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Thursday, June 30, 2022

Brothers of the Wind (The Last King of Osten Ard #0.75)Brothers of the Wind by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Context, context, context. I loved this addition to the Tad Williams universe.

But first, I need to point out that it takes place a thousand years before the events in the first trilogy, when Ineluki, the then great and terrible Storm King, was merely a brave immortal warrior, who, with his ill-fated brother, destroy a great dragon in these pages.

What follows is a tragic tale, as told by an amazingly loyal Ocean-kin who would follow his master across the land to heal him from the burns of the dragon's blood, a pain that would remain forever and bring prophetic visions.

I personally love it for the main story, the desperate loyalty, the despair of happiness, and the loss of love, while following his ever-tortured master. *chef's kiss*

Even so, while the core story is so good, I can't quite decide whether it is as good as the context or whether the context catapults it. :) So good.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Heart of What Was Lost (The Last King of Osten Ard, #0.5)The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 6/29/22:

I'm reading through all the novels related to this world, just having finished the original huuuuge trilogy. This one takes place only six months after and gives us something really special: time in the wilds, fighting the Nords even after the war is effectively over. Because life and anger never really ends, not for mortals or immortals.

I really enjoyed the moral quandaries, the history, and the heart of what was lost. :)

Original Review:

I was somewhat skeptical about hopping into this one because it *appeared* to be a full-length novel masquerading as a bridge between Williams' original fantasy series and a later incarnation in the same world. I mean, it's nearly ten hours in audio, and yet it's only a #0.5 in reading order? Yikes. But then, that's Tad Williams for you. His books are HUGE. Small print, mondo page count. Yak-chokers. If a full novel can be considered nothing more than an *appetizer* in comparison, then it is what it is. Welcome to the land of the giants. :)


I'm so glad I read it. It's a great refresher after twenty-odd years since reading the original brick house. The Norns, the menfolk, the Duke, and all the different races of immortals are brought to life for us. It includes the history of the conflict, the smattering of the magics, the fundamental differences in culture, thought, and even their old history, the nature of their making... all of it came back to me. :)

So what else did we get? Oh, just an epic battle between the Duke and the immortals, mixing up our expectations and flipping everything on its head again. Our sympathies are meant to be challenged.

And already we have a grand defeat, an epic loss, a freaking cool setup, and expectations of much evil to come thanks to the fundamental misunderstanding between the races.

Does this sound like most fantasies? Hmmm. Possibly, at least a little, but Tad Williams has one great thing going for him.

Skill. Great writing. Careful attention to detail. Great characters. And EPIC blowouts. He's kinda go-to guy for this kind of thing. Most of us will agree. We've all been blown away at one point or another. And he's BACK. :) :)

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The Handmaid's Tale (The Handmaid's Tale, #1)The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is obviously a timely book.

Rather than being a dire warning of things to come, it has almost become a guidebook and a plan for the future, just like Idiocracy, but smarter and a lot more evil.

I originally read this back in the '80s and came back around to it for the horrible fact that reality is imitating fiction. Are we on the cusp of a total theocratic breakdown, a nightmare where it all crumbles because a handful of evil people impose their will upon everyone else?

I wish I was being hyperbolic. I wish I was being overblown. I wish I was standing on the side of the road with a sign that said, "The Time Is Nigh", but I'm not. It has happened and I'm full of rage.

Notes on the book, itself. I originally read it thinking that it was too slow and what I really wanted was the future historical footnotes at the end of the book. I was annoyed because it was all basically about dehumanization. I wanted more action.

I was a stupid kid. It takes time and experience to realize that the true horror, the true dystopia is the one that happens all around us. The dehumanization is here. It is now. It is in everything that makes us a little less. A little more depressed. Smaller, so as to be hurt less.

The only solution I can see, in the face of so much power and coercion, is to get angry and get smart.

Agreeing with the people who say, "Just wait, it'll get better," is the same as capitulation. It is the silence of good men (and women). It's not just happening to the people of Gilead. It's happening to all of us.

Don't let yourself get dehumanized. Not a single inch more. No More.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Winter's Heart (The Wheel of Time, #9)Winter's Heart by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This happens to be one of my oddly favorites out of all the middle WoT books because it has a payoff that can't be denied.

