Immediately following this post are the new bio pages of Mulluane and Raven, my blogging buddies here at Fantasy Debut. All will have permalinks in the sidebar for future reference. Read and enjoy!
Friday, January 30, 2009
Tia asked me to join Fantasy Debut as a reviewer of urban fantasy primarily, and I was delighted to oblige! My tastes tend to run toward dark, gritty novels, what I guess you could call the noir of fantasy. I have no objections to blood, violence, vampires or the like, and I enjoy deeply flawed protagonists and shadowy urban locales. Just don't ask me to deal with most of those things in my real life. Of course, I'm always open to a good read that doesn't fit the criteria I outlined above. If a blurb or an excerpt grabs me, I'll want to give the book a shot regardless of genre/subgenre or subject matter.
I don't have the world's biggest online presence. You can occasionally find me commenting about the Korean scene in Los Angeles on my blog, I Love Koreatown in the Springtime. I haven't succumbed to Facebook or Twitter yet, but my Blogger profile can be found here. And you can always contact me by email at email [dot] raven [at] yahoo [dot] com.
Posted by Raven at 8:00 PM
Hi! I am Mulluane, Tia's research assistant.
I run a couple of websites and a forum but, for health reasons, I have no life outside of my house so when Tia needed help, I gladly jumped right in. I have a rather huge web presence and can be easily found in the following places.
Dragons, Heroes and Wizards
Old Bat's Belfry
SFF Blogger's Forum
I am a die-hard traditional fantasy fan, secondary world or alternate history and I especially love reading a complete series one book after the other. I do the rare review for Tia, not very often but you never know when I might pop up!
Posted by Mulluane at 8:00 PM
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Blood Blade (US - Canada - UK)
By Marcus Pelegrimas (Website - Blog)
Publisher: Eos (January 27, 2009)
Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
There is a world you don't know about, inhabited by supernatural creatures of darkness—vampires, werewolves, and all manner of savage, impossible beasts that live for terror and slaughter and blood. They are all around us but you cannot see them, for knowledge of their presence—so close and so hungry—would surely drive any ordinary human insane.
But for centuries a special breed of hunter has kept the monsters at bay, preventing them from breaking through the increasingly fragile barriers protecting our mortal realm.
These guardians are called skinners.
But beware . . . for there are very few of them left.
UPDATE! Here is the rest of the blurb, as provided by the author. See the comments for more of his remarks.
Cole Warnecki used to think werewolves feared silver bullets and vampires were sexy party animals allergic to holy water. Real life is never that simple.
Once Cole gets a look at what’s really out there, he cannot escape it. Shapeshifters have tracked his scent over thousands of miles to reclaim a legendary weapon. A killer named Misonyk has whipped a growing number of blood suckers into a frenzy. A fiery brunette named Paige seems like a welcome distraction, but she only wants to teach Cole how to fight. And then there’s Henry. Skinners are the most experienced monster killers out there and even they don’t know what to make of Henry.
I could not find out a whole lot of information on this one. It did not help that the author's website seems to be still under construction. Even worse, I am SO not into the current vampire, werewolf, urban fantasy craze. However, if I was, it sounds intriguing enough I guess. This review will give you a good idea of what to expect: SciFiGuy.ca. Plus, there is another nice review here: Darque Reviews.
I have no trouble reading about vampires as long as they are not protagonists. It's the demonic (and I consider vampires to be demonic) protagonists that I have trouble with. Here, they seem to be solidly in the antagonist category. However, I'm not into blood and gore--I prefer my horror to scare me, not gross me out. The novel's title hints at lots of blood, so we'll see if Raven likes the sound of this one.
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
By Elissa Elliott (Website, Blog)
Publisher: Delacorte Press (January 27, 2009)
Hardcover: 432 pages
In their world they are alone…a family haunted by banishment, struggling for survival in a harsh new land. A woman who has borne and buried children, Eve sees danger shadowing those she loves, while her husband drifts further and further from the man he was in the Garden, blinded by his need to rebuild a life outside of Eden. One daughter, alluring, self-absorbed Naava, turns away from their beliefs. Another, crippled, ever-faithful Aya, harbors a fateful secret, while brothers Cain and Abel become adversaries, and Dara, the youngest, is chosen for a fate of her own.
In one hot, violent summer, by the shores of the muddy Euphrates, strangers arrive on their land. New gods challenge their own. And for Eve, a time of reckoning is at hand. The woman who once tasted the forbidden fruit of paradise sees her family unraveling—as brother turns on brother, culminating in a confrontation that will have far-reaching consequences for them all.
This is a retelling of the story of Adam and Eve as told from the viewpoint of Eve and her daughters. A very interesting idea and one I admire Elissa Elliott for taking on.
When I first heard about this book I just knew it would create a controversy. So, kind of like how you just have to look at a car wreck as you pass it, even though you are afraid of what you might see, I went looking to see how the reviews were shaping up on the ARCs. I was not surprised when I ran across this review, where, sadly, they pick the story (and the author) to pieces. (Granted the author was the one who sent them a copy but still...) Much to my delight, if you read the comments, an ARC was also sent to a 90 year old rabbi who added his thoughts and to further my delight, one of the commenters actually recommended that you read it for what it is, a novel containing a good story, and forget about comparing it verbatim to the biblical version.
Personally, I am adding this to my wish list, the premise intrigues me, I love well researched historical fiction, and it sounds like it may be a very interesting story.
I'm about to take on a Bible reading plan, so I'd be more interested in reading books like this once I am finished. If Mulluane wants to review it here, I'd be happy to acommodate her. It does sound fascinating and certainly within my interests.
