Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a blog meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books.

This week's WoW selection is:

Fuse (The Pure Trilogy) by Julianna Baggot
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Date: February 19, 2013
Pages: 408

We want our son returned.

This girl is proof that we can save you all. If you ignore our plea, we will kill our hostages one at a time.

To be a Pure is to be perfect, untouched by Detonations that scarred the earth, and sheltered inside the paradise that is the Dome. But Partridge escaped to the outside world, where Wretches struggle to survive amid smoke and ash. Now, at the command of Partridge's father, the Dome is unleashing nightmare after nightmare upon the Wretches in an effort to get him back.

At Partridge's side is a small band of those united against the Dome: Lyda, the warrior; Bradwell, the revolutionary; El Capitan, the guard; and Pressia, the young woman whose mysterious past ties her to Partridge in ways she never could have imagined. Long ago a plan was hatched that could mean the earth's ultimate doom. Now only Partridge and Pressia can set things right.

To save millions of innocent lives, Partridge must risk his own by returning to the Dome and facing his most terrifying challenge. And Pressia, armed only with a mysterious Black Box containing a set of cryptic clues, must travel to the very ends of the earth, to a place where no map can guide her. If they succeed, the world will be saved. But should they fail, humankind will pay a terrible price . . .

Even though "Pure" is still on my to-be-finished list, I'm already anticipating this sequel. If you're looking for some well developed dystopian YA-- this is your series.

An Unearthly Podcast Episode 5: Angels Take Manhattan

Part 1:

Part 2:

The Unearthly Podcast crew (with special guest Hydriatus) discuss the final appearance of the Ponds!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Book Review: Annals of Drakis Book 2: Citadels of the Lost by Tracy Hickman

I’m not sure why it took me so long to get to writing this. Something about the second part of a trilogy just says “repeat yourself, repeat yourself, plot summary, wait for the third book."

Yet despite that first impression, there’s really a wealth of differences between Song of the Dragon and Citadels of the Lost. It’s still the story of a group of escaped slaves of various races pursuing an ancient prophecy, hoping that it topples the evil Rhonas Empire, and it still features the Rhonas Elves as the main antagonists.  Only now there are dragons, and Soen, the Elf hunting Drakis and his party, is edging his way toward being a protagonist more than an antagonist.  While there was always an element of trust and suspicion involved, here it’s been promoted to main character status. Even after the action is all said and done, there’s always the question of who did what, who betrayed whom or did anybody at all, and why?

Part of this is because of Soen’s promotion to a relatively main character. While he still doesn’t interact with Drakis’s group, we follow him along on a quest to find Drakis, as well as being forced into becoming a fugitive himself. He has little intention for Drakis other than to turn him in for more prestige and to prevent him rallying enemies of the elves, but considering he’s joined a group of Drakis’s supporters (led by a fervent supporter of Drakis’s from the first novel) and is forced to lead them to victory against the army he’s supposed to support, while that army is now hunting for him… well, we’ve all seen story arcs like this. When Drakis and Soen finally meet with drawn swords, will they be pointed at one another, or at their mutual foes? I guess that’s for Blood of the Emperor to tell, isn’t it?

As far as Drakis, Jugar, Urulani, Ethis, Mala, the Lyric, and a few red shirts’ story goes, they continue on a quest, this time heading back South to civilization, and learning about the prior relationship between the humans and the dragons before the arrival of the elves. We get to deal with dragons who are lying about other dragons betraying other people, supposedly honored artifacts being passed along as methods of tracking, a woman that 90% of the party is convinced can never be trusted again manages to surprise everybody, someone is betrayed twice by the people they trust the most… you get the pattern. This is a suspicious novel, and you have to stay on your toes at all times while reading it if you don’t want to miss it.

As for the execution of this, well, some of the twists can be seen a mile away, some come out of nowhere, and altogether it can be pretty exhausting.  I wouldn’t call it bad, per se, but it keeps the book from being a casual read and can really stint the action at times.  I’m reminded of the latter Lords of the Ring novels, in which the betrayals and political maneuverings were often nothing more than distractions from the actual, interesting story.

