Tuesday, October 22, 2019

The Luminous DeadThe Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very surprising read. Half horror and half SF with high-tech suits on an alien world, this novel is rife with obsession, spelunking, and a ton of the little inconsistencies that would drive any normal cave diver insane.

And then there's all the dead down below.

Nearly thirty, all spelunkers like Gyre, sent down to be eaten by this horrid, horrid cave. And it's a rigged game. The lies, the obsession of the woman underwriting each one of these expeditions is the half the novel. The other half is the horror adventure.

I don't know what I expected. Perhaps a bunch of undead at the bottom of the pit? But no, this is entirely a survival novel with tons of scares, mistrust, insane amounts of bravery, accidents, and misgivings. Interestingly, it's also a kind of a f***ed-up love story. Abusive, sure, but also rich and honest and desperate.

Put it all together and the novel is highly entertaining and sometimes quite scary. I'm happy. :)

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Monday, October 21, 2019

Notes from a Small IslandNotes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to say this is the ultimate travelogue of a fascinating and exotic foreign country, but in point of fact, it's ENGLAND, and while it is fascinating and exotic even to people who are familiar with the English language, it is still ENGLAND.

I don't know about anyone else, but I liked the disconnect. I especially liked all bits that made fun of the oddball naming conventions not limited to food or towns. But for other countries somewhat familiar with the English language, we all know that England is the REALLY ODD practitioner of the language. Messed up. Bangers and Mash. Truly, this book is NOT x-rated.

But, all told, this book is mild, humorous, personal, and it shows the love for the country. Not only that, but Scotland gets a little love, too! :) Truly, I feel like I did a lot of traveling across the English countryside. Most of it on foot! But at least I got a lot of beer. :)

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Sunday, October 20, 2019

Hidden in Sight (Web Shifters, # 3)Hidden in Sight by Julie E. Czerneda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More and new aliens, interesting rock-tumblers and aquatic races, populate this particular book. It's almost like these books are more a vehicle for exploring new biologies and ways of thinking driven by biologies than anything else, but no, Esen and Paul are on the run again.

What? Again? Yeah, well, there is a not so subtle vibe of Farscape going on, including old enemies turning into uneasy allies.

A bit more interesting for me, however, is the reintroduction of a long-lost sister, the difficult dynamics there, and the full resolution.

All told, the third in this series was solid, entertaining, and definitely worth the read if you're interested in a mild exploration of possible aliens mixed with adventure.

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Friday, October 18, 2019

The Night SisterThe Night Sister by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one has some rather interesting plotting, almost like it's a call-out to a family saga, an 80's horror by way of the sixties, and above all, a homage to Hitchcock.

In other words, it's a firm suspense with mostly off-scene nods to carnage. It's all about the build-up, the plethora of details that might lead us in all kinds of interesting directions, and the character-building.

We have three different times to explore. A mystery that develops during the 50's, where the homage to Hitchcock blooms nicely in a once-cool motel turned dilapidated tourist trap well off the main highway. The two teenage girls have their thing. It gets dark. And then there's the whole thing about one running off, never to be heard from again.

And then there's the late 80's, where the children in the family find something rather scary.

And then there's 2013 when a gruesome murder of one of these adult children starts a friend of the family upon her own little investigation.

The plot is actually rather awesome. I felt the suspense, enjoyed the focus, loved the way so many details got their new reveals on the page.

No spoilers, but I definitely had a good time with this. It's not a gross-out book. It doesn't try to outdo anyone on the market. It does, however, focus on the things that matter. It's a great yarn. :)

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Changing Vision (Web Shifters, #2)Changing Vision by Julie E. Czerneda
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this books was a bit better than the first. Being the last of a species, cultivating long-term friendships, and following your heart and curiosity is a pretty awesome way to start a book, IMHO. :)

Of course, things get hairy and complicated, and I won't spoil any of that, but I do want to mention something.

I'm reminded -- a lot -- of Farscape's Moby Dick and Odo from Deep Space Nine. In a lot of deep ways. You know, for you SF tv fans who know these stories inside and out. If you like either, you'll like this series. The combination is comfortable, enjoyable, and very familiar.

So while I may never call this groundbreaking, I can call it a solid, character-based SF with a cool biological basis featuring many kinds of aliens.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Lesser DeadThe Lesser Dead by Christopher Buehlman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More of a 3.5 on the stars, I first have to say that I really enjoyed both the narration and the voice of the character in the telling. He's very strong, very persuasive, and interesting all on his own.

Sure, being a vamp in 1978 New York City sounds kinda familiar and such, and so much of what happens is the usual kind of vampire tale, getting down to the nitty gritty of survival, an origin tale, and a potential big bad. I won't say the content here is all that amazing. If you've read a lot of vampire tales, this will feel like any time-period's penny dreadful.


The coda at the end successfully skids my noggin in such a way that I am able to enjoy the full tale in an entirely new way. Without it, I may have rated this as a regular 3 star. There's nothing all that new... except when the entire tale becomes something altogether different. I liked that a lot.

Was I scared at all? Hmm... not really. But I did have a fairly good time. :)

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The Devil in SilverThe Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For any of you fans of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, here's an updated and fully horrorized version, complete with updated (and unfortunately real) conditions in mental health facilities, updated standard practices for lazy law enforcement, and even a supremely depressing commentary on a modern Dead Souls.

I honestly think this works out just fine as a very nasty horror without adding the special patient that the inmates call the Devil. We don't even need him running around with a bull's head, although the literary part of me LOVES how he's the Minotaur in the middle of the Labyrinth.

The true horror is the conditions of these silver mines. The institution kills its inmates. Be it neglect, poverty of the body and spirit, the way no one cares once you get in. Or the way it's so freaking easy to get committed. It's not about mental health treatment, especially with bare-bones budgets, minimal training, and substandard conditions. The people on the outside with any power are lining their pockets and don't care because their lives never intersect with those on the inside. The people on the inside, even the caretakers and doctors, are nearly as powerless under the grind of the machine as the people being drugged to the gills.

For they're just being warehoused. Drugged into stupefaction. And while this book doesn't go into the overflow problem and how many sufferers are just shunted into prison, the picture here is clear.

Kesey said it clear and LaValle reiterates: we're all stuck in the machine and can't see a way out of it.

This is good horror, but it's better commentary on us. Definitely a must-read for Kesey fans who want a big upgrade for our modern world.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Beholder's Eye (Web Shifters, #1)Beholder's Eye by Julie E. Czerneda
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book at first. Maybe it was the audio version throwing me off, but for such an ancient alien being shapeshifting through one alien form to another, I got the distinct impression of youthful ignorance.

Then again, I suppose that was intentional.

Fortunately for me, things weren't boring. We had a meet-cute and a serial murderer and lots of planets to travel between. I definitely had a better time when the serial murderer was involved, but getting into our youthful hero's biology, it's way of consuming and granting memories, of being a kind of energy being afraid to reveal herself among any kind of sentient life... was rather cool.

I've read a lot of these kinds of SF throughout the years and this one doesn't go far off the track, but the things it does well, it does well. A lot of thought was put into the nature of this alien and it shows. In fact, this is what will draw me back to the series.

