Sunday, October 17, 2010

My Anticipated Books of 2010 Revisited (by Liviu Suciu)

In late 2009, I tried to do a larger scale "2010 Anticipated Books". I first did three posts: "Top 10", "Established Authors SFF", "More established Authors SFF, Debuts, Non-SFF, Maybes" and then collated them in a big post with continual updates as I got and read the books.

The major drawback that I discovered was that the Collated/Updated post got way too big and I tried to keep a "first look" list of titles to mitigate that. Now that of all the books mentioned there, I miss only three 2010 ones which I expect to get sooner rather than later, I thought it's time for an uncluttered look back.

Total 2010 Anticipated Books - 94 - some moved to 2011
Read 78 with one that I decided it is not-for-me for a total of 79 "done"
Currently reading 3; not-yet-have 3 more, all more-or-less asap reads
Nine started and moved back on the pile for a "nebulous" later, though I have not yet given up on any of those

Of the 78 read I rated:

2 F's : hated them, would not touch anything by the author 1/10
7 D's : disliked but not hated them 4/10
6 C's : ok'ish at least partly, but far from being favorites 6/10
4 B's : liked them but either major flaws or irritating stuff detracted a lot from my enjoyment 7.5/10
2 A- : these should have been a B, but they have so many goodies to mostly compensate for major flaws in one case or lack of ambition in another 8.5/10
24 A : liked a lot, no major complaints, or occasionally very ambitious but with flaws that stop it from the A+/A++ level, will read more from the author/series automatically 9/10
11 A+ : loved them and they had the added "extra" - personal favorite, ambition, type of novel I prefer, but either short a bit of the top-top level or from a sub-genre I cannot rate there and the books in cause did not transcend (mundane-sf or mil-fantasy are such) 9.5/10
22 A++: utterly loved them, my top books with of course the several 2010 A++ that were quite unexpected and are not here; some are for series achievement rather than the books themselves 10/10

Other statistics; out of the 79 below, 46 were author/publisher copies, 33 got independently by me, while for the total of 91 I have, it is 51 author/publisher, 40 me; of the total 94, 22 are by women authors, so about 23%.

My full list of 2010 Books read (151 so far, some read in 09) as well as of books read in 2010 (209 so far) are on Goodreads. Here are the 79 ones from the original anticipated list in chronological order of reading.

City of Ruin/Newton (A++, full rv )
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms/Jemisin (A+, Goodreads minireview, full rv RT)
Spellwright/Charlton (D from me, Goodreads minireview, full rv RT)
The Bookman/Tidhar(A, full rv),
The Desert Spear/Brett(A, full rv)
Servant of the Underworld/de Bodard(A, full rv)

The Left Hand of God/Hoffman(A++, dual full rv)
The Conqueror's Shadow/Marmell(C from me, Goodreads minireview, full rv RT)
The Napoleon Concerto/Mellon(A, full rv)
The River Kings Road/Merciel (D from me, Goodreads minireview, full rv RT)
Geosynchron/Edelman(A+, full rv),
Freedom/Suarez(C, Goodreads minireview)

Spirit Lens/Berg(A, full rv),
Thirteen Years Later/Kent(B,Goodreads minireview, full rv RT with my short take)
Black Hills/Simmons (A++ , full rv),
The Folding Knife
/Parker (A++, full rv)
Mission of Honor/Weber (A+, full rv)
Funeral Games/Cameron(A, Goodreads minireview)

Grand Central Arena/Spoor (A, full rv)
Salute the Dark/Tchaikovsky (A++, full rv),
A Mighty Fortress/Weber (A++, full rv),
Farlander/Buchanan(A, full rv),
Bitter Seeds/Tregillis (A++, full rv),
Up Jim River/Flynn(A, full rv)

The Emerald Storm/Michael Sullivan(A++, full rv),
Raven:Sons of Thunder/Kristian(A, full rv),
The Orphaned Worlds/Cobley(C, Goodreads minireview)
The Dream of Perpetual Motion/Palmer(D, Goodreads minireview, full rv RT)
Ghosts of Manhattan/Mann(A, full rv)
Terminal World/Reynolds (A-, full rv)

The Sorcerer's House/Wolfe (A, full rv),
Secrets of the Fire Sea/Hunt (A++, full rv)
Children No More/Van Name (A+, full rv),
The Barbary Pirates/Dietrich(A, full rv)
Shadow's Son/Sprunk(A+, full rv),
Dragonsoul/Jones & Bennett(A, full rv),

