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review 2017-07-05 16:57
The Bedlam Stacks - Natasha Pulley

Reminiscent of a H Rider Haggard or H G Wells novel, his book deals with a pair of English explorers in Peru to bring cinchona bark to India to make quinine and prevent a malaria epidemic. They travel to "Bedlam" of the title and meet a variety of local characters as well as encountering "magical" phenomena.

With 1st person narration, this perhaps overlong novel is quite entertaining and interesting, incorporating the sort of magic realism of Marquez. The characterisations and descriptions are elaborate and I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good yarn.

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review 2017-05-24 19:19
The Nightmare Stacks, Charles Stross
The Nightmare Stacks (A Laundry Files Novel) - Charles Stross

The gazillionth Laundry File confirms that the success of its predecessors depended heavily on the voice of Bob Howard by again not using it. Instead we get Howard-lite in the form of newbie vampire and Laundry recruit, Alex. Alex is the kind of nervous, out of his depth nerd Bob was way back in the mists of time, without the wit or distinctive turns of phrase. This makes the first half of the book a little dull. Circa p200 however, things start to go crazy, the viewpoint widens and war breaks out. After that it's a gallop all the way to the end.

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review 2017-02-20 02:20
Twelve Angry Librarians (Cat in the Stacks #8) by Miranda James











The "New York Times" bestselling author of "No Cats Allowed "and "Arsenic and Old Books" is back with more Southern charm and beguiling mystery as Charlie and Diesel must find a killer in a room full of librarians...
Light-hearted librarian Charlie Harris is known around his hometown of Athena, Mississippi, for walking his cat, a rescued Maine Coon named Diesel. But he may soon be taken for a walk himself in handcuffs...
Charlie is stressed out. The Southern Academic Libraries Association is holding this year s annual meeting at Athena College. Since Charlie is the interim library director, he must deliver the welcome speech to all the visiting librarians. And as if that weren t bad enough, the keynote address will be delivered by Charlie s old nemesis from library school.
It s been thirty years since Charlie has seen Gavin Fong, and he s still an insufferable know-it-all capable of getting under everyone s skin. In his keynote, Gavin puts forth a most unpopular opinion: that degreed librarians will be obsolete in the academic libraries of the future. So, when Gavin is found dead, no one seems too upset...
But Charlie, who was seen having a heated argument with Gavin after the speech, has jumped to the top of the suspect list. Now Charlie and Diesel must check out every clue to refine their search for the real killer among them before the next book Charlie reads comes from a prison library..."


This book tickled me pink from beginning to end. I loved the whole which librarian is guilty duck, duck, goose circling of who is guilty and who isn't?

12 Angry Librarians is the 8th book in the Cat in the Stacks series and the first one I've read but I didn't need to read the previous books to enjoy this one and I didn't need to study the series to jump right in to the fun. I love that because I liked it so much that I can't wait to pick up the previous books and add them to my collection.

Although I'm not a librarian - as someone who works in a popular bookstore I can relate to this story so well and was entertained even more.

It was fun, it was entertaining, and it was written very well. I would highly recommend this book.

Miranda James






This title will be available for purchase on February 21, 2017!


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Krissy's Bookshelf Reviews received a digital copy. All thoughts, comments and ratings are my own.

Krissy's Bookshelf Reviews received a digital copy in exchange for an honest review from Berkley Publishing via Netgalley.


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review 2016-07-12 07:57
"A fate four point two degrees worse than death."
The Nightmare Stacks (A Laundry Files Novel) - Charles Stross

The Nightmare Stacks (Laundry Files #7)


by Charles Stross


When Alex Schwartz took a lucrative job developing high frequency trading algorithms, he had no idea how literal his transformation into a bloodsucking vampire was going to be. In the world that Stross creates, higher mathematics open a gateway to Other Dimensions haunted by Lovecraftian beasties, including the V-symbiotes that invaded Alex's brain and gave him PHANG Syndrome (Person of Hemophagic Autocombusting Nocturnal Glamour), which, sadly, isn't yet covered by the Equality Act.

