Monthly Archives: September 2010

Mini-Reviews #18 – My reading lately

Ahem. When "lately" is given to mean for almost the entire year to date! I kind of forgot to post updates. I think I actually recorded my reading almost all the time, but with the lump of WA Premier’s Book Awards reading, I didn’t make notes on quite a few! 

Solace and Grief: The Rare book 1, Foz Meadows – Not bad for a first novel – a few too many characters and plot threads, and the writing wasn’t always engaging, but a good first book.

Single White Vampire, Lynsay Sands – An okay read, but some offensive attitudes and behaviours by the male vamps. Believable world-building.

Twilight: the graphic novel Vol. 1, Stephenie Meyer & Young Kim – Beautiful artwork, minimalist text, works very well even without the Twilight juggernaut behind it.

The Dead-Tossed Waves, Carrie Ryan – As with the first book, this story totally drags you along for the ride. It’s not all that deep, although it is dark, but it’s compelling. A bleak post-apocolyptic tale.

Candleman, Glenn Dakin – Quite good steampunkish fantasy on the dark side. A bit caricaturish at times, but engaging.

Shalador’s Lady, 
Anne Bishop – I loved this! Bishop is definitely on form with this Black Jewels novel. Literally could not put it down!

Stormlord Rising, Glenda Larke – Thoroughly enjoyed this – stands alone quite well, even though it’s the second of the trilogy. Action packed and great characters. A must-read of the year for fantasy lovers.

Dracula the Un-Dead, Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt – The best bit about the book was the essay at the end by the authors on how the book came to be, and why they made the choices they did in terms of story, character and so on, particularly in terms of reference to the original Dracula. A little clunky in the writing and I never really became immersed in the story because the narrative seemed very distant.

The Griffin’s Flight (The Fallen Moon Book Two), KJ Taylor – Sadly didn’t live up to the wonderful promise of the first book, which I really enjoyed. Still a reasonable read, but I wanted more.

Kitty and the House of Horrors, Carrie Vaughn – Carrie Vaughn has made it on to my automatic "must read" list. These books are fun, pacy and character driven. Look forward to the next!

The Fall of Ossard, Colin Taber – Interesting premise, executed dully. Not at all engaging although one of the more competently written self-published books I’ve read.

The Painted Man, Peter V Brett – Largely enjoyed, although a bit disappointed by some events at the end. A solid fantasy read.

Death Most Definite, Trent Jamieson – Fantastic debut novel from a skilful and compelling writer. Loved reading this and looking forward to the next book!

The Desert Spear, Peter V Brett – Another good read, lots of action, although the characterisation is a bit uneven. Not pleased there’s such a long wait til book 3!

The Wildkin’s Curse, Kate Forsyth – Took a while to get into, but really got good. I often find Forsyth’s books are slow to start – a bit offputting for the younger readers the books are aimed at, but worth the payoff.

The White Cat, Holly Black – Couldn’t put this down. Captivating characters, premise and plot.

Madigan Mine, Kirstyn McDermott – Took a long time to get into, but really kicked in about halfway through – second half of the book compelling

Dead in the Family, Charlaine Harris – Need to have read the short story "Gift Wrap" to get everything in this novel, and it’s very same old same old. Fans will love, newbies should not start here.

Hourglass, Claudia Gray – Really not a book to read if you haven’t read the rest of the series and seemed to drag a bit. Could have been shorter and tighter for a more effective story. 

The Hotel under the Sand, Kage Baker – This was lovely! At Alice in Wonderland end of the fantasy scale, I really enjoyed it. Clever and sad and sweet.

Ice, Sarah Beth Durst – This was different – it riffs on a non-European fairytale which is nice, but I’m not sure it really fits my definition of YA, which is what it is. An 18 year old getting pregnant to a man she knows mostly as a bear is a bit different…

Ceremony in Death, JD Robb – This is one of the early In Death books, and amazingly, one I hadn’t read. I’m gradually building up my collection of these, so was delighted to find one I hadn’t borrow-read from elsewhere! However, this is absolutely not one of the best of the series. Apart from the supernatural elements (which detracted from the usual SF feel of the books), there is a LOT of point-of-view jumping around, sometimes from paragraph to paragraph, which is, to me, a sign of lazy writing. A bit of a disappointment, and that’s the first time I’ve ever said that about one of these books!

Marvel 1602: Fantastic Four, Peter David & Pascal Alixe – Interesting, but not as good as the original Gaiman-authored Marvel 1602.

