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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Defiance of the Fall 2 (Defiance of the Fall, #2)Defiance of the Fall 2 by TheFirstDefier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Interestingly enough, I enjoyed book two more than the first. Maybe it makes up for all the solo brawny axe bits by stakes that make it quite a bit more social. Building a city definitely helps.

Don't get me wrong, though. There's tons of solo leveling and grind, so everything that brought me to the series is still going strong.

Let's get BEAST. Show the System who's really boss.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

A Fire Upon the Deep (Zones of Thought, #1)A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is what I consider serious SF. Huge, epic scale SF where nothing is treated like a joke. It's also the source of the term "Singularity", for those who need an introduction.

I've loved this novel ever since it came out in the 90s, being totally fascinated with the Zones of Thought, where different areas of the galaxy can achieve godlike intelligence -- and others are reduced to simple biological slowness, taking away FTL and even computers.

The Blight is spreading that zone faster than any alien race can handle. *shiver*

But here's the best part, IMHO: The Tines world. We spend a lot of time here, with just two humans awake, a brother and sister, who get used in a big political alien game -- but it's nothing simple. Indeed, the aliens themselves are utterly fascinating -- not truly intelligent unless they stay fairly close together in small packs, like wolves, they run a medieval society. The whole tale is delicious.

I won't spoil it here. The thing is -- this is one of THE science fiction greats. So rich with worldbuilding, character development, ranging from cannons and radio to fleets of aliens, super ancient god-like remnants, unknowable threats, and physics, itself, being a major player in the tale.

There have been some pretty great epic-scale SFs, of course, but it's safe to say that most must tip a hat to Vernor Vinge.

That being said, RIP, Vinge. You will be missed.

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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Defiance of the Fall (Defiance of the Fall, #1)Defiance of the Fall by TheFirstDefier
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since I like LitRPGs pretty much all the time, being a long-term gamer, I don't mind the formula or the execution of this kind of thing: Wake up in a mashed-up multi-universe where an omniscient System makes everyone fight for resources/rights to plunder, and leveling up your skills to be the best, most bloodthirsty warrior -- protecting your little corner of your changed Earth.

It's just progression fiction, after all. Fun for what it is -- battles, adventure, leveling up.

The story isn't much, but that's not the best part. Getting beast is the best part. So here we go!

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Shuna's JourneyShuna's Journey by Hayao Miyazaki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Back in '83 this early Miyazaki manga was published, and from the cover and subsequently just about everything else within it, I was mesmerized by the imagery and themes.

I pointed at it, saying, "Princess Mononoke!!!"

And while it WASN'T Princess Mononoke, so much of it just screamed similarity, not least Yakul the red reindeer, the character designs, or so much more.

As for itself, it's mythical and beautiful, while feeling young, like all of Miyazaki's work, maybe a bit more SF and raw, but there's no way you could read this and not make all the connections.

Totally worth it.

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Friday, July 19, 2024

The First Step (A Thousand Li, #1)The First Step by Tao Wong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wanted something light, and this wuxia cultivation novel seemed just right for me.

Nothing extreme, just a slow progression from a peasant conscript to a fairly competent warrior, but with all the LitRPG elements of opening his chi gates, etc.

Enjoyable, if nothing extreme.

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Thursday, July 18, 2024

MarorMaror by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If it wasn't for the fact that this was historical fiction, illustrating the dirty underbelly of Isreal, mostly in the '80s, I would have just said that this was a lurid crime book full of dirty cops, drug dealers, murders, and prostitutes.

I WOULD have said that it was sensational and dark and a bit overblown in just how ugly all this shit was, between summary justice being had on a whim, the amazing amounts of drugs, participation in civil wars, wholesale murder -- but no. It is a story of a nation being built by assholes who do what they think needs doing. The hardliners had to come from somewhere, after all.

As a side-note, I was kinda worried about reading this alongside some truly deplorable current-events, but I shouldn't have worried. Lavie Tidhar writes a pretty damning tale without any modern reference material.

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Exodus: The Archimedes EngineExodus: The Archimedes Engine by Peter F. Hamilton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't really review this book without writing a book about it -- and that's because it's an enormous, sprawling far-future SF full of humans, demi-post-humans, and post-humans that have settled across a goodly portion of space without breaking the speed of light barrier.

Those who arrived first got to set up everything however they wanted, passing down the torch in spectacularly high-tech ways, while those who slow-moved their way into the cluster are pretty much given a couple of super-planet reservations to farm and feed the rest of the empire.

