the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘fantasy

2014 has been a pretty good year for me.  Personally, I’m damn impressed with how many of these books were actually published in 2014. As a bonus, there’s even a few novellas and short stories in here. In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of 2014!

Favorite Novels:

city_of_stairs-cover1

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) – that this book is on my list should surprise no one. And if you haven’t read it yet, seriously, get with the program. This is one of those amazing books that defies genre categorization, it just *is*.  To give you a big picture without spoiling anything, it’s about watching your worldview dissolve before your eyes, and understanding that games can be played with many sets of rules. Also? it’s simply fucking amazing.

gemsigns

Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter (2014) – This is probably the most important book I read in 2014. Remember when Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother took high school government classes by storm? I wish the same for this book.  Gemsigns touches on enforced marginalization, building (and breaking down) cultures of racism and classism and fear, and religiously and politically promoted hatred, and handles it in a blunt and emotional way. Also? fucking awesome. And for what it’s worth, I cried at the end.

vandermeer annihilation

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer  (2014) –  I’ve been a Vandermeer fan for a long, long time (yet somehow I can still eat mushrooms). Annihilation was strange, surreal, and seemed to be magnetically attuned to me. The words in the tunnel rang for me like a tuning fork. And there was just something about characters who don’t have names. I am a jerk, however, because I own but haven’t yet read the third book in the series.

california bones

California Bones by Greg van Eekhout (2014) –  If all Urban Fantasy was this good I’d read nothing but UF. I loved the characters, the world building, and it’s a caper/thief story! Also? an alternate southern California where Walt Disney is still alive (sort of), and water magic floods the place making it look like Venice. I can’t wait to read the next in the series, Pacific Fire.

defenders

Defenders by Will McIntosh (2014) – I remember staying up way too late at night to finish reading this. It was like 1am, and my husband was nagging me to come to bed. And I said I couldn’t, because if I didn’t finish the book I’d wake up the next morning and everyone in the book would be dead.  And come on, it’s McIntosh, you know it’s going to be good, and that he’s going to break you into a million little pieces.
the-broken-kingdoms-by-nk-jemisin

The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (2010)  – This is the middle book in The Inheritance Trilogy. I loved, loved LOVED the first book, The Hundred Thousand Kindgoms, but I read that in 2013, so it couldn’t be on my “best of 2014” list, now could it? Good thing I enjoyed the middle book just as much! Again, fantastic characterization, one of the best epic fantasy worlds I have ever come across, gods who are angry, bitter, and regretful, and the petty short lives of humans. (not that book 3 in the series was crap, it was only eleven out of ten, whereas the first two books are twelve out of ten.)
three parts dead

Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone (2012) – fantastic worldbuilding, dead gods, corporate lawyers, incredible characters.  Gladstone writes the book on how to make a magic based fantasy world feel alive and plausible. Dude is writing books faster than I can read them!

tropic of serpents

The Tropic of Serpents  by Marie Brennan (2014) – This book hit close to home for me. Even widowed, Isabella Camherst can’t help but go off on another adventure. But what to do with her young son while she’s away? There is a lot of painful honesty in this book. When I think of “strong female characters” whose struggles I identify with, Isabella Camherst is at the top of my list.

 

Book-Review-The-Martian

The Martian by Andy Weir (2014) – damn did I love this book. I cried a LOT at the end. Stranded on Mars and assumed dead, astronaut Mark Watney is going to run out of air long before he starves to death. Luckily he’s got plenty of water, and plenty of gallows humor.  One of the more optimistic hard scifi books I’ve read in a while.
bridge of birds

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart (1984) – Gloriously fanciful, and pure absolute fun.  Number Ten Ox and Master Li chase across ancient China in search of a cure for the ill children in the village. Along the way, they’ll meet lonely misers and forgetful goddesses, cheerful soldiers and bitter magicians. This book is a breath of fresh air, when i was in a slump, it gave me  back the joy of reading.

 

And in the Short Fiction category:

 

“The Crows her Dragon’s Gate” by Benjanun Sriduangkaew (Beneath Ceaseless Skies April 2013) –  If you purchased her novella, “Scale-Bright”, this short story comes along with.  It’s a pre-pre-prequel to “Scale-Bright”, and follows Xihe, the Goddess of the Sun. The story follows Dijun’s courting of Xihe, and how their marriage didn’t quite work out, even though he twice gave her the most precious of gifts. I love Sriduangkaew’s poetic and lyrical language. This story absolutely glows.

 

“Walkdog” by Sofia Samatar (Kaleidoscope anthology 2014) – this one is funny because it creeps up on you. Presented as a teen’s school paper, Yolanda doesn’t quite know what the point of her paper is.  This is a story about bullying, and hope, and regret, and not knowing how to ask for help, and finally realizing you care for someone even if it’s too late, and even if you don’t know the right words to use.

 

“muo-ka’s Child” by Indrapramit Das (Clarkesworld, Sept 2012) –  Intensely weird, which gives it instant brownie points. A lone colonist lands on a planet to learn it’s a horrible place for a human colony, and that she most likely won’t be rescued. She’s adopted by one of the local creatures, and it of course has no idea what she is or how to keep her alive, so they must learn to somehow understand each other.

