Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Beer Review: Flying Dog Nice (2016) Holiday Milk Stout

NameNice (2016) Holiday Milk Stout

StyleMilk Stout

Brewing Company: Flying Dog

Location: Frederick, MD

ABV: 7.2%

IBU: 20

The beer’s page on Flying Dog’s Web site

This Holiday Milk Stout is a game changer. Leave this out with plate of cookies and Santa will hook your ass up.

And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.

Milk Stouts are one of my favorite types of stouts, the sweetness balances out some of the bitterness inherit in a traditional stout.  The sweetness comes from the lactose sugars, which lends the name Milk Stout, probably because it sounds better than “Lactose Stout.”

750th unique check-in to Untappd,
thus the 7 and 50 on the D10s
On to this beer…I’ve been hit or miss with much of Flying Dog’s output, but more hits lately than misses I have to say.  Like many good milk stouts, this one starts very sweet and smooth with a balanced feel as it settles really nicely into the belly.

Like most stouts, it gets better as it sits and settles closer to room temperature, but I wouldn’t want to drink this too warm.  Some stouts you want to just linger over and sip over the course of a half hour, but this one is smooth enough that having a couple would be nice.

Despite the relatively high ABV for a Milk Stout at 7.2%, I didn’t feel it too much.  I was able to have 2 of these plus another lower ABV beer and not really feel it. However, I imagine after 3 or 4 of these the ABV might catch up with you.

I also appreciated the lack of bitter aftertaste that accompanies some stouts.

All of that said, I’m not sure what makes this one a Holiday Milk Stout. There aren’t any spices like nutmeg or cinnamon most often associated with Holiday/Christmas beers, so I could see this becoming a year round Milk Stout along the lines of a Lancaster Milk Stout.

Overall, a very drinkable Milk Stout and one I can conceivably see myself enjoying multiple bottles over the course of a holiday celebration. Well, I did enjoy two (as well as one other beer) during a Dungeons and Dragons gaming session.

Monday, December 12, 2016

An Update and Maybe a New Direction

Sure has been a while since I posted here at the old O' stuff.  I'm still posting reviews over at SFFWorld as most folks probably know. I suspect more people know me through twitter now than through this blog. 

For quite a while now, I've debated if I want to keep this blog active, officially close it, or try something new.  One of those "new" things I've been pondering is reviewing beer. I've always enjoyed beer, but over the past couple of years I've been really enjoying craft beer. In fact, for my birthday last month, my wife took me on a mini tour of some NJ Micro/Nanobreweries including Twin Elephant Brewing, Conclave Brewing, Kane Brewing, Beach Haus Brewery, and Carton Brewing

So tomorrow (or later today depending on when you read this) I'll be reviewing beers here at the O' Stuff. Depending on how it feels and what people have to say, I may continue it here or start a whole new blog dedicated just to my beer reviews. 

Friday, May 06, 2016

So Long and a Big Thank You to SF Signal

Since it is public now, I can post my thoughts about John DeNardo and JP Franz closing the doors of the Hugo Award Winning SF Signal.

I’ve been engaged in the online genre community since I joined the SFFWorld forums in 2000, even more so when I began writing for SFFWorld in 2003. Around that time, SF Signal launched and grew into one of the three or four mainstays of the SFF intarwebs, attracting great contributors, fostering relationships with writers and fans, and helping to promote a true sense community within the genre and winning 3 Hugo Awards, 2 for best Fanzine (2012 & 2013) and one for best Fancast in 2014.

Writing for SF Signal helped me to engage in the community, I came to know more people and become friends with many of them, including peers from other genre websites, SF publishing professionals, as well as writers. To name a few I’ve hung out with in “real life,” John Anealio, Fred Kiesche, Shecky, and Ed Lazellari. I’ve made some really good online friendships as a result of SF Signal as well, not the least of which include Paul WeimerJeff PattersonSarah ChornKristin Centorcelli (aka My Bookish Ways)Patrick HesterDavid AnnadaleAndrea Johnson,  Michael R. UnderwoodMike MartinezShana DuBoisDjango WexlerAndrew LiptakJohn H. Stevens among others.

Thanks must to also go Patrick Hester for throwing out the (albeit mass) email invite to be on the SF Signal podcast and allowing me on the podcast not once (Episode 228: Upcoming 2014 Books We Need To Read And Why) but twice (Episode 273: The Best SFF Book, TV Show, Movie, Comic Book, Game or other thing you consumed in 2014). This led to appearances on other Podcasts (Functional Nerds run by John Anealio and Patrick and Rocket Talk with Justin Landon). 

John was a great editor, as was Kristin Centorcelli during her tenure as Associate Editor. allowing me to bounce ideas off of them for my contributions and providing smart suggestions when I was having a tough time with a book review or article I wanted to post to SF Signal. If, rather hopefully when, I meet them in “real life” I can buy them each an adult beverage of their choice, because they more than deserve it.

I completely understand John and JP’s reasons for closing SF Signal. To run a webzine that has new posts nearly every hour nearly every day can be (and is in the case of places like Tor.com) a full time job. Yet these two generous, passionate fans did this not only of their own free time, but their own money for server/hosting costs. Granted, they do run advertisements, but much of that income (HA! Income from websites) went back into making it possible for SF Signal to be the active, robust web site – COMMUNITY – into which it so wonderfully grew over the years.

Bottom line, everybody involved in SF Signal had enthusiasm for SFF, the community, and sharing this enthusiasm with each other. John and JP helped to make the genre and online community a great place, were big contributors to the friendly atmosphere of not only the online genre community, but the current genre community as a whole. As such, the genre community as a whole is a little lesser without SF Signal as an active part of it.

Where does this leave me? Well, like I said, I completely understand their reasons. I’ll still be contributing quite a bit over at SFFWorld and whenever Tor.com will have me, I’ll be there, too. My blog is going through some changes. As regular readers may have noticed, I didn’t post a Books in the Mail this past Sunday, I’ll no longer be posting those. Other than that, the future is still open and I may touch upon that in a later post.

But again, a big thank you to John, JP, Patrick and all the other great folks behind the scenes at SF Signal. It was a great run for them and I couldn’t be more proud and honored to be part of it for the past few years.

For a really great summation of the situation from an outsider of SF Signal, but a great fan (and Hugo winner in his own right), Aidan Moher did a nice little twitter “rant” which he Storified:

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-04-23)

I legitimately want to read every one of these books, I hope time permits and other reading priorities allows for that at some point.

