the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for February 2019

Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett

published Jan 31 2019

where I got it: purchased new

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My reaction to this book was not subtle.

 

 

Like most of his recent work, Vigilance isn’t about what it’s about.  This is not a story about a waitress with a bar full of privileged idiots.  This is not a story about a reality TV executive producer who isn’t as smart as he thinks he is.  This is not a story about guns. The story and the characters are just the oil glistening on the surface.

 

Although never explicitly mentioned, This is a story about the psychology of fear, and how easy it would be for a media company to make a killing by monetizing fear. This is a story about info-tainment, and how media and advertisers view consumers.

 

Remember when the pharma companies literally came in their pants with how much money they made off of Viagra? (and in related news)   In Vigilance, it’s the media and marketing companies that are making a fortune off keeping the viewing public in a constant state of flight or flight, a constant state of heightened anxiety, a peak moment when we are least likely to make rational decisions.  And speaking of Viagra, there is the whole “ideal customer” aspect of the book, which either shouldn’t be funny but is, or should be laugh out loud but isn’t. . .  i’m still not sure which.

 

Ever been to a reality TV show watching party?  It’s fun to watch Survivor with your friends, it’s fun to watch The Bachelor with your friends, it’s fun to watch the Oscar’s Red Carpet show with your friends. We do it because it’s fun. We do it beause we want to see who gets voted off the island, who does or says something idiotic, we do it because we want to talk to our friends about what everyone is wearing. It’s fun to check the feeds online while watching, so that you can feel like the whole world is at your watching party.  It’s fun, right?

 

We enjoy unscripted reality tv because it’s unscripted. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. And deep down, we’d love to be on that show. Reality TV can be a safe place to be the hero of  your own story, to get positive attention, to have people clap for you.

 

(there’s a Come on Down! You’re the next contestant on! Joke in here somewhere, right?)

 

Vigilance is America’s new favorite reality TV show.  Episodes only run every few months, the contestants and the location is kept a secret until the moment the episode begins.  As soon as the online rumors begin of an imminent episode of Vigilance, the social media streams can’t seem to talk about anything but the possible locations for the upcoming episode.

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Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

publishes on March 5, 2019

where I got it: Received ARC

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Little Red Reviewer doesn’t read kids books, you say!

 

But Little Red Reviewer does read Carlos Hernandez, says I!   I am interested in reading anything Carlos Hernandez writes. He could write a cookbook, and I’d read it (actually, yes please?) gleefully.    Same thing goes for a handful of other authors, by the way.

 

So, yeah, I read a kids book.  And I liked it! Or, at least, I liked this one. It made me feel carefree.

 

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe is an adorable novel aimed toward middle school aged readers. It is very fast paced, has serious scenes, has a lot of humor, great characters, loving families,  magic tricks, middle school hijinks, fast thinking and faster talking, and a kid who really misses his mom.

 

This is the Harry Potter book you didn’t realize you were waiting for.

 

Sal Vidon is in a new town, and a new school. So far  his new magnet school seems like the best school ever – the electives are interesting, the teachers do really fun activities to help the students get engaged with what they are learning, and some of the students are even entertained by Sal’s amatuer magic tricks!  When he magicked a dead chicken into someone’s locker, the Principal was not entertained. After the dead chicken trick, some students have started thinking Sal might be a brujo.

 

For the first time in a long time, Sal actually enjoys going to school.

For the first time since his Mami died, he’s smiling and laughing.

 

And as much as he enjoys sleight of hand magic tricks, Sal didn’t use magic to put the dead chicken into that other kid’s locker.   Sal is able to reach into the multiverse, and go to any spot in any universe, and grab whatever he wants. His actions tear a hole in spacetime, but the holes usually sew themselves right back up after a few hours. And there was that one time, when he went looking for his Mami. In a parallel universe, she’s still Mami Viva.  In a lot of other parallel universes, she’s cooking the most amazing Cuban food you’ve ever had.

 

When Sal loses control of some part of his inner self, a Mami Viva comes into our universe.  She has no idea that it’s been five years. She has no idea her husband, Sal’s Papi, has remarried. She has no idea that in this universe, she’s dead.  Them’s some awkward family dinners, that’s for sure.

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Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

 

Woah, I have not read any of these!  Any recommendations on where to start? What looks good?

 

A Turn of Light by Julie Czerneda – I’ve read a bunch of her science fiction fiction, haven’t yet dipped my toes into her fantasy.  A friend knew I enjoyed her work, so gifted me with this book.  My super lame reason for not having picked this up yet is because it is one helluva door stopper.  and I have gotten super spoiled on novellas and short novels lately.

