the Little Red Reviewer

Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

 

I think this is the first #5forFriday I’ve done where I’ve actually read all the books!  I even got all organized and fancy and put links to my reviews below! this may never happen again . . .

 

Spells of Blood and Kin by Claire Humphrey (2016) is a quiet and unassuming urban fantasy that doesn’t go in the directions you expect.  I loved it.   So many urban fantasies feel all the same to me, this seemed refreshingly different.

 

In The Garden of Iden by Kage Baker (1997) – if you want to get addicted to a series about immortal cyborgs, where the plot gets so zany and dark you’re not sure if you should laugh or cry, this is the book for you.  I’ve not read the entire series, because there will never be any more. When I’ve finished grieving and processing that thought, i’ll be ready to finish the series.

 

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin (2010) – This was my first Jemisin, and I read it as a read along.  Maybe it’s a Jemisin thing, or maybe it was my group of read along readers, but I’ve become a firm believer that Jemisin books are best when read with friends. You are gonna want to talk about this stuff!  She’s written a ton since this series came out, and this is still my favorite of hers.

 

Nova by Samuel Delany (1968) – so I’m 100% sure I missed all the subtext in this story.  This is one of those books that you read a million times because it is a damn fun adventure story.  Great characters, fast moving plot, intrigue, jealousy, hella cool everything. Maybe I’ll read it again next Vintage month, and see a few more layers that I missed last time?

 

How to Install Linux on a Dead Badger by Lucy Snyder (2009) – this little book is freaking HILARIOUS!  short stories, fake news articles, satire, you will be laughing your head off. I’m laughing just thinking about this book! Especially if you’re an IT geek. oh, you’re not a programmer, computer science person, or IT person? Buy a copy of this book for the IT guy at your work, you can thank me later.

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Last week, I reviewed Derek Künsken’s The Quantum Magician. This hard science fiction thief story takes place generations after we’ve figured out how to manipulate our own genetic code to create subspecies of humans.  If you like biology and quantum mechanics, or anything that touches either of those sciences, this is the book for you.

 

I like me some hard science, but what I like even more is a book that makes me think about science, and how science and society and inextricably linked in ways I hadn’t thought about. This book also got me thinking about how when the equation doesn’t give me the result I need, it’s time to change the equation.  Design the input around the result, instead of the other way around. I’m a nerd, so that was a ton of fun to chew on.

 

But let’s go back to the genetic manipulation thing, because I got some stuff I gotta unpack. I gotta get it out of my head. If I’m going to enjoy the fun stuff, then I need to  stare this other shit in the face.

 

Nothing in this post is a spoiler, or at least not exactly. There’s just more than you ever wanted to know about the subtext of The Quantum Magician. And all this seemed a bit too much for the review, you know?

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Dragon Pearl, by Yoon Ha Lee

Published in January of 2019

where I got it:  purchased new

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About half way through Raven Stratagem, I realized I wanted to read everything Yoon Ha Lee had written. The Machineries of Empire series only has three books, and I needed more of this kind of writing, of this style of story weaving. So, I ordered myself a copy of Conservation of Shadows, and bought a copy of Lee’s middle grade book Dragon Pearl.

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Dragon Pearl was very cute, and it is definitely book aimed towards the 8 to 10 years old crowd. My niece justs turned six, I can’t wait for her to be old enough to read this. I hope this is the book that has her asking her parents a million questions about how the world works, why adults do the things they do, if she can be a fox spirit when she grows up, and how terra-forming works.
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When Min’s older brother Jun joined the Space Forces, his family hoped he’d return home to a better world. When Min’s mother receives word that Jun abandoned his post to seek the Dragon Pearl, the family is shocked. Min knows her brother would never do something like this. She knows what he was looking for, out there in the deepness of space, and she knows why it would tempt him so much. But his letters home make no sense, she knows something is very wrong! Knowing that she can’t let anyone outside her immediate family know that she is a fox spirit who can shapeshift, she leaves home (a little Binti like, actually!), in search of her brother’s ship and his last known where abouts.

