December 27, 2016

2016 Wrap-Up

Yes, I know, there are still a few days left in 2016, but I'm taking a reading break until the first of the year.  I've had a string of books that just weren't easy to read (or easy to enjoy in some cases) and I'm ready for a little vacation.

I've already got my first book for 2017 picked out and I'm ready to begin fresh.

My favorite book of the year was nearly impossible to pick.  So, I picked two....for two completely different reasons.

One Second After by William R. Forstchen opened my eyes to the fact that the world and our country are not safe.  As I said in my original review, this book should be required reading.  It's just that important.

The City and the Stars by Arthur C. Clarke was probably the most enchanting and wonderful book I've ever read of any genre.  The fact that it was science fiction just made it that much better.  Mr. Clarke taught me what science fiction is supposed to be like.

I had a fabulous year.  I read more books than I've read since 2011.  I finished 22 reading challenges.  I *almost* finished the remaining two.  I've broken through my 'readers block' into a new love and passion for reading.  I'm so grateful and will mark this year as the year I made it out of the dark times and back into really living again.

The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker

Title:  The Great and Secret Show
Author:  Clive Barker
Pages:  550
Genre:  Horror / Fantasy
Publisher:  Harper & Row, 1989
Series:  Book of the Art, Book 1

Synopsis: Clive Barker's bestseller Weaveworld astonished worldwide readers with his visionary range, firmly establishing him as the reigning master of fabulist literature. Now, with The Great and Secret Show he rises to awesome new heights.  Fantasy, horror story, love fable -- in this one unforgettable epic, Clive Barker wields the full power and sweep of his extraordinary talents. "Succinctly put," says Barker, "it's about Hollywood, sex, and Armageddon."

Memory, prophecy and fantasy, the past, the future, and the dreaming moment between are all one country living one immortal day To know that is Wisdom. To use it is the Art.

Armageddon begins with a murder in the Dead Letter Office in Omaha, Nebraska.

A lake that has never existed falls from the clouds over Palomo Grove, California.

Young passion blossoms, as the world withers with war.

The Great and Secret Show has begun on the stage of the world.

And soon, the final curtain must fall.

Review:  This was the longest 550 pages of my life.  The story was good and sometimes even great.  It had scares and thrills and dark fantasy.  It should have breezed by.  However, I've sadly discovered that very little by Clive Barker breezes by.  His writing is so convoluted and goes into so much description, that I find myself reading and re-reading (and re-reading) passages over and over to make sure I understand what I just read.  It's frustrating and exhausting.

I have another book from this series, but the second one isn't a sequel to the first from what I understand.  It's just another story about The Art.  I can't take another story like this one, so I'm removing that book from my shelf.

I've also got two other very long novels by this same author.  I'm afraid they are coming off my shelf, too.  I just can't bear another two-week-long book that seems more like a work-out than enjoyment.

I love long books.  I'm an avid reader and I hate when books end.  But, somehow, this author always leaves me relieved that the book is done and the hard work over.  The only exception to this rule was Weaveworld, which I adored.  So, I'm finally giving up on his novels.  They just aren't for me.

Rating:  4.5 / 10

December 7, 2016

War of the Black Curtain by James Dashner

Title:  War of the Black Curtain
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  285
Genre:  Juvenile Fantasy Fiction
Publisher:  Sweetwater Books, 2012
Series:  Jimmy Fincher Saga, Book 4

Synopsis:  The Black Curtain has ripped open, massive and dark.

The Stompers swarm all through it, elusive and frightening.  The Black Coma consumes the people of the Earth.  The Shadow Ka rule the lands with a mighty vengeance.

Jimmy Fincher is the only one who can save it.

To accomplish the impossible, he must solve the Riddle of the Red Disk.  He must find the Dream Warden and receive the Fourth Gift.  He must go to a place where nightmares live - and face them alone.

But most important of all, Jimmy must face the shocking and terrible truth of what lies beneath his enemy's true nature.

The war has just begun.

Review:  Well, this ending surprised me.  It was happy in one way, but so sad in another.  I didn't expect it at all.  I probably should have seen it coming, but I just didn't.  It's a really great story with plenty of scares and excitement.  I just wish the ending wasn't quite so sad.

This book was just as good as the last one and I'm sorry the series is over.  I'd like to know what happened next.

Rating:  9 / 10

December 5, 2016

The Tower of Air by James Dashner

Title:  The Tower of Air
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  280
Genre:  Juvenile Fantasy Fiction
Publisher:  Sweetwater Books, 2012
Series:  Jimmy Fincher Saga, Book 3

Synopsis:  Jimmy Fincher has been given two powerful gifts and with them a responsibility he wouldn't wish on his worst enemy.  Time is running out and Jimmy, along with his family and the Alliance, finds himself in a desperate search for the Third Gift.  Their journey will take them from the depths of the ocean to the scorching sands of the desert.

The entire world is on the edge of chaos.  The Shadow Ka are evolving.  The skies are growning dark with the mysterious taint of the Stompers.  The Black Curtain is ripping once again.  And the most terrifying secret of all is about to be revealed at last -- the identity of the Stompers.

They are no longer coming.  They are here.

Review:  Well, this was a really great book!  It was exciting and funny and full of plain good storytelling.  I believe I liked this one even better than the first.  I'm so glad I continued this series.  I'm ready to start the final book tomorrow and I can't wait to find out what happens!

Jimmy Fincher, his family and his friends are wonderful characters, each completely original and believable.  And, I admit, this one was a little scary.  It was, even to me, and I do love a good scary story.

Rating:  9 / 10

December 2, 2016

Challenge Additions, Part 1.5

Monthly Keyword Reading Challenge
I just finished this one for 2016 and it kept me on my toes!  I'm back in, even though I'm pretty sure it'll mean doing some of the months out of order.....or getting some new books....or both!

Start of December Wrap-Up

This wrap-up runs from November 4 until today.  Well, I visited one new state and one new country this time around!  I'm still not reading like I was earlier in the year, but I'm doing fine.  I've finished three new challenges this month:  The Monthly Keyword Challenge, The Title Fight Challenge, and What's In A Name Challenge.  The rest should be finished when the year is done, with the exception of Mount TBR Challenge which I mistakenly upgraded back in June.  And, really, I finished my original I'm not being too hard on myself about it.

