Saturday 30 April 2016

Books Received in April 2016

My thanks, as always, to the publishers who sent me review copies this month.

Dawn of Procyon
 by Mark Healy - A flawed but entertaining book.  You can read my review of it here

A distant planet. A deadly secret.

Seventeen years after it began, the interstellar war has taken its toll: the inhabitants of Earth are desperate to find a way to defeat the Argoni, a merciless and horrifying alien race.

Light years away from the fighting, mechanic Landry Stanton lives a peaceful, mundane life on the desolate planet Procyon A, and that’s just the way he likes it. But when an unauthorized trip to the other side of the planet leaves him shipwrecked and stranded alongside a hostile alien that wants him dead, Landry discovers a terrifying secret: the Argoni threat is greater than anyone back on Earth imagined.

With his oxygen and water running out, and with no way to warn the United Earth Marines, Landry’s lonely fight for survival becomes a battle for humanity itself.

Battlestorm by Susan Krinard - This is the third book in Krinard's Midgard urban fantasy series, which starts with Mist.

Centuries ago, the Norse gods and goddesses fought their Last Battle with the trickster god Loki and his frost giants. All were believed lost, except for a few survivors...including the Valkyrie Mist, forgotten daughter of the goddess Freya.
But the battle isn't over, and Mist--living a mortal life in San Francisco--is at the center of a new war, with the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance. As old enemies and allies reappear around the city, Mist must determine who to trust, while learning to control her own growing power.
It will take all of Mist's courage, determination, and newfound magical abilities to stop Loki before history repeats itself.

Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer - I'm about half way through this book and it's... interesting.  It comes out May 10th and I expect to have my review of it up that day.

Mycroft Canner is a convict. For his crimes he is required, as is the custom of the 25th century, to wander the world being as useful as he can to all he meets. Carlyle Foster is a sensayer--a spiritual counselor in a world that has outlawed the public practice of religion, but which also knows that the inner lives of humans cannot be wished away.
The world into which Mycroft and Carlyle have been born is as strange to our 21st-century eyes as ours would be to a native of the 1500s. It is a hard-won utopia built on technologically-generated abundance, and also on complex and mandatory systems of labelling all public writing and speech. What seem to us normal gender distinctions are now distinctly taboo in most social situations. And most of the world's population is affiliated with globe-girdling clans of the like-minded, whose endless economic and cultural competion is carefully managed by central planners of inestimable subtlety. To us it seems like a mad combination of heaven and hell. To them, it seems like normal life.

And in this world, Mycroft and Carlyle have stumbled on the wild card that may destablize the system: the boy Bridger, who can effortlessly make his wishes come true. Who can, it would seem, bring inanimate objects to life...

Thursday 28 April 2016

Shout-Out: Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

The English language debut of the bestselling Dutch novel, Hex, from Thomas Olde Heuvelt--a Hugo and World Fantasy award nominated talent to watch

Whoever is born here, is doomed to stay 'til death. Whoever settles, never leaves.

Welcome to Black Spring, the seemingly picturesque Hudson Valley town haunted by the Black Rock Witch, a seventeenth century woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut. Muzzled, she walks the streets and enters homes at will. She stands next to children's bed for nights on end. Everybody knows that her eyes may never be opened or the consequences will be too terrible to bear.

The elders of Black Spring have virtually quarantined the town by using high-tech surveillance to prevent their curse from spreading. Frustrated with being kept in lockdown, the town's teenagers decide to break their strict regulations and go viral with the haunting. But, in so doing, they send the town spiraling into dark, medieval practices of the distant past.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Book Review: Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter

Pros: great characters, excellent world-building, interesting plot


Thames Tidal Power, a co-operative made up mostly of gillungs, is set to start operations when a series of minor accidents occurs. The new company’s quantum-battery technology is poised to upend the energy market, and other powerful players aren’t too happy about that. There’s an election coming soon and the possibility of a new gem positive political party entering the race would split the United People’s Party vote, giving the historically anti-gem Traditional Democratic party a better chance of winning. As political and economic turmoil increases, Zavcka Klist is released from maximum security prison to house arrest. And she’s looking for the ‘daughter’ she lost eight years ago.

This book picks up the story of Gabriel, Gaela, Bal, Aryel, Mikal, Callan, Rhys, etc eight years after the events of Binary.  The focus this time is on Gabriel and Mikal’s families.  Gabriel now works on managing the socialstream commentary around Thames Tidal Power when he isn’t taking university classes.  Along with his parents, he’s very concerned with keeping his adopted sister Eve off the streams in order to keep her safe.

