the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for December 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s that time. If you’ve been paying attention, nothing on this list will be a surprise to you.  If you happened to stumble by because you like “year end” lists,  these are my top ten speculative fiction books I read this year.  Looking for a good read? go find one of these.

Some of them are old.

Some of them are new.

Some of them were borrowed.

None of them are blue.

😉

I’ve linked the titles to my reviews.  In no particular order:

Sky Coyote by Kage Baker (1999) – the second in The Company series, this novel is told from Joseph’s point of view (and yes, Mendoza is still really, really pissed off at him). Joseph gets to do one of his favorite things – pretend to be a God. But this time, he’s got to get even the skeptics to believe his act.

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch (2013) – No surprise this one made it to my best of the year list, as this is one of my favorite fantasy series.  It’s true, I ranted a little about a character who really annoyed me, but holy shit, that ending??  holy shit!  Also, I do just happen to have a Cinnamon colored dress/jacket combo and a four cornered grey hat in the making.

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White (2013 )- Secret societies, multiple personalities, sublime prose, metaphysics, unexpected romance, characters that rip each other to shreds.  What more could you possibly want? I got meddled with, my switches got hit, and I never wanted it to end.  Just go read it already. Everything about this book was spot-on perfection for me.

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks (1990) – only the best Culture novel of the best space opera series in existence.  Not the easiest book in the world to read, but the subtlety, and the reveal at the end, and oh god I knew something was so horribly wrong as soon as he said he was going to cut his hair. . .

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Contact, by Carl Sagan

published in 1985

where I got it: paperback swap

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Don’t know who Carl Sagan is?   the horror!  Get thee to his wikipedia page, pronto! And then put Cosmos (the original. not the new ones they made off the old soundtrack) on your Netflix.

Contact was written in the 1980’s, and the only thing that made it feel dated was that cell phones and e-mail never show up.  Ellie has to drag a telefax machine around with her when she travels.  It’s all late 80s technology. And yet. We went to the moon on the computing power of a Commodore64, which means I can completely believe that all that’s needed to translate an alien message is a radio telescope, a sliderule, and a fax machine.  Time waits for no one, and aliens don’t wait for the invention of the i-pad.

Eleanor Arroway always loved radios. She took them apart as a child, and as an adult became one of the only female radio telescope directors. Obsessed with SETI (The Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence), Director Arroway was able to ensure her “farfetched” sky scanning projects got the majority of the telescope time.  This is of course, a novel about first contact, so it’s not a spoiler to tell you that an alien message is received.

The message comes from Vega, and at first all we hear is a pattern of prime numbers.   There’s got to be more to it than someone shouting prime numbers, right? Of course there is.

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admit it.  how many of you have shaken, peeked into, or generally cheated by opening your Christmas gifts early?   you’re not kidding anyone, we can all see the re-taping marks on the gifts under the tree and we can see where you stuffed the tissue paper back into the gift back. 😉

discovering a “new to you” author is always a gift to yourself, and you don’t have to wait till Christmas or your birthday to enjoy it.   Doesn’t matter if your friends have been reading that guy for years, or if she passed away before you were born.  They don’t have to be a debut author to be new to you.

What is your favorite “new to you” author that you discovered in 2013?

Some of my “new to me!” authors I discovered in 2013 include N.K. Jemisin,  Ian Tregillis,  Emma Bull (yes, I know),  Gillian Philip and Melanie Rawn.

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Well my friends, this is it.  We’ve come to the end of our read along for The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.  Make sure to watch Dab of Darkness for announcements about a continuing read along in N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy.

Will someone please make a time machine for me, so I can go back to 2010 and read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms back when it first came out? Calling this book amazing just doesn’t cut it, because it’s also innovative, ground breaking, gorgeously written,  and I could talk for hours and hours about the characters.  Ehh, maybe I should actually write a formal review?  But before that, I better get to this week’s questions, which were provided by Lauren from Violin in a Void.  Head over to her site to see what everyone else said.

btw, let it be known: I’m an idiot. Because many of us had finished the book early, Lauren so kindly sent out questions early so we could write up our responses while it was fresh in our minds.  Was it fresh in my mind when I got her e-mail? you bet!  is it still fresh in my mind 5 days later? not so much. Lauren = brilliant, me = idiot.

