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Interview with Tenacious Reader

WHAT? Someone interviewed ME? Yup. Actually, I’ve enjoyed seeing the series of interviews SCy-Fy has been doing and am thrilled to be a part o it! So, check it out:

SCy-Fy: the blog of S. C. Flynn

My guest today is Lisa from the blog Tenacious Reader.

SCy-Fy: Tell me about a typical blogging day, Lisa.

TR: I always visit a number of blogs, check Twitter and other social media (Goodreads, forums and Reddit) just because I love to see what books people are reading and talking about. I also want to keep up with what’s on the horizon so I check NetGalley and Edelweiss as well as periodically visiting publishers’ websites. For my blog, I write up any reviews or posts I have coming up and read/respond to comments.

SCy-Fy: What are your future initiatives?

TR: Gosh, that sounds like a question that could set me up to answer about world domination or something – kidding! Honestly, I mainly just want to keep reading good books and sharing my thoughts with anyone who might be interested. I also want to continue my Backlist Burndown initiative…

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Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

 

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Title:  Half a King (Shattered Sea #1)

Author: Joe Abercrombie

Expected Publication: July 15th 2014  in US,  July 3rd 2014 in UK

Publisher: Del Rey (US), Harper Voyager (UK)

Blurb:

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.” 
 
Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.
 
The deceived will become the deceiver.
 
Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.
 
The betrayed will become the betrayer.
 
Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.
 
Will the usurped become the usurper?
 
But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi finds his path may end as it began—in twists, and traps, and tragedy.

 

Half a King by Joe Abercrombie is exactly the type of YA book I have been waiting to find. It’s no secret, that Abercrombie is one of my favorite authors, so I was hopeful, but still wasn’t sure what to expect. In this book, Abercrombie does not compromise or dampen his story for a younger crowd. When things get dark and violent, so does the book. The detail may be a little less than his other books (maybe? Well, there’s no Glokta, but yeah, there is still violence), but Yarvi experiences some grim, dark times and those are not skipped over at all, the reader gets to see it all. And of course, it wouldn’t be an Abercrombie book if there wasn’t just the right amount of dark humor interspersed to help counter the darkness. Another thing I really appreciate about this book is that it does not have an overwhelming romance. I know there are other YA books that don’t, but often, that is my gripe. I enjoy everything about the story but some sudden obsessive love interest. Not at all the case here.

276660 Also, for those readers who found Abercrombie’s other books slower to get into, I think you will find this one much quicker to draw you in. It jumps into the story quickly, and just keeps going. Other than that, I felt the main difference between this and Abercrombie’s other books was that it was told from a single POV. It stayed focused on Yarvi and his story and covered really little else. Oh, and no awkward sex scenes or cursing. I didn’t even notice their absence until I sat down to write this review.

I really enjoyed Yarvi , our protagonist, as a character. He is the younger son of the current King of Gettland, but in addition to the normal second son tribulations caused by watching from the shadows as an older sibling is prepared for the throne, being crippled confounds Yarvi’s feelings of being an outsider. His lack of a hand prevents him from being able to excel in fighting and combat, things that are highly valued by his father. Things his brother does excel at. So, Yarvi pursues an intellectual life, he prepares himself to join the ministry.

I have to confess in the beginning, I did feel he was a bit ‘oh, woe is me, I am just half of what I should be’. But that didn’t last. There is tremendous growth in Yarvi’s character, and to attain that, he had to start of weaker. He still struggled because of his disability, but instead of seeming defeated before he started, he began to look and find solutions that were within his power to do. Much like Tyrion from GRRM’s A Song of Ice and Fire, Yarvi learns to use his wits to achieve a goal where his body can not.

20726853We get glimpses of the world only as Yarvi encounters it, so we don’t get full scale detail or history. This worked for me, I feel the book featured Yarvi front and center and all other details of the world or characters were secondary and only told as relevant to Yarvi ‘s current circumstances. It helped keep this at a 350 page novel instead of a 500 pages like the rest of his novels. Not that I didn’t enjoy the world building in other books, I just can’t say that I missed it here. Because while Half a King is shorter, it is certainly not half a story. It also comes to a good conclusion for Yarvi, and has just enough details at the end to feed into the next book.

If Half a King is YA (which it is), it has just securely positioned itself as my favorite YA novel. I enjoyed this thoroughly and felt it had all the strengths of Abercrombie’s other books, just in a condensed format that made it move a little quicker. I highly recommend this one.

