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Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Girl and the Moon (Book of the Ice, #3)The Girl and the Moon by Mark Lawrence
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This third and final volume of Book of the Ice is a continuation of Mark Lawrence's Book of the Ancestor series, full of references that I only get mildly because I had only read the first book in that trilogy. HOWEVER, the sisters are in full swing in this volume.

Good? Good. That being said, and ignoring the food worship bits, I think this book was full of some really neat ideas and some great adventure that includes, but is never limited to, some classic SF tropes.

If you want some real genre details, here you go: (view spoiler)

Did I enjoy it? Yes, of course. It might have been my mood, but there was a bit more normal stuff in this, filler-type stuff, than I normally would have liked. But when it got right down to the big stuff, I was quite pleased. A good ending? (view spoiler)

It was fun for exactly what it was. :)

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EducatedEducated by Tara Westover
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm generally not one to read biographies all that much, but sometimes I get bullied or that little spark of curiosity overtakes me. This is a case of the latter.

I mean, education has always been very important to me. So much so that I've read nearly 6k books for the freaking hell of it. So when faced with an autobiography of someone who had never been to school until she was 17 and eventually made it all the way through Cambridge, I had to sit my ass down and read her story.

I mean, let's face it: most people who are stuck that deep in a poverty hole, forced to live in ignorance flavored by religious fanaticism clothed in survivalism and home-schooling, do NOT, generally, ever get out of these holes. It's not just the lack of resources, it's the lack of support from within.

So we get a story, here, of as much luck as strong will.

That being said, it IS a feel-good story but I also felt the despair that didn't so much hide beneath the words but sit on my chest and choke me around my neck. There's something evil about any kind of acceptance of long-term abuse. But the joy of having one's eyes opened to a wider world, of making new decisions because you can, was always tempered by the unenviable return to despair when one is forced to choose between family and a loss of ignorance.

I thoroughly enjoyed the account and empathized with it.

It's also a glowing endorsement of the old observation that schools breed liberals.
When education itself is radical and disruptive, then perhaps ignorance is the ultimate reactionary state. Any way of living that cannot withstand close scrutiny and comparison with anything else may not have the most sound foundation.

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Saturday, July 30, 2022

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the WorldA Boy and His Dog at the End of the World by C.A. Fletcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I came into this with a distinct feeling that I was gonna get a twist on Harlan Ellison’s A Boy and His Dog, since both are so close in title and they’re both dystopias.

Upon reading it, it is fairly close, too, as long as you blur your vision and focus on the outlines.

The good stuff is in the details, however, and there are no telepathic dogs.

What we DO have is a great little coming of age story that underscores the necessity of being KIND and TRUTHFUL even if you’re living in a post-disaster dystopia. Don’t lie and cheat others. Being good is a SURVIVAL trait.

And frankly, I LOVE this little message.

And since a lot of it was sprinkled with references to some wonderful SF classics between The Road and The Day of the Triffids and even A Canticle for Leibowitz (among others), it’s also a commentary on all of them. I LOVE that, too, and the direction it also took the message.

No spoilers, but the twist is quite enjoyable if not entirely necessary. The strength of this tale is in the journey, not the destination OR the way the journey is re-colored with the discovery. It’s dark, either way, but the positive message is a real joy to me.

I’m pleasantly surprised.

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Friday, July 29, 2022

The Dragon and the George (Dragon Knight, #1)The Dragon and the George by Gordon R. Dickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's an odd duck for you. Or rather, an odd Dragon. Or rather, an odd Knight.

Yes, it's a DRAGON that happens to be a chivalrous KNIGHT. Or rather, he would be if he wasn't really the mind of a regular English godfearing chap that got slipped into the body of an actual dragon, living in the times of Chivalry, where men were real men and women gave handkerchiefs and needed saving.

I think the idea is splendid. Especially if you WANT this kind of thing. But tales of Chivalry are kinda done these days. That doesn't mean that the book isn't fun. In this specific way, it is very well done and if you manage your expectations, it's pretty much perfect.

Me, I think it's fine. Nothing too special but it IS a bit quirky and cute.

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Thursday, July 28, 2022

UpgradeUpgrade by Blake Crouch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a solid Limitless-type outing. I'm a sucker for gene-editing improvement stories in general, so when I learned that Crouch was turning his hand to a completely different sub-genre of SF, I couldn't wait to see what he'd come up with.

