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swynn

swynn

Joined March 2018

Librarian - sf/fantasy addict - runner - germanophile
review
swynn
Forever Amber | Kathleen Winsor
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Mehso-so

"Forever" is right -- I think that's the term you'll find next to "Time remaining:" when you open this monster on an e-reader.

Still, I was happy to find it nowhere near as awful I had expected. The historical color is convincing, especially in some gruesomely effective chapters that take our heroine through the Great Plague. The book's worst sins are its length and Amber's shallow character, which lengthens the long length to longer than long.

rubyslippersreads I think Amber was supposed to be sort like Scarlett, due to the popularity of GWTW. My mother said this book was considered extremely scandalous when it first came out. 😄 4w
swynn @rubyslippersreads I agree she's very much like Scarlett O'Hara, frivolous and vain and unbearable at length. And it's true that Forever Amber was a scandal: it was banned in 14 states, which doubtless helped make it a bestseller. As always, though, "obscene" is relative: there is no explicit sex, but the word "bosom" is used more than once. Gasp. 4w
15 likes2 comments
review
swynn
Hammers on Bone | Cassandra Khaw
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Pickpick

P.I. John Persons is hired by a 13-year old kid to kill the kid's stepfather. The boy thinks his stepdad is a monster. Persons believes it's possible-- after all, he's a monster himself. It's a noir thriller set in Lovecraft land, and it's just delicious with creepiness and gore and a hard-boiled heart. Also it's short so: more please!

22 likes1 stack add
review
swynn
Second Book of Fritz Leiber | Brenda Jackson, Unknown, Ronald L McDonald
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Mehso-so

This is DAW's second anthology of Fritz Leiber's work, fiction and non-, selected by the author. (Why does Litsy give "Brenda Jackson" credit?) It's a mix of hits, misses, and things that have aged poorly. As the cover art implies there's a Fafhrd/Gray Mouser story "Trapped in the Sea of Stars," but it's not one of the better ones. For me the highlight was"Belsen Express," a creepy Twilight-Zonish story about a xenophobe's dreams of the Holocaust.

review
swynn
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Mehso-so

Thirteenth in Tubb's series about Dumarest, a traveler searching for the lost planet Earth. In this one he catches a rumour about a planet "Nerth," perhaps a corruption of "New Earth"? This is such pulpy plot-driven fun that I was caught off-guard by a twist near the end that ... um ... hasn't aged well. (Spoiler in the comments.)

swynn One of Dumarest's companions turns out to be a villain motivated by her desire to have a man's body. Which is a shame, says Dumarest: if only she wasn't so foolish she could have been pretty. Really. Yeah it's a shame all right but not for the reason he thinks. 1mo
TobeyTheScavengerMonk Yiiiiiiiikes. 3w
21 likes2 comments
quote
swynn
Hammers on Bone | Cassandra Khaw
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"To all the monsters hiding in this world,
I hope the children will skin you alive.

To the children in the world,
let no one say you can't make your monsters bleed."

Now *that* is a dedication. This is gonna be gooood.

wanderinglynn What a fantastic dedication! 👍🏻👍🏻 1mo
18 likes1 comment
review
swynn
Total Eclipse | John Brunner
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Pickpick

On Sigma Draconis, 19 light-years from Earth, the remains of an alien civilization are discovered. A scientific team searches for clues to the Draconians' demise, while back home Earth faces a crisis of its own. I quite liked the alien biology and culture. I less liked the wooden characters and thin plot, but can forgive those for a sufficiently interesting puzzle, and Brunner delivers that.

review
swynn
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Pickpick

Third in Nava's series about gay Hispanic L.A. lawyer Henry Rios. This one has Rios returning to his rural hometown to defend the brother of his high school crush. His client is a pedophile-- but is he a murderer? To find out, Rios digs up painful pasts. The mystery is just okay, but the development of Rios's character is terrific.

review
swynn
Far Rainbow | Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
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Pickpick

Every book I read by the Strugatskys makes me love them more. Far Rainbow tells about the last day on a colony planet where scientists research instantaneous transportation -- and accidentally trigger a global death-wave. It's paired with "The Second Invasion from Mars," the story of a Martian invasion through the eyes of a rural pensioner whose sources are richer in rumor than in fact. It's a funny and still-timely satire of communication.