Beyond the story itself, this is more The Two Towers than Empire Strikes Back. You learn some about the characters and a respectable amount about the mythology of the world, but ultimately we’re more concerned here with the voyage and what it means for the future than the past or the characters. Their traits have essentially been defined, and most if not all of the characterization we’re faced with here ultimately serves as a reminder of those traits rather than expounding upon them. Few of the individuals here trust one another, never mind being entirely open with one another.  Our perspective being limited to the thoughts of the protagonists being described, the reader is often as in the dark as the other characters and I can only hope that we are granted exciting reveals to match the frustration of trying to figure out what’s going on.

Two questions remain unanswered in this review: is the novel any good, and do I recommend it? In fact, I already answered those, although you would have to know my opinions of other classic works to be able to discern that. The Empire Strikes Back, I feel, is a masterpiece that is best viewed in the context of a trilogy but remains a gripping and emotional story in the hands of any viewer who might experience it. The Two Towers, on the other hand, is a valuable story only in the context of its own trilogy, requiring a sense of the adventures, the gains and losses that came before it, in order to give it a sense of scope and the characters their depth.

Like The Two Towers, Citadels of the Lost is an invaluable part of its own story, but without the entire epic, I cannot on good faith recommend it. Too much would be lost in attempting to view only the middle chapters of this story. However, to the point that I have read it, I do recommend the Annals of Drakis, and in so doing recommend Citadels of the Lost once you have read Song of the Dragon.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Books I Think I Can Recommend- Even Though I Haven't Finished Them

2012 has been the worst year ever for me reading-wise. My concentration has been nonexistent and it takes me about 20 false starts to find a book I can finish. I have no particular excuse other than perhaps an excess of good fortune. I'll start to read a book and immediately become distracted by any new, shiny cover that shows up on my doorstep.

The worst thing about the reading-ADD I seem to have developed is that I can't stick with a book even when I know it's a good book. I've run into a lot of books over the last year that are well written and compelling and I have no good reason to put them down. I just do...

I think part of my problem is that I've spent the majority of the last 10 years reading for blogging purposes and now, when I approach a book, I look at it as a job rather than something I do for fun. I have also had the same frustration with almost every television show I try and have ended up stalling out on virtually everything. I haven't gone back to watch "The Walking Dead," "Falling Skies," "True Blood," or "Game of Thrones" even though I really enjoyed the first few episodes of all of them. The only show I have watched a full season of in the last few years is "Person of Interest"- though I did finally go back and watch "Sherlock" on Netflix.

So, rather than not mention all the good books I've had the opportunity to read this year, I'd like to list a few that made an impression and promise myself that come hell or high water I'm going to go back and finish them.

Pure by Julianna Baggot

Of all the books I picked up this year "Pure" made the largest impression. It's dystopian YA- but don't let that discourage you from picking it up by thinking it's like all the other books glutting the market right now. The basic premise is one in which the world has been torn apart by atomic detonations. There are two groups of people who survived the detonations: those inside a Dome that were protected from the blasts who remain pure and unblemished; and those whose bodies were torn apart and fused to objects or other living beings and frequently turned into monstrous creatures. It's a dark, intelligent book that is going to the top of my to-finally-finish pile this year.

Sharps by K.J. Parker

I'm almost loath to admit that I have never read a book by K.J. Parker as I have heard so many good things about her (or him) over the years. "Sharps" takes its name from a premise that heavily features a fencing competition as part of the storyline. It may sound dry if you haven't read they synopsis, but what I've read so far is full of devious politics, deft dialog and plenty of action. Definitely one to go back to.

Three Parts Deadby Max Gladstone

I picked this one up for the cover and wanted to stay for the story.  It's almost hard to describe this book because it's not like anything I've ever read before. You have suit-wearing magical practitioners who have been hired to resurrect a murdered god. It sounds somewhat urban-fantasy in nature, but it doesn't have the first person narrative or the light-weight feel. The magic is unique and world-building, that I've seen so far, is first rate.

Dead Harvest (The Collector) by Chris Holm

The premise of "Dead Harvest" is very simple: the main character's job is to collect souls- until one day he comes across a soul he doesn't believe deserves to be sent to Hell and refuses to collect. Holm presents the story with a very cool noir feel and I'm sure that if I hadn't allowed myself to be distracted it would be one of those" quick, entertaining reads" I'm always hearing about.

