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Beyond the Wall edited by James Lowder

Go beyond the Wall and across the narrow sea with this collection about George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, from A Game of Thrones to A Dance with Dragons.

The epic game of thrones chronicled in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series has captured the imaginations of millions of readers. In Beyond the Wall, bestselling authors and acclaimed critics offer up thought-provoking essays and compelling insights:

Daniel Abraham reveals the unique challenges of adapting the original books into graphic novels.
Westeros.org founders Linda Antonsson and Elio M. García, Jr., explore the series’ complex heroes and villains, and their roots in the Romantic movement.
Wild Cards contributor Caroline Spector delves into the books’ controversial depictions of power and gender.

Plus much more, from military science fiction writer Myke Cole on the way Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder shapes many of the leading characters to author and television writer Ned Vizzini on the biases against genre fiction that color critical reactions to the series.

Thanks BenBella Books and Smart Pop Books for providing me a review copy of Beyond the Wall. If you are a fan of A Song of Ice and Fire then you will definitely love the essays in Beyond the Wall. Each essay explores a different facet in A Song of Ice and Fire with contributors ranging from some of the biggest names in modern Fantasy to experts on the series.

My favourite essays were the ones that looked at things in the series that a casual reader would miss. Such as in “An unreliable World”, Adam Whitehead talks about how unpredictable seasons affect the ability for people to tell time. Due to this uncertainty, people in Westeros rely on personal anecdotes as a scale on history.

Daniel Abraham has a wonderful piece in this book detailing the difficulty in the story’s transition from book to comic. I always thought this is something very trivial to do and never imagined so much work must be put in to ensure there is a climax in each comic issue. Reading his essay also made me realise why the characters in the HBO series is a lot older. This is because the producers cannot legally show children in brutal situations.

In “Art Imitates War” Myke Cole analyses the series from an angle that I never thought of before, which is how the characters in the series deal with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and how it empowers or destroys them. I’ve never been to war myself so it was extremely fascinating to read about the different conditions that people go through to cope with crisis and how the characters in the book mirror them.

This is a wonderful companion book to A Song of Ice and Fire series and is highly recommended to any fan who wants to dig deeper into the series.

The Emperor’s Gift by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

The Grey Knights are all that stands between mankind and the ravages of Chaos. Since their secretive beginnings during the Horus Heresy, these legendary Space Marine daemon hunters have journeyed into the dark realms of the warp – and beyond – in pursuit of their supernatural enemies. Through an intensive regime of psychic training, new recruits are brought to the clandestine fortress of Titan to join the hallowed and vaunted ranks of the 666th Chapter. More than ever, these legendary battle-brothers must be vigilant and ever ready to defend the Imperium for the forces of Chaos are never truly defeated, and Armageddon beckons…

If you’re a fan of the Warhammer 40k universe then you don’t need an introduction for this book. Just the phrase “First War for Armageddon” is enough for you to buy this book. However this book is much more than just the war on Armageddon. It’s about the events leading to the Grey Knights deployment on the planet and the aftermath between the Inquisition and the Space Wolves.

This story simply put is just epic! Dembski-Bowden is really on top of his game right now. Just when you thought his stories couldn’t get any better, he would come up with something like this to surprise you. The description and mannerisms of the Astartes cannot be more apt. Dembski-Bowden has really captured that slightly autistic, can’t read human emotion thing that Space Marines do down to a tee.

I found both Hyperion and Inquisitor Annika Jarlsdottyr to be interesting characters. Hyperion is the newest member in his squad and also has the potential to be the strongest amongst them. However he is often over-confident in his abilities and reckless in his decisions which resulted in the death of a fellow brother. It is in Hyperion’s reflection on his guilt that we realise these genetically enhanced beings aren’t that different to us.

As for Annika Jarlsdottyr, a Ferisian born Inquisitor, she must decide between upholding her task as part of the Inquisition or siding with her homeworld when the Wolves decide to go against the orders of the Inquisition and harbour the survivors of Armageddon.

The last third of the book deals with the fallout of the war on Armageddon. The Inquisition wants to eliminate the entire population to stop any knowledge of Chaos from spreading, whereas the Space Wolves want them to live on so not to waste the lives of all the warriors that died protecting the civilians. Debmski-Bowden does a great job portraying all the different views involved and it makes you question what is a fair price to pay to save further lives?

If you are new to 40k lore or casual fan, you will appreciate the story for what it is. For the more avid fans, the appearance of Daemon Prince Angron, Logan Grimnar and even just the mere mention of Ravenor will make you squeal with excitement. In fact, after reading this book, the Ravenor trilogy will be the next Black Library book that I would read so I can see how Hyperion ties in with that story.

Simply put, you should read The Emperor’s Gift if you meet any of the following:

  • You’re already a follower of 40k lore or a Black Library reader
  • You’re looking for a Black Library novel that you can start with
  • You have never read anything by Aaron Dembski-Bowden
  • You want to support charities as a portion of the book’s proceeds go to Cancer Research UK and the SOS Children’s Villages charity.

Brave New World: Revolution by Matt Forbeck

Ask Not What Your Country Could Do For You. Ask What It Could Do To You.

John Cruise — better known as the superpowered delta Patriot — only wanted to serve his country, which has suffered under martial law since the assassination of the First Lady back in 1963. For years, he did so as a member of Delta Prime, the federal paramilitary organization dedicated to keeping deltas and the rest of the population in line. Then, during the Bicentennial Battle, Chicago disappeared in a blinding flash of light, taking the world’s most powerful deltas with it, along with Patriot’s wife.

Today, in 1999, Patriot leads a group of rebel deltas known as the Defiance, all of whom are on the run from Delta Prime. He hopes to find a way to break scores of their imprisoned friends out of New Alcatraz, the only place on the planet strong enough to hold them all. But then, while rescuing college student Lisa Stanski from a pack of Primers, the unthinkable happens.

Patriot gets caught.

Now it’s up to the rest of the Defiance, including Lisa, to figure out how to break Patriot out of New Alcatraz before his old pal Ragnarok, now the leader of Delta Prime, has him executed without trial, under the direct orders of President John F. Kennedy himself.

Brave New World: Revolution is the first book in the Brave New World Novels and also the first novel released from Matt Forbeck’s 12 for ’12 Kickstarter project. I didn’t know what the books would be like or if superhero stories would be any good in novel format but I supported the project anyway because I believed that Matt knew what he was getting into and he would do a good job of it.

Now having read the first book, I can honestly say that I’m proud to have supported him in this project.BNW: Revolution is just one entertaining and solid superhero story with pretty much everything you would want in the genre. With all the superhero movies coming out in recent years and Avengers breaking box office records worldwide, Forbeck couldn’t have picked a better time to turn his superhero RPG into novels.

Like other books by Forbeck, BNW: Revolution is an enjoyable and engrossing read. The story is broken down into bite-sized chapters and you will find yourself reading through them quickly. My only complaint is that the chapters often jump to another character’s point of view and if you don’t pay attention to the tag at the beginning of each chapter, you may find yourself confused as who is telling the story. I remember there was this one chapter where Lisa was being chased by the government and the one immediately following began with an interrogation and I thought for a while that it was Lisa who was captured.

The world building in this novel is of course excellent as it was used as the background for a number of RPGs. It is a superhero universe that is similar yet distinctive enough to not clash with other franchises. The heroes in this novel have cool superpowers but not too powerful to seem broken. You wouldn’t be disappointed to learn that there are plenty of scenes in the book where our heroes put their powers to use.

The characters have a very comic book feel to them and not overly complex which is perfectly fine for a superhero novel. Patriot is the dark brooding hero, Lisa is the new kid and Ragnarok is the mean villain of the book. They all live up to their roles in the story and are extremely fun to read.

