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Books Read in June, 2018 July 3, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
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As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my June, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in June, 2018

Caliban’s War by James S.A Corey

The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (r)

John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood by Michael D. Sellers

Hollowgirl by Sean Williams

May, 2018 Reader’s Digest

Mind Merchants of Zodanga by Jack Norris (PDF) (RPG)

Myths of Artol by Keith Johnson (PDF) (RPG)

To Sail Once More Into the Valley of Dor by Vicki Lalonde (PDF) (RPG)

Torg: Aysle by Greg Farshtey, Greg Gordon et. al. (RPG) (r)

Seeds of Destruction by David Dolph (PDF) (RPG)

Queenswrath by Greg Farshtey and Jennifer Williams (RPG) (r)

Binary System by Eric Brown

High Lord of Earth by Greg Farshtey and Paul Murphy (RPG) (r)

Operation: Hard Sell by Ed Stark (RPG) (r)

Torg: Orrorsh by Christopher Kubasik (RPG (r)

June, 2018 Reader’s Digest

The Malice by Peter Newman

Torg: The Land Below by Stewart and Stephan Wieck (RPG) (r)

Crucible of Pain by Dan Greenberg (RPG) (r)

Torg: Space Gods by Greg Farshtey, Greg Gorden, Ed Stark and Jim Bambra (RPG) (r)

A Delusion of Satan by Frances Hill

Cylent Scream and Other Tales by Paul Balsamo, Patrick Flanagan, Robin Jaskow, Scott Mitchell, Mike Nystul and Lou Prosperi (RPG) (r)

The Storm Knights’ Guide to the Possibility Wars by Lou Prosperi (RPG) (r)

The Temple of Rec Stalek by Shane Lacy Hensley (RPG) (r)

Infiniverse Campaign Game Update Volume I by Greg Farshtey (RPG) (r)

The Delphi Council Worldbook Volume I by Robert Maxwell and Bill Smith (RPG) (r)
*****

And those were my reads in the month of June. Whew! I managed to read quite a few books, when considered around the old Torg roleplaying books that I read in June, and there was a lot of good non-fiction in my reading as well. Given that I hadn’t read any roleplaying game material in May, I guess I more than made up for it in June! 🙂 A good month of reads with some entertaining and pleasantly surprising books.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs – The second book in the original Barsoom trilogy by ERB, The Gods of Mars is the story of John Carter’s return to Barsoom – but a part of Barsoom that is shrouded in myth and legend. This second novel is one that deals with religion, belief, life, love, death, and other themes that may have surprised readers back when it was written, but are now themes found quite commonly in fiction and other media. However, this book was the first to do so. While Dejah Thoris doesn’t make an appearance until near the end of the book, which wraps up on a delightful cliffhanger, the themes of the book and how they affect the protagonist and those around him, whether friends or foes, makes it such an interesting read. Certain plot elements are somewhat obvious to the modern reader, but that doesn’t prevent the enjoyment of this novel.

A Delusion of Satan: The Full Story of the Salem Witch Trials by Frances Hill – Another one of the non-fiction books that I enjoyed this month. One of the founding precepts of the United States is the freedom to practice religion as one sees fit. I won’t go into the details of the history of this practice in the U.S. (you can read about that in all sorts of places), but suffice to say the atmosphere of colonial Massachusetts demanded conformity in attitudes, dress, behaviour and piousness. This led to the situation of a feeling of repression and oppression, especially among the disenfranchised. In this book, Frances Hill examines the political and social circumstances extant at that time and leads the reader through the most notorious witch hunt in history. Hill posits that the social conditions led directly to the accusations that led to the deaths of 20 probably innocent people. She investigates the reality of the accusers and the actual physical manifestations that they experienced. However, the political machinations between two of the families of Salem (behind the scenes) led to many of the accusations as enemies of one family against the other. There is a lot more to this book that, though I question Hill’s conjectures about psychological conclusions, is an excellent, no-nonsense account of the weird year of 1692 in Salem. I recommend this one.

