Mogsy’s Bookshelf Roundup: Stacking the Shelves & Recent Reads

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.

black line

Received for Review

Thank you to 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!

With thanks to Saga Press and the awesome team at Wunderkind PR for sending me a finished copy of Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns. We currently have a giveaway running for this book, so if you’re a resident of the US and are interested in checking it out, be sure to head on over to this post to read an excerpt and enter for a chance to win!

Earlier this month I also received a surprise ARC of Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft, with thanks to Orbit. In case you missed the news, this novel was actually one of the contestants in last year’s SPFBO, and while it didn’t win, the book did go on to receive a ton of attention and praise through word of mouth, resulting in a contract with a traditional publisher. Success stories like these make me so happy, and they prove without a doubt that the buzz does help! I’m really looking forward to this one.

Up next is Seriously Hexed by Tina Connolly, the third volume in the Seriously Wicked series. I’ve only read the first book so I’m a bit behind, but I do recall having a good time with the story which was quite fun and very cute, so I’d like to continue if I can. My thanks to Tor Teen for the finished copy.

And courtesy of DAW Books: A Spoonful of Magic by Irene Radford is the first book of a new urban fantasy series about a kitchen witch and her magical family…which apparently also includes an asshole husband who cheats on her. I’ve been seeing a lot of mixed reviews for this one so far, which is kind of making me nervous and, if I’m to be honest, a little curious. Guess I won’t know how I feel until I try the book for myself, so wish me luck. Then there’s Terminal Alliance by Jim Hines, kicking off his new humorous and action-filled series about an alien race coming to Earth only to find that a mutant virus had wiped out half the planet, leaving the survivors in a feral, shambling state. How this is going to play out is anyone’s guess, but I do want to find out!

With thanks to Berkley, I also received a finished hardcover of Seventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson. This is another title I’ve been seeing some mixed reactions for, but like I said, a new series from the mind who brought us the Thomas Covenant Chronicles is something I don’t want to miss.

From the generous folks at Simon & Schuster publicity I also got a surprise copy of The Empress by S.J. Kincaid. I haven’t read the first book, but I’ve always been curious about the series so this might just be the motivation I need to pick it up. Pretty sure my library will have a copy of The Diabolic readily available, and maybe even in audio.

Earlier this month, I also received a package containing the following November releases from Orbit: Into the Drowning Deep by Mira Grant is one I’m definitely going to be reading this fall, and if I can’t fit it in before the month is over, it’s going to be top priority for “Catch-up December”. I’m also very curious about The Rule of Luck by Catherine Cerveny, the first book of a new sci-fi series that appears to have both adventurous and romantic elements. More science fiction also comes in the form of Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre, this one being described as a murder mystery/crime thriller set on a futuristic space station.

Next up are a trio of new arrivals from Tor: The Eterna Solution by Leanna Renee Hieber is the third installment in the Eterna Files sequence, and again to my shame, I’ve only read the first book. Not sure I’ll be able to catch up anytime soon, but at least this is the final volume so I can’t fall any more behind! I also received this ARC of The Midnight Front by David Mack, a novel set during World War II about a man who joins up with the Allies’ top-secret magickal warfare program in order to get revenge on the Nazi sorcerers who killed his family. And rounding up this batch is Black Goat Blues by Levi Black, sequel to Red Right Hand which was a rather grim Lovecraftian horror I read last year. It looks like a pretty quick read, so there’s a good chance I’ll be checking it out soon.

Finally, a huge thanks goes to Entangled Publishing for sending me Haven by Mary Lindsey which came along with a boxful of awesome goodies. I don’t know how I got lucky enough to land on their mailing list, but I was surprised indeed when this gorgeous package arrived carrying its precious cargo. The book was new to me too, so the first thing I did was research it, and to my excitement, I discovered that it is a dark YA paranormal fantasy tale featuring a unique take on Beauty and the Beast. Seriously, I have no idea why I’d never heard of this book before, but now I know I NEED to read it.

  

 

On to the digital pile! I know we’ve already covered the dangers of NetGalley auto-approval privileges, but I never learn. This time it’s Saga Press luring me into temptation, with The Tangled Lands by Paolo Bacigalupi and Tobias S. Buckell and Pride and Prometheus by John Kessel, both of which were on my watchlist so I just couldn’t resist. Then The Philosopher’s Fight by Tom Miller from Simon and Schuster caught my eye, and it just sounded so amazing (“an epic historical fantasy set in a World-War-I-era America where magic and science have blended into a single extraordinary art”). The “Read Now” option was available so I just went ahead and clicked it, because I am a weakling with no self control.

Thanks also to Harper Voyager for sending me an eARC of Sinless by Sarah Tarkoff, a dystopian set in a world where morality is physically enforced, so that those who are “good” are blessed with beauty while those who are not suffer disfigurement or even death. I decided to give this one a try because the premise sounds like it has potential.

And this week I received only one audiobook for review. For a while, All Those Explosions Were Someone Else’s Fault by James Alan Gardner was only peripherally on my radar, until I realized it was a superhero book. Yeah, that changes things. With thanks to Audible Studios.

Reviews

A quick summary of the reviews I’ve posted since the last update:

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson (5 of 5 stars)
A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge (4.5 of 5 stars)
All Systems Red by Martha Wells (4 of 5 stars)
Artemis by Andy Weir (4 of 5 stars)
Invictus by Ryan Graudin (3.5 of 5 stars)
Valiant Dust by Richard Baker (3 of 5 stars)
The Bloodprint by Ausma Zehanat Khan (2 of 5 stars)

Roundup Highlights:

What I’ve Read Since the Last Update

Since it is Sci-Fi Month, I used this opportunity to bump up a lot of the sci-fi reads on my TBR. Here’s what I’ve “unstacked” from my shelves since my last roundup post. This weekend marks the end of a very busy time for me, so I should be catching up again soon.

