Friday, 31 December 2010

Dark Tower Readalong: The Gunslinger, Part 5

After a brief break for Christmas Eve (on which I delivered presents and saw friends) and, acknowledging that New Year's Eve probably isn't the best day for a post (*grins*), here is Part 5 of the Dark Tower readalong.

I am planning to pop a new page on my blog which will link to each of the pages in the readalong as we go, so that you don't have to keep searching for them - that will happen either today or over the weekend. Hmm, sounds like just the mindless job I require with the monumental hangover I'm expecting from New Year's Eve!

So, here we go with this segment, which goes from chaplet 7 of The Waystation through to the end of the section (next time we'll kick off from the start of The Oracle and the Mountains.

First of all, I will provide a brief summary on how I see the events in each chaplet (there will be spoilers!) and then I will write out a commentary - my thoughts on what is happening, and, mainly, how confused I am *grin*


The gunslinger and Jake reach the foothills of the mountains on the trail of the man in black, who seems closer. The gunslinger feels a strange reluctance to catch up with the man in black, believing the appearance of Jake to be a trap and wondering if the man in black is slowing deliberately. He has thoughts of people from his past, and mentions them to Jake.


We have a flashback to Roland's past when he was a boy, friends with Cuthbert and instructed by Cort. We see Cuthbert's hatred for Cort and watch as Roland disregards the instructor.


Still flashing back to Roland's past: we see one of the events that starts shaping him into the gunslinger. He and Cuthbert both start following the way of the gun as they hear a treasonous conversation.


Another slightly disturbing flashback as Roland talks to his father. We have more hints about Roland's character, and the events that have led him to the situation he finds himself in chasing the man in black.


Roland and Cuthbert are allowed to watch the hanging of the cook from the kitchen, after they told on him regarding his treasonous actions. Roland finds it hard to see any sort of honour. He takes a splinter from the gallows to remind him of this lesson.


This is the last of the flashback scenes, where the hanging actually takes place. Roland realises he is destined to be a gunslinger.


Jake points out the man in black to Roland - he is now in sight, flitting up the mountains ahead of them. Roland says they will catch up with him on the other side.


Thanks to King building the very bleak picture of the desert landscape, it is very noticeable when the gunslinger and Jake finally see green, living plants as they reach the foothills.

I love the imagery that King shows us of the landscape - stark and vivid: "At night, Jake would sit fascinated for the few minutes before he fell into sleep, watching the brilliant swordplay of the far-off lightning, white and purple, startling in the clarity of the night air."

The gunslinger is worried about the fact that Jake is able to take the trail at a decent pace with no complaints. I think this is because the man in black has *changed* Jake somehow to make him more attractive and fit to be loved by Roland, thereby weakening him.

They are catching up faster to the man in black: "This did not please him as much as he once might have believed. One of Cort's sayings occurred to him: 'Ware the man he fakes a limp.'" So he suspects the man in black of slowing deliberately?

Jake has proper hero worship for Roland, doesn't he? Forcing himself past endurance to keep up with the gunslinger, copying words and phrases from him.

Ack, I'm about to quote extensively because this whole section confuses me thoroughly:

"When I was your age, I lived in a walled city, did I tell you that?"
The boy shook his head sleepily.
"Sure. And there was an evil man-"
"The priest?"
"Well, sometimes I wonder about that, tell you true," the gunslinger said. "If they were two, I think now they must have been brothers. Maybe even twins. But did I ever see 'em together? No, I never did. This bad man...this Marten...he was a wizard. Like Merlin. Do they ken Merlin where you come from?"

And then Jake talks about Arthur and the Round Table, and the gunslinger says Arthur Eld instead. Is the priest the man in black? So he was called Marten? Or is there actually two of them?

I love the whole sequence of flashbacks - it's good to finally get a slightly clearer picture of Roland's upbringing. Having said that, for every question that is answered, we definitely have more questions posed! The two boys - Cuthbert and Roland - are watched by Cort as they exercise the hawk David (named after David and Goliath, it appears, so the bible stories are known). Bert and Roland talk in the low speech, and it seems as though at the moment their paths in life could progress to EITHER gunslingers OR various other roles, such as courtiers or pages.

The training Cort appears to provide is of the tough love variety! "Cort swung again, and Cuthbert fell over again. The blood flowed more swiftly now. 'Speak the High Speech,' he said softly. His voice was flat, with a slight, drunken rasp. 'Speak your Act of Contrition in the speech of civilization for which better men than you will ever be have died, maggot.'"

There are a couple of mentions in the flashback section that Roland isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer - and this doesn't fit all that well with the man we've seen up til now. Roland thinks it about himself, that he doesn't understand the message Cort is trying to pass to him, and then his father observes that he is not the fastest boy in training. Up until now, I've believed that Roland was sharp and intelligent.

We actually, I think, see the death of Roland's childhood here: "What he felt might have been a sort of death - something as brutal and final as the death of the dove in the white sky over the games field."

This passage shows the sort of upbringing Roland has had: "That's crude, Roland, but not unworthy. Not moral, either, but it is not your place to be moral. In fact..." He peered at his son. "Morals may always be beyond you. You are not quick, like Cuthbert or Vanny's boy. That's all right, though. It will make you formidable."

Ugh, the back end of chaplet 10 makes me feel awfully odd. Roland thinks about his parents "fucking" - later in his life he hears the story of Oedipus, and thinks "of the odd and bloody triangle formed by his father, his mother, and by Marten - known in some quarters as Farson, the good man. Or perhaps it was a quadrangle, if one wished to add himself." *shudders* This feels me with foreboding, as does the end of the flashback section where matricide is mentioned.

We have a name for the walled city: Gilead.

Several times we hear a ritual saying to do with fathers - this seems a strongly patriarchal society: "I have not forgotten my father's face; it has been with me through all."

