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Wednesday, August 31, 2022

RoadkillRoadkill by Dennis E. Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Modern snarky SF. It's as enjoyable as you might imagine, being a Dennis E. Taylor joint.

No, it's not a Bobbyverse novel, but since it takes another tack and made me chuckle throughout the read, I classify this as pure, plain SF fun. All the modern self-referential SF commentary is natural, considering that it takes place in modern-day, but I'm afraid to say much more because it might spoil so much of the humor.

Let's just imply things, then:
Space Farce. Federation of Planets. Lizard People. Microwaved burritos. Zombie Intelligence. Amazon's listing of faraday cage baseball caps. And bitcoin.

What does any of this have to do with roadkill?

Come on, people. This is DENNIS E. TAYLOR. Have a little trust. :)

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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Gods Behaving BadlyGods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a soap opera! Seriously, the modern versions of the Greek Gods are real pieces of work. I mean, sure, they were always pretty damn bad, but it really puts things in perspective when they get all MODERN.

I chuckled a goodly number of times and groaned even more. It is, as you might expect, a rip-roaring trip.

Of course, if you like family dramas... you'll probably love this. What's a little mortal transformation, death, or losing the sun, anyway? It's FAMILY.

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Monday, August 29, 2022

The Children of JocastaThe Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The third Haynes book in as many days has been quite as enjoyable as the first two. This one is the fictional retelling of Jocasta, the wife/mother of Oedipus, with an obvious focus on her life, choices, children, and her tragedy.

This is actually rather interesting. Maybe even more interesting than anything Oedipus had gone through, when you consider that Sophicles' original tragedy is a one-two-fourteen punch of truly shocking reveal after reveal.

Reading Hayens' treatment is fascinating and rather deeper than I would have imagined, even with knowing her fate through Homer. In fact, I might go so far as to say I can't tell which I like better between these two Greek retellings. A Thousand Ships is fascinating for its breadth and the concise nature of so many of these women's tales, but The Children of Jocasta necessarily dives deep and I have no problem admiring many of the characters. The nature of the tragedy lends itself to so many twists and the intelligence of the characters is not lessened by the cruel fates.

Suffice it to say, this one is a more straightforward and singular tale with a recognizable progression. I like it a lot. The other is edgier and made me think quite a bit more.

I like these kinds of problems.

I will be reading a lot more by her.

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Dokeshi March (Year of the Sword #3)Dokeshi March by Dakota Krout
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

No doubt in my mind. It's great fast food for the mind. And if you like gambling, chance, and turn-based video games, you'll probably love to hate this one.

Though, to be fair, I loved the breaking of the games. :)

This particular LitRPG is shaping us really nicely with wildly different kingdoms and rules for every month. And now that spring is done, I can't wait to see just how messed up this can get.

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Sunday, August 28, 2022

A Thousand ShipsA Thousand Ships by Natalie Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After just having read her Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, there was nothing in this world that would prevent me from reading her other books.

This time it’s an actual novel featuring the women of and surrounding the time of the Iliad and Odyssey. It’s certainly not focus on a straight chronological telling, either. Instead, it’s a tale of the women in all these poems and histories and legends, each to their own place and told only as a scholar and a fan could tell it.

Hear the chorus. The chorus has come back around to tell their tale. It’s not about the men. It’s all about the women. The men are just plot points. :) Or not really, but the men are definitely not shown any mercy, and the chorus, the wonderful narration of omniscient first person, makes sure of it.

I have to admit that Haynes is doing a fantastic job of writing these legends in novel form and its speedy pace and little extrapolated filler is making me cheer. So many characters, so many great story points, and HOW they’re put together is pure charm.

This isn’t a long, drawn-out novelization. This is a light, spritely, or downright knife-in-the-heart tragic romp through the stories that made the old Greek legends more than scantily-clad Athenians or Spartans having self-absorbed adventures.

Totally worth the read.

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Pandora's Jar: Women in the Greek MythsPandora's Jar: Women in the Greek Myths by Natalie Haynes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been reading a bunch of feminist-leaning novels with retellings of myths for a while now and while some are absolutely gorgeous, most are frankly just okay.

