the Little Red Reviewer

I love buying books.  If I read an author and fall in love with their work, I try to buy more of their books.  I can’t seem to leave a bookstore without purchasing a cookbook.

 

I’ve been waiting for Seth Dickinson’s next Baru Cormorant book since, oh, I dunno, about 5 seconds after finishing the first book in the series, The Traitor Baru Cormorant. I was so excited for the next book in the series, The Monster Baru Cormorant, that I reread the first one, managed to purchase a copy of the new book the day it came out, and started reading it that night. It’s super dense, I’m madly in love with all the economics talk (but wait, i thought I hated economics?),  and I really miss Tain Hu. Might have to reread the first book just to be able to spend some more time with her. I’m about half way through The Monster Baru Cormorant, and am pretty sure I’ll need to read it twice if I’m gonna write a coherent review.

About five minutes after I finished Revenant Gun by Yoon Ha Lee,  I ordered a copy of Lee’s short story collection, Conservation of Shadows.    And I finally, finally, after everyone I know has said how amazing this series is, bought a copy of Vicious by V.E. Schwab.  the problem is going to be deciding which one of these to read first!!!   The Lee looks enjoyable because it’s short stories, i can read one or two before bed or in the morning before I leave for work.   If Vicious turns out to be an emotional roller coaster, I might need to wait a few weeks to read it,  as I’m still recovering from Revenant Gun, and a little voice is telling me that Baru is going to take me on another emotional roller coaster!

 

Even if I don’t get to either of these books any time soon, I like that they are in my house.

 

 

And because I apparently can’t leave a bookstore without buying a cookbook, lets make some Gyudon.   and there’s a whole chapter on Japanese Curry!  Curry Rice FTW!

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Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Machineries of Empire, #3)

published June 2018

Where I got it: purchased new

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One of the reasons I write reviews is to help myself process how a book makes me feel. I’m not super good at expressing myself verbally (or at all, actually), but somehow writing a book review helps me express myself and process my thoughts.  Somehow, with words, I am making a picture of the journey a book took me on. A picture of a journey, made of words? Magic!

 

Anyway.

 

I finished Revenant Gun nearly a week ago.  I’d been reading this book very slowly, savoring every page.  Like Ninefox Gambit and Raven Stratagem, Revenant Gun is fucking smart. I can’t tell if this trilogy is the decade’s smartest science fiction epic, a treatise on management and communication, step by step instructions for how to take down a government, or if all of those things are actually in a way the same thing.  Among other things,  The Machineries of Empire trilogy is the story of what happens when choice is removed, and then many generations later, it is given back. If you’ve never had something before, how do you know what you’re supposed to do with it? I’ve grossly oversimplified the plot, of course. Sort of like saying Star Wars is about a guy who goes on an adventure, meets his dad, and then decides to kill his dad’s boss because of a political disagreement. I skipped over all the good parts, didn’t I?

 

I finished reading Revenant Gun nearly a week ago. That day, and the next day, I was no shape to write a review. Nearly in tears, I’d emailed my best friend and tried to explain to her (hey, remember that e-mail I sent you? And I said I wasn’t going to tell you the name of the book I was talking about? Well, it’s this book!)  that a particular scene had taken place, and that I felt rather positive about that scene. That I’d liked that scene.  And then later in the book, I found out that what I thought was happening that scene wasn’t actually what was happening at all.  And now that I knew what was really going on, what kind of fucking monster was I for liking that scene??   You guys, this was beyond #Allthefeels.

 

After I was done crying (I still didn’t feel any better, I’d just cried myself out), I ordered a copy of Yoon Ha Lee’s short story collection.

 

But enough about me and my mushy feelings,  you want to know what this book is about, right?  I don’t know what’s better – the overarching theme and plot of the trilogy or that these books are so damn smart and perfectly written that maybe the overarching plot doesn’t matter.

 

I was hoping for another Cheris book, and while she does make an appearance in Revenant Gun, this final volume is Jedao’s time to shine.  He’s awake, has only himself in his mind, doesn’t seem to have an anchor, and he thinks he’s 17 years old. His body is 40 something years old, and the soldiers expect him to order them around. Makes sense, since he’s been hired to win a war.  The soldiers are also terrified of him, and he doesn’t know why. Jedao is functioning without an understanding of what happened between him and Khiaz. He’s functioning without any understanding of his place in history. Even worse, he’s the only person who had no idea who Cheris is.

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Rogue Protocol (Murderbot Diaries) by Martha Wells

published 2018

where I got it: purchased new

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Murderbot needs to stop hanging out with humans.  You hang out with humans too much, and they start to rub off on you, and you start to think that maybe not all humans are awful, that maybe it is possible for a bot to be treated kindly.  You start getting spoiled, you start getting used to sleeping on soft beds and having access to niceties.

 

You hang out with humans long enough, and even their gross feelings and emotions start to rub off on you. Feelings like  anger. Loyalty. Envy.

 

Plot-wise, Rogue Protocol doesn’t offer much we haven’t seen before.  Murderbot is going somewhere to get more information about GrayCris, and will have to pass as human (or at least pass as anything other than a SecUnit) to be successful, all while keeping dumb humans from getting killed by their own stupidity. There is interaction with another bot, whereby Murderbot learns that not all bots have the same experience with humans, and not all humans are awful.  I didn’t feel the connection with the characters as much in this book as I did in previous installments, making Rogue Protocol feel like it suffered from “middle book syndrome”.

 

When I say that so far this is my least favorite Murderbot book, what I’m saying is that Rogue Protocol is better than 75% of the books I’ve read this year. And the way this book ends? I know I am in for some spectacular Murderbot-ness in the next installment!

 

I appreciated that Murderbot has no idea how to feel about Miki, the other bot.  Miki is privileged, and maybe a little spoiled by her humans. Should Murderbot feel envy? Miki also isn’t very smart, her programming isn’t very complicated. Should Murderbot feel pity? She’s too dumb to really understand what’s happening (although she has got the 3 laws of robotics down pat), so maybe ignorance is bliss.  Her programming keeps her rather childlike, almost the way you and I keep our pet cats and dogs in a state of permanent pre-adolescence so they can stay tame, cute, and domesticated. Hmmm… maybe that’s the trick to humans treating their bots with kindness – in your mind, the bot is a pet cat. Some cats are very smart, but I’ve known some pretty dumb indoor cats who would have died without a human to care for them and protect them.  There are plenty of dogs out there with jobs, but also plenty of really cute and dumb dogs.  it’s surprisingly easy to keep a pet cat dumb, or pet dog dumb.

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Dear book bloggers of the world:  I’m worried about you.

 

Yes you, the blogger who said on their “about me” page that they’d being posting 3 book reviews a week, and a month in you’re already starting to get burned out because you’ve been reading 26 hours a day and have  barely slept or walked your dog or done your homework or texted your mom or spent any time with your best friend.

 

And you, the book blogger who clicked on so much shiny cover art that now you have 50 NetGalley eARCs you need to read, like, right now because you need to make sure NetGalley always loves you.

 

And you, the book blogger who decided ten  reading challenges look fun, and you thought reading 100 books this year was a worthy goal (and don’t forget the bingo card!), and then college started up again, you got diagnosed with a chronic illness, you moved cross country, you had to give your cat away, and now you are wondering how are you ever going to meet your goal of reading 100 books this year?

 

And you, the book blogger who feels like you’re doing it wrong because you think someone else’s book blog is shinier or sleeker, or longer, or shorter, or whatever-er than yours.

 

Dear book bloggers of the world:  I’m worried about you. Please be kinder to yourselves.

 

Book blogging is not and was never meant to be something you are required to do every day or three times a week or on any arbitrarily defined schedule.

Book blogging is not and should not be about keeping up with other bloggers. There isn’t some prize for reading the most books, or downloading the most eARCs from Netgalley or getting the most ARCs in the mail.

Book blogging should not be something that comes before selfcare, or before your family, or before the big things in your life. Some days watching TV should come before book blogging, because we all do #selfcare differently.