In the last section, back in the present, Roland wonders if there will ever be any road that doesn't lead to the killing ground - will the Tower be different?

Okay, a slightly shorted analysis, I fear - people to see, drinks to drink, that sort of thing! Did you spot anything I might have missed?

Also, I know I have been very lax at commenting on people's replies to my Dark Tower posts - in the New Year, starting from this post, I shall make much more of an effort, I promise. Would love to hear all your thoughts and start a dialogue about the books.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Joining the 100+ Books Challenge!

It seems serendipitous that just after I announced as one of my resolutions to read at least 100 books in 2010 that Carolyn at Book Chick City would start a 2011 Challenge of the same! That's me signing up then *winks* In the last two years I've managed 100+ books, so I reckon I'm in with a good chance of managing this challenge.

Here is the link to Carolyn's post - 100+ Books

Look forwards to seeing some of the rest of you getting involved!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Ken Scholes: Some Life News

Ken Scholes has posted a sensitively-written update on what is happening in his life and how it is affecting his writing. It was posted on Facebook, and I know some of you a) do not go on Facebook and b) don't have Mr Scholes as a friend. I hope, therefore, he doesn't mind me posting the note in its entirety:

I've gone back and forth about what, if anything, I want to share about the health issue I've been dealing with this last year or so. I've hinted at it, but I walk a fine line between maintaining my privacy and maintaining my sense of connection with my community of friends, family, colleagues and fans. It feels like a two-edged sword -- being more open could actually be helpful in my recovery because I'm certain others in my community are wrestling with the same stuff...and it could possibly even help others struggling with the same illness by seeing that it's not such a bugbear that it can't be talked about and faced down. But I've also seen that when other friends have shared their health issues, they've found themselves suddenly missing out on opportunities due to well-meaning people not wanting to bother them with everything else they have going on.

So I've decided to talk about it. Briefly. But I want two things from you. First: Please don't assume I've got too much going on for whatever you might want me to participate in, whether it's an event or a writing opportunity or whatever. Keep asking. If I can't, I'll say so. And second: I really appreciate the well-wishes, thoughts, good vibrations, prayers, etc you all may offer up but I much prefer to receive those as private messages or emails rather than public comments to this note. If I knew how, I'd turn off the 'comment' feature for this one. With those two requests in mind....

I've talked a bit elsewhere about my Trailer Boy Days and some of the darkness that came with those funny stories about building sheds so we could stack the car batteries against them or loading porches onto trucks to help the family move. And in other interviews, I've talked about my Mom's pervasive mental illnesses and the chaos it caused everyone in her wake. Sadly, one of the bits I inherited from my Unfortunate Childhood is a complex form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you're not familiar with it, you can read about it at

I was initially diagnosed with PTSD in 1994 but it's largely been asymptomatic over the last decade and the major presenting symptom back then was depression. I spent about seven years treating it with medication and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Good self management -- maintaining balance, getting enough rest, limiting the amount of time I spend in large groups (which my introversion also requires), etc -- has been very effective until recently.

But I was hit with a pretty big tsunami of stress this last three years -- my Mom's death followed closely by my Dad's death followed closely by the overwhelming experience of becoming a parent to twins...along with the pressure of working two jobs. Self-management was no longer enough. I went on book tour to promote Canticle and attend the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose last year and, instead of spending a week or so resting up and getting back to it, I never really recovered. Instead, I found myself miring more and more in depression and my new pal, anxiety. I started experiencing night terrors, night sweats and what Walker refers to in the article above as Emotional Flashbacks. For those of you who have it or know someone who does, you know what I'm talking about. Having an overactive amygdylla is tough to live with and it gets in the way of Everything including my ability to write.

So what am I doing about it? I'm using a combination of medication and therapy to include EMDR and mindfulness techniques. I'm reading up on it and figuring out what tricks work for me. I'm talking about it with my closer friends and family (all have been very supportive, especially Jen). And every day, I'm getting up and putting one foot as far forward as I can. I've seen some progress particularly in the last few months and it's felt like my writing muscle, which has sputtered on and off over the last year, is getting more and more twitchy to get back to work. When my head starts to fill up with story that tells me that I'm making headway.

There you have it. That is what I've been up to. This is why Requiem is running behind schedule (though I assure you it WILL get finished and folks who've read the book so far tell me it will be worth the wait.) It's also why you're not seeing me out at many gatherings or conventions and may not for a bit. It's been a hard road but one full of self discovery and grace. I've faced down a lot of things as a result of where I come from and over the years, I've learned that adversity can bring us great gifts if we are willing to look for them. I've learned that turning over the rocks of our inner landscape can show us a lot about ourselves. And even in the midst of all this gunk, I've had the joy of watching my Flesh and Bone Children learn and grow...and the joy of watching my Paper Children go out into the world to do well.

Life is a bag of mixed nuts. One of the greatest truths I've learned is that if we can accept that, those mixed nuts become easier to deal with.

Okay. To quote my pal Gump: "That's all I have to say about that." Thanks for listening.

My thoughts and sympathies go out to Ken Scholes - Ken, we'll wait until you're ready to publish the next book!

Edit: changed the previous blog title because it inferred a completely different type of news.

