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Monday, February 28, 2022

Shaman's Crossing (Soldier Son, #1)Shaman's Crossing by Robin Hobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm circling back and reading all the books that I had somehow missed when I was on my Robin Hobb kick. I don't have any idea why I skipped this trilogy at all but I'm now kicking myself.

To be fair, this isn't quite like the wonderful Fitz books and it has a very different feel to it, but what it does have is a very frontier-like YA feel. Boy, not girl YA, mind you. With training to become a commissioned soldier, but first having gone through what amounts to exposure and even shaman training with a local indigenous-type that makes the rest of his life -- interesting.

The full length of the novel was quite fun if somewhat following the same path as so many like it. School, old vs new money rivalries that get really ugly, plague, etc, in what really feels like an early American adventure set entirely within Hobb's fantasy world.

I'm curious to see whether there is any hint of a crossover, but so far I haven't really seen a need for one. It's quite interesting and I'll be reading on without a qualm.

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Friday, February 25, 2022

The Little Sister (Philip Marlowe, #5)The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What beautiful prose. This might be a favorite, if not my very favorite Chandler novel. The novel is what happens when Kansas meets Hollywood, winding up with a couple of needles stuck in her after the first hour, and by the end of the week has to walk around bow-legged, as officially exclusive as a mailbox.

Nobody does wry like Chandler.

This particular mystery hangs from a ceiling fan like a youth group leader after taking her first crack pipe. It's like wishing for suicide after your first kiss.

*chef's kiss*

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Archivist Wasp (Archivist Wasp Saga, #1)Archivist Wasp by Nicole Kornher-Stace
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

To be entirely fair about this book, I probably had higher expectations because had liked one of the author's more adult fare.

So I said to myself, "Hey, look at that wild cover and ignore the YA blurb. Check it out and try not to weep!"

So I finally did. And here's something I can honestly say about it: It's competently written and fits all the right popular stereotypes for the type of angry, knife-wielding, Post-Apoc girl who finds herself in a difficult position with the "enemy" and eventually has to work with him and trust him deeply as she figures out that the place she grew up was actually evil and now she has to defeat... oooh blah blah blah.


Aside from the ghost-hunting premise with its cool reveal, this book is pretty much a carbon copy of 40 others that I can personally name because I read them already.

It's annoying to read the same book over and over and over. So while this book was competently written, my enjoyment of it was severely hampered by its unity with a whole class of "angry girl with blade" YA literature.

Sigh. It's me, not you, Archivist Wasp.

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Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Blacktongue Thief (Blacktongue, #1)The Blacktongue Thief by Christopher Buehlman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When it comes to fantasy, I'm used to seeing workmanlike prose in service to a bigger story, usually brimming over with worldbuilding and cool scenes. In this case, we're embroiled in all that and some really sharp language. I mean turns of phrase, not curses. Although there are a good few of those, too.

I can't emphasize this enough. As a writer, I appreciate wonderful prose. Usually, I'm so pissed that I didn't write it myself that I want to smear the writer with some caustic substance and watch him squirm. This book gave me all those same feels.

As a deep fantasy with a thief and an interesting thieves guild falling into exactly the wrong kind of project, I enjoyed the magic, intrigue, and the interesting friendship with a warrior that ought to have been his mark but instead turned out, eventually, to be a friend. The whole tale doesn't go for the epic settings, but it does hunker down in the nitty-gritty, cat-loving, acerbic-quip funny businesses that you might expect from Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser books. With, perhaps, a lot better writing.

Frankly, after having read a number of Buehlman's other novels, I didn't expect THIS at all. The man has some wide, wide range. It's fascinating to see and a better pleasure to read.

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The Girl Who Fell Beneath the SeaThe Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a lighthearted Korean fairytale, told as a light adventure under the sea with the dead, kept as a Sea God's Bride but as a living spirit.

There can be no comparison of this story without pointing at the Spirited Away movie.

All told, this is a longer adventure but without Granny or NoFace. There are threads of fate, a lot of mythological creatures, and a very YA feel that definitely skews to a very Disney romance at the end.

If that sounds like what you're looking for, then don't hesitate. It's just a tad off the beaten path but has all the usual goodies of modern YA.

This was a fairly good book and I had no real complaints except that I guess I prefer a bit more spice in my diet. That richness of flavor.

