What I’ve Read in 2016 (Micro Reviews!)

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Genres: Fantasy, Fiction, Humor, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction, Technological, Thrillers, Urban

Well, it’s been a while, but let’s not bother with excuses. Let’s just take a look at what I’ve managed to read in 2016, shall we?

Note: This post will include affiliate links.
  1. Chapelwood by Cherie Priest 4 Stars(Buy).

    • Lizzie Borden novel. The last? Very good horror, and I don’t even like much horror.
  2. Lyon’s Pride by Anne McCaffrey (re-read) 4 Stars
    • This read-thru I was bothered a lot more by the “a woman is more valuable as brood mare” themes in this series. Blech.
  3. Wake of Vultures by Lila Bown 4.5 Stars (Buy)

    • Genderfluid(?)/Trans cowboy with magic in the Old West. (The character doesn’t know the modern words & doesn’t label themself so it’s hard to know what word to use.) I read this one and Laura Anne Gilman’s Silver on the Road close to each other, so they’re kind of twisted together in my head even though they’re Totally Different other than being Old West themed.
  4. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Would have probably been better in print given the formatting, but was a surprise win for me. This convinced me to read A Lot More Science Fiction this year.
  5. The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s Jim Butcher, of course it’s great. Looking forward to more world-building.
  6. Back Lash by Devon Monk 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • If you love Shame & Terric, you’ll love this. If you haven’t met Shame & Terric yet, go read the Allie Beckstrom series.
  7. A Key, An Egg, An Unfortunate Remark  by Harry Connolly 2.5 Stars (Buy)