John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood by Michael D. Sellers – This non-fiction work is the author’s inside look at why the 2012 John Carter movie failed at the box office and how Disney completely botched the marketing of the film, ensuring poor viewing numbers and that no sequel(s) would be made. The author is somewhat biased about the events, but the behind-the-scenes look, based on a lot of internet material, at what went on makes for an interesting read and the tale of how some Hollywood dreams have bitter tastes to them.

Queenswrath by Greg Farshtey and Jennifer Williams – This collection of short scenario ideas for the old Torg: The Possibility Wars RPG is quite nice, being a series of edicts from Pella Ardinay, the ruler of Aysle (the fantasy cosm) on (Core) Earth, for Storm Knights to deal with various problems that have arisen in her realm. Nice collection of scenario ideas, not really fleshed out but ready to be helped along by a good GM. Wonderful stuff.

Binary System by Eric Brown – Established writer Brown has written a superb novel that is part space exploration, part first contact, and completely engrossing. This is the story of Cordelia “Delia” Kemp who, after a catastrophic accident and explosion on her spaceship, ends up in a remote, strange and unexplored part of space with only the Imp (her internal AI) as her companion. Delia finds herself on the ice planet of Valinda with unknowable aliens and has to find a way to survive under challenging circumstances, with seemingly no means of getting home. The characterisation and dialogue is top-notch, and Delia is a well crafted, three-dimensional character whose anguish and desperation over being stranded on an alien planet is vividly brought to life with realistic descriptions. Haunted by what happened to the man she finally declared her love for just before the starship was destroyed, her feelings are explored very nicely, and her interactions with her Imp, and the two alien species (the Fahran and the Skelt) she finds on Valinda are handled exceptionally well. What makes this novel truly stand out, however, is the worldbuilding that Brown engages in. Valinda’s geography and its inhabitants are lovingly revealed through the eyes of Delia, and I’m not going to spoil the potential reader’s enjoyment of this major element of the book. Suffice to say this is space opera at its finest, and I highly recommend it.

Overall, I managed to read 7 novels, 14 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in June. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 43 books, 24 RPGs and RPG products, 12 magazines, 0 comics, and 2 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

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Books Read in May, 2018 June 4, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
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As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my May, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in May, 2018

Roman Games by Bruce Macbain

The Art of Dejah Thoris and the Worlds of Mars by Various (Artbook)

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross

April, 2018 Reader’s Digest

Updraft by Fran Wilde

April, 2018 Locus

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

Dark Life by Kat Falls

Rip Tide by Kat Falls

May, 2018 Locus
*****

And those were my reads in the month of May. I managed to read more books than I expected in May, and none of them were re-reads interestingly enough. In addition, I was shocked to see that I’d not read any roleplaying game materials for the month, but that’s not surprising given that I was re-reading the adventures that I was running at CanGames so perhaps not really a surprise. A good month of reads with some entertaining and pleasantly surprising books.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh – This was a book that I was cautious to read. I love the Arabian Nights stories, and so my expectations on the book were high. Make no mistake, this novel is the story of Scheherazade (called Shahrzad here) and the King (called Khalid). It’s definitely a romance novel that doesn’t start out that way per sé, and turns into a story that…it’s divine. Renee Ahdieh’s writing is exquisite in this book. Whether she described luscious palaces, delectable dishes and lavish clothes or a love so palpable that it rips your insides open, devastating truths or heartbreaking choices, she captivates the reader with her prose. I would happily spend more time with the characters of Shahrzad, Khalid, Despina and Jalal, and there’s a sequel that I’m rather looking forward to. Highly recommended.

