Mailing List

Thursday, March 31, 2022

The Shadow Rising (The Wheel of Time, #4)The Shadow Rising by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one here is one of my favorites of the entire series. This is where we see some actual real growth in the many primary characters as they set off on their own, or semi-alone, and where the wheel weaves what it weaves.

Case in point: Matt. Those damn questions. That damn luck. And then the damn Price. I was laughing with glee to see it all happen once again. The beginning of his ultimate fate, the craziness, and the gifts.

Rand was also a lot more fun this time around, too. In wanting to get ahead of the battles, he accepted his destiny and ran headlong into it, nearly breaking the weave of fate in doing so. And then there was the utterly hilarious cultural snafu among the Aiel and the glorious romantic comedy herein. I laughed and I cried because I knew very well where this was headed and Rand was SO FREAKING CLUELESS.

Perrin also comes into his own in a very big way. I love the return home but hate what had happened there. I keep thinking of Pippin and Merry when they return to the Shire, but BIGGER, here. And remembering how big this will get in later books, this was special to me.

The hunt for the Black Ajah was not quite as fun as reading about the boys this time around, but the later development in the book more than made up for it. I mean, seriously. I'm still shaking my head in amazement.

Yes. This was SO FUN. Of course, it's my 5th read or so, so it's not like any of it is a surprise, but I LOVE getting to visit it again and freak out about what it all MEANS.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 28, 2022

Soulstream (Rise to Omniscience, #10)Soulstream by Aaron Oster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, how does it feel to be a god?

Well, if you played a certain kind of video game, you'd know. Or you could read this and get all the goodies of being Superman and the pinnacle of a mage all rolled into one PLUS a godhood post.

Nonstop action, massive battles, tons of goodies. It's pure fan service and I'm satisfied. I'll keep reading more by this author.

LitRPG may not be for everyone, but for those of us who like it, it's the bomb.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Serpentlord (Rise to Omniscience, #9)Serpentlord by Aaron Oster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sometimes, there are days where I really wish I could take DragonBall Z or a couple of the Final Fantasy games near the end of their awesomely cataclysmic final world-destroying battles, or Superman’s fights with truly big bads, and convert them into long novels designed to give us nothing but battle. Continent-crushing, soul-burning, Spirit-Bomb absolute destruction.

And then someone like Oster gives me my heart’s desire. :)

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Sunscorch (Rise to Omniscience, #8)Sunscorch by Aaron Oster
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is where we're getting some serious LitRPG payoff. So powerful that Morgan becomes an actual God. Fortunately, there are lots of gods out to snuff him and there's plenty of future clean-up action after we take out the massive World Beast.

Reality-shifting, continent-crushing, death-defying omniscience ahead.

And we also get the low-level stuff too, or RELATIVELY low-level stuff on the side.

I can't say which I like more, so I'll just say I'm really into this. Big action, big magic, epic-epic quests, and it's all fairly light-hearted.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Sandqueen (Rise to Omniscience, #7)Sandqueen by Aaron Oster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Consistent quality LitRPG that doesn't fail to keep me ensnared.

We've recently been switching off between Grace and Morgan, a newb supermage and a nearly godlike monster of a supermage and picking off sub-quest character-enhancing monsters to get even more OP. Of course, the baddies are of equivalent power-up. To worldbreakers now. This is totally predictable but fun, nonetheless.

I'm hardly expecting anything more than mindless fun and that's what I'm getting. :)

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Silverspear (Rise to Omniscience, #6)Silverspear by Aaron Oster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now, to be fair, MOST LitRPGs are single-minded in purpose. You get your levels, you dominate the playing field, maybe get on the verge of death, and you get yourself back up again. The rest is pretty much gravy.

So what happens when you become a quasi-god? You either train the young to be like you or you go off on a conveniently MORE impressive quest than ever before with a whole nation of super-mages that have been gaslit to treat your whole race as a mortal enemy.

Or you could do both because you're an idiot.

So. Overconfidence and battle-lust wins the day.

