the Little Red Reviewer

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While Five for Friday has run its course,  today I have a special treat for you, a literal special edition Six for Friday.

Mailing books to friends must be some kinda addicting, like yawns.  As I was emailing a friend that I was going to be mailing her a box of books (Sorry K! I haven’t gotten to the post office yet!), another friend was emailing me that he was mailing me a box of books!

And boy was this box a humdinger!

Take a few minutes to feast your eyes,  and then I’ll tell you what you’re looking at.

if that blew your mind, here’s the cover art of each volume!  You’ll have to forgive my garbage photography.


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instead of a some long drawn out reviews, howsabout a few words on some books I enjoyed recently?   You’d like that?  yeah, me too.

 

 

They made a movie out of The Prestige by Christopher Priest, and all I remember was i think Hugh Jackman was in it? And there was some scene at the end where there are like 30 top hats just blowing away?   I’m pretty sure another Illusionist/Magician movie came out around the same time, and I might be getting them mixed up.   Anyone remember the details of this, or even what year these movies came out?

From seeing the movie, I pretty much already knew the “big reveal” in the book. But friends had told me that the reveal is treated totally different in the book,  and boy were they right!!!   if you like slow-ish moving historical dramas, this is the story for you!  The beginning was a bit slow, and then it ramps up and the drama ramps up, and at the end I couldn’t put the book down.  If you’ve not ever read any Christopher Priest because everyone says his book are weird AF (they are!), this is a great book to start with because it’s completely readable and keeps you turning the pages, even when weird shit happens.  The further you get into the book, the more weird shit happens.  Also? Nikola Tesla has a cameo!

Both main characters, the guys who are feuding, neither of them are sympathetic characters.  They are both shit heads, they both feel bad for the shitty stuff they did, and at the end of the book I wasn’t sure who I felt more bad for. I pity them both.

 

The Prestige is a great place to start with Christopher Priest  and Vallista isn’t a good place to start with Steven Brust.  Vallista is the 15th book in Brust’s Dragaeran series (but like, the 13th book, chronologically?  i’m really not sure).   I love this series.   When I am feeling stressed out,  these are the comfort books I turn to.  This series is basically about a guy, Vlad. I’m not going to get into it more than that, because if I did I’d be blathering on forever.  If you are that interested, start here, and from there there is about a million directions you can go.

 

I lovethis series so much because, well, the writing and the story and the characters, they are all fantastic.  I love first person POV, i love dialog banter, I love snark, I love long running jokes, I love slow world building. This series has all of that.  I love that this series is just about people trying to live their lives, and people who care  about their families.  Knowing I have a stack of Steven Brust books (many of which are Vlad books) that I can read whenever I want is therapeutic for me.  Just knowing they are there,  like, it works for me, ok?  Being alive at the same time that Vlad’s life is being created, like, it’s a good time to be alive. and yes, I know Loiosh is giving me side-eye right now for not making him out to be the main character.  I earned that side-eye!

 

ok, anyway, Vallista.  What a fun book!   Devera shows up and asks for Vlad’s help (she doesn’t tell him with what, exactly), and of course he’s going to help her!  She runs into a house on a hill (YES, the house from the end of Hawk! eeeeee!!!!), he follows her,  and the door locks behind him.   This  house doesn’t follow any rules of physics or architecture, and when Vlad meets the ghost of the architect, her explanation doesn’t help any.   The book gave me Doctor Who vibes, in the best way.  The people who Vlad meets in this weird house,  he’s got to figure out  how to get them to keep talking, because the more he learns about what the hell is going on,  the more likely he is to figure out how to get out of this weird screwy house!

if you’re not caught up in the series,  so long as you have met Devera, you’re good to read Vallista.  I know she shows up in Tiassa,  I don’t remember if she shows up prior to that.

I dig this series,  because the world building happens slowly.   Like, you remember when you were young, and you started collecting books, or comic books, or whatever?  You had a little bookshelf in your room, and it slowly filled up.  When it filled up, you were really excited – your bookshelf was full!  then you got a fullsize bookshelf.  and that filled up.   fast forward ten years, and you’ve rooms full of books. and you are happy, because they are full, and you are happy because you keep buying more books.   that’s what the worldbuilding in this series feels like – just the right amount at a time, at just the right speed.  I didn’t explain it well.  #sorrynotsorry

 

A question to my fellow Dragaeran readers: Who is your favorite character in the series?

 

Stay tuned,  one of these days I’ll post about two books I read recently that didn’t wow me!

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As you can see from my recent posts, my brain hasn’t been in a review-writing mood lately.  This short list of “secret life” questions has been doing the rounds –  I’ve seen it at Don Jimmy ReviewsTattooed Book Geek, Always Trust in Books, on twitter, etc.  It looked like fun, and I like fun and shyly talking about myself, right?

be warned – these answers are boring and practical.   I tell it how it is.

 

How Long have you been blogging?

Little Red Reviewer has been going since 2010,  so nine years here.  total blogging online and posting book reviews on various sites? probably closer to 13 years.