Power and Majesty, Tansy Rayner Roberts – Absolutely adored this. Can’t wait for the next volume!

Fables 13: the Great Fables Crossover, Willingham etal – Crossing over with Jack of the Fables and the new Literals titles, the 13th Fables compilation is probably the best in a while. I love the Page sisters, so any story that has them kicking butt is a good ‘un 🙂

Bone Crossed, Patricia Briggs – Patricia Briggs really is one of the best authors writing paranormal fantasy at the moment. In the fourth and fifth instalments of the Mercy Thompson series, she manages to maintain her cast of characters and her pace, without devolving into over the top plotting. Mercy is not super human (even if she is supernatural) – she’s been badly hurt, and it’s taking time to recover, rather than her just getting over it. I love the secondary characters in these books too, and devoured these two in only a couple of days!

Silver Borne, Patricia Briggs  

Demon Angel, Meljean Brook – Meh. This book was WAAAY too long and seemed really convoluted. I bought this (and books 2 & 3 set in the world) because of a short story by the author I read in an anthology, but this novel didn’t quite live up to it. I hope the series gets better (tighter), because I like the premise and the characters!

The King’s Bastard (The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin book 1), Rowena Cory Daniells – I really enjoyed this – very big fat fantasy, but action-packed and draws you through quickly. Might just be me, but it actually felt quite YA-ish in style and plot. Loved the characters, but Rowena is truly a NASTY person for what she puts them through! Can’t wait to read book 2.

Pawn of Prophecy (The Belgariad book 1) David Eddings
    
Queen of Sorcery (The Belgariad book 2) David Eddings     

Magician’s Gambit (The Belgariad book 3) David Eddings     

Castle of Wizardry (The Belgariad book 4) David Eddings

Enchanter’s End Game (The Belgariad book 5) David Eddings

Soulless, Gail Carriger – Love these!!

Changeless,
Gail Carriger  

Cinderella: from Fabletown with love,
Roberson, McManus etal – I’m such a big fan of Fabletown, so am really enjoying the spin offs so far. Cinderella is cool!

Lost Girls, Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie – I really liked the premise of this series and the stories are very clever. Got perhaps a bit too over the top erotic, but it’s well done.

Rose by any other name, Maureen McCarthy – I’ve been meaning to read Maureen McCarthy for SO long, and I finally picked up the audio book at the library last week. I love listening to audio books in the car, but unless I’m travelling by myself on decent journeys, they take SO long to get through! This one I got so involved in, that yesterday when we went to the library again, I got the book, because I couldn’t wait to finish it. Yes, is good. Will be reading more.

The Dresden Files: Welcome to the Jungle, Jim Butcher etal – Having read a few Dresden novellas and the first two books of the series, I thoroughly enjoyed this original graphic novel of Harry. And while it was EASIER to follow because of that background, I think the authors did a great job laying backstory without overloading the plot at hand. Really good stuff, and will probably bring more readers to the series.

House of Mystery: Room and Boredom, Sturges, M, Willingham, B & Rossi, L – Picked this up on the strength of the Willingham name, and glad I did. Interesting, dark, unusual. I enjoyed it.
Spider-Girl: Marked for Death, Marvel – Cool! A "What-If" turned YA series. Great characters, lots of action, lots of hear – good stuff and I’ll be looking for more!

Avalon High Coronation Vol 3: Hunter’s Moon, Meg Cabot 

Wolverine 1: Prodigal Son, Marvel  

Serenity: Better Days, Whedon etal 

Serenity: Those left behind, Whedon etal 

Huntress: Year One, Ivory Madison etal – Really enjoyed this – dark and sad and action packed.

Batman: Hush, Loeb, Lee, Williams – This was BRILLIANT – absolutely loved it, read in one sitting – it’s great writing, great art, great colour. Favourite Batman EVA (could have something to do with showings by Huntress, Catwoman and Poison Ivy).

Moonshine, Alaya Johnson – Best urban fantasy I’ve read in ages. Couple of minor quibbles relating to modern dialogue in historical setting, which contributed to not feeling the setting, but the characters, story etc were great.
WA Premier’s Judging Books listed below

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Journeying onwards and leaving endings hanging: The Belgariad Book 3

Alex and I continue our re-read of David Eddings’ The Belgariad. Alex has it over here, if you’d like to read the comments she gets. Be warned, there are more spoilers ahead!