rretzler I have a couple of their books on my TBR. Need to get to them soon. 1mo
swynn @rretzler Hope you like them! I read my first Strugatsky book just last year, and became an instant fan. 1mo
rretzler The one I have up first is the tagged. Have you read it? 1mo
swynn @rretzler I don't know that one, and mystery novels don't seem to be their usual thing. I'm intrigued. 1mo
15 likes4 comments
review
swynn
The Dispatcher | John Scalzi
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Mehso-so

It's a sort novel set in a world where murder victims don't die ... usually. Tony Valdez is a dispatcher, a sort of designated killer hired to murder people near death in order to give them an opportunity to return. Now a colleague has disappeared and Valdez has to work with the police to find him. The premise doesn't stand much scrutiny, but Scalzi's light touch makes it fun while it lasts.

rretzler I thought it was pretty imaginative- didn‘t really think TOO hard about the premise. 🤣 I listened to it and thought Zachary Quinto did a decent job, but I like Wil Wheaton much better for Scalzi‘s work, I think. Though this book might have been a little dark for Wheaton‘s narration style. 1mo
swynn @rretzler I couldn't let go of the story's distinction between "natural" death and murder, which I'm pretty sure is a false dichotomy. The story occasionally plays with gray areas, but declines to establish rules -- which I find I want. But to the extent I could let go of the questions I enjoyed it. Good to know that the audio version was done up right! 1mo
21 likes2 comments
review
swynn
Canopus - Der Kalte Krieg 1 | Dirk Van Den Boom
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Pickpick

Book one in a space-opera trilogy with an interstellar empire under assault by "Cold Walkers," lanky alien creatures with heat-stealing and invisibility technology (or maybe biology, nobody knows). This entry assembles the team. It has six viewpoint characters, which is a little overwhelming, but they are all interesting and their stories crack along. Looking forward to the next, then I expect to wish the third would hurry up and get published.

review
swynn
The Heritage of Hastur | Marion Zimmer Bradley
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Mehso-so

Wow. And ick. I have deeply conflicted feelings about this one: it's the best of the Darkover novels I've read so far: well structured, carefully paced, with interesting characters and thoughtful ponderings on heritage -- what one owes one's culture and what it owes in return. But there's also a thread of physical and sexual abuse, which recalls ugly revelations about the author's private life, making it hard to read as a purely fictional trope.

review
swynn
Artemis | Andy Weir
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Pickpick

It's a hard-science caper story set on a lunar colony. I know it has gotten mixed reviews, but I find myself solidly Team "Pick." I loved the moon-tech geekery, and would be on board for a sequel (or series, Mr. Weir?)

AthenaWins I really enjoyed this one too. I'm not sure why it got such mixed reviews, but I find his characters highly entertaining. 2mo
hermyknee Good to hear - I got this one for my birthday! 2mo
rretzler I preordered this one and it‘s been waiting for me to pick it up. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. (edited) 2mo
swynn @AthenaWins Yay for Artemis love! 2mo
swynn @hermyknee @rretzler Hope you like it as well as I did! 2mo
31 likes1 stack add5 comments
review
swynn
Venus in Copper | Lindsey Davis
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Pickpick

Third in Davis's series featuring Roman detective -- I mean "informer" -- Marcus Didius Falco. In this one Falco is hired to investigate a suspected black widow, and gets neck-deep in the deadly world of Roman real estate. It's pretty good. The series started out as a sort of first-century-Sam-Spade, noirish affectations and all. There are still bits that feel ahistorical, but it's growing into its own thing, and I look forward to the next.

review
swynn
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Pickpick

Second in the Iron Druid series, this one has Atticus and friends fighting an invasion of German witches in Phoenix. It's unheavy, the cast is a hoot, and the dog never dies. What's not to like?

Seekingtardis Oberon is one of my favorite characters that I have EVER read!!!!! 2mo
18 likes1 comment
review
swynn
Undertaker's Moon | Ronald Kelly
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Panpan

Irish werewolves in Tennessee. The story is not bad, but the prose is cliched and the dialog is so wooden you could slay a vampire army with it. The cover, on the other hand, rocks out loud. It's by Alex McVay.

review
swynn
Circus Parade | Mark Dawidziak, Jim Tully, Paul Bauer
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Pickpick

(1927) This is a collection of stories based on the author's experiences as a circus laborer in early 20th-C. America, exposing the trade's unsavory underbelly. It's not always an easy read even today, especially scenes of racist violence as the circus travels through the South. I quite liked the direct prose and colorful cast, also the charming pen-and-ink illustrations by William Gropper.

blurb
swynn
Untitled | Unknown
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Book. Bar.

