the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for March 2020

I’ve been re-reading Kage Baker’s Company series.  I’m not writing formal reviews,  just chatting about the books every few days, making small connections, making big connections.    Some spoilers are unavoidable.

 

If you don’t care about this series, but are interested in my poor brain exploding due to realizing my beloved characters never had any free will,  scroll way down to a paragraph that starts with “I used to think . . ”.

 

 

Previous posts in this series:

post 1 – talking about In the Garden of Iden (book #1)

post 2 – talking about Sky Coyote (book #2) and Mendoza in Hollywood (book #3) and also the movie Rocketman and the tv show Star Trek: Discovery

and now we’re up to talking about The Graveyard Game (book #4) and The Life of the World to Come (#5).    This is where I realized my beloved characters don’t have any free will,  that everyone is trapped. Here we go!

 

 

About ten minutes after I finished The Graveyard Game,  I pulled The Life of the World to Come off the bookshelf. Boy these books have some truly awful cover art.

 

The Graveyard Game is a hella fun read, and it’s a fast read!  We’re back to Lewis and Joseph, and I adore Joseph, even if he’s a jerk sometimes.  Please, is there an internet archive of Joseph fan-fic? Pretty please? Anyway, Joseph is trying to find out what happened to Budu,  and Lewis gets a little obsessed with trying to figure out who the hell Edward Alton Bell-Fairfax was. They are both sort of trying to figure out what happened to Mendoza.  The problem is, when you’re a cyborg who is enslaved to The Company, every word you say, every photo you take with your cybernetic eyes, every web-search you do, is recorded and added to the temporal concordance. Everything you do becomes recorded history, so you have to be super sneaky, and make sure nothing you do is recorded.    Because recorded history can not be changed.

 

Joseph finds some secret bunkers, and reminisces about his early years with the Company and Budu’s heroic acts.   Lewis is haunted by his past, when he saw something he shouldn’t have.

 

Joseph has a hard time coming to terms with the idea that as you age, the world changes.  You feel like you don’t fit in with the younger generations anymore, the things you care about aren’t the things they care about.  What happens when an immortal has a mid-life crisis, and realizes that trends in Company brainwashing and programming have drastically changed over the course of known history?   The Graveyard Game might be my favorite Company book! (well, tied with Sky Coyote, because that book is just so damn funny) I guess I just love any excuse to hang out with Joseph!

 

And then we get to The Life of the World to Come,  which is the most annoying book in the history of EVER, while at the same time being the most confusing book of the series and the most important book of the series.

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Little Red Reviewer turns ten years old today!

Yes, it’s true!  the first time I posted to this blog was March 28th, 2010.  It seems like a lifetime ago.

To celebrate, I’m doing an Ask Me Anything!

 

Whatdya wanna know about blogging? about blogger burn out?  about getting ARCs? about characters I’m shipping? about growing a following?  about getting blogging/interviewing gigs elsewhere? about trying to do a kickstarter while starting a new job during a polar vortex? about my day job? about used bookstores? about recipes and gluten free cooking? about being a couch potato?   about talking on panels at conventions?

 

Ask me Anything in the comments!

 

but first, a public service announcement for #SaveOurBookstores , #SaveOurIndies :

Your local bookstore might be:

Closed: but still selling gift cards on their website and possibly still taking orders online to ship to your house

Mostly Closed: but will answer the phone, take your order over the phone or over email, and ship the books to your house.

Sort of Closed: Customers aren’t allowed in the retail space, but they’ll take your order over the phone and bring your order to your car. It’s like the McDonald’s drive through, except it’s at the bookstore, and you’ll feel much better afterwards!

Our family-run, independent bookstores are struggling like they have never struggled before. They have always been there for us. now it’s our turn. If you see me tweeting hashtags like #SaveOurBookstores and #SaveOurIndies, retweet and share widely.

 

AMA . .  ready. . .  GO!

 

He’s Also Ten.

Tags: ,

Need some escapism?

Need some books shipped to your house?

Suddenly have a lot of time on your hands?

I’m over at Nerds of a Feather, talking about great series to escape into, including Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga,  Derek Kunsken’s Quantum Magician and Quantum Garden, Scott Lynch’s Gentleman Bastard series, Mike Allen’s Clockwork Phoenix anthology series, and more!

While all of the books mentioned in that post are available as e-books, you should consider ordering them from your local independent bookstore!

Your local bookstore might be:

Closed:  but still selling gift cards on their website and possibly still taking orders online to ship to your house

Mostly Closed:  but will answer the phone, take your order over the phone or over email, and ship the books to your house.