    • Elderly protagonist FTW!
  8. The Circle Opens: Magic Steps by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
    • Realized I’d never read any Pierce beyond Alanna, so I’m rectifying that.
  9. The Circle Opens: Street Magic by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  10. The Circle Opens: Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  11. The Circle Opens: Shatterglass by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  12. Chaos Choreography by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars(Buy)
    • Seanan is as solidly wonderful as Jim Butcher always is, in different ways.
  13. Snake in the Glass by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
    • Did I mention these are FREE??
  14. Swamp Bromeliad by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
  15. The Way Home by Seanan McGuire (FREE short story) 3.5 Stars
  16. The Heir of Night by Helen Lowe (re-read) 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I needed to read Daughter of the Blood because of having an ARC but had no idea where the story had ended.
  17. The Gathering of the Lost by Helen Lowe (re-read) 3.5 Stars
  18. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (nonfiction) 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Completely worth being the only nonfiction I’ve read this year. Also, hilarious.
  19. Dragonsbane by Barbara Hambly 2 Stars
    • Middle aged female narrator!
  20. Daughter of the Blood by Helen Lowe 4 Stars
  21. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins (review copy) 1.5 Stars(Buy)
    • This book was… not that great, in my opinion. I hate when folks try to do “it has magic but it’s still LITRACHURE”. But I’m also very Anti-Apocalypse stories. I find them bleak. YMMV.
  22. Kin by Lilith Saintcrow 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. Go back & read the whole trilogy; there’s one for Snow White, Cinderella, and Red. About the various ways abuse marks us forever, and the ways we rise through the muck.
  23. Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop 4 Stars(Buy)
    • TW: Self Harm. Still a little weirded out by this whole cutting business, honestly, but it’s a GOOD story. Bishop has a history of being gratuitous anyway, in my opinion. YMMV.
  24. Shards of Honor by Lois McMaster Bujold 2.5 Stars
    • I was amazed by how many old-school Sci-Fi I’ve missed. Bujold’s science fiction is as solid as her fantasy. Some of this book is now in Trope Territory, but can I really hold that against it when it’s taken me this long? SOMETHING set the trope, after all.
  25. Chasing Magic by Stacia Kane 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Content warning here for drug use. Readers who haven’t been That Low may not get Chess. (I didn’t at first but it was because I didn’t want to.)
  26. Burned by Benedict Jacka 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Is it insulting to call this ‘discount Harry Dresden’? It’s not meant as an insult, believe me. I really like this series.
  27. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I loved this but also it broke me a little. As I have very little sense of my own ancestors or what the hell my inherited culture should even be, I put this down feeling sad. IMO, this is the #1 reason you should Read This.
  28. The Root by Na’Amen Gobert Tilahun 2.5 Stars(Buy)
    • This was a highly, highly interesting premise with a sort of not stellar execution. I’d still be willing to read sequels, though.
  29. Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Women with agency in the Old West! Prostitutes even! Who knew? (Also a black US marshall, ok, read this.)
  30. Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan 3 Stars(Buy)
    • Basic love-triangle YA fantasy with the added bonus of showing us all what living under a murderous dictator is going to look like. Ho ho ho!
  31. San Diego 2014: Last Stand of the California Browncoats by Mira Grant (novella) 4 Stars(Buy)
    • I’m not even a Browncoat but this story got me right in the feels.
  32. Blood of the Earth by Faith Hunter 4 Stars (Buy)
  33. The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler 2 Stars(Buy)
    • I think sequels to this would be rated higher, the first one was a lot of Protagonist Being Clueless.
  34. Poison or Protect by Gail Carriger (novella) 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • It’s a sexy story, okay? A girl’s got needs.
  35. Without a Summer by Mary Robinette Kowal 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Just. Frickin’. Read. It.
  36. The Tower & the Hive by Anne McCaffrey (re-read) 3.5 Stars
  37. Citadel of the Sky by Chrysoula Tzavelas 2.5 Stars(Buy)
    • I can’t really explain it, okay? But it’s a good read if you like fantasy that’s not of the warrior/elf/bard/dwarf type.
  38. Acorna: The Unicorn Girl by Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Ball 3 Stars
    • Okay so this is a Wee Bit patronizing, but I like Acorna so I’ll eventually be finishing the series.
  39. Imprudence by Gail Carriger 5 Stars(Buy)
    • I love Prudence almost as much as I love Sophronia, okay? READ.
  40. Wicked as They Come by Delilah Dawson 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • Worth it for the bludbunnies.
  41. The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • ZOMG
  42. The Circle Reforged: The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce 3 Stars
  43. The Circle Reforged: Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce 3.5 Stars
  44. Petaybee: Powers that Be by Anne McCaffrey & Elizabeth Ann Scarborough3 Stars
    • I’m still not sure how I feel about this.
  45. Six Gun Snow White by Cat Valente (DNF) 1 Stars(Buy)
    • I wanted to like this so much I kept reading to the point where I kind of hate it now. But it’s lyrical and beautiful and I’m pretty sure recommended by Neil Gaiman so you should at least TRY to like it.
  46. Three Parts Dead by Max Gladstone 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • WHAT is this world?! I like it! More, please.
  47. Ghostbusters (2016) novelization by Nancy Holder 4 Stars(Buy)
    • Ladybusters are MY Ghostbusters and haters & trolls can fuck right off. Kthxbye.
  48. Staked by Kevin Hearne 4.5 Stars(Buy)
    • OBERON!
  49. Once Broken Faith by Seanan McGuire 5 Stars(Buy)
  50. The Light Fantastic by Terry Pratchett 3.5 Stars
    • Rincewind honestly isn’t my favorite wizard. But Equal Rites made everything better.
  51. Acorna’s Quest by Anne McCaffrey & Margaret Ball 3.5 Stars
  52. The City Stained Red by Sam Sykes 3 Stars(Buy)
    • A really good twist on the “troupe” fantasy à la Final Fantasy or Dragonlance. But also I pretty much disliked every single one of the narrators on a personal level, too, so there’s that.
  53. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie 4 Stars(Buy)
    • This won awards for a damn reason.
  54. Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan 3.5 Stars
  55. Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett 4 Stars
  56. Tainted Blood by ML Brennan 3.5 Stars(Buy)
    • I don’t know why I like this so much because it’s basically weird-creature-of-the-week urban fantasy and that’s been done before but dammit if I don’t really like this anyway.
  57. Star Wars: Life Debt by Chuck Wendig 4 Stars(Buy)
    • GAY STAR WARS! STAR WARS IS GAY NOW! Get over it.
  58. Barrayar by Lois McMaster Bujold 3.5 Stars
  59. The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin (current reading) (Buy)
    • I’m still reading this so I’m not gonna rate it yet but daaaaaaaaaaaaaaamn.

