Sunday, November 29, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-11-28)

Just when I thought nothing would arrive this week, all three of these books landed on Friday.

The Cold Between (Central Corps #1) by Elizabeth Bonesteel (HarperVoyager Trade Paperback 03/08/2015) – Bonesteel’s debut novel looks like a fun mix of noir and space opera.

Deep in the stars, a young officer and her lover are plunged into a murder mystery and a deadly conspiracy in this first entry in a stellar military science-fiction series in the tradition of Lois McMaster Bujold.

When her crewmate, Danny, is murdered on the colony of Volhynia, Central Corps chief engineer, Commander Elena Shaw, is shocked to learn the main suspect is her lover, Treiko Zajec. She knows Trey is innocent—he was with her when Danny was killed. So who is the real killer and why are the cops framing an innocent man?

Retracing Danny’s last hours, they discover that his death may be tied to a mystery from the past: the explosion of a Central Corps starship at a wormhole near Volhynia. For twenty-five years, the Central Gov has been lying about the tragedy, even willing to go to war with the outlaw PSI to protect their secrets.

With the authorities closing in, Elena and Trey head to the wormhole, certain they’ll find answers on the other side. But the truth that awaits them is far more terrifying than they ever imagined . . . a conspiracy deep within Central Gov that threatens all of human civilization throughout the inhabited reaches of the galaxy—and beyond.

Bloodbound (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by F. Wesley Schneider (Tor Trade Paperback 11/03/2015) – Schneider co-created the Pathfinder RPG and if the work of his fellow co-creator James L. Sutter is any indication, this one should be fun.

Larsa is a dhampir-half vampire, half human. In the gritty streets and haunted moors of gothic Ustalav, she's an agent for the royal spymaster, keeping peace between the capital's secret vampire population and its huddled human masses. Yet when a noblewoman's entire house is massacred by vampiric invaders, Larsa is drawn into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that will reveal far more about her own heritage than she ever wanted to know.

From Pathfinder co-creator and noted game designer F. Wesley Schneider comes Bloodbound, a dark fantasy adventure of murder, intrigue, and secrets best left buried, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Role Playing Game.

Eagle in Exile (The Clash of Eagles Trilogy Book Two) by Alan Smale (Del Rey Hardcover 03/15/2015) – Second installment of Smale’s Alternate History, which sprouted from a Sidewise Award winning short story.

Perfect for fans of Bernard Cornwell, Steve Berry, Naomi Novik, and Harry Turtledove, Alan Smale’s gripping alternate history series imagines a world in which the Roman Empire has survived long enough to invade North America in 1218. Now the stunning story carries hero Gaius Marcellinus deeper into the culture of an extraordinary people—whose humanity, bravery, love, and ingenuity forever change his life and destiny.

In A.D. 1218, Praetor Gaius Marcellinus is ordered to conquer North America and turning it into a Roman province. But outside the walls of the great city of Cahokia, his legion is destroyed outright; Marcellinus is the only one spared. In the months and years that follow, Marcellinus comes to see North America as his home and the Cahokians as his kin. He vows to defend these proud people from any threat, Roman or native.

After successfully repelling an invasion by the fearsome Iroqua tribes, Marcellinus realizes that a weak and fractured North America won’t stand a chance against the returning Roman army. Worse, rival factions from within threaten to tear Cahokia apart just when it needs to be most united and strong. Marcellinus is determined to save the civilization that has come to mean more to him than the empire he once served. But to survive the swords of Roma, he first must avert another Iroqua attack and bring the Cahokia together. Only with the hearts and souls of a nation at his back can Marcellinus hope to know triumph..

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-11-21)

Since only one book arrived this week and it's been a while since I did the intro to this weekly post, here goes...

As a reviewer for SFFWorld (as well as SF Signal and and maybe because of this blog, I receive a lot of books for review from various publishers. Since I can't possibly read everything that arrives, I figure the least I can do (like some of my fellow bloggers) is mention the books I receive for review on the blog to at least acknowledge the books even if I don't read them.

