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Friday, March 31, 2023

Ex-Heroes (Ex-Heroes, #1)Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I waffled back and forth on this one. On the one hand, I knew I'd love the concept of superheroes (generic superheroes, riffing on the ones we know so well, but different) versus a zombie-overrun world.

Not to be confused with the Marvel Zombies or Darkest Night run in Marvel or DC, mind you, but a fully-fleshed what-if of our world without copyrighted material.

So why am I waffling?

For one, I knew this was a concept novel. A write-by-spec novel mashing zombies and heroes. By any stretch I may not expect it to be brilliant but I would think it would be interesting. Very interesting.

And from the get-go, it kept up nicely. It kinda slowed down a bit when we got into the characterizations of all these old and later superheroes but it was a bit of a grab-bag. Some of the stories were pretty cool and some were rather cringe.

That being said, by the end it was pretty cool and it was a pretty cool study of the mixed genre. Better than that, it was also fun -- if not totally brilliant.

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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Steeped in SecretsSteeped in Secrets by Lauren Elliott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This mystery is very, very mild tea. Comforting, sure, and meant to give us a very fantastical look at pure comfort. From up and inheriting a tiny store and a whole cottage IN CALIFORNIA out of nowhere -- explained later), to reconnecting with old friends who really care, or finding a hot young thing who is instantly devoted to you, it has an amazing amount of tropes built right in and only a very few actual conflict points. Is it meant to wrap you up in a cozy little blanket and even give you a sweet dog (inherited as well) for your trouble? Of course it is. That's what it is designed for.

It's romance fantasy/mystery with a paranormal twist but it's really, really mild tea.

I'm not saying it doesn't do its job.
It very much does.

Unfortunately for me, the plot was fairly weak and the cliches had me rolling my eyes an awful lot and I kept saying words like "poppycock" and "oh, that's such bs" as I was reading. I do that fairly regularly, but if the enjoyment factor is still high enough, it doesn't bother me. It did, in fact, bother me a bit here.

I'm sure others will get a lot more enjoyment out of this fluff. Unfortunately, I DO like my tea with a little kick.

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Antimatter Blues (Mickey7, #2)Antimatter Blues by Edward Ashton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This sequel to Mickey7 is, and continues to be, a proper continuation of old-school adventure SF, the kind that carries itself on an underlying humorous premise and keeps a light tone even when the subject material might get a little dark.

I think of Frederick Brown and Clifford Simak and even a good deal of Alan Dean Foster. If so, Edward Ashton is definitely a godson of these classics.

That being said, it's light, fluffy fun. Cloning isn't so much the primary focus in this sequel, but meeting and killing a bunch of local aliens definitely is.

A solid average SF. Nothing deep, but consistently good.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The City of Dreaming Books (Zamonia, #4)The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Whenever I hear of a novel that is supposed to cater to bibliophiles (and when I mean cater, I mean pander, absolutely,) I keep getting either mildly disappointed or annoyed that there JUST ISN'T ENOUGH BOOKS. It's always really just a romance or a treasure hunt or something.

And then I get around to Walter Moers.

Not only is it physically overflowing with books and completely fabricated works of art and artists, it's an actual adventure in (and below!) a book city.

Who says writers can't be horribly adventuresome? I mean, it's one thing to just go out of your way to find an actual author for a work you found brilliant, only to get terrified, set up, betrayed, thrown in a labyrinth, meet the (literary) devil, and eventually come out again a changed dinosaur, but it's another thing do come out THIS changed.

Wild imagination here. This is definitely exactly what I want when I look for a book made for book lovers. It's not the only one, of course, but it's definitely at the top of my list. I think of Jeff Noon and Vandermeer when it comes to authors that have gone this far out on a limb.

Welcome to Weird Fiction, my friends. I loooooove it.

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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

The Mask of RaThe Mask of Ra by Paul Doherty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's a little treat for fans of ancient Egypt AND mysteries. Emphasis mystery.

Really, it reads like a historical fiction, a good deal of immersion in the life and times (mostly after his life) of Pharoah Tuthmosis II. Of course, we've got law enforcement (Amerotke, a judge who doubles as a cop) trying to uncover the truth of the Pharoah's death.

