the Little Red Reviewer

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This weekend past, I dug out all four volumes of Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun. Yes, i know physically I only have 3 books, but Shadow and Claw is TWO volumes of the series.  This series has been called a modern masterpiece, a “must read” for anyone who calls themself a science fiction reader.  I read Shadow and Claw a handful of years ago (three years? eight years? i have no idea) and enjoyed it. I remember it being heavy, beautiful, mythic, unforgettable, groundbreaking, strange, sci-fantasy dying Earth. I barely understood it. It was like reading a dream.

I do most of my reading on weekends when I have large chunks of uninterrupted time. By Sunday night I was 100 pages into Shadow and Claw. The (unreliable? kinda crazy?) narrator Severian is talking about his youth as an apprentice in the Torturer’s Guild. In a more modern epic fantasy, this guild would be the Justisters, I suppose – people who mete out punishment without thought for if the person is guilty or if the punishment fits the crime.   In Severian’s world, there is an all powerful Autarch who holds concubines as hostages and does who knows what else, strange machines that speak when they feel like it, a rebellion, the dangers of waiting,  a library that holds books older than history, The Citadel, and an entire civilization outside the Citadel who thought the Guild of Torturers died out generations ago.  The story is presented episodically, with a much older Severian telling you what he thinks you need to know and sometimes apologizing for spending time on needless details.   This is a world in which so much has been forgotten.

 

Anyway, forget all of that.  You don’t need any of it. At least not yet.

 

Because it’s the words that Wolfe uses to tell this story, and therein lies the magic.  I found so many words in this book that I don’t know the meanings of, giving them the shimmer of magical spells. Are these real words? Where they once words in a language that was forgotten hundreds of years ago? Are they satirical? Simply nonsense? I have no idea.   They are like stones in a riverbed – smooth on one side, rough on the other. Here are a few:

vitiated

inutile

saffian

pursuivant

agathodaemon

thurible

peccary

pardine

caique

bartizan

See what I mean, that they are like stones that have smooth spots and rough spots? Say them out loud and you’ll see what I mean.  Say them out loud and you can tell me how they should be pronounced.  If these words were stones we could build a road by which to travel to the answer. If they were stones we could build a tower, and from the top of the tower we could see the answer.  Every new and strange word is another stone, another step in the right direction.

Which of those are real words, or were at one time?  Maybe they aren’t river stones with which to build a road or a tower, but memories and myths. A last attempt to bring back lost knowledge of a dying world.

Who knows what the next 100 pages of this book will bring.

 

 

 

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I’ve been bouncing around a lot of books lately. I’ll pick something up, read a hundred pages, put it down. In one case, I got 200 pages through a book, got annoyed by it, got so annoyed that I didn’t care that i was only a hundred pages from the end, and put it down.

Oh October, month of my DNF’ing.

Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe I’m picking up books that I’m just not in the mood for. Maybe i’m picking up books that aren’t as awesome as they could be. Who knows.

I did finish two books recently. Both are book 3’s in ongoing series, both were let downs. They weren’t terrible, they just weren’t as good as the first or second books in those series, and the first two books were so good that my expectations were pretty high for book 3.  I was disappointed in both books, but I did finish both of them, so that must mean something.

When I fall into this funk of DNF’ing, of nothing meeting my expectations, of getting frustrated, I lean on some old classics.  Something that will either be a popcorn adventure, something that will transport me to another world,  maybe something with language that borders on the poetic.  You can’t go wrong with Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun.

I’ve read a handful of Gene Wolfe, some of it amazing, some of it annoying.  I’ve only read the first two books (bound together in the volume Shadow and Claw) of The Book of the New Sun, so this is my chance to read all four books and actually complete the series.  Or, I’ll get through Shadow and Claw and that book alone will cure my funk of DNF’ing.   Or, I’ll get through Shadow and Claw,  realize how many clues I missed, and read the entire thing all over again.  Any one of these results will make me a happy person.

 

In the category of books I can’t remember if I own or not, I bought these the other day:

please, please, ignore the huge “Blade Runner” words on the cover of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep!  This is NOT a novelization of the movie, or at least it better not be.  I read DADoES years ago, and quite enjoyed it.  I grew up watching Bladerunner, and very much enjoyed the new Bladerunner2049.   I thought I had a crumbly paperback somewhere of DADoES? But maybe not?  And there’s a chance I already have a copy of the Wasp Factory, but maybe not?  and if i remember correctly, The Wasp Factory predates The Culture?  Banks peeps, help me out! this “maybe not” problem was easily solved for less than $20.

 

Have you read any Gene Wolfe?

Have you read any Philip K. Dick?

Have you read any Iain Banks / Iain M. Banks?

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Welcome to the Danica Davidson Minecrafters Blog Tour!  Over the next few weeks, bloggers across the internet and across the planet will be talking about Danica Davidson’s Minecrafter books for middle grade readers, interviewing her, hosting guest posts, and more!   If you’re on social media, follow #Minecrafters and #MinecraftersBlogTour.  To learn more about Danica, visit her website and follow her on twitter, where she is @DanicaDavidson.

