Archive for February, 2013

sevenprincesThere’s a hell of a lot happening in this first volume of a new fantasy series, and apart from a couple of reasonably brief slow spots, it moves along at a very brisk pace.  ‘Seven Princes’ is a dark fantasy saga that’s epic in scope, and at times reads like a big-budget action film unfolding. …But don’t let that analogy put you off; it’s not nearly as overblown or daft as the average Michael Bay summer blockbuster.

All the classic/traditional elements are here: Heroic warriors & black-hearted villains; Legendary creatures; Magic & sorcery; Romance, war & betrayal; Triumph & tragedy. And blood-soaked carnage on a grand scale…  Yep, there’s a very high body count in this book, and not just among the supporting cast. No one’s safe in this story as the author’s not at all afraid to kill off important main characters in order to advance or thicken the plot. That was a refreshing change, and I found myself really surprised at a couple of characters’ unexpected early exits.

John Fultz is a writer of comics and that probably explains the almost cinematic style of the narrative at times. That’s not a criticism though – it suits the story he’s telling and certainly keeps things moving forward.

Seven Princes is Fultz’s first novel, and occasionally that shows, mainly in the pacing, and in not getting to know some of the characters or places as much as we should. There’s enough happening in Seven Princes to comfortably fill a couple of novels, and it would have been nice to see the story given at least another couple of hundred pages or so, just to let the world and its characters breathe a little more deeply.

Fultz is a storyteller who knows how to spin a good yarn. Sure, it mightn’t be the most original fantasy story around (if such a thing even exists now) but it uses the familiar elements well, and it’s an entertaining read.

Seven Princes won’t be to everyone’s tastes to be sure, but if you don’t mind your heroic fantasy sprinkled with horror and seasoned with graphic & gory violence, then this is definitely worth a look.

Orbit

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

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invisible murderTwo Hungarian Roma boys investigate a hospital abandoned by the Russians after the collapse of communism.  They find something and take it to sell on the black market.  Tamar then steals the passport of Sandor, hi s half Roma brother and travels to Denmark to sell it.  Sandor is then questioned by authorities about his terrorist connections and his Roma roots exposed.  Sandor then travels to Denmark to find him after being told he’s sick.

Nina Borg is a nurse for the Red Cross, working at a refugee camp in Copenhagen. She is involved in the ’Network’, an underground organization providing legal services and medical care to illegal immigrants.  Her husband, Morten, has asked her not to help the Network while he is away, leaving their children alone.  Nina is asked to aid a group of Roma when the children fall sick and starts to feel ill herself.

Nina and Sandor cross paths and suddenly the bad guys are after them for information.

This is a really good translation from Danish into English – thank you to Tara Chace!  The story was addictive; the action fast paced and gripping, the characters colourful and gripping, the language descriptive and painting the scene in your mind.  There was a theme of social justice and exposing how Europe treats migrants.  Discrimination and its impact on people are also explored, along with the reality of terrorism in the present day.  The conclusion was satisfying and when all was revealed there was disbelief at the aims of the mastermind.

I’m now finding the first in the series – The Boy In The Suitcase.  Read this book. It’s a thriller of a story.

Soho Press, Inc

Supplied by Random House New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

angels flightAngel’s Pawn – Ashwini is a Guild Hunter, dedicated to tracking down rogue vampires and bringing them to justice.  Janiver is a rogue vampire with a talent for pissing off angels and ending up on the Guild Hunter’s hunt list.  An ancient vampire has managed to annoy the angel who controls the territory he lives in and a Kiss has been sent after him to kill him – a Kiss being a group of vampires united with a common purpose.  Ashwini has been sent to stop the carnage but needs Janiver’s help.

Angel’s Judgement – Sara is the top choice for being the director of the US Guild Hunters.  On a mission to track down a rogue guild hunter who’s slaughtering vampires, she’s assigned Deacon to watch her back.  A loner who polices the Hunters, Deacon is known as the Slayer and is their boogyman.  He is appointed as Sara’s bodyguard on the hunt for the murderer as they angels and vampires are testing the future Guild Director’s strength.