Updraft by Fran Wilde – The first book in the Bone Universe series, and also the first novel by the author, Updraft is one heck of an enjoyable read. The book tells the story of Kirit Densira, a young girl with a rare talent who is raised in a bizarre city – one consisting of towering bone spires where flight is one of the few freedoms and giant, invisible flying squid with glass teeth lurk in the sky. Our heroine, Kirit, is a strong-minded young girl who craves the freedom of flight as a trader between towers, but the revelation that she has the type of voice that can control skymouths make her valuable to a secretive ruling class of the city. Her struggle to make her way in this world where it all seems stacked against her makes for a tense and engaging story. The author’s world-building is absolutely brilliant, and there is an array of bizarre cultural, biological and features of this world that make it truly stand out. A truly remarkable first novel, and I’m looking forward to reading the second book, soon. Again, highly recommended.

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde – This slight book (of around 180 pages) is an engrossing fantasy tale of a kingdom based on magical gemstones that is betrayed from within. A young woman of the royal blood (a “Jewel”) finds herself the last heir, presiding over a ruined, conquered land. She and her magical companion (a “Lapidary”) must decide how best to cope, for their own benefit, for the kingdom’s, all the while temptation and betrayal surrounding them. As different in style and feel from Updraft as it is, this book also has some interesting world-building. A book about love, trust, betrayal, and loyalty, this one bears reading a second or third time. I liked it. A lot.

Overall, I managed to read 10 novels, 0 RPGs and RPG products, 3 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in May. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 36 books, 10 RPGs and RPG products, 10 magazines, 0 comics, and 2 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

‘Twas the Day After CanGames May 21, 2018

Posted by jkahane in cangames, conventions, gaming hut, health hut, personal, reading hut, rpg hut, tv hut.
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Hope everyone is having a good day. 🙂

CanGames 2018 is pretty much a done deal for me, though the folks who organised and put on this year’s edition of the convention are probably dealing with the aftermath of the convention and hopefully getting in some rest today as well.

I made the decision to go to the convention this year even with the diabetic ulcer on my left leg, my stomach and bowels suffering the effects of a high dose of antibiotic, and with the shoulder pain that I’ve been dealing with for over a year. I won’t say it was the smartest decision (see below) to game pm the weekend (I was running four (4) game sessions of stuff), I managed to survive CanGames in pretty good shape or so I thought. I woke up this morning with a sore throat and a cough, the latter having gotten steadily worse as the day has gone on, though otherwise I’m feeling somewhat all right. I suspect I have the dreaded con crud – and how the heck have I come down with a bacterial infection while on an antibiotic and keeping my hands as clean as I could at the convention?? – but I have to say I had a pretty good time running my games at CanGames 2018 and catching up with a few friends, but I’ll admit that most of Saturday passed in something of a blur. The convention had a little bit of something for everyone – from children’s games, through board games, miniature games, roleplaying games, and I think there may have been a LARP event that I may have heard about – but I’ll admit that I missed most of it. I managed to do what I set out to do at the convention, but didn’t actually take all that many photos at the convention this year. (If folks who did take photos at the convention would care to share them, I’d be more than happy to see any pics and the like!)

On this holiday Monday, I’ve been taking it very easy, doing a bit of reading and catching up on some PVR stuff, drinking hot liquids and taking some cough drops (sugar-free, of course!). Haven’t managed to put away some of the gaming stuff yet. I haven’t jotted down any notes about the gaming that I did this weekend yet, but will take care of some of that now. After I have a hot cup of tea.

I just hope the rest of this month is relatively calm and quiet in terms of everything, that I can recover quickly from this darned con crud I’m dealing with now, and that I can sort out some of the diabetes problems I’m currently dealing with.

Books Read in April, 2018 May 3, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
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As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my April, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in April, 2018

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

The Nightmare Stacks by Charles Stross

Torg Eternity: Day 1 (Adventures) by Dean Gilbert, Darrell Hayhurst, Shane Lacy Hensley et. al. (RPG)

Beyond the Sun edited by Brian Thomas Schmidt

Torg Eternity: Delphi Missions: Rising Storm by Greg Gordon, Darrell Hayhurst et. al. (RPG)

Before the Dawn by Greg Gordon et. al. (RPG) (r)

The Final Countdown by Martin Wixted (RPG) (r)

Applied Science by Stewart Wieck (RPG) (r)

Damsel in Distress by James Long (RPG) (r)

The Mystic Flame by Louis Prosperi (RPG) (r)

Spelljack by Steve Crow (RPG) (r)

Love by Christopher Kubasik (RPG) (r)

Raiko by Nigel D. Findley (RPG) (r)

The Burden of Glory by the Torg Eternity Team (PDF) (RPG)

The Riverside Heist by Matt Ritchie (PDF) (RPG)

Run Through the Jungle by Brian Reeves (PDF) (RPG)

Day 2: Road to Philadelphia by David Chart (PDF) (RPG)

The Améliorer Virus by David Dolph (PDF) (RPG)

The Janus Agenda: Day 1 by Simon English (PDF) (RPG)

The Janus Agenda: Characters by Simon English (PDF) (RPG)

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (r)

March, 2018 Locus

The Golden Pearl by Cassandra Beck

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Blame by Jeff Abbott

In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne
*****

And those were my reads in the month of April. I managed to read more books than I expected in April, some re-reads, some not, and the number of gaming reads for the old Torg: The Possibility Wars and the new Torg Eternity RPGs “pad” the list out somewhat, but it was a good month of reads with some very entertaining works. Again, it’s been very difficult for me to actually hold a book in my hands or to lean one against my hands over the past few months due to the problems I’m having with my left shoulder/neck/arm and spine.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers – I really had no idea what to expect in this novel, but read it based on the cover blurb I saw when the book came out. What I got was a delicious, tasty repast of perfectly prepared insects aboard the Wayfarer, the tunneling vessel and primary habitat presented in the book, enjoying wonderful dialogue and conversations and a surprisingly diverse collection of humans, aliens, and an excellent example of an AI. While each chapter of the book felt almost like a “moral of the week” bit from a 90s television series, the overall story is about the characters aboard the Wayfarer and how their relationships change over time as the actual plot of the book weaves throughout the story.
While it took me a good deal of time to read this book due to the density of the material, this was a highly enjoyable book, and I highly recommend it.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – What can I say? This was one of my re-reads of the month. The first book in the His Dark Materials series, The Golden Compass tells the story of Lyra Bellacqua, a young and rebellious girl living in a world where each person has a daemon in the form of an animal that is their spirit. The novel’s writing is top notch and the characterisation of Lyra and the other characters is quite wonderful. I still recommend the book to those who ask me about it, and my love for this book has strengthened with every re-read.

In the Shadow of the Gods by Rachel Dunne – The first book in the Bound Gods series. This is a gritty, blood-soaked novel, full of flawed characters – some of whom the reader will root for, others which the reader won’t bring themselves to trust. That said, this isn’t your tired epic fantasy of farm boys on an adventure, instead illustrating the cruelty of the mob and how inner strength and loyalty can be found in unlikely places despite a cold, harsh world. The book pulls the reader into the world of Fiatera, sets its hooks and concludes with the heroes (and/or villains) growing and beginning new paths. If you like dark fantasy in the genre of the works of Joe Abercrombie, Mark Lawrence, or Steven Erikson, then pick up the first book in this series by debut author Rachel Dunne.

The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst – The first book in the Queens of Renthia series, this novel is a fascinating read. Everything in this world has an elemental spirit, each ruled by contradictory impulses, to create and to destroy. For the world to survive, there must be a human Queen to rule over the spirits and temper their impulses. In this novel, Daleina, a young, determined woman, trains to become an heir to the current Queen and forms a partnership with Champion Ven, who is in disgrace after questioning the current Queen. Daleina’s origin and struggle to become an heir is up against the background of a horrible betrayal and a time of strife for the whole country. Daleina’s not the most powerful of magic users, but she’s clever, resourceful and provides leadership over raw power. Champion Ven is torn between his love for Queen Fara and his duty to the country and to his young student. Throw in some terrific world-building and a fascinating system of magic, and you get a terrific start to this series. Highly recommended.

Overall, I managed to read 8 novels, 4 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazine, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in April. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 26 books, 10 RPGs and RPG products, 6 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Book Reads in March, 2018 April 3, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
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As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my March, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in March, 2018

Into the Forest by Jean Hegland (r)

Finch by Jeff VanderMeer

Torg Eternity Core Rules by Shane Lacy Hensley, Darrell Hayhurst, et. al.
(RPG)

Torg Eternity GM Screen by Various (RPG)

Maureen Birnbaum Barbarian Swordsperson, The Complete Stories by George Alec Effinger (r)

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

February, 2018 Locus

The Tears of Ampharool QuickStart Rules and Introductory Adventure by Raphael Bardas, Francois Cedelle, Nadege Debray, Yann Zachary and Sarah Newton (RPG)

March, 2018 Reader’s Digest
*****

And those were my reads in the month of March. Not a lot of reading in the month, bt what I did read was entertaining enough though some of it was a bit tedious, to be honest. Once again, it’s been very difficult for me to actually hold a book in my hands or to lean one against my hands over the past few months due to the problems I’m having with my left shoulder/neck/arm and spine. Add to that the fact that I’m editing stuff, and that explains it…just very incapacitated, or just very busy.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey – The first book in the Expanse series. This book is an intrigue-filled mystery to be honest, with two mystery plots going on simultaneously, which converge before the halfway mark of this large volume. By the end of the book, the story has turned into something else and there’s a bit of everything going on here, with two central characters (Miller and Holden) who are both well-written and well-defined. That said, the book is somewhat long for my taste, and the writing is uneven in places, but the story is just so riveting for the most part. Recommended.

Torg Eternity Core Rules by Shane Lacy Hensley, Darrell Hayhurst, et. al.
(RPG) – The original Torg: The Possibility Wars Roleplaying Game came out over 25 years ago, and had a devoted following, including me. The folks at Ulisses Spiele US have done a bang-up job redefining Torg for the modern day, and while most of the game mechanics are familiar and offer some changes and additions, the game plays even better than it used to, for the most part. With a good slew of adventures already available for the game, I recommend Torg Eternity for folks who want to get into multi-cosmic games that involve the invasion of Earth by different realities.

The rest of the books that I read (and re-read) in March, 2018 were all pretty good, but these two stood out the most for the month.

Overall, I managed to read 5 novels, 3 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in March. Since this is the early part of the year still, it brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 18 books, 6 RPGs and RPG products, 5 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Book Reads in February, 2018 March 5, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
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Got delayed in writing this up for the month, but better late than never. 🙂

As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my February, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in February, 2018

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Scourge of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (r)

December, 2017 Locus

January/February, 2018 Reader’s Digest

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue

January, 2018 Locus

John Carter of Mars Roleplaying Game Quickstart Rules and Adventure by Jack Norris (RPG) (PDF)

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (r)
*****

And those were my reads in the month of February. This was one of the slowest months of reading that I’ve had but there have been several of these over the last few months. The fact of the matter is that it’s been very difficult for me to actually hold a book in my hands or to lean one against my hands over the past few months due to the problems I’m having with my left shoulder/neck/arm and spine. Add to that the fact that I’m editing stuff, and that explains it.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Scourge of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler – The third book in the Legends of Muirwood, this book is a good read and a fitting end to the trilogy of novels. One of the things I’ve noticed about this series is that it’s “early Wheeler,” as in the fact that these are some of the first books that he wrote and it shows. Scourge is the book where he finally reaches his stride, developing his own style, but what really struck me about this one is the sense of danger that always hangs over his protagonist, Lia, and it ratchets up the tension in the book. It’s not just that the danger is all around Lia, however, as it’s hanging over the heads of *all* the characters in the book in one fashion or another. Add to that the fact that the danger that faces all threatens the entire world, and that gives the book more nuance. However, there are also some personal plots that Lia needs to resolve, and these are handled very nicely amidst everything else going on. Highly recommended.

A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs – All right, I admit it, I’m biased about this book. This was one of the first science fiction (alright, science fantasy) book I ever read, back when I was around 9 or so. I’ve re-read it several times over the years, but… Take a American from the 1860s or so who comes across in many ways as a Victorian gentleman (not!), and now transport him to Barsoom (aka Mars, but a Mars that is more interesting and fantastical than the real one!) and have him experience life and adventures there and fall in love with a fellow captive (the incomparable Dejah Thoris!). Sure, the material is from 1912 and it’s dated, but this novel (and the immediate two that followed) shaped the adventure and sf-nal literature that followed and is still an influence on writers today. ‘Nuff said. 🙂

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison – While I found this story engaging, though not all that exciting, this was an enjoyable book, a character driven fantasy that mainly focused on court intrigue. This story chronicles the rise of Maia, a half-goblin, and his rise from a naive boy who was intimidated by his lack of social skills and education into a fairly benevolent ruler. I liked the slow development of Maia as a character, whose confidence and other personality elements changed and grew over the course of the novel. The Elvish court machinations that he had to deal with were quite interesting, and the motivations of those plotting against him were easily understood, though the author did make a point to explain them. It has a lot going for it as a novel, though the pacing is a bit slow for those who read a lot of books in this style, so beware. Other than that, a fine novel.

The rest of the books that I read in February, 2018 were all pretty good, but these three stood out the most (other than Le Guin’s The Dispossessed) for the month.

Overall, I managed to read 6 novels, 1 RPGs and RPG products, 3 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in February. Since this is the early part of the year still, it brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 13 books, 3 RPGs and RPG products, 3 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Book Reads in January, 2018 February 2, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
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2018. The new year. Another year to see what my reading for the year will be like.

Thus, as is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my January, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in January, 2018

Seeing Red by Sandra Brown

Theater Knights I: The White Lake by Niklas Forreiter and Daniel Hessler (RPG)

November, 2017 Locus

Little Sisters of the Apocalypse by Kit Reed (r?)

GameTek: The Math and Science of Gaming by Geoff Engelstein

Bertram of Butter Cross by Jeffrey E. Barlough (r)

Girl Genius Book One: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank by Phil & Kaja Foglio (Graphic Novel)

Myth Adventures! by Robert Asprin and Phil Foglio (Graphic Novel)

Theater Knights II: The Blue Tome by Niklas Forreiter and Daniel Hessler (RPG)

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

S.P.Q.R. IX: The Princess and the Pirates by John Maddox Roberts

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (r)
*****

And that was the start of my reading for 2018.

And thus started my year of reading for 2017. I have to say that I was quite pleased at the number of books and other stuff that I read in January, as it seemed to be a slow reading month to start off the new year, though I obviously read more than I expected to. The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin – Oh, come on! Do I really have to write a review of this book that has something that’s not been said about the book before? I will say that every re-read of the book allows me to see different nuances, and this time was no exception. Superb novel, can’t recommend it enough.

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty – I always find it difficult to review mystery novels, for fear of giving away too much. One of the things I maintain about good sf is that it’s not about space ships, aliens, and lasers (or whatever). It’s about humanity (or lack/differences thereof) and how people react to changes in society (be they tech, social, or environmental). One of the large can ‘o worms in sf is cloning, and Six Wakes deals with a lot of the issues surrounding cloning, from a hindsight point of view. Set on a spaceship that is delivering colonists to a new world, the book opens with the clone crew being awoke into a literal house of blood and death, as their former selves’ have been murdered. Add the loss of 25 years of memories (their mind maps being those from the day before the ship set out), and the basic whodunnit is set. The book has an atmosphere of paranoia as the clones try to figure out what happened and why. The book’s current time is interspersed with the history of the clones, and are very relevant to what happened. This is top-notch science fiction and a heck of a good mystery, and I really liked this book.