    

  

black line

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!:)

Advertisements

Friday Face-Off: Double Image or Reflection

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

“Snap!”
~ a cover featuring a DOUBLE IMAGE or REFLECTION

Mogsy’s Pick:
Binary by Stephanie Saulter

So I had this post all planned out and halfway drafted before I went to grab info on the book…and realized I hadn’t actually read it yet! Oops! So, apologies for cheating a little this week, but I’ve decided to keep this as my pick regardless, because 1) I did read the first book, which I loved to pieces, and 2) I own both the UK and US editions and am pretty fond of both covers, hence why I thought to feature it in the first place. Binary is the second book of the ®Evolution series, set in the not-so-far-off future. The first book Gemsigns explained how a devastating virus almost wiped out humanity, and in order to survive, almost every new person born on the planet had to be genetically modified.

However, some genetic engineers went even further, giving rise to different kinds of genetically modified humans, termed “Gems”, which were tailored to specific duties that needed performing. However, with minimal thought given to their quality of life or well-being when they were created, Gems became essentially nothing but humanity’s tools. A century later though, the Declaration finally freed gems from their servitude, but neglected to translate and clarify their rights or status in the global legal system. In this period of instability, some gemtech companies would like nothing more than to see everything return to the pre-Declaration days, but fortunately the gems have Aryel Morningstar, their charismatic spokesperson who will do all she can to ensure that their voices will be heard.

I really need to get to this book at some point. Gemsigns was awesome, so I have no idea why I still haven’t! In the meantime, let’s check out the covers. It’s a head-to-head between only two this week, but I think they’re both pretty eye-catching:

Jo Fletcher Books UK – 2014 (left) vs. Jo Fletcher Books US – 2015 (right)

 

Winner:

They’re both very striking covers, each featuring bold, brilliant colors. But I confess, I chose this book with already a clear winner in mind. While I’ve been a fan of the minimalist design of the UK edition ever since it came out, I have to say when the US edition was released a year later, I was just completely floored by the stunning imagery. And the best part? It’s actually an allusion to my favorite scene from the first book. That’s all I’ll say about that though, no spoiling!

But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

#RRSciFiMonth Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns: Excerpt and Giveaway!

***Be sure to check out the end of this post for details on our Barbary Station giveaway!***

Today I’m excited to share with you all a special excerpt and giveaway for Sci-Fi Month: a book about space pirates and murderous AI, oh my! On October 31st, Saga Press published Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns, a science fiction novel described an action-packed and adventurous queer pirate space opera following a pair of intrepid women ready to claim themselves a slice of glory and happiness – that is, if they can stop an out-of-control AI from killing them all. This is a book that’s been on my radar for a while, and I can’t wait to check it out! In the meantime though, please enjoy the following excerpt and don’t forget to enter our giveaway if you’re in the US for a chance to win a copy of your own.

Adda and Iridian are newly-minted engineers, but in a solar system wracked by economic collapse after an interplanetary war, an engineering degree isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. Desperate for gainful employment, they hijack a colony ship, planning to join a pirate crew at Barbary Station, an abandoned shipbreaking station in deep space.

But when they arrive at Barbary Station, nothing is as they expected. The pirates aren’t living in luxury — they’re hiding in a makeshift base welded onto the station’s exterior hull. The artificial intelligence controlling the station’s security system has gone mad, trying to kill all station residents. And it shoots down any ship that tries to leave, so there’s no way out.

Adda and Iridian have one chance to earn a place on the pirate crew: destroy the artificial intelligence. The last engineer who went up against the security system suffered explosive decapitation, and the pirates are taking bets on how the newcomers will die. But Adda and Iridian plan to beat the odds.

There’s a glorious future in piracy…if they can survive long enough.

 

Excerpt from Barbary Station by R.E. Stearns, on-sale October 31, 2017. Published by Saga Press. Copyright © 2017 R.E. Stearns, reprinted with permission from Saga Press.

In her water tank, Adda shook blue dust out of her hair. Since the tank was suspended underneath the pirate compound, beneath the station’s double hull, Iridian proclaimed it safe enough without the blue antiradiation coating. Adda kept forgetting to pull her hood over her head when she left the tank, and the blue stuff that covered the rest of the compound’s ceiling and walls fell into her hair and shirt.

She piled pillows inside her workspace’s noise-canceling canopy. Though the sides were transparent beneath a thick grid of black tracer lines, it did resemble a tent. Once she’d plugged her nasal implant jack and her comp into the main unit, she triggered the comp’s countdown timer. If she spent five hours in a workspace, Iridian usually checked on her. When both of them forgot, Adda had headaches and nightmares. She placed a thin purple sharpsheet square on her tongue. While it dissolved, she inserted earbuds, which hissed pink noise and canceled out everything else.

Time to find out what I’m up against. As one of her professors used to say, Zombie AI can’t develop their own priorities, so give them yours. If she got the intelligence to interact with her, she could ask it to stop. The pirates didn’t have a workspace generator, so they couldn’t have tried that.

She lay on her back and sealed the sound-resistant generator tent. After several seconds, the sharpsheet took effect and the generator’s software accessed her neural implant net to draw her into a workspace. Her parents’ house in Virginia, before the bombing, assembled around her.

