the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘library




library at mount char

Sometime in the late 70s, the American military tried to kill a god. 

 

They failed. 

 

Thirty years later, the god’s children are all grown up. And one of them has a murderous intent to kill her Father. 

 

I came across Scott Hawkins’ 2015 debut novel The Library at Mount Char in some book listicle about “books that don’t make any sense until you’re half way through”, and yep, this book is exactly that.  If you’re the kind of reader who wants a prologue, wants a ton of history before the main plot gets going, if you want to know the character’s histories  . . .  yeah this is not the book for you. 

 

This book is absolutely and gloriously bat shit insane.  

 

I spent the first hundred pages thinking things like:

 

Ok, that’s weird. 

 

Huh. that was even weirder. And gross. 

 

Damn that was a well placed joke!

 

Well, that’s creepy as fuck.

 

Wait, what? 

 

Good kitty. Stay calm kitty. You’re a really big kitty, sweetie, aren’t you.

 

Here’s a taste of the prose:

 

“On the morning after she murdered Detective Miner for the second time, Carolyn came awake on the floor of Mrs. McGillicutty’s living room.”

 

The prose, the dark humor, the characters who struggle to relate to each other but must work together, the forbidden knowledge, people with god-like powers, the long game, the author forcing the reader to be patient, the way everything (yep, that too!) is explained at the end. .  . you know what The Library at Mount Char reminded me of?  It reminded me of Gideon the Ninth, but with a lot fewer swords and a lot more guns.

 

If I even attempted to explain the plot of this book, I’d sound like I’m just grabbing random words in no order, but I’ll try.

 

Carolyn is one of twelve orphans adopted by Father. He set each child to study a different section of his vast library, such as languages or medicine, and the children were forbidden to share what they had learned with their siblings.  Break the rules, and punishment was swift, often including death. But that was okay, Father would just resurrect the dead child. He might then kill the child again, just to make a point.   This is how these children grew up, they forgot their lives before they were adopted. They adapted. They developed some truly epic coping mechanisms.  One of them figured out how to be invisible.

 

Now adults, and forced out of their home, the adoptees must figure out how to live like Americans. Which usually involves wearing shoes. And something called cell phones. Robbing banks is frowned upon.  Give Father’s children a break, they really are doing the best they can, even Margaret. It’s not entirely her fault she smells like death warmed over. 

 

And one impossibly painful piece at a time, Carolyn’s dangerous, crazy, and inevitable plan is coming together. The only person she can trust is that klutzy American Steve. He’s such a dork. But he has a pick up truck, and he knows how to break into houses. . . .  And oh yeah, what did eventually happen to Erwin? 

 

This books sounds super dark, and it is super dark and very, very fucked up, but it’s also super hilarious. Part of the humor is that there’s a chapter at the end entitled “So, What Ended Up Happening with Erwin?”

 

And OH THE LONG GAME!  Kage Baker would be proud!   the last few chapters of this book was a masterclass in invisible guns on tables.  it’s as if the entire thing was backwards origami, and then it unfolds, again.

 

The Library at Mount Char was written in 2015, and as far as I can tell, Scott Hawkins never published another book.   

 

If you’re looking for something weird AF and  brilliantly written, The Library at Mount Char is the book for you. 

 

Zipped right through An Absolutely Remarkable Thing, because it is a fun, super fast read. First person perspective, all dialog, no one really thinks before they act,  buckets of fun escapism. Review (or something) coming soon (maybe).

 

I usually shy away from horror, because I am a ‘fraidy cat.  If Angeline Jolie’s movie Changeling is the scariest movie I’ve ever seen, y’all really think I can handle anything scary?

 

So of course I started reading Daryl Gregory’s We Are All Completely Fine.  it’s  a novella, and it is about a bunch of people who are doing group therapy. All these people have been through terrible, awful, traumatic things. When I read the back cover copy, i immediately got an earworm of Heathens, by 21 Pilots (huh. I get a lot of 21 Pilots earworms).

 

The older, chatty guy in the group was the survivor of a group of cannibals. When the artist lady got thinking about the scrimshaw thing, I noped right outta there. Like I said, I’m a total ‘fraidy cat, and this novella was gonna way too scary for me.

 

So I started reading Crosstalk by Connie Willis, which like a lot of her books, is supposed to be a scifi screwball romantic comedy.  I’ve only ever read her Oxford time travel books, and the only one of those I’d describe as remotely comedic was To Say Nothing of the Dog.  anyway.

