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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: A Column of Fire by Ken Follett

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

A Column of Fire by Ken Follett
Expected publication: September 12, 2017 by Viking

International bestselling author Ken Follett has enthralled millions of readers with The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End, two stories of the Middle Ages set in the fictional city of Kingsbridge. The saga now continues with Follett’s magnificent new epic, A Column of Fire.

In 1558, the ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn apart by religious conflict. As power in England shifts precariously between Catholics and Protestants, royalty and commoners clash, testing friendship, loyalty, and love.

Ned Willard wants nothing more than to marry Margery Fitzgerald. But when the lovers find themselves on opposing sides of the religious conflict dividing the country, Ned goes to work for Princess Elizabeth. When she becomes queen, all Europe turns against England. The shrewd, determined young monarch sets up the country’s first secret service to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions, and invasion plans. Over a turbulent half century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. Elizabeth clings to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents.

The real enemies, then as now, are not the rival religions. The true battle pitches those who believe in tolerance and compromise against the tyrants who would impose their ideas on everyone else—no matter what the cost.

Set during one of the most turbulent and revolutionary times in history, A Column of Fire is one of Follett’s most exciting and ambitious works yet. It will delight longtime fans of the Kingsbridge series and is the perfect introduction for readers new to Ken Follett.


I don't read a lot of historical fiction, but The Pillars of the Earth & World Without End are two book that I enjoyed (and appreciate) immensely. Hard to believe it's been 10 years, but I'm definitely up for the next chapter.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.



A pair of dark new titles this week, one from a fellow Canuck and the other from a scholar of Cenobites:

Worship Me by Craig Stewart
[August 1, 2017]
Something is listening to the prayers of St. Paul’s United Church, but it’s not the god they asked for; it’s something much, much older.

Before by Paul Kane
[September 5, 2017]
Described as "the dark fantasy version of Cloud Atlas," Kane's BEFORE is as wide in scope as it is in imagination


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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

I'm just starting in on a few titles, so we'll see if they grab me - Sip by Brian Allen Carr and Wrath of the Ancients by Catherine Cavendish.


   

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Fantasy Review: The Black Elfstone by Terry Brooks

It has been a very long time since I last read a Terry Brooks novel but, as was the case with Raymond E. Feist bringing his Riftwar Cycle to a close, the prospect of seeing Shannara come to an end brought me back.

The Black Elfstone feels very much like a return to form for Brooks, despite it's disappointing page count and its unprecedented weight of darkness. It's a broad-sweeping epic fantasy, with multiple stories intertwined, a dire threat to the Druids, and a seemingly unstoppable force marching upon The Four Lands.

Everything and everyone here are in conflict, ranging from the intimate (between individuals) to the massive (between races). The only problem is, with such a short novel to kick-off the series, it isn't always clear how or why those conflicts are relevant. For instance, the whole storyline with Tarsha Kaynin' brother is a bit muddled, although I suspect his magical madness is establishing him as a foil for his sister somewhere down the line.

The characters are reasonably strong and interesting, something Brooks has always excelled at, but their motivations are somewhat suspect. For instance, Drisker Arc is an ex-Druid who evokes memories of Allanon, complete with his estrangement from Paranor, but his willingness to trust in old foes is foolish. Similarly. Dar Leah is a swashbuckling sort of hero, at the forefront of the action throughout the book, but it seems like he can't decide on when to take a stand - and it costs him. Finally, Tarsha Kaynin may be one of the strongest female characters Brooks has written, but even she can't decide between loyalties and impulsive frustration.

What ultimately redeems all of those flaws, however, is the finale. The Black Elfstone has a big climax, and pays off beautifully.

Hardcover, 318 pages
Published June 13th 2017 by Del Rey Books

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey
Expected publication: September 3, 2017 by Angry Robot

An apprentice sorceress is dragged into a vicious quest across an endless sky in this Star Wars-inspired space fantasy

The Axiom Diamond is a mythical relic, with the power to show its bearer any truth they desire. Men have sought for it across many continents for centuries, but in vain. When trainee sorceress Aimee de Laurent’s first ever portal-casting goes awry, she and her mentor are thrown into the race to find the gem, on the skyship Elysium. Opposing them are the infamous magic-wielding knights of the Eternal Order and their ruthless commander, Lord Azrael, who will destroy everything in their path...


I actually landed an ARC of this last week, so I won't be waiting quite as long as many of you, but I think you'll agree this sounds like a whole lot of awesome.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.



Just when I thought I was getting caught up on the review pile, a whole shelf-load of requests came through, including:

Skyfarer by Joseph Brassey
[September 5, 2017]

The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford
[September 12, 2017]

   

Paperbacks from Hell: A History of Horror Fiction from the '70s and '80s by Grady Hendrix
[September 19, 2017]


Wrath of the Ancients by Catherine Cavendish
[October 24, 2017]

   

Bubba and the Cosmic Blood-Suckers by Joe R. Lansdale
[October 31, 2017]

Seventh Decimate by Stephen R. Donaldson
[November 14, 2017]

   

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

While I'm still enjoying Weldon Burge's Zippered Flesh 3 and Terry Brooks' The Black Elfstone, it's been a rough week and I've been in a foul mood. So, rather than take out my anger on the people around me, I've reached into my Laymon/Lee/Little paperback shelf and indulged in some cruel horror escapism with Dispatch.


