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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The Wolves in the WallsThe Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For a YA picturebook horror that feels rather cute and not particularly scary, on the surface, this is actually on par with Coraline for the disconcerting, deep under-the-surface stuff.

But then, what are we supposed to think? It IS Gaiman.


This is a re-read for me but that's not a problem. I had to give my girl a little spooktober fun. She laughed, was actually frightened a little, and came out of it feeling refreshed.

But I, as an adult, felt mightily disturbed. Mostly because I saw it as an allegory, or worse, purely psychological. *Shiver*

Well, if those wolves come out of the walls, it *IS* all over.

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Sunday, October 2, 2022

The Crystal Shard (Forgotten Realms: Icewind Dale, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #4)The Crystal Shard by R.A. Salvatore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Definitely a solid classic D&D novel. I have to admit I like it better, all told, than the chronologically earlier novels that dealt with Drizzt directly.

Why? Because the action is more epic, more expected in a grand, sweeping adventure, with war, paying off debts, preparation, demons, magic mind-altering crystals, and most importantly, THE FEEL.

Full disclosure, I played and loved the Icewind Dale games. I figured it was about time to go back and read the source material for them. :)

I am satisfied.

It isn't my favorite type of fantasy or even my top love of any fantasy, but it was enjoyable and it has the weight of prestige and lore behind it, so I'm happy even if I don't gush.

Onto more!

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Owner's Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #6)Owner's Share by Nathan Lowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I've been enjoying all these other books for their light tones and focus on doing one's best, I was kinda kicked in the shins with this one.

It was good, mind you, and pretty exciting to go independent (with a lot of great help) but when certain tragedies started piling up, I got this weird feeling like I was reading a mostly positive mid-life-crisis novel.

Mind you, it was never icky, and his ethics were always top-notch. I'm just referring to the elements in the tale and where it went and how ... sad it was by the end.

Still good, mind you. Just sad.

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Saturday, October 1, 2022

Captain's Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #5)Captain's Share by Nathan Lowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This series continues to be a lot of popcorn fun. Years have passed and Ishmael now takes command of the very worst ship in the fleet.

Changes happen. :) It's good for the soul to see such a turnaround. Competence porn at its best.

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Friday, September 30, 2022

Stone Blind: Medusa's StoryStone Blind: Medusa's Story by Natalie Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Another great read from Haynes. I've been very pleasantly surprised by her takes on mythology.

Medusa's tale is given a lot of time and care and we have a huge cast to fill it all out. Context IS everything, and I love seeing it this way.

Damn Poseidon!

I recommend this very much. :)

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The Dead ZoneThe Dead Zone by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't believe I rated this a 4 in memory from the time I first read this, way back in the dark ages. Reading it now makes it feel eerily prescient -- and not prescient in the way John Smith means it.

I'm talking about the political climate, the nastiness involved.

That being said, and the novel feeling modern even though it was set in the 70s, it was also a great yarn. It was almost episodic all by itself and I remember the original movie and even the tv series in the oughts fondly because they did the original justice AND it just scratches that itch for an unconventional hero doing good wherever he touches. :)

It just goes to show, not EVERY SK book has deeply flawed MCs. Of course, that's kinda funny that I'd say that here. John was a damn fine guy... and yet he went out to assassinate someone. A damn fine guy. :)

This is definitely one of SK's finest.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Double Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #4)Double Share by Nathan Lowell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another easy, thoroughly enjoyable ship-board adventure.

This time, now past academy training, Ishmael is a new officer aboard a highly dysfunctional ship and it's not going smoothly.

I'm just glad he got a taste of a good ship before encountering this.

Honestly, I had a blast seeing him be his wholesome self amongst this crew, winning them over by being competent and nice in the face of such abuse. Being strong is only part of it, of course. Being ethical and hard-nosed is its own reward.



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The Talisman (The Talisman, #1)The Talisman by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly wondrous. My memories of my first read of The Talisman definitely do NOT do the original justice. The re-read also comes on the heels of a vast re-read of all the other SK reads with their connections to DT and the fact that everything follows the beam.

Of course, I may have judged this book entirely on its merit compared to all the other SK books I had read up to that point by 1989 when I read this last.

The obvious: this is a straight adventure novel that takes place half the time in 1980s America, following a 12-year-old's fraught adventure across the dark continent from coast to coast, and half the time in a magical mid-world version that was just as dark as our side. All of this makes this book a bonafide Epic Fantasy to me. Only, it's called the Territories, here.

Dark forces, heavy magic, the erosion of reality and goodness, the whole quest structure, much bigger in fact than Jack Sawyer trying to save his mother, is just as classic a fantasy as you might imagine, but it's not derivative.

Indeed, between the YA core, the better treatment of Holes, the true nastiness of the human spirit, and the feel of On the Road mixed with dark doppelgangers, twinners, everywhere, I have to say I like this BETTER than most modern YA by a long stretch.

