Yes, I am Alive

A quick update and apology.

It has been quite a while.  So hello friends, how are you, I missed you!

Once again I found myself on a mini-hiatus, though as you can see this one will not be a year and a half of inactivity.  The details are the usual suspects; a major shake up at work once again upended everything.  Reading time once again dipped before being pulled back.  Even audiobook time took a toll as my travel got messed around with a bit.  Life is fine, this wasn’t a shake up that messed with quality of life for which I am thankful; it truly is only blogging that is being affected negativity.

But I am back, and a have a few reviews lined up again for next week, and am ready to get back in the saddle.  This is good for me!

The sad part is the sacrifices I am going have to make to keep this going this time.

-I have always prided myself on being one of the more social bloggers around.  Many people over the years have told me that I was one of, if not the, first to leave a comment on their new blogs.  I love doing it.  But it takes time.   LOTS of time.  I would often spend more time visiting blogs that writing my own.  And that is time I currently don’t have.  As such I will not be checking Feedly until things work out again.

This doesn’t mean I wont check out links that interest me.  Just that I will probably be more in the comment-back club than I used to.  I hope people understand.

-I also will not be quite so new release focused.  Now that work has stabilized again a lot of my reading will be audio format.  While some publishers do keep me in the now with audio books it is still easier to grab older books from the library for this purpose.

-Most importantly I am going to try some shorter reviews.  500 words don’t come as easy as they used to.  Sometimes the words flow like water and when the inspiration hits so be it, I will write.  But expect more two/three paragraph reviews with some quick thoughts when it is all I can come up with.

My goal is to not burn out completely and walk away because I know if I do that again it is probably for the last time.  Hopefully these changes will make it happen.

Thank you for reading.

Arising from the Ashes

I am reviewing again, though this won’t be the place to read them.  Most of my reviews are currently being seen at Booknest.eu.  I also contribute to The Speculative Herald.  Both are wonderful sites and I hope any old readers who find me add both to their feed immediately.  When I have a new review I will cross post it here so people wanting to find all my stuff in one place can.  Please visit the sites and comments are always both welcome and helpful to rebuilding my ‘brand’ on these sites. Continue reading

My August Reads

UprootedLet us take a trip together down my last month of reading. While at one time (like last month) I prided myself on writing a review on everything I read I found that even I have a price. Like many people I found that my price was shockingly low; a good beer and several nights of Fallout Shelter was all it took for me to compromise on my morals.

And let me tell you it feels good. Expect this compromise to be made even more in the future.

But I have been reading, if not at the rate that I was once accustomed to.   And this is a book blog. So I suppose I ought to talk about some books.

First let’s talk about Fables. Perhaps you have heard of it? I don’t do comics much. Not long ago I thought I was going to get into comics more but after reading the first issue of Suicide Squad I realized this still isn’t a medium that catches my eye much. Oh sure Watchmen is still a regular reread and Sandman holds a place in my heart. AND, I admit, Rat Queens is quite enjoyable though the second volume is not up to the quality of the first.

But I had never gotten to Fables despite it being right up my alley; fairy tale re-imagining should be old by now but to be fair Fables has been doing it for quite some time. Sure it turns out the author is kind of a jackass but that doesn’t take away from what has proven to be a semi-addiction. I have read the first seven volumes. I admit it peaked early on, once that adversary’s identity came out it has not held up as well but I don’t regret reading it. For now I will put it down though, I have more Pratchett books to read as my bedside table books.

Uprooted is a wonderful book by Naomi Novak that deserves a full review. Three attempts to write one later is what started myself down a slide of android video games. Uprooted feels like a fleshed out fairytale; a young girl goes to a scare place and grows into her own with a backdrop of an evil forest. I love it. It was never predictable and never let the reader know where it was going to go. Just when it looked like there was no end in sight for the conflict within the book the protagonist finally takes over and finishes things right. I admit, I hate neatly tied packages and believe it or not I am not a huge fan of happy endings. Uprooted ends on a melancholy yet hopeful note. And while there is a conclusion to the story not everything is tied up so neat that we know the whole story is over. This was a damn good book from an author that I have always respected but was tiring of from her previous never ending series.