 

Kabu-Kabu by Nnedi Okorafor – this is short stories, I think?  And I loved the first two Binto books. . .

 

Lex Talionis by R.S.A. Garcia – Someone recommended this to me,  so I bought it, and haven’t read it yet.

 

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes – Same as the Garcia book – this was recommended, so I bought it, and haven’t read it yet.

 

Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang – ok, so I HAVE read one story in here – The Story of Your Life,  that is the short story that the movie Arrival was based on.  I read the story in a rush, we were going to see the movie the next day. I don’t think anything in this collection is meant to be read in a rush.  Also, I love Arrival.

 

Have you read any of these books?  if yes, what do you recommend?

Not familiar with these books? What looks interesting to you?

Death and Honey,  novellas by Kevin Hearne, Lila Bowen, and Chuck Wendig

available Feb 28th 2019

where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (Thanks Subterranean Press!)

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Death and Honey has some original and unexpected things going for it.  Things that might turn you off, but shouldn’t. Lemme explain. The three novels contained in this volume take place in world already created and developed by these authors, and these stories take place rather late in the game for a number  of these characters. You might be thinking to yourself that either you’ll feel lost because you’re only on book three of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, or you’re woefully under read in Lila Bowen’s Shadow series, or maybe you barely got to the end of Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds (oh, you weren’t thinking any of that? Must have been me that was thinking those thoughts).  Can you enjoy a story that takes place near the end of a series if you didn’t read the middle part? And what about spoilers??

 

The answers are Yes, and Yes.  Yes, you can fully enjoy these stories even if you have no idea who Oberon is, even if you have no idea who Rhett Walker is, even if the name Miriam Black doesn’t mean anything to you.   And yes, sorry, there are a few spoilers. Fans of the Iron Druid will find out just a teeny weeny bit about Ragnarok, I’m not familiar enough with the other series to tell you what was a surprise, and what a spoiler.  But so what? Reading a short story that takes place near the end of a series is like having dessert first. And what, like you’ve never read a McMaster Bujold out of order? (or, again, that could just be me)

 

Oh, oh the second weird and unexpected thing! I nearly forgot. All of these stories have to do with bees.  And honey. Sometimes the bees are nice, sometimes they aren’t, sometimes they are just bees. And everyone likes honey, right?  (I can’t possibly be the only one here who eats honey out of the jar with a spoon)

 

Also?  excellent full color artwork by Galen Dara!

 

Don’t want spoilers, just want my final thoughts?  Scroll all the way to the bottom.

 

Yo, so I’ve read a few of Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books, and yeah, I enjoyed them. But you wanna know what I really, really like? Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries!  Take your standard cozy mystery formula, but the sleuth is Oberon, Atticus’s psychically bonded Irish Wolfhound! Oberon’s sense of smell is amazing, he’ll do just about anything for a treat, he wonders why humans do such weird things all the time, and above all, Oberon wants Atticus to be happy.  In The Buzz Kill, Oberon and Starbuck find a body at the foot of a tree, a tree that has a giant beehive in it! Atticus is trying to stay under the radar, and instead gets sucked into helping the local police investigate the murder. Hearne has fun with the light heartedness, each chapter title is a play on words having to do with bees, flowers, or honey.

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Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called Five for Friday. The concept is simple – it’s a Friday, and I post a photo of 5 books, and then we chat about them in the comments.

The only things these books have in common are:
– they were on my bookshelf
– I’m interested in your thoughts on them.

have you read any of these? if yes, did you like them? If you’ve not read them, does the cover make you interested in learning more about the book?

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – I have got to be only person left on earth who hasn’t read this book!  My friend lent it to me, and I just finished a manga (Silver Spoon #5!), so the timing is perfect for me to finally read this.

 

The Best of All Possible Worlds by Karen Lord – Hard to believe it’s been five years since this came out.  This is a quiet book that sneaks up on you, I reviewed it here.  Did you like Station Eleven?  You’ll like The Best of All Possible Worlds.  Totally different plots, but they have a similar, hmm… tone is maybe the right word?

 

Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew – I love everything this woman writes. Gorgeous prose, atmospheric writing, vibrant characters, and did I mention the gorgeous prose?  And can I say no to a retelling of The Snow Queen? no, I can not. Also, have you seen that beautiful cover art?  review is here, if you’re interested.

 

Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart – Chinese fantasy adventure! This debut  novel won the World Fantasy Award and has become a classic. review here. Have you read the sequels?  are they good?

 

The Sun, The Moon, and The Stars by Steven Brust – Gosh, I haven’t read this in ages.  I remember a painter and a bunch of artists who share a studio, I remember  fairy tale that is told in tiny bits and pieces. I remember the first time I read this, I thought the painter was telling the fairy tale to his artist friends. Yep, I should really reread this.

