Sunday, November 23, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-11-22)

Four arrivals this week; one electronic and three physical.

Righteous Fury (The Legends of the Alfar #1) by Markus Heitz (in German) (Jo Fletcher Books Hardcover 02/15/2015) – Heitz switches publishers to tell his tale of the Dark Elves



From the author of the bestselling fantasy series The Dwarves--which has sold over one million copies--come the dynamic new series The Legends of the Alfar. In Righteous Fury, the elves, dwarves and humans all know the alfar to be dark, relentless warriors. In Dson Faimon, the realm of the alfar, the warriors are planning a military campaign. Caphalor and Sinthoras are looking to enlist a powerful demon to strengthen their army - but the two alfar have very different goals. While Caphalor is determined to defend the borders of their empire and no more, the ambitious Sinthoras is intent on invasion: and he has the kingdoms of dwarves, elves, and me firmly in his sights.






Moth and Spark by Anne Leonard (Penguin Trade Paperback 12/30/2014) – Trade-paperback of Leonard’s very well-received debut (Hardcover, February 2014). Another curious case of a book clearly being genre (in this case fantasy) but published under the parent publisher’s (Penguin) fiction imprint, rather than one of is genre imprints (ROC, ACE, DAW, etc).

A prince with a quest, a beautiful commoner with mysterious powers, and dragons who demand to be freed—at any cost

Filled with the potent mix of the supernatural and romance that made A Discovery of Witches a runaway success, Moth and Spark introduces readers to a vibrant world—and a love story they won’t soon forget.

Prince Corin has been chosen to free the dragons from their bondage to the power Mycenean Empire, but dragons aren’t big on directions. They have given him some of their power, but none of their knowledge. No one, not the dragons nor their riders, is even sure what keeps the dragons in the Empire’s control. Tam, sensible daughter of a well-respected doctor, had no idea before she arrived in Caithenor that she is a Seer, gifted with visions. When the two run into each other (quite literally) in the library, sparks fly and Corin impulsively asks Tam to dinner. But it’s not all happily ever after. Never mind that the prince isn’t allowed to marry a commoner: war is coming. Torn between his quest to free the dragons and his duty to his country, Tam and Corin must both figure out how to master their powers in order to save Caithen. With a little help from a village of secret wizards and rogue dragonrider, they just might pull it off.



Heritage Cyador (The Saga of Recluce #18) by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. (Tor Hardcover 11/25/2014) – I read and enjoyed (a lot more than I expected, the 20th Anniversary of the first in the series last year so I’ve got just a wee bit of catching up to do.

From New York Times bestselling author L.E. Modesitt comes Heritage of Cyador, the new novel in the Saga of Recluce.

Scarcely a year after the events of Cyador’s Heirs, Lerial uses his mastery of Order and Chaos, the competing natural forces that shape his world and define the magic that exists within it, to utterly destroy an Afritan military force crossing into Cigoerne.
Five years later, Lerial, now an overcaptain and a field commander of Cigoerne’s Mirror Lancers, must lead three companies of troops into Afrit on a mission of mutual interest: neighboring Heldya is threatening to invade Afrit, and if that nation falls, Cigoerne is certain to be next.

The mission is both delicate and dangerous; Lerial’s value in the effort to repelling Heldya is undeniable, but his troubled history against Afrit may reopen old wounds that will never truly heal.


God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlepig (A Bobby Dollar Novella) by Tad Williams (Beale-Williams Enterprise Ebook 11/05/2014) – A Christmas themed story featuring Tad’s Advocate Angel. This could be fun.

"Oh, ho, ho!" the demon Chickenleg said, sounding like your drunk uncle trying to get you to laugh at a dirty joke. "Oh, ho! You'll love this one, Dollar!"


Bobby Dollar, Advocate Angel and perpetual thorn in the side of Heaven, is about to save the holidays for a very special someone. Or somewolf. Or maybe even some pig… Bobby is summoned on Christmas Eve to do his part in the heavenly judgement of a man who is not prepared to go lightly. You see, the family of the gentleman in question are victims of Nazi war crimes, and the crimes are still occurring — in fact, the worst is yet to come. With special dispensation from an Angelic Judge named Ambriel, Bobby Dollar has until Christmas Morning to right some serious wrongs and bring some justice (and a little seasonal cheer) into a rotten world…

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Round Up: Rocket Talk with Justin Landon; Lou Anders and Joshua Palmatier @ SF Signal

After a couple of relatively slower weeks of no new reviews or any content from me, two things appear on the same day, such is life in the hectic world of SFF blogging and reviewing. . Add to those a review which appeared appeared the day after my last link round up, and you have my post for today. Speaking of SFF blogging and reviewing, that was the topic of discussion in one of my appearances this week.  My pal and Tor.com colleague Justin Landon (of the now closed Staffers Book Review blog, the Joe Abercrombie Re-read for Tor.com, and general genre rabble-rouser) had me on the Tor.com Rocket Talk podcast he leads. We talk about the reviewer/fan/author relationship, some other bloggers and a few books we've both enjoyed.  I thank Justin for having me on his show because in all honesty, I'm pretty pleased to be a guest on the same podcast that has featured some great genre folks like Joe Monti, Kate Elliott, N.K. Jemisin, Robert Jackson Bennett, and Delilah S. Dawson.

Listen to Foolish Talk Ye Mortals and Despair!


A couple of weeks ago, my review of Lou Anders's debut novel Frostborn, itself the launch book for his Thrones and Bones series went up to SF Signal:

Frostborn by Lou Anders - Review @ SF Signal
Perhaps what I enjoyed most about the novel are the hints at so much more to come, from the hinted-at future for their further adventures to the wonderful world-building which serves as the backdrop of the story. As I often say in novels with great world-building, the world itself is a character and the details are seamlessly delivered through the characters. Such is the case with Frostborn. The world-building does not smother the story nor is it over-indulgent; it enhances the story. I’ve been following the author on social media and listening to podcasts in whch he is featured, and he often spoke about the world-building in this novel and how he fell in love with the Norse region/myth as he was writing this novel. That love comes through quite well. When an author is able to show how much fun he or she had writing and creating a work, it can make for an even more engaging read, like it did here with Frostborn. Many people reading this review will know of the author’s experience on the other side of the publishing desk, which can be seen in his smart approach to the novel.




About an hour Rocket Talk posted, my November Completist column posted to SF Signal. This time, I took a look at Joshua Palmatier's The Throne of Amenkor trilogy:


I turn my focus on Joshua Palmatier’s “Throne of Amenkor” trilogy of books; a series about a haunted throne and the street urchin/thief who becomes tied to the throne. At the time Joshua’s debut published, he might have been overshadowed a bit by two other authors debuting at the same time – Patrick Rothfuss (a DAW stable mate) and Scott Lynch (who tells Lies about a thief named Locke). Joshua’s books are fun, engaging, and where they have an edge over Lynch and Rothfuss’s series is the fact that the series is complete.

In an SFFH landscape where readers are seeking stories which eschew the standard male protagonist, Palmatier has created a powerful and engaging female protagonist in “The Throne of Amenkor.”


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

100 Page Thoughts - The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley

One of the most touted Debut Epic Fantasies of 2014 is Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades. Tor has a big marketing push behind the book, having shown off the cover well in advance of the book’s publication, sample chapters through the seventh chapter of the book months before the book published. as well as the cover for book 2, The Providence of Fire a year before its publication. Lastly, a trade paperback version of the book published in August 2014, not even a full year after the release of the hardcover in January 2014.

So the, hoow do the first (approximately) 100 pages work for me? Very well, indeed. Staveley gradually introduces readers over the first quarter or so of this novel to two of the three children of the Emperor: Kaden and Valyn. He also mentions the third Adar, a daughter Adare. Kaden is the eldest and has spent the better part of the previous decade training with a sect of Monks; Valyn is training the military where he can potentially fly upon the backs of giant hawks, and Adare is mentioned as being raised to Minister. There’s a bit of action, with a nice balance of world-building and character development/introduction. Early on, Valyn hears whispers of a conspiracy before it is revealed his father, the Emperor has been murdered. Staveley alternates chapters between the two brothers for these first 100 pages and it proves effective thus far. His transition between the storylines of the two brothers end seach scene with enough of a hook to keep me engrossed and reading to find out more. At this point, I hope to see more of Adare as the novel progresses.

Like many epic fantasies, this one gets compared to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. While that may be superficially valid, the series I’m most reminded of is of another superb fantasy series, David Anthony Durham’s Acacia trilogy. This bodes very well indeed.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-11-15)

Two books this week and they arrived on the same day. I've read, at least part, of both of these but I'm looking forward to revisiting them both.



The Unremembered (Vaults of Heaven #1) by Peter Orullian (Tor Trade Paperback 04/07/2015) – Since receiving the I reviewed first edition back in January 2011 read this book which, for the most part, enjoyed it, Tor and Peter decided to do a major revision to clean it up in preparation for book 2 The Trial of Intentions. I’m looking forward to what Peter has in store in this “Definitive” edition.



Peter Orullian’s epic fantasy debut The Unremembered has been critically acclaimed, earning starred reviews and glowing praise. But in working on the second book in the series, Orullian realized that some core truth was missing. He found that truth and further realized that to tell the story correctly, he needed to go back. To the very beginning.


