This is a picture book that author Mark Lawrence's 8-year-old daughter wrote. All profit from the book goes to the Children's Hospice for terminally i...moreThis is a picture book that author Mark Lawrence's 8-year-old daughter wrote. All profit from the book goes to the Children's Hospice for terminally ill and life-limited children and as Mark says, "a charity that has provided help for Celyn (and me)."
This is a great story and for a great cause as well. This had me cracking up the entire time. Loved it!
EDIT (April 8, 2013): My two-year-old absolutely loves this book. He asks for it daily, pleads for it when he's having trouble sleeping, and it's been perfect for potty-training because the evil robots keep pooing on everyone and that's why everyone needs to be saved!
Dylan is especially concerned for the teacher who loses his hat to the robot poo. He says, "He (It) need clean." (He refers to everything and everyone as "he" whether male, female, or neither)
I picked up this anthology not only because it was an ARC given to me by a favorite author of mine, Tim Marquitz, but also because I felt like it woul...moreI picked up this anthology not only because it was an ARC given to me by a favorite author of mine, Tim Marquitz, but also because I felt like it would be some fun to read ... and the story by Mark Lawrence may have helped as well.
Anthologies, for me, are going way out of my comfort zone. I'm typically a lazy person and can only take so much "new" at a time and anthologies are always filled with "new," each and every story in fact. But, I love a good monster story, be it zombies, vampires (maybe not as much), or other ghoulies, but I had no idea what I was in for.
Fading Light blew my mind in terms of monsters. This anthology covers them from small ones to large ones and even sometimes asks the question about who the real monsters are, is it us? Humans can easily fall in the category all too easily.
I don't think I can really describe how good this anthology is. It kept me up at night and not only because I was shaking under my blanket, it had me constantly thinking, and it was oh so easy to come back to. I can't praise this anthology enough, just go read it, you won't regret it.
“Parasitic Embrace” by Adam Millard - What a great start to the anthology. It had me from the very beginning as a mysterious volcanic cloud sweeps the world. What could it be bringing? (4.5/5)
“The Equivalence Principle” by Nick Cato - This was a very interesting story with a great protagonist who seems to be a paranoid schizophrenic who things that gravity is about to give out any second. He races from his home to his car with an actual rope tied between just to get to and from work. Great story, but I didn't quite "get" the monster all that well. (4/5)
“A Withering of Sorts” by Stephen McQuiggan - So far, this was the most atmospheric and scary of the bunch. A guy walks into a bar (this is not a joke) with his wife and kid outside in the car. He's then told why strangers aren't welcome in these parts, especially children. (4.5/5)
“Goldilocks Zone” by Gary W. Olson - This was an all-out, everyone's a monster story. It quickly jumps into the premise that everyone starts becoming a monster from a mysterious such-n-such. While good, I don't know if I got this one all that well either. (3/5)
“They Wait Below” by Tom Olbert - This was a creepy story of an ancient monster slowly taking over the crew of a deep sea oil rig. I thought the monster was great although the story seemed to take a few leaps and bounds in logic that I wasn't willing to go to. Still a great story. (3.5/5)
“Blessed Be the Shadowchildren” by Malon Edwards - This story was both impressive and entertaining. There's a TON of world-building about how this particular being left his home on/in the sun and became a god. In the end it all works. (4/5)
“The Beastly Ninth” by Carl Barker - Barker takes us back to the 19th century where Napoleon is a sorcerer for the French and wages war against the English. The entire story is one battle with all kinds of undead monsters. It was enjoyable but not quite my favorite. (3.5/5)
“Late Night Customer” by David Dalglish - This was my first taste of Dalglish although I own a couple of his other books. I have to say I'm impressed and looking forward to the rest. I was sufficiently creeped out in this story about a waitress at a diner who serves a customer who's at his wit's end. All I can say is, "Don't look!!!!" (4.5/5)
“Rurik’s Frozen Bones” by Jake Elliot - You had me at Vikings, sailing, and Kraken. This was really a story within a story. Rurik, a Viking who looks exceptionally haggard is asked his story. The story itself was great and the main bulk, but it was dimmed a bit by the outer story, which ending didn't seem to fit these rough and tumble Vikings. (3.5/5)
“Wrath” by Lee Mather - I'm pretty sure I should suffer some type of damnation for liking this story, but it was really good. A priest starts going crazy, Biblical stuff goes down, nobody's safe. (4/5)
“Friends of a Forgotten Man” by Gord Rollo - Leaning more toward the gross-out horror for me, a man is unjustly imprisoned and conditions are just barely enough to keep him alive. He makes some...friends while contemplating his revenge. (3/5)
“Altus” by Georgina Kamsika - A woman attempts to dive the deepest any human has dived, doing so aboard the Altus. Maybe there's a reason we're not meant to dive so deep. (4/5)
“Angela’s Garden” by Dorian Dawes - This story definitely has a place among my favorites in the anthology. A woman in a retirement home sees things that others can't, dark things that only bode poorly for anyone in the vicinity. (4.5/5)
“The Long Death of Day” by Timothy Baker - Another story that tops my list of favorites, a comet comes close to Earth only to miss it...and completely destroy Venus. I thought the cover of this anthology was just some random monster, but turns out that's from this story. (4.5/5)
“Out of the Black” by William Meikle - The world's gone cold, only a few survivors live underneath the frozen surface. But the ore's running out and must be replenished. "Out of the Black" is another favorite in this anthology that's full of favorites. What great setting and atmosphere in such a small package. Loved it. (4.5/5)
“Degenerates” by DL Seymour - Set in the 60's amidst racial segregation, the town of Dunwich is looking to come back to its former glory. I really didn't expect this story in this collection, it's quite the deviation, but still good. It almost doesn't belong, until we find out about Dunwich's disturbing secret. (3.5/5)
“Dust” by Wayne Ligon - There's kind of a theme of dust or particles being the cause of some type of apocalypse for the earth. It provides a good setting for some monsters to come out of the closet and each one of these types of stories takes the concept in a different way. "Dust" really takes the concept in a whole new direction and inserts some really interesting ideas about space and aliens. I'm a big fan of this one. (4.5/5)
“Der Teufel Sie Wissen” by TSP Sweeney - I was really looking forward to this one - you had me at the German. Set during WWII, some Hitler Youth are assigned the simple task of taking out an enemy. Just one guy, it's almost too easy...right? The monster in this was great the story entertaining. Great work. (4/5)
“Born of Darkness” by Stacey Turner - Another of the "Dust" variety, a man is able to prepare his family for the ending of the world in a dream. They're doing okay until they take on a mute girl and suddenly they have another visitor at the door. A preacher who the mute girl obviously dislikes. Who can you trust at the end of the world? I enjoyed this one and it seemed like it could become a bigger project, at least from the setup at the end. (4/5)
“Lottery” by Gene O’Neill - I know Stephen King tells me it's juvenile to want things wrapped up nicely, but I really wanted a lot more information in this story. It was good, but then I had no idea why things happened how they did. (3/5)
“Where Coyotes Fear to Tread” by Gef Fox - I didn't know what to expect from his one at first, but I really liked it in the end. The Moon and the Sun are gone and monsters have taken over. The Moon has a plan to destroy them and a dangerous mission for Coyote and Eagle. (4/5)
“The Theophany of Nyx” by Edward M. Erdelac - I had to look up the title to see how it actually fit the story. Yes, it does. In this one, the moon is being colonized by earth, but the colonists may have gone too far and put the earth in big trouble. (4/5)
“Double Walker” by Henry P. Gravelle - If your shadow is killing people how do you make someone believe? It's not easy. Another good one. (4/5)
“Light Save Us” by Ryan Lawler - I was not expecting this ending. Great story, I'll say no more. (4/5)
“Dark Tide” by Mark Lawrence - This story, by the author of the excellent Prince of Thorns, did not suffer for my lack of anticipation (since I jumped ahead to read it). Wow, what a powerful story. I was up late and could not put it down, talk about creepy. I will say no more for fear of ruining it. (5/5)
The following are bonus stories, available only for NOOK and Kindle:
“Torrential” by Regan Campbell - Wow, I'm so glad I have the Kindle version because this story blew my mind. Great stuff. An obviously exhausted mother and son enter a diner with an unusual request. (4.5/5)
“Roadkill” by CM Saunders - Taking place with a couple of amateur ambulance drivers in Brazil, they find a motorcycle accident that no one could survive...or could they? Another solid entry. (4/5)
“Night Terrors” by Jonathan Pine - Not one to read in the wee hours of the night, this took me back to my childhood frights and that's a good thing. "Night Terrors" also reminded me a bit of Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, but way scarier. (4.5/5)
“Final Rights” by Peter Welmerink - In a future earth, giant wolves and bears roam the earth and civilization is barely keeping it together. Lots of action and lots of bloody monsters. (4/5)
“Evensong” by Alex Marshall - I would be very interested to read a full novel based on this world where civilization has moved under the earth and is solely governed by The Seers. Great read and great ending. (4.5/5)
If you're looking for a great Halloween read, it would be hard to find better. If you're looking for an excellent anthology in general, you've found it. Fading Light is easily one of the best anthologies I've ever read, second only to Songs of the Dying Earth.
