Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Exiled Blade: Act Three of the Assassini - Jon Courtney Grimwood

The Exiled Blade (The Assassini) this is the final book in the Assassini trilogy. What a pretty awesome finish!! Jon Courtney Grimwood did a pretty great job.

Here is what amazon says: A violent attack on Lady Giulietta's son forces Tycho from his new-found happiness and back into the treacherous intrigue of the court. For Giulietta's sake he would go to the world's end to track down those responsible.

As Venice teeters on the brink of civil war, its warring families prepare to discover who is a player and who a pawn in the coming struggle for power. 

It was non stop action. Characters acting and reacting the the political turmoil that continues in this book. The politics between Duchess Alex and Prince Alonzo is stepped up a notch in this last book and I loved the conclusion to this plot thread. Tycho our friendly 'whatever he is' leaves a trail of blood wherever he goes and it is always interesting to indirectly participate in his inner turmoil as he tears people apart (gosh that sounds odd doesn't it?). 

The best thing about this book was the ending, both of this book and the series. Full of twists and turns and things I did not see coming. The characters grow and change and readers can see a real difference from the start of the series. Plot lines are tied up and yet more new and interesting things about this world are shown to us. Grimwood stuck a great balance between new information and the tying up of the lose ends, it is something that rarely happens in books these days. Grimwood used three books to tell his story and tell it well and I respect that, the less the author fluffs about with random crap the more I love the book!

The worst thing was that the ending tore out my heart a little, and that as your realise, is a good thing. I can't say any more with out spoiling it, but the ending of the series did not go the way I thought it would. I certainly did not see it coming. This is a testament to how well Grimwood wrote his characters and there are a few main ones. I think he needs to be acknowledged for that as he writes in 3rd person and doesn't use character segments. 

Wondering if you should read this series? I will give you a few things to consider. 
1. Grimwood draws heavily on the old Venice to create his world. It dragged on a bit in the first book and was all but gone in the third. so if you dig a world rooted in historical context ...
2. The characterisation starts off a little flimsy but gets better and better as the series goes on. (Think Week's Night Angel trilogy) 
3. The series as a whole is pretty action packed and there is plenty of cloak and dagger action, tempered with interesting politics.

To sum up the series is light and sort. Interesting main characters and the journey and growth was really fun to read about. Action packed and lots of fighting with a few wars thrown in, not the focus however.

4/5 young ones wondering what the hell to do

The Rithmatist - Brandon Sanderson

^^ This dude. What a prolific writer!!



The story is about a young boy living on the campus where Rithmatists study. This Rithmatists, as we discover, protect the world from the dangerous chalklings that threaten to overwhelm the world. Problem is Rithmatist students start to disappear DUH DUH DAAA. Joel (main character) becomes somewhat of a detective and tries to solve the case.

The Rithmatist is a YA novel and it reads like one. The main character is super cute to fun read about, all young and teenagerish, but no angst thank god! Sanderson focuses on the plot and the unfolding of the investigation and the dropping of clues to keep his main character busy and readers turning ages quickly.

It's a great read. Of course it is, it's Sanderson! Here is where I insert all the buzz words that any reviewer writes when they talk about Sanderson ... interesting world building, great characterisation, plot twists. blah blah blah. This guy can write, and we all know it.

If you are hungry for some of Sanderson's work while you wait for the next instalment of The Stormlight Archive by all means pick this up. You know in your heart of hearts this will not satisfy you. It is YA fiction and like all of Sanderson stand alones/novellas or YA novels this does not read like Mistborn : Final Empire Series (Book #1) (Mistborn, Book 1) or The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive). Nonetheless it's a great fun read, nice and light with plenty of action and intrigue to keep you turning the pages.

4/5 cute chalk unicorns.


Whoops!

My bad. It's been a month since I last updated. This is the kind of thing that means people don't read your blog anymore. Hopefully I will be able to update more regularly, my apologies to those who kept looking but there was nothing new to see!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Fantasy!! not History


No I don't want to make a detailed and well thought out comment about women and their representations in media, specially fantasy books, because right now I am tired and sick. 

I would however like to point out, if authors can do WHATEVER they want with an alternate reality why do some still subjugate women to second class citizens? Or why suggest the only power they have is to use their bodies? Or portray them as powerful because they can be manipulative bitches?

Answer me that please!