Book blogging should not be something that causes you stress or strife or causes you to be judgemental about yourself.

Netgalley will understand. They know we love clicking on beautiful cover art.

 

Book bloggers of the world, please be kinder to yourselves.

 

Please, be take some time to be selfish.  Take some time to realize that you have taken your passion for reading, the spark you carry inside you, and allowed it to blossom on a website that is all your own.  With a little bit of clicking, and a little bit of html, you have literally created something out of nothing. You have created something that is completely unique to you – someone else, if given the same exact recipe, could never have made what you have made. Because of you, someone discovered a new-to-them book. Your passion, your spark, it rubs off on everyone who visits your site!

 

Still looking for the magic bullet of how win at blogging? Ok, here you go:

 

Being the bloggeriest blogger who ever blogged is not winning. Winning is showing up. Winning is being your authentic self. Winning is talking about books you care about, books that make you think, or cry, or laugh, or grow. Winning is coming to the bloggish community as you,  not as who you think we want to meet. Winning is recognizing burn-out for what it is, taking a break when you need to, and keeping it fun.

 

Blog when you feel like it. Blog on a schedule that works for you. If you have a schedule that was working, and it isn’t working anymore, change it. Blogs are not made of stone and neither are  you. Your blog works for you, not the other way around.

 

#selfcare comes first. Your health and your family come first.  Take a break if that’s what life calls for. Your blog will still be here waiting for you when you come back. The blogging community will still be here waiting for you when you’re ready to return. We’re patient and we want you to take care of yourself.  If you decide there isn’t room in your life for the commitment of blogging right now? That’s OK too. Really, it is!

 

Please do not think you are failing as a blogger because your blog isn’t as sparkly or as polka-dotty or as whatever-y as someone else’s.

 

The only failed blogger is the blogger who never started a blog in the first place.

 

Book bloggers of the world, please be kinder to yourselves.  If the spark inside you burns out, the blogosphere will be all the poorer without you.

 

The Guns Above, by Robyn Bennis

published  in 2017

where i got it: borrowed from a friend

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Action packed, cinematic, and full of snarky dialog that is hella fun, this steampunk flintlock fantasy book would make an excellent movie!

 

The book starts out with a rather straight forward plot: Captain Josette Dupre is the first female airship captain. A foppish spy, Bernat,  is put aboard her ship to report back and prove she (and thus all women in the military) is incompetent. She turns out to be ridiculously competent, and the spy realized he doesn’t want to be  a dick. When the enemy attacks Dupre’s hometown, epic air battles commence! The story might sound straight forward, but this book has plenty of surprises in store.

 

I appreciated that the book starts when the story starts.  There is no prologue, no infodumping right out of the gate, the reader is just thrown into an action scene.  This is the author asking you to trust her that she will explain everything later, and in the meantime, why don’t you just enjoy the ride and the fantastic dialog?   Fear not, because Bennis does explain everything in time. Things like that this country is obsessed with warfare, that this is a society where women are usually at home raising families but that has changed since the government is so desperate for anyone who can join up and fight, and that the farmers in the border villages haven’t moved their farms but have changed what country they live in countless times.

 

As Captain Dupre is given her own command and lauded as the first female airship captain, others take this as an opportunity to smear her.   She, and (most of) her crew know their business – Bennis has either spent ton of time onboard sailing ships, or she did a ton of research – they know about shifting weight, how to handle tight quarters, what to do (and never do!) with weapons on board, how to test the airship’s limits, and harmless ways to haze the younger crewmembers.   The attention to detail was absolutely fantastic.

 

Bernat is a spoiled wealthy fop, and when his uncle gets sick of supporting his drinking and womanizing ways, he kills two birds with one stone – he assigns Bernat to Dupre’s ship as an “observer”, and by observer, I mean spy.  Maybe the ship will go down in battle, and Bernat’s uncle can be rid of two annoyances. And those airships sure are flammable, don’t you know?

