Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: A Year in Review, Many Thanks and a Resolution or Two

2013 has been pretty damn good to me. I got married to an amazing women who is the love of my life and has encouraged me in all of my geeky pursuits despite having no interest in them other than the fact that they bring me so much joy. I was awarded my third degree black belt, a level of accomplishment and skill that I never in a million years thought I would attain. I finally managed to finish my first piece of speculative fiction, which was widely praised by my beta readers. And as you know, I've read. A lot. Seventy titles, which is my most productive reading year to date. I owe most of that to this blog, which keeps me reading when other interests threaten to encroach upon what free time I have.

Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

Seanan McGuire is one of the notable female authors who I decided to make a point of reading this year. It's only appropriate that I end this year's reviewing with the last of her novels I've read this year. After being thrilled with Feed and finding Discount Armageddon a serviceable start to a series, I was looking forward to starting McGuire's October Daye series. Rosemary and Rue doesn't disappoint and given its status as McGuire's first novel, I am certain that the series will reach even greater heights. With lush world building, a engaging and unexpectedly human protagonist and plenty of action, the adventures of October Daye will appeal to fans of the works of Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, and Kevin Hearne. In spite of some flaws, this is a fantastic start from the pen of one of the genre's most well respected names.

Friday, December 27, 2013

She Who Waits by Daniel Polansky

My review of the final Lowtown novel is likely to be the shortest review I've ever written for a novel I enjoyed so thoroughly. But delving too deep into this story would risk spoilers, so I'm forced into brevity.  I loved the preceding two volumes of the Lowtown trilogy and was both excited and saddened to know that my time with the one of the most irredeemable and yet most compelling protagonists I've ever encountered was coming to a close. Polansky has been labelled as a 'writer's writer' by folks with far more education and experience than I, but I would go one step further and say that these novels are perfectly suited to any reasonably well read person who isn't likely to be put off by a novel that takes a long, unflinching flinching look at the darkest parts of society and human nature. These books aren't easy to read, they are violent and profane with hardly a decent person in sight, but they are so compellingly well written and so deft in their observations about the cold facts of human nature that it's a definite shame they haven't found a wider audience.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Best of 2013: Year End Edition

With the holidays over, I imagine that many of my fellow bookworms have gift cards and Christmas cash burning a hole in their pocket. With that in mind here are the ten best novels, I've read this year minus a few of the bigger names that the vast majority of genre fans have purchased long ago. I made the decision not to include some novels that were all but sure things simply because, there are lesser known novels that are just as good and could definitely use some publicity, no matter how small. But rest assured, though you may not see a King, Gaiman, Butcher or Brett in residence here, these authors are in no way less worthy simply because they don't have the benefit of decades in the business of a successful franchise to their names. 2013 was a year of discovery for me, and I'd like to share the very best of those with you all. Happy Holidays and I hope you find a novel you've not yet read in this list.

10. Fortress Frontier by Myke Cole: Sophomore novels are tricky, especially when the first novel is well received. Myke Cole did the unthinkable and bested his debut, Control Point in every way. Fortress Frontier adds depth to the cast, concept, world building and even the prose itself all while still drawing heavily on all the traits that made it's predecessor such a hit. There's action a plenty, character growth that leaves reader's cheering, and an authenticity born from the author's life experience. Military fantasy rarely gets better and Cole has proven again that he's a major talent. I'm likely to make the final book in this trilogy, Breach Zone one of the first books I read this year.

9. Generation V by M.L. Brennan: I gotta admit, I wasn't expecting to like this novel half as much as I did. I mean, vampire protagonists are overdone, right? But Brennan's Fortitude Scott is a different animal all together. He doesn't want to be a vampire, and given the ingenious fact that Brennan's vampires are born, rather than turned, he doesn't have to be one, not in the ways readers might expect. Fortitude doesn't exude sex, or handle himself well in a fight. He's a push over, vegetarian,with an art degree and a dead end job. But shit gets real. With the help of a kitsune and his own refusal to give up on a losing battle, Fortitude takes his first steps to becoming a vampire, and more importantly a man. Brennan succeeds on the merit of her new take on a tired trope and the strength of her every man protagonist. I, for one, can't wait for the sequel.

