The Neil Gaiman Reader

Neil GaimanI am doing something I thought I would never do. Today, I am recommending a book I have not yet read. This sounds counter-intuitive and perhaps a bit wrong, but I actually have several reasons to recommend it. The book is The Neil Gaiman Reader by, as you may guess, Neil Gaiman.

I’ve read a decent amount of Neil Gaiman’s work and this book is a collection of 52 stories. A handful are excerpts from a few of his books. I have read several of his books and a few collections of short stories, so technically I have read a good amount of what is in this book from previous collections.

The four excerpts are from Stardust, American Gods, Neverwhere, Anansi Boys, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I have read all but Neverwhere and Anansi Boys and they are both on my list of books to read (both books are on my shelf and just a few of many that I have yet to get to).

This book was released just recently, which is one reason I have yet to read it, but it is an excellent volume that is great for anyone who has never read Neil’s work and wants to try it out. It is also an essential for any diehard Gaiman fans.

Since this book is ideal for those who have never read him before, I figured it was okay for me to recommend it for that reason. Of course, those who are already fans don’t need any recommendations of his work from me. They already know what they like. I know what works of his I like, having read several already, and I know which ones I want to check out next when I get to them. In fact, I’ve been considering reading Coraline soon as I haven’t read it yet and it is that time of year for spooky reads. It is also a shorter work that fits into my currently busy schedule.

So, if you have ever been interested in trying Neil Gaiman’s work, perhaps this is the prime opportunity for you to do so. You can always check your local library if you don’t want to make a purchase, or you can perhaps borrow a copy from that friend who has been bugging you to try anything by Neil Gaiman.

Happy Reading.

Who Said You Should Never Judge A Book By Its Cover?

Yeah, yeah, there is that old saying (which is true), but I thought I’d list books whose covers I think are beautiful, made me pick the book up initially, or I simply like. There are often several variants to book covers based on editions, reprints, etc. The cover is meant to entice you or else they wouldn’t spruce them up. I’m a sucker for cool artwork too. Here are several that I enjoy.

The Sword of Angels

Sword of AngelsThis cover is actually the reason I picked up this trilogy by John Marco. I saw this cover, thought it looked cool, found out it was the third book in the series, and went on to buy the first book. I need to re-read this series since it has been (I believe) over ten years since I first read it and a fourth book has been released since then that continues the story of one of the main characters.

Exhalation

ExhalationAnother simplistic cover that goes along with an equally simplistic yet mysterious title. This collection of short stories, and one novella, by Ted Chiang is a great read for any SFF fans or if you like stories that make you think.

The Faded Sun Trilogy

The Faded Sun TrilogyI picked up a copy of this trilogy in one volume a long time ago. The cover was of course a factor. I had no idea who C.J. Cherryh was but she has become an author whose work I really need to look into, which of course means I have yet to read this trilogy. I have a lot of books on my TBR and I will get to them eventually. I’ve been trying to read through the books I have and purchase fewer books.

Memories of Ice

Memories of IceMemories of Ice is actually book three of The Malazan Book of the Fallen series by Steven Erikson. This is the first on this list of books I picked up because of the cover but have not yet read. The Malazan series is a larger series and I currently have the first five books. I plan to read them some day, but I just haven’t gotten around to it just yet.

Norse Mythology

Norse MythologyOkay. There are a lot of different versions, retellings, and of course covers of the Norse Myths. The cover I refer to specifically is a recent retelling by Neil Gaiman. I think the cover is fantastic and we get a few versions of it. One for hardback and one for paperback. I have a copy of both mainly because I happened to get an opportunity to purchase a signed copy of the paperback, which honestly is the cover I like best. I think there are a few other variants of the hardback cover (which is different from the paperback version you see here) but they are different color backgrounds including black, white, and red.

