the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for February 2012

Everyone enjoys a good game of tag, right?  And blogger tag is the BEST.  I’ve been tagged by my buddy Clint over at Geeky Daddy.  Which means I get to answer ten fun questions and tag some of my blogger buddies.

Here we go!

1.What is your dream vacation?

The Pillars of Hercules.  Start at the straights of Gibraltar, and follow the coast of the Mediterranean all the way until you get back.  that vacation would probably last a few years!!

2. Are you spontaneous or do you like to plan ahead?

I wish I could say I’m spontaneous, but I’m an obsessed planner. About the only thing I do spontaneously is nap on the sofa!

3. Tell us one thing you want to do but don’t dare do it.

write a short story.

4. What’s your biggest phobia?

spiders. actually, any thing with eight legs.  Went to an aquarium a few years ago where they had giant spider crabs. Haven’t been able to eat crab ever since.  I got no problem with six legged critters or star fish or centipedes. but eight? eight is very, very bad.

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A number of years ago my husband dragged me kicking and screaming to a “game night”.   This was not your mamma’s scrabble night. On the table were Mystery of the Abbey, St. Petersburg, Ticket to Ride, and probably some others. That first night I wasn’t so sure about this whole Euro-gaming thing. Victory points? Nobility track? Resource tokens and Trade Goods? how in the world was I supposed to keep track of all of it??

It did take a while for me to get the hang of it.  At least a year, probably two.  (You know how some people aren’t math whizzes? I’m not a “resource token” whiz.  I just want one of those red cubes, I don’t care if it’s supposed to be rum or tobacco or gold pressed latinum, I just know  I need a red one!)

But boy am I happy I did!  I dont’ think I’ll ever be that gamer girl who games 5 night a week or more, but a few times a month with my friends makes me a very happy camper. err, umm, gamer.

I live in a college town, and every year in early spring the local university hosts a gamers convention.  Organized by students and held on campus, if you’re brave enough to search for a parking spot you can enjoy 48 hours of gaming and geekery. Euro-games, roleplaying games, a LAN party, collectible card games. . . . .  and of course games and cards for sale and overpriced food in the basement. I’ve never been into roleplaying games, but there was a Vlad Taltos system that tempted me!

This years university gamer convention was last weekend, and I ran Ticket to Ride: Europe, which is my favorite kind of Euro-game: the kind where you can learn the rules in 60 seconds, the game takes less than 2 hours to play, and it isn’t going to fry your brain.  Even better, I got to introduce a buddy of mine to gaming. I pretty much dragged him kicking and screaming to my table and said “you’re going to play this!!  okay?”

and he had a good time, see?

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Throne of the Crescent Moon, by Saladin Ahmed

published in Feburary 2011

where I got it: the Library*

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I’ve been trying to write this review for two days now, and it just hasn’t been happening.

The only important part of this review is: Read this book now. really.  I adored it. Ask my husband, I’ve been talking of nothing else for the last few days.

There is nothing I can say that will do this book justice.

But you know I’ll try.

If Ellen Kushner showed me what effortless writing looked like, then Saladin Ahmed has shown me what truly fully developed characters read like.  These characters are so real and so true  that I didn’t feel like I was reading them so much as spending a few precious days with them.   I feel like I could tell you what Adoulla’s bookshelves look like (cluttered but organized?), like I could describe the look on Raseed’s face when he instantly regrets something he’s said, the sound of Zamia sleeping while in her lion shape. I want to have tea at Yehyeh’s,  I want to follow Adoulla through the city as his conflicted feelings force his actions.

Beyond the exquisite characterization, Throne of the Crescent Moon is so deliciously atypical of so much of the fantasy that’s currently available.  Yes, it’s a fantasy adventure in a secondary world, and yes there is some magic.  But show me another recently written fantasy novel where the hero is a middle aged fat man  whose magic stems from phrases and quotations out of a religious prayerbook.   Show me a recently written fantasy adventure where the endgame is all about ending up with the person you love, the person who waited for you.

