Monthly Archives: January 2015

Countdown to “Shadow Study:”Maria V. Snyder Fan Questions and Answers!

Standard

As I posted my review of Maria V. Snyder’s ‘Touch of Darkness’ yesterday and she is shortly bringing out ‘Shadow Study’ I thought I’d reblog the post originally on A Bibliophile’s Reverie for all Maria’s fans…

A Bibliophile's Reverie

Click the above cover image, for the forthcoming new novel in the new Study Sequel Series- Soulfinder Trilogy- mysteriously titled Shadow Study!!

Since I re-read Sea Glass a number of months ago, I cannot recall any significant details of the plot, so I will instead be moving forward with a thorough examination of Spy Glass instead next Wednesday. In the intervening weeks until the release of Shadow Study in late February, I will be discussing three of Maria V. Snyder’s novels- Inside Out, Outside In, and Spy Glass– beginning next week.

All throughout these next few Maria V. Snyder Wednesday blog features, there may even be a special giveaway for those that are following these posts on a weekly basis. I have no inkling about just what the contest will involve, but it will most likely involve a Rafflecopter app. of sorts, and winner will be chosen at…

View original post 1,414 more words

Advertisements

Review of Taste of Darkness – Book 3 of the Avry of Kazan series by Maria V. Snyder

Standard

I’ve read the first two books in this series – read my review of Scent of Magic here – and while it doesn’t pack the same punch as the Poison Study series, I’ve enjoyed it. So does Snyder manage to satisfactorily tie up the loose ends and provide all the necessary information to make the magic system work?

tasteofdarknessPowerful healer Avry knows hardship and trouble. She fought a plague and survived. She took on corrupt King Tohon and defeated him. But now her true love Kerrick is missing and Avry fears he’s gone forever. Yet she faces a more immediate – and deadly – threat. The Skeleton King plots to claim the Fifteen Realms for his own. With the territories’ armies in disarray and the dead not staying dead, Avry’s powers are needed more than ever.

So that’s the blurb. And once again, the lovelorn couple are yanked apart by circumstance and foul deed, as Kerrick disappears right at the start of the book. It wasn’t all that long ago I read the second in the series, which was a great advantage. While I rarely read a series straight off – once I start spotting an author’s foibles I find it really interferes with my reading enjoyment – the fact I could clearly recall the plot of the second book, Scent of Magic, stood me in good stead and I’d recommend that you don’t leave an overly long gap between these books if you want to get the best out of them.

Snyder has an entertaining cast of supporting characters which I enjoyed throughout the series and liked how she gave most of them their own story arc within the tale – no mean feat in a trilogy of average-sized books. Avry’s bossiness has grated at times, but in this slice of her adventures she wasn’t so much at the hub of all the action as in the last book, which I’d begun to find annoying and on the edge of believability.

The action rolls forward at full tilt from the start of Taste of Darkness and the pace doesn’t let up until right at the end. Indeed, there is a great deal of stealthy sneaking through the forest as fast as possible… But it all hangs together and I found this book grabbed me more firmly than the other two as I genuinely wanted to know what happened to the characters.

As for the final denouement, yes, it worked. What I really liked about this particular magic system, was that no one really knew all the consequences of the plants’ magical properties. Which, in my opinion, is as it should be. I get a tad tired of books where the magic behaves like a well-trained dog. Magic should be difficult to control and never fully predictable – and this is an aspect that has run through this readable, entertaining series. If you enjoy strong heroines rushing around woods in medieval fantasy settings full of incident and adventure, you could do a lot worse to banish those winter blues by getting hold of these books – starting at the beginning of the series with Touch of Power.
8/10

Wormholes

Standard

Kirsten has gone to the trouble of explaining the technical stuff behind wormholes… I know! I’m excited too – which is why I’m sharing it with you folks today:) Thank you Kirsten!

The Nerd Nebula

Here is a quick post explaining how wormholes function (for those of you who wanted more information on them):

Wormhole Wormhole

The wormhole in the film Interstellar was based on real science; as explained below:

Interstellar Wormhole Interstellar Wormhole

I thought only anti-matter could pass through a wormhole; so if this does become possible one day it’s going to be truly fascinating.

✘ Hack It! ✘

View original post

Review of The Straight Razor Cure – Low Town Novel #1 by Daniel Polansky

Standard

straightrazorcureWarden is an ex-soldier who has seen the worst men have to offer, now a narcotics dealer with a rich, bloody past and a way of inviting danger. You’d struggle to find someone with a soul as dark and troubled as his. But then a missing child murdered and horribly mutilated, is discovered in an alley. And then another. With a mind as sharp as a blade, and an old but powerful friend in the city, Warden’s the only man with a hope of finding the killer. If the killer doesn’t find him first.

I’ll grant you the blurb isn’t full of joie de vivre – but this book is more fun than it sounds. Mostly because Warden is written in first person viewpoint and his grumpy, cutting narration throughout the story is often amusing and manages to render the more revolting bits less so. Not that Polansky tries to sanitise the bad part of town – but neither does he treat us to any gratuitous violence or revel unduly in the grottier parts of the landscape. Which is a problem I occasionally encounter with underworld fantasy – while I enjoy being fully immersed in the action, I don’t appreciate feeling the need to shower afterwards…

Having a character that pings off the page is all very well – but a murder mystery needs a lot more than that to work effectively. The world has to be convincing – and again, Polansky ticks all the boxes. Warden’s business interests on the seedy side of town require him to be ruthless and unpleasant, with a supporting cast of characters who he rubs shoulders with. He also has a part-share in an inn called The Staggering Earl run by his business partner Adolphus, friend and former comrade-in-arms, where he whiles away his time drinking and drug-taking when not roaming around doing deals. Or trying to find the child murderer.

Warden has a very chequered past which gradually unfolded throughout the book, allowing him access to some highly placed people on both sides of the law. Not that anyone exactly rolls out the welcome mat for him… The narrative is handled very well as various pressures steadily build up and Warden finds himself on the back foot, needing to solve the murders for his own survival.

I really didn’t spot the perpetrator until the final denouement, which was satisfyingly climactic, tying up all the loose ends. There’s no cliffhanger at the end of this book to encourage readers to reach for the second in the series – which in this case is entirely unnecessary as I’ve already ordered it. Warden’s snarky commentary on his nicely twisty adventures is an ideal way to while away the bleak January weather…
9/10

Reading & Snobbism

Standard

I thoroughly endorse Anastasia’s sentiments – what a shame that some people choose to use the gift of reading to make others feel inadequate and awkward about their taste in books… Which is why I’ve reblogged her article.

Read & Survive

I hate snobbism. I think it is the destroyer of the culture.

Every once in a while, I encounter a person who says: “You could never understand the greatness of classics because you only read fantasy and science fiction” “You’re just too young (and dumb) to understand War and Peace” ´”I don’t understand adults who read YA. You’re a grown-up, read something more suitable for your own age.” “I don’t see what is the point in reading fiction, after all, you can only learn by reading nonfiction.”“I only read Nobel laureates.”“E-reading isn’t REAL reading.”“Your view of Raskolnikov is really childish.”“Oh, you only read those kinds of books.” “I NEVER dog ear pages, crease a spine, or eat food while reading.”

I think reading is always good. I am a person who reads all possible genres and I don’t care about what people do or do not read.  It drives me…

View original post 626 more words

Review of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Standard

I spotted this 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction winner on the shelves and scooped it up, after recalling it was recommended by a couple of my students.

WeareallcompletelybesideourselvesWhat if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment? Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother, Lowell. Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can’t go forward without going back to the time when, aged five, she was sent away from home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.

As soon as I started reading, the surefooted first person voice pulled me in – and then about a quarter of the way in, came the revelation which I didn’t see coming. At all. This is such a clever, original book. What you think must be the themes when you start reading about the fallout surrounding Fern’s disappearance on her family, once you get past That Point, you realise there is another agenda alongside the expected issues of loss and identity. As Rosemary starts facing up to the fallout and decides to try and put things right, it would have been so very easy for this book to have lapsed into sentimentality – which Fowler manages to avoid, chiefly by giving us dollops of madcap humour.

All the supporting characters ping off the page, filtered by Rosemary’s sharp observations and interleaved with the apt and layered dialogue scenes that resonate with all the unspoken conversations. Fowler’s handling of the narrative is sophisticated and deft – given that Rosemary starts her story in the middle because she cannot face starting at the beginning, we get a ringside seat as she starts crumbling until she has to confront what happened when she was five. As she then provides the backstory, along with the extra layer of information we need to know about Fern and Lowell’s part in the story, it would have been all too easy to have lost the tension, let the narrative stray. But she keeps absolute control – this book is a tour de force, which is hardly a surprise, given it is Fowler’s sixth novel and she has also two collections of short stories published.

She is an experienced author at the top of her game and this book was short listed for the 2014 Man Booker award – with good reason. But don’t take my word for it – track it down. It is an outstanding read that will remain with me for a long time – oh, and if you do intend to read it, do avoid the reviews by The Guardian and Telegraph. For reasons best known to themselves, both reviewers have seen fit to give the spoiler regarding Fern’s disappearance that the publishers have been very careful to omit in their blurb, which is a disgraceful betrayal of their readership in my opinion.
10/10

A Great Debate: E-Book or Paperback–Which Do You Prefer?