Fated and Cured - Benedict Jacka


These are the first two books in a series about a mage who lives in London. I read them as part of my crusade to open up my reading horizons to include all manner of Urban Fantasy. My verdict ... scroll down and look at the rating if you don't want to read the whole review :P

From Amazon "Alex Verus is part of a world hidden in plain sight, running a magic shop in London. And while Alex's own powers aren't as showy as some mages, he does have the advantage of foreseeing the possible future--allowing him to pull off operations that have a million-to-one-chance of success."

If you have a close look at the pictures the writing on the page is an endorsement from Jim Butcher saying that Harry Dresden would like Alex and maybe be a littler nervous around him.  HMM maybe, but I'd still put my money on Dresden, I would also say that maybe Butcher is more understanding of beginning writers then I am and wonder if he actually read it.

The best and the worst aspects of these books are that they are too easy to read. It makes for a quick turn around time but they are not hugely detailed and full of depth. Alex as a character is developed well and so are the supporting characters but not in any outstanding way. The setting is modern day London and a few references are thrown out and don't detract from the story or make me pay extra attention to it. The plot is very easy to follow and some would say it is very easy to see where it is going (me not so much, I never like to think about it). The way magic works and the societal structure is interesting and I think will be developed more over time.

Fated (An Alex Verus Novel) is the first and establishes Alex as reluctant hero who can hold his own despite his powers being more passive then active. Cursed (Alex Verus) has more complexity in regards to character development and the writing of conflict gets better and so I enjoyed this one much more.

It wasn't ground breaking, and I kinda expected it to be considered Butcher added it to his 'must-read list' but that's ok. I will keep it in reserve for when I don't know what to read and want something quick and ... easy to digest. I think it will get better as Jacka continues to write but right now I have other things to read and this didn't hook me.

2.5 out of 5 mages dodging bullets.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Dead Witch Walking - Kim Harrison

This isn't a review of Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows, Book 1), this is a collection of thoughts so far. Just letting you know.

So I have only read a few pages of this book and I think it's crap, pretty terrible. I am aware I take a lot longer to warm to female characters then male ones, but I honestly don't know if I will continue this book, it just feels too much like work.

All I have read is the female protagonist whinging about how hard her life is because she fucked something up and should not have been reduced to this kind of work .... suck it up you whinny (calls her a name) and deal with a mistake, thats just life.

So authors please note: stream of conciseness - only use it when someone's head is interesting enough to be inside.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Folly - Ben Aaronovitch



This series is awesome, it's my new favourite by far and I've been reading a lot lately. If you pay any attention to me in real life, or on the forum or on this blog, you'll know I love it. I think you should buy the first one right away! Here I'll even link it for you Rivers of London and then buy the second one Moon Over Soho and then the third Whispers Under Ground (Rivers of London 3), but if you don't live in London or think you will appreciate the depth and detail it is given in the book, maybe read a few things in between.

Let me break it down for you ...


Setting

o   London feels like it is alive.
o   Traffic reports and bus/train timetables
o   Streets names galore
o   History the suburbs Grant goes to and how they developed


Main Character


o   Curious scientific mind, always doing experiments and wondering about things
o   Goes off on tangents and gets distracted easily
o   He is reflective – thinks about how his actions will affect people.
o   Understanding of others situation and is accommodating– Lesley, Abigal, Zachary
o   Supporting cast of characters with their own back stories hinted at (sign of good writing)


Style



o   Police procedural jargon is often amusing
o   The thought process is just as important as the action
o   The magic learning runs back ground to the magic in the world around that he encounters.

Twenty Palaces: A prequel – Harry Connolly


Didn’t like Twenty Palaces, A Prequel at all, maybe Connolly gets better, and that is why he is so popular?

This by the way is spoiler ridden ... so yea, just letting you know!

Ray the (main character) just seemed to blindly bumble around with no real sense of direction and constantly reminding the audience that he "owed John" drove me crazy, he seems a simplistic character with no real depth. All I received at the end of the book in terms of character development was that he is tattooed now and has to follow around a chick that wants to kill him.

I read the first chapter of Child of Fire. That duo seems strange. She tells him nothing and he is still asking questions and getting no answer, so pretty much the first book all over again. While that would normally be fine, I just don't care about Ray enough, and that girl, she didn't even seem like a character, just a plot device. So there is nothing keeping me involved in the story.