Posted by Mulluane at 6:00 PM
Monday, January 26, 2009
Peacekeeper is about a woman named Ariane who has been hidden by the government because of her role in the delivery and detonation of a weapon that may have wiped out an entire solar system. She's been living with her guilt for fifteen years, and would be a wreak of alcohol and drug addiction if it had not been for her enhanced metabolism. She has an enhanced metabolism because she is an N-space pilot, or one who is trained--and apparently physically altered--to be able to navigate a ship through N-space, which enables ships to cross interstellar distances.
N-space is navigated through a series of time buoys set up near solar systems. A race called the Minoans set up (or is guardians of) the buoys. Humanity doesn't have access to the technology behind the buoys, but they are permitted to use them. Temporal Distortion weapons can destroy these time buoys, and it was a TD weapon that may have destroyed the solar system of Ura-Guinn. At best, the people of Ura-Guinn are stranded, cut off from the rest of humanity. Nothing can be known of them until the light from the Ura-Guinn sun (if it still exists) reaches (or doesn't reach) the nearest telescopes.
Humanity is divided into two warring factions. The Terran Expansion League and the Consortium of Autonomous Worlds. Ari belongs to the Consortium. There is an uneasy peace due to a treaty, and no one is willing to break the treaty due to the presance of the Minoans. At the start of the story, Ari learns that most of those who were with her on their ill-fated mission have been killed. Her mission is to help protect one of the surviving members while serving as an intelligence officer during a tense weapon inspection.
The worldbuilding in this novel is outstanding. The society is built on Greek culture. The major religion is a greek goddess, Gaia. Cities, habitats and worlds all have Greek or Byzantium names, like Hellas Prime and Athen's Point. The author unravels the story of Ura-Guinn and other plot points that I haven't touched on throughout the whole novel in the form of flashbacks.
I have one major quibble, and that is the use of religion. I'm getting accustomed to seeing ancient religions portrayed as major faiths in science fiction novels, but honestly, I have trouble buying the entire concept. In this case, the Gaian faith subsumes both Christianity and Islam, and "Kristos" and Mohammad are reduced to mere avatars. I don't find this concept particularly well-researched, because it would render the scriptural texts of two major religions (three, if you count Judiasm) into lies. And why base a religion (the Giaian one, in this case) on lies? The Terrans don't believe in the Gaian faith, and one calls it an "obvious backlash against patriarchal orders of Kristos and the small male-centric Mohammedan cults." It kind of sounds like that to me as well. Ariane professes to be "not particularly spiritual", but she still prays to Gaia at life-threatening moments. I would have been happier with the novel had the author just left religion out of it.
On the other hand, one bit that I found refreshing was the way Earth was rendered a less than desirable place to live. No global warming, no mass pollution or nuclear wars. Instead, a massive volcanic explosion blew Earth's "friendly surface into an ice age. Yellowstone was a costly lesson in souls and biomass and ecosystems and species, as well as pride. Mankind learned that their footprints on Terra could never compare to the internal rages within the planet, itself." I think this was a good choice on the part of the author. Guilt is already an overriding theme in the novel, especially if humans did, in fact, blow away (or may have) an entire solar system. Had the author saddled humanity with the loss of Earth as well, It probably would have tipped the balance of the novel.
Overall, this was a fun, easily-devoured novel. Ariane has interesting flaws, and has successes and failures along the way. She can kick ass when she needs to, but is not particularly prone to fighting. The much-feared Minoans are fascinating, and I would be interested in uncovering their mysteries. And the mystery of Ura-Guinn is left unknown, leaving the reader looking forward to the next novel.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
Saturday, January 24, 2009
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Hagelrat of Un:Bound has created a social network for us to do our convention planning! We quickly outgrew the blog, which we are still going to use for the newsletter.
Wait. Let me start over.
First. We have a ning social network. We are going to use it for convention planning. If you want to be in on the planning, if you simply want to watch us as we stumble around, trying to figure out how to plan this thing, this is the place to be. Things are getting interesting. We even have an event planner! It is here:
Book Blogger Convention
We also have a blog. We are going to use it to update folk who are interested in the convention, but are not going to be in on the planning. It is here:
Book Blogger Convention Blog
Finally, we are planning a newsletter. We will send it out monthly, to alert interested parties as to our convention planning progress. To subscribe, send me an email for now. We'll eventually find some way of automating the newsletter sign-up. We will also post the contents of the newsletter on the above blog, plus interesting news as it comes up. My email for signing up:
tia dot nevitt at gmail dot com
I'll continue to throw updates here, because this is where I pitched the original idea, but the above places will have more timely news.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Yeah, I know; third post today. But this is big news and I wanted it on top. Juno Books, my favorite small press, is going to become an imprint of Pocket Books.
New York, New York (January 19, 2009) – Louise Burke, Executive Vice President and Publisher of Pocket Books, has announced a new co-publishing agreement with Juno Books, best known for contemporary fantasy novels that emphasize strong female protagonists in richly imagined contexts. Juno will become an imprint of Pocket Books, publishing one title per month with the first release, AMAZON INK by Lori Devoti, slated for June 2009.Lori Devoti is occasionally seen commenting here, so this is very exciting for her. Congratulations to Juno Books and all her authors! Please read the rest of the details at the Juno Editorial blog.
Other Debut Coverage is back. This means that my blog reading hiatus is over. I closed my eyes and marked over 300 items in Google Reader as "read." Please forgive me! I'll probably use the weekends to catch up on updates. This is something you'll only see if you visit the actual blog, rather than reading through a reader. (No problem if you do; I use a reader myself, but we miss out on stuff like this, don't we?)