Most Anticipated Books of 2015

A new year means a new round of “best of” and “most anticipated” lists. This year, there’s been some noise about those lists being (as usual) too large a percentage of the White and Male variety. So out of my own curiosity, I thought I’d look at my wishlist so far for the upcoming year and see how my stats fell out.

In no particular order:

  • Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear – Steampunk in the wild west. Release date: 2/3/15.
  • Liesmith by Alis Franklin – Norse god gets an IT job. Gay main couple. Out now.
  • The Diamond Conspiracy  by Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine – More steampunk. Part of a series. 3/31/15
  • Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop – Alternate world fantasy. Part of a series. 3/3/15.
  •  The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber – Victorian fantasy. New series. 2/3/15.
  • Hunting the Dark by Karen Mahoney – Part of a series. Out now. (1/1/15)
  • The Hellsblood Bride by Chuck Wendig – NYC UF with demons and mobsters. Technically released 12/30/14.
  • Hit by Delilah Dawson – New series. Young adult. About a teenage indentured assassin trying to pay off her mother’s debt. Just in time for tax day in the US – 4/14/15.
  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – I honestly have no idea what this one’s about, but I want to read it anyway. 8/4/15.
  • The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy by Sam Maggs  – Nonfiction. About feminism in geek spaces, written by and for geek girls. 5/15/15. 
  • The Skull Throne by Peter V Brett – Epic fantasy. Part of a series. 3/31/15.
  • Kin by Lili St.Crow – Young adult. Part of a series of retold fairy tales. 3/3/15.
  • Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch – Part of a series. Has a male PoC protagonist. 1/6/15.
  • Servants of the Storm by Delilah Dawson – YA horror. HC is already out but I’m including because I’m waiting for the paperback releasing 6/2/15.
  • Pocket Apocalypse by Seanan McGuire – Part of a series. Go read it. Read it now. 3/3/15.
  • Dark Heir by Faith Hunter – Part of a series about a Cherokee shapeshifter. 4/7/15.
  • Gemini Cell by Myke Cole – Militiary UF. It’s billed as military sci-fi, but there’s not that much science in it. I think the UF label is shied away from simply because that’s seen as a “female” genre. (Tell that to Jim Butcher. I dare you.) 1/27/15.
  • Prudence by Gail Carriger – Technically I’ve already read an ARC of this but I’m including because everyone else needs to read it. Victorian UF. 3/17/15.
  • Unbound by Jim C Hines – Part of a series. Librarian mages. 1/6/15.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s what I have bookmarked right now. So there are 19 books on that list. 7 of them are written or co-authored by men. So my list is 58% female. That’s not bad, but I had honestly expected it to be overwhelmingly female, and it’s not. I see 2 authors that I’m aware of that aren’t heterosexual. That’s a little under 12% of the list. That’s kind of disappointing, honestly. And though there are 2 books about PoC, I only see 1 book where the author is a PoC (to my best knowledge). That part is… really disappointing, actually.

I have N.K. Jemisin and Nnedi Okorafor on my radar, but I don’t know of any upcoming releases from the former and the latter’s previous work is still on my TBR list. Somewhere, I have bookmarked a list of fantasy works by PoC and I am going to go now and put my hands on it because honestly this is just pitiful.

Sometimes we have to actively SEEK OUT diversity. Sadly, some aspects of our current system mean that great books by people Not White and/or Not Straight (and yes, Not Male also) aren’t put in front of us to see them. It is our own responsibility to find these books and to be widely read. I have, obviously, not been doing a very good job of that. I hadn’t been looking for this when picking up new books. And sometimes “not seeing” race, or sexuality, or gender identity is just another way of saying you’re ignoring those people different from yourself. (Often times. Most times. 99.99999% of the times.)

I will be sure and share the list when I find it. In the meantime, if you have an upcoming or recently released fantasy or sci-fi novel on your radar by someone Not Straight/White/Male**, please share it in the comments section so we can all be aware.

**Written by someone other than yourself, please. This is a space for awareness, not self-promotion. 

[P.S. – I am also looking for suggestions for authors with non-binary gender identities, but I have personally not seen anyone in the SF/F genres “advertising” this information. So if you know of any, please list them. Thanks.]