The Year in Review - 2010

I count the start of my blog from 6th January - so I have an anniversary coming very soon - here is the tale of my 2010. In my first year blogging:

  • I read and reviewed over 100 books on my blog
  • I attended publisher events with Headline, Simon & Schuster, Atom and Gollancz
  • I made some new friends I hope will be for life (AFK: Liz and Mark, Adam, Adrian, Alex, Michaela, Cara, Jason; online: Mieneke, Sarah, Ole, Mihai, Harry - and, honestly, so many others)
  • I started work for Tor - doing their Re-read of the Malazan books alongside Bill, and putting up occasional other blog posts.
  • I contributed blog posts to Voyager and Angry Robot.
  • I was a full team member of Fantasy Literature, writing the World Wide Wednesday posts, contributing reviews, doing the Living With the Author interviews and the long-running 'You Should Read...' posts.
  • I read the Arthur C Clarke shortlist, and was invited to the award ceremony - which included meeting and talking to the winner, China Mieville.
  • I attended some author signings, and now have a shelf of beloved signed copies of novels.
  • I started receiving review copies from publishers.
  • I did slush reading for Dark Fiction magazine.
  • I was taken on as an editor for Morrigan Books.
  • I beta read and edited Adam Christopher's novel Empire State.
  • I assisted with proof reading on Suzanne McLeod's The Bitter Seed of Magic.
  • I started a personal re-read of The Dark Tower novels by Stephen King.
  • I reviewed for Vector and Hub magazine.
  • I attended a preview screening of Ultramarines: The Movie in London.
  • I went to Eastercon, Alt:Fiction and Fantasycon.
On the downside I also got caught up in various Internet squabbles, lost some people I should now be counting as a friend and spilled my personal life all over Twitter and my blog. Not items to be proud of.

So... onto 2011 and a clean slate!

My aims for this year are:

  • Do not get embroiled in online spats. Just do not. You get stressed. People say rotten things. It just doesn't work.
  • Rebuild friendships with people who were there for you ALL THE TIME and who you've let drift away for no good reason.
  • Keep the private life private. 
  • Read at least 100 books.
  • Catch up with Black Library releases! I enjoy them so much and somehow they always slide to the bottom of the pile.
  • Continue reading my book fails: Abercrombie, Deas, Brett, Weeks - there is a reason everyone else is talking them up!
  • Read more David Gemmell and more Charles de Lint.
  • Attend SFX Weekender, Eastercon, Alt:Fiction and Fantasycon.
 I'm also available for guest blog posts, editing jobs, proof reading and slush reading. Just get in touch!

What are your resolutions for 2011? How do you think your 2010 went?

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Echoes by Maeve Binchy

The village of Castlebay is a tiny little place atop some cliffs on the coast of Ireland. In the summer visitors flock to the little caravan park and the houses for rent, but in the winter the place is deathly quiet. In the late fifties three restless children grow up together in Castlebay: Clare, the daughter of the shopkeeper, who works and works to earn a scholarship to college; David, the son of the doctor, destined to follow in his father's footsteps but dreaming of much more; and Gerry, dark and gypsy-like, and a total heart-breaker. Echoes follows their stories as they intertwine over the next decade - they all manage to break free of the paths set by their parents, but will they ever escape the echo of their past?

I read Maeve Binchy for the comfort - the falling into a different pace of life, where villagers gossip to each other, and often marrying right is the only ambition a girl might have. At the same time as being slightly frustrated at the backwards attitudes on show, I like to reflect on how such a short time ago abortions were completely taboo, women didn't study and classes mattered so much more than they do these days.

Echoes is a different breed of Binchy - rather than the usually uplifting and ultimately hopeful tale she tells, this is a dark and disturbed tale in the most part. The ending is truly tragic and few of the characters are very likable.

I struggled to read to the end - it felt akin to watching Eastenders or Coronation Street (unnecessarily bleak and gloomy). When your escapist go-to comfort read is a little too much like real life, it becomes less escapism and more realism.

Having said that, I enjoyed Binchy's portrayal of life in what seems to be a foreign land. The idea of a village who couldn't accept a priest who had decided to marry; the fact that gay people were referred to in horrified terms; the way that post-natal depression is laughed away (how can any woman be depressed when she has achieved what God intended her to do?) It is almost a form of historical research, since Binchy shows easily the fishbowl view of living in a village.

This particular quote emphasises the attitudes of the time: "Don't boast of it, you little tramp. Don't stand there like a slut in my kitchen and tell me what you were eager for and what you weren't. You've ruined us all in this family. We'll be the laughing stock of the place - marrying into the Powers no less. Do you think that Mrs Power is going to let the likes of you cross her doorstep? Do you think that woman is going to let her son, with the fine education he has, marry a girl from a shop in Castlebay?"

As I said, there are very few truly likable characters - even the best of them have moments where you wish you could throw the book across the room because of their manners, or beliefs, or actions. I never like adultery in a book, and the occurrence of it in Echoes is particularly heart-breaking, which made it very hard to endure.

I wasn't a fan of the story. I enjoyed the writing and enjoyed the historical relevance of the novel, but the actual plot and characters let Echoes down in a big way. If you're going for a Maeve Binchy novel for the comfort, I would suggest either Circle of Friends or Firefly Summer. If you do happen to like dark and bleak sagas with a heavy dose of tragedy, then this should prove very satisfactory.

The Blogosphere - Just A Bunch Of Monkeys?

*sigh* I should start learning not to get wound up about these things, but, hey, I'm still in my first year blogging and still trying to learn not to take everything to heart. But this made me cross:

The genre blogosphere : tangible proof that dozens of monkeys at dozens of keyboards can't produce meaningful sentences.

This was said on Twitter today, and I fumed about it. That might not even have been directed towards me, but, if not me, then possibly against friends of mine.

Apparently, we're supposed to be dealing with themes and weighty issues in our reviews. Using long and pretentious words that prove how intelligent we are.

We are not supposed to be enthusiastic about a book and just give shallow details as to why we liked the characters or the prose or the way the author used flashbacks. If we do that, we're just monkeys bashing out sentences.

The reason I'm so cross is (apart from the fact that it maybe caught me at the wrong time of the month...) that me and my blogging friends do this for the love of books. We're not trained to critique a text. But we still want to share our appreciation (or dislike!) of a novel with those who have interest.

