the Little Red Reviewer

hello! I know, it’s been a while. The days, they are just flying by. I’ve been up to book-ish stuff, author interview stuff, other entertainment stuff, and holy wow house stuff.

let’s do bookish stuff first!

some cool author interviews – over at Nerds of a Feather I interviewed Julie Novakova, Lucas K. Law, and Susan Forest, the editors of the upcoming fiction and non-fiction anthology Life Beyond Us. Over at Apex Magazine I interviewed A.K. Hudson and Jen Donohue.

Happy book birthday to The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum. thought experiments, social credit systems, the arbitrariness of gender, teens having cute crushes on each other, and how one question can change the world. I reviewed The Unraveling a few weeks ago thanks to an ARC from Erewhon Books. Yes, yes, i know authors are not supposed to comment on reviews, but Mr. Rosenbaum has been friendly, polite, and very gracious. I really need to ask Mr. Rosenbaum for an interview . . .

My review of Nicole Kohnher-Stace’s Firebreak is going to be 100% OMGTHISISAWESOME. I need to make my thoughts coherent, and I’m also rereading Archivist Wasp (finished it last night! eeeee!) and Latchkey (started it this morning), because reasons. #NotaSpoiler, if you are reading/planning to read Firebreak, you’ll want to order yourself a copy of Archivist Wasp #BecauseReasons. Holy shit Firebreak was good, just, damn.

A couple of weeks ago I read Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett. We’d just moved in, I was exhausted and achy, overwhelmed by unpacking, and i needed an easy read. i opened a few book boxes, and Wee Free Men was sitting on the top of one. Bam. done. nice and easy.

I have a bunch of novellas I need to finish.

speaking of boxed of books, we still have around 20 to unpack. and as I’m unpacking books, I’m asking myself “why did I even pack this book? I don’t need this book, I’m never to read / finish / reread this book”. Into the donate box they are going. None of these are bad books, I just don’t need them anymore. They shouldn’t collect dust in my house when they could be happier in someone else’s house. I’m setting them free.

and speaking of my house. . . holy shit houses are a lot of work. I’ve never been this exhausted and I love it!

I love having a washing machine. It is the most amazing feeling to be able to do a load of laundry whenever I want. Having more than one bathroom is nice too.

when the weather is nice, i drink my morning coffee while standing in the backyard. Apologies to all the grackles I keep startling.

When we moved in, the trees hadn’t leafed out yet, and we had no idea what plants were growing here. Everything is growing now, and we have beautiful oak trees, a few hickory trees, lots of ivy and vinca, the happiest hostas on earth, spirea, hydrangea, what I think is a knock-out rose, what I’m hoping are echinacea, lots of barberry shrubs, and enough invasive virginia creeper to kill anything. Wildlife, we’ve got tons of happy plump robins, grackles, blue jays, woodpeckers, sparrows, and we’ve heard grouse and I saw a beautiful pine warbler a few times.. Most mornings and evenings I see cute bunnies in the backyard eating the clover.

other things I’m learning:

where every single hardware store within 20 miles is.

that i’m going to spend the rest of my life pulling weeds.

what exactly poison ivy looks like. Anyone got any tips on killing it? black plastic on top, same as you’d kill grass?

softened water is the best thing since sliced bread and it’s really easy to put salt in the water softener and salt is more affordable than i thought.

someone who used to live in this house really, really liked using fleur de lis in their decorating. Like, they are everywhere.

those little solar powered outdoor lights that you spike into the dirt, those things are also the best thing since sliced bread.

After shopping at every home goods store within 40 miles and not finding any patio furniture I liked, I learned that Amazon has an excellent selection of patio furniture and lets me skip the goat rodeo of getting the stupid things in a shopping cart, getting them into my car, and then getting them out of my car when i get home. The convenience of someone delivering a box to my driveway? worth it, when the thing you are buying is large and weighs 50 pounds.

that I’m officially middle aged because a new swiffer mop makes me really happy. Also? Method wood floor cleaner smells really nice.