Magician’s Gambit: Book 3 of the Belgariad
David Eddings

ALEX
Ce’Nedra gets to star in this book a bit more than the others, and I’m sure she loved that. Firstly, I think it’s totally awesome that Durnik, of all people, gets to be the one to peg her for being lovelorn over Garion. It’s really a very cute scene, and Ce’Nedra’s dreadful acceptance that she belongs to the Empire and therefore cannot make her own choices in that regard is somewhat heartbreaking. Additionally, of course, it’s immensely amusing for the reader that she keeps refusing to understand who and what Belgarath and Polgara are, and the adventure that she’s got herself involved in. It’s like Eddings is allowing a sceptical reader – a reader who hasn’t been totally suckered by the story yet – someone to identify with.

TEHANI
I hadn’t thought of it that way! But you’re right, Ce’Nedra’s naivety in the ways of the gods does permit a certain scepticism in the reader. I like that we get a view here of Durnik as actually being rather wise in the ways of relationships – he’s always been portrayed as intelligent, but rather backwater and perhaps a bit stodgy, but his observations here offer another side to him, which is rather important later on.

ALEX
I think you’re right about Durnik. I found myself liking Durnik more and more this time around, partly I guess because I know how it all turns out, but also because I’m finding the ‘normal’ characters a bit more appealing than the exceptional ones, a lot of the time.

There’s a lot of journeying in this book. Firstly, the band has to go through Maragor, perhaps the most sobering of all the lands in this imaginary world. Grolims may butcher people all day every day – but they’re Angaraks, and we have no sympathy for them. Here, although we’ve never met a Marag, we know enough that their slaughter was totally unwarranted: especially with the heavy hint that the Tolnedrans did it for the gold, not to stamp out their ritualistic cannibalism. The concept of a god who weeps eternally is a staggering one.

TEHANI
It’s not a very flattering portrayal of the Tolnedrans, and this is interesting in terms of the rest of the nations. Nyssians are not shown in a very good light, but we as the reader are still able to find them likeable in some way – in fact, all of the other Western nations, while generally “good”, are given faults of some kind (however slight), but we find them quirky rather than not nice. With the extermination of the Marags, Tolnedrans are painted with a completely different brush, which is quite unusual, particularly as one of our main characters is from that background. Or is her Dryad nature what saves Ce’Nedra? Or perhaps the message is that she overcomes such an acquisitive heritage?

ALEX
That’s a very interesting observation. I don’t think the Dryad aspect is emphasised enough – and we don’t know enough about them – for that to be the mitigating factor. So I’d go with the idea that it’s meant to show how much she changes. Huh. Paints her in a much better light, doesn’t it?

Also in this section we finally learn a bit more about Garion’s ‘friend’ – the one in his head – and exactly what this entire adventure is leading up to. I have to say I find the idea of a universe that has a purpose (although no guiding intelligence), and that purpose getting divided because of a little accident, one of the weaker parts of the whole plot. I have no problem with two destinies battling it out; I’m a Christian, I can do dualism. But that there was an accident, which managed to split the purpose? That just seems … silly. Especially if there is no overarching God to take notice of that accident. Anyway – I accept it for the plot-device it is, and continue.

TEHANI
It sometimes seems a bit of a cheat really – I wonder what mistakes Garion would have made if it weren’t for the meddling voice in his head?

ALEX
I’m sure someone has written that fanfic … or they should, if they haven’t ☺

We get to visit the Vale of Aldur, for the first time: it’s like hearing about someone’s house for ages and finally getting there. Seeing Polgara surrounded by adoring birds humanises her, I think, in a bizarre way. Garion’s attempt to move the rock – by lifting it, so that he ends up almost burying himself in reaction – is hilarious, and I really like that their magic actually does have physical repercussions like that. And have I mentioned yet how much I adore Beldin? I love him. I love his crotchetiness, I wish Eddings had actually written his oaths down, I love his insulting nature and that (we find out eventually) it hides an intellect both enormous and immensely caring. He makes me happy.

From the Vale the troupe heads to Ulgo, with another of the more interesting groups of people in this world, and one that I can’t think of an analogue for. It’s curious, too, that they are less stereotyped than others. Admittedly we meet fewer Ulgos than members of other races, but nonetheless: Relg is a fanatic, but he’s clearly marked out as being different even from most of the other Ulgos in that respect. The trip into Ulgoland is marked by wonderful monsters, and I think Eddings did very well in this area. Flesh-eating horsey-looking critters? Respect, man. And we get to ditch Ce’Nedra for a while, leaving her with the Gorim. Aw, poor man! No, wait: the way he deals with Relg? He can deal with anything.

