2015 has come and gone, let’s look to 2016

It’s that magic time of the year again, it’s 35 plus degrees outside (I live in the Great Down Under), I’ve drank too much, eaten too much and the in-laws are getting on my last nerve.  However, these humid, sun burnt days covered in Aloe Vera, unmoving, does give me time to reflect and take stock on the books I have read this past year.  There have been good, bad and exceptional, which leads to the inevitable, mournful, pitiable thought: Where did the year go? Can someone please scratch my nose it hurts to move? And I should have read more?

Fortuitously we are given another chance to increase our book tally and plan for the new year as I recover and rehabilitate from the holiday excess, offering alms to the unread soul of 2015 and be like the bear and get stuck in a new.

Down to it, then, my cream of the crop, the duck’s nuts, or if you like the dog’s balls. Of the books I have reviewed (not all released in 2015) my picks for the year would have to include:

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison coverThe story has its twists and turns, nothing too dramatic or surprising and is told across an expansive kingdom, but there are no flashy fight scenes, dragons or mighty heroes, just a fragile king looking for friendship and guidance, with a desire to make the life of the people he rules better.

It’s this theme that resonates and makes you love the book even more.

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher

The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim ButcherUp, up, the winds and mists call the Grimm and wildcats. Duty, freedom and protection of family, new and old calls, as War blazes and the few and dedicated will be required to preserve the many. Another great series for a master of the Genre.

Day Boy by Trent Jamieson

Day Boy by Trent Jamieson book cover imageDay Boy is a coming of age story set in a world of harsh truths, blood, death and survival. It is a poetic story of humanity, of monsters living in the Shadow of the Mountain, bitter cold and open to the burning of the clear night sky.

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson

Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson book cover imageIn Shadows of Self you can feel the world, its mists and people. You can smell the horse leather and the coal in the air and you just want more.

The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan

The Autumn Republic by Brian McClellan book cover imageThe Autumn Republic is everything you want – and didn’t want – for this story. The writing quality, flow and depth of commitment Brian McClellan has put into this final book in the trilogy is no less than the previous two instalments. I cannot see how you will be disappointed.

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman book cover imageIf you like your worlds colourful but dark, fantastical and adventurous, this is the book for you.

Speak the name of the Library in the Language and the door will open. Step through at your own risk.

The Vagrant by Peter Newman

The Vagrant by Peter Newman book cover imageThe Vagrant is his name. He has no other. Years have passed since humanity’s destruction emerged from the Breach. Friendless and alone he walks across a desolate, war-torn landscape.

A Crown of Cold Silver by Alex Marshall

Twenty years ago, feared general Cobalt Zosia led her five villainous captains and mercenary army into battle, wrestling monsters and toppling an empire. When there were no more titles to win and no more worlds to conquer, she retired and gave up her legend to history.

The middle runners, while not world burners, they provided me a goodly amount of enjoyment and nostalgia,

The not so middle, those riding on the crest of the wave until they reach the shore of the next in their series.

As always there are some books which I did not have a chance to review but do require a mention,

  • Hallow Point by Ari Marmell 7/10
    The second in Oberon series, is much like the first, a great little read that ticks along nicely. The site has a review from another reviewer, click here.
  • Time Salvager by Wesley Chu 6.5/10
    If I am being honest, I had high hopes for this book and was somewhat disappointed. Well written, good narrative and engaging in parts, its biggest negative is the story was not very original, sticking to well-worn ideas on time travel and cause and effect.
  • Lockstep by Karl Schroeder 7.5/10
    The first three quarters of this book are fantastic, unfortunately the last quarter peters out and the finale is unsatisfying. You get the feeling the story ending was rushed a little and that more was intended, but not achieved.
  • Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson 9/10
    Awesome second installment to the Stormlight series. I tried a few times to get a review on paper, but the sheer size always made my words stumble and fall at the starting blocks. Can recommend this series enough got lovers of EPIC fantasy.
  • Firefight by Brandon Sanderson 7/10
    While not in the same league as Steelheart, the second installment in the Reckoners series had its highs and lows, but was overall a decent read.

