Tyburn Blossom’s #CBR 5 Review #11: Aberrations, edited by Jeremy C. Shipp

http://boldbookblog.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/aberrations.jpgI don’t remember buying this book. I suspect I stumbled across it during a time when it was free on Kindle, and it waited until I finished off one book and wasn’t in a place where I could look for another.

It’s been a few weeks since I read this, but a quick glance through the table of contents has refreshed my memory of most of the stories. The good thing and the bad thing about anthologies is the potential for extremely scattered results. It helps to find an editor whose preferences align well with your own, but even that’s never a guarantee.

These stories cover a lot of ground–among others, a hired assassin meets the mothman, a fighting couple runs afoul of bigfoot, there’s the requisite zombie story, and one very strange bus trip.

So how were they?

Read all about it at The Everyday Alchemy Lab.

Tyburn Blossom’s #CBR 5 Review #10: This Book is Full of Spiders, by David Wong


tumblr_mcyjb5QfjV1riham4o1_500I read John Dies at the End a while back and enjoyed it quite a bit. I think, when trying to describe it to a friend, I went with, “A little like Lovecraft on a really bad trip as filtered through a 12 year old boy’s sense of humor.” It was unhinged and ridiculous and a lot of fun. I’ve since seen the movie and…enjoyed it not as much as the book.

I never heard nearly as much about the sequel, This Book is Full of Spiders, Seriously Dude, Don’t Touch It. Most of what I heard was pretty positive–it’s a stronger book with better writing and a more coherent plot. I’m game for that.

So, how did the new book go over?

Read all about it at The Everyday Alchemy Lab.

Tyburn Blossom’s #CBR 5 Review #9: Steampunk! An Anthology of Fantastically Rich and Strange Stories, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant

Steampunk-Lincoln-steampunk-1038417_600_750I love anthologies.

I live alone, and my house has two bedrooms. The extra bedroom could have been a guest room, but instead it’s full of bookshelves. An entire bookshelf is filled with nothing but anthologies, and I’ve read every one of them.

They’re easy to enjoy–after all, if a story really is terrible (and I don’t know if my luck is good, my standards are low, or what, but stories I’ve considered irredeemable have been few and far in between), it’s not much of a time commitment to finish, and the next will probably be better. That can make them rather hard to review, too.

Steampunk! is…surprisingly…filled with steampunk stories. I kind of hate to delve into definitions, if for no other reason than that steampunk has gotten notoriously difficult to pin down, but for the uninitiated, steampunk is basically a kind of Victorian retro-futurism. Science fiction by way of the age of steam. There are dozens of blurred edges with other subgenres that often fall under the same heading if for no other reason than that steampunk is just easier to say, but there’s gearpunk and clockpunk and dieselpunk and mannerspunk and gaslamp fantasy and…yeah. Jules Vern and HG Wells are frequently cited as inspirations, along with Shelley and Lewis and others. There’s a lot of crossover with Lovecraft and weird fiction.

I could go on, but I’m here about one anthology, not about an entire culture. So how did this one stack up?

Read all about it at The Everyday Alchemy Lab.

Tyburn Blossom’s #CBR 5 Review #8: Abhorsen, by Garth Nix

abhorsenAbhorsen picks up so immediately following the end of Lirael that they may as well be read as a single book.

It makes reviewing it really hard because saying anything at all about what happens in the book is pretty much a big spoiler for what happened in the previous book.

If you’re interested in reading these books and haven’t read up to this one yet, then I’ll leave it at this: do pick these books up. Do read them. Whether you’re an adult or a teenager, this is a rich, fascinating world full of characters that have stayed with me for more than a decade and a half. There’s a short list of books I’ve read more than once, and a very, very short list of books I’ve read more than twice. All three of the Old Kingdom books are on that very, very short list.

If you have read the others, if you don’t care about spoilers, or you have no intention of reading these books, but you’re mildly curious anyway, read on.

Read the rest at The Everyday Alchemy Lab.