Questions, answers, and buckets and buckets of spoilers (and me rambling) is after the jump!

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In the theme of super chilled out discussions for the rest of the year, here’s an easy one:

What book releases are you most looking forward to in 2014?

and because I love to tease you, here are some links to what’s coming soon!

Coming soon from Angry Robot.

Orbit Books fall2013/Winter2014 cover image gallery

Coming soon from Pyr Books

Coming soon from Tor

A very extensive Forthcoming Books list from Locus

have more links to other publisher’s coming soon lists?  Link up in the comments and I’ll add to the list up here.

I love this idea of book blind dates.  You don’t know the title, don’t know the author, can’t see what the cover looks like. You just get a little bit of information, like if it’s a fantasy, or a memoir, or alternate history, or a thriller.  No strings attached, no commitment, but it’s a neat way to try something that you might not have picked up otherwise.

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Today’s totally chillaxed year end discussion question is:

What words or phrases written on the outside of a book blind date would make you pick it up?

I think mine would include:

adventure

fun dialog

plot twists and turns

non-human characters

Wow, where did the beginning of December go?  Christmas is right around the corner, and then January. . .  and then, well, January is sort of the start of some explosions for me.  So in preparation for that, I won’t be doing much in the way of formal book reviews and expected blog posts for the rest of the year.  Sure, I’ve got another read along post (N.K. Jemisin is holy shit AMAZING btw), a “best of the year” post, and one more book review in the works, but I’m taking the rest of December easy.   Taking a breather to mentally prepare for January.

That said, let’s just have some fun discussions.   I’ll shamelessly steal discussion questions from i09,  Sunday Salon posts, and discussion memes, and we can just sit around and chat in the comments.

First random discussion question:

What’s your guilty pleasure in books?

this was on my mind recently, because I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that super hot sex scenes is a major guilty pleasure of mine.  No thanks to reading The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which for not having a ton of actual sex, has a ton of insanely steamy scenes.

I also have a major weakness for snarky, swear word filled dialog.  But that’s not so much a guilty pleasure, as I can find it just about anywhere.

 

Your turn!  Take it over in the comments!

Hi Everyone,  we’re up to week three  of our Hundred Thousand Kingdoms read along!  The book hit incredible around page ten, so I bet everyone had as tough a time as I did stopping at the end of this week’s section.   I’m our host this week, so leave your link in the comments, and everyone can hop around and read everyone’s answers.

What everyone else said:

Violin in a Void

All I Am, A Redhead

Books Without Any Pictures

On Starships and Dragonwings

Dab of Darkness

(I will add more as I find them)

Here’s this week’s discussion questions. . .   spoilers abound!

1. T’vril takes Yeine to the servant’s party. What did you think of that party, and of Sieh’s part in it?

Well, we find out a little later how the high nobles amuse themselves, so I’m happy T’vril took her to a more fun type of party. And what a great magic trick by Sieh! It’s sobering that Sieh’s attitude is “we’re all slaves”, but it was neat to see him in a different physical body. I’d like to get more of Sieh’s point of view, he seems so confused by Yeine, he has to constantly remind himself that she’s not Enefa. I think this is the first time Yeine has seen him in anything but his child’s body? I wish Yeine had been able to have more fun at the party.

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2. Yeine presents herself as such a nice, compassionate person. Did your feelings about her change after the meeting she and Nahadoth had with Gemd? Read the rest of this entry »

sidekicksSidekicks!  edited by Sarah Hans

published in March 2013

Where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Alliteration Ink!)

