Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review of The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden

The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden
by Catherynne M. Valente
496pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: 5/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4.51/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.36/5

In the Night Garden comprises the first half of Catherynne M. Valente's The Orphan's Tales duology. The second volume, In the Cities of Coin and Spice, was released in 2007. Often compared to The Arabian Nights for its style of stories within a story, In the Night Garden was nominated for the 2007 World Fantasy Awards and won the 2006 Tiptree Award. The book itself is very beautiful with some illustrations by Michael Kaluta, and its actual contents are also very impressive - full of imaginative, intertwined fairy tales told in a lush prose style.

It's difficult to describe the plot of In the Night Garden since it is a series of interconnected stories rather than a novel with a straightforward plot line. It begins with a young girl who was shunned for the black marks around her eyes that most believed marked her as a demon. She wanders the palace gardens of the sultan by herself for thirteen years until one of the sultan's sons is curious enough to ask her why her eyes are so dark. Lonely after her years of solitude, the girl tells him that her eyes were not always that way but contain stories put there by a spirit. The boy begs her to tell him just one of these tales and is so spellbound by them that he keeps seeking her to hear more.

There are two main stories within this volume that the girl tells the boy - The Book of the Steppe and The Book of the Sea. Although these two are separated, the second story does tie in with the first. With so many stories within stories, the book is mostly comprised of short sections that switch between viewpoints often. For instance, The Book of the Steppe starts with the girl, then moves on to a short section about a prince who is dissatisfied with his wealth and leaves his home. He soon becomes hungry and breaks the neck of a goose in order to feed himself. However, the prince is then confronted by a witch claiming the goose is her daughter and is horrified to see the bird has turned into a young woman. After this, the witch begins telling a tale, then within her tale she tells a story told to her by her grandmother. The book continues to go back and forth between these tales but within them are woven in tales belonging to all sorts of other characters - a wolf, a tavern-keeper, a beast-maiden, a marsh king and many others. Interspersed throughout all these are brief interludes containing the girl and the boy and sometimes the boy's sister, who punishes him for visiting the girl in the garden.

Because of this format, this is a book I wish I had picked up when I had more time to dedicate to reading instead of when I only had a few moments here and there. This is really a book that demands some actual time to sit down and read in large chunks. Also, I'd recommend reading it in a relatively short timespan because there are parts that tie together and it helps to remember what happened in the previous stories. Due to the timing of when I started reading this, it took me a month to finish it. When I was reading the second story told by the girl, it kept triggering memories of the first story but it had been long enough since I'd read it that I found myself flipping around a lot trying to remember where I'd read about that character or event earlier. So while I would definitely encourage people to read this book, I would also encourage them not to start it while in the midst of vacation/wedding planning as I did - wait until there's time to savor it.

In the Night Garden is very well-written with some beautiful prose and some very nice touches of humor throughout it, particularly when dealing with conventions of fantasy tales. One of my favorite sections was the Marsh King remembering when a prince came to slay his friend the Beast. Since Beast had never bothered this prince at all, the king asked why he came to dispose of him:
"I am a Prince," he replied, being rather dense. "It is the function of a Prince - value A - to kill monsters - value B - for the purpose of establishing order - value C - and maintaining a steady supply of maidens - value D. If one inserts the derivative of value A (Prince) into the equation y equals BC plus CD squared, and sets it equal to zero, giving the apex of the parabola, namely, the point of intersection between A (Prince) and B (Monster), one determines value E - a stable kingdom. It is all very complicated, and if you have a chart handy, I can graph it for you." (pp. 110 - 111)
This scene continues with a discussion about civilization and the definition of a monster that must be killed and is very amusing. Many of the characters had great storytelling voices and the Marsh King was one I especially enjoyed.

This book is full of imagination - anything can happen. Talking stars and animals, men with dogs' heads, maidens with animal parts, and other wonders are contained within the pages. It can also be dark at times and not all the stories are happy. Other aspects of the book that I enjoyed were the little feminist twists and the "Cinderella" story. Throughout the book, there are parts where it breaks out of the mold of traditional male/female roles that are often seen in fantasy but it is not overdone since it's the way things happen - occasionally, the woman is the stronger one or the one finding and carrying the man away. I love retold fairy tales and really enjoyed the version of "Cinderella" in which no woman wanted to be the "lucky" one selected when the wizard was searching for an apprentice.

The only issue I had with the book is that since there are so many interconnected stories with so many different characters, there is no time to really connect with any one of them. I'm not saying that is a flaw since it is just the nature of this type of structure, but as someone who reads primarily for characters, I did miss really getting to know some of them.

In the Night Garden is a brilliant, unique book containing many tales woven together, adventure, and wonder. It has that quality of letting go of reality common that makes young adult books so endearing yet it seems to be written for an older audience. I'll definitely read the next book and have already ordered it.


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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Review of Archangel

Archangel is a novel in Sharon Shinn's Samaria series, featuring a world in which angels and humans live together in harmony. The Samaria series is not published in chronological order, but on her website Shinn recommends reading the books in the following order (by release date): Archangel, Jovah's Angel, The Allelluia Files, Angelica, and Angel-Seeker. There is also a novella in the To Weave a Web of Magic anthology called "Fallen Angel" that was published after the novels. Although this novel is supposed to be science fiction, it seems more like a fantasy novel. However, I read the blurb on the novel that spoiled other books in the series, and there is a reason it is labeled science fiction instead of fantasy.

Every twenty years a new angel is chosen by the god Jovah to lead the people. The beginning of the Archangel's ascension is marked by the singing of the Gloria, which must be led by the mortal woman chosen by the god to be his wife, the Angelica. If the Gloria is not sung and attended by the appropriate people, Jovah will express his displeasure with thunderbolts. First he will destroy a mountain, then after a few days the river, and eventually the entire world if the Gloria is not performed to his satisfaction.

This is posing a bit of a problem for Gabriel, who is to become the new Archangel in 6 months and cannot find the woman chosen by Jovah to be his new wife. Although he has known he is to become Archangel for years, Gabriel kept putting off seeking the oracle to find out whom he is to marry. He figures he will have plenty of time to find her, and of course, every woman dreams of becoming the angelica so she'll be thrilled when he gives her the news. What Gabriel did not count on was Jovah's choice of Rachel, a farm girl who has not been in the location he was given for many years. After much searching, Gabriel has almost given up hope until he meets the slave girl who tends his fire in the morning and discovers that she is Rachel - who despises the prospect of becoming the new Angelica.