Moving on to Dark Assension. I do believe I have made my feelings clear on the FortitudeDark Ascension (Generation V, #4) Scott. I do so love it. I have criticized the covers on more than one occasion; I still think they make the books look like cheap TV show tie-ins. But you cannot fault what is between the pages. Now urban fantasy series often have a flaw built right into them and it is the same thing that makes them so damn marketable- they are ripe to become episodic and several times I have eaten up a series and realized that things are not really going anywhere book after book. I am pleased to report M.L. Brennen is not letting this happen to hers.

By the end of this forth book I came to the realization that the series could end today and I would be disappointed just fine. Not because I don’t want more, because believe me I do. But there was such a shake up of the status quo in this book that it could be read as an open ended conclusion. For three books we saw Fortitude meet a new fantasy creature, solve a new problem, and learn a little bit more about his vampire powers. At the end of the book he was still safely the baby of his family; his mother being the sweetest little lady mafia don in the world, his brother watching over him, and his sister the coolest enforcer of any large syndicate. Then BOOM. Dark Ascension hits. And now we have a whole new playground to build in. I love the lack of complacency and the unwillingness to stick to a winning formula just because one can. And as such this series will remain a must read for each new book.

The House of Shattered WingsFinally we come to The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard. This was a highly anticipated book for me as I loved her trilogy of Aztec based fantasy mysteries. This is one of those books I can objectively call very good; Urban Fantasy unlike anything else bearing the genre label. I enjoyed the fallen angel aspects, respected the way it tied its historical aspects with the fantastic. I can even call the characters more complex than the book’s page length suggests they could be. What I can’t do, sadly, is say I particularly enjoyed the book. It was a mystery that failed to catch my interest and a book I kept reading because I recognized that it should be good.

September is starting strong. Serpent of Venice by Christopher Moore has been read and I am reading The Traitor Baru Cormorant and enjoying it very much.   Hell, I may even review it.

Over at Lady Business

The wonderful people at Lady Business invited me to join in on their new feature Maps & Legends, a round table style feature to talk about various topics of interest.

This weeks topic was What books are on your auto-recommend list?  This proved harder than I thought it would but in the end I think I came up with a pretty solid list.  Looking over the other contributors I am seeing some awesome books from some awesome people. And I wasn’t the only one to drop a Pratchett book!

Please head over and check it out.

On Ratings and Reviewing

A few recent blog post and comments on my own blog have put me in a musing mood so please bear with me. I have been thinking about reviewing in general and blogging specifically; especially within the context of this site. I talk about blogging itself on twitter and at times on various forums but on the site I rarely bring it up. This is purposeful, I try to keep reviews on point. Even when I am being silly with them I want the text to be about the book or series I am reviewing. In the early stages I took this so far as to write all reviews in third person to keep ME completely off the page (before quickly realizing how silly that was). So this is a little different for me.

It is fair to say that while I had moderate hopes for Fantasy Review Barn I can’t claim I ever saw it becoming what it has. By no means the biggest blog around but I can no longer pretend it is an unknown entity, nor that we are not know in some circles. With that of course comes the extra layers of scrutiny. I have never had my honesty questions but more and more my reviews get attention from unexpected places and I would hate for that to change.  So I want to talk about what often gets the most attention; that rating that sits at the bottom of each page.

I have thought about doing away with a star rating completely. I do believe a review should tell you what is important and that in some ways a star rating is a crutch. But it is a useful one. For myself it helps steer a discussion, ‘this is why specifically I rated the book this way.’ For a reader who trusts my judgment it is a quick and dirty way to scan for what they truly want to read; not everyone has time every day to scar thousand word reviews.

But it has its own issues. To start with I don’t eve follow the rating system on the review policy anymore and should probably revise it at some point. Stars 2-5 are the same but I have stopped using 1 Star ratings for books I don’t finish. Instead I just write about why I didn’t finish and leave a rating off. I save the single star for books so hideously insulting I want to throw it; overtly racist or something of the like would be needed. And because I don’t often go into books blind I am not likely to be reading 1 star books all that often.

