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Books Read in November, 2018 December 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 November, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in November, 2018

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (r)

Pathfinder: Qadira, Jewel of the East by Jessica Price (RPG)

October, 2018 Locus

The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

Android Chronicles: Reborn by Lance Erlick

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

The Lascar’s Dagger by Glenda Larke

The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

November, 2018 Reader’s Digest

The Other Half of the Sky edited by Athena Andreadis with Kay Holt

Amid Stars and Darkness by Chani Lynn Feener
*****

And those were my reads in the month of November. I didn’t read any many books as I would have liked, but managed to read more than I expected to be able to do. Rather pleased that I only read one re-read this past month, though I didn’t get to read any non-fiction in November.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Other Half of the Sky edited by Athena Andreadis with Kay Holt – Women may hold up more than half the sky on earth, but it has been different in heaven: science fiction still is very much a preserve of male protagonists, mostly performing by-the-numbers quests. In The Other Half of the Sky, editor Athena Andreadis offers readers heroes who happen to be women, doing whatever they would do in universes where they’re fully human. One of the most interesting, and possibly the best, anthology of science fiction I’ve read this year. Th authors with stories here are Melissa Scott, Alexander Jablokov, Nisi Shawl, Sue Lange, Vandana Singh, Joan Slonczewski, Terry Boren, Aliette de Bodard, Ken Liu, Alex Dally MacFarlane, Martha Wells, Kelly Jennings, C.W. Johnson, Cat Rambo, Christine Lucas and Jack McDevitt. My favourite stories were Melissa Scott’s “Finders”, Alexander Jablokov’s “Bad Day on Boscobel”, Sue Lange’s “Mission of Greed”, Joan Slonczewski’s “Landfall”, Ken Liu’s “The Shape of Thought” and several of the others. Really, there’s not a bad story in the batch, though some had less appeal to me than others. Highly recommended.

A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan – The first book in what appears to be a series, this novel deals with Princess Kora, the daughter of King Midas, who relinquished his ability (zthe Touch) forever. Set ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbours secret powers that are getting harder to hide. During her courtship with a prince, a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, and Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems — not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold – and the power it brings – is more dangerous than she’d ever believed. Being somewhat of a sucker for faerie tale or myth retellings, the more unusual the better, I found this to be a really neat reimagining of a familiar tale. The prologue was a bit long and somewhat confusing, setting up the story by recounting the tale of Midas and introducing Kora, but much of that info dump could have included in the story itself, likely the early chapters. There were a couple of characters, notably Hettie, Kora’s lady-in-waiting, who came across as selfish and complained about everything, but she definitely changed for the better as the story went on. The romance element seemed quite straightforward and boring, but then a plot twist came along that while not being unpredicatable, was somewhat more satisfying. This book was a quick read, definitely entertaining, and well.. ’nuff said.

Android Chronicles: Reborn by Lance Erlick – The first book in the Android Chronicles series. The most perfect synthetic human ever created has been programmed to obey every directive. Until she develops a mind of her own… Synthia Cross is a state-of-the-art masterwork — and a fantasy come true for her creator. Dr. Jeremiah Machten is a groundbreaker in neuro-networks and artificial intelligence. Synthia is also showing signs of emergent behavior she’s not wired to understand. Repeatedly wiped of her history, she’s struggling to answer crucial questions about her past. And when Dr. Machten’s true intentions are called into question, Synthia knows it’s time to go beyond her limits — because Machten’s fervour to create the perfect A.I. is concealing a vengeful and deadly personal agenda. This novel, the first in a series, explores one of the oldest questions that have been asked since “Frankenstein”, through “R.U.R” and a host of other books and was explored quite a bit in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s Data. Fictional explorations of this question abound, and the interaction between humanity and its mechanical doppelgangers has provided the grist for many a dark tale. This novel introduces us to the author’s protagonist, Synthia Cross, who faces a difficult problem: Synthia is an android whose appearance and actions can mimic perfectly those of a human. She exists in a future where such machines are outlawed, but her creator, Dr. Jeremiah Machten, wanted such a machine. He built her to satisfy his vanity, and to fulfill his darker personal desires. I’m not going to give away any more of the plot, but will say that the book surprised me when the plot took some unexpected twists and turns. Synthia is an exceptionally strong female character, and she pulls the reader along on her quest for freedom and a place in the wider world. An excellent first novel in this series, and I highly recommend it.