Hey, folks, mass conservation is APPLIED here! Wooo!

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Monday, October 14, 2019

Who Fears Death (Who Fears Death, #1)Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a hard book to get through for one primary reason: the violence toward women. It's never easy to read. Getting sick to my stomach mars my enjoyment of what is an otherwise fantastic and rich fantasy with all the standard tropes of apprenticeship, tragedy, and sacrifice.

If I could get beyond the rather horrible institutionalized brutality, (and I kinda have to in order to finish the book,) then what is left is a rather great dystopian fantasy, totally post-apocalyptic, that shows hints of our old world with computers and dead civilization and a complete pendulum-reversal where spirits and possible gods and magic from Africa has rebounded.

It was strange, but I only later came to realize that all races were included in this book. The names are changed but the significance only comes later. I just got the impression at first that these were all different tribal groups with vague, if emotionally-charged, underpinnings. The winner always bashes the loser. Needs to constantly bash the loser. Has written a book to confirm the need to bash the loser.

But when the reveals come on us, it's rather satisfying. And disturbing. And atrocious.

Overall, however, this is a pretty fantastic book of fantasy and horror, very African, lots of big magic and violence and a tiny bit of hope. The rules to the magic are not overly-developed and still leave a lot to be discovered, but it's sufficient and strange and full of the wilderness. :)

I'm glad I read this. And that's not just because it was a World Fantasy Award winner. It's just so damn hard to read about all this kind of violence.

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Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Forgotten Beasts of EldThe Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia A. McKillip
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I may be an odd reader for this book, but it captured my imagination best in the first half of the book and less so in the second.

That being said, I thought it was a well-written, sometimes mildly poetical romance with all the old, familiar fantasy tropes. Mythical creatures are really mostly a side-issue. It's really about hearts. Big surprise, right? It is a romance. :)

All said, I enjoyed it well as a mild entertainment. Maybe my jaded reading eyes have just seen too much like this to get overawed. But prop where prop is due: the fantasy realm by the mid seventies was mostly going the strange route and hadn't been revamped to the kind that feels more like THIS.

We've seen a lot of this since then, however. Enjoyable, regardless.

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Friday, October 11, 2019

The Library at Mount CharThe Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read October 11, 2019

Just in case you might think that a book like this might lose its flavor or lessen my enjoyment three years after the last read, or it being the third read with the third-read blues, check your expectations at the door.

I still freaking love this book.

It has everything I could ever want. A mastermind plan or three. Godlike powers. A mystery, a revenge story, a freaking humorous and heartbreaking debacle including lions, dogs, and a very special man in a tu-tu, and a library that is so much more than a library.

Where both rage and love can be the energy source of suns, and bitch-slapping lionesses is perfectly acceptable behavior. Or where standing up for yourself can usually mean several dozen suicides. Sequentially. For one man.

Damn, I love this book. It has not lost any of its flavor. I could keep reading this every single year and still love it. It's definitely one of my all-time favorites. :)

Re-read October 14, 2016

I read this one back in September of last year and loved it enough to drop it into my Top 100 list. I've been thinking about it off and on ever since then. And I just had to re-read it for the Halloween season, too. It just fits oh so well! :)

Did it hold up to my beefed-up expectations? Did it lose any of the fires of ultimate agony or any of its Asshole Buddhism? Hello, No. :) I still love it.

I've never loved lions as much as I have in this book. I've never been more surprised to discover a love story, either, or an actual loving Father in Adam Black, the man who by all rights should go down in all literature as the most fucked up villain of all time.

All the oddness of this book, its sheer creativity, blows me away. All its characters become real and archetypes and real all over again, wrenched from all those endlessly tired grounds to become something new and fantastic again.

You want to see the training of gods? You want to participate in a war of gods? From their point of view? Well, welcome yourself to this book, my friend. It's not for the weak of heart. The stakes are really high. Maybe higher than any but the strangest and strongest SF or Fantasy out there, and the wrap-up is frankly an even more awesome story than all the action that came before it.

Expect an evolving story of unsurpassed creativity and courage.

And even though the deaths, more deaths, and even more deaths, of world-eating plagues and starvation, of the snuffing out of the sun and the raising of a new one, it's kinda odd... that this is strangely one of the most up-beat and hopeful of Fantasies or Science Fiction or Horror that I've ever read. :)

I might just have to make this a tradition and read it every year just for the plain joy of it. :)

Old Review:

This one is going to be a difficult review because I love it so much.

I'm not going to have Steve warm my bones under his light, anymore. I'm not going to have the thunder out of the east to have my back. But in the end, it is in Carolyn I trust. I have faith in her, and I'll have to have faith in her for the rest of my life.

Confused? Read the book. You'll know what I mean afterward. :)

My word, I can't get over how much new mythology that Mr. Hawkins crammed into such a short book, or how much of it wormed its way into my brain. I haven't been this enthused about any book like this since American Gods, and I have to admit this is a BETTER EXPRESSION than even that.

Gods walking the earth is one thing, but to actually watch them perform an infinite regression of events to create their own successors in such a way that the poor sap doesn't even realize it until long after the big battle is a scale of craft that ought to be left to actual gods, and not some person named Scott Hawkins, who, out of the blue, blew my mind by actually pulling it off.

I cried after Carolyn succeeded in getting her revenge, and I cried again after I realized what she had become by doing so. I don't need a heart coal to see me through to the end, though. I just cried like a little baby when Steve finally succeeded.

This is an IMPORTANT work. It's going to stick in my mind for a damn long time, and even now the story is continuing in my hindbrain, either resurrected endlessly, or a victim of the Black Book. Or, maybe worse than any of that, it's going to stay with me because I Never want to let the story go.

I'm recommending this for the Hugos for next year. It's not quite fantasy. It's more SF, and even Carolyn laughs at the notion of magic, so there you go. This novel is officially replacing my current top pick of Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson, too.

I am absolutely amazed by what I have just read, and I'm bumping this one up to one of my top ten novels of all time. It's just that good.

Oh yeah, and if I ever get a chance to bitch-slap a lioness, you know I'm going to be blaming this novel. Just saying.

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Future of Another TimelineThe Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I would give this novel five stars for just the cool research put into this time-travel novel, but fortunately, there's a lot more going on here than just clever interpretations of history. Or rather, alternate histories mixed in among branches of a time war.

Ah, but who are the combatants? Is the whole novel about altering history so some faction or another comes out on top? Or is it an intensely personal journey with a lot of emotional punch behind it?

Why can't it be both? And it is.

Of course, I was hooked on all the girl power and the early Punk scene. This is my jam. Give me anything that says freedom and I AM ALIVE, throw me into a mosh and spout the original meaning of an=without archy=goverment without all the BS about bombs and murders and crap, and I'm there.

And, indeed, I was here for almost the entire novel. I may not be a woman but I'm totally in the whole debate. We all need to be heard. We all need to be respected. And that's kinda the point.

When it came to people like Comstock, the real one that boasted about how many women he convinced to commit suicide when all they wanted was abortions, we can't find a more detestable villain. Or at least, I can't. But worse, there are still a lot of people who think like this. And that's also a big plot push in the novel... misogyny taken to amazing extremes.