Which reminds me--if you want to exchange links, the best way to do so is to send me an email. I'll happily link other science-fiction and fantasy related blogs. If you simply link without telling me, I'll notice if I spot it on Technorati or in my analytics program, and I may reciprocate eventually, but eventually can be a long time. I act on emails as soon as I read them, as Library Dad recently found out. I usually read emails within 24 hours of receipt, but sometimes it takes a bit longer.
My well-hidden email address is at the bottom of the Contact Fantasy Debut post.
Posted by Tia Nevitt at 6:00 PM
I have read a spate of books lately with heavy doses of religion, both made up and from the real world. That got me to thinking about how careful authors must be when portraying religion. Because most of the time, they don't do it well and to me it just comes across as . . . well . . . hokey.
For the non-native English speakers who read this blog, that means insincere, flimsy, unbelievable, unconvincing.
Most of the time, I just grit my teeth and read on. Sometimes it makes me set the book aside in exasperation for a while. Rarely will it be the reason I give up on a book, although recently, one book came close.
I think the problem comes when the author attempts to portray a religious conversion, or a devoutly religious person. It's hard without seeming dogmatic. It's damned hard. Even when the classics do it right, it can come across as overdone.
Here are some examples of religion in fantasy and in the classics, and how it came across to me as a reader. I was going to include excerpts, but if I do that, this post will take a month to write.
One classic that did it right was Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. When Jean Valjean encountered the bishop at the beginning of the story, he was a desperate man, cornered by society into a life where he could only support himself by turning to crime. So he stole the silver from the priest. And when he was caught, the priest gave him the candlesticks along with the rest of the silver, explaining to the gendarmes that Jean Valjean had forgotten them. And with a simple--but generous--act of charity, Jean Valjean was a changed man. For the reader, it works. Christianity is a theme through the rest of the novel, but nowhere does it overwhelm the plot. Politics occasionally does, but that's the subject of another rant. (Tip: if you read it, find an abridged version.)
Jane Austen's Mansfield Park came across a bit heavy-handed, in my opinion, when it came to religion. It is my least favorite of Jane Austen's novels (but I still enjoyed it enough to read it several times). Fanny and Edmund were just so dogmatic and serious. I was glad to see her lighten up and have a bit of fun toward the end. When I read it for the first time, I really wanted to see a true Henry Crawford conversion, whether or not Fanny fell in love with him. I was disappointed.
In Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Christianity comes up from time to time. Christianity is banned, but one of Ender's friends was raised with a smattering of clandestine religion. Ender himself had an illegal Baptism. Even though Orson Scott Card is deeply religious, the novel didn't come across as heavy handed. A while back, I wanted to read Orscon Scott Card's Old Testament novels, Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel and Leah. Has anyone read any of those?
Dragonlance occasionally came on a little too strong, mostly during Goldmoon's conversion. But for the rest of the trilogy, I enjoyed the interaction between the gods and the characters. The humorous touch was the right touch--as readers, we obviously weren't supposed to take it very seriously. When the god unmasked himself toward the end, it really worked. (You've got to admit him carrying the fallen companion off into the hereafter was a stroke of brilliance.) When the rest of the companions met with the god after the final conflict in a sort of epilogue, there was a bit of discomfort, but the authors compensated for it somewhat by making the characters uncomfortable as well.
In The Deed of Paksenarrion Paks' conversion was overdone and really unconvincing, given the earlier doubts that the author had set up. It felt forced and wrong. I winced through almost the entire final volume--and this is one of my favorite novels.
One of the recent books I read was Hawkspar, by Holly Lisle. She obviously learned how to handle religion. In The Secret Texts, an early trilogy of hers, there were over-the-top religious conversions that were so unconvincing that for a long time I thought someone had put a spell on the characters. Then, I realized that there was no spell. In Hawkspar, it was much more subtly handled. I guess it helped in my mind that much of the religion turned out to be false.
There is a goddess in The Sword-Edged Blonde, but Eddie never worshiped her (thank God!). As a goddess, she had lots of limitations that made her somewhat less than omniscient. She didn't know what it was like to be a human, for one. She had interesting flaws and vulnerabilities and was a study in selfishness without seeming evil. Flawed gods are fine with me because then they aren't really gods, are they?
I'll leave the religion in Betraying Season until I write my review for it. For now, I'll just call it a "thumbs down" portrayal.
For Star Wars, I contradict myself. I enjoyed the concept of the Force much more when it was an "ancient religion" than when it was some sort quirk of DNA, or an aberrant cell, or whatever "mitachlorians" were.
If an author is going to include religion, I'd rather it be used like salt--sparingly. If there's just enough salt, it adds a nice flavor to the book. Too salty and the flavor is too strong to stomach. I don't read fantasy for religion; for that I read The Bible. (And I actually don't read that for "religion" per se, I read it to learn more about my faith.) Even in Christian literature, people are often put off by it because it has a reputation of coming on too strong.
Think of the movie, It's a Wonderful Life. An engaging plot mixed with a touch of religion that carries a powerful message. That's how it should be done.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
By Karlijn Stoffels (Website)
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (January 1, 2009)
Reading level: Young Adult
Hardcover: 144 pages
Excerpt (link is on page listed as "passage")
Blurb from Author's Website
Born of deaf-mute parents, Mee was always called "You," "Boy" or "You There." So when the local school master arrives to take him to school, when asked his name, he responds that he is me, and thus, "Mee" becomes his name. He excels at school, but music is his gift. He is able to create such haunting music that everyone stops to listen when they hear his song.
But after his father dies, and his mother grows ill, Mee does all he can to relieve his mother's suffering. Unable to hear his song, she nods sadly and passes away. After her death, Mee can not remain in the house that reminds him of his inability to heal his mother.
Mee sets off on a journey that takes him to many villages and distant lands. He is sought after by all as the singer of sorrows. He helps ease the pain of those in mourning. The book shares his different encounters and their sad stories.