Gaslight Dogs/Lowachee(C, Goodreads minireview)
The Age of Zeus/Lovegrove(A, full rv),
West and East/Turtledove(A, Goodreads minireview)
Office of Shadow/Sturges(A, full rv)
The Lotus Eaters/Kratman(C, Goodreads minireview)
Migration/Hogan(A, full rv)

The King of the Crags/Deas(A, full rv)
Tome of the Undergates/Sykes(F, un-review)
A Magic of Dawn/Farrell(A, full rv)
The Hypnotist/Rose(D, Goodreads minireview)
New Model Army/Roberts(B, full rv)
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet/Mitchell(A++, full rv)

Naamah's Curse/Carey(A, full rv)
The Last Page/Huso(A++, full rv)
Deceiver/Cherryh (D, Goodreads minireview)
The Prince of Mist/Zafon(C, Goodreads minireview, full rv CH)
Lex Trent Versus The Gods/Bell(A, full rv)
Stealing Fire/Graham(A+, full rv)

The Evolutionary Void/Hamilton(A++, Goodreads minireview, full rv soon)
Absorption/Meaney(B, full rv)
Who Fears Death/Okorafor (not for me)
Spies of the Balkans
/Furst (A-, Goodreads minireview)
The Map of all Things/Anderson (A+, full rv)
The Dervish House/McDonald (D, Goodreads minireview)

Passion Play/Bernobich (A+, full dual review)
The Black Prism/Weeks (A++, full rv)
Imager's Intrigue/Modesitt(A++ book/series, full rv)
Restoration Game/MacLeod(A+, full rv)
Empire of Light/Gibson (A+, full rv)
The Half Made World/Gilman(A++, full rv)

The House on Durrow Street/Beckett(A++, full rv)
The Scarab Path/Tchaikovsky (A++, full rv)
Black Lung Captain/Wooding (B, Goodreads minireview)
The Technician/Asher (A++, full rv)
Ragnarok/Vanner (F, Goodreads minireview)
Midsummer Night/Warrington (A++, full rv soon, Goodreads minireview )

Horns of Ruin/Akers (D, Goodreads minireview)
The Thief-Taker's Apprentice/Deas (A, full rv)
Empire/Saylor (A++, full rv)
Corvus/Kearney (A+, full rv soon, Goodreads minireview )
Surface Detail/Banks (A++, full rv soon,Goodreads minireview)
Wintertide/Sullivan (A++, full rv soon, Goodreads minireview)

1635 The Eastern Front/Flint (A, Goodreads minireview, since it's only half a book, full review together with its second half due April 2011)

Edit 10/20 The Quantum Thief/Rajaniemi (B, Goodreads minireview)

Edit 1/2/11 Prospero in Hell/Lamplighter (C, Goodreads minireview)

Edit 1/2/11 The House of Discarded Dreams/Sedia (Tried and not for me)

Edit 1/2/11 Guardians of Paradise/Fenn (C-, Goodreads minireview)

Not yet have, But hope to get soon:

Guardians of Paradise/Fenn - finally bought it in November but strangely it did not scream 'read me" on the first page so on the pile for now
Edit 1/2/11 Disappointing, almost a series dropping book; see minireview HERE

Transformation Space/De Pierres

Edit 1/2/11 Got it; will read sooner or later;

The House of Discarded Dreams/Sedia

Edit 1/2/11 Tried and not for me.

Read From and Moved down on the Pile:

Behemoth/Westerfeld - back to reading pile for now; too much YA/same, but still wanna give it a chance

Version 43/Palmer - back to reading pile for now; cannot find the mood for 500 pages of it

Above the Snowline/Swainston - prequel and no full Jant narration moved this one down, but it will be most likely the first one I will finish of the 9 here

Prospero in Hell/Lamplighter - picks up where Prospero Lost ended but have not yet found the mood for it

edit 11/24; Finally got around to (fast) read Prospero in Hell (C,too much of the same) and like All That Lives Must Die/Nylund another dropped series where I liked the first book on novelty mostly, but the second book read same and I quickly lost interest.

Stone Spring/Baxter - read 50 pages and the prehistoric setting/naming got tiresome, but I expect to get over that soon

Heretics/Swann - despite being a big fan of previous sff from the author, this series goes slow for me; should read it when #3 and trilogy ending comes next year

Veteran/Smith - wannabe Richard Morgan and not quite there; need to find the mood for it and decide if I want to finish or if it goes to 'dropped'

Inside Out/Snyder - YA and showing but I plan a fast read when its sequel and series ending (?) is out since it moves well

Cryoburn/Bujold - reads tired, more like series milking than anything else; it's still Bujold, so I will read it sometime

Kraken/Mieville - got stuck on page 200 and unclear when I will resume; maybe when CM's sf comes next year

The Midnight Mayor/Griffith - liked the first installment which was the first and maybe last traditional UF I've read; this one not yet on "dropped" list but the odds are I will never open it again; just cannot suspend disbelief to take (widespread) magic in the modern scientific world...
I have discussed this HERE too.

