Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Quick--P'Dub is Giving Away Crazy Good Prizes Again. But You Gotta Enter Soon

As all of you know, I'm a big fan of Ree, The Pioneer Woman. She always has insane giveaways and today is no exception. Today, she's giving away a HP laptop-- among other things. I can only suggest you head on over and enter. I'd be thrilled if someone I referred over to Ree's site won this prize. I'd be even more thrilled if could host such a giveaway--but that's a whole different story.

Six-Shooter Interview with Justin Gustainis

Posted by Harry Markov

Hello, and welcome to the special New Year Six-Shooter interview with author Justin Gustainis. Tuesday, December 30th, marked the official release date of "Evil Ways", the second novel in the Quincey Morris Paranormal Investigation series [Promo Post Here]. One day later we have Justin to answer some basic questions to poeple, who have yet to be introduced to the series. Now before we start, here is the blurb for Justin's first novel "Black Magic Woman":

"Occult investigator Quincey Morris and his partner, white witch Libby Chastain, are called in to help free a desperate family from a deadly curse that appears to date back to the Salem Witch Trials. To release the family from danger they must find the root of the curse, a black witch with a terrible grudge that holds the family in her power. The pursuit takes them to the mysterious underworlds of Boston, San Francisco, New Orleans, and New York, stalking a prey that is determined to stay hidden. After surviving a series of terrifying attempts on their lives, the two find themselves drawn inexorably towards Salem itself—the very heart of darkness."
Harry: Justin, here is the first question to set the tone and get a reader in the loop. How was “Black Magic Woman” received? What was the general vibe from readers and had you had any contact with your readers in terms of what they wish to see incorporated as themes in further installments? Justin: Well, Harry, I should note that writing a novel isn’t really a cooperative venture. I don’t mean that I don’t get information, and even ideas, from others while I’m writing, but the readers, bless them, don’t determine the contents of the books. True, if I saw the same concern cropping up over and over, whether in fan mail or reviews, then I’d have to pay attention, but nothing like that has arisen, so far. I suppose you could say that the readers vote with their wallets. And the true test of that will be sales of “Evil Ways.” I assume those who liked “Black Magic Woman” will pick this one up, as well. I sure hope they do, and I hope they tell their friends. And I hope they have a LOT of friends. Still, if as many people buy “Evil Ways” as purchased “Black Magic Woman,” I’ll be a pretty happy little writer. H: Now judging from the blurb in the promo post and the excerpt “Evil Ways” will team up Libby and Quincey again on a new case together, but this time their mission seems a bit heavier. Both have their guns out and ready to shoot. Can you hint how Evil Ways extends and evolves the formula? J: Walter Grobius, the crazed zillionaire who was largely behind the scenes in “Black Magic Woman,” occupies center stage this time. Just because his plans for a “super ritual” of black magic were frustrated by Quncey and Libby (and others) in the first book, doesn’t mean he has given up. He’s a persistent old bastard. Quincey and Libby are drawn into the case from different places, not realizing the connection at first. Quincey is blackmailed by the FBI into investigating another series of ritualistic child murders – but this time it’s on a grander scale than in “Black Magic Woman.” In the meantime, Libby is nearly killed by a team of professional assassins, and yet she has no idea who could have sent them, or why. Quincey and Libby agree to help each other out, and they eventually realize that they’ve been holding opposite ends of the same rope. Then it gets REALLY interesting. H: I remember from a previous interview that they will have to save the world. That tension must bring out both the rest and the worst in people. What are the readers to expect from the characters? What character traits did you find yourself exploring in the character this time around? J: Quincey and Libby have some conflicts this time out. Quincey hires a professional bodyguard whom Libby strongly disapproves of, and Libby is unable to pull off some impromptu magic when she and Quincey need it badly. Of course, you also get to see how much affection the two of them have for each other, which makes the conflicts resolvable. There are also conflicts between FBI agent Fenton and his partner, a lady with some unusual abilities of her own. H: Quincey has been seen talking to agent Fenton, an old face from “BMW”. Will we see any familiar faces like agent Van Dreenan? And on an opposite note who will be the new faces included in “EW” and will they remain permanent figures in the series? What are your plans? J: Van Dreenan puts in a brief appearance – a cameo, really. And I’ve already told you that Grobius is back. New characters include Pardee, an evil, powerful wizard in Grobius’s employ, and I’ve already mentioned Fenton’s new partner – an FBI agent named Colleen O’Donnell who, like Libby, is also a “white” witch. And Fenton doesn’t know. Then there’s Hannah Widmark, occult bounty hunter – although, when it comes to “Wanted: Dead, Alive, or Undead,” Hannah much prefers “dead.” For a fee, this deadly lady will hunt down any supernatural creature you designate. She charges a lot, but, truth be told, she’d probably do it for free. Hannah’s got issues. As for who will be back for the third book, that’s just a sneaky way of asking me who lives and who dies in this one, isn’t it, Harry? Shame on you. Let’s just say that not everyone will die whom you might expect, and not every character you think will survive is still standing when it’s over. There are casualties – on both sides. H: I see that “EW” will involve quite the travelling. Iraq is one of the countries the action will take place. Is this the only stop on road and what geographical surprises are we to expect? J: Actually, Iraq is the only really exotic location in the book – unless you count Cleveland, Ohio, which some people from Akron probably consider exotic. The climactic scene in the book is set in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. It’s not exactly a thriving metropolis, but that’s where Grobius has a huge estate, out in the middle of nowhere. It is there that the battle lines are ultimately drawn. And in this battle, there will be no quarter given -- by either side. H: Last, seeing how Libby and Morris will be together again the question pops by itself due to the genre of the series. Will there be a romantic relationship? Somehow urban fantasy always leads there… J: Yes, but as you’ve pointed out elsewhere, I don’t write typical urban fantasy -- do I?