 

The premise of Crosstalk is. . .  it doesn’t matter for the purposes of this conversation. The main character, Briddy, is overwhelmed with people trying to get a hold of her.  Her sisters text her a few times an hour, and call her at work if she doesn’t respond, and they also randomly show up at her office, at work, because they want her attention/opinion.  That’s fine, because she can’t even get to her office at work, because as soon as she steps into the office building, people are pestering her every five feet, and it takes her a half hour just to get down the hall (this is supposed to be funny, but to me, it was horrifying!).  When she does finally get 30 seconds to herself at her desk, 90 emails come in.  Of course having family that won’t give you a moments peace means you are loved, and being bombarded with emails at work means you are important, right?

 

Umm . . . the Daryl Gregory is suddenly sounding much less scary.  At least when those people go to their group therapy meeting, their phones are turned off and people aren’t barging in the room asking them their opinions on online dating sites.

 

(by the way, i kept reading Crosstalk, because it was so so freakin’ cute. It’s not exactly super scary anymore. Only a little scary. I KNOW Briddy will end up being thankful for her meddling family who doesn’t give her a moment’s peace. . . because it’s better than not having any family at all, and that’s kinda how these Willis books work, so . . . )

 

stay tuned!

 

I owe you a Deep Space Nine post, don’t I?

It’s been so long since my last blog post that I forgot that the block editor was a thing.

 

thank god for “classic editor”, am I right?

 

This past week’s excitement aside, I’ve been really itching to do . . .  well . .   anything.  My city isn’t in lockdown, but not a lot is open.  Retail shopping has lost all joy, it’s shop alone and get in, get what you need, get out, no browsing, no trying on clothes. Every going to the bookstore is just depressing.

I needed something to get me out of the house, I needed something a little different, and I needed something that wouldn’t socially burn out introvert me.

So I signed up to volunteer with Meals on Wheels,  and I renewed my library card.

I used to be at the library all the freakin time!  I’d go to my local library every other weekend, and then on the other weekends I’d go to the library in the next town!  And then I got into blogging, and got into ARCs and had more books than I knew what to do with, and then I also found really good used bookstores and then my finances were finally such that I could afford to buy books new when I wanted them, and I also have a local group of book-ish friends and we are often sharing books back and forth.  so my library card expired and I didn’t even realize it.

I called the library earlier this week, to see what the policies were about getting my card renewed. They looked my up in their computer, and I wasn’t there.

It had been so long since I used my library card, that I wasn’t even in their computer anymore! That was embarrassing!  But? they said just come on in, and we’ll give you a new card.

So this morning, I did!  and five minutes later, I had a new library card account.

You know what I love about the library?  Every step, every aisle feels like a surprise.  What books are down this row? you won’t know unless you look!  what books are on that shelf? guess you’ll have to look to find out!   what’s on the “we recommend” shelf?  It changes every week!

I didn’t have any specific books or authors in mind, I just wanted to browse, and see what caught my eye.

here’s what I got!

Crosstalk by Connie Willis – I love her stuff, and this is one I’ve never read before.  this is a doorstopped chunkster of a book, holy crap! I better not read this in bed, if I drop it on my face I might break my nose.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green – A bunch of friends have recommended this to me, it looks like a fun, fast read.  Something about social media and going viral going horribly wrong.

We are all Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory – a bunch of friends have recommended this too! I’ve read a couple of short stories by Gregory, and enjoyed them. So let’s give this a whirl.

Have you read any of these? did you like them?

 

I didn’t get a ton of books, but guess what? I can return these and get more, whenever I want.  There is something about that phrase, whenever I want, that right now feels so freeing.

 

Tags:

Ahh, the smell  and feel of new books.  Even if they are only new-to-me.  Even if they came from the library and I have to give them back. They are still the physical object known as book, usually smooth on the outside by not always, often shiny and sometimes embossed.  Sometimes with print on three of six faces,  alluring cover art or none at all, dearest book thing how do I love you?

Allow me to introduce you to my latest aquirrings:

Terminal World, by Alastair Reynolds.

I didn’t have much luck with Reynolds’ debut novel, Revelation Space,  it was an “almost” book for me. Almost awesome, but not quite.  So when Terminal World was announced as my local SF group’s October read, I was excited to give Reynolds another shot. I’m about 100 pages in, and so far, so good!

The photo doesn’t do it justice at all, but the cover art is stunning. It’s embossed, so the light reflects of the artwork in all sorts of alluring ways.   and it’s got air ships!  Let’s see if I can get a decent close up of the cover art:

Read the rest of this entry »

Well, I guess most of these can’t rightly be called “aquisitions”,  since I got more than half of them from the library:

Wow, that’s a crappy picture! Book pr0n it ain’t!  That’s what I get for taking pictures when half asleep. oh well.

The World House: Restoration, by Guy Adams  is an ARC from Angry Robot books that will hit your local bookshelves in July. It looks wonderfully creepy.  Stay tuned for reviews of Guy Adam’s first book, The World House, and this new one in the next few months.

