Friday, January 30, 2015

Forthcoming: February Releases I'm Looking Forward To

Oh my god February, you are a great gray beast indeed!
         Seven more books on my must-read list! I'm not even caught up on January's books yet!
         Seriously though, these are some great books, and I'm very excited about them. Veronica Schwab's debut novel 'Vicious', got great reviews, and the blurb for this one has me very excited! New short fiction collections from Gaiman and Elliott, the finale of Brian McClellan's flintlock trilogy, and a new novel from the author of the 'Somnambulist'.
          What are you looking forward to in February? Anything that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Bear, Elizabeth • Karen Memory        02/03
Gaiman, Neil • Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Discoveries   02/03
Barnes, Jonathan • Cannonbridge                                            02/10
Elliott, Kate • The Very Best of Kate Elliott 02/10
McClellan, Brian • The Autumn Republic                             02/10
Abercrombie, Joe • Half the World 02/17
Schwab, VE • A Darker Shade of Magic                                02/24

Other Releases:
Adams, John Joseph, ed. • Wastelands II                                02/10
Asher, Neal • Dark Intelligence                                  02/03
Elliott, Will • Shadow                                                              02/24
Enge, James • The Wide World's End                                     02/17
Lethem, Jonathan • Lucky Alan and Other Stories                  02/24
Link, Kelly • Get in Trouble                                                    02/03
McAuley, Paul • Something Coming Through                        02/19
VanderMeer, Ann, & Jeff VanderMeer, eds. • Sisters of the Revolution    02/01

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What's New In My Reading Stack This Week 01/27/2015

It looks like it's going to be a quiet week, with just a couple of books out that I'm super excited about. Last year's 'California Bones' was a great read, and I'm really looking forward to the sequel. And I'm always excited for another book in Cherie Priest's Clockwork Century, the milieu of her hugely popular 'Boneshaker'.

Van Eekhout, Greg • Pacific Fire                                                         01/27
(Sequel to 'California Bones')
      Okay, yeah, I’m a golem created from the substance of his own magic by the late Hierarch of Southern California. With a lot of work, I might be able to wield magic myself. I kind of doubt it, though. Not like Daniel Blackland can.
       Daniel’s the reason the Hierarch’s gone and I’m still alive. He’s also the reason I’ve lived my entire life on the run. Ten years of never, ever going back to Los Angeles. Daniel’s determined to protect me. To teach me.
But it gets old. I’ve got nobody but Daniel. I’ll never do anything normal. Like attend school. Or date a girl.
      Now it’s worse. Because things are happening back in LA. Very bad people are building a Pacific firedrake, a kind of ultimate weapon of mass magical destruction.  Daniel seemed to think only he could stop them. Now Daniel’s been hurt. I managed to get us to the place run by the Emmas. (Many of them. All named Emma. It’s a long story.) They seem to be healing him, but he isn’t going anyplace soon.
       Do I even have a reason for existing, if it isn’t to prevent this firedrake from happening? I’m good at escaping from things. Now I’ve escaped from Daniel and the Emmas, and I’m on my way to LA.
       This may be the worst idea I ever had.

Priest, Cherie • Jacaranda                                                       01/27
(A novel of the Clockwork Century)
The Ranger
On the island of Galveston, off the coast of southeast Texas, lies a hotel called the Jacaranda. In its single year of operation, two dozen people have died there. The locals say it’s cursed. The Rangers say that’s nonsense, but they know a man who might be willing to investigate. Horatio Korman crosses the water from the mainland, and hopes for the best.
The Nun
But the bodies pile up, and a hurricane is brewing up fast. One of the Jacaranda’s guests sees time running out, so she seeks an authority of a different sort: a priest from El Huizache who is good at solving problems and keeping secrets. Eileen Callahan has a problem to solve, and a secret to keep. She crosses her fingers, and sends a message that could save them all.
The Padre
Juan Miguel Quintero Rios broke a promise to the Virgin, and so he was punished…but his intentions were pure, so he was also blessed. Now he walks the southwest with second sight and a tattoo across his back: Deo, non Fortuna—By God, not chance. The former gunslinger crosses himself, and makes for the Jacaranda Hotel.

Also out this week:
Cole, Myke • Gemini Cell                                                       01/27

Monday, January 26, 2015

Forgotten Gems: 'The White Tribunal' by Paula Volsky

I never know where to begin when it comes to recommending Paula Volsky, I usually select based on who I'm recommending to, which obviously doesn't work so well here. I first enountered Volsky in the ya section, and enjoyed but didn't love her Sorcerers Legacy trilogy, and went on to read and enjoy the rest of her juvenalia. But then it was like she had vanished. In 1992 she retuned, with a breathtaking and wonderful novel of revolution called 'Illusion'.
Illusion was fantastic! It was a gorgeously realized world, and fully drawn characters. The magic's stengths and weaknesses inform the shape of the story, and is used in the most limited of fashions. It's extroidinary.
The follow-up, 'The Wolf of Winter' set in the same world, but in a different country, with a very different traditional magic, is a glory as well. And has one of my favorite endings ever.
The third book, 'The Gates of Twilight' is actually my least favorite of her adult novels. There is something, I've never managed to put my finger on what, that just doesn't quite draw me in. It's not a bad book, and this isn't a universal opinion, but it's my opinion.
'The White Tribunal' is her fourth adult book, and the one I picked as the most universally appealing. It has a little of everything, deception, betrayal, and just a little bit of romance. But underneath, it deals with some very real issues of the costs of revenge, and its unltimate worth. I highly recommend you check it out!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Signing Recap: Brandon Sanderson in Beaverton and San Francisco

Today I FINALLY have my recap of the Brandon Sanderson event at Powells Cedar Hills for you, plus some notes from Tom Smith about the event in San Francisco, which is awesome (Everyone please say thank you Tom).
I'd apologize, but I'm sort of the emperor of this little page, and royalty does NOT apologize.

"I do what I do because it's awesome."
I should say before I start, that I enjoy listening to Brandon speak, and over the last almost ten years, I have seen him at, I think, every Portland event he has done, barring one, and each event he is more interesting. This time he gave a great short talk about how we view the arts. What stuck with me was an analogy he made about the arts, if someone goes out and plays a game of basketball on Saturday afternoon, we don't ask them when they're going to join the NBA, so why do we ask people when they say their writing a book when it's going to be published.
He then turned to add a new Sanderson's Law (if you haven't read 'Sanderson's Laws of Writing' you can find it here:  ) the Zeroth Law:
"Always err on the side that's awesome."
He then read a short selection of a currently unpublished novella about a most unusual King of the World, which was lightweight but fun, and was clearly another opportunity for Sanderson to play with voice and setting, which is one of the things I really enjoy about his novellas.
When it came to the Q and A section, he answered some great questions, including one about how much of the final Wheel of Time books were Robert Jordan and how much were Brandon. As it turns out, RJ had left about 100 pages of prose, which was mostly used for the prologues to the three books, and the epilogue. There was about another 100 pages of notes covering the story lines for certain characters, he revealed that while there was a great deal about Egwene, but only one sentence about Perrin.
When asked about which world he'd want to find himself in, he said that he really loves the Internet, so he'd likely pick Legion, though he'd love to have allomancy.
Moving onto the world of The Stormlight Archives, he says that yes, that is definitely Nightblood in a certain scene.During the signing, I asked him if the insanity of the Heralds was linked to their failure to uphold the Oathpact, or was connected to the Stormfather's gradual diminishing, but he RAFO'd me while implying that it was something else altogether, and that a careful reading of the book might give some hints as to what is causing their insanity.
  Another question I happened to overhear related to Rithmatist 2, which Brandon has said is delayed because book two will take place in that world's version of South America, and the research is taking him longer than he originally thought.
To wrap up, there was some news about film rights, which have sold recently for Steelheart, and he reiterated that both Mistborn and Emperors Soul have sold.
And that's the wrap-up for the Beaverton Event!

