Monday, November 25, 2013

Love Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh

One of the best things about being connected to the reviewing community is hearing about novels that I wouldn’t otherwise have picked up on my own. Will McIntosh’s Love Minus Eighty is one of those finds I wouldn’t have made if not for social media. After seeing review after glowing review in my Twitter feed, I picked it up and set it on the top of Mount To Be Read, where it was promptly buried. It took a few months before I had time to pick it up, but I managed to devour it over the weekend, despite being fairly busy with other social obligations. I don’t normally read a lot on the weekends due to a fairly busy schedule when I’m not working, but McIntosh’s fascinating tale of love and technology just wouldn’t let me go, so I finished it in record time. I’m happy to report that despite having a strong romantic element to its story line that Love Minus Eighty is one of the best novels I’ve read this year.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Miserere by Teresa Frohock

Teresa Frohock’s Miserere is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a far too long. Sadly, as is the case with a lot of debut novels by female authors, I’ve had a hard time locating a copy in my local bookstore. But eventually I gave up looking and just ordered myself a copy. When I concluded my Round Table of Gender Bias in SF/F, I gave readers the opportunity to choose my next read To Be Read pile and Miserere was the clear favorite. I dove right in, and immediately regretted that I’d waited this long to delve into Frohock’s fascinating debut. With engaging world building, deeply realized characters and  plenty of pathos Miserere is a debut novel that begs for a wider readership.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

Urban fantasy is a tricky business, especially when the author uses a first person point of view.  But when it’s done well, the results can be exceptional. Seanan McGuire’s Discount Armageddon is a good example of how the strength of the viewpoint character’s voice can carry the story in spite of some questionable story choices.

Discount Armageddon is the story of Verity Price, a crypto-biologist who dreams of a being a professional ballroom dancer but is torn between her personal ambitions and her place in the family business studying cryptids, monsters of both the sentient and non-sentient variety. When female cryptids begin to disappear, Verity discovers Dominic Deluca, a member of the Covenant of St. George, an ancient organization that views cryptids as threats to humanity that should be exterminated operating in Manhattan. Is he the culprit or is there a larger threat to both humanity and cryptids alike?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan

It’s always an interesting proposition when an author jumps to another genre. Will the elements of their successes in one venue parlay into equal success in another? Will the story be as entertaining as the previous works, despite a complete change of storytelling scenery, with different tropes and expectations? Readers of this blog are well aware that I’m decidedly more comfortable with fantasy novels, only branching into science fiction rarely. So when I heard that Michael J. Sullivan was using Kickstarter to produce a science fiction story, I was curious to see if my love for Sullivan’s work would extend to a story outside of the Riyria series. I’m happy to report that not only does Hollow World establish Sullivan as a force to be reckoned with in any genre he chooses to ply his talent to, it also is a prime example of one of the reasons speculative fiction is so important. Hollow World is an excellent and thought provoking novel that tackles big issues yet does so in such a way to allow the reader to draw their own conclusions once they reach the end of this thoughtful, entertaining and compelling science fiction murder mystery.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

I’ve been following Joe Hill’s career since the beginning. As a long term fan of his father, Stephen King, I was curious to see what his son might contribute to my bookshelves. Hill has yet to disappoint. His novels, while not as compelling as some of his father’s standouts, were well written, compelling, and showed a promise of greater things to come. Hill’s latest effort, NOS4A2 is the fulfillment of that promise. Hill has created a novel full of terror, heart ache, and redemption that is a strong contender for the best book I’ve read this year. NOS4A2 fires on all cylinders, and is a thrilling ride from start to finish and is populated with characters so full of life that I found myself putting off the end of the novel, so our time together wouldn’t come to a close. With so many books waiting in the wings, it’s not often that I feel so strongly about a story. It appears, the undoubtedly proud papa should be watching his six, because Junior has definitely arrived.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Deaths of Tao by Wesley Chu

I always approach sophomore novels with a certain amount of trepidation. Things like middle book syndrome, sophomore slump,and rushed to market always seem to come to mind. The more I liked the debut the more hesitant I am to crack the cover on their second effort. And there's no doubt how I felt about Chu's breakout success The Lives of Tao, it's currently on my list of the best books I've read this year. So it goes without saying that I was worried that Chu may not be able to catch lightning in a bottle the second time around. Due to some gutsy writing choices, I was in for quite the roller coaster ride as my expectations were mowed down like red-shirted extras in the opening chapters but Chu manages to sell a story that while standing in the shadow of its predecessor manages to shine on its own, very different merits.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Round Table: Gender Bias in SF/F Part Three

This round table on Gender Bias, has been an eye opening experience for me. I had no idea how prevalent and subtle this issue was at the onset. But through my discussion with Stina, Zach and Maz I've found myself in a unique position to do something about a problem. To perhaps have a chance to have some slight impact on my audience other than sharing my opinion about the books that I devour each year. Because, gender bias is real and it's a problem we as a community can take steps to solve. 

I hope that some of the fledgling bloggers or aspiring ones, can learn from my experience and save themselves a public and sobering lesson and help educate the readership about the amazing writers who need our support to continue to tell more stories. The next Kameron Hurley, Stina Leicht, Lauren Beukes, Erin Morganstern, Emma Bull, M.L. Brennan, and countless countless others may be on the edge of giving up. We can help those stories get told, by simply making sure we read those stories that aren't told by heterosexual white guys. 

And I'm happy to say that I think we've done some good. The numbers are encouraging. The first part of this round table is already the most viewed item on this website's history. Part Two didn't get as much traction, but people are reading. And hopefully, they'll pick up one book by an author they might have otherwise looked over. It's something, and In would be lying if I didn't say I was proud. 

So here's the latest installment. I'm sorry it's taken so long, but life gets in the way at times. But to make up for it, I'm going to let the audience which book in the above picture of my To Be Read pile I need next. Comment below with your vote. I'll announce the winner in a week. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

My love of genre fiction was cemented at an early age. I voraciously devoured The Chronicles of Narnia and every one of Frank L. Baum’s Oz novels I could get my eight year old hands on. Those books were my gateways to the fantastic and even though I’ve certainly dabbled in other genres my reader’s heart has always belonged to stories of magic and unexpected heroism. Catherynne M. Valente’s The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairly Land in a Ship of Her Own Making is cut from the same gossamer cloth of those classic tales and reminds me simultaneously of those childhood classics and more recent standouts such as Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane.