Book Review – Cold City by @fpaulwilson

What to say? This book was awesome! I typically read and review fantasy, so this was a break from the norm for me. Apparently this series delves into that genre later on, but there wasn’t any of it in here. I’m glad I read it though as everything about it I loved.

Cold City

I have never read a “Jack the Repairman” book by F. Paul Wilson before of which there are a lot already. This is the first of a prequel series to those other novels (which I will read). Consequently, I already knew Jack survived, but even without the fear of death on the plate, the book kept me captivated and rooting for our “hero”. Since I knew nothing of what comes after, everything was new to me. I look forward to lots of “ah-ha!” moments as I “catch up” with the series.

The book takes place along the eastern seaboard of the US in the early/mid 1990s, but mostly within New York City. Our hero is a college dropout who is about off the radar as much as anyone can be. He lacks a social security number, a license, even a telephone. And that is exactly the way he wants it.

Every single character is rich in personality. Each is unique and has their own desires. Dialogue is fantastic – not once did I think to myself “who would say that” – and the conversations all flowed fast and smooth. The attention to details the author took with the characters is something only those who read other people very well can manage. I was truly blown away by these aspects of the book. If you love great characterization, you will do flips for this book.

The plot was amazing too. There were always four or five things going on at once between multiple factions. From the mob and jihadist terrorists, to Latin gangs and tobacco runners, you never knew what was going to happen next. There was mystery and suspense on almost every page with new clues that lead to more questions while providing the answers you wanted to know. I can’t forget to mention the love interest that came into play despite our hero’s reluctance or his mysterious best friend who owns a successful sporting shop yet never has any customers. I can’t give enough accolades for this book.

I rate this book a stunning 5 out of 5 stars. If you like mystery and thrillers you will devour this novel.

You can buy it here (US):

You can buy it here (UK):

Book Review – Blood’s Pride by @EvieManieri

“Blood’s Pride” by Evie Manieri is a solid fantasy which I quite enjoyed.

20131217-041135.jpg

Evie’s writing suspends disbelief. It is fluid and rich with detail, but not overly so as you’ll find in many classics. She pulled me into her world and her story kept me turning page after page. I invested myself in her characters. None were heroes and none were truly villains either. Each had histories explaining the people they’d become and understandable if not relatable desires.

The book is quite original in its setting. It takes place in a seaside desert with hints of a much colder world to the north. A great mountainside temple lies in the sealed away shadows of its past. It is the gateway to the mines that brought an imperial host to its shores.

Twenty years later, the slavers are fractious as the oppressed revolt against their bondage. The slaves refuse their murderous masters and seek revenge for the destruction of their faith. No longer will they toil in the black mines of the mountain under heel and rod. They have a plan.

The magics of the world are varied. Black metal from the mountain has mystical properties. It is the source of the enslaving empire’s attentions. The warring twin Gods of the dune wanderers bless their followers in exchange for their singular devotion. Should its secrets be unearthed, the lost faith of the enslaved harbors the most powerful magic of all.

A large cast of characters and shifting points of view might throw off some readers. I had no problems following along. I did feel the actions taken by two of the characters were at odds with what I’d come to know about their personas. This initially broke the spell Evie had cast over me, but she made up for it in subsequent chapters. I came to understand I hadn’t fully understood the characters I thought I had and I liked them more for it. Looking back, there were hints I simply hadn’t caught.

The tale ties up tight, yet there are definite lead-ins to the next books. One element of the ending was bitter-sweet and was both unexpected and predestined. I look forward to the next installment of the trilogy.

I rate this story a solid 4 out of 5 stars. If you like original fantasy settings and good writing, you’ll enjoy it too.

