I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Series: Anthology, Collected Novellas
Publisher: Saga Press (October 18, 2016)
Length: 816 pages
I’m deeply ashamed to admit this, but I had not actually read anything by Ursula K. Le Guin before picking up this anthology. From the moment I saw The Found and the Lost though, I knew it would be the perfect chance for me to rectify the situation. For the first time ever, every novella published by this renowned fantasy and science fiction icon can be found in one place, together at last in this gorgeous hardcover collection.
Here’s the full list of the stories, and what I thought of them:
Vaster than Empires and More Slow – A group of scientists journey to a distant planet on a mission of exploration and research, bringing along with them an empath whose role is to detect the presence of intelligent life once they arrive. However, his sensitivity to his co-workers’ emotions makes him an ornery crewmate to be around, causing much tension among the team. What a great opening story to grab the reader’s attention and kick off this anthology. It is intensely gripping and atmospheric. Fear plays a huge role in this story—fear of the unknown and of what we don’t understand. It’s a subject that carries through well, ultimately culminating into a somewhat abrupt but unexpectedly poignant ending.
Buffalo Gals, Won’t You Come Out Tonight – Inspired by the magic of animals and their relationship with humans, this story tells of a young girl who becomes lost in the desert of the American Southwest. She is rescued by Coyote and brought to a community of animal characters who are effectively like people—a perspective I found both fascinating and a bit difficult to wrap my head around. Drawing heavily from Native American folklore, Le Guin creates a world that blends reality with mysticism, and the results are quite often surreal but also breathtakingly beautiful.
Hernes – “Hernes” is not among my favorites in this anthology, but it is nonetheless intriguing and thought provoking. Covering the lives of four generations of women, the story weaves together multiple tales of love, ambition, heartbreak, and self-discovery. It can be somewhat confusing at first to see how all the threads tie together, but I loved the author’s empathetic treatment of her characters’ struggles as well as her portrayal of the mother-daughter relationships by alluding to the Greek myth of Demeter and Persephone.
A Matter of Seggri – Seggri is a world where the number of females is six times greater than the number of males. For the most part the two sexes live completely separate lives, with the women making their homes in medieval-style villages while the men dwell in castles. While this story pulls us back into science fiction territory, it also features the author’s none-too-subtle endeavor to explore the nature of gender roles. At first, it may seem that the men on Seggri have it all—they compete in sports games to entertain themselves, later basking in the adoration of the females who want them to sire their children. As it soon turns out, however, the situation is much more complicated. This story wasn’t among my favorites either, but there are certain elements that I think will hit hard emotionally.
Another Story or A Fisherman of the Inland Sea – Hideo grew up listening to his mother tell him the legend about the fisherman who was seduced by a sea-princess only to return home afterwards to discover that centuries have passed. When Hideo later on becomes a physicist, he has the opportunity to embark on a journey that involves faster-than-light travel, and thus the connections between the fairy tale and the main character’s own life are revealed. The concept of time dilation or time warping often provides interesting twists in these kinds of stories, and I suppose this one is no exception, though after reading it I couldn’t shake this feeling that something was missing. Later on, I discovered this was supposed to be a companion story to a couple others that were published in another anthology. While I enjoyed this one well enough, I wonder if I would have liked it more if I had gotten the context from the other stories.
Forgiveness Day – Speaking of interconnected stories, I believe these next three were all first published together in an anthology called Four Ways to Forgiveness. They have several themes in common, namely those that surround the subjects of slavery and freedom, suppression and liberation, order and rebellion. I loved “Forgiveness Day”, which tells of an envoy named Solly who travels to another world and is assigned a bodyguard named Teyeo. The two of them are water and oil from the start, though as the story progresses we are given an opportunity to see the situation from both points of view. I liked this one’s message about individual biases and how personal histories are shaped by experience. To sympathize with others we first must change our own way of thinking, and that starts with looking within ourselves.
A Man of the People – The narrator in this story spent his childhood growing up in the rural and sheltered community before heading out to discover all there is in the wider world. This is a tale featuring themes of freedom but also highlights the idea that we should never forget our pasts. I liked how much this one added to the discourse about the importance of empathy and involvement.
A Woman’s Liberation – This story has strong ties to the last, and really should be considered together. Both feature protagonists who have complicated histories and struggle with their individual identities, questioning who they are and what they want. I liked this one a little more, however, due to the voice of the main character—a woman who is born an “asset”, or a slave—as well as her point of view on the issues that were covered in these last three stories.
Old Music and the Slave Women – This one shines a spotlight on Old Music, a character who appeared briefly in one of the previous stories. Here he gets to tell his own tale about slavery, courage, and revolution. While it was nice being able to revisit this character again, truthfully it was hard to get into the narrative because of the slower pacing and muddled presentation of ideas.
The Finder – This one will probably hold more significance for fans of Earthsea since it takes place long ago in that world, chronicling the life of a young shipbuilder boy who manifests magical abilities. Like the other stories, the prose here is richly detailed and evocative, though my attention started waning as we drew closer to the end. It’s a shame because this story has a lot going for it, but it might have dragged on for a little too long.
