31 August, 2009

Bona Fide: Reading habits

I don't know whether my reading habits are common or strange. Therefore I will present you my reading habits and I'm curious to read your comments.

- I read up to three books parallel.
- When I want to review a book I put a sheet of paper in the book in order to write notes during reading.
- In case a book contains extras (maps, glossary, interview, excerpt of next/other books, register of persons) I read this first.
- Every book gets a 50 pages opportunity to convince me whether to read the whole book or not. If I'm not convinced I stop reading. Fortunately it happens very seldom.
- In few cases I read trilogies in a row.
- I would like to reread books but my TBR pile with unread books is always too high.
- I talk about the books I'm reading with my wife and my daughter. The more I talk about a book the more I like it.
- I stop reading when I'm not in the right mood. It can take up to several months until I continue or start again from the beginning.
- I like to change my reading list very often due to different reasons - book delivery, reviews, comments, recommendations, family, own discoveries.
- I read at different places. This includes bathroom. Imagine a man with a toothbrush in the left hand and a book in the right hand.....
- Normally I don't leave the house without a book.
- Reading on sofa is dangerous because after a while I fall asleep. But most of the time the story continues in my dream. When I continue reading later I'm often surprised because the content of the current page doesn't fit to my memory.
- At home I have always an English - German dictionary available. And of course I have a lot of dictionary links on my laptop.
- Very, very seldom I read whole books in English and in German.
- From time to time I listen to music while I'm reading. But this works only with instrumental music.
- I like to read the last word of a story before I start reading...

And now I wait for your comments.......

29 August, 2009

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #35

Hello and welcome to a new issue of my Roundup. Unforeseen events changed our schedule for this week. Alec is busy with serious family matters. So for the first time it is up to me to "keep the blog alive". It is a challenge due to my limited time. This is the third post for this week and in order to do this I had to stop reading . But I don't want to complain. Let's see what I gathered for you within this week. Enjoy reading.....


Corresponding to the movies section of this post I would like to draw your attention to a new werewolf novel: Wolfbreed (2009) [US] [UK] by S. A. Swann. As far as I reconnoitered it is different to other werewolf books. Paul over at Blood of the Muse loved the first 100 pages. And Graeme over at Graeme's Fantasy Book Review wrote in his review: "‘Wolfbreed’ is definitely up there for my ‘surprise find of the year’. If you’re after an engrossing slice of historical fantasy, or if you just like werewolves, then I don’t think you’ll go wrong with this one..." The setting is promising: 13th century Northern Europe, Teutonic knights, religion and political intrigues, werewolves.... I could not withstand and added the book to my list. Whatelse can I do to convince you? First of all I can offer you the opportunity to read an excerpt. And as it is in vogue I will maltreat you with a book trailer.


Some of you may know the following trailers but I think it is worth to post it here. The Wolfman (2010) is a remake of The Wolf Man (1941) [trailer]. And I definitely want to see the remake:

A lot of us admire special effects in movies. The following video shows you examples of visual effects from past 100 years:


I'm reading Best Served Cold (2009)[US] [UK] by Joe Abercrombie. And there I found this on page 162: "No one wants you when you get old.” And this week my mother turned 75. Don't get me wrong, there is no relation between the quote and the age of my mother. Both things led me to quotes about....... youth

"Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 2003

"Youth is the best time to be rich, and the best time to be poor.
Euripides (ca. 480 BCE–406 BCE)

"In case you're worried about what's going to become of the younger generation, it's going to grow up and start worrying about the younger generation.
Roger Allen

28 August, 2009

Bona Fide's Two Cents: Seven Essential Second-step Fantasies

On 12th of August 2009, The New Yorker posted an online-article about fantasy book recommendations for readers of books like "Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, Twilight, Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, The Dark Is Rising." Of course this list aroused interest and it didn't take long until you could read about it on several blogs. I don't want to bother you with a long list of links. I recommend to read the article by Aidan over at A Dribble of Ink. I mostly agree with him except The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers because it did not work for me.

From the original list I read five books. I didn't read The Scions of Shannara by Terry Brooks and nothing by Guy Gavriel Kay.

That lead me to questions: Am I a fantasy book lover? Am I experienced enough to comment this list? Is it hubris when I try to recommend other books?

As I told you before I'm a fan of Aidan's list but there are still books which I recommend which are not mentioned there. That means I didn't create my own list. I just present you some proposals. Anyhow there are still too many books I have not read so far.....

I start my recommendations with The Last Rune series by Mark Anthony. I don't want to repeat my last post. So please read Bona Fide: Living in a Fantasy World? for more information. I think this series is proper next step for readers of Harry Potter and Narnia. It delivers two worlds and adult heroes.

I'm not a fan of Twilight. But within this year I read a book which shows completely different vampires. I'm talking about Fevre Dream [US] [UK] by George R. R. Martin which has been published first in 1982. I know that Twilight and Fevre Dream are like two sides of coin. That means it is a challenge for Twilight readers.

I liked to read the following two books after Harry Potter - yes I have read all Potter books.

The first one is Un Lun Dun (2007) by China Miéville [US] [UK]. A book with exuberant imagination. You will meet an extraordinary house pet: Curdle, an empty milk carton. Discover the secret life of broken umbrellas and, and, and, ......

The second one is a bit older but still worth reading.
Discover a bizarre realm beneath London and follow Richard Mayhew into a world full of monsters, saints, murderers and angels in Neverwhere (1996), by Neil Gaiman [US] [UK].

Now I want to direct your attention to a historical fantasy book. As I don't know Guy Gavriel Kay I would like to recommend: Midnight Never Come (2008) by Marie Brennan [US] [UK]. This is the first book of The Onyx Court series. The books (so far Marie Brennan has signed a contract for four books) in this historical fantasy series are set in my favorite town, London, and cover different periods of English history. The title of the book is derived from The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlow [Free online read].

