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Monday, January 31, 2022

Madness in Solidar (Imager Portfolio, #9)Madness in Solidar by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I've decided that I'm not as big a fan of the Imager series as I am of Recluse. How these people use their magic winds up being way too close to how the other series uses its magic, at least in the nitty-gritty, minus the whole balance thing.

That being said, this isn't bad at all. This new sequence in the Imager takes place later than either of the two previous ones. I enjoyed the references to the founding of the Imager Isle that we saw a lot of in the last sequence, but now we're dealing with the decline, 400 years later.

One thing I can definitely say about these books: they're steady, often comforting, and really showcase the whole competence-porn angle. It may not be all that unusual from all other Modesitt books I've read, but it is still enjoyable. I do love starting fresh on a new cycle.

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Sunday, January 30, 2022

Reincarnation BluesReincarnation Blues by Michael Poore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a delightful book!

The oldest human soul (a perpetual fuck-up that should have moved on LONG AGO) has loved Death, or at least the Power's incarnation, and she loves him back. It's sweet.

Of course, it's not all roses. Indeed, once you get to the 10k year mark of reincarnation, you go poof. Queue a frantic race to GET IT RIGHT.

In the meantime, we enjoy many, many more lives, examples of the past, the future, the far future, and any kind of nation or way of life. The imagination in this book is pretty awesome and I had a great time throughout, enjoying the cyborg bits just as much as the Buddha bits.

Indeed, this is a cool mix of the Lao and Buddhism, of heaven, great cosmic powers, reincarnation, learning, loving, accepting, and even juggling.

I have a real soft spot in my heart for this kind of thing. It's not only a book about what it is to be alive. It's having a purpose or learning that there is none. But on top of that, it's a great yarn with some epic scope that doesn't cheat us in the slightest.

And to top it all off, it's a cute, quirky, and desperate romance. With a cute Death girl who ALSO does a bit of sacrifice on the side. :)

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Saturday, January 29, 2022

New Spring (The Wheel of Time, #0)New Spring by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was of several minds about when to read this one. Not IF I would read it, but when. I mean, if you're a fan of WoT, it's more a matter of wanting ALL of it and never letting even a single stubborn man, woman, or word out of your grip.

In this case, however, in this Great Re-Read of the series, I decided to read Eye of the World first and THEN the prequel that takes place almost two decades before the events of EotW because of the TV show that recently came out.

Yes, a number of the plot points and character introductions are directly related to the first book AND the prequel. Almost all of the White Tower sequences, Aes Sedai introductions, worldbuilding, and especially the deeper connection between Moiraine and Lan are given more weight in the show BECAUSE of the push of the prequel.

I don't really don't mind.

Of course, I'm already VERY familiar with these characters from the rest of the series and this re-read just tickles me to death. The walk-ons of Verin and Cadsuane were totally delicious.

But what really got my heart pumping was Siuan and Moiraine's friendship and induction, the prophecy that got them out into the world on the mission, and best of all, Lan and Moiraine. They were so funny together.

To me, this is a never-miss book. From here on out, I'll never read it out of order.

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CowlCowl by Neal Asher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, now, this was a fascinating ride. I've been into Neal Asher's works for a while and didn't really expect to see a novel set outside of the vast worldbuilding structure he has since written, but here we are.

And his penchant for grabbing a big concept and torturing his characters with it is completely intact.

Here's the awesome bit: it takes place on a future, post-war dystopian Earth but the core conflict is actually a vast time-war with two sides going back in time to screw up the chances of the other. The chaos is potentially unimaginable. Fortunately, Asher goes ahead and imagines it, making it even more fascinating by including things like a bio-mechanoid beast of burden or symbiotic shards of consciousness set up as traps for future biological samples -- that kidnap them and send them, forcefully, back in time. Back VERY far in time.

We get to see a vast stretch of the Earth's past. And what's more, the characters and big bads are quirky and unique in the ways Asher is well-known for in his later books. Cowl himself, for example, is like a vast time-like spider pulling in its prey from all across the future. Getting out of this mess while getting dragged back in time is a truly fascinating story idea.

