the Little Red Reviewer

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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.


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.


BUT!!   before we get to this week’s five books, TWO COOL RANDOM THINGS!

This week marks the release of Julie Czerneda’s stand alone fantasy novel The Gossamer Mage!  Really cool magic system, wonderful world building, and other really cool stuff! You can read my review here!

And! my guest post about book mail was featured at Novels and & Waffles as part of their BiblioSmile Project!  check it out!


now let’s get to Five for Friday!


Dune by Frank Herbert (196-something) – this is one well loved paperback, pages are stained and dog eared, the pages are so soft they almost feel like fabric.  If you look closely, you’ll see this is the paperback that was printed for the 1984 movie.  I thought that movie was hella cool before I was old enough to read the book.   This books has been in my possession since I was around 14 years old, making it the book I have possessed for the longest time of my life.  This series has been my companion for over 20 years.  Oh, there’s a new Dune movie coming out?  you don’t say!


Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock (1991) – please tell me I’m not the only person who knows what these books are? I need to reread them, because I think I’ll appreciate them more now, than I did in the 90s.  I really hope they’ve aged well.   The twist that I remember from the end. . .   i hope I am remembering the right twist, or I’ll sure be in for a surprise when I read it!  y’all interested in me reviewing some random weirdo new-age-y trilogy from the early 90s?


Illusion by Paula Volsky (1992) – I don’t remember exactly what this book is about, but I remember enjoying it.


All Clear by Connie Willis (2010) – on loan from a friend of mine, and FINALLY i can find out what happens to Polly, Mike, Eileen, and that other guy!!   the first  book in this series, Blackout, ends on a serious cliffhanger, I can understand why fans were so pissed off when the first book came out!


Death’s End by Cixin Liu (2016) – on loan from my Dad.  I struggled to get through the 2nd book in this series, is this third one worth reading?  this tome looks like it is something like 800 pages long. is it worth my time?   (also, have you seen The Wandering Earth on Netflix? it was AWESOME! 13 out of 10, would watch again!)


We watched the Netflix movie I Am Mother the other day.    Deceptively simple, the movie takes what looks like an unbelievable simple plot, and actually doesn’t do a ton with it.  This movie isn’t going to win any awards, but it was a good use of my 2 hours, and I’d watch it again.  The robot was hella cool!


And yet.


The movie is more about what isn’t ever said, and what isn’t ever explained.


I keep thinking about this movie, and I can’t get it out of my head.  I like that I’m thinking about it, and i like that i’m thinking about everything that was never explicitly mentioned,  all the negative space, all the showing instead of telling.


In my opinion, the best stories are hiding in plain sight, in the negative space.


Do you have teenagers in the house?  Have them watch this movie, and then ask them what the movie is about.  Younger kids can watch it too, but they might get bored. Adults can watch it too! But I categorize I Am Mother as great for teenagers, as this really is a YA story.


don’t know what I’m talking about?  I Am Mother is a netflix original movie.  A young girl, known as Daughter, is being raised in an underground bunker by a robot, known as Mother. They are alone in the bunker,  Mother will not allow Daughter to go outside due to dangerous contagions.  Daughter is a happy, well adjusted, obedient child.  You know immediately that Mother is hiding information from Daughter, perhaps waiting for the right time to tell her.   As Daughter is preparing for an important exam, there is a knock on the front door of the compound. A woman is begging to be let in, she has been shot in the leg, and is hoping there is antibiotics in the compound.  When the woman sees Mother, she freaks out.  Daughter is pulled between curiosity of the outside world, the strangeness of their visitor, and her love of Mother.

The movie feels a little like the movie Moon – as in for most scenes you only see a human character and a robot character. . .  and that’s it.  It also felt a little like a sanitized version of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road – very sparse, very quiet, a parent protecting their child.


I don’t feel like writing a review for this movie, but for some weirdo reason I feel like writing a study guide / guided discussion questions?  Not sure how that happened, but here you go!


(Spoilers ahead!)



I thought it was neat that none of the characters have names.  The robot is “Mother”, the child being raised by Mother is referred to as “Daughter”, and the woman they give limited refuge to is never named.

Read the rest of this entry »

Five for Friday RETURNS!  and this time, with scifi / fantasy books!


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.

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone (2019) – my feeds are covered in this book, seems like everyone is talking about it! I’m not usually one for hype, but. . .  this book pinged all my buzzwords – characters who write letters to each other, not-shitty cover art, cool authors, yeah I’m smitten. I audibly squealed when it was announced that this was my local book club’s pick of the both.


The Black Tides of Heaven by J.Y. Yang (2017) – recent purchase. book 1 in a novella series of 4 (but i think they are all stand alone novellas?).  great cover art,  NOVELLA.  shut up and take my money.


Swords and Dark Magic anthology edited by Jonathan Strahan and Lou Anders (2010) – I’ll admit it, I bought this anthology way back when because it had Scott Lynch’s “In The Stacks” in it.  not only is In the Stacks a super fun fantasy short story, there is an even more excellent full cast audio of it floating around. . . somewhere, i don’t remember where. And. . . did I hear about Lynch publishing an extended version of this short story? maybe!


Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler (2010) – i am woefully, embarrassingly, under read in Octavia Butler.  this omnibus contains the novels Dawn, Adulthood Rites, and Imago, and if you read them when they first came out you know the series as Xenogenesis.  Is Dawn a good place to start with Butler’s work? should I start somewhere else?  Help!


A Plague of Angels by Sheri S Tepper (1983) – I’m a little obsessed with Tepper’s Arbai series, but I’m struggled to get invested in many of her other novels and series. Believe it or not, I’m pretty sure I’ve read The Waters Rising, which is the sort of sequel to  A Plague of Angels.  Anyone read this one? is it worth reading? or should I just reread the Arbai books?





So, you’ve loved this one band for years. Years i say!  you’ve seen them in concert, bought the merch, back in the day you bought the physical albums (and the overpriced imports and live albums!!).  You told everyone you knew how much you loved this band.


and then their new album came out!


and you bought it!


and it was  .  .  .  .


pretty shitty, actually.


You listened to it a bunch of times, in hopes it would grow on you, and the only thing that grew was the hope that the band would go back to their old, wonderful music style. Yeah, yeah, you know they’ve gotten experimental lately, and every artist goes through those stages, but maybe next time they’ll experiment in a direction that you like more?


can you still call yourself a fan of theirs, if you think their new sounds sucks?


here’s what I’m really getting at:

What do you do when it isn’t a band whose new album isn’t to your tastes. . .  but it’s an author you like?


You loved their early stuff.  you special ordered signed editions. You bought all their books in hardcover!  You drove hours to see them at a booksigning (you’ve probably done this multiple times), and waited in line for a few hours to get your book signed and when you finally got to the front of the line and the person politely thanked you for coming you said some requisite stupid fangirl/fanboy thing like “omgiloveyourbookssomuchthankyouforbreathingthesameairibreathe”.


and you are SO EXCITED for their new book!


and it finally came out, and you got it and . . .


DNF’d it.


because while it was well written, it absolutely, truly, was not to your tastes and you just didn’t enjoy reading it.


what do you do now?   How do you respond when you friends say “you love so and so’s work, right? didn’t they have a new book come out?”


Can you still consider yourself a fan of this author?  Was this new book just an experimental phase, and maybe they’ll go back to writing the way they used to?  How do you reconcile your “omg, i love this author so much!”,  with your feels towards their new book?


and worst of all . . . is this just how art works?  A musician or author or artist or film maker makes something you love, and you love the thing and you love the creator of the thing. . . .   but the fact that you liked it, that was just a happy accident, as far as the artist and the universe is concerned.  The artist’s obligation isn’t to you, right? Their obligation is to their own need to create art.



and while I ruminate on that  I’m gonna go listen to Folie a Deux another hundred times, because every track on that album is GOLD.  Save Rock and Roll only had like 2 good tracks and the rest sucked (also, did Katy Perry write “Where did the Party Go?”).  Guess i can’t call myself a Fallout Boy fan anymore, since i think their new stuff is just meh. I didn’t even buy American Beauty/American Psycho.

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.



I’m changing it up this week, and sharing five cookbooks!

My husband and I love cooking together, and tbh, my favorite thing about cooking is making meals with and for people I care about.  Dinners made with four hands just taste better.   Hubs and I have been cooking together for 20 years now.

French Food at Home – this is probably my most used cookbook. I call it my “cheater” French cookbook because French food should not be this straightforward!  Her recipes are easy to follow, flexible if you need to swap something, always delicious, and look really fancy.  Most of the recipes are 8 ingredients or less, and she has cute/funny intros for most of them.  Passover at our house is delicious because of this cookbook.


A Feast of Ice and Fire –  Before the tv show, there was this food blog called Inn at the Crossroads (and before that there was this unfinished series of books. . . ) where two cooks recreated the meals described in A Song of Ice and Fire and other fictional worlds.   If you are into food history, and what ingredients were available historically in what locations, this is the book for you!  The “old recipes” are fun to read, the food history is excellent, the pictures are gorgeous. The recipes tho? actually just so-so.  It’s just a hella cool cookbook to have on my shelf!


Japanese Soul Cooking – one of our newer cookbooks. A whole chapter on Japanese Curry! Okonomiyaki is now my fave dinner!  We’ve not even tried the fried stuff chapters yet.  Great photos and  easy to follow recipes that are designed for American eaters.  i do wish this book had a recipe for mochi, I’ve had to depend on youtube.


Regional Chinese Cooking – i picked this up years ago, it was a library discard.  This is from the 80s, I think, so the few photos that are in the book are terrible, and the salt content will probably kill you.  But every recipes works,  the sauces thicken exactly as they are supposed to, the instructions are perfect, and we just cut the salt in half. This is where I learned how to make pleated dumplings from scratch.