Wrapping up 2014

[Disclaimer: I have blatantly stolen the idea for this post from Chuck Wendig. You should probably go read his blog. He’s way wittier than I am, anyway.]

  1. Favorite novel of the year: Patrick Rothfuss’ The Slow Regard of Silent Things
  2. Favorite non-fiction book of the year: Chuck Wendig’s 30 Days in the Word Mines
  3. Favorite short story of the year: Seanan McGuire’s White as a Raven’s Wing
  4. Favorite movie of the year: Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  5. Favorite TV show of the year: Whose Line Is It Anyway? 
  6. Favorite song of the year: Halestorm Here’s to Us
  7. Favorite album: Halestorm The Strange Case Of…
  8. Favorite video game: Pokemon Omega Ruby on Nintendo 3DS
  9. Favorite app: Trackthisforme
  10. Favorite [something else] of the year? Rat Queens, a comic written by Kurtis J Wiebe, former artist Roc Upchurch, and current artist Stjepan Šejić

Further discussion:

  1. I read much more in 2014 than was focused on here. An awful lot of it was fantastic, but Rothfuss’ surprisingly thin volume focusing on his elusive and mysterious character, Auri, was exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. Beautifully and lyrically written, Auri reminds us that we can still have meaningful lives even when we’re feeling broken and that there is wonder in even the darkest, most forgotten places — in the world, and inside ourselves.
  2. Chuck wins by default here, as his National Novel Writing Month-inspired book was the only non-fiction, not related to work volume I read for pleasure this past year. And as fascinating as I find business analytics, I doubt many people here would feel the same.
  3. Seanan releases a lot of shorts on her website, but this recently released story is my favorite of the year. This glimpse into the world of Istas (a minor character from her Incryptid novels) is a quick, efficient killer, just like the waheela herself. This is ultimately the story of a woman striving to become her best self after a lifetime of being told she was nothing but a monster. I am not being sarcastic when I say: who can’t relate to that?
  4. Proof that a movie doesn’t have to pass the Bechdel test to give us strong, capable, fully envisioned female characters. (Though, we wish it still would.) Complete with eye candy enough for everybody and a blu-ray full of Anthony Mackie’s hilarious outtakes, this is my favorite movie of the year. We’re still quoting that car scene outtake at our house.
  5. We’ve been fond of Whose Line since the Drew Carey version here at Casa de Fairies. The upgrade to Aisha Tyler and additional diversity in this newest incarnation is our favorite yet. We really wish they’d go back to using the audience more instead of ‘special’ guests from other TV shows we don’t watch, but I guess you can’t have everything…
  6. I don’t know when exactly this Halestorm album dropped, but my 2014 musical year was all about the girl powered rockers. I hope to carry that trend forward into 2015. (Leave your recommendations in the comments, please!)
  7. If you haven’t heard of this band, look up their cover of Get Lucky. Pure awesome.
  8. Yes, I am a giant nerd. No, I don’t care. Pokemon hits all the completionist/collector buttons in my gamer girl psyche. If you’re not one for beating up on cute animals, though, you can try my second favorite: Fantasy Life. Part RPG, part Glitch the Game, all adorable. **
  9. You may have noticed from other entries that I am both a giant nerd and into analytics. Charts and graphs are my wonder drugs. This app lets you track anything, anywhere, and with a small in-app purchase you can export it anywhere. And it’s pretty, too. I’m currently using it to track books read, words written, and my current moods, among other things.
  10. Despite the issues which led to the original artist being dropped, I still love the all-girl D&D ass-kickery in this series. Looking forward to new issues! I’m happy to be able to say that, with the new artist, I can continue to support Rat Queens with a clear conscience.

** Are you a gamer, too? Want to trade friend codes? Mine is 1435-4938-8444. Leave yours in the comments and I’ll add you back.

Ghostbusters vs. Ghostbusters II

So my husband and I were debating the opening scenes of the two Ghostbusters movies, as one does, and we determined that Peter’s introduction in the first movie is not the same as Egon’s opening scene in the second. Stick with me, for all shall be revealed.

ghostbustersdvdart
Ghostbusters DVD art

Venkemen’s opening scene is him, in his office, with a pair of presumably undergrad volunteers. He is in the midst of an experiment, as he states it, to determine what the result of stress (in our case, electric shocks) is to human precognitive — or perhaps telepathic– abilities. We see Peter lie to the male subject when he gets both incorrect answers and correct ones, giving him shocks for both. He appears to be making no notes or documentation. And as Mythbusters told us, science is only science if you write it down! After he drives away the man, he proceeds to hit on the woman, shamelessly. Were these things all part of the experiment? I think not. We all know Pete was being douchey and using his experiment to score himself a date with a much younger woman.

Contrast this with Egon’s first scene in the sequel. Here, also, is science! We could also make a case that Egon is being douchey here. After all, he’s had his assistant lie to a poor couple about their marriage counseling appointment, which seems likely to break their marriage permanently. He even alludes to taking away a little girl’s puppy!

However, I think there is a difference here that makes Peter a jerk but not Egon. That is because Peter was a jerk for his own ends, to score himself a date. It probably doesn’t help that he spends half the first movie throwing himself at Dana, putting him farther into creeper territory than I prefer my heroes (and even my anti-heroes) to be. I appreciate his not taking advantage of Dana while she’s possessed, but let’s be real: You don’t get special points for being a decent human being.

Egon, on the other hand, does what he does not for himself but for SCIENCE. It may be bat shit crazy or, a term I saw on Tumblr the other day – “guanomental” – science, but he’s trying to ascertain truth, not get himself laid. Intent, my friends, really can make all the difference!

So, in conclusion, Peter is a bad man. Egon is awesome. And if you haven’t watched Ghostbusters, we can’t be friends.

Authors Welcome

I don’t often weigh in on the various dramas in book blogging fandom. Most of the time,  I don’t care enough to get involved. This is my space,  and seeing as how it’s a very small one,  the drama doesn’t tend to make it here.

In this case,  however,  I have something to say.  The question of whether or not authors should comment on reviews and discussions of their work has been a hotly contested one for as long as there has been work to be read.  I’m sure even the first stories chiseled into a cave wall or painted on a vase invited their own criticism.

The question of whether it is wise for an author to respond to discussions of their work  is beyond the scope of this post.  (Note: It usually isn’t.)  But it’s also not my place to make that decision for an author.  If I post something publicly,  then I cannot be upset when the public – including the author –  responds.  If I didn’t want those responses,  I would have made it private.

Authors *are* fans. In some cases, authors are the ultimate fans. Can anyone argue, for instance, that Brandon Sanderson is not the ultimate Wheel of Time fan?  (Spoiler: not with me,  you can’t.) There is room in fandom for everyone,  including content creators.

On the other hand,  I don’t own fandom.  If I did,  you can believe I would be making some changes.  The great thing is that NO ONE owns fandom.  But I do own this space.  This is my world; I am Creator here.

And in my world,  everyone who can maintain civil discourse and type a coherent sentence is welcome,  regardless of age,  gender,  race,  sexual orientation,  religion,  creed,  ability,  fandom of choice,  and yes –  even publishing status.

Be you welcome and merry,  my friends.

Review Revisited: DARKER STILL by Leanna Renee Hieber

You may remember back in December when I reviewed Leanna Renee Hieber’s newest novel, Darker Still. At the time, I had one lingering question that had bothered me.

A Novel of Magic Most Foul

If I could ask the author one question, though, I would want to know why Natalie needed to be a mute. Maybe that’s a factor that comes to play more of a role in the sequels, but our heroine’s background at a Victorian-era “school for the deaf” is mentioned several times but seems not to make much of an impact on the story line itself.

Yes, this really bothered me at the time because it seemed like an arbitrary handicap thrown in for possibly non-story-telling reasons. Well, I’m happy to tell you that I recently found out that I’m a complete idiot (about that anyway).

Here’s a quote from a recent guest post from Leanna at WORD for Teens:

The fact that my heroine Natalie suffers from a disability, Selective Mutism, proves another hurdle in a time period full of brick ceilings. Her condition is, I dearly hope, a reminder for all women, no matter what age, to literally and figuratively “find your voice” amidst a patriarchal society where women still struggle for equal pay, equal rights, equal power. 

Click the link above to go read the rest of the article, which has a lot more insight into the book than just this bit.