We've been seeing Rand and the whole damn world get harder, crazier, and bleaker all this time. I mean, seriously dark. That's kinda the thing with Winter's Heart. It's the heart of winter for everyone, trying to put pieces back together or just consolidate what they can even while the rest falls apart. While the Seanchan solidifying their hold and the Asha'man dying in madness is really bad, what I love most about this book is how it shows off the tiny glimmers of light and hope in stark contrast.

Min, Aviendha, and Elayne, for example. They were sooooo cute and funny. So was Rand. It really wouldn't have been such a great scene without the contrast. But with it? I was laughing my ass off.

And Matt? I can't tell you how happy I am to keep reading him. Being that deep in enemy territory, playing a long game, only to have all the dice stop rolling... again, I laughed my ass off. Probably even more than Rand's little party. And it kept coming. I looooove Tuon. And her little Toy. Muahahahahaha

But when it comes to all the hard as steel moments, a special note should be made for the one scene, at the end, where the REAL healing begins. It's easily one of the best OMG what the hell did I just read moments in the whole series and/or any book. The special effects are nothing compared to the Forsaken going, "Uhhhh, WUT? Oh, hell no..." or the extended implications of how they almost BROKE THE WORLD or what the living hell Nynaeve actually did -- or wove.

Anyway. I knew what was coming because I've read this before, but EVERY SINGLE TIME, I bounced on my chair and freaked the hell out.


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Sunday, June 26, 2022

To Green Angel Tower (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #3)To Green Angel Tower by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've finally returned to this fantastic fantasy land after thirty years and it is as I remember it: Vast epic fantasy that turns most of the old (old as of this book's first entry into the field) on its head. No dwarves or elves the way we might have seen them in Tolkein or any of the many sword & sorcery or D&D novels, but rich, deep worldbuilding that stays far away from overpowered magics or equally overpowered characters.

The first two books in this trilogy were immensely popular for the time, ushering forth the equally popular Game of Thrones and WoT novels that would come out a short time later, sharing a vast page count and depth, but it was the third book in Tad William's trilogy that makes it all worthwhile and complete. And it was published in TWO huge volumes for a total of approximately 1,100 pages.

To summarize is pointless, but I can broadly say that we have an epic war of two brothers for a kingdom, the oncoming storm of the Storm King with his undead army, and the culmination of the mystery and magic of the three magic swords (seemingly intelligent, inexorable) and the fates of broken or breaking magicians, immortals, and more.

But above all, we follow regular people, so totally out of their depth, as they desperately try to survive against such odds.

It's so satisfying. :) I'm so glad I came back to all this.

I've read the sequels and will be re-reading them, as well. So far, I'm pretty amazed and I appreciate it all more now than I did the first time. The writing is truly gorgeous and detailed. :)

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Thursday, June 23, 2022

The Path of Daggers (The Wheel of Time, #8)The Path of Daggers by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We're deep into the so-called slog in the series. And yet... and yet... I'm still having a blast.

Why? Because the Seanchan are here in full force and battle is upon all of Rand's uneasy allies. What better way to weed out the ones who would stab you in the back than to pit them against implacable, monstrous enemies?

So delicious. When the battle begins, it's endless, sickening brutality. And that's not just the battle, but using Saidin, as well. The taint overflows.

And it's not only destruction that we have to look forward to... but failure as well. This is one of the pure big-force wars in all the novels. The Wheel Weaves... and everyone must be woven into the big tapestry. No one sits out Tarmon Gai'don.

Other than that, I've been enjoying how Egwene is managing all her sitters, more than enjoying how Rand manages Lews, and I loved how the Sea Folk run ram-shod over everyone else.

The people I want to see most of -- ahem Matt -- are sadly at an all-time low.

But now I'm thinking of the next book in the series. I cannot WAIT. It holds a very special place in my heart. My Winter's Heart. :)

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Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Stone of Farewell (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #2)Stone of Farewell by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I definitely liked this book better the second time. I suppose it's just one of those things. It seems slow-going only because I kept expecting something else.

