29 June, 2011

Germans Get To Dance - Even One Of Our Own

You've probably heard about the Amazon.de mess up where 180 people get A Dance With Dragons [US] [UK] before anyone else. These copies are even more rare since ARC's aren't even being sent out.

Voyager is asking people not to review or spoil anything and I guess that's only fair. I'm just very jealous.

Well, one of our own (or former own), Michael (or ediFanoB), was one of those lucky 180 Germans. How Cool!

Check out his site (Edi's Book Lighthouse) for a great post, including a comparison of Dance's size to Rothfuss' Wise Man's Fear (which is huge btw). Awesome and congrats Edi!

It's News To Me #16 - Michael J. Sullivan's Percepliquis Cover

Yup, two days in a row for It's News To Me. I'm just trying to keep you guessing...or I'm just really inconsistent, you make the call.

The Alloy of Law (Mistborn 4) Excerpt #2: Tor.com has another excerpt from Brandon Sanderson's highly anticipated fourth installment in the Mistborn series...one I have on my shelf and been meaning to read... some... day.

Have you been put on Notice?: Stomping on Yeti has put a certain few individuals On Notice in this always hilarious meme.

Neth Space and MD Lachlan: I guess Ken wasn't a big fan of MD's Wolfsangel, the review was posted to Tordotfantasy and MD wasn't the biggest fan of that. :) I'm still hoping to be a fan of Wolfsangel myself.

Michael J. Sullivan's final installment in the Riyria Revelations has a cover: Of course it's another one done completely by the author himself.

It's almost like some people steel all the talent.

In case you didn't know, those who have been following along with the series (and I guess those who haven't) can buy the final volume in the same matching designs as the first 5 even though this series is being re-released by Orbit. That same blog post also shows you how you can find out when Percepliquis will be available in this format.

And that's the news...at least to me.

28 June, 2011

It's News To Me #15 - New Hannu Rajaniemi

I have no idea how he does it, but Jussi (from SFFWorld and Westeros I think) always has the latest on the covers.

Here's Hannu Rajaniemi's newest, The Fractal Prince (US edition):

Kekai Kotaki's work

21 June, 2011

Review - Shadow's Lure by Jon Sprunk

I love assassins! I'll not go into the same discussion from my review of Shadow's Son, but by golly those guys are cool and Jon Sprunk is an assassin master.

Shadow's Lure [US] [UK] is the second volume in the Shadow Saga as I mentioned before, beginning with Shadow's Son. It's full of assassins, magic, and tons of action. Did I mention TONS OF ACTION!

Shadow's Lure takes up the story almost directly after Shadow's Son. Caim, our fearless assassin, is headed north to the dangerous northlands, on a mission not even he yet knows about. Josey has taken over the throne in Othir as empress amidst protests of the True Church. In Shadow's Lure, there is also an added point of view, also in third-person limited, in the witch Sybelle who is the right hand man woman of the new Duke of the North who is attempting to unite the north through subjugation.

While I enjoyed Josey's part in Shadow's Son, I really had a good time with her sections in Shadow's Lure. It was filled with political intrigue and dastardly characters trying to take advantage of her naivete, not least among them, members of the True Church.

Some of the minor problems I had, and the reason for a 4 instead of a 5 star rating, was the fact that (***Minor spoiler warning***) Kit, Caim's invisible Fae partner, is absent from Caim for much of the book. Hence, the fun, witty banter isn't as prevalent as in Shadow's Son. But then again, her parts in the book end up giving us a glimpse of what all this world Jon Sprunk's created has to offer.

I mentioned in my last review that I was really interested, after reading Shadow's Son, to find out more about the Shadow realm. There are lots of hints, but not a lot of solid facts. In Shadow's Lure, we find out much more about this mysterious place, although it is still mostly a mystery.

The magic system in this series is really impressive drawing from this shadow realm and actually using shadows as the magic. There are lots of fantasy books/series that involve shadows, but I'd never seen one that actually uses the shadows for anything from healing to torture and even fighting. What a great concept that's used in a really unique way.

Why Read Shadow's Lure?

Shadow's Lure is sword and sorcery at its best. Fast-paced, filled with action and realistic characters, and of course...assassins! If you like Brent Weeks or Paul Kearney, you'll really enjoy this series.