My favorite book this month was a non-fiction.  I read so few of this genre that I was surprised how much I enjoyed this book!  Haunted Heart was really, really good!

A Gift of Ice by James Dashner

Title:  A Gift of Ice
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  224
Genre:  Juvenile Fantasy Fiction
Publisher:  Bonneville Books, 2004
Series:  Jimmy Fincher Saga, Book 2

Synopsis:  In an impossible place under a door in the woods, Jimmy Fincher received the first of four gifts - contributions of a mysterious and desperate people trying to save the world from a ruthless enemy.

Not much is known about the enemy, but a haunting warning has been spoken:  The Stompers are coming.

Now Jimmy has fled to Japan in search of The Second Gift.  Peril will be inescapable, mysteries will abound.  Nothing can be assumed and help will be found from a most unlikely band of strangers.

And they have secrets of their own.

Review:  I didn't have quite as much fun with this book as I did with the first.  They seem to follow a pretty standard plot line.  Jimmy has to find a gift.  Bad guys want to stop him.  Jimmy has to use the gifts he has to save himself (and his friends and family) from the bad guys.  Then he has to solve a puzzle and get a new gift.

I understand that these are books written for younger readers.  It just feels like I read almost the same story all over again, only set in Japan with some new characters.  I've decided to keep reading because I really am curious how it all ends up.

Rating:  7 / 10

November 30, 2016

Challenge Additions 2017, Part 1

I call this 'Part 1' because I know myself and I know this won't be all of them, but here's the latest ones I found:

Beat The Backlist Reading Challenge
This one is right up my alley since I *still* have books that I got waaaay back in 2007.

Pages Read Reading Challenge
I needed a version of this challenge and I've loved other challenges hosted by this same site.

Strictly Print Reading Challenge
I've always read almost all print books, but the last couple of years I started reading more ebooks.  This challenge will help me remember that my 'real' books need some love!

Wild Goose Chase Reading Challenge
I admit it.  I was drawn to this challenge because of the hilarious name.  Not to mention that I'm *still* working on the Gargoyle's challenge from this year.  I know this one will really challenge me so I'm in!

Literary Loners Reading Challenge
I really wanted to do this one this year, but for some reason I sort of burnt out and gave up too soon.  I'm trying again!

European Reading Challenge
Oh, this one is going to be hard for me.  Not much of Europe in most Sci-Fi or Fantasy!

Read It Again, Sam
I've been looking for a good excuse to re-read some of my favorite books and here it is!

November 29, 2016

My First Challenges for 2017

It's that time of the year again.  And here I go...again.  I visited some of my favorite challenges from this year and, lo and behold, they are running the challenges again.  I'm very excited.  So, without further ado, here are some of the challenges I'll be joining in 2017.  And, yes, I'm sure there will be more!

I'll be creating individual pages for each challenge like always in a little bit.

The Worm Hole What's In a Name Challenge
Fourth year and I still love this one!

My Reader's Block Mount TBR Reading Challenge 2017
Since I'm not going to reach Mt. Everest this year, I'm scaling back and choosing Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR pile.

My Reader's Block Color Coded Challenge 2017
I just love this challenge!

Girlxoxo's Monthly Motif Reading Challenge
This one really challenged me and I can't wait to do it again!

Socrates' Book Reviews What An Animal Reading Challenge
This one is really fun!  I'm going for Level 4 - Read 21 or more!

Reading Challenge Addict 2017
I'm still waiting for a few others to post their challenges for next year and I'm going to be looking for some new ones as well.  I'm very sure this list isn't complete, but I'm going to hold off on choosing a level until I see how many challenges I actually find to join. 

A Door In The Woods by James Dashner

Title:  A Door In The Woods
Author:  James Dashner
Pages:  171
Genre:  Juvenile Fantasy Fiction
Publisher:  Bonneville Books, 2003
Series:  Jimmy Fincher Saga, Book 1

Synopsis:  Jimmy Fincher entered the dark woods on a day like any other.

But what he sees there changes his perception of reality and sets off a chain of events that explodes in a torrent of suspense and excitement.  An ancient legend comes to life.  A conspiracy of madmen.  Strange portals to other worlds.  Villains named everything from Raspy to Shadow Ka.

And behind it all is the old wooden door, lying deep in the forest by Fincher's home.

Review:  What fun this book is!  It's refreshing and full of good, hopeful feelings.  It's also full of scares and thrills and adventure.  It's obviously written for the younger reader, but that didn't stop me from reading it obsessively and finishing it in one afternoon.

I've been a fan of James Dashner since his Maze Runner series.  I'm not at all surprised that I really liked this book.  While it isn't as good as The Maze Runner, it's a wonderful story and I can't wait to start book two tomorrow.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

The Measure of Magic by Terry Brooks

Title:  The Measure of Magic
Author:  Terry Brooks
Pages:  383
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Ballantine, 2011
Series:  Legends of Shannara, Book 2

Synopsis:  For five hundred years, the survivors of the Great Wars lived peacefully in a valley sanctuary shielded by powerful magic from the blighted and dangerous outside world. But the enchanted barriers have crumbled, the borders have been breached by predators, and the threat of annihilation looms large once more. Sider Ament, bearer of the last black staff and its profound power, devoted his life to protecting the valley and its inhabitants—and, in his final moments, gave stewardship of the black staff to the young tracker Panterra Qu.

Now the newly anointed Knight of the Word must take up the battle against evil wherever it threatens: from without, where an army of bloodthirsty trolls is massing for invasion; and from within, where the Elf king of Arborlon has been murdered, his daughter, Princess Phryne Amarantyne, stands accused, and a heinous conspiracy is poised to subjugate the kingdom. But even these will pale beside the most harrowing menace Panterra is destined to confront—a nameless, merciless figure who wanders the devastated land on a relentless mission: to claim the last black staff . . . and the life of he who wields it.

Review:  I really liked this story.  The characters were rich and compelling.  The story was fast-paced and exciting.  I don't have any more of this series to read right now, but I'll be looking forward to the next installment when I get my hands on it.