It still makes for a pretty fun read. :)

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Stormforge (Rise to Omniscience, #5)Stormforge by Aaron Oster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really just more of the same, only Morgan has put some of his mental issues to bed, the Gods are no longer much of an issue, but the world-destroying Pinnacle Beasts are still an issue. Indeed, the first one is quite a nasty, life-devouring SoB that just gobbles whole kingdoms without much issue.

Needing help, the crew is totally on the defensive, it's time to go the diplomacy route. From here, with lots of fun battles, we get a showdown with said Pinnacle Beast. :)

It's totally predictable but totally fun. :)

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Solarspire (Rise to Omniscience, #4)Solarspire by Aaron Oster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What can I say? I can confidently announce that I have fallen into a comfortable and rewarding grind in the reading of this.

I feel like I'm leveling with Morgan and Sarah. I'm getting more powerful with every page.

My timers are shortening, my skin is getting tougher, and now I am able to kill gods.

Lol, I'm reminded of a novelization of some of the best game mechanics of Final Fantasy XIV with huge special effects mixed with solo or dual gameplay mechanics. We just got to the point of lifting the level 5o cap and now the sky's the limit. All the beasties are more powerful and it's a race to omniscience.

Oh, and I definitely have an Invincible vibe going on here.

Fun stuff!

View all my reviews
Skyflare (Rise to Omniscience, #3)Skyflare by Aaron Oster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm having more fun with these books now than I had in the first two. It's odd tho. Usually, I have a lot more fun in the low-level battles but now that we're above level 50 in this LitRPG, but I'm seeing a lot more potential in these god-like powers and overstory than most others.

POWER. So Much Power. Muahahahahaha

Of course, there's always someone more powerful, right? muahahahaha what if you're the biggest beast of all?

Yep. I'm having fun. It's a simple fun, but it's still fun.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 18, 2022

Starbreak (Rise to Omniscience, #2)Starbreak by Aaron Oster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

LitRPG speed run.

I'll admit something. I read things like this because it reminds me exactly of playing endless amounts of RPG games. Everything else is secondary. Yes, that means even character development or basic STORY takes second place to the RPG feel. I just want the setup, the low-level battles and leveling, the breakthroughs and massive reveals about where the PC might be going, and the rush to get there before the world ends.

That's it. I want the GRIND.

Fortunately, this series has been doing that perfectly well. Early 20's for level. A few new massive powerups. :)

As an added bonus, we get the requisite character flaw like altered memory and emotional responses, a lure to return to normal with the help of some gods, and the massive suspicion that EVERYONE is using him for their own ends. *shrug*

I'm on his side. I'm also just there for the leveling grind. :)

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Coral Reefs Up Close: Explore and Protect the Natural Wonders of the SeaCoral Reefs Up Close: Explore and Protect the Natural Wonders of the Sea by Erin T. Spencer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Obviously meant for younger readers, this comic that ought to delight and edify us about the wonders of coral reefs KINDA does its job.

I mean, a little more than half of it does just that. Descriptions, names, okay art, and a little bit of the wonder. It was OKAY. I mean, it's meant for young readers. I remember stuff like this in my own elementary library.

So why aren't I just giving this a bit more love under the explicit reason that it is what it is?

Because more than a third of it turned on its heels and put the focus back on "everyday" folks who are killing all the coral or using too much water in their suburban homes and PLEASE don't forget to write letters to your politicians.

In other words, it snatches away any kind of WONDER you might have felt and attempts to GUILT you instead.

Let's be real for a moment. Real change comes from the top. Big corporations and governments are more than complicit in trashing the reefs. Most of the weak media we get about the destruction is a PR shift to blame the ignorant public for the deaths when it's actually the corporations' and governments' fault. Want less trash? Completely alter the way that foodstuffs and packaging are handled. Don't make products that poison the world. Don't HAND all the poison to everyone and expect them to miraculously find some way to make that poison disappear. JUST PREVENT IT ALTOGETHER.