So, is it worth it to pick this book up? I think so! But some of the characters fall short of being actually likable. But that's ok. It's still a fun SF, like a hybrid between old-school SF and eldritch horror, all wrapped up nicely in survival adventure. :)

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Friday, January 28, 2022

Saga #55Saga #55 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

And we're back!

I can't even begin to describe how happy I am to be reading Saga again. After that last one BROKE me, I had to grieve. Hard. For years. And now it HAS been years, and now I'm getting ready to see, in probably only a few more issues, how I can be BROKEN AGAIN.


I'm not bitter. I'm enthusiastic. Because I love these people. Even the SDFKWNXKVJSAF that ASDFAWEANAS my ASDFAFNWQWES.


And it feels new again. Full of hope. Even if it's also a bit too close to real life.

It's also fantastic.

Why am I crying? You're crying!

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The Necromancer's HouseThe Necromancer's House by Christopher Buehlman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I walked into this expecting something usual along the horror lines. A detailed look at a necromancer, for example. What I got was something much bigger, more varied, and frankly more magical (if also disturbing and creative). I got a lot more than I expected.

This wasn't some morality play. It was a look at a bunch of normal-seeming people in normal houses, whether early or late in their magical careers, performing all kinds of interesting magic all over the world. Some magics are inherent, others taught, and there is a wide range of styles and practices. And then, some get themselves into massive trouble with a certain witch who travels in a house with a certain chicken leg, murderous fish-children, and a freaking meteor. But I recommend reading the book to see just how crazy it can get. :)

It honestly defied my expectations and did it well. Very enjoyable.

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Thursday, January 27, 2022

The 22 Murders of Madison MayThe 22 Murders of Madison May by Max Barry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be honest, I think I like the idea of this novel more than its execution. And that's saying a lot because I've read a goodly number of Max Barry's novels and I always thought he was fantastic at ideas AND execution.

But then, for a thriller with multiple reality-hopping and a serial killer, maybe I expected a bit more action over relationship stuff. It was interesting, mind you, but my mind kept wandering during all the personal detail-nitpicking and suspicions that weren't murder-y. It had a slow burn that didn't quite burn hot enough for me.

Otherwise, it was okay. I was mostly defeated by my higher expectations.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

A Short Stay in HellA Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I could name a few things that build this novella up into something glorious, like the appropriation of Borges' Library of Babel, a smattering of Zoroastrianism, an existential horror written like an adaptation of that old movie, Defending Your Life, or the old adage about getting enough monkeys together to write one of Shakespeare's plays, but all of these are just elements.

The novella itself is a sucker punch to the gut.

I'm gobsmacked.

I might go on a little rage, telling everyone I know to stop what they're doing and pick this tale up and weep. Think about an afterlife that is closer to The Platform or an existential horror on par with The Squid Game. Make sure you're prepared to pick up a book or two.

And weep. :)

Muahahahahahaha SUCH A GOOD TALE.

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Fated (Alex Verus, #1)Fated by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 1/26/22:

It's been so many years, so many adventures since this first one. I'm thrilled to be revisiting one of my favorite UFs. :) Of course, I know it just gets better from here. You see, I'm now a bit of a precog, too. :)

Original Review:

So I was just falling off the wagon and wetting my whistle with a bit of Urban Fantasy that was recommended to me recently, and I can honestly say that I got really drunk. (Not alcohol, alas, but on magic.)

I'd just been sifting through all the wonders of the Spacing Guild from Dune and the minor predictive powers of the Jedi recently, so imagine my surprise when I get to read about a Dresden-ish mage in London who can augur himself through all the twisty paths of time to answer important questions like, "Who's going to be killing me in the next fifteen seconds, and how can I get out of this damn mess?", or "This is a pretty nasty puzzle placed before me. If I can walk all the paths and figure out how to solve it without becoming a crispy critter, then go me!"

I admit I laughed loud when Mr. Jacka gave an explicit literary nod to a certain mage in Chicago. It warmed my cockles. And it also set the tone for the mind-candy treat that I was about to gobble up.

The trick with these kinds of books is how to balance powerful magic against natural limitations and/or outside mitigations while keeping the reader enthralled with a good tale, and he did it. The plot put this poor neutral mage into the leading roll of a ping-pong ball between the white mages and the black mages of London, all of whom want him because of his powers of Divination and the fact that he was the only Diviner stupid enough to have not headed for the hills when the storm began to rise.