The comp glove could render small parts of the programs she worked with, but interacting with the fragments limited her view of the system as a whole. The workspace software converted the concepts and commands into visual metaphors her brain processed quickly, naturally, and more effectively with the sharpsheets’ help. Sunlight patterned down through a large, high window. All six shelves of the bookshelf beside it were full of ancient paper books, many more than the tiny collection of books that her mother had maintained. Each book represented information on the station intranet’s public front. Station administrators would be remarkably careless to leave a manual on the station’s security intelligence sitting out on unprotected intranet, but she had to check. A spiral-bound stack of paper labeled Employee Policies might be helpful.

An orange glow with ragged gray-blurred edges swam over a plain black book’s spine. The glow shrank into the words Criminals and Criminology. With dreamlike slowness, Adda pulled it from its shelf, blew the ensuing dust cloud away from her nose, and placed the book beside her bare feet.

Despite the carpet, the book landed with a sound like a massive gong struck with a hammer. Adda stilled, her hand hovering over the book. She hadn’t set any alarms like that, so who had?

When she turned back to the bookshelf, a yellow eye stared out from its back panel, in the space where the book had been.

“Hello.” She breathed slowly to keep her field of vision, already gently twisting left and right, from starting to spin in response to her excitement. It wasn’t clear how well her biological functions carried through the workspace to the intelligence. Heart rates told a lot about humans. What conclusions AegiSKADA drew from hers was something else again.

“I’m looking for your occupant monitoring archives. I’m a friend. Everyone near me is too.” She concentrated on the concept of a group of nonthreatening individuals with similar objectives and priorities. “We don’t attack friends.”

The eye didn’t blink. Its pupil was a splotch of black liquid, asymmetrical and fraying into digital static at its edges. Adda reached into the bookshelf and pressed her fingertips to the top of the panel, above the eye. The titles on the other books’ spines swam, cycling through numeric codes and names. The eye refocused on them. The human-to-AI translation software in her comp was hard at work.

“Look at me.” She concentrated on how delighted she was to meet a new intelligence. The eye’s gaze flicked from one mental construct of household objects to the next, checking each one for signs of her. It was possible that no one had spoken to it in the four years since the station had been abandoned. If it understood what she’d said, it didn’t agree with her.

AI played games with human minds. Her translator should protect her, but depending on what direction this intelligence’s development took, the translator might be outmatched.

The risk raised her heart rate. The room rocked like a boat on stormy seas. The eye focused on her, confirming its access to biometric sensors. How many had the station’s designers planted, recording every cardiac rhythm of humans within range? And where was the one recording hers, alone in an empty water tank? She shut her eyes against the swinging room and concentrated on the second question. The rocking sloshed the contents of her stomach. Whispers in static too soft to interpret brushed across her arms and thighs. She thought she heard her name, and Pel’s.

When she opened her eyes, a dark image flickered in and out of existence below the eye on the book spine. Orange specks of light near the top were probably the string of lights in the passage between the hulls.

Adda grinned. It was so satisfying to create an answer through the intensity of her question. The nearest sensor node was in the hull passage that led to the pirate compound. She didn’t know what to do about that yet, but she’d think of something.

A cardinal peeped triumphantly outside the high window. The whispers faded to silence, and a hard, squared-off edge formed against her palm. She drew a paper book out of the bookshelf with the intelligence’s eye in the center of the cover. The image of the space between the hulls flickered out.

Behind the workspace’s hallucinations, her translator had convinced AegiSKADA that she was a temporary systems maintenance technician. That granted her the most basic levels of personal security aboard the station. Leaving so much of her identity open to the intelligence made her vulnerable, but she now claimed enough clearance to review its biometric database.

Millions of records swirled around her as dust motes in sunlight, with no archival procedure. AegiSKADA had recorded over a year of the pirates’ heart rates, respiration, gait, words, and images, every move the pirates had made since they’d crashed in the docking bay below. As she watched, the intelligence accessed record after record that hadn’t been significant enough for the workspace to render before. The workspace depicted each shining mote of information for only an instant, and then the eye on the book absorbed them.

The intelligence hadn’t been accessing those records when she first applied the translator. Adda could only imagine AegiSKADA accessing the pirates’ data this way in order to select targets for investigation or attack. If she had time to think, more reasons might occur to her. It was appalling that the intelligence had so much biometric data so readily available. None of the utilization scenarios she was coming up with had positive outcomes for Sloane’s crew.

AI rarely gave humans enough time to develop viable plans of attack, and she couldn’t just watch it work. Adda slammed her hand down over the eye to stop the transfer to its active memory. The home around her flickered, with red nothing behind it, as her software struggled to block AegiSKADA from records it was already accessing.

The eye widened and widened beneath her hand. It expanded past the borders of the book representing her software barriers between the intelligence and her personal system. The eye swelled to the width of the bookshelf, then the room, before Adda could draw her hand away. And it was focused on her.

The overwhelmed translator didn’t interpret the angry digital buzz filling the workspace, but something was hunting her, had caught her scent in the red beyond the workspace’s world. It was coming, and she had to get  out.

black line

Barbary Station Giveaway

And now time for the giveaway! With thanks to the publisher and the wonderful folks at Wunderkind PR, the BiblioSanctum has one print copy of Barbary Station up for grabs. The giveaway is open to residents of the US.  To enter, all you have to do is send an email to bibliosanctum@gmail.com with your Name and valid Mailing Address using the subject line “BARBARY STATION” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Wednesday, November 22, 2017 and we’ll take care of all the rest.

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!

Waiting on Wednesday 11/15/17

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that first originated at Breaking the Spine but has since linked up with “Can’t Wait Wednesday” at Wishful Endings now that the original creator is unable to host it anymore. Either way, this fun feature is a chance to showcase the upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!

