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Books Read in June, 2018 July 3, 2018

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

*****
Books Read in June, 2018

Caliban’s War by James S.A Corey

The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (r)

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

Hollowgirl by Sean Williams

May, 2018 Reader’s Digest

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

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

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

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

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

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

Binary System by Eric Brown

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

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

Torg: Orrorsh by Christopher Kubasik (RPG (r)

June, 2018 Reader’s Digest

The Malice by Peter Newman

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

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

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

A Delusion of Satan by Frances Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

The books I enjoyed the most were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

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Books Read in May, 2018 June 4, 2018

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

*****
Books Read in May, 2018

Roman Games by Bruce Macbain

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

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

The Delirium Brief by Charles Stross

April, 2018 Reader’s Digest

Updraft by Fran Wilde

April, 2018 Locus

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

The Jewel and Her Lapidary by Fran Wilde

Dark Life by Kat Falls

Rip Tide by Kat Falls

May, 2018 Locus
*****

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

The books I enjoyed the most were:

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

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

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

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

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

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

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

*****
Books Read in March, 2018

Into the Forest by Jean Hegland (r)

Finch by Jeff VanderMeer

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

Torg Eternity GM Screen by Various (RPG)

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

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett

February, 2018 Locus

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

March, 2018 Reader’s Digest
*****

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

The books I enjoyed the most were:

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

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

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

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

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Book Reads in February, 2018 March 5, 2018

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Got delayed in writing this up for the month, but better late than never. 🙂

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

*****
Books Read in February, 2018

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Scourge of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (r)

December, 2017 Locus

January/February, 2018 Reader’s Digest

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue

January, 2018 Locus

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

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

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

The books I enjoyed the most were:

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Book Reads in January, 2018 February 2, 2018

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2018. The new year. Another year to see what my reading for the year will be like.

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

*****
Books Read in January, 2018

Seeing Red by Sandra Brown

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

November, 2017 Locus

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

GameTek: The Math and Science of Gaming by Geoff Engelstein

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

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

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

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

Six Wakes by Mur Lafferty

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

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

And that was the start of my reading for 2018.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, thoughts and comments are always welcome. 🙂

Books Read in November, 2017 December 3, 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 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. 🙂

Books Read in October, 2017 November 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 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. 🙂

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. 🙂

Books Read in September, 2017 October 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 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. 🙂 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 “outdoors”, 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. 🙂

Books Read in August, 2017 September 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 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. 🙂