28 May, 2014

Giveaway - The Magician's Kit - In Preparation For The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman

When I read the first two books in Lev Grossman's Magicians trilogy, everything else disappeared from my life. I couldn't get enough, I was drawn in and completely immersed. All I could do was read until I was done. Any given day, all I really want to do is read, but with these books, I had to read them, almost against my will (to be productive in work and life).

It goes without saying then, that I'm pretty much dying to get my hands on Lev Grossman's finale in the Magician's Trilogy, The Magician's Land, which comes out August 5, 2014 from Viking.

I don't have a copy of The Magician's Land to giveaway (sorry), I'm told they aren't available yet anyway, but what I do have is a bit of a teaser giveaway - The Magician's Kit.

From the email I received from the publisher:

"The Magician’s Kit contains: 
- An excerpt booklet containing Chapter 1 of THE MAGICIAN’S LAND 
- Clock-face buttons in 3 different designs [see below] ...
- A set of 4 postcards featuring Magicians fan art by Christopher Shy

 If you would like to enter, please follow the exceedingly simple instructions below:

- Email your name and address to: onlythebestsff@[remove this]gmail.com
- Write "Magician's Don't Kit " in the subject line (or something that lets me know what you're entering)
- Remember, this is NOT the book, The Magician's Land, only a teaser package
- Snarky comments get you extra entries for future giveaways (and make reading entries much more entertaining)
- US only (don't hate the messenger!)
- This giveaway ends a week from today

Also, if you still want to enter, Lev Grossman is hosting a contest for entries into his Book Trailer for The Magician's Land where readers read a quick sentence from the book alongside with some famous writerly types. I'm not a huge proponent of book trailers, but getting the fans involved sounds like a good idea.

27 May, 2014

Review - Blackdog by K.V. Johansen

I've spent a good amount of time on online fantasy forums (you know, with all my free time) where I can geek out about fantasy books and authors and discuss the important questions like who would win in a fight, Ser Loras Tyrell or Aragorn (Sorry Loras, Elf training wins!). Be it sffworld (where I found Goodreads actually), r/fantasy on reddit, or a number of other places like ... hrm ... blogs. 

Often, these forums are filled with jaded readers who've read all the traditional stuff, and they're always looking for something new and unique. More specifically, people are tired of the Medieval Europe setting.

The other recommendation people want and which comes up quite often is what are the best stand-alone books. I love a great, long series, but I understand the desire to avoid the commitment a long series brings.

All that is to say, Blackdog is both of these. A unique stand-alone book in non-Eurocentric setting. 

In a world where gods walk among men, where their rule is limited to streams or lakes or mountains, one is the target of a great evil. She has made herself vulnerable in order to get closer to her people and she is only a child, not yet grown to her full power.

Her protector is the Blackdog, whom some think is a devil himself. A man with the uncontrollable power inside him who only thinks of the protection of the god of Lissavakail. 

I had heard this book was good and yet I was still weary going into it. Don't ask me why, that Raymond Swanland artwork alone shouts "read me!" However, I enjoyed every moment of this book. It's insanely good, insanely rich, and the details are wonderful.

It's a thick book, but remember, it's stand-alone! There's no more commitment after this. Plus, it's a unique fantasy world, built all in one book around a compelling plot. That takes some time to develop and it's all worth it.

I can easily say Blackdog is highly recommended. And even though it's stand-alone, I just got a copy of The Leopard, which is the start of a new duology set in the same world surrounding a place referred to a number of times in Blackdog. I asked the author on Twitter and you need not read Blackdog first before reading The Leopard, although I highly recommend it because it's such a great book.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (very highly recommended)

21 May, 2014

Review - Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan has made a name for himself by not only mastering the self-published market, but by making the transition to traditional publishing. Successful on both fronts, Sullivan continues to publish books whether a publishing house wants to pursue it or not. This is ideal for an author because their ideas need not be limited by whether a traditional publishing house can make money or not. The author can just write stories.

