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Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Man Who Corrupted EarthThe Man Who Corrupted Earth by G.C. Edmondson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Can an entire book be redeemed by the ending?

Alas, no, but the ending was pretty damn cool.

So, this relatively unknown SF from 1980 happened to cross my eye in a used section and I just had to grab it because of that damn title. I knew nothing, went in blind, and said, "why the hell not?"

The so/so: the whole entrepreneur stuff was steeped in its milieu, Arab money, angry old men upset about taxes, leveraging this and that to gamble on privatized space. It didn't really hold up for today, but it certainly tried. And if I read "sad Semetic eyes" one more time I might puke.

The fact that this part of the story was pretty neat at the very end when they have some leverage over all the government thieves doesn't really make up for the fact that I thought most of it could have been nixed. After all, we did have a few good astronauts in the Belt using some actual, real science for us readers. That was cool. Between doing calculations and bone density issues and basic survival stuff, I was having a great time.

Where things went from just okay to great was nearing the end when they make their big catch. No spoilers, but it was definitely worth it.

Of course, from my PoV, I was like... HEY! If a good 70% had been sped up to lead us to THIS bit, I think it would have made a great STARTING point. But no one asked me, and it's also a good 42 years too late anyway.

But alas, what do I expect? I randomized my read and didn't expect anything anyway. :)

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Osmo Unknown and the Eightpenny WoodsOsmo Unknown and the Eightpenny Woods by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes, Valente did it again. In quite the same vein as The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making with a very different story and worldbuilding, she still draws in so much mythology, such wonderful characters, and an adventure so beautiful and heartbreaking and so... CUTE that I'm honestly rather shocked.

I shouldn't be shocked. Truly. I've been a fan of Valente for so long that this should be second hat, this fanboying I do, but I'm still shocked.

It's a love story between a valley (where the humans live) and the forest (where the others live). The rules are simple, assuming you are taught them, and even if you aren't, the rules are still there. Is it fairyland? Yes, if you go by the mushrooms. But it's also Greek in the truly delightful Persephone tale.

And more, it's the characters, poor little Osmo, and his new, if unwilling, friends. It's the truly heartwarming/heartbreaking characters that I love the most. The writing, of course, is sooo damn good the way only Valente writes it, but the whole book is greater than the sum of its parts.

that is truly heartwarming/heartbreaking. I love them all. And my god... the twist... the book pulled off a wonderful kind of alchemy within itself and me. :)

Do I recommend?

Hell yes! :)

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Monday, May 30, 2022

Neverwhere (London Below, #1)Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a re-read for me.

Interestingly enough, I would absolutely classify this as an Urban Fantasy novel set in London. It being Gaiman, it has some great nasty characters, charmingly inept ones that grow, and women who know their minds.

More than that, however, is the rich magical world that thumps, scurries, and lives side-by-side but is still unseen by the rest of humanity.

I originally read it right after his original run of Sandman and I frankly expected something really big and deep, not a close-knit everyman adventure. However, it was quite fun if not up to my fresh, exacting standards for UF in general, plot-wise, but it IS fresh and deep and delightful.

It is a modern fantasy in all senses of the term, showing us an alternate, fantastical London that is far ahead of the modern UF curve. It may not be my favorite UF of the type, but it certainly deserves the right kind of praise. :)

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Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland, #1)The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 5/29/22:

This time with my 9-year-old daughter. I thought it would be a perfect match, with gorgeous writing, fantastic ideas, and a sweet-and-bittersweet core. And of course, fairyland.

In actual fact, she just thought it was okay. It had a few bright points. Sometimes it was kinda a chore for her to get through -- EXCEPT -- muahahaha -- when we got to the climax and after, when all those glorious little details started snapping together, it all changed.

Suddenly, the book came to utter life. The Marquess's motivation, the storm, the fight, the resolution, all of it became something much better and better BECAUSE of all those glorious details.

So the book was, actually, a huge hit. She's even bugging me to read the sequels, which really surprises me because it had to force her to get through the first. But that's hindsight for you. Once it DOES all come together brilliantly, it changes your perception of everything that came before. :)

Original Review:

This is easily one of the most delightful and magical YA titles I've ever read.

I know people do like to compare it to Alice in Wonderland, but in a lot of ways, it's better. There's more than a basketful of clever, more than a truckload of beautiful language, and a whole ocean of delight.

