the Little Red Reviewer

Author Archive

Since I can read minds, I knew you were looking for some good reviews, discussions and give aways. So here you go!

 

My Life My Books My Escape recently reviewed Mark Lawrence’s Broken Empire trilogy

The Writing Slices blog specializes in review of “How To Write” books.

Homeschool Reader recently reviewed The Warded Man, by Peter V. Brett. She loved most of it, but had issues with it as well.

Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog loved Ferrett Steinmetz’s Flex as much as I did.

Holy crap, SFSignal has a give away for the entire trilogy of Wesley Chu’s Lives of Tao series!

Far Beyond Reality reviews Touch by Claire North

Shadowhawk’s Shade is enjoying his reread of Daughter of the Empire by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts.

My Bookish Ways has an interview and  give away of Evensong by John Love

And speaking of John Love’s Evensong, I recently reviewed it over at SFSignal

Bibliotropic reviews The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

Ferrett Steinmetz talks about how Stephen King kills off characters and Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings

Books, Bones and Buffy reviews Zoo City by Lauren Beukes

From Couch to Moon reviews The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks

Civilian Reader reviews The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Nice article over at Buzzfeed about Independent booksellers

101 Books blog finds snobby authors to be, well, snobby.

 

What do you get when you mix nightmares with prose poetry and then set it all to the sound of unique and unexpected typography?  You get something like The Quick Shivers anthologies from The Daily Nightmare.  and when they say “quick” shivers, they aren’t kidding. Every entry in the anthology is only and exactly 100 words long and based on a Nightmare that was submitted to their website.  And the typography? Certainly I remember typography from my college graphic design classes, but I never knew it could be used like this.  This is quite literally, graphic literature.  Jim and Janice Leach of The Daily Nightmare were kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the anthology series, the genius and challenge of unique typesetting, snob horror, and more!

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LRR: I absolutely adore your Quick Shivers anthologies. the writing is smart, snarky, fun and punchy, and the graphic design is just beautiful. It’s one thing to do an anthology of 100 word prose-poems, and a completely different thing to type set each entry differently and creatively. Can you tell us a little about the artistic process of putting these anthologies together?

 

Jim: Thank you for the kind words. The Quick Shivers anthologies are rather non-traditional, and not everyone appreciates the big concept. For instance, we’ve submitted both anthologies for consideration for the Bram Stoker Awards, but they don’t know what to do with them — they’re not poetry, not fiction, not graphic literature so there’s no category where they fit. And that’s kind of the point. We’re making something that’s intentionally interstitial.

 

And our other goal is to slow down the reader. I’ve had a long love affair with weird typography partially because it’s “difficult” to read. In our quickly paced society, we all rush through too much of our lives. We present the works in a way that is both expressive and helps a reader work through a piece with a bit more leisure.

 

Janice: But you’re not answering her question, dear. As far as artistic process, our books are a team sport, perhaps even a relay race. The writers pick the nightmare, give it their own interpretation, then we pass along our selections to the designer who works hard to make every piece unique. It’s fascinating to read the different takes on the same nightmare, to see how individualized and open-ended stories can be.

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BRIDE story volume _1bride's story vol 2
A Bride’s Story, volumes 1 and 2, by Kaoru Mori

published in 2011

where I got it: purchased first volume, received review copy of Volume 2 from the publisher (Thanks Orbit and Yen Press!)

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Back in December, I interviewed my husband about one of his new favorite manga series, A Bride’s Story, by Kaoru Mori.  Now that I’ve read the first two volumes (of six currently available), we decided to do a joint review of the series. Two volumes at a time, we’ll be talking about what the series is about, the different directions it goes in, we like about the series (so far, everything), and what we don’t like.

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Don’t you just love her clothing?? Even the scarf helping support the tray is beautiful.

 

Andrea: This is a historical fiction story of a family in a Central Asian village on the Silk Road. Amir Halgal is twenty years old, and has just married into the Eihon family. She comes from a nomadic tribe, so she knows how to put up and take down a yurt, how to hunt with a bow and arrow, how to track animals, and how to read the landscape. Her and her husband Karluk use their wedding gifts of wall hangings and fabric to make their new home colorful and vibrant. About Karluk – he’s only twelve. Yes, a twenty year old girl just married a twelve year old boy. But wait a minute before you freak out! Marriages back then were more family alliances than anything else. Yes, this marriage will have to eventually be consummated, but not until Karluk is older. For the time being, they live together more as siblings than as a married couple. And OMG, the artwork is just freaking amazing. Mike, what have I missed about the premise? What are your thoughts on the pacing and how the story is told?

