22 February, 2013

Guest Post - Lauren Zurchin's A Year of Daydreams: Fantasy Author Calendar

Lauren Zurchin contacted me earlier this month about her Kickstarter campaign and I was immediately intrigued. You may have noticed I also haven't had a lot of time this month, so I asked if she would put together a quick guest post.

She did, and just in time. There are only 5 days left, so you still have a chance to support this great project.


Hi! My name's Lauren Zurchin, and I am a professional photographer and the managing book editor for scifi/fantasy website Lytherus. During the spring of last year I wanted to try something new and creative, and settled on making some custom costumes (yes, I can also sew pretty well!) for fantasy-themed photos I'd shoot. Then I got the great idea to make fantasy authors the subjects of these photos. Immediately I knew I'd have to do something with this, something bigger than just my crazy idea. So I decided to create a 12-month calendar, the proceeds of which will go to two different non-profits: First Book and Worldbuilders. 

I gathered an amazing team of world-famous authors who were interested in this project: Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles; The Curse Workers Series), Gail Carriger (Soulless; The Parasol Protectorate), Cassandra Clare (The Mortal Instruments; The Infernal Devices), Lauren Kate (Fallen), Gregory Maguire (Wicked; The Oz Chronicles), The Merry Sisters of Fate- a trio of authors consisting of: Tessa Gratton(Blood Magic; The Blood Keeper), Maggie Stiefvater (Shiver; The Scorpio Races; The Raven Boys), and Brenna Yovanoff (The Replacement; Paper Valentine), Brandon Mull (Fablehaven; Beyonders), Lauren Oliver (Delirium; Before I Fall), Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle), Patrick Rothfuss (The Name of the Wind), Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time; Mistborn), Tad Williams (Otherland; Memory, Sorrow and Thorn).

As the idea started to come together I realized that the cost of making costumes for fourteen authors, and the costs of travel to actually go and shoot all of these photos, was more than I could afford. So I decided to do some crowdfunding, utilizing Kickstarter to bring in the finances to cover the cost of this project. We hit the goal with over a week left, and so now I'm working toward the stretch goal, which will allow me to take these photos to another level with detail and props I wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. And as a treat for the backers I had all the authors agree to sign various items related to the project for the Kickstarter rewards, things that are extremely limited in number and, once gone, will never happen again. 
This is an amazing project that will be bringing a lot of good to the world in addition to making some good art. Please consider backing the Kickstarter and/or spreading the word. Thanks for your support! 

The Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/354009039/beyond-words-a-year-of-daydreams-fantasy-author-ca

Want to learn more? Check out my website. http://laurenzurchinstudios.com/author-fantasy-calendar/

15 February, 2013

eBook Deals

Today only:

[$1.99] Swan Song by Robert McCammon
[$1.99] Blackcollar by Timothy Zahn

14 February, 2013

(reread) Review - Gardens of the Moon (Malazan Book of the Fallen #1) by Steven Erikson

There are few books you put down and immediately want to reread. Gardens of the Moon[US] [UK] is one of those books for two reasons. One, it's that good. Two, it's that confusing.

On a reread I already know I missed a lot the first time, but I quickly realized I missed SOOOO much that first time and most of it is because I wasn't used to having to use my brain as much. I was constantly amazed at how much foreshadowing is in this first book. So much is mentioned from the origins of the T'lan Imass and Tiste Andii to the Jaghut and even a little about the Forkrul Assail.

And the epigraphs made sense! They ACTUALLY made sense! I always thought they might, but they are tell quite a bit in fact. Some I was amazed actually give away events in the following chapter, but you have no idea when you first read it. You wily bastard, Erikson!

Hand in hand with the foreshadowing I'm amazed at the level of detail in this book, there's hardly a sentence without extra meanings behind it. But the problem is - you just don't know who to trust when you're going through this on your first time and it's so hard to catch it when so much is revealed in such an offhand manner.

I still remember being so confused the first time and then figuring something out. That's what sold me on the series and why I still consider it one of the best, if not the best out there. A second reading sealed the deal.
Having said that I also saw a lot of why people say it's the least well-written of the series. It's well done, leaps and bounds ahead of most I think, but it can be inconsistent. For most of the series it's told in third person limited, and while that seems to have been attempted for most of this book, there were instances where it drifts to omniscient within a section. The pacing is also a bit off, but that's not really any different from the rest either.

Despite that, I stick with what I said above. These complaints are drops in the bucket compared to this vast, epic tale filled with history and magic and plans within plans.

At the moment, The Malazan Book of the Fallen is my all-time favorite series. This may or may not change when George finishes his series (in 2113, zing!), but I have a hard time right now seeing how it will be possible to top. Yes, there's a similar level of detail and even camaraderie you feel with some of the characters, but how do you top this kind of epic? I don't think there's a better feeling in reading than figuring something out that the author withheld, that's what sold me on my first read and what continues to make this my favorite.

