The Grace of Kings

The Grace of Kings (Dandelion Dynasty #1)

By: Ken Liu

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

I was really torn on this book.  If I had only given it the first 100 or so pages, I would have never have gone any further.  This could be why I don’t tend to try and read too many epic fantasy books.  They mostly seem to start so slow and spend so much time building the world and characters without getting anywhere, or really doing much with the plot.  The same is mostly true here. There’s enough of a cast of characters in the novel that we spend a great deal of time introducing them and getting backstory for each.  We also spend some time, rightfully, learning a bit about the history of the world that we’re entering.

Liu is a talented writer, who has a skill with prose that makes it worthwhile to continue on into the story.  Eventually, after he’s done the building, and we get into the meat of the story, the characters bring you into the plot.  The plot and characters really saved the book for me.

This is likely to be seen as one of the better epic fantasy novels of the year, and if you’re into epic fantasy, it really should be added to your to-read list.

Excerpt – The Devil’s Game

The Devil's GameWhile we’re on an excerpt kick, let’s have another, shall we?  What follows is an excerpt from Sean Chercover’s novel, The Devil’s Game.  The good folks over at Thomas & Mercer were kind enough to send over this excerpt.

From what we’ve got here, it looks like it’s going to be a pretty good story with some heavy military foundations.  The Devil’s Game is out now; $4.99 for the Kindle edition (free for Kindle Unlimited folks) or $11.99 for the paperback edition.  Take a read of the excerpt and then pick a copy up today.


Today is a good day to die.

Daniel Byrne handed the counterfeit identification card to the soldier behind the metal desk. To the left of the desk another soldier stood blocking the solid steel inner door. Mounted to the cinderblock wall beside the door, an electronic palm-print reader.  A third soldier—the one cradling an assault rifle—stood behind Daniel, blocking the larger metal door through which he’d entered, and which he knew was the only exit. They wore plain green uniforms, no identifying patches or insignia.

Today is a good day to die. But Ive decided to stay alive until tomorrow.

The soldier at the desk examined the forgery, which identified Daniel as Colonel Walter Pomerance of the Defense Intelligence Agency, then tapped on the computer keyboard and looked at the screen.  His mouth twitched once and he became very still. The sentry of the inner door moved his hand an inch closer to his holster.

The soldier at the desk said, “Sir, there’s no record—”

“Typical,” snapped Daniel. The persona he’d created for Colonel Walter Pomerance was that of an insufferable bastard—he would play the role all the way, whatever the outcome. “Is it too much to presume your computer is at least capable of providing you the phone number of the Pentagon?” He resisted the urge to adjust his uniform. Putting ice in his voice he added, “Don’t waste my time…Sergeant.”  Forcing that last word, having no way of knowing if the man was in fact a sergeant.

During the pre-insertion briefing Raoul told him the one behind the desk would be a sergeant and said to address him by rank. And Daniel had just now bet his life of the accuracy of that intel. Intel provided by a man he’d known less than three months.

He raised his left wrist and pressed the button on the side of his watch—starting the chronograph—and shot the young man a look. From the soldier’s perspective, the move would scan as an ego-driven high-ranking officer tossing his clout around.  But Daniel needed to track time.  From the moment the soldier had entered Daniel’s cover name into the computer, he would have one hour.  That is, if the Foundation computer geeks, tapping away furiously 538 miles away in New York City, were successful.

If they were successful, the phone call would be intercepted by the Foundation, who would also take control of the local computer network and upload the military file for Daniel’s legend—not a complete file, because much of the fictional Colonel Pomerance’s file would be classified even above the level of this place—but a file even more impressive for what was redacted than for what it contained.  Colonel Walter Pomerance. A very powerful DIA spook.

Not a man whose time you wanted to waste.

Daniel watched a half-dozen seconds tick by—he loved the smooth micro-ticks of his new watch’s automatic movement—and when none of the three soldiers put a bullet in his head, he figured the guy was really a sergeant. He dropped his wrist to waist level.

The room was a perfect square, 20 feet wall-to-wall. No furniture beyond the steel desk and single chair, nothing on the desktop but the computer and a telephone. LED light fixtures set into the ceiling, protected by thick sheets of clear bulletproof plexiglass. Nothing on the walls. No military shields or symbols, no flags, no official portrait of the Commander-in-Chief. Of course, there wouldn’t be. Officially this facility, which ran twelve stories down into the earth, did not exist. Black Ops, according to the case file Daniel had spent two days studying. It was once a coalmine, and hundreds of West Virginia men and boys had died here in the early 1900s. How many men died here now, and what they died of, was not in the case file.

