the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘dark

We’re in the middle of a heat wave, the novelty of getting to work from home has worn off, and I’m in a reading rut.  Buckets of books to read and review, a ton of amazing stuff on my kindle app, and i’m just not in the mood for it right now.

 

on the plus side, I’ve got some fun crafts I want to work on,  my little balcony garden is going crazy with tomatoes and herbs and green onions and flowers,  and I’ll never run out of cool recipes that that I want to try to make.

 

So, I’m going to make fun foods,  read more cookbooks, harvest my basil and mint and parsley, coax my peppers and tomatoes to fruit,  and binge watch the Netflix show Dark.

 

Just a few recent reads –

I enjoyed the hell out of Your Rover is Here, by LP Kindred, in FIYAH Issue #14. This is the urban fantasy / keep the family magic a secret I’ve been looking for for years.  The voice in this story is fantastic. The narrator, he’s just going about his business. He drives for a rideshare app.  And when a fare brings violent magic into the car, he has to fight back to stop even more violence.  So what happens when you use secret magic to stop a dangerous explosion, and you lose your car (and your source of income) in the process?  Seriously a great story.  I kept meaning to read the rest of the issue, but just kept coming back to this story.

I bought the print copy of Clarkesworld Year 11, volume 1. It’s a bucket of fiction that was published in Clarkesworld.  I usually really like what gets published in that magazine, but my eyeballs struggle with walls of text.  I’ve only read a few stories, and haven’t connected with many of them yet.

 

Been binge re-watching the Netflix show Dark. The 3rd season just dropped, so hubby and I are rewatching the first two seasons as fast as we can.   this IS the show of the summer!  umm, how to explain?  Think Twin Peaks meets Stranger Things,  plus a metric ton of time travel.  And the soundtrack!  omg, so good!!

DO:  watch the show and take your own notes for a family tree.  Different story lines follow different generations, so you’ll want to keep track of who is married to who,  who is the parent and child of who, etc.

DON’T: use google to learn about this show.   the less you know about the show and the plot going in, the better.  the internet is solid spoilers.

not a spoiler: the first time I saw season one,  I though Jonas was a cool but annoying character. Why is he so quiet? Why doesn’t he seem to react to things? why does he seem so passive?  Yeah, he’s might be quiet, but he is NOT passive. the poor kid is a bundle of nerves and a total mess inside.

I’m not a super crafty person,  but I have two crafts I want to work on this summer.  I’d like to create a Braille sampler (remember samplers?).  My mom let me borrow one of her embroidery hoops, and I bought some tiny beads to be the Braille “dots”.

 

I’m getting bored with the fabric masks I have.  I bought some fat quarters to experiment with the bandana “bank robber” style face covering, where it’s a square folded into a triangle, and you tie it across your face and knot it at behind your head.   OK, so that was working pretty good. . .   then I saw these kinds of “face veils” online:

and i thought to myself “Self, that looks COOL.  and it covers your nose and mouth, and it isn’t BORING”.

so, next iteration,  was I took my triangle folded fat quarter, and instead of knotting it behind my head,  I  bobby pinned it.  where the two ends overlap, I put three downward facing bobby pins, and to “tighten” the mask, I pulled on the ends, pulling them through the bobby pins.  It was super comfy, and not boring. . .  but I still wanted to mess with it some more . . . .

The  craft store was OPEN!  This is the first time I have been to a retail store that wasn’t a grocery store!  I got to BROWSE! and walk through aisles of random crap I didn’t need!  I bought a few plastic hair combs, some seam binding,  some cotton bandanas, and a bundle of fat quarters.   A few things I want to experiment with – sewing the corners of the bandana directly to the top of the comb, and then put the comb tines down into a messy bun or ponytail, and attaching bobby pins to the comb, so they can “tighten” the mask while the comb holds everything place.

Ideally, I’m going for something where it’s the comb that holds the mask in place, and the fabric lies gently over my nose and mouth, with no pressure on the bridge of my nose or my ears.  And in the picture above, there is stuff on the bottom of the mask, weighing it down.  I can do something like that too!

Regardless,  this will keep me out of trouble for a few hours, and I’ll get some cool belly dancer style face veils out of it.  Doesn’t seem like the new normal is gonna go away anytime soon, so I might as well have some crafty fun with it, right?

 

Cooking adventures – I couldn’t find any one to one gluten free flour at the store, but they did have brown rice flour and teff.  Whadya do with teff? You make Injera!   First batch was tasty but undercooked because I didn’t have my pan hot enough. will one million percent be making injera again!