Of course, that's just the setup. The rest of the book is over nine-hundred pages, and we've got investigations, intrigue, adventure, interesting politics, high-tech enmeshed plot, and the titular Archimedes Engine -- based on some of the oldest original tech that only the Archons should have their hands on. Of course, the Celestials, the Uranic, and the normal latecomer normal humans will all vie for power -- and there's no power quite as big as that engine. No spoilers, but it's impressive.

What I should really point out is that this is a deep, wildly imaginative, and thoroughly explored novel. If you want to get lost in a really huge tale with amazing, far-reaching worldbuilding, great plots, tons of characters, and great action, then I'm just going to point at Peter here.

He's got it all -- big books that will last you a great long time. :)

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Monday, July 15, 2024

The Tusks of ExtinctionThe Tusks of Extinction by Ray Nayler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After his last novel, I expected a solid SF with real-world good stuff, but I didn't quite expect his next to be so hard-hitting.

Conservation and fighting for the rights of almost-extinct animals is a sore spot with me. Far too many economic complications make what should be a no-brainer issue into a real nightmare.

Mix not just elephants but a future with brought-back mammoths, some really cool SF sidewinding plots, and a ton of great characters and the low grumble in my gut of fear, and this turned out to be something quite special.

Short, hard-hitting, and it's also rather gorgeous. A great little SF that hits way too close to our home.

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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Empire of Ants: The Hidden Worlds and Extraordinary Lives of Earth's Tiny ConquerorsEmpire of Ants: The Hidden Worlds and Extraordinary Lives of Earth's Tiny Conquerors by Susanne Foitzik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every once a while, a good nature book hits the spot. Empire of Ants shines a pretty great spotlight on one of nature's real powerhouses.

Me, I'm truly fascinated by super-colonies, but this one does a great job with an overview, different types, how the different species ARE different. But I personally love the truly weird stuff like longevity-granting tapeworms and the fun fungi infestations.

We do get a little of everything.

Definitely worth the read.

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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Oogami-san, Dadamore Desu vol. 3 (大上さん、だだ漏れです。, #3)Oogami-san, Dadamore Desu vol. 3 by Yuu Yoshidamaru
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We're in full rom-com territory now. A few snags, miscommunication, and challenges. It's still sweet and I think these goofballs need to get it together already.

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Oogami-san, Dadamore Desu vol. 2 (大上さん、だだ漏れです。, #2)Oogami-san, Dadamore Desu vol. 2 by Yuu Yoshidamaru
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cuteness continues. Having an MC that makes anyone say what is really on their minds is perfect for humorous teen drama. :)


Fun stuff.

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Slayers (Buffyverse)Slayers by Amber Benson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm not usually one to pick up and enjoy franchise novels, but this one was special. Indeed, it was a labor of love. Most of the original cast got on board and it was Amber Benson (Tara, herself) and Christopher Golden who wrote it -- and if that isn't enough, the audio was spectacular.

It was quirky, fun, and perfectly in line with all the goofy things the original series was known for. Alternate universes were a thing, after all. And we get lots of Dru, Anya, Spike, and Rupert -- as well as a new Slayer (among many), to keep it fresh.

To be entirely honest, I'd love to see this done and continued for a while -- maybe even as an animation so we can get all the fights and magic and special effects while also bringing in all the originals for their voices. I'd watch the hell out of it.

But that's neither here not there. This novel was a genuine pleasure. Let the nostalgia roll with an all new tale!

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Oogami-san, Dadamore Desu vol. 1 (大上さん、だだ漏れです。, #1)Oogami-san, Dadamore Desu vol. 1 by Yuu Yoshidamaru
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I saw a recommendation for this, with a panel out of context, I thought for sure this would be ecchi. Weirdly, while it does dance around ecchi, it's certainly not focused on it.

It's oddly wholesome, about making and keeping friends when you feel like an outcast and try to avoid others. In other words, it's pretty damn sweet. I had quite a few awww moments.

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Friday, July 12, 2024

How to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying (Dark Lord Davi, #1)How to Become the Dark Lord and Die Trying by Django Wexler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Color me surprised to learn that Django Wexler is writing an Isekai!

I've been loving the genre for years now, right alongside its idiot twin, LitRPG, but I never really considered this kind of thing anything more than plain fun popcorn fiction -- and that's exactly what Django Wexler delivered.

We've got ourselves a Groundhog Day scenario in another world, where Davi had died for like a thousand years trying out every little thing this kingdom can offer, but when a big change comes -- and Davi is meant to become the Dark Lord, it all becomes a cool little adventure to get all the monsters together, build a hoard, have a lot of sex, and go through the trials set up by the Old Ones to officially become THE DARK LORD.