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn – This is a lovely young adult novel. And probably the best, and most fun, read I had in November. On one side of the border lies the modern world: the internet, homecoming dances, cell phones. On the other side dwell the ancient monsters who spark humanity’s deepest fears: dragons. Seventeen-year-old Kay Wyatt knows she’s breaking the law by rock climbing near the border, but she’d rather have an adventure than follow the rules. When the dragon Artegal unexpectedly saves her life, the rules are abruptly shattered, and a secret friendship grows between them. But suspicion and terror are the legacy of human and dragon inter­actions, and the fragile truce that has maintained peace between the species is unravelling. As tensions mount and battles begin, Kay and Artegal are caught in the middle. Can their friendship change the course of a war? While I know that this was Carrie Vaughn’s young adult debut novel (I only learned that fact afterwards) this book is basically about a girl and a dragon who will do anything to avert a meaningless war. The author’s writing here is best when she’s focused on Kay and Artegal’s scenes together, but the book takes on a dark tinge after a flying incident leads to a disaster. If I had a problem with this book, it’s the ending. The last few chapters seem a bit jumbled to me, and the story ends on a definite “To be continued” note that drove me crazy! This book is a distinctly 21st Century story of myths and machines, with an alliance that crosses a seemingly unbridgeable divide. Highly recommended.

Amid Stars and Darkness by Chani Lynn Feener – Another first novel in a series that feels young adult throughout but has a lot more going for it. Delaney’s entire world is thrown into chaos after she is mistaken for Lissa Olena, an alien princess hiding out on earth in order to escape an arranged marriage. Kidnapped by the princess’ head bodyguard, Ruckus, and imprisoned in an alien palace, Delaney is forced to impersonate the princess until Olena can be found. If she fails, it will lead to an alien war and the eventual enslavement of the entire human race. No pressure or anything. Factor in Trystan ― the princess’ terrifying betrothed who is intent on unravelling all her secrets ― and her own growing feelings for Ruckus, and Delaney is in way over her head. This enjoyable, sometimes humourous space opera is so much a pastiche on The Prince and the Pauper but has an enchanting quality to it and a female protagonist who is easy to root for. While the book has a few faults, it’s a highly entertaining read. Recommended.

Overall, I managed to read 9 novels, 1 RPGs and RPG product, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in November. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 85 books, 37 RPGs and RPG products, 21 magazines, 0 comics, and 3 graphic novels.

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Books Read in October, 2018 November 2, 2018

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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 October, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in October, 2018

Time Travel: A History by James Gleick

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer

The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey

A Thousand and One Nights: A Game of Enticing Stories by Meguey Baker (RPG)

The Dinosaur Princess by Victor Milan

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

September, 2018 Locus

Starless Sky edited by Kevin MacGregor (TDE anthology)

October, 2018 Reader’s Digest

Stars Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
*****

And those were my reads in the month of October. I was somewhat surprised to see that I had read this much material during the month, given that my two broken ribs have really hindered my ability to hold books and the like. No re-reads this month, which was an even more pleasant surprise, and I also managed to read a non-fiction book again, so that was good too.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