Tom sent me the following from the San Francisco event:

       I had an opportunity to go see Brandon Sanderson speak tonight.  As always, he was highly entertaining and engaging.  I say "as always" because I have seen him in the bay area here 3 times in the last 18 months.  That isn't boasting, it's astonishment at how much he tours.  I don't know how he gets any writing done honestly, he must have enough frequent flyer miles to go to Mars by now.
Sanderson's creative world-building, innovative magic systems and prolific book publishing have endeared him to many fans, but on top of all that, what keeps me going back to signings (without books in hand even) is how personable he is.  The man is genuine and knows how to speak to an audience.  In a world that is rapidly going to digital from brick and mortar, he still packs the house.
My only surprise from the bay area signing is that even though he was here about a year ago with over a hundred people, they crammed him into a tiny corner of the children's section and put out less than 20 chairs.  Huh?  I won't say where it was, but it sounds like Shmarnes and Schmoble....  ;)
He began with a 10 minute mini-speech on the art of creation and then rolled into Q and A.  Q and A is always entertaining with Sanderson because he usually has some sort of collector card which he gives to people who ask questions.  Usually whizzing it at them a la ninja shuriken style with hilarious, but less than ninja-like results.  It's ok, he's not paid for his ninja skills. He's paid to entertain - and he delivers.  My favorite question was concerning advice  for future writers.  His response was that you should approach writing just like anything else you want to do well - practice and practice some more.  He even compared his first few books where he was still drastically improving his craft to his more polished works now.
       A 15 minute reading follows the Q and A, usually from something new that he's working on.              Another perk for going to see him in person.  This time it was from an up and coming novella.  From there it's onto the signing.
       Brandon is a gracious host and will sign almost everything of his.  He will personalize up to 3 books and sign all the rest of his books (or anthologies in which he has a story) and even take pictures with you. He especially dotes on his cosplayers which he seems to have many of for someone who is primarily a novelist.
        My involvement with the writing community as both a beta and first reader is typically to objectively read and review, then criticize.  With that in mind, I would love to be able to find some fault with Sanderson or his work, but so far I have nothing - I love his work.  He's a way solid writer and I have yet to even find a grammatical error in his books and that's usually my forte.  I think of him as on par with Terry Brooks - but for this generation.  If you haven't read anything from the MIstborn, Stormlight Archive or Reckoners' series yet, you are seriously missing out.

Tom Smith
1st Reader
Grimdark Magazine

(Special thanks to my friend Kim for letting me steal her photo.)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Cover Obsession: Bradley Beaulieu's 'Twelve Kings of Sharakhai'

Brad Beaulieu, in his short careeer, has had some amazing cover art.
Which is fitting, as he's written some great books. But Adam Paquette, who did the cover for Brad's debut novel, "The Winds of Khalakovo” has outdone himself with the cover for Brad's first novel with his new publisher "Twelve Kings in Sharakhai", forthcoming in September from DAW.
Aiden Moher at A Dribble of Ink revealed the cover yesterday, and I've been in love with it every since.
I've been deeply impatient to read this book, as the premise and the tidbit I've heard were amazing. This is high on my list of books I'm most looking forward to this year, and September cannot arrive fast enough!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What's New In My Reading Stack This Week 01/20/2015

Would you believe nothing? A chance to get caught up on some of the great books that came out earlier this month!  But I won't leave you with nothing to read, here are a couple of great books that you may have missed when they first came out.
I know I still haven't posted my wrap-up of the Brandon Sanderson signing, but there were some things that I am still trying to figure out how to address. So keep your eyes open, it's coming this week.

The Book of Knights by Yves Menard
(Stand alone)
Young Adelrune is a likable little boy oppressed by his strict stepparents, who are in turn under the thumb of a narrow and harsh religious rule. Finding privacy in his step parents' attic before he has even learned to read, Adelrune discovers a dusty copy of The Book of Knights. The pictures enchant him and obsess him to the point where he is motivated to learn to read, so that he can have access to the words of this secret treasure as well. The years of his young childhood are made bearable by the ideas and images of the book, and he resolves to run away and become a knight - a story that will enchant readers the way Adelrune himself was charmed and entertained.

The Ring of Alaire by Susan Dexter
(Book one of The Winter King's War)

Tristan is a teenaged wizard with dark hair and green eyes--but he’s no Harry Potter. No cozy boarding school for Tristan either--he’s been home-schooled by the old wizard who discovered him as an abandoned infant under an apple tree on Midwinter’s Night. There’s no one to tell Tristan who he is or what abilities may be his. If not for Thomas, his smart-ass cat familiar, he’d be utterly lost.
One ordinary afternoon, Tristan returns home to find that his master has vanished, leaving his unprepared apprentice to take up the entwined quests for the legendary warhorse Valadan and the lost princess Allaire of the Nine Rings. He’d be no one’s first choice, but Tristan’s the only one left to assemble the essentials of the quest--a wizard, the Warhorse, the heir to Calandra’s throne--infiltrate Nimir’s fortress of Darkenkeep, and steal Allaire from beneath the Winter King’s icicled nose. In their hundreds, the other wizards have tried--and died.
Tristan’s training is exemplary. His will is indomitable. His confidence, however, is nonexistent, and his magic is flawed and unreliable. The fate of his world depends on him--whether he thinks himself equal to the task or not.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Weekly Wrap-up: Gaiman, Game of Thrones, Welcome to Nightvale, and more!

Every week things happen that I don't have time to comment on, make fun of, or say 'fuck it all' to. I've decided this is what Saturday is for, this dustbin of crap that I didn't have time to share with you all week long.
Buzzfeed, one of the clickbaitiest of clickbate sites posed a link to Neil Gaiman's Tumblr(which is an amazing place to lose a few hours anyway), where Gaiman answers the eternal question of joseph-the-mop: 

"I have been trying to write for a while now. I have all these amazing ideas, but its really hard getting my thoughts onto paper. Thus, my ideas never really come to fruition. Do you have any advice?"
Gaiman nails his answer of course. Cause, Gaiman. And sarcasm.

