The Year of the Witching

Did not finish this one. . . And it's been a long time since I haven't been able to reach the end of a book. =(

Though the novel is marketed as an adult fantasy book, it is YA through and through. I managed to reach page 220 before I had to quit. Had I known it was YA, I would never have given it a shot.

I hate it when publicists/editors mislead reviewers like this. =(

It's supposed to be The Handmaid's Tale meets The Village, but The Year of the Witching is neither. More often than not, it's a heavy-handed tale set against a backdrop of poor worldbuilding. Sort of a poor woman's version of Atwood's classic featuring black people.

I was expecting a more nuanced adult work that echoed with depth, not a black and white YA book with no shades of gray, featuring wooden characters and very little worldbuilding.

Here's the blurb:

A young woman living in a rigid, puritanical society discovers dark powers within herself in this stunning, feminist fantasy debut.

In the lands of Bethel, where the Prophet’s word is law, Immanuelle Moore’s very existence is blasphemy. Her mother’s union with an outsider of a different race cast her once-proud family into disgrace, so Immanuelle does her best to worship the Father, follow Holy Protocol, and lead a life of submission, devotion, and absolute conformity, like all the other women in the settlement.

But a mishap lures her into the forbidden Darkwood surrounding Bethel, where the first prophet once chased and killed four powerful witches. Their spirits are still lurking there, and they bestow a gift on Immanuelle: the journal of her dead mother, who Immanuelle is shocked to learn once sought sanctuary in the wood.

Fascinated by the secrets in the diary, Immanuelle finds herself struggling to understand how her mother could have consorted with the witches. But when she begins to learn grim truths about the Church and its history, she realizes the true threat to Bethel is its own darkness. And she starts to understand that if Bethel is to change, it must begin with her.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 25th)

In hardcover:

Charles Soule's Star Wars: Light of the Jedi is down three positions, ending the week at number 4.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue returns at number 7.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player Two maintains its position at number 11.

Mini reviews part 2

As you know, due to depression I had no choice but to resign myself to the fact that I've fallen too far behind concerning my reviews. So much so that it became impossible for me to get back up to date and write those reviews of the books I've read in November and December.

So here are a few thoughts about each novel.

But now that 2021 is here, hopefully I'll be in a better state of mind and can resume my reviewing duties on a regular basis.

- Silvia Moreno-Garcia's Mexican Gothic 6.5/10:

Well-written book featuring a frivolous, headstrong, and fashion-oriented protagonist with a good heart and a tendency to make dumb decisions. The author has a wonderful eye for historical details, but she focuses too much on descriptions and every last stitch of embroidery, and not enough on the tale itself. Starts particularly well, but peters out as the story progresses. The lack of a true ending felt like a cop-out.

- Joe Abercrombie's The Trouble With Peace 7.5/10:

An interesting sequel, but not as good as its predecessor. Like many readers, I felt that the revolution fell into place rather too easily. But there's no denying that the finale was thrilling and that this second installment sets the stage for what should be a great final volume.

- Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft 8/10:

A terrific read for any aspiring writer, but also for any Stephen King fan. I found the author's memories from his childhood and teenage years to be as enjoyable as the insights regarding his career. Sometimes even more so than his advice on the craft!

- Camilla Läckberg's The Girl in the Woods 7/10:

One of Scandinavian Noir's most popular authors, I had been meaning to read something from Läckberg for years. This one was a good enough thriller, but the intrigue got bogged down by those medieval curse and Syrian refugees storylines. Thrillers are supposed to be page-turners that keep you missing your bedtime or cursing the fact that you must go back to work. This one was too long and too convoluted for its own good.

- J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 7.5/10:

Another book that would have benefited from a smaller pagecount. When it's good, it's very good. Unfortunately, there are too many scenes/chapters filled with extraneous material that bring little or nothing in the greater scheme of things. And I know he's just 15 or 16, but it would be nice if Harry grew up a little and wasn't always so dense. . .

- Peter F. Hamilton's The Saints of Salvation 8/10:

Conclusion to what has been a quality space opera trilogy. Like other readers, I also had reservations regarding the neutron star people plot thread and how convenient it turned out to be. But everything about Finalstrike and all that had to do with the showdown against the Olyix was great. Hamilton left the door open for possible sequels. Whether or not he'll ever return to explore those loose ends remains to be seen. . .

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 18th)

In hardcover:

Charles Soule's Star Wars: Light of the Jedi debuts at number 1.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player Two is down seven positions, ending the week at number 11.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

Once again, you can download N. K. Jemisin's How Long 'til Black Future Month for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Three-time Hugo Award winner and NYT bestselling author N. K. Jemisin sharply examines modern society in her first collection of short fiction.