I actually read all of the Secret History series by Simon R Green, The Man with the Golden Torc being book 1 and would recommend them to readers who enjoy funny, dark and on the nose comedy.

Side note on Brandon Sanderson, whose books fill the 2015 and 2016 list.

Have you ever seen the movie Multiplicity with Michael Keaton, if not, the basic premise is Keaton’s character clones himself four times in order to do everything he needs to do in life, work, play, bake, etc. So in that regard I would like to postulate hear and now, due to the SHEER volume of words Brandon Sanderson has been out putting out in the last few years and in the year to come, that he is quadruplets. Three for every day and one for Sunday best. I have even found a raw photo of all four of them together, on the far left is Studious Sanderson, next is the Wiseguy Sanderson, followed by the Scholarly Wiseguy Sanderson and finally Mischievous Sanderson.

The Four Sandersons image

It’s either that or he has stolen Shakespeare’s monkeys and has had them working overtime for the last decade.

Image with monkeys typing

Side note end.

And now comes the goodies for 2016, including their release dates. Gimme!

Gimme Them All (Futurama)

  • Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson, 26th Jan 2016
  • Staked by Kevin Hearne, 26th January 2016
  • Calamity by Brandon Sanderson, 16th Feb 2016
  • Burned by Benedict Jacka, 5th April 2016
  • The Malice by Peter Newman, 24th April 2016
  • Peace Talks by Jim Butcher, 10th May 2016
  • A Blade of Black Steel by Alex Marshall, 24th May 2016
  • Stiletto by Daniel O’Malley, 14th June 2016
  • The Hanging Tree by Ben Aaronovitch, 16th June 2016
  • The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks, Mid-Late 2016
  • Doors of Stone by Patrick Rothfuss, Mid 2016
    (Fingers, toes, legs, arms and eyes are all crossed it’ll happen)

What are you looking forward to in 2016?

Reaction to opening chapters of The Shepherd’s Crown

MASSIVE SPOILER ALERT!

What follows is the humdinger of all spoilers. DO NOT READ unless you have already read the opening chapter of Terry Pratchett’s The Shepherd’s Crown!

If you have decided to throw caution to the wind and are happy to read about a very large spoiler, welcome, you devil-may-care rebel you.

The introduction of the The Shepherd’s Crown is both poignant in its structure and magnificent in its execution. It opens with the knowledge coming to Granny Weatherwax that her time is almost up and she will soon die.  Yes, I know, a rather large shock.

So the moment arrives, the house is clean and the grave is dug and DEATH stand before Granny’s soul. The dialogue between the two is particularly touching and beautifully written. I don’t know if this was added after Terry’s passing but if he wrote it himself then all I can say it whoa.  If written or amended by his team than a hat tip to them.

DEATH informs Granny that she is a special case, that her life and actions have enriched the world around her and protected the people and land she loved. The wording conveys a feeling of passing and added meaning. I am not sure if I am just reading more into this than there is, but once you read if for yourself you can decide.

There is also one final message or item of note which passes through the book after Granny passes on and it’s that she is always around, in the land, root and hoof and as such will never leave those who remember her. Something I think Terry’s legacy of works will also attest to.

If you have read The Shepherd’s Crown what are your thoughts on the passing of Granny?

Terry Pratchett: Hidden Gems

I am a fan of Terry, a big one and have been from the moment I picked up my first Discworld book, Small Gods at 14.  So it was with some surprise this week I came across a few Pratchett short stories I had never known about.

It’s was like that feeling of having hiding away one of your Easter eggs so your greedy little brother or sister doesn’t steal them while your back is turned and finding it a month later or going through your jeans before putting them in the wash and pulling out a 20.  Joy, surprise and a little jig later, you know your day is going to be a good day.

I know, I am probably last to the party as many fans (is there a collective noun for Discwold fans, if not I clamm the naming of Pratchions or maybe Terrys, I do like the idea of a group of Terrys) probably already knew about these, but I didn’t and it made me one happy little camper.

