TOP 5 WEDNESDAY:BOOKS I WANT TO FINALLY READ IN 2017

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Today, the guys in the Goodreads Top 5 Wednesday group have an interesting topic this week: BOOKS I WANT TO FINALLY READ IN 2017!  These are those books i meant to read in 2016 or 2015 or 2014 and never got around to. Those books that have been sitting on MY TBR for a while, and i really want to get to. These aren’t upcoming 2017 releases; these are older books that need my love too!

Fairly straight forward topic, one we always seem to start thinking about and talking about this time of year.  But, whereas in the past, I have been too optimistic about reading the whole Wheel of Time series, or finally reading Malazan, or whatever; this year I am going to keep my goals lower and more manageable.

the darkness that comes before5. THE DARKNESS THAT COMES BEFORE 

The fact is I’ve tried to read this book once a year or so ago and did not make it far.  My failure wasn’t because I wasn’t enjoying the narrative as much as it was my inability to get in the right frame of mind to absorb what Mr. Bakker was feeding me.  I still believe this book and I are meant to be, so I will be giving it one more try in 2017.

 

the lies of locke lamora4. THE LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA 

Every year it seems this favorite fantasy of the modern era appears upon my to-be-read list.  Why haven’t I already read it then, you ask?  I can’t say really.  It probably has to do with the subject matter, and the fact I am one of those people who doesn’t find heist-type stories terribly interesting.  But even with that being said, 2017 will be the year I read this novel and mark it off my bucket list.

 

the name of the wind3. THE NAME OF THE WIND 

Just like The Lies of Locke Lamora, Patrick Rothfuss’ novel is one which I always say I’m going to read and never do.  My reason for never taking the plunge with this one is easier to answer though, because it is all about the hype.  It scares the hell out of me.  Every time I try to jump on the next fantasy bandwagon I am disillusioned and disappointed, which is why I’ve stayed away from Name, but, now, it is time to bite the bullet and get it over with.

 

THE WAY OF KINGS2. THE WAY OF KINGS

Don’t ask.  It was the hype.  What has changed is that I have now read several books by Mr. Sanderson and realize I definitely enjoy his writing style and storytelling abilities, so I no longer fear failure with this epic fantasy story.  It will be read in 2017, without a doubt.

 

 

gardens of the moon1. GARDENS OF THE MOON 

I’ve maintained my distance from Malazan not due to the hype (though there is definitely a lot of it) but due to the complexity: Most readers talking about how intricate, complex and demanding the plot with its multitude of characters is, and so I have read those reviews and let fear keep me from taking the plunge.  No more though.  I hereby swear, come January 2017, this one will be first up to read!

 

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THE GATES OF HELL

gates-of-hellThe Gates of Hell by Michael Livingston.

Genre: Historical-Fiction

Series: The Shards of Heaven #2

Publisher: Tor Books (November 15, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 400 pages

My Rating: 4 stars

The Shards of Heaven was a magnificent historical fantasy; Michael Livingston deftly weaving the conquest of Egypt by Octavian (Augustus Caesar) into a mesmerizing tale of individual conflicts, mythological magic, and world-spanning political machinations.  The personal story of Juba of Numidia and Cleopatra’s children spellbinding, even though a reader inevitably knows the ending for the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt.  So it should come as no surprise when I say The Gates of Hell had A LOT to live up to in my eyes.  However, I should never have doubt this author, because Dr. Livingston crafted a perfect second installment in this series, one which succeeds in carrying this dynamic story forward into the future.

Five years have passed since Alexandria fell to Roman arms.  Marc Antony and Cleopatra are long dead, though not forgotten.  Of their family, only Selene, their daughter, still lives, though she is now the wife of Julius Caesar’s adopted son Juba; her life more akin to that of a royal hostage than a true part of Caesar’s family.  The only joy Selene finds in life her growing feelings of respect and love for her husband, as well as her constant plans for revenge.

Fully understanding her changed circumstances, Selene realizes she must have power — a great deal of it — to have any hope of meting out vengeance on the seemingly invincible Octavian.  With her family destroyed, her allies scattered, and no one she can completely trust (other than perhaps Juba), she sets her sights on power through magic, determined to possess her own shard of heaven, thereby gaining god-like powers.  Her belief that together with Juba’s own shard granted power the two of them can finally destroy their adopted brother and stop his insatiable need to rule the whole of the world.