Councillor Mikal Varsi, still an independent candidate, is being courted by both political parties as well as the potential third party.  While the UPP and the new gem party make sense, he’s unsure why the Trads would consider approaching someone very much the opposite of what they stand for.  

Mikal’s wife is now a Detective Superintendent, and keeping a close eye on the investigation into the accidents at the new power station.

It’s cool seeing how everyone’s grown, and also to see how time and change don’t necessarily remove the barriers and hatreds of ignorance, fear, and bigotry.

The story’s quite interesting and flowed nicely.  There were a good number of unexpected twists, and while one aspect of the ending was fairly obvious, there were others that were not.  I was particularly impressed with the last chapter that really rapped up the trilogy well.

While it’s possible to read this book without the others, the author assumes a familiarity with the characters, so backstory is left unexplained.  This makes a few of the relationships harder to grasp if you don’t know them already.  The ending is also somewhat dependant on knowing who Zavcka is and what she’s done in the past.

This is a brilliant series, highly recommended.

Out May 3rd.

Friday 22 April 2016

Stranger Than Fiction: Octopus Photographer

Someone posted this article on facebook mentioning how Sony gave a New Zealand aquarium a camera in a special underwater housing to show how durable their cameras are as well as how smart octopuses are.  It apparently only took 3 tries for the octopus to figure out how to use it and now it takes photos of visitors.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Shout-Out: The Art and Science of Intergalactic War by Field Marhsal S. Myrston

As a young cadet, Private Myrston led troops against the Victoriana rebellion where he earned a reputation as a fearless soldier and cunning tactician. His meteoric rise to Emperor of the Molagrian Empire was paved with sound battle strategies, a winning smile and clever assassinations of several superior officers. As emperor, he sought out and engaged in countless conflicts with a multitude of sentient lifeforms during his reign. It was during this period that he mastered several forms of invasion, administration and religious manipulation for profit. In this text, Myrston has plagiarized wildly from Molagrian and Nebraxian classic texts infinitely better than this one to provide a concise set of tenants guaranteeing intergalactic success. Learn how to take control of the planet, establish a government that suits your needs and then seek out and annihilate exotic, intelligent lifeforms throughout the galaxy.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Video: Movies with Mikey

My husband found this channel recently and we've been quickly going through their backlist.  The videos, by Mike Neumann, go into a lot of depth, so it's best if you've seen what he's talking about both because of the spoilers and because analysis is always better when you know the media.  He does a lot of older films, making me want to rewatch stuff I haven't seen in years.  I don't always agree with his criticism (personally I enjoyed the Ladyhawke soundtrack, though I know he's not alone in panning it), but on the whole he's got some great insights.

Here's his analysis of Cabin in the Woods to get you started.

Monday 18 April 2016

Book Review: Dawn of Procyon by Mark Healy

Pros: fascinating aliens, Landry’s resourcefulness 

Cons: cliched characters, Landry comprehends the alien with remarkable speed

When Landry agrees to help a friend he has no idea that favour will leave him stranded on the surface of Proc-One, oxygen running out, no way to communicate with the base, and no hope of a rescue.  Then he realizes that one of the alien enemy Argoni is nearby, cannibalizing the wreck of his scout ship.

Cait’s the optech promoted to supervisor after Landry’s disappearance.  Her day’s not going well either.  Her boss is unreasonable, work is piling up, there’s an emergency repair that brings its own mystery, and she’s found a picture of Landry with a mystery woman.  She wants to enjoy her promotion but keeps thinking of Landry and wondering if he really is dead.

Landry’s a pretty resourceful character, surviving in harsh conditions for a surprising amount of time. Though lots of new problems arise, he faces each one and finds a solution. I really enjoyed his man vs nature chapters. The book spends a lot of time trying to get away from the initial impression of him as an anti-social workaholic. He’s portrayed as mostly friendless, with few redeeming qualities. 

For the most part I liked Cait, though she’s somewhat cliched as well, a female mechanic trying to prove her worth to her father and male co-workers. She’s conflicted in that she’s happy to be promoted, but she doesn’t feel that abandoning Landry is fair, regardless of the circumstances for his disappearance. I did find it strange that the picture of Landry and his wife made her reconsider him as a person. I wouldn’t have thought his personal relationships would matter if she believed him a jerk for being so stand offish at work. There’s a chapter towards the end of the book where she makes some baseless assumptions about him that her own investigations don’t support. I talk more about this chapter in the spoiler section below.