8. The Lives of Tao by Wesley Chu: Another type of novel I rarely read is the comedy, but Wesley Chu's uproariously funny debut was an welcome exception. This sci-fi thriller/comedy reminded me of all the best parts of television's Chuck with an engaging premise reminicent of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Add in the coming of age tale of the slacker extraordinaire Roen Tan and the pitch perfect and often laugh out loud action sequences and it's easy to see how this debut has catapulted Chu to rising star status. The sequel, The Deaths of Tao may have deviated heavily from the formula of it's predecessor but it showed off a completely different set of writing chops that guarantees I'll be reading Chu's work for the foreseeable future.

7. Vicious by Victoria Schwab: My love affair with superheroes is an old one, but rarely do I find a novel that effectively captures what I love about the genre. Vicious' manages that with its obvious nods to its four color parents ranging from the seminal graphic novel Watchmen and the dynamics between two friends whose acquisition of superhuman abilities destroys every bit of good feeling between them. But better yet, the broken time line structure and the moral ambiguity of the two leads makes for an engrossing character study on the nature of good and evil and the blurring of the line between. I hear Vicious has been optioned  by none other than Ridley Scott, and I certainly hope we eventually get to see Victor and Company on the big screen sooner than later.

6.  The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig: If I were going to crown an author of the year it would be Chuck Wendig. I've read three very different novels from him this year and each of those has been a cut above the crowd. The Blue Blazes is simply the best of these. With an unforgettable protagonist in the larger than life and yet tragically broken Mookie Pearl, bombastic action sequences that literally chew up the scenery, and richly bizarre world building Wendig delivers plenty of punch per page. But it's the emotional core of dysfunctional family values that makes it stick in your mind long after the last page is turned.

5.  Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh: This compelling novel shouldn't have worked for me. It's science fiction, romantic comedy, and essentially has no real action sequences to its name. But despite not fitting into my wheelhouse at all, Love Minus Eighty kept me enthralled. With pitch perfect characterization, fascinating commentary on the role of technology in our social interactions, and more subtle themes about the trials of forming real connections with the people around us, McIntosh delivers a novel that reminds me of no one more than Phillip K. Dick, where the science is only the vehicle that exposes the beating heart of humanity hiding beneath it. If you don't like sci-fi, romance or books with out explosions, check your baggage and read this book. You'll thank me later.

4. The Thousand Names by Django Wexler: This year was the year of books that took me by surprise. I'm not a fan of military fantasy, but Wexler's debut kept me turning pages late into the evening. Departing from the stereotypical knights and swords tropes of the genre, this flintlock fantasy has all of the grit and mystery of the early volumes of Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire and the military realism of Bernard Cornwell, with a cast packed with compelling characters and the best treatment of female characters I've seen in a book of its type. Wexler is all but guaranteed to grow in popularity as the series continues and I can't wait to lay my greedy paws on the next installment of this fantastic new series.

3. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes: Sadly science fiction and fantasy isn't known for the beauty of its prose. Beukes' time travel thriller is set to change that. With lyrical prose from the first page, this story about a time travelling serial killer and his victims charms and disturbs with equal measure. This novel celebrates the women who fall to the killer's knife with a poignancy and grace that makes them so much more important than the animal that ends their lives. These Shining Girls are the real stars of the novel, and the exact mechanism of the house that allows the murderer to escape justice is left nebulous because it's not the point. As a character study, Beukes' tale is elegant, haunting, and sure to tug at the heart strings so much so that the lack of explanations hardly matter at all. Spend some time with these women and then hand this novel to anyone who turns their nose up at your genre of choice.

2. No Return by Zachary Jernigan: No novel took me more by surprise than No Return. It's chock full of classic sci-fi elements that I couldn't care less about. Robots, truly bizarre aliens, and aloof and terrible gods are all integral to the plot. I freely admit to being less than impressed at the outset, but as I wound my way through the dense narrative I found myself more and more riveted by the fate of Jernigan's characters and the thematic aspects that are wound so deftly into his world building. No Return is a novel that gains depth with examination and I plan to return to its rich and odd depths soon. Jernigan is a talent that bears watching and deserves far more attention than he's gotten due to the implosion of Night Shade Books.