TEHANI
I’ve always felt like the Ulgos are analogous with Jewish people (and my little Wikipedia link suggests that too! ).

Leaving Ce’Nedra behind also lets Garion miss her, I think, which obviously eases him into his feelings a bit more. Not so much in this book, but in the next…

ALEX
Finally, the adventure leads to Cthol Murgos. Various adventures ensue, and my favourite may be the encounter with Yarblek, if only for the facts that Polgara deals with his Nadrak ways – thinking she might be for sale – with such aplomb, and for the way she tells everyone else to keep their indignation to themselves.

TEHANI
That whole gender thing with the Nadrak people is a really interesting one – on the surface it looks like women are treated in a fairly negative way, but then you see Polgara take control of her situation and you start to wonder about the practice, and it’s eventually revealed (in a later book) that it’s most definitely the women who are in control, despite outward appearances.

ALEX
You know, I think the Nadraks may be one of my favourite groups of people, for exactly the same reasons that I adore Silk.

During their time in Gar og Nadrak, Relg has to rescue Silk by taking him through rock, and it’s not often you get to see Silk totally and utterly at a loss.

TEHANI
And that going through rock thing bothers Silk for quite some time to come – it REALLY puts him out of sorts! Gets a bit belaboured by the end of it, in fact…

ALEX
Belaboured is putting it mildly!

Finally, there’s the epic battle between Belgarath and Ctuchik, which is actually not so epic. That is, in concept it is, but Eddings doesn’t draw it out nearly as much as he might have. I’m in two minds about whether I would like to have seen more , or not. And the fact that Ctuchik essentially destroys himself … well. It’s a bit of a cheat, but it does make sense. I guess.

TEHANI
This book is pretty violent overall – lots of random Murgos being killed because they’re in the way of the group. It’s all rather bloodless though, which is probably why I never realised just how brutal the series is in general until this reread – lots of characters killed “off screen” and even those who cop their serve right up front don’t really seem to have an impact. I actually found the way the main bad guys have died to be more bothering, often because of the reaction of Garion and the others to how it happens.

ALEX
The fact that they are largely callous and coldhearted about it? Yeah, bothered me too.

TEHANI
There were some new (to become ongoing) characters introduced in Magician’s Gambit who bear notice. Yarblek, who Alex already mentioned, comes to be quite pivotal and who I like for his brassness, and Errand, the innocent raised by Ctuchik to steal the Orb. I tried to read the character of Errand with fresh eyes when he’s introduced in this book (which is a bit hard, knowing how his storyline concludes), to look at him as he’s presented, and to view his initial part in the story without consideration of where he ends up. Conclusion? He’s a little cutie! I love his seriousness in his efforts to hand the Orb to random people, and I love that he’s foreshadowed from the beginning to be important later.

ALEX
I too tried to see Errand with fresh eyes, and in some ways it’s easier this time around: last time I read it, I hadn’t been around young kids for a while! Makes it easier to imagine him as the cutie he’s described as when you’ve got a point of reference.

This book really does feel like the middle of a series, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We know all the main characters; now we get to see them interacting and meeting new people. We know the basic aim of the plot, and indeed the book finishes with the retrieval of the Orb, which for a while appeared to be the main point. But it finishes with Our Heroes in a building that’s crashing down around their ears, and the suggestion that there is yet more to do for this particular adventure to finalise itself. I’m so very glad that I wasn’t reading this series as it was being published, because the ending – everyone heading out of the citadel – is immensely unsatisfying if you can’t immediately go and read the continuation.

Which is, of course, what I did.

TEHANI
Ahem, and so did I. To the exclusion of much else, including these reread notes! Got very distracted by story and forgot to be critical! Will try harder…

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Open short story markets – revised!

A couple of new markets added! Listed in order of closing date – some closing very soon…

1. Twelfth Planet Press is seeking original, unpublished fantasy stories of between 2,500 wds and 7,500 wds, set in the 1920s and fun, for Speakeasy. Details here. Closes September 30, 2010. Twelfth Planet Press also has open reading for the novella and novelette doubles series’.

2. FableCroft Publishing is calling for (Australian only) submissions to After the Rain, a speculative fiction anthology for stories between 2,000-10,000 words. Details here. Closes October 31, 2010.