I've already loved the creepy small town SF mystery, the multiverse cloning, and the time travel stuff. He's been stretching his wings each time, pulling out an old trope and just running with it, making it solid and very fun each time.

This one is no different. It's got that fun vibe written all over it.

But. While I think it's solid and fun, rolling around in some great genetics and chemistry terms as well as some other super brainy stuff while being, primarily, an action technothriller, I don't think it was anything more than a fun ride. It was good, not brilliant.

It was undoubtedly a product of Covid, with man-made viral vectors, mind you, and a hefty death count to go with the upgrades. I should mention that other than the whole upgrade bit, there was a great nod to an idea that Steven Kotler, Last Tango in Cyberspace, developed: a virus that enhances empathy. I just wanted to mention that because it IS something that should be mentioned, explored, and cherished. :)

If you want action and adventure in a brainy upgraded SF, Upgrade *will* be right up your alley.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2022

11/22/6311/22/63 by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 7/27/22:

I'll be a bit more specific this time about my feelings: The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

That little discovery is worth any price, and since we know this is not just a time-travel SF, but a side-trip to madness, despair, and darkness, we can also assume it's a horror. Our buddy Stephen King is also a master of a certain kind of character -- what's the term for someone who's terminally confidently correct? -- I can't think of it -- so I'll just say our MC Jake is an IDIOT.

A likable idiot, one who has nothing but good intentions, but an idiot nonetheless, and he just doesn't pick up on the little hints that the universe might be ratcheting down every time he goes back in time.

I think this is a novel of the Beam. Dark Tower reference. And the Crimson King is using every flaw to his advantage. My favorite references are to IT, and we even get to see some of the kids, talk with them a bit, but there was also Cujo, tons of the Dark Tower, itself, and a MASSIVE lean-in to Dead Zone and Talisman. If that isn't enough, Stevie makes wonderful nods to so much else, yet again proving that he's the master of easter eggs. And it's not just his own works, either. The musicians he nods to are equaled by the nods he gives other great authors. Salinger, Shirly Jackson, Bradbury, and even Gaiman.

The story itself is great, too. The side-quests, the attempt to be all these people's little guardian angel, are just as important as the BIG quest to stop Lee Harvey Oswald. And he just doesn't get it that when the past harmonizes, things go wrong. His own little descent into idiocy was truly delicious. It's like when we're in Jack Torrence's head in the Shining. You know he's not all there anymore, but you're still hoping he'll get it right.

Of course, it's still Stephen King.

A truly awesome novel, still.

Original Review:

I have a lot to say about this book, and I'm afraid that I'd be biased because I learned to read from this great author, but after many years and many of his books read, I'd be a damn fool to think Mr. King is anything but a fantastic writer on any number of levels.

It's impossible, or plain unfair, to pigeonhole him into any category. He turns a great sci-fi tale that is, in its way, a much more solid and beautiful example of the genre than I'm used to. It's just not often that a great idea novel can grow such memorable characters as Mr. King can spin. I found myself utterly flabbergasted by the beautiful use of foreshadowing, all done in a way that supported and perhaps even transcended the tension.

Of course, it could be child's play for any King fan to start going into the tie-ins between so many of his novels, including the middle world, the crimson king, and Flagg, but they're never overbearing. They all just tease. (None of these specifically show in this novel, by the way. I mention them because the *feel* of them is very present and sooo damn creepy.) What does show, as a nice form of nostalgia, was the characters from IT. An oblique reference to Black House. So many other little neat things tickled me repeatedly. All the while, I was thrown into the worlds and times without any problem and my interest never flagged. Great book.

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Monday, July 25, 2022

Dreadgod (Cradle, #11)Dreadgod by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm surprised that this series is NOT losing steam. Usually, by the upper overpowered levels, it's hard to keep us interested other than the occasional epic battle that destroys worlds or whatnot, gods dying or whatever, but this one walks that fine, fine line of always meeting challenges that are just a little too extreme for our main cast.

Dreadgods? As in, multiple? And our preening friend, revealed to be something a bit more than we thought he was, among still greater others?

(Yes, I'm keeping this vague, but damn... the scope is all kinds of perfect, and I was mightily amused.)

This LitRPG is quite delicious.

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Reaper (Cradle, #10)Reaper by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know when that big reveal isn't a huge reveal but is much, much bigger than expected and yet it satisfies oh so much?

