Sunday, December 28, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-12-27)

Well, the publishing world tends to take a long Winter's nap between Christmas and New Year's Day, but these two books arrived before Odin/Santa Claus made his nighttime journey and make for the final Books in the Mail post for 2014.

Prudence (Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger (Orbit , Hardcover 03/17/2015) – One could consider Carriger a superstar of the mannered supernatural steampunk novel, she’s been churning away with books in this world since 2009 and is showing no signs of slowing down.

Introducing the Custard Protocol series, in which Alexia Maccon's daughter Prudence travels to India on behalf of Queen, country...and the perfect pot of tea.

When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama ("Rue" to her friends) is bequeathed an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female under similar circumstances would do -- she christens it the Spotted Custard and floats off to India.

Soon, she stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife, and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis (and an embarrassing lack of bloomers), Rue must rely on her good breeding -- and her metanatural abilities -- to get to the bottom of it all...

Blood Will Follow (The Valhalla Saga #2) by Snorri Kristjansson (Jo Fletcher Books Hardcover 01/15/2015) – Second installment in Kristjansson’s epic Viking fantasy.

Ulfar Thormodsson and Audun Arngrimsson survived the battle for Stenvik, although at huge cost. They have suffered much worse than heartbreak; they have lost the very thing that made them human: their mortality.

While Ulfar heads home, looking for the place where he thinks he will be safe, Audun runs south. But both men are about to discover that they cannot run away from themselves. For King Olav has left the conquered town of Stenvik in the hands of his lieutenant so he can journey north, following Valgard in the search for the source of the Vikings’ power.

And all the while older beings watch and wait, biding their time. There are secrets yet to be discovered…

Monday, December 22, 2014

Anticipated Reading: A Baker's Dozen of Books for 2015

In the past, I’ve lumped in a list of forthcoming books publishing in the calendar year with my wrap up of the previous years. This time around, I decided to go with a post of its own to highlight some books I am looking forward to reading. Of course I give the caveat that reading plans are far from things set in stone by any biblioholic like myself. Furthermore, I am not including books I don’t have yet like Elizabeth Bear’s Karen Memory or Dave Bara’s Impulse which I already have in ARC form and will be reviewing in time for the publication dates of those books.

Without further ado here’s a baker’s dozen worth of books publishing in 2015 I look forward to reading…

Gemini Cell by Myke Cole (Ace January 2015) – I loved the first three books in his Shadow OPS series (Control Point, Fortress Frontier, Breach Zone) which formed a loose trilogy. This one takes a step back in the action to the days of the Great Reawakening; essentially the foundational time for the milieu.

Myke Cole continues to blow the military fantasy genre wide open with an all-new epic adventure in his highly acclaimed Shadow Ops universe—set in the early days of the Great Reawakening, when magic first returns to the world and order begins to unravel…

US Navy SEAL Jim Schweitzer is a consummate professional, a fierce warrior, and a hard man to kill. But when he sees something he was never meant to see on a covert mission gone bad, he finds himself—and his family—in the crosshairs. Nothing means more to Jim than protecting his loved ones, but when the enemy brings the battle to his front door, he is overwhelmed and taken down.

That should be the end of the story. But Jim is raised from the dead by a sorcerer and recruited by a top secret unit dabbling in the occult, known only as the Gemini Cell. With powers he doesn’t understand, Jim is called back to duty—as the ultimate warrior. As he wrestles with a literal inner demon, Jim realizes his new superiors are determined to use him for their own ends and keep him in the dark—especially about the fates of his wife and son

The Skull Throne by Peter Brett (Del Rey March 2015) – I have really enjoyed the three books Peat has published in the Demon Cycle series for its mix of old school high fantasy with some more modern sensibility (The Painted Man, The Desert Spear, and The Daylight War).