3. Liz Gryzb is editing More Scary Kisses for Ticonderoga Publications. Paranormal romance stories of between 1,000 and 8,500 words are wanted. Details here. Closes November 1, 2010.

4. Submissions of 1,000 to 7,500 words from Australian and overseas contributors are encouraged to the Aussie vampire anthology Dead Red Heart from Ticonderoga Publications. Closes December 1, 2010. Details here.

5. Although the CSFG website hasn’t been updated to reflect this, submissions for the next CSFG Publishing anthology, Winds of Change, are welcome from 15 September 2010 and 31 January 2011.

Winds of Change will be edited by Elizabeth Fitzgerald. Stories may be any length up to 5,000 words. All approaches to the theme are welcome, as long as they are by nature speculative.

Payment will be contributors’ copies plus $10 for stories under 1,500 words and $25 for all others based on published word count.

Submissions are encouraged from Australian writers of all levels of experience, with special encouragement given to CSFG members.

Submissions should be sent (as .rtf attachments only) to windsofchange.csfg@gmail.com. Please make sure that the following information is in the email proper:

Name
Address
Email address
Name of Story
Word Count
Other contact information

If you wish to contribute to the interior artwork, please contact to windsofchange.csfg@gmail.com.

6. Editor Keith Stevenson is reading for the forthcoming Couer de Lion anthology, Anywhere But Earth. Original and unpublished science fiction stories of between 3,000 and 15,000 words on the theme are welcomed. Extensive details here. Closes February 28, 2011.

7. Midnight Echo 6 is now open for submissions and the editors are seeking science fictional horror stories (or "creepy alien fiction" as one editor puts it!) up to 5000 words – unsure of closing date as the website hasn’t yet been updated, but the guidelines for the issue are available here, and I’m sure closing dates will appear soon.

8. Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is almost always open to global submissions of up to 10,000 words (20,000 for Aust & NZ writers). Comprehensive guidelines here.

9. Aurealis is also an open market for Australian speculative fiction between 2,000 and 8,000 words – submissions from overseas by query. Guidelines here.

ETA: Thanks to Ben for reminding me – there are also some online markets (paying and unpaid) open.

a) Moonlight Tuber edited by Ben Payne (surreal, absurdist or otherwise non-realist material).
b) AntipodeanSF edited by Ion Newcombe (flash fiction, unpaid).

19 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Aussiecon 4 round up

It transpired that I was so flat out for the entire six days that I didn’t get much time to update anything – Twitter, Facebook and LJ all suffered, but it was to good purpose – too busy selling books and catching up with people to social network online? I call that a win!

So now it’s a matter of trying to remember what happened when! Not easy with lack of sleep and a blurring of days happening… But I’ll give it a go.

Very busy days below the cut! With photos…

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

AUSSIECON 4 ANNOUNCES HUGO WINNERS

The Hugo Awards are the premier award in the science fiction genre,
honoring science fiction literature and media as well as the genre’s fans.
The first Hugos were awarded at the 1953 World Science Fiction Convention
in Philadelphia (Philcon II), and have honored science fiction and fantasy
notables such as Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Robert Silverberg,
Ursula K. Le Guin, J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman and many others.

BEST NOVEL

[Tie for first place]
The City & The City by China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)

BEST NOVELLA

"Palimpsest" by Charles Stross (Wireless; Ace; Orbit)

BEST NOVELETTE

"The Island" by Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2; Eos)

BEST SHORT STORY

"Bridesicle" by Will McIntosh (Asimov’s 1/09)

BEST RELATED WORK

This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is "I")
by Jack Vance (Subterranean)

BEST GRAPHIC STORY

Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and
the Heirs of the Storm Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio;
Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright
(Airship Entertainment)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION – LONG FORM

Moon Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones;
Directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)

BEST DRAMATIC PRESENTATION – SHORT FORM

Doctor Who: "The Waters of Mars" Written by Russell T Davies
& Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)

BEST EDITOR, LONG FORM

Patrick Nielsen Hayden

BEST EDITOR, SHORT FORM

Ellen Datlow

BEST PROFESSIONAL ARTIST

Shaun Tan

BEST SEMIPROZINE

Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, & Cheryl Morgan

BEST FAN WRITER

Frederik Pohl

BEST FANZINE

StarShipSofa edited by Tony C. Smith

BEST FAN ARTIST

Brad W. Foster

THE JOHN W. CAMPBELL AWARD FOR BEST NEW WRITER

Seanan McGuire

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Please contact Vincent Docherty
at hugoadmin@aussiecon4.org.au.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized