Free fantasy novel: The Winds of Khalakovo

I’m not a Kindle girl, myself, but I just noticed that Amazon is offering up the Kindle edition of Bradley Beaulieu’s The Winds of Khalakovo for free right now! I have no idea how long this will last, but it’s really an interesting fantasy novel and a great read—not overly simple. I wrote a review after I read it last summer (having found it as one of Barnes & Noble’s Free Fridays selections—their best one still, if you ask me), so have a look at that if you want to know a little more. But goodness, dear reader, it’s a free, good fantasy novel!

If you have a Kindle or one of their reading apps, by all means, go download it.

The Winds of Khalakovo is the first of what—I believe—is supposed to be a trilogy. The second volume, The Straits of Galahesh, comes out within a couple of weeks.

Edit: Winds isn’t the only thing being given away, it turns out. Beaulieu RTed my tweet about the free Kindle edition, so (naturally) I checked out his profile, where I found this tweet from earlier today:

The response to The Straits of Galahesh Giveaway has been amazing. Still time to enter! Prizes of a Nook Tablet, Kindle

Turns out the author and his publisher, Night Shade Books, are running a free contest with prizes of ebooks, signed paperbacks, even a touch reader or B&N or Amazon tablet. (And there’s an interactive map with Easter eggs. whee 🙂 ) Pretty impressive for a giveaway to hype a book release! It’s open for entries through April 3, the release day for Straits. Follow to link above to give it a shot.



This is another entry I found in the binder from last summer; I think these must’ve been from July, because they’re in there with my letter to Congresspeople about the JWST, and I wasn’t using the binder otherwise. (Yes, my mind is such that I have to figure out when I wrote an undated journal entry. 😛 ) The “you,” once again, is just imaginary. I’ve always liked writing in the second person.

Ich will viel. I want a lot. Je veux… Je veux beaucoup. Beaucoup de temps, beaucoup des choses, beaucoup. I want to walk on air. I want to breathe physics and dance mathematics. I want to stay up all night watching the stars alone, surrounded by the echoes of everyone who has watched them before. I want to do something new. I want to see something that none of them did. I want to do something that would interest the greatest minds that knew this Earth. Is that so much in the end?

Don’t touch me now. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know who you are. Are you the one who will wake me from my slumber? My thoughts are lost and full of fog. Help me find them. Don’t let me lose them again–hold them safe with you. They slip through the walls of my mind too easily when you are near. Perhaps they like you better.

I want my self back now. I seem to have forgotten it a thousand miles from here, if it was not all a dream. I miss the girl with the glimmering eye and the camera in her hand. I miss the girl who could be anything. If you see her, please tell her for me: Become something now, girl, before you become nothing.

I want a lot. I want pretty things, shiny things, strong things, bonodorous things. I want an arm linked with mine, a hand around my shoulder, a mischievous grin. I want knowledge. I want to know what makes the world tick and the knowledge to make it tick in better time. I want answers so that I can find new questions.

And I want someone else who wants those questions, too. “So many are alive who–” So many have forgotten how to say “why?” So many have forgotten the joy of a surprise, of an answer that holds more mysteries than the question it replies. I want someone who will search with me for questions.

I want one who can lose his world to a piece of paper. I want his imagination to be the vessel that carries him to Valinor, to Ivalice and Anuskaya. But I want him to come back nearly whole. I want him to see the difference and similarity both among these worlds. I want him to remember that this one is his home, clutch his wonder tight to his heart and see such beauty here that he needs no magic, elves, or fairies to make him stay. I want this of everyone. Je veux ceci pour tout le monde. Ich will dies.

If I ask you why the sky is blue
don’t just tell me that the sunlight bounces off the air
do not quench my curiosity
rather ask me why the sunset’s red.

Bookishness manifest

Well, it’s December 31, GRAIL-A (still unnamed?) has just entered moon orbit, and I haven’t written a word about the science books I’ve read this year. Slap on wrist.

I have read a few science or math-related books, namely Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist (yeah, I’m counting that); Melanie Mitchell’s Complexity: A Guided Tour (winner of the 2010 Phi Beta Kappa book award in science); and Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World. Not quite the same, I also worked my way through a GRE math section prep book (Nova GRE Math Prep Course), which I did review…and, after completing it myself, recommended and lent to a fellow alum of my alma mater. (I’d like it back, still… 😛 )

So I still owe the science reading challenge some reviews, but for now, I would recommend any of these books as good to excellent reads. Harford’s is easy (kind of econ-light), Sagan’s is easy to medium and ranges over a broad territory of subjects circling around critical thinking, and Mitchell’s is medium-hard (but as much worth reading as Sagan’s, which is saying something).

Had some good non-science reads this year, too, mostly fiction but including the newly released nonfiction book on typefaces and typographical design, Just My Type (Simon Garfield). The fiction books were The Winds of Khalakovo (fantasy novel by a new author, Bradley Beaulieu), A Game of Thrones (G.R.R. Martin), The Blue Light Project (Timothy Taylor), Juliet, Naked (Nick Hornby), War of the Worlds (H.G. Wells), What Is the What (Dave Eggers), Faust Eric and Witches Abroad (Terry Pratchett), and an unpublished novel by an acquaintance (I was a test reader–just finished and need to get feedback to him still). This, if you’re curious, is a year in which I did not read nearly as much as I wanted to. Of course, I spent a few months prepping for the GRE, which took approximately all of my spare time, and soon after was selected to attend the GRAIL NASATweetup, which spurred me to read up online about the mission. I also spent a lot of time for a few weeks in between the GRE and GRAIL making Zazzle gear for the SaveJWST campaign (enough of which has sold so far to make $75 in donations to the American Astronomical Society for public policy advancement–much more than I expected!).