Michael: The pacing is non-traditional, this is not either slow or quick in a western fashion. This series is fairly fast paced but change comes slowly and action, while quick, there is really only one action sequence in these two volumes. I guess I would add to the premise that this is a story about the brides more than any other characters.

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The Eihon family. Amir sits in front, to the right.

 

Andrea: So this story focuses mostly on young women who live on the Silk Road? Why would this make for an interesting story that people would want to read?

Michael: I am an anthropologist at heart so I love any stories regarding a culture or society that is not my own. Also, I think that the United States lack of culture and our fear of knowing other people is something that contributes to much of our violence.

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flex cover artFlex, by Ferrett Steinmetz

published March 3, 2015

where I got it: received eARC from the author (Thanks Ferrett!)

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I’m a tough customer with many Urban Fantasy titles. I tend to either really like the book, or be bored out of my mind by it, and I struggle with understanding why some UF books rock my world and why others don’t work for me. Luckily, Ferrett Steinmetz’s Flex falls firmly and undoubtedly in the first camp. He takes the “people learn how to do magic, will they use it for good or ill?” question and blows it right open, exposing the soft underbelly of a society that first resorts to fear and violence when faced with something they don’t understand.  And I fricken’ loved every word of it.  The magic is weird and soul-crushingly expensive, the characters are fantastic, the stakes are high, and the story is intimate. That my friends, is what I’m always looking for.

 

Allow me to set the stage: Insurance agent Paul Tsabo is still in shock over his recent divorce, still trying to make his new apartment look fun and friendly to his six year old daughter Aliyah. An ex-police officer, he lost a foot in the event that brought his police career to a screeching halt. It’s okay though, Paul actually loves doing paperwork and investigating insurance fraud.  The stingy insurance company he works for loves him too – he saves them a fortune in paying out claims. After all, if the injury or damage was caused by ‘mancy, it’s not covered by insurance. Paul can sniff out ‘mancy like the best of them, because after all, he is a ‘mancer. He loves the idea that his forms and paperwork can track anything that happens, or anything that someone wants to happen.

 

No one really understands how magic works, but everyone knows three things: Your ‘mancy is directly connected to what you love; physics and magic do not get along and the side effects of ‘mancy are often fatal; and if caught doing ‘mancy you are arrested, mind-wiped, and given a life time membership to the military hive mind. Very few people understand how ‘mancy works, and since it’s illegal to learn about it or discuss it, finding what knowledge does exist is even harder.

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wild cards fourWild Cards IV: Aces Abroad, edited by George R. R. Martin

published in 1988, with new material added and republished by Tor Books in January 2015

Where I got it: received review copy from Tor (thanks!)

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Wild Cards: Aces Abroad is the fourth book in a shared universe anthology series. The good news is that you can easily read this as a stand alone, and the better news is that it’ll all make way more sense if I give you just a little bit of background about the series.

 

Started in the late 1980s, the Wild Cards shared universe  envisions an alternative history where our first contact with an alien species causes the Wild Card virus to be released into Earth’s atmosphere. The virus killed much of the population, and physically affected nearly all who survived, granting them superpowers or horrid mutations. Some people grew wings and could fly, others turned into grotesque parodies of human beings. If your gift was a boon, you became known as an Ace, and if your gift came with physical deformaties, you became known as a Joker. Many Aces became successful business owners and celebrities, whereas society had no idea what to do with the Jokers, these hideous creatures who used to be our parents, friends and neighbors. As the decades passed, Jokers became more accepted in society, but many still reside in ghettos and fear for their own safety. Many of the characters in Wild Cards reminded me more of X-Men characters rather than traditional “good guy” superheroes. Most of these people want to live their life in peace, and help their friends and families. None of these people are traditional comic book superheroes.

 

 

I’ve certainly read themed anthologies before, but I’ve never read a shared universe. Each author was credited in the table of contents, and again the first time their writing appears in the volume. But after that, it’s just chapter after chapter, and if you aren’t paying attention it’s easy to forget which author’s work you are reading.  The fact that eleven authors (Stephen Leigh, George R.R. Martin, John J. Miller, Leanne C. Harper, Gail Gerstner-Miller, Walton Simmons, Edward Bryant, Lewis Shiner, Victor W. Milan, Melinda M. Snodgrass and Michael Cassutt) could seamlessly put  novel together, and then 25 years later two more authors (Kevin Andrew Murphy and Carrie Vaughn) could slip their new stories in unnoticed is pretty damn incredible.

