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review 2016-10-31 16:43
Adventures in Audio
Phoenix Rising - Philippa Ballantine,Tee Morris
A Conspiracy of Alchemists - Liesel Schwarz
The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter: The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, Book 1 - Rod Duncan

Mr Ceridwen and I have been listening to audiobooks on our (somewhat long) drive up to the cabin, which has been generally enjoyable. We got through the entire "Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire" series, which was absolutely a great time. Good narrators, very interesting alt-history, a semi-twist ending I didn't see coming, very astute observations about gender, and on. Well recommended all around. So then we cased around for the next steampunkery to fill the hours. 

 

I downloaded A Conspiracy of Alchemists first, but holy God was the narrator bad. We just couldn't stop laughing at her hiccoughing reading style. Then we moved on to Phoenix Rising, which opens with a relatively fun rescue sequence, and then settles into ... a whole lot of not so very clever bickering. The main characters, named Books & Braun (gag), are a fussy librarian and a stabby brute, but, get this, the DUDE is the fussy pepperpot and the LADY loves explosives. Oh ho, I bet you thought the lady was the librarian, but you would be wrong! See our fascinating gender reversal! 

 

I actually fell asleep while listening. 

 

Which, look, I generally think whether I like this sort of pulp mid-list disposable reading is more dependent on the angle of the sun or the barometric pressure than, say, actual merit. Because this stuff is all more or less the same -- somewhat formulaic, dependent on action, sometimes quippy, little bit of romance for the ladies, etc -- so I wonder sometimes why I bother reading (or writing) reviews. Something called Conspiracy of Alchemists is going to be a three-star outing, shitty narrators notwithstanding, and that I thought Phoenix Rising boring and trite might because I ate something like all the doughnuts when I stopped in Hinckley and hit Toby's bakery. Noms. 

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review 2016-03-17 14:38
The Past Is Twisted into Pulp in A Man Lies Dreaming
A Man Lies Dreaming - Lavie Tidhar

Man, this book is bananas: a noir set in a fascist England in 1939, with an unexpected historical figure as the gumshoe. It's bizarre to have something so high concept be so pulpy and brutal. Certainly fucks up one's notions of the role of alternate history, boy howdy. 

 

Full review at B&N Sci-Fi. 

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url 2016-03-04 02:52
United States of Japan by Peter Tieryas

No idea why this is the case, but Booklikes does not list this new novel from Angry Robot, which is a crying shame. There's a lot to think about in this novel, in addition to giant fighting robots. This is a review I wrote for B&N SciFi. 

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review 2016-02-01 04:07
Review: Alt. History 102
Alt.History 102 (The Future Chronicles) - Rysa Walker,Hank Garner,Therin Knite,Drew Avera,Will Swardstrom,Artie Cabrera,Alex Roddie,Samuel Peralta,Jennifer Ellis,J.C. Brown

At one point or another, we've all dreamed of what could have happened...perhaps what should have happened. The two words that instantly spark the imagination: what if? In Alt. History 102, twelve authors expand upon those words and take us into alternate words, histories and futures alike, changed by perhaps one word or one action.

 

Jennifer Ellis' "The Most Beautiful Woman" starts us out with a story of Hedy Lamarr and Hitler. What if someone had actually recognized Hedy's genius and put her in a place where her actions could alter a war? The struggle to be recognized for who we are, rather than taken at face-value, is something that deeply resonated with me.

 

"Requiem" by Will Swardstorm takes us into another war, this one starring Mozart and Marie Antoinette. This was probably one of my favorite stories in the collection because in the midst of death and despair, the altered actions of Mozart actually bring hope to some who might otherwise be no one.

 

"Diablo Del Mar" by Artie Cabrera was...strange. Honestly, I enjoyed this story but I'm not sure why. It's a mixture of myths and beliefs, taking history as we know it and pulling it into the mystical. Perhaps the fact that I still have no idea what really happened, or what will happen, is what draws me to this story.

