Monthly Archives: December 2013

2013: An Assessment – Individual Authors and Titles

This is the second part of my assessment of 2013.  The first looked at publishers.  Here I’ll feature some authors and/or individual titles that I thought were standouts.  Links for books will be to my reviews (the reviews will have links to buy if you’re interested.)  Since I’ve been doing a weekly post at Amazing Stories, with only one week missed, I’ll be including some of the titles I reviewed there in this list.

As with the publishers, these are in alphabetical order.  I’m probably overlooking someone or a particular book.  I apologize in advance.  This list consists of titles and authors I read in 2013 and isn’t intended to be inclusive.  Feel free to share your suggestions in the comments.  Again, I’m including mystery, crime, and science fiction as well as fantasy. Continue reading

2013: An Assessment – Publishers

As I promised in yesterday’s State of the Blogs post, here’s my summary of what I read this past year.  I’m going to include both publishers and individual works that I thought were standouts, but due to length, I’m going to break the post in two.  The list of year’s best authors and titles is here. Many of them are published by the publishers listed below.

I’m going to restrict this list to imprints that have distribution in the major chains.  That means no small presses.  Small presses tend to focus on reprints or collectible editions that are often priced for the collectors market.

Also, I’m going to list some science fiction and crime/noir titles and publishers as well.  I’ve not read enough in those fields this past year to justify a separate post on Futures or Gumshoes.  I plan for 2014 to be different on that point.  Details in tomorrow’s post.

We’ll start with publishers, in alphabetical order (For publishers with more than one imprint, the imprint I read the most will be listed first.): Continue reading

State of the Blogs, 2013

I’ll post a recap of the year’s best reads tomorrow, followed by a look ahead on New Year’s Day.  But because there have been some big changes in my small corner of the blogosphere, I thought I’d give a short recap.Warrior

You’ll notice that I’ve used the plural form of the word “blog” in the title of this post.  That’s because I’ve got four of them.  (Yes, I’m nuts.) 

The year started out good.  Blog traffic continued to climb.  By July traffic was setting records.  Nearly every post had comments, and the number of followers was slowly growing.  I found all of this very satisfying, especially the comments, since a community of regulars had formed.  There were some great discussions.  Blurbs from Adventures Fantastic were starting to show up on the covers of books by major publishers.  I was having a lot of fun, which was a large part of why I do this.

Then Google decreed that Adventures Fantastic was a spam site.  I’m not quite sure how they figured that since I went over their guidelines with a fine toothed comb.  And while I did include a number of links to other sites, Google was very clear that sites which include  links in reviews weren’t spam.  The automatic response to the appeal I lodged with Google said it would be several weeks before they even looked at it. Continue reading

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas!  Santa the Barbarian will cleave from pate to navel anyone not being festive today.  If you like the image, go to the Diablo Fan Art page.  There are a lot of cool images similar to this one.

So raise a flagon of mead, join a dancing girl in a spin about the room, and pardon your enemies.  You can crush them and see them driven before you tomorrow.

And have a Merry Christmas.

Different Christmas posts are up at Dispatches From the Lone Star Front, Futures Past and Present, and Gumshoes, Gats, and Gams.

Christmas Ghosts

FR-Christmas-Ghosts-ebook-cover-webChristmas Ghosts
Krisitne Grayson, ed.
WMG Publishing
trade paper $15.99
electronic $6.99

It’s good to read outside your comfort zone from time to time. I’m not really the target audience for this anthology. But I found it a nice, enjoyable collection of ghost stories that are a perfect fit for the season.  I meant to have this posted a little earlier, but things have been hectic enough that I didn’t finish the book until last night.

The stories here cross a variety of genres, but at heart they’re all romances. Now there are certain conventions of the romance genre that can’t be violated if the story is to be considered of that genre. Editor Grayson (the romance author persona of Kristine Kathryn Rusch) explains this in her introduction.

The main thing is that the two lovers have to end up with each other. While I like an upbeat ending, I prefer a little more suspense in the outcome of the relationship. I guess you could say I’m not that much of happily ever after kind of guy. I find unrequited love more interesting thematically.

Of course, knowing things won’t work out every time is just as unsatisfying.

Anyway, you aren’t here to read about me. You want to know about the stories. They’re all worth reading. They span a variety of time periods and encompass a number of other genres. All of them involve ghosts in some form, although the ghost isn’t as central to the story in some of the tales as in others. Continue reading

New Post on Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series: The Blue Star by Fletcher Pratt

The Blue StarHey, just a quick note to let you know my latest post on the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series is up at Black Gate.  I’m looking at the first volume in the series proper, The Blue Star by Fletcher Pratt.

Dayjobbery got in the way of finishing this one, or it would have gone up a couple of weeks ago.

A Request for Assistance

Strange New WordsStrange New Worlds
Ari Marmell
Paperback $8.99
ebook $4.99 Kindle Nook Smashwords DriveThruFiction

I’m a huge fan of Ari Marmell’s Widdershins series, the most recent of which hit the shelves days ago, as well as his other work.  I’ve got several other novels by him on the shelves that I haven’t gotten to, as well.  He’s become one of my favorite writers.