Star Wars: Bloodline by Claudia Gray (Star Wars Books / Del Rey, Hardcover 05/03/2016) – Gray wrote the very well received Star Wars: Lost Stars and likely because of that, got the crack at writing the Leia novel set between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

From the New York Times bestselling author of Star Wars: Lost Stars comes a thrilling novel set in the years before the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.


When the Rebellion defeated the Empire in the skies above Endor, Leia Organa believed it was the beginning to a lasting peace. But after decades of vicious infighting and partisan gridlock in the New Republic Senate, that hope seems like a distant memory.

Now a respected senator, Leia must grapple with the dangers that threaten to cripple the fledgling democracy—from both within and without. Underworld kingpins, treacherous politicians, and Imperial loyalists are sowing chaos in the galaxy. Desperate to take action, senators are calling for the election of a First Senator. It is their hope that this influential post will bring strong leadership to a divided galaxy.

As the daughter of Darth Vader, Leia faces with distrust the prospect of any one person holding such a powerful position—even when supporters suggest Leia herself for the job. But a new enemy may make this path Leia’s only option. For at the edges of the galaxy, a mysterious threat is growing. . . .

The Summer Dragon (The First Book of The Evertide) by Todd Lockwood (DAW Hardcover 05/03/2016) – Most fantasy readers know Todd Lockwood because of his amazing covers, but he’s also a writer. Todd is known for painting some incredible dragons, so of course he’s going to write about them, too. Really looking forward to this one. 

The debut novel from the acclaimed illustrator–a high fantasy adventure featuring dragons and deadly politics.

Maia and her family raise dragons for the political war machine. As she comes of age, she hopes for a dragon of her own to add to the stable of breeding parents. But the war goes badly, and the needs of the Dragonry dash her hopes. Her peaceful life is shattered when the Summer Dragon—one of the rare and mythical High Dragons—makes an appearance in her quiet valley. The Summer Dragon is an omen of change, but no one knows for certain what kind of change he augurs. Political factions vie to control the implied message, each to further their own agendas.

 And so Maia is swept into an adventure that pits her against the deathless Horrors—thralls of the enemy—and a faceless creature drawn from her fears. In her fight to preserve everything she knows and loves, she uncovers secrets that challenge her understanding of her world and of herself.

The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor (DAW Trade Paperback 05/03/2016) – This is set in the same world of Okorafor’s Who Fears Death and looks awesome.

A fiery spirit dances from the pages of the Great Book. She brings the aroma of scorched sand and ozone. She has a story to tell….

The Book of Phoenix is a unique work of magical futurism. A prequel to the highly acclaimed, World Fantasy Award-winning novel, Who Fears Death, it features the rise of another of Nnedi Okorafor’s powerful, memorable, superhuman women.

Phoenix was grown and raised among other genetic experiments in New York’s Tower 7. She is an “accelerated woman”—only two years old but with the body and mind of an adult, Phoenix’s abilities far exceed those of a normal human. Still innocent and inexperienced in the ways of the world, she is content living in her room speed reading e-books, running on her treadmill, and basking in the love of Saeed, another biologically altered human of Tower 7.

Then one evening, Saeed witnesses something so terrible that he takes his own life. Devastated by his death and Tower 7’s refusal to answer her questions, Phoenix finally begins to realize that her home is really her prison, and she becomes desperate to escape.

But Phoenix’s escape, and her destruction of Tower 7, is just the beginning of her story. Before her story ends, Phoenix will travel from the United States to Africa and back, changing the entire course of humanity’s future.

Threading the Needle (Erenthal #2) by Joshua Palmatier (DAW, Hardcover 07/05/2016) – Second in Palmatier’s Erenthal series. I still have the first on Mount Toberead. I’ve enjoyed his writing in the past so with the second book arriving, I may finally dive into the first one Shattering the Ley. This one has another gorgeous cover from Stephan Martiniere.

The Nexus—the hub created by the Prime Wielders to harness the magical power of the ley lines for the city of Erenthrall, the Baronial Plains, and the world beyond—has Shattered, the resultant pulse cascading through the system and leaving Erenthrall decimated, partially encased in a massive distortion.

The world has fared no better: auroral storms plague the land, transforming people into creatures beyond nightmare; silver-white lights hover over all of the major cities, the harbinger of distortions that could quicken at any moment; and quakes brought on by the unstable ley network threaten to tear the earth apart. The survivors of this apocalypse have banded together in desperate groups, both in the remains of Erenthall and in small enclaves beyond the city, scrounging for food and resources in an ever more dangerous world.

Having survived the initial Shattering, Wielder Kara Tremain and ex-Dog Allan Garrett have led their small group of refugees to the Hollow, a safe haven in the hills on the edge of the plains. But the ley system is not healing itself. Their only option is to repair the distortion that engulfs Erenthrall and to fix the damaged ley lines themselves. To do that, they’ll have to enter a city controlled by vicious bands of humans and non-humans alike, intent on keeping what little they’ve managed to scavenge together.

But as soon as they enter the streets of Erenthrall, they find themselves caught up in the maelstrom of violence, deception, and betrayal that the city has descended into—including the emergence of a mysterious and powerful cult calling themselves the White Cloaks, whose leader is known as Father....

He is the same man who once led the terrorist group called the Kormanley and brought about the Shattering that destroyed the world!

The Waking Fire (Book One of Draconis Memoria) by Anthony Ryan (Ace Hardcover 07/05/2016) – This the launch of a new series from Ryan, whose Blood Song blew me away when Ace published it in 2013. The sequel, not quite as much. But I am looking forward to diving into this because Ryan has some good storytelling chops and the premise is interesting.

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Trading Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from captive or hunted Reds, Greens, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that bestow fearsome powers on the rare men and women known as the Blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighbouring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered Blood-blessed who finds himself pressed into service by the Protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted lands in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an Ironship cruiser whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-04-16)

Just a few books this week, a trilogy of books in fact.
Between Two Thorns (The Split Worlds #1) by Diversion Books Trade Paperback reissue 02/23/2016)– I read and loved Newman’s Planetfall last year. She originally published these books with Angry Robot a couple of years ago but (I assume) regained the rights and resold them to Diversion. One of our newer contributors at SFFWorld, Shellie Horst, interviewed Emma earlier in the year.

Beautiful and nuanced as it is dangerous, the manners of Regency and Victorian England blend into a scintillating fusion of urban fantasy and court intrigue.