BNW: Revolution is an excellent start to the trilogy, one that would make any superhero comic fan happy and I can’t wait to see how events will unfold in the next story.

Into the Mist: Silver Hand by Steve Finegan

Thirteen-year-old Gabe Wrenn has always taken refuge in his imagination. Refuge from his hovering mom and bullying brother. Refuge from the smirks and stares of his classmates. Refuge from his epilepsy. But now his imagination seems to be running wild. And he can’t stop it. And the only person Gabe can confide in is a girl who thinks his “weird brain” is the key to unlocking the secret of the Brynmor Witch.

Into the Mist: Silver Hand is a brilliant novel that brings back a lot of memories for me. It reminds me of reading fantasy novels when I was young and the excitement and thrills that I get when turning through the pages. The book is basically two stories in one and Finegan does a marvellous job balancing and blending a modern day coming of age story with a traditional fantasy story set to a Celtic background.

The story is about Gabe, a 13 year old boy who is suffering from mild Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. His mother overprotects him because of this and as a result he doesn’t get to do things boy of his age do and branded as a freak by some. Despite his condition, one thing that Gabe does well is his drawings of a heroic figure he calls Corvus. This talent is quickly spotted by Ellie, the girl next door at his new home.

Through their adventures together they discover that Gabe’s epilepsy is not as simple as it seems. In fact when Gabe has his seizures or auras as his mum would call it, he would appear in an ancient wood as the Celtic legend Mabon. Ellie believes that Gabe is somehow linked to this Mabon and Gabe must do everything he can to save Mabon’s world.

As I said before this novel is two stories blended together. In the modern world Gabe has to deal with alienation and embarrassment because of his condition. Through his actions as Mabon, Gabe gains the strength to face his fears and to stand up to the bullies which ends in an intense and dramatic confrontation. At the same time, Mabon’s world, Elfyth is facing an invasion from the Grayman and his undead army. Gabe has to juggle between being himself, as well as Mabon as he faces challenges in both worlds.

Just as Rick Riordan has brought a new perspective to ADHD and dyslexia in his Olympians series, Finegan has turned TLE into something that is a gift in this book. Some of the world’s most creative mind suffered from epilepsy and some argues that it was epilepsy that gave them the extra insight and flair in their works. In the book, Gabe went from being afraid to finally accepting it as part of who he is and he can’t rely on drugs to make him feel better.

While staying true to Celtic mythology, the author does a pretty good job bringing it to live. However in this first book we are only getting glimpses of Elfyth but I’m sure we will see more of this world in the next book when Mabon faces the Grayman and his army.

Just as the book reaches its climax, the story ends. I don’t dislike cliffhanger endings and I understand why it ended like it did but I still prefer if it didn’t finish with so many loose ends.

Gabe and Ellie are fantastically well written characters and it was an extreme pleasure to read the exchanges between the two of them. Overall, I found Into the Mist: Silver Hand to be a marvellous read and I look forward to the second part Into the Mist: Bringer of the Dawn which comes out in 2013.

For more information on Steve Finegan and Into the Mist series, please visit his website athttp://www.stevefinegan.com/.

Challenges read for:


2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge – Book 10

 


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 18

Kingdom by Anderson O’Donnell

In a secret laboratory hidden under the desert, a covert bioengineering project—codename “Exodus”—has discovered the gene responsible for the human soul.

Somewhere in the neon sprawl outside the nation’s collapsing economic core, a group of renegade monks are on the verge of uncovering a secret that has eluded mankind for centuries.

In a glittering tower high above the urban decay, an ascendant U.S. Senator is found dead—an apparent, yet inexplicable, suicide.

And in the streets below, a young man races through an ultra modern metropolis on the verge of a violent revolution….closing in on the terrible truth behind Exodus—and one man’s dark vision for the future of mankind.

Welcome to Tiber City.
Kingdom is the debut novel from author Anderson O’Donnell. A fantastic dystopian science fiction thriller with some concepts that reminds me of the film Gattaca as well as the 2012 Arthur C. Clarke shortlisted novel The End Specialist/The Postmortal by Drew Magary.

In Kingdom, Morrison Biotech has spent the last few decades perfecting the recipe to create the ultimate human being, one with the charisma and leadership skills to run a country and yet someone the corporation can control. The one thing they can’t decipher is the “Omega gene”, a gene that appears to have no functions but when omitted, the subjects all breakdown within a couple of years.

One man seems to know the answers though. Jonathan Campbell, once co-founder and mentor of Morrison, thinks that the “Omega gene” is the key to human soul, the antenna that receives instructions from above. Without it the drones will always remain soulless. Campbell has had enough but Morrison needs him to finish what they started.

Meanwhile a young man is discovering a secret that would rock the foundations of his world…

O’Donnell vision of the future, especially where our science would take us isn’t rosy at all. What if we progressed from using our knowledge to treat genetic defects to using it to fulfil our narcissistic needs? What would happen to our world then? Can the world really be sustainable with all these perfect and healthy beings running around? This leads to the interesting Tiber City itself, a sort of heaven and hell rolled into one place. The rich has their glamorous and glitzy district while the poor lived in the city’s slums.

Another interesting part of the book is the flawed characters. Jonathan Campbell is drowning himself in an alcohol induced stupor over the events he has set in motion and Dylan Fitzgerald is going through a self destructive phase trying to come to terms with his own identity. O’Donnell does a good job in exploring the turmoil and emotions going through these characters.

This novel is a good and fast read with an ending that alludes to the birth of a new age and I can’t wait to see how things will turn out in the other stories. Recommended to anyone who is looking for a bit of grimness in their science fiction.

PS. I have recently interviewed Anderson O’Donnell and I will be posting up his answers shortly. In the meantime, please visit his blog tour and have a chance at winning a Kindle Fire while you’re at it.

Interview with Anderson O’Donnell

Welcome to the second stop in the Kingdom Blog Tour. I’m delighted to have Anderson O’Donnell here to answer a few questions. Kingdom is the debut novel from O’Donnell, a fantastic dark science fiction thriller telling the story of genetic science going too far. You can read my review of the book here.

Without further ado, here are the questions.

1. I’ll start off with something easy first. Can you introduce your debut novel Kingdom to our readers?
Hi Ken. My pleasure. I appreciate your interest in Kingdom, and your kind words about the novel.

A dystopian, biopunk thriller, Kingdom is the first installment of my Tiber City trilogy. Here’s a brief description from the back of the book:

In a secret laboratory hidden under the desert, a covert bioengineering project— codename “Exodus”—has discovered the gene responsible for the human soul.

Somewhere in the neon sprawl outside the nation’s collapsing economic core, a group of renegade monks are on the verge of uncovering a secret that has eluded mankind for centuries.

In a glittering tower high above the urban decay, an ascendant U.S. Senator is found dead—an apparent, yet inexplicable, suicide.

And in the streets below, a young man races through an ultra modern metropolis on the verge of a violent revolution….closing in on the terrible truth behind Exodus— and one man’s dark vision for the future of mankind.

Welcome to Tiber City.

2. The science behind the story is fascinating. Do you have a background in genetics or did you do a lot of research?
Writing Kingdom required a crash course in genetics—well, at least to the extent that an English major can pull off a crash course in genetics. But I didn’t have a choice, as I was in love with the concept behind Kingdom: What if there was a gene for the human soul? And, if such a gene did exist, could it be replicated by bioengineering? So I had to know enough about genetics to allow the reader to remain immersed in the story, and to (hopefully) not make a complete ass of myself.