Angel’s Wolf – Nimra is a strong angel ruling the Louisiana territory.  She also has a problem; one of the trusted members of her court is trying to kill her.  Noel is sent by Raphael to find the intruder, a move he views as a move sideways; he was brutally tortured and feels he is viewed as lesser because of it.  As Nimra and Noel seek the traitor, another victim is discovered.

Angel’s Dance – Jessamy and Galen’s story is finally told; how the forthright weapons master taught the angel with the twisted wing how to fly. Galen had come to Raphael’s territory to serve as weapons master and found himself taken with the shy schoolmarm and record keeper.  Then someone tried to kill her and Galen appointed himself her protector.

This was a good read – if you know the world.  You will still enjoy the stories if you don’t though.  I read the stories before – published in novellas and on Nalini’s website – and love the fact they are all gathered in one place.  A must have for fans.

Gollancz

Supplied by Hatchette New Zealand

Reviewed by Jan

woolEvery so often one of the residents of the silo is chosen to go Outside and clean the windows. As the air outside is poisonous, they all wear protective suits and are not expected to return, quickly succumbing to the deadly air Outside.  Now its Holsten’s turn, the only difference being he volunteered, three years after his wife went Outside.  As he was the Sheriff, responsible for keeping the peace in the silo, a new person must be found to hold the office.  That person is Juliette.

Living deep down in the mechanical division, Juliette is reluctant to leave her essential work to move 90 floors up top.  She proves to be an efficient sheriff – until she uncovers the truth about the history of the silo.  Now The Powers That Be need her to bury that knowledge before others find out.

I generally don’t like science fiction and didn’t expect to enjoy this book.  I was wrong.  The world of the silo was intriguing, with people accepting thing without question, content to live in little cliques.  The characters were well defined and came alive; you could see them in your mind.  The plot was tightly woven with something always happening, and there was a political conspiracy happening.  In the end it came down to good vs evil and how people would react.  My one complaint is it ended to soon.

Century

Supplied by Random House

Reviewed by Jan

another time another life1975 – German radicals hold the West German embassy in Stockholm hostage, demanding the release of Baader-Meinhof members imprisoned in West Germany.  The siege ends with the deaths of two hostage and capture of the terrorists.

1985 – a Swedish civil servant is murdered in mysterious circumstances.  The two detectives investigating were hindered by a corrupt, incompetent senior officer.

1999 – the Swedish Security Police look into open case files, two on Swedes who were suspected of collaborating in the 1975 attack on the German embassy, one of whom was murdered in 1989…..

The investigation is reopened and leads up the Swedish political ladder to the Prime Minister’s office.

This was a DNF (Did Not Finish) book for me.  Despite the plot being complex and tightly plotted, there was very little action.  The story started off well and then slowed, with the author describing ‘he did this’, then ‘she did this’ then ‘he did that’.  The characters started off being sympathetic but then some additional nasty ones were added and they all seemed one dimensional and flat.  I stopped reading halfway through which was a shame as I wanted to know the ending.

This is just a personal opinion and obviously I don’t ‘get’ subtle books or the Swedish humour didn’t translate well into English for me.  Don’t let me put you off if the synopsis appeals to you.

Double Day

Supplied by Random House

Reviewed by Jan

the day she cradled meMinnie Dean was the only woman hanged in New Zealand, in the mid1890s.  A baby farmer who bought babies given up by their families before placing them with adoptive parents for a fee, she was accused of murdering children in her care and disposing of their bodies.

This book is based on facts gathered from trial transcripts, records, newspaper reports, etc, but tells the from Minnie’s point of view. In her version the babies and children accidently died and she panicked and buried the bodies in the garden.  This is plausible as the infant mortality rate was high in the 1890s and she was viewed with enough suspicion by the authorities that she would be in serious trouble.  Society in 1890 was male focused and anyone different was frowned upon.  By today’s standards there was reasonable doubt but things were different then.