 

“Knotting Grass, Holding Ring”, by Ken Liu (Long Hidden anthology, 2014) – When I first read this, I thought Sparrow was the main character. She might be, but the story is all about Green Siskin, an expensive entertainer. It’s no secret what Green Siskin does with her clients, and it’s no secret that the other women look down their nose at her, expecting her to be ashamed. Green Siskin knows exactly what she’s doing, and she knows exactly how to manipulate people, and in the process, she’ll save a good many lives.

 

“Moving Past Legs” by Jamie Lackey  (Bast10n Magazine, May 2014) – what a strange but effective story. It’s a little sick to think about getting high off of cognitively connecting yourself to an octopus, but doesn’t that sound alluring? To understand how they think? I could be convinced to try it. But once the high of a new experience wears off, what then? And what if it turns out this practice is abusive to the octopus?

 

“The Awakened Kingdom”, by N.K. Jemisin – a fairly recent read, but I can’t get it out of my head. A new godling has been born, and she doesn’t know what her nature is. She also doesn’t know how to tell a story, or why adults grieve, or that it’s never as simple as being a replacement for a missing sibling. If you loved the Inheritance Trilogy, I’ve got great news for you: this novella is being published as part of the new omnibus, and it takes place in Yeine’s homeland.

 

Fun question of the day: what would happen if Shill visited Bulikov? Would Shill and Jukov have gotten along?

 

dragonsbane coverDragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly

published 1985

where I got it: paperbackswap

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Raised on the glorious and romantic epics of old, Gareth knows all the songs and heroic tales. He can tell you verse by verse exactly how the hero slayed the monster with one swing of his gleaming sword. And it must be true, because that is how the story goes. On the words of ballads, Gareth travels north to find John Aversin, the Dragonsbane.  The most honorable man in the kingdom, John slayed a dragon and asked no reward in return. Out of love for King and kingdom, he put his life at risk and returned victorious.

 

All the stories Gareth learned were wrong.

 

To Gareth’s court trained eyes, all he sees in John Aversin is a northern barbarian who is more interested in animal husbandry than slaying dragons. Sickened by the thought that John’s mistress Jenny Waynest is a magewitch, Gareth can barely look her in the eye. John lives his life by living his life – a passionate but untrained naturalist, he fills his libraries with what books can be found, learns from the local farmers, and is more sad that the dragon he slayed decomposed before he could study it than proud that he killed it.  John sees the journey south as a bargaining opportunity. If he saves the capitol from a dragon, the King will have no choice but to send troops and support north to help rebuild the crumbling northern territories, right?

 

As Gareth, John and Jenny journey south, it becomes pretty obvious Gareth isn’t telling them the whole truth. Some of it you’ll guess, and some comes out pretty soon, but there are nasty surprises awaiting them once they reach the King’s court.

 

But that isn’t what this book is about.

 

Let me tell you all about Jenny Waynest.  Because without her, Dragonsbane would be exactly the bland tropey adventure story that the cover art leads you to think it is.

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Stephen GeeToday I’m thrilled to be talking with Stephen Gee, who recently released his debut novel Wage Slave Rebellion.  I’ve known about Stephen for a while, I just didn’t realize I knew him. Lemme ‘splain.  My husband watches a lot of anime, reads a lot of anime reviews online, and talks about those reviewers whose reviews he follows and opinions he respects. The name “Stilts” kept coming up over and over again. So I started following Stilts on twitter, and we’d tweet back and forth from time to time (my anime preferences seem to be begin and end with Hiromu Arakawa, but whatever).

I eventually got a very nice e-mail from Stilts, and we chatted some more. Turns out his name is Stephen,  he’s really cool, and he’s got a novel out!

Wage Slave Rebellion is Stephen Gee‘s debut novel, and you can head over to Random Curiosity for the big reveal party.  Head over there, check it out, then come on back here for my interview with Stephen.

Ready? Let’s go!

wage slave rebellion cover

Little Red Reviewer: Congratulations on your debut novel Wage Slave Rebellion! What’s the quick elevator pitch for the book?

Stephen Gee: Here’s what I’ve been telling people: “Wage Slave Rebellion is an urban fantasy adventure set in a sword & sorcery world. It’s about three friends who hate their crappy jobs, so they decide to become monster-slaying adventurers instead. It’s like Terry Pratchett spliced with a badass action anime.”

It’s sort of an old-meets-new, a medieval-style fantasy setting (swords, spells, monsters, etc), but with modern themes such as job dissatisfaction, refusing to accept mediocrity, and living life to the fullest that many people grapple with today. Add in explosive action and plenty of funny banter, and it’s a lot of fun!

LRR: Who is your favorite character in the book? Who was the hardest to write?

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As usual, I have attempted to not bring more books into the house and failed miserably. It might sound counter intuitive, but the more books that are piled up on the coffee table (and under the coffee table, and on the corner of the kitchen table, and on the table next to the bed), the less inclined I am to want to purchase more.