In point of fact, I loved the land of the Sidhe here, the hints and the worldbuilding, and the great, deep tragedy.

The epic part of this fantasy is not in the battles, although they are there, but in how the fantasy deeply diverges from the normal tropes. It swerves rather far from normal expectations and does it in a deep way. It's not surface level. The corruption of Osten Ard, the way we keep coming back to it with a truly surprising PoV, the Dragon (NOT an actual Dragon, mind you), really gives us a sense of how bad things are getting while the true storm brews in the background, threatening to overrun all the lands.

As I said in the previous book's review, these books are detail-rich, deeply grounded, and never overpowered. The same is true here. Simon is always out of his depth. He's such a sweet kid, trying so hard. I really like him. And I feel for him, too. Even though there was a lot more time spent with different characters, I really got into the Sidhe sections.

I still remember what happens in the next book, so this is pretty much the lull before the storm.

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Monday, June 20, 2022

Creatures of Light and DarknessCreatures of Light and Darkness by Roger Zelazny
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


It was years ago when I first devoured a whole slew of Zelazny's books shortly after reading Lord of Light, one of my all-time favorite SFs, and I may have read Creatures of Light and Darkness right after, cementing it as NOT AS GOOD AS the other in my head. I know. Silly. But understandable. Since then, having read so many other of his books, including the great Amber series, this book STILL continued to suffer being read after the other.

Fast forward decades later. I finally get around to re-reading the MFer and I'm suddenly thrilled and truly enjoying the hell out of it. After so many years and so much SF consumed, it's a real joy to read something so short, so light, and yet so vast as SF.

The God of Death and the God of Life got their avatars out into a far-future SF universe full of six alien races, evolving from a mystery and a man-hunt to a Hector vs Achilles all-out battle that destroys continents.

The funny part is the funny parts. Zelazny has a truly quirky personality. Between a priesthood that worships shoes to a future-reading priest reading his own entrails and bitching about his successor's ability to read his guts, there's so much to grin about.

It also has a real Stargate vibe.

Of course, this was published in 1969, so it's really the reverse. Stargate has a Zelazny vibe. :)

I'm thinking I'm going to go on something of a Zelazny re-binge soon. It's definitely worth it. Especially now. It was a brighter time then, and the humor is just about perfect.

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Sunday, June 19, 2022

Trouble with the Cursed (The Hollows, #16)Trouble with the Cursed by Kim Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sooooo satisfying.

Returning to this series is always like coming home. Jenks, of course, was great, but if I'm being totally honest, I'm all about seeing Rachel juggle Cincinnati politics. It's truly delicious.

Hoden takes a huge place in the story -- no spoilers -- but what really infuriates me is the demons. They know better! And this time they're even more annoying than the old vamps. After all that had been accomplished, with Rachel's help, no less! Uggghhhhh

This series has been so strong from the beginning, seemed to wrap up, then Harrison came back to it, wonderfully, and I can't thank her enough. And these? These new ones?

This particular book was sooooo good. :) I savor it. I revel in it. And the payoff was truly brilliant. :)

Am I fanboying? Yes, yes I am.

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Saturday, June 18, 2022

Toothiana: Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies (The Guardians, #3)Toothiana: Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies by William Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Reading with my girl.

She likes the series a lot. Her favorite bits are the introduction of the new MCs and the artwork. But overall, the stories are very exciting.

Me, I like them because my daughter gets so excited. When she reads the story to me, she gets into the characters and whenever E. Aster Bunnymund comes around, she begs me for chocolate. It's cute.

On another note, I definitely got some heavy Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom vibes in this book. Plus I kept thinking of the god, Ganesha, and the grand, epic adventures of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King. :)

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The Dragonbone Chair (Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, #1)The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a re-read.

Back during the 90s when I first got into Tad Williams for his SF, I thought it would have been great to read the fantasy that put him on the map. My first, second, and third impressions were all about how beautiful I found the language, how I loved the poetry -- in actual verse and structure -- and how it subverted my expectations.

What did I expect? Sword and sorcery, a longer kind of D&D novel. I wasn't really up on fantasy back then. I was an SF fan through and through. What did I actually get?