You can buy it here (UK):

  • Jo Fletcher Books Direct Link (Support this fine publishing house)
  • Amazon.co.uk
  • You can buy it here (US):

  • Amazon.com
  • Low Town, a.k.a. The Straight Razor Cure by @DanielPolansky

    What an excellent book! It is such a shame the US publisher dropped this series. I rank this as one of the best books I’ve read, right on par with The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch and The Broken Empire series by Mark Lawrence. Low Town (a.k.a. The Straight Razor Cure) is a masterpiece of dark fantasy and noir mixed together. I’m new to noir and from this experience, I have to say I love it.

    Warning: Slight Spoilers

    Magic is to fantasy as carbon is to life. Low Town’s magical elements are mysterious to the reader and while they are an important aspect, they don’t take center stage of the story like you’ll find in a Sanderson novel. The main character (our detective per se) has no skill with “the art”. Instead he depends on his intellect and wit, and when those fail – his blade, to evade his own murder and solve the horrific crimes plaguing the slums. He is hounded by various organizations, both criminal and lawful. His quest: to clear his name with his former employers (the special ops section of a dangerous detective agency in employ with the crown) by solving the case of murdered children in Low Town.

    Meanwhile a plague threatens to return after years of absence due to the failing health of the sorcerer who maintains the wards holding it at bay. His apprentice, a young girl that our main character rescued as a youth, seeks to take up the mantle of protecting the city after her master’s fast approaching death. She aids the main character in what small ways she can, but she isn’t nearly as powerful as her master was.

    The story grabs you on the first page. The pace propels you from chapter to chapter. The excitement and mystery keeps you guessing and you may have ideas, but you never know which way things are going to go next.

    They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The fact of the matter is that most people do exactly that. Proof couldn’t be more evident than in this example. Take a look below and make your own conclusions as to why the book fares better in the UK than here in the US and why subsequently the US publisher dropped this series for lack of sales (at least that is what I’ve read on other blogs). If you want to read books 2 and 3, you’ll have to import copies from the UK for now – a high cost yes, but I am sure it will be worth it. The audible format is highly recommended for Low Town as well.

    20131123-134839.jpg

    20131123-134853.jpg

    I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars. It is firmly in my top ten favorites of all time.

    You can buy it here: US Amazon or UK Amazon

    Or listen to it via audible

    The sequels via Amazon UK (will ship worldwide): Book 2 and Book 3

    Book Review – The Language of Dying by @SarahPinborough

    This novella moved me deeply. That doesn’t happen often and I read a fair amount.

    Pinborough-LanguageOfDying_thumb[1]

    The story follows the dialog of a woman confiding her innermost thoughts to her dead father. The central plot is of her caring for her dad in his last weeks of life. Throughout the story, pieces of her life from childhood through the present are weaved in.

    There are a lot of heart wrenching moments that made me empathize deeply with her. Through a modern dysfunctional family to a Beauty and the Beast tale gone all wrong, this woman keeps drifting along. In the end she overcomes her broken life, but to where she goes we do not know. A hint of the supernatural prevails the story adding a nice spice to an already delicious tale.

    Having a little girl myself and some recent health-scares of my own really brought this home. The story had me on the verge of tears and choking up at points. It’s beautifully written and I know it’s going to stay with me for a long time.

    I highly recommend this book with an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars. I want to thank Jo Fletcher Books for the review copy they sent me this very morning. I will be ordering my own copy shortly for my book shelf.

    You can buy it here (UK):

    You can buy it here (US):

    Series Review – Riyira Revelations, by Michael J. Sullivan @author_sullivan

    Today I am writing a review of the Riyira Revelations by Michael J. Sullivan. I just finished the 3 book series (or 6 depending on when you became an MJS fan). There was just so much goodness I had to break my hiatus (apologies – life and all that) and write a review.

    Riyria Trilogy

    MJS is one of those success stories you rarely hear about in the world of writing. He started out “indie” (short for an independently published author). This is frowned on by the snooty publishing world for mostly bogus reasons, but after becoming quite successful on his own, he was picked up by Hachette (one of the big 6 publishing houses). They combined his six books into three and from what I understand, MJS maintains some rights to profit as an indie as well as the benefits of having a publishing house behind him and the royalties that can come along with that. He is one of the pioneers forging a new path for future writers in an internet world.

