Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So yeah, I know I'm late to the bandwagon here and I nearly promised myself I wouldn't read it just because it was YA and super popular and blah blah blah, but I got over my stupidity and read it, even if I'm nearly 5 years late to the party.

And what did I think?

Ah, crap.

It's one of those near-perfect books.

Need I say more? Perhaps.

It punches me in the feels even when I feel like I've hardened myself against all this damn pathos and humor and hard looks at mortality and this unswerving existential courage.

It's smart and it doesn't hold back and while it's written from a teen PoV, it's just real and heartbreaking and real. Yes, it's the ideal of Art breaking through the Art and stumbling into Life. Only, it doesn't really stumble. It kinda does a wheelie and breathes hard at the same time.

I was fully prepared to read this and go... Eh? What was the big deal about? I was fully prepared to shake my head and go... so silly. But no, I was proven wrong and even that super popular stuff can also be good, deep down, too. Wow.

Hello, cancer.

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Wicked WondersWicked Wonders by Ellen Klages
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC!

I've never read Ellen Klages before, but I can definitely say that she has a talent for understated and richly-drawn character tales.

These aren't meant to blow you away with reveals, but they are subtle and powerful explorations of youth (mostly) and they're definitely good for nostalgia.

A great deal of them will have slight magical twists, but I've got the impression that they're mostly nostalgic histories of Americana. It's mild and slightly subversive and the kinds of reveals are almost always social or personality.

It's nice.

Not particularly the kind of fiction I generally go for, and I generally liked the future SF in this collection better, especially the one about a baby on Mars, but I can easily say that all of these stories are very well written. Quality. :)

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Sunday, March 19, 2017

My Man Jeeves (Jeeves, #1)My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Slapstick Aristocracy? I guess that pretty much sums it up. The butler is always smarter and more ingenious than anyone else in the book. :)

It's pretty and pretty much the beginning of all other similar writings and imitators, and for that, I really appreciate it. Moreso, it's funny and still relevant even if it's just a tad dated. We've still got tons of historical novel interest, but this one was timely for its day in 1919.

The timing and the idiocy and the fairly complicated plotting in the background really made poor Wooster shine as the idjit that he is. I heartily recommend this for anyone interested in the humorous classics.

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Friday, March 17, 2017

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul (Dirk Gently, #2)The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had to re-read this because I'm insane but I'm happy to be so because I still loved it.

Total truth time: it's not quite as funny or as sharp in the individual zinger lines as Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, but the long-running story gags are fantastically wicked and cruel and even profoundly sad.

It's also more of an adventure tale for Dirk later on, but primarily, it's all a mystery. Sometimes, the plot is as much of a mystery, too, but I don't care. :) After the rising of new gods in Asgard and the fate of soooo many pebbles, and the dark, dark fate of a Coke machine, who really cares? The novel is brilliant and creative and so darkly funny. It's enough to make me despair for modern literature, and this came out in '88!

Here's another awesome tidbit. It's the novel that I first thought of when I first read American Gods. All the greatness of seeing Odin on the page or Thor blowing up an airport is all here and the characterizations are brilliant.

Can I even say that it's even more brilliant after knowing the legends much better? You bet I can! I read this when I was 14 years old the first time and let's be frank... I didn't know crap. I learned most of what I knew about Thor from this book and the fact that there was some silly Marvel comic that I wasn't even tempted to read was about it. And now? Soooooo Nice! :) Even the little In-Jokes about the gods are all here. It's a bit more erudite than I expected it to be. :)

But it's also so funny! Do I love eagles even more now? You bet! Am I even more annoyed with Yuppies? You bet! Do I want to run out and get some 300 count sheets and snuggle in them, perhaps get an eyepatch and avoid big strapping men with hammers? You bet!

Poor Dirk. I have to admit that his Horoscope is always dead-on. :)

My one complaint is that there wasn't a whole series made out of this. I still wonder just how amazingly cool it could have been to have a full bookcase full of these and point to it as the most amazing thing EVAH.


Some authors just overflow with goodness. Douglas Adams was one of them. *sigh*

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency (Dirk Gently #1)Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I last read this when I was really young and was shortly getting off a fantastic kick of HHGttG wanting MORE, as, I assume, most people do when they get on a Douglas Adams kick.

Like the other series, every page is filled with wonderfully witty and fascinating and wise (crack) quotes that will delight and amaze and generally blow most writing away by the sheer audacity.

To think that Douglas Adams never considered himself a writer! Truly amazing. And of course us fans just snicker at that and keep reading.

I admit to really liking this but not loving it as much as the Hitchhiker series. I don't know. Maybe I just wanted more of the idiot and less of the incomprehensible mystic in systems-theory sheep's clothing.

What can I say? As an adult, I'm doing an about-face and saying that this might be better by far. It's still wacky and zany and full of oddball moments, but it's closer to Earth... mostly... just not always in the same time-zone. :) And on top of that, it was fun as hell getting into all the old computer stuff and getting into the poetry and the music and ESPECIALLY the problem of the couch.

The couch stayed with me all these years and it was such a wonderful character. It almost reaches the same heights as a certain fridge in the next book. Of which I'm doing a re-read next. :)

Now, to be sure, I probably wouldn't have done a re-read at all if it hadn't been for the BBC tv production of the same name, and even as I was watching it I was going... "Is this remotely the same?"

Definitive answer: SOME. lol. Not all that much. Characters, some. Situations, hints. Zany? That's full-tilt. :) All said, no complaints on either side of the tv screen. )

I'm glad to be doing all of the above. :)

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The Shadowed Sun (Dreamblood, #2)The Shadowed Sun by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book in the Dreamblood duo continues on in a tradition of immersive Egyptian-like settings, although the culture is still uniquely Jemisin's: a city built on the idea of peace, magic users that harvest and gift dreams, a plague of dreams harming so many people, and a war in the desert.

There's a lot to love, and surprisingly, at least to me, was the strong continuation of the romance from the first, so much so that it practically dominates the entire tale. I might even go so far as to say it's a lot more important and interesting than the actual battle... but not quite as interesting as the dreamplague. That trumps everything. :)

I really enjoyed the romance even though it felt like it snuck up on me, and perhaps I enjoyed it for that precisely that reason. I was mostly being asked to focus on cultural differences, whether regarding the prejudices between two cultures with their magic, the sexual divergences, or the personal revelations, so when the romance finally took center stage, I was kinda wowed.

Unfortunately, some aspects of the novel, no matter how rich in world building or depth of characterizations, still let me down, but only slightly. I'll admit that I'm a much bigger fan of Jemisin's later works.

But still, I appreciate what is accomplished here. :)

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Avengers of the MoonAvengers of the Moon by Allen Steele
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC!

Ed Hamilton's old Captain Future stories of the 40's are Golden Age SF staples.... or pulp fiction... that many people have loved and promptly forgotten through the ages, but not completely forgotten.

In case you're wondering what the Golden Age SF is, it's the zap guns, the cyborgs, the Robbie robots, the classic rocket-ships, the dastardly villains and the exotic locations -- It's that kind of thing. :) Goofy names, heavily telegraphed plots, and especially -- the pathos!

The thing is, Allen Steele writes a real homage to Ed Hamilton's character, including better reasons, updated technology to fit today's SF standards, and even a much better character lineup. You know -- characters that avoid stupid robots, complex brains in jars rather than just crazy ones, women who aren't cardboard with boobs, and interactions across the board that doesn't just make me laugh my way through the book as if I was reading a caricature of really silly (and bad) SF.

This isn't bad. It feels like an updated boy's adventure tale with regular men with better tech doing heroic things and using silly names for somewhat silly reasons.

It's nice for what it is and what it wants to accomplish.

But do I really call it High-SF? No. I do appreciate it for being what it is. It'd be good as a YA SF. It's clear and it's direct. It's bigger than life. Better yet, it's DIFFERENT from anything else that's been written for 70 years. It's good enough to bring people back into a feel of a different time and outlook while not regressing into cultural awkwardness, to give us all that taste of an optimistic and idealistic world where good guys win and bad guys get justice, not just death.

For these reasons, I totally recommend it for anyone. :)

But if you have nagging questions like why Curt let so many people die while saving the one man he wanted to kill and how that fits into his growing moral code.... then perhaps you might want to let this slide a little. :) *ahem*

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