the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for March 2011

Agatha H and the Airship City, by Phil & Kaja Foglio

Published in 2011

Where I got it: purchased new

Why I read it: I adore the Girl Genius Graphic Novels

I don’t remember the last time I smiled so much while reading a book.

I’m nervous to simply call Agatha H and the Airship City a novelization of the first three volumes of Girl Genius (reviewed here), perhaps it’s more of a companion?  Yes, the plotting and characters are the same, practically word for word,  but the novel gives you much more background on just about everything – the state of the world,  the characters, and most importantly exactly what a spark is. Can you enjoy Agatha H and the Airship City if you haven’t read the graphic novels? Absolutely and vice versa. The novel offers all those little details that there simply isn’t room for in a graphic novel, and this is much appreciated as the pace of the early graphic novels is fast and furious.  If you enjoy humor, adventure, light romance, you will simply adore this book.

Did I mention it’s hilarious?

Agatha Clay is a frustrated student.  Nothing she builds ever works, and when she tries to think  through mechanical problems she gets headaches. It’s amazing she hasn’t been fired from her job as lab assistant at Transylvania Polygnostic University. The day of Baron Wulfenbach’s surprise visit to the lab coincides with a strange apparition in the sky and the last regular day of Agatha’s life. In a case of very (very!) mistaken identity, Agatha finds herself a guest/hostage of Castle Wulfenbach, a giant floating dirigible and the mobile center of the Wulfenbach empire.

Read the rest of this entry »

Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

first published in 1968

where I got it: Husband came with it.

why I read it:  said husband suggested it  for “catching up with classics”.

You know how most of my reviews are spoiler free?  this one is gonna be mostly spoilers.  Can you really call them spoilers if the book was written in 1968?

My husband has been trying to get me to read Dragonflight, along with the rest of the Dragonriders of Pern series for ages. It’s got cheesy cover art with a girl riding a dragon. and the blurb on the back is equally cheesy. But now that I’m doing this Catching up with Classics thing, there was no escaping the Anne McCaffrey.  He promised it had action. Adventure. telepathic dragons. A little bit of romance. some humor. but really, all he needed to say to get me to read it was that it had Time Travel.

Yes dear friends, Dragonflight is one of the original Science Fantasy stories. On the fantasy side, we’ve got feudal lordlings, harpers and singers who pass on knowledge through songs and storytelling, Stonehenge style calendars, primitive weapons and firebreathing dragons.  On the scifi-side, we’ve got a planet that was colonized by humans hundreds of years ago and then forgotten, genetic manipulation, telepathy, teleportation, and did I mention time travel?

Read the rest of this entry »

Wow, seems like everything coming out these days is part of a series, or book one in a new epic series. . . . even my two favorite recent reads are parts of series.

Even my most recent to be read book pile photo is stacked tall with anthologies (always a challenge for me) and series books, and “in my mailbox” and other tbr photos other bloggers are posting seem to appear that way too.  The only stand alone in my stack is Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates.  I’m currently working on my next Catching up with Classics book, and yup you guessed it, it’s the first book in a trilogy.

Of the few reviews I posted in March, 2 were of stand alones, 3 were of short story collections,  and the rest were all series books.  In February, it was about half series books and half stand alones.  I’m sensing a pattern here!

On the main Macmillan/Tor Science Fiction Fantasy new releases page shows 10 new releases and 14 best sellers. Of the 24 titles shown, 19 appear to be part of series.  The PYR forthcoming page shows 11 titles, and only one appears to be a stand alone.

Again, I have NOTHING AGAINST series!  I’m just interested to know why it seems like I am swimming in them!

Are series the latest publishing trend? the publishers get a captive paying audience for multiple books, and authors get publishing deal for multiple novels?

Are authors simply no longer interested in telling a quick-ish 400 page self-contained story? Are we no longer interested in reading quick-ish self contained stories?

or has this always been the case and I’m only just now noticing?

