the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for October 2010

Book Blogger Hop
A great question on the friday blog hop this week, one that’s crossed my mind many times:

“When you read a book that you just can’t get into, do you stick it out and keep reading or move to your next title?”

 

it depends on the book.  If it’s just some random book from the library, I put it down and don’t worry about it.  Maybe I’ll pick up a few days later, maybe not.  But if it’s something I’ve really been looking  forward to, or something I have made an obligation to review, I better stick it out!  Many times I’ve been happily surprised by a book that started out slow, but had such a crazy ending, the 600+ pages it took to get there was worth it (Neal Stephenson, I’m looking at you!)

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american gods
Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is unlike any novel I have read before. I’ve read this book a few times, and what’s nice about reading it again is since I know what the main plot line is, I can focus on all the little details. American Gods is a book of illusions, and as any illusionist will tell you the trick to the perfect illusion is misdirection.

Shadow is about to get out of jail. He’s a good guy who made a bad decision, and after three years behind bars he’s ready to keep his head down and live the cleanest life anyone has ever seen. The day he gets out, he learns that his wife, Laura, has been killed in a car accident. On the airplane trip home, Shadow meets a Mr. Wednesday, an old grizzled man who knows way too much about him, his wife, his time behind bars, everything.

At Laura’s funeral, he learns she was sleeping with his best friend.

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This is the second book in Joe Abercrombie’s The First Law series. Click here to read my review of the first book in the series, The Blade Itself.

Before they are Hanged has a whole ton of totally awesome, and a teensy bit of not as awesome. As a middle book in a series, it most definitely suffers from “ inbetweenness”. It’s not a beginning, and there aren’t any endings. There’s a lot of travelling, a lot of thoughts on “what’s really going on”, some wild and frightening reveals, and all the characterization some readers felt they didn’t get in the first book, now that all the world building is out of the way. Incidentally, I also learned my limits for how much violence I like in a novel. Not only is knowing your violence limit a good thing to know, I’ve now come to end of the “teensy bit of not as awesome”. The balance of Before They are Hanged isn’t awesome, it’s epically and totally awesome.

Before They Are Hanged picks up immediately after The Blade Itself ends, with our characters being sent in all sorts of different directions: Major West heading North to help fend off the Northmen, Glokta being sent south to Dagoska, and Bayaz heading West to the end of the world. Sure, the novel suffers from a major case of inbetweenness, but it’s still in my top 10 books I’ve read this year. And fledgling fantasy writers take note: as much as you hate editors and insist your 900 page novel is perfect the way it is, this is how it’s done. This is how you cram 1200 pages of awesomesauce into less than 600 pages.

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Thanks to a recent Friday Blog Hop question I know a lot of you are doing a lot on twitter,  and I’m contemplating taking the plunge. 

Time for some crowdsourcing.

Calling all tweeters. . . .

what are your thoughts on twitter? 

how often do you tweet? once per blog post, whenever you feel like it, other?

how much time do you put into twitter above and beyond the time you spend blogging?

what do you get out of twitter that you haven’t gotten out of regular blogging?

Do you see twitter as a fad, or something long term?

is twitter worth it?

How has tweeting changed how you communicate with other bloggers, and/or find new blogs?

If you’re a follower of this blog, you know I mostly review fantasy, scifi, and other weird stuff.    

Let’s do something completely different today.

Barbara Kingsolver’s books have been described as chick lit, contemporary lit, environmental, feminist, and historical fiction. I like to call them just damn good.  Of her more than a dozen novels and nonfiction, I’ve only read three, but I’ve liked everything I’ve picked up by her – Poisonwood Bible, The Bean Trees, and Animal Vegetable Miracle

and thanks to Fyrefly over at Fyrefly’s Book Blog (go visit her!), now I have a copy of The Lacuna as well.

As much as I enjoy a rip roaring crazy fantastical adventure, sometimes it’s really nice to sit back and enjoy a novel that feels like a never ending mug of hot chocolate.

If you’ve never read Kingsolver, she has two drastically different books that I can’t recommend enough:

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London: the 1860’s. Upperclass British gents fund explorations to Africa, Asia and beyond. Bored dilettantes drink wine, write poetry, and look for direction in their lives. The working class works tirelessly, and the upper class spends money like it’s going out of style.

Mark Hodder’s Victorian London isn’t exactly the London we know from history. The streets are clogged with smog belching penny farthings, and genetically modified domesticated animals carry messages across town. A technological revolution has come early, with the digital revolution fast on it’s heels. Arguing in the taverns are the Libertines and the Technologists, the former being both luddite and libertarian, and the latter filling the streets with their inventions as they push science further every day.

