the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘magic

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

publishes on March 5, 2019

where I got it: Received ARC

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Little Red Reviewer doesn’t read kids books, you say!

 

But Little Red Reviewer does read Carlos Hernandez, says I!   I am interested in reading anything Carlos Hernandez writes. He could write a cookbook, and I’d read it (actually, yes please?) gleefully.    Same thing goes for a handful of other authors, by the way.

 

So, yeah, I read a kids book.  And I liked it! Or, at least, I liked this one. It made me feel carefree.

 

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe is an adorable novel aimed toward middle school aged readers. It is very fast paced, has serious scenes, has a lot of humor, great characters, loving families,  magic tricks, middle school hijinks, fast thinking and faster talking, and a kid who really misses his mom.

 

This is the Harry Potter book you didn’t realize you were waiting for.

 

Sal Vidon is in a new town, and a new school. So far  his new magnet school seems like the best school ever – the electives are interesting, the teachers do really fun activities to help the students get engaged with what they are learning, and some of the students are even entertained by Sal’s amatuer magic tricks!  When he magicked a dead chicken into someone’s locker, the Principal was not entertained. After the dead chicken trick, some students have started thinking Sal might be a brujo.

 

For the first time in a long time, Sal actually enjoys going to school.

For the first time since his Mami died, he’s smiling and laughing.

 

And as much as he enjoys sleight of hand magic tricks, Sal didn’t use magic to put the dead chicken into that other kid’s locker.   Sal is able to reach into the multiverse, and go to any spot in any universe, and grab whatever he wants. His actions tear a hole in spacetime, but the holes usually sew themselves right back up after a few hours. And there was that one time, when he went looking for his Mami. In a parallel universe, she’s still Mami Viva.  In a lot of other parallel universes, she’s cooking the most amazing Cuban food you’ve ever had.

 

When Sal loses control of some part of his inner self, a Mami Viva comes into our universe.  She has no idea that it’s been five years. She has no idea her husband, Sal’s Papi, has remarried. She has no idea that in this universe, she’s dead.  Them’s some awkward family dinners, that’s for sure.

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Welcome to a new-ish feature here at Little Red Reviewer, called 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?

Fearful Symmetries – I picked this anthology up from a used book dealer. Edited by Ellen Datlow, the TOC includes Pat Cadigan, Laird Barron, Garth Nix, Jeffrey Ford, Michael Marshall Smith.  That’s the extent of my knowledge. How do you fare with anthologies?

 

The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria by Carlos Hernandez – Yes, this is the collection that has the famous robot panda sex story. and it is a damn good short story!! Actually, every story in this collection is fantastic (review here), as is Hernandez’s kids book that is out in March (review coming soon)

 

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells.  My favorite Murderbot book. review here. If for whatever reason you only read the first novella in the series and then stopped, please do yourself a favor and read this second one.

(huh. hadn’t realized until right this second that I had so many short stories/novellas in this five for friday photo. oh well)

 

Rule 34 by Charles Stross.  I really like Stross’s Laundry Files books, enjoyed Accellerando and Glass House (although I worry those two have not aged well).  Anyone read Rule 34? How is it?

 

Fix by Ferrett Steinmetz – Crap. I meant to put the FIRST book in this trilogy in the photo, and instead I grabbed the LAST book. OOPS. What a fun urban fantasy read! If you like stories where everyone has unique magic, and they have to learn most of the rules as they go, this is the series for you! Protagonist is a father who is just trying to protect his daughter, and you’ll get to meet Valentine, one of my favorite female characters, ever.  Oh, do you like the movie Fight Club? you will really, really love the second book in this series! here my review of the first book, Flex.

 

 

have you read any of these?  What did you think of them?  If you’ve not read these, do any look interesting to you?

Snow White Learns Witchcraft, by Theodora Goss

publishes Feb  5th, 2019

Where I got it: received ARC from the publisher (thanks Mythic Delirium!)

