Books and Music, June/July 2011

Haven’t done one of these for a while, but I’ve been reading SO many books that I really should. Now, as far as I’m concerned, you can read a summary of the book on its sales listing, and I’m not much for dissecting a plot. What I have here are impressions and thoughts on the *good* books I’ve read over the past 2 months, each paired with a song from a favorite band.

Eisbrecher is one of those bands I just never get tired of listening to. Thankfully, they are still coming out with music! Their sound blends the heavy, Eastern European dance with classical influences, fantastic voice, and quite a bit of intensity. Lyrics are in German.

Books:

Sixty-One Nails, by Mike Shevdon
# ISBN-10: 0857660284, # ISBN-13: 978-0857660282

Sixty-one Nails is a lovely book from Angry Robot, an urban fantasy about one man who gets on the wrong side of the Fae. Suffering a heart attack on his way to work, Niall…touches something. He’s rescued by a mysterious old woman, who warns him that he is now being hunted. And thus his adventure begins, an adventure that will threaten all of England.

While I have an issue or two with the female main character, this is, overall, a delicious book. Dark, nasty, entrenched in good research.

*

Working For the Devil, by Lillith Saintcrow
# ISBN-10: 9780316003131, # ISBN-13: 978-0316003131

I feel like I’m batting for Orbit’s team here, with yet another book from them! I do like my Urban Fantasy, a girl needs *some* fun reading, and this provides it: tough-as-nails female mercenary necromancer. Hell. Sucker-punches. A nice mythology. A lovely blend of magic and futuristic technology. I’ll be picking up more Dante Valentine books.

(Janelle Monae)
I only recently was introduced to the wonderful Janelle Monae. I’m sure she needs no introduction. SF-laden music videos, a profound voice, and excellent lyrics? No wonder everyone is talking about her.

Books:

Sea, Swallow me, by Craig Lawrence Gidney
# ISBN-10: 9781590210666, # ISBN-13: 978-1590210666

From Lethe Press, Sea, Swallow Me is a haunting, heart-breaking and lush collection of short stories. Gidney explores the trials of being African-American, of being gay, of being human. His language is beautiful, his themes are unique, and again, mythology threads beautifully through very modern stories. I don’t think I’ve seen a more lovely blend of old and new.

*

Brave New Worlds, edited by John Joseph Adams
# ISBN-10: 9781597802215, # ISBN-13: 978-1597802215

It’s an anthology from John Joseph Adams, featuring the iconic likes of Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury and Ursula K. Le Guin, as well newer voices like Paolo Bacigalupi and Genevieve Valentine. Why are you still reading? I don’t need to tell you how good this is.

(Synesthesia)
Watch this video closely, without trying to analyze it. Best representation of Synesthesia I’ve ever seen.

Books:

What else could I pair with this, but The New Weird, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer?
# ISBN-10: 1892391554
# ISBN-13: 978-1892391551

If you’ve been wondering what the hell ‘New Weird’ means, if you’re a fan of the sub-genre, or you just like absolutely unique, beautiful stories, this is one not to be missed. Koja, Ligotti, Moorcock, Barker, Mieville, Duncan and many more. Like many of the VanderMeers’ ‘genre bibles’, this one is a mix of stories (both genre-founding and newly iconic) and non-fiction musings on the nature and history of the genre.

And it’s an introduction to the following 2 authors, if you’ve never read them…

*

Viriconium, by M. John Harrison
# ISBN-10: 0553383159
# ISBN-13: 978-0553383157

Viriconium is a collection of Harrison’s shorter pieces defining the titular city. I looked him up after he was used as an example of superlative world-building, and he does not disappoint. Be warned, however: the book is dense. Given the number of times I’ve read The Silmarillion, this is clearly a plus for me, but it is not a light read and will demand time and attention. Plan accordingly.

I would, however, say that this should be required reading for fantasy writers.

*

Vellum, by Hal Duncan
# ISBN-10: 0345487311
# ISBN-13: 978-0345487315

Like Viriconium, Vellum is just a lovely book to look at and read: rough-cut pages, beautiful cover design, delicious words. I’m still reading this, albeit slowly and thoughtfully, but it has already impressed me with its ambition, originality and sheer audacity. Again, read *slowly*. Savor. Enjoy.

(Oomph!)
I’ve already linked to Oomph!’s Alice-in-Wonderland interpretation on here. Oomph! is another German band that combines talent, intensity and story-telling into a product I can listen to again and again.

Books:

The Secret History of Moscow, by Ekaterina Sedia
# ISBN-10: 9781607012290
# ISBN-13: 978-1607012290

One of the first things I did, as a wet-behind-the-ears newbie to the genre business, was edit and format an interview on culture and fantasy with Justine Larbalestier and Ekaterina Sedia, for Fantasy Magazine. I finally picked up Secret History earlier this year. I think I read it in under two hours.

I’ve got to say, Neil Gaiman’s cover blurb says it all: “A lovely, disconcerting book that does for Moscow what I hope my own Neverwhere may have done to London.”

Don’t miss this one. Seriously.

*

Norse Code, by Greg van Eekhout
# ISBN-10: 0553592130
# ISBN-13: 978-0553592139

Norse mythology is one of my squee’s. Eekhout’s managed to combine it with a future Ice and Southern California culture. Seriously, how fun can you get? Excellent Urban Fantasy addition!

(And One)

White Cat and Red Glove, by Holly Black
White Cat: # ISBN-10: 1416963979, # ISBN-13: 978-1416963974
Red Glove: # ISBN-10: 9781442403390, # ISBN-13: 978-1442403390

Noir thriller, YA, romance…these books are a lovely blend. Red Glove, in particular, makes me happy because Black is so damn cruel to her characters. Yes, it’s a character flaw.

(Death in Vegas)

Mr. Shivers, by Robert Jackson Bennett
ISBN: 978-0-316-05469-0

Mr. Shivers isn’t a popcorn read, not something to read if its gray outside or you’ve had a bad day, because it is that gray day. It’s dark and sinister, bitter and violent and oddly touching. Bennett doesn’t shy away from the realities of Depression-era America, nor from the sort of people that era bred. It’s also a remarkable look at the power of human will and love.

*

The Broken Kingdoms, by N.K. Jemison

# ISBN-10: 0316043966
# ISBN-13: 978-0316043960

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was excellent, but I feel Jemison has stepped up her game with the second book. Then again, I have a thing for gods as characters, and Jemison writes them beautifully. A wonderfully fresh take on world-building.

(Faith and the Muse)

Tiffany Aching series, by Terry Pratchett
A Hat Full of Sky: # ISBN-10: 0060586621, # ISBN-13: 978-0060586621
I Shall Wear Midnight: # ISBN-10: 9780061433047, # ISBN-13: 978-0061433047

I’m an unashamed Pratchett worshiper. I feel that he is vastly underrated, and given the number of books the man has sold, that’s saying something. He’s hilarious, certainly, but that sells short his wit and wisdom. He wraps serious observations and a keen understanding of human nature in a funny package.

F/SF has all sorts of girl-empowerment stories running around right now. Tiffany Aching is a story about a girl who faces hellish challenges, and comes out on top. But no fairy godmother is bailing her out, no Prince Charming is riding up on his white horse, and crying is just going to make matters worse. Tiffany is smart, intelligent and insightful, but more than anything else, she is tough as nails, sympathetic and honest.
The Tiffany Aching books are something I will buy in bulk and give to my friends’ daughters. I wish I’d had something like this as a teenager, I really do.

You’ve survived! You made it to the end! Congrats. Have a bonus song from a band Single Cell has done a lot of work with.


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