Sometimes I get one or two books, other weeks I'll get nearly a dozen books. Some weeks, I’ll receive a finished (i.e. the version people see on bookshelves) copy of a book for which I received an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) weeks or months prior to the actual publication of the book. I’ve been receiving a greater percentage of electronic ARCs this year which is good because death via drowning in a sea of unread books is not how I want to say goodbye to this world.

Sometimes I'll want to read everything that arrives, other weeks, the books immediately go into the "I'll never read this book" pile, while still others go into the nebulous "maybe-I'll-read-it-category." More often than not, it is a mix of books that appeal to me at different levels (i.e. from "this book holds ZERO appeal for me" to "I cannot WAIT to read this book yesterday"). Have a guess in the comments about which book fits my reading labels “I’ll Never Read…” “Zero Appeal” or “cannot wait” "maybe I'll get to it later" and so forth...

A Murder of Mages: A Novel of the Maradaine Constabulary by Marshall Ryan Maresca (DAW Mass Market Paperback 0705/2015) – Maresca’s second series in the same world as his impressive debut The Thorn of Dentonhill

A Murder of Mages marks the debut of Marshall Ryan Maresca’s novels of The Maradaine Constabulary, his second series set amid the bustling streets and crime-ridden districts of the exotic city called Maradaine. A Murder of Mages introduces us to this spellbinding port city as seen through the eyes of the people who strive to maintain law and order, the hardworking men and women of the Maradaine Constabulary.

Satrine Rainey—former street rat, ex-spy, mother of two, and wife to a Constabulary Inspector who lies on the edge of death, injured in the line of duty—has been forced to fake her way into the post of Constabulary Inspector to support her family.

Minox Welling is a brilliant, unorthodox Inspector and an Uncircled mage—almost a crime in itself. Nicknamed “the jinx” because of the misfortunes that seem to befall anyone around him, Minox has been partnered with Satrine because no one else will work with either of them.

Their first case together—the ritual murder of a Circled mage— sends Satrine back to the streets she grew up on and brings Minox face-to-face with mage politics he’s desperate to avoid. As the body count rises, Satrine and Minox must race to catch the killer before their own secrets are exposed and they, too, become targets.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-11-14)

Slow week here, which is good and will allow me to catch up with what I've already got on Mount Toberead

Pirate’s Prophecy (A Pathfinder Tales novel) by Chris Jackson (Paizo Trade Paperback 02/02/2016) – Jackson’s third book for the popular Pathfinder world sees him pick up the story of the pirate Torius Vin first introduced in Pirate’s Honor and continued in Pirate’s Promise.

Paizo Publishing is the award-winning publisher of fantasy roleplaying games, accessories, and board games.Pathfinder Tales: Pirate's Prophecy is the continuation of their popular novel series.

Captain Torius Vin and the crew of the Stargazer have given up the pirate life, instead becoming abolitionist privateers bent on capturing slave ships and setting their prisoners free. But when rumors surface of a new secret weapon in devil-ruled Cheliax, are the Stargazers willing to go up against a navy backed by Hell itself?

I, Robot: To Preserve by Mickey Zucker Reichert (Roc Hardcover 02/02/2016) – The final installment in Reichert’s authorized trilogy featuring characters inspired by those in Asimov’s I, Robot milieu.

Inspired by Science Fiction Grand Master Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot stories.

2037: Robotic technology has evolved into the realm of self-aware, sentient mechanical entities. But despite the safeguards programmed into the very core of a robot’s artificial intelligence, humanity’s most brilliant creation can still fall prey to those who believe the Three Laws of Robotics were made to be broken...

N8-C, better known as Nate, has been Manhattan Hasbro Hospital’s resident robot for more than twenty years. A prototype, humanoid in appearance, he was created to interact with people. While some staff accepted working alongside an anthropomorphic robot, Nate’s very existence terrified most people, leaving the robot utilized for menial tasks and generally ignored.

