Tag Archives: Book Reviews

#BookReview: The Witchwood Crown by @TadWilliams

I am a great fan of Tad Williams’ work, in all its many incarnations. The Witchwood Crown is his most recent release, a follow up to his masterpiece series, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn. It is a fitting continuation of the original story featuring four great characters, Simon Snowlock, Miriamele, Binabik, and Jiriki.

I became a confirmed fan of epic fantasy in 1988 when I first entered the world of Osten Ard and The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams. Simon was such a complex, sometimes clueless character that I was immediately drawn to him. Miri was also clueless and naïve. Binabik, Tiamak, and Jiriki had the wisdom needed to guide these two toward making good decisions.

Throughout the original series set in Osten Ard, it seemed like each character was deserving of a novel, and the diverse races whose cultures were so clearly shown fascinated me. The bigotry and arrogance shown by some members of each race, each believing in their innate superiority struck me as illustrating a sad truth about the real world.

When this new series set in Osten Ard was announced, I was curious as to how Tad Williams would maintain that deep connection to the story after such a long absence. In my opinion, The Heart of What Was Lost proved Williams had not lost his touch, that indeed, he had matured as a writer.

I bought the Kindle version of The Witchwood Crown, but also downloaded the Audible book, because I have a monthly subscription. Andrew Wincott is the narrator, and he’s an incredible reader. His narration makes this one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. I read along with his narration, which is an awesome experience.

The Witchwood Crown, by Tad Williams

  • Series:Last King of Osten Ard (Book 1)
  • Hardcover:736 pages
  • Publisher:DAW; First Edition edition (June 27, 2017)
  • Language:English

MY REVIEW (as originally posted on my review blog, Best in Fantasy):

This book is not a light read. Tad Williams’ work is brilliant and complex because he understands the character arc and the importance of agency and consequences. Change and growth or degeneration happen to each character over the course of the story—no one is allowed to stagnate. With a character-driven plot set in a fantasy world, the growth of the characters is the central theme. The events, shocking and yet unavoidable, are the means to enable that growth.

The story opens some thirty years after final passages of To Green Angel Tower. Many events have occurred in that time, leaving scars on those who have lived through them. Prince Josua and his family have vanished. The League of the Scroll is no longer what it was, death and age having taken most of the people who had the knowledge. Simon and Miriamele have lost a son to a deadly fever, and are deeply concerned about the behavior of Prince Morgan, their grandson and heir. They have reservations about their son’s widow and fear her influence has ruined him. They also fear for their very young granddaughter, Lillia.

There are other problems for Simon and Miri to contend with. Political unrest, lack of hospitality and rudeness by the King of Hernystir, trouble in Nabban, and rumors that the Norns are stirring. Simon, who has always been gifted (or cursed) with prophetic dreams, is no longer dreaming. A council is held, and it emerges that Binabik the troll also has concerns.

Prince Morgan is more than just a womanizing young noble, but he doesn’t know it. Jiriki and the Sithi will have a large part to play in Prince Morgan’s journey, as they did in his grandfather Simon’s journey to manhood. Whether or not Prince Morgan is the kind of man his grandfather is, remains to be seen.

The Witchwood Crown is an epic fantasy which will put some hoity toity literary purists off. It is literary, illuminating the internal lives of the many characters, and is centered upon how the perception that the king is dying has gendered plots and plans for coups among many factions. This lack of focus on one primary hero will put off the genre purists who need more noise and sixty-second sound bites in their literature. Those readers will find it difficult to follow the many threads.

Osten Ard is a place of contrasts. Dark, in many ways Gothic, negotiating the rough waters of this dark-age world is not easy. The three main cultures differ greatly from each other and are worlds of extremes. These contrasts drive the plot and frame the story in such a way the world of Osten Ard seems more real and tangible than this world. The room in which I read grows colder when the Norns breeze into the narrative.

In the years since the original publication of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad Williams has matured as an author. His prose is beautiful, almost poetic yet not going there. Harsh, lush, and carefully designed with layers of allegory and subtext, some readers will find the narrative too literary, difficult to read. Williams has a large vocabulary and sometimes takes the long way rather than dumping you into the fray immediately. He isn’t afraid to use compound sentences, which makes it an adult read. Other, more avid readers, like me, will devour it, savor it, and think about the deeper concepts long after closing the book on the final page.

