29 February, 2012

Movie Previews - New Avengers Trailer and Others

I haven't been this excited about a movie in a long time. I don't think there's a way for me not to love this movie:

Also, this trailer for Pixar's Brave just looks wonderful:

Than there's the Hunger Games, you know afterthought, which looks really good so far, actually outdoing my imagination in a lot of respects and that's just through the trailer. Is that Lenny Kravitz?

Review - The Damned Busters (To Hell and Back #1) by Matthew Hughes

An actuary, and one well suited to his job in every way, inadvertently summons a demon while erecting a poker table and hammering his finger. While less than amenable to the idea of selling his soul, especially with incontrovertible proof that there actually is such a thing as eternal damnation, he sets into motion a set of events that has extremely humorous consequences.

To say that the author, Matthew Hughes, can write is like saying...well... I was going to go for some sports analogy, but that just doesn't quite work, this is a fantasy book for crying out loud. Let's say it's like saying an Ogier can build a house or since he's the Jack Vance guy - it's like saying Cudgel is quick on the uptake.

He's a genius and the first third of The Damned Busters [US] [UK] [Kindle - only $2.99] definitely proves it. It's witty, clever, funny, and just plain amazingly well-written. Chesney Arnstruther, the heroic actuary, is not only an oddball, but extremely relatable. The world he's created with heaven and hell and their relationship to our world is not only understandable, but believable and simply hilarious - I would almost say along the line of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

I don't want to give away too much about the world and what makes it comical as it spoils some priceless moments, but essentially Heaven and Hell are sitting on each and every mortal's shoulder. The demons tempt, but stick to what they're told while the angels just say the opposite. Literally, all they do is say the opposite.

With the heights that the opening third of The Damned Busters reached, the final two-thirds in comparison were quite dismal. In reality, I really enjoyed the last two-thirds, they were just not nearly as good as the opening. The superhero part was really entertaining and I really wanted to see how that worked (and you'll see, it's pretty cool), but it just didn't compare and I feel bad that I couldn't get past that.

In an afterword by the author, he explains that this was originally intended as a short story for a magazine, but was instead turned into a full-length novel with a sequel on the way. This is very apparent and even though there was quite the separation between the two parts, the short story/novella and the rest of the book, it's still interesting enough to keep you enjoying it.

The best way to explain this book may be with ratings stars. The first third was easily 5 stars. The mid-third was more around 3 stars and the final third about 3.5 stars. Thus, you may see my conundrum when giving an actual rating to the entire book and so I settled on 4. Highly recommended if only for the first part and at the same time I'm really looking forward to the sequel, Costume Not Included available March 27, 2012.

4 out of 5 Stars

27 February, 2012

Winner: Epic Wheel of Time Giveaway #2 - The Great Hunt

Hope your preparation for the final volume in the Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light, is going well.

We're happy to be able to help out one lucky person's progress in that regard today. Sadly not much snark in this one, so I'll foregoe that segment this time around. I DO expect more from you next time though. :D

Without further ado, the winner of The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan on audiobook is:

Aaron Robbins

Thanks to all those who participated and don't worry if you haven't won, we still have 11 more Epic Wheel of Time Giveaways to go.

24 February, 2012

eBook Deals, or Books I Bought Recently

Not really a theme this week like last time, but here's what I found appealing...

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry ($2.99) - Thanks to The Tattered Scroll for this one.
Mile 81 by Stephen King (short story) ($2.99) - This was 99 cents not too long ago, sorry for being late.
The Borrowers by Mary Norton (children's classic) ($1.59)
The God Engines by John Scalzi ($4.99)
Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov ($2.99) - We may not be a fan around these parts, but you may want to give it a go.

Hounded by Kevin Hearn ($11.99) - As far as audiobooks go, this is a really good price.

Swords and Dark Magic Edited by Lou Anders ($6.40) - The ebook is $9.99, but I thought this was quite the deal for the paperback.

23 February, 2012

J.K. Rowling's New Publisher and Deal

I am a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. I love the whimsical magic that was Hogwarts and I can't believe it's almost been 5 years since the final book came out.