Fahrenheit 451

FahrenheitFahrenheit 451There are a lot of different covers for Fahrenheit 451 as it has become a classic and is taught in schools. I particularly enjoy the simplistic 60th anniversary cover as well as the Folio Society version which I recently acquired.

A Memory of Light

The final installment of The Wheel of Time. This cover actually holds more significance because it comes at the end of a long journey and holds the fates of many beloved characters, which makes this cover perhaps the only one on this list linked directly to the story it tells. I’m sure there will be many new covers for the books in this series as time goes on and as the television series releases, but the original (to me) will always have a certain appeal.A Memory of Light

Too Like The Lightning

Too Like The LightningI purchased this book from a big sale my local library puts on every year so I was able to get it really cheap. I picked this one up for two reasons. The cover, and the fact that it made a bit of a wave when it first released however many years ago that was (it was 2016). I believe this is the first of a four-book series by Ada Palmer with the first three currently available, which is a good reason for me to wait a bit longer to read this book as I prefer to read series that are complete since I often need to re-read the first books when a new installment comes out if it has been a while since the initial read.

The Stormcaller

The StormcallerLike The Magician, this cover is for the first of a series that caught my eye. I think the artwork on all the covers is great, but this one made me give the book a try. I read the first three of the series by Tom Lloyd and then stopped as the final two books had not yet released. I plan to return and re-read the entire series some time.

The Magician

Magician Raymond E FeistI remember this one distinctly. I was in high school and about to go on a small trip to visit family when I picked this one up. The version I bought was actually two books in one and was my introduction to Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga. I have read the saga but have not read much beyond the core books and into the ever expansive world(s) contained in the larger Riftwar Cycle. I picked up the book for my trip because the cover did interest me, especially at the age of 15 with the image of the wizard, and I always enjoy magic.

All Systems Red

Last but not least, The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. I absolutely adore this series and have also loved the cover art for each book. Network Effect is the fifth installment that was released earlier this year, and we will get the sixth book, Fugitive Telemetry, next year.

Murderbot Series

Knightmare Arcanist

KNIGHTMARE ARCANIST - E-BOOK COVER - FINALHello and welcome to this stop of the Blog Tour featuring Knightmare Arcanist by Shami Stovall (pronounced sha-me), who I believe is a name you should keep an eye out for moving forward. This post will contain no spoilers so have no fear as you read further.

Knightmare Arcanist is book one of The Frith Chronicles which follows a young man named Volke who wants nothing more than to become an arcanist. Arcanists are those who have bonded with mystical creatures, can use magic as a result, and are highly respected in society. Volke lives on the island of Ruma, which was named after the famous arcanist who founded it, and will likely live his life as the town outcast unless he can bond with a mystical creature. The island is known as a location where phoenixes breed and the islanders hold a ceremony every ten years to determine who will bond with the fledgling phoenixes and become arcanists. Will Volke be able to obtain his dream? If so, what adventures await?

This book hit many of the “fun fantasy elements” for me. Mystical creatures and magic of course capture my interest. The bonding of mystical creatures creates a unique magic system where the arcanists are able to use magic related to the creatures they bond. For example, phoenixes allow the use of fire and healing magic, an undine would allow their arcanist to wield water magic, and a hydra allows the use of poison-type magic. Not just anyone can bond with a mystical creature though. The creature must accept the bond and the bonding is for life.

I’m usually not a huge fan of books that include talking animals, but for some reason I consider this story an exception. Perhaps it is because only the mystical creatures can speak and they are technically not real animals but creatures of legends and myths. The plethora of possibilities created from the variety of creatures makes the magic even more interesting.

Within this fascinating world we follow a group of interesting characters who struggle through interpersonal conflict often created through implicit misunderstanding. These struggles will make you love or hate certain characters, but in the end they must all face, together, the real dangers they knowingly are ill-prepared to confront.