This of course tips the scale; two stars are now books I just find to be really bad. Which leads to the real issue I have been having – Three star ratings. I know I have gotten progressively tougher on books as time has gone on; early reviews probably were inflated a bit high at times. But to me a 3 star book is still a good book, a book worth reading. Four stars are books I recommend without reservation, and five stars are books that did something extra well to me. But, again, a three star book is perfectly fine.

Not everyone sees it that way. My comments prove that to me regularly. And I am not sure what to do about it. But it is tied to another quirk in my style. What leads to the ratings in the first place? Some people have some very interesting systems for rating books. Wastrel has a seven part system he uses; you can see everything he is thinking before the final rating is set. Author Zachary Jernigan gives two different ratings; and objective one and a personal one. But I use only one all encompassing, quickly set and decided onstar rating. Want my secret? The magic formula that I use?

I give ratings based purely on how I feel about the book when I finish it. No formula, no heavy thoughts. Did I love it? Rave about it? Or merely read it. That rating, almost he lest important part of the review process, gets the time it deserves in my mind. Yet it seems to count for so much. A Goodreads comment summed it up best. I was asked how I could give 4 stars to Blood Song but 5 to The Barrow. And good old Wastrel again swooped in; ‘Presumably he preferred the other book to this one? ’  But in my mind I was thinking ‘why did I even write a review for each if the rating is all that matters?’

Why does it matter? It may not. But it is important that people know where I am coming from. Because I would hate to have my judgment questions by the nature of the blog. It is true that I get a good portion of my reading material from publishers and authors at this point. When Fantasy Review Barn first started up there was a long e-mail chain between me and Pauline. One of the things that was important to her was that we not become a mouth piece of the publishing industry; something I agreed with. She doesn’t accept ARCs, didn’t want the blog to get into a race with other blogs, didn’t want ‘content’ that didn’t actually consist of anything.

Two years past and I have broken a great many of those early promises; though I hope it is understood that I have kept the spirit of our vision. I continue to read because I like to read, and write because I love to write. This blog is a hobby to me, if it wasn’t fun I would do it. And I should thinkI have proven ..that I like to have fun ..from time to time. But by accepting, nay requesting ARCS, and by participating in giveaways, I am certainly part of the authors/publishers publicity machine (though I quickly realized that ANY review put in a public space is part of this machine). I have lines that I set for myself, things I have absolutely no problems with other blogs doing but have personally kept away from. I don’t do posts that spotlight a book without saying something about it. Be it cover reveals or Waiting on Wednesday or what have you, it just isn’t for me (a part of me thinks that Tough Travels is probably the most effective marketing tool that has come out this blog and it was designed completely to be a celebration of good books). Thereare things I often love reading and often helm me to discover new books, but they don’t fit my own vision.

One of my biggest struggles last year was deciding if I wanted to run a giveaway for a book I wasn’t that found of. Ultimately I decided to go with it; it was a net benefit to the readers of this blog. Different tastes run through out and just because someone enjoys Fantasy Review Barn certainly doesn’t mean they would agree with our tastes one hundred percent of the time. But in the back of my mind I know that is the type of thing that makes some readers not trust review sites. Many of the same sites reviewing products of all kinds are also accepting getting the majority of their revenue from the people making them.  And while I am not making money or running ads the monetary value of the books sent my way cannot be ignored. It can be perceived as a conflict.

Luckily I am a confident person. I know there is no conflict and I know it shows. So all of this was a long winded way of making a promise that shouldn’t have to be made, and was in all honesty completely unasked for. I will continue to read books I enjoy. I will write about those books in which ever style I feel like and post the reviews on my own time schedule. And you will always, ALWAYS get my true feelings about a book no matter how it was acquired.

A Link Stampede

I can Link you up…show you what you want to see and link you where you want to be.

-Sad Puppies!  Are you tired of your fantasy and sci-fi awards being based on talent, entertainment, or the very act of being good?  Would you rather the nominees be picked purely on political philosophy?  You are in luck!  This year author Brad R Torgersen led the charge for the third year of stacking the field so Larry Correia ‘unrepresented voices’ are involved in ballot stuffing campaigns represented.  Here is your list so you have no need to think on your own!