Between Mundanus, the world of humans, and Exilium, the world of the Fae, lies the Nether, a mirror-world where the social structure of 19th-century England is preserved by Fae-touched families who remain loyal to their ageless masters. Born into this world is Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver, who escapes it all to live a normal life in Mundanus, free from her parents and the strictures of Fae-touched society. But now she’s being dragged back to face an arranged marriage, along with all the high society trappings it entails.

Crossing paths with Cathy is Max, an Arbiter of the Split Worlds treaty with a dislocated soul who polices the boundaries between the worlds, keeping innocents safe from the Fae. After a spree of kidnappings and the murder of his fellow Arbiters, Max is forced to enlist Cathy’s help in unravelling a high-profile disappearance within the Nether. Getting involved in the machinations of the Fae, however, may prove fatal to all involved.

“BETWEEN TWO THORNS shows the darkness beneath the glamour of the social Season. Learning to be a young lady has never seemed so dangerous.”—Mary Robinette Kowal, Hugo Award-winning fantasy author

Any Other Name (The Split Worlds #2) by Diversion Books Trade Paperback reissue 02/23/2016)– I read and loved Newman’s Planetfall last year. She originally published these books with Angry Robot a couple of years ago but (I assume) regained the rights and resold them to Diversion. One of our newer contributors at SFFWorld, Shellie Horst, interviewed Emma earlier in the year.
Thought-provoking, wonderfully inventive, and filled with treachery and mystery, the soaring second book in the Split Worlds Series pulls Cathy, Will, Max, and Sam deeper into the twisted world of Fae-touched society.

Cathy has been reluctantly married into the Iris family and moves to Londinium, the magical Nether reflection of London, setting her on a collision course with the restrictive, high-pressure social circles that demand propriety and obedience, things the vocal and free-spirited Cathy cannot abide. Will, meanwhile, is trying to find a compromise for his new bride, but whispers in his ear are urging him towards dark deeds…

Sam, determined to dive back into the world of Exilium to rescue innocents, crosses paths with Cathy and Max once again as Max and the gargoyle uncover more information about the mysterious Agency and the chain of events that wiped out the Bath Chapter. Sacrifices, terrible deals, and dreadful revelations mark this second installment of Emma Newman’s wondrous Split Worlds series.

“Emma Newman has built a modern fantasy world with such élan and authority her ideas of why and how the seemingly irrational world of Fairy works should be stolen by every other writer in the field.”—Bill Willingham, Eisner Award-winning creator of FABLES

“With a feather-light touch, Emma Newman has crafted a very English fantasy, one brilliantly realised and quite delightful, weaving magic, mystery and parallel worlds together with ease.”—Adam Christopher, author of MADE TO KILL

All is Fair (The Split Worlds #3) by Diversion Books Trade Paperback reissue 02/23/2016)– I read and loved Newman’s Planetfall last year. She originally published these books with Angry Robot a couple of years ago but (I assume) regained the rights and resold them to Diversion. One of our newer contributors at SFFWorld, Shellie Horst, interviewed Emma earlier in the year.

Caught in the insidious designs of powerful puppet-masters and playing a life-or-death game for control, Cathy and her comrades face their greatest challenge yet: changing the balance of power in the Split Worlds.

Now at the heart of the Londinium Court, deceit and murder track Will’s steps as he assumes his new role as Duke. Faced with threats to his throne and his life, the consequences of his bloody actions are already coming back to haunt him...

Meanwhile, Cathy, wrestling with the constraints of the Agency and Dame Iris, comes to terms with her new status in Fae-touched society and seeks others who feel just as restricted by its outdated social rules. As Max works with Cathy to uncover the horrors that underpin Fae-touched society, he bears witness as the final blow is struck against the last Sorcerers in Albion…

Darkly imaginative, vividly detailed, and genre-defying in scope, ALL IS FAIR is at once a thrilling and intellectual journey into worlds beyond sight.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-04-09)

The first full week of April brings unseasonably cold weather in New Jersey and these books to my doorstep.

Breath of Earth by Bet Cato (Harper Voyager Trade Paperback 08/23/2016)– Cato steps away from her Steampunk series for this new alternate history.

After the earth’s power under her city is suddenly left unprotected, a young geomancer must rely on her unique magic to survive in this fresh fantasy standalone from the author of the acclaimed The Clockwork Dagger.

In an alternate 1906, the United States and Japan have forged a powerful confederation— the Unified Pacific—in an attempt to dominate the world. Their first target is a vulnerable China. In San Francisco, headstrong secretary Ingrid Carmichael is assisting a group of powerful geomancer wardens who have no idea of the depth of her own talent—or that she is the only woman to possess such skills.

When assassins kill the wardens, Ingrid and her mentor are protected by her incredible magic. But the pair is far from safe. Without its full force of guardian geomancers, the city is on the brink of a cataclysmic earthquake that will expose the earth’s power to masterminds determined to control the energy for their own dark ends. The danger escalates when Chinese refugees, preparing to fight the encroaching American and Japanese forces, fracture the uneasy alliance between the Pacific allies, transforming San Francisco into a veritable powder keg. And the slightest tremor will set it off. . . .

Forced on the run, Ingrid makes some shocking discoveries about herself. Her already considerable magic has grown even more fearsome . . . and she may be the fulcrum on which the balance of world power rests.

Fall of Light (The Kharkanas Trilogy) by Steven Erikson (Tor Hardcover 04/26/2016) – I stalled on the 7th book of the main Malazan saga and couldn’t finish the first in this trilogy, Forge of Darkness but I did enjoy those first 7 Malazan books

Steven Erikson returns to the Malazan world with the second book in a dark and revelatory new epic fantasy trilogy, one that takes place a millennium before the events in his New York Times bestselling Malazan Book of the Fallen. Fall of Light continues to tell the tragic story of the downfall of an ancient realm, a story begun in the critically acclaimed Forge of Darkness.

It's a conflicted time in Kurald Galain, the realm of Darkness, where Mother Dark reigns. But this ancient land was once home to many a power... and even death is not quite eternal. The commoners' great hero, Vatha Urusander, is being promoted by his followers to take Mother Dark's hand in marriage, but her Consort, Lord Draconus, stands in the way of such ambitions. The impending clash sends fissures throughout the realm. As rumors of civil war burn through the masses, an ancient power emerges from the long dead seas. Caught in the middle of it all are the First Sons of Darkness, Anomander, Andarist, and Silchas Ruin of the Purake Hold...