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Generally speaking I'm pretty tired of both YA and vampire fiction, but I was intrigued enough to give "The Immortal Rules" a try and it's a book that I would like to finish. What makes "The Immortal Rules" different is a main character that doesn't want to be a vampire even though her life would be much easier if she embraced her blood-sucking impulses. There were some parts of the book that required some suspension-of-disbelief (mostly the ability to co-exist with humans who don't know her true nature) but Kagawa tells a pretty good story and I'd like to see how it ends.

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

This books has one of the best plots I've come across in a long time. Instead of boilerplate, militaristic grimdark fiction, you have the fantasy version of an embedded journalist sent with a hardened group of soldiers on a dangerous, covert mission. My favorite aspect of this story, so far, is the character of Captain Braylar (the leader of the warriors sent on the mission): he's well written, intelligent and not at all what I expected.

Low Town by Daniel Polansky

I'm actually reading "Low Town" right now and I'm enjoying the rare sensation of not having to force myself to continue. This is another book that can be put into the grimdark category but the only thing that has been mildly alarming so far is the language. "Low Town" is the story of The Warden: a former investigator turned criminal who ends up investigating the serial murders of young girls in his crime-ridden town. I don't really understand the cover of the book- it doesn't evoke the traditional fantasy feel of the story. But don't let that put you off- the writing is excellent and the characters are tailor-made for an ongoing series.

Wish me luck on my journey to get back into my fantasy reading groove. I'm hoping 2013 will be something of a fresh start for me. I've given myself a much needed breather for the last month and I'm looking forward to getting back to my regular blogging schedule.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to highlight upcoming book releases.

This week's Waiting on Wednesday selection is:

Blood Oranges By Kathleen Tierney
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Publisher: Roc
Pages: 288

My name’s Quinn.

If you buy into my reputation, I’m the most notorious demon hunter in New England. But rumors of my badassery have been slightly exaggerated. Instead of having kung-fu skills and a closet full of medieval weapons, I’m an ex-junkie with a talent for being in the wrong place at the right time. Or the right place at the wrong time. Or…whatever.

Wanted for crimes against inhumanity I (mostly) didn’t commit, I was nearly a midnight snack for a werewolf until I was “saved” by a vampire calling itself the Bride of Quiet. Already cursed by a werewolf bite, the vamp took a pint out of me too.

So now…now, well, you wouldn’t think it could get worse, but you’d be dead wrong.

Normally I might not necessarily highlight "Blood Oranges" as WoW title, writing it off as another vampire/werewolf bit of paranormal fiction in a genre littered with books just like it. But as Kathleen Tierney is actually a pseudonym for author Caitlin R. Kiernan I'm immediately intrigued. Kiernan has written some excellent fantasy fiction in the past and I have high hopes that "Blood Oranges" will show similar depth and imagination as her previous books. 

An Unearthly Podcast Episode 4: Power of Three

A Time Lord, two humans and a number of cubes. No more, no less. Sorry about the noise and volume issues; this is the first (and last) time I tried to record a podcast with my headset.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Link- 30 Cool eBooks You Can Grab for Less Than $3 Each

John DeNardo over at SF Signal has an awesome post up for Amazon specials on some fabulous scifi/fantasy titles.

 You can check it out HERE

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday

Waiting on Wednesday is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books.

This week's selection is:

Blood's Pride by Evie Manieri
Publisher: Tor
Date: February 19, 2013
Pages: 529

Rising from their sea-torn ships like vengeful, pale phantoms, the Norlanders laid waste to the Shadar under cover of darkness. They forced the once-peaceful fisher folk into slavery and forged an alliance with their former trading partners, the desert-dwelling Nomas tribe, cutting off any hope of salvation.

Now, two decades after the invasion, a rebellion gathers strength in the dark corridors of the city. A small faction of Shadari have hired the Mongrel, an infamous mercenary, to aid their fledgling uprising--but with her own shadowy ties to the region, she is a frighteningly volatile ally. Has she really come to lead a revolution, or for a more sinister purpose all her own?

I hate to admit it, but a lot of the appeal of this book lies in the cover. I have read a sample of the book and the character of Mongrel is pretty dark-- which I like because anti-heroes are usually written as male. But the cover sealed the deal.