the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for October 2019

Never in a million years did I ever think I was going to say I was proud of Kim Kardashian.  Scroll to the bottom for that bombshell!

 

What have I been reading?

Finished Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s  novella And Shall Machines Surrender, and freakin’ loved it.   My brain still doesn’t want to write long reviews, so I put a short review on Amazon.  If you like some, any, or all of these things, this novella is for you:  Beautiful writing, tight plotting, show don’t tell, cyberpunk, when AIs don’t need humans anymore, AI run cities, AI and human melds, and super hot sex scenes.

Finally finished Death’s End by Cixin Liu.  Those last few chapters, HOLY SHIT!  but man it was a lot of boring to get there .  Had a great conversation with my dad about the series.  I love how this series has become our family reading club book!

 

Also finished The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang.  It was. . . meh?  I’m really happy it was a novella.  I will say that the further I got into it, the more I liked it, but I won’t be continuing with this series.

 

Started reading The Phoenix Guards by Steven Brust.  What a blast!   It’s Brust’s take on The Three Musketeers, except more banter, more humor, and everyone is offended by literally everything, so there are duels like every 3 pages.  There is also this parody thing going on with the narrator.  And, um, Sethra Lavode is . . .  young-ish?  It is super fun. Luckily, there is like 5 books in this series, so that should keep me busy for a little while.

 

Went on a little bookstore adventure today, picked up:

Hild by Nicola Griffith – this has come highly recommended!  I was surprised to find it in general fiction, i thought this was a spec fic book?

Ismail Merchant’s Indian Cuisine – lots of easy recipes, nothing intimidating.

How Language Began by Daniel Everett – I’ve been hooked on the Lexicon Valley podcast, so I’m all about the history of languages right now!

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper – I have no idea if this is good or not, but I liked the cover art. And it looks super different than everything I’ve been reading lately, that alone is a big plus.

Speaking of podcasts, I discovered “This Podcast will Kill You”, I think they talk about poisons?  I’ve only listened to the episode about Aspirin and holy shit it was fascinating!   Now i kinda wish my commute was longer, so i could listen to more of this? no, really, NO I do not want a longer commute!  Goal in life is a shorter commute!

 

oh, what did we cook this weekend?  Made the world’s most delicious shrimp and noodle stirfry, it was one of those stirfry’s where you throw a bunch of deliciousness into a wok, and then throw noodles and some sweet chili sauce in, and surprising no one you end up with a delicious stirfry.  Made a quinoa sorghum salad with mint lemon dressing for something healthy to snack on at work, Tonight we are making Curry Rice, which is one of my fave autumn dishes.  I’ve blogged about this dish before, but imagine a beef stew, but it’s made with curry gravy. Buckets of spices,  buckets of ginger and garlic and hot peppers and onions, and you serve it with rice and yogurt.  my mouth is watering!!!

 

Apropos of nothing, I am annoying that one of my fave kitchen / small home decorating sites, thekitchn, is now  like 80% advertising posts for Costco, Trader Joe, and Aldi.  Like, i like those stores? but I also prefer content that is cooking,  kitchen techniques, and small home decorating. I actually do not give a shit about how the different pumpkin spice things at Aldi compare to those at Trader Joe.

 

Same as The Kitchn is being taken over by thinly veiled advertising for Costco, Aldi, and Trader Joe, Buzzfeed is being taken over by less thinly veiled advertising for everything Kardashian.  three cheers for click bait?

I never in a million years thought I’d say I’m proud of Kim,  but I’m proud of her.  Ten years ago, if anyone had told her what her child could or could not, or should, or should not do, she’d have stretched it out over a season of her stupid TV show, and then divorced the guy.  She must have learned how to #adult, since now she’s willing to have a conversation about it, willing to hear the other person out, willing to not turn it into huge drama.

 

Yes, it is super sad that I’m proud of her for the teeny tiny act of hearing her husband out,  not making money off the drama, and making her relationship more important than them disagreeing over something.   But still, I’m proud of her.  She’s solving problems through discussing things, and trying to understand the why behind why people feel the way they do.   Kim, you’re all grown up!

Halloween is upon us!

I’m not a horror reader,  haunted houses terrify me a little too much (oh hai night terrors! how have you been?),  I avoid horror movies, and well, I’m a total wuss when it comes to scary stuff.  Some portion of my brain doesn’t seem to realize that the scary thing is over (and that it was FICTION!), and that I am perfectly safe,  and I tend to stay scared of the thing for an unreasonable amount of time.  That’s why I practice horror/scary avoidance.  Yes, you are welcome to tease me for not going with you to the haunted house, I will happily meet up with you for cider and donuts afterwards.

But, I have read books and seen movies that terrified the living shit out of me.  While many of these are not categorized as horror,  if you are looking for a good scare, give these a try.

tl;dr :   I am scared by things that involve gaslighting,  when a person can’t tell reality from not-reality, when a person can’t trust their own senses and memory or are convinced they can’t trust themselves,  when your body and/or mind betrays you.    I do better with scary stuff that is tempered with humor, for what that’s worth.

 

Aetherchrist by Kirk Jones – so, I’m only like 30 pages into this novella, and it is scaring the shit out of me.  So far, it is the scariest ever episode of the Twilight Zone.  the main character is a door to door salesman,  and he is shown video surveillance footage of all of his interactions with the villagers, even the conversations he has with people in their kitchens and backyards. it is legit creepy as fuck, to the point where I had to stop reading because I didn’t have enough lights on in the house and I kinda felt like I needed blackout curtains on all my windows before I read any further.

 

Bird Box by Josh Malerman – the movie was great!  The book is better, in my opinion.  Malerman is uncannily successful in describing the character’s experiences when they can not see.   I could only read this book once, it was so scary.  I was so excited to get to see the movie, but scared too.  I watched it in broad daylight, with all the lights on in the house and all the blinds pulled open.  I do think the movie did a better job of showing Malorie’s avoidance of emotionally connecting with the two children (one of which IS HER biological child!!), and the book was rather light on characterization & motivation.  the movie is so successful because only crap Sandra Bullock is a damn excellent actress!!

 

Changeling (movie) starring Angelina Jolie – I don’t think this 2008 movie got a lot of attention when it came out, I ended up seeing it on Netflix years later.  This movie is not meant to be a psychological horror movie, but it did, and still does scare the shit out of me. I had nightmares for probably 6 months after seeing it.  What’s it about?  Oh nothing all that important – a lady’s son is kidnapped. The police rescue the little boy, and she claims the boy is not her son (he quite obviously isn’t). The powers that be don’t believe her, as they don’t want to investigate the case further. She pushes the fact that this child is not her son, and that she wants the police to re-open the investigation.  They gaslight and institutionalize her.   This movie is based on a true story.

 

Grass by Sheri S Tepper – Another oldie but goodie, this is not a horror novel. It’s a straight up character driven science fiction novel, and a damn excellent one. There is nothing super terrifying that happens in this book, but it reminded me of all the things that I am scared of. Like, what happens when I can’t escape scary thoughts?  What happens if the nightmares don’t stop? What happens if I think I have control of a situation but in reality I 100% do NOT have any control whatsover?

 

“The Pear Shaped Man” by George R R Martin – if you’re only reading aSoIaF, you are missing out on Martin’s scifi and bone chilling horror.   Again, I have no idea if The Pear Shaped Man was originally marketed as horror, but it scared the shit out of me.  The creepy neighbor reminded me of a creepy person I had gone to college with, so reading the story reminded me of my creepy experiences with this person, and with every sentence I read in the story, that person’s face came to my mind. The story transformed this person I knew into a much more terrifying version of themselves.  So a random person experience I had made this story possibly 10 times scarier than it was meant to be.  Another Martin horror-esque scifi short story I highly recommend is “Sandkings”.

 

 

Are you like me,  that these are the things that scare you?

Are you like me,  that a portion of your brain can’t seem to the get the message that the scary thing was fictional, and that you are perfectly safe?