4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended!)(less)
Stephen King does zombies! Well...kind of. We'll get to that in a bit.
But first, here's how I think this book came about:
Way back in aught-6 (2006), o...moreStephen King does zombies! Well...kind of. We'll get to that in a bit.
But first, here's how I think this book came about:
Way back in aught-6 (2006), or just before because Cell was published in '06, but who knows with King, am I right? But anyway, we've come a long way since that time. Everyone was getting cell phones and they were just about getting to every last person around. I imagine him having this conversation with, let's say, his son, Joe Hill.
Stephen: "Wow, cell phones have really gotten popular lately. Everyone seems to have one."
Joe: "Yeah Dad, come on, get with the times already, man."
Stephen: "Well, at least we'll never get rid of these landlines right? Both are VERY necessary. [useless joke probably not in King's character, just wanted to make fun of how we used to still had landlines when everyone was switching to cell phones]
"But seriously, I am SO sick of people being on their cell phones all the time. You can't even have an honest-to-goodness conversation with a person without someone bombarding you with a call.
"Can't we just have real conversations with human beings anymore? Instead, we talk to electronics and let them control everything we do, sacrificing our humanity.
"If only there was a way to put an end to this nonsense...I've got it!"
Cell starts out as your basic zombie book. People are going about their normal business when suddenly lots of people start going crazy and attacking other people while a few people escape unscathed for a while until they get attacked.
Well, Stephen King made a couple of changes to the normal zombie mythos (I think we can call it mythos now). Here, the zombies are created by a pulse that occurs through cell phones. All the people using their cell phones at the time of the "pulse" (as its known throughout the book) are immediately changed into what is essentially a zombie. Those without cell phones or not on them at the time are saved.
It's not exactly clear whether they are (or have to be) dead or not, some are, but not all, but they all have the same traits, which are pretty zombie-like. They go crazy, they attack people including their own kind, and make survival the number one priority for those who weren't turned.
They are known throughout the book not at zombies, but as "phone crazies." Boy did I hate that term after a while. It's just so dumb. It's also descriptively appropriate, but meh. Call them walkers, call them phoners even, but "phone crazies" just bugged me to no end.
In addition, the zombies only come out during the day and therefore leave the night to the survivors.
Cell follows Clayton Riddell, a survivor of the pulse who happened to be in Boston at the time of the "pulse." He lives in (you guessed it) Maine (but he's not a writer, he's a comic artist, completely different), which is where his family is located at the time of the pulse and provides the impetus for Clay and his group of survivors to head north.
I did enjoy this book, but to talk about why I didn't enjoy it enough to even reach the 4 star threshold, I'm gonna have to get into some spoilers. These aren't huge, ruin-the-book spoilers, just possibly ruin a part of the first 200 pages/quarter of the book. You've been warned.
/Begin mild spoilers
I could go more into Clay's group because they do play a large role in the novel, but I just don't have the time nor the energy at the moment. Know they're there and they are some great characters.
The reason I wasn't a huge fan of this particular zombie book is that King almost immediately kills the whole reason I read zombie books. I read them for the constant suspense and scare that the people we've grown close to are going to get eaten, turned, die, whatever.
King introduces telepathy into the zombie mythos.
While it's an interesting and unique take, I realized toward the end that it pretty much killed this particular zombie novel for me.
Because the zombie apocalypse occurred through the pulse, the phone crazies (bleh) are connected somehow, they can even communicate in a way telepathically. It begins through large gatherings where they sleep during the night while getting essentially reprogrammed telepathically.
While they are communicating telepathically, they begin to flock just like some types of animals (birds in a "v" for instance). While they flock, they don't attack humans. It just stops.
There's more that happens and they do begin to do some much more devious things, but the survivors, and especially our little crew we follow, are essentially immune from the day-to-day zombie attack.
Bigger Spoiler, for the novel I Am Legend as well: While I'm still within the spoiler section of my review, I also wanted to add that I totally thought he was going to go I Am Legend with the zombies, making the zombies the new society and the survivors the outcasts. It seemed to be going there, but didn't in the end.
I enjoyed this book, it had great characters (as expected) and a good enough story to keep me enjoying it. It also had an interesting take on zombies that, while I applaud King for his creativity and boldness, kind of killed the zombie part of this zombie novel.
3 out of 5 Stars (Recommended with reservations)(less)
This was a great short story by one of my favorite authors. Set against a Japanese and Chinese backdrop, a young boy is on his first voyage, but the e...moreThis was a great short story by one of my favorite authors. Set against a Japanese and Chinese backdrop, a young boy is on his first voyage, but the excitement has long since worn off. But then he runs into the mysterious lady of the ship and they begin to share stories about Japan, especially about the Samurai and the Nin-sha.
I won't go any further, let's just say it's a short story that's well worth a read. The atmosphere is great and I really thought Marco did a great job with the ten-year-old boy, with his youth and naïveté about the world.
This short story was recommended to me by an avowed "dislike[r]" of fantasy. I am always extremely wary when this happens.
And that's for one BIG reas...moreThis short story was recommended to me by an avowed "dislike[r]" of fantasy. I am always extremely wary when this happens.
And that's for one BIG reason.
I'm a HUGE fan (and I mean HUGE, the all CAPS doesn't even do it justice) of fantasy. Therefore, if someone doesn't like fantasy and says they like a certain fantasy...shouldn't I HATE it?
Well, I'm happy to say this logic, while usually spot-on (of course), did not win the day in this instance. The Sword of Kings was a great story with a great ending. One of those endings where you go, I really should have seen that coming, the author was pretty much beating me over the head with it and yet I DIDN'T SEE IT COMING.
In his debut novel, I Am Not A Serial Killer (review), he takes on a protagonist who's a teenage sociopath. In The Hollow City, h...moreDan Wells is my hero.
In his debut novel, I Am Not A Serial Killer (review), he takes on a protagonist who's a teenage sociopath. In The Hollow City, his protagonist is a schizophrenic mental patient. Both get you into their heads and both make you feel like you understand people a little bit better. Both are compulsively readable and impossible to put down.
I gotta hand it to Wells, that's quite a way to start a writing career.
The Hollow City is like Memento goes to the nuthouse. Not that it's told in a similar format, such as the whole starting at the end and ending at the beginning, but because your narrator is that unreliable. You really want to trust Michael Shipman, you want to believe that the "Faceless" men are chasing him, that all electronic devices are sending out signals and reporting on him (not just cell phones, but TV's and watches too), that the people he's talking to are all more than figments of his imagination.
But the facts are all there. Not only is he actually in a mental institution where all the doctors have him pegged as a schizophrenic, but he's got the typical narcissism that puts such a person at the center of every conspiracy that ever existed. Wells has obviously done a lot of research here, but it's not bogged down in any technical jargon.
And yet you can't help but think he might have something, he might be telling the truth about everything. What if he is? And then we find out that something or someone else Michael's seeing isn't real (or is it?). That wouldn't be annoying if I did that after every sentence would it?
The Hollow City is quite the trip.
Adding to the conspiracy and schizophrenia we see in Michael we are introduced to a mystery regarding a killer that's on the loose. In fact, the prologue takes us to one of a string of murders by one known as the Red Line Killer who's been not only killing people, but mutilating their faces. With no other leads, you begin to see why the police might be looking to Michael, a schizophrenic who's running away from "Faceless" men.
The jury's still out on the ending, though. I'm not sure whether I thought it was great or just so so. I liked it well enough, I think I just had too many other possibilities in my head that I was let down a bit. It's definitely fitting and the more I think about it, the more I like it. Given what happens at the end, it's actually a pretty cool idea ... and I'll stop there.
