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Books Read in September, 2017 October 2, 2017

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 September, 2017 reads.

*****
Books Read in September, 2017

The Dying Ship by Nils Karlen and Kosta Kostulas (RPG)

The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron

TORG: The Cassandra Files by Christopher Kubasik (RPG) (r)

The Dark Eye Quick-Start Rules by Unknown (RPG)

Monsters by Matthew McFarland with Jonathan McFarland (RPG)

August, 2017 Locus

Imagining Urban Futures: Cities in Science Fiction and What We Might Learn From Them by Carl Abbott

Wizard’s Funeral by Kim Hunter (r)

September, 2017 Reader’s Digest

Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss (r)

Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn

The Cyberpapacy Sourcebook by Jim Bambra (RPG) (r)

Jail Bait by Marilyn Todd

The Dark Eye (Roleplaying Game) Core Rules by Alex Spohr and Jens Ullrich (RPG)

Heroic Works 1: Witch’s Dance by Dominic Hladek (RPG)

Heroic Works 2: A Goblin More or Less by Gudrun Schurer (RPG)
*****

And those were my reads in the month of September. This was a decent month of reading, though I did read a lot of roleplaying games and rpg material in the month, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I got read in September.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron – I’ve always liked good historical work, usually the older the better. But with this novel, I have to say that I also enjoy pre-historic books. ๐Ÿ™‚ This novel bounces back and forth between the story of Girl, the book’s Neanderthal protagonist, and Rosamund Gale, an archaeologist excavating a groundbreaking site. While I love science, and there’s some accurate (as far as I know) stuff here, the author made me appreciate my Neanderthal ancestors, but I also felt like I was being given an insight of actual events from 40,000 years ago. The parallels between Girl and Rose made the story feel more real, as through Rose, Girl became real. This is a novel that has a captivating story, that I think a lot of people will enjoy. Recommended.

Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn – First up, the basics. Polly Newton has a straightforward personal career goal: she wants to become a starship pilot, preferably as an intergalactic pilot, and take advantage of the new M Class drives being developed. However, her immediate plans are interrupted when her mother, the Mars Colony One director, announces that Polly and her twin brother, Charles, have been enrolled at the prestigious Earth-based Galileo Academy. Polly, having been born and raised on Mars as the third generation, post-colonization, has never stepped foot off-planet so moving to Earth for three years is a dreadful prospect, even if it might help her chances of getting into a pilot training program.

This stand-alone novel reminded me a lot of the Robert Heinlein juveniles; this is a good thing, ’cause I enjoyed reading those books. Told from Pollyโ€™s first person point of view as she struggles to adapt to her new environment on Earth. Iโ€™ve read a lot of science fiction where people living on Earth have to adjust to life in space, other planets, asteroid mining colonies, etc., but this is was a neat book that takes that concept and spins it on its head. (A notable exception being Heinlein’s own Stranger in a Strange Land.) Polly must not only struggle with things we take for granted (such as the relatively high gravity of Earth, the concept of โ€œoutdoorsโ€, the vastness of the oceans, etc.) but she must also cope with the prejudices of fellow students and teachers who regard Polly and Charles as outsiders and lesser people. She’s an enjoyable character to read about, but the other main characters in the book are also fun to read about, and are more detailed than I expected them to be. While this is a stand-alone novel, it just screams for a sequel or two. I really hope that Carrie Vaughn considers writing more about Polly’s and Charles’s adventures. Highly recommended.

Those were the highlight reads among the books this past month, though I also enjoyed reading Jail Bait by Marilyn Todd and The Dark Eye (RPG) Core Rules book (that was a densely written work at 400+ pages) and the other books that I read this past month.

Overall, I managed to read 6 novels, 6 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in September. This brings the year total for 2017 to a set of numbers that look like this: 73 books, 19 RPGs and RPG products, 64 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Books Read in August, 2017 September 2, 2017

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, 2017 reads.

