Saturday, September 16, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Breath of Earth by Beth Cato

Breath of Earth is the start of a new series (Trilogy?) by Beth Cato.  Set in an alternate history in 1906 San Francisco, this is a world in which The US has joined forces with Japan in an attempt to dominate the world with magical power.  In addition to the magical fantastic beasts which exist in this world, a well known magical power is Geomancy, which enables particular men to feel and contain power from earthquakes.  This power can then be absorbed into a special magical stone, which can contain the power for use in technology such as airships.

That said, the combination of Japan and early 20th century America results in horrible things happening to other cultures, particularly those of Chinese origin.  And Women aren't exactly expected to be able to wield such power either.  The result of this background is a story where people who in the real world wielded power in dangerous ways toward minority groups have even more power, and our protagonists discover this the hard way.

That said, while this is not a book where the main characters are having fun, it's definitely the start of what is shaping up to be an interesting tale of discovery and adventure by an excellent cast of characters who realize they need to take action to try stop such evils...or at least to prevent greater harm.  This story is definitely not stand-alone - it ends on a cliffhanger - but it's a very solid beginning.

More after the Jump:

Thursday, September 14, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Novella Review: Mira's Last Dance (Penric & Desdemona #4) by Lois McMaster Bujold

Mira's Last Dance (4th Published story in the Penric & Desdemona series) by Lois McMaster Bujold

Mira's Last Dance is the fourth (in publication, fifth chronologically as Bujold published a midquel last month) in the Penric and Desdemona series of Novellas.  It's also a direct sequel to "Penric's Mission," concluding the story of Penric's journey with Arisaydia and Nikys.  It's also the shortest Penric story, which is especially notable after Penric's Mission which is by far the longest.

The story in sum:  As Penric attempts to lead Nikys and her brother to Orbas, the trio take refuge in a brothel, where Penric gets the idea to pose as a courtesan - with the help of his demon's past life as the Courtesan Mira of Adria - in order to aid their journey to safety.  But the demon remnant of Mira has her own ideas of how this strategy can work, and it could risk them everything....and perhaps ruin his relationship with Nikys, with whom he has become more and more smitten.

As usual, Bujold's story has some excellent and witty dialogue, particularly between Penric and Desdemona and her multiple personalities.  The story is surprisingly unpredictable, with an ending that rings true.  That said, the shortness of this story is definitely notable especially compared with its predecessor and Bujold time-skips over the most notable event in the story.  I'm not sure if I'd want to read what exactly happens during that time jump (not spoiling, sorry), but it's a weird situation to set up a major cliffhanger and then just jump to "Yeah it worked out perfectly okay!"  Still, I've enjoyed this as I've enjoyed this whole series so far - Bujold stories remain light and fun, even if occasionally heartbreaking, and I look forward to reading the next Penric story once my library has it in audiobook.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Novella Review: River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey

Novella Review:  River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey: 

River of Teeth is a novella by Sarah Gailey with what seems like a fun premise - it's an alternate history where the US has actually followed through on a plan to import Hippos for transport in the marshlands of the Mississippi River. In this world, Hippos in the area are used like horses, and wild "feral" hippos in the water can be immensely dangerous.

The story follows former hippo rancher and current hippo wrangler Winslow Houndstooth as he gathers a gang of fellow Hippo-riders, including a non-binary planner named Hero, the Con Woman Archie, assassin Amelia, and sharpshooter Cal, in order to enact a crazy plan to drive the rabid feral hippos out of the Mississippi and out of the US.  Oh and he's also seeking revenge on the ones who destroyed his revenge.  And in the meantime, Houndstooth may also be falling in love with Hero, which could complicate things.

As you could guess from the names I just listed above, this novella is the very opposite of subtle.  Maybe a Hippo Western would be hard to write as subtle, but the characters in this Novella are so exaggerated it gets really really silly.  The story is fun, but it's hard to not break into laughing at points even where you're really not supposed to.  Worth a read, though not a must read.

Monday, September 11, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Ruin of Angels (Craft Sequence) by Max Gladstone

The Ruin of Angels is the sixth published (and sixth chronolically) book in Max Gladstone's Craft Sequence series, which is probably my favorite ongoing series at this point of time.  The Craft Sequence series tells stories in a world where magic (or "Craft") follows rules of Law and Economics and where Gods are essentially corporations and uses this setting to tell stories with themes centered around real world issues (The First Five books deal essentially with fantasy versions of Gentrification, Water Rights, Bankruptcy and Fiduciary Duties, and Offshore Banking).