I honestly thought I'd be MORE into a full novelization of these personages because I love fiction so much, but then, here comes Natalie Haynes to prove to me once and for all that I'm WRONG. It's not that I wanted long, drawn-out novelizations. It's that I wanted SMART, PERCEPTIVE, fantastically researched myths put into modern perspective.

And not only that, written in such a way that I could read it forever, never get tired, and run across passages that make me point at the book and go, "OMG! YES! I can't believe she made that connection with *insert modern retelling, popular culture icon*!"

No. No spoilers here, but the tv-show/comics rhymes with Ruffy.

Every page in this book was a delight. And no, it's not rabid feminism at all. All credit is given where due and it doesn't try to distort facts or ignore men even while it is absolutely a non-fiction devoted to women in Greek Myths. It isn't a fantastical retelling. It's giving context and giving the Greeks the appropriate amount of consideration they deserve. After all, Euripedes was a man who wrote women in such a compelling way that it still shocks and amazes us even today.

Different cultures, different standards, sure, but the reality of the times and the complexity and the lack of anything black-and-white about women's roles, voices, OR how men portrayed them, is truly fascinating. Absolutely nothing is clear cut and it's delicious.

This book really lays it out for us in all its wonderful complexity.

I PREFER this book over almost all the other fictionalized retellings we've had. The subtlety is apparent here -- where I thought it should have been in the novelizations.

I'm so happy right now. :)

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Saturday, August 27, 2022

Book LoversBook Lovers by Emily Henry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So. Let me get my personal elephant out of the room. I was pissed throughout this book because I thought this was going to be a rom-com featuring two lovers of books who wind up loving each other. I wanted to read tons of easter eggs and nods to the greats (Heathcliff doesn't count) and just roll around in nerdy goodness while getting that sexytime on.

So what happened with that elephant?


There was hardly any bookish goodness. An Agent and an Editor fussing over a fictional Author hardly counts. And it felt like pure fantasy in how prosperous, happy, healthy, and wise they were. But that's not really a complaint I need to be making. That's a sore point with ANY rom-com. They're all fantasies. No. My main complaint was in this not being nearly nerdy enough.

Other than that, it DID live up to all the good standards of being a rom-com and it was sweet and had all the tried and true plot points and I enjoyed it for what it was intended to be. A romance. Just a romance. In that regard, it was perfectly good and standard.

Not that glowing? Well, I'm still pissed about the bait-and-switch. ; ;

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Friday, August 26, 2022

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Honestly, I REALLY thought I'd love a book about an angry old coot sitting on a lawn, yelling at all the kids to get the hell off it, because ever since I was 10 years old, that's what I wanted to be.

Reading this, however, made me lose some blood and feel just as anemic as the story. It wasn't very funny. It wasn't heartwarming. Every accidentally nice thing he did was a stupid accident and he really never learned a damn thing. I've enjoyed Backman's other books much more than this one. It was too little, too late, and Ove, himself, was... how should I put this... not the curmudgeon hero I wanted him to be.

Sure, maybe that's just a personal problem. But damn. Mr. Black and White was just super annoying and his attempts to off himself was worse. I get it. Engineering types can be like this. But at least to me, it couldn't be redeemed even with cute kids and needy neighbors who ALL seemed to mistake him for what he was: a bloodless, tired, two-feet-in-the-grave character.

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Thursday, August 25, 2022

Babel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' RevolutionBabel, or The Necessity of Violence: An Arcane History of the Oxford Translators' Revolution by R.F. Kuang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this novel wildly. In fact, I think I loved it more than R. F. Kuang's The Poppy War or sequels. I certainly enjoyed it more than the majority of the more recent fantasy novels that have been written for years.


It has that perfect blend of great characters, depth of worldbuilding, true historical scholarship, and a great story all wrapped in one hard-hitting package.

Let me list the ways I loved this: I really loved the Poppy Wars for being an epic-fantasy rendition of the Opium Wars in a fantastical setting. Babel took the premise a step (or five steps) forward by laying its foundation in true English history with its colonizations, horrible trading practices, oblivious theoretical cultural superiority, and its labor practices that are basically slavery by any other name.

That's one part. The other part is the genuinely delicious YA aspect, the scholarship setting, and the deeply uneasy feeling of being set aside, used, unappreciated, and thrown away when all is said and done. This is the lot of anyone with a slightly different skin tone, after all, and this conflict was put into extremely sharp relief in a way I can't help but resonate with.