*****
Books Read in August, 2017

Crashland by Sean Williams

Camino Island by John Grisham

TORG: The Possibility Chalice by Douglas Kaufman (RPG) (r)

July/August, 2017 Reader’s Digest

The Tinker King by Tiffany Trent

Lexicon by Max Barry

The Nile Empire Sourcebook by Ray Winninger (RPG) (r)

Hothouse by Brian Aldiss (r)

The Sisters by Claire Douglas

TORG: The Forever City by C.J. Tramontana (RPG) (r)
*****

And those were my reads in the month of August. This was another of the slow months of reading, to be honest, as I didn’t read during GenCon Indy at all, but I’m not really sure what accounts for it. Part of it was the shoulder problems I’m (still) having, as I’ve not been able to really hold books, especially hardcovers, at the moment, but still…

The books I enjoyed the most were:

Crashland by Sean Williams – Sean Williams’s sequel to Twinmaker, this is the middle book in the trilogy. While I thought the first book could have served as a stand-alone work and worried that this book would be a let-down, it was anything but. I’m not going to go into the plot here, as that would involve a ton of spoilers, but I will say that Crashland kept me tense and on the edge of my seat the whole way through. The world that Williams has created is very complex, though at times it can be difficult to understand, but we’re nicely guided with relative ease through the various groups of people that emerge politically in this sequel. The novel isn’t about politics at all, there’s a small twinkle here and there that raises interesting points about governance and how society would work under one government. Like the first novel, Crashland raises a lot of interesting philosophical questions, building on ones previously raised. The protagonist, Clair, grows as a character, as she observes herself. Highly recommended.

Lexicon by Max Barry – Oh, dear, where to start? This is one of the most brilliant books I’ve ever read, to be honest, but the story can be somewhat overwhelming for the reader in its complexities but… The central premise of Lexicon is that words are not simply signs for communication; they are containers of meaning that have a neurological effect on people’s brains. Gifted and specially-trained individuals, called “poets”, learn to size people up psychologically and then utter the specific “words” that cause an individual to drop all defenses and become utterly persuadable and manipulable. Great power can be derived from this ability, and power corrupts… The book’s story unfolds in a dual narrative fashion. One thread follows Wil and Tom as they are chased by an unknown organization bent on destroying Wil (the pun on “free will-y” is there, right?) because of his peculiar immunity to the poets’ powers. The second follows a 16-year-old runaway girl named Emily who is recruited and sent to a special school to train to become a poet (and has elements of both the Harry Potter stories and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians). Of course, the two threads intertwine and collide, in a hard, bad way, but this is handled in a very clever and satisfying way. I was quite taken by this book, but perhaps am biased due to my love of languages and linguistics. Still, I recommend this novel.

Anyway, those were the highlight book reads of August for me, though I did enjoy the other books that I read this past month as well.

Overall, I managed to read 6 novels, 3 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in August. This brings the year total for 2017 to a set of numbers that look like this: 67 books, 13 RPGs and RPG products, 14 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. ๐Ÿ™‚

RPGaDay in August – August 10th: Where Do You Go for RPG Reviews? August 10, 2017

Posted by jkahane in gaming hut, personal, review, roleplaying games, rpg hut.
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We continue on with #RPGaDAY in August.

RPGaDay_2017_questions.jpg,

#RPGaDAY

Day 10 – Where do you go for RPG reviews?

Truth be told, I’ve given up a long time ago on reading rpg reviews from various websites and the like.

That said, I don’t go in for reviews, per sé, but rely more on what friends have to say on the subject. I trust their insights, and they have a pretty good idea of my taste in game settings and mechanics. (Well, I like to think so.)

Books Read in July, 2017 August 2, 2017

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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, 2017 reads.