My Quick and Dirty 2008 List

I know everyone has their "Best of 2008" out right about now, and I don't normally try to follow the herd-- too much. But I have to admit, I'd really like to know what everyone else found this last year that appealed to them. The reason I say "found" is because my list of the "best" things of '08 doesn't only include stuff that was released this last year. So, since I only have one more day before the beginning of 2009, I'm going to give you a quick list of what I liked in '08, and encourage you to list your favorites so I can make up a list of movies, books-- and everything else, to check out in '09. Movies I don't get a chance to watch small, artsy kinds of films. There are a lot of reasons for that-- which I won't bore you with-- so my list is pretty much made up of what I was able to get out and see this year. "Dark Knight": I know I won't be alone in saying this was the best thing to come along all year. I have seen it three times so far and I'm not even close to being sick of it. I really, really hope Heath Ledger gets a posthumous nomination for best actor. I honestly can't comprehend that I have heard people say they didn't really like this because it was "too dark." I can only shake my head in bafflement. "Iron Man": Another great comic book movie. More humorous than "Dark Knight" but seriously great. I can't wait for a sequel (Downey has already signed on. Yaaaa!) "Hellboy II: The Golden Army": This didn't make as big of a splash as "Dark Knight" or "Iron Man" but I really enjoyed it. I've read a few reviews that were less than favorable but I just loved the visual effects. "Death Race": This is where I expose myself as the low-brow heathen that I am. I can't help myself. Mindless action and Jason Statham. I'm in. ***Biggest Flop: Movies*** "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" I'm so glad I didn't see this on the big screen. Huge disappointment. I felt like the whole thing was forced. Oh look, his son has a nickname after a dog (Mutt) like Indy ("We named the dog Indiana"); The love of his life just happens to be the woman from the first Indiana movie-- never mind that it never seems realistic-- it's nostalgic darnit! And aliens! Are you kidding me? Why oh why couldn't we have stuck with the religious theme? It was so much more interesting. ***Biggest Disappointment: Movies*** "Quantum of Solace": I wanted to love this but it just wasn't "Casino Royale." Love Daniel Craig and I will definitely give Bond another chance. I just hope the script is better next time. Books Old Man's War by John Scalzi: This book was originally published in 2005, but I didn't discover it until this year. Hands down the best book I read this year. I can't say enough good things about it. If you are even vaguely inclined to read sci-fi you would probably like this book. The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch: This is another book that is not actually an '08 release but it makes my list of favorites for this year. Very original fantasy. Often described as a fantasy version of "Oceans Eleven;" I describe it as one hell of a fantasy debut. Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti: This is the book that made me realize that steampunk is a genre that has a lot to offer. Not a book that makes any big statements about politics, religion or is in-your-face in any way. Just a good book with a nice romantic element. Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons: This is the first graphic novel I've picked up in years and it is captivating. Very mature look at what motivates a man (or woman) to don a costume and attempt to fight crime. Can't wait for the movie. ****Biggest Flop: Books**** The Iron Hunt by Marjorie Liu: This is the first book I have ever savaged in a review. This was chuck-across-the-room material. Ugh! TV "True Blood" (Based on the "Southern Vampire Mysteries" by Charlaine Harris): Some call it "vampire porn" and I suppose it's true. But Anna Paquin is great at Sookie Stackhouse and so much of the show is exactly as I pictured it in my head. ****Biggest Flop: TV**** "Knight Rider": Horrible, horrible, horrible. The fact that this atrocity can still be on the air while "Pushing Daisies" gets cancelled makes me want to cry. Honorable Mentions Happy Hour of the Damned by Mark Henry: I have to mention this one simply because it was so cringe worthy and irreverent. Only for people who like snarky, gross-out humor. I laughed out loud and winced repeatedly. Before They are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie: This almost made my 'best-of' list. I like this book a lot but it fell slightly short of it's predecessor because every character had some sharp edges in common. But it's still original and fun to read. I really, really need to read the conclusion to the trilogy soon. "Kung Fu Panda": Cute movie but I don't think it will go down as a classic. "Wall-E": My son loves this one but it was slightly too preachy for me. Likable characters though. That's my quick-and-dirty list. I know it's not high-brow, but hey, I am a mass-market kind of gal. Plus, I'm lucky if I can drag my husband to any of the movies I want to see (Hellboy was viewed solo). So, what did I miss this year? What did you love? What did you hate? Give me your quick-and-dirty list.

Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

The only thing I wanted for Christmas this year was Neal Stephenson's newest book, Anathem. I'm a HUGE fan of Stephenson's, have been since I read Snow Crash because of his dizzying blend of philosophy, history, mathematics, hacker-lore, cyberpunk, and geekophilia. Even when he's writing about the late 17th and early 18th centuries in The Baroque Cycle he still somehow manages to be inately cyberpunky - as if Newton and Leibniz were merely the forerunners of Hiro Protagonist. Anathem is somehow a culmination of Stephenson's studious creation of worlds that are just outside our reach, familiar and yet completely alien. Anathem is set on the planet Arbre, which has a history that is strikingly similar to our own. It would take a historian more learned than I (or at least a history geek) to recognize the correlation between our timeline and that of the people of Arbre, so I will skip boring you with the details. Needless to say, about the same times we had violent upheavals that resulted in new ages of science, religion, and government - So did they. The main character is one Fraa Erasmus, an avout (a monk, of sorts) who has dedicated himself to the Mathic community at the Cocent of Saunt Edhar. If what I just said is immediately clear to you then please go read the book and explain it to me. Erasmus (Raz, for short) is quite content to live out his life in relative peace while the Extramuros world goes through up-turns and down, upheavals and enlightments, because the Mathic communities keep themselves almost entirely seperated from those outside their walls. In fact, usually the only time they go outside those walls are during the festival of Apert which takes place once a year for Unarians, once every ten years for Decenarians, once every 100 years for Centenarians, and once ever thousand years for Millenarians. These four groups are further seperated from one another by more walls. However, this would be an awfully boring novel if the entire thing took place inside a Monastary. Don't worry - it doesn't. What you should know is that there are certain times when the Saecular world (you guessed it - government) calls upon the Mathic community for help. But that is about all I am going to tell you. Why? Because this novel is one big philosophic dialog. You have to engage entirely with it, learn along with the characters, puzzle out the problems, and arrive at your own conclusions. It is an absurdly simple plot line that is so immensely complicated that I can't even think of an example! However, if you find Plato's Dialogues impossible to read - don't bother. I'm sure that if I faltered at all in my 24 hour marathon reading session I probably wouldn't have understood a damn thing. Luckily, Stephenson is kind enough to include theoretical proofs and a glossary to help you along, but it will take you a few hundred pages to familiarize yourself with the terminology and discourse. I'm still trying to grapple with it! And though those first few hundred pages are difficult to slog through, I guarantee a rousing Sci-fi adventure that takes you from idyllic Monastaries, polar ice caps, and drab strip malls, to rocket ships and far earth orbit by the end.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Book Review: The Vision by C. L. Talmadge

