Archive for the Fiction Category

By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them

Posted in Events, Fiction, New release, Young Adult with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2015 by jaclemens

IMG_0764“Babilar was starting to grow on me,” David comments in Firefight, a book that is growing on me. Babilar, short for Babylon Restored, is what they call Manhattan after it has been flooded by They Might Be Giants an Epic called Regalia. Only the tops of the skyscrapers now stick up above the waterline, and the denizens of Babilar live on the rooftops. They survive at the whim of Regalia, but they are sustained by the strange glowing fruit that inexplicably grows inside the upper floors of the buildings, courtesy of a mysterious force known as Dawnslight. A former judge, Regalia rules Babylon Restored with her own brand of law and order, just as Steelheart ruled Newcago. Now that Steelheart has been deposed, Regalia sends other Epics to draw the Reckoners out of Newcago. The Reckoners are accustomed to moving from one base of operations to the next, but David isn’t. He’s never been out of Newcago, and Babilar is completely outside his comfort zone. But Firefight is there, and she and David have unfinished business.

FullSizeRenderI was excited to find out how David and Firefight would resolve their differences; I was not expecting the introduction of Newton, Obliteration, and Regalia as the main threats (although I did manage to collect all three cards). Brandon Sanderson is a world builder at heart, so he takes us on a little journey to see another transfigured city, how another Epic despot does things, and how the residents react differently. The change of scenery is effective as progression for the characters, and introduces a new cell of Reckoners. Firefight is the titular character, but she’s not front and center in the story. She is deserving of the marquee, though. When she is Firefight she is spectacular, and, when she is content to be Megan around David, the interaction is authentic. My expectations were met in that regard, but Sanderson didn’t stop there! All of his foreshadowing was brought out by the eerie neon glow of Babilar as he continues to build toward Calamity, the conclusion to the Reckoners series.

Knights Who Say

Posted in Fiction, New release, Promotions, Recommendations with tags , , on March 25, 2014 by jaclemens

Shattered Plains 2Words of Radiance! The second book in The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson was released on March 4th! We are featuring it in the store as our book of the month – and it made a fine birthday present for a certain Sanderson fan!

The Heralds have returned, the Knights Radiant have reformed, and the Voidbringers have summoned the Everstorm. As they converge on the Shattered Plains, so does Shallan and Szeth-son-son-Vallano. Words of Radiance wraps up a two book mini-arc (if two thousand pages can be deemed “mini”) establishing the series, and opens many more possibilities moving forward. It is a dazzling follow up to Way of Kings (which I re-read beforehand), and it bears some resemblance to Hero of Ages. Its’ ties to Warbreaker may be the strongest, however, resulting in an unplanned re-read of that supposed stand-alone novel.

In the final 60 pages there is an epic showdown that gave me such chills I had to give myself an extra day to finish my reading! I’ve read almost everything Sanderson has written, but this one blew my mind to such an extent that it has taken two weeks to form a review! I hope I get a book of The Stormlight Archive for every birthday!

Unearthed

Posted in Fiction, New release with tags , , on September 20, 2013 by jaclemens

She Walks in DarknessTachyon Publications has released the first printing of She Walks in Darkness, a previously unpublished work by Evangeline Walton! I have yet to read her Mabinogion Tetralogy, but this came recommended by Tim Powers and Patricia A. McKillip (two more fine authors who have recently published with Tachyon), so I was thrilled to receive and read it! I didn’t know what to expect from Walton’s writing, but I was anticipating a supernatural story based on those recommendations. Things seems to be heading in that direction as young newlywed Barbara Keyes considers the statue of Mania, the Etruscan goddess of the dead, in the courtyard of the Tuscan villa where she is honeymooning with her archaeologist husband. Barbara happens upon the dead body of the estate’s old caretaker, which then vanishes just as mysteriously as he was killed. Barbara must descend into the dark catacombs beneath the villa, and the story takes as many twists and turns as she does in discovering the truth of the sordid crime!

Geek Week

Posted in Events, Fiction, New release, Recommendations with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2013 by jaclemens

It’s been a week since I went to Salt Lake Comic Con, but Friday the 13th seemed like the right time to post about it! This was the first comic con for Salt Lake and the first I’ve attended. I was only able to attend one day of the three, but Friday was a great day to be there! The top item on my agenda was an unofficial sneak peek at The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Immediately after I registered I got in line to wait for it. After some initial confusion about which line to stand in, I found the correct one and settled in for some people watching. This meant missing out on panels on Firefly (a show I have recently come to appreciate), Marvel vs. DC, and a Q&A with Q (John de Lancie’s character from Star Trek: the Next Generation), but I waited patiently – only to have the door closed in my face. I was seriously the next person in line when the room was declared full.

First lesson of first comic con: don’t expect to stick to your outlined schedule. Upon being denied entry to my top choice, I found a suitable alternative in Peter Lyon, the master swordmaker for Weta Workshop. That was fascinating, and would come back into play later in the day. I had intended to go to a discussion of the changing publishing world next, but wound up in the ballroom for Ray Park’s spotlight session.