1. NOS4A2 by Joe Hill: I've been a Stephen King fan since I was a teenager, so it goes without saying that I've followed his son's career with interest since his debut. While I certainly enjoyed his work, none of those books struck the same chord as some of my favorites of his fathers. NOS4A2 changed that by the end of the second chapter. Hill turned in a story that is so unsettling and profoundly intimate that I can't think of a single novel I've enjoyed more this year. Vic McQueen is a heroine for the ages and don't even get me started on where Charlie Manx ranks in my best villains of all time list. This is a novel chock full of atmosphere, chilling evil, and characters so real that they practically breathe. Rarely does a novel chill my bones and warm my heart at the same time, and that is why Hill's latest earns top marks this year.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Interview with Django Wexler

The Thousand Names is easily one of the best books I've read this year, and a strong contender for debut of the year besides. So it's no surprise at all that I asked Django Wexler for an interview. We covered the usual questions about concept, influences,character, plotting and more. I was impressed by his candor and his sense of humor and quite enjoyed myself as I'm sure you will too. There are some links to other content by this talented author included, be sure to check them out. They're well worth your time. I even bookmarked one for reference later. 

Well, that's enough from me. Enjoy.

52 Reviews:  I'll start with a soft ball question. What can you tell us about the genesis of The Thousand Names? Did the original concept change much through the course of writing? 

Django Wexler:   So, The Thousand Names basically came from my reading two books – George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones (and sequels) and David Chandler’s The Campaigns of Napoleon.  Needless to say, I’m a big fan of Martin, and I really liked what he did with his setting – he took the standard knights-and-castles fantasy and brought it down to earth, so to speak, by introducing a big dose of historical realism and modeling it more closely on a particular time period.  I decided I wanted to do something like that, a secondary world with a strong historical basis and magic with a pretty light touch.  But since the knights-and-castles era was pretty well covered, I thought it would be more fun to base it on a very different time in history.

When I read Chandler’s book, the Napoleonic era seemed perfect.  Big, sweeping battles, lots of interesting political changes, and not something you see much of in fantasy.  Influenced by the old S. M. Stirling and David Drake series The General (military SF retelling the campaigns of Belisarius) I originally planned to do a fictionalized version of the actual life of Napoleon, with Janus as the Napoleon character.  Once I started developing the world a bit more, and working on the characters and their backgrounds, it became clear that wasn’t going to work, and the current version of the story only has faint similarities to the actual *course* of history.

I think Winter’s story was the last part to fall into place.  I knew I wanted the second POV to be female, but for a while it was Janus’ little sister, or Marcus’ girlfriend, or similar.  Once I realized she needed her own story, it worked much better, and the result is that her plot ended up taking over the series to the point where she’s probably the key character!

52 Reviews: While I also loved Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, I was really impressed that none of your viewpoint characters were from the ranks of the privileged few. Did you intentionally choose to focus on the common men and women, or was it more a function of the historical period that provided the basis for the novel? 

Django Wexler: It’s a function of a couple of things, but mostly the setting.  I wanted the viewpoints to be two characters at opposite ends of the military hierarchy – one to give the rankers point of view, and then one at the top to talk strategy and help explain what’s going on at a higher level.  The ranker was obviously going to be a commoner, and that ended up being Winter’s role.  For the officer, I wanted someone who basically knew what he was doing, and the way the Vordanai army is put together that mostly means commoners as well.  (In the Vordanai army, a captain has to rise from the ranks or be trained at the War College to achieve his rank, a colonel just buys his.)  Janus is the exception, of course, but I knew I didn’t want him to be a point of view – that kind of “genius” character works best when viewed from the outside, the Holmes and Watson or Thrawn and Paelleon.

In The Shadow Throne, the next book, the third point of view is Raesinia, the heir to the Vordanai crown.  Fortunately, she is a very long way from the pampered princess archetype, and using her helps us peek into the inner workings of court politics.

52 Reviews: Janus is definitely a fascinating character and I applaud your choice to keep his motives and tactical decisions largely obscured. One of the other things I've noticed is that while the Colonel appears to have a great deal of genius regarding military matters he seems particularly obtuse to more common concerns. Was it necessary to provide this blind spot to allow Marcus a more important role to play? Or was this to keep Janus from becoming too larger than life and this unrealistic as a character? 

Django Wexler:   Hmm, it’s a little bit of both.  As the POV character, Marcus needs a story of his own, he can’t just be standing around saying “Brilliant, sir!” all the time.  But also I think it helps Janus be a more identifiable character.  We all probably know somebody who is a master of one particular field of expertise, but who isn’t too good at day-to-day stuff.  It feels realistic, somehow.  It also fits with Janus’ backstory – mostly unrevealed as of yet, but it’s safe to say that it involved a lot of reading and study at the expense of real-life experience.

52 Reviews:  Moving on to Winter, I found myself drawn more to her story than any other in the novel. I love how you placed her so firmly in a man's world and yet she never comes across as mannish. What led you to the decision to have your principle female character live as a man, and what challenges did you face as a result? 