I give this novel five stars for its complexity, maturity, and sheer originality. A powerful narrative, this book left a different kind of mark on me as a reader than the original series did. That series is young and brash, detailing the early days of kitchen boy who became king. A young and brash author wrote that first amazing series. This book is mature, not only because the author has matured in the craft but because the king is older—it shows us who that boy became, what kind of man he is, and offers us a glimpse of who might succeed him.

I look forward to the next chapter in this very large story.


Tad Williams is a California-based fantasy superstar. His genre-creating (and genre-busting) books have sold tens of millions worldwide. His considerable output of epic fantasy and epic science-fiction series, fantastical stories of all kinds, urban fantasy novels, comics, scripts, etc., have strongly influenced a generation of writers. Tad always has several secret projects on the go. 2016 will see the debut of a number of them; March 2017 brings ‘The Witchwood Crown’, the first volume in the long-awaited return to the world of the ‘Memory, Sorrow & Thorn’ novels. Tad and his family live in the Santa Cruz mountains in a suitably strange and beautiful house.

You can find out more about Tad Williams and his books at www.tadwilliams.com  


Credits and Attributions

This review of The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams, as reviewed by Connie J. Jasperson,  was originally posted on Best in Fantasy,  on November 16, 2017

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#amreading: Into the North, by Lindsay Schopfer

Today I’m talking about a book written by Indie author, Lindsay Schopfer. I enjoyed the first book in the series, The Beast Hunter, and Into the North is a fitting sequel to Keltin’s first adventure. Both are stand-alone novels, so you don’t have to have read The Beast Hunter to know what is going on.

But First, THE BLURB:

Professional beast hunter Keltin Moore is returning home a changed man. With a new apprentice and a lifetime of experience gained in faraway Krendaria, he prepares to settle into his old life of being a small town hero. But when gold is discovered in the far north, Keltin must again leave his home in order to protect the prospectors from the beasts ravaging the gold fields. Arriving in the boom town of Lost Trap, Keltin soon discovers that there are dangers beyond beasts in the frozen north. A local gang has established themselves as the resident Hunters Guild and will not tolerate any competition. Meanwhile, a specter haunts the gold fields. A legendary creature known as the Ghost of Lost Trap stalks the snowy countryside, testing Keltin and his friends to their very limits as they try to hunt their most dangerous beast yet.

MY REVIEW:

Like Schopfer’s other work, this novel is well-structured, with creative environments, good tension, and deep characters. It is a complex tale, layered with political and ethical themes. As in The Beast Hunter, the technology is all that which we would find available in any late 19th century steampunk tale, but there the similarity ends. Keltin is a beast hunter, and the Ghost of Lost Trap is not your average Edwardian creature. The creatures in this series are some of the most horrific things I have seen outside of an RPG, all of them fun and dangerous.

Keltin Moore is still slightly flawed, and still intriguing. He still has family troubles and will likely always have trouble getting along with certain members of his own species. He lives in a world of diverse sentient races of people, and the prejudice and political intrigue stemming from that diversity is central to their culture. One of my favorite characters is Bor’ve’tai, a member of a species called the Loopi, and he makes a return.

A bounty hunter, Keltin is used to working alone, but now he has an apprentice—Jaylocke, the Weycliff Wayfarer. Jaylocke is, at times, hilarious, and is a good foil for Keltin’s intensity. The people they meet along the way and the relationships they forge with other species are the core of this story. Lindsay Schopfer’s knack for showing a good story really shines, as the action driven plot, rather male-dominated but multicultural society, and solid, well-drawn characters of many different species make this novel a good read.

I received an advance copy of this book as a Beta reader. I enjoyed it very much in that incarnation, and liked the finished product even more. I highly recommend it as an action adventure.


I will be a guest author participating in the official online launch party on Facebook, Saturday April 15, beginning at 4:oo p.m. Pacific time. Four other wonderful authors will also be participating, helping to boost the signal so feel free to log into Facebook and  join in the conversation. Some awesome prizes could be yours!

