Monday, August 31, 2009

Coming Soon

Over the weekend I finished two things necessary for reviews I've been planning on doing. One was the book The Drowning City by Amanda Downum, and the other was putting books on the new bookshelf. I'm hoping to get a review of at least get one of those up before next weekend, preferably both.

At the moment, I'm about a quarter of the way through The Magicians by Lev Grossman, which just debuted at #9 on the New York Times bestseller list. So far, I really like it.

For September books, I'm planning to read Soulless by Gail Carriger and Fire by Kristin Cashore, and I'll read Doubleblind, the third Sirantha Jax book by Ann Aguirre as soon as I can find a copy (it's supposed to be out on September 29). If I have time to squeeze it in before the end of the month, I'd also like to read Medicine Road by Charles deLint. For my very next book, I'm not entirely sure what to read. After I finish The Magicians, I've decided to read something that's not from this year but I'm having trouble picking just one book. It could end up being Alpha or another Skolian book by Catherine Asaro, Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett, My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due, or maybe one of my unread Elizabeth Bear books. I can't make my mind (but what else is new - decisiveness has never been my forte).

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Review of The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker
by Leanna Renee Hieber
324pp (Paperback)
My Rating: 7.5/10
Amazon Rating: 4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 3.17/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.12/5

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker is the first book in The Strangely Beautiful series by Leanna Renee Hieber, whose novella Dark Nest won the 2009 Prism Award. The series will be four books long, but if it does well, there may be a fifth book focusing on the character Lord Elijah Withersby. This particular novel is a Gothic Victorian fantasy romance involving dark powers and mythology.

In the year 1867, spirits sweep through the city of London seeking a specific group of young men and women. Once the six are found and gathered together, they are surprised to learn that they can now see ghosts. They follow a raven to a chapel, where a woman appears to them and rather vaguely informs them of what has happened. The six of them are forming the Guard, which is intended to protect the living from the dead. Each member of the Guard has a special gift and together they are to enforce the balance between this world and the other side. Eventually, a seventh will join them but the woman cannot tell them when, only that the sign they should seek is a door. The coming of the seventh will mark the beginning of a time of conflict but the six are warned to beware since there will be a false prophet that would deceive them - and if she succeeds, the world will end.

Twenty-one years later, the Guard remain at six members. One of them, Rebecca, is now the headmistress of Athens Academy, where she encounters a rather unusual student, eighteen-year-old Percy Parker. Percy, whose mother died when she was very young, was raised in a convent. She is not only unique due to her ghastly white skin and hair, but she is also very gifted at languages and has known several for as long as she can remember. Although she will not admit to it for fear of what will happen, Percy can speak with ghosts and has visions. Upon confessing the nuns did not think it necessary to teach a lady math and science, Rebecca enrolls Percy in a math class and informs her that she must get decent grades in all her courses to continue at the academy. Percy's failure to understand math leads to private tutelage with Professor Alexi Rychman, the leader of the Guard, whom she has been infatuated with since the moment she laid eyes on him. Yet she continues to humiliate herself in his presence, especially as her visions seem to be happening more and more frequently.

As can be gleaned from the title, this is Percy's story even though we are given the perspective of some other characters on occasion, including Alexi and Rebecca. At a time when confident, brazen heroines are popular, Percy is very different - timid, softspoken and not at all confident. For her entire life, she has felt like an outcast due to her appearance as well as the fact that she knows it's not normal to just innately understand a foreign language, converse with ghosts, or see visions. She hides herself as much as possible with scarves and glasses and tries not to stand out in any way. Sometimes I find this type of protagonist a bit dull to read about, but I did not have this problem with Percy at all. She was very sympathetic and well-drawn, making her seem very real to me. Also, she was not a stagnant character and she did grow throughout the course of the novel.

In spite of the fact that she believes no man will ever look at her, Percy is a romantic and a large part of the story focuses on her relationship with Alexi. I really liked the two of them together and the scenes involving both of them reminded me of a lot of the old romantic books I adored as a teen such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights with all their drama (although Percy does not begin nearly as self-assured as either Jane or Catherine). Percy is immediately obsessed with the handsome, secretive Alexi, who is also a melodramatic romantic. Ever since the day he became a member of the Guard, he has believed it's his destiny to fall in love with the prophesied seventh. Because of this, he's forsaken all relationships with women (much to Rebecca's dismay) and lives a rather solitary life buried in his books.

