30 December, 2014

Review - Prince of Fools (Red Queen's War #1) by Mark Lawrence


Three times.

That's how many times I attempted this book before it stuck. Three. (Could I be more annoying?)

Each time I picked up the book, I couldn't stand the main character, Prince Jalan. Hated him in fact. Yes, it was written superbly, it's Mark Lawrence for crying out loud. Yes, he was witty and hilarious and I already wanted to write down 10 quotes in just as many pages.

Such as this brilliant social commentary:
“We all practice self-deception to a degree; no man can handle complete honesty without being cut at each turn. There's not enough room in a man's head for sanity alongside each grief, each worry, each terror that he owns.”

But I HATED the main character. I couldn't make it past the first chapter or two.

But then I realized, this is not Lawrence's first run around with a dislikeable character. Jorg, the eponymous Prince of Thorns, was terrible. I hated him too! But at least I agreed with his mentality ... somewhat. He had the kind of attitude that I love. He wouldn't stand down to anyone though 11 years old. He wanted the world kneeling before him and would take nothing less. And he was a brilliant character, quite possibly one of the best put to the page, especially in terms of his growth.

What's different about Prince Jalan is that he's pretty much the opposite. He's an admitted coward, who prefers running from problems rather than sorting them out. I couldn't get behind him until I remembered Lawrence's magic with Jorg. 

I knew I had to push past my initial dislike for the character ... and you guessed it ... but wait, there's more! 

I mean, I'm glad I did.

Seriously, get on the bandwagon already. Mark Lawrence continues to solidify himself as one of the great new voices in fantasy. What's brilliant about this coward/womanizer is that it sets him up for all kinds of great one-liners that are riddled throughout the book. I love quotes, a bit too much sometimes, and Prince of Fools is chock-full of them.

Couple him with an honorable Viking who loves to smash things and need I say more? 

And honestly, I think the reason I disliked Jalan so much is that it probably hits a little close to home. I have to admit to a certain amount of coward in me. I try to psych myself up to stand up to wrongs and injustices, but too often I run away just as Jalan does. 

And many times, Jalan stumbles into a situation where he appears honorable and allows others to believe it. I don't know if that's all bad and it could be true even though he doesn't even believe it himself. However, I know I'm guilty of the same, not all the time but sometimes, and I don't like it.

Lawrence has written another winner and I'm excited for the rest of the trilogy. The only real complaint I have is that I guess I was expecting Jalan and Snorri to not get along more because of their differing takes on honor (one having it and one not) and it wasn't like that at all. But I realize that was a failing of my own, not the author.

The Broken Empire was one of my favorite trilogies of late and Mark Lawrence has hit another one out of the park. If there were any doubt he's on my "must-buy" list, there's definitely no question now. 

4 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

P.s. I've got the title of Mark Lawrence's next series ... The Prince of Princes. You can view the contact info above for all the royalty checks. Thanks.

22 December, 2014

Review - Retribution Falls (Tales of the Ketty Jay #1) by Chris Wooding

What happens if you combine The Lies of Locke Lamora with air ships, then add some Pirates of the Caribbean? This. This is what happens. Chris Wooding nailed it in Retribution Falls.

I'll get this out of the way. I've been told it's a lot like Firefly. You may have to take away my geek card here ... but I've never seen Firefly. The movie, Serenity, was excellent, but I'm still looking forward to checking out the show. This means I can't confirm or deny the comparison. 

I apologize for any non-Firefly comparisons. I've been reprimanded before.

Darian Frey and a rag-tag crew of misunderstood and much-maligned individuals seeking a place where questions are few engage in smuggling operations, but decide to take on piracy even though it hasn't worked well for Frey in the past. The price, however, will make him set for life, especially if he fails to share the proceeds with the rest of the crew. 

Thus sets off the events that follow in a rip-roaring, page-turning, blast of a read. I hate to use such cliche's (as if I'm innocent of their use in plenty of other reviews), but in this case there is no better way to describe this book.

I've read Wooding before, his middle-grade books Malice and Havoc, and I learned his ability to plot is up there with Matthew Woodring Stover for me. Add the ability to make the pages blur by and Wooding (not to be confused with Woodring) is another author to add to the buy-new-releases-immediately list.

