Saturday, April 4, 2020

Book Review: Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett

In light of the current COVID-19 crisis, I thought to entertain myself with some lighthearted, fun books. For fantasy, one of the best examples of this is the Discworld series of novels by Terry Pratchett. I still haven't read most of these, even though I own ebook versions of several. I decided to try out the first in the 'City Watch' sub-series to see what it's all about and it all kicks of with Guards! Guards!

Read on for my full review.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Book Review: Gideon The Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

I picked up this book after constantly hearing about it on various social media channels and websites. It's considered one of the best books from 2019 and is a finalist for the Nebula awards. Combining fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and horror with a personal tale of fraught relationships I can see why this book is so well regarded.

Read on for my full review.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Book Review: Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

I had first heard about Connie Willis from a Hugo award she won for Blackout/All Clear. I knew it was time travel novel but never picked it up. A friend from work, however, strongly recommended her books and lent me her copy of Doomsday Book, which won the Hugo and Nebula awards. And what a ride it has been! This book was not what I expected and ended up being a really good read. Here's the blurb:
For Kivrin, preparing an on-site study of one of the deadliest eras in humanity's history was as simple as receiving inoculations against the diseases of the fourteenth century and inventing an alibi for a woman traveling alone. For her instructors in the twenty-first century, it meant painstaking calculations and careful monitoring of the rendezvous location where Kivrin would be received.
But a crisis strangely linking past and future strands Kivrin in a bygone age as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, Kivrin -- barely of age herself -- finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.
Five years in the writing by one of science fiction's most honored authors, Doomsday Book is a storytelling triumph. Connie Willis draws upon her understanding of the universalities of human nature to explore the ageless issues of evil, suffering and the indomitable will of the human spirit.
Read on for my full review.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Book Review: Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger

Steel Crow Saga, by Paul Krueger, is a book I had added to my reading list as it was making the rounds as one of the best books of the past year. While I hadn't heard about the author previously, the idea that this blended influences from Pokemon and Avatar: The Last Airbender greatly intrigued me. It was also clear from the start that this was a very character-centric novel, as you can see from the blurb below.
Four destinies collide in a unique fantasy world of war and wonders, where empire is won with enchanted steel and magical animal companions fight alongside their masters in battle.
A soldier with a curse
Tala lost her family to the empress’s army and has spent her life avenging them in battle. But the empress’s crimes don’t haunt her half as much as the crimes Tala has committed against the laws of magic... and her own flesh and blood.
A prince with a debt
Jimuro has inherited the ashes of an empire. Now that the revolution has brought down his kingdom, he must depend on Tala to bring him home safe. But it was his army who murdered her family. Now Tala will be his redemption—or his downfall.
A detective with a grudge
Xiulan is an eccentric, pipe-smoking detective who can solve any mystery—but the biggest mystery of all is her true identity. She’s a princess in disguise, and she plans to secure her throne by presenting her father with the ultimate prize: the world’s most wanted prince.
A thief with a broken heart
Lee is a small-time criminal who lives by only one law: Leave them before they leave you. But when Princess Xiulan asks her to be her partner in crime—and offers her a magical animal companion as a reward—she can’t say no, and soon finds she doesn’t want to leave the princess behind.
This band of rogues and royals should all be enemies, but they unite for a common purpose: to defeat an unstoppable killer who defies the laws of magic. In this battle, they will forge unexpected bonds of friendship and love that will change their lives—and begin to change the world. 

Read on for my full spoiler-free review.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Book Review: Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Starsight is the latest young-adult novel by Brandon Sanderson and is a follow up to Skyward. It picks up a bit after the prior novel and raises the stakes even higher.

All her life, Spensa has dreamed of becoming a pilot. Of proving she's a hero like her father. She made it to the sky, but the truths she learned about her father were crushing. The rumors of his cowardice are true--he deserted his flight during battle against the Krell. Worse, though, he turned against his team and attacked them.

Spensa is sure there's more to the story. And she's sure that whatever happened to her father in his starship could happen to her. When she made it outside the protective shell of her planet, she heard the stars--and it was terrifying. Everything Spensa has been taught about her world is a lie.

But Spensa also discovered a few other things about herself--and she'll travel to the end of the galaxy to save humankind if she needs to.

Read on for my review. Bear in mind that this spoils some events of the prior book, Skyward, and does need to spoil a minor point that happens very early in this book.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Book Review: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I've read The Name of the Wind several times already and enjoy it immensely. However, at work several of my colleagues have been reading it or chatting about it, so I figured I'd remind myself of the story and, since I never wrote a review here since my reading predated my blog, this is also a good opportunity to write up my thoughts on it.
My name is Kvothe.  
I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep. 
You may have heard of me.
So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature--the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man's search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.

Read on for my spoiler-free review.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Book Review: Seven Blades in Black by Sam Sykes

Seven Blades in Black is Sam Sykes latest book and apparently the first of a new series. Sykes is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors with his witty twitter and his gripping books that twist together epic fantasy with gritty horror. Here's the Goodreads blurb for Seven Blades in Black:

Among humans, none have power like mages. And among mages, none have will like Sal the Cacophony. Once revered, now vagrant, she walks a wasteland scarred by generations of magical warfare. The Scar, a land torn between powerful empires, is where rogue mages go to disappear, disgraced soldiers go to die and Sal went with a blade, a gun and a list of names she intended to use both on. But vengeance is a flame swift extinguished. Betrayed by those she trusted most, her magic torn from her and awaiting execution, Sal the Cacophony has one last tale to tell before they take her head. All she has left is her name, her story and the weapon she used to carve both.

Vengeance is its own reward.

Read on for my spoiler-free review.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Book Review: Seveneves by Neal Stephenson

I can't remember when or why I picked up Seveneves by Neal Stephenson. It was published back in 2015 and I've read and enjoyed some of his other works, but by the time I started reading this I had forgotten the details on what Seveneves was about. Nevertheless, it ended up being an incredible book with so many interesting details. I went back and looked at the blurb and realized how much is promised in it:
What would happen if the world were ending?
A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.
But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . .
Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.
A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable. As he did in Anathem, Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and Reamde, Stephenson explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.
Below follows my review for this book with only minor spoilers (that are also in the blurb above).