The Hollow City is pegged as science fiction, at least it's being marketed as such, but that only plays a minor part. I'm actually surprised they aren't marketing it as more mainstream, since most in the publishing biz try to distance themselves from the anathema that is SFF. So, cheers to Tor I guess. :)
I won't go into anymore detail for fear of ruining anything, I've done enough I'm sure. Let's just say that you should read The Hollow City if only to see this unique perspective, but also to get an incredibly unique experience. And once you're reading it, you won't be able to stop, I mean, it's Dan Wells.
Slowly, I'm getting my blog reviews up here. Here's one from 2 years ago almost to the day. It's always nice to be a couple years ahead of the curve....moreSlowly, I'm getting my blog reviews up here. Here's one from 2 years ago almost to the day. It's always nice to be a couple years ahead of the curve. :D
Like I said before, I'm not immune to peer pressure. The opposite is in fact true. I also realize this is probably getting as annoying as hearing about how busy people are and excuses as to why there's no posting. I'll attempt to refrain (doh!).
Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter tells the story found in Lincoln's secret journal describing his alternate life as a vampire hunter. Personally, anything titled "Vampire Hunter" should really be more entertaining than this.
I don't know if by reading Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter I would really be able to have an opinion of the rest of the monster mash-ups as Vampire Hunter is based on Lincoln's life and not another book like Pride and Prejudice. I assume as much though and as such, you'll probably not see many more mash-ups reviews.
I have to admit I wasn't converted. First, I wasn't a huge fan of the narrator. The voices he used were just all off for me. I have a certain voice for Abraham Lincoln in my head (probably thanks to School House Rock or something) and this did not do it for me.
Next, I have to say the writing was done well and while I was impressed with the facts of Lincoln's actual life that are woven into the story (I did confirm a few), it was hard to take someone telling the actual thoughts and motivations behind Lincoln's actions especially regarding vampires.
As mentioned earlier, I guess I expected more action and adventure, less plodding along and talking. Now that I think about it, the "Abraham Lincoln" part really should have off-set the rest of the title enough. Don't get me wrong, I greatly respect President Lincoln and I think that may have been one of the reasons I had a hard time with the book as well.
One of the perks of the audiobook was that there's an interview with Seth Grahame-Smith at the end of the telling of the story and that was pretty interesting. He tells how the two books he saw everywhere for the last while have been Abraham Lincoln biographies and Twilight. Thus we have Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. Also interesting to note Grahame-Smith has a MTV show in the makes.
EDIT: It used to be TV show, now obviously it's been made into a movie, which let's be honest, I have to see. You can't read a book no matter how much you liked it or didn't like it and not see the movie. It's in the rules, I'll have to show it to you some day.
When Should You Read/Listen to Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter?
I can probably mostly compare Vampire Hunter to The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. It's similar slow-moving vampire hunting, so if you liked the latter, you'll probably enjoy the former. Although I would not wish The Historian on my worst enemy. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter was a step up from that to be fair.
Courtney Schafer's debut, The Whitefire Crossing, book one in The Shattered Sigil was not only one of the biggest surprises for me last year, it was o...moreCourtney Schafer's debut, The Whitefire Crossing, book one in The Shattered Sigil was not only one of the biggest surprises for me last year, it was one of my favorite reads. The blend of Schafer's passion for climbing with the high use of magic and fast-paced plot had me reading my eyes out.
Because this is her second novel, I guess we have to ask (sorry it's in the contract), did she survive the sophomore slump? Yes, I answer, a resounding yes!! (with exclamation marks so you know it's true) The Tainted City lives up to its predecessor and more.
Following the end of The Whitefire Crossing, Dev and Kiran are captives of Alathia, through which Kiran was successfully smuggled in his escape from his former master, Ruslan, but later captured. Dev working in the mines and Kiran working on the spell patterns contained in the charms and wards used by Simon Levanian who was able to disregard Alathia's powerful border wards which keep bloodmages, who rely on human sacrifice to fuel their magical power, like him out.
The Alathians preferred to execute Kiran and Dev, which is their normal course for bloodmages like Kiran and their minions, like Dev, keeping with their very strict laws against the use of any magic. However, their hands were stayed mostly by the argument of one Martennan, an Alathian in high standing and general proponent of acting reasonably. That's because although Kiran is a bloodmage, he would do anything to escape his past and that includes helping the Alathians strengthen their borders.
In keeping Kiran, the Alathians garnered the wrath of Ruslan who vowed to destroy them in his pursuit of his former apprentice, whom he considers his property. Just when things seem to be going well, Alathia's wards come under attack and even begin to fail as an unknown disturbance, or Ruslan according to Dev, assaults them.
Kiran and Dev are needed to find out what the problem is and it seems to be coming directly from Ninavel, the city from whence Kiran and Dev came and which is the diametric opposite to Alathia, allowing essentially any magic no matter where it is derived.
A small group is brought together to find out and solve the problem that is causing the wards to fail, which means a visit to Ninavel, yay! I say this because while it would be nice to discover more about Alathia, which is best done through the characters, Ninavel presents the opportunity to showcase all the magic that is involved in this world. It's a lot and it's awesome.
The magic permeates every page and this is probably my favorite part of the entire experience. Not taking away from great characterization, intense descriptions of climbing (which are cut down a bit in this volume), and the general readability of the piece (all of which I loved), the magic is still my favorite. Almost every problem, solution, engagement between characters, everything revolves around use of magic whether it's magical charms that allow nathahlen (non-magic-user) to use magic and essentially facilitates trade to full-blown mages who practice their art.
The reason behind Ruslan's relentless pursuit of Kiran is because of the deep and intricate bond he shares with Kiran that allows them to cast magic. It is not something that is built up in a day, it takes years and years and Ruslan refuses to start over.
Even Ninavel itself is completely based around magic. Set up on the largest confluence of magic (facilitates magic use) around, while Ninavel is great for mages, it lacks basic things such as running water. In order for the city to survive, mages are required to do magic to produce the life-giving resource.
In addition to the magic being everywhere, it is also extremely complex, requiring hours to set up and complete spells, using spell-lines with the requisite materials such as silver or blood and generally taking immense amounts of concentration and willpower. You can start to see how many problems can occur to create a compelling work of fiction.
Almost right away, there are some big surprises that I don't want to spoil, so with that, I'll jump into the protection of the spoiler warning for just a bit. I can't resist discussing these parts because they have me really introspective at the moment, having raised some interesting questions about the effects our life experience have on us.
(view spoiler)[ One of the biggest surprises for me was the treatment of Kiran almost right away. Marten, as leader of the group, essentially sells Kiran out and delivers him directly into Ruslan's hands after promising to protect him and keep this exact thing from happening. Instead of torturing Kiran, which is what we're lead to believe will happen, Kiran's memory is erased for the period of time he was away and through the time that caused him to rethink his allegiances, when his lover, Alisa, was tortured and killed in front of him by Ruslan.
Throughout the rest of the book, Kiran still has no idea what's true, but he's also a clever enough chap to catch the subtleties that surround him, such as Dev's lack of fear around him (which all nathahlen have around bloodmages and mages in general).
This brings up so many things for me, but the characters all have trouble believing whether Kiran is a good guy anymore. Having those parts of his mind erased, does that still mean he is averse to killing? He seems to be fine with Ruslan, so does that mean he's back under Ruslan's control? Doest that change the person you really are? Can bad events actually be good for you?
The Tainted City surely got me thinking about erasing the hard parts of your life and if you'd be the same person after. Not that they're fun or ever preferred over not having them, but they do make you someone different and maybe you like that person a bit more than otherwise.
At least I'm pretty sure if we didn't experience hardships we'd probably all be huge jerks, lacking empathy to see what others are going through. (hide spoiler)]
Making me think my own thoughts might just be unforgivable. :D
One of the best reads this year as well as last, Courtney Schafer has delivered again. Not only with engaging characters and compelling plot, but with something new and diverse that I can't wait to come back to in The Labyrinth of Flame, book three in The Shattered Sigil.
4 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended!)
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I've known for quite a while that George RR Martin thinks highly of Jack Vance and The Dying Earth and last year I had the opportunity to read his ant...moreI've known for quite a while that George RR Martin thinks highly of Jack Vance and The Dying Earth and last year I had the opportunity to read his anthology, Songs of the Dying Earth, where a number of authors wrote short stories set in The Dying Earth.
I loved it. It remains, and easily so, the best anthology I've ever read. And that only meant one thing, I had to read the original tales.
