the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for December 2014

I’ve done my favorite books of the year.

I’ve announced Vintage SciFi Month.  See the bottom of this post for an important message*. (I’ve even started reading ahead of time for Vintage Month! never done that before!)

not much else to do but publish some boring statistics of my blogging year.

I reviewed 91 books. about 10 of those reviews were over at SFSignal.

I conducted around 40 interviews, here, at Apex Magazine, and also at SFSignal.

I got to attend some really fun conventions: ConFusion, AnimeMidwest, Context, and Grand Rapids ComicCon.

I learned how to use Netgalley. I am *not* an early adopter, so this was a huge deal for me. Files magically showing up on the kindle is sorcery, i tell you!

Including book (and a few movie, manga and tv show) reviews and a few commentary columns about geeky stuff, I wrote approximately 104,000 words.  That’s slightly more words than Ender’s Game, and slightly fewer words than Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. nice.

The happiest of Happy New Years to everyone, and a huge thank you for goofing off with me on twitter, commenting on my posts, telling me about your favorite books and authors,  and putting up with me when I  simply would not shut up books I was excited about and geeky events I attended.

I’ll see everyone in January! when it’s time to turn back the clock!

Happy-New-Year

 

* regarding Vintage SciFi Month radio silence: I am a jerk and didn’t e-mail back a lot of people who voiced interest in writing guest posts. I still would love to have you write something. Can be anything scifi-ish or fantasy-ish that is from 1979 or earlier: books, author bios, tv shows,  movies, book cover art galleries, radio shows,  award winners, geeky events, a short list of suggested books and/or short stories, etc. Send your guest post to me at redhead5318 at the gmail place. comment below or tweet me if you have questions.

 

 

I trolled the interwebs for a few hours to bring some other folks’ Best (science fiction & fantasy) Books of the Year lists.  Do your part to explode everyone else’s wish lists, and toss a link to your Best Of list in the comments!

libriomancer bigPaul Weimer‘s best of year list includes The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley, Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie and War Stories edited by Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak.

Fantasy Findings best of the year included Sword of the Bright Lady by M.C. Planck, Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

Beauty In Ruins didn’t give out many 5 star reviews this year, here are a few of the titles that made his 5 star list: The Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley, Deadlock by Tim Curran, and The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley.

The Book Plank‘s short list of best scifi of 2014 includes Binary by Stephanie Saulter and The Causal Angel by Hannu Rajaniemi among others

Books, Bones and Buffy‘s list of top ten adult books had a lot in common with my top 10 list, and included Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, and Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone. Her Top Ten YA books list included The Falconer by Elizabeth May, Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge, and Shadowplay by Laura Lam.

Best Fantasy Books has an extensive list of this years fantasy favorites, including Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson, Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence, and Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb.

Eric Smith‘s favorites of the year included Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, Blightborn by Chuck Wendig, and and Burn Out by Kristi Helvig.

city_of_stairs-cover1Nerds of a Feather guest posted their favorites, and waxed rhapsodic about City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, The Eternal Sky trilogy by Elizabeth Bear, and A Darkling Sea by James Cambias.

Eamo the Geek‘s best of year list includes Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes, Fluency by Jennifer Foehner Wells, and Sand by Hugh Howey.

Geek Critiqued‘s best of the year list includes The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss, Lock In by John Scalzi, and The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison.

and I suppose this Best Science Fiction and Fantasy list over at Kirkus is the definitive one? Includes Steles of the Sky by Elizabeth Bear, Afterparty by Daryl Gregory, and Defenders by Will McIntosh.

My husband reads a lot of manga, and lately he’s really been talking up A Bride’s Story by Kaoru Mori. I kept bugging him to write me a guest post about it, but he wasn’t sure what to say or how to say it.  To help him out, I gave him some guided questions to get the conversation and the review going. (and don’t tell anyone, but this is an exercise I do with myself any time I’m stuck on how to review something!)

BRIDE story volume _1

Andrea: What is the plot of A Bride’s Story?

Michael: A Bride’s Story is a manga about the lives and marriages of several women along the Silk Road in the late 19th century. Amir Halgal is the first ‘bride’ and is interesting as she comes from a semi-nomadic clan but marries into a settled clan living in a relatively modern town.

bride's story vol 2

Andrea: How did A Bride’s Story come to your attention? What made you interested in reading this?

Michael: A Bride’s Story was recommended by a reviewer I follow. I am a historian so anything about a past time and in an unusual place will catch my attention. I had heard of Kaoru Mori’s earlier manga Emma so I new the author was interested in detailed, accurate historical fiction.

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back to the confusion

ConFusion is a science fiction/fantasy convention held in Detroit every January. This year’s special guests include Karen Lord, Ted Chiang, Joe Abercrombie, and Steven Erickson.  Something I love about ConFusion is the huge variety of science, writing and literary panels: everything from building languages for your fantasy world, to optimistic far future science fiction, to romance in fantasy and scifi,  to writing good fight scenes, to demos for swordplay, to cosplay photography, to building colonies on Mars, to fun with liquid nitrogen, to remote control Daleks, to well, you get the picture. It’s one of those Cons where there are ten activities every day you want to go to, and three of them are happening at the same time, and in the end, exhausted, you end up at the bar having a drink with some author or other.  Learn more about ConFusion at their website, and at their Facebook page.