Mogsy’s Pick

Moon Rising by Ian McDonald (July 31, 2018 by Tor Books)

In honor of Sci-Fi November, I’m featuring sci-fi picks for my Waiting on Wednesday posts this month. Up next is the third book of Ian McDonald’s Luna series, which has been described by many as “Game of Thrones on the Moon”. What most of us thought was a duology turned out to require one more book to round out the ending, and this is the highly anticipated conclusion we’ve been waiting for.

“The continuing saga of the Moon’s Five Dragons, already under option from CBS, a fast-paced, intricately plotted space opera pitched as Game of Thrones meets The Expanse

A hundred years in the future, a war wages between the Five Dragons—five families that control the Moon’s leading industrial companies. Each clan does everything in their power to claw their way to the top of the food chain—marriages of convenience, corporate espionage, kidnapping, and mass assassinations. 

Through ingenious political manipulation and sheer force of will, Lucas Cortas rises from the ashes of corporate defeat and seizes control of the Moon. The only person who can stop him is a brilliant lunar lawyer, his sister, Ariel.

Witness the Dragons’ final battle for absolute sovereignty in Ian McDonald’s heart-stopping finale to the Luna trilogy.”

Book Review: Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Mogsy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy

Series: Book 3 of The Stormlight Archive

Publisher: Tor (November 14, 2017)

Length: 1248 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

A full five stars to Oathbringer and nothing less. If you’ve read the two previous volumes in the Stormlight Archive, you’d probably already understand; this series is a masterful, meticulous continuation into the journey to explore the mysterious world of Roshar, and once again this third installment is revealing so much more about our characters and their roles in this epic tableau. I find myself speechless, as I often am after reading a Brandon Sanderson novel, because there’s so much to talk about and yet also so much I can’t spoil. I’m also not too articulate when my mind is blown, so trying to put into words my roiling feelings upon finishing Oathbringer will be difficult, but I’ll try my best to convey my thoughts on this work of art. That said, you should still only read this review after you’ve read the first two books (and if you haven’t yet, what are you waiting for, anyway!?) just in case.

For readers who have made it to this point though, you’ll already know that the world is on the verge of another Desolation, a cataclysmic event that has occurred on a cyclical basis throughout the history of Roshar. The heralds of these wars, known as Voidbringers, have returned along with the other forces of Odium, a powerful being who is the manifestation of hatred itself. The focus once more returns to the main characters of this series: Dalinar Kholin, a Highprince of Alethkar who is the brother of the late King Gavilar; Kaladin, also known as the Stormblessed, who was a bridge crew slave before eventually becoming captain of the royal guard; Shallan Davar, a young Lighteyes woman and scholar-in-training, who studied under the tutelage of Princes Jasnah Kholin; and Adolin Kholin, eldest son of Dalinar and a full Shardbearer like his father, who is now betrothed to Shallan. Together, these characters must work together to hold off the end of the world, but to do that they’ll also need some outside help.

Desperate for allies, Dalinar has set up his new base of operations at the legendary city of Urithiru after losing his own home to the invaders, attempting to reach out to the other Highprinces and rulers of other nations in the hopes of forming a united front against the forces of Odium. The enemy has now subsumed a great number of Parshendi fighters for their side through awakening of the previously docile parshmen with their summoning of the Everstorm, and the only chance the humans have now may be the mysterious fabrials known as Oathgates which, when activated, are said to be capable of transporting anyone to Urithiru.

Problem is though, Dalinar not only has the shadow of his past working against him, most people also think he’s gotten soft in his resolve as well as in his head, especially after he expressed beliefs that could be considered heresy. So far, much of what we’ve seen of Dalinar paints him as an honorable, principled, and valiant figure, which is one of the reasons why he’s always been a favorite of mine ever since meeting him in The Way of Kings. But the story has always teased a darkness in his past, hinting at an angry, violent, and ruthless young man before the assassination of Gavilar dramatically altered his way of thinking. There was also that mysterious business with Dalinar’s wife, whom he can’t remember at all—not even her name, which comes across as white noise in his mind if someone utters it in his hearing.

As a result, many questions have been raised about Dalinar’s history, and the good news is that Oathbringer lives up to every expectation by offering up a ton of answers. Is it any wonder that this may be my favorite volume of the Stormlight Archives yet? In between telling the events of the present, the narrative also occasionally takes us back to the past, delving into Dalinar’s younger years. Admittedly, these sections weren’t always easy to read, and not just because we got to see some of the atrocities he’s committed in his youth. It was also hard to reconcile this young man, who constantly fed off his sense of “The Thrill” by seeking violence and death, with the older and wiser Dalinar I’ve come to know. Though I hated to admit it, I even came to sympathize with some of the other leaders and their reluctance in helping Dalinar, fearing him to be a tyrant who will use the Oathgates to usurp them. Still, I suppose there was some beauty in these flashback chapters, especially when Adolin was born and we got to see Dalinar react to becoming a father, but ultimately there is a lot more pain than happiness in these past sequences, and some of the terrible and heartbreaking events covered the final few flashbacks damn near broke me.

Of course, Oathbringer being “Dalinar’s book” notwithstanding, Sanderson also pays plenty of attention to the other characters, developing the roles of Kaladin, Shallan, Adolin, and even those of a number of important supporting figures besides, including a few I can’t name for fear of revealing too much. Shallan in particular gets a lot of love, because following the revelation that she is a Knight Radiant, she has become something of a magical powerhouse. That said, getting a hang of her Lightweaving abilities involve a lot of growing pains, and in inventing multiple identities for herself, Shallan also risks losing the essence of who she is. Much of Shallan’s storyline sees her testing the limits of her powers and learning to become comfortable in her own skin, which also ties into her growing relationship with Adolin, who is trying to come to terms with all that is expected of him as Dalinar’s son. Their romance subplot continues to fill my girlish heart with glee though, because I still can’t get over just how damn cute the two of them are together. To be honest, Kaladin was perhaps my one source of mild disappointment, and only because his character and personality has not evolved as much compared to the others. The storming bridgeboy is still as brave, loyal, and caring as ever, but his penchant to want to save everybody all the time also means that the all-consuming guilt still gets to him when he realizes he can’t. But then again, that’s why we all love Kaladin, isn’t it?