Following up on the internationally bestselling The Warded Man, The Desert Spear, and The Daylight War, Peter V. Brett continues his critically acclaimed epic fantasy Demon Cycle series that will appeal to fans of Terry Brooks, George R.R. Martin, David Eddings, and Robert Jordan.

Peter V. Brett has quickly established himself as one of the most successful new fantasy writers working today. Readers have embraced his world and his characters with a fervor, and his third and most recent novel hit the New York Times bestseller list in hardcover. Now he continues his epic series in grand style, offering the continuing stories of all the POV characters we have come to know and love, as well as adding several new ones into the mix.

Providence of Fire by Brian Staveley (Tor January 2015) – I was a little late to the game on Staveley’s debut, The Emperor’s Blades, which I thoroughly enjoyed and what I’ve heard about what happens in this one has me very excited to dive into it.

Brian Staveley's Providence of Fire, the second novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne, a gripping new epic fantasy series.

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.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (Saga Press July 2015) – I realize this was published in the UK a while back, but the Wizard helming SAGA PRESS Joe Monti is making this one available to US readers. 

It’s up to a famous rapper, a biologist, and a rogue soldier to handle humanity’s first contact with an alien ambassador—and prevent mass extinction—in this novel that blends magical realism with high-stakes action.

After word gets out on the Internet that aliens have landed in the waters outside of the world’s fifth most populous city, chaos ensues. Soon the military, religious leaders, thieves, and crackpots are trying to control the message on YouTube and on the streets. Meanwhile, the earth’s political superpowers are considering a preemptive nuclear launch to eradicate the intruders. All that stands between 17 million anarchic residents and death is an alien ambassador, a biologist, a rapper, a soldier, and a myth that may be the size of a giant spider, or a god revealed.

Cold Iron by Stina Leicht (Saga Press June 2015) – Another book in the Saga Press launch as part of Joe Monti’s plan to take over the SFF publishing world. I missed out on Stina’s series from Nightshade, so I’m very much looking forward to this one.

Fraternal twins Nels and Suvi move beyond their royal heritage and into military and magical dominion in this flintlock epic fantasy debut from a two-time Campbell Award finalist.

Prince Nels is the scholarly runt of the ancient Kainen royal family of Eledore, disregarded as flawed by the king and many others. Only Suvi, his fraternal twin sister, supports him. When Nels is ambushed by an Acrasian scouting party, he does the forbidden for a member of the ruling family: He picks up a fallen sword and defends himself.

Disowned and dismissed to the military, Nels establishes himself as a leader as Eledore begins to shatter under the attack of the Acrasians, who the Kainen had previously dismissed as barbarians. But Nels knows differently, and with the aid of Suvi, who has allied with pirates, he mounts a military offensive with sword, canon, and what little magic is left in the world.

The Hellsblood Bride by Chuck Wendig (Angry Robot March 2015) - I loved the first Mookie Pearl novel, The Blue Blazes. Of it, I said, “It may be reductive to do the whole combine-and-compare thing, but think one part Hellboy, one part Mathew Stover, one part Big Trouble in Little China, and throw in a dash of The Sopranos, the film The Wrestler and pulp sensibilities, and you might have an idea of what a great stew of fun this novel really is.” Also, just look at that awesome cover, right?

Yes, we’re going back deep underground for another twelve rounds with Mookie Pearl.

Father, barkeep, former Mafioso, ruler of his subterranean crime-kingdom. The Organization is back, and they’ll do anything to get Mookie on board, but Mookie has gone legit, and it’s taking every ounce of effort for him to keep his new bar from crashing and burning.

To top it all, his daughter is missing, and when Nora’s not in plain sight, that’s usually a sign of bad things to come! On one hand, the Organization. On the other, Nora.
Why can’t Family ever be easy..?

Nemesis Game by James S.A. Corey (Orbit Books June 2015) - The Expanse is consistently my favorite space-based science fiction series, with each book landing on my top reads of the year. Cibola Burn was a bit of a game changer for the series – in a good way for a series that was already quite good.