There were some plot points that didn’t make much sense to me, starting with how Landry and Gus managed to steal a scout ship out of a military installation that requires passing through some sort of airlock. Surely there would be notification that the outer door has been opened, if there isn’t anything showing that a scout ship has been activated.

While I liked the pacing of most of the book, the ending progresses too quickly to feel realistic. It’s hard to believe Landry could come to comprehend anything at all from something so alien, but to do so as quickly as he does defied belief. I did enjoy learning more about the aliens and found these chapters very interesting, regardless of how contrived parts of it felt.

Having said that, the book’s ending was rather cool, with sequel potential.

This is a flawed book, but one that reads quickly and has some interesting ideas.

To learn more about the book and enter the publisher's giveaways, check out their website.


Cait states in this chapter that Landry was just at the wrong place at the wrong time with regards to his disappearance despite the fact that she actually saw him working on the scout ship before it took off, and therefore knew he was involved with the theft of the plane. She feels bad that she ratted him out, but why? He was clearly acting funny and ended up breaking the law. At this point she has no idea why he did it, just that he did. Similarly, she has the idea that someone would miss him despite meeting his listed next of kin, a woman who doesn’t know his name. And while there’s the photograph, Cait has no idea who the woman is or if she’s alive and/or still cares for Landry. I was also annoyed by her insistence that all lives matter while consistently mentioning Landry ‘and his pilot’. Gus was named, and apparently well liked by several people, even if Cait didn’t know him that well. But she doesn’t care about Gus any more than Landry’s supervisor cares about Landry.

The idea the the army is willing to let expensive equipment go missing with the belief that they can recover the costs from the thieves’ families is ludicrous. Army equipment is very expensive and families won’t have the kind of cash to pay back an expense like that. Especially when we know that Gus’s family has no money and Landry’s been giving all of his money to charity. 

That chapter also mentioned that Cait would return to Earth and confront her father, convincing him that she’s capable of doing mechanic work. I don’t believe this confrontation would have any more effect than the previous times she’s confronted him. Talking to him won’t change his mind or it would have long before this point. Cait’s wasting her time trying for her father’s approval. Sometimes people don’t see eye to eye, and forcing the issue doesn’t solve the problem, it just prolongs it. If Cait’s happy with her optech job, than a better response would be to stop wishing for her father’s blessing and just get on with her life, enjoying the work she does. Because he’s never going to give her the validation she craves. And while making a positive decision in your life can remove negative thoughts and emotions for a short time, they’re patterns of behaviour and will return. To get rid of them completely she’d need to sit down and work through her issues, slowly replacing her negative thought patterns with positive one. 

Sunday 17 April 2016

Shout-Out: The Emperor’s Railroad by Guy Haley

Global war devastated the environment, a zombie-like plague wiped out much of humanity, and civilization as we once understood it came to a standstill. But that was a thousand years ago, and the world is now a very different place.

Conflict between city states is constant, superstition is rife, and machine relics, mutant creatures and resurrected prehistoric beasts trouble the land. Watching over all are the silent Dreaming Cities. Homes of the angels, bastion outposts of heaven on Earth. Or so the church claims. Very few go in, and nobody ever comes out.
Until now.

Friday 15 April 2016

Book Review: The Divine Comedy: Inferno by Dante Alighieri

Translated by Mark Musa

Pros: excellent translation and notes, poem is easy to read and pay attention to, fascinating descriptions

Cons: daunting, miss a lot, lots of politics

Dante the pilgrim wakes in a fearsome wood and is guided by the pagan poet Virgil through Hell.

This is a poem I’ve wanted to read for years and have always delayed because it’s so intimidating.  Having read a lot of medieval works in university, I can attest that translation matters.  A lot.  A good translation can pull you into a book and fire your imagination.  A poor translation can make the most interesting material into a slog, boring and tedious.

In looking for a translation of the Divine Comedy I took my own bookseller advice.  I grabbed a bunch of different translations and read the first few lines to see which one was the clearest in terms of language while being able to maintain my interest.  The copy I ended up with is translated by Mark Musa (Penguin Classics edition).  I was even happier with my decision after I read his introduction to the poem and translation notes.  This is a verse translation, but one that retains the cadence of the original Italian without imposing the limitations of rhyming.  It’s very clear, and that clarity helps maintain attention (something I often have trouble with when dealing with poetry).

