the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for April 2011

I Was Told There’d be Cake, by Sloane Crosley

published in 2008

where I got it: the library

why I read it: Carl V recommended it

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I had no idea what to expect out of this book. I’ve never really read a book of essays before, at least not voluntarily. It starts out very darkly funny, and I kept hearing Allie Brosh’s voice reading this.  As Allie’s voice faded and Sloane’s took over, I found I was reading about someone about my age, and due to that, we had a lot of similar experiences growing up.  Not only is her prose witty and smart and so easy to get into, but it was a nice little change up of scenery for me.  Sometimes it’s tough to relate to all those time travelers, swashbucklers and space smugglers who live in a galaxy a long time ago and far away, you know?

Sloane recounts numerous moments in her life that are actually pretty serious sounding – the disaster that was her first “big girl” job, getting stuck in a wedding with a bridezilla, her youthful misunderstandings about sex and religion at summer camp, and makes turns them into something poignant and funny.  and you know what? My first “big-girl” job sucked too, and it was nice to find I wasn’t the only 8th grader with less than no clue about kissing boys.

She lives in Manhattan, and although I’ve never lived in New York City, I’ve been there enough times that I recognized many of the places and neighborhoods she mentions.  And her suburban upbringing, selfishness, social ineptness and occasional moments of utter brain-not-workingness? Yup, I recognize those too, from every time I look in the mirror.

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Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles, by Michael Moorcock

published in 2010

where I got it: the library

why I read it:  Michael Moorcock does Doctor Who? Sign me up!!! Also, I am an epic nerd

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Who would have thought the Doctor is a card carrying, membership paying, re-enactment loving member of the Terraphiles, a group obsessed with old old old original Earth goings on? Imagine a Disneyland version of a renaissance festival, on a planet sized scale, complete with costumed characters, archery contests, themed taverns, jousting, and all manner of mixed up sports that have gotten lost in translation over fifty thousand years.  Thus, The Doctor and Amy find themselves on the terraformed planet of Peers(tm), spectators and then participants at a semi-finals sporting event.  Cheering for the hometeam, the Gentlemen, all are hoping to attend the intergalactic finals, The Grand Tourney,  on the Ghost Planet of Flynn in the Miggea system. The winning team will be awarded the Arrow of Artemis.

Living a comedy of errors and mixed metaphors, the Terraphiles are thrilled to meet Amy, an “expert in 20th century old old Earth”, although she has some trouble figuring out what they’re on about, with their strange notions of archery, swordplay, competitive nut-cracking (no, not that), and something that might be a total bastardisation  of cricket.  While she’s laughing her head off, the captain of The Gentlemen, Robin of Locksley (known as Bingo) decides she’s the most beautiful woman he’s ever met, and mystery rears it’s head when Mrs Banning-Cannon’s most hideous hat (so hideous it causes her husband to have arachnophobic fits) goes missing. And is then found, but still missing a piece.

According to Mrs Banning-Cannon, it’s the end of the world if her stolen hat (a Diana of Loondoon original!) isn’t found.  According to The Doctor’s calculations,  it could be the end of the universe, and the multiverse, as we know it. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to the Monkey House, by Kurt Vonnegut Jr

Published in 1968

where I got it: purchased used, this is a 1970 printing

why I read it:  been reading his stuff for a long time, and loving every word of it.

You can’t tell from the reviews on this site, but I’ve read a LOT of Kurt Vonnegut over the years. Although there is such a thing as Vonnegut overload, the more I read his stuff, the more I like it.  Welcome to the Monkey House is collection of his earlier short works, written between  1950 and 1968.  A lot of the stories are hilariously dated, but mostly, they are just hilarious in the darkest way possible.   A few of the entries are straight up Scifi taking place in the near or far future, but many of them take place present day (a la the American 1950’s) and have to do with humanity going sour, and us thinking we know everything when in reality all we’re doing is screwing things up more by trying to do right.

I read my first Vonnegut novel, Galapagos, at around age 19. I had no idea who Kurt Vonnegut was, or what the point of the novel was, I just knew that I liked it and that I wanted more.  As the years have passed, I’ve realized why I love Vonnegut so much:  The man says what he thinks, all the time.  in literature, in scifi, in interviews where politics come up.  He says what he thinks and believes, and doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks.  One day I hope to be that brave.

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The Cardinal’s Blades, by Pierre Pevel

Published in 2010

Where I got it: library

Why I read it: I like historical fantasy, and how can you say no to that beautiful cover art?