The magic you say ... random ribbons and glyphs ... seemed impractical and there wasn't much to the 'action' scenes but ... chuck a ribbon = fire or draw a glyph here = fire ... there wasn't much focus on the magic.

The plot I think was pretty good. I liked the world outside of the world. I loved that the 'cure' was turning people into crazy cannibals and I really liked the way that they story finished but that was it.

In all there was not enough for me to be convinced that this is a series that I will peruse right now. It was published in 2011 after a few of the novel in the series had been published, so I assume Connolly would know how to write his characters by now. My best explanation is that he wrote the prequel for those who love the series. So if you want to get involved in this series, start with Child of Fire.

2 out of 5 ribbons that can set things on fire

My reading niche ... for a while at least


Within fantasy there are subgenres, not this many but there are a few for sure! The people that made that list went a little overboard I think.

The one I want to post about is urban fantasy. I’m not just talking about wizard detectives that advertise in the Yellow Pages, I am talking about fantastical events, or characters of setting that have some or lots of elements of our current reality.

I have been reading a fair bit of this subgenre lately. Of course I am a huge fan of Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1) and I’ve read some Neil Gaimen and a few other random bits and bobs, but now I am making a concentrated effort to broaden my horizons. As you know (if you have read my posts lately) I have read Ben Aaronovitch’s The Folly series (can’t wait for June and next release Broekn Homes) and I’ve read Fated (An Alex Verus Novel) the first book in Benedict Jacka’s Alex Verus series. On my tablet I also have Dead Witch Walking (The Hollows, Book 1)  by Kim Harrison but the first few pages were garbage so maybe I will continue I’m not sure. I also finished Twenty Palaces, A Prequel by Harry Connolly and also didn't think to highly of that one.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Blood of Dragons - Robin Hobb

From Amazon: Blood of Dragons completes the story of the dragons, their keepers, and their quest to find the lost city of Kelsingra—and the mythical silver wells that the dragons need to survive.

Blood of Dragons was the last book in the Rain Wild Chronicles. I was eager to get my hands on it when it came out, and I wasn't disappointed with the ending of the series when I had finished reading. Robin Hobb's ability to masterfully create characters is what makes her such a well loved author. She has an ability to imbue animals with a will and mind of their own to make them characters in their own right (Nightetyes comes to mind). The Dragons in this series are no different, they are alive in every sense of the word and are main characters in the story, especially as it comes to a close.

As a stand alone book, it was decent, not great. From start to finish it felt like Hobb was just picking up the strands of plot and tying them together. This isn't so bad when you want the series to end with a neatly tied bow, but if you are expecting action and more calamities to happen before the end, Blood of Dragons will disappointed you.

I can't go into too much detail without spoiling it all for those of you who want to read it, but have not, or those of you who haven't even started on the Rain Wild Chronicles. I can tell you Hobb's stunning characterisation is present. I can also tell you that not much time passes and most of it is spent in misery (typical Hobb there). There are more point of views then just the dragons and their keepers and not all of them are pleasant or interesting to read. I did find myself wishing a few of the point of views would hurry up and get back to the character I liked the most, or a plot point would hurry up and appear.

I enjoyed the book as I was one of the readers that wanted everything tied up in a neat little bow. I got the endings I was hoping for, which I find a most favourable way for authors to end a book :P

As a ending to a series it gets 3.5 out of 5 arrogant talking dragons

My future tattoo

I don't have a tattoo, I'm scared it will hurt too much. I know what I want if I ever got one though!


I am SOO kidding, I would never get this but I can definitely appreciate the sentiment!

Mythago Wood - Robert Holdstock

This was the book club book!

For those of you who don't know I'm the person that 'runs' the book clubs over at BestFantasyBooks.com and here is a link to the review that I complied. It gives everyones opinions as well as my own.

The only other comment I want to make was that even though I enjoyed it, I don't really want to read the others. I think because it was so different. It was why I wanted to try it, but now I have I am satisfied that I enjoyed it. The lack of characterisation probably doesn't help and that is probably why I ma not emotionally interested in investing more time into their life of Stephen. Maybe I'll get back into it when I don't have so much to read.

Last comment i promise! What this book does well is beautiful prose and a cunning look at philosophy and psychology in a first person narrative. The lack of characterisation is made up for by a stunning ability to hold a reader captive by the sheer beauty of the writing (Especially considering the plot is really slow too).

