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C Lee Brant
C Lee Brant is the webmaster and founder of Galleywampus. He’s the fellow to contact if you want to set up a giveaway, blog tour, interview or request to review your work. He reads all sorts of books, but his focus lies in epic, military, literary and urban fantasy, children's and YA fiction, and sci-fi. He has an MLIS from SJSU.

The Self-Published Fantast Blog-Off Post 2: Bloodrush & The Thief Who…

The Self-Published Fantast Blog-Off Post 2: Bloodrush & The Thief Who… published on

About the Contest

The Self-published Fantasy Blog-off (SPFBO) is sponsored by Mark Lawrence and carried out by 10 hard-working blogs. You’ve probably heard of Mark Lawrence. He’s written a few books.

The contests itself is explained HERE.

And the final results of the contest are given HERE.

Galleywampus is not directly involved in this contest. However, I will read and review the ten finalists. And maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll be invited to officially take part in the contest next year. I know I want a tower of independently published novels myself.

I’ve decided to write two reviews per post.

The first post can be found HERE, and featured Priest by Matthew Colville and Under a Colder Sun by Greg James.

This second post will feature Bloodrush by Ben Galley and The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by Michael McClung.

The books at the SPFBO are also being rated by the blogs, so I determined to add my own ratings to the mix. I gather that these ratings are on a 1-10 scale. I am comparing these books to my own general preferences, and these preferences tend toward the center. I don’t often assign a 9 or a 10, unless the book truly blows me away. I also don’t assign 1-3 ratings often, unless the book is really, truly something that I can’t find a good thing to say about it. Most of the books I review fall into that 4-8 range.

Reviews

 

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Bloodrush by Ben Galley is sort of like those old books about an old world teen coming to the American frontier. I’ve always wondered if I view these books differently because I am on the frontier end rather than the point of origin. But this isn’t quite By the Great Horn Spoon or “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West.” The whole “feel” if this book is nostalgic.

This is a world similar to our own, but the tweaks are intriguing. America is a kingdom, at least in alternative 1867. Faeries are real and they’re not Tinkerbellesque. Spirits of the land, compiling bodies from railroad ties and rails and broken wood, destroy Railroads in America and eat people.

The magic (sorry, magick!) has been deeply considered, and I enjoyed that aspect. Bloodrushing is interesting, and it reminded me favorably of the magic system developed by Brandon Sanderson for Mistborn. Both involve ingesting a substance to obtain specific powers, and both are limited by what the person is capable of turning into a usable result.

Merion isn’t perfect. He’s a kid, thirteen, who has lost a great deal, and then shipped to another country to live with an aunt he didn’t know existed. I understand his perspective. Going from posh England to Middle-of-Nowhere Wyoming is tough to handle. He does whine a fair amount. But I’ve read a lot of YA and children’s fiction, and I don’t think it is more than I see in many of those works.

His aunt, Lilain, is fairly likable, in an eager frontier-woman sort of way. Rhin and Lurker are also somewhat stock, but I feel they overcome their humble origins and add something interesting to the tale. We see a few surprises through Rhin, and surprises always make me happy.

This is a coming of age story. We see a boy become a man here, and the sequel will likely follow the young man into adulthood.

I’m left with a wary feeling for this book in one area, and this is in regard to the native inhabitants to the Americas–the ones settlers forced into smaller and smaller areas while their land was taken away. You know, the Shohari. No, not the indigenous Americans, or “Indians” as some call them, or as they were often called in the 1800s. As far as I can tell, the Native American humans don’t exist here. Rather, there are humanoid inhuman, somewhat more animal than person, beings who take the place of the “majestic savage” here. Considering the amount of dehumanizing that happened to the Native Americans in the real world, it makes me awfully uncomfortable to see them erased and re-imagined for the sake of magical beings. I don’t think this was the intention of the author, but it kept popping into the back of my mind as I read the book.

Overall, I liked it. I liked it a lot. I enjoyed it enough that I picked up Bloodmoon already and will have a full review of that book up, er. Eventually.

Rating: 8.0

 

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The Thief Who Pulled on Trouble’s Braids by  Michael McClung.