Sort of Closed:  Customers aren’t allowed in the retail space, but they’ll take your order over the phone and bring your order to your car.  It’s like the McDonald’s drive through, except it’s at the bookstore, and you’ll feel much better afterwards!

Our family-run, independent bookstores are struggling like they have never struggled before. They have always been there for us. now it’s our turn.  If you see me tweeting hashtags like #SaveOurBookstores and #SaveOurIndies,  retweet and share widely.

 

My local indie, Kazoo Books, is somewhere between Mostly Closed and Sort of Closed.  If you’re spreading your book buying around,  give them a call.

changing gears, I finished Kage Baker’s 3rd Company novel, Mendoza in Hollywood last night.  This novel meanders all over the place, but I couldn’t put it down!   If you’ve ever lived in Los Angeles, or are interested in Hollywood history,  you’ll love this book.  Unlike the first two, Mendoza in Hollywood can not be read as a stand alone, you’ve got to read  books one and two first.  Don’t worry, you won’t be able to put those books down either!

The bigger, nastier plot really starts to get going in this book.  Based on what Joseph told us in Sky Coyote, and what Mendoza is starting to figure out,  something much bigger and much twistier is going on, the secret is way bigger than anyone expected. And no one will figure it out, because everyone is just “a good little machine”, right?

 

There’s this weird scene where Mendoza and Einar ride their horses into a particular canyon, a place where weird shit is known to happen. like, really weird, a rip in space-time shit.  Everyone knows you can’t go forward in your own timeline, and yet . . . Mendoza and Einar do?   Mendoza sees Lewis for a split second, and he freaks out, but she can’t hear what he’s saying. And all I could thing was:

 

also,  Juan and his birds,  more beef tacos than you can shake a stick at, and not enough hot water.

Everyone is ready for a vacation after spending nearly two years in Southern California in the 1860s!

Off to the bookshelves, to find book 4, The Graveyard Game!

I finished Kage Baker’s Sky Coyote yesterday, and immediately started reading Mendoza in Hollywood. I’ve been reading a ton in the mornings.  And at lunchtime. And at night. At this rate, I’m going to be done with this series in two weeks.  I’m thinking of rereading Kaoru Mori’s Bride’s Story next,  we recently got volume eleven.  Each volume of that takes me about two hours to read, so I can draw it out to . . . eleven days?  Eleven days of gorgeous artwork, I think I can handle that.

How are your bookshelves organized?  Mine are by “height”. All the mass market  paperbacks together, so I can stack more MMPs on top of them. All the hardbacks together, all the “tall” books together.  My Baker’s are a mish-mash of every type of format – hard  back, mass market paper back “tall” paperback, an odd-size ARC from Tachyon, I even have one or two hard back special editions from Sub Press. What I’m getting at is that they’re all different sizes, so are somehow scattered throughout this house.  Nothing is more entertaining that watching me tear bookshelves apart looking for specific books!

 

Ok,  so here we go, with random thoughts on Sky Coyote:

 

Sky Coyote is feel-good humor, feel-good pop culture references, it’s got characters I want to hang out with all day long.  This book feels like I’m watching Back to the Future.  it feels really low stakes.   I may just come back and reread this,  when later books in the series get super heavy.

 

I love Joseph.  This isn’t his first rodeo, which is  good thing,  but he’s also compartmentalized everything in his mind to justify his actions, which is not a good thing.  Being around people who remind him of home, he needed that.  I’m happy he got that, I wish he’d had more time with the Chumash.  Everytime I read this book again, that’s more time he gets to spend with them, right?

 

I was howling with laughter at Puluy and Awhay’s dialog, they talk like Valley Girls!

 

I love living mythology, and that’s what this book is. You can read Sky Coyote as a stand alone, so if you like mythology, if you like humor,  get this book.  Everyone knows it’s ok for mythology stories to be  made up,  and everyone knows it’s ok to feel like those stories aren’t made up.

 

Do we get more of Joseph thinking about Budu? I hope so.  I think so?  Budu and his kind were designed to kill humans who were killing other humans. But what happens when soldiers like Budu aren’t needed anymore.  Hmmm . . . . suddenly seeing Will McIntosh’s Defenders as a companion book to The Company.

 

The performance the Kantap puts on!  If you have no idea what I’m talking about, oh are you in for a treat!  When they do the “comedy act” of Sky Coyote and his, well, um,  I was laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe!

 

Omg, the scene with the Looney Tunes cartoons!  I was crying-laughing!   Actually, because me, I was crying-laughing for like the last 50 pages of this book.  They were happy tears.

 

The year 2355.  You can’t outrun it, you can’t avoid it.  You are rushing towards it, inevitably, relentlessly, and one day per day.

 

Because I have vague memories of what’s coming in books 3 – 6,  I can’t stop thinking about Mendoza and Nicholas.

 

We watched the movie Rocketman, the other day.  Freakin’ excellent movie!  It’s very Baz Luhrmann!  I lost track of all the costume changes and started getting a kick out of the dozens and dozens of glasses.  If you like musical biopics, this is well worth your two hours.

 

And I swear I saw Nicholas Harpole in Rocketman. You can’t tell from this picture, but he is tall and very lanky, and usually wears severe dark suits.  and that voice! and those eyes!  No wonder Elton thought this guy loved him, how could anyone think otherwise?

 

I spent the afternoon today binge watching Star Trek: Discovery season 2.

 

I freakin’ love Tilly.  You’re either going to love her or hate her, and it took me a few episodes in season one to warm up to her,  but I wish they would just call Discovery the Tilly & Stamets show.

 

isn’t she adorable?

 

More non-sequiturs in a few days, ok?

As of Tuesday this week, I’m telecommuting until further notice.  I have a mini-desk set up in one corner of the living room,  and a huge thank you to IT for sending me home with an extra plug-bar!

I’m trying to keep to my normal schedule as much as possible, I’m the kind of person who really needs structure.  This means:  Up at 6am or earlier,  exercise,  have a shower, have a coffee. . .  and well,  I used to leave for work around 6:40am because I had an hour commute.  I used to get home from work around 6:30, because hour commute.

no more hour commute.

I’ve just bought myself 2 hours a day (or more!) to read!!!  I’m trying to read in the morning, instead of obsessing over reading the news.

I’m re-reading my way through Kage Baker’s Company series,  blew through In the Garden of Iden in a couple of days, and am now a few chapters in to Sky Coyote.

We picked up a few more Witcher books, so I have those two.

 

if you’ve just gained some time, due to #reasons,  what are you taking the time to finally read?

 

 

I’d forgotten how freakin’ smart In the Garden of Iden is,  now that I’ve read further into the series there is SO MUCH foreshadowing in this book that OF COURSE I wouldn’t/couldn’t have seen the first time I read it.  Also? The sex scenes are SO ADORABLE!

I was nervous getting up to the scene at the end. Iif you’ve read the book, you know the scene I’m talking about.  I was this close to DNFing it, and going right to Sky Coyote, so I  could skip that scene, because with all that’s going on, did I really need to torture myself with reading that scene?

Mendoza managed to survive it.  Baker managed to write it.  I needed to put on my big girl panties and read the fucking scene. I took a deep breath, and I read it.  I didn’t like it,  but I got through it. The actual scene? it was shorter than I remembered.  A little easier to survive than I expected.  Still, it was brutal.  Maybe next time, I’ll skip it.

 

ok, more random thoughts on this book:

(apologies in advance for crappy grammar, shouty caps, and crimes against italics. I’ve been drinking. it’s been a week, ok?)

 

for the uninitiated,  In the Garden of Iden has time travel, romance, teen angst, grown-up snark, and immortals. It is sorta like Outlander meets Twilight, minus the werewolves and with way better writing and humor?

 

Shit, the title!!!!   Excellent play on words on Garden of Eden.  Mendoza finds herself in a paradise, and is then thrust out, having had her eyes opened to so much awfulness.   And holy crap, she is SO seventeen years old!!  the teen angst is so adorable!    And what she knows now? the knowledge she has (about life, about mortals) she can’t unknow. I think I could play with this paragraph for about forever, so i’m just gonna shut up now.

 

I like that this book is written in past tense first person.  At least that means we know for a fact that Mendoza doesn’t die.

 

srsly, what the fuck are they teaching these kids in school?

 

Joseph rocks.  The first time I read this, I thought he was an asshole.  After re-reading Iden and a few chapters into Sky Coyote I don’t think he’s an asshole at all.  i mean, he’s a total jerk sometimes, but he’s not an asshole.

 

In the Garden of Iden came out in 1997.  for context, that was the year I graduated high shool, and at the time I wouldn’t have known quality science fiction if it bit me in the ass.  For folks who were actual grown-ups in the 90s,  did this book “break the internet”?  Were people all like “what the hell is this?”, or did this book come out, and no one knew what it was and it didn’t get any buzz?  I mean, the series doesn’t really get going big time for a few books or so, but Garden of Iden is SO FREAKING GOOOOOOOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!   what was was the reaction when this book came out?

