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Saturday, December 9, 2023

Fire Touched (Mercy Thompson, #9)Fire Touched by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Increasing tensions between Fae and Were is the name of this game. In the previous, it had been a tug of war game for a stick, and now it's between a were with some fae powers.

While I thought it was pretty okay and certainly unoffensive, this particular novel never sparked a moment of "oh, that's brilliant" from me. While it's not as bad as some recent paint-by-numbers fantasy, I'm definitely getting a formula vibe without the kinds of twists that elevate a good UF from the rest.

It feels like coasting.

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Friday, December 8, 2023

The Last Bear (The Last Bear, #1)The Last Bear by Hannah Gold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A cute little YA fantasy about befriending a polar bear and having a little adventure. It is exactly as it seems. The power of communication, misunderstandings, and reconciliations.

Is it a decently xmas-y story? Perhaps, if you just look at the snow. :)

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AshendenAshenden by W. Somerset Maugham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well now! This was a delightful set of secret service short stories by the inestimable Somerset Maugham.

Being who I am, I find it hard to judge ANY kind of spycraft story except through the lens of Bond, but I'm happy to say it's not only on par, it's much older and doubly fascinating for that reason.

There's murder, intrigue, lots of trains, and even a story taking place on the eve of the Russian Revolution.

But there's something about this that I got a much bigger kick out of: it's almost like all these stories weren't really about spycraft at all. Almost all of them were fascinating character studies that were oddly reminiscent of Hemingway in their clear brevity and sharp anti-moralistic scenes. It's all up to us to make up our minds. It was really quite delightful.

A point I should make, however: Maugham WAS an agent for England in RL. Ashenden, the agent in the stories, was also a writer. I know we should never associate a writer's product, their characters, with the author, but COME ON....

This was all well before Flemming, too. The similarities are almost so hardcore that Flemming stole the whole shtick from Maugham. Delightful, no?

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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Camp DamascusCamp Damascus by Chuck Tingle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Super solid horror that proves that Chuck Tingle has the good ole writer's chops. He's much more than the schock-shlock-shlong monster gay porn writer I laughed about for years. Indeed, he writes a real horror with real style.

Camp Damascus gives us not only the traditional horror of conversion therapy, but monsters who really hate lgbtq as much as the morally righteous.

I'm just glad that real people with real flamethrowers exist to stand up against this dual terror.

Great stuff! I can really get behind this rage. :)

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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Saint Death's Daughter (Saint Death #1)Saint Death's Daughter by C.S.E. Cooney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, right to the nitty gritty. I wanted to like this a lot more than I actually did. The title needed a bit of explaining, too, but I was pretty on board with a YA dark fantasy with necromancy. My only real concern was whether it'd go down the torrid romance path, but I'm happy to say that the majority of the book took the other path.

I admit it took me a bit to get into, all told, but I was fairly enjoying the life and many, many days of living, learning, and survival with the help of her helper ghosts, undead minions, and spies. My only concern by this point was trying to figure out where the plot might lead us. All-in-all, it just felt like a never-ending stream of slice-of-necromantic life. It was somewhat wholesome, not at all scary or gross, and was just this side of amusing.

And that might have been for the best, if it had been a bit tighter. The fact is, there was a lot of this mild stuff going on... and on... and on... and I had a problem with keeping my interest level high. I had to put down the book fairly often.

And then there was the time skip. A few interesting things happened after, but by then I honestly didn't care all that much.

Did I hate the novel? No. Not at all. I can absolutely see how others might adore it. It has so much of living in its deathly pages and I'm sure a certain kind of person out there would latch onto all this and call it the greatest thing ever. But for me, I would have preferred it go through a hardcore editor, maybe splitting the book into two, but with an emphasis on story-shape. It just kinda felt like it grew and kept growing and overrun the whole garden.

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Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Silkworm (Cormoran Strike, #2)The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Murder, writers, continuing several deep character setups -- all this should have been in my wheelhouse. I should have loved the novel with or without the extra knowledge that it is Rowling's work.

But I'm simply not feeling the charm. I got through the first book, thinking it was competent enough, and decided to go for the second, assuming it might sink in better. Unfortunately, it didn't. It's one of those "It's me, not you" situations, I guess.

I simply didn't buy-in to the characters, got bored, couldn't even concentrate on the mystery, and wound up eyeing the page count way too often for my mental health. I wish I could have said something better about it.

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Friday, December 1, 2023

A Stroke of the Pen: The Lost StoriesA Stroke of the Pen: The Lost Stories by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Happiness is the friendships you make along the way. I believe that.

So, here's the thing. I was interested in this book because people had done some major sleuthing to find some REALLY early Terry Pratchett stories written often under pen names long before he did the whole Discworld thing. That means these might have a glimmer of the wit and charm that would come later, but for the most part, the good, old friends don't even exist yet.

For the most part, they are light-hearted, very much popular-class magazines from a long-gone time period that would come across as slightly pithy or corny without a trace of controversy about them. Indeed, the wit is sometimes there, but it's mild and often... average.