Standard

And we were having this discussion last night… I do enjoy reading on my Kindle – but if pushed probably still prefer a brand new book – I’m addicted to the smell of new pages… What about you?

Write of Passage

ebook-vs-printI used to work with a girl who never bought books–NEVER bought books.

Before you light your torches and sharpen your pitchforks I should probably mention she does READ books–she reads all the time; however, she only reads e-books, and only if they are free.

I’ve known people on both sides of the spectrum: those who only read e-books (old coworker) and those who only read paperbacks (my mother).

I’m sure most of you, like me, fall somewhere in the middle.

My personal philosophy: It doesn’t matter as long as you read.

Let me make a confession: I was once one of those people who used to touch, dust, and eye-caress my paperbacks, swearing to them I’d never betray them by downloading an e-book. Yeah, well I also swore I’d never join Facebook and twitter, so . . . (cough, cough)

Life changes and so do we. Granted, I didn’t buy my first e-book until last year…

View original post 479 more words

Review of Fractal Prince – Book 2 of The Quantum Thief series by Hannu Rajaniemi

Standard

On the edges of physical space a thief, helped by a sardonic ship, is trying to break into a Schrődinger box. He is doing the job for his patron, and the owner of the ship, Mieli. In the box is his freedom. Or not. The box is protected by codes that twist logic and sanity. And the ship is under attack. The thief is nearly dead, being is being eaten alive. Jean de Flambeur is running out of time. All of him. And on earth, two sisters in a city of fast ones, shadow players and jinni contemplate a revolution.

fractalprinceAnd that is the blurb for the follow up to Rajaniemi’s award-winning novel, The Quantum Thief which I whipped off the shelves when it caught my eye – would I enjoy this hard science fiction adventure? Rajaniemi is a Finnish writer with a PhD in String Theory – and his scientific knowledge permeates the world building in this remarkable book.

The thief’s viewpoint is in first person, while Mieli and the adventures of disgraced sister, Tawaddud, the other two protagonists, are told in third person viewpoint. While the thief struggles to open the box, Tawaddud is striving to assist her father in his political manoeuvring by entertaining influential individuals and then roaming the poorer parts of the city and helping those infected with the wildcode. The characters are reasonably successful, although I found I empathised more with Tawaddud and Mieli than Jean, whose enigmatic, tricky persona made him less easy to know and care about.

The other layer of structure running through the book is that much of the narrative is told in the form of stories in the same style as Scheherazade’s tales of a thousand and one nights. I know – it sounds bonkers. And yet, for me, this aspect was one of the main successes of the book. Rajaniemi isn’t a believer in spending time on explaining his world or how it works to the reader – the gismos and terms describing aspects of his world, such as Sobernost, zoku, mutalibun all have to be gleaned through the context of the prose. I would have been cravenly grateful for a glossary, especially in the early stages of the book, given I haven’t read The Quantum Thief. But in the stories – which partly advance the plot and partly highlight the recurring themes of betrayal and revenge, loyalty and power which weave through the book – there is some background and explanation, particularly about Tawaddud and Mieli.

That Rajaniemi is an original writer, pushing the boundaries of science fiction and how narrative works is undisputed. Once I managed to grasp more or less what was going on, I found this an enjoyable read filled with entertaining concepts and underpinned by a story with plenty of tension. However, I do feel Rajaniemi could have, at times, thrown a few more lifelines to his readers that needn’t have compromised his narrative and would have enhanced the reading experience – the longed-for glossary, for example. That said, I recommend you seek him out – but do yourselves a favour, don’t start with Fractal Prince, track down The Quantum Thief. My bad habit picking up a mid-series book as my starting point certainly didn’t help in this case.
8/10

The Future of Reading: Adapt or Die

Standard

Anita raises some important issues for readers and writers here about the use of technology in reading. What do you think?

Negotiating between technology & the written word

Yesterday, when I was tending to the sometimes tedious but other times  interesting task of shelving and filing magazines at my public urban library job, my eyes were drawn to the March 1, 2010 issue of Fortune magazine, wonderfully illustrated by Viktor Koen. Its front page headline touted an article titled “The Future of Reading: How Technology is Revolutionizing the Business of Information”, written by Josh Quittner.

In it Mr. Quittner posits that perhaps all of these tablets, smartphones and netbooks could save and/or destroy newspaper, books, and magazines; in short, technology could save the print industry. He makes a great point that a much younger generation (modeled like his daughter) look for their information to be organized in a way that makes it “instant, sortable, searchable, savable [and portable]”(64). Interestingly enough, exactly what libraries and librarians have been doing with information much longer than the web. A fact that…

View original post 386 more words