Archangel is somewhat romantic in that there is some emphasis on the relationship between Gabriel and Rachel, but it is far from being a mushy, sicky sweet love story. Occasionally, the two got along, but for the most part Rachel and Gabriel argue. Or, more precisely, Gabriel tries to be kind to Rachel and Rachel is not very nice to him in return. In the very beginning of the story, the oracle told Gabriel that the Angelica would counterbalance him, which meant she would most likely humble him since he was an arrogant man. That's how it works, but honestly, I'm not quite sure how Gabriel put up with Rachel. At first, Gabriel is a bit disturbed by the fact that Jovah chose a slave girl for him, the Archangel of all Samaria, even though he was working to undo slavery in Samaria. Once he came to accept Rachel's humble origins, he did try to be very understanding to her, but she never tried at all. In fact, she did quite the opposite, and basically did everything she could to be a thorn in his side.

Part of the story is told from Gabriel's perspective, but more of it is from Rachel's perspective and it's really more her story than his. Because of this, you know about Rachel's past and how much she has lost, so she's at least somewhat more sympathetic than she would be otherwise. Even so, she became harder to empathize with the further I read. She was one of those characters you just wanted to knock some sense into. Once Gabriel got over his issue with her slavery, he was almost too perfect, and she couldn't just be even a little bit nice to him? He was a just man who was trying to make changes for the better throughout the land, and he did his best to ensure Rachel was as happy as possible. Yet stubborn Rachel always had to be difficult, and even though it makes sense with her character, I still wanted to yell at her to get a grip and quit being so immature and silly. Early on, I loved Rachel, and although I never really disliked her, I did like her less later and can see some readers coming to despise her.

Archangel is about more than just Rachel and Gabriel, although they are the main focus. It's also about Rachel adjusting to her new life and Gabriel's attempts to undo the problems created by his predecessor, the Archangel Raphael. Raphael lacked Gabriel's strong sense of justice and could be bought by the merchants. He was the one who allowed one race of people to be enslaved, and he turned out to be worse and worse.

Religion did play a major role in the storyline, but it seemed like part of the setting to me rather than preachiness even if part of the novel was about having faith in Jovah. Samaria's lands and people tended to have Biblical names and it was closer to the Old Testament than the new one - there was no Savior mentioned, just a god who needed to be pleased or smiting would commence. The people of Samaria tried to uphold the laws, but there was one group of people who believed differently from the rest, the Edori (who adopted Rachel at a young age when her parents died). Most of the people believed Jovah was supreme but the Edori believe that he was created by another being and answers to his creator. They also believed any person could talk to Yovah (their name for Jovah) even if he was not an oracle or angel. At Rachel's wedding, she converses with one of the oracles about the beliefs of the Edori and he wonders who taught them these beliefs and where they came from, which I am hoping is explored in further books. I would like to know more about Jovah, where he came from, and which beliefs about him are actually true. The world beliefs in this novel and how they were executed was one of my favorite aspects of the book.

Archangel was a wonderful book with an intriguing setting based on Biblical ideas. Although I loved the main heroine for about half the book, her attitude did become wearying toward the end, but it was always readable and kept me wanting to find out what happened next. I'd definitely like to read more of the books in this series.


Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Brief Entry to Asimov

Note: I started this as a reply to a comment on my review of Marooned in Realtime, but it grew to the point where I decided to split it out into its own post.

Well, the most important Asimov to read is the Robot-Empire-Foundation series (which is actually three separate series that he joined into the same universe after the fact). Wiki can give you the full list in chronological order, but I think how you read them depends on what you're looking for.

In my opinion, the natural entry points are Caves of Steel (the first robot mystery), Foundation (the first foundation book published), or Prelude to Foundation (the first foundation book chronologically, at least as far as the ones written by Asimov himself go). I didn't include The Currents of Space, the first Empire book, because I really think the Empire books are the weakest of the three series and I mostly read them as background for the Foundation books that came after the series were connected.

Caves is a detective novel in a sci-fi setting, more or less. It posits an interesting future Earth where the cities have been domed over and the land in between is reserved for robot agriculture. At this point Earth has also colonized many exoplanets and the people on them have created a distinct culture that is very different from Earth's. Most of the conflict in the book is between Earth and Spacer culture and centers around the use of robots, which Spacers take for granted but Earthers only accept in a very racist/slave owner sort of way.

Foundation is probably the most famous book Asimov ever wrote, even though it's actually a collection of serial shorts he wrote over the course of a decade. In some ways, it is like Marooned because it tries to capture human events on an epic time scale. The difference is that Foundation is concerned with the course of civilizations rather than individuals. The galactic empire is slowly falling, and Foundation is mostly about how you pick up the pieces of humanity after decline and fall.

Prelude to Foundation is exactly what it sounds like, a novel dedicated to the events before Foundation itself. It tells the story of a young Hari Seldon, the genius who tried to mitigate the damage of the collapsing empire. The reason I'd include it as one of the entry points to the series isn't as much about chronology as it is about the story itself. Asimov's early work was pretty rough by modern standards. It was all about the ideas, and things like characterization were not handled all that well. In addition, because Asimov's ideas were so wonderful they have been copied and expanded upon since his original versions came out. They tend to lose some power now because you think "well, that's just like x" except that you have to stop and realize that Asimov was the one who did it first and made x possible. Prelude, however, was written in the 80's when Asimov was a much more complete storyteller, so it is more accessible to modern readers than Foundation might be.

Other starter Asimov that's worth looking at are the robot short stories (collected in I, Robot among many others, which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the movie), The Gods Themselves, Nightfall, or Azazel (for something a little different). Personally, I think a lot of his best work is in his short stories, so grabbing a collection is not a bad way to get into his writing.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

SFF News Tidbits/Update

Orbit announced today that Little, Brown UK announced the audio version of Transition by Iain M. Banks will be available as a free podcast beginning on September 3, its publication date. Banks is best known for his series of science fiction novels set in the Culture universe, but he writes some science fiction novels not set in the Culture and this is one of them (he also writes mainsteam fictions as Iain Banks). I've read two of the Culture novels, The Player of Games and Use of Weapons, and absolutely loved them both. They were simultaneously intelligent and entertaining, and The Player of Games was one of my very favorite books I read last year. I really want to read some more of the Culture novels, and Against a Dark Background sounds intriguing, too.