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (Tor Hardcover 04/26/2016) – The English language debut of the bestselling Dutch novel, Hex, from Thomas Olde Heuvelt--a Hugo and World Fantasy award nominated talent to watch

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay 'til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town's teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

This chilling novel heralds the arrival of an exciting new voice in mainstream horror and dark fantasy.

Sleeping Giants (The Themis Files Book One) by Sylvain Neuvel (Harper Voyager Hardcover Paperback 04/26/2015) – An impressive looking debut and the launch of a series for Neuvel. This is the final copy of the ARC I received earlier in the year.

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-04-02)

A few books this week, as usual. You should all know the drill by now.

Blood in the Water (Destroyermen Book 11) by Taylor Anderson (Roc Hardcover 06/15/2016 ) – I’ve read and enjoyed the first trilogy (Into the Storm, Crusade, and (Maelstrom) and haven’t read another since the fourth one, Distant Thunders.

Taylor Anderson’s enthralling New York Times bestselling series of alternate history continues as game-changing revelations upend the Grand Alliance in a potentially cataclysmic war.

Ever since the USS Walker came from another world war to defy the terrifying Grik and diabolical Dominion, Matt Reddy and his crew have given their all to protect the oppressed Lemurians. But with the Walker in desperate need of repairs just as the Grik’s First General is poised to strike, Reddy is desperate.

With more enemies than ever before arrayed against them, the crew of the Walker needs new allies. That means combing the lethal wilds of Madagascar to find the Lemurians’ fabled ancestors, as well as the enigmatic dwellers east of the Pass of Fire. But what Reddy’s crew unearths may be more than they can handle—discoveries so shattering they could tilt the balance of the war in either direction.

But Reddy’s greatest adversary is from his past: a madman named Kurokawa whose single-minded mission of revenge will shake the Alliance to its core and raise the stakes to the most personal and terrifying levels Reddy has ever faced.

The Sorcerer’s Daughter (Defenders of Shannara) by Terry Brooks (Del Rey Hardcover 05/24/2016) – Ever since Aidan’s review of The Wards of Faerie and The Bloodfire Quest, I’ve been hanging on to the copies of Brooks’ novels I’ve been sent for review., this one follows on after The Darkling Child

The inspiration for the epic MTV series, the world of Shannara is brimming with untold stories and unexplored territory. Now bestselling author Terry Brooks breaks new ground with a standalone adventure that’s sure to thrill veteran readers and recent converts alike. The mysterious, magic-wielding Druid order has existed for long ages, battling any evil that threatens the Four Lands—and struggling to be understood and accepted by outsiders. But their hopes of building goodwill are dashed when a demon’s murderous rampage at a peace summit leaves their political opponents dead—casting new suspicions upon the Druids and forcing them to flee from enemies both mortal and monstrous. Paxon Leah, the order’s appointed protector, knows that blame lies with Arcannen Rai, the vile sorcerer he has battled and defeated before. But there’s no time to hunt his nemesis, if he is to lead the wrongfully accused Druids to their sanctuary. It is a quest fraught with danger, as a furious government agent and his army snap at their heels, and lethal predators stalk them in the depths of the untamed wilderness. But Arcannen is playing a deeper game than Paxon realizes. Paxon’s sister possesses a powerful magic that the sorcerer longs to control—but Arcannen has not reckoned with the determination of his own estranged daughter, Leofur, who is also Paxon’s devoted lifemate. Leofur sets out on a perilous quest to thwart her father’s desires—while the vengeful Arcannen conjures his blackest magical skills, determined to destroy them all . . . and claim the most powerful of magics for his own.

A Shadow of All Light by Fred Chappell (Tor Hardcover 04/12/2016) – Chappell has some serious literary chops, having won literary prizes, Poet Laureate of North Carolina, and an English Professor at UNC Greensboro.

Fred Chappell's A Shadow All of Light, a stylish, episodic fantasy novel, follows the exploits of Falco, a young man from the country, who arrives in the port city of Tardocco with the ambition of becoming an apprentice to a master shadow thief. Maestro Astolfo, whose mysterious powers of observation would rival those of Sherlock Holmes, sees Falco's potential and puts him through a grueling series of physical lessons and intellectual tests.

Falco's adventures coalesce into one overarching story of con men, monsters, ingenious detection, cats, and pirates. A wry humor leavens this fantastical concoction, and the style is as rich and textured as one would hope for from Chappell, a distinguished poet as well as a World Fantasy Award-winning fantasy writer.

The Wheel of Osheim (Book three of The Red Queen’s War) by Mark Lawrence (Hardcover 06/07/2016 Ace) – Final installment in the Mark’s follow-up series to The Broken Empire. Now that I have all three, I will hopefully get to at least the first one, Prince of Fools soon.

Mark Lawrence’s “epic fantasy” (The Washington Post) continues as a reluctant prince returns from the bowels of Hell to engage in his greatest battle yet—among the living and the dead.

All the horrors of Hell stand between Snorri Ver Snagason and the rescue of his family, if indeed the dead can be rescued. For Jalan Kendeth, getting back out alive and with Loki’s key is all that matters. Loki’s creation can open any lock, any door, and it may also be the key to Jalan’s fortune back in the living world.

Jalan plans to return to the three w’s that have been the core of his idle and debauched life: wine, women, and wagering. Fate however has other plans, larger plans. The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster, and it will crack the world unless it’s stopped. When the end of all things looms, and there’s nowhere to run, even the worst coward must find new answers. Jalan and Snorri face many dangers, from the corpse hordes of the Dead King to the many mirrors of the Lady Blue, but in the end, fast or slow, the Wheel of Osheim always pulls you back. In the end it’s win or die.

Friday, April 01, 2016

March 2016 Reading Redick, Schwab, Ewalt, Lowe, Cole, Priest, Cherryh

As April begins, I’ll take a look back at what I read during the month of March.

I started out with Robert V.S. Redick’s (The Rats and) The Ruling Sea, the second book of the The Chathrand Voyage and the follow up to The Red Wolf Conspiracy. I enjoyed it quite a bit and think that like quite a bit of epic fantasy, Redick is including some dark, horrific elements in his narrative. He’s got a wonderful knack for world-building and allows his characters a nice freedom to move about in this world. I’m at the halfway point of the four book series, but worried that I waiting too long (two years) between the first and second books in the series. That said, Redick’s Web site contains a great amount of information, including summaries of the first two books. That, added to the strength of his narrative, didn’t make it too tough to immerse myself in the novel and world at this point.