The poem surprised me in many ways with regards to its complexity.  I didn’t realize how organized and structured it was through the three main parts of Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise.  I also didn’t realize how political the poem was, constantly mentioning figures from Dante’s own time and the Ghibbline/Guelph conflict of the different city states in Italy of his day.  Thankfully, Musa gives a tremendous number of end notes for the poem, explaining not only who all the characters are, but also mentioning areas when his interpretation and translation differs from that of earlier Dante scholars and translators.  I loved that the end notes come immediately after each canto, so you don’t have to constantly flip to the back of the book.  

I also liked that there were illustrations showing the different levels of hell and the path Dante and the pilgrim take through it.  The glossary at the end of the book going over all of the characters mentioned in the text, is invaluable for further study. 

This isn’t a book to read once and put away though.  The text is complex in that canto IV of Inferno parallels canto IV in Purgatory and Paradise as well.  I suspect it would take years of study to fully understand the genius of this poem.  

Thursday 14 April 2016

Shout-Out: Dissension by Stacey Berg

For four hundred years, the Church has led the remnants of humanity as they struggle for survival in the last inhabited city. Echo Hunter 367 is exactly what the Church created her to be: loyal, obedient, lethal. A clone who shouldn’t care about anything but her duty. Who shouldn’t be able to.
When rebellious citizens challenge the Church’s authority, it is Echo’s duty to hunt them down before civil war can tumble the city back into the dark. But Echo hides a deadly secret: doubt. And when Echo’s mission leads her to Lia, a rebel leader who has a secret of her own, Echo is forced to face that doubt. For Lia holds the key to the city’s survival, and Echo must choose between the woman she loves and the purpose she was born to fulfill.

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Video: The Ballad of Sadie and Ellen

This is a brilliant short by the Tryfuss Puppet Collective.  The song is sung by Rich Kolm and Melissa La Martina, while the puppet work is by Devin Martin, Sam Grossman, Kristie Winther, and Jessie Delaplaine.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Book Review: Transcendental by James Gunn

Pros: variety of aliens, excellent pacing, interesting mystery

Cons: impersonal protagonist, telling rather than showing makes it hard to feel immersed in the story

Riley joins a mixed group of alien and human pilgrims chasing after hints that an alien machine has been discovered that helps entities transcend. But not everyone wants such a device found, for the galaxy is enjoying a hard won peace, a peace they believe this machine will upset.

I was told that this was a sort of Canterbury Tales told in space.  While Chaucer is referenced a time or two and some of the characters do tell stories, it’s not really a good comparison.  Chaucer’s tales are for enlightenment and entertainment.  Gunn’s tales are for exposition with regards to learning about character backgrounds and alien cultures.     

Riley is an unreliable narrator.  Though you’re getting the story from his point of view, you’re unclear of his motivations.  You’re constantly warned not to trust anyone - including him, and told that everyone is lying about everything.  This makes it difficult to get to know any of the characters, or feel like you’re really connecting with them or with the story.

Similarly, when the characters do start telling about their pasts - lies though their tales might be - it’s through narration that feels more like info dumps than a character explaining why they’ve decided to make a pilgrimage.  Their stories are more about how their different races evolved or how they joined the Galactic Council than about their personal presence on the voyage.  I found some of the stories more interesting than others, though they were all unique.

The book’s pacing is excellent.  Each time I started to question things and need more information to maintain my interest, that information was provided.  I was surprised at how early the Prophet was revealed - I expected it to be revealed as part of the climax - but it was a revelation that ramped up the tension for the end of the book.

There are a number of mysteries that come up at different times in the book from assassination attempts to what the transcendental machine actually is.  Enough answers were provided that the ending felt satisfying.

It may not be the Canterbury Tales in space, but it does have some interesting elements to it and it was a quick, entertaining read.

The sequel, Transgalactic, is out now.

Sunday 10 April 2016

Shout-Out: Dark Transmissions by Davila LeBlanc

It is the late 23rd century. For engineers Jessie Madison and her husband David, a routine maintenance contract on board the orbital mining station Moria 3 has become a nightmare. Upon awakening from cryo-stasis, they learn a horrifying truth: while they were asleep, machines rose up against humanity...and won.

