We have a winner!  The winner of the signed copy of A Dance With Dragons is:

Ashley from North Carolina, US

Congratulations!  I hope you enjoy the book as much as I have been!

Today I am pleased to announce I have a giveaway for all four books in the Relic Master series by Catherine Fisher.  While I haven’t had a chance to read it yet myself, I have been rather interested in reading The Dark City, the first book in this series, which has a spot on Mount TBR.

Relic Master Series by Catherine Fisher

About the Relic Master Series:

Welcome to Anara, a world mysteriously crumbling to devastation, where nothing is what it seems: Ancient relics emit technologically advanced powers, members of the old Order are hunted by the governing Watch yet revered by the people, and the great energy that connects all seems to also be destroying all. The only hope for the world lies in Galen, a man of the old Order and a Keeper of relics, and his sixteen-year-old apprentice, Raffi. They know of a secret relic with great power that has been hidden for centuries. As they search for it, they will be tested beyond their limits. For there are monsters-some human, some not-that also want the relic’s power and will stop at nothing to get it.

RELIC MASTER is a four book series. Each book will be released over four consecutive months this summer:

  • Book One: The Dark City, May 17
  • Book Two: The Lost Heiress, June 14
  • Book Three: The Hidden Coronet, July 12
  • Book Four: The Margrave, August 9

Each book will include a piece of the map of Anara, the world of RELIC MASTER, on the reverse of the jacket. Collect all four books and you will have the complete map.

About the Author:

Catherine Fisher is the author of the New York Times bestselling duology Incarceron and Sapphique and in the Relic Master series has created a world equally as developed, dynamic and dangerous as that of Incarceron. Visit her at www.catherine-fisher.com.

Giveaway Rules: One entry per person.  This giveaway is open only in the US and Canada and will run through the end of the day of Monday, July 25.  A winner will be selected using random.org on the following day.  If I do not hear from the winner 48 hours after contacting them, a new winner will be selected.  That winner will then have 48 hours to get back to me or a new winner will be selected, and this will continue until a winner responds to the email.

To enter the giveaway, fill out the form below.  Please Note: Email addresses are only used for the purpose of notifying the winner.  All email addresses will be deleted once the giveaway is over and there is an address to send the book to.

Update July 26: The form has been removed now that the giveaway is over.

Good luck!

This week brought some pretty exciting books since I finally got my copy of A Dance With Dragons, the fifth installment in George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series.  Better yet, I got it signed along with a new hardcover copy of A Game of Thrones (because I really needed a third copy of this book, but oh well – it’s signed and it’s one of two books in the series I didn’t already have in hardcover other than the Science Fiction Book Club version).

A Dance With Dragons Signed by George R. R. Martin

I’ve already talked about this plenty and included the usual information on the giveaway page, so all I’ll say about that now is that I’m almost halfway through it, loving it, and wishing I could read faster because I want to know what happens (especially since my husband finished it early this morning and is taunting me with knowing what happens).

I also got two review copies, one of which I’ve already talked about since I got it at BEA this year.  Since I already talked about it, I’m not going to include the cover and blurb again, but if you are interested in learning more about Blood Rights by Kristen Painter, you can read more about it here.

So that just leaves one book:

A Blight of Mages by Karen MillerA Blight of Mages by Karen Miller

That sounds like quite a problem, having a blight of mages.  This is a stand alone book set in the same world as The Innocent Mage.  Although it says it’s available in August, it appears to already be shipping on Amazon. A Blight of Mages is available both in hardcover and as an ebook.

Hundreds of years before the great Mage War, a land lies, unknowing, on the edge of catastrophe…

Barl is young and impulsive, but she has a power within that calls to her. In her city, however, only those of noble blood and with the right connections learn the ways of the arcane. Barl is desperate to learn-but her eagerness to use her power leads her astray and she is banned from ever learning the mystic arts.

Morgan holds the key to her education. A member of the Council of Mages, he lives to maintain the status quo, preserve the mage bloodlines, and pursue his scholarly experiments. But Barl’s power intrigues him-in spite of her low status.