This week over at Babel Clash, the new Borders Sci-Fi book blog, fantasy authors Joe Abercrombie (author of the First Law trilogy and Best Served Cold) and Brent Weeks (author of the Night Angel trilogy) have been virtual brawling. I almost missed this because my RSS feed for this blog had stopped working, but fortunately, I heard about it in time to catch it - it has been a most entertaining debate.

Speaking of Best Served Cold, that's what I'm reading right now. It's already out in some countries, and it will be out in the US on July 29 (although I've heard Amazon is already shipping it). Best Served Cold is a stand alone book set in the same world as the First Law trilogy. So far, it's pretty good - although, like First Law, it's not something I'd recommend to people who like characters with tendencies toward goodness and heroics and all that jazz.

I'm halfway through a review of Archangel by Sharon Shinn and hope to have that up in the next couple of days. It's almost the weekend; I always have more brain power for writing reviews then.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Guest Review of Marooned in Realtime

Vernor Vinge, in the days before he became a three-times-running Hugo award winning author, was merely a two-times-running Hugo nominated author. Last year I reviewed the first of those two novels, The Peace War. The second novel, Marooned in Realtime, is a sequel to Peace in the sense that it takes place in the same universe and timeline, but you have to think rather broadly to call it a sequel given the fifty million years that pass between the two books. Then again...

Mysteries are inherent to the lives of many living in the small community around Korolev Castle. The Rag-Tag Town is a collection of a few hundred survivors that represent the last dribs and drabs of humanity. Why this might be, nobody knows; whatever caused the rest of the human race to disappear happened while the survivors were trapped in bobbles, a sufficiently advanced technology that removes a chunk of the universe from reality by wrapping it in an impenetrable sphere. No time passes within bobbles though, and eventually bobbles burst to release their contents back into the normal frame of spacetime exactly as they were when the bobble was created.

Beyond the great mystery of what happened to billions of people on Earth and spread throughout the Solar system, many of the town's residents have much more personal mysteries. Some have no idea where-or when-their neighbors come from. Even many of those who do know are not sharing their knowledge since most of them are the high-techs, a group of people who were bobbled very close to the disappearance and have the highest levels of technology and power-and therefore intrigue-in the community. Wil Brierson, former detective, has an extra mystery: he doesn't know who bobbled him fifty million years ago, taking him away from his life and family in the 22nd century and throwing him into an unimaginably distant future.

Unfortunately, not all of the mysteries are quite that old. Yelén Korolev, the woman who has been gathering together the last remnants of humanity over the course of millions of years, has been killed. The murder weapon: old age. The computers controlling the town's bobblers were hacked to initiate a hundred year bobble while Korolev was stranded outside in realtime, leaving her to live out the next forty years as the only person on the planet before she finally succumbed. Now Brierson has to start unraveling some of the secrets surrounding the last members of the human race to figure out who killed her before the fight to fill the power vacuum left by her death destroys them all.

In my review of The Peace War I said that it felt like a throwback sort of novel, more like a Golden Age sci-fi book than one that was written in the 1980s. Marooned in Realtime had a similar feel, but for a completely different reason. While The Peace War had a similar structure to many of the stories that came out of that age, Marooned in Realtime reminded me very specifically of Issac Asimov's Robot mysteries. Beyond the stylistic similarities that it shares with Peace, Marooned seems to draw on many of the same character archetypes that Asimov used in books like The Caves of Steel and The Naked Sun. In particular, Brierson and his de facto partner Della Lu map nicely onto Lije Bailey and R. Daneel, so it was very easy for me to think of Marooned in those terms.

All of these similarities make it difficult for me to judge Marooned objectively. The Robot novels are basically what I learned to read by and have remained some of my favorite science fiction books ever since (despite Asimov's early flaws as a storyteller, which I certainly acknowledge). So reading Marooned put me back in my happy-fuzzy-little-kid place, and it would be almost impossible for me to have not liked it because of that.

That being said, Vinge was a better storyteller at the time he wrote Marooned than Asimov was at the time he wrote Caves. Brierson and Lu are much more human than Bailey and Daneel (and not just for the obvious reason), and the supporting cast Vinge created are certainly crafted with more subtlety than what Asimov wrote. Even more impressive, though, is that Vinge - at the late date of 1986 - manages to create a world that is as far outside the experience of many modern sci-fi readers as Asmiov's was to his readers in the 1950's. While hard sci-fi has thoroughly explored the social and technological implications of space travel, it has not gone nearly as far in looking at travel across great gaps of time, and most of those books still get caught up in playing with the rules of causality or the implications of MWI. The bobbler gives Vinge an opportunity to look at time travel in a very intuitive way: by making it into something that isn't really time travel. The universe continues on as normal, it's just that certain parts of it drop out for a while and then reappear. It is an entirely linear one-way process that is simple to understand, and because of this Vinge can focus on what is really going on when humans live out their lives on a geological time scale.

The RTT is also rendered very well, and it provides a very clear picture of Vinge's technological singularity concept. (Of course, it seems a little odd that the point of the singularity is that we cannot predict what the other side will look like and this book takes place entirely on the other side of it, but the disappearance of most of humanity neatly sidesteps this issue.) There are enough elements carried forward from Peace that Marooned can be rightly called a sequel, but the circumstances of the RTT are so different from the world of Peace that it feels like of bit of a cheat to connect them in that way. Peace's world was interesting; Marooned's town is unique. Vinge did flavor Marooned with a bit more of his math and computer science background than appeared in Peace, but being the geek that I am, that didn't exactly hurt it in my view.

Marooned in Realtime lacks the tremendous depth and scope of Vinge's later works, but the fascinating ideas behind many of his recent books are present in full force. Despite the distance between them The Peace War should still be read before Marooned due to spoilers, but ultimately, both should be read and enjoyed.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Review of Cry Wolf

Cry Wolf is the first book in the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs, which is set in the same universe as her Mercy Thompson urban fantasy series. It features a different set of main characters, the werewolf Anna and her mate Charles (Bran's son and assassin), but Mercy is mentioned on occasion, Samuel makes a brief appearance, and Bran himself is present throughout a large portion of the book. The second book in the series, Hunting Ground, will be released on August 25, 2009. Technically, the first installment in the series is a novella about how Charles and Anna met called "Alpha and Omega" in the On the Prowl anthology. The beginning of Cry Wolf is a little confusing without knowing what happened in this story; however, once you get further along, the previous events from the novella are explained.