The sergeant at the desk picked up the telephone receiver and pressed a speed-dial button. He offered a verbal passphrase, paused for confirmation, and began to explain the problem. There was nothing Daniel could do now but act inconvenienced and wait for it to play out.

And breathe.

He took his mind back to the zazen meditation that had started his day. Sitting seiza—kneeling, sitting on his feet with his back straight and his hands cupped together in his lap—on the impossibly plush royal blue carpet of the Greenbriar hotel’s Congressional Suite. Counting breaths, mentally tuning out the riotous floral print that assaulted him from the draperies, headboard, duvet cover…the smell of coffee beckoning from his room-service breakfast table…the sound of a distant woodpecker working to find its own breakfast.  Tuning out thoughts, worries, fears about the day ahead. Tuning in to counting breaths. Then moving past counting, tuning in to breathing itself.

Tuning in, to the now.

Excerpted from THE DEVIL’S GAME by Sean Chercover. Copyright 2015 by Sean Chercover. Published by Thomas & Mercer, a Division of Amazon Publishing. Reprinted with permission.
Bio: Sean Chercover is the author of the bestselling thriller The Trinity Game and two award-winning novels featuring Chicago private investigator Ray Dudgeon: Big City, Bad Blood and Trigger City. After living in Chicago; New Orleans; and Columbia, South Carolina, Sean returned to his native Toronto, where he lives with his wife and son. Sean’s fiction has earned top mystery and thriller honors in the US, Canada, and the UK. He has won the Anthony, Shamus, CWA Dagger, Dilys, and Crimespree Awards and has been short-listed for the Edgar, Barry, Macavity, Arthur Ellis, and ITW Thriller Awards.

Excerpt – The War Against the Assholes

The War Against the AssholesThe fine folks over at Saga Press (through their PR firm) were kind enough to send me a review copy of this book, but since I’m a bit backed up on my reading, I asked nicely if they could send me over an excerpt to share with everyone while you’re waiting on me to read the book and do an actual review. They obliged, and below you’ll find a nice excerpt from Sam Munson’s book, The War Against the Assholes. I should note that I had some issues with the formatting of the excerpt, so please excuse any strange bits and bobs as they are probably my fault and not that of the publisher.


The barrel hole steady. A dark eye. It echoed the bruise under the tip of her pale chin. “Just be calm, Michael,” said Hob. The crane moaned. “We’re getting close,” said Charthouse. I tried to crouch, to get stable. “Stand up,” said Alabama. I was still thinking about what she would look like naked. “Where did you get that bruise,” I said. “Listen to Charthouse,” she said. I was more concerned with the gun. “Did you come to us of your own free will,” he asked me. “Are you joking,” I said. “Don’t be disingenuous,” said Charthouse, “Alabama will shoot you.” “Yes,” I said. It was for the most part true. “With no promises or inducements,” he asked. I looked at Hob. “You gave me all that whiskey or whatever it was, does that count,” I asked. “‘Whatever it was,’” said Chartreuse. “That’s eloquent,” said Alabama. “Does not count, by the way,” said Vincent. The wind moved the loose cloth of Charthouse’s dark windbreaker. Purple, eggplant purple. White stripes down the sleeves. A robe. I thought, His windbreaker looks like a robe. I am literal minded. Secret of my success. Such as it is. “And what do you mean it’s the valley of bones,” I said. A stupid question. “It’s a metaphor,” said Alabama, “now get moving.” “But what do you mean, though,” I said. Another stupid question. “Son, you know what she means,” said Charthouse. Alabama twitched the gun toward the outer edge of the platform. “Turn and get walking,” she said, “or you know the deal.” I didn’t move. She widened her stance. My bladder ached. I thought about pissing myself. I didn’t. I walked up to the platform edge and stared down. More levels like the one we stood on, more blaring lights in cages. I heard a clicking sound. I knew it was Alabama chambering a round. Drawing back the hammer. Had to be. “All right, you ready,” said Charthouse. “For what, ready for what,” I said. “You should feel lucky,” said Charthouse, “few get the chance.” “He doesn’t look ready,” said Vincent. “Shut up,” said Hob, and then to me: “Don’t listen, it’s totally fine, trust me.” This I had trouble with. “I don’t know what the salto is,” I said, “and I don’t know how to take it.” “I trust you can figure it out,” said Alabama. “She’s right,” said Charthouse, “it’s not genius-level perception we’re talking about here.”

