Book review: Ancillary Sword, by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Sword
Ancillary Sword

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ancillary Sword, book 2 of the Imperial Radch series, is not quite as awesome as Ancillary Justice–but that’s not actually a bad thing, since “not quite as awesome as its Hugo-winning predecessor” is still pretty freggin’ awesome.

In book 2, we’re picking up pretty much right where book 1 left off. Our protagonist Breq has been handed a Mercy and its crew, and has been tasked to protect the Athoek system. While doing that, she has to juggle dealing with a new lieutenant who’s not the baby-faced young officer she appears to be, the potentially hostile officers and crew of the larger ship Sword of Atagaris, making peace with the sister of one of her slain officers from when she’d been Justice of Toren, class conflict on the space station and planetside–and the risk of angering the alien Presger when one of their diplomats is killed. And all of this is happening under the shadow of the threat of civil war across the Radch–by which we mean, war between the factions of the Lord of the Radch herself.

There’s certainly no shortage of action, to be sure. At no point in this story was I ever bored. However, by comparison to book 1, I found Breq’s jumping around from event to event in this plot less focused. There’s no one particular big problem she has to solve in this story, and this gives everything a definite “middle book of a trilogy” feel. Given how book 1 ended, I came out of this one with an overall impression of the Lord of the Radch having just shunted Breq off out of the way, and a hope that the real action would pick up again in book 3.

So is this one Hugo-worthy? Unfortunately, I’m not convinced. It’s really good, but that’s not quite the same thing. It doesn’t really break any new ground that Ancillary Justice hadn’t already covered, and the lack of specific focus to the overall plot detracts from this book’s ability to stand shoulder to shoulder with its predecessor. Still, though, I enjoyed this immensely and will be eager to snap up Ancillary Mercy once it comes out later this year. Four stars.

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Book review: Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and Dave King

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into PrintSelf-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself into Print by Renni Browne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers got recommended on the Facebook group for the Northwest Independent Writer’s Association, of which I am a member. So I decided to check it out. By and large, I’m glad I did. I’ve now written and released five novels, and I’ve worked with a couple of different editors. And a lot of what I see in this book lines up pretty well with what my best editorial experiences have taught me about my own writing.

Because yes–whether you’re planning on querying to traditional publishers or going indie, your work will require an edit pass. Probably multiple edit passes. And if you can’t afford to hire your own editor, and/or you don’t have handy immediate friends with editing skills in your social circle, you will have to do that editing yourself. This text could do you well as a how-to guide for tackling the job.

Here are some of the things the book discusses that I’ve learned about in my own editorial experiences: minimizing dialogue tags, and when you actually do need one, it’s okay to use ‘said’, really; minimizing use of dialect for effect, and techniques to capture the cadence of a character’s accent without making him or her unreadable; using action beats instead of dialogue tags to convey who’s speaking, and how; and all the various ways to think about handling point of view.

There are a lot of exercises in the various chapters as well, on which you can practice. I skipped those, just because I’ve actually gotten in a fair amount of editing practice at this point, working with my own stuff. But if you haven’t edited yourself or someone else’s work before, you might try those and see how valuable they are for you. Me, I’ll be buying myself a copy of this for reference, now that I’ve read the library checkout copy. Four stars.

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Book review: Where I Belong, by Alan Doyle

As I’d already posted, I pre-ordered Alan Doyle’s new memoir Where I Belong straight off of greatbigsea.com, and that book got here yesterday, woo! (Although I only wound up getting it out of the mailbox tonight, since I worked from home yesterday and forgot to check the mail.)

But in the meantime I also pulled down the ebook via Kobo, since I wasn’t about to try to take a signed hardback anywhere in my backpack. And I’ve gotta say, I was expecting the read to be delightful–but hadn’t really quite grasped how fun it would be to go through a few hundred pages’ worth of Alan essentially telling us all about the first half of his life.

I already knew the man has a command of language; I have, after all, been following his blog posts on greatbigsea.com and his own site for years now. And I’ve been to many a GBS concert in which he’s launched into amusing tales while at the mike. I’m very, very familiar with the cadences of his voice at this point, after 14 straight years of Great Big Sea fandom.

And reading Where I Belong pretty much was just like hearing Alan tell a very long tale at a kitchen party, I swear. His voice came right through into his writing, and it was made all the more delightful by assorted pictures of his young self and assorted family members. At the end of each chapter came an additional anecdote, often tying into Great Big Sea, that gave the overall narrative good structure and eventually brought us to the big turning point of Alan’s life: i.e., the founding of the band that would make him, Séan McCann, Darrell Power, and Bob Hallett famous.

Some of this stuff I already knew, just from being in the fandom as long as I have. Some of it, though, I didn’t–particularly Alan describing the poverty of his early life. Boy howdy can I sympathize with that. And now that I’ve actually visited St. John’s, bits of the book kept resonating for me. Particularly Alan’s tale of the first visit he ever made to O’Brien’s–which has sadly now gone bankrupt. :( I’ve been in that store. And I have a very healthy respect for the significance it’s had to the history of music in St. John’s.