LOL, I just realized that I avoid scary stuff for the same reason that I avoid foods that give me intestinal issues – sure it’s delicious at the time, but I don’t want to pay for it later!

I stole this off Facebook. I’m sure it’s making the rounds on other social media platforms too. I have no idea who this is originally credited to, and I give credit to whoever that person/people is.

enjoy.

 

Because I feel like posting humor.

 

oh, what am I reading?

Death’s End by Cixin Liu – I’m about 3/4 of the way through.  We’re at Jupiter.  A whole ton of brilliant science and tech investment has happened.  love the ideas, I wish I cared about the characters. FYI – hardback is too heavy to read while laying in bed or in the tub.

And Machines Shall Surrender by Benjanun Sriduangkaew – LOVE IT.  great story, fascinating conversation about if awakened AI’s have any use for humans, and some insanely hot sex scenes. Also about 3/4 of the way through. Fucking LOVE the characters and everythign about this, can’t wait to read Sriduangkaew’s Mirrorstrike!

The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang – um, it’s OK?  Kinda cute how the one twin obviously has a crush on that hot guy, and their sibling is SUPER jealous.  English does a shitty job of singular “they”. nothing against using “them” as a pronoun, just English is a pretty shitty language sometimes.  I might end up DNFing this one.

 

 

What am I listening to?

Enjoying the Lexicon Valley podcast during my commute.   John McWarter is brilliant. And when he swears it is adorable.  I downloaded some other linguistics podcasts in the hopes that their hosts adorably swear too.

 

what am I cooking?

Making potato croquettes   and frittata   for dinner tonight,  home made gluten free pizza  tomorrow. Both will feature my husband’s home made sausage.  Yes, I entertain dinner guests. we only have 3 kitchen chairs and a tiny kitchen, so you may have to bring your own folding chair and we might eat in the living room.

 

my brain still isn’t interested in writing book reviews.  Am very interested in completely decluttering my apartment – giving tons of books away,  giving boxes of clothes and shoes to Good Will. The “stuff” just feels very heavy sometimes. Like an elephant on my chest.

I’m slowly making my way through Death’s End by Cixin Liu.   I’m 250 pages in, and it feels like I’ve barely made it past the first few chapters. In a way, this is sorta feeling like Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle?  (if you’ve not read The Baroque Cycle – spoiler: it never freakin’ ends. like, ever)

 

I am LOVING the big ideas in this book!  How space faring races might find each other, why they’d be wise to avoid each other.  Of course I can’t find the section now, but the part about how there is a child walking through the Dark Forest, and the child makes a small campfire ot keep warm (or safe? Or makes the campfire just to have something to do?), and not only does the campfire allow any observers to show where the child is,  the child is made nightblind by the light of the fire, and can’t clearly see what’s happening away from the light.

 

And the scale of everything!

 

And holy shit the stuff that the Interstellar ships Blue Space and Gravity find, holy shit!!!

 

The ideas!  The scale! The cool outerspace stuff!  Everything about why it’s so quiet out there!

 

But.

 

But?

 

But I find my mind wandering, I find myself struggling to stay engaged with the story, I’m finding it difficult to care about all this amazing stuff because I’m not connecting with the characters.   Cheng Xin is cool, but I don’t feel like I know her as a person. I don’t feel like I’m invested in what happens to her. I’m going to keep reading, I just which there was more character driven stuff going on.

 

I’m that persnickety reader who wants cool big ideas and characters.  Because if I care about the characters, I’m gonna care triple about the hella awesome ideas.

 

Which got me thinking – which books have I really enjoyed because I loved the hella cool science ideas and the characters were really cool?

 

Darwin’s Radio  by Greg Bear – Big ideas about biology, evolution, human sociology, how we quantify and qualify scientific knowledge, how diseases work and what exactly makes something a disease (a rose in a corn field is considered a weed).  Characters were predictable but still very relatable.

 

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin – the characters will grab you and pull you back into the story with them, but oh yeah there is freakin’ planetary geology! And plate tectonics! And like, literal earth science!!!!  And probably genetics? And i’m not entirely sure what else because I haven’t finished the trilogy.

