Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!
Saturday Night @ Crazy Cat Lady Kristy's House:
I've got my hoard of cookies (though I'm not sure it's safe to unrest the dragon), and I'm reading Sorcerer To The Crown by Zen Cho, in which "English Magic Faces It's Darkest Hour"!
I've not read much of it as of yet, but so far, so very alternative/fantasy/magical regency era Britain! No punches pulled though, in the first 10% it's brought up issues of racism, classism, sexism, war, politics.. And magicism?
It's kind of reminiscent of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, with a Wodehouse/Wilde tongue in cheek feel; everything is just a little bit exaggerated to really exacerbate the ridiculousness of nobility, class, politics etc. I'm really enjoying it! I think once the main plot kicks in, I will be riveted!
If you're a collector of good looking books, the Macmillan/Tor hardback edition of Sorcerer (out on the 10th of September) looks gorgeous! Really beautiful! I'm happy to take a donation, if somebody wants to buy me one!
Sometimes, when you receive an eArc/galley, the formatting is just not up to scratch (as some of you would know!)! I think it's probably a conversion problem from pdf to kindle, but in any case, they can get incredibly hard to read!
Unfortunately, that's what has happened with The Aeronaut's Windlass! I'm loving the book, but the formatting is making it extremely hard to read, and I'm spending more time deciphering the book, rather than enjoying the story! As an aside, it makes it really hard to review when you aren't really sure what problems are inherently the book's, rather than the sketchy version's.
So, I am putting the eArc aside, and I'm going to update my review once it's actually released! Which is actually saying something! If I'm liking it enough to actually buy it (which I can rarely do these days!), so I can tell everybody about it; it must be doing something pretty awesome!
Look out for an update sometime in October/November!
Click/Hover on the book covers for descriptions, buying options, and release dates for September!
Ah Spring! Behold the months of hey-fever to come! Whilst you're scratching your itchy eyes, and blowing out your post nasal drips, there are plenty of new releases to distract yourself with in September!
(If you can avoid using the pages as a tissue during an unexpected sneezing explosion, that'd be awesome! Plus, I wouldn't have to label you as the grossest person ever created!)
I can honestly say, I have enjoyed every one of these little chickens, whether in full or just having the chance for a pre-perusal.
There's awesome flying adventures in Updraft, military steampunkery in Aeronaut's Windlass, arse kicking in the desert in Twelve Kings, intrigues a plenty in Sorcerer to The Crown and a whole host of new short stories from Kelley Armstrong. I've also scored the full ARC of The Traitor (Baru Commorant) that I featured a few weeks ago, that I can't wait to share my thoughts on. And that's just a few! I feel the exhaustion setting in!
Whether your looking for fantastic world building, awesome characters, and/or a splendiferous storyline, September really is Looking Good!
There are so many more worth mentioning this month, but I couldn't fit in an extra ten! I haven't earned my superbookwoman cape (yet!) to get through quite that many..
I've also been lucky enough to score an interview with Bradley Beaulieu, the author of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai (aka Twelve Kings thru Gollancz), one of my favourite releases of this year! Look out for it soon! I am feeling like a very lucky chucky recently!
If you complain you can't find anything to read this month, I officially disown you :)
A non-review, which basically means I am conflicted up to my eyeballs, and I really don't know how to rate or review Fool's Quest due to a heart to head smack down. So, I'll ramble it out as a blog post, so I can understand as I explain it.
My heart says, this is Fitz and The Fool, this is Robin Hobb, you love it! YOU LOVE IT, LIKE YOU LOVE BACON, DAMN IT!
My head says, this was badly edited and put together, and if it were any other book, I would probably complain about it till the cows come home.
So, this is what I'm going to do. I'm going to leave it un-rated, but I will try and explain the conflict, so that I don't look like I'm simply dismissing the book. It doesn't deserve that, it wasn't a horrible book; very far from it. It just simply shouldn't have been released, in the state it is in.
Hobb is one of those writers that doesn't just play your heart strings, she rips them out and drops them at your feet. She thoroughly immerses the reader in the way she presents her stories and characters, to the point you feel as though your heart is haemorrhaging at every turn; whether it's mournful or joyful moments! And Fool's Quest does that with gusto! From the beginning, there are so many gut punching moments, I had to put the book down a few times, because it made my insides hurt. These characters are almost family! I've spent ten years traversing their tales, anything that happens to them, feels like it's happening to family.
In celebration of her new historical fiction release The Beast's Garden, Matthew from Smash Dragons and I, delved into the most fantabulous mind of..
Kate Forsyth, welcome to Smash Dragons and Book Frivolity!
First up, tell us about yourself. Why did you start writing? Was it something you always envisaged doing professionally even when you were young?
I have always wanted to be a writer. There was never a moment of epiphany in which I thought: that’s it! That’s what I have to do! I just always knew. I began writing stories and poems as soon as I could hold a pencil, and I wrote my first novel when I was seven. I have never stopped since. As soon as I finish one novel, I begin thinking about the next.