Oh boy! Game of Thrones is coming to theatres!
Seriously, my little fanboy heart can barely wait to see Jon Snow in the pool with Ygritte... wait. It's just the final two episodes? Well, that's depressing. But still, Jon Snow, Wheee! It looks like it arrives in 200 IMAX theatres across America on January 29th for one week. I'm sure you know where to find me on each of those nights right? Ass in the chair of my local IMAX theatre. I guess I should let me boss know I'm busy that week. Do you think she'll mind? I can just show her a photo of Jon Snow, and I'm sure she'll understand.
Why has HBO missed the obvious cash stream of playing each episode at my local theatre, cause I'd be there every week. Make it so HBO, make it so!

If you listen to podcasts at all, you likely already listen to 'Welcome to Nightvale' which is the community radio of a desert town that's a mix of Innsmouth and the X-Files. If you don't listen to it, you should definitely give it a try, it's great fun (this is where I should thank my roommate Ben, who introduced me to it thanks Ben, now get back to reading 'The Hedge Knight'!).
Anyway, Night Vale will be going on tour this spring (including one hopes, Carlos and his perfect hair), from March 26th to May 20th, all across the US, including April 23rd in Portland, where I will be.

         This week, Amazon's series adaptation of Phillip K Dick's 'Man in the High Castle' went live on Amazon Prime, and early reviews are really positive. I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but below is the synopsis if you've never read the book:
      'Based on Philip K. Dick's Hugo Award-winning 1962 alternative history novel, one-hour drama pilot THE MAN IN THE HIGHCASTLE explores what would have happened if the Allied Powers had lost World War II, debuting January 15, 2015 on Amazon Prime Instant Video in the U.S., U.K. and Germany. Some 17 years after that loss, the United States and much of the world has now been split between Japan and Germany, the dominating global powers. As tension mounts between the two hegemonic states, a resistance builds as the United States citizens rise against the oppressive regimes.

While Germany controls much of the East Coast and Japan controls the West Coast, the Rocky Mountains have become a "neutral zone" — and ground zero for a rebellion, led by a mysterious figure known only as "the Man in the High Castle." As people struggle with freedom, fear, equality, diversity and ideology, some accept their lives, but others question the authenticity of their history and the government's information. Among them are heroes, leaders, spies, pacifists, tyrants, rebels, enablers and sympathizers.'

         And finally, we have Harry Potter. The Boy Who Lived just keeps on going.
         Coming this October 6th, worldwide, will arrive a whole new format for the books. A full color illustrated edition, with a ribbon marker and illustrated endpapers. The first images were released this week from Scholastic, and they look awesome! Except poor Ron looks a little blank-faced, but well, Ron.
          The other books will also be lavishly illustrated and released on a one per year basis.

         I'll be back next week, with a whole new batch of new books and snark. Let me know what you're looking forward to!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Sequel to Christopher Moore's 'A Dirty Job' coming in 2015, or, This job will be the Death of me

       Everyone has a favorite Christopher Moore novel. For some, it's 'Lamb', for others it's 'Fool', personally, I'm in the vampire camp, and love 'Bloodsucking Fiends' the best. But no matter what their favorite book is, almost everyone says, the same thing as their follow-up, 'oh, but I also love 'A Dirty Job'. 
       There's something wonderful about Charlie, that everyone I know just loves. He's endearing, and slightly unhinged, and he's a delightful father to the world's most remarkable daughter. I hope she grows up to be like Susan Sto Helit for America (and really, in her off-time from playing Lady Mary on Downton Abbey, can Michelle Dockery please make live action versions of 'Soul Music' and 'Thief of Time' happen already? Cause she nails it as Susan in 'Hogfather'.)

        The last few years, when Christopher Moore has been touring he's talked a bit about how a sequel to 'A Dirty Job' was coming soon, and that time is here: Secondhand Souls will be released August 25, 2015. Though no cover blurb has been announced, fans of the first book should know what to expect. If you haven't read it yet, then now is a great time.Really, go buy it now. 
        There is (previously unrelated to Christopher Moore somehow) a tradition in England of ghost stories at Christmas. Connected no doubt to the Winter Solstice, and the traditional death of the old year. In this tradition, as a Christmas present to his fans, Moore posted a sample on his blog that introduces a character new to us, Mike Sullivan, and the ghosts who visit him to tell him there stories.        Below is a link to Moore's blog, and the story that one of these ghosts shares with Mike, enjoy!

Friends of Dorothy – An excerpt from Secondhand Souls

Mike Sullivan is a painter on the Golden Gate Bridge. From time to time, the ghosts of the bridge visit him. 

©2014 Christopher Moore

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Brandon Sanderson and 'The Book of Endless Pages', or my Throwback Thursday

Tomorrow, Brandon will be back in Portland (well, Beaverton actually, cause you know, suburbs) for his signing tour for 'Firefight'. Brandon is a great guy, and I appreciate his loyalty to the Powells at Cedar Hills, where he had one of his first signings. It was a pretty small group, compared to what he draws now, but he's always remembered that Powells gave the unknown guy a spot to meet his fans and maybe connect with new ones.
In March of last year, Brandon was in Portland at Powells for his tour for 'Words of Radiance', and I was there again. I'm pretty sure I've never missed a Brandon signing at Powells, cause I'm like a lazy stalker, and only show up when he's within a mile of my house and lets me know where he'll be.
A little background about 'Words of Radiance' that you may or may not know. When he was first writing it, it was called 'The Book of Endless Pages' a title that I particularly loved, as it showed a sly reference to the giant tome is was destined to be, plus it's relevance to the world. It was perfect.
Apparently Brandon's editor disagreed, and Brandon had never actually tracked the real-world implication of the name, and so 'The Book of Endless Pages' was discarded into the dustbin of rejected titles, and there it might have stayed forever, if I hadn't decided to do something fun, and not a little bit mad.
I decided to make a 'Book of Endless Pages'.
Not a full printed edition of the book of course, besides being amazingly expensive, there are some legal issues to printing a copy of a copywritten book, even for personal use. Inside it would be 'Words of Radiance', but outside it would be 'The Book of Endless Pages'.
This wasn't my first Sanderson uberfan moment. But it was the first intentional one. I also have a copy of 'The Way of Kings' signed by about 20 of the biggest names in the busines. Yes, the ones you're thinking of have signed it. Except George, he has not. Yet.I blame Brent Weeks, he started it. He usually does.
'The Book of Endless Pages' started, as many of my best ideas do, while mulling over fun things we could do next with my friend Kim. Next, I checked with a friend whos a comic book artist, to help out with a really kickass cover, unfortunately he was extremely busy with work projects at the time, and couldn't help out on the project, but we had a backup, which turned out to be for the good, as the final cover became amazing beyond my expectations.

The Next Step
I had a sort of rough idea of what I was thinking of, I just needed someone who's photoshop skills were superior to my nonexistent ones. So I talked about it with Venetia, assistant to my friend Lee Moyer, who is a brilliant cover artist, who's likely best known for his Charity Pinup Calendars for good causes like Worldbuilders, and Clarion Writer's Workshop (Check out his website here).