I knew it was my Morporkian duty to let those like me who didn’t know, know, and the best thing is two of these shorts can be read online. Being only a page in length they are a great little Discworld fix as we wait for the release The Shepherd’s Crown.  The others I am afraid you will need to track down.

And Troll Bridge is coming to the big screen this October 2015, I can’t wait.

My book addiction 2014 and more of what’s to come in 2015

Where to start… There have been so many excellent (and a few bad) releases in 2014, so much so I reviewed nearly all of the books I have read, so hurray me. Some have inspired me, most have captivated me and a few have made me shake my head in indignation.

There is just something in the power of words that make even the tough times that little bit easier; they are the escapism, relief to stress and pressure which draws you into another world for a few minutes or hours. Paraphrasing Robin Williams, “books are a crutch and support for people who get lost in reality”.

Broken record I know, but I said it last year and I am sure to say it again. Why do you care what some blogger with a friendly webmaster says about this year’s reading material? The simple answer is you don’t have too, but I like to talk, I am still opinionated and you never know where a good recommendation or possibility a book to miss comes from.

My 2014 reads (some reviews are from books published prior 2014) in order of my favourites are:

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

Slow Regard of Silent Things coverThe University, a renowned bastion of knowledge, attracts the brightest minds to unravel the mysteries of enlightened sciences like artificing and alchemy. Yet deep below its bustling halls lies a complex and cavernous maze of abandoned rooms and ancient passageways – and in the heart of it all lives Auri.

The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a joyous offering of literary excellence and a heart-breaking delving of loss, loneliness and the mysteries that are Auri.

You can read an interview with the author here.
Rating: 10/10

Skin Game by Jim Butcher

Skin Game book coverIn the absence of justice and a choice Harry must withhold vengeance against his greatest enemy? Bound as the Winter Knight to Winter’s Law Harry must settle Mab’s debt, committing theft and robbery from the most secure vault in the Nevernever. Unwillingness to comply to the letter of the agreement risks violating Mab’s word, his life and a chance for payback against Nicodemus. It’s going to take some fast thinking to get Harry out of this one alive and in one piece.

Stacking up the last three books, this has definitely been my favourite, this is Dresden through and through.
Rating: 9/10

The Crimson Campaign by Brian McClellan

The Crimson Campaign book coverWhen Gods walk the Earth and War rages unchecked, Tamas suffers defeat at the hands of Kez. Beaten but not Broken Tamas must fight his way back to Adro and his son.

Taniel awakens from his coma only to hear of his father is assumed death, traveling to the front, many things are not as they should be, as a traitor hides with the Armies high command.

Crimson Campaign is the second in the Powder Mage Trilogy and much like the Promise of Blood, it is simply fantastic. Gods, overt and introvert, magic, a struggle for survival and revenge, bundled up across three main story arcs. The Autumn Republic is going to be a great conclusion.
Rating: 9/10

A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan

I initially started a review of this but still can’t bring myself to finish it. I was left a little wanting (yes, I understand Jordan passed away). If you have read or reading the WoT series nothing I can say will keep you from this final instalment. Still a great read.
Rating 7.5/10

Monster Hunter International by Larry Correia

Monster Hunter International book coverIn Monster Hunter International we inhabit a world of werewolves, vampires, trolls, orcs and much much more. It’s a hidden world known only to those who fight these creatures and those who have suffered at their hands. From the opening pages this book contains a lot of action and gun love, and continues in this vain from the start to finish. Think of it as a book that runs up hill without stopping and then jumps off.

This was enjoyable book, which came as a surprise. The shape and flow of the story is well defined and you easily breeze through the pages with glee.
Rating 8/10

The Promise of Blood by Brian McClellan

Promise of Blood book cover imageThe alchemy of gunpowder fused with the magic of sorcery. In a time of upheaval, resurgence and corrupted Royalty Privileged, one-man’s love for his lost wife and his country burns and fuels a new order where all can be treated equally.

You can almost smell the gunpowder and hear the guillotine falling.
Rating 8.5/10

The Very Best of Tad Williams by Tad Williams

The Very Best of Tad Williams book cover imageThe very best of Tad Williams is a collection of 17 different stories that will appeal to old and new fans alike. Whether you like fantasy, sci-fi, crime or horror there is a story here for you. Williams has delivered another well-conceived and written book, that if nothing else is a great introduction to his works for new fans.