 

I totally did not plan it this way, but a bunch of these books involve mythology and fairy tales!

 

Have you read any of these?  what did you think of them?

Which of these look interesting to you?

What are some of your favorite fairy tale / mythology retellings?

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

published in 1992

where I got it: purchased used

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I’ve read this book before, and I mean that both figuratively, and literally.  This is my or second or third time reading The Doomsday Book, and it’s a book about time travel that asks the question “what could possibly go wrong?”, which is a story trope I’ve read before.  Not a spoiler, but everything goes wrong. Oh, the name of the book sounds familiar?

 

And since this book was written in 1992, I don’t feel bad about spoiling certain plot points. Click here for my spoiler-free, original book review of this title.   Because this blog post? It rambles. It has mild spoilers. And it gets a little personal.

 

In late January, I found myself in a reading slump. I had a lot going on, and I was struggling to relax and just fall into a book. I needed a book that would grab me on page 1, throw me about, transport me, allow me to escape into someone else’s life for a few hundred pages, and then not break my heart into a million little pieces at the end, because damnit, i wanted something with a happy ending for once.  I did cry at the end of The Doomsday Book, but not from a broken heart.

 

If you’ve never read this book before, it’s got a lot of death. A lot of people die, a lot of people are helpless in the face of death, some people lose hope.  I’m not gonna lie, there is a lot of sadness and a lot of fear of dying in this book. You might cry. But oh, this book is full of so much hope! So many people who are doing everything they can to save their friends, people who refuse to be helpless, people whose compassion knows no bounds, characters who spend every waking moment caring deeply about other people, even if they don’t quite know how to show it.  There are scenes that are sad, but this is not a grim book. What is the opposite of grimdark? Hopebright? The Doomsday Book is hopebright.

 

In the near future, we’ve discovered how to travel into the past. The technology is mostly utilized at universities, and they send historians back in time, with the goal of avoiding the most dangerous times in history.  Kivrin will be the first historian at Oxford who is sent to the Middle Ages. She’s been working towards this moment for the last 2 years. Her advisor James Dunworthy has never been so worried in his entire life.

 

Something I love about this novel is how Willis starts the book when the action starts. There is no preamble, hardly any character introduction, plenty of British banter, and before page twenty you know the characters are anxious about sending a historian back to the thirteen hundreds, you know people are nervous and vulnerable and worried.  By page 30 you know something has gone horribly wrong. And that’s when the character development starts – after you’ve been hooked.

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If you’ve not heard already, Jason Sizemore, Editor in Chief of Apex Magazine went in for some pretty major surgery earlier this week.  He’s recovering and doing fine, but poor dude has another few days before they’ll release him from the hospital.  He goes into more detail in his Words from the Editor in Chief introduction to the February issue of Apex Magazine.

 

Because it’s fun to surprise Jason (seriously. he startles very easily.  surprising him at events is way. too. much. fun), his managing editor Lesley Conner (Hi Lesley!!!) is running a surprise subscription drive (twitter link)  (buy it here link)

 

And this got me thinking: how many of my blog readers know about my connection with Apex Magazine?

 

I’m the author interviewer at Apex.  Every month, for nearly 5 years, I’ve interviewed an author who is being featured in Apex Magazine.  It’s been an amazing experience, and I have Jason to thank for it.

Who have I interviewed?  oh, just some people. maybe you’ve heard of them?

Kameron Hurley

Lila Bowen

Benjanun Sriduangkaew

Sheree Renee Thomas

Cassandra Khaw

Ursula Vernon

Adam R Shannon (read his story if you want to cry forever)

Robert Sawyer (!!   I am STILL star struck!)

Nisi Shawl

John Hornor Jacobs

and somehow I got lucky enough to interview Seth Dickinson??  how did that happen?

and dozens more.  And my interviews? I’m proud of them, but seriously, they are the most boring part of Apex Magazine. Do yourself a solid and check out Apex. The fiction is weird, surreal, off kilter. It makes you think.  You can read all their old stuff for free on the website. like what you see?  Get a subscription. buy a single issue. they might even have some print issues still floating around.

 

Magazines not your thing, but SFF in Translation is?  here.  you’re welcome. oh, that’s volume 5, which means there are four more.

 

Jason took a chance on me.  I was a total stranger who had nothing but enthusiasm. And now my buddy who has opened so many doors for me and spoiled me and is just the world’s super nicest guy is in the hospital. His doctors say he’s recovering exactly as he should, but I am still worried. He’ll be fine, and in 5 years we’ll be laughing about this.  I’ve got my resting bitch face on, but inside I’m freaking out.


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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.