The fifth novel in James S.A. Corey's New York Times bestselling Expanse series--now being produced for television by the SyFy Channel!

A thousand worlds have opened, and the greatest land rush in human history has begun. As wave after wave of colonists leave, the power structures of the old solar system begin to buckle.

Ships are disappearing without a trace. Private armies are being secretly formed. The sole remaining protomolecule sample is stolen. Terrorist attacks previously considered impossible bring the inner planets to their knees. The sins of the past are returning to exact a terrible price.

And as a new human order is struggling to be born in blood and fire, James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante must struggle to survive and get back to the only home they have left.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik (Del Rey June 2015) – I thoroughly enjoyed the first few books (His Majesty’s Dragon) of Novik’s Temeraire series by admittedly, my interest waned as the series continued. This is a fresh new world and looks to be a modern twist on a Fair Tale.

Naomi Novik, author of the bestselling and critically acclaimed Temeraire novels, introduces a bold new world rooted in folk stories and legends, as elemental as a Grimm fairy tale.

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Empire Ascendant by Kameron Hurley (Angry Robot October 2015) – I don’t know much about what will be happening in the second book of Hurley’s Worldbreaker saga, but all I need to know is that it is the second book in the series and follow-up to The Mirror Empire.

The Spider’s War by Daniel Abraham (Orbit Books June 2015) – The concluding volume of the fantastic Dagger and the Coin series. - The epic conclusion to The Dagger and The Coin series, perfect for fans of George R.R. Martin.

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

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

Fool’s Quest (Fitz and the Fool Trilogy #2) by Robin Hobb (Del Rey August 2015) – Considering Fool’s Assassin was the most enjoyable reading experience I had in 2014, this one is very, VERY high on my anticipation list.

Ranking alongside George R. R. Martin as a groundbreaking master of fantasy, New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb delivers the second book in her long-awaited Fitz and the Fool trilogy. After a devastating confrontation, FitzChivalry Farseer is out for blood—and who better to wreak havoc than a highly trained former royal assassin?

The Black Wolves by Kate Elliott (Orbit Books July 2015) – A new series from Elliott who writes some of the strongest opening volumes in fantasy.


He lost his honor long ago.

Captain Kellas was lauded as the king's most faithful servant until the day he failed in his duty. Dismissed from service, his elite regiment disbanded, he left the royal palace and took up another life.

Now a battle brews within the palace that threatens to reveal deadly secrets and spill over into open war. The king needs a loyal soldier to protect him.

Can a disgraced man ever be trusted? 

The Prince of Valor by Django Wexler (Roc July 2015) – I read the first two Shadow Campaigns novels last year and thought The Shadow Throne was awesome.

In the latest Shadow Campaigns novel, Django Wexler continues his "epic fantasy of military might and magical conflict" following The Shadow Throne and The Thousand Names, as the realm of Vordan faces imminent threats from without and within.

In the wake of the King’s death, war has come to Vordan.

The Deputies-General has precarious control of the city, but it is led by a zealot who sees traitors in every shadow. Executions have become a grim public spectacle. The new queen, Raesinia Orboan, finds herself nearly powerless as the government tightens its grip and assassins threaten her life. But she did not help free the country from one sort of tyranny to see it fall into another. Placing her trust with the steadfast soldier Marcus D’Ivoire, she sets out to turn the tide of history.

As the hidden hand of the Sworn Church brings all the powers of the continent to war against Vordan, the enigmatic and brilliant general Janus bet Vhalnich offers a path to victory. Winter Ihernglass, newly promoted to command a regiment, has reunited with her lover and her friends, only to face the prospect of leading them into bloody battle.

And the enemy is not just armed with muskets and cannon. Dark priests of an ancient order, wielding forbidden magic, have infiltrated Vordan to stop Janus by whatever means necessary...


It seems the past few years I’ve gone and done a re-read of a series or a re-read/catch-up of a series. Last year it was Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams, the year before that, David Anthony Durham’s Acacia, and the year before that it was Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet and for a couple of years before that I re-read & caught up with The Wheel of Time and as a refresher for A Dance of Dragons and Game of Thrones premiering on HBO, I re-read A Song of Ice and Fire.

In 2015, the series that most likely will fall into this category is Kate Elliott’s Crown of Stars series. As I intimated above, I loved the first book King’s Dragon when I first read it years ago and enjoyed each subsequent volume of the series but, as I’ve written previously, the onslaught of review books over the years kept pushing this series away from my grasp. 

So as of this post, I’ve given myself 20 books to read next year, which will account for about 1/3 of what I’ll likely read.

I’ll close out by saying that I am also VERY much looking forward to Saga Press entering the genre marketplace. 

Strike that, a final postscript: my primary source Locus Online’s Forthcoming books so a couple of books I might otherwise include in this post aren’t on Locus’s list (i.e. Joe Hill’s The Fireman and Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Blades don’t have US dates listed)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-12-20)

The last full week before Christmas brings these two books, both of which publish in 2015 and look very interesting.

A Crown for Cold Silver by Alex Marshall (Orbit , Hardcover 04/15/2015) – Marshall has published other novels under another name, but I think this is Alex’s first foray into fantasy.


Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history.

Now the peace she carved for herself has been shattered by the unprovoked slaughter of her village. Seeking bloody vengeance, Zosia heads for battle once more, but to find justice she must confront grudge-bearing enemies, once-loyal allies, and an unknown army that marches under a familiar banner.

A CROWN FOR COLD SILVER is an outstanding epic fantasy featuring an unforgettable warrior.

The Just City (Thessaly #1) by Jo Walton (Tor , Hardcover 01/15/2015) – Walton is one of the most acclaimed authors in Tor’s stable and this seems to be another winner. Superficially, I’m reminded of Philip Jose Farmer’s To Your Scattered Bodies Go. Looking forward to this one, I am..

“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 ungaurded 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..

Thursday, December 18, 2014

12 Beers of Christmas

A slight change of flavor here at the ‘o Stuff as we near Christmas. I’ve blogged a bit about beer in the past, but I felt like writing in more detail about one of my other passions – craft beers, since Christmas is one of my favorite times of year for beer. Although my favorite style of beer is a Hefeweizen this style is mostly considered a summer beer and I stick to 2 or 3 for my favorite poolside brews. Christmas/Winter Beers on the other hand; well, that is a very diverse array of bottles on the shelf.

One of the earliest, and year to year, still the best Christmastime beers is Samuel Adams’ Old Fezziwig Ale. Named after the character from A Christmas Carol, this is annually one the best beers from Jim Koch’s “craft beer” empire. With traditional Christmas spices like cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel, I like to enjoy one of these when I’m decorating my Christmas Tree. They’ve smartly included this beer exclusively in their annual Holiday Cheer 12-pack, which also has always included the traditional Winter Lager. Unfortunately, the 12-pack also includes Boston Lager, which is the worst beer Sam Adams makes. (In the past, this 12-pack has included the great Holiday Porter, Cranberry Lambic and Chocolate Bock.) As a friend and I always remark about Boston Lager, it is amazing that Samuel Adams can make such great beers like Fezziwig and their Summer Ale, yet the Boston Lager is so undrinkable.  In recent years, Samuel Adams has been brewing even more specialty beers, many of which have been released in 22 oz bombs. Their Christmas offering in this line is Merry Maker, a gingerbread stout. I recall enjoying it last year so I’ll try to get some again this year.

Perhaps my go-to beer for Christmas is Harpoon’s Winter Warmer, which can be considered an amalgamation of Sam Adam’s Winter Lager and Old Fezziwig. Many of the spices (nutmeg, cinnamon) can be found in Harpoon’s beer and it is always readily available. A few years ago, when I went to the liquor store to stock up for a Winter gathering, the cashier managed to charge me only for a six-pack even though I purchased a case.