Lee was game (and shared his interview with Shawn Speakman about it on his blog here) , and so I went over and he asked me what I had in mind, and he immediately told me my idea wasn't going to sit on a shelf next to Michael Whelan's amazing cover of 'Way of Kings' very well, so we went in a different direction.
I won't tell you much about the process, because it's basically magic. Seriously, he took a handful of disparate things and brought it together, and emerged with Shallan in as alien a landscape as you can imagine, right out of the book. It was amazing.
It's an amazing cover, and with more time, I know Lee would have made it even more amazing. But it wasn't what I had originally had in mind, instead, it was a million times more amazing than anything I could have envisioned. All that remained was to print out the dustjackets, and to show it to Brandon.
The day of the signing, I had terrible anxiety, and I reached out to Shawn Speakman (from Suvudu, The Signed Page, and Terry Brook's webmaster, as well as an excellent author in his own right who has already written about my experience here.) and Peter Orullian (the author of 'The Unremembered') who reassured me that Brandon would love it. I printed off ten copies of the dustjacket, and gave them to my friends that went with me that night, plus ones for Lee, Peter, Shawn, and, of course, Brandon.
Below is the video of the unveiling to Brandon(thanks to the ever-awesome Joel for filming it):

Fast forward to this year:
I'm not going to have any fun things for Brandon this time, though I am mulling over some ideas for when book three of 'The Stormlight Archives' comes out. But it seemed like a good time to stop and look back on an awesome moment in my life, and to share it here with you guys.

I'll have a write-up about the event for you all on Sunday, and I hope you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Joel's Top Ten of 2014, or, How he got the year's best wrong, wrong, wrong, and occasionally right

My buddy Joel started a blog with his top ten list this month (check it out here if you want to see it in it's complete and natural state) and I asked him if I could re-post it, with added commentary, mockery, and snark; cause that's generally what I bring to our friendship.
Joel's opinions and mine aren't always in agreement, but they do overlap when he's right.
Without further ado, I present:

Joel’s 2014 Top Ten Books!
(Is it wrong that I counted them to make sure there were ten? I mean, what kind of friend does that?)

10) Breach Zone by Myke Cole
A wonderful ending to a wildly creative and engrossing series. Myke’s skill as a writer grew with every book, and Breach Zone showed that he’s ready to be a bigtime piece of the fantasy scene

9) The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan
Speaking of authors who got better with their next book – Brian exploded onto the scene last year with the amazing Promise of Blood, the first in his flintlock-fantasy Powder Mage  series. He proved he was definitely not a one-trick pony with this sequel, which expands greatly on the world he created, and shows a lot more writing craft. You can really tell at times that he is a student of Brandon Sanderson, but who can say that’s a bad thing? He brings a bit of edge and grit that Sanderson’s works lack, and it’s refreshing.
(Wait, if he's adding 'the edge and grit' that Sanderson lacks... oh forget it. I'll come back to it later.)

8) The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler
Last year, Django caught me completely by surprise with the brilliant The Thousand Names , the first of his military/flintlock fantasy series. The sophomore effort in this series was far from a letdown – I love Django’s matter-of-fact prose, his unique character voices, his addition of magic, and his continued brilliance in depicting military life.
(I think that Joel is using his thesaurus, because he's used 'engrossing', 'amazing', and 'brilliant' to describe these first three books. I'm not mocking, just noticing. Oh fuck it, you all are smart enough to see I'm mocking him.)

7) Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
I just want to say that Mark Lawrence is arguably my favorite fantasy writer – at the very least in my elite 5. So to put his book at #7 on my list is more indicative of how good of a year it was in SFF than it is a comment on where this book stands. Prince of Fools was a drastic change of pace from his Broken Empire  trilogy. It felt as though Mark listened to all the criticisms he got, and set out to write a book that addressed those “problems”. What you got was a much more free-flowing novel, with a ton of humor, a more innocent and light-hearted protagonist, and a buddy relationship between the protagonist and a viking that was heart-warming, hilarious and an absolute blast to read. Mark is a truly amazing writer who can wear many hats, and he showed it with this novel.
(I can't say anything mocking here or Mark will send his ninjas after me, and I am powerless before Mark's ninjas. Unless they like cookies... do ninjas like cookies?)

6) The Martian by Andy Weir
It honestly took a lot to convince myself not to put this book higher on my list – that’s how much I loved it. I only found it because it was on the Goodreads Sci-fi list, and am I ever glad to have read it. It’s got a lot of hard science in it, but it’s mixed with witty characters and dialogue, butt-clenching dramatic elements, and some really fantastic writing. “MacGyver on Mars” is how I often see it described, and I think it’s an apt description. I simply loved it.
('MacGyver on Mars'? Did the team from SG1 go to Mars? Did I miss that episode? Did he make water and breathable air with a Sharpie, an X-Men figurine, and three matches?)

5) Half a King by Joe Abercrombie
Joe Abercrombie is a god amongst (Amongst? What, are you a Cambridge Lit professor?) men. I mean seriously, my mancrush towards him is indescribable. After this hug, I did not shower or change clothes for several weeks. That said, Joe writes what is referred to as grimdark, which means his books are…let’s just say “adult”. Half a King was marketed and written as a YA novel, which scared me initially – would it neuter Joe’s normal style? Would he have to tone back so much that it would be boring? Luckily, none of my concerns were true. Half A King read like a normal Abercrombie book, except with less cussing and sex. There was violence, very smart dialogue and amazing action. It was an absolute blast to read and became an instant favorite of mine.
(His mancrush on Abercrombie is both adorable and understandable, I mean, That accent! That stubble! Call me Joe!)

4) Veil of the Deserters by Jeff Salyards
One of the bigger surprises in my 2013 reading list was Jeff’s Scourge of the Betrayer, a tight and interesting first-person novel following a scribe who signed on with a group of soldiers to document their exploits. I left that book wishing for so much more –  more history, more characters, more of that brilliant dialogue. Luckily, Jeff came through (and how!) with Veil . I got a copy from him via a contest, and thought it took me a while to read it due to life responsibilities, the time I spent on it was some of the best I’ve spent this year. Veil expands on everything I wanted, and improved in every way over Scourge. I simply loved it.

3) Red Rising by Pierce Brown
Oh man, speaking of mancrushes. Pierce is the kind of guy I’d love to hang out with, but also wouldn’t want to be around for long, as he would make me look so hilariously ugly next to him. I mean, look at the guy. Red Rising grabbed me initially by it’s absolutely breathtaking cover – simplicity in it’s finest, but so eye-grabbing. The combination of aspects from many other successful books, combined with prose that I can only describe as spectacular – it reminded me of a slightly less edgy cadence to Mark Lawrence in his Broken Empire. Short sentences, not many commas, matter-of-fact, but relentless. As I said in my review – the book is a masterpiece to me.
(Don't read too much into Joel's man-crushes on like half of his favorite writers. Really, don't, but I've included a picture of Pierce below, purely so you understand what Joel's talking about, of course. The fact that he's shirtless, well, completely coincidence. And is it mancrushes, or man-crushes?)