Now: about me being an idiot. Well. There’s not much I can say, I guess. I wasn’t expecting a metaphor that serious in a YA novel. I failed to make the connection, in a way that would make my AP English teacher very disappointed in me.

That said, this revelation makes me even happier and more excited for the next installment in the series, which incidentally is called The Twisted Tale of Miss Natalie Stewart and is scheduled for US release from Sourcebooks Fire on November 1st according to Goodreads.

Good Dilemmas

I have three ebooks all pre-ordered and ready to download to my Nook first thing in the morning (if Barnes & Noble is on the ball, that is). I thought I’d take a moment to share them with you, because I’m super excited about all of them.

The first is a book I’ve been waiting a long time for:

In steam age America, men, monsters, machines and magic battle to claim the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, one man fights to hold on to his humanity–and his honor. . .
Life on the frontier is full of deceit and danger, but bounty hunter Cedar Hunt is a man whose word is his bond. Cursed with becoming a beast every full moon, Cedar once believed his destiny was to be alone. But now, Cedar finds himself saddled with a group of refugees, including the brother he once thought lost.

Keeping his companions alive is proving to be no easy task, in part because of the promise he made to the unpredictable Madder brothers—three miners who know the secret mechanisms of the Strange. To fulfill his pledge, Cedar must hunt a powerful weapon known as the Holder—a search that takes him deep into the savage underbelly of the young country and high into the killing glim-field skies defended by desperate men and deadly ships.

But the battles he faces are just a glimmer of a growing war stirring the country. To keep his word Cedar must navigate betrayal, lies, and treacherous alliances, risking everything to save the lives of those he has come to hold dear… [Goodreads]

  • I adore Devon Monk’s writing, and have been waiting for this forever. This is the sequel to Dead Iron, which I review here. And don’t miss Devon’s blog tour, complete with free fiction and multiple giveaways for a free copy of the book, a Tin Swift magnet, and a hand-maid steampunk bookmark! 

Angel Crawford is finally starting to get used to life as a brain-eating zombie, but her problems are far from over. Her felony record is coming back to haunt her, more zombie hunters are popping up, and she’s beginning to wonder if her hunky cop-boyfriend is involved with the zombie mafia. Yeah, that’s right–the zombie mafia.
Throw in a secret lab and a lot of conspiracy, and Angel’s going to need all of her brainpower–and maybe a brain smoothie as well–in order to get through it without falling apart. [Goodreads]

  • This is the second book in Diana Rowland’s White Trash Zombie series, which have the absolute most rockin’ cover art I have EVER SEEN on a zombie novel. If you like campy horror (think: Shaun of the Dead) then you absolutely must read this. I reviewed the first one over here.
  • The third and final book on my list is different from both of these. In fact, it’s a little bit of a departure from my normal reading habits – so much so that I’m wondering if I’ll end up loving or hating it. (I hope I don’t hate it.) Usually when I read fantasy, I stick to off-world fantasy. I have had mixed luck with historical fantasy. (Gail Carriger? GOOD. Other things? VERY, VERY BAD.) But I’ve heard so much about this book, and I’m so fond of this writer‘s non-fiction blogging over at Magical Words that I couldn’t help but pre-order it, from sheer wondering how all those plot elements ended up working out.  (Full disclosure: I read one of this author’s other, more traditional fantasy novels and, while I liked it, I still haven’t found the time to pick up the next book in the series. So many books, so little time!)

Boston, 1767: In D.B. Jackson’s Thieftaker, revolution is brewing as the British Crown imposes increasingly onerous taxes on the colonies, and intrigue swirls around firebrands like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. But for Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker who makes his living by conjuring spells that help him solve crimes, politics is for others…until he is asked to recover a necklace worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent family.
Suddenly, he faces another conjurer of enormous power, someone unknown, who is part of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of power in the turbulent colony. His adversary has already killed—and not for his own gain, but in the service of his powerful masters, people for whom others are mere pawns in a game of politics and power. Ethan is in way over his head, and he knows it. Already a man with a dark past, he can ill afford to fail, lest his livelihood be forfeit. But he can’t stop now, for his magic has marked him, so he must fight the odds, even though he seems hopelessly overmatched, his doom seeming certain at the spectral hands of one he cannot even see. [Goodreads]

 

  •  Which means I have some very hard decisions to make tomorrow. Since I have to work, I can’t read them all. Which should I start with first? (Feel free to vote more than once or for more than one book!)