Until one of the hospital’s physicians is found brutally murdered with Nate standing over the corpse, a blood-smeared utility bar clutched in his hand. As designer and programmer of Nate’s positronic brain, Lawrence Robertson is responsible for his creation’s actions and arrested for the crime.

Susan Calvin knows the Three Laws of Robotics make it impossible for Nate to harm a human being. But to prove both Nate’s and Lawrence’s innocence, she has to consider the possibility that someone somehow manipulated the laws to commit murder...

Friday, November 13, 2015

Friday Round-Up: I'm All over the Place

Got a few things to catch up on in this week’s Friday Round-up. Let’s begin.

Last week, an interview I conducted with one of my favorite writers, C.S. Friedman, was posted to SFFWorld. In it, we discussed her latest YA novel Dreamseeker as well as some of her past work and the great covers her books have had:

The first novel was told in two narrative voices, reading Jesse’s voice helped to impart a great deal of empathy with me as the reader, while the more omniscient views of the story allowed for a greater scope. Will Dreamseeker bounce between those two POVs.

Yes, but with more time devoted to the third person narrative. Dreamseeker follows the story of two main characters whose fates have now become intertwined: Jesse, who is from our world, and Isaac, a young apprentice from a Guild of undead necromancers known as Shadows, who helped Jesse escape from captivity in Dreamwalker. In Dreamseeker, Isaac attempts to return home and make peace with his family, but his human soul cannot accept what undead demand of him.

Was it a challenge to tell the story from two types of narrative perspectives or did it just seem to be the only way to tell it?

My second novel, The Madness Season, alternated between first-person and third-person storytelling as well, so this is not something new for me. The combination is particularly powerful when dealing with a rite of passage story like Dreamwalker, as it allows the reader to experience an intimate connection with the main character, while leaving me free to explore facets of the narrative that she is not aware of.

The balance in Dreamseeker and the third book, Dreamweaver, will be more 50-50 than Dreamwalker was, in part because other characters are now coming to the fore.

This past Friday (11/06) two of my reviews were posted to

Emma Newman’s Planetfall was one of those books and damn was it an intense look at a person suffering from PTSD among other mental disorders on a newly colonized alien planet

Planetfall is at once a fascinating character study through Ren’s first person narrative and a novel that examines how secrets, no matter how buried they are, can be extremely damaging things especially in a small colony in a seeming utopia. Ren spends much of her day as the colony’s printer, responsible for overseeing an advanced 3-D printer which is used to repair damaged items or create them when necessary. Any items. Ren’s obsession with repairing things is a mask for trying to repair the damages left in the wake of Lee’s disappearance and burying her own guilt in the tragic events which transpired nearly two decades ago.

The Unreliable Narrator is quite common in genre, but Newman has effectively dropped the mic on that narrative tool. Ren is a fractured woman who gives new depth to the meaning “unreliable,” and as the story progresses, Ren becomes less of an empathetic character from her fellow colonists’ perspective. If anything, the feeling that grows as more is revealed is pity and frustration.

The other review is from the imprint and the first book acquired by my pal Justin Landon. The book? The supremely fun and engaging short novel The Builders by Daniel Polansky,

The story begins in a bar where the Captain (just the Captain, no other name is needed) awaits the return of his allies. As each of the players are introduced, Polansky reveals small details about each character. After the Captain, Polansky introduces perhaps the most over-the-top character: Bonsoir the stoat. Because a talking mouse with an eye-patch named simply the Captain isn’t over-the-top enough. As the narrative indicates, there are many animals like a stoat, but stoats are unique. To say the stoat has a flair for the dramatic is to say the sun gives off light; the sun is unavoidable in life and Bonsoir is unavoidable in this story. As it should be.