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Dragon Pearl is very fast paced, and in short order Min loses her possessions, is embarrassed to learn exactly why her family doesn’t want their children ever using their fox-spirit magic such as shapeshifting and Charm in public, escapes the gravity well of her impoverished planet, gains a ghost, and ends up having to shape shift to imitate a dead boy who was posted on the same ship as her brother. Speaking of not using her Charm magic in public, I got an absolute kick out of the scenes in the casino.

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What started out as “find out what happened to my brother” has now turned into avoid the scary tiger captain, keep a ghost happy, quickly learn how to be a fifteen year old male cadet, somehow gain access to the planet of the dead (literally. It’s covered in ghosts and when you go there they kill you) and most importantly, don’t get stuck in this physical form forever! Some members of her brother’s ship were on a secret mission to find the Dragon Pearl, and if Min can understand what happened, her dusty, unfinished planet could become a paradise. It sounds very convoluted, doesn’t it? Luckily, Lee is a fantastic writer, so while it is fast paced, it isn’t convoluted at all.
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Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

New Amsterdam by Elizabeth Bear (2010) I  bought this a few years ago, haven’t picked it up to read yet.  A lot of readers swear by Bear’s writing.  I’ve dipped my toes into her work a few times, and found myself stumbling over word patterns and phrasings. Maybe this will be the book that turns me into a Bear fan?

 

Big Damn Hero  by James Lovegrove (2018) – bought this for the Hubs, who is a huge Firefly fan. He said it’s fun! and there’s a sequel coming soon!  I should give it a read, it does look like a fun weekend read.

 

The Million by Karl Schroeder  (2018) – I am embarrassed to say I don’t know a thing about this novella. Anyone read it? is it good?

 

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss  (2008) – hello to one of my all time favorite fantasy novels!  This is one of the books that got me into fantasy way back when, I still remember getting it in hardback out of the library. I remember putting in a request at my library for them to order the sequel (the person who places the order gets the book first!), and taking PTO from work to stay at home and read.  I want to reread this, but it is a ridiculous and unnecessary gazillion pages. Is there an abridged version?

 

Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss (2019) –  lots of very short stories and very short poems, all fairy tale retellings or related.  I enjoyed most of the short stories, was pleasantly surprised how much of the poetry I enjoyed. Poetry is usually lost on me.

The Quantum Magician by Derek Künsken

published 2018

Where I got it: purchased new

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Belisarius Arjona gets bored easily.  A homo quantus, he’s able to enter a savant trance to access the quantum computing parts of his brain, giving him the ability (and undeniable urge) to understand the patterns of the universe, the mathematical why behind how everything works.  His kind were designed by a banking group, determined to create people who could see where the markets would go. He’s as close to a mentat as we’ll ever get.

 

Uninterested in financial markets, and even less interested in the mostly naval gazing of his peers, Bel keeps himself busy doing easy things that keep his mind distracted. Easy things like confidence schemes.   He might be known as “the magician” in crime circles, but even he thinks his new con job is ridiculous: he’s been hired to get twelve warships through a public and very expensive wormhole. Even if he can get the first ship through, by the time the rest start coming through the game will be up and the local defenses will be on super high alert. Why did he take this crazy job again? Well, the pay is pretty good, and there’s also that other thing. . .

 

In Ocean’s Eleven style, Bel spends a few chapters collecting his team – meeting up with new resources and recruiting old friends.  I felt thrown in the deep end the first 20 pages or so, so those handful of slower chapters where Bel is getting the band together were the perfect way for me to learn about the world, the different genetically modified sub-species of humans that we’ve created, the politics of the situation, and Bel’s place in the world.  His art gallery suddenly seems so much creepier.