It's silly fun. Worth it.

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Tuesday, July 9, 2024

I'm Starting to Worry About This Black Box of DoomI'm Starting to Worry About This Black Box of Doom by Jason Pargin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First of all, if you love roadtrip novels, then perk your ear up.

The black box of doom needs a little road-time.

Of course, exactly WHAT that black box of doom is will be a major bone of contention throughout the novel, but it should be safe to say that there are several.

Probably, the more interesting black box of doom is the author's willingness to let it all hang out. We've all had some seriously hard years, be it with societal craziness, fractured people, loneliness, online echo chambers, and, let's face it, FEAR and the greater uneasiness we all have about opening up to others.

After a fairly delightful meet-cute involving a bit of kidnapping (honestly probably the only way this basement-dwelling dude might have agreed to this bit of wildness), this novel doesn't hesitate to jump right in and say the things that might start tons of arguments.

Oddly, however, there's a bit of interesting open-mindedness, which was pretty delightful, even if it didn't go overboard.

The rest of the novel was almost slapstick in how the Reddit boards went cuckoo or how conspiracy nutters became weekend warriors. It was pretty funny.

It may not be my favorite of Mr. Pargin's, but I do appreciate the courage to put these other ideas out there and treat them with a little respect even if they may be a sore point for many. (Think any of the contentious things that are on Reddit, and you'll get the idea.)

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Monday, July 8, 2024

The Web Between The WorldsThe Web Between The Worlds by Charles Sheffield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This Science Fiction from '79 hit the speculative science spot for me. The engineering, including wonderful robot spiders, a thread of investigation and mystery, and the eventual construction of a beanstalk space elevator all together made for quite a different kind of SF than we usually see today.

Smart engineers, visionary money men, and the deep desire to create something amazing.

I mean, seriously. Why don't we have more of this? Do we no longer have the imagination to dream big? Alas!

*sighs contentedly*

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Sunday, July 7, 2024

Ghostdrift (Finder Chronicles, #4)Ghostdrift by Suzanne Palmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

These adventure SF novels are really kinda everything I need right now. Is that saying a lot? Maybe it's not saying enough.

Fergus just keeps landing in it.

He's got some amazing skills and intelligence, but that doesn't help him when he's always finding a good reason or eight to skip out on all his friends because of SOME KIND of BONEHEAD universe-saving curiosity shtick that proves, yet again, that no deed ever goes unpunished.

Governments hate losing their shiny deadly shit, after all. Fergus is just tends to really sink neck deep in these kinds of new situations -- like being kidnapped by pirates and forced to serve on their crew.

And it doesn't end there. One of the strongest parts of all these Finder novels is the wildly different situations Fergus keeps finding himself in -- and often, it's part of a much bigger alien (or human!) crapstorm than we generally assume it'll be.

Top notch popcorn SF, as usual. Fergus really can find anything -- it's just a shame he can't keep out of all those damn traps he finds for himself.

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Saturday, July 6, 2024

Tidal Creatures (Alchemical Journeys, #3)Tidal Creatures by Seanan McGuire
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Like the ones before, we often get a lot of new characters that eventually circle back around to Roger Dogger, and like those others, it sometimes takes me a moment to warm up to the new characters.

It's true for this one as well. Don't get me wrong, I love me some lunar goddesses -- or minor lunar deities -- as much as the next guy, but it really did take me a moment to warm myself up under these moonbeams.

Fortunately, it gets nice and fun and it's very much like the last few novels in the series. My love will always go to the first, of course, but this one also does fan service well.

I actually prefer reading about the City from this angle more than the Baker angle -- but maybe I'm just weird.

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Friday, July 5, 2024

Bonds of Resolve (Cadicle, #3)Bonds of Resolve by A.K. DuBoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some time later, Will finds romance and progresses with some greater powers and negotiations. The space opera continues nicely, but if I am to be entirely honest, it is simple. If nobody expects complicated situations or characterizations, just a well-written formula, then you'll probably have a good time.

It is nothing groundbreaking, however, just psi and better star travel stuff, a long war, and lies.

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Thursday, July 4, 2024

Veil of Reality (Cadicle, #2)Veil of Reality by Amy DuBoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time skip, and the destined romance flowered a young man with prodigious psy-talents. He's driven, uncomplaining, and a shoe-in for leadership. Of course, he must be tested by the other side of the war, and he wasn't found wanting.

Again, it's pretty boilerplate space-opera SF, but it IS written easy-going and should appeal to the popcorn-loving crowd.