A sprawling, slow, immensely detailed fantasy world wholly grounded by a lowly scullion boy who isn't a child of destiny, getting caught up in a vast, long adventure. He doesn't become uber-powerful. He is gangly and weak but he takes up a task of knowledge, falling into a small group of scholars trying to unravel the mystery of three swords (perhaps cursed) and the coming of the Storm King.

The tale is so detailed, so grounded, and so realistic, even when we're immersed in this fantasy realm. This book in particular, with its sequels with their huge page counts, proved amazingly popular back in the late '80s and '90s. I think it's not too much of a stretch to say that they revolutionized the whole Fantasy genre toward a new kind of expectation.

Eight years later, GRRM's Game of Thrones, which closely resembles The Dragonbone Chair in grounded but lush detail, mimicked Tad William's success and because it was a bit more grim and unpredictable, it took off, cementing the new epic fantasy style in our minds.

And yet, after all these years, it needs saying.

Tad Williams deserves a great deal of praise for ushering in this style with its amazingly high page counts, its unusual choice of main characters, and its lyrical prose.

Yes, there are others who also did such as this, but I have to say Tad Williams is one of the very best. You might say his popularity made it possible for all those other huge doorstoppers by other authors to hit the market.

I'm looking at you, WoT, GoT, Malazan.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Quantum Time (Quantum, #3)Quantum Time by Douglas Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All building on what we had before in the previous books, this one moves from quantum bubbles and compressed spaces for vast travels across space and hops right toward Tau travel instead.

Yes, it's a time travel story. And it's pretty exciting, linear, and rather standard for the sub-genre. Future hopping, Authortorian Right future, spies, adventure, and escape. In other words, an action film. :)

It's easily the most smooth of all the novels but smooth doesn't always mean challenging. It was certainly pretty fun and I enjoyed how it built upon all the rest.

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The Lost World (Jurassic Park #2)The Lost World by Michael Crichton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I just had to do a re-read. Why? Because of peer pressure.

But is that bad? No! Not at all! Indeed, for a wonderful exposition of science stuff, almost Heinlein-esque adventure mixed with monster-flix ethos, it's just about perfect.

Booooom. Boooom.

Honestly tho, Malcolm is the linchpin of this novel. Without him, I probably wouldn't have cared that much. Everyone else is just overflowing with hubris.

Still a classic. It may not be as good as the first book, but the science was great and so was the action, so I don't really care.

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Monday, June 13, 2022

Quantum Void (Quantum, #2)Quantum Void by Douglas Phillips
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are only a random few SF books that treat quantum physics with any kind of serious thought, and virtually none of them (other than a very small handful) go out of their way to treat the actual effects as full-on story elements.

This one does and it combines big-to-small, small-to-big higher dimensional math as effects that our society can research and/or exploit with the help of quantum-AI alien species, quantum transposition in space, and other neat goodies.

I think it's wonderfully accessible Hard-SF and I love how wild the effects can get. No, this isn't on par with The Three-Body Problem or its sequels, but we're in the same ballpark.

Fascinating reading.

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Sunday, June 12, 2022

Quantum Space (Quantum, #1)Quantum Space by Douglas Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Very solid SF. And what I mean by that is this: it's based on real science, at least in the core fundamentals, and builds upon this to explore the oddities of quantum physics.

For more information, think about the Standard Model as applied to larger circumstances. From FERMI lab experiments to plain math, the most important feature is perhaps the extrapolations.

If one feature of reality tied to the tiniest dimension gets larger, the reverse is true. From a fiction standpoint, I love it. Macro reality gets small as micro gets large. And why not? It makes for great fiction especially when we've got mystery, the need to cross grand distances, have missing astronauts, and must deal with aliens.

Again, this is great solid SF with a fun, grounded basis. No complaints. :) I love any author that attempts to push the boundaries.

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Jurassic Park (Jurassic Park, #1)Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Circling back around for a re-read. I mean, it's only been about 30 years. WHY NOT? And now that we have the 18th movie in 185 million years, I thought it might be a good idea to re-ground myself in why life will always find a way...

You know, since humanity can't.