Cry Wolf does seem to throw you into the story without all the details since it continues the story begun in the "Alpha and Omega" novella. Charles has been badly injured from a fight with Anna's pack leader and must stay in wolf form to heal himself. While Charles is lying low, Bran helps Anna pack up her meager belongings from her apartment so she can move to Montana with Charles. Soon after landing in Montana, Bran hears rumors about a monster in the Cabinet Wilderness and suspects it may be a rogue werewolf. With Charles injured, Bran is hesitant to pursue the matter but when a man from Search and Rescue is attacked by a werewolf in the same area, it is up to Charles and Anna to put a stop to it.

Perhaps it was just because I did find I didn't know all the details of what was happening in the beginning, but I had a very hard time relating to Charles and Anna. As the story progressed, it did make more sense, but I still didn't come to care very much about either main protagonist. Although both were likable enough, I didn't find either to be particularly interesting. Charles had some promise with his conflicted nature - he was his father's assassin but he also valued life and preferred not to take it unless absolutely necessary. This was not explored to the extent I would have liked since much of the story was devoted to the growing relationship between Anna and Charles, but perhaps it will be expanded in future novels, especially since this book did seem to be introducing the characters and their histories. Anna was very sweet and compassionate but she was one of those characters who is a little too good for my taste, although I did enjoy learning about what it meant for her to be an Omega wolf. She had insecurities and a history of abuse by her former pack leader, but she did not seem to have any real personality flaws. That may have been fine, but I couldn't help comparing her to Mercy from the parallel series by Briggs. Mercy is also generally very good, but she's also a very vividly written character with a bright personality and a very appealing sense of humor. Anna was far more serious, and Mercy just felt more real and alive to me. This is not necessarily a flaw since there are some reserved people in the world (really, I'm one of them), but Mercy and her friends were far more compelling reading.

Even though Anna and Charles were not particularly compelling to me, I did find some of the more minor characters very engaging to read about, particularly Bran. The Marrok (werewolf leader of the entire U.S.) is mentioned, but he played a more major role in this novel than in the Mercy Thompson books. Some of his abilities and the reason behind his marrying that bitch (literally and figuratively) Leah were explained. A new character I did find intriguing was Asil, one of the oldest werewolves. His mate had been an Omega wolf until she was tortured to death and he was still haunted by dreams to the extent where he wanted Bran to kill him. Samuel's brief appearance did make me long for the Mercy Thompson series since he also had more personality and charisma than either Anna or Charles.

A lot of this novel was focused on the relationship problems of Charles and Anna, whose wolf sides had immediately connected while their human sides were having more difficulty with the new relationship. Many of their insecurities and issues would have been easily resolved if they had just communicated with one another, which I found very annoying. On occasion I enjoy reading about romance and misunderstandings between couples but they have to hit just the right nerve with me and have enough other plot elements interspersed with it to keep me from getting bored with it (all of the summer Shakespeare plays you've taken me to would disagree - Ed.). For the first half of this book, I found the romance tedious in that regard and just wanted Anna and Charles to move on and quit being so introspective.

Toward the end of this book, I did find it to be more engaging as it delved more into the actual plot instead of the emotional woes of Charles and Anna. Because of this and the fact that this did feel like a novel that was still introducing the series and main characters, I will give the next book a chance even though I wasn't entirely convinced this one was worth my time. It was still was not up to the caliber of the Mercy Thompson series for me, but I have found each of those books to be better than the previous one so I will give this one the benefit of the doubt, particularly since I did enjoy some of the minor characters and learning more about the werewolves.

While the Mercy Thompson series centers on several different mythical creatures with individual books dedicated to werewolves, vampires, and fae, this one concentrated on the werewolves. This mythology was one of the strengths of the novel since I found reading more about the abilities of the pack and how the werewolves function one of its more engaging aspects. It did include information about the pack that has not been mentioned in at least the first three Mercy Thompson novels, which makes perfect sense since Mercy herself is not a werewolf but a skinwalker. Like the Mercy Thompson novels, this one includes a definite Native American influence since Charles's mother was one and he has some abilities based on this heritage. I do like that these books are not just limited to European mythology even though that is where most of the paranormal races included come from.

Cry Wolf shows glimmers of promise but pales in comparison to its parallel series about Mercy Thompson. The main protagonists failed to be compelling, but some of the other characters were very engaging. In addition, there were enough interesting tidbits of information about the Marrok and the werewolves to keep me reading. Once the book delved into the actual plot toward the end, I found it much more readable, but until that point, it was too focused on the relationship of two characters I did not particularly care about. However, the second half of the book was stronger than the first. Because of that and my love for the first series set in this universe, I will most likely read Hunting Ground sometime after it comes out next month.


Read Prologue and Chapter One

Monday, July 13, 2009


Now that I'm back from Vegas and not spending time preparing for Vegas, I'm hoping to get back into writing some of these book reviews that are piling up. (At some point, there may be a post about Vegas adventures but right now I'm too tired.)

The books I've read but not yet reviewed are Last Argument of Kings by Joe Abercrombie, Cry Wolf by Patricia Briggs, and Archangel by Sharon Shinn (which did end up being my book for airplane reading since so many recommended it, it was a book I had, and it was the book I had with the cover that made it least likely that John would leave me in New York if I read it in public). Since there are plenty of reviews of Last Argument of Kings already, I may end up just writing a few thoughts on that one depending on how long it takes me to write the other reviews. Cry Wolf was somewhat of a disappointment for me in comparison to the Mercy Thompson series, but it picked up enough by the end that I'll probably give the next book a shot sometime after it comes out next month. Archangel was very good although the main character was the type that you just wanted to talk some sense into sometimes.

