29 April, 2013

(audiobook) Review - Carrie by Stephen King

As you know, my audiobook reviews are posted over at SFFaudio.com, so here's that handy dandy link and a little teaser:
First of all, this audiobook was read by Sissy Spacek. If you’ve been living under a rock, she’s the one who played Carrie in the classic film based on this book. She’s a great actress, although I’ve not seen this film, and she’s perfect for the reading of this book.
This is a bit misleading, but I'll let you check out the review of Carrie by Stephen King for the rest of my thoughts.

23 April, 2013

Brian McClellan AMA on r/Fantasy

I just wanted to let you know Brian McClellan is currently answering questions on reddit at r/fantasy. AMA stands for Ask Me Anything and literally anything goes. I'm about 70% through McClellan's debut, Promise of Blood, and I can already tell you it's excellent. Hope it doesn't tank it in the last hundred pages, but I doubt it will.

17 April, 2013

Review - The Devil's Armor (Bronze Knight #2) by John Marco

A number of trilogies will tend to have the following loose format: the first delves into the world of new and exciting things, the finale gives you that wonderful climax and denouement for these characters you've grown to love, but the second novel just kind of gets you there. It bridges a gap and makes the third book a little better, but in it's own right it's just there doing exactly what a bridge does. It looks cool from a distance, but when you're on it, it's just another road.

This is my oh-so-clever way to tell you The Devil's Armor [US] [UK] does not suffer from the sequel slump. You didn't see that coming at all did you?

In Marco's Tyrants and Kings trilogy, it was actually the second book, The Grand Design, that was my favorite of the entire trilogy. While I can't say so at this point as I've yet to even start the final book, but the same thing is looking to be a possibility in this trilogy as well. The Devil's Armor is an excellent sequel and while it serves as a great bridge to the third novel, it's a deep and compelling book all on its own.

It's no secret that epic fantasy is my main concentration. It just gets me. Not that I want to be alive through all that famine and disease and blood. I mean I really really like medical advancements. But I love reading about battles and history in the making. The problems epic fantasy addresses isn't constrained by history or the laws of physics, it can be anything even if many times it's the same boy-who-defeats-evil-lord plot. 

And that's another reason Marco pushes all the right buttons for me. He writes epic fantasy, but he turns a lot of the fantasy tropes on their heads. What happens if that evil dark lord is actually your best friend? What if all you have is an army of people with disabilities (you tear them a new one is what you do!)? What if your hero doesn't make the right decisions, what if he makes terrible decisions sometimes? What if the guy called "King Lorn the Wicked" isn't really a bad guy after all?

The Devil's Armor takes up a year after The Eyes of God, book one of the Bronze Knight trilogy, and starts with the civil war going on in Norvor. The Diamond Queen, Jazana Carr, has paid her way to an almost complete conquest of Norvor and King Lorn (the Wicked) realizes he's been betrayed by almost everyone around him. What a great opening this is, what a satisfying story in and of itself where King Lorn essentially betrays his betrayers.

We also go back to Lukien, who's busy defending Grimhold as is his calling now with the Eye of God keeping him alive. It's actually quite interesting that Lukien really doesn't make a huge appearance in this novel and yet I still consider this one of my favorites. I remember reading The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan and it drove me nuts that Rand was quite possibly in all of 3 pages in the whole book. Here, I hardly noticed until the very end, there were too many things I was interested in to even care.

Gilwyn has been put in charge of Jador as regent for the true ruler, White-Eye, who cannot even visit the place because her eyes prevent her from going anywhere that is too bright. The one-armed Baron Glass is also still in Grimhold and finding himself less and less useful as war has passed (for now) and everyone, including his friends, have gone to their old and new duties. 

Marco does an excellent job of seamlessly filling the reader in with details from the previous book, which is very unlike how I have done. Sometimes I like to struggle to find something out, but sometimes it's nice not to have to go look something up, to be told what happened and why this person or event is important. To be done succinctly without interrupting the flow of the novel is hard work, but it's pitch perfect here.