I guess I've been spoiled by other SilkPunk fiction. I guess I wanted more density and history.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Last ExitLast Exit by Max Gladstone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here's what you probably need to know. This is a gloriously multi-genre-mashing horror/fantasy/SF epic. The blurb doesn't do it justice.

Think SK's Dark Tower meets IT. Flavor it well with gorgeous small-line language that's some of the best, so evocative. Break up the story between two time periods and a massive road trip epic in a world (or rather, many, many worlds) gone wrong. And throw us some of the best, most genuinely scary scenes with tension coming out my ears.

Before I knew what was happening, I was completely lost in the tale, awash in real-life details and modern references that reminded me VERY fondly SK's early novels, leading me into very firm despair before the band got back together. And that's just the setup, leading us to a very Dark Tower-like epic that had me squealing like a true fanboy for ANY kind of novel or novelist able to pull this off in grand style.

And Max Gladstone did.

To be entirely honest, even though I had loved his original UF series and truly adored a certain red vs blue romance, I wasn't entirely sure this particular novel would have gone all out with originality and skills. It just seemed... interesting, not epic.

I'm glad I'm very wrong on that score. This was fantastic.

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Monday, February 21, 2022

Rip Van WinkleRip Van Winkle by Washington Irving
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This classic story is a classic for good reasons. Good on the surface, good in metaphor, and good in political discourse.

But of course, no one has to pick up on the political discourse bit. And we don't even need to look deep to figure out what it's about.

Nah. I'd rather just read this on the surface. It's easy to get by in life if you just ignore the shrews and fall asleep for 20 years and come back having wasted your entire life away. Because, let's face it, magical or not, you can still waste your entire life away. And isn't that the whole point?

Think not what you can do today. Think only of what you can put off till tomorrow.

Right, America?

(Full spoilery bit: Rip falls asleep for 20 years and completely misses out on the American Revolution. It doesn't bother him and he doesn't bother it. His wife hated his inability to provide for his family and hated how he always helped his neighbors and not her. In the end, it's a blessing he fell asleep because it was the only way to escape her. On the other level, his wife was England, he was the Colonies. But if that's the case, then the Colonies were layabouts and most of them got through the Revolution by doing nada. Seen that way, also through modern eyes, this is a story that glorifies the idea that other people will always do the heavy lifting. There's hardly a bit of shame in it.)

It's quite a fine story. Very tongue-in-cheek and I prefer to read it the wrong way because I'm a goofball. ;)

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Cursed (Alex Verus, #2)Cursed by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 2/21/22:

These days, fond memories and revisiting old friends seems to be the only way to fill my heart. Granted, a sure dose of blood and viscera and dark wishes tied to nasty curses is a close second, but best of all is a fine combination of both!

Original Review:

This series is rapidly becoming my latest favorite mind-candy, doing wonders to cleanse my palate between heavy tomes of fiction and generally getting me rearing to go. It's entertaining, solidly written, thoroughly character-grounded, and the magic system, while slightly unoriginal, is very fun. Seeing the future is rather beast.

I could probably read all of these in a single sitting, as long as I had all the proper plumbing hooked up. Saline solution, waste ejecta, etc., I'd almost be willing to be a test subject for one of those chairs from Idiocracy. What can I say? It's just one of those hugely addictive series.

I should have known better before picking them up, but oh well...


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Spelunking Through Hell (Incryptid, #11)Spelunking Through Hell by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Do you see that cover on the book?

Yeah, that's one hell of a hot octogenarian. And she kicks ass, doesn't care if she gets skinned alive, will destroy hell dimensions and adjacent universes with all the heavy armament she can carry and doesn't care about the cost.

Knowing the rest of the family, grandma isn't all that surprising. And she's been searching for her husband for 50 years after he was whisked away for a crossroads price like a legendary cross-dimensional true warrior.

This is her story. Finally. And it's a blast. Literally. Lots of gunpowder, broken dimensional barriers, and a few surprises. :)

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Sunday, February 20, 2022

The Great Hunt (The Wheel of Time, #2)The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This might be my fifth read. I'm not entirely sure. I just know that I kept getting more and more out of them with every new volume that came out when Jordan was alive. And then I re-read it for the full 14.