 

Rysa Walker's "Whack Job" reminds me that I really need to read the CHRONOS series. This story provides enough background that it can be read as a standalone, but the two other short stories that I have read in this series make me want to immerse myself into the whole adventure. "Whack Job" shows us that you can travel back into time and change the world...but should you?

 

"Drought" by J.E. Mac is an alternate history of water rights in California. Since my husband is from California and I get to hear his complaints about Southern CA "stealing" the water from Northern CA, and with the current drought conditions experiences throughout the entire state, this story rings true on so many levels. I found the politics and characterizations fascinating.

 

Asha Badron takes us into an alternate history where Hannibal destroyed Rome and Carthage survived. With two aliens stranded, playing the part of gods, "The Elissiad" leads us through the story to one left behind.

 

"The Tesla Gate" takes us into the mind of Nikola Tesla as he frantically tries to complete a time travel machine. With Samuel Clemens guest starring in the tale, Drew Avera really manages to make the readers feel the desperation and hopelessness of two men fighting against time. The twist at the end was fascinating, making me hope that the author will continue the story of Alokin.

 

With the increase of online colleges and the rising cost of student loans, it isn't too far of a stretch to imagine a world where all schooling is done through corporations. Adam Venezia's "The Black Network" shows us what could happen if that future comes to pass and students have to indenture themselves to get an education. Can one man stand against them all and make the internet free again?

 

Hank Garner's "The Visitation" was another favorite. He takes the story of the mystic, the soothsayer, and the truthteller and portrays him as a drunk, someone just trying to get by in a world where no one believes his story. Behind eyes blurred by drink and nerves shot, the truth waits: what happens when a powerful race grows tired of watching history repeat itself?

 

In the quest for a cure, a scientist is searching for someone with perfect skin in the hope to find the genetic code to unlock immunity. In this alternate world where Europeans were the ones almost decimated by smallpox, "The Finest Mask" by J.J. Brown is flat-out creepy if you think too hard on the mask Sir William Potter's wife is wearing.

 

"The Blackbird Sings" by Therin Knite takes us into an alternate present where the Cold War turned hot, leading to ruin. Thirty years after the nuclear assault, the FBI is on a mission to hunt down a terrorist determined to bring the world back to the brink of collapse.

 

Alex Roddie ends the collection with "The Locked Web," showing us what the world might be if the World Wide Web and microcomputers were never created, leaving the internet in the hands of a controlling government. It's hard to believe that in some places, censorship as shown in this story actually does exist today, making this story even more frightening, fueling the imagination with the thought of being locked up for daring to communicate thoughts and ideas.

 

Alt. History 102 is the second alternate history collection released by Samuel Peralta, and like all of his collections it's an introduction to a wonderful group of authors. While each story is a complete tale in itself, showing us what the world could be if a person or detail were changed, it also opens the reader up to so many other worlds out there, brought to life by the minds of the authors featured in this collection.

 

4 1/2 Stars

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Source: www.amazon.com/review/R37MEN6GFM2U69
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review 2015-07-06 22:58
[Book Review] Ink and Bone
Ink and Bone: The Great Library - Rachel Caine

Out tomorrow!

 

Adventure!  Danger!  Romance!  Magic!  Librarians!

No, this isn't the next season of The Librarians.  Rather it's the start of Rachel Caine's latest series.

Books are everything to Jess Brightwell.  Perhaps too much, as anyone involved in book smuggling must be ready to destroy a book on moments notice to stay free.  Books, originals, belong to the Library, accessible to the masses through an Alchemical mirroring process called "mirroring" where the text is duplicated into a ready blank as needed.  When his father offers to send him into the Library service, even as a family spy, it's more than he ever imagined.

But then, the Library itself is more than he ever imagined.  The Library has changed over the years, growing in power and size, and as the ranks swell so has the opportunity for men to gain, and abuse, dominion over others.  Those with power fear change, even change that would better the world, the library, and the lives of those in its service.

Caine creatively re-imagines a world where Alchemical magic powers life as we know it and the Library of Alexandria never burned.  A world where the Library can be quite dangerous indeed.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL/Signet Romance, DAW; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2015/07/book-review-ink-and-bone.html
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