Thursday, April 12, 2012

Bookworm Blues has MOVED

I've moved. I'll no longer be using blogger to review/update posts and etc. You can find me on my own website at bookwormblues.net - Please update all of your information accordingly - Go check out the new digs. Poke around. Ignore all the stuff I'm still in the process of fixing, and see what the new site has to offer. It's much nicer, bigger... better. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Troupe - Robert Jackson Bennett


About the book

Vaudeville: mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd, a world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions. 

But sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father’s troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change 

Because there is a secret within Silenus’s show so ancient and dangerous that it has won him many powerful enemies. And it’s not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe is not simply touring: they are running for their very lives. 

And soon, George is as well.


Published: Feb 21, 2012
Published by: Orbit
Author’s webpage

This book was sent as a review copy from the publisher.

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I feel like all I read is good books recently. The truth is, this scares the hell out of me because when my book slump hits, it's going to hit hard. 

The Troupe is one of those books that is rather hard to label. It’s a little historical, a little horror, and a little fantasy. It doesn’t really comfortably fit into any one genre. It’s one of those books that toes a lot of lines, and that’s one of the main things that really appeals to me. It’s not ordinary. It doesn’t neatly fit into any boxes. It is whatever you interpret it to be as you read it. I like the books that don’t really follow the trends, where the authors proudly scribble out their visions and damn the norm.

The Troupe tells the story of young George, a sixteen-year-old on the search for the father he never met. After a tip from his grandmother, he discovers that his father was a vaudeville performer, and a rather mysterious one at that. With much trial and error, he finally catches up to his father and discovers that things aren’t what they seem.

Bennett does a wonderful job at weaving together an incredibly intricate, multi layered tale, all the while keeping readers up in arms about what exactly is going on and how it’s all happening. In fact, the atmospheric feel to the book is quite incredible. Every page is filled with an incredible eerie sense that something important lies just beneath the surface, and the book plods on to discover what it is. Bennett bides his time and delicately reveals a bit more of the mystery at important, opportune moments.

Perhaps one of the most surprising aspects of this book is how vast in scope it is. Bennett packed The Troupe full of background, history and lore and the secret that this book hinges on isn’t a small thing. In fact, for one book that is a bit of this and a bit of that, Bennett does an amazing job with making his story incredibly epic in scope. There is much more here than what meets the eye, and that’s part of the magic of it.

George himself is a character you’ll at times love and hate. He’s a true sixteen-year-old boy who has more talent than he has brains. His forethought is frustratingly nonexistent and his desire to get attention and woo the ladies is also rather typical for the age but also frustrating as it keeps him from seeing what’s right in front of him. However, that being said, George is the typical boy thrust into a role that he didn’t expect and didn’t want, and because of that and his reactions to much of what is happening around him, most readers will grow to love him (even though he might be aggravating at times). He’s believable, and shockingly human. Even his naiveté is charming.

Bennett’s writing is rather understated. It’s easy to follow and has a smooth cadence without any plot-bogging descriptions. In fact, I’m surprised how much depth he managed to pack into this book with such a simple style of writing. Not only does the plot have depth, but he also sheds light on the old art of American Showmanship and the Vaudeville circuits, which is something I knew absolutely nothing about before this.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely loved The Troupe and I devoured every word of it. The Troupe was a breath of fresh air. It charmed me from the first page. In this book you’ll find shocking depth, fantastic writing, loveable characters and even a bit of education. While it’s nearly impossible for me to say if this would be classified more as fantasy or horror, that’s also a great appeal. Who wants the same-old-same-old when you can have a story that blazes its own trail and will stick with you long after you finish its last page?

5/5 stars

A few quick things...

First, I'm entered in Goodreads Independent Book Blogger Awards. I don't think I have a snowball's chance in Hell in winning, but I'll give it a fair shake. You can vote for me at the top of my blog, or go here. However, if I don't make a finalist, I'd love to see Staffer's Book Review make it. If you'd like to vote for him, go here. As an added bonus, Michael J. Sullivan's blog is in the running, as well. Vote for his here

Secondly, this is a shout out to my fellow book bloggers. I'm compiling a list of people who'd be willing to guest post/review for me if need be. You see, I'm probably going to start my cancer treatment in a month or two and I'm trying to get my ducks in a row a bit early. I might need guest posts before I'm actually quarantined for about 10 days. In order to start the RAI treatment, I'll have to be off of my synthroid (which replaces my thyroid hormones, as my thyroid was removed due to a nice tumor). Getting off of my synthroid will make me very, very, very sick for several weeks before I even start the actual RAI treatment. On top of that, I might need more surgery to remove more tumors (my cancer might have spread) which means I'll need guest bloggers while I'm recovering, getting off my synthroid and when I'm dealing with my RAI treatment, I will be radioactive so I won't be able to blog (or go near humanity, or touch anything). 