Marooned and at the mercy of the station’s malicious artificial intelligence, OMEX, David and Jessie rig an emergency transmission to broadcast into the darkness, desperately hoping someone is still alive to hear it...
Navigating the fringes of explored space in the Covenant Patrol vessel the Jinxed Thirteenth, Captain Morwyn Soltaine picks up a distress signal from a space station. But it’s broadcasting in Ancient Humanity, a language that has been extinct for several millennia. Even more incredible: there are two survivors on board. Morwyn’s rag-tag crew of reformed criminals mount a rescue op, unaware of the dangerous foe awaiting them. As the past and future collide, a routine mission becomes a deadly game of wits.

Friday 8 April 2016

Saints' Lives: Saint Catherine of Alexandria

German, Middle Rhineland
pot-metal and colorless glass
with vitreous paint & silver
stain. 1440-1446
Cloisters Collection, NYC
Feast day: Nov 25
Patron Saint of philosophers, preachers, the coopers' guild
Invoked by: nursing women, sailors, ship-wreak victims and migraine sufferers
Attributes: wheel, palm leaf, sword, ring of mystical matrimony (receiving a ring of marriage from Christ, generally portrayed as a child on Mary’s lap)

The daughter of king Costus, Saint Catherine heard a tumult outside her palace and upon investigation found many Christians preparing to sacrifice to idols at the order of Emperor Maxentius. Grieved by what she saw, Catherine made her way to the Emperor and tried to reason with him that the things made by God are more impressive than things made by man.

Impressed by her eloquence and beauty, the Emperor agreed to discuss more with her, after their worship was over. He couldn’t compete with her cunning and knowledge, so he called 50 men known for their wisdom in a variety of subjects, promising them riches and fame if they could best her.

Catherine commended herself to God and was told to stand firm by an angel. Her arguments were so strong that the men realized they could not compete with her and, barring more evidence of their own gods’ worthiness, would have to convert to Christianity.

The Emperor had the men executed by fire, after Catherine instructed them in the faith, assuring them that their spilled blood would be their baptism.

Hans Memling, The Mystic Marriage of St. Catherine
oil on panel, 1479-1480
Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC
Reminded of her rank and power the girl proclaimed that she was Christ’s bride, and His love was more important than anything of this world. The Emperor ordered her imprisoned without food for twelve days. During the Emperor’s absence on affairs of state, his wife went with the captain of the guard, Porphyrius, to see her. They found angels treating her wounds. Catherine taught and converted them, along with 200 troops. A dove from heaven brought her food and Christ appeared, giving her encouragement.

When the Emperor next saw her, vibrant rather than starved, he would have tortured her guards were it not for her explanation that angels had fed her. Given the choice between sacrificing to pagan gods or being tortured and killed, she said she would willingly give her flesh for the Lord.

A prefect encouraged the Emperor to make a studded, wheeled torture device that would tear Catherine apart as a way of deterring other Christians with her horrible demise. Catherine prayed for the device to be destroyed in order to strengthen the faith of His followers. His blow shattered it, killing 4000 pagans in the process.

Left panel of a
reliquary triptych
Enamel on gold plated
England? early 15th C?
Louvre, Paris
The queen berated her husband and also refused to sacrifice to idols, so he ordered her breasts torn off with hot pincers and then that she be beheaded.  She asked Catherine to pray for her, and the girl told her she was exchanging her mortal spouse for an immortal one. When it was done, Porphyrius snatched the body and buried it.

The next day, the Emperor was angry that the queen’s body couldn’t be found and was going to torture people to find out what happened to it when Porphyrius stated that he had buried the body and had converted to Christianity. The Emperor called guards, who stated that they, too, were now Christian. The Emperor ordered them all beheaded.

The Emperor gave Catherine one last chance to sacrifice to idols, saying that if she did so she would be his new queen. But again she defied him and so was beheaded. Milk flowed from her body instead of blood, and angels carried her remains to Mount Sinai, where they buried it. Her bones were said to produce oil that heals the limbs of the weak.

De Voragine mentions that there was controversy as to which Emperor it was that Catherine dealt with, Maximinus or Maxentius, but that it was the one who reigned beginning in AD 310. 

