the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for April 2020

I ordered some new books!    and they arrived way quicker than I expected!

 

These were all ordered from Bookshop.org.  The site doesn’t have the biggest selection I’ve ever seen,  BUT?  they share profits with local independent bookstores!  I got some brand new beautiful books, AND my local bookstore shared in the profit!

 

And? these books showed up about a week quicker than I expected!

 

I got The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes because my friend John recommended it as a great time travel read, and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Beukes,  Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik because I’ve been reading to read it forever,  and Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia because everything about this book looks hella cool.

 

Have you read any of these books?  What did you think of them?

 

are you familiar with Bookshop.org?   If you’ve not perused their site, I highly recommend!

 

 

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Good news everybody!

 

Good news everybody!

If you’ve been seeing my posts and thinking to yourself “jeez, when is she gonna shut up about this Company series, I don’t even know where to freakin’ start with these damn books”,  you can start with The Empress of Mars!

 

ok, so I KNOW all the suggested reading orders put Empress of Mars near the end of the series, but you should read it near the beginning!!!

– It functions perfectly as a stand alone. Never read a Kage Baker before? start with Empress of Mars!

– omg it is HILARIOUS,  like Anvil of the World hilarious.  the bad translator scene? I was laughing so hard I drooled on myself.

– If you recognize some characters from elsewhere in the series, that’s ok, and if you don’t, that’s ok too.  the book isn’t about those people anyway.

Also? It’s kinda better if you read The Empress of Mars before you know about some end of series stuff that happens.  I wish I’d read it before I knew all that other stuff.

The Empress of Mars is a gift that gives twice – it was originally a novella, AND then it got expanded  into a novel!  I’ve not read the novella, so I don’t know what parts of the book it was.

What the heck is this book about?

Mary Griffith went to Mars for adventure!  She went For Science!

And when the British Arean Company decided they didn’t her discoveries anymore, they fired her. With no income, she had no way to purchase tickets home for her family.  So Mary opened  a bar.  The very first bar on Mars, as a matter of fact.  A friendly stop for ice haulers,  a save haven for a Heretic,  a place where everyone ends up.  Mary’s bar,  The Empress of Mars, is where you go for news and gossip, local brew and decent food.  And when it’s literally the only bar in town . . .

(I really did want Brick and the Heretic to have a happy ever after, didn’t you?)

The Empress of Mars has electronic bees,  crazy truckers,  idiot bureaucrats, kind fiancees, gamblers and con-artists,  two gentlemen who you just might recognize,  tips for starting a business on Mars, and one very large, very perfect diamond.  It’s and old fashioned western frontier town adventure story, on Mars.

It’s a fun feel good book and a fast read.

I wish I’d read it earlier in the series.

The only crime the Empress of Mars ever committed was being read immediately after I read The Sons of Heaven,  and really any book would have been a let down after reading that.

Also? now I’m reading the next book (the last novel? I think?) in the series, Not Less Than Gods.  It’s all about Edward, who I still think is a total asshole for all the shit he pulled in the Sons of Heaven. I am not excited about reading a book that is entirely about him.

What can I say about Not Less than Gods, since I’m about 100 pages in?  The writing is glorious, the side-characters are a hoot, I love the cover art.  Edward is an asshole.

Remember I said I wanted all my favorite characters, all in the same place,  but I didn’t think this could ever happen because I was afraid we’d never see Lewis again?

 

Also, I probably wouldn’t be able to handle the emotions of having everyone together, because OMG these characters!  And dude. Have you met me? I might be all tough and crusty on the outside, but I’m a squishy ball of squishy cry-y emotions on the inside.

 

In The Sons of Heaven, the year 2355 has arrived, and everyone is here for it.  Everyone needs to know what happens, and everyone believes their side will win.

 

The Sons of Heaven is my Avengers:Endgame.

 

I was not ready.

 

With minimal spoilers,  here are my thoughts as I progressed through the book.