I'm also very glad I read the anthology, even though one of the stories in The Dying Earth was spoiled a bit by it (actually, the title alone spoiled the story, but not bad at all). It was great to have an understanding of some of the world, the peculiar wordings, and some of the creatures. This usually isn't a problem, and I don't think will be for you, it's just that audiobooks make it harder to get into something that takes a while to explain things.
With my busy schedule (graduating law school Saturday, studying for the bar, my wife was just put on bed rest and we have a two-year-old, and twins in August...hopefully), I don't always have time to read everything I would like to, so I've become a huge supporter of audiobooks. This gives me somewhat of a chance to make a dent in my to-be-read pile.
With that in mind, the narrator can make or break a book sadly, but The Dying Earth's narrator was pretty much perfect for the job. This is a unique place and deserves a unique voice for all its characters and the land.
The Dying Earth is one of those magical places that doesn't exist in this new age of gritty, realistic fantasy. The dialogue is clever and full of vocabulary words to look up. Luckily I've read Steven Erikson, not to mention the anthology mentioned above, for some heads up.
The land is full of fantastic beasts and peoples and wizards and magic. The spells are so complicated, a wizard can only keep up to five in his or her head at a time. The story is full of riddles and extraordinary circumstances and I may have mentioned this before...magic.
This is the first book in The Dying Earth series of four books, called simply The Dying Earth. Instead of one long narrative it's just a collection of short stories that are loosely connected by the land of the dying earth and the stories are titled by the character the story follows.
As I understand it, the rest of the books in the series are also short stories collected into one volume, but unlike this first volume, the rest of the books each follow a certain character for the entire book. I'll keep you updated as I continue.
Do yourself a favor and pick up The Dying Earth. I know gritty and real are the buzzwords of the day, but while The Dying Earth is nothing of the sort, it's full of magic and whimsy and now I realize how good of a job the authors of Songs of the Dying Earth actually did.
The Dying Earth ToC:
Turjan of Miir Mazirian the Magician T'sais Liane the Wayfarer Ulan Dhor Guyal of Sfere(less)
The Troupe is my first book by Robert Jackson Bennett, but surely not the last. When the highly favorable reviews started coming out earlier this year...moreThe Troupe is my first book by Robert Jackson Bennett, but surely not the last. When the highly favorable reviews started coming out earlier this year, I was very intrigued and now that I've read it, I can't really think of a better reading choice I've made this year. The only question I have now is, "How can there only be 188 ratings of this book on Goodreads?" :D
George is making a name for himself as a pianist in Vaudeville (popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries), but what he really wants to do is track down his father. The only problem is that he's pretty sure his father is the one and only Silenus from The Famous Silenus Troupe, a troupe both elusive and mysterious.
I was almost immediately sucked in by Bennett's writing alone. He writes with that ineffable magical quality that makes it a joy to read the words alone, sans plot or characters. The addition of plot and characters does wonders as well. :)
The first scene alone had me smiling ear to ear, knowing this was a great choice
---- "George has quit!" "What?" said Victor, the second chair cellist. "George? Our George?" "George the pianist?" asked Catherine, their flautist. "The very same," said Tofty. "What kind of quit?" asked Victor. "As in quitting the theater?" "Yes, of course quitting the theater!" said Tofty. "What other kind of quit is there?" "There must be some mistake," said Catherine. "Who did you hear it from?" "From George himself!" said Tofty. "Well, how did he phrase it?" asked Victor. "He looked at me," said Tofty, "and he said, 'I quit.'" Everyone stopped to consider this. There was little room for alternate interpretation in that. "But why would he quit?" asked Catherine. "I don't know!" cried Tofty, and he collapsed in his chair, accidentally crushing his rosin and leaving a large white stain on the seat of his pants. ----
George finally catches up to the Silenus Troupe and the first thing he does, not really knowing what else to do, is buy a ticket to their show. He quickly finds out that the troupe's reputation is deserving as the first act is a puppet show...but he can't see the strings? and what's with the creepy backdrop? did it just change?
George delves deeper and deeper into the mysteries of the troupe, but he's met with additional mysteries the more he finds out, the creepiness of the troupe being the least of his worries. Plunging into Bennett's imagination is both terrifying and thrilling.
At one moment I was scared out of my mind, laughing the next, and constantly (and terribly) curious the entire time. The mysteries of both the troupe and the world to which we are introduced, both similar to our own and different at the same time (not only because of the time period), are boundless and absorbing.
Bennett not only writes about magic, but his writing itself is imbued with magic and a bit of humor and even a little darkness. To be mentioned in the same breathe as Neil Gaiman would be no stretch of the imagination. The Troupe may possibly be the best book released in 2012.
4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended!)
NOTE: This is actually the condensed version of my review. I had another version written out and then when I saved, Goodreads decided I'd been on here too long and didn't save it. Whoops. You'd think I'd learn this lesson by now.(less)
I've been hearing about Paul S. Kemp for a while now, mostly from his Forgotten Realms work with Erevis Cale trilogy, but (like usual) had never gotte...moreI've been hearing about Paul S. Kemp for a while now, mostly from his Forgotten Realms work with Erevis Cale trilogy, but (like usual) had never gotten around to reading his work. There's just so much time and so few books, am I right?
This last year, 2012 to be exact, Kemp comes out with a new book from Angry Robot who's more than generous with its review copies, so I figured why not?
The Hammer and the Blade is fast-paced buddy sword and sorcery that is part homage to the classics in this sub-genre such as Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser. While I can't attest to the latter, I'll explain the former.
In The Hammer and the Blade, the world isn't about to end, it doesn't hinge on the efforts of our winsome protagonist(s), it deals with a couple of guys trying to save their own necks. While not necessarily indicative of all sword and sorcery, it also helps to explain what this sub-genre is about (and which is mostly explained by its own title) - lots of action, magic, and adventure.
Of the world, it exists and it's surely a secondary one, but there is little detail. No descriptions of women's dresses or where they might cross their arms. There isn't even much about distant lands and exotic places, it's mostly focused on the here and now - what concerns our protagonists.
The Hammer and the Blade follows Egil and Nix (the buddies I mentioned above), both famous, or infamous, tomb-robbers and sometimes swords for hire. One, Egil, is a warrior priest with a large eye tattooed on his forehead and two huge hammers as weapons. The other, Nix, is a (semi) adept magician who was kicked out of magical school, emphasis on the fact that he was kicked out, which he emphasizes whenever the subject is addressed.
At first, this duo reminded me of Hadrian and Royce from the Riyria Revelations, but I was quickly put off this theory. Hadrian and Royce are much more mysterious and a bit darker in a way while Egil and Nix are more straight forward. One of the things I thought was a great way to clue readers in on some information was Nix trying to brag about his exploits to curry favor with a woman.
Egil and Nix are tons of fun, lots of jokes and adventures, and we're pulled right into the action immediately as the two are traipsing through a tomb, bobbing through booby-traps, and finding the treasure. What a great opening.
And it doesn't let down from there. The Hammer and the Blade accomplishes everything it sets out to be. Simple fun and lots of action.
At the same time, it's lack of complexity is the thing that's holding it back from any more stars from me. It's really just a personal preference thing and probably highlights the drawbacks of ratings systems more than anything.
Before I end this review, I have to point out something that really stood out to me, but which spoils one part of the book. You've been warned (for this paragraph and the next only). (view spoiler)[ Early in the book, our daring duo gets into a scrape with a local sell-sword who fails to treat a lady with the proper respect. He's a huge jerk and gets what's coming to him. To make a long story short, later in the book this same guy actually becomes good friends with Egil and Nix.
This is something you just don't see every day. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen this in a book. Someone who starts out as a jerk is later shown to have redeeming qualities. I think we could use more of this. This is real, this is people. In our internet generation, it's easy for people to show their true colors on the internet and for everyone else to write them off. Sometimes it's warranted, sometimes it's not. I don't really know where I'm going here, but I liked this. People deserve redemption sometimes. We're just people, we do dumb things...often. (hide spoiler)]
The Hammer and the Blade made for a great ride. Lots of jokes, bumbling magic, and two huge hammers! Kemp is obviously a master at the light-hearted adventure story and I'm looking forward to reading more of his work.
3.5 out of 5 Stars (Recommended)
A copy of this book was provided by the publisher["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
The Other Lands is an excellent sequel to Acacia: The War with the Mein. It takes the solid foundation built in Acacia and expands it to, well, the Ot...moreThe Other Lands is an excellent sequel to Acacia: The War with the Mein. It takes the solid foundation built in Acacia and expands it to, well, the Other Lands, which is a place full of new creatures and peoples. Best of all, we finally get to meet these people the Acacians have been so afraid of and sending their children to.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
I look a a sequel review as a place to discuss the first novel freely, so if you haven't read it, 1) you should and 2) you may not want to read the rest.