What I wanted from this book was to be instilled with awe and wonder for the coral reefs, to understand and FEEL why they ought to be saved, viscerally, emotionally, and visually. An eight-year-old isn't going to have the ability to solve the other, systemic problem, so why are you trying so hard to blame them or have them blame their parents? The true blame lies ELSEWHERE.

View all my reviews
A Terrible Fall of AngelsA Terrible Fall of Angels by Laurell K. Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm of two minds on this. Let me break down this review into both A: I'm very familiar with everything LKH has written and I'm comparing this to that and B: let's just objectively rate this book based on nothing more than itself.

A: It's not a sexcapade! Yay! It's full of supernatural stuff, police procedural stuff, and some really cool nasties that fall in the category of both Angels and Demons. In my humble opinion, LKH has always done these things very well. The sexcapade stuff was often a take it or leave it kind of thing until it became almost everything and left all the wonderful supernatural, police procedural, and cool nasties to flounder in the dirt.

Does this stack up with the other delightful snark and cute plushy early Anita? No. It has a lot it has to introduce and isn't as sharply focused as that series. Indeed, there's a lot of worldbuilding and changes of pace going on here that may or may not annoy some people. I personally enjoyed the new, wide stage. A school of angel speakers, all other kinds of magic practitioners, all uneasily adapted to the modern world but fully integrated for all that. I like it. The only real kind of subtext here is not about free love or anything but about MENTAL HEALTH. To me, that's pretty damn refreshing and welcome. We're all a bunch of crazies or live with crazies and then there's also the people who really do suffer from honest tragedies and they are treated with RESPECT. I love that.

B: Taking the book on its own merits, or at least comparing it to the general UF field, I have to admit that it begins fairly strong, quickly becomes a muddled mess until we finally get some character building, history, and a sense of who Havlock is, but after that, I had no problem with his meeting up with his old schoolmates in odd circumstances. It made me invested in the book more than the first half which was just police procedural without us having been broken in.

That isn't to say it was a particularly bad UF. It could have been more streamlined, maybe a different better order of introduction, but I was perfectly happy to roll with the whole book because I still have faith in the author's ability to pull off some interesting things.

And the angels ARE interesting. Think actual bible descriptions and not these weirdos with wings except when they're forcing themselves into good behavior. And they really don't have much free will. It's an interesting dynamic.

Putting all of it together, I have to say I'm NOT as invested as I want to be but I AM invested enough to continue on with the series and write this one off as a solid introduction.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Taken (Alex Verus, #3)Taken by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Re-Read 3/16/22:

It's interesting to see intros to characters we'll see much more of, later. Especially a certain life-mage. And Luna's learning to battle is a real treat.

Still enjoying the re-read. :)

Original Review:

Solid read that's building on the precognition premise, this time revolving around missing mage apprentices from both the light and dark camps. All are taken without a trace.

What can go wrong?

Well, for starters, Alex can pick up a few stragglers who might just want to go just as independent as he, for one. And we can do it all in the middle of a mage tournament he would never have considered attending, if he hadn't been forced to do it for the investigation.

Oh, and Luna is getting beast. Gotta love girls with bullwhips.

I think I'm gonna like these new characters. Or at least, I'm going to like Ms. Life Mage. Quite a few beasts in the book. I'm looking forward to the kinds of plots twists this is going to bring us.

Fortunately, Mr. Jacka knows how to set them up and knock them down. Quick and enjoyable reads, all of them.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Suicide Kings (Eric Carter #7)Suicide Kings by Stephen Blackmoore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This new volume of the Eric Carter series picks up well after the nastiness of killing a few gods and waking up in his grandfather's corpse. These are little things that should never get in the way of a good, down-to-earth Noir mystery.

Indeed, getting to know this little nasty family makes me feel downright sorry for Carter. They're all seriously messed up.

Suffice to say, I enjoyed the tournament battles and infiltrating to the conclave and Eric as he attempted to work through his own extensive issues while keeping himself busy on all the rest.

Either we can call this an interlude between the big stuff or it's a firm re-establishment of the core of the Noir. I enjoy both, so I'm happy.