I won't need guest bloggers for a while yet, but I'd like to have a list of people willing to do so if the need arises. I'm not sure what my future holds. I find out the next time I go to my doctor in May, but I want to be prepared for any eventuality. Hell, hopefully I go to the doctor and he says I'm fine and shoves me out the door, but I doubt it. 

Anyway, that's my daily business. Look back here in a few hours for my review of The Troupe. 


Friday, April 6, 2012

World's End - Mark Chadbourn


About the book

When Jack Churchill and Ruth Gallagher encounter a terrifying, misshapen giant beneath a London bridge they are plunged into a mystery which portends the end of the world as we know it. All over the country, the ancient gods of Celtic myth are returning to the land from which they were banished millennia ago. Following in their footsteps are creatures of folklore: fabulous bests, wonders and dark terrors As technology starts to fail, Jack and Ruth are forced to embark on a desperate quest for four magical items – the last chance for humanity in the face of powers barely comprehended.

413 pages (paperback)
Published on: May 1, 2009 (first published in 1999)
Published by: Pyr
Author’s webpage

This book was sent as a review copy by the publisher.

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As I mentioned in my review of Jack of Ravens by Mark Chadbourn, all you really have to do is say the word “Celtic” to me and I’m there. When the wonderful people at Pyr emailed me and said, “Sarah, Jack of Ravens is actually the seventh book in a series containing two previous trilogies, do you want to read them?” I just about had a heart attack from my excitement. I was thrilled when, about a week later, a box with the six previous books in this series showed up on my doorstep. I started reading World’s End within about five minutes of opening the box and I finished it two days later, which is quite impressive when you have a crawling little one to watch and a house you are repainting.

World’s End tells the story of Church, a man haunted by an event in his past he is desperate to find meaning to. He happens across Ruth in a traumatic situation which forms a kinship of sorts between them and starts them on the unforgettable journey that is this book. That is how all of the important characters, also known as the Brothers and Sisters of Dragons, meet each other. This is an interesting, and fun, way for Chadbourn to introduce his cast. It keeps the plot fun and fresh and as the characters get to know each other, so does the reader. This also keeps his cast from becoming stagnant throughout the book. Chadbourn keeps them well rounded and constantly gaining new depth.

The idea of a group of ordinary individuals chosen to save the world is nothing new and that is, perhaps, my greatest complaint about this work as a whole. World’s End is such a unique book, full of exciting and invigorating takes on old world mythology that a chosen band of ordinary people saving the world comes across as rather tired and overdone in comparison to the rest of the plot. Then again, I’m not exactly how Chadbourn could have told this story without the concept of a chosen group of people and even though it is an exhausted concept, there is a quaint aspect to it which really fits this work as a whole. Though all of these individuals are chosen for greatness, Chadbourn does a great job of humanizing them. They are all wounded somehow, some are haunted by their pasts, or unsure of their futures. They are all portrayed like wounded  birds, lacking the strength to fly past the cages they have built for themselves. This will inevitably cause the reader to wonder how on earth they are going to accomplish the monumental tasks stacked against them.

Chadbourn is incredibly detailed with World’s End and occasionally these details can be overwhelming to people who aren’t from England and have no clue where the M4 is and why it’s a good road for (insert scene of book here). The tedium of reading about each road and diner can be exhausting, but it really works well as Chadbourn seems to use these details to highlight a world falling apart at the seams and how the ordinary man is effected by it. The overwhelming nature of these travelogues can be tedious at the time, but once the reader moves onto important scenes the issues they present don’t loom as large. Without many of them, much of the atmosphere, and the jarring sense of what’s real and what’s not would be lost.