Upcoming: Kiaras Festivus 2012!

What is Kiaras Festivus?

Kiaras Festivus is, literally ‘The Festival of Kiara’. This usually happens in February, mostly because my birthday is the 28th and I like to celebrate for as long as possible! This year, Waiting for Fairies’ also turns 5 years old (as a book review site) during the first week of March! (My very first review? Vicki Pettersson’s first book!)

That means I wanted to make this year’s celebration extra special! Festivities will kick off on Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14th) and run for two weeks, or until we get tired of partying, whichever comes last!

What’s Going to Happen?

I’ve got a few thing scheduled and a couple more that I’m trying to (find the time to) get organized.

A few things already on the agenda:

  • An exclusive post from Leanna Renee Hieber (author of the recently released Darker Still) + giveaway
  • A giveaway from me for a Jim Butcher boxed set (I won it, but already have said books in SFBC omnibus, so I’m passing it along – reluctantly! – to you. Why do I have an irrational urge to keep paperbacks of books I already own in hardcover, digital, and audio? Because it’s Jim Butcher!</whine> )
  • A (pretty massive, actually) giveaway from Greyhart Press for a YA high fantasy ebook (Epic. Poetry. I’m reading it myself next.) by Gill Shutt
  • Guest posts from my friends and fellow book bloggers
  • Edit: I forgot! I’m also working on exclusive short fiction of my very own for your reading pleasure! Stay tuned! 

I’m also working on an idea for a giveaway that is along the lines of Powell’s popular “INDIEspensible” packages. Except strictly for urban fantasy and strictly for WFF’s readers.

Now how about that?

Guest Post + Giveaway: What’s In A Name? by L.J. McDonald

L.J. McDonald is an author for Dorchester Publishing, home to our already esteemed Leanna Renee Hieber. She is the author of the Sylph series, consisting of The Battle Sylph, The Shattered Sylph, and the upcoming Queen of the Sylphs. If you haven’t heard of L.J. McDonald before, don’t worry – I hadn’t either. What I can tell you now, after reading the first book in the series, is that if you’re a fantastical or paranormal romance fan, then I think you want to give this series a try. I am admittedly hesitant to pick up any sort of romance novel, and yet I read the first book in this series and really enjoyed it. It was original and engrossing – and reading it digitally means there are no embarrassing “man-candy” covers to display in public! As my regular readers know – from me, this is a huge endorsement! Stay tuned after the guest post for an e-book giveaway!

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

L.J. McDonald

Sòlas is a Gaelic word meaning solace, comfort, consolation, contentment, pleasure. I can’t pronounce it. My ability to speak French, the second language of my country, makes people laugh. My ability to say anything in Gaelic, which I don’t speak at all, is likely an abomination.  However, I can look in a dictionary with the best of them.

If anyone does any serious study of the history of English – I haven’t, which means I just know enough to get myself into trouble – they learn that a lot of English words find their origins in ones from other languages, such as Latin. J.K. Rowling took all the spell names she used in her book from Latin words.  I think this is brilliant, not that I knew enough Latin to realize it until I read the fact on a blog somewhere. It’s also something I’ve been doing for years, likely the same as a lot of authors, but I’ve been using Gaelic instead of Latin.

I brought up the word Sòlas because that’s the word I used to come up with the name for Solie, one of the heroines in my Sylph series. Obviously, I immediately bastardized it, since I don’t particularly want anyone to look at the name and go “hey, she named her heroine Comfort.” Plus I only know the definition of the word and nothing about how it’s used in context.

I don’t always do this. Sometimes the name just comes to me. I have a mental list of names I’d always planned to use and sometimes they fit that way. Leon got his name that way. Sometimes, however, it backfires on me. I love the name Blue. Took me a while to realize I’ve used it in three separate books now. All minor characters. After I finished laughing, I decided to leave it that way, just to see down the road if anyone notices. Only one of those books is on the shelves right now. Autumn’s shown up twice too. That one I’m more peeved about. It’s going to change in the other book once I get around to getting it fully typed and published.