View all my reviews
The Kaiju Preservation SocietyThe Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was all kinds of wonderful and just plain fun. And I mean Fun in the way that a Gojira named Bella is fun while a bunch of lilliputians tries to get Edward, another Gojira, to mate with the previously mentioned Bella.

Yes. It's THAT kind of novel.
Plus it's full of snark, great quips, sweet SF references, and fun, better-than-Jurassic Park adventures. With parasites. And nuclear slime. And dollar-bro douchebags.

This was a snappy, delightful book that ought to get a Hugo for this year but probably won't even get a nomination because -- whatever. Either way, it's awesome.

And as a final note, I really want to give out a quick shout-out to all you guys who lift things for a living.

You rock. I hope you get a job like this.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 14, 2022

AriadneAriadne by Jennifer Saint
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm always pretty receptive to myth retellings, be they feminist (by far the most common these days) or otherwise. This particular one is written well and explores a lot of the human condition and mental illness and just plain bad choices in regards to how mortals deal with heroes and gods.

Ariadne, the sister to the Minotaur, falls head over heels for Theseus, the prick, and helps conspire to kill her own brother. She does suffer for it. She doesn't suffer for her actual crime, of course, except incidentally and through her trust in a jerk, and for that reason, this retelling of the Greek myth is very true to form. Fate plays a big part. As it does with all the cast of characters, including Ariadne's sister and her own tale with Theseus.

It's good. The whole book is good. Not brilliant, but still entertaining.

Now, here's my issue:

It's not about this particular writer, but more about the trend of these modern retellings. The minotaur was a symbol in the originals. In this one, he was just a flat note of a nothing-burger. A means to an end and rather pathetic and unimportant.

In the grand scheme of myth, however, the iconography is pretty wild and interesting. There's a thing called the Great Ages that switch over approximately every two thousand years. We're currently close to or in the Age of Aquarius, leaving the Age of Pisces (the fish, of peace), and before that, it was the Age of Taurus, the bull. And before that, it was Gemini, the twins. Gilgamesh was all about the twins, and so were all the great gods of Sumeria and Egypt. Male/Female, entwined as one.

The thing is, the Age of Taurus was a time of endless wars and strife, be it in the meaning or in history. At the end of the age, at about the time of this particular myth, there was the whole idea of the killing of the bull. The religion of Mithraism was surrounded by the iconography of killing the bull god to usher in a new time of peace (Pisces). When Christianity was taking off, for hundreds of years, its major competitor was Mithraism. The ideas were fundamentally the same. There was the whole imagery of the Fish with Jesus, too, if you're familiar with it. Out with the old age, in with the new.

So here we are, with the Minotaur, the bull-man, with a rich, rich tradition in the Mystery religions, and Theseus going in like a bargain-rate murderer/Jesus to kill the old Age of endless wars, and so many people back then would have KNOWN about this. And yet, to us, it's mostly lost or a complete nothing-burger.

Let's not forget Ariadne, herself. The root of her name means Most-Holy. She later marries Dyonisis, the god of wine who also happens to be able to resurrect the dead. See any comparisons to another religion? lol

She's a granddaughter to Zeus on her father's side and a granddaughter to Helios (of the sun) on her mother's side. While there is some detail with this, none of the implications are explored. Certainly not the Mystery Religions. And that's a real shame. This kind of thing could have made a decent novel into a truly excellent one without ever needing to lose even a tad of that good ole Feminist Flavor.

But that's just me, I guess.

View all my reviews
Supermage (Rise to Omniscience, #1)Supermage by Aaron Oster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So far, so good. Set in a modern-like dystopia and feeling a bit like My Hero Academia, almost everyone has powers to one degree or another. The best part is that you can also level them up.

Two different classes are available. Mages and Super-powers. And in a few rare cases, a combination of super-power and mage. Hence, Supermage. :)

If you think this is absurdly powerful, then you're right. What would it be like to have Superman with Constantine's powers?

Just be prepared for the concussions. :)

This book is in the early days. A little break-in for the powers and going to school to train them up. It's quite fun. LitRPG all the way.