"Now hast thou but one hower to live
And then thou must be damned perpetually:
Stand stil you ever moving spheres of heaven
That time may cease, and midnight never come!"

For more information please read my review.

My last recommendation is a real intense book and I know a lot of people will tell me that it is no fantasy from a technical point of view. And it is a big book (more than 900 pages). But when you like an awesome story with a historical background then there is no way out to read Terror (2007) [US] [UK] by Dan Simmons.
He tells the story of the last expedition of John Franklin, who tried to find the Northwest Passage in 1845 with the ships HMS Terror and HMS Erebus. Based on the know facts, Dan Simmons presents an expressive and quite impressive metaphor of the expedition. I felt the cold on nearly every page. Let's not forget the intense description of the feelings of the expedition members. Beside all the obvious fun, the reader gets to learn a lot about the customs and traditions of the Eskimos.
The appendix contains the list of crewmembers, a glossary and explanations of Eskimo terms. I recommend this book warmly to everyone who is interested in Arctic Zones, Explorers, and the depths of the human soul.

26 August, 2009

Bona Fide: Living in a Fantasy World?

Beside the work on this blog we get requests for interviews, guest post, and other fun stuff. John over at Grasping for the Wind has an interesting feature called Inside the blogosphere. For the latest edition he asked other bloggers the following question: "If you could live in an SF/Fantasy/Horror world, in which one would you live? Why?" - Alec was asked too, so read his and other great answers: Inside the Blogosphere: Living in a Fantasy World Part 1.

When I started to write this post I asked myself what my answer would be. Upon significant reflection, there are several worlds in which I would live. But there is only one which came up first in my mind, and this world is described in The Last Rune series by Mark Anthony. This six volume series is set in... two worlds: The Earth and the magic otherworld of Eldh. It is the story of two earthlings - saloonkeeper Travis Wilder and ER doctor Grace Beckett - and their allies in both worlds. The Earth is like our earth in the nineties. Eldh is a medieval-style world full of myths and runecraft and has secretly coexisted beside Earth for millennia. I must admit I have a foible for connected worlds. I would like to live there, where you get magic abilities when you move from Earth to Eldh, and you become involved in a fight between good and evil. I still have a relationship to Travis Wilder and Grace Beckett, and I really want to meet them and their allies.

The books are still available. I own the German edition which has been split into 12 books!!

1. Beyond The Pale (1998) [US] [UK]
Travis Wilder and Grace Beckett live in Colorado. They are separately transported to Eld where they little by little discover their talents for magic. It does not take long and they are in th middle of a confrontation between good and evil.

2. The Keep of Fire (1999) [US] [UK]
Travis Wilder returns to Eldh in order to locate the source of a plague which has emerged on earth. Gace Beckett tries to combat the plague by combining medicine from earth with magic from Eldh and discovers an ancient conspiracy.

3. The Dark Remains (2001) [US] [UK]
Grace and Travis return to earth in order to seek medical aid for a good Eldish friend who has been seriously wounded by a Necromancer. It does not take long and they stumble across a new enemy.

4. Blood of Mystery (2002) [US] [UK]
Travis and Grace have been separated. On Eldh the ancient evil arouse in shape of the Pale King. Grace returns to Eldh and tries to find the key weapon against the Pale King. Meanwhile Travis must face life in the Old Wild West because he has been catapulted back in time by a demon.

5. The Gates of Winter (2003) [US][UK]
On Earth Travis fights against another strong enemy who somehow connected to Eldh, where Grace levies an army for the final fight against the Pale King.

6. The First Stone (2004) [US][UK]
The greatest challenge for Grace and Travis.

25 August, 2009

Reviewer Time Interview

Writing from the airport in Helsinki, of all places, so you know this is an important post.

Those of you not already familiar with Harry over at Temple Library Review should be shot. The guy is a brilliant interviewer, truly brilliant. He has worked his way down the major science fiction and fantasy blogs out there, and gotten up close and personal with reviewers of every ilk. With his questions, Harry digs down to the truth, and he isn't afraid to dirty his front page with the answers. I especially recommend the introductions to the interviews, which are not only eloquent and measured, but strangely... insightful.

I was brutally honest in the interview and Michael (ediFanoB) let slip all the blog's dirty secrets, so you should really take a look. This is a rare chance to get a glimpse of those behind the scenes, and worth every second of your time.

May the gods of international travel be kinder to you then they are to me.

22 August, 2009

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #34

Hello and welcome to a new issue of my Roundup, which will be a bit different than previous ones. Three things prevented me from spending as much time as usual on research. I took the pleasure to answer 19 questions for an interview. More information will be delivered soon.... I have been captured by The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. But the most annoying obstacle has been an infection of the middle ear (left ear). The constant pain has forced me to take pain killers because I couldn't concentrate on anything. Oh, and the antibiotics make me tired. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy reading the following snippets...


It makes me even more sick when I can't read because of the pain and nauseating medication. Therefore, I'm still not finished with The Angels's Game (2009) [US][UK] by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It is a good book, but I feel that The Shadow of the Wind [US][UK] is better by far - more 'magic' moments. Maybe my expectations were too high. I'm still not sure whether to follow my summer reading list or not. I think my next read will depend on my mood.


Two months ago I wrote about Fantasy Maps. During one of my last web rambles I stumbled over Need help getting around the Seven Kingdoms? . You don't know the Seven Kingdoms? Ever have heard of A Song of Ice and Fire? Then I must tell you that you have missed an extraordinary fantasy series. Go immediately to the closest book store and buy A Game of Thrones [US] [UK] by George R.R. Martin, which is the first book. You won't regret it. And now back to maps. Read the mentioned post and follow the links. The map of Westeros which you see at the right side of this text - click on pic to enlarge- is a masterly peace of map art created by the Cartographer's Guild member 'Tear'. And when you finish enjoying this map then I have one more mouth-watering link for you.Watch and sink into Unusual and Marvelous Maps.