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I recently reviewed John Love’s debut novel FAITH.  A brilliant novel, FAITH is the story of who we are and what we’ve become, of our place in the larger universe.  More intimately speaking, it’s the story of Commander Aaron Foord, the sociopathic crew of his Outsider ship the Charles Manson, and the alien spacecraft know as Faith that they’ve been sent to destroy.  The Charles Manson is the last hope of the Commonwealth, but which is worse, the cure or the disease?

Captivating and frightening, once I picked FAITH up I could not put it down. You can read my review here, and visit John Love’s website for more information about the book and links to other reviews and interviews. If you like what you see, I encourage you to buy the book from your favorite local bookstore (no local bookstore? here’s the Amazon link for trade paperback and kindle).

Please welcome author John Love, as he answers a few questions and sheds some light on how this brilliant novel came into existence. By the way, for those of you who are keeping count, this is my very first author interview!

Thanks for joining us, can you tell us a little more about yourself? What do you do when you’re not writing?

I spent most of my working life in the music industry. I was Managing Director of PPL, the world’s largest record industry copyright organisation. When I retired I started doing things in the community aimed at quality-of-life issues: I belong to a number of safer neighbourhood, conservation and community development bodies. I’m also a Governor of a local school for special-needs children.

Apart from my family, London and cats, my favourite things include books and book collecting, cars and driving, football and Tottenham Hotspur, old movies and music.

For a debut novel, FAITH is incredibly impressive. Can you tell us a little bit about what went into creating it?

Thank you. Perhaps I could answer in two parts: Process, and Research.

Process first, by which I mean how the idea – the basic premise – of the book came to me. I could list some of the books or films or other influences which I’d carried for years and which combined to make the premise of FAITH (I won’t, because they come up later) but I’m not sure what else they combined with, and where it came from. And (most relevant to your question) how it came.

I do know that the premise for FAITH came fully-formed, and all at once – I could actually tell you the day it came, what I was doing and where I was. It came years before I sat down to write it, because of the demands of my job. But when I did write it, the premise remained completely unaltered.

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Cast in Shadow, by Michelle Sagara

Published in 2006

Where I got it: purchased used

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A little bit Steven Brust, a little bit Ben Aaronovitch,  Cast in Shadow is a dark fantasy mystery with police procedural scenery. Even magical realms require law and police, and the city of Elantra is no different.  The three branches of law are the Hawks, the Wolves and the Swords, and young Kaylin is so very proud of having grown up to be a Hawk. She is proof that one can come from a very dark place to grow up and lead a life of light.

Kaylin isn’t young per se, but as humans are the most short lived race on this world, all the non-humans around her see her as a child, and treat her as one. Exposed to magic as a young child, Kaylin will go to great lengths to hide the strange tattoos on her arms and legs.

The magic of the world isn’t fully explained, but we know Kaylin is a healer, and that healing magic is very rare.  She’s late to work because she spends her nights healing in the orphanages and birthing caves. Once upon a time there was someone she couldn’t save, and she can’t bear to see that happen again.

When the killings start again, and the children’s tiny mutilated bodies are found with tattoos that nearly match Kaylin’s, all eyes are on her. She’s marked, but no one knows by who, and what for. Partnered up with a man from her past and a mysterious Dragon Lord, Kaylin is went back to the fief that defined her childhood to investigate. She’ll have to face every fear and every truth she’s been spending her entire adulthood avoiding.

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Osama, by Lavie Tidhar

Published in 2011

where I got it: received review copy from the author

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Sacred cows taste the best, and I wish more writers had a thing for sacred cows the way Lavie Tidhar does.

I wasn’t quite sure what to make Tidhar’s recent novel, Osama.  Was it a mystery? Parallel world noir? A dream like mirror?  Lavie Tidhar writes like he’s never heard of genre labels, and that is a good thing. Ever see the movie Dark City?  In texture, Osama reminded me a little it of that, but only a little.

Private detective Joe is on a new case. He’s been hired to find the reclusive author Mike Longshott, who just happens to be the author of Joe’s favorite pulp series, the Osama Bin Laden Vigilante series. Throughout Osama we get snippets of the Longshott books – mediocre pulpy writing with too much detail about people and places and weapons and times and carbombs, all those details that so many of us have desperately tried to live in denial of.

Joe’s world is not our world. In Joe’s world, terrorism does not exist. Carbombs, cell phones, unmanned drones, none of these things exist. Longshott’s books are seen as sensational garbage pulp, sold alongside cheap sexploitation novels.  From Southeast Asia to Western Europe, from market stalls to dusty bookstores  who specialize in “that kind of thing”, Joe gets closer to the truth.  Between seedy hotels and filthy taverns, Tidhar subtly hints that although this isn’t our world, something, or some one, is leaking through.

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I haven’t done a Friday Fun post in what feels  like ages, so I know, let’s do one!

I’ve got a “to be read” pile that’s nearly reaching the ceiling, I finished Lavie Tidhar’s Osama last night and haven’t even started a review yet, am torn between three books I want to start and I’ve got two other books on hold at the library.  Yup, definitely time for a Friday Fun / random stuff / link soup post.

speaking of reading piles, what are you reading right now, and what have you got on deck?

Are you looking forward to the Prometheus Alien movie? Think it will rock? Worried you’ll be walking out of the theatre saying “Way to wreck the franchise, Bakula”?  see the trailer here.

Wanna win some sweet military history stuff from Osprey Publishing? Military history caption contests are the best!!

If you ask me, this is what heaven looks like. (yes, yes, I know, I stole this link from Dark Cargo, but she always posts all the cool stuff first)

Seems like everyone who is anyone is reading Saladin Ahmed’s Throne of the Crescent Moon. I’m getting my copy tomorrow. I’m usually turned off by anything that gets hyped or over-hyped, but not this time. Maybe it’s because I’ve met Ahmed and he’s one of the nicest, most modest guys around (not to mention insanely well read, intelligent and a fellow Michigander). But anyways, what are your thoughts on titles that are hyped / overhyped? First titles that come to my mind are Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and the Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Are books that are superhyped bound to be disappointing to us book snobs? or am I just an epic book snob?

I’m a cavewoman and just discovered pod casting.  what reasonably priced ipod/mp3 player should I buy for use on long work commutes? I’m also thinking 40 minute yoga sessions will be much less boring if I’m listening to some sweet audio.

and randomly speaking of fun Michigan stuff, I’ll be at the Marmalade Dog gaming con next weekend.  Hoping to run at least one game of Ticket to Ride:Europe on Saturday morning, possibly Game of Thrones as well, while secretly hoping to get in on a game or two of Small World or Railways.  are you a board gamer geek? what are your faves?

What??

You haven’t read Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora??  the stunning debut that came out of nowhere to turn to fantasy inside out?

it’s okay, I have the cure.  ;)

You can join us (and by “us”, I mean these folks: Dark Cargo, My Awful Reviews, @ohthatashley blogging at SF Signal, Dark Cargo Explorer and yours truly) on our Lies of Locke Lamora read along this March!  followed by a read along for Red Seas Under Red Skies in April . . .  all leading up to the third book in the Gentleman Bastard series, The Republic of Thieves, due to hit bookstore shelves later this year.

click here for all the delicious details.

You can sign up by replying to this thread, or click on any of the participating bloggers above and signing up on their threads.

This is truly going to be epic.  If you are a fan of dark fantasy, of adventure, of stories with more imagination and twists and turns than you can count, The Lies of Locke Lamora (review) and Red Seas Under Red Skies (review) are more than worth your time and money.

At the end of February I’ll post more details on chapter breaks and such.  I expect we’ll be doing 120-150 pages per week with discussions hitting each weekend.

Servant of a Dark God by John Brown

published in 2009

Where I got it: Library

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In this traditional yet edgy fantasy world, Talen lives with his father and his brother and sister, and all they want is to live their lives in peace.  It’s an endearing opening scene in which we meet Talen’s family. They are kind people and interesting characters, it’s too bad they are Koramites.  Treated as second class citizens by the majority Mokaddians,  Talen and his family learn to keep their heads down and silently take the insults and beatings.  Although the racism gets pretty heavy handed, not every Mokaddian is an ignorant racist fool.

I wish Brown had explained the magic system a little better. There is a short glossary in the back, and I wish it had been longer, or that it had been in the beginning of the book. When it comes to priests and magical items, there is quite a bit of infodumping at the beginning of the book regarding who these people are and how these magical items work.  So many opportunities to show me, and instead, Brown just tells me in a almost technical writing type of way.

The most common magical items are something called weaves.  Often, but not always, woven of gold or silver or vines or even hair, weaves can only be bestowed by priests, known as Divines.  Weaves allow the wearer incredible strength, or the power to control elementals, sometimes even the power to multiply themselves. But it costs fire (the years of your life) and sometimes soul to use the magical weaves. To be caught with a weave that was not given to you by a Divine is to invite Death. The Divines know their hold on power over the people is tenuous, so they will do anything to keep that power. Including scapegoating an entire race. The monsters known as Sleth eat human souls, yet can pass for one of us.

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something old and something new,

something borrowed and something, umm, not blue.

Here are some recent goodies purchased, borrowed, and otherwise acquired:

oh wait, look! There is something blue!

All blurbs are yanked from Amazon. We’ve got:

The Fall of the Kings by Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman – a not quite sequel to Kushner’s Swordspoint (which I adored), The Fall of the Kings takes place in the same world but follows different characters. It promises sword fights, intrigue, strumpets, witty repartee, and probably some damn good drama.:

This stunning follow-up to Ellen Kushner’s cult-classic novel, Swordspoint, is set in the same world of labyrinthine intrigue, where sharp swords and even sharper wits rule. Against a rich tapestry of artists and aristocrats, students, strumpets, and spies, a gentleman and a scholar will find themselves playing out an ancient drama destined to explode their society’s smug view of itself–and reveal that sometimes the best price of uncovering history is being forced to repeat it….

Servant of a Dark God, by John Brown – It’s super shiny cuz it’s a library book.   I’m about half way through, and so far the plot feels like a traditional fantasy, but with some added complications of racism, religious propaganda and secret societies.  There’s some neat magic here, so I’m curious to see how the author wraps it all up:

Young Talen lives in a world where the days of a person’s life can be harvested, bought, and stolen. Only the great Divines, who rule every land, and the human soul-eaters, dark ones who steal days from man and beast, know the secrets of this power.

Now a being of awesome power, whose Mothers once ranched human subjects like cattle, feeding on their souls, has arisen in secret. And her monstrous, murderous pawn, a soul-bound creature created of wood and grass and rock roams the land. A massive and mis-directed hunt for soul-eaters is launched and Talen finds himself a target.  Trapped in a web of lies and secrets, Talen must identify his true enemy before the new Mother takes back what is rightfully hers.

Cast in Shadow, by Michelle Sagara – After meeting Ms. Sagara at ConFusion in January,  I knew I needed to start her Elantra series, so when I saw this copy at the used bookstore, I grabbed it! Like, I didn’t want to let go of it long enough for the lady at the counter to ring it up!  It looks to be some nice and edgy urban fantasy thriller/mystery:

Seven years ago Kaylin fled the crime-riddled streets of Nightshade, knowingthat something was after her. Children were being murdered — and all had the same odd markings that mysteriously appeared on her own skin.…

Since then, she’s learned to read, she’s learned to fight and she’s become one of the vaunted Hawks who patrol and police the City of Elantra. Alongside the winged Aerians and the immortal Barrani, she’s made a place for herself, far from the mean streets of her birth.

But children are once again dying, and a dark and familiar pattern is emerging. Kaylin is ordered back into Nightshade with a partner she knows she can’t trust, a Dragon lord for a companion and a device to contain her powers — powers that no other human has. Her task is simple — find the killer, stop the murders…and survive the attentions of those who claim to be her allies!

Also:

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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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.