This was an enjoyable tale. It felt sort of like a western, though it is obviously a fantasy work. The primary character, Amra Thetys, is a no-nonsense, frontier-woman feeling character who happens to be a hell of a thief. She tends to stay out of trouble, but she has a hard time keeping this philosophy when a good friend is murdered. She digs into the motivations and events that led to his death, and from there things get really weird. And dangerous. And fun–for the reader, anyway.

This was easily one of my favorite works from the blog-off. There is enough history and weird powers and secrets to keep things grounded, with enough action and humor to keep the book moving along at a brisk pace. It’s short, but I think it was the right length for the book. And knowing there are more books in the series, I’ve already downloaded the second book from Amazon. I’m looking forward to delving deeper into The Thief Who… stories.

Rating: 8.0

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off Post 1: Priest & Under a Colder Sun

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off Post 1: Priest & Under a Colder Sun published on

About the Contest

The Self-published Fantasy Blog-off (SPFBO) is sponsored by Mark Lawrence and carried out by 10 hard-working blogs. You’ve probably heard of Mark Lawrence. He’s written a few books.

The contests itself is explained HERE.

The ten finalists are listed HERE.

And these are the ratings given to the books so far HERE.

Galleywampus is not directly involved in this contest. However, I will read and review the ten finalists. And maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll be invited to officially take part in the contest next year. I know I want a tower of independently published novels myself.

I’ve decided to write two reviews per post. This first post will feature Priest by Matthew Colville and Under a Colder Sun by Greg James.

The books at the SPFBO are also being rated by the blogs, so I determined to add my own ratings to the mix. I gather that these ratings are on a 1-10 scale. I am comparing these books to my own general preferences, and these preferences tend toward the center. I don’t often assign a 9 or a 10, unless the book truly blows me away. I also don’t assign 1-3 ratings often, unless the book is really, truly something that I can’t find a good thing to say about it. Most of the books I review fall into that 4-8 range.

Reviews

priest

Priest by Matthew Colville is an interesting work of fiction. I was often left uncertain about what would happen next. It is a bit like a work of noir, but that isn’t quite right. “A fantasy hard-boiled” is on the cover, and that’s partially what I experienced. It reminds me a bit of an episode of an old crime program, or a locked-room mystery. We know that something happened, and we know the end result. This is sort of a “whodoneit.” We don’t know who did it, or why, or even specifically how it was done. The protagonist isn’t given much to work with.

My biggest complaints, honestly, are that 1) Heden, the protagonist, was often needlessly cruel to the knights, in ways that felt slightly out of character based on some of his previous actions, and 2) he’s terribly obtuse. These areas work as both strengths and weaknesses of the work. I think the book would have been significantly shorter and we would have observed much less of interest if Heden had used this old adage by Epictetus: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” He wants to swing in, get his answers, and go back to his self-inflicted hermitage. That’s not the job he was asked to do, it isn’t the job that would have simplified his and others’ lives, and it wasn’t what was in the best interest of the story.

The book is not a typical fantasy. It isn’t really a quest narrative, and it certainly isn’t a “coming of age” story. The protagonist isn’t a teen or twenty-something. In these areas, the book is a breath of fresh air. Fantasy isn’t a genre for endless Tolkien revisions.

I enjoyed the work. There are some interesting characters throughout, the mysteries within the forest are intriguing, and I’d really like to step down into that basement. There were parts that remained unwritten, which is fine; there are more books.

Rating: 6.5

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Under a Colder Sun by Greg James is a bit of grimdark (or dark fantasy, maybe sword and sorcery) fiction with a Conan-like protagonist in Khale the Wanderer. Not young Conan. Old Man Conan, if he also had sorcery at his disposal and immortality at hand. Khale is a badass. He is more complicated than first laid out for the reader, and I appreciated that complexity. Sure, he’s a “bad guy” but he has layers.

The protagonists are not particularly likable. These aren’t good guys trying to kill bad guys. These are mostly just bad guys. The motivations are realistic (to the story) and their actions fit their worldviews. I didn’t really have anyone to cheer for, with Khale being the most interesting.

There are some over-simplified characters that feel like they are the archetypes of, rather than depictions of, full-on characters.

The story is written well. While there are some areas that I feel like I’ve read before, there was some new as well. Ultimately, this book wasn’t really my taste. But it is worth a go if the basic concept catches your attention.

Rating: 5.5

[Review] The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman

[Review] The Love of Danger by Jeremy Zimmerman published on

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Review

Jeremy Zimmerman’s Kensei is a tightly-plotted, dramatic-comedic YA superhero tale about a kick-ass bi-racial, teen, lesbian crime fighter named Jamie Hattori, who targets baddies in Cobalt City through her ability to communicate with the spirits of places and inanimate objects in the city. As if dealing with her own family, school, and relationship drama wasn’t enough, she has a massive deity problem to handle. If you haven’t read it yet, give it a shot. It’s a fun YA title with a nice crossover appeal.

The Kickstarted sequel, The Love of Danger, continues the adventures of Jamie Hattori. And now we’ve got undead, fascist villains and their robots, plenty of relationship (family, professional, and romance) drama, and Jamie’s new set of skills.

I love the backdrop, with Jamie working in a world already populated by well-known Cobalt City superheroes. Her experience is a bit like being a minor superhero in The Incredibles, but with less family togetherness and more getting smacked around by her racist grandfather. The shared world Zimmerman accesses gives him some interesting characters and events pre-fabricated, a history of conflicts and resolutions, of biases and trust issues that already populate the landscape. We also learn a great deal more about the conflicts and motivations of some of the awesome characters from the first go-round.

The first book gripped me more than the second, but The Love of Danger is an excellent follow-up and I am looking forward to where the series goes next.

 

Links:

Goodreads
Amazon

About the Author

Jeremy Zimmerman is a teller of tales who dislikes cute euphemisms for writing like “teller of tales.” His fiction has most recently appeared in 10Flash Quarterly, Arcane and anthologies from Timid Pirate Publishing. He is also the editor for Mad Scientist Journal. He lives in Seattle with five cats and his lovely wife (and fellow author) Dawn Vogel.

Favorite Books of 2015

Favorite Books of 2015 published on 1 Comment on Favorite Books of 2015

We’ve been in business for only four months at this point.

I’ve (subjectively) read a lot of books this year. My partners here have (objectively) read a lot of books. This particular list will just be my own favorite books published in 2015. Some of the others here would probably add their own opinions on the year, if asked. For example, Wilbanks would probably list Carol Berg’s Ash and Silver as a best book of the year, definitely Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Quest. Erickson would tout Kate Elliott’s Court of Fives, I bet, and Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman is up there.

There are many great books I’ve read this year that were published previous to 2015–like First Light (The Red) by Linda Nagata, Red Rising by Pierce Brown, and Django Wexler’s first two Shadow Campaigns books: The Thousand Names and The Shadow Throne. These books were fantastic, and while there are sequels I suspect I’ll enjoy that came out in 2015, I haven’t gotten to them yet. Mea culpa.

For this list, if a book was previously published independently, but was published this year via traditional publishers, or vice versa, I’ll count the book for 2015.

Until I started this blog, I rarely read a book the year it was published, so most of these are books I’ve read in the last four months.

My personal favorites of the year:

Fantasy:

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Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

The book’s first chapter left me expecting a different book than the one that was described on the cover. I liked the book better as it opened up and the world came into view. As much fun as the pit fight was, I wanted something deeper and more atmospheric than “Gladiator in the Desert” would have delivered. Twelve Kings propelled me forward, forcing me to turn pages while still buffeting me in imagery, flashbacks, and history. Çeda and the Kings have a lot of story left in them, and I’m dying for book two.

Last Song Before Night by Ilana C. Myer

Last Song Before Night

This was a lovely book with a lot of imagery and complicated, broken, and unexpected characters. It is a hard book to describe without giving things away. The book explores love, desire, obsession, faith, power and sorrow. I think many of those who enjoyed Twelve Kings would enjoy this book. It stands alone quite well, though I’m hoping for future chronicles in this world.

Urban Fantasy

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Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This is much more of a love story than I expected. The magic here involves music. Early on, I was left wondering if there would actually be any magic in the book, but then BOOM, there it was. I enjoyed seeing how the book evolved. I felt shadows of other “teens learning magic” story lines, like the movie The Craft. And the leads are not always likable–they are flawed, as we all are, but flawed in ways that sometimes repelled me from them. A certain magic did flow through this book, though, and I enjoyed it for that.

