to be an awfully familiar and warming experience.

I still think that there are better Discworld novels out there, but not by very much. :) All in all, it's a fun read.

I can't quite tell whether I like Ogg or Weatherwax more. :) I never really connected with Magrat.



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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Lycanthrope Rising (The Toronto Vampire Chronicles #2)Lycanthrope Rising by John Matsui
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lycanthrope Rising continues to take the whole Vamp/werewolf convention and turn it on its head, crafting a courtroom drama out of an outed vampire, seeing how he enjoys the limelight as a spiritual guru and on the other side of the coin is an introduction and complicated tale of modern werewolf society as seen through heavy corporate drama mixed with a distinctive Godfather feel.

How could people be missing this? It's awesome!

Granted, I'm a huge fan of mixed genres and Mr. Matsui here not only has a grand and deft hand at all these genres, but he manages to weave them as skillfully as I've ever seen.

Honestly, these books are a real treat for well-read fans of all these genres, but I doubt even the casual reader is gonna complain. There's great tension, pathos, commentary, satire, drama, all based on solid reason. Hell, we even have plausible science, a genetic twist, ancient history, a bit of romance, and a really cool gladiator twist.

How? Just... how?

I should really just say... TRUST THE AUTHOR. :) These are a really wild ride and this sequel to Late Bite is keeping up the quality. :)

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Thursday, October 5, 2017

Mrs. DraculaMrs. Dracula by Logan Keys
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's a cool read for Halloween, folks!

Indeed, it's a short story collection by a bunch of cool folks focusing on the brides of Mr. Bad Boy without ever dealing with Vlad much at all. Rather, we get a lot of historical pieces from the women who barely had a role at all in the original Dracula. Indeed, this one can read quite nicely as absolutely dominated with females if not a decidedly feminist bent.

My favorites are with Mina as carried on in the future, but in point of fact, we've got a very wide cast hitting so many great history points, from WWI, II, Flappers in the '20's, a Wild-West train heist, to a number globe-trotting moderns making their way the best they can.

Some of these short stories are plainly fun slasher-types, but more than a few are full of complicated plots, great settings, emotional depth, and great action. Most aren't a gimmick. Most of these are quite entertaining even to the savvy horror reader. :)

I had a great time! It's a perfect mood-builder. :)


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Tuesday, October 3, 2017

ProvenanceProvenance by Ann Leckie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ann Leckie's new novel is still set in the Imperial Radch universe, but don't be fooled... It's a very focused novel that details issues of family, inheritance, cultural relevance, and politics while completely surrounded by aliens and odd mores. Indeed, this novel is more of a comedy of manners than anything else, but there's also a bit of the mystery, murder, and mayhem as well.

Out of the original trilogy, I felt like this one matched the feel and fun of the third novel. Even so, I can't even begin to describe how many times I heard the exhortation, "Don't break the Treaty!" And of course, that's the source of most of the conflict.

Inheritance is the key motivator for Ingray, trying something new, which, of course, goes disastrously wrong. Need a thief to steal a priceless cultural artifact in order to prove that you're worthy? Ah, but first, make sure the provenance on all the key players and artifacts are up to snuff, please! :)

I really enjoyed this novel, but not in the traditional way. I tended to mostly rely on the laurels of the complicated world building that we've established in the previous novels and focused instead on the characterizations, the dialogue, and the subtleties. That's not bad, of course, but we're still destined to work for our pleasure. Gender neutrality is still a big deal in the expression of this novel, as is the complicated or rather odd names we need to keep track of.

My main issue was in the identification and thereby the connection with the characters. I can simultaneously appreciate that things aren't dumbed down for us while also having to work rather more hard not to get lost, but the fact is, it did pull me out of the tale a little too often. Maybe it wasn't entirely the names, either, but a lot of that was solved by having a rather small cast of characters. The only other issue might have had was in wanting some huge shattering change or revelation with far-reaching effects, but such is not in the cards for a comedy of errors. :)

Still, this is quite good! Fans of Leckie will still remain fans. :)


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Monday, October 2, 2017

Protector (Foreigner, #14)Protector by C.J. Cherryh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can still honestly say that this series is consistently excellent, and while I can't say that this novel broke a lot of new ground unlike the previous one, I was quite amused by Cajeiri's ship friends coming down for his birthday. A little romp through the fields couldn't hurt a few human kids, could it?

I was a little annoyed by all this focus on the Shadow Guild within the Assassin's, however, but I'm sure other readers would get more out of it than me. It does feel like it's drawing on a bit too much, a little too much reusable plots... with one exception. I liked seeing past events come to different light. A broader political view is rather interesting. And impressive.

Fortunately, the characters are really something else and I'm never getting tired of them. Bren is great as usual, but it was really a treat to see Jase again. When are we going to get aliens???



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Sunday, October 1, 2017

Nanoshock (SINless, #2)Nanoshock by K.C. Alexander
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow.

What a ride! I mean, I'm a die-hard fan of anything cyberpunk, but this one takes things to a whole new level of pacing, action, great story, great characters, and above all, a rip-roaring fun time.

I will not spoiler this, but I can say that it's even better than the first book. I'm not saying the quality is all that different, but so much more seems to happen in this one. More development, more emotional backlash, more tension, more mindblowing implications.

It picks up our nearly cred-less hero spiraling down the social pariah hole and doing everything she possibly can to survive, including working for corporate c***s, and it just goes downhill from there. Am I feeling it? Oh yeah. Do I blame her for her shell-shocked existence? Not at all. Is she f***ed? I do believe so.

I just can't believe how much solid story follows this, just how cool the turns are, or how much I love the tech, nano and otherwise, nor how awesome are the pitfalls. Necros are when the nano colonies inside your heavily modded body replicate out of control and eat you alive and turn you rabid. Everyone puts you down at that point. Nanoshock is the state of going into full conversion.

These titles aren't just for show. It's the one-two step toward total f***ing meltdown. :)

So F***ing Cool. :)

And yeah, the voice and the insults and the curses are just as good in this one as in the first one. I'm totally rocking to Riko. She's gotta be one of my very-most-favorite cyberPUNK characters in a very long time... maybe ever.

I'm still reeling with the end of this. Just wow.

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