The other Guard members were intriguing characters as well and I'm looking forward to learning more about them in future installments. Other than Rebecca and Alexi, there were only a few glimpses of the others but I'm particularly curious about Josephine and Elijah, who each had a scene with Percy involving their gifts (art and visions of the past) that made me want to read more about them.

What I liked best about this novel were the characters. I also liked the alternate world of London in 1888 (complete with a paranormal explanation for Jack the Ripper), the magic and gifts of the six, and the friendships Percy struck up with ghosts.

Although I did like the fight against Darkness by preventing it from merging the two worlds, I thought the villains seemed a bit overdone - they were the single-mindedly obsessed with being evil types. I like my villains to have some sort of reasoning for their evil instead of just being dastardly. From the end of the book, the motivations of the main villain seem clearer so perhaps this will be fleshed out a bit more in future novels. Also, even though I had fun with the angsty drama for most of the book, toward the end it did get to be a bit too much for me.

Overall, I enjoyed The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker for its characters and the mythical English setting. The end didn't hold up as well for me as the beginning and middle, but I am looking forward to reading the next book.


Read Excerpts

Other Reviews:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Excerpts: The Writing of Scott Lynch

The other night I saw on Twitter that Scott Lynch has posted some excerpts on his site, including the prologue from his forthcoming novel The Republic of Thieves. For those who read the series, this is the book in which we finally meet the mysterious Sabetha (although I haven't read the excerpt, preferring to wait for the actual book, I heard she is in the section posted on Lynch's site).

The page containing the prologue also includes several maps, the prologue from the first book (The Lies of Locke Lamora), and approximately 140 pages from the second book (Red Seas Under Red Skies). Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New Inside the Blogosphere

Part Two of the newest version of Inside the Blogosphere is up over at Grasping for the Wind. (So is Part One, but I'm in Part Two so that's the one that counts.)

For those who don't know, Inside the Blogosphere is a series in which a question is posed to various bloggers and each of them writes a response. The question for this one is: If you could live in an SF/Fantasy/Horror world, in which one would you live? Why?

This was an amazingly easy question for me to answer since I would love to live in The Culture universe created by Iain M. Banks. It was interesting to read what everyone had to say and now I have some new books I need to check out, particularly the Riverworld series and the novel Implied Spaces. So what about everyone else? What fictional world would you want to live in and why?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Live Chat with Lev Grossman

On Wednesday from 12:30 to 1:30 EST, Lev Grossman will be doing a live chat at Penguin's Water Cooler site. Lev Grossman is a book critic for Time magazine as well as the author of the newly released fantasy novel The Magicians, which debuted at #9 on the New York Times bestseller list. Lev Grossman is also this week's guest over at Babel Clash, the Borders Sci Fi blog.

I've heard so many good things about The Magicians and am looking forward to reading it. It was on my list of reads for this month so I plan to start on it as soon as I finish reading The Drowning City.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Review of Rosemary and Rue

Rosemary and Rue is the first book in the October Daye urban fantasy series by Seanan McGuire. It is scheduled for release on September 1, although I did see several copies both in the new paperback section and in the SFF section at my local Borders yesterday. According to McGuire's FAQs page, the number of books in the series is uncertain, although she says "several" is a safe answer and currently has plans for at least eight books (two of which are done, one which is being revised, and one which is being written). The second and third books are entitled A Local Habitation and An Artificial Night and will be released on March 2, 2010 and September 2010, respectively. All the titles are taken from Shakespeare plays, which I thought was very cool (being the dork that I am).

October (Toby) Daye is a half-fae PI specializing in cases that tend more toward the Brothers Grimm than Magnum PI, in her own words. Unknown to her human fiance and little girl, Toby is looking for the missing wife and daughter of Duke Sylvester Torquill, her liege lord. While tracking her lead suspect, Toby is discovered by him and turned into a fish. She remains a fish for fourteen years and returns to a world much changed - and a former fiance and daughter who no longer want anything to do with her.