Acclimatizing to his new job in the Laundry, the super-secret magical equivalent to MI5, is never easy, but Alex entered the trade at a particularly difficult time: as the number of humans and computers increases, intrusions into the Dungeon Dimensions become increasingly common. As Alex learns,

"Training for the end of the world is an ongoing part of the job."

Right now, most of the Laundry is focused on CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN, the apocalyptic eventuality where magical saturation causes Cthulhu and Azathoth and all their friends to converge upon Planet Earth. However, The Nightmare Stacks takes a break from the looming threat of GREEN to focus on a NIGHTMARE of quite a different colour. While the previous book took on superheroes, this one combines James-Bond-style shenanigans with yet another geeky fandom. I can't tell you which--spoilers--but I can say that the results are vastly entertaining.

The Nightmare Stacks is a bit of a departure from the other books in the series because it has barely a mention of Bob Howard, arcane sysadmin and protagonist of most of the rest of the books. Personally, I was thrilled to get a new protagonist. Alex is a bit of a passive nebbish nonentity, but I found him rather more likeable than the Bob of recent books. The protagonist-- and NIGHTMARE-- switch makes this an ideal starting book for anyone interested in the series. (Apparently it depends heavily on The Rhesus Chart, but as I've not read it--it's the only Laundry book I skipped--and I got along fine, I think this would be entirely readable without the context of the rest of the series.) I did find the narrative style a bit odd, however; we're told this is Alex's journal, yet most of the story, including the Alex-POV sections, are told in third person. I admit to being a bit mystified by that.

Alex, our hapless protagonist, has more on his mind than PHANG Syndrome. His new employers are sending him to the last place on earth he wants to be: Leeds, his childhood home, where he's

Doomed to be dragged back into the infantilizing maw of his family's expectations."

Alex's interactions with his family are so utterly cringingly awkward that they induced sympathetic winces from me, as did his amusing attempts to flirt with his love interest, who takes the MPDG thing to a whole new level.

"Alex's experience of dating is similar to his experience of string theory: abstract, intense, and entirely theoretical due to the absence of time and opportunities for probing such high-energy phenomena."

I thoroughly enjoyed the parts of the book that focused on the amusing mundanities of Alex's life, but like many of Stross's book, at some point, the content switched over to extremely graphic and disturbing scenes of battle and slaughter. I've never quite figured out if all the gore was intended to be funny. I certainly don't find them so, but the scenes are liberally swathed in dramatic irony and Stross is peculiarly detached from the slaughter. I suspect the familial scenes and war scenes will appeal to vastly different audiences, and that plenty of other reviews will be complaining about the aspects of the book that I adored.

I find Stross reliably hilarious and The Nightmare Stacks was no exception. I adore urban fantasy and the way it mashes together the banalities of life with a genre-savvy take on traditional fantasy. Along with explaining how a salt circle traps mages and describing the intricacies of governmental PLAN PURPLE PEOPLE EATER, this book involves perhaps the most unique usage of a selfie stick I've come across. If you find Stross's unique combination of magic, maths geekery, Rube-Goldbergian bureaucracy, and bumbling spycraft as entertaining as I do, The Nightmare Stacks is definitely worth checking out.

~~I received this ebook through Netgalley from the publisher, Berkley Publishing Group, in exchange for my honest review. (Thanks!) Quotes were taken from an advanced reader copy and while they may not reflect the final phrasing, I believe they speak to the spirit of the novel as a whole.~~


Cross-posted on Goodreads.

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text 2016-07-01 03:13
Q&A with Charles Stross + Giveaway
The Nightmare Stacks (A Laundry Files Novel) - Charles Stross

In case you missed it, The Nightmare Stacks is out, and I absolutely loved it.

Well, Charles Stross took some time to answer a few questions about The Nightmare Stacks, and if you don't read his blog it's a nice little glimpse into his incredibly brilliant and complex brain.  I made an attempt to come up with questions he hasn't already answered countless times or talked about on his blog, and I think I met with mixed success.  I will say this, he did drop some hints about The Delirium Brief, and gave some splendid answers to my inquiries.