Meanwhile, across the Mediterranean Sea, another shard hunter is also at work, turning over every stone in their search for the Ark of the Covenant.  This secret sect so desperate for every clue to the Ark’s whereabouts that they risk revealing themselves by searching the Library of Alexandria itself for information.  And, much to their dismay, their inquiries find their way to the ears of a man desperate to find favor with Octavian, and for the right price, he is determined to deliver to the new Caesar the most powerful shard of heaven!

While The Gates of Hell is a fast-paced and fascinating narrative driven by revenge and greed, where it excels is in bringing to life in vivid, unforgettable ways the glory of this epoch of human history.  The people, places, and events of Octavian’s Rome bursting to life, filling the pages with their brilliance and bleakness.  Michael Livingston able to effortlessly do this without overwhelming his readers with tedious or lengthy expositions.  Instead, very naturally and organically, Juba and Selene’s world comes into focus, becoming a living, breathing place, which is breathtaking in its realism.

But no story is complete without compelling characters.  Or so I always say.  And here, Dr. Livingston gifts readers with three, larger-than-life people.  Juba returns, continuing to deal with his decidedly mixed feelings for Octavian, and while he loves and empathizes with his wife, he is a man torn by very conflicting feelings as to what course of action is the wisest.  As for Selene, this scion of Cleopatra carries on her famous mother’s legacy very well; her drive, deep emotions, and strong passions creating a character who is difficult to forget.  And, finally, there is Octavian (Augustus Caesar) in all his clever, devious, and charming glory; this legendary politician and ruler stealing nearly every scene he is in.  The swirling vortex of emotions, schemes, and events sweeping around this trio throughout the entire narrative, driving the action toward an explosive and ominous conclusion.

The only criticism I can level against The Gates of Hell is the predictable nature of some of its plot lines.  Certainly, since this is a historical fantasy, the outcome of many “historical” events are already well known, or easily guessed, by readers, but this is not what I am referring to, but, rather, I am speaking of more personal story lines, individual conflicts and such.  The outcome of many of these foreshadowed too much, while others were too easily surmised from the very beginning.  No, this did not ruin the book as a whole, but it definitely was a bit of letdown for me personally when my guesses were constantly proven correct.

Entertaining and enlightening, The Gates of Hell does an outstanding job of sidestepping the book two letdown and continuing Michael Livingston’s fantastical trek through Roman times.  The returning characters show growth, the plot intensifies, and the history mesmerizes, which begs the question “When does book three come out?”

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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TOP TEN TUESDAY

TOP TEN TUESDAYS

Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday! This is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, where a new top ten list hits the web every week!

This week our topic is …

TOP TEN NEW-TO-ME AUTHORS I READ FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 2016

Fairly straight forward topic EXCEPT I had to narrow down the list to just ten authors.  I really hating having to cut out several really good writers out there, but I had no choice.  So here is my top ten.

The Unnoticeables RD 1 selects A10. ROBERT BROCKWAY

Clever, darkly humorous and always horrifying, Mr. Brockway’s books I read this year were real surprises to me, instantly turning me into a fan of his writing.

 

 

the-last-wish9. ANDRZEJ SAPKOWSKI

An amazing sword and sorcery series focusing on a man hunting monsters for a living.  Most people probably have already tried this series out due to the popular video game, but 2016 was my first experience with Mr. Sapkowski’s hero, but it certainly won’t be my last.

 

 

too like the lightning8. ADA PALMER

This book and its author’s writing style is stylish, complex and dazzling in its delivery.  It does take a bit of getting use to, but once you adjust to the flow of Ada Palmer’s delivery, her writing is a pleasure to follow along behind.

 

 

LEVIATHAN'S BLOOD7. BEN PEEK

Mr. Peek is another author who delivers complex, slowly developing yet intrinsically dazzling stories.  His The Children Trilogy one of the more diverse, serious fantasy tales which I have ever had the pleasure to try.  Just like Ada Palmer, a reader must make a commitment to putting in the time to understand Mr. Peek’s world and its characters, but if you do, the payoff is more than worth the investment.

 

the dinosaur lords6. VICTOR MILAN 

Okay, I will admit I read these books due to the dinosaur knights, because, well, who could resist dinosaur knights.  But once I got past that I found Mr. Milan’s writing style an enjoyable experience, and I fully intend to follow him for some time to come.

 

 

the vagrant5. PETER NEWMAN

It took a lot of encouraging by my friends for me to give Mr. Newman’s novel a try, but once I finally took the plunge, I found this weird, post-apocalyptic world to my liking.  Especially memorable was Mr. Newman’s writing style and vivid imagination, which turned this one a tale for the ages.  And, yeah, the goat was my favorite character too.