You ever play The Sims, and you build your Sim’s house too big, and it takes your Sim hours to walk from their bedroom to the kitchen? #CanRelate.

Anyone have HBO? The TV show The Other Two is a good time. it’s only 8 or 10 episodes, Molly Shannon is her awesome self. it’s a cringe comedy. I enjoyed it, you might too.

anyway, what have you been up to? read any good books lately? seen anything fun on TV? anyone watching that new Loki TV show?

As we slowly unpack books (finally bought some bookcases! And ordered a few more!), I’m reading random books. . . and also ordering a ton of new books.

Out of the manga box, I finished omnibus 2 of XXXHolic, and I’m off to find omnibus 3. This story is so adorable! I’d forgotten how much I adore the main character, Watanuki. He has a huge crush on Himawari, so whenever she’s around he acts like a complete dork, and it’s the cutest. But you can tell, right under the surface, that Watanuki’s got some major trauma that he’s never dealt with. He’s an orphan. He lives with a couple who quite literally took him in, and allow him to sleep in an extra room in their house. He’s employed by Yuko, the Space Witch. He loves cooking. I wonder if cooking is his coping mechanism? Watanuki can see ghosts and spirits, and they are drawn to him. A classmate of his, Domeki, sort of repels spirits. So Watanuki is safe when he’s around Domeki.  What happened to Watanuki’s family?

Domeki has realized he can’t enter Yuko’s home. There is so much unsaid in this story, and I’ve been told that once you get to the big reveals at the end, that everything that was revealed, it was there for you to see for yourself from the beginning, if you know what to look for. Another great thing about manga is that it’s usually a fast read, cuz it’s all pictures!

Speaking of fast reads with great pictures, I’m also reading a brand new manga series (which means uggh, gotta wait months for the next volume!!), called Apothecary Diaries by Natsu Hyuuga. The manga is based on a light novel series. A historical fantasy, the author has mashed together imperial China, ancient Japan, and possibly some Joseon fashion for a slice of life romp with buckets of nuance and so much glorious side eye! Maomao is a servant in the inner court of the Imperial Castle, she’s basically a maid to high ranking concubines. A trained apothecary, Maomao knows maybe a little too much about poisons? And the more Jinshi tries to flirt with her (he’s not interested in her in that way, he just wants her to be interested in him!), the more she gives him the side eye and proves she’s much smarter than she looks. The artwork is beautiful, I love seeing all the dresses and hair ornaments, and then there is all the inner court backstabbing and people trying to subtly kill other people to gain political power! Is the next volume out yet? And have the light novels been translated to English yet? No? That sucks.

While I’m waiting for the 3rd volume of Apothecary Diaries, I’ve got some excellent new stuff to keep me out of trouble:

Now Will Machines Hollow the Beast by Benjanun Sriduangkaew, takes place in the same world as Machine’s Last Testament, which I really enjoyed last year. Not 100% sure what this book is about, but everything Sriduangkaew writes is fantastic, so I’m pretty confident I’m going to enjoy this. I have an eARC of the third book in this series, Shall Machines Divide the Earth, but I’ll likely just buy the paperback of that too, so I can have all three of them on my shelf. Short novels, beautiful prose, sexy people? Godlike AI’s who don’t have much use for humans but are occasionally amused by us? YES PLEASE.

And speaking of must-buy authors, check out this baby! I got Firebreak!! Another book i’m not 100% sure what it’s about, but 200% sure I’m going to love it, because hell yeah Nicole Kohnher-Stace!!! Yeah, so if I buy your book in hardback without even looking at the price, that means I really like what you write.

Now I just gotta find the time to read, do housework, and garden. Sleep? Who needs sleep! And hmmm . . . I could take some vacation time from work . . .

The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum comes out on June 8th from Erewhon Books. I received an ARC from the publisher.

You know how some books give you #allthefeels?