Bob’s Red Mill Everyday Gluten Free Cookbook – I don’t miss bread, I miss beer. a lot.   this book is everything you didn’t know you could do with quinoa, chia, buckwheat, amaranth, sorghum, oats, and a whole bunch of other gluten free grains that I’ve never heard of.  Quinoa chia crackers and oat pear scones are my new BFF.   Quinoa is great in the summer because it cooks fast on the stove,  Sorghum is freakin’ delicious, and someone please tell me how to make Amaranth not taste and smell disgusting.


do you like to cook?  what cookbooks on your shelf are your go-to’s?   or do you get your recipes off pinterest?


Ten years ago I wouldn’t have known a novella if one bit me on the ass.


Five years ago,  novellas were those things in short story collections that I avoided, because I thought they were too long.


Novellas are weird little things – way way too long to be short story,  way way to short to be a novel. The author doesn’t have to worry about the space limitations of a short story, but they don’t have the space to tell a generation spanning sprawling epic, either.


if short stories are the Tiny Houses of the story telling world, and doorstopper novels are the McMansions,  then novellas sit in the goldilocks zone of just the right size. You know that house that’s just big enough for your family and your pets and all your stuff (and it’s got a great backyard!), but no so large that you have to “fill it up” with furniture, clutter, and other crap you don’t need?  That’s a novella.


Because there are space limitations, the author does have to make every word, every scene count, there’s no space for extraneous scenes that don’t push the story forward.  But because the author has more space than they would if they were writing say, a 5,000 word story,  there’s plenty of space for characterization,  great dialog, action, plenty of space (between 100 and 200 pages worth!) for the reader to get completely immersed in what is going on.


These last few years, Tor has been absolutely rocking the novella game.  Ten years ago I would have said “you want how much money for a 150 page book???”  and because of the excellent novellas that have been coming out recently, these days I’m more like “A book I can read in an afternoon? Shut up and take my money!”


Introduction over,  let’s talk about super fun science fiction and fantasy novellas that have come out these last few years.  This is no where close to an exhaustive list of all the wonderful novellas that have come out in the last few years, just a handful of my favorites. If you’re not sure about novellas,  here are some great ones to start with:


All Systems Red by Martha Wells – you haven’t read Murderbot yet?  Do not pass go, do not collect $200. Go to the bookstore and get yourself some Murderbot diaries novellas!  you can thank me later.  There are four novellas in this series, and if they aren’t yet available as an omnibus, I’m sure they will be soon.


Binti by Nnedi Okorafor – Oh, you like brilliant mathematicians who have to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night, and survive and alien attack, all so she can go the galactic university? yeah, things get kinda awkward when she does back home. Another must read, there are 3 novellas in this series, and it is available as an omnibus.


Acadie by Dave Hutchinson – if you like snark, strong narrative voices, and the best twist of the year, this is the novella for you!  yes, this is one of those stories where once you’ve read it once and you know what the twist is, what’s the point of reading it again?  That said, I’ve read this at least three times because it’s just that  entertaining.


If you enjoy the Iron Druid series from Kevin Hearne, then you’ll love his novella series of Oberon’s Meaty Mysteries, which starts with The Squirrel on the Train. told from Oberon’s point of view, these are hilarious and adorable cozy mysteries. But really, it’s about Oberon getting good snacks, and Atticus not getting the spotlight.


The Inconvenient God by Francesca Forrest – if you like mythology, and how people have a bad habit of changing myths and gods to match what they happen to need that year, this is the novella (or maybe a novelette?) for you.


Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew –  a scifi retelling of The Snow Queen,  but with better characters than the original,  climate change,  aunties who play the long game, and ghost kilns which I am still scared of.  Sriduangkaew’s prose is gorgeous and poetic, transporting the reader to lush semi-tropical worlds,  virtual mazes, and iced over landscapes.


Time Was by Ian McDonald – time travel, romance, dusty bookstores, secret messages left across the world tucked into strange books that the bookseller isn’t allowed to sell. Excellent characters that leap off the page. Another novella I’ve read a few times now, just for the excuse of spending more time with these characters.


Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett – do you have a strong stomach? You’ll need it, but it’s worth it for this hard hitting, harder to swallow story about staying armed, staying vigilant, and reality tv gone farther than it ever should.  More people need to read this vicious little cautionary tale, I need to talk about it with people!


Penric’s Demon by Lois McMaster Bujold – she writes fantasy too!  When a “demon” attaches itself to Penric, that boy is gonna have to grow up real, real fast. As it turns out, Penric was exactly the right person for Desdemona to bind herself to. Compelling, heartfelt, and humorous, the first novella reads as a stand alone, and if you like it, there’s a few more short reads in this series.


this list barely scratches the surface of all the novella wonderfulness out there!  what have been some of your fave novellas to read?  What recommendations do you have for folks who haven’t yet discovered the goldilocks land of novellas?




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FTC Stuff

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.