Tag Archives: Catherynne M. Valente

Book Review: “The Orphan’s Tale” (Vols. 1 and 2) by Catherynne M. Valente

The Orphan’s Tale (Vols. 1 and 2) by Catherynne M. Valente

Going back to some of perennial favorite Valente’s earlier, award winning, work, the Orphan’s Tale is a long, complicated fairy tale, or in this case “tales”.

Vol 1.: In the Night Garden (2006) by Catherynne M. Valente
Vol 2.: In the Cities of Coin and Spice (2007) by Catherynne M. Valente

“Never put your trust in Princes. When you need a miracle, trust in a witch.” ([1], p.134)

Literally told as a story about telling a story, the narrative winds through an intricate sequence of nested stories.  Like nested dolls, there are stories inside stories inside stories.

(This is an interesting way to create a “non-linear” narrative, even when the components are pretty “linear”.  There is also a natural release of tension as a piece of the story resolves and the stack pops back to the enclosing story—one less thing to keep track of!)

The tales tell of a fantastic world, filled with magic and monsters, quests and peril. In addition to the marvelous plotting, she has created a slew of interesting characters, and fascinating landscapes and cities.

Above all, Valente has a poetic language, which makes these marvels so much more appealing.

“In the Kingdom of the Hedgehogs, there are mountains with mouths.”

These books are not a quick read.  It’s a long, long story, and with all the nesting, it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on, and who’s who.  It takes a lot of attention, and you want to savor every word.

Frankly, some parts were hard to follow, and others were unpleasant to read. But eventually, it got me hooked and I was reading right along, wanting to know what happens next.


  1. Catherynne M. Valente, The Orphan’s Tales, Vol 1.: In the Night Garden, New York, Bantam, 2006.
  2. Catherynne M. Valente, The Orphan’s Tales: Vol 2.: In the Cities of Coin and Spice, New York, Bantam, 2007.

 

Sunday Thursday Book Reviews

Year End Roundup for 2019

This New Years marks close to six years of blogging every day.  I write ‘em, a few of you click on ‘em.

The Traffic Stats Were Weird

The total hits on this blog increased again, up more than 10% from 2018.  As before, there is a huge amount of “long tail” in this traffic, with hits spread widely over the thousands of posts from the last 8 years.

But it isn’t clear exactly how many people actually look at this blog.  The stats I get are defaults from wordpress, so I don’t really know much about them.

This year saw a couple of mysterious blips.  I don’t know how much of this is real traffic, and how much of it is artifacts of the data collection.

Early in the year, the daily hits dropped dramatically.  This approximately corresponds to the European data privacy requirements, and the dearth of hits from that region suggest that the blog is either not available to some people (not being compliant in some way I don’t know about) or accesses are not reported (not having permission to collect that data).   I dunno.

But then, around August, traffic picked up.  Really picked up, to 100 hits per day.  During this burst, it tended to be bursty, with a few days of high traffic, as much a 300 hits per day, and then several days of low traffic.  From the imperfect information I can see, the bursts might be from Hong Kong (perhaps scraping the internet to make a copy to be used inside China?)

Then, around November, traffic dropped off again and has stayed low.  This drop approximately coincides with the increasing troubles in HK, so perhaps this reflects a cut off of Internet access there.

I really don’t know.

The Usual Stuff

The blog continued to cover the usual stuff.

Cryptocurrencies, the Future of Work (and Coworking), Dinosaurs, Birds, Robots, the Ice Is Melting, Renewable Energy.

I blog about anything that interests me and is worth the trouble.  I try to have something useful to say, though sometimes it’s mainly a link with “this is cool”

Many of the things I discuss are from current academic papers, which I cite and generally try to read at least the abstract and always point to the original sources.

“Coworking – The Book” and other Writing

My 2018 book “What is Coworking?” continues to sell like hot cakes–if nobody had ever heard of hot cakes.  I think it sold a couple dozen copies.  My plans for a new villa are on hold…. : – )

Writing is hard.  Selling books is even harder.

Speaking of writing, I also contributed an article to a local free paper, which I really like the title to:

  1. Robert E. McGrath, Think Heliocentrically, Act Locally, in The Public I: A Paper of the People. 2019. http://publici.ucimc.org/2019/04/think-heliocentrically-act-locally/

I archived a report on the 2013 Alma Mater project.  Versions of this report was rejected by several conferences and journals.  A problem with working outside the box is that the journals of boxology won’t publish your results.

  1. Robert E. McGrath, A Digital Rescue for a Graduation Ritual. Urbana, Illinois, 2019. http://hdl.handle.net/2142/105503

Onward

This blog will continue in the same vein, and daily posts will continue at least for now.