But here's the best part: It was written with Peter Straub and SK and published in 1984, exactly two years after SK's first Dark Tower came out. Back in the day, I would have only been able to make a tentative stab at the connections. The Blasted Lands are the Wasted Lands, both quite an accurate representation of middle America, the Territories resemble Midworld, and the references to MANY Territories are also a giveaway.

But here's the really fun part: from the rest of the DT series, we get all the references to the train, wizard and glass, a different representation of The Rose, chittering spiders on the Tower itself, and so many other aspects that make THIS novel, the Talisman, almost a straight prototype for the full epic of The Dark Tower.

I do NOT recommend reading this book before the full epic of DT, mind you. I love the easter-egg hunt and the analysis too much.

BUT, if you're a big fan of SK's new book, Fairy Tale, this is a great follow-up and continuation and a slow build-up for everything else. Or as any fan of SK knows, everything follows the beam. It doesn't really matter where you start. It all builds and gets you to the same nexus in the end. ;)

My appreciation for this novel is, however, vastly improved. I'm kinda geeking out over it now. Other than the DT, itself, it is the closest we get to the full saga, and I wonder if that was kinda how it had to be. The publishing industry didn't really want to give DT a chance at the time.


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Monday, September 26, 2022

The Drowned WorldThe Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

J.G. Ballard is a one-of-a-kind author. Silvian prose, introverted, placid, but utterly post-apocalyptic and devastating.

In this book, we see some massive effects of global warming, but much worse than we imagine, today. Relocations went to the poles. Everywhere else is turning into a primordial jungle with mutations making the rest feel like we've gone back in time.

And, indeed, the psychological effects are rather extreme. Those who study or even raid the ruins of London, or parts thereabouts, find it hard to hold on to their subconscious and conscious self-control. Neptune and the great unconscious is a wonderful Charon-esq field trip to the underworld and barbarity returns.

The novel feels nothing like modern post-apoc fiction. It's lyrical and psychological even when we get some of the most interesting setting descriptions in prose. Think Conrad's Heart of Darkness and a prequel to the New Weird's Annihilation, but before it became utterly strange.

Well, this came awfully close to defining the modern's New Weird. Definitely worth reading.


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Full Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #3)Full Share by Nathan Lowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very light, enjoyable romp rising through the ranks, making things more efficient, and slow-smoldering the romance angle on a ship too bound by regulations.

Living aboard the Lois does have a few snags, however, and seniority and the owners can really put a wrench in the works.

Fortunately, there's practically no one on board who doesn't love this kid.


Wish fulfillment? Competence porn?

Hell yes, and that's just fine.

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Sunday, September 25, 2022

Half Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #2)Half Share by Nathan Lowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No doubt about it. I'm addicted to this series. The first book got me hooked with the whole rookie learning to be what it takes on the trader ship, getting certs and making friends, and above all, making lots of credits. The second book had just a taste of that but dove right in for the interpersonal stuff.

Granted, it wasn't so much competence porn as the first... or was it? No, the competence porn was of a different type. :) Self-confidence and airing out the sexual tension kind of thing.

Very enjoyable.

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Quarter Share (Golden Age of the Solar Clipper, #1)Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh, this is entirely what I hoped it would be. Not just a newbie shipmate on a commercial spaceship, but one that is entirely dedicated to fitting in with the crew, making money with side hustles, and straight trade. Making money.

I loved how easy it was to read. Necessity rolled over into competence porn which rolled over into a bit of thriving. It's pretty damn wonderful. :)

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FirestarterFirestarter by Stephen King
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every day is a good day to read SK and I'll just say that I'm not reading or re-reading this for any kind of movie or TV adaptation. I'm reading it because I wanted to re-experience the dark terror of shadow government agencies playing with X-men in a deeply-characterized '70s drug haze. And the drugs aren't even the fun ones. Thorazine? Pah, this is early King. The paranoia is a better drug.

Of course, I did want to read this pretty much the moment I read The Institute, enjoy the same kind of feel all over again, but from a different time, a different, more innocent age. Yes, the '70s were an innocent age. It's strange, but true.

Back to Firestarter! Charlie and Andy were fantastic. Charlie was obviously huge in the whole "get duped, get revenge" way, but I was struck by how much I liked Andy. He really understood the assignment: Do whatever is necessary.

As a father, I get that. Even as a 14-year-old when I read this book the first time, I got that. And both times, the buildup and resolution were delicious. :)

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Saturday, September 24, 2022

The Space Merchants (The Space Merchants, #1)The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a fascinating old SF, and no mistake.

I had this weird idea that it would be something like a space opera-lite, but I was very pleased to get something quite different. Pubbed in 1952, it has the feel of the Golden Age of SF, sure, but there are better descriptions. It's s Mad Men in bigger SF form. There's an underground revolt of the populace and propaganda is everywhere and it's definitely a rags-to-riches kind of tale, as is implied by the title, but there's very little business.

It's a pure adventure with a noir sensibility, fast-paced and brutal, complete with femme fatale.