 

The Quantum Magician – Big ideas on quantum entanglement, genetically modifying entire races of humans to survive on different planets, how religion and faith actually work, really hella cool characters. I’m still mad at the main character, Bel, for what he does to his friend William. I hope to see Stills again. The puppets still horrify me. Like, six months after I read this book I am still mad at Bel!  And I’m still in awe of all the cool science in this book!

 

Machineries of Empire trilogy by Yoon Ha Lee – seriously the best characters of the year, and big ideas about psychology, social engineering, something brilliantly terrible called Calendrical Mathematics, some fun observations on how language is connected to how a person thinks,  and a thing that happens between two characters that still makes me burst into tears. It’s been over a year, and I am still freaked out about this thing that happened – a thing that couldn’t have happened if not for the cool science and psychology concepts the story revolves around.

 

Blindsight by Peter Watts – Something I’m coming to love about Communication is that the better you think you are at it,  the worse you probably are at it. I’m coming to the conclusion that the worst possible way for human to interact with each other is through verbal communication. So, how many ways can we screw up talking with aliens?  A lot. This one takes social and psychological concepts behind how communication works (and yet, it totally doesn’t work), alongside excellent characters and a scientifically plausible explanation for why and how Vampires could really exist.

 

There’s a bazillion more big huge wonderful ideas and compelling characters books, but these were the few that quickly came to mind.

 

What are some of your favorites?

You buy books that looked interesting at the time, or came highly recommended, or had some buzz when they came out. You buy them, the buzz settles down, you forget about them. And then  years later you find the book, it’s been shoved to the back of the bookshelf, but you find it decide to give it a whirl. I can’t be the only person who does this.

So I came across one of those books.  Once upon a time it had been advertised like a Steampunkish-Firefly.  And who wouldn’t want a Firefly type story told in a Steampunk world??  no one, that’s who!  Yeah, I’m half way through the book, and it happens to be a total dude-bro book.

Ten years ago I don’t think I would have noticed female characters who are barely given any page time, that ALL the “important people” in the story are guys, that all the places where “important deals go down” are populated by men, and the only women there are the beautiful waitresses. in some cases the only women in the room are the whores.

I do want a Firefly-Steampunk with pirates and cool magic.  Just not this book.

moving on . . .

Do you have Netflix?  Check out a show called “The Politician“.   The preview for the show felt like five different MTV music videos were playing at once, it seemed like none of the people in the preview actually had anything to do with each other’s story.  It looked over the top, technicolor, gorgeously designed, absolute FTWery.  it looked fucking ridiculous.  I couldn’t wait to watch it!

I’ve been binge watching this show since last weekend, and I just finished the last episode.

It might be one of the best shows I’ve seen this year.  (and I’ve seen The Good Place S3. I cried the entire time. So maybe I like The Politician so much because it didn’t make me cry as much as The Good Place?  anyway).  The Politician is basically a rich-kids soap opera that goes off the rails.  The premise is gloriously stupid:  a rich ambitious high schooler in California, Peyton, decides to run for President of his high school. Rich kids whine a LOT.   That is basically the premise. And a ton of satirical pretension.

It goes beautifully off the rails from there.  The art direction is perfection.

I don’t know if it’s called “art direction”??   it’s the thing in movies and TV, where someone decides if the shot should be symmetrical or not, where someone decides exactly what color blue someone’s suit should be, exactly when an actor should smirk or scratch their nose or nervously play with their hair to give a non-verbal signal of what’s going on,  where someone determines that a particular haircut matched with particular jewelry gives a very specific connotation, where it’s determined that certain characters need to be very tall, so that other characters have to literally look up to them. Where certain scenes are lit in specific ways to give a certain meaning, where how someone walks or how they hold themselves can tell you so much about them before they ever say a word.  maybe it should be called “Context direction?”  I don’t know, but I love it when a show does it just right,  and this show does it just right.  if this was a book, we’d call it worldbuilding, characterization, and “show don’t tell”.

I also like how things go so wrong for Peyton.   He’s got this plan, you see?  And if he can just stick to the plan, everything will go perfect for him.  Because he has the plan, he never has to be himself, he can hide his feelings behind the plan.

And then the plan goes to hell.  And he can’t hide anymore.   (And it’s a little bit hilarious, because all these actors look, dress, and act like they are 30, but they are high school seniors, and freaking out about high school senior things)

The Call Me By Your Name-ish romance didn’t hurt either.  I am also a sucker for handsome men with deep voices.

I feel bad for Peyton.  But I cheer when his plans go off the rails.   What he saw as pain, I see as freedom.  What he saw as the melodramatic end, I saw as the beginning.

I always saw a “plan for my life” as a recipe for regret.  If I plan to accomplish such and such by 30, and then I don’t, will I feel like a failure because I didn’t do some arbitrary thing? Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to have goals – run a 5K,  eat better,  read 30 books each year.  Whatever the difference is between plans and goals, I’m good with goals, but am somehow allergic to plans.  I dunno, I guess goal feels like something I’m choosing to do every day, and plan feels like something where you just go through the motions with no emotional connection to anything you’re doing.

Anyway,  watch The Politician.  Pay attention to how perfectly designed it is, everything from haircuts to clothing to the pancake make-up, to the angle of people’s chins to the pitch of their voices.  And yes that is Ben Platt from Pitch Perfect.    He is an adorable puppy with the voice of an angel.  Ben Platt doing a Billy Joel cover album is what the world needs right now.

oh, you want an entire  blog post just about my too many feels about this show?  ok, i’ll see what I can do.  Darn, in that case I’d have to watch the entire show from scratch, poor me.

 

And last but certainly not least,

My husband and my dad have been enjoying Liu Cixin’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past series.   These books intimidate me,  but listening to the two of them talk about the books has kept me interested.  I enjoyed The Three Body Problem.   I liked the big ideas of The Dark Forest but struggled with the pacing and the characters.  I’ve not been super excited about the third one, Death’s End.  My dad said it had a slow start, but once he got into it he couldn’t stop reading it.  My husband said the end was traumatic, and that it reminded him of Sheri S Tepper’s book SideshowSideshow is one of my favorite books of all time.

Well, now I gotta read it so I can stay part of the family book club!  Also, I really really need to know what Cixin Liu and Sheri S Tepper have in common!

 

what is my second love after books?  cooking!

 

ok, here’s a riddle for you: What is the best combination of cookbooks (you know the photos are what drew you in!) and reading fictional stories (that also have wonderful pictures)?

 

Manga that is about food, of course!

 

I’m currently enjoying these:

if you’re interested in Japanese food culture,  Oishinbo is for you.  this long running series is fairly episodic, so if you see a volume BUY IT, doesn’t matter too much if you read them out of order.  Each volume discusses some different aspect of Japanese food culture,  such as ramen, pub food, sake, traditional vegetables, rice, etc.  The artwork is good if not great, and the sheer quantity of cuisine knowledge is just hella fun and enjoyable.

 

if it’s recipes and how to’s you want,  What Did You Eat Yesterday is the series for you.  I’m reading these in order.   Uninspired at his dayjob as an attorney, Shiro loves to cook elaborate dinners for his boyfriend Kenji.  Not only do we get Shiro’s inner monologue of instructions while he’s cooking, but we also get to follow him to the grocery store where he designs meals around what’s in season and/or on special at the store.  The celery was such a good deal. . .  but how much celery can you possibly eat before it goes soft in the fridge?    The way Shiro explains the dishes, he makes it sound so simple and effortless! And then you get to the page where all the dishes are laid out on the table, and I just want to lick the page.  and fire up my wok.

 

What stories, novels, graphic novels, and manga have you enjoyed that revolve around food, food culture, eating, recipes, or preparing food?

 

have you ever tried to cook a recipe that you found in a novel, graphic novel, or manga?  how did it turn out?

 


Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,410 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Archives

Categories

FTC Stuff

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.