August Whispersync Deal Roundup

While I’ve continued the daily #WhispersyncDeal posts on Facebook/Twitter, with another month has come another set of month-long Whispersync deals, both in Amazon’s monthly Kindle deal listings and beyond. First those “official” deals, starting with sci-fi and fantasy:

Carniepunk | Rachel Caine,Rob Thurman,Kevin Hearne,Seanan McGuire,Jennifer Estep,Allison Pang,Kelly Gay,Delilah S. Dawson,Kelly Meding Fuzzy Nation | John Scalzi The 39 Clues, Book 1: The Maze of Bones | Rick Riordan

Carniepunk for $1.99+$3.99 — “Come one, come all! The Carniepunk Midway promises you every thrill and chill a traveling carnival can provide. But fear not! Urban fantasy’s biggest stars are here to guide you through this strange and dangerous world….” — Written by: Rachel Caine, Rob Thurman, Kevin Hearne, Seanan McGuire, Jennifer Estep, Allison Pang, Kelly Gay, Delilah S. Dawson, and Kelly Meding — Narrated by: Candace Thaxton, Kirby Heyborne

Fuzzy Nation for $2.99+$3.49 — “In John Scalzi’s re-imagining of H. Beam Piper’s 1962 sci-fi classic Little Fuzzy, written with the full cooperation of the Piper Estate, Jack Holloway works alone for reasons he doesnt care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorps headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporations headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, thats not up for discussion.” — Written by: John Scalzi — Narrated by: Wil Wheaton

Kids: The 39 Clues Book 1: The Maze of Bones (along with later books in the series) — “What would happen if you discovered that your family was one of the most powerful in human history? What if you were told that the source of the family’s power was hidden around the world, in the form of 39 Clues? What if you were given a choice – take a million dollars and walk away…or get the first Clue? If you’re Amy and Dan Cahill, you take the Clue – and begin a very dangerous race.” — Written by: Rick Riordan — Narrated by David Pittu


The Sisters Brothers: A Novel | Patrick deWitt Canada | Richard Ford Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead | Sara Gran Continue reading

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Review: Cibola Burn

Cibola Burn (Expanse, Book 4)
By James S.A. Corey, Read by Erik Davies
Length: 21 hours, 23 minutes
[Downpour | Audible | IndieBound]

Some problems require diplomacy. Others require Jim Holden and the crew of the Rocinante.

Two years after the ring has opened up Earth, Mars, and the Belt to a whole new universe of planets, a dispute arises on a newly discovered habitable planet between illegal settlers and the corporation claiming to rightfully own it. The diplomatic powers that be claim that there’s only one man who can help solve the dispute without too much bloodshed. “Everyone hates him equally, so we can argue he’s impartial. He’s got ties to you, Mars, me. He’s a fucking awful choice for a diplomatic mission, so it makes him perfect.”

Really, it’s not every protagonist who can be described like that and still somehow shine. (Thank you, Avarasala!)

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Release Week: The Magician’s Land, Frostborn, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, The Spirit and the Skull, The Widow’s House, and Laird Barron’s Occultation and Other Stories

JULY 30-AUGUST 5, 2014: Trilogies conclude and trilogies begin, and still another expands, along with two intriguing standalone novels to kick off August: Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Land, Lou Anders’ Frostborn, David Shafer’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, J.M. Hayes’ The Spirit and the Skull, and Daniel Abraham’s The Widow’s House. It’s a busy week, with other audiobooks out including Carol Berg’s Dust and Light, Steven Erikson’s Reaper’s Gale (in Brilliance Audio’s ongoing productions of his Malazan Book of the Fallen), Kat Richardson’s Revenant, and a new Blackstone Audio edition of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos works entitled Necronomicon. Some “seen but not heard” selections include Sam Cabot’s Skin of the Wolf and Graham Joyce’s The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit, though Joyce’s is set for audio from Dreamscape in a couple of weeks. In audiobooks news, a pair of successfully-funded Kickstarters with audiobooks attached to pass along: The Maze of Games read by Wil Wheaton, and the An Alphabet of Embers anthology edited by Rose Lemberg. While it’s too late to get in on the Kickstarters, both of these look to be fantastic projects. Speaking of projects, Audible unveiled a new Author Spotlight on The Books that Changed My Life feature with 3 books picked and pitched by a fantastic (and huge) panel of authors, including (among others) Deborah Harkness, Michael J. Sullivan, B. V. Larson, Cassandra Clare, Ernie Cline, Christopher Moore, Kevin Hearne, Lev Grossman, Emma Straub, Megan Abbott, Brandon Mull, Jack McDevitt, and Shawn Speakman. Also new (at least to me) is the Try Audio Books website from Random House Audio and Listening Library where, among other choices, you can get a free download of Jason M. Hough’s The Darwin Elevator. Happy listening!