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Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
This was a creative work of young adult urban fantasy. I liked the magic and how it was used by those who were deeply a part of the neighborhood, and how it came across in art and music, much how culture is retained through the arts. The mythology of magic is really well done. There are some genuinely scary moments, particularly for the age group the book aims for. The characters are realistic in many ways, and some of the scenes were beautifully rendered. I have a few issues with the antagonist and his motivations. But I think I understand the decisions Older made and why he made them.

Science Fiction:

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The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

If you’ve been missing Firefly and character-driven books about wacky characters, this might alleviate some of your pain/craving. It was just a hell of a lot of fun. The book also does one of the things that I think science fiction is uniquely situated to do–delve into what it means to be “human.”

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Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

My only complaint is that one word here is particularly overused, chum. Otherwise, this is a sort of epistolary novel, based entirely around illustrations, text messages, manuals, reports, and the like. It’s extremely innovative and clever, and that goes a long way in my book. There is a strong relationship thread running throughout, and the book has some pretty brutal scenes for a “YA” novel. I’d call this just a novel, myself. If you’re a fan of space zombies, unreliable narration, young love and realistic teen emotions, this is a book to try out. You might want to try it on a color-device, though. My Kindle Paperwhite couldn’t do the art justice.

Steampunk:

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The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher.

I’m already a Butcher fan, so that helped the book hit my “to read” list in the first place. I’ve read a few Steampunk series I liked, but most Steampunk has left me underwhelmed. This book is more Alera than Dresden, so if you’re hoping for Dresden aboard a flying ship, you won’t get that. The characters are interesting, the plot is well-woven, and the technology is mixed with some sort of crystal magic, which makes for a fun read. It would make an excellent “lost Final Fantasy” game circa 1995.

Grimdark

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Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
I’m new to this “Grimdark” thing. I’ve read and enjoyed Martin and Abercrombie, and I’ve seen them listed under that header. But I haven’t enjoyed a lot of the other works that are given to the sub-genre. This one I liked, and the author asserts that he just set out to write a fantasy novel. He’s new to the grimdark crowd, too. It will be deemed grimdark regardless; people love to label things. I feel like saying it is “grimdark for those who don’t like grimdark” but more importantly, it’s just a damned fine book,and transcends easy labels like the works of Abercrombie, Lawrence, and G Double-R Martin. It captures the grim and dark nature of the subgenre, but doesn’t feel excessive to the point of covering the plot and characters with a blanket of impenetrable gore. This book takes the philosophy of “perception becomes reality” and cranks it to 11. It’s an ambitious high-concept premise, and Fletcher delivers on that premise.

Novella, Novelettes

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Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Interesting more for the concepts introduced than the plot-line, Binti is a thoughtful science fiction work. This book does an excellent job of looking at what makes a person “other” and how several characters deal with this. The book took a shift early on that I didn’t expect, and I thought the book did a lot in so few pages.

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In Midnight’s Silence: Los Nefilim: Part One by T Frohock

Look, this series is a serial of sorts. I feel that the five (or however many there end up being) parts of this series, though put out as short fiction, would make a cohesive novel. I enjoyed both of the first two parts, and I can’t wait to read part three. The book has excellent atmosphere, deals with dark themes in a kind way, and features an intriguing story behind the angels, demons and nefilim. I’ve seen a few other books that were meant to be fantasy detective fiction, but this fits the noir feel better than most of those.

State of the Wampus

State of the Wampus published on

Howdy folks!

We’ve been stockpiling content, working on our own creative projects, watching movies like the seventh episode of that little known franchise, and recharging our batteries over the past two-ish months. We dimmed the lights down low, and while we weren’t closed, it might have seemed like it.

I want people to know we’re still live, and we’ll be back in full-force in January!

-We have a lot of The Dresden Files content in the works, and it will be posted to The Butcher Block section of our site soon. THE REAL Jim Butcher did offer up the name The Butcher Block when asked about an appropriate name for the section of the site (I believe the exact words were, “You’ve got to go with The Butcher Block, right?”) so we’ve got that going for us. A complete re-read of the series is in process as we all gear up for Peace Talks. Articles about several aspects of the Dresdenverse are already written and we’ve delved deeper than we (well, some of us) knew the subject could be delved. We have the start of a virtual companion or an (unofficial) Encyclopaedia of All Things Dresden. It will be glorious.

 

-We’ve also collectively read dozens of books and have some reviews already written. We look forward to sharing them with you!

Book Blitz and Excerpt: The Dawn of Dae by Trillian Anderson

Book Blitz and Excerpt: The Dawn of Dae by Trillian Anderson published on 1 Comment on Book Blitz and Excerpt: The Dawn of Dae by Trillian Anderson

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About the Book

The chance to attend college is just what Alexa Daegberht needs to break out the mold of her caste. If she can become a Bach, she can escape the poverty she’s endured ever since her parents died when she was five. Only through education can she rise above her birth caste–and she knows it.

All of her plans fall to dust when she opens a portal within her refrigerator, turning her macaroni and cheese casserole into a sentient being. By dawn the next day, the mysterious dae have come to Earth to stay. Hundreds of thousands of people vanish into thin air, and as the days pass, the total of the missing number in the millions. Some say it’s the rapture of the Christian faith.

Alexa knows better: their dae ate them, leaving behind nothing more than dust as evidence of their hunger.

As one of the unawakened, she doesn’t have a dae, nor can she manifest any forms of magical powers. She’s lacking the innate knowledge of what the dae are and what they mean for the world. Now more than ever, she is an outsider. Her survival hinges on her ability to adapt to a world she no longer understands.

Unfortunately, one of the dae has taken notice of her, and he’ll stop at nothing to have her. Alexa’s problems pile up as she’s forced to pick her allegiances. Will she submit to the new ways of the world? Will she become some monster’s pawn? Or, against all odds, can she forge her own path and prove normal humans can thrive among those gifted with powers once the domain of fantasies and nightmares?

Excerpt

Cigar smoke.

At least my standing at college wouldn’t be risked by inhaling residue from one of Kenneth’s cocktails. If they ever found out I was one of his associates, though, I was screwed. I relaxed and, without looking up from his floor, made my way around the couch closest to the door and plopped down on it. I heard him sit on his armchair, which squeaked as he leaned back.

“I’m not in the mood for your bullshit tonight, my little collie.” My boss lit up, and the stench of his cigar choked off my breath. I knew better than to cough, though. All I’d do was piss him off even more.

I chose to ignore the fact he was calling me by a dog breed instead of my name and nodded my agreement. At least he hadn’t called me Lassie.

If I followed the rules, I’d be okay. I’d leave his house just fine—and Lily wouldn’t have any extra reasons to hate me. Speaking only when spoken to, nodding when appropriate, and always, always addressing him by sir would get me through the meeting.

If the boss had a job for me and paid up, maybe I’d buy Lily a pair of lace panties—in silk. I could get them now, as long as I had the cash for them. All I had to do was survive the meeting with Kenneth and do one last job for him.

“You’re a freshman now, aren’t you?”

Kenneth’s voice was still soft, quiet, and utterly devoid of emotion, so I drew a deep breath, nodded my head obediently, and whispered, “Yes, sir.”

“Full-merit,” he commented, and his tone took on a rueful edge.

“Yes, sir.”

“Now how the hell did a little mutt like you get into Bach studies on full-merit?” he demanded, thumping his fist on the arm of his chair. He smacked it several more times before sighing gustily. “You’re something else, that’s what you are. I obviously wasn’t keeping you busy enough. I am to blame.”

I flinched.

Whoever had been meeting with him before I had arrived had left Kenneth in a bad mood, and his ire was directed at me. Any other day, I would have told him to go cry a river and fill the Chesapeake. I wanted to tell him to stuff it, but I needed the work, and he needed me.

I could go to the places he couldn’t, and he knew it.

About the Author

Opener of Portals. Urban Fantasy Author. Mistress of Giggles. Warped Sense of Humor.

Trillian Anderson is, like so many of us, a figment of someone’s imagination. She was born somewhere in the United States, loves to travel, and has no scruples about moving to new and interesting places around the world. She loves fantasy fiction of all types, but holds a special fondness for urban fantasies, epic fantasies, and stories capable of capturing her imagine.

Most of all, she enjoys grabbing a flashlight, hiding under the blankets, and pretending she’s asleep when she’s, in actuality, reading a beloved book.

Links

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Author’s Website

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