So, who should read this?
Pratchett completionists.

It's worth it to say you did it, but I'd never tell anyone that it's essential for anyone's enjoyment of the legend. These are merely paid pieces and it kinda shows.

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Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Hobgoblin Riot (Dominion of Blades, #2)The Hobgoblin Riot by Matt Dinniman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

We get other PoV's following the first book, and while I appreciated the bold change as an idea, I may not have quite clicked with it. I preferred the first book's style. That being said, this book had more changes than just that.

This wasn't a normal LitRPG as the other. This was a tower defense, with wave after wave of attackers. It absolutely required a very different style. No casual adventuring. Just siege, a few story reveals and progressions, and more siege.

Maybe my mood was for more of the previous, alas, but this was still pretty decent. Hobgoblins are obviously a HUGE part of this. :)

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Dominion of Blades (Dominion of Blades, #1)Dominion of Blades by Matt Dinniman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a nice, more classic mix of LitRPG with a slightly more unique core reason than most of this type. (Yay for generational starships and new planets.) The actual LitRPG is pretty much a standard world-exploration fantasy world with limited quests.

What makes this one a bit special is the hints that the players have been doing NPC-type things for an AWFULLY long time, so a spattering of random skills appear to be way overpowered despite the character starting out, nearly memory-less, at level one.

I think it's always pretty fun to goof around with that kind of thing, and this randomly thrown-together small party grows together and learns to trust one another as they reveal what the hell has been going on in this place.

Not bad. Entertaining. Somewhat normal for the type, but nonetheless fun.

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Monday, November 27, 2023

The Way of Shadows (Night Angel, #1)The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I remember reading this back when it first came out and I said to myself that THIS was what I was waiting for in epic fantasy. It was so bloody, wickedly magical, dystopian society, and so much quicker than SoIaF to get to the good bits.

I always had a fond spot for this and the full trilogy and tended to rank them up as some of the very finest modern epic fantasy had to offer. Quite a bit better than a lot that I've read since then, including a majority of the biggest names, even. I put this at the same height as the Mistborn trilogy, even.

Sure, later, I got into Weeks' Lightbringer quintology and said the same thing about it, but I slowly started to forget what I loved so much about the Night Angel trilogy.

And then the new book came out. I HAD to revisit the originals. And here we are.

Did it match my memories?

No. It surpassed them. All my original qualms during my first read disappeared with the hindsight of what I knew will be coming. The action was sublime, the magic super interesting, and the tripod of Justice, Vengeance, and Mercy even better than I remembered.

The love was the surprisingly best part. Love is a noose. But sometimes you can't choose not to put it around your neck.

Great stuff. I haven't been this excited on a re-read since WoT.

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Friday, November 24, 2023

Joseph Anton: A MemoirJoseph Anton: A Memoir by Salman Rushdie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I finally got around to reading Salman Rushdie's memoir of his time hiding from his Fatwa. I got a lot out of it not because I've ever had death threats aimed at me, but because I'm a student of history. And I have to admit it all: Salman Rushdie was something of a hero for me as a writer back when Satanic Verses became a household name, even if it isn't famous for its literary value -- alas, that, since it is a great book.

THIS book, however, is both a free and hard look at his own life from his own words, giving himself a sometimes rough assessment while exploring all the context. I wouldn't have wanted to be him, being used as a football between politicians, having to wrangle for special protection, and facing the reality that there is no such thing as true protection.

More importantly, at least for me, was getting the genesis and details of all his OTHER novels and their publication circumstances, the other writers he had met or befriended, even the celebrities who helped him.

It was a life. Hardly ever easy, but Rushdie stuck by his guns to say what he believed, and I'll just say right now that he got a raw deal -- but it was religion and politics caused all these issues, not truly his own words. Of course, if it was a Christian world and not a Muslim one, back before the Pope allowed anyone to say he wasn't infallible, there probably would have been the same kind of response.

It just goes to show, we all need to be on guard. We should never be tolerant of intolerance. It's up to all of us to put our heel down on those who would take our freedom away. All of us TOGETHER.

So, again, thank you, Mr. Rushdie, for bringing this out into the open in your own way.

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Wednesday, November 22, 2023

BuyMort: Rise of the Windowpuncher: How I Became the Accidental Warlord of Arizona (Shopocalypse Saga #3)BuyMort: Rise of the Windowpuncher: How I Became the Accidental Warlord of Arizona by Damien Hanson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had a good time with this SF LitRPG adventure. The whole "Amazon-clone takes over the multiverse" SFnal post-apoc dystopia vibe was, even with all the slimes, the hobgoblins, the mega-corp exploiters, and huge scorpion herds, extremely close to our own dystopian world. I FELT it.

We're only one step away from selling all the corpses we make. Yay.

I suppose I really enjoyed the hell out of maybe 5/6th of the novel until we got the actual resolution for the main quest plot. I mean, I knew we had to get here eventually, but it felt kinda rushed. I don't know if there will be more, but I'll definitely be here for it if there is. I want to see ALL of BuyMort go down. But either way, I kinda wish we had a more natural build-up toward this particular end, even if it would require 3-4 more novels. Like I said, it was fun.