Well, finally, and after such a long time, J.K. Rowling has signed a new deal with publisher Little, Brown. This new book will have nothing to do with Harry Potter, but I'm excited to see what Rowling has in store for us next. This new book is also her first book for "grownups," even though I thought the last couple installments of Harry Potter had quite a few adult elements so I'm confident this isn't much of a stretch for her.
"Although I've enjoyed writing it every bit as much, my next book will be very different to the Harry Potter series, which has been published so brilliantly by Bloomsbury and my other publishers around the world," Rowling said in a statement released by Little, Brown. "The freedom to explore new territory is a gift that Harry's success has brought me, and with that new territory it seemed a logical progression to have a new publisher. I am delighted to have a second publishing home in Little, Brown, and a publishing team that will be a great partner in this new phase of my writing life."
Rowling has quite a bit to live up to, so I'm sure there will be plenty disappointed no matter what happens.

EDIT: Here's a video from Newsy on "The New Book," which explains how there's nothing really explained with some fan reaction:

22 February, 2012

Epic Wheel of Time Giveaway #2 Ending Soon

I just wanted to do a reminder post that our giveaway of The Great Hunt, book two in The Wheel of Time on audiobook will be ending this Friday (February 24, 2012). I will announce the winner on the following Monday.

Good luck!

21 February, 2012

Review - Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut

Where do I even start with this book?

First of all, Vonnegut has an amazing way with words. That's what keeps me coming back again and again. He can make the most mundane thing not only interesting, but the funniest thing you've ever read. Speaking of that, there's quite the exposition on beavers...and not the one who makes dams.

It's really hard to explain this book. The actual "story" that's told could probably be told in a single long-ish paragraph (which Wikipedia actually does quite nicely). So, not even a full page. The rest of the book is filled with anecdotes, allegories, drawings (I'm told, I listened to it), and any other type of random tangent. Really, and not unlike any other Vonnegut book I've read, the entire book is one long tangent. But with Kurt at the wheel, it's never a bad thing.

Breakfast of Champions [US] [UK] [Kindle] is the story of Kilgore Trout - a science fiction writer - who is invited to an art festival in Midland City. Trout is a recurring character in Vonnegut's work, appearing in Slaughterhouse Five among others. He's not well known, at least personally, but his stories are well known by fans of smut magazines, which are the only places his works are published. Hence the beaver exposition I mentioned earlier.

We are also told in the beginning that it is because of one of Trout's novels, which become famous in Midland City, that Dwayne Hoover, a rich resident of Midland, believes he is the only being on earth with free will and that everyone else in the entire world is a robot.

While the plot in and of itself is hilarious, it's the tangents that really make this book a great one. Vonnegut even explains in the beginning, he needed a place to get all his ideas out, or "clear his head of all the junk."

Since Kilgore Trout is a science fiction writer, Vonnegut tells us idea after idea for science fiction novels that I'm sure he was just cracking up about, but could never actually write into a full novel or even short story.

Trout's main themes have to do with communication breakdowns - aliens who can only communicate in farting noises, aliens who are too small to communicate an important message, a planet of cars that has car babies and who end up on earth and can't communicate with humans. It is worth reading just for these gems.

Speaking of tangents, at one point, Vonnegut starts telling about average penis sizes and for the rest of the story explains what size penises each male character has. And let's be honest, if you're going to describe a character, this is one telling bit of information.

To summarize, Vonnegut's a genius, read Breakfast of Champions and be happy.

4 out of 5 Stars (Loved it)

16 February, 2012

A Memory of Light Will See the Light

The final volume in Robert Jordan's (and now Brandon Sanderson's) ├╝ber-epic series, The Wheel of Time finally has a release date. It's been more than hinted that it would be coming out in November of this year, but I guess that's no longer the case. Says Tor:
The first novel in Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time®, The Eye of the World, was released on January 15, 1990. Now more than twenty years later, Tor Books is thrilled to announce the official publication date for the final novel in the series.

