Monday, January 5, 2015

Tainted Blood by M.L. Brennan

I normally don't read books with vampire protagonists, but when I do they're written by M.L. Brennan. Vampires are probably the most overused trope in urban fantasy, and many discerning readers turn their noses up at books that focus on the vampire as the hero. I am one of those readers, by and large. M.L. Brennan's Generation V novels are the exception. With a protagonist that is far from the popular image of the brooding, preternatural predator, flawless and unconventional world building and a light-hearted sense of humor that keeps me in stitches, these books have earned a proud place on my overflowing bookshelves. The latest installment, Tainted Blood continues to deliver everything I come to expect from the adventures of Fortitude Scott but takes great pains to remind both readers and protagonist alike that being a vampire isn't all superpowers and wisecracks.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Prince of Fools by Mark Lawrence

Mark Lawrence is one of those authors that I've meant to review for a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed his debut Prince of Thorns after picking it up as an impulse buy from the Science Fiction Book Club what feels like eons ago. When the SFBC didn't offer the subsequent books in the series, I allowed my OCD need to have all the books in a series in the same format stop me from reading the rest of the series. I know it's weird but I promise, I'm mostly sane. So when the first installment of his second series Prince of Fools hit shelves, I snatched it up. Then life took a turn for the busy and I stopped reading almost entirely. Fast forward almost a year, and here we are.

Prince of Fools has everything I loved about Prince of Thorns with a much more relatable protagonist than teen sociopath Jorg Ancrath, so readers with more delicate sensibilities can rest a bit easier. Lawrence's tersely elegant prose and well crafted characters are in full evidence and the world building is just as effortless as readers of The Broken Empire have come to expect. I suspect some of that is due to the connection to the previous series, Though my long gap in reading Lawrence as well as having not finished the previous series (a situation I expect to remedy in the coming months) rendered all but the most obvious connections meaningless to me. Even as a standalone, Prince of Fools is a joy to read and readers who haven't read the previous series can start here with no significant disadvantage. Just dive in and enjoy, I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

After an accidental hiatus from reviewing, I’ve decided that it’s time to put butt in chair and hands on keyboard again. I almost didn’t. For the record I never stopped reading, just writing about what I read. There were several excellent novels that were consumed during my quiet period and I may try to review those novels properly, but given the amount of time that has passed, it’s probably more realistic to say that they’ll appear in an upcoming Trending Ten post. Which brings me to the book that snapped me out of my malaise and reminded me why I enjoyed reviewing and interacting with other readers, writers, and reviewers. 

Sometimes a novel, just kicks your legs out from under you and holds you down until you’ve devoured every single word. And then you’re sad because your plate is empty and you’re already on the hunt for another novel to take the edge off of the hole closing the back cover left inside you. M.R. Carey’s The Girl with All the Gifts was that kind of novel for me. Carey gifts readers with an unexpected coming of age story that is surprisingly intimate, heart warming, and sobering despite the zombie tropes and apocalyptic scenery. Fans of Neil Gaiman should take special note as Carey’s prose has the same simple elegance and off-handed lyricism as Gaiman’s best. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Round Table: Writing the Sequel Part Four

As promised, here's the next installment of the Writing the Sequel Round Table. We're talking about responding to criticism and how the writing may or may not be affected by the effect of writing for a known audience. Mileages, predictably vary. I found these responses to be some of my favorites. I'm sure you will too.

If you haven't read the proceeding installments, you'll find them below.

52 Reviews: Is there any pressure to address any criticism that you may have received from reviews or comments from readers when you sit down to work on the second installment in a series? Or do you view criticism as nothing more than a way to focus the inevitable growth most writers experience over time in a specific direction?

Jeff Salyards: When I first started agent hunting two and a half years ago, Scourge was almost 70,000 words longer than what ultimately went to print. While I had agents request partials and fulls, they all passed in the initial rounds. And while no one overtly said, “Hey, bucko, unless you’re Patrick Rothfuss, you ain’t clearing the gatekeepers with a 170,000 word debut,” the feedback implied that the book was too long, or at least that the pacing was off (there was a lot of the central character’s back story woven in). So I started tweaking the submission as I went, cutting, cutting, and still no dice. A lot of interest, a lot of passes.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Round Table: Writing the Sequel Part Three

So, sorry for the delay. Life has gotten supremely hectic. But the round table still has two more installments to go, If you haven't read the previous entries follow the links below and enjoy. I will post the next part tomorrow. Happy reading.