Tyburn Blossom’s #CBR 5 Review #7: Lirael, by Garth Nix

liraelAfter discovering and loving Sabriel while I was in high school, I sort of kept Garth Nix in mind as an author I’d like to follow. I think I found Shade’s Children long before I discovered there were two more books set in the Old Kingdom: Lirael and Abhorsen. I don’t know how long I might have gone without discovering them if I hadn’t walked right into a big display with all three in a book store.

I don’t honestly remember if I bought one or both of them on the spot or if I had to wait, but either way, they both still reside on a shelf in my library.

These are books I’ve recommended to friends many times, and I know at least one person actually picked them up and read them and loved them as much as I did. When trying to get other people to read them, I’ve said that they’re young adult novels only in the age of the protagonists and the lack of graphic sex. The world building, the quality of the story, even the levels of violence and horror hold up against an awful lot of epic fantasy out there.

So, following after revisiting Sabriel, how did Lirael hold up?

Read more at The Everyday Alchemy Lab.

Tyburn Blossom’s #CBR 5 Review #6: Finder, by Emma Bull

btown_wallpaperI cannot be objective about this book. I cannot be objective about anything to do with Bordertown.

The thing is, I don’t know if I should be.

If you enjoy urban fantasy, you owe a debt to Bordertown, to Terry Windling and to all of the authors who breathed life into this amazing, heartbreaking, dirty, beautiful, terrible, dream-soaked town. When the first books, Borderland and Bordertown, were printed in 1986, they were unique. These weren’t once upon a time, far, far away. No, in the 80’s, what the humans knew as elfland (don’t call it that to the elves’ faces) reappeared. A regular American city got caught right on the border. Which city isn’t known–maybe it’s a little bit of every city. It became this place that doesn’t belong anywhere, where the magic and the tech work only sporadically, and it didn’t take long before it filled up with kids from both sides of the border, all either running from or running to something.

I came to Bordertown a little backwards, which is guess is the only way to find it. While looking at filk, I discovered Banshee Blues, by Maureen S. O’Brien. I went looking for that book, Life on the Border. Funny enough, it was the last one I found.

It was the 90s, and I was in high school. I was this lost, stupid kid, just like the kids in the stories. I always felt a little lonely, even when I was with my friends, and I had felt like I didn’t belong as long as I could remember. When I went to summer camp, we were shown the ‘wishing tree’ on the grounds, and I snuck away from my camp and to the wishing tree to ask it to send me home. I didn’t know where home was, I just didn’t know it was here.

Bordertown gave me a home.

I’ve got all of the anthologies. First editions. I consider them the crown of my collection, and even though I would desperately love to know someone else who has read these books and who has loved them, I can’t bring myself to lend them out. I can’t risk them not finding their way home.

What I hadn’t read was the associated novels. I don’t yet have copies of them, either. But they were released on kindle not long after the most recent anthology, Welcome to Bordertown, was released. The very last was Finder, by Emma Bull.

Read the rest of the review at The Everyday Alchemy Lab.

Tyburn Blossom’s #CBR 5 Review #5: Sabriel, by Garth Nix

c1ca110371c1dee7d462ca4ec0e55aa9There can be something a little frightening about revisiting a childhood favorite. Sometimes you’re rewarded with warm memories and a deeper enjoyment that can come with more years behind you. Sometimes you stumble across classic episodes of ThunderCats late at night on the Cartoon Network and find yourself questioning your childhood.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I do remember exactly when I discovered Sabriel. My family frequented different libraries all around town, and sometimes picked one to visit based on how long since we’d been there. The closest one to my house at the time (so I can venture a guess that I was in 9th grade? Maybe I was 13?) was very small. I can say with confidence that my sci-fi and fantasy book collection now outnumbers theirs, at least at the time. That’s not so much a boast about the size of my collection as sympathy over their limited shelf space.

In any case, I was browsing through the young adult section and finally found something new. Although I was pleased to discover some years later that the book and its sequels eventually enjoyed a certain amount of fame, this was shortly after it was first available in the US. I don’t know how it found its way to such a tiny library in such an unlikely town, but based on my memories of that library, I’d say one or more of the librarians had fabulous taste.