 

the emperor's railroad4. GUY HALEY

Mr. Haley’s Dreaming Cities novella series was among the best stories I read this year.  The author effortlessly capturing the atmosphere and mood of the world his cast of characters is passing through.  Yeah, it is another post-apocalyptic tale with similarities to other works along the same lines, but Mr. Newman turned this journey into something all his own and succeeded in turning me into a frequent reader.

 

trial-of-intentions3. PETER ORULLIAN

I know a lot of people were turned off by the first volume of this epic fantasy series, but I really enjoyed Mr. Orullian’s revised version and have found the second book a superior story to the first.  What I especially find myself enjoying is Mr. Orullian’s prose and the lyrical nature of his magic system, both huge positives for this series.

 

THE BUILDERS2. DANIEL POLANSKY

Sure, I had heard lots of praise regarding Mr. Polansky, but I never felt a need to run out and buy any of his books.  All that changed after I read a few reviews of this genre blender novella however, and I have to admit being stunned by the amazing storytelling in The Builders.   This simple story of revenge turning into one of the highlights of my reading in 2016.  And, yes, I am now running out to get those Polansky books.

 

a reaper of stone1. MARK GELINEAU & JOE KING 

This writing duo extraordinaire really took me by surprise and kept me dying for more in 2016.  Specifically they kept me dying to read more of their amazing novella series An Echo of the Ascended, which followed along by different characters in the same fantasy world.  Quickly, I found myself checking every month to see if it was time for the next Gelineau/King novella to be released.  And when the monthly features finally came to an end, I was sad, but it was okay, because these guys soon announced they were busy writing their first novel in this world, which instantly made it all better.

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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (DECEMBER 5, 2016)

funday-monday

The work week begins. I quickly slip into my business suit and head back into the office to save a few innocent people. But while I try to fool myself into being excited about the grind, deep down, I’m not, so I’m going to escape dreary reality by reading some great books.

The holiday season is definitely giving my reading and blogging fits: it is just so hard to find time to fit everything into the daily schedule.  But I’m going to keep on trying as hard as I can to keep the Bookwraiths’ train heading down the tracks ever single day.  Wish me luck!

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the-mirrors-truthThe Mirror’s Truth by Michael R. Fletcher

Genre: Fantasy — Grimdark

Series: Manifest Delusions #2

Publisher: Self Published (December 15, 2016)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 455 pages

Where belief defines reality, delusions are both strength and curse: The deeper you sink into madness the more powerful you become. But that power comes with a price. Your darkest nightmares hunt you at night. The face in the mirror hates you and wants to be free. Your fears manifest and plot your destruction.

******

Bedeckt defined himself by the list of crimes he was unwilling to commit. It was such a short list. How could straying from it have gone so wrong?

Now Bedeckt must undo the damage caused by wandering from his precious list. The Geborene god seeks to remake the world with his obsessive need for cleanliness and perfection, but Bedeckt is going to bring him down. Nothing can stop him. Not even death.

The two friends he abandoned in the Afterdeath chase after Bedeckt, bent on revenge. Psychotic assassins hunt him. Something cold and evil follows, lurking in the clouds above, shredding reality with its delusions. Madness and sanity war, stretching and tearing the very fabric of existence.

The dead shall rise.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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BOOK TRAVELING THURSDAY: SWORD AND SORCERY

booktravelingthursdays5Book Traveling Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Catia and Danielle.  Each week everyone picks a book related to that week’s theme, then you write a blog post explaining explain why you choose that book and spotlight all the different covers from different countries. To find out more check out about BTT go to the Goodreads group!

This week’s theme is: Sword and Sorcery! That is the theme I picked anyway.  This week was actually set aside as “Choose a book from one of your favorite genres!” week, so I decided to give a little love to S&S.

Many times I agonize over what selection to make in this meme, but this week I had no problem, because, for me, Robert E. Howard’s Conan was the only choice I could make to represent this genre.

ORIGINAL COVER

conan1

Classic cover from around 1967.  Not my favorite cover, but it certainly captures the look and feel of Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories.

FAVORITE COVERS

 

Both these covers are good ones to me (though I definitely prefer the one on the left.)  The combat scene cover really grabs your attention with the brilliant reds and the ferocious nature of our heroes fight captured up-close.  On the other hand, the black and white cover is very unique and eye-catching, depicting the mysterious, magical nature of sword and sorcery tales, especially the Hyborian Age.  Can’t go wrong with either cover in my opinion.