2) The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks
There aren’t a lot of authors I can say I’m on a first name basis with, but luckily one of them is utterly brilliant and a NY Times Bestseller. Brent blew me away in 2012 with what was easily my favorite book of the year, the 2nd in the Lightbringer series The Blinding Knife. Brent is another author who gets more creative, more subtle, more artful with each book he writes. The Broken Eye was the pinnacle of this growth – not relying on action, magic, or antics, it holds it’s own with plot turns, dialogue, character conflict, and an incredibly deft hand with subtlety. I finished The Broken Eye and wanted to immediately re-read it, forget it and consume it all over again. Absolutely spectacular.
(Watching Joel meet Brent was simply adorable. I won't mock him for it, cause he's aware of which authors I get all shy and bashful around, and I don't want him to announce them publicly.)

1) Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
I was concerned, for a time, that Brandon had peaked as a writer. The works he had been putting out were lacking in growth, lacking in substantial writing and content. YA novels, short stories, etc. And they seemed to be stagnant. And then, Words of Radiance entered my hands, and all of that was thrown out the window. The growth as a writer he exhibited in this novel is staggering – his worldbuilding is on a herculean scale, the plot windings, the subterfuge and politics, the character growth. As good as he’s ever done with his characterization so far, an area always called out as a weakness. One of the most epic duels/battles I’ve EVER read. This book had it all. It could have been trimmed down a bit, but in the end, I can safely say that it is one of, if not the, best books I’ve ever read.
(Joel and I have been bickering about 'The Book of Endless- errr, 'Words of Radiance' for weeks. I really liked the book, I truly did, while it was his favorite book this year. He has confused my enthusiasm for the book with where it finally placed in my yearly wrap-up.
That said, if McClellan adds the edge and grit that Sanderson lacks, shouldn't he be ranked ABOVE Sanderson? Is consistency too much to ask for, is it?)

Best Of The Rest:

To say I only read ten amazing books this year would be unfair. I really deliberated over which books made it into my top 10, but here are more that I feel deserve mention.

- Sand by Hugh Howey

- City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

- The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley

- Lock In by John Scalzi

- The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The first thing (I mean, besides his love of superlatives) that I noticed about Joel's top ten list is that there isn't a single female writer on it. Not one. This isn't a criticism of Joel's list, because the books on his list (or at least the ones I've read) deserve to be here. 
It's a result of Joel and I having different reading lists, and following different writers. My top ten ended up very mixed because I read a fairly equal number of women and men writers, and my top ten is a fairly even mix of writers. Joel's reading list is more dominated by men, and his top ten list is as well. I have other friends who's lists (if they'd let me post them, would be dominated by women. Your reading list will determine what you loved.
His complete failure to include 'City of Stairs' in his top ten, however, is a sign of his undependable taste. That book was brilliant! 
Starting the 31st of this month, I will be featuring head-to-head reviews with Joel at least once a month, because I enjoy discussing and disagreeing books with him. And sometimes he gets it right and agrees with me.

(Joel Adds: To clarify, I did read 11 books this year by female authors, however only one of them came out in 2014, so only one qualified for my list. As you can see above, it was in my 'honorable mention' - I enjoyed it immensely, but did not find it to be better than other books in the top 10. I do not avoid female authors or enjoy them any less, I just happened to not read many that came out this year)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

What's New In My Reading Stack This Week 01/13/2015

Oh good! A slower week so I can get caught up on some reading from last week!
But what a week! A new Michael Moorcock?!?! I am so excited for this!

Black, Holly • The Darkest Part of the Forest                01/13

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries' seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointy as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does...
As the world turns upside down and a hero is needed to save them all, Hazel tries to remember her years spent pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Michael Moorcock • The Whispering Swarm                01/13
(Book One of a new series!)
The Whispering Swarm is the first in a trilogy that will follow a young man named Michael as he simultaneously discovers himself and a secret realm hidden deep in the heart of London.
Back in the Thirteenth Century, King Henry III granted a plot of land in the heart of London to an order of Friars known as the Carmelites. In return, they entered into a compact with God to guard a holy object. This sanctuary became a refuge for many of ill-repute, as the Friars cast no judgment and took in all who were in search of solace.
Known as Alsatia, it did not suffer like the rest of the world. No Plague affected it. No Great Fire burned it. No Blitz destroyed it. Within its walls lies a secret to existence – one that has been kept since the dawn of time – a bevy of creation, where reality and romance, life and death, imaginary and real share the same world.
One young man's entrance into this realm sends a shockwave of chaos through time. What lies at the center of this sacred realm is threatened for the first time in human existence.

Connolly, Harry • The Way Into Magic                01/13
(Book Two of The Great Way Trilogy)
Having lost the prince to the madness of The Blessing, Tejohn and Cazia are the only people who know of his plan to retrieve a secret spell that might, just might, turn the tide of battle against the grunts. 
But Tejohn’s body is broken, and Cazia has been stripped of her magic. Worse, both are being held captive: Tejohn faces charges of treason in the lands where he was born. On the other side of the continent, Cazia is a prisoner of the Tilkilit queen, a creature with a desperate, deadly plan. 

While they struggle for their freedom, The Blessing continues to spread across Kal-Maddum, their numbers growing more numerous as the human population shrinks. What had started as a race to restore an empire has quickly become a mission to save humanity from extinction.

Stavely, Brian • The Providence of Fire  01/13
(Book Two of the 'Chronicles of the Unhewn')
The conspiracy to destroy the ruling family of the Annurian Empire is far from over.
Having learned the identity of her father's assassin, Adare flees the Dawn Palace in search of allies to challenge the coup against her family. Few trust her, but when she is believed to be touched by Intarra, patron goddess of the empire, the people rally to help her retake the capital city. As armies prepare to clash, the threat of invasion from barbarian hordes compels the rival forces to unite against their common enemy.
Unknown to Adare, her brother Valyn, renegade member of the empire's most elite fighting force, has allied with the invading nomads. The terrible choices each of them has made may make war between them inevitable.
Between Valyn and Adare is their brother Kaden, rightful heir to the Unhewn Throne, who has infiltrated the Annurian capital with the help of two strange companions. The knowledge they possess of the secret history that shapes these events could save Annur or destroy it.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Waiting is the Hardest Part, or, how 'George RR Martin's UK editor trolled the internet (again)

So the Internets are in meltdown about George RR Martin's UK editor, Jane Johnston's tweet that the Great Bearded Glacier's long awaited new book isn't on the publication schedule for 2015.
This is not news.
Martin has stated about 4,612,204 times that the relase date of 'The Winds of Winter' will appear on his website, before anywhere else. As soon as the book is done, he will announce it.
Until the book is done, it can't be put into the publication schedule.
Now, from past history, 'A Dance of Dragons' was announced as done in March of 2011, and was published in July of the same year. So the headlines of 'will not come out in 2015' are lies. The truth is, just like yesterday, the book isn't done yet, and George continues to write on it. As soon as it is done, a publication date will be announced, about 3 months after completion date.
So calm the fuck down, and lets get back to waiting for winter to come, and in the meantime, let's talk about a few books that have taken even longer than GRRM is taking for 'Winds of Winter' to arrive. Including a few we're also still waiting for. Obviously I'm not adding Rothfuss to this list, as he's already said that 'Doors of Stone' will likely drop in 2016.