A Memory of Light will release on January 8, 2013, in the final month of the Year of the Dragon. (emphasis added)

To be honest I'm pretty happy about this. I was getting worried I wouldn't be able to catch up in time (I'm just about to finish book 6), but I'm sure most aren't as big of slackers as I am.

EDIT: Here are Sanderson's thoughts on the new release date.

15 February, 2012

eBook Deals, or Books I Bought Recently

I've been reading some Vonnegut lately and found out there are a lot of good deals on his books in eBook form. Sorry for being Kindle-specific, these are just the deals I find while feeding my addiction. There's a lot of good conversion software out there if it helps. :)

-Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman ($2.99)
-The Darkening Dream by Andy Gavin (creator of Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter) ($2.99)
-Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell ($2.99)
-The Door Into Summer by Robert Heinlein ($2.99)
-Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke ($2.99) - Still a good deal.
-God Bless You Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut ($2.99)
-Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut ($3.99) - A favorite of mine.
-Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut ($4.79) - So it goes...
-2BRO2B by Kurt Vonnegut (short story) (Free) - Vonnegut has some of the best short science fiction.
-The Big Trip Up Yonder by Kurt Vonnegut (short story) (Free) - Same goes here.
-The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut ($5.24) - Easily my favorite Vonnegut, but one of my favorite books in general.

Review - The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin

Warning: I was in a funky mood when I wrote this. Keep that in mind please. :)

I always have high expectations when reading George R.R. Martin. He really did it to himself, have you read A Game of Thrones? So going into The Ice Dragon [US] [UK] [Kindle], GRRM's children's tale, I still had nothing but the highest and happiest of attitudes until I was completely disappointed...in nothing at all. :D

Okay, I've learned from the cases I've been reading in law school that in order to have a successful argument, all you have to do is act like you're going to decide one way, but then go the exact opposite. Did it work? (No, I'm not simplifying it at all, why would you say that?)

The plot is simple, yet extremely subtle as we've come to expect from Martin. Adara is a winter child who's not only physically cold, but distant from her family as well. She was not only born in winter, but was the reason for her mother's death and her father has had a difficult time with that.

Adara loves the winter and counts the days until it comes back. She stays out longer than anyone else and can even hold the ice lizards for long periods of time without hurting them like other children end up doing.

Soon the eponymous Ice Dragon enters the picture, visiting Adara at times during the winter, even letting her ride. You see, ice dragons are not only rare, but it is known that ice dragons never let anyone ride them. Other, smaller dragons are used by people, especially for war as we see in this story.

Without going into too much more detail, the land is filled with war and it is creeping toward Adara and her family, but her father belongs with the land as is important for many in the medieval-type society.

While we follow Adara closely, the land and the environment were probably my favorite part of the story. It's filled with hard-working farmers and dragons are commonplace. I would really love to read more of this world Martin's created, possibly outside of a children's tale.

But on that note, I would read more children's tales as well at this caliber. Although, I don't quite know if I'd categorize The Ice Dragon as a children's tale. About 99% was for children, but there was a section about split-heads and relatively gruesome scenes for children.

In the end, I highly enjoyed The Ice Dragon and would recommend it, especially at this time of year...or maybe not, GRRM does such a good job with atmosphere I was actually colder while reading it. Maybe wait till summer. Then again, you're probably hot enough. And you wonder how I get all the ladies. :)

4 out of 5 Stars (Loved it)

Note on the eBook: This is an illustrated novel and I can't say they're done justice on the Kindle Touch at least (or anything with eInk). Mostly you can see them fine, but there are still quite a few that are hard to make out and all of them are at least somewhat difficult to view.

13 February, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day - Game of Thrones Style

Hodor's is probably my favorite. Check out io9 for more. Oh, and Happy Valentine's Day.

(Audiobook) Review - Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind

Richard and Kahlen's Relationship Timeline:

Day One:
Richard: "Kahlen, now that we just met, we're the bestestest friends aren't we?"
Kahlen: "We sure are."

Day Two:
Richard: "Kahlen, we're the bestestest of friends and I would give my life for you even though we just met."
Kahlen: "Me too!"

