Sunday, May 31, 2009

Alison Goodman's "The Two Pearls of Wisdom" - Giveaway contest winners!

Thanks to all of the participants who entered the competition, but the book is going to only one person, and that person is...

Anne-Elisa, France

The book is going to be shipped as soon as possible and the date of arrival depends only on how fast the guys on the post work :). I'd again like to thank the good people at Transworld, who made this giveaway possible and to the rest of you, better luck next time!

Untill another good book finds its reader...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Carlos Ruiz Zafón - The Shadow of the Wind (Book Review)

"The Shadow of the Wind" (Amazon: UK, US)
Format: Paperback, 544/487 pages
Publisher: Phoenix / Penguin (October 2005 / January 2005)

CARLOS RUIZ ZAFÓN was quite famous in his motherland Spain for his appealing YA literature even before he set his pen to write "The Shadow of the Wind" (which will, from now on, be referred to as "TSotW"). But it was "TSotW" that brought him international fame and recognition as one of the speculative fiction's most promising new authors (where 'new' is a relative term). Even though "TSotW" was written back in 2001 it took several years for the various translations to circle the globe and reach world-wide popularity and acclaim.

If we look at this novel at face value only, it's a pretty straightforward mystery/crime story set in Spain's lascivious metropolis Barcelona in one of it's more ominous periods - reign of fascism and general Franco. Our protagonist, a 10-year-old by the name of Daniel, discovers a spellbinding book and the more fascinated that he becomes with it, the more he prods into it's authors shady past, more dangerous, interwoven and jarring the discoveries and his everyday life become. But "TSotW" wouldn't be written by a Spaniard if it didn't include tinges of Mediterranean passion and love for life. But when you finish the book and think of it, this is so much more than a 'simple' mystery/crime story (which isn't all that simple to begin with), but a book about life itself and why it's worth living for - and what's worth dying for as well. So, like all great literature, "The Shadow of the Wind" transcends any simple genre labeling.

Telling you more about the story than I just did would be pointless and counterproductive to the message I'm trying to convey in this review, but let it be enough to say that the plot itself is as enigmatic, gripping and intense as one would want from a mystery/detective story. The pace - after a slow start - and suspension of disbelief are handled with the guile of a master storyteller for the better part of the novel as well.

Characters are, for the most part, complex and multi-layered, but also most vivid and sympathetic. ZAFÓN is prone to caricature his characters (i.e. representing them in a mildly exaggerated manner for the purpose of comic relief from the otherwise often bleak and dreary content). If there was a specific character in the novel, beside the main protagonist Daniel, that I'd want to expose, it would definitely be Fermin, once secret agent and now homeless person who played for the wrong side and attracted an unwanted attention from a certain vicious police inspector. His musings and dialogues are really an accomplishment of smart writing. ZAFÓN's history as a writer of YA literature is most clearly evident with how he approaches and handles his characters and this is one of the biggest appeals of "TSotW"; characters of this novel stir up the reader in a profound way, they bring out the awe, youth and innocence in us, and it's simply priceless.

If I had any grievances with the book they would be that the start is somewhat slow and that I didn't always like how Zafon handled the relationship between Daniel and his father. Well, when I think on it, quite a few families we meet in "TSotW" are portrayed as at least mildly, if not severely, dysfunctional and estranged, but with Daniel and his father it feels like there is a void in narration; the reader expects some kind of shift, closure or...something, but it never comes. But other than that, "The Shadow of the Wind" is a terrific example of how powerful - as in meaningful, smart and moving - can a scribbled slab of dead wood be. May ZAFÓN's fate never reflect that of Julian Carax*.

----(4,5/5 Fruitcakes)
- -
- Thrinidir -

* Julián Carax - The alleged author of "The Shadow of the Wind". Daniel desperately seeks to find out the truth about this mysterious man: the reasons for his journeys, the truth about his childhood, and the explanation for why his books are all being destroyed.

p.s. Definitely the best book I've read in the last year and a half (rivalled only by the brilliant "Flowers of Algernon" by Daniel Keyes - reviewed by Trin).

Thursday, May 14, 2009


- not your bitch.
I'm glad NEIL GAIMAN agrees with me (I've commented on Aidan's post back in January) and James (link to his post).

To reiterate my comment:

" I usually stay away from GRRM debates, it’s become pointless over the years. Some people are just to thick or plain obsessed to be reached with rational arguments. My stand evolves around the following conviction: GRRM is a writer, and even though this is his profession, it is also a form of art, creative endeavour…you can’t put a deadline on art; well…you can, but the results won’t be satisfying in most cases. I don’t care if he is an outliner or a freewriter, he gets the job done in the end and the only standards he has to live up to are his own, and the only obligation he has is to himself. I’m as big a fan as there is, but I haven’t thought even once that I’m in any kind of position to pester George about it. I don’t care when he does it, as long as he does it the best he can. Fu** the griefers and the bullys and the offended fans, if he does it right, his work will be praised and cherished for decades to come (if not more).