The first four published books (Chronologically books 3, 2, 1, and 5) were easily stand alone novels that could be read in any order.  The fifth published book, Four Roads Cross (4th Chronologically) could sort of be read stand-alone, but was very clearly a sequel to the First Published Book, Three Parts Dead (3rd Chronologically).

This book, The Ruin of Angels, is similar to Four Roads Cross, in that it's a stand alone story, but at the same time is very much a sequel to the book that proceeds it chronologically, Full Fathom Five (published 3rd).  You could start the series with this book using a quick summary like the one on the Tor website here - but Full Fathom Five might be the best in the series so I'd strongly recommend you start there first (and then you can go right to this book without reading the others if you want).

More after the Jump:

Saturday, September 9, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Brightest Fell (October Daye Book # 11) by Seanan McGuire

The Brightest Fell is the eleventh book in the October Daye series, an urban fantasy series set in San Francisco (and the Fae equivalents).  For those unfamiliar with the series, this is a Fae Fantasy series, following the actions of October "Toby" Daye, private investigator, knight, hero of the realm, and oh yeah, half-human changeling, as she attempts to solve mysteries, missing-persons cases, and other situations that come up that threaten the Fae world.

Like every book in the series, the book starts with Toby narrating events in a way to sneak in a summary of what's happened so far (and this book also comes with a quick intro to the series before the story begins).  So in theory you COULD start with this book....but I would NOT recommend it, as this book's main plot deals with one of the bigger mysteries in the series, and will lose a lot of its impact if you haven't read the prior books.

In addition, this book is almost certainly the darkest book in the series (MAYBE Book 5 comes close, but I don't think it does), and several of the major characters are sidelined by the plot.  So it's not as fun as much of the series.  If you've enjoyed the series previously, you'll really enjoy this book.  But it might be tricky if you start here.

One more thing before the Jump: This book also contains a bonus Novella "Of Things Unknown" which takes place from the perspective of April O'Leary and deals with the events of Book 2.  Since it's included in every version of this book, I'll be including the novella as part of my review.

More after the Jump:

Thursday, September 7, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Black Powder War (Temeraire #3) by Naomi Novik

Black Powder War is the third in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series.  This is a book that continues pretty much right where book two - Throne of Jade - left off, starting with Temeraire in China and following his journey back home into two theatres - Turkey and Prussia - where Laurence and Temeraire and the crew attempt to further the British Cause.  Again, the story largely expands the world, and really introduces the disgraced dragon Lien as a new major antagonist for the series. Again, like Throne of Jade, it's an enjoyable story, and some of the new characters are nice additions, but it's really nothing special.

More after the Jump.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Space Between the Stars by Anne Corlett

The Space Between the Stars is a pretty good example of a book where the individual pieces are much much worse than the whole.  I'm very happy I'm not a professional reviewer, as explaining how I feel about this book is really difficult.  I listened to this book as an audiobook and the book frequently features some stilted writing, one main character who gets practically no development and one who is just plain annoying by design.  And yet this book, which features a postapocalypse universe (ala Station Eleven, as a total package DOES seem to work and I did like it in the end, even as I know I was often exasperated when I was in the middle.

More after the jump:

Sunday, September 3, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Blackthorne by Stina Leicht (The Malorum Gates #2)

Blackthorne is the sequel to Cold Iron, a "Flintlock" epic fantasy book written in 2015 that I liked a bit (My review on twitter can be found here).  By "Flintlock" Fantasy (the author's description, not moine), the author simply means that while this is clearly an epic fantasy story, and some characters do carry swords, combat is more often done with flintlock rifles and muskets - we're dealing with a 17th-18th century-esque fantasy world, not middle ages.

In Cold Iron, our main characters were Kainen, magical beings (think: Elves) facing, among other things, the threat of an invading empire of non-magical human beings.  All of our main characters had some magical abilities - Suvi had the magical ability to command others into doing what she wants, Ilta is a magical healer with scrying/future-seeing abilities, and Nels, while he mysteriously doesn't seem to have command magic, at the very least has the ability to see the lives of those who he kills with his sword (not exactly the most useful or desirable ability).