Do you know the most commonly seen element appearing on fantasy books published in 2008 ? I know since I read The Chart of Fantasy Art. I don't bewray (archaic English for disclose) it, but I can promise that it is neither dragons or tattoos.

On 12th of August The New Yorker published Seven Essentials Fantasy Reads: Going to second Base. I think you know what happened next: Posts on book blogs. You find comments and alternative lists. I must admit that I didn't find the time in the past days to work on my own list, but I will try to post it in the next Roundup. Until then you have the opportunity to read An Aside The New Yorker's seven essential Fantasy reads by Aidan and Aidan's article: My Seven Essential Second-step Fantasies. Mark Charan Newton, the author of Nights of Villjamur [US] [UK] posted his own list. The post by Adam differs from the others. He commented on the list by using fantasy subgenres. Fantasy in the New Yorker!?! is Pat's answer. It seems Gav didn't like the list at all. James commented on every book. The longest post header and a really different list has been delivered by Jeff: A fantasy list for those who don't want to stop at second base, but who'd rather hit a grand slam and then score continuously or something !


This week I will show you two trailers. The first one I found over at BCS Reviews. The second one I searched for on my own. These are the trailers to Avatar (December 2009) and Delgo (December 2008). It seems there are parallels between the two movies. For detailed information please read: The 7 Eeriest Parallels Between Avatar and Delgo. Maybe some of you have seen Delgo and can tell more about it. And enjoy the trailers:

Avatar - Theatrical Trailer


I didn't even need to think on a subject for quotes this week: E A R S

"We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less"

"One of my theories is that men love with their eyes; women love with their ears.
Zsa Zsa Gabor

"What a blessing it would be if we could open and shut our ears as easily as we open and shut our mouths
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

20 August, 2009

Collected Works: Richard K. Morgan

A new feature of the blog that I have been playing with for a while is going to be author pages, and its hot off the press, so bare with my while I iron the kinks out. I will post these only once I have read all of an authors work, as is the case with Richard (K.) Morgan. The purpose of the author post is two fold. First, it helps you, as a reader, find relevant material quickly and easily. Second, given that I have read all the author's published material, it is a great occasion for me to express my thoughts on how she has progressed, how the author's style has evolved (or not), and illustrate any major shifts that have occurred.

In the case of Mr. Morgan, I feel that this will be a genuinely interesting endeavor, as I have read all of his book in a fairly short period of time, and believe myself to be keenly aware of what he has tried to achieve as an author. I will rely not just on my own understanding of his works, but on everything that is out there. As such, these posts will be a bit longer than most, but also more detailed and researched. If you have any suggestions on anything that you think would add value to this humble endeavor, let me know.

Let us begin.

Published Works of Richard K. Morgan

Takeshi Kovacs novels:
Altered Carbon (2002)
Broken Angels (2003)
Woken Furies (2005)

Standalone novels:
Market Forces (2004)
Thirteen / Black Man (2007)

A Land Fit for Heroes series:
The Steel Remains (2008)
The Dark Commands (forthcoming, 2010)

Graphic Novels:
Black Widow: Homecoming (2005)
Black Widow: The Things They Say About Her (2006)

Vision and Veracity: Beyond the Singularity

Mr. Morgan likes to "draw out the current cultural tendencies and extrapolate," but his vision of current trends can be downright pessimistic, and even fatalistic.1 These undertones of despair often lead to characterizations of his work as noir and dystopian. The great irony to me is that for a man who sees so little hope in the future for humankind, his characters are unerringly righteous, however much they try to hide it. The tension that Mr. Morgan creates between the bleakness of his future reality and the almost tangible determination of his protagonists is what gives his oeuvre such supercharged momentum.

As an author, Mr. Morgan also cultures a highly personal relationship with his characters, fighting for months on end to make sure that they are doing what they want to do, and often throwing publishing deadlines to the wind because of it.2 He admits that his work is character driven, and one would be hard pressed to prove otherwise. And yet, Mr. Morgan also delves deeply into the philosophical and economic by creating highly structured worlds that are governed by exaggerated, yet plausible, socio-economic trends. From the extreme fringe of corporate capitalism in Market Forces to an imperial theocracy in The Steel Remains, Morgan grabs the dark edge of our way of life and proceeds to cut as deep as he can.

Now, it is difficult to judge whether Mr. Morgan takes some of his predictions to heart, as is the case with many authors, or whether they are only entertaining and fanciful visions of the future--although a bibliography heavy in political-economy at the end of Market Forces might shed some light on the question. Additionally, his thoughtful take on the future of marketing3 contrasts sharply with his flippant sense of humor when he links to Cocaine.org from his website.4 One constant is that Mr. Morgan remains as candid as ever, and that he is ruthlessly honest with both himself and his audience. In a refreshingly revealing interview in 2008 with I09, the author holds back few punches, if any.5

As hinted at previously, Richard Morgan's trademark is "high octane" character driven action. In my first review of his writing, Altered Carbon, I wrote that "the book is so gritty, so in your face that it actually hurts. I'm not even talking about the torture scenes -- just the gratuitous violence sequences are enough to make you clench your teeth and give you a sore jaw."6 Far from exaggerating, I probably understated how reading the book made me react; rarely have I had such a visceral physical reaction to the written word. In retrospect, I imagine that the tone of the novel is hammered out in the preface, in which the protagonist is murdered; the reader then follows Takeshi Kovacs along in a lucid post-traumatic stress disorder induced hallucination.

Continued next week in Part II.