 

omfg time paradox!!!   Joseph, Nef, and Mendoza were sent to Walter Iden’s estate to (among other things) collect samples of certain plants that would shortly become extinct.  Some of these plants have medicinal extracts, etc.   avoiding spoilers:  if Joseph hadn’t given Iden __________,  maybe Iden wouldn’t have ______  ____   _______ , and maybe _____ ______  would never _______  ________ in the first place???  i freaking LOVE shit like this!!!

 

More in a couple days when I’m further into Sky Coyote.

 

To Say Nothing of the Dog came out in 1998.

 

We all need something happy right now.

 

So I’m going to spoil this book for you:

 

It has a happy ending.

 

It stars the world’s cutest doggo, and the world’s fluffliest cat.

 

No one dies.

 

Yes, this is a book in which no one dies,  comedies of manners take place, Victorian romances are not-quite thwarted by distractable chaperones,  yard sales are born, mysteries are solved by studying other mysteries, time travel happens every five minutes,  and you’ll laugh your head off.

 

While you can read Willis’s Oxford Time Travel books in nearly any order, since they all function as stand alones,  I’d recommend reading Doomsday Book first. It’ll give you a feel for Willis’s writing style, the rules of her time travel technology, it’ll tell you what you’re getting yourself into.  (and you have to read Blackout / All Clear as a duology, do NOT read All Clear first!)

 

Once you’ve finished Doomsday Book and you are done crying, you’ll be reading for something much lighter and much funnier.  It’s time for To Say Nothing of the Dog. You’ve earned it.

 

In the future, Lady Shrapnell refuses to take no for an answer.  She commandeers the time travel lab at Oxford to send hapless historians anywhen she pleases, so that her restoration of Coventry Cathedral can be perfect.

 

You can’t bring artifacts forward in time with you, but you can steal them away from a cathedral that is about to be bombed in the 1940 Blitz, hide them somewhere safe, and then 200 years later just happen to locate them in some granny’s attic. The one item the historians can’t seem to find is the Bishop’s bird stump.  What is a bird stump? Doesn’t matter, it’s just a Macguffin, and a cause for comedy as time travellers to say “The Bishop’s Bird Stump” ten times fast while trying to figure out what happened to it and why anyone would want to make something so hideous.

 

The only way to protect the time lagged historians from Lady Shrapnell’s wrath is to get them as far away from her as possible –  maybe a few hundred years away from her.

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My copy of Cat’s Cradle didn’t make it into this picture.  So it goes.

 

 

I’d taken this photo a week or so ago, didn’t realize I owned so many Vonneguts!   And yes, I realize that “The Last Interview” and “Venus on the Halfshell” are not actual Vonnegut novels, and yes, I know there are two copies of Galapagos in this photo.

 

I’ve not read every book that is in this photo.

 

There are some Vonnegut’s I’ve read that I got from the library, so they aren’t in this photo.

 

I think I was in my early 20s,  I read every Vonnegut in the local library.  Looking at what was nearby, is probably where I discovered Vandermeer.

 

Have you read any Kurt Vonnegut?  Cat’s Cradle is my favorite, followed by his short story Harrison Bergeron.  What of his have you enjoyed? or hated?

 

and remember, always wear sunscreen.

 

Originally published in Spanish in 2017,  Ray Loriga’s novel Surrender won the Alfaguara literary prize that year. Thanks to the translation talents of Carolina de Roberts, Surrender is now available in English.  I picked up a free ARC of this novel at ConFusion.

 

I find I don’t mind not being told everything up front.  Author wants to drop me in the deep end, and explain stuff later, or not explain things later? I’m ok with that.  But I know not everyone is.

 

If you prefer stories with lots of specific worldbuilding and world politics that are explained in detail, if you want a clear resolution at the end,  if you need things to be named and categorized, Surrender by Ray Loriga is not for you. Loriga doesn’t even tell you people’s names. The more you need to know about a world to enjoy that world,  the less this book is for you.

 

Surrender reads as if you are half in a dream,  what is right in front of you is in sharp focus, but everything else feels misty and of minimal importance.  Told in first person, the unnamed narrator tells us what is most important to him – how much he loves his wife,  how they met, their farm and the village they live in, and the rare letters they receive from their sons who are off fighting a foreign war. Their village is near the front, and when a mute and injured little boy wanders onto their property, the narrator and his wife unofficially adopt the little boy.

 

The narrator is passionate and kind,  he is pleased with his life, he doesn’t have many complaints. He effectively pulls the reader into his world.