There’s a philosophical question at the heart of this story too, can people change? Are we always going to revert to our baser natures? Can an individual who was once a killer ever escape that violent past and eschew any violent impulses? The Captain is hoping his former team members can’t, because that is what is required to see this revenge plan to its end. Polansky brings life to that essential question brilliantly through the characters, some give in easily to their past behaviors, others struggle against it.

I was part of the last two Mind Melds over at SF Signal (and will be posting the one I’m curating next week). Last week, my pal Paul Wiemer organized a Mind Meld around Audio books. I gushed about the audible adaptation of Joe Hill and Gabe Rodriguez’s Locke & Key, Dominion by C.S. Friedman, and Jonathan Maberry’s Patient Zero.

This week, one of the men behind the curtain of SF Signal, JP Frantz, corralled a few of us Mind Melders and asked what our favorite recent reads were. I shouted out Jim Butcher’s The Aeronaut’s Windlass, Cherie Priest’s Borden Dispatches, Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, Jason M. Hough’s Zero World, C.J. Cherryh’s Foreigner, and Updraft.

A couple of days ago, something long in the simmering posted. A few months ago, Fred Kiesche, Joe Sherry, Paul Wiemer, Jonah Morse, and The G (of Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together), and I were involved in a twitter conversation about Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni novels, specifically the first one Deryni Rising.

We all decided that we’d do something more formal, like a round-table blog discussion. Well, the G went and posted that mega roundtable discussion over at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together.

[The G] I think it’s fair to say we all really liked Deryni Rising by Katherine Kurtz--I know I did. But what is it, exactly, that makes this novel hold up so well? I mean, it’s more than 40 years old, but it feels quite modern in many ways. Am I right? Why or why not?

Rob Bedford: In large part, it is Kurtz’s ability to build up the narrative tension as the novel ramped up to the confrontation with Charissa. Good, gripping storytelling survives and continues to draw people in because it keeps people from stepping away from the story. I think it is the simplicity of the story and how elegantly Kurtz constructs the story.

Last, but not least, I reviewed C.A. Higgins’ debut novel Lightless, which really impressed me:

The crew of the Ananke is quite small. Surrounding Althea are Domitian, ship’s captain and Gagnon, the senior scientist. The crew grows by one when Ida Stays, an interrogator from the System, arrives to determine Ivanov and Mattie’s links to Mallt-y-Nos, a galactic terrorist…well, just Ivanov now since Mattie escaped (or was killed according to Althea’s superiors aboard the Ananke). After that chess-board is set-up (about ¼ to 1/3 of the novel), Higgins begins to maneuver her characters in expert fashion. Her characters begin to question what they have come to know and how they view their situation – especially Althea – which makes for a great puzzle of a novel to decipher.

Higgins plays these characters off of each other extremely well with all the interactions floating on an undercurrent of distrust and anger. While Domitian plays a very authoritative figure, he becomes a shadow of a man in the presence of both Ida and Ivanov. He treats Althea as little more than an inexperienced child throughout much of the narrative, perhaps because she is the only person over whom he can hold power.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-11-07)

One of these will be my next read.

Ash and Silver (A Sanctuary Novel #2) by Carol Berg (Roc, Trade Paperback 12/01/2015) - Berg has been on my radar for a couple of years, even more so over the past couple of years. My friend Sarah Chorn, (has a blurb for book one in the front matter of this one!) raves about Berg, so maybe with the duology published, I’ll jump into them.

Navronne's brutal civil war has exposed corruption that could bring the once glorious kingdom to its knees, unless someone can be found to stop it. . .

Ever since the secretive Order of the Equites Cineré - the Knights of the Ashes - stole his memory, his name, and his heart, considering the past makes Greenshank's head ache. After two rigorous years of training he is ready to embrace the mission of the Order - to use selfless magic to heal Navronne's troubles. But on his first assignment, the past comes roaring back, threatening to drown him in conspiracy, grief, and murder. 