 

The Unraveling gave me #allthethoughts in the best possible way.

 

At its heart, this novel is a coming of age/stumble into becoming an adult story. But everywhere else, it’s a giant beautiful thought experiment. Lots of science fiction and fantasy are thought experiments, and that’s what makes them so fun! 

 

Fair warning though, getting into The Unraveling might feel like more work than fun.  During the first few chapters I was on the strugglebus – who are all these people? What do all these terms mean? What the heck does doublebodied mean?  For about 80 pages I was just as lost as I was intrigued (not unlike an Iain M. Banks Culture book, now that I think about it). 

 

With zero introduction or infodumping, the narrative starts when the action starts, with a bustling family of many, many parents getting their only child, Fift, ready for the most important event of zir life. What made more sense much later was how nervous some of Fift’s parents were.  #NotASpoiler – Fift does just fine.  Well, at least at first. 

 

In my opinion, the most important things about The Unraveling, the things that kept me reading and kept me thinking, had nothing to do with the plot. This  book had so many ideas and social concepts that I have never seen  before, so many “why not?”’s that I’d not thought of before, so many “what if’s”, so much that was new to me!   Could be none of what’s in this book is new, but I doubt it.

 

What were all those why nots, and what ifs?  Let me tell you all about them! 

 

The BIG THING in The Unraveling is how gender is handled. The two genders are Staid (pronouns: ze, zir, zem) and Vail (pronouns: ve, vir, vem).  For someone who has spent the literal last 40 years seeing she/he in stories, it took me a long time to get used to the pronouns. Ok, but here’s the cool thing – gender in this book has absolutely nothing to do with your plumbing, because why not?  I did not expect it to, but this worked really well for me!

 

Staids are expected to be “the still center” with lives focused around intellectual studies, and Vails are pushed towards physical and emotive pursuits (I am grossly simplifying). Marriages are of  typically of many adults of mixed genders, with the one major rule being that Staids do not share The Long Conversation with Vails, and Vails do not share their mat fights or other aggressively physical activities with Staids. The gender expectations are pretty strict, which was funny and fascinating.

 

Thanks to way-in-the-future-science, people can have whatever biology, plumbing, and body modifications they want whenever they want, customized however they want, allowing anyone to look any way they please, and to be a mother or a father with anyone they want.  (and the science part doesn’t really matter, because this isn’t a story about how the science works. It’s a story about how people work) I thought that was all pretty damn cool, even though it did take me a good 200 pages for my brain to stop asking “yeah, but is this character a boy or a girl?”, because not only didn’t it matter if someone was a boy or a girl, this world doesn’t even have a concept of that. It’s perfectly fine to ask someone if they are a Staid or a Vail, and you’d typically be able to tell by their social behavior, but it would never occur to someone in this world to ask if someone was a boy or a girl, they don’t have the vocabulary for that and they don’t have a concept of that.

 

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Looking for some satisfying fast reads? I gotcha!

At Apex Magazine I recently interviewed A.K. Hudson about her twisty story The Life and Death of Mia Fremont: Interview with a Killer. The interview gets fairly spoilery, so I suggest reading the story first. and then you tell me:

Who killed Mia Fremont?

LOL, and then just TRY not to walk around all day making Twin Peaks references!

Over at Nerds of a Feather, I recently interviewed Suyi Davies Okungbowa about his new novel Son of the Storm, and I also recently interviewed Sue Burke about her forthcoming novel Immunity Index.

Unpacking is going very slowly. I’m back to work full time, every day we remember something we need at the hardware store, we’re moving things into better spots in the kitchen, and who wants to unpack when I can walk around our beautiful backyard, getting to meet all the trees? (except the nightmare tree)

I did end up opening a few random boxes looking for some nice bedtime reading, and found my ancient copy of the novelization of the movie Alien. Maybe not the best bedtime reading because it is scary, but I’ve read this book probably 6 times, and seen the moving probably 30 times, so nothing in this book is going to surprise me!