Now that I will (hopefully) have some time again, I am going to finish Catherynne Valente's The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden, which I am very impressed with so far. It's a beautiful intertwining of stories, but it is also definitely a book that is best read all at once. I felt a bit lost when I picked it up last night after a bit of a break from reading it. After that, I'll probably start Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie, Medicine Road by Charles de Lint, or Twilight of Avalon by Anna Elliot. I want to read Best Served Cold by the end of the month but I might try to squeeze in something shorter first if time permits it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Giveaway Winners

The 5 winners of The Purifying Fire, the new Magic: The Gathering novel by Laura Resnick, have been drawn with the help of The winners are:

Jeff H, Pennsylvania
Timothy Y, Canada
Matt A, New York
Alan G, New York
Mihai A, Romania

Congratulations to all the winners! I hope you enjoy the book!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Laura Resnick: Interview and Giveaway

To celebrate the July 7th release of her latest novel, The Purifying Fire, Laura Resnick answered 5 interview questions and I have 5 copies of the book to give away. Currently, Laura writes fantasy, but she has also written several romances under the name Laura Leone. Her fantasy books include The Chronicles of Sirkara series, beginning with In Legend Born, and the Esther Diamond urban fantasy series, starting with Disappearing Nightly.

The Purifying Fire A Magic: The Gathering Planeswalker Novel by Laura Resnick
This book begins the story of Chandra Nalaar, the impulsive young fire mage whose exploration of the multiverse and the extent of her own volatile power draws the attention of an ancient faith that sees her as a herald of the apocalypse.
Sound interesting? Giveaway rules are below, but first, Laura answers some questions.

When you discuss the writing process, you mention research as one of the steps you take before you even write chapter one. What is the strangest fact you have come across when conducting research for one of your books?

I don't know what the strangest fact has been (as a fantasy writer, I read a lot of strange research material), but I can certainly give an example. In my urban fantasy Disappearing Nightly, there's a scene where the characters are wading through research books about bizarre supernatural disappearances and summarizing the improbable contents for each other. All of those distinctly strange anecdotes were taken from my own research. I'm not sure I'd call those anecdotes "facts," but I did find them in books that purported to be nonfiction.

In another example, some friends considered doing an intervention when they found me with some "how to" books about becoming a sex worker (prostitute, porn actor, etc.). No, I wasn't that broke and desperate; this was research reading for my last romance novel, Fallen From Grace.

Mephistopheles appears in your living room and offers you a deal – he will rewrite history so you were the author of one work of literature of your choice. Which book would you choose? Or if you decide making a deal with him is foolish, which book would tempt you to accept this offer the most?

I'd probably choose Katherine Neville's The Eight, a terrific gazillion-word historical-contemporary mystery-fantasy puzzle-adventure about a priceless chess set and a secret alchemic formula. But I doubt I'd actually accept the deal, since I'd rather write more of my own books than get credit for Neville's.

You’ve lived in the US, England, Israel and Italy. How has the experience of living in several different countries influenced your writing?

I've also crossed Africa overland. And what living in other societies teaches you is that there is no "normal" way of thinking and of doing things. "Normal" is just what's locally accepted; in another place, the exact same thing sounds so strange, people think you're making it up, or warped, or degenerate, or incredibly privileged, or quite silly. So my experiences of living in other societies have influenced my ability to see through the eyes of characters totally unlike myself and create believable fictional societies unlike my own.

Before you became an author, you had sworn to never become a writer. What changed your mind? Do you now wish you could go back in time to tell yourself to stick to your guns and stay out of the writing business?

Nothing changed my mind. After becoming a professional writer, I tried twice to quit. But this is my calling, like it or not. I wish I felt compelled to do legal work for vast, wealthy corporations with insanely generous benefits and bonus plans. (My parents also wish this.) But, alas, this is what I'm compelled to do. Go figure.

What is the one book you have lodged in your brain that you wish you could write but know you never will?

When asked what he'd do if he was told he had only a year left to live, Isaac Asimov said, "Write faster." Indeed! I have absolutely no idea which of my gazillion story ideas will lose out to the Grim Reaper. But since I can't live forever, and since I get new book ideas all the time, something certainly will.

Thank you, Laura, for taking the time to answer some queries!

If you would like to read more about Laura, she also stopped over at SciFiChick on Tuesday to discuss what she enjoyed most about writing for the Planeswalker series, her writing career, what inspires her, how she spends her leisure time, and her next projects on the radar. Yesterday she was over at SciFiGuy talking about her favorite scene from The Purifying Fire, her next fantasy novels, her experiences writing romance novels, and some of her all-time favorite novels.

Giveaway Rules
If you would like to win a copy of The Purifying Fire, I have 5 copies to give away courtesy of Wizards of the Coast. The giveaway is open to anyone, no matter what country you live in. To enter, send an email to fantasycafe AT novomancy DOT org with the subject line "Planeswalker" containing your mailing address. Mailing addresses will only be used for sending the books to the winners and emails will be deleted once the contest is closed. The giveaway will end on Sunday July 12 at noon (Eastern Standard Time).

Good luck!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What Happens in Vegas: Seanan McGuire

As you may have seen yesterday if you read "The Education of Edward Cullen," I asked a few people to write about the following topic this week since I am getting married in Las Vegas:
What Happens in Vegas...
Pick one of your favorite characters (or a group of your favorite characters). Describe what kind of trouble they would get into if they spent one week in Las Vegas.
I asked Seanan McGuire, author of a new urban fantasy coming out in September, Rosemary and Rue (which I'll be reading and reviewing sometime in the not-to-distant future), if she'd like to write a piece about a favorite character of maybe one of her own creation. She agreed, and I was thrilled when she sent me this story about Velveteen from her superhero universe of short stories (several of which are available online).

Velveteen vs. Vegas

Velveteen—aka “Velma Martinez,” “The Super Patriots, Inc.’s Most Wanted Deserter,” and, when she was feeling particularly snarly, “The Bride of Chucky”—looked dubiously at the animatronic pirates in front of the casino she was supposedly meeting her contact in. The pirates continued in their sanitized piratical ways, which consisted mainly of hoisting empty tankards and plundering the ships of their fellow buccaneers.

“Fucked-up times five thousand,” she finally declared, opened the casino door, and went inside.

Stepping into the Jolly Roger Casino was something like stepping into the hybrid offspring of a Renaissance Faire and a strip club, only with more slot machines and less class. Busty barmaids wearing slutty pirate costumes that were probably purchased at a Halloween store clearance sale worked the crowd, distributing complementary cocktails to the high rollers and snubbing the tourists at the nickel slots. Velma froze in the doorway, realizing that, for once in her life, her formal “work attire” wouldn’t have stood out even in a “mundane world” locale. It was almost as disorienting as the casino’s carefully-controlled twilight.

Then a hand was at her elbow, and a redheaded woman with a sunny smile and an outfit that consisted almost entirely of sequins was tugging her gently out of the flow of traffic. “Vel?” she asked.