The darkness doesn't overwhelm and there are no overt or subtle religious messages. A lot happens, but it's friendship that carries the final day.

I'm going to be reading this to my daughter when she is a little older. I honestly think it surpasses Pullman and Gaiman and Carroll. It's so light and it tickles all my funny-bones.

And best of all, it leaves no aftertaste except for a pleasant glow. No saccharine. No pedantic moralizing. Just plain magic, trickery, adventure, and a twist of the tongue that makes me grin from ear to ear.

Valente is quickly becoming one of my most beloved authors. I knew I had to read everything after Radiance, and this just cements it. :)

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The Memory of Souls (A Chorus of Dragons, #3)The Memory of Souls by Jenn Lyons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The characters in the first two books were the strongest part of the read for me. However, this volume did not shine quite as brightly for me.

On the other hand, the expansion of the worldbuilding, the other races, the deep history, and the current enormous quest to finally shut down the biiiiiiig bad with or without the help of 8 gods, a race of immortals, and a bunch of do-it-yourself-demon kits, soul stealers, and a grand ritual, DID make this a rather interesting book.

Suffice it to say, while I was entertained through the main bulk, I was extremely enthusiastic by the end. It has one hell of an ending.

Am I very pleased that this series is still pretty strong, that it has many plots that don't follow the general epic fantasy template? Yes. Very much so.

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Friday, May 27, 2022

The Inimitable Jeeves (Jeeves, #2)The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In my final estimation, this is a very niche kind of novel. A hundred years old, it most definitely spoke to the people of that time, but humor is a fickle thing. I do like a lot of BBC humor and it frankly matriculated on Jeeves, but even if I can point out all the fine and good absurdist satire in this work, it still didn't quite make *ME* laugh.

Some of the romantic snafus made me smile. Some of Jeeve's underhanded cruelty might have evoked a nasty appreciation, but all in all, it was hard to feel any kind of connection with these higher-upper-crust snobs even when I turned my imagination up to level 10.

The best I can say is that I don't regret reading it, that it was very light entertainment, but I got neither deep satisfaction nor guffaws out of it. Alas.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Name of All Things (A Chorus of Dragons, #2)The Name of All Things by Jenn Lyons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This sequel is better than the first in several ways, but I should mention that I really enjoyed the way the reveals kept dropping and kept us guessing in the first.

This one, however, moves us into Janel's storyline and has a delightful setup of actually Telling the story within the story in a way that tickled many of my clever narrative fancies. The asides and commentaries were great.

That being said, it's a delightful turn. And there are dragons galore. The good kind. Immortal, magical, and in some cases, way too crafty and cruel. But there's always a reason. Or fourteen. I'm a big fan of old heroes living long enough to be the villains.

This is solid, rich, and fun. I definitely recommend it for you epic fantasy readers who have been missing the good stuff for far too long.

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Monday, May 23, 2022

The Ruin of Kings (A Chorus of Dragons, #1)The Ruin of Kings by Jenn Lyons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very pleasant surprise.

I fully expected a modern epic fantasy, but what I hoped for, based on a few recommendations, was something closer to the feel and complexity of, say, WoT or Name of the Wind, with characters I could love on the same level. I'm happy to say that while I'm not AS invested in these characters, I'm pretty close.

So much happens. I think it was wonderful.

There's no good way to describe this because it is rich with characters and worldbuilding, but I can say, with utter pleasure, that there are immortals, gods, dragons, demons, the afterlife, and enough corrupt politics and seedy empire shit to thrill a certain kind of reader.

I mean those readers who love huge, complicated tales that begin at the lowest rung and have enough reveals and twists to keep you spinning like a top only to wind up AT the top, looking down, and freaking out because while it may appear that it seems like a standard plot, the journey is far from it.

So, again, I have to underscore the fact that I think this is pretty damn wonderful. I had a great time and it wasn't just pure popcorn. It had real meat to it. And I really hated some of these people, too. Their deaths were very satisfying.

I can't wait to keep reading on!

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Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Scourge  (Eden's Gate #7)The Scourge by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm still enjoying this endless adventure. We spend a lot of time behind enemy orc lines and getting that good ole leveling progression and I love it all.

Mind you, I don't read this for edification. I read it for pure popcorn pleasure. And since old RPG games are a pleasure, you can count on the fact that I'm eating popcorn.

Boom. Lots of boom. Sneaking around, taking care of orc babies, lots of extra booming, and disrupting the entire Scourage is all what this is about.

I can and have spent countless hours enjoying these LitRPG novels. I thought I'd look down on them, but they do seem to be a guilty pleasure. Some are better than others, of course, but this is solid.

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Friday, May 20, 2022

The Ascent  (Eden's Gate #6)The Ascent by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let's get that path of the mage underway for real, Gunner.

Yes, well, this LitRPG is more of the same. If you've been liking the adventure before, you'll like it now. Slow progressions, bigger stakes, and we even have a save-the-princess trope.


All joking aside, it's still fun and mindless, too. :)

(That's a good thing when you want a mood-lifter.)

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The Omen (Eden's Gate #5)The Omen by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Add a bunch of fun but standard quest objectives to some spooky death and destruction prophecies, mix it together with LitRPG goodness, and it won't scream original.

But then, all LitRPG stuff is literally riffing off generations of RPG games that literally ripped off fantasies who ripped off myths, so I really can't be bothered to care whether any of this is original. All I care about is whether I'm invested enough in the character that I want to see him level up after many brutal sessions and quests. I also want to see him get strong with his kitty. So that being said, BRING IT ALL ON.

Still having fun. That's what matters. :)

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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Secondhand Souls (Grim Reaper, #2)Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I don't think this was quite as funny as the first book, A Dirty Job, I did still have a lot of fun with it.

Charlie is still around, folks. Kinda around. I mean, when he doesn't have a boner, he's around. Later on, that little problem gets fixed. And in the meantime, he's not doing his REAL job. You know, collecting souls that get sucked up into objects. That little negligence will never come to bite him in the ass... no. Definitely not.

I had a good time. I'm totally down for reading all his works, now.

And for those of you who know what I mean, I definitely think that method of suicide prevention has a lot of promise.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Contact Harvest (Halo, #5)Contact Harvest by Joseph Staten
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Honestly, I just didn't get into it. I was bored. I played the games and the one where we're actually ON Harvest was about 40 times more exciting than this book.

Other people might get more mileage out of it, of course. I missed the slow reveals and worldbuilding, the truly fascinating characters. Sadly, this was just pretty much a long, long sequence of jarheads doing jarhead things. It's pretty much all that I hate about MilSF. All Milspeak, go go go, little characterization, less worldbuilding. For those of you who like that kind of thing, I welcome you to it. For uberfans of the series, maybe this ticks your completionist boxes.

Me? I prefer well-rounded fiction with a little (or a lot) of everything.

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A Dirty Job (Grim Reaper, #1)A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This happened to be exactly what I needed. This is a humorous fantasy that combines neato horror elements in all the most absurd ways.

Everyman Charlie, together with his cute-as-a-button baby girl, thinks he's the personification of Death.

Of course, the big, funny, spoilery bit that is the wonderful cover of this book should not be overlooked. That's what's really funny about all this. The poor guy is just not up to the job. And then there are the hellhounds.

The tweaks, the auto-insults, the truly absurd situations, people, and monsters he gets involved with are all topped with some of the best constantly-coming zingers that I've read in years.

I know that humor is a very subjective thing, but this one constantly builds and builds upon itself. It starts out smirkworthy, but as it keeps adding to itself, I was boiled alive in laughter.

Yes, this is my first Christopher Moore. I can't believe I've never tried him before. I'm SO glad I have. These days need a great dose of funny.

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Monday, May 16, 2022

ElektraElektra by Jennifer Saint
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was looking forward to this because I've read the Sophocles and am familiar with the whole Freudian aspect from within Psychology and frankly, it was just nicely MESSED up as a tragedy.

So why didn't I fall in love with this particular book?

It was competent enough, and as I was reading it, at least through the halfway point, I kept thinking it was OKAY, assiduously so, but something was bothering me. The women who are left behind are literally left behind the biggest, most exciting battle of Greek antiquity. Troy. For over a decade. All the action takes place elsewhere, and all we have to go on here is a tragedy before papa goes off to lead the army of the Greeks, the tragedy caused by the same jerk, and we're pretty much stuck in the heads of those who were left behind.

Mind you, this is a messed up tragedy that even gets the furies involved, but most of that is AFTER the war is won.

In this, it's mostly a whimper and daddy worship and mommy hating her husband and taking a lover and then going "Oh, My" when crap hits the fan. And then we have some of the OTHER more memorable female characters from across Greece, on the other side of the war, to give a counterpoint, but it's weird and hardly necessary at all except to bring in the action that has been so missing from the primary tale.