And then there is the love of language, meaning, and a translator's dream. This part was beautiful and mesmerizing and it brought so much depth to an already amazingly detailed historical fiction.

Am I a huge fan of this book? You better believe it. This is me raving about it. :)

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Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Ruby Fever (Hidden Legacy, #6)Ruby Fever by Ilona Andrews
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Continuing this series is always a treat I look forward to now.

Sure, this UF always has a little sexytime in it, but I appreciate the worldbuilding, the exploration of powers, the tight sense of family, and the wilder craziness of said family.

Saying more than this would generally mean I'm spoiling the shit out of the book for those of us that enjoy it. Suffice to say, there are some pretty great reveals and consequences from previous novels and it's never boring.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Ten Days in a Mad-HouseTen Days in a Mad-House by Nellie Bly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm sure this was very popular and shocking in its day, but this 19th-century investigative journalism, undercover-style, is written to shock and amaze.

Of course, knowing what I know of that history, and how bad it got back then, it is kinda shocking to compare that situation with what we have now.

Some things have gotten better, of course. There is a bit more accountability where there are actual institutions available for mental health, but the reality is worse. There aren't facilities in America. It has all become runoff toward the prison system. And let's face it, prisons aren't much better than 19th-century madhouses.

Situations change, of course, and since there is no real help for the mentally ill, they generally die by suicide by cop or drug use. Is this a more desirable situation? Where is the investigative journalism to horrify modern people, now?

It's funny how no matter how things change, it all remains the same.

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Sacré BleuSacré Bleu by Christopher Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed this.

The fact that it's about famous painters and their muses is only mildly amusing to me under regular circumstances, but this is Christopher Moore, so I rather trust the author to make it more interesting.

This historical fantasy is quite tight and full of eroticism but that is nothing compared to the true star of the show. The color blue. It's all about the paint. The totally erotic, immortal paint.

I chuckled through the novel. Muses are often amusing, after all.

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Monday, August 22, 2022

NeomNeom by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! What a gut punch!

This is set in the same zeitgeist as Central Station, of which I absolutely adored for not just its unabashed hard-SF nature, its robots, its deserts, it's Tel Aviv atmosphere and post-dystopian nightmare, and its DEEP, deep worldbuilding.

I can't overstate the last enough. It's RICH.

And Neom is, too. Overflowing with imagination, references to fascinating events and people (mostly robots), and places all over the Solar System.

What is most surprising is how easy it is to fall into. It never overwhelms us. It starts with a friendly smile and a shared rose and a slice of life in the desert in Neom. I was heavily charmed and just loved the ride for what it was. It was all about living. Just living. And that includes all the robots AND humans, trying to make their way in a time that doesn't want either of them.

But later? Oh my god... I didn't see that coming but it was so gorgeous, so heartwrenching. And I should explain that it isn't the normal kind of heartwrenching. It caught me unawares. It blindsided me.

And now, after reading this, I want to go back and re-read Central Station just for the sheer pleasure of it. (Knowledge of it is not necessary, but it does deepen the effect.)

I LOVE this. :)

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Sunday, August 21, 2022

Anansi Boys (American Gods, #2)Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As enjoyable as the first time.

That is to say, I fell head over heels in love with the idea of stories within stories taking over, of the god of stories, Anansi, passing on his gift of the gab -- a little joy, humor, and sexiness -- into the wide world.

For those of us who know America Gods, this is not a direct sequel even if it carries on a few characters. The real treat is in the story.

I was fooled the first time I read this. I was wondering just how Fat Charlie, a little ponce who gets walked all over, would come into his own. It was so grounded, so funny when he first discovered Spider, that I could very well have just ridden these interactions all the way to the end and would have been happy. A somewhat normal resolution.

Thankfully, the book spun us around and gave us some fully foreshadowed brilliant reveals that changed the entire nature of the book. I love it when this kind of thing gets pulled off. And it's Gaiman. So a little trust IS warranted.

I miss Gaiman's adult work. I've loved all of his adult work so much more than his YA, with a possible exception of Coraline. I loved Coraline very much. But it's the full adult wonkiness that I prefer, and this one kicked ass.

No, it's not American Gods. But it is its own beast, or arachnid, and that is way more than enough for me.

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If This Book Exists, You're in the Wrong Universe (John Dies at the End, #4)If This Book Exists, You're in the Wrong Universe by Jason Pargin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It feels like it's been an awfully long time since I could jump into the timey-wimey, cthulhu-esq, darkly funny and immensely sarcastic world of David and John (and Amy!) as they scramble through poverty while fighting the good fight.

They're not Sam and Dean. They don't have that kind of plot armor. But for all that, they are still fighting the fight as shadow people deal deals that only increase suffering, as future cult leaders become Earthly Gods through prophecies spanning backward through time, when phone apps tell your children to feed it human teeth...

Oh yeah, the stakes are always high or at least deeply strange and I LOVE it.

It feels like fourth-wall breaking, especially the first three books that were written under the PoV CHARACTER's name, only to mix things up as the actual author brings out his real name now. Jason Pargin is the ACTUAL writer, post-timey-wimey real continuity, and that's kinda the point.

If you like reality like you like your spaghetti, all tangled up and bloody-red, then I'm sure you'll love this return. :)

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Saturday, August 20, 2022

Hate Machine (Eric Carter Book 8)Hate Machine by Stephen Blackmoore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This long-running series is still going strong. After the previous events, I admit I was extremely curious to see where an ex-god could go after the burning of LA.

It turns out that heading to Las Vegas afterward was a kinda dodgy choice.

I mean, Las Vegas. Home of dime-store oracles and hopium and bargain-rate tricks... and, of course, heists.

I like heists. They're fun.

All in all, after the previous books, this one reads more like a vacation or a recuperation than anything, but to be fair, a lot DID happen. No complaints.

One thing to add, though: this is Blackmoore's tribute to the pandemic and all the other crap that happened. It was definitely interesting to read it through that lens. :)

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Thursday, August 18, 2022

Empire in the SandEmpire in the Sand by Shane Joseph
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

From a certain point of view, having an older protagonist undergo intrigue, fairly massive life travails, and romance can be a refreshing change in a thriller. In this case, it's still a mild thriller, but that shouldn't detract.

In reality, the novel is thoroughly grounded even as it jumps through different time periods, different conflicts, and a personal life that always keeps circling back in upon the main question.

Is it really about a life of choices that come back around to bite you? Or is it really about starting afresh and making amends?

This is mostly left up to the reader and we're asked to enjoy the journey. Perhaps, in the end, it's not just an empire in the sand.

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Malibu RisingMalibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm old enough to remember the MTV revolution and surfer dudes, (but not old enough to remember Gidget), so this was something of a blast from the past, part nostalgia (or something like it since I was never a part of that scene) and part alien.

I mean that. People like this are alien to me. All parties and surf and the sad side of rock life.

Of course, with a good writer, it doesn't matter what the subject is. And Taylor Jenkins Reid is a very, very good writer. Every character was engaging, if often infuriating, and I got lost in the tale of this family.

It was absolutely delightful. I even put on Pink Floyd's Shine on You Crazy Diamond just to feel those end-of-summer blues.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Dragon Knight (Dragon Knight, #2)The Dragon Knight by Gordon R. Dickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm thinking I probably would have appreciated these books more when they first came out.

Here's what's great about them: Chivalry, chivalry, and more chivalry, as only modern-day can glorify it. Dragons, magical creatures, and old-style English/French rivalry are all thrown into the mix.

It's cute in the way that a modern (80s) medieval historian might love to romanticize the period, giving us all a very Arthurian feel, while generously adding a bit of almost video-game magic to it.

It's cute, easy, and fairly charming.

It isn't modern fantasy, tho. It is a direct predecessor. More fantasy-lite, with a A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court vibe.

I'm trying to decide whether I want to continue on. Perhaps. It's not bad but it's not fantastic.

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Bound (Alex Verus, #8)Bound by Benedict Jacka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-read 8/17/22:

I've been thoroughly enjoying my second read-through and this book is interesting because I now know what is to come and my reactions are slightly off. I'm still enjoying the hell out of it, but certain things are hitting different. I love it.

Original Review:

I was so excited to get this on Netgalley and I'm still excited after having read the latest Alex novel. :)

Things have changed quite a bit for him and his friends after the events of Burned, and for any of you who remember the end, things have gotten Dark indeed.

Having no spoilers is going to be a huge chore here because all I want to do is talk about the new developments and the strange reveals and the action and the end surprise! *sigh*

I tell you, I'm still so excited!

However, I can safely tell you that this series is still going strong. The time frame is a bit more spread apart in this novel than in most of the previous ones, but that's just the nature of the new gig. Being on-call can be a drag in general, but certain bosses can make it so much worse. Poor Alex. Poor Anne! I can't believe the twists and turns. We get more of Elsewhere and the Hollows, too, and all of that is a real treat.

This Urban Fantasy *is* a real treat. It's pure popcorn fiction that hits all the right divinatory buttons and bullets. :)

It comes out in April. I just pray that each and every one of you walk, don't run, to your nearest bookstore to pick out a copy of it. I would really hate to see you need to call on Anne to heal you. She's busy enough, you know. ;)

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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I decided to pick up a few titles that I normally wouldn't read -- thanks to GR posts -- in order to spread my wings a little bit.

This is traditional modern lit stuff. I admit I am generally more drawn to the genres instead of this character-primary stuff that tends to circle and circle around the pain.

So here we have it. A quintessential family drama in the late '70s, giving us the innards of every family member, sometimes flavored with some of the normal, sometimes pleasant, and a huge heaping serving of the everyday misunderstandings of life. Oh, and the pain. The pain.

I sometimes thought of this as a potential thriller. Sometimes as a potential comedy. Sometimes as a thoroughly contemporary drama that illustrates how us old folks used to think in a time that has now passed us by. Either way, it's like reading slices of life of the 50s through the lens of the 80s, but offset again.

Did I particularly enjoy this? Maybe. In a way. I did get into the characters and felt something for them. I felt a lot of sadness. And a lot of annoyance. But since this was kinda the point, I can't really complain all that much. It's not like I could go back in time and tell these people to wake up and see the others for who they really were, not as we'd like them to be.

But alas.

That's also rather the point, too.

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Saturday, August 13, 2022

The CipherThe Cipher by Kathe Koja
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Caveats first:

This is a book for anyone who seriously loves a great body-horror novel mixed with some serious mental health issues and a supernatural Cthulhu-ish aspect that goes way beyond claustrophobic and off the deep end of cultish nutteries.

If you don't like anything I just said here, then skip this. It's not for you.

BUT, if you're a sick and twisted nutter and you love tight prose going hand-in-hand with a supernatural stylism that starts us out with a pitch-perfect hum of depression and self-harm obsession, then you're going to LOVE this.

Basically, you have to understand the darkness of the human spirit first in order to appreciate just how deep down the hole this can get.

As for the supernatural bit... I was utterly delighted. The minimalism of it and the darkly delicious attraction of the sweet delights of hell, quite reminiscent of Barker's Hellraiser, had me chortling with glee by the end.

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We Could Be HeroesWe Could Be Heroes by Mike Chen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this was an okay superhero-type adventure. By this point, we've already had a great deal of super-powered novels to go along with our super-powered movies, comics, video games, tv shows, and whatnot, so it really becomes a game to see A: how good the characters are, B: how good the base story is, C: how messed up the worldbuilding or power-particulars are.

In this case, it's just okay. A mild villain and a mild superhero, doing the road trip thing to relieve their amnesia. The particulars were fairly fun and the line-crossing between hero and villain was what really made this pretty decent, and the characters were solid.

So why aren't I falling all over this? Probably because it's coming late to the party. The closest books to this one, offhand, are the earlier awesome novels by Jackson Ford, starting with The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t with Her Mind, or even Brandon Sanderson's Steelheart series.

If you're into this kind of genre and devour everything like it, I'm sure you'll get a kick out of it.

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Friday, August 12, 2022

Knife of Dreams (The Wheel of Time, #11)Knife of Dreams by Robert Jordan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't believe we're finally here. The end of RJ's original series. I can tell you I was so devastated to hear about his death back in the day. It wasn't just a favorite author dying, of course. It was the fact that the story hadn't been completed that destroyed me. I mean, I'm a selfish reader, after all. This series was something that would be lodged in my imagination forever.