4 out of 5 Stars (Loved it!)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

18 June, 2011

It's News To Me #14 - DGLA Winners!

I'm back for just a bit to get this up, then I'm without internet for another couple days.

And the winners of the David Gemmell Legend Award are...

Legend Award (Best Fantasy Novel of 2010)

Brandon Sanderson for The Way of Kings

Morningstar Award (Best Fantasy Debut)

Darius Hinks for The Warrior Priest

Ravenheart Award (Best Fantasy Book-Jacket)

Olof Erla Einarsdottir for the cover of Power and Majesty

And that's the news...at least to me.

13 June, 2011

Gone Again

Hi all, sorry to do this to you again. My sister-in-law's having a baby and we're heading out today to Denver, CO. I may be back within the week to get a review up, but may not. We'll just have to see.

Hopefully there will be internet access at the hotel we're staying at, but who knows if I'll have the time.

Anyway, take care all and I'll see ya's when I see's ya's. :)

11 June, 2011

It's News To Me #13 - Covers From Solaris

Here are a few covers from Solaris I (source here): (Click to embiggen)

...and my fave:

Rowena Cory Daniels is the author of The Chronicles of King Rolen's Kin beginning with The King's Bastard [US] [UK].

And that's the news...at least to me.

09 June, 2011

It's News To Me #12

Wow, it's come to my attention that I've not been doing great with these. Hmm, 12 means about 3 months worth at one a week and It's now month 6. Eek.

Does Pat review his books like he does his movies?: This is just a question I had when I read the post that I've just linked to. I thought both movies looked cool and will eventually watch them.

GRRM's Dance with Dragons Reviewed: What's a news update without something George R.R. Martin related. You've seen this I know, word on the street is that it's pretty spoilerific. I'm keeping my experience pure by not reading this review.

Excerpt from Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey: I have this book, I just need to start it already. You probably know I'm a huge Abraham fan, so I'm ready for this to blow my mind.

Banewreaker by Jacqueline Carey reviewed: The Wertzone reviews a book I absolutely loved. In fact, here's a review I did when I was fresh and new to the blogging world. Ahh, I hope I've grown a bit from then.

The Riyria Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan get covers: What a great story of an indie author making it big. Michael J. Sullivan really deserves his deal with Orbit, I just need to find time to read the series after book 1 (review).

And that's the news...at least to me.

08 June, 2011

Review - The Waste Lands (Dark Tower III) by Stephen King

Another stunning installment in the Dark Tower series, The Waste Lands [US] [UK] brings our quest for the dark tower that much closer, and actually giving it plenty of momentum which is, I'm told, possibly to be dashed in further installments.

Where The Gunslinger was a correlating collection of stories and The Drawing of the Three brings the main characters together, The Waste Lands actually moves the quest forward, gives some background (not a ton mind you), and gives us some direction.

I'm really enjoying this series and I'm starting to realize why. Besides the fact that I am glued to the pages for hours at a time, I really like the idea of this mysterious world giving guidance to the Gunslinger and his band. Instead of opting for the prophecy motif, King's world is much more mysterious and less traditional.

***Beware spoilers for the The Gunslinger and The Drawing of the Three***

Our crew of gunslingers, or Ka-tet as we find out they are called because they are a group of people on the same mission whose fates are intertwined, begin this part of the journey in the middle of their training as gunslingers. They are the last of their kind and therefore, Eddie, Susannah Dean, and Roland are the only gunslingers in the entire world.

Because Roland saved Jake (the kid at the waystation in The Gunstlinger) from Jack Mort in The Drawing of the Three, his memory has now split in two because Jake's death was his entry into Roland's world. This is making Roland a bit crazy at the moment.

They are almost immediately attacked by a malicious and ravenous bear, Shardik, who we find out is actually a Guardian of one of the entrances to the 6 mystical beams that will lead to the dark tower. Oh, and did I mention Shardik is also a cyborg? Yeah, this just gets crazier and crazier.

The ka-tet follow the beam to Mid-world where more adventure is to be had, but not before picking up another member.

I had always thought they were in Mid-world when they weren't in "our" present day world, but I guess I'd read too much going into this. In The Waste Lands, there's actually a point where the ka-tet goes into Mid-world.