   


What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Horror Review: Harkworth Hall by L.S. Johnson

Harkworth Hall is one of the most interesting stories I have read in quite a while. It's a deceptive piece of literature that seems to be one thing, but which has a whole other story lurking beneath the surface. L.S. Johnson simultaneously captures the feel of old-school Gothic romance and Victorian horror beautifully, but imbues it all with some contemporary sort of sexual confidence.

Rather than being your typical gothic protagonist, Caroline is a strong, confident woman, not afraid to play a role outside her father's approval. Mr. Masterson is an interesting twist on the gothic antagonist, a seemingly suave and sophisticated gentleman with ulterior motives, but it is Mr. Chase who brings the whole story together. Minor spoiler here, but he is actually a heroine in disguise, a woman who kindles an inappropriate spark within Caroline while working to expose her employer.

On top of the Gothic romance and Victorian horror, there is also a paranormal thriller that, perhaps, fits a bit awkwardly within the final pages, but makes for an enjoyable whole. Harkworth Hall wasn't at all what I was expecting, and it's all the better for the surprise.

Paperback, 164 pages
Published August 1st 2017 by Traversing Z Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Core by Peter V. Brett

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Since Jill is no longer hosting it, I'm joining Can’t Wait Wednesday movement over at Wishful Endings.

The Core by Peter V. Brett
Expected publication: October 3, 2017 by Del Rey

New York Times bestselling author Peter V. Brett brings one of the most imaginative fantasy sagas of the twenty-first century to an epic close.

For time out of mind, bloodthirsty demons have stalked the night, culling the human race to scattered remnants dependent on half-forgotten magics to protect them. Then two heroes arose—men as close as brothers, yet divided by bitter betrayal. Arlen Bales became known as the Warded Man, tattooed head to toe with powerful magic symbols that enable him to fight demons in hand-to-hand combat—and emerge victorious. Jardir, armed with magically warded weapons, called himself the Deliverer, a figure prophesied to unite humanity and lead them to triumph in Sharak Ka—the final war against demonkind.

But in their efforts to bring the war to the demons, Arlen and Jardir have set something in motion that may prove the end of everything they hold dear—a Swarm. Now the war is at hand, and humanity cannot hope to win it unless Arlen and Jardir, with the help of Arlen’s wife, Renna, can bend a captured demon prince to their will and force the devious creature to lead them to the Core, where the Mother of Demons breeds an inexhaustible army.

Trusting their closest confidantes, Leesha, Inevera, Ragen, and Elissa, to rally the fractious people of the Free Cities and lead them against the Swarm, Arlen, Renna, and Jardir set out on a desperate quest into the darkest depths of evil—from which none of them expects to return alive.


I'm anxious to see how Brett wraps up the story, but so far my requests are pending on both NetGalley and Edelweiss. Who knows, maybe the publisher will see this and click that approve button. :)

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Memories of The Gunslinger (with The Dark Tower #giveaway)

I remember when The Gunslinger was an extremely rare, limited edition, highly sought after piece of Stephen King memorabilia. A collection five short stories, previously published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction between 1978 and 1981, that first novel had only 10,000 copies printed.

Compare that to Cujo, which was published the year before with 150,000 copies; Christine, which was published the same year with 270,000 copies; and Pet Sematary, which was published the year after with 250,000 copies; and you begin to get an idea of just how rare that first edition was.

Oddly enough, it was a book that might have slipped under the radar for most readers, if not for the fact that it was listed in Pet Sematary's bibliography. Here was this mysterious Stephen King novel that nobody had ever seen, and that wasn't carried in any bookstore. It was a mystery and that, of course, made fans like myself rabid for any news they could find about it.

It would be a long wait.

In fact, it wasn't until 1988 that The Gunslinger received its first mass market release, following publication of The Drawing of the Three and The Waste Lands, as a trade paperback edition that I still have on my shelf today. Then, in 2003, it joined the ranks of The Stand as the only King titles to get a revised and expanded edition - although that almost didn't happen.

Wizard and Glass was published in 1997, and then King nearly died in the infamous van accident less than 2 years later. With his frantic writing pace having slowed to a crawl, he even declared at one point that, due to the pain and his own frustration with his injuries, he would stop altogether - unless he came up with "something really, really good." Just when it seemed The Dark Tower saga might remain forever unfinished, that revised edition surprised everyone, with books 5, 6, and 7 - Wolves of the Calla, Song of Susannah, and The Dark Tower - coming out one after another during 2003 and 2004.

Now, after a decade of talks, including major plans with both J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard, Nikolaj Arcel is poised to finally bring the story to the big screen later this week.

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About the Book

The Dark Tower I: The Gunslinger
by Stephen King

Soon to be a major motion picture starring Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba

“An impressive work of mythic magnitude that may turn out to be Stephen King’s greatest literary achievement” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), The Gunslinger is the first volume in the epic Dark Tower Series.

A #1 national bestseller, The Gunslinger introduces readers to one of Stephen King’s most powerful creations, Roland of Gilead: The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which mirrors our own in frightening ways, Roland tracks The Man in Black, encounters an enticing woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the boy from New York named Jake.

Inspired in part by the Robert Browning narrative poem, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came,” The Gunslinger is “a compelling whirlpool of a story that draws one irretrievable to its center” (Milwaukee Sentinel). It is “brilliant and fresh…and will leave you panting for more” (Booklist).

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Giveaway

Thanks to the good people at Simon & Schuster Canada, I have one (1) copy of the movie tie-in edition to give away - Canadian mailing addresses only.

To enter, just leave a comment below with your favorite Stephen King book and I'll draw a random winner on Friday . . . just in time to catch the premiere!