Into the North Online Launch Party

Log on and engage with some fantastic fantasy and steampunk authors as we celebrate the release of Lindsay Schopfer’s latest novel, “Into the North.” Our lineup of authors is as follows:

4:00 to 4:30 pm PDT – Pembroke Sinclair (7:00 EDT) (US) Pembroke Sinclair is a literary jack of all trades, playing her hand at multiple genres. She has written an eclectic mix of fiction ranging from horror to sci-fi and even some westerns. Born in Rock Springs, Wyoming–the home of 56 nationalities–it is no wonder Pembroke ended up so creatively diverse. Her fascination with the notions of good and evil, demons and angels, and how the lines blur have inspired her writing. Pembroke lives in Laramie, Wyoming, with her husband, two spirited boys, a black lab named Ryder, and a rescue kitty named Alia, who happens to be the sweetest, most adorable kitty in the world! She cannot say no to dessert, orange soda, or cinnamon. She loves rats and tatts and rock and roll and wants to be an alien queen when she grows up.

4:30 to 5:00 pm PDT – Terry Persun (7:30 EDT) (US) Terry Persun’s books have taken readers to the uncharted worlds near the edge of the galaxy (“Hear No Evil”), to lands where shape shifters battle humans (the “Doublesight” series), to the near future in both technology (“The Killing Machine” and “Revision 7:DNA”) and shamanism (“The NSA Files” and “The Voodoo Case”), all while keeping the pace with thriller/suspense novels. He’s also ventured into history (“Sweet Song” and “Ten Months in Wonderland”), contemporary crime (“Man by the Door” and “Mistake In Identity”), and mainstream novels (“The Perceived Darkness”, “Wolf’s Rite”, and “Deception Creek”).

5:00 to 5:30 pm PDT – Katherine Perkins (8:00 EDT) (US) Katherine Perkins lives wherever the road of a Visiting Assistant Professor’s family takes her, her husband, and one extremely skittish cat. She was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and will defend its cuisine on any field of honor. She is the editor of Jeffrey Cook’s Dawn of Steam series and serves as Jeff’s co-author for the YA Fantasy Fair Folk Chronicles (beginning with Foul is Fair) and various short stories, including those for the charity anthologies of Writerpunk Press. When not reading, researching, writing, editing, or occasionally helping in the transcription of Braille songbooks, she tries to remember what she was supposed to be doing.

5:30 to 6:00 pm PDT Connie J. Jasperson (8:30 EDT) (US) This is ME!!! I bill myself as an author, blogger, and medieval renaissance woman. Feel free to join the conversation on Facebook–I will be talking about the Tower of Bones series and giving away 2 eBook downloads of book one in the series, Tower of Bones.

6:00 to 6:30 pm PDT – Nicole J. Persun (9:00 EDT) (US) Nicole J. Persun started her professional writing career at age sixteen, when Booktrope Editions published her novel A Kingdom’s Possession. Her second novel, Dead of Knight, won Gold in Foreword Magazine’s 2013 Book of the Year Awards. Aside from novels, Nicole has had short stories, flash fiction, poetry, and essays published in a handful of literary journals. With a Master’s in Creative Writing, Nicole lives in Washington State.

6:30 to 7:00 pm PDT – Lindsay Schopfer (9:30 EDT) (US) Lindsay Schopfer is the author of The Adventures of Keltin Moore, a series of steampunk-flavored fantasy novels about a professional monster hunter. He also wrote the sci-fi survivalist novel Lost Under Two Moons and the fantasy short story collection Magic, Mystery and Mirth. His short fiction has appeared in Merely This and Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk from Writerpunk Press and Unnatural Dragons from Clockwork Dragon.

All the participating authors will share tidbits about their work, and some will have games. Several are offering prizes to participating visitors. As I mentioned above, I will be talking about the Tower of Bones series and giving away Kindle downloads of Tower of Bones to two lucky winners.