If you've never read this series, I suggest giving it a try.  The author has a suggested reading order on his website and you should follow it.  But, be warned, the first book isn't even half as good as the rest.  I'd recommend skipping the first one (The Sword of Shannara) to be honest, but it does give some background that proves helpful later.  If you decide to start with book one, be prepared to work through that one so you can enjoy the wonder of the rest!

Rating:  9 / 10

November 17, 2016

Bearers of the Black Staff by Terry Brooks

Title:  Bearers of the Black Staff
Author:  Terry Brooks
Pages:  353
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Ballantine, 2010
Series:  Legends of Shannara, Book 1

Synopsis:  Five hundred years have passed since the devastating demon-led war that tore apart the United States, leaving nothing but scorched and poisoned ruins, and nearly exterminating humankind. Those who escaped the carnage and blight were led to sanctuary by the boy savior known as the Hawk—the gypsy morph.

In an idyllic valley, its borders warded by powerful magic against the horrors beyond, humans, elves, and mutants alike found a place they believed would be their home forever. But after five centuries, the unimaginable has come to pass: The cocoon of protective magic surrounding the valley has vanished. When Sider Ament, the only surviving descendant of the Knights of the Word, detects unknown predators stalking the valley, he fears the worst. And when Panterra Qu and Prue Liss, expert Trackers from the human village of Glensk Wood, find two of their own gruesomely killed, there can be no doubt: The once safe haven of generations has been laid bare and made vulnerable to whatever still lurks in the wasteland of the outside world.  

Together, Ament, the two young Trackers, and a daring Elf princess race to spread word of the encroaching danger—and spearhead plans to defend their ancestral home. But suspicion and hostility among their countrymen threaten to doom their efforts from within—while beyond the breached borders, a ruthless Troll army masses for invasion. And in the thick of it all, the last wielder of the black staff and its awesome magic must find a successor to carry on the fight against the cresting new wave of evil.

Review:  It's been a while since I last visited Shannara.  I believe this to be the 21st book in the Shannara series.  I can only say that the magic and the majesty of these stories hasn't changed.  I read the last book back in March of 2011 and I was a little scared I'd be lost.  I was more afraid I wouldn't love the stories any more. I was wrong on both counts.

I hadn't forgotten anything and I certainly haven't lost interest.  Mr. Brooks writes some of the best fantasy out there, hands down.

Rating:  9 / 10

November 9, 2016

Haunted Heart by Lisa Rogak

Title:  Haunted Heart: The Life and Times of Stephen King
Author:  Lisa Rogak
Pages:  289
Genre:  Non-Fiction
Publisher:  St. Martin's, 2008
Series:  Stand Alone
"I want to write about spiders because it's the one theme that cuts right across and scares just about everybody," he said. "To me spiders are just about the most horrible, awful things that I can think about."
Synopsis:  A fascinating look at the life of the author who created such modern classics as "Carrie," "IT, "and "The Shining."  One of the most prolific and popular authors in the world today, Stephen King has become part of pop culture history. But who is the man behind those tales of horror, grief, and the supernatural? Where do these ideas come from? And what drives him to keep writing at a breakneck pace after a thirty year career?

In this unauthorized biography, Lisa Rogak reveals the troubled background and lifelong fears that inspire one of the twentieth century's most influential authors. King's origins were inauspicious at best. His impoverished childhood in rural Maine and early marriage hardly spelled out the likelihood of a blossoming literary career. But his unflagging work ethic and a ceaseless flow of ideas put him on the path to success. It came in a flash, and the side effects of sudden stardom and seemingly unlimited wealth soon threatened to destroy his work and, worse, his life. But he survived and has since continued to write at a level of originality few authors could ever hope to match. Despite his dark and disturbing work, Stephen King has become revered by critics and his countless fans as an all-American voice more akin to Mark Twain than H. P. Lovecraft.

"Haunted Heart" chronicles his story, revealing the character of a man who has created some of the most memorable---and frightening---stories found in literature today.

Review:  I knew that Stephen King was an odd man.  You'd have to be to write the believable, scary stories that he writes.  What I didn't realize was how hard his life was before he became the King of Horror.

I usually have a really hard time with non-fiction books, but this one was written in a very approachable and interesting manner.  It told things that I never knew about the man who is my very favorite author.  I didn't realize quite how old the book was and wish that the book had been published later and told more of Mr. King's life now.  Other than that, I have no complaints.

I was really amazed at how much I did enjoy the book and how quickly the pages turned.  I highly recommend it.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

November 4, 2016

Start of November Wrap-Up

This update runs from October 5th through today.  I've had a dismal month when it comes to reading.  I just keep picking the books that seem to take me forever to finish.  No new challenges completed this time around.  I did manage to visit one new state, for a total of 36.

I only read four books this month so choosing a favorite isn't really much of a contest.  Hands down, I loved False Memory by Dean Koontz best.

False Memory by Dean Koontz

Title:  False Memory
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  627
Genre:  Horror / Thriller
Publisher:  Bantam, 1999
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: Martie Rhodes is a young wife, a successful video game designer, and a compassionate woman who takes her agoraphobic friend, Susan, to therapy sessions. Susan is so afraid of leaving her apartment that even these trips to the doctor's office become ordeals for both women—but with each trip a deeper emotional bond forms between them.

Then one morning Martie experiences a sudden and inexplicable fear of her own, a fleeting but disquieting terror of...her own shadow. The episode is over so quickly it leaves her shaken but amused. The amusement is short-lived. For as she is about to check her makeup, she realizes that she is terrified to look in the mirror and confront the reflection of her own face.

As the episodes of this traumatic condition— autophobia—build, the lives of Martie and her husband, Dustin, change drastically. Desperate to discover the reasons for his wife's sudden and seemingly inevitable descent into mental chaos, Dusty takes Martie to the renowned therapist who has been treating Susan, and tries to reconstruct the events of recent months in a frantic search for clues. As he comes closer to the shocking truth, Dusty finds himself afflicted with a condition even more bizarre and fearsome than Martie's.

No fan of Dean Koontz or of classic psychological suspense will want to miss this extraordinary novel of the human mind's capacity to torment— and destroy—itself. In False Memory, Dean Koontz has created a novel that will stay in your memory long after the final page is turned— a story not only of gripping fear but also of the power of love and friendship. Once more Koontz reveals why he has, as People put it, the "power to scare the daylights out of us."

