the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for February 2014

emperor of thorns 2Emperor of Thorns by Mark Lawrence (book 3 of the Broken Empire Trilogy)

published August 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher

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It’s no secret I was a huge fan of the first book.  Prince of Thorns was unlike anything I’d ever come across before. It was everything I was looking for in the departments of grimdark and horrible things happening to people. For a short time that book  polarized the fantasy fan community, with people either really loving it, or really hating it. Lawrence took risks that other authors simply would not take, and you’ve got to applaud him for that.

 

A year later, I kept finding reasons not to pick up King of Thorns. The first book in the series was so good, how could the second one possibly live up to my expectations? Long story short is I was lukewarm on King of Thorns.  I had a tough time wrapping my head around the disparate plot lines, and found the dream transitions to be confusing and awkward, but I enjoyed Katherine’s scenes and was moved by the loss of Gog. The dog scene? Didn’t hold a candle to what I went through losing Gog. Yes, I’m heartless, we’ve already established that,   I’m the kind of person who likes this kind of thing, remember?

 

A year later, I was again avoiding reading Emperor of Thorns. Which was it going to be? Mindblowing like Prince? Or middling like King? Or something else entirely?

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no book reviews or interviews ready.

So you get photos instead.  Here be book pr0n.

Broken Kingdoms Jemisinoh hell yeah! As a tease I had it sitting on my desk at work.  SO wanted to start reading it, but had to, like, work.  The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is the  only Jemisin I’ve read so far, and thanks to that book I will forever buy anything with her name on it.

Defenders McIntoshWill McIntosh has a new book coming out soon in May from Orbit!  Creative cover design of Love Minus Eighty and the unusual binding of this ARC leads me to wonder what incredible cover design is in store for the finished copy of Defenders?  And speaking of Defenders, I also have

asimovs april may 2014Which features McIntosh’s short story Scout, which is connected to Defenders. Also? I fucking love Robert Reed. I have an e-arc of The Memory of Sky which I can’t wait to start reading! And by the way, Scout made me cry at the end.

Hollow World sullivan

I’ve never read any Michael Sullivan, what does every one think of him writing scifi? This baby comes out from Tachyon in April.

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00012]

This interview is part of the Book of Apex Blog tour.  Want to win a copy of the book for yourself? Click here for some give aways!

What a great experience to get to interview Tim Susman, author of Erzulie Dantor (read the story here, read my review here).  I knew that Tim was involved with small press publishing, but until now I had no idea it was his press that published Ursula Vernon’s Hugo Award winning Digger!  How cool is that?  You can learn more about Tim at his website, but before you click on that, let’s do the interview, ok?

TimSusman

LRR: Your story “Erzulie Dantor” takes place in a disaster ravaged Haiti. Can you tell us what inspired this story?

T.S.: My sister-in-law organized a relief effort from the hospital in Denver where she worked and went with them to Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake. We followed the pictures and stories she sent back, which painted a vivid picture of the devastation and desperation there. That was in the back of my mind when I was researching werewolves of different cultures and found the Haitian je-rouge. It was a mysterious creature in legend and also on the Internet; I could find very little about it. So it occurred to me that where there is disaster and tragedy, there are also people willing to take advantage of the disorientation of others. From there, a story about jealousy and voodoo took place, and when I found Erzulie Dantor in the pantheon of Haitian gods, I had the last piece of the story.

LRR: What is your favorite type of fiction to write? Are there certain ideas or themes you enjoy writing about?

T.S.: I have in the past couple years written science fiction, fantasy, contemporary fiction, mystery, and horror…but if you pin me down to one, I like writing contemporary fantasy. A lot of my longer fiction is written with anthropomorphic animal characters (“furry” stories, about which more below); no matter what the setting, it’s always the characters that push me to finish stories. My works often involve questions of self-discovery or self-actualization, especially in the areas of sexuality or creative inspiration. I don’t like “message” stories, but I think that the best works do contain something that the reader can take away to make his or her life better, and that’s something I try to include in all my work.
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You’ve been seeing this banner all over the place, yeah?

 

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00012]

 

This is 300 and some pages of unexpected short fiction.  Stories that transport you, that surprise you, that burrow behind your eyes and make a home for themselves in the recesses of you mind.

Because I know you’d love to have this beautiful book on your bedside table or snuggled into your e-reader, we’ve got some bloggers doing give aways as part of the tour. Act fast, and win yourself a brilliant collection!

Dab of Darkness is giving away an e-book (international) ends at midnight on Feb 22

Fantasy Review Barn also has an e-book up for grabs (international), ends on Feb 25

My Shelf Confessions has a print copy up for grabs (sorry, US only), you’ve got about another week to enter.

