the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for February 2019

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.

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?

Fearful Symmetries – I picked this anthology up from a used book dealer. Edited by Ellen Datlow, the TOC includes Pat Cadigan, Laird Barron, Garth Nix, Jeffrey Ford, Michael Marshall Smith.  That’s the extent of my knowledge. How do you fare with anthologies?

 

The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez – Yes, this is the collection that has the famous robot panda sex story. and it is a damn good short story!! Actually, every story in this collection is fantastic (review here), as is Hernandez’s kids book that is out in March (review coming soon)

 

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells.  My favorite Murderbot book. review here. If for whatever reason you only read the first novella in the series and then stopped, please do yourself a favor and read this second one.

(huh. hadn’t realized until right this second that I had so many short stories/novellas in this five for friday photo. oh well)

 

Rule 34 by Charles Stross.  I really like Stross’s Laundry Files books, enjoyed Accellerando and Glass House (although I worry those two have not aged well).  Anyone read Rule 34? How is it?

 

Fix by Ferrett Steinmetz – Crap. I meant to put the FIRST book in this trilogy in the photo, and instead I grabbed the LAST book. OOPS. What a fun urban fantasy read! If you like stories where everyone has unique magic, and they have to learn most of the rules as they go, this is the series for you! Protagonist is a father who is just trying to protect his daughter, and you’ll get to meet Valentine, one of my favorite female characters, ever.  Oh, do you like the movie Fight Club? you will really, really love the second book in this series! here my review of the first book, Flex.

 

 

have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?  If you’ve not read these, do any look interesting to you?

Snow White Learns Witchcraft, by Theodora Goss

publishes Feb  5th, 2019

Where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (thanks Mythic Delirium!)

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I have two pieces of excellent news for you today!  The first piece of excellent news is that Theodora Goss’s collection of short fiction and poetry, Snow White Learns Witchcraft, is available today! And the second piece of equally excellent good news is that if you’re not quite sure about buying this collection, a few  of the stories I mention below are available to read for free online. I’ve helpfully provided links, which #sorrynotsorry, will make you want to buy the book. Also, have I mentioned how awesome Theodora Goss is?

 

I am still trying to figure out how Goss crammed so much top notch story telling into this slender little book of just over 200 pages.  There is flash fiction, short poems, longer stories, stories that make me giggle, others that made me think deep thoughts, others that were simply joyful to read.  You’d think you could zip through a 200 page collection in a day or two, right? Yeah, you’d be wrong. This is one you want to savor and slowly dip into, enjoying the beautiful prose that will greet you on every page.  Don’t rush your way through, enjoy your walk through the forest, keep your eyes open for any wolves or taking bears, and allow yourself to be lured in.

 

And ok, can we talk about the poetry in this collection for a minute? I am freakin’ terrified of poetry.  Half the the time I just don’t get it, half the time I spend so much time stumbling over the meter enforced word choices that I don’t even know what the sentence means, and the other half the time i just don’t enjoy it. Poetry is clubhouse I’ve never known the secret password to.

 

And now Theodora Goss has me all turned around in the best possible of ways. These poems are photographs, they are short stories until themselves where the idea is more important than the meter. I’d classify them as songs or vignettes before classifying many of them as poems. Sorry if I just insulted all the poets reading this. Thanks to this collection, I feel more comfortable reading poetry, I now feel like I can get something out of it, that there is a story in there for me.  This book is my secret password to the poetry clubhouse.

 

A few words on my favorite poems:

 

Diamonds and Toads which tells a story about two sisters one who has a positive attitude so gets diamonds, and other who has a negative attitude so gets toads,  and how maybe the two sisters are actually one person and that none of us are completely positive or completely cranky, and it’s the balance that helps us live full lives. Diamonds come in handy, but it’s amazing how often toads come in handy.

 

Thorns and Briars, which is a poem you can read in under 60 seconds. I like this one because it starts out as a fairy tale or myth might, where some is locking their heart away for the right person to find. And then, well, life happens, and the right person does claim her heart.

 

Goldilocks and the Bear, which tells an endearing story about how Goldilocks really met the bear that she ends up marrying. Apparently I just love stories about thieves and bears and honey and people realizing it’s ok to be vulnerable and living happily ever after and that a strong relationship means knowing your partner isn’t perfect and will never be perfect, and that’s kind of what makes them perfect.

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As you all know by now, my Kickstarter for The Best of Little Red Reviewer did not fund.  Of the $5000 I was asking for, I was at less than $2000 when the campaign ended.

 

Those first 24 hours of the kickstarter were amazing! I was a “project we love” on Kickstarter.  Amazing people (you know who you are!) put in $50 or $100 right out of the gate to give me a good start. At work that day, I refreshed my phone incessantly, and didn’t know if I was going to happy cry or puke.  The last time I was this excited/happy/nervous for something was the day I got married.

 

My kickstarter didn’t fund, but I had an amazing experience, and more importantly  I have the best, kindest, most supportive friends in the world. All day on February 1st, my phone was blowing up with text messages, e-mails, twitter DMs, and phone calls from my friends saying how sorry they were that the KS didn’t fund.  Those messages? That support? People saying how much they cared about me and my project, and saying they hope I try it again? Those messages are worth more than $5000 could ever be worth.

 

My KS did not fund,  and I am not devastated.  The KS failed, but I did not.

 

Let me say that again:  I do not equate a kickstarter failure with a personal failure.  There were a lot of things I feel I did right, a lot of things I missed, and about a million things that I learned. I accomplished more than I expected. I have always viewed blogging as a journey, not a destination. The kickstarter was the most interesting, most intense, most emotional rollercoaster place I’ve ever been! Just doing it was an accomplishment I’m proud of.

 

Did I want it to fund? Yes.  Was I a little intimidated of what funding would mean, in reality? Absolutely.    Am I a little relieved that the stress is ending now, instead of months from now? Yeah, actually.

 

Do I still think this is a good idea? Oh hell yes.  Do I have a ton of work to do before I’m ready to go at it again? Oh hell yes.  I’m happy I did the kickstarter, I had an incredible experience. This was quite literally an experience of “what have I got to lose by trying this?” and the answer was nothing, so why not give it a try?

 

I have  a very long list of things I’m proud of accomplishing, and a rather shorter list of things that I will do differently next time, and a list of things I need to accomplish (some very easy, some more complicated) before I’m ready to go at this again. I won’t bore you with the lists, because they are very long. and boring.

 

One thing I will share with you about what I won’t do next time:  I won’t run a Kickstarter in January, during a polar vortex. Having a social media presence was made even harder when my daily commute was doubled from crappy driving conditions. What the hell possessed me to do this in freakin’ January??

 

Alright my friends, I have a lot of e-mails and message to return.  I love you all, the public support you’ve given me these last few months means more to me than you can ever know.  I had described this kickstarter as a viability test: are book reviews viable outside the internet? Are pixels on a screen worth becoming ink on a page? And the answer I got was “not yet”.   Which means one day, the answer will be yes.

 

Until then, it’s back to book blogging!

 


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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.
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