Review:  This is a really long book.  Koontz is usually a quick read, but this one took real effort.  In the end, the effort was worth it.  The subject is mind control.  The bad guy is so completely insane that it's amazing he managed to hide his sickness as well as he did, for as long as he did.

I didn't see the ending coming and I do love being surprised!

I loved this story, but once again I managed to pick a book that took far too long to read.  The year's almost over and I'll never finish some of my challenges.  I guess that's why they're called challenges.  They are absolutely challenging me!

Rating:  10 / 10

October 20, 2016

Stephen King Goes To The Movies

Title:  Stephen King Goes To The Movies
Author:  Stephen King
Pages:  627
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  Pocket Books, 2009
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  Stephen King revisits five of his favorite short stories that have been turned into films: The Shawshank Redemption (based on the novella "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption") was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and best actor for Morgan Freeman. 1408 starred John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson and was a huge box office success in 2007. The short story "Children of the Corn" was adapted into the popular Children of the Corn. "The Mangler" was inspired by King's loathing for laundry machines from his own experience working in a laundromat. Hearts in Atlantis (based on "Low Men in Yellow Coats," the first part of the novel Hearts in Atlantis) starred Anthony Hopkins. This collection features new commentary and introductions to all of these stories in a treasure-trove of movie trivia.

Review:  Five great short stories are included in this book:  Children of the Corn, The Mangler, 1408, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, and Low Men in Yellow Coats.  Although, the last of these is actually a novella, with a whopping 346 pages.  Only with Stephen King would they list a 300+ page story as 'short'.

I've, at one time or another, read all of these stories.  But, I hadn't ever read this particular collection.  There are forewords to each tale, where the author tells you what he really thought about the film version of each one.  He doesn't pull any punches either.

At the very end, there is a list entitled My 10 Favorite Adaptations.  One of my all-time favorite movies based on his books is noticeably missing, but then again I know some people aren't fond of the mini-series The Stand.  I'm sad to see that Mr. King evidently agrees.  I liked The Stand far better than two or three of the movies he does list.  But, it didn't really matter.  I've seen all of the ones on his list and liked them.  And I've read all of his stories except the most recent couple and loved them.

I hadn't read any of these stories in years.  1408 was probably the one I read most recently before this book.  So, they were like reading something new....but also like visiting old friends.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

October 13, 2016

Sky Dragons by Anne & Todd McCaffrey

Title:  Sky Dragons
Author:  Anne & Todd McCaffrey
Pages:  344
Genre:  Science Fiction / Fantasy
Publisher:  Ballantine, 2012
Series:  Dragonriders of Pern

Synopsis:  From the New York Times bestselling mother-and-son team of Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey comes the final installment in the riveting Pern saga that began with Todd’s solo novel, Dragonsblood.

Now, with all of Pern imperiled by the aftereffects of a plague that killed scores of dragons and left the planet helpless against the fall of deadly Thread, the only hope for the future lies in the past. There, on an unexplored island, a group of dragonriders led by Xhinna, a brave young woman who rides the blue dragon Tazith, must battle lethal Merows and voracious tunnel-snakes to build a safe home for themselves and the dragons, whose offspring will one day—if they survive—replenish Pern’s decimated dragon population.

But as the first female rider of a blue dragon, and the first female Weyrleader in the history of Pern, Xhinna faces an uphill battle in winning the respect and loyalty of her peers . . . especially after an unforeseen tragedy leaves the struggling colony reeling from a shattering loss. Amid the grieving, one girl, Jirana, blessed—or cursed—with the ability to foresee potential futures, will help Xhinna find a way forward. The answer lies in time . . . or, rather, in timing it: the awesome ability of the dragons to travel through time itself. But that power comes with risks, and by venturing further into the past, Xhinna may be jeopardizing the very future she has sworn to save.

Review:  This was such a bittersweet novel.  This is the last novel published that Anne McCaffrey had a hand in.  Of course, being a life-time fan, I knew she had passed away, but I was still sad to realize I was reading her last novel.  I have others that were written earlier on my shelves, but this was the last one.

The great news is that it's a really good story.  I loved all the strong female characters, especially Xhinna and Jirana.  And I really loved the dragons, as always.

I'm so glad that I have two autographed bookplates signed by Ms. McCaffrey.  I was so blessed to be able to request them and have her mail them to me all the way from her home in Ireland.  I've never put them in a book.  Instead, they (and the envelope they came in) are in a box with my most valued treasures.  She was the Grand Dame of Dragons and I will always love her stories.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

October 8, 2016

Dragon's Time by Anne & Todd McCaffrey

Title:  Dragon's Time
Author:  Anne & Todd McCaffrey
Pages:  321
Genre:  Science Fiction / Fantasy
Publisher:  Ballantine, 2011
Series:  Dragonriders of Pern

Synopsis:  For the first time in more than three years, bestselling authors Anne McCaffrey and Todd McCaffrey, mother and son, have teamed up again to do what they do best: add a fresh chapter to the most beloved science fiction series of all time, the Dragonriders of Pern.

Even though Lorana cured the plague that was killing the dragons of Pern, sacrificing her queen dragon in the process, the effects of the disease were so devastating that there are no longer enough dragons available to fight the fall of deadly Thread. And as the situation grows more dire, a pregnant Lorana decides that she must take drastic steps in the quest for help.

Meanwhile, back at Telgar Weyr, Weyrwoman Fiona, herself pregnant, and the harper Kindan must somehow keep morale from fading altogether in the face of the steadily mounting losses of dragons and their riders. But time weighs heavily against them—until Lorana finds a way to use time itself in their favor.

It’s a plan fraught with risk, however. For attempting time travel means tampering with the natural laws of the universe, which could drastically alter history—and destiny—forever. Or so it has always been thought. But Lorana discovers that if the laws of time can’t be broken without consequences, it may still be possible to bend them. To ensure the future of Pern, she’s willing to take the fateful chance—even if it demands another, even greater, sacrifice.

