the Little Red Reviewer

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In no particular order, here are the new books that have come into my house recently. (and this doesn’t even the count the ratty used paperbacks I’ve purchased, the e-book of Mythic Delirium I bought, and other books that friends have let me borrow).  My love for books is happily out of control!


What looks good to you?

As they say, if you can read a Steven Brust book, do it.  Witty characters, meaningful snark, well crafted mysteries, subtle clues and references.  I zipped through his newest, Good Guys, last weekend.  Compulsively readable, I need to read it again before I write a review, as I’m sure I missed a ton of good stuff.

You ever wonder what’s really happening when your tummy rumbles? Want to know more than you ever wanted about poop? If you answered Yes to at least one of those questions, Gut is for you.  I was looking for a paperback copy of The Secret Language of Trees, and came across Gut instead (yeah, B&N has zero organization to their science books).  I like knowing how my insides work.


Latchkey by Nicole Kornher-Stace comes out in July, it is the sequel to her acclaimed novel Archivist Wasp. I’m a jerk, and never read the first book, but here’s hoping I can just dive right into the new one!

I think I kinda freaked out Jerry Gordon at ConFusion when he said he’d written a novel about David Koresh and I was like “who in their right mind would do that, holy shit  tell me more”.  I’ve been waiting for this ARC to show up in my mailbox ever since, and I started reading it, oh, about 5 minutes after I ripped it out of the envelope.  Breaking the World releases on April 19th, we’ll see if I can get the book finished and a review up before then.


In that same envelope with Breaking the World was the April issue of Apex Magazine. Yes, this is available in print now! Subscriptions are reasonable, and it is hella bragging rights for me to walk around with a magazine that I am in. so, yeah. the April issue has an essay from Jerry Gordon, talking all about the behind-the-scenes of Breaking the World. Guess I better come up with some way better interview questions for him. . .

Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach by Kelly Robson is  for my local scifi bookclub. I’m about halfway through and kinda losing the thread. I dig the main character, but am having trouble getting invested in the plot. I think too much is being jammed into too few pages? Anyone read this? What did you think?


The Freeze-Frame Revolution comes out in June, and I meant to just read the first chapter or two to get a taste of it, and two days later I was done and wanted to read it again. Review is already in the works, but I figure I better wait till just a little closer to June before posting. Short version of the review? this book is very, very good. Way too much crammed into too few pages, and it works beautifully.  because, you know, Peter Watts.

Rock Manning Goes for Broke by Charlie Jane Anders doesn’t come out till September, so I guess it should sit on the TBR pile (my entire living room is turning into a TBR pile) until the summer. Looks like a fast fun read, maybe sort of Cory Doctorow-ish?


One of Us comes out in July, I’m not sure what exactly this is, but the early critical reviews are basically “this book will break you”.

Apocalypse Nyx comes out in July,  so once I finish all the stuff I’ve been dipping my toes into, I better get this one read. June will be hear before you know it!


Phoresis by Greg Egan comes out at the end of April.  It’s Egan, so that means it is dense and hard scifi. I’ve dipped my toes into this one, read maybe half of it. There is lots of “let’s science the shit out of this”. What I really need to do is start it again, from the beginning, and take notes. Because, Egan.

Silver Spoon was a happy surprise at B&N. I loved the anime of this, and really, anything by Arakawa is going to be fantastic. I’m interested to see how faithful the anime was to her original manga. The story follows a city boy who doesn’t know what he wants to do for college, so he ends up at an agricultural school, and finds himself surrounded by new friends who grew up on farms. It’s a nice coming of age story.



well? what looks good to you?  if these books were floating around your house, what would you read first?





Enjoying an unreliable narrator is entirely personal preference. Some people love unreliable narrators, some people hate them, others pass judgement on a case by case basis.


The thing with an unreliable narrator is you never know if they are telling you the truth.


The thing with an unreliable narrator is that they are most likely hardly ever telling you the truth.


Maybe they are conning you into something. Maybe they want to appear bigger and badder than they really are. Maybe they want to see what they can get away with. Maybe they only want you to see their good side before you find out all the horrible things they did.


Maybe they are trying to figure out if they can trust you or not.


I don’t remember what book I was reading, but it was written in first person, and the narrator came right out and told the reader that they weren’t going to talk about certain things yet, because a) it still hurt to much and b) they weren’t sure they could trust the reader. That’s been in the back of my mind ever since, that there are occasions where I have to earn a character’s trust, that there may be times where no matter what I do, they won’t trust me.


So next time you run into an unreliable narrator, do what you can to earn their trust. After all, it’s just a story, what’s the worst that could happen?

This post is mostly book photos.  Some of these I’ve read, some of them I plan to get to shortly, some of them were happy surprises from publishers, or random acquisitions.  What looks good?

Starting off with books I’ve read:  The Tea Master and the Detective by Aliette De Bodard is forthcoming from Subterranean Press, what a gem of a novella!  More to come in a longer post, but if you like shipminds who are pretty sure they are people (because they *are* people), this book is for you.  Immortal Clay by Michael Lucas was a compelling post-apocalyptic novel based on the premise that at the end of John Carpenter’s The Thing, humanity lost.  Again, more to come in a longer post, but I most noticed and most appreciated the slower pace of this story.  After all, when you’re already dead, what’s the hurry?


In the category of Want To Read Very Soon is Binti:The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor (what? you haven’t read the Binti novellas? holy shit, DO IT!) and The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi, which is the February book for my local book club.


Read the rest of this entry »

Hello February!  You are officially the month wherein I start complaining that winter has gone on too long.


January though, was fantastic!  Vintage Science Fiction month was a rousing success as always, the quieter conversations were balanced out by a very fun watch-along of the 1984 movie of Dune, seen for the first time by many.  Every January I also attend ConFusion, a fan run science fiction convention in the Detroit suburbs.


The promise I made to myself in the days before ConFusion were “you don’t have to do it all. Do whatever you want, and not a bit more”.  I tend to exhaust myself at these events, going to too many panels in a row without eating, trying to meet all the people,  suffering from fear of missing out if i don’t make an appearance at every event, feeling socially awkward because I really don’t know that many people and yadda yadda. So this year I hung out with my friends, worked some shifts at the Apex table in the vendor room, attended very few panels, ditched the hotel entirely on Friday night to visit my favorite sushi restaurant and have a drink at my friend’s bar, didn’t push myself to do to much, and had a fantastic time.


Here’s the thing tho – I have a bunch of neat memories and they are all smushed together. I don’t know what conversations happened with who, or what exactly was said in which panel, or what came together in my brain when to come up with what ideas.  It’s become a congealed memory blob.


In one of these panels – Disaster Response in Science Fiction, Philosophy in Science Fiction, and Game Boards in Scifi and Fantasy, there was a tiny aside about the 3 types of conflict:


Person vs another person

Person vs nature

Person vs themself


In that same panel, or perhaps a different one, I though about or maybe made mention that First Contact with aliens will challenge everything we think we know.


Thanks to the congealed memory blob in my brain, all of that combined to:


Won’t first contact be the ultimate of “Person vs themselves”?  Anyone involved with first contact would have to be able to separate themselves from everything they think they know, all of their assumptions, all their preconceived notions, all those easy “well, what *should* happen is. . . “ thoughts.  You’ve got to get past all those barriers within yourself before you can understand someone else.  You’ve got to be willing to bare yourself, or communication will never happen. Wanna talk with aliens?  You gotta defeat yourself first.

By the end of January, it was still just barely light out when I got home from work.   In those dark days, we sure got a lot of Vintage Science Fiction read!

a huge thank you to my fantastic co-host, Red Star Reviews,  who runs the @VintageSciFi_ twitter feed. He also organized a number of discussions groups in Instagram and Twitter, organized the Dune read-along, and organized a watch-along of the 1984 film version of Dune.  Red Star Reviews, you are my organizational hero!   Although I mostly lurked in the read-along conversations, the Watch-Along was buckets of fun. We went over to Every Day Should Be Tuesday’s house, and enjoyed the movie and I got to snuggle with his very bouncy doggie.


If you’ve not visited these fine blogs, please take a minute to do so. Discover what they enjoyed for Vintage Science Fiction Month,  who knows what will catch your eye!


Red Star Reviews

Every Day Should be Tuesday

Howling Frog Books


Reviews by Martha’s Bookshelf

My Reader’s Block

Off the TBR

Book Forager

AQ’s Reviews

Planetary Defense Command

Navigating Worlds

PC Bushi

Wiki Fiction


Vintage month is always a fun way to start off the year!  Thank you to everyone who wrote a review, commented on a blog post, mentioned something they liked or posted a photo on twitter or instagram, and thank you to everyone on twitter who put up with me  live tweeting Dune.  The older I get, the more I appreciate that scene with Sting.  😉

It’s been a weird year.


It’s been a year of comfort reads, more so than in years past. I reread some favorites, and they were still amazing.


It’s been a year of ignoring hype, a year of  #selfcare, a year of finding stability.  I probably DNF’d more books this year than I actually finished.  DNF’ing is a form of selfcare that I highly recommend.


I lost a job that I hated, and three months later  I landed in a dream job that I love.


I read Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun and discovered the Alzabo Soup podcast. It has made my commute to work much more enjoyable!


It was a year of ignoring other people’s expectations, and selfishly focusing on my own wants. I learned what the word “sanctuary” really means.


I am happily addicted to the computer game Stardew Valley. It is therapeutic.


It’s been a good year.


In no particular order, here are my favorite books I read this year, with a link to the reviews I wrote.


All Systems Red by Martha Wells


Winterglass by Benjanun Sriduangkaew


Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee


Cold Iron by Stina Leicht


City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett


The Skill of Our Hands by Steven Brust and Skyler White


Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card



I’ve barely been getting any reading done. Ok, that’s not exactly true, as I finished the fourth book in Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun,  I’m about halfway through a new anthology from Subterranean Press, and I’m about 50 pages into a new space opera novel from Tim Pratt.   But that hour every evening that I’d usually be reading?  I’ve been spending it playing Stardew Valley.


the simplest description of Stardew Valley is that it is a farming simulation game.  You can roll your eyes, it’s OK.   In the short introduction, you are a burned out corporate employee, and then you inherit your grandfather’s farm.  You move to the farm, which includes some cleared property, some woods, and a small cabin. A few people who live in the town come by to say hi, you’re given some basic tools, you are given a “quest” to introduce yourself to as many people in the town as possible,  and then the game starts.


Stardew Valley is a sandbox, and every decision is the right decision.


Want to grow a ton of corn?  go for it.

Want to chop down some trees as use the wood to build a bigger house? go for it.

Want to grow mushrooms and make your living off of foraging? go for it.

Want to befriend the dwarf who lives in the mountain and mine for minerals?  go for it.

Want to raise animals and make artisan cheese? You can do that too.

Not my farm. this is a random image from online.

All of those are correct answers, because every way to play Stardew Valley is the right way.  The designer of the game built in seasons, and seasonal changes to the landscape. Certain crops only grow in summer or fall, there is different fish in the river and ocean at different times of year, acorns and hazelnuts are plentiful in the fall, but maple seeds are more plentiful in spring. You can make things, upgrade things, buy and sell things, befriend people if you want to, tap for maple syrup, raise farm animals, stay in the woods if you feel like doing that.  In the fall, you can just watch the trees sway in the wind and the leaves blow across the screen, and watch the squirrels and birds if you feel like it.  Every so often there is a community event that you can participate in.

there is no wrong way to play Stardew Valley.

And right now, I need something in my life that is un-screw-up-able.  I need something where whatever decision I make is a good decision.  I need something where if I just stand around and enjoy nature, that the game will tell me that was an OK use of my time.   I’m sure there are players who play Stardew Valley with the goals of having the most lucrative farm, the biggest house, the most animals, the most friends, etc, and that is also the right way to play the game!  because every and any way you want to play this game is the right way.

I did fix this bridge.

the hours i play Stardew Valley are judgement free hours.   It’s the perfect remedy to the real world, to the news, to politicians bickering, to everything.


so, if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been quieter than usual, less social than usual, it’s a combination of me telling the world to fuck off, and the therapy that is Stardew Valley.


and in case anyone is wondering:

  • I have a very small farm, mostly vegetables.  I make pickles and jam out of most of them.
  • I decided early on that I wanted to live off the land. I do a lot of foraging. I have a mushroom cave, I’m slowly getting better at fishing, and I forage a lot of nuts, acorns, berries, mushrooms, plums, and other wild foods.
  • I love having a pet cat.
  • One of my favorite activities is doing a loop of the town, foraging whatever I find, and saying hi to people

I love how immersive this game is. Summer feels like summer. Autumn feels like autumn.  the kids in the town aren’t interested in talking with me unless I give them ice cream.  The ocean is peaceful.  People are at peace with each other.


it’s winter!


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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.