No longer a PI, Toby now works at a Safeway in her home city of San Francisco. It's a quiet existence and she tries to avoid most of the people she knew, including Duke Torquill, who must despise her for failing to find his family all those years ago. One day Toby checks her answering machine messages and has three desperate calls from Countess Evening Winterrose, each more desperate than the last. In the final message, Evening says she wishes to hire Toby to find a murderer and says the words of binding to force her to do so. Afterward, Evening leaves the phone off the hook and Toby hears gunshots and screaming, and knows it is Evening's own killer she has been charged to find.

At first, I did find Rosemary and Rue a little difficult to get into, although there were enough interesting parts to keep me reading until it did pick up. It did get very enjoyable once the main mystery became clear, but until that point there had been a lot of setup with not much happening once the prologue, which told what had happened to Toby fourteen years earlier, was over. There was a lot about Toby's new everyday life with a lot of exposition about the world she inhabited that halted the narrative flow. The story was all told from Toby's perspective, so every time she thought about somebody or experienced something normal for fae but strange to the reader, she'd explain it. This technique is often used, especially in the first book in a series when the ways in which the world operates is being conveyed, but I always find it a bit awkward when the main character starts explaining something to themselves that is as natural to them as breathing. Further into the book there was less of this, and I found it a lot easier to read once there was more flow to the story and less halting to explain who people were and their role in court or how Fae magic worked.

Even though it was a fun read, this novel did not strike me as anything that unusual for the urban fantasy genre - it was basically a mystery involving fae with a brave female heroine who could be kind of mouthy. In spite of her outward appearance, there were some moments that showed she was more caring than she acted and was not always good at expressing her softer side. Those parts seemed rather typical, but Toby's position as a changeling gave her some uniqueness. Since she is not clearly compartmentalized as a witch, were, or fae, she has a bit of a dual nature and isn't quite sure where she fits in. Toby is not fully human nor is she fully fae so by being part of both worlds she really seems to feel that she belongs to neither. Since she was not a pureblood fae, Toby was not even close to invincible or even that powerful. She had only minor magical powers and using them tired her out pretty quickly. Our heroine actually got hurt quite a bit instead of always managing to come away unscathed.

This book was plenty dark with murder most foul and kelpies on the streetcorners, but even though many of the fae were not particularly good, many of them did not seem particularly amoral (which is how I tend to think of the fae). Some of them could not be trusted, but some of them seemed to truly care for Toby without having an ulterior motives or expecting anything in return. The fae seemed somewhat human in that regard with some tending more toward good and others more toward evil.

There was one character I absolutely loved by the time I was finished with the book - Tybalt, King of the Court of Cats. I really liked what I read about him and suspect there is a lot to him that has yet to be revealed. Fortunately, when I said I hoped there would be more of him in the next books on Twitter, Seanan McGuire responded and said there would be. (I confess that I am partial to kitties and also loved the cat-like rose goblins and the fae connection to cats in this book.)

Though this is the first book in a series, there was a satisfying conclusion without any major cliffhangers. However, there were definite hints of things to come that made me eager to read the next book (especially after hearing confirmation that there would definitely be more Tybalt).

Rosemary and Rue was a solidly entertaining debut novel, although it did not get me involved in the story immediately. However, I liked the characters and world well enough that I reached the end wishing I had the next book available.


Read an Excerpt

Other Reviews:

Saturday, August 22, 2009

SF/F/H Reviewer Linkup Meme, 2nd Edition

Over at Grasping for the Wind, John has compiled a large list of speculative fiction book reviewers. Here is the full list if anyone wants to check some of them out.

Click here to view list

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Goodreads Giveaway: Rosemary and Rue

Goodreads features book giveaways and right now they have one for 3 ARCs of Seanan McGuire's debut, Rosemary and Rue (just scroll down or search the page for the title). Currently, I'm working on a review of this novel and was going to mention the giveaway in the review, but I just checked the end date of the contest for it and it's August 21. Since that's this Friday and I've still got some work to do on the review, I figured I'd better mention it now.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel. It's an urban fantasy and it didn't strike me as anything that unusual for the genre. It was fun to read, though, and I am eager to read the next book, particularly since it did have one character I LOVED and really want to read more about. For an ARC, it was also fairly free of errors (I noticed some minor ones but nothing too glaring) so if you hesitate to read ARCs for that reason, I wouldn't worry about it too much. If you want to know more about it while I'm still working on my own review, there are plenty of reviews for it on Goodreads, LibraryThing, and Amazon.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I've Been Interviewed!