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#bookreview: The Heart of What Was Lost, by @TadWilliams #OstenArd

tadwilliams-the-heart-of-what-was-lostI just finished reading Tad William’s latest book. Wow! Told from three points of view, Duke Isgrimnur of Rimmersgard, a Norn leader, Viyeki, and Porto, a Perdruinese mercenary, The Heart of What Was Lost, by Tad Williams is a gripping, worthy return to the world of Osten Ard.

But first, THE BLURB:

At the end of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Ineluki the Storm King, an undead spirit of horrifying, demonic power, came within moments of stopping Time itself and obliterating humankind. He was defeated by a coalition of mortal men and women joined by his own deathless descendants, the Sithi.

In the wake of the Storm King’s fall, Ineluki’s loyal minions, the Norns, dark cousins to the Sithi, choose to flee the lands of men and retreat north to Nakkiga, their ancient citadel within the hollow heart of the mountain called Stormspike. But as the defeated Norns make their way to this last haven, the mortal Rimmersman Duke Isgrimnur leads an army in pursuit, determined to end the Norns’ attacks and defeat their ageless Queen Utuk’ku for all time.

Two southern soldiers, Porto and Endri, joined the mortal army to help achieve this ambitious goal—though as they venture farther and farther into the frozen north, braving the fierce resistance and deadly magics of the retreating Norns, they cannot help but wonder what they are doing so very far from home. Meanwhile, the Norns must now confront the prospect of extinction at the hands of Isgrimnur and his mortal army.

Viyeki, a leader of the Norns’ military engineers, the Order of Builders, desperately seeks a way to help his people reach their mountain—and then stave off the destruction of their race. For the two armies will finally clash in a battle to be remembered as the Siege of Nakkiga; a battle so strange and deadly, so wracked with dark enchantment, that it threatens to destroy not just one side but quite possibly all.

Trapped inside the mountain as the mortals batter at Nakkiga’s gates, Viyeki the Builder will discover disturbing secrets about his own people, mysteries both present and past, represented by the priceless gem known as The Heart of What Was Lost.

MY REVIEW:

the-heart-of-what-was-lostI became a confirmed fan of epic fantasy in 1988 when I first entered this world of Osten Ard and the books of Tad Williams. It seemed like each character was deserving of a novel, and the diverse races whose cultures were so clearly shown fascinated me. The bigotry and arrogance some members of each race have with regard to their innate superiority struck me as illustrating a sad truth about the real world.

When this new series set in Osten Ard was announced, I was curious as to how Tad Williams would maintain that deep connection to the story after such a long absence. When The Heart of What Was Lost was launched, I bought the hard-copy, but also downloaded the Audible book, because I have a monthly subscription. Andrew Wincott is the narrator, and he’s an incredible reader. His narration makes this one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. Like some gutter-dwelling book junkie, I read along with his narration–an awesome experience.

This is not a long novel, only 224 pages. It is well-written, with the harsh, beautiful prose I have come to expect from Tad Williams. Most importantly, an inspiring story is encapsulated in those pages. I found the pacing excellent, and at times, heart stopping. There is no place where it slows or becomes pedestrian.

Osten Ard is created from both good and evil, with all the many grey places between those two absolutes clearly defined. For each misery, some small glimmer of hope is introduced, offering a reason for the characters to keep struggling. The unlikely friendship between Porto and Endri is deep despite their humorous rivalry. Through their eyes we see the truth of the conflict and what it means in terms of human suffering.

Duke Isgrimnur is strong and resolute, driven on every level. He is faced with hard decisions, an impossible task, and does what he has to. A many-layered character, Isgrimnur is one of my favorite people in the series, as is Sludig. I had wondered about them at the end of To Green Angel Tower. This ties up their threads well.

Opposite Isgrimnur is Viyeki,  a Norn who has risen high in the Order of Builders. He has also been given an impossible task. It is through him we feel some compassion for the Cloud Children, the immortal Norns, and what they have lost. His thoughts and the way he deals with the constraints he is under illustrate the alien society he loves, making their reasoning more clear to us. He sees many things that worry him, but as a Host Foreman, his position is somewhat perilous. His world is at stake, but faced with conquering the terrors of the deeps or being crushed by the enemy, he is beset on all sides, caught in the middle. He has questions, doubts, and the answers he is given offer him no comfort.