At this same time, but beginning in Book 2 of The Waste Lands, we also begin to follow Jake in "our" world. He's having the same problems as Roland and his mind is also warring with itself. While trying to make it in a high-pressured prep school, Jake is about to give up. Not only is Jake going insane, but it is almost as if he is reliving certain occurrences. This leads him on his own journey and I'll leave it at that before I get too spoilerific.

***End major spoilers***

I know Stephen King is known for his horror, but I haven't felt much of that influence really until this book. Toward the end, I was actually dreadfully frightened and I loved it.

Why Read The Waste Lands?

When I really think of it, I can't believe the entire plot can be summed up so simply; a gunslinger is after a dark tower. And I guess only Stephen King can make something so simple so amazingly addicting.

I can't wait to get on with the series. It's unique and well-crafted. You can't help but care for these characters even though it sometimes seems like Stephen King doesn't. You will be glued to the page, it's just a fact.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (Absolutely loved it!)

EDIT: I always remember and then subsequently forget to do this: :D

07 June, 2011

Review - The Skin Map (Bright Empires 1) by Stephen R. Lawhead

Kit is your average Londoner dealing with an average Londoner's complications, more specifically, the metro system. One problem leads to the next and on his way to his girlfriend's, he finds himself in a dark alley, Stane Way, but this dark alley's not as mysterious or treacherous as you may think, Kit ends up finding his great-grandfather for the first time...who's not looking as old as he probably should be.

Thus begins the adventure for the Skin Map, which contains directions through the ley lines that can transport a person from one location to another and even through different times.

There are two main storylines that we follow, at least at first. One takes us with Kit and his adventures with his great-grandfather and the other follows Kit's girlfriend Wilhelmina, who uses her 21st century know-how to influence her new situation as she finds herself by the side of the road in 17th century Bohemia.

While I enjoyed The Skin Map [US] [UK], it's not without it's faults. I guess this is where I should explain my rating system a bit because it really applies with this book. I'd say a perfectly executed and well-written book will get a 3 out of 5 stars. There's really nothing wrong with a 3 star book. More than that, it's got to do things that impress me, such as great characterization, a unique plot or magic system, etc.

The Skin Map is a great example of the perfect 3 star book. It's well done, I can't really say there's anything wrong with it. But then again, that's kind of the problem. The Skin Map is very formulaic. Everything's in it's spot, nice and tidy and there's not much in terms of surprises.

This aspect also hinders the sense of danger that's hinted at when the antagonists enter the picture. I can't say I was ever really worried when they were around even though I was told they were bad news.

The Skin Map is also not a gritty book, full of blood and violence. I like this every now and then - I've grown a bit wary of the trend where everyone is a terrible person who's only looking out for their own interests. This was a nice change.

Why Read The Skin Map?

Overall, I had a fun time reading The Skin Map. It's a light, straight-forward, romp through the 17th century and other parts of history. The sense of place is great, but don't expect many surprises. If you want well-crafted, this is it.

3 out of 5 Stars (Liked it)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

03 June, 2011

Review: Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks

The Player of Games (1988) [US][UK], by Iain M. Banks, is the second novel in the Culture series. It is set among an aggressive caste driven civilization whose whole society is strictly regimented and ranked according to a highly complex game played called Azad. To the Culture, the Empire of Azad is an anomaly. It has failed to evolve many of the more docile cultural traits typically associated with its technological level. Violence, slavery, and cruelty run free, something the culture cannot allow to continue.

Enters Jernau Morat Gurgeh, the most recognized and skilled Culture game player. In the Culture, game playing has been elevated to a philosophical and academic art. And so, our gaming superstar is wooed by Special Circumstances as a cultural envoy to the Azad. Sent there to learn the game of Azad and show the locals how skilled the Culture is, little does Gurgeh know that the fate of a civilization may rest on his talents.

The Player of Games is a fascinating novel on many levels. It can be read as an adventure, wherein an outsider must play a game against the best and brightest of an entire civilization. It is also a deep and sustained look at a culture that has eliminated physical force in favor of a game. Contests are decided in the ring, where wits are superior to force. Where one might assume that the shift from the physical to the intellectual would liberate and enlighten, this is far from the case. Therein, I like to think, lies the author's main point. That just because we don't whack each other with sticks anymore, doesn't mean we are civilized.