Review:  I've loved Pern and the dragons that live there ever since I was young.  I did like this latest addition to the series, but I begin to think I'm outgrowing these stories.  It seemed like a great deal of time travelling and an awful lot of romance with very little actual adventure.

The story was certainly dramatic and sad, but it was also just a little childish.  I've got several more books from this series on my shelves.  I'd like to think that these problems are temporary and that I'll enjoy the next one more.  I'm going to give it a try tomorrow.

Rating:  4 / 10

October 4, 2016

Mount TBR Reading Challenge Checkpoint #3

I've read 75 out of the 100 books needed to reach my new goal Mt. Everest.  That's 3/4 of the way done with my climb and we have just under 1/4 of the year left, so here's hoping I didn't bite off more than I could chew when I upgraded back in June!!

My favorite character is hard this year, but I think I'll give it to Bren from the Foreigner series, who stars in Intruder by C. J. Cherryh which I read last month.

Two opposite books came easily.  Gray Mountain by John Grisham has a great leading lady named Samantha Kofer, who fights against injustice in the mountains of Virginia, against her own better judgement.  Disclosure by Michael Crichton has a leading man, Tom Sanders, who must fight against society's beliefs and a corporation to keep his job and his life.

As I said last time around, The Daughter of Regals and Other Tales by Stephen R. Donaldson had been on my TBR since November 22, 2007!  My only excuse is that I'm just not a huge fan of short stories, but I wish I had gotten to this one sooner.  It was very good.

The two pictures I could find were these:

The first one came up when I searched for 'protector' (Protector by C. J. Cherryh) and the second one came up when I searched for 'darkness' (Darkness:  Two Decades of Modern Horror edited by Ellen Datlow).

It's been a great climb and a great year so far!  Even if I don't quite make it to the peak of Mt. Everest, I'm still so proud of myself and am very happy with my reading this year.

Start of October Wrap-Up

This wrap-up runs from September 5 through today.  I've completed three new challenges this time around -- Color Coded Reading Challenge, Reading Challenge Addict AND Outdo Yourself Reading Challenge!!  I am so very happy I finished the Outdo Yourself challenge so early in the year.

It's hard to choose my favorite book this time around.  I really loved two:

And, they are both by the same author.....and both so really good!  I'm not choosing either one.  I choose both.  They are awesome in their own ways.

No new states this time around, but I've been reading quite a bit of Science Fiction so I'm not surprised.  I just got the first three novels of the Foreigner series yesterday.  It's been a great year!

September 29, 2016

Blood Red Tide by James Axler

Title:  Blood Red Tide
Author:  James Axler
Pages:  316
Genre:  Action / Adventure, Science Fiction
Publisher:  Golden Eagle, 2014
Series:  Deathlands, Book 119


In a nuclear wasteland where death and destruction are the norm, Ryan Cawdor and his fellow survivors seek out refuge while looking to one another for protection. Civilization no longer exists in the barren Deathlands. There is only the will to survive and the dim hope of a promised land.


Taken captive on a ship in the former Caribbean, Ryan and his companions must work as part of the crew or perish at the hands of the captain. But the mutant in charge of the vessel is the least of their worries. Each day is a struggle as they face rivalry among the sailors, violent attacks and deadly storms. Worse, a powerful enemy is hunting the ship to destroy everyone on board. Fighting for their lives and those of their shipmates, the companions must find unity within the chaos or die in the attempt.

Review:  This book is one of the better recent additions to the series.  I found a new character to love.  Mr. Squid will not likely continue in the series, but he's an incredible, intelligent, loyal octopus and I really like him.  Except he's actually a female, but that's part of the story and I won't give too much of it away.

I started this series back in 2009.  I was so enchanted that I read a huge number of the books nearly back to back.  I finished the first 90 books in 2009, I know that much.  Of course, back then, I was reading about 160 books a year.  Obviously, that's not the case any longer.  And since then, it's been waiting for the next one to come out and (sometimes) being disappointed when they did.

Even when I'm not disappointed, the stories just seem to take too long to read for the number of pages.  But, I'm almost done now.  I'm not giving up, not on something I've been reading this long.  However, I doubt I'll read any more this year.  I don't have the time to spend on them, not with so many challenges to be finished.

Back to the story itself.  This one was really terrific!  Even though it took a week to read, I loved the story line.

Rating:  8.5 / 10

September 23, 2016

Peacemaker by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Peacemaker
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  376
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  DAW, 2014
Series:  Foreigner, Book 15

Synopsis:  Civil war on the world of the atevi is finally over. And Cajeiri, son and heir of Tabini-aiji, atevi leader of the dominant Western Association, is about to celebrate his fortunate ninth birthday. Bren Cameron, brilliant human diplomat allied with Tabini, has managed to arrange a visit for Cajeiri’s three special associates from the starship Phoenix—ordinary human children who developed a bond with Cajeiri during his two years in space.

After a year of political upheaval, this is a happy event: the heir is safe, the aiji is back in power, and a massive celebration is planned in the capital. The whole world is watching.

But Bren Cameron has received evidence that security has been severely compromised from the aiji’s high office on downward. The powerful Assassins’ Guild—which provides the judicial system, law enforcement, and personal protection in atevi society—is in the hands of a man who would like to turn the entire world back two centuries.

Bren now knows the details of a decades-old plot that’s been threaded through Guild actions since before his arrival on the continent. The enemy’s best chance is to strike now, at the public celebration that is much too important and far too advanced to cancel.

Review:  This book had such a great ending!  There were some scary and exciting moments, but at the end it all worked out very nicely.  I'm sad, though, because I've got some waiting to do before I can read any more of this series.  The author is still working on the last book of the next trilogy and I don't have the first two yet.

I guess now I have no choice, not that I really want one.  I simply must get the first books from this series that I'm missing.  I have the time to reread them all, possibly before I get the newest books.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

September 19, 2016

Protector by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Protector
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  375
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  DAW, 2013
Series:  Foreigner, Book 14

Synopsis:  It's coming up on Cajeiri's birthday. The boy has been promised he can have the young human children he knew from his voyage sent down from the space station for a two week stay. But there's far a darker business going on in the background--a major split compromising the Assassins' Guild, which furnishes security and law enforcement to the whole continent. Tabini's consort's own father has been barred from court, and may be involved in a new conspiracy against him. For safety reasons, Tabini wants Bren and Ilisidi to take charge of Cajeiri, and protect him and his young guests. They themselves are very likely targets of whatever's going on, no question of it. So is Cajeiri. But having the targets separated and contained is an advantage. It's Bren's responsibility to entertain the guests, keep the security problem secret...and let a lonely eight-year-old prince reestablish his controversial relationship with the only other children he's ever met...inside the best security they can manage.

