30 September, 2013

An immortal wizard walks into the World Series of Poker... : "The Incrementalists" by Steven Brust and Skyler White

It sounds like the setup to a bad joke. A guy sits alone in a bar in Vegas, waiting for his next poker game to start. He flirts with the waitress, has a drink, thinks about the fact that his ex-girlfriend recently committed suicide; nothing really to set him apart from the sludge of humanity around him. But underneath his baseball cap sits a mind that's been reincarnated through dozens of bodies over the course of many centuries-- a mind that remembers every era of history and every time he used his magic to change things for the better. And the best part is, our wizard isn't alone. He's got 200 friends just like him-- a secret society who's been magically nudging people toward working for the greater good, operating between the lines since the dawn of time. This is the premise of Steven Brust and Skyler White's The Incrementalists-- the foundation for a story that is simultaneously fantastical and everyday, mixing magic both wondrous and mundane. 

25 September, 2013

Punch-Drunk and in a Funk: 'Crux' by Ramez Naam

The year is 2040, and the latest drug to hit the streets is Nexus, a bionic enhancement that allows human brains to network like computers. Kade, Rangan, Ilya and Watson are the geniuses behind the newest upgrade, and they're living like kings-- until a secret branch of the government sends an agent to shut them down. You can read all about that in Nexus, the first book in Ramez Naam's cyberpunk trilogy; this review deals with the sequel, Crux, which finds two of our hacker friends dead, one imprisoned, the other on the run for his life, and the government agent who started it all working against her former employer just as hard as the hackers she once tried to subdue. Throw in a few guys with ties to shady government agencies, some terrorists, some freedom fighters, and some people who are some or all of those things at once, and you've got a recipe for a whirlwind of a book that, unfortunately, came out sort of half-baked.

18 September, 2013

Heaving over the Hump in Hump Day

So there will be some Cool Shit I Found Online here, but first I have to say something. 

Right now I'm trying to shove lunch in my face one-handed while answering a work email and approximately a billion personal emails, calling my hairdresser back to confirm my haircut for Saturday, and writing this post. You guys, my life has gone from zero to sixty in the best way possible. I started a new job as a project assistant at a local university, and I. Fucking. Love. It. It's the perfect job for someone who's anal retentive with a little bit of ADD-- my job is basically to come in, let my boss dump a to-do list on my head, and then put on Spotify and take care of business. Armed with FileMaker, Photoshop, and (I shit you not) an entire room full of office supplies, I am helping an entire department get ready for their big event of the year (a conference that happens the week before my birthday) and I am kicking ass at it. Not to toot my own horn-- well, actually, I heard my boss tell her supervisor that I'm "awesome, really really awesome" today, so I think horn-tooting is well within my rights. XD

Anyway, the upshot of this is that the past few weeks have been a major whirlwind, with insanely busy work weeks bracketed by weekends full of actually Doing Stuff-- going to visit my grandmother, going to Ikea to buy a wardrobe and dresser, putting the wardrobe together and realizing when it was 80% done that we had put the legs on wrong and had to back up to being 30% done and fix it, that kind of thing.

This is kind of a big deal for me, because (as some of you may know) in the spring I was let go from a job I adored for what amounted to political BS reasons, and it left me sort of at loose ends for a while, wondering what was next for me. And it's a huge relief to feel like I've found a niche, a job I am just as good at as I was at my old job, maybe even better. The pay isn't quite as good, but I work two miles from my house so I'm getting outside and getting exercise regularly, I'm no longer spending upwards of two hours a day in the car, and-- this is really the clincher-- I never have to go to a mall on a Saturday again unless it's to buy things.

Can you hear my sigh of relief? I kind of give one every time I remember that I can enjoy weekends again.

The downside of all this activity is that I haven't had as much time to surf the internet for treasures with which to delight you in between my reviews. Hopefully now that I'm past a big part of the training stage of the new job and am settling in to the actual doing the job part, that'll change. But for now, here! Have some links!

10 September, 2013

'A Thousand Perfect Things' by Kay Kenyon

Hey everyone, sorry for my absence the past few weeks-- I went on vacation and then started a new job, and it's taken me until now to get my blogging brain stuffed back inside my head. :)

I'm returning with a review of A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon. I want to start by saying that this book surprised me. I've never read anything by Kay Kenyon before, so when I got the ARC of her newest book I didn't know what to expect, and my reaction was mixed.

Like a lot of books, I started it on the train on my way to work, which made it really awkward when I started crying less than twenty pages in. So, something I haven't talked about here is that my grandfather passed away in July, at age 85 and after a long battle with heart and lung disease. We were very close; I'm still trying to metabolize the fact that he's gone, and I'm pretty sure I'll be trying for a long time to come. So reading about our protagonist Tori and her bond with her grandfather was a wrench-- even more so when Sir Charles takes sick and dies (the part that had me in tears-- good work, Ms. Kenyon), leaving behind a family who thought he was crazy, and an idea that consumes Tori's focus and is the basis for the entire story to come.