I had tons of fun from the first page, which btw throws you right into some action, and I can't recommend this enough. Airships and piracy and a main protagonist as clever as Locke Lamora. You can't lose.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (very highly recommended)

18 December, 2014

(audiobook) Review - The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories by R.A. Salvatore

And yet another review has made it up, this is some kind of record for me. Here's the review (a short one) for The Legend of Drizzt: The Collected Stories by R.A. Salvatore and read by the following:
Dan Harmon, Danny Pudi, Melissa Rauch, Wil Wheaton, Felicia Day, Sean Astin, Michael Chiklis, Greg Grunberg, Tom Felton, Ice-T, David Duchovny, and Weird Al Yankovic
Yeah, that's right, celebrities reading words like Zaknafein and Menzoberranzan. I don't care if these are the worst stories in the world, it's worth your time. Also, they're not. The worst that is.

17 December, 2014

eBook Deals - McIntosh, Clarke, Rothfuss, Sanderson

Great deals going on right now. Enjoy!

[$1.99] Soft Apocalypse by Will McIntosh
[$1.99] Reach for Tomorrow (Short Stories) by Arthur C. Clarke

[$2.25] The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles #1) by Patrick Rothfuss
[$2.50] The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles #2) by Patrick Rothfuss

[$5.75] Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

(audiobook) Review - Ilium (Ilium #1) by Dan Simmons

Wow, more my reviews are making their way up on sffaudio.com. Check out my review of the brilliant Illium (book 1 of 2 in the Ilium duology) by Dan Simmons here:
If someone were to describe this book to me (if they even could), I don’t know if I would believe how much I absolutely enjoyed it. Dan Simmons is a mad genius.

12 December, 2014

(audiobook) Review - Impulse (Jumper #3) by Steven Gould

As you know, all my audiobook reviews go to sffaudio.com. I've submitted a couple just this week, but it always depends on what the blog owners' schedule as to when they get posted. Luckily, and despite the holidays, here's my review of Impulse, book 3 in the Jumper series by Steven Gould.

Progression of the Jumper series:

Book 1, Jumper: Let’s take a simple concept and weave a cool story that’s brilliant in its simplicity.

Book 2, Reflex: Let’s take that simple concept and add to it by restraining it, but while also pushing boundaries. Also, let’s add a cool mystery and some spies.

Book 3, Impulse: Let’s take all the great things we’ve built up so far … and add teenage angst! A forced romance! A holier-than-thou attitude for all the characters!

11 December, 2014

Guest Post & Giveaway! - "Opposites Attract - Characters Who Don't Hate Each Other but Probably Should" by Kenny Soward, Author of the GnomeSaga

Not too long ago, I read and reviewed Rough Magick by Kenny Soward. This was the first book I'd ever heard of that focused on Gnomes and it was a great read. Here's my review in fact. Well it's been retooled by the amazing people behind Ragnarok Publications, and it's ready for an eBook giveaway. Not only that, Soward's got a sequel out this month and a great guest post below. Let me know if I can fit any more into a single post!

Opposites Attract – Characters Who Don’t Hate Each Other but Probably Should

By Kenny Soward

I was minding my own business one day, when Joe Martin, Creative Director at Ragnarok Publishing, sent me a private message giving me props for a particularly powerful scene in Tinkermage, the second book in my GnomeSaga series. 

The scene in question involves my main character, Nikselpik, and his cleric acquaintance, Fara. Fara could easily be characterized as neutral good on the D&D spectrum of alignments. And Nikselpik ... well, he’s a dark little fellow. In the scene, Fara intends to guide Nikselpik in the art of healing, and she brings along a wounded snow bird to test his skills. 

I wonder if there’s a joke in there somewhere – a necromancer, a cleric, and a wounded snow bird enter a bar ...

Nikselpik is of course reluctant to learn anything new, but he thinks Fara is pretty hot, so he’s going to play along and see what happens. Fara, on the other hand, is quite aware of Nikselpik’s shortcomings as a god-fearing gnome, but wants to expose him to something a little more positive than the necromantic arts.

Well, you can probably imagine how it ends ... a lot of disappointment and hurt feelings. The disappearance of any light at the end of the tunnel for them. All in all, the makings of some good friction.

At the heart of this scene was a very simple idea – two people who feel deeply bonded to one another want to share things with one another, sometimes to the detriment of their relationship. 