Is George being unprofessional; from mere business perspective - yes, but profession and art don’t go always hand in hand. I think he has chosen the right path.

And why are people upset anyway? There are so MANY good to great authors out there, stellar work is being published almost on weekly basis; do yourself a favour, stop obsessing about ASoIaF and go read something else, if you call yourself a book lover. Breathing down your favorite author’s back and making his life more difficult than it already is is not only distasteful, but plain rude. GRRM seems as a sensible fellow, not entirely unconcerned about what passes around him.

Why shouldn’t he make posts about football and favorite figurines…it is his right and privilege to do so. He is only a human being, not a Writer 24/7 for god’s sake. If you don’t care for his human side, don’t read his not a blog, period. Writers are arstists, creatives…they need inspiration and time for the fruition of their ideas; please don’t rush them.

I’ve only touched upon the topic, but I’ve made my stand clear, I might have even fought fire with fire, but the attitude of some people demanding this and that really bothers me. I don’t believe that writers are untouchable, but some people really go to far. "

And here's what James from Speculative Horizons had to say on the matter:
" I almost called this post 'A Dance With Dickheads' because that's how I view some of the 'fans' that constantly berate George R. R. Martin for the delay in delivering A Dance With Dragons, but then that would just be stooping to their level.

I have posted on this subject before, and I'll now post on it again since the issue of the delay with Dance has once more reared its ugly head. Shawn Speakman proved the spark this time, with an interesting article about how whether any of the criticism of George is justified. Since then, other bloggers have given their views on the whole business:

Wert has written an excellent piece that explains the reason for the discussion in the first place, before giving his own reaction to the various accusations of the 'antifans' (I like that term, it has a nice ring to it...).

Aidan has given his thoughts here (look for the well-considered comment by blogger Thrinidir).

Graeme has also waded into the debate, including an amusing story about the time he met GRRM himself...

I'm a huge fan of GRRM, and naturally I've got my own feelings on the matter. Whereas my fellow bloggers have written carefully considered articles, I'm going to just have a good rant. Apologies in advance if it's a little incoherent...

George R. R. Martin is an amazingly talented writer, and A Song of Ice and Fire is a brilliant fantasy series. We should be grateful that we have had the chance to read his work, and we should appreciate the blood, sweat and tears that he has put into it. Let's be honest here - the guy's given his readers an unsurpassed reading experience and countless hours of enjoyment (and by that I mean not just by reading the books, but debating their many mysteries online). GRRM's work is something to be celebrated and cherished.

Yet sadly we have 'fans' who spend their time berating GRRM's apparent tardiness, demanding fresh news on the long-awaited next novel, and whining about how he's being 'disrespectful' by refusing to reveal how close the book is to completion. These deluded antifans think GRRM should be writing 24/7 to deliver Dance, that he shouldn't watch another second of NFL until the manuscript is turned in, and that when he's not writing he should be updating us all on his progress. GRRM, they squeal, 'owes' us.

What absolute bullshit. GRRM owes us nothing, and anyone who says he's being disrespectful to his fans is deluded. The guy's a human for fuck's sake, not a bloody machine (can you tell I'm getting angry now?). He can't write for 24 hours a day. More than that, just like anyone else, he's entitled to his free time. He needs his free time. So what if he blogs about NFL? So what if he blogs about politics? It's his blog - he can blog about whatever the hell he wants (Aidan, I'm afraid I completely disagree that he should only blog about ASOIAF!).

Oh, but it's distracting him from his writing, they say. He's wasting time that he could spend writing ASOIAF. More bullshit - check out Wert's post for the reason why that argument is a load of hot air.

Look, I'm as big a fan as the next person. ASOIAF is my all-time favourite fantasy series. I am looking forward massively to Dance. But I'm not being a tosser and whining about how long it's taking, and I just don't see why some people feel the need to. There's loads of excellent books by other authors out there, so go and read something else while you wait!

What many readers don't understand is that writing is an organic process. It ebbs and flows. It's not like a factory conveyor belt, churning out the same product every time. You have good days and bad days. Sometimes you hit a brick wall and can't get past it. Other times, you feel unstoppable. You just can't rush it. You have to take your time. Writing isn't easy, as some people think. It's bloody hard at times - as someone who's had work published before, I know this from personal experience. We just have to accept that Dance will be done when it's done, and only GRRM knows when that will be (or maybe not even he knows).

Look, I don't deny that GRRM made a mistake saying Dance would follow closely on the heels of Feast. With hindsight, that was the spark that led to all these pointless flame wars and I think GRRM would be the first to admit that he's learned a lesson. However, I wouldn't go as far to call him unprofessional, which is the stance that Speakman takes. Go ask his publisher and see if they give you the same answer - I doubt it somehow.

I admit the odd update on his progress would be appreciated. But even when he did give us updates, people complained about their lack of frequency. So he's criticised if he does give updates and criticised if he doesn't. No wonder it drove him nuts and he gave up on updates altogether. I think some people would only be satisfied if he updated us every day, and that is just never going to happen.

You know what riles me the most? The antifans that claim GRRM is rude/discourteous to his fans. That is a total crock of shit. I've met GRRM, and as I've said before, he's a true gent. Great sense of humour, very humble and really down-to-earth. When I told him I dabbled in short fiction, he asked me what I'd had published. He then gave me a few words of advice. Discourteous? Disrespectful? Hardly.

In fact, it's the antifans that are being disrespectful. Hurling abuse at a man that has given them so much enjoyment is childish, petulant and downright stupid. We should show GRRM the respect he deserves, and wait patiently while he makes Dance as good as it can be. If it takes another five years, then so be it. I'll still be here. "

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Frank Beddor - The Looking Glass Wars (Book Review)

"Looking Glass Wars" (Amazon: UK / US)
Format: Paperback, 384 / 400 pages
Publisher: Egmont Books Ltd. / Puffin (May 2005 / August 2007)
Princess Alyss Heart’s life turns upside down when her vicious Aunt Redd beheads Alyss' mother and begins to rule over Wonderland with an iron fist. Alyss escapes from Wonderland and is exiled to Victorian London, where she is adopted into a new family, renamed Alice, and befriended by Lewis Carroll. Wonderland never leaves her mind, though, and at age 20 she returns to Wonderland in wish to overthrow Redd.


Wonderland is real, folks. Carroll enthusiast, proceed to jump with glee. Someone--somewhere--has stepped forward, once again shedding the light on the classic adventure of a girl who stumbles upon a bustling rabbit and a strange little world. I, being one of the Wonderland-junkies, had to pick it up and make sure Carroll’s legacy was being kept properly.

Too bad that Looking Glass Wars was not much to my liking.

Not that it wasn’t an enjoyable read. It was. I read it in one sitting, almost entirely immersed in this vicious new Wonderland, where only the disloyal and heartless survive. I was incredibly impressed with Mr. BEDDOR’s imagination with the whole thing. He took a children’s book with roughly drawn characters and turned it into this maniacal world with armies and palaces … I could even go as far to say that he has created an entirely new world. The idea of turning the Cheshire Cat into a Cat assassin with nine lives was brilliant. The Mad Hatter has become a loyal but deadly guard for Queen Genevieve (aka the White Queen) and her daughter, Alyss Heart. The Red Queen/Queen of Hearts is, of course, the sinister Redd, and the wise scholar Bibwit Harte (an anagram for White Rabbit) is the royal tutor.

I’m not good at summaries in the least, so I’ll just get to the point: it was okay. Not marvelous, not terrible. Simple okay. The setting is fantastic, unbelievably creative, with such an amazing twist on everything. This might have, however, been the downfall of the whole thing.

It seems like the author spent SO MUCH DAMN TIME coming up with the setting, twisting these characters into generals and queens and princesses, that he forgot about the rest. It feels like he spent too much time exploring one scene, then remembered he had a plot to follow and rushed it through so he could quickly get to the next part. When I read books, the first thing I look for is a connection to the characters. Am I rooting for him/her? Am I invested in their life? Do I want them to win? I did not find any of this with Alyss Heart.
Looking Glas Wars is narrated in a cold, detached third person point of view, and the author separated the moment she fell into Victorian London and thirteen years later when she returns to Wonderland with a single paragraph. There is no time for the reader to relate to Alyss, or even to get to know her well.
First she’s seven and running around with a group of homeless orphans. The next moment she‘s ten and put in an orphanage. In a nick of time, she’s eleven and adopted and trying to push aside her Wonderland memories. Finally, she’s twenty and all of a sudden a powerful queen. I really wouldn’t mind reading an extra two hundred pages or so as long as there would be more insight, perspective and details. It would have been interesting to see how she adjusts to this new, drab world. She comes from Wonderland, a place full of color and imagination and strange creatures, to one of the bleakest places of the Victorian era, where women are meant to stay in their place and imagination is near-sin. There is a prince who proposes to her, their relationship is described in five paragraphs, tops, and when they’re about to get married, she’s suddenly back in Wonderland with little to no transitions explaining this.
She mentions that she loves the Liddels, who raised her, but she hardly even describes them or the rest of the family whatsoever. The only one she describes at length is Mrs. Liddel, and what she has to say about her is not really positive. How am I supposed to cares for these people when she left them without a thought, replacing herself with a figurative clone she created of herself (using imagination, which has obviously become a kind of superpower). There is no indication that she misses them, even though they were raising her since she was ten, or that she missed Wonderland during the time of her exile. Upon her return, everyone greets each other with quick, cold mutterings that hardly reflect the fact that none of them have seen each other for most of Alyss’ life.

