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Unbound (Magic Ex Libris #3 ) by Jim C. Hines : Review

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For five hundred years, the Porters have concealed the existence of magic from the world. Now, old enemies have revealed the Porters’ secrets, and an even greater threat lurks in the  shadows. The would-be queen Meridiana, banished for a thousand years, has returned in the body of a girl named Jeneta Aboderin. She seeks an artifact created by Pope Sylvester II, a bronze prison that would grant her the power to command an army of the dead.

Unbound by Jim C. Hines, is without a doubt one of the most entertaining books I have read so far this year.

There is nothing more I enjoy more than books, whether its reading them, collecting them , or gifting them to friends. So to find a book where the main character’s love and obsession with the same books as myself is always cool. Then to see that same character reach into one of my favorite books and pull out an item from that world to defend himself or his friends and you have something that I found to be truly amazing.

Out of every magic system I’ve ever read about, only Unbound and the Magic Ex Libris series has one that I wish really existed– Libriomancy. Lets be honest, what book lover wouldn’t want to be a Libriomancer? The basic idea behind Libriomancy is that mass reading and/or belief in a book allows specially gifted people to reach into a book and bring a part of its world into ours. If you needed to sneak into some place unseen you may reach into Harry Potter and pull out an Invisiblity cloak, or if you needed a translator in a hurry you’d reach into a Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and pull out your very own Babel Fish. Hines even manages to lay down some basic rules for who or what can be pulled from a book, to keep such powerful artifacts like the One Ring from existing.

Aside from the magic system that I honestly couldn’t find any more fascinating, Unbound is just really interesting story wise. Former Porter and recently depowered Libriomancer Isaac Vainio has not been having a very good month. Not only has he been stripped of his position and power by Johanness Guttenberg, the leader of the Porters, but his young ward Jeneta Aboderin has been possessed by the an ancient sorceress hell bent on destroying the world.

Isaac is determined to save his Jeneta and the world both, and he doesn’t care who he has to cross among the Porters or the worlds supernatural community to do so. Without his powers Isaac is going to have to immerse himself in the world of black-magic and hope he doesn’t kill himself or his loved ones in the process. With his loyal fire-spider Smudge on his shoulder, his girlfriend the dryad warrior Lena Greenwood , and her girlfriend the former porter psychiatrist Nidhi Shah at his side, Isaac will attempt to do the impossible.

Out of everyone I know who reads, there really isn’t anyone I wouldn’t be willing to recommend this book to. There is just something really fun about seeing the main character from one book you enjoy, reaching into another and pulling a piece of it out. It’s also not just fantasy that Unbound or the Magic Ex Libris series references, it touches on every genre, so there is something for every body in the book.

While I think anyone will enjoy this book as much as I do, I would suggest anyone who hasn’t done so read the first two books in the series first– Libriomancer and Codex Born.

If you’d like to give it a listen, check out the audiobook preview of Unbound below, courtesy of Audible.

 

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2015 in Reviews, SJardine

 

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Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson : Review

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They told David it was impossible–that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet, Steelheart–invincible, immortal, unconquerable–is dead. And he died by David’s hand.

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life more simple. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And there’s no one in Newcago who can give him the answers he needs.

Babylon Restored, the old borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic, Regalia, David is sure Babylon Restored will lead him to what he needs to find. And while entering another city oppressed by a High Epic despot is a gamble, David’s willing to risk it. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic–

. And he’s willing to go on a quest darker, and more dangerous even, than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

I wasn’t really surprised at how good Brandon Sanderson’s Firefight was — the man is a writing machine. I don’t think it is possible for him to write a bad book, in fact I would be shocked to find a book of his I did not enjoy. What I did find surprising however, was how much better I found Firefight to be when compared to Steelheart. It has always been my opinion that Sanderson’s YA books read more like middle grade but with Firefight I didn’t find that to be the case. I feel like the characters deal with issues darker than ones Sanderson has broached before in one of his YA books. It really made the book that much more enjoyable.