5 out of 5 Stars (Not even a second thought)

Note: I also highly recommend reading this with a group, or just checking out the discussions from the group read I've been participating in. Being able to toss around ideas and theories is priceless and having people to explain some of it is also very helpful especially if it's not as rewarding for you to figure things out on your own.

12 February, 2013

Review - The Daylight War (Demon Cycle #3) by Peter V. Brett

The fitting-but-not-as-good US Cover.
The Daylight War [US] [UK] was easily my most anticipated novel this year. There's just something about Brett's world that makes me want to live and breath it always. I can't get enough of it and the really the worst part about this book is that I have to wait at least a year to read the next one. In short, yes it's good and worth the wait. It's consistent with its predecessors and even surpasses them in some aspects.

Spoilers follow for the previous books. You've been warned.

The Daylight War picks up directly after the end of events in The Desert Spear. It's literally within the hour, but that's not before we learn about the lovely lady on the cover of the book, Inevera. The cover is very fitting because we learn a ton about her in this book. There are hundreds of pages of backstory from her early years to her current position next to Jardir, the Shar'Dama Ka or Deliverer at least according to the Krasians.

I know what you're thinking. So how is this consistent and possibly even better with such a focus on a less than likable character? She tried to kill Leesha for crying out loud! (I know, I should never go into palm reading) But that's part of the genius of this book, we learn more about Inevera and it's hard not to root for her and if not that, then at least to understand her motives that much better.

And she's a great character. The early parts of this rather large book show her in essentially Dama'ting school and that always gets me right there. Show me a school filled with bullies, difficult tests and traps, and a highly difficult ascension through the ranks and I'm already halfway there. Just pay attention to the time period displayed at the beginning of the chapter. Anytime the focus in on the Krasians, however, I have a bit of a hard time.

The awesome-and-perfectly-fitting UK Ed.
The Krasians

I think Brett's done an excellent job with the Krasians and the Krasian language, it's a realistic society with a realistic and interesting language, but I have a terrible time with it. There are so many words that are terribly similar. Once you get over the fact that a woman's title will have the suffix 'ting on the end, you've barely cracked it. Half the words have the word "dama" somewhere in it and darned if I could remember what titled referred to whom. Good thing for the Krasian dictionary at the back.

And then to add to this, there are a lot of characters with similar names, especially names beginning with the letter "A." Again, this is by no means unrealistic, that's literally how plenty of cultures and languages work, but it was difficult keeping track of who's who.

Then, for a society who makes their women cover up, they're extremely obsessed with sex. I know, that's a whole discussion on it's own, but I felt it got a bit heavy-handed on this one. So much revolved around it when it wasn't all that necessary. I read for action and plotting and not for romance and sex. That's just a personal preference though.

Lastly, for a society who is deeply religious and concerned with sacred things, it was a little odd for some of the characters to shout epithets such as "Everam's balls." Not a huge detractor, it was usually funny even, but I thought it took away from the realism. There's no way they would refer to this holy being in such a way, not when they refer to with the utmost respect and have such harsh penalties for the smallest of sacrileges. But enough of the Krasians, back to Arlen.

The Warded Man

Arlen is a great character, I love reading his pov. He's not afraid to stand up to anyone and tells it like it is. I was really surprised that unlike The Desert Spear, we're given a good hundred or so pages with him right after the prologue. He's constantly struggling with people's perception of him and I really like that his whole message is that everyone's the deliverer, not just one person. That kind of thinking got everyone in trouble in the first place. Arlen's grown more and more powerful and his attack from the mind-demon only strengthened his power.

The Matrix

I mentioned in my last review that I was worried about The Matrix effect. Once Neo becomes all-powerful, the agents are no longer scary in The Matrix: Reloaded.

The same kind of thing started to happen in The Desert Spear for me. Suddenly, the demons were no longer scary like they were in The Warded Man. That can really hurt the suspense factor. Luckily, Brett has obviously prepared for this because we only begin to see what awaits the Free Cities at the end of The Desert Spear. We've barely cracked the surface, literally.

I've Been Overly Critical Out of Love

To be honest, any complaint I've mentioned has really only been minor. I felt like Brett's writing stepped up in this volume and the plot is excellent. Obviously we're in for some real treats to come, especially after that insane cliffhanger ending.

The Demon Cycle is my crack, I can't get enough of it. If you haven't read The Warded Man, do it already. I need friends at the AA meetings.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (Very Highly Recommended!)

Note: I received a copy of both the UK and US versions of this book and found out that the respective names for The Painted Man/The Warded Man are used throughout the respective country's book. It seems obvious now, but I had always thought it was just a title thing. I asked the author about that (at a reddit.com "Ask Me Anything") and here's what he said.

Note #2: Read the first 50 pages at Suvudu.

The Demon Cycle
1) The Warded Man (Alec's review, my review)
2) The Desert Spear (my review)
3) The Daylight War
4) (forthcoming)
5) (forthcoming)

1) The Great Bazaar and Other Stories (my review)
2) Brayans' Gold (my review)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

10 February, 2013

(audiobook) Review - Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn

With a cover like that, you're almost compelled to read Star Wars: Scoundrels. It oozes cool and then with the teaser that there's Han AND Lando. Happiness, that's what that is. Okay, this one wasn't perfect, but it was fun.