It's a pretty standard mystery with all the normal mystery twists, but that's not to say it wasn't also enjoyable. It's a nice change of pace for me and I think I might try to find the other books in the series.

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Monday, March 27, 2023

The Trials of Life: A Natural History of Animal BehaviorThe Trials of Life: A Natural History of Animal Behavior by David Attenborough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are an Attenborough fan, this is a must-have book for you. Even if you're just a casual fan of his many great documentaries, this is probably a must-have book for you, too.

It's all about animals. All kinds. All their mating behaviors, social structures, and feeding habits. Bees to elephants, ticks to birds of paradise.

Obviously, unless you're going to have a MUCH longer book, the species are curated and carefully chosen, but they're also very entertaining.

So why the 4 star, Brad? Merely because it isn't nearly as easy to follow with the limited descriptions without a visual, active component. Fortunately, this one will have exactly that.

I did enjoy this a great deal. I also know I probably should have enjoyed it more. This does not, in any way, diminish the importance of the work he does, of the work Attenborough brings to our attention.

It is absolutely necessary. Life is so much stranger than we tend to believe.

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Sunday, March 26, 2023

Around the World in 80 TreesAround the World in 80 Trees by Jonathan Drori
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This little nonfiction book on a handful (or rather, 80,) trees from around the world was a real delight.

Let's put it this way: it's definitely a great change of pace for me.

It's light, it's charming, it's absolutely informative. The illustrations are pretty wonderful but the prose is better.

The book is a hot cup of tea on a rainy day under the huge canopy of an ancient tree. It's really all about a little learning, appreciation, and wonder.

And if you're a tree-fan like me, it's just what the tree-doctor ordered. So calming.

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Blood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6)Blood Rites by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was about here in the first reading of this series that I realized that the potential reveals could theoretically outweigh the great plots, humor, and stakes.

No spoilers, but Harry has family. He has no worse weaknesses than family. It's really pretty great.

Of course, the humor is no slouch. Between the banter between Harry and Murphy and the emotional aid he provided with her in-laws, the whole porn industry plot, and Bob, I was chuckling an awful lot.

The series is super strong. There's a reason why it became so big and even a mainstay for the whole UF industry. It's well-rounded and wonderfully snarky and it has meat in a lot of places where you wouldn't expect an UF to have meat.

I can't wait to pick up the next, again. :)

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Saturday, March 25, 2023

When Women Were DragonsWhen Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well now! This was an extremely pleasant surprise. I might even say that this might be an important book. Emphasis important.


Because while it may have a lot of trappings of modern Feminist fantastical literature, what, with hundreds of thousands of women in stifling situations in 1955 suddenly sloughing off their skins to become dragons, it's good enough to be rather UNIVERSAL in nature.

Yes, the patriarchy is evil. Yes, women as a zeitgeist just snapped and said no to being limited, abused, or ignored. But here's the real deal: I feel the same way. I feel too big inside for my own skin. I want to rage and feel intense joy and NOT be limited by all the immense bullshit surrounding me, too.

I was RIGHT THERE. Indeed, I feel a dragon stretching my skin right now.
So, is this only a feminist fantasy? Hell no. This is a "I'm tired of being held back from what I really want to be" novel.

Of course, another enterprising reviewer might say something like: But aren't most identity novels the same thing?

Oh, sure, but few of them are quite this delightful and engaging, drawing me into something like an academic memoir while also re-framing so much of modern history under its glorious wings. For what I said before, it works well for Equal Rights and acceptance across a lot more than just Feminism. The social equity for race, orientation, and the power dynamic is all represented here. As you're reading it, you might just slip in ANY or ALL of the causes even if it is officially female-centric.

I call this a mark of a great book.

It's about being able to fight for your desire to pursue your dreams, after all. Dragoning is about having the power to fight your causes, your passions, your love.

Nobody should ever have the power to stop you from loving. No matter WHAT that love entails. So, TAKE FLIGHT!

Wooooo, what an energizing book. :)

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Thursday, March 23, 2023

The Serpent and the Grail (Arthor, #4)The Serpent and the Grail by A.A. Attanasio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It wasn't the focus on Arthor that I appreciated in this one. Merlin always stole the show and for the most part, so did all his companions.

In this case, I had a great deal of fun with Loki and dealing with Satan was something else, too.

The whole search for the Holy Grail was quite a bit more magical and female this time around and I have no complaints. Mommy dealing with the Fae was a real delight and pretty epic in its own right.

In retrospect, I think I had a bit more fun in this one than the previous two books. Definitely worth reading if you like Arthurian legends.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Galaxy in Flames (The Horus Heresy, #3)Galaxy in Flames by Ben Counter
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is entertaining enough if all you're looking for is galactic civil war, hints of other-dimensional godlike invaders, and battle, battle, battle.

I miss the philosophical moments and the slow character burn of the first novel, however. It's the nutritious part. The rest of this seems to be all condiments and hot sauce.

It's FINE if that's all you want. Indeed, some of the action is really good and the whole loyalty above all, the betrayals, the call for EMPIRE and the rage of discovery is all very emotional -- if you have been emotionally invested.

As it is, I did get invested in the first novel. The rest have merely coasted on the first.

And yet, there is some big-scope, big possibility world-destroying action laid down here. I think it would be enough for quite a few readers.

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Death Masks (The Dresden Files, #5)Death Masks by Jim Butcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Moving on with the great re-read of the Dresden Files, I was pretty thrilled to see the progression of the Red Court's threat (still so much less than what it will be) and a true, nasty introduction to the Denarians.

I think I like it all so much better on the re-read. I know how nasty things get so I'm slapping my head about Harry's nonchalance and bravado.

And that leads me right back to where I should have been all along: his friends. Without them, he's ALWAYS a sitting duck. Worse, he's cannon fodder. He talks a great game but he would have been toast without those faith Jedi swords at his back.

Truly though, the action and atmosphere was great in this one. I'm loving Michael and friends a lot. The dialogue is great. The implications at the end...

Well, that's what we have the next novel for. :)

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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Hell Bent (Alex Stern, #2)Hell Bent by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm definitely jumping on the rave train for this book, this series. I was already in love with the first but Hell Bent one goes above and beyond.

Let me put it this way: this is what a UF ought to be when it goes high-class and high-res. Fantastic on the details, delicious on the characters, and a story that just won't quit. Even the "flashbacks" are beyond necessary and crucial to this full-bodied and sometimes hellbound tale.

I'm in love with Alex Stern. She has everything I've loved in some of my favorite UFs but the creative mix of Ivy League school, secret societies, deep friendships, and a peculiarly wicked sense of honor makes this stand out. It's more than well-rounded, it's invigorating.

I am probably going to want to do a wonderful re-read of this right before the third book comes out and I'm gonna have to take along everyone. It's too good to miss.

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Monday, March 20, 2023

The Wolf and the Crown (Arthor, #3)The Wolf and the Crown by A.A. Attanasio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

To be honest, the third book in the Arthor cycle feels like a bit of a letdown. Of course, I'm comparing it more to the first and a bit to the second books, both of which spanned great time and scope as well as getting deep into specifics. The first one blew me away. The second was all right because it gave us Arthor (Arthur) as a YA protagonist leading up to the Sword in Stone, giving us a trip through the realms of the World Tree, and some rather awesome storytelling.

This one was merely about the early days of proving himself to be King, discovering what kind of king he would like to be. There was some resolution with the setup in the second book, of course, but oddly enough, this was almost a minor part of the tale.

Now, if I just ignored the Arthor parts and read the book as something else, completely, I thought it was a great collection of druidic legends, a mix of many other mythologies, and a very Fae-ish kind of magical legend. And honestly, I didn't really see why it should have mixed with the Arthurian Legend at all, but there it is.

Was it still pretty fascinating? Yes. Was it imaginative? Yes. But I'm stuck comparing it to the first book which was on a much more epic scale. It's not all that fair to THIS book, especially when it COULD have gone much further and deeper into the whole Grail quest, instead, and ending in the glorious tragedy. Instead, Mordred is still an unborn child throughout books 2 and 3. We had whole GENERATIONS in the first book.