The link in the paragraph above is to Mark Bittman’s injera recipe. this recipe is great for midwesterners like me – measurements in cups and teaspoons, it doesn’t make a ton,  the batter only ferments for a day or so. Injera is a traditional Ethiopian bread,  here are some more traditional injera recipes, from Ethiopian sources:

Marcus Samuelsson’s Injera recipe

from How to Cook Great Ethiopian Food

Adane’s Ethiopian Food Youtube video for 24 hour Injera

Mama’s Majet youtube video for Injera

 

 

 

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

published May 2018

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I don’t know what I was expecting when I bought this book.  I’d heard good things about it, it got some buzz when it came out, and then it fell off my radar. I knew it was about a kid who attends an elite military academy, gets embroiled in a war, and has to risk everything.

 

when I read the back cover copy, my first thought was “is this a fantasy version of Ender’s Game?”   Hahahahah!!!!  yeah . . . . nope. More like Name of the Wind if written by Robin Hobb and then half way through Ian Tregillis took over in the vein of the Bitter Seeds books.

 

I meant to keep this review light and happy and talk about the plot and Rin’s adventures at school and how cute it is that she has no idea how to talk to boys she likes, and that she’s great at memorizing facts but shitty at martial arts.  I meant to write a super happy funtime book review.

 

That didn’t happen.

 

Good news first!  The Dragon Republic (book 2) is already out!  You can read books 1 and 2 back to back!

 

The Poppy War  does start out fairly light and happy – a war orphan, Rin, needs to escape her opium smuggling foster family before they marry her off, so she studies for the imperial exam and hopes for a scholarship.  Not only does she do well on the imperial exam, she has the highest score in her prefecture and gains a full scholarship to Nikan’s elite military academy Sinegard. Rin doesn’t care what she studies, she doesn’t care about dorm life, she just knows that school means she won’t have to marry a stranger and that she’ll get three meals a day, and that after graduation she won’t have to go home.

 

She’s by far the poorest most provincial kid at the school, and is relentlessly bullied by wealthier upper class students and a few teachers as well. But, like I said, none of them are forcing her to get married or get involved with opium smuggling, so she shrugs it off.  I thought it was so cute that Rin has no idea how to talk to boys she likes – she thinks they are cute, she ends up staring at them, but has zero idea how to talk to them. It was funny and adorable. And as dark as the end of this book gets, I was thankful for these cute light scenes at the beginning.

 

This is not one of those long, drawn out school chronicles, where each book is one year at school.  The Poppy War is ultra fast paced. Kuang deftly uses a few school scenes for worldbuilding, where the students are discussing world history, with the professor telling them what really happened.   Oh, and a whole shit-ton of other awesome stuff happens that I won’t spoil for you.

 

Before you know it, Rin’s first year of school is over and she’s pledged to study Lore under the school’s weirdest professor, Jiang. Doesn’t hurt that she easily recognized the hallucinogens in his garden.   He is saddened that her goal is to become a good soldier.

 

So, Jiang and Lore.  why would a military school offer classes on lore, mythology, and shamanism?  Why indeed.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bloodstone (Rebel Angels, book 2) by Gillian Philip

published November 2013

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (thanks Tor!)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Earlier this year the first book in the Rebel Angel series, Firebrand, really hit me hard. No, “hit me hard” isn’t quite right, “destroyed me where I stood” is closer to the mark.  Having survived that, I thought I had an idea of what to expect with Bloodstone, I knew to emotionally steel myself.

Seth’s MacGregor’s inner conflicts are tearing him apart, and one day it’s going to rip a hole in him so wide that another person could walk right through. What do you do when your family needs you to be someone you’re not? How do you tell someone a truth that might kill them?  How do you run from one, and face the other? Didn’t matter that I thought I was preparing myself. I was still completely floored from the first page to the last.

Seth  means to do the right thing. He wants to be as brave and mature as his older brother Conal, whom he idolizes. But Seth just isn’t that person, and he’s never going to be. He’s always going to prefer flirting to politics and fists to compromise.  Seth is no one’s hero, and he doesn’t want to be. Doesn’t matter, you’ll still love him.

The Rebel Angels series has everything I look for in a good story – compelling characters who act like real people, dialog that’s got some humor to it (when Jed finds out Seth is a fae, there is no end of Tinkerbell and other fairy jokes),  misunderstood promises and prophecies with unintentional and painful consequences. No “chosen ones” here, just people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, people who couldn’t fathom the consequences of their actions. There is a long conversation in here somewhere about free will.