Fun! Exciting! We've even got a bit of a love interest beginning to brew, and I think I like her problems a lot more than Alex's! Oh, wait... this isn't her tale. But I'm guessing she's going to get a lot more screen time with a second book named Cursed. Goodie!

I have no complaints about this novel. It's light and fun and there's lots of action and even a bit of snark. Sound like UF? Wait! It's Good Urban Fantasy! I've only read one book so far, but it's shaping up to be as good as the best stuff of that little mage in Chicago. We'll see! I've got high hopes.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2022

The Exiled Fleet (The Divide, #2)The Exiled Fleet by J.S. Dewes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I barely finished the first before I had to pick up the second. It's that good. Space-opera at its best, with intractable spatial anomalies, inscrutable alien menace, f**king stupid people at home, and a strung-out, starving fleet of misfits (and criminals) being our last line of defense.

I like the formula. A lot. And what's more, I love the character interactions. Also, a lot. :)

The progressions, the backstories that are current plot points, the emotional connections, the sheer BUDDY-MAGIC going on in the tale is really doing it for me. Between both of these books, I actually teared up, and that's not exactly a usual thing for me when I'm reading fluffy space-opera stuff. I'm usually here to be thrilled with competence-porn and low-odds pull-throughs. There IS that, of course, but I'm really surprised to have the character-driven stuff be so strong.

I'm happy. I can't wait for another. :)

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Monday, January 24, 2022

The Last Watch (The Divide, #1)The Last Watch by J.S. Dewes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm really surprised how this turned out.

The opening to this rather traditional space opera, with its huge premise of a never-ending war with aliens, trapped on the wavefront of our own collapsing universe, with wonky time-space effects, a military installation that feels more like a prison than anything else, gave it a strong opening. I didn't even mind how the snarky Gary Stu character dominated the first few pages because he quickly became a lot more rounded and we were given a nice selection of other interesting characters to sink our teeth into.

Indeed, I had the feeling like I was reading a substantially different version of Old Man's War but with the same nitty-gritty feel, and that's a great thing.

From there, I enjoyed the great action, the worldbuilding mysteries that were uncovered, the character developments and tragedies, and, eventually, the totally delicious BDOs and the big-scale view of this entire conflict.

This is some really good SF and I hope it gets super popular because I'm gonna want to see a ton more of this.

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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Empire of the Vampire (Empire of the Vampire, #1)Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've read a few of his co-authored works and one of his YA, but none of them truly excited me (aside from Illuminae) as much as the premise of this.

I mean, the title kinda says it all. It reminded me of what I wanted out of GURPS, the one with Mexico turning all normal humans into cattle for the vampire nation. But, no, no, this book isn't like that, alas.

What we actually have is a Medieval-setting hybrid, the feel of the declining Spanish-Empire with a gritty Grail-quest sentimentality and true enemies of the Cross, everywhere. The Epic Fantasy template, mixed thoroughly with horror and adventure and a whopping page count is something a bit unusual for the times. I mean, we used to get epic horrors all the time in the '80s and some in the '90s but then they all dropped out of favor, much to my chagrin, so this came as a pretty welcome sight.

But here's some of the nitty-gritty: As I was reading this, I was reminded of Andrzej Sapkowski's world of The Witcher, only streamlined to deal only with vampires. I won't say it was as good as the Witcher, but it certainly had some of that meandering feel, the hunts, surprises, and the sense of a bigger story being slowly unveiled. Later on, I was pleasantly shocked to enjoy the sensation that I was reading a riff on Between Two Fires, too, with a dash of Dan Brown.

All in all, I thought the entire long, soon to be much longer, epic horror was a pretty good read. It will really depend on how invested you are in the tale, of course, and how much you're invested in Gabriel. The first push of the novel and the last part, really picking up with the Grail, is absolutely the strongest.

I admit I lost a bit of my investment in the middle. But mileage varies for each of us, ya know?

Even so, I thought the whole book was pretty strong and if it goes above and beyond in the next huge tomes, I'm certain to ignore any of the sense of meandering from here on out. It's the journey, after all. Not the destination.