View all my reviews

Sunday, March 13, 2022

The Practice EffectThe Practice Effect by David Brin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back when I was a wee kid and I was getting my hands on as many SF books as I could, I came across this wonderful author named David Brin who took the 80's by storm and won a few Hugos and Locus awards and I devoured everything of his that I could get my hands on. I was a major fanboy.

Well, it turns out I still am. This is, despite the fact that I originally kinda dismissed this particular book as one of his lesser novels with a somewhat meh execution with a cool-as-hell idea as a foundation. It took me this long to re-read it to see if I still felt the same way.

So. I came to a little realization: I'm a dickhead.

Not only was this still as awesome on the idea front, but it's also wild, self-consistent, thoroughly fun, and quite funny.

It came out in '84 and pretty much coincides with the idea of leveling up in the gaming world. Excluding living things, the practice effect is pretty simple. The more you use a tool, the more effective it gets. A pair of worn-out boots will eventually keep getting better until they perfect themselves. The same goes for any kind of tool.

Enter in an actual scientist (btw, Brin is an actual Astrophysicist) who soon discovers that he's stuck in this new world with altered laws that appear to be anti-entropic, and have an adventure that gets steadily more wild when you consider that ANY tool you "practice" with becomes more impressive with use. The better your starting materials, the better the effect.

I laughed myself silly with the kinds of Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court antics we eventually go through.

This is SO much better than I remember. Consider, though, I had read Brin's Startide Rising, Uplift War, and Earth before this, so I thought I was just comparing like to like.

In actual effect, however, I really should have been comparing this to some of the very best SF out there. Yes, it reads like an SF that behaves like a Fantasy novel, but it's subversive even in that way. The Fantasy eventually gets dressed up as an SF novel that then flips itself again, becoming a HARD SF novel.

In the final analysis, it would work REALLY well as a favorite modern SF novel published TODAY, genre-bending and making us have a wild-ass time all the way through.

This one should not be forgotten.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Minor MageMinor Mage by T. Kingfisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a perfect example of middle-grade YA fantasy that doesn't step out of any bounds, doesn't devolve into a mary-sue story, and might very well appeal to any kid thrown into any task well above his or her ability.

Of course, the task must be done and that's the whole purpose of this simple journey, this simple coming of age story.

Fortunately, for how light and sweet and straightforward it is, it's also a very easy read.

This might be fine for little ones who are scared easily or adults who are scared easily or who just want to sit back and relax with something that is very much uncomplicated. We all have our go-to tales. Who knows? Maybe this one is yours.

View all my reviews
The Suicide Motor ClubThe Suicide Motor Club by Christopher Buehlman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Late-sixties, monstrous vampires, and muscle cars. Everything has a kind of purity in this horror.

This has some mystery, more revenge, and a lot of questioning of one's spiritual mores. But really, it's a great dark look at open-road, burning rubber vampires with a great talent at mesmerism.

Basically, it's a great premise and a good long stint in a now-distant time. :) Yeah, sorry Boomers. Those are the dark ages now. :)

For everyone else who wants an anachronistic setting for a different breed of vampire that doesn't sparkle or shine blades, just drive a beefy car and snatch kids and young women, then this is definitely for you. And if you're all for the revenge aspect, I'm sure you're gonna like this, too.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 11, 2022

True Smithing II (True Smithing #2)True Smithing II by Jared Mandani
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While this did seem like it would be a great follow-up to the first True Smithing book, there was a remarkable lack of actual smithing going on, alas, and I wasn't all that interested in the whole "shutting down the hyper-realistic game world" storyline.

Unfortunately, that took up most of the story, removing the more focused crafting aspects that I loved so much from the first.

To be honest, I wasn't expecting THAT much. I wanted my LitRPG fix. Specifically, I wanted to see some massive leveling up from crafting. My expectations didn't match what I wanted from the book so it's entirely about me being fickle.