Those of you who’ve read Faerie Blood and who will hopefully be getting Bone Walker by the turn of the year–you also know my Warder boy Christopher is a Newfoundlander. And reading Alan’s book, for me as an author as well as a GBS fan, kept triggering little moments of “ah yes, this would be important to Christopher and all of his family”.

So yeah. Absolutely required reading, if you’re a Great Big Sea fan. And I’d even recommend it if you’re not a GBS fan, just on the strength of Alan’s storytelling. The man does have a way with a word. And I’m hearing rumors he may be already thinking of writing another one.

To which there can of course be only one proper response: yes b’y.

And here: both of my copies of the book, the signed one from greatbigsea.com, and the ebook on my Nook HD!

Where I Belong, in Stereo
Where I Belong, in Stereo

For the Great Big Sea fans, hey look! Alan Doyle, author!

Those of you who’re in Great Big Sea fandom undoubtedly know this already, but just in case you don’t, Alan Doyle is releasing a memoir in October! It’s to be called Where I Belong. Alert fans will note that this is the same title used by one of Alan’s songs on his solo album Boy on Bridge, and it’s about the importance of family collections even when a Newfoundlander wanders far from home. A fitting title indeed for a personal memoir.

GreatBigSea.com announced today over their newsletter that the book’s now available for preorder directly on their site, in hardcover form. So just for giggles, I went and poked around my various favorite ebook sites, and I’m seeing available on a lot of the major ebook sites as well. Here’s a roundup of places I’m seeing for sale!

GreatBigSea.com

Amazon US (Kindle and hardcover)

Amazon CA (Kindle and hardcover)

Barnes and Noble (hardcover only, no sign of a Nook version yet)

Powells

Chapters CA (hardcover and ebook, note that Chapters sells ebooks via Kobo)

iBooks US

iBooks CA

Kobo US

Google Play US

These are all the various links I can get at, browsing on computers in the States. If anybody in Canada or elsewhere wants to add links to this list, drop ’em in the comments!

AND! For those of you who’re on Goodreads, be advised that there is a giveaway in progress for both United States and Canadian readers! So if you don’t want to commit to buying a copy yet, you might want to jump in on this.

As y’all know, I am a voracious buyer of books, not to mention a longstanding voracious buyer of anything with Alan’s name on it. It tickles me deeply that I get to throw some of my book-buying money to Alan’s first venture into writing, and I very much look forward to having a signed hardcopy and a digital version. ‘Cause I ain’t taking a signed hardback on a bus commute!

A few things make a post

Some good reading on the Intarwebz today! First up, I bring you today’s Big Idea column over at the Whatever, where Mr. Scalzi brings word of Brad Meltzer’s new children’s books about Amelia Earhart and Abraham Lincoln. Parents of small children, especially daughters, go check this out. Especially if you’re fans of Calvin and Hobbes. The art for the Amelia book looks adorable.

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Meanwhile, Jim Hines has put up a good post today going over a writing advice question I hear time and again: i.e., whether you should try to write to the market. I said over there, and I’ll say here too, that even though “don’t try to write to the market” and “be aware of the market” seem contradictory on the surface, for me they’re actually kind of not. You want to be aware of what people who aren’t you are writing, so you aren’t writing in a complete and utter vacuum, and accidentally writing stuff that people lost interest in reading five or ten or even more years ago. Plus, you never know what awesome ideas you may have spark for your next book.

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Fellow Carina fantasy author Shawna Thomas is talking up her work over at Eleri Stone’s place, and in particular about coming-of-age fantasy. Go give her a look, ’cause fantasy by Carina is love!

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I’ve been following the news posts on TheOneRing.net for a while now, because hi, yeah, Tolkien geek, yo. But this post of theirs made me up and join their message forums for the express purpose of voicing my appreciation to their forums member who wrote some nice fanfic about Dís, the mother of the dwarves Kíli and Fíli, the only female dwarf Tolkien ever named. Looks like Cirashala’s getting her epic on with further fanfic about the character, too, based on what she’s saying in the thread that the news post links to. I approve!

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And last but least, speaking of Tolkien, I’m posting about reading fantasy in other languages over on Here Be Magic today! I talk up the Trilingual Hobbit Reread, but also a couple of the novels I want to read out of Quebec SF/F as well, like the ones by Élodie Tirel I’ve been talking about, as well as Esther Rochon.

C’mon over and tell me about nifty non-Anglophone genre works English speakers should know about, won’t you?

Missed CoyoteCon, oops, and a fellow author recommendation!

Y’all know how I said I was going to be participating in CoyoteCon this past weekend? Um, yeah, well, that kind of fell through with the whole suddenly having to be in the hospital for five days thing I just had to do. Happily I’m fine now, but I was sad to miss the CoyoteCon fun. If you were in on that, tell me what I missed, hey?

Meanwhile though I’d like to give a shoutout to fellow former Drollerie author Michael Stewart, who just released a new YA novella with zombies into the wild. Right now Ruination is only available for the Kindle since he’s released it via KDP Select. So if you’re a Kindle user, go check it out! And if you’re not a Kindle user and think this story might be your cup of tea regardless, let Michael know so he’ll be able to get it to you when his KDP Select period runs out!

I read and quite liked his novel 24 Bones, so I’m very happy to recommend him. Go give him a look, mmkay?