This book was released in June of last year (2019) and lucky for us there are already three more books in the series bringing The Frith Chronicles total to four books so far with the most recent being released this past May. It will be interesting to see what comes next for our adventurers after the events of this book. The four books are:

  1. Knightmare Arcanist
  2. Dread Pirate Arcanist
  3. Coliseum Arcanist
  4. Plague Arcanist

If you are a fan of fantasy then definitely give Knightmare Arcanist a try. It is a fun, swashbuckling tale that takes place in an ever-interesting world of magic. I want to thank Dave at TheWriteReads for including me in this tour, and a big thank you to Shami Stovall for providing this great story.

Happy Reading.

The Book of the New Sun

Books of the New SunThe Book of the New Sun consists of four novels by Gene Wolfe. I bought all four in two volumes after I had added Gene Wolfe to the list of authors whose work I wanted to look into. This tetralogy is considered some of his best work. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know about his work until shortly before he passed away in April of last year, but I’m glad I am no longer ignorant of its existence.

I would normally have written a book recommendation for the first book in the series, but there are several reasons I did not do that for this story. Of course, I would not recommend the series if I did not like it or I didn’t think it held value. I am glad I read the series since I have learned a lot from it. However, this recommendation comes with a few reservations so let’s get started.

First, a very short introduction: The universe of the New Sun is definitely strange and the adventures of the main character, Severian, lead us through it. He is an apprentice in a guild of torturers and faces consequences for showing mercy to a client (as they refer to the prisoners).

We often compare things to better describe them to others, and I think in this case it would be easier for me to describe this story as a comparison or mixture of a few others you may already know. Since reading the first book, I could not help but think of the story as a mixture between The Name of the Wind (TNotW), Alice in Wonderland, and The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A weird combination, I know, but hear me out.

I thought of TNotW for several reasons. The story of the New Sun is told as a recounting of events by the main character, much like in TNofW, and they both include a spurious young man who has many travels and finds himself involved in powers much greater than himself that impact their entire world. New Sun has many fantastical elements as well and the loner-ish main character often has to fend for himself. I liken New Sun to Alice in the way that we as readers are thrown into a strange land where strange things happen seemingly at random. We don’t get a lot of information about the strange world but are given just enough to know what is going on and how things (kind of) work within the rules of that world. The last comparison, to Hitchhiker’s Guide, brings in the science fiction elements and continues the comparison to Alice insofar as the story’s universe is much larger than the glimpses we are given and things seem to happen randomly but often come back around before the story ends. Unlike Alice and Hitchhiker’s Guide, the random events of this story are not whimsical but often lead Severian into dangerous situations.

So, this series is a mixture of fantasy, science fiction, myth, philosophy, and many other areas I’m sure I may have missed or forgotten. I believe this series is greater than the sum of its parts, which is why I was so hesitant to recommend the first book without having read the entire story. Another reason was because it took me several chapters to get adjusted to the style of the book. Yes, it was written as an account by the main character, but the verbiage and structure took some time getting used to. This alone may deter some readers, but if you can get into the story, you will find it is well-written and engaging.

I consider myself well-read, but I learned a lot of new vocabulary from this series. This, for me, is a bonus though I can see some readers viewing it as negative if they need to look up several words per chapter or page. Most of the terms are more archaic. Very few, if any, were made up as part of the fictional world. This being the case, I’m happy to say that I have several new words in my arsenal for my own writing. I think an expanded vocabulary is definitely a positive.

Another reason I was hesitant in recommending the first book alone was because the transition from the first to second book was a little jarring. I think the series should be viewed as one continuous text, which I just discovered it had been written in its entirety before the first book was published. This may explain why each installment doesn’t follow a familiar story path or begin and end in a traditional method. This could also be seen as a negative, which is why I think considering all four books as one volume is an easy way to escape that thought concern.