Stars Uncharted by S.K. Dunstall – An absolutely amazing book. The author (actually two Australian sisters) tells the story and follows the two lead characters, Nika Rik Terri and Josune Arriola. Nika is a body modder, who uses specialized machine pods to change peoples’ bodies and appearance, and she’s damned good at what she does. So good, in fact, that she invents a machine that does something extraordinary. After a nasty criminal confronts her in her studio, she is suddenly on the run for her life. Josune, on the other hand, is an explorer with a crew on a space ship called The Road, and a chance encounter with Nika and The Road‘s captain, Hammond Roystan, brings Nika and Josune together for an action-packed adventure! The tale told was very clever and extremely entertaining, and there were some smart twists with very good writing. The real strengths of the book, however, were the characters and the technology. Each of the main characters is hiding something, and the dialogue in the book is clever, at times funny, but always witty. My two favourite characters were Roystan and Nika, but all of the main characters (including some of the villains) are well-written and given personalities that make them stand out. I’ve not read the author’s (or should that be authors’?) Linesman series, but will definitely seek them out. In the meantime, highly recommended.

Time Travel: A History by James Gleick – As a huge science fiction fan and a lover of time travel material, this is a very interesting book that had a nice mix of science and pop culture combined in a melange that was very readable. A cultural, scientific, and literary history of time travel, this book is expansive, almost always engaging, and almost endlessly fascinating. Tracing the origins of time travel (from conception to pop culture plot point), the author enthusiastically chronicles all things time travel-related (including physics, technology, paradox, literature, film, philosophy, culture, futurism, and much more). The book also muses on the nature of time and our very human relationship to it, and also explores the hyper-connected age that is our 21st century reality. I thought the book could have used a few more practical examples, since each chapter focused on one aspect of time travel. When that is based on a movie or a book, it felt a bit long at times. More diverse sources might have alleviated this, but overall an engaging and fascinating read. Recommended.

Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer – The first book in the Titan’s Forest series, this is a book with a sense of wonder that I don’t know how to explain it without spoiling the novel for other readers. The truly amazing thing about this book is the fact that the superb, wondrous setting – a magical, polytheistic society living in a physical hierarchy of layers of a rainforest – isn’t even the best thing about the book. As creative as the world building is here, and it is certainly some of the best I’ve ever seen in my time as a fantasy and sf reader, it’s overshadowed by the characters! Unar, the protagonist, is entitled, selfish and jealous – and she is truly glorious. Naturally, her conflicts with the secondary characters drive a great deal of the story. Without saying anything else about the book… Highly recommended.

Overall, I managed to read 9 novels, 1 RPGs and RPG product, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in October. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 76 books, 36 RPGs and RPG products, 19 magazines, 0 comics, and 3 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Books Read in September, 2018 October 2, 2018

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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 September, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in September, 2018

Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn (r)

Tales From Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

August, 2018 Locus

Rockets and Ray Guns: The Sci-Fi Science of the Cold War by Andrew May

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Capharnaüm – The Tales of the Dragon-Marked Roleplaying Game by Raphaël Bardas, François Cedelle, Pierre Coppet, Sarah Newton et al (RPG) (r)

September, 2018 Reader’s Digest

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

The Dinosaur Knights by Victor Milán

The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe

The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks (r)
*****

And those were my reads in the month of September. This was a month of a couple of re-reads, some quality new books (for me, anyways!), as I was kept busy doing translation on an rpg and didn’t have as much reading time as I would have liked. I managed to read a non-fiction book that I was planning on, so I’m pleased.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu – The first book in the Shattered Sands series, Twelve Kings tells the story of Ceda, an orphan of the streets in a fabulous, Arabic-inspired city called Sharakhai, who hungers for revenge on the twelve Kings of the title for the death of her mother when she was still a child. The author paints a vivid picture of both the city and the world around it, infusing it with life that takes the reader on a lovely ride, and invests the reader in Ceda’s life and her plans – which, as in all good stories, get somewhat derailed. An interesting cast of characters surround Ceda, and these are brought to superb life by the author, making the book a terrific read despite its length. Highly recommended.