DSC00619Park, aka Darth Maul, Snake Eyes, and Toad, was truly entertaining! He talked about emulating Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Charlie Chaplin, and he has the personality to go with the physical tools. He also has a Scottish accent, which explains why he didn’t supply the voice for Darth Maul. Park was only 21 when he was cast to play the villain (he always wanted to be a hero), and wasn’t sure he could pull off the integral intimidation until he saw the crew’s reaction to the first fight scene he filmed. He lobbied unsuccessfully for a different death in Phantom Menace (decapitation), but would relish the chance to reprise the role. Rather than the mech legs Darth Maul’s been grafted onto in the comics and cartoons, Park joked that he should have a hover board and use his double-bladed lightsaber like a kayak paddle! After taking questions and adulations from the audience, Park wrapped up the session by bringing young kids in costume up on the stage and teaching them some martial arts poses. He was terrific!

I made my first foray into the vendor floor next. Lesson two: be prepared to spend plenty of time and money shopping the vendor floor. I didn’t make any purchases on my first pass. I wanted a look at everything that was available before I made my selection. I didn’t pay to have my picture taken with any of the celebrities, but I did take photos of a few from a distance. I managed to get pictures of David Prowse (Darth Vader) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca). I didn’t see Shatner or Stan Lee in person, but I did see William Kirchner (Bifur) and Manu Bennett (Azog) from the Hobbit films!

White OrcI took more photos of the life-sized Azog statue on display at the Weta booth than anything else at the con. The whole booth was spectacular. I particularly enjoyed seeing Peter Lyon take the sword Orcrist from a display case and show it to a few lucky fans. That was a serendipitous con moment! I was sorely tempted to get a treasure at the Weta booth, but the answer to the question “What have I got in my pocket?” was not enough for even the smallest knife.

There were some desirable items in my price range, but I decided to give it more thought during the next panel. Unfortunately I showed up too late, and both of the writing panels were already full. So I got in line with friends for the next popular panel on my list, Avengers vs. X-Men. That panel proved too popular for the likes of those of us waiting in the general line, so I went to listen to Brandon Mull and Chad Morris talk about comedy in writing. They were in a comedy group in college, and performed some funny sketches and songs.

They both signed books at a booth following the panel, so I went back to the vendor floor and waited in a line that already wrapped around the booth. Lesson three: be ready to wait in line. I read my advance reader copy of She Walks in Darkness while people paraded by in costumes. The book I asked Mull to sign was also an advance reader copy – Spirit Animals: Wild Born came out this week. It’s a series with an online game component in the same vein as 39 Clues; Mull laid out the full series and wrote the first book (of seven). Getting the book signed took most of the hour set aside for a second pass of the vendor booths, so I stepped out for one more panel.

An Examination of the Hero’s Journey was the only panel on my original schedule that I was able to attend. I was familiar with one of the authors on the panel, having once sat next to him at a signing – that was Dave Farland. The other members were Rhiannon Paille, Brad R. Torgersen, and Bryan Young. Robison Wells did not appear as scheduled, but having heard him discuss his social anxiety on the Writing Excuses podcast, that was understandable. I asked the panel how they address the matter of romantic interest in their writing, given that the examples being cited – Greek myth, Arthurian legend, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars – present only two options for the hero: love ’em and leave ’em or monasticism. The responses from Farland and Paille were noteworthy.

By that time I had come to the conclusion to make a worthy purchase from Artist’s Alley. Lesson four: support the artists who come to the con. I wanted something unique, something I may not be able to buy at a local store or order online. When I returned to the vendor floor the closing announcements started and the lights dimmed. I hurried back to a booth that arrested me on my first pass, hoping the artist and a particular print would still be there. They were, so I bought an X-Men/Star Trek (NeX-Gen) mash up picture from Stewart Craig. Later I located his blog and was stoked to read that it was one of three images he created specifically for Salt Lake Comic Con. It made an ideal souvenir!

I continued to walk the vendor floor, now emptier and darker, and took more photos of the booths I hadn’t seen on the first pass. I wasn’t coming back on Saturday (when the crowd ran between 70,000 – 80,000 con-goers), so I had to make the most of my opportunity that night. I found the Lego booth, one I would not have wanted to miss, among others. I returned home a reaffirmed geek, with photos of acceptable role playing role models for my kids and this great shot of a weeping angel posing with my copy of She Walks in Darkness!Friday the 13th

Open Season

Posted in Events, Fiction, Non Fiction, Reading List with tags , , , , , , on August 30, 2013 by jaclemens

WeddleUtah opened the football season with a rousing victory against Utah State last night! In preparation for the season I read No Excuses, No Regrets: The Eric Weddle Story by Trent Toone (another May release). I have another blog where I track the Utes who have gone on to play professionally, and Weddle is definitely one of my favorites. He isn’t going to grace the pages of ESPN the Magazine’s Body Issue, but he is the epitome of a professional athlete in my eyes. His determination to make pivotal plays is unmatched, and he deserves to be one of the highest-paid players at his position. If only Toone was as dedicated to being the best at his profession as his subject, this would be a truly great read. This biography discusses Weddle’s accomplishments to date, but it also examines his high character, family life, and conversion to the LDS Church. I was already a Weddle fan, and now I’m determined to get The Man’s Chargers jersey (even if he did admit to reading the Twilight series!).