Is it any wonder that Punk is the real hero, here? When totalitarian jerkwads are a force of history? Disempowering all women across the board? Okay, maybe this is a common enough plot thread in modern SF. Or not even SF.

But the proof is in the execution. And believe me, there are quite enough executions in this novel. :)

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Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Squid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the CephalopodsSquid Empire: The Rise and Fall of the Cephalopods by Danna Staaf
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a rather interesting overview of our favorite squishy tentacular friends in the ocean. It's not cutesy, however. It's basically a best-guess rundown of what we know about squids from the earliest instances in the ocean to the limited modern variety that remain today.

It is SCIENCE, or at least a popular reporting of it. :)

I particularly liked the instances describing their brains, cognition, and long-term memory. The odd juxtaposition of (possibly) being colorblind despite the fantastic ability to blend in with so many colors was a close second. And the accounting of escape attempts and octopod wrestlers. :)

The ecological problems that might wipe these fascinating creatures out is similar to ALL the same problems the ocean is facing. Scary, sad, and enraging. The previous die-offs went on for long periods of time, long enough to acclimatize. The current cycle is rather rough.

I'm glad I read this. It's not sensationalist. Just factual. :)

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The InstituteThe Institute by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's been a while since I went gaga over a new King novel.

My favorites have always been his earlier stuff, but I've never actually disliked any of his new stuff, so there's always that. :)

And then this one comes around, hooking me from the very start, and managing to improve upon Firestarter, going the full YA dystopian route while also making me so invested that I wanted to scream.

This is Supreme King. I LIKE these kids. I love the story! And I especially love the twist that makes it all so much deeper, relevant, and twists the knife in our modern society.

It's not just horrible in how it tells us that thousands of kids remain missing every year. It's not just horrible how desensitization can affect us all. It's not even the whole justification s**t we've surrounded ourselves with since before our children could walk. Or even before we could walk.

It's all of it. And more. Because these children could be our children. Ignore the TK stuff. I'm talking about the true danger of desensitization. It's so easy to add one more thing. And another. And another.

The adults were the obvious villains, and examples, of course, but what really got me was the CHILDREN. It's so easy to turn them all into those in Gorky Park.


I am very, very happy to see King being this great again. :)

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Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Kafka on the ShoreKafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes, good books sneak up on you.

And sometimes they lead you out into deep dark forests, and sometimes they surprise you into completely losing your ego, destroying that fantastic Romantic musical embellishment and tumbling you into places were it's okay to talk to rocks and cats and have them talk back to you. Or enact your very own Oedipal fantasy. Or just fall in love with libraries.

Or maybe this wonderfully low-key novel about a simple old man who can't read going on a journey with an interesting lorry driver is just written by a master. I've read a few others by Murakami but none are QUITE as great as this. And Kafka, himself? I've never met a more dedicated and careful 15-year-old in my life. It's kinda amazing just how much trouble he kinda gets into as he runs away from home.

I love every single character in this book. It's like sucking on a lemon drop that lasts for the entire length of the novel. It feels like great SF. It reads like great Fantasy. But above all, it reads like a classic of literature. :)

Saying much more will spoil all the reveals. The wonderful reveals. :) This journey.

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Monday, October 7, 2019

Dear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best LifeDear Girls: Intimate Tales, Untold Secrets, and Advice for Living Your Best Life by Ali Wong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If any of you have enjoyed Ali Wong's stand-up, I'm sure you'll also enjoy this book. Brutal honesty, expose-all humor, and some heart mixed in with all the entrapment stuff that women are into. :)

Of course, there's always a twist.

This book is set up as a series of letters to her young daughters, but its kinda a gimmick. One that works, fortunately, by giving us a familiar outlet for her comedy. Some of the sets translate the same way from Baby Cobra or Hard Knock Wife and there's new material here, too, but maybe not as much as some folks might expect. It's about as different from those two specials as the two specials are from each other.

Is it a good way to get to know her as a comic? Would it be more fun to read this before watching her specials?

I wouldn't know. I got this book on Netgalley and THEN watched the specials. By then I was already a fan so this is all bonus, baby.

Have fun!

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Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #3)The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl by Theodora Goss
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Despite what should have been a rather interesting tangent into Alice in Wonderland meets the Mummy with our favorite crew of strong women torn from the pages of Victorian-era penny dreadfuls and classic fantasy literature, this particular book kinda fell flat.

Not particularly bad, mind you, and I did kinda enjoy the whole idea of the Mesmerism meets the Theosophical Society meets the Golden Dawn meets Professor Moriarty... but the the way it was executed? I honestly lost interest despite my initial gung-ho attitude.

We're dealing with a progression of new characters while the old ones kinda languish in the pudding. Or rather, the cakes. Lots of cakes.

What might have made this pretty excellent? A total PoV switchover, ignoring the old crew except perhaps as plot crossovers and eventual induction, while going deep into the whole ancient Egyptian plot some other way. I don't know. It just felt like a missed opportunity, and yet, without it, it might have made meeting Wilde and Dorian a little weird.

Don't get me wrong. It's still up there with the first two, but not quite as fresh and shiny.

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European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #2)European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a very comfortable and comforting read, assuming:

A: You're a big fan of all the classic Victorian (or nearby) Horrors, SFs and Fantasies of the day.

B: You love it when minor female characters get catapulted into the limelight in frankly feminist adventures with cultured justice in mind.

C: You love roadtrip novels.

Me? I love roadtrip novels of all kinds. We even got an actual horseless carriage in this one! But mostly it was trains (Orient express!), back-country inns, and a full European vacation package.

The tangential tellings of these women's stories are delightful. And a lot less tragic. And they no longer resemble cardboard cut-outs of people! Yay!

For the literary part of me, I chortled at all the new or recurring character references. Now including a much wider cast of Dracula!

One thing I ought to mention: this is a very long novel, and while I really loved nursing a baby vampire back to sanity and enjoyed the final plot resolution a great deal, the real core of this novel is all about the JOURNEY. Like any kind of roadtrip novel. :) I took it easy and enjoyed all the sights, smells, and the spilling of blood.

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Friday, October 4, 2019

The Girl Who Lived Twice (Millennium, #6)The Girl Who Lived Twice by David Lagercrantz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every time I pick up one of these books by a dead author I really admired, continued by Mr. Lagercrantz, I fell a deep fear, an ill-boding, as if I'm really going to regret it.

And yet, when I crack open the book, I'm always pleasantly surprised. Is it because I love the characters from the originals so much that I just don't care? Maybe.

Is it because I actually have fun with the new plots? Maybe.

Is it because I'm still having fun at all, that despite all this trepidation, I still look forward to getting the book and reading it anyway, that I am plainly ENJOYING MYSELF, that I keep coming back?


Or maybe it's just the Sherpa murder.

No. It has to be more than murdered Sherpas.


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Thursday, October 3, 2019

DesperationDesperation by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While so much of modern (and not so modern) horror is filled with religious terror, that unholy flipside to the noumen, there will always be a subset of horror devoted to scratching out particular aspects of it and developing it.