But, on the first draft of Kingdom, I think I tried to overcompensate for my lack of scientific-background. Consequently, too much of the initial text got dragged down by a highly technical exposition on genes and gene transfer technology. And while I think I managed to get the basic ideas right, it was a boring read. So I tried for a more delicate balance: enough science to allow for the suspension of disbelief, but not so much that the narrative flow would collapse.

3. The events in the book occur not too far from now. Why did you pick this particular time period instead of say the far future?
I picked the near future because I think that a number of the issues Kingdom tries to address—society’s obsession with, and over-reliance on, technology; the pursuit of physical perfection at the expense of our human nature, of our souls; cultural amnesia—are very much current issues. I think its easier to address these ideas if you keep people on familiar footing, so to speak.

4. In Kingdom, Morrison Biotech is planning to introduce “Designer babies” to the market. Do you think our society will one day head towards that direction?
Sadly, I do. To me, it seems like a natural progression and, at the moment, I have the sense that the only real impediment to more fantastic bioengineering/augmentation is technical—not moral or philosophical.

5. The events are pretty grim in the story. Recently Neal Stephenson calls for a more optimistic and realistic approach to the Science Fiction genre – one with more creative inventions and solutions. What do you think of that?
I love Neal, and he’s had a huge impact on my development as a writer. But I don’t think writers can necessarily choose how to present their story. We’re just conduits through which the narrative flows. The reason why sci-fi has, I think, taken on a more dystopian and pessimistic tone is because the future isn’t what it used to be: we’re less focused on space travel and more concerned about the extent to which society seems to be unraveling.

6. Can you let us know what we can expect in the next Tiber City story?
Absolutely. Book Two of the Tiber City Trilogy (tentatively titled “Exile”) should be out next summer. Without giving away the ending of Kingdom, I can say that a new antagonist takes center stage, and that the Order undergoes a profound transformation. The Zero movement is going to have a considerable role in the sequel, and, finally, an old friend makes a pretty shocking return—some might even call it a resurrection.

7. You recently posted a soundtrack to Kingdom on Twitter. Do you find music help you with your writing?
Music is critical to my writing. There are mornings when I’m up at the crack of dawn (hell, when it’s still dark) and it feels like all the caffeine in the world isn’t going to kick start my writing—that’s when I need music. My tastes are eclectic, although punk will always be my first love. And I’m talking classic, first wave punk (with a few exceptions). There’s a British band, Kasabian, whose music conveys a lot of the emotions I try to find with my writing. And when I’m in that “writer’s zone,” trance music—Armin van Buuren, Paul Van Dyk, Above and Beyond, Marcus Schultz, Aly and Filla, John O’Callaghan —keeps me going, keeps pushing me forward, toward those emotion’s I’m trying to capture.

8. Do you have any other projects you are working on besides Tiber City?
At the moment, I’m focused on the Tiber City trilogy, but not just the novels—I’m always looking for new mediums in which to tell my stories. I think, for instance, graphic novels would be a great way to expand on some of the Tiber City mythology. Plus, there is marketing work to be done, and additional research for the final two books. And I have this pesky “day” job that takes up way too much of time. So, for now, its Tiber City, 24/7.

9. What are you reading at the moment (fiction and/or non-fiction)?
I’m actually reading “Different Seasons” by Stephen King. How I missed this one is beyond me. And, as I try and keep a non-fiction going at the same time, I’m almost done with “Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life” by Winifred Gallagher. It’s a very compelling take on how lack of attention is impacting our quality of life. Highly recommended.

10. Finally what are you most looking forward to in 2012?
The birth of my second child; he or she will be arriving in August, and I am thrilled. And terrified. And, from a professional standpoint, I’m curious as to the impact it’ll have on my writing—delirium can yield some fascinating prose.

Its been a pleasure Ken.

Thank you. And thank you to your readers!

Anderson

*

Kingdom is out now and you can get it at the usual places. If you enjoyed this interview, do drop by the other stops in the Blog Tour and remember to enter the competition at Once Upon A Time for a chance to win a Kindle Fire.

Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke

Charles Dickens lived and breathed London in a way few authors ever have, before or since. In his fiction, his non-fiction, and even his own life, Dickens cast an extraordinary shadow over the city he so loved – so much so, indeed, that his name has become synonymous with a certain image of London. A London of terrible social inequality and matchless belief in the human potential; a London filled with the comic and the repulsive, the industrious and the feckless, the faithful and the faithless, the selfish and the selfless.

Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke is dedicated to bringing together original short stories by some of today’s finest genre authors – stories about London and inspired by Charles Dickens, the self-styled Sparkler of Albion.
Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke is a collection of highly imaginative short stories inspired by Dickens and his London. There is a great variety of stories in this collection with works by both established and emerging authors. There are plenty of gems in this book and I’m sure everyone can something that they like in this collection of Dickensian short stories.

The stories that stood out the most for me were Inspector Bucket Investigates by Sarah Lotz, The Hound of Henry Hortinger by Michelle Goldsmith, An Unburdening of the Soul by David Thomas Moore, andAye, There’s the Twist by James Wallis.

Inspector Bucket Investigates is a wonderful mix of science fiction and the Dickensian world. Set in a theme park based on Dickens’s stories, Inspector Bucket must investigate who is killing off the clones in the park. The Hound of Henry Hortinger is an atmospheric and unrelentingly fast-paced story about the demise of Henry Hortinger. An Unburdening of the Soul paints a great picture of the poverty faced in Dickens’s London, although a little short and Aye, There’s the Twist is a modern day Dickens story with great twists and turns.

Recommended for anyone who is looking for something that is a little different to their usual science fiction and fantasy.

For more information on the Pandemonium series, please visit Pandemonium Fiction.

Challenges read for:


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 17

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Final Week

So we’ve finally reached the final week of Red Seas Under Red Skies read along. It’s been another epic journey, this time we see Locke and Jean navigating the treacherous waters of the Sea of Brass. Thanks for all your comments, it was great to see what you all thought about the story and really expanded my experience with this book.

The final week’s questions are provided by Lynn at Lynn’s Book blog.

1. Oh my god, such a lot going on I thought the showdown between the Poison Orchid and the Sovereign was brilliantly written and they were holding their own until Utgar and his nasty device turned up. Well a lot of you had kind of predicted it, and I suppose we’d been let off too easy so far in terms of deaths of well-liked characters – but come on, did you expect something like that? And how on earth will Jean ever recover?
I always thought it would be the Archon that wipes out the pirates and never expected the pirates to fight amongst themselves. I knew deaths would be coming and it was really sad to see Erzi to go the way she did. At least she died by saving everyone on the Poison Orchid. I wonder how Jean would cope? Probably the same way as Locke did at the beginning of this book.

2. The deceit, the betrayal, first Rodanov and then Colvard. Even now I’m not entirely sure I understand Colvard – Rodanov was never keen on the oath but Colvard seemed okay with it all and yet in this final deceit she was more devious than Rodanov – what do you think was her motive?
I don’t think there’s any real honour among thieves, and it’s only fear that keeps them in line. So maybe Colvard wasn’t ok with the plan but didn’t want to voice out in case of angering Drakasha. So she seized the moment and turned on Drakasha when everyone is least expecting it.

3. Merrain – such a puzzle, no real answer, the mysterious tattoo, the determination to kill everyone to keep her identity and that of her master a secret. Does anybody have any ideas where she’s from and what she’s up to exactly and who the hell is she working for??
I’m guessing this based on the synopsis for Republic of Thieves. If you don’t want to know what will happen in the next book then I suggest skip ahead to the next question.