To the person who wrote that: I say stop reading blogs and start picking up the Guardian book review section. Oh, except, they don't *do* genre, do they?

Grrr, storm in a teacup, I'm sure. I'm equally sure that people leaving comments will either agree with me whole-heartedly or say that, actually, my reviews and those of others could do with some sprucing up. Maybe there should be critique courses offered to anyone who wishes to start a blog?

Honestly, I'd love to hear comments. I'm absolutely certain that this topic has been done to death, and that people are fed up of my blogging/reviewing navel gazing (another phrase thrown in disgust at the blogosphere).

Some days it feels like you can't ever do anything right!

Monday, 27 December 2010

The Christmas Book Haul

I must have been a very good girl this year because this gentleman visited me a couple of nights ago and left me plentiful gifts. To be completely honest, my parents spoiled me beyond belief. As well as diverse presents such as The Inbetweeners on DVD, some Strictly Come Dancing goodies, my favourite perfume and - the ultimate in sexy stylishness - a snuggie (!), I was also given books and money (which, in my world, always somehow translates into books.

The bookish haul this year comprised 19 books. Yeah, you heard me. I feel the love of my family right now!

My list runs as follows (all links point to Amazon - that would be the .com version instead of - I have no idea to switch it! If anyone in the know does help and can tell me, I would be very grateful!):

1) Fortress of Ice by C. J. Cherryh

2) Fortress of Dragons by C. J. Cherryh

3) Fortress of Owls by C. J. Cherryh

4) The Last Dragonslayer. by Jasper Fforde by Jasper Fforde

5) Divine Misdemeanors: A Novel by Laurell K Hamilton

6) A Weekend with Mr. Darcy by Victoria Connolly

7) The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O'Farrell

8) The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One by Patrick Ness

9)The Ask and the Answer: Chaos Walking: Book Two by Patrick Ness

10) Monsters of Men: Chaos Walking: Book Three by Patrick Ness

11) The Fields of Death (Revolution 4) by Simon Scarrow

12) Horus Heresy: Legion by Dan Abnett

13) Alpha. Rachel Vincent (Mira Direct and Libraries) by Rachel Vincent

14) Heart of the Matter by Emily Giffin

15) Perfect Couple by Robyn Sisman

16) The One I Love by Anna McPartlin

17)Fortress of Eagles by C. J. Cherryh

18) Anthony Horowitz: Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

19) Rules of Attraction. Simone Elkeles by Simone Elkeles

Phew! Some *excellent* books there that I simply can't wait to get to!

This year one of my resolutions is to get that TBR pile down some, so that it doesn't keep giving me nightmares, therefore this will be my last BIG haul for a while and I treasured it for that reason as much as because they are wonderful books that will bring me heaps of pleasure.

I hope your Christmas bookish haul was just as fabulous! What did you get? *all agog*

Friday, 24 December 2010

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Peter Grant is just a rookie cop in the Metropolitan Police Service when he discovers an aptitude for magic, and is taken on as an apprentice wizard. As he comes to realise the complicated supernatural life that infuses London, he is caught up in a case involving a malicious vengeful spirit. A spirit who is twisting the lives of ordinary Londoners and leaving a trail of nasty deaths in its wake. Peter has to learn the magic trade quickly before he and his colleagues becoming part of the game.

Anyone who has enjoyed Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, Kate Griffin's Matthew Swift novels, Mike Carey's Felix Castor series - anyone in those shoes will adore Rivers of London. This novel takes the very essence of London and distills it into book form - to the point where I was delighted at being able to picture exactly where Peter is performing his investigation. There is even a mention for Forbidden Planet on Shaftesbury Avenue that made me literally go 'oooh!' as I was reading.

The language is clever and funny - Peter's narrative voice is full of wry asides and observations. I laughed a number of times, and smiled more, such as when Peter is practicing throwing fireballs: "We did an hour of practice, at the end of which I was capable of flinging a fireball down the range at the dizzying speed of a bumblebee who'd met his pollen quota and was taking a moment to enjoy the view."

Peter and his various colleagues and friends are exceptionally winning personalities, and I enjoyed reading about their mishaps and challenges. Favourite by far were the various Rivers of London, which, in this novel, take corporeal form. For instance, Beverley Brook is one of the daughters of Mother Thames, and is a capricious and mischievous teenager, looking for fun and attention.

I loved the way that Aaronovitch brought in folklore and explored much of the history of London without seeming to lecture. This includes the moment where Beverley reveals that the Fire Brigade are sailors: " 'Not now,' she said. 'But in the old days when they were looking for disciplined guys who knew about water, ropes, ladders and didn't freak out at altitude...' "

The villain of the piece is linked effectively into the folklore and old stories, and is suitably chilling, with vivid motivations. His ability to send his spirit into the various citizens of London means that no one can be trusted - and he sends most of his victims to a suitably hideous death. It made me shudder on a couple of occasions.

The only aspect of the novel that was dissatisfactory, truly, was the way Aaronovitch occasionally dumped information in the form of "lessons" - it came thick and fast at some points, and felt a little disjointed.

However, this is minor. Rivers of London is assured, witty and great fun to read. I was incredibly impressed and will definitely picking up the rest of the series.

Rivers of London is published 10th January in the UK by Gollancz.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind tells the story of Kvothe, this covering the first of three days in which he details his life to the Chronicler. Kvothe is a hero - a rescuer of women, a speaker of names, a player of songs. We learn about his early life, as he suffers tragedy and overcomes hardships to become the youngest member of the University.

I have seen people say that they literally wept with joy as they read this debut novel from Rothfuss. I have had people tell me they found it dull. I will fall somewhere in between. I waited a long, long time to read this novel and maybe have been influenced by all the hype over The Name of the Wind. On the one hand, I saw the almost-universal praise and wondered if it could possibly live up to the stunning reviews. On the other hand, I felt almost bound and determined to dislike it - just to go against the stream of praise.