This is a fairytale about love, loss and discovery. The author herself calls this a love story. From what I have read about it, this tale is dark and poignant but endearing as well. This definitely falls squarely in the category of fantasy and since I have a great love of YA stories, is something I would enjoy reading. For more information, I found a very nice review here: The Bookcrossing.
The publisher's blurb was a bit over-the-top, so I found this one on the author's website. This one goes in the other extreme--it doesn't tell me enough. I suppose that's a good quality in a blurb! The author is a Dutch writer and this is her first translation into English. I love wandering adventure stories, so I guess this one appeals to both of us.
What do you think?
Monday, January 19, 2009
I meant to blog on this last weekend. Mulluane has granted me the Premio Dardo Award! Thank you, Mulluane!
I have now received several awards from my fellow bloggers, so I'm going to put them somewhere on my sidebar.
The award "Dardos" appreciates the merits - culturally, literary and individually- of every blogger who expresses him/herself on his/her blog. Here are the rules.
1. be tickled pink ;)
2. copy an paste the award picture to your blog
3. write down the regulations
4. link the blog who bestowed you the Award
5. and finally nominate 15 blogs for the Award
For my fifteen, I'm going to showcase blogs you may not have heard of. Some of these I discovered through backlinks from the convention post. And some, I have just been sadly neglecting.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Here are the latest books I've received from various publishers, listed in no particular order.
Thank you to all the publishers who sent me these novels. When taking the release dates into consideration, I think I'll read Lamentation first.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
A while back, in my Blogging Advice for New Authors, I suggested that authors blog on their negative reviews. Well, David J. Williams has done just that when he blogged on my review from last week. While I wouldn't call my review negative--it ended with a recommendation and I wouldn't have done that if I thought the book truly awful--I concede that it probably came across as harsh. David's blogging about it, of course, makes him look uber-cool.
Thank you, Amanda Ashby, for spending so much time here on Thursday! Because of you, I discovered some fellow Halo lovers in my blogging audience! And thanks to your publicist for sending me Zombie Queen of Newbury High!
Posted by Tia Nevitt at 6:57 AM
Thursday, January 15, 2009
There have been quite a few highlights since my book came out. At the top of the list were some of the reviews I received. A really great one from Publisher's Weekly where they described it as ‘Bridget Jones meets Lovely Bones’. Never in a million years would I have been cheeky enough to even think of my book in those terms so their quote made me feel pretty incredible. The other great thing was not only getting a 4½ star TOP PICK from Romantic Times Bookclub, but I was also nominated for a reviewer’s choice award. I didn’t win, but since it’s one of the few awards where you don’t have to actually have to enter, I was really blown away by it.
Another great thing was when I went over to the RWA conference in San Francisco, I got to see my book in Borders for the very time. That was special (not least since it had almost been out for a year and I didn’t know if they’d even have it in stock!!!!). AT the conference I got to take part in the RWA literacy signing and my publisher also had a book signing there which was great. I had so much fun and I actually had real life readers come up and say that they’d liked my book – that rocked (and I can’t forget that I got to meet my very own lovely stalker, Laura. I definitely recommend that every author get themselves a Laura!!)
My other favorite thing was getting to meet so many great bloggers/reviewers like Tia, who gave me so much support. Knowing that there were people out there who not just liked my book but were willing to say so out loud gave me such an incredible feeling that hasn’t been forgotten.
Oh, and one final highlight. I do a bit of part time work at my local library and on my very first week there, a woman came up to the counter to check out some books AND ONE OF THEM WAS MINE. Naturally I was very controlled and polite about the whole situation (aka, I screamed like a banshee and terrified the poor woman for the rest of her life – though she hid it quite well and pretended to be excited about it which was very sweet of her!!!!)
Thankfully, just before my debut book came out, I got a contract with Puffin for my young adult books and knowing I had that definitely made everything a lot easier, and now my second book ZOMBIE QUEEN OF NEWBURY HIGH is coming out in about six weeks.
I’d like to say that my experience with Halo, will help me with promoting Zombie, but I have a bad feeling that I’ll still be compulsively Googling my name and checking Amazon rankings despite knowing how ridiculous it is. To be honest I think most authors indulge in these hobbies because they feel so helpless once their books come out and it’s their way of taking back some control. Or, of course the other reason could be that all authors are slightly crazy. Hmmmm...
But over all, I’ve really amazing to know that I’ve got a book out there and I can’t wait to go through it all again. Roll on the fifth of March!
Amanda has promised to stop by and answer comments, so fire away with any questions you have!
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Beat the Reaper (US - Canada - UK)
By Josh Bazell (Website)
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (January 7, 2009)
Hardcover: 320 pages Excerpt (Link is on page)
Publisher's Description: Dr. Peter Brown is an intern at Manhattan's worst hospital, with a talent for medicine, a shift from hell, and a past he'd prefer to keep hidden. Whether it's a blocked circumflex artery or a plan to land a massive malpractice suit, he knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men.
Pietro "Bearclaw" Brnwna is a hitman for the mob, with a genius for violence, a well-earned fear of sharks, and an overly close relationship with the Federal Witness Relocation Program. More likely to leave a trail of dead gangsters than a molecule of evidence, he's the last person you want to see in your hospital room. Nicholas LoBrutto, aka Eddy Squillante, is Dr. Brown's new patient, with three months to live and a very strange idea: that Peter Brown and Pietro Brnwa might-just might-be the same person ...
Now with the mob, the government, and death itself descending on the hospital, Peter has to buy time and do whatever it takes to keep his patients, himself, and his last shot at redemption alive. To get through the next eight hours — and somehow beat the Reaper.