From the synopsis we know the Bondsmagi are at war with each other and Sabetha is working for one of them. So I think Merrain is actually Sabetha and the tattoo represents the Bondsmagi clan the she is working for.

4. Finally we get to the point of the GB’s latest scheme, all that elaborate planning for two years, fancy chairs, gambling, dust covered cards, abseiling lessons – all for one gigantic bluff. I loved the diversionary tactic here but having finally reached the end of the story and, more to the point, the end result – do you think the GB’s are as clever as they think they are?
It’s great to see how they all fit together and I really like how they had to go into so much trouble just to steal a few paintings from Requin. However to be honest, I feel slightly let down. I really thought we would see how they will break into that impenetrable vault. Maybe Locke and Jean will one day come back and rob Requin for real.

5. I must admit that I liked Requin and Selendri – particularly at the end – I don’t think Requin will go after Locke and Jean, he was even sort of cool and composed about it all, in fact he came across as a bit pleased with himself because he had the last laugh. Plenty of good characters this time which did you enjoy reading most about this time?
I agree Requin was pretty proud of himself because he outwitted the thieves and it was pretty sweet what he did for Selendri at the end. They do make a great couple. However my favourite character in this book has got to be Captain Drakasha. I just really enjoy reading this interesting character. On one hand she’s a strong and fearless captain, while on the other she is also a caring mother who wants to keep her children safe from harm.

6. Finally, a triple barrel question, I know I shouldn’t ask this BUT, on reflection do you have a favourite between LoLL or RSURS?? And why? Are you going to pick up Republic of Thieves? And, where do you think Lynch will take us to next??
I prefer LoLL to RSURS. I’m not really a sea person and I found parts of the voyage boring. When reading LoLL, I had no idea that the deaths were coming and I felt sad to see so many GBs dead, whereas in RSURS I knew something bad is bound to happen.

On the whole I think LoLL is a more compact and refined experience. RSURS is still good but just some parts felt like it was dragging on for no apparent reason. I am also looking forward to RoT. I’m glad I don’t have to wait as long for this book as some other people who have been following this series from the beginning. All I know is that the third book will be set in Karthain, so maybe we get some answers to how magic in the series really works.

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Week 4

What an exciting week this has been. Love that cliffhanger ending we’re left with and I look forward to see what everyone think is going to happen. This week’s questions were supplied by nrlymrtl at Dark Cargo.

1. I was much relieved when Jean and Locke made up, which started with Locke’s gesture of a cup full of honesty with Cpt. Drakasha. Do you think that was hard for Locke? Or was he using this bit of honesty like any other weapon in his arsenal to get what he wants in the end?
We all know how good Locke is at reading and calculating people. I think he weighed all the possible actions and found out that being honest with Captain Drakasha is the only way to keep them both alive in the long run.

I was surprised Locke was honest to the Archon as well and told him everything that happened at Port Prodigal. I wonder if Locke’s plan will work out in the end.

2. The Parlor Passage: We still don’t know Locke’s true name, but whatever was in that mist does. What do you think it is?
This is a hard one but whatever it is, it obviously doesn’t want to be found. It must have some serious mojo to cast such a big spell around itself.

3. There was an interesting section of the book that started about where Locke assisted Drakasha in selling the Red Messenger; he put on the persona of Leocanto Kosta and used the alias Tavras Callas and then Drakasha was still thinking of him as Ravelle….. Did using all those various aliases in such a short amount of time have your mind spinning a little? Do you think Lynch did this on purpose to give the reader a sense of Locke’s mind?
The wonderful about Locke is that he can be a completely different person but essentially the same person and this is what makes him interesting to read. I don’t find it confusing as these personae are quite distinct. I really like how Locke can slip into another personality just like he did when he faced the Redeemers.

4. That was a sweet little kiss between Cpt. Zamira and Cpt. Jaffrim at the end of the Captains’ Council. Do you think they have some history, or is it just innocent flirting that’s been going on for some time?
I’m sure there is some history between the two. Maybe they used to sail on the same boat before they both became captains.

5. Jean and Ezri. Cue dove-cooing and little winged hearts with sparkles. Do you think Jean will stay with the Poison Orchid or that Ezri will leave her ship to pal around with Jean and Locke?
Ezri has spent most of her time at sea and I think it will be harder for her to adjust to a life on land. Jean being the gentleman that he is, I’m sure he will side with Ezri even though if it means abandoning Locke. However I still think something will happen to prevent Jean from ever making that decision.

6. What is Utgar up to? What are his motivations?
Utgar wants to move up to the biggest and baddest ship in the Sea of Brass. I wouldn’t blame him for what he’s doing, it’s just how life is like for pirates. I wonder if it’s only simply spying that he has been charged to do or something more.

7. So last week we hashed over that Merrain killed some of Stragos’s guards on Windward Rock. But when Jean and Locke visit him, he doesn’t mention it. What is up with that?
I think Stragos still has those deaths at the back of his mind but he doesn’t want to bring them up yet until Locke and Jean has succeeded in their task. I’m sure he will make them pay for it soon enough.

8. This week’s section left us where the book began – Jean pointing a crossbow at Locke’s throat. Do you think Jean knows who sent these crossbowers? Is he on their side? Is it a clever ploy to get him and Locke out of this predicament? Did you find it excruciatingly hard to stop here?
Yes this was a very bad place to stop. I think this is a ploy but I really have no idea who the employer is and what is going to happen. Currently there are so many things happening and not that many page left, will this book have a satisfying ending for the duo? I really can’t wait to see how this book will end.

Incursion by Aaron Rosenberg

Incursion by Aaron Rosenberg

R.C. Hayes has settled into his job with the FBI, and put behind him the strange incident that ended his military career. But when he and his partner are sent to the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana to look into a murder, events take an unsettling and eerily familiar turn. R.C. struggles to solve the case as deaths pile up around him and as the situation takes a decidedly unnatural cast. With the help of a mysterious new ally, he may finally come to terms with what happened to him long ago—and enter a strange new career he is uniquely suited for. Provided he can survive the incursion of supernatural elements into his supposedly safe and mundane world.
You might recognise the name Aaron Rosenberg from a number of tie-in novels for established fan favourites such as WarCraft, Star Trek and Warhammer, just to name a few but he’s also done plenty of original fiction and Incursion is one of them.

Incursion is a fantastic supernatural story that has plenty of action and mystery to keep me turning the pages. I’m also a person that really enjoys mythologies and found it extremely refreshing to learn so many Native American myths that I have never heard of before. Incursion reminds me of some of the best episodes of classic X-Files and definitely has me interested in the rest of the series.

Incursion is one of the first books in the shared-world series titled O.C.L.T. which stands for Orphic Crisis Logistical Taskforce and is the brainchild of David Niall Wilson and Aaron Rosenberg. There are actually a few novellas set before the events of Incursion but I had no trouble picking this story up as this book is mostly independent of the previous stories.

Our main character R.C. Hayes and his partner have been sent by the bureau to investigate a murder in the Flathead Indian Reservation. What makes this murder so different is that the victim has been killed with a well-placed arrow to his throat. As the pair looks further into the case, they discover that this is only the tip of the iceberg and more deaths are coming. Along the way R.C. is joined by a gorgeous and mysterious Spanish woman who seems to know what is really happening at the reservation. Can they put a stop to the events and restore peace to the reservation?

This isn’t the first time that R.C. has encountered the supernatural. When R.C. was serving in the military, there was an incident in Uppsala that wiped out all of his team except him. He couldn’t believe what he saw as none of it made sense. So it was really great to see R.C. transform from a sceptic to a believer through the course of this book. His cool-headedness is also a wonderful contrast to the gung-ho attitude of Isabella and the two of them make a superb team together.