Danica is the author of the completed 6 book Overworld Adventure Series with starts with Escape from the Overworld, the brand new Overworld Heroes series which starts with Adventure Against the Endermen, and many other books for young readers.  Her books have been called “EXCITING” by Forbes, “RECOMMENDED READING” by School Library Journal, and have been spotlighted by NPR, Sci Fi Magazine, Barnes & Noble Kids Blog, MTV and other publications. Escape from the Overworld and Attack on the Overworld were also both selected by the prestigeous Scholastic Book Fair for second through sixth graders.  Her non-fiction articles have appeared at Publishers Weekly, Ms. Magazine, MTV,  CNN, Anime Insider, Booklist, Graphic Novel Reporter, iF Magazine, and many more.

Click here to read my interview with Danica, and click here to listen to her interview at the radio show Between The Lines.

 

Here’s a list of bloggers, reviewers, and authors who are participating in the blog tour. There are even some soooper seekrit posts I can’t even talk about until they go up!   As blog posts go up, I’ll be editing this post to include links to everyone’s posts, so check back often!

 

Dab of Darkness reviews the audiobook of Attack on the Overworld    and hosts Danica’s guest post on Fiction Creatures: Who to Meet and Who to Avoid

I Heart Reading hosts Danica’s Guest Post on Writing in the Minecrafter World

The Sentimental Mom has a review of Adventure Against the Endermen and interview with Danica Davidson

The Library Ladies features a guest post from Danica on the joy of libraries

Yolanda Sfetsos hosts Danica’s Guest Post on Putting the Real World into Minecraft

Stacey Filak’s son reviews Escape from the Overworld (and then we all died of cute)

The Hermit Librarian features Danica’s guest post on Adventures in Publishing

Books Without Any Pictures has a fantastic guest post on how Danica’s love for Manga helped her get into the Publishing World

Loud Library Lady’s son reviews Escape from the Overworld and gives it 5 stars!

Red Star Reviews had a great time reading Escape from the Overworld

The Write Path has a thoughtful review of Adventure Against the Endermen

That’s What She’s Reading has a review of Escape from the Overworld from the point of view of a reader who isn’t familiar with Minecraft, and a guest post from Danica about her writing process.

Mr. Ripley’s Enchanted Books features a fantastic guest post from Danica on  Minecraft and Humour

Literary Hoots has a guest post from Danica on How to Turn Your Favorite Video Game into a Book

Today We Did features a guest post from Danica on the Joys of Writing in the Minecraft World

 

 

Woah, that’s a ton of fantastic sites!  book review blogs, parenting blogs, parent-child reviews, and everything in between. Hope you can make time to visit everyone!

 

 

raven stratagemRaven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee

published June 2017

Where I got it: Purchased New

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Looking back at my review of the first book in this series, Ninefox Gambit, I wrote a pretty crappy review.  I remember when I finished that book, my mind was absolutely blown, and I had absolutely no idea how the heck to talk about what I’d just read.  So I wrote a passable review and then ordered the 2nd book in the series, Raven Stratagem.

 

I had a similar experience with Raven Stratagem.  My mind was utterly blown, and I knew I had no idea how to discuss what I just read.

 

So I read Raven Stratagem again, paid closer attention, and took more notes. You guys.  I don’t even like military scifi. And I loved the living shit out of this book. I never thought I’d say that some military science fiction books had become my comfort reads, but 2017 is a weird place.

 

Ninefox Gambit was on a comparatively small scale. It mostly took place on one ship, with Jedao manipulating the shit out of Cheris, and then showing her how powerful a skilled manipulator can be and how easy their society is to manipulate. All Kel cadets learn about the madman General Jedao who slaughtered his own troops, but they have no idea who he was as a person. Cheris gets to learn who he is as a person. It changes her mind.

 

Raven Stratagem is manipulation on a much, much larger scale.Yes, Jedeo is running around in Cheris’s body (is there anything of her left in there? Who knows), but in this novel we also get a look at the Hexarchates and how they run their factions.  Running a faction mostly means manipulating your fellow leaders so that you can get what you want, and right now, they all want immortality.  All this political manipulation would be sick if it wasn’t so darn entertaining!

 

If the first book was algebra, then this second book is trigonometry – with a focus on the study of angles.

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Instead of a review, I have a thought experiment for you.  Like glitter slime, this was a fun idea to play with, and one I didn’t want to let go of until I’d tortured some people with it.  I have no idea if this is a funny idea, a dumb idea, or a cruel idea. For all I know, it has already been attempted.

 

 

 

A forthcoming book is getting a ton of hype. It is the author’s debut novel, the author’s website doesn’t have a ton of information because this person hasn’t written very much. A short and vague bio, a photo of the author, maybe a picture of their dog taken at the beach, or their cat sleeping in a sun spot. Lots of excitement about their debut novel!