Despite this weight of expectation and despite my best efforts, The Name of the Wind did win me over. It took some time to do so, but I found myself awake until late into the night thinking 'just one more chapter', which I only ever do about the best books.

The Name of the Wind is a great book - for a debut novel, it is breathlessly good. It is a diamond among books. But many diamonds have flaws and this is just the same.

I can talk about the fact that the novel is over-repetitive at points, such as when Kvothe continually has to raise money to pay for his university education. I could mention the fact that the secondary cast are rather wooden in comparison to the delight of the main characters such as Kvothe and Bast. I might just dwell on the fact that The Name of the Wind feels similar at points to many other stories - Harry Potter, Trudi Canavan's Black Magician books, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell in terms of the fae and the stories within stories, Tamora Pierce's Tortall books.

I didn't like Denna at all. The fact she takes such a starring role in the story was frustrating - I hated that Kvothe spent so much time running after her and pandering to her odd whims.

The sequence dealing with the village of Trebon and Kvothe's desperate dash to it, followed by lots of wandering in woods, felt unbelievably tacked on to the tale we'd already been reading.

And how often have we seen the sort of enmity that Kvothe suffers with Ambrose - this is incredibly familiar as a story trope.

Despite all this - despite the feel I'd read some of this before, despite the fact it seemed slow at points - The Name of the Wind managed something that few novels do. It made me slow down my reading in order to savour every word. I am a skim reading by habit - I skim a page to gain the meaning rather than reading every single word. With The Name of the Wind I slowed down. I read every word. I savoured the delicious prose: "Her voice was like a portrait of her soul: wild as a fire, sharp as shattered glass, sweet and clean as clover." I simply luxuriated in it.

Kvothe is also a fantastic character - I've seen people complain he is simply too good to be true, but I adore his swaggering arrogance, his quicksilver personality, his gentle humour. I love his true-red hair and grass-green eyes. His hesitance with the ladies is fun. He is a brilliant protagonist.

The fae part of the story was my favourite aspect - in fact, Bast is probably my favourite character behind Kvothe. The sequence right at the end of the book when Bast faces up against the Chronicler and shows his true nature is both chilling and delightful at once. I want to see much more of Bast in future novels.

This is not the best book ever, as claimed by some. It is not even a brilliant, once-in-a-generation book. But it is excellent. Well-written, vividly-imagined and certainly a fantasy novel that will stand the test of time. As people still pick up Magician or The Princess Bride and marvel at the story, in twenty years time people will do the same about The Name of the Wind. Before picking up this book, I was indifferent about the waiting time until The Wise Man's Fear - now, I join the queue of people waiting with feverish anticipation. The sequel can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Good News for Unrepresented Authors!

Press Release

21st December 2010 ~ For Immediate Release

Angry Robot open to unsolicited manuscripts – for one month only!

Like most mass-market publishers, Angry Robot only accepts novel proposals from literary agents. This is all set to change in 2011, when Angry Robot opens its doors for the first time to unrepresented authors, everywhere.

The month of March 2011 will be Open Door Month at Angry Robot. The publisher has put together a dedicated team of readers, who will diligently work through every submission received. The best of these will be considered for publication by the Angry Robot editorial team.

If the project is successful, Angry Robot will consider further Open Door Months for later in the year and beyond.

Angry Robot’s Editor, Lee Harris, said, “We’re delighted to be able to offer this opportunity to unpublished and unrepresented novelists. There are a lot of exciting authors out there, just waiting to be discovered, and we’d like to be able to help them kick-start their careers.”

Open Door Month runs for the entire month of March 2011. Further details can be found on the submissions page at

Angry Robot is a new independent genre publisher, bringing readers the best in new SF, F and WTF?! All our novels are available as physical books through Random House (US) and GBS (UK), and as eBooks, via Kindle, iBooks, Nook and elsewhere. Angry Robot is part of the Osprey Group. More at

For more information, advance reading copies, interviews and features, contact Lee Harris:
+44 (0) 115 933 8455

Monday, 20 December 2010

Bad Cover Fun!

I haven't done one of these in a little while, but welcome back to all the fun of snickering at truly awful covers. I've gone with a festive theme here!

Admire the most awkward-looking kiss in the world!

Marvel at the.... umm....creature (!)

Be thankful you don't have to read a book like this *grin*

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The Floor to Ceiling Books Awards - 2010

Hey y'all! I've seen a large number of 'Best Of' lists cropping up all over the Internet, and I figured I sort of wanted to do one, but they're so arbitrary and basically me telling you my opinion. So I've decided to go one better, and created 20 special awards for 2010. I've picked the categories arbitrarily and decided on the winners arbitrarily. But, behind the fun, these are my serious choices as to the best and worst of 2010. Enjoy!

1)Most Fun Website

This is going to be a big old tie (but the only tie in my 20 categories, promise!) I've forced myself into proper decisions in all other areas - but simply could not separate SlushPile Hell and Good Show Sir! Both are incredibly funny, wickedly sharp and highlight some of the absurdities of this publishing industry we know and love. Check them out immediately!

2) My Best Interview

Told you these categories would be totally arbitrary! I have conducted very few interviews on my blog (I like to think they come along so rarely that everyone appreciates them all the more) but, out of all the interviews I've conducted, I have to call out the 'Living With the Writer' feature I did with Deborah Beale. I was surprised and pleased that Deborah would talk to such a fledgling blog - to then receive such candid and charismatic answers made it a joy to interview her.

3) Biggest Tearjerker

There is only one book that had me in tears this year - real to goodness, bawling my eyes out tears. The ending was positively visceral, and I can't believe that this author was a) brave enough to write the book and b) strong enough to go where she did in the last twenty pages. An exceptional story - Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma.