Like I said before, I’m a sucker for mythologies and I really enjoyed how the different beings from Native American myths are brought to this story. Rosenberg did a great job linking various myths and the plot together to bring a satisfying end to this story.

Incursion is a fun and entertaining story. In the ending we finally get to see what the O.C.L.T. is and what it is that they do. This story is only a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that builds towards something bigger and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for the O.C.L.T. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a good well-written supernatural story.

You can find out more about O.C.L.T. at the following link. O. C. L. T. A new Series for Fans of X-Files, Buffy, Angel and Fringe

Challenges read for:


2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge – Book 8

 


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 16

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Week 3

Welcome to week 3 of the Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along. This week’s questions are from Ashley (@ohthatashley) over at SF Signal.

1. Locke and Jean’s ability to find themselves at the center of a serious mess seems unparalleled. At this point, do you think that Stragos will get the return he expects on his investment in them?
Locke and Jean are really in some serious mess. I never expected Caldris to die of a heart attack. How will they get the antidote in time when they have no ship of their own? I don’t know how they will do it but one thing I’m sure is that they will come up with an amazing scheme to commandeer a ship in time. At the same time I bet they will also incite all the pirates in Port Prodigal to wage war with the Archon.

2. Merrain’s activities after our boys leave Windward Rock are interesting. What do you think her plans are?
Merrain sure is a mysterious figure. Who is her ultimate employer? I think whoever she is working for wants to upset the stability in Tal Verrar and probably wish to establish a new leader to rule over the city.

3. Does anyone know why having cats aboard the ship is so important?
Well cats are important because they help catch vermin that eat away at the ship’s supplies and it seems they are a sort of lucky charm in the eyes of the sailors and pirates. Also cats are pretty fun to watch when you’re out at sea for a long time.

4. The word “mutiny” creates a lot of mental pictures. Were you surprised? Why or why not?
I wasn’t that surprised it happened. Locke and Jean are good at faking but usually they spend a long time to prepare for the schemes and have plenty of chances to practise. Whereas this time, all they had was a month and their expert suddenly dropped dead. Of course it wouldn’t take long for the rest of the crew to catch on that Locke and Jean are not who they claim they are.

5. Ah, the Poison Orchid. So many surprises there, not the least of which were the captain’s children. Did you find the young children a natural part of the story?
It makes sense that the captain wants to keep the children on the ship with her. It’s better than leaving them at port where there is no guarantee to their safety. I wonder if the children will play a bigger role in the latter parts of the story.

6. Jean is developing more and more as a character as we get further in to the book. Ezri makes the comment to him that “Out here, the past is a currency, Jerome. Sometimes it’s the only one we have.” I think several interesting possibilities are coming into play regarding Jean and Ezri. What about you?
No matter how much Jean might like Ezri I don’t think they will have a happy ending. Lynch just loves torturing his characters and there’s also another five books for Locke and Jean to survive through. I hate to say it but it’s just too early for Jean to settle down. I really can’t see Ezri becoming a part of the Gentleman Bastards.

7. As we close down this week’s reading, the Thorn of Camorr is back! I love it, even with all the conflict. Several things from their Camorri background have come back up. Do you think we will see more Camorri characters?
I know there’s one Camorri that I really want to see. I think her name begins with a S…

Void Stalker by Aaron Dembski-Bowden

The hunters have become the hunted. The Night Lords flee to the dark fringes of the Imperium to escape their relentless pursuers – the eldar of Craftworld Ulthwé. Their flight takes them to the carrion world of Tsagualsa, where their primarch died and their Legion was broken. There, history will repeat itself as a deadly assassin stalks the shadows, and the Night Lords are drawn into a battle they are destined to lose.
Hopefully if you’re reading this review you should have at least read Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver. If not, why haven’t you picked up a copy yet? There’s a lot of reviews of Void Stalker out there on the internet already so I will instead focus on the parts that I enjoyed the most.

Void Stalker brings an epic end to what has been a fantastic set of trilogy from Black Library. I don’t think there are many authors who can write complex and engaging characters quite like Aaron Dembski-Bowden. The Night Lords 10th Company contains some of the vilest and most sadistic bastards alive but somehow Dembski-Bowden still manages to humanise them into characters that you care about.

Just look at the First Claw. Each of them is a cold blooded killer that revels in the fear of those they kill but at the same time they each have a character flaw that readers can connect with. In this book, the Night Lords do some awful things to the citizens of Tsagualsa to draw attention to themselves but I find myself forgiving these traitor marines even after the monstrosity they caused.

While I’m on the subject of cold blooded killers that you can sympathise with, I’m sure anyone who reads this book will see Uzas in a new light. In this ultimate book Uzas finally snaps out of his bloodthirst to reveal what truly happened that night with the Void Born’s father. Dembski-Bowden really knows how to tug your heartstrings even with the most despicable criminal.

Talos remains one of my favourite characters in the 40k universe. He is still the reluctant leader of his warband in this book but has stepped up nicely to fill the void left by the Exalted. You think you understand Talos but he suddenly does something so shocking that makes you reevaluate his character. I like it that there’s still something new to discover about Talos even after finishing the previous two books.

Septimus and Octavia’s relationship also takes a step up to the next level. I know Black Library frowns upon romances but this love between Septimus and Octavia shows that there is still hope for mankind no matter how dire a situation is. Who knows, maybe Black Library will relax now and let ADB do his Eldar love story.

Besides the amazing character build up, this novel contains plenty of thrilling battle scenes. Xarl engages in one of the longest and bloodiest duels and proves once again why he is the best fighter in First Claw. There’s also the brutal battle between the 10th Company and Void Stalker, the eponymous character of the book.

I can keep praising ADB in this review but everyone by now knows how great a writer he is already. To sum it up the Night Lords trilogy have given me new insights into the traitor legions and remind me that they are not all Chaos worshipping maniacs. This trilogy will always be one of my favourite series from Black Library.

Night Lords: Soul Hunter and Blood Reaver

Challenges read for:


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 16

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Week 2

OK, so here are the questions for week 2 of the Read Along. As usual, please visit Little Red Reviewerfor everyone’s discussions.

1. Now that we know a little more about Selendri and Requin, what do you think of them? I worry Locke is suddenly realizing this con might be a bit tougher than he expected.
Requin really cares for Selendri and there is obviously something much more to their relationship. I don’t think this revelation affects Locke’s plan that much as he is always able to get out of tight situations. In fact I think Locke will take advantage of this relationship and use it in some way to get into the vault.

2. Isn’t the Artificers’ Crescent just amazing? If you could purchase anything there, what would it be?
Everything is just amazing there and I would just purchase the whole thing. If I can only pick one then it would be some type of mechanical pet. Something that can rival a scorpion-hawk.

3. What did you think of Salon Corbeau and the goings on that occur there? A bit crueler than a Camorri crime boss, no?
I agree with Locke that these sort of games are not to my taste. I’m just wondering does lawlessness always bring out the worst in people and do people with power always want to abuse it? I just hope Locke teaches them a lesson.

4. The Archon might be a megalomaniacal military dictator, but he thinks he’s doing right by Tal Verrar: his ultimate goal seems to be to protect them. What do you think he’s so afraid of?
I think he’s very proud of Tal Verrar and maybe upset that they lost the Thousand-Day War against Camorr because the Priori gave in. I don’t think there’s anything the Archon is afraid of. He just wants to prove to the entire world that Tal Verrar is a force to be reckoned with.