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Some books are really easy to write a review for.

Others, not so much.

Some books fight me every step of the way when I’m trying to write the review. it’s like they do not want to be reviewed.  Maybe they are shy, and don’t want to be talked about? Maybe they don’t like to be the center of attention? Maybe I should stop personifying a stack of paper and ink.

When the book fights me, sometimes I’ll fight back with instrumental music. Maybe classical stuff, maybe modern stuff or a movie soundtrack. I’ve been on an Escala kick lately. This is music I can get lost in, a musical current that pulls me along to who knows where.  I don’t know where I’ll end up. It’s the same as “getting lost in” a book.

Those books that fight me when I’m trying to review them? It’s not the book that’s fighting, it’s me. If the book had an emotional effect on me, I want my review to reflect that journey, that being pulled along by the current, not knowing where I’ll end up. If the book broke my heart, I want the act of writing the review to rebreak it.  If the book filled me with joy, I want the act of writing the review to add even more joy to my life. If the book took me somewhere new, I want the review to do the same. I want my reviews to be a mirror of what I experienced while reading the book.

And I sure as hell do not wake up every day with that kind of writing chops.  Being able to create that mirror is a psychological state of mind for me.  Sometimes I’m in a rush, or I’m tired, or I feel obligated to get the damn review up. Sometimes the book didn’t put up a fight. But because sometimes I can’t do anything less than write a review that’s worthy of the book, I’m willing to wait for that state of mind, or take steps to trigger it.

If the book fights me, that’s a good sign. It means I had something to fucking say that I wanted said in just the right way.

That’s why this sometimes takes so damn long.

 

Klaver HolmesSherlock Holmes and Count Dracula: The Adventure of the Solitary Grave (2009) and Sherlock Holmes and Watson: The Adventure of the Innsmouth Whaler (2010), by Christian Klaver

where I got them: received free copies from the author (thanks Christian!)

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I don’t often step outside my comfort zone. It might seem like I do, but I don’t. Sometimes I need a little nudge, and sometimes that nudge comes in the form of the right conversation at exactly the right moment.  I met author Christian Klaver at Confusion, and came home with a few of his books.  Two of them were skinny little novellas, I could read these in an afternoon, right?  One had Count Dracula on the cover, the other made reference to Lovecraft. Sounds right up my alley, right? Not Quite. These are Klaver’s Supernatural Sherlock Holmes mysteries. I’m all for a smart thriller, and I’m all for anything Innsmouth, but Sherlock Holmes?  Judge me as you will, I’ve never read any Sherlock Holmes. I couldn’t even get into the new TV show. Totally lame, right? Only way to fix it was to jump into some Holmes, and out of my comfort zone (why is this stuff outside my comfort zone? I actually have no idea).

 

Like many of the original Holmes novels (thanks Wikipedia!), The Adventure of the Solitary Grave and The Adventure of the Innsmouth Whaler are narrated by Dr.  Watson. He’s telling these stories late in his life, after the death of Holmes. The two of them had agreed that these supernatural stories were far too unbelievable, but that after the death of the famous detective, the stories should be told. I really wasn’t sure what to expect, stodgy dry prose? Over-ornamented and boring dialog? Like something out of a play? Whatever it was that I expected, I got something completely different. I imagine that Klaver is a huge Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle fan, and modeled his Watson and Holmes off the originals. What’s important here is that I quickly came to enjoy Watson’s voice and story telling style. These two stories were easy to get into, and highly enjoyable to read.

 

If you are going to read these, you need to read them in order. Read The Adventure of the Solitary Grave first (I just realized I photographed the books in the wrong order), because there are two events that take place that color the rest of Watson’s life and make permanent changes to his professional habits.  Of the two, my favorite was The Adventure of the Innsmouth Whaler. I’ve read my share of Lovecraft and Lovecraftian inspired fiction, and it was quite funny to hear Holmes guesses as to what was going on. He even tries to contact the authorities in Innsmouth and Arkham, and is puzzled by the useless responses.  Even with his powers of deduction he can’t quite fathom what’s happening.  Watson has the advantage here, as he’s more open to the idea of something beyond the understanding of man.

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2014 Hugo Awards

I reviewed some Hugo nominated stuff. Click here for the list.

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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.