The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman Frostborn by Lou Anders Continue reading

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Release Week(s): World of Trouble, Land of Love and Drowning, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, Half a King, The Outsorcerer’s Apprentice, Blightborn, and Kaiju Rising

JULY 9-29, 2014: Covering three weeks worth of releases in mid-to-late July, with picks including a terrific ending to Ben H. Winters’ The Last Policeman trilogy, new standalone epic fantasy, magical realism, near-future sf, comedic high fantasy, CornPunk, and a Kickstarter-funded anthology of megamonster invasion. Beyond the picks, there are more trilogies concluded (Hannu Rajaniemi’s Jean le Flambeur, Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy), more next books in a series (Melissa Scott and Jo Graham’s Order of the Air series, Mark Hodder’s Return of the Discontinued Man), and a fantasy classic come to audio in advance of the author’s return to the series (Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Errand), along with Rebecca Makkai’s The Hundred-Year House, a pile of Robert McCammon, William Dufris reading Isaac Asimov’s Robot trilogy, new collections (Ben Bova read by Stefan Rudnicki and company, David Drake read by Christopher Grove), Tim Pratt’s The Nex, and The Golden Compass director Chris Weitz’s fiction debut, The Young World. And! Just in time for the movie adaptation, Joe R. Lansdale’s Cold in July. But! I’m frustrated to note that the “seen but not heard” listings include Max Gladstone’s Full Fathom Five and are headlined by Nick Harkaway’s Tigerman — there’s a fantastic UK audiobook edition of Tigerman out since May, but it looks like we’ll have to wait until November to get a US audiobook.

One bit of good news, however, is the appearance of new library CD and MP3-CD editions of Glimpses by Lewis Shiner, read by Stefan Rudnicki. Out since 2011 in digital audio — and my pick that year for best new audiobook of the year — the book of time travel (of a sort) and rock-and-roll won the 1994 World Fantasy Award, and really is a wonderful book and audiobook. In other news and such, I have a fantastic narrator interview to pass along: Jeff VanderMeer interviews Bronson Pinchot for Vulture — it is a fantastic, fantastic, in-depth interview. Speaking of interviews, I hadn’t yet seen Cory Doctorow’s interview at by narrator Malcolm Hillgartner, so while it may not be new, it’s new to me. See you in August for the next roundup, including reviews of Lev Grossman’s The Magician’s Land and Lou Anders’ Frostborn. Enjoy! [And if you’re new to audiobooks, among the many ways to get started are: you can try Audible with a free audiobook or get your first 3 months at Audible for $7.49/month; try a free 30-day trial at audiobook streaming service; or sign up for a $12.99 monthly membership at DRM-free]


World of Trouble: The Last Policeman, Book 3 | [Ben H. Winters] 

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Review: Blood Song

Blood Song (Raven’s Shadow: Book 1) [Downpour | Audible]
By Anthony Ryan, Narrated by Steven Brand for Penguin Audio
Length: 23 hours, 8 minutes

In a time where people are chomping at the bit for George R.R. Martin’s next installment in A Song of Ice and Fire, there’s no shortage of epic fantasy novels to choose from. Anthony Ryan’s debut novel Blood Song has seemingly come out of nowhere, and it’s easy to see why so many of Martin’s readers are devouring it: Blood Song feels a lot like the continuing adventures of Jon Snow. An estranged father drops off his only son to be raised at a sacred order. We follow young Vaelin Al-Sorna through his training to become a brother of the sixth order as he survives desolate landscapes, discovers the secrets behind his father and mother’s romance (as well as his father’s infidelities), foils surprise attacks and assassinations, finds forbidden love, discovers dark prophecies and ancient evils, and becomes the warrior leader we all knew he’d end up becoming. There’s even a giant wolf or two.

For some, that’ll be enough. The same friend who finally talked me in to giving A Game of Thrones a chance five years ago hounded me to read Blood Song for about a month because (like the titular song for our young hero) he couldn’t get it out of his head. And I can see why – Ryan definitely knows how to tell a story. But it’s a story most of us have heard many times before.