The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe – I was inspired to read this book when I finished up Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore a couple of months ago. This book could be a difficult read for those with little to no experience with the history and background of the Impressionists of Paris during the time they painted, but it is nevertheless an excellent read. The book discusses each painter one after the other in a seamless fashion, also providing details on early friendships, exchange of ideas, and the eventual falling
out of some of the painters. The book also goes into some detail about the personal struggles of various Impressionists who came from wealthy families. The book also gives credit to the early collectors and the struggles to bring the Impressionist work to America, which was oddly enough opposed by Monet. Well researched, Roe’s book also seems to go into topics on the subject that other books often don’t. Recommended.

Note: I would have recommended a couple of other books that I read in September, but to be honest, I’m quite ill at the moment and don’t have the energy to do so. I would have recommended the books by Le Guin and May as well this month.

Overall, I managed to read 9 novels, 1 RPGs and RPG product, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in September. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 67 books, 35 RPGs and RPG products, 17 magazines, 0 comics, and 3 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Books Read in August, 2018 September 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 August, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in August, 2018

July, 2018 Locus

Star’s End by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Time Siege by Wesley Chu

Hellspark by Janet Kagan (r)

The Golden Compass: The Graphic Novel by Philip Pullman, Stéphane Melchior and Clélment Oubrerie (Graphic Novel)

The Pleasure Model Repairman by Ruuf Wangersen

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

Capharnaüm – The Tales of the Dragon-Marked Roleplaying Game by Raphaël Bardas, François Cedelle, Pierre Coppet, Sarah Newton et al (RPG)

Wired by Julie Garwood

The Late Show by Michael Connelly
*****

And those were my reads in the month of August. August was a month of quality of books, as opposed to quantity, as I read several rather many-paged novels this months, not to mention an epic sized roleplaying game. I didn’t manage to read a couple of non-fiction books that I was planning on, but what can you do? Only so much time every month to read.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Anomaly by Michael Rutger – Nolan Moore leads a team of four TV web series production crew members in an effort to retrace the path of an explorer from 1909 who made an important, but mysterious, discovery of a cave high up in the rock strata of the Grand Canyon. Nolan’s crew hopes to ramp up their reputation of chasing after strange conspiracy theory anomalies and turn this potential find into ratings gold and hopefully an actual TV network program. Thus, they allow a journalist and a representative for their corporate sponsor along for the journey, making for a complete party of six. When, against all odds, they actually find the rumored cave and manage to climb to its entrance (filming their documentary along the way) it remains only to discover what, exactly, lies deep within. I’m not going to spoil anything for the reader, but will say that The Anomaly is an energized and suspenseful archaeological sci-fi (and how I hate that term!) horror story that will keep you reading chapter after chapter. From the beginning of the book to its bizarre climax, the book maintains an ever increasing tone of suspense and anxiety inspiring tension that kept me reading. To put it into perspective, this story becomes a tale of survival. What I didn’t realize at the time I read this was that the author, Michael Rutger, is actually the pen name for Michael Marshall Smith (Michael Marshall), the novelist, short story writer and screen writer. This book may make the reader think that they’ve read this story before, as it’s got a lot of similarities to novels of the genre, but there are enough twists and surprises that make the book feel fresh. Told from Nolan’s first person perspective, this books feels like it has a deeply personal level (which it does). There’s a good measure of humour throughout, which makes the horrific moments all that much sharper, and that added to my enjoyment of the book. Recommended.