Billy LynnFor a more complicated subject and superior writing, I turned to Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. I’m no fan of the Dallas Cowboys, Destiny’s Child, or the war in Iraq necessarily, but I am a fan of writers who can meld difficult subject matter into an entertaining book, so that makes me a Fountain fan! He deserved to be a National Book Award Finalist for what he did with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. It may not be the definitive literary work of the Iraq war, but I have already recommended it to my buddy in the Navy. I await his verdict as to the authenticity of Billy Lynn’s experiences on both fronts, battle and home, but I thought the book was terrific. And, as someone who recently suffered a migraine, I can attest to the horror of that halftime show!

100 thingsI completed my off-season workout with Patrick Sheltra’s 100 Things Utes Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. It came out in 2011 so it isn’t entirely up-to-date, but I’m familiar enough with recent developments; it’s the history of the program on which I needed to brush up. I was working concessions in the stadium for #17 Yergy’s Drive from 55 in the 1993 Holy War, and I was delivering pizza while listening to #23 Lusk’s Dash in the Dusk. I’ve already written about my reaction to listening to the 2005 Emerald Bowl. But I wasn’t around for #31 The Lost Championship of 1969, or Fred Gehrke painting the first horns on the helmets of the Cleveland Rams. I’ve been tracking Reggie Dunn’s preseason in Pittsburgh for my other blog, and it bears a resemblance to Erroll Tucker’s experience in 1986. These are some of the 100 things I needed to know. Eric Weddle comes in at #19, three spots behind Larry Wilson, the only player from Utah in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

150 Years After Vicksburg

Posted in Fiction, New release, Reading List with tags , , , on July 29, 2013 by jaclemens

Chain of ThunderI received this from First Reads, but I had to read the first book, A Blaze of Glory, before I could read this one. That meant I read it in July rather than May, but, as July 4th marked the 150th anniversary of the events described herein, the timing was salient. This series on the Western Theater is wonderful for the moderate Civil War buff, and I’ve learned plenty about the Battle of Shiloh and the Siege of Vicksburg. I found the second book carried the greater impact, particularly as Shaara made a civilian one of the point of view characters. Going behind the fortifications to show the deprivations inflicted on the people and the horrors of the field hospitals really brings the suffering home, even if young Lucy Spence never returned to her battle-damaged domicile.

Vital Publications

Posted in Book Buying, Fiction, Reading List, Recommendations with tags , , , , on July 25, 2013 by jaclemens

ConstellationA customer recently contacted our store to formally request that we not carry the August issue of Rolling Stone due to the controversial image on its cover. I appreciate her concerns, and agree that it’s poor taste for the magazine to portray the young man accused of planting bombs at the Boston Marathon as though he were a celebrity (see the Huffington Post for a discussion on the cover’s design). Personally I object to the portayal, but, as a university store, we have decided not to join the boycott of the issue. We want to add to the discussion, not take away from it. The issue will be available on request, but not displayed. In its place I will be promoting A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.

It is a devastating story, told with immaculate care by a decorated debut author. Marra didn’t take an easy route for his first novel, although I wouldn’t term it overly ambitious. To crib from the title, it is a vital story, one that required refined skill to write and needed to be published (and I commend Hogarth for doing so). It is a necessary read for anyone trying to understand the violent forces that shape the people of Chechnya. There is nothing glamorous in the portrayal of violence for the sake of any cause, not even in the amputation of a leg mutilated by a mine, as in the attacks in Boston.

Only eight-year-old Havaa isn’t compromised in this constant struggle to survive, but she is without recourse when her father is taken by Russian forces. She hides in the woods as her house is burned to the ground. The Russians will leave no trace of her family, without exceptions. Her father’s friend Akhmed finds her first, and takes her from their remote village of Eldar to the city of Volchansk, where there is a shelled-out hospital. A single surgeon named Sonja still operates the hospital, but she too has been shelled out by ten years of fighting. Akhmed, the village’s unlicensed doctor, trades his rudimentary assistance for Havaa’s boarding in the hospital. Akhmed (a Chechnyan) and Sonja (a Russian) continue to function in their grim circumstances, and between them they manage to spare Havaa from a terrible fate.

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a tragic tale of friends, family, and neighbors who alternately wrong and ultimately redeem one another. It should resonate with anyone who experienced the ‘B Strong’ resolve that swept through Boston in the wake of the deplorable attack. I recommend keeping the focus on the survivors who carried one another to safety, which is why I strongly recommend this book.