Honestly, I could go on like this all day, but then my rating would make no sense. Despite the plot being rushed and detached from the characters, the setting was really imaginative and made "Looking Glass Wars" quite fun to read. "Looking Glass Wars" has brisk pace with a lot of action sequences, and some of the characters - such as Jack of Diamonds - are just hilarious to read about. While this may not be enough to overlook the sloppily written plot, it does make "Looking Glass Wars" an enjoyable light read.

~ Dannie ~

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alison Goodman - The Two Pearls of Wisdom (Giveaway)

Thanks to the folks at Transworld, we have one giveaway copy of ALISON GOODMAN's "The Two Pearls of Wisdom" (2008) for you to win. If you aren't familiar with this endearing fantasy title, you can read Trin's review here. She liked it quite a bit and calls it feminine and graceful; here is a snippet of what she had to say about it:

"...successfully manages to merge the essence of the Orient and a classical tale of a commoners (who is, in this case, also disadvantaged by being a cripple and a woman in a patriarchal society) rise to power and fame, all wrapped into a delightful story of intrigue, warfare and discovering one’s past. All in all, “The Two Pearls of Wisdom” is a very enjoyable read, which flows smoothly and never fails to hold your attention, but brings nothing new to the - full laden fantasy - table."

If you are interested in having this book for yourself send us and email at sf.fantasy.books[AT] (remember to replace [AT] with @) entitled "TWO PEARLS" and containing your full mailing address (name, surname, street etc.). Because our resources are of a very restricted nature we can't afford to mail the book overseas, alas. What it means is, that this particular giveaway is for European residents only. If you are a member of any particular message board you can include your nickname in the mail as well, but this is not obligatory.

Multiple entries and emails failing to follow the above guidelines will be disqualified.

We will announce the winners of the giveaway on May 31, 2009.

Good luck to all the participants!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Michael Moorcock - The Stealer of Souls (Free Fiction)

MICHAEL MOORCOCK is a legend of science fiction and fantasy. Period. Despite the fact that he has written quite a few distinguished literary novels (he never dedicated himself fully to fantasy or science fiction) he is nevertheless most known for his recurrent creation of the the Eternal Champion, where "Elric of Melniboné" and his adventures represent only one part of the Multiverse, but they are undoubtedly his most popular works to date. Elric is an anti-hero (he is the actual prototype for the anti-hero characters that came after him) written as a deliberate reversal of what Moorcock saw as clichés commonly found in fantasy adventure novels at that time (think Lord of the Rings or Conan).

In 2008, Del Rey Books reprinted the original, classic Elric material as a series of three illustrated books: "The Stealer of Souls", "To Rescue Tanelorn", and "The Sleeping Sorceress". Subsequent volumes appearing in 2009 (Duke Elric and Elric in the Dream Realms) and 2010 will reprint later material.

And now, "The Stealer of Souls" (the first reprinted book), is available for free and you can download it via following links: Download, Kindle, Sony Reader,

And if you are interested in synopsis:
When Michael Moorcock began chronicling the adventures of the albino sorcerer Elric, last king of decadent Melniboné, and his sentient vampiric sword, Stormbringer, he set out to create a new kind of fantasy adventure, one that broke with tradition and reflected a more up-to-date sophistication of theme and style. The result was a bold and unique hero’”weak in body, subtle in mind, dependent on drugs for the vitality to sustain himself’”with great crimes behind him and a greater destiny ahead: a rock-and-roll antihero who would channel all the violent excesses of the sixties into one enduring archetype.

Now, with a major film in development, here is the first volume of a dazzling collection of stories containing the seminal appearances of Elric and lavishly illustrated by award-winning artist John Picacio’”plus essays, letters, maps, and other material. Adventures include ‘The Dreaming City,’ ‘While the Gods Laugh,’ ‘Kings in Darkness,’ ‘Dead God’s Homecoming,’ ‘Black Sword’s Brothers,’ and ‘Sad Giant’s Shield.’

An indispensable addition to any fantasy collection, Elric: The Stealer of Souls is an unmatched introduction to a brilliant writer and his most famous’”or infamous’”creation.

Friday, May 1, 2009

May Day

For what is worth nowadays, we wish you all great 1st of May (International Workers' Day).
Everybody knows one can't live on principles and rights alone. But do bear in mind, that if we accept their suspension for the duration of a crisis then it's very likely that the crisis, at least for us, will never end.

Good luck to all of us!


blogger templates 3 columns | Make Money Online