4 out of 5 myths created from our own minds.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Rivers of London - Ben Aaronovitch


I have just finished Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. This book was really good! The novel is about a nice young London police officer and how his life is changed when a ghost tells him he witnessed a murder. He unwittingly tells a superior officer he is ghost hunting and gives him his identification and we are off! This then tumbles him into a magical apprenticeship and a police hunt that incorporates magical and normal police work.

I loved how seamlessly Aaronovitch switches between the ordinary and magical police work of Peter Grant. I could almost imagine I am reading a policeman’s autobiography full of helpful little hints. For example if someone is being difficult even after you haven shown them your identification, you can suggest they call your superior office because “members of the public are generally lazier than they are suspicious”. I may have a nefarious mind because that seems to me like I can totally trick people with a fake badge and then give them a fake number and it’ll be honky dory. OH! and this one was particularly helpful, Grant tells us that he learnt in a course on conflict resolution to, “stress your neutrality while allowing both parties to think you’re secretly on their side”.  

But it isn’t all light heartened and interesting glimpses into the world of a police officer. He mentions being the first on the scene of an accident and that seeing a body doesn’t get all the much easier. He also struggles with having to the ‘strong’ person on the scene of some horrific magical crimes with people clustered around or panicking. These little inner monologues and soliloquies are so much apart of Aaronovicth’s style of writing but it is also they way in which he allows the audience to connect with Grant, and connect I did.

The way magic works hasn’t yet been fully explained in the book and I don’t care. I have been finding lately that too many authors are info dumping their magic system on me and to be honest, post it on your blog for people who want to know more, or put it in an appendix. I love that magic is something that exists, it happens, and because Grant has some kind of aptitude for it, is being trained in it. I really enjoyed the history between The Folly and the Police Department and that is something I do want to know more about. I am grateful it wasn’t an info dump and I can handle the information coming out in a trickle, keeps things interesting.

As you may have guessed (or known) Rivers of London would be classified as urban fantasy. A criticism I found before I read the book was that if you aren’t from or have never been to London you wouldn’t understand what Grant is experiencing. I didn’t feel like that at all. Aaronovitch paints a clear picture, it’s no different from me reading books set in America. Grant does use a lot of street names, moans about the traffic and harps on about peak hour but so what? It’s set in a busy city and it adds to the tension you feel as Grant rushes around trying to get to people and places before their faces fall off (Yep, you read that right).

Now let’s take a moment to compare this to the Dresden Files shall we? While it is similar in a few respects, I am in no way shape or form saying something stupid like it’s a copycat or any of the garbage. The first thing I immediately noticed was that Grant has friends, well in the very least a young fellow police officer that he would like to be intimate with, but he has other people around too. He is an apprentice and he digs into his magical studies with relish (not so much the Latin or ancient languages) and he develops a relationship with his ‘master’ (hehe it makes me giggle) and senior officer. He makes friends along the way and he isn’t trying to be a lone wolf (13 books of Dresden pushing people away gets kind of old). I understand the intrinsically dangerous nature of the job, being a normal police officer and the added element of magic doesn’t make it any less so, but Grant hasn’t gone into self-pity guilt mode … yet and I hope it stays that way. I like the other characters and don't want them to have even less of a role because Grant wants to keep them 'safe'.
US name and cover (so much uglier!)

I am having a really hard time not picking up the next two books, another is due out this year (yay!) but I want to try and pace myself (yeah I know, I’m only delaying the inevitable, and not by much I suspect). I hope Aaronovitch is going to do a release a year but that may well depend on you ALL picking up his books and reading them. If you’re in the UK, they are like 5 pound on kindle, here in Aus it was $12, but trust me, you won’t mind paying it!

4 out of 5 poor police officers ‘wanting to scream’


Tuesday, 16 April 2013

An UPDATE on my status

 I have finished two books and I have started another, so at least in this respect I am progressing. I have been really lazy with reviews lately but the book we read for the book club I feel deserves an in depth review (It will probably just be a link to BFB's website, I'm too lazy to write two reviews). The other book I read was the last instalment of Robin Hobb's Rain Wild Chronicles, I really liked this book and I am keen to write a review for it. The book I am currently reading is a Dresdenesque quality which I am enjoying immensely. It's called River's of London by Ben Aaronovitch. This month has been a great month of books for me, hope the rest of it is too.