At its core, however, it feels like it would do very well in today's SF market... after all, a labor uprising is kinda hot right now. :)




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Friday, September 23, 2022

Apocalypse: Quest System (Systems of the Apocalypse #4)Apocalypse: Quest System by Macronomicon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Glorious. So different from most LitRPG, more like a funnily complex and snarky modern SF than a strict level-up fantasy system.

I mean, don't get me wrong, this is still firmly in the LitRPG genre, but the fact that it steals from and revels in top-notch SF and not merely tropes, but solid ideas, makes this a stand-out for me.

I'm frankly impressed. LitRPG has successfully grown up enough to be genre-bended in a non-sloppy way. :) Key word: non-sloppy. :)

The fact that we've spent three of four books on Earth, with aliens and gods and emperors and 5th-dimensional nuclear bombs attached to your status page should tell you everything you need to know. Oh, and the smart undead apocalypse is delicious, too. :) I want MORE of everything.

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Thursday, September 22, 2022

Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale SingsFluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is like taking an immersive trip with whale scientists for several months, seeing how damn devoted and pathetic they can be, being underfunded, caught without a really good way to STUDY whales in their home environment, and also getting caught up in the slightly pathetic and desperate personal lives.

Until it isn't.

Then, when you least expect it, you get eaten by a whale.

The rest is all absurdist SF that is funnier in concept than it is funny in the actual text. Even so, it was freakishly cool and over-the-top, made better for the simple reason that we had such a solid grounding for almost half the novel.

I can't get enough of this guy. His novels have so far been wildly different from each other and his sense of the absurd is top-notch.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2022

The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear (Zamonia, #1)The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well now! This was something special. Even in translation, the English version was just plain charming, oddball, and mightily creative.

What I took to be a plainly YA novel quickly became something on par with a mix between Douglas Adams, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and even a little irreverent Monty Python.

It's all about the tall tales, the adventuresome fish stories, the swindles, the bullshit, and the lies. From the first "life" to the 13th, each a new profession or a stage of his upbringing, each tale becomes more far-fetched and delightful. As an adult, I particularly loved the lists of ideas, the lists of strange objects, the lists of strange studies, and even the lists of lists.

The rambling was always chuckle-worthy.

As I read this, it was like being given some nice tea with a plate of cookies to dip into my drink, only to find out that the plate never ran out of those little cookies and I just couldn't stop taking up another, dipping it in my tea, and drawing every last drop of flavor out of it.

The tea never grew cold, either.

I'm really looking forward to reading a lot more by this author.


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Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Locklands (The Founders Trilogy, #3)Locklands by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, the good, and it's really, really good:

The worldbuilding and the magic system just keep improving. All the original foundations led to greater and greater implications and exploitations. By the time this book comes around, 8 years have passed and so much of the world has been thrown into never-ending conflict. Where we go from there is probably even more fascinating than the other two books combined. The discoveries and the twists in the plot and the emotional tragedies that we undergo are also top-notch.

The bad:

The battle in the first part of the novel was a bit one-note even though the exploration of mental pairings was pretty interesting -- in concept. In the tale-weaving, I felt a little annoyed -- mostly because I had grown to truly love the heist-type novel and the hierophant battle in the second, so having to change direction like this, ignoring the subtleties of the previous two, made me hunger for what was lost.

Fortunately, the novel revs back up and eventually gives us the glorious characterizations I remembered. The battles also get more fascinating. The whole Door bit, too.

I mean, that kind of pull back the curtain on reality and do a bit of world-code hacking is pretty damn awesome. These books, just for that, alone, should put them on any SF OR Fantasy fan's top-read list.

Final analysis?

It pushes the reader hard into extremely interesting territory, giving us some high magic/tech overload that is just too awesome, all the while staying couched in a fantasy setting. It's delicious, and all three together are worth it.



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Sunday, September 18, 2022

Activation DegradationActivation Degradation by Marina J. Lostetter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think the comparison to the Murderbot series is pretty on target. I should also mention that this is trying to capitalize on the sense of crew and comradeship. Think of Becky Chambers crossed with Martha Wells, and you'll have a decent idea. Expect talk about pronouns.

If you're looking for a new novel that has both feels interwoven in a new lite-space-opera, then I do recommend this.


I should mention that I did find a lot more creativity and originality in Lostetter's other trilogy. Indeed, I thought those wiped the floor when it came to regular SF. But this one? It had a limited scope and a specifically different goal. I kinda wish she had kept in that vein, but this one was servicable.

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Apocalypse: Dungeon System (Systems of the Apocalypse #3)Apocalypse: Dungeon System by Macronomicon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm honestly rather surprised how this series is going. I totally expect the normal LitRPG thing with leveling, quests, and amazingly overpowering quips and sarcasm, but this one delivers on an entirely new level -- almost like it's willing to branch out and become real SF.

What does this mean?

It means the story is taking clever and well-thought-out turns. It means it's taking from a set number of starting conditions and fully exploiting them to their natural conclusions. It also means that the author had put the time in to read and abuse other great SF novels in the past to leap ahead and pull off some really funky cool shit.

I could tell you, but that's kinda telling.