The Nightmare Stacks marks the 7th book of the Laundry Files, and CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN is no longer simply a looming future.  It's here.  Right in the middle of it all is former merchant bandker and under-prepared neophyte Laundry Agent (and f neophyte PHANG, but that's a different story) Alex.  The most pressing things on Alex's mind dealing with his v-parasite, hoping his new roomates (Pinky and the Brain) don't blow everything up, learning how to interact with the lovely but rather odd Cassie, and how to tell his parents about his various life changes.  Things are about to get rather... messy in Leeds.

I'm running a giveaway contest through July 5th, if you haven't entered already, you can enter here.

Hello!  First off, thank you so much for your time.  Nightmare Stacks is brilliant, and I've been eagerly awaiting it especially since you posted "let's just say that when the Deep Ones are anxiously offering you their assistance in dealing with your problem, you know you've got a Problem."

You've discussed on your blog the issue with a series and the main character leveling up, and in particular that being one of the reasons you wanted to step away from Bob for a few books.  Mo was distinctly different, but still both powerful and experienced.  Alex, on the other hand, is newer to the Laundry than we've ever seen Bob, even if he has a few tricks of his own.  What was it like to write an organizational neophyte at this stage of the CASE NIGHTMARE progressions?

It was a very deliberate move. Many ongoing SF/F series works suffer from the problem of the protagonist "leveling up" -- "that which does not kill us makes us stronger" must be one of the dominant cliches of genre fiction, and unless you want to be writing about a PTSD-afflicted physical mess by book six, it's probably unavoidable. But with experience comes power, and that's a problem too: by book five Bob wasn't merely formidable, he knew too much about the way the world of the Laundry Files worked. Book six ("The Annihilation Score") was intentionally narrated by Bob's wife, Mo, as a faux-reality check on Bob's rampant self-delusional perspective. Bob *is* actually a damaged protagonist, albeit a very strong one with rampant self-protective delusions; Mo sees past them, although she, too, has big problems ("The Annihilation Score" was a nervous breakdown novel, with added superheroes). So in an attempt to clear the slate I switched to Alex.

At the outset of "The Nightmare Stacks" Alex is actually in pretty much the same position Bob was in at the start of "The Atrocity Archive". The big difference is that we're a decade further into the grand conjunction known to the Laundry as CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN; occult weirdness is crawling out of the woodwork on all sides, and the threats they have to contend with are much more dangerous. Alex, as a PHANG (a victim of the paranormal medical condition that vampire legends are based loosely on) is in a much stronger position than Bob was, but he's still grappling with his own ignorance. Meanwhile, the author had a decade and a half to work on the background and underlying story; there's an ensemble cast who have been introduced over half a dozen earlier books to put Alex in perspective.

Did you learn anything writing The Nightmare Stacks?  You stated a deliberate intention to subvert certain overbearing trends, what challenges and pitfalls did you encounter (both writing and post publication, as you've kept an active discussion on your blog)?

"The Nightmare Stacks" set out to hit several targets. One of the first was to break the Laundry Files out of its rut of being All About Bob. Arguably "The Annihilation Score" did that ... but as Mo and Bob are a couple, some readers might mistake it for merely being a chance to look at the back of Bob's head. Whereas the Laundry Files has grown over time to be about more than just Bob Howard; and I wanted to make a clean break. Bob plays a very minor part in this book, and it's also mostly narrated in the third person -- unlike Bob's first person monologues. Consequently the voice of the book is rather different.

The second goal was to mark a key turning point in the overall series. At the beginning of "The Nightmare Stacks" the Laundry is still part of the secret state, trying desperately to maintain its plausible invisibility. By the end of this book, that's no longer possible: the TV news crews are out in force and questions are being asked in Parliament. (Indeed, the next novel, "The Delirium Brief" -- which is back to Bob -- opens with Bob being grilled by a TV news anchor ...) After "The Nightmare Stacks" the series takes a different direction as the underlying long-term story arc comes to the foreground and the elder gods return.