Once I got the book home, I devoured it. I was in love, and bought a copy for myself. That same copy sits on my shelf today. I’ve recommended it to friends, and the one who actually read it ended up buying her own copy. That was years ago, though.

When I spotted the book in my library’s kindle selection, I immediately checked it out.

So, how’d it hold up after all these years?

Read the rest of the review at The Everyday Alchemy Lab.

Oh, and the absolutely perfect fan art is by Rinian, found on Deviant Art.

Tyburn Blossom’s #CBR 5 Review #4: The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

The-Princess-Bride-the-princess-bride-4640763-604-483I’m having an incredibly hard time writing this review, because I suspect it’s going to be one of those extremely unpopular opinions that makes me a totally uncool geek, like not liking Star Wars or Neil Gaiman.

I grew up with The Princess Bride…the movie. I loved it. I still love it. I have both a VHS and a DVD copy, and I still watch it every single time I come across it showing on TV, no matter how much of it I might have missed.

As a matter of fact, there are a few movies and books that I use as a litmus test for friendship–it’s ok if you haven’t seen or read them, but if you have and you didn’t like or actively hated them, I think that reveals some basic level on which we’ll never get along. Friendship was just not meant to be if we don’t agree on this short list. The Princess Bride is on that list.

It’s taken me a long time to get around to reading this book. When there’s a movie coming out or already out based on a book I decide I want to read, I try to watch the movie first. The reason is simple: the book will be better. If I go into the movie blind, I’ll enjoy it (or hate it) on its own merits. Besides, a great movie won’t ruin a good book, but a good book will easily ruin all but the best of movies. However, that hardly seems fair when you’re talking about the book on which some childhood favorite was based. Still, I felt like my failure to read this particular book was a regrettable oversight. There’s even a copy of it sitting on my bookshelf, making me feel guilty. And the screenplay was written by the author, so there’d have to be plenty to love, right?

That makes it so, so much harder to admit that I kind of hated the book, and I only finished it out of the desperate belief that it would grow on me.

Read the rest of the review at The Everyday Alchemy Lab.

Tyburn Blossom’s #CBR 5 Review #3: Soul Music, by Terry Pratchett

accrocs_du_roc05-628x1024I swear that one of the best things to ever happen to me was kindle books available through my library. It’s fantastic. I’ve been calling it library service for shut-ins, which is pretty much what I’d be if I could work from home and get groceries delivered.

One of the wonderful things available in my library’s kindle collection is the entire Discworld series. Starting last year, I’ve been working my way through all of the books, in order. I’m up to number 16, Soul Music.

One of Discworld’s strengths is that you can pick up any book in the series and enjoy the story in isolation. Some are stronger than others, and they are loosely connected–some more than others–but you aren’t missing anything vital. I am finding that reading the stories in order does enrich them. I also tend to read several books in between, and will sometimes find myself looking forward to picking up the series again. I think there will be an empty place in my life when I run out of new Discworld books to pick up.

Read more at The Everyday Alchemy Lab.

Tyburn Blossom’s #CBR 5 Review #2: Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

200px-Frankenstein's_monster_(Boris_Karloff)A couple of years ago, I decided that if I’m going to be influenced by someone’s work, maybe I should get that influence directly. For some reason, I expected this to be a much greater chore than it has been. Turns out there’s often a good reason a work is considered a beloved classic.

I blame school for this perception. Making children read great works they don’t yet have the life experience or patience to enjoy should be a crime. I read Frankenstein in high school, and I sort of enjoyed it in that it was nothing like I expected, but the real horror of it definitely went right by me. It’s a good thing my parents gave me access to a lot of books that I enjoyed–I read (and continue to happily read) a lot of trashy, fluffy books, but I think without learning how to read for pleasure, I never could have moved on to Dracula and Frankenstein and the works of Lovecraft and others.

If everything you know about Frankenstein was absorbed through movies and other media, everything you know is wrong. Well, unless you can bring up the bit about how Frankenstein refers to the creature’s creator, while the monster himself is just the monster, or the creature, or the fiend, etc.

Read the rest of the review at The Everyday Alchemy Lab.