On the High Marsh – Another tale from Earthsea, I had a hard time getting into this one as well because of a lack of connection I felt to the main character Ged (who I later learned was an Archmage of the Roke magic school, the origins of which were covered in “The Finder”). That said, I don’t often do well with side stories like this that focus on characters or events from the main books of a series.
Dragonfly – After struggling a little with the last few stories, “Dragonfly” was one that swept me off my feet. This third Earthsea story also appears tie into the main series; more specifically, I hear it’s sometimes been called a “postscript” to Tehanu, and again I wonder if I would have gotten even more out of it had I read the book first. I loved the eponymous main character, an earnest girl who is also a bit rough around the edges from being raised by an angry, alcoholic father. Through sheer persistence and courage though, she manages to gain entry into Roke, an all-male magic school. Overall, I really enjoyed this story’s themes, especially its message about the power of women’s magic and how a little determination can go a long way.
Paradises Lost – This one is about a generation ship and explores what it means for the people who are born and raised aboard during the long voyage. These are the generations descended from the original pilgrims, but it is their own descendants that will reach the final destination, not them. Le Guin speculates how this would affect the travelers both emotionally and spiritually, and the kind of society they might create. I love stories about generation ships and colonization, and this is perhaps one of the more philosophical ones I’ve read. There’s compassion and realism in it too as Le Guin gets right down to the issues that really matter to the people in that situation, and asks the questions that many other authors don’t address.
For Le Guin fans, this anthology is a must. But for new readers too, there is a lot to love. It’s true that some of the stories are better than others, and there are even a few that, when taken out of their original context, might be a little confusing especially if you’re unfamiliar with the author’s different worlds and cycles, but overall it serves as a great introduction to her style and the themes she writes about.
More importantly, the stories in here are an excellent showcase of the author’s astounding talent and deepness of thought, proving why her work has remained so beloved throughout the decades. Reading this was an absolute gift.
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of Seraphim
Publisher: Hachette Audio (November 22, 2016)
Length: 13 hrs and 41 mins
Narrator: Joe Knezevich
David Dalglish’s Skyborn was perhaps one of the greatest surprises for me last year. I didn’t know what to expect going in, but it turned out to be an epic start to a high-flying fantasy adventure series about a group of elite winged soldiers with the power to command the elements. The Seraphim, as they are called, are the warriors of a post-apocalyptic world in which humanity has taken to the skies. Everyone now lives on one of six floating island kingdoms that are constantly in conflict.
The first book introduced us to protagonists Bree and Kael, twins who are following in their late parents’ footsteps by training to become Seraphim themselves. Much of Skyborn read like a “magic school” story, chronicling the siblings’ individual trials at the Seraphim Academy. In contrast, the themes surrounding Fireborn are a little more complex. This sequel is set right after the stunning events of the previous novel, and if you haven’t read Skyborn yet, I’m not going to ruin it for you. It’s enough to know that things have gotten very bad.
In the fallout, one of the main casualties was the Seraphim order. With their home invaded and their order disbanded, Bree and Kael’s futures are now uncertain. However, upon their return to their occupied island, they are almost immediately recruited by a group of rebels planning to fight back against the powerful Center. Bree becomes their reluctant symbol, the Phoenix—a nickname given to her because of the burning twin blades she wields in battle. Meanwhile Kael, whose talents lie elsewhere, is tasked to recruit new allies for their uprising, but the coming war weigh heavy on his heart. As the fighting intensifies, he worries for his sister who is on the frontlines but also starts to have doubts about the leader of their rebellion, the unsettling cult leader and doomsday prophet Johan.
As with the first book, there were some issues with the pacing in Fireborn. Despite its more intricate ideas, I also found it harder to throw myself into the plot or feel engaged with the characters. For the first half, this is essentially the standard dystopian-rebellion story, complete with member recruitment and secret gatherings. Some of these sections were a little too drawn out for my tastes, making this one a slow burner. Don’t get me wrong, though; this was still a solid sequel. However, it didn’t quite sweep me off my feet the way Skyborn did, containing some of the vexing symptoms of “middle book syndrome”. To be fair, the first book had the advantage of being a series opener, introducing readers to a fresh and unique world. That book charmed my socks off, understandably making it a tough act to follow.
Fireborn makes up for its more subdued intro with a ton of action packed into its second half though. Again, like Skyborn, this book is back loaded with much of the excitement saved for the end when all the tensions finally come to a head. That’s when all the build-up starts to pay off. As the rebellion explodes into the open, Dalglish exacerbates an already fiery situation by throwing in an unexpected twist, adding an even greater threat to the equation. The aerial battle scenes continue to be a highlight as well, and their even better now that Bree and Kael have a much better handle on their flight skills and elemental powers.
Fireborn wasn’t without its flaws, but then again, the first book also started on shaky ground before ending up blowing me away. Still, there’s no denying that it lacked some of the magic that made Skyborn so amazing. The story and characters may have matured while the themes have also grown darker, deeper, and more complex, but the plot itself remained rather simple and straightforward. That said, I still really enjoyed Fireborn and in no way do I consider it a poor sequel. The ending did a fantastic job building up anticipation for the final book of the trilogy, and I’m looking forward to see how it will all end.
Audiobook Comments: The Seraphim is another example of a series where I decided to jump formats again this year, choosing the audio edition over the print because I got curious after hearing such great things about the narration. I was not disappointed. Joe Knezevich is a fine narrator and he does some great voicework, playing with accents, inflections, and tones—though I think he could have taken advantage of even more opportunities to do so. Overall I have no complaints about the audiobook. If presented with the opportunity to continue the next installment in this format, I probably would take it. Recommended.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Skyborn (Book 1)
*** Check out the end of this post for details on our OUTCAST SERIES giveaway! ***
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction
Series: Book 2 of Outcast
Publisher: Signet (December 6, 2016)
Length: 368 pages
I found a new favorite author in Keri Arthur when I read City of Light last year, and my hope is that I will continue to enjoy her work for years to come. Certainly those odds are looking good with Winter Halo, the sequel. Not only did I enjoy it as much as the previous book, this second novel of the Outcast series also came along when I needed it the most, providing a much needed counterpoint to the heavier reads I’ve had on my plate lately. It was nice to simply let loose with Tiger in her world again; that and we all know there’s nothing quite like vampires and shapeshifters plus a little a bit of sex and action to serve as perfect entremets.
The story picks up from the end of City of Light, continuing Tiger’s quest to rescue a group of kidnapped children. With the help from some new allies (because calling them friends would still be quite a stretch), she traces the trail to Winter Halo, a pharmaceutical company whose research arm appears to be involved in a bunch of shady activities. Our protagonist hatches up a plan to go undercover, using her déchet abilities to shapeshift and gather information from a top company executive to find out what’s going on within their research facility.
Her findings end up being even more bizarre and worrisome than expected, including everything from reports of hauntings to illicit experimentation and dissections. Just what is going on inside the walls of Winter Halo? To find out, Tiger must infiltrate the company and go deep into the heart of hostile territory. Time is fast running out, and the lost children are depending on her to find and rescue them.
If you haven’t discovered the world of Outcast yet, you’re in for a treat. As I mentioned before, Tiger is a humanoid being known as a “déchet”, a French term that means “junk” or “waste”, referring to the process with which she and others like her were made. Déchets were the super-soldiers created for the war against the monsters that came through rifts into our world more than a hundred years ago, genetic hybrids cobbled from genes from human, animal, and even paranormal creatures. Tiger’s main role in that long-ago war was to act as a “lure”, an agent capable of seducing her victims and extracting sensitive information from their heads before killing them. This explains why she is more “emotionally connected” than many of her fellow déchets who were mainly bred to be violent war machines. Pretty much all of them were eradicated by the end of the war though, so Tiger lives a lonely existence, making her home in an abandoned bunker surrounded by ghosts of murdered déchet children.
I think that’s the part which gets me the most. Let’s face it, urban fantasy and paranormal books about their main characters trying to rescue kidnapped kids are a dime a dozen. What makes Outcast and Tiger so special is that the reader can deeply sympathize with her reasons for going the distance for these stolen children. Her own life has been touched by the cruel and untimely deaths of young souls, and those experiences have affected her and stayed with her. Whenever we encounter scenes with Bear and Cat, our protagonist’ energetic helper ghosts, sometimes they charm us so much that it’s easy to forget the horrible way they died. For Tiger though, the heartbreaking circumstances around their deaths are always on her mind, and she’ll fight hard to prevent another child from ever being harmed again.
This sequel also builds upon the relationships established in the first book. The feelings growing between Tiger and Jonas are likely to be of the most interest, their attraction having been teased since the two of them first met. I’m actually surprised at the slow-burn approach Arthur is taking, when in a lot of other series, their authors often seem so eager to throw their love interests together as quickly as possible. I love this more measured pacing though, giving time to let the characters’ lives and personalities sink in.
Finally, I’m really enjoying the new plot developments. There’s a noticeable shift in Winter Halo’s themes towards more subterfuge, but the tensions and thrills remain high. The hunt for the missing children still makes up the main story arc, but now several secondary plot threads have also come into play and I’m curious to see where they will go.
The stakes have definitely been raised for this one! Arthur’s world-building and characterizations continue to be outstanding for this series, and I am having a blast with the twists and turns of the story. Now begins the hard part: the wait for book three.
More on The BiblioSanctum
Review of City of Light (Book 1)
The Outcast Series Giveaway
Interested in checking out the Outcast series by Keri Arthur? Here’s your chance to win this great set of books! With thanks to the publisher, we’re happy to be hosting this giveaway for City of Light AND Winter Halo. This giveaway is open to addresses in the US and Canada. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to email@example.com with your Name and valid Mailing Address using the subject line “OUTCAST” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Monday, December 19, 2016.
Only one entry per household, please. The winner will be randomly selected when the giveaway ends and then be notified by email. All information will only be used for the purposes of contacting the winner and sending them their prize. Once the giveaway ends all entry emails will be deleted.
So what are you waiting for? Enter to win! Good luck!
Sci-Fi November might be over, but that doesn’t mean the sci-fi fun has to stop. Our Read-Along of A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers has officially begun. If you’re interested in participating, hop on over to the SF/F Read-Along group for more information; we’d love for you to join the discussion. Have you read The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet, the first Wayfarers book? Are you planning on reading this standalone follow-up? Let us know your thoughts.