And so, for one of the few times in our publishing history, we at Tor are choosing to relaunch a title with an author’s definitive edition. We are also including an exclusive short story set in the world of Vault of Heaven as well as a sneak preview of the sequel, Trial of Intentions and a glossary to the universe.

The gods who created this world have abandoned it. In their mercy however, they chained the rogue god—and the monstrous creatures he created to plague mortal kind—in the vast and inhospitable wasteland of the Bourne. The magical Veil that protected humankind for millennia has become weak and creatures of Nightmare have now come through. Those who stand against evil know that only drastic measures will prevent a devastating invasion.

Tahn Junell is a hunter blissfully unaware of the dark forces that imperil his world. Then two strangers—an imperious man who wears the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far—come to the Hollows, urging Tahn, his sister and his two best friends to leave. They will not say why, but the journey upon which they embark will change Tahn's life…and the world…forever.




The Inheritance Trilogy (Omnibus) by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit , Trade Paperback 12/09/2014) – I really enjoyed the first in the series, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms when it first published and liked it a lot. (1) As such, I’ve been wanting to catch up with the series since then; (2) I love omnibus volumes; and (3) one plus two equals three. What better way to catch up with the series than with this big omnibus? The omnibus also includes a brand new novella, The Awakened Kingdom, a sequel to the trilogy.




Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle.


The Inheritance Trilogy omnibus includes the novels: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, The Broken Kingdoms, and The Kingdom of Gods.

Also included in this omnibus THE AWAKENED KINGDOM, a brand new novella: 
SOME TRUTHS MUST BE LEARNED THE HARD WAY…

As the first new godling born in thousands of years — and the heir presumptive to Sieh the Trickster — Shill’s got big shoes to fill. She’s well on her way when she defies her parents and sneaks off to the mortal realm, which is no place for an impressionable young god. In short order she steals a demon’s grandchild, gets herself embroiled in a secret underground magical dance competition, and offends her oldest and most powerful sibling.

But for Eino, the young Darren man whom Shill has befriended, the god-child’s silly games are serious business. Trapped in an arranged marriage and prohibited from pursuing his dreams, he has had enough. He will choose his own fate, even if he must betray a friend in the process — and Shill might just have to grow up faster than she thinks.

The long awaited sequel to the Inheritance trilogy — a novella by award winning author N. K. Jemisin where a godling must struggle to grow in the shadow of her parents.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Suddenly, a Decade has Passed

Meanwhile, behind the façade of this innocent looking bookstore…

10 years later and I’m still at this whole blogging thing. Having recently turned 40, this blog has been part of my daily/weekly routine for a quarter of my life. I can’t say that about many things. Since starting the blog:
  • I’m at my fourth job since starting the blog
  • My wife and I moved from one part of NJ (Middlesex County) to another part of NJ (Somerset County, which lends credence to the “Garden State” nickname for NJ)
  • I’ve branched out in my reviewing and genre writing, going from reviews only at SFFWorld to writing for SF Signal, Tor.com and for a while, the San Francisco/Sacramento Book Review
  • The publishing landscape has changed dramatically with the advent of ebooks, the strengthening of the blogger/publisher relationship, and self-publishing
  • As such, I acquired a Kindle about three years ago
  • The online community has changed, too. We are still present, just talking differently. Whereas Bulletin Boards/Forums were massively active about ten years ago, twitter, reddit and facebook have taken the conversations out of the forums.
  • I've been keeping track of the review books I receive in the mail from publishers for about half the time the blog has been active (since April/May 2008)
  • I’ve met a good number of authors at various events; Tor.com meet-ups, NY Comic Con, and author signings
  • Once, Neil Gaiman even linked to my blog!
  • Since 2006, (as well as 20072008,  2009201020112012) I've recapped my "reading year in review," including this past year (2013
  • I began running, and in doing so, completed 2 half-marathons and many, many 5Ks
  • Last and certainly not least, as I've pointed out previously, the wife and I acquired a dog, Sully 

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-11-08)

First week in November brings two books...


The Fire Seekers (The Babel Trilogy #1) by Richard Farr (47North Paperback 12/09/2014) – This seems to be another self-published novel 47North snatched up and is reissuing under their own imprint.


The time of our immortality is at hand.

An undeciphered language in Crete. A rash of mysterious disappearances, from Bolivia to Japan. An ancient warning at the ruins of Babel. And a new spiritual leader, who claims that human history as we understand it is about to come to an end.

Seventeen-year-old Daniel Calder’s world falls apart when a freak accident brings personal tragedy—and he discovers there’s a link between the accident and a wildly successful new cult, the Seraphim. Catapulted into a violent struggle for humanity’s past and future, he’s not even sure who the enemy is, or if he’s battling a phantom that doesn’t exist. But as Daniel puts his life on the line, he is forced to conclude that our very survival as a species will depend on who, and what, we choose to believe.