This one is good but NOT to the same level. And that's a shame, because I thought things were going to be much wilder than this.

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Saturday, March 18, 2023

False Gods (The Horus Heresy, #2)False Gods by Graham McNeill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I rather missed the philosophical and ethical depth of the first book. It's still continued, to one degree or another, but it takes a back seat to the action.

This isn't really that bad a thing for a huge space-opera war epic spanning so many worlds. War is everything, warriors, bigger than anything, and the unstoppable wave of death... is totally gratuitous.

Truly, the whole thing is over-the-top gratuitous bloodlust and the glory of war, war, war. And why? For it's own sake. The echoes of the ethics, the questions, the undercurrent from the first book feels like an ultimate counterpoint... and everything is totally overbalanced.

Honestly, it would turn my stomach if I didn't already know what I was getting myself into. After all, it IS Warhammer 40k.

On a side note, I really love the whole idea of the Warp and the complications of godhood. I could read all of these just for that.

I wonder if I have the stomach for all of these. The Emperor's Crusade is so ironic. Peace and enlightenment at the tip of a sword. *rolls eyes*

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The Eagle and the Sword (Arthor, #2)The Eagle and the Sword by A.A. Attanasio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Unpopular opinion time.
Well, maybe unpopular.

I think this is a much better Arthurian legend retelling than White's Once and Future King. It's better than Mort De Arthur. It's better than Mists. Hell, it's better than all the rest of the old Arthurian legends.

Why, under the great world tree, would I say this?

Because it captures my imagination in a way that all the other books could not. Not only is the core re-imagined and intertwined masterfully with a ton of well-researched old mythologies, but Attanasio is very, very creative. The core Arthurian legend continues in this book with a young Arthor (Arthur), Morgan Le Fae, Merlin, as well as the fae, multiple tribes with clashing religions, and monsters and demons living in the World Tree.

The sword in stone is first and foremost, as is the setup for Arthor's future tragedy, and I'm all excited. We have such great setup.

Best of all, this is written in the modern epic fantasy style, popular in the early days of Jordan and Goodkind, and it is easily on the same level.

Loving it.

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Friday, March 17, 2023

The Dragon and the Unicorn (Arthor, #1)The Dragon and the Unicorn by A.A. Attanasio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I remember reading this back around 20 years ago and being blown away by the epic-level magic, the mixing of mythologies, and the beautiful core of this retelling of the Arthurian legend.

On re-read, I'm no less blown away.

There's so much to love in this. We get the genealogies of angels and demons under a very creative worldbuilding banner, the genealogies of Arthur's ancestors and the world into which he was born, a LOT of the extremely interesting take on Merlin, the demon who lives backwards, and especially Arthur's (or rather, Arthor's) parents and their peaceful mix of the ancient Druidic magics and Christianity.

Every page in this book shows a love of ALL mythologies and the desire to include them all under a single banner, just like the High King did for all the savages. The mirroring is gorgeous.

I look at so many modern epic fantasies and it's hard not to think we've lost something by comparison. I'm not saying the focus on Christianity is the thing that's missing. I'm saying the RICHNESS of it and all the others is what's missing, interwoven in a truly archetypal and gorgeous plethora of storytelling. :)

Granted, I didn't truly fall into the magic of this book until around half-way through, the slow build really aided in my love for the rest.

The magic in this book, even by today's jaded consumption of magic... is still quite amazing. There are always limits, balances, and rules.

I can't wait to read on.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Horus Rising (The Horus Heresy, #1)Horus Rising by Dan Abnett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I always avoided reading the Warhammer books for some reason. Maybe it was because I just got a vibe of zealotry, guns, blood, guts, zealotry, guns, destroying humans who disagree, and meeting new alien races to murderize them.

To put it plainly, it's not my cup of tea.

But now that I've finally gotten around to picking this up, I'm really surprised at how philosophical and idealism-oriented it really is. And while most of the warriors are all rah rah for the Emperor, a surprising number of them enjoy a good solid THINK. I really loved the down-time in this a LOT more than the gore, but the action was pretty cool, too.

I think, if I had to choose from any war-type far-future SF, I think this is some of the smoothest I've read. It actually criticizes without throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Very interesting.

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Monday, March 13, 2023

Legacy of Ash (Legacy Trilogy, #1)Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I heard some good things about this and I was hungry for a new Epic Fantasy to sink my teeth into.

By the end of this book, I got exactly what I hoped to get. Dark and heavily risen stakes, a bloodbath or three, and a good taste of the good 'ole grimdark.

I was invested by the end.

That also implies that I wasn't invested in the other times, and that is also true.

It took me about 2/3rds of the novel before I was doing something else than watching some prideful people bite the dust or other prideful people betray those they should have been protecting or sometimes both at the same time.

Don't get me wrong. That's a commonplace trope for these kinds of novels. This book had the mild feel of some Tad Williams and a taste of Abercrombie without the wildly imaginative aspects of either. I did notice something, however. There are an awful lot of epic fantasy novels that use crows. I mean, a LOT. Just an observation.

Anyway, I did think this was pretty good but for me, it's a bit average or a little above average. I may continue on the off-chance it gets brilliant.

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Saturday, March 11, 2023

Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson, #2)Blood Bound by Patricia Briggs
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So. I decided I didn't give Mercy enough chance to get good for me by just reading one book so I eventually circled back around and picked up the second.

I'm kinda surprised and a bit peeved with myself that I took so long.

So here we are, back among the pack and messing around with werewolves and little miss skinwalker is a bit underpowered. You really shouldn't be underpowered when dealing with a vampire sorcerer controlling a freaking demon. It should be a rule or something.

Don't mess around with sorcerer vampires. It's bad. Just.. bad.

Anyway, I actually had a pretty awesome time. I think I may need to buckle down and read the rest.

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Helliconia Winter (Helliconia, #3)Helliconia Winter by Brian W. Aldiss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Well, I'm glad that I can say that I finally read the Helliconia trilogy.

The main reason I enjoyed it was the worldbuilding. The characters, their having to deal with not only this alien world during different Great Seasons, are, at least to me, secondary to my sheer enjoyment of trying to understand the world itself.

This volume goes all the way in giving us a full explanation of the great cycles, the physiological changes that the humans and sub-human and alien creatures have to go through to survive the great winter, or by remembering Helliconia Summer, the reversed changes from here. (A great plague in either case, killing off so many but whomever survives, survives vastly changed.)

The comparisons between this world and the Earth, what happened to the Earth, our many colonies, was a fantastic addition.

But this is me. I love great worldbuilding, and that includes the sociological upheavals in these books. It was often about plain survival and while I did have some issues about the returning of all this religiosity that they had apparently escaped in Summer, I understand it. Everyone's brains changed. It was survival of the most isolationist, exploitative. It's a good message even if I personally thought it was horrible. It's a great mirror to the first book. In that one, we got a rebellion and the collapse of the priesthood. In this, the re-establishment.

Definitely worth reading. I may not have cared all that much about the dated sex stuff or some of the side-stories but the amount of care he put into making everything hang together is quite extraordinary.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Red Team Blues: A Martin Hench NovelRed Team Blues: A Martin Hench Novel by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my, this was a super easy and fun read for me. It has that perfect oddball mix of technothriller present day SF, savvy forensic economics white-hat heroism, and an easily humorous late-middle-age protag that is cunning, and careful, and wily.

Plus, it's Cory Doctorow. There are a great number of fun references to oddballs everywhere, not to mention a great understanding of cryptocurrencies, cryptography, and hacking in general.

Of course, this is a major life-hacking novel, almost noir, and definitely a hoot of an adventure.

I would LOVE to read a TON of Martin Hench novels. Hell, I tend to LOVE any novel with a good understanding of economics and financial chicanery and the will to right injustices.

I mean... is there a more timely novel out there? Just look around. Wouldn't we love to see some light shine on those sinister tax havens and Lex Lutherish super-rich and the stock markets? Wouldn't we love to have some kind of superman rip some of these evil-doers from their bunkers?

Yeeessssss, please.

So give me more of this. Give me the really smart stuff. Hit me. :)

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Tuesday, March 7, 2023

The Complete MausThe Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*cries silently*

This was easily more harrowing an experience than any that I've read. I mean, sure, there are worse in documentaries and movies about the Holocaust, but for writing?