“Yeah.” Velma yanked her arm free, eyeing the woman. “You are?”

“Showgirl,” said the woman, in a tone that clearly denoted it as a name, rather than a job position. “They sent me to watch for you. Will you come with me? Fortunate Son would really like to meet you before…well, before things go any further.”

Velma briefly considered asking for the woman’s credentials, but dismissed the idea as unnecessary. Given the number of stuffed pirates and cuddly plush pirate ships scattered around the room, she could re-enact the siege of the Spanish Main if she had to.

“Great,” she said. “Let’s go.”

The population of super-powered humans in the United States has been rising steadily since the “Big Three” first made their appearance. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these “superhumans” have often chosen to settle in large metro areas, where their unusual tendencies are more easily overlooked. New York, San Francisco, Detroit, and Toronto sport some of the most dense superhuman communities in North America.

And then there is Las Vegas. A city where the flashier, more exotic superhumans tend to make their homes, from the glitter and flash of Vaudeville to the elegant probability-manipulations of Dame Fortuna. They are often ignored in favor of the mundane glories of the Strip, which is, after all unique. We all have heroes at home, but how many of us can say the same of Cesar’s Palace? In Las Vegas, the superhuman community can relax, knowing that they will never be the headline attraction. They like it that way.

Interestingly enough, the high density of probability-manipulators in Vegas—at least eight at last count, including Dame Fortuna, her daughter, the lovely Lady Luck, and Lady Luck’s husband, Fortunate Son—has resulted in The Super Patriots, Inc. having rather serious trouble establishing a true foothold in the area. Oh, nothing has ever been proven, but after losing eight branch offices to freak accidents (including the historically ridiculous Guinea Pig Stampede), they’ve stopped trying. The heroes of Las Vegas live untroubled by corporate regulations.

That doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of what’s going on elsewhere in the superhuman community…

Fortunate Son stood barely over six feet, with desert-sand hair and eyes the blue of ten-dollar poker chips. He leaned against the side of a pool table as Showgirl led Velma into the casino’s back room, his eyes raking Vel up and down and making her wish she’d thought to wear the lead-lined underwear. His power profile didn’t say anything about X-ray vision, but with the Vegas heroes, you never knew.

“I expected something fluffier,” he said, after an uncomfortably long silence.

Vel bristled. “I expected something taller.”

Showgirl looked alarmed. To Fortunate Son’s credit, he just laughed, shaking his head. “Girl, you are a piece of work. You know you’re in the temple of fortunes, don’t you? We could trash your world with a snap of our fingers.”

“Uh, hello, have we met? I’m as close as a hero comes to excommunicated. If The Super Patriots catch me outside Oregon, I’m under arrest, the Governor of Oregon gave me back my heroing license for reasons I still don’t quite understand, and my parents just sold their life story to the Pow Network for six figures, while I’m counting quarters for a trip to Starbucks. How are you going to trash my world? Give me bad hair? I have conditioner.”

“How did you even get here?” asked Showgirl.

“The Princess dropped me off at the edge of town.” Velveteen didn’t have to feign her shudder. “Flying carpet rides from Portland to Las Vegas are so very not fun. But I’ll still call her for my ride home. It’s better than the alternative.” She turned her attention back to Fortunate Son. “So what was so urgent that you had to call me out of my home territory, and why do I care?”

“You must care, or you wouldn’t have come,” he noted reasonably. “As for what’s so important…we’ve got us a leprechaun infestation.”

“Those don’t exist.”

“They do if Lucky Charms is back in town.”

Vel groaned. “I thought he was dead.”

“Guess he had one more four-leafed clover to deploy. Anyway, they’ve infiltrated the casino, and things are going wrong a heck of a lot faster than Mama likes. They’re about the size of our mascots, so we figure they’re playing dolly, and—”

“You want me to call the toys and see what doesn’t respond.” Velveteen crossed her arms, eyeing him skeptically. “Why am I going to do you this favor?”

“Because there weren’t three original heroes,” said a voice behind her. It was one of those impossible old-style movie star voices, the kind that promised sin and salvation at the same time. Vel turned to see an elegant Rita Hayworth-clone blonde woman in a floor-length green satin sheath dress gliding up to the group, a small smile painting her cupid’s-bow lips. “There were four, darling, and I’m the one that got left off the books when they decided to go public.”

Velveteen’s mouth went dry. “You mean you—”

“All the dirt, darling, all the petty little back-room deals and nasty little lies, I’ve got it all on paper. You want to find Jolly Roger? This is where you start looking. All you need to do is one tiny little service for the heroes of Vegas, and our files are yours.”

If she could find Jolly Roger—last of the Big Three, the only one whose death had never been confirmed—she could give Marketing something to worry about beyond the activities of one middle-grade animator who’d decided she wanted out. The Super Patriots, Inc. would leave her alone forever after that.

“Right.” Vel sighed. “What do you want me to do?”

There were approximately two thousand, seven hundred, and eight toys of one description or another within the confines of the Jolly Roger Casino. Velveteen stood in the middle of the main casino floor with her eyes closed and her hands raised in front of her chest, concentrating. After a while, she started to shake slightly, and toys all over the building started to get up of their own accord, running to reach her.

There were exactly nine hundred and two leprechauns within the confines of the Jolly Roger Casino. Video tapes of their epic battle against the plush pirates, random Beanie Babies, and “I Love Las Vegas” teddy bears can be purchased at the casino gift shop for twenty-five ninety-five. Attempts to pirate this recording onto YouTube have met with a series of inexplicable failures, some of which resulted in melted computer monitors.

In the end, separating the combatants proved surprisingly easy. Leprechauns bleed. Plush pirates don’t. Which is why leprechauns make for a much more satisfying, if PG-13, version of Whack-A-Mole.

The Princess brought her carpet in for a careful landing on the roof of the Jolly Roger Casino, knocking her tiara askew and frightening off a large flock of pigeons. Velveteen waved before hoisting the first of the stack of file boxes and carrying it over to load onto the carpet.

“Do I want to know?”

“They’re pirates.” Vel shrugged, dropping the box and going back for the next. “I plundered.”

“You plundered what, the admin office?”

“Pretty much. Hopefully, it was worth it.”

“Well, what do you think?”

Velveteen paused, remembering the malice that had sparkled in Dame Fortuna’s eyes when she talked about The Super Patriots, Inc., and the way that she’d laughed when the toys tore the casino floor apart. “I think it was,” she said, finally. “Now let’s go home.”

