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Archive for December, 2023

Sci-Fi Review – Little Fuzzy

Sunday, December 31st, 2023

Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


On the planet Zarathrustra, the Chartered Zarathrustra Company pretty much owns it all.  They exploit the natural resources, develop what they want, and pretty much run the show without much interference from the Colonial Government. Jack Holloway is an eccentric miner, making his living from sunstones, an exotic fossil that glows with the wearer’s body heat.

Coming back from a day’s hard work, Jack surprises a little creature in his house. It’s cute, it squeaks at him, it’s not particularly afraid, and he feeds it a bit of pre-packaged rations which it really, really likes. Jack decides he wants a pet and calls it “Little Fuzzy”. Before you know it, Little Fuzzy has invited the rest of his family to enjoy the comforts of Jack’s home. But after observing them carefully, Jack thinks that these creatures are really intelligent beings, and he calls in a friend with the government to check it out.  We’re given POV from not just the humans but also Little Fuzzy, so we readers already know they’re intelligent, if childlike.

The Chartered Zarathrustra Company gets wind of Jack’s enquiry and alarm bells go off everywhere. Billions of dollars are at stake, because the Company cannot own a planet if there’s intelligent inhabitants. They hatch a scheme to murder the Fuzzies.  Of course this is going to backfire on them, and we get some tense moments of rescue along with an interesting court trial and vindication for the Fuzzies. To my mind, the trial is the highlight of the book. Justice in action, and the rule of law preserved.

The book veers between very one-dimensional villains and the overly adorable Fuzzies, and serious discussions about what intelligence actually is. There’s an evil corporation, with the government and the military stepping in to save the day, which is kind of odd for the 1960s.  The tone is also somewhat juvenile, but the characters smoke and drink constantly, not to mention the murder.  Despite some of the outdated references, I think this still holds up very well. John Scalzi “rebooted” it several years ago with FUZZY NATION, but this holds its own. It’s a fun, fast read with things to think about.






Mystery Review – ‘Twas the Bite Before Christmas

Sunday, December 24th, 2023

‘Twas the Bite Before Christmas by Andy Carpenter

Review by JJares


I don’t care how many lame jokes and impossible situations defense lawyer Andy Carpenter gets himself into; it is always a fun read. I love being swept along with the reluctant Andy (whining all the way). It is a Christmas party at the Tara Foundation when Pete Stanton calls Andy and tells him to come outside. They want Andy to bring out one of the celebrants, Bobby Klaster. Andy knows him by another name and is confused.
Years ago, Bobby was in a gang that turned to murder. He exited the gang by testifying in the trial and joining the Witness Protection Program. I was stunned to learn that the state WPP is wimpy; they relocate the person within the same state, only giving him a new identity. Federal WPPs are moved to another state with more perks than the state model.
Bobby is accused of murdering a former gang member. Of course, the gun is found in his home, along with blood in his car trunk. When the police discover Bobby’s past, they look no further for a suspect. Crime boss Joseph Russo, Jr. appears, helping Andy and his case. Of course, the plot moves predictably, but I don’t care; I love the crazy dogs, especially the Basset Hound. Marcus Clark is in full swing with his fists while Andy cowers in the background.
This is a long-running series about a reluctant lawyer and his dog foundation. Sit back and enjoy another wild story with Andy and all the usual suspects. The laughs start on the first page and continue till the end.






Fantasy Review – Black Water Sister

Friday, December 22nd, 2023

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


Jessamyn Teoh has graduated Harvard, but she’s unemployed, still living with her parents, and a closeted lesbian.  But her dad’s health isn’t good, they’re also broke and have decided to move back to Malayasia. As a dutiful daughter who truly loves her parents, she’s going too, leaving behind her girlfriend.  They move in with her father’s sister, who has a big house and innumerable relatives who are always dropping in, ready to discuss the failings of anyone in the family.

There’s enough stress that when she starts hearing a voice in her head, she dismisses it at first. But it turns out this is not a hallucination – it’s the ghost of her grandmother Ah Ma, and Ah Ma is capable of taking over Jess’s body. Ah Ma has a purpose in mind, which she tells Jess is to save a particular small temple in danger of being torn down for developers.  Ah Ma was a medium for one of the gods – Black Water Sister – in this temple, and the god is angry.  But the temple’s plight is only an excuse.

As it turns out, Jess is not the only one in this family keeping secrets.  Events careen out of control almost immediately, with Jess alternately attempting to kick Ah Ma out of her head and then beseeching her to come back and help Jess out of life-threatening crises.  To make it even worse, Black Water Sister has taken ominous notice of Jess.

The book starts out feeling rather lighthearted, but it gets quite dark before Jess manages to placate the gods and others.  It does get a bit complicated towards the end, what with all the various shifting relationships and gods appearing and disappearing. The Malaysian setting is great, very different and very vivid, and the dialect makes it come alive. I liked the sense of place and I liked how Cho educated the reader about the gods and cultural practices via Jess, who hadn’t lived in Malaysia since she was a toddler.  I also loved how the family drama just gets deeper and deeper.   A good, fast-paced and intense fantasy.