This is a medical thriller written by Josh Bazell who has a BA in writing from Brown University and a MD from Columbia University and is currently a medical resident at the University of California, San Francisco. Interesting credentials! Thrillers are more Tia's thing so I'll leave the actual opinion to her. For more information you can also read this review Fantasy Book Critic where Robert calls it violent, wickedly funny, and shocking…
This book was part of a seven-figure book deal! Very impressive. I'm not at all sure if it is speculative, but we err on the side of inclusion here. The "death itself" sentence hints that it might be. The blurb also hints that the doc and the assassin might be one and the same, but it would be a shame if the blurb gave away the whole plot, so I'm thinking that can't be right.
His website is awesome, and even has a game!
What do you think? Is this one for you? Or not?
Monday, January 12, 2009
Went to the bookstore yesterday for a nonfiction book, and I picked up PEACEKEEPER by Laura E. Reeve as well. It has been a while since I read a current debut, and PEACEKEEPER had the added advantage of being an inexpensive paperback. Plus, I liked the blurb a while back.
Raven will be by in a week or so with some follow-up reviews for Debut Graduates. She'll be able to add a little urban fantasy in the mix, with perhaps even the appearance of a fang or two.
The convention post is still drawing lots of comments. Please feel free to jump into the discussions I've started at the brand new convention blog as well.
Mulluane really has done a fabulous job setting up the new book blogger forum, whimsically named the Dragon Federation. Just go to the home page and dig how cool it is. Both bloggers and readers are welcome.
And if you're a book reviewer, you've really got to go to John's blog and check out the SF/F/H Book Reviewers Database and get on board if your blog qualifies. I'm beginning to think I'm already in some database somewhere. I've started getting review copies from publishers who--as far as I knew--didn't have my address. One was from London! I'll be putting up a book swag post in a few days as a way of thanking those publishers.
Whew! That's a lot of activity in a short amount of time! Everyone must have made New Year's resolutions, or something.
This Thursday, we will have another guest author with another One Year Later post. Except it will be a bit over a year since her debut. Maybe I should rename the series. After the Debut? I'm drawing a blank. This author always is an enthusiastic commenter, so be sure to check out the comments throughout the day.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Every once in a while, I encounter a book that takes me a long time to read. Some books I practically devour whole, and some books I take in bits and pieces. Since Lord of the Rings was one of those "bits and pieces" books, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
Unfortunately, I think Mirrored Heavens is meant to be a can't-put-it-down thriller.
The story centers around eight people in three groups. Jason Marlowe is a mech, a fighting specialist who wears high-tech armor. Fans of Battletech will cheer, but these mechs are closer to man-sized. Claire Haskell is a razor, or a hacking specialist. Her job is to be inside Jason's head while he is on the offensive, clearing the way by electronically getting him past checkpoints, hacking codes or whatever. She's sort of like R2D2, except she's human. Mostly. These two form one group. Morat is Claire's puppetmaster, and he pops up from time to time.
Then we have The Operative, who is referred to this way throughout the novel, even though we are given his name fairly early on. The Operative is another mech, but he seems special. His job is to take out Sarmax, his former mentor, and another mech, of course. Lynx is The Operative's razor. These three form another group.
Finally, we have the repuganat Lineham. I think he's a mech. He's stolen some data, and he needs help escaping the USA. He'll kill anything that gets in his way. He goes to Spencer, who is a sort of an entrepreneurial razor, and basically blackmails him into helping.
Everyone is wired, not just razors. Razors are practically cyborgs, but mechs must be wired as well, for the razors to be able to communicate with them.
I'm going to have a hard time summing up the plot. It begins with Claire going to a place in Brazil where she's trying to tap into an ancient part of the Zone--a sort of futuristic Internet--looking for certain information. At the same time, Marlowe is dispatched on an unknown mission, as is The Operative. The Operative is going to the moon, but on his way up he watches as the Space Elevator--which is still being built--is blown up all along its length.
And so begins an all-out war between the east and west. No, wait. Between everyone and everyone else.
Claire is caught up in the chaos and Marlowe ends up being sent to rescue her. And from then on, the plot never slows down to take a breath.
Everyone is tough as nails, and talks with clipped, edgy speech. In fact, one of the things I found difficult about the novel was how alike everyone sounded. I was grateful for the frequent dialog tags.
"Do you believe in God? says Lineham.I also had a hard time feeling any empathy for any of the characters. A bit more humanity would have helped. It was as if they were so wired that they wired out what made them individuals.
"I'll believe in anything that'll get us out of this."
"Me neither," snarls Lineham.
. . .
"Tell me what this was all about," says Spencer.
"Tell me what it wasn't," says Lineham.
And yet, somehow they're still alive . . .
When you really shouldn't be.
"We're still intact," says Spencer.
"We're still running, says Lineham.
"Like I said."
"I mean we're still running."
Chapters are short. The book is written in present tense. The chapters alternate between the three groups, with each group always appearing in the same sequence. Each chapter has a set of icons that symbolize who is appearing in that chapter. The end of one chapter often leads into the next, such as:
"You don't know the half of it," says Leo Sarmax.This doesn't happen every chapter, but it happened often enough to be noticable. I consider these little touches to be the mark of an artist.
But they're starting to get the idea.
There were two surprises in the end. One that was set up for the reader, giving me an "I-should-have-seen-it-coming moment, and the other, larger surprise coming out of the blue. I think I needed a bit more set-up for the second surprise. Which, when I contemplate the novel's only sex scene, maybe it shouldn't have been a surprise after all. My favorite character died, and I have mixed feelings about the events leading up to his death. He acted a bit out of character, in my opinion. I always have a hard time with conversions, or instances where the character changes his mind. I realize it happens in real life all the time, but in fiction, I think it needs to be well-explained and rational.