When I discover something funny or cute on FaceBook, I want to share it over to my girlfriend’s page because I want her to laugh like I did. I want to share other things with her, too. All the cool movies she never saw, like Big Trouble in Little China and Mad Max and The Thing, or some new band I recently discovered. Because that’s what makes up me, and I want her to like me. Music is a big part of her life. She’s a huge GWAR fan, so she wants to include me in all the fun and adventures of being a GWAR fan for those very same reasons; I’m pretty sure she wants me to like her too, although you’d have to ask her to be sure.

We’re not complete opposites, but neither are we completely the same, and it’s those degrees of separation that bring spice to our relationship. I get to go to gore spattering GWAR concerts and she gets to have a lot of fun snuggling up in front of the TV with me and viewing all those old culturally iconic movies so important and influential to the SFF and Horror communities. 

But what happens when those degrees of difference are just too far apart, too irrevocably distant? Sharing can turn into a disaster, shock at the other person’s belief system, disappointment, and pain. It can even tear people apart when something so core to one person’s being is considered vile or even blasphemous to another’s. These feelings can be strongest when questions of faith and spirituality are explored. And when the two people are physically attracted to one another – or even attracted by those very differences – it can lead to confusion and resentment. 

And that’s why it seemed completely logical that Fara, a good cleric of Evana, would want to share portions of her faith with someone she sees as exotic and dangerous ... someone she can fix. And the same goes for Nikselpik. He thinks Fara will one day understand his deadspeak even though her faith is so deeply rooted in life and light. They come together with the best of intentions, only to discover their feelings for one another may not be strong enough to bridge the divide between them, to span the distance between their core beliefs.

Will they see past their differences to reach a level of sharing that does not evoke those disaffecting emotions? Or will they suffer apart, never to be reclaim their friendship?

Either way, I knew I had the makings of a great little scene, and I ran with it. Or rather, they did. If you want to know how it all ends, you can check out my GnomeSaga series published by Ragnarok Publications. Also, stop by my Author FaceBook page to get updates on what I’m writing next. 


Giveaway Rules for an eBook copy of Rough Magick:

1) Send an email to onlythebestsff[removethis]@gmail.com with the subject: "Get some Gnomes in your Homes"  
2) Include your name and physical address where you want the book sent.
3) This giveaway is international!
4) Snark increases your chance of winning on the next giveaway you enter (extra entries depending on the snark!) 
About the Author:

Kenny Soward grew up in Crescent Park, Kentucky, a small suburb just south of Cincinnati, Ohio, listening to hard rock and playing outdoors. In those quiet 1970's streets, he jumped bikes, played Nerf football, and acquired many a childhood scar.

Kenny's love for books flourished early, a habit passed down to him by his uncles. He burned through his grade school library, and in high school spent many days in detention for reading fantasy fiction during class. 

The transition to author was a natural one for Kenny. His sixth grade teacher encouraged him to start a journal, and he later began jotting down pieces of stories, mostly the outcomes of D&D gaming sessions. At the University of Kentucky, Kenny took creative writing classes under Gurny Norman, former Kentucky Poet Laureate and author of Divine Rights Trip (1971). 

Kenny's latest releases are ROUGH MAGIC (GnomeSaga #1) and THOSE POOR, POOR BASTARDS (Dead West #1) with Tim Marquitz and J.M. Martin. 

By day, Kenny works as a Unix professional, and at night he writes and sips bourbon. Kenny lives in Independence, Kentucky, with three cats and a gal who thinks she's a cat.

TINKERMAGE by Kenny Soward

THE ENEMY EXPOSED. Nikselpik Nur has become the city of Hightower’s staunchest—albeit unwilling—ally. He’s hardly learned to cope with his debilitating bugging addiction, much less take on the duties of being the city’s First Wizard. Can he embrace this new path? And will he? 

Meanwhile, Stena Wavebreaker is pulled from her seafaring duties by the Precisor General and given command of a raggedy airship to scout the ultraworldly enemy from the perilous skies above the Southern Reaches. Her mission: gain the support of the unpredictable ‘swamp elves,’ the Giyipcias. 

Lastly, Niksabella Nur has set off from Hightower at the behest of the grim stonekin leader, Jontuk. The gnomestress must unlock the full potential of her invention, the recursive mirror, and her own powers, to bear what might be the heaviest burden of all. What will she discover along the way? And will Jontuk be able to keep her alive long enough to save them all? 

This is GnomeSaga Book Two.