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Monday, November 20, 2023

The Sky Road (The Fall Revolution, #4)The Sky Road by Ken MacLeod
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The 4th book in the Fall Revolution is seated firmly in the future Earth this time. This alt-future follows the totally crazy multi-political SFnal tack to its natural conclusion. And what conclusion could an aging-slowed, politically ultra-conscious populace come to after tech or looming AI and functional immortality has settled in?

Chaos. Always chaos. People who believe generally find a way to keep on believing and getting others to join their power fantasies. Or if it isn't a power fantasy, it's often close enough to being a power fantasy as to make no real difference.

Even so, this particular novel reminds me so much more of the first in this universe. That one was pretty much us undergoing massive advancements and the means to enact our political fantasies. The Sky Road picks up after a great deal of time has passed and it kinda goes backwards. There are the post-physical populations and those who decided to stay behind in smaller communities, using old tech and living lives much like what we've got. And of course, there are the historians.

It's interesting. It's complicated. It's definitely worth reading this series. I rarely see anything like it anymore. This kind of SF should not be forgotten. It reminds me of 70's political SF updated to modern SFnal ideas while almost reaching the level of Singularity.

It may not get a lot right, of course, but we don't read SF for the future predictions. We read it for the possibilities. :)

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Sunday, November 19, 2023

The Good SoldierThe Good Soldier by Nir Yaniv
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I admit I HAD to read this book based on practically nothing more than the cover. I'm not usually so shallow, but it SCREAMED to me. And then, when I read that Tidhar and he collaborated, it bacame a done deal.

Upon reading, I feel vindicated. It's a very Catch-22 kind of novel, funny, SF space-fleet, and it glorifies all Second Class Idiots everywhere.

First Class Idiots aren't quite official. It's an honorary title.

Clever, subversive, and refreshingly old-school military humor. Everything, at all times, is perfectly functional. Sometimes it's even more functional than the other times when it is perfectly functional, but that's kinda always the point.

Great fun.

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Saturday, November 18, 2023

The Satanic VersesThe Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I think this is an important novel to read, a lot of real-life stuff circles it and perhaps conflates its importance in people's minds rather more than the quality of the text, itself.

That is to say: the fatwa placed on Salman Rushdie since 1988, marking him for death for writing this novel, is more of a head-scratcher to someone like me than some kind of obvious reality.

What? This title isn't obviously about Satan writing poetry and a total insult to Muslim peoples?

That's just it... Aside from some rather satirical passages about an Imam, or rather, we can assume one particular Imam that put a hit out on Rushdie's life, this novel is pretty TAME. Fine, there are a few assumptions about Muhammad and points of interpretation that are hinted at that bring up the fact that -- perhaps -- certain people aren't completely infallible. But this, I think, is MILD.

Especially when there is so much racism out there, this is frankly a lyrical, dense piece of literature that is often a pure pleasure, funny, strange, irreverent, satirical, and almost always enjoyable. It's a clever novel with many concurrent levels, dream sequences, magical realism, transformations, and a great look both Hindu and Muslim Indian life.

Is it an easy text? No, not particularly. Indeed, it's so dense that I had to read it (both times) in short bursts just so I could digest the rich text. Whereas some novels are pure popcorn, this one was a full, balanced meal.

Suffice to say, I got a lot out of it and Rushdie's writing is GOOD. Gabriel and Satan as an Indian Movie star and an Indian ex-patriot was never what I would have expected, but it IS fascinating.

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Friday, November 17, 2023

The Star BeastThe Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Early Heinlein. One of his best Juveniles. I don't know if it really counts to say there's spoilers here when it's so damn old, but I'm very amused by how it turned out.

Sure, we have a very old but very childlike alien beast that has been passed down for ten generations of this starfaring family. What began as a small, cute beast is now a full fledged dinosaur that like to eat shrubberies and trees in town.

And this is where the trouble begins. We've got busybody jerks who want to put down such an unintelligent beast because it doesn't quite match sapience laws despite being able to talk. After all, it doesn't have HANDS! *gasp* So yeah, this dog scared the locals and we go straight to a courtroom drama, counter-cultural hijinks, saving the beasty by all means, and a nice little surprise that turns the tables on everyone's understanding.

You know, Heinlein. Crusty libertarians, skirting the law when it doesn't make sense, making allies that throw a wrench in everyone's works. Fun stuff. And best of all, it's very much a YA. A great end, too.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Murder Your Employer: The McMasters Guide to HomicideMurder Your Employer: The McMasters Guide to Homicide by Rupert Holmes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What an utterly delightful, murderous book. Truly charming. After all, it's couched on true morality, or rather, considered morality, aided by higher education and intelligent design.

I love the writing. It really is charming and reserved and deliciously murderous. I may not have been laughing out loud, but I found myself grinning quite a bit. Bosses, true jerks, rapists, life-destroyers, and deplorables all get their just deserts thanks to these intrepid scholars.