I think the thing I was most impressed with was how much I liked the character of King Lorn the Wicked. Marco writes some of my favorite characters and somehow my favorites are the ones that are supposed to be the bad guys.

Battles are fought, evil manifested, and betrayals are numerous. Marco knows how to plot a book (and series for that matter) and I'm amazed at where things end up from where they began. I thoroughly enjoyed this second installment in the Bronze Knight trilogy, an improvement on the first even and can't wait for more.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended!)

The Bronze Knight/Lukien/Inhuman Trilogy [Read in red]:
1) The Eyes of God (review)
The Devil's Armor
3) The Sword of Angels

Stand-alone in same universe:
- The Forever Knight (Released just last week)

10 April, 2013

Variety Pack Giveaway: Winners & Snark

Congratulations to Brandon H. on his successful entry! Regrettably, Brandon did not enter a full mailing address as per the explicit instructions of the giveaway. Brandon will have 24 hours to respond with a full mailing address or Caroline W. from WA shall be victorious. May destiny fold you into her loving embrace Caroline!

We had a fair number of participants in this giveaway and some quality snark as well, though the usual confusion as to what snark means remains. See the assorted snark and witticisms below.

I want to make a witty comment about how a plain text ad for term life insurance "makes above possible." - Jeff R.

I don't think i ever got so mad at another human being as i have since i started playing league of legends. - Josh R.

I sat here trying to make a pun using the word snark but it just turned into my brain going "Snarf Snarf" ala Snarf from Thundercats. It was terrible. - Bett W.

I was going to share this with a certain friend then I remembered that Orson Scott Card doesn't think he should have the right to marry the man he loves. - Joseph G.

Great site for reviews. - Bobby W.

Dragons and starships on the book cover? How could they possibly be bad? - Jeremy M.

I wonder how many people won't share because of your attempt to guilt-trip them into sharing. - Ross W.

07 April, 2013

Fantasy Ebook Releases for 2013

A big thanks to Michael J. Sullivan over on Reddit for putting together the list. You might notice that you won't be able to resist buying some of these in hardcover before the ebook comes out, but at $15 and up for the Feist, Modesitt, Donaldson, and Salvatore, it won't make much of a difference. Have any must reads on the list?
  • 03/12/2013 Bloodfire Quest: The Dark Legacy of Shannara by Terry Brooks ($12.99)
  • 03/19/2013 Shattered Pillars (Eternal Sky) by Elizabeth Bear ($11.04)
  • 03/26/2013 Wolfhound Century by Peter Higgins ($11.04)
  • 04/02/2013 Without a Summer (Glamourist Histories) by Mary Robinette Kowal ($10.67)
  • 04/02/2013 The Exiled Blade (The Assassini) by Jon Courtenay Grimwood ($8.99)
  • 04/02/2013 River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay ($12.99)
  • 04/09/2013 A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time) by Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson ($12.74)
  • 04/09/2013 Blood of Dragons (The Rain Wild Chronicles, Book 4) by Robin Hobb ($12.74)
  • 04/16/2013 Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage Trilogy) by Brian McClellan ($9.78)
  • 04/30/2013 Necessary Evil (Milkweed) by Ian Tregillis ($11.04)
  • 04/30/2013 NOS4A2: A Novel by Joe Hill ($13.59)
  • 04/30/2013 Bronze Gods (An Apparatus Infernum Novel) by A. A. Aguirre ($7.99)
  • 05/14/2013 Magician's End (Chaoswar Saga) by Raymond E. Feist ($14.99)
  • 05/14/2013 The Tyrant's Law (The Dagger and the Coin) by Daniel Abraham ($8.89)
  • 05/14/2013 The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson ($9.99)
  • 05/21/2013 The Red Plague Affair (Bannon and Clare) by Lilith Saintcrow ($8.89)
  • 05/28/2013 Antiagon Fire (Imager Portfolio) by L. E. Modesitt ($14.99)
  • 05/30/2013 Unfettered Anthology edited by Shawn Speakman (UNKNOWN)
  • 06/01/2013 Sovereign (The Books of Mortals) by Ted Dekker ($10.67)
  • 06/05/2013 Sworn in Steel: A Tale of the Kin by Douglas Hulick (UNKNOWN)
  • 06/11/2013 Limits of Power (Paladin's Legacy) by Elizabeth Moon ($12.99)
  • 06/18/2013 The Ocean at the end of the Lane by Neil Gaiman ($13.59)
  • 06/25/2013 Cold Steel (The Spiritwalker Trilogy) by Kate Elliott ($8.99)
  • 06/25/2013 Hunted (Iron Druid #6) by Kevin Hearne ($7.99)
  • 07/09/2013 The Secret of Abdu El Yezdi (A Burton & Swinburne Adventure) by Mark Hodder ($10.31)

