the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for May 2013

I haven’t posted in a while, because guess!  Guess where I got to go today!!!  These photos look like they were taken in a mermaid castle from a Tolkien book. Wait, what? Tolkien didn’t write about mermaids? bah!

One of my favorite scenes from the whole place!

One of my favorite scenes from the whole place!

Looks like a mermaid castle, right? a bit hard to tell which way is up.

Looks like a mermaid castle, right? a bit hard to tell which way is up.

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War for the OaksWar for the Oaks, by Emma Bull

published in 1987

where I got it: library

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I wish I’d read War For The Oaks years ago. I wish this had been the book that had introduced me to Urban Fantasy. People, this is what Urban Fantasy can be. This is what it should be. Lyrical and funny, shadowy and mysterious, War For The Oaks grabbed me on page one and never let go. I kept trying to read bits and pieces of it out-loud to my other half, who kept telling me to quit that, because he wanted to read it next.

The novel opens with last show of Eddi McCandry’s band. Her boyfriend Stuart is a mess, the band isn’t playing what the bar patrons want to hear, a both a band break-up and a romantic one follow in quick succession. Good thing on both fronts, or Eddi would never get the chance to start an even better band with her best friend Carla.

When a Phouka shows up in her life and announces he is her new bodyguard against the Unseelie, Eddi tells him to get lost and threatens to call the cops. She might be recently unemployed, but she’s not crazy. It’s funny, because we’ve all read urban fantasies, we’d all know a pooka or a Sidhe when we see one (or at least like to think we would), but Eddi doesn’t. She’s never read an urban fantasy novel before, and she doesn’t know how these stories go.

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Thanks to Dark Cargo for starting the TBR Topple campaign.  This is where you look at your teetering stack of books you’ve been meaning to read, and instead of buying more books (for therapeutic reasons, of course), you take a handful of books from your TBR pile, read the first chapter or two just to get a taste, and see which ones taste good enough to keep reading.  And the ones that don’t do it for ya? Get ’em outta the TBR and regret nothing!

Other great folks involved in TBR Topple include Lynn’s Book Blog  and Over the Effing Rainbow. Maybe we can all help each other out.

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Here’s what I got:

Some of the books mentioned below I’ve already cracked open to see what tasty morsels abide within, others I, umm…. haven’t. But I will!  I hope!

 

SAM_2715

From the library:

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull, recommended by My Bookish Ways, it’s magical realism/urban fantasy. Kinda Charles deLint-esque?

Mastering Communication at Work – yes, this is something I’m reading for work.  You know how must business books are drier than dust and make you want to die of boredom? This one isn’t. It’s readable, interesting, has a bunch of exercises to do. I’ve read the first 2 chapters and flipped through the rest. I wish I’d read this 10 years ago.  A bit heavy to read all in one go, but I may need to buy a copy of this.

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The other day I posed a random question on twitter, aimed towards book bloggers. it was:

how much time does “content creation” for your blog take? how many hours per week?

Responses ranged from “4-5 hours per week”, to “up to 8 hours per week”, to “it varies”.   But if you are a book reviewer, you’ve got to read the darn book before you can review it, right? so maybe 8-10 hours to read the book, and then 2-3 hours working on a review?

It takes me at least a few days to read the book, sometimes I’m lucky enough that the review practically writes itself in an hour, other times I agonize over a review for days.  So for me, let’s call it 8-20 hours per week. sometimes the book is a fast read, sometimes it takes forever, sometimes I even get two reviews done in a week!  twenty hours a week? Labor of love indeed.

So, to everyone else, on twitter and not, all kinds of bloggers – food/recipe bloggers, webcomic bloggers, TV/movie/anime bloggers, photo bloggers, parenting bloggers, people who  blog about their lives and adventures, people who blog about anything and everything, it’s your turn, and I do honestly want to know.

how much time do you spend, per week, creating content for your blog?

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129131The State of the Art (short story collection) by Iain M. Banks

published in 2007

where I got it: gift from a friend

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Iain Banks’ Culture novels were love at first page for me. I didn’t mind being thrown far into the deep end, I was amused by the silly names and dry humor, I adored the drones and the Minds. Succinctly, I love me some Culture books.

But. . . . they are long, and tough to get into, and being tossed in the deep end isn’t for everyone. The State of The Art isn’t entirely Culture short stories, but it’s enough to give someone an easily survivable introduction to The Culture universe and Banks’ writing style. Even better, there’s an entire chapter A Few Notes On The Culture, which is quite a bit more than a few and gives even more indepth info, including what someone can expect if they live in The Culture (and where they’ll live), body modifications, life span, interactions with other civilizations, why everyone has such a long name, and the reason why most Culture novels take place on the edge of their sphere of influence. In fact, I wish I’d read that portion first, even though it’s at the end of the book.  Also, Banks insists on making it very clear that The Culture is completely fictional.  Pretty telling that this is the 2nd scifi book in a row where the author felt the need to do that.