1. Pat's Fantasy Hotlist collaborative interview with Richard Morgan.
2. "My characters all ended up where I wanted them to be, they bedded down into the consequences and outcomes of what they'd seen and done with the pleasing clunk of emotional deadbolts falling into place - so rolling them all out of bed again, splashing water on their faces and getting them to open up and let in the morning light has proved a lot more problematic than I'd expected. I started at least twice and then had to tear up what I'd written because it was some weak-assed shit." From Oz and the Dark Delays, on Richard Morgan's website.
3. In What's in the Bottle, Mr. Morgan lays out, Minority Report style, the future of advertising.
4. Morgan's link page sending some love to Cocaine.org. Highly informative I might add.
5. Richard K. Morgan on the Failures of Capitalism and the Success of Science Fiction, over at I09.
6. My review of Altered Carbon. Go easy on me, the blog was fairly new back then.

18 August, 2009

Is my Girlfriend a Demon? Calling on Urban Fantasy Experts

I spend my nights in fear, I don't dare close my eyes. I looked in the Yellow pages for a wizard, but could not find Harry Dresden. And so I come to you, my reader, for help. I believe that Christine, my girlfriend, is a demon if not the head honcho of hell, the devil. I have tried every trick I know to prove her demonic lineage, and have come out empty handed every time. From holy water in her tea to iron jewelry she just smiles and kisses me, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes! Just when I thought things could not get worse, I discovered that hot oil exposes her true nature! Look, what an errant drop of oil did, it revealed her master's mark.

I set out to research the number six, thinking that she was a lesser demon that could yet be turned to the ways of good. Alas, I fear that my hope was in vain. According to The Lesser Key of Solomon, my girlfriend is the sixth most powerful demon in existence, commanding ten legions of the damned. I name her now for what she is, truly, Duchess of Hell, Valefar. I now understand her game, time being her eternal ally, she seeks to tempt me to her cause, enticing me to join her forsaken legions. Ahh readers, is there no hope for my redemption and for hers? Perhaps, in your treasure trove of dark lore you hold the gem of knowledge which will save me from eternal damnation. For surely I am not strong enough to resist her power; already I feel myself slipping into her dark embrace.

Now, with confirmation of her true nature, I am at a loss for what to do. Save me oh reader, for I fear for my very soul! Day by day, my courage slips. Lend me your knowledge so that I may free myself and deliver my soul from the clutches of darkness. Hear me now and lend aid for the darkness beckons and time is short.

16 August, 2009

Movie Review: District 9

I have been following the hype surrounding District 9 for quite a while now. From the release of the new District 9 poster to the exemplary viral marketing campaign, I was a fan before there was even a decent trailer out there. Generally, this leads to high expectations and a poor movie going experience. It may be hard to believe, but Mr. Blomkamp managed to pleasantly surprise me, giving to movie watchers everywhere a revealing look at human nature, and managing to throw some pretty wicked looking aliens into the mix.

Those of you familiar with the history of South Africa will instantly want to view the movie through the optic of apartheid. The jovial atmosphere and light tone of the first ten minutes of the movie underscore a brutal reality of oppression and racism. Well, I guess that in this case it would be xenophobia. The friendly and slightly silly mannerisms of the protagonist lull the audience into accepting the terrible treatment of the aliens as somehow OK. While the first ten minutes of the movie serve to dehumanize the aliens, the rest of the movie slowly reverses the process, bringing with it a certain cathartic release. To say that Mr. Blomkamp was able to make me feel ashamed of being human might be a slight exaggeration, but only slight.

To be sure, the science fiction fan in you will appreciate all the geeky wonderfulness of District 9. From the aliens to the pulse blasters and the awesome mechanized battle-suit, you will not be disappointed. The gritty realism of the movie serves as a perfect backdrop for both social commentary and futuristic gismos. What the movie lacks in big budget pyrotechnics and gratuitous violence it easily makes up for by being, well, awesome. The subtle blend of documentary style footage and traditional blockbuster shots gives the whole experience an undeniable realism that leaves one with a lasting and meaningful impression.

I loved District 9 and wasn't bored for a minute, but I am still having some difficulty shaking that guilty feeling... I think it might come from the fact the the aliens are referred to as "prawns", a derogatory racial slur, but we are never given another name to call them by.

15 August, 2009

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #33

Hello and welcome to the second Roundup in August. To my surprise I didn't find a movie trailer worth posting, so I hope you "survive" without a trailer. After reading several reviews -- most of them negative -- about G I Joe I decided to save my money for an other movie. And now enjoy reading...


In the last couple of weeks I have posted a lot concerning books that I bought and ordered. This week, I had to cancel my pre-order of the German edition of Best Served Cold (2009) [US][UK] by Joe Abercrombie because the publishing date has been postponed. I still wanted the book though, so I ordered the hardcover at Book Depository UK. You won't believe me but, I also found time for reading. I finished Bloodheir (2008) [US][UK] by Brian Ruckley. This middle book in The Godless World trilogy is strong, dark, vivid, harsh, and powerful. Next up on the reading list, The Angels's Game (2009) [US][UK] by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.

US-Cover followed by UK-Cover

Have you ever read a book by Karen Miller? I must admit that I own all the books in the Godspeaker trilogy - unread. It seems there is a some hype surrounding her new book The Prodigal Mage (2009) [US][UK]. I have read several reviews by Mad Hatter, Kimberly Swan, John, a preview by Robots and Vamps and an intermediate reading impression by Jeff C which all praise the book, without exception. A little icing on the cake, I give you a link to a Karen Miller interview and the opportunity to read an exclusive excerpt. In case you have read it please let me know your impression. I'm also interested in your opinion on her other books.


