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[Review] Spire City, Season One: Infected by Daniel Ausema

[Review] Spire City, Season One: Infected by Daniel Ausema published on No Comments on [Review] Spire City, Season One: Infected by Daniel Ausema

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Spire City, Season One: Infected
By Daniel Ausema

Over the years, I have read many books from various authors; and a variety of genres, but never in my 30+ years on this planet have I read a serialized novel before. I’ll admit it, at first, it threw me, and I thought this book just wasn’t for me. However, the way Daniel Ausema crafts his story made me want to continue reading this book, and I was rewarded with an intriguing tale.

Chels is our main character, she is an immigrant orphan girl whose only real family is a bunch of misfits that are brought together by the fact they have all been touched by a virus that turns a regular human into an actual animal. She lives in a world where the rich and the powerful do not care about the poor and the weak and this brings me to an interesting observation about this book. I cannot help, but feel that Daniel Ausema was making some sort of social commentary on our world and society within his fictional world as a lot of elements he touches upon are very relevant in modern society. However, throughout this book I was struggling to find a motive as to why anyone would (one) create such and virus and (two) infect a person with said virus. I felt this was a major flaw in this book; until I realized the antagonist doesn’t have a reason he just does it; because he can. Once, I realized this, it sent a chill down my spine. The antagonist, in my opinion, is clearly psychotic and has delusions of grandeur. A man with a plan is dangerous enough, but a man without one can be absolutely terrifying in my opinion. Once, this realization hit me it blew me away; and the plot just unfolded perfectly for that moment on. But the book doesn’t deviate from its core element that this book is a story about the have and have-not of society and what use is a good man or woman; if he or she is unwilling or powerless to do anything to change the environment around them.

Daniel Ausema has crafted a really interesting tale that is both amazing and terrifying all at once; I can’t help, but be excited by it. One of the really cool things in this book is the flying, and non-flying beetles that are used as modes of transport; they’re really cool, and I want to ride one! Our band of misfits all seemed like really interesting characters. But would have preferred if more time could have been spent on fleshing them out a slightly more. The upper-class characters aren’t written as evil mustache twirling villains; because they’re not. They simply don’t care enough to realize what one twisted individual is doing towards a class of people that the wider population simply doesn’t care enough about to notice their plight.

So, will you, like it? Perseverance is necessary for this book in my opinion; as it does take a while to grow accustomed to the style of the book if you haven’t read anything like this before. But; not only that it’s a slow burner, and I know some people will not like that. However, if you stick with it, then you’re left with a memorable story that will leave you, wanting more. I’m definitely going to recommend this one to my friends. If you enjoyed the book, as much as, I have you really want to read the follow-ups Season Two: Pursued and the upcoming Season Three: Unwoven.

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.

Carol Berg is a genius, I am not exaggerating or anything

Carol Berg is a genius, I am not exaggerating or anything published on 2 Comments on Carol Berg is a genius, I am not exaggerating or anything

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Ever since the Order of the Equites Cineré stole his memory, his name, and his heart, thinking about the past makes Greenshank’s head ache. After two years of rigorous training, he is almost ready to embrace the mission of the Order—to use selfless magic to heal the troubles of Navronne. But on his first assignment alone, the past comes racing back, threatening to drown him in conspiracy, grief, and murder.

He is Lucian de Remeni—a sorcerer whose magical bents for portraiture and history threaten the safety of the earth and the future of the war-riven kingdom of Navronne. He just can’t remember how or why.

Fighting to unravel the mysteries of his power, Lucian must trace threads of corruption that reach from the Pureblood Registry into the Order itself, the truth hidden two centuries in the past and beyond the boundaries of the world…

A few words about this book. Several years ago, she wrote a duology about a young wastrel named Valen, who is addicted to drugs and on the run from his family. Obviously, there is much there that resonates with me, and the Lighthouse Duology became two of my favorite books ever. Berg is one of those writers who likes to keep it fresh and exciting — much like Guy Gavriel Kay, she completes a project and then starts over with a fresh world, new characters, a new system of magic, and new challenges. Never once did I think she would return to Navronne and to Valen. Then, a couple years ago, she announced that she would indeed be exploring Navronne again, in a companion series.