LEAST FAVORITE COVERS

I always tend to use the same descriptive term when explaining my least favorite covers, but I have to use it again when talking about the above four: generic.  Nothing really exciting about any of them.  Nothing unique.  They are all typical fantasy sword and sorcery covers.  Honestly, you could put any name on them, and they would immediately cease being Conan covers and become the new character.  I don’t like generic covers, so I’m lumping these four together here.

So what do you think?  Agree or disagree?

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WRAP-UP — NOVEMBER 2016

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Welcome to my monthly wrap up!  A final tip of the hat to the month behind and all the great (at least, we hope they were all great) books that have been reviewed, as well as anything else exciting that happened.

So if you’ve missed something on Bookwraiths and want to check it out without having to cycle through all the old posts, look below and click on a pic which interests you.  Hopefully, you’ll discover something which helps you on your quest to discover all the great books out there!

dotted lineBOOK REVIEWS THIS MONTH

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dark-shadowsarcanum-unboundedLEVIATHAN'S BLOOD

dragon-and-thiefstrandedcharacter-driven

song-of-the-deeplegends-of-camberthe-builders

teen-titans-2

dotted lineSPECIAL FEATURES

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dotted lineMEMES

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friday-face-offfunday-monday

stacking-the-shelvesteasertuesday1

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TOP TEN TUESDAYSwaiting-on-wednesday

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WAITING ON WEDNESDAY — SINS OF EMPIRE

waiting-on-wednesday
Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine to let readers share their excitement for books coming out soon, and the novel I’m eagerly awaiting is . . .

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sins-of-empireSins of Empire by Brian McClellan

Genre: Fantasy – Flintlock

Series: Gods of Blood and Powder #1

Publisher:  Orbit (March 7, 2017)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Length: 624 pages

An epic new fantasy series from Brian McClellan, set in the same world as his wildly popular Powder Mage trilogy.

The young nation of Fatrasta is a turbulent place – a frontier destination for criminals, fortune-hunters, brave settlers, and sorcerers seeking relics of the past. Only the iron will of the lady chancellor and her secret police holds the capital city of Landfall together against the unrest of a suppressed population and the machinations of powerful empires.

The insurrection that threatens Landfall must be purged with wile and force, a task which falls on the shoulders of a spy named Michel Bravis, convicted war hero Ben Styke, and Lady Vlora Flint, a mercenary general with a past as turbulent as Landfall’s present.

As loyalties are tested, revealed, and destroyed, a grim specter as old as time has been unearthed in this wild land, and the people of Landfall will soon discover that rebellion is the least of their worries.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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FUNDAY MONDAY, OR THE BOOKS THAT WILL HELP ME SURVIVE THE WEEK AHEAD (NOVEMBER 28, 2016)

funday-monday

The work week begins. I quickly slip into my business suit and head back into the office to save a few innocent people. But while I try to fool myself into being excited about the grind, deep down, I’m not, so I’m going to escape dreary reality by reading some great books.

Well, the holiday week really played havoc with my reading schedule: Friends, family, travel and post-holiday stomach bug (Yeah, my family brought it home from our family get together.) took up A LOT of my time.  So, as the week after rolls around, I find myself behind yet again, trying to play catch up, and only able to commit to one new book this week.  If I tried to read anymore I know I would certainly fail.  But my new novel is a great one, which I’ve been dying to start ever since I finished book two of the series.

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dead-mans-steelDead Man’s Steel by Luke Scull

Genre: Fantasy – Grimdark

Series: The Grim Company #3

Publisher: Roc (January 3, 2017)

Author Information:Website | Twitter

Length: 448 pages

As the “gripping”* epic from the author of Sword of the Northcontinues, the Grim Company must battle a dangerous new enemy that is determined to destroy all of humanity…
 
In the City of Towers, former rebel Sasha and her comrade Davarus Cole struggle to keep the peace between the warring mages who vie for dominion. But when the White Lady sends Davarus south to the Shattered Realms to seek allies among the fallen kingdoms, he finds that his hardest battle may be one fought within. The godly essence now residing within him offers power that could be used against the Fade—but with every death that feeds It, Cole risks losing a part of himself.