Band Names

In a continuing homage to Dave Berry, I have identified a bunch of phrases that would make great names for a band.  In general, these phrases are taken from actual, real scientific and technical papers.  So I am not making them up—just repurposing them.

Here is this year’s crop.

gerbil’s casket
Preen Oil
Carolina Preen Oil

Carolina Junco
Dark eyed Junco
Arctic Albedo

Mean Surface Albedo
Arctic Amplification
Amplified Arctic Warming
Surface Air Temperature
Snow Cover Fraction
Buckypaper
Pacific Pumice Raft
Sichuan Mudslides
  (also a great name for cocktail)
Soft Exo Suits

The Weddell Gyre
Giant Miocene Parrots
Eocene Whale
Chicxulub ejecta
Perching Drones

Perch And Stare Mission
Due to a lack of sunlight in Scotland

Blogging Birds Of Scotland
Huddle Pod
Cuddle Pod
Giant Hopping Tree Rats
Kangaroo Ancestors
Prehistoric kangaroos

Tiny Pronking Robots
Computational Periscopy


Books

As always, I have continued the weekly review of one or more books that I read this year. This year I wrote about a total of 73 books, 24 non-fiction, 49 fiction.

Some Favorite Books of the Year

Fiction:

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Angels of Music by Kim Newman

Non-Fiction

Breaking and Entering by Jeremey N. Smith
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee by David Treuer
You Look Like A Thing And I Love You by Janelle Shane

All the books reviewed (in no particular order)

Fiction

Ancestral Night by Elizabeth Bear
Stone Mad by Elizabeth Bear
Grand Union by Zadie Smith
Equoid (2013) by Charles Stross
Toast (2002) by Charles Stross
Speak Easy (2015) by Catherynne M. Valente
Six Gun Snow White (2016) by Catherynne M. Valente
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The Dakota Winters by Tom Barbash
Agent Running in the Field by John le Carré
Anno Dracula 1999 Daikaiju by Kim Newman
The Princess Beard by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Washington Black by Esi Edugyan
Grave Importance by Vivian Shaw
The Grand Dark by Richard Kadrey
Amnesty by Lara Elena
Outside Looking In by T. C. Boyle
This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Noir Fatale ed. by Larry Correia and Kacey Ezell
Inland by Téa Obreht
The Origins of Sense by Adam Erlich Sachs
Fall by Neal Stephenson
Gather The Fortunes by Bryan Camp
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente
No Country For Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
European Travels for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald
Revolutionaries by Joshua Furst
Someone Who Will Love You in all Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg
Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq
Unto Us A Son Is Given by Donna Leon
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Angels of Music by Kim Newman
The Burglar by Thomas Perry
Grim Expectations by K. W. Jeter
The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua
Macbeth by Jo Nesbø
No Sunscreen for the Dead by Tim Dorsey
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
Infernal Devices  by K. W. Jeter
Fiendish Schemes by K. W. Jeter

Non Fiction

Lakota America by Pekka Hämäläinen
The Laundromat by Jake Bernstein
You Look Like A Thing And I Love You by Janelle Shane
They Will Have To Die Now by James Verini
Hollywood’s Eve by Lili Anolik
Proof!  By Amir Alexander
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Four Queens by Nancy Goldstone
The Next Billion Users by Payal Arora
How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
Places and Names by Elliot Ackerman
Eyes in the Sky by Arthur Holland Michel
American Carnage by Tim Alberta
Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino
The Ice At The End Of The World by Jon Gertner
Dinosaurs Rediscovered by Michael J. Benton
Devices and Desires by Kate Hubbard
Stony The Road by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The Rise and Fall of Alexandria by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid
Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
Breaking and Entering by Jeremey N. Smith
The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee” by David Treuer
Brilliant Green by Stefano Mancuso and Alessandra Viola
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohllenben
Before and After Alexander by Richard A. Billows

 

Book Review: Short Novels by Catherynne M. Valente

A couple of short novels from much admired Catherynne M. Valente.  Valente’s recent work has really been great (this, this, this, Palimpset (2009)), so let’s look at a couple of shorter novels from a while back.


Speak Easy (2015) by Catherynne M. Valente

This novelette is what we have come to expect from Valente: strange, magical, a bit dark.  Lots of partying and costumes.  Young lovers.

And a neat little story, told with sumptuous, gloriously excessive prose.  It’s called style.

I can see that Speak Easy is in the ball park with Radiance (2015), which is really excellent.