In the first book of the series we meet David Charleston a teenage boy who has dedicated his life to the study of Epics in an attempt to learn their weaknesses in an attempt to bring down the Epic who killed his father–Steelheart. After joining a group of freedom fighters known as the Reckoners David is finally successful in his lifelong goal. He has killed Steelheart and the city of Newcago is finally free. But without his quest for vengeance to sustain him, David soon finds himself without goal or sense of purpose.

After another High Epic begins sending lesser Epics to Newcago to kill the Reckoners for daring to kill the cities ruler, David soon finds himself on his way half way across the country. David soon learns though, that everything is not as it seems in Babyilon Restored, the city formerly known as Manhattan, and he begins to question everything he thought he knew about Epics. Can an Epic be saved from his or her own power?

I really enjoyed how fast paced this book was, I burned through it in a single day and it wasn’t even because it was short. There was just so much action and every chapter ended on a one liner or cliffhanger that forced me to keep reading to know what happens next. I even found I enjoyed David a lot more this book than I did in Steelheart, he’s still as driven and motivated as before but he has a new goal and after the events of Steelheart he isn’t so narrow minded when it comes to Epics. He shows a lot more maturity, thought, and common sense than most of the adults in the book who are supposed to know better.

In addition to the awesome new setting and David’s new and improved attitude, the newly introduced Epics are really quite something. We get a really good look at the broad spectrum of super powers available, and get a good look at the fact that not all Epics are high powered, semi-invincible monsters. Firefight really throws some light onto just what the Epic’s are, where they get their powers, and why they corrupt them the way they seem to.

I was really disappointed in myself for finishing this book so fast, I kept telling myself I would take my time and spread it out over a few days. Now I have to wait an entire year for Calamity to released and to get the conclusion to the story that I desperately crave.

While I think anyone who is a fan of Brandon Sanderson, urban fantasy, or superhero fiction would enjoy this story, I really do suggest everyone reads Steelheart and the short story Mitosis first. I didn’t read Mitosis and I found myself a bit confused at time because of all the references, so I can only assume it will be 10 times worse to someone who hasn’t read the first book.

If you’re interested, check out this 5 minute clip from the Firefight audiobook courtesy of Audible.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2015 in Reviews, SJardine

 

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Must Read Urban Fantasy

I was sitting at my laptop the other day browsing through books to read, deciding what I wanted to reread when I realized that more and more these days I find myself leaning more towards urban fantasy over any other genre. I don’t know what it is about the genre that makes me love it so much, it can be difficult to find a decent book or series to read, and most seem to be erotica posing as fantasy. That got me wondering just what urban fantasy series there are out there that are fun to read, without being overly full of gratuitous sex and violence.

These are the top three or four authors and series I could think of who do an amazing job with the genre, and as I’m always looking for something else to read I would appreciate any other suggestions people may have for me.

The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher:

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Harry Dresden — Wizard Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.”

His name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden–conjure by it at your own risk. Harry is not just the only publicly practicing wizard in Chicago (look him up, he’s in the yellow pages), he’s also a licensed private eye, and an occasional consultant with the CPD. When the monsters decide it’s time to come out and play, it’s Harry Dresden who stands between them and the people of the city.

While I have heard people claim its rough getting through the first few books in the series, I can honestly say I never had any such problem. After I stumbled across these books while looking for something else at my local used book store, I burned through all 8 books that were available at the time in a matter of weeks, and was impatiently waiting for the next book in the series soon after. To me the Dresden Files has everything that’s needed for a great urban fantasy series.

First there are the characters. Harry Dresden is the wise-ass wizard who doesn’t know when to shut up or stand down. Time and time again he gets kicked in the teeth, but gets right back up again to face down the big bad monster threatening his beloved Chicago. Murphy is the mandatory tough as nails cop who has stumbled across the secret world that Harry lives in and is smart enough to know she can’t face it all on her own.

There are entire courts of vampires secretly trying to rule or destroy the world, a hidden world of demons and fae who live by morals and laws most mortals would struggle to understand, and a plot that links each book so subtly that you can only see the edges of it in the beginning of the series.

Unfortunately for me the Dresden Files has made it difficult for me to enjoy and other urban fantasy series as much as I probably would have if I had read it first.