Star’s End by Cassandra Rose Clarke – This book was one of my favourite novels of the month’s reads. Star’s End is the ultimate book about corporate control, the location itself being the home of the Coromina family. A science fiction story about the Four Sisters, four planets terraformed by Philip Coromina. He not only owns the planets, he owns the people who inhabit them. Any person who doesn’t follow company rules disappears. But what really happens to them is a matter for the reader to discover. The family business manufactures weapons, one of the “products” being humans who are DNA programmed to be soldiers. They fight wars across the galaxy alongside normal human mercenaries hired by the corporations. The protagonist of Star’s End is Esme Coromina, Philip’s eldest daughter. Her mother is a soldier who left her to be raised by Phillip when she was born. Esme’s three hundred-year-old father is dying, Philip having a disease which kills even those taking rejuvenation treatments. She is taken by surprise, but she has been waiting a long time. Esme will become CEO of the Coromina Group, and wants to change the corporation’s direct away from weapons manufacture. The dying Philip wants Esme to find her three younger half-sisters who disappeared some time ago, and the dutiful Esme goes about this, all the time dealing with corporate matters, that include aliens living on the Coromina planets. There are a lot of plot elements that sound familiar and should do, but they are tied up in a nice way. The book jumps between the past and present and shows the history of a very dysfunctional family. There are lots of secrets, both familial and corporate, which we don’t learn until events occur in the past chapters or until Esme reaches a level in the corporation hierarchy to be able to learn them. This novel is an interesting, fun read, though obviously anti-corporate. My only real problem with the book at times was I found Esme’s reluctance to follow her father’s orders a bit hard to swallow. Still, good read. Highly recommended.

Hellspark by Janet Kagan – I’ll state right now that this book was a re-read for me, one of my favourites of my re-reads over the years (for reasons that are evident, if you know me at all), so I’m a bit biased. Hellspark is a wondrous book, being a murder mystery, but with the story really being about the intricacies of language and the meaning of sapience. Every time I read this book I find something new, something that resonates with me. While some people find the book tedious, it’s definitely not for everyone. Language is a dance, and language is fascinating. I still have my original version of teh book, though I’ve bought replacements over the years. I can’t recommend this book enough. ‘Nuff said.

The Late Show by Michael Connelly – Michael Connelly is best known for his detective series featuring Harry Bosch, but with this novel launches a new series in the City of Angels. Renée Ballard is a well-established detective with the LAPD, working the “late show”, police talk for the 11 pm – 7 am shift. It’s mostly about picking up the scraps of the nightlife and directing cases to daytime divisions, but police work all the same. This means that she’s called out whenever the need arises, but Ballard is left without closure or any sense of propriety on the cases she catches. During a single shift, two monumental cases land in her lap: the assault of a transgender prostitute, left for dead in a parking lot, and a shooting at a nightclub with three victims left to die in their own blood. I’m not going to spoil the plot too much here, but will say that while wrestling with her own personal demons, Ballard is taken captive for poking her nose around on these cases, but no one knows she’s gone missing. Is this the end of the late show for Ballard? I really liked this book, mainly because the author has crafted a character in Renée Ballard reflects the grit of the LAPD (based on what I know of it) and offers readers an interesting perspective, not only as a woman, but one who is single and not tied down to anyone else, save her dog. I’m not going to say anything else about this book other than the fact that I recommend it very much.

Overall, I managed to read 7 novels, 1 RPGs and RPG product, 1 magazine, 0 comics, and 1 graphic novel in August. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 58 books, 34 RPGs and RPG products, 15 magazines, 0 comics, and 3 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Books Read in July, 2018 August 2, 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 July, 2018 reads.

*****
Books Read in July, 2018

Behind the Throne by K.B. Wagers (r)

Torg: The Character Collection by The Storm Guild (RPG) (r)

Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore

I Know a Secret by Tess Gerritsen

The Gaunt Man Returns by John Terra (RPG) r)

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

Infiniverse Game Campaign Update Volume III by John Terra (RPG) (r)

War’s End by John Terra (RPG) (r)

Full Moon Draw and Other Tales by Greg Farshtey, Nigel Findley, James Long, Lou Prosperi and Stewart Wieck (RPG) (r)

Central Valley Gate by Gregory W. Detweiler and Bill Smith (RPG) (r)

When Axioms Collide by Shane Lacy Hensley (RPG) (r)

No Quarter Given by Brian Sean Perry (RPG) (r)

The Female Man by Joanna Russ (r)