Thus far, I know I’ve only mostly talked about the characters, but mainly because I think they are the heart and soul and these books. But I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the incredible world-building, even if I probably sound like a broken record by now, since it’s no secret that Brandon Sanderson is a genius when it comes to this area. I am in awe of the number of new ideas that are still coming out of this series though, and the astounding amount of new knowledge I gained about the world of Roshar from reading Oathbringer. The characters go to some amazing places and see some amazing things, and we learn along with them as they discover new and important information about the Desolations, the Heralds, the Oathpact, Honorblades, spren, and so much more.

And finally, all I have to say about the plot is that it was epic. Virtually no other word would do to describe this magnificent feat of storytelling. While I won’t pretend that every moment of this 1200+ page tome was a riveting experience, I can honestly say I was never bored. Oathbringer was long and slow to build, but in a good way, unfolding at the kind of pace that increases anticipation rather than induces tedium, and there were also plenty of surprises and shocking developments, including both triumphs and losses. The last two hundred pages or so were something else as well. Much of the book builds towards this final showdown, when all the character POVs come together in an exhilarating, climactic battle that’s sure to knock you off your feet. You’ll remember the ending to this one for sure.

All told, Oathbringer is another stunning addition to the already impressive Stormlight Archive, and I’m in love with this series more than ever. Events are starting to come together to form a clearer picture, but of course there’s still much to come in this journey, which I’m excited to continue. If you’ve been enjoying this ride as much as I have so far, trust me when I say there is no way you will want to miss this book. Read it, I say, read it!

#RRSciFiMonth Book Review: Artemis by Andy Weir

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Artemis by Andy Weir

Mogsy’s Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Crown Publishing (November 14, 2017)

Length: 384 pages

Author Information: Website | Twitter

A hit like The Martian is hard to follow up, but it seems Andy Weir has no trouble keeping the good ideas coming, producing another yet novel with realistic hard science and entertaining adventure. Still, while comparisons will no doubt be drawn between his debut and his new novel Artemis, it’s important to note that the two stories are very different, not to mention his new protagonist is a heroine cut from an altogether different cloth than Mark Watney.

Meet Jasmine “Jazz” Bashara, a twenty-six-year-old who has spent most of her life living in Artemis, the only city on the Moon. It’s a nice place to live if you’re wealthy enough to afford all the amenities, but as Jazz puts it, you can’t expect J. Worthalot Richbastard III to scrub his own toilets. Of the two thousand or so residents in the city, a bulk of them are the support staff and people who keep the place running, and Jazz is one of them. A genius who could have been anything she wanted, she instead chose to become a porter, a job that barely covers the rent, though she does occasionally supplement her salary with small smuggling operation on the side, sneaking in harmless bits of contraband.

Then one day, one of her richest and most trusted clients offers her a lucrative business proposal. The job, however, requires Jazz to pull off a crime that goes far beyond the limits of petty smuggling—one that, if she gets caught, can get her kicked out of Artemis and deported back to Earth. Having been on the Moon since she was six, Jazz can’t imagine a life anywhere else, but with this much money on the line, she can’t afford to say no either.

Like The Martian to some degree, I think whether you enjoy this book or not will largely depend on how you feel about the protagonist. While she may be exceptionally intelligent, Jazz lacks the aspiration and drive of a traditional hero, preferring to stay under the radar instead of applying her smarts to achieve something greater. However, that’s not to say she shies away from a challenge, for as unambitious as she is, Jazz also has a rebellious streak and seems take secret pleasure in using her intelligence to break the rules. Coupled with her sense of humor that tends to skew towards the juvenile, this admittedly makes her character feel much younger than her twenty-six years. I think Weir probably tried for “bold, cheeky young woman” but only managed “childish teenage girl” instead, ultimately giving Jazz a narrative voice that you’ll either get used to or you won’t.

Now with that warning out of the way, let’s get on to the good stuff. Weir has apparently created something that many readers—and not just science fiction fans—seem to be missing in their lives: a speculative genre that blends thrilling adventure and fun with realistic and believable science. Once again, he appears to have gone to great lengths to get everything as scientifically accurate as possible, beginning with a bit of insight into the day-to-day life of an average citizen on the Moon. Weir allows Artemis to unfold before us, presenting it in a creative and reader-friendly way through Jazz’s eyes as she spends the first few chapters 1) failing her EVA Guild exam, 2) traversing the city while carrying out her duties as a porter/smuggler, and 3) pitching in to help rescue workers at a factory fire. In one fell swoop, the story has not only introduced our protagonist but also managed to convey all the wonders and dangers of lunar life. Artemis is a place of dichotomies. It’s a vibrant ultra-modern city in the middle of a desolate landscape. The rich and the glamorous exist beside the poor and drab. And while authorities may take a lenient stance on some matters related to the law, on matters of safety they are unbending and resolute. Everyone takes the rules seriously when it comes to maintaining the integrity of the city’s framework or life support systems, because it could mean the difference between life and death.

Once the setting is established, that’s when the real fun begins. The story picks up considerably as soon as Jazz agrees to take on her wealthy client’s job. Her immature personality notwithstanding, Jazz is a force to be reckoned with when she sets her full mind to a task, and her problem solving process is an incredible thing to see. But of course, nothing ever goes as planned. Gradually, the excitement builds as Jazz unwittingly stumbles into a web of conspiracy and backroom dealings, putting herself and the people she cares about in danger. The action crescendos and doesn’t stop until we reach a boiling point in the climax, giving rise to some of the most intense chapters I’ve ever read, with the added bonus of making you want to fistpump the air yelling, “GO SCIENCE!”

