The year’s NaNoWriMo has been going great so far; I’ve been keeping up with my word count every day and have on a several occasions even managed to churn out a review or two for the site. Which is nice because I’ve received some amazing books for review in the last two weeks.
Allegiance – courtesy of Tor, the final and third book, actually, of Beth Bernobich’s River of Souls trilogy which I’ve heard a lot about but have never gotten a chance to read. I may have to remedy that.
Knife Sworn and The Tower Broken – from Jo Fletcher, the follow-up books to Mazarkis Williams fantastic debut The Emperor’s Knife. I’ve just finished Knife Sworn and loved it, so keep an eye out for the review on Monday, and I can’t wait to get to book 3.
Hell Bent – I’ve always wanted to check out Devon Monk’s books, and I finally got the chance to do it with Hell Bent, the first book of her new urban fantasy series spun off from her Allie Beckstrom books. Like I said in my review, I think it’s off to a good start.
Iron Night – the sequel to M.L. Brennan’s Generation V and it was INCREDIBLE. A full review will have to wait until closer to the release date, but this one was one of my most highly anticipated novels of the new year and it was everything I hoped for an more!
The digital pile:
The Daedalus Incident and Ice Forged – two books that I’ve had my eye on for a long time, and mashing the “1-click” buy button was practically instinctual when I saw these as Kindle deals on their respective days. Subsequently, so was picking up their Whispersync audiobooks at the greatly reduced price.
Cold Magic and The Innocent Mage – and while on the topic of audiobooks, the Audible matchmaker tool is like the most evil thing ever. Running my Kindle library through the thing alerted me to some of my older ebook purchases that now have Whispersync enabled audiobooks. Some of them were at $2-3 a pop, which is how I ended up with these two new titles in audio format.
The Emperor’s Blades -I’d just gotten my NetGalley stats back up past 80% this summer, but since then I’ve made a few new requests. I really should be polishing off books I already have but I couldn’t resist when I saw this one. Another one of my most highly anticipated books of the new year, and I’d been waiting patiently for it to go up on NG for a long time. Tor has so many great books coming out in the coming months, they are killing me!
Disney and the hit series, Once Upon A Time, keep fairy tales at the forefront of current pop culture, yet these stories have been around since forever and many other storytellers have had their fun with them along the way.
Fearie Tales returns fairy tales to their roots, reminding us that these stories were originally not intended for children – unless you want to scare the crap out of them and make sure they don’t do as their told lest the monster in the closet eat their toes. Like the Brothers Grimm, this anthology collects fairy tales, specifically focusing on the darker aspects. The original stories are juxtaposed with variations by some of favourite authors including Garth Nix, Neil Gaiman, Michael Marshal Smith and more. I wouldn’t necessarily say the stories are as gruesome as the cover suggests. “Haunting” is a more effective word that describes some of my favourite tales, such as Open Your Window, Golden Hair by Tanith Lee, a disturbing take on the story of Rapunzel. When paired with the absolutely creepy illustrations by Alan Lee, I may have found myself checking under the bed once or twice while reading this…
With thanks to Jo Fletcher Books for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
I am a fan of Once Upon A Time, which inspired me to finally get on with reading Fables. For those who still believe that Once is a rip off of Fables, be sure to check out Bill Willingham’s interview with Bill Willingham to learn the error of your ways. There certainly are similarities, considering they are both pulling from the same source materials, but both stand quite well on their own.
Fables Volume 1: Legends in Exile takes place in New York, centuries after the fairy tale characters we know and love or hate have been run out of town by the Adversary. Those who look human remain within the city, while the others live in the more rural areas. There is an amnesty in place that has absolved everyone of past sins. Snow White more or less runs things, but when her sister, Rose Red, goes missing under violent circumstances, she is forced to team up with Bigby Wolf, resident detective, to find her sister and the culprit.
As an introductory story, the mystery allows the reader to meet many of the characters and discover how author Bill Willingham has made each of them adjust to this new life. The result is some really interesting characters and relationships and yes, I am already shipping Wolf and Snow. Whut? The mystery itself plays out like a good old fashioned ’80s murder mystery, complete with Wolf indulging in a big reveal at the end. It’s wonky, but I’ll give it a pass because I’m already impressed with the concept and the characters. And oh look, The Wolf Among Us game is available on Steam…
Grimm Fairy Tales is a great example of “don’t judge a book by its cover” even when the covers of these graphic novels make such an effort to ensure that you judge them. Scantily clad fairy tale ladies adorn each cover, posed provocatively, trapped in precarious situations, tormented by evils. How good could this comic really be? Based on these covers alone, I figured I was in for a laugh in reading this. I was pleasantly surprised to find just how deceptive the covers are.