I have to admit, that made me groan. If there is one thing I like more than falling in love with a character, it is having the promise of more books featuring said character. A new duology set in Navronne, but void of Valen? It seemed a sort of torture. There is room for more about Valen — the ending of Breath and Bone seemed poised to be the perfect spring from which a new duet could emerge.

And then I read Dust and Light.

Lucian is the complete opposite of my favorite rampaging drug addict. He never met a rule he didn’t love to uphold, he took his responsibilities seriously, and he would never, ever have repudiated his family as did Valen. Lawful good types usually annoy me, but there is something beautiful and pure about Lucian.

The world-building, though. I am deeply amazed at how the two duets fit so seamlessly together. The Sanctuary books (Dust and Light, and Ash and Silver) fulfill the Lighthouse books, and give them more meaning, more nuance. I don’t know how she did this, I really don’t. Maybe she had Lucian in mind all the while she wrote Valen. Perhaps she knew the mysteries of the Sanctuary duet before she even probed the mysteries of the Lighthouse. Perhaps she is a genius.

I miss my drug addict wastrel Valen, but throughout Ash and Silver, Lucian became the bravest man I have ever met. Word is that she will one day return to Navronne to finish the story, to have the unstoppable Valen meet immovable Lucian, to see what happens when Order meets Disorder. Until that day comes, I think I will go ahead and reread all the books (again) to see if there are any connections I missed the first three times. Come join me!

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Carol Berg is the author of several fantasy novels, including the books from the Rai-Kirah series, Song of the Beast, the books from The Bridge of D’Arnath series, the Lighthouse novels, the Collegia Magica Chronicles, and the Sanctuary Duet.

Berg holds a degree in mathematics from Rice University, and a degree in computer science from the University of Colorado.[1] Before writing full-time, she designed software. She lives in Colorado, and is the mother of three boys.

Review: In Light of the Blood Giant by A. D. Fosse

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About the Book

In Light of the Blood Giant
By A. D. Fosse
Genre: Animal Fantasy; Science Fiction; Dystopian; Apocalyptic
Superluminal Press
Publication Date: November 13, 2015

A. D. Fosse delivers a darkly different futurist fantasy. Offbeat, subversive, and richly grotesque. The apocalypse just got weird…

Long after the death of humankind came the Hive. Then rose the Blood Giant bringing chaos and the end. Now the Earth is done and all that remains are the discontinued: those the Hive deemed unworthy of evacuation.

Dusk is addled and abandoned. His only concern now is deciding how best to die. The only thing he knows for certain: he aint gonna be sober when extinction finally takes him. Yet hope hides in the strangest of places. And soon Dusk finds himself responsible for more than simply his own destiny.

Great. Another thing to love and lose.

Review

This is an odd one. I mean that in a good way. Mostly.

After humans abandon the earth completely, escaping the impending expansion of the sun from a yellow dwarf into a red giant, shuttling off into space to find a way to live, the swarm of rats came up, out of the depths of the earth and started their own civilization. Then, even the rats, evolved and intelligent and now with useful stomach pouches, realize that the earth isn’t habitable for much longer, and most of them–the ones who are pure or worthy, anyway–leave the earth as well.

This is where the tale begins–with a drug-fiend rat named Dusk, left behind by his betters to die. One of the strengths of Fosse’s tale is that his lead character is not human. This allows for some dark events–for example, a lead human character whose first “onscreen” acts are shooting drugs and eating some infants wouldn’t be likable. For a rat, we’re left remembering that rats aren’t people. They have their own societal norms, acceptable practices, and biological drives. Dusk isn’t especially likable to begin with, even aside from the drug dependency and the “ratricide.” But after his drug-aided consumption of several young rats and subsequent loss of consciousness, he awakens to discover that one of the tiny-tails is still alive. Having been abandoned to the earth’s destruction, Dusk doesn’t see much reason to try to save the infant. But he does feel that the little rodent deserves a better death. His feelings alter and change, we eventually see more of his past, and we see a different future than he imagined. The protagonist isn’t static by any means.

