Friday, October 26, 2012

Stormdancer

It's always such a good feeling to be looking forward to a book release. To have it marked in your calendar and counting down the days. I'll never forget the midnight release party for The Deathly Hallows, where the parking lot of the local BN was packed with people because the building had exceeded its fire codes. How people ran to the register when their letter was called and ran out of the store clutching their bags. All this for a BOOK.

Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff was my most anticipated book for 2012. I held myself back from buying the hardcover on release day (sorry J, trying to conserve the monies) but I reserved it at the library a month in advance and I still wasn't high enough on the list to get the first round of books. I had to wait until mid-October. They said I was at the top of the list (because yes, I did make special trips to the library to check my place in the queue), but that obviously didn't matter. I take that as a good sign, that no one wanted to bring the book back.

Because... I don't want to bring my book back. I want to keep it. I want to buy my own copy and read it again. I probably would break down and buy the hardcover if not for the fact that I don't care for reading hardcovers. They look badass on the shelf, but books aren't meant to be looked at. They aren't decor. They are meant to be read. I'm partial to the mass market versions because I can read them and love them and I can hold them comfortably, and I can look at my shelves and see all my favorite books in various stages of disrepair and everyone else can know that I love them. So. Please don't come out in trade paperback, Stormdancer, waiting one year for the next format is bad enough. September 2013 I need you.

Before we really getting rolling, here is the expected linkage: Jay Kristoff's blog is insightful and entertaining, and I highly recommend it. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook and Goodreads. Let Scalzi convince you to read it.

A synopsis, from BN:
The first in an epic new fantasy series, introducing an unforgettable new heroine and a stunningly original dystopian steampunk world with a flavor of feudal Japan.
       A DYING LAND
The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; an island nation once rich in tradition and myth, now decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, the land is choked with toxic pollution, and the great spirit animals that once roamed its wilds have departed forever.
       AN IMPOSSIBLE QUEST
The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary creature, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows the beasts have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.
       A HIDDEN GIFT
Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a talent that if discovered, would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.
       But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire.


But please don't listen to that synopsis, let this book trailer convince you instead. It's probably the most fantastic book trailer I've ever seen, and against all odds (I don't see the point in book trailers) it actually made me want to read the book more.


I expected this book to have fantastic worldbuilding and a good plot. Japanese Steampunk? Yes please. Imagine my surprise when I was still surprised by how good it was. The level of worldbuilding in this book is insane. The country has this entire epic history and the cities actually make your throat dry and you can feel the suffocating humidity of the forests. But what I didn't expect was the beauty of the prose and how Kristoff used that to his advantage for all the descriptions. This isn't just a book that takes place in a Japanese world, this book came from a Japanese world. He uses sentences without subjects that make you pause and really think about the setting. And short groupings of three sentences that taste like haikus. It isn't just the description that makes this book genius, it's the way he manipulates the actual telling of the story.

If you follow my blog, you already know that prose is incredibly important to me for creating the feeling of a books. Words have a taste, and while plot is important to make the story interesting, that taste and tone of a book is what really makes me fall in love with it. That's why I love The Name of the Wind so much, and why The Perks of Being a Wallflower pulls at your heartstrings. Also The Fault in our Stars. And it's what separates these books from the so-so books that are forgotten two years after release. The prose is doing more than just sitting on the page, it is manipulating you. It is no longer paper, ink, and wood pulp.

And that, my friend, is why books are magic.

Can you tell that this is going to sit on my favorites shelf, falling apart and loved? Well. Enough mooning then. THE PROBLEMS. 310 pages? Really? You make sweet, sweet, book love to me and then slap me across the face the next morning? That's all for you, sweetheart, next time pay the big bucks and you get me for twice as long. I don't care that part of this book's charm is it's length. You don't get to make me love your characters and your world and then skip three weeks in the blink of an eye. I WANT MORE. The ending was too quick. It's over already?!? Could you do me a favor and make book 2 at least 600 pages? I want to spend more time with the characters and the nuances of their relationship. Buruu and Yukiko were fantastic by the way. Again, I would have liked to see more, because then I would have more awesome to keep reading. Buruu just makes my heart squeeze. And did I mention? You made me cry three times, THREE TIMES, with those flashbacks in the first 60 pages. That's not even fair.