Harry from Temple Library Reviews has been running a series in which he interviews various SFF book bloggers called Reviewer Time. Today it was my turn so if you're curious about what I do during the day, my secret talent, how the blog started, or anything else about me read the interview.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Review of Dreamdark: Silksinger

The Book Smugglers has been celebrating YA Appreciation Month with a whole bunch of reviews and giveaways of YA books as well as interviews/guest posts with some authors who write YA. They posted an open invitation to other bloggers to post reviews or articles about YA books on August 15 and I decided to participate. It was tough to pick a book to review but I ended up settling on the sequel to a very good book I read earlier this year. All the posts about YA books from today's open invitation can be seen here.

Dreamdark: Silksinger
by Laini Taylor
464pp (Hardcover)
My Rating: 9/10
Amazon Rating: N/A
LibraryThing Rating: 4.6/5
Goodreads Rating: 4.83/5

Silksinger, the second book in the Dreamdark series by Laini Taylor, will be released on September 17, 2009. The first book in this YA fantasy series is Blackbringer, and although it is not crucial to read it before Silksinger, I would recommend doing so since it contains a lot of background information on the world and some of the characters. Also, like the newest Dreamdark novel, Blackbringer is a wonderful story that is full of vibrant characters.

The remaining members of the Silksinger faerie clan are pursued by devils and forced to flee their home. Soon young Whisper finds herself the very last of her clan when her grandparents sacrifice themselves in order to save her in hopes that she can perform the clan duty. Though they were believed to be wiped out long ago, the Silksingers have actually been guarding Azazel, one of the seven Djinn who created the world. Azazel promised he would awaken again if they brought him back to his throne so it is now up to Whisper to make sure he gets there. All alone with nothing but the tattered clothes on her back and the teakettle containing Azazel, it seems hopeless that quiet little Whisper will be able to get a caravan to her destination - at least until she meets Hirik, a young mercenary who also has a secret.

Meanwhile, Magpie Windwitch, her friend Talon and her band of crows are attempting to find all the Djinn. In order to locate them, they have enlisted the "help" of Batch Hangnail, an imp who can only be coerced into joining them with the promise of the one thing he has always dreamed of: flying. Talon has the ability to create skins and will make one for Batch modeled after any type of wing he wants once their mission is over. However, the group does not get very far before they hear of Whisper's plight and determine to guide her to safety.

Blackbringer was a fine debut and I had a lot of fun reading it, but I thought Silksinger was even better than the first installment. I really loved everything about Silksinger - the succinct yet descriptive writing, the pacing, the characters, and the world and its history. It also contains a few illustrations by Jim di Bartolo, the author's husband. Not only are the pictures lovely but they also tend to look very close to what I pictured in my mind when reading about the characters depicted. If I had one complaint about this novel, it would be that it was predictable at times, but that is really a very minor criticism since it did not lessen my enjoyment much. Plus there was a part toward the end where I was caught by surprise, although the way it turned out made far more sense than what I had believed to be the case.

For about the first half of the book, more time is spent with the new characters (Whisper and Hirik) than with Magpie, who was the main character in the first book. Normally, when I read a book in the series and the focus drifts away from the main character, I become impatient and find I just want to read about the character I've already become attached to. In the very beginning, I did want to read more about Magpie than Whisper or Hirik, but it wasn't very long before I found myself captivated by both new characters. In fact, even though I still loved Magpie, I found myself more excited to be reading about Whisper or Hirik. By the end of the book, Magpie was the primary character again, but as much as I'd come to love the Silksinger and the mercenary, I still wasn't disappointed - it was time for Magpie to be in the limelight again and that's what worked.

The characters are so well drawn and memorable; Magpie and Whisper are my favorites. Magpie is the same fierce, feisty warrior she was in the first book. She's loyal to her friends, has dedicated her life to fighting devils and she's basically impossible not to like. Although she is generally good, she is tough and is not always perfect - she does make a bad judgment call at one point that costs her dearly. In contrast, Whisper appears very different from the outspoken Magpie, although she is a lot stronger than she seems. The Silksingers are named because they have the ability to weave magic with their singing, and they use this magic to make flying carpets. (As scamperers, the Silksingers do not have the ability to fly themselves since their wings are too small to carry them.) Whisper's voice is especially powerful, but she has never learned to fully master it so she usually whispers. Yet Whisper is very determined, and throughout the story, no matter what is happening to her, she clutches that teakettle containing Azazel like her very life depends on it. I liked Hirik almost as much as Magpie and Whisper, but I'm going to avoid talking about him too much for fear of giving away too much about his secrets.

Other than the characters my favorite element of the series is the world of Dreamdark itself. The world of Dreamdark (and beyond, really, since most of this book takes place outside of Dreamdark) is well developed with a rich history. The stories of the Djinn, heroes of the past, the Silksinger clan and how they came to be guardians of Azazel, and many others are woven throughout the tale.

Silksinger has action, adventure, vivid and unforgettable characters, and a well-realized setting. Although it can be a bit predictable, that does not detract from this fantastic novel very much, and I loved it even more than the first book in this series.


Reviews of other books in this series:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Elsewhere: Interview and Giveaway with Catherine Asaro

Today I read a very interesting interview with Catherine Asaro. She discusses everything from some of her favorite things to her absolute favorite character she writes to the next Skolian book. The next Ruby Dynasty book will be called Carnelians, and although it is a stand alone, Catherine said it also ties in with Diamond Star and The Ruby Dice.

There is also a chance to win a copy of Diamond Star (Skolian Empire series - romantic science fiction), the Diamond Star CD, or a copy of The Night Bird (The Lost Continent series - fantasy romance).

Monday, August 10, 2009

Review of Best Served Cold

Best Served Cold is a stand alone novel by Joe Abercrombie set in the same world as his First Law trilogy with a different set of main characters. It takes place sometime after the end of the series, although I'm not sure exactly how much time has passed other than it must have been at least a couple of years. Although I enjoyed the First Law trilogy, I preferred Best Served Cold since it seemed tighter and better paced, for the most part.

Monza, the infamous leader of a band of mercenaries called the Thousand Swords, fights on the side of Grand Duke Orso of Talins in his war to become King of Styria. She and her brother Benna visit Orso to deliver the news of her latest victory, and as expected, Orso is greatly pleased by the tidings. However, Orso is not so grateful that he wishes to risk his throne being taken over by the two when he realizes Monza's popularity with the people far outreaches his own. Due to this potential threat, Orso has planned to have both of them murdered. Benna, who was never much of a fighter, is killed rather quickly and thrown from the terrace. After a struggle, Monza is thrown down the mountain where she lands atop her brother's dead body, and she survives even though she is terribly injured.

Once Monza recovers, all she can think about is vengeance and she will not rest until all seven men who were present during her attempted murder are as dead as her brother. For that purpose, she hires a small group of assorted men and women to help her with her cause - a master poisoner and his assistant, a former torturer, a convict fixated on numbers, a drunken ex-mercenary, and a Northman looking to make a new start in a new place as a better man. Together they plot to take down each of the seven men, one by one.

Whether or not I would recommend beginning with Best Served Cold instead of the First Law trilogy depends on reader preference (and I wouldn't recommend either to readers who have issues with violence, language, sexual content, and reading about people who aren't exactly noble). Best Served Cold is a more tightly focused novel about vengeance (of course). The First Law trilogy is traditional epic fantasy with more magic, a wider view of the world, and larger scale events. Overall, I did prefer Best Served Cold to the First Law trilogy, but it also does have some parts that are more fun if you are familiar with characters from the previous novels. Also, starting with Best Served Cold then reading the trilogy means you may know some of how it ends, although I don't think there are enough details mentioned that any big events would be spoiled. Most of the references to major characters from the series are so vague that I suspect I would have forgotten about them by the time I went back and read the First Law had I begun with Best Served Cold. Of course, Best Served Cold is also shorter despite its length since it is self-contained rather than being composed of three volumes, each of which is longer than the previous one.