But it is the blog posts that really make me smile.  Torgersen thinks the problem with speculative fiction is that it dares to do anything different what so ever.  For the love of god it should just be a vast scale of Tolkien rewrites so I know what I am getting without reading it!  (Not a bad idea if it saves me from reading another Correia book actually).

Author Sarah Hoyt wonders if someone will PLEASE think of the children!  Because children should only be reading, or only want to read, action adventures it appears.  The real gem comes right about…here.

As for the Hugos…. brother, I stopped buying the books about ten years ago, when I realized I’d stopped reading them five years before.  I even tried to read one, and it reminded me of the thing a colleague of mine says it’s a bad idea to write “The working class got up, was exploited and went back to bed.”  Only in this case it was the Transgender lesbian pagan handicapped woman woke up, was vicitimized(sic) and went back to bed.  Over and over and over again.

Ya…

Finally, Larry Correia wants your help putting together a hit list making a list for a totally real interview that is coming up with a completely real news outlet.  Did a social justice warrior call you out on your shit insult you for no reason?  He wants to know.

Grimdark! –  Who the hell knows what it means.  I am a person who certainly reads a good share of books that probably fit the label.  I know some use it as an insult, some as a term of endearment. And it sure has come up a lot recently.

Pornokitsch gave a pretty good definition in a post about The Goblin Emperor (and has said since that it is already being revised).

nerds of a feather, flock together puts together a roundtable called After Grimdark.  It causes controversy.  Mark Lawrence gathers a great list of authors to respond.  And nerds of a feather, flock together sets up a second discussion that not only revises the original questions but also addresses the definition from Pornokitsch.  This is good stuff.

The good stuff– reddit fantasy gets some heat, including from myself occasionally.  But it is populated with some great people who find some real gems.  This week’s post of interest comes from Mark Bould’s blog and is called African Science Fiction 101.  Well worth a read.  Be even better if I read a few of them.

(Update: There was a interview!   Of course it is with Breitbart, so the ‘news outlet’ aspect is still missing).

(Update #2A response! Quite a lengthy reply to a 500 word post the author says she didn’t even read.  Not sure a two bit blogger like myself is worth it, but thanks!)

(Update #3: Author Dave Creek – I’m declaring that I’m not a “Sad Puppy.” – This is a couple days old, but relevant).

 

 

Tagged by Lynn- Nathan answers some questions.

I am sure by now most of you have seen this tagging game going around.  And Lynn decided she hates me and forced me at gun point to answer all these questions.  Well, pointed a tagging at my head maybe.

So behold, more about me than anyone ever needed to know!  Enjoy.

FOUR NAMES THAT PEOPLE CALL ME (OTHER THAN MY REAL NAME)

  1. Nathan, because it is short for Nathanial (yes, my mom spelled it different than the norm).
  2. Nate- My mother hated this, but coaches go for the shortest name possible.  Nate was standard while I played Soccer.
  3. Barney- Not as much as other family members get, but occasionally, based on my last name..
  4. Red – Well, they did when I still had hair at least.  I miss having hair sometimes.  Stupid genetics, I AM ONLY 33 DAMN IT!

FOUR JOBS THAT I HAVE HAD

  1. Produce Clerk – My high school/early college job.  Actually enjoyed this quite a bit, but the store was slowly going out of business
  2. Pet Store –  Met a couple of my best friends here and learned I love birds.  Bad side, pretty much ruined pet stores for me.  I learned about puppy mills, bad reptile conditions, and basically spent the last six months fighting with the owners.  Good side, my knowledge of birds was the reason my parrot’s former owner came to me and offered Jerry to me for free.  He had to move and wanted Jerry taken care of.
  3. Waiter/Bartender –  I put my time in.  Ever bartended during Kareoke?  I don’t recommend it.  You will never be able to hear Sweet Caroline without wanting to punch someone.  The good news?  Met my wife on a slow night there.  So that damn dive will always have a place in my heart.
  4. Current one with a large company.  Product rep.  I don’t mention the company because they have people who scan social media for references and who knows, I may need to do some major cussing in the future.  But thus far they have treated me pretty good.