 

So what are you waiting for?  Go get yourself some unforgettable short fiction!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00012]

As the Book of Apex Book 4 tour continues, I find myself interacting with more and more of the authors, be it on twitter, or reading their guest posts and interview on other blogs, or interviewing them here.  I’ll let you in on a little secret about how I come up with interview questions: I check out the author’s website. I read their recent blog posts, I look at different projects they are involved in, I wanna know what their deal is.  After a quick glance through Cecil Castellucci’s website, I e-mailed a friend of mine and said “have you looked at her website? this woman is awesome!”.  The more I looked at Cecil’s site and everything she’s involved with, the more often I found myself picking my jaw up off the floor. This woman is involved with everything, she does everything, she’s passionate about literature and storytelling and youth literacy programs. She does everything.  It’s inspirational, is what it is.

Wanna know more about Cecil Castellucci? Of course you do!  let’s get to the interview!

cecil-castellucci-author-2013

LRR:  I’m not usually a fan of zombie stories, but I really enjoyed your Apex story, “Always The Same. Until It Is Not”.  Did I interpret it right? Is the guy a zombie? And what inspired this story?

 C.C. Yes!  You got it right.  He is a zombie.  To be honest, I’m a little freaked out by zombies.  They really are creepy.  Writing this story was a way for me to try to confront my fear of zombies.  I tried to think of it as a way to own my fear.  The idea came after I’d talked with an acquaintance who writes for The Walking Dead.  I swore I’d never watch the show.  Then she sort of challenged me on that because she knows I like a good story.  I started thinking about how it’s always an infection that takes over like wildfire and then descends the world into a nightmare.  I thought, what if I switch what “infection” and “descent” means?  So in this story the infection is humanity and the descent is the rise of it.  It’s sort of the after of the after.

LRR: I’m also a huge fan of your short story “We Have Always Lived on Mars” (Tor.com May 2013). What inspired this story, and without spoiling the ending, can you tell us how you hit on that twist?

 

CC: Oh, I’m so glad that you like that story! I think it’s safe to say that Mars has always been a place where we humans have longed to settle.  It’s close enough to us that we could actually go there, but far away enough that if something happened there or here it’d be hard to get to or get off of.  Right now, there is a lot of Mars love and attention with things like that Mars One and us landing Curiousity on Mars and the Mock Mars missions that they have on Earth in Antarctica, Northern Canada and Utah.  It was a combination of these things that inspired the story.  I wondered what it would be like to be a girl born on Mars who had been cut off from Earth, living in a colony that had no room to grow because it had no supplies with which to expand.  I can’t say more than that or I’ll spoil it!

tin star cover

LRR: Congratulations on your soon to be released Tin Star! What’s the quick elevator pitch for  Tin Star?

 

CC: Tin Star is the story of a girl named Tula Bane, a colonist from Earth who gets abandoned on an alien space station by the charismatic cult leader of her ship at the brink of a Galactic war.  She’s the only human there and human’s are not well liked.

LRR: You’re incredibly active in your local community, hosting teen writing workshops at the library, being continually active in the local arts scene, even reading at local elementary schools.  Can you tell us a little about your passion for the local arts scene and especially  youth fiction and reading?

wrinkle in time

CC: Yes it is true that I am super active in the LA literary scene.  I am very passionate about reading and literacy because I love stories and I really believe that books and stories allow us to see past the boundaries of our day to day life.  It allows us to dream and stretch and grow and travel and see possibilities for different ways of living.  That is especially important when you are in low economic circumstances.  I work at a Title One elementary school doing read aloud to first and second graders.  I’ve been doing it for 12 years now, working with the same two teachers and it is one of the best things I’ve ever done.  I read books, this year it’s The Tale of Desperaux by Kate DiCamillo to the first graders and A Wrinkle in Time with the second graders.  We take forever reading the book because I stop and talk about every little detail and we use the book to talk about how stories are told, style, history, science, everything!  As for the LAPL Teen Author Reading series that I run, there is one in NY and I know a lot of authors here, so I work with Mary McCoy at LAPL and we coordinate the series together.  I thought LA needed one!  Also, I co edit the LA Review of Books YA / Children’s section.  Mostly we run essays and thought pieces about young people’s literature.  I do these things because I am passionate about young people’s literature and these are ways that I can get our field to be sitting at the big kids table in the larger literary world.  Also, because I think that we fall in love with reading when we are young and that is when we become life long readers.

LRR: You manage the fascinating “Letters for Kids”, where kids get a letter in the mail from an author. What a fantastic idea! What other authors are involved in this, and what’s the most creative letter that has been sent?