Now, on to the tattoos. I love tattoos. Because if it came down to a getting a chestpiece or keeping my job, I would be looking for a new job. Because discrimination against tattoos is wrong and disgusting, and I am stopping now in effort to keep this post about the book and not about that little sore spot. I LOVE tattoos. Because wearing my heart on my sleeve is not enough, and I want everyone to know what is important to me by the artwork on my skin. I'll admit I was disappointed when they became the symbol of slavery, because there goes my gorgeous idea for a fox and cherry blossom sleeve. And I don't know who you killed to get such a beautiful cover, but I'm glad you did it. So fitting, and awesome to boot.

By the way, this is badass: 


I guess I really don't have much to say other than this book was just as amazing as I hoped it would be. Please bust your ass and make book 2 a thousand pages long. I'd appreciate it. And to all the other authors out there: YOU'RE LUCKY this was a library book, because I have to return it and I can't read it a second time.

Fall Reading List:
A Matter of Blood - Sarah Pinborough (The Dog-Faced Gods #1)
The Timekeeper - Mitch Albom
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce
The Casual Vacancy - J. K. Rowling
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff (The Lotus War #1)
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking Trilogy #1)
Swan Song - Robert McCammon
Brood of Bones - A. E. Marling
Leviathan Wakes - James S. A. Corey (Expanse Series #1)
Gojiro - Mark Jacobson



Reading Next: The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Matter of Blood

Let's see, how to describe A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough? It came to life, is all there really is too it. Three plots that interweave seamlessly and believably, a character who is normal and extraordinary all at the same time and you feel his pain and his wants, and a crisp setting that leaves dirt under your fingernails. Normally a story so fucked up could only be true, like the unbelievable stories you hear about on the news, but thankfully this one is stuck on paper. I've had this book for two years now, and I can't believe I am finally getting around to it. I started it once, got about halfway, then stopped. I don't know why, but it was right after college and I was giving up on a lot of books around then. I'm glad I finally got to finish it this time, because it was awesome and I can't wait to get to the rest of the trilogy.

You can follow Sarah Pinborough on her blog and twitter. Since her books aren't available in America yet (for shame!) you should get them at BookDepository.com. I think AMOB is set to release Fall 2013 in the US, but I could be wrong. I first discovered these books on EBR, and since they absolutely raved about the first book and then about the second and third books, I knew I had to read them.

A synopsis, from BD:
The recession has left the world exhausted. Crime is rising; financial institutions across the world have collapsed, and most governments are now in debt to The Bank, a company created by the world's wealthiest men. But Detective Inspector Cass Jones has enough on his plate without worrying about the world at large. His marriage is crumbling, he's haunted by the deeds of his past, and he's got the high-profile shooting of two schoolboys to solve - not to mention tracking down a serial killer who calls himself the Man of Flies. Then Cass Jones' personal world is thrown into disarray when his brother shoots his own wife and child before committing suicide—leaving Cass implicated in their deaths. And when he starts seeing silent visions of his dead brother, it's time for the suspended DI to go on the hunt himself—only to discover that all three cases are linked... As Jones is forced to examine his own family history, three questions keep reappearing: What disturbed his brother so badly in his final few weeks? Who are the shadowy people behind The Bank? And, most importantly, what do they want with DI Cass Jones?


The reason I love series so much is that they give you such a window into the character's life that you can't help but fall in love with them. Even if they are despicable. You have time to see the mundane and the extreme, and watching a character interact in the calm scenes is all the more interesting after you just watched them be a badass in a previous scene. And when I say love, it's not love in the kissy-kissy sense, but more in love with the idea of them because they are so real. Cass Jones is one of these characters. He is not snarky, he is not charming, he's in a loveless marriage and he doesn't give a damn. He's done some very despicable things that would make you turn away in disgust if you ever met him in the flesh. As a matter of fact, his past would make any normal person walk quickly away and thank their lucky stars that they survived the encounter with such a rogue. He is that awful person who should have gone to prison for life but instead got off on a technicality.

This is what really makes Cass so wonderful: his all-consuming guilt over what happened in his past makes you feel for him before you ever find out what he did, and later, when everything comes to the surface, you are already emotionally invested in him and his past doesn't matter anymore. Cass has a classic case of guilt: he's trying not to think about it, but he can't avoid it. While most people don't have such a doozy in their past, everyone can relate to soul-eating guilt. Cass is a normal person just trying to do some good at his job, who gets wrapped up in all kinds of crazy and can barely handle it. The all-night benders with booze and drugs and girls are testament to that.