52 Reviews: Excellent answers, everyone. There's lots of insight from a variety of angles. Many of which, I'd imagine were completely unexpected. Which brings me to my next question, while I'm sure writing a second installment of a series is easier in terms of world and character building as you've got some baseline information well established, what would you say is the most unexpected difficulty in returning to the scene of your success?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Round Table: Writing the Sequel: Part Two

It's been great to see what a success this Round Table has been. We're surging ahead and asking about the pressures of success and how writing for a built in audience effects the writing process. The answers are often unexpected and definitely give an interesting glimpse into what goes on behind the curtain for some of my favorite authors. If you missed the kick off to the discussion you can find a link below. I hope you continue to enjoy

52 Reviews: With each of you having recently completed work on a sequel to the start of very well received series, I'd like to ask you if the level of pressure changes when you know you are actively writing for an waiting audience and if so, does that change the way you approach the writing?

Django Wexler: In my case, the first draft of the sequel was complete before the first book actually came out, so when I was writing it, I didn’t know if the series would really work out with the readers or not.  Writing for a waiting audience doesn’t really add pressure for me – if anything, it’s an encouragement to know that there are people eager to read what I’m working on, and I’m just relieved that enough people like my particular brand of story to make it worth doing.
Right now I’m writing the third book in the series, and I do feel a little more pressure, but it’s from another source.  For the first time in my writing career, I’m writing a continuation to something that’s actually published and in print; the events of book one (and book two, as of fairly recently) are now absolutely set in stone as far as I’m concerned.  It’s a very strange feeling not being able to make revisions to my own work, and I keep worrying I’ll discover something I did in the first book that badly screws up want I want to do in the third, and not be able to go back and change it.  So far it hasn’t happened, but it keeps me a little on edge!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Round Table: Writing the Sequel Part One

I've been itching to do another round table. Both the Gender Bias and Violence in SF/F series were well received and I really do enjoy moderating these discussions and the chance to get multiple author's takes on various parts of the genre and the writing process. So when I noticed that I was reading or waiting to read so many sequels in the next few months, I thought I'd ask some of the authors with sequels releasing this year a little about the process of writing that second story. I consider myself very fortunate to have such great talent to work with.

M.L. Brennan's second novel in the American Vampire series, Iron Night  was released early this year and has garnered lots of rave reviews. I certainly make no bones about my love for the series. Brennan's unique approach to character development and world building has yet to disappoint and I can't wait to see what Brennan has in store for readers in November.

Django Wexler's The Thousand Names was perhaps the most unexpected treat in my reading last year. His blend of military drama, political intrigue, personal secrets, and powerful and mysterious magic was one of my favorite debuts of the year. With the sequel, The Shadow Throne coming soon I'm sure Wexler will gain even more praise from readers.

Jeff Salyard's atmospheric and gritty debut Scourge of the Betrayers has been on shelves for a while, but it continues to gather excellent reviews and with The Veil of the Deserters just around the corner and great advanced praise it's no surprise I asked Jeff to contribute.

Jay Posey's debut Three was another pleasant surprise for me. Posey's post-apocalyptic tour de force managed to tell compelling personal tale while employing some of the most beautifully minimalist world building I've ever seen. The next installment, Morningside Fall releasing next month, is one of those novels I can't wait to get my hands on.

Lastly, we have the author who's been on my radar for the longest.  Douglas Hulick's debut Amoung Thieves was one of the first novels I ever reviewed on this site, and I've been exciting about catching up with Drothe and Deegan ever since. Sworn in Steel is slated for release later this year and I'm sure Doug has spun yet another edge of your seat tale of cunning, corruption, and the price of power in store for his readers.

It's an awesome panel, if I do say so myself. And with all that out of the way, let's get down to the main attraction.