This OP stuff is fully self-aware and I'm having a great time. And now, I'm gonna go watch Princess Bride.

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Saturday, September 17, 2022

The White Dragon (Dragonriders of Pern, #3)The White Dragon by Anne McCaffrey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I understand this is a much later book, publication order, but it happens to be the third in chronological. I think I just felt the need to go that route.

Oddly enough, I fell into the swing of the tale easier than the first two and had a pretty good time with the mondo extra dragon stuff.

Of course, it could be one or all of three things: I could be getting used to her writing style, she's gotten much better with time, or the tale, itself, was more interesting.

Either way, I'm getting into the series more, now.



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Apocalypse: Fairy System (Systems of the Apocalypse #2)Apocalypse: Fairy System by Macronomicon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This LitRPG is fairly unique in that it actually has a clever and fun Earth-side game system in place after the Aliens that took over.

To say that the aliens are just as bad as us is an understatement.

So after the first book with some massive power-leveling, game-breaking, cheating, and then a "win", our intrepid hero is now destitute and unable to use his game abilities in this book. It's a great setup and I really enjoyed the Earth-side in this LitRPG (unlike any of the others that tried the same).

Cheating in these games is kinda a must. Using a fairy and fairy rules AS the hero is also very fun. :)

I'm very happy with this turn of events.

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Friday, September 16, 2022

Marked (Alex Verus, #9)Marked by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 9/16/22:

My opinions haven't changed on this book or this series. Still mightily enjoyable. :)


Original Review:

OMG, I couldn't be happier with that ending. :)

Jacka has been one of my favorite go-to guys for UF series ever since another fireball-flinging wizard stopped gracing the page. Ahem, D.

Fortunately, Alex Verus has all the snark and even more magical goodies and artifacts and a much nastier set of problems to deal with.

Like being a replacement for Morden on the White Mage council and living up to the issue of leadership. Yeah, leadership. WEIRD.

Anyway, a sting operation trying to bring down Richard is well underway, but it's the personal developments I like even more.

TOTAL POPCORN GOODNESS. :) I dance every time one of these books come out?

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Thursday, September 15, 2022

The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1)The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has one of the most immersive story-within-a-story tales I've ever read.

From the beginning, with the love of this mysterious book and its mysteries, I admit I fell right into the novel that has massive tones of Victor Hugo. Later on, it feels like a grand and gloriously tragic soap opera, all its characters from different time periods. The novel becomes a similar epic to the inspiration. That's high praise, considering the Hugo flair. :)

As a reviewer, I could describe the twisty, turny plot and the multiple reveals that turn this into one hell of a dark tale, but it wouldn't do it justice. What I should and will mention is that it is beautifully written, immersive and heartfelt.

It is haunting. And while I often wanted to beat some of the characters over their heads, the shape of the entire tale is too gorgeous to ignore.

It was well worth the read. Quite beautiful.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Apocalypse: Generic System (Systems of the Apocalypse, #1)Apocalypse: Generic System by Macronomicon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes you'll come across a series or even a whole genre that gives you so much enjoyment that you fall down the full rabbit hole and don't care in the slightest if the quality is so/so because the FUN factor is simply way too high.

That's LitRPG for me. My latest obsession. Tailor-made for a game fanatic and a leveling-fiend, these kinds of books appeal to the min/maxer in me. This particular book by Macronomicon is particularly fine for this quality.

Ignore the setup for a sec. Dive deep into the mechanics. If this is an Impossible Setting tutorial, where no one should be able to survive, then the only true way to beat it is to break the system.

And Jeb does. :) He even does it with magic, or rather, Mist.

Smarts account for quite a bit in this story. Military knowledge and application of fine magic skills to magical traps make for a fine, fine story. I grinned an awful lot.

Not every LitRPG accounts for intelligence. Often, it's just a matter of the grind. This one simply POWERLEVELS. :)



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The Sandman and the War of Dreams (The Guardians, #4)The Sandman and the War of Dreams by William Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My daughter and I have both been thoroughly enjoying this series, but this one, in particular, hit hard for all the deep backstories.

She and I both loved hearing about Emily Jane (Mother Nature) and Lord Pitch when they were young and good. The whole dreamtime sequences in this book were much better than the waking. But then, building the City was pretty neat, too.

We're both really happy with the total story so far. :)

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Monday, September 12, 2022

Fairy TaleFairy Tale by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No doubt about it, Stephen King is still one of my favorite writers. Practically anything he puts his pen to, I am either charmed, horrified, or I root to see the a-holes die. In other words, it's cathartic and delicious.

So where does Fairy Tale hit?

Do you think it is something like Grimm's fairy tales meets Crimson King meets the Summer Lands meets Jack and the Beanstalk meets a traditional straightforward YA adventure?

Then you'd be quite right.

Does it have all of Stephen King's natural charm of slow boiling the frog, setting us up for one hell of a big fall into a fairy tale that is equal parts good and evil?

Absolutely.