In ANY case, I kept trying to compare this one with the Eye of the World as the REAL beginning of the over-story. I mean, sure, we get the intro to the characters and a nice quest and a blowout at the end in the first novel, but it was really The Great Hunt that establishes ALL the big story arcs to come.

I mean the Last Battle. The foreshadowing of ALL the big stuff to come, really highlights how low-leveled all the main characters are right now and shows us how much farther they have to come. They're little babes in the woods. Muahahahahaha

Now. Reading all the rest again, I'm still absolutely stunned at how detailed it is, at how many threads are being woven in this tapestry, at the depth of the worldbuilding, character-building, and the eventual immensity of the STORY-building.

There was even a tiny interview at the end of my audio with Jordan himself talking about the idiocy of Gandalf coming by and convincing regular folk to go on a quest, but it was really his pointing out that he wasn't sure that his foreshadowing was actually hitting the crowd that really got me.

I know the author is dead, but as a fan who has read the books this many times, I can say that yes, the foreshadowing is ****ing fantastic. But only because I've SEEN (in my mind) what happens later! Is it freakishly awesome? Yes, it is. :)

A side note: after watching the tv show and then reading up to this, I'm A: thankful that the show is introducing a ton of new readers to this fantastic series. B: amazed and disgusted that so much is being left out. My complaint? GIVE THE SHOW A FULL 24 EP season per book. FFS.

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Friday, February 18, 2022

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 2/18/22:

This must be my 6th time reading this and I cried like a baby at certain parts all over again as if it was my first.

More importantly, I read it with my daughter, so it WAS her first time.

Say what you will about the author, he wrote a fantastically empathetic book that works on so many damn levels. And this time, my daughter and I both bawled our eyes out together.

I'm so glad I can introduce her to a true love of SF. :)

Original review:

So nice to read it again. I suppose I can point to this book as being one of the very first to open my eyes to just how much can be accomplished in SF.

I mean, sure, I first read Chriton's Sphere right after King's Tommyknockers so I was feeling the love already, but Ender's Game set a new standard in readability, emotional impact, and sheer cussed F***ed-up-ness.

Since then, I've read over twenty novels that shared echoes of this novel. And yet, I keep coming back to this and its companion, Speaker for the Dead, glorying in the wonder of all these little pieces coming together in plots both interesting, tragic, and wonderful.

This is one of those rare cases where popularity is not unfounded. A great tale meets great acclaim.

I can rank this up near Dune as one of my most beloved novels of all time. No question about it.

Do I pity Ender? Hell, yes. But more than that:

I admire him.

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His Master's VoiceHis Master's Voice by Stanisław Lem
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a fascinatingly different kind of book. Not easily classifiable in the slightest. But here goes: the book reads like an autobiography of a scientist that was involved in a late 60's discovery of alien life, a message written in neutrinos, and the massive efforts across the world to decipher it.

Here's the thing: it's not a direct A to B story. Indeed, it reads like a real scientist's musings, a polymath, going through all the possible ideas, pitfalls of thought, philosophy, even the math that might go wrong or lead them all down dark alleyways of speculation.

Well now, that wasn't so bad. Was it?

But I should still underline the fact that the whole book reads like the smart but rambling musings of a polymath setting himself on the most important question of their time. As SF, it's extremely thought-provoking and reminds me a lot of what Sagan's Contact eventually became. As a history of science or an autobiography, it's complicated and dense and wonderful. As a story, it is what it is and doesn't pretend to be anything but a brilliant ramble.

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Thursday, February 17, 2022

Descent (Dungeon Robotics #9)Descent by Matthew Peed
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, honestly, I read these not for the characterizations but to see what huge monstrosities will come from the pages. And not only monsters, per se, but planetoids and planet eaters.

Wait. Is this a fantasy? An SF? A LitRPG?

Um, yeah. All of the above. Dungeon cores, super-immense mana energy, robotics on a godlike scale, and demons who are little bitches beneath this onslaught.

So? What's wrong then?

Nothing, if you don't really care if there's a story or a beginning, a middle, or an end. And really, who cares? We're in Cosmic Marvel Kaiju territory now.

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The Paradox HotelThe Paradox Hotel by Rob Hart
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think this is a case of I must have expected more out of this than I might have, otherwise. I loved the Warehouse and I've been glutting on a stream of great, quirky time travel novels by Jodi Taylor (St. Mary's, Time Police) that deal with institutional absurdities, politics, chaos while giving us a light humorous touch.