But the real genius of this book is way the plot threads fit together. There are three: the serial murders, the shooting of the two schoolboys, and his brother's suicide, and when they come together (as you know they will) it is awesome and it makes sense and you can tell that Pinborough put a lot of thought into finding something that wasn't obvious. It was very similar to V for Vendetta, regarding the plot threads, and that's awesome, because you all know by now that V is one of my favorite movies ever, so naturally I think this book rocks.

I was having a really hard time writing this review for three days now (I finished the book on Monday) because the only coherent sentences I could make were all just variations of OMG AWESOME READ IT OMG WHAT, but add a bottle of beer and daaaamn those words just start flowing. In sentences, no less! Thought I'd share.

I was very appreciative of the setting: it was unique and it added flavor and color to the book, but it wasn't overwhelming. There are very few people who can entertain me with drawn out descriptions of stuff (Tolkien is not one of those people. Elizabeth Kostova is.) but this book found the right balance, and the descriptions were very tailored to the character, which is awesome. We read what Cass noticed, mainly, the buildings, and the architecture. An old friend told Cass to "keep looking up," and it's something that recurs throught the book in a very sweet way. It's nice to see that Cass has a soft spot for something. Too bad it isn't other people. (But then, he's a cop, so I guess he does have a soft spot for other people.)

It's really hard to find generic things to talk about that shows you the awesome without giving away the awesome. Really, you should just read it. It's a thriller and a horror and it's interesting to have a valiant main character who is so wracked by his guilt. It really affects everything he does, every day, but he still finds ways to cope. Not the best ways, but still. Ways.

I will mention that I loved the loyalty between the characters. And not necessarily between the cops, although I did love the relationship between Cass and Ramsay. Alsoooo with the other guy who owns the bar and is supposed to be against the cops but helps out Cass but I can't remember his name right now. I liked him a lot too.

If you like really gritty books with dark protagonists you'll love this book. This is the horror/thriller equivalent of Joe Abercrombie and Scott Lynch. Honestly, this is a lot darker than Scott Lynch. I don't really think the Gentleman Bastards books are all that dark, really, because they are all frilly and goofy and they wear expensive clothes. Sure people die, but people die in Nicholas Sparks book all the time and no one calls those books dark and gritty.

Well, this review turned into rambling real fast. =] So much for the brilliant beer idea. Well. Read this book!



The next book in the series is The Shadow of the Soul ( BD | GR | EBR ), and the final one is The Chosen Seed ( BD | GR | EBR ). I just love these UK covers! I can't wait to get my copies. Technically the paperback of CS isn't out until November, but that's okay because I have lots of other books to get to on my TBR pile, even though I would really like to keep going with this series. But I made my plan! STICK to the fucking PLAN. I think marathoning these books would be a bad idea though, I'll end up all depressed like after watching a marathon of Law and Order. You start the day with knitting and hot tea and by the end of the marathon you're in your underwear with a cigarette in one hand and vodka in the other. Oh, that's just me? Nevermind then.

Fall Reading List:
A Matter of Blood - Sarah Pinborough (The Dog-Faced Gods #1)
The Timekeeper - Mitch Albom
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry - Rachel Joyce
The Casual Vacancy - J. K. Rowling
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
Stormdancer - Jay Kristoff (The Lotus War #1)
The Knife of Never Letting Go - Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking Trilogy #1)
Swan Song - Robert McCammon
Brood of Bones - A. E. Marling
Leviathan Wakes - James S. A. Corey (Expanse Series #1)
Gojiro - Mark Jacobson

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Snippets

Picturing Autumn: An Equinox Celebration

The Real Fauxtographer. Margot Wood has a series of photographs representing YA novels. They are great! I also now have several books to add to my TBR list. (Does Tiger Lily sound as awesome to everyone else?)

If you are a writer, you should be following Janice Hardy on Twitter. In addition to her wonderful blog, she links to other articles around the interwebs that are all great learning tools or just great reading.

The Write Space blog feature by Meagan Spooner. A series of photos and interviews with authors about their writing areas and habits. I love these! (I also love gawking at the bookshelves.)

Write when you're tired. An interesting (and practical) way to look at it. Also contains several other links for writing faster.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Draft 1: September 2012

I don't know how well this format works. On one hand, I'm not flooding my blog with meaningless complaints and drivel every other day. On the other hand, how many people avoid this post like the plague because they don't want to read chapters and chapters of meaningless drivel and complaints? Actually, I guess I just answered my own question. One post it is. I write them for me, and for the people interested in reading them. This way they are easy to avoid for the people who don't want to read them. But I know I like seeing other writers flounder and succeed, because it tells me I'm not the only one. Read at you're own risk, thar be pirates after the break, arr!