You may remember that I briefly touched on author Cherie Priest who is going "steampunk" with her upcoming book Boneshaker. How would you define steampunk? In case you don't have your own definition handy, you should refer to wikipedia steampunk entry which is a suitable starting point. But if you want more, then I highly recommend Steampunk: What it is, why I came to like it, and why I think it’ll stick around" by Cherie Priest.

And now I want to draw your attention to a special post over at SF Signal who asked several people (authors and blogger) What book or books hold special memories for you? What are they? I promise you interesting and entertaining posts. I read about a number of books I never heard of before.

Reality - Fantasy

Last week, I talked about how elements that we find in fantasy novels derive their origin from reality. This is not unusual. But when we can see, smell, and touch things in reality it helps our imagination along. In a lot of fantasy novels you find cities, towns, and hamlets. Maybe some of you read Nights of Villjamur (2009) by Mark Charan Newton [US] [UK]. For me the town Villjamur is the secret star of the book. Mark Charan Newtons depiction of Villjamur is one of the best I have read in the past years. That leads me to walled cities. There are a lot of old walled towns around the world. You know some of them? I highly recommend a look at The Walled cities post over at Dark Roasted Blend which I recommended some time ago. There are 890 properties on the UNESCO World Heritage List. And the list contains walled cities. The World Heritage Site posted a list of walled cities including vistor impressions. I couldn't resist showing you a video about the famous German town, Rothenburg ob der Tauber:


This week I offer you quotes related to war. I have been inspired by the walled cities.

"I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought,
but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."
Albert Einstein (1879 -1955)

"The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it."
George Orwell (1903 -1950)

"What difference does it make to the dead,
the orphans and the homeless,
whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism
or the holy name of liberty and democracy?
Mahatma Gandhi (1869 - 1948)

14 August, 2009

On Rarified Air and Hoopla

I am bored with all the snark aimed at the publishing industry/authors for wanting to make a buck. Undoubtedly, many of you have been following the recent criticism leveled against the Dune and Wheel of Time franchises, and if you haven't you should be. Adam rightfully tore the continuation of the Dune series a new one, as the saying goes, and he did a marvelous job of it. His arguments were well research and succinct and you can't help but agree with him by the end of his post. I don't even think the authors could formulate a reasonable counterargument if they wanted to, nor should they. I would like to add my two cents to the fray on a more... philosophical level, and if I miss the mark it isn't for want of trying.

Publishing is about money, punto final; try as we might to ignore the fundamental calculus of the industry, it is impossible to deny the fact that the bottom line is king. Obviously, words such as integrity and leadership spring to mind, but they are just subsets of a greater numeric rationale--when an imprint is perceived as having integrity and being a trail blazer, guess what, it sells more books. The best publishing houses strike a profit maximizing equilibrium between pandering and professionalism, quality and sales. This is not a criticism, it is a compliment. If tarnishing the legacy of one great author allows you to print new and remarkable talent, then by all means do so.

I am a realist. I realize that in today's market ideals will only get you so far. Ranting about how one series or another is motivated purely by it's profit margins, while true, will only hurt the publisher's bottom line, and on the flip side give you one less marvelous debut this publishing cycle. Sure you are angry, and so am I, but that is the world we live in. Or at least, that is the world as I see it. There has been much blame tossed into the void that is the mighty Internet recently, and a significant portion of it fails to contribute to the debate, opining instead for the witty condescension and venomous repartee which are all too often the hallmark of snark. In the context of this debate, I find it humorously ironic that 'snarky' posts get more readers.

Regardless, the bittersweet truth is that the snark must continue. Just as publishers strike a balance in their offerings, so to is up to the reader to redress blatant profiteering. My sincere hope is that criticism and debate can be held in a context that admits to and gives weight to the complexities governing publishers' rationales. While economic considerations are undoubtedly preponderant, the reader must realize that the power is in her hands, quite literally.

13 August, 2009

Review: Midnight Never Come, Marie Brennan

Midnight Never Come (2008) by Marie Brennan [US] [UK] is the first book of The Onyx Court series. The books (so far Marie Brennan has signed a contract for four books) in this historical fantasy series are set in my favorite town, London, and cover different periods of English history. The title of the book is derived from The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlow [Free online read].

"Now hast thou but one hower to live
And then thou must be damnd perpetually:
Stand stil you ever moving spheres of heaven
That time may cease, and midnight never come!"

The Setup

Earth, England, London, Elizabethan Age. Elizabeth I, Virgin Queen, Gloriana rules England. She holds court in Hampton Court Palace in south west London and her "spymaster" Sir Francis Walsingham suspects a conspiracy against the Crown. To be honest this story also fits neatly with other non-fiction works, such as Sir Francis Walsingham: A Courtier in an Age of Terror (2007) by Derek Wilson [US] [UK] and Elizabeth's Spymaster (2007) by Robert Hutchinson [US] [UK].

But it is only half of the setup. Marie Brennan introduces us to a second court. The Onyx Court is beneath London and there Queen Invidiana rules. She is a... FAERIE. Both courts are connected by secret bounds and it is up to Michael Deven, a young man who must attempt to serve both Queen Elizabeth I and Lady Lune, a faerie, to both solve a dangerous riddle and reveal a dark betrayal. Two Queens, two courts; one shines bright in the daylight while the other exists in the shadows. "But a great light casts a great shadow" This is the prelude to a superb story...

My Take in Brief

I won the book at a giveaway in May 2009 and read it during my holiday in July as part of my summer reading list. So the stasis time on my bookshelf has been short compared to unread books I bought up to two years ago.

The story alternates, letting us see both through the eyes of Michael Deven and Lady Lune. Right from the beginning we are rewarded by Marie Brennan's extraordinary writing style, which manifests itself with stunning world-building and characterization; she pampers readers with her prose. The more the plot unfolds, enriched as it is by sumptuous detail -- can you imagine how a human tastes to a faerie -- and supported by memories and flash-backs, the more you loose contact with the real world. You may think now that there is no action in the book, but I promise you there is plenty, and more than enough people die or are tortured to satisfy even the most physical of readers. Sadly though, the depiction of violence is nothing compared to other books like The Ten Thousand (2008) by Paul Kearney [US] [UK] -- which is a powerful read where depictions of battle are so realistic you will find yourself ducking at sword thrusts.

The use of magic is well proportioned and it is refreshing to read about beings with magical abilities who don't manifest themselves as supernatural entities. The whole book is like a hot bath in winter -- but not an ordinary hot bath -- it is bath where soft music plays in the background, a glass of champagne sits next to you, and the water is foam-flecked and generously seeded with your favorite bath salts. Bathe your brain in Midnight Never Come... but beware, once you open the book you can't escape.

Bona Fide's Book Oracle

I can't deny it any longer, I must confess that I am an Anglophile. I like the country, the history, the language, the pubs, the beer, the castles, and even the fog, but most importantly, London. I am vulnerable to books which are set in England, and especially London. You should know this already since you read Bona Fide: The Magic of London.

Uh oh, my alter ego Bona Fide is mumbling in the background: "Stop this senseless yammering and drink two pints of ale. Maybe that will loosen your tongue, and you can finally praise this extraordinarily well written book. Beware, for if the ale doesn't work, I will have to call Gog and Magog. They will give you a good kick in the pants which will surely speed up your thoughts. Now, tell your readers about this brilliantly woven historical fantasy, how it accurately integrates fact and faery myth. Indeed, so well is the feat achieved, so subtly does it suspend disbelief, that one might easily classify the book as a History. You can easily recommend this book to all those who enjoy a superb mix of history, myth, romance, fantasy, politics, with intrigues and riddles woven throughout. Damn you, you woeful reviewer. Use my thoughts and write!" My answer:"Shut up, you have clouded my thoughts! How shall I concentrate with such an annoying voice in my head!" Dear reader, please accept my apologies for the interruption. Of course I have my own opinion about this book. I highly recommend Midnight Never Come to anyone who loves the Elizabethan Era; who is still fascinated by faeries and their myths; who wants to read historical facts masterfully interwoven with fantasy in well written prose; who wants to uncover the price that must be payed when you fall in love with immortals.


For more information please check out following sources: Marie's Live Journal blog and Marie Brennan's homepage. Don't miss the The Stories of The Onyx Court section which contains free reads and a novellas. The idea of the Faerie Queen has been inspired by the epic poem The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser, written in praise of Elizabeth I.

Piqued Your Interest?

For you who will read until the end of the post I will beg on you to open your purse and buy copies of Midnight Never Comes and In Ashes Lie (2009) [US] [UK] the second book of The Onyx Court series. Don't worry, I am only just one step ahead of you because a copy of In Ashes Lie is whispering to me from my shelf: "Read me, read me, read me..."

11 August, 2009

Reading Chills, That Lovin Feeling

The expression is a fairly common one, but it is also often overused to note a scary or creepy moment. "That gave me the chills" is however, not necessarily a negative. The kind of chill I am talking about in this post is the rare and illusive one, the white whale of chills. It strikes like lightning when the reading is so good your brain has no other way to express its pleasure; when the intensity of the scene demands a physical reaction that you refuse to produce because you don't even want to blink for fear of missing the next word.

Chills, to me, are the ultimate stamp on great writing. I can count the major Chills I have had on one hand, and still remember the scenes I was reading when they occurred. I have googled high and low, and have been unable to find any medical explanation for the phenomenon. My first Chill that I can remember came from reading the story of Manetheren (starts at p. 111) in The Eye of The World, the first book of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. Even rereading it now brings on secondary chills, like the aftershock of some great earthquake.

Now, I can't even be sure that Chills are a generalized occurrence, they could in all honesty just be some rare chemical reaction that is unique to my physiognomy. They feel like someone strummed a cord in my brain--it starts out sharp and intense, and spreads throughout the body, diminishing in pitch until your are tingling everywhere. That, as best as I can describe it, is the Chill with a capital "C". I obviously know what other physical occurrence this sounds similar to, and it is indeed similar in some respects, but they are worlds apart.

Now, if I am totally off my mark here, I apologize for sharing the peculiar workings of my brain. I am, however, incredibly curious to see if any of you have experienced a Chill before, and if you remember what scene brought it to life. Obviously, a Chill is context specific and, in a lot of cases, highly personal, so don't feel pressured to share if you don't want to. If you are interested though, leave a comment briefly describing the feeling and the scene, or go ahead and share it with your readers on your own blog (but let me know so I can link to it).

10 August, 2009

Review: The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie

"The characters are so rich I almost had a heart attack."
- Anonymous

The Blade Itself (2006) [US][UK], by Joe Abercrombie, is the first book of The First Law trilogy, and what an amazing beginning it is. There are few debuts that have appealed to me more than this marvelously gritty collection of unassuming heroes.

The Setup

Every good fantasy prologue, at least in my book, involves a fair amount of action, if not outright bloodshed. Mr. Abercrombie delivers both in a stunning first chapter, while simultaneously introducing one of his would be heroes, the barbarian Logen Ninefingers. However, far from engaging in some heroic act of noble intent, we witness Logen's fear and resignation as he prepares to plunge to his death. The scene sets the tone for the rest of the novel where the will to live is balanced on a blade's edge, surrounded on both sides by death and surrender. I don't know whether or not our first encounter with Logen on the cliff is a metaphor for Mr. Abercrombie's 'plunge' into a writing career, but I am eternally thankful that he took the risk.

As the story unfolds, we are introduced to a deformed torturer and a vain nobleman who is quick with a sword. The first, Glokta, is embroiled in a plot to overthrow a powerful political group, while the other, Jezal, struggles to prepare for the yearly fencing Contest. Both are unpleasant men whose motivations are anything but righteous. Oh, let me not forget the all powerful wizard Bayaz, whose return to politics after centuries of self-imposed exile hints at the awakening of a great evil.

My Take in Brief

You have heard me say, again and again, how I love the books I review here, and this one is no exception. Mr. Abercrombie must go outside every morning and rub dirt into his hands, because I can't think of any other way an author can be so excellent at conveying gritty realism to his readers. Some of the reviews I have read criticize the novel for its slow pace, and I could not disagree more adamantly; the pace is exactly where it needs to be. The originality of the characters demands a certain degree of buildup, and denying them the opportunity would be tantamount to asking for flat and lifeless talking cliches.

The Blade Itself is an unassuming Fantasy which repudiates many of the genres eccentricities while managing to appear humble. The most intriguing part for me is the way in which the characters all seem to personify some internal contradiction. Usually, such constructs tend to come off as unbalanced or slightly deranged, but Mr. Abercrombie shows us that good is not necessarily perfect, and that the perfect are not necessarily good. Only by following such endearing and complex characters through their respective journeys can one truly be impressed by the moments in which they put their lives on the line.

While violence plays a central role in the novel--indeed, Logen can be seen as its deadly personification--it is balanced in equal measure with political intrigue and deceit. In retrospect, the first novel in The First Law trilogy reveals little beyond the history of its characters, setting the stage for an epic journey and conclusion, but I promise that you won't feel the loss while reading. I certainly didn't. While we get a brief look at the power and potentiality of magic, it does not play a central role in the book. Mr. Abercrombie rightly chooses to focus on the physicality of violence and the raw energy of unrestricted combat.

Piqued Your Interest?

Mr. Abercrombie's website is an excellent resource for diving into past interviews and book news. The tone of postings is wryly humorous and extremely entertaining, so make sure to have a gander. I discovered Mr. Abercrombie only recently with the release of his latest book, Best Served Cold. Not being one to start at the end, I promptly went to the bookstore and dug into The Blade Itself. I was back in the book store two days later, in tears, when I discovered that they did not have the second book in stock. Don't make the same mistake I did, get the whole trilogy right off the bat and save yourself the anxious wait for the mail man. To be noted, The Blade Itself [US][UK] comes as a very sexy trade paperback.

08 August, 2009

Bona Fide: Weekly Roundup #32

Hello and welcome to the first Roundup after my vacation. On Tuesday I returned to work and got a nice surprise from my colleagues. Just read Bona Fide: My Amazon gift coupon and me. When you look at the books I ordered you will detect that most of them are written by female authors. Normally I don't care about the gender of an author, but I thought I would point it out given the current debates raging across the blogosphere. Enjoy the Roundup!


There is one book which just missed my gift coupon order. And, of course, it is once again written by a female author. I am speaking of In Great Waters, by Kit Whitfield [US] [UK]. Paperback will be released in October 2009.
"During a time of great upheaval, the citizens of Venice make a pact that will change the world. The landsmen of the city broker a treaty with a water-dwelling tribe of deepsmen, cementing the alliance through marriage. The mingling of the two races produces a fresh, peerless strain of royal blood. To protect their shores, other nations make their own partnerships with this new breed–and then, jealous of their power, ban any further unions between the two peoples. Dalliance with a deepswoman becomes punishable by death. Any “bastard” child must be destroyed.
This is an Earth where the legends of the deep are true–where the people of the ocean are as real and as dangerous as the people of the land. This is the world of intrigue and betrayal that Kit Whitfield brings to life in an unforgettable alternate history: the tale of Anne, the youngest princess of a faltering England, struggling to survive in a troubled court, and Henry, a bastard abandoned on the shore to face his bewildering destiny, finding himself a pawn in a game he does not understand. Yet even a pawn may checkmate a king." [Source]
Maybe the synopsis does not explain in detail why I want to read this book. I have been diligent in my research though and therefore you are only one click away from several insightful reviews [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].


As a book lover I also have a soft spot for libraries. One of the largest and most famous libraries was destroyed a long time ago: The Library of Alexandria. Other libraries like the Vatican Secret Archive are closed to the public, but there are a lot of other impressive libraries around the world. You want to know more? Then I recommend you check out Belle's Library. This is a weakly feature over at Jo's In and Paper. A must for book lovers....

Of course I would like to have my own private library. This is my dream: Jay Walker's library


Even though I'm an "old crock" I still enjoy animated movies. And in October (UK) and November (US) 2009 another movie based on a book by Roald Dahl will hit the cinemas: Fantastic Mr Fox [US] [UK]. Enjoy the gorgeous trailer below:

Reality - Fantasy

A lot of elements that we find in fantasy novels derive their origin from reality. This is not unusual. But when we can see, smell and touch things in reality it helps us to imagine. In a lot of fantasy novels you find pubs, taverns, inns or whatever you like to title the building where you go to consume alcohol. Most of them have a sign. And where else are you going to find so many imaginative pub signs, each with its own back story? You want to know more about pub signs and view a couple of them? Then I highly recommend a look at Britain’s Colourful Pub Signs, Part 1 Don't know what to expect? Then have a gander at the following picture - click for full view:


Pubs, pub signs ... that leads me to ... alcohol! And alcohol is a topic with which quotes are very familiar. Cheers!