I give this book five full stars. In the watershed series, Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad Williams originally created the world of Osten Ard masterfully, exploring it through the diverse people’s thoughts and conversations. This novel is a brilliant continuation of that tale. He uses his characters’ impressions to show the setting, the history, and the core of the conflict. Through their eyes, we know this amazing world. At the end of the book, it’s hard to let them go.

You can find  The Heart of What Was Lost, by Tad Williams  in paper, as an audiobook, or a Kindle download at Amazon. It is also available at other eBook retailers, and in paper at all brick and mortar stores.

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Kacey Vanderkarr, Poison Tree (Reflection Pond, Book 2)

As you know, I love to talk shop, and love to hear what other authors have to say about their work and the craft. Recently I read a deep, well-crafted novel written by indie author, Kacey Vanderkarr. The book is called Reflection Pond and I liked it enough to feature it on my book review blog, Best in Fantasy. (You can read my review of her wonderful book here.) Kacey has consented to answer my inelegant questions (further down this post) and what she has to say is quite interesting!

She has written a sequel, Poison Tree (Reflection Pond, Book 2),  and I am happy to have been offered the opportunity to be one of the first to reveal the cover–and a lovely cover it is. And she has also agreed to answer a few questions regarding her work and her life as an indie author–and wow, what great insight into the industry she has.  But first–THE BLURB:

Poison Tree

By Kacey Vanderkarr

Release date: December 2, 2014

The road to the City of War is dangerous.

With their home in ruins, Callie and Rowan are Eirensae’s last hope of stealing the cauldron back from Fraeburdh. They must travel into the human world where the Fallen hide. The banished fae wait for Callie, desperate to sacrifice her before she comes of age.

If Callie and Rowan survive the journey, something worse looms in Fraeburdh. Rowan is destined for a dark family legacy too horrifying to accept, and his father is anxious to welcome him home. Once the truth is revealed, will Callie ever look at Rowan the same way?

Trapped between feuding cities lost in a centuries’ old war, Callie and Rowan will face their biggest rivals yet, and neither of them will make it out unscathed.

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(Just so you all know, I am definitely going to buy that book!)

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And now the Cover:

poison-tree-ebook

 

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That’s an awesome cover to go with such an intriguing blurb.  And now, we meet the author, an amazing woman who is a driving force in the writing life of Flint, Michigan.

CJJ: Tell us a little of early life and how you began writing:

KV: I began writing back in high school, though I didn’t officially consider myself a writer until I was on summer break from my first semester of Ultrasound school. Inspiration struck in that four-week break and I spent it writing my first complete novel, a YA Fantasy that I’ve since rewritten. I fell in love with those characters, and to this day, I still have a soft spot for them. It took some time, but I realized that I could fall in love with other, different, characters, and I have again and again, through novels and short fiction. I think writing is part neurosis and part pure joy. There are times when I love and hate it equally!

CJJ: Tell us about your most recent book.

KV: Poison Tree is Book 2 in the Reflection Pond Series. It’s the continuation of Callie and Rowan’s story as they make their way from home into the dark faerie city, Fraeburdh, which is also known as the City of War.

I’ve always been fascinated with fantasy. In doing some research, I found information on a legend involving four treasures. My own story is loosely based on the original four treasures of Tuatha Dé Danann.

CJJ: Do you have a specific ‘Creative Process’ that you follow, such as outlining or do you ‘wing it’?

KV: I am a certified winger. Swooper. Pantser. Whatever you want to call it. I usually have a general skeleton of a story when I start, a beginning, middle, end, though I never outline. There may be an idea for a scene or two as well. My joy doesn’t come from structure, but spontaneity. I’ve tried outlining before, and then I feel determined to stray as far from that plan as possible. I love the blank page, the possibility. I save the note taking for after I’ve written the rough draft.

CJJ: How does your work differ from others of its genre?