FOUR MOVIES I HAVE WATCHED MORE THAN ONCE

  1. Star Wars -Duh
  2. Tombstone – Outside of The Emperor’s New Groove this is the most quotable movie I know.
  3. Monty Python and the Holy Grail – Double duh.
  4. Super Troopers – I know, I know.  But I kid you not on this.  I brought this home because it was in a clearance bin for four bucks.  Over the next week my roommate and I showed to every friend we had.  I am positive we watched it six times that week.

FOUR BOOKS I’D RECOMMEND

  1. Really?
  2. I write
  3. Book
  4. Blog

FOUR PLACES I HAVE LIVED

  1. Fort Collins, Colorado – My birthplace and I didn’t leave until I was 26.
  2. Another house in Fort Collins, Colorado – Moved out of my parant’s place and ended up living with the same roommate for 4 years.  We had a couple of ‘other roommates,’ but only one is still called ‘my roommate.’
  3. Enid, Oklahoma –  For two months I worked my aunt and uncles farm.  Mostly building fences.  Just because I needed something to do when I was 15 and couldn’t drive yet.
  4. Mead, Colorado – Brave old me moved twenty miles down the road to a small town that is a half hour from anywhere I want to go.

FOUR PLACES I HAVE BEEN

  1. Idaho – Because my parents have moved there
  2. California – Because it is where people in the US go to vacation
  3. Ohio – Not yet actually, but business is taking me there in a month.
  4. Mexico –  Just Tijuana though.  For all of a couple hours.  But this is the only time I have left the U.S.

 

FOUR PLACES I’D RATHER BE RIGHT NOW

  1. Sleeping – But if I could sleep I wouldn’t be typing
  2. At my parents – Because they spoil me and watch the kid when we visit
  3. Central America – Would love to go see all my favorite birds in the wild.
  4. Endor – As long as the Ewoks remember people are not food.

FOUR THINGS I DON’T EAT

  1. Broccoli – Is there anything that can contaminate food worse?  If it so much as touches the food then it is the only taste to be found.
  2. Mushrooms – Oh ya, there is something that contaminates foods worse than broccoli.
  3. Steak- Oh, I will eat it.  But a steak is wasted on me so don’t waste your money.  I would rather chop the meat up and make tacos.
  4. Ice cream that isn’t vanilla based.  Don’t ruin the perfect things in life.

FOUR OF MY FAVORITE FOODS

  1. Burritos- Flour tortilla, re-fried beans, cheese.  I will take other toppings or fillings, but I can eat this for any meal.
  2. Sugar Cereal –  Preferable with little marshmallows.  No, I never grew out of it.
  3. Salsa – Hot salsa, preferably with lots of cilantro.
  4. Candy – I have the worse sweet tooth you have ever seen. Ask my wife.

FOUR TV SHOWS THAT I’VE WATCHED…

  1. Firefly – The only sci-fi that my wife likes.
  2. Scrubs – Favorite show in my house.  We own all the box sets and rewatch them one a night.
  3. Big Bang Theory – Yes, it is not the worlds greatest show.  But it is good background noise
  4. Sports – Really this is the most likely thing to be on our TV.

FOUR THINGS THAT I AM LOOKING FORWARD TO THIS YEAR (THE NEXT 12 MONTHS)

  1. New job – Same company, but a new position.  Starts sometime this month.
  2. Vacation – Usually go spend a week with my folks in the summer.  Always a good trip.
  3. Saturdays – New job cuts down the amount of these I have to work in a a major way.
  4. Good books, good beer, lots of family time.

FOUR THINGS I AM ALWAYS SAYING

  1. “If you fuck with the bull, you get the horns.” A phrase I stole from my dad.
  2. “Love you too” – To my 4 year old, many times a day.
  3. “Are you pondering what I’m pondering” – My wife and I both have fond memories of Pinky and the Brain.
  4. “It is hard to be humble” – An old country song my wife dedicated to me.  Apparently I need to learn more humility?  I am also know to say “I crack myself up.”

FOUR PEOPLE I TAG

I break chain letters, I do!  I tag none of you.  But feel free to do it if you want.