German, lower Rhine valley
walnut, c. 1530
Catherine is admirable, we’re told, in five respects: wisdom, eloquence, constancy, chastity, and

Saints: A Year in Faith and Art adds that she refused marriage the governor of Egypt and Syria, being wed already to Christ.  This book also places her martyrdom around AD 305. points out that Saint Catherine's is one of the voices that spoke to Joan of Arc. 

While it’s a wonderful story, the first recorded account of St. Catherine’s life is from 500 years after her martyrdom and no evidence of her existence has been found. (Wikipedia.)

The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine, translated by William Granger Ryan (volume II). Princeton University Press, 1995. pp 334-341.

Giorgi, Rosa. Saints: A Year in Faith and Art. Mondadori Electa, 2006. p 692.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Shout-Out: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she's back. The things she's experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West's care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy's arrival marks a change at the Home. There's a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it's up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of things.

No matter the cost.

Wednesday 6 April 2016

Video: Darth Maul - Apprentice

This is an amazingly well done Star Wars fan film written, produced, directed and edited by Shawn Bu of T7 Production.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

Book Review: The Legions of Fire by David Drake

Pros: great characters, excellent world-building, interesting plot 

Cons: a few distracting word choices

The magician Nemastes takes advantage of the superstitious senator Saxa and casts a spell in the man’s house.  That spell interrupts the poetry reading of Saxa’s son Gaius Varus, and turns the young man into an unwitting pawn of Nemastes’s enemies.  Also pulled into the spell’s influence are Varus’s sister, Alphena, who practices swordplay, even though it’s not a womanly art; his new, young stepmother, Hedia; and his best friend Publius Corylus, who grew up on the border of the barbarian frontiers of Germania.   

The four players are pulled into other worlds, worlds in which creatures of myth are real, and where a group of evil men are planning the destruction of the world.

The author begins the book with a forward explaining that while the book is based on the history of ancient Rome (called Carce in the book to help keep the distinction), it is not historical fiction.  He also points out that all of the gods and mythological creatures he references are things people in the past believed in.

It was really cool reading a book that referenced a lot of old mythology as if it were real.  There were some expected creatures and a lot of unexpected ones as well.  And while the main setting is Carce, Egyptian, Norse, and other belief systems make appearances.

The four principle characters are well fleshed out, as are a few side characters.  I really enjoyed the developing relationship between Alphena and her close in age stepmother - the mix of anger Alphena feels towards the woman as well as her grudging respect.  Hedia meanwhile is a surprising woman: on her second marriage with few illusions about the world.  She enjoys sex and knows how to use her looks to advantage.  She’s also quite intelligent with regards to the danger posed by Nemastes and honestly wants what’s best for her new stepchildren.  I felt kind of sorry for Varus, who wants to do great things but just doesn’t have the necessary abilities.  I was impressed by his actions in the climax.  Corylus has a grab bag of skills that come in handy during the trials he faces.  He doesn’t grow as much as a character as the others, but he’s a fascinating character to read about.

The plot takes a while to get going, but the characters are so interesting I didn’t mind.  And when it does pick up, things go quickly.

A few word choices irritated me, specifically the use of ‘knight’ for a position in the Carcian army instead of the Roman title and ‘hell’ referencing to the Christian version of the afterlife (which didn’t exist as we think of it at the time) rather than the terms/meanings people back then would have used for the afterlife).   But those are pretty minor complaints and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book

This is the first of a four book series but though there’s a teaser for book 2 in the epilogue, all of the plot points are resolved and it can be read as a standalone novel.

If you like mythology and Roman fiction, give this a go. 

Sunday 3 April 2016

Shout-Out: A Shadow All of Light by Fred Chappell

In A Shadow All of Light by Fred Chappell, Falco, a young man from the country, arrives in the port city of Tardocco with the ambition of becoming an apprentice to a master shadow thief.
Maestro Astolfo, whose mysterious powers of observation would rival those of Sherlock Holmes, sees Falco’s potential and puts him through a grueling series of physical lessons and intellectual tests. Falco’s adventures coalesce into one overarching story of con men, monsters, ingenious detection, cats, and pirates.

Friday 1 April 2016

Books Received in March, 2015

Many thanks, as always, to the authors and publishers that send me books for review.  I don't have time to read everything, but that doesn't mean I don't want to.  Several of the books below are sequels, so in the interests of not spoiling anything, I'll be posting the photo of the book I received but the synopsis of the first book in the series.

