Monday, May 31, 2010

The Leaning Pile of Books: BEA Signed Edition

Here is the promised part 2 to this week's The Leaning Pile of Books. (There are even more books I got this week from the swag bag at the Book Blogger Convention but I am going to leave those out since there are a lot of books already and those don't tend to be the type of books I'd review anyway.) These are all ARCs/books I got signed by the author at Book Expo America. The three I am most excited about are at the top, followed by the book I had the most fun getting signed.

Passion Play by Beth Bernobich

When I got this one signed, I asked the author if it was the start to a series. She said it is going to be a trilogy and there will also be one related book and a short story. I love the cover, I love the description and am just overall very excited about reading it. Ana and Thea from The Book Smugglers took a tour at Tor (who is publishing this novel) and told me that the author's editor is the same one who discovered Jacqueline Carey. So now I just want to read it even more than I already did. It will be published on October 12, 2010.

Ilse Zhalina is the daughter of one of Melnek’s more prominent merchants. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege. Many would consider hers a happy lot; but there are dark secrets, especially in the best of families. Ilse has learned that the way for a young woman of her beauty and social station to survive is to be passive and silent.

When Ilse finally meets the older man she is to marry, she realizes that he is far crueler and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run. This choice will change her life forever.

And it will lead her to Raul Kosenmark, master of one of the land’s most notorious pleasure houses…who is, as Ilse learns, a puppet master of a different sort altogether. Ilse discovers a world where every pleasure has a price and where there are levels of magic and intrigue she once thought unimaginable. She also finds the other half of her heart.

Lush fantasy. Wild magic. Intrigue, seduction, and treachery, with a kingdom at stake. Passion Play is the journey of a woman who must master her passions in order to win all that she desires.

The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman

Thunderer, Felix Gilman's debut novel, was supposed to be very good and I've been meaning to pick it up for a while now. So of course I couldn't pass up another book by him, especially when it sounded so interesting and is not related to the series by him I haven't yet read. It will be available in October 2010.

A fantastical reimagining of the American West which draws its influence from steampunk, the American western tradition, and magical realism.

The world is only half made. What exists has been carved out amidst a war between two rival factions: the Line, paving the world with industry and claiming its residents as slaves; and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence that cripples the population with fear. The only hope at stopping them has seemingly disappeared—the Red Republic that once battled the Gun and the Line, and almost won. Now they’re just a myth, a bedtime story parents tell their children, of hope.

To the west lies a vast, uncharted world, inhabited only by the legends of the immortal and powerful Hill People. Liv Alverhyusen, a doctor of the new science of psychology, travels to the edge of the made world to a spiritually protected mental institution in order to study the minds of those broken by the Gun and the Line. In its rooms lies an old general of the Red Republic, a man whose shattered mind just may hold the secret to stopping the Gun and the Line. And either side will do anything to understand how.

Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

This is the second book in the Clockwork Century series, following Boneshaker (which was nominated for both the Nebula and the Hugo Award this year). It is supposed to stand alone, which is good since I haven't read Boneshaker yet. Dreadnought will be released in October 2010. (The cover is not yet final which is why I didn't include it.)

Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and—if the telegram can be believed—be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.

Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.

What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can’t imagine why they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?

Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she’ll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive.

Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier

This was the most memorable signing I attended. The ARC is signed by Scott Westerfield and Alaya Dawn Johnson and it was signed in person by the two editors. This is a short story collection that began with an argument between the two about which is better - zombies or unicorns. Holly Black is the editor for the Team Unicorn stories and Justine Larbalestier is the editor for Team Zombie.

When I approached the table, they asked me "Zombies or unicorns?" and then each told me I must be on her respective team. This was a no-brainer for me as I'm not really a fan of zombies being repulsed by gore and general ickiness, but I was one of those young girls who loved ponies and unicorns. So I said "Unicorns" to which Holly Black exclaimed "Yes!" Justine Larbalestier wasn't ready to give up yet, though - she asked me, "Really? Are you sure? You are wearing black." They cracked me up.

Zombies vs. Unicorns features short stories by authors including Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, Margo Lanagan, Scott Westerfield, Meg Cabot, Maureen Johnson, Carrie Ryan and Cassandra Clare. It will be coming to stores on September 21, 2010.

It's a question as old as time itself: which is better, the zombie or the unicorn? In this anthology, edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier (unicorn and zombie, respectively), strong arguments are made for both sides in the form of short stories. Half of the stories portray the strengths--for good and evil--of unicorns and half show the good (and really, really bad-ass) side of zombies. Contributors include many bestselling teen authors, including Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. This anthology will have everyone asking: Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

The Dead Travel Fast by Deanna Raybourn

Deanna Raybourn is an author first brought to my attention by Angie from Angieville. She gives great recommendations so Deanna Raybourn has been on my must-read list ever since. (I actually have Silent on the Grave in the to-read pile - it has a fantastic opening.) This novel is currently in stores.

A husband, a family, a comfortable life: Theodora Lestrange lives in terror of it all.

With a modest inheritance and the three gowns that comprise her entire wardrobe, Theodora leaves Edinburgh — and a disappointed suitor — far behind. She is bound for Roumania, where tales of vampires are still whispered, to visit an old friend and write the book that will bring her true independence.

She arrives at a magnificent, decaying castle in the Carpathians replete with eccentric inhabitants: the ailing dowager; the troubled steward; her own fearful friend, Cosmina. But all are outstripped in dark glamour by the castle's master, Count Andrei Dragulescu.

Bewildering and bewitching in equal measure, the brooding nobleman ignites Theodora's imagination and awakens passions in her that she can neither deny nor conceal. His allure is superlative, his dominion over the superstitious town, absolute — Theodora may simply be one more person under his sway.

Before her sojourn is ended — or her novel completed — Theodora will have encountered things as strange and terrible as they are seductive. For obsession can prove fatal...and she is in danger of falling prey to more than desire.

The Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell

This young adult novel sounds like lots of fun - an aspiring supervillain finds out his father is a superhero and has to go live with him. It's currently in stores in hardcover.

Sixteen-year-old Damien Locke has a plan: major in messing with people at the local supervillain university and become a professional evil genius, just like his supervillain mom. But when he discovers the shameful secret she's been hiding all these years, that the one-night stand that spawned him was actually with a superhero, everything gets messed up. His father's too moral for his own good, so when he finds out Damien exists, he actually wants him to come live with him and his goody-goody superhero family. Damien gets shipped off to stay with them in their suburban hellhole, and he has only six weeks to prove he's not a hero in any way, or else he's stuck living with them for the rest of his life, or until he turns eighteen, whichever comes first.

To get out of this mess, Damien has to survive his dad's "flying lessons" that involve throwing him off the tallest building in the city--despite his nearly debilitating fear of heights--thwarting the eccentric teen scientist who insists she's his sidekick, and keeping his supervillain girlfriend from finding out the truth. But when Damien uncovers a dastardly plot to turn all the superheroes into mindless zombie slaves, a plan hatched by his own mom, he discovers he cares about his new family more than he thought. Now he has to choose: go back to his life of villainy and let his family become zombies, or stand up to his mom and become a real hero.

Shade by Jeri Smith-Ready

This is a new young adult book available in hardcover by an author I've been wanting to read. A sequel called Shift is coming out in May 2011.

Love ties them together. Death can't tear them apart.

Best. Birthday. Ever. At least, it was supposed to be. With Logan's band playing a critical gig and Aura's plans for an intimate after-party, Aura knows it will be the most memorable night of her boyfriend's life. She never thought it would be his last.

Logan's sudden death leaves Aura devastated. He's gone.

Well, sort of.

Like everyone born after the Shift, Aura can see and hear ghosts. This mysterious ability has always been annoying, and Aura had wanted nothing more than to figure out why the Shift happened so she can undo it. But not with Logan's violet-hued spirit still hanging around. Because dead Logan is almost as real as ever. Almost.

It doesn't help that Aura's new friend Zachary is so understanding--and so very alive. His support means more to Aura than she cares to admit.

As Aura's relationships with the dead and the living grow ever complicated, so do her feelings for Logan and Zachary. Each holds a piece of Aura's heart...and clues to the secret of the Shift.

Mistwood by Leah Cypess

This is another new young adult book available in hardcover. I've been hearing some good things about it so decided to pick it up, particularly since Angie's review mentions it will appeal to fans of Kristin Cashore and Megan Whalen Turner. And of course I loved Fire by Cashore and The Queen of Attolia by Turner.

Everyone tells Isabel that she is the Shifter - the ancient shape-shifting creature who has protected the kings of Samorna for centuries. They need her to be the Shifter. Prince Rokan risked everything when he rode into the Mistwood to summon her to his side; Ven, the magician's apprentice, has devoted his life to studying her legend; and even Princess Clarisse, who fears and hates her, depends on Isabel's powers to further her own plans. But Isabel doesn't feel like the Shifter. She feels like a lonely human girl, beset by flashes of memory that do more to confuse than to help her. If she is the Shifter, why can't she change her shape? Why doesn't she remember what made her flee the castle so many years ago? As she is drawn deeper into a web of magic and assassination, Isabel will have no choice but to look for answers. But her search will lead her to the one question the Shifter hasn't faced in a thousand years: where does she come from, and what does she really want?

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

This young adult book actually isn't coming out until February 2011. The premise sounds very interesting.

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that one love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love.

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

When signing Delirium, Lauren Oliver also signed her other young adult book that is already out.

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all—looks, popularity, the perfect boyfriend. Friday, February 12th should be just another day in her charmed life. Instead, it’s her last. The catch: Samantha still wakes up the next morning. In fact, she re-lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she had ever imagined.

Hard Magic by Laura Anne Gilman

This is the first book in the Paranormal Scene Investigations series. I've been hearing great things about Laura Anne Gilman's Nebula-nominated fantasy book, Flesh and Fire, so had to check this one out. Pack of Lies, the sequel to Hard Magic, will be out in February 2011.

Welcome to P.U.P.I.—Private, Unaffiliated, Paranormal Investigations

A handpicked team trained to solve crimes the regular police can't touch—crimes of magic.

My name's Bonnie Torres. Recent college grad, magic user and severely unemployed. Until I got a call out of nowhere to interview for a job I hadn't applied for. It smelled fishy, but the brutal truth was I needed the work—so off I went.

Two days later I'm a PUPI—me and Nick, Sharon, Nifty and Pietr. Five twentysomethings, thrown into an entirely new career in forensic magic.

The first job we get is a doozy: proving that the deaths of two Talents were murder, not suicide. Worse, there are high-profile people who want us to close up shop and go away. We're sniffing out things they'd rather keep buried.

Looks as if this job is gonna get interesting. The only problem is, we're making it up as we go along….

Fat Vampire: A Never Coming of Age Story by Adam Rex

This is another young adult novel (there seem to be more of those than adult speculative fiction - I'm going to have to tally up my books and see). It's supposed to be humorous and will be coming out in July 2010.

Doug Lee is undead quite by accident—attacked by a desperate vampire, he finds himself cursed with being fat and fifteen forever. When he has no luck finding some goth chick with a vampire fetish, he resorts to sucking the blood of cows under cover of the night. But it’s just not the same.

Then he meets the new Indian exchange student and falls for her—hard. Yeah, he wants to bite her, but he also wants to prove himself to her. But like the laws of life, love, and high school, the laws of vampire existence are complicated—it’s not as easy as studying Dracula. Especially when the star of Vampire Hunters is hot on your trail in an attempt to boost ratings.…

Leave it to Adam Rex to create a thought-provoking novel that takes on teen angst, sexuality, identity, love, and undeath in ways that break it out of the genre.

The Enemy by Charlie Higson

This is a young adult novel that is out in hardcover. I might end up giving this one away if it doesn't grab me. YA dystopia = cool. Zombies, eh, not as much.

They'll chase you. They'll rip you open. They'll feed on you ...When the sickness came, every parent, police officer, politician - every adult - fell ill. The lucky ones died. The others are crazed, confused and hungry. Only children under fourteen remain, and they're fighting to survive. Now there are rumours of a safe place to hide. And so a gang of children begin their quest across London, where all through the city - down alleyways, in deserted houses, underground - the grown-ups lie in wait. But can they make it there - alive?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Leaning Pile of Books

As you probably know, I was gone for most of this past week to go to Book Expo America and the Book Blogger Convention. I just got home around 10:30 last night after spending hours on a couple of buses. It was a lot of fun (if also very exhausting) and I'll write a post later on the actual events, but for now I'm going to do my Sunday book posts.

This week I got far more books than normal even though I was careful so I could fit them all in my suitcase (it actually worked out quite perfectly; I had just enough room to stuff everything in there). Due to the number of books, I have decided to split this into two posts. The first will be all unsigned books I got this week - which will include one I bought, one my husband retrieved, a review copy, two books from the friend who was nice enough to let me stay with her this week, and all books from BEA (Book Expo America) that are unsigned. The next one will consist of the signed books from BEA (which is the majority of the books I got there).

Part 2 may not be up until tomorrow - it took me forever to get this post together. This may mostly be a week of Book Expo America related posts since there is still a lot to say!

Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews

The fourth book in the Kate Daniels series just came out on May 25. Magic Strikes, the third book, was the book I read on the bus on the way to New York and finished on the way back. I discovered what I keep hearing about this series is very true - the first book is good, the next is better, but the third book is really great. From start to finish, it was difficult to stop reading. So many of the things I was wondering about from the first couple of books were answered, but there are still more mysteries introduced that I'm wondering about. I loved it and was kind of mad that I finished it with so much of my trip still left. And I didn't want to start another book unless it was Magic Bleeds. I could have downloaded it to read, but I didn't want to pay for it since I wanted the actual book to go with the rest that I already have. So I settled for reading the free excerpt on iBooks. When my 40% off Borders coupon was extended today, I took that as a sign (ok, an excuse) to go purchase it so I can start it now. I'm now officially addicted to this series.

Atlanta would be a nice place to live, if it weren’t for the magic. When the magic is up, rogue mages cast their spells and monsters appear, while guns refuse to fire and cars fail to start. But then technology returns, and the magic recedes as unpredictably as it rose.

Kate Daniels works for the Order of the Knights of Merciful Aid, officially as a liaison with the mercenary guild. Unofficially, she cleans up the paranormal problems no one else wants to handle—especially if they involve Atlanta’s shapeshifting community.

When she’s called in to investigate a fight at the Steel Horse, a bar midway between the territories of the shapeshifters and the necromancers, Kate quickly discovers there’s a new player in town. One who’s been around for thousands of years—and rode to war at the side of Kate’s father.

This foe may be too much even for Kate and Curran, the Lord of the Beasts, to handle. Because this time, Kate will be taking on family…

Anti-Ice by Stephen Baxter

My husband already had this book, but we didn't have it in our apartment. He got it this past week so now I have it on the to read list. It's a book he's mentioned to me frequently as a good steampunk book, and recently Thea from The Book Smugglers reviewed it for Steampunk Week and really enjoyed it. I was surprised by how short it was since all of Baxter's other books I've seen are massive.

Discovering a new element, Anti-Ice, a mysterious substance that unleashes vast energies when warmed, a millionaire industrialist dreams of power from an item that promises world peace--or world destruction.

Married with Zombies by Jesse Petersen

This is a review copy I received while I was gone (although it was also available at BEA, but I knew I already had it thanks to my husband). It's a romantic comedy set during the zombie apocalypse about a couple trying to save their marriage. It will be out in September 2010 and a sequel, Flip This Zombie, will be released in January 2011.

A heartwarming tale of terror in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.

Meet Sarah and David.

Once upon a time they met and fell in love. But now they're on the verge of divorce and going to couples' counseling. On a routine trip to their counselor, they notice a few odd things - the lack of cars on the highway, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counselor, Dr. Kelly, is ripping out her previous client's throat.

Meet the Zombies.

Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But, just because there are zombies, doesn't mean your other problems go away. If the zombies don't eat their brains, they might just kill each other.

Mansfield Park and Mummies by Jane Austen and Vera Nazarian

This one was given to me by roommate for the week, who kindly put up with me and gave me advice on finding my way around the city. Vera Nazarian is one of her favorite authors. I'm not usually interested in the monster mashup books even though I love Jane Austen, but I did read one review somewhere (wish I remembered where now) that mentioned this was much more clever than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. And I did really enjoy Lords of Rainbow by Vera Nazarian so I'll give it a try. Vera Nazarian also founded Norilana Books, which has some really gorgeous books. I bought the reprint of Tanith Lee's Night Master published through Norilana and it is beautiful.

MANSFIELD PARK AND MUMMIES: Monster Mayhem, Matrimony, Ancient Curses, True Love, and Other Dire Delights

Spinsterhood or Mummification!

Ancient Egypt infiltrates Regency England in this elegant, hilarious, witty, insane, and unexpectedly romantic monster parody of Jane Austen's classic novel.

Our gentle yet indomitable heroine Fanny Price must hold steadfast not only against the seductive charms of Henry Crawford but also an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh!

Meanwhile, the indubitably handsome and kind hero Edmund attempts Exorcisms... Miss Crawford vamps out... Aunt Norris channels her inner werewolf... The Mummy-mesmerized Lady Bertram collects Egyptian artifacts...

There can be no doubt that Mansfield Park has become a battleground for the forces of Ancient Evil and Regency True Love!

Alanya to Alanya by L. Timmel Duchamp

This was another book from my roommate for the week since it is one she keeps mentioning to me. I also read a great review of it at Adventures in Reading that made me want to read it more. It's the first book in the Marq'ssan Cycle.

Seattle, February 2076. The Marq ssan bring business as usual to a screeching halt all over the world, and Professor Kay Zeldin joins Robert Sedgewick, US Chief of Security Services, in his war against the invaders. Soon Kay is making rather than writing history. But as she goes head-to-head against the Marq ssan, the long-buried secrets of her past resurface, and her conflicts with Sedgewick and Security Services multiply. She faces terrifying choices. Her worldview, her very grip on reality, is turned inside out. Whose side is she really on? And how far will she go in serving that side?

The Devil in Green by Mark Chadbourn

I picked up this first book in the Dark Age series at the Pyr booth at BEA when wandering around with Ana and Thea of The Book Smugglers (who are just as fun and awesome in person as you'd expect from their blog). Pyr has published some decent books such as Joe Abercrombie's First Law series, as well as some I keep hearing are good and have been meaning to try out (The Quantum Gravity series by Justina Robson, The Entire and the Rose series by Kay Kenyon and The Age of Misrule series also by Mark Chadbourn). So picking this one up was a no-brainer. It's set after the Age of Misrule, but hopefully I won't be too confused.

Humanity has emerged, blinking, from the Age of Misrule into a world substantially changed: cities lie devasted, communications are limited, anarchy rages across the land. Society has been thrown into a new Dark Age where superstition holds sway.

The Tuatha De Danaan roam the land once more, their terrible powers dwarfing anything mortals have to offer. And in their wake come all the creatures of myth and legend, no longer confined to the shadows.

Fighting to find their place in this new world, the last remnants of the Christian Church call for a group of heroes: a new Knights Templar to guard the priesthood as they set out on their quest for souls. But as everything begins to fall apart, the Knights begin to realize their only hope is to call on the pagan gods of Celtic myth for help....

Matched by Ally Condie

I picked up this one after seeing a panel on Dystopian fiction including this author. This young adult novel will be available on November 30, 2010. It sounds interesting, although it also sounds very similar to one of the other books I picked up (that will be in the signed post).

In the Society, Officials decide. Who you love. Where you work. When you die.

Cassia has always trusted their choices. It’s barely any price to pay for a long life, the perfect job, the ideal mate. So when her best friend appears on the Matching screen, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is the one . . . until she sees another face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. Now Cassia is faced with impossible choices: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path no one else has ever dared follow—between perfection and passion.

Matched is a story for right now and storytelling with the resonance of a classic.

Gool by Maurice Gee

This is the second book in the Salt trilogy, following Salt. It was given to me at the publisher's booth. It will be released in September 2010.

Beyond the Inland Sea, beyond the jungle and mountains, the world was in turmoil. He thought of it as a hissing cauldron, with a thousand unknown things, alive and tormented, throwing the steam and stench of hatred high into the air.

Will Xantee and Lo find the strength to destroy the gool and save Hari?
The gool cannot be seen, not properly, but Xantee, Lo and their friends sense its evil presence. It lurks in the jungle in rock clefts, an enemy from outside nature. And now a fragment of gool grips Hari by the throat, draining the life from him. They can hold it back with the force of their minds, but for how long?

Xantee, Lo and Duro set out on a perilous mission to find the Dog King Tarl, Hari's father, and the ruined city of Belong. Can he help them find the source of the gool? Will they find it in time? And do they have the strength to destroy the mother gool to rid the world of this life-sucking force?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Leaning Pile of Books

This week I got two books as late birthday presents from my husband (one of them was not out before my birthday last month). He got me personalized copies of the two books in the Rain Wilds Chronicles by Robin Hobb from The Signed Page, which I was perfectly happy to wait for considering Robin Hobb is one of my favorite authors. Plus this is a followup to The Liveship Traders trilogy, quite possibly my favorite of the three I read (it took longer for me to get into than the others but once I did it was completely worth it).

The only problem is I want to start them now but there's no way I can finish them before it's time to head out for Book Expo America and I'm not traveling with big hardcover books OR precious signed books (although I may read the unsigned copy of the first book I already had in order to preserve the other one).

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

For years, the Trader cities valiantly battled their enemies, the Chalcedeans. But they could not have staved off invasion without the powerful dragon Tintaglia. In return, the Traders promised to help her serpents migrate up the Rain Wild River after a long exile at sea—to find a safe haven and, Tintaglia hopes, to restore her species. But too much time has passed, and the newly hatched dragons are damaged and weak, and many die. The few who survive cannot use their wings; earthbound, they are powerless to hunt and vulnerable to human predators willing to kill them for the fabled healing powers of dragon flesh.

But Tintaglia has vanished and the Traders are weary of the labor and expense of tending useless dragons. The Trader leadership fears that if it stops providing for the young dragons, the hungry and neglected creatures will rampage—or die along the river’s acidic muddy banks. To avert catastrophe, the dragons decree a move even farther up the treacherous river to Kelsingra, their ancient, mythical homeland whose mysterious location is locked deep within the dragons’ uncertain ancestral memories.

To ensure their safe passage, the Traders recruit a disparate group of young people to care for the damaged creatures and escort them to their new home. Among them is Thymara, an unschooled forest girl of sixteen, and Alise, a wealthy Trader’s wife trapped in a loveless marriage, who attaches herself to the expedition as a dragon expert. The two women share a deep kinship with the dragons: Thymara can instinctively communicate with them, and Alise, captivated by their beauty and majesty, has devoted her life to studying them.

Embarking on an arduous journey that holds no promise of return, the band of humans and dragons must make their way along the toxic and inhospitable Rain Wild River—an extraordinary odyssey that will teach them lessons about themselves and one another, as they experience hardships, betrayals, and joys beyond their wildest dreams.

Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb

There is a shadow of a legend of a city, a fireside tale of a place where dragons and Elderlings once lived side by side in harmony and comfort. Kelsingra. To the final remnant of the dragon population and the human outcasts of the Rain Wild settlement, it seems a dream too good to be true. Does a haven exist for them? As they continue their trek up the uncharted Rain Wild River, fate and hardship will gnaw at their numbers and their determination. And the legends of the ancient beings called Elderlings will intrude into their adventure in a destiny beyond human control.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Review of The Queen of Attolia

The Queen of Attolia is the second book in the Queen's Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner. Currently, there are four books in this YA fantasy series in the following order: The Thief, The Queen of Attolia, The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings, which was just released in hardcover in March. The Thief can currently be read online free of charge.

Warning: Although I did try to keep descriptions at least somewhat vague (and kept the plot details to a minimum to try to avoid spoiling this book), there may still be hints that could lead to spoilers for The Thief in this review. If you have not yet read The Thief and are interested in this series, you may want to just skip this review other than perhaps the last paragraph, which sums up basic thoughts on it.

Once again, Eugenides is sneaking around - this time in the castle of the Queen of Attolia. Although he manages to make it outside the palace, he is caught in an alley and returned to the queen for judgment. Initially, the queen decides to have him executed, but fearing that a quick death would be too kind to her rival Eddis, Attolia instead brings back an old punishment for thieves. She then has him returned to Eddis, inciting a war.

While I enjoyed The Thief, I didn't absolutely love it and didn't quite understand all the rave reviews this series gets - until reading The Queen of Attolia. The Thief is a quest fantasy with a great twist at the end, but this second volume starts with the twists much earlier and just keeps getting better all the way to the very last sentence, which is a wonderfully satisfying conclusion. It's a darker story and much tighter than its predecessor, which sometimes digressed into too much travelogue for my taste. This novel also has the emotional connection that The Thief was mostly lacking, and I found myself completely invested in seeing what happened to all the different characters. The Queen of Attolia was an improvement over The Thief in just about every way.

Unlike the first book, The Queen of Attolia is told from the third person perspective of multiple characters, including Eugenides, Attolia and Eddis. Having so many point of view characters made for a richer experience and the narration was still very sneaky even without being solely from Eugenides' point of view. There are still bits that are deliberately left out until later, although they are revealed more throughout the story instead of all being saved up for the end like in The Thief. There were a couple of reveals that were predictable, but even knowing what was going to happen did not ruin those parts at all because the way they were handled was superb. Every little detail and conversation was full of significance and I found myself going back and rereading the same part two or three times before forging on ahead just because it was so good. Because there is a tendency for parts to potentially have more than one meaning and so many of the little touches are important, this book would be a great one to reread.

This novel was more about the politics and the characters than the previous installment and there is some great dialogue and interaction (and a wonderful romance!). Eugenides is still full of surprises as a skillful thief, even when his talents are applied to something very different than the object obtained in the first book. For in this novel he is asked to steal peace between kingdoms during a turbulent time between many nations, particularly Attolia and Eddis. The leaders of these two countries are both fascinating women who play much bigger roles than in the first novel. Both the Queen of Attolia and the Queen of Eddis are competent rulers, but they are both very different women shaped by their different cultures and political situations. Yet both are perfectly capable of holding their own even if they do not have the same style of leadership.

The main fantasy aspect is the setting, which is similar to ancient Greece with a pantheon similar to the Greek gods and goddesses. Attolians tend to view the gods and goddesses as superstition, but Eugenides takes them very seriously.

The Queen of Attolia is much more mature than the first book in this series with a focus on political maneuvering and characters. It's clever, it's fun, it's completely absorbing, it's full of both heartbreak and joy - it's one for the keeper shelf.

My Rating: 9/10

Where I got my reading copy: It was a birthday present from my mile-long wish list.

Reviews of other books in this series:
Other reviews of The Queen of Attolia:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Leaning Pile of Books

For reviews, I'm working on a review of The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner, which will be followed by Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews and Servant of a Dark God by John Brown. I'm taking a break from reading Feed by Mira Grant to read Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder because I have read very few of the authors who are going to be at Book Expo America. So I picked a book by one of the authors who was going to be there that I had unread on my shelf (and that looked like something I could have read by the time I go).

This week I received one review copy and bought one book. Both of these are books I am very much looking forward to reading.

Stealing Fire by Jo Graham

Jo Graham writes historical fantasy, and I really enjoyed her retelling of The Aeneid entitled Black Ships (review). So I am very much looking forward to reading this book, which is told from the perspective of a soldier of Alexander the Great after Alexander's death, and I probably "squeed" a bit when I found it in my mailbox. Stealing Fire is due for release on May 25, although it appears to be available on Amazon now.

Alexander the Great’s soldier, Lydias of Miletus, has survived the final campaigns of the king’s life. He now has to deal with the chaos surrounding his death. Lydias throws his lot in with Ptolemy, one of Alexander’s generals who has grabbed Egypt as his personal territory. Aided by the eunuch Bagoas, the Persian archer Artashir, and the Athenian courtesan Thais, Ptolemy and Lydias must take on all the contenders in a desperate adventure whose prize is the fate of a white city by the sea, and Alexander’s legacy.

The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

After reading The Queen of Attolia, my new favorite book read so far this year, I knew I had to get a copy of the next book. This book is longer and it includes a short story! I was actually very happy that it was longer because I just loved The Queen of Attolia so much that I wanted it to never end.

As a side note, right now the first book in this series, The Thief, can be read for free online.

I'm leaving out the blurb because there are spoilers for earlier books and this is a series that you do NOT want spoiled. I'm struggling with my review of the second book for just that reason... There's so much I want to say but I'm trying to decide how much is too much information.