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I have two pieces of excellent news for you today!  The first piece of excellent news is that Theodora Goss’s collection of short fiction and poetry, Snow White Learns Witchcraft, is available today! And the second piece of equally excellent good news is that if you’re not quite sure about buying this collection, a few  of the stories I mention below are available to read for free online. I’ve helpfully provided links, which #sorrynotsorry, will make you want to buy the book. Also, have I mentioned how awesome Theodora Goss is?

 

I am still trying to figure out how Goss crammed so much top notch story telling into this slender little book of just over 200 pages.  There is flash fiction, short poems, longer stories, stories that make me giggle, others that made me think deep thoughts, others that were simply joyful to read.  You’d think you could zip through a 200 page collection in a day or two, right? Yeah, you’d be wrong. This is one you want to savor and slowly dip into, enjoying the beautiful prose that will greet you on every page.  Don’t rush your way through, enjoy your walk through the forest, keep your eyes open for any wolves or taking bears, and allow yourself to be lured in.

 

And ok, can we talk about the poetry in this collection for a minute? I am freakin’ terrified of poetry.  Half the the time I just don’t get it, half the time I spend so much time stumbling over the meter enforced word choices that I don’t even know what the sentence means, and the other half the time i just don’t enjoy it. Poetry is clubhouse I’ve never known the secret password to.

 

And now Theodora Goss has me all turned around in the best possible of ways. These poems are photographs, they are short stories until themselves where the idea is more important than the meter. I’d classify them as songs or vignettes before classifying many of them as poems. Sorry if I just insulted all the poets reading this. Thanks to this collection, I feel more comfortable reading poetry, I now feel like I can get something out of it, that there is a story in there for me.  This book is my secret password to the poetry clubhouse.

 

A few words on my favorite poems:

 

Diamonds and Toads which tells a story about two sisters one who has a positive attitude so gets diamonds, and other who has a negative attitude so gets toads,  and how maybe the two sisters are actually one person and that none of us are completely positive or completely cranky, and it’s the balance that helps us live full lives. Diamonds come in handy, but it’s amazing how often toads come in handy.

 

Thorns and Briars, which is a poem you can read in under 60 seconds. I like this one because it starts out as a fairy tale or myth might, where some is locking their heart away for the right person to find. And then, well, life happens, and the right person does claim her heart.

 

Goldilocks and the Bear, which tells an endearing story about how Goldilocks really met the bear that she ends up marrying. Apparently I just love stories about thieves and bears and honey and people realizing it’s ok to be vulnerable and living happily ever after and that a strong relationship means knowing your partner isn’t perfect and will never be perfect, and that’s kind of what makes them perfect.

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Hello!  Have I got a treat for you today!  I have the honor of showing you the gorgeous cover art for Julie Czerneda’s forthcoming fantasy novel The Gossamer Mage!    (Oh, you’ve read her Esen books? And her Species Imperative trilogy? And the Clan Chronicles?  Best surprise ever:  She writes fantasy too!)

Today is a trifecta of awesome:  A guest post from Julie about The Gossamer Mage‘s  journey, and an excerpt from the novel, and of course, the cover reveal!  and seriously, this is some freakin’ gorgeous cover art!  (Click here for pre-order info)

about the book:

Only in Tananen do people worship a single deity: the Deathless Goddess. Only in this small, forbidden realm are there those haunted by words of no language known to woman or man. The words are Her Gift, and they summon magic.

Mage scribes learn to write Her words as intentions: spells to make beasts or plants, designed to any purpose. If an intention is flawed, what the mage creates is a gossamer: a magical creature as wild and free as it is costly for the mage.

For Her Gift comes at a steep price. Each successful intention ages a mage until they dare no more. But her magic demands to be used; the Deathless Goddess will take her fee, and mages will die.

To end this terrible toll, the greatest mage in Tananen vows to find and destroy Her. He has yet to learn She is all that protects Tananen from what waits outside. And all that keeps magic alive.