Oh and I am also one year older and have gained some rather cool turtle slippers to add to my collection of things. So go me! :) Feel free to email or comment if you want to send me a gift :P


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Blackhand - Matt Hiebert

This was a book sent to Best Fantasy Books for someone to review, and I accepted.

I wrote the article for Best Fantasy Books Blog and here is it!

And yes I am totally being lazy in not writing another one review for my own blog. Guilty as charged :)

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Fragile Things - Neil Gaiman


This is a pretty long book for a collection of short stories, especially when a few of the stories are only a page long. I've read anthologies before but it isn't quite the same thing, this is only one author. To be honest though, sometimes it didn't feel like just Gaiman. I was pleasantly surprised to see such versatility in the stories of Fragile Things. There was some great stories in there and some weird ones and some cough crap ones cough. I talk about versatility because I have written in pervious posts that Gaiman writes one thing and one thing well, his well known books are about a man being thrust into a magical world and dealing with that transition, there isn't any of that here. There is a large clash of genres as well, horror, fantasy and poems. Funnily enough, the poems I didn't like :)

Here are a list of my favourites, in order of awesomeness :P


"Bitter Grounds"It is my favourite, just an incredible amount of depth. I like at the start it hints at the life of the character before he decided to leave it all behind. Then very quickly we get involved in a strange and vibrant lifestyle in New Orleans. It was going with the flow that lead the main character there and a strange chance meeting with a man. I wonder if the chance meeting meant more then I originally thought, he did say a few times about "meeting people and coincides" or something. I might be over thinking it.


"Closing time"I was actually really nervous about reading it, the eerie setting of the club and the man starting with 'it happened to me' and then the twist! What a GREAT story! The atmosphere was tense and i felt it in my bedroom while I was reading. The slow build up and the confusion of the young boys in the story was amazing. The visuals that Gaiman created for me was astounding, I felt like I could see what those boys were doing. It was like watching a movie, rather then reading a book. 


"Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire" 
I really loved this one! I really enjoyed the two story lines and the interweaving of his reality and our own. It was a really nice stylistic change. The tone was more horror then fantasy and it was so beautiful to read. The twists and turns in one of the stories keep it fresh and the effort to understand the blaring similarities in stories but getting no satisfaction at the end drove me crazy. I really liked that though, it seems Gaiman just wanted to tease the reader.


Unfortunately it was down hill from here. There were a few more good ones but the second half of the book was a huge flop for me. I think the draw card was meant to be the "American Gods' novella, but that wasn't as good as I thought it was going to be. Shadow was such a good in American Gods but not in this story, great twist in there though, really great.


3 out of 5 ghost stories in a dark and almost empty pub. (The three stories mentioned above brings it up from a 2.5)


Monday, 4 March 2013

Cirque De Soleil & China Mieville


What do these two things have in common you my be asking yourself. Freaking weird ideas about bugs is the answer. I went to see the latest Cirque De Soleil show and it was about bugs. The costumes were absolutely amazing and I was delighted in the way they changed the way a persons body looks when they move to create a more insect-like movement. The whole time  I was watching the show I just kept thinking I felt like it was a China Mieville novel come to life. I have read Perdido Street Station and I didn't finish it, I just couldn't get into it. The story line was insane and the characters so hard to relate to, because so few of them were humans. I want to share with you some pictures and phrases taken from the book and maybe you will see the similarities too.


"Saw her throat bob where the pale insectile underbelly segued smoothly into  her human neck" pg 10


"She angled up on one elbow and , as he watched, the dark ruby or her carapace opened slowly while her headlegs splayed. The two halves of her headshell quivered slightly, held as wide as they would go. From beneath their shade she spread her beautiful, useless little beetle wings."pg 14





"Five on each side, holding my wings. Holding my great wings tight as I thrashed and sought to beat them hard and viciously against my captors' skulls." pg 705

















Fevre Dream - G.R.R. Martin

I think we all know G.R.R. Martin is able to write a good book and  Fevre Dream is no exception. It has vampire's in the book, but it's not about vampires. It is about a partnership and a steamboat. It is about a loveable riverman by the name of Marsh who is so unlucky you feel bad for the poor guy. Above all, it is about a steamboat, that goes by the name of Fevre Dream.

My favourite thing about this book was how well the characters and settings were written. Martin takes us strolling down the Mississippi at a leisurely pace. I was drawn into this world of steamboats and trade and I was drawn to this mysterious stranger and the bold as brass captain Marsh.

