April Summary…and Beyond!

Spring always feels so busy.  With PAX East at the end of March followed be Easter followed by being sick I’ve spend most of the last 4 to 6 weeks trying to get back into my normal routine.  It doesn’t help that the siren call of sunny days wars against the harsh glow and lulling hum of televisions and computers.  If I weren’t prone to particularly virulent allergies during the spring (though there is something year round that is always bothering me) I might have disappeared all together.  I managed to get six reviews done despite the mountain of other crap clamoring for my attention:

The Black Hand by Will Thomas

This was the last book in my hard-boiled reading project.  It was pretty good stuff, a hard-boiled Victorian era novel set on the mean streets of London.  I enjoyed the project immensely so expect me to pepper in some hard-boiled/noir/mystery titles every once and a while.

The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett

I’m a bit behind the curve on this one.  Despite some troubling treatment of his female lead I couldn’t put Brett’s novel down.  I’ll hopefully get around to reading the Desert Spear either this month or the next.

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Though not quite as engaging as The Warded Man above, Carrie Ryans’ teen zombie post-apocalyptic coming-of-age romance novel was some excellent work that should be enjoyable for adults as well as teens.  I do plan on reading the Dead Tossed Waves some time in the not-too-distant future.

The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg

A rennaisance type fantasy mystery featuring a former librarian as the protagonist, The Spirit Lens was almost (see below for why it just missed) my favorite novel this past month.  If you missed this one do yourself a favor and give it a try.  I can’t wait for the sequel!

Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Though not as great as I hoped it would by this was still a good read in an interesting and original fantasy world.  It took a bit of warming up but the characterization in the novel, particularly of the villains, was quite excellent.

Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregiliss

This was my favorite novel read this month and by-and-large one of my favorites of 2010.  The supernatural and super-science collide during the height of the Blitz.  The first book in a three book series, the Milkweed Triptych, from one of the writers in George Martin’s Wild Cards writers group.  Great stuff here.

As my recent review of The Dragonbone Chair indicates I’ve decided to add a couple of rereads to the schedule.  I don’t know if I’ll get to the rest of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn (To Green Angel Tower’s size scares me) it was a fun time and while it is definitely old school it is still well worth a look.  I’m glad I read it before I read Shadow Prowler which has had the “traditional” label leveled at it like a threat of some kind; I’m not sure I agree but more on that when I review it.  I’m almost done with my reread of The Gunslinger.  Honestly that novel might be King’s best work, the prose is quality if occasionally quirky and the scope of the world it hints at is truly amazing (why has no come up with a pen and paper RPG for that series?  It seems well suited for it!).  I’m fairly certain I will go through a reread of that whole series, particularly with the news that Ron Howard has been attached to turn them into films, and may even give some of the companion volumes a whirl (of which there are a few).  I managed to lay my hands on two ARCs from the bookselling job: Mission of Honor by David Weber (hell yeah!) and The Passage by Justin Cronin.  I’m slowly working through the latter while I expect to devour the former soon.  I also have yet to lay my hands on Changes by Jim Butcher, but I will.  I’m behind on my audiobook reviews as I didn’t put up my thoughts on the latest Fate of the Jedi novel (Backlash) as well as The Name of the Wind audio.  I’m currently listening to Makers by Cory Doctorow and absolutely loving it and plan listening to either A Mighty Fortress by David Weber or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson next; whichever comes back to the library first.

We’re entering into beach book season and things are starting to look good, if a bit overwhelming!  There is just a ton great things (movies, games, books, music) coming around that I’m really excited about.  On that note I’ll leave you with this bit of awesome!

Rescuing Forgotten Books

We are in the midst of weeding our fiction collection.  Basically discarding all those books that no one was touched for a decade or longer.  Going through those titles I occasionally stumble some bizarre title that piques my interest, but I’ll never have time to read.  Which is why I’m glad I stumbled across the PorPor Books Blog earlier today.  Anyone who peruses used bookstores knows exactly what “…those paperbacks and comics you can find on the shelves of second-hand bookstores..” are which the blogger’s brother nicknamed “porpor” books, hence the title.  It’s a pretty cool blog with reviews and excerpt about books, comics, etc. from late sixties through late eighties.  Awesome, fun stuff that manages to be a bit different from your run of the mill book or even sff blog.

Vacation Imminent

Tonight I jump an a train to Philly so that tomorrow morning I can jump on train to Boston for PAXEast! For those of you out there keeping track I’m still working through my Hard-Boiled reading project.  I’m somewhat relieved to announce that I have only one title left to review.  Relieved not because I haven’t enjoyed the project but because the pile of science fiction and fantasy novels I want to read has been growing considerably in the meantime.  So, before I head off, below you’ll find a list of all the posts related to by genre switch up:

A Not So Simple Art

A Short Look at a Long Goodbye

I, the Jury by Mickey Spillane

Jack Wakes Up by Seth Harwood

The Crazy Kill by Chester B. Himes

The Mystic Art of Erasing All Signs of Death of by Charlie Huston

The Zebra Striped Hearse by Russ McDonald

The Promised Land by Robert B. Parker

LaBrava by Elmore Leonard

Charlie Huston’s Joe Pitt on Audio

A Dance at the Slaughterhouse by Lawrence Block

My last read was a difficult choice but I decided to go with The Black Hand by Will Thomas.  My initial impression is extremely positive and would never have expected one could set a hard-boiled novel in 19th Century.  I’m hoping I can plow through it on the Amtrak ride tomorrow morning.  This is a vacation I’m really looking forward as management changes at my part time job combined with potentially devastating (for libraries) New Jersey State budget cuts have left me a bit stressed.  It’ll be nice to not think about all this crap for a couple of days at least.

If you’re going to be in Boston for PAXEast feel free to drop me a line via twitter or keep an eye out on lines for the bearded dude with his buried in a nook/book.  I’ll try to get a post or two up while I’m away but I make no guarantees.  See you all on the flip side!

A look at January

January was full of odds and ends. The tale end of my space opera reading and a hodge-podge of titles I’ve been meaning to get to. Two titles just missed the January cut and I’ll hopefully have them up this week before I head into my hard-boiled reading. People who have been sticking around likely noticed that I added the first line of each book to my reviews. I’ve long been a fan of Locus‘ “Opening Lines” section of their New Books feature. In fact a number of time it has spurred a purchase or interest where there previously was none.  So I’ve borrowed that for my reviews.  Below you’ll find a list of the reviews I’ve posted this month.  All books this time, but I have a growing backlog of audio, both music and fiction, that I’ve been putting off writing about.  Keep an eye out for some of that this month since I plowed through the audiobooks of Already Dead and No Dominion both of which should fit quite nicely under the hard-boiled theme.

Captain’s Fury by Jim Butcer
Redemption Ark by Alistair Reynolds
The God Engines by John Scalzi
Nyphron Rising by Michael J Sullivan
Arms-Commander by L. E. Modesitt Jr.
Gabriel Hunt at the Well of Eternity by Gabriel Hunt as told to James Reasoner

Slight Change of Plans

Don’t worry I still plan on my look at hardboiled detective fiction (in I read The Simple Art of Murder this weekend) but I think I’m going to take it slower then my other “projects.”  In the meantime I’m going to work through a backlog of fiction that has slipped through the cracks of my themed reading of late.  I have at least three books I really want to read but just haven’t had a chance to open up yet.  So in January look for reviews of:

Nyphron Rising:  the third book in the excellent Riyria Revelations series by Michael J Sullivan.

PUPPET IS CROWNED. THE TRUE HEIR REMAINS HIDDEN. A ROGUE’S SECRET COULD CHANGE EVERYTHING.

War has come to Melengar. To save her kingdom, Princess Arista runs a desperate gamble when she defies her brother and hires Royce and Hadrian for a dangerous mission. As the power of the Nyphron Empire grows, so does Royce’s suspicion that the wizard Esrahaddon is using the thieves as pawns in his own game. To find the truth, he must unravel the secret of Hadrian’s past–what he discovers could change the future for all of Elan.

The Rookie: Scott Sigler’s Blood Bowl-esque space football novel.  I gave it as a gift to my cousin’s husband for Christmas despite having not had a chance to read my copy.