All in all, I had a great time with Artemis, a story which was as fascinating and enjoyable as I expected from a brilliant mind like Andy Weir’s. The true test, really, is Jazz and how you’ll react to her personality and narrative voice. She’s one of those characters who would either endear herself to you or give you a raging headache, and where you fall in this spectrum will no doubt affect your experience with the book. If Jazz can win you over though, like she did with me, then I have no doubt you’re going to love this highly entertaining caper set on the moon.

#RRSciFiMonth Book Review: Valiant Dust by Richard Baker

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

Valiant Dust by Richard Baker

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction

Series: Book 1 of Breaker of Empires

Publisher: Tor (November 7, 2017)

Length: 352 pages

Author Information: Website

Richard Baker is a name I know mostly from his game design work for Dungeons & Dragons as well as his Forgotten Realms novels, so my curiosity was piqued when I learned that he was kicking off a new military sci-fi series called Breaker of Empires. The first book is Valiant Dust which introduces protagonist Sikander North, a prince of Kashmir who has just been assigned to serve as the new gunnery officer aboard the Aquilan Commonwealth starship CSS Hector. Almost right away, he experiences pushback from some of his fellow crewmates who either doubt his ability or are disdainful of his background.

Meanwhile, Amira Ranya Meriem el-Nasir, niece to the Sultan of Gadira is growing more concerned for her uncle’s safety as her home world is caught up in the middle of a political storm. She meets Sikander and quickly strikes up a friendship with him as the Hector is called upon to quell the uprising and provide aid as the Dremark Empire attempts to exert its influence by destabilizing the planet’s government. Unlike the Aquilan Commonwealth, the Empire subscribes to more extreme methods in matters of colonial strategy, sowing chaos in a bid to seize control of the planet from its current masters, the Republic of Montreal.

Mirroring the tumultuous era of Earth’s own colonial history, Valiant Dust blends political intrigue and space opera elements to create a futuristic vision of a galaxy fought over by two major powers. Through the eyes of Sikander, readers see how 19th century style colonization has affected his own planet of Kashmir which has experienced much technological advancement under Aquilan rule, though plenty of economic and social issues still exist at all levels. Compare this to Ranya’s experience on Gadira, where swift modernization has also led to lost jobs, increasing inequality gaps, and uprisings due to fears that the common people and their traditions are fast becoming left behind.

Featuring characters from worlds influenced by diverse cultures and faiths, the story also closely examines the relationship between those in power and the individual citizen. The first half of the book is also an important look at the way these great colonial powers view their vassals, following the trials of Sikander as he must prove himself on an Aquilan Commonwealth starship crewed by many who are unused to seeing a Kashmiri serving in an officer position. Much of what we read about in the early parts of the story involve him dealing with discriminatory attitudes and other negative perceptions toward his abilities.

Interestingly, while both Sikander and Ranya come from royal backgrounds, their past histories are no less fraught with difficulty and grief, having each experienced a loss in separate politically motivated tragedies. As a citizen of a world that has seen similar colonial battles play out, Sikander is also immediately drawn to Ranya, empathizing with her concerns for Gadira. Unfortunately though, the ensuing romance between them signaled a downhill slump in the story, overshadowing the excellent character development up to this point. After all, Sikander’s determination was what initially drove the plot and compelled me to keep reading, and I also loved watching those who underestimate Ranya get skewered by her intelligence and political savviness. Without a doubt, both characters were much more fascinating when Baker was focusing on each of them individually, and I think this is why I ultimately enjoyed the first half of this book a lot more than the second.

There was also less action that I would have liked, with definitely a lot more emphasis placed on the political aspects of the story. The plot was slower to build as a result, so don’t go in expecting a grand swashbuckling adventure in space or too many battle sequences. Tensions were largely created be the characters’ personal conflicts or through all the feverish political maneuvering between the ruling powers.

If that describes the kind of military sci-fi you like, then Valiant Dust might be a good book to consider. For me, the story started out quite strong before losing some of its steam, but I’m still very much intrigued by the characters and the political situation established in this first novel, and I’m open to the possibility of continuing this series.

YA Weekend Audio: A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Stand Alone

Publisher: Audible Studios (October 17, 2017)

Length: 12 hrs and 4 mins

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Narrator: Hallie Ricardo

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of reading Frances Hardinge’s A Face like Glass, and afterward I just knew I had to read more of her work. Because of this, I picked up the audiobook of A Skinful of Shadows, and I’m happy to say it did not disappoint. The book turned out to be one of the most wonderfully magical and imaginative Young Adult novels I’ve ever read—in other words, everything I expected from the author.

Set in the mid-17th century in the time of the English Civil War, the story stars our protagonist Makepeace who lives with her mother Margaret in the very Puritan town of Poplar. For as long as she can remember, terrible ghostly figures and other tortured spirits have haunted Makepeace’s dreams, but Margaret has remained stubbornly tightlipped about the topic, even when it is clear she knows why the dead are interested in her daughter. Instead, Margaret forces Makepeace to spend one night every few months locked up by herself in the darkness of the town’s cemetery crypt, telling the girl she must confront her fears in order to build stronger defenses against the ghosts. “One day you will thank me,” Margaret tells her daughter, but as the years pass, Makepeace grows more resentful of the cruel treatment, and the relationship with her mother was never the same again.