He is Lucian de Remeni - a sorcerer whose magical bents for portraiture and history threaten the safety of the earth and the future of the war-riven kingdom of Navronne. He just can't remember how or why. 

To untangle his missing past and a cryptic outsider’s plan for his future, Lucian must evade the brutal justice of elemental beings, solve a crime hidden in the depths of history, and locate a city beyond the boundaries of the human world . . .

Made to Kill by Adam Christopher (The L.A. Trilogy #1) - (Tor Hardcover 11/03/2015) – Christopher has a really impressive output and this one is a robot noir mystery. Sounds like it could be fun

It was just another Tuesday morning when she walked into the office--young, as I suspected they all might be, another dark brunette with some assistance and enough eye black to match up to Cleopatra. And who am I? I'm Ray, the world's last robot, famed and feared in equal measure, which suits me just fine--after all, the last place you'd expect to find Hollywood's best hit man is in the plain light of day.

Raymond Electromatic is good at his job, as good as he ever was at being a true Private Investigator, the lone employee of the Electromatic Detective Agency--except for Ada, office gal and super-computer, the constant voice in Ray's inner ear. Ray might have taken up a new line of work, but money is money, after all, and he was programmed to make a profit. Besides, with his twenty-four-hour memory-tape limits, he sure can keep a secret.

When a familiar-looking woman arrives at the agency wanting to hire Ray to find a missing movie star, he's inclined to tell her to take a hike. But she had the cold hard cash, a demand for total anonymity, and tendency to vanish on her own.

Plunged into a glittering world of fame, fortune, and secrecy, Ray uncovers a sinister plot that goes much deeper than the silver screen--and this robot is at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

Made to Kill is the thrilling new speculative noir from novelist and comic writer Adam Christopher

Black Wolves by Kate Elliott (Orbit Books Trade Paperback 11/03/2015) – This one has been on my radar for quite some time as I’ve been reacquainting myself with Elliott’s fiction.

An exiled captain returns to help the son of the king who died under his protection in this rich and multi-layered first book in an action-packed new series. 

Twenty two years have passed since Kellas, once Captain of the legendary Black Wolves, lost his King and with him his honor. With the King murdered and the Black Wolves disbanded, Kellas lives as an exile far from the palace he once guarded with his life. 

Until Marshal Dannarah, sister to the dead King, comes to him with a plea-rejoin the palace guard and save her nephew, King Jehosh, before he meets his father's fate. 

Combining the best of Shogun and Marco Polo, Black Wolves is an unmissable treat for epic fantasy lovers everywhere.

Hunted (The Iron Druid Chronicles #8) by Kevin Hearne (Del Rey, Mass Market Paperback 01/26/2016) – I’ve enjoyed every installment of this series Hammered is blurbed don the front, but because I also really enjoyed Hounded, loved it and posted the Hexed, Tricked, and Hunted

Iron Druid Atticus O’Sullivan, hero of Kevin Hearne’s epic New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series, has a point to make—and then drive into a vampire’s heart.

When a Druid has lived for two thousand years like Atticus, he’s bound to run afoul of a few vampires. Make that legions of them. Even his former friend and legal counsel turned out to be a bloodsucking backstabber. Now the toothy troublemakers—led by power-mad pain-in-the-neck Theophilus—have become a huge problem requiring a solution. It’s time to make a stand.

As always, Atticus wouldn’t mind a little backup. But his allies have problems of their own. Ornery archdruid Owen Kennedy is having a wee bit of troll trouble: Turns out when you stiff a troll, it’s not water under the bridge. Meanwhile, Granuaile is desperate to free herself of the Norse god Loki’s mark and elude his powers of divination—a quest that will bring her face-to-face with several Slavic nightmares.

As Atticus globetrots to stop his nemesis Theophilus, the journey leads to Rome. What better place to end an immortal than the Eternal City? But poetic justice won’t come without a price: In order to defeat Theophilus, Atticus may have to lose an old friend.

Praise for Kevin Hearne and The Iron Druid Chronicles

“[The Iron Druid books] are clever, fast paced and a good escape.”—Jason Weisberger, Boing Boing

“Celtic mythology and an ancient Druid with modern attitude mix it up in the Arizona desert in this witty new fantasy series.”—Kelly Meding, author of Chimera

“Outrageously fun.”—The Plain Dealer, on Hounded

“Superb . . . plenty of quips and zap-pow-bang fighting.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review), on Hounded

“Exciting . . . [Atticus] is one of the best main characters currently present in the urban fantasy genre.”—Fantasy Book Critic, on Tricked

“Funny, razor-sharp . . . plenty of action, humor, and mythology.”—Booklist (starred review), on Shattered

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Books in the Mail (W/E 2015-10-31)

Another small batch this week, here goes...

Impulse (The Lightship Chronicles #2) by Dave Bara (DAW Hardcover 01/05/2016) – Second installment in Bara’s Military SF/Space Opera series. I enjoyed the first, Impulse earlier this year.



The Lightship H.M.S. IMPULSE is gone, sacrificed while defeating First Empire ships the fragile new galactic alliance had hoped it would never see again...

For Peter Cochrane, serving as third officer aboard his world's flagship, H.M.S STARBOUND is a dream that's finally come true. Tasked with investigating a mysterious space station in a newly re-discovered star system, Peter and STARBOUND face a terrible attack. The wounds of that battle may heal with time, but the war is far from over as the First Empire returns, aided by new traitors from within the Union itself!.

Mystic by Jason Denzel (Tor Hardcover 11/03/2015) – This is filmmaker and Wheel of Time uber fan (owner of Dragonmount, the premier Wheel of Time fan website.

Mystic is the start of an enchanting new epic fantasy series from Jason Denzel, the founder of Dragonmount.

I called to the Myst, and it sent us you.

For hundreds of years, high-born nobles have competed for the chance to learn of the Myst. Powerful, revered, and often reclusive, Mystics have the unique ability to summon and manipulate the Myst: the underlying energy that lives at the heart of the universe. Once in a very great while, they take an apprentice, always from the most privileged sects of society. Such has always been the tradition-until a new High Mystic takes her seat and chooses Pomella AnDone, a restless, low-born teenager, as a candidate.

Commoners have never been welcomed among the select few given the opportunity to rise beyond even the highest nobility. So when Pomella chooses to accept the summons and journey to Kelt Apar, she knows that she will have more to contend with than the competition for the apprenticeship.

Breaking both law and tradition, Pomella undergoes three trials against the other candidates to prove her worthiness. As the trials unfold, Pomella navigates a deadly world of intolerance and betrayal, unaware that ruthless conspirators intend to make her suffer for having the audacity to seek to unravel the secrets of the Myst.

The Wheel of Time Companion by Robert Jordan, Harriet McDougal, Alan Romanczuk, and Maria Simons (Tor Hardcover 11/03/2015) – I think it is fair to say I’m a fan of the Wheel of Time, so this is a very cool book to have. It is *enormous* and very much an encyclopedia of information.

Since its debut in 1990, The Wheel of Time® by Robert Jordan has captivated millions of readers around the globe with its scope, originality, and compelling characters. Over the course of fifteen books and millions of words, the world that Jordan created grew in depth and complexity. However, only a fraction of what Jordan imagined ended up on the page, the rest going into his personal files.

Now The Wheel of Time Companion sheds light on some of the most intriguing aspects of the world, including biographies and motivations of many characters that never made it into the books, but helped bring Jordan's world to life.

Included in the volume in an A-to-Z format are:

An entry for each named character
An inclusive dictionary of the Old Tongue
New maps of the Last Battle
New portraits of many characters
Histories and customs of the nations of the world
The strength level of many channelers
Descriptions of the flora and fauna unique to the world
And much more!

The Wheel of Time Companion will be required reading for The Wheel of Time's millions of fans.