KV: I think that Reflection Pond and Poison Tree take risks. I had a reviewer suggest that Reflection Pond be marketed to ages 17+ because it has a “handful of profanity” and “alludes to child abuse.” It doesn’t allude. It happened, and I’m not going to apologize for it. I’m not scared to examine the dark parts of life, and I don’t condone blindfolding my readers to make them feel more comfortable. These books cover a lot of dark topics, and I’m proud of that, especially when reviewers say that it’s handled in a sensitive manner. The truth is, bad things happen to people who read YA, and everyone needs a character that they can relate to. Not everyone will be able to connect to my characters when they read and that’s okay. But for those who have suffered and survived, there is still hope, and I want them to find it when they read my books.

CJJ: Why do you write what you do?

KV: I write based on inspiration. A lot of that manifests as YA, though I have written a few adult short pieces, some new adult, and some straight up fantasy. I think young adult looks at a very transitional place in a character’s life. It gives a lot of options to the writer. That being said, I have absolutely no idea where my career will take me. Right now, I consider myself a YA writer, in the future? Who knows!

CJJ: I know why I chose the indie route for my work, but I’m curious as to why you’ve chosen this path.

KV: I am all over the place when it comes to publishing. My first book, Antithesis, was published by Inkspell Publishing, which is a small press. That was a great experience for me. I learned how to market, how much work it is to publish a book, how to work with an editor and cover designer. Inkspell is very supportive and patient with their authors. However, for my second book, Reflection Pond, I opted to self-publish. I’d sent it to agents, had a few bites of interest, but nobody wanted to pick up the series. At that point, I had to make a choice. Who did I write this book for? In the end, it was myself, and if I wanted it to be out there in the world, then I had to publish it myself, too. It was a long process with a lot of ups and downs and uncertainty, but I’m SO HAPPY I did it. Self-publishing has opened even more doors for me and widened my net of contacts. I’m proud of these books because every page is mine.

However, I still want an agent, which is why I’m now querying a different project. So, I’ve done a bit of everything. I’d love to have an agent and publish traditionally. The important thing is patience, which is what I keep telling myself!

CJJ: What advice would you offer an author trying to decide whether to go indie or take the traditional path?

KV: I think both traditional and self-publishing have their pros and cons and neither one is better than the other. What matters is the work. Traditional publishing is a bit like having good luck. Your writing can be amazing, but you have to attract the right agent at the right time, and then again with an editor and publisher. Self-publishing gives you more freedom. You get to choose who you work with, have say in what your cover looks like, make editing decisions.

Both paths are hard.

If you indie publish, I suggest making friends with someone who knows the ropes and can help you get it done. That’s the great thing about writers, we’re friendly and helpful, colleagues not competition, because we’re also readers who love good books.

The last bit of advice is DON’T GIVE UP. If you want to indie publish, do it. If you indie publish and still want an agent. Go for it. There is no wrong way. Don’t let the industry, your family or friends, or yourself keep you from your dreams. Just remember, the publishing industry moves SLOW, SLOW, SLOW, so have patience and trust your gut.

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I have to say, I really enjoyed reading her answers–Kacey Vanderkarr has some awesome advice for all authors, not just indies there!

 

Kacey VanderkarrKACEY VANDERKARR is a young adult author. She dabbles in fantasy, romance, and sci-fi, complete with faeries, alternate realities, and the occasional plasma gun. She’s known to be annoyingly optimistic and listen to music at the highest decibel. Kacey is president of the Flint Area Writers and the Social Media Director for Sucker Literary. When she’s not writing, she coaches winterguard and works as a sonographer. Kacey lives in Michigan, with her husband, son, and crazy cats. In addition to her novels, Antithesis and Reflection Pond, Kacey’s short fiction is featured in Sucker Literary Vol III, Out of the Green: Tales from Fairyland, and will appear in Spark Vol VII and the inaugural issue of Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things. Check out her website: www.kaceyvanderkarr.com.

You can purchase the wonderful book that begins this series at:

Reflection Pond on Amazon

If I were you I would Add Poison Tree on Goodreads--I just did!

And here is her Author Facebook Page–go out and ‘like’ her–she’s an awesome person!

Kacey Vanderkarr’s Blog-check it out!

And finally–you can follow her on Twitter!

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But let’s talk about books for a while

I noticed something this weekend–I’m obsessed with books.  No, it’s true! Apparently, and I have to agree, it’s all I can think of to discuss. Not only that, but my friends are all obsessed with what they are reading, too.