Gasping, my hands at my throat, I snap upright in my bunk. For a while all I do is breathe, in and out, over and over, relieved to be taking in air. The nightmare again. Tears slide down my cheeks. I fumble for the light-stick and flick it on. The privilege of a private cabin cannot cheer me. It is a cell, jammed with a sleeping berth, a tiny desk, and one hard chair. My home for the time being is packed with things that are now useless, like the dead link on a tabletop close to my head. There is nothing to link to anymore; no one is at the other end or anywhere else, for that matter. The light-sticks may still work, yet they cannot be replaced. The secret to their fabrication died out in ages past. Will we who survive become as forgotten as the thoughtsmiths who forged these devices long ago? I cannot stand even the thought of that prospect. I cannot bear it if those who come after this nightmare truly ends do not recall who and what preceded them. If they do not understand where and how we went wrong, they will repeat our fate, just as we now suffer the downfall our ancestors might have endured had it not been for Kronos the Deliverer. I surrender to despair, crumble into sobs. Damn you, Kronos! You did us no favor. You should have left the Toltecs to die. There was a good reason they were being hunted to extinction. --Excerpt from The Vision by C. L. Talmadge The Vision is the first book of the Green Stone of Healing Series. A slim volume at 224 pages (including a glossary), The Vision sets up a volatile political climate that will undoubtedly become the centerpiece of the next two books, with lords and other nobles vying for power, and subsequently doing whatever it takes to acquire it. It also establishes the world of Azgard, a semi-futuristic, mostly fantasy place where people called the Toltecs have conquered the another people--the Turanians--and then banned all interbreeding, especially amongst the nobles. Without giving too much away, The Vision follows Lt. Helen Andros, a half-breed who has had to work harder than anyone else just to get one grain of respect as a healer. Her hard work made her one of the best healers in all of Azgard, but it also guided her into being an abrasive, stubborn individual. What Helen doesn't know about her past, however, becomes a subject of brutal laws, violence, and political poison. Helen is an illegitimate orphan in a nation divided by race and rank, but when the truth of her origins begins to surface, the entire Toltec world will be shaken and the era of near-purity amongst the Toltec nobles will come to an end. Needless to say, some Toltecs aren't willing to lose their way of life and will try anything to hang on to their power and their belief in the purity of the Toltec race. Talmadge's novel does a decent job of establishing the world of Azgard and the characters that will play an important role throughout the series. One of the issues I had, however, was that, while a lot of worldbuilding is a good thing, the worldbuilding in this novel seemed a bit much for the space provided. Some of the elements of Azgard seemed under dressed or overwhelmed by too much dressing. It became somewhat difficult to remember who was who, who was related to who, etc. This will likely be less of an issue in the following novels of the series, since most of the characters that will appear there will have already been established, but I feel like The Vision could have benefited from additionally pages devoted to showing us the world and all its intricacies. Setting the worldbuilding aside, The Vision is a highly political book that delves into the inner workings of thoroughly entrenched politics--in this case the Toltec nobles. It is populated with a variety of interesting characters. Helen, who eventually becomes mixed up in all of it, even though, technically, she was already rather mixed up in it, takes center stage, with a huge cast of lords surrounding her, who generally are easy to pick out from the crowd, but can get a bit muddled when you toss them into a room full of other lords. Helen, though, is the resident "difficult one." She has good reason to be and her rather harsh dealings with other characters often come off in a humorous way. Other characters, such as Lord Justin, would do well with more characterization in later installments--this is something I'm hoping for. For the most part I enjoyed The Vision, but it had several flaws, some of which have already been mentioned. One additional issue is one of style. Talmadge moves between POVs fluidly, but without breaks. She jumps back and forth between characters, sometimes to convey information to the reader that can't be conveyed with Helen or whoever is supposed to be the main viewpoint in that particular part of the book. This is a problem for me because I don't particularly like this style; often times it seems amateur and I see it as distracting from the characters that are most important to the story. Hopefully it lightens up in the other books. Overall, The Vision is a complex piece of speculative fiction. While it has many flaws, it at least succeeds in being somewhat intriguing. Helen's wit and tough attitude are attributes to pay attention to and there are certainly plenty of interesting things to be said or observed about the politics of the Toltecs. Something I am still very much curious about is how much of the plot is actually set up by one of the other characters, whose name I will not mention here to preserve the mystery of the story. Is it all an elaborate ploy, or did it just work out the way it did with the noble houses becoming split by one person, even though that person never asked for it?