The Paradox Hotel is something like that. Selling joy-rides to the past for the rich and powerful, having a badass security-woman suffering from a PTSD-like time-ghost haunting condition, and a hotel as a base of operations with its own mysteries. It reads like harried insider officials and institutional/spook fiction.

Unfortunately for me, it felt a bit disorganized even for the disorganized attempt. Even in the chaos, there's self-consistency and the opportunity for some great humor just screams opportunity, but there were a number of missteps and pacing problems that let those fizzle out until I had to accept that it wasn't meant to be funny at all. And that's okay. But this also slapped this book back down to the level of some much older SF that did have a lot of the same institutional feel and focus -- including the realization that the rich will absolutely destroy us all.

I didn't hate this book, mind you. I just thought that my impression of missed opportunities overwhelmed my outright enjoyment of a book that might have been written fifty or sixty years ago.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Death on the Nile (Hercule Poirot, #18)Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


There's something awfully comforting about murder, isn't there? I mean, all the various modes and motives and complications like sex, jealousy, greed, beneficence... the whole works. Why we kill -- and why we keep coming back to Hercule Poirot who, for one, would be someone I'd love to see be the one to have murdered all these horrible, nasty, backbiting people.

But alas. He's just using his grey cells. That's what he does. It certainly has nothing to do with preventing crime. Just the fun of solving the mystery.

What a guy.

A standard we can all look up to.

Still, this is a classic mystery and I've gotta read up before watching the new movie. :)

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Tuesday, February 15, 2022

God's Eye: Awakening: A Labyrinth World NovelGod's Eye: Awakening: A Labyrinth World Novel by Aleron Kong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Those who know, know. Those who don't, might need to pick up a game and crank out those possible levels 1-100, start grinding, come back to this novel, and freak out at the utter awesomeness of everything that is baby-godhood, RPG, and a vast fantasy world that compasses it.

For those of us who've already enjoyed the Land, this is a crossover of sorts but it has a much bigger, Tier 0 godlike feel. The worldbuilding is delicious.

I'm afraid that I'm a total fanboy. If you're a certain type of someone, LitRPGs are pretty much all good, tickling all those funny bones. Some are decent, others are pure cotton candy, and still others you will just want to pick up and keep reading and reading and reading and pray that it's actually 120 hours long, audiobook, and not anything like a normal length book.

In my case, I couldn't stop. I wouldn't stop. I just wanted it to keep on going and going and going and we barely even got to level 2 and I'm crying because it's not fair and I wanted to at least get to level ten and WHY is the universe treating me so horribly!

Yeah. I'm one of those.

Zero Fell may be a kind of prick, but I just don't care. It's all about the long-haul and the level 12-15 redemption arc.


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Monday, February 14, 2022

You Love Me (You, #3)You Love Me by Caroline Kepnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well now! I'm falling into these books a little late into the game, reading AFTER watching three seasons on Netflix, and so I'm all aflutter about the differences. And yes, there are quite a few differences. Like the Dexter books compared to its tv series.

But is that a bad thing? Can I separate the two and get right down to what I enjoy about THIS book even though it didn't have all the goodies I expected it to have?

I'll try.

Almost the entire thing about Love is missing, for one. The librarian is almost everything here. We have hints of the kinds of small rich town oddities, of course, and a lot more depth, but to me, the biggest divergence is the KIND of deaths.

I mean, Joe always had this thing going on and he always went all-out to fix his relationship problems. That hasn't really changed, but he's TRYING TO DO BETTER. I like that. He's a good guy. He just fails a little. His projects keep dying ON ACCIDENT.

I read this as a redemption tale. He's trying so hard. Love's family really played him dirty. It's understandable, really. *snicker*

Oh, the writing is as good as always and if I had read this without knowing the series, I would probably have fallen right into it without any issues or comparisons. The two are just SO different. It's a bit jarring.

But either way, I still love it. :)

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Sunday, February 13, 2022

The Portable Door (J. W. Wells & Co., #1)The Portable Door by Tom Holt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So yeah, I've read this author's other books, more recent ones, and I thought it would be a lark to go back in time and check out some of his early stuff.

I'm so happy I did.