Lovelace was once merely a ship’s artificial intelligence. When she wakes up in an new body, following a total system shut-down and reboot, she has no memory of what came before. As Lovelace learns to negotiate the universe and discover who she is, she makes friends with Pepper, an excitable engineer, who’s determined to help her learn and grow.
Together, Pepper and Lovey will discover that no matter how vast space is, two people can fill it together.
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet introduced readers to the incredible world of Rosemary Harper, a young woman with a restless soul and secrets to keep. When she joined the crew of the Wayfarer, an intergalactic ship, she got more than she bargained for – and learned to live with, and love, her rag-tag collection of crewmates.
A Closed and Common Orbit is the stand-alone sequel to Becky Chambers’ beloved debut novel The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and is perfect for fans of Firefly, Joss Whedon, Mass Effectand Star Wars.
Week 1: Friday 2nd December – Part 1 up to Page 94, hosted byLisa at Over the Effing Rainbow
Week 2: Friday 9th December – Page 95 to End of Part 1, hosted by Imyril at There’s Always Room For One More
Week 3: Friday 16th December – all of Part 2, hosted by Lynn at Lynn’s Book Blog
Week 4: Friday 23rd December – Part 3 to End, hosted by Mogsy at The BiblioSanctum
1. Sidra has quite the range of emotional (and physical!) crises this week. What do you make of the ways she tries to cope/adjust? Do you think she can come to terms with herself?
In many ways Sidra reminds me of a child on the cusp of her teenage years — a formative time when an individual starts to gain a lot more independence, and naturally this leads to a lot of self-exploration and, for better or worse, the testing of limits. She’s still seeing the world through an innocent and naive lens and I think many of her “ways of coping” can easily backfire on her, as we’ve seen. Like all teenagers though, I think Sidra will find her way eventually.
2. How would you choose what memories to delete to save new ones? Is Pepper being sensible or is it an impossible thing to ask?
I was wondering this myself as I was reading this part. Was it fair of Pepper to demand Sidra just “be pickier” about the knowledge she wants to download and retain? A part of me wants to tell Sidra to suck it up; this is her new reality now. My own memory is like a sieve and I even joke to friends that my brain is like a hard drive, and I have to dump old stuff to remember new things. If Sidra wants to pass for human, she’ll have to deal with the mind’s biological limitations the same we all do.
On the other hand, Sidra’s counter argument is valid too. Despite my joke comparing my brain to a hard drive, humans are not like computers and memories aren’t stored or retrieved the same way. In people, certain memories might seem long forgotten only to be dredged up from the recesses of our mind by a random smell or some other kind of stimulus, because our brains are wired form those sorts of associations. However, Sidra isn’t capable of those kinds of processes, so once a “chunk” of memory is gone, it is gone forever. When put that way…yeah, that does kind of suck.
Pepper and Sidra are simply going to have to meet each other halfway, I suppose.
3. What are your first impressions of Owl?
She has a very “motherly” presence. I wasn’t surprised when I found out that she was an A.I. built for the space shuttle equivalent of a family recreational vehicle. That her previous masters got rid of the shuttle Owl was housed in only after their kids all grew up implies that a huge part of her system protocol is to be good with children, perhaps serving as an on-board nanny or teacher on top of running the ship’s processes. That would explain her seemingly unlimited patience and kindness.
4. There are lots of big big themes being unpacked as we get to the end of the first part. Which one(s) stand out for you? (How) Is it explored through each timeline?
This week we saw clear parallels between Sidra and Jane’s stories. The big theme here for me was the process of learning. I doubt it’s an accident that in the past, Jane (human) learns the ways of the world from Owl (A.I.) while in the present, Sidra (A.I.) learns the ways of the world from Pepper (human). I like how the two storylines mirror each other and how for Jane/Pepper’s character, things come full circle.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (October 25, 2016)
Length: 323 pages
I’ve been champing at the bit to read Certain Dark things ever since I first heard about the book. Back then it still didn’t have a title, but the mere description of it clinched it for me. I’m not someone who’s ever needed much motivation to pick up a vampire story after all, and after learning that one of the main characters is a descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, I was even more intrigued.
That the book takes place in Mexico City was a compelling factor too. Gangs, drugs and corruption run rampant in the capital, but what you won’t have to worry about are vampires. That’s because the city has declared itself to be a “vampire-free zone”. But as with all rules, there are times when individuals have found a way around this particular edict.
This is something Domingo knows all too well. A homeless teenager who ekes out a meager living by salvaging landfills for usable goods to resell, he is on his way home one day when he spies a pretty girl trailed by her large Doberman. To his surprise, she notices him back. And actually talks to him! It isn’t long before the girl confides in him her name and true nature. She is Atl, and she is a member of a subgroup of vampires who trace their line back to the ancient Aztecs.
Atl is in trouble, so she cuts to the chase: some other dangerous vampires are after her, and she needs to get out of Mexico City and head south right away. But while she’s here, she will need a place to hide as well as a “Renfield” to feed on and to assist her during the day. Completely smitten by this confident, beautiful girl, Domingo readily agrees to help her out—the fact that she’s a vampire and wants to drink his blood be damned.