What a surprise!

So what have I read lately that really rings my bells? Several things, actually, in a wide range of genres.

Sleeping Late on Judgement Day Tad WilliamsI just finished the third book in Tad Williams’s Bobby Dollar series, Sleeping Late on Judgement Day. Wow, my favorite bad angel, Bobby Dollar, finally gets a break. I love the twists and turns of William’s prose, as his hard-boiled angel gets down to the dirty business of cleaning up the mean streets of Heaven. He uses ordinary words in an extraordinary way, but never commits the sin of dropping the reader out of the story.  THIS is why I read his work.  I highly recommend this book to all those who like a bit of a hardboiled-detective twist to their paranormal fantasy. It is a smart, well-crafted journey into the human condition, set in an environment guaranteed to keep things interesting, and peopled with unforgettable characters. I gave it 5 full stars on my book review blog, Best in Fantasy.

Better You Go Home Scott DriscollI also read Better You Go Home, by Seattle area author, Scott Driscoll.  This is not fantasy, it is literary fiction and a medical thriller. Chico Lenoch is an intriguing character. The tale is told in the first person, which I usually find difficult to get into as a reader, but didn’t in this case. Also something I usually find off-putting but didn’t in this case is the way Chico occasionally ‘breaks the fourth wall’–he sometimes addresses the reader directly. It works, because you are in his head the whole time and it feels perfectly natural. Driscoll is a professor at the University of Washington, and is work is both literate and intriguing. This is not genre fiction, instead it is written for mature, dedicated readers who want substance in a book. No fluff here, just good solid craftsmanship. I also gave it five full stars in my review.  But let’s be real–I don’t go to all the trouble of reviewing books I don’t love.

Doublesight--Terry PersunThen, in July I read a fantasy by another local author, Terry Persun: Doublesight. This was the most intriguing twist on the old shapeshifter theme I had ever read. Wholly human or wholly crow depending on what form she is in, Zimp is a great character, both endearing and aggravating. At first, she is weak and allows a less qualified, but more aggressive clan member, Arren, to make decisions for her. This book is as much about personalities and the need to remember their own commonality as it is about the great evil that threatens their kind. Each individual is sharply drawn, and has presence, struggling for their own place in their society while their world faces calamity. Zimp and Lankor, who is a doublesight dragon,  struggle to do what they know is right, in the face of treachery and occasional bad judgement.

The MArtian Andy WeirMy mind is still blown by The Martian, by Andy Weir. This is hardcore science fiction and may well be the best book I read all year. Mark Watney is hilarious. He is the sort of man who gets through life by finding something positive in every disaster, and mocking the hell out of everything that is negative. A horrendous storm destroys much of their base, and his team is forced to abort their mission.  During the emergency evacuation of the Ares 3 landing site, he is severely injured in an accident that appears to have killed him. His body is unretrievable, and unaware that he is still alive, he is left behind. His companions begin the long journey back to Earth, grief-stricken at his sudden death. However, Mark is that rare breed of human, an astronaut, so of course he is extremely resourceful. He does what he has to in order to survive his injuries, and then figures out exactly what he must do to stay alive until the next mission.

I definitely read a mix of self-published and indie authors, but I like authors who take chances with their work, and who eschew the hamster wheel to hell of the Big Six publishing giants, who mindlessly chug out sequel after boring sequel. Tad Williams writes like an indie, rebellious and defiant. Scott Driscoll is also ‘a bit out there’ in the approach he takes in writing Chico’s story.

I love my job!

 

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What I’m reading

name of the wind  -patrick rothfussSome authors write so well you live the work with them. I love that when that happens. I’ve been reading a lot, as you probably know, and I love to talk about what I have recently read.

Last week, on Best In Fantasy, I reviewed book one of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, The Name of The Wind.  I had this to say about it: “The blurb didn’t really sell me, but when I was deciding whether or not to purchase this book, I noticed that the negative reviews were written by people who are not really into reading for pleasure, and some of the negative reviews seemed written by moderately illiterate non-readers. To me, this is a mark of a classic—Tolkien, Jordan—all the great literary-fantasy authors attract 1-star reviews by people whose favorite genre is whatever is written on the toilet-paper wrapper. My instinct was correct—this book is a true classic, both literary and fantasy.” 

