Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday Links

I recently took over the World Wide Wednesday column at It's a column that was traditionally handled by another reviewer. Well Amanda moved on to other things and I volunteered to take the reins. The article below is an exact copy of the one posted earlier in the week at FanLit. The links will remain pointed to fanlit as well as the Amazon associate links. This is a FanLit article, but also something I'm proud of that I wish to preserve routinely here on my own blog.

1) Amazon starts offering Bookscan data to authors: This is a big deal. Essentially Amazon has given authors a sales/marketing tool that publishers were dropping huge money for just a few years ago. The bad news is that some authors have already developed a complex from watching Amazon sales rankings, so watching sales in this kind of detail will likely drive them mad.

2) A Wrinkle in Time hits the stage : Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time is an important piece of children's literature, and the introduction of many kids into the world of Speculative Fiction. John Glore has taken this beloved classic and adapted it for stage, and has apparently done an excellent job of it.

3) Google Launches E-Book Store: Google takes a stab at Amazon by entering into the e-book market in a major way. Google not only has massive support from publishers, but it is also bringing along its substantial public domain library, too. So that copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel you’ve always wanted can finally be yours. Google books are both downloadable and web based. They are compatible with every device.... except Kindle.

4) A quick look at the bestselling Fantasy books on Amazon : I always find lists like these interesting. You are always going to see the regulars like Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer hanging around. Then there are a few that surprise me like Michael Sullivan’s The Crown Conspiracy at #16. I’m not sure exactly how Amazon calculates the bestselling list, but it is nice to see some underdogs being listed up top.

5) World of Warcraft splits sales record skulls: I did my time in WoW, and then I got over it. I swore never to return, but this expansion sure did have me tempted. Couple that with $10 bundles for the game and first expansion... must... say... nooo.....

6) Five Sci-Fi Children's Books: This is just for laughs. Personally I like the Dr.Who cover the most.

7) Calling All Jim Butcher Fans…: Orbit UK wants to hear from you. Orbit has a busy Dresden schedule in 2011 in the UK and they wish to celebrate with a little feedback and some prizes. You can only win if you are in the UK, but it could still be fun to share why you're a Jim Butcher fan.

Author Chum

In this section I’ll post bits and pieces of news from various fantasy authors:

That wraps it up for this week. Thank you for joining me. Feel free to post your own links in the comments below, or submit them to me for next week via the contact form.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Book Review: Valentine's Resolve by E.E. Knight

Valentine's Resolve (Vampire Earth, Book 6)Some time has passed since the end of Valentine’s Exile, and in Valentine’s Resolve David Valentine is still in exile. He has spent many months wandering the Kurian zone exacting revenge on “Quisling” scum. When Styachowski and Duvalier find him in a remote outpost, he is alone, filthy, and just a little bitter. His former comrades convince him to take on a special mission for Southern Command. They need the help of the Lifeweavers and they believe Valentine may be the only one capable of finding them.

Valentine’s Resolve is a typical VAMPIRE EARTH novel, which is a good thing. At this point in a series it’s always great when the story is still fresh. E.E. Knight adds enough twists to keep the pages turning, and just enough drama to squeeze your heart a little. Great characters and good storytelling make this another solid edition to the tale of David Valentine.

I’ve read six of these books now and all have been a positive experience. The common themes are consistent from book to book. There is action, tragedy, violence, tough choices and a few moral lessons. These stories are like a favorite TV show that I anxiously await for each installment. You become so attached to the characters that you cringe with every bump they take. You definitely should pick up a VAMPIRE EARTH novel if you are looking for a fun and gritty read.

I think E.E. Knight might be afraid of his characters getting too predictable, though, so they have a tendency to do some strange and spontaneous things from time to time, and this holds true for Valentine’s Resolve. I’m very attached to these characters and always notice when they do something I wouldn’t think they would normally do. I also find there are a few plot devices often overused to move things along. I’m telling you now, if Valentine gets arrested and falsely imprisoned in the next book, I will scream.

I listened to Valentine’s Resolve on Audio CD from Brilliance Audio. It is read by Christian Rummel, who is manly man voice incarnate. Nobody in the business can go from sweet southern belle to battle-hardened drill sergeant like Mr. Rummel can. Congratulations to Rummel and the production team on another job well done. —Justin

You can also learn more about EE Knight’s books at the Fantasyliterature EE Knight page

Monday, December 6, 2010

Book Review: The Enchantment Emporium by Tanya Huff

The Enchantment EmporiumAlysha Gale is 24 and jobless. Lack of funds ended the museum job she loved and has forced her to return back home. It is during this time she receives a mysterious letter from her estranged grandmother. The letter tells her she has inherited a store in Calgary, and must go and maintain it at once. The disappearance of the grandmother needs to be looked into, so the family agrees to let Alysha go and mind the store in order to solve the mystery.

There is a thing writers do to explain the world in which their story takes place, or to provide some history to the characters. This is called exposition, and some of it usually takes place at the start of a book. Exposition is important since it provides a foundation for the entire story. Too much exposition can be boring or tedious, but not enough can be disastrous. The Enchantment Emporium has no exposition at all. The story just starts and you’re left to figure things out from context. That might have been OK if the story was of a normal family in a setting you are familiar with. Unfortunately there is nothing normal about the Gale family or the world they live in.