 

  1.  This title seems kind of arrogant?
  2. LEWIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1
  3. Awww,  Latif, you sure had a glow up!
  4. What exactly has happened to Nicholas and Alec?
  5. Edward is kind of a dick.
  6. Wait, WHO is having a baby???  How is this going to work, actually?
  7. I need a novel that is all Budu all the time.  He’s being a good dad to Joseph.
  8. Uhh. .  should we tell Bugleg who he’s genetically related to?  Can you imagine if 23andMe existed in this world?
  9. Parenthood really does change you.
  10. LEWIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  11. Edward being even more of a Victorian dick.  Why are you being such an asshole?
  12. For the first time in a long time, Joseph knows exactly what he’s doing and why.
  13. Bwahaha,  tweens and their hormones!
  14. HELLO NICHOLAS.  So, how’s this gonna work?  Actually, who cares! I’m good with it!
  15. Victor,  what are you planning?
  16. Hearst? To be honest I’m pretty meh about him.
  17. I’m sorry Ancilla, but David never really loved you.
  18. Does the Captain have another ace up his sleeve? Kinda thought he might?
  19. Victor!!!!
  20. The title.  It makes sense. It’s still arrogant AF, but it makes sense now.
  21. July 9th, 2355.  The silence has fallen.
  22. If it hadn’t been for the power of story, Tiara wouldn’t have known who the tall man was. It’s a good thing someone told her all those stories. It’s a good thing someone wrote all those stories!
  23. This ending is not what I expected but I love everything about it, I’m going to go cry now.
  24. There is a Doctor Who quote I want to say, but it is a HUGE spoiler so I’ll keep it to myself.
  25. I love this series, I love Mendoza, I love Nicholas, I love Joseph, I love Lewis.

 

That’s it,  that’s the not-review  of The Sons of Heaven.

 

I’ve been avoiding reading this book for ten years, because I thought if i knew how the series ended, that I wouldn’t have any reason to revisit it. I worried that knowing the ending would wreck the journey for me.  (you guys KNOW how I struggle with endings!!!)

 

But? I’m good.  I’m way more OK than I expected.   Might have to read the end of The Sons of Heaven again, because it was that damn good.  And I’ve still got The Empress of Mars, Not Less than Gods, and two short story collections to read.  So yeah, I know how the main plot line ends (or oh shit, is there more??), but I’ve got more journey and more story to read.  I get to explore more nooks and crannies of the world.

 

Oh yeah, and I tried to make butter.

 

We’re in the home stretch now!  Yes, I’m talking about Kage Baker’s Company series, a series that spans all (literally, all) of human history,  a story of romance, star crossed lovers, betrayal, immortality, the best of intentions, the longest game in the history of ever, some of the best historical fiction you’ll ever read, black humor and sarcasm, and of course, time travel.

 

the most unbreakable rule of time travel being that recorded history can not be changed.

but what about those idyllic afternoons where no one wrote down what happened?

and what the person writing the stuff down, what if they, um, missed some stuff?

if the future is known, because the Temporal Concordance has all of recorded history, what does that do to Mendoza’s free will?

Doesn’t that sound like the most fascinating thing ever?    The Company books are my ideal binge read.  I’m stuck at home for a while, so I’m reading comfort books, stuff that will keep my attention, stuff I really want to read.

ok, so there is plenty of discussion on the proper reader order for this series.   Do you read it in publishing order? Do you read the main Mendoza and Joseph novels first and then go back and read the  novellas short stories later? As time travel ramps up, and things become wibbly wobbly timey wimey, it stops making sense to read these in any kind of chronological order.   I’m using the reading order list from Goodreads.  I’m missing some of the novellas in the middle, but hey, I’ll be rereading this series and/or dipping my toes in again in the future, so there’s plenty of opportunity to pick up those missing books.