5. And who the heck is trying to kill Locke and Jean every few days? they just almost got poisoned (again!)!
Well I don’t think its the Bondsmagi because they’ve already handed Locke and Jean over to the Archon. I think if Requin wanted them dead then he would have pushed Locke out of the window already and obviously the Archon has an important task for them to do. I don’t think the new Spiders want them dead either. So I guess Locke did something in Salon Corbeau that pissed a lot of rich people off and now they want to get their revenge.

6. Do you really think it’s possibly for a city rat like Locke to fake his way onto a Pirate ship?
If it were any other people I would say no but it’s Locke and Jean after all. They have been faking it since they were a small child, I have confidence they will pull this off.

The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

In this stunning debut, author Scott Lynch delivers the wonderfully thrilling tale of an audacious criminal and his band of confidence tricksters. Set in a fantastic city pulsing with the lives of decadent nobles and daring thieves, here is a story of adventure, loyalty, and survival that is one part Robin Hood, one part Ocean’s Eleven, and entirely enthralling…

An orphan’s life is harsh–and often short–in the island city of Camorr, built on the ruins of a mysterious alien race. But born with a quick wit and a gift for thieving, Locke Lamora has dodged both death and slavery, only to fall into the hands of an eyeless priest known as Chains–a man who is neither blind nor a priest. A con artist of extraordinary talent, Chains passes his skills on to his carefully selected “family” of orphans–a group known as the Gentlemen Bastards. Under his tutelage, Locke grows to lead the Bastards, delightedly pulling off one outrageous confidence game after another. Soon he is infamous as the Thorn of Camorr, and no wealthy noble is safe from his sting.

Passing themselves off as petty thieves, the brilliant Locke and his tightly knit band of light-fingered brothers have fooled even the criminal underworld’s most feared ruler, Capa Barsavi. But there is someone in the shadows more powerful–and more ambitious–than Locke has yet imagined.

Known as the Gray King, he is slowly killing Capa Barsavi’s most trusted men–and using Locke as a pawn in his plot to take control of Camorr’s underworld. With a bloody coup under way threatening to destroy everyone and everything that holds meaning in his mercenary life, Locke vows to beat the Gray King at his own brutal game–or die trying…

After over a month of discussions on The Lies of Locke Lamora read along, I’m finally writing down my thoughts on this story. The following is not exactly a review, more like a summary of my read along and contains spoilers so I advise you to seek another review if you want something spoiler free.

The Lies of Locke Lamora is definitely one the most interesting fantasy books I’ve read lately. First off, Lies takes place in a bustling port city similar to a Renaissance age Venice. This is so refreshing compared to the typical fantasy story that is set in a generic medieval style country. This slightly more modern setting allows Lynch to create a vibrant city that is filled with lives and activities, as well as exotic goods that you rarely find in other novels.

What further impressed me is the attention to detail in this book. Lynch has created a world so rich that you could mistake it for real. There’s a mysterious forgotten race, a fascinating religion system, a hierarchy of classes that separates the nobles from the common folks and then there’s food with description so vivid that causes salivation on the very thought of them. Can you honestly say you don’t want to take a sip of Austershalin brandy or taste the sweet nectar from Orange Sofia? What’s even more phenomenal is that Lynch created all these for his debut novel. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by all these information, I was mesmerised throughout by how natural and how well suited they are to the story. The writing was so good that these details didn’t feel out of place at all.

Many people complained about the language, saying the profanities are inappropriate or too modern for the society of that period. Well for the first point, these people are known as the Gentleman Bastards and not just the Gentlemen. You can’t really expect thieves and con artists to behave like some uptight nobles even when they’re being themselves. Whereas for the second point, you have to remember this is a fantasy fiction and not a historical fantasy and Lynch can use any language that he sees fit for his characters. I think the swearing would stick out like a sore thumb if he were to use anything else.

And then there’s the complaints about the interludes. Some find the flashbacks interspersed in the story off putting but to me this is similar to the flashback device used on television shows to introduce a new episode. I find the flashbacks add a rich layer to the storytelling, providing just enough background information to introduce the new scenes. It was great to learn how powerful the Bondsmagi are and then the next chapter opens with Locke swearing at one of these mighty Bondsmagi.

Finally there’s the Gentleman Bastards themselves. Locke, with his exceptional skills in scheming and plotting makes for a fitting leader after the departure of Father Chains. Jean, fighter and saviour of the group, strong but not stupid. Then there’s the Sanza twins who provide much of the comedy relief of the group and last but not least Bug, the youngest one of the group who looks up to the older boys as idols. These are some of the most sympathetic thieves that you will ever come across. I just love the sense of camaraderie between the Gentleman Bastards. Except for the whole dying thing, wouldn’t it be great to be part of the gang?

It was pretty shocking to see them killed off so early in the series. I knew the deaths were coming but I thought these Gentleman Bastards could at least make it for a few more books. I wonder how Locke and Jean will move forward now without the other boys. Can they ever accept someone new to replace the friends they lost? And what about that mysterious Sabetha? I wonder what she did to get Locke so in love with her.

Lynch has created a fantastic story with The Lies of Locke Lamora. Yes, there is a lot of swearing and scenes of brutality but the Gentleman Bastards do live in a dangerous era and operate with some of the meanest and roughest criminals. I found there is a good balance of humour and light-heartedness alongside the thrills and excitement to make this story an extreme pleasure to read.

I can’t highly recommend this enough but seeing that this book is voted as one of the top 10 books published by Gollancz in its fifty years of publishing more than speaks for itself. A must read for any fantasy fans.

Discussion Posts:
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 1
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 2
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 3
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 4
Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Week 5

Challenges read for:


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 15

Guest Post: Raymond Masters on Self Publishing and Crowdfunding

There’s been a lot of changes to the publishing industry lately. Many authors suddenly found they no longer need to rely on traditional publishing channels to distribute their works to the public. But how can aspiring authors seize this opportunity and get started if they are operating on a limited budget?

Today I would like to welcome Raymond Masters, author of Forging Truth to share his thoughts on self publishing and how alternative funding methods such as Kickstarter can help independent authors reach their dreams. Without further ado, I’ll hand it over to Raymond.


My name is Raymond Masters. I am the author of The Truth Saga. I self-published Forging Truth, the first book in the series, back in December of last year. It was an interesting journey and one I didn’t know I was on when I first set out on the road to writing. You see, originally, I had every intention of landing my manuscript with one of the big dog publishing houses. After a few rejections, I started thinking I could settle with a midlevel publisher. A few more rejections and I began to wonder if I was missing something.

Along about that time, I began heavily using Twitter to interact with other writers, many of which were either independently published or had gone out on a limb and published their own works. One of my new friends was doing quite well with offering his series electronically. He was really immersing himself in the Kindle message boards and other communities. He was constantly networking and making new friends with other writers and readers, alike. And he was selling. Not big, mind you, but enough to make a living.

I wanted that, too, so I began grilling him over every little nuance of his own journey. Something we first discussed was the amount of control a self-published author has. There is no editorial mandate or “suggestion” to cut a scene, kill a character, or otherwise change the entire course of what you had in mind. As important, if not more so, you do not have to give up a chunk of what you make to your publisher. You retain the revenue for your hard work. You retain the rights. It’s all gravy, right?

Well, okay, so there are some challenges, as you might have guessed. Foremost, I’ve found it extremely difficult to promote The Truth Saga since I released book one four months ago. I spend so much time getting the word out and after the first two months, my sales have come to a halt. Why? I believe I have hit my wall of influence. All of my Twitter and Facebook followers have already picked up a copy if they were interested. I’ve hand delivered hard copies to those in my offline world that wanted a copy, too. That’s the type of thing a publisher can provide for you. By self-publishing, you’re taking on the role of the public relations department in conjunction with being an author. In addition, there are many other challenges, including having to pay for your own copies. Sorry, no comp copies for you! You can get those for cheaper if you buy in bulk, but many authors can’t afford to do so. There’s no budget but your own, I’m afraid.