 

With all the “quantum” being thrown around, I was super nervous that The Quantum Magician was going to read like a Greg Egan, where I couldn’t keep up with the math.  Yes, this book is jam packed with physics and biology and quantum mechanics (why didn’t someone tell me before how cool quantum entangled particles are!!), and zero g maneuvers and adjusting for so many atmospheres and triangulation and the insides of wormholes.  Here’s the thing – math is the language of the universe, and if presented correctly, it becomes the poetry of the universe. Künsken made math and physics as fun and as beautiful as I know it can be, he made it into the sweeping architecture of a cathedral. Books like The Quantum Magician are why I love hard science fiction – if the math supports it, anything is possible. Even though sometimes it looks like magic.

 

“The math was comfortingly inescapable”, says Bel.  It may be inescapable, but math gives you the blueprints to do anything in the universe.   Similarly, the inescapable math tell Belisarius that next time he goes into a deep savant mode known as fugue, he won’t be able to come out of it. The need for knowledge will overwhelm his physical need for survival.

Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

The Nine by Tracy Townsend – I’ve not read this, but I keep hearing really good things about it.  Also, this photo doesn’t do it justice, that cover art is freakin’ gorgeous!

 

Lotus Blue by Cat Sparks – This came highly recommended.  I had a slow start, I eventually put it down. I should really give it another try.

 

Starless by Jacqueline Carey – she did a book signing event at a bookstore near me, so of course I got the book!  But I haven’t read it yet.

 

Inversions by Iain M. Banks – Great book!!  If you’ve read any Banks Culture books, you should read Inversions! and if you haven’t read any Culture books but want to try Banks without committing to a big series, read Inversions! it’s the not-a-Culture book that sort of is. This is one I want to reread sometime.

 

The Moon and the Other by John Kessel – I’ve not read this. I’m worried it’s just going to be on the bookshelf forever, looking pretty.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

published January 2017

where i got it: borrowed from a friend

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I’d thought this book came out way more than two years go?  I got quite the surprise when I flipped to the copyright page and saw that Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology came out in 2017.  When the book came out, I remember seeing tons and tons of hype, gorgeous cover art, and being so buried in Marvel Thor movies that the last thing i wanted was more Thor fiction.

 

When my friend lent me his copy of Norse Mythology, I ran my hands over the embossed cover, tried (and failed) to find constellations in the scattering of stars, and thought to myself “yeah, I’m finally ready for some Thor fiction”.  Thing is, and and I’m so pleased to say it, this is not “Thor fiction”. This book is literally what is says on the tin – this is not reimagining of Norse myths, or retellings, or modern takes on them.  Gaiman studied the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda, read the commentaries, and dug into the dusty, cobwebby corners.  He sought to understand where these stories may have come from, how they may have evolved over the centuries, he mourned what has been lost because it was slowly forgotten through the oral tradition and never written down. This volume is a selection of Norse myths, told in Gaiman’s signature style of deceptively simple prose that pulls you in, and just keeps pulling.  His introduction alone is a brilliant piece of writing.

 

If you have ever read Edith Hamilton’s famous Mythology (ok, so it isn’t Norse), and wished for something a little easier on the eyes, something that didn’t assume you had already studied for years, something that was a joy to read, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology is for you.

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Told as short stories, Gaiman starts you with the birth of the Gods and Goddesses, and takes you all the way to Ragnarok. The stories happen chronologically, so once Thor is gifted with his hammer, he has it in future stories. Once Frey gives up his sword in payment, he never has it again. Once Balder is dead, he’s dead.    Once it becomes known that Loki has other children that Odin didn’t previously know about, those children become part of the mythology for the rest of time. Once Loki loses the trust of his fellow immortals for the last time, there is no escape for him. And Thor is . . . nowhere near as smart as certain movies would have you believe.

 

This was the perfect bedtime book.  None of the entries are very long, they functioned perfectly as something to read to calm my brain down. Keep in mind tho, that due to the stories being in general chronological order, it’s best if you read them in order.  Treat this book like a mosaic novel made up of various smaller, interlinked stories (wait a minute, is this a fix up novel? lol!).

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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.
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