So here I am, wondering what the hell is the point. Except for a sequence that could have been finished in a hundred pages, all the exciting stuff is off-page and I frankly kinda hated every single character in the book.

It's kinda sad, but it's true. Pity can only take me so far. A good tragedy should also make us CARE about the victims. The original play was better.

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Sunday, May 15, 2022

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

Re-read 5-15/22:

Still as strong as I remember. Maybe slightly more so, considering what I know will happen later. :)

One piece at a time, right?

Original Review:

This is one of those rare series that only seems to get stronger the further you get. If I'm completely honest with myself, I think it might be a function of my previous investment, but it doesn't feel that way.

So, Verus is still sliding, but the hints of a possibly heroic character change is still on the table, even if he hasn't quite picked it up. I don't think it really counts that he's only being heroic for those that he considers his friends, but at least he's doing it even when said friend is being an asshat.

I like Anne. I didn't really like her back in book 3, but she's really grown on me through this book. It helps to actually know her history, I suppose, and the fact this novel is all really about her and Verus makes it super easy.

These books are a delight to read mainly because they go down as smooth as silk, the magic is fascinating, and the characters equally so. Evil is complicated, as is good, but more than anything, these novels devote a lot of space to asking some rather hard questions about human nature. They're not just forgettable entertainment, anymore.

So who's hidden? Our dark side.

Gotta love it.

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Empress of EternityEmpress of Eternity by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm aiming for a 3.5 for this one, rounded down.

So here's what I like: all the references to the Aesir and the rainbow bridge, as done as a pure SF and not comic-booky. I also liked the idea of three different time periods eventually converging.

But ideas don't make the entire novel, unfortunately. Exploring the 2000-mile-long unbreakable canal on a far-future Earth SHOULD have been a bit more interesting, all told, and it's only as good as the characters who explore them. In this case, I may not have been very interested in any character. And that sucks. I found myself going to lunch and dinner dates in the book and began to wonder if that was what this book was really all about and shook my head.

Okay then. The book was okay and it had a pretty fun end but it could have been better.

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Saturday, May 14, 2022

Lord of Chaos (The Wheel of Time, #6)Lord of Chaos by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every time I read this book, and this is the fourth time now, I read it with a very careful eye for what will soon come. All the foreshadowing, the testing, the threat of the Aes Sedai, the posturing, I keep DREADING what will come. Hell, all the things that happened in book 5 were making me think of what would happen in book 6.

What am I going on about? Just this: the character progressions. The events that would reshape the world. The sheer f**king arrogance of so many people.

What really destroyed me were all the sweet, awesomely wholesome moments with Min as she pursued a happy but clueless Rand. This kind of thing, along with all the other kinds of arrogant women pursuing him for other reasons, just destroyed me. Because I knew. I knew what was coming next -- and what will come next after this book.

Trust. What a horrible thing to lose.

Oh, all this is about Rand. I have PLENTY to say about all the other characters, too, but mostly I'm just impressed with Egwene, annoyed with Nynaeve, laughing my ass off about everything Matt steps in, and feeling sorry for Perrin in that head-spinning marriage of his. But I'll leave it at that. Egwene had some very satisfying scenes and development, especially as a spoilery status bit I won't mention, but all-in-all, I think this book was mostly about Rand's development.

Did I laugh and cry and whoop and feel very violent at Dumai Wells? Yes. A thousand times yes. It is one of those fantasy battles that still sit higher than almost any that I've ever read. I'm still shaking after the end of it. Yes. A book gave me PTSD. Or close enough.

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Thursday, May 12, 2022

PlaybackPlayback by Raymond Chandler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, the final Chandler novel. Not quite as lyrically abusive as the others, I must say. The others were gorgeous and grotesque.

This one... felt like a goodbye of sorts. And maybe that was for the best, considering that it was his last.

Still, it was a decent mystery and had some good bits. I mean, it was still a Chandler, and I think I'll always be a Chandler fan, now. :)

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Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Emergence (The Corporation Wars, #3)Emergence by Ken MacLeod
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Like the first two novels in this trilogy, I wanted to like it more than I did.

I tend to give books like these the benefit of the doubt. Why? Because as long as the idea stage is strong, then at least there's something to hold onto when either the characters or the plot derails a bit.