I come away with mixed feelings about this novel. In one instance, it's a bit too gritty for my taste. Even the sex scene was gritty. But in the other instance, it is is unique and well-crafted. If you like cyber-thrillers and hard-hitting action, then this one might be worth a read.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
There seems to be a lot of enthusiastic support for the idea of a convention, but one theme ran through almost all of the replies. Money and travel distance is an important consideration. I understand perfectly; it is for me as well. We DO have one person willing to fly in from England, which is really cool. But for many of us, it will have to be close by or they cannot attend. I'm in that group. After all, this is a hobby. A wonderful hobby, but a hobby nevertheless.
The following ideas came up:
- Glomming onto another convention. I think this is a wonderful idea. However, since the cost is such a consideration, it would have to be a convention that costs about 100 dollars or less.
- Having all attendees vote for book and artist awards. This is a great idea and could attract some attention.
- Having the convention more toward the center of the country. However, for those of us in the corners, almost everywhere in the heartland will be too far.
- Have BloggerCon East and BloggerCon West (for lack of better names), probably at some points midway between the Heartland and the coast in either direction. For the east, that would probably mean somewhere in Tennissee, and for the west, that might mean Colorado, Navada or Utah.
- Have an online, virtual convention or at the very least, a convention blog.
Due to the problem Blogger is having with backlinks, I'm having trouble tracking down everyone who linked to the previous post. It will help if you click the link once the post is live. That way, your site will show up in my referral list in Google Analytics.
Let me know if you want to be invited to join a convention blog I'm about to create. I'll invite everyone who volunteered to help out in the last post, and everyone who joins will have the authority to create posts. That way we can move the conversation from this blog to a place where we'll all feel comfortable--another blog.
Posted by Tia Nevitt at 6:32 PM
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
So I had this wild idea for a Book Blogger Convention. I mean, why not? Trekkies (or Trekkers?) have conventions annually, and with the success of John's link-up-meme, which even inspired a song, I realized that there is probably enough of us out there to merit a small convention. I think it would be fun to meet a bunch of you. Maybe we can even lure in some New York publishing professionals.
This post is to gauge interest.
The number of blogs that John currently has listed is around 150. I don't see a lot of romance blogs on the list, so there's a bunch more. Plus mystery bloggers. And thriller, and horror and YA bloggers. And general fiction bloggers and other genres that I didn't think of. The number could run well over a thousand serious bloggers. Assuming that a quarter might attend (optimistic, I know) is that enough for a convention? I figure some publicists and authors might want to attend as well. Maybe we can even expand it to include movie and game reviewers.
I ran a number of search terms through Google to see if something like this already exists. There are several general blogger conventions, but none that appear to be specifically about book reviews. I also ran "book blogger convention", "review blogger convention", and reviewer convention" through the search engine, all without any interesting results. Do you know of any book blogger conventions?
Here's what I've thought of so far:
Where? Either Atlanta, Columbia (SC), Jacksonville, Orlando or Tampa. Why one of those places? Because it was my idea, and I need it within driving distance. Pretty please. I have to be able to bring the husband and kid. My daughter is disabled and cannot be separated from me for frivolous reasons. (And yes, this counts as frivolous, at least as far as my daughter is concerned.)
When? Any off-peak convention weekend. We're not going to be able to afford on-peak convention room charges our first year. So this probably means the fall at the earliest, because we'll need time to plan.
Why? To meet each other, to swap ideas, to critique each other's blogs, to listen to New York publishing professionals opinions, etc. And just because it will be fun.
Do you like the idea? If so, please do one the following:
- If you like the idea and might consider attending, please leave a comment. If you think I'm nuts, go ahead and leave a comment as well. I might need someone to talk me out of this.
- If you like the idea and want to be involved in the organizing effort (if we move forward), please send me an email at tia dot nevitt at gmail dot com with the word "Convention" in the subject line.
- If you like the idea and want to spread the word, please blog about it and link here. I don't usually ask for links, but I'm asking now. Please Twitter it, Digg it, FaceBook it, MySpace it and whatever-else it. Mention it on bulletin boards that you frequent. Approach Big Name Bloggers of all genres. Spread the word far and wide.
Posted by Tia Nevitt at 7:40 PM
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
This is going to be a short review. If you have not read THE NAME OF THE WIND by Patrick Rothfuss, and if you are a fan of epic, character-development style fantasy, then read it. I highly recommend it. I loved it.
Review over. Begin analysis.
THE NAME OF THE WIND (NAME for short) is a character development novel. Many moons ago, I wrote a commentary post on how I love character development novels. In my world, a character development (CD) novel is a novel where the development of the character is the plot.
My favorite CD novels to this point were The Clan of the Cave Bear and The Deed of Paksenarrion. (For the purposes of this post, I will leave off beloved CD classics, such as Les Miserables and Jane Eyre.) I can now add a third to the list. NAME muscles its way in between Clan and Deed.
I judge CD novels with several criteria. One, how lovable is the character? Two, how believeable are the character's motivations? And three, how much depth does the villain have?
My favorite CD novel, Clan of the Cave Bear, scoes strongly in all three areas. We watch Ayla grow from a young child to a girl-woman in her early teens, and we cheer her every step of the way. Her motivations are strong and convincing. She has been pidgeonholed into the role of a neanderthal female, and she has abilities well beyond that role. Her spirit chaffs under the yoke imposed by her beloved adoptive neanderthal family. And her curiosity and intelligence gets her into trouble again and again.
Broud, her foil (love that word!), has great depth. Despite his jealousy of her, he is willing to set it all aside when she saves his son's life. Only when he realizes that she witnessed his humiliation does his hatred well up again. He is a villain who struggles--the best kind.