Ari is having a bit of a tough go of it at the moment, through no fault of his own.  I’ll let him explain the details.  Bottom line, he’s strapped for cash and needs our help.  Because royalties are paid only once or twice a year, it will probably be at least six months before  he sees any cash from Lost Covenant, the latest Widdershins novel.  That’s assuming the book earns out its advance.

What he will see money from in a reasonably timely manner is the short story collection Strange New Worlds which he recently crowdfunded on Kickstarter.  I missed the Kickstarter on this one, or you would have already heard about it from me.

Anyway, if you want to help him out, buy the book.  All of the royalties after Amazon or B&N take their cut go to Ari.  I had bought a copy the night before he announced his need for support.  I’ve moved the book to the top of the TBR list.  I’m going to post the review at Amazing Stories, where it should get more pageviews than it will here.  Because of my schedule there, it will probably be next week before the post goes live, although I’m going to try to get it in before this weekend’s deadline.

As Tom Doolan mentioned earlier on his blog, we are a community.  It falls to us to help each other out.

Promise of Blood is a Promising Debut

PromiseOfBlood_FINAL_RPPromise of Blood
Brian McClellan
Orbit Books
hardcover $23.99
ebook Kindle $1.99 Nook $2.00

Yes, I know this one has been out since last spring. I’m behind, okay? Don’t try to tell me you’re current on your TBR pile, ‘cuz we both know better.

Anyway, if you like military fantasy set in an Industrial Revolution type setting, with lots of action, intrigue, guillotines, and not a few surprises, then this a book for you. I mean, just look at the cover. I saw it and was immediately hooked.

Field Marshall Tamas has lead a coup against the king of Adro. The king was going to sign a treaty basically enslaving Adro to the neighboring kingdom of Kez. He says he’s done it for the people, and unlike most military takeovers, he’s on the level. He’s got a group of civilians in on the plot with him to help him rule.

Tamas is a powder mage, a sorcerer whose powers are limited to guns and gunpowder. They are natural enemies of ordinary sorcerers, called Privileged. Tamas slaughters the king’s cabal of sorcerers, but before they die they each warn him about breaking Kresimir’s Promise. Continue reading

Chuck Wendig Pulls Out All the Stops

TheCormorant-144dpiThe Cormorant
Chuck Wendig
Angry Robot Books
UK Print
Date: 2nd January 2014
ISBN: 9780857663375 Format: Medium (B-Format) Paperback
R.R.P.: £8.99
North American Print
Date: 31st December 2013
ISBN: 9780857663382 Format: Mass-Market Paperback
R.R.P.: US$7.99 / CAN$9.99
Date: 31st December 2013
ISBN: 9780857663399 Format: Epub & Mobi
R.R.P.: £5.49 / US$6.99

If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know I’m a fan of Chuck Wendig’s Miriam Black series. (Reviewed here and here.) Frankly, I find it one of the most compulsively readable series in any genre.

Things take a darker turn in this one. That’s saying something since the whole premise of the series, the hook upon which all things are hung, is Miriam’s ability to see how anyone she touches is going to die. Until now, Miriam has mainly used her abilities to rob people at the time of their deaths.

This time she’s graduated to killer. It isn’t working out as well as she’d hoped. Granted, she’s only killed to save someone’s life, but it’s taken a toll on her psyche.

Miriam is on her own again, and she ends up in Florida, lured their by a lucrative opportunity. When she touches the man she’s about to make a deal with, she sees his murder a year later. In the vision, she sees a message the killer has left her. Continue reading

All Over but the Crying

Well, finals have been graded and grades turned in.  The great email deluge has begun.  (“Why did I get an F? I made a 76 on the mditerm?” Because that’s the highest grade you made all semester and your final/lab/homework/quiz grades were failing.)

Answering them takes time.  (“I feel I did better than a D in this class, even though my grades don’t reflect it.  What time can I come by your office tomorrow and go over my exam?  I’m sure I can find a few fractions of a point to push me over a 70.”  I really got an email like this.  My rule for this sort of time wasting is if you get to find points to add, I get to find additional points to remove.)

I’m thinking of having a tray of cheese nearby to go with the whine I’m finding in my inbox.  (“I think that your giving me a F in the course for cheating in lab, even though I was warned verbally and in writing in both lab and lecture and I signed a copy of the lab policies which included the cheating policy, is extremely unfair, harsh, and mean.  I look forward to hearing a decision from you that will be more in line with the grade I want rather than the grade I earned.”  I really got this one, too, although I’ve paraphrased and condensed its multiple paragraphs considerably.  This was a major case of academic fraud.  I can’t talk about the details yet, for reasons I can’t talk about either.)

Of course, hope springs eternal.  (“Dr. West, I see I earned an F in your class.  Could you please bump me up to a D?”  Considering that your lab grade was in the low 60s, all your other grades were failing, and your average was below 50, probably not.)

All of the quotes, while based on real emails have been changed, not so much to protect the identity of the authors, but to cover my ass in the extreme event one of them actually reads this blog.  It’s been a rough semester.  And, yes, there was a major case of academic fraud which I can’t talk about, and I really can’t talk about the reasons why I can’t talk about it, either.  At least, not yet.  But soon…

Anyway, I’m going to be posting either here or on one of the other blogs almost everyday until Christmas, starting tomorrow.  There will be reviews, opinions, and who knows what else.

Stay tuned.