The novel is short, and it isn't action packed but there is a charm in the story. You can almost trick yourself into thinking you are reading a real account of the river trade along the Mississippi 1850s. The scenery, the calm pace of the river is all written so beautifully, I want to put the mississippi river on my go to list when I travel over to America. I am aware that it will look very different to what it looked like in the 1850s though :(. I would have like more to happen in the story though, a few added big events, just to give it a bit more excitement.

There was plenty of natural stopping points in the novel, much like there is in our own lives, where things are less hectic and are just flowing along smoothly. It mean I finished the novel in a much longer time frame then I thought I would.

Overall I really liked this novel. Because it felt to different in style I can trick myself I read something outside of the genre :P

4 out of 5 beautiful old steamboats.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters



I was not expecting much from this movie. I saw the trailer and it doesn't look very good. More disjointed and plotless then most movies trailers do. I watched a short interview on foxtel with the cast and I thought Gemma Arterton sounded nice, so I went to see it. When I got to the cinema and saw they sold these cool green sippy cups for frozen coke, I bought one and kinda thought that would be the highlight of the day.


I was not prepared for the movie to be pretty great, and it was. So the sippy cup, wasn't as cool, which is crazy, because the sippy cup is awesome! Don't get so excited and rush off to go see it though. I think one of the reasons I liked it so much much was because I had such low expectations. After watching the trailer it reminded me of Snow White and the Huntsman, and that was a terrible movie.

Hansel and Gretel, had a really great relationship on screen. As you all know, their parents left them when they were little and they have only had each other since. They bickered like siblings, fought like siblings and protected each other like siblings would. It was clear they were very close. It was fun to watch then, Gretel was particularly kick arse and Hansel, all roguish. There were some really great side character's too, and I relished in their inclusion. 

The plot actually made sense! Which is quite out standing considering most movies taken from fairytales are always changed. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters had changes a plenty. Of course, the children become witch hunters after killing they witch in the candy house but there are others too. Their parents are mentioned and there is a revelation that I thought was a great addition. 


With these glasses comes great
reflexes and super strength
I saw it in 3D and there were arrows flying at me and trees fell on me, but I have ninja like reflexes and I am super strong, so I lived to tell the tale. It wasn't anything to write home about, it was good, not great, Hansel's bending over backwards to miss an arrow made me laugh out loud rather be amazed. I guess that is CGI and action packed flicks this days, it's hard to stand out, or be taken seriously (like this movie wth? and where is the plot?). 



I really enjoyed this movie. It didn't take itself too seriously, the plot flowed, the acting was good and I would definitely go see another one. 


3.5 out of 5 - decapitated witches.

The Tales of Dunk and Egg - G.R.R. Martin

The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword and the Mystery Knight are the three short stories that have currently been published. These three short stories are collected in various volume's called Warriors in where authors write short stories set in there most famous worlds. I don't care about the other authors, I just wanted the G.R.R Martin ones :P.

The tales are set 100 years BEFORE the events of Game of Thrones. If you pay more attention to things than I do in the ASoIaF world you will see the references made to people that lived and breathed in Dunk and Egg's day. Unfortunately I don't pay much attention so I guess I missed out. Not that I minded, I loved these short stories anyway. The only bad part is because it is 100 years before GoT I that Dunk and Egg die, but oh well, all things die eventually.

The short stories are ... ready ... this is pretty huge ... get ready ... they are light. They are light and fun, there is not so much doom and gloom and perpetual winter that characterises ASoIaF.  That is not to say the stories aren't interesting reads. I read them all one after the other and even tried to get out of breakfast so I could finish the last 100 pages when I woke up. The best thing about these books were the characters. You can't help but love them and it is a nice change of pace to follow a hedge knight and his squire around the place rather reading pages and pages of heavy court intrigue.

I can't recommend these short stories highly enough. They were short, great reading and I sense you will get so much more out of them if you paid more attention to things when you read ASoIaF.  There are more coming too so look out for that! Oh and they are in graphic novel format as well.

5 out of 5 - hedges with knights

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

Neverwhere is another great novel by Neil Gaiman. The whole book is interesting, the world is intriguing and the characters vivid in their strangeness and with a new world so strange and yet familiar how could I not be hooked?

Amazon's Book Description says this about Neverwhere: "Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart -- and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed -- a dark subculture flourish in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city -- a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known..."

