New Book Loves of 2012

15922261This year held several new-to-me authors that I fell in love with. I already covered some of them over in a post about Loud Reading, but I couldn’t contain myself to a single book love post. What follows are more of my favorite reads of 2012.

As a scifi classic, I know I have had plenty of time and opportunity to read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein. After reading this book, I can see why he has such a fan base, even with its few flaws (such as only 1 female main character). The plot, the narration of the audio version, and the lovable AI character made this a keeper on my shelf.

A pleasant surprise in this category was Shifted Perspective by J. Bridger. Were-cocker spaniels. Yep. I bet you weren’t expecting that. This book snuck up on me with it’s quiet way, a light snuffle, followed by a cold velvety nose to the armpit that made me sit up and take notice. I was turned into a cranky child, not wanting to put this book down and staying up far too late on a work night reading it.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed is the first Arabic fantasy tale to save the world using flawed humans who enjoy cardamom tea. There’s ghuls, and shape shifters, and sword warriors, and magic, and bad folks who do really bad things.

The biologist in me was fascinated by the nonfiction Mushroom by Nicholas Money. This read was easily accessible, not too long, and left me with a deep respect for fungi – mostly because they can kill us in oh so many ways.

Now I know this series has been around for many years, and I even heard someone mention a tv series based on the books, but it was only lately that I stumbled across George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. It’s nitty gritty, complex, and full of flawed characters faced with tough decisions. I definitely plan to continue on with the series; in fact I am on the library waiting list for Book 2.

Diane Setterfield entertained by greatly with her The 13th Tale. An eerie tale featuring twins, it was part historical fiction, part ghost story, and one very large part suspense. The audio version worked very well.

Hands down, one of the best origin stories I have ever had the pleasure to read was Zorro by Isabel Allende. Piece by piece, she drew together over a period of years all the bits that made Diego the man we know as Zorro, from his warrior mother, to his years spent in Europe, and his time as a pirate captive, to finally the conflicts as a young man that drove him to put on the mask. Excellent read.

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon was unlike any other book I have read. Part fantasy, part historical fiction, and part mystery, it was super intense. Oh, and the audio kept catching me off guard with an accentuated Spanish accent popping off such phrases as, ‘They are just a bunch of ass-lickers!’.

Elif Shafak’s The Bastard of Istanbul was an intense modern-day fiction about a Turkish family of women and their ties to a young Armenian American who comes to visit. Some might call this magical realism, as there is a djinn at some point that no one thinks odd. I enjoyed it because it was different from what I normally read and because it opened the door a little wider for me on the Turkish culture.

Giraffe by J. M Ledgard is a historical fiction based on facts, almost a nonfiction. Basically it is about a group of giraffes brought to a Czechoslovakian zoo and how all these folks are affected by their presence. Let me just say that the ending was not sudden, not over quickly, and was immensely sad. In fact, my man refused to listen to this book because of how sad it made me – but that is a sign that the author got the point across in full color.


I am not well versed on the classics and through Darkcargo’s efforts to encourage reading of the classics, I tackled The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck this year. this book was so poignant and moving, especially the ending (which is definitely not shown in the black and white movie). Steinbeck didn’t hold back from showing the gritty parts of Depression Era USA and the affect on migrant workers.

Dracula by Bram Stoker has received so much hype over the years and so many versions of vampires now abound in our world, that I simply did not expect how good this book would be. The suspense is high all the way through, and then there was the description of the Romanian and Transylvanian food that inspired some cooking of my own.

Pico with my book.

Conn Iggulden provided me with many, many hours of entertainment via his Emperor series covering the life of Julius Caesar, a part of history that has fascinated me for decades. From a young Julius running around getting into scraps with other idiot children, to his days captured by pirates, on to Greece, and eventually a long stint in Gaul, and finally Egypt and the birth of his son, and then Rome and his death. The four books in the series are worth the read (The Gates of Rome, The Death of Kings, The Field of Swords, The Gods of War).

Crescent Moon Bag

Drawstring bags are simple to plan and construct and I use them for everything: storing the laptop mouse, Duncan’s gaming dice, portable Geek-Ware cords and plugs, more embroidery, and so on.

I wanted to embroider something for Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, which I really enjoyed reading. I actually embroidered it while listening to the audio file of that book.

The pattern comes free in each hardback copy! It is the epigraph at the beginning of every chapter. I xeroxed and increased to about 200%.

More info on the construction, here.


TreeBook Review: Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Late last year, I joined Goodreads, a book community site that has several on-going giveaways at any one time. That is where I won Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, who Darkcargo has been stalking politely and professionally following for some time now. I received my ARC in the mail about a week ago. Throne of the Crescent Moon is due to be out, in hard back, February 2012, and is to be the first in a series.

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

This magical, nitty-gritty tale is set in the Kingdom of Abassen, primarily in the cit of Dhamsawaat. Adoulla Mahkslood is a professional ghul hunter and an overweight old man. He is assisted by the young, and overly pious, Raseed bas Raseed, of the forked sword. They start off with a simple quest to kill some ghuls in nearby marshlands, about a day’s ride away. There, they discover more than they expected – indicating deeper and darker magic is a-foot. Unexpectedly, the desert tribeswoman Zamia Banu Laith Badawi renders aid. She had been tracking the ghuls in order to avenge the dead of her tribe. She is full of pride and anger and loss and will not stop her hunt until she has killed the jackalman-beast monster that slayed her people.

