the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘Michigan

station 11Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

published 2014

where I got it: published new

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Station Eleven thinks it’s about a woman named Kirsten who survives the apocalypse. But it’s really about those months and years that lead up to the awful events at the end of the world, those specific moments and events that will give Kirsten something to live for and keep looking for later, when she has nothing.  I didn’t know what to expect when I picked up Station Eleven. I certainly didn’t expect to love it as much as I did.

 

Mandel made a wise choice in telling this story in non-chronological order. If she’d told us the story in the exact order things happen, we’d know the ending right from the start. Things might be a surprise for Kirsten,  but they wouldn’t be a surprise for the reader. By giving us bits and pieces that happened now and then, the twists and turns are as equally a surprise for the reader as they are for the characters. Mandel teases all the connections out at just the right pace, with the starkness and sparseness of a placid planet that no longer has electricity or gasoline.

 

The center of the time line is a theater in snowy Toronto, a few weeks before a flu epidemic sends planet earth back to the dark ages. Kirsten is an eight year old child actress, doing Shakespeare alongside the famous Arthur Leander.  As an adult, Kirsten will remember very little of her childhood, but she’ll always remember the night Arthur had a heart attack and died on stage. This is the beginning of the end, in more ways than one. It was especially interesting, that a character who dies in the opening chapter  becomes a major character later on. It’s a trick you can pull when telling a story out of order!

 

Twenty years after the world ends, Kirsten travels with a caravan called the Traveling Symphony. She still performs Shakespeare.

 

Twenty years before the world ended, Arthur was enjoying the beginnings of fame. He was still in love with his first wife.

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2014-11-22 15.24.41-2

My first Comic Con!

 

Tickets were quite affordable, Nichelle Nichols was a special guest, the drive was only 45 minutes, and a few of my friends were already planning on going.  Heading up to Grand Rapids Michigan on Nov 22nd for the Grand Rapids ComicCon was a no brainer.  I’d never been to an actual ComicCon before, so I had no idea what to expect.  According to their website, the media guests (including Nichelle Nichols, Alaina Huffman, Justin Kohn, Chad Rood, Peter Shinkoda and Maile Flanagan) would be doing presentations on the main stage, and would have autograph areas. There would be a costume contest, a gaming room, a violin concert, there would be food stands everywhere, there would be a huge dealer room, there would be a car show, the famous Star Wars 501st group, a few Tardis models, a huge Lego display, and of course tons of comics and superhero artwork.  Designed to be a very family friendly event, strollers were welcome, and there was a family quiet room for a quiet space for nursing mothers and/or overexcited kids who needed a break.

 

massive Lego Town

massive Lego Town

there was a train! two trains!

there was a train! two trains!

The Lego/Robotics area was my favorite section of the convention. Designed to be an area attractive to children and adults, much of the space was given over to a car show of famous Batmobiles. The rest of the space included a massive Lego city (complete with trains!), a robotics area that had a singing tesla coil, a TARDIS, the actual shield Captain America used in the movie, an animatronic dinosaur, a guy in a massive transformer suit, a beautiful art gallery, representatives of the 501st, and a few local fandom and science clubs.  This was where all the fun was!  I was all about the Legos and the Transformer guy.  I got to watch him climb into the suit, and once he got the helmet on you couldn’t tell if there was a person in there or if it was remote control. He scared the poop out of a lady who didn’t realize there was a guy in there!

 

This is a terrible photo, but this is a "singing" tesla coil.  I heard it do "Here Comes Halloween" and the Imperial March from Star Wars

This is a terrible photo, but this is the “singing” tesla coil. I heard it do “Here Comes Halloween” and the Imperial March from Star Wars

 

There's a guy in there!

There’s a guy in there!

Most of the media guests were TV stars, and since I don’t watch much network TV, I wasn’t familiar with most of them. But everyone knows who Nichelle Nichols is!  On Saturday afternoon she took to the main stage along with a local media celebrity who guided the conversation and took questions from the audience. I always knew Nichelle Nichols was incredible, I just didn’t realize how incredible. She talked of her childhood, of growing up in a community outside Chicago that was founded by her grandfather for the purpose of being welcoming to mixed-race families, she talked about her early love for singing andperforming on stage, and she proved that she’s still got an amazing vocal range She told a beautiful and touching story about being star struck meeting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  and learning he was a fan of her work on Star Trek.   When asked about that famous kiss between her and William Shatner, she said a kiss between a black person and a white person wasn’t anything usual to her, as she’d seen her grandparents kiss each other all the time.  When asked if there were any unexpected consequences of the famous midriff baring “Mirror Mirror” costume, she said they got so much fanmail about it that her costume was changed to show off her belly button.  When asked what the defining moment of her career was, she said it was when she got involved with NASA to help recruit women and minorities for the space shuttle program.  She recruited Sally Ride. During the Q&A time she was incredibly gracious with fans who were invited to line up at the microphone and ask questions until we ran out of time.