Yeah. That one. We get that in this book. :)

I personally loved seeing the aftermath and re-build sequence after the big battle in the previous book, loved the new labyrinth even more, considering what it consisted of, and was properly enthralled by the monarchs.

But the end... yeah. The end really puts scale to it all. :)

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Sunday, July 24, 2022

Bloodline (Cradle, #9)Bloodline by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is definitely a satisfying installment. It wasn't long ago for me when I was reading the first book and this really has us go full circle again. Sage, indeed, returning home. Very impressive.

Of course, the whole dread god destroying his home puts a little damper on the already sad return, and these asshats don't deserve saving, but that's not the point.

I got a lot out of it and so did almost all of the characters we've grown to love. Big action. OP action. Payoff. :)

I can't believe there's more, but we've had the introduction to the true scope for a while now. Gods and many worlds, here we come!

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Saturday, July 23, 2022

Wintersteel (Cradle, #8)Wintersteel by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This one stepped up to the plate. The whole Underlord and Overlord and Heralds are just insane. Not to mention the Monarchs. Or the waking DreadLords. :)

I'm really loving this LitRPG series.

Yes, it's mostly just tournament stuff and even a bit of political/family stuff, trying to snag our little heroes into ties that truly bind, but it was the end and the huge action that was the real payoff.

Good stuff.

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Friday, July 22, 2022

Uncrowned (Cradle, #7)Uncrowned by Will Wight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not my favorite installment. It didn't feel quite as focused. Monarch tournament stuff DID seem like a good idea and there were cool spots in the novel, but it didn't grab me nearly as much as anything else that came before it.

At this point, I just want some god-slaying. :)

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Thursday, July 21, 2022

Holes (Holes, #1)Holes by Louis Sachar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here’s a cute little YA for you who love a little hard-luck, friendship-building, revenge stories.

I’m surprised I hadn’t read this before. I had heard about it. But here I am, a little late than never.

It’s worth the hype. Solid. I love to hate those guys. Getting away was the best part. :)

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Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Underlord (Cradle, #6)Underlord by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm still thrilled by this. It's pretty much picture-perfect LitRPG. At every step, we get new lands, new challenges, and in this case, an old-fashioned tournament... of true golds and underlords. That's... rather powerful. It's Goku-level stuff. And it's delicious.

It's a wild, fun ride and I can't wait to dig into the next.

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Hatchet (Brian's Saga, #1)Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was roped into reading this classic YA for reasons, not realizing I had actually read it way back when I was in school in 7th grade. I started reading it and said, "Damn, I hate it when authors use this kind of tone for kids, emphasizing 'secret' so damn much in extremely short and supposedly powerful ways that just sounds so faux-mysterious."

A second later it dawned on me that I knew the rest of the story. Another second later, I realized it wasn't because the survival trope was so damn common.

It was because I HAD read it and just plain forgot it.


Well, anyway, it made me think about how survival tropes haven't really been around anymore. I mean, sure, we have Hunger Games and just about every Anime out there, but there's not too much in modern lit, not that I've seen. Notable examples to the contrary are Life of Pi, etc., but many of these serve as either satire or dark commentary.

Whatever happened to this kind of genre, especially SF? Heinlein's juveniles used to be full of it.

How odd.

Oh? What about this book? lol

It's fine. It made me angry and nostalgic in turn.
Mostly entirely because of the Boy Scouts. I remember survival training and then I remembered that the whole thing of the BOY SCOUTS is dead now. Survival training and survival literature have both died.

I think that's kinda ironic.

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Crossroads of Twilight (The Wheel of Time, #10)Crossroads of Twilight by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I, like the rest of ya'll who've read WoT multiple times, always kinda shudder when we get to this one. It's not like there are truly momentous things going on here. (There isn't.) And it's not like we get some major character development. (We don't.)

What we DO get, and this isn't precisely a bad thing, is the concurrent events that led up to or immediately followed the grand glorious action that took place at the end of Winter's Heart.

The whole world quivered and quaked and everyone freaked out. Not bad. Actually, it's entertaining for being exactly what it is and it's even still a good read and a necessary read as a setup for the End Battle.

It ISN'T up to the standards of all the rest of the series, however. A whole lot of bathing happened. And politics. And consequences for poor choices.

