the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘heroes

A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking by T. Kingfisher is one of the cutest, most fun books I’ve read in a long time! Apparently it’s been a while since I read some Ursula Vernon/T. Kingfisher.

 

Ok, so the book isn’t all cutesy – people die, assassins go after teenagers, kids are homeless, adults act like idiots, there is some shit to be said about why we need heroes in the first place. . . ok, crap, this book is actually pretty dark, now that I’m thinking about it.

 

(the book doesn’t have any swear words, because Mona is a good girl. but #sorrynotsorry, this review has a lot of swear words.)

 

But I felt cute while I was reading it?  I laughed a lot while I was reading it. I loved all the characters, i loved loved LOVED Mona’s internal voice, i kept snarking “not my gumdrop buttons!” outloud, and reading this book really made me want to bake and hold my loved ones close.  Reading it made me feel hopeful.

 

So, after Mona’s parents died, she went to live with her aunt and uncle and work in their bakery. Well, she works there, but she lives in her own little room down the street. At fourteen years old, she leaves her apartment at 4am, goes to the bakery, and starts the ovens.  What were you doing at 14?   Mona is also an amateur wizard – she can make bread dough do cute things. The bakery customers (ok, some of them) love it when she makes the gingerbread men get up and dance (some of the customers think she’s a creepy witch).  There’s also this semi-sentient bucket of sourdough starter in the basement named Bob.  Bob eats the rats.  #teamBob.

 

One sleepy morning, Mona arrives at work, to find a strange girl in the bakery. The girl is also dead. Aunts are woken up, police are called.  And not too many days after that, when Mona gets to work in the wee hours of the morning, the assassin is waiting for her too.

 

Fourteen year olds shouldn’t have to escape from assassins at four oclock in the morning.

 

And I haven’t even had a chance yet to tell you about Knackering Molly and her dead horse Nag! I wonder what Bob and Nag would think of each other? Molly freakin’ rocks, by the way.

 

The assassin is obviously another wizard.  Why the heck would a wizard be hunting other wizards, especially someone like Mona, a teenager who has limited magical abilities?

 

Things happen, and then dear reader, you will read the funniest scene you have ever read in your life. It involves Mona and her new friend Spindle climbing up a, um, sort of drain pipe?  The, um, drain pipe that leads directly to the Duchess’s, um, garderobe.  Ain’t the Duchess in for a shock when she walks into her bathroom to find two shit covered teenagers. My friends, I was laughing so hard I fell out of my chair!

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sidekicksSidekicks!  edited by Sarah Hans

published in March 2013

Where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Alliteration Ink!)

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This anthology is about yup, you guessed it, Sidekicks. And every hero needs a sidekick, right?  Someone who will support them no matter what, help them be the hero of our own story?  Even if you’re not a hero, we all need someone like that in our life.  I was expecting this anthology to be all stories starring super heroes having superhero adventures, cape and utility belt included. I was expecting the collection to be good, but not great, to speak to an audience of Batman and Superman and Thor fans that I just wasn’t a part of.  Hey, guess what? Batman, Superman, Thor, all those heroes that I’m not all that interested in? This anthology isn’t interested in them either. For once, they aren’t in the spotlight.  Sidekicks! wasn’t merely good or even great, it was flippin’ fantastic.

I’m not so interested in superheroes doing superthings and getting superattention, but people who’d rather save the day from behind the scenes? Yeah, that I can totally get into. Most of them are about people doing the right thing (or believing they are doing the right thing), and getting too little credit for it.  Not sure who the sidekick is in the story? It’s the person who is most selfless, the person least interested in the limelight. . . most of the time.    Many of the stories are packed with emotion and depth, others are filled with fear and denial.  In some the characters aren’t sure if they are on the good side or the bad side.  You may not recognize many of the authors in the table of contents, but I guarantee this is a collection you’ll be thinking about for a while.

Enough with the intro, let’s get to talking about just a few of my favorite stories!

Hunter and Bagger, by Alex Bledsoe – This quickie opens with Ellen, who is tied to a chair in a shed.  She realizes she’s been kidnapped by the infamous Headhunter, the serial killer who cuts women’s heads off.  But it turns out The Headhunter isn’t one man, but two.  The two men demand that the woman tell them which one of them is the villain, and which one is the sidekick. Is this a trick question? Does she get to live if she answers right?  But how to tell, since the two men seem more interested in bickering with each other than acting heroic or in this case very villainous?  If she’s going to get out of there, she’s going to have to think fast. And thinking fast is exactly what she does. These have got to be the dumbest, thickest idiot serial killers ever, and Ellen would be laughing her head off, if she wasn’t in her underwear, tied to a chair, in a shed with two lunatics.
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Epic: Legends of Fantasy, edited by John Joseph Adams

published November 2012

where I got it: Received ARC from the publisher

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Epic Fantasy requires the story to be bigger, the dragons be faster, the warriors be stronger, and everything generally be more. And Epic: Legends of Fantasy offers up just that – more mythos,  higher stakes, more of simply everything.

Many of the entries are part of the author’s larger work, taking place in an epic fantasy world that the author has already written hundreds and sometimes thousands of pages about. Randomly, the stories I read first happened to be part of larger works, and at first, the lack of stand alone works bothered me, but I quickly came to appreciate it, and to learn the collection had plenty of stand alone stories as well. An anthology like this is a brilliant method of introducing readers to these larger fantasy worlds created by famous authors such as Robin Hobb, George R R Martin, Michael Moorcock, Melanie Rawn, Tad Williams, and many others, and serves as an excellent introduction to the writings of newer authors  as well.

Some works were fairly new, but others were older than I am. the Moorcock for example was originally written in 1961. A pure classic sword and sorcery, complete with sexualized and helpless female, it might be offensive to today’s readers, but I’m happy Adams included it, as what’s the point of talking about Epic Fantasy if we’re not going to touch on the journey the genre has taken?

Clocking in at over 600 pages, Epic: Legends of Fantasy is itself a bit of a doorstopper.  We eat clunksters like this for breakfast, so I was surprised at how long it took me to plow through it. ahh, but spending 600+ pages in one fantasy world is one thing. Try spending that quantity of pages in over a dozen fantasy worlds. More often than not, my brain needed a little break in between.   This isn’t the kind of anthology to gorge on, this is the kind you savor, over many winter evenings.

Here’s my thoughts a handful of the entries:

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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.