Day Three:
Richard: "Kahlen, I love you more than life itself. What? It's only been three days? Well, that still seems sensible."
Kahlen: "My sentiments exactly!"

Days Four through 20:
Richard: "Love, love, love."
Kahlen: "I love you, but we can never be together ever because of the magic."

Days 21 through 30:
Random Mord Sith comes in out of nowhere.

Days >30:
See Days Four through 20.


So, I didn't quite go into this with the best of intentions. I wanted to jump on the bandwagon since I felt like the only one not making fun of Goodkind. I do have to say, as much as it pains me to admit it, I kind of enjoyed Wizard's First Rule [US] [UK] [Kindle - only $4.99].

Ten years ago, I would have loved it more than anything. Five years ago, I still would have really really liked it. Today, I've realized I'm not quite the same reader I was before.

I've always loved what many term the "traditional" fantasy. Farmer/scullion learns true history that he/she is the ultimate of awesome, the supreme queen of butterflies and aardvarks, the master and commander.

While I enjoyed Goodkind's twist on this traditional tale, it was still a bit much for me at times. Richard is the boy-who-would-be-insert-title and he's just too perfect. He's good at EVERYTHING. Okay, he's a wilderness guide, so he's good at tracking and woodsy stuff (that's the technical term, believe me, I'm a woodsy guide). I can get behind that. But then he can fight and solve riddles and do rubik's cubes and everything.

Then, there's a distinct lack of foreshadowing. I'm sure there's another term that describes this even better, but 'foreshadowing' works at least at my level. We jump from one adventure to the next really without any warning. I don't think Wizard's First Rule will ever be considered a classic, but it's also hard to find even the most belligerent detractor of Goodkind saying a bad word about it.

There's the ultimate good versus bad tale going on, but to get to the end, there's so much padding with so many adventures in between. We have to go to the mud people so they can tell us stuff. Oops, the mud people can't tell us, we have to go to that mountain over there and it's such a dangerous mountain. Oops again, now we have to call a fairy by tapping our ankles twice while holding our breath, doing a somersault on a donkey and spelling the word Goodkind backward.

I know Eddings' Belgariad does much the same thing, but that has a special place in my heart, whereas The Sword of Truth was just too late in my reading career. Add to that the less than stellar feelings toward the later volumes in the series, you may not see me carrying on.

I will say, the ending was pretty good and will actually be moving my 3 star rating up to a 3.5. I can see why so many were suckered into having to finish this series.

3.5 out of 5 Stars (Really liked it)

Ps. For the longest time I honestly thought Wizard's First Rule was referring to to a Wizard's first time ruling a land or territory when in fact it is referring to something much more dumb.

11 February, 2012

eBook Deals, or Books I Bought Recently

I found some more good stuff. There's a few from Angry Robot, but if you look them up on Amazon, there's really not a bad deal on any of their books. If you were wondering, I am just slapping these together, I have no system for this other than searching for things I'm interested in.

-Wizard's First Rule by Terry Goodkind ($4.99) - Just finished, review to come shortly.
-The Damned Busters by Matthew Hughs ($2.99) - I'm reading this right now and it's great.
-Empire State by Adam Christopher ($3.99)
-Moxyland and Zoo City by Lauren Beukes ($2.99 and $2.99)
-Strata by Bradley Beaulieu and Stephen Gaskell (novella) (Staffer's Musings review)($0.99)
-Nemesis Worm by Guy Haley (novella) (Free)
-Dominion: A Coldfire Saga by C.S. Friedman ($2.99) - This is probably the normal price since it's not a full novel.
-Bio of a Space Tyrant Vol. 1: Refugee by Piers Anthony ($2.99) - This is probably the normal price as well since it was free not too long ago. Still a good deal for a full-length novel.

10 February, 2012

What's the Deal With... Editors These Days?

I just got an update on my Facebook feed that, sadly, I haven't been paying much attention to lately. John Marco is one of my favorite authors. If you haven't read the Tyrants and Kings series (beginning with The Jackal of Nar), you really should. It's got a wonderful blend of grey as far as characters are concerned. It's hard not to root for the bad guys at some points and hate the good guys at others.

Anyway, and the reason for this post, John Marco reported through his blog (The Happy Nerd) and on Facebook that he turned in the manuscript for his latest book, The Forever Knight, over a year ago - in October 2010 and his editor still has yet to read it. Why does this keep happening? Not long ago it was Ian Tregillis having problems getting things going with The Coldest War, book two in the Milkweed Triptych.

(Cover for The Sword of Angels)

I can see having a publishing schedule and I understand it's a long process, but come on. You haven't even read it yet? Not only is it disrespectful to the author who's put their blood and sweat into the writing, but it can't be good business. But then again, maybe everyone's just going with the George R.R. Martin formula, the longer you wait, the more you sell right?

As you can imagine, Marco is pretty frustrated with the whole situation as you can see in the comments on his facebook page. In responding to some fans who are eagerly awaiting the next book, he writes:
I can't wait either, but waiting is all I've been doing since I turned in the manuscript over a year ago! I'm still waiting on my editor to read it. It's frustrating as hell, but I'm glad you're looking forward to it.
Well, we've at least been given a tentative date for The Forever Knight, as Marco writes:
My next novel, The Forever Knight, will be published in November by DAW Books. It’s been a long wait and I’m looking forward to finally holding the printed book in my hands and seeing it in stores.

Please check this space from time to time for updates. I’ll also be posting an excerpt from the book within the next couple of months."

This was posted mid-January, but the comments about the editor not having read the book are from yesterday. I don't know if that's just to appease the author/fans for now because it seems like you'd need to get the process going pretty quickly if you want to meet that release date. I can say I'm looking forward to more from a really underrated author.

09 February, 2012

Epic Wheel of Time Giveaway #2: The Great Hunt

Here we go again, we're giving away book number two in The Wheel of Time, The Great Hunt [US] [UK] [Audible]. Remember, this is the audiobook.

This is another great installment in the series (you can read a couple of my thoughts here) and Michael Kramer and Kate Reading (love the irony) do another stellar job. I'm not lying when I say it's the best way to do a reread and there's something about someone else's way of reading that helps you see things in another light that you may have missed before.

Here's a clip:

Giveaway Rules

If you are interested in getting your hands on the The Great Hunt by Robert Jordan on audiobook, then follow the exceedingly simple instructions below.

E-mail me your name and address at onlythebestsff@[removethis]gmail.com, with "The Great Hunt...for my car keys, why do I have to do this every morning?" as the subject of the email (or at least something that lets me know what the email is about). This goes without saying, but double emails get you disqualified.

Snarky comments increase your chances of winning and win bonus entries for future giveaways. I'm sorry to say this is open in the US only as long as delivery doesn't require the mounting of an expedition into remote wilderness.

08 February, 2012

Review - Demon Squad: At the Gates by Tim Marquitz

God and the devil have called it quits and walked away. Angels and Demons are still around but don't really have any direction, leaving plenty of room for those who want power to go and take it. Thus enters our favorite nephew of Lucifer, Frank Trigg (don't call him Triggaltheron).

At the Gates [US] [UK] [Kindle] is book three in the Demon Squad series so check out Armageddon Bound (DS, Book 1) and Resurrection (DS, Book 2) before you read any further. There is also a short story, Betrayal, which is the perfect lead into At the Gates and definitely worth your time as well.

The Demon Squad series keeps getting better and better and more and more epic. I can't get enough. I first compared this to Harry Dresden meets the movie Constantine and I think that's still a very fitting definition...minus the suit.

(I wish I had a cross/gun)

At the Gates finds us right back where Resurrection left off. Scarlett's been beaten to within an inch of life and Heaven has been all but overrun by the angel Gabriel and his cronies. The final stand is in Eden, but the problem is getting back to Heaven.

The Nephilim (half angel, half human), vampires, lycanthropes, and shape-changers have all joined the fight to add to the fun.