 

I’ve been blogging my way through the series.  these aren’t book reviews, they are old fashioned blog entries, where I’m talking about what I’m reading, what else I’m up to, what I’m watching on TV (lots of Star Trek: Discovery), what I’m making for dinner (lots of home made bread), how I’m doing (it’s very quiet outside), etc.

 

Here’s the posts that have gone up so far, and the titles I’ve talked about:

 

It is sorta like Outlander meets Twilight, minus the WerewolvesIn the Garden of Iden #1 and Sky Coyote (#2)

One non-sequiter after anotherSky Coyote #2

Books to Escape IntoMendoza in Hollywood #3

Who is Writing this Story, Anyway?The Graveyard Game #4 and The Life of the World to Come #5

The Children of the CompanyThe Children of the Company #6

Whiskey and Book Club Ep 1The Machine’s Child #7,

 

I have finished Gods and Pawns #7.5, and Rude Mechanicals #7.75.  Both of those books are short stories that were published  in Asimov’s and other magazines, and give a lot of background on characters, and show some other adventures.  In my opinion, about half of Gods and Pawns is required for the big picture, and tbh you could skip the other half and skip Rude Mechanicals and be OK.  are all of these stories enjoyable and beautiful written and full of snark and humor?  hell yeah they are!  If you missed them (like, if you couldn’t find a copy of the book), will you still be able to follow the main story? Abso-freaking-lutely.

I really loved the first story in Gods and Pawns, where Mendoza and Lewis spend a week in ancient Central America. Mendoza is, of course, obsessed with figuring out the super compost, and Lewis is mistaken for a God’s servant.  You know how it’s easy to assume that ancient peoples weren’t as smart as we are today, because they don’t have steam engines and computers and airplanes and ipads?  This story turns that theory on it’s head.  the family that Mendoza and Lewis meet,  these people know exactly what they’re doing, they know why and how to do it, and most importantly they know how to spin science as religion/magic.

The Kalugin story was hard to read. He’s talking about a global plague. I nearly put the book down, didn’t finish it, and just went right to the next novel. I don’t want to read anything about sickness right now.

Rude Mechanicals was (please don’t kill me) just okay.  Was it fun? absolutely. Will I do just about anything to hang out with Joseph and Lewis? omg hell yes!  Believe it or not, I think Rude Mechanicals was the first Company anything I ever read, way back when.  I had no idea what the hell was going on, but I knew whatever this was, I liked it, and I wanted more.  I think my beef with Rude Mechanicals is that I’m getting itchy for “what happens next”, and while this super fun romp through 1930s Hollywood is very fun, it doesn’t move the story forward.   In a few years, when I want to dip my toes into this series, without getting sucked into the main story line, Rude Mechanicals will probably be the perfect novella to read!

Which brings us to The Sons of Heaven.  I’m nearly half way through The Sons of Heaven and holy shit is there buckets upon buckets of fuckupery happening in this book!  just some absolutely trippy shit.   Aside from that,  this novel is exactly the dessert buffet I’d been wishing for – it’s all my favorite characters, together at last.  And Lewis!   He’s like the  Neville Longbottom of the series.  He’s meek, he’s quiet,  but he’s going to save everyone, isn’t he?

At this point in the game (and we’re getting pretty close to end game), nearly all the factions are spying on each other,  the mortals of the 24th century mistakenly think they run the place,  and no one is asking the important question of “where the hell is Mendoza and Alec?”.  I also want to know – the story line with Lewis and Tiara, when exactly is this taking place?

Hard to talk about much else without giving away epic spoilers!

 

 

I got to be on the first episode of Whiskey and Book Club!     Click the link for the video!

 

this club is exactly what you’d think – two friends hop onto a Zoom call,  talk about books, and drink whiskey (or whatever they feel like drinking).    H.P. and I had so much fun that we lost track of time as we chatted about Scott Reardon, Connie Willis, Kage Baker, Scott Reardon, Yuval Levin, Cormac McCarthy, Andrzej Sapkowski, Robert Jordan, and a ton of other great writers and their books.