The Mercy Thompson Series by Patricia Briggs:

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“I was going to fight vampires, and my name wasn’t Buffy–I was so screwed.”

I struggled for years after finding the Dresden Files to find another book or series in the sub genre that didn’t pale in comparison, or feel like a cheap knock off to me. For me Moon Called by Patricia Briggs was that book and series. While most of the preternatural world can trace its origins back to Europe, shifters are rooted firmly in Native American myths and legends. As such they don’t always follow the same ancient rules and laws that govern the rest of the preternatural world.

Mercy Thompson is a Shifter who can take the form of a coyote at will. This series follows Mercy as she struggles to survive in a world of territorial and powerful werewolves, vampires and fae. All while attempting to keep her maintain her garage and keep her job as a mechanic.

For me the best part of this series is the world and culture that Briggs has built up around the werewolves. It’s so well thought out that it would be easy for me to believe that such a world is hiding in the shadows of society, waiting for the perfect time to come out to the public. Anyone who is a fan of vampire or werewolf fiction would absolutely love these books. Briggs even manages to balance the romance with the rest of the story, which I’ve noticed that not many urban fantasy authors can do.

The Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews:

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“What kind of woman greets the Beast Lord with ‘here, kitty, kitty’?”

With the Kate Daniels series Ilona takes all the greatest trope of urban fantasy–the secret hidden world of magic, vampires, and shape shifters and completely throws it out of the window. Instead we get an alternate version of Atlanta where magic and technology come in waves, while one is active and working the other is not. During a magic wave you may see a banshee screaming from a telephone pole out in front of your house or a magical war being fought in downtown Atlanta, but you won’t have use of telephones, television or cars. When the technology is up you may not have access to your magic, but you can you’ll have electricity and and the telephones will work again.

In this bizarre alternate Atlanta most of the world is controlled or protected by various guilds and organizations. Kate Daniels works for the Mercenaries Guild, when the magic suddenly comes up and you have a giant fire-breathing lizard loose in your neighborhood, Kate Daniels is going to be the one who responds (For a reasonable fee!).

This is another series where for me the deciding factor was the amount of thought and detail put into the various preternatural groups that exist in the world. This time its not just werewolves who hide among us, but werebears, wererats, and any other type of lycanthrope you can think of. Vampires are mindless creatures being controlled by the People, a group of power hungry necromancers who mentally control the dead.

The only thing I didn’t really realize until I was through the majority of the first book is that this is mostly paranormal romance. By the time I realized that fact though it was too late to go back, I was already hooked, and I am more than glad for it. To me the Kate Daniels series is that anyone of the genre must read!

Honorable Mention: Mercedes Lackey

I was going to put Mercedes Lackey’s urban fantasy books on this list, but I quickly remembered she has four different series in the genre. The great thing about her four different series to me is that they all exist in a shared universe that spans hundreds if not thousands of years, and there are cameos from the same characters across all the various books set in her world.

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Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Reviews, SJardine, Thoughts

 

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The Zombie Combat Field Guide: A Coloring and Activity Book For Fighting the Living Dead by Roger Ma : Review

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The Zombie Combat Manual provided potential zombie fighters with comprehensive instructions on how to do battle in the inevitable outbreak of an undead plague. However, even the most comprehensive advice is useless without study and practice.

Thus, the Institute for Undead Combat Studies has created an essential field handbook to help combatants of the walking dead hone their fighting skills, ensuring maximum preparedness for the zombie apocalypse. This interactive guide includes:
Detailed technique illustrations, anatomical diagrams, and zombie combat drawings you can color
Puzzles and brain exercises to help remember key combat terminology
Work pages on making the right choices during an undead outbreak
and much more!
Anyone can become an effective warrior against the walking dead. Make sure you’re ready to fight when the time comes—or prepare to join the zombie horde…

When I first accepted the offer to review this title, I didn’t take the time to consider the fact that not only had I never reviewed a colouring book before, I also had no idea how to review one. What would I say? That the lines were especially easy to stay within, without being too confining to ones artistic creativity? That the outlines of the undead creatures were really inspiring, and that I didn’t put down my crayons until even the gaps in the letters were filled in?