GIVEAWAY: Win a Set of the Elemental Assassin Books by Jennifer Estep

In honor of her recent interview with Fantasy Book Critic. Fantasy Book Critic is giving to ONE lucky winner a set of Jennifer Estep's Elemental Assassin Novels. The winner will receive a set of books including: Spider's Bite, Web of Lies and Venom.

A big thank you goes out to Jennifer Estep for providing the giveaway.

Rules to Enter:

1. This giveaway is limited to the US/Canada only.

2. Only one entry per person. Multiple entries by the same person will result in disqualification of all entries.

3. Contest starts at 1:01 PM EST October 17, 2010 and will end October 25, 2010 at 1:01 PM EST.

4. To enter please send an email with your name and mailing address and the subject "Jennifer Estep" to Make sure you include your name and mailing address.

5. All entries will be deleted upon completion of the contest.

6. Good luck and have fun!

Interview with Jennifer Estep (Interview by Mihir Wanchoo)

Fantasy Book Critic was lucky to sit down with Jennifer Estep in an email interview. Jennifer Estep is the author of the UF series Elemental Assassin and Big Time. Most recently her book Venom was released which is the third book in the Elemental Assassin series.

A big thank you goes out to Jennifer Estep for taking the time to sit down with Fantasy Book Critic.


Welcome to Fantasybookcritic, could you please give us an introduction about yourself, how you first got published and what set you on to the path of a wordsmith!

Thanks for having me here! I started writing my first book back in college. Eventually, I sold the seventh book that I wrote – Karma Girl – in 2006. That book was published in 2007, and I've been writing and publishing ever since. Venom, my October release, is the third book in my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series and my sixth published book overall.

I've always loved books and reading, and my mom used to take me to the library every Saturday so I could pick out some books for the week. That's really why I fell in love with books. One day, I just thought it would be cool to write my own book with my own characters and tell the story that I wanted to – so I sat down and started my first novel. I haven't stopped writing since then.

Earlier in the year you recently had a very interesting post about Epic fantasy and the over epicness of it. Could you expound upon that for the readers as to why overtly long epics turn you off to some extent?

As much as I love epic fantasy books, sometimes I think that they could be a little less epic – or shorter in other words. I enjoy all the world building that goes along with epic fantasy, but I don't think that authors need to describe things to death. Sometimes, I think that authors focus on the world building instead of moving the story forward. For me as a reader, paragraph after paragraph of descriptions really slows down the pace of a book and kills my enjoyment of the story.

I'd rather read a good fight scene than pages and pages about what someone's hairstyle really means. Some of my favorite epic fantasy authors right now are Alex Bledsoe and Scott Lynch. I think both of them write a good balance of action and world building.

You have an interesting take on the whole elemental power scenario, curiously you have chosen Air, Fire, Ice and Stone as the 4 choices, this is just me but did you select stone instead of Earth as it would facilitate Gin's career or are there other reasons?

I decided on Stone because I wanted something that was the exact opposite of Air, just like Fire is the exact opposite of Ice. Plus, I thought that by using Stone and these other elements that I could come up with some really cool powers for Gin, as well as the bad guys that she faces. For example, with her Stone magic, Gin can make her own skin as hard as marble. With her Ice power, she can create small shapes, like Ice cubes, crystals, and the occasional set of lockpicks. Those come in handy in Gin's line of work. ;-)

Also, there are folks who can use offshoots of the four main elements. For example, metal is an offshoot of Stone magic, while electricity is an offshoot of Air magic. I think that adds a little more variety to my world and the powers that I can have my villains use.

You have said that you are a big fan of the James Bond series by Ian Fleming, so what are your thoughts on the book franchise reboot which is to be done next year with Jeffrey Deaver heralding the first book?

I do love the James Bond series – both the books and the movies. It seems like both the books and the movies get a reboot every few years, and I'm okay with that. I just like reading the new books and watching the new movies. Like any long-running series, there are high points in the Bond series (the movie Casino Royale) and low points (the movie A View to a Kill).

I haven't read many of Deaver's other books, but I'm interested to see what he does with the character. I just hope it's a good, action-packed story that stays true to Fleming's original books with a few modern updates.