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I love autumn.  I love sweater weather, and snuggling under blankets, and chili or stew bubbling on the stove, I love the crinkle of dry leaves, the smell of burning leaves, the honks of migrating geese, how the world sounds and smells so different all of sudden.   Orion is in the sky when I leave for work, and I get to watch a beautiful sunrise every morning.

 

Yep, I love autumn.

 

There are also some really fun bloggy, booky, and book-blogosphere events happening in the autumn and into winter!   Here’s a run down of the fall/winter SciFi events I’ll be involved with:

 

As always, I am super excited for #RRSciFiMonth, this year hosted by Imyril of One More and Lisa of Dear Geek Place! For the month of November, if you’re not sure that SciFi is your thing, or if it just sounds too weird, this is the time to dip your toes in!  There will be give aways and twitter threads, and other cool stuff too!  Scif Fi Month has no deadlines, no challenges, no minimums, no bouts of books. Sci Fi Month is a community, a conversation, an invitation.

Science Fiction is basically my life,  and any opportunity to help a non-scifi reader find the scifi book that works for them is a good thing, in my opinion. There are so many flavors of science fiction,  (just like there are different types of TV shows!),  so if the first scifi book you pick up isn’t the one for you,  there are  million other ones out there to try that might work for you.  Yay SciFiMonth!

So that’s November.

 

In early December, I will have a super awesome, super huge announcement about a super secret project I’m working on.  The project will go live (not sure if that is even the right word!) in January.  And I need your help!  I’ll be promoting the living hell out of this thing, so if you’re willing to give me a corner of you blog I’d be happy to write you a guest post (easy content for you!). Want to interview me about the project? that’s awesome too!   Public announcement goes up in early December, but if you’d like to know the secret ahead of time?  Leave me a way to get a hold of you in the comments (e-mail, twitter, link to the contact page on your website) and I’ll be in touch.

 

And in January?

It will be #VintageSciFiMonth!  Hosted by yours truly and Jacob at Red Star Reviews! Yay! muppet flail!!!!!!!!   I haven’t even picked out my books yet!  #endlessscreaming!

VintageScifi Month started on a lark I don’t know how many years ago, and has grown into this wonderful huge thing. here’s how it works:  During the month of January,  read, watch, or listen to something science fiction-y that was written/created before 1979, and talk about it on the internet. on your blog, on facebook, on twitter, on booktube. You can read a book, flip through an old magazine, watch an old movie, listen to some old audio of War of the Worlds.  Have fun downloading old books from Project Gutenberg, visit a used bookstore, find an old gem at the library, ask your parents what their favorite science fiction book was when they were younger.

Vintage month is like taking a community college course in the history of science fiction, and you’re taking the class with all your friends.  Just like RRSciFiMonth,  Vintage month is a community, a conversation, and an invitation.  There is no sign up, you just show up.  Can’t wait!

 

 

The Inconvenient God, by Francesca Forrest

Available Oct 10th, 2018

where I got it: received review copy (thanks!!)

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A number of years ago, I adored Francesca Forrest’s novel Pen Pal.  If you’ve never read an epistolary story, or think you don’t like epistolary stories, Pen Pal will prove to you that writing letters back and forth is THE BEST way to tell a story (ok, ok, that’s my opinion). So when I heard that she had a new novelette coming out, you KNEW I was going to do whatever it took to get my hands on a copy!

 

The Inconvenient God is approximately 10% what it says on the tin.  The back cover copy states that it is about an official from the Ministry of Divinity who is assigned the job of decommissioning a waning god.  She gets to the job site only to learn that something fishy is going on. That all happens in what feels like the first five pages of the book.

 

And that’s when the really good stuff starts!  None of which is mentioned on the back cover. So when you buy the book, ignore the back cover copy!  It tells you nothing about this amazing world, nothing about this culture that being forced to move into a future it isn’t quite ready for, nothing about how history is written by the winners or how easy it is for entire stories and histories to be lost.  To be honest, when I read the back cover copy, I thought this was going to be about an old sky beard who was a professor at a college, and the guy refused to retire even though he had dementia. Yeah, that is not at all what this story is about!!

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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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