Django Wexler: It’s funny, because I originally made the decision for boring, practical reasons – I wanted Winter to be in the army, rather than a camp follower or something, and having a fully gender-integrated army wouldn’t have fit with the society I’d designed.  But once I made that choice, and worked through the implications for her character, it really helped turn her into a full-fledged person.  I had to figure out why she was the kind of person who would do that, take this big risk, and it made her very interesting.

One thing I *didn’t* want is for the story to be about the mechanics of her hiding her gender.  That can be a good story, especially combined with a coming-of-age plot, but it’s not what I was going for.  So when the book starts, she’s been doing it for two years or so, and I just sort of assume she knows what she’s doing.  Hopefully I didn’t damage anyone’s suspension of disbelief too badly by not going into the details of supportive undergarments and furtive bathroom breaks.

52 Reviews: With the bulk of the novel taken up with the various stages of a military campaign, how much research and planning went into getting the feel if not the specific details just right? What advice would you give to aspiring writers on research and how to avoid using pre-writing to keep them from having to write the actual prose? 

Django Wexler:  Fortunately for me, a lot of the “research” is just the stuff I read for fun.  I wouldn’t have gone for this kind of story if I didn’t enjoy the historical stuff enough to go through it.  So it’s hard to say exactly how much was actually involved – once I started working on it as a book, I did make an effort to seek out some lower-level, first-hand accounts of what battles and marches were like, so I could get that right along with the strategy and tactics.

Research can definitely cross the line into procrastination.  While it’s important to get things right (I think) you can’t let fear of getting things wrong paralyze you.  In particular, relatively minor details are easy to change in a later draft, so it’s not worth giving up your writing momentum in order to figure out some tiny piece of combat drill or military etiquette.  Just mark it somehow (I use Word comments) and move on, take a look on the next pass.

Also, I think a lot of writers fall prey to the idea that, “Oh, it’s epic fantasy, I’ve got to have a big battle in it!”, which is completely not true.  And even if you DO have a big battle, you don’t have to (and probably shouldn’t) give us the blow-by-blow.  I wrote a guest post on this subject for A Dribble of Ink that contains a lot more of my thinking.  

52 Reviews: I noticed that much like Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, you use magic fairly sparingly and often with a lot of mystery. The magic that is used seems devastatingly powerful and possibly game changing and yet sees very little actual page time. What led you to those choices, and will we see a continuation of that theme, or will future volumes see a dramatic increase in the open use of magic?

Django Wexler:   The lack of magic is definitely a “by design” feature of the world, for a couple of reasons.  First, not having ubiquitous magic means it’s easier to use historical precedents for cultures, technologies, and the like.  (I’ve never really liked the worlds where the wizards only blow things up, and never help with farming or diseases.)  Second, I was interested in the military, tactical stuff, and I wanted that to actually matter, which meant not having real battlefield magic in the style of, say, Steven Erikson.  (Not that I don’t love Erikson’s books!  But having armies always seemed sort of pointless when it usually comes down to which all-powerful demigod beats the other.)  So even the strongest magic we see in The Thousand Names wouldn’t make the user a match for a hundred soldiers in the open.

Magic in the world of The Shadow Campaigns is finicky and poorly understood, so while it can be a 
powerful force it’s hard to rely on.  The Shadow Throne definitely continues the trend of magic being relatively subtle; there’s probably a bit more, page for page, but it’s not so much flash-and-bang fighting magic.  As the series goes along, I think the role of magic will increase a little, though, if only because Winter and the others will find out a little bit more about it.

52 Reviews: One of my favorite aspects of the novel was that everyone seems to have secrets. Not only are they present in the story arcs of the characters, but there also are many hidden agendas and secrets that are kept from the general populace as well. Even the title of the series seems to hint at this theme. What led you to this overarching aspect of the story, and how do you manage to not telegraph the numerous reveals in the novel?

Django Wexler:  Hmm.  I actually find this a hard question to answer, because I think that’s a basic part of how I write – a story is always more interesting when the characters have secrets, even if only little ones.  In this book in particular, for the reasons we talked about regarding the magic system, I knew I wanted the reality of magic itself to be a secret at the beginning of the story – as far as the characters are concerned, it’s a myth.  Then Janus has secrets, both because of his goals and because that’s the kind of guy he is, and once Winter’s story fell it became kind of a theme.

The tricky part is giving appropriate hints without giving the game away.  It’s very hard to do, but the perfect reveal is one that completely blindsides the reader when they first see it, but then is totally obvious in retrospect.  That’s a pretty narrow range to calibrate too, though, and it’s different for each reader, so I just did the best I could.  A couple of the biggest secrets, the READER is privy to all along, but not the characters – Winter’s gender is revealed in the first chapter, and the fact that magic is real in the prologue.  Then the trick is making maximum use of the dramatic tension provided by the reader knowing something the characters don’t.

The title of the series definitely plays into the “secrets” theme.  I sort of imagine it as the kind of thing that won’t make it into the official version of history, so that the Shadow Campaigns are the hidden, true story.

52 Reviews: Switching gears a bit, I'd like to talk a little bit about your experience as a debut author. With your first novel under your belt what was the most challenging aspect of the process, and what advice would give to aspiring writers attempting their first novel?

Django Wexler:  I always feel like a little bit of a cheat being called a debut author.  My book Memories of Empire was released by Medallion Press in 2005, and another book, Shinigami, in 2006.  Medallion is a small press, so I qualify for various debut-author things because the pay wasn’t pro-rate, but it was still honest-to-goodness advance-paying publication.

The main advice I would give to aspiring authors is a) keep writing and *finish projects*, and b) don’t assume that your first completed novel will be your first publication.  Very few people end up selling the first thing they’ve written.  It’s certainly worth trying, but you send it off and then start something else.  I finished at least four novels before writing Memories of Empire (it depends how you count), and The Thousand Names was #8 or #9 total.

The hardest part, for me, was actually finishing the stories.  Starting new projects is always more fun than banging the last few nails into old ones, and without a clear goal it’s easy to drift in a sea of half-completed manuscripts.  Actually getting a piece into final, submittable form and sending it out is a big milestone, and worth working toward.

52 Reviews: Continuing along this vein, what's been the most rewarding aspect of your experience as a writer considering the critical success of The Thousand Names? 

Django Wexler:  I’m not sure if we’ve got “critical success”, but I guess the response has been reasonably positive.  For me, talking to people who enjoyed the book is always wonderful.  It’s a bit of an ego-trip, obviously, but it’s also great to see how you made people happy.  For the same reason I like responding to mail, signing copies, and so on; it’s little things that take me a couple of minutes, but it can make someone’s day.  That’s a really rewarding feeling.

I’ve also been privileged to meet quite a few other writers, either on Twitter or at cons, and they’ve been pretty uniformly awesome.  Getting to be a part of that community is a lot of fun.

52 Reviews: I like to end my interviews by giving the authors a chance to talk about whatever strikes their fancy. Feel free to pimp upcoming projects, recommend other authors, or just share something you think might interest the readers. Or you could talk about your secret pact with Napoleon's ghost made on a crossroads on the island of Elba. The choice and the floor is yours.

Django Wexler: The next big event for me is the release of my middle-grade fantasy, The Forbidden Library, in April of next year.  I’m really excited about that one, it’s a new area for me and I hope people like the book.  The Shadow Throne, sequel to The Thousand Names, releases in July.  I’ll probably also have a novella and some short stories out in there somewhere, either in e-bookstores or on the web.

And completely off-topic, for anyone interested, I’m now writing a regular anime column for SF Signal.

Thanks for having me on!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Reflections on Gender Bias

After my round table on Gender Bias, I've been striving to improve the gender parity of the books I read and review. With a little less than three months of paying much closer attention to the results of these efforts I've come to the following conclusion.

Reviews on male written work generate more traffic. I've reviewed five male written novels since the first of October. These novels only account for approximately thirty six percent. Even with female written novels accounting for sixty four percent of the novels reviewed in this period, posts that feature male authors generate approximately 20 more hits than their female counterparts. Perhaps readers are more likely to check out a review for novels they've already noticed in book stores or authors with more name recognition.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

True story, I found myself making an impromptu trip to my local book seller and I knew I wanted a debut author, preferably female for my next read.  I reached out to Twitter for recommendations but my trip was a short one and I didn't get a response fast enough, so I chose a book from the new release section only to find out the author of my chosen novel had suggested it. That novel was Jaime Lee Moyer's Delia's Shadow and I'm pleased to report that it was just what the doctor ordered. Fantasy is not a genre known for it's subtlety and Moyer's delicate and graceful tapestry of historical, romantic, and supernatural elements is as far from the blade wielding heroes, wizened mages, and fire breathing dragons that most associate with the genre as you can get, both in terms of subject and delivery. Even with ghosts and killers prowling the pages, Moyer delivers a subdued yet rousing tale about two people both haunted by their past drawn together to create a future. Moyer is definitely an author to watch.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Interview with Will McIntosh

I loved Will McIntosh's science fiction take on the romantic comedy, Love Minus Eighty and Will was kind enough to take the time to do an interview. We discussed everything from the genesis of this fantastic novel, to world building, internet dating and upcoming projects. It was very enlightening to get a look into the writing process behind one of the best novels I've read this year. Rather than waste time with a lengthy preamble, I'll just get one with the main attraction. I hope you all enjoy our conversation as much as I did.