 

Nichelle Nichols is 100% pure amazing.

Nichelle Nichols is 100% pure amazing.

My day at ComicCon was not without its frustrations, but they were all worth it to be in the same room with Nichelle Nichols.

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Libriomancer (Magic Ex Libris, book 1), by Jim C. Hines

published – August 2012

where I got it: received review copy from the author

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Libriomancer is a book for people who love stories, who love characters, who want to visit the places they read about and meet the characters they’ve only been able to visit on paper. Seriously. If the magic of a story has ever leapt off the page and seduced you into knowing that dragons and wizards and galactic empires and zombies exist, this is the book for you. If you adore the physical object known as book, this is the story for you.

Exiled to a tiny municipal library in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, ex-libriomancer Isaac Vainio should be able to stay out of trouble, right?  He’s been set up in an easy job,  been forbidden from doing magic, and is attempting to live a normal life with only his fire-spider Smudge by his side.  Isaac yearns to dive into books again, and pull out something magical, but knows he shouldn’t. Isaac’s exile was for his own safety, because he couldn’t control his magic,  but when vampires attack him in his library, it’s time to find out what the hell is going on.

Thus starts Jim Hines’ newest series, Magic Ex Libris.  Isaac strikes me as a Harry Dresden type character, someone trained in a specific type of magic,  but also responsible for making sure regular people are never aware that anything unusual is going on. He’s been educated and burned, and doesn’t want any more people to get hurt through his own carelessness.

Someone has been attacking Libriomancers, the vampires seem to have lost their minds,  and the creator of Libriomancy himself, Johannes Gutenberg, has gone missing, along with his mechanical bodyguards. Isaac teams up with the motorcycle riding, bokken wielding dryad, Lena, to get to the bottom of the mystery, before it’s too late.

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Yesterday was such a tease, wasn’t it?  As promised, here is part two of John King Books, with the photos you’ve been waiting for of their famous Science Fiction section.

But first things first, a map.  A terrible picture, but it is a hella cool map. I love that it has a compass in the center, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are little “Here be Dragons” in the small print (and of course, matching pictures on the walls).

Sci-fi is on the 3rd floor,  with the paperbacks oddly mushed between Self Help and Biography, and the Hardbacks found between Automotive and Gardening. Hmm, thinly veiled message? I believe I’ll interpret that as reading Scifi works better than most self help books, and after you read it, you’ll want to build a spaceship (perhaps those automotive books will come in handy) and start a Martian colony (you’ll need some gardening books to get the soil mix correct).

Also, the map doesn’t show it, but the Paperback Sci Fi section has it’s own glass showcase of vintage magazines and a handful of extra bookcases that are TV and movie tie-ins and other more contemporary goodies.

I suppose I’ve teased you long enough, here are the long awaited photos, for your viewing pleasure!

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While in Detroit earlier this week for business, I happened to ask an associate “any good bookstores around here?” and he replied with “well yeah, there’s John King Books“.  Google map in hand, I ditched work early and headed down Jefferson Ave.  Said work associate promised he’d call me later to make sure I hadn’t gotten locked into the bookstore for the night.   My first visit to John King Books was simply amazing. I did get lost, many times, and those were the best way to explore and find things I didn’t even know I was looking for.  Staffed by people who love books, and know their trade, John King Books is a must-visit for any book lover.

I spent a few hours there that first day and shopped till my arms were full (they do have shopping baskets and will of course hold stacks of books at the counter while you continue shopping), and drove right back the next morning, camera in hand. And by the way, if you wish to take photos on your visit, please call ahead and ask permission first. It’s the polite thing to do.

Located right off the Lodge Freeway (M-10) in the business district of Detroit, and with free parking available in a gated lot next to the building, this famous bookstore is easy to find. and Yes, it’s famous as the largest used bookstore in Michigan, and most likely the largest used bookstore in the country.

Walking through John King Books feels a little like reading your way through the stacks and archives in Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind. It’s dark, it’s cold (bring gloves and a hat. I’m not kidding), the organization is based on where they have room at the time,  there are books literally piled everywhere, and a love for books trumps everything else. It’s places like this where the secrets of the universe lurk.

the view from the parking lot:


and let’s go inside:

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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.