 

The war is going badly,  and the village is evacuated.  Everyone is told to pack one suitcase and to hop on busses that will take everyone to the safety of the Transparent City.  No need to bring much, as the City will provide food, clothing, and housing. You and your children will be safe there.

 

The city is being evacuated,  residents are told to burn their homes so the enemy can’t use them for shelter, people are hoarding water and supplies. And yet, the unnamed narrator and his family seem perfectly calm. He places full trust in the government, because why wouldn’t you?

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Before my next book review goes up,  let’s have a discussion about first person point of view,  how much knowledge the narrator has, the narrator’s perspective and intent, and trust.

 

Do you like first person point of view, or does it annoy you?

If you like it, what do you like about it?

What books have you read where the first person point of view was especially effective?

Ever had a narrator lie to you?  Were you ok with that?

Do you like unreliable narrators, or do they piss you off?

 

 

Some people really hate first person point of view, some people love it.  Me personally? I love it. My fave is getting the story from that character’s perspective – what excites them, what annoys them, what  is their internal monologue, how do they make decisions, how do they deal with/avoid the consequences of those decisions. I literally want to spend the story inside that person’s head. It feels intimate, like they are letting me in.

 

A thing with first person point of view, is that the reader only knows what the narrator knows. If the narrator doesn’t know who all is on the Orient Express, the reader isn’t going to know until the character meets everyone.  If the narrator doesn’t know why the train broke down or what the name of the cafe at the station is, you don’t know that info either.

 

One of the many fun things about first person, is the narrator  has full control over what the reader knows. If the narrator “forgets” to tell you where they were last night, I guess you’re never gonna know.  If the narrator truly doesn’t remember what happened last night because they passed out drunk, I guess you’re never gonna know. Instead of getting to learn everything about everything, your knowledge becomes severely limited.

 

The narrator is going to tell you what you need to know to stay interested in the story, and there might be some things they choose not to tell you. Could be because they themselves don’t think that piece of information is necessary or interesting,  could be they don’t want to have to answer awkward questions, could be the narrator isn’t as smart as they think (especially entertaining when the narrator is an animal), could be the narrator is purposely hiding information because they are an unreliable narrator.

 

Sometimes the narrator keeps information from you, and they have no ill intent.  Maybe they didn’t realize the information was important, or it wasn’t something they cared about, or they weren’t able to put all the pieces together. We can’t all be Sherlock Holmes brainiacs, you know.

 

So,  how do you know if you can trust a narrator?  Why do you trust a narrator right out of the gate?

 

As a reader,  how do you feel when you trust the narrator, and then find out they weren’t fully truthful with you? Yes, I am asking how you feel about unreliable narrators.

 

I’m a weirdo, I freakin’ love unreliable narrators.   Because if i’m suddenly questioning everything they told me. . .  is the story I just read maybe a completely different story? And I love it when that happens.

 

 

So,  I’ll give you the same “spoilers” that I gave my friends in my book club:

 

This book is really, really, good.  Like, might be one of my favorite books that I read this year kind of good.

 

There is a really cool character named John.

 

Also, Maps!  There is a map in the book!  But it’s no good anymore, because the seas have risen just enough to move the shoreline.  So where the map says there is a harbor?  The harbor doesn’t look like that anymore!

 

Omg, so much cool stuff in this book!!!

 

Ok,  other very, very minor spoilers ahead.

 

Have you read A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World?  If you leave spoilers in the comments I will delete your comment and then say very mean things about you.

 

For those you who read this last year, and have been wondering what the hell took me so long, you were right! This book is awesome!  I’m sorry it took me so long.

 

Ready?  Let’s go.

It’s seems to be a year for me to read post apocalyptic stuff?  Yeah, I didn’t plan that either. A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World takes place one or two generations after what people called “the gelding”.  We don’t know what caused it, within a generation or two, humanity was near extinction. Hardly anyone could have kids. Some people think it was caused by pollution, some people think it was a bio-weapon,  some people think it was from something sprayed in the air. (Huh, maybe Mother Nature is an introvert, and she finally had enough of this loud AFparty that she couldn’t ghost?)

 

A line from the beginning of the book:

 

In my whole life, I haven’t met enough people to make up two teams for a game of football. The world is that empty

 

This is a post- apocalyptic world, but  the sun is still shining, you can still fish and hunt and do some basic farming,  many places are still safe, and although the weather is warmer, it is still bearable.   What this is, is a silent world. A world that no longer has a need for humans. All that silence? It was kinda refreshing, actually.

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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.