S.P.Q.R. IX: The Princess and the Pirates by John Maddox Roberts – This book is the ninth book in the S.P.Q.R. series, a murder mystery series that follows the career of Decius Caecilius Metellus during the last days of the Roman Republic (this particular book occurs in 50 B.C., or as Roberts notes at the end of the book: the 703rd year of the city of Rome). The Metellus family are a prominent family, though on the decline. After spending two years as an aedile, Decius is tasked by his family (actually by the Senate, but it’s a long story!) to go off to fight the pirates springing up in the Eastern Mediterranean. Needless to say, there is foul murder that occurs, and Decius encounters Cleopatra once more, now a precocious 16-year-old, who thinks she can help with the pirate matters. The story has some neat twists and the pirates are only part of what Decius finds. I love this series for its historical detail, and recommend this book (though it is a weaker one, despite the excellent plot, in the series overall to this point).

The rest of the books that I read in January, 2018 were all pretty good, and certainly enjoyed the two graphic novels as well, but the three above were the stand-outs for the month.

Overall, I managed to read 7 novels, 2 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazines, 0 comics, and 2 graphic novels in January. Since this is the start of the year, it brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 7 books, 2 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazines, 0 comics, and 2 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

R.I.P. Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) January 24, 2018

Posted by jkahane in book hut, obituary, personal, reading hut, science fiction & fantasy.
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I heard about this yesterday, but needed to take some time before I could write the words.

Terrible, sad news in the world of science fiction and fantasy literature.

Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88

Over the 40+ years that I’ve been reading fantasy and science fiction, I’ve been a fan of Ursula K. Le Guin‘s books and works and her incredibly rich imagination and ability to…well, *write*. While I was introduced to the sf field with works by Asimov and the greats of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, my earliest fantasy reading was Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Ursula K. Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. I may have always lived in other fantasy and science fiction worlds, but I consider Earthsea to be…home.

While I loved and enjoyed the Earthsea stories in my youth and teens, I came to adore her science fiction (The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, The Word for World Is Forest, and the rest of the Hainish Cycle), but also some of the lesser known works like Rocannon’s World, The Lathe of Heaven and others. The real joy for me as I came to adulthood was I saw in Le Guin’s works her use of the creative flexibility of the science fiction and fantasy genres to undertake thorough explorations of both social and psychological identity and of broader cultural and social structures. In doing so, she draws on sociology, anthropology and psychology. And Goddess, but did she know language and words! Much of her writing is an abject lesson on how to write, and she did it with aplomb.

What can I say? I know…

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

Rest In Peace, UKL. The words are silent now – but they will live on, forever. I am glad that we have all of your writings to savour from now until the end of time.

Books Read in December, 2017 January 2, 2018

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Since it is the new month of January (and it’s barely a couple of days old)… As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my December, 2017 reads.

*****
Books Read in December, 2017

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

Aventuria Almanac by Florian Don Schauen and Daniel Simon Richter w/ Eevie Demirtel, Tobias Rafael Junge, Alex Spohr and Jens Ullrich (RPG)

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

December, 2017 Reader’s Digest

Revelations From Heaven by Sarah Maier w/ Eevie Demirtel and Jens Ullrich (RPG)

The Vampire of Havena (Solo) by Sebastien Thurau (RPG)

The Vagrant by Peter Newman

Aventurian Bestiary by Dominic Hladek, Marie Monkemeyer, Alex Spohr and Jens Ullrich (RPG)

The Electric State by Simon Stalenhag (Artbook)

Our Friends the Machines and Other Mysteries by Mikael Bergstrom, Steve Daldry, Gabrielle de Bourg, Anders Fager, Bjorn Hellqvist, Nils Hintze and Nils Karlen (RPG)

Aventurian Herald #173 by Various (Newspaper) (RPG)

Arivor’s Doom by Dominic Hladek (RPG)

Luna: Wolf Moon by Ian McDonald

The Dark Eye Game Master Screen and Inns & Taverns Guide by Thomas Roy Craig, Gudrun Schurer, Alex Spohr and Jens Ullrich (RPG)