Why? Because we've got this whole hate-work vibe going on and absolutely no clue what's happening but what's happening is a groan-worthy office romance, goblins, magic, goblins, love philters, goblins, and a little hole in space-time to keep us hopping.

And it's funny. Oh, how I needed this little dab of quirk in my life. It's filling that little humorous hole that I've been missing.

To tell you where I'm coming from with this, I'm reminded a lot of Jodi Taylor and Terry Pratchett. Take of this what you will. For some of us, that's more than enough. :)

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Saturday, February 12, 2022

Victory Conditions (Vatta's War, #5)Victory Conditions by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great end to a good Space Opera.

It’s true, though, that all five of these books make up a single long novel. No doubt about it. From the abuse in the first to the returned humiliation in the last, from starting with almost nothing to being the top of the game, the whole sequence satisfies.

If you like Bujold’s Space Opera, want it distilled down to the economic, spycraft, and warcraft elements, then this will be your speed. Or if you like MilSF at all, this will be a fun read.

No complaints. Except, perhaps, for the cover. But we are used to these older books ignoring actual skin color, aren’t we? *groan*

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Friday, February 11, 2022

Command Decision (Vatta's War, #4)Command Decision by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These books are very solid. They have everything you might want to read if you're looking forward to Space Opera, growing a fleet, some tactics, strategic enhancements, opportunism, and competence porn.

This far into the series, her fleet is small but it has some excellent advantages that go beyond smarts. No war can be rightly fought and won without some good old-fashioned luck.

No complaints. Very enjoyable. Especially in comparison to more modern Space Opera, this one focuses more on grit than social issues. That might appeal to some readers, so take special note. It's just a fun ride.

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Hidden Bodies (You, #2)Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm gonna rate this one based on my enjoyment of it. I'll ignore the massive amounts of sex in the pages as a lark and laugh at all the LA antics for what they are because this book is just plain fun.

I have a soft spot for creepy stalkers and murderers just as long as they're GENUINE about it. You know? Idealism, romance, honesty, passion. And a body count. I mean, it's not like you NEED a body count to make a great tale, but if you're in the mood to see V-Day go down in flames, this seems to be an absolute must.

Now, here's what makes this book very interesting to me: I watched the Netflix adaptation and loved the bookishness and romance and body count so much that I had to sucker others into watching it with me. And THEN I realized it was based on books. I'm late to the game, you see. And this means I will have this tendency to compare the two.

And what did I find? That I liked some aspects of the show better than the book and some of the reverse. I admit I liked the surviving ex and the hotel writing scene in the show much better than in the book. But the book really dived into the jet-setting scene better. And the twists were also very interesting. I can't tell you which I like better, because the show was great in keeping in character to the book's spirit. The divergence is much bigger in the second season than in the first. And yet... I like both. :) It's like an alternate reality. But nothing so off as in the Dexter series, book/tv show.

What can I say? I'm a sucker for erudite wickedness.

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Thursday, February 10, 2022

You (You, #1)You by Caroline Kepnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit I'm late to this cult classic but I'm still happy to have finally arrived. Of course, I started with the tv show this time so I just HAD to eat it up because it was so book-nerdy and outrageously realistic/crazy (that's a thing).

Was I satisfied? As in, shitting on Dan Brown only to finally read it and think it was fun as hell, satisfied?


I had a great time with all the great dark side of romance (Happy V-Day, ya'll) and the totally obsessional nutsy vibe that I think most of us go through at least to SOME degree, but this just let it all off the leash.

Oh, and I hated everyone. Most of the fun in this book was waiting to see who would die and how. :)

Again! Happy V-Day, ya'll!

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Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Endgames (Imager Portfolio, #12)Endgames by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ruling Solidar is a real pain. An undeclared civil war, piracy, assassination attempts, religious and economic revolts, and sheet music.

One of those is not like the others.

But fortunately, one of those makes all the rest worth it.

I don't know, but I think this was one of the sweeter books. And I got into the rough economic revolution. :)

As always, Modesitt is very comfortable/comforting.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Trailer Park Trickster (Adam Binder #2)Trailer Park Trickster by David R. Slayton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some people's families have issues. Major issues. Of course, if that family happens to be in rural Oklahoma, certain things can get a little tricky... especially when magic, soul-sucking murderers, Elves, DEATH GODS, and funeral flower thieves get involved.