Best Served Cold follows a clearly defined structure for the entire novel once the prologue is complete. Each section is prefaced by a few pages about Monza and Benna's past, with each section revealing more about the two and how you may not know as much about them as initially thought. Due to this method of weaving past and present, the fun dialogue, the not-so-morally-good characters, and the early plot's focus on using more brains than brawn to reach an end goal, it reminded me a bit of The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch at first. Further into the book, there was a lot more focus on fighting and battles, though, and it reminded me less of Lies the more I read. The middle actually got a bit bogged down with too many fight scenes and it slowed the pacing down, but I tend to enjoy reading about battles of wits to battles involving weaponry, so perhaps others won't feel those parts dragged out as much as I did.

Like the First Law trilogy, most of the characters are not people you would want to be friends with since they are on nobody's side but their own. In spite of that (or perhaps because of that, depending on your point of view), they are all very interesting and fun to read about, particularly since the banter between them is very entertaining and often made me laugh out loud. They each have their own little quirks, such as the mercenary who lived for drink, and the Northman who ended up as a part of Monza's set of hired killers when he came to Styria to get away from killing. What I particularly enjoyed about the characters (in addition to their cynical but oftentimes hilarious outlook on life) was the way in which they were presented. Some of them are revealed to in fact be far better than they appear the more you read - while others end up being far worse. (Even so, none of them are exactly angels - they are all part of a group of hired killers, after all.) Yet I never got the impression that any of them were pure evil but rather a product of circumstances, their past and present situations. They were just doing the best they could to survive in a harsh world where the law is every man for himself.

Best Served Cold is a darkly humorous tale of vengeance filled with schemes and skirmishes. The characters are not models of goodness but also did not seem too despicable since they all had reasons for their behavior. They were certainly amusing enough to keep it from feeling too depressing even when events were not turning out in their favor.


Read the Prologue

Other Reviews:

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hugo Winners Announced

The winners of the Hugo Awards were announced tonight at WorldCon in Montreal. (Reason #113 why Twitter is awesome: This year I got to actually see who won the awards as each one came in - thanks to everyone on Twitter who kept those of us who could not be there informed!)

The winners are as follows:

Best Novel: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Best Novella: "The Erdmann Nexus" by Nancy Kress
Best Novelette: "Shoggoths in Bloom" by Elizabeth Bear
Best Short Story: "Exhalation" by Ted Chiang
Best Professional Artist: Donato Giancola
Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Kaja and Phil Foglio
Best Editor (Short Form): Ellen Datlow
Best Editor (Long Form): David G. Hartwell
Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog, Joss Whedon
Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Wall-E
Best Related Book: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, John Scalzi
Best Semiprozine: Weird Tales
Best Fanzine: Electric Velocipede
Best Fan Artist: Frank Wu
Best Fan Writer: Cheryl Morgan

Also announced before the Hugos were given out:

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer: David Anthony Durham

Congratulations to all the winners!

Friday, August 7, 2009

This Made Me Sad

What makes me sad is not just the fact that I am missing WorldCon but also that I read that WorldCon Guest of Honor Neil Gaiman mentioned that there were almost 6 more issues of Sandman (apparently, this is old news but like the blogger who wrote this post, I missed it). For the twentieth anniversary of Sandman, Gaiman was planning to write a prequel until DC Comics told him that they would only give him the same contract he had 20 years ago when he was an unknown author. It boggles the mind - Gaiman has won many awards and sold a lot of books, but DC would only give him starving artist wages to write more Sandman, which is often considered to be his best work. And as John pointed out when I told him this, who wants to be making the same amount of money they were two decades ago?

As already stated, this makes me sad. Even though I do not generally enjoy graphic novels as much as novels, I wholeheartedly agree these were Gaiman's best writing based on what I have read by him so far. Although I loved The Graveyard Book and Anansi Boys and enjoyed Neverwhere, none of them were as wonderful as Sandman, which managed to include various world mythologies and Shakespeare and was just plain full of awesomeness. (Note: American Gods was left out because I haven't read it yet, not because I'm one of the people who didn't enjoy it - I just don't know if I like it yet or not.) Sandman is dark and has well-developed characters and it completely blew my mind since I thought I could never get to know and love the characters in a graphic novel as much as a full length one. I would really love to read a prequel and wish it was going to be a reality.

Upcoming Review: Something a Bit Different

I had to laugh a little when I saw a post about a bookcase giveaway at Temple Library Reviews since I had the same initial reaction when I was contacted by CSN (a company that apparently sells things like office furniture, bookcases, desks, and mattresses) about reviewing one of their products: puzzlement. In fact, I nearly deleted the message until the word "bookcase" caught my eye. Then I figured why not write a bookcase review - anyone who loves books enough to follow a book blog like this one is probably afflicted with problems similar to mine - having eight bookshelves and still not enough space for all these books that pile up. Plus the bookshelves I do have tend to bend under the weight of thick epic fantasy hardcovers. This is actually what got me thinking that a review of this sort of product would be useful; I've had so many crappy bookshelves that I know I would have appreciated a bit of up-front testing.

While looking through their site, I was positively drooling over some of the shelves - someday I want to have the money and space to have a library wall or a gorgeous corner bookcase. I've always wanted to have a library with enough shelf space to actually alphabetize my books since now I have to double stack them all, which means keeping similarly sized books together. So I can't alphabetize them by author very well (especially since they are also spread throughout the apartment) and it drives the anal side of me crazy. (Plus I just like for sets of books to look like they go together because well... have I mentioned I'm anal about some things?) I was about to ask if I was the only one who had that problem, but fortunately, I remembered this discussion from Orannia's blog. It was such a relief to discover I wasn't the only one.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Books of August

So, what's everyone reading or hoping to read this month? After reading a few long books, I plan to read some shorter ones and hopefully read a few more this month than I have been lately. I just finished Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie and will be reviewing that soon, and I just started on Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire last night. After that, I am hoping to read:
  • Dreamdark: Silksinger by Laini Taylor (or possibly Fire by Kristin Cashore or Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones - to celebrate Young Adult Appreciation Month over at The Book Smugglers)
  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  • The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber
  • The Drowning City by Amanda Downum
There are many more I'd like to squeeze in this month but 5 books is probably about my limit unless I win the lottery in the next couple of weeks.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

2009 World Fantasy Award Nominees Announced

This year's World Fantasy Award nominees were announced today. Listed below are the nominees for novel, novella and short story, but a full list can be found at the World Fantasy Convention site.

Best Novel

  • The House of the Stag, Kage Baker (Tor)
  • The Shadow Year, Jeffrey Ford (Morrow)
  • The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury)
  • Pandemonium, Daryl Gregory (Del Rey)
  • Tender Morsels, Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin; Knopf)

Best Novella

  • “Uncle Chaim and Aunt Rifke and the Angel”, Peter S. Beagle (Strange Roads)
  • “If Angels Fight”, Richard Bowes (F&SF 2/08)
  • “The Overseer”, Albert Cowdrey (F&SF 3/08)
  • Odd and the Frost Giants, Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury; HarperCollins)
  • “Good Boy”, Nisi Shawl (Filter House)

Best Short Story

  • “Caverns of Mystery”, Kage Baker (Subterranean: Tales of Dark Fantasy)
  • “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss”, Kij Johnson (Asimov’s 7/08)
  • “Pride and Prometheus”, John Kessel (F&SF 1/08)
  • “Our Man in the Sudan”, Sarah Pinborough (The Second Humdrumming Book of Horror Stories)
  • “A Buyer’s Guide to Maps of Antarctica”, Catherynne M. Valente (Clarkesworld 5/08)

Sadly, the only one of these I have read is Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book, which I loved. I've wanted to read something by Kage Baker for a while so I would like to read The House of the Stag at some point, and I am also curious about Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan. It made me happy to see Catherynne M. Valente was a nominee since I really loved her novel The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden (her reaction on Twitter was actually the first I saw about the nominee announcement). I loved The Last Unicorn so seeing Peter S. Beagle on the list makes me happy, too. If you've read any of the nominated works, what did you think of them? Do you have any favorites you're rooting for?

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week

September 14 - 18 is the second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Here is the rundown on this celebration from the Book Blogger Appreciation Week site:

WHO Anyone who blogs about books is invited to participate. In fact, we want everyone who blogs about books and reading to be a part of this week!
WHAT A week where we come together, celebrate the contribution and hard work of book bloggers in promoting a culture of literacy, connecting readers to books and authors, and recogonizing the best among us with the Second Annual BBAW Awards. There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways.
WHEN September 14-18, 2009
WHERE Here at the new Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog! (Please note that this year there are three separate blogs and feeds—one for the main event, one for giveaways, and one for awards.)
WHY Because books matter. In a world full of options, the people talking about books pour hard work, time, energy, and money into creating a community around the written word. I, Amy, the founder of Book Blogger Appreciation Week love this community of bloggers and want to shower my appreciation on you!

Book bloggers can register to be included in the database of book bloggers and for a chance at winning the grand prize. To nominate book bloggers for awards in various categories (there are many - I just filled it out and it was very hard to choose), go to the Book Blogger Appreciation Week awards page sometime between now and the end of August 15. Also, you can follow Book Blogger Appreciation Week on Twitter.

Big Patricia Briggs Giveaway

Today over at SciFiGuy, I saw this awesome giveaway mentioned and wanted to share it. There is currently a month long contest running over at the Patricia Briggs forum to celebrate its second anniversary. To sign up, one just has to register on the Hurog forum and leave a comment on the appropriate thread. There are 4 weeks of contests, and the first one for copies of Dragon Bones and Dragon Blood is already over. This week's contest is for When Demons Walk, Steal the Dragon, and Cry Wolf (one winner per book).

Upcoming prizes will include the books in the Mercy Thompson series and the Homecoming graphic novel, Hunting Ground (the second Alpha and Omega book, which will be out later this month) and a Mercy's Garage mug. There will be lots of great opportunities to win some fabulous prizes if you are a Patricia Briggs fan!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Last Argument of Kings

Right now I've only read one book that I haven't given at least the mini-review treatment - Last Argument of Kings, the conclusion to Joe Abercrombie's First Law trilogy. Since I read it about a month and a half ago now, I'm not going to review it. I put that one to the back of the review queue when I was busy with wedding planning then getting caught up once that was over, figuring the world didn't really need yet another review of this novel (as you'll see if you scroll down to the links below) and that anybody who had read the first two probably had a pretty good idea of whether or not they wanted to read the final volume in the series (which should definitely be read before this book, starting with The Blade Itself and followed by Before They Are Hanged). Plus I'm a little over halfway through Abercrombie's latest novel, Best Served Cold, right now and will most likely be discussing it in relation to the series in that review.

So I'm just going to say a little bit about the series in general and link to some of the aforementioned numerous reviews for anyone who does indeed want to read a review of Last Argument of Kings.

The First Law trilogy is a partially serious, partially humorous epic fantasy series in the tradition of the trend toward "gritty" fantasy. (Yes, I used that word. Oh well, I'm straying from my review rules in this and just saying whatever comes to mind and not rereading it 100 times and revising it. Note: Haha, that was funny of me as I am writing this sentence after reading it for about the tenth time.)

On the outside, it may seem a little bit like stock fantasy but what sets it apart is the way in which it is told, although I still wouldn't say it's one of the best fantasy series I've ever read. It's full of dark humor and is very readable. For the first part of each book, it didn't seem like a lot was happening plot-wise, but the characters themselves and their cynical observations kept me reading. The part I really enjoyed in the latter part of the series is the way the author started out with a fairly standard predictable, fantasy plot and then took it in a different direction.

Although I found these fun to read, they are not for everyone - especially those who prefer to stay away from books with violence, bad language, and sexual content. I also would not recommend them to people who enjoy likable characters who tend to do the right thing. If you are looking to read uplifting stories about heroics, nobility, and the goodness of human nature, these are not for you, and the final volume is the most depressing of the three.

Now I need to get back to reading Best Served Cold so I can review that one soon. I was hoping to have it finished by Wednesday (the US release date) but that didn't happen so I'm hoping to finish it this weekend instead. If only I could read faster... Now, for the promised links of actual reviews of Last Argument of Kings (conveniently found on the review index on Fantasy Book News & Reviews, with the exception of Jeff's own review):