My husband started unpacking our manga and graphic novels, and I came across a copy of XXXHolic by CLAMP, and I remembered that I really enjoy that series and that I never finished it. the first omnibus I picked up was #2, and that’s ok because I’m pretty familiar with how the story starts, so I feel comfortable starting with #2. I better find the next half dozen omnibuses! omnibusi? omnibusae?

Anyway, this is a great series with beautiful artwork and fun quirky characters. Some nice throwback vibes too, as it has cross over moments to Cardcaptor Sakura!

Thanks to playing everyone’s favorite twitter game “anyone know what this tree is?” I’ve learned that I have a few dogwood trees on the west side of the house, and an overgrown lilac bush-tree-thing out back.  And then there is this tree that will live rent free in my  nightmares for ever.  At the end of each branch are large growths that are the size of large slugs or caterpillars, only 50 times larger.  I don’t know if these things are chrysalises? or a disease?  and leaves are trying to grow out of some of these things?

Last time I tried to upload the picture to wordpress, wordpress crashed and ran away. So i’ll just link you to a photo, and brave tree doctors can click and try to diagnose what’s happening with this poor tree.

gross tree

should I cut this thing down? Or will that just piss off the malevolent spirits that have taken up residence inside it?

 

Anyways, what are y’all up to? 

after so, so many years of saving, financial planning, saving some more, and then getting outbid left and right, we have moved into our dream home!

We ended up with 50-ish boxes of books, including fiction, history, graphic novels, manga, and cookbooks. There is a giant stack of books boxes in the living room, and another slightly less scary stack upstairs. I thought unpacking the kitchen was intimidating. . . . I don’t even know where to start with the books boxes.

I was thinking that my upcoming TBR should be “I’ll read at least one book that is in this random box that I’m opening!” but knowing my luck, I’d land on one of my husband history books boxes, and end up reading about British looms in the 1880s. Which, could be interesting?

Our backyard looks like a freaking fairy wonderland.

but I HAVE been reading this last week! a few pages here and there while we were packing the last boxes, and trying to stay awake after unloading them all:

The Best of World SF by Lavie Tidhar – stay tuned for my review to appear in Apex Magazine!

The Unraveling by Benjamin Rosenbaum – boy do I have feelings on this book! This is one of the most unique and original science fiction books I’ve ever read, and also one of the hardest to get into. In this far future, you really can be in three places at once! I’m happy I kept reading, because I really did end up getting very invested in the main character, even if half the time I wasn’t quite sure who was talking.

And I’ve got an ARC of Nicole Kornher-Stace’s Jillian vs Parasite Planet to read. I really need to order a copy of Firebreak, as if Kornher-Stace wrote it, I want to read it!

Moving is exhausting, mentally and physically. and somehow, living out in the country, our internet speed is literally twice as fast as when we lived in an urban city center? So I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix these last few days, when I wasn’t tired enough to sleep but too tired to move. Been binge watching Shadow and Bone, yes, that Shadow and Bone. And I’m enjoying it! I watched three episodes in a row yesterday! Some quick thoughts:

  • I only turned the show on because of the hype, and an early scene screamed Fullmetal Alchemist, so I kept watching. Some grisha (folks with magical abilities) are practicing, and we see someone snap her fingers to create fire. It was so Roy Mustang I couldn’t even, so OF COURSE I had to keep watching!
  • I love LOVE the costumes! those long robes? omg the embroidery! the hairstyles!
  • I was worried that this was going to be Game of Thrones sexed up, and there would be boobs everywhere. Boobs would have their own plot devices, a la Game of Thrones, boobs, boobs, everywhere! Look, I’m not against boobs on tv, but I like a good plot that’s got more going on than LOOK, BOOBS! this show has a smidge of nudity, and it’s done right.
  • Who is the chick who is chained up in the boat? I’m sure I should care about her, but I have no idea who she is.
  • Inej is THE BEST. Please don’t let Inej be some kind of ultra-villain, please!
  • Ahhh Ben Barnes, you are so hot. But please don’t try to act. Just stand there, look hot all dressed in black, and don’t do or say anything. Srsly, Ben Barnes has exactly two looks in this show – staring intently at Alina with his mouth closed, and staring intently at Alina with his mouth slightly open. That is literally all he does.
  • Not sure I’ll be reading the Shadow and Bone books, the whole thing does seem a little too YA for me, but I am enjoying the hell out of the TV show.