It's fine, otherwise, and if you wanted a different kind of fantasy/SF. Light fun, some logic worldbuilding errors, but I never expected much out of LitRPG. I just want to have fun and feel like I'm gaming. :)

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 10, 2022

True Smithing (True Smithing #1)True Smithing by Jared Mandani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yet another LitRPG that had me grinning from ear to ear throughout the entire read. I had sooo much fun.


SMITHING, my dear friend.

Take all the endless joy of breaking Skyrim with your master craftsmanship, combine it with a real-life smithing master who joins a game that allows him to get tons more experience by doing all real work the hard way in the true-to-life simulation, and we've got a massively broken character. He doesn't even fight except a handful of times. His skills and his loves are all about the craft and I can't care less that his main foe is almost comic-book in flavor.

I just looooved all the talk about armor pieces, metal composition, the advantages and disadvantages of certain design schematics, and even a little skewering of game design in general. It was all in good fun and I was right there for it.

Yes, there was some leveling up, too, but in reality, this was a true power-leveling adventure. Electing to do all the work yourself in the simulation is a REAL game-breaker if you've got the chops. :)

Ah, pure fantasy, distilled wish-fulfillment fantasy.

View all my reviews
AdiamanteAdiamante by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are more than a handful of SF novels that tackle the moral and practical idea of conservatism, ecological or otherwise, that need a little love from us readers.

In this particular case, it's clothed in a very solid space-opera skin, peopled with realistic characters mired in their own worldviews, and each insists that they are entirely in the right.

Of course, we're also dealing with post-cyberpunk civilizations 10k years after an interstellar war, with a fleet of super-strong battleships returning to what is left of Old Earth.

The moral, ecological, cultural clashes are handled extremely well. It's also a freaking great tragedy from the very start.

Communication failures, worldview failures, even logic failures dominate this text, and yet that is entirely the point. All of us can successfully argue our worldviews and be fully, logically consistent, and yet be utterly WRONG.

I've always enjoyed L.E. Modesitt Jr.'s even-keeled fantasy, his focus on balance and reason. Apparently, his SF shares many of the same qualities and proves, at least to me, that we are all SF authors of our own demise.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Escape from Yokai LandEscape from Yokai Land by Charles Stross
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really, really needed this.

YES. Bob is Back. Mr. Eater of Souls. In Japan.


Okay, honestly, I'm still laughing my ass off with this short story. The cuteness factor is at level 10. AND SO IS THE EVIL.

No spoilers. But this is exactly what I've been missing in my life. Thank you, thank you, Charlie!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Jews Don't CountJews Don't Count by David Baddiel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very sharp critique of modern wokeness right here.

Oh? What? You mean this is a Right-Wing diatribe and anyone caught reading it is an absolute anti-semite?

Lol, no. Let's break it down directly.

This is a criticism of all identity politics that include all manner of every minority, whether racial or identity, that seems to forget that one little group is always left out: Jews.

And David Baddiel writes a sharp, fact-based essay that demonstrates, without a doubt in my mind (also because I've been observing the growing shitstorm for years) that anti-semitism IS on the rise and Jews DO need protection. They are not a "protected" minority. The handful of rich does not unilaterally represent the entire population. And yet, the assumption is still as strong as hell that they're all Fagans and masters of the worldwide shadow cabal, that they are, as a whole, responsible for all bad things in our world, or that they suck the blood of infants or whatever other stupid bullshit keeps being said about them all the way from the middle ages, through the atrocities of the 20th century, or now.

Here's the thing: Jews ARE left out of almost every conversation about racism or identity politics, especially when it comes to the rising tide of violence and hate crimes being perpetrated against them. And this goes way beyond the Holocaust Deniers, although they are a massive symptom of the miasma, or BS about George Soros (strawman for Jewish hate just because he's rich), or the unspoken (and sometimes spoken) assumption that JEWS JUST DON'T COUNT AS PEOPLE.

Truly. This essay is worth reading. It should be an eye-opener. Just because some people are perceived as being better off, socially, doesn't protect them from hate crimes or assholes talking about Jewish Space Lasers. In fact, they are set aside as unworthy of help even more than ever. Being Jewish doesn't mean you're an Israelite, for example. And normal people from any country OUGHT to be treated decency and civility, as a human right. Unfortunately, this is not the case and it is getting worse.