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Architects of Destiny (Cadicle, #1)Architects of Destiny by A.K. DuBoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Easy-reading space-opera. We've got the standard hidden-war thing going on with the special heroes sporting powerful psi-powers. Mix a little genetic tampering, bloodlines, and engineered romance, and that pretty much describes the first book.

It's not bad, of course. It's pretty standard you-get-what-you-come-for fare.
Fun, if this is what you crave. For me, I didn't mind it at all. I've read much worse.

It's popcorn.

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Wednesday, July 3, 2024

The Crow RoadThe Crow Road by Iain Banks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Honestly, I was both excited to read (because of that amazing opener) and trepidatious because I heard that this book takes a dive later on.

Well, I still loved that banger of an opening and was thoroughly charmed by this tale of a Scottish family, featuring this young twat that both shows that he has heart and that he doesn't deserve any in return, and it's all pretty fascinating. I loved the writing.

Fast forward a bit and he becomes a right git, but that's okay because conflicts drive tales and what's not to love about a mess of a man?

Fast forward a bit more and I finally get to the point where people snicker -- but you know what? I don't care that it turned into a mystery. It just felt like a bit of spice to what otherwise seems to be a long novel about death.

It is the Crow Road, after all, and we all follow it eventually.

I think I loved every moment of coming to terms with death in this novel, sudden or otherwise, the best. There was a good deal of depth and all of the characters were pretty fascinating. I wouldn't say they were much in the way of being good people, but it did make for a good novel.

This is only my second book of Iain Bank's regular fiction, and I will say that it feels so different from his SF. Here's to managing my expectations!

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Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Emergence (Eclipsed Evolution: Phase 3)Emergence by Kim Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More characterizations, more plot, and an interesting development, but I will stand by my last review when I said these three deserve to be together as a single story.

All together, it makes a pretty solid novel of first contact, trust, and resolve.

It was this particular novella that I really enjoyed the most, however. I like Harrison's quasi-magical developments. :)

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Totality (Eclipsed Evolution, #2)Totality by Kim Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Totality picks up from the first novella, deepening all the relationships, learning more about the Neighbors' world, what they seek to accomplish on our planet, and generally pulling off a normal first-contact kind of story.

However -- it feels like it has been done many times before. The only twist is some people behaving badly and a strong ecological theme. And on top of that, I am getting the distinct impression that these three novellas ought to have been packaged as a single longer tale, that they may have been split for marketing reasons.

I can't say that it would have made it a better tale, either way, but that's my impression.

The story is mild. A slight three-way kind of thing, but really more focused on friendship building. For some readers, this should be a high selling point.

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Monday, July 1, 2024

First Contact (Eclipsed Evolution, #1)First Contact by Kim Harrison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Kim Harrison in general, but this novella is pretty mainstream first-contact SF material. That's not to say it's bad -- we have the Neighbors and some solid alien-and-worldbuilding stuff going on, but the conflict is -- the usual.

It's pretty slow, but the core is all about building trust, so it does what it sets out to do. I get the distinct impression that it's mostly for the sake of launching the other two novellas, so I guess I can't complain.

Later on, I'll see if it pays off.

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Sunday, June 30, 2024

Great Masters: Beethoven - His Life and MusicGreat Masters: Beethoven - His Life and Music by Robert Greenberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a wild ride! I was always told how unstable Beethoven was, how brutish and lower case "c" crazy he was, but I guess he was all that and more.

BUT, if we ignore his bad behavior, his compulsive lying about his ancestry, the horrible mixed-up family situation, and some rather boarish behavior in general, we can ALL, almost universally, agree that he was ONE HELL OF A MUSICIAN.

Rock star is the proper term, not just in behavior, but in the rhythm and over-the-top grandiosity and originality of his work.

And, I shall not ignore the gloriosity of Greenberg's lecture. Top notch, as always.

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Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? by Mark Fisher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Truly remarkable precisely because it couches the problem of late stage capitalism in our concrete reality, it briefly, eloquently poses the exactly correct questions we should all be asking every day -- and realizing that we have all been fooled. That we are continually being fooled.

Here's the rub: We weren't always in this deep. There are still living people who remember the protections against runaway capitalism and the reality of a better way of doing things.

There was a massive push by capitalism, itself, to re-frame and re-contextualize the very concept of the profit motive, how people work, even the idea that good works could be offloaded as donations to non-profit mega-corps rather than the thing itself. (Look at carbon credit programs which have all almost entirely turned out to be fraud-schemes.)

And more importantly, look at what kinds of problems that capitalism can NEVER solve: the medical field, mental health, bureaucracy itself, or the circular self-serving nature of a monolithic money machine that cycles through the endless stages of control, from putting leashes on politicians, creating laws to benefit their profit margins, steamrolling popular opposition, controlling all narratives, and successfully silencing or exhausting the grand majority of the entire population -- making us all accept the fact of our Learned Defeatism.

