Naamah's CurseNaamah’s Curse by Jacqueline Carey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are authors you read, and authors you experience. Jacqueline Carey is one of the latter. As a writer, I more often than not can only read in small doses. This isn’t due to time constraints, but rather due to my own internal editor coming out. I very rarely will find a book (or author) that breaks this habit. When I read Carey, I am immersed. This has not been the case with all of her books, but it has been with all of the Krushiel and (so far) the Naamah novels. The verbiage, story, plot and characters are so intriguing and flawlessly presented that I literally cannot put it down. I read this 800 page novel in two days. That is unheard of for me.

Do yourself a favor, start with Krushiel’s Dart, and read all of Carey’s books.

Notes to consider: if you do not like sexual content, disregard the last above statement. These books revolve around erotic ideas and acts. Also, this particular novel bashes the idea of narrow-minded religious dogma, and the manipulation of a religious ideal by those who are it’s “priests”. I find this element an excellent commentary on much religion today. Don’t know if Carey intended this to be a social commentary, but I hope so.

Highest recommendation!



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Elminster Must DieElminster Must Die by Ed Greenwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ed Greenwood is a master storyteller, creator of one of the most detailed and entertaining worlds (the Forgotten Realms), shared among many authors. His characters are funny and engaging, his plots are complex and interesting and the setting… well the setting has produced more novels than any single setting that I am aware of in the history of Fantasy or SF. For a listing of just novels and anthologies (not gaming supplements) check out the wiki here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_For…

I only made one mistake in reading this novel, and that is I have not read the previous ones in this series. I recommend that you do. The novel stands alone, but you would enjoy it more, I think, if you start from the beginning. There are only seven before this one…

The tale strikes me as sad in spots, for it delves into the problematical situation of the aging and failing archmage dealing with his own dismal future, and his own inability to perform any real magic whatsoever without devolving into a (literally) barking-mad, drooling idiot. There is pain in his realization that his long life is coming to a close, and his abilities are failing. But there is hope, for he has found a heir to carry on his work, one who might just be as daring, desperate and devilishly clever as he is.

Highest rating for this swords and sorcery romp! Well done, fair bard, well done indeed!



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The Well of Ascension (Mistborn, #2)The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this second in the Mistborn series, but had some difficulty with a few issues. The characters are so repeatedly and predictably thwarted at every turn throughout the book that it starts to become commonplace. No plan works, no idea helps, and in the end… well, minor spoiler here… that theme continues. The theme of the book comes off as so negative, such a downer at times, that I felt like “What’s going to go wrong next?” every time I picked it up.
Don’t get me wrong, four solid stars, and Brandon Sanderson is a complete pro, but man… how about a ray of sunshine?
Now, of course, I am looking forward to the third book in the series…



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Well, we got a great review by Seven Seas Cruising Association Bulletin editor Barb Thiesen for Scimitar Moon. She and the SSCA have been great supporters of the Scimitar Seas novels, but, since the bulletin is a “Members Access Only” page, I’ll post the entire thing here for you.

Caution! Spoilers!!!

At last, the next book in the Scimitar Seas series has been released! For those of you anxious to continue the high seas adventure tale of the seamage Cynthia Flaxal, you’ll be happy to know that your wait is over. Scimitar’s Heir is the third book in a series by award-winning writer and SSCA member Chris A. Jackson. Scimitar Moon and Scimitar Sun, the first tow books of the four book series of pirate fantasy novels are both GOLD winners in Fantasy for Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award.
The action packed Scimitar’s Heir has Cynthia Flaxal and Feldrin Brelak searching for their son, who was stolen at birth by the mer. The mer have taken the seamage’s heir and left in search of the long-abandoned, floating city of Akrotia, which the mer hope to return to its once enchanted glory with the life of the child.
While Cynthia and Feldrin are gone from the Shattered Isles, pirates seek revenge, cannibals seek prisoners and the emperor seeks justice for the crimes of the seamage. Perils near and far threaten to destroy all that Cynthia has achieved. This is another entertaining tale filled with unforgettable characters and boasting a plot loaded with twists and turns.
Author Chris Jackson and his wife, Anne, are fulltime cruisers. Visit Chris’ website at www.jaxbooks.com where you can download several chapters of Scimitar’s Heir for free. Then pick up your own copy at any bookseller. You can follow the Jackson’s cruising adventures at www.sailmrmac.blogspot.com.

StardustStardust by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Don’t get me wrong, Neil Gaiman is a wonderful writer, and I love his style, but I got the feeling that he got halfway through this manuscript and said, “Oops, I’m late for the deadline,” and finished it by saying “and they had a bunch of adventures and lived happily ever after.”

Frankly, this is perhaps the only book I have ever read where I liked the move adaptation better than the book. I may be jaded, because I saw the movie first, but there you go.

No disrespect to Master Gaiman, but the awards this book has received were obviously directed to his great writing style, not the flow of the story. It needed another 100 pages, at the very least.

Good, but in the end, disappointing…



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Prince of WolvesPrince of Wolves by Dave Gross

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very well written piece with an interesting POV perspective; first person from two different protagonists. This is especially entertaining here, in a very “Holmes Watson” way, as one of the characters is a rather haughty, womanizing, wine-loving “ambassador” and member of the Pathfinders, a group of knowledge seeking adventurers in the Paizo gaming world of Golarion. Please don’t let the fact that this is a game oriented novel dissuade you from picking it up. The writing and characterization are tight, and the plot twists are well done.

The only down side I have to lay down about this wonderful tale, and the only reason I didn’t give it the full five stars, is the author’s propensity to start a chapter in the middle, then backfill a page or two to catch up to where he started. It works, but I feel that it is a tool too often used in this single novel. That said, I have the highest recommendations for the book, and will be picking up the sequel, Master of Demons, as soon as I can get my hands on a copy…

Well done!

Disclaimer: I met Dave Gross at Gencon 2011, and the fact that he is a great guy may have influenced this review… ;-)



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Soul Thief (The Demon Trappers #2)Soul Thief by Jana Oliver

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first in this series was a great hook, and now this one immerses the reader in so much intrigue, betrayal, lies, and heartwrenching misunderstandings that the reader just wants to scream! (In a very good way…)



Jana Oliver has a real passion for burying her characters in deep trouble, and Riley, the heroine of this wonderful YA contemporary fantasy, is no exception. Without spoilers, this is one you will not be able to put down, and will leave you begging for more.



Bravo!



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A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yes, you can put this down as “one I finally got around to reading”. With all the hype generated by the recent HBO series based on this book, and the casting of one of my favorite actors as Eddard Stark, one of the book’s main characters, I felt it was my duty to dive in.

I have very little bad to say about this epic fantasy. The writing, plotting, characterization, setting and theme are masterfully done, which is what I expect from a veteran like Martin. He draws you into the world of the Seven Kingdoms, and lets you know right of the bat that he will be pulling no punches. This is NOT a fluffy YA fantasy with faeries and dragons and maidens fair. It is a gritty, realistic portrayal of medieval values, warfare, plotting, intrigue, incest, rape, torture and execution, with a little light magic thrown in for spice. The fantastic elements are very obscure in the beginning, with only obscure mentions of “the others” and almost no blatant use of magic. Only in the end do things get really fantastical.

Okay, even with five stars, I have a few quips: pacing is a little meandering at times. I felt like things could have been a little quicker earlier on, though I have no specific points where I said “This scene could be cut.” The plot is a very elaborate mosaic, and all the pieces fit together well, but Martin seems a little proud of his setting, and there are long descriptions of castles, forests, scenery and geography that could have been a little more brief. That said, I still had difficulty putting it down, though I read it in small doses just because it is sometimes overwhelming.

The only other downside is that there are four more, and I have so little time to read that such doorstops (750+ pages) are just going to have to wait.



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Here’s the little nugget: A deleted scene from the Foreword Reviews Gold Medal winner, Scimitar Moon. The chapter was vastly shortened for length, and so a five page feast was pretty much cut. I love food descriptions, and it really hurt to kill this one… but I throw nothing away.

Here’s the file:Scimitar Moon deleted scene

Enjoy!

I see real issues rising from the deluge of digital books (and not books) being published by the hundreds of new e-book publishers cropping up like sprouts in a cornfield. This first, and perhaps the most telling for new authors, is the potential for the same type of predatory “publishing” that hit with the first POD publishers, and that has now, mostly, gone by the wayside. (Yes, POD’s still charge, but most have stopped touting themselves as publishers; they are printing services, the author is the publisher) This stems from the fact that many (not all, certainly) of these e-publishers really aren’t “publishers”; they do no editing, do not screen their product for quality, do not offer appropriate cover art, and many charge the author for “services”, such as the aforementioned inappropriate or just plain crappy cover art. They are the equivalent of POD printers, but only offer “e-printing”. The problem with this is twofold: first, it inundates the market with low quality product, and second, because there are hundreds of thousands of these books hitting the e-book market, there is a pressure on pricing and a dilution factor for consumers.

Here, as I see it, are the long term effects this will generate: First, yes the consumer is all excited about being able to buy books for 99 cents, and they are doing so in record numbers. Authors generally get a larger cut of e-book sales, but how much real income is being generated. The total number of e-books being sold is huge, but the profits are not off-setting the loss this is causing in the print book market. The lower priced e-books (usually “published” at low cost due to the aforementioned lack of services generally provided by publishers, like editing) are driving down market prices for e-books from publishers who do provide these services. This is, of course, intentional. Contrary to popular belief, there are costs to publishing an e-book. These “real” publishers are generally also the companies who are publishing print copy books, so there is more pressure on them to make up this lost revenue elsewhere, like cutting back on their “real” publisher services. Ouch… I’m reminded of the predatory retail tactics of Walmart, pricing below profit margin to pressure competitors out of business, then raising prices.

Second: The dilution effect will eventually have a negative impact on sales. It hasn’t yet, evidently, but it will. It has to. Even now, as a consumer, I’m utterly sick of searching for good new books in the e-book pile… Even at a dollar each, I’ll probably have to buy twenty to find one I like, or one that is even readable. Contrary to popular belief, the consumer does have discriminating taste; this is what has made POD self-publishing less a “scarlet letter” than it was a few years ago. You, as an author, are judged not as to how your book made it into print (or e-print) but on how it was received, reviewed and what awards it has won. This is where e-books are going.

On the upside: E-publication has opened a huge market for novella-length and shorter work. There is no really viable print market for these lengths, although for flash fiction, you might try DailySF, which is now a SFWA market. Magazines are dying or dead, anthologies are great, but don’t make money, and just try to publish and sell a novella at a profit. But once again, there are the two above problems with this as well.

So is there a solution? Sure: search for good e-books by looking for good reviews, etc, and drive the market back to where it belongs. And even better, if you read an e-book and like it, review it on Amazon, Goodreads, or any one of a dozen other sites, and recommend it to your friends!

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