The Akarans, rulers of Acacia, are back in control after the Mein usurpation. Queen Corinn is doing her best to keep Acacia safe, which now includes her son, Aaden. She refuses to abolish the terrible "quota," Acacia's dirty not-so secret, which is where a quota of children are traded to a distant people through the League of Vessels and the Lothan Aklun.
The late Prince Aliver's dream is refused and the people are restless.
Durham really knows how to tug at the heartstrings and the quota is no exception. Having three kids of my own, it's hard not to think about losing your precious children to a trade with a foreign people, not knowing what becomes of those children.
In The Other Lands, we find out what does become of them, but I won't go ruining that for you.
As we know from Acacia, Prince Aliver was killed by Maender Mein, brother of Hanish Mein, the ruler of the Mein (whew). The rest of the Akaran children (although no longer children as this book takes place 9 years after Acacia) are under the rule of Queen Corinn as well, who has plenty to keep them busy.
Starting out, Mena is sent out to fight the foulthings. Foulthings are those creatures that came about because of the Santoth's magic use toward the end of the first book. Due to the Santoth's corrupted magic, these beings came about, essentially causing havoc among the people of the Known World.
This leads her into some trouble, but for the most part, Mena doesn't play an enormous role in this book. She's in it plenty, but her parts seem more of a set up for the next book whereas all the action really occurs with Corinn and especially Dariel.
Dariel decides, with Corinn's approval, to go about rebuilding the empire. With the destruction caused by the Numrek and the Mein, many places were in need of help including Aushenia in the north, which faced some of the worst of it.
Very quickly Corinn has another mission for Dariel, sending him across the Gray Slopes to the Other Lands (first of the Known World to do so) on a mission devised by the League of Vessels. And we all know how trustworthy they are.
The Other Lands is really a book full of answers. Many of the mysteries presented in Acacia are explained as we learn more of the Other Lands and the peoples therein. We learn of the quota children, we learn of the Aldek, and we even learn why the Numrek arrived in the Known World.
We get glimpses of the creatures and the trip across the Gray Slopes was breathtaking. I applaud Durham's imagination, which never ceases to astound me.
While we get many answers, The Other Lands is still very much a set up for the final volume of the trilogy. There are some great moments and some great action, but mostly there is preparation for what is to come...and it will be amazing.
It's also a book that needed to happen and it doesn't suffer for being the bridge between the two. There's enough wonder and amazement to keep you turning pages and even some big events that I'm sure will pay off in the final volume.
Durham's also written some of my all-time favorite characters in stouthearted Mena and the ever witty Dariel. These are the main reason you read these books and I can't get enough.
The Other Lands is an incredible and epic installment in the Acacia trilogy. It brings the trilogy to a whole new level and prepares us for the final encounters that I couldn't be more excited for. If you like epic in your fantasy, the Acacia trilogy is the one for you. It will have you living and breathing the life of a Known World inhabitant and that's exactly why I read fantasy.
Crazy enough, I actually originally planned on giving this series a pass. There's just so much time and so little to read... or something like that.
Bu...moreCrazy enough, I actually originally planned on giving this series a pass. There's just so much time and so little to read... or something like that.
But then I read this review of the entire trilogy from a reviewer I highly trust and I decided I should give it a go after all. I'm so glad I didn't stick to the original plan.
Acacia follows the Akaran family, the ruling family of the nation that is Acacia. King Leodan is a devoted and loving father to his four children, Aliver, Corinn, Mena, and Dariel. As noble and even likable as King Leodan is, his conquering nation has many enemies and holds a number of dark secrets which began generations earlier.
One of these nations is that of the Meins. Lead by Hanish Mein and his two brothers, the Meins have been harboring a hatred for the Acacians and their dark secrets for as long as they have been banished to the desolate wasteland that is the far north of the Known World.
Acacia unfolds very gradually as we get to know each of the Akaran children intimately along with Leodan, his chancellor, Hanish Mein, and even a few others. As each has their own point of view chapter, you may begin to see why many complain of the slow start that this book is known for.
Personally, I think the slow burn worth it because you feel a deep connection to each of the children especially and once the story really gets going your joy and anguish for these characters is only enhanced.*
*Note: This is also coming from a huge fan of authors such as Susanna Clarke, John Marco, and Janny Wurts.
However, if a slow start is not for you, you'll be happy to know that Mr. Durham has cut out 14,000 words of this volume in the newest release.
This series has been compared to George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series and I think that is valid. Both deal with young characters, lots of political intrigue, vast scope, and low on magic. I have to admit that Mena is just as cool as Arya in a lot of ways, not the least of which is the fact that she's a sword-wielding noble's daughter.
The characters do grow up about midway through the novel, but the similarities are still there. There's betrayal, reverse betrayal, and some twists and turns that not only come out of nowhere, but make you feel like you should have seen it all along. That's just good writing.
The one big and highly favorable comparison I can make is that at a certain point I was so involved with one pov, I'd flip pages to see when we'd go back to that one, only to get just as involved in the next pov. That's a very good thing.
If you're dying for something to read while we wait for George, Acacia just may be the perfect interlude.
4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended!)(less)
Arki, short for Arkamandos, has been hired on as a scribe by a band of Syldoon, the most feared and treacherous soldiers in the world. Why did he acce...moreArki, short for Arkamandos, has been hired on as a scribe by a band of Syldoon, the most feared and treacherous soldiers in the world. Why did he accept this work? Well, it seemed a good idea at the time - he just wanted to get out and maybe see a little more adventure.
This may have also been the worst decision of his life.
As mentioned, the Syldoon aren't the kindest of people, nor are they even that pleasant to have a drink with (as we learn early on). They have some sort of plan, of which nothing is told to their scribe.
And that's part of the genius of this book. It's told in first person from the point of view of Arki. Therefore, as he knows absolutely nothing, neither do we...and yet you still can't help but read on to find out more.
This book's been making the rounds in the blogosphere and for good reason. Somehow Salyards, a debut author by the way, comes up with this idea to just throw his readers into this situation with no heads up, no idea what's going on and you still can't put the book down.
Arki is a great character too. He really has no clue what's going on and on top of that he definitely doesn't belong amidst a band this bruised and blackened and well, scary.
He doesn't even know how to hold a knife let alone a sword/crossbow/other implement of death. He just kind of bumbles along and luckily has some help along the way.
Probably my favorite character, Braylar is the leader of this whole shindig. He's easily the knarliest of the bunch and he's got a nice set of flails to make it so. In the scale of cubicle-dweller to biker-bar, you have to lean on the side of the biker if you carry flails as a weapon.
Braylar also comes up with some good lines along the way:
[says Arki:] "We're not returning to the road." [Braylar] "Very astute. And I'll preempt a few more observations to save you the trouble: the sky is still above us; the sun continues trekking west; our wagon is pulled by horses, not unicorns."
And also: (since I just finished taking the bar)
"Clerics and lawyers are a pestilence on this world, but they do have their uses. A wise man would avoid their company altogether, it's true,..."
Overall, count me impressed. This is a great story that would only be ruined if I gave you too much. The slow build in both plot development and simply details is worth the go. The brutality of the action and this crew definitely fit this story right alongside the likes of Joe Abercrombie for starters and I've heard Glen Cook as well although I've yet to read him.
I honestly thought I would rate this lower, but there really isn't anything to complain about. The writing's great, great characters, great ending that really ramps things up. The only failing is that I wanted more...which I've been told is contained in the next volume. That's by far the best negative thing a book can have in my opinion. I am now highly anticipating book two in the Bloodsounder's Arc.
Read this in high school, well it was a summer reading book and I remember hating it. I actually enjoyed a lot of my summer reading list including Wat...moreRead this in high school, well it was a summer reading book and I remember hating it. I actually enjoyed a lot of my summer reading list including Watership Down, The Once and Future King, The Jungle, and others, but this one killed it for me.
Looking back, however, I'm pretty sure I missed something when I first read it, some joke that everyone got but me. I think I may have to revisit this one day and see how my more literate and well-read (and snobbish) self rates it.(less)
This is another one of those, how-can-you-call-yourself-a-fantasy-fan-and-not-read series. I really am sorry I waited this long because I loved it and...moreThis is another one of those, how-can-you-call-yourself-a-fantasy-fan-and-not-read series. I really am sorry I waited this long because I loved it and can't wait for more...good thing there are 10 more and counting set in the Realm of the Elderlings.