The fact that practically all of us genuinely hate this entire system, sees how it is destroying us, and how we all wish it could just go away is really rather funny.

But it IS the core narrative. Capitalism is designed to have everyone hate it IF ONLY TO OFFER UP A PLEASING PRODUCT MADE BY CAPITALISM TO FIX THE PROBLEM THAT IT, ITSELF, CREATED.

See the trap?

None of us will get out of this without understanding that there are no quick-fixes, no products we can buy, and we can't even trust our near-universal cry of: "Oh, there's nothing that I (singular, just me,) can do." That line has also been programmed into us by the same people who make 500+ times our take home salaries. Honestly... should we trust their narrative?

This book is pretty amazing. It is smart, short, and drives each point home in a way that old masterworks on economic theory rather fail to do. This, at least, holds up an unclouded mirror.

It's VERY relevant for today.

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Saturday, June 29, 2024

Goblin Queen (Crystal Shards Online, #5)Goblin Queen by Rick Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Back to their original settlement, they discover an army of undead goblins laying waste to everything.

In other words, all normal.

I admit I enjoyed the setting of the prior novel better, but this was also fun. I mean, OP, bad odds, betrayal, AI gods on the field, and to top it all off, titans. No problem.

It's time to squash and be squashed. Defend that settlement!

Funnily enough, this is high-level battle time.

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Rocket Ship GalileoRocket Ship Galileo by Robert A. Heinlein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 6/29/24:

Another buddy read, but this time with a new victim -- I mean, a receiver of wholesome rocket-ship building from before the ACTUAL space race.

I think it's just so -- can do. We don't get much of this at all these days. And while it does feel like a new adult kind of novel, it's all about the spirit of adventure.

The funny thing is, I just read this last year, and yet I don't mind revisiting it at all. :)

Original Review:

I had to show my girl some of the old SF greats. Being a juvenile, herself, I thought it would be best to give her a taste of Heinlein's Juveniles, AND WE'RE BOTH GLAD WE DID.

This particular book was published in 1947, and considering the TIME it was published, it's pretty amazing. Consider the fact that Heinlein was writing about nuclear power rockets using as much of the science he was able to learn, as accurately as he could, in a YA. And not only was it hopeful and adventuresome with a hefty dose of can-do attitude, we even got a little popular ANTIFA action against the Nazis. RAH (Robert A. Heinlein) RAH RAH RAH!

It was delightful. A handful of young men and their mentor go to the moon. Sure, there's a little gloss-over with pre-fabbed rockets (an industry well under way) and a lot of everything else, but the basic science was there and it was written in a fun way.

Best of all, I have to point out that our own real space race had not gotten into gear yet. People's imaginations were not quite ready to pour so much of our resources into the grand competition. But Heinlein was there. Early. And serious about the science. :)

As for my girl, she was always attentive and loved the math (because she likes math) and thought the story was pretty damn fun. (Her words.) We flew through it together and she says she wants to read a LOT more Heinlein.

Ah, I love it. I remember when I went crazy, too, just a little older than her. :)

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Autumn's End: A SciFi Dystopian ThrillerAutumn's End: A SciFi Dystopian Thriller by B J Levey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Now that we've entered an age where cyberpunk is our actual reality, it really tickles me to read techno-thrillers that have all that old panache.

This near-future SF dystopia gives me all the feel of Detroit, of Daniel Suarez's wonderful novels, and any number of SF novels that insist that the warning should never be ignored.

In other words, my friends, if you love rich near-future worldbuilding, tech-failings, massive gambles, and a trove of spoilerish SF goodies that make their way onto the page, not to mention a fine plot, then please don't overlook this.

I had a great time!

PS: It's an independent title, but don't let that dissuade anyone. It is a passion project that took 5 years to get out here. It's not backed by anything but our eyes and support. It would be tragic if this gets lost in the shuffle.

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Friday, June 28, 2024

Gun Blade (Crystal Shards Online, #4)Gun Blade by Rick Scott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oooooooohhhhh I think I love this one. At least to me, I dove head-first into this one, screaming, "Cyberpunk!!!!!" And yes, exactly that game, with a lot of the great, flashy feel and a great deal of Atom Smasher to boot. :)

I went from "This is okay" to "Oh, I'm DOWN" real quick. Maybe it's not for everyone, but I loved the new class changes and combos and raid rotations as much as the overall developments of the story. But really? It was all the aesthetic. I even stayed up late to read.