Now the parent in me comes out. I have to confess, when I got this book, one of the first things I wondered is if I would be able to recommend it to my son. He is only 11, so younger than many YA target, but old enough he reads many of them. So, I was wondering, will this YA book by Abercrombie be one of the ones that can easily be handed to a young reader? Honestly, I think it would be an individual basis. If it is a kid that is not bothered by violence in books, then absolutely go for it. There is nothing else in here to warrant holding it back from them. There are also many good life lessons as Yarvi finds his way. But, if they may not be able to handle bloody sword fights and decapitations, then just hold off a couple years.

 

Many thanks to Del Rey and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. 

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Moon’s Artifice by Tom Lloyd

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Tom Lloyd’s Moon’s Artifice may very well be the least talked about book from the last 6 months that people really should be talking about. At least of the books I have read. Earlier this year I deemed a new release over-hyped. This one is the opposite. It’s under-hyped. After reading it, I decided that I have not heard nearly enough people recommend or review it based the quality of writing and the enjoyability of the story. I have not read anything else by Lloyd, so really did not know what to expect.

One thing that this book did very well was hooked me in early. We are dropped into the middle of “something”, but pretty much have to read the book to figure out exactly what it was that happened. And from there, I stayed hooked. There is mystery, assassins, Gods, Demons, conspiracy, secret sects, in other words, there is plenty going on here to keep the reader going.

Our protagonist, Narin, is an Inspector who by some chance sequence of events happens to knock an unknown man unconscious. From here, the story starts to unfold. A God appears and asks Narin a question, “Who is the Moon?” Narin decides that, rather than expose where he was that night or why, or explain how or why a God may be involved, he decides to quietly handle this mysterious stranger on his own. Feeling responsible, he takes him.

I like Narin, he is not a powerful protagonist. He has no magical ability, no unusual propensity for some skill or capability. He is just a regular guy who has achieved his position through hard work, and perhaps a bit of luck and timing.

The secondary characters are all well done as well. I really like Narin’s friend Enchei, an older tattooist from a lower class with a flippant attitude. Lloyd definitely intrigues the reader into wanting to know more about this mysterious stranger who seems to be more than the man he is currently presenting himself to be. There is also Kesh, a strong female character, who by some a very tragic turn of events finds herself in the middle of this dangerous mystery.

Lloyd’s writing creates a very good picture of the city’s social structure between not just the various Houses but also the castes and organizations within them. Oh, and the Gods as well, who can evidently interject themselves when it amuses them. And don’t forget about the Demons. They play a role in this story as well.

Pretty much, this story is very well done, and I just enjoyed reading it. There are battles and fight scenes that I feel in general are done really quite well, though a couple of them went on just a tad longer than I would have preferred. But, that is a very minor comment. Narin and his companions are in a race against time to both figure out what is happening, and put a stop to it. Intrigue, suspense, action, yeah, Lloyd delivers on all accounts.

The story works well as a standalone, but I have heard there is to be another book. Something to keep your eye out for after you finish reading this, because if you are like me, you’ll be wanting more.

 

Many thanks to Gollancz for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

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On a recent road trip with my boys (ages 9 and 11), I gave them several choices for audiobooks. Most of them were books I had read reviews for or had recommendations for.  After they read the blurbs and listened to the samples, they quickly agreed on Interworld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reeves.  This was the one option that I knew little about, I have not had it recommended for them, and I had not read any reviews, but they were interested, so that settled it. Decision made (as I hoped beyond hope that the fact I had heard nothing about this book co-authored by Neil Gaiman was not a bad sign).

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. The story, about a boy named Joey Harkin, who has a tendency to get lost even within his own house, suddenly finds himself in a familiar, yet completely different world. Evidently he has the ability to walk between worlds, which range from purely scientific worlds to worlds completely ruled by magic (and all the worlds in between these two extremes).

I am not familiar with other works by Michael Reaves and therefor am not able to pick out his mark on the story, but I have to say I can definitely spot Gaiman’s style all over in this book. It is interesting to see how he is able to write his sort of surreal dream like stories for all ages. This is definitely a book geared for younger readers, but Gaiman’s style from Neverwhere and Ocean at the End of the Lane, and even American Gods, is there in full force. Even Fortunately, the Milk had it. They are all very different stories, but share that feeling of being between reality and dreaming, in a most positive way, of course.

Joey’s journey through the worlds and the characters he comes across creates a very entertaining, suspenseful and mysterious story for kids.  One character/creature looks somewhat like a bubble that communicates by changing the colors that flash and swirl across his being. I have to admit I enjoyed this character/creature as much as my kids. It’s fun seeing such a bizarre thing and realize it is sentient, and is trying to communicate, but also realizing that there is no way to fully understand what the creature is about.