In some ways, this book is a bit like The Road meets The Rats of NIMH as told by a British version of a beat-generation author–William S. Burroughs, maybe. We meet some other interesting characters along the way: a sociopath called only “the Snowy,” a pure white rat who hasn’t dropped his job from before the establishment left; Astral, a black rat who is in dire straits when we meet her; some mysterious rats wearing masks, other rats that shave their heads and have a bone to pick. The setting seems to be (if I parsed it correctly) continental Europe and England, each owning about half of the book.

This book is non-traditional in every sense of the word. We even shift to several other third-person semi-limited points of view toward the end of the book, leaving Dusk behind for a brief time when the action is thickest.

On the critical side, this book could use another run of edits. There are several missed spelling errors, some areas that need clarification, and some metaphors that don’t fit the time, setting, or characters . Another set of eyes could bring this book from a flawed mid-draft of an intriguing concept to a hell of a book. I’d love to see the book get a deep combing through by a professional editor. In the meantime, I worry that this is a clever work that might be passed over by readers who don’t want to work so hard to get to the dark (but hopeful) story and characters underneath.

 

About the Author

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A. D. Fosse is a physicist and science communicator from the East Midlands of England. His brain is rarely elevated more than five feet and eight inches from terra firma, though his thoughts are wafting somewhere in the clouds.

He is younger than some and older than others.

His first novel In Light of the Blood Giant, continues to be elusive to read whilst driving.

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Review and Giveaway: Children of Lightning by Annie K. Wong

Review and Giveaway: Children of Lightning by Annie K. Wong published on 2 Comments on Review and Giveaway: Children of Lightning by Annie K. Wong

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About the Book

Secrets beget secrets. The curse that befell the Hollows clan has left them incapable of producing male offspring. To extend their bloodline, they have formed a covenant with the serpentine Ophidians, who give them children. In return, the Hollows must keep these monstrous creatures well fed, though the details of the procurement are so abominable that the truth is never revealed to the other clans. In their homeland of Matikki, they live like outcasts.

Through a series of chance discoveries, the secrets of the ancient curse unfold before a warrior named Writhren Hollow. Is her purely female clan the result of a lapse of divine providence, or are the Hollows themselves victims of an enslavement scheme?

If Writhren frees her clan from the covenant, she risks the wrath of the Ophidians and the future of her bloodline. If she keeps the truth of the curse to herself, she is a traitor to her own kind. Either way, she will suffer for what she must do.

This is not a story of redemption, but regret. This is Writhren’s story.

Review

CoLCover

There is an intriguing, unique concept moving through this book. I enjoyed the remarkably alien world, the largely female cast of characters, the god-like, reptilian Ophidians who bring such terror with them, the story of mothers and daughters and terrible choices that must be made for survival. The poetic mnemonics are well written and provide some ideas about the background of the Ophidians.

The sorrowful start of the tale, with the exchange between Mother and the Ophidians, is interesting.

I found Writhren to be a different sort of heroine. She’s strong, but she is also living a lie. Her story is serious, difficult, moving.

The tale is short, which is both a strength and a weakness. As a strength, we are given a lot of concepts in a short number of pages. However, the level of detail is lacking from what I expect in a novel, but there is enough for a novella or short story. This book’s length leaves it in a sort of limbo. We jump forward at times very quickly. In some ways, this creates a less typical narrative. I find myself having a difficult time talking about the work when there is so much that should be kept for the reader. This is, essentially, a prequel for the eventual series. For me, overall, this was an imperfect, but worthy lead-in to what will be the full series.

I am curious about what happens in the full series, and in some ways, wish I had read that series first. It sounds like I’ll probably have to wait for the author to write them first, though.

About the Author

AnnieAnnie K. Wong was born in Hong Kong and lives in Canada, in the west coast city of Vancouver, BC.