Blackthorne on the other hand introduces several new main point of view characters who are in fact Human, and lack magical abilities, and deals with several of the humans of the invading Empire. We learn more about that human empire and the demons - the Malorum of the series title - that are infesting it.  It's an expansion of the world of Cold Iron and for the most part it works - the new characters and world are interesting (even if none of it is original).  Unfortunately, the book too often feels like it's telling two different stories that aren't really connected to one another and the book doesn't succeed in wrapping everything up into a satisfying ending.

More after the jump, with minor plot spoilers for Cold Iron:

Thursday, August 31, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Amatka by Karin Tidbeck

Amatka is a book originally published in Sweden in 2012, finally making it over to America in 2017 (Translated by the author herself).  It's a short novel and definitely falls in the sub-genre of "Weird" science fiction typified to some extent by Jeff VanderMeer (who's a known fan of Tidbeck). But more importantly, this Dystopian tale is incredibly strong and thought-provoking and original (at least to me), and is easily amongst the best things I've read all year - Maybe the best thing I've read all year.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

At a certain point in The Sudden Appearance of Hope, I was fully riveting in the story and could not help keep reading (despite it being past 1 in the morning).  The story had a strong central character, a strong set of ideas, and was far from predictable.  And....well, like many books, it didn't really pull through all of its threads into a satisfactory ending.  In a way, the book tries to pull off a bit more than it can chew, and loses itself in the process.

More after the Jump:

Sunday, August 27, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Novella Review: Hammers on Bone by Cassandra Khaw

(Novella can be found here:

Hammers on Bone is the first in a novella series in which Cthulhu-esque monsters are livingamong and in humans, with at least this first book told in a stereotypical noir style.  Seriously - it is REALLY channeling noir conventions - our hero, John Persons, is a private investigator, hired by a child to kill his stepdad.  There's just two twists: one, the Stepdad is a literal monster wearing human skin, and two: well, so is Persons to a lesser extent.  And like any classical noir story, there's also a "Dame" whose good nature may be less than it seems on first glance.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Envy of Angels (Sin Du Jour #1) by Matt Wallace

Sin Du Jour is a series of novellas/short-novels (the 220 page count of each book is kind of at the borderline) by Matt Wallace, centering on a catering company (the aforementioned Sin Du Jour) which caters to the supernatural (Demons and other things) at least partly on behalf of the government. This is the first book in the series.

As you might imagine from such a premise, this is a lighthearted series filled fun moments and wacky hijinks - this book alone contains a knife fight between chefs to second blood, an infiltration of a McDonalds-like company to steal a recipe, a server trying to weave his way between two rival demon families to pick up a dish, and more.

Long Review continues after the jump:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The House of Binding Thorns (Dominion of the Fallen #2) by Aliette de Bodard

The House of Binding Thorns is ostensibly a sequel to Aliette de Bodard's House of Shattered Wings.  It follows up on threads from that book and obviously takes place in the same universe, but it CAN be read Stand-Alone.  You'll benefit from reading the first book - the background of the setting is arguably established better in that book and one of the main characters' plotlines follows directly from that book, but the main plot of this book is wholly distinct from HoSW.

I read the House of Shattered Wings last year and I had mixed feelings about that book.  I LOVED the Worldbuilding - Fallen Angels!  A Vietnamese Immortal cast out from the Court of the Jade Emperor!  Dragon Spirits!  Alchemists and Magicians!  Oh and LGBTQ characters treated as the norm.  The World was one of the most unique I've read about in the past few years. But the storyline kind of petered out at the end, with the several character threads not all coming together to form a combined resolution but instead for one of these threads to provide the conclusion and the rest to all just peter out.

That's not the case with The House of Binding Thorns - here the four main story threads all wind in and out of the main plotline, with each remaining interesting throughout and none seeming wasted in the finale.  Despite the story focusing in large part on what was presented in book 1 as the "Evil" House Hawthorn, the story is not ultradark and bad characters show new dimensions that make sense and make them more interesting.  This book really makes great use of that great worldbuilding, which makes it a very strong read.

Long Review continues after the Jump (Minor Spoilers for House of Shattered Wings):

Sunday, August 20, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth #3) by N.K. Jemisin

The first two books in the Broken Earth trilogy have won the last two Hugo Awards, and deservedly so.  With The Stone Sky, NK Jemisin stands a strong chance at being the first ever back to back to back winner for Best Novel, as this book is clearly the strongest of the trilogy....and maybe Jemisin's best Novel ever.