So, let's be honest here. It was always a book about how all our plans will always go awry and we're a breath away from kicking it with our ancestors.

I wonder if, in another 185 million years, someone is going to gene splice their way to bringing us back, to put us in a zoo, and then blithely carry out their own extinction event because we JUST SUCK THAT MUCH.

Oh, by the way, this was a really fun book, even now. :)

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Saturday, June 11, 2022

Within WithoutWithin Without by Jeff Noon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Frankly, Jeff Noon cannot be beat. When it comes to outright feats of the imagination, there are VERY few writers who can pull off a truly WEIRD, delightfully original, and thoroughly quasi-meta fiction with several hard-core levels. And he does it by writing a basic Noir mystery novel in some kind of 1960s.

It's really easy to read but it's insanely difficult to describe.

Jeff Noon somehow re-invents the fantasy genre while couching it within a mystery, throwing us into some VERY detailed and strict worldbuilding rules. (And each Nyquist adventure is in a completely different kind of reality that Nyquist has to figure out, just as we must.) It gets thoroughly wild.

In brief: we travel between the cities of Delirium and Escher. In Delirium, images of a person can be cut or they can escape. A movie star has his extra persona, his image, go missing. This is where Nyquist comes in.

The place is a paranoic dreamland and Nyquist starts hearing voices and falling under the spell of the city, and that's barely the beginning. People's whole identities are caught up in what's within them, the alter ego that sometimes comes out to play. The alters, themselves, are quite independent and rather literary. The alter that went missing is named Oberon. Nyquist's alter just happens to be a certain Gregor Samsa. And if you know who I mean, you can guess a LOT about what will happen here. And yes, it IS that wild.

And all the while, the many mysteries unfold. I cannot recommend these books enough. They're super smart, amazingly original, and freakishly glorious.

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Friday, June 10, 2022

On My Way to ParadiseOn My Way to Paradise by Dave Wolverton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well now. This was a particularly amazing find!

It's a book that ought to be read a lot more than it has.

I've read a number of Dave Wolverton's novels under his fantasy name of Dave Farland, the Runelord series, and I've also read one or two of Dave's Star Wars novels as well, but I had never even heard of his FIRST novel, a science fiction, that had nothing to do with any franchise. I daresay it might have just slipped my notice completely. I just happened to hear of this title randomly through a bunch of people who were talking about the best unknown SF novels they'd ever read.

And I was like... wait... I always jump on those. And wait... I know this author.

So how amazing was it? ... just wow. It sucked me right in with some amazing future Central America worldbuilding, a doctor getting roped in to help regrow this woman's hand in secrecy as she tempts him with some expensive hot tech, a cyberpunk mind cage for offloading from a body.

His life was so damn... peaceful. Getting up there in years, with a good friend, doing the best he can. And then it all goes to hell. I can tell you that this whole novel was a slow descent through hell. The title is extremely ironic.

Chimeras, off-world battle simulations, Japanese corporation worlds, Socialist republic takeovers, AIs, memory alteration, and the nature of good and evil... all of it is on the table, and the journey is absolutely heartbreaking.

I watched someone with such a good heart, such a good nature, get sucked into the world of endless death to become a freaking Samurai, only to claw his way out of it and back into peace again.

I'll just say this: anyone who loves great worldbuilding, deliciously horrific stories, massive amounts of Mil-SF, and heartbreak -- will love this novel. It's one of the best. Of its type (cyberpunk and/or MilSF, with tones of Blade Runner) or solid give-me-back-my-humanity SF.

This is a total Recommendation.

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Thursday, June 9, 2022

Lady February (Year of the Sword #2)Lady February by Dakota Krout
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I enjoyed the previous volume for its light satire of other LitRPG titles, this one was fully enjoyable as a regular LitRPG.

Twelve lands, twelve months locked off from each other, and one sword that has the full powers of Leap Day.

Yeah, yeah, weird, but the novel is much better in execution. :)

All in all, it's a cultivation series. In this case, it's the continued cultivation of his skills, overcoming all the challenges to finally take on the Big Bad, Lady February, and move forward one month/land to save them all.

Simple, fun, and a great snarky sword that continues to whip our MC into shape.