So, rather than going all tentacle monsters, we get down to the heart of the matter and terrify ourselves by saying that ALL is horror. :) Maybe it doesn't make for the most spectacular action tale, but it certainly bites you in the ass after a good long read.

Wait... did I just say this book doesn't have tentacular horrors from the vicinity of the Red King? Oh, sorry, no, this absolutely does. The beastie is beautiful. And the plot? It's everything you might want in a spaghetti western so long as you don't mind massive (and good) flashback-like sequences that give us the full story of this little town of Desperation.

Honesty time.

It was good but not quite as good as MOST of King. I always prefer his big supernatural bits in general, but not all of them are even in their quality. I grew bored with bits of this even tho, ostensibly, there wasn't really a REAL slow moment in it.

Maybe I just didn't care for the whole surface religious aspect (as opposed to crazy nutjob religious characters or a big twist on the source of the holy) even though, in the end, I am forced to think. The rest of it got a bit annoying.

But Good News, ye Faithful! I think you will find that this particular horror will suit your needs quite well!

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Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Chaosbound (Runelords, #8)Chaosbound by David Farland
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I honestly don't know what to think. On the one hand, I'm expecting a blow-out bash and an end to the whole series because, let's face, nothing else has come out since 2009. Instead, I come to realize that the only real main character in the series is Borenson.

Yeah, the guy who lost his walnuts. Got stripped of all his powers. Repeatedly. The one who fell for a glamour, the one who got distanced from his family, the one who was repeatedly shat upon throughout the series.

Don't get me wrong. If the story, or rather, ALL the stories are about him, rather than him just being a solid but minor thread of plot throughout the series, then he gets one hell of a send-off.

Sort of.

Or rather... scratch that. This is no end to any book. It's fine as an average fantasy title as long as I don't prop it up against the ongoing story of the new nightmare presented in the last four books.

But as an end to the full nightmare besetting humanity and all the multiple worlds? THERE IS NO END.

Maybe there's a slight, hasty write-off. A half-hearted nod that makes us think that this whole series is not what we think it is... or what it should have been.

But let's face it: the fourth book gave us the full payoff in action and heroic action and enemies dying. A small fraction of what is needed, assuming that was the author's goal, occurs in this one.

Borenson goes wild. Great. Fun, even. But the end is not so much a plot hole as a plot chasm.

What do I think would fix this?

No less than two more books, at least one Hail Mary, and at least two requisite Deus Ex Machinas. At the very least, I expected a real payoff in the form of the complete and utter defeat of the enemy, not just a northern subsidiary.

Hmmm. *grumble grumble* I was invested enough to read the whole thing. It's not like I didn't have fun. *sigh*

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Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Wyrmling Horde (Runelords, #7)The Wyrmling Horde by David Farland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Apart from a few forays into the True World, a peek or two into Brightlords and the original sundering of all the alternate reality worlds that make up what could be a pretty awesome worldbuilding scenario, this book falls back into a pretty average fantasy read.

Our interesting MC is sidelined and tortured while the rest of the cast do their best to power up using the old magic system to break him out of the Wyrmling labyrinth. The potential for great character building is mostly lost, although it's not without its charms.

Seeing some of our great villains in an alternate world act all noble (indeed, be noble) in this one is actually rather cool. But Lady, or rather, Lord Despair?

It's kinda cookie-cutter and aside from giving off that whole Legend feel, it is what it is. Average.

I hope the last book gives this a good sendoff.

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Monday, September 30, 2019

Worldbinder (Runelords, #6)Worldbinder by David Farland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not quite sure what to make of this one. The best I can say is that I enjoyed how the author was willing to destroy the original world by doing a kind of Final Fantasy 6 twist on it, meshing two worlds together, with the unenviable results of certain characters waking up with multiple alternate-reality memories, then trying to make a go at saving the last of humanity from there.

Forcible attributes are an aspect, of course, as is the Earth King (minor, here), but what has really taken over is the idea of the Shadows taking over lots of people's lives. And in this other world, now combined with the previous, there are a ton of them. All siphoning off life as bloodlust and draining the world's vitality dry.

No reavers this time. Just demons.

I feel like I should be happier. It's fun on several surfaces. I'm good with him taking chances, bringing back old cool characters in different incarnations, but there wasn't all that much of me LIKING any of the characters as much as I had in any of the previous books. That may be because there was no build-up, just a big 'plop'. Here you go! :)

Some people might enjoy it more. I enjoyed it enough, but I hold some reservations.

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Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (Discworld, #28)The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-read 2019

This may be billed as a YA novel by the redoubtable Pratchett, but I'm just going to shrug. It's fun and funny and I will always look at this novel as a sly reference to Vernor Vinge's A Fire Upon the Deep, including multiple minds linked together to make a full intelligence. No, not wolves. RATS. Such a lovely image.

But no, this isn't all this is.

Talking rats and one very special talking cat and a stupid-looking boy con their way through Discworld. What more could anyone want? Villains, pied pipers, rats in human skin? Ah! But this is Pratchett and we've got all that and sausages that don't deserve the name sausage.

It really is quite delightful. :)

No. Not the sausage. The BOOK. :)

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To Be Taught, If FortunateTo Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The good:

I honestly enjoyed the science bits and exploring the worlds. I kept thinking of Peter Watts' book, Starfish, where the people alter themselves for the harsh environment rather than the other way around. But unlike Peter's book, this is downright mild and doesn't go for the mental health issues. At least, it doesn't go for them in quite such a hardcore way.

The bad:

This is hard-SF, and while the cool focus is mostly on biology rather than physics, we still have to ignore quite a few things. My main concern is that it felt quite a bit like the dozens of short stories, novelettes, and novellas that go this same route to one degree or another. The only new thing this brings to the table is HOW the story is told, and even that is... okay. I still had a good time.

But all told? Interesting worlds and a slightly interesting end.

Never mind that we can almost always expect Earth to fall apart during ANY space exploration attempt. That's always a done-deal.

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Semiosis (Semiosis Duology, #1)Semiosis by Sue Burke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel was a most pleasant surprise, driving way beyond my character-oriented expectations and diving right into some hardcore generational storytelling on an alien world with an EXTREMELY interesting dominant life form. :)

I really loved the whole pacifist angle and loved how many problems it caused. But on the other hand, it set up a very cool mutualism with the aggressive bamboo.

I recommend this book for all you folks who loved Children of Time, Grass, or any other hard-SF author dealing with awesomely alien worlds with unique problems for colonists. Make no mistake, this IS a generational starship kind of novel. The starship happens to be a planet and it has a lot of nasty challenges, but the premise kept me on the edge of my seat during the entire read.

Oh, and while I said this wasn't designed to be a character-driven novel, I happened to love almost all the characters in it. Especially the naive ones. I knew something bad would happen to them. It always does. :)

But the real treat here? The biology and chemistry!

I might just rank this book into one of my favorites lists. It's been a while since I read some truly serious SF that takes itself seriously.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019

Sons of the Oak (Runelords, #5)Sons of the Oak by David Farland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm of two minds with this, but mostly that's because I re-gifted my wit back to the person who gifted theirs to me.