Together, he realizes they can create extraordinary new incantations. Morgan’s ambition and Barl’s power make a potent combination. What she does not see is the darkness in him that won’t be denied.

A Blight of Mages is the new novel set in the world of Karen Miller’s bestselling debut The Innocent Mage.

The Uncertain Places
by Lisa Goldstein
240pp (Trade Paperback)
My Rating: 6/10
Amazon Rating: 4/5
LibraryThing Rating: 4/5
Goodreads Rating: 3.21/5

The Uncertain Places is a fantasy book incorporating fairy tales set in Berkeley, California, in the 1970s and some of the 1980s. The author, Lisa Goldstein, won the American Book Award for her novel The Red Magician.  She has also been nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer and several other awards, including the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, and the World Fantasy Award.

Ben Avery and Will Taylor have been friends for years so it’s no surprise that when Ben begins dating Maddie Feierabend, he tries to hook Will up with her sister Livvy – and is correct that his friend will hit it off with her.  Will continues to get to know Livvy while they both attend school at Berkeley, and both Will and Ben look forward to their visits with the entire charming family at their farmhouse in Napa Valley.

Yet as Will spends more and more time in the Feierabend home, he begins to notice strange occurrences.  When he gets up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night, he finds a man cleaning the house.  While exploring the woods one day, he overhears a conversation about a mysterious bargain but only sees crows nearby.  He’s also noticed Livvy’s entire family seems to get uncomfortable whenever fairy tales are mentioned, and when he tries to assuage his curiosity about these matters, he gets the feeling he’s not getting the entire truth.

One day when Will is supposed to meet Livvy, she doesn’t show up.  After he gives up on her coming by, he goes home and calls her.  Livvy says she’s felt strange all day so they keep the conversation short and Will says he’ll call her tomorrow.  The next day he keeps calling only to be told by her roommate that she is sleeping.  Every time he calls to check on her, he receives the same response until it’s been long enough that he’s really worried about her.  He goes to her apartment and then calls her mother to inform her about the situation and ask what she wants him to do.  She asks him to bring Livvy home, and when he shows up with her the family seems very upset but not particularly surprised.  As days go no with no change in Livvy, Will determines to discover the secret that the Feierabends are hiding – and do whatever it takes to get Livvy back.

When I was first offered a review copy of The Uncertain Places, I couldn’t believe I’d never heard of Lisa Goldstein before.  A dark fantasy involving fairy tales sounded right up my alley and I love to discover new-to-me authors, so I was really looking forward to reading this book.  It ended up being one of those books that’s hard to describe, though.  It was not a bad book by any means or a struggle to get through, but it wasn’t quite for me, mainly because it didn’t really engage me while I was reading it or keep me thinking about it after I was finished, either.  That special spark that moves a book from merely readable to truly enjoyable was missing, and this was largely due to a lack of any sort of emotional connection with any of the characters.

The best part of this book was the fairy tale of the bondsmaid, which as far as I can tell is an original tale with a lot of common fairy tale story elements.  It was first set up as a mystery, starting with the general strangeness of the behavior of the entire Feierabend family and the different strange occurrences Will noticed as he spent more and more time at the farmhouse.  Then Livvy began acting strangely as well and lapsed into sleeping for days on end.  Soon, the entire story of the family’s bargain was revealed and the mystery became discovering more of the details of the past and just how to change the bargain.  I loved this part of the story with its deals and tricks and how it fit in with Grimm’s Fairy Tales, as well as some of the little clues.  However, there were times where the research and interviewing that went into solving the puzzle lagged down the pacing a bit.

The fairy tale would have worked a little better for me if it was a little bit creepier, though, and I think that having some sort of affinity with the characters would have gone a long way toward that.  As is the case with Grimm’s Fairy Tales, this was a dark story, but it failed to disturb me at all.  Both Will and Livvy felt like characters in a story instead of real people with depth, and if I could have really cared about them or believed in either of them as more than a fictional creation in a tale, it would have had enough tension to do that.  We were told some about who the characters were and their hopes, dreams, aspirations, and beliefs – Maddie with her anti-war political agenda; Livvy with her enjoyment of chemistry and cooking; Rose with her history; and Will with his new feminist outlook, psychological studies, determination, and that love for Livvy that fueled his fierce determination. In spite of that, they never seemed to come to life with vibrant personalities, though.  There were conversations with banter that seemed to be trying to give them more of that personality, but a lot of it fell flat for me and seemed to be trying too hard with some punning and some lame jokes. (Fortunately, the bad puns were limited to the first chapter.)