 

At what point do you think you will stop blogging?

to be honest, I think I am getting close to that point.   When I started this blog, I was working part-time, my commute to work was 5 minutes, I didn’t have a lot of hobbies, and I just didn’t have a lot of stuff going on in my life.  I needed a hobby, and something to pour my creative energy into, you know?  Nine years later, I have a very fulfilling full time job with an hour commute each way,  not that much time to read, and other less time-consuming projects to pour my creative energy into.  Blogging was the perfect creative outlet for me at the time.  I think i’m getting to the point in my life where it is one of many creative outlets.

 

What is the best thing about blogging?

the community!  thanks to blogging, I have friends EVERYWHERE!  I’ve done read alongs,  buddy reads, themed months,  organized  blog tours.   Those things were possible because of our amazing and supportive community!


What is the worst thing? What do you do to make it OK?

the pressure to put out content on a regular basis.

the FOMO when every else gets an ARC that you didn’t get.

the guilt that you didn’t read for 20 hours this weekend.  the guilt that you are reading a book that YOU want to read, instead of the book that is hyped or the book that you got talked into doing for a blog tour.

the pressure to simply kick out content as fast as you can and have more hits and more comments and more social media followers than someone else.

What do I do to make it ok? As a way to lower my anxiety, I have mostly disengaged from the blogging community, which is a shitty thing to do, I guess, but whatever.    That seems to be my defense mechanism for everything lately – disengage.  People should do whatever makes them happy, and I don’t want to be a  buzzkill, so I just wander off and do whatever makes me happy. I’m a exhausted introvert – a lot of time the thing that makes me happy is sitting in a quiet room, enjoying the quiet.

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I recently picked up a copy of Steven Brust’s Vallista,  a book that came out a few years ago in his  Vlad Taltos series. If you like dry humor, witty banter,  the long game, a series you can dip into and out of, and long running in-jokes, this is the series for you.  If you don’t like any of those things, this is probably not the series for you.

 

There’s like 15 books in this series so far. . .  i’ve read the first handful, the most recent handful, and I’m still catching up on the middle handful.  When I go to a used bookstore, I always check the B’s for a Steven Brust book that I don’t already have. If I see one of his books and I’m not sure if I have it. . .  i usually buy it anyways. I had three copies of  Dragon at one time.

Because I’m smart,  I decided to reread Hawk, which is the book that came out prior to Vallista, so that I could have recent plot points fresh in my mind.    Hawk is a super fun book – it reads very fast, there is tons of plotting and dialog, lots of contingency plans that end up not being needed and somehow end up sounding kind of funny. The entire book is a massive smirk. My favorite bit of banter was

 

“ . .  I’m working on something and he’s liable to get in the way.”

“What are you working on?”

“I’m trying to set up a store to sell baskets of none-of your-fucking-business at wholesale prices”.

 

Something I love about this series is how big the world is.  No author can cram an entire world’s worth of worldbuilding into one novel (and when they try to, the book ends up being 900 pages and miserable to read).   But you can do nearly unlimited worldbuilding when you’ve got 15 novels to play in. Brust will have his characters mention a place, or another person, or some event that they know about (but the reader doesn’t), and the place, person, or event isn’t important to that particular plot line and isn’t mentioned again in that novel. But. . .  it leaves the door open to explore it in further detail later, and that’s exactly what Brust does a lot of the time. And I don’t know why, but I fucking love it.

 

So anyway,  Hawk was a ton of fun. I finished it a couple of days ago,  and picked up Vallista.

 

Because I’m smart,  that’s the moment I remembered that one of the other things that makes this series so fun is that Brust doesn’t write the novels in chronological order.  Chronologically, Vallista takes place before Hawk (maybe right after Tiassa?). In Hawk, Vlad mentions a particular psuedo-abandoned house on a hill. He  holds a particular negotiation in that mansion, for some specific reasons. He mentions something about how the house is weird.  Also, i’m not all that concerned about the specifics of the chronology.  I find I prefer stores that aren’t told in chronological order.

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It’s been a busy work week, and a slow-going reading week.  Yep, no five for Friday for you last week, I was exhausted. Don’t worry, the stuff I’ve been busy with has been all good stuff that is keeping me out of trouble!

 

I’ve been slowly making my way through All Clear by Connie Willis, and I finished it about an hour ago.

 

some thoughts:

OMFG was the never ending scene to get to St. Paul’s annoying!  If she had just told Binnie and Alf to bugger off, and ditched the doctor and the ambulance, maybe she’d have gotten to the church on time!   Those were seriously THE MOST annoying 50 pages I have ever read.  oh, it was only 5 pages? It felt like 50.  I very nearly DNFd this book because that scene was so annoying!

 

The short scenes with Ernest and Fortitude South. I am embarrassed that it took me a gazillion pages to figure out where everyone’s names were from.  come on, I haven’t read that play since high school!  and now I want to know everything about Fortitude South, because holy shit so brilliant!

 

It also took me FOREVER to figure out that people we meet in 1944 are people I’ve already met.  thanks for Agatha Christie’ing me, Willis!

 

Are Connie Willis and Ann Perry friends, or was that just a coincidence?

