Tag Archives: book review

Club Fantasci Reviews The Night Circus

Club Fantasci Reviews The Night Circus
Club Fantasci had its first meeting ever 12 hours ago. As soon it’s available, the link to the video of the Google+ Hangout will be available on our website and Facebook page for everyone who missed viewing the live Hangout. 

In the meantime, check out my review of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern here on Club Fantasci’s website – you’ll also find reviews by co-hosts Dionne Lister and David Lowry

Feel free to contribute to the discussions about The Night Circus starting on our Goodreads page, or start your own if there’s something about the book you want to discuss! If you want to comment on more than one of the co-hosts’ reviews, it may be easier to start a discussion thread on Goodreads instead.

The date for the next meeting is yet to be confirmed, but will be at the end of September, and September’s Book of the Month is The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks.

If you missed it, check out my review of The First Confessor.
 

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter.

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New “Club Fantasci” Speculative Fiction Video Book Club

Ender's Game: Review by Club Fantasci

I’m co-hosting a video book club. Me. Wow.
The book reviewers are David Lowry, author Dionne Lister, entertainment personality and model Shannon Million, and of course myself! 

Club Fantasci launched August 1, 2012, and is designed to help bring great books and great authors more exposure to the world at large. We are taking the stigma out of speculative fiction!

The book club will select a book each month for review, and the reviewers will then meet via G+ Hangout once a month to discuss the literary merits of the book – and we’ll be doing more than just telling you we liked or didn’t like the book. In an entertaining way, of course. So it’s just like an offline book club… except online… with wine… and stuff.

The first G+ hangout is scheduled for August 31st 7:00pm EST/CST. For those of you in the southern hemisphere, that’s 1 September 10am AEST. So if you fancy joining us, go pick up this month’s book, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, and we look forward to seeing you there. 

You can learn more about us by:

Joining our group on Goodreads
Liking our Page on Facebook
Checking out our Website

And here’s a little more about Club Fantasci and what we hope to achieve:

We want to expose you to the full gamut of the speculative fiction genre, including science fiction, hard SF, militaristic SF, high/epic fantasy, dark fantasy, dystopian, cyberpunk, steampunk, space opera, paranormal, urban fantasy, SFF romance and erotica, and everything in between.
 

We want to educate readers on good writing in speculative fiction, entertain with witty banter, and above all have a fantastic time. Fiction need not be literary to be well written, and good writing need not be boring or mundane! We promise you we’ll do our best to bring you a good book every month, and if not, we’ll tell you why it’s not! For a bit of light fun, we’ll also be featuring a wine of the month and picking a song that best fits the book.

Club Fantasci will introduce the “Wine of the Month” and each of the reviewers will pick music they feel best represents the current “Book of the Month.” So bring your book, keep that wineglass topped up, and don’t forget your iPod!

The “Wine of the Month” for August is a 2011 “Suited Muscat” from Sort This Out Cellars Winery in Las Vegas, NV.

Alternatively, you can connect with the reviewers
 
The Lowry Agency:
 

Dionne Lister

Shannon Million

Ciara Ballintyne

You can read the official press release for the launch of Club Fantasci here
 

If you missed it, check out my guest post on POV Rules and when it’s OK to break them here

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might as well join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign up for the newsletter.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting with us!
 

Review of Kushiel’s Dart by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel's Dart

Set in a fantasy world that mirrors our own, the story is recounted in the first person by Phédre no Delaunay. The worldbuilding is exquisite, and the principal action takes place in Phédre’s home kingdom of Terre d’Ange, or what would be France in our world. The mythology behind this land is that Jesus had a child, Elua, with Mother Earth, who went forth with a handful of angels who turned their back on God and mixed their blood with mortals, creating the D’Angeline race.

Terre d’Ange is bordered by the Skalidic lands (Germany) and the city-states of what remains of the empire of Tiberium (Rome), with Hellene (Greece) referred to more distantly, and Alba and Eire (The united Kingdom and Ireland) across the Straits. Although borrowing heavily from our own mythology, Kushiel’s Dart takes it and puts a beautiful and compelling twist on it, at once both comfortingly familiar and astonishingly fantastical.

