25 June, 2012

(short story) Review - Sandkings by George R.R. Martin

While studying for the bar (you're not the only one sick of hearing about this, believe me), I've had the hardest time focusing on one single book, especially if that book is over a couple hundred pages. My mind's just gone and I'm getting really worried it's not coming back.

Luckily, I have a couple short story collections and whatnot and short stories have been the perfect size for my overwhelmed and overstressed brain. You may have noticed a couple short story reviews in the last month or so and I don't see that abating for at least another month.

Sandkings is a collection of short stories from George R.R. Martin in the 80s. I plan on reading them all, but so far I've only read the title story, Sandkings, which is the last story in this book. I'm telling you, I really can't focus.

I actually found this copy in a used bookstore while hanging out in SLC with the amazing Sarah from Bookworm Blues, her husband, and little rascal, Fiona. She was nice enough to let me buy it ... after a knock-down drag-out Michael Jackson's Bad style fight, which she won.


Reasons you should NOT read Sandkings by George R.R. Martin:

- if you don't like short stories
- if you don't like science fiction
- if you don't like elements of horror
- if you don't like tiny 6-legged creatures
- if the thought of tiny 6-legged creatures crawling around gives you the creeps and makes you imagine things are crawling all over you when you really know nothing is
- if you HATE amazingly creative ideas
- if you CAN'T STAND a book that won't let you put it down
- if it DRIVES YOU NUTS that some people are just that much more gifted than you (or anyone else)

Sandkings is easily the best short story I've ever read and one I would put ahead of most full-length novels. Not only could I not stop reading until the end (only about 50 pages anyway), but I already want to reread it and I NEVER want to reread anything at least not this soon.

I was absolutely in love with the ideas presented. So much so that I was giddy while reading, I just couldn't wait to see what was next.

I know this is a tough book to get your hands on, but DO IT, it's so worth it if only for this short story. AMAZING!

5 out of 5 Stars (Theft might even be allowed, it's that good)

Here's the Goodreads summary if you're wondering what it's actually about:

"When Simon Kress returned to his home planet of Baldur from an offworld business trip, he was amused to find that his tank of Earth piranhas had cannibalized themselves into extinction, and of the two exotic animals that roamed his estate, only one remained. Now, in search of some new pets to satisfy his cruel pursuit of amusement, Simon finds a new shop in the city where he is intrigued by a new lifeform he has never heard of before ... a collection of multi-colored sandkings. The curator explains that the insect-like animals, no larger than Simon's fingernails, are not insects, but animals with a highly-evolved hive intelligence capable of staging wars between the different colors, and even religion--in the form of worship of their owner."

Note on finding a copy: Sandkings can be found in this short story collection (which is semi-difficult to find) as well as in Dreamsongs Volume I and probably a few other anthologies like The Weird by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

19 June, 2012

eBook Deals, or Books I Bought Recently

I couldn't resist a couple of these, especially Ray Bradbury's short story below. As a science fiction fan and as a fan of great ideas in general, his passing is a great tragedy. At least he will live forever through his writings.

The Playground by Ray Bradbury (short story) [$0.99] - If you need a small fix of Ray Bradbury, this may be the perfect thing.
The Exodus Gate (Rising Dawn Saga #1) by Stephen Zimmer [FREE] - Zimmer's done a great job around the blogging community, I really need to give this small press author a try.
John Carter Barsoom Series (7 Novels) by Edgar Rice Burroughs [$0.99] - It looks like this is a pretty huge collection with illustrations, everything I read about it looks like it's really what it says it is.
Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut [$3.99] - I know I've posted this before, but it's still such a good deal I just had to post it again. :)

13 June, 2012

News & eBook Deals, or Books I Bought Lately

First, the news:

Beware Damnation Books, Inc. They're a small press publisher who have put out a lot of good stuff over the last few years. One of their authors, Tim Marquitz, is attempting to get out of his contract and is having some problems as he explains.

Also, in much happier news (especially for Tim), the second book in his Blood War Trilogy, Embers of an Age ($3.95), is out already. Book one, Dawn of War, is still Free-ninety-nine (that's free).

eBook Deals:

The Hammer by KJ Parker [$2.99] - This was a tough one. I haven't actually read Parker, but I have some other stuff of hers/his and I'm 99% positive I will enjoy it all. :)
Crown of Vengeance (Fires in Eden #1) by Stephen Zimmer [$2.99] - Our former blog-mate, EdiFanoB, really enjoyed this one. (review here)
Dream of Legends (Fires in Eden #2) by Stephen Zimmer [$2.99]
Spirit of Fire (Fires in Eden #3) by Stephen Zimmer [$2.99] - This one was just released.

12 June, 2012

(Audiobook) Review - The Long Walk by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman

I've been going through a kind of mild Stephen King binge at the moment. I've mentioned before that I thought I wasn't a fan of the King and had given up on him for a while, but with my high enjoyment of his Dark Tower series, I've given him a second chance. This was not a bad idea.

The Long Walk [US] [UK] [Kindle] intrigued me when I started hearing people say it was like The Hunger Games, but darker. While I can see where this comparison comes from - a televised game of kids competing and ... I don't want to spoil it if you don't already know - it's not really anything close.

It's much more intimate and deep, it's more human, and it's not nearly as ridiculous and over-the-top. It crushed me and made me appreciate what it's like to be alive.

This book details the journey of 100 boys (up to 18) competing in a televised competition called The Long Walk. There's a starting point and an ending destination and really only a few rules to follow. The winner reaches the end first without getting a ticket.

If you don't want things to really be spoiled (these are only mild spoilers if any), you may not want to keep reading. Just thought I'd warn if you want the "pure" experience.