Does it give us a tantalizing taste of a possible corner of Mid-world, the power of myths, a bit of gunslinger action as well as the pit?

Definitely.

Is it my favorite SK novel? No, but there is no way in hell I can say I wasn't enthralled with it every step of the way.

I loved it. :)

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Sunday, September 11, 2022

The Enchanter CompleatedThe Enchanter Compleated by L. Sprague de Camp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's where we get Orlando Furioso and a ton of Irish serpents. Again, this is a smooth early fantasy that doesn't shirk from legends, rhymes, and math to make magic, or (somewhat) exotic situations to make the heart pump.


Honestly, this is a light and pretty fantasy. It is as charming as it is not hardcore. I get a very Fantastic Tales vibe from it and that's only to be expected. This is a magical version of a Conan adventure, after all, and straight out of legend.


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The Castle of IronThe Castle of Iron by L. Sprague de Camp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This second book, pubbed in 1950, gives us the same kind of cool magic system as before, with symbolic logic and the law of sympathy, to send us to a couple of imaginary classics including Kubla Khan (Coleridge) and Orlando Furioso (Ariosto), giving us a tale of chivalrous knights and noble kingdoms.

Or at least, this was my impression with a straight read.

I think it's written very well and it's engaging, especially if nobless oblige is what you want. The magic was fun, too. I preferred the first book because I have a soft spot for the Aesir, but this was also interesting. It's light, careful, and quite respectful. Something we don't often see these days.

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The Incompleat EnchanterThe Incompleat Enchanter by L. Sprague de Camp
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm pleasantly surprised with this. It's an old fantasy, way back in 1940, but we've got ourselves a psychology, physics, and math explanation for magic, using sympathy and symbolic logic in our modern day to twist reality.

Cool? It's nothing compared to WHERE we go, however.

The Aesir. To be in the middle of Ragnarok. We hang out with Heimdal, avoid Loki, and survive the ultimate end-times.

Using psychology, math tricks, and a little alternate-universe stuff. :)

The writing is solid, the adventure better, and best of all, I had a good time.

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Dragonquest (Dragonriders of Pern, #2)Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The good: the hatching, raising, and caring of dragons. I really enjoyed all these bits.

For everything else, I'm more of a mind that I like the general idea of the other ideas more than their actual execution.

Don't get me wrong, I love the concept of post-Earth colony and colonists, the long stretch of time and their loss of knowledge and technology, and the idea that they have all devolved into a medieval-type society. Maybe less: the idea of clans, old men, power-plays.

All told, the book feels like a child of its time. 1970, preoccupation with "mating", sexual freedom. It could be worse. I've read much worse. Fortunately, most of the focus is on dragons and dragon-flight. I can't really complain.

I suppose, however, I wish I could get into the characters more. My appreciation for this is almost all in the worldbuilding.




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Saturday, September 10, 2022

Anything (Full Murderhobo #2)Anything by Dakota Krout
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit -- I think this series turned out rather hellishly funny. Between all the normal LitRPG stuff (rather high-level almost immediately), the Kvothe-like storytelling references, the beautiful reference to Charles Stross, soul-bonding a bottle, and an absurdly overpowered idiot who can punch holes in the fabric of reality just because he can, I had a great time.

It's just so ... oddball. But in a light-hearted way. This is also funny because we're dealing with a side reality named Murder World and an MC who is either called Luke or Murderhobo and it doesn't really matter what you call him because I keep expecting him to befriend a gerbil and yell at him to "Get him, Boo!"

It's that kind of character. :)

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Thursday, September 8, 2022

The Junkie QuatrainThe Junkie Quatrain by Peter Clines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this one up on a lark because it had Peter Clines, but I also happened to be in the mood for some post-apoc zombie-like apocalypse stories, so it all worked out beautifully.

All told tho, these four are either pretty good or above average and they don't precisely scream out brilliance. They're just decent reads and I'm not unhappy.

It's a quick jaunt to the other side, either way, and I'm glad to be back. These Junkies are a bit overboard in the inhibition department. :)

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The Gathering Storm (The Wheel of Time, #12)The Gathering Storm by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book destroyed me.

Even with, what, a third read, it destroyed me. Knowing what would come and experiencing it yet again are two different things.

I could mention how I have been a long-time fan and remember waiting so many years between books, my sadness with RJ's death, my amazement and trepidation at learning that a then-unknown author would take up the reins and finish this most epic of stories, but I won't. It was very well done. Better than well done.

Instead, I'll just focus on the characters and the emerging story. I'm caught between my utter fascination between Egwene's story and Rand's. I couldn't tell which one destroyed me the most.

On the one hand, Egwene finally does what she had set out to do, in glorious fashion, and how it happens is one of the most satisfying sequences I've ever read, practically anywhere, in any literature. It takes time to tell a story properly, and her rise is one of the very best.