The story takes place in the Artemisia Hotel in New York, where the Roaring Twenties positively Hurricane-d.  It’s non-stop partying, and everybody is somebody (but not necessarily who they seem to be).  There are, of course, dark doings below the surface, and magic is everywhere.

Every page is filled with wonders, described with the jazzy be-bop fizz that we all wish we could write.

Creativity is everywhere, as is boot leg alcohol, and sex.  Everyone seems to be writing a book, which is the coolest thing to do at that time and place.

It’s a golden moment for Zelda and the other denizens of this special place.  Life is good, dreams come true, people can make their dreams come true.

“It is so good here, she thinks. It is hers. There is no space between wanting and having, between thinking and making real.” (p. 131)

Good things can’t last forever, and this golden moment will be doomed by the end of its decade.  But in the mean time, let’s dance, sing, write, and love!


Six Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente

Valente has given us some incredibly imaginative fairy stories (e.g., Palmpset (2009)), and plenty of feminist reworking of fictional tropes.

So it shouldn’t surprise anyone for her to tackle the Wild West and Snow White—in the same strange little story.

There is some magic here, but mostly it’s a tough to read story of a biracial child, an abusive household, and running away.  The young woman forgets her name in favor of the awful tag “Snow White”, and lives a tough life at home and on the run.

With home little more than a cage, and stuck between races filled with hate and fear, she runs but has nowhere to go.  In the end, she finds a fairy tale refuge in the woods among a camp of runaway women.

It’s pretty dark stuff.

“You’re in a story and the body writing it is an asshole….It’s a kind of magic, but hen most things are.  But story is an eager fucking beaver and someday soon someone will come knocking for you….” ([2], pp.116-117)


  1. Catherynne M. Valente, Speak Easy, Burton, MI, Subterranean Press, 2015.
  2. Catherynne M. Valente, Six Gun Snow White: A Fully Loaded Fairy Tale, New York, Saga Press, 2016

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Q2 2019 roundup

This quarter marked the milestone: 2K days in a row!

This quarter also saw a dramatic drop in hits reported in the stats.  (I have states only about hits.)  The drop seems to coincide with the shutdown of Google+ on April 1.  I had been automatically posting every blog article to Google+, so maybe that was getting them more visible in Google searches. I dunno.

The Usual Suspects

This quarter saw lots of posts about the usual suspects: The Cryosphere, Solar power, as well as the usual Cryptocurrency Thursdays and Robot Wednesdays and so on.

A couple of great names for band:

Eocene Whale
Chicxulub ejecta

Books Reviewed This Quarter

Weekly book reviews continued every Sunday.  Here is a list (in no particular order).

Fiction

Gather The Fortunes by Bryan Camp
Anno Dracula by Kim Newman
The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente
No Country For Old Gnomes by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
European Travels for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss
The Secrets of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
The Haunting of Drearcliff Grange School by Kim Newman
Luna: Moon Rising by Ian McDonald
Revolutionaries by Joshua Furst
Someone Who Will Love You in all Your Damaged Glory by Raphael Bob-Waksberg

Non Fiction

Dinosaurs Rediscovered by Michael J. Benton
Devices and Desires by Kate Hubbard
Stony The Road by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
The Rise and Fall of Alexandria by Justin Pollard and Howard Reid

 

Book Review: “The Future is Blue” by Catherynne M. Valente

The Future is Blue by Catherynne M. Valente

This collection of short fiction pieces is a wonderful sample of Valente’s work.  Fairy tales, science fiction, and unclassifiable imaginative fiction.  Beautiful writing, humor, characters.

Wow!

I’m not even going walk through all the stories.  I’ll just stay that “Down and out in R’lyeh” alone is worth the price of admission!  I mean, I never really thought about it: as the Elder Bods are waiting—what are the Younger Gods supposed to do?

Valente is becoming one of my favorite contemporary authors (as I made clear here, here, here ),and this collection is a great example of why.

Wonderful, wonderful stuff.


  1. Catherynne M. Valente, The Future is Blue, Burton, MI, Subterranean Press, 2018.

 

Sunday Book Reviews

Blog Roundup 2018: Books Reviewed

A regular feature of this blog is the Sunday Book Reviews, short reviews of books I read this year.  Most of the books were new or recently published.

This year I reviews 58 fiction and 18 non-fiction books. (This doesn’t count the many articles and reports I comment on throughout the year.)

This years reading included lots of favorites including Thomas Perry, Charles Stross, Joe Ide, Donna Leon, A. Lee Martinez.

There are also some new favorites I discovered this year, including Nnedi Okorafor, Edgar Cantero, Theodora Goss, Vivan Shaw.