Overall, The Uncertain Places was a decent book with a mysterious fairy tale merged with 1970s California, but it could have been a lot better if only the characters were less bland and some of the pacing was less uneven.  It has not left me averse to reading another book by Lisa Goldstein at all since the actual story told was enjoyable, but it also hasn’t left me excited about the possibility of looking up her backlist of work.

My Rating: 6/10

Where I got my reading copy: The publisher sent me an ARC.

Other Reviews:

George R. R. Martin Signing A Dance With Dragons
GRRM signs the book that you can win in a giveaway below!

Yesterday I did something crazy and made the trip from central Maine to Burlington, Massachusetts – all to be at the release day event of the A Dance With Dragons book tour!  Was it worth it?  I think so now that it’s over, but I’m not completely sure since I drove about 8 hours total to spend about 3 and a half hours mostly outside in the heat waiting to get my books signed.  And after all that, I (along with the vast majority of the crowd of 1600 people) didn’t even get to make it inside to listen to George R. R. Martin talk.  I really wanted to listen to the talk, not just get signed books (although those are nice – I’ve wanted some signed copies of these books for a very long time and ended up getting a hardcover copy of A Game of Thrones signed in addition to A Dance With Dragons).

I think it is fantastic that so many people showed up and were that excited about reading a book.  I’ve been a huge fan of the series for nearly 10 years (A Storm of Swords was still only available in hardcover when I first started reading the series) so I was especially glad to see that now a lot of other people are appreciating it as well.  It was also nice of George R. R. Martin to go to Massachusetts, talk to people, and cheerfully sign so many books for everyone.  It seems like a lot of authors don’t make it farther than New York City in the Northeast so I really appreciate the fact that he came this close to where I live.

To be completely honest, though, I felt that the Barnes and Noble was not an ideal location for an event of this size nor were their staff prepared to handle it (and it’s not likely they didn’t realize they were going to have this many people since they still had plenty of books left an hour and a half after the signing started when I left).  I saw on the tour list that there are several events being held at town halls or locations other than the bookstore that is sponsoring it, and I think this may have been a good option for this event as well.

Only a very small percentage of the crowd actually got to hear George R. R. Martin talk so the vast majority of the people who showed up had to wait in line outside the entire time other people were inside getting to listen to him.  Not only that, but those of us that weren’t there were completely left out of the loop.  I learned later from a thread on Westeros about what was said and that even though they were trying to keep the line moving quickly, George R. R. Martin had encouraged people to talk to him briefly or ask him a question while signing books.  Nobody told the rest of us that, and nobody was saying much to him when they got their books signed, so I thought that talking to him had been discouraged and didn’t say anything more than “Hi” and “Thank you for signing my books.”  I had wanted to tell him I had been a fan of the series for a long time and had come all the way from Maine for this event but had gotten the impression that might not be ok by the time I got my chance. I suspect other people did as well and that’s why none of the other people ahead of me tried to say much to him, either.  As my husband told me when we learned this, he probably wondered why everybody was being rude and not saying much to him.

Also, the staff were very insistent that everyone around us get rid of their backpacks and chairs around 5:30 because they were going to try to get as many people as possible inside to listen to George R. R. Martin speak.  That would have been great if these people hadn’t had to wait outside the whole time he talked, starting at 7, and beyond.  But none of these people near me was even close to getting in and could have really used those chairs.

There were a few other things that kind of bothered me about how it was run, too, but those were the major ones so we’ll try to stop this rant-fest before it gets too out of hand.  I don’t want to give the impression at all that I think any of it reflects badly on the author because he’s just a guest who kindly took the time to come all the way out here to talk to some fans and spend hours tirelessly signing books (all things said and done, I was fairly close to the front of the line when taking all the people who were there into account and I left around 8:30 – 9:00 so there was a lot of signing). But I was disappointed in how the event was organized.