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Friday, January 21, 2022

Trading in Danger (Vatta's War, #1)Trading in Danger by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I guess I didn't know exactly what to expect with this, but just looking at the cover made me think it was a bit of mil-sf-type space-opera fluff along the lines of Harrington, so I didn't think about giving it much of a chance.

But when the opportunity finally presented itself, along with a bit of guilt that I would dismiss the author so easily, I finally sat down to make an actual informed opinion.

I'm very glad I did.

It's not exactly mil-SF, even if it begins with that setup. From there, it quickly diverges into a trading space adventure that gets slammed with some pretty cool unforeseen snags like a war, pirates, mutiny, mercenaries, hunger, and the profit motive.

All in all, I DO consider this fluff. But with one little addition: it's FUN fluff. I had a good time throughout and I'm now stuck with the always-pleasant sensation that I have to CONTINUE the series. :)

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Thursday, January 20, 2022

Quantum of NightmaresQuantum of Nightmares by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Charlie Stross is going at it with fine verve, yet again.

New Management has ushered in a New World Order full of metahumans, cyborgs, brain-munched sorcerers, and a Lesser Evil installed in government to protect the world from the Greater Evil of the world-eating gibbering eternal horrors.

We follow some very interesting, even rather hilarious, adventures involving meat pies, puppets, mind-blowingly evil children on a cross-country romp, deadly corporate traps, a Mute Poet God, and a not-quite-named-Kroger's grocery store involving cultists. And it might be best not to mention HR. Please. Just don't mention HR. Or the dragons.

In other words, it's a Tuesday. And as long as you're buying pizza, I'm rolling my dice.

A great flood of characters, wonderful multiple plotlines that eventually slam together, and all the best feel of Stross's Laundry Files in a Brave New World (of Lovecraftian monstrosities). I look forward to these SO MUCH and they always carry me away.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Along the Saltwise Sea (The Up-and-Under, #2)Along the Saltwise Sea by A. Deborah Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, reality check: if you liked or loved Over the Woodward Wall, the light, magical adventures of two kids who couldn't be more different from each other, then you'll likely get along just fine with the second book in the adventure.

It has more misadventures and missteps on the Improbable Road on the way to the Impossible City, but most notably is the mystery of the missing Queen of Wands. Think Oz, but with a subversive slant that specifically nods and bucks the other.

Is this a classic on its own? No. But is it important to a much bigger scheme? Yes.

It's not apparent at first glance, however. It's fully connected and referred to in Seanan McGuire's other book, Middlegame, and the main author of THESE books had hidden messages in them to perform major alchemical magics. So, therefore, the adventures, seemingly so light and strange, have a much deeper and weird meaning. You get your four major arcana with all the normal significance of coins, cups, wands, and swords, with the Wand missing. You have quadrants in Middlegame that are associated with real places on America's map.

Beyond this, I'm not reading much more into it, although I suppose I could if I put more effort into it.

As it is now, I'm not THAT invested, except insomuch that I want to see where Seanan takes this all. :) We shall see, won't we?

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Over the Woodward Wall (The Up-and-Under, #1)Over the Woodward Wall by A. Deborah Baker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/19/22:

Still, also, a light MG tale that holds up on re-reads. :) Had to read it right next to Middlegame and before the sequel. HAD TO. lol

Original Review:

Stories within stories within stories.

Of course, this book happens to be written by a certain imaginary character, A. Deborah Baker, who wrote an imaginary book within Middlegame about two F/SF children who are bound in inexplicably and impossibly opposite ways only to meet in the center. And this book is about two improbably opposite Fantasy children who couldn't be more different who must meet, eventually, in the center.

Sound complicated? It's just mirroring within mirroring and it gives us, finally, a delightful reflection that displays both Seanan McGuire's Wayward Children and Middlegame, equally.

Mind you, I like both Wayward children and Middlegame better than this particular YA tale, but when I admire the symmetry, I like this much, much more than the ACTUAL tale.

Stories within stories within stories.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of TimeThe World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time by Teresa Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I definitely won't regret reading this compendium of the Wheel of Time series.