Mark Hodder writes a London that could have been, populated by people you might recognize. But this is who they could have been, who and what they might have become, had things been just a little different. The London of The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack isn’t known as the “Victorian Age”, because young Victoria was assassinated at the age of 20, and Albert became King. And every page is fantastically delicious, whether you know your British history or not.

A debate has been scheduled between explorers Sir Richard Francis Burton and John Speke, but it’s cancelled at the last minute, as Speke has attempted to kill himself. Soon after, Burton is attacked by a creature known as Spring Heeled Jack, and the creature bluntly tells Burton to sod off.

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I used to read a LOT of Charlie Stross. Accelerando was a game changer for me, Glasshouse knocked my socks off, and I raved about plenty others. Then I got into Stross’s Merchant Princes series. That particular series didn’t do much for me, and I experienced major Stross burnout.

The Jennifer Morgue is the first Charlie Stross book I’ve read in about five years, and I’d forgotten how much fun Stross is. After laughing my head off a handful of times, at the humor and the pure quantity of ideas crammed into each sentence, something started to dawn on me: I think this might not be the first book in a series. And Yup, Jennifer Morgue is the sequel to Stross’s The Atrocity Archives, which I haven’t read. I had a choice to make. I could put down the fabulous Jennifer Morgue halfway through, track down a copy of Atrocity Archives, and hope to come back to Jennifer Morgue at a later date, or I could say the hell with order, and keep reading. I chose to keep reading. Sure, there were inside jokes I didn’t get, but with the help of some flashbacks and explanations, I didn’t feel lost at all.

Bob Howard is an agent with The Laundry, a secret British agency that deals with matters of the paranormal, specifically secret agreements between humans and Lovecraftian horrors, where we agree to leave them alone, and they agree (we think) to allow us to live. Those who bump back indeed. The Laundry is armed with all sorts of semi-magical and James Bond-esque gizmos. As much as Howard wishes for an Astin Martin, they give him a tricked out smart car.

Bad guy computer mogul Billington is trying to summon something unspeakable from the watery depths of the Caribbean, and his viper of a wife, Eileen, has a best selling cosmetics company thanks to a little virgin blood. Laundry agent Bob Howard has been tasked with finding out what Billington is up to, and stopping it. To complete his mission, Howard has to team up with a Black Chamber (the American version of The Laundry) Assassin named Ramona Random. Ramona isn’t what she appears to be, and doesn’t work for the Black Chamber by choice. Howard and Random become destiny entangled to allow a telepathic link. What one hears, feels, sees, and thinks, so does the other. But Ramona is a succubi, she feeds on men’s passions, and what she feels and experiences, so does Bob. How in the world is Bob going to explain this to his girlfrield, who also works for The Laundry? And if they don’t get unentangled in about a half a million seconds, the connection could become permanant. Read the rest of this entry »

more scifi vs fantasy fun can be found at my new favorite webcomic Not Invented Here.

You know that list of books you want to read again the moment you finish them? Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose makes that list for me.

For an Eco, it’s surprisingly readable, and layered in such a way that readers of any interest level will get a lot out of it.

At its most basic level, this is a murder mystery. In Eco’s afterward, he mentions the concept of the novel was born when he played with the idea of poisoning a monk. He also mentions that he wrote the prose in a specifically open manner to encourage readers to form their own interpretation of events and conversations. Is that person being sarcastic? Is there some kind of secrecy going on? If you interpret it that way, then he is, and there is. Like so many things in life, it’s all about how you interpret it.

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I read about this book on a blog a few weeks ago, and of course I can’t remember where! So if I posted on your post about The World Inside, please let me know who you are. And Thanks for the great recommendation!

One of the strangest books I have ever read, Robert Silverberg’s The World Inside requires an open mind.

Written in the early 70’s, when so many science fiction writers were writing speculative stories about population booms, and limiting births and concern for how we were going to feed and house billions of people, Robert Silverberg asked himself what if humanity decided to go the absolute opposite direction? What if we decided our goal was to have as many people living happily on the planet as possible, and society was formed around housing, feeding, and taking care of billions of people? The vignettes of The World Inside is what he came up with.

This future includes vast, huge, vertical arcologies of 1,000 floors, housing 800,000 people, in “constellations” of 40 or more buildings. Estimated population of the earth is over 75 billion. 80% of the earth’s landmass is given over the farming, and the Urbmon’s tower over all. Imagine the entire population of Dayton OH living in one gigantic apartment tower. Most residents never leave the “Urbmon”, why would you want to, everything you need is there. Your floor is your neighborhood, the 20 floors or so around you are your city, lifts get you anywhere you need to go and there is no reason to leave. Outside means danger, loneliness, and death. The only thing more rampant that forced sharing in the Urbmon is propaganda. Read the rest of this entry »


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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.