And then, there's also Matt. He may not fully redeem an otherwise below-par WoT novel, but he sure as hell shone with his interactions with Tuon. And I laughed my head off. I laughed harder when he broke down into laughter, too. So sweet. :)

So why did I give this a five-star? Because it's like poo-pooing one of Terry Pratchett's worst novels. It's still wildly entertaining even through all its flaws.

It's a RELATIVE slog compared to the rest of the series.

And I should also point out that I know what's coming since this is a re-read. I know how much of this is foreshadowing, how much of it appears to be innocuous but certainly isn't. And I also know how freaking great all the later action will be after we get through the slow build-up.

One can't always judge a book alone. Even single books have a wider context. :)

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Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Ghostwater (Cradle, #5)Ghostwater by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So delicious. I loved the pocket universe dungeon. Yes, almost the entire novel is made up of a few fights and a whole lot of training and exploration, but damn, it was FUN.

This is rapidly becoming one of my most favorite, rather more original than the normal-run, LitRPGs.

Powerful? Did you say POWERFUL? lol, and still so much more power to go. *chortles in glee*

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Skysworn (Cradle, #4)Skysworn by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Absolutely no complaints. I want to tear through these like they were paper to a blackflame.

Honestly, the quick progression, most of it in training, while seeing all these new lands and facing all these badasses, is a real treat. What could be tiresome in lesser hands is just plain fun, here.

High-Gold, here we go! Pure popcorn fiction. Let's GOOOOOO....

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Monday, July 18, 2022

Ack-Ack Macaque (Ack-Ack Macaque, #1)Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth L. Powell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm of two minds on this one. I, like so many others before me, fell in LOVE with the concept. I mean, the cover has it all. WWII ace flying monkey with intrigue and mayhem. It just feels funky cool.

He's there, mind you, and he is exactly that, with a few caveats, but the majority of the novel isn't that.

That's where my other mind comes in, and while I'm not precisely disappointed, I do feel like I've been slightly bait-and-switched to a competent cyberpunk-noir SF with some fairly high Altered Carbon stakes. And I don't mean a murder mystery-type. I mean uploaded minds, AIs, and some heavy conspiracy stuff topped off with a coup.

See what I mean? The real novel is pretty fun all by itself. The introduction and continuation of the macaque FELT like it should have been the main-main character, but he was more like the wrench in the monkey business. Which is fine, really, and fun, but it also kinda felt like a lost SF UF opportunity.

I may continue, on the assumption that we focus more on his contributions, but maybe not.

This was pretty good but not brilliant, alas.

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Sunday, July 17, 2022

Sins of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder, #1)Sins of Empire by Brian McClellan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't believe I'm only now returning to this series. I loved the first trilogy and then completely forgot about the books that were to take place years after the first.

I should have run, not slept, toward them.

I honestly loved getting a huge taste of these characters once again. They carried everything before and carried everything in this solid Epic Fantasy once again. What I like best: Ben. It's always Ben. He's totally grounded, a tough badass, and he always gets dragged into the most interesting situations.

Of course, if it wasn't for the worldbuilding, the great locations, the perfect balance of politics, military, sedition, and intrigue, I wouldn't have loved it half so much. I can't forget the magic system.

Best of all is how engaged I was with everything. I was never bored once. That, I'm afraid, is the real test, and this certainly passed. :)

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Friday, July 15, 2022

Blackflame (Cradle, #3)Blackflame by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm continuing to be impressed with the series. It hits that sweet spot between normal LitRPG goodness, training adventure, and cool use of truly diverse magic elements.

Yes, it's martial arts training in a massive fantasy, almost SF setting, with lots of travel to new realms, clearly defined goals, and baddies, with self-enhancement as the endgame. In this particular case, it's all about learning a terrible and corrupting Blackflame technique that will eventually make him a target for a whole empire. Oops. But at least it's POWERFUL. And that is super fun. :)

Very fun stuff, well-balanced, and pure popcorn-fiction. :)

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Thursday, July 14, 2022

Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've always been a pretty huge fan of Alexander Hamilton, flaws and all, so it was a no-brainer to want to get around to reading a full bio on the man.

And here's the strange bit: I haven't even seen the musical or the movie based on it. I probably will, soon, but in the meantime, I just want to say: "Damn."