Heyou’s name was a joke from Solie’s first words to him of “hey you”. So was Wat’s.  It’s basically a misspelling of ‘What’? I’m sure there’s some sylph out there somewhere whose name is “Ohcrap” or even something ruder.
Back to the use of Gaelic. Sala definitely came from Gaelic, though there’s no exact use of the word Sala in Gaelic. It’s a corruption of a word that gives a very large hint as to her character.  That’s why I like it.  By taking a name from an existing word, I can give it a meaning, even if it’s one only I know.

A character’s name is very important. In a novel, it can give a fast first impression of that person and affect the way that people see them. In a fantasy it can throw the reader right out of their immersion in the world. I have a minor character in QUEEN OF THE SYLPHS called Fhranke. In the first draft, I called him Frank. I was asked to change that because it was too jarring for the beta readers. I’m sure no one would take a battler seriously if I named him Bubbles, but if I felt so inclined, I could name him Suilean and only true Gaelic speakers would want to throw the book at my head (which means I’d likely called him ‘Suilen’ instead. Close enough to Bubbles the battle sylph to make me laugh).

I’m not entirely sure how other authors come up with their names for people and places, but it doesn’t come easily to me.  Using Gaelic as a source helps in finding a word when I’m stuck that has a flow to it that doesn’t sound like English and feels like it could be from a fantasy world. Besides, that way I can name some villain Asalpur someday and only I would ever know that it loosely translates as ‘donkey butt’.

Asalpur….hrm….I like it.

This is Kiara back again and now it’s time for our giveaway! One lucky winner who comments here by October 7th (11:59:00 PM Eastern) will win a download code from Dorchester Publishing to get their own copy of Queen of the Sylphs!

Here’s the blurb:

It was a dream come true. Solie had her own battler, a creature of almost infinite magic who could vaporize legions in the blink of an eye and would willingly suffer a thousand bloody deaths to protect her. She was his love. More simply, she was his queen.

Many others feel the same. The new-built settlement is a haven for all. Erected by sylphs of earth and fire, air and water, the Valley is Solie’s dominion. But, lovers without peer or killers without mercy, the very nature of their battler protectors means peril. It is not in any sylph’s nature to disobey, and while some are hers to command, others are the slaves of Solie’s enemies—the jealous, the cruel. Those who guard her must not fail. Their peasant-born ruler is not yet safe as…QUEEN OF THE SYLPHS

Upcoming Author Guest Post & Giveaway!

One week from today, on October 1st, Waiting for Fairies will be hosting Dorchester author L.J. McDonald. She is the author of the Sylph series, consisting of The Battle Sylph, The Shattered Sylph and the recently released Queen of the Sylphs. L.J. will discuss with us how she chooses names for her characters, the likes of which are Solie and Heyou. WFF will also be giving away a download code for a digital copy of Queen of the Sylphs to one lucky commenter – so stay tuned!

If you’ve never heard of L.J. McDonald before, that’s okay. I hadn’t either until I was contacted for this guest blog. Since that time, I’ve read The Battle Sylph, courtesy of Dorchester, and I thought it was pretty darned nifty. This is a fantasy romance about a girl who escapes being used as a virgin sacrifice by a rescue from the very demon whose summoning was supposed to be completed by her death.

Regular readers here will know that if there’s one genre I’m prejudiced against (At least I’m self-aware and working on my flaws, okay?), it would be romance. I find most romance novel plots weak, contrived, and the sugary-sweet HEAs (Happily Ever Afters) nauseating. If you’re like me, I think The Battle Sylphs would be a pleasant surprise. (And if you’re not like me, then you’ll probably enjoy this series even more than I did.)

The world was original; the plot was engrossing. Secondary characters were more than mere cardboard cut-outs. The best part? Reading the series digitally means there are no “man-candy” covers to be embarrassed about if you’re reading in public!

This series reminds me of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera, with less focus on the military aspects and more on the relationship and human interactions. It also, unexpectedly, says quite a bit about misconceptions and prejudice, if you’re paying attention. And if you’re not, it’s still an entertaining read that left me frankly shocked at how late it kept me up. I’ve come to the conclusion that Dorchester publishes some damned good stuff!