One way to combat some of these costs is by utilizing various crowdfunding options, such as Kickstarter.com and Indygogo.com. How can these sites help you achieve your dreams? I’m really only familiar with Kickstarter to tell the truth, but if you’d like to read up on some of the others, here’s a pretty cool link to an article from CNN Money:
http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2012/technology/1204/gallery.crowdfunding-startups/index.html.

Let’s take a look at Kickstarter. They’ve only been around for a couple of years, and they’ve already helped fund so many wonderful projects. The majority of their funds are raised for independently produced projects. These are concepts and ideas that were spawned by folks like you and me. And some of these have raised millions of dollars. Of course, those examples aren’t writing related, but I’ve seen some comic books and novels fetch thousands. That’s the power of crowdfunding. That’s the amazing power of patronage. These are folks you most likely will never meet fact-to-face, yet the sense of community and giving aid to those struggling to get a quality product to the masses, really brings out the support.

The key to this, as with so much else, is to get the word out there. Enlist the help of a dedicated core group that can help you spread the word. Find those in your circles whom you feel could best influence others to come see what all of the fuss is about. Get creative. Do research. Remember: Google is your pal. Look up as many different articles as you can, regarding successful Kickstarter campaigns. Find the ones that best suit your goal; and run with it. And be sure to drop me a line and let me know how your experience with crowdfunding.

While we’re on the subject of Kickstarter, I have my very own campaign brewing with less than a month to go. As you can see by clicking through the link below, I am far from reaching my dream. While I am warmed by those who have contributed so far, I cannot reach my goal without your help. If you cannot give, then at the very least, help me to spread the word. It’s one of the cheapest forms of aid we can give one another.

Take care and happy fundraising,
Raymond

Here’s where you can find out more about Raymond Masters:
Blog: http://raymondmasters.wordpress.com/

Where to find Forging Truth:
Kindle
Paperback

Kickstarter Fundraiser:
“Fund The Truth Saga Book 2 and Get Books 1 and 2″

About Forging Truth:

Kade Truth awakens in a strange house sideways of reality, where he learns he has “died” in a mysterious attack on the Statue of Liberty. Rather than facing the afterlife, he now wields energy powers, including flight. Kade joins and befriends Caduceus – eccentric caretaker, magician, and feeder of soup – and Mao F’Yang – an intoxicating girl with the uncanny ability to disappear – in a quest to regain his memories, uncover who is behind the attack, and discover why he has been so drastically altered.

In a counter to Kade’s mission, the malign Dark Monk joins forces with Richard Van Parson – arrogant CEO of VPI – to forward his own hellish agenda under the ruse of a retaliatory war.

The question remains, though, if the French government orchestrated the Liberty Island attack, why are our heroes certain of Van Parson’s involvement? What ties does the Dark Monk have with Caduceus? What designs does he have for Kade? And will Kade unravel the truth in time to embrace his true destiny?

Jack Hunter – Secret of the King by Martin King

Pour two measures of Indiana Jones and one of National Treasure into a cocktail shaker; add a portion of Famous Five with a small dash of The Goonies for extra flavour. Jack Hunter – Secret of the King entwines suspense with adventure that keeps readers gripped and guessing until the very end. Download free sample and find out what all the hype is about. The adventure begins now…
If you loved National Treasure then you will definitely love Jack Hunter – Secret of the King. There is excitement, adventure, horrible villains and treasure, pretty much everything you ever wanted in a children’s novel.

The story of Jack’s adventure begins with a gold coin and a mystery from his grandfather. Being 12 years of age and having too much spare time, Jack quickly begins to unravel the mystery behind the gold coin and its secret treasure. However Jack is not the only one who is interested in finding the treasure. Can Jack and his friends get to it before the other person does?

Jack Hunter reminds me of the classic adventure stories that I used to read when I was younger. It is fast paced and well written novel with a fine cast of engaging characters. Each member of the group has their own strengths and brings a good balance to the dynamics of the group. I also enjoyed how the book mixes history and myths together to add a bit of extra depth to this highly imaginative story.

You should also pay attention to the little clues found in the book as they help reveal the secret to unlocking the puzzle on the author’s website.

Jack Hunter – Secret of the King is a fun and exciting start to an adventure series for young readers.

Challenges read for:


2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge – Book 7

 


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 14

Hoodie by Brendon Lancaster

From the moment Ben Chapman (‘Hoodie’ to the other Shady Boys) crashes out of school, determined never to return and, incidentally, seeking his revenge on the school’s drug dealer by stealing and concealing his stash in his trousers on the way out, you know that this is a boy to whom caution and reticence are alien concepts.

Outwardly, he maintains that all he wants is a job, his own money and to follow his heart towards the girl of his dreams, Isabelle. But, underneath that concealing hoodie, Ben has a rich inner life, fed by dope, wine and the belief that he is someone special.

During his ‘summer of love’, we follow his attempts to engage with the real world with frustration and compassion. His adventures cause him to question today’s competitive, consumer-based values, eventually challenging his perception of reality and prompting him to reflect upon who and what his purpose in life is before finding himself faced with the definitive test of resolve and bravery.

Hoodie provides the perfect antidote to alarmist reporting of youth issues by exploring the problems facing modern day Britain from the perspective of the disempowered, disaffected teenager.

I find it hard to articulate my thoughts for Hoodie because it is such a realistic portrayal of youths of today. Reviewing this story is like commenting on someone’s life choices, you can say all you want but would you have done so differently if you were in his shoes? Hoodie may not suit everyone’s tastes but it is a poignant story offering deep insights into the hardships that modern teenagers face.

Hoodie is essentially a coming of age story about a young man, Ben or better known as Hoodie and his misspent summer. Ben like most boys at the age of 15 turning 16 likes to hang out with his mates, have a few drinks and maybe smoke a little weed. He has just finished his GCSEs and thinks he is now ready to enter into a world filled with opportunities and achieve anything he sets his mind to, be it a job or a girl. Sadly the real world doesn’t work like that and he faces one disappointment after another as the story progresses.

To make matters worse, a divide is appearing among his mates now that everyone has different goals in their lives. One wants to continue with his education while another wants to continue their business in wheeling and dealing drugs. What can Ben do to keep the group together?

Ben is not a bad kid, he is smart and sensitive. He is just missing a figure to guide him in the right direction. Coming from a broken family and lacking a father figure means he had to grow up much quicker than he was ready for.

Hoodie is an interesting story that I find a lot of resonance with. The writing is spot on for describing emotions such as the loneliness inside, where you can be in a room full of people you care the most yet still feel so alienated.

I think it’s this frightening sense of vivid realness that put some people off this book. It is a book that deals with real life issues, and not a rose-tinted version of it. Everyday many people are going through the things described in this book. I think more adults should read this to get a better understanding of what is happening to their children.

There are some scenes that I feel are over the top, but I believe they are needed and suited the nature of the book. They offer a fitting finish to a story that I could not imagine ending any other way.

While reading this book, I can’t help but draw comparison to Kes or A Kestrel for a Knave. Both books deal with a young working class boy and the very real troubles that they face. I feel Hoodie is an updated version depicting what life is like in the early twenty first century. I hope this story will make its way into more young adults’ hands. Maybe one day the examination board will assign this book as one of the reading books for GCSE.

Challenges read for:


2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge – Book 6

 


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 13

Red Seas Under Red Skies Read Along – Week 1

I had a lot of fun in the first Gentleman Bastard read along so I’ve decided to continue with part 2 of the series, Red Seas Under Red Skies. This time I will actually stick to the schedule and won’t read any further than what is specified in the reading guide. Let’s see how different my answers will be from the book.