However, it turns out Atl’s troubles are worse than he realized. The vampire gang she’s on the run from are headed by Nick Godoy, a real nasty piece of work. Brash young Nick is a “Necro”, a subspecies of vampire that most closely resembles the classical vampire archetype, and he has a grudge to grind. Bent on seeking vengeance for a long-ago slight, Nick has tracked his target to Mexico City where he and his Renfield Rodrigo have been getting into all sorts of mischief, attracting the attention of a police detective thus causing even more problems for Atl and Domingo.
I had high hopes for the world-building going into Certain Dark Things, and I was not disappointed. Instead of charging in with an attempt to turn the vampire mythos on its head though, Silvia Moreno-Garcia does something more subtle—and ingenious, in my opinion. As we go deeper into Atl’s past, we get to learn a wealth of information about vampire lore in general. We find out about the subspecies, of which there are many. Considering how many cultures throughout history have developed their own version of the “blood-sucking/flesh-eating monster” legend (the Chinese and the Jiang-shi, or the stories of the Wendigo in Native American folklore, to name a couple) I thought this to be an especially clever twist. By drawing from inspiration taken from all over the world, the author has formed a basis for her story that at once feels fresh but still has roots firmly planted in our reality. The results are very effective and pleasing because the reader feels an immediate affinity for the setting and characters.
The plot was also kept rather simple. It’s also fast-paced as hell. Everything about this book is slick and elegant, furnished with all the best features without being weighed down. This lack of complexity is perhaps the only thing holding me back from giving it a full five stars, but while it may not be phenomenal, it is still great. Certain Dark Things easily ranks among my most interesting and entertaining reads of the year.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia offers a whole new world to discover in Certain Dark Things, a novel that offers rock solid world-building and compelling characters that are guaranteed to charm you and open your eyes. So if you’re getting a hankering for a vampire story, why not give this one a try? You won’t regret it.
“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!
Ash and Quill by Rachel Caine (July 11th 2017 by Berkley)
I’m looking forward to this conclusion of The Great Library trilogy. It was postulated at the end of book two, but looks like this confirms it — Jess and the gang are headed to America!
Hoarding all the knowledge of the world, the Great Library jealousy guards its secrets. But now a group of rebels poses a dangerous threat to its tyranny….
Jess Brightwell and his band of exiles have fled London, only to find themselves imprisoned in Philadelphia, a city led by those who would rather burn books than submit. But Jess and his friends have a bargaining chip: the knowledge to build a machine that will break the Library’s rule.
Their time is running out. To survive, they’ll have to choose to live or die as one, to take the fight to their enemies—and to save the very soul of the Great Library….
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. They created the meme because they love lists. Who doesn’t love lists? They wanted to share these list with fellow book lovers and ask that we share in return to connect with our fellow book lovers. To learn more about participating in the challenge, stop by their page dedicated to it and dive in!
This week’s topic: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016
How often have you said to yourself, “OMG! Why did it take me so long to read <insert author’s name>’s books?!” For me that feels like a very frequent occurrence which is why I love today’s topic – and why I’m also happy to be making another one of these lists, this time for 2016.
*** Note that I’m generally focusing on authors who have been writing for a long time, or already have a bunch of novels/short stories out, otherwise this would be a very long post! I also won’t be naming any debut authors today (because that is a top ten list for another day!🙂 ) ***
It appears plenty of people are already aware of the awesomeness of A. Lee Martinez, and as usual I’m just way behind. I first heard of the author only earlier this year, when I saw the title and cover for The Last Adventure of Constance Verity. I read it, loved it, and I want more. The book was unexpectedly charismatic and offbeat, and I think of all the fantasy comedy novels I’ve tried this year, so far this is by far my favorite. This blogger will definitely be looking into picking up more books by Mr. Martinez! (Review: The Last Adventure of Constance Verity)
Jon Skovron is already quite a big name in the Young Adult fantasy world, having authored several novels for teens. His first adult fantasy series The Empire of Storms began this summer though, with Hope and Red which was my first experience with his work. I ended up really enjoying the world and the characters, and now I can’t wait to read the next book in the trilogy. I might even need to go back and pick up some of his previously released YA books. (Review: Hope and Red)
Yes, believe it or not, it actually took me this long to finally try Kelley Armstrong (despite the fact others have been telling me about how great she is for years). I also find it a little ironic that even though I’m more of a speculative fiction reader, it wasn’t any of her fantasy or paranormal books that finally caught my eye, but her newest mystery thriller/suspense novel City of the Lost. It was just fantastic, guys. Seriously couldn’t be more pleased that it was my very first KA novel. (Review: City of the Lost)
I’ve never read a Jack Ketchum novel before, and was completely unfamiliar with his work. A quick search on Goodreads brought me to his author bio which proudly proclaims that his first book Off Season was once scolded by the Village Voice for being “violent pornography”. Still don’t know if I’ll ever read Off Season (because it sounds too hardcore even for me!) but his latest novel The Secret Life of Souls that was co-authored with Lucky McKee turned out to be pretty awesome. (Review: The Secret Life of Souls)