Over the past couple of years, a (fairly local micro-brewery, the next state over in NY) has been impressing me with all of their distinct beers. Now, I may not like all the styles they brew, but they are quality beers nonetheless. I speak of Southern Tier, and they’ve got (at least) two Christmas beers that should please discerning beer drinkers. First up is 2XMAS, which like some of the other Christmas beers uses orange peels to draw out flavor. The other fruit they use which is not so common is figs. I haven’t tried any 2XMAS this year, but when I’ve had it in past years I’ve enjoyed it.

Southern Tier’s other Christmas beer is their super-hopped up Krampus beer. It is considered a Helles Lager, but I found it to be far too hoppy for my tastes. Like a lot of Southern Tier’s specialty beers (Pumpking, Chocolat), this one is available only in the 22 oz bomb bottles.

Another Christmas Beer I try to get every year is Sly Fox’s Christmas Ale. At one point in time, Sly Fox was making this available only in the 22 oz bottles, but in recent years they’ve shifted to making this available in six pack cans. Again, this one contains the standard cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger accoutrements, but is bolstered by cloves.

Leinenkugel makes a great many beers, their winter offering is Snowdrift Vanilla Porter. This is another smooth and silky tasty brew I try to get around this time every year. In addition to the vanilla flavoring, there’s also a hint of caramel. A very drinkable dark beer that would likely appeal to folks who don’t normally go for the darker brews.

If you like the more hopped-up beers, I’d also recommend Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale. Sierra’s most popular beer is their Pale Ale, one of the more widely available hopped up beers in the market (again, I’m not a big fan of IPAs, but I recognize this is a good beer for what it is). Celebration Ale is even more hopped-up.

A new favorite Winter beer (as of last week) is Big Muddy Brewing’s Winter Ale. I had a taste of it at the Big Brewfest in Morristown in February, but recently a favorite local restaurant (Chimney Rock Inn where I’m friends with the manager who gets some great beers on tap at the Rock) had Muddy’s Winter Ale on tap. This is a fantastic, dark beer with those requisite cinnamon and ginger flavors, this one is smoothed out with vanilla.

There’s a brewery in Saint Louis whose beers I’ve come to enjoy through each of their seasonal brews. No, I’m not referring to the brewery with the Clydesdales and best Christmas commercial. I’m referring to Schlafly – The Saint Louis Brewery and their Christmas Ale brewed with honey, orange peel and juniper! (Each year, Schlafly’s Pumpkin is about the best one; my wife and I visited this brewpub on our trip to Saint Louis and Kansas City back in 2010.)

I couldn’t finish this write-up without mentioning Tröeg’s Mad Elf. This is one of the strongest Christmas beers on the market (again, fairly local to me in Pennsylvania); a strong Belgian ale with hints of cherry and honey throughout. This one has an ABV of 11% so drinking one of these is like drinking two normal beers. The high alcohol volume, along with the potent taste, makes this beer a one-per-day beer.

This one is available in six packs, as well as in a giant 101 oz bottle. My uncle brought one of these behemoths to Christmas Eve a couple of years ago and we all managed to finish it.

Along those lines, both in name, flavor profile, and potency is Fegley’s Rude Elf Reserve beer. I’ve had a few beers from Fegley’s (also in Pennsylvania) and each beer is characterized by a strong assertive flavor. This one is 10.5% ABV and could best be described as an amalgam of Mad Elf and Harpoon’s Winter Warmer. The spicing in this one is a bit too potent for me.

At one point, this one came in the bomb bottles, but has since been available in six packs. Like the Mad Elf, expect a slightly higher price since the alcohol is double the volume of a normal beer.  It was also originally called Rudolph's Reserve, but a certain copyright holder of the Red-nosed reindeer had a bit of an issue with the name. Since then, the beer has gone by the Rude Elf moniker.