  • 07/25/2013 Broken Homes (Rivers of London 4) by Ben Aaronovitch (UNKNOWN)
  • 07/16/2013 Witch Wraith: The Dark Legacy of Shannara by Terry Brooks ($13.99)
  • 08/01/2013 The Dark Defiles (A Land Fit for Heroes #3)by Richard K. Morgan (UNKNOWN)
  • 08/06/2013 The Companions: The Sundering, Book I by R. A. Salvatore ($15.37)
  • 08/06/2013 Emperor of Thorns (THE BROKEN EMPIRE) by Mark Lawrence ($12.99)
  • 08/06/2013 The Crown Tower: (The Riyria Chronicles #1)1 by Michael J. Sullivan ($9.99)
  • 08/06/2013 Warbound: Book Three of the Grimnoir Chronicles by Larry Correia (UNKNOWN)
  • 08/06/2013 Codex Born: (Magic Ex Libris: Book Two) by Jim C. Hines ($11.99)
  • 08/13/2013 Blood of Tyrants (Temeraire) by Naomi Novik ($12.99)
  • 08/27/2013 The Time of Contempt (The Witcher) by Andrzej Sapkowski ($9.99)
  • 08/27/2013 Chosen (Alex Verus) by Benedict Jacka ($7.99)
  • 09/17/2013 The Rose and the Thorn (The Riyria Chronicles #2)1 by Michael J. Sullivan ($9.99)
  • 09/19/2013 The Ace of Skulls by Chris Wooding (UNKNOWN)
  • 09/24/2013 Doctor Sleep by Stephen King ($16.84)
  • 09/24/2013 Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson ($9.99)
  • 10/01/2013 Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive #2) by Brandon Sanderson (UNKNOWN)
  • 10/15/2013 The Last Dark (LAST CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVE) by Stephen R. Donaldson ($16.99)
  • 10/08/2013 The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch ($13.99)
  • 11/26/2013 Dawn's Early Light: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences Novel by Pip Ballantine, Tee Morris ($7.99)
  • 12/03/2013 Malice (The Faithful and the Fallen) by John Gwynne ($9.99)
  • 01/01/2014 The Aeronaut's Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher (UNKOWN)
  • 01/20/2014 Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan ($5.99)

06 April, 2013

Giveaway: SF/F Variety Pack

Hear ye, hear ye! This Variety Pack Giveaway is open to all US contestants until April 9, 2013. Just fill out the form below and you are good to go. Winner take all!

As usual, sharing the post or writing in some good snark will net you a bonus entry. Good luck!

04 April, 2013

Review - Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier (Shadow Ops #2) by Myke Cole

One of the things that really gets me into a series is when an author creates a unique world or magic system and not only does a good job staying true to those ideas, but constantly and consistently using them throughout the story. Brandon Sanderson and Peter V. Brett are two authors that quickly come to mind where they have created such interesting and compelling worlds that I want to live and breath it no matter what happens, even when they're a doorstopper that doesn't further the plot all that much.