Wait. Does this just make me one of those eternal observers?

Nah, just a reader. :)

Even though this is officially a Runelord novel, it breaks most of its ties (except a few characters and all the mechanics) with the previous four. And you know what? I like it. A lot. The stakes are a bit more off in the future and the heroes are mostly all quite young. If I didn't know any better, I would call this a YA. But since it's right in the middle of a huge arc and focusing on a new generation, it's just right. It reminds me of Feist in a good way.

Oh, and I like the baddies. We've got a good look at the biggest bad and a new and interesting lesser boss. Our hero ain't a Green Man, either. What can I say? I actually LIKE fire, too! :)

I'm hooked. No need to fret over losing our old favorites. I've got my new ones lined up. :)

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Friday, September 27, 2019

The Lair of Bones (Runelords, #4)The Lair of Bones by David Farland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know, in general, I really enjoyed reading this. All the endowments, the whole sum of all men thing, still has its creepy-ass aspect to it but we get to see a lot more of the people who give up their best traits for the high-and-mighty elite. It may not resolve anything, but at least we know that the GOOD devotionals are doing it out of love.

Would YOU go blind so your elite leader could have super-freaking-excellent sight? Or become weak so he becomes strong? Or sleep for twenty years so he can heal super quick?

No? Well, this is a fantasy and I just have to assume that there is some cultural s*** going on.

Putting that aside, I got all giddy when so many of the main characters went all out and dived into the earth to put an end to the gigantic crab leader and stick it to the million-plus reavers pouring out of the ground to put an end to all mankind. I have no problems with that. It was awesome. :) Supermen, nature magic, massive stakes. It's all here.

It's even awesome despite the nagging questions I have after reading it. Like all those seemingly useless plot threads that seemed to be so important in the text -- only to go absolutely nowhere at the culmination of the final battle.

Ah, but at least a certain cinder-boy got a satisfyingly ignoble end. :)

You know, for four books that take place over a single week, I'm pretty impressed at the way it gets pulled off. It's epic and the magic system allows for a ton of movement and events to occur very quickly. That's fine by me. But there's just one thing... the end of this book sped the hell up in a rather spectacularly annoying way. As in, everyone lived happily ever after even though our MCs basically have to split up because they're living at different rates and OH, btw, all these young-ass characters are suddenly old men and women. Yeah, yeah, the magic system has consequences, but still, these were FOUR BOOKS taking place in a week! Until the end when everyone dies of old age. lol

I know this sounds like I have a major issue with these books but it's just not true. I have a need to complain very loudly about a series I think does a great job pulling a very interesting rabbit out of its hat and I want to bitch and moan because I actually love it and wish I could see it fixed. Or explored further.

Fortunately, there are 4 more books. Guess what I'm reading? :)

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Thursday, September 26, 2019

Fly by NightFly by Night by Frances Hardinge
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read a number of book-centric books over the years and quite a few of them are YA. Some hit you over the head with the book and others are subtle enough to flow right over you and sneak up and bite you in the behind.

This one is the latter kind.

Sure, the power of words is all over the place, but where I like it most is in Hardinge's worldbuilding. The history of this place is not only fascinating and rough, but clever and multilayered. I get the impression we're in an early English period right after the printing press came out. But unlike that period, books soon became anathema. Like religious persecution, even.

Of course, that makes our heroes and villains well-learned action types falling in with thieves and revolutionaries, and that's just plain fun.

So why did I give this four stars rather than five? Because some of the text is a bit dense and the flow wasn't perfect. But I LOVED the world and had a pretty good time with the characters. And the God Goose. :)

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

CirceCirce by Madeline Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My second Madeline Miller, I have to admit I liked Song of Achilles slightly better, but ONLY SLIGHTLY. I loved both. :)

She really brings Circe to life, from Hawk to Nymph to rambunctious daughter of Helios to the mistreated sister to the woman who just says "f***-it I'd rather live alone. "

I didn't really miss the lack of a constant plot.

This is a story of a life, even if it is a story of a god's life, and she's really caught in a sore spot. I simply LIKED this in the way I'd love to watch a movie about a wonderfully complex character as she lived and grew as a person and sometimes had these famous people drop in every once in a while. Daedalus, Jason and his Argonauts, Medea, a certain main of Ithica, and a couple of badass gods, too.

And you know what? She comes out on top. Some tragedies, yes, and a lot of crap, but I love how this ends. Even with the tragedy.

I can see why so many people fall in love with these books. :) I did, too.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Wizardborn (Runelords, #3)Wizardborn by David Farland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I like the hints of new directions going on in this one. The different kinds of wizards, in particular. I can do without the walnuts, but the whole learning-depth about reavers, about fire, and about water seems very promising.

Oh! And let's not forget about our fair observers who are so preoccupied with time! :)

I say this is a promising series. Epic in the sense that it is epic fantasy, yes, and not as grandiose as some, but much bigger in a few ways than most. Many, many shadow worlds? I likey. Worlds out of kilter? You bet! Ravening hoards pouring out of the earth, destroying whole cities overnight? Yep!

Most interestingly is the magic system in general. The attribute-based one. Metabolism additions make people live faster. They die faster, too, but the whole world slows down around them while they become super fast to everyone else. Giving that to horses is very funny... horses who run as fast as cars on a highway. :) The whole thing is pretty awesome as long as I don't think about the one little snag. (That's a pretty huge snag.)

Anyone who gives an attribute like Wit or Stamina or Metabolism then LOSES all but a tiny tiny portion. That means there need to be gigantic institutions set up for idiots, the energy-less, and the peeps who sleep for 20 years. Each addition comes with a subtraction, and most of those are severely glossed over in these books. Because if the givers die, the person currently enjoying 2 times normal strength will lose that addition. If the person has a thousand additions, that means there has to be a welfare state of a thousand taking care of the victims or the recipient will lose it all. If there's an army with an average of 20 or so additions per warrior and a hundred per captain and thousands in the army, then there ought to be a vast ocean of idiots and weaklings and sleepers left at home. Who is taking care of them? WHO???

Okay. So let's ignore that and enjoy the fantasy for what it is.

It's fun! Comfortable! It stretches some interesting boundaries in fantasy! It makes me interested in the rules and how to break them! I want to break them! Or at least write some stories about the seedy underside of patient management. :)

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Monday, September 23, 2019

Brotherhood of the Wolf (Runelords, #2)Brotherhood of the Wolf by David Farland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a perfect world, I believe these novels should have been published as novellas. The end of book 2 is actually the end of "book" 8 and as far as I can tell, all of the Runelords Saga is one long story. I'm guessing, of course, but it feels very focused and quite epic.

It kinda has to be. The tale of the Sum of All Men and the Earth King deserves no less. Some strategies, much more along the way of consolidating or losing power, this particular book culminates in a massive uprising of monstrous Reavers that threaten both sides and all of humanity.

The epic battle is just that: epic. Very enjoyable. Massive. Bloody. :)

That being said, I now appreciate just how much I love Peter V. Brett's Demon Cycle. There's a lot of similarities between these. But if you like the Demon Cycle, I'm pretty sure you'd love Farland's Runelords. With all that entails.