At least to me, this LitRPG is finally coming into its own.

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Thursday, June 27, 2024

Witches Abroad (Discworld, #12; Witches, #3)Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Third read! 6/27/24:

There's something very dangerous about stories. And then there's the danger of stories within stories. And below that, are TROPES within stories within stories.


SCARY. And don't forget the pumpkins.

Original Review:

Re-read 5/24/18:

Second read! And MORE WITCHES. Well, voodoo, too!

What happens when stories just INSIST that witches come over and to the other side? What, with all the wolves misunderstanding that they're not men and dwarves trying to steal Nanny Og's shoes and ALL THOSE MAGIC MIRRORS!

And in the end, it's just family rivalry. :)

Weatherwax really stole the show.

Yeah. Even more than that damn cat Greebo! :)

The novel is a great mish-mash of fairy tails with proper Discworld attitude. :) Better than most of the Witches novels, IMHO, but I'm just biding time till Aching comes along. :)

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Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Reaper Man (Discworld, #11; Death, #2)Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Re-Read 6/26/24:

Each time I read these Discworlds (and this is #3) I find something new, or rather, there is something new in me that wants to read it a different way.

So this time I'm enjoying it much more than my second time and closer to my first, and the best of all three. That is to say, I SO GET that Death needs a holiday.

And you know what? Fuck work. Life can handle itself. Or rather, it might get a little backlog, but who cares. A little wobbly universe ain't nothing, no?

I'll always miss Bill. Or rather, I'll miss him all but one time.

Original Review:

Re-read with buddies!

I suppose it helps that I'm already a lifelong fan of Pratchett, but even objectively, this is a delightful novel about Death's retirement. Sure, he was tricked, but he really needed some time off. Or some time, period.

The magicians were delightful, as usual, and the undead, even more so. This is the zombie apocalypse, Discworld-style, when no one's allowed to die.

It was rather pastoral. :)

I wouldn't say this is my favorite of the Discworld series, but it *does* mark the inclusion of one of my absolute favorite Discworld characters of all time.

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Shard Wraith (Crystal Shards Online, #3)Shard Wraith by Rick Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm getting into the worldbuilding a bit more now, its SF and now even matrixy base, and I generally enjoy the twist of level fluctuations and restrictions, if handled well.

Funnily enough, when I originally thought that these books were cribbing a little from, say FFXI, this one cribbed a bit more from both ninja gaiden and rts battle sims. Not bad, even if it's not super original.

On the other hand, LitRPGs generally don't need to be original. They're giving us gamers what we clamor for: nostalgia and pure adventure.

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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

The Ministry of TimeThe Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one reads like a cold-war spy/romance where you bring defectors in, maybe romance them up a bit, then watch it all unravel as your agency makes things hairy -- but it is actually a time-travel novel that takes its sweet time enjoying a true man of English culture trying to come to terms with our modern age.

What did I like best?

Not the spy stuff. It was okay but it was rather sad and depressing. I DID like the fish out of water aspects, however, and even rather like the romance.

All in all, a solid time-travel novel that didn't focus too much on timey-wimey stuff, just the human angle.

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Sunday, June 23, 2024

You Like It DarkerYou Like It Darker by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Overall, a great collection of SK stories. Not a single complaint.

Two Talented Bastids -- What I thought MIGHT be a nice tie-in to Tommyknockers actually turned out to be a rather wholesome, if eerie, tale. 5/5

The Fifth Step - 4/5

Willie the Weirdo - What a creepy damn kid. 4/5

Danny Coughlin's Bad Dream - I loved every second of this. Poor Danny! This is King in top form. 5/5

Finn - I really felt sorry for this kid. Of course, the twist... 4/5

On Slide Inn Road - Old grandpa is a real hoot. Great language, ya old popcorn fart. :) 5/5

Red Screen - A nice twist on "picking". A bit of the normal and a good horrible wallop of the other. 4/5

The Turbulence Expert - 4/5

Laurie - Nothing like a little dog to lighten up your life. :) 5/5

Rattlesnakes - Wicked pram tale. Easily one of the best stories in this collection. I thought it was all kinds of cool that it carries Cujo on, so many years past that puppy's expiration date. More than anything else, though, this was one hell of a good ghost story. 5/5

The Dreamers - Oooohhh I love SK's cosmic horror stories. 5/5

The Answer Man - A good twist on a monkey paw story. And as always, the answer is in the proper question. :) 5/5

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Shard Warrior (Crystal Shards Online, #2)Shard Warrior by Rick Scott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This second book still has all the normal LitRPG goodies. The SF reveals are steadily revealing themselves and the dodge-tanking angle is still going strong.