At the bottom of the shaft, two-by-fours, cement sacks, eleven wheelbarrows. I counted them twice. A yellow hard-hat topping a pile of white dust. “Valley of bones,” crowed Charthouse. “I don’t see any bones,” I said. I knew I was going to die. These cocksuckers were going to kill me for no reason. “You lack a sense for poetry,” said Charthouse. True. I’m no poet. I’m no philosopher, either. I wasn’t then. I was a kid suffering an already-coming-on hangover, standing on top of a building with a hot girl pointing a gun at him and ordering him to take the salto. “I don’t know what that means,” I said, “I don’t.” “Just jump,” said Hob. “Or she’ll shoot you,” said Vincent, “and I’ve seen her do it before.” You could tell by their reedy voices they were brothers. In the shaft, wind-carried fragments of paper circled. On the streets below, the amber and red lights of cars. The air smelled like snow. “Nothing hard to understand about it,” said Alabama. “He’s not going to do it,” said Vincent. “I didn’t say that,” I called. “You have a point,” said Charthouse, “but you need to decide.” I pushed my toes over the wooden lip. “Can I just ask you one thing real quick,” I said. “Last question,” said Charthouse. “How does the rug get back down flat if you close the hatch behind you when you come down. In the store, I mean.” Charthouse hooted a long laugh. The cold wind whistled. “You’re an observant guy,” he said. “And you might even find out. But right now you need to decide.” So I decided. I didn’t want to get shot in the back. I took three breaths. I clenched my teeth. I leaped into the empty air.

Excerpted from THE WAR AGAINST THE ASSHOLES by Sam Munson. Copyright 2015 by Sam Munson. Published by Saga Press, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

Sam Munson’s writing has appeared in n+1, Tablet, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The National, The Daily Beast,Commentary, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Observer, The Utopian, and numerous other publications.
His first novel, The November Criminals, is being adapted into a film starring Ansel Elgort and Chloe Moretz, and will be released by Sony Pictures Worldwide in spring 2016.
His latest novel, The War Against the Assholes, is out this summer from Simon & Schuster’s Saga Press. He lives in Harlem with his wife and son. Visit him on the web at

The Fold by Peter Clines Giveaway!

I’ve reviewed a few books by Peter Clines here before, and I’ve loved each and every one of them. I’ll be reviewing his newest book, The Fold sometime in the near future too. But, in the mean time, I’ve got a copy to give away! You can record your entries below.

The Fold

The giveaway is open to US Residents only. It starts now, and will close at midnight on the night of June 26th, 2015.

The Fold by Peter Clines



By: Genevieve Valentine

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

The best way I can describe this is as a sci-fi thriller.  It’s set in a near-future world where something like the UN rules the world and the diplomats that we see on the television are nothing more than faces that do and say what the rest of their committee says.

By the end of the book, I found myself rooting for the main character and wanting to know more about what the future holds for her.  The secondary character is just as well written.  Overall, the plot and writing were well done, and the story was well executed.

If you’re a fan of science fiction that takes place in a world that’s only a few degrees from the world that we live in, you should give Persona a try.  I really enjoyed it, and am hoping that there’s a sequel upcoming.


Little Black Lies

Little Black Lies

By: Sandra Block

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again.  I really like it when a book grabs hold of me as a reader and drags me into the story.  It’s something special when a story is so well written that you jump into it and end up trying to find any extra time that you can to advance further into it.  Little Black Lies was such a book.

The one bad thing that I have to say about this book is that I had the ending figured out about half way through the book.  But, even with that fact, I still raced through it to find out if I was right.  The story is a gripping one that is fast paced and easy to read.  The characters that Block has written are both believable and lovable.

I’m not really sure how best to classify this book.  It’s both a psychological suspense and a detective book of sorts.  A mashup of genres if you want to call it that, I suppose.  In the end, it’s a highly readable book in either case.

Righteous Fury

Righteous Fury

By: Markus Heitz

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

This is the first book by Heitz that I’ve read.  The book, along with most of the rest of Heitz’s books were originally published in his native German before being translated over into English for those of us who are mono-lingual.  There’s a series that comes before this series, The Dwarves series.  From what I can tell from other reviews, and from having read this book, it’s not necessary to have read any of the other books in order to read this one.  The Dwarves series, as it’s name implies, tells the stories from the perspectives of the dwarves in this world, while Righteous Fury is the first in the Alfar series told from the perspective of the Alfar.