Next up was V.E. Schwab’s A Gathering of Shadows the second installment of her Darker Shade of Magic series. I loved this book so much and think Schwab is an incredible storyteller. I posted my review of the book to SFFWorld last week.

I jumped out of fiction for a book with Of Dice and Men by David Ewalt. This was a fun book, both a history of Dungeons and Dragons specifically, with some broad strokes for all RPGs as well as a memoir. Ewalt interwove his own history of playing D&D when he was younger, his time away, and his re-entry to gaming with the history of Gary Gygax, TSR and how D&D became a worldwide phenomenon from humble beginnings. I would love to see this is a documentary because it read just like a really good documentary film. My only issue with the book is that there was a bit of introspective derision going on when Ewalt reflected on his own engagement with D&D. All in all, it was a fun book that allowed me to visit my own past with RPGs and had me wanting to roll up a new character for the campaign I’m in now.

The Heir of Night was the second review book I read in March and I enjoyed it. As fat would have it, I read it soon after Redick’s novel and both series contain an antagonist with the Swarm moniker. All told, a fun, engaging start to an Epic Fantasy trilogy. More detailed thoughts at my review.

Another review book followed that one, Javelin Rain by Myke Cole. I’ve been a big fan of Myke’s work since I read his debut and this is a fantastic follow-up to Gemini Cell. Javelin Rain is a great novel that will easily be a top 10 for 2016 for me. My review goes up next week.

As the month drew to a close, I started Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. What a fun, steampunk / zombie / alternate history. I’m growing into a big fan of Priest’s work.

For most of the month, my audio book was Cyteen by C.J. Cherryh. What can be said of this one? A lot, quite a lot indeed. Cherryh is deservedly a SFWA Grandmaster and this is one of her defining, award-winning novels. After conducting this wonderful Mind Meld I was strongly urged to dive into one of her works, and what better choice than this gigantic novel?

There are some truly fascinating concepts Cherryh explores and wonderful storytelling on display in the novel. Genetic science, cloning, slavery, political machinations are all large flavors of the dramatic stew of Cyteen. What continued to come to my mind is that in some ways, the character of Ari Emory could be seen as a savior figure/character. She is an exact clone/genetic duplicate of a deceased character and is observed very closely. Will she follow the same development as her predecessor? With events, critical life changing events orchestrated to occur at the same age they occurred with her predecessor, her life is definitely something that is shaped.

I as continually thinking that this story could be seen as a science fictional equivalent to the savior figure of destiny often seen in fantasy. Or one could even draw parallels to the genetic and life shaping of Ari to the created savior figure of Paul Atreides. The shaping of Ari to follow the same patterns as her predecessor could even be compared to the role that destiny plays in the shaping of a mythical hero.

The narrators were Gabra Zackman and Jonathan Davis. Davis is the narrator on a few of the audio books I’ve listened to this past year and he always does a fine job. Davis only handled the portions of the novel that were “extracts” from archival documents and no actual narrative. Zackman capture the various ages of Ari/Ariane Emory brilliantly. Unfortunately, her portrayal of the male characters didn’t work quite as well for me. This is not so much a knock on Zackman as many of the female narrators I’ve heard don’t quite depict male character voices to my liking nor do the male narrators often capture female voices with full believably.

All that said, for as brilliant as Cyteen is, for me, I’ve never read a book that is simultaneously fascinating, enjoyable, frustrating, and tedious. Cherryh’s slight shift in narrative tone for the different characters brilliantly reflected the age of the viewpoint characters. Some of the passages; however, felt overly tedious for the belabored details expounded upon in the narrative and dragged down the pacing for me.  Still, an overall amazing novel that bears deep examination and exploration. 

After tackling the first two Crown of Stars novels by Kate Elliott in each of the first two months of the year, I just didn't get to book three, The Burning Stone in March. Must remedy that in April and at least get to that one.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-03-26)

I began reading one of these the day it arrived, the other books arrived on Friday.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes (A Memoir by Lady Trent) by Marie Brennan (Tor Hardcover 04/05/2016) – Fifth installment in Brennan’s remarkably well-received series placing the discovery of Dragons in Victorian times. These are gorgeous looking books with Todd Lockwood’s fantastic art. Impressively, Marie has been on publishing these on an annual basis.

In the Labyrinth of Drakes: the thrilling new book in the acclaimed fantasy series from Marie Brennan, as the glamorous Lady Trent takes her adventurous explorations to the deserts of Akhia.

Even those who take no interest in the field of dragon naturalism have heard of Lady Trent's expedition to the inhospitable deserts of Akhia. Her discoveries there are the stuff of romantic legend, catapulting her from scholarly obscurity to worldwide fame. The details of her personal life during that time are hardly less private, having provided fodder for gossips in several countries.

As is so often the case in the career of this illustrious woman, the public story is far from complete. In this, the fourth volume of her memoirs, Lady Trent relates how she acquired her position with the Royal Scirling Army; how foreign saboteurs imperiled both her work and her well-being; and how her determined pursuit of knowledge took her into the deepest reaches of the Labyrinth of Drakes, where the chance action of a dragon set the stage for her greatest achievement yet.

Javelin Rain by Myke Cole (Ace, Mass Market Paperback 03/29/2016) – I’ve been a fan of Myke’s writing since reading his debut, novels Control Point. Set in the same milieu, this one follows directly on from Gemini Cell.

The fast-paced, adrenaline-filled sequel to Gemini Cell, set in the same magical and militaristic world of the acclaimed Shadow Ops series.

Javelin: A code denoting the loss of a national security asset with strategic impact.

Rain: A code indicating a crisis of existential proportions.

Javelin Rain incidents must be resolved immediately, by any and all means necessary, no matter what the cost...

Being a US Navy SEAL was Jim Schweitzer’s life right up until the day he was killed. Now, his escape from the government who raised him from the dead has been coded "Javelin Rain." Schweitzer and his family are on the run from his former unit, the Gemini Cell, and while he may be immortal, his wife and son are not.

Jim must use all of his strength to keep his family safe, while convincing his wife he’s still the same man she once loved. But what his former allies have planned to bring him down could mean disaster not only for Jim and his family, but for the entire nation...

League of Dragons (The Final Temeraire novel) by Naomi Novik (Del Rey 06/14/2016) – Novik brings her popular saga of Dragons in Napoleanic times to a close.