No. This started gentle, got me invested heavily, and then the true horror settled in. It was, of course, worse because it was real.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I burst into tears several times, and it wasn't always for just the people depicted as mice. I am horrified, yet again. So absolutely horrified. Again. And it's always worse because we hear of still more atrocities around the world at different times and I have to wonder if there's anything worth saving in mankind.

I know there is. But I have to wonder.

As for this particular graphic novel, it won the Pulitzer for very good reason.

It's also banned all over the place because certain people are still invested in burying the truth, either to keep a beloved scapegoat or to perpetuate prejudice. Either way, fuck them. Everyone ought to pick this up and read it. Don't forget your history. Don't forget everyone's shared history. Don't forget our shared humanity, or we will all be doomed to repeat the same fucking mistakes.

*cries silently*

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Monday, March 6, 2023

Hidden FiguresHidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been on a great kick of modern women ass-kickers lately, getting a great taste of pre-and-post WWII women who are and should be great role-models for everyone.

In this particular book, we've got the Space Race and the way meritocracy actually overcame racism in the early days when the USA found itself falling behind the USSR.

It wasn't easy by any shot, however, for USA had and still has a real nasty problem with sexism and racism. Only the dire need to get things done had pried open an opportunity in what would later be NASA and there WERE a lot of wonderful female and black mathematicians carrying a ton of the burden. This is their story, and it's a fantastic story.

They may never have gotten the real credit or the adulation they deserve, even with this book and VERY late praise, but I'm very pleased that they did get some. I remember seeing the movie a few years ago, too, and figured it would be right to finally read the book and I'm happy to have done so.

Am I still sore that so much crap still has to be shoveled when ALL such big, wonderful tasks ought to be a joint effort that actively supports each other? Yes. Am I sore that the pervasive racism just f**king sucks, making not only the victim's lives harder, but EVERYONE'S lives harder? Yes.

But I would be remiss if I didn't sound a horn about the death of the space agency itself, having been drained of its blood by the cold war and then left for dead by greedy politicians.

I guess there's a lot to mourn. There's too much to mourn.

But one thing we should not mourn is the fact that these women got to be a part of something great and they ought to be extremely proud. That is, DESPITE all the crap they had to go through... or that everyone has to go through.

As history goes, this books is very necessary. We need to learn. We need to be better. We can't just keep hurting ourselves.

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Sunday, March 5, 2023

The Confidante: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Helped Win WWII and Shape Modern AmericaThe Confidante: The Untold Story of the Woman Who Helped Win WWII and Shape Modern America by Christopher C. Gorham
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Anna Marie Rosenberg is one of those women of the 20th century that really oughtn't be forgotten. I mean, she was not only a great role model for anyone, not just other women, but she was instrumental in so many wonderful policies that kept America on track, healthy, and whole.

My personal favorites, other than being FDR's right-hand woman and de facto Secretary of State, ushering in positive policies (New Deal, Social Security, employing women and blacks during the war effort ) and other progressive (one might say, OBVIOUS, but not for the time, inclusion of all capable people) initiatives, was one that we should all be particularly careful to note: Trade Unions.

Before she was the head confidante, chief information gatherer, going so far as to head out among the troops, being at the forefront of learning of the atrocities of WWII, or doing an awful lot to make the post WWII military a bit more efficient, she was a shrewd negotiator with teeth. She quickly earned vast amounts of trust between workers and businesses, cutting through the crap and making sure grievances and proper remuneration and justice would be had on all sides.

This was, of course, during the Great Depression, where there was a lot of homeless and cops and Pinkerton folks were beating up and sometimes murdering workers during the numerous strike busting going on. She understood all the issues and made sure that so many people were handed a little justice.

I bring this up because this little bit of history should be much better known today. The surrounding issues are becoming quite familiar to us. Strike busting never stopped, after all. Massive organization on all sides used to be a thing in America, but this was before the massive PR campaigns and media blackouts and endless funds and lawyers were being poured into ending worker protections.

Anna Marie Rosenberg, were she alive today, would have been at the forefront of organizing the right people, political or otherwise, to make sure regular people had a say.