YA / Teen Fantasy – The Chaos

Wednesday, December 20th, 2023

The Chaos by Nalo Hopkinson

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)

I found this YA/teen fantasy to have a very likable heroine, but it’s definitely in the surreal vein.  Sixteen-year-old Soujourner “Scotch” Smith is a normal Toronto high school girl, she’s got friends, thinks her parents are too restrictive, and is eagerly preparing for a dance contest.  There are troubles too, of course – she is on the outs with her ex-BFF for allegedly poaching her boyfriend; her brother was In jail for drug possession; and she’s got some kind of weird  black, sort of sticky substance growing in patches on her. The doctors don’t know what it is, and nothing gets rid of it.  Oh, and she’s seeing weird little animals floating around too.

When her parents head off for a weekend, leaving Scotch and her brother Rich alone, they head off for an illicit visit to a nightclub.   It’s then that chaos really erupts, literally. A bizarre bubble forms in the nightclub, and her brother disappears into it. A volcano forms in Lake Ontario. People turn into bizarre creatures. A giant house on chicken legs is walking around, and the witch inside is taunting Scotch.  Plus there’s a frightening black thing following her as well.

As Scotch careens through the city, her skin getting progressively worse and worse, trying to find her brother and figure out what’s happening, she’s forced to think about her own identity and accept her flaws.

I found the surreal happenings a bit much, but then, the book is about chaos after all.  I recognized several fantasy elements of course, and Hopkinson adds interesting Caribbean elements. You can’t help but like Scotch. With a white Jamaican father and a black Canadian mother, Scotch’s racial identity isn’t immediately obvious to others although she identifies as Black. I really liked the diversity of her friends, her awareness of racism towards her and her darker-skinned brother, and her horror when she herself expresses bias.  Some of it seemed a bit preachy though. Despite her own predicament, Scotch tries to help others too. As the book progresses I couldn’t really see how Hopkinson was going to get her out of it, but it ends happily enough for Scotch and her family, although not for everyone.

It’s an interesting story with a lot of elements to think about. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who’s never read fantasy before, but if you’re in the mood for something different, give it a try.




Psychological Thriller Review – The Quiet Tenant

Tuesday, December 12th, 2023

The Quiet Tenant by Clemence Michallon

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)

A twisted tale in which we have a unbeknownst serial killer, Aidan, who is revered by the townsfolk and adored by his family. The only ones who knows his dirty little secret are his victims. Most of them do not survive to tell their tale. Rachel, his latest victim, has held on longer than any of the others. Spending her days in a shed, she knows what angers him and what pleases him and for that, she has survived for a very long time. She fears her time is becoming short when their routine has changed. She learns that the Aidan’s wife has died and now they must move. Somehow she is able to talk him into taking him with her. Things get crazy when she moves into his house along with his daughter. She is passed off as a friend in need of a place to stay. Adding more chaos into his life, Aidan also has a romance brewing on the outside. That romantic partner could be the downfall of his long career or be his next victim.


It was a nice twist to see the interactions between the killer, victim, family and lover. Although, at times, some of the actions of the victim and the lover were unbelievable to the point of cringe-worthy, it was still an enjoyable story. The writing was well done and kept at a steady pace. The ending was a wild ride that completed the story nicely. Look forward to more books by this author.


Non-Fiction Review – Decoding Gen-Z Slang

Sunday, December 10th, 2023

Decoding Gen-Z Slang: Your Guide to Learning, Understanding,
and Speaking the Gen-Z Vernacular by Devon Knott

Review by jjares

Fantasy Review – The Book that Wouldn’t Burn

Saturday, December 9th, 2023

The Book that Wouldn’t Burn by Mark Lawrence

Review by Melissa B. (dragoneyes)

When you see a book with such a lovely cover written by an author you think highly of, it is hard not to greedily devour it but, instead, slowly savor each word. I had to make sure I paced myself. Even so, it feels like a book that I’ll need to reread in the future. Just a sense that there is so much magic in there that my mind didn’t catch it all.
The story is made up of two POV’s. On one end we have Livira who is from the Dust. When her settlement is attacked she finds herself and other villagers on a long journey. She winds up in a city where she ends up working in the library. Then there is Evar who has always been in the library and knows of nothing but its walls, his four adopted siblings and his caretakers. This is a library where if you are not careful you can get lost. It holds much knowledge but also many secrets. Through the labyrinth of books, you can find time traveling portals, android type assistants, and (my favorite) animal guides. Between their two tales, the story weaves a lovely tapestry that you just want to wrap around yourself.
I really enjoyed Livira’s parts the best. I felt a connection. Especially reading about her always asking questions. I couldn’t ask enough questions when I was younger and still find myself needing to know how everything works. Made me chuckle a couple of times when I read those parts. One thing that I’ve always enjoyed with Lawrence’s books is his characters. He really makes it easy to bond with them. On top of that, he writes a story that you can see vividly and words that flow beautifully. So excited to read the next book in the series.