I did see a few reviews of readers giving up during or after books two or three because they couldn’t continue with the seemingly random events. I had also heard that the fourth book wrapped things up nicely and fits all the pieces together. I would agree that the ending does bring the whole series together, but there is a lot to get through before this ending and many readers may not be committed to doing so. Which is another reason why I’m recommending this as a series instead of a standalone book. I definitely could have used a little more details regarding how the world of Urth worked, and there is a sequel novel title The Urth of the New Sun which I could read, but I think I may save that for another time.

I recommend this series because it is well written and engaging despite the events seeming to be random at first. There were several times where I thought I just had no idea what was happening or I didn’t have enough information to appreciate the story, but at the end of it all I felt satisfied. I was always interested in the events and characters, and I did read all four books fairly quickly. I am also still thinking about the book and what the whole story accomplished. I will definitely be looking into other books by Gene Wolfe in the future.

You may like this series or find it isn’t for you. I enjoyed it and wanted to (hopefully) introduce others to Gene Wolfe if not this particular story. I have entered the camp of those who believe his work has gone overlooked and I’m glad I remedied my own oversight. I look forward to discovering more of his stories. Perhaps you will too.

Happy Reading.

18 Fantasy Books to Escape Into

I ran a short poll on Twitter to determine which list of books (by genre) I would write about next. The majority vote was Fantasy. I was surprised the lowest amount of votes went to Science Fiction and Memoir with Short Story Collections coming in second. Without further delay, here are 10 fantasy books I’ve read and enjoyed, and 8 I look forward to reading in the future.

10 Fantasy Books I’ve Enjoyed

The Magician: Apprentice

The Magician: Apprentice is the first book in Raymond E. Feist’s Riftwar Saga which is the core of the even larger Riftwar Cycle. It tells the story of Pug, a seemingly low status, serving-boy in a castle who unexpectedly finds himself as the apprentice of the lord’s magician. He also quickly realizes he has an aptitude for magic. It’s been some time since I’ve read this book, but I greatly enjoyed it and have fond memories of the story. Perhaps a reread is in order.

The Once and Future King

This book by T.H. White is sometimes classified as science fiction for reasons I don’t quite understand outside of inferred time/inter-dimensional travel. But this book (a collection of four books in one volume) tells a mostly fun, easy-to-read version of the legend of King Arthur. The first part, The Sword in the Stone, inspired the animated film of the same name.

Howl’s Moving Castle

I will always recommend Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. I simply love this book, but I still need to read the other two in the trilogy. I also greatly enjoy the animated film adaptation by Studio Ghibli despite the several, smaller changes made to the story. The story follows young Sophie, who gets turned into an old woman by the Witch of the Waste. She sets out to find a cure for the curse placed on her and makes a pact with the fire demon Calcifer who requires her to break his contract with the wizard Howl in exchange for his help.

The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is book one of The Kingkiller Chronicle and is an excellent read. It tells the tale of Kvothe as he survives tragedy to then enter the famous University. There, he learns many incredible skills that lead to his eventual fame. The story is told by Kote, the older version of Kvothe, who has since forsaken his abilities. Books one and two of this trilogy have been published along with a supplementary novella and short story. I will be re-reading these books to prepare for when the third is published.

The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a phenomenal read if you have not read it yet. The films by Peter Jackson do it much justice, but the books are still better. You can often find all three in one volume (hence the grouping under the one title). Frodo sets out to destroy the One Ring as he is hunted by the forces of evil who seek to reclaim the ring and allow the Dark Lord Sauron to rule Middle Earth. This trilogy laid a strong foundation for much of the fantasy books we know today.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (or Philosopher’s Stone as it was originally titled in the UK) is the first in J.K. Rowling’s world-wide bestselling series that was adapted into eight films. This book is the first of seven that tell the story of Harry Potter as he learns he is a wizard and is swept off to the Wizarding School Hogwarts the day after his 11th birthday.