I mean, it doesn't exactly tell me much that is all that new, but that's because I've read the series so many times and the information within this is only good up to book 7. (Of course what's IN this is still good for the rest, the worldbuilding is what makes the series so special, IMHO).

But this is what I really love about reading the compendium: the concise and easy breakdown of places, times, big characters, and some big events.

My favorite is the breaking of the world, the time of legends. I absolutely loved hearing the step-by-step of the war and the Forsaken that had gone over to the Dark One, what their specialties were, and how the society crumbled after being a utopia. *sigh*

My second favorite is the whole legend of Artur Hawkwing and the empire he founded. Everything else, like the mechanics of the weaves, was great fun.

It's not necessary to read this, of course, but it sure presented some of the best pieces in a straightforward light. I doled this out for myself like a treat when I was jonesing for some more WoT.

Spoiler alert: it helped.

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GoblinGoblin by Josh Malerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What we have here are six novellas that take place in a town named Goblin, all ghost stories underlining the individual characters' real-life obsessions.

When I began it, or by the time I got through the first two, I was just feeling pretty okay about the book. I wasn't really falling into it the way I usually do with horrors. A Man of Slices was fine as far as it went, and the same was true for Kamp.

Happy Birthday, Hunter! got a little exciting near the end. I wanted to see him get something nasty. In all three of these novellas, the characterizations were everything. The underlying nature of the town kept everything flowing.

But it was only when we got to Presto and A Mix-up at the Zoo that I fell in love. I think I may have liked Presto, with the deal-with-the-devil in old-school magic show vibes, the most. But A Mix-Up at the Zoo had me chortling the entire time.

The Hedges was also pretty good, but just about at the same level as Happy Birthday, Hunter!

The opening and epilogue narrative tie-up was pretty cool, and overall, I really enjoyed my stay in Goblin. The style had me vibing as if I was reading some of Christopher Priest's deeply eerie alternate reality stuff. Familiar, but OFF, somehow. The tension was great.

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Monday, January 17, 2022

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter, #5)Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 1/17/22:

Reading it with my girl. It was satisfying for both how much we hated Umbridge and how much we absolutely adored the twins. I mean, gloriously so.

I hope to teach her that we should all disobey authority 100% when it is so right to do so.

Can we get an amen to that?

Original Review:

Wow! I can tell you that on a re-read, this story really stands out as both a very dark turn and a wonderfully complex story.

Why is my memory so poor, you ask? Because while I remember it being this good when I first read it, I've only had the altered perceptions of the movie to go by ever since! And that is a MISTAKE.

I should have known. Short movies like that can't do real justice to heavy, heavy tomes like this novel. :)

Notably missing: the TWINS! Sure, they get their big time to shine in the movie, but they don't get the backstory of where they got their money or the sheer amount of legwork and field-testing for their jokes right on Hogwarts' grounds. So delicious!

Also missing: an actually delightful Dobby. I can't believe how much knitting Hermione went through on her quest to free all the house elves and only Dobby was willing to take her clothing, all to save her feelings. How Sweet!

Also missing: long explanations and carefully constructed dream-plots and traps that make complete sense unlike that mess we saw in the movie that just kinda slaps us in a direction and lets us be surprised... Hey! Look where we are, and we're fighting! Sheesh.

All I can say is, "Bravo, Voldemort! Yours was actually a pretty good plan even if you're missing a certain piece of intelligence."

All told, I can honestly say that I liked this one better than all the rest up to this point. There's not so much flash and dash as all the rest, except with the blowout battle with the Deatheaters and Voldemort and Dumbledore at the end, but there is way more than enough conflict and rising tension for three lesser books. We all know this is a dark story with Dolores.

What fantastic fun!

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Middlegame (Middlegame, #1)Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 1/17/22:

I don't really need to say anything else. I still loved this as much as the first read. It's exciting and fantastical and all the SF elements kicked butt. Or were they Fantasy? It hella doesn't matter. Alchemy is the big, big bad, and I'm all over it.

Original Review:

Oh, lordy! Big caveat coming. I'm already a devoted fanboy of Seanan and I read almost everything she ever comes out with no matter what because I trust her implicitly.