With the acclaimed Temeraire novels, New York Times bestselling author Naomi Novik has created a fantasy series like no other, combining the high-flying appeal of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern saga and the swashbuckling derring-do of Patrick O’Brian’s historical seafaring adventures. Now, with League of Dragons, Novik brings the imaginative tour de force that has captivated millions to an unforgettable finish.

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia has been roundly thwarted. But even as Capt. William Laurence and the dragon Temeraire pursue the retreating enemy through an unforgiving winter, Napoleon is raising a new force, and he’ll soon have enough men and dragons to resume the offensive. While the emperor regroups, the allies have an opportunity to strike first and defeat him once and for all—if internal struggles and petty squabbles don’t tear them apart.

Aware of his weakened position, Napoleon has promised the dragons of every country—and the ferals, loyal only to themselves—vast new rights and powers if they fight under his banner. It is an offer eagerly embraced from Asia to Africa—and even by England, whose dragons have long rankled at their disrespectful treatment.

But Laurence and his faithful dragon soon discover that the wily Napoleon has one more gambit at the ready—one that that may win him the war, and the world.

The House of Daniel by Harry Turtledove (Tor Hardcover 05/31/2016) – This might be the 43rd Turtledove book I’ve received, between ARCs, finished copies, and reprints. Though still an alternate history, this one seems to be different than many of his alternate views of wars past.

A picaresque tale of minor league baseball—in an alternate Great Depression America full of wild magic.

Since the Big Bubble popped in 1929, life in the United States hasn’t been the same. Hotshot wizards will tell you nothing’s really changed, but then again, hotshot wizards aren’t looking for honest work in Enid, Oklahoma. No paying jobs at the mill, because zombies will work for nothing. The diner on Main Street is seeing hard times as well, because a lot fewer folks can afford to fly carpets in from miles away.

Jack Spivey’s just another down-and-out trying to stay alive, doing a little of this and a little of that. Sometimes that means making a few bucks playing ball with the Enid Eagles, against teams from as many as two counties away. And sometimes it means roughing up rival thugs for Big Stu, the guy who calls the shots in Enid.

But one day Jack knocks on the door of the person he’s supposed to “deal with”—and realizes that he’s not going to do any such thing to the young lady who answers. This means he needs to get out of the reach of Big Stu, who didn’t get to where he is by letting defiance go unpunished.

Then the House of Daniel comes to town—a brash band of barnstormers who’ll take on any team, and whose antics never fail to entertain. Against the odds Jack secures a berth with them. Now they’re off to tour an America that’s as shot through with magic as it is dead broke. Jack will never be the same—nor will baseball.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-03-19)

Two of these, at least, I know I will be reading.

The Spider’s War (The Dagger and the Coin #5) by Daniel Abraham (Orbit Trade Paperback 03/08/2016) – The final novel in this fantastic series. I almost don’t want to read it because that means it will be over.

The epic conclusion to The Dagger and The Coin series, perfect for fans of George R.R. Martin.


Lord Regent Geder Palliako's great war has spilled across the world, nation after nation falling before the ancient priesthood and weapon of dragons. But even as conquest follows conquest, the final victory retreats before him like a mirage. Schism and revolt begin to erode the foundations of the empire, and the great conquest threatens to collapse into a permanent conflict of all against all.

In Carse, with armies on all borders, Cithrin bel Sarcour, Marcus Wester, and Clara Kalliam are faced with the impossible task of bringing a lasting peace to the world. Their tools: traitors high in the imperial army, the last survivor of the dragon empire, and a financial scheme that is either a revolution or the greatest fraud in the history of the world.

The Devourers by Indra Das (Del Rey Hardcover 07/12/2016) – Das’s debut which is getting a nice push. The ARC looks like a finished copy and is adorned with a very pretty cover. .

"I'm a werewolf," he says. Smoke flares out of his mouth in curls that wreath his long black hair, giving him silver-blue locks for a passing second. I don't see him throw away the match, but his foot moves to rub it into the soil.

In present-day Kolkata, college professor Alok Mukherjee meets a man who claims to be a werewolf. Alone and estranged after a divorce, Alok is drawn to the stranger's hypnotic allure, unable to tell delusion from truth, trickery from magic. In a dusty caravanserai in seventeenth-century Mumtazabad, Cyrah, a young wanderer, meets a man who says he is a monster. Their encounter fills her with revulsion and dread, yet changes her forever.

Beginning in Mughal India by the foot of the Taj Mahal and culminating in the lush, dangerous forests of the Sunderbans in twenty first century India, The Devourers is a story about shapeshifters, men with second selves who prey on humans. But it is also about what it means to be human and of the transformative powers of love. Utterly gripping and wholly original, it reinvents the modern fantasy novel for India, imbuing it with depth, emotion and richness.

On a cool evening in Kolkata, India, beneath a full moon, as the whirling rhythms of traveling musicians fill the night, college professor Alok encounters a mysterious stranger with a bizarre confession and an extraordinary story. Tantalized by the man’s unfinished tale, Alok will do anything to hear its completion. So Alok agrees, at the stranger’s behest, to transcribe a collection of battered notebooks, weathered parchments, and once-living skins.

From these documents spills the chronicle of a race of people at once more than human yet kin to beasts, ruled by instincts and desires blood-deep and ages-old. The tale features a rough wanderer in seventeenth-century Mughal India who finds himself irrevocably drawn to a defiant woman—and destined to be torn asunder by two clashing worlds. With every passing chapter of beauty and brutality, Alok’s interest in the stranger grows and evolves into something darker and more urgent.

Shifting dreamlike between present and past with intoxicating language, visceral action, compelling characters, and stark emotion, The Devourers offers a reading experience quite unlike any other novel.

World of Warcraft: Illidan (Tyrion and Teclis #1) by William King (Del Rey Hardcover 04/12/2016) – William King is well-experienced in the world of Media Tie-ins, having penned numerous Warhammer fantasy novels. This one is obviously timed in preparation for the new Warcraft movie.

Behind the legend stands an individual hungry for justice and vengeance—as the adventure, intrigue, and heroism of World of Warcraft rise to a new level.

You are not prepared.

Illidan Stormrage is one of the most powerful beings ever to walk the lands of Azeroth. He is also one of the least understood. Behind his legend, beneath his enigmatic mission, lies a brilliant mind whose machinations are comprehended by few—and trusted by even fewer. Illidan’s righteous reign of justice and vengeance has begun.