From the first book in the series to this one, I'm fully onboard and loving the dynamics. I even like the romance. They ARE so cute together, even if their marriage comes with the price tag of being a REAPER. :) Ah, well, every marriage comes with some sort of price tag.

Loving it!

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Monday, February 7, 2022

The Lady in the LakeThe Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I honestly like these better than Christie when it comes to the old-time mysteries. Maybe it's the Noir, but that isn't really the case for this book. We're in the boondocks, surrounded by charming small-town deputies and some more charmingly corrupt officials. Well, okay, so we're not in the city. The corruption, murder, and mystery are the same.

As always, Chandler's prose is seriously amazing. The voice is everything, the interactions always amusing and often surprising, and the rest is plainly evocative.

It's everything I expect in a grand Noir and it rocks harder than the body bobbing in the water.

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Assassin’s Price (Imager Portfolio, #11)Assassin’s Price by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Always enjoyable, if rarely unpredictable, this latest Imager Portfolio moves away from the Imager PoVs and instead gives us an in-depth look at the son of a Rex and his rise as a new Rex, himself.

This isn't a problem. At all. It moves us along with political and romantic themes, assassination plots, the problems of laws and taxes. The fish out of water feel is strong with this one.

At no point did I get bored. That's the great thing about this author. His writing is comforting even when it's in the middle of battle, assassination, or a lengthy discourse on taxes. I can and continue to read these without getting tired, so that says something.

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Sunday, February 6, 2022

The Blazing World and Other WritingsThe Blazing World and Other Writings by Margaret Cavendish
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here are the odd bits upfront:

Margaret Cavendish is known for being crazy, freakishly manly, a total upstart that tweaked all the noses of the men's publishing world of 1666 when she wrote this utopian SF.

In actual fact, she just insisted on having her fair share of popularity, trying new and old forms of entertainment while stressing the right of women to be able to use their heads and hearts as they see fit. It's not a hard thing to imagine, considering that she's a generation or two after Queen Elizabeth and a survivor of the backlash that was the English Civil War. Not to mention a title like this on the very year of the Great Fire in London. It's obvious she was provocative... but not a bad writer, unlike what all those stuffed shirts say.

Cavendish wrote one of the first SFs. Utopia, was, of course, one of the most well-known early SFs, but Moore wasn't a woman and didn't give a farthing to the plight of women.

Am I faint praising Cavendish, though? No, no, not at all. I found the Blazing World, itself, to be rather charming and SO FAMILIAR. Why? Because I could see ALL the most beloved aspects of Pullman's fantasy series put on full worldbuilding display in HER ORIGINAL WORK. Not to mention a full Fantasy series by Adrian Tchaikovsky, a gorgeous historical fantasy by Catherynne M. Valente about Prester John, or practically any work that put talking animals in it.

With clever turns of phrase, wonderful worldbuilding, and even if the scientific observations and extrapolations were funky, they WERE in line with the understandings of the time.

As for the other tales, one being a romance, I thought it was WRY as hell and funny. It might have been a re-telling of Cavendish's own life in romantic terms, but it was still rather skewery on the whole social system. :)

All in all, I had a pretty awesome time reading this. I expected much worse, going by all the tons and tons of professional critics of almost 400 years. But no, this is remarkable because it reads... normal by today's standards, but we also know that it's extremely ABNORMAL by theirs.

Some props ARE deserved.

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White Trash Warlock (Adam Binder #1)White Trash Warlock by David R. Slayton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I totally admit that I picked this up mostly on the strength of the title, alone. I kinda expected a funny Urban Fantasy with a bunch of hicks digging deeper and deeper in the doo, but strangely enough, that ain't was this is.

What we do have here is a solidly serious intro that doesn't shy away from poverty, low-powered magic, or family misunderstandings/grievances. From that point on, we do get some cool magical setups, a m/m romance that is as charming as it is a bit fated, and a seriously cool intro, later, into the greater magical world. Spirit walking gives me a great cool taste of, say, the later versions of WoD Mage, with four Watchtowers, guardians, and a whole bunch of neat stuff that I haven't seen all that much of in this genre.

I'm excited.

Plus, there's a definite later Supernatural vibe going on that I really like. Hint: reapers. :)

It looks like I'm gonna be glued to all new news on this series. :)

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Saturday, February 5, 2022

The High WindowThe High Window by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Damn, what fine prose.

Sometimes funny, mostly wry and sarcastic, this noir really ought to be on the top of any fan list. So much of our modern UF series takes all its cue from books like this.

The racism angle is hardly at play here, considering that this came out in 1942, instead focusing on the murder and mystery and the missing rare coin.

Why read it? Because of the damn prose. It's sharp, light, gritty, and you have this feeling like it might, at any point, sucker-punch you or cover you with kisses. Or in this case, make you queasy with the kind of learned helplessness that comes with victims of long abuse.

Frankly, I would have been perfectly a-OK if Marlowe did a bit of murder, but what really surprised me was the kind of subtlety and decision that went on in these pages.

And oddly, I had the impression that Marlowe was pulling a Poirot by the end. At least, that was the impression. It almost fooled me, too. :)

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It Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in HistoryIt Ended Badly: Thirteen of the Worst Breakups in History by Jennifer Wright
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Happy pre-Valentine's day!

To celebrate, we read ... THIS! :)

It's perfect fodder for all you peeps out there who want examples of relationships that turned out so much worse than your own.

I'd LIKE to say that it perfectly captures the true spirit of human stupidity and obsession, too, but it's 2022 and that's a total hold my beer moment that makes just about everything else pale in comparison.

Nero's burning Rome over a dead lover? I suspect the California wildfires were set to Lady Gaga's Bad Romance. Don't you wonder what THAT story was all about?

Lord Byron's romance read like Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Trump might have been inspired by Norman Mailer. And the others are just as fun/wicked/ugly.

Definitely worth the read. You know, to make yourself feel better. :)

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Friday, February 4, 2022

Treachery's Tools (Imager Portfolio, #10)Treachery's Tools by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Solid continuation of a later Solidar in the middle of a social/political decline. Pretty interesting when it comes to the history, especially since we already read the founding and the other time directly preceding this.

If you read Modesitt, you know his quality is pretty solid across all his books. It's always comfortable and predictable, but it's still COMFORTING for all that.

Even if it seems like most of these plots are reused, it's still enjoyable. Facts.

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Thursday, February 3, 2022

Vampire World I: Blood Brothers (Necroscope, #6)Vampire World I: Blood Brothers by Brian Lumley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As you might surmise, the action takes place on a more fleshed-out vampire world adjacent to the Earth, the secret place where a few of the vampires slipped through and tormented humanity on this side in the previous books. We saw this world in some detail before, but this one goes all out.

Harry's secret sons have some of the Necroscope's powers on this other side and the whole book reads like a fantasy adventure. Vampire lords, the sun and star sides of the world, air battles, and grand subjugation everywhere.

Quite satisfying for what it is, and while it does have a slightly different flavor from the previous books, it really does need to be read in sequence.

Adventure time!

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Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Engaging the Enemy (Vatta's War, #3)Engaging the Enemy by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I would like to say I have no complaints about the series, I do, but definitely not for the overall arch of the tale. It's bold as brass space opera, trying to get enough resources and allies to fight a pirate fleet, dealing with others' incompetence, and squeaking by with your own verve.

In other words, this is a tale for a crowd of SF fans looking for that particular fighting flavor. Once more onto the open seas! Oh, wait, I mean, space lanes! :)

As for the small stuff -- and there is small stuff -- I got a little annoyed with the psych analysis and the puppy porn, but not so much that it ruined my enjoyment of the rest.

It's popcorn, after all. Sometimes a few kernels won't have popped.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Marque and Reprisal (Vatta's War, #2)Marque and Reprisal by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very enjoyable book -- assuming you know what you're hungry for.

For example, if you want a great continuation of a competence-porn space opera dealing with unexpected reversals (such as the loss of her family's trading empire), assassination attempts, money problems, and the need to do everything possible to fight a war with few resources out in space, then I'd say this would be exactly what the doctor would have ordered.

I mean, it has everything a young woman, a trading captain, would want. Handsome spies, mercs in need of work, and action, action, action. :)

Get your mind out of the gutter. This isn't that kind of SF. It's better.

And slowly, surely, this murderous captain that everyone seems to think is a true greenhorn will build that army she needs. If you're hungry for that, then I think you've come to the right place.

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