Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review: "Miranda and Caliban" by Jacqueline Carey

Jacqueline Carey fills in some of the gaps of Shakespeare with her latest novel, “Miranda and Caliban ($25.99, Tor), based, of course, on “The Tempest.”

Carey imagines what life might have been like on Prospero’s island during the years of his exile, before the events of Shakespeare’s famous play.

We find Prospero and Miranda living fairly happily, at least Miranda thinks, in an old castle on the island, their everyday needs tended by elementals that the magician has bent to his will. Then Caliban enters their lives.

Prospero suspects he is the son of the witch Sycorax, and holds the key to unlocking the spirit Ariel from the tree where he is imprisoned. He captures the wild boy for the information, but Miranda convinces her father to give her a chance to tame and civilize him rather than using magic to take the information by force. It is the beginning of a friendship that will change the way that we see Caliban.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Review: "Arm of the Sphinx" by Josiah Bancroft

It’s a rough life, but former school teacher Thomas Senlin is finding that piracy suits him somewhat in Josiah Bancroft’s “Arm of the Sphinx” ($14.99, self-published), the follow-up to “Senlin Ascends.”

Senlin, under the name of Capt. Tom Mudd, and his small crew navigate the skies around the Tower of Babel, finding ever more creative ways to rob his quarry and escape what passes for the long arm of the law in the Tower. Still, he searches for a way to find his lost wife, even as her ghost haunts his steps.

He’s learned that she’s in the Ringdom of Pelphia, a tightly-guarded aristocratic port where his ship, the Stone Cloud, was almost shot down the last time he tried to dock. To make matters worse, his crew is running out of places where they’re welcome, and Tom is running out of ideas.

Desperation leads them to the top of the Tower, to a being that many think is a myth – the Sphinx. Edith, now known as Mister Winters aboard the Stone Cloud, knows well that he exists. He created the fantastic mechanical arm that replaced her lost one. She also knows well what making a deal with the creature costs, but Senlin and his crew may have no other choice.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Review: "The Bone Witch" by Rin Chupeco

Rin Chupeco delivers a promising beginning to an interesting story in “The Bone Witch” ($17.99, Sourcebooks Fire).

Tea’s world is shattered when her brother, Fox, dies fighting a daeva, dark magical creatures that plague the land. She is so distraught at her brother’s funeral that she does something quite remarkable – and dangerous. In her grief, her hidden magic manifests, and she raises her brother from the dead.

That’s how she learned that she was Dark Asha, a necromancer, known and reviled by most of the public as a bone witch. Luckily, an experienced necromancer is nearby when she performs the feat, and rushes in to whisk her away from danger – at least of one sort.

Tea soon finds herself among the world of the asha, a geisha-like society of female magic users. But even among her own, her dark power makes her something of an outcast. It also may allow her to change the world.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Tell-Tale Thoughts: "Alone"

I thought it only fitting that I celebrate Edgar Allan Poe's birthday by sharing some thoughts on my favorite poem, not just by Poe, but by anyone.

By the time I was in junior high, I was pretty well familiar with most of Poe's work. I had several collections that touted themselves as "complete," including a leatherbound volume that was the pride of my bookshelf at the time. Still, every time I got an American literature textbook in school, I went immediately to Poe, hoping to find something new. Eventually, I did, and it was a piece that spoke to me like no other piece of poetry had before or has since.

"Alone" is, in equal parts, melancholic, majestic and sinister. It appealed to the weird teenager who discovered it, and though the weird adult I am now is quite a bit different than that kid, it still hits very close to home.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Review: "Paternus" by Dyrk Ashton

Why just play with one mythology, when you can play with them all? That’s the way Dyrk Ashton sees it in “Paternus,” a finalist in this year’s Self Published Fantasy Blog Off.

Fiona Patterson lives with her Uncle Edgar, an eccentric but kind man, and has a relatively normal teenage life. She has insecurities and love-life problems. She works as an intern at a local senior care center, where she seems to be the only person who can get through to an invalid named Peter. She’s managed to determine that he likes flowers and figs, and she’s been the only person at the facility able to get a smile out of him.

When she’s confronted by a menacing beggar in a freak rainstorm on her way to work one morning, she thinks it’s strange, but she has no idea just how strange things are about to get for her. She’s about to learn that nothing around her is what it seems.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

My favorite reads of 2016

This past year was a busy one for me, so I didn’t get to read nearly as many books as I would have liked. Such is life these days, though, for many people, so who am I to complain?

Of the books I did get to read, there were some fantastic selections. Some of my own reading prejudices were also challenged in 2016 (actually, beginning in late 2015), and you’ll see more self-pubbed authors than ever before on my list of favorite reads.

As I do every year, I want to remind anyone reading this that it is not a “best of 2016” list. I read far too few books to make such judgments, and a number of the books that you’ll find on the list were not released in 2016. It’s simply a list of the books that I most enjoyed this year, and though I’ll admit the first few are my favorites, there is no particular order after that, so don’t read in any “rankings” that aren’t there. If you asked me to rank them 10 times from 1 to 10, you’d probably end up with 10 completely different lists.

“The Shepherd’s Crown,” Terry Pratchett. Published May 16. I’ll admit that this is a very sentimental pick for my favorite read of the year, but it will be my last visit to a world that I’ve been a regular tourist in for more than a quarter of a century. I waited a long time after Pratchett’s death to read this, not wanting to say goodbye, but I decided the time had come about mid-year. It was a fitting farewell, and fitting also that one of his most beloved characters went out with the author and the Discworld.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Reader Picks: Your favorite posts of 2016

As the year winds down, I always like to take a look back on the books that I read, and also the posts that my readers most enjoyed.

This year brought a serious uptick in views for this blog, particularly in the latter half, and for that, I thank everyone who is reading this right now. It also brought a very interesting list of reader picks.

This year's most viewed posts were not necessarily the big-name authors, though a few made it in. I reviewed a lot more self-published works, and many of those got quite a bit of traffic. There are a few authors who made the list twice, and the top pick is the most viewed post on this site since I switched over to the blogger format around 2007.

So, without further ado, here are the reviews that you had the most interest in for 2016:

10. "The Daylight War," by Peter V. Brett. Published June 10. So, finally, I'm caught up with Brett's series having read this one and "The Skull Throne" this year. I'm waiting on the next volume just like everyone else.