I never once got bored.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2022

A Crown of Swords (The Wheel of Time, #7)A Crown of Swords by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The wonderful re-read of the Wheel of Time series, book 7.

I've never really understood what people meant by "the slog" in this series, except in vague terms. Maybe when I read it the first time, I just wanted to get on with the good stuff. After a 5th read, I think ALL of it is the GOOD stuff.

The time in Ebou Dar, hunting for the Bowl of the Winds, seemed a bit of fluff until we got into the interesting Kin and Wavefinder arc. I laughed my ass off when the girls actually APOLOGIZED and THANKED Matt. His troubles with Queen Tylin were some of the funniest scenes in any of the books. Maybe. Or maybe not. It was really with this book that his character went from truly fascinating to "OMG it's a Matt chapter, I can't wait to see what happens next."

The bloody dice keep rolling in his head. :)

But this isn't all. I was deeply disturbed and fascinated by Cadsuane in Rand's chapters as well. Great to see her come back around from New Spring. Her warnings and her way of "helping" him are so damn ominous and this is coming right on the heels of Rand's time in the box. The timing couldn't be worse. Or better.

Freaking Ta'veren. I'm really getting into Rand and Min together. They're so damn WHOLESOME. Of course, we REALLY need that with all the blood and guts and darkfriends and nasty politics and the full-on invasion of the Seanchan. And let's not forget the Forsaken.

This series is serious comfort food for me. It's up there with Harry Potter, but for very different reasons. I think I'd prefer to take this series with me on a desert island and just keep re-reading it forever. I think that would be just fine.

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Sunday, June 5, 2022

Doomsday Clock, Part 2Doomsday Clock, Part 2 by Geoff Johns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All right, that definitely kicked some butt. The whole DC universe teaming up against two of the biggest badasses in DC. Doctor Manhattan as a big bad is something truly awesome to behold.

Did I really click with the Superman Theory? Either Superman Theory?

Eh, no. But as a symbol, he still works for me. All told, it's pretty damn awesome. So neat seeing Black Adam and Firestorm, among others. :)

Superman vs. Doctor Manhattan. Whew.

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Lord January (Year of the Sword #1)Lord January by Dakota Krout
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Okay, fat-asses! Here's your LitRPG coming to get you into shape! It's time to WORK OUT even though all those other cultivators are just stuffing face in your face.

Have you got a cursed intelligent sword Drill-Seargenting you into shape? No? Well, now you do! Hut, hut, hut...

Honestly, I've never been tortured so humorously. And the fact that this is a bonafide LitRPG that doubles as a satire for other LitRPGs just makes this a special kind of specialized fun.

It's light, weird, and funny. I'm not complaining. :)

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Doomsday Clock, Part 1Doomsday Clock, Part 1 by Geoff Johns
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely no complaints about this. It's fascinating and delightful. Watchmen crossing over into the rest of the DC world, with notable characters like Batman, Superman, and the Joker mixing it up with the disillusioned remains and remainders of Voight's little world-saving. It of course revolves around finding Doctor Manhattan after he skips to the usual DC universe.

I am reading this because I really wanted to see Superman mix it up with Doctor Manhattan, but that won't happen until I get to Vol 2.

In the meantime, I'm fascinated. :) I recently watched the Watchmen tv show that came out in the same year that this did, and while there ARE some similarities and borrowed ideas, they're both still very different. I don't mind. (But the TV show was brilliant.)

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Saturday, June 4, 2022

The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost, #1)The Unbroken by C.L. Clark
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This fantasy has all the earmarks of a colonial vs subjugated indigenous population novel -- plus magic.

I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the back and forth of shifting allegiances. The first part with the Sands, the band of fighters made up of the indigenous people but educated (and rather abused) by the colonizers seemed rather single-note for a while, but it really picked up after the female MC saved the princess, got the ear of her, and quickly got embroiled in some massive intrigue.

She could belong to and be genuinely loyal to her old troop, the empire, or the rebels equally.
This really kept the novel popping for me and the conflicts felt truly genuine and natural and tragic.