 

photo credit: Roger Czerneda Photography

 

About the author:

For over twenty years, Canadian author/ former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Julie’s written fantasy too, the first installments of her Night’s Edge series (DAW) A Turn of Light and A Play of Shadow, winning consecutive Aurora Awards (Canada’s Hugo) for Best English Novel. Completing her Clan Chronicles series with To Guard Against the Dark, Julie’s latest SF novel is Search Image, Book #1 of The Web Shifter’s Library, featuring her beloved character Esen the Dear Little Blob. Julie’s edited/co-edited numerous anthologies, including SFWA’s 2017 Nebula Award Showcase, but nothing prepared her for the sheer joy of opening her Clan Chronicles to fans of the series to produce Tales from Plexis, out this December. In 2019, Julie will be GOH at ConStellation, Lincoln, Nebraska. Meanwhile, Julie is hard at work on fantasy standalone The Gossamer Mage, out August 2019. Visit www.czerneda.com for more.

Magic?  Forgotten languages?  The high cost for doing magic correctly, and the higher costs for doing it wrong? Shut up and take my money! Good thing I’ve got an excerpt to share with you! (excerpt is images, may take a moment to load)

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Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett

available Aug 21 in US, Aug 23 in UK

where I got it:  Received ARC from Jo Fletcher Books

This review is part of a BlogBlast hosted by Jo Fletcher Books.  Find Foundryside reviews and more by searching on twitter with:

#Foundryside

@JoFletcherBooks

@robertjbennett

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Robert Jackson Bennett books are always hard for me to describe. I end up just squeeing about “and then this happened, and there’s this character who is so cool, and don’t let me forget to tell you about this thing that happened, and you are gonna love this one scene so much, and I didn’t expect that other thing to be laugh out loud funny but it was, and I wanna know more about  . . .” My mind is going faster than my mouth, and I’m so busy trying to list everything that’s awesome that I can’t even finish a sentence or coherently describe what it is that makes his books so remarkable.

 

But I think I finally figured it out: Bennett connects all the dots. He takes what could have been a narrowly focused story, and some characters who are just trying to live their lives and do their thing, and he puts them in a world that has history and politics, and consequences.  He writes characters who deal with the same crap I deal with, they are living through the same frustrating stuff that I read about in the news every day: the cost of cheap goods, capitalism, colonialism, PTSD, marginalism, the difference between the haves and the have nots, etc.  His characters and their frustrations are relatable, I guess is what I’m trying to say. I get their motivations, because in their place, I’d probably do the same thing and have the same frustrations.

 

If you’ve ever read a Robert Jackson Bennett book before, you know the characters are going to be top notch and the plot is going to be the perfect balance of tightly paced and non-stop.  And if this is going to be your first Robert Jackson Bennett? You are in for a treat, as his work just keeps getting better and better. Foundryside is part N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, part Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora,  and part the Wachowski brother’s The Matrix.

 

The lyrics to “broken” by Lovely the Band feel very Foundryside #NotASpoiler

I was thrilled to see that Foundryside is the first of the Founders Trilogy, because while the novel functions perfectly well as a self contained story, there is so much more I want to know about Gregor, about Berenice, and I’m sure Gregor’s mother has a rivetingly creepy backstory.  And don’t even get me started on how much I want to know about Clef’s backstory! And I really hope Sancia is finally able to take a bath without it literally killing her.

 

I’m gonna skip all the How Fun The Story Was, and the How Much I Loved the Characters (omg, CLEF!!!), and skip right to the thing in Foundryside that completely blew my mind wide open: The magic system.  And not only the magic system, but the implications of how this  magic system works.

 

Lemme explain as best I can without spoiling anything. Get comfy, because this is gonna take a while. But first: do you like science? Do you like engineering?  (are you wondering why I am asking science-fictiony STEM-y questions in a fantasy novel review?) If you answered yes, you are gonna love this!