Rarely have I felt so understood.

Samplergal Where is this beautiful place? 3mo
squirrelbrain Wow! Yes, where is it? Love the logo too...! 3mo
See All 10 Comments
swynn It's in Phoenix, which I am visiting for a conference, all too briefly. 3mo
MoonWitch94 Holy Cannoli!!! Where is this??? 🍻📚📖 3mo
Drocchio03 Amazing! I‘ll be in Phoenix the week after next for a conference. Fingers crossed I can find time to escape and visit! 3mo
rather_be_reading Arizona! 3mo
swynn @drocchio It's easy to get to from the conference center: just a few minutes on the light rail. It's inside the Changing Hands bookstore on Camelback Road. 3mo
TuesdayReviews One of the bookstores in my town recently added a bar. 2mo
swynn @TuesdayReviews It's an excellent idea, and I look forward to seeing the idea spread. Obviously it's not going to be for all libraries-- the academic library that employs me will probably never have one, tho I expect one would be verrrry popular. 2mo
27 likes10 comments
review
swynn
Carve the Mark | Veronica Roth
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Panpan

The world makes no sense, characters act contrary to their motivations just to advance the plot, and the writing is muddled. I'm not going to be a fan, I'm afraid. I wondered, and now I know.

rretzler That‘s too bad. I have this one coming up later this year. I was afraid that I might think the same, so I haven‘t purchased the next one in the series yet 3mo
swynn @rretzler Others have loved it, so you may disagree 3mo
22 likes2 comments
review
swynn
A Twist at The End | Steven Saylor
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Pickpick

It's a historical crime novel, based on the early life of O. Henry and an actual series of killings that took place in Austin, Texas while Will Porter was just a young man trying to figure out his way in the world. The mystery is intriguing, the characters and setting feel authentic, but for me the star is the well-crafted prose, which always knows exactly what it's doing and how to do it.

review
swynn
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Pickpick

(1975) Ninth in Kenneth Bulmer's sword-and-planet series featuring Dray Prescot. In this one Prescot infiltrates the enemy country Hamal in order to learn the secrets of their flyer technology. He is only partially successful but he does get into a lot of fights. Plenty of action, which I'd have appreciated more if it hadn't been for some casual homophobia early in the book, which soured the taste for the rest.

review
swynn
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Pickpick

It's a middle-grades novel based on a Caribbean folk tale about a girl who goes into the forest and catches the attention of something that has lived there a very long time .... Fun, fresh, and the right sort of spooky for its audience. I'll read the next.

The author was a guest earlier this month at my employer's Children's Literature Festival. I didn't catch her presentation but heard enthusiastic reports that she is an excellent storyteller.

20 likes1 stack add
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swynn
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Pickpick

Lowenstein explains why 19th century banking sucked; the options for reform; and the political maneuvering and countermaneuvering that resulted in the Federal Reserve Act. It's not always easy reading -- sometimes it's like a crash course in monetary policy -- but the personalities are entertaining, the controversies intriguing, and I very much appreciate the insight into the origin of an institution I only vaguely understood.

25 likes1 stack add
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swynn
The Twilight of Briareus | Richard Cowper
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Pickpick

(1975) The nearby star Briareus Delta goes supernova, after which humanity becomes barren and a few develop psychic gifts. One crackpot conjectures that Earth has been invaded by Briareans. It's a pretty good piece of seventies science fiction, with trippy ideas about group consciousness, free love, and the soul. Dated but interesting.

review
swynn
The Whenabouts of Burr | Michael Kurland
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Pickpick

(1975) The U.S. Constitution has been stolen and replaced with a copy, which seems authentic in every way but one: in place of Alexander Hamilton's signature is Aaron Burr's. The investigation turns up a tangle of parallel worlds, all shaped by the Hamilton/Burr rivalry. It's a hoot of a novel, with a seat-of-the-pants plot and light, clever prose. I didn't recognize the author's name, but will look for more of his work.