NAME doesn't quite meet this ideal, which is why it hasn't knocked Clan off its pedestal. Kvothe was wonderfully loveable--right up until the point where he entered the university. Then, he changed on me. Before, he was a street rat who struggled to survive. Once in the University, he became foolishly arrogant. He needlessly antagonized a teacher and made an enemy of him over what seemed to me to be nothing more than a temporary setback. He also needlessly--in my opinion--made an enemy of another student. True, the student was a bully and did something very cruel. But the way Kvothe handled him--and the teacher--didn't do much to earn my sympathy. Instead, I felt that he he earned his enemies. I would have thought that all his years as a street rat would have instilled a bit of humility in him.
I also found myself questioning some of his motivations. He went to get a risky loan because he had "no way" of earning any money. Surely he, with all of his much-lauded brains--could have thought of some way to earn some cash. It's not like he didn't know the expense was coming. It seemed like a plot crutch to me.
It may seem like I'm beating up on poor Kvothe. But it's only because of the novel's excellence that the flaws stand out more. I would not have been so harsh with a lesser novel. Rothfuss has set the bar very high for his sequel, but it is not, I don't think, unsurpassable. Auel, with Clan, was unable--in my opinion--to ever match the excellence of Clan of the Cave Bear. The Valley of Horses was good, but it was marred by a love interest that was not worthy of Ayla. I read each successive book with less and less enthusiasm until today, when I have never bothered to read The Shelters of Stone at all.
As for the villains? Hemme and Ambrose have ample reason to hate Kvothe. I don't like or approve of their actions, but I understand why they hate him. As for Haliax, it is more difficult to say. According to legend, he was once a hero, once "among the best of us", but when his wife fell deathly ill, he sought unnatural power to heal her. The power didn't save her, but he was corrupted by the power. He tried to kill himself, but the power kept bringing him back.
I have a bit of trouble with the idea of a man becoming evil or doing something evil in order to bring about something good. Yet I see it again and again in fantasy, Anikin Skywalker being the most famous example. What do such people do with their consciences? I know the author wants to make the villain sympathetic, but sometimes I just want a Dark Lord. There are plenty of ambitious men in the world who are willing to do and say anything to achieve power. The best villains, in my mind, are the ones who have a flaw in their evil nature. Which, of course, is a spark of good. Lanre/Haliax has a spark of good, so this may be forthcoming in future books.
I'd love to see Haliax defeated by his on inherent goodness. In Les Miz, Javert became obsessed with capturing Jean Valjean, and he turned it into his life's work. When confronted with Jean Valjean's decency, he literally couldn't live with himself.
(It is a mark of this novel's excellence that I even think of reaching into the rarefied airs of Victor Hugo to find a villain against witch I can unfavorably criticize Haliax.)
What more than saves Kvothe's story is Kvothe, himself. The older Kvothe. The thirty-or-so-year-old Kvothe. The Kvothe who tried and failed to write his own story. The Kvothe who is waiting to die. This is a Kvothe who I can love.THE NAME OF THE WIND is a story told in the frame of Older Kvothe dictating his story to the famous Chronicler. Book one is Day One of the dictation. When Kvothe is dictating, the story is in first person. Elsewhen, the story is in third person. It works really well.
But I haven't said much about the plot. If you get the book, you'll notice that the cover blurb doesn't say much about the plot, either. Instead, it says these words that have been widely quoted by now:
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.
and so on and so forth.
You may have heard of me.
So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature . . .
And the music. Can I say something about the music? I am a middling musician. I play violin and piano at the intermediate level. I love both for different reasons, but nothing equals the violin, I 't think. When you get a good vibrato going and your fingers are sliding up and down the fingerboard almost of their own violation, landing on that upper C with perfect intonation, you can make that violin weep. But the strings? They can be a bitch to keep in tune. My violin seems to like a bit of humidity. I was forever tuning it when I lived in Arizona. I tune it here too, but the strings seem happier. They also seem more apt to unravel. Nothing like twisting those knobs only to feel a sudden zzzzip! followed by a dismaying slackness. And they are a bitch to replace.
Kvothe plays the lute. In one scene, he is on his own, with very few possessions other than his lute, and he is living in a cave. To pass the time, he practices his lute. I thought to myself, "The author had better think of the lute strings."
Boy does he ever. It becomes a major plot point. Bravo. I can't find anything on the author's website about him being a musician. But I bet he is.
Ok, I've been writing this for an hour and a half, so I think I've said all I want to say. The book lives up to its hype. Get it, read it, enjoy it. And thanks to all of you who stuck with me to read this lengthy post!
Monday, January 5, 2009
I tried to post this from work during lunch, but I can't seem to post from work anymore.
I'm getting back in gear after my little break. I've lined up a One Year Later post and I'm waiting for an author to get back to me for another. Mulluane combed Robert's January Spotlight for debuts, and I combed Publishers Weekly. The debut calendar for 2009 is filling up. Last year, a surge of debuts caught me off guard in February, so I'm hoping to be on the ball enough that I won't be taken by surprise again.
I've been contemplating proposing something to the book blogger community, as I hinted on Twitter and FaceBook. This isn't anything I'm going to rush into, so I'll sleep on it before I decide for sure. I Googled it, and so far, nothing like it appears to exist. I already ran it past the husband, since it will affect the whole family, and he is good with it. If I decide to propose it, I'll do so before the end of the week. If I decide not to do it, I probably won't bring it up again.
Last but not least, Raven has agreed to do reviews again for Fantasy Debut. Last year, she reviewed titles such as Truancy, A Rush of Wings and God's Demon. She's going to be handing most of the urban and dark fantasy here at Fantasy Debut.
Welcome back, Raven!
Sunday, January 4, 2009
The Way of the Shadows by Brent Weeks is an exceptional debut novel. Normally, I would expect a debut to be slightly lacking in a few areas and while excelling in others. Then, as an author hones his/her talent, the books become tighter and more rounded. Some new writers nail characterization but need to work on pace or their worldbuilding is awesome but the plot has a few holes. After reading the Way of Shadows however, I am impressed. If Brent Weeks gets any better he will become a major voice in the fantasy genre.
The Characters. Azoth is a street kid just trying to survive. Sounds cliche at first but Azoth, even though he does not yet realize it, is more then he first appears. Durzo Blint is the best of the best when it comes to assassination. Dark, mysterious, deadly, Blint's motto is that life is empty, life is meaningless and to take a life is not taking anything of value. Logan Gyre, aristocrat, consummate fighter, loyal friend, he will get caught up in deadly politics and stands to lose everything he loves. King Aleine IX, cruel, inept, not quite sane, he is the worse possible type of king, a complete raving lunatic.
The Story. Azoth wants nothing more then to never be afraid again. The best way to do this, as he sees it, is to apprentice himself to the most fearless man he knows, Durzo Blint. Leaving behind his life in the Warrens, with its cruel gang lords and rampant child abuse, Azoth becomes Kyler Stern, assassin's apprentice and sometimes noble but poor Baronet. This book follows Azoth's transformation from street urchin into a "wetboy" or trained assassin. It is a coming of age story, often skipping years at a time as Kyler develops his skills and hopes for a way to awaken his "Talent", without which he can never fully become a wetboy.
My Impressions. This is not a book for the faint of heart. Tia's first impression when she showcased this is correct, it is very dark. Child rape, child abuse, copious amounts of profanity, death and mayhem fill these pages. Brent Weeks does not hold back when it comes to making this a very dark, but fascinating world. He is also not afraid to kill off important characters, which is great, nothing in this story is sacred so you are always kept guessing. The pace is fast, the secondary characters, of which there are many, are as well written as the mains, the plot twists are delightful, the magic system is a bit vague, but hopefully we will learn more about it later. An impressive first effort and one that has left me looking forward to more.
The Way of Shadows (Amazon: US - Canada - UK)
Brent Weeks: (Website - Interview)
Mass Market Paperback: 688 pages
Orbit (October 1, 2008)
Unbound's Interview with Brent Weeks
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Here are some best-of-2008 lists I noticed while surfing around. Please be aware that I made no attempt to capture them all.
Grasping for the Wind
Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
OF Blog of the Fallen
Pat's Fantasy Hotlist
The Book Smugglers
Fantasy and Sci-Fi Lovin' Blog
A Dribble of Ink (and worst!)
Bear Mountain Books
Where Troubles Melt Like Lemon Drops
And Fantasy Book Critic did his Best of all month long--just browse around his site for a smorgasbord of reading.
Larry reviewed the lists (including mine!) here and here (thanks, Larry!).
Jeff has been collecting links as well; check them out here and here.
If you put a Best Of 2008 post as well, feel free to link to it in the comments.
Posted by Tia Nevitt at 5:02 PM
Friday, January 2, 2009
Or, I should say, Fantasy Debut is in a song. John Anealio over at Sci Fi Songs has done it again.
Give it a listen: Grasping for the Wind (The Linkup Meme Song)
I'm thrilled! Thanks, John! And thanks to John Ottinger over at Grasping for the Wind for starting the linkup meme that has improved the pageranks of SciFi bloggers everywhere!
Posted by Tia Nevitt at 5:06 PM
Thursday, January 1, 2009
For my best-of-the-year lists, I don't attempt to rank the books I've read. I just can't. My mind doesn't seem to get around the idea of ranking favorites. Instead, a whole double handful of books stand out in my mind for one reason or another. So my list shows which books are my favorites in various categories. The categories are not necessarily the same as last year's list.
Not all of these books were first published in 2008. But they are all debuts, so they all belong on this list.
A Curse as Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce
(Maybe it will end up in next year's list.)
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
(So this wasn't exactly her debut. I read at least one Jane novel a year. I spared you a review because honestly, I don't think P&P needs any more reviews.)
OK, I'll get serious. Here they are for real, my favorite reads of 2008!
Terry and Jodenny from The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald
(Forbidden love between an officer and a soldier is always going to appeal to me.)
Best Surprise Romance
The Sellsword by Cam Banks
(I don't want to give it away because this romance just sort of sneaks up on you.)
The Malingering Sailor scene in The Outback Stars by Sandra McDonald
(Just loved the way Jodenny handled it.)
Best Character Development Story
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
(Review forthcoming, but you had to know I'd love this one.)
Best Science Fiction Epic
Elom by William H. Drinkard
(This one is flying under the radar, but is one of my favorites of the year. My eyebrows were up in the air through the entire final third of the novel.)
Most Charming Novel
Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle
(Sparkling with charm and adventure, this romantic novel proves that YA doesn't have to be edgy to sell.)
Best Historical Fantasy
Black Ships by Jo Graham
(Set a novel in the ancient world and I'm already interested. Add a bit of fantasy, and you've got me.)
Best Parent in a YA Novel
Dad from The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner
(This novel deserves a made-up category. Dad as a sidekick? It so worked for me.)
Best Mysterious Character
Hal from Across the Face of the World by Russell Kirkpatrick
(I don't know if Hal is an angel or just a lame boy, or something else entirely. I guess I'll have to read the next book to find out!)
Favorite Female Character
Jax from Grimspace by Ann Aguirre
(She had me when she "breastfed" the alien baby.)
Favorite Male Character
Eddie LaCrosse from The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe
The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe
(I can't wait to read more Eddie LaCrosse adventures!)