4) Best Tie-in Novel

Okay, my tie-in novel experience has been confined so far to Warhammer 40K, but, of those, two authors have been standout - Graham McNeill and Dan Abnett. Both of incredibly talented and should not be confined or dismissed by people as JUST writing tie-in work. My absolute favourite novel, though, has been Horus Rising by Dan Abnett.

5) Breakthrough Blog

Okay, I've discovered some brilliant new blogs this year - they're doing some incredible work. Of those I've loved I'd like to recommend Tea & Tomes and A Fantastical Librarian, but my winner this year could only be Bookworm Blues, run by Sarah Chorn. Her reviews are insightful and sometimes biting; she is sarcastic and funny; and, more than anything, she is incredibly brave - fighting cancer while under a fairly public spotlight. Hopefully 2011 will bring her many books and lots of luck!

6) Novelist of the Year

It might seem strange to people that I would pick a novelist that I haven't even read yet, but I think Adrian Tchaikovsky has had an absolutely storming 2010. He's released a number of books in the Shadow of the Apt series, has signed contracts for more, been handed consistently lovely covers for his novels, and received very strong reviews for said books. I can't think of anyone else who has achieved quite the same amount in just one year - and all with a very quiet persona on the Internet. Incredibly impressive - believe me, 2011 will see me catching up on this series very soon!

7) Best Character

There honestly could be no other choice than Johannes Cabal. This sarcastic, bitter and dark character jumps from the pages of the two novels he's featured in so far - Johannes Cabal the Necromancer and Johannes Cabal the Detective. He's clever, grumpy and a total smart arse. He has almost zero social skills and, in many ways, I have no idea why I love him so much. But, truly, the books sparkled most when he was on screen.

8) Biggest Disappointment

Only one novel could win this award for me this year, and that is The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N K Jemisin. I know that this book will feature in many top ten lists of 2010 by other readers, but I found myself incredibly underwhelmed by this tale of Yeine and the gods. After hearing so many glowing reviews, I thought it was rather dull in comparison. Maybe if it hadn't been talked up so much, I might have liked it more? As it is, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms was my biggest disappointment of the year.

9) Best International Choice

By this, I mean Best International Blog - and my decision was incredibly easy. Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews is always entertaining, informative and has a unique focus on the artwork of novels. His interviews with heavyweights of the artwork are conducted incredibly well, and give real insight into the process behind producing the art for novels. At the moment his blog is a little quiet, but this is for the best of reasons - Mihai recently introduced a baby Wolf into the world, so congratulations to him!

10) Most Innovative Publisher

Honestly, there could be no other choice. Angry Robot Books are at the forefront of innovative new publishing choices - eBooks, electronic ARCs, picking up daring authors and mashing up genre. They have linked up more effectively with bloggers than any other publisher, creating a Robot Army that aims to spread the word about the books being released. Good job all round.

11) Breakthrough Novelist

Difficult choice, this one. There have been some outstanding novelists coming to the fore in 2010, but I think key among them is Stacia Kane. Props to Voyager for releasing her Downside trilogy in three quick months during 2010, but Ms. Kane is as much the architect of her success as her publishers on both sides of the pond. She has created a little Downside community, reaching out to her readers, creating a two-way communication and even producing merchandising. It has been an incredible year for Stacia Kane, and I wish her all the best for 2011.

12) Worst Book

I've had a small handful of truly awful reads this year (thankfully they've been in a real minority!) but worst of them was Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich. Here is my closing lines from my review of the book:

Wicked Appetite can be equated to eating candy floss – seems like a good idea at the time, but leaves you unfulfilled and with a great sense of disappointment.

Very, very poor - unfunny, ill-considered and a bad advertisement for such a popular novelist.

13) Breakthrough Publisher

Funnily enough, considering they published Wicked Appetite, I have decided to list Headline as my Breakthrough Publisher. I don't mean, in this case, NEW publisher. Rather, I mean the publisher that has fully embraced the new world of blogging and were the first to try and create a community by inviting the bloggers into their world. They are also picking up some creative new series - such as the Lex Trent novels, the Johannes Cabal novels. They stride across many genres, and have a proven track record in all of them.

14) Best Fight

There can be only one!

Many of the reviews about Sykes' first novel complained about the fight scene that went on for some 200 pages. It was, however, wildly imaginative and exciting. Everytime you thought it had reached a breathless climax, Sykes brought in another adversary and dialled up the action to another level. Just brilliant.

15) Blogger of the Year

This is going to be a little ode to a blogger who has now departed. His final post was dignified and moving. But we all know he has gone onto better pastures - pretty much the pastures that all of us bloggers aspire to. I'm talking, of course, about James from Speculative Horizons. His blog was always professional; he raised a number of pertinent issues; and his occasional rants were controlled. His reviews were second to none, and I think everyone in the blogosphere will miss him keenly. Here's hoping he's enjoying his new role at Orbit as Editorial Assistant!

16) Best Duo

This is a bit of a cheat, since I have not yet read the whole book or reviewed it *grins*. I'm currently reading Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson, and Icarium and Mappo are just brilliant. Achingly sad, always mysterious and gentle humorous. I love all of their conversations, and I want them on-screen all the time.

My next two awards will feel a little repetitive, so I'm just going to list them rather than go into details:

17) Best Kiss - Chess and Terrible, from the Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane.

18) Best New Series Discovered - the Johannes Cabal novels, by Jonathan L Howard

And now to the two big awards....

19) Best Publisher

Seriously, this publisher is right at the top of their game right now. From having three contenders on the Arthur C Clarke shortlist to being the publisher of such fantasy greats as Scott Lynch, Joe Abercrombie and Patrick Rothfuss. Their success with Charlaine Harris cannot be quantified. This year they've branched into the lucrative YA market with some excellent titles. I've read a large number of their books this year and, even when not directly engaged, have either found something to like or been challenged by.