I think I mainly enjoy these for the comfort factor. I'm getting some flashbacks of a FFXI grind and it's pretty neat. Other than that, it's fairly average -- not that this will stop me from reading more.

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Saturday, June 22, 2024

Dodge Tank (Crystal Shards Online, #1)Dodge Tank by Rick Scott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enjoyable LitRPG that hits hard with a quick no-agility build that ends with a dodge-build ninja tank. It feels like a straight ninja-thief FFXI build turned into a novelization, and I found it quite amusing.

Memories of being a dodge tank was quite fun. The rest of the story was engaging enough and I'll be continuing with enthusiasm. A quick-level story isn't bad.

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Friday, June 21, 2024

Mother of Learning: ARC 4Mother of Learning: ARC 4 by Domagoj Kurmaić
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow. Just wow. It's done, and it ended spectacularly, with heart, style, and a true wrap-up that gave love to every single character.

I don't say this that often, but, "DUDE."

All four books together need to be considered one story, or like web-chapters or a Dickensian story arc. From the very start to the post-loop battle, to the wrap-up, it was awesome.

I sat glued to the story without an even slight desire to do anything else at any point in time. I even went to bed late and got up early to spoil myself with more of this story.

When I say it outdoes Groundhog Day, I say it outdoes Groundhog Day. And it's NICE and long and I could keep reading it forever. Fortunately --- I can. Just pretend I'm on a time loop.

Time to wake up!


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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Ballad of Perilous GravesThe Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It wasn't until we moved on into the other world when I really started jamming with this novel, but once we went there, I fell into the wonderful language and sensual descriptions (even if they were gym shoes) and was entirely here for the journey.

Ghosts, jazz, New Orleans, and a whole lot of magic. Very imaginative and, frankly, a perfect sojourn on a wonderful Juneteenth day. :)

I particularly grew to love the slice of life, depth of characters, and overall epic horror feel -- and yet, I think the kids had the best adventure. :)

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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Service ModelService Model by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great little Everyman novel from the position of an eternally-innocent robot valet, walking us through philosophical positions from some of the great philosophers as we enjoy the end of the world.

Huh? Say what?

What I MEAN to say is that we've got a bot on an eternal search to be of service in the almost complete wreckage of the human race, encountering so many robots following their instruction sets to the absolute ends of the earth and their existence.

Just do as you've been programmed, ya know? Kinda like us. Do as "they" say. Keep on doing all the little things "they" say. Even if it leads you to doom, never go against your instruction sets!

Ah, but this novel is a bit more than just that kind of commentary, but this little blast at our underlying assumptions is quite delicious.

So yes, why HAVEN'T we been creating a kind and orderly world for ourselves? It IS a simple question. It ought to be part of ALL of our underlying questions.

But, alas, it's not just robots who have to follow instruction sets, no? I think we've been programmed with shit.

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Monday, June 17, 2024

Welcome to the Hyunam-Dong BookshopWelcome to the Hyunam-Dong Bookshop by Hwang Bo-Reum
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I want to say this is a heart-warming book about starting over and opening a bookshop and trying to follow your dream -- and it IS all of these things -- but it is also about burnout-recovery, life/work balance, healing, anxiety, and introversion.

That may also be heartwarming, but the worries are real and hit me just as hard since I've lived them. There is no official romance in this, either. There is the work, the work, and the work.

The trick is to do the work that makes you happy, of course, and to keep re-adjusting to make sure you are happy.

It's not entirely doable for all of us, of course. Not all of us will have worked and saved since being a kid to then drop it all into opening a bookstore. This is fantasy, of course, but it is a pretty, pretty thought.

Keep aiming for your happiness. Or rather, to quote Campbell, "Follow your bliss."

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Mother of Learning: ARC 3Mother of Learning: ARC 3 by Domagoj Kurmaić
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm truly thrilled with these novels. I'm having so much fun reading them.

This particular one still has the same foundation as the other two, while the MCs are continually growing stronger the more they learn with every iteration, but now we've seen other continents and have been interacting with some rather powerful people -- some to learn from, others to fool -- and I'm here for it all.

So delicious. I just can't get enough of this.

I totally recommend these for anyone who enjoys a Groundhog Day type of fantasy. :)

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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Mother of Learning: ARC 2Mother of Learning: ARC 2 by Domagoj Kurmaić
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm frankly blown away by this series.

Not only does it continue on in strong form from the first arc, it widens all horizons.

This series can only be described as a single endless novel. When the journey and character is this strong, a format like this is absolutely WONDERFUL if the writing is great and the dear reader is fully invested.