My only problem is with the direction of the plot at the end. Am I happy that it had to go this way? Not really. I mean, it may turn out pretty awesome, but hamstringing the Earth King made me a little pissed.

Fortunately, I'm pretty gung-ho about learning how these books will rectify that. :)

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Song of AchillesThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, it looks like Apollo has shined on me today. And I will, as so many have before me, confirm that this book is a great one.

Retellings of ancient stories can a complicated slog or a brilliant adaptation, of course, but the best are always the ones that come with beautiful, lyrical language, bold interpretations, and a rip-roaring sense of style.

Good news! This one satisfies on all levels! And I have to admit that I always suspected, from the original, that Achilles and Patroclus were lovers. It only made SENSE that such a reaction could only be born of great passions.

And so that brings us to the reality of this tale. It is not so much about growing up or cross-dressing or bearing the enmity of Agamemnon.

This is a ROMANCE. :)

Καλησπέρα σε όλους!


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Saturday, September 21, 2019

The Runelords (Runelords #1)The Runelords by David Farland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Man versus Nature. Writ large.

Or larger, if you consider we're dealing with whole armies concentrated into a single man or the Earth in the other.

This is an epic fantasy that's competent in characters if not in extensive worldbuilding. But more importantly, it runs with a very, very cool idea. And cool ideas are COOL.

The skinny? Attributes can be given or taken from people and added to other individuals. Use runes plus guile, absolute force, or desperate pleading, and then you've got some insanely powerful superheroes and supervillains. Think that Jet Li movie, One, but instead of sucking, make the possibilities unlimited for all characters. Want super eyesight? Take 100 the good eyesight from a hundred people, let them go blind, and become hawkeye. :) Same for Wit, Endurance, Metabolism, Glamour, or others.

Have the big bad become a god with all these attributes. He is the sum of all men. Now set the overmatched hero against him.

Cool, right? Simple, fun, and interesting. Not classic literature, but FUN. :)

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Friday, September 20, 2019

Tender MorselsTender Morsels by Margo Lanagan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For anyone who has read this book, the beginning is the absolute worst.

Not that it is badly written or boring. Hell no. It's all the incest, forced abortion, rape, and attempted suicide.

By the way, this is a YA. My inner critic was cursing and carrying on and wondering how the hell I could get through this freaking grimdark nightmare.

And then it lightened up. Got magical. Got heavenly. Sometimes it even got humorous. And then it became a retelling of Snow White. With the magicked prince that is a bear. And then it became a different kind of story. One about healing. About redemption. About power. And about finding one's way in the world. Or worlds. Or within timelines, dreamlands, and Fae-ish realms.

There's a lot of characters in here, and I won't deny that I didn't care for some and always perked up for others, but reading about the dwarf was always particularly interesting. He's not a nice man but he's not a complete tool like some we encountered.

This is not an easy book to read. Emotionally. The text is quite beautiful. But damn, this fable holds no punches.

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The Silent LandThe Silent Land by Graham Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Can reading a book like this be considered walking (or skiing) a well-known path when it is, in fact, covered in snow?

White, delicious snow that bruises, locks-in, and blankets you in sweet, sweet comfort just before it kills you?

The answer? Yes. The nature of snow is still the nature of snow and the nature of this story, how well-worn, is still a thing of beauty.

So where am I going with all this? It's simple. It's atmosphere, baby. It's characters. It's going on vacation and finding that time and all other people in the world has gone away. It's about love... and the other thing. :)

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Thursday, September 19, 2019

Children of Earth and SkyChildren of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm just going to have to place Guy Gavriel Kay's books into a shelf of their own. A genre of their own. I mean, sure, there are certain authors that have come close, such as some of Umberto Eco or Kim Stanley Robinson, but Kay's writing just plops us down into what, by all apparent aspects, seems to be our Rennaisance Europe or something very, very close.

All names and a lot of history is altered but to any normal comparison, we're dealing with the Ottoman Empire and Christians. Italy! A regular author might have just skimmed some aspects and thrown them in, but Kay instead goes deep and rich and detailed. Not only exploring all the misconceptions and prejudices on either side, but taking it full-force into spies, exiles, and intrigue of all kinds. And let's not forget the battles!

Lush writing, gorgeous characters. What's probably the best part of it IS the characters. I get into them not because of any particular plot point but because of WHO and WHAT they do, how they do it, and how interesting their choices twist the full story.

But what is the story?

Well, like the last one I read, the full culmination winds up being the WAY the lives are lived. Personal successes and failures. Not the overarching plot. :) I think it works brilliantly. Of course, I was invested in each character, so I would think that. :)

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Man in the High CastleThe Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 9/18/19:

So, do I have anything I want to say that I didn't say in my original review? Yes. Possibly.

My least favorite section usually involved all the jewelry making and the eventual rise and fall of the metal as a main character in the story. But this time? Maybe I just happened to be in the right mood. Tagomi's crisis in perception was VERY PKD and pretty delightful this time around. The jewelry being a catalyst, a doorway through the Yin into the Yang and vice versa, resonated strangely and through a back door into my consciousness. This time.

Otherwise, I still enjoyed the novel. Even if it is, and always be, a complicated relationship. :)

Original review:

This book is complicated for me. I only cared about Juliana's story as an actual story. There were times where I was invested with Frank's tale, too, and Tagomi had his moments, but as a complete and cohesive novel, the overt tale wasn't anything special. Nothing much happened except the hint of an attempted coup, the beginnings of an attempted assassination of an author, and the near-tragedy of a jewelry maker.

So what's all the fuss about? Why do people think this PKD is the bomb? Why did it earn a Hugo back in '62?

It's complicated. Just like my relationship with the novel.

Let's get the heavy out of the way. The whole damn thing was written with the extensive use of the I Ching. Hell, I learned the I Ching and used it extensively after reading this novel, just to get a deeper feel. This is a practical crash-course in PKD's fascination with all things mystical and religious, focused on a tight beam of almost pink light and driven right into the heart of every character's life. It's easy to extrapolate into all his other works from here, or backtrack to this instant. Everything is connected.

I loved this part of it. The twists and the turns, the inexplicable and the merely odd things that happen to the people, all of it could be blamed on the I Ching, and by extension, the vagaries of real life. Truth is hereby written.

I just don't think it made for a particularly exciting tale... just a pretty profound one.

And then there's the other part of this book which generally captures most people's attention. It's an alternate history where the Germans and the Japanese won WWII and split up the USA into occupied territories. We spend most of our time in the Japanese sector of California, where Frank is relatively free of the threat of being thrown into a gas chamber for being of Jewish ancestry.

Nice set-up? You bet. PKD's details are vast and deep, too, throwing us into an immersion both amazing and scary as hell. It's a crash course in cultural mindsets, too, although I cannot be any kind of expert on how the Japanese really think. I cannot tell anyone how accurate it is. BUT, I can say it was a huge eye-opener the first time I read this.