Real life really broke the mold when it created this interesting Main Character. I mean seriously. 2/3rds of the novels I've ever read have characters more boring than Alexander Hamilton in real life. He was a genius, amazingly motivated, flamboyant, prone to massive pride-based character flaws and sexual escapades, and absolutely crazy when it came to mud-slinging and duels. And yet, he is credited with some of the smartest and most enduring features of the U.S. Gov and finance, worked tirelessly to prevent a resurgence of a monarchy, and fought like a rabid beast against so many of the biggest names of the day. Madison and Thomas Jefferson were proud to call him their ENEMY.

I personally think that Hamilton was precisely the reason why America flourished. Good policies and tireless devotion to checks and balances.

You know, the very things we don't have anymore.

I swear, if Alexander Hamilton were around right now, he'd be writing great stuff for the revolution, thinking ahead for the aftermath, and organizing us all to be prosperous in the near future.

Alas, since we don't have him, I'm pretty sure America will soon look more like the French.

Great book, though. Extremely interesting.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Into the Narrowdark (The Last King of Osten Ard, #3.1)Into the Narrowdark by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The long wait is well worth it. This book will be a two-parter if you consider an 800-page book just HALF of a single book. And yet, all the buildup from the first two books of the Last King of Osten Ard (aka, Simon, himself) has sent us straight to character hell.

The whole family is scattered, grieving, and armies are not only on the doorsteps but are wreaking havoc.

This book is quite dark. But there are some really light and fun parts. A particular grandson with his new immortal girlfriend is an absolute delight to read, splitting up what might be a slightly too dark and dire volume. Everyone else is worried about them, but their adventure always brought a smile to my face. And the kissing. Too cute.

I mention all this because the storm has come everywhere else and I think it has as high, if not higher, stakes than Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. The sleeping queen is most difinitely awake, and all the many immortals are heeding her call.

I'm quite happy with this book. With the whole series. It's lush with detail, careful, and rich in characters, vast stories that are given tons of time to really develop, and a land that I really care for.

Now, if only I had a copy of part two in my hands...

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Sunday, July 10, 2022

Empire of Grass (The Last King of Osten Ard #2)Empire of Grass by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 7/10/22:

Honestly, I think I enjoyed it better the second time. :) I really enjoy the full immersion of reading ALL of these books in order. Revisiting them is quite rewarding.

Original Review:

Some books are simply hard to judge because it is written to its own drummer. It all becomes clear and epic in the end, but getting there can sometimes be something of a chore.

In comparison to other epic fantasy books of this nature, it Tad Williams has always (and I mean, long before the modern trend,) been a slow and methodical storyteller. He takes a long, long time to build up characters' histories, developing them in such a grandly detailed way that there cannot be any doubt in our minds that he is a SERIOUS writer.

But by the same token, the BIG stuff doesn't come around quickly. Indeed, the meandering wilderness (some literal, some not,) takes up 90% of these pages. And there's a LOT of pages. As is most of his epic fantasies. And that's just it: they're all RICH with detail. Plot is almost secondary. It is definitely secondary to character building.

What we do have here is a long complicated and real-feeling build-up of tensions within the immortal Nords, the cold-weather fae that are willing to sacrifice amazing numbers of their own to summon amazing monsters in order to fully wipe out the mortals. That is, us. Why? Oh, it's all here. In detail wrapped in secrecy wrapped in politics and subversion and crazy hope and the willingness to care between species... and this is just on the Nord side. :) The humans, and in particular, Simon, the old king who used to be the young commoner hero from the original Dragonbone trilogy, is completely out of his depth and his kingdom seems to on the verge of collapse.

This book is definitely all about the journey, the build-up for the next blowout book. It isn't as big, as in awe-inspiring, as some epics, but the richness more than makes up for it.

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Friday, July 8, 2022

Soulsmith (Cradle, #2)Soulsmith by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I admit -- I love where this series is headed. It's flying off in wild new directions, giving us interesting new characters to help and hinder their quest to get stronger, and I'm frankly tickled by it all.

The previous setup in the first book was great and could have glided on just that, but the second book gives us a whole new worldbuilding in a new land, new magical rules, and a hardcore progression that made me laugh, consistently, even as I rooted for the level-ups.

This LitRPG is rapidly becoming one of my favorites. It's reinventing itself. I'm insanely curious to see if it keeps doing so as we travel to new lands. :)

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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Unsouled (Cradle, #1)Unsouled by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been hearing a lot of praise for this fantasy and I had to see it for myself.