I’d like to say what book was the best one I read this year, but that’s an impossible task for a bookworm with wide-ranging interests. I wouldn’t recommend against any of the published books. Pratchett’s Discworld series is endlessly entertaining and frequently insightful. The Winds of Khalakovo surprised me, as I got it as one of Barnes & Noble’s “Free Fridays” selections, which don’t usually appeal; it’s a fantasy novel in a Russian-esque setting, with airships and magic and politics and betrayals. It’s meant to be a series, and I’ll look for the next one when it’s released next year.

What Is the What would have shocked me, coming from the author of Heartbreaking Work… (which I found arrogant and tedious…it oozed false bravado), had I not already seen Eggers’ TED Prize talk. He’s actually a pretty awesome person. What Is the What isn’t a light read; it’s a survivor’s tale, and a good one. So maybe I should give HB another go. I probably don’t need to say much about Game of Thrones; it is incredibly gritty for a fantasy novel, though, and I look forward to reading the second novel (if I can find time to read another brick–that felt as long as Atlas Shrugged, and I’m one of those who say you didn’t read Atlas if you skipped over the 60-page Galt rant). I want to own Complexity so that I can read it again; it covers a lot of different interwoven subjects, and is very interesting, but also quite a bit to absorb.

…And when I do leave my current employer, I might just buy everyone there a copy of The Demon-Haunted World. They could use it–no one batted an eye when an associate gave everyone a copy of the near-death experience story, Heaven Is for Real. But of course they didn’t; the CEO consults a psychic about the business every year and insisted that the office be designed based on feng shui–as a result of which the walls are pretty colors but there’s an extreme lack of functional space and light–and another employee believes in auras and ghosts and “cleansing the energy” of a place, and claims, with encouragement from credulous coworkers, to have some sort of paranormal “powers.” Incidentally, according to the thinking profile the office does, you might expect her to be second in logical bent only to me–she has the “know-it-all”/”I’m-the-smartest” profile. (Her copy should include details on the James Randi prize…)

Anyway, good books this year, though I’d have liked to read more. So here’s to good reads in 2012. And go GRAIL!

A ramble on books, from old favorites to new freebies

I do love Barnes & Noble. I always have; I remember making trips to the nearby college town with my best friend, back in grade school, and staring at the shelves for as long as our parents would allow. That’s how we found The Serpent Never Sleeps, a historical fiction novel by Scott O’Dell (one of my favorite authors back then). I wore that book out like none since; it had adventure, the New World when it was still New, a mysterious magical ring that came to our heroine directly from royalty, and Pocahontas. This was a brilliant equation of what ifs that I loved. I haven’t picked it up in a long time; maybe I would find it disenchanting now. Regardless, it was great then.

But I digress. My intent was to mention Barnes & Noble’s Free Fridays: they highlight a free NookBook every week. Sometimes it’s only free for a day, sometimes longer, and the genres covered are quite diverse (although they probably tend toward the ones I don’t love so well–thrillers, mysteries, and romance). Recently they featured The Winds of Khalakovo, a fantasy novel with a Russian flavor written by Bradley Beaulieu. Below is my review as it is on (I was responding in part to other reviews that complained about it being “too hard” because of unfamiliar names):

An intriguing fantasy — 4/5 stars

Maybe it’s because I’ve read some of the works of Dostoyevsky, Bulgakov, and Turgenev, but the Russian names didn’t bother me. It took a little bit to get used to them, since fantasy novels so often use Celtic or otherwise Western European names, but then it was kind of refreshingly different. I did have to look up a word or two that wasn’t Russian because I was unfamiliar with the archaic or alternate spelling (“gaoler” for “jailer,” for example).

I was worried that the story might be awkwardly pieced together when I saw one of the central characters described as an autistic savant. That kind of real-world technical term just wouldn’t fit in the oftentimes archaic language of fantasy. Thankfully, the book is never so explicit about the boy’s mental condition; in fact, I was left not even sure that it’s an accurate description, because the character of his mental state is only described (never given a name) and is so enmeshed with the magics of Anuskaya.

I did find the story a little bit difficult to follow at times, but in a good way–it kept me thinking, trying to figure out what exactly was going on. That much actually did remind me of some of the Russian literature I’ve read. And the mix of technology and magic reminds me of the Final Fantasy rpg series, with airships and summoning and so on.

In all, it’s not the easiest read you’ll pick up, but if you’re okay with that, the story and the characters are quite interesting. An enjoyable read.

So anyway, I’d recommend checking it out if you need a new fantasy read. It’s no longer free, unfortunately, but it is a lendable NookBook, so if you’d like to borrow mine (I can only lend it once), let me know. I think you have to be “Nook friends” to lend books; my username is the same over there.

Today’s free book is The Blue Light Project, which is apparently a social commentary wrapped up in a multiple-storyline fictional tale (drama? thriller?) of a hostage situation in a television studio. The people through whose eyes we see are neither the hostages nor the criminal, from the descriptions I’ve seen. We’ll see how it goes. It’s free for now, but like I said, some of these freebies expire quickly.

Update, July 4: It looks like the freebie offer on Blue Light Project has expired.