Because of the turmoil in Heaven, the destruction is also leaking onto Earth through the Fall, which are deadly storms that let loose what look like ashes that destroy everything in their path.

What I love about this series is that Frank is completely awesome, but he'd be the last to say that. In fact, he fully believes the world is in a bad way if it needs to depend on him. But it usually does.

I also love that Tim takes things, like the Fall, that you've heard about (well, let's not make any presumptions here) and makes them into a type of plot device. It's genius. He works things like this into this series all the time in a perfect amount allusion and explanation.

The Demon Squad series just keeps getting better and better. I can't wait for more, but I guess we have to wait till December. But, let's be honest, it's pretty quick as much as I want another Trigg dose now.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

07 February, 2012

Winner: Epic Wheel of Time Giveaway #1 - Eye of the World

Hope your preparation for the final volume in the Wheel of Time, A Memory of Light, is going well.

We're happy to be able to help out one lucky person's progress in that regard today, but not before we award some extra entries for future giveaways to this deserving snarker:
You ever notice how big Lan's horse is? I wonder if he is trying to compensate for something... (Mark from WA)

While Mark hasn't won our giveaway (sorry), he gets two extra entries in any future giveaway of his choosing.

Now on to the winner...without further ado...the winner of The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan on audiobook is:

Jonathan Kennedy

Congrats to Jonathan!

Thanks to all those who participated and don't worry if you haven't won, we still have 12 more Epic Wheel of Time Giveaways to go.

06 February, 2012

Free eBooks from Baen

I'm sure you already know about Baen's Free library. I always knew about it, but could never get myself to read a whole book on a browser. Well, and this is probably something you already know as well, but it's also really easy to download any of their free library directly onto your eReader.

Here are a few of the free books I just downloaded:

There Will Be Dragons by John Ringo (Always wanted to read this, but this cover's bad even for Baen)
On Basilisk Station by David Weber
Sheepfarmer's Daughter by Elizabeth Moon
1632 by Eric Flint

There are also plenty of other high profile authors I haven't read, but that I'll be checking out such as Mercedes Lackey, Lois McMaster Bujold, and David Drake. Thought you might want to know if you didn't.

02 February, 2012

eBook Deals - I.e. Books I Recently Bought/Downloaded

I thought this was a good idea when I saw others doing similar posts. Now that I'm much more aware of eBook deals on my Kindle, I'll try to let you know what I've found even though you can probably find a million more sources for better information.

(Free ninety nine)

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht (review - A Dribble of Ink) [Free]
This is Not a Game by Walter John Williams (Loved his story in Songs of the Dying Earth) [$2.99]
An Election by John Scalzi (short story) [$0.99]
The Tale of the Wicked by John Scalzi (short story) [$0.99]
If at First... by Peter F. Hamilton (short story) [Free]
Wild Cards I Edited by George R.R. Martin [$2.99]
Miserere: An Autumn Tale by Teresa Frohock [$3.99]
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale [$2.24]
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde [Free]
H.P. Lovecraft Collections [Anywhere from Free to $2.99]
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson [Free]

Review - An Election by John Scalzi

I always know that when I read Scalzi I'll be entertained. Whether it's his science fiction, his blog (whatever), and now his short fiction.

An Election [Kindle - 99 cents] is a humorous story of a guy, David, who decides to run for city counsel. It just so happens no human has been a representative for the third district in 44 years, not to mention no human has even run for the position in 36.

David's husband, James, attempts to talk him out of it, but to no avail.

Most of the fun is found in the different aliens Scalzi's created, from a gelatinous blob who speaks in bubbles, to, well, let's just say there's suckers. David goes door-to-door meeting them and runs against them.

The running-mates, of course, are all aliens (if you can call them that at this point in the future), one of whom's only platform is that people should be able to eat each other's pets. Yep, the only stance.

I had fun, but I think I was expecting it to be funnier really. Still good, but not my favorite from Scalzi. It was still worth the $0.99 I paid, even though it was only about 15 or so pages (I think, my kindle skipped about 3-5% each page turn). Recommended.

3 out of 5 Stars