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reading Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts which promptly landed him on my “I must read more of this author!” list. If you enjoy modern horror, this is a book you really need to check out. Anyway, I actually went on to read Tremblay’s latest book, Disappearance at Devil’s Rock which came out earlier this summer. Admittedly, I didn’t think it was as good, but I’ll probably still keep picking up anything he writes. (Review: A Head Full of Ghosts; Review: Disappearance at Devil’s Rock)
This year was the first time I read Jennifer Fallon, and interestingly, I hadn’t known that The Lyre Thief was a follow-up series until I read the blurbs for Medalon and the other books in her Hythrun Chronicles: Demon Child and Hythrun Chronicles: Wolfblade sequences. Fallon eases us into the world so gently and seamlessly though, I felt no disadvantage from not having read the previous series—and you know how picky I can be about such things. I loved the book so much, I’ve already added the previous trilogies to the TBR because I want to learn everything I can about this irresistible world and the characters. (Review: The Lyre Thief)
This was my first book by Keri Arthur, and I was completely unprepared for how good it was. I don’t even know why I was caught so flat-footed! After all, I know friends who have been fans of the author’s for a long time and they all absolutely adore her work, which is what convinced me to give City of Light a try in the first place. For ages I’ve been curious to try one of her books, and this being the first of a new series, I figured it would be the perfect place to start. I went in with pretty high expectations. It ended up exceeding all of them. (Review: City of Light)
Even though I’ve known about the author’s Wayward Pines series for years now, I’ve never read it nor have I watched the recent TV show adaptation based off of it. But if those books are anything like Dark Matter, which was my first foray into his work, I might just have to go check them out. I know I talk about this book a lot, but it really was a lot of fun. Will I be checking out more of his work in the future? Oh, you bet. Mr. Crouch has a new fan. (Review: Dark Matter)
Jason Arnopp is a scriptwriter with a background in journalism who has written for many films and authored a bunch of media tie-in novels including various official Doctor Who fiction. This year I read his new book The Last Days of Jack Sparks and loved the hell out of it. According to our interview he is currently working on his second novel for Orbit Books (unrelated to Jack Sparks) which is a standalone “supernatural thriller in a completely different way” – so thrilled to hear about his next project, I can’t wait! (Review: The Last Days of Jack Sparks)
My last pick is kind of a cheat because technically I am still working my way through this huge tome, The Found and the Lost. I’m deeply ashamed to admit I have not read the work of Ursula K. Le Guin before now, but that is being rectified as we speak. This is a collection of every published novella by the renowned American literature icon, and I am enjoying the stories a lot so far. Keep an eye out for my review later this month.
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 2 of Manifest Delusions
Publisher: Michael R. Fletcher (December 15, 2016)
Length: 455 pages
The Mirror’s Truth is a sequel that builds upon everything that made the first book so great and all-consuming, featuring storylines and characters that are grittier, twistier, and even more insane. In other words, it’s even more fucked up than Beyond Redemption…and I loved it.
“War isn’t insanity, it’s the base state for all reality. Plants war for sunlight. Animals war for food and water. Wolves battle to decide who leads the pack. All life is struggle.
Peace, now that is insanity.”
You didn’t actually think it was over for our protagonists, did you? In the world of Manifest Delusions, death is only the beginning. Bedeckt, Stehlen, and Wichtig are back, following the complete and utter bloodbath that was the end of the first book. Only now, they’ve emerged even more brutal, bloodthirsty and psychotic than ever before.
It all started when the old and wretched Bedeckt, filled with the sudden horror of his actions, decided that he could not go through with the plans he had made. Now he must undo the damage caused by his weakness and do whatever it takes to stop Morgan, the mad child who has become a god. And if it takes abandoning his companions to the eternal greyness of the Afterdeath, then so be it.
Not surprisingly, Stehlen and Wichtig react none too kindly to that idea. Livid at being left behind, the murderous Kleptic and the self-styled Best Swordsman in the World decide to make clandestine deals of their own, returning to the world of the living in order track down Bedeckt and make him pay—slowly and painfully.
With friends like these, who needs enemies? At the same time though, it would be a mistake to dismiss these characters so casually. They may be insane, but they are deep. Beyond Redemption would not have been such a wildly successful book in my eyes if our protagonists had merely been the vile, monstrous degenerates they appeared to be on the surface. Instead, Michael R. Fletcher drew me in with the complexity of their personalities and relationships, and I was glad he continued to build upon these in the sequel. While Bedeckt, Stehlen, and Wichtig spend much of this book apart, we are still treated to the fascinating inner workings of their deep, dark scary minds.
In fact, with the chapters basically alternating between their POVs, each of the three are essentially given their own storyline thus giving way to a lot more character development on an individual level. The Bedeckt we used to know has become transformed, no longer just an old jaded thief looking to end his financial troubles once and for all with the score of a lifetime. Now he is a man wracked with guilt and grief, struggling to keep what morals (and sanity) he has left. We also get to see a softer side of Stehlen—and if you’ve read the first book, you’ll understand why I just burst into incredulous giggles while typing that—but believe it or not, it is true; the psycho kleptomaniac woman actually has feelings that go beyond wanting to slit your throat and steal your shit. And finally, there’s Wichtig, perhaps the most complicated of them all. Of the three protagonists, he’s the only one whose past is explored in depth, and I also find the story surrounding his delusion of being the world’s best swordsman to be extremely compelling.