The Alfar are Heitz’s version of a dark elf.  At least, from what I can tell.  They’re an evil race with visual similarities to the Elven race.  The two main characters are Alfar who begin as rivals, but are forced to get along in order to execute on a plan that their rulers have chosen them for.  From there, we’re led through a journey as they fight amongst themselves, as well as with many of the other inhabitants of the world.

It’s hard for me to comment much on the actual writing of a book that’s been translated.  By default, when translated, the language had to be restructured in that most languages have a different grammatical structure than English.  So, I just won’t.  I can comment on the structure of the story though.  From a structure piece, there were a few places where it was a bit weak, and it seemed like we jumped from some dire circumstance right into the saving action.  Perhaps it was necessary, but it almost felt like the story had been written into a corner and it was the most convenient way of getting it out.

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  It’s a well written fantasy story that doesn’t extend itself into the length of the epic tomes that seem to be dominating the market just now.  I suppose it bears warning that the main characters are evil Alfar, so you’ve got to be able to get through a few grotesque descriptions and overall evilness of the people in order to really enjoy the story.


Pardon The Ravens

Pardon the Ravens

By: Alan Hruska

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

Ravens is billed as a legal thriller.  In that regard, I think it falls down.  While it is technically set with a main character that is a lawyer, and has some legal elements in it because of that, there’s very little of it that really qualifies it as a legal thriller, in my mind.  It does live up to the thriller part of that though.  From very nearly the start to the end, there’s plenty of twists and turns as the characters find a way to make plans then have them tossed and turned by events.

Hruska’s writing is pretty good.  Some of the dialogue felt a bit flat, but overall, that characters were well rounded and easy to understand.  This is a thriller, so don’t expect to get heaps of plot.  You get a main issue, with a few minor plot lines and an ultimate tying up of the main plot.

If you like thrillers (with a side helping of legal) that are quick reads and well done, Pardon the Ravens is worth the pickup.

Lucifer’s Hammer

Lucifer’s Hammer

By: Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

Of the many genre’s I read, my favorites are Science Fiction, Fantasy, and the subset of both called Apocalyptic fiction.  If you look at most lists of the influential novels in those genres, you’ll most likely find Lucifer’s Hammer.  That’s what convinced me that I needed to add it to my to-read list and, eventually, to get around to reading it.  Having read it, I see why it’s on many of those lists.

Hammer is a novel that is based around the discovery of a new comet, and the eventual meeting of that comet with planet Earth.  The story follows a host of characters that are involved in some way before the comet arrives and then after it arrives.  Having been written in the late 70’s, some of the ideas and references are dated, but the writing has certainly stood the test of time.

Nearly the first half of the book is spent building up to the eventual impact of the comet.  We meet the characters who all have their own independent lives, and are led through so many avenues of how people might feel should they be faced with a comet that is going to pass threateningly close to Earth.  After the comet arrives, we get a wonderful post-apocalyptic story about the survival of the human race, and how those humans react to the upsetting of the world as they know it.

Lucifer’s Hammer is a great apocalyptic story that’s maintained that story despite being almost 4 decades old.  If you’re at all interested in apocalyptic fiction and haven’t read it yet, now’s the time to add it to your list.

A Better World

A Better World (Brilliance Saga #2)

By: Marcus Sakey

Disclaimer: I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book to review. As is my policy with books that I receive for review, if I don’t like it, I don’t review it.

A Better World is the second book in the Brilliance Saga, a series of books about an evolution in the human race, and how the world reacts to it.  It will elicit lots of comparisons to the popular X-Men comic books, although the “mutations” are not as pronounced as they are in X-Men.  In a way, the evolutions in the world of Brilliance are a bit more believable.  The main character, for instance, has an advanced ability to recognize patterns and use those recognitions to anticipate what it is that people are going to do before they do them.  Another character has an evolved perception of time where each second for a non-brilliant is perceived as 11 seconds to him.

The world, and the characters that live in it, are all believable written. Of course, there’s a certain level of suspension of belief if you’re to fully immerse yourself into the story, but that is pretty easy in this case.  The plot lends itself to a quick read that draws the reader deeper until you find yourself pulling from all your spare time to finish it up and find out what happens.  That’s a huge sign of a great book.

If you’re a fan of well written science fiction without spaceships, or love a story with a great human story to it, the Brilliance Saga should find it’s way onto your reading list.