In the case of Hollow World, it was the best of both worlds. Traditional publishing passed on the idea so Michael decided to self-publish it with the help of Kickstarter. There, he obtained the money for two excellent editors who are known for excellent work in traditional publishing markets. Once this got going and the interest was obvious, Tachyon publishing jumped on board - a smaller house, but with plenty of audience reach. 

I jumped on the Michael J. Sullivan bandwagon when he was self-publishing his Riyria Revelations series (because that's how cool I am).  I took a safe bet, what with blogs and forums being abuzz at the time, which is the effect Goodreads and blogging have had on my life. I tend not to read many bad novels anymore.

Wow, lots of rambling today.

Hollow World is a time travel novel about a distant future when individuality has been obliterated in favor of peace and longer life. Sullivan explains in the introduction that the reader shouldn't get bogged down in how time travel works in his novel because that's not the important part - it's about exploring the new world and the characters who are doing it. And at the same time, I was perfectly convinced that time travel could work the way it's explained.

But I think that was a good primer. This book is science fiction, but it's not really about the science. Okay, it's not about the science at all. It's about the future society, the trade-offs, the character interactions, and a compelling mystery to boot.

It's amazing how many trade-offs we, as a society, are willing to endure. We accept automobiles because of how useful they are, yet they cause how many thousands of deaths a year. David Foster Wallace has a short article on the trade offs of the patriot act and our lack of public discussion about whether we, as a society, were willing to sacrifice our privacy for security. 

Are we willing to trade individuality for peace, for longer life, for the cure to cancer and any other disease? That's what Hollow World invites you to discover and that's only peripherally. Against this background, he throws in a page-turning mystery where in a world with no disease and crime is unheard of, murders are suddenly occurring. 

Michael J. Sullivan proves his hand at science fiction and ideas just as he proved it in his excellent fantasy series, The Riyria Revelations and Chronicles. I had a great time with this one. Yes, there were some parts you have to suspend disbelief, but I was engaged with the story too much to care, and it is time travel so you have to expect that. 

Hollow World is a place you want to keep exploring. Sullivan's typical style is present here, no getting bogged down with info-dumps. The pages fly by and you get the necessary information as you go. This was a great break in my typical epic fantasy heavy reading schedule and highly recommended.

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

A copy of this book was provided by the author (and I contributed to the kickstarter for that matter).

13 May, 2014

eBook Deals - Hobb, Meikle, Vonnegut, Zahn, Brown, Sanderson, Card

Some great deals this week I just can't pass up. Assassin's Apprentice is a steal, what a great book. Also, I just started Heir to the Empire a week or so ago and here it is on sale. Great timing. I wonder if it's lost its value as a classic with the changes the new movies are making, not to mention declaring the EU is non-canon. It's been a great read either way and it makes sense to part from the books in my opinion, as great as they are.

[$0.99] Assassin's Apprentice (Farseer #1) by Robin Hobb
[$0.99] The Hole by William Meikle
[$1.82] The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut - My favorite by Vonnegut.
[$1.99] Heir to the Empire (Thrawn #1) by Timothy Zahn - Reading this now and it's awesome.
[$1.99] Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy #1) by Pierce Brown
[$2.99] The Way of Kings (Stormlight Archive #1) by Brandon Sanderson
[$3.99] Ender's Game (Ender #1) by Orson Scott Card

05 May, 2014

Giveaway Winner! Deadroads by Robin Riopelle

Looks like it's about time we announce our winner of the Giveaway for Deadroads by Robin Riopelle. Deadroads just came out from Night Shade Books, who are known for pushing boundaries and taking chances and new and interesting stories. Deadroads looks like no less. Without further ado...

The Winner is:

Lisa from White Plains, New York!

Thanks to all who entered and we look forward to seeing you back for the next.

Also, check out Robin's awesome Guest Post on language in fantasy.