Blightborn by Chuck Wendig
*****

December, 2017 was a good month in terms of reading, if one counted mostly roleplaying game materials and supplements, though I did get in a fair share of books for the month as well all things considered. The month of reading felt very slow for me this past December, but that was mainly due to the various stuff going on in my life health-wise. And the fact that lifting anything with my left hand doesn’t work so well. 😦 Since most of my reading for the month was roleplaying game supplements for The Dark Eye RPG, there weren’t a lot of novels to choose from among those I read as being particularly good. The only book for the month that stood out was:

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas – A really good novel. I wasn’t sure if Claire Douglas would be able to follow up on The Sisters with something really great, but she did with this book. The plot is this: A local girl goes missing, apparently falling off the local closed old pier and friends and family from that point on go their own way. Eighteen years later, the girl’s brother phones the girl’s best friend to say that part of a body has been found wearing a trainer that was the same as the one she had on when last seen. One of the things I liked about the book was the manner of how the chapters jump in time, with Frankie telling the modern story and Sophie’s view of the events in 1997 being written as a series of diary entries. While this style of writing has been used before, author Douglas manages to carry this off very well. She manages to build depth into the characters, and I particularly liked the subtle changes over time witnessed in Leon (Sophie’s boyfriend), Daniel (Sophie’s brother) and Alistair (Frankie’s dad). Did Local Girl Missing keep me gripped in the story to the end? Yes, it certainly did. The plot becomes quite complex, with lots of potential perpetrators entering the story as Sophie’s killer. The final twist was definitely worth waiting for. This book should appeal to those who like a psychological thriller. Recommended.

Overall, I managed to read 6 novels, 7 RPG and RPG products, 1 magazine, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in December. This brings the 2017 year end totals up to the following: 92 books, 27 RPGs and RPG products, 19 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels. I was disappointed that I didn’t manage to get to 100 books (not including RPGs and other stuff) this year, but part of the reason for that was a dismal month of reading in November. The reading for the year was significantly down by 11 books, a sad thing, but it wasn’t a bad year of reading at all. So that’s saying something.

How I Spent My Christmas Day December 26, 2017

Posted by jkahane in food hut, health hut, holiday, life, personal, reading hut, tv hut.
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Yesterday was Christmas Day. Being a single fellow, with little family left in the world, and not celebrating Christmas to boot, ’twas a day where I got to spend much of it on my own. Well, actually all of it.

Suffice to say, the day passed relatively uneventfully. I was in a lot of head/neck/shoulder/arm/hand pain when I woke up, and realised it was a lost day. I managed to make a pancake breakfast (with sugar free syrup) for myself, but that didn’t help the pain that I was in, in fact making it somewhat worse.

The rest of the day was spent napping, doing a bit of (gaming) reading, watching a DVD (I can’t remember what, will have to get it off the watched shelf and see what it was… it was the Doctor Who DVD of “The Power of the Daleks”), and just trying to sit in chairs and in a comfortable position that didn’t make me want to scream in pain from the problem(s) mentioned above. Listened to a bit of music, predominantly Annie Haslam and some Renaissance, and was able to mellow out somewhat. Only heard from one person during the day, and that was Kathy. She called to find out how I was doing, to wish me a Happy holiday season, and to tell me that Ellie had loved the Christmas present I’d made sure she’d received.

I managed to struggle through making supper, and treated myself to a couple of latkes (a Hanukkah tradition) with some apple sauce for dessert. After cleaning the dishes away, I sat back and watched the Doctor Who Christmas special, “Twice Upon a Time”. What can I say about it? It was a lovely episode, a fitting end for Peter Capaldi’s Doctor, with masterful performances by both Capaldi and David Bradley (as the First Doctor), and introduced new Doctor Jodie Whitaker in a sequence that left me waiting to see what comes next. There was some stuff that I didn’t like about the episode, but I won’t get into that simply because I don’t have the energy and typing just isn’t that easy these days. I’m going to miss Peter Capaldi’s Doctor for the most part, but won’t miss Steven Moffat’s showrunning.

After the story wrapped up (1-1/2 hours, including adverts), I took my nightly insulin shot, took my evening pill and some of the Gabapentin, and had an early night of it. Once in bed, I read for about twenty minutes, and then tried to get some sleep.