First impressions? It's a coming-of-age fantasy with certain Mistborn vibes couches itself in the thoroughly fun LitRPG frame. The fundamentals are solid, but that's not what makes it REALLY fun.

I love how utterly useless the MC is and how utterly outclassed he is at every step. It promises a VERY large story arc, especially with the fate and broken fate reveal.

I'm totally down for this underdog story.

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Wednesday, July 6, 2022

The God BoxThe God Box by Barry B. Longyear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Untrustworthy narrator, reality-hopping adventure, and an almost snark-worthy box-companion that always gives people what they need.

Not what they want, mind you, but what they need.

Add the Shadow Captain on the way to destroy Korvas and so much more, the Hero archetype to oppose him, and a pretty interesting prophesy setup, and the tale shaped into something a lot more solid than I originally thought it'd be.

Our unlikely hero had to WORK to get it right and I was impressed with his dual journey.

It's more of a classical, moral-driven fantasy rather than a sword and sorcery, mind you, but it shares a lot of the same tropes. And that's just fine. :)

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Tuesday, July 5, 2022

How to Kill Your FamilyHow to Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a light, super-enjoyable little romp through carefully planned revenge/mystery. The setup is pretty simple. Snubbed by her rich dad and left in poverty while her mom suffered, not to mention the kind of people that they were, it was really fun to see our MC take each down.

It's light entertainment. :)

It's light entertainment the way The Talented Mr. Riply or Dexter is light entertainment. Visceral, bloody, horrible deaths for great reasons.

It's only human, right? Right? :)

The twist at the end was delicious, too.

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Monday, July 4, 2022

The Witchwood Crown (The Last King of Osten Ard, #1)The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 7/4/22:

This is the first time that I've read this book after having re-visited the original trilogy almost 25 years before. It's so weird to get into this with Simon as a Grandfather, his son dead, and his grandson something of a wastrel.

The book is a huge one. Quite dense and detailed, and it brings us to a point where everything is about to get hellish again. This time, it's the Morrigan. The immortals are restless. And let's face it, everyone is restless.

I frankly enjoyed the worried grandfather bits more than the upset kid bits, but overall it's just a huge sprawl of a novel. This is not an epic fantasy overflowing with battles. But it is dense with worldbuilding and it helps to have gotten yourself lost in all that came before.

Of course, I know very well that this is merely the OPENING novel to something really badass. It takes time to do these things right. :)

Original Review:

I'm almost speechless.

I mean, reading this long, long book takes me back to all the long, long books of Tad Williams and especially his most well-known and beloved original fantasy. (Of which this picks up many years down the line, with Simon the Scullion a grandfather and King of the kingdom.)

What this does extremely well: worldbuilding and characters. He takes his time. And I mean, he lets all the characterizations come out gloriously slowly, with rich detail, and living in such a world that runs so deep as to reclassify the term "escapist fiction".

We live there. We become one with the world of Osten Ard. Whether we're a Norn, one of the elfish immortals, or of men, we dive really deep into the world. I can't find real good or evil anywhere. Just people of all kinds, be they giants, shapeshifters, any kind of immortal, half-immortal, or of the race of men. It's easy to just "say" this, as well, but Tad Williams shows us in all the glory just how true it is.

And then we have the echoes of the undead king, the darkness of magics to come, all the reasons why all these kingdoms are on the path to being laid very, very low, and it all boils down to PEOPLE (of any flavor) doing what they think is right, and still they bring about the greatest evils.

Did I mention how much glorious, deep, well-thought-out, detailed worldbuilding is going on here?

A taste: Prester John, Herne, echoes of catholicism twisted into undead rituals, elves coming across the sea from far away to live here (rather than the reverse), and a whole immortal ppl lied to and left in poverty... for what? It reminds me of Dragon Age, but let's get real here. Tad Williams' epic came out over twenty years ago and this only continues (gloriously so) the long, long tale. :)

I can't say that this fantasy has anywhere near the epic bloodshed and magics that anyone might expect out of today's epic fantasy genre, but when it comes to depth of character, the main story, and worldbuilding... few and perhaps none can compare.

Frankly, I'm lost in admiration.

It's far from a hard read (aside from the length) and it's easy to fall deep into the good writing. I'm remembering my initial response to his first fantasies in just the same way.

Truly Excellent!

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