The mythology Chadbourn uses is nothing short of genius. Gone are the days of vampires and witches who cast spells over bubbling cauldrons. Chadbourn has brought myth and legend to life, and puts the reader in the interesting position of seeing what the world could be like if the ancient gods and creatures from stories came to life. How much of our lives would change? Even details that I’d have never thought about, such as cancer patients in a hospital, are highlighted in World’s End. It’s a sobering book, and a dark spin on days many individuals might look upon romantically. Each detail is painstakingly researched, from the important to the mundane. Chadbourn had his work cut out for him in World’s End and he was obviously up to the task.

World’s End is a masterpiece of Celtic lore and mythology. Though the details can be overwhelming, and the idea of a band of chosen people out to save the world is a rather exhausted concept, the book itself is worth reading. Chadbourn’s flowing prose and captivating story is nothing short of riveting and will whisk readers away on a wild ride through incredible myths.

3/5 stars

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Winds of Khalakovo - Bradley P. Beaulieu


About the book

Among inhospitable and unforgiving seas stands Khalakovo, a mountainous archipelago of seven islands, its prominent eyrie stretching a thousand feet into the sky. Serviced by windships bearing goods and dignitaries, Khalakovo's eyrie stands at the crossroads of world trade. But all is not well in Khalakovo. Conflict has erupted between the ruling Landed, the indigenous Aramahn, and the fanatical Maharraht, and a wasting disease has grown rampant over the past decade. Now, Khalakovo is to play host to the Nine Dukes, a meeting which will weigh heavily upon Khalakovo's future. When an elemental spirit attacks an incoming windship, murdering the Grand Duke and his retinue, Prince Nikandr, heir to the scepter of Khalakovo, is tasked with finding the child prodigy believed to be behind the summoning. However, Nikandr discovers that the boy is an autistic savant who may hold the key to lifting the blight that has been sweeping the islands. Can the Dukes, thirsty for revenge, be held at bay? Can Khalakovo be saved? The elusive answer drifts upon the Winds of Khalakovo.

500 pages (paperback)
Published on: March 8, 2011
Published by: Night Shade Books

This book was by the author.


The Winds of Khalakovo was a book that’s been on my radar for a while, if for no other reason than the title sounds cool; strange and unique. It’s very evocative, bringing to mind a windswept island full of cliffs and whistling wind. That image is incredibly fitting, because when I picture the world that Beaulieu creates, that’s exactly what I picture in my mind; a group of seven islands with high mountains, cliffs, complex culture and plenty of vodka.

Beaulieu made a smart move by patterning his world with many Eastern European influences. For readers like me, who are sick of the same old world with different characters, The Winds of Khalakovo will be a wonderful change of pace. Beaulieu steeped his world and character in these Russian-type influences, from the names to the vodka. For example, the protagonist’s name is Nikandr and he drinks plenty of vodka, as does pretty much everyone else. There are even some Russian words sprinkled throughout the work, like da and nyet.

The Russian words were an aspect of the book I was very divided on. On the one hand, it was nice having words I was vaguely familiar with sprinkled throughout the book. I could easily figure them out, and while they helped build up the cultural vibe Beaulieu was going for, I didn’t have to spend half the book figuring out what they meant, or constantly flip to the back to read definitions. On the other hand, these words made Beauliu’s world feel a bit used, for lack of a better word. With a world as unique and captivating as this one, the use of Russian words didn’t seem as creative as Beaulieu could have been. However, in the end, these are niggling concerns which may or may not actually matter to some readers.

There are also many similarities between The Winds of Khalakovo and historical elements. For example, the Dutchies have conquered the Archipelago and forced the nomadic Aharmahn under their rule and due to this the two classes of people are at odds with one another as the landed struggle to enforce their way of life upon the native inhabitants, who largely reject it. Most readers will find a similar event in history to compare this to, and because of that it lends the novel an aspect of familiarity it might have otherwise lacked, as well as easily allowing the reader to sympathize with certain parties.

Much of the important action sequences and plotlines have something to do with the airships, whether dealing with them or action happening upon them. The airships themselves are fascinating creations which really add an almost steampunkish vibe to the work as a whole. These ships are important for battles and trade. It doesn’t take many pages before the reader will encounter their first battle on an airship and here they might also see a flaw within the book itself.

The action sequences, while very well done, can be pretty hard to follow. The problem lies in the fact that much of the action is taking place on a ship above the ground, which takes away landmarks they could use to right themselves with what’s happening and where it’s going on. Due to some vague or confusing descriptions; it can be hard for the reader to tell who is doing what and where they are doing it. These concerns can really make a huge impact on the reader’s overall understanding of what happens. However, that being said, while these issues may seem like a big deal while reading about them, once you move on they don’t seem quite as important.