Unlike my other favorite work of Jemisin - the Inheritance Trilogy - this trilogy does not end on a triumphant note.  This is a story of a people - even a whole world - oppressed and abused for no reason other than fear, jealousy and cruelty.  There is no way such a story could end triumphantly.  But despite this, the story ends Perfectly, on what is essentially a hopeful note, one that wraps up everything really really nicely.

Of course, as one should expect from this series already, the steps between this book and really this whole trilogy's beginning and ending are filled with heartbreaking powerful moments.  This trilogy has not been one for the faint of heart, who can't stand to see good people, even children, face tremendous suffering and abuse.  Good writing - and Jemisin is my favorite writer at this point for a reason - makes these things hard to read.  But the power of this story could not be done in any other way, and it is all worth it in the end.

More after the Jump (Spoilers for The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate are unavoidable).

Friday, August 18, 2017

Video Game Review: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel

  I don't play very many video games these days, but when I do I tend to stick to a few genres, and probably my favorite genre has been for a while the JRPG.  A good JRPG often doesn't require great physical dexterity or reflexes to play, involves tactical strategy and choices, and has a long sprawling plot that is entertaining to unveil.  In particular, I was introduced last year to the "Trails" series ("Kiseki" in Japan), a series of JRPGs popular in Japan that took a long time to come over to America -first as PSP games and then later as PC ports.

  I loved the first two games in the series, Trails in the Sky and its sequel Trails in the Sky SC, when I played them last year, with SC being a particular favorite of mine.  The third game in the Trails in the Sky subseries ("Cleverly" titled "Trails in the Sky The Third") came out in May of this year, and was also a blast to play, even if it was kind of a step back form SC.  Now, as of 2 weeks ago, the american localizer of the series has ported the second (3rd in Japan, but 2nd to come here) Trails series to PC - it was originally on PS3: Trails of Cold Steel.  If you've noticed my book reviews slowing down on this blog the last two weeks, it was because I was distracted tearing through this game in around 75 hours.

  The good news is that Trails of Cold Steel is still pretty good if you like JRPGs.  Like Trails in the Sky it is a sprawling JRPG with LOTS of minor characters, many of whom have their own stories in the background that you can discover through optional dialogue as the game goes on.  The battle system is very similar to Trails in the Sky with a few tweaks that have some pluses and minuses and the story is mostly great.  The issue for me is that the game rarely presents you with particularly challenging battles and the "free day" of school to start each chapter is kind of a drag.  As a result still prefer the Trails in the Sky series so far, although maybe that opinion will change when this game's sequel comes out for PC later this year.

More detailed review after the jump:

Thursday, August 17, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Ethan of Athos (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster Bujold

Ethan of Athos is technically the 3rd published book in the Vorkosigan Saga, although it was really one of three books written simultaenously (Shards of Honor and The Warrior's Apprentice being the other two).  As such, it is a stand alone novel - the only connections to the rest of the series in this book are the setting and one minor character from The Warrior's Apprentice plays a major role, but she was Such a minor character there that past knowledge is not necessary.  The book chronologically takes place 6th in the timeline (not counting Falling Free) and as such, if you were reading chronologically, some of the books published later make references to things that are explained here.

But again, you can jump right in here without any prior Vorkosigan experience, and if you do you'll get a pretty fun romp.  It's not a great book, but it's certainly fun.

More after the Jump:

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Reluctant Queen by Sarah Beth Durst

The Reluctant Queen is the sequel to The Queen of Blood, which I just reviewed favorably earlier this week.  This second tale doesn't expand our knowledge of the world of Renthia very much - we are still staying in the Country of Aratay although the neighboring country of Semo does play a major role - but does expand our knowledge of the people within Aratay.  As in the first book this is still a world where the Spirits of Nature exist en mass alongside humans and want to kill all of humanity, held back only by a powerful queen of each country who can command them to "Do No Harm." This book however further deals with the other people besides the heirs and Champions in the Country - in this case, a Deadly Poisoner, a Royal Guardsman, and just to some minor extent the other Civil Servants who try to serve the Queen.

It's a tale that is still very good and I tore through this book in 2 days - Durst writes really really well and the story is a bit enthralling....but it loses a little bit of the wonder of the first book as the interactions between spirits and humans becomes a little more cut and dry.