That's not to say I loved it from the beginning, however. I had a bit of a hard time getting into Assassin's Apprentice, but that could also be the fact that I had a hard time with the narrator at first. By the end, I actually found it quite fitting.
Assassin's Apprentice is the first book in the Farseer Trilogy. The Farseer's are a ruling family in the land of the Six Duchies and the book is told from the perspective of Fitz Chivalry, the bastard of Prince Chivalry Farseer.
Everyone knows he's the bastard, his name even connotes such, but he has an uncanny resemblance to his father. Also, no one really knows what to do about the bastard until King Shrewd Farseer decides to put him to good use by putting him to work as the title of the book suggests.
As an assassin for the king, Fitz learns about herbs and languages, stealth and subterfuge. He's given tasks that test his skills such as stealing certain artifacts and then putting them back without being seen.
The setup of the book works really well to build up the world without slowing down the action too much. It's told essentially as Fitz Chivalry writing his memoirs. Each chapter begins with some information about the world, the politics, the peoples of or around the Six Duchies, among other things. Following this, the story resumes as if we're right there with Fitz as he is experiencing things.
In this way, the world becomes a rich tapestry you feel yourself a part of. The world expands while we continue to see the important role (and roles) that the bastard is beginning to play.
As I talk about this book now, Assassin's Apprentice wasn't nearly as exciting as I thought it would be going into it. We learn a lot about the world, the history, the relationships and the assassin work is really just a small part.
Then again, the story is much more than I ever thought it would be. It's more than just assassins, it's a rich story with a huge history that's told impeccably. Hobb is a master at leading you to expect one thing while her real plans come out of left field...and yet are so obvious at the same time.
I've been going through a kind of mild Stephen King binge at the moment. I've mentioned before that I thought I wasn't a fan of the King and had given...moreI've been going through a kind of mild Stephen King binge at the moment. I've mentioned before that I thought I wasn't a fan of the King and had given up on him for a while, but with my high enjoyment of his Dark Tower series, I've given him a second chance. This was not a bad idea.
The Long Walk intrigued me when I started hearing people say it was like The Hunger Games, but darker. While I can see where this comparison comes from - a televised game of kids competing (view spoiler)[ and the winner is the one who survives the rest (hide spoiler)] (it's not really a spoiler and you find it out quite soon, I don't want to spoil it if you don't know anything else) - it's not really anything close.
It's much more intimate and deep, it's more human, and it's not nearly as ridiculous and over-the-top. It crushed me and made me appreciate what it's like to be alive.
This book details the journey of 100 boys (up to 18) competing in a televised competition called The Long Walk. There's a starting point and an ending destination and really only a few rules to follow. The winner reaches the end first without getting a ticket.
If you don't want things to really be spoiled (these are only mild spoilers if any), you may not want to keep reading. Just thought I'd warn if you want the "pure" experience.
At first, the whole concept of The Long Walk didn't really make sense to me. Who volunteers to join a competition where not only does everyone die but the winner, but everyone joining has also seen the end when the kids are obviously suffering.
The first thing that got me (and by "got me," I mean sucked me in and made this a favorite book of mine) was the kind of secret language that was used. King, I've noticed, likes to make you feel like you're in on something bigger or at least something that not everyone knows. You read his books, you can speak his language along with other "Constant Readers" as he terms it.
The first phrase is "getting a ticket." At first, I was pretty sure what this meant, it's not revealed right away, but very quickly you find out that these kids who get a ticket get shot. Soldiers line the race waiting for the time when a boy will slow down enough, stop, or leave the race area and that's when they get their "ticket."
Essentially, the winner is the sole survivor.
And that's how we get to the next part of this secret language. The "warnings." A boy is warned when he falls under the mandatory 4 miles per hour that all racers must keep up. Each boy gets three warnings and then they get their "ticket."
A warning can be gained back only by time. Each hour you walk without a warning, you gain a warning back. So, you get three warnings, it takes you three hours of walking at 4 miles per hour to get back to having zero warnings again.
While King exceeds at amazing concepts like this one (I still can't stop thinking about this), he's even better with his characters, Ray Garrity especially.
King uses a third-person limited point of view, telling the tale from Garrity's perspective. We learn of and become very close to his group of friends, we find out whatever gossip or information comes down the line from the front-runners, but we really find out what it's like to and means to someone to survive.
It's amazing how little it takes to get your ticket in a situation like this. I mean, think about it, you may be perfectly fine any other day, but what if this is the day your appendix decides to act up? What if today's the day you get a small cold, what could it turn into? What if you get a simple Charlie horse?
In this race, it's almost always deadly.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Ray Garrity contemplates these simple occurrences, but then things just keep getting worse as you can imagine, especially as the the Long Walk carries on and your feet get more than tired, and you haven't slept in days.
The Long Walk is a book I won't soon forget. I don't plan on rereading books very often, but I will definitely reread this one. The fact that this isn't even considered one of King's best works gets me really excited for what's to come.
4.5 out of 5 Stars["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Corrupts Absolutely? is an anthology that deals with superheroes and metahumans and their powers. What would we actually do if we had 'em? Hopefully p...moreCorrupts Absolutely? is an anthology that deals with superheroes and metahumans and their powers. What would we actually do if we had 'em? Hopefully people would do good, but like the title of the anthology says, would it just corrupt people absolutely as the saying goes.
I always thought that if I got a superpower it'd be something like fire coming out of my butt. Everyone else gets the handy dandy and oh so convenient fire from palms, but I'd have to be like, "Give me just a sec..." *zip* "...alright, I'm ready to do this."
Retribution by Tim Marquitz - Let's just say this is quite the explosive beginning. Okay, I have more to say than that. This one deals with a man who's lost his family in 9/11 and watched it happen. Revenge consumes his life and he has the means to make something happen. (4/5)
Hollywood Villany by Weston Ochse - This was a hard one to put down. A "kid," who really just looks like a kid, but who's actually quite old follows a man home - "I want my two dollars." This story has a sick twist that was entirely unexpected. (4/5)
Mental Man by William Todd Rose - I really enjoyed the concept of this one, a man can get inside the victims' or the killer's head and see what happened, but in this case the killer smashes all the mirrors in the house and hides his face well enough he can't figure it out. I would love to see this as a full length novel. (4/5)
The Real Church by Jeremy Hepler - A guy resurrects a dog and then, with his mother, starts a church. This, in my opinion, is one of the most truthful stories of what someone would do with a "superpower." (3/5)
Ozymandias Revisited by A.S. Fox - No, this is not a Watchmen tribute, but has to do with the poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Worth a read before reading this story as it is often referenced with it's own changes. Ozymandias Revisited is about a guy who has ultimate power, who can do anything he wants, which he also does. Sex, drugs, rock and roll, and everything else. This all comes with costs, some what you may think, others not expected. Revisited has a very unique style that's worth a read in and of itself. (3.5/5)
Enlightened by Sin by Jason M. Tucker - Another I'd love to see turned into a novel and my favorite so far, Enlightened is about a Dexter-like character, but who has the power to actually know the sins of those he kills (unlike Dexter's "I proved one bad thing so they're dead" take). Victor's tracking a brutal serial killer, but what's great about this one is that it expands the whole concept and world - there are superheroes, but who are sponsored by corporations. They help, but at the same time make sure to help themselves. (5/5)
The Origin of Slashy by Jeff Strand - This is how a serial killer is made. I was expecting a clown going into this, but this concept was creepy too. Slashy starts off with Kaylie getting raped and then finding out she can't be hurt. (3.5/5)
Conviction by Edward M. Erdelac - Told from the perspective of a young black boy and also as if he had written it, misspellings and everything. Abassi meets with a shrink about a picture he drew and tells about his rough life in the ghetto. He likes the shrink and decides to follow her advice. Conviction kind of had a similar concept to Ozymandias but also very different. (4/5)
Threshold by Kris Ashton - Similar to Enlightened by Sin in that the main character can tell whether a person has done something wrong, but in this one he feels pain until he does something about it. Great ending and great story. (4/5)
Oily by A.D. Spencer - About a superhero who gets hints from her dad about who to track down, she goes about as Cat's Eye. Enjoyable but a bit forgettable at the same time. (3/5)