*****
Books Read in July, 2017

June, 2017 Locus

A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger

S.P.Q.R. VIII: The River God’s Vengeance by John Maddox Roberts

Farmer in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein (r)

TORG: The Destiny Map by Christopher Kubasik (RPG) (r)

Clariel by Garth Nix

TORG: The Living Land by Christopher Kubasik (RPG) (r)

The Bear by Claire Cameron

July, 2017 Locus
*****

And those were my reads in the month of July. This was one of the slowest months of reading I’ve had in some years, and I’m not really sure what accounts for it. Part of it was the shoulder problems I’m having, as I’ve not been able to really hold books, especially hardcovers, at the moment, but still…

The books I enjoyed the most were:

S.P.Q.R. VIII: The River God’s Vengeance by John Maddox Roberts – The eighth book in the series, this book sees Decius Metellus serving as aedile, the super-expensive position in charge of basically running Rome through public contracts and the like. When sewers are clogging and an apartment building collapses after building regulations are flouted, the two plots come to an interesting conclusion (see the book’s title). This book features the attention to detail of everyday life in ancient Rome I’ve come to expect from Roberts’s writing. It’s not clear until the end of this one whether justice will prevail. Excellent writing, and decent characters make this a novel that I highly recommend.

A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger – This simply marvellous book set in Chaucer’s London is a story of betrayal, murder, royal intrigue, mystery, and dangerous politics swirling around the existence of a prophetic book that foretells the deaths of England’s kings. The author uses a mix of real historical figures and a dose of imagination, making for a fantastic plot that’s mysterious without being unnecessarily withholding. It effectively builds suspense and the twists and revelations feel natural. What makes the book stand out is its cast of characters. The main character John Gower (yes *that* John Gower, poet and close friend of Geoffrey Chaucer, who is also a prominent character here) acts to bring (and tie) the supporting cast together, and he makes for an excellent character himself. I look forward to whatever the author writes in future, and to further John Gower tales. Recommended.

The Bear by Claire Cameron – This is a very powerful, highly suspenseful story narrated by a young girl who must fend for herself and her little brother Alex (“Stick”) after a brutal bear attack. Their parents do not fare well at all. The author makes a bold choice, having Anna narrate the entire story, and the execution is extremely well done. Her thoughts were perfectly scattered for a kid who hasn’t developed filters yet, but still focused on what you would expect would be important for a kid (Mommy, Daddy, her teddy bear, being hungry). To be honest, there were some missing opportunity for the kids to be kids, but I didn’t really notice them too much as I was seriously dragged into this one and was so scared for the kids. While it’s a relatively short book at 208 pages, I recommend this one as well.

Anyway, those were the highlight book reads of July for me, though I did enjoy the other books that I read this past month as well.

Overall, I managed to read 5 novels, 2 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in July. This brings the year total for 2017 to a set of numbers that look like this: 61 books, 10 RPGs and RPG products, 13 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. ๐Ÿ™‚

Books Read in May, 2017 June 2, 2017

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, 2017 reads.

*****
Books Read in May, 2017

The Corporation Wars: Dissidence by Ken MacLeod

Tehanu by Ursula K. Le Guin (r)

The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier

Tales From the Loop by Simon Stalenhag (Artbook)

Tales From the Loop Roleplaying Game by Nils Hintze, Matt Forbeck, Nils Karlen and Bjorn Hellqvist (RPG)

Shipstar by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (r)

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (r)

May, 2017 Locus

Strange Things Done by Elle Wild

Apocalyptic Fiction by Andrew Tate
*****

And those were my reads for the month of May. Given everything that was going on in May (what with CanGames and then being sick afterwards), I’m a little surprised that I actually read as much as I did last month. The books I enjoyed the most were:

Strange Things Done by Elle Wild – One of the most pleasant surprises of the year book-wise for me, this is the story of a female reporter who goes to Dawson City, Yukon (Canada) to be the editor of the local paper. With a secret of her own, she decides to find out who’s killing people in Dawson City, putting herself in danger. Set at the start of a brutal Yukon winter, it was nice to read a book that has the natural environment and the season as characters in their own right. There were plenty of plot twists here to keep the reader guessing, and truth is, I didn’t figure out who the killer was until the end. Recommended.

The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier – A lovely, interesting novel about the abbey on Mont Saint-Michel. An artist, in the fifteenth century, loses the love of his love, puts down his paint brush and, lost and grieving, moves to the monastery at Mont Saint-Michel. He lives amongst the monks, spending his time haunting the hallways until he is asked, despite being illiterate, to help make copies of old manuscripts in the library. The writing here is a fusion of history, mixed with fictional stories of a man who came to the abbey after the death of his lover and the story of a modern-day writer and her daughter as she tries to write this book. I loved the going back and forth between times, as well as the different places and people, but I suspect that some folks will be confused by this one. Still, I enjoyed it, and recommend it.

I pretty much enjoyed all the (other) books that I read in May, 2017, especially the re-read of Le Guin’s Tehanu, but these are the two that stood out for me.

Overall, I managed to read 9 novels, 1 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazine, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in May. This brings the year total for 2017 to a set of numbers that look like this: 46 books, 8 RPGs and RPG products, 10 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. ๐Ÿ™‚

Books Read in March, 2017 April 3, 2017

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, 2017 reads.

*****
Books Read in March, 2017

Matilda by Roald Dahl

February, 2017 Locus

The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

From the Gracchi to Nero by H.H. Scullard

Bowl of Heaven by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven (r)

March, 2017 Reader’s Digest

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (r)

Coriolis RPG Quickstart Set by Christian Granath, Tomas Harenstam, Nils Karlen, Kosta Kostulas, and Simon Stalenhag (RPG) (r)

Coriolis – The Third Horizon Roleplaying Game by Tomas Harenstam, Nils Karlen, Kosta Kostulas, and Christian Granath (RPG)

Twinmaker by Sean Williams

The Exile by C.T. Adams

Into the Forest by Jean Hegland
*****

So that’s my reads for the month of March. I was actually quite suprised and pleased at the number of books that I read in the month, as I’ve been so sick for most of the month and my head has not really wanted to read all that much. Obviously ready more books and material than I thought I had. The books I enjoyed the most were:

Coriolis – The Third Horizon Roleplaying Game by Tomas Harenstam, Nils Karlen, Kosta Kostulas, and Christian Granath – Not really a novel, but a roleplaying game, Coriolis uses the basis of the Arabian Nights in space and a simple game mechanic set to bring to life a science fantasy roleplaying game that has a lot of meat to its bone, with a well-detailed universe setting. If you’re going to CanGames 2017 here in Ottawa in just over 6 weeks or so, come and play the game with me! ๐Ÿ™‚

The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler – The first book in the Legends of Muirwood series, the author paints an interesting picture centred around Lia, a thirteen-year-old girl with with no knowledge of her family and a pretty snarky attitude. Her lack of knowledge of her bloodlines, makes Lia one of the Wretched, the outcasts of the society that are taken care of by the abbeys. Liaโ€™s ambition in life is to learn how to read, something that being a Wretched doesn’t afford her. This story is well written, has interesting characters (though Lia can be annoying at times!), and the plot moves along at a solid place. The author did a lot of research for the book (as noted in the Author Notes at the end). The religious and magic elements of this book are quite unique in a lot of ways, and the setting itself breathes and feels alive, having a feel of depth and history. A very strong novel, and one that I recommend highly.

Twinmaker by Sean Williams – I don’t know where to begin with this review. Well, okay, I guess I should start by saying that the book is actually called Jump, renamed Twinmaker for the U.S. (and Canadian) market. Simply put, this is a very clever, superbly written book, a rivetting adventure of epic proportions, and a disturbing future. The premise of the book is instant gratification. You can instantly transport yourself anywhere in the world. You can fabricate anything you want immediately through a “fabber”. Fun, free, sounds amazing… But if people are taken apart and put back together at their destination, how do we determine if they are unchanged through the process? What about the soul? And taking things further, what if you changed things about yourself using the d-mat? The protagonist of the novel, Clair, struggles with all these questions and more as she tries to save her best friend, Libby, from the devastating effects of Improvement. The set-up of this book has all the signs of a romance-centric novel with some dystopia thrown in, but very quickly morphs into something action-filled. I’m not going to give away any of the plot here, but will say that I was invested in the characters and their lives, and thought that the author’s writing was top notch. Looking forward to picking up the sequel from my To-Read Queue, for sure!