The Empire of Azad is cruel. Both to its own and those it conquers. The cast/slavery system maintained through the game of Azad empowers the powerful and crushes the weak. Depravity reigns at the highest levels of society. Not a place one would choose to go on vacation if you catch my meaning...

To not spoil the entire story for you, but much game playing ensues... hence the title of the book. The most fascinating aspect of the whole novel, to me at least, is that the rules of the game are never explained! At first I thought this would cause the challenges to bore me for lack of understanding, but far from it. The challenge of the games and the contest of wills which takes place between the participants is so artfully done that readers will not care that they don't have a clue what is going on. The meaning and intent is crystal clear, even if the rules are not.

In my review of Consider Phlebas I mentioned how the Culture novels and somewhat more mature than your standard space opera. There is action and intrigue and aventure, yes, but there is also much more. I think educated readers will very much enjoy the Player of Games, but also the series as a whole. There is something to appeal to virtually every academic discipline that comes to mind, which will have your brain churning in the background as your eyes devour each sentence.

All that aside, I personally enjoy it when stuff blows up... not very mature of me I know. And while there are a few bangs here and there, the lack of action makes it so that this is probably one of my least favorite culture novels, even though I appreciate it immensely on a more rational level.

That sums up my relatively spoiler free review of The Player of Games. Stay tuned next week for the Use of Weapons, the 3rd installment in my review of the Culture series. I should mention that the Use of Weapons is probably my 2nd favorite novel in the series...

02 June, 2011

Quick Review - The Temple of the Dead (Sepulchral Earth 2) by Tim Marquitz

You may know this by now, but I'm a huge fan of Tim Marquitz. He writes dark urban fantasy or just dark fantasy and he's amazing...and quite hilarious at times (especially here).
Under the rumbling gray sky, Harlan Cole clutched his swollen ribs, his face a patchwork of graven lines. He circled right as the walker came at him. Short huffs of breath spewed from cracked lips. He looked into the corpse's blackened sockets to see pools of insect larvae churning in their depths. Harlan fought the urge to gag as a long brown roach skittered from the corpse’s eye and ran across its cheek. It disappeared when it wormed its way inside the walker’s jaundiced ear.
The Temple of the Dead, the second in Tim's Sepulchral Earth serial novella (my review of the first), is part of his more serious repertoire, tackling the zombie apocalypse in a new way that only Tim Marquitz can do.

This is zombies with a fantastical twist, involving magic, ghouls, guns, and an epic quest. In this installment, we find out more about Harlan Cole's past and motivations behind his pursuit of the breach and make some significant steps toward that goal.

Highly Recommended!

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

01 June, 2011

Update - What I'm Reading

Yes, I'm still on vacation, so this is really coming at you from the past...spooky....very spooky.

I don't think I've ever done a post like this, but I'm trying to improve as a blogger and I've always enjoyed similar such posts from others.

I've been making my way through Stephen King's The Dark Tower series. I recently finished The Waste Lands (Book 3) and was again blown away, just as in The Drawing of the Three. I'll hopefully have the review up next week.

I'm currently reading the second in Tim Marquitz' amazing Demon Squad series, Resurrection. Seriously, you really need to read this. (Yes, I did just link to Armageddon Bound yet again. I think I'll try to put a link to it in every post from now on, can you find it?) :D

Also starting Stephen R. Lawhead's The Skin Map. I'm in kind of a reading funk, I have so much I want to read, so much I've received to read, and then a bunch of series I'd like to finish (like the Dark Tower), so we'll see how far I get before I put some of these down and finally focus.

Then there's also Songs of the Dying Earth, edited by George R.R. Martin. I mentioned in an earlier post that I have a hard time with anthologies, but this one's been absolutely amazing so far. I'm not that far into it, but it's just great.

Lastly, I'm slowly making my way through the audiobook of The Shadow Rising (Wheel of Time 4). I don't have a commute anymore (as I mentioned last week - no current internship), so audiobook reading goes way down. I'll get my review up for The Dragon Reborn soon. Very soon.

I'm a very moody reader, not so much cranky, but more as in I have to be in the right mood to read a book and that's really the only fair way I can do it - fair to both the author and myself. These reads may change, but that doesn't mean they're bad or that I won't get back to something.