Myke Cole has created such a world with his Shadow Ops series even though it takes place in the present day. Magic is such an integral part of the world that it consumes the reader with its awesome implications. In addition, Cole has created a whole new world, the frontier, in a whole new dimension to be explored and similar to Matthew Woodring Stover's Heroes Die, takes technology to a world that has not advanced past the dark ages.
The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began to develop terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Overnight the rules changed…but not for everyone.

Colonel Alan Bookbinder is an army bureaucrat whose worst war wound is a paper-cut. But after he develops magical powers, he is torn from everything he knows and thrown onto the front-lines.

Drafted into the Supernatural Operations Corps in a new and dangerous world, Bookbinder finds himself in command of Forward Operating Base Frontier—cut off, surrounded by monsters, and on the brink of being overrun.

Now, he must find the will to lead the people of FOB Frontier out of hell, even if the one hope of salvation lies in teaming up with the man whose own magical powers put the base in such grave danger in the first place—Oscar Britton, public enemy number one...
Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier [US] [UK] actually begins just before the events of the last book, Control Point, and continues the story as well. Introducing a new lead character in Colonel Alan Bookbinder while continuing the story of Oscar Britton, who graces the top of the most wanted list of Selfers, or fugitive magic users who have not given themselves up to the military.

Something that comes off almost immediately is that Bookbinder is a much more sympathetic character than Oscar Britton. It's not the fact that he's one of the highest ranking officers in the Army, but only through pencil-pushing not through field work, but the fact that he is pushed into the world of magic out of nowhere, deprived of his family, and sent to a new world without any real assurances of seeing them again.

I know lots of people had problems with Britton in the first book, but I still liked him. I didn't always agree with the choices he made, one of which got a lot of people killed, but I thought he was compelling and interesting and like I said above, I almost immediately fell in love with the world Cole created.

Bookbinder, having such a high ranking in the military, experiences things a bit different than Britton when he comes into his magic, or rump latency since magic hasn't manifested. He's given a command position, but like most everyone who is magically inclined he is sent to the FOB or forward operating base. But that comes with its own problems as the present commander for the FOB, who is equal in rank with Bookbinder, doesn't take too kindly to his imposition.

That brings me to the point that there are lots of acronyms and many are actual ones used in the military as Cole himself is a military man. I've been extremely impressed at how seamlessly he has integrated the magical (and hence non-existent in the real world) acronyms, but I'm sure my lack of knowledge helps in that regard as well.

Fortress Frontier introduces us to the world of the Source, much more than did Control Point. Where CP focused on the actual base and Britton's training, FF takes us through the world, which shown to be much more dangerous (and even cooler) than we were first shown in CP.

Because of Britton's actions at the end of Control Point, the FOB is cut off from the normal plane of existence and the goblin hordes that have been fighting them to a standstill while the FOB was fully armed and stocked with food and ammo is getting even more brave. Thus, it's time for Bookbinder to show his mettle as a leader taking a small band of the best the FOB has, including a terromancer (uses earth magic) and a seven-headed snake creature who is a prince in his culture.

The interesting organization of this novel, what with starting just around the same time as the events of the first novel in the series and then continuing on both plots toward the end was a bold play that really worked with me. It's interesting to see another's take on the whole magic thing along with the instant reassignment in the military and Bookbinder is such a great character, I was happy to spend more time with his POV (not a military acronym, well, it probably is). Then, Bookbinder's POV is able to show us much more of the world of the Source, which turns out to be a vast and dangerous place, which is always good for more action in a fiction novel.

So what would happen if people suddenly started manifesting powerful magic? You'd get drafted. I don't think Myke Cole's that far off to be honest. I've expressed my opinions on urban fantasy before and while i don't hate it, I don't love it either. However, the Shadow Ops series is something I can get behind, this is my kind of urban fantasy. Highly entertaining, unending action, and great characters that make you think. What more can you ask for?

4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended!)

Shadow Ops series [read in red]:
1) Control Point (review)
2) Fortress Frontier
3) Breach Zone (forthcoming)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher