Saturday, March 27, 2010

Another reason why Peter Brett is totally Awesome

Posted by Simcha 2:44 PM, under | 3 comments

I know that those of you following my blog might be starting to suspect that this is turning into a Peter Brett fan club, and you might not be too far off to mark. But what can I do? The guy is awesome.

Not only does he write wonderful fantasy novels but he also makes a large effort to connect with his fans, regularly responding to their comments on his blog and Facebook as well as to personal emails. And now Peter is offering to mail out signed bookplates to any of his readers that request one, anywhere in the world, absolutely free of charge (including shipping). This way anyone can have an autographed Peter Brett book without having to travel all the way to Brooklyn.

Come on, is that not awesome, or what? And it's a pretty cool bookplate too.

Plus, Peter provides visual instructions on how to correctly place the bookplate within the book, for those who might have trouble with such technicalities.

To find out how to get a free Peter Brett bookplate, visit
his blog.

In about a week or so I will be posting my own interview with the man himself, so stay tuned.

Neil Gaiman on his night at the Oscars

Posted by Simcha 7:48 AM, under | 2 comments

Apparently, attending the Oscars is not as exciting as one might think, if you're merely a best-selling author with a couple of made-for-movie books to your name. In his article in The Guardian, Neil Gaiman talks about what it's like to be a "nobody," at the Oscars (his words, not mine). What it's like to be a second-class citizen at one of the biggest events of the year, knowing you're not going to win and wishing you were home with your dog. But thank goodness for Twitter

    I walk over to the stairs. A nice young man in a suit asks me for my ticket. I show it to him. He explains that, as a resident of the first mezzanine, I am not permitted to walk downstairs and potentially bother the A-list.

    I am outraged.

    I am not actually outraged, but I am a bit bored, and I have friends downstairs.

    I decide that I will persuade the inhabitants of the mezzanines to rise up as one and to storm the stairs, like in Titanic. They might shoot a few of us, I decide, but they cannot stop us all. We can be free; we can drink in the downstairs bar; we can mingle with Harvey Weinstein.

    And now our hosts: Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. They come out, they make jokes. From the first mezzanine, the timing is off, the jokes are awkward, the delivery is wooden. But it doesn't feel as if they're playing to us. I wonder if it works on television, and send the question out on Twitter. A few hundred people tell me it's just as bad on TV, 20 tell me they're enjoying it. I decide this is what Twitter is for: keeping you company when you're all alone on the mezzanine.

While I admit that I would not be one to turn down an invitation to the Oscars, Neil's experience makes me feel better about the unlikeliness of my ever getting invited anyways. And frankly, if I were there I would have been much more excited to meet Neil Gaiman then any of the other celebrities present. Authors are way cooler then actors in my book.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday Quotes

Posted by Simcha 5:33 AM, under | 2 comments

I've been in a bit of a reading funk lately, picking up one book after another but not getting pulled into any of them enough to really want to stay . And so I'm currently in the middle of reading four different books and listening to three others, which at least means that I'll eventually get a lot of books read, if I finish them all.

So this week I put together some random quotes that I like from various SFF authors. And as always, if you know of any good quotes, I'd love to hear 'em.

Among my most prized possessions are words that I have never spoken.

    - Orson Scott Card

My thanks to anyone who read, enjoyed, commented on, and most importantly, bought my book. Those who didn’t enjoy it so much have, of course, a perfect right to their own opinion, but in this case it’s just an opinion that is totally, totally wrong. Like those guys who think the earth is flat.
    - Joe Abercrombie

I’m much more interested in working within an established form than in doing something wildly innovative and unrecognizable, because people bring all kinds of expectations to an established form that you can then work with. Dust-covered man bursts through swing doors into a saloon and shouts, “give me a whiskey!” All kinds of feelings, echoes, expectations about the kind of story we’re telling are created for the reader. Water-covered man walks through some sliding doors and into a toy-shop and says, “give me a glass of water.” We’re nowhere.
    - Joe Abercrombie

Anything you dream is fiction, and anything you accomplish is science, the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
    - Ray Bradbury

I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.
    - Douglas Adams

I want to kick-start your imagination and let you discover the places it can take you.
    - Terry Brooks

The difference is that in fantasy, you write about things you believe to be impossible, while in science fiction you write about stuff that hasn't been disproved. Everything else is window-dressing.
    - Lawrence Watt-Evans

The world always seems brighter when you've just made something that wasn't there before.
    - Neil Gaiman

There are no inconsistencies in the Discworld books; occasionally, however, there are alternate pasts.
    - Terry Pratchett

The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.
    - Terry Pratchett

The only thing that would bother me, is if anyone were to be forced to read something I had written.
    - Roger Zelazny

Don't wake me for the end of the world unless it has very good special effects
    - Roger Zelazny

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What's the deal with book covers?

Posted by Simcha 4:14 PM, under | 10 comments

I managed to squeeze in a bit of time today to catch up on some of the blogs I follow and I came across this article at SF Signal about what makes a good book cover. I found this post particularly interesting because I've personally never paid too much attention to book covers before and I admit to being rather baffled by all the sudden attention that cover art is receiving lately from the book blogging community.

It's true that when I browse in a book store certain covers attract my attention more then others, often leading me to pick up the book and read the blurb, but I've never given any thought as to why I was attracted to those covers, and I've never really cared. It's the content that interests me, not what encases it. In addition, most of my book purchases are now done online where I don't even get a good look at the book cover. So what is it about book covers that is garnering so much attention?

While it's common now to see bloggers post book covers that they particularly like, there is usually no explanation as to why this cover caught the blogger's attention enough to post about it. That's why I appreciated SF Signal's post in which various illustrators, and one blogger, listed a few of their recent favorite book covers and described in detail what aspects of each cover appealed to them.

Aidan Moher, from A Dribble of Ink, admits to being drawn to the green color of the Walking the Tree cover and illustrator, Lauren Panepinto, was attracted by the lighting and spare background of Graceling. The Red Claw cover, with its photo of toy spacemen and dead roaches, received a couple of mentions, though I doubt I would pick up this book if I saw it in a store.

But while I found this article to be very illuminating, almost all of the responses were given by artists, leaving me to wonder what the average book buyer has in mind when they gravitate towards certain book covers. And I'm still unclear as to why so many bloggers are suddenly focusing on the book covers as much as the stories inside of them.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Audio Book Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

Posted by Simcha 7:23 PM, under | 3 comments

The Lies of Locke Lamora was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed but I was in no rush to read its sequel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, since many of the reviews I read about it were not complementary. But after recently discovering the joys of audio books I decided to give the audio book version a try, in hopes that I might enjoy it more in this format.

Red Seas Under Red Skies opens up with a shocking scene in which Locke discovers that he has been betrayed by his best friend, Jean Tannen. Then, in a narrative style similar to that in The Lies of Locke Lamora, the story jumps back into different points in the recent past, describing the events that had brought Jean and Locke to the present situation.

Jean and Locke had arrived in Tel Varrar in pursuit of a challenging and exciting heist against one of the most prominent citizens of the city. After two years of careful preparations, they are ready to put their plan in to action. Everything appears to be going well, until a powerful third party gets wind of Jean and Locke’ s actions and forces the two men to take part in a crazy scheme of his own. Suddenly Jean and Locke find their lives to be spiraling out of control as they are forced to set out to sea as pirates, while avoiding the mysterious assassination attempts, even as they continue with the initial scheme that had already been set into motion.

Red Seas Under Red Skies has a very different feel to it than The Lies of Locke Lamora. While a non-linear narration is used again here, the story itself lacks the sense of purpose of its predecessor. In this book, Locke and Jean’s troubles are brought on by their own capracious desire to cause mischief and the results were not as grave and consequential as in the previous book. Yet I found myself enjoying it just as much, largely due to the superb audio narration but also because of the increased character development, something I had found lacking in Lies.

I haven’t read too many books in which there was a strong focus on male friendship, and this was an aspect of
Red Seas that I particularly enjoyed. I loved Locke and Jean’s rock-solid relationship, going back to their childhood together, and the way they always have each others backs. At the end of The Lies of Locke Lamora, Jean forced Locke to cling to life after the tragic loss of many of their friends and in Red Seas he stands by Locke as his friend battles depression. Jean is a strong, solid presence at Locke’s back and Locke is the brains and cunning that moves the two forward and gets them out of numerous scrapes. I admit that at times the two seem more like an old married couple then a pair of sly thieves, and Locke’s frequent and heartfelt apologies after each argument seemed a bit excessive, but I was willing to overlook this as their strong friendship was one of the most appealing aspect of the book, for me.