Each story starts in the real world with a young woman facing a serious problem in her life, such as a boyfriend who shuns her for not putting out, a partner who wants her to abort a baby when she doesn’t. It even surprised me by focusing on a male protagonist who is smitten by a girl who is obviously using him. Each protagonist stumbles across a mysterious woman and or her mysterious book of fairy tales and turns to a page with a relevant story to help them come to a decision about their future. The tales follow the standard story, but then offer some intriguing twists that offer a moral punch.
Despite the covers, there are no buxom babes prancing around in corsets and fishnets in the stories. Other than the occasional cleavage, everyone is appropriately dressed and none of the women are taken advantage of beyond the constraints of their respective fairy tales.
I’d originally decided to read this along side Fables thinking it would prove to be an amusingly poor comparison, but I ended up discovering something surprisingly interesting that wasn’t as bad as it appeared to be.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars – “Action-filled and suspenseful start to a new spinoff series set in the Allie Beckstrom universe. Looking forward to more!”
Mogsy’s Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars – “Series gets better the more I read; emotionally impactful and filled with suspense, this book kept me on my toes by raising the stakes and taking things to the next level”
“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!
When the mission is to extract a high-level rebel spy from the very heart of the Empire, Leia Organa knows the best man for the job is Han Solo—something the princess and the smuggler can finally agree on. After all, for a guy who broke into an Imperial cell block and helped destroy the Death Star, the assignment sounds simple enough.
But when Han locates the brash rebel agent, Scarlet Hark, she’s determined to stay behind enemy lines. A pirate plans to sell a cache of stolen secrets that the Empire would destroy entire worlds to protect—including the planet where Leia is currently meeting with rebel sympathizers. Scarlet wants to track down the thief and steal the bounty herself, and Han has no choice but to go along if he’s to keep everyone involved from getting themselves killed. From teeming city streets to a lethal jungle to a trap-filled alien temple, Han, Chewbacca, Leia, and their daring new comrade confront one ambush, double cross, and firestorm after another as they try to keep crucial intel out of Imperial hands.
But even with the crack support of Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing squadron, the Alliance heroes may be hopelessly outgunned in their final battle for the highest of stakes: the power to liberate the galaxy from tyranny or ensure the Empire’s reign of darkness forever.”
While I’ve been known to enjoy an element of romance in my reading, I’m not sure if the actual Romance genre is my cup of tea. Harlequin novels or the type of books featuring their heroines’ steely-eyed, bare-chested and six-pack-bedecked love interests on their covers just aren’t generally my thing. But then, I stumbled upon Master of Crows.
I read this one last year and I was surprised at how good it was, especially since it appears to be a self-published indie. Okay, so maybe indulging in a steamy Romance novel can be fun once in a while, but it’s still gotta be science fiction/fantasy-related or else I don’t know if it’ll hold my interest. Master of Crows sure fit the bill, taking place in a world of mages and magic and all that good stuff. Sure, it’s not without its cheesy parts (but then again, I’m also a firm believer that any good Romance must have its fair amount of cheese), with its rather standard master-apprentice love story and the archetypal tall, dark, handsome, sexy, broody, mysterious and misunderstood and privately tortured lone-wolf male protagonist. Still, I liked this one. Never once did we lose the fantasy element, even amidst the lusty passion…
Which I’ll admit was kind of hot.
With three hours left on the audiobook and constant interruptions at work where I usually listen to my audiobooks, this happened:
I got through the work day, running home to read the rest because the narrators just weren’t reading fast enough, dammit! I now am suffering from severe book hangover, knowing that I have to wait until March 4, 2014 to find out what happens next in Words of Radiance. You’d think with all this, that I’d throw all the stars at this book, but I had to deliberate on that a bit. My bookflail showed up in the last 200 pages of a massive book. But I’m just not sure I could have made it through the first 3/4 if I’d not opted to listen to the audiobook.
The world Sanderson has built is immense and his lore covers everything from fashion, to theology, to weather, to magic, to politics, and more. A lot more. A. LOT. MORE. It is incredibly impressive, but the interjection of lore building exposition and flashbacks became disruptive after a while. It is evident that Sanderson has this entire world perfectly detailed in his head, and he seems determined to make sure the reader sees it exactly as he does by including full descriptions of even the smallest element, rather than allowing the reader to use a bit more of their own imagination.
Considering the intended length of the series, weighing in at twenty books, I assume the information dumps will become less of an issue as it progresses (save it for the wiki, please). And fortunately the lore influx is also balanced by the depth of the characters, which is what helped me pull through. In other epic fantasies, you don’t really get to know the characters, and in some cases you can’t even tell them apart. Here, there is as much time spent with the development of the major characters and the supporting cast important to them. Perhaps more of Kaladin’s backstory is told than is necessary, but I can excuse this because of how vivid and interesting the character is, such that you actually come to care about him and the others, rather than merely liking him because he’s cool.