But, sometimes I can’t help myself. And then beautiful books show up in the mail, and before I know it I am surrounded by the happiness that is new books that have come to live in my house and be loved by me.

Here are my newest babies:

 

Galaxy Game

From Del Rey/Randomhouse comes  a gorgeous edition of The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord.  this is her follow up to The Best Of All Possible Worlds, but they can both be read as stand alones.  Stay tuned for January, when I’ll have not one, but two articles about her new novel. I’m more than a little excited!

The MechanicalFrom Orbit (you know, the folks who spoil me rotten?) comes The Mechanical from Ian Tregillis. I had no idea he had a new novel coming out! But I sure was excited to pull this ARC out of it’s envelope. The Mechanical comes out in March, and so far the only thing I know about it is that since it has Tregillis’s name on it, I want to read it.

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the-awakened-kingdom-by-nk-jemisinThe Awakened Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin

published Dec 9 2014 as part of The Inheritance Trilogy Omnibus

where I got it: received eArc from the publisher (thanks Orbit!)

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For those of you who are new to N.K. Jemisin, her newest novella The Awakened Kingdom takes place after the events in The Inheritance Trilogy.  I highly suggest you read the trilogy before reading this bonus novella. Luckily, it all came out today in handy dandy omnibus format! (Oh, you’ve already read the trilogy, and are joining me in singing its praises? No problem, The Awakened Kingdom is available on it’s own as an e-book)

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In some ways, godlings are just like us.  Sometimes, they want the same exact things we want. They want the love and approval of their parents, they want to make friends, they feed bad when they mess up and people get hurt. The newest godling, Shill, is no different.  She desperately wants to see her parents happy. She assumes they made her to help them be happy.   Her naivety is utterly charming, and the novella begins with Shill not even knowing to how to tell a story properly.

 

Have you ever had a four year old tell you a story? They tell it out of order, lose track of what’s happening, explain things in detail that you already know all about, and don’t explain the things you would like to learn more about. There’s plenty of backtracking, of remember of details and forgetting of others. it’s completely adorable, and there’s a part of you that doesn’t even care about the actual story, you just want to spend more time with this little person who is so very excited to tell you about their day, because you hope some of their joyful innocence will rub off on you. When we first meet Shill, she’s a little like that. Don’t worry, she’s gets better.

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Today I’m thrilled to host Hugo Award winning author Jim C. Hines.  I’ve had the pleasure to meet Jim at a number of conventions and local events, most recently at a book signing at my local independent bookstore. Jim C. Hines is most well known for his Goblin series, his Princess series, and his Magic Ex Libris series. You can learn more about Jim at his website and his blog, or by following him on twitter.  You might also know him for his SFF Cover Art photoshoot project.

jim hines captured

Oh no, Jim’s been captured!

 

Oh, you don’t know Jim C. Hines?  Well, first things first, go get yourself a copy of Libriomancer this instant. The third book in the Magic Ex Libris series, Unbound, comes out in January, and I am so geeked!!

But, back to today’s topic! Always interested in neat projects, Jim C Hines is about to be know for, erm, something else. His newest book, Rise of the Spider Goddess, hits bookstore shelves tomorrow (Amazon, Kobo, Smashwords, GooglePlay). In today’s guest post, he lets us all in on the little secret on what in the world he was thinking. (Jim didn’t give me a title for his guest post, so I had to make one up. Sorry Jim!)

rise of the spider goddess

 

This Book Admits its Bad. And That’s What Makes it So Good.

a guest post by Jim C. Hines

 

When Andrea and I were emailing about ideas for a guest blog post about Rise of the Spider Goddess, she came back with one of the same questions a lot of people have been asking: “What the heck were you thinking, Jim?”

She was much kinder in her phrasing, of course. But it’s a reasonable question. You see, this book is bad. It says so right in the introduction:

The book you’re about to read is bad. Bad like waking up at two in the morning because your cat or dog is making that distinctive hacking noise. Bad like your almost-potty-trained child walking out of the bathroom to announce, “I did finger-painting, Daddy!”

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I’m over at SFSignal today, reviewing Steven Brust’s newest Vlad Taltos novel, Hawk.   This is the 14th book in the series, but a surprisingly good spot for new fans to jump right in.  Still on the fence? Click here for a review I wrote a while back for The Book of Jhereg, which is comprised of the first 3 short novels of the series.

hawk

 

Even though Vlad spends most of the book saying “hello” to people, the entire novel has an undeniable underlying fatalism, an inescapable feeling that he’s really returned to Adrilankha to say “goodbye”. Vlad isn’t stupid. He knows there’s a chance he’s not going to make it to the end of the book. A really good chance.

Fatalism aside, Hawk allows me to say something I haven’t been able to say about this series in ages: For readers brand new to the Vlad Taltos series, this is an excellent place to jump right in and get a feel for Brust’s wry writing style, the way he does world building and characterization, and everyone’s favorite sarcastic semi-retired assassin, Vlad Taltos.

 

Read the rest of the review HERE.


2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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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.