And all that was just the first night of reading. You can see how I was sucked in to the story from the beginning.

As these unlikely heroes attempt to unravel the mystery to this evil and defeat it, they are assisted by long-time friends to Adoulla – husband and wife Dawoud and Litaz. One’s a mage and the other an alkhemist. All their efforts are integral in fending off this ghul-raising evil and saving the city of Dhamsawaat. Perhaps. And that is why I am glad there is another book in the wings. Last night when I finished Throne of the Crescent Moon, I truly wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters.

I really enjoyed this book, for a number of reasons. Characters, places, magics, and cultures new to me – not based on European mythologies. Also, each character was flawed in some way – which made them very real to me. And despite their imperfections, they were still fighting for the good. The bad guys are really bad – like no qualms about killing little kids or stabbing you in the back kind of bad. I appreciate this in a fantasy – it makes the struggle for good all the more important.

The play of light and dark makes for a whorling gem of a tale. The relaxing use of cardamom tea in between action scenes had me wishing for a hot cup myself. Saladin Ahmed sprinkles his prose with references to foreign places that make this story all the more tangible; camels trained to sniff out ink mushrooms and honey fried colocasia roots are just two such examples. All in all, Throne of the Crescent Moon is a most engaging book and I fully encourage you to check out his works.

Book In Mail = Dance In Circle Happiness

Look what I got in the mail today!

Just a few months ago I joined Goodreads – a site where readers and writers can share their interests in books. Goodreads also has many, many on-going book giveaways. I had a lot of fun entering some of these, including the one for Saladin Ahmed’s forthcoming novel, Throne of the Crescent Moon.

So I was VERY excited when Goodreads emailed me on Dec. 14th to inform me that I had won an advance copy of said book. And it just got here.

And what better way to get over a head cold than to lounge around reading an awesome tale.

Howdy New Darkcargo Peoples!

Hello All New and Old Darkcargoites!

A quick tour:

Darkcargo is about the reader. There is a lot out there for publishers, editiors and writers, but not a whole lot for the target customer of these fields, so I started bitching about it here. We do not get paid or any kind of kickback for anything that shows up on these pages.

Darkcargo is authored by three different folks, plus guest posts. Darkcargo is designed to be participatory, so join in on the self-paced book clubs, send me your Guest Rave about your favorite author, or tell us what you’re reading.

Of interest is our Interviews page. We put a crap ton of work and bravado into these, so browse to that page and enjoy those.

We are running an ever-on-going Ye Olde Booke Club to remind ourselves to read or re-read classics.

Check out the Explorer Challenge, designed to encourage reading new pubs and new authors.

We will be running another @homeCon (TM) in November.

We’ll soon bring you an exclusive Serialized, Reader-Interactive Novelette. Yah!

My personal campaigns are Saladin Ahmed, Jonah Knight, and Mercury Retrograde Press.

The more subscribers, hits, and comments we accumulate the more interviews we can bring to

What are you reading now?


(Eliz) Campbell Award Winner!

I know I am right, and in a fit of momentary weakness, I am going to share something with you that will change your reading lives for the better, forever. Prepare yourselves and be grateful.

Saladin Ahmed is going to be a Grandmaster of Fantasy. Serious!

I grew up reading SF/F with my dad. I have been reading Fantasy for my entire reading life. So much of it is dominated by the mythos of Western Europe, and I have read *so much* WE Fantasy, that stories drawing from this tank no longer allow me to escape. That door is closed to me.

Ahmed’s stories draw from wells springing from other parts of the globe (there are some, you know, other parts). Interesting, new, fresh stories which I did not grow up listening to.  New legends, new tales, new demons and new famous legendary swords. New mores and tropes and societal taboos to upset and push and turn on their heads. New New New. Get me?

In fact, I was so excited after reading The Faithful Soldier, Prompted, when it first published in Apex, that I didn’t title the post when I put up a post telling you to read it. I can’t link back to that now. Heh!

(Note from nrlymrtl – I fixed it for you. Click here for the link to that post, which has a link to the short story itself).

Here’s an article he wrote for The Messengers, Monsters, and Moral Instructors of Islamic Literature. (This article is free as of right now, but I would suggest a subscription.)

Ahmed’s first book, Throne of the Crescent Moon will be coming out in 2012 from DAW. “But, genius Darkcargo, how do you know he’s such a great author if you haven’t read his novel yet?” Because, genius readers, he’s written a crap-ton of short fiction. I’ve linked to a few, below.

So, when he’s super famous and everyone wants his autograph and he has to hire someone to write his blog for him, don’t say I didn’t tell you. ‘Cause I just did.

I’m telling you that you will like this. The door to exploration and fascination is open again. Go. Enjoy!

Podcastle 159

Podcastle 150

Podcastle 102

StarshipSofa 163

p.s. this is not an award recognized by anyone but me. The Campbell award is actually an award given  noteworthy new writers, more info here. I was honestly suprised that he didn’t win, and thus my genius pun kicked in.

Saladin Ahmed Short Story

Faithful Soldier, Prompted, by Saladin Ahmed.

This story made my eyes pop out of my head. Please read, reward yourself with this engrossing world. Become familiar with Mr. Ahmed’s voice, because it is strong and there will be more coming.