Elves ... as with the previous few books, this novel was set up to integrate non-mythos chunks of supernatural/urban fantasy lore into the Laundryverse: in this case, elves. But the elves are about as Tolkeinesque and noble as the unicorns in "Equoid" are cuddly. As ever, a chunk of evolutionary psychology crops up in their design and the background to their culture: what would a hominin species with a strong predisposition for ritual magic (as developed in the Laundry Files) actually look like, and how would they run their society?

I had a few other objectives along the way, too, although they're less obvious. A personal irritant is the way incidental love interest characters get played in fiction; we're all over-familiar with the manic pixie dream girl trope, for example: what would it *really* look like? Again, another familiar irritant is the way magical warfare is treated in fiction. We have Arthur C. Clarke's law to remind us that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic; but that law works equally well in reverse, and the armies of an ancient magical civilization are going to look less like a Renn Faire and more like a NATO-spec armoured brigade with death spells and close air support dragons ...

You seem to stay well on top of technology trends and forecasts, both in your fiction and on your blog.  Has progressing technology changed your plans for the series?  What did you account for?  Did anything surprise you?

Yes, progressing technology has changed small aspects of the series -- but it's been a gradual change. I wrote Bob's first five novels from 1998 to 2012 and he aged in line with the real world, moving from a crude cellphone and a bulky duct-taped digital camera with basilisk capabilities to an early smartphone -- a Palm Treo 650 -- and then an iPhone as these things were introduced. The big new angle is the internet and streaming video (which played a vital role in the villain's plans in "The Annihilation Score") and will be ever more significant later on -- but here in the UK we've had streaming CCTV since the 90s, so the general shape of the urban surveillance landscape hasn't changed overmuch.

Developing tech makes it much harder for me to write near future SF than near-present fantasy, frankly. Hence the non-appearance of a third near-future Scottish police procedural novel after "Halting State" and "Rule 34". The UK is also currently going through a period of insane political instability that will probably result in the break-up of a three-century-old union within the next couple of years: that sort of chaos makes fantasy or far-future SF an easier call than predictive-mode near future stuff. By the time things settle down I expect to be pushing sixty years old, and I think that sort of fiction is a young writer's game.

While you've definitely written post-human characters before, but I think this is the first time I've read you writing non-naturalized human type intelligence as a narrative voice.  What was the experience like?  Anything about it particularly fun or challenging?

Cassie isn't non-human; she's a closely related sub-species, about as similar to our own as we are to the Neanderthals. She's actually more human than the human-identifying androids of "Saturn's Children" and "Neptune's Brood", so I had a fair bit of prior experience to draw on. The real challenge with the People is that their entire social organisational structure by-passes human-style cooperative and tribal models and instead relies on hierarchical magical compulsion -- what is it like to grow up in a ruthless dictatorship where alternatives are literally impossible to conceive of, and there's a strong selection pressure for sociopathy? Agent First is actually insane in the context of her own species, insofar as an overdeveloped sense of empathy -- vital to a deep cover spy -- is a vulnerability and a character flaw among psychopaths. But by the same token, it made her easier for me to write as a sympathetic character. Meanwhile, Alex isn't human either. But he hasn't fully internalized that yet: he relates to his PHANG syndrome vampirism as to an unfortunate disease, rather than a source of superhuman power. (Which in turn makes him easier to write as a sympathetic protagonist.)

The real character-writing challenge is the one I'm facing in "The Delirium Brief", in dealing with a return to Bob -- a Bob who is in deep denial about being in effect a walking nuclear weapon: he still identifies as human, but while Alex's powers are limited to his close proximity, Bob is the new Eater of Souls. And in the context of what he's up against in the next novel, he's as out-gunned as Alex is in the current one: but that, as they say, is another story (and one you'll have to wait until June 2017 for).

Who is Charles Stross

Charles Stross, 51, is a full-time science fiction writer and resident of Edinburgh, Scotland. The author of six Hugo-nominated novels and winner of the 2005, 2010, and 2014 Hugo awards for best novella, he has won numerous other awards and been translated into at least 12 other languages.

He can be found online in a number of places, but his blog is a fantastic starting point.

Source: libromancersapprentice.blogspot.com/2016/06/q-with-charles-stross-giveaway.html
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