Your latest book, The Beast’s Garden, is a fascinating retelling of Beauty and the Beast that is set in Nazi Germany. I’m curious, what inspired this particular story and its setting?
The idea first came to me as a kind of dream. I was drifting between sleep and awakening, in that hypnopompic state I call the shadowlands. A lot of my best ideas come to me in that state – not quite a dream, not quite a daydream. I call it ‘liminal dreaming’.
I saw a young woman dressed in a long golden dress, leaning on a black piano and singing in a very sensual way to a nightclub full of SS officers in their sinister black uniforms. Somehow I knew that the woman was German, and she was some kind of resistance fighter seeking to cajole secrets from the Nazi officers. More images came – I imagined her hiding in the rubble of a bombed out city, and scrabbling for something to eat in a wintry forest. I knew that she had an old battered copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales that was like a talisman for her.
At the time, I was struggling with my novel The Wild Girl, which tells the story of the forbidden romance between Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world’s most famous fairy tales. One of the stories she told him was ‘The Singing. Springing Lark’, an utterly beautiful version of ‘Beauty & the Beast’ which I loved because of the courage and steadfastness of the heroine, who must follow her beloved beast-husband for seven years and battle with the enchantress who first cursed him. I was trying to find ways to weave Dortchen’s tales through my novel, and had not yet seen my way clear.
I was, at the same time, also working on the chapter on the Grimm brothers in my doctoral exegesis. I had discovered that Adolf Hitler had been a great fan of the Grimms, and that the Allies had banned their books and stories after the end of the Second World War. This really troubled me, as I had loved the Grimms’ fairy tales since I was a child, but had hated all that Nazism stood for since I had read Anne Frank’s Diary when I was twelve.
These worries and anxieties had kept me from sleeping, and so I had read an old World War II thriller into the dark hours of the night. My subconscious mind connected all these different things, and somehow put them together into my vision of the girl in a golden dress (which is a key motif of ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’.)
I knew at once I was going to write a story about the German resistance – even though I did not yet know there had been one!
When re-imagining such a well-known tale, are there confines that you find you need to write within, so it doesn’t stray from the initial essence of the story?
For me, yes. It is always very important that I am true as possible to what I see as being the spirit of the original story. This is because I love the stories so much, and believe passionately in their hidden meanings. However, I would never set those constraints upon other creative artists. I think fairy tales and myths and legends are extraordinarily versatile, and open to interpretation, and that there are many ways to turn them inside out and upside out, and shake new stories out of them.
A meteor strikes the Earth. Dirt and dust fill the air. Only a few people remain under the setting skies, and those who still live find it's not God's England anymore.
It's the Devil's turn.
Lines are drawn between the dark and light. For the darkness, James Finley and his cult for the end of days. On the side of light, Paul Deacon, the lost policeman, and Dawn Graves, the last mother.
To survive, they must put their lives in one man's hands: Frank Liebowicz, a killer with a soft spot for lost causes. Because come Armageddon, God won't choose his champions.
It doesn't mater how many Craig Saunders books you read, you are never quite prepared for what he brings to the table! It's like being unexpectedly punched in the face, then your assailant asks you to sit down, have a drink and a deep and meaningful conversation with them.
Fellow Grimdarkians! I am here to announce and let it be known that Grimdark Magazine is running a BATTLE OFF! *trumpets sound* The premise is this:
Self Published and Small Press Grimdark Authors: Go to the Grimdark Magazine website, Give us a 1,000-word excerpt featuring a battle scene from your published work. We'll post it on our site with a public voting system and let our readers decide which is their favourite. Whoever ranks in the top seven at the end of the voting period will be passed on to our panel of judges.
The judging panel includes some freaking awesome authors! Anthony Ryan, Richard Ford, Tim Marquitz, R. Scott Bakker and Graham Neil! Unfortunately we aren't giving away a group date with these sweet chickens, but I guess you can't have everything in this life.. *pouts*
Make sure you check out the conditions at the bottom of the page Grimdark Mag website to see that you are eligible, and all the other nitty gritty hoopla!
Prizes Corelings, I said PRIZES!
Signed Un-Numbered Unfettered
Grim Oak Press
Signed First edition of Joe Abercrombie's Half a War
The Quill & Claw Signed First Editions
Kindle Fire HD with all of Realmwalker Publishing Group's titles loaded onto it
Realmwalker Publishing Group
Blackguards anthology paperback
FUBAR: A Collection of War Stories by Weston Ochise ebook (Kindle or ePub)
Up to five thousand (5,000) words editing provided by Mike Myers, Grimdark Magazine's line editor, to be used for one short story or novel (value $80). You can see Mike's work in the fiction releases of GdM#2, #3, #4, and #5.
I know Mike rocks the cazbah, and he pulls no punches! You WANT him to edit your work!
Cover Art Services
8.5 x 11 (inches) full-color illustration including one full-body character with background provided by Spiral Horizon Art in jpg format. You can see Jason's work on the cover of GdM #4.