The story moves at a good pace, and has a good bit of humor mixed in. Not once did either of my boys lose interest, and I always take that a huge sign of success. This is, after all, a story aimed to people closer to their age.  So, if you are looking for a Science Fiction story for kids, I think this is a great choice, and will definitely be recommending it.

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The Corpse Rat King by Lee Battersby

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Corpse Rat King by Lee Battersby is full of wonderfully macabre atmosphere and attitude. Marius don Hellespont makes his gory living by wading through battlefields, liberating the dead of their valuables (in other words, he is a corpse rat). Our story begins as Marius and his lackwit assistant Gerd are interrupted as they are making their latest collection.

I’ll skip over any spoilers here and just say it results in Marius being sucked into the underworld where he is mistaken as a dead king. Once the army of dead realize the mistake, they send Marius on a journey to find them a dead king (I guess they are in serious need of a deceased monarch). As incentive, the dead are able to hold his life ransom, so while he is making this journey, he does so as a walking corpse. As Marius travels, we get to see him stammer through many different situations, obstacles, setback and such, all of which are made more interesting and disgusting because of his lack of life. And some of which would never be possible otherwise.

One thing that I need to make clear about this book, is Battersby writing skills are top notch. He is able to convey the disgusting and absurd in a stunningly grotesque way. I absolutely loved this and it just makes me smile. And Marius has a very dark, acerbic sense of humor. Also love that.

But, while I enjoyed the quips and descriptions, I just never really connected with Marius, and I never felt all that drawn into the story.  And since I didn’t connect to Marius, that was a real issue because there are really no other prominent characters.

If I set this book down, I was completely fine not picking it back up again. It was rather strange, because I swear I can open up to almost any page and find some bit that I enjoy reading. I guess it’s a case of enjoying the details, but not really caring about the larger picture. Which is unfortunate because the details are so amusing.

But, for a first novel, I can see some serious potential here. With a bit more character development and plot, this book could be phenomenal because of Battersby’s ability for details. Despite its flaws, Corpse Rat King by is a mire of dead, undead, blood, gore and caustic prose and I am a bit surprised this book didn’t receive more attention when it was released. But I can also recognize it won’t be a book for everyone. It is very dark, but also one of those dark books that is just filled with humorously wrong moments.

 

Many thanks to  Angry Robot and NetGalley for the ARC in return for my honest review.

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The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black (Minor spoiler)

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Vampire books are an interesting breed. Nowadays, it seems that when I hear “vampire” in relation to a book, the first thing that comes to mind is paranormal romance where some beautiful young woman will catch the eye of an immortal, centuries old vampire and well, insert whatever sexually explicit magic you think happens next here. Maybe I am alone in this, but I can’t help it. That is truthfully my knee-jerk reaction. Now, that said, I absolutely know that is not always the case. There are some phenomenal vampire books that do not contain swooning romances. You can see my reviews for I am Legend by Richard Matheson or Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin for just two examples.

So, what does all this have to do with The Coldest Girl in Coldtown? Where does this one stand? Most aspects of this book, I absolutely loved. It is dark and it portrays the really dangerous, scary side of vampires instead of just glorifying them as sexy undead that happen to drink blood.  Actually, within this world, there are segments of the society and media that do glorify them, just not everyone. I really like how, while there is some glorification of vampires within society, it is a divisive topic that has caused issues. I also like that our protagonist is presented in a way that shows the downside (and the horrors) of it.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book. Tana, our vampire fearing main character, is a bit sarcastic, always a plus for me. And even the side characters, I enjoyed. But, as much as the story worked, and I knew it would happen, I could not help but be a little disappointed by sudden the romance that sparks between Tana and a vampire (this is my minor spoiler, it’s so predictable, I debated about marking it in anyway). My guess is most readers of this book will be pleased with this, but after reading the dark parts of the book, I just couldn’t help but hope that this would be something truly different. I really was hoping that the romance cliché would be skipped, but unfortunately (probably just for me), it was not. And it’s not quite that I felt the romance couldn’t work, and I actually enjoyed the male vampire’s character, I just guess I enjoyed the first book enough that I felt a little disappointed by the predictable love interest.

Also, I listened to this as an audiobook, and have to comment, the narrator did a fabulous job. However, I was a bit jarred by the introduction of ‘mood music’ in places to add suspense. I haven’t run into that with an audiobook before, and found it quite distracting. And honestly, I felt it was almost a bit of a disservice because I think Black’s words did a great job setting the tone and suspense on their own, they needed no help.