I don't say this because I'm Jewish. As a matter of fact, I'm not. I don't say this because I subscribe to any particular creed at all, politically, ideologically, or whatnot. I just believe that injustice should not stand.

This is injustice and a turning of a blind eye to something that none of us with beating hearts should EVER allow to happen. We should never allow ANY subset of humanity to fall into a sub-human category. Period.

Let's not forget history. Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This is f**king atrocious.

View all my reviews
The Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish FamilyThe Warburgs: The Twentieth-Century Odyssey of a Remarkable Jewish Family by Ron Chernow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Two things.

There's a lot of good info in this biography of the Warburgs. Lots of interesting people. Aby and Eric and even Siegfried are the real standouts for me, from the establishment of philanthropy and libraries all the way to the skullduggery during the Third Reich and the dissolution of the banking empire.

It's literally rich with details and countless people. In a way, assuming that you like endless sprawling extended dynasties, this is a perfect book.

But the other thing:

It's a hot mess the way it's written.

It's almost as if it's a garbage soup of writing, with very few threads to keep the narrative cohesive. It succeeds in being pretty damn comprehensive, but when it comes to the sheer enjoyment of narrative, it's lacking. Big time. I found myself wandering in and out of caring about so many of the happenings, latching on to big events like WWI or the Great Depression or WWII and the times when some of the more interesting family members step up and do something. But the other times were... well... it's a huge doorstopper of a book and I kept checking the time and the remaining pages.

Even so, there were some excellent chapters. The atrocities of the Third Reich, for example.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 7, 2022

The Dragon Reborn (The Wheel of Time, #3)The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Great Re-Read of the WoT (for me) continues!

Well, since this was my fifth time reading this book, I kinda rather knew what to expect, but I think I tend to enjoy it all the more because of it. So many details. So many characters. So much foreshadowing!

And so much abuse for Matt! I mean, come on. The poor trickster DOES pour most of it on himself, true, but he has a heart of pure gold. I can't believe how those women treat him. After all that he did?? Oh, woe...

I was laughing my ass off about poor Perrin, too. Faile, the love of his life, really MANAGES him thoroughly, right from the very start. And of course, the conflict inside him, always shifting back and forth between destruction and creation, of the Axe and the Hammer, is really starting strong here.

Rand? Yeah, well, I laughed my butt off about the rash of marriages but he kinda became a cardboard cutout. A force of nature that everything else, the weave of the world, snarled around. No big deal, really, because the women all had a huge role in this book and I never felt the dearth. Egwene, Nynaeve, Elayne, and even our fateful introduction to Aviendha made up for that.

Ah, to have future history while reliving the early bits again... there's nothing quite like it. :)

Suffice to say, I'm having a grand ole time. I'm coming home to one of my top favorite series and it holds up. It holds up extremely well. The Dragon is Reborn! :)

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Thor: God of Thunder, Volume 1: The God ButcherThor: God of Thunder, Volume 1: The God Butcher by Jason Aaron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an impressive Marvel comic. Both the art and the story are a notch above most. The story is epic, spanning 14 billion years and a bit more central to Thor's own timeline as a young godling, a mature heroic Thor, and a much, much older old man Thor.

In other words, it's ambitious as hell.

And really gelling everything together is an enemy, Gor the God Butcher, that is prolifically successful and nastily effective across all worlds in the realm, taking out all gods.

It may be a simple premise -- but suffice to say, the execution is fantastic. Word choice intentional.

I admit I've never read a Thor comic before, but if this is representative, I'm blown away by the scale and creativity. It shows a side that's rather more impressive than what I've seen in the movies.:)

View all my reviews
Renegade's Magic (Soldier Son, #3)Renegade's Magic by Robin Hobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to hate this trilogy. I really do. There's so much that's wrong with it, how it doesn't follow the conventions or expectations of regular modern epic fantasy, but here's the thing: it doesn't follow either the classic fantasy tropes OR the modern awesome ones.