As a novel of worldbuilding, what PKD accomplished here is beyond excellent. Perhaps it only seems so this far down the timestream from when it was written, and perhaps it is a genuine masterpiece regardless of when we read it, but a great working knowledge of all the historical players is almost a must before dipping your toes in this water. I think I'm not too bad at history, having read a great number of non-fiction books, but since I wasn't living through the events, I felt lost a great deal of the time.

It was almost as if PKD almost refuses to divulge the hidden treasures in the events without our active and fairly intense participation, but it wasn't so much the name dropping that I had troubles with. It was the importance of the events that happened to each of the characters that stymied me. So, again, we had to return to the I Ching and divine the deeper reasons.

Themes can and will be untangled with enough effort, and they're pretty cool, but this novel is by no means a simple and straightforward read.

And then there's the third awesome aspect of the novel. The Grasshopper Lies Heavy is a prophetic and I Ching written novel that's hugely popular in this alternate world. It depicts a world where Germany and Japan lost the war. An additional I Ching reading about the veracity of this novel tells us that it is a hidden truth. It's real. And people all across the nation seem to realize it, talk about it, and generally obsess over it.

How cool. Right? A mirror of the universe *mostly* reflecting our own and driving its inhabitants a little bonkers in exactly the way that PKD's novel did for us in this universe!

Well, it wouldn't be PKD without at least TWO world-shattering shenanigans, right?

So, I've got all these high props of the novel and a teeth-grinding annoyance held out for it for the SAME REASON. Am I and this book in a relationship? Yes. But it's complicated. ;)

Very cool stuff, but it requires a lot of effort to really enjoy. It's high maintenance. :)

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Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A People's Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary WritersA People's Future of the United States: Speculative Fiction from 25 Extraordinary Writers by Victor LaValle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got into this book with the expectation that at least some of the stories by these well-known writers would be hopeful or optimistic in the face of obvious injustice. After all, the whole collection IS a tribute to Howard Zinn's classic, A People's History of the United States. So of course, an SF future treatment of the same would probably be about resistance and standing up for what we believe.

In actual fact, quite a few do follow that idea, but more of them felt like truly dark futures with no hope in sight. Normal stuff, actually, tho very creative, like pushing the trend of current legislation to the full horrible ends, be it abortion, the welfare state, the patriarchy completely winning, or even all blacks being deported.

Truly horrible stuff. Like tattoos being the last books available for anyone to read. Or virtual realities suffocating the life out of us. You get the idea.

Fortunately, all these stories are pretty great. Exciting. Or nasty. Fun, or thought-provoking, or enraging. Few are actually hopeful, but maybe that's just a sign of the times. A lot of us are really disgusted at how much backsliding we've seen.

*waves his fists at the air*

My favorites?

Read After Burning by Maria Dahvana Headly.
The Blindfold by Tobias S. Buckwell

But I also really got into:

Our Aim is Not to Die by Merc Rustad
The Referendum by Lesley Nneka Arimah
Calendar Girls by Justina Ireland
The Sun in Exile by Cat Valente

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Monday, September 16, 2019

The New Voices of Science FictionThe New Voices of Science Fiction by Hannu Rajaniemi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This short story collection caught my eye primarily because Hannu Rajaniemi's name was on the cover, but I wasn't fooled. Not really. This just happens to be a collection of the best SF stories to come out in the last five-ish years, as selected by him and Jacob Weisman.

Was I still interested? Yeah! After all, those guys have good taste. :) And when it comes to good tales as a whole, I enjoyed this entire book.

I've read a number of these stories already, and if I have, I'm lightly skimming over them. Otherwise...

Openness by Alexander Weinstein - A cool, scary look at intimacy worthy of a Black Mirror episode, where giving another person access to all your secret kinks, buttons, and memories can be either a great boon or a relationship killer. Me likey.

The Shape of My Name by Nino Capri - Time travel done in a very interesting way, focusing more on a strained familial relationship than anything else. The focus is clear but all the side discoveries are quite visceral.

UTOPIA, LOL by Jamie Wahls - Clever take on virtual reality and memes, with the added benefit of AIs and badass choices. Cool twist.

Mother Tongues by S. Qiouyi Lu - Linguistics-focused tale of parenthood and only wanting the best for the child with a very dark twist. It made me very sad.

In The Sharing Place by David Erik Nelson - What seems to be a tale set in the brackets of the Stages of Grief eventually becomes something much more interesting, more creative. Very chilling.

A Series of Steaks by Vina Jie-Min Prasad - I've read this twice and have seen it reprinted all over the place. If you haven't read it, enjoy a printed tale as tasty as steak. Don't ask if it's a forgery. :)

Secret Life of Bots by Suzanne Palmer - Also a commonly reprinted tale, but quite fun. A Hugo winner.

Ice by Rich Larson - Probably my least favorite of the collection, this was a tale of sibling rivalry on an ice planet. Genetic jealousy.

One Hour, Every Seven Years by Alice Sola Kim - Very oppressive in isolation and loneliness, this time travel tale seems to have lots of hidden gems in it. The descriptions of Venus and Mars and their places in the tale struck me as rather important. Time to see the sun!

Toppers by Jason Sanford - This one really caught my imagination. Apocalyptic New York meets a creepy Whispering Mist that is a lot more than it seems. Two thumbs up.

Tender Loving Plastics by Amman Sabet - AIs and foster care. What could go wrong?

Welcome To Your Authentic Indian Experience by Rebecca Roanhorse - Another Hugo winner. And it's easily one of the best stories I've read in the last few years. :) Quite sharp.

Strange Waters by Samantha Mills - Another re-read for me, Water is not always water, and fishing is not always fishing. Great worldbuilding, interesting mash.

Calved by Sam J. Miller - Another re-read. Excellent setting with a frustrated dad just trying to do right but unable to get a grip on the future world or his own slightly estranged son.

The Need for Air by Lettie Prell - A virtual reality warning. Pretty heartbreaking but my sympathies are all for the son.

Robo-Liopleurodon! by Darcie Little Badger - Nanotech in the ocean. Need I say more? Aren't you excited? I was! And am!

The Doing and Undoing of Jacob E. Mwangi by E. Lily Yu - The transformation from gamer to ... dreamer. Pretty mild, but interesting.

Madeleine by Amal El-Mohtar - Probably one of my favorites in the bunch, it combines a voluntary medical trial with horrible time-travel-ish side effects, reality modifications, and the very uneasy feeling that memory inside time is all that we have. Parts of me would call this a horror.

Our Lady of the Open Road by Sarah Pinsker - Very enjoyable tale of aging traveling rockers butting heads against a VR tech world.

A Study in Oils by Kelly Robson - I can't decide whether I think this is the best one in this collection or not, but it's really close. I'm a sucker for redemption stories... especially when it comes tied to horrible sanctioned free-range revenge and art. :)

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Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter (The Extraordinary Adventures of the Athena Club, #1)The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a lot of ways, this is a near-perfect arrow shot going through the hearts of all the very best penny dreadfuls, from Frankenstein to Doctor Moreau. Add all the delightful references to Dracula, Van Helsing, Hyde, (and even Lamarck!), and we've got ourselves a great mish-mash of fantasy, SF, and horror classics in one delightfully female-heavy tale that invites the heavyweight services of Sherlock in for the ride.