So, if you enjoy vampire books, I definitely think this one is worth reading. If you enjoy dark books, this book may also still work for you. If you want to skip any books that have romance with vampires, well, it may still be worth reading because the romance was not an overwhelming part of the book, and the rest of it was really very enjoyable.

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Cover Reveal: The Guild of Assassins (The Majat Code Book II) by Anna Kashina

I often like to share my love for Angry Robot books, but I have to admit I probably have not shared my love their covers as much as I could have. Let’s face it, covers are important whether we like to admit it or not and Angry Robot has a history of selecting great artists that produce memorable covers. So today, I am happy to participate in the cover reveal for The Guild of Assassins by Anna Kashina. This is the sequel to Blades of the Old Empire and here is the blurb provided by Angry Robot:

 

Kara has achieved something that no Majat has ever managed – freedom from the Guild!

But the Black Diamond assassin Mai has been called back to face his punishment for sparing her life. Determined to join his fight or share his punishment, Kara finds herself falling for Mai.

But is their relationship – and the force that makes their union all-powerful – a tool to defeat the overpowering forces of the Kaddim armies, or a distraction sure to cause the downfall of the Majat?

File Under: Fantasy [ Duty vs Honor | Forbidden | Unstoppable | Back in Black ]

 

So, without further ado, here it is! Cover Art is by Alejandro Colucci

 

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I have to admit, I like it. I’m a sucker for dangerous looking men. I was also a fan of the Blades of the Old Empire cover, which showed Kara, looking fierce, but not sexualized.

 

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Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

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I heard about Dark Eden probably close to a year ago. The blurb definitely intrigued me. It describes a population of humans on sunless planet where light comes not from the sky, but from the things that live and grow there. It’s a story of one young man breaking from the confines of the group, determined to explore the Dark that surrounds where they live and change the way their world thinks and acts. So why didn’t I read this sooner? It certainly got a lot of praise in the UK, winning the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Novel in 2013 and was a British Science Fiction Association Award Nominee for Best Novel in 2012. Well, while it was busy doing well in the UK, it was not released in the US. Until today, that is.

So, now that I have my hands on a copy of this book, what do I think? Does it live up to the hype? Hmmm. I suspect that will depend on who you are. It is different different. Personally, I quite enjoyed it.  The world was eerie, yet had a beauty to it. Light (and not just white light, but variable colors of light) comes from trees and flowers. The trees also provide heat hot enough to burn. There are strange creatures that live here. Becket does an absolutely wonderful job creating this alien world. The foreign feel of the place is further enhanced by Beckett’s prose and the speech of the people there. It does a great job of helping the reader feel that this is not just a group of humans that just landed, but a new culture that has evolved as it has grown in this place. Words are often repeated to add emphasis (hence, my earlier use of ‘different different’), words, particularly ones that have to do with the technology back on Earth like ‘electricity’, are misspelled for phonetic mispronunciations that have evolved over generations.

The book is also a dark exploration of human society, how groups, laws, traditions evolve. Our protagonist, John Redlantern, feels his group is stuck and should evolve and adapt. He feels confined and restricted and pushes for change. His character, while able to push for change, is quite flawed. It’s nice to see a character that could have easily turned into a golden boy destined and able to save the world struggle. It also adds to the darkness of the book quite a bit.

I love dark books, and though the prose, particularly the speech patterns of the people of Eden, took a little bit for me to get used to, I really enjoyed this book. And it is worth getting used to the speech, because it really does add to the impact of the book. So, anyone looking for a dark dystopian science fiction book with a flawed protagonist, definitely give this one a go.

 

Dark Eden is released today,  April 1st 2014, in the US by Crown Publishing/Broadway Books. Many thanks to the Crown Publishing/Broadway Books and NetGalley for the ARC in return for my honest review. 

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Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

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I have to admit that Seraphina by Rachel Hartman was quite an enjoyable read. There are dragons, there is murder, there is intrigue and there are secrets. And our protagonist, Seraphina, finds herself in the middle of it all while trying her hardest to not be noticed. Why does she not want to be noticed? Because Seraphina has a dangerous secret that makes her feel an outsider within her world, a secret that could bring her world crumbling down.

Seraphina is an intriguing character. She is a wonderfully talented musician and has a strong and forthright personality. She lives in a society where humans have been living in peace with dragons, for forty years. The dragons live amongst them and maintain a human form. But a story of easily maintained peace would likely be a boring story, wouldn’t it? So when a much loved member of the royal family is found dead, with the cause of death looking suspiciously like dragon, the four decades of peace become threatened and our story unfolds.

To be honest, I am not always a fan of YA, but because of this, I am actually quite happy when I read one that works for me (I hate to say I NEVER like something, so evidence to the contrary is always welcome. I don’t want to become closed to any category or genre). This was absolutely an exception. Hartman’s writing is wonderful. Her world is interesting and Seraphina’s character was just fun to read. Figuring out her secret and her motivations as well as puzzling out how and why she is different was enjoyable.

Especially for the YA crowd, I think there are some great themes within here as well. The parallels between the dragon/human relations and any segment of society that experiences prejudice are great. I guess really, it’s just an us versus them type of story that can be related to any us versus them issues (race, gender, sexual orientation, geographic locations, geeky subcultures, etc). It all comes down to tolerance, acceptance and understanding basic rights and feelings.

It is also the story of an outsider finding her place. Everyone can feel isolated, different, misunderstood. I know this is not uncommon in books, particularly YA books, but I also think sometimes it is handled better than others, and in this case, it is done quite well and is a good option for the YA crowds.

I think another reason why I enjoyed this more than other YA books is that the vocabulary and style was not overly simplified. It does have some characteristics common to YA books, but I also never felt like the book was for small children or compromised any details in an effort to make it easy for younger readers. Just because a book is YA does not mean that it has to restrict its vocabulary to a fourth grade level, and it is nice to see a book that is good for younger readers, but yet is not approaching them as simpletons. And I don’t really mean that as an insult to the YA category. I am sure there are many other great examples of books that don’t do this, but I have seen ones that do, and enjoyed this one for not.

So, to any fan of YA books, I would strongly recommend this book, and to those of you that are a bit leery of them, you may just find yourself enjoying this one as I did if you give it a chance.

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The Book of the Crowman by Joseph D’Lacey

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If you read my review of Black Feathers by Joseph D’Lacey, or saw it listed as one of my favorite books of 2013, you won’t be surprised to know that I I was eagerly awaiting The Book of the Crowman (the second half of the Black Dawn Duology). It can be hard to read a follow up to a book that you thought so highly of. There is always concern that if the second book doesn’t live up to your expectations, how to handle an honest review without sounding so negative that the entire series sounds unworthy of being read

To get to the point, what I found was a bit more of a mixed bag for me than Black Feathers was. I wish I could write another gushy review and tell everyone they must go read this book, but I can’t quite do that. To be fair, I had high expectations, so there was a lot to be accomplished to live up to them. I’ll start with what worked very well. Gordan’s character has grown and developed. I love that D’Lacey did not turn him into some faultless hero. Even in the beginning of the book, Gordan’s pursuit for the Crowman and his fight against the Ward have made him practically a living legend. But with every act for his cause, there is still a price, there is darkness that comes and becomes a part of Gordon. This is not a book that glorifies death count of the enemy.

I also really enjoyed the how the story unfolded, learning the origin of the Crowman as well as the Keepers. I love the folklore feel of it and the mystery it presents as we watch the two main protagonist’s stories unfold, waiting for them to intersect in some way. But I have to be honest here. It took me almost halfway through the book before I was very intrigued by Megan’s storyline. Once I got to that point, I felt it flowed as well as it did in the first book, so I quite enjoyed the second half. But I also have to say that is way too long and ask ‘why was that’? I honestly think that it was because her sections felt way too preachy.

D’Lacey is obviously an activist, and I certainly don’t want to fault the book for having a message. But, in Black Feathers, there was also a strong environmental message, perhaps some found that one too preachy, but I did not, I quite enjoyed it. The Book of the Crowman would have really benefited with a bit more subtlety with its message instead of being so heavy handed with it. Showing instead of telling could go a long way here. Megan’s chapters are the ones that really laid it all out there.

The one other area I found a bit troubling was a sudden switch to first person from a secondary character’s POV. This was very strange, a bit jarring and only a handful of pages. I am usually quite tolerant of perspective changes, I am not someone who is typically bothered by first person, but usually there is some rhyme or reason to it or some structural need for the change that is used consistently throughout the book. Here, it just happened once and I could not figure out the justification.

But, complaints aside, there is still much to love here. The Book of the Crowman is the grim and haunting unfolding of folklore with an honest and powerful conclusion. Fans of the first book should definitely give it a shot, if they find the first half slow, hang in there, because the story as a whole is certainly worth reading.

The Book of the Crowman will be released February 25th by Angry Robot Books. Many thanks to the Angry Robot and NetGalley for the ARC in return for my honest review.