So, even though I was feeling sadness upon reading this particular book, I still had a truly great time with it. I don't consider this one to be one of the "slogs" at all. In fact, I was chomping at the bit about Perrin's big battle to finally get Faile back. I was at the edge of my seat with Rand and the dire crap he was just put through. And of what he lost.

And then there was Egwene. We finally get to the point where she truly shines. Back in the White Tower, the kinds of trails she goes through, her laughter, and the way she slays all the other ajahs -- metaphorically. Laying seeds of doubt, showing off, subverting everything. Muahahaha, I loooooved it. There will be more, of course, with the concluding novels, but this setup was so delicious.

And then there is Matt. The Toy. Or, as a now newly flustered Tuon, has been forced to wonder what she got herself into, has been forced to rename him: -- The Lion -- he's showing all his different colors again. I've been laughing my ass off with their interactions. Matt being back with the Band and being a real man again, instead of a toy, has made all those dice finally stop. And I'm HERE for it. I laughed until I cried. And I cried.

I looooved it so much.

And yet, it's tinged with so much sadness, too.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2022

After the FloodAfter the Flood by Kassandra Montag
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

So. I checked this one out because GR had it on a list and it was dystopia and I had seen the author's name rolling around so I thought, "why not?"

So. The good: It's well written, and it does exactly what it sets out to do. That is, it's a LitSF post-apocalypse that deals with the minutiae of living mostly on boats after the worldwide floods that mostly pulled a Waterworld on the world. Good, so far, especially since it kept it realistic, unlike said Waterworld.

Also good was the fact that it kept the heart and despair and wrapped itself up like a good little LitSF title should.

The bad: I have grown to really dislike LitSF titles. They roll around in their emotional pain, sometimes coming up for minimalist plot-air, and then just plod around living a regular old life except when the pain comes around again.

I'm sure there's a market for this. I've seen -- unwillingly -- my share of Lifetime movies.

But believe it or not, I'd be just fine with all of the above IF the title goes above and beyond with actual SF stuff. Give me great ideas with that pain, show me a really fun time with that pain, or just scratch the surface of what it means to be SCIENCE FICTION, rather than just dreaming up a small portion of what it would mean to live in a banal pirate-laden world of regular people who happened to have survived this long after the fall of civilization.


This wasn't that. It was just that little portion, plus the pain and regret, and a little banal living.

I wanted to like this more. Let's just leave it at that.

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Monday, August 8, 2022

The PassengersThe Passengers by John Marrs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't really know what to expect with this except that John Marrs seems to be very popular.

So. Fairly interesting concept. It kinda feels like a hit-job on the electric vehicle market, but whatever, let's roll with this and see where it goes. Driverless vehicles. Hackers. Murder. Sounds okay so far.

But here's where it went wonky with me -- I pretty much hated every single character and felt no sympathy for anyone. By the time the whole book started going in the direction of a reality tv show with voting people off the island, I was having a really really hard time caring at all.

Was the book good for what it was? Sure. If you like this kind of over-the-top soap opera with bigger-than-life characters and a slight (or large) slippage in the character of all humanity, then this is the perfect spectacle for you. It's big, splashy, and it takes away from the murders themselves and becomes a commentary on the fickleness of everyone and how we let just about any bad thing slide if it is in our best interest.

Of course, that sounds better than the experience I had while reading this. *shrug* Again, I just wanted to cry, the way I hated everyone in this. And not even in the Stephen King kind of way where I love to hate the people but it's okay because I know they'll all suffer. It's the reality tv aspect that completely turned me off.

But I'm sure others will love the hell out of this and I recognize that it wasn't bad, so it's not like I'm going to give it a lower rating. This is just a reflection of my own dislike.

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Sunday, August 7, 2022

Wrath of Empire (Gods of Blood and Powder, #2)Wrath of Empire by Brian McClellan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ben Styke really carries this series. All of the buildups in the first book of this trilogy continue full speed ahead here.

No spoilers, but the man who was a loose cannon has become a solid fixture in the new power. I say power, but it's mostly a forced march of a retreat while trying to blow up the godstones, so it's definitely bloody. The whole thing continues to be very entertaining.

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Friday, August 5, 2022

Grempire (The Rules #3)Grempire by Aaron Oster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the parlance of Reddit, I'm gonna give this book an upvote and tell it to go f**k itself.