 

Five panels I am guaranteed to be at, because I’m a panelist. Here’s my panel schedule:

 

Saturday 6pm: What Should I Read Next?
Suggestions of what to read next, based on what you just read and loved

Saturday 7pm: Writers as Fans, Fans as Critics, Critics as Writers and Fans
Reviews are not for authors, they’re for fans. But many authors are engaged, critical fans. How can authors engage with fans without creating a chilling effect on criticism?

Saturday 9pm: Is Paradox Really So Bad?
So there you are, back in 2015, and you almost run right into yourself! But really, who cares? Is the universe really going to end? Or will you just walk away saying “Well, that was the most screwed up thing I’m going to see today?” How bad would time travel paradox be, really?

Sunday 12pm: Book Reviewing 101
Starting and running your book review blog, how to get ARCs, and more.

Sunday 2pm: Wait, There’s More to Comics than Superheroes?
Superheroes remain popular comic book characters — but comics can be any subject matter or genre. What are your favorite comics with unusual themes and characters?

 

wow, that’s gonna be a busy Saturday evening!   and an exciting Sunday!

the unscheduled event I’m planning to be at is  Saturday 10pm: the bar. Someone save me a seat.

 

Will you be at Confusion? Let me know, so we can try to meet up!

Are you on a panel with me?  Tweet me or comment below, and we can chat a little ahead of time. I’m looking forward to meeting you!

2014 has been a pretty good year for me.  Personally, I’m damn impressed with how many of these books were actually published in 2014. As a bonus, there’s even a few novellas and short stories in here. In no particular order, here are my favorite reads of 2014!

Favorite Novels:

city_of_stairs-cover1

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett (2014) – that this book is on my list should surprise no one. And if you haven’t read it yet, seriously, get with the program. This is one of those amazing books that defies genre categorization, it just *is*.  To give you a big picture without spoiling anything, it’s about watching your worldview dissolve before your eyes, and understanding that games can be played with many sets of rules. Also? it’s simply fucking amazing.

gemsigns

Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter (2014) – This is probably the most important book I read in 2014. Remember when Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother took high school government classes by storm? I wish the same for this book.  Gemsigns touches on enforced marginalization, building (and breaking down) cultures of racism and classism and fear, and religiously and politically promoted hatred, and handles it in a blunt and emotional way. Also? fucking awesome. And for what it’s worth, I cried at the end.

vandermeer annihilation

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer  (2014) –  I’ve been a Vandermeer fan for a long, long time (yet somehow I can still eat mushrooms). Annihilation was strange, surreal, and seemed to be magnetically attuned to me. The words in the tunnel rang for me like a tuning fork. And there was just something about characters who don’t have names. I am a jerk, however, because I own but haven’t yet read the third book in the series.

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dragonsbane coverDragonsbane, by Barbara Hambly

published 1985

where I got it: paperbackswap

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Raised on the glorious and romantic epics of old, Gareth knows all the songs and heroic tales. He can tell you verse by verse exactly how the hero slayed the monster with one swing of his gleaming sword. And it must be true, because that is how the story goes. On the words of ballads, Gareth travels north to find John Aversin, the Dragonsbane.  The most honorable man in the kingdom, John slayed a dragon and asked no reward in return. Out of love for King and kingdom, he put his life at risk and returned victorious.

 

All the stories Gareth learned were wrong.

 

To Gareth’s court trained eyes, all he sees in John Aversin is a northern barbarian who is more interested in animal husbandry than slaying dragons. Sickened by the thought that John’s mistress Jenny Waynest is a magewitch, Gareth can barely look her in the eye. John lives his life by living his life – a passionate but untrained naturalist, he fills his libraries with what books can be found, learns from the local farmers, and is more sad that the dragon he slayed decomposed before he could study it than proud that he killed it.  John sees the journey south as a bargaining opportunity. If he saves the capitol from a dragon, the King will have no choice but to send troops and support north to help rebuild the crumbling northern territories, right?

 

As Gareth, John and Jenny journey south, it becomes pretty obvious Gareth isn’t telling them the whole truth. Some of it you’ll guess, and some comes out pretty soon, but there are nasty surprises awaiting them once they reach the King’s court.

 

But that isn’t what this book is about.

 

Let me tell you all about Jenny Waynest.  Because without her, Dragonsbane would be exactly the bland tropey adventure story that the cover art leads you to think it is.