Hero by Joe McKinney - A man, to around 7 minutes ahead, can predict the future - so of course he's being held captive. A highly enjoyable story. (4/5)
Pride by Wayne Ligon - One of my favorites so far, I think I like the ones more that display the powers. This reminded me a lot of Shadow Ops: Control Point where powers are highly regulated by the government, but that doesn't necessarily mean controlled. (4.5/5)
G-Child by Malon Edwards - A girl with parental issues attempts to stop a similarly power-enhanced teammate. Lots of action, but I didn't love it. The story switches back and forth between the action and her earlier years. (3/5)
Static by Jason Gehlert - I loved the plot, the ideas, and the action, but had a hard time following exactly what everyone could do as far as powers go and some of the dialogue was a bit stilted, a bit awkward. (3.5/5)
Illusion by Karina Fabian - Probably one of the most realistic in terms of what would actually happen if someone had psychic abilities - they'd go crazy. Illusion follows a kid's experience with this. (4/5)
Sabre by Anthony Laffan - The closest to an actual comic, this had great action, great scenes, and was lots of fun. It follows Sabre, a superhero dogged by reporters with lots of secrets to hide. (4/5)
Crooked by Lee Mather - The name of this story says a lot more than I realized when I started reading. A man with certain handicaps runs into an ambush while breaking into a home. Crooked is one of the darker stories, I wasn't a big fan of the parts that discussed children being injured or worse (I've become a softy in this area), but otherwise a very worthy installment. (3.5/5)
Fixed by Trisha J. Wooldridge - A woman, often marginalized by the men she's working with, both because of her gender and because of her handicaps, becomes a big player. But, is it because of her expertise or because of blackmail. Fixed wasn't my favorite, but very well done. (3.5/5)
Acquainted with the Night by Cat Rambo - One of the shortest stories if not the shortest, this story describes the origin, the career, the arrival, and the announcement of our superhero. I liked the unique structure and this story is the only to involve aliens so far. (4/5)
Gone Rogue by Wayne Helge - I mentioned some of these stories are very close to being comics, well, Gone Rogue is more like an '80s superhero cartoon. Filled with campy superhero and villain names (like The Midshipman and Kitty Twister), a teenage sidekick has to step up. (4/5)
Max and Rose by Andrew Bourelle - One of my favorites, if not my favorite, Max and Rose is a powerful story. I was going to say it's about what it means to be a superhero, but it's really more the opposite - if you're not being a superhero with your powers what does that make you? What if you're taking advantage of those powers? (5/5)
Corrupts Absolutely? is a great anthology with a concept that never gets old. Each of the stories is incredibly unique, even the ones that deal with a similar power or theme. I had a great time with this and I didn't dislike a single story. That's hard to do. Highly Recommended!
I can see why this is looked on so positively, it's creative, it's different, it's got a David Bowie from the Labyrinth character. But it's also extre...moreI can see why this is looked on so positively, it's creative, it's different, it's got a David Bowie from the Labyrinth character. But it's also extremely dark and depressing, especially the part about John Dee, which was also pretty gruesome. This series is a little much for me so I don't think I'll be going any further.
I thought it was interesting that parts take place in Gotham and Arkham and include some DC superheroes. I honestly didn't think they would be interrelated like that, but I guess it is the "DC Universe." Shows how well-read I am when it comes to comics.(less)
I always have high expectations when reading George R.R. Martin. He really did it to himself, have you read A Game of Thrones? So going into The Ice D...moreI always have high expectations when reading George R.R. Martin. He really did it to himself, have you read A Game of Thrones? So going into The Ice Dragon, GRRM's children's tale, I still had nothing but the highest and happiest of attitudes until I was completely disappointed...in nothing at all. :D
Okay, I've learned from the cases I've been reading in law school that in order to have a successful argument, all you have to do is act like you're going to decide one way, but then go the exact opposite. Did it work? (No, I'm not simplifying it at all, why would you say that?)
The plot is simple, yet extremely subtle as we've come to expect from Martin. Adara is a winter child who's not only physically cold, but distant from her family as well. She was not only born in winter, but was the reason for her mother's death and her father has had a difficult time with that.
Adara loves the winter and counts the days until it comes back. She stays out longer than anyone else and can even hold the ice lizards for long periods of time without hurting them like other children end up doing.
Soon the eponymous Ice Dragon enters the picture, visiting Adara at times during the winter, even letting her ride. You see, ice dragons are not only rare, but it is known that ice dragons never let anyone ride them. Other, smaller dragons are used by people, especially for war as we see in this story.
Without going into too much more detail, the land is filled with war and it is creeping toward Adara and her family, but her father belongs with the land as is important for many in the medieval-type society.
While we follow Adara closely, the land and the environment were probably my favorite part of the story. It's filled with hard-working farmers and dragons are commonplace. I would really love to read more of this world Martin's created, possibly outside of a children's tale.
But on that note, I would read more children's tales as well at this caliber. Although, I don't quite know if I'd categorize The Ice Dragon as a children's tale. About 99% was for children, but there was a section about split-heads and relatively gruesome scenes for children.
In the end, I highly enjoyed The Ice Dragon and would recommend it, especially at this time of year...or maybe not, GRRM does such a good job with atmosphere I was actually colder while reading it. Maybe wait till summer. Then again, you're probably hot enough. And you wonder how I get all the ladies. :)
4 out of 5 Stars (Loved it)
Note on the eBook: This is an illustrated novel and I can't say they're done justice on the Kindle Touch at least (or anything with eInk). Mostly you can see them fine, but there are still quite a few that are hard to make out and all of them are at least somewhat difficult to view. (less)
I always know that when I read Scalzi I'll be entertained. Whether it's his science fiction, his blog (whatever), and now his short fiction.
An Electi...moreI always know that when I read Scalzi I'll be entertained. Whether it's his science fiction, his blog (whatever), and now his short fiction.
An Election is a humorous story of a guy, David, who decides to run for city counsel. It just so happens no human has been a representative for the third district in 44 years, not to mention no human has even run for the position in 36.
David's husband, James, attempts to talk him out of it, but to no avail.
Most of the fun is found in the different aliens Scalzi's created, from a gelatinous blob who speaks in bubbles, to, well, let's just say there's suckers. David goes door-to-door meeting them and runs against them.
The running-mates, of course, are all aliens (if you can call them that at this point in the future), one of whom's only platform is that people should be able to eat each other's pets. Yep, the only stance.
I had fun, but I think I was expecting it to be funnier really. Still good, but not my favorite from Scalzi. It was still worth the $0.99 I paid, even though it was only about 15 or so pages (I think, my kindle skipped about 3-5% each page turn).
An actuary, and one well suited to his job in every way, inadvertently summons a demon while erecting a poker table and hammering his finger. While le...moreAn actuary, and one well suited to his job in every way, inadvertently summons a demon while erecting a poker table and hammering his finger. While less than amenable to the idea of selling his soul, especially with incontrovertible proof that there actually is such a thing as eternal damnation, he sets into motion a set of events that has extremely humorous consequences.
To say that the author, Matthew Hughes, can write is like saying...well... I was going to go for some sports analogy, but that just doesn't quite work, this is a fantasy book for crying out loud. Let's say it's like saying an Ogier can build a house or since he's the Jack Vance guy - it's like saying Cudgel is quick on the uptake.
He's a genius and the first third of this book definitely proves it. It's witty, clever, funny, and just plain amazingly well-written. Chesney Arnstruther, the heroic actuary, is not only an oddball, but extremely relatable. The world he's created with heaven and hell and their relationship to our world is not only understandable, but believable and simply hilarious - I would almost say along the line of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.
I don't want to give away too much about the world and what makes it comical as it spoils some priceless moments, but essentially Heaven and Hell are sitting on each and every mortal's shoulder. The demons tempt, but stick to what they're told while the angels just say the opposite. Literally, all they do is say the opposite.
With the heights that the opening third of The Damned Busters reached, the final two-thirds in comparison were quite dismal. In reality, I really enjoyed the last two-thirds, they were just not nearly as good as the opening. The superhero part was really entertaining and I really wanted to see how that worked (and you'll see, it's pretty cool), but it just didn't compare and I feel bad that I couldn't get past that.
The best way to explain this book may be with ratings stars. The first third was easily 5 stars. The mid-third was more around 3 stars and the final third about 3.5 stars. Thus, you may see my conundrum when giving an actual rating to the entire book and so I settled on 4. Highly recommended if only for the first part.