52 Reviews: Tell us about your process for beginning Love Minus Eighty? I'm aware that you wrote a short story that touches on the Bridecicle program. How did the reception of that story influence the eventual novel and how did your take on the longer work change with more space to tell a more involved tale?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Thousand Names by Django Wexler

I'm just going to come out and say it, military fantasy and science fiction isn't really my bag. I prefer my combat scenes one on one and I'm not a huge fan of massive battles full of flanking maneuvers, artillery exchanges, and the like. Imagine my surprise when I found myself totally engrossed with Django Wexler's tale of a military campaign, The Thousand Names. Wexler's debut was a hasty add on to my list of books I'd like as a birthday gifts at the end of the summer, and it took me a long time to get to it. I'd noticed the buzz surrounding the novel, but hadn't read any reviews and only glanced at the description before deciding to give it a go. I'd enjoyed Brian McClellan's Promise of Blood, and Wexler's book looked very similar. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach

I've been making a concerted effort to read more science fiction this year, and I've found some real standout novels for my trouble. Rachel Aaron's newest novel, Fortune's Pawn is just the latest discovery. Written under the pseudonym of Rachel Bach, Fortune's Pawn is the first in the Paradox series, and it's a fantastic start. Packed to the gills with action, mysteries, and featuring a compelling protagonist this is a novel that fans of space opera won't want to miss. Bringing to mind such genre darlings such as Firefly and Alien, Bach makes good use of the familiar while injecting enough mystery and originality to make such comparisons nothing more than superficial.  I'll definitely be looking forward to the sequel.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Samantha Shannon's The Bone Season is potentially the most hyped debut in speculative fiction right now. There are movie rights and talk about Shannon being the next Rowling or Collins. With all of that build up, I was tempted to just skip it, but I decided that I'd give Shannon's debut a go to see what all the fuss was about. While I can't say that she's the next Rowling or anyone else for that matter, I will say this is a strong debut that has many parallels to popular series that are bound to keep The Bone Season flying off shelves for the foreseeable future.  Those who dismiss Shannon because of the hype surrounding the novel will be making a mistake, there is plenty of promise in the world and characters here and I am confident that Shannon's next effort will be even stronger. This is a novel with strong bones, even if I found it less than breathtaking.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Best of the Back List: 2013 Edition

I've been gearing up to do a year's best books list since the end of the first quarter. But in looking over the books I've read thus far (I'll probably add at least four or five more by the end of the month) I realized that I've read a pretty large number of older works and that perhaps including those doesn't give a wholly accurate view of this year's best novels. So with that  in mind, I've decided to do a separate list for books that were released prior to this year. Thanks to the realization that I had been reading with a bias toward male authors this fall, I've been making an effort to seek out books by female authors that I may have overlooked. I'm happy to report that many of those authors have made their way not only onto this list but also into my "must buy" list of authors. I'll be posting a list of the best of 2013 closer to the end of the year.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Feed by Mira Grant

Zombies are a bit of a cultural phenomenon, in case you’ve been living in a cave somewhere. With the success of The Walking Dead there are plenty of novels about the living dead to choose from and I’ll admit to liking more than a few of them. I’d heard of Mira Grant’s Feed earlier in the year, but passed on reading it because it was told after the zombacalypse. I’m a huge fan of end of the world tales and the idea of a novel that was set after the exciting parts were over just didn’t do it for me. But after realizing my own gender bias was brought to my attention, I started seeking out female genre writers and after sampling one of the Seanan McGuire’s (Mira Grant is a pseudonym) other work and enjoying it, I decided to give Feed a go. And despite my earlier misgivings, I couldn’t be happier with this unique and refreshing take on the world post-zombie outbreak. Feed easily ranks as one of the best novels I’ve read this year and it’s taking all of my willpower not to rush out and dive into the rest of the Newsflesh trilogy.