Beaulieu has written an incredibly complex novel filled with rich cultural detail and plenty of symbolism. In fact, many reviewers have compared The Winds of Khalakovo to Steven Erikson’s Malazan novels in world building, meaning that readers might often have to go back to catch details they might have previously missed. This complex world building is a huge undertaking on the part of the author and could possibly serve to delight readers. Regardless of how you crack this egg, having your debut book compared to Steven Erikson’s Malazan books is one hell of an accomplishment. For fans of complex worlds and books that set an impressive foundation for an incredibly promising epic fantasy series, you need look no further than The Winds of Khalakovo. Despite its flaws, it’s a book to pay attention to written by an author worth noting.

3.5/5 stars


GIVEAWAY - The Truth of All Things

I'm currently working on my review of The Winds of Khalakovo, so I decided to put this up in the meantime so I can get some action going on it. 

I have one hardcover, unread, unopened copy of The Truth of All Things to give away. I've started reading it (my review should be up in a week or so), and it's quite enjoyable thus far. 

About the book: 


Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, in the summer of 1892, a grisly new witch hunt is beginning....
When newly appointed Deputy Marshal Archie Lean is called in to investigate a prostitute's murder in Portland, Maine, he's surprised to find the body laid out like a pentagram and pinned to the earth with a pitchfork.  He's even more surprised to learn that this death by "sticking" is a traditional method of killing a witch. 
     Baffled by the ritualized murder scene, Lean secretly enlists the help of historian Helen Prescott and brilliant criminalist Perceval Grey.  Distrusted by officials because of his mixed Abenaki Indian ancestry, Grey is even more notorious for combining modern investigative techniques with an almost eerie perceptiveness.  Although skeptical of each other's methods, together the detectives pursue the killer's trail through postmortems and opium dens, into the spiritualist societies and lunatic asylums of gothic New England.
     Before the killer closes in on his final victim, Lean and Grey must decipher the secret pattern to these murders--a pattern hidden within the dark history of the Salem witch trials.


By Keiran Shields
404 pages (hardcover)
Goodreads link

Contest details: 

I've decided to have a little fun with this one. I'm interested to see what my fellow imaginative speculative fiction fans can dream up. Here are the rules: 

1. Contest is open to anyone. 
2. Contest ends on midnight (mountain time), April 29th, so I can announce the winner on my birthday (April 30). 
3. To enter, leave a comment below WITH your email address (if you don't want to leave your email address on an open blog, shoot me an email - bookwormblues (at) live (dot) com). 

Now, here's the "imaginative" part. I want YOU to predict the next fad. For example: 

Twilight made vampires popular. 
Harry Potter made wizards popular. 
The Hunger Games is making dystopian popular. 
Michael Jackson made zombies popular (Thriller, anyone?). 

I want you to tell me what you think the next fad will be, and what will make it a fad. It can be anything, funny or serious. 

I will have an impartial judge choose the best answer, which will be the winner (My husband. Trust me, he's impartial. First, he doesn't read books. Second, he doesn't pay attention to my blog at all so he has absolutely no favorites). The winner will be announced on April 30. 

Good luck!! 


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Today you can find me on...



A little while ago I was asked to be part of SF Signal's Mind Meld feature. I was really flattered because, well, no one in the genre community has cared about my opinion before (that's what you get for running a small blog, which is fine.). I put off writing it because I couldn't think of what to say for far too long. Then, one night I decided to just write it out and get it done. 

I actually wrote it late at night because these days that's really the only time I can write (baby-free). I was about 3/4 of the way asleep, so who knows if what I said actually makes sense. I just finished reading the Mind Meld feature and realized that there are some pretty incredible people and opinions out there. There are some really well known authors (N.K. Jemisin, Pamela Sargent and others) as well as bloggers (Stefan Raets, Justin Landon etc). I actually kind of feel like I shouldn't be keeping the same company as these people because I admire them so much and they are so well known, but I'm there at the bottom (which is the right spot for me). 

I know I sound self depreciating, but I'm really not. I am really flattered that I was part of this and the insights of others give me a lot to think about regarding the quality and content of my own reviews. 

Anyway, go check it out. There are some great insights posted and some interesting opinions. 

Here's the link