And 2011 looks like being more of the same, with The Quantum Thief having a great chance of being shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke award, and some massive releases on the way. I can't wait to join them on the journey.

20) Best Novel

This is by far my biggest cheat, but when I sat down and thought about all the books I'd read this year there was only one that I could feasibly put in the number one slot. I was blown away by the quality and the imagination. This is the start of something big. You guys will have to wait until March 2011 - but, seriously, it's worth the wait.

My book of 2010 is Department 19 by Will Hill.

Here is a key quote from my review (which will go up nearer the release date):

This book is going to be a phenomenon – you heard it here first. To all those publishers looking for the “next Harry Potter”? Harper Collins have found it in the form of Will Hill’s debut novel Department 19. This is going to be huge. Get in there from the very beginning.

There you have it - the inaugural Floor to Ceiling Books Awards! Hope you enjoyed.

Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy

Firefly Summer tells the story of the sleepy town of Mountfern, as an American, Patrick O'Brian, comes home to find his roots and build a huge hotel on the ruined location of the old house. It explores the changing relationships of the townsfolk as a tragic accident divides Mountfern. There is not masses of plot in the book; rather, it builds a picture of Irish village life in the 1950s as we spend a few years with the family of Ryans who own the public house.

Maeve Binchy's books are incredibly easy reading - a little old-fashioned and incredibly gossipy. We drift into the village of Mountfern, and are gradually introduced to the various people who live in the village. Binchy has such a deft touch in showing each of the characters through random encounters and conversations, so that we are able to discover them without any resort to the dreaded info-dump. It genuinely feels as though a friend is having a coffee with you and telling you about mutual friends' lives.

I like the fact that Binchy doesn't flinch away from presenting the horrors of a mundane life - those issues that anyone could be afflicted by, such as adultery, alcoholism and disability. It gives the novel a sense of realism.

Binchy's true strength is dialogue and human relationships - she has a unique understanding of women and their friendships.

In fact, the only element of the book that I found slightly dissatisfying was the fact that Binchy doesn't show men in the best light. Most of them are having affairs, or beating their wives, or running off to other counties. There are some decent men, but it is extremely noticeable that there are more bad men than good.

Binchy is the forerunner of such authors as Sheila O'Flanagan, Patricia Scanlan and Marian Keyes - showcasing Irish life with gentle humour and understanding. I love her books and they are ideal for those times when you require something easy and undemanding. I would recommend these on a winter's afternoon, when you're tucked next to a roaring fire with a hot chocolate - the feel of the novel is exactly right for those moments. Enjoyable.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Embarrassment About Books

This is a first for me. Since starting my blog, I am unsure whether to review one of the books that I've read. I've just finished Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy. Since discovering her novels age fifteen, I've read and re-read her tales about provincial Irish towns, usually set in the 1950s. The stories intertwine the varied eccentric characters of the village - dealing with alcoholism, friendship, childhood, love, abortion (against all the commandments of the Pope and Catholicism). These books are warm, lovable, gossipy and I adore them.

But I'm also vaguely embarrassed by them. I sat here for an age wondering whether ANY of the followers of my blogs would have any interest at all in reviews of these books - so instead decided to open up the question of embarrassment in books you read. Do you experience this at all? Are there novels you would never review, never recommend, hide to yourself? Would you want to see a review of Firefly Summer by Maeve Binchy?

I'm embarrassed in this case because of the slightly aged nature of them, the rife gossiping, the degree of cutesy Irish charm. The covers of many are twee and pastel. And yet I can't resist diving in whenever I am in need of comfort - in this case, the snowy weather that has kept me housebound had me reaching for a book that celebrates the nature of village life.

So, what makes you embarrassed about books?

Friday, 17 December 2010

Dark Tower Readalong: The Gunslinger, Part 4

We've reached Part 4 of my Dark Tower Readalong, and this time we will be tackling the first seven chaplets of "The Way Station." Here is Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. Please do consider joining in this read through The Gunslinger, add comments and feel free to link to this post elsewhere so that we can try and build a nice little Dark Tower community, as we follow the path of Roland. 

First of all, I will provide a brief summary on how I see the events in each chaplet (there will be spoilers!) and then I will write out a commentary - my thoughts on what is happening, and, mainly, how confused I am *grin*


Roland walks throught the desert, with a song his mother used to sing to him in the cradle running through his mind. He has run out of water and is beginning to lose track of events. He arrives at some ramshackle buildings and sees a figure there - a figure he believes to be the man in black. However, it proves to be a young blond-haired boy. Roland is able to ascertain this immediately before he collapses.


The boy tends him while he is unconscious. He tells the gunslinger, when he wakes, that his name is John Chambers, but Roland may call him Jake. The boy tells the gunslinger that the man in black has been through - not long ago. Roland wants to know where Jake has come from, but the boy doesn't know, so Roland offers to make him sleep so that he could remember.


We learn what happened to Jake when he encountered the man in black. He lived in the present, in the real time, and he died - was he killed by the man in black?


While the boy is still hypnotised, Roland asks him if he wants to keep the memories when he wakes, but Jake demurs. Roland is confused by what he has learnt from Jake. When the boy sleeps, the gunslinger explores and finds an old pump that pulls water from the desert. Memories from his past overwhelm him.


As Roland and Jake talk in the evening, beside a little fire on the porch, we find out a little more about why the gunslinger has been pursuing the man in black. Roland decides to take Jake with him.