So with new lessons learned and all that, I’d like to pass along some advice to any other readers who are planning to attend any events as part of the A Dance With Dragons tour.  Hopefully it will help make your experience better than mine!

  • Reserve books if possible. If you are buying books at the bookstore (for this particular event you were only guaranteed a signature if you bought books from the store or another Barnes and Noble), call them ahead of time to see if you can reserve books. I did this and am glad I did – it’s a long way to drive to come away with nothing and even aside from that it’s a long time to wait to come away with nothing!
  • Find out the rules for your particular tour location.  Find out if you need to buy the book at the store for your particular location, if you’re allowed to bring other books to sign and how many, etc. The basics of this information is available as part of the basic tour info.
  • If you’re not familiar with the location, find out just how limited the space available is. Don’t assume they’ll be able to accommodate everyone or even most of the attendees. Do they have space for lots of people to be able to listen to George R. R. Martin talk?  If it doesn’t sound like there’s going to be room for many and you don’t really want to go if you’re just going to wait around for signed books and miss the talk, you might just want to save your time and order a copy from The Signed Page.
  • Find out if there is a chance you will be waiting outside.  If there is the possibility there will not be room to wait inside at your location, you may want to bring sunscreen if it’s sunny or an umbrella if there’s a chance of rain. I also kind of wished I had brought a blanket or towel to sit on – something easy to fold back up and put away that will keep you from getting dirty.  There will be a lot of standing around and you will get tired enough to want to sit down at some point.
  • Get there as early as possible. This goes without saying, but it’s not always possible to get there really early which is why I suggest finding out just how much space is available and weighing just how much you want to go if there’s a chance not everyone will be accommodated for listening to the author’s talk.
  • Bring something to drink or snack on.  If you are waiting outside in the heat you will get thirsty!
  • If possible, go with a friend. That way they can hold your place in line if you do need to bring chairs back to your car, get a drink, use the restroom, or go back to buy an extra book to get signed.
  • Wear your most comfortable shoes.  I came straight from work in a rush, and I didn’t do this.  It’s not even that I wore very uncomfortable shoes; they’re shoes that aren’t really bad most of the time.  After standing on your feet for a couple of hours, though, you will want your most comfortable pair of shoes!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a certain book to read…

A little while ago I decided to actually go to the signing on the A Dance With Dragons tour nearest me even though it’s 4 hours away.  Before deciding to go down, I called the bookstore to make sure I could reserve a book. After all, it would just be sad to cancel my Amazon pre-order, get the time off work, and go all the way down there to come away with no signed book!  It turned out I was able to reserve books, so I actually reserved 2 copies of the book – 1 for John and me and 1 to give away here to someone who isn’t fortunate enough to be able to attend one of the signings on the tour (or crazy enough to do what I’m doing and drive two states away to go to one).

Although I’m sure it needs no introduction, here is some information on A Dance With Dragons:

A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin

Dubbed “the American Tolkien” by Time magazine, George R. R. Martin has earned international acclaim for his monumental cycle of epic fantasy. Now the #1 New York Times bestselling author delivers the fifth book in his spellbinding landmark series–as both familiar faces and surprising new forces vie for a foothold in a fragmented empire.

In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance once again–beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has three times three thousand enemies, and many have set out to find her. Yet, as they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.

To the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone–a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge yet. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.

And from all corners, bitter conflicts soon reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all. . . .

Giveaway Rules: One entry per person.  This giveaway is open internationally and will run through the end of the day of Tuesday, July 19.  A winner will be selected using random.org on the following day.  If I do not hear from the winner by the end of the day on Friday, July 22, a new winner will be selected.  That winner will then have 48 hours to get back to me or a new winner will be selected.

To enter the giveaway, fill out the form below.  Please Note: Email addresses are only used for the purpose of notifying the winner.  All email addresses will be deleted once the giveaway is over and there is an address to send the book to.

Update: The form has been removed since the giveaway is now over.

Good luck!