Publicity e-mails start going out, showcasing stunning cover art, intriguing back cover copy, promises of a book that will blow your mind with unexpected twists and turns. The publicity e-mail requests that if you are lucky enough to receive an ARC, that you do not talk about the book until the release day, and that under no circumstances do you spoil any of the plot twists.

Book reviewers patiently wait for ARCs to arrive. The publisher has chosen not put the book on Netgalley, citing lack of control of when reviews are published as their reasoning. High profile book reviewers assume they will be the first to receive the ARCs.

There is more and more hype on social media. A book trailer that looks like the best scifi movie preview you’ve ever seen. Posts that are guessing about the plot, discussing images and pictures that are in the cover art – what could these possibly have to do with the characters and the plot that is mentioned on the back cover copy?

The release date gets closer.

Bloggers and reviewers begin to grumble on twitter that they haven’t rec’d an ARC yet. Hundreds of people mark the book as “want to read” on Goodreads. The book is available for pre-order on Amazon. NPR even mentions the elusiveness of the author, whose debut novel is has the book reviewing community all a flutter due to so few ARCs being available.

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xxxholic omnibus 1xxxHolic, omnibus #1

published in 2007 (I think?)

where I got it:  have owned it forever.

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I’ve been reading Manga on and off for probably ten years. I don’t mention manga much, because there are very few series I’ve liked enough to invest in.  One of the early reviews on this blog was for the first volume (or first few? I can’t tell) of xxxHolic, by CLAMP. The Manga section of Barnes and Noble is full of 3 volume omnibuses these days, but back in the old days, a three volume omnibus was an oddity. No one planned to make more than one of these monsters, so sometimes there wasn’t even a  number on the spine.  And speaking of “way back when”, xxxHolic has been floating around in one form or another since 2004 or there abouts.

 

I wrote a halfway decent review of this back in 2010, it’s nice to see I did a decent job of writing a plot based review!   It’s interesting to see what I got out of xxxHolic then, and what’s I’m getting out of it now. The surface stuff is always the easy stuff – Yuko’s hidden “shop”, the crossover plotlines and funny little jokes from other CLAMP works, the “monster of the week” episodic feel of these first three volumes, the gorgeous artwork.   If you’re used to American style graphic novels, Japanese manga, CLAMP works especially, may be a shock to you – everything is in black and white, there is far less dialog per page, motion is depicted very differently, and the human body is drawn differently than you might be used to.

are you the spacetime witch

Back in the day, I stalled out six or seven volumes into xxxHolic, I felt the story wasn’t really going anywhere.  At the time, seven volumes was a pretty big investment to make in a series if I wasn’t going to continue.  Yuko might be the space time witch who offers to help Watanuki get rid of his spirits problem, but I needed more than just urban fantasy slice of life.  I didn’t continue reading it, but my husband did, eventually trading in our single volumes for these hefty 3-volume omnibuses. And he let me know the story gets deeper, deadlier, and darker. So now I want to give it another try, because I like all of those things!  Watanuki might be getting dragged on Yuko’s errands, but it’s important later for him to have safely been exposed to all this urban fantasy type stuff. Even at the ghost story telling ceremony with Domeki, Watanuki might might not feel safe, but if Yuko is in the room she’ll never let anything permanent happen to him. Or at least I don’t think she’d let anything happen to him . . .

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I used to struggle with short stories. I had no idea how to read anthologies.  How hard could a themed anthology be, right?  I’d overthink the entire thing, and make myself miserable.  I’d finish stories I didn’t enjoy because some part of my brain was telling me that these stories were chapters in a larger universe, and if I missed the end of the story, I’d have missed some important plot point. No wonder I didn’t get it! For the life of me, I could not understand why anyone thought short stories were worth a damn.

 

Luckily, I finally my hands on some anthologies that weren’t crap, and I came across some fantastic single author short story collection, and I found some fantastic short story podcasts (if you’ve not listened to Kate Baker tell you a story, you are in for a treat!).

 

Also? that table of contents? I completely ignore it.   The editor spent days or maybe weeks putting that table of contents together for goodness sakes, they are telling me something with that table of contents, I should respect their message, right?

 

The first time I realized I could read an anthology in any order I pleased was a revelation.  Since then, I’ve been reading the shortest stories first, and working my way up to the longest stories. Or, I’ll read the interesting sounding titles first. Or I’ll read my favorite authors first.  If I read two or three short stories and I’m still “meh” on the whole deal, I’ll probably put the book down and never pick it back up again. What I’m getting at is that when I started allowing myself to have control over how I read an anthology and read it however I damn pleased, I started enjoying them a lot more.   Sorry editor,  all your work on your perfect table of contents was wasted on me.  Can I buy you a drink or dinner when I see you at a convention, to make it up to you?

 

How about you?   Are you into short stories?  How do you imbibe them? Anthologies? single author collections? short story magazines and/or podcasts?   If you’re like me, and you used to struggle with short stories, how did you get past the struggle?

 


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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.