27 likes1 stack add
review
swynn
The Robe | Lloyd C. Douglas
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Panpan

There is an entire literary genre that I think of as "Books that could be improved by an invasion of giant killer robots." And dear sweet gods of bestsellers past does this book ever scream for robotic rescue from talky tedium.

It's better than the movie, but only just.

Aimeesue 🤖🤖🤖😂 3mo
swynn @aimeesue Perfect! If they'd shown up on page 150 or so, this book would have rocked out loud. 3mo
23 likes2 comments
review
swynn
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Pickpick

(1975) This has some great stories like Harlan Ellison's "Whimper of Whipped Dogs" and Ramsey Campbell's "The Man In the Underpass," but also a couple misfires like Steve Chapman's "Burger Creature," a sort of gonzo romance in which the male lead is literally animated ground beef. I understand Chapman expanded it into a novel, on which I'll pass. Anyway: how about that Michael Whelan cover?

Erofan Great cover 👍 3mo
20 likes1 stack add1 comment
review
swynn
QualityLand: Roman | Marc-Uwe Kling
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Pickpick

A "comic dystopia" set in a near-future in which all our needs and desires are satisfied by algorithms -- and if you happen to disagree with the algorithms, then it's you who are wrong. Case in point: Peter Jobless and his quixotic quest to return the sex toy that he no, really, doesn't want, honest, and shouldn't he know? (No. Not when the algorithm has decided he does.) Funny and frightening, and speaks to some of my own paranoid worries.

rretzler Sounds like something I would enjoy (edited) 3mo
swynn I think you would! I'm hoping for an English translation soon so I can push it on friends. 3mo
21 likes2 stack adds2 comments
quote
swynn
QualityLand: Roman | Marc-Uwe Kling
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Kiki sits at the counter of an open cafeteria and watches a man who repeatedly beats his head against the wall. For some reason not clear to Kiki the crazy man suddenly stops and comes into the cafeteria as if nothing had happened. He orders a green smoothie and sits at the stool next to her.

"What was that about?" asks Kiki.

"You mean, why was I beating my head against the wall?"

"No," says Kiki. "That impulse I understand. Why did you stop?"

review
swynn
Kings of the Wyld | Nicholas Eames
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Pickpick

Part Dungeons and Dragons, part Spinal Tap, all fun. I could have done with fewer penis jokes, but the juvenile humor is by design, and often unexpectedly charming. I'll read the next.

review
swynn
Flight or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales | Stephen King, Bev Vincent
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Pickpick

Pretty good collection of horror stories about flying, with a nice mix of older and newer stories. For me the pleasantest surprise was Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Horror of the Heights", which is the opposite of new but nevertheless new to me and deliciously effective.

23 likes1 stack add
blurb
swynn
Perl For Dummies | Paul Hoffman
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You know, like those bands on their third Farewell Tour.

review
swynn
Children of Time | Adrian Tchaikovsky
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Pickpick

Giant.
Intelligent.
Spiders.

Heck YES!

That is all.

LaLecture Now that sounds intriguing 😄. It‘s on my April reading list. 4mo
swynn @LaLecture Excellent timing, because the sequel is scheduled for May. Hope you like it as well as I did. (I've pre-ordered the next.) 4mo
wtimblin This book was amazing. Can.not.wait for the sequel! 4mo
See All 8 Comments
swynn @wtimblin Me too. More spider adventures, please! 4mo
swynn @Squidapus Hope you like it! 4mo
Squidapus Sold! 4mo
LaLecture I‘m reading it now and I‘m loving the spiders 😄 4mo
swynn @LaLecture Aren't they great? I promise they get even better! 4mo
32 likes2 stack adds8 comments
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swynn
Background to Danger | Eric Ambler
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Pickpick

An excellent thriller about an American reporter with gambling debts who agrees to smuggle a package over the German/Austrian border. When he delivers the package the reporter finds his contact murdered and himself on the run from his contact's allies and enemies. Oh, and the Austrian police like him for murder. Does what a thriller's supposed to do, and with style.

24 likes1 stack add
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swynn
Becoming | Michelle Obama
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Pickpick

I think I've mentioned my crush on Michelle Obama. Nothing has changed.

Goodness but I miss the Obama administration.

review
swynn
Birthgrave | Tanith Lee
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Pickpick

A woman awakes in a dead volcano, no idea who or what she is. A voice tells her she is cursed, and as she flees the mountain erupts. I've bounced off Tanith Lee's works in the past, so I'm happy to report that this was finally the right book at the right time: it's surreal and enchanting. It's a little overexplainy at the end, but for everything that led up to it I'm cutting it some slack. Yes, I'm forty years late to the party but I'm here now.

31 likes1 stack add
blurb
swynn
QualityLand: Roman | Marc-Uwe Kling
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Dear Marc-Uwe Kling,

You made me laugh before the g*****n title page. I am yours to lose.

swynn This book does not connect to the Internet. But you can leave comments in it. These will very probably be read by nobody. You may share this book. But not with all your friends at once. If you share the book there is naturally a chance that someone will read your comments. Perhaps someone will even comment on your comments.

4mo
swynn To change the contents of the book the publisher would have to hire people to break into your home at night, sneak up to your bookcase, and strike through things with a felt-tip pen or elaborate on things with a ball-point pen. This is possible but unlikely. 4mo
Aimeesue 😂😂😂That‘s excellent! 4mo
See All 6 Comments
rretzler I either need to hope for a translation or start brushing up my German - or convince my older son to read it to me! Sounds great! 4mo
swynn @rretzler There's a good chance of an English translation, though I don't think one is available yet. I have, though, seen stories that Mike Judge may be developing an English-language adaptation for HBO. 4mo
rretzler I‘ll be on the lookout for both. 4mo
22 likes6 comments
review
swynn
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Mehso-so

Modern Templars versus zombies and demons. It's okay for what it is, which is a throwback to testosteroney mass-market "men's fiction" series like "The Executioner." It's manly men doing manly things to prevent the end of the world. (Only two women characters: one dies in the backstory, the other on arrival.) There are continuity problems and a sense of humor so lacking that it's accidentally funny, but the prose is brisk and the story moves fast.

27 likes1 stack add
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swynn
Strange Fruit | Lillian Eugenia Smith
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Pickpick

Published in 1944, this one begins with an interracial relationship and ends with a lynching and in between reads like a catalog of ugliness in the early-20th century American South. (And let's face it, not just the South). The prose is sometimes a bit overdone, but really it's the relentless angry-making subject matter that makes it a difficult read. Trigger warnings for, well, everything. Not perfect, but I'm calling it a pick for its insights.

Alfoster Remember loving this one too! 4mo
36 likes1 stack add1 comment
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swynn
iD | Madeline Ashby
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Mehso-so

Second in Ashby's "Machine Dynasty" series. I quite liked the first, "vN", which was a terrific robots-on-the-run action story. This one goes deeper into the series' darker themes: how humans use the robots to act out our worst impulses. I have mixed feelings about it, due to some very uncomfortable bits and then a resolution that did not satisfy. But at least one thing it gets right: the promise of a major showdown in book 3. I'm in.

19 likes1 stack add
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swynn
Book of Poul Anderson | Poul Anderson
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Mehso-so

Back in my twenties I read a lot of Anderson's works. I loved his richly-detailed environments and his moral dramas set in declining civilizations. But I find I've lost my taste for his stylized prose, which I once found poetic but now feels forced, making this collection a bit of a chore. The highlight is "The Queen of Air and Darkness," which still works for me despite its stilted language.

36 likes1 stack add
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swynn
All Systems Red | Martha Wells
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Pickpick

Well, crap. I think I have fallen in love with a murderbot. That can't be good.

Except, oh yes it is.

rretzler Glad to see you liked it. I have it on my list to get to soon-ish. 5mo
wordzie 😁❤ 4mo
32 likes3 stack adds2 comments
review
swynn
Boy's Life | Robert McCammon
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Mehso-so

It's a Bradburyish story about boyhood in small-town mid-twentieth century America. It's pretty good for what it is, but a bit long. I guess I prefer my sentimentalism in smaller doses.

Alfoster Oh, I liked this one too (more than you did but it was years ago)! 4mo
33 likes2 stack adds1 comment
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swynn
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Pickpick

Alt-history in which Dewey really does defeat Truman in 1948, throwing greater support to a national space program; then a meteor strike accelerates the program in order to save the human race through space colonies. The tech is plausible, the characters appealing, and Kowal tackles head-on the crap that women and POC would have faced in the 1950s (Not that any of that has been solved, exactly ...) Will read the next.

imyril I really really really want to read this 😍 5mo
24 likes1 stack add1 comment
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swynn
Atomic Frenchie: Sit. Stay. Rule. | Tom McWeeney, Tom E Sniegoski
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Pickpick

It's exactly as fun as it looks. It's part prose and part comic book about a French Bulldog's efforts to rule the world. The graphics are great though the prose is ... well, the graphics are brilliant. I for one welcome our new Frenchie overlord.

28 likes2 stack adds
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swynn
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Pickpick

Loved this, even when it hurt. Maybe especially then.

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swynn
Merlin's Mirror | Andre Norton
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Mehso-so

Retelling of the Arthur legend, in which Merlin is an agent of extraterrestrials who want to launch a new age of technological wonders. Merlin is opposed in this project by the Lady of the Lake. It's interesting to watch Norton run with this idea, though it's so high-concept she neglects her characters. Add to that Norton's stiff prose and you've got an intriguing but not especially engaging story. Worth a look for Arthur buffs.

rretzler Hmmm - I do love Arthur and Merlin, though I could take or leave Andre Norton. 5mo
swynn @rretzler I have a hard time with Norton generally. I've enjoyed several of the Witch World books and a few others (Beast Master, Zero Stone). But the prose is always a hurdle. 5mo
30 likes2 stack adds2 comments
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swynn
A Perfect Evil | Alex Kava
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Panpan

Recommended by nephew no. 2 who is *so over* fantasy because it's not realistic. Ok, but this? There is no mystery and barely any suspense. The plot is so haphazard I think I remember the kitchen sink. The leads spend less time catching the killer than they do angsting over their backstories and panting over each other. Fortunately (or un-) their coitus keeps getting interruptussed with torture porn.

Dear nephew, not all fantasies have dragons.

Kjoyner Hahahaha! I love this review! I read one that was surprisingly good. It was called Shifting Sands. I forget the name of the author (Barry something? Not sure), but it was on Inkitt, so I honestly wasn‘t expecting much. But it ended up being in-put-down-able! 5mo
suzie.reads I love the Maggie O'Dell series! Although not read this one as it's what I assumed to be abit of a quick filler. It was written last but is set before all the others, which I find weird. 5mo
swynn @Kjoyner Hmm, I see several titles "Shifting Sands," but none by a Barry. Do you remember anything else about it. 5mo
See All 8 Comments
swynn @suzie.reads Vive la difference! I bounced off it hard, but I love things others bounce off and the world's richer for it! According to Kava's website it's her first novel, and in fairness some of my complaints are common to first novels. I assume they get better. Also she's clearly aiming at mystery/romance, which is fine just not my thing. 5mo
suzie.reads Sorry I thought this was Before Evil 😂 5mo
Kjoyner Swynn, it‘s by Barry Litherland 5mo
swynn @suzie.reads That explains the confusion. No worries! 5mo
swynn @Kjoyner ok I see it now. Thanks for the rec! 5mo
23 likes8 comments
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swynn
The Steerswoman | M. S. Rosemary Kirstein
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Pickpick

(1989) Here is something I didn't know I've always wanted: a high fantasy series in which the magic system is the scientific method. Plus terrific characters, intriguing plot, and enough action to keep things moving. I should have read this years ago but now that I have, yes more yes please yes.

22 likes2 stack adds
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swynn
Stillhouse Lake | Rachel Caine
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Mehso-so

Most of this thriller worked for me until a key moment when the heroine made a decision so stupid I stopped caring whether she made it or not.

But goodness help me, I'm invested enough to read the sequel. So I guess the author knows what she's doing.

rretzler I‘m invested in several series where I‘m not crazy about the books but feel compelled to keep reading. 😣 5mo
swynn @rretzler lol why do we do this to ourselves? 5mo
32 likes2 comments
blurb
swynn
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Today the "world's largest science fiction series" publishes its 3,000th(!) issue.

At (usually) 66 pages per episode, that's almost 200,000 pages of epic space opera, not even counting spinoffs, reboots, tie-in novels, and comic books.

Happy anniversary Perry Rhodan!