A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab -  This series sounds VERY interesting and only time constraints have kept me from picking up Vicious, the first book.  I think it's time to remedy that.  My thanks to Angela for pointing out that A Gathering of Shadows is the sequel to A Darker Shade of Magic, not Vicious, which is a different series.  Sorry for the confusion.  I avoided reading the cover copy for this book so as to avoid spoilers, and so got that wrong.  I've now got the synopsis for A Darker Shade of Magic below, which also sounds like a really fun series starter.

Kell is one of the last Travelers-magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes, connected by one magical city.
There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad king-George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered-and where Kell was raised alongside Rhys Maresh, the rougish heir to a flourishing empire. White London-a place where people fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

Conjurers by David Waid - I don't accept self-published titles for review often, but this one caught my eye and I really liked some of the blog posts on the author's website so I'm giving it a chance. It's out June 1st.


Orphaned in the year 1380, Eamon and Caitlin flee their home in the Wicklow Mountains of Ireland. The siblings can pacify savage wolves and control forces of nature, but only the murderers hunting them know why.

As Eamon and Caitlin fight for survival, Teresa de Borjas, the spirited daughter of a Genovese nobleman, develops an inexplicable ability to move objects with her mind. When her brother is murdered and her father imprisoned through machinations of the reclusive alchemist, Maestro Lodovicetti, her sheltered life changes forever.

Journeys of discovery and the pursuit of blood vendetta bring Eamon, Caitlin and Teresa together across the stunning backdrop of medieval Europe. The three must master their powers and defeat a cabal of the world’s greatest magi or be killed as the Age of Kings comes to an end and a tyranny of sorcerers begins.

The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood - Todd Lockwood is one of my favourite fantasy artists, to the point that I own several prints of his work.  I'm really excited to read his first novel.

Maia and her family raise dragons for the political war machine. As she comes of age, she anticipates a dragon of her own to add to the stable of breeding parents. Her peaceful life is shattered when the Summer Dragon--one of the rare and mythical High Dragons--makes an appearance in her quiet valley. Political factions vie for control of the implied message, threatening her aspirations, her aerie, her entire way of life.

The bond between dragons and their riders is deep and life-long, and Maia's desire for a dragon of her own to train, ride, fly, and love drives her to take a risk that puts her life at stake. She is swept into an adventure that pits her against the deathless Horrors, thralls of the enemy, and a faceless creature drawn from her fear. In her fight to preserve everything she knows and loves, she exposes a conspiracy, unearths an ancient civilization, and challenges her understanding of her world--and of herself.
Transgalactic by James Gunn - I finished the first book Transcendental yesterday, and will have my review of it up soon.  Transgalactic picks up immediately where Transcendental leaves off.

Riley, a veteran of interstellar war, is one of many beings from many different worlds aboard a ship on a pilgrimage that spans the galaxy. However, he is not journeying to achieve transcendence, a vague mystical concept that has drawn everyone else on the ship to this journey into the unknown at the far edge of the galaxy. His mission is to find and kill the prophet who is reputed to help others transcend. While their ship speeds through space, the voyage is marred by violence and betrayal, making it clear that some of the ship's passengers are not the spiritual seekers they claim to be.

Like the pilgrims in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, a number of those on the starship share their unique stories. But as tensions rise, Riley realizes that the ship is less like the Canterbury Tales and more like a harrowing, deadly ship of fools. When he becomes friendly with a mysterious passenger named Asha, he thinks she's someone he can trust. However, like so many others on the ship, Asha is more than she appears. Uncovering her secrets could be the key to Riley's personal quest, or make him question everything he thought he knew about Transcendentalism and his mission to stop it. 
James Gunn's Transcendental is a space adventure filled with excitement and intrigue that explores the nature of what unifies all beings.
Regeneration by Stephanie Saulter - As I said in yesterdays post, I loved the first two books of this series, Gemsigns and Binary and am really looking forward to reading this.

For years the human race was under attack from a deadly Syndrome, but when a cure was found--in the form of genetically engineered human beings, Gems--the line between survival and ethics was radically altered. Now the Gems are fighting for their freedom, from the oppression of the companies that created them, and against the Norms who see them as slaves. And a conference at which Dr Eli Walker has been commissioned to present his findings on the Gems is the key to that freedom. But with the Gemtech companies fighting to keep the Gems enslaved, and the horrifying godgangs determined to rid the earth of these "unholy" creations, the Gems are up against forces that may just be too powerful to oppose.