The Gale family is governed by a collection of “Aunties.” The Aunties make all decisions regarding the family and generally give everyone, including each other, a hard time. Alysha’s return home coincides with a Gale family tradition called “Ritual,” so the house is abuzz with family coming home for the event Apparently “Ritual” is also rutting season for male family members, and their ethereal antlers are on display. Stay with me, it gets better. Family from all over the country are coming home for “Ritual,” and you meet around thirteen of them in the first few pages of the book. The Gales are a close family, so close, in fact, that they regularly have sex with one another. Cousin on cousin action is par for the course.

Throughout the beginning of the book, Alysha is often on the phone with other people. Her conversations with these people are sometimes used as narration. In one such scene Alysha has just entered the store she inherited from her Grandma and is “investigating” her disappearance. The person she is chatting with whilst rummaging through her grandma’s drawers is Michael, the gay love of her life who is now living with his boyfriend somewhere far away. The conversation goes as follows:

I don't care if one of them looks like yours, I'm not even considering the word interesting as a reaction to a drawer full of my grandmother's sex toys.

I ejected the CD, put it away and slid it back into the glove compartment. I turned on the radio and began to contemplate this review.

Tanya Huff has a lot of fans, and is obviously a talented author. The Enchantment Emporium is regularly given 4 and 5 star reviews. Our very own Ruth gave it 4.5 stars. I am quite confident the problem with the book is actually a problem with me. I can see no other explanation. I feel like I just tried to read the greatest book ever written and it’s in a language that everyone understands but me. I will probably lose sleep thinking about this book and wonder how I failed it. Maybe the context for this novel is in other Huff books? Tell me Tanya Huff fans, why isn’t this book as terrible as the opening chapter makes it out to be?

I took away at least one positive from my experience, and that was Teri Clark Linden. Teri is the voice actor of the Brilliance Audio version of the book. Teri captures the individual personalities of the many characters very well. She uses a Canadian accent for the Aunties that is both amusing and charming. The bickering amongst the Aunties around the kitchen is how I imagine the Palin household might sound like around Thanksgiving, “Dontchya know.” —Justin

You can also learn more about Tanya Huff’s books at the Fantasyliterature Tanaya Huff page

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Book Review:The Broken Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

The Broken Kingdoms (The Inheritance Trilogy)The world has changed over the last several years and the opportunities that are now possible are too hard for Oree to resist, so she left home to seek a new life in Sky. Oree is an artist with a gift for seeing magic, but magic is the only thing she can see. She has set up shop in a promenade section of the great city and has created a pleasant life for herself there amongst friends and Godlings. Things start to get ugly, though, when Oree stumbles upon a dead Godling. The gods have become angry and the religious factions are looking for someone to blame. Oree’s unique abilities and proximity to the crime make her a prime suspect.

When I read The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms I was taken completely by surprise. It was one of those rare moments where I read a book I was confident I wouldn’t like, only to be left speechless at my misjudgment when I was done. I had tremendous expectations for The Broken Kingdoms right from the start. I would even admit to saying my expectations were unreasonable, since there would be no way to repeat the feeling of surprise I had during the first book. Keep that in mind when I say that The Broken Kingdoms is one of the most enjoyable books I’ve ever read.

The relationship between mortals and gods is expanded upon exponentially in this book. You learn about “Godlings” and some more about the original few gods introduced in book one. After the events of the first book, the Godlings have been confined within the city limits of Sky. Oree can see magic, so having Godlings running around leaving traces of it everywhere provides Oree a way to describe things in a very unique way. This is the primary device N.K. Jemisin uses to skirt around the fact her narrator is blind, and it works quite well.

The writing in The Broken Kingdoms feels uncluttered and natural. N.K. Jemisin is the very definition of a good storyteller. There is not a single moment anywhere in this book where I am taken out of her world by an awkward turn of phrase or a careless word. Considering how many words there are in the novel, that’s just a little more than impressive. In my opinion this is as close to flawless as you can get.

I was a little disappointed again that we still know so little about the actual Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. We get a glimpse at a few more lands and people, but not many when you consider how large the world is implied to be. This is not really a big issue, since I was kept in rapt attention from page one. I just hope Jemisin has plans beyond this trilogy for the world she created.

The tone of The Broken Kingdoms is a bit darker than that of the first book. A beautiful mesh of adventure and tragedy make up the heart of the book. I was definitely emotionally affected by the events that transpired. I was horrified, excited, and heartbroken many times over the course of the story. It’s been awhile since I read a book that took me on such a rollercoaster.

I listened to this story on Audio CD by Brilliance Audio. They retained Casaundra Freeman from the first book, which I was glad to hear. Oree has a subtle fearlessness that Freeman’s voice portrays very well. Freeman gives life to Jemisin’s characters in a way I think very few could. The Broken Kingdoms is a wonderful story, and is on my shortlist for book of the year. —Justin

You can also learn more about N.K. Jemisin's’s books at the Fantasyliterature N.K. Jemisin page