 

Connie Willis and Robin Hobb must be friends,  they both subscribe to the philosophy of “imagine the worst possible thing that could happen to your characters, and then do it”.

 

That’s who Colin is??  WHAHHHH?????

 

now that I’ve finished the duology, the only thing I want to do is reread them both, so I can pick up all the hints I missed the first time.  I have a feeling this duology is just like that painting that everyone in the book is always going on about – that you see something different every time you look at it.

 

Also, I suddenly feel really bad about  bitching about that interminable-seeming ambulance / chase scene / split up  / climb the rafters / everyone ends up at the hospital even though they are trying to get to St. Paul’s scene.  Every minute was important, and I was a whiny bitch about it.

 

maybe I should take a break from time travel books?  HAHAHAHA, no.

 

Oxford needs to do a “Connie Willis literary tour”.

 

this book was so fucking hopeful it makes me want to cry.  Everything I’ve read by Willis is so damn hopeful. It’s like she’s saying to me “People are capable of so much good. Here, let me show you”. I kinda need that right now.  Is this what hopepunk is?  Please say that it is.

 

that is all.

 

have a great week everyone.

Welcome to  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?

 

Want to join in? Post a picture of 5 random books you own, with the tag #5ForFriday and get your friends talking.

 

 

Upgraded, edited by Neil Clarke (2014)  –  I bought this anthology because of one or two stories it had in it that I wanted to read at the time.  I thought it was worth buying, just for those stories, at it was!   I picked this up again recently. . .  only to realize that in 2014 I had no idea how many other wonderful authors are hiding in this anthology!  This is a cyborg/robot themed anthology.   I think I might dip back into this collection in the upcoming weeks, just to see what Yoon Ha Lee was up to in 2014.

 

Zodiac by Neal Stephenson (2007) – bet you didn’t think Stephenson could right something that was just over novella length and tightly plotted!   Damn is this book good!  Annoyed with Baroque Cycle and Stephenson’s newer stuff?  give this little guy a try.

 

Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds (2004) – This is the sequel to Revelation Space. . .  which I think I have maybe read? I don’t remember.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t read Redemption Ark.  This is a series,  have you read it? did you like it? Should I scare up a copy of Revelation Space and give it a whirl?

 

Prelude to Foundation by Isaac Asimov (1988) – ok, so it is SUPER weird for me to see a 1980s publication date on a Foundation book!  so, SO WEIRD!  I’ve not read these new fangled Foundation books, I also think there were some co-written with some more contemporary authors?  I’m old school, anyone read these new ones? how are they?

 

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (1945) NOT SCIENCE FICTION OR FANTASY.  this is the book everyone reads in high school.  You see that paper bookmark in the photo?  believe it or not, that is the receipt from when I bought this book, to read in high school, in 1995. I must have used the receipt as a bookmark.  I wrote some notes in the back of the book, something about ducks, and hats, and kings in the back row.  Anyone know what those mean? I literally have not read this book since 1995. What in the heck is this book doing on a five for Friday with a bunch of science fiction books?  This lovely story on NPR about Salinger’s books finally being available in e-book and audio, that’s what.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente

published in 2018

where I got it: purchased used

 

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Occasionally, people ask me for book recommendations.  I try to recommend something the person will like, so if they ask me to recommend something poetic, something beautifully written, something strange but glorious that gets better every time I read it, without pause I will recommend Catherynne Valente’s The Habitation of the Blessed.  I will talk your ear off about this book, and it’s sequel, and the tragedy that the publisher is no longer in business so the books are no longer in print, and yadda yadda.

 

If I could only read one book for the rest of my life, I would choose The Habitation of the Blessed.

 

Knowing that, doesn’t make writing this review any easier.

 

Artists are gonna art, people should write the book they want to read, the world needs something happy right now. Space Opera is up for a number of awards, I hope it wins some of them, for sheer uniqueness, weirdness, and unapologetic over-the-top audaciousness.

 

Your mileage may vary. Remember this post?  I was 50 pages into Space Opera when I wrote it.

 

The concept behind Space Opera is, simply,  Eurovision Song Contest, in SPAAAAAACE!!!!! All the sentient races in the galaxy participate, and every so often an upstart race is invited to participate. If said upstart race wins (or at least places decently), they are welcomed into the galactic community. If they lose, they are deemed non-sentient / a danger to the galaxy, and summarily annihilated.  This “win or die” premise is presented in rather a Douglas Adams fashion, so all feels like fun and games. But the big question remains: Does Humanity Deserve to Survive?

 

Representatives are sent to Earth to find humanity’s best musicians. They were hoping for Yoko Ono.  Instead, they got Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes.

 

If you like over the top humor, if you like a narrative style that blows you off the page, if you’re looking for something really different, if you like wacky aliens and over the top descriptions, and a heartwarming ending, this book is for you!

 

I’m a buzzkill.  I’m a killjoy. I hit sensory overload around the time most people get out of bed in the morning. Don’t get me wrong, i get a kick out of short term sensory overload. In  the right circumstances, I quite enjoy it.  But long term sensory overload? something that puts me into overload too quickly?  It’s, um, not good.

 

I DNF’d this book, twice.

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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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