Kinda wish I’d marked the box that has my Witcher paperbacks in it, those sound like a good read right now.

I do have a book review I’m working on, for Rosenbaum’s The Unraveling (because omg, so. many. thoughts!), but I fear for the next little while this blog is going to consist of new home adventures, tree and flower identifying, and book chat and mini reviews, rather than long form articles.

I am only 10 minutes from a giant used bookstore and the public library. . . .

Having recently read and freakin’ LOVED  The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. That book was written in 2015 and flew completely under my radar, so I got thinking: what other neat things was I reading the same year The Library at Mount Char came out? 

Luckily, everything on the internet is forever, meaning it’s easy as cake to link to you some books I enjoyed in the halcyon yesteryear of 2015. .  . 

C.S.E. Cooney’s collection The Bone Swans came out in 2015, and this is such a gorgeous collection, I can’t even.  Among other things, the titular story “The Bone Swans of Ammandale” includes a retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin that I still get shivers when I think about it.  Oh, and if you like super weird horror, her “The Big Ba-Ha” is also a brilliant piece of writing.  and wow, this list is gonna keep me busy for a good long time! 

I read a lot of Kage Baker in 2015.  her Company books came out in the early 2000s,  but I didn’t discover them until much later. If you like characters who really do change over time, and the really, really long game, I can’t recommend her The Company series enough.  I’m kinda surprised HBO hasn’t glommed onto this series – immortal cyborgs? time travel? romance? rogue AIs? intense manipulation of humanity’s past and future? seems like HBO gold, if you ask me.  Yeah, I know, the first book in the series In The Garden of Iden is a super cry-fest, but there’s less crying after that book, I swear!

another book I read in 2015 that came out decades earlier was China Mountain Zhang by Maureen McHugh. I really gotta reread this one, I remember it being a rather quiet story, but oh so effective. 

2015 was the year The Traitor Baru Cormorant came out.  I knew that book was going to break me into a million pieces (and it did!) but what I didn’t expect was an epic fantasy novel that would get me so interested in how economics and finance and money (and politics) works, but here we are.  I kinda blame that book for me spending a hot minute being very responsible for tens of millions of dollars flowing through a company. (it wasn’t my money. I was just in charge of accounts receivable for a few quarters).  God damn that was an amazing book. The middle book in the series ending up working a lot better when I was able to read book 2 and then book 3 as one long novel. 

The Gabble by Neal Asher is a short story collection of hard scifi stories that take place on other planets. Basically, humans are going everywhere, and being really stupid about dealing with the species we find when we get to other planets. We apparently expect all creatures everywhere to act like docile zoo animals. HA HA HA.    Yeah, so the thing most creatures have in common is that they are hungry and humans are stupid.  

I got to read a lot of Kaoru Mori’s manga series Bride’s Story in 2015.  If you like sweeping historical family stories, gorgeous and detailed (but not distracting) artwork, embroidery, and beautiful clothes, this is the series for you. It’s a look into a number of families who live in Central Asia in the late 1800s.  Yen Press did gorgeous hardback versions of Bride’s Story, everything about this series is such a pleasure for the senses. 