But then there's also Rand's story, his transformation into stone, steel, and quendiar. His utter despair, his transformation into a suicide bomber strapped to the pattern, to the wheel of time itself, is utterly heartbreaking. He just wants to fight the last battle and die. He's utterly traumatized by all that has happened and refuses to be caged in any kind of box ever, ever again. It's tragic and it made me howl. It's made all the worse because he's surrounded by so many people who would help him, be his conscience, or guide him back from the brink, or ANYTHING at all, and yet he is constrained by the prophesies, the memory of Eliadia's box, his own assumptions. He's utterly tragic, and after he gets caught again, he goes utter Darth Rand.

The fact that he and the pattern, itself, are so intricately twined, is what makes this so freaking horrible. All of it mirrors itself in the literature, and everyone suffers because of it.

I'm frankly amazed at how GOOD this is. Even now, or especially now, upon re-reads, how well it stands up and hurts even MORE than before.

And then there was the end of the book. I'm in utter shock. I was, before, and I am now, again.


Honorable mentions as to the other scenes which broke me: Verin. She is an utter Chad. The prime example of the best that the Aes Sedai can be. And if you know the other bit, you know. And I still stand by what I say. Of course, when it comes to Rand, too, being in a very similar circumstance, the implications are somewhat -- crazily -- dire. It puts a new perspective on just who are the true big-bads in the series. If any of the Forsaken can even come close to these internal character conflicts.

The implications all around are astounding and lend so much depth to these books, but this book in particular.

Yes, I'm squeeing. I don't think I can stop. And I don't think I shall.

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Monday, September 5, 2022

Something (Full Murderhobo #1)Something by Dakota Krout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For roughly the first half or a little over half I was feeling like this was one of those meh LitRPG books. It took too much time to get going although some of the initial character adjustment training regimens were fairly funny.

But honestly, I didn't have a grand time UNTIL the long-lost friends finally got back together and did their full kill-everything-on-sight bits. Specifically, Murderhobo himself. It was very funny. It ended with a real punch.

If any book can be redeemed for its end, it's this one. All that unused potential is NOT going to waste. :)

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Sunday, September 4, 2022

The InvitedThe Invited by Jennifer McMahon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

All told, this is a relatively decent slow-burn of a paranormal ghost story. It focuses mostly on the everyday life of the new couple moving into a small town and their neighbors, all the while deepening the mystery of Hattie the witch who had been killed on the property, so many years ago.

It's all atmosphere and the slow descent, deepening of the details, the obsessions of the living, all leading to the final reveal.

Well done? Yes. Is anything truly out of the ordinary? No.
So is it worth a gander? Possibly, if all you want is a slightly paranormal slow-burn mystery in the modern style. I didn't hate it by any means. I simply thought it was a bit too slow -- and if I'm not overly invested in the characters, that slowness is kinda a drag.

Other peoples' mileage may vary.

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Sojourn (Forgotten Realms: The Dark Elf Trilogy, #3; Legend of Drizzt, #3)Sojourn by R.A. Salvatore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm probably going to be saying this a lot when it comes to R. A. Salvatore's work, but the writing is solid. I won't say it's brilliant, but it Drizzt is compelling and the adventures (this time above ground and he's on a journey to belong somewhere instead of just wandering) are standard.

If you're looking for something that really stands out, I just have to say it's Drizzt, himself. This shouldn't be surprising. A whole franchise basically worships him.

But why? Because he subverts the trope of a straight-evil Drow by living his life by his own standards, his own moral compass. Everyone ELSE thinks he's gonna snap and he makes more friends among the generally despised races more than the standard good ones, but people are now beginning to notice.

It's a good trope. Learning and understanding and finding acceptance against all odds is pretty universal.

It just happens to be in a fantasy D&D setting. :)

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Saturday, September 3, 2022

Exile (Forgotten Realms: The Dark Elf Trilogy, #2; Legend of Drizzt, #2)Exile by R.A. Salvatore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm in a strange spot while reading and reviewing these Drizzt novels. Getting into them this late into the game is weird because I've already read a number of epic fantasy novels that pull off the morally-conflicted, automatically-evil race, that lives by a new and strict moral code that puts him at odds with his evil family/race.

I know, deep down, that this was one of the first and most popular fantasies (D&D or no) that explored that and it was the heaviest influence on what would come later, but appreciating the fact is not quite the same thing as thinking the text, itself, is the best thing ever.

It's far from bad, mind you. In fact, it's firmly average and still enjoyable for the adventure. The loneliness, the need to invest yourself in making new friends (other races that you wouldn't expect to be into that), and the nastiness of his dark elf family is firmly in the trope category -- but it's still good for all that.

I'm definitely continuing. It's still fun. Gotta subvert the old tropes.

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Friday, September 2, 2022

Homeland (Forgotten Realms: The Dark Elf Trilogy, #1; Legend of Drizzt, #1)Homeland by R.A. Salvatore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have never read any of the Drizzt novels until now.

I know! Shame on me! No player of many D&D games, reader of many D&D novels, enjoyer of D&D at a table, should EVER admit to being ignorant of the greatest adventures of the dual-wielding Dark Elf with a heart of gold.

But I am. Or at least, I was. And now I know a bit of his legend. It's a beginning, anyway.