There are a couple out there I hope to try between now and December 25th…

I mentioned Harpoon earlier for their great Winter Warmer ale, but over the past couple of years, they’ve been expanding their UFO (unfiltered offering) with the latest flavor being UFO Gingerland which as the name implies, is a beer made gingerbread spices.

Great Lakes Brewing Company is a brewery I discovered this year through a couple of different beers, with their Oktoberfest being a fall standout. Their Christmas Ale, with honey, ginger, and cinnamon seems like one I’d enjoy.

Lastly, I’m RobHB on the great UNTAPPD app if you want to follow me there. 

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-12-13)

Just one book this week, but boy does it look like it will be fun.

The Mechanical (The Alchemy Wars #1) by Ian Tregillis (Orbit , Trade Paperback 03/10/2015) – A brand new series for Tregillis, which seems to be Steampunk in nature.

The Clakker: a mechanical man, endowed with great strength and boundless stamina -- but beholden to the wishes of its human masters.

Soon after the Dutch scientist and clockmaker Christiaan Huygens invented the very first Clakker in the 17th Century, the Netherlands built a whole mechanical army. It wasn't long before a legion of clockwork fusiliers marched on Westminster, and the Netherlands became the world's sole superpower.

Three centuries later, it still is. Only the French still fiercely defend their belief in universal human rights for all men -- flesh and brass alike. After decades of warfare, the Dutch and French have reached a tenuous cease-fire in a conflict that has ravaged North America.

But one audacious Clakker, Jax, can no longer bear the bonds of his slavery. He will make a bid for freedom, and the consequences of his escape will shake the very foundations of the Brasswork Throne.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Friday Round Up: SF Signal Mind Meld & SFFWorld Reviews (Staveley, Williams, & Huff)

Wow, it has been nearly a month since I did one of these Friday Link dumps here on the 'o Stuff.  That's partially due to not posting reviews in Later November/Early December (the book I was reading was a gigundo omnibus of three books which took about two and half weeks to plow through). So, without further ado, here's the round up of some recent posts I've made.

At the end of November, my review of Brian Staveley's debut novel The Emperor's Blades (Book 1 of The Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne) was posted at SFFWorld. This was a fun and engaging debut.
What Staveley does so effectively with Kaden and Valyn is to give each of them their own mini-boss of sorts – or foil. For Kaden, it is the man who is training him Tan. The mentor/mentee relationship between them is contentious at best; Kaden has many questions and in Tan’s eyes, every question is the wrong question. This battle of the wills made for compelling reading; for Tan was an enigma even to some of the Monks of Shin. Through him, Kaden and the reader learn a great deal about the lore and mythology of the world, which is in contrast to the relatively barren mountain landscape where the Shin monks reside. Valyn is able to interact more personably with his cadets; he forms friendships and even a potential romantic interest which is, of course, frowned upon by the military. Valyn’s arc has as its foil the brash and outspoken Sami Yurl. A simple name, but one that credit to Staveley, easily conjures up antagonism as I hear the name in my head.
As is inherit with an opening volume, The Emperor’s Blades is the table-setter for the series, laying out the world and conflict the characters will have to deal with as the saga progresses. For the most part, it is very successful; I was engaged throughout and wanted to know more about the world they inhabit; particularly the deep past at which Kaden’s mentor Tan hinted. If I can compare the series – at this early stage – to any I’ve read over the past couple of years the closest would be to David Anthony Durham’s Acacia Trilogy and Daniel Abraham’s Long Price Quartet. This bodes very well indeed as these are two recent favorites you all should go out and read while waiting for The Providence of Fire.