2015 was also the year I read Babel-17 by Samuel Delany. I’m a sucker for books about language and how language shapes us and we shape language, and how language shapes how we think and see the world.  It’s like, we see the world with our eyes. . . but the sounds that come out of our mouth and go into our ears, our brains use that stuff to determine how we actually view the world.  I’m an absolute fiend for language, but? I like I might like Delany’s Nova more than I liked Babel-17.  It’s been years since I read Nova and I still vividly remember the characters and some of the plot points, and I can’t say the same for Babel-17.

Thank you for coming down this rabbit hole of 2015 reminiscing with me!

Yay for Deep Space Nine streaming on Netflix!  LOL, I guess it’s always been streaming on Netflix, I just didn’t realize it?  Something I appreciate about these older shows is the the older sound mixing technology, stay with me on this for a few sentences, ok?  You watch new stuff, and the people’s voices are a whisper, but the music and explosions blow you out the room. I’ve tried every setting on my sound bar, and the voices keep getting quieter and fuzzier and the sound effects keep getting louder.  I have ZERO patience for fucking with sound bar settings, actually, less than zero. The only solution I’ve come up with is to watch it with the subtitles on, so I can hear the characters whispering.  Older shows?  The sound technology is old enough that people speak at a normal volume, and the sound effects and music are also a normal volume. I can enjoy the show without having to spent 30 minutes fucking with the sound settings.  I still watch nearly everything with the subtitles on, but for a very different reason.

Anyway, let’s dish about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, season 4!  Time for some Klingons, politicking, diplomacy, and illegal use of cloaking devices! 

The Way of the Warrior (eps 1 and 2) –  Season 4 starts out with a political bang!  The Klingon Empire has convinced themselves that Cardassia has been taken over by the Founders, because of course no civilians could possibly oust the Obisidian Order without outside help. So they are going to invade Cardassia to expose the foreigners and also protect the Alpha Quandrant from the Dominion!  And before you know it, Deep Space Nine is crawling with Klingons, and everyone on the station  is increasingly nervous.  Worf comes aboard Deep Space Nine (Michael Dorn I love you so much!!!) as a sort of cultural ambassador between the Federation an the Klingons, and Worf himself is stuck between two worlds. He still hasn’t gotten over the loss of the Enterprise-D, he feels he has to tone down his Klingon-ness to be accepted by the Federation, and he feels that he can’t go home because too many Klingons view him as too human/gone soft.  Worf’s personal plight hits me right in the feels. Everyone wants Worf on their side because of who he is and what he knows, but he still feels the outsider.

The Klingons start to doubt their invasion plans after Sisko reminds them of the Federation-Klingon alliance they are about to jeopardize. Oh, and Sisko and Kasidy’s relationship is going so well!  So much happens in these two episodes!!  Technically, the Cardassians are the Federation’s enemies, or at least we aren’t in a treaty with them, so what obligation do we have, to warn them of a possible invasion by the Klingons?  But Sisko feels obligated to lower casualties if at all possible, so in a brilliant sneaky way, he manages to get the information to Gul Dukat.   The second part of this two-parter is solid action, space battles, high stakes diplomacy, and chases through space.  The Klingons are everywhere and harassing every ship they come across, Sisko is trying to get the remains of the Cardassian government out alive, and it becomes a game of how good is your cloaking device. Freakin’ fantastic season opener!

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I realized I’ve been watching Deep Space 9 Season 4, and not blogged any of that.  Need to fix that one of these days. 

I finished Hench, by Natalie Zina Walschots,  it’s fantastic.  I wasn’t expecting this book to be a leadership/management/career talk book, but it kinda is? 

Do you like author interviews? of course you do!  Over at Nerds of a Feather I interviewed Elly Bangs about her new book Unity,  and over at Apex Magazine I interviewed Annie Neugebauer about her short story “If Those Ragged Feet Won’t Run”. (earworm? you’re welcome!)

we’re still packing packing packing. 30-ish  boxes of books so far. Found some paperbacks that won’t be coming with us, and also found a good cause to donate them to:

appalachian prison book project

not sure what I’m going to do first at the new house. Should I:

grill everything because we’ll finally be able to have a grill outdoors

unpack

stare at the washing machine because I can now do laundry any time I want

meet the neighbors and offer them something off the grill

figure out what all each light switch is connected to

buy more food to grill




library at mount char

Sometime in the late 70s, the American military tried to kill a god. 