                                             (Whoever came up with this meme gets it.)

Stephen King's Dark Tower books:
Six years after 'The Drawing of the Three', stephen King released book three, 'The Waste Lands'  in 1991, and another six years later for 'Wizard and Glass' in 1997, and then another six years for book five, 'Wolves of the Calla' in 2003.
EIGHT years after 2004's 'The Dark Tower' he released the intermediate 'The Wind Through the Keyhole' in 2012.

Claudia J Edwards Bastard Princess series:
In 1998, Claudia Edwards released 'Eldrie the Healer', the first volume of a series about the princess Eldrie who gave up her royal heritage for magical power. Book two was never released, though the specifics of why have never been made clear if this was a publishers decision, or if the author never delivered the book. In 2010 Claudia passed away, so we will likely never see the series finished as the author intended.

Daniel Keys Moran's 'The AI War':
In 1993 Dan Moran released the third volume of his projected 44 volume 'Tales of the Continuing Time' space opera/cyberpunk/thriller/heist series.
And then dissappeared from novel writing for 18 years, until, in 2011 he released the first part of AI War as an ebook called 'The Big Boost'.

Robert Jordan's 'The Gathering Storm':
In 2007 James O. Rigney Jr, better known to his millions of fans as Robert Jordan died with the final arc of his bestselling series left unfinished. He had released the previous volume, 'Knife of Dreams' in 2005, before his diagnosis with cardiac amyloidosis. After his death, Brandon Sanderson was selected to finish the series, and the first volume to be cowritten by Sanderson was not released until 2009.

David Gerrold's 'War Against the Cthorr':
In 1992, Gerrold released 'A Season for Slaughter', and he didn't release the next volume until 2011. Less than 4 years later, his fans are already complaining that the next volume will never come out. I laugh in there general direction.

Melanie Rawn's 'The Captal's Tower':
In 1994, at the height of her popularity, Melanie Rawn released 'The Ruin's of Ambrai' the first of a brand new series in a brand new world and series called 'The Exiles'. If you were a fantasy fan in 1994 you were probably reading Melanie Rawn, because she was a superstar. In 1997, she released the second book. And then, we waited.
And now, EIGHTEEN FUCKING YEARS later, we are still waiting.
This is not an accusation about Rawn, her personal life got very busy, and her writing career got completely stopped. It's only been in the last few years that she has started writing again, and I completely agree with her decision to not jump back into 'The Captal's Tower', which is going to require a writer at the top of her form to land, not someone who's writing skills are a little rusty.
I look forward to her finally delivering the final Exiles book, as she has reassured her fans that she will, and I have no doubts that it will be worth the wait.

What book are you waiting for, and how long have you been waiting?

Friday, January 9, 2015

2014, Year in Review: The Best and The Rest

The Best:
In no particular order, cause I hate making the tough calls of 'this book was just slightly better than this other one', when they're all totally worth reading.

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
      Seriously, I need more books like this in my life.  Where has Robert Bennett been hiding all my life?  Oh, Texas, yeah, that explains it.
       But seriously, this was amazing.  And if it wasn't quite a perfect book, it was still one of the best things I've read in recent years. Special bonus points:  There's another book in this world coming.

The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer
      I know where Jeff Vandermeer has been hiding, and it's in Florida.  Seriously, don't fuck with Florida, they have all kinds of crazy, and it shows in the Southern Reach, which is basically all the freaky and strange of Florida distilled and printed out in a new form, with all-new ADDED AWESOME!

Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger
       Oh Gail Carriger, I want to go to a bookstore and just have a whole shelf of new books by you to read all of the time when I am needing some wit and sparkle (and really, when don't we need some wit and sparkle?).

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks
        Oh Brent, what are you doing to me?!?  Seriously, I'm beginning to think that you are going to GRRM me and kill off all the characters I like.  Mortal Peril barely begins to describe where you are leaving everyone, and that ENDING!!!  Ugh!  You're a magnificent bastard! Like basically Andross Guile, without the crazy. And no drafting ability.

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
        A book I've seen on a lot of best lists, and most over-rated lists already, and I can see why.  This is an excellent example of a 'not for everyone' book.  There is a plot, if a rather basic one, but the real richness of this book, is the deep examination of the main character's character. It's a superb piece of writing, and if you're the reader who enjoys falling into a character, and watching them grow into a role they're not prepared for, then this is a great book for you.

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence
        I've already posted my review of this, but oh my god Mark Lawrence, this was awesome! Can I have the next book already? Is it time? How bout now?

Broken Homes Ben Aaronovitch
         WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE DOING TO ME!?! Seriously Ben, we need to talk, because I love the way you ramp up the story in unexpected ways. Well done.

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
          I love to see Sanderson loosening up a bit and making some jokes, and having fun in his writing, and that the world is starting to feel unimaginably weirder than it did in 'Way of Kings'.

Valour and Vanity by Mary Robinette Kowal
        Mary's series has grown so far beyond  the fun if obvious (and acknowledged) Austenian pastiche of 'Shades of Milk and Honey' into a fantastic series in it's own right.  This book contains swashbuckling and a continuation of Jane and Vincent's adventures, and adventures in marriage. Their marriage might be the most realistic I've ever seen portrayed in fantasy, as they are both very realized characters, and the conflicts between them as spouses are a logical conclusion of their differences.
How can I not love a book when I can say 'added swashbuckling'?

Best Debut:
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
      I posted yesterday about Pierce's signing at Powells for his second book, which I'm really looking forward to. Do yourself a favor and give this book a few chapters to really get under your skin, I bet it does.

The Rest:

Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss (Novella)
          I can't quite bring myself to rank a novella as one of the best books of the year, but I did really enjoy this glimpse into the daily life of Auri.  While it is not a story that stands alone at all, it's a great chance to see the world from eyes that aren't Kvothes, and has some great groundwork for where Rothfuss may go on Day Three.

California Bones by Greg Van Eekhout
      This did everything I love in a novel, and I'm really looking forward to the second book later this month. If you want something new and different, this is a great book for you to try.

Dreams of the Golden Age by Carrie Vaughn
         I think Carrie Vaughn can read my mind.
         The first book in this series, 'After the Golden Age' was a bit of a disappointment to me, as I just wanted more.  More twists, more surprises, and most of all, I wanted a more engaged character.  There was something just slightly lacking from Celia that I can't quite define.
          Carrie clearly read my mind and fixed all of that in this book.  Anna is fantastic, and troubled, and I was deeply engaged in her story. And now... I wait for book three!

Jack in the Green by Charles de Lint
I really liked this novella, as I said in my review, and I adore Charles de Lint, but I wanted the book to be a little more even, and I enjoyed it for de Lint's prose as much as the story. And that's not enough for a book to make it into the best for me.

Underworlds Daughter by Molly Ringle
            So, first a little secret.
            I've read the earliest draft of what eventually evolved into this series, through a Byzantine and roundabout fashion, long ago, and I loved the ideas, even if the actual story was very rough.  So I am hardly an unbiased reviewer.  Molly and I have been Facebook friends for ages, and she had written several books, and I kept asking and wondering about that long-ago read draft.  And FINALLY she delivered the first book in the Chrysomelia Stories in 2013.  The ideas I loved about the original draft were there, and a whole host of amazing new characters.
            This second book is a great continuation,and expansion on that earlier story, and I enjoyed it almost as much as the first book.

The Paper Magician by Charlie Holmberg
         So this was a VERY short novel (I haven't seen a print version, but it felt like a longish novella) that I got as part of the Amazon 'First Look' program.
         And actually, I really liked it. It was fun, and I felt engaged by the character.  I loved the idea of the different types of magic.  It's not a doorstopper story, but it's a fun light read that sucked me in.

Skin Game by Jim Butcher 
          I've enjoyed the growth of Butcher's writing by leaps and bounds, and 'Changes' and the two books since have been on a roll of increasingly good.  This book was not.
          That's not to say it was a bad book, exactly.  It's just that he uses a plot device to ramp up tension that just didn't work for me, And I'm getting tired of Harry acting like an ass just because he can.  Yes, yes, I get that he's the Winter Knight now, and is going to start becoming more cruel the longer he's under the Mantle, but shouldn't he be getting more devious too?

The Young Elites by Marie Lu
          'The Young Elites' wasn't even on my radar really, until I popped into Powells one random night and Marie Lu was there talking about her book, so I sat and listened. And oh my, is she engaging and interesting, if you get the chance to see her speak, I do recommend it. She sold this book to me without even trying, with the simple words 'it's told from the villians POV.' OHHHHH!! This is my wheelhouse!!
            It starts out interestingly enough, but I never felt that the main character's quandaries felt real.  Instead, they felt like the plot needed these things to happen, so that's what happened, in defiance of reason.  As much as I wanted to like this book, and in places, I really did like it, I just never quite felt immersed and invested.

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest
        I really came close to putting this in the best of category, I really did. But the longer I was away from the book, the more I thought of ways it could have been cooler. I still really loved the book, and I can't wait for the next one.

Next of Kin by Dan Wells (Novella)
Oh did I love this story! Dan Wells has me so ready for the the John Cleaver book coming in 2015 that I can hardly wait.

What I Missed:
Sadly, there's not time to read everything that came out this year, and here are some of the books I haven't gotten to yet, including some by favorites of mine, if you read them, let me know what you thought!

Lock In by John Scalzi
The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley
Full Fathom Five by Max Gladstone
The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler
The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan
Clariel by Garth Nix
The Hollow City by Ransom Riggs
Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie
The Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin
Unwrapped Sky by Rjurik Davidson
Child of a Hidden Sea by AM Dellamonica
Of Whimsies and Noubles by Matthew Hughes
Dreamwalker  by CS Friedman
The Fool's Assassin by Robin Hobb
Cibola Burn by James SA Corey
Seven Wild Sisters by Charles de Lint
The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
The Serpent of Venice  by Christopher Moore  
Thornlost by Melanie Rawn  
My Real Children by Jo Walton
The Brothers Cabal by Jonathan Howard
Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick
Boy Snow Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Golden Brown: My note's from the signing of YA scifi's new it-guy

        'YA is sexy.'

Whatever I was expecting from Pierce Brown, this wasn't it. I think by now everyone has seen the photos, I mean, the guy is shockingly good-looking. And he's a killer writer.  This is what's known. But what's not known is that he's funny in a self-depracating way, and seems like he really enjoys both the writing and meeting his fans.
Before he explained how YA became sexy, he read an excerpt of his new book, 'Golden Son' that moves forward with his protagonist from 'Red Rising' into a whole new arena, and he promises that he's done everything he can to avoid middle-book-itis, that tendency of middle books of a trilogy to be less cool and fun than the first books. He also confirmed that it will stay a trilogy, he says that readers are smart, they can tell when a series gets stretched out just for a cash grab.Besides, he has plans, he has other stories he wants to tell.
He also wanted to make sure we knew that he hates love triangles, so don't expect Darrow to be caught in the middle of one like some of the other YA big books of the last few years. But again, he doesn't need the added drama of a love triangle to keep 'Red Rising' interesting, he's using a more complete and complex set of motivations than just romance to move Darrow. From the front row, someone asked if 'Red Rising' was really YA, and that's when Brown replied with 'YA is sexy', it can be more than just watered down and sanitized versions of adult novels.
He continued on to tell us about his first book, written when he was just 18, and why it will bnever see the light of day. He mostly glossed over the next five novels he wrote, which among them collected 130 rejections, except to say that 'someday' he might revisit an Atlantis novel, which he said was interesting, but that the crowd of Atlantis novels might not leave a lot of room for another one.
He's confident the final book will arrive early next year, though it's up to Del Rey as to exaclt when that happens. He wants to have the series finished before the movie, because he wants to write Darrow as Darrow, and not to write for the actor that gets cast. It's an interesting observation about the potential of film adaptations to influence and perhaps warp the writing of the novels. Though he does have one last confession for us before the q and a ends, and the signing begins: he wants to die horribly in the film adaptation.
Hollywood, let's make this happen.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Cover Obsession: 'Book of Phoenix' by Nnedi Okorafor

2015 will finally see the long-awaited prequel to the Nebula Award nominee and World Fantasy Award-winning 'Who Fears Death', and yesterday Nnedi Okorafor revealed the cover for 'The Book of Phoenix' (Coming May 5th from DAW), and it's AMAZING! 

Seriously, look at that? 

The cover blurb reads:

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.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What's New In My Reading Stack This Week 01/06/2015

WOW, what a way to start off the year!  The first week of releases for 2015 has several books I plan to read, and review. I already have ARCs of 'The Just City' and Pierce Brown's 'Golden Son', but I imagine the first of these that I'll get to will be the Sanderson YA 'Firefight', and then Pierce Brown's 'Golden Son' since they will both be here for signing events at Powells this month.
I saw a reviewer who commented that he found 2014 to be a low point in his reading, and I was shocked, as I thought it was a great year, which I'll talk about in my 2014 wrap-up on Friday. Let me know what you're reading this week, and if any of these are on your to-read lists!

Kenyon, Kay • Queen of the Deep            01/05
(eBook only, print will be available mid-month)
On the streets of New York, Jane Gray meets an intriguing man who claims to be the impossible: an imaginary playmate from her childhood: Prince Starling. Determined to know the truth, Jane tracks him into another realm.
This is the world of the Palazzo, a magical ship which is both a colossal steam vessel and a Renaissance kingdom. Ruling over its denizens--both human and otherwise--is an exotic and dangerous queen. Jane must find her way home, but the path is hopelessly lost.
Promising romance, the enigmatic Prince Starling and big-hearted crime lord Niccolo vie for Jane's heart. But she has her eye on the pilot house. Who--or what--guides the Palazzo, and what is the urgent secret of its endless voyage? As a shocking destination looms into view, Jane must choose both a lover and a ship's course, one that may avoid the end of all things.

Aaronovitch, Ben • Foxglove Summer        01/06
(Peter Grant #5)
When two young girls go missing in rural Herefordshire, police constable and wizard-in-training Peter Grant is sent out of London to check that nothing supernatural is involved.
It’s purely routine—Nightingale, Peter’s superior, thinks he’ll be done in less than a day. But Peter’s never been one to walk away from someone in trouble, so when nothing overtly magical turns up he volunteers his services to the local police, who need all the help they can get. But because the universe likes a joke as much as the next sadistic megalomaniac, Peter soon comes to realize that dark secrets underlie the picturesque fields and villages of the countryside and there might just be work for Britain’s most junior wizard after all.
Soon Peter’s in a vicious race against time, in a world where the boundaries between reality and fairy have never been less clear...

Sanderson, Brandon • Firefight                   01/06
(Sequel to Steelheart)
Newcago is free.
   They told David it was impossible, that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart--invincible, immortal, unconquerable--is dead. And he died by David's hand.
   Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers.
   Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it's the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David's willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David's heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic--Firefight. And now he will go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answer.

Brown, Pierce • Golden Son                        01/06
(Sequel to Red Rising)
As a Red, Darrow grew up working the mines deep beneath the surface of Mars, enduring backbreaking labor while dreaming of the better future he was building for his descendants. But the Society he faithfully served was built on lies. Darrow’s kind have been betrayed and denied by their elitist masters, the Golds—and their only path to liberation is revolution. And so Darrow sacrifices himself in the name of the greater good for which Eo, his true love and inspiration, laid down her own life. He becomes a Gold, infiltrating their privileged realm so that he can destroy it from within.
A lamb among wolves in a cruel world, Darrow finds friendship, respect, and even love—but also the wrath of powerful rivals. To wage and win the war that will change humankind’s destiny, Darrow must confront the treachery arrayed against him, overcome his all-too-human desire for retribution—and strive not for violent revolt but a hopeful rebirth. Though the road ahead is fraught with danger and deceit, Darrow must choose to follow Eo’s principles of love and justice to free his people.
He must live for more.

Walton, Jo • The Just City                           01/08
"Here in the Just City you will become your best selves. You will learn and grow and strive to be excellent."
Created as an experiment by the time-traveling goddess Pallas Athene, the Just City is a planned community, populated by over ten thousand children and a few hundred adult teachers from all eras of history, along with some handy robots from the far human future—all set down together on a Mediterranean island in the distant past.
The student Simmea, born an Egyptian farmer's daughter sometime between 500 and 1000 A.D, is a brilliant child, eager for knowledge,  ready to strive to be her best self. The teacher Maia was once Ethel, a young Victorian lady of much learning and few prospects, who prayed to Pallas Athene in an unguarded moment during a trip to Rome—and, in an instant, found herself in the Just City with grey-eyed Athene standing unmistakably before her.
Meanwhile, Apollo—stunned by the realization that there are things mortals understand better than he does—has arranged to live a human life, and has come to the City as one of the children. He knows his true identity, and conceals it from his peers. For this lifetime, he is prone to all the troubles of being human.
Then, a few years in, Sokrates arrives—the same Sokrates recorded by Plato himself—to ask all the troublesome questions you would expect. What happens next is a tale only the brilliant Jo Walton could tell.

Alder, Mark • Son of the Morning                       01/08
Mark Alder's debut novel of angels, demons, kings and the Hundred Years War marks the beginning of a hugely exciting new series. Edward III stands in a burnt English church, destroyed in a French raid. A raid on his land, a raid on him. He is in debt and surrounded by doubters, only victory against France will save his throne. But Philip of Valois can put 50,000 men in the field. He has sent his priests to summon the very angels themselves to fight for France. Edward could call on God for aid but he is a usurper. What if God truly is on the side of the French? But for a price, Edward could open the gates of Hell and take an unholy war to France...

Monday, January 5, 2015

Forgotten Gems: 'Emerald Eyes' by Daniel Keys Moran

           It's easy to forget that there are lots of great books from years past that lie waiting to be found, and occasionally I like to point out a book that you may want to check out. The nice thing is, the advent of ebooks means none of these have stayed out of print.
          Somewhere back in 1995 I bought a book with rather bad cover art. But back then we were rather more used to ignoring bad cover art, and to be honest, this wasn't so bad for the era.

                                                                    (this cover art)

I'd glanced through the first few pages and it caught me from the beginning:

                           "Darryl Amnier was a man without a title.
                             A title makes one knowable."

So I bought it, and was be-spelled by a style of writing that I wasn't used to in scifi. Fast paced and adventurous, I even think Carl in his rage uses the word fuck a time or two, or at least, it wouldn't be out of place or character. Dan Moran wrote fearlessly, in a young man's prose and I was swept up with his creation.
While not cyberpunk itself, it has some of the sensibility of it, with datastarved webdancers and the crystal wind (I know why World Wide Web caught on, but how much cooler would it be if we had the crystal wind instead?) ancient (more than 30 'real' years) AIs, and two time-traveling gods of a far-future alien church locked in a war to the death.
All that's in the background of the story of course. That's the world.
Because our story is about Carl Castanaveras, the worlds first genetically created telepath. Who wants nothing more than to be a real boy.
I used to recommend this book as my absolute favorite book, though in the years since its been eclipsed, and I'm more aware now that it has some odd quirks that make it a hard book to give non-scifi readers. I've come to love the second book in the loose series, 'The Long Run' more. But I loved 'Emerald Eyes' with the passion of a teenager, flawed or not, it spoke to me. Poor Carl, trapped in a world so damaged from its Unification War, that it's still called Occupied America. A world so broken, that music has lost it's power and voice.
This is not a book I'd recommend everyone, and sometimes it has moments where it's aged poorly, or suffers from the usual problems of first novels. 'The Long Run' might even be a better place to start, as from a narrative perspective, it's a better book in most ways.But 'Emerald Eyes' was one of my first great loves, and I wanted the chance to talk about it.
After a long sabbatical from writing, Dan released the latest book in the Tales of the Continuing Time, 'AI War: The Big Boost', in 2011 and I hope to see another book in the next couple of years. I hope he keeps it up, because there's something special about these books, and selfish me, I eventually would like him to write the story of Ola Blue.
Oh, you don't know who that is yet, do you? Go forth and read...