“Mind if we stop for pizza on the way?”

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“Wanna bet?”

Thanks Seanan! Where can I meet up with Velveteen while I'm there? She sounds like fun! I'm going to have to read the rest of the Vel stories now, especially since I saw there is one entitled Velveteen vs. the Coffee Freaks - I'm very curious about that one being a bit of an addict coffee freak myself.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

What Happens in Vegas:The Book Smugglers

Since I am in Las Vegas this week to get married, I asked a few people to write about the following topic:
What Happens in Vegas...
Pick one of your favorite characters (or a group of your favorite characters). Describe what kind of trouble they would get into if they spent one week in Las Vegas.
In return, Thea and Ana of one of my favorite blogs, The Book Smugglers, wrote this hilarious story about what would happen if Edward Cullen from Twilight was sent to Vegas to undergo some behavior modification treatment under the tutelage of five literary leading men (Rhett Butler, James Bond, Batman, Sirius Black, and Dracula). I'd advise not drinking anything while reading this unless you want to clean up a sprayed liquid mess...

The Education of Edward Cullen

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Edward Cullen is a pansy. We know it, you know it, everyone over the age of twelve knows it. As a vampire, he sucks (actually, he doesn’t. He only drinks blood from animals). As a man, he subscribes to the 'Stalk-Them-Until-They-Can't-Say-No' school of wooing. In fact, he is such a creepy little wuss that even literary characters have no respect for the guy. With no hope in sight for the Emo-est vampire in existence, a small but prestigious organization decided to intervene.

This is the story of Edward Cullen as he is taken under the tutelage of...The Five.

Headed by Rhett Butler, the group is formed by some of literature’s most luminary leading men – Batman, Dracula, James Bond and Sirius Black. The Five's mission? To take Edward Cullen under their wing and reshape the twat into a True Hero (or at least something a little less twatty). The best place to carry on the mission? Las Vegas, baby (of course).

And here is an exclusive account, day by day of what happened when Butler’s Five took Edward Cullen to Las Vegas.

This is the Education of Edward Cullen.

Day One - Lessons on Smooth Behavior: Final Assessment by James Bond (Agent 007)

I met the student today and wasn’t terribly impressed. Edward seems to be a nice chap but without any signs of sophistication. It is unbelievable that he has been around for almost a century and all that he can do is to pout and stare.

After I managed to get him into a bearable outfit (with the help of Mr Armani), we hit the bar at The Venetian. As a test, I told him to order a drink and he asked for Pina Coladas – The bartender could only stare in disbelief as I proceeded to explain the difference between a pina colada and a Vodka Martini, the drink of a real man. The strangest thing is that Edward doesn’t even drink anything, so the beverages were entirely for show. And he chose to be debonair with a pina colada. It was then and there that I knew I was in for a true challenge.

After our short lesson at the bar, we moved to the Casino where I tried my best to teach Edward on how to approach a woman without burning his stare through her face. It is all about a smooth approach and innuendos. It all went down the drain from the there, as he insisted that The Stare Till She Say Yes is the best and logical approach. It is no wonder that he is still a virgin. Most of the lovely ladies moved away from us and as the last one he made a move on, threw her drink at his face shouting “weirdo” I decided to call it a day.

I believe it is a lost cause.

I can only hope that Sirius Black will have a better day tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I should contact M. and tell her that I need a new pen-knife since I lost mine when Edward thought I was carrying a stake in my pocket and threw it away.

Day 2 – Lessons on Being Friends with Werewolves: Excerpt from Rita Skeeter’s ‘Daily Prophet’ interview with Sirius Black & Remus Lupin

“...after winning the Quidditch World Cup. In other news, wizard heroes exonerated for their part against He Who Shall Not Be Named (too easily let off the hook, in this reporter’s estimation) Sirius Black and Remus Lupin are back from an exotic trip overseas to muggle-paradise Las Vegas.

In an exclusive interview with yours truly, investigative genius and reporter extraordinaire, Sirius and Lupin revealed their intentions behind travelling to that cesspool of corruption!

“It was all because of a strange vampire boy from a small muggle town. Rhett [reporter’s note: None other than the delectable muggle hero, Rhett Buter] contacted me with the irresistible offer to promote werewolf awareness and improve relationships towards those afflicted with lycanthropy. Apparently this vampire boy had taken issue with the local wolf pack to the point of true danger. Naturally, Remus and I could not refuse and seized the opportunity to talk some sense into the poor lad.” Sirius’s eyes clouded over as he recalled the times he and his cherished friend Remus suffered as boys at Hogwarts, running free on nights of the full moon.

Remus added, “It was all for naught, unfortunately. We tried to talk to Edward about stepping out of his comfort zone and to see werewolves as people first, suffering from a horrible affliction. It’s something Edward of all people should have understood, tortured self-loathing vampire as he is - -”

At this, Sirius Black muttered with a look of pure menace on his furrowed brow, “You mean twat, is what he is.”

Remus then replied, “Now, Sirius, that’s not fair. Lycanthrope relations are strained even in our world, and some of that prejudice is understandable.”

Waving a hand dismissively, the angered Black continued, “That may be so, Remus, but Edward was impossible. I had half a mind to fix him with a nasty spell. In any case, we both realized that Edward’s fixation – especially with some poor young wolf, James? Jacob, was it? – was never going to change. So we enjoyed a so called magic show with two blokes in white glitter, had a good laugh, and apparated back here.”

So there you have it. Remember you heard it here, from Rita Skeeter, first. In the next column I discuss baby names for the next possible child from scarred hero, Harry Potter...”

Day 3 – Vampirism 101 with Dracula: the Count’s account to Rhett Butter as overheard by a passerby in a Bellagio bar

“The pupil and I met after dark at the roof top of the Bellagio. As we looked down at the people walking the Strip I felt the overwhelming urge to go hunting but alas, the Mission took precedent, as you know. As the First and Most Prominent Vampire, I took upon myself to turn this sorry excuse of a vampire into a Real Vampyr. The first part of the lesson was the most important one. Vampires drink blood to stay alive – from humans. Females, preferably. It is cause for much grievance amongst us, vampires that this Cullen family has spread false rumours that vampirism is a disease and that sucking blood from animals is an honourable form of living. Trying to explain about Power and the three rules of sucking blood (Dazzle then, Suckle them, Leave them) proved to be a complete waste of time. I proceeded to talk about shape shifting and how to amass power from nature – how a true vampire can control the weather and the animals and even shift into a bat or a wolf and that running in the forest and playing baseball with your pals are not all that he can do with his awesome powers.