She has a BA in Business Administration and Creative Writing from Houghton College as well as a Diploma in Film Studies from the University of British Columbia. Although she explored careers in advertising, television and office administration, the desire to write overtook her at the turn of the new millennium. In 2003 she earned a Post-Graduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Humber College and has been crafting stories ever since.

Her current project is a fantasy series, the prequel of which is Children of Lightning.

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Giveaway

I’m a big fan of the Hyperion series.

Also, there are two Amazon.ca giftcards being given away: one for $50 and one for $100. Just in time for holiday shopping.

I hope the winner learns about the giveaway from our blog here!

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Review: Best Left in the Shadows by Gelineau and King

Review: Best Left in the Shadows by Gelineau and King published on No Comments on Review: Best Left in the Shadows by Gelineau and King

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About the Book

A Highside girl. Beaten. Murdered. Her body found on a Lowside dock. A magistrate comes looking for answers. For justice.

Alys trades and sells secrets among the gangs and factions of Lowside. She is a daughter of the underworld. Bold. Cunning. Free. When an old lover asks for help, she agrees. For a price.

Together, they travel into the dark heart of the underworld in search of a killer.

This is the third novella from Gelineau and King. In their ongoing, over-arching series, Echoes of the Ascended, there are four distinct series under the Echoes of the Ascended banner, all taking place in the same world. Each has a different feel. The first three series, those featuring Elinor, Ferran, and Alys take place somewhat around the same time. The fourth, which is a YA series that begins in December, jumps us back five years and follows Roan and Kay, along with the protagonists from the other three series.

It’s an unorthodox approach, but I applaud the audacity of the creators. And there is no reason that books with different influences shouldn’t take place in the same world. I would be interested in reading a grim, monster-hunting novel in the Harry Potter world, or the hard-boiled detective novel lurking in the streets of a city in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series.

We reviewed the second novella, Rend the Dark, HERE. It’s a monster-hunter driven book. It fits along the basic concept and feel of works like the movie Van Helsing, or Rick Yancey’s YA title The Monstrumologist, or heck, the video game Bloodborne.

The first novella, Reaper of Stone, which we reviewed HERE, had a high-fantasy face, and followed Elinor as she became a Reaper.

Review

This third novella, Best Left in the Shadows, is an interesting fantasy noir title; in some ways, it feels like a police procedural. Castle in Riften, maybe. It is, at heart, a detective novella. But it owns the setting and trappings of your typical urban city fantasy work. Don’t confuse that with “urban fantasy” because this is not UF. The setting shifts from the docks at night, to narrow alleyways, sewerscapes and waterways, and a seedy brothel.

Alys trades in information and favors. Due to a shared, complicated past, she assists a magistrate in the investigation of a murder on her local turf. She’s not usually the sort to help the authorities, and it isn’t good for her reputation. This provides some good conflict between the protagonists.

I do wish that the work was longer. Novellas fall into an interesting space between short stories and novels. Short stories, the good ones, make every word count. Novels have the ability to stretch out scenes, build atmosphere and tone, give us foils and time enough to live there. Novellas don’t provide the length to feel lived in, nor staccato precision. I want to live in these works long enough to fully understand the characters, setting, magic system, monsters and creatures and politics. I suppose that’s why it is good that these novellas continue on.

This is one of those stories that left me thinking, “I want to play this video game.” I enjoyed the overall tone, setting and character sketches. Conceptually, this is the best fit for me as a reader. Ultimately, though, I think I’ve enjoyed Reaper of Stone the most of the first three entries. But the first three novellas have combined into an intriguing patchwork quilt of story. And I’m excited to finish the short edge of the quilt with book four in December.

Best Left in the Shadows was released on 11/15/2015, and is available in E-book HERE.

The series

About the Authors

Mark and Joe have been writing and telling stories together for the last 25 years. They share a love for the classic fantasy tales of their childhood. Their Echoes of the Ascended series brings those old epic characters and worlds to new life.

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