In this case, it's really a novel about fascists dressed up in capitalist clothing. The corporation wars themselves are really just uploaded minds in robot waldos and AIs fighting over caches of resources. And since the old humans, making it so far into the future, tend to carry a lot of their old, old baggage, it's all kinda messed up.

War ensues, some characters held up okay, others were just nasty to behold, and by the time the action gets going, I didn't really care for anyone in particular except, maybe, the colonized folk-AI. I mean, seriously. Damn capitalistic colonizers are always damn jerks, right?

That being said, the novel is fine. Not brilliant, but okay.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Poodle SpringsPoodle Springs by Robert B. Parker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This little gem of a posthumous mystery with the classic man who will always be himself, Marlowe, was bittersweet -- maybe a bit more sweet -- Noir novel. At least, it was sweeter than one would expect out of one of these.

Marlowe got married to a rich woman, you know. But that kind of life doesn't sit too well with him even if he loves her. Enter a cast of dames and broads, bigamists and protective daddies, and a bunch of bastard cops that would prefer to bust chops and chins over listening to a guy.

In other words, it's pretty much standard for this kind of novel. There were a couple of good lines but mostly this novel rode off the formula and the kind of love we have for the man.

Not bad but not briliant.

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Insurgence (The Corporation Wars, #2)Insurgence by Ken MacLeod
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So. While I do enjoy a 1k year into the future hop where digital minds are taken out of storage to fight in robot drone bodies amongst a dystopian AI corporation hellscape, I found that I liked the IDEA of this novel more than the actual execution.

Too much padding, perhaps. And when it comes to the actual war, it was kinda fuddled and lacking an extended plot that might have grabbed me. It's similar to an Iain M. Banks or a Neal Asher in the idea bits, but this one just didn't kick as those had.

That being said, it's still a fairly interesting look at a post-singularity (without actually being a singularity) future SF.

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Monday, May 9, 2022

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1)A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

What can I say? I loved the first half, was meh about the second?

Here's the deal: the first half spoke to me on a very deep personal level. It was basically written for INFPs like me. I was there, there, there the entire time. As long as the journey a solo one, I was pretty much entirely delighted.

I SHOULD have liked the friendship between the titular monk and robot. It was slow, introspective, and should have given me a tidbit or two of hard-won wisdom or whatnot, but to be honest, I was bored. Hey look what I can teach you, blah, blah, don't we have some unique perspectives, blah, blah and while I SHOULD have been all over that like a fly on shit, I wasn't.

It could have been just me at this point in my life, of course, and maybe the so-called wisdom might actually help someone out there, but it wasn't me. I've read too much. Maybe it was weaksauce. Mileage may vary.

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Ghosts of Onyx (Halo, #4)Ghosts of Onyx by Eric S. Nylund
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was never one to buy into franchise SF writing although I've been known to pick up a book or fourteen here and there. I just always considered original stories by authors to be *better*.

Has this changed after reading Halo book 4? No. But I will admit that I do have a fondness for the shared worldbuilding team effort, and the care that was put into broadening the history, locations, and cast. The writing is fine and the action is VERY much a MilSF dream.


Spartans are doing what Sparta did. Continuing the cycle of abuse for a Grand Cause and now there's a new generation of modded humans in power armor. The broken are thrown out, as usual.

Almost everything else is action, action, action. Pew pew.

If that's what you like, then this is definitely a primo book for you. Me, I like plot objectives to be more than military objectives, but that's just me. It isn't BAD. If you're a fan of the video game or any of the other franchise opportunities, I'm sure you'll like this one.

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Sunday, May 8, 2022

The Arena (Eden's Gate #4)The Arena by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly, unlike most of the reviewers for this book, I'm not at all unhappy with this tale.

It ISN'T a tale for the ages.

It is, however, a pretty standard LitRPG fare with tricksy thieves, tricksy nobles, and foolish PCs. The fun part is, as always, in the journey, the leveling up, the stupid decisions, and how we get out of the problem.

The groanworthy part is, of course, the drug addiction bit. My eyes did roll a bit. But sometimes we need stupid characters to do stupid things and since this is a LitRPG with respawning fun built right in, it's not like the consequences are forever. For me, however, I was looking at the costs in both gold and on his psyche and I was like... damn.

I'll just say it again, the rest of the book was fun, an easy devour.

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Saturday, May 7, 2022

The Sands (Eden's Gate #3)The Sands by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's something about LitRPG that just soothes the hell out of me. Light adventure, the joy of leveling, the hijinks of storytelling and reversals, and above all, LOOT. It's just so comforting.

And sitting at about level 15, stretching one's wings, getting enslaved, running around with murderers... well, it's all fun in the game. Right? Right?

Well... yeah. It is. Especially when you can turn around and betray the hell out of them or other PvP types. :)

Solid. Fun.

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Ready Player Two (Ready Player One, #2)Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I come to this sequel with a trepidatious heart because so many people who were big fans of the first book came away hugely disappointed with the second. I even postponed my read because I didn't want a downer in my life.

I think, maybe, I should have just listened to myself. Just judge the book on its own merits.

If I had, I'd probably have been surprised by how much fun I had. Yes, fun. I mean, seriously, the titles are riffs on COMPUTER GAME STUFF. Should we be at all surprised if both books read like computer games within computer games, from the VR rigs to the virtual worlds to the society that is so bummed out that it feels like the only way out is through escapism? Seriously? So, YEAH, I get my full-on LitRPG vibes from one of the first to do LitRPG well and it's a bit more vast than the standard LitRPG fare. Plus, it has all the 80's nostalgia you might expect from RPO even if it's not quite as fun as the first.

So, here's the nitty-gritty. I didn't like the choice of going back to all the John Hughes movies when there are still many other great things in the '80s he COULD have gone back to. It wasn't horrible by a long shot, however. When he went the way of Prince, I was pretty much eeeeeehhhhhh until the final battle and that was freaking awesome so I gave it a pass for sheer goofy weirdness. When we went to the First Age of Arda, for all us Tolkien fans, I was TOTALLY DOWN FOR THIS RIDE and I totally geeked out when we got to play as Beren and Luthien. It's not even all that '80s and I didn't care. It was cool.

As for Wade, the character, he was the same dipshit he was in the first book. Money just makes a jerk MORE of a jerk. I wasn't surprised by anything he did and no one reading this ought to be, either. That's not the point. The point is we get to play games and have huge stakes and it lives up to that hype.

So, was there anything else I had an issue with?

Well, yeah, there was, but it's not like it's a deal-breaker. It just means it was more of the usual. Fans of the genre will know what I mean if I mention .Hack or Sword Art Online. Just add a little H.A.L. or the girl from the Umbrella Corp and a 12 hour or die quest and I've basically summed up the book.

Did I mention it isn't a deal-breaker? Just because it's using an old plot theme that has been done a million times and is absolutely cliche in LitRPG now doesn't mean it isn't fun. It absolutely is. Originality is not the end-game, here.

Nostalgia is.

And it succeeds on this level.

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Friday, May 6, 2022

The Sparrow (Eden's Gate #2)The Sparrow by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

LitRPG goodness. You either know and love it or you don't.

In my case, this is a pretty faithful representation of the Elder Scrolls worldbuilding, letting us enjoy a quite varied and random skillset whenever we like. It's all good.

The second book is interesting because we get to do a little Riften action with the Nightingales. Or rather, Sparrow. :) I loved the storylines there and here.

Not high literature by any stretch, it's still very enjoyable for us little niche creatures. :)

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Thursday, May 5, 2022

The Magic MountainThe Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

*slow blink*


If I were to shower the author with all the proper accolades, I'd moan over the other good literature with the full expectation that this work, as many other reviewers have noted, was also something special.

Indeed, I cracked it open, wanting to turn this into a monumental -- whatever -- that was brimming with ideas and a vast mountainous slowness of a vast cosmic bubble that simultaneously satirized and soothed the pre-WWI European soul.

But I was left cold.

Indeed, not for the whole of it, though. I enjoyed the beginning mostly because of the slow setup and the idea that I, as well as the MC, were about to be put in a cold pot and slowly boiled alive. It was all there. It's a sanitorium for the rich or at least the comfortably independent, suckering all the poor souls into a life-long visit banking on histrionics, genuine illnesses, hypochondriacs, and deep ennui.

But at least it's in the mountains. And it's isolated. And the doctor really cares for you. And it's not like that's the entire novel, either. We have a truly introverted mindset and a kind of wish-fulfillment and a wandering stream of ideas that feed off of all those other insular ideas until they all create a huge ball of low-key insanity that even sane people, in their winking and playing along, eventually fall.

I wanted to like this more. I really did. But at a certain point, it was like I was reading a novel that highlighted all the old people I've ever known who could never talk about anything but their ailments and their tight little bundle of a life that never, ever got pierced by the outside.

Sure, it sounds like pre-WWI Europe and its growing insanity, but it feels very much like the low-grade fever dreams that it described, too, in glorious detail. I was frankly bored by the mediocrity of the people and their little obsessions and even for someone who is really into big worldbuilding sessions in fantasy and SF, I could barely recognize these people's humanity. Yes, the worldbuilding in Magic Mountain was too unbelievable.

Silly me, I know it USED to be, but trying to convince me, in my heart of hearts, is tantamount to believing I can fly if I WISH it hard enough.

So, I call this a failure of my imagination. Now, I better got take my temperature for the fourth time today.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Seasonal Fears (Alchemical Journeys, #2)Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really should say that I love this at the same level I loved Middlegame, the previous book. I should say that, but I may be a Summer Child. Seasonal Fears might outdo the other in my heart.

The sharp characterizations, the deeply mythological feel, the worldbuilding (including the children's books by Baker (also McGuire)), and the freakishly delicious tale all wrap me up in a warm, warm blanket of goodness and kept me excited from the first to the last page.

Mel and Harry were SO DELIGHTFUL. Their love story was not only uncomplicated and pure and trusting and heartbreaking -- it was also extremely heartwarming. I don't see many books with two kids who are this pure and courageous and devoted to one another.

Some people might think that would make for a boring book, but McGuire kills it. After all, she really knows how to torture her characters. Fire and Ice, baby. Fire and Ice. And on top of that, I'm a sucker for road trip books. Add the good, easy stuff together, add a little scale that might recall what happened in Middlegame, and know that in this game, everyone dies... and I just lose it. I lost it. I kept tearing up and freaking out and I was invested enough for three books.

So yeah. I may love this book. Never a dull moment and even though it was really rough on me, I loved seeing these wholesome kids do their thing.

*** oh yeah, and we do say hi to a few friends ***

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Monday, May 2, 2022

The Reborn (Eden's Gate #1)The Reborn by Edward Brody
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm tolerant of most LitRPG books because they almost always let me roll about in the RPG adventure stuff like a dog rolls in leaves. It smells great, it's fun, and it's super comfortable.

This one is no different. The best parts are the adventuresome parts, leveling up, killing baddies, the loot, and even the far-off hope that this boy will find his girlfriend across a wide, wide electronic realm.

The other bits never sit right with me -- the bits that try to tie these massive virtual realms to the Earth in any significant way. This particular SF tie-in was a bit bad. Not bad as in I can't read this anymore, but as bad as it shouldn't have tried to explain anything at all kind of bad. The handwavium would have been just fine. The whole idea that a senator could have the power to convince the whole world to turn off all these devices, ne, ALL devices across the world, or that the loss of computational power wouldn't have been felt right away in the game is absurd. lol

If I ignore the real-world stuff, however, the book was fun. :) Early days, low-level adventures.

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Sunday, May 1, 2022

The Fires of Heaven (The Wheel of Time, #5)The Fires of Heaven by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There's really not much to say that isn't a gushing OMG about the whole worldbuilding of the WoT series at this point.

And since I've read some of these books multiple times and love them even more every time I do, it's not hard to guess my reaction to the text, the foreshadowing of the text, or the anticipation of even MORE tragedy to come.

I tear up when thinking about everything now. That's how invested I am. Rand? Yes. Moraine? Yes. Aviendha? Yes. Nynaeve? Yes.

MATT? Yes.

Even the lesser sections with Luca are fun. The dreaming is often hilarious. But when a collar gets involved? PRECIOUS.

But Rand? He's crazy. A wool-herding wetlander thinking he's got a 3000-year-old madman in his head lamenting for all the family he's killed, 24/7, while dancing around with a Weave-destroying time-reversing laser gun not caring who gets killed even while he thinks about everyone who's already been killed? He's NUTS. An enraged baby with a bazooka.

Still, reading this book makes me pause, big time. The expansive story keeps getting bigger and I keep getting more invested in it. It's almost like I'm going a bit mad, myself.

Not as mad as I'll get later, mind you, but Rand is a rather bad influence on me. It's almost like I've got the Machin Shin inside me. *shiver*

LOVING this.

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