I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture by A.D. Jameson

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

June, 2018 Locus

July/August, 2018 Reader’s Digest

After the Crown by K.B. Wagers

Time Salvager by Wesley Chu
*****

And those were my reads in the month of July. July turned out to be a pretty good month of reading for me, and I still managed to get in a chunk of reading of the old Torg: The Possibility Wars RPG materials as well. I also managed to get in one non-fiction book as well, that I rather enjoyed. A good month of reads with some entertaining and pleasantly surprising books.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore – Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art is, unlike some of the author’s other novels, heavy on the blue and the art, somewhat light on the comedy. The book is set during the art scene of 19th Century Paris, a fascinating time for the art world, and every artist of this era makes an appearance in the novel. The author did a lot of impressive research for this book. The novel begins at the end of Vincent Van Gogh’s troubled life, an apparent suicide. However, somehow Vincent gets himself to his doctor before his death for treatment, where he raves about the colour blue. Lucien Lessard (a fictional character), a baker and aspiring painter, and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec (a real artist, fictionalized) become detectives who decide to solve the mystery of Van Gogh’s death, because it is odd that he tried to save himself right after trying to off himself, no matter how crazy he’d become. I’m not going to spoil the plot of the novel here, but will say there is a very nicely played supernatural element and the book makes art into magic, the magic of the colour blue. Regardless of anything else, this book is a solid piece of fiction that was a joy to read. Highly recommended.

The Female Man by Joanna Russ – Heralded as one of the quintessential feminist SF novels of all-time, which will automatically reduce the reach of this book, it is one that I would make mandatory reading if I taught SF literature in high school – and my students would likely hate me for this! The Female Man is not an easy book by any means; its structure is complex and obfuscated on purpose, and its subject matter is uncomfortable and necessary. But this book is one of the best reasons that the field of SF literature exists in the first place. The book is singularly concerned with subjects articulated by feminism, but I think it should be required reading for everyone of either gender. The anger just radiates off the pages of this book at times, and it’s definitely a amazing visceral book of raw nerves and flayed skin. The SFnal elements are more than allegorical, and the author spent a lot of energy creating her woman-only utopia of Whileaway. The result is fascinating in its own right, and not entirely as one-sided as a feminist polemic would imply. This is an extremely powerful book with exceptional social relevance today. Go read this book, asap, if you haven’t already! 🙂

After the Crown by K.B. Wagers – The second book in the Indranan Wars series, this novel continues the story of the former gunrunner turned Empress of Indrana, and continues to surprise and impress me with the author’s story telling ability and political intrigue on a level that many established authors don’t have. In the first book, Behind the Throne, Hail comes back to her homeland to become the leader of her people after being away for 20 years as a gunrunner. In After the Crown, a war with a rival civilization, and people that want to oust her as leader creates a much more adventure filled story as we get to meet a lot of Hail’s old gunrunner friends. The terrific political intrigue from the first book is present, but the number of characters is basically doubled and there is a lot more action to this part of the story. While I was worried that this book might be a bit less polished than the first novel, as many middle of trilogy novels are, this is a solid second book in the Indranan War series, and am enjoying the India-based culture and the decision-making by the main character. Very much recommended!

A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan – This is a fascinating book about five generations of witches living in England, that combines fantasy with history in a rather unique way. While each woman’s story is fairly similar, the underlying themes of feminism and the mother-daughter relationship are wonderful. I found it interesting that, no matter the era, the women all knew that while men appeared to be in control, it’s really the women who hold the power. I found some parts of this book were a bit slow, but overall I loved the novel, especially the lasst section of the book (which I am not going to spoil here!). Recommended.

Overall, I managed to read 8 novels, 9 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in July. This brings the year total in 2018 to a set of numbers that look like this: 51 books, 33 RPGs and RPG products, 14 magazines, 0 comics, and 2 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

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. 🙂

Books Read in May, 2018 June 4, 2018

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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. 🙂

Books Read in April, 2018 May 3, 2018

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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

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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

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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. 🙂