Phédre, the unwanted get of a whore, is an anguissette – marked by a red mote in her eye, the sign of the long-passed angel, Kushiel, Phedre takes pleasure in her own pain, despite herself. Taken in by Anafiel Delaunay, and trained to be his spy, Phédre is swept up in the events of great kingdoms, her feet set on the path to change her own life and the lives of others. 

Phédre suffers much throughout the course of the book, beyond the mere physical pain inflicted upon her by her clients as a Servant of Namaah (or very high-class and almost sacred prostitute, in service to the angel Namaah), and one cannot help but be compelled by her character. Her voice is strong and unique, and if the language is slightly ornate and flowery, it fits the formality and the beauty with which this world of Terre d’Ange is etched. Not once did I feel the language bogged the story down; instead it sets the stage for the use of euphemisms and less explicit language in the sexual descriptions. 

As spy for her master Delaunay, Phédre uncovers treachery of the worst kind, and her knowledge catapults her into extreme straits and risks everything in her life she holds dear. In the company of Joscelin, the Cassiline warrior-priest sworn to protect her life, she must struggle to save two kingdoms and reclaim her own life and freedom. Pitched against her wily adversary, Melisande Shahrizai, whom she both hates and yet finds irresistibly compelling, Phédre must reach into the very depths of her strengths and commitment to win through. 

I just said last week that Warbreaker was the first book to truly compel me in some time, but Kushiel’s Dart surpassed it. I completely neglected all my writing, blogging and critiquing responsibilities while I was reading this book, and justified it on the basis that the sooner it was read and finished, the sooner I got get back to work on the things I should be working on. My mind was only half-focussed while not reading this book, I was so desperate to know what happened next. I haven’t bought the sequel yet, even though I badly want to – because, well, because I have writing commitments I have to meet!

The beginning of the book has been described by some as ‘slow’, and by comparison to the rest of the book, it probably is, but I nevertheless found it drew me on in a compelling fashion, hooked by the magnificent worldbuilding, Phédre’s voice, and the secrets hinted at, yet not revealed. I should mention, too, I am not usually a fan of first person POV, but this book obsessed me in a way no other first person ever has.

The book was recommended to me as erotic fantasy, but I don’t think I’d categorise it that way. According to Worlds Without End, erotic fantasy means a typical fantasy storyline ‘but there is far more graphic content, and sexual scenes are numerous and/or described in detail’. To that extent, I can’t deny it meets that definition, but really, the sexual content was important to the story, and there were plenty of opportunities for gratuitous sex scenes that were not taken. That said, this book is not for readers who are squeamish, judgemental or who prefer to avoid graphic sexual content.

For everyone else, go and buy this book. Now! Why are you still here?


If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or subscribe to my newsletter.

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Review of The Penitent Assassin by Shawn Wickersheim

Penitent Assassin
Shawn happens to be a Twitter friend of mine (@stwick) but don’t think that’s influenced my review. I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t the truth, and those of you who know me well know just how true that particular statement is – some of you to your regret. I don’t regularly review books, but I think I have pretty high standards. The Penitent Assassin is better than the latest Terry Goodkind book (The Omen Machine) and it runs rings around Sara Douglass’s last series (Darkglass Mountain).

Technically classified as dark fantasy, in my opinion it still counts as high fantasy. It ticks all the boxes, including a confrontation between good and evil. Looks like high fantasy to me – multiple books optional! So if you’re a lover of fantasy of any kind, you should definitely check this out.

The Penitent Assassin is dark and gritty and will take you on a rollercoaster ride through a vivid yet fantastical world of crime, drug-addiction and evil powers. This is a book that will take you by the scruff of the neck and shake you, and you don’t get to walk away until it’s finished with you. Around every corner lurks a new surprise. 

If you’re interested, don’t read the blurb. It contains a spoiler. I hadn’t read it until I was halfway through the book, and two lines into the blurb, I stopped. I knew immediately I didn’t want to finish reading the blurb because I could see it was about to ruin the maelstrom of tension and conflict building. Suffice to say, Mallor wants a magical artefact, the Armillae, for multiple reasons, some of which become apparent over the course of the book. It seems like everyone else wants it, too. We don’t know who is for Mallor, and who is against, and the wondering will keep you turning the page. 

Be warned; nothing is as it seems! Really, nothing. I’m not joking. The whole book takes place over a very short period of time – I forget exactly, a few days I think, definitely no more than a week – and the pace of the book is commensurate with so much action being crammed into such a short period of time.