It's kinda sad that I should have ignored this for so long, but I'm here at last. It seems like a pretty solid fantasy. Nothing brilliant, yet, but the adventure is quite solid, beginnings and all.

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Bullet TrainBullet Train by Kōtarō Isaka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit I read this because the preview for the movie looked pretty awesome and quirky. So of course I had to pick up the book and see WHY. I may not even see the movie, but I'm ALWAYS down to read the source.

It turns out that it's not quite as funny as I was led to believe. It's Good, mind you, and it's absolutely about a handful of wonderfully drawn assassins getting ready for a not-so-straightforward showdown on a bullet train, but it's not QUITE as quirky as I might have guessed.

It is, however, a fast-paced thriller that's jam-packed with bad luck, good luck, good preparation, no preparation, and Thomas the Tank Engine. All right, I admit, the whole sequence with Thomas was funny.

I'll just say one more thing: The Prince was one hell of a piece of work. I really enjoyed hating him.

All in all, this is a pretty cool novel if you like almost slap-dash thrillers. :)


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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

RoadkillRoadkill by Dennis E. Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Modern snarky SF. It's as enjoyable as you might imagine, being a Dennis E. Taylor joint.

No, it's not a Bobbyverse novel, but since it takes another tack and made me chuckle throughout the read, I classify this as pure, plain SF fun. All the modern self-referential SF commentary is natural, considering that it takes place in modern-day, but I'm afraid to say much more because it might spoil so much of the humor.

Let's just imply things, then:
Space Farce. Federation of Planets. Lizard People. Microwaved burritos. Zombie Intelligence. Amazon's listing of faraday cage baseball caps. And bitcoin.

What does any of this have to do with roadkill?

Come on, people. This is DENNIS E. TAYLOR. Have a little trust. :)

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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Gods Behaving BadlyGods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a soap opera! Seriously, the modern versions of the Greek Gods are real pieces of work. I mean, sure, they were always pretty damn bad, but it really puts things in perspective when they get all MODERN.

I chuckled a goodly number of times and groaned even more. It is, as you might expect, a rip-roaring trip.

Of course, if you like family dramas... you'll probably love this. What's a little mortal transformation, death, or losing the sun, anyway? It's FAMILY.

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Monday, August 29, 2022

The Children of JocastaThe Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third Haynes book in as many days has been quite as enjoyable as the first two. This one is the fictional retelling of Jocasta, the wife/mother of Oedipus, with an obvious focus on her life, choices, children, and her tragedy.

This is actually rather interesting. Maybe even more interesting than anything Oedipus had gone through, when you consider that Sophicles' original tragedy is a one-two-fourteen punch of truly shocking reveal after reveal.

Reading Hayens' treatment is fascinating and rather deeper than I would have imagined, even with knowing her fate through Homer. In fact, I might go so far as to say I can't tell which I like better between these two Greek retellings. A Thousand Ships is fascinating for its breadth and the concise nature of so many of these women's tales, but The Children of Jocasta necessarily dives deep and I have no problem admiring many of the characters. The nature of the tragedy lends itself to so many twists and the intelligence of the characters is not lessened by the cruel fates.

Suffice it to say, this one is a more straightforward and singular tale with a recognizable progression. I like it a lot. The other is edgier and made me think quite a bit more.

I like these kinds of problems.

I will be reading a lot more by her.

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Dokeshi March (Year of the Sword #3)Dokeshi March by Dakota Krout
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No doubt in my mind. It's great fast food for the mind. And if you like gambling, chance, and turn-based video games, you'll probably love to hate this one.

Though, to be fair, I loved the breaking of the games. :)

This particular LitRPG is shaping us really nicely with wildly different kingdoms and rules for every month. And now that spring is done, I can't wait to see just how messed up this can get.

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Sunday, August 28, 2022

A Thousand ShipsA Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After just having read her Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, there was nothing in this world that would prevent me from reading her other books.

This time it’s an actual novel featuring the women of and surrounding the time of the Iliad and Odyssey. It’s certainly not focus on a straight chronological telling, either. Instead, it’s a tale of the women in all these poems and histories and legends, each to their own place and told only as a scholar and a fan could tell it.

Hear the chorus. The chorus has come back around to tell their tale. It’s not about the men. It’s all about the women. The men are just plot points. :) Or not really, but the men are definitely not shown any mercy, and the chorus, the wonderful narration of omniscient first person, makes sure of it.

I have to admit that Haynes is doing a fantastic job of writing these legends in novel form and its speedy pace and little extrapolated filler is making me cheer. So many characters, so many great story points, and HOW they’re put together is pure charm.

This isn’t a long, drawn-out novelization. This is a light, spritely, or downright knife-in-the-heart tragic romp through the stories that made the old Greek legends more than scantily-clad Athenians or Spartans having self-absorbed adventures.

Totally worth the read.

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Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek MythsPandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been reading a bunch of feminist-leaning novels with retellings of myths for a while now and while some are absolutely gorgeous, most are frankly just okay.