Seriously, I am giving this book an angry upvote.


Because it doubled down on the tropes, was awesomely self-aware, notched it up a few more times, and then, when we get to the end, it flips us the bird, telling us that WE ALREADY KNEW WHAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, and then it followed through.

Yes, the book stuck to its landing, gave us exactly what we knew it would be, and then blew another raspberry at the very end.

Oh, yeah, and this book has a special shout-out to all trolls.

I mean, never mind all the trolls being mana-blasted off bridges in the STORY. That's just fun LitRPG stuff and the whole series is still a fun LitRPG anyway.


Or we could just call it a fan-fiction of itself and dismiss it. Righteously. And laugh the entire time.

Whatever. I'm half amused and half pissed off and both are screaming for supremacy.

Oh, yeah, Oster, I'm gonna give you two birds right now. Enjoy them. :)

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Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Pendrackon (The Rules, #2)Pendrackon by Aaron Oster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly, I'm enjoying the nonsensical, tropish, arbitrary rules offered up in this game system because they breathe a bit of random life in this otherwise standard LitRPG fare.

Here's the thing: it's perfectly standard LitRPG fare. Solidly written, simple, and all the focus is on getting along with your friends/allies and leveling up. I don't really have anything negative to say about it because all the truly nonsensical aspects of LitRPGs (or anime or regular RPGs) are accepted and/or satirized here as well.

So what we have is plain adventure, kingdom-saving stuff, and increasingly powerful monsters to defeat.

It'd be perfectly forgettable if I had wanted something unique, but as it so happens, all I wanted was comfort food and a bit of grinning fun. I got that, so I'm happy.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Somerset (The Rules, #1)Somerset by Aaron Oster
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Frankly, nothing new or strange about this LitRPG. It's straight up level up with standard opening quest adventures.

That being said, it was still fun even if the only quirk about it is random rules that must be followed for time-based boons and disadvantages. It still makes for snickers and giggles.

Is any of this a bad thing? Nope! It's all RPG goodness with none of the silliness of Earth. Escapism, pure and simple.

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EversionEversion by Alastair Reynolds
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Alastair Reynold's new standalone novel is a real keeper. At first, I thought it was a homage to Cloud Atlas by way of Dan Simmon's Terror, but after getting much farther along, I've got to say that its title gives it all away. And pleasantly so.

Eversion: not to be confused with inversion, is a fancy way of saying "inside-out". After being grounded in several incarnations of exploration ships, having twisted myself up with the great characterizations, I have to say that I came out of this a bit inside-out, as well.

But then there's the whole question of topology. And that's where things get really interesting.

Solid, or quite more than solid SF here. Reynolds is always one of my top to-go guys for the genre and he's proven himself many times over. I'm reminded of some of his very best short fiction in these pages, a huge-concept piece written adroitly, and in the end, he gives us a great psychological knife-twist.

I totally recommend this for lovers of old-and-new-school exploration fiction. The ice-on-the-boat ambiance totally got me going, as did the slow introduction to the mystery.

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Monday, August 1, 2022

This Time TomorrowThis Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've seen a lot of comparisons of this book with The Midnight Library, but honestly, I see more in comparison with a 2013 film called About Time, starring Bill Nighby, Domhnall Gleeson, and Rachel McAdams. It's a light 'what if' time travel novel that's unburdened with anything like pesky reasons, but it has a good deal of heart.

My main concern with these kinds of literary-type time travel novels is that they are either too concerned with characters and learning something or they get bogged down in consistency issues or break beneath the strain.

There are some, however, that just keep it light, keep it emotional, and don't bother with anything but the human side of the equation, and this one fits that bill. I admit I enjoyed it for exactly what it was: a tale of family love, of a father and daughter, of growing up and death. It was sweet, but not sickly sweet.

I will mention one thing that I appreciate about it. Most good SF knows its readers. Most will know the nerdy stuff and appreciate it. Some writers will try for something light like this and flub it with the fan base because it isn't self-aware, knowledgeable of the wider genre, or because it just doesn't care.

I'm happy to say that Emma Straub did an admirable job of hitting that sweet spot, acknowledging that which has come before, and making her novel a heart-felt addition to the wider conversation.

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