And of course, I am once again floored by the originality and excellence in the world-building. People always complain about the same tired old tropes in fantasy and the lack of fresh ideas when it comes to magic systems and powers. To them I say, “Take some Manifest Delusions and call me in the morning.” Fletcher has done an incredible job creating this world where magic is madness, and those who are the most powerful are also the most unhinged. It’s a premise ripe for all kinds of ruckus and mayhem, and this sequel pushes the envelope even further.
Plot-wise, The Mirror’s Truth is simpler in some ways, but it is also stranger, bloodier, and more violent. The conclusion, however, was the best part. With that ending, Michael R. Fletcher might have just single-handedly redefined the word “insane”. Seriously.
I think it’s safe to say those who enjoyed Beyond Redemption will also love this sequel, and after all this waiting and uncertainty, I’m glad that The Mirror’s Truth has finally found its way into readers’ hands. Manifest Delusions is not so much a hidden gem, but rather an absolute treasure trove of a series to fans of grimdark. By the end of this one you will be begging for more.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Beyond Redemption (Book 1)
Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Genre: Horror, Young Adult
Series: Book 1
Publisher: Tor Teen (October 18, 2016)
Length: 352 pages
Here’s the deal: if you’re a fan of zombie stories or if a zombie origin tale that puts a fresh spin on the genre sounds like it might interest you, then you’re going to want to check out The Rains by Gregg Hurwitz. Double bonus for you too if you prefer books with a YA bent, as this is the author’s first book in a new series targeting teen readers.
However, if you happen to be a science/biology geek or a stickler for common sense and logic, then this book is going to make you cry.
The story begins with an introduction to the quiet and rural community of Creek’s Cause, where the peace is shattered one evening by a meteor strike. Not long afterwards, our fifteen-year-old protagonist Chance Rain and his older brother Patrick are awakened in the middle of the night by a commotion at their neighbors’ house, leading the two of them to sneak out and investigate. They arrive just in time to stop an attack on the kids by the stepmother, who appears to have been transformed into mindless raving husk by a mysterious and unknown parasite. After saving the children, Chance and Patrick find the father on top of a water tower where millions of alien spores look to have exploded from out of his bloated corpse.
Recalling what he’s learned about the Cordyceps fungus and “zombie ants”, Chance quickly deduces that these spores are what’s causing the infection, turning all of the adults—and only adults, it seems—into violent, savage hosts. But if this is indeed the way the parasite is spreading, then why aren’t those who are younger being infected?
Chance and Patrick find the answer to this once they arrive at the high school, where their science teacher Dr. Chatterjee has been sheltering the town’s children and teenagers. Chatterjee explains that the parasite appears to be affecting white matter, the paler tissue of the human brain mostly made up of nerve fibers and their myelin sheaths. And since the brains of children are not as developed as an adult’s and do not have as much white matter, they are immune to the effects of the spore. This also explains why Dr. Chatterjee, who has multiple sclerosis—a demyelinating disease—is unaffected himself.
So far, this is going great. Things are getting pretty interesting. I’m liking the suspense, and the mystery behind the infectious agent is really driving things. But then, we get another bombshell. The group figures out that, at the exact moment a person turns 18, the brain will immediately become susceptible to the parasite. The exact moment. As in, right down to the minute of your birth. One second, you’re fine. But as soon as the clock ticks over, then happy birthday, you’re a zombie!
The bio nerd in me just wants to tear my hair out and scream, NOOOOOOO THAT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS!
I do love it when zombie books use science to explain things (the Cordyceps idea is becoming a lot more common, for example, and I still can’t get enough) but let’s please try to make it more convincing. I thought that tying the parasite’s processes to brain development was ambitious and intriguing, but unfortunately the human body does not work like a clock. One does not wake up in the morning of their eighteenth birthday to find their brain suddenly and miraculously bursting with myelin. If only growing up and becoming mature was so easy.
So yes, that bothered me a lot. It might even have biased me against the rest of the book. If such a glaring oversight made it through the first few drafts, I can only assume that the prevailing attitude was “This is YA, good science and reasoning won’t matter so much.” But it does. It should. With this in mind, I soon started seeing more plot holes, inaccuracies, and logical leaps.
If things like that don’t concern you so much, then you should be fine, though for me they ultimately prevented me from calling The Rains a great book. It’s a shame too, because the plot was entertaining and fun in a way that reminded me a lot of The Faculty movie, and the characters were good, strong, and charming in the salt-of-the-earth sense. Still, generally speaking I don’t feel comfortable enough about recommending this book to just anyone; perhaps if you are a diehard zombie fiction reader or YA horror fan, you might want to take a look. However, if you’re a pickier reader like me who also predominantly reads adult speculative fiction, you might end up finding the flaws too distracting. I give this one 3 stars, and just barely.