I honestly thought I'd be MORE into a full novelization of these personages because I love fiction so much, but then, here comes Natalie Haynes to prove to me once and for all that I'm WRONG. It's not that I wanted long, drawn-out novelizations. It's that I wanted SMART, PERCEPTIVE, fantastically researched myths put into modern perspective.

And not only that, written in such a way that I could read it forever, never get tired, and run across passages that make me point at the book and go, "OMG! YES! I can't believe she made that connection with *insert modern retelling, popular culture icon*!"

No. No spoilers here, but the tv-show/comics rhymes with Ruffy.

Every page in this book was a delight. And no, it's not rabid feminism at all. All credit is given where due and it doesn't try to distort facts or ignore men even while it is absolutely a non-fiction devoted to women in Greek Myths. It isn't a fantastical retelling. It's giving context and giving the Greeks the appropriate amount of consideration they deserve. After all, Euripedes was a man who wrote women in such a compelling way that it still shocks and amazes us even today.

Different cultures, different standards, sure, but the reality of the times and the complexity and the lack of anything black-and-white about women's roles, voices, OR how men portrayed them, is truly fascinating. Absolutely nothing is clear cut and it's delicious.

This book really lays it out for us in all its wonderful complexity.

I PREFER this book over almost all the other fictionalized retellings we've had. The subtlety is apparent here -- where I thought it should have been in the novelizations.

I'm so happy right now. :)

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Saturday, August 27, 2022

Book LoversBook Lovers by Emily Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So. Let me get my personal elephant out of the room. I was pissed throughout this book because I thought this was going to be a rom-com featuring two lovers of books who wind up loving each other. I wanted to read tons of easter eggs and nods to the greats (Heathcliff doesn't count) and just roll around in nerdy goodness while getting that sexytime on.

So what happened with that elephant?

*I WAS BAIT-AND-SWITCHED*

There was hardly any bookish goodness. An Agent and an Editor fussing over a fictional Author hardly counts. And it felt like pure fantasy in how prosperous, happy, healthy, and wise they were. But that's not really a complaint I need to be making. That's a sore point with ANY rom-com. They're all fantasies. No. My main complaint was in this not being nearly nerdy enough.


Other than that, it DID live up to all the good standards of being a rom-com and it was sweet and had all the tried and true plot points and I enjoyed it for what it was intended to be. A romance. Just a romance. In that regard, it was perfectly good and standard.

Not that glowing? Well, I'm still pissed about the bait-and-switch. ; ;





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Friday, August 26, 2022

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Honestly, I REALLY thought I'd love a book about an angry old coot sitting on a lawn, yelling at all the kids to get the hell off it, because ever since I was 10 years old, that's what I wanted to be.

Reading this, however, made me lose some blood and feel just as anemic as the story. It wasn't very funny. It wasn't heartwarming. Every accidentally nice thing he did was a stupid accident and he really never learned a damn thing. I've enjoyed Backman's other books much more than this one. It was too little, too late, and Ove, himself, was... how should I put this... not the curmudgeon hero I wanted him to be.

Sure, maybe that's just a personal problem. But damn. Mr. Black and White was just super annoying and his attempts to off himself was worse. I get it. Engineering types can be like this. But at least to me, it couldn't be redeemed even with cute kids and needy neighbors who ALL seemed to mistake him for what he was: a bloodless, tired, two-feet-in-the-grave character.



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Thursday, August 25, 2022

Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' RevolutionBabel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this novel wildly. In fact, I think I loved it more than R. F. Kuang's The Poppy War or sequels. I certainly enjoyed it more than the majority of the more recent fantasy novels that have been written for years.

Why?

It has that perfect blend of great characters, depth of worldbuilding, true historical scholarship, and a great story all wrapped in one hard-hitting package.

Let me list the ways I loved this: I really loved the Poppy Wars for being an epic-fantasy rendition of the Opium Wars in a fantastical setting. Babel took the premise a step (or five steps) forward by laying its foundation in true English history with its colonizations, horrible trading practices, oblivious theoretical cultural superiority, and its labor practices that are basically slavery by any other name.

That's one part. The other part is the genuinely delicious YA aspect, the scholarship setting, and the deeply uneasy feeling of being set aside, used, unappreciated, and thrown away when all is said and done. This is the lot of anyone with a slightly different skin tone, after all, and this conflict was put into extremely sharp relief in a way I can't help but resonate with.

And then there is the love of language, meaning, and a translator's dream. This part was beautiful and mesmerizing and it brought so much depth to an already amazingly detailed historical fiction.

Am I a huge fan of this book? You better believe it. This is me raving about it. :)



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Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy, #6)Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Continuing this series is always a treat I look forward to now.

Sure, this UF always has a little sexytime in it, but I appreciate the worldbuilding, the exploration of powers, the tight sense of family, and the wilder craziness of said family.

Saying more than this would generally mean I'm spoiling the shit out of the book for those of us that enjoy it. Suffice to say, there are some pretty great reveals and consequences from previous novels and it's never boring.

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