Short enough to be read in a  few sittings, the first story, Road of Skulls, serves as a wry introduction and so should be read first, but other than that you can bounce around and read the rest in any order you please.

here are my thoughts on some of the entries:

The State of the Art – Featuring one of my favorite Culture characters, Diziet Sma, The Culture discovers Earth, circa 1978, and they are trying to decide if they should make contact with us or not. Along with other Culture people who can blend in and look human, Sma and her counterpart Linter are sent to Earth for one year to observe us. Linter goes missing and Sma is sent after him. Has he gone native? Did he fall in love with an Earthling and doesn’t want to leave? What could possibly make an Earth life more attractive to Linter than living in The Culture, where everyone has everything they could possibly want?

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We have a very special guest today, someone I’ve actually met in person!  John and I met a few years ago at an airport when flights were delayed (cancelled? changed? I don’t remember) and a herd of passengers ran together to a different gate and then sat around chatting while waiting for whatever people wait for after rushing all the way across an airport terminal.   Just goes to show, you should always be friendly to your fellow passengers at an airport. You never know who you’ll meet!

John Meirau

John is a writer, podcaster, editor and all around Creative Storyteller Guy.  Working the bridge the gap between indie authors and authors who publish traditionally, his WALK THE FIRE anthologies are part of the new paradigm of how authors reach their audience.  The second anthology in the series is in the middle of it’s Kickstarter campaign, and features everything from Hugo nominated authors to indie authors, to music and artwork too.

Check out the WALK THE FIRE Kickstarter page for a video about the anthology, info on contributors, how to get yourself tuckerized, stretch goals and more.

Check out John’s blog for a series of interviews with some of the contributors, and a series of podcasts featuring free fiction from the first WALK THE FIRE anthology.

Sounds damn awesome, if you ask me.  But why are we asking me, when we can ask John instead?

Hi John,  welcome to the blog! Can you tell us a little about yourself? What kind of fiction do you write?
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I write mostly science fiction, occasionally fantasy, weird western, horror, sometimes with an adventure or thriller slant and always with a focus on character.
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Are there any specific books or authors that inspired you to start writing speculative fiction?
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Spider Robinson was a writer I absorbed far younger than I probably should have, during trips across the country when my military family relocated. He was the first author I can remember studying for how he constructed things. 
 
Spider’s humor and his atmospheric settings drew me in, but his skill at constructing stories and his compassionate messages are what kept me reading.
 
Bradbury I also loved, for very similar reasons.
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I’m new to shared world anthologies. Give me the run down on WALK THE FIRE. What kind of world is it? What kind of stories can I expect to read?
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WALK THE FIRE takes place in a reality where a very, very few humans called Ferrymen walk through special fires and appear anywhere else a flame from that fire has been transported the normal way. When they walk through, they revert in age and appearance to what they were the first time the ‘crossed’. 

CallahansCallahan’s Crosstime Saloon, by Spider Robinson

published in 1977

where I got it: purchased used

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I suppose Spider Robinson wasn’t the first guy who started writing because he passionately hated his day job. Not the first, and certainly not the last. But when was the last time I ran into scifi that was so casually inviting?  Reading this short story collection felt more like chatting with a friend over a beer than reading a book.  I finished it in two sittings, which means Jake Stonebender and I will need to have another chat (beer for me, he’ll have a whiskey) soon. Had I know how good it was going to be, I’d have savored it, only allowing myself one story an evening, instead of seemingly rushing through it.

How to describe Callahan’s Saloon? Drinks are cheap, toasts are required,  references to classic science fiction is appreciated, puns are a dime a dozen, and there’s always a story to be told and a laugh to be had, often at the same time, especially if it isn’t a funny story. The bar doesn’t advertise, only accepts cash, and if you need to be there you’ll find yourself at the front door and welcomed in. Anything, and I do mean anything, can happen at Callahan’s.

The stories in this collection are told through Jake Stonebender, a regular patron of Callahan’s who found himself there after blaming himself for the car accident that killed his wife and child.  We’re quickly introduced to the owner of the bar, Mike Callahan, and a few other regulars, including piano playing Fast Eddie, and the incorrigible punster Doc Webster. Each story introduces another character who will be referenced later, so it’s a good idea to read them in the presented order.

Some evenings momentous things happen at Callahan’s, such as when an alien walked in with regret at his mission to destroy the earth, and Mike Callahan ended up offering him a job as a bartender. Other evenings it’s simply the weekly punning contest, which I guarantee will have you laughing out loud, or at least groaning at some truly awful wordplays (and then using them on your friends later!).

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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.