Bookshelf Roundup is a feature I do every other weekend which fills the role of several blog memes, like Stacking the Shelves where I talk about the new books I’ve added to my library or received for review, as well as It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? where I round up what I’ve read since the last update and what I’m planning to read soon. Mostly it also serves as a recap post, so sometimes I’ll throw in stuff like reading challenge progress reports, book lists, and other random bookish thoughts or announcements.
Received for Review
Happy December, everyone! It’s a relatively light week for activity due to the recent Thanksgiving holiday in the US, and I hope all those who celebrated had a wonderful time. My plans to catch up on some reading didn’t exactly pan out, but that’s okay because my brother was visiting from Canada and it was great spending that time with family! This month though, I’m making it a point to hunker down and put a dent in my TBR and I’ve been really good on reining back requests. Even so, there’s still lots of goodies to feature, and I’d like to thank all the publishers and authors for the following review copies received. For more details and full descriptions of the books, be sure to click the links to their Goodreads pages!
Last Year by Robert Charles Wilson – My thanks to Tor Books for this surprise arrival. I’m even more intrigued now that I’ve discovered it involves time travel!
Babylon’s Ashes by James S.A. Corey – My thanks to Orbit for the finished copy. The Expanse is probably my favorite science fiction series right now, and I cannot wait to dive into book six. They just get better and better.
Dreamweaver by C.S. Friedman – Book three of Dreamwalker, C.S. Friedman’s YA/crossover series that I’ve been really enjoying so far. I think this is the final installment, so I have to know how it ends! My thanks to DAW for the finished copy.
Hungry Ghosts by Stephen Blackmoore – Thanks also to DAW for this surprise arrival from the Eric Carter series which I’ve wanted to check out for a while. Unfortunately, this is book three and I haven’t read the first two! Looks like I have some catching up to do first!
The Dispatcher by John Scalzi – Another fantastic surprise from the wonderful folks at Subterranean Press. I was pretty excited to learn they’ll be publishing the print edition of this novella, which thus far has only been available in audio.
Charlie the Choo-Choo by Beryl Evans – My initial response was confusion when an unsolicited package from Simon & Schuster arrived last week and this came out. As far as I knew, I was not on any of their children’s reviewers lists so it was pretty bizarre to receive a picture book. But then I noticed the blurb from Stephen King. And then I laughed when I looked it up and realized that Beryl Evans IS Stephen King. Fans of The Dark Tower are probably reading this now and going, “durr, Mogsy” but hey, I never made it past The Gunslinger! I never knew about some book about some creepy sentient train. Anyway, I’ll probably end up giving this to my kids one day, but even my oldest will need to wait a few more years. She took one look at that cover and said, “Mommy, his eyes are scary.”
Up next, a trio of e-galleys from the awesome team at Tor.com! I’ll have to catch up with book one before I take on Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire, but I’m super excited about Brother’s Ruin by Emma Newman — she’s on fire these days! Proof of Concept by Gwyneth Jones also looks very interesting.
Won and Purchased
It’s been a while since I won anything from giveaways, probably because I haven’t been entering any. The Fall of Fair Isle by Rowena Cory Daniells was actually a book I won back in a Goodreads giveaway in April 2015! When it never arrived, I just let it go. Earlier this fall though, I came across a great review of this book on a blog and I commented, along with a brief lament about how it’s a shame I lost my chance to check it out. To my shock, a couple weeks later I received an email from the author to let me know about the publisher problems with that particular giveaway, and offered to send me the book! It was such an amazing and sweet thing to do, that I was completely floored. When the package came, I saw that the author also included another one of her books, Besieged. So thank you so much, Rowena, I can’t wait to read the books and I will never forget your generosity.
I also forgot to mention the arrival of Genius Loci: Tales of the Spirit of Place edited by Jaym Gates a few weeks ago, which was a pledge reward from the Ragnarok Publications Kickstarter campaign. It’s a beautiful anthology, was totally worth the wait!
Review roundup time! Top feature spot goes to Arcanum Unbounded: The Cosmere Collection, a must-have for every Brandon Sanderson fan’s bookshelf.
Arcanum Unbounded by Brandon Sanderson (4.5 of 5 stars)
The Secret Life of Souls by Jack Ketchum & Lucky McKee (4 of 5 stars)
Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin (4 of 5 stars)
The Facefaker’s Game by Chandler J. Birch (4 of 5 stars)
Level Grind by Annie Bellet (3.5 of 5 stars)
Star Wars: Catalyst: A Rogue One Novel by James Luceno (3.5 of 5 stars)
The Hidden People by Alison Littlewood (3 of 5 stars)
What I’ve Read Since the Last Update
Between making Thanksgiving preparations and caving in to my friends’ insistence on joining their Overwatch team, my reading time has taken a severe hit these past two weeks! I still managed to knock a few books off Mount TBR though (and there’s actually one more book I read that I couldn’t include here because I can’t talk about it yet) so I probably ended up doing more reading than I expected. Stay tuned for reviews.
Have you heard of or read any of the books featured this week? What caught your eye? Any new discoveries? I hope you found something interesting for a future read! Let me know what you plan on checking out. Until next time, see you next Roundup!