And then there was the magic, the basic needs of the empire, the reparations, and all the nicely twisted elements that come with colonizers and the colonized.

There is a nice balancing trick here and I'm quite happy with it. I'm looking forward to more.

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Friday, June 3, 2022

The Electric StateThe Electric State by Simon Stålenhag
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where Tales from the Loop was eerie and smooth and original, The Electric State oozes a barely concealed scream in a Western USA dystopia that's part Singularity and part Biological AI-human convergence nightmare. And with the artwork, the effortless brief storytelling, the total immersion in the normal, and the new-normal, it's way too easy to lose oneself in the book.

To say that I'm an utter fanboy of these is to not say enough at all.

This was absolutely gorgeous. Not just the artwork, but the storytelling. I cannot recommend it enough.

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The Grief of Stones  (The Cemeteries of Amalo, #2)The Grief of Stones by Katherine Addison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like The Goblin Emperor and The Witness for the Dead, the story is full of rich fantasy worldbuilding that serves the purpose of an extended Cozy Mystery.

That being said, if you like sedate, rich fantasy that handles the little things and almost entirely the little things -- until it gets to the one big thing -- then this is definitely gonna be your kind of book.

This one doesn't disappoint. Indeed, I may have really enjoyed the small stuff better than the one big mystery. That one was rather rough, emotionally, and seeing justice be done was rather pressing for me.

I get it. Having this bit of realism, no matter how horrible, is necessary for these kinds of books, but it does take away from the reality of escapism. My initial reaction was... "oh hell no, no, no, I read these kinds of books to escape the horrors of reality, not realize that there is no escape... anywhere."

But then I remembered the kind of racism and nastiness that was inherent in the first book and I knew it was all of a similar vein.

My only complaint is that I felt a certain lack of urgency and conflict, aside from the big one, but this IS still a Cozy Mystery.

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Thursday, June 2, 2022

Tales from the LoopTales from the Loop by Simon Stålenhag
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Extremely low-key but eerie and dark science fiction. So minimalist, and it makes us ask far more questions than we'll ever have answers to. It's an art book, mostly, but I got the biggest kick out of the text.

In actual fact, the tiny snippets of text are really short stories that seem to be a slice of coming-of-age-Sweedish life with a handful of experiences while growing up, but the matter-of-fact inclusions of electromagnetic floating machines, precisely balanced robotics, and an enormous super-collider beneath the island that keeps doing weird stuff like FOLDING SPACE AND TIME kinda makes this ominous as all hell.

But for those who grew up in the Eighties in the Loop, it was all pretty normal.

I could lose myself in this forever. I'm really surprised and pleased by this. There are SO many mysteries. :)

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King Bullet (Sandman Slim, #12)King Bullet by Richard Kadrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As endings go, this is far from the worst I've read. As stories go, I admit that there was a lot of relationship stuff going on here that I only half-cared about, more expecting some high-octane, big magic and/or bullets UF to blow out on.

As it was, the action, when it was action, was pretty damn awesome and I have no complaints. Mr. Slim is hardly as powerful as he used to be and this was an appropriate challenge. Or rather, this was a hold-on-by-the-skin-of-your-teeth challenge, and it wrapped practically everything up quite nicely.

The one perfectly positive thing I can say about this is that it lands the plane in a very satisfying way.

Maybe not satisfying if you wanted the UF to go on forever, mind you, but it was heroic and it was sad and almost everyone got their just desserts.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Master of the Revels (D.O.D.O. #2)Master of the Revels by Nicole Galland
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There are some pretty interesting things going on in this sequel. It continues the witches-are-time-travelers motif, of course, with different factions spending some time in modern times but a lot more in Elizabeth (and Jacobian) England. And when I mean England, I mean we spend a lot of time around Shakespeare and the whole milieu.

Unfortunately, a lot of this novel revolves around a lot of nothing much happening but if you're a fan of the times and a fan of Shakespeare, it does have its charms. The action does come on near the end, however, and that was worth it.

Is it as good as the first D.O.D.O? Honestly, not really, but I had a mixed reaction with that one, too.

It was, IMHO, firmly okay. I read it for the curiosity factor and kept reading for the Shakespeare.

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