    Enough background on the author though. What about the books?

    First off. I’m jumping right to the ratings so I can get that off my chest:

    5 stars for “Theft of Swords”.
    5 stars for “Rise of Empire”.
    5 stars for “Heir of Novron”.

    Wow! Really? 5 stars for all three books? Yes. Okay, book 1 I teetered between 4 and 5, but ultimately ruled it was 5 worthy. Also, to the haters, I apologize ahead of time. I “read” these books via Audible audiobooks. If I spell something wrong, now you know why. Now that that’s over…

    Royce and Hadrian are a couple of thieves and they stole my heart. Bastards! Our protagonists throughout the series are the very best of friends. They weren’t always that way. Actually, when they first met, Royce was inwardly cheering for Hadrian’s death. But that is understandable as Royce never had a friend. Seriously. The man is really hard to get along with. And he’s an elf… well, part elf – a very small part. No pointy ears, but he does have uncanny eyesight and can dance on a wire better than a spider. Although merely human, Hadrian is probably the best warrior on the face of the world. Together they make a good pair of scoundrels.

    These books were not about elves and dwarves and humans – not really. We hardly even saw a real elf until the end of the last book. Part elves like Royce were mere shadows of their ancestors. Dwarves were little more than slaves to the human populace that dominated the known world and were driven close to extinction. No, the various races of the world were not what these books were about. Religion’s domination over an entire empire was a much more central theme than various races vying for survival and control of the lands.

    Also, this book was not about magic. Magic was very real throughout the tales, but it wasn’t a tool the heroes could conjure up any time they were confronted with a challenge. For one reason, there were really only a couple people in the whole empire that could use it. For another, I could tell MJS really enjoyed his characters saving themselves versus being freed by the mysterious wizard in white. Acrobatics, charisma and ingenuity were all tools they used to save their own necks almost as much as their swords and daggers.

    So, what were these stories about then? They were about adventure and friendship. Throughout all of their trials, failures, and successes, Royce and Hadrian were there for one another. Throughout their adventures, things did not always go smoothly. More often than not, their best laid plans got muddled by some third party, whether ill intended or not, and these two heroes always managed to set things right in the end, and always they did it together. Yes, I’d have to say this story was about friendship. And the adventure? Oh, there was a lot of adventure! MJS starts us off slowly with a simple crime turned wrong and throughout builds us up for the “heroes” to save the world, win the crown, and of course steal the princess’ heart.

    I really can’t recommend these books enough. Go, buy, read, enjoy! And if you have a long car ride (and no time to read like me), I suggest Audible! The narration was simply excellent.

    You can buy Book 1 here: http://www.amazon.com/Theft-Swords-Vol-Riyria-Revelations/dp/0316187747/
    Book 2 here: http://www.amazon.com/Rise-Empire-Vol-Riyria-Revelations/dp/0316187704/
    And Book 3 here: http://www.amazon.com/Heir-Novron-Vol-Riyria-Revelations/dp/0316187712/

    And you can get started on Audible here: http://www.audible.com/pd/ref=sr_1_1?asin=B007KSJKI8&qid=1373765620&sr=1-1

    Book Review – A Memory of Light, final book of The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and @BrandSanderson

    It was one week after having suffered a series of strokes when I learned of Robert Jordan’s death from a small TV hanging over my hospital bed. Of course I had heard of him and his Wheel of Time series many times before, but I had never read any of his work. Something about the timing of his death and my own recent experiences made me want to get to know this man better. I felt sorrow for all of his fans, how his story would never be completed.

    A couple months later I heard refreshing news; the news that another writer would pick up the mantle and write Jordan’s last volume. I remember thinking to myself how generous of Robert to allow someone else to finish his tale – how selfless an act to prepare for another artist to add the final touches. I was blown away and I rushed to catch up in time for the final battle.

    I found myself falling into RJ’s universe as I listened to The Eye of the World. I became engrossed in the struggles between the shadow and light so much that I searched for ways to spend time alone so I could “read” more. I listened to the novels as I ran miles around my town preparing for my first marathon. I listened to them as I tore my house down to the studs and rebuilt it for my wife and new baby daughter. I listened to them as I flew back and forth across the country for work. A lot of good memories float to the surface every time I think of this series and I give partial credit to them for my recovery.

    To take a word from Thom Merrilin, the last battle was “exquisite”. A Memory of Light delivered on all of its promises. It is packed with action. It tied up all the many loose ends. It brought about an ending. Robert Jordan can now rest as his tale has been told. His memory has become legend.

    A Memory of Light has so many plots! On the surface it might seem a daunting task to read and keep track of them all, but Brandon Sanderson groups them together so you’re not following too much at once. The world is in utter chaos and all the main characters have crucial roles to play. No one of them has a task more important than another, save maybe Rand himself. As Rand prepares for the final battle, he uses all the assets at his disposal. After setting them in play he leaves them to their own successes and failures as he finally sets out to confront the dark one.

    You begin to wonder as the shadow pushes back, how can the light prevail? The world is being torn apart by the dark one as he attempts to break the great wheel. Cracks that fall away into the void of nothingness, bubbles of evil erupting across the lands, and forsaken permanently burning souls from the pattern with balefire all plague the armies of the light. Slowly the pieces slide together as all the many loose ends from the previous thirteen books are gathered together into one final weave. Heroes fight, friends are lost and forsaken are left behind as the third age comes to a close.

    Brandon’s writing mimics Robert Jordan’s very well, though he writes with a youthful flourish that adds new life into an aging story. I hadn’t known of Brandon prior to this venture of wearing the dragon pin so proudly. Since then I have read almost all of his work and wholeheartedly recommend him. A Memory of Light does not fall short of his standard.

    Throughout the three final volumes, the characters have all remained true to Robert Jordan’s telling. Our farm-boy heroes have all grown up over the course of their adventures, yet they remain themselves. Matrim Cauthon is still the same gambler he has always been, though he is much more calculating now. Perrin remains the most level headed of the three ta’veren and Rand’s insanity has given way to a clear head that is needed for the final battle.

    If you don’t already know, the magic system within the Wheel of Time series is one of the best known in the fantasy genre. It is defined almost scientifically with advantages and dangers to its use and with opposite forces for every action. Not only is it soundly structured, it is also artful in its casting and the descriptions of its outcomes are both beautiful and ferocious. Aside from the primary magic system within the world, the pattern of existence itself grants new mystical abilities to heroes and villains to add balance and uncertainty to the stories.

    The world within the Wheel of Time is one of opposites. Villains are almost always evil and heroes are good. There are some minor exceptions, but this is not your gritty fantasy filled with anti-heroes. At its heart, this is your “farm-boy grows up and saves the world” fantasy story.

    I don’t know how “original” A Memory of Light was. I certainly haven’t read many books with such a wide scope, but most of the elements within the story were previously seen. There were a few new bits and pieces, but this story was more about concluding the legacy than about surprising us with new notions.

    I truly enjoyed A Memory of Light. It was a fitting end to one of the greatest epic fantasy series to date. I’d probably have liked it even more if it hadn’t been so long, but the length served the purpose of wrapping up loose ends. It truly was unavoidable – there were so many. I also felt the ending would have been more powerful if a few more heroes hadn’t survived into the fourth age. That isn’t to say I didn’t tear up at their survivals. How could I not? The Wheel of Time has come to an ending.

    I “read” this entire series via audiobook, the final volume being no exception. Kate Reading and Michael Kramer have practically become two of my best friends now, though I’ve never met or even talked with either of them.

    I’m torn between four and five stars. I think the telling by Brandon definitely deserves the full five rating, but the “farm-boy saves the world” story has been done quite a bit. This is a really good story though and one that has earned its place in history.

    Thank you Robert Jordan for this epic series and for having the humility to allow another to finish your tale. Thank you Brandon Sanderson for completing this work with the grace only few have. Thank you Harriet for having the will to see your husband’s work completed – you made an excellent choice.

    You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Memory-Light-Wheel-Time-Hardcover/dp/0765325950

    Book Review – The Dirty Streets of Heaven, Bobby Dollar #1 by Tad Williams

    Back in ’98 or ’99 I was introduced to Tad Williams during deployment to Germany for infantry training. The Dragonbone Chair (and subsequently its two sequels) quickly committed me as a huge Tad Williams fan. I’ve read all of his fantasy novels and I collect his short story anthologies too. Even his Sci-Fi works are on my to-read list, which is saying something as I am quite the fantasy snob. There’s a reason G.R.R.M. calls Tad one of his influences. His writing combines a deep creative genius with the prose and language to tell fantastic tales. As soon as I heard Williams was writing a new urban fantasy series, I got really excited and a little bit nervous too.

    The Dirty Streets of Heaven is a novel in the urban fantasy sub-genre. Most of the time when I first hear about a new UF novel I am thrown off. I like Jim Butcher – the quintessential godfather of UF – but something about the genre just doesn’t appeal to me as much as traditional fantasies do. I’ll admit, when I first heard Tad was writing a UF novel, I cringed a little. Not much though as I know he can write anything and write it damn well. Instead of doing my typical likening it to Twilight (yes without ever even having read Twilight or its comparison in question)I caught and reminded myself , “Hey! This is Tad Williams!” I’m glad I did.

    The setting is in the fictional city of San Judas in southern California. The Dirty Streets of Heaven transpires in modern day with angels and demons communicating and recording events via smartphones and the like. The story is rather fast paced (also a bit shorter than much of Tad’s previous work) and this was one of those books I simply couldn’t put down. It follows a winding plot that is patterned a lot like a mystery novel. I suppose this is fitting as the protagonist is a lawyer. He runs about the story gathering evidence to both understand the strange events that are transpiring and to save his own immortal soul. I had correctly guessed a fair share of the outcome as I read, but I never knew if my assumptions were actually right until the end.

    We follow one point of view which is told in the first person throughout The Dirty Streets of Heaven. Bobby Dollar is an angel in a human’s body. He is a good guy, but has a bit of a distrustful attitude toward other angels, especially those who are stationed up in heaven. He is a lawyer that fights for human souls after their bodies die. He defends to keep them from being successfully prosecuted against by one of hell’s own attorneys. Success and they get to move on to purgatory or heaven. Failure and they go to that other place. Sadly, the poor soul is completely at the whim of their defense, the prosecution, and ultimately the judge who is fallible, yet their decision is eternal law. This may sound awfully Judeo-Christian. And well, it sort of is, but the characters in the book make sure the reader knows not any one of the religions were actually correct. Heaven and Hell are set up a lot like in Dante’s Inferno and Paradiso, but there is no God’s law that states, “Thou shalt be a [INSERT YOUR FAVORITE RELIGION HERE] or burn in eternal hell-fire.” Quite the opposite is actually how Williams tells the story. In his words, anyone (even an atheist) who is a good person can move on to heaven. Being an agnostic atheist myself, I’m okay with that.

    Tad William’s writing style is simply perfect and I challenge anyone to debate this in the comments section (No, seriously, I’d love to hear your own opinions). He makes sure that every sentence of his that gets published is well thought and better told. Tad uses the perfect amount of description to paint a scene but doesn’t bore his readers with endless details. His creativity lies in those details and they all come together like lavender and oil. I should mention that there are some graphic sexual scenes in this book. I’m a little embarrassed to say, but I really enjoyed them.