Plot wise, I loved all the complicated setups and preparation for each murder. I thoroughly enjoyed all the characters and their motivations. Very self-aware, wonderfully period-set, and genuinely kind. You know, if you're part of the school. No one else might not get a taste of kindness... but some do. :)

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Monday, November 13, 2023

Under Fortunate StarsUnder Fortunate Stars by Ren Hutchings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I honestly didn't know if I was really going to like this book for a good chunk of time. The opening was light SF with rag-tag characters getting lost in a starless-rift, only to find another craft. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't all that interesting. Fortunately, we get some pretty awesome timey-wimey stuff going on and a LOT of great backstory that fills in everything else, making for a very different kind of novel besides a bit of space-opera.

The long war with the aliens is more of a backdrop and agency-pusher. The real star of the show is the long-history and celebration of the diplomacy that put an end to the war -- and how it directly relates to both crews on both of these stranded ships.

It's pretty smart, a lot of time jumping, story-wise, but I rather enjoyed that aspect of it. Who are your heroes, after all? I especially loved seeing their flaws, the inconsistencies, the surprise reveals (not really that surprising as a reader, but enjoyable to see the others be surprised in the tale) and the resolution.

Mystery, communication, trust, adventure -- and especially destiny -- are the things that make this pretty good.

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Saturday, November 11, 2023

Mercury Shrugs: (Mercury #5)Mercury Shrugs: by Robert Kroese
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The continuing adventures/misadventures of Mercury, the angel, leans hard into multiversal time-hijinx and Satan-defeating humor sprinkled with superman-movie references.

Sound odd? It's light humor, goofy, and slightly satirical fun. I didn't mind it for passing entertainment, but it wasn't my favorite of the series.

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Friday, November 10, 2023

BuyMort: Smart Shopper: How I Became the Accidental Warlord of Arizona (Shopocalypse Saga #2)BuyMort: Smart Shopper: How I Became the Accidental Warlord of Arizona by Damien Hanson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back to this very enjoyable SF apocalypse LitRPG adventure. Gotta built that post-apoc settlement on earth, thanks to Galactic Amazon. Um. I mean, BuyMort.

Ever wonder what a true capitalist nightmare is? Try this out. There's even a pretty great market on dead bodies, and instant transportation for any product is fantastic.

Bloody, funny, and I feel like I'm in a sim battle manager. :)

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Thursday, November 9, 2023

VentusVentus by Karl Schroeder
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a very cool surprise.

I read Schroeder's Virga series (enclosed hard-SF atmosphere with artificial suns, a steampunk-type storytelling) and was very impressed with the concepts, so I decided to go back to his earlier works. I didn't expect it to be quite AS ambitious as it turned out to be.

Indeed, from its humble fantasy-like start, with strange nano mecha taking part of a whole planet, with strange godlike AI visitors limiting themselves to explore Ventus, the planet, I was fairly hooked from the start. I didn't quite know how immense and epic it would become.

This is fantastic hard SF, ya'll. Rich, detailed worldbuilding, never skimping on history or the SFnal rules or the implications, I'm reminded very fondly of C. S. Friedman's Black Sun Rising, Neverness. Indeed, I had the impression of some Peter Hamilton as if written by Valente in The Habitation of the Blessed, King John's kingdom as told by AIs.

*loving this*

So, let me just point out this little fact: most SF doesn't go all out, getting progressively more creative and conceptually larger as it goes, but when it does, it should be noted. Clearly. And here's your notice. Prepare for some jaw-dropping. :)

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Sunday, November 5, 2023

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)Night Broken by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was actually rather great. I was getting filler vibes from earlier books here and there. But now? Coyote has a more central role. So does the walking stick. And when Adam's ex comes around to make life complicated, I loved to hate her.

I can't say much more without spoiling a ton, but I truly ENJOYED this one. It's full of meat, and not only the kind that you find after some ravenous god-like beast does a number on women and children.

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Saturday, November 4, 2023

Dead ElevenDead Eleven by Jimmy Juliano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not only is this a solid, good horror, it has such a delightfully wicked premise.

It's been so long since I've seen towns stuck in time stories, be it SF or Horror. And better yet, I've seen nothing like this stuck in the mid 90's. Nostalgia hits hard... again.

So. No spoilers, but we've got a pretty great atmospheric mystery that includes PoV and epistolary elements and a particularly great "oh, shit, this small town stuff is SCARY" vibe. Again, no spoilers, but the journey is all kinds of great.

Modern meets 90's ancient. Yeah, feeling old yet?

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Thursday, November 2, 2023

The Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, I finally got around to reading RG aka JKR and I'm kinda surprised it took me quite this long to do it.

I simply thought I wouldn't quite appreciate a mystery from a great fantasy writer, especially since there is no supernatural or such oddities in the text.

That isn't to say I don't know the mystery field, however, and I figured it was well past time to see if there's any fuss here.