"All right, brain, you don't like me,
and I don't like you,
but let's just get me through this,
and I can get back to killing you with beer.
Matt Groening, The Simpsons

"Bacchus hath drowned more men than Neptune."
Dr. Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732
British physician (1654 - 1734)

"My Grandmother is over eighty and still doesn't need glasses.
Drinks right out of the bottle.
Henny Youngman, US comedian (1906 - 1998)

07 August, 2009

Bona Fide: My Amazon gift coupon and me

On Tuesday the 4th of August, I returned to work after a very agreeable holiday. My colleagues surprised me with an Amazon gift coupon (a birthday gift). Now I can spend an additional 50 Euros (around 72 USD) on books! Normally it would take me about a minute to spend this much. Beside, I keep several book list. Let's start with the never ending book list. This one contains all the books I want to buy and read in my life - number of books today: 1058 - and it is still growing. Don't laugh, this is really serious. The next list contains books which I want to buy in the next 12 to 16 months. And finally I have monthly order lists for the next 12 months which contain books I definitely want to buy, including pre-ordered books. Obviously, these lists change due to postponed releases, new discoveries, or changes in my taste. Now, with all these carefully ordered resources, you think it should be easily for me to select a couple books. No, No, No, you could not be more wrong.
Shall I buy books earlier than planned?
Shall I buy a trade paperback instead of a mass market paperback?
Shall I buy stand-alone books or trilogies?
Shall I buy whole series or only the first book of a series?
Shall I buy German books or English books?
The are just a couple of the questions that plague me when trying to make a decision. My first idea was to narrow down the choice and then ask you for recommendations. But after after two days of looking up and down my lists, calculating of prices, I just couldn't wait any longer. I spent 51.58 EUR for seven books. That means I have to pay 1.58 EUR on my own, a noble sacrifice if I have ever seen one. Now, let me present you with the books I ordered and try to explain why I ordered them.

Some days ago OnlyTheBestSciFi/Fantasy asked me whether I knew of the Coldfire trilogy by C. S. Friedman. My answer was: "No, but it is on one of my lists." I checked prices for paperbacks (19.10 EUR) and then I ordered the whole trilogy. On the right you can see cover of book one.
"The Coldfire trilogy tells a story of discovery and battle against evil on a planet where a force of nature exists that is capable of reshaping the world in response to psychic stimulus. This terrifying force, much like magic, has the power to prey upon the human mind, drawing forth a person's worst nightmare images or most treasured dreams and indiscriminately giving them life. This is the story of two men: one, a warrior priest ready to sacrifice anything and everything for the cause of humanity's progress; the other, a sorcerer who has survived for countless centuries by a total submission to evil. They are absolute enemies who must unite to conquer an evil greater than anything their world has ever known." [Source]
Book one: Black Sun Rising by C. S Friedman [US] [UK].
Book two: When True Night Falls by C. S. Friedman [US] [UK].
Book three: Crown of Shadows by C. S. Friedman [US] [UK].
UPDATE: I ordered the books before I noticed and read Re-read: The Coldfire Trilogy post.
Now I know why we talked about it :)

The next book has been recommended by several bloggers. Unfortunately I don't remember exactly by whom. It is the omnibus named The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon [US] [UK].
"The Deed of Paksenarrion revolves around the life of Paksenarrion Dorthansdotter, known as Paks. It takes place in a fictional medieval world comprised of kingdoms of humans, dwarves, and elves. The story begins by introducing Paks as a headstrong girl of 18, who leaves her home (fleeing a marriage arranged by her father) to join a mercenary company. Through her journeys and hardships she comes to realize that she has been gifted as a paladin. The novel was originally published in three volumes in 1988 and 1989 and as a single trade edition of that name in 1992. The three books included are The Sheepfarmer's Daughter, Divided Allegiance and Oath of Gold." [Source]

The next book I discovered during one of my web tours over at SciFiGuy.ca. It will hit the stores soon (US: 25th August and UK, DE: 3rd September). I am speaking about The Drowning City by Amanda Downum [US] [UK]. It is her debut novel and the first book in the Necromancer Chronicles series (book two: The Bone Palace (forthcoming 2010), book three: Kingdoms of Dust (forthcoming 2011)).
"Symir -- the Drowning City. home to exiles and expatriates, pirates and smugglers. And violent revolutionaries who will stop at nothing to overthrow the corrupt Imperial government. For Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and spy, the brewing revolution is a chance to prove herself to her crown. All she has to do is find and finance the revolutionaries, and help topple the palaces of Symir. But she is torn between her new friends and her duties, and the longer she stays in this monsoon-drenched city, the more intrigue she uncovers -- even the dead are plotting. As the waters rise and the dams crack, Isyllt must choose between her mission and the city she came to save." [Source]

Only two books left to choose, and I know someone who will read this pick with pleasure because I ordered it based on this post: Review: Hyperion, by Dan Simmons. And now you should know which book I ordered: Hyperion by Dan Simmons [US] [UK].
"On the world called Hyperion, beyond the law of the Hegemony of Man, there waits the creature called the Shrike. There are those who worship it. There are those who fear it. And there are those who have vowed to destroy it. In the Valley of the Time Tombs, where huge, brooding structures move backward through time, the Shrike waits for them all. On the eve of Armageddon, with the entire galaxy at war, seven pilgrims set forth on a final voyage to Hyperion seeking the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. Each carries a desperate hope - and a terrible secret. And one may hold the fate of humanity in his hands." [Source]

So far I have spent 46.08 EUR. What to do with the remaining 3.92 EUR? It is difficult and time consuming to search a book for this price. Instead I will pay 1.58 EUR on my own. So I could order one more book. I decided to go for The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons [US] [UK]. This is the second book of the Hyperion series.
"In the continuation of the epic adventure begun in Hyperion, the far future is resplendent with drama and invention. On the world of Hyperion, the mysterious Time Tombs are opening. And the secrets they contain mean that nothing--nothing anywhere in the universe--will ever be the same." [Source]

I expect to receive these beauties on Saturday. And then I will start, again, thinking about needed changes to my summer reading list......