    I proudly give The Dirty Streets of Heaven 5 out of 5 stars. I’m not surprised in the least and I can’t wait for the conclusion of this two book series, Happy Hour in Hell.

    You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Dirty-Streets-Heaven-Volume/dp/0756407680/

    Book Review – Lord Foul’s Bane, Book 1 of the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson

    I spent the last couple of weeks trying to catch up on some of the giants of modern fantasy. I chose Lord Foul’s Bane (LFB) by Stephen Donaldson. I had heard mixed reviews on this one. Some have called Donaldson’s work dark and depressing. I don’t think that falls far from the mark.


    I recently enjoyed Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. One of that book’s critics had complained of an excess of rape in Prince. I was shocked at their criticism. I remembered very little mention of rape let alone a descriptive scene of one. How could I forget something like that? The critic went on to blast Lawrence by comparing his work to LFB. They said the rape in Prince surpassed even the scene in Donaldson’s book. I suppose this forewarned me of what was to come, but it also made me less cautious about reading LFB. If they felt Prince was worse then LFB then LFB couldn’t be that bad, right?

    I don’t want this whole review to center around one or two pages in the book. The rest of the book was lacking in my opinion too, but I’ll get to that soon. I understand why Donaldson did what he did, but there were other (better) ways to achieve his goals. In some cases rape can be written to portray a powerful message, but in this case it just fell flat.

    There was zero logical need for Donaldson to make his ‘anti-hero’ rape a teenage girl. There were even less reasons (yes, I know I just said zero) for him to visually describe the intricacies of the rape to his readers. We knew Thomas Covenant (the anti-hero/rapist) was a messed up guy before the scene. We knew he was self loathing, fearful, and mistrusting of others. We understood his reasoning. We also understood that Covenant thought he was dreaming. The scene was awkwardly written. Donaldson seemed to struggle between connecting a very shallow compulsion within Covenant to actually becoming a rapist. All this culminated in being disgusted at the scene and confused over the character’s decision. I wasn’t very impressed.

    The magic system within “The Land” was your typical fantasy magic system. That is to say there really wasn’t much of one. This is fine but if you came here for such a thing, you won’t find it. Go back to reading Sanderson – or I recommend my friend Ryan Kaelin – if that is what suits you.

    The plot within LFB was your typical fantasy quest. Darkness is settling across the land. Thomas Covenant has to travel from point A to point B to meet with the lords. They all set out together to rescue an artifact that will save the world. They travel in a round about way to avoid all the hordes of bad guys descending from the mountains. Within said mountains lies the Staff of Law and of course the leader of the bad guys.

    Did I mention all the traveling? Probably 85% of the book is just traveling and scenery. While I can appreciate good visual writing, enough is enough!

    The characters in LFB were all the same, save for Covenant himself. Everyone comes off as selfless and in harmony with the earth. The land is a beautiful place and provides everything the people need. There is no disease and only vague memories of war. No one seems to have a care for their own well being and fear only for the children who will not be able to live full lives should Lord Foul win.

    Donaldson’s style of writing is similar to Tolkien’s. There are a lot of descriptions that do a decent job at forming a scene in the readers mind. Some of the phrases in LFB are dated which is understandable as the book was written in the 70’s. We in the era of computers are spoiled with online thesauruses, and Donaldson’s creativity can be seen in the similes he draws for us.

    Overall I just didn’t like Lord Foul’s Bane. The bad choice of using rape aside, the book just failed to capture me. It was very slow moving and I felt it was written for teenagers. Due to the rape scene I wouldn’t recommend it even for them. I give Lord Foul’s Bane 2 out of 5 stars. The Illearth Stone (Book 2 of the original trilogy) just moved way down on my to-read list.

    You can buy it here: http://www.amazon.com/Fouls-Chronicles-Thomas-Covenant-Unbeliever/dp/0345348656/