So to kick off this second read along, we have Bryce from My Awful Reviews supplying the questions covering the beginning of the book to the end of chapter 3. Also remember to check out the other great discussions at The Little Red Reviewer.

1. The Sinspire. It looks like our heroes (can they really be called that?) find themselves in search of a way into an unbeatable vault. Do you think they have what it takes to make it happen?
I think Locke always have some ingenious plans to make things happen. I am really interested to see what Locke will do to beat this apparently undefeatable vault. I also wonder if they will ever recruit new members to the Gentleman Bastards or it will remain as the dynamic duo from now on.

2. Anyone want to guess how they’re going to make it happen?
Like Locke said, if you can’t cheat the system then you have to cheat the players. So I think Locke is going to gain trust from Requin then when the opportunity present itself, Locke will stab Requin in the back and rob him blind.

3. It’s a little different this time around, with us just being focused on Locke and Jean. Is anyone else missing the rest of the Bastards as much as I am?
I really enjoy the conversations between Locke and Jean but I miss the other GBs too. Like I said earlier, I hope they will add new members to their group.

4. I love the section where Jean starts to build a new guild of thieves. It really shows just how well trained and tough he is. Do you think the Bastards will end up training others along the way again like Bug?
I think that will be the end goal for Locke. It’s still too early in the series for them to settle down and start up a thief school. I imagine that at the end of the series, Locke will become a Father Chains like figure to a bunch of aspiring con artists.

5. For those of you looking for Sabetha, we still haven’t spotted her yet. Anyone else chomping at the bit to see the love of Locke’s life?
I think Sabetha is a myth to keep the GBs happy at night. I won’t believe she’s real until she actually appears in the book.

6. It’s early on, but the Bastards are already caught up in plots that they didn’t expect. How do you think their new “employer” is going to make use of them (The Archon, that is)?
I wonder what The Archon wants to achieve by “employing” the GBs. I don’t think he cares about Requin’s money. Maybe The Archon wants to use the GBs to get back at the Bondsmagi for some reason.

Spirits Of Glory by Emily Devenport

One morning the people of the North woke up and the people of the South were gone. That s the first thing every child learns on the colony world of Jigsaw. But for one girl, knowing about The Disappearance is not enough. Hawkeye wants to know why.

That’s why she spent half her life researching The Disappearance. And that’s also why eight Neighbors show up on her doorstep, demanding that she accompany them into the Forbidden Cities ruled by the Southern gods to speak with the Spirits of Glory. Everyone thinks Hawkeye is an expert on Neighbors, these almost-humans who move, talk, and think as if they were born inside one of the Time Fractures. But she can’t imagine what they want to ask the ghosts of their ancestors, or why they need her to go along. The Southern gods caused every human inhabitant of the Southern cities to disappear overnight :- what else might they do?

But the Northern gods say Hawkeye should go and her curiosity won’t let her refuse, even though she’s going into more danger than she can imagine. Pain and puzzlement wait along the broken interstate, along with scavengers who want to kill them all. Hawkeye’s questions only generate more questions as they move farther and farther into the South, right into the heart of the Disappearance, until Hawkeye’s questions have all been answered.

Even the ones she was afraid to ask.

Spirits of Glory is a short yet interesting and thought provoking science fiction story about a young girl’s quest to discover why people disappeared from her planet. Initially the girl Hawkeye is a little timid and is reluctant to go on this journey with the mysterious Neighbors. However as the story progresses Hawkeye grows more confident and learns to handle herself better in different circumstances.

In Spirits of Glory, Devenport has created an intriguing world that I very much enjoyed. The planet that Hawkeye lives on is called Jigsaw because it suffers from a number of Time Fractures. A Time Fracture is basically a time bubble that traps everyone within it in the present, which means that everything takes longer to complete in the bubble than outside of it. This also has the side effect where people on Jigsaw are more mature than their appearance.

As for the general theme of the book, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of eeriness throughout the story. You know something had happened on Jigsaw and caused the disappearance of half the planet but you’re not quite sure what. There are also talks of spirits and gods that punished the inhabitants for the wrongdoings and yet you never quite see them. Devenport does a great job in conveying these points in her writing and helps the readers become familiar with them at a steady pace.

Devenport writes with wonderful and compelling prose that keeps you hooked on the story but I felt the pacing is a little slow for my liking. However the story as a whole more than makes up for this minor complaint.

Spirits of Glory is a YA novel that is different from what’s currently popular on the market. It is a coming of age story that focuses on self-discovery through knowledge rather than physical/supernatural power or through beauty. A recommended read if you are looking for a unique YA novel with deep meaning.

Challenges read for:


2012 Self-Published Reading Challenge – Book 5

 


2012 Ebook Challenge – Book 12

Descent of Angels by Mitchell Scanlon

The next instalment in the ground-breaking Horus Heresy series by Mitchell Scanlon, telling the tale of the civil war that nearly tore the human Imperium apart, ten thousand years ago. The novel explores the dark and mysterious history of the Dark Angels Legion and their Primarch Lion El’Jonson.

When the Imperial fleet rediscovers the planet Caliban, the Emperor is reunited with his missing son the Primarch Lion El’Jonson. As Dark Angels old and new join the Great Crusade, a chain of events is set in motion that will change Caliban, its people, and the Legion forever.

I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for this book and I think I know why. As one of the books in Horus Heresy, Descent of Angels really doesn’t deal a lot with the Heresy itself. I think it would be more apt to call this a pre-Heresy novel.

Maybe at that point in time, Black Library wanted to do something different and decided to show what a pre-Imperium world would look like. For fans coming to this book with the expectation to read all about the Dark Angels’ role in the Heresy, I understand the disappointment. Whereas for me, I’ve always been fascinated by what the Primarchs were like before they met the Emperor so I’m pretty happy with the setting of this book.

The first two thirds of this book depicts what life was like on Caliban before the Emperor arrived. It’s basically a Feudal world with a collection of knights to protect its inhabitants from the vicious beasts in the forests. The book follows Zahariel and his cousin Nemiel as they join The Order and partake in quests to rid every beast from Caliban. Lion and Luther make an appearance here but we are mostly told how great they are through heresay and from Zahariel’s idealisation of those two characters. It would have been more rewarding if the book showed us more of the relationship between the Lion and Luther rather than so much time on the young initiates themselves. Even after reading this book, I couldn’t say I know Lion any better than before.

The last third deals with Caliban’s intergration into the Imperium and the Crusade. Zahariel and the other initiatives are now promoted to full Astartes while some of his older brothers still join the legion but without the full power of a real Astartes. I found it fascinating that fully grown adults can still become part of the legion. I guess Lion just couldn’t abandon some of his most trusted battle brothers.

In the last section we finally get to see some real action from the Dark Angels as a legion. If only this happened sooner, the book might yet be saved from all its scathing attacks!

I’m not sure if Black Library always wanted to tell the Dark Angels’ story in two parts but I feel that it just went too far back and left all the juicy details till the last minute. I think the story would have worked better in a non-linear way with the first section as Zahariel’s flashbacks.

As for the ending, I still don’t quite understand why Lion decided to take Terran born warriors with him on the crusade instead of his Caliban brothers. This book doesn’t make it clear what Lion is thinking most of the time.

This is still an enjoyable book and provides some interesting history of the Dark Angels. The problem is that it just doesn’t fit into the Horus Heresy series. Skip this if you’re looking for a Heresy story but definitely read this if you want to understand the worlds in 40k better.