Grimdark Magazine First Year Bundle Pack
Claire Connolly is a good girl with a dangerous secret: she’s a Sensitive, a human endowed with magic that seeped through the Veil. Claire knows that revealing her skills would mean being confined to Devil’s Isle. Unfortunately, hiding her power has left her untrained and unfocused.
Liam Quinn knows from experience that magic makes monsters of the weak, and he has no time for a Sensitive with no control of her own strength. But when he sees Claire using her powers to save a human under attack—in full view of the French Quarter—Liam decides to bring her to Devil’s Isle and the teacher she needs, even though getting her out of his way isn’t the same as keeping her out of his head.
But when the Veil threatens to shatter completely, Claire and Liam must work together to stop it, or else New Orleans will burn..
Reviewed from ARC provided by NAL.
You know, sometimes you occasionally stumble across a book that you don't have all that much to report on! It's not that you don't like it, or that you love it so much you can't talk from the over-squee; it's just a good, solid read you would be happy to recommend. So I'm just going to ramble on a bit..
About Susan: After spending her formative years falling off ponies Susan moved on to rock climbing, mountains proving marginally less unpredictable than horses. Along the way she acquired a rugby-playing husband, soon followed by two daughters and a succession of rundown houses. Cumulative wear and tear prompted her to return to study, settling unfinished business with an Open University Humanities degree. She lives with her family in rural Cumbria where she writes fantasy and science fiction with occasional forays into other genres. Her novels Waterborne Blade and Waterborne Exile are now out through Angry Robot Books!
Kristy: Susan Murray (loud cheering ensues)! Welcome to Book Frivolity! Are you ready to face the crazy?
Susan: Thank you! Delighted to be here. I firmly believe the world’s a better place for a little craziness.
Kristy: Tell us a bit about yourself! Please include at least one weird fact, so we readers can confirm that authors are in fact human, and not godlike creatures.
Susan: I live in rural Cumbria with occasional family members, a dog and a cat. One of the best things I ever did was studying for an Open University degree as a mature student. A confessional moment: I covet my teen daughter’s ‘I solemnly swear I am up to no good’ t-shirt, even though it probably wouldn’t fit me.
Kristy: So, let's talk books! Waterborne Exile, the second book in your Waterborne series, is arrived on shelves only a few days ago! How has the 'second book' process been going, compared to the first?
Susan: The second book experience has been very, very different. For the first book I had all the time in the world and was able to take the whole thing apart, reassemble and rewrite half of it after completing the first draft. I had feedback on short sections of it from fellow students on a course with The Writers’ Workshop to help with this. Later on, I sought feedback from beta readers before preparing the final, much-revised version for submission. Through most of this process I was able to reassure myself no one was ever likely to read it anyway.
I had to find myself a new mantra for the second book: people were going to read it and, worse, compare it to the first one. I settled for the less than snappy ‘You can’t edit nothing.’ There was a deadline to work to and we were in the process of selling our house which proved pretty counter-productive when trying to immerse myself in a fictional world. I had to set the new manuscript aside when editorial notes arrived on the first book. In some ways this was helpful as it gave me more time to think through plot issues, but returning to the sequel took more time than I’d hoped and in the end I had to request an extension to the delivery deadline. My editor Phil Jourdan was the first person to set eyes on the completed manuscript and the wait for his verdict was far more nerve-wracking than submitting the first book had been.
I seem to have skipped a few weeks! Things have been a bit strange around here, due to a combination of general life peculiarities. I think normality meter is starting to flatten out. I hope!
Outside it's turning into the moors of Wuthering Heights around here! Which suits me just fine... I love a bit of wild and spooky weather, even if it means power outages and flickering internet connections..
Artist Laura Matthews finds her new home in the Welsh mountains to be a place so charged with tales and legends that she is able to reach through the gossamer-fine veil that separates her own world from that of myth and fable.
She and her husband Dan have given up their city life and moved to Blaencwm, an ancient longhouse high in the hills. Here she hopes that the wild beauty will inspire her to produce her best art and will give her the baby they have longed for. But this high valley is also home to others, such as Rhys the charismatic loner who pursues Laura with fervor. And Anwen, the wise old woman from the neighboring farm who seems to know so much but talks in riddles. And then there is Merlin.
Lamp Black, Wolf Grey tells both Laura's story and Merlin's. For once he too walked these hills, with his faithful grey wolf at his heel. It was here he fell in love with Megan, nurse-maid to the children of the hated local noble, Lord Geraint. Merlin was young, at the start of his renowned career as a magician, but when he refuses to help Lord Geraint it is Megan who may pay the price.
Reviewed from ARC provided by St. Martin's Griffin.
Narrative: Third Person, Past Tense, Subjective
I honestly had to think a while before writing this review, because my initial reaction toward Lamp Black, Wolf Grey was a sort of bewildered frown, and I wasn't quite sure why the book had missed the mark with me in such a major way. Like all of Brackston's books, the writing was extremely well done, clear, concise and beautiful, always with that slightly lyrical slant that expounds the love felt for the Welsh countryside. The plot was interesting in some parts, in a 'bunny boiler' thriller kind of way. It's well paced and a fast moving read. So why the negative reaction?