There is also some wonderful world building as Lynch extends the reader's view to other cities with their different cultures and customs. I love his vivid descriptions of the cuisine as well as some of the interesting local practices.

The audio book of
Red Seas is narrated by Michael Page, who did a spectacular job. I particularly loved the way he portrayed Jean; reading his dialogue in a way that I could clearly imagine the tough, large man himself speaking. Once of the interesting results of listening to an audio book is that you end up spending a lot more time with the characters then if you were simply reading the book. In this case, I spent about two week with Locke and Jean, and by the end of the book I had really come to care for both of them and was reluctant to let them go.

It’s hard for me to tell if the deeper connection that I felt with the characters in this book, compared to the last, had to do with the writing or if it was due to Page’s narration. I do believe that narration adds additional color and depth to the author’s written words and sometimes it can be hard to judge the two separately. But I can say that I was far less critical of
Red Seas under Red Skies as an audio book then I would have been had I been reading it. It was just such a fun and wonderful listening experience that I didn’t care if the story wasn’t quite on par with the previous one.

I highly recommend this audio book to anyone who has been holding back from reading
Red Seas Under Red Skies due to the unfavorable reviews, as well as to anyone who has already read the book, since you will probably find that you enjoy the audio version more. I am now eagerly anticipating Lynch’s third novel in the series, The Republic of Thieves, and I can't wait to rejoin Locke and Jean in whatever adventures they have in store.

Pirate Humor

Posted by Simcha 6:58 PM, under | No comments

Since lately I seem to be reading a number of books involving pirates, this comic seemed somewhat appropriate (plus I love these guys!)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Cleaning and Audio books, a great combination!

Posted by Simcha 4:55 PM, under | 6 comments

Shevuah Tov everyone!

I didn't find any particular new releases to share with you, for this week but I'm very excited for next week when two books that I've been eagerly anticipating will be released, Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs and
Changeless by Gail Carriger. If you are as excited for these releases as I am you might be interested to know that at The Book Depository you can preorder Silver Borne for only $5.24 and Changeless for only $5.99! I discovered these special deals thanks to Ann Aquire, whose upcoming release, Hell's Fire, is also available at the sweet price of $5.25 at the Book Depository. Thank you Ann for the heads up!

This week I probably won't be getting much reading done since it's one of the busiest weeks in the Jewish calendar; the pre-passover week. And though almost every minute of each day will be spent cleaning (gotta get rid of all that leaven!) this is the perfect opportunity for me to get in some quality audio book time. Audio books make cleaning so much more pleasant and I've acquired a few new titles in preparation for this week, including Gardens of the Moon by Steven Erikson and The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan. Michael, at Book on the Nightstand, said that the The Lightening Thief was really good in audio and he's never led me astray so far. Gardens of the Moon I tried reading, but I couldn't get into it, and so I'm hoping to have more success listening to it instead.

So those are my book plans for the week, how about you? Do you have any special reading plans for the upcoming week?

A Book Challenge I can't screw up

Posted by Simcha 4:24 PM, under | 4 comments

After failing to complete every book challenge that I've joined, I came to the conclusion that I'm better off avoiding them. I've made it about a month so far without joining any challenges (which is quite a feat since everyone else is doing it and it's hard not to succumb to the peer pressure) until I came across the Once Upon A Time Challenge at Stainless Steel Droppings.

I don't know if it was the pretty picture that did it or that fact that each level is called a quest, and I've always wanted to go on a quest, but before I knew what I was doing I had signed up for yet another book challenge.

But the good news is there is no way I could screw this one up. I mean, it is a fantasy book challenge and I mostly read fantasy books, so this ones a sure thing.

I'm going to go for the "Quest, The First," which requires me to read five books that are either fantasy, folklore, fairy tales, or mythology and I have until June 20th to do so. Easy shmeesy.

And here is the picture that led me onto this path of book challenge temptation:

Cool, right?

If you would like to join me on this quest, visit Stainless Steel Droppings to sign up.


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