Long ago, the night elf sorcerer Illidan infiltrated the demonic Burning Legion to ward off its invasion of Azeroth. Instead of hailing him as a hero, his own kind branded him the Betrayer, questioning his intentions after he appeared to aid the demon lords. For ten thousand years, he languished in prison—vilified, isolated, but never forgetting his purpose.

Now the Legion has returned, and there is only one champion who can truly stand against it. Released from his bonds, Illidan prepares for the final confrontation in the alien realm of Outland, gathering an army of grotesque fel orcs, serpentine naga, cunning blood elves, and twisted demon hunters to his side. He alone knows what deeply hidden motives guide his hand; he alone understands the price that must be paid to defeat the enemies of creation. Yet as before, he is assailed by those who see his schemes as a cynical quest for power, including the night elf Maiev Shadowsong, his former jailor. Warden Shadowsong and her Watchers have pursued the Betrayer to Outland to exact retribution for his crimes, and she will not rest until Illidan is in her custody . . . or in his grave.

Alight (Generations Trilogy #2) by Scott Sigler (Del Rey Hardcover 04/05/2016) – I listened to Scott’s first podcast two novel Infected and Contagious and loved Alive when I read it last year. This is the hardcover/finished version of the ARC I received a couple of weeks ago.
In Alive, Scott Sigler introduced readers to an unforgettable young heroine and a mysterious new world reminiscent of those of The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Red Rising. Now he expands his singular vision in the next thrilling novel of this powerful sci-fi adventure series.

“If it’s war they want, they messed with the wrong girl.”

M. Savage—or Em, as she is called—has made a bewildering and ominous discovery. She and the other young people she was chosen to lead awoke in strange coffins with no memory of their names or their pasts. They faced an empty, unknown place of twisting tunnels and human bones. With only one another to depend on, they searched for answers and found the truth about their terrifying fate. Confronted by a monstrous enemy, they vowed never to surrender—and, by any means, to survive.

The planet Omeyocan may be the sanctuary Em and her comrades seek. But the planet for which they were created turns out not to be a pristine, virgin world. Vestiges of a lost civilization testify to a horrifying past that may yet repeat itself. And when a new enemy creeps from the jungle shadows, Em and her young refugees learn there’s nowhere left to run. They face a simple choice: fight or die.

In the midst of this desperate struggle, their unity is compromised from within—and a dangerous zealot devoted to a bloodthirsty god moves to usurp Em’s command, threatening to lead them all down a path to violent doom.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-03-12)

It is Sunday, so that means I post the books I received the weeks before

Shattered Spear (The Lost Stars #4) by Jack Campbell (Ace Hardcover 05/03/2016) – Fourth installment of the side-quel(?) parallel series to Campbell’s extremely popular The Lost Fleet series. I’ve read a handful of the books in the series and enjoyed them, but the series has sort of fallen to the back burner.

The New York Times bestselling author of The Lost Fleet returns to the “strong saga”* of a rebellion against a totalitarian regime and the determination of two people to create a better future in the farthest reaches of the colonized galaxy…

The Syndicate Worlds continue to splinter as more star systems pledge allegiance to President Gwen Iceni, General Artur Drakon, and the new government they’re establishing at Midway. But the toxic legacy of Syndicate rule continues to undermine their efforts as the rebels encounter difficulty trusting one another and believing their new leaders’ promises of freedom from tyranny.

Before Iceni and Drakon can put their house in order, they must deal with an even greater threat. An enigma warship has appeared and vanished near a Syndic colony. If the aliens are capable of jumping into other human-occupied star systems, then billions of people could be vulnerable to a hostile invasion fleet anywhere they choose to strike.

But an even greater vulnerability lies with Iceni and Drakon, as a once-trusted adviser-turned-saboteur plans revenge…

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch (Crown Hardcover 08/02/2016) – New SF Thriller from Crouch, whose popular Wayward Pines trilogy was adapted for television in Summer 2015. The marketing material sent with this book (which came in a big, black bubble envelope) indicates this is the book Crouch has been working his life to finish.

“Are you happy with your life?”

Those are the last words Jason Dessen hears before the masked abductor knocks him unconscious.

Before he awakens to find himself strapped to a gurney, surrounded by strangers in hazmat suits.

Before a man Jason’s never met smiles down at him and says, “Welcome back, my friend.”

In this world he’s woken up to, Jason’s life is not the one he knows. His wife is not his wife. His son was never born. And Jason is not an ordinary college physics professor, but a celebrated genius who has achieved something remarkable. Something impossible.

Is it this world or the other that’s the dream? And even if the home he remembers is real, how can Jason possibly make it back to the family he loves? The answers lie in a journey more wondrous and horrifying than anything he could’ve imagined—one that will force him to confront the darkest parts of himself even as he battles a terrifying, seemingly unbeatable foe.

From the author of the bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy, Dark Matter is a brilliantly plotted tale that is at once sweeping and intimate, mind-bendingly strange and profoundly human—a relentlessly surprising science-fiction thriller about choices, paths not taken, and how far we’ll go to claim the lives we dream of.

Children of the Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay (New American Library, Hardcover 05/10/2016) – A new novel from Guy Gavriel Kay is always cause for celebration. I’m a few novels behind, but I’ve never been disappointed by anything he’s written.

The bestselling author of the groundbreaking novels Under Heaven and River of Stars, Guy Gavriel Kay is back with a new book, set in a world inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe. Against this tumultuous backdrop the lives of men and women unfold on the borderlands—where empires and faiths collide.

From the small coastal town of Senjan, notorious for its pirates, a young woman sets out to find vengeance for her lost family. That same spring, from the wealthy city-state of Seressa, famous for its canals and lagoon, come two very different people: a young artist traveling to the dangerous east to paint the grand khalif at his request—and possibly to do more—and a fiercely intelligent, angry woman, posing as a doctor’s wife, but sent by Seressa as a spy.

The trading ship that carries them is commanded by the accomplished younger son of a merchant family, ambivalent about the life he’s been born to live. And farther east a boy trains to become a soldier in the elite infantry of the khalif—to win glory in the war everyone knows is coming.

As these lives entwine, their fates—and those of many others—will hang in the balance, when the khalif sends out his massive army to take the great fortress that is the gateway to the western world...

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Books in the Mail (W/E 2016-03-05)

Just two new books this week, both from the fine folks who occupy the Flatiron Building, plus the final copy of a book which I read and the review of which will appear next week

The Cold Between (Central Corps #1) by Elizabeth Bonesteel (HarperVoyager Trade Paperback 03/08/2015) – Bonesteel’s debut novel looks like a fun mix of noir and space opera.

Deep in the stars, a young officer and her lover are plunged into a murder mystery and a deadly conspiracy in this first entry in a stellar military science-fiction series in the tradition of Lois McMaster Bujold.

When her crewmate, Danny, is murdered on the colony of Volhynia, Central Corps chief engineer, Commander Elena Shaw, is shocked to learn the main suspect is her lover, Treiko Zajec. She knows Trey is innocent—he was with her when Danny was killed. So who is the real killer and why are the cops framing an innocent man?

Retracing Danny’s last hours, they discover that his death may be tied to a mystery from the past: the explosion of a Central Corps starship at a wormhole near Volhynia. For twenty-five years, the Central Gov has been lying about the tragedy, even willing to go to war with the outlaw PSI to protect their secrets.

With the authorities closing in, Elena and Trey head to the wormhole, certain they’ll find answers on the other side. But the truth that awaits them is far more terrifying than they ever imagined . . . a conspiracy deep within Central Gov that threatens all of human civilization throughout the inhabited reaches of the galaxy—and beyond.

Transgalactic by James Gunn (Tor Trade Paperback 03/22/2016) – Sequel to Gunn’s Transcendental which published in 2014. I haven't read (nor did I receive a copy) of that one, but it seems to have been fairly well-received. 

Transgalactic: the latest novel in Hugo Award Winner James Gunn's SF Grandmaster Career!

When Riley and Asha finally reached the planet Terminal and found the Transcendental Machine, a matter transmission device built by an ancient race, they chose to be "translated." Now in possession of intellectual and physical powers that set them above human limitations, the machine has transported them to two, separate, unknown planets among a possibility of billions.

Riley and Asha know that together they can change the galaxy, so they attempt to do the impossible--find each other.

Liar’s Bargain (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Tim Pratt (Paizo Trade Paperback 06/15/2016) – Pratt is turning into perhaps the most dependable writer in the stable of Pathfinder authors, he seems to deliver one novel per year.

When caught stealing in the crusader nation of Lastwall, veteran con man Rodrick and his talking sword Hrym expect to weasel or fight their way out of punishment. Instead, they find themselves ensnared by powerful magic, and given a choice: serve the cause of justice as part of a covert team of similarly bound villains, or die horribly. Together with their criminal cohorts, Rodrick and Hrym settle in to their new job of defending the innocent, only to discover that being a secret government operative is even more dangerous than a life of crime.
From Hugo Award winner Tim Pratt comes a tale of reluctant heroes and plausible deniability, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

February 2016 Reading: Elliott, Schwab, Gannon, Sutter, Gaiman, & Akers

February was a short month, but longer than usual as it was a Leap Year (yay!) and like every month for the past forever, I read a handful of books. I'll cover the books I didn't review in more detail than those I did.  I’ve been much more inclined to pick off books from the older slopes of Mount Toberead as of late than the Newer Releases. 

That said I did post a couple of book reviews in February, the first of which was for Tim Akers’s The Pagan Night, posted to SF Signal at the beginning of February. I thought this one had some good ideas, but ultimately was weighed down by an overly bulky middle and a muddling of secondary characters. Loved the monsters Tim created for this Historical Epic Fantasy.

From there I jumped into Trial by Fire the second installment in Charles Gannon’s Terran Empire series. This is a fun space opera saga that is leaning towards Military Science Fiction as the series progresses. 

Fun stuff, great aliens and Gannon mixes traditional SF with modern sensibilities quite nicely. His characters feel real, for the most part, and behave in a plausible fashion in the galactic society he’s constructed for this series.

 My only real complaint with this one is that the protagonist, Caine Riordan, seems to not feature in the book quite as prominently as he did in Fire with Fire. This book was sitting on Mount Toberead for quite a while, I picked up at the Baen Books booth back at New York Comic Con in October 2014.

I listened to two audio books in February, one of which was James L. Sutter’s Akers’s Death’s Heritic which I thoroughly enjoyed. More about that one at the link to my review, but I’ll again stress that an excellent story and a superb narrator make for a great story experience.

That story + narrator combination was full effect in V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic, the audio book which kept my ear-holes happy for the early part of February. A couple of years ago, I read Schwab’s Vicious which is one of the best superhero (supervillain) prose stories I’ve ever read. For A Darker Shade of Magic, Schwab turns her pen to a mix of magic and parallel worlds. As a long time comic book reader, I love parallel world stories and what Schwab with the concept is fantastic. Schwab’s concept of a magical multiverse is, if not exactly a new concept, but one that feels very fresh in how magic exists in each of the parallel worlds.

The characters were very well drawn, Kell as a pressured and roguish magician who can travel between worlds. Delilah (Lila) Bard is his co-protagonist, well initially she felt like a sidekick, but grew as the story grow. I also was slightly annoyed by her at first, but Schwab did a wonderful job of endearing the character to me by the end of the novel.

Steven Crossley is the narrator for this audio version and he’s got a very pleasant style. His narration, combined with Schwab’s at times poetic and lyrical storytelling, made me feel as if I was listening to a Dr. Seuss story. This is not a bad thing.

Continuing with my re-read and catch-up of Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars series, I stormed through Prince of Dogs. Elliott does such great things with the characters in this one, introducing a couple of new players and continuing a Robin Hobb-esque method of torturing her characters. I’m glad I still have five more books to read in this series because this is such a fun, comfortable, and enjoyable series that hits every one of my check-boxes for epic fantasy. I’m still debating if I’m going to do a full write-up of each book in the series.

Yes, that is my copy signed
I loved the new character of Rosvita, especially her interactions with Liath and how she comes to an understanding of the events unfolding around her. I hope Rosvita sticks around and becomes more involved because she feels like an important person. Of course, to counter her wonderful appearance is the return of a character from King’s Dragon who was thought to be gone.

Next up was an impressive debut novel, Katherine Bonesteel’s The Cold Between. I’ll be posting my review of this one on the day it publishes (March 8), but I’ll just say right now that I was impressed with the book and Bonesteel’s novel.

Lastly, I finished off volume three of The Annotated Sandman by Gaiman and compiled by Leslie Klinger. The highlight of the volume was the Brief Lives storyline which recounts Dream, at the urging and insistence of sister Delirium, searching for their brother Brian Blessed...er Destruction who quite his position among the Endless. One of the reasons Brief Lives was so great was the art of Jill Thompson and Vince Locke.  Wonderful art that complemented an excellent story.