How about you, do you prefer series or stand alones? Do you feel you’re having a hard time finding good stand alones to read? Do you feel inundated with series?  Am I making a mountain out a mole hill?

With a Little Help, by Cory Doctorow

published in 2011

where I got it: received review copy from the author

why I read it: I is a Doctorow Fangirl.

Cory Doctorow is my favorite kind of futurenaut, one who is only a few years ahead of his time. His ideas are easily possible with existing technology, or nearly so.  And that is equally wonderful and terrifying.

If you’ve been following Doctorow on Boingboing, twitter, or his posts on Publishers Weekly, you know he’s been experimenting with Self Publishing.  Selfpub/epub/newpub is looking more and more to be the way of the future, and what better way to figure out how it all works than to dive in, head first? Alright, maybe not head first, as Doctorow has been publishing his writings under creative commons with everything downloadable on his website for years now.

What better way to experiment with self publishing, twitter marketing, print on demand, skipping the bookstore all together than by doing a short story volume with stories that involve the future of bookstores and publishing, arguements over systems transparencies, spam, 3D printing, gold farming, rogue AIs, and how google really works and then self publish it?   I told you my word for 2011 was going to be meta. Reading With a Little Help was a blast, as was reading about the situations the stories had originally been written for and how this lovely little volume came to exist in the first place.

at first blush, this looks like a book for nerds. It is, and it isn’t.  There’s plenty of old school tech jokes and plenty of new abbreviations that I couldn’t figure out.  Instead of cyberpunk-esque technobabble or Neal Stephenson infodumps, Doctorow keeps everything easy to understand, inviting even. I think if my Mom read this she’d feel confident enough to hop on Twitter or Facebook tomorrow. I should never let my Mom read this.

Some of these stories made me chuckle. Many of them caused my jaw to drop and my eyes to get all big and a thin whisper of “Holy Fuck” to escape my mouth. All of them made me think. And that, I believe, is the point. Read the rest of this entry »

Engineering Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Published: Jan 2011 from Solaris books

where I got it: purchased new

why I read it: it’s this months’ SF book for my local SF reading club

Space ships, alien invasions, alien diplomacy, galactic empires, time travel, artificial intelligence, genetic manipulations, world changing ideas with life changing ramifications.  This is what Hard Scifi is all about!  

In the past, I haven’t been much for short stories, and I’m actively trying to change that.  Anthologies especially are tough for me, as they always seem a mixed bag. You get some great stories that blow your mind, and some mediocre stuff. Reminds me a little of the old days of buying an album just for the one track that was in heavy rotation on MTV. Wow, I just dated myself.

Engineering Infinity is a new Hard SF collection, showcasing some of SF’s biggest names, such as Charlies Stross, Peter Watts, Karl Schroeder, Stephen Baxter, Gregory Benford, and Gwyneth Jones, just to name a few.   Was the anthology a mixed bag for me? Yes. Did I discover some new-to-me  authors that I plan to actively seek out? Yes, and more than I expected.  Was there some stuff that just didn’t do it for me? Yes. Such is the challenge of the anthology – it simply isn’t going to be everything to everyone.

If you enjoy short stories and Hard SF, you will probably have a blast with Engineering Infinity. And if, like me, you’re trying to get more short stories into your life, this is a good place to start. Read the rest of this entry »

Thanks to everyone who entered the give away for Mark Hodder’s The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, book two in his Burton and Swinburne series.

here’s how it all shook out:

1 Stefan
2 Bibliotropic
3 Yiota
4 Travis Bingaman
5 Ashgaidin
6 Amanda
7 Carl V
8 Amelia
9 The Alternative
10 Lisa Peters
11 Legends of Fantasy
12 Daragh Moriarty
13 Noel R.
14 Patrick

and thanks to, our winner is #14, Patrick!

Congratulations Patrick,  watch your e-mail for a message from Little Red Reviewer!

John Ottinger over at Grasping for the Wind just posted his most recent Inside the Blogosphere, where he asked fellow bloggers what five books they would save in Case of Disaster.

This is the second Inside the Blogosphere that I’ve participated in, and John always asks questions that are impossible to answer quickly.  My first thought is always “wow, I’ll have to think about this a little bit”, and I just love that.  I highly encourage you to visit Grasping for the Wind and read through everyone responses, I think you’ll be happily surprised at the variety of answers.

I was a total slacker, and simply listed 5 books that were of great importance to me , without giving any reasons. Here are the books I’d save in case of disaster, and why.


1. The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss – This is the book that got me into reading fantasy. I can’t even tell you how many other reasons that sentence encompasses. I want to go swimming in this book.







2. The Lies of Locke Lamora, by Scott Lynch – A surprisingly theraputic book. I’ve read it probably a half dozen times and I always get an adrenaline rush from reading it.






3. Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand – this was the first “grown up” book I read as a teenager. Politics and philosophies aside, it made a heavy impact on how I lived my early adult life.






4. The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco – the only Eco I’ve been able to comprehend. For a basic murder mystery, it is unputdownable! Everytime we pull out the board game “Mystery at the Abbey”, I want to read it again!

5. Open Veins of Latin America, by Edwardo Galeano – the only book on the list that i haven’t read yet. I need to psych myself up to read this book, and just do it, damn it.




Using the Grasping for the Wind post as a jumping off point, I pose the question to you, dear friends. In case of some kind of emergency or disaster, if you don’t know when or if you would be able to return to your home, what five books would you save?


Don’t forget, today is the last day to get in on the contest to win a copy of The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man,  book two in Mark Hodder’s steampunk/mad science Burton & Swinburne series.

Enter for the give away here.
Read my review of the book here.
Read my review of the first book in the series, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack here.

Contest will close at midnight tonight, eastern standard time.  I’ll announce the winner tomorrow, so watch this space, and watch your e-mail!

last week I finished two books and decided two other books in my “to be read pile” would be give-aways for one reason or another.

I felt so in control of my TBR pile!  it was so in control in fact, that I said out loud to a number of people “my stack of books is under control!”

then I went to the library.  On the way home I checked the mailbox.

TBR pile under control?

I am a damn liar.

Yes, that stack contains brand spankin’ new stuff, old stuff, even library stuff.  cuz that’s how I roll. Read the rest of this entry »

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, by Mark Hodder

Published March 2011

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher

why I read it: adored the first book in the series, The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack, reviewed here.

Enter to Win a Copy of The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, here. Contest is open until March 21.

Welcome to Victorian England, just not the Victorian England you know.  The Queen is dead (so perhaps I should call it Albertian England?), scientists are having a field day with steam powered inventions, eugenicists are having a ball with genetically modified foodstuffs and insects grown to obscene proportions and magic is real.  Well, not magic exactly, but mind control, astral projections, spiritualism, mediumistic techniques to read the future is all very, very real. And it all started back in 1837, when a certain someone had such very good intentions and tried so very hard to fix what had gone horribly wrong.

It’s now 1862, and Sir Richard Francis Burton and his assistant Algernon Swinburne have recovered from the Spring Heeled Jack Affair. The Technologist faction is under control, Isembard Kingdom Brunel has made his new life public, the British government is playing favorites regarding the American War between the states, and Burton continues to be bitter about being passed over for funding for African expeditions.    Although Hodder provides plenty of background information and these are fairly episodic adventures so far, I am reluctant to say you can read The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man as a standalone, as there is a overarching plotline that I believe will become more important than any one adventure.

Hodder  gets the action, adventure, and mystery started right off the bat. Burton and Swinburne investigate an abandoned yet beautifully constructed clockwork man in the middle of a public square, which leads to a theft of famous black diamonds, the untimely death of Charles Babbage, a disturbing  vision of Burton’s future, a homeless philosopher who seems to suffer from multiple personality disorder, the mythology behind the rest of the black diamonds, and a haunted estate. Oh, and fairies, whatever you do, don’t forget the fairies. Read the rest of this entry »

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FTC Stuff

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.