Let's deal with the blazingly obvious first. Gaiman has developed a theme that runs through some of his work. You take a normal guy living his normal life and put him in a magical world and see how it goes.      I don't see this as a negative thing, each main character was very different and I felt an affinity for both of them for different reasons. I will admit I will not be reading Stardust next, but that is mostly because I saw the movie and didn't like it. I don't believe Gaiman should be tarred with a 'one trick pony' brush, he writes too well for that.

This book reminds me of a book I read for the bfbs book club. It goes by the name of The Anubis Gates by Tim Power. Neverwhere reminds me of this book for a few reasons. The search for truth is a main plot line in both and the prevalence of people knowing the underground sewers. The Anubis Gates was the first time I had come across a society of people living underneath a bustling city and so it seems right that I associate Neverwhere's underground London with it. I guess that is why reading about London Below felt familiar. I wanted to know what Gaiman's underground world felt like, compared to the one created by Power.

The setting of Neverwhere is mostly in London Below. Gaiman paints a pretty engaging picture of who the society is made up of and gives us a decently detailed look into a few of its prominent figures. I really enjoyed reading about the man with his birds, he was such a cool guy. Gaiman gives the reader glimpses into the social structure and make up of London Below. The rat people where interesting as were the sewer people and the floating market was a both a challenge and a treat to imagine.

Final say, the book is really good. It didn't leave me with the same awe as American Gods. That might have something to do with it being the first of Gaiman's books I have read, or that I felt Neverwhere was similar to The Anubis Gates in a few key ways. Regardless, a really interesting read!

3.5 out of 5 doors randomly opening.

Oh and btw this is ALSO a tv series, although already completed. Crazy I know right!

Friday, 25 January 2013

American Gods - Neil Gaiman

I hit a bit of a lull after finishing the last two books i was reading. I was at a loss when it came to picking a new book. Red Country was recommended again but I wanted to take a break from 'dark and gritty', because if you read too much at once, I find it is no longer 'dark and gritty'. So I headed on over to stand alone list on the Best Fantasy Book's site. American Gods took my fancy, I'd heard good things from a few trusted forum members and I have been meaning to give it a go.

I have never read anything by Neil Gaiman before. I didn't even know what kind of books he wrote. I'd seen Stardust and didn't like it but that doesn't mean anything really. So with no reservations, just curiosity I started American Gods. And once I had started. I couldn't put it down.

The basic premise is that Shadow, a normal guy is thrust into this world of Gods. The Gods exist as you and I do in the real world, some of them have jobs and some are not happy. They are not happy because the came into existence when people believed in them. When people no longer believed in them they no longer held any kind of power, they were stuck. There are new Gods now too, Gods of the internet, and television and all of the things we humans devote our time and attentions to. Shadow is hired as a body guard, of sorts, by one of the Gods and then we tumble along with him into this world and the craziness of it.

Shadow's story is sharp and quick. In a very few chapters Gaiman sets up his character and we get the gist of this main that is our main character. After that we learn more about Shadow from what happens TO him rather then what has happened before him (there is a difference I swear it). I really liked this story line and I loved Shadow as a character. He is the kind of guy I would like to have my back. The stability of this character hold the story together I feel. I think, and this is going to sound a little crazy, that by creating a main character who was able to be so calm in his dealings with the Gods, I too just accepted what was going on around me.

The Gods themselves were really interestingly done. It was really fascinating to see all different manner of Gods mixed together, talking to one another. I also found out some pretty cool stuff about the origins of some of the things people believe in. I am not well educated in the Gods of religions outside my basic understanding of Native American, Norse, Greek and Roman so I didn't do well in my guesses of who each God was. Maybe you will do better.

There was not a part of this book I didn't like. It was so different to the fantasy I had been reading and it was nice to encounter something set in the modern day. The stand alone list is a great way to broaden your reading bookshelf and I will definitely be back there later on. I want to read Neverwhere next!

American Gods gets 4.5 out of 5 Gods wasting into obscurity. 

Oh and btw - It is being made into a TV series! HBO is going all out on the fantasy books ey?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Cold Days - Jim Butcher

I have loved this series since I started reading it. It didn't start off too deep and it was not particularly hard to tell where the story is going, now though, holy moly has that changed!  Harry Dresden is a wizard and has run afoul of many things bigger, stronger and more powerful then he is, many a times. Cold Days is the 14th books in the Dresden Files. I am conscious of people hyper aware of spoilers so I'll walk carefully.