Review:  The atevi.  I love them and they would never understand that.  To them, the word 'love' doesn't apply to people.  They can love salad, but they cannot love each other.  The human word 'friend' is not at all the same as the atevi word 'associate'.  Man'chi, the driving force in the atevi lives, has no direct translation into the human language.  It's something like loyalty, but more instinctual in a way humans cannot comprehend.  Even speaking of these words and their differences can cause discomfort and trouble between the species.

Yet, young Cajeiri has spoken about these things with his human associates.  They have not reached complete understanding, but have come to accept their differences.  These are children, but I believe they will change the entire atevi/human relationship.  They are the future.

Meanwhile, my favorite characters remain and I so enjoy these stories.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

September 14, 2016

Intruder by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Intruder
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  374
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  DAW, 2012
Series:  Foreigner, Book 13

Synopsis:  In the wake of civil war, Bren Cameron, the brilliant human diplomat of the alien atevi civilization, has left the capital and sought refuge at his country estate, Najida. But now he is trapped inside Najida-which has been surrounded by enemies- with the powerful grandmother of his ally, Tabini-aiji, atevi leader of the Western Association. Ilisidi, the aiji-dowager, is not inclined to be passive and sends Bren into enemy territory, to the palace of the leader of the rebels. Bren's mission is to negotiate with Machigi-a young atevi lord who has never actually seen a human-and somehow persuade him to cease his hostile actions against the west. Is Bren a shrewd enough negotiator to stay alive, and not alienate Ilisidi or Tabini, while also representing the interests of their enemy?

Review:  I love this series.  It is my very favorite science fiction series of all time.  I used to own the complete set, but I lost all of them in a move.  I've now decided to get all 12 books that I no longer have.  I could start from the beginning again.  I'd love that!  I read the first book in the mid-90's and still wait impatiently for the next installment.

The characters are all so wonderful - from Bren to Jago to Banichi to Ilisidi.  All of them.  I love the Atevi and I love their culture.  Each story is exciting and impossible to put down.....and each has a completely original storyline that continues the saga.

This series is done in sets of trilogies.  Thank goodness, I have the next two that go with this one!

Rating:  10 / 10

September 10, 2016

Greenmantle by Charles de Lint

Title:  Greenmantle
Author:  Charles de Lint
Pages:  327
Genre:  Fantasy / Thriller
Publisher:  ACE, 1988
Series:  Stand Alone
He has always been a reflection of what one brings to him.
Synopsis:  Not far from the city there is an ancient wood, forgotten by the modern world, where Mystery walks in the moonlight. He wears the shape of a stag, or a goat, or a horned man wearing a cloak of leaves. He is summoned by the music of the pipes or a fire of bones on Midsummer's Evening. He is chased by the hunt and shadowed by the wild girl.

Review:  What an extraordinary book!  It's like The Godfather was combined with an incredible, magical story of the mysteries that surround us.  The main characters are wonderful:  Tony, the retired mob hitman; Frankie, the divorced mother with a gift for choosing the wrong men; Ali, Frankie's daughter, who is wise beyond her fourteen years; and Mally, the little mystery who is trying so very hard to do the right thing.  The secondary characters, both good and bad, are equally well-drawn.  And then there's The Mystery - call him Pan, call him the Green Man, call him Greenmantle.  It doesn't matter.  He is part of us and we are part of him....and he is at the heart of the magic and mystery that is life.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

September 5, 2016

Serpent's Reach by C. J. Cherryh

Title:  Serpent's Reach
Author:  C. J. Cherryh
Pages:  287
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  DAW, 1980
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  The constellation of Hydri, known as the Serpent, is compact and obscure from Earth and remained so in the era of interstellar colonization. For it was under strict quarantine--harboring an intelligent race, powerful and alien. Yet there were human colonies within the Serpent's Reach, cut off from the galaxy beyond, with their own inbred culture and their special relationships to the inhuman majat.

 This is the novel of Raen, the last of the massacred Sul Family, and of her lifetime pledge to find vengeance. It was to take her across the worlds of the Reach into the very center of the alien webwork that knit the forbidden constellation into a complex of interbred cultures that no outsider could hope to unravel.

Review:  The majat are awesome, intelligent, and very large ant-like creatures.  Their hive-mind cannot fathom our individuality.  Our lack of continuance disturbs them profoundly.  The life in the hive is drawn from what I can only assume is in-depth research into the life of these types of creatures.  This author has, in her Humanx Commonweath series, explored another ant-like creature, the Thranx.  The majat seemed more realistic to me, not quite anywhere near as 'human' as the Thranx.

There are three classes of humans in the Reach:  the Kontrin, who are descendants of the first travelers to Hydri; the Betas who are descendants of the eggs that were brought along on the voyage; and the Azi, who are clones, created by the Betas to do the majority of the work.

The Kontrin are immortal.  The Betas live what we would consider normal lifespans.  The Azi are genetically altered to automatically die at the age of 40.  The majat have a hive memory that spans millions of years.

Between the obvious societal problems with the human faction in Hydri and the complete inability for the humans and majat to truly understand each other, it makes for an interesting and exciting story.  Toss in Raen's master plan to change the entire Reach and I was hooked.  I've so been needing a really great science fiction tale.  I found it.  This was superb.

Rating:  10 / 10

September 4, 2016

Start of September Wrap-Up

Better late than never!  This wrap-up runs from July 15 through today.  I'm struggling just a little bit.  I've been choosing books that are taking a really long time to finish.  I'm not sure I'll ever meet my new goal for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge, but I'll sure try.  Plus, I met my original goal, so that counts for something!!

But, I have completed two new challenges -- 20 Books of Summer and Flights of Fantasy!  That's a total of 14 ~ only 2 more to go to complete the Reading Challenge Addict!!