It's really odd. Back then, it was really, really bad, race-wise, with so many lynchings and overt racism codified into laws, but those times still had it easier when it came to making great changes. Indeed, those social programs, better schools, GI Bills, Social Security itself, and a MUCH higher taxing rate for the richest, was almost unimaginably BETTER than it is now. Indeed, in quite a few ways, all these safety nets are almost back to what it was before the New Deal.

This is where knowing our history is so very important.

We're almost back to the bad old days of the Great Depression and yet we're told on all sides that we're doing great. I'm not saying that they also didn't have their fair share of bold lies and nasty-minded grifters and looters, but at least there were people in actual power, or power-adjacent, like Anna Marie Rosenberg, who could really FIGHT BACK and give us all a chance.

So, if anything, I'd recommend that everyone read this just to have that feeling. That idea that it IS possible to effect real change. I'm so done with example after example of the worst humanity has to offer.

We need to remember that there CAN still be clear-eyed, indefatigable people fighting the good fight.

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Saturday, March 4, 2023

EleanorEleanor by David Michaelis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a very pleasant surprise. A lot of it wasn't that new because I've read and watched a few documentaries on First Lady Eleanor and just how much she informed and shaped FDR's presidency, but there is something really comforting about a well-written account.

Frankly, she was something of a heroine. She was a genuinely good person who was willing and able to squarely face poverty and racism and meet the problem with courage and charm. I believe she was FDR's conscience, his heart. She pursued goals that made her extremely well-loved by almost everyone.

As far as I'm concerned, here are a few of the most important bits: She was a one-woman equal rights activist, an anti-poverty heroine, a tireless champion of anti-prejudice, an exposer of ignored atrocities, and, as I've said, a genuinely good person.

She used her native intelligence and vitality to give voice to so many problems in American society during a time where most were swept under the rug and kept mum in the media. Between the lynchings to gay rights to concentration camps overseas or right on American soil, women's rights, communist witch hunts, or the endlessly horrible effects of hidden poverty, she was always right there, shining a light on the problems.

She was a great person.

I appreciate her all the more today. We need someone just like her, with that much of a platform, with as much of a good heart. We need her more today than we've ever needed her.

SIGH. Good people need platforms.

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Friday, March 3, 2023

Veniss UndergroundVeniss Underground by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Here's a fascinating tale. Not perfect by a long shot, but definitely out there, fearless, and lyrical. I've become a fan of VanderMeer for quite some time now. Some of his tales are evocative, full of vitality and the dark atmosphere of the truly strange, others are nicely grounded and only give you grazing shots of the unique and unknowable.

Veniss Underground, on the other hand, gives us a full city that is both remarkably familiar and deeply strange. We're come to understand this is a good 700 hundred years in the future and there are bioengineered freaks, mutants, and enough obsessions to drive anyone nuts. It's a great mix of the usual and the deeply disturbing. Meerkats, for example, are creations that I was fully prepared to be delighted by, but instead I'm reminded of brains in jars and dark incantations.

I like it. When VanderMeer goes all out in with the lyrical grossness, the existential horror with the icing of sheer, screaming, body horror, it's hard not to get sucked right in and remember, fondly of the earlier passages that seemed so light and breezy but have now turned to dread.

I'm not going to say that this was a flawless work, from either the short novel or the handful of short stories capturing more of Veniss, but I can say that I was nicely disturbed and equally impressed with the author. It's challenging, but worth the effort.

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Thursday, March 2, 2023

Backpacking Through Bedlam (InCryptid, #12)Backpacking Through Bedlam by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alice is back, ya'll. That should be enough to capture the interest of most of you grenade-toting freaks, but if it isn't, then you haven't been reading the rest of the Price family novels.

IF you have, though, it means you know that grandma has a bit of some emotion sorting to do with her husband, and if that isn't enough, then we also need to reintroduce ourselves with the already-familiar grandchildren.

This was very fun.

While that would also have been fine all by itself, we DID get an actual novel that included the OTHER side of the family. Yes. Those people. Craziness ensues. And then there is also a long stretch of the novel that has a certain kind of mouse PoV.

For those who know, you know. It's so good.

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