In the morning Roland goes down into the cellar to try and find some food. He manages to take some cans to the surface. When he goes back down - surrounded by mutant spiders - he hears a rumbling through the sandstone wall. He speaks to it - a demon, he believes - in High Speech and it replies with the voice of Allie, warning Roland that the boy is a trap. When he returns to the surface Jake is so relieved to see him that he rushes to hug Roland - and the gunslinger realises he has started to love the boy. They leave the buildings, heading again for the mountains.


Okay, first up, apologies for the delay on the readalong - sometimes real life really does take over, and I was laid up with a nasty little infection last Friday. Back to fighting fit this week and ready to read on through The Gunslinger!

We begin the section entitled 'The Way Station'.

Another little tidbit is handed to us concerning the world in which Roland lives - the little rhyme that goes around his head at the start of the first chaplet mentions 'planes' and he has no idea what these might be. He lived in a castle when he was a child, and was forced to face each night and the dark alone. This seems a distinctly odd upbringing, especially when he remembers his mother showing her love with songs and grace.

He was also "born to the High Speech" - rather than it be something he merely learnt.

Born to the High Speech and a gunslinger: "A gunslinger knows pride, that invisible bone that keeps the neck stiff."

Now and then King will write a sentence that makes my soul sing - often they will be incredibly simply, like this: "The mountains dreamed against the far horizon." Rather than belabouring the description to the point that it is dull and over-imagined, King allows the reader freedom with wonderfully elegant writing.

I wonder how much the following sentence will have resonance in the future: "The blood was not thirsty. The blood was being served. The blood was being made sacrifice unto. Blood sacrifice. All the blood needed to do was run...and run...and run."

How scary must it be to know you're almost dying of thirst, hallucinating, and yet you're also aware that it is happening, and that you need to carry on regardless? The gunslinger is a tough guy!

Another little supernatural hint here as well, as the gunslinger realises he has reached the two buildings: "The wood seemed old, fragile to the point of elvishness..."

Oh, the heartbreak and the hallucination! Roland believes he has found the man in black, and manages to summon the energy to run towards him with his gun. But "the delusion" is a strong one - a young boy. So painful and confusing for the gunslinger: "The gunslinger stared at him blankly and then shook his head in negation. But the boy survived his refusal to believe; he was a strong delusion."

When I read this: "A blade of pain slipped smoothly into his head, cutting from temple to temple..." I genuinely thought that maybe the boy was the man in black, hidden by illusions. I guess the language used is also to convey the extreme confusion and disorientation of Roland.

The boy! Jake! How sweet he is, and how very out of place. Roland's questions lead the reader to start understanding that the boy is not in his own time. Or is he? We don't know where the gunslinger exists - but the boy comes from a place with movies and Zorro and Times Square, all things that exist in "our world".

I'm amused (probably childishly so) that Jake measures time passing by the number of poops he has had...

"What's a channel?" A wild idea occurred to him. "Is it like a beam?"
"No - it's TV."
"What's teevee."

King makes a very specific distinction here for the reader, so that we can see the gunslinger has absolutely no comprehension of what this might be. I wonder how this effect is achieved in the audio book (if one exists)?

Roland is so very pragmatic and a rather unsympathetic character! When faced with poor Jake's tears, he merely says: "Don't feel so sorry for yourself. Make do." Does this give an insight into Roland's upbringing?

How wonderful to see the weird and zany parts of our world from the point of view of someone who sort of remembers: "Windows to look in and more statues wearing clothes. The statues sold the clothes." I'm assuming mannequins are meant here - if not, then maybe Jake comes from some strange futuristic time?

I think this is my biggest point of conflict with the novel so far. If I could just put my finger on WHERE they are and WHY they are, then I would be reading easier. As it is, I spend a great deal of time dwelling on it...

Does Roland use the shell as a type of hypnotism device? Or does he have a magic of his own when it comes to the guns?

The gunslinger has a real sense of self-loathing: "Not for the first time the gunslinger tasted the smooth, loden taste of soul-sickness. The shell in his fingers, manipulated with such unknown grace, was suddenly horrific, the spoor of a monster. He dropped it into his palm, made a fist, and squeezed it with a painful force. Had it exploded, in that moment he would have rejoiced at the destruction of his talented hand, for its only true talent was murder."

And here mention of the Dark Tower, in a mysterious fashion: "There was murder, there was rape, there were unspeakable practices, and all of them were for the good, the bloody good, the bloody myth, for the grail, for the Tower."

The flashback into how Jake appeared in the land of the gunslinger is what I consider to be typical King, in that it aims to shock and horrify: "It breaks Jake's back, mushes his guts to gravy, and sends blood from his mouth in a high-pressure jet [...] Blood runs from Jake's nose, ears, eyes, rectum. His genitals have been squashed."

And yet the gunslinger's land has electricity of some form, because we see him switch on the pump as Jake sleeps. But it sounds as though it is from a previous time: "...a thing as alien to this place and time as true love, and yet as concrete as a Judgement, a silent reminder of the time when the world had not yet moved on."

I'm a tiny bit uncomfortable about how often the gunslinger observes that Jake is a good looking lad. This is nothing to do with the same sex aspect, but the age of Jake.

We finally gain a hint of exactly why the gunslinger is chasing the man in black:

"Are you going to kill him?"
"I don't know. I have to make him tell me something. I may have to make him take me someplace."
"To find a tower."

Ugh, now I don't like spiders - but imagine mutants spiders with eyes on stalks or sixteen legs! *shudders*

Hmm, not sure what is going on with the "Demon" in the cellar, the one that Roland talks to in High Speech. Not sure what it is talking about when it references the "Drawers". I'm guessing it's a nice little bit of foreshadowing, so I will try to remember it.

This is sweet, but a little uncomfortable again: "He could feel the rapid patter of the boy's heart. It occurred to him later that this was when he began to love the boy - which was, of course, what the man in black must have planned all along. Was there ever a trap to match the trap of love?"

Any comments very welcome - did you see anything I missed?