 

if you’ve got books you’d like to talk about,  and just wanna chit chat over Zoom for an hour, reach out to H.P. to be a guest.  Whiskey not required!

 

 

 

Other stuff that’s been happening:

Passover cooking marathon starts in about an hour.

Yes, I finished The Children of the Company,  yes I cried at the end of Kalugin’s story.

Zipped through The Machine’s Child, where the story FINALLY (omg FINALLY) gets back to Mendoza, Nicholas/etc, Joseph, and Budu.  my scribbled notes include:

The supermarket scene, omg so funny!

Joseph and Budu #AllTheFeels

Mendoza and Nicholas can’t keep their hands off of each other and it is the cutest and I love them so much! #AllTheHearts

Jumping back and forth between the short story novels (fix up novels) to the full length  novels and getting spend time with so many of my favorite characters is like a buffet of my favorite desserts. If I’m reading about Joseph it means I’m not reading about Mendoza. If I’m reading about Lewis it means I’m not reading about Kalugin.  it’s like if I’m eating cheesecake that means that bite doesn’t have truffles, and if I’m eating creme brulee it means I’m not eating cake.  Is there such a thing as a turducken of desserts?  how about the Kage Baker version of EndGame where all my fave characters are ALL THERE ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

oh shit. Kalugin. And I still don’t know where Lewis is. they can’t all be there at the same time.  *cries*

 

Have I already started reading Gods and Pawns?  of course I have!   Did I squee when I realized the first story is about Lewis and I get to hang out with him again?  Of course I did!

 

more random info:  that green sweater I’m wearing in the video? Apparently that is my “I want to look like a grown up” sweater.  I had to run a zoom training call at work yesterday, and what did I wear to look all professional and knowledgeable?  that green sweater.

I ever so slowly getting through The Children of the Company, Kage Baker’s 6th Company book.   The horrid cover art continues.    Much of this novel started out as short stories that were published in Asimov‘s,  which is very cool because it means Baker wrote these parts first.  She backwards engineered the whole thing!!   but wait a minute, does that mean this book is a fix-up novel??

 

This is the first book in the series that has felt like a slog.  Labienus is my least favorite character, so watching him go through his files and remember people and places doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time. Also? no Mendoza or Joseph, so far.

 

The biggest benefit of this book, is that it’s everyone’s origin stories.  I love how much we get of Budu.  Victor’s origin story!  the truth behind his childhood memory that he “was saved from a bear”, or something.  That immortals felt sadness in the minutes leading up to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake!  That they did truly care for their mortal friends.

 

and OMG, the line about how “recorded history can not be changed”, but who is doing the recording? what if they lied?  what an oh shit moment!

 

I meant for this blog post to be a ton of fun links for you,  neat stuff you can check out.   I do not have the mental energy for that today.  I’ve re-written this post now three times,  trying to keep it positive, because reasons.  Anyway.

 

You don’t need me to post a bunch of links of things that I think are worthy. You know what you’re interested in, you know what is worthy of your time.  Go buy a bunch of e-books from an independent bookstore or a humble bundle or a small press.  Learn how to bake bread. Can’t find any yeast? there is suddenly tons of helpful info online on how to do sourdough if you don’t have any yeast. Don’t like bread? Make pasta or cookies or mashed potatoes or whatever it is that you enjoy eating.  Watch some movies.  Watch everything on Netflix.

 

I started watching Community last night, and oh hello to my crush on Joel McHale, you tall sarcastic cutie! I may have to watch that Halloween episode from the first season, oh, I dunno, ten more times.  And Donald Glover, he is SO ADORABLE!  I need a supercut of just Donald Glover being cute in that show.  I first saw Alison Brie in GLOW,  does she have any acting abilities other than chewing the scenery?      Oh shit,  now I’m not sure who I have more of a crush on, Joel McHale or Donald Glover!  can I have both of them?  (lolz, where is that Road to El Dorado “both. both is good” gif when you need it?)

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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.