 

CC: It is a great idea!  Stephen Elliot who runs the Rumpus asked me to coordinate the Rumpus Letters for Kids, after the wildly succesful Letters in the Mail for adults.  It’s kind of a perfect thing, because I think our sweet spot is about 6 -10 and that’s a perfect age to be getting letters in the mail.  By they way, you don’t have to be a kid to subscribe, anyone can subscribe! Even classrooms!  You get a letter from middle grade author twice a month.  It’s great fun!  Some of the authors who have written letters are Rebecca Stead, Susan Patron, Natalie Standiford, Lisa Yee, Janet Tashijian, Arthur Slade, Bobbledy Books.  They are so good!  I have a few favorites, but of course, it’s hard because they are all so different!  But Adam Rex did an original comic story. (you can see it here http://therumpus.net/2012/12/letters-for-kids/ )  Sherri L Smith wrote an original short story and this guy Nolan O’Brien did an amazing thing with circles.  It’s truly a brilliant thing, and I would have totally subscribed to Letters for Kids when I was young.

plain janes

LRR: Your graphic novel Plain Janes was a kick-off publication for the  D.C. Comics Minx imprint. The imprint didn’t last, but Plain Janes did very well. Would you consider doing graphic novels again? 

year of the beasts

CC: Of course!  And I still have!  For the record, Vertigo reprinted The Plain Janes, so it’s still available.  And you can still get the sequel Janes in Love.  I have actually written many other comics!  I did a hybrid novel called The Year of the Beasts with Nate Powell.  It’s alternating chapters of prose and graphic novel.  I also had a ghost story in Vertigo’s ghost anthology, a comet story in the SPACE anthology over at IDW, an Aquaman/ Mera love story in the Young Romance issue #1, I wrote Green Lantern: The Animated Series issue #11 and most recently I had a comic book for little kids called Odd Duck illustrated by Sara Varon on First Second.  Upcoming in early 2015 I have a graphic novel called Pearl in the Rough illustrated by Joe Infurnari out on Dark Horse.  It’s about a girl who rides the rails in 1932 with an old hobo.  So I’d say that at this point I consider myself a YA author and a comic book writer!

odd duck

well, that’s what I get for not researching Cecil enough on her website. Otherwise I would have known about Odd Duck, Year of the Beasts, and her other graphic novels.  Don’t make the same mistake I did!  Learn more about Cecil on her website, or by following her on twitter.

big red buckleThe Big Red Buckle, by Matthew Alan Thyer

published December 2013

where I got it: received copy from the author

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A 1500 kilometer race the dangers of Mars. Failure means injury, embarrassment, and possibly death.

You had me at “Mars”.  but racing? sports? Wait,  what?

okay, let’s start at the beginning.

The Grand Martian Traverse is a 1500 km race, pushing competitors to their physical and mental limits.  Much of the race is run, but the huge cliffs, canyons and craters on Mars allow for unprecedented thermal air currents, encouraging competitors to leap off cliffs and glide on foldable hang-gliders as far as possible. For long distance and endurance runners, this is what they’ve been preparing for their entire life.  Martian colonists, Terrans, spectators, sponsors and the media flock to the event to see history being made.  Besides accolades and sponsorship awards, the winner receives the Big Red Buckle.

What all that really means is that wealthy competitors have the best equipment and huge entourage  support teams, and regular folks like you and me would typically have used equipment and are forced rely on our families and friends to be our support teams.  Terrans also have an unfair advantage, that of living in higher gravity.  Running and leaping in lower gravity is easy for the Terrans.  But only a Martian colonist would know the secrets of the Red Planet.

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000040_00012]

As part of the Book of Apex Vol 4 blog tour, I feel very lucky to be able to interview Alethea Kontis.  An award winning author, she describes herself as among other things, a princess and a force of nature.  Alethea was kind enough to answer a few of my questions, and give me more information on her short story “Blood From Stone”,  her current projects, adventures on YouTube, and how she stays sane.

Let’s get to the interview!

alethea kontis 1

LRR:  Your story, “Blood from Stone,” is a dark fantasy about a woman who seduces the man she loves and they succeed with their alchemical magic. What inspired this story?

A.K: “Blood from Stone” is based on the Grimm Brothers’ “Fitcher’s Bird” (some are more familiar with Perrault’s “Bluebeard”). “Fitcher’s Bird” is the tale of Fitcher’s last three wives, all sisters, the last of whom ultimately reveals his true nature (because she heeds the warning of a noisy bird) and leads the townspeople to murder him at his wedding. But what about Fitcher’s first wife? What kind of woman twisted this man into such a serial killer? Had he always been a sociopath? And if so, what sort of woman would have fallen in love with him in the first place?

Few have tried their hand at telling this part of Fitcher’s tale, and I am honored to be one of them. To prepare for this story, I researched the real-life historical figure that Perrault’s Bluebeard was based on: Gilles de Rais. Gilles de Rais was a baron who fought beside Joan of Arc, but he went on to squander his fortune until his family was forced to place him under something similar to house arrest.

His get-rich-quick schemes then turned to summoning demons, with the help of an Italian magician called Prelati, dark magicks that involved the sacrifice of countless children, whose bodies they subsequently burned in the fireplace (which is why no exact number is known). Once an author hears a history like that, how does she not write it?

I encourage readers who enjoyed “Blood from Stone” to explore further into the real life of Gilles de Rais.

LRR:  I found “Blood from Stone” to be dark and very adult. But you also write a lot of children’s and YA fiction. Is writing for different ages a different mindset? What’s the trick to being able to write kid’s stuff one day, and very adult fiction the next day?

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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.