Then one day, during a particularly bitter argument, Margaret accidentally lets slip an important piece of information about Makepeace’s father, a subject rarely spoken of in their household. This precipitates a chain of tragic events that leads Makepeace to the discovery of where she came from, as well as the origin behind her nightmares. Never did she imagine that the truth would be so terrible though, as she suddenly realizes the forces of evil her mother had been trying to protect her from. Understanding much too late, Makepeace lets her guard down in a moment of weakness, unwittingly allowing a ghost to invade her mind—except this ghost is different from the ones she has encountered before, being the spirit of a frightened, angry bear.

One thing I’ve learned from reading Hardinge is that you can never predict how her stories will play out. When I first read an early synopsis for this book which describes Makepeace and the ghosts in her head—which includes a motley crew of outcasts, misfits, criminals and one dead bear—I had no idea what I was going to be in for. I certainly did not expect the plot to be so darkly twisted and yet so whimsically magical at the same time. The ideas in A Skinful of Shadows are astonishing in their originality and complexity, and I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to read a YA novel that isn’t clogged t0 the gills with rehashed tropes and paint-by-number characters.

On that note, I also loved the protagonist Makepeace, who exhibits uncommon bravery in the face of the unknown. All her life, she has been surrounded by lies, even from her own mother, who was admittedly just trying to protect her. Still, by withholding the truth, Margaret has only managed to make her daughter more defiant, and like most confused adolescents, Makepeace occasionally lets her temper get the better of her. Still, instead of turning me off, the protagonist’s little acts of defiance only endeared her even more to me, because it made her feel genuine and easily relatable. As a coming-of-age tale, this book really shines in showing the emotional impact of living a life caught in the middle. Makepeace has never felt like she belonged in Poplar, and later finds out that her ability to see ghosts and absorb them into herself is the result of her father’s bloodline. And yet, when she finds herself at Grizehayes, the ancestral home of her father’s family, she is quite horrified to discover what exactly her powers can be used for. Worst of all, instead of finding acceptance with others like her, she is threatened and manipulated, and the only person she ends up trusting is a half-brother named James, who shows her kindness.

And then, of course, there’s the bear. Out of all of Makepeace’s relationships, the one she has with her ghostly beast passenger was by far my favorite—and not just because it’s so strange and wonderful. Having the spirit of a wild animal in your head is as scary as it sounds, but eventually a deep rapport forms between the two of them, with Makepeace trusting the bear’s instincts and “forest wisdom” to guide her. For a companion who isn’t even human, and mainly only communicates with our protagonist through senses and emotions, bear was a surprisingly deep and heartfelt character.

This is only my second novel by Frances Hardinge, but I already feel confident in saying this is not a fluke. She is one of the most creative storytellers I’ve ever read, with a clear talent for crafting strong and evocative narratives whose depth of emotion will stun you. A Skinful of Shadows has firmly placed her on my must-read authors list, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll write next.

Audiobook Comments: Absolutely loved the audiobook. The narrator Hallie Ricardo did a great job and she has an amazing range of voices which really brought all the characters to life. Highly recommended.

Friday Face-Off: Key

Welcome to The Friday Face-Off, a weekly meme created by Books by Proxy! Each Friday, we will pit cover against cover while also taking the opportunity to showcase gorgeous artwork and feature some of our favorite book covers. If you want to join the fun, simply choose a book each Friday that fits that week’s predetermined theme, post and compare two or more different covers available for that book, then name your favorite. A list of future weeks’ themes are available at Lynn’s Book Blog.

This week’s theme is:

“Zip it, lock it and throw away the key”
~ a cover featuring a KEY

Mogsy’s Pick:
The Apartment by S.L. Grey

My pick for today was still fresh on my mind because I had just featured it on Halloween in a post about haunted houses. The story follows Mark and Steph Sebastian, a happily married couple despite their financial troubles. However, that was before their home was violently invaded by three masked men, who threatened husband and wife at knife point before robbing them of their already meager possessions. While they managed to survive that attack physically unharmed, Mark and Steph are unable to return to their normal lives because of the psychological trauma, so when a friend refers them to a house-swapping website and suggests that they take a nice relaxing vacation, the two of them are intrigued by this money-saving option.

Almost right away, Steph connects with the owners of a charming little apartment in Paris, and they decide to take the leap. After all, who can resist the city of light and love? However, once they arrive at the French capital, their dream vacation quickly turns into a living nightmare, and instead of rest and romance, all they find is darkness and terror in their borrowed apartment which is nothing like advertised.

Now that we know the basics of the story, let’s take a look at the covers to see how well they stack up against each other

From left to right, top to bottom: Anchor (2016) – Pan Macmillan (2016)  – Pan Macmillan (2017)
German Edition (2017) – Hungarian Edition (2017)

  

 

Winner:

Compared to the “key” covers, the US Anchor Books edition looks quite plain, doesn’t it? So, that one’s out. But while I dig the devilish design on the key in the Hungarian edition, I also just can’t quite get over the darkly clever and ominous symbolism of the upside-down Eiffel Tower in the Pan Macmillan covers. They also tie the book to its Paris setting, so I have to give them extra points for that. And ultimately, I’m going to have to give the original black Pan Macmillan cover the edge, not only because it features the key front and center, but also because it doesn’t have distracting text plastered all over it like its red counterpart.

So that’s how I came to my decision this week. But what do you think? Which one is your favorite?

#RRScifiMonth Spotlight & Review: Star Wars: Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor by Ryder Windham & Adam Bray + GIVEAWAY!

***The giveaway is now over, thanks to everyone who entered!*** 

Star Wars: Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor by Ryder Windham and Adam Bray
Genre:
Nonfiction, Media Tie-In
Publisher: Harper Design (October 24, 2017)
Length: 176 pages

Just in time for the next blockbuster, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, this unique and beautifully designed compendium with removable features traces one of the franchise’s most iconic characters—the stormtrooper—from initial development through all nine Star Wars movies to their many iterations in TV, comics, videogames, novels, and pop-culture.