N. K. Jemisin is one of the most powerful and acclaimed authors of our time. In the first collection of her evocative short fiction, which includes never-before-seen stories, Jemisin equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption.

Spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story "The City Born Great," a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis's soul.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download R. F. Kuang's The Burning God for only 3.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

The exciting end to The Poppy War trilogy, R. F. Kuang’s acclaimed, award-winning epic fantasy that combines the history of twentieth-century China with a gripping world of gods and monsters, to devastating, enthralling effect.

After saving her nation of Nikan from foreign invaders and battling the evil Empress Su Daji in a brutal civil war, Fang Runin was betrayed by allies and left for dead.

Despite her losses, Rin hasn’t given up on those for whom she has sacrificed so much—the people of the southern provinces and especially Tikany, the village that is her home. Returning to her roots, Rin meets difficult challenges—and unexpected opportunities. While her new allies in the Southern Coalition leadership are sly and untrustworthy, Rin quickly realizes that the real power in Nikan lies with the millions of common people who thirst for vengeance and revere her as a goddess of salvation.

Backed by the masses and her Southern Army, Rin will use every weapon to defeat the Dragon Republic, the colonizing Hesperians, and all who threaten the shamanic arts and their practitioners. As her power and influence grows, though, will she be strong enough to resist the Phoenix’s intoxicating voice urging her to burn the world and everything in it?

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Mark Lawrence's The Girl and the Stars for only 1.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In the ice, east of the Black Rock, there is a hole into which broken children are thrown.

On Abeth the vastness of the ice holds no room for individuals. Survival together is barely possible. No one survives alone.

To resist the cold, to endure the months of night when even the air itself begins to freeze, requires a special breed. Variation is dangerous, difference is fatal. And Yaz is not the same.

Yaz is torn from the only life she’s ever known, away from her family, from the boy she thought she would spend her days with, and has to carve out a new path for herself in a world whose existence she never suspected. A world full of difference and mystery and danger.

Yaz learns that Abeth is older and stranger than she had ever imagined. She learns that her weaknesses are another kind of strength. And she learns to challenge the cruel arithmetic of survival that has always governed her people.

Only when it’s darkest you can see the stars.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Michael Johnston's Soleri for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

Michael Johnston brings you the first in a new epic fantasy series inspired by ancient Egyptian history and King Lear.

The ruling family of the Soleri Empire has been in power longer than even the calendars that stretch back 2,826 years. Those records tell a history of conquest and domination by a people descended from gods, older than anything in the known world. No living person has seen them for centuries, yet their grip on their four subjugate kingdoms remains tighter than ever.

On the day of the annual eclipse, the Harkan king, Arko-Hark Wadi, sets off on a hunt and shirks his duty rather than bow to the emperor. Ren, his son and heir, is a prisoner in the capital, while his daughters struggle against their own chains. Merit, the eldest, has found a way to stand against imperial law and marry the man she desires, but needs her sister’s help, and Kepi has her own ideas.

Meanwhile, Sarra Amunet, Mother Priestess of the sun god’s cult, holds the keys to the end of an empire and a past betrayal that could shatter her family.

Detailed and historical, vast in scope and intricate in conception, Soleri bristles with primal magic and unexpected violence. It is a world of ancient and elaborate rites, of unseen power and kingdoms ravaged by war, where victory comes with a price, and every truth conceals a deeper secret.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 11th)

In hardcover:

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up eleven spots, finishing the week at number 2.

Ernest Cline's Ready Player Two is down two positions, ending the week at number 4.

Nora Roberts' The Awakening is down two positions, ending the week at number 13.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now get your hands on the digital edition of Guy Gavriel Kay's amazing Tigana for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

A masterful epic of magic, politics, war, and the power of love and hate — from the renowned author of The Fionavar Tapestry and Children of Earth and Sky.

Tigana is the magical story of a beleaguered land struggling to be free. It is the tale of a people so cursed by the black sorcery of a cruel despotic king that even the name of their once-beautiful homeland cannot be spoken or remembered...

But years after the devastation, a handful of courageous men and women embark upon a dangerous crusade to overthrow their conquerors and bring back to the dark world the brilliance of a long-lost name...Tigana.

Against the magnificently rendered background of a world both sensuous and barbaric, this sweeping epic of a passionate people pursuing their dream is breathtaking in its vision, changing forever the boundaries of fantasy fiction.