Set in a lethal pro football league 700 years in the future, THE ROOKIE is a story that combines the intense gridiron action of “Any Given Sunday” with the space opera style of “Star Wars” and the criminal underworld of “The Godfather.”

Aliens and humans alike play positions based on physiology, creating receivers that jump 25 feet into the air, linemen that bench-press 1,200 pounds, and linebackers that literally want to eat you. Organized crime runs every franchise, games are fixed and rival players are assassinated.

Follow the story of Quentin Barnes, a 19-year-old quarterback prodigy that has been raised all his life to hate, and kill, those aliens. Quentin must deal with his racism and learn to lead, or he’ll wind up just another stat in the column marked “killed on the field.”

Arms-Commander:  I haven’t read many Recluse books.  Only one in fact when in youth I was lured by a Darrel K. Sweet cover thanks to my infatuation with a certain other series.  I remember liking it, but little beyond that.  The blurb makes it sound like it’ll be new reader friendly.  We’ll see about that!

Arms-Commander takes place ten years after the end of The Chaos Balance and tells the story of the legendary Saryn. The keep of Westwind, in the cold mountainous heights called the Roof of the World, is facing attack by the adjoining land of Gallos. Arthanos, son and heir to the ailing Prefect of Gallos, wishes to destroy Westwind because the idea of a land where women rule is total anathema to him.

Saryn, Arms-Commander of Westwind, is dispatched to a neighboring land, Lornth, to seek support against the Gallosians. In the background, the trading council of Suthya is secretly and informally allied with Gallos against Westwind and begins to bribe lord-holders in Lornth to foment rebellion and civil war. They hope to create such turmoil in Lornth that the weakened land will fall to Suthya. But Zeldyan, regent of Lornth, has problems in her family. To secure Zeldyan’s aid, Saryn must pledge her personal support—and any Westwind guard forces she can raise—to the defense of Zeldyan and her son. The fate of four lands, including Westwind, rests on Saryn’s actions.

I’m also just about done with First Lord’s Fury by Jim Butcher. As before keep an eye out for my final reviews in my Space Opera selections. Of course I’ll start working my way through hardboiled detective fiction starting with Chandler’s The Long Goodbye and Spillane’s I, the Jury, I might sit on the reviews until February however but we’ll see.

In Which Our Hero Examines His Blog: 2009 Edition

Well we are just about at the finish line for 2009 and, as usual for myself, I’m a bit behind in examining my thoughts on the past years worth of reading and blogging.  At the end of 2008 I promised myself that I’d post more frequently and more consistently (with more substantial posts) throughout this calendar year.  I’m happy to say that was a pretty big success and, with very few exceptions, managed to post on a fairly consistent schedule.

In terms of hard numbers well:

2008:  34 books reviewed

2009:  70 books reviewed

I know I read a lot this year.  I know I reviewed a lot this year.  I didn’t know it was more then twice as much as last year.  There are some caveats to that number. Namely the amount of video games I played, and completed, is significantly down and that number of music albums I’ve reviewed was also down.  That latter is a deficiency I noted earlier this year, and one I kept meaning to correct, but just never got around to. I’m a little disappointed in that fact since I’m a bit terrified to actually calculate the amount of money I spent on music purchases over the last 12 months.  Hopefully 2010 will see that change.

Towards the end of this year I introduced “themes” to my monthly reads.  It has so far been an enjoyable process and, if not comprehensive in the themes I chose, at least provided a stable base to look at what I was reading and provided some interesting insight into whatever genre or theme I had decided on.  I will definitely be carrying that same process forward into 2010 though likely not every month.  Though I intended it from the beginning I had intended for each month to end with some sort of post-game discussion on what I encountered during my little sojourns but never managed to actually sit down and do-it.  I came closest in October with some of my theme-related non-review posts but it was never quite at the level I wanted it to be.

From the very start I also intended to ground some of the themes with some-sort of non-fiction reading.  You can see the remnants of that intent in some of my October reviews that reference Lovecraft’s Supernatural Horror In Literature.  I’m going to make a better effort at with my next project, hard-boiled detective fiction, my starting the project reading Raymond Chandler’s The Simple Art of Murder.  It is a bit academic (it is the same way my Reading Interests of Adults class operated when looking at genre fiction) I guess, and a lot nerdy, but I’ll direct your attention to the title of the blog.  I don’t know if I can pull it off, but I’ll certainly try.