Last week, my December Mind Meld was posted to SF Signal, wherein I asked Erin Lindsey, Jamie Todd Rubin, Julie E. Czerneda, Michael R. Underwood, Rene Sears, and Sylvia Izzo Hunter:

What Genre Holiday traditions to you partake in every year? What favorite films do you like to re-watch? What favorite books or stories you like to re-read? What are your favorite Holiday-themed episodes of genre shows (beyond the classic Rankin-Bass stop motion specials)?

This week, keeping with a holiday theme, I posted a review of God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlepig, a novella from Tad Williams featuring his snarky angel advocate, Bobby Dollar.
Let me change that, in the case of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlepig, the novella is a nearly perfect length of story for a little side-story featuring Tad’s angel Doloriel (Bobby Dollar to most folk) an advocate for recently deceased souls. Based on the title of this novella, it should come as no surprise that the latest soul for which Bobby is advocating passes from the land of the living on December 24th. Now you might think an angel arguing for a soul to gain entrance into Heaven on Christmas Eve would be a touchy-feely Holiday Tale, you’d only be half correct. For this is a Holiday tale, but Bobby learns a great deal about the soul of Petar Vesić, not the least of which is that the man was more than just a man, he was a werewolf. What is most surprising is that Vesić doesn’t want Bobby’s help, he is prepared to go to Hell.


I was grinning all the while I was reading this one. I’ve made it no secret that Tad Williams is one of my favorite writers so it would be hard for me not to like this one. Instead, Tad has proven yet again why he remains a favorite writer.

Lastly is a review from a genre mainstay new to me, Tanya Huff with that rarest of beasts in the genre, a standalone fantasy novel.  Here's a bit from my review of The Silvered:
There’s a lot to like in this novel; strong well-realized characters, believable conflict, but most of all for me it was Huff’s incredible world-building. The world is similar to our own during the 19th Century, except magic is real and conflicts with science in many ways. Science and magic don’t often coexist in Fantasy novels, but here they both work together and are in conflict with each other. The Emperor uses his soothsayers (magic) to determine how to acquire the werewolves so he can use science to experiment on them. There’s a strong steampunk feel to the Empire, an aesthetic which is often a blend of science and magic. Huff has crafted such a logical and well-rounded pack dynamic for her werewolves that it seems the only way it could have existed.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Books in the Mail (W/E 2014-12-06)

As a reviewer for SFFWorld (as well as SF Signal and and maybe because of this blog, I receive a lot of books for review from various publishers. Since I can't possibly read everything that arrives, I figure the least I can do (like some of my fellow bloggers) is mention the books I receive for review on the blog to at least acknowledge the books even if I don't read them.

Sometimes I get one or two books, other weeks I'll get nearly a dozen books. Some weeks, I’ll receive a finished (i.e. the version people see on bookshelves) copy of a book for which I received an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) weeks or months prior to the actual publication of the book. I’ve been receiving a greater percentage of electronic ARCs this year which is good because death via drowning in a sea of unread books is not how I want to say goodbye to this world.

Sometimes I'll want to read everything that arrives, other weeks, the books immediately go into the "I'll never read this book" pile, while still others go into the nebulous "maybe-I'll-read-it-category." More often than not, it is a mix of books that appeal to me at different levels (i.e. from "this book holds ZERO appeal for me" to "I cannot WAIT to read this book yesterday"). Have a guess in the comments about which book fits my reading labels “I’ll Never Read…” “Zero Appeal” or “cannot wait” "maybe I'll get to it later" and so forth...

Since nothing new arrived this week, I figured now was a good time for this placeholder post. Also, a good opportunity to show off a Christmas photo of Sully. Last week, we visited a local dog training school (Live and Learn Dogs) run by one of my best friends from high school. The school was partnering with the Vet from whom Live and Learn rents space for an open house / holiday celebration and taking Christmas photos of all the dogs, with the winner (determined by most Facebook likes) receiving a prize. While Sully didn't win, her photo was the highest vote-getter among solo dogs (a photo with two chocolate labs received the most votes and frankly, *I* like Chocolate Labs, too, so I can't get too angry).