The work regardless of the story is typical Williams, well constructed and thought-out, at times a little preachy for my taste but otherwise any reader would be very happy to pick up this work up.
Rating 8.5/10

No Hero by Jonathan Wood

I great little piece of English Urban fiction (even if he now lives in New York). Cosmic, funny, a lot of action and a great tag line, “What would Kurt Russell do?” Think Nightside mixed with Alex Verus.

When multidimensional horrors known as the Progeny try it invade your reality what would you do? Answer, join the secret government agency MI37 and ask yourself what would Kurt Russell do?
Rating 8/10

The City by Stella Gemmell

The City by Stella Gemmell book cover imageThe City is ancient and vast and has been waging almost constant war for centuries. At its heart resides the emperor. Few have ever seen him. Those who have remember a man in his prime – and yet he should be very old. Some speculate that he is no longer human, others wonder if indeed he ever truly was. And a few have come to a desperate conclusion: that the only way to halt the emperor’s unslakebale thirst for war is to end his unnaturally long life.

I will be the first to admit that I picked up this story with my own reservations and preconception, but was very happy to have them changed. This is a great addition to the epic fantasy genre.
Rating 7/10

Thief’s Magic by Trudi Canavan

Trudi Canavan's Thief's Magic book coverIn a world where an industrial revolution is powered by magic, Tyen, a student of archaeology, unearths a sentient book called Vella. Once a young sorcerer-bookbinder, Vella was transformed into a useful tool by one of the greatest sorcerers of history. Since then she has been collecting information, including a vital clue to the disaster Tyen’s world faces.

Overall the story is a success, mostly due to Tyen and Vella, with the last couple of chapters of Rielle’s story picking up the pace. There are some true Canavan elements and I look forward to seeing what happens in the next story. Tyen will only develop and learn and it will be interesting to see how he handles the power and responsibility. Rielle must evolve or stay the pawn of a religious overlord; I am not sure which way she will go.
Rating 7.5/10

Shattered by Kevin Hearne

Shattered by Kevin Hearne book coverFor nearly two thousand years, there was only one Druid left walking the Earth – Atticus O’Sullivan, the Iron Druid, whose sharp wit and sharp sword kept him alive while pursued by a pantheon of hostile deities. Now he’s got company.

The epilogue for Atticus, Granuaile and Owen is one of more trouble to come and I like that I can see which way and how it will be shaped in the next book.
Rating 7/10

Sleeping Late on Judgment Day by Tad Williams

The final book in this Bobby Dollar series doesn’t disappoint (well not much). Bobby must face the consequences of his actions, route out a Traitor in Heaven and maybe, just maybe save the girl/demon/love of this life. So, not much to worry about then.

For the most, Sleeping Late brings all the story threads together, throws in the Big Bad behind Bobby’s troubles (with very large hints to his past, which is then left unexplained, grrrr) and provides him the opportunity to kick some ass, while still getting his handed to him along the way.

Nice conclusion to this this particular story line.
Rating 7/10

Hidden by Benedict Jacka

Hidden by Benedict Jacka book coverAlex’s friend, the life mage Anne, distanced herself from him when she found out about his past as a Dark apprentice. Now she’s in serious trouble, but wants nothing to do with him. Alex has to start wondering if Anne’s problem is really with him – or if there’s a secret she’s trying to hide.

I am a big fan of Benedict Jacka, his writing style has a consistent flow and pace, his characters have a fully cemented feel to them but I found the lack of action for the first half of the book caused the reading to be a little dry. I would describe the book has having two parts. The first half is a good recap of the previous novels and leads you snugly to the second half, where the pace really picks up and you feel the story going somewhere. Knock through the first five chapters quickly and you won’t be disappointed.
Rating 7/10

The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey

The Getaway God by Richard Kadrey book coverRivers of blood, Armageddon and a resurrected enemy Stark personally made sure was dead. Welcome to L.A. The Old Gods are at the door and they want the squatters out. One problem, all of Stark’s favourite stuff is there, his DVD’s, his guns and his girlfriend, and as they say possession is nine-tenths of the Law.