Some highly recommended* books:

(*This is a highly unsystematic selection—these are all definitely worth your time, though there may be others in my list below that are even better.)

Non fiction

Stamped From The Beginning  (2016)  by Ibram X. Kendi
The Fighters by C. J. Chivers
Ada’s Algorithm (2014) by James Essinger
Crash Test Girl by Kari Byron

Fiction

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (2017) by Theodora Goss
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
Circe by Madeline Miller

The Whole List

A list of all the book reviews (in no particular order…)

Fiction

A Horse Walks into a Bar by David Grossman
Adjustment Day by Chuck Palahniuk
Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter
Celestial Mechanics by William Least Heat-Moon
Circe by Madeline Miller
Constance Verity Saves The World by A. Lee Martinez
Dark State by Charles Stross
Dreadful Company by Vivian Shaw
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
French Exit by Patrick DeWitt
Good Guys by Steven Brust
Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? By N. K Jemisin
I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing by A. D. Jameson
I Only Killed Him Once by Adam Christopher
Kill the Farm Boy by Delilah S. Dawson and Kevin Hearne
Kismet by Luke Tredget
Koko Uncaged by Kieran Shea
Kudos by Rachel Cusk
Make a Nerdy Living by Alex Langley
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
Noir by Christopher Moore
Only To Sleep by Lawrence Osborne
Open Me by Lisa Locascio
Quillifer by Walter Jon Williams
Red Waters Rising by Laura Ann Gilman
Robots Vs Fairies edited by Dominick Parisien Navah Wolfe
Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw
Street Freaks by Terry Brooks
Tell The Machine Goodnight by Katie Williams
The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker
The Bomb Maker by Thomas Perry
The Book of Phoenix (2015) by Nnedi Okorafor
The Cackle of Cthulhu edited by Alex Shvartsman
The City of Lost Fortunes by Bryan Camp
The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton
The Final Frontier edited by Neil Clarke
The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley
The Labyrinth Index by Charles Stross
The Man From The Diogenes Club by Kim Newman
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani
The Pope of Palm Beach by Tim Dorsey
The Song of Achilles (2102) by Madeline Miller
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell
The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon
There, There by Tommy Orange
This Body’s Not Big Enough For Both Of Us by Edgar Cantero
Versailles by Yannick Hill
Who Fears Death (2011) by Nnedi Okorafor
Wrecked by Joe Ide

Non Fiction

Ada’s Algorithm (2014) by James Essinger
Adults in the Room by Yanis Varoufakis
Bad Blood by John Carreyrou
City of Demons by Paul French
Crash Test Girl by Kari Byron
Darwin Comes To Town by Menno Schilthuizen
Failure is an Option by H. Jon Benjamin
How To Plan A Crusade by Christopher Tyerman
Nothing edited by Jeremy Webb
Ours To Hack And To Own edited by Trebor Scholz and Nathan Schneider
Stamped From The Beginning (2016) by Ibram X. Kendi
The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
The Earth is Weeping (2016) by Peter Cozzens
The Fighters by C. J. Chivers
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte
The Tangled Tree by David Quammen
The Wordy Shipmates (2018) by Sarah Vowell
Totally Random by Tanya Bub and Jeffrey Bub
When Women Ruled the World by Kara Cooney

Sunday Book Reviews

Housekeeping: Q2 Roundup and Books Reviewed

The Book Is Launched!!!

Based on several years of blogging, the long-awaited book “What is Coworking?” was (finally) released this quarter!  Info here.

Get it!  Read it!

There was an official “book launch” on June 1.

There will be more events in coming months.

Antarctica, Dinosaurs, and Bees; Oh my!

Besides Coworking and The New Way of Work, various topics recur including Dinosaurs, the Anthropocene, and Pollinators.

And, of course, most weeks, Robot Wednesday and Cryptocurrency Thursday.

Books Reviewed This Quarter

 

Fiction

Adjustment Day  by Chuck Palahniuk
Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly
Armistice by Lara Elena Donnelly
Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller
Circe by Madeline Miller
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Koko Uncaged by Kieran Shea
Noir by Christopher Moore
Robots Vs Fairies  edited by Dominick Parisien Navah Wolfe
Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente
The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss
The Temptation of Forgiveness by Donna Leon
Versailles by Yannick Hill

Non-Fiction

Crash Test Girl by Kari Byron
Darwin Comes To Town by Menno Schilthuizen
Failure is an Option by H. Jon Benjamin
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs by Steve Brusatte

Great Names For Bands

The Fungi Under The Woods
“Force Jacket” (or maybe FORCE JACKET)
Frog Fungus Catastrophe