Read the rest of this entry »

clarkesworld4

I was lucky enough to get a copy of Clarksworld Year Four, which includes 24 pieces of original short fiction the digital magazine published during their fourth year of publication.  Never heard of Clarkesworld? Please, allow me to enlighten you,  because these people simply rock it.  A digital magazine featuring original speculative fiction, interviews, and editorials, Clarkesworld published their first issue in 2006 and their original  short fiction has been winning awards ever since. The magazine itself has even picked up a few awards along the way (can you say three Hugo’s!!).

So I don’t have to tell you how awesome this magazine is.

You know how usually when I review an anthology or collection, I only talk about a handful of stand-out pieces, my favorites? Not this time.  The handful of short stories I’ve read so far (or listened to. Yay podcasting! I love you Kate Baker!) are some of the strangest, most out-there fiction I have ever come across. We’ve got McDonald’s terrorists, interstellar runaways, reincarnations of people who aren’t dead yet, the end of the universe, and an AI who thinks she’s a fairy tale.  Because everything in here is just so damn weird, I want each piece to get some much deserved attention.   I’ll review 3-4 short stories at a time, so you, dear readers and followers, can get the full treatment.

Want to make a comment on my review? By all means, comment here. I’ve linked each story back to Clarkesworld, so you can read the whole thing (or listen to the audio) and comment over there and give the magazine some direct attention.

Let’s get started:

Alone with Gandhari by Gord Sellar –  Kenny used to work fast food. He used to be a fat guy. But now, after a therapy that finally worked, with his taut belly and his clown-like facial tattoos, he’s a high ranking follower of Guru Deepak. Like all the other followers, he answers to the name Ronald, even though he prefers Ron. This opening paragraphs of this story were completely off-putting and disorienting to me, which makes the story hard to get into, but I’m happy I kept reading because I really ended up enjoying it, or at least I enjoyed the mental mind-fuck aspects of it.  Guru Deepak wants to help people change for the better, his followers will help him change the world. He is especially welcoming to people who need to stop eating fast food all the time. All are welcome, the blessings of Ghandhari are available to anyone who chooses to listen. The vegetarian lifestyle and meditation is probably good for Ron/Kenny’s health, but he’s unwittingly joined a cult. The hyped up Ronalds commit “Mac Attacks”, terrorizing patrons of fast food restaurants.   Ron/Kenny has been chosen by Deepak to lead an important mission to a corporate farm.  Far worse than eating a cow is abusing one on a farm, but what the Ronalds find on the farm isn’t exactly a cow. Is this a commentary on Fast Food or on food in general? A nightmarish satire? I’m not sure.

Read the rest of this entry »

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

published in 2010

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.
.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

I’ve been avoiding this book for a while now. Alternate history is always fun, but I tend to shy away from War stories. When this book was chosen for my local book club, there was no getting around it.

The first few chapters were a little rough going for me, more because the time and place jumps around with little context than that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be reading this. A british boy is caught ripping plants out of a garden, another British child is hidden from his terrifying grandfather, and elsewhere two dark complected siblings survive a harrowing journey to an orphanage in Germany. Time jumps forward nineteen years, it’s 1939, and suddenly I wished I’d paid more attention in history class.

The young boy in the garden is Raybould Marsh. Mentored and then sponsored by John Stephenson, Marsh grows up to become a spy for Her Majesty. Sent to Spain in 1939 to meet an informant,  Marsh gets the clue that something strange is going on when the man bursts into flames, taking most of his evidence with him. The evidence that Stephenson’s team is able to reconstruct makes no sense, and to investigate it, project Milkweed is born.

The siblings are Klaus and Gretel, and the orphanage later becomes Reichsbehörde für die Erweiterung Germanischen Potenzials , the Authority for the Advancement of German Potential. For the glory of the Reich, Dr. von Westarp has spent twenty years trying to create supermen. The subject’s willpower, or willenskrafte, is augmented by battery power, allowing the person to fly, or set something on fire, or read minds, or disappear, or who yet knows what else. Klaus’s talent lies in dematerializing into an ethereal ghost capable of moving through walls and people, and Gretel’s talent lies in seeing the future. The surgical procedures are experimental and dangerous, and nobody talks about the rows and rows of child sized graves.

Read the rest of this entry »

KOT2King of Thorns (Broken Empire, book 2), by Mark Lawrence

published in 2012

where I got it: purchased new

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

It’s all about a change in perspective.  Getting yourself somewhere where you can see the bigger picture, because there is always a bigger picture.

The story begins with a knife and a box. All Jorg can remember about the box is that it should never, ever be opened. If he opens it, it will destroy him.  So strange, how something so small could destroy a person so completely.  If the dream-witch Sageous can get into Jorg’s mind, the only place his thoughts, plans, and memories are safe are someplace out of his mind. The box contains Jorg’s salvation and his destruction.

Split into two timelines (and each with multiple flashbacks), King of Thorns is far more complex than it looks.  In the “now” timeline, Jorg is 18 years old, about to get married, is surrounded by the armies of his enemy, Orrin, Prince of Arrow.  If he’s going to defeat Orrin, he’s going to need the memories and strategic plans that are locked in that box.  Haunted by the ghost of a child, Jorg continues to allow his baser instincts to influence him.

The other timeline is four years earlier, a few months after the end of Prince of Thorns.  Jorg is King of the Renar Highlands. Not the crown he planned on, nor the last one he expects to wear, but he’s got to start somewhere.  Young Gog is having trouble controlling his fire-magic, nearly setting the castle on fire more than once.  Jorg decides to travel to  a northern firemage, thinking if he can help Gog, maybe he can help himself.   Gog’s storyline was one of my favorite parts of the book.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blackbirds, by Chuck Wendig

published in 2012

Where I got it: the library

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

Everyone is going crazy for Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds.  Action packed and with an engrossing premise,  shattered characters, and Richard Kadrey-esque prose, it’s no wonder this little book is getting a lot of attention.

Although a growing number of people are fascinated by her, Miriam Black wishes she could just disappear. As an adolescent, she gained the power to tell people the circumstances of their death. Perhaps the person lives until they are 95 and dies peacefully in their sleep. Perhaps it’s a housefire, or a drug overdose, or suicide. Living alone and on the run, she tries to avoid touching people. But of course it doesn’t work.  Once upon a time she tried to save the life of a child whose death she’d foreseen.  That didn’t work either.

Miriam comes off fairly crass, but it’s a facade. She’s not a mean person, she’s just really sick of shaking hands and seeing terrible visions in hospitals and bathroom floors.  Her diary, nearly out of pages, is the only therapy she has, the only way she can get these feelings and fears and self hatred out of her system.

Miriam isn’t the nicest person in the world, so it’s doubly unfortunate that she’s mostly surrounded by assholes. Frat boys looking to get laid, truckers who might rape her, violent drug addicts, the scum below the bottom crust of society.  Miriam doesn’t expect to meet anyone nice. And then she meets Louis, and everything changes.  Louis is a completely normal, kind man. And in the moment before his death, he calls Miriam’s name.

Read the rest of this entry »

Anno Dracula, by Kim Newman

published in 1992, reprinted by Titan Books in 2011

where I got it: purchased new

(and don’t you just adore that  cover art?)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

If you’ve never read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, I’m going to spoil the ending for you – the good guys win. Dracula and his brides are destroyed by the silvered weapons and quick thinking of Van Helsing and his friends. (If you’ve never read Dracula, you really should. I don’t do so well with the classics, and even I found it highly engaging.)

But what if that wasn’t how the story ended? What if Dracula won? What he traveled to England to be “among the teeming masses”,  married Queen Victoria, and set London up as a safe haven for vampires? What if being reborn as the undead became acceptable, even fashionable? This is the premise of Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula, and a brilliant premise it is. The story has many of the trappings of Victorian literature, but with a number of deliciously dark twists. This was a book I absolutely couldn’t put down, Newman had me on page two. The premise was fascinating, the plot was engaging, and I adored the characters.

Under Dracula, who now styles himself the Prince Consort and Lord Protector, more and more businesses and society in London run from dusk to dawn, with socialites hosting “after-darks”, banks and merchants only being open at night, and a massive upswing in the sales of luxury coffins.  For many, receiving the dark kiss allowed them to rise even higher in society, but for others, the opposite has been true. Those of the lower classes still starve and prostitute themselves, drunks still beg for money (but to buy pig blood, not booze).

Read the rest of this entry »


Why don’t I watch more tv? Television is easy, available, and often populated by handsome people. Sometimes I wonder if I haven’t got a smidge of ye olde attention deficit disorder. I can curl up on the sofa reading and not move for three hours, but pay attention to a one hour tv show? Yikes.  Or maybe it’s all the insultingly stupid commercials.  there are some great TV shows out there, many available sans adverts on Netflix and other streaming services. So what the hell is my problem?  stay tuned for a drunken essay* on this.

If what we read has some connection to escapism and wish fulfillment, what the fuck is wrong with me? I crave ultra dark fiction, the darker, the stranger, and the more dangerous, the better. I’m not talking blood and guts or serial killers, I’m talking the dark, tragic and painful kind, full of betrayal and heartbreak.  If like me, you’ve been outed as someone who likes that type of thing, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  What the fuck is wrong with me? I certainly don’t want to live rough, bathe only when it rains, steal stuff, starve, live in a cemetery, climb drainpipes in the rain, sleep under bridges, fall off horses, have a price put on my head, get betrayed, get chased by unnatural creatures, chill out with hookers, get tortured, get papercuts, get paid to hurt someone else, get blackmailed by sorcerers, or run through the woods while barefoot. I’m as far as a person can get from being an antihero haunted by violence or regret.  I’m a slightly odd but very nice person with a cushy life, a steady job, and the best husband on the planet. I’m a total wuss who won’t even walk to the mailbox barefoot.  So again, WTF? or maybe what we read has nothing at all to do with wish fulfillment?

oh wait, I do have a regret: not taking more literature classes in high school and college.  Also, I played some really crappy cards the other nigh tin Ticket to Ride: India.  ok, two teensy silly regrets easily fixed by next semester’s community college course catalog and a board game rematch.
My overly cluttered apartment is driving me crazy. Time for some spring cleaning, which means some of these books have got to go. It looks like a library sorting room exploded in here. Me thinks there may be some give aways of gently read books happening here soon. stay tuned.

With the spiffy blog, i’m always feeling pressured to read new things, which means my favorite rarely get reread.  Other blogger buddies, how do you solve this?  Do you reread at your whim?

Speaking of wish fulfillment,  if you attended a scifi-fantasy convention, how likely would you be to attend a panel about blogging?

*you’ve been drinking, so it seems like the most amazing piece of writing in the world. And then you wake up and read it sober, and wonder what the fuck were you thinking? Those aren’t even sentences! Is that even English?

Hi Everyone!  Welcome to our first weekend discussion of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. As resident cat herder for this first section, I got to come up with the discussion starters. This discussion covers from the beginning of the book through the Interlude entitled “Locke Stays for Dinner”, as per the reading schedule. We’ve just met our characters, and we’re getting to know the island nation of Camorr – run by  a Duke, but really run by the criminal underground, if you get my drift.  We’re just beginning to get an inkling of what’s going on, and it’s already a wild ride!

participating? awesome!  Leave a link in the comments to your discussion post in your blog so everyone else can find you. In fact, as the weekend progresses and more posts come up, I’ll be adding links to the bottom of this post. So check back again, and see what new discussions have gone up!  while you’re at it, check out Scott Lynch’s live journal, for additional fun tidbits.  Cuz he’s just nice like that.

not participating, but want to join in on the fun? Just say so in the comments, and I’ll ad you to the sooper seekrit list of goodies.

on twitter?  use #lynchmob (until we offend someone, that is).

Here are this week’s discussion starters:

1. If this is your first time reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, what do you think of it so far?  If this is a re-read for you, how does the book stand up to rereading?

2. At last count, I found three time lines:  Locke as as a 20-something adult, Locke meeting Father Chains for the first time, and Locke as a younger child in Shades Hill. How are you doing with the Flashback within a flashback style of introducing characters and the world?

3. Speaking of the world, what do you think of Camorr and Lynch’s world building?

4. Father Chains and the death offering. . .  quite the code of honor for thieves, isn’t it? What kind of person do you think Chains is going to mold Locke into?

5. It’s been a while since I read this, and I’d forgotten how much of the beginning of the book is pure set up, for the characters, the plot, and the world. Generally speaking, do you prefer  set up and world building done this way, or do you prefer to be thrown into the deep end with what’s happening?

6. If you’ve already started attempting to pick the pockets of your family members (or even thought about it!) raise your hand.

my answers after the jump!

check out other discussions here:

Nashville Book Worm
Dark Cargo
Rose’s Thingamajig
Felix Pearce
Books Without any Pictures
Lynn’s Book Blog
Geeky Daddy
Scruffy Fiction
Vilutheril Reviews
Booky Pony
Tethyan Books
Paperless Reading
Beware of the Froggies
John Ayliff
My Awful Reviews
Just Book Reading
Kaitharshayr’s Musings
All I Am – A Redhead
Realbooks4ever
Coffee, Cookies and Chili Peppers
Travels through Iest
Logan K Stewart
Hugo Endurance Project
Lisa Pizza
Dark Cargo Explorer
Genkinahito’s Blog
SF Signal
Musings of a Bibliophile
the Bente way of Life

Updates to the Theory of Everything **NEW! ***

Read the rest of this entry »


Follow me on Twitter!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,559 other followers

Follow the Little Red Reviewer on WordPress.com

Archives

Categories

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.