Fortunately, I am. Indeed, I LOVE a well-made Groundhog Day story and make no bones about the loop being about a month long. It turns this young character's magical learning sessions into something quite instructive. Being the academic sort, myself, I love the idea of becoming an archmage at 15 a wonderful prospect.

The big tragedy that keeps on re-happening is just a nice spur for everything else. As it is here, Zorian's scope is now well beyond the city where everything else had happened. He's developed a few new specialties, but it's his generalism that truly fascinates me.

So much so, I'm giving up on sleep and feel absolutely no desire to do anything else while reading this stuff.
Yes, that is high praise.

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Silver on the Tree (The Dark is Rising, #5)Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The finale has come!

It's a pretty great example of a "signs and mystical Arthurian legendary artifacts" kind of series, boldly mixing ancient and wild magic in with everyday English characters within a small territory for huge stakes.

That being said, I always preferred reading about Will's adventures and I warmed up to Brom pretty quickly, while the normal children were kinda so-so to me.

While I do APPRECIATE the idea of having so much Arthurian and older English imagery studded through these books, (and the last one in particular), my older self found it slightly ham-fisted and even slightly nonsensical by the end. It always boils down to arbitrary decisions by vastly powerful beings who then choose to give a choice over to the least consequential mortals.

Chosen-one stuff in different clothing, even arbitrarily chosen chosen-one stuff by the very end. And yes, I can see the point that this makes it rise above the expected outcomes, gives it subtlety and a chance for readers to read it all again for more signs and portents, but to me, it reminds me of countless heavy-handed christian fiction. Post-Narnia as this is, perhaps I'm a bit -- sensitive.

THAT being said, I still liked this book and the whole series. Good YA, great atmosphere, and if you're into it, vast numbers of symbolism to consider.

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Friday, June 14, 2024

Mother of Learning: ARC 1Mother of Learning: ARC 1 by Domagoj Kurmaić
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I didn't know this was what I had been wanting. Hell, it was so exactly what I had been wanting that I was compelled to stay up all night long, and then getting on my case about getting at least SOME sleep, and not wanting to get any.

Let's just lay it out: Magical time-loop of approximately a month, each time ending with a huge invasion of the school. Our hero, starting out his third year of magic school, is then forced to repeat it... for years. :) He decides to take advantage of the time to learn everything.


Muahahahahaha I loved it. Every single second. From normally avoiding people to getting to know everyone, every subject, manipulate things to his advantage, even try to do something about the invasion.

It's very much a Groundhog Day novel, but for YA magical schoolwork.

*giddy with enjoyment*

On to the next, quite shortly!

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Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Grey King (The Dark is Rising, #4)The Grey King by Susan Cooper
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe I'm getting into the worldbuilding more, or I am getting into the characters more, but the fourth book is really picking up for me and I'm loving it.

Perhaps a re-read of them all might be in order, now that I know the shape of things to come. :)

Either way, dark corners of English countryside, bastions of darkness, fought by the last incarnations of the light? As seen through foxes, ugly landowners, and dogs...

Yes, I think this small scope as a backdrop of the large is working quite well.

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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The FiveThe Five by Robert McCammon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't say enough good things about this one.

I mean, I've read a lot of his earlier works, back when I kinda thought he was on the same stage as King and Simmons when it came to those HUGE slice of life 80's horrors, and so it comes to something of a huge shock to realize he never left that stage.

The Five also happened to wrap a huge fist around my heart and keep me alive by some huge artificial means -- because it's one of those fantastic music novels. You know the type. Rock musicians on the road, trying everything to keep body and soul alive for the sake of the music.

The Five ram themselves against a truly nasty foe... an old warrior who rather got broke while on tour, who didn't take very kindly to hearing about any kind of protest talk from some stupid musicians... who then took his sniper skills on the road, hunting these musicians down one at a time.

So soon, the real countdown begins.

I loved it. I loved the characters, the depth, the perseverance, the friendships. And yes, I felt like I was hearing the music on stage, too.

It's the writing that I loved most. McCammon is a real master. I wanna be a barker for him. It doesn't cost a lot for a hellofalot of entertainment, folks. It's worth EVERY penny. :)

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Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Greenwitch (The Dark is Rising, #3)Greenwitch by Susan Cooper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Still a good YA fantasy from the early seventies, this time bringing the characters from the first two books together on an adventure to find the Grail. There's a good solid T. H. White thread here, as well as a Tethys, and a lonely Greenwitch.

It's worth it just for the mythology, but I have to say, it is likely a good, ageless book for the youngin's. ;)

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