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Good Guys, by Steven Brust

published March 6th 2018

where I got it: Purchased new

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What can you do with magic?  Pretty much anything you can do without it, except magic makes things much easier, and much faster.  Students at the Foundation learn chemistry, molecular biology, and physics. They need to know how everything in the natural world works, so they can learn how to properly manipulate it for the results they want.  The applied science of magic is a lot of knowledge, even more practice, and boat ton of will power.

 

Steven Brust’s newest stand alone novel, Good Guys, is Dresden Files meets Columbo, meets a study in the glory that is non-verbal communication.  Donovan Longfellow heads up the American field team for the Spanish Foundation, a secret society staffed by magicians, sorcerers, recruiters, researchers, and assorted administrative staff. As the story opens, Donovan is breaking in his new field specialist, Marci. Fresh out of training, and still thinking she can have a healthy relationship while working for The Foundation, Marci is bright eyed and bushy-tailed, reminding me a little of Gwen from Torchwood. The team is rounded out by Susan the acrobatic ninja, and yep, the three of them are the entire American field team for the Spanish Foundation – saving the world by day, and often working  2nd jobs on the side to make ends meet.  They might be saving the world, and the Foundation offers pretty good health insurance, but the hourly wage sucks.

 

The novel opens with a murder committed by magical means.  Donovan’s team is put on the case, and as the murders stack up, the killings become more and more gruesome. None of the people who are murdered were particularly nice people. Someone is trying to send a message, but what are they trying to say, and why?   The Foundation tends to frown on people using magic for selfish or violent reasons, so why should they care that a bunch of assholes are getting knocked off? Other than the fact that he’s getting paid for it, why should Donovan care?

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The Queen Underneath, by Stacey Filak

Release Date:  May 8th 2018

Where I got it: Received review copy from the author (Thanks!)

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You know, I never expected to laugh that much at a brothel scene. Quite the happy surprise!

 

When Gemma’s adoptive mother and mentor Melnora dies, Gemma will become Queen of the Under.  When Prince Tollan’s father dies, Tollan will become King of Above. Neither Gemma nor Tollan are ready to lose their parents, but we don’t always get what we want, do we?

 

A sort-of retelling of Sleeping Beauty,  The Queen Underneath showcases fully developed characters who leap off the page, snarky dialog, vibrant world building, tons of show don’t tell, and inspiring adult relationships.  Some really great sex scenes, too!

 

In author Stacey Filak’s debut novel, Gemma is the heir apparent of the Underworld, the world of thieves and prostitutes, of daytime drinking, picking locks,  and freedom. Gemma has everything she could ever want – the earned respect of her followers, best friends in the right places, and she’s just waiting for the right time to tell her lover Devery that she’s pregnant.  Until Melnora took sick, Gemma was on her way to having it all.

 

Tollan is the crown prince of Above. He thinks he understands what “doing the right thing” means, and he prefers to stay blissfully ignorant of his family’s history and the true powers of the mage women who live at the castle. Things were going halfway decent for him until his father took ill and Tollan was accused of murder by his own brother.

 

With the Queen of Under and the King of Above on death’s door, it’s up to Gemma and Tollan to figure out what’s going on, and who wants all the royals dead. Well, mostly up to Gemma, since Tollan doesn’t have much experience outside the palace.  With the townspeople under a magic sleeping spell, and thorns erupting out of the ground, Gemma doesn’t even yet know who her enemy is, let alone how to stop the civil war on her doorstep. The plot does start out fairly simple, and with every chapter complexities and subtleties are revealed, drawing the reader in further and further.  Tightly plotted, buckets of fun, and sexy as hell, The Queen Underneath is an compelling story of of adventure, family bonds, political intrigue, wit, and revenge.  And if you don’t finish this book  loving Elam, I don’t know if we can be friends anymore.

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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.
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