The Eye of the World

The Wheel of Time, Robert Jordan’s magnum opus, begins with The Eye of the World. The first of 14 books (plus a prequel) with the final three installments finished posthumously by Brandon Sanderson. The story follows Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, and Nynaeve (as well as a plethora of other characters), as they are swept out of their small village onto an epic journey that leads one of these characters (no spoilers here) as they become the savior of the land against evil forces.

A Darker Shade of Magic

Admittedly, I have only read this first book in V.E. Schwab’s magical trilogy, which I recently heard may have more story to come with future books. This story follows Kell who has the unique ability to travel between the four Londons. The London in each dimension is always the same as far as layout, but each world suffers from different leaders and levels of magic. Red London is teeming with magic and is Kell’s home. Grey London is where us non-magic folk live. White London is slowly losing it’s magic and is ruled by strength. Black London was consumed by magic and effectively no longer holds life. Follow Kell as he must travel through the London’s in order to find the mystery of a powerful artifact given to him that seemingly came from Black London.

The Eyes of God

The Eyes of God is the first of four books by John Marco which follow the knight Lukien. I read the first three books as a trilogy and only recently discovered a fourth was published that follow the events of the original trilogy. I have not read this newer book, so I am unsure what parts of the story it expands upon or if it adds only new material. Lukien, much like Lancelot, falls in love with his king’s wife, Cassandra, and is later tasked with finding a magical item, called the eye of god, to heal Cassandra from an inexplicable illness.

The Stormcaller

Another unfinished series for me begins with The Stormcaller by Tom Lloyd. I read the first three books before the fourth and fifth were published. Unfortunately, it has been some time since I’ve read them so I will likely start from the beginning and read them all the way through. This story follows Isak who is a white-eye, a human with traits that designate them as outcasts. Isak is thrown into the middle of a war and must learn to control his powers and find out what he is really capable of.

8 Fantasy Books I Want to Read

The Sword of Shannara

My wife bought me this book, or the trilogy in one volume, a while back and I’ve always heard it is a great read. It’s been in my to-read list for some time and I need to bump it up and actually read it. Another reason for me to read it is because I have not yet read anything by Terry Brooks.

The Wizard of Earthsea

Another series, the Earthsea books by Ursula K. Le Guin have been on my radar for some time. I have read other books by Le Guin and have enjoyed them so I’m sure I’ll like this one and the sequels. Ironically, this is also another series my wife bought me (because she loves me). She bought the illustrated edition, all in one volume, and it is a massive text.

The Gunslinger

Technically I have already read this book. I just haven’t read the remaining six books in Stephen King’s acclaimed Dark Tower series. A friend of mine recommended this series to me and I will get around to finishing it at some point.

The Lies of Locke Lamora

This book by Scott Lynch I had picked up in a bookstore simply from browsing and thinking it was interesting. This was before I had a massive TBR and I developed the habit of always finding new books to read before I finish the ones I have. I keep seeing this book come up time and time again in mentions by other authors or fans, which bumps it up on the TBR list each time.

Gardens of the Moon

I purchased the first few books in Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series but have not read them yet. I think I held out because the series was not yet finished. I think the series is now finished and has a total of 10 books, so I will get around to it soonish. I just finished Wheel of Time which is a big series so I am taking a break at the moment on bigger series.

An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir is a series that I believe is still on-going. If I remember correctly, the fourth book is slated to be released at the end of this year. I first discovered Sabaa Tahir when I discovered Patrick Rothfuss when I came across them interviewing each other (or maybe it was Patrick interviewing Sabaa). I think I will like this series so will give it a shot one day.

Game of Thrones

I did get into the Game of Thrones craze and greatly enjoyed the show. I am holding out until the book series is finished before diving in because I prefer to be able to read it all in one go without a large hiatus. I believe George R.R. Martin stated there will be two more volumes before the series is completed.

The Fifth Season

Honestly, I do not know much about The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin except it is the start of a trilogy. I’ve heard great things about it and I’ve added N.K. Jemisin to my list of authors to read having only heard great things about her writing and books.