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Stephen GeeToday I’m thrilled to be talking with Stephen Gee, who recently released his debut novel Wage Slave Rebellion.  I’ve known about Stephen for a while, I just didn’t realize I knew him. Lemme ‘splain.  My husband watches a lot of anime, reads a lot of anime reviews online, and talks about those reviewers whose reviews he follows and opinions he respects. The name “Stilts” kept coming up over and over again. So I started following Stilts on twitter, and we’d tweet back and forth from time to time (my anime preferences seem to be begin and end with Hiromu Arakawa, but whatever).

I eventually got a very nice e-mail from Stilts, and we chatted some more. Turns out his name is Stephen,  he’s really cool, and he’s got a novel out!

Wage Slave Rebellion is Stephen Gee‘s debut novel, and you can head over to Random Curiosity for the big reveal party.  Head over there, check it out, then come on back here for my interview with Stephen.

Ready? Let’s go!

wage slave rebellion cover

Little Red Reviewer: Congratulations on your debut novel Wage Slave Rebellion! What’s the quick elevator pitch for the book?

Stephen Gee: Here’s what I’ve been telling people: “Wage Slave Rebellion is an urban fantasy adventure set in a sword & sorcery world. It’s about three friends who hate their crappy jobs, so they decide to become monster-slaying adventurers instead. It’s like Terry Pratchett spliced with a badass action anime.”

It’s sort of an old-meets-new, a medieval-style fantasy setting (swords, spells, monsters, etc), but with modern themes such as job dissatisfaction, refusing to accept mediocrity, and living life to the fullest that many people grapple with today. Add in explosive action and plenty of funny banter, and it’s a lot of fun!

LRR: Who is your favorite character in the book? Who was the hardest to write?

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As usual, I have attempted to not bring more books into the house and failed miserably. It might sound counter intuitive, but the more books that are piled up on the coffee table (and under the coffee table, and on the corner of the kitchen table, and on the table next to the bed), the less inclined I am to want to purchase more.

But, sometimes I can’t help myself. And then beautiful books show up in the mail, and before I know it I am surrounded by the happiness that is new books that have come to live in my house and be loved by me.

Here are my newest babies:

 

Galaxy Game

From Del Rey/Randomhouse comes  a gorgeous edition of The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord.  this is her follow up to The Best Of All Possible Worlds, but they can both be read as stand alones.  Stay tuned for January, when I’ll have not one, but two articles about her new novel. I’m more than a little excited!

The MechanicalFrom Orbit (you know, the folks who spoil me rotten?) comes The Mechanical from Ian Tregillis. I had no idea he had a new novel coming out! But I sure was excited to pull this ARC out of it’s envelope. The Mechanical comes out in March, and so far the only thing I know about it is that since it has Tregillis’s name on it, I want to read it.

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Book-Review-The-MartianThe Martian by Andy Wier

published in February 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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I don’t know why I skipped this book back when it came out.  I remember it got a lot of hype, and that I’d recently been burning on some other titles being overhyped. Anyways, the book recently came out in paperback, and was chosen for the December book for my book club. The hype had long since died down, and I’d be discussing the book among friends, so the time was ripe for me to dive in.

 

Let’s get this out of way first – I absolutely, freakin’ LOVED Andy Weir’s The Martian. I’d sit down, planning to read a chapter or two, or maybe 20 pages, and before I knew it an hour had gone by and I’d devoured a chunk of the book and bitten of half my fingernails in the process. This is one helluva page turner, and Weir pulls the best kind of trick possible: You really don’t know what’s going to happen until the very last few pages.

 

The blurb on the back of the book sums up the basics nicely:

 

“Six days ago astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.

Now he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’s surface, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Changes are, though, Mark won’t have time to starve to death.”

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the-awakened-kingdom-by-nk-jemisinThe Awakened Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin

published Dec 9 2014 as part of The Inheritance Trilogy Omnibus

where I got it: received eArc from the publisher (thanks Orbit!)

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For those of you who are new to N.K. Jemisin, her newest novella The Awakened Kingdom takes place after the events in The Inheritance Trilogy.  I highly suggest you read the trilogy before reading this bonus novella. Luckily, it all came out today in handy dandy omnibus format! (Oh, you’ve already read the trilogy, and are joining me in singing its praises? No problem, The Awakened Kingdom is available on it’s own as an e-book)

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In some ways, godlings are just like us.  Sometimes, they want the same exact things we want. They want the love and approval of their parents, they want to make friends, they feed bad when they mess up and people get hurt. The newest godling, Shill, is no different.  She desperately wants to see her parents happy. She assumes they made her to help them be happy.   Her naivety is utterly charming, and the novella begins with Shill not even knowing to how to tell a story properly.

 

Have you ever had a four year old tell you a story? They tell it out of order, lose track of what’s happening, explain things in detail that you already know all about, and don’t explain the things you would like to learn more about. There’s plenty of backtracking, of remember of details and forgetting of others. it’s completely adorable, and there’s a part of you that doesn’t even care about the actual story, you just want to spend more time with this little person who is so very excited to tell you about their day, because you hope some of their joyful innocence will rub off on you. When we first meet Shill, she’s a little like that. Don’t worry, she’s gets better.

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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.