It takes its own path.

It doesn't fear to torture us or our main character. It takes us on a path that has a dual road, always caught between two major paths that just can't be reconciled.

And that's the thing. There's no easy or pithy deus ex machina even WITH a damn crow god that loves balance. It takes us to the wringer and cranks us through it with our hero and gives us NO happy ending for either side of the conflict. Neither the indigenous people nor the invaders get what they want.

It's real to life, unfortunately. And that's kinda the reason why I'm unexpectedly in love with this series, for all its difficult parts. I think of this more like a genuine exploration of the human condition, its psyche while piercing us with its hard gaze. Maybe it's a bit closer to a true literary skewering than a happy, fun fantasy.

I'm rather shocked, disturbed, and impressed. I should be annoyed and disgusted. But I'm not.

Maybe that's more impressive than a long line of carbon-copy fantasy, no?

View all my reviews

Friday, March 4, 2022

Bad Bunny (The Heroic Bunny Saga #2)Bad Bunny by Richard J. Hansen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think I'll call these two books LitRPG lite. It has the setting down but there's no solid rule-based progression except as a hint -- and to me, this is kinda the core of LitRPG.

Of course, I began reading these with exactly one thing in mind: an extremely low-level dungeon mob gaining consciousness and power to eventually lord it over all other players or non-player-characters in a glorious free-for-all. As a bunny. And in my mind, I think of Monty Python. So there's that.

What we have is a pretty standard low-level progression that just manages to get through leaving the home dungeon and defeating a low-level dungeon, solo, and bandits. While all of this is still pretty cool and fully expected, the end is both extremely abrupt and unsatisfying.

And it's not even something like an ignoble death or being brought back into the monster fold or anything like that. It's a cliffhanger that leaves absolutely nothing resolved at all. You know, like 80% resolved, 20% cliffhanger kind of stuff? None of that. It's more 90% unresolved, 10% random adventure resolved. Alas.

Solution? We need a lot more. Or at least subsume this character arc into something bigger. But who knows? Maybe that will be the case.

View all my reviews

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Dungeon Bunny (The Heroic Bunny Saga #1)Dungeon Bunny by Richard J. Hansen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I admit I read this based on absolutely nothing more than a perverse need to see it happen. I mean. Come on. A LitRPG from the PoV of a bunny mob in a dungeon. Seriously. With level-ups and becoming powerful included in the package.


Okay. Maybe this is a fringe thing. But who cares. The whole idea is FUNNY.

But in practice?

Well, it's slow starting because our MC is an actual BUNNY. There was a bunch of hurdles just trying to learn language even as the cute little critter tried to learn a fireball spell. So perhaps there weren't as many normal LitRPG goodies as I would have liked. A little bit near the end, maybe, and the premise is still good, especially with the embued magic stuff that I won't spoil, but overall there's a lag, a mismatch -- no matter how much I WANT to like this.

Well, never mind! It seems to be a duology so what I'm looking for might be in the second half!

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Forest Mage (Soldier Son, #2)Forest Mage by Robin Hobb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Boy, was this one a rough book to read.

I mean, it was never hard to read and I never once wanted to stop reading it but damn it was ROUGH on the main character.

I mean, this is book two in the trilogy so it wouldn't make any sense without the one before it, but I was getting used to the idea that because he had done the heroic thing, he'd get a tiny bit of recognition or benefits from the shamanistic deed.

Way to dash my hopes, Hobb! Indeed, he goes through a steadily declining hell, a curse that makes him steadily gain weight and he loses everything he ever loved because of it. Step by hellish step, the magic takes him over and there's nothing he can do about it. Heck, even the magic behaves like a monkey's paw when he DOES use it, so not only is he pretty much utterly shunned by everyone, he hurts even those who try their best for him.

Body horror? Check. Tragedy? Check. Dark magic? Check. A cruel destiny? Check.

This is a rough book to put yourself into. It's only the hope that there will be some kind of decent resolution that pushes me on toward the third book. I can only hope that accepting his fate will be the right way out. Whew.

View all my reviews