Symbiont ( (Parasitology Trilogy #1) by Mira Grant (Orbit Hardcover 11/25/2014) –The second installment of Mira Grant / Seanan McGuire’s near future sf horror gets to readers about a year after book one. Despite its flaws, I enjoyed the first of this series, Parasite, enough that I want to find out what happens next.

THE SECOND BOOK IN MIRA GRANT'S TERRIFYING PARASITOLOGY SERIES.

THE ENEMY IS INSIDE US.

The SymboGen designed tapeworms were created to relieve humanity of disease and sickness. But the implants in the majority of the world's population began attacking their hosts turning them into a ravenous horde.

Now those who do not appear to be afflicted are being gathered for quarantine as panic spreads, but Sal and her companions must discover how the tapeworms are taking over their hosts, what their eventual goal is, and how they can be stopped.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

SFFWorld/SF Signal Link Round-up: Mind Meld, ML Brennan Interview, and Reviews of Erin Lindsey and Joe Hill

Not much posting here at the good ol’ blog the last couple of weeks aside from the weekly books in the mail posts. Work has been taking my attention and writing reviews and other posts have taken other parts of my attention. Other posts? Yeah, quite a few posts and reviews I wrote went live over the past week, let’s have a look shall we?

The thing I had the most fun doing, in terms of my genre writing, over the past week or two was my October Mind Meld for SF Signal. This was my fifth mind meld and probably the most successful, in terms of participants (12!) and responses. Participants included Richard Auffrey, ML Brennan, Adam Callaway, Kristin Centorcelli, Teresea Frohock, Jaym Gates, Tim Marquitz, Seanan McGuire, Cesar Torres, Ellen B. Wright, Mercedes M. Yardley, and Mark Yon. I asked them this question:

Which novel / writer / movie, that wasn’t specifically a horror novel/writer/movie, spooked you the most?

For this week’s panelists, a double-edged question was asked about a writer/book who/that evoked that emotion of fear. Not a horror writer/novel (for example not Stephen King), but perhaps an Epic Fantasy Novel, Science Fiction story, or Military novel where you found parts of it scary/creepy. To the point you might think to yourself, “I’d love to see a straight-out horror novel from this writer!”




Speaking of ML, Brennan, I posted a great interview with ML Brennan to SFFWorld, author of the Generation V novels. I’ve got the first and third and I hope to get to them soon.


http://www.sffworld.com/2014/10/ml-brennan-interview/


Last week, I posted two reviews to SFFWorld. One was Erin Lindsey’s The Bloodbound the third novel by her (the other two she wrote as E.L. Tettensor), but the first under the Erin Lindsey name. I liked this one very much and hope to see more about these characters.

http://www.sffworld.com/2014/10/bloodbound-erin-lindsey/

The majority of the novel is told from Alix’s point of view, with some scenes through her King’s eyes. Alix comes across as an honest, almost-too-good-for-her-own-good protagonist torn between duty and passion. She finds her passion and romantic feelings for her closest companion Liam growing, so she acts upon it. The thing that throws a monkey-wrench into their relationship is the king himself. Rather, Alix acting as headstrong as ever; she goes against the orders of her superior Allan Green and breaks formation to save the King’s life. He wakes to find Alix draped over her. That physical interaction leads to more emotional interaction between the two.

As a couple of reviewers pointed out, there’s a strong similarity to Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarrion novels. One, this is a good thing because I enjoy Elizabeth Moon’s writing very much. Two, this shouldn’t be a surprise when one realizes they share the same agent.*

On Friday, as part of my sort-of-series of Halloween readings, I posted a review of Joe Hill’s Horns, a dark novel that just helped to cement Joe’s status as a top tier writer for me. At this point, I’m not sure how objective I can be about his writing.

http://www.sffworld.com/2014/10/horns-joe-hill/


Of the stories, novels, and comics Joe Hill has written in his relatively short career, perhaps the least likely to make it to the screen first is his second novel, Horns. This isn’t a comment on the quality of the novel (because it is an excellent dark fantastic tale), but rather the premise that launches the plot as well as the nonlinear fashion of the novel. First, let’s get that premise out of the way. About a year after his girlfriend Merrin is raped and murdered, Ig Perrish wakes one morning with horns sprouting out of his head. The horns grant him a power not many people would like: people are compelled to speak their darkest truths to him and compelled to act upon his direction.

Joe keeps a strong vein of hopefulness in the narrative. Horns in narrative approach reminded me a great deal of the landmark Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons graphic novel Watchmen. Both stories have a core of a murder mystery, with the murder victim dead prior to the “present” of the novel. As such, those murdered characters (The Comedian in Watchmen and Merrin here in Horns) are a large cloud over the narrative whose past is revealed through flashbacks.