So, first impressions: It's pretty formula, but it's well-done formula. We've got all the Noir going on that you could wish for, with a heavy reliance on slow-burn character building. I like that. It's solid and never made me lose interest.

And while that IS a good thing, it honestly never goes beyond that. I like Strike and I like Robin even more. But a dark-past PI with some problems isn't anything new. And neither is a seriously competent bombshell working for said PI. It has the strength of comfort going for it.

So, while I couldn't find anything seriously outstanding about the plot -- hell, even the plot seems to be rather cliche -- it was also satisfying the way an infrequent fast food burger is satisfying. You get that craving for that specific feel, the payoff that says all your initial assumptions about the entire genre is always right, every time, because they ARE standardized and will be the same no matter what city you travel to...

Yeah. Not bad, even solid all the way down, but also not original.

Even so, it's early days and it's not like I dislike it, so onward I go!

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Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Black River OrchardBlack River Orchard by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a truly classy, smooth horror, full of the bucolic, a bit of the suburbia, and a lot more of the fresh apple. Ah, yes, the apples. But what could make anything like a huge, sweeping horror novel about apples so SCARY?

Muahahahahahaha well, let's just say that Wendig is a treasure, okay?

I can't believe how much I got into all these characters, how my opinions of them kept changing, growing, or shrinking. Hell, I was actually on the side of those who turned out to be the worst even as they slid.

What a totally wonderful, rich, smooth horror. So sweet, full of fiber, with a lush texture. It's so good, we don't even need to make cider or bake a pie.

And on a personal note, we got some great fresh Cortlands and McIntoshes the other day and I ate about 5 of them as I read this novel. I totally recommend reading this book with some of the GOOD apples. And don't let anyone tell you that apples are all the same. They aren't.

If you do read this and eat some apples, tho, please take note of the color of the skin. It doesn't always mean that an apple the color of a ruby slipper is BAD, per se, but you might want to use your intuition anyway.

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Monday, October 30, 2023

BuyMort: Grand Opening: How I Became the Accidental Warlord of Arizona (Shopocalypse Saga #1)BuyMort: Grand Opening: How I Became the Accidental Warlord of Arizona by Damien Hanson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Truly fun semi-LitRPG. No leveling up, per-se, but it's definitely a tongue-in-cheeck Amazon-lambast near-future dystopia.

Normal people in BFE Arazona just trying to survive an alien uber-capitalist hell-topia. Sell what you like, survive the nastiness, buy at premium.

Sound familiar, folks?

Yep, it's very, very familiar. Just add orcs, slimes, wingless gigantic wasps, and a religion based on affiliate consumership.

Yes. It IS as scary as it sounds.

Happy SF halloween!

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Saturday, October 28, 2023

Bookshops & Bonedust (Legends & Lattes, #0)Bookshops & Bonedust by Travis Baldree
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know, I specifically read this because of Legends and Lattes, for the hope that I'd fall for the comfort, the warmth, the utterly delightful idea that something can be built that can last.

Sure, it's a fantasy, but that's just an element to amuse. A little necromancy, a splash of blood, but that's nothing.

The good stuff is BOOKS. Books and bonedust and teasing companionship and MAKING FRIENDS.

God. This book was just as good as the other.

Should we want ALL that Travis Baldree has to offer? Yes. I think we should ALL want an unlimited amount of feel-good fantasy X 2 thrillers as we can possibly support.


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Friday, October 27, 2023

The Destroyer of Worlds (Lovecraft Country, #2)The Destroyer of Worlds by Matt Ruff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is really more of a nostalgia piece that revisits all the cool bits from the first book. You know, picking up where the good characters left off, reminding us of some nasty history, and mixing it up with a ton of cool necromancy, magic, and black Doctor Who bits.

I enjoyed every bit of it -- but it absolutely rides on the coattails of the first. That's not a bad thing. I'm also saying that it didn't have the fantastic plot of the first book. Indeed, it was a bit meandering.

Either way, I'm glad I got to read it.

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Thursday, October 26, 2023

CarmillaCarmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, now I know why vampirism was so popular back in the day. Whew! So Steamy! Where we can get our romance novel HOT, even distracted to destruction.

Honestly, its simplicity is pretty wonderful, their innocence -- warming. But that's very attractive, of course, to the cold-blooded.

Believe me, I've read a TON of worse vampire novels. What this one lacks in plot, it makes up for in charm, seduction, longing, and horror.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Sixth ColumnSixth Column by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won't say this is a particularly good Heinlein, by any stretch of the imagination, but if you get right down to it, it was written in 1949 when he was moving away from his Juveniles and putting his hand to more adult works.

In this case, he was writing for a small white male audience that had recently come out of WWII and he kinda clumped all Asians as WWII imperialist Japanese with the numbers of China to come up with the baddies having overtaken America. It's a kind of ignorant future, okay? The book needed a baddie that wasn't American and culturally alien enough to pull off what WAS a pretty fun stunt that reminds me a lot of Heinlein's much better chicanery and revolution stuff.

What WAS pretty damn good was these good ole boys whipping up a technological masterpiece that appears like magic and coming to the conclusion that the only way to strike a blow on the Pan-Asians occupying America was to use a hokey religious guise that all the locals could see through to gather enough men to strike a magic-as-technology blow against the invaders.

Which they do. In a very silly, but ultimately fun way.

Would I recommend this as good Heinlein? Hell no. But do I think it deserves a ton of hate? No. Not at all. I really appreciated how he used Hobos for an information network and thumbed his nose at religion in general, how he USED it for good ends without taking any of it seriously. And if you think about it, that's pretty awesome in 1949. There has always been a rather keen abuse of religion, and some periods were worse than others. So I give credit where credit is due. Ahead of his time in one way, and woefully behind in another. Flawed but still worthwhile.

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Monday, October 23, 2023

Frost Burned (Mercy Thompson, #7)Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can't say I didn't have a good time with this particular installment. It had a somewhat hapless, 'shit always keeps happening to me' vibe, but it got more interesting when the pack got captured and Mercy's magic kept cropping up in cool ways.

It was nicely grounded all the way up to when the vamp politics reared its ugly head, and then the entire book felt like a snippet from an entirely different book. Like, it should have had all its own plot buildup, action, reversals, etc, quite aside from anything the pack was involved with.

But here? It felt like a bait and switch for all the end vamp stuff WAS cool.

All said? I enjoyed it, but my head is spinning in a not-so-good way. I've got a little cognitive dissonance going on. Oh, well.

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Sunday, October 22, 2023

Waybound (Cradle, #12)Waybound by Will Wight
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this for the sheer fun of it. All 12 books of this LitRPG have been anywhere between wildly fun and solidly action/progression based, as could always be predictable for any in this genre, but some are better than others.

This particular — last — volume in this story arc wound up being close to my favorite in the bunch.

I recommend reading the entire series in one long blast, however, because I had to scratch my had a little in the beginning to figure out where we left off, but once I caught up it was great. Mad Gods, Monarchs, Dreadgods, titans… it’s super high level stuff and there was no way I didn’t get a huge kick out of all of it.

I’m quite satisfied.

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Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Violent CenturyThe Violent Century by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I was going through my Lavie Tidhar kick, I thought I'd save this particular book for when I absolutely needed it. Of course, I found the right time in October, especially with that title.

I did rather expect a historical alternate history with actual superheroes living as normal human beings, being manipulated by governments and war and espionage, but this was dark even for expecting that.

I loved how we got these Watchmen-like old men and women living to the modern times, how they were fresh in the 1930s, WWII, cold-war era, and "retirement", and how all the chickens came home to roost. It was fascinating, very thriller, and it was absolutely amazing to see how so many atrocities played out with this particular twist adding even more ugly spice to the tale.

By now, I've read a good number of superhero-type alternate histories, but this one was extremely solid through and through -- and more so than most. So many dark secrets all came tumbling out. I recommend this for anyone who loves Watchmen and The Boys.

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Friday, October 20, 2023

Third EyeThird Eye by Felicia Day
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Light-hearted chosen one fantasy that has the REAL loser vibe, just trying to get by, sorry for being a hassle, fantasy goodness.

It's a real fairy tale written by Felicia Day. All the old chestnut goodness with all the modern meta understanding twist. And better than that: this is narrated by Felicia, herself, Neil Gaiman, Wil Wheaton, and even David Tennant. Is it tongue-in-cheek? Absolutely. Is it charming and root-for-the-underdog? Definitely.

Worth every second. I love this meta, charming fantasy stuff. Gotta love the losers.

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Thursday, October 19, 2023

Lair (Rats, #2)Lair by James Herbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It's okay. I mean, it has the old-school horror that's 3 parts sex and 1 part gory rat-gnawing death, so it's not mind-blowing. Indeed, it's kinda trashy.

Good thing I didn't expect anything other than this, right?

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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Mercury Revolts (Mercury #4)Mercury Revolts by Robert Kroese
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

These are consistent books, funny and satirical, and this one didn't disappoint. The sights were put upon a certain American Revolution this time and our interesting cherubim really got in the mix. Of course, there was also the generous help of Satan and Tiamat and a bunch of hapless modern and revolutionary chaps thrown in, but that's how the revolt goes!

Solid. Funny.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2023

MiseryMisery by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's been way too many years since I read this one. Hell, in a way, this was the novel that made me want to be a writer. After all, with all the miseries in this world, sometimes all you've got is yourself and all that you can create with your own two hands.

Never mind feet. They're not all that necessary to write with.

As for how this book really made me feel, I have to say it is one of the most horrific not because it's supernatural (it isn't) but because the pacing and the growing insanity of falling under nurse Ratched's -- sorry, Anne's -- persuasive spell really shows how someone CAN get broken.

So, all you would-be torturers out there, take careful note. This is a manual.

And with that, I'll just say that we can all be a number one fan, too.

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Monday, October 16, 2023

CujoCujo by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So solid. Honestly, as a straight thriller with no supernatural aspects, it showcases King's grasp of timing and characterizations. Beat by beat, so good.

Now, we all know Cujo is a bad dog, or if you're a King fan, he's a good, good boy, but what really got me on this late re-read (I was just a kid the first time) was the references to other well-loved characters in other early King works.

This shouldn't be a surprise to the fans, of course, but sometimes they hit harder. One in particular, for me, is Sheriff Bannerman. A pretty big role here, The Body, and, of course, The Dead Zone. He was even mentioned several times in Tommyknockers, but just mentioning him isn't quite enough to do him justice.

The poor man. So few good men.

Great book, otherwise! And expect tragedy. Expect lots of tragedy.

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Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Butcher's Masquerade (Dungeon Crawler Carl, #5)The Butcher's Masquerade by Matt Dinniman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'll be honest. This particular LitRPG is getting better as time goes by. Every time I get a better feel for the greater asshole universe, I just want to see it all go boom. Thanks, Carl, for putting things into perspective. Although, perhaps, I ought to give all credit to the most charismatic of the fighting party, that being Doughnut, the former child actor star, aka display cat, animal tamer and penny-pincher supreme.

Or maybe I should just thank the bombs. The many, huge, bombs.

Yeah, I think I'll go with the last one.

I think the story is getting better, honestly. The funny plot items are fine and all, but the real meat is really pushing me along. I can't wait to see what happens to all these assholes running this game. It better be GOOD.

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Saturday, October 14, 2023

Light Bringer (Red Rising Saga, #6)Light Bringer by Pierce Brown
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This series has become something of a staple for all space opera -- to me. Huge ships, ground battles across the Solar System, and of course near-godly martial might with power armor and razors in single combat. Of course, with the Roman themes, the immense stratification of societies, the honor, the brotherhoods, make it beautiful in a different way.

And then, there's the long-drawn hate and endless 12 years of war that has taken a huge toll on everyone. The Golds no less than any of the other colors, societies.

I can think of no other SF or MilSF that comes as close to the epic feel of the Iliad than this. Yeah, it's that good.

I'm pretty shocked. And reading this after, say, Dark Age? So delicious. Worth the wait.

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Friday, October 13, 2023

The Salt Grows HeavyThe Salt Grows Heavy by Cassandra Khaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dark and heavy story just brimming over with body horror. But what makes it special? Plague doctors, children, and bloodthirsty mermaids.

Need anyone ask for any more?

It's a great, dark atmospheric horror story and I'm super glad I got to read it for Spooktober. :)

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No Country for Old MenNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally getting around to this one, and while it rides that easy Western line, circa 1980 small town ethos, it is merely one of those books that I appreciate without loving.

Here's what I DO appreciate: it's a fine adventure of simplicity and survival, drug cartel meet gone wrong and opportunism butting heads with a hired psychopath... meets philosophy as entertainment.

There's some depth to this, regardless of the simplicity, but that's pretty much the best part of it. It's slow, carefully paced, with surprising switches of action-order, and I know, from its general staying power, it's sticking to a lot of people.

But for me? I think it's a fine home-cooked meal wrapped in a bloody modern western. Even when there's blood and death, it's quiet and slow. Perhaps that's all kinds of wonderful.

It's just a shame, though, that it just feels above average to me.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2023

The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday MachineThe Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine by Michael Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While definitely not laugh-out-loud like the great movie, this original non-fiction about the housing bond bust of '08 certainly makes up for it with lots of extra detail and explanation.

I'll just put this out there: nobody needs extra drama or characterization when the core, unbelievable immensity of assholery in the Stocks and Bonds market is enough to get millions of people boiling with rage.

That is, if they understand what happened, why it happened, and why it was never resolved. Why it's STILL an ongoing problem that just gets bigger and bigger with every passing year. Why it is very likely the very reason why housing prices have done nothing but rise and lock several generations out of ever owning a home now.

Is it a complicated issue? Not really. It's just clothed in stupid, obscuring language. Should it have landed a ton of people behind bars instead of getting golden parachutes? Absolutely. Should the market have corrected itself when it was merely bad instead of catastrophic? Absolutely.

And yet, this tale of the few shorters betting against the fraudulent housing market only got rich. In a sane society, the whole house of cards should have collapsed and been replaced with real regulations and watchdogs. Instead, we collectively just kicked the can.

Is this related to our current massive inflation cycle?


Anyway, it's a FANTASTIC book.

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Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Expert System’s Champion (Expert System, #2)The Expert System’s Champion by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don't know what it is about the Expert System novellas, but I love the wild exoplanet worldbuilding while finding myself not really caring about the MC. In long exile, making a living as an outcast among outcasts, I think I wanted to like the core story more than I did.

That's not to say it didn't have its charm, however. The alien species we're dealing with (no spoilers) reminds me of a certain slow-moving immortal legend that might be out to kill you. And if you get that reference, then enjoy your new Tchaikovsky animal!

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Monday, October 9, 2023

The Gate of the Feral Gods (Dungeon Crawler Carl, #4)The Gate of the Feral Gods by Matt Dinniman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

While I really enjoyed the elemental (air, water) locations in this lower level dungeon, I think I liked the whole subversive/anarchist/revolutionary bent against these asshole destroyers of whole worlds (ours included) the most.

I mean, yes, Doughnut the cat is awesome and still fantastic at getting the best bargain for explosives, but I think this plot is even better than dominating the whole floor or just staying alive.

I mean, this LitRPG is all about the ratings and the viewing pleasure of the rich across the galaxy. Who cares about the idiot humans who are forced to play for them, right?

Yeah. I'm all for Carl's hidden quest.

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Sunday, October 8, 2023

The TommyknockersThe Tommyknockers by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Out of all the SK novels out there, this is the one I have the hardest time reviewing.

Why? Because I KNOW why the general readership would poo-poo this novel and yet, its wildness, oddities, plain batshit craziness is exactly WHY I love this novel.

The only one that goes this far into nuttyland is the DT series. Don't believe me? Get to the Coke machine or the little red wagon. Better yet, get to the brothers. Or the automatic typing machine. Or better yet, go take a flying **** through a rolling doughnut. :)

This is a horror, absolutely. But it's also, absolutely, an science fiction novel. And if you think old B-movie SF horrors were fun in the old days, you'll truly appreciate it when they become a hardcore SK novel giving great nods to SF great, Poul Anderson.

Tommyknockers is a wild, wild ride of the imagination. Not for the faint of heart. Maybe back when this came out, it was too spicy for general readers. But now? I think it's just right. And here's the best part: so much of it presages later SF like Matrix (in a few really excellent, green, battery ways) and a bit of clever bio-hacking.

In comparison to all the other great SK novels, it may not be up there in terms of his very best, but it DOES shine brighter in one area: sheer imagination. For this, I applaud.

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Friday, October 6, 2023

Eater-of-Bone and Other Novellas (Great Ship #2.5)Eater-of-Bone and Other Novellas by Robert Reed
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Eater-of-Bone was a pretty great novella -- especially for the ideas. For anyone who's read Asher's Splatterjay novels, Reed's story will come as a delicious exploration of savagery in his Great Ship universe.

It's wild, wild, wild. Functional immortality and never-ending tooth-and-nail existence. I wish there was more SF like this.

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Thursday, October 5, 2023

The Well of Stars (Great Ship, #2)The Well of Stars by Robert Reed
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In one way, this is a pretty fascinating set piece of espionage on a grand scale between an amorphous intelligence the size of a nebula and the wandering Great Ship, itself an enormous spaceship carrying many, many now-immortal species between galaxies, the long route.

While I appreciate the idea, I found myself wandering and wishing we had more of the internal intrigues of the Great Ship and less of the almost aimless machinations outside of it.

I feel like it could have been a lot better, sharper, in short format. It could also be that I wasn't all that invested in these particular characters.

Anyway, I'm not unhappy to have read it. The ideas and worldbuilding, if not the execution of it, were pretty great.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Holly (Holly Gibney, #3)Holly by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the new King novel. I have to admit Holly's adventures as a private investigator have all be thoroughly enjoyable. As a regular investigation noir, it has great quirks and a firm grounding in our modern world. Case in point: 2020-21, and all the Covid, riots, and upheavals it includes.

Did I have any issues with the novel?


It has all the Stephen King feel, all the quirks, the great characters, and the solid plots I keep coming back for. No supernatural stuff this time, but King was always great in either direction.

So? Anyone hungry for a thriller? Come on, let's eat! I promise, it's very, very nutritious.

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Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Marrow (Great Ship, #1)Marrow by Robert Reed
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All right then, this SF is WELL off the beaten track and for the ideas alone, I want to jump up and down.


We've got a fantastically big BDO (Big Dumb Object) here. Fashioned out of the materials of a gas giant, this ship that was probably built 5 billion years ago is big enough to conveniently lose a whole planet in its deepest inner-workings. That's Marrow. The Captains, humans who've conquered mortality, explored, conquered, and eventually opened up the Great Ship to countless alien species across so much time and space, stumble upon Marrow and look like a bunch of fools, getting lost there for thousands of years, get children, eventually have to get over THAT, and find their way back to the comfortable, normal, VAST ship again.

Wild, right? We're dealing with a story that lasts many thousands of years, and it doesn't even end there. There's other mysteries, great aliens, mischievous AI, a bit of deep-time mysticism, and other idiocy.

I'm reminded fondly of Bank's Culture ships, Neal Asher's Shipminds, Niven's Ringworld, Baxter's BIG BIGNESS, but all written in Reed's inimitable style.

Fortunately, I love stories written like vignettes and the sense of living tons of history is pretty spectacular. For sheer imagination, I would love to recommend this book to any SF fan. It is definitely a book of big ideas if not one of lyrical style. The plots are fascinating, however, and nicely grounded for all that they keep landing us in weird situations.

*rubs hands* I'm looking forward to a lot more.

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