Could you explain about how the genesis of the Elemental Assassin series occurred? How long have you been working on it, and how much has it evolved from its original idea (if any)?

I've always loved reading about assassin characters, especially in fantasy books. But after a while, I noticed that there were a lot of whiny, angsty assassins out there – characters who would go on and on and on about how evil and conflicted they were. It always seemed to me like there was a simple solution to that problem – quit being an assassin!

With Gin, I wanted to create the assassin that I wanted to read about – someone who was strong and tough and still a little vulnerable underneath her cold exterior. Also, someone who is okay with all the violent, bloody things that she has to do in order to survive. Someone who realizes that maybe she's not the best person around, but that there are worse folks out there – and good people who need the help of her deadly skills.

Originally, I tried to write the book as an epic fantasy, but I'm just not that great at writing a medieval-type of world. So after a couple of tries, I decided to write the story as an urban fantasy, and that's when the story really started working for me. I worked on Spider's Bite on and off for a couple of years before I settled on the urban fantasy angle and created the world that is featured in the books today.

You have some short stories on your site with regards to your Elemental Assassin books, how do you decide upon which character to focus upon & any thoughts on putting them up as a short story collection for your readers in the future? Also could you tell us about the specific order they have to be read in with the series?

The stories are just fun extras that I do for readers so they have something to read and look forward to in between the books. I try to focus on a different character every time just so readers get to see Gin's world from different points of view. So far, I've written short stories from Gin, Fletcher, and Finn's point of view. Next up, I think that I'll do a couple of stories from Jo-Jo Deveraux's point of view.

The stories don't necessarily have to be read in order, but it helps. I would recommend the following reading order:

Read Spider's Bite (1st book), then read Spider's Bargain (short story).

Read Web of Lies (2nd book), then read Web of Death and Web of Deceit (short stories.)

Read Poison and Wasted (short stories), then read Venom (3rd book) when it comes out on Sept. 28.

Most writers have a muse and some don't, what has been the case for you? Also what is your daily writing schedule like? Do you write best in the morning or evening? Or do you have any specific routines like a certain Dan Brown who gets up at 4:30 & performs shirsasan[a yoga posture] before writing

I have a full-time day job, so I do my writing at night and on the weekends. I don't really have a particular time of day that I like to write, although I do seem to get the most work done on Sundays when it's quiet and I have several hours that I can devote to whatever project I'm currently working on.

I don't know that I have a muse. I just sit down and write until I have a very rough draft. Then, I go back, read through it, and see if my story/characters hang together. If they do, that's when I really dig in and start making everything come together and flow.

On your blog, you seem to have a review count going on as currently you have just crossed 1000, what's the story behind this numbering?

A long time ago, I read somewhere that people can only read an average of 3,000 books in a lifetime, which I think is really sad – 3,000 doesn't seem like that many books to me. So, back in high school, I started keeping a list of all the books that I read just to see if I could beat the 3,000 mark. I just crossed the 1,000 mark, and I review all of the books that I read on my blog. So that's where the numbers come from. I wish I had more time to read!

You Elemental Assassin books have had great covers by Tony Mauro, now usually UF covers aren't something to brag about as usually they portray stereotypical pictures of females with minimalistic clothing or of people who have no connection to the story. What do you feel when you see your covers.

Tony has done an awesome, awesome job with the Elemental Assassin covers – they really capture the dark, gritty spirit of Gin, Ashland, and the books, as well as tie into with the plot of the story. I couldn't be happier with the covers, and I'm always eager to see what Tony will come up with next.

You are contracted for five books but will this mean the end of the Elemental assassin series or do you have plans to write more beyond book 5?

I would love to continue the series beyond book 5. In fact, I have an idea for book 6 that I think would be really cool. But whether or not the series continues will depend on sales, like everything else does. So if you like the books, I hope you'll recommend them to your friends.

You also spoken upon "Touch of Frost" the YA book on your blog. From your description this book seems to be something which I would love to read. Is there any new news to share about it at this time?

Actually, I do. I've sold a young adult urban fantasy series called Mythos Academy. The first book is called Touch of Frost and will be out in August 2011. The books focus on Gwen Frost, a Gypsy girl who has the gift of psychometry, or the ability to know an object's history just by touching it. After a serious freak-out with her magic, Gwen finds herself shipped off to Mythos Academy, a school for the descendents of ancient warriors like Spartans, Valkyries, and more.

The Mythos Academy books won't be quite as dark and gritty as the Elemental Assassin series, since they are young adult books, but I think folks who enjoy the Elemental Assassin series will find plenty to like in the Mythos books – namely a strong, sassy heroine, cool magic/world building, and a sexy Spartan guy.

What are the types of books you like to read, similarly who are your literary heroes and lastly Who do you feel is an underrated writer that deserves more attention and why?

I read pretty widely – romance, fantasy, young adult, spy thrillers, action-adventure books, westerns. Science fiction, literary fiction, and non-fiction are really the only genres that I don't care for. I love books with a little bit of everything in them – action, adventure, danger, and romance. That's one of the reasons why I love the James Bond books by Ian Fleming so much – because the books feature all those elements, plus a larger-than-life hero.

Some of my other favorite authors include Robin McKinley, David Eddings, Donald Westlake/Richard Stark, Robert Parker, Kristin Cashore, Suzanne Collins … I could go on all day!

Hmm. That's a toughie. There are so many great writers out there. But if I had to pick just one, I'd say Donald Westlake. He wrote a great series of comic crime caper novels focusing on John Dortmunder, a thief who has the worst luck in the world and a zany crew to go along with it. I just love those books.

What can we expect from the EA series in terms of books 4 & 5, also what other books are you writing/publishing next.

Gin Blanco will be back for two more books. Tangled Threads (book 4) comes out in May 2011, and book 5 will be out in October 2011. In Tangled Threads, an assassin named Elektra LaFleur comes to town to kill Gin. I had a lot of fun writing a character like Elektra who's just as strong, smart, and cunning as Gin is. Elektra is definitely one of my favorite villains that I've written.

Also, the first book in my Mythos Academy young adult series will debut next year. Touch of Frost will be out in August 2011.

I'm also mulling over ideas for a third series – maybe another urban fantasy or paranormal romance series. We'll see what I come up with. ;-)

Writers often have a different connection to their creations; readers agree or sometimes disagree with the path authors choose. You had very patiently pointed it out when we spoke about Spider's Bite and the scene which I noticed (in the latter third of the book). Why do you think this occurs and have you experienced such a situation within your reading?

It's just part of being an author and a reader – everyone is going to have a different reaction to a book and its characters. I've read books where I didn't think that the characters would (or should) do the things that they did. But it was the author's book, and she wrote it the way that she wanted to. I have no problem with that. She writes her books the way that she wants to, and I write mine the way that I want to. We all listen to our characters' voices or muse or whatever you want to call it and interpret it in different ways.

Also, you never know what experiences your readers have had or what their reading tastes are. There are certain kinds of plots/characters that some readers love – but other readers hate those same kinds of plots/characters. Both the author and the reader bring their own likes and dislikes to every book. Sometimes, the two mesh – and sometimes they don't. I really enjoy talking with other authors and readers about books that we've read and what we all do or don't like in them. I think that's a good way to learn about the craft of writing and what resonates with people. Plus, it's just fun.

I don't expect everyone to love every single thing that I write – I certainly don't love every book that I read. Different strokes for different folks, and all that. I say live and let live. We all like some books and authors better than others. Variety and having our own likes and dislikes is what makes life and books interesting.

You have also previously written the Paranormal Romance BIG TIME series. Could you tell us more about it and do correct me but I think I may have noticed a small connection in between your BT & EA series as in one of your short stories I noticed Finn mention "Fiona Fine Menswear" which I believe is a reference to "Hot Mama" So is there any more connections to the 2 series or just something you would like your readers to have fun with?

The Bigtime books feature sexy superheroes, evil ubervillains, and smart, sassy gals looking for love. Titles in the series are Karma Girl(2007), Hot Mama (2007), and Jinx (2008). Basically, the Bigtime books are campy, comic book spoofs, sort of like the old Wonder Woman show with Lynda Carter or Batman with Adam West. The books are paranormal romances, and they are quite a bit lighter in tone than my Elemental Assassin series.

In every Elemental Assassin book, I have a small reference to someone or something from the Bigtime books. For example, as you mentioned, in Spider's Bite, someone is wearing a Fiona Fine suit – Fiona happens to be the fashion designer heroine of Hot Mama. In Web of Lies, someone reads a news story by Carmen Cole, the journalist heroine of Karma Girl. These are just a fun little reference that I like to throw in for fans of my Bigtime series.

In closing, is there anything else you'd like to say about writing or your upcoming books.

I just want to say thanks again for taking the time to feature me on the blog. I hope everyone has as much fun reading my books as I do writing them. Also, if anyone is interested, they can read my blog and follow me on these various sites:



Facebook fan page



Happy reading, everyone! ;-)