An association with a Fade officer grants the Halfmage Eremul a position of privilege among Dorminia’s new masters. He witnesses firsthand the fate that awaits humanity. But with his magic pitiful in the face of the Fade’s advanced technology, the Halfmage must rely on his wits alone to save whom he can…

And in the frozen north, the legendary warrior Brodar Kayne fights a desperate battle for his people. He is running out of time: an ancient evil sealed beneath the mountains is about to break free, an evil that is older than humanity, older than the Fade, older even than the gods—and it will not stop until the entire world is drowned in blood…

Purchase the book at Amazon

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BOOK TRAVELING THURSDAY: BOOK I AM THANKFUL I READ

booktravelingthursdays5Book Traveling Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Catia and Danielle.  Each week everyone picks a book related to that week’s theme, then you write a blog post explaining explain why you choose that book and spotlight all the different covers from different countries. To find out more check out about BTT go to the Goodreads group!

This week’s theme is: Book I am thankful I read! It is Thanksgiving Day here in the USA, so it seems like a good day to reflect back on this topic.

I had a tough time narrowing this down to just one book.  I’ve been so very fortunate to find myself introduced to many amazing authors and stories since I began blogging a few years ago.  But, after a lot of reflection, my pick finally became fairly self-evident: Traitor’s Blade.

ORIGINAL COVER

traitors-blade-1

The US cover for this amazing book.  A very fitting representation of the Three Musketeers-esque feeling of the narrative.

FAVORITE COVERS

I really love both these covers.  If I have to pick my absolute favorite it would be the lone figure on the right, heading toward his fate with both his rapiers drawn.  The image just captures the essence of Falcio val Mond, whom I absolutely adore reading about.

LEAST FAVORITE COVERS

Too plain and generic for my tastes.  I suppose the one on the right is going for the Joe Abercrombie First Law look, but it does not excite me in the least.  Others may certainly disagree, and if the covers get them to buy the book and discover this amazing series, then I too love these covers for that single reason.

So what do you think?  Agree or disagree?  And to everyone who is celebrating the US holiday: Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

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DARK SHADOWS: HEIRESS OF COLLINWOOD

dark-shadowsDark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood by                              Lara Parker

Genre: Horror – Mystery

Series: Dark Shadows #4

Publisher: Tor Books (November 8, 2016)

Author Information: Website 

Length: 320 pages

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Dark Shadows was a guilty pleasure of mine when I was growing up back in the dark ages of the 1980s. Reruns of the show always seemed to be on the tv after school and kept me glued to the couch. Hell, I even loved the 1991 remake. (Wasn’t a big fan of the 2012 movie, though I loved Eva Green as Angelique Bouchard.) So when the opportunity to revisit creepy Collinwood came along, I had to take it.

Things start off with Victoria Winters having left the 18th Century and returned to the present of 1972. Her time in the past still a vivid memory, but one which is slowly fading from her mind, as she returns to her normal life as a news reporter for a television station in Bangor, Maine. Soon, however, a letter finds her and implores her to come to Collinwood due to important business, and so Victoria finds herself drawn back into the tangled web of the Collinses.

Returning to Collinwood immediately immerses Victoria in the mysterious goings-on there: ghostly sightings, the eternal Barnabas Collins, and a neighbor, who is the twin of our heroine’s lost Peter Bradford. But most troubling of all is the disappearance of the entire Collins family! Everyone going missing, and no one knowing where they went. This fact causing a will to be triggered; a will which names Victoria as the heir to the Collinwood Estate. All she has to do to inherit: prove her identity.

To do this, Victoria determines to travel to places in her past. The orphanage where she grew up, as well as several other important locales. And, naturally, what she finds out is not what she (or readers) was expecting at all!

Like most horror/mysteries, this novel is a slow burn: it starts out slow, feeding you tidbits of information, introducing (or re-introducing) characters, then picks up toward the end, as it speeds to its stunning conclusion. Nothing wrong with that at all, especially if you (like me) enjoy the creepy world of Dark Shadows. I can, however, see many readers who will long for more excitement, more action, earlier in the narrative. But that isn’t the kind of story Lara Parker has penned, which is actually very fitting since Dark Shadows: Heiress of Collinwood reads like a logical continuation of the story line from the actual series.

Overall, this novel is a wonderful return to the world of Dark Shadows. While the setting is modern 1970s (instead of the 18th Century past which I always preferred) with characters who have definitely evolved, the atmosphere and mood of the original tv series is wonderfully captured and replicated in print form, as well as the story a fitting evolution of the ongoing tale. With that in mind, this is a must read for all Dark Shadows fans!

I received an advanced reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. I’d like to thank them for allowing me to receive this review copy and inform everyone that the review you have read is my opinion alone.

Purchase the book at Amazon

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