M John Harrison’s  Viriconium – Three novellas and a handful of short stories taking place in his Viriconium world. A post-post-post apocalyptic Earth where everything but surreality is scarce. Harrison is known for dreamy, surreal prose and storylines that overlap in time and space.  I read this book about five years ago, I hope it’s as good as I remember.

Thanks to recommendations from @Mascheph and some discussions on Gav Reads, I picked up Ellen Kusher’s Swordspoint and Lynn Flewelling’s Luck in the Shadows along with Anthony Burgess’s The Wanting Seed.   On first blush, the Burgess looks the most interesting.

Why is this copy of The Wanting Seed in a zip lock bag, you ask?  Because I got it randomly at a garage sale a few days ago. And wow was it musty and smelly!  Thus the zippy bag and baking soda. Book should be not-to-stinky in a few days.

Don’t tell anyone, but sometimes when I get super cheapo stinky books (this one cost me a quarter), after I read them I throw them out.  If the book is really good, I’ll buy a not-stinky copy or get it from the library.  I just don’t want to fill up my bookshelves with stinky stuff that’s falling apart, you know?

If you have read and or reviewed any of these, please let me know in the comments.

Because I love you, here’s what you can look forward to on LRR in the next little while:

Review of The Sinful Stars*, an anthology based on the Fading Suns role playing game. Edited by Bill Bridges, one of the creators of the Fading Suns universe, of stories I’ve read so far, I’d say about half of them are very good to excellent. If all goes well, the review will post on Saturday. Also, thanks to Sinful Stars, I’ve discovered my new favorite bookish work: bibliothecary.

Any PRG’ers among my readers? Have you read or written fiction based on your table top game of choice? This shared universe thing is pretty cool as well, it’s got me interested in maybe giving the Martin edited Wild Cards a shot.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s been so long since we went to the University Library that my guest card had expired.  That taken care of,  the other half hit the top floor for ancient history, and I headed to the basement where the New Books are showcased (along with vending machines, and apparently soon they are getting a SmoothieKing.  In the library??  A SmoothieKing In the library?!?!?!?!).

If you live anywhere near a university, community college, or tech school, I highly suggest calling their library and inquiring about getting a guest card.

Both are collections of Essays, and both connect to speculative fiction. Or at least I can connect them to speculative fiction. 

We’ve got:

Harem Histories: Envisioning Places and Living Spaces, edited by Marilyn Booth

and

Fundamentalism, Politics, and the Law, edited by Mark J. Rozell and Marci A. Hamilton

Read the rest of this entry »

last week I finished two books and decided two other books in my “to be read pile” would be give-aways for one reason or another.

I felt so in control of my TBR pile!  it was so in control in fact, that I said out loud to a number of people “my stack of books is under control!”

then I went to the library.  On the way home I checked the mailbox.

TBR pile under control?

I am a damn liar.

Yes, that stack contains brand spankin’ new stuff, old stuff, even library stuff.  cuz that’s how I roll. Read the rest of this entry »

A few days ago I got an e-mail from my favorite public library:

The material you’ve requested is ready for pick up: How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, by Charles Yu.

So I went and picked it up, grinning like a fool the whole time. Yesterday I read the first half of the book. It’s a fast-ish read, much stream of consciousness, social commentary, funny little digs at companies, good stuff. It’s also very, very depressing at times. To the point where half way through, I had to put it down. That’s gonna be an awkward book review to write. How do you say “this book was freaking depressing!” and make it sound like a compliment?

So I picked up Jasper Kent’s Thirteen Years Later instead. I always love me some suspense and scary bad guys. Got about 50 pages into it last night and early this morning. And as to be expected, it’s very good.  No pun intended, but it sucks you right in.

Then, this morning I got one of the best e-mails I’ve ever gotten.

Better than Cory Doctorow’s response to my drunken fanletter, and almost better than Scott Lynch’s response to my drunken fanletter/love letter. BTW, awesome audio interview with Scott Lynch here. The man has a lovely voice, I wonder if he’s ever contemplated a career as a newscaster? 

Back to this mornings awesome e-mail. It was from my favorite Public Library. It read:

 The material you’ve requested is ready for pick up: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss.  Read the rest of this entry »

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you love books.

You probably also own a lot of books.

And your friends know you love books and own more than a handful of them.

It’s inevitable.

Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but one day, someday soon, someone is going to say “can I borrow that?”

What kind of lending library is your private collection?

a) I’m happy to lend any book I own to any of my friends.

b) My closest friends get lending privileges, often more than they really want.

c) Some of my books I’m happy to lend out,  with other titles if you want to read it, I’ll buy you a copy instead of lending it.

d) my books!  no touch! get away from my stuff!

And just for kicks, because it’s happened to all of us,  what’s been your worst experience lending out a book?


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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.