For me, Blood Song is a perfectly adequate Epic Fantasy that made me realize how bored I am with Epic Fantasy in general. It has an Epic Fantasy Greatest Hits vibe going for that you’d expect to hear covered at your local karaoke tavern. And I get the comfort and enjoyment out of that – really, I do. Blood Song is not badly written (though I did feel the final chapter was a bit too much monologuing and revelations) and Steven Brand’s excellent narration made listening relatively enjoyable. But it’s like a Nickleback song – you’ve heard it before, and you’ve probably heard it done better. Maybe that’s part of the appeal – there aren’t any real surprises here. Our hero is always in danger, except you never actually believe he’s going to lose. The setting is typical European medieval. In the end, Blood Song is not a bad book, but it is predictable and safe. This stands in stark (heh) comparison to Martin – an author who may take a long time to get there, but one I feel like manages to surprise me by his choices.

I don’t doubt Anthony Ryan is a talented author, and Steven Brand is a very gifted narrator. But Blood Song made me realize I’ve been wandering the desert that’s become Epic Fantasy for way too long, and I’m craving something new at the next oasis.

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Release Week: The Queen of the Tearling, Alias Hook, California, A Plunder of Souls, Landline, To Kill a Mockingbird, Close Your Eyes Hold Hands, and How to Survive a Sharknado

JULY 2-8, 2014: Another fantastic week’s worth of audiobooks has come our way, from beloved Pulitzer-winning classics in audiobook (and ebook) for the first time to post-apocalyptic sf and epic fantasy, Peter Pan retold, historical fantasy, and time-travel romance. Also out this week: Terry Brooks returns to Shannara (read by Simon Vance), along with new audiobooks from Chris Bohjalian and Veronica Roth, and a standalone short audiobook from Neil Gaiman, his The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains which appeared in the fantastic Stories anthology in 2010. In terms of news this week, Mary Robinette Kowal announced the sale of three novels to Audible, and the World Fantasy Award nominees were announced as well, with all six novels available in audio. Also, there’s a bunch of newly added titles in the further-ahead listings, mostly pulled from The Millions preview of what’s yet to come this year. Enjoy! And if you’re new to audiobooks, among the many ways to get started are: you can try Audible with a free audiobook or get your first 3 months at Audible for $7.49/month; try a free 30-day trial at audiobook streaming service; or sign up for a $12.99 monthly membership at DRM-free


The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen Continue reading

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Review: The Shining Girls

The Shining Girls
By Lauren Beukes, read by Khristine Hvam, Peter Ganim, Jay Snyder, Joshua Boone, Dani Cervone, and Jenna Hellmuth
Length 10 hours, 36 minutes

The Shining Girls is like the Magic Tree House from hell, where we trade a magical portal of benevolent discovery for the sinister house Harper Curtis discovers – house that feeds him with the names of victims he’s destined to brutally murder. A Prohibition-era drifter all too ready to except his fate, Harper skips  through 20th century Chicago, tearing through these Shining Girls like a horrific modern-day Jack the Ripper.

Lauren Beukes has a gift for prose. She makes the words and dialogue slash and sparkle like sharp, moonlit blades. And she builds solid, compelling characters in Kirby – the sole victim who survived Harper’s attacks – and Dan, a burned out newspaper reporter, and each of the Shining Girls. For better or for worse, the majority of our time is uncomfortably spent with Harper, and the women he slaughters. I often found myself wanting to get back to Kirby and Dan as they worked together, because they had such great rapport, and were easy to route for, despite their flaws. I’m not sure I’d call Harper compelling, exactly. He’s unflinchingly written as a monster, one who seems human enough on surface, but one who is all evil beneath. Credit where credit is due – Buekes thankfully never romanticizes him, or makes him anything shy of monstrous. But it always felt like a chore to come back to his bloody narrative.

As a result, I can’t say I loved this book. I knew it was going to be disturbing going into it, and it became pretty emotionally devastating to be introduced to each of the Shining Girls – Harper’s eventual victims – dripping with lavish period detail and characterization, only to have them horrifically killed off within the next twenty minutes. Maybe that’s the point – to give faces to the faceless victims of time, who were taken from us long before they should have been, to provide us with an unflinching portrait of these women. But all the gruesome violence against these characters worked against it in the long run. When another woman appears who is fated by Beukes and Harper to die a gristly death, it becomes difficult to become too invested in them, and instead, they become less than characters.

The narration assembled by Hachette is nothing short of impressive. Khristine Hvam nails Kirby’s obsessive, jaded, survivor. Jay Snyder plays reporter Latino reporter Dan, which is a bit of white-washed casting, but as long as Snyder isn’t speaking Spanish, he does a nice job, and he and Kirby are very easy to root for. As Harper Curtis, Ganim is completely unnerving. I’m pretty sure I flinched whenever a chapter started from his POV (and I mean this as a compliment). Harper’s Victims – the Shining Girls themselves – were expertly done by the rest of the supporting cast.

The Shining Girls isn’t the masterpiece I know Beuekes will one day give us, and it’s certainly not for the faint of heart. But it’s a solid horror novel that strives to be great.

Special thanks to Hachette Audio for providing me with a review copy of this audiobook.

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Release Week: How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky, The String Diaries, Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners, Cat Rambo’s Eyes Like Sky and Coal and Moonlight, and Clive Barker’s Weaveworld read by Simon Vance

JUNE 25-JULY 1, 2014: A fantastic crop of audiobooks this week, with picks from “nerd fiction” to Mulholland-published speculative thrillers, collections, and Clive Barker’s 1987 novel Weaveworld. More great titles in the “also out this week” listings, including the latest in Charles Stross’ Laundry Files, Peter David’s vampiric retelling of Oliver Twist, and enough high-end epic fantasy to keep you busy for a hundred hours: Anthony Ryan’s Tower Lord, Django Wexler’s The Shadow Throne, Mark Smylie’s The Barrow, and Jeff Salyards’ Veil of the Deserters. It’s also a week to welcome Kickstarter-funded and Janis Ian-narrated Catherine M. Wilson’s The Warrior’s Path to more general availability. Unfortunately one of my most-anticipated titles this week shows up in the SEEN BUT NOT HEARD listings: Tobias S. Buckell’s Hurricane Fever. But in a week with the pleasant surprise (to me at least) of collections from Link and Rambo, I suppose some things have to be forgiven. In other book news this week, the Locus Award winners were announced, and for audiobook lovers there’s something pretty cool afoot for John Scalzi’s forthcoming Lock In. Not only will there be two complete audio editions under different narrators (Wil Wheaton and Amber Benson), if you pre-order one edition you’ll get the other edition for free. Pretty neat, eh?


How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky | [Lydia Netzer] String Diaries, Stephen Lloyd Jones Continue reading

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Review: Rags and Bones

Rags & Bones
Edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt, Read by Mark Cabus, Bernard Setaro Clark, and Reay Kaplan
Length: 10 hours, 58 minutes

Reboots and remakes get a bad rap. I know – that’s a controversial stance to take. For instance, let’s look at Star Wars, which has Death Star levels of angst aimed at it as if it were Alderaan, because Disney and Lucasfilm are wiping out the expanded universe. But here’s the thing – those beloved stories don’t cease to exist. A lot of those old stories and characters are imprinted on fans – not to mention wookiepdia. What does happen, is that the old stories won’t necessarily line up perfectly side by side to form a cohesive piece of a puzzle. Instead, there will be more than one puzzle now, and it’ll be difficult to say which storyline is actually cannon. Sometimes the pieces will be interchangeable. You want to know which one is cannon? Here’s the cool thing: whatever you want it to be.

Enter Rags and Bones: a collection of new stories by some of genre fiction’s biggest authors riffing off of old stories they fell in love with and either retelling them, or reinterpreting them. Continue reading

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Release Week: The Girls at the Kingfisher Club, Thorn Jack, and The Silkworm

JUNE 18-24, 2014: A fairytale recast as imaginative — but not overtly speculative — fiction by the always fantastic Genevieve Valentine, a contemporary fantasy retelling of the Scottish folk tale of Tam Lin by debut novelist Katherine Harbour, and J.K. Rownling writing as Robert Galbraith headline the last full release week in June, which also includes epic fantasy from L.E. Modesitt, sf from Mike Shepherd and Vaughn Heppner, a collection from Nancy Fulda, and several books from Ira Levin’s backlist including This Perfect Day and Son of Rosemary. Unfortunately it’s a pretty good crop of “seen but not heard” books this week as well, including Octavia Butler’s Unexpected Stories, A.M. Dellamonica’s Child of a Hidden Sea, and Gail Z. Martin’s Deadly Curiosities. Some audiobook casting news to pass along this week, from Blackstone Audio: “We’re excited to announce that Carolyn McCormick, Bronson Pinchot, and Xe Sands will be narrating Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer, the final book in the Southern Reach Trilogy, due 9/2!” Meanwhile there has already been a trio of fantastic mid-week releases, including Mark Smylie’s The Barrow read by Michael Page, Clive Barker’s Weaveworld read by Simon Vance, and an Audible release for Catherine M. Wilson’s The Warrior’s Path: When Women Were Warriors read by Janis Ian, previously available only to Kickstarter supporters and directly through Dog Ear Audio. Look for more on those audiobooks next week!



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