Nothing prepared me for this ambitious, thoughtful, mind-blowing modern fantasy of Alchemy and Twins. She spread her wings for this one and turned tons of dichotomies into hardcore story elements, synthesizing Order and Chaos, Math and Storytelling, Isolation and Community, and made a story of Balance a bit more ambitious than any I've seen in almost any novel.

That's Middlegame. The space between the beginning and the end. The moment of transformation. The moment of synthesis.

I'm SOOOO freaking happy to have read this. :) I'm going to nominate it for next year's Hugo on its own merits and NOT because I'm already a fanboy of the author.

That's the quality within. :) My decision has been purified with a universal solvent. :)

Oh, and the characters, Roger and Dodger, are freaking cool. :) Great, complicated, beautiful story. The opener isn't quite as strong as the early days of the two kids, but that's merely my own opinion. Once all the elements started mixing together into this alchemical brew, the results were amazing.

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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Heretic (The Grail Quest, #3)Heretic by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one fairly wraps up the originally planned trilogy with more of Thomas of Hookton and his expert archery skills and mysterious connection to the Holy Grail.

If you've read the other two, you'll know there will be plenty of battles.
There also happens to be a new love interest in a heretical girl who leads him to become a heretic in the middle of the Hundred Year's War -- never a fun time in any case, but now much worse, especially with the oncoming wave of the Black Death -- and, to be frank, it's a real mess.

Not the story, so much, but the whole situation. I mean, sure, to go back to your old murder-y life as you try to convince yourself that the Grail is real and not just a free-for-all power grab from all the people in the Western World, all you have to do is let the girl burn... but no, love trumps all.

Eeek. Well, the whole thing is a mess, and reading this just makes me realize that I'm happy I didn't live through any of this. A lot of great historical novelization here, and overall, an excellent read.

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Saturday, January 15, 2022

Vagabond (The Grail Quest, #2)Vagabond by Bernard Cornwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This historical novel still burns pretty brightly, just like the Hundred Year's War it depicts.

What a nasty time. It makes me thankful that we're not quite THERE yet.

Thomas continues his adventure in gross poverty and murder in an appropriately low style, joining armies all over the place to shine as the wonderful archer that he is. We see a lot of England this time and I really appreciated the battles with the Scotts. Oh, and hearing "The English" become a substitute for all rapists, brigands, and assholes was also great. It turned the term into a general-purpose curse word. :)

Solid continuation. Just a hit of Grail stuff, good buddy-building, and endless war.

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Friday, January 14, 2022

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, #1)The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The wheel turns...

And this must have been my fifth time reading this book, and each time I read it, I love it more.

Full disclosure: I was told that this was a great series back in the early 2000s and I sniffed, being an SF fanatic and practically all other fantasies I had read up to that point (LotR excepting) were merely "okay". I admit I hadn't read much up to that point compared to now.

Shortly after I picked up the book at the library, I may have had to call in sick to work for approximately a week with a nasty illness that I just couldn't shake. And despite that, I had to go back to the library one more time to pick up the other seven books.

Mind you, I'm not lazy and I have a great work ethic. Really. But sometimes the pattern weaves what it weaves, and from that time forward, I've been one of those slathering fanboys who are utterly SHOCKED when others profess not to have read it or finished the series.

Yes, I really am that insufferable.

That being said, OMG OMG OMG this is a great read, ya'll. :)

The pacing is perfect.
I don't care what anyone else says.
It's a slow burn, full of fantastic details and worldbuilding, offering up a great adventure with characters who change so inexorably under the grindstone of fate and become so... fantastic.

Comparing it to the tv show, for example, is the difference between comparing visually pretty cliff-notes hastily scribbled down, streamlined, and altered nonsensically -- with a lush, luxurious adventure full of discovery and peril and a mind-blowing (really tragic), thoroughly hardcore end.

If anyone asked me, I would have said that they should have had at least 26 full-hour eps to do this book justice, giving everyone time to grow and keeping the source material sacrosanct... especially because the author carefully considered all his conflicts and pulled off some pretty amazing social-stuff, too.