The audiobook was read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading, the same people who narrated Robert Jordan’s unimpressive The Eye of the World, which inspired my post on epic storytelling for the sake of epicness. With this in mind, I should have been daunted by this book’s information overload and the twenty book series, but this is Brandon Sanderson. I’ve actually only read 2.1 books by him (though I own several) and completely subscribe to the well-earned hype. His world building *is* truly amazing. His unique and varied approach to the use of magic in each of his stories is fascinating (in the case of Warbreaker, it’s specifically what attracted me). And his characters are very real and very endearing. If Sanderson gets carried away sometimes with too much lore, I can forgive him because it feels like him eagerly inviting you into his head, rather than him just unnecessarily padding out a book and/or killing time till he figures out what the story is supposed to do next.
As for the story itself, it was really impressive. A pointless war for vengeance is at the heart of everything, with mysteries stemming from this core in all directions. The last 200 pages of the book are so intense because those vines of mystery, along with all of these intriguing characters, start to come together in the end, creating all new mysteries that demand that you continue the journey.
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: The Academy
Date of Publication: November 5, 2013
Author Information: Website
Jack McDevitt has been writing books for a long time, but it wasn’t until Starhawk that I finally got a taste of his work. I was initially uncertain about jumping on board with this one, seeing how the book’s main character as well as the setting have been established for a while in McDevitt’s The Academy series. However, after discovering that Starhawk is actually a prequel of sorts, I took the opportunity to use it as a starting point. How happy I am that I did! Starhawk is amazing, introducing me to a whole new world of space exploration and adventure.
A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Historical Mystery
Series: Book 1 of Finley Jameson and Joseph Argenti
Publisher: Exhibit A
Date of Publication: September 24, 2013
Author Information: Website
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars – “Some surprises to be found amidst an exciting mix of mystery and suspense, in this novel reminiscent of classics like Sherlock Homes”
Angry Robot may be one of my favorite speculative fiction publishers, but when it comes to their Mystery/Crime imprint Exhibit A, I have to say I’m pretty much clueless. Naturally, I was curious about their books, and Letters From a Murderer immediately caught my eye. After all, historical fiction is one of my favorite genres after science fiction and fantasy, and Jack the Ripper is the subject of another great book I read recently, and for that reason my interest in Ripper stories was still very much piqued.
However, there is one notable aspect about this Ripper story — it takes place in New York, 1891. This was around the time when the string of brutal murders in Whitechapel and east London seemed to have stopped, leading authorities to speculate that the killer must have died, gotten arrested, or moved on. So when the book opens with a prostitute in New York found murdered in a similar way, uncomfortable questions are raised about whether or not the Ripper might have crossed the Atlantic.
While I know it’s not exactly new, this idea is something I’ve personally never encountered before in a Jack the Ripper related novel. There are whole new dynamics at work here, admidst the complexities of the city’s criminal underworld as well as dark secrets in the main character Finley Jameson’s past. As one of the original English pathologists on the Ripper case, Jameson is teamed up with New York detective Joseph Argenti, and together they try to catch the murderer before he can claim more victims. The “Letters” in the book’s title have a two meanings, referring to the messages the killer sends to the press taunting the police, as well as the symbols found carved onto the victims’ bodies.
I enjoyed this, even though I’ll admit I didn’t fully appreciate the cleverness of the story until well into the book, when the major “twist” was revealed to shake things up. Before this, the book held my interest but did not exceed my expectations; the plot held a lot of the usual elements I would expect from a novel of this genre and type. In this historical mystery, the “history” takes more of a backseat as this is a mystery-thriller first and foremost, complete with gang violence and corruption, conspiracies and lies. Some of the characters fell into familiar archetypes, like the mob boss Tierney (evil and insane) or Jameson’s assistant Lawrence (the troubled but brilliant intellectual). On the other hand, this can be seen as a postive if you prefer books that are reminiscent of classics like Sherlock Homes, as this one definitely has that vibe.
The best part, however, is something I can’t really talk about much in my review for fear of spoilers, but the aforementioned dark secrets in Jameson’s past have a lot to do with it. Suddenly, everything that came before in the novel held more significance and meaning, including the details I thought were just par for the course in Jameson and Argenti’s investigation. For a book that I didn’t think was going to surprise me, it sure threw me for a loop there, keeping me guessing and wondering and beating myself up for not realizing before that this was where the author was going.
Alas, that little side plot in the story was over all too quickly, but the remainder of the book set a much more rigorous pace, with an exciting mix of suspense and mystery as our investigators have to try and solve the puzzle and deal with Tierney’s men at the same time. I thought everything unfolded naturally and came together very well at the end, and fans of crime fiction or historical mysteries will probably find lots to like about this one, especially if you have an interest in Sherlock-Holmes-style books or Jack the Ripper stories.