Bag of Holding, type V: Books

I have been reading a lot lately at work. This has prompted me to write more reviews for this blog and also gave me the need to protect my books from the hazards of backpack travel. So my wife, the lovely Fantastical Librarian is knitting a lot these days. As I posed the problem of bent cover-corners and folded pages I proposed she make me a book protector. This is the result of our deliberations and the true hero behind my increased reading:

This sack of stretchable wool will fit anything from a hardback (snugly) to a small pocket book (or three). It has significantly decreased damage travel in my backpack does to books and it even protected one from a lunch-box accident. But wait, there is more! It is machine washable! 

I am sure my wife will share the pattern or tips with any and all who can make such a thing and I thank her for the wonderful Bag of Holding, type V: Books.

Wiebe van der Salm

[Editor’s note: If anyone is interested in the pattern, just let me know! – Mieneke]

Jonathan French – The Grey Bastards

Jackal is proud to be a Grey Bastard, member of a sworn brotherhood of half-orcs. Unloved and unwanted in civilized society, the Bastards eke out a hard life in the desolate no man’s land called the Lots, protecting a frail and noble human civilisation form invading bands of vicious full blooded orcs. But on the heels of the ultimate betrayal, Jackal will start to question where his true loyalties lie…

As soon as Jonathan French’s The Grey Bastards came through the mailbox, courtesy of Orbit, I had this tagged as a must read. Sword and Sorcery is really my thing and this one peaked my interest. It was refreshing to see a high fantasy novel done from the perspective of a half-orc, although, with their crass behaviour and sex jokes you could more readily dub it Low-Fantasy. Actually it really is sword and sorcery.  Read More …

Tyler Whitesides – The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn

Another review by Wiebe, who nicked my review copy for this title the moment it came in. The review is short and sweet, but he had his reasons for that.

Ardor Benn is no ordinary thief. Rakish, ambitious, and master of wildly complex heists, he styles himself a Ruse Artist Extraordinaire.

When a priest hires him for the most daring ruse yet, Ardor knows he’ll need more than quick wit and sleight of hand. Assembling a dream team of forgers, disguisers, schemers, and thieves, he sets out to steal from the most powerful king the realm has ever known.

But it soon becomes clear there’s more at stake than fame and glory – Ard and his team might just be the last hope for human civilization.

The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn is good fantasy that differs from the norm, as it is all about the con, or ruse in this case. Tyler Whitesides story reminded me most of the British TV series Hustle or The Lies of Locke Lamorra by Scott Lynch, without being derivative. All three feature a cast of gifted individuals who are so good at what they do, that they can pick and choose whom to con. That leads them to take from the wealthy and criminals, making them way more likeable than if they were fleecing old grannies. The Robin-Hood like approach to the characters makes it easier to like them. And boy, are the characters well written. With a good dose of gallows humour, and a fast pace I was thoroughly entertained.  Read More …

Kate Elliott – The Spiritwalker Trilogy

Wiebe returns with a short review of the entire Spiritwalker trilogy, which if I had to summarise it is basically: “Mieneke, why haven’t you read this already?”

My wife, the lovely Fantastical Librarian, recommended this series to me after I read The Potion Diaries and a discussion of alternative history and romance in fantasy. Based on that discussion, she posited that The Spiritwalker Trilogy by one of her favourite authors, Kate Elliot, would be right up my alley. The titles of the trilogy are Cold Magic, Cold Fire, and Cold Steel. Picking up these three chihuahua killers of the shelf, I was wondering what in the heck would you need three trade paperbacks and more than 2000 pages for, to write some romance?  Read More …

Amy Alward – The Potion Diaries

Wiebe is back with another review.

When the princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection. Oops. A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors traveling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.

Enter Samantha Kemi – an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent. Sam’s family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they have fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation. But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company? And just how close is she willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing enemy, in the meantime.

Just to add to the pressure, this quest is all over social media. And the world news.

No big deal then.

Reading the text on the back cover of The Potion Diaries, Amy Alward sets herself a lot of goals in this book. A quest, a love story, a family mystery and social media, set in a yet to be explained fantasy world. All that in a fast paced YA-ish novel of 350 pages. Looking back on the novel, I think it was a bit too much. I could shoot holes in the plot, say why I find the world is not fleshed out enough and much more. It is in my opinion a gross underestimation of the readers’ age makes that it makes you think you can get away with that. But it is YA, so long as it invokes stormy emotions and makes me feel 16 again, I will go along with it.  Read More …

Debbie Johnson – Dark Vision

Wiebe is back with another review, this time for Debbie Johnson’s Dark Vision

Lilly McCain is cursed.

With just one touch she can see a person’s future, wether it’s a good fortune or a terrible fate. Afraid of the potent visions she forsees, she distances herself from the world, succumbing to a life of solitude.

But at the touch of a mysterious stranger — who has powers of his own – Lily sees a new chilling future for herself: one where she is fated to make a terrible choice…

Looking at the cover of Dark Vision, we see a lightning-torn sky and a slightly blurred Royal Liver Building and the back of a woman. Combined with the text on the back cover I could kinda guess what this book is going to be about. Girl finds out about a magical world and hijinx ensue. It will probably involve a handsome hunk and resistance to his attractiveness. The only question is if Debbie Johnson manages to keep it above the level of a harlequin novel. I still picked it out of our box of shame, cause that kind of book is a bit of guilty pleasure for me.  Read More …

Andrew Lane & Nigel Foster – Netherspace

This is another Wiebe review!

First contact is only the beginning…

Contact with aliens was made fourty years  ago, but communication turned out to be impossible. Humans don’t share a way of thinking with with any of the alien species, let alone a grammar. But there is trade, trade that produces scientific advances that would have taken thousands of years.

Earth may be a better place but it is no longer our own. We may be colonizing the stars, but we’re dependent on inexplicable alien netherspace drives, and they come at a heavy cost: live humans. When a group of colonists are captured by Cancri aliens, a human mission is sent to negotiate their releasse. But how can you negotiate when you don’t know what your target wants or why they took your people in the first place?

For my next read I semi-randomly picked Netherspace by Andrew Lane and Nigel Foster out of our many boxes of too-read-books. Our bookcases are coming next Monday (Editor’s Note: This review was written on November 16, the bookcases are standing right now). I had to put this book down after reading 130-some pages, as I was starting to hate-read this book. I know I am a very particular and unforgiving reader. Anytime the setting or the writing style takes me out of the story to go “wtf!” it detracts from my reading experience. This book did this too often and I just had to put it down.  Read More …

Chris Brookmyre – Places in the Darkness

As announced previously, my husband Wiebe is going to be contributing reviews more regularly. Chris Brookmyre’s Places in the Darkness is his first review on A Fantastical Librarian in a while.

This is as close to a city without crime as mankind has ever seen.

Ciudad de cielo is the city in the sky, a space station where hundreds of scientists and engineers work in earth orbit, building the colony ship that will one day take humanity to the stars.

When a mutilated body is found on the CdC, the eyes of the world are watching. Top-of-the-class investigator Alice Blake, is sent from earth to team up with CdC’s Freeman – a jaded cop with more reason than most to distrust such planetside interference.

As the death toll climbs and factions aboard the station become more and more fractious, Freeman and Blake will discover clues to a conspiracy that threatens not only their own lives but the future of humanity itself.

Based on the copy on the back of the book, I judged Places in the Darkness to be a detective novel set in space. From the rest of the cover I saw that this is not the first crime novel Chis Brookmyre has written. Writing crime in a completely fictional stetting is a hard thing to do. Not only do you have all the elements for your crime, you also have to explain the universe the story is set in. You need to split your focus and risk not doing a good job on one or both of these elements.  Read More …

Guest Review: Lois McMaster Bujold – The Warrior’s Apprentice

Wiebe is back with another review and this time he is tackling a classic!

loismcmasterbujold-thewarriorsapprenticeMiles Vorkosigan’s physical infirmities have destroyed his lifelong dream. After flunking the physical and being dropped from the Barrarayan military academy, he takes what he thinks will be a pleasure trip. However, Miles has a towering talent for leadership-and for chaos-and he and his companions soon run afoul of spacegoing mercenaries. One thing leads to another until miles, now a self-appointed admiral with an alias, finds himself leading his mercenaries on an impossible mission. If he can’t be an officer in the Barrarayan military, perhaps miles will make a very good space pirate.

There is still one problem, however. Miles is a member of the Barrarayan aristocracy, and the law of his home planet forbids members of that class from having their own armed forces…and breaking that law carries a death sentence. 

My wife, the Fantastical Librarian, suggested Lois McMaster Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice to me when we were shopping in the Forbidden Planet in London. Read More …

Guest Review: Jack Campbell – Lost Fleet: Dauntless

jackcampbell-lostfleetdauntlessToday’s review is a guest review. Wiebe has caught the review bug and has started writing up some reviews for A Fantastical Librarian. For those of you not familiar with his name, Wiebe is my husband, who also loves SFF and watches a lot of anime. And he’s got opinions. So sometimes he just needs to write them out in a review, which I happily co-opt for the blog. Today he reviews Jack Campbell’s Dauntless, the fist in the Lost Fleet series.  Read More …