All the (other) books that I read in March, 2017 were very good, but the ones above are the stand-outs for the month for me.

Overall, I managed to read 8 novels, 2 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in March. This brings the year total for 2017 to a set of numbers that look like this: 29 books, 6 RPGs and RPG products, 5 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. ๐Ÿ™‚

Movie Review: Passengers (No Spoilers) January 20, 2017

Posted by jkahane in movie hut, personal, review, Uncategorized.
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I went and saw Passengers last night, the science fiction-cum-romance movie that left me feeling…flat. What can I say about the movie that won’t include spoilers? Hmm…

Well… Passengers starts off with a bravura opening sequence of the interstellar ship Avalon (it’s a sleeper ship at best, not a generation vessel) passing through an asteroid field on the 30th year of its 120-year voyage to the galactic hinterlands, and to tell the truth, while the opening bit is impressive visually, the plot of this movie lets the film down. The film is so proud of really boasting its star power (Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence) that it takes a while for the viewer to notice that the romantic sub-plot of the movie is quite…lame. I can’t go into details on the plot here at all, but to be honest, the first act of the film had my attention, and was quite solid; the second act of the film is about the romance between the two leads, and that was all right to some extent. The third act, however, was a disappointment and almost unwatchable in so many ways. While it’s one thing to have the ship malfunction, my problem was that the absurd amount of reveals designed to make the viewer/audience gasp wasn’t warranted or necessary. There is a plot device that’s utilized throughout the third act that could easily have been removed from the entire film, without changing the film’s conclusion.

Having said that, I will say that overall, the film is one that I rather enjoyed, and it definitely doesn’t deserve the flack that it’s received, but the final product could have been great – and it wasn’t. It has some terrific space visuals, an interesting set in the Avalon, and two interesting, well-acted main characters in Pratt’s Jim Preston and Lawrence’s Aurora Lane. Director Morten Tyldum (The Imitation Game) impresses with how easily he translated his visual prowess into the realm of large-scale science fiction, and the set design by Guy Hendrix Dyas (Inception) was immaculate, and had me really wanting to visit as many of the Avalon locations as possible.

If you have had high expectations and have yet to see this movie, I still recommend checking it out on the big screen, but I would definitely suggest lowering your expectations. Rating: 6.5/10.

Movie Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (No Spoilers) December 21, 2016

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I decided last night that I was tired of feeling sorry for myself, and decided to make it a “movie night”, and high-tailed it over to the local theatres to see a movie last night. I went and saw Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

While I’m about to talk about the movie somewhat here, there will be no spoilers for the film. (I’m not that cruel.)

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was pretty much everything I wasn’t expecting it to be. You’ve seen the trailers and must have heard/watched some reviews, so I will say that this movie is the lead-up to the first Luke Skywalker/Leia Organa/Han Solo film from 1978 or so. This movie was stunning in its look and feel, and while it was definitely a Star Wars film, it has a different feel and style than the original six films we’ve seen before, and in my opinion was better than movies 1-3 and movie 7 in so many ways. It doesn’t have any of the characters we know (except one or two, and no spoilers here!), the characters from the film have a familiarity about them that we all know and (maybe) love. This movie injected some new life into the franchise, answered some questions about A New Hope, but the viewer knows what this story is leading up, though it ends with a bit of a surprise.

If I had a problem with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story it’s that the movie has relatively shallow characterisations, which seem to be a by-product of the script, leaping from planet to planet and battle to battle with dizzying velocity as it does. That doesn’t make the movie any less enjoyable, nor does it detract from the things we’ve come to expect from Star Wars movies. Overall, I thought the movie was quite good, and worth the price of admission. Rating: 8.5/10.