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Over the last few days, Pierre Pevel’s The Cardinal’s Blades has proven very difficult to review.  I think I will make my life a lot easier if I divide The Cardinal’s Blades in half:  beginning, and end.  To be succinct, the beginning was a mess that suffered from severe putdownability and lack of focus. And the end? well, the end more than made up for the problem-addled start to the point where I am actually quite excited to read Pevel’s recently released The Alchemist in the Shadows  which I’m assuming is the 2nd book in this series.

The premise of the story is as other reviewers have been saying:  Three Musketeers (swashbuckling, duels, blackmail, intrigue, secret societies, and more duels and blackmail) plus dragons (humanoid dragons, half breeds and their not as bright cousins used as pets and messengers)  More alt history than historical fantasy, I wish Pevel had done more with the dragon aspects, and I hope he does in future books.

Paris, 1633 and Cardinal Richelieu has called back his favorite dirty jobber – Captain LaFargue, the leader of an elite group of swordsmen (and women!) known as  The Cardinal’s Blades. A man of unshakeable honor, LaFargue will do any task to protect the French crown, even those unsavory kinds of tasks that caused The Blades to be dishonorably disbanded five years ago. Tasked with “getting the band back together”, so to speak, LaFargue must find his Blades, and convince them by force, if necessary, to join him in doing Richelieu’s bidding once more.  He may be a man of honor, but his blades are a different story. They have their own demons and debts to pay.

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 Getting Stoned with Savages: A trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu, by J. Maarten Troost

Published in 2006

Where I got it: borrowed from a friend

Why I read it:  I really enjoy travelogues.

50 pages or so into this book, I was ready to trade my winter boots for flip flops and hop the next flight to Fiji. Great weather, volcanoes, no traffic jams (no traffic lights), chilled out culture, sign me up! Then I got to the chapters (plural) about cannibals. I was still ready to go. Then I got to the chapters (still plural) about the giant poisonous centipedes. You know what? I think I’ll stay here in the American mid-west, thank you very much, where snow comes and kills the insects every year. 

Marten seems to spend most of his days in Vanuatu jokingly thinking to himself how can he make his and his wife’s stay more interesting. Perhaps by nearly losing their house due to a mudslide. Perhaps by visiting with the descendants of cannibals, to see what that’s all about. Perhaps they should start a family. Perhaps he should let a poisonous centipede bite him on the food. Yes, Yes, yes, and why not? And while they’re at it, they should visit an active volcano as well. Maarten Troost doesn’t do anything halfway, and along the way he takes what could be a few years on the islands of Vanuatu and turns it into compelling reading. 

I always enjoy the occasional travelogue, and even more so when they are written in Troost’s amusing style that combines self deprecation, dry humor, anecdotes regarding expats getting lost in translation, and an unending love for the local intoxicants. Honestly, it was a little like reading an Anthony Bourdain book or watching one of his shows, only more locals, less fixers, more intoxicants and less obligatory-seeming feel good bits. 

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 Looking through my readers, feeds and tagsurfers, I suddenly feel just plain obligated to post about GAME OF THRONES, HBO’s new epic fantasy series.

For those of you who have been living under a rock, Game of Thrones is the first book in George R R Martin’s epic fantasy series called A Song of Ice and Fire. Frantic and obsessive fans are eagerly awaiting book five, which is scheduled to hit bookstores this summer. In this series, noble families fight for the throne, younger siblings come to understand they are nothing more than bargaining chips and wedding fodder, old magics are brewing in the frozen north, and good men and women take empire destroying secrets to their graves. Oh, and there is tons and tons of sex. And after the sex, there is tons and tons of violence, kidnapping, brutal murder, betrayal, more sex, and more betrayal.

(And just for kicks, these are all images from the board-game, cuz I totally dig the game. It looks all complicated, but you can learn the rules in about 2 minutes, and it’s a ball to play.)

And now, on to HBO’s version.

First, the good.

Peter Dinklage, Sean Bean, Harry Lloyd, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. They were excellent. Harry Lloyd absolutely made Viserys, and I knew I recognized that wonderfully crooked smile from Doctor Who! Peter Dinklage and Sean Bean are always a pleasure to watch, and Coster-Waldau had Jaime down.

I really liked the credits/intro as well. Great way to cram a lot of important geographical info into a small amount of time, especially for viewers who aren’t familiar with the books. They immediately know we’ve got two (for now) important cities on one continent, and across a narrow sea there is another city where some action will be taking place. Animation came off as a little cartoony and higher tech than this world warrants, but I can forgive it.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.