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Fair warning, it will try to make you do exercise.

 

Fortunately, after going through The Zombie Combat Field Guide, I found that my worries were (mostly) unfounded. This activity book was a delight, and I enjoyed it.

Receiving this activity book in the mail was the most excited I’d ever been about receiving a colouring book in years. There’s more to this little booklet than meets the eyes.. There are questionnaires and trivia, and illustrated guides. All for the sole purpose of getting you prepared for the hoards of the undead.

This is something that primarily pre-teen/young teenage boys would enjoy the most. Scratch that. No. This is an essential item for every zombie lover, with a desire to spend an evening colouring, and learning their role in the apocalyptic world. You will finish this activity book with a working knowledge of your strengths and weaknesses, as well as those of your enemy. You’ll know how best to defeat them, and what weapons will be able your best option. In short, if you’ve ever wondered where the best place to stab a zombie in the head is for maximum effectiveness, then this is for you.

The Zombie Combat Field Guide: A Coloring and Activity Book For Fighting the Living Dead by Roger Ma was released today, January 6th 2015.

I received a free copy of this publication from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
 
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Posted by on January 5, 2015 in Reviews, RLovatt

 

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Most Anticipated Fantasy Books of 2015

Happy New Year!

Continuing with yesterday’s post (Best Books of 2014), here are the books we’re looking forward to the most in 2015. Descriptions, release dates, and covers have been added where possible.

Shane’s (SJardine):

The Aeronaut’s Windlass (Cinderspires #1) by Jim Butcher:

The Cinder Spires is set in a world “of black spires that tower for miles over a mist-shrouded surface” and follows a war between two of the Spires: Spire Albion and Spire Aurora.

It’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen meets Sherlock meets Hornblower. There are goggles and airships and steam power and bizarre crystal technology and talking cats, who are horrid little bullies. – From Goodreads

I’m not 100 percent positive that this book will be published in 2015, but I really hope it is. Jim Butcher is one of my favorite authors, and if anyone can pull off a great Steampunk novel, he can.

Fool’s Quest (Fits and the Fool #2) by Robin Hobb:

This will be the continuation of Hobb’s the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, and I find myself checking daily to see if any more information has been released about it. I can’t wait to find out what happens after the events of Fool’s Assassin. Fitzchivalry Farseer never seems to catch a break.

Tentative publication date: August 11th 2015 by Del Rey

Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels #8) by Ilona Andrews:

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Mercenary Kate Daniels and her Mate, former Beast Lord Curran Lennart, have broken with Pack, but Curran misses challenges of leading, so he grabs when Pack offers him its stake in the Mercenary Guild. As a veteran merc, Kate can take over Guild’s unfinished jobs, not knowing they are connected. An old enemy has arisen.Goodreads

The Kate Daniels series is another Urban Fantasy series I’ve discovered in the last few months that I burned through in just a couple days. The name Magic Shifts sounds like it will describe this next book perfect, everything is starting to change for Kate and Curran.

Expected publication: August 4th 2015 by Ace

The Iron Ghost (Copper Promise #2) by Jen Williams:

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Beware the dawning of a new mage…

Wydrin of Crosshaven, Sir Sebastian and Lord Aaron Frith are experienced in the perils of stirring up the old gods. They are also familiar with defeating them, and the heroes of Baneswatch are now enjoying the perks of suddenly being very much in demand for their services.

When a job comes up in the distant city of Skaldshollow, it looks like easy coin – retrieve a stolen item, admire the views, get paid. But in a place twisted and haunted by ancient magic, with the most infamous mage of them all, Joah Demonsworn, making a reappearance, our heroes soon find themselves threatened by enemies on all sides, old and new. And in the frozen mountains, the stones are walking… - Goodreads

I don’t think this series has a publisher in the US yet, so I’m probably going to have to convince one of my friends across the pond to send me a copy. I enjoyed the first one enough that I’m willing to pay international shipping just to get my copy of it.

Expected publication: February 26th 2015 by Headline

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Posted by on January 1, 2015 in ARamone, melissakat42, RLovatt, SJardine

 

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