Overall, The Getaway God had some true Sandman Slim elements and concluded to a degree Stark’s Sandman journey, but ultimately it didn’t feel like a cohesive and rounded novel.
Rating: 6/10

Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind

It may be best to just read my review. I also read The Third Kingdom in 2014 but it falls into the same basket as Severed Souls.
Rating 2/10


 

My still to read and review list from 2014 (have heard nothing but good things). So many books not enough time.

  • Age of Iron by Angus Watson
  • Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
  • Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch
  • The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman
  • The Binding Knife by Brent Weeks

2015 is starting to look pretty good, so mark your calendars but I don’t think I have enough time to read them all. That’s it – I’m quitting work to read full time…

  • Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson
    Just Released!
  • Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
    Release date, 3 February
  • The Autumn Republic (Powder Mage #3) by Brian McClellan
    Release date, 10 February
  • A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett
    Release date, 17 March
  • The Skull Throne (Demon Cycle, #4) by Peter V. Brett
    Release date, 24 March
  • The Vagrant by Peter Newman
    Release date, 23 April
  • King of Ashes (War of Five Crowns) by Raymond E. Feist
    Release date, April
    Blood of the Cosmos (Saga of Shadows #2) by Kevin J. Anderson
    Release date, 2 June
  • Stileto (sequel to The Rook) by Daniel O’Malley
    Release date, 30 June
  • Killing Pretty (Sandman Slim, # 7) by Richard Kadrey
    Release date, 28 July
  • The Aeronaut’s Windlass (The Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher
    Release, Mid 2015 (sometime before Peace Talks)
  • Peace Talks (The Dresden Files, #16) by Jim Butcher
    Release date, September
  • Shadows of Self (Mistborn #5) by Brandon Sanderson
    Release date, October

Maybe (most likely not, but so want them to be) late late 2015 releases.

  • Doors of Stone (Kingkiller Chronicles #3) by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Skybreaker (The Stormlight Archive #3) by Brandon Sanderson
  • Staked (The Iron Druid Chronicles #8) by Kevin Hearne

Fantasy / science-fiction book name crossword

Fergus found himself with some spare time on his hands so he set his deviously Moriarty-like brain to creating a crossword where all the answers are very well-known fantasy and science fiction books. See how you get on, the answers will be published tomorrow.

Box

Across

  1. Working for Jimmy ‘The Tulip’ Tudeski (19)
  2. A sunny remembrance (14)
  3. Against living, restraining Order (12)
  4. A building is constructed well on this (10)
  5. A period or state of obscurity, ambiguity, or gradual decline (8)
  6. I’m trip’n (6)

Down

  1. Gemmell’s first novel (6)
  2. Character forgets his handkerchief and is most worried (9)
  3. Copperfield and Houdini are one of these (8)
  4. Alloy-ticker (10)
  5. The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust, Track 4 (7)
  6. Skinny sleep-giver (11)
  7. Mirror, taraba (6)
  8. The Tattooed Fellow (13)
  9. Parent of the piglet (12)
  10. Finisher of Sports (10)
  11. Wyvern aviation (12)
  12. To Er is to leave (6)

Fun Quiz: Guess the 10 fantasy book covers

Fun for the all the family and friends, great prices to be won, well not really. What can I say I’m cheap!

Answers at bottom of page.

Cover #1

fantasy-cover-5

Hint: Not a formidably aggressive older woman, it’s the other one.

Cover #2

fantasy-cover-6

Hint: When Newton divided the spectrum he missed this one.

Cover #3

fantasy-cover-9

Hint: You don’t get one, if you can’t get this shame on you!

Cover #4

fantasy-cover-2

Hint: Don’t Panic!

Cover #5

fantasy-cover-10

Hint: No need to come up with your own language, Quel marth!

Cover #6

fantasy-cover-8

Hint: You may need your umbrella.

Cover #7

fantasy-cover-3

Hint: Get alone little doggy

Cover #8

fantasy-cover-7

Hint: Fierily Throne.