Star Wars: A New Hope, the very first installment in the beloved science-fiction series, introduced the Imperial stormtroopers—the army of the fearsome and tyrannical Galactic Empire. Charged with establishing Imperial authority and suppressing resistance, these terrifying, faceless, well-disciplined soldiers in white have become a universal symbol of oppression.

Star Wars Stormtroopers explores these striking warriors and their evolution in depth for the first time. Ryder Windham and Adam Bray trace the roots of their creation and design, and explore how these elite troops from a galaxy far, far away have been depicted in movies, cartoons, comics, novels, and merchandizing.

Filled with photographs, illustrations, story boards, and other artwork, this lavish officially licensed book comes complete with removable features, including posters, stickers, replica memorabilia and more, making it an essential keepsake for every Star Wars fan, as well as military, design, and film aficionados.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Ryder Windham has written more than seventy Star Wars books, including The Complete Vader with co-author Pete Vilmur, The Bounty Hunter Code with Daniel Wallace, and Millennium Falcon Owner’s Manual. An avid blood donor, he has worked with members of the Star Wars costumer clubs—the 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, and Mandalorian Mercs—to help promote voluntary blood donations all over the world.

Adam Bray is the author of guides to Star Wars Rebels and a coauthor of numerous books about Star Wars, LEGO Star Wars, and Marvel. He has written for CNN.com and National Geographic News, and contributed to around forty guides to travel in Southeast Asia. His talents have extended to other spheres, including illustration, music, archaeology, spelunking, and working with chimpanzees. Follow Adam Bray on Twitter and Facebook: @AuthorAdamBray, at StarWars.com, and at AdamBray.com.

***With thanks to the publisher and Wunderkind PR for providing me with a review copy!***

Today, in celebration of Sci-Fi Month as well as my rabid love of Star Wars, I’m shining the spotlight on the galaxy’s favorite faceless baddies. That’s right, w’re talking Stormtroopers!

From authors Ryder Windham (who has written more than 70 Star Wars books, including novels, comics, and reference books) and Adam Bray (author of Star Wars: What Makes a Monster, Star Wars Rebels: The Visual Guide, and co-author of Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know and more) comes this gorgeous hardcover featuring a comprehensive look at the Empire’s most ubiquitous enforcer. Who were they? Where did they come from? Why were they so willing to kill and die for the Empire? Any topic or theme you can think of about iconic Stormtrooper, from their countless appearances across all forms of Star Wars media to the many fandoms that have sprung up around them, this book covers them all. History, creation, design, and even merchandising – you name it, it’s in here.

“Sandtroopers from Star Wars: A New Hope Special Edition (1997)” – pg.82

The book begins appropriately with a foreword by John Boyega, who portrays Finn in the new movies. Through his character, Star wars fans got their first opportunity to know a Stormtrooper deeply as an individual – someone with a unique personality and a complex past, more than just an anonymous, indistinguishable armored soldier. It’s the perfect introduction to a book that is all about going beneath the mask to explore the wonderful and fascinating world beyond.

“Finn in The Force Awakens” – pg.128

From the result of what must have been hundreds or even thousand of hours of research, the authors present to readers the full history of the Stormtrooper, from the roots of their inception to the evolution of their depiction through the many iterations of the Star Wars movies, cartoons, comics, books, games, and even toys and collectibles. The book’s pages are also chock-full of colorful images ranging from behind-the-scenes photographs and concept art to movie scenes and illustrations.

“Concept art for Zuke by Marvel artist Jorge Molina” – pg.137

“A frame from Marvel’s Star Wars #21 (July 20, 2016) featuring Task Force 99” – pg.137

Some of my favorite sections, however, were the ones dedicated to fandom, examining how Stormtroopers have gone beyond background roles in the original movies to become an instantly recognizable symbol of the Star Wars franchise. They have invaded popular culture, and are here to stay. One can hardly walk down a toy aisle in any store these days without seeing some form of the iconic helmet, but as we all know, the phenomenon has become more than just about action figures and lunch boxes. This book also goes into how “premium collecting” has become a huge area of interest for hardcore fans (and as someone who has invested not a small amount of money into Star Wars stuff over the years, I can relate!) And of course, no book about Stormtroopers would be complete without a nod to the cosplayers and other fan groups who take pride in costuming as well as volunteering for community service, like the famous 501st Legion.

   

“Funko POP! Star Wars bobbleheads” – pg.136

In short, Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor will definitely be a worthy addition to any Star Wars bookshelf and is a must have for any fan. If you’re looking forward to the upcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi movie as much as I am, it’s also a great way to drum up even more excitement, and everything about this book made my geek heart sing with joy. The back of the book even includes a sleeve with extras like reproductions of action figure backer cards, comic strips, storyboards, and a whole bunch of other cool goodies enclosed.

Overall, this super informative reference volume (which also contains enough visuals to pull double duty as an art/photography book, in my opinion) features a wealth of detail and stunning images, making for a compelling read. Whether you’re a die-hard follower of the franchise or just a sci-fi film and art enthusiast, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Star Wars: Stormtroopers Giveaway

And now time for the giveaway! Up for grabs is one copy of Star Wars: Stormtroopers: Beyond the Armor. With apologies to our international followers, due to the publisher’s specifications this giveaway is open to residents of the US only. To enter, all you have to do is send an email to bibliosanctum@gmail.com with your Name and valid Mailing Address using the subject line “STORMTROOPERS” by 11:59pm Eastern time on Wednesday, November 15, 2017.

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 and may the force be with you!