 

They failed. 

 

Thirty years later, the god’s children are all grown up. And one of them has a murderous intent to kill her Father. 

 

I came across Scott Hawkins’ 2015 debut novel The Library at Mount Char in some book listicle about “books that don’t make any sense until you’re half way through”, and yep, this book is exactly that.  If you’re the kind of reader who wants a prologue, wants a ton of history before the main plot gets going, if you want to know the character’s histories  . . .  yeah this is not the book for you. 

 

This book is absolutely and gloriously bat shit insane.  

 

I spent the first hundred pages thinking things like:

 

Ok, that’s weird. 

 

Huh. that was even weirder. And gross. 

 

Damn that was a well placed joke!

 

Well, that’s creepy as fuck.

 

Wait, what? 

 

Good kitty. Stay calm kitty. You’re a really big kitty, sweetie, aren’t you.

 

Here’s a taste of the prose:

 

“On the morning after she murdered Detective Miner for the second time, Carolyn came awake on the floor of Mrs. McGillicutty’s living room.”

 

The prose, the dark humor, the characters who struggle to relate to each other but must work together, the forbidden knowledge, people with god-like powers, the long game, the author forcing the reader to be patient, the way everything (yep, that too!) is explained at the end. .  . you know what The Library at Mount Char reminded me of?  It reminded me of Gideon the Ninth, but with a lot fewer swords and a lot more guns.

 

If I even attempted to explain the plot of this book, I’d sound like I’m just grabbing random words in no order, but I’ll try.

 

Carolyn is one of twelve orphans adopted by Father. He set each child to study a different section of his vast library, such as languages or medicine, and the children were forbidden to share what they had learned with their siblings.  Break the rules, and punishment was swift, often including death. But that was okay, Father would just resurrect the dead child. He might then kill the child again, just to make a point.   This is how these children grew up, they forgot their lives before they were adopted. They adapted. They developed some truly epic coping mechanisms.  One of them figured out how to be invisible.

 

Now adults, and forced out of their home, the adoptees must figure out how to live like Americans. Which usually involves wearing shoes. And something called cell phones. Robbing banks is frowned upon.  Give Father’s children a break, they really are doing the best they can, even Margaret. It’s not entirely her fault she smells like death warmed over. 

 

And one impossibly painful piece at a time, Carolyn’s dangerous, crazy, and inevitable plan is coming together. The only person she can trust is that klutzy American Steve. He’s such a dork. But he has a pick up truck, and he knows how to break into houses. . . .  And oh yeah, what did eventually happen to Erwin? 

 

This books sounds super dark, and it is super dark and very, very fucked up, but it’s also super hilarious. Part of the humor is that there’s a chapter at the end entitled “So, What Ended Up Happening with Erwin?”

 

And OH THE LONG GAME!  Kage Baker would be proud!   the last few chapters of this book was a masterclass in invisible guns on tables.  it’s as if the entire thing was backwards origami, and then it unfolds, again.

 

The Library at Mount Char was written in 2015, and as far as I can tell, Scott Hawkins never published another book.   

 

If you’re looking for something weird AF and  brilliantly written, The Library at Mount Char is the book for you. 

but to start, has “classic editor” entirely disappeared from WordPress, and now I’m fully stuck with block editor? This post is all in one long block of text because I can’t figure out where the “more” button is, that means you have to click the “read more” link. that sucks. But, as you’ll read about in a bit, I have amazing decadent food in the fridge, which makes everything better.