With the exception of my friend Val’s look at The Strain I’ve been the only poor sap posting around here which, at times, can be a bit trying.  I’d like to be able to convince some of my friends to write some kind of review for this blog here.  Or at least convince Ricker (you’ll note some of his science related posts in the archive during 2008) to try and start posting again.

Regardless, 2009 has been a pretty good year around here and I’m thinking that 2010 will be even better.  I’m not going to do another big year-end post with a lengthy best-of whatever but stay tuned tomorrow for, at the very least, my top two reads of 2009.

Some Post-Holiday Updates

I’m back from Christmas “Vacation” which, really, was almost as exhausting as the work preceding it.  I expect that over the next few weeks things will settle back down at home/work to something resembling normalcy and I’ll get back to a more consistent posting schedule.  Over my brief break I got an e-mail from Robin Sullivan, wife of fantasy author Michael Sullivan, pointing me towards this blog post in which Michael gives everyone the wonderful news that the first print run of The Crown Conspiracy has sold out.  Good news is accompanied by bad since there won’t be a second print run until March.  All is not lost however as the Sullivans still have a number of author copies available for sale on their website via this page.  If you haven’t given the Riyria Revelations a try you should definitely jump at the chance to grab a copy while you can especially since the books (including Avempartha and Nyphon Rising) are being offered at a ridiculously low price point for signed copies!  If you’re still not sure you’re interested check out my reviews of The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha for some more information and some unapologetic gushing.

I should be up with a review tomorrow though it is looking likely that it’ll be my last before 2010 since I’ve barely scratched the surface of my impromptu read of Alistair Reynolds’ Redemption Ark. I’m still waiting on a copy The God Engines and just picked up a copy of First Lord’s Fury so I have a couple of titles to get through before I move on to January’s hard-boiled detective reading.

November was Fantasy Month

Despite a couple of posts squeaking in during the first week of December, my reading got tossed for a loop over Thanksgiving when the flu had me nigh on comatose, November was dedicated exclusively to fantasy fiction.  Here is a listing of “November” posts:

Sa souvraya niende misain ye: Identity and The Gathering Storm

Review: Dust of Dreams by Steven Erikson

Review: The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas

Review: The Other Lands by David Anthony Durham

Review: Servant of a Dark God by John Brown

Review: A Young Man Without Magic by Lawrence Watt-Evans

Review: The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold

Dragon Age is Annoying*

Review: The Infernal City by Greg Keyes

Whew! That was a lot of reading!  I’m attempted to tackle space opera next, though a few other titles might creep into the mix.  Our copy of First Lord’s Fury never showed up at the library and I have a copy of Scott Sigler’s The Rookie that I haven’t been able to fit into my themed reading of late so there’s a chance I might crack those open this month as well.  I have a number of titles I’m fairly certain I’ll get to.  I’m almost finished Seeds of the Earth by Michael Cobley (a UK import that has been sitting on my desk for a couple months now), Nova War by Gary Gibson (sequel to the previously reviewed Stealing Light), and The Quiet War by Paul McAuley.  I don’t know the status of The God Engines by John Scalzi since I’ve yet to see a release date though my copy is pre-ordered.  I’ll also do my best to work through The New Space Opera 2, the first 2 stories of which I’ve really enjoyed.

I should also point out that it is December and I work retail part-time (in addition to my full time job).  I’m already 1 week into my December work-a-thon and my guess is I won’t see a day off until Christmas Eve.  As my mental state invariably decays, and I regress ever closer to a vegetative state, over the next 2 weeks posting may suffer as a result…you’ve been warned.

Worlds of D&D over at Wertzone

I wanted to take a moment to point any D&D fans, new and old, over to the Wertzone where Adam Whitehead has been slowly eking out historical overviews of the various D&D campaign settings that have existed through the ages.  So if players just getting into D&D with 4e want to see some of what came before or if older gamers want to relive the glories of past adventures I can think of no better place to start.  You can find all the posts HERE or you can jump to a specific post:

Overview

Greyhawk

Dragonlance

They’re all really long so beware!  They’re all really good as well so enjoy!