In my first review for this series (for Shadow's Son), I made a big deal about assassins. The main character is Caim, an assassin above and beyond the...moreIn my first review for this series (for Shadow's Son), I made a big deal about assassins. The main character is Caim, an assassin above and beyond the rest. He's not only able to use the shadows around him to his advantage, but he also has an invisible friend (I said invisible not imaginary), Kit, who helps him out and warns him of hidden dangers.
By book three (that's this one), Caim and the story itself have evolved into much more than an "assassin" tale. Yes, his assassin skills continually come in handy and yes, this takes the action scenes to the next level of awesome, but Caim is a different man who's conflicted with more problems than finding his next target.
At this point in the tale, Caim is driven north by an unknown prompting, but the problem is, the north is filled with northmen. Unruly tribes battle each other for territory while all the while the shadow is slowly taking over - so much so that the sun can no longer be seen.
Caim also struggles as he loses more and more friends to his possibly meaningless quest north. Even Kit acts odd as she struggles with her love of Caim and impossible situation of being intangible. Sprunk even adds a catch-22 reminiscent of Lord of the Rings.
As Caim heads north, Josey, the empress of Nimea and mother of Caim's unborn child, decides to head north herself under the guise of ... well ... she just wants to find Caim okay. Is that so bad? As she tours the northern ends of her empire, she runs into troubles of her own with feuding nobles being the least of her problems.
Keeping up the same action-packed pace as the rest of the trilogy, Shadow's Master is an excellent conclusion to a great series. While things wrap up nicely (for the most part), it didn't feel like such a perfect wrap-up, more like a transition to the next stage and I really liked that.
The Shadow Saga is light on description and world-building, but heavy on characters and combat. No word is minced and everything moves to the action-packed climax. A series not to be missed.
Welcome to flashback town, population - Wizard and Glass and The Wind Through the Keyhole.
(It's a terrible ride btw, unless you enjoy your head getti...moreWelcome to flashback town, population - Wizard and Glass and The Wind Through the Keyhole.
(It's a terrible ride btw, unless you enjoy your head getting bashed over and over again.)
Wizard and Glass may have the record for length of flashback, but Wind Through the Keyhole goes Inception* on that flashback with a flashback** within a flashback.
*It's still accepted to reference Inception right?
**Okay, really it's a story within a flashback, but the story is a flashback to an even younger Roland technically so...I'm going with it anyway.
As someone who has been reading this series chronologically (i.e., I've read the first four in the Dark Tower series, but have yet to read the last three), I'm having a really hard time picturing what it's like for a Dark Tower book to have plot progression with the main Ka-tet.
This book's been quite the divisive one and to be honest, I can't really disagree with what a lot of people have said who didn't like it nearly as much as I did.
So, having only read the first four books, reading The Wind Through the Keyhole was just a continuation of the last book, Wizard and Glass. I'm sure there are some things in Wind that I missed having not read the last three, and knowing this, of course we know our friends are going to be okay...right? Or are they? (yeah, they're fine)
And yet, that doesn't mean there's no dramatic tension. If you've read any of my reviews, you probably already know that I really don't know what I'm talking about. I didn't major in English and I've easily forgotten anything I've ever learned in high school or undergrad.
Given that, I want to talk about literary devices for a sec. Just because we know the ending already (well, not me), doesn't mean a story lacks tension. While we know they'll be "all right," one, we don't know how other characters will fair, and two, we're still looking for how they get back to "all right" because they're not at this point. So, it's really just a focus shift.
Okay, I'll quit talking about things I know nothing about...well, probably not.
We pick up just after the events from W&G as our fearless Ka-tet is on their way from the glass tower in the first section titled "Starkblast." This doesn't last long, as you can imagine, and we're back into a flashback story from Roland's youth, which actually takes place just after the flashback from Wizard and Glass. This flashback is called "The Skin-Man."
Roland is sent on anther mission to another remote area of the world where a gunslinger is needed. Sadly, he takes another young gunslinger with him, not Alain and Cuthbert. I was SOOOO disappointed, I thought for sure we'd get those guys back.
(Not sure if those are even Alain and Cuthbert, but the picture's pretty cool anyway.)
But wait, there's more...flashbacks that is. During the flashback in "The Skin-Man," Roland tells the titular tale, "The Wind Through the Keyhole." This tale actually makes up the bulk of the book and was easily my favorite part.
In "The Wind Through the Keyhole," King is in top form writing-wise. The story is independent and only mildly relates to either of the two other stories, but it's still a great one and I loved every minute of it.
It's a great old-timey adventure story about a kid who braves impossible odds to help his family. I have to say this again, the writing is top-notch (or tip top as the Swiss would say). He fits it to the story perfectly and puts me in awe at the talent this man possesses. He is the King in name and writing.
And just like a Matryoshka (or Russian nesting) doll, we head back to the first flashback in "The Skin-Man Part 2" and then back to our Ka-tet.
In summary, the story goes like this (not necessarily using the given titles): Ka-tet > Flashback to Young Roland > The Wind Through the Keyhole (main story) > Flashback to Young Roland > Ka-tet.
As much as I loved the main story, I didn't love the ending to the Young Roland flashback and the ka-tet portion was just a reference point if anything.
As someone who considers Wizard and Glass one of his all-time favorite books, I love me a good flashback. Not everyone does and I'll even admit that I thought this book would be a tale of the Ka-tet, not another flashback within a flashback. I'd still recommend this to readers of the Dark Tower and even non-readers may not be too confused.
4 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)
Worth checking out: Here's a detailed list of all of King's books from worst to best with semi-detailed descriptions of why the article's author thinks so.(less)
Mark Lawrence stormed onto the scene (well, as much as you can in the publishing world) last year with his debut, Prince of Thorns, book one in The Br...moreMark Lawrence stormed onto the scene (well, as much as you can in the publishing world) last year with his debut, Prince of Thorns, book one in The Broken Empire. This divisive book found a fan in me, despite this particular first person point of view that all notions of good and virtue tells you to hate.
I found a lot of things that I liked about Jorg even though I didn't love everything about him. Lawrence's captivating writing and smooth prose keep the pages flying and have not a little to do with making this work genius in its own ways.
King of Thorns is quite the experience to say the least. Jorg really resonated with me in this sequel, he's growing up a bit, still self-obsessed, but seeing things a little differently than his kill everything/everyone past. I like his whole, "I'm going to make this happen no matter the odds" philosophy, but at times he really is hard to read.
While his disposition on let's say kicking severed heads was enlightening, clever, and funny, it's also terribly creepy. And that's not the only one. I've heard it compared to "staring at a fire," you just can't stop, but how much are you really enjoying it? The more I think about it, the more this describes my reading experience. I don't really know how much I actually enjoyed the reading experience especially with the amount of cringe-worthy moments.
This being said, I am vastly impressed by Lawrence's talent to not only keep you reading despite these moments, but to keep you rooting for a character who can be so deplorable. I say "can be" because he does have his moments of goodness, they're just peppered with moments that make you a little sick or shocked even.
Along with the character of Jorg, Lawrence employs a plot device throughout King of Thorns that I thought was incredibly interesting and worked extremely well. The book takes place four years after Prince of Thorns and consists of the present day and then lengthy flashbacks to four years earlier, when Jorg was newly "crowned" king of Renar. The present is actually his Wedding Day, but at the same time the Prince of Arrow has marched on the highlands of Renar with his countless soldiers. By flashing between these two time frames, we begin to find out that Jorg has not only grown, but has had dealings with the Prince of Arrow in the past.
In the present, we see Jorg is going through some, let's call them mental experiences. He sees a dead child everywhere he goes, which is obviously a hallucination, and he holds some mysterious box. The box is not only an interesting addition to the story, but works as an impressive plot device, but I'm wary of revealing too much. Let's just say there is an addition means of keeping information from the reader.
As well as using clever plot devices, I found Lawrence's human to be clever in the extreme, with little gems like this strewn throughout:
"They call it a gate but it is a door, five yards high, three yards wide, black oak with iron banding, a smaller door set into the middle of it for when it is simply men seeking entrance rather than giants."
For many instances of humor, I had to reread, almost missing the joke entirely. This is definitely the kind of humor I prefer and Mark has a subtlety that just worked for me.
Lawrence has created a series that challenges your perceptions and manages to be compulsively readable. The Broken Empire trilogy is an experience to say the least. I couldn't put it down and that's partly because I just couldn't look away. King of Thorns takes the anti-hero to a whole new level, one who might even give Logan Ninefingers of Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy a run for his money.