Like all my audiobook reviews now this one's over at sffaudio.com.

06 February, 2013

The Verdict's In - Painted Man versus Warded Man

I'm hanging out at the AMA for author, Peter V. Brett, at the moment and asked a question that's probably been asked a thousand times:
Painted or Warded? Which word did you originally write?
I always thought it was just a title thing, but got copies of UK and US books that have the respective word throughout the book (duh!).
Brett's response:
Painted was the original, though when my US publisher (for reasons still unknown) insisted on changing it, I was the one who came up with the alternate title and insisted on having it changed throughout. Over time I came to prefer “warded” over “painted”, but there no wrong answer. 
And knowing is half the battle.

I just wanted to shout out that the AMA's are awesome. Take some time to figure reddit.com out if you haven't already and get an author you love to respond to a question you have. It's "Ask Me Anything" so everything you can think of is on the table...which usually means lots of jokes and silliness but lots of fun.

Also, I'm about 70% through The Daylight War (which is released next week! February 12) and it's just candy. I love this world Brett's created.

eBook Deals

I thought someone might be interested in this:

[FREE] Stone of Tears (Sword of Truth #2) by Terry Goodkind
[FREE] Northworld Trilogy by David Drake - Also a lot of other David Drake stuff is currently free.
[FREE] The End: Visions of the Apocalypse, edited by N.E. White - This is an anthology from sffworld.com including Michael J. Sullivan!
[FREE] On Basilisk Station (Honorverse #1) by David Weber

05 February, 2013

A Book Haul From Two Johns

I just got my copy of The Human Division by John Scalzi, so of course that means I'll be posting the weekly episodes here from this point forward. If you're wondering what I'm referring to, The Human Division has been serialized - each "episode" or chapter comes out every week through April (Here's the schedule). At the end of that time, it will be published as the book you can see above. (Also, if it's unclear that I'm joking about posting the episodes, I'm joking.)

I think the claim is funny that it's a new and innovative format that's being "experiment[ed]" with. Because books have never been serialized ever...not even Scalzi's own first two novels, oh wait. I guess I have to give them that it's not a thing that's done as often anymore, so I guess it's an experiment to see if it still works, which I'm sure it will. Scalzi's just a fun author no matter how you read him.

As to the other John, I'm extremely excited about this one:

Front Cover
John Marco took a break for a little while, partially on purpose and partially because his editor didn't read his manuscript for a couple years. I'm very excited to see him back in the game. This book continues the story of the Bronze Knight, which began in the trilogy, The Eyes of God, The Devil's Armor, and The Sword of Angels.

Marco's work in progress at the moment is blowing my mind with awesome too. It's titled The Bloody Chorus, which already has me sold, but you gotta read some of the description and the six sentences he posted. It's brilliant, I can tell already. Like I said, I'm very happy he's back.

04 February, 2013

(audiobook) Review - World War Z by Max Brooks

My review went up Sunday, but a day and a half behind is actually me doing really well at the moment. Here's the link to my review of World War Z at sffaudio.com.

Let’s just say, if we ever do get into a Zombie War, you better have a copy of World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide on you. Someone’s already gone through the effort of thinking up EVERY situation that can occur, what’s effective, what’s not and put it down in words. No sense reinventing the wheel. While an entertaining idea and clever execution, these were the exact things that made World War Z a book only a mother could love I could never love. It’s worth a read if only to see how in-depth you have not thought about zombies.

01 February, 2013

Updates and Excuses

I know posting's been sparse the last week or so and I apologize. I'm in that place where anything outside of bar studying just isn't happening, at least not effectively. I'm reading fine, I need the breaks whenever I can get them, but to actually sit down and review has proved ... difficult to say the least.

So, I figured I should give a quick update of what I'm reading and what you can hopefully expect soon.

But first, here's a sign at the local college where I've been studying. I think there's a reason it's called the Nook Color and not the other way around:

Sorry for the terrible picture that's not even focused on the thing I wanted to focus on. It's in the upper left corner of the sign.

As to what I'm reading, I've actually found audiobooks to really hit the spot lately. They don't take too much brain power and I don't have much to spare.

Finished (and in need of review):
-Star Wars: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn - Audiobook (Good but not great and maybe closer to okay)
-The Eyes of the Overworld (Dying Earth #2) by Jack Vance - Audiobook (Excellent)

Currently reading:
-The Daylight War (Demon Cycle #3) by Peter V. Brett (Loving every second)
-Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier (Shadow Ops #2) by Myke Cole (Great sequel so far)
-Gardens of the Moon (Malazan #1) by Steven Erikson - reread (I really shouldn't read anything concurrently with this, it's so good)
-World War Z by Max Brooks - Audiobook (Good, but not as great as I thought it would be)