I recently read Across a Billion Years by Robert Silverberg. Every time I read him, I remember what a fantastic writer he is. The pages just fly by, I’m immediately drawn in, he has the perfect balance between how much time to spend on worldbuilding, how much time to spend on characterization, and always always moving the story forward. Across a Billion Years was written in 1969, and other than one scene, it doesn’t feel dated. Open Road Media has been doing wondering printings of a ton of scifi from the 50s, 60s, and 70s, if you’re interested in reading some old stuff that doesn’t smell like it’s been in grandma’s basement for 40 years.

The story follows Tom Rice, who is an archeological grad student. He’s sheltered, priveledged, degreed, and his lack of experience with the real world (and women) make for humorous reading. When we first meet him, he’s on a ship travelling to the planet where the team will be digging up artifacts from an ancient civilization known as the High Ones. Tom spends the entire voyage writing letters to his sister about how dumb, rude, and worthless everyone else on the team is, especially team members from other planets. Yes, Tom does eventually get over his naïve stupidity as he takes the time to get know his fellow archaeologists. The title comes from that the artifacts they are digging up are approximately a billion years old, and that the High Ones are sending them all this cultural information, across a billion years. When he’s not being an idiot, Tom is actually quite the romantic, when it comes to why he got into archeology and his views on studying the ancient past.

The entire novel is Tom’s letters home to his sister Lorie. Due to a lifelong illness, Lorie is paralyzed and lives in a hospital. Lorie is also a telepath, and part of the telepath communication network, which is a very, very cool technology that Silverberg has a lot of fun with. Lots of discussions of alien races, and what if the High Ones are still alive somewhere? I liked how the characters are thinking about how cultures change over time, and what does it mean if your race dies out after a billion years? I really enjoyed this book, and it was am enjoyable fast read. I’d happily read it again, and I recommend it.

Not a scifi book, I also recently read The Hundred Foot Journey, by Richard Morais. I’d seen the movie version (Helen Mirrin! so good!) a few years ago, and I had no idea the movie was based on a book! So of course when I saw the book at the library I grabbed it! Hassan Haji and his family move to London after fleeing violence against Muslims in Mumbai. They first land in London, and then in rural France, where they open a restaurant with Hassan as head chef. Their restaurant just happens to be across the street from the Michelin starred traditional French restaurant Le Saule Pleureur, with the intimidating Madam Mallory at its helm. Mallory is shocked and offended by the loud cheerful music from across the street, and even more offended at the Haji’s casual family restaurant. She gets over herself when she tastes Hassan’s cooking, and agrees to take him under her wing and train him in French cooking. The novel takes place over 25 years of Hassan’s life, of his time with Madam Mallory, of working in restaurants in Paris, of finally opening his own restaurant, of changes in what French diners expect. It is a beautiful story of a love affair with food. There is also a lot in the story about how do you grow as a chef in the culture in which you find yourself (Hassan didn’t choose to go to France!), yet still stay connected to your roots? The Hundred Foot Journey is just a lovely book to read. Although it will make you hungry!

hmmm . . . maybe it was The Hundred Foot Journey that inspired me to go a little overboard for Saturday night’s dinner? It was the first night of Passover, which means traditional foods like matzah ball soup and charoset (and apple and nut mixture), and beyond that I like to get as creative and international as possible. My philosophy is Passover food should be so decadent and delicious, that you look forward to it every year, instead of dreading a week without bread. The stand out dish was the chicken roasted with thyme, sumac, and pomegranate molasses, and our dessert of pavlovas with lemon curd. And my mother was right! make your matzah balls with seltzer instead of water! My fridge is full of delicious leftovers.

and packing! we are so, SO close to buying a house! at ages 51 and 41, my husband and I are about to be come first time home buyers. what sold us on this house was the beautiful kitchen, the back patio, and the spacious backyard that backs up to woods. we have so, SO many books to pack. I’ve already packed 19 boxes of books, and that made a small dent.

how many boxes do you think we’ll end up with?

also, if you are getting ready to pack a metric shit ton of books, go to Walmart and get diaper boxes. They seem to be the perfect size for books!

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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.