the Little Red Reviewer

A few weeks ago I went to my first PenguiCon! it’s a tech/geek/DIY/Scifi convention in Detroit every spring. More techy stuff than i’m usually into, there was a soldering lab, a bunch of RFID stuff, 3-D printed hands, a guy talking about radiation safety, a solar telescope, and some fantastic astronomy panels. I was mostly interested in the Lit track – went to a panels on editing, genre mash-ups, and got to hang out with Ferrett Steinmetz and Matt Betts, and go to both of their readings.  There was of course the requisite dealer room, a ton of artists, a costume contest, and parties that made me feel like I’d fallen into a time warp.

and the best part? I got to spend the weekend with Lesley Conner! She also got to learn that I compulsively write things down. like, all the things, and all the time.

Lesley's the tall one.

Lesley’s the tall one.

here’s some more pictures!

robots who were programmed to dance

robots who were programmed to dance

The solar telescope. I saw sun spots!!

The solar telescope. I saw sun spots!!

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photo gallery of books, a.k.a. double stacking for the win.

except i don’t like books. or reading. #LOL

we had delusions of organizing our books as we unpacked and shelved them. We also had delusions that we had enough bookcases. I think a roadtrip to Ikea is in our future. Because the only thing better than more books is mismatched bookcases.

see how much i don’t like books? or reading?

this bookshelf has so many pretties!

this bookshelf has so many pretties!

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My goodness it’s been a long time since I did a post!  and today isn’t a real post, it’s just me, stopping by, saying “Hi! I’m still alive!”.  It’s been a stressful couple of weeks, but I am hopeful that things are on the upswing. and then, maybe i’ll have bloggy stuff for you (and photos for Richard).

erm, i got some silly owl pictures off the interwebs for you? Cuz I like silly owl pictures.

This owl looks like a muppet.

This owl looks like a muppet.

this owl looks like a muppet too.

this owl looks like a muppet too.

this owl looks like a fluffy muppet with a mustache.

this owl looks like a fluffy muppet with a mustache.

 

Um, a muppet-y owls, like, a thing?

american craftsmen coverAmerican Craftsmen, by Tom Doyle

published in 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the author (Thanks Tom!)

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Is it possible to really enjoy a book, but to at the same time be incredibly frustrated with it? It’s completely possible, and doesn’t stop you from enjoying the hell out of something. And it’s the experience I had with Tom Doyle’s debut novel, American Craftsmen.

 

The book starts with a bang, and gets off to a fantastic start. US Army Captain Dale Morton has his mission switched at the last minute, and something goes terribly wrong, pushing him to contemplate leaving the military. But, he’s a Morton. He *can’t* leave the military. This is where I fell in love with the premise of the novel. Morton is a Craftsman. Passed down through the generations, his family has held magical powers since the creation of the United States. Through agreements with the government, the Craft families have always protected the land and the country.  Along with the other Craftsman families, Morton is part of a secret unit in the US Military.  Unlike other Craft families, Dale can never escape his own family’s past.

 

Dale was a great point of view character, he’s brave but vulnerable, someone willing take risks and bend the rules when circumstances allow.  And oh, didn’t I mention? He has daily chats with his late grandfather’s ghost, and the house they live in has a personality all it’s own. I loved house!

 

House protects the Mortons, and keeps the older ghosts trapped in the basement. A few generations ago, a branch of the family, known as the Left Hand branch, went bad. They allowed their magic to be corrupted by greed. Dale knows their power surges through him. He just has to keep it at bay and not fall into the trap of their promises.

 

You’re gonna love House. You’re also gonna love the Sanctuary and The Gideons.

 

Ok, that’s most of what I liked. Let me tell you what frustrated me.

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2015-04-05 20.33.31The Gabble and Other Stories, by Neal Asher (short story collection)

published 2008, Night Shade Edition published 2015

where it got it: received review copy from Night Shade Books (thanks!)

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My first Neal Asher novel was The Skinner, an edgy  space opera that I’ve lovingly described as “magnificently disgusting”.  In that novel, the name of the game is adapt or die, and the denizens of the planet Spatterjay take full advantage of evolutionary opportunities. Even visitors who stick around long enough can watch their bodies change into something not quite human.  The Skinner made me an instant fan of Asher, and I’ve been watching for his titles ever since.

Many of Asher’s novels take place in his Polity Universe, which in a similar fashion to Banks’ Culture novels,  the novels all take place in the same universe, and occasionally characters from one book show up or are mentioned in another, but you can generally jump around in the order the books were published.   Not sure Asher is for you? Not sure you want to dive into a new universe? The Gabble, a short story collection of stores from the Polity will answer both of those questions for you.  If you ask me, you can just answer those two questions with a resounding Yes and be done with it.

What I loved about how Asher does alien planets and aliens is that everything is so damn alien. Why should aliens have two arms, two legs, a head, a nose and a mouth? If that configuration is unique to Earth, it follows that every planet will have a unique configuration based on evolutionary needs, the planet’s unique environs, and any one of a million other variables in how life works. No one we run into is going to look like us, think like us, or communicate like us. There is no gentleness here, no Star Trek style diplomacy.  Some species simply do not communicate with others, and humans are quite tasty.  It might sound harsh, but this is how nature works.   When it comes down to it, we are just animals in a food chain.

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We survived the move! mostly because the professional movers moved all the heavy stuff.  those poor guys, lugging everything up four flights of stairs.  if professional movers start charging a thousand dollars extra per outdoor flight of stairs, that’s our fault.

the new place is huge, with a nicer view than the old place.  I am not used to having to walk so far to the coffee pot. that could be a problem. ;)  if we ever get the place somewhat unpacked, I’ll post some photos. We were short a bookcase before the move, and our oldest bookcase didn’t survive the move. So there are a ton of book boxes sitting around until the new bookcase we ordered arrives. Maybe we should have ordered 2 bookcases?

status of book reviews and such, because #books:

books i’ve finished and need to, like, review sometime:

2015-04-05 20.33.31The Gabble by Neal Asher – if you like super alien aliens, you’ll like this.   as a collection, it’s got pros and cons, but it serves a good introduction to Asher’s Polity universe and his writing style.

2015-04-05 20.34.31Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson – this doesn’t come out till July. When am I allowed to start talking about it!?

american craftsmenAmerican Craftsmen by Tom Doyle – I really enjoyed how this started, and Doyle’s written himself the foundations for a series that he could have a lot of fun with. I had some issues with the action scenes, but I’m an action scene snob.

books on the horizon that I’m planning to read next:

superpositionSuperposition by David Walton.  David Brin and Will McIntosh blurbed it. ‘nuf said.

three bodyThree Body Problem by Cixin Liu – Husband is about two thirds of the way through and loves it. also? Hugo ballot.

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We get the keys to the new place on Thursday, the professional movers show up on Friday.  Got just about everything packed up except the kitchen. Today we celebrated finishing packing the books.

That boxes in front? not books. All the other boxes in this photo? books.

That box on the floor in front? not books. All the other boxes in this photo? Books. Twelve boxes of ’em

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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.