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This anthology is about yup, you guessed it, Sidekicks. And every hero needs a sidekick, right?  Someone who will support them no matter what, help them be the hero of our own story?  Even if you’re not a hero, we all need someone like that in our life.  I was expecting this anthology to be all stories starring super heroes having superhero adventures, cape and utility belt included. I was expecting the collection to be good, but not great, to speak to an audience of Batman and Superman and Thor fans that I just wasn’t a part of.  Hey, guess what? Batman, Superman, Thor, all those heroes that I’m not all that interested in? This anthology isn’t interested in them either. For once, they aren’t in the spotlight.  Sidekicks! wasn’t merely good or even great, it was flippin’ fantastic.

I’m not so interested in superheroes doing superthings and getting superattention, but people who’d rather save the day from behind the scenes? Yeah, that I can totally get into. Most of them are about people doing the right thing (or believing they are doing the right thing), and getting too little credit for it.  Not sure who the sidekick is in the story? It’s the person who is most selfless, the person least interested in the limelight. . . most of the time.    Many of the stories are packed with emotion and depth, others are filled with fear and denial.  In some the characters aren’t sure if they are on the good side or the bad side.  You may not recognize many of the authors in the table of contents, but I guarantee this is a collection you’ll be thinking about for a while.

Enough with the intro, let’s get to talking about just a few of my favorite stories!

Hunter and Bagger, by Alex Bledsoe – This quickie opens with Ellen, who is tied to a chair in a shed.  She realizes she’s been kidnapped by the infamous Headhunter, the serial killer who cuts women’s heads off.  But it turns out The Headhunter isn’t one man, but two.  The two men demand that the woman tell them which one of them is the villain, and which one is the sidekick. Is this a trick question? Does she get to live if she answers right?  But how to tell, since the two men seem more interested in bickering with each other than acting heroic or in this case very villainous?  If she’s going to get out of there, she’s going to have to think fast. And thinking fast is exactly what she does. These have got to be the dumbest, thickest idiot serial killers ever, and Ellen would be laughing her head off, if she wasn’t in her underwear, tied to a chair, in a shed with two lunatics.
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Hi Everyone! We’re getting into the nitty gritty of the holy-shit-WHAT that’s happening in N.K. Jeminin’s incredible The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. This week’s discussion questions were provided by Anya of On Starships and Dragonwings. Head over to her blog to link around to everyone who is participating!

As you’re reading this, I’m enroute to a work thing involving layovers in snowy cities, hotel bars, training sessions, and really long meetings. Internet access and free time will be severely limited, so I’ll catch up with everyone on Thursday morning. Apologies in advance if your comment gets stuck in moderation.

We’re in the spoilerific sections of the book already, so I’ve blotted out the spoilery bits before the jump. and then I just was having way too much fun blotting stuff out. 😉

1) We’ve started to learn about a side of Yeine’s mother that Yeine can barely believe existed. No one in this story seems all that capable of telling the objective truth, however, so who do you think Kinneth really was? A devoted mother? A traitorous schemer? Evil and cruel?

2) Wow major plot reveal Batman! Finding out about Yeine’s second soul was not something I saw coming at all. Did you suspect? Have any other theories? What do you think of this major plot development? What do you think Yeine should do?

3) We’ve gotten to know a lot more about Darr in this section and their traditions have both good and bad sides it seems to me. What do you think of their coming-of-age ritual for the women? What about women soldiers and men being left to protect the children? Any other traditions that struck you?

4) The Walking Death played a pretty big role in the past given none of this would have happened if Yeine’s father hadn’t gotten sick. There was discussion in the previous section about how the Death only infects commoners and those of high-birth aren’t affected. What do you think the Death really is? Any theories on why it infects only certain people?

5) Finally, we’ve learned a lot more about our enslaved gods between getting to know Nahadoth better, finding out what is up with Sieh, and seeing a rather bitter side of Kurue. What do you think of all these revelations? Has your favorite god changed?

Ready for some spoilers?  LET’S DO IT.

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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.