Extract from Steven Erikson's THE FIENDS OF NIGHTMARIA

The folks at just posted an extract from The Fiends of Nightmaria, an upcoming novella from Steven Erikson.

Here's the blurb:

The king is dead, long live King Bauchelain the First, crowned by the Grand Bishop Korbal Broach. Both are, of course, ably assisted in the running of the Kingdom of Farrog by their slowly unravelling servant, Emancipor Reese. However, tensions are mounting between Farrog and the neighboring country of Nightmaria, the mysterious home of the Fiends. Their ambassador, Ophal D Neeth Flatroq, seeks an audience with King Bauchelain, who has thus far rebuffed his overtures. But the necromancer has some other things on his plate.

To quell potential rebellion nearly all the artists, poets, and bards in the city have been put to death. A few survivors languish in the dungeons, bemoaning their fates. Well, just moaning in general really…and maybe plotting escape and revenge.

Follow this link to read the extract. =)

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (January 4th)

In hardcover:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player Two maintains position at number 2.

Stephen King's If It Bleeds is up four spots, finishing the week at number 7.

Nora Roberts' The Awakening is down two positions, ending the week at number 11.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is up one spot, finishing the week at number 13.

In paperback:

Stephen King's The Stand is up three positions, ending the week at number 10.

Stephen King's The Institute is up three spots, finishing the week at number 12 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's The Outsider returns at number 15 (trade paperback).

Progress Report

Back in early September,

You may recall that I revealed that I've resumed writing after a 12-year hiatus while battling depression due to the pandemic. Things were crazy and the story was progressing at a pace that was a little frightening. I don't know if it's because I've had these ideas and concepts and characters in my mind for so many years, but in a little over 5 months I had written 431 manuscript pages.

Well, everything kept falling into place and I continued to write at the same crazy pace. On December 9th, not quite 9 months after starting working on this project, I finished the first draft of The Evil That Men Do! =)

The plan was to let it lie there for a couple of weeks and then get back in the saddle during the Holidays to work on the 2nd draft. There are two timelines, the past and the present, and à la GRRM early on I elected to work on them separately instead of alternating between the two. Finished working on the past timeline, which represents about 75% of the tale, on September 28th. My crazy pace slowed down a bit when I switched gears, but I was still producing 50+ manuscript pages a month while completing the present timeline's sequences.

As planned, I started working on the second draft on December 27th. Incorporating scenes from both timelines and putting together a cohesive and well-balanced whole was tricky at times, but overall I believe I did a good job. Finished putting the second draft together on Tuesday and now I'm going through another rewrite to make sure that everything works well. The manuscript currently weighs in at about 164,000 words and 593 manuscript pages.

I wanted to wait till the 3rd draft was done before querying my agent to see if he wanted to take a look at it, but I caved in. It's been a decade since he made any money with me, so I wasn't sure if he'd be willing to give the manuscript a shot. But while he waits for the new Tad Williams and Patrick Rothfuss, why not, right?

Well, I'm pleased to report that he's delighted to discover that I've written a new novel and he wants to read it! =) You guys know how hard it is to find an agent, so I wasn't looking forward to going through the process once again. I'll be forwarding him the manuscript as soon as I'm done with the 3rd draft.

I know it doesn't mean anything, but I'm excited! ;)

As I mentioned, it's Glen Cook's The Black Company meets Steven Erikson's The Bridgeburners meets GRRM's A Game of Thrones. I have ideas for a sequel titled Blood for Blood and a prequel titled The Gallipo Uprising.

I'll be keeping my fingers crossed and hope for the best. =) And I'll keep writing, no matter what. That 12-year hiatus was a mistake and I need to make up for lost time!

Wish me luck!

Wonder Woman 1984 Pitch Meeting

Spoilers alert. But it covers everything that's wrong with the movie.

You might want to check it out before forking out your hard-earned dough to watch WW84. Especially if, like us in Canada, you'd have to pay around 30$ to watch it legally. . . :/

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can download Brian Staveley's The Emperor's Blades for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

In The Emperor's Blades by Brian Staveley, the emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods.

Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, learning the enigmatic discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power he must master before it's too late.

An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral, elite soldiers who fly into battle on gigantic black hawks. But before he can set out to save Kaden, Valyn must survive one horrific final test.

At the heart of the empire, Minister Adare, elevated to her station by one of the emperor's final acts, is determined to prove herself to her people. But Adare also believes she knows who murdered her father, and she will stop at nothing—and risk everything—to see that justice is meted out.

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Nnedi Okorafor's Binti: The Complete Trilogy for only 4.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link.

Here's the blurb:

Includes a brand-new Binti story!

Collected for the first time in an omnibus edition, the Hugo- and Nebula-award-winning Binti trilogy, the story of one extraordinary girl's journey from her home to distant Oomza University.

In her Hugo- and Nebula-winning novella, Nnedi Okorafor introduced us to Binti, a young Himba girl with the chance of a lifetime: to attend the prestigious Oomza University. Despite her family's concerns, Binti's talent for mathematics and her aptitude with astrolabes make her a prime candidate to undertake this interstellar journey.

But everything changes when the jellyfish-like Medusae attack Binti's spaceship, leaving her the only survivor. Now, Binti must fend for herself, alone on a ship full of the beings who murdered her crew, with five days until she reaches her destination.

There is more to the history of the Medusae--and their war with the Khoush--than first meets the eye. If Binti is to survive this voyage and save the inhabitants of the unsuspecting planet that houses Oomza Uni, it will take all of her knowledge and talents to broker the peace.

Collected now for the first time in omnibus form, follow Binti's story in this groundbreaking sci-fi trilogy.

This week's New York Times Bestsellers (December 28th)

In hardcover:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player Two is down one position, ending the week at number 2.

Nora Roberts' The Awakening maintains its position at number 9.

Stephen King's If It Bleeds returns at number 11.

V.E. Schwab's The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue returns at number 14.

In paperback:

Ernest Cline's Ready Player One is down one position, ending the week at number 10 (trade paperback).

Stephen King's The Stand returns at number 13.

Stephen King's The Institute is down three spots, finishing the week at number 15 (trade paperback).

More inexpensive ebook goodies!

You can now download Helene Wecker's excellent The Golem and the Jinni for only 2.99$ by following this Amazon Associate link!

Here's the blurb:

Helene Wecker's dazzling debut novel tells the story of two supernatural creatures who appear mysteriously in 1899 New York. Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a strange man who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York Harbor. Ahmad is a jinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian Desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop.

Struggling to make their way in this strange new place, the Golem and the Jinni try to fit in with their neighbors while masking their true natures. Surrounding them is a community of immigrants: the coffeehouse owner Maryam Faddoul, a pillar of wisdom and support for her Syrian neighbors; the solitary ice cream maker Saleh, a damaged man cursed by tragedy; the kind and caring Rabbi Meyer and his beleaguered nephew, Michael, whose Sheltering House receives newly arrived Jewish men; the adventurous young socialite Sophia Winston; and the enigmatic Joseph Schall, a dangerous man driven by ferocious ambition and esoteric wisdom.

Meeting by chance, the two creatures become unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures, until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful menace will soon bring the Golem and the Jinni together again, threatening their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Marvelous and compulsively readable, The Golem and the Jinni weaves strands of folk mythology, historical fiction, and magical fable into a wondrously inventive and unforgettable tale.

You can also get your hands on the digital edition of Kel Kade's Fate of the Fallen for only 2.99$ here.

Here's the blurb:

Not all stories have happy endings.

Everyone loves Mathias. Naturally, when he discovers it’s his destiny to save the world, he dives in head first, pulling his best friend Aaslo along for the ride.

However, saving the world isn’t as easy, or exciting, as it sounds in the stories. The going gets rough and folks start to believe their best chance for survival is to surrender to the forces of evil, which isn’t how the prophecy goes. At all. As the list of allies grows thin, and the friends find themselves staring death in the face they must decide how to become the heroes they were destined to be or, failing that, how to survive.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

Finally, you can get your hands on the digital edition of Neal Stephenson's Seveneves for only 3.99$ here. There is a price match in Canada.

Here's the blurb:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Anathem, Reamde, and Cryptonomicon comes an exciting and thought-provoking science fiction epic—a grand story of annihilation and survival spanning five thousand years.

What would happen if the world were ending?

A catastrophic event renders the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space.

But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers, until only a handful of survivors remain . . .

Five thousand years later, their progeny—seven distinct races now three billion strong—embark on yet another audacious journey into the unknown . . . to an alien world utterly transformed by cataclysm and time: Earth.

A writer of dazzling genius and imaginative vision, Neal Stephenson combines science, philosophy, technology, psychology, and literature in a magnificent work of speculative fiction that offers a portrait of a future that is both extraordinary and eerily recognizable. As he did in Anathem, Cryptonomicon, the Baroque Cycle, and Reamde, Stephenson explores some of our biggest ideas and perplexing challenges in a breathtaking saga that is daring, engrossing, and altogether brilliant.