More after the Jump, including major spoilers for The Queen of Blood:

Sunday, August 6, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Queen of Blood by Sarah Beth Durst

The Queen of Blood is book 1 in Sarah Beth Durst's "Queens of Renthia" Series.  I've seen other reviews compare the book to Naomi Novik's "Uprooted" and the comparison makes sense to some extent - the book is a retelling/subversion of the classic chosen hero/fairy tale (but not "fae" - this is not a fae story) trope in a world dominated by woods (Cities are created from magically altering trees) and magic.  That said, the book is a lot more cynical than Uprooted, although it has its lighter moments as well.  But this is not a bad thing really - I enjoyed this book a lot (and just finished its sequel, review to come soon).

The World of Renthia is one in which mankind lives amongst Spirits of six different elements - ice, wood, water, fire, air, and earth - who created the world.  The problem is this: The Spirits hate humanity and one of their top two wants (in addition to wanting always to simply use their element to grow things) is always to kill/destroy humans.  In order to stop the Spirits from destroying humanity, nature seems to have evolved in the Spirits a desire for them to choose a human Queen from one of the many humans who has innate magical talent to speak/control the spirits.  These Queens, of which there are five - one for each of the 5 countries in the world, are given control of the spirits of their country and can command them to do no harm.  Should a Queen die or fall however, the Spirits would go wild and try to destroy everything.

Friday, August 4, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Throne of Jade (Temeraire #2) by Naomi Novik

I very much enjoyed His Majesty's Dragon, the first book in the Temeraire series, which I obtained a copy of in this year's Hugo Voters Packet (Temeraire was up for the trial run for the "Best Series" Hugo).  This alternate world where the Napoleonic Wars were fought between forces that included Dragons on both sides featured several great characters - not just the young dragon Temeraire and his Captain Laurence, but a cast of other Dragons and their crews.  It was a fun tale filled with some fun characters and I looked forward to Book 2.

Throne of Jade is Book 2 (of 9) and takes Laurence and Temeraire away from the cast in Britain on a voyage to China, Temeraire's homeland.  It's solid...but a step down from Book 1 as the newer characters aren't particularly interesting.

More after the Jump:

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Harbors of the Sun (Books of the Raksura #5) by Martha Wells

I'm running out of things to say about the Books of the Raksura series, which has emerged as one of my favorite series to read over the past two years (since I restarted my reading of the genre).  A reader might've noticed I haven't actually given any of the five books in this series a grade above 8.5 out of 10, which usually is my "Really good but with some flaws that make it just short of Great" rating, but the whole series somehow is better than its individual parts.  Throughout the series, Wells has crafted a cast of characters who are simply special and diverse in personalities, such that they're beyond a joy to read.  I'll miss these characters now that I've finished all the Raksuran stories (barring minor Patreon pieces) likely to come out in the near future, a lot.

But the Long Review of THIS book continues after the jump:

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

How to find new SciFi/Fantasy books to read (or really any genre)

So my last post talked about a bunch of books I'd recommend to new readers looking to break into modern SciFi/Fantasy literature.  I greatly enjoyed all of those books and many more books, but how did I find those books (as well as any others I've loved)?  Let's say you enjoy those books and any sequels to those series - how do you go about finding new books and new authors for you to read?  Let me try and explain how I find books:

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Some suggestions of where to start if you want to get into modern SciFi/Fantasy

AC Thomas, one of the people I follow on twitter for hockey purposes, asked me a pretty good question:  Where should I start if I want to find something in SciFi/Fantasy to read?  Somehow I've not made a post about this yet, so I wanted to make some suggestions and of course this turned out longer than a twitter thread could do, so I'm writing this up instead.

Scifi/Fantasy Book Review: Cetaganda (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster Bujold

Cetaganda is the third (chronologically speaking) book in the Vorkosigan Saga to follow Miles Vorkosigan, here partnered again with his cousin Ivan.  The story follows Miles in his role as ImpSec Lieutenant Vorkosigan - or more accurately as an official envoy of the Barrayaran government sent to observe the Cetagandan Empress' funeral - and does not involve at all the Dendarii Mercenaries.  It's also, like The Warrior's Apprentice, probably a bit too silly for its own good.

This is a stand alone novel in that it doesn't feature any cliffhangers, but you'll be more than a bit lost if you try starting the series here, as the book assumes you'll know about Miles' background going into this one.  So I wouldn't start the series with this one.

Long Review continues after the jump:

Thursday, July 27, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden

The Prey of Gods is easily one of the more unique books I've read this year. It's also extremely good - featuring a diverse cast of characters - Our POVs include: A Robot, a Girl learning to become a demigod, an angry ravenous older Demigod, a Gay teen with mind control abilities, a pop artist who secretly has MS and a trans politician who'd rather be a pop artist.  The story features demigods, an ancient mythology and multiple robots/AIs with minds of their own, as well as genetic engineering on the side.  By all rights, this combination SHOULDN'T work.  But for the most part, it really really does.

Long Review continues after the Jump:

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Novella Reviews: All Systems Red and Down Among the Sticks and Bones

This post will be reviewing a pair of SFF Novellas that were published this year and I suspect will be under consideration next year for the Hugo Award.  The two Novellas being reviewed in this post are:

All Systems Red by Martha Wells

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Both of these Novellas are part of a series of Novellas - McGuire's Novella is the 2nd in the Wayward Children series (although it's a prequel) and All Systems Red is the first in Wells' "The Murderbot Diaries."  One of these Novellas I loved, the other was disappointing.

Actual reviews after the Jump:

Sunday, July 23, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Vor Game (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Vor Game is the fourth (well 5th kind of, counting the book that doesn't include any of the titular family and takes place well before the others) book in the Vorkosigan Saga chronologically and the second book chronologically to feature Miles Vorkosigan.  Like Barrayar is to Shards of Honor, this is essentially a sequel to The Warrior's Apprentice and should not be read as a stand alone novel.  That said, it's a superior book to The Warrior's Apprentice, losing much of that book's silliness while maintaining the fun atmosphere, dialogue, and characters that are Bujold's specialties.

Long Review continues after the Jump

Friday, July 21, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Traders' War (Merchant Princes Omnibus #2) by Charles Stross

The Merchant Princes series is a series in which our main character, Miriam Beckstein, a tech journalist from Boston, discovers that she is part of a family of multiversaas a mafia family to get rich and power in a medieval parallel Earth.  The series follows the resulting chaos that occurs when Miriam is reintroduced into her family, and her highly intelligent and curious nature can't help but try to change the things she finds.

The series was originally a set of six books, but was later condensed into three omnibus editions, with each Omnibus containing definitive revised versions of two books.  I reviewed the first Omnibus, The Bloodline Feud, HERE. The first book was pretty much heavily carried by Miriam, which worked because Miriam is terrific in that book - a "force of nature" (to quote one character in this book) guile hero who drives the plot and is a blast to watch work and to root for. Unfortunately, this second Omnibus often sidelines Miriam and really badly misuses her, at one point in a really problematic way.

Long Review continues after the Jump (Minor Spoilers for The Bloodline Feud I suppose, but nothing major, and nothing that should ruin your experience of reading that book).

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: A Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss

The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter is a very well done (and fun) example of a happily becoming more common genre - taking stories that have possible gender (or other) issues and subverting them.  In this case, the author has noted that she has found that women in various classic monster stories tend to make out quite poorly.  This book is one hell of a response to that notion - as it features all of the women in those classic monster stories teaming up for good.  The end result is a pretty fun origin story for this cast of characters, which I suspect is the beginning of a new series.

More after the Jump:

Monday, July 17, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Warrior's Apprentice (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Warrior's Apprentice is I think the 2nd book published in the Vorkosigan Saga series (3rd chronologically).  That said, it's esentially the start of a new series based upon our new Hero, Miles Naismith Vorkosigan, the son of the two prior protagonists.  So this is a book you can start with perfectly fine - no prior knowledge is needed to begin the series with this book.

Long Review after the Jump:

Friday, July 14, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Raven Stratagem (Machineries of Empire #2) by Yoon Ha Lee

Raven Stratagem is the sequel to Ninefox Gambit, which I loved when I read it last year (My pick for this year's Hugo). Both books take place in a fascinating Science Fiction Universe whereby much of the universe's technology is powered by the adherence of an area's people to a specific "calendar" - feast days, memorials, rememberences.....and of course, Ritual tortures.  Failure to comply with the calendar can cause the technology to stop working, and "heretic" groups that form their own calendars pose their own threat to the dominant force in the galaxy.

Meanwhile, much of the drive beyond "calendrical" technology is driven by extremely complex mathematics - knowledge of how the calendar is altered in certain areas or by heretical actions can be imputed by mathematical calculations and such calculations can allow warring parties to alter their tactics in such a way to have beneficial effects on battles - for instance, one faction can manifest weaponry/effects based upon being in certain formations if they are in the proper calendar, based near entirely on mathematical computations.