But that's just me. It's impossible to judge this by just the first book for the full turning of the wheel. This was merely the beginning, but damn, what a great beginning. :)

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Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Rex Regis (Imager Portfolio, #8)Rex Regis by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, this finishes up this fantasy cycle ending with the latest batch of empire building and the founding of Imager's Isle.

All in all, if you've been reading Modesitt for this long, you know exactly what to expect and it's comforting, predictable, and yet always solidly enjoyable. A little war, a lot of magic, and a never-ending stream of competence-porn.

Saying more doesn't really say anything new. If you want to read the series (and yes, I do recommend it,) then start at the beginning. :)

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Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Hero in the Shadows (The Drenai Saga, #9)Hero in the Shadows by David Gemmell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think I'm reading all of these books way out of order, but that's perfectly fine. The story itself is a bit more magical than the other two Waylander books, the overall worldbuilding is as good as any old Conan, and the characters quite memorable. It's a nice intersection between Gemmell's universe and the kinds of modern sword and sorcery adventures that have become quite common today.

My enjoyment level was always pretty solid. It's pretty standard epic fantasy and it satisfies in all the usual ways.

I seriously get a lot of Conan vibes. That isn't a bad thing. :)

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Monday, January 10, 2022

Waylander (The Drenai Saga #3)Waylander by David Gemmell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Classic Gemmell, paving the way for almost all of the modern epic fantasy. Character-centered, barbarian-Conan-Warrior flavored, love-inspired war-aggrandizement.

The writing is clear and easy and more coherent than most. The thing that stands out most, to me, is how many subsequent epic fantasy authors owe their careers on Gemmell's back. His style casts a long, long shadow.

But above all, it's a great read. Blood and tragedy.

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Sunday, January 9, 2022

Antiagon Fire (Imager Portfolio, #7)Antiagon Fire by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The writing is solid and I've never had a problem with the ongoing military campaigns, for the most part, in any of Modesitt's books, but I do have a few concerns:

The MC started off more talky and clever in the first books in this cycle and gradually became a hard-ass military commander in this one. The justification? Setting up a safe space for all Imagers by way of world domination (or something close to it).

Do I really fall into this line of reasoning?

No, not really. But the book itself was still entertaining. I just wish there was more of what made me enjoy the previous ones and not this whole empire-building stuff. It's literally invasion time.

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Saturday, January 8, 2022

Farewell, My LovelyFarewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What can I say? I absolutely loved the style and imagery. I mean, SERIOUSLY loved it. Marlowe is the quintessential hard-boiled detective who is suspicious of everyone, especially the dames, clients, cops, and thugs... but he has a pretty good understanding with the thugs.

The tale is fun and familiar, partly because Chandler paved the road for the best of what we know of Noir, but moreover, it's just GOOD. Snappy. Sarcastic. So VERY colorful.

And because -- let's be fair -- this came out in 1940, we need to adjust our sensibilities. Just a little. As a character, Marlowe is an alcoholic racist who lets his boredom rule his feet and his mouth.

I don't have to like his racism to think of him as the anti-hero that he is. He's an asshole in more ways than one. But he happens to hurt assholes, so that's viscerally okay. By today's standards, it's problematic, as are so many things that came out back then are, today, but the core and the style in this is totally brilliant. I'm often astounded by the turns of phrase. And so, for that, alone, I would totally recommend this.

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Friday, January 7, 2022

Sir Gawain and the Green KnightSir Gawain and the Green Knight by Unknown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Originally, I read this alongside LotR for the connection to Tolkein (having been a translation of Tolkein, himself, from the original Middle English), but it was surprisingly great all on its own.

Allegory? Of course. But it was also a tale of Sir Gawain the most pure, going on his own little quest and getting seduced and bumping heads against mother nature.

Literally, in this case.

I loved the pride and the twist back then and enjoyed it just as much again. And I also have a great fondness for the Green Knight, regardless, so this story was a bit of a no-brainer for me.

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Imager's Battalion (Imager Portfolio, #6)Imager's Battalion by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly, I was really liking the previous slant of the last few books with this character. Spy, troubleshooter. Having him become a military leader with a bunch of Imagers under him is good, as far as Modesitt goes, because he does tend to have a LOT of his balanced MCs taking up the mantle of battle leaders, but I kinda wanted this to be slightly more unique.

But, all told, even though there is not much new in here and it feels a lot like the Recluse series in the magic and uses, it was still quite entertaining. No complaints. War, war, war.

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Thursday, January 6, 2022

Princeps (Imager Portfolio, #5)Princeps by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have to say, the more that I think about it, Modesitt's fantasies are genre-equivalent military competence porn. Problem-solving is the whole thing, whether it's disaster relief or rooting out corruption, or fending off an army or two.

I'm reminded, yet again, of all the Recluse books, but that's a fine thing. The writing is very grounded, rational, and pleasurable. It's super easy to rip through all these books.

* This book is a direct sequel to Scholar, btw.

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Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Where the Drowned Girls Go (Wayward Children, #7)Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Returning home to Wayward Children is never quite EASY, but it is always WONDERFUL. And in this case, Cora makes a serious decision that takes her to a hellish place.

Of course, in this case, it's not really an adventure to a difficult hell dimension, but it's close. It's the OTHER school. The one that denies other realities and forces the children to fit into its mold. In other words, it's either a school for recalcitrant children or a psycho ward or it's a boarding school. I think it's meant for us to figure out which it is.

I just call it a training ground for our modern reality.

So yeah, I guess it is an adventure to a difficult hell dimension.

The novella is hard, sweet, terrifying, and eventually quite cool. Those reveals...

The series is as strong as ever and a real treat to read.

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Scholar (Imager Portfolio, #4)Scholar by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the style of the Recluse Saga, Scholar continues the Imager Portfolio universe in a similar fashion. We had the first trilogy focused on the artist who is an Imager, and Scholar sets up what will likely be another trilogy, but taking place a hundred years before.

My enjoyment is as always, with fascinating, steady characters and solid writing. The main character, here portrayed as a scholar, is in all other aspects a spy. These foreign countries distrust scholars for seemingly good reasons and he gathers information, ferrets out problems, and basically makes himself useful (or annoying) to the powers that be. The scale always increases, as does the danger.

It's great fun and is comfort food, as always.

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Monday, January 3, 2022

Imager's Intrigue (Imager Portfolio, #3)Imager's Intrigue by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I see a lot of similarities to the Recluse saga, at least in how the storytelling takes its sweet time, building steadily from humble beginnings to impressive martial and political power, what this does a bit better to the other series is simple:

It takes its sweet time... more.

Mind you, this isn't a complaint. By now, after reading nearly three dozen novels by Modesitt, I've found that I really enjoy his style. From that point on, I simply trust in the characters and the story to lead me somewhere good.

And it does. I don't even care anymore that the MCs always tend to be TOO good at what they do. And at least so far, this one definitely fits the bill. He's outlasting all his allies and burying his enemies so well that we're now headed to the big stage of war.

The losses aren't direct, or at least not too direct. We'll see how things shape themselves later.

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Sunday, January 2, 2022

Imager's Challenge (Imager Portfolio, #2)Imager's Challenge by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While this is a good continuation of the first Imager book, it doesn't have the charm of the youth and ignorance of the previous book. He's strong, constantly getting into trouble but never too much that he can't weasel out of, but he *is* a major thorn in all of his superior's sides. That part is fun, but not quite as fun as before.

On the other hand, the writing is still extremely familiar and comforting and I have no compunctions about continuing on with great verve.

I'm an addict.

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Saturday, January 1, 2022

Imager (Imager Portfolio, #1)Imager by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit I like to read L.E. Modesitt Jr. more for how he always makes me feel while reading his works than the core of the stories he writes. It's a matter of taste, perhaps, and maybe it's because he always seems to comfort me.

In this new (to me) fantasy series, Imager is simple on the front. If you image something in your head, strong enough, you can make it appear with some interesting, rather scientific consequences. Chemicals you might use get sucked out of what they were in, nearby, making some rather startling accidents.

But beyond that, the novel follows a very comforting formula, from total beginner to improving better than your peers to finding a sympathetic love interest to succeeding in battle and politics and generally leveling up while keeping a level-head.

I mean, this is Modesitt to all degrees. I'm always happy to read these because *how* a thing is done is often much more important than *what* is being done. And this book makes me happy.

A very strong start.

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