He looked at me completely disgusted as though the mere idea of all this power disturbed him. Youth, these days – it is complete beyond me how we vampires, have been de-fanged by literature. It makes me sad and I wished at that moment, to go back home and spend some time with my beloved Three. Still, one last lesson needed to be taught but when I mentioned how Earth from his homeland needed to be used in order to secure his survival as he slept through the day, he only gasped in horror and said something about how it was during the day that he sparkled the best.

I quit right there and then and flew down to feed and play a strange variation of poker. I know not what happened to Edward after I left but I have no wish to set my eyes upon him again. ”

Day 4 – Lessons on how to Brood Without Being a Bitch: Video Testimonial from Bruce Wayne/Batman

BRUCE/BATMAN TO CAMERA: Edward Cullen. What a nightmare. Rhett called me with an intriguing prospect. Apparently this kid had some angst issues. Immortal, no human ties, etc ad nauseam. Normally I’d pass on Rhett’s offer, but he said that the kid’s use of the brooding anti-hero shtick was giving folks like me a bad name.

With that in mind, I fired up the batmobile and made a trip to Vegas. I also had some intel on the Riddler running a scam through Circus Circus, so I’d be killing two Edwards with one stone, so to speak. I set forward to meet Edward at the Mandalay Bay, where I found a reluctant boy with ridiculous hair glaring at everyone that walked by. I think he was wearing lipstick. I’m not sure.

I told the kid to walk with me. Took him to the Aquarium for symbolic measure. Sharks in their natural habitat. I told the kid that he, like the sharks in the tank, was a natural predator. Appeal is already on his side with the dangerous aura that our brand of hero share, so there isn’t any need to make ourselves stick out any more than we already do. I explained to him the virtues of blending in and of hiding in plain sight. But he was having none of it. Had the distinct impression that my words were falling on willfully deaf ears.

I also tried to talk to him about childhood trauma and how lucky he is to have a family that truly cares for him. By this point, I knew there was no way to get through to the kid. He seemed more interested in studying his reflection in the aquarium glass than actually listening to any of my advice. At that point I was interrupted with a call about Edward – I mean Edward Nigma – moving out through the Circus Circus casino causing general mayhem. I decided to leave the preening peacock to his brooding so that I could take care of business. And that’s the last I heard of him.

Day 5 – In which Edward and Rhett Butler have a one-to-one on How to Seduce a Woman

*excerpt from Butler’s journal*

“..and then I asked him how he usually approached a woman, to which he replied that he didn’t. He usually stays very still, lips pouting, eyes glistening, intensely staring at the young ladies until they come to HIM. I then asked what next, and he says he would play the “I can’t be with you, I am too dangerous” card. He seems to think that playing hard to get is the best attack, when coupled with the Stalk and Stare of course.

I explained that this is not how a woman likes to be courted.

He then interrupted me to say something about a woman called Bella which seems to think he is the Real Deal. I told him to forget about this Bella- he is 200 years old, she is 17. End of story. Plus, I know how it is to be obsessed with a singular woman. Been there, done that. And stalking really doesn't work out too well.

He seems not to have the faintest idea on how to engage in Witty Banter either. He is far too serious and brooding and doesn’t seem to understand that a crooked smile goes a long way. Still, I tried to instil some levity in him, but that didn’t work either. Later on, I tried my best to teach how to read people so that we could hit the casinos and play a couple of hands but his need to behave like a creep is ingrained.

Nevertheless, I’m a sucker for lost causes once they are really and truly lost. I’ll keep at it with Edward for as long as it takes. As for Scarlett, well, she seems to be enjoying herself at the Orleans...”


After the week with The Five, Edward Cullen was never seen again. Rumours say he tried to out-sparkle the Disco Ball in Studio 54 at the MGM Grand, but the exertion was too much and he exploded, covering surprised and delighted clubgoers in a brilliant shower of glitter. Others say that he “disappeared” the same way that Holden Caulfield and Werther (the two previous pupils that The Five unsuccessfully attempted to educate) did.

The Five were dismantled after that week. They realised that the old adage, “Once a pansy, always a pansy” was in fact true. Batman proceeded to fight crime. Sirius Black continues to fight for Lycanthrope Tolerance with dear friend Remus Lupin. Dracula went back to Transylvania. James Bond remained in Vegas playing the casinos and the ladies.

It is said that Rhett Butler found out that Scarlet O’Hara was looking for a new husband as she conned her way through the casinos, and that he took her up on her offer and they got married again in the Chapel of Love on the same day that Kristen married her fiancée! According to local reports, the four of them went out celebrating together in what has been described as “the wildest night Sin City has even seen.” And that, dear friends, is the happiest ending anyone could have asked for.


Thanks for the story, Ana and Thea! I nearly died when I read this. The end was especially fitting because I bought my nail polish for the wedding about 2 hours before I received this in my email. The name of the nail polish? Frankly Scarlet.

Tomorrow there will be another edition of What Happens in Vegas by Seanan McGuire, author of the forthcoming novel Rosemary and Rue.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

First Half of 2009

The first half of 2009 is officially over so I've been thinking about my favorite books read so far. So far this year I've read 28 books and reviewed 27 (all of them except for Last Argument of Kings, which I may just skip other than putting up a few thoughts since it's been pretty thoroughly covered on other blogs and I haven't had much time lately).

Here are my top 10 so far regardless of publication date:

1. The Last Hawk by Catherine Asaro
2. Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey
3.Watchmen by Alan Moore
4. Corambis by Sarah Monette
5. Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs (along with the other 2 books in the Mercy Thompson series)
6. Kings and Assassins by Lane Robins
7. Feast of Souls by C.S. Friedman
8. The Oracle Lips by Storm Constantine
9. Dreamdark: Blackbringer by Laini Taylor
10. Blue Diablo by Ann Aguirre

This year I've read a lot of books I've really enjoyed reading but very few that I really loved and kept thinking about after I was done. The top 5 on this list are easily the cream of the crop of what I've read this year (even if I didn't like Corambis quite as much as the other books in the series it was still excellent and better than most of what I read this year).

What are your top reads of the year so far?