Long Review continues after the Jump (I've avoided spoilers for Ninefox Gambit as much as I can). Note, you COULD in theory start the series with this book, but I don't recommend it:

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Edge of Worlds by Martha Wells

Long Review after the Jump (Minor Spoilers for the First Three Raksuran Books):

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Reviewing the Hugo Nominees: Best Novel

Reviewing the Hugo Award Nominees: Best Novel:

This is the big category (not that the other categories are insignificant to the people up for them of course) and will of course be the one with the most votes.  As usual, Puppy influence is minor at best (Best Novel gets enough votes that even two years ago when the puppies had the strongest influence, they only managed to get three works on the ballot), and we have an assortment of varied SciFi and Fantasy works of critical repute.

I managed to read every nominee this year before the nominations were announced except for A Closed and Common Orbit (Yes I know I'm hipster bragging here lol).  This wasn't exactly difficult, as all six nominees were books of some critical repute and/or were pretty hyped by the people I pay attention to, and several were sequels to similarly hyped books.  The nominations contain four works that would be worthy winners in my opinion, and two that, while I am ranking them below No Award, are incredibly ambitious in scope and I can see why they made the list.

Without ado, my rankings after the Jump:

Monday, July 10, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Mortal Tally (Bring Down Heaven #2)

I reviewed The City Stained Red last month and was very much looking forward to the sequel.  The First book featured a fun group of great characters - basically your standard adventuring party but developed far better in a cynical world (Dragonman Tank, Squishy Child Wizard, Priestess Healer, Human Rogue/Thief, Elf Rogue/Archer, Human Fighter), but had a plot that wasn't very satisfying.  Again, the characters were great pretty much so I was looking forward to seeing the second book, which would at worst (I though) continue telling tales with characters I enjoyed and at best would move forward with the plot in an interesting way.

Unfortunately, this book kind of manages to underperform my lowest possible expectations, which made it kind of a chore to read.

Long Review continues after the Jump (Minor Spoilers for The City Stained Red)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Reviewing the Hugo Award Nominees: Best Novella

Hugo Award voting closes next Saturday, so I'm going to complete my general reviews of the nominees here this week.

The Novella category isn't as strong as the other 3 big categories in my opinion.  The most likely winner based upon prior awards is a novella I didn't particularly think worked so I have it below No Award, and the four Novellas I think would be worthy winners all have flaws and none are blow-you-away type stories.

Reviews and Order of my Ranking after the Jump:

Friday, July 7, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Barrayar (Vorkosigan Saga) by Lois McMaster Bujold

Barrayar is the direct sequel to Shards of Honor, the first (by publication and second by chronological order) book in Lois McMaster Bujold's long running Vorkosigan Saga. Oddly, the book wasn't written till years later (6 books later), but despite that this book basically starts off right where Shards left off.  Note that in theory, you could read this book as a stand alone, but I REALLY wouldn't advise it - not only is Shards of Honor a particularly good book on its own, but this book relies largely on the setup for three of its most important characters (in Cordelia, Aral, and Bothari) as well as this world in itself.

Long Review (Minor Spoilers for Shards of Honor) after the Jump:

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Dungeon Crawl (20-Sided Sorceress Book 8) by Annie Bellet

The Twenty Sided Sorceress series is a pretty damn fun urban fantasy series that I've enjoyed over the past year or so.  The first book is free for kindle on Amazon, and this is the eighth book.  The general premise of the series is the following: The series follows Jade Crow, who lives in a town filled with magical creatures and magic users (due to the presence of leylines of course) in the US.  Jade however, is secretly a sorceress, a magic user whose magical power is innate and a type of magic user that is generally hated by others....due to sorcerer's having the ability to eat people's hearts to gain their powers.  Oh and sorcerers also tend to be incredibly dangerous and can't be killed without someone eating their own hearts.  Together with her friends, a bunch of animal-shapeshifters, Jade spends the series learning how to better control her powers and to confront the dangers that emerge  in the town.

Long Review of THIS book after the Jump (Mild Spoilers for books 1-7):

Monday, July 3, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Witch Who Came In From the Cold Season 1 by Lindsay Smith, Max Gladstone, Cassandra Rose Clarke, Ian Tregillis, & Michael Swanwick

Long Review After the Jump:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Siren Depths (Books of the Raksura #3) by Martha Wells

Long Review after the Jump (Again, Minor Spoilers for Books 1-2)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Serpent Sea (Books of the Rakshura #2) by Martha Wells

Long Review after the Jump (Very Minor Spoilers for The Cloud Moons):

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold

Long Review after the Jump:

Sunday, June 25, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Radiate by C.A. Higgins

I've previously reviewed Lightless and Supernova on my twitter account, and have been pretty excited for Radiate, which is the concluding novel in the trilogy.  A spoilery review will be after the jump, but for those who haven't read the first two novels, I gave them an 8 and an 8.5 respectively. The Novels are very ambitious, dealing with scientific concepts such as entropy, scientific forces, and AIs.