At first, the whole concept of The Long Walk didn't really make sense to me. Who volunteers to join a competition where not only does everyone die but the winner, but everyone joining has also seen the end when the kids are obviously suffering.

The first thing that got me (and by "got me," I mean sucked me in and made this a favorite book of mine) was the kind of secret language that was used. King, I've noticed, likes to make you feel like you're in on something bigger or at least something that not everyone knows. You read his books, you can speak his language along with other "Constant Readers" as he terms it.

The first phrase is "getting a ticket." At first, I was pretty sure what this meant, it's not revealed right away, but very quickly you find out that these kids who get a ticket get shot. Soldiers line the race waiting for the time when a boy will slow down enough, stop, or leave the race area and that's when they get their "ticket."

Essentially, the winner is the sole survivor.

And that's how we get to the next part of this secret language. The "warnings." A boy is warned when he falls under the mandatory 4 miles per hour that all racers must keep up. Each boy gets three warnings and then they get their "ticket."

A warning can be gained back only by time. Each hour you walk without a warning, you gain a warning back. So, you get three warnings, it takes you three hours of walking at 4 miles per hour to get back to having zero warnings again.

While King exceeds at amazing concepts like this one (I still can't stop thinking about this), he's even better with his characters, Ray Garrity especially.

King uses a third-person limited point of view, telling the tale from Garrity's perspective. We learn of and become very close to his group of friends, we find out whatever gossip or information comes down the line from the front-runners, but we really find out what it's like to and means to someone to survive.

It's amazing how little it takes to get your ticket in a situation like this. I mean, think about it, you may be perfectly fine any other day, but what if this is the day your appendix decides to act up? What if today's the day you get a small cold, what could it turn into? What if you get a simple Charlie horse?

In this race, it's almost always deadly.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Ray Garrity contemplates these simple occurrences, but then things just keep getting worse as you can imagine, especially as the the Long Walk carries on and your feet get more than tired, and you haven't slept in days.

The Long Walk is a book I won't soon forget. I don't plan on rereading books very often, but I will definitely reread this one. The fact that this isn't even considered one of King's best works gets me really excited for what's to come.

4.5 out of 5 Stars

07 June, 2012

Review - Darker Angels (Black Sun's Daughter #2) by M.L.N. Hanover

(source: www.scifiguy.ca)

Welcome to Urban Fantasy School

Here you will learn:

1) How to create a super cool, but smart-alecy heroine.

  • Also, learn to make a geeky hero/heroine seem cool.

2) How to create the best trampstamp (and incorporate it into the story seamlessly).

(very manly)

3) How to add a love interest to add just the right amount of sexy...if you didn't get enough with that trampstamp.

4) How to pose for the cover. In fact, if you want to specialize, author Jim C. Hines' has a masters program.

5) How to end all threads but possibly one. Gotta keep 'em coming back...for at least 20 more books!

6) Third person, second person, omniscience? Never heard of them, and you won't need them either!

Also, check out out our college of one-liners! All we do is listen to this guy every day.


It wouldn't really be UF if it didn't have the components mentioned above would it? I think we can all admit that there's a certain formula to Urban Fantasy and I'm not even saying that's a bad thing. What I am saying, however, is that it's one of the reasons I'm not completely sold on it either, for the same reason I'm not sold on crime procedurals on TV.

I tend to prefer my fantasy of the epic style (which does NOT involve anything formulaic), but like I said in my review for the first book in this series, when I do read Urban Fantasy, this series has been perfect for that itch.

Darker Angels [US] [UK] [Kindle] is book two in MLN Hanover/Daniel Abraham's Urban Fantasy series, The Black Sun's Daughter. While I make fun (because it's so very easy), this series is a great one. This book takes up right after Unclean Spirits, where Jayné Heller and her crew of demon-fighters are busier than ever checking out all the properties Jayné inherited from her deceased uncle, Eric. They quickly get a job that leads them to New Orleans where the interesting concept of demons "riding" humans (essentially taking them over) is applied to the voodoo located in that area.

Being located in New Orleans, the author does an amazing job setting the seen of the city post-Katrina. Not that I have any experience in Louisiana, Hanover/Abraham presents the plight of the city's inhabitants after the destruction in a very real way while portraying the action and adventure that are actually the focus of the story. It was not only impressive, but I felt it helped me understand what people have had to go through since that time.

Jayné is a great urban fantasy heroine, smart but actually very unlike the list above in that she doesn't bat you over the head with one-liners that honestly get a tad old (I'm looking at you Harry). She's vulnerable and lacks confidence in herself, which I think is something we call all relate to. And most importantly, she's very real. On top of that, it's really hard not to like her. Darker Angels is definitely worth your time.

3.5 out of 5 Stars (Recommended)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

04 June, 2012

A Silly, Yet Entertaining List of Books

I thought I'd share this silly (because I can't quite go all the way to funny on most counts) of "Cut-Rate Books." Here's the explanation blurb from the article:
With all the budget cuts schools and libraries have had to endure lately, it's hard to justify those bigger numbers when it comes to purchasing books

01 June, 2012

eBook Deals, or Books I Bought Recently

Tim Marquitz's sequel to Dawn of War is coming out soon so he's having a deal at the moment. It's free for the Barnes and Noble Nook at the moment with the hope that Amazon will drop its price in the next little while as well.

Dawn of War by Tim Marquitz [Free for Nook] [$1.99 Kindle]
Four in the Morning Edited by Tim Marquitz (anthology) [$3.99]
Call Me Joe by Pohl Anderson (short story) [$0.99]

The following is a special deal, not for an ebook, but for a good cause. Only $0.99 for this great picture and it will go to the Children’s Hospice Charity. This picture was created by author Mark Lawrence's daughter, Celyn. Find out more here.