I loved Moonheart by Charles de Lint the very best this time around!

Eight new states for the Around the World Reading Challenge for a total of 35!  This has become one of  my very favorite challenges!

I'm really feeling blessed this year.  I have plenty of time to read and plenty of wonderful books to choose from.

September 2, 2016

Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror edited by Ellen Datlow

Title:  Darkness:  Two Decades of Modern Horror
Author:  Various (Edited by Ellen Datlow)
Pages:  470
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  Tachyon, 2010
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  Compiling the finest in frightening tales, this unique anthology offers a diverse selection of horror culled from the last 25 years. Hand selected from cutting edge authors, each work blends subtle psychology and mischievousness with disturbingly visceral imagery. In the classic "Chattery Teeth," Stephen King provides a tautly drawn account of a traveling salesman who unwisely picks up yet another hitchhiker, while in Peter Straub's eerie "The Juniper Tree," a man whose nostalgia for the movies of his childhood leads to his stolen innocence. Renowned fantasy author George R. R. Martin weaves a sinister yarn about a young woman encountering a neighbor who is overly enamored with her in "The Pear-Shaped Man." Combining acclaimed masters of the macabre, such as Clive Barker, Poppy Z. Brite, and Thomas Ligotti, with bold new talents to the genre including, Kelly Link, Neil Gaiman, and Stephen King's son, Joe Hill, this distinctive collection of stories will delight and terrify.

Review:  Twenty-five short stories, all published between 1984 and 2005 and written by some of the best-loved authors of our times.  Stephen King, Clive Barker, Neil Gaiman, and George R. R. Martin, just to name a few.

I wanted to love all of the stories.  I loved a few of them.  I liked a few of them.  The rest?  Well, they just weren't scary.  They were odd and different and interesting, but not scary.  But, fear is subjective and individual, so perhaps the stories I didn't find frightening would frighten someone else.

My favorites were The Power and the Passion by Pat Cadigan and The Pear-Shaped Man by George R. R. Martin.  I'd read the story by Stephen King already and, while I did enjoy it, it's not his best short story.

It was a long book and not a quick read, but I am glad I read it.  I'd give it a higher rating, but some of the stories were just bizarre and gross, but not at all scary.

Rating:  6 / 10

August 28, 2016

Cold Fire by Dean Koontz

Title:  Cold Fire
Author:  Dean Koontz
Pages:  421
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Publisher:  Berkley, 1991
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  Reporter Holly Thorne is intrigued by Jim Ironheart, who has saved 12 lives in the past three months. Holly wants to know what kind of power drives him, why terrifying visions of a churning windmill haunt his dreams, and just what he means when he whispers in his sleep that an enemy who will kill everyone is coming.

Review:  Well, this was one odd story.  I can't really say too much about what is going on with Jim Ironheart without giving a major plot twist away.

This book had me on the edge of my seat, trying to figure out what was going on.  And then, I found out....along with the main characters....and was a little let down.  The ending wasn't half as scary or half as good as the rest of the book.

Mr. Koontz writes great, scary stories.  He just seems to have trouble with the endings sometimes.  They either tie up to neatly or else don't tie up at all.  This one was one of the former.  I would have given it a better score if the ending wasn't also completely unbelievable.

Rating:  6.5 / 10

August 22, 2016

Spiritwalk by Charles de Lint

Title:  Spiritwalk
Author:  Charles de Lint
Pages:  398
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  TOR, 1992
Series:  Moonheart, Book 2

Synopsis:  Tamson House, in modern, urban Ottawa, is a rambling, eccentric curiosity of a house -- and a place of hidden Power.  Built at a point were the leylines meet, upon land that was once a sacred site, it is the gateway to a spirit-world where Celtic and Native American magicks mingle and leak into our own.

In the overgrown garden of Tamson House, a Coyote Man waits, green children walk, and music rises to greet the moon.  From the garden, a vast and primal wood is just one spirit-step away...and in that wood is something that threatens the very existence of Tamson House, and all who dwell within.

Review:  There are four short stories and one novella in this book.  They are all based on the same house and most of the same characters as Moonheart but they are additional stories, which all take place after the events in Moonheart.

I have a really hard time with short stories and novellas for the most part.  I do love Charles de Lint, but this book took me just over a full week to read.  That's really a long time for me to be on one book.  I've got to find some books that move a little more quickly if I'm going to meet my goals for this year.  I love the ideas and the fantasy in this book, but I didn't love it anywhere near as much as I did Moonheart.

Rating:  6.5 / 10

August 12, 2016

Moonheart by Charles de Lint

Title:  Moonheart
Author:  Charles de Lint
Pages:  447
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Tom Doherty, 1984
Series:  Moonheart, Book 1

Synopsis:  When Sara and Jamie discovered the seemingly ordinary artifacts, they sensed the pull of a dim and distant place. A world of mists and forests, of ancient magics, mythical beings, ageless bards...and restless evil.

Now, with their friends and enemies alike--Blue, the biker; Keiran, the folk musician; the Inspector from the RCMP; and the mysterious Tom Hengyr--Sara and Jamie are drawn into this enchanted land through the portals of Tamson House, that sprawling downtown edifice that straddles two worlds.

Sweeping from ancient Wales to the streets of Ottawa today, Moonheart will entrance you with its tale of this world and the other one at the very edge of sight...and the unforgettable people caught up in the affairs of both. A tale of music, and motorcycles, and fey folk beyond the shadows of the moon. A tale of true magic; the tale of Moonheart.

Review:  This is book is fabulous.  It's easily in my top five all-time favorite fantasy novels list.  Set in Ottawa, Canada and the Otherworld, there are quin'on'a (fairies) and little mysteries and Indians and an ageless, horrible evil.  There are ties to Myrrdin (Merlin) through his apprentice, Taliesin the Bard.

This story takes place in the present, with the Tamson House and its secrets and the RCMP and its inspectors.  It also takes place in the distant past, where Taliesin meets Sara on a beach.  History and the future are changed by their meeting and hope blossoms -- perhaps this time, the evil can be vanquished.

It was a glorious ride and I so want to visit the Otherworld and hear the drummers.  I want the Summer Country to be real.  And I want to meet Pukwudji, the little mystery with the heart of a lion.  All of the characters, even the 'make believe' ones, were drawn with such precision and such emotion that I believed.  And that's good because I really, more than anything, want to believe in this tale.

The best news is -- there's a sequel -- and I'll be starting it tomorrow.

Rating:  10 / 10

August 5, 2016

And Then You Die by Iris Johansen

Title:  And Then You Die
Author:  Iris Johansen
Pages:  322
Genre:  Romance / Thriller
Publisher:  Bantam, 1988
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis: She expected sunshine and balmy breezes. What she saw was everyone's worst nightmare.

Bess Grady has heard the unmistakable sound before. She knows what it means. But not even the eerie lament of the howling dogs can prepare her for what has taken place in the small village. The seasoned photojournalist had been sent there on an easy assignment, and now she has stumbled upon something she was never meant to see. Amid chaos and fear, she joins forces with an intimidating stranger, a man whose alliances are unclear but whose methods have a way of leaving bodies in his wake. For what she has witnessed is only the first stage in a plan of terror that may kill us all. And she has no choice but to stop it--or die trying....

Review:  This was an extremely fast-paced and exciting thriller.  Bess and Kaldak must stop a mad-man from releasing his horror on the United States.  There was also quite a bit of romance, some of it pretty sizzling, which I didn't enjoy as much as the other parts, but then I never have cared much for reading romance.

I picked up this book and read it compulsively.  I finished it in less than 24 hours.  It really was quite wonderful.

Rating:  8 / 10

August 4, 2016

Bloodhype by Alan Dean Foster

Title:  Bloodhype
Author:  Alan Dean Foster
Pages:  246
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Del Rey, 1988
Series:  Humanx Commonwealth, Book 22

Synopsis:  It caused instant addiction, followed by an excruciating slow death, and there was no known antidote. It was a killer. Supposedly the drug had been totally eradicated from the humanx galaxy years before. At least that's what everyone thought. But somehow, mysteriously, that dreadful substance was back in circulation on Repler and threatening to wreak havoc throughout the known galaxy. Someone somewhere was secretly manufacturing Bloodhype, but nobody seemed to know where or who!

Review:  Yes, this story is about a merchant who is selling the immediately addictive drug, Bloodhype.  It's also about an unknown and incredibly strong alien force that lives only to kill.

The usual hero, Flinx, plays a role, but it's a fairly minor one.  The main characters are a great deal of fun.  There are Mal Hammurabi, a merchant freighter captain; Kitten Kai-sung, a special agent; and Porsubah, Kitten's partner who also happens to be a large, intelligent racoon-type of creature.

There were plenty of laughs and plenty of thrills.  I knew the good guys would come out alright, since the series isn't done yet, but it didn't take away from the story at all.  The reptilian Aann are present too and, while they are usually not on the side of good, they are always enjoyable to read about.

I love this series best for one reason.  Each story follows the next chronologically, but I can stop and start as I see fit.  It's almost impossible to lose my place or forget what happened last.

Rating:  7 / 10

July 28, 2016

The Appeal by John Grisham

Title:  The Appeal
Author:  John Grisham
Pages:  324
Genre:  Legal Thriller
Publisher:  Doubleday, 2008
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  Politics has always been a dirty game.  Now justice is, too.

In a crowded courtroom in Mississippi, a jury returns a shocking verdict against a chemical company accused of dumping toxic waste into a small town’s water supply, causing the worst “cancer cluster” in history. The company appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, whose nine justices will one day either approve the verdict or reverse it.

Who are the nine? How will they vote? Can one be replaced before the case is ultimately decided?

The chemical company is owned by a Wall Street predator named Carl Trudeau, and Mr. Trudeau is convinced the Court is not friendly enough. With judicial elections looming, he decides to try to purchase himself a seat on the Court. The cost is a few million dollars, a drop in the bucket for a billionaire like Mr. Trudeau. Through an intricate web of conspiracy and deceit, his political operatives recruit a young, unsuspecting candidate. They finance him, manipulate him, market him, and mold him into a potential Supreme Court justice. Their Supreme Court justice.

The Appeal is a powerful, timely, and shocking story of political and legal intrigue, a story that will leave readers unable to think about our electoral process or judicial system in quite the same way ever again.

Review:  John Grisham outdoes himself this time.  I was so ready for a happy ending, or at least a fair ending.  This book isn't fair.  It isn't happy.  It's a story of what could (and probably has) happened.  The story made me angry, sad, and upset and I'm sure that's exactly what the author had in mind.  In this instance, the truth does not set you free -- it's just plain horrible.

The main characters were all very human.  Some were good, some were bad, and the rest were somewhere in between.  I ended up feeling the most sorry for the justice of the Supreme Court that Carl Trudeau buys.  He was idealistic and had no idea the monster he'd aligned himself with until it was far too late.  His family winds up facing a tragedy and then he realizes what he's done by supporting 'big business' over real people.  So sad because this really very well-meaning man has to look himself in the mirror every day and know he sold out.

I loved this book.

Rating:  9 / 10

July 23, 2016

Sorcerer's Legacy by Janny Wurts

Title:  Sorcerer's Legacy
Author:  Janny Wurts
Pages:  246
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  Ace, 1982
Series:  Stand Alone

Synopsis:  The sorcerer beckoned to her from a land of ice and snow and, stricken by the death of her husband and the loss of the lands they had ruled together, she followed his call.  He led her to a world ruled by wizards who played a deadly game of court intrigue, with a kingdom as the prize.  He brought her to their court wrapped in the protection of his sorceries -- and then he died.  And she was left in the center of the game, with no knowledge of the rules or the players, no way of knowing who played with White magic, and who played with Black...

Review:  A very nice and short fantasy story, complete with princes and wizards and demons.  Impossible to put down in some places, this story tells a harrowing tale of a woman torn from her home and her time to try to save a prince from death.  She pays a heavier price than she ever thought possible to give herself a chance at life.

I'd have given this book a higher rating if there weren't quite so much sappy romance in what was otherwise a very solid fantasy tale.  I really like this author and only have one more of her stories left to read.  I have to find more of her novels.  Time to discover what other books she's written and get copies!!

Rating:  7.5 / 10
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