The Novels also deal with concepts of revolution against a dystopian government, how far one should go in pursuit of freedom, and how far should loved ones of revolutionaries be willing to go in support of those revolutionary ideals to support those loved ones.  It's a tricky balance for the story to strike, and the first two novels had issues at times balancing the SciFi themes with the other themes.  Radiate is no different in that respect

Long Review continues with Spoilers After the Jump:

Saturday, June 24, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear

Long Review after the Jump:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: A Tyranny of Queens by Foz Meadows (Manifest Worlds #2)

Long Review (with SPOILERS for An Accident of Stars) after the Jump:  Do not read the rest of this review if you have not read an Accident of Stars.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: An Accident of Stars by Foz Meadows

Long Review after the Jump:

Sunday, June 18, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Fields of Fire (Frontlines #5) by Marko Kloos

Long Review After the Jump:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Reviewing the Hugo Award Nominees: Best Short Story Category

Reviewing the Hugo Award Nominees: Best Short Story

The Short Story Nominees are pretty incredible this year.  I thought only three of the Novelettes were pretty good (although I ranked the other two legitimate nominees above "no award") but only two were strong Hugo contenders, and really neither of them were "Must Reads".  Best Short Story has Three Must Reads, and the other two legitimate contenders are well worth their nominations.  Since these are by definition very short stories, reviews will be brief.

Picks are after the Jump:

Friday, June 16, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Star Wars: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Long Review after the Jump

Thursday, June 15, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes

Long Review After the Jump:

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

Long Review after the Jump:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Boss Fight (20-Sided Sorceress Books 5 Through 7) by Annie Bellet

Long Review After the Jump

Friday, June 9, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The October Daye Series (All Ten Books!) by Seanan McGuire

Long Review After the Jump

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Revenger by Alastair Reynolds

Long Review after the Jump:

Monday, June 5, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik

Long Review after the Jump:

Sunday, June 4, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells

Long Review after the Jump:

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Bloodline Feud by Charles Stross

Long Review after the Jump:

Monday, May 29, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Star's End by Cassandra Rose Clarke

Long Review after the Jump:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Reviewing the Hugo Award Nominees: Best Novelette Category

So I've now essentially read every book/story nominated for the big four Hugo Categories this year.  For those who aren't aware (and if you're reading my reviews on this blog, I don't know how you aren't), the Hugo Awards are one of the biggest Science Fiction and Fantasy awards (arguably one of the big two, along with the Nebulas), and are awarded through an open voting process.  Anyone who at least buys a supporting membership at the Worldcon convention they're awarded at (for $40) is eligible to vote.

Note that if you buy a supporting membership, you gain access to a free giveaway of Hugo Nominated Material that contains nearly all (it's missing one best novel work, and that's it of the big four categories) of the works nominated for the Hugo this year.  The value of this is WELL OVER $40, so I highly recommend paying for this (we're talking like 20+ Novels, 5 comic trades, and much much more).

Anyhow, I'm going to be writing posts for each of the four big categories (and maybe a fifth for best graphic novel) and give my thoughts and reviews on the categories.  The Categories are Best Novel, Best Novella, Best Novelette, and Best Short Story, and for the most part, I've finished all of the nominees.  So without further ado, let's get to Best Novelette first.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Bookburners Season 2 by Max Gladstone, Muir Lafferty, Margaret Dunlap, Brian Slattery, Amar El-Mohtar, Andrea Phillips

Long Review after the Jump:

Monday, May 15, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Borne by Jeff Vandermeer

Long Review after the Jump:

Saturday, May 13, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Among Others by Jo Walton

Long Review after the Jump:

Thursday, May 11, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: The Skill In Our Hands (The Incrementalists, Book #2) by Steven Brust and Skyler White

Long Review after the Jump:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Book Review: Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand

Long Review after the Jump:

Saturday, May 6, 2017

SciFi/Fantasy Review: Central Station by Lavie Tidhar

Long Review after the Jump: