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swynn

swynn

Joined March 2018

Librarian - sf/fantasy addict - runner - germanophile
review
swynn
Threshold | Jordan L. Hawk
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Pickpick

Whyborn and Griffin investigate weirdness at a coal mine and meet killer space crustaceans with a Frankenstein complex. I'm not usually a fan of paranormal romance, but I can't not get a kick out of this series.

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swynn
The Spark | David Drake
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Mehso-so

Retelling of King Arthur stories in a science-fiction-y world of parallel universes and alien technology. I liked the weird setting and plain prose, but was turned off by the episodic plot and the hero's relentless aw-shucks personality.

DuckOfDoom I felt the same. Got it a long time ago in a book box and decided to never read this author again. 3w
swynn @duckofdoom I bounced hard off one of Drake's Hammer's Slammers books long time ago, and hadn't picked him up since. A friend recommended this series, and it's better than I remember that anyway. I'll probably read the next due to the recommendation, but likely won't become a fan. 3w
DuckOfDoom Oh, it will be a series? I thought it was a standalone 3w
swynn @DuckOfDoom A sequel was published earlier this year. I don't know how many more are planned. 3w
9 likes4 comments
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swynn
Sealed | Naomi Booth
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This is a good one. Set in Australia during the rise of a new autoimmune disease in which a victim's skin grows over eyes or orifices. A heavily pregnant woman and her boyfriend escape from the city in hopes of avoiding infection ... but it's a horror story and you know how well escaping to the sticks works in those ... Besides the horror, it offers terrific writing and clever perspective on environmental and social crises. I'll read more Booth.

16 likes1 stack add
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swynn
Forgotten Bones | Vivian Barz
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Panpan

Despite excellent spelling I couldn't get into this one past the rambly narration and wooden dialog. Other reviews are generally positive, so I'll limit my complaints and assume that its charms, whatever they are, are somehow lost on me.

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swynn
Null Set | S. L. Huang
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Second in Huang's series of thrillers featuring Cas Russell, a mercenary with superhuman math skills. (Second in the Tor edition anyway. Originally this was book 4 I understand.)

In this one Cas deals with a crime wave resulting from the events of book one, and comes dangerously close to remembering parts of her past she shouldn't. Less fresh than the first one, but still fun and still stretching the limits of suspension of disbelief.

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swynn
The Dungeoneers | John David Anderson
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Pickpick

It's a Dungeons-and-Dragons-y book for middle schoolers, about a bunch of kids in training to raid dungeons. It's fun and sometimes funny, and though it's a little too much like any other Dungeons-and-Dragons-y book, it's probably pretty good for its target audience.

Recommended by my brother, who has a couple of sons just a little older than the target audience so I figure he would know

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swynn
Forgotten Bones | Vivian Barz
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I'm not really enjoying this book, but suddenly find myself giving the author credit for spelling. I may have a problem.

Can't remember the last time I saw this in a publication where it wasn't misspelled "per say." (Or *shudder* "percy")

Aimeesue Percy! 😂😂😂 4w
TuesdayReviews I don‘t think I have ever seen it spelled per say.‘ 4w
11 likes2 comments
blurb
swynn
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1. Books and talking about books
2. Not-book stuff
3. I'd like to filter by post type so that when I'm catching up on a few days' posts I could limit my attention just to the reviews.
4. Every couple of days, whenever I finish a book.
5. Readathons, yes; swaps, no; I haven't done readalongs, but would when the title and time are right; I do questionnaires when tagged (Hi @MrBook !) but otherwise have little interest.
6. See 3

BarbaraTheBibliophage Great idea on 3 - I‘d like to filter like that on my feed and also search results! 1mo
ljuliel Thanks for answering the questions. I appreciate all the feedback. I agree on the Book Review posts. I‘d like to see lots more of them ! 1mo
MrBook 😁👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻 1mo
8 likes3 comments
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swynn
Dreamships | Melissa Scott
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Despite an overlong first act and an abrupt ending, I liked this one a lot for its richly detailed setting and its provocative take on AI. I'll read more Scott.

Mogoeg Dreaming Metal, which is set in the same universe as Dreamships (& is sort of a sideways sequel to it) is one of my favorite books. I picked it up at the library years and years ago & it was the book that got me into far-future science fiction. Scott was a true pioneer & did not get much mainstream attention as she wrote LGBTQ+ characters regularly. Her world building is unparalleled IMO, but her pacing and plotting sometimes aren't as strong. 1mo
swynn I'll have to read that one soon, while Dreamships is fresh. Thanks for the rec @mogoeg! 1mo
Mogoeg @swynn - my pleasure! I've read most of her original sci-fi and some of her early fantasy (she also wrote a lot of Star Trek novels I think, & recently work focuses on paranormal mystery which is not my thing). Most of her sci-fi is strong, & although some is a bit dated, a lot was ahead of its time in terms of the zeitgeist (she has a whole novel based on gamers as I recall - which anticipates a lot of current culture).
1mo
15 likes1 stack add3 comments
review
swynn
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Mehso-so

It's okay. Pacing is slow, with tedious teenage romantic angst, and the big surprise at the end was something I'd guessed pretty early. But not awful, and I'll read the next. Recommended by my nephew, who has a much higher tolerance than I for teenage romantic angst, bless him.

DuckOfDoom I felt the same way. Saw the twist coming since chapter 1 🙄 1mo
swynn @DuckOfDoom For me the big clues were Katherine's rapport with the coral snake, and the fact that two sisters were "talentless". I can't say that I knew as early as chapter 1, but it wasn't long before I wondered how long it would take the sisters to figure out there had been a Sorting Hat Error. 1mo
25 likes1 stack add2 comments
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swynn
The Spark | David Drake
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Tower of Due, November 2019. Priorities?

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swynn
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It's a middle-school book about two brothers who meet The Coolest Kid ever, and hatch a plan to trade their way up from a bag of fireworks to a moped. I loved the characters and the humor, and am looking forward to meeting the author next year at my employer's annual Children's Literature Festival.

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swynn
Artificial Condition | Martha Wells
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Library stickers, sheesh.

Fortunately Murderbot don't need no stinkin' cover. 'Cause what's inside is plenty good enough.

18 likes1 stack add
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swynn
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Third in the Lynley & Havers series, and my favorite so far. It involves the murder of a student at a posh boarding school, where codes of loyalty and honor conflict with justice.

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swynn
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Mehso-so

Discussion of the complex and interdependent nations of the Late Bronze Age, and what we know about why they collapsed in the early 12th Century B.C.E. Was it invaders? Insurrection? Drought? Earthquakes? Climate change? Systems collapse? Maybe a combination of several of these, says Cline, and explains why he thinks that. Very interesting but also too academic to say I enjoyed it.

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swynn
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You know that feeling of not realizing a book is in a series until you're already committed? Me too. This is #16 of the "Cap Kennedy" series, though you'd never know it from cover copy. It's plot-driven space melodrama and good for what it is. Don't expect character development or thinky parts. And don't expect a summary of the first fifteen volumes despite references to events from earlier books. Start on number 1, I guess, if you can find it.

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swynn
Zero Sum Game | S. L. Huang
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Hell yes.

That's all I really want to say, but some context might be useful for those saying, "Hell what?" This is an over-the-top action thriller where math is a superpower and the pace starts at a sprint then speeds up. It pushed every single one of my buttons and thank goodness the next is available.

Like I said: Yes.

13 likes1 stack add
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swynn
Ralestone Luck | Andre Norton
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Mehso-so

Mystery, intrigue, and adventure set in and around a Louisiana mansion. It's not bad: it is paced well and lacks the stilted prose style I associate with Norton. The main characters' chemistry is appealing, but other characters are less rounded, particularly the villain who might as well be twirling his mustachio. Also there's some awkward phonetic dialect, and a random n-bomb. Of its time, and of its place in its author's career: she gets better.

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swynn
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Poole discusses the effects of WWI on horror fiction and (mostly) films. Especially disturbing is a chapter on how the rhetoric of horror was appropriated between the wars by European nationalists. Disturbing because dang, but it sounds familiar. Lots to chew on, and lots of insightful stories about giants of early 20th-century horror. Recommended.

14 likes2 stack adds
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swynn
Aume reist | Dirk Van Den Boom
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Second in van den Boom's "Cold War" trilogy, in which Earth's space colonies are invaded by nearly-indestructible "cold walkers," whose incursions leave entire worlds frozen and lifeless. This is a terrific follow-up to the excellent first volume. It fills in background, builds political intrigue, and raises the stakes. Am I eager for book 3? Ya damn right I am.

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swynn
When the Waker Sleeps | Ron Goulart
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Panpan

Nat Kobean gets caught sleeping with another man's wife. Too bad for Nat, the husband is a scientist whose current project is a serum that allows patients to travel into the future by taking naps, during which patients do not age. Now every time he falls asleep Nat wakes up fifty years later. I'm not a fan of Goulart's broad humor, and his ethnic and homophobic jokes haven't aged well. At least there are fewer boob jokes than usual in this one.

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swynn
Eve's Rib | Bryn Chandler
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Mehso-so

When pollution makes Earth unlivable, humans send expeditions to plant colonies on other worlds. Eve is the sole surviving crew of one such expedition and is determined not to repeat humans' mistakes. She teaches peace and harmony to her vat-grown children and to their naturally-born children. But humans are unavoidably human.... Despite a lack of suspense, minimal conflict and a silly resolution it held my interest, though I'm not sure how.

BridgetteM This sounds like the second half of Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. 2mo
swynn @BridgetteM Sort of, yeah, without the weird genetic tinkering. 2mo
13 likes2 comments
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swynn
Widdershins | Jordan L. Hawk
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Mehso-so

Romance isn't my thing, but Lovecraftian adventure is, and this has enough of the latter that I didn't hate it. Heck, I might even read the sequel.

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swynn
Cause for Alarm | Eric Ambler
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Mehso-so

Just before the dawn of WWII, out-of-work British engineer Nicky Marlow takes a position at an Italian munitions firm. But his predecessor in the position had been supplying information to foreign spies. It's not long before Marlow is deep in intrigue and counter-intrigue and scary secret police. Ends with a thrilling flight across fascist Italy. Fun, but the passive and sappy Marlow is a less satisfying protagonist than other Ambler heroes.

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swynn
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Mehso-so

In an alternate Brittain, Celts are frequently born with green skin and are second-class citizens. Told through the eyes of a visiting Indian scientist (officially "Saxon") who may have discovered the genetic key to green skin: a discovery various interests wish to control. It's a satire, sometimes funny, sometimes uncomfortable and sometimes leaving me feeling I'd missed a joke I might have gotten if only I knew more about 1970s British politics.

17 likes1 stack add
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swynn
Maschinenwahn | Carmen Capiti
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Pickpick

A black-market surgeon who specializes in cybernetic prosthetics goes on the run with an assassin whose employer wants to have her cybernetically enhanced against her will. Cyberpunkish and barely romancey, it moves fast enough you mostly don't mind how things don't always make sense.

15 likes2 stack adds
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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. 😄 5mo
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. 5mo
18 likes2 comments
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swynn
Hammers on Bone | Cassandra Khaw
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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!

26 likes2 stack adds
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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.

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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. 6mo
TobeyTheScavengerMonk Yiiiiiiiikes. 5mo
23 likes2 comments
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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! 👍🏻👍🏻 6mo
21 likes1 comment
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swynn
Total Eclipse | John Brunner
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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.

21 likes1 stack add
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swynn
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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.

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swynn
Far Rainbow | Arkady Strugatsky, Boris Strugatsky
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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. 6mo
swynn @rretzler Hope you like them! I read my first Strugatsky book just last year, and became an instant fan. 6mo
rretzler The one I have up first is the tagged. Have you read it? 6mo
swynn @rretzler I don't know that one, and mystery novels don't seem to be their usual thing. I'm intrigued. 6mo
17 likes1 stack add4 comments
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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. 6mo
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! 6mo
21 likes2 comments
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swynn
Canopus - Der Kalte Krieg 1 | Dirk Van Den Boom
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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.

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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.

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swynn
Artemis | Andy Weir
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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. 6mo
hermyknee Good to hear - I got this one for my birthday! 6mo
rretzler I preordered this one and it‘s been waiting for me to pick it up. Glad to hear you enjoyed it. (edited) 6mo
swynn @AthenaWins Yay for Artemis love! 6mo
swynn @hermyknee @rretzler Hope you like it as well as I did! 6mo
32 likes1 stack add5 comments
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swynn
Venus in Copper | Lindsey Davis
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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.

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swynn
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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!!!!! 7mo
19 likes1 comment
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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.

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swynn
Circus Parade | Mark Dawidziak, Jim Tully, Paul Bauer
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(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.

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swynn
Untitled | Unknown
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Book. Bar.

Rarely have I felt so understood.

Samplergal Where is this beautiful place? 7mo
squirrelbrain Wow! Yes, where is it? Love the logo too...! 7mo
See All 10 Comments
swynn It's in Phoenix, which I am visiting for a conference, all too briefly. 7mo
MoonWitch94 Holy Cannoli!!! Where is this??? 🍻📚📖 7mo
Drocchio03 Amazing! I‘ll be in Phoenix the week after next for a conference. Fingers crossed I can find time to escape and visit! 7mo
rather_be_reading Arizona! 7mo
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. 7mo
TuesdayReviews One of the bookstores in my town recently added a bar. 7mo
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. 7mo
28 likes10 comments
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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 7mo
swynn @rretzler Others have loved it, so you may disagree 7mo
24 likes2 comments
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swynn
A Twist at The End | Steven Saylor
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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.

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swynn
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(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.

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swynn
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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.

21 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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(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.

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swynn
The Whenabouts of Burr | Michael Kurland
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(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