This book is thought-provoking and very well written, showing another side to the story.  I knew of the crime growing up and always thought Minnie Dean was an evil monster who went around smothering babies and got what she deserved.  Now I think this is another David Bain case and you’ll never be sure of her guilt.  This is a good read though the historical facts are a bit dry and slow going.  I’m not sure how interesting the case will be to international readers but it does show how life was back then for pioneers.

Black Swan

Supplied by Random House

Reviewed by Jan

I was lucky enough to have the chance to talk to Ripley Patton and ask her some questions about her debut novel, Ghost Hand, and her life as a writer.

ripley

How did you come up with the concept of PSS and the character of Olivia Black?

I have a friend who is an amputee, and I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that he can feel his missing leg. When he walks barefoot in the backyard, his phantom toes, the ones on the missing foot, feel the grass. So, for Ghost Hand, I asked myself, “What if ghost limbs really existed? What would they be made of, and what would they do?”

As for the character of Olivia, she’s a whole lot me and a little bit my teenage daughter, plus some other people thrown in for good measure.

Which characters are particularly fun to write?

I love writing Olivia, of course, and Marcus and Passion are a blast too.

Plug the book in twitter form (140 characters or less)

Olivia Black’s ghost hand just went rogue, and the only person who can help her control it is a boy she barely knows and doesn’t trust.

Phew, that was hard.

You’re a talented writer, having published many short stories and flash fiction.  Where do you get your inspiration for stories from?

Thanks so much for saying I’m talented. My inspiration for my writing comes from everywhere. I get so many ideas I have notebooks of them and am hoping I can live more than one life to get all the books written that are waiting in line.

What is a typical day for you?

I get up and get the husband and kids off to school. I usually have a list of things to do, many writing related but some mundane like doing laundry or cleaning the bathroom. I usually start my work day by checking my e-mail and social media, but I try to do this in thirty minutes or less (okay, an hour if I’m honest). Then I move directly into writing until lunch, at which time I often also take a walk. Then back to writing until the kids get home or someone insists I make dinner. I try to keep the evenings and weekends free for my family, but will often slip some promotion in too.

You lived in New Zealand for a few years and survived earthquakes, laughing in the face of danger.  How have those experiences helped you as a writer?   Any plans to return?

So many of my experiences in New Zealand helped me as both a writer and a person. I think traveling and inserting yourself in different cultures expands your own story, and therefore the stories inside of you. The earthquakes in particular were a very Armageddon type of experience for me and my family. I think they made us stronger, and braver, and more resilient. And that experience will probably show up in a YA series someday. As for returning to New Zealand, I deeply hope I get to. I miss it often and with great pangs of the heart.

You self published Ghost Hand.  Why did you decide to self publish and how hard of a journey was it?

I decided to self-publish for many reasons, the main two being timing and control. After spending three years writing and polishing Ghost Hand, I didn’t want to spend another three trying to convince someone else to publish it. I knew it was good enough. And financially, I honestly had to start making money from my writing or go out and find another way to help support my family. Add to that the fact that I wanted control and involvement in cover design, formatting, marketing, and most importantly, royalties and rights, and the decision was pretty clear.

The journey of self-publishing was actually a joy. I loved every step of it and haven’t had a single regret. I learned about the publishing process and had some amazing people help me along the way. It wasn’t hard. Waiting to hear back from agents and publishers? That was torture. Self-publishing was just fun.

Do you have any advice for writers?

Have fun. Never give up. And don’t wait to get it perfect because no one ever does.

Describe the feeling in 25 words or less of how it felt seeing your name on your book for the first time.

It felt like finally fulfilling the thing I was meant to do in this life.

ghost hand

Thank you very much to Ripley for taking the time to answer my questions in detail.  You can find out more about Ripley at her facebook or amazon pages or her website.