I am not much of an indie author fan. Not because I think indie authors can’t be good, but because self-publishing provides an avenue for people who think writing is nothing more than putting pen to page, who know nothing about the craft of writing, to publish absolute crap. And those people clog the market and make it hard to find the proverbial needle in a haystack, because the needles are very few and far between, and the haystack is unbelievably huge. In fact, last year there were around 3,000,000 books published and a great many of them were self-published.

The Penitent Assassin is one of those needles you want to find. It’s solidly written and shows a dedication to the writing craft on the part of the author. If you take pleasure in not just an exciting and interesting storyline, but also a well-crafted book, this is a novel for you.

I give The Penitent Assassin nine out of ten. Just so you know, I don’t use a five star scale because I just don’t believe there is enough scope in it to do justice to every book. It costs $2.99 (a bargain by any measure) and you can find it here


I’m entered in the Best Australian Blogs 2012 Competition for both Flight of the Dragon and Somebody Has To Say It. If you like this blog, or Somebody Has To Say It, I’d be eternally grateful if you’d be so good as to stop by and vote for me here.

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The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind: A Review

The Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind: A Review

I love Terry Goodkind. I love the Sword of Truth books – OK with the exception of Soul of the Fire and Pillars of Creation, which sucked, because why, why, would you not use a character as awesome as Richard as your POV character? But moving right along…

 The Omen Machine felt strange to me. It didn’t suck to the degree of Soul of the Fire and Pillars of Creation (which, as a rule, I don’t re-read when I read the series again – I just read the last 50 pages or so to remind me where it ended before going to the next book), but it didn’t rock my world like the other Richard books. I would have to say I even enjoyed The Law of Nines more, and it isn’t even strictly a Richard book at all. So what was the problem with it?

It’s hard to put my finger on it, but I’ve summarised it down to these issues:

  • The book is primarily a mystery, albeit fantasy, without the impetus of a villain that exists in earlier books. The death of Jagang has left a void, and Goodkind attempts to fill it with a new villain, but for the early part of this book the main conflict is essentially discovering the answer to the mystery – what is the omen machine and what does it mean. I don’t feel this is handled with a sufficient degree of tension or suspense and I found the first half of the book quite slow and difficult to read;
  • I noticed instances of less than stellar writing more often than I usually would e.g. excessive wordiness and the like. Possibly this was because of the less-than-gripping storyline, which left me greater leisure to notice things. Usually the plot whirls me past so fast the words are a blur.
  • The book lacked the usual patterns I associate with Richard. Often I live in total dread of the terrible things happening to the characters and await that moment at the end where everyone gets his just desserts and Richard wreaks terrible, bloody havoc on everyone who deserves it. This time the problems for the characters seemed a mere inconvenience (until the very end) compared to some of the previous perils faced and the ending lacked the usual satisfaction. The tension was simply insufficient to the task. Repetition is undesirable but so are differences if the comparisons are unflattering;
  • The characters seemed to overlook what I thought were obvious problems (hello, you have an inflamed cut that magic can’t heal and this doesn’t concern you??) and encountered problems that seemed repetitious (how many times now have the people lost faith in Lord Rahl? OK, probably realistic but *yawn* so over it). While it may have been necessary to deal with some of these, perhaps it could have been handled with less detail. Of course, here I refer back to Soul of the Fire, which I consider to be a boring book wasted on making a point that could have been made in a shorter or more interesting fashion.
When you add them altogether, that’s some serious issues. I believe this might even qualify as ‘story porridge’ as Tobias Buckell puts it. 

To some extent, a reader should expect this book to be slow starting. Goodkind appears to be setting up a new multi-book plotline with a new villain, although I question if anyone could give Jagang a serious run for his money. The new villain takes a good stab at being more visually terrifying than Jagang, which isn’t a bad effort given Jagang wasn’t exactly a polished example of civilisation. That said, Wizard’s First Rule was the set-up for a multi-book series and had far greater tension and much faster pace, so this isn’t much of an excuse. 

If you stick it out past the first half of the book you may find yourself more engaged in the latter half of the book, but sad to say that isn’t much of a recommendation. I’ll be interested to see if the next book improves upon The Omen Machine

If we go with a strike rate of one dud book per five, hopefully the next will be much better!
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