It really is charming. For the first half, I was entirely on board like I was watching Penny Dreadful or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, or reading A Night in the Lonesome October. :) That kind of thing.

But while I still enjoyed the meta-writing banter between some of the main female characters, the over-plot got kinda ...tedious... near the end. Not bad, mind you, and in fact, the whole novel was a real charmer for how it drew in so many well-beloved classics, but I've never had a soft spot for the whole Moreau line.

Maybe it's because I know too much about science to really be able to love quite that much handwavium. Most of the time I can move on just fine. If I started quibbling about science in SF I might never get beyond a handful of books. :)

BUT that doesn't detract all that much from the story. It's solid, creative, and a real nostalgia-fest.

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Saturday, September 14, 2019

Peter Watts Is An Angry Sentient Tumor: Revenge Fantasies and EssaysPeter Watts Is An Angry Sentient Tumor: Revenge Fantasies and Essays by Peter Watts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Strangely enough, this angry sentient tumor has a big thing about using Peer-Reviewed articles in his essays. That's great! I think it is really funny when he uses lesser-known articles to debunk the whole methodology of psychology. Or when it's set against right-wing-religious nutters.

I read this mainly because it's Peter Watts. Period. He's smart, isn't afraid to burn bridges, and he has the whole Curmudgeon thing DOWN. Get off my lawn! But he also has a point. Many of them. And when it comes right down to it, I agree with most. Like keeping literature smart, not so dummied. Or keeping information free enough to counteract the really crazy things that can, even now, happen to say, the bird flu.

The rest of the essays were either homages to old pets, having a flesh-eater on his leg, or pretty cool summaries of stories we can't find but we should have read. :)

Other than that, and let's be honest, it reads like a series of spruced up blog posts with proper annotation and bibliographies. :) Fun, at least for me, but aside from the ideas within, it's nothing too serious.

The ideas are, of course. I think I need a drink after being reminded about how we've reaped the whirlwind. Humans really are the worst. :)

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The Prisoner of Limnos (Penric and Desdemona, #6)The Prisoner of Limnos by Lois McMaster Bujold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am kinda surprised by this novella. Penric's in love! LOOOVEEE. And he goes to great, adventuresome lengths to help his love.

You know, scaling the highest religious order castle, perform death-defying stunts, rust door locks, blow up seagulls, and dress up as a woman.

You know, the normal stuff that women ask of us men.

:) I had fun! So is this a romance? I do believe it is. The fantasy bits are cool, but they only serve the romance. :)

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Friday, September 13, 2019

Jade War (The Green Bone Saga, #2)Jade War by Fonda Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book continues the modern equivalent of an Italian (mafia, old world, new world) and Japanese (isolated island with strategic resources) Urban Fantasy. It does it in wonderful style.

Where the first one felt very Godfather with magical Jade stones that can only be used by certain bloodlines except when a special drug is involved, this one picks up the pieces of the clan warfare and scatters them into the new world. Modern warfare takes on a particularly economic cast. Gaining contacts and building relationships off the island is much more important now. But that doesn't stop the hell from breaking out at home, of course. And this book is a bit more unpredictable than the first.

That's a good thing! I loved the characters and truly enjoyed every aspect of this tale. I feel quite invested. I feel Green. The tragedies and the injustices and the loneliness, the isolation, the joys... these are all brilliantly displayed. I'm not only invested in the clans and these characters, but I'm totally on board with the worldbuilding. The familiarities have grown into something much stronger. More enduring.

I can easily recommend this for any of you mafia junkies, you UF fans, and anyone who dies for great characters. :)

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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4)Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm probably gonna piss off a few folks out there when I say I like this new storyline with new characters BETTER than the previous books in the series.

*gasp* *shock* *smoldering hate* :)

But it's true! Maybe I like (ahem) playboy (ahem) Alessandro better than Rogan and I enjoy the basic concept of Catalina, not to mention her self-discovery and growth as a character, MORE than Nevada. I just like having a theoretically more powerful Catalina offsetting the relationship. She's pretty bright. Careful. And while she does have a few weaknesses when it comes to this pretty boy, she's damn devoted to House Baylor.

I had a lot of fun and the magic spices it just right. :) The cooking scenes smoldered very nicely. As a romance, it's very formula, but I didn't care. A book rises on its character appeal. Some things really peeled. :)

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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Jade City (The Green Bone Saga, #1)Jade City by Fonda Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm reviewing this purely from enjoyment. I had fun.

Every character was strong and very familiar to me since I've been a life-long fan of The Godfather. Yep. SO MUCH of the story seems to be a slight twist on the classic tale, but never far from that grand feel. I loved seeing the story twisted with SilkPunk, the addition of magic-granting Jade that enhances particular families' inherent abilities, be it strength, hardiness, speed, etc, and having the plot twisted further with an addictive drug that lets normal people do the same with the magical Jade as the ones who were born to it.

Simple setup, but a pure mafia-story mixed with superhero abilities... and pure fun for all that.

I was never once bored. :)

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Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins, #1)Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank goodness. A classic children's tale that doesn't suck. :)

Please, please be cross!

Well, in with the wind and out with the change, I say, and there's nothing more delightful than a rather hard-hitting charm-blaster like this. Mary herself is such an insufferable vanity, but she has such heart, and kids will always know the good ones from the bad. They always do. And it has NOTHING at all to do with a spoonful of sugar.

Stuff and nonsense. That stuff is all for the birds.

The best part is... my girl loved it. :)

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Myths of OriginMyths of Origin by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I find it almost impossible to review Cat Valente's work.

Why? Because I'm personally incapable of capturing all the freaky-cool things she is able to do with words. So what do I recommend? READ HER. You'll see what I mean and thank me for it and be sure to close your mouth sometimes or the flies will find new homes there. :)

Four novellas.

The Labyrinth - You could say this is a tale about a monkey and a minotaur going through a labyrinth, but that kinda misses the whole damn point that this is CAT VALENTE writing it. It's an early piece and really showcases just how freaking smart and educated she is. Add tons of scholarly references, make the prose as florid as you please, and turn the whole thing on its head by being a tale to be cherished in an Illuminated Medieval book. :)

Yume No Hon: The Book of Dreams - Freaking awesome. An old woman in Medieval Japan takes on the role of a Sphinx, a dreamer, a devourer, and a goddess. I can't tell whether she's actually a place or a dream or just an old woman. But damn this one kicked my ass. :)

The Grass-Cutting Sword - Woman and snake. Is there a difference? Okay, no, this isn't a joke, but a seriously amazing piece that dives deep into a mental space that turns amazingly original and complex.

Under in the Mere - Maybe my least favorite of the bunch, it's still amazing for not only it's effortless scholarship, but its wealth of detail in Arthurian legends, its unique take on truly sensual (but not always sexual) takes on the knights and maidens, and the interesting place that the search for the grail takes them. ... CALIFORNIA? And yet it still reads like a traditional, if amazingly poetical, legend. :)

Valente is a treasure. Read it just for the language, stay for the ideas, and fall in love because there is no other way to be.

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