Cover #9

fantasy-cover-1

Hint: It’s very Shady in this Vale.

Cover #10

fantasy-cover-4

Hint: Eye Caption.

Scroll down for the answers… and please leave your honest score in the comments box below!

Just a little further …

#10 Brooks Terry by Shannara of Sword The #9 Jordan Robert by World the of Eye #8 The Williams Tad by Chair Dragonbone #7 The King Stephen by Tower Dark #6 The Butcher Jim by Front Storm #5 Tolkien R R J by Silmarillion #4 Adams Douglas by Galaxy the to Guide Hitchhikers #3 Herbert Frank by Dune  #2 Pratchett Terry by Magic of Colour #1 Douglass Sara by Battleaxe

Rincewind vs Vimes: Who do you like best?

Vimes and Rincewind, from Terry Pratchett's Discworld seriesThere is nothing like a good long holiday to catch-up on your reading, and I have recently returned from mine. Prior to setting out I knew I wouldn’t be able to take all the books I would want, so Kindle in hand, and just one or two hard copies, off I trundled on my holiday.

Choosing not to get into anything too heavy I decided to re-read some old favourites. Settling on Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series I set myself the challenge to read my favourite character’s books in their chronological order. In my case these have always been Rincewind and Vimes.

Rincewind, as the books say, is the true anti-hero, and a man out of reality and backbone (with hilarious consequences). He doesn’t want much, to be called a ‘Wizzard’ and occasionally a really long head-start. Vimes on the other hand is, or was the underdog, a character who wants to think in straight lines as long as they are crooked. With a heart of gold, and a boot of steel the Vetinari lapdog dragged himself from the gutter to bludgeon the law back into line in a city of lawlessness. Smart, dogged (pun intended), continually bruised and bloody but he always gets his man/women/dwarf/law-breaker.

I was able to knock the Rincewind books off fairly quickly but only got through the first five of the Vimes stories. That said I was able to (for myself) final pick a winner. Drum roll please…

Vimes!

There are so many things I love about Rincewind, his perpetual cowardliness, his deluded belief that there should be logic in the Discworld, he fatalism (which is pretty on the nose when the gods are using you as a chess piece), and it probably doesn’t help that as a wizard he can see Death, who really really doesn’t like Rincewind very much. Rincewind captures the two sides of people, the flight and the fight. Well maybe not much on the fight, but he’s still alive thanks to some fast feet and a his own deadly weapon… a Sock (stone supplied separately!).

Lets just get down to playground level, who would win in a fight? Obviously Vimes would come out on top, but I’d say it would be a closer call than most would think, you can tell Rincewind would be a biter and hair puller. On the other hand, if we are talking about a foot race, all my money is on Rincewind. There is a freedom in Rincewind’s tactical confrontation disengagement, his exit stage left a la Snagglepuss, that always brings a smile to my face. What’s the old adage ‘he who fights and runs away lives to fight another day’ – this might be better refined in Rincewind’s case as ‘fugit ille vivit alius dies fugere’ – he who runs away, lives to run away another day.

The one issue I have with Rincewind’s is that given the depth and complexity of character that Vimes has, he can come across a little one-dimensional. Vimes, from his first appearance was layered, complex and born new to the reader. Pratchett gives you his flaws, his durability and the reformation of the Night Watch and himself.

It’s these flaws that make you bond with the character, we all have them and hope to improve on them while still functioning in life and the world, even if it’s a world flying on the back of a giant turtle, held up by four giant elephants.

Rincewind in comparison to Vimes is a man out of his world, while Vimes is a man firmly rooted inside his world: he accepts its defects, disfigurements (no jib at Nobby) and inequality and does his best to lift it a little higher out of the river (I would have said mud but calling what flows through the Ankh would sully the name of mud).

The point of my musings is I hope is to see what other people think. If you had to pick Vimes or Rincewind, who would your be choice and why? Would you pick neither? Maybe Death is your anthropomorphic man or Granny Weatherwax is your crone?

Maybe there is no right or wrong answer as they are all just fantastic.

Any thoughts?