I have to say, I loved his cover, also. It totally reflects his style of writing, beautiful, harsh and mysterious.

Desprite Measures Deborah JayBefore that, I read “Desprite Measures” by Deborah Jay. That book is completely different, being an urban paranormal fantasy-romance. I had a great time, and this is what I said about it: “Okay–we all know the cover above looks like I’ve taken a side-trip into a lurid romance. Don’t be deceived by the cover! Yes, there is some graphic sex, and yes there are other elements that might hint that grandma has taken a dip into a lurid romance novel, but stick with me! Desprite Measures by Deborah Jay is a modern day urban fantasy. It is not a deep book, but is perfect for whiling away rainy afternoon. “

Dragula, Nicole Antona CarroI had been in wacky mood for a couple of weeks. During that time I also read Brawn Stroker’s Dragula” By Nicole Antonia Carro. Was I surprised: “I bought Brawn Stroker’s Dragula, by indie author Nicole Antonia Carro on a whim. When I read the title, I was expecting something incredibly camp and lightweight, but that is certainly not what I got. Instead, I found a tale full of people I could call friends, and situations I hope my friends never find themselves in!”  I absolutely enjoyed the book.

Happy Hour In Hell, Bobby Dollar 2 - Tad WilliamsAs everyone knows, I love indie authors, but I also love certain authors whose work I’ve been following since long before the indie option was even thought of. One of those authors is Tad Williams. He is famous for writing one of the most enduring fantasy series ever, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, but he also has written  some excellent urban fantasy. His style is hard-edged. A few weeks ago I read “Happy Hour in Hell, Book 2 of Bobby Dollar.” I had this to say about it:  “Okay, now we are talking deep. Happy Hour In Hell (Bobby Dollar 2), by Tad Williams takes us from the bowels of Heaven to the heart of Hell, and its a rough ride, and a heck of a good story…. If you like your angels as painted by Michelangelo, you are in the wrong place. Bobby isn’t that sort of an angel. Bobby gets in and does Heaven’s dirty work with his bare hands. He’s a hard-boiled detective, a bad-boy, and he’s the sort of angel my mother warned me about. But he’s also just the sort of angel you want on your side when you suddenly find yourself dead, and your soul is being judged.”  That is one entertaining book.

the eyre affair jasper ffordeSpeaking of entertaining, I finally got around to reading “The Eyre Affaire” by Jasper Fforde, and I found it to be painfully funny: “Over Thanksgiving, my son, Dan, pressured me to drop everything and read The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde.  Published in 2000, the Eyre Affair was Fforde’s first novel. The book was generally acclaimed, with critics calling it “playfully irreverent,” “delightfully daft,” “whoppingly imaginative,” and “a work of … startling originality.” My son adores this book and the entire series. I found it—interesting—and I heartily enjoyed this book despite the tortuous plot, the side trips that go nowhere, and the occasional moments of HUH?!? WTF….” 

the cold, Aura BurrowsI love Audible books, and have been listening to a lot of great books. In fact, I’ve  been following a serial posted on BigWorldNetwork.com, an affordable source of online reading. The website bills itself a s cross between TV and Books, and I really like it. I think this type of publisher will be a big factor in the shape of the industry over the next decade. They have talented authors, and you can either read OR listen to it being read on-line all you want for $3.00 a month subscription The series I have been following is The Cold, by local Olympia area author, Aura Burrows, who is also a friend of mine. I am into episode three now, and this tale is gripping. I love the way the reader, Willow Wood, tells it. In fact, I plan to indulge in two or three more episodes today, once I have my work done!

I have another friend, Joan Hazel, with a book launching on Wednesday. She has written the second installment in her paranormal romance series on shape-shifters, this one titled “Burdens of a Saint”. It launches Wednesday, and she has kindly agreed to talk about writing, and will be herewith me.

My reading schedule is jam-packed, and that’s the way I like it. Nothing like a good dose of fantasy to keep me busy! I hope you are finding plenty to love in what you are reading.

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