Harry Dresden is a bad arse, wise cracking, female form loving bad day for the evil things in his city and the things that threaten it. It helps that the books are all written in first person, you feel like you really get to know Harry. He is a such a great character, he has an iron will and a willingness to help everyone that I find so appealing. I think most people like to think there could be someone like him out to protect us from the things we can't handle or don't see.

The magic system and the use of magic is really fun and Harry does some pretty kick arse things with it. If you think magic wielding cowboy, you kind of get the gist. There is so much magic used constantly that it does mean a bit of 'lesson time' in each of the books. I can tell you how a locator spell works in the Dresden universe and why another wizard having the shavings from your beard is ok, but a hair from your head is not. I don't mind the sort trips down lesson lane, as long as they are that, short. In Cold Days, Harry is using a different kind of magic, and it is very different. The readers are learning along with Dresden what it can and can't do, and what kind of damage and havoc he can cause wielding it. I had just as much fun reading about it as Dresden had heart pounding moments creating it.

Butcher did really well with this novel. There were surprises, things I didn't see coming. For the last few books there has been an over arching big bad messing with Dresden and all he holds dear and in this book there is another. So once again Butcher is amping the series up and just keeps piling on things for Harry to eventually deal with.  There are new power players and people around Dresden have been called on to do some 'didn't see that coming' kind of jobs. It leaves me with so much hope for this series. Butcher just keeps writing really good Dresden novels, and so I eagerly await the next one!

On a final note, Cold Days was fast paced, action packed and funny as hell. Everything you have come to expect from a Dresden Files novel. The constant admiring of the 'female form' was there too and as a female myself it still managed to make me a little annoyed and self conscious. It was a really great book and for those of you who have followed Dresden's adventure it is a must read, but i'm sure you have already read it. For those of you who have yet to experience this world, go get on it!

Cold Days - 4 out of 5 kick arse cold chills :P


Saturday, 19 January 2013

Why Abercrombie is not Best Served Cold


I am reading Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie at the moment after having finished Cold Days (yea, review is coming).  I read some of it but I stopped to pick up something else (I can't remember what book that was, it was too long ago). 

When I loaded it to read on my tablet, Moon+Reader  kindly loaded a chapter table for me and I picked what I thought I was up to. I had stopped reading on my Kindle but as it is now deceased (who would of thought the screen can't handle 60kgs of weight distributed on the small surface of my foot?) I didn't really know where I was. I did re-read a little last night but you see, I just didn't care anymore.

Then I remembered why I was able to put it down in the first place, It wasn't holding my attention. Monza and her quest for vengeance just doesn't matter that much to me anymore. I am 90% of the way through and I feel no sense of urgency, no desperate need to find out if she succeeds. Abercrombie will or will not end this book in his usual dark, twisted way, meh /shrugs. 

Biggest problem is that I don't really care about Monza. She was wronged, yep I get that and so she starts off down a road on a quest for revenge. She wants all the people who messed up her life dead, kinda scary but again, that's her deal. She enlists the help of some nefarious companions and they set about to kill and wreak havoc. I can't find anything to love/like/dislike/hate about Monza. She is this empty shell of a person. The companions aren't very different, some were interesting at first, but now I find it hard to care what they are doing. The heart of the problem I guess is that instead of the morally ambiguously 'grey' characters with deeply held convictions that Abercrombie normally writes about, in Best Served Cold I got empty shells of those characters, and man is that boring to read about. 

The fights and the battles aren't engaging me either. I am desensitised to the brutal bashing of a character's head into the ground several times. I am not inspired or excited by a character's war cry or the cries and begging of the victims in the heat of the battle. Please be aware this is no small matter for me. I am ALWAYS super emotionally involved in books. It is very strange that I feel so far removed from a character's journey. 

There is one thing that really stop out to me while I was reading this book, and I was again impressed as I re-read it. In one particular scene there are adults who are doing some adult 'things'. Abercrombie puts onto paper something I've only ever seen able to work in a movie, his ability to write this scene in an incredibly creative way was pretty awesome. I can't tell you anymore it'll spoil it for everyone, you'll get it if you read the book though.

I am not saying don't read the book because I said I didn't like it and I still have a huge author crush on Abercrombie. The First Law trilogy was awesome and you should definitely all read those books! Maybe just try to read this particular book in one go, so you know ... to keep it hot.