jump to navigation

Books Read in November, 2017 December 3, 2017

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my November, 2017 reads.

*****
Books Read in November, 2017

The Golden Torc by Julian May (r)

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe

October, 2017 Locus

King of Swords by Eleanor Arnason (r)

The Blight of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
*****

And those were my reads in the month of November. This was one of the slowest months of reading that I’ve had in a long time, to be honest, but there are good reasons for it. 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 month due to the problems I’m having with my left shoulder/neck/arm and spine. So it was actually a half-decent number of reads given my condition.

The books I enjoyed the most were:

Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell by David Yaffe – I can’t say that I’m a fan of music biographies, but I’ve always enjoyed the music of Joni Mitchell, so I figured I’d gve this book a read. The author’s style is readable and pretty much straightforward, though it’s a bit over-written in a couple of places for my taste. David Yaffe knows his stuff and covers the entirety of Joni Mitchell’s life in interesting, but not overly extensive, detail. He has known Joni Mitchell personally for a long time, and having spoken with her extensively for this book as well as having spoken to a wide variety of people who’ve known her from childhood friends to musical collaborators, and has creative a genuine picture of a very talented, yet tough, very much her own self, and self-reliant, musician. I recommend this book.

The Blight of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler – One of the biggest problems with trilogies is that the middle book seems to always be the weakest of the three. The Blight of Muirwood is an exception to this rule, as this sequel is a better book in various ways than the first book in the Legends of Muirwood series. Author Jeff Wheeler has written a book that both expands on the first book and also sets up a conclusion that doesn’t feel like so many cookie cutter fantasy books these days. It also serves to set up what the third book will be about rather well. Blight is also a more mature book than the first book, as the protagonists are fleshed out more deeply, and relationships are further explained as well as being expanded upon. There’s a lot of action in this book, and some rather great plot twists. Highly recommended.

Roses and Rot by Kat Howard – What can I say about this novel that does it justice? Imogen is a writer, her two years younger sister Marin is a ballet dancer, and both go to an artists’ colony called Melete, just north of Boston. They both have a hideous mother who fits the role of the wicked stepmother or witch. And Melete hides secrets of its own, secrets that a knowledgeable reader will figure out somewhat earlier than other readers. Because this book is all about relationships and the realm of the Fae. What’s really special is that first novel writer Kat Howard slyly introduces the faerie elements with an almost factual nature that fans of the Fae will expect in such a “real world” setting. When one encounters the Wild Hunt, for example, the reader understands them for what they are, and accepts them within the reality of the book as something unique, frightening, but very much in keeping with the world that the author has created. While I don’t think this book is for everyone, if you enjoy books about Faeries and the Fay, with mortals blundering through it at times, this book is for you.

Those were the highlight reads among the books this past month.

Overall, I managed to read 6 novels, 0 RPGs and RPG products, 1 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in November. This brings the year total for 2017 to a set of numbers that look like this: 86 books, 20 RPGs and RPG products, 19 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. πŸ™‚

Advertisements

Books Read in October, 2017 November 2, 2017

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

As is my standard usage of my blog space at or near the beginning of the month, I present the listing of my October, 2017 reads.

*****
Books Read in October, 2017

The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (r)

Heroic Works 3: The Molted Serpent by Michael Masberg (RPG)

Heroic Works 4: Kibakadabra by Dominic Hladek (RPG)

Heroic Works 5: The Thorwal Drum by Daniel Hebler (RPG)

September, 2017 Locus

Heroic Works 6: Emperor of Thieves by Annette Juretzki (RPG)

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz

The Thief’s Daughter by Jeff Wheeler

Black Salamander by Marilyn Todd

The Storyteller’s Thesaurus: Fantasy, History & Horror by James M. Ward & Anne K. Brown

The Many-Coloured Land by Julian May (r)

November, 2017 Reader’s Digest
*****

And those were my reads in the month of October. While this was a decent month of reading (I always try to read around 10 books per month), it actually feels like I didn’t read all that many books this past month. Still, not half bad. πŸ™‚

The books I enjoyed the most were:

The Thief’s Daughter by Jeff Wheeler – The second book in the Kingfountain series by the author, this book is actually somewhat better than the first novel was. The children who were the focus of the first book have grown up, and now find themselves involved in the intrigues that that they have been caught up in. This is a terrific character book: the King is tragically flawed and Owen and Elysabeth are normal young adults with responsibilities and have parts to play of their own in the unfolding tragedy tat is playing out. The book’s end is heartbreaking, and I’m looking forward to the third book in the series when I get to it in my To Read Queue (TRQ). Highly recommended.

Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz – This book appealed to me, in the end, because it’s a lovely whodunnit that gives the reader not one, but *two* stories with murders to solve in the same novel. And, of course, I’m a sucker for a good mystery! The novel contains a classic mystery within a contemporary mystery. I’m not going to give away any of the plot elements here, but will say that the book is interesting, engaging and funny at some points. The story is narrated mainly by Susan and set in London, whereas the ‘Magpie Murders’ manuscript takes place in a small English village.
If you’re a fan of classic mysteries such as those of Agatha Christie, then you will likely enjoy this novel; if you’re a fan of contemporary thrillers then you will also enjoy this novel because it contains both elements! The novel is almost 500 pages long, and while I feel that it could have been told more concisely, this story is a wonderful read.

The Incorruptibles by John Hornor Jacobs – What can I say about this novel? Hmmm… Take a couple of pinches of Westerns, add a pinch of Romans, a pinch of steampunk and a smattering of touches of various other genres and you sort of get the wonderfully imaginative new world that the author has created for the first book of a planned trilogy. This book is wonderfully imaginative save in one respect: with the strong echo of Westerns, it’s not hard to see which group of characters has the role of Indians – and in that displays some of the most clichéd derogatory stereotypes from the Western genre. Without the Western influence, having bad guys who mutilate the heads of opponents, abduct babies and the like would probably pass without notice, but with the Western influence, it’s hard to see these as other than caricatures of Native Americans which are best left in the past. The book is the first part of a trilogy, but in setting the scene for large parts of the book there isn’t that much of an overall plot driving events along to some degree. By the end of the book there certainly is, but overall the pacing didn’t seem right to me. The depth of the imagination found in this world is the real strength of the novel, and it is very refreshing in its originality, given the story of a “steam boat” heading into dangerous territory with a mix of politicians and “cowboys” on board. I’m looking forward to the sequel to this one for sure.

Those were the highlight reads among the books this past month, though I also enjoyed reading Black Salamander by Marilyn Todd and re-reading The Many-Coloured Land by Julian May and a couple of the other works found above.

Overall, I managed to read 7 novels, 1 RPGs and RPG products, 2 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels in October. This brings the year total for 2017 to a set of numbers that look like this: 80 books, 20 RPGs and RPG products, 18 magazines, 0 comics, and 0 graphic novels.

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. πŸ™‚

Books Read in September, 2017 October 2, 2017

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

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. πŸ™‚ 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 Polly’s first person point of view as she struggles to adapt to her new environment on Earth. I’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 β€œoutdoors”, 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. πŸ™‚

Books Read in August, 2017 September 2, 2017

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

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. πŸ™‚

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.
Tags: , , , ,
add a comment

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

Posted by jkahane in book hut, reading hut, review.
Tags: , , , , ,
add a comment

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. πŸ™‚

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

Posted by jkahane in movie hut, personal, review, Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

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

Posted by jkahane in movie hut, personal, review.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

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.