“The Perfume: The story of a murderer” by Patrick Süskind

Posted by Harry Markov

Title: "The Perfume: Story of a Murderer" Author: Patrick Suskind Pages: 272 Publisher: Vintage Originally published 1985 “The Perfume” has been slipping through the decades with one mission only and namely leaving you speechless. Or at least this is how it happened with me once I read the novel. Extravagant, visual and surrealistic the story spins out of reality’s control, demolishes the rules with a bulldozer and show like a grand theatre hall how the least likely things happen. During my German class years I had the misfortune to sample firsthand literary works written by German speaking and have been bored out of my wits. The reason behind this is because Germans never really incorporate emotions in what they write and go along the lines of a philosophical essay. Intelligence in a novel is something I value, but it can’t support any story on its own. Needless to say “The Perfume” came as a pleasant surprise and a dark fairy tale taken from the Brothers Grimm, left to mature and evolve and then served with an actual historical background. Süskind has woven a creepy tale, which dissects the human heart, spirit and essence so boldly, into our own time line in such a way that you begin to wonder what part is fiction and what is not and whether or not this is based on a true story. The protagonist’s name is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, whose life is almost identical to most of the children in France during the 18th century. Left for adoption, then cast off into child labor and an unsure future. But what separates him from all the rest is his superhuman sense of smell. This is the first step into a new world for the reader as Süskind give smells a whole new dimension to play with. Jean-Baptiste can identify any solid, liquid or gaseous substance in all of its nuances. He can memorize them, mix them any way he wants and then use them as a map to guide himself without using his sight. Naturally this talent saves him from a low paying job as a leather worker and launches him straight in to the perfume business under the wing of perfumer Giuseppe Baldini, who is only interested in profit. Either way Jean-Baptiste soaks in all the knowledge and techniques from Baldini before leaving for Grasse. There he plans to learn new ways to isolate smells from inanimate objects, but after spending seven years into a cave to rejoice the absence of human smells his quest changes. Suddenly he realizes that his own body doesn’t emit any odor of its own. Now he sets off to create the finest human body odor there can exist and from then on the story progresses into a bizarre tale of murder and planning to create the ultimate perfume. A flask, which is filled with the scent of the 25 most beautifully smelling teenage girls. The nutshell version is the first hook in experiencing “The Perfume” and it doesn’t stop here. But be warned that this is a book for the people, who aren’t satisfied with the normal and would like something more daring, more surreal and sometimes if necessary vulgar. Süskind offers all. Every human relationship is being translated through the world of smells. The motherly connection with a baby, the way society recognizes and treats you, love and the concept of right or wrong are all a game of smells. Mix the right ingredients and you possess the power to make women fall faint from admiration, outwit and deceive the harshest law enforcer that you are as innocent as a lamb and if the circumstances require, turn invisible. This statement is proven in the novel with heavy scenes of a group festive orgy and an act of cannibalism that transcends the concept of love and twists it to portray the ugly extremes sowed in the human instinct. In the ultimate end with the right perfume you can test the morale of the human spirit, as proven there is none or at least it’s rather flexible; you can overcome limitations in communication and you can change identity with a simple spray. In the case of Jean-Baptiste, the freedom to forge any identity is what leaves him with none whatsoever, instantly detaching from the human world. He is an outsider, who is only allowed to observe. Of course another fun part is to perceive the world through the eyes of Jean-Baptiste, who is the epitome of all sociopathic anti-heroes to be created. His character is forced through another extreme, where it thrives and you wonder how in their inner world a human being can in reality never be part of the race. There are no attachments to the people in his life or around him. What ties him to the world is the abundance of smells, smells, which no one else can sense. Thus it leaves Jean-Baptiste a one of the kind character in a state of loneliness, some might relate to, but the majority will find too new and with different dimensions to connect. As a conclusion I want to add that “The Perfume” has done quite a lot to impress various artists, siring several songs, two of which are “Scentless Apprentice” by Nirvana and “Du Riechst So Gut” by Rammstein. A 2006 movie also appeared starring Dustin Hoffman, which earned a total 135$ Million in Europe. The story did quite well I think. A real rarity.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

You Know....the Strange Lady With the Blog...

I'm feeling slightly down today. It's not the low after the Christmas high after all the presents have been opened...like the one my kids have been feeling for the last few days. It's because I'm a square peg and my husband lives in a round hole world.

 I don't know if the rest of you deal with this, but I tell you, I get a lot of strange looks from people these days. I started blogging about 2 1/2 years ago and I learned real fast that a lot of people don't really understand the whole blogging thing-- never mind what topic you choose to blog about. To a person who doesn't blog, blogging is weird. But if you, like me, choose to blog about sci-fi and fantasy, you really are strange-- at least if you're married to a stockbroker.

I've brought this up with people online before and what people seem to say is that the reception you get when you talk about blogging has a lot to do with the crowd you associate with. The problem I seem to have is that I am surrounded by people who view the world in a black-and-white kind of way and I'm a shades-of-gray kind of girl. Because it's the holiday season we get a lot of invitations to parties all during the months of November, December and January. I've gone to office parties, preschool parties and soirees at homes belonging to anyone who is slightly prone to partying this time of year. I'm partied out.

Today we had an invitation to a late-Christmas celebration for a friend who lives in Japan and generally doesn't make it into town until after the actual holiday and I just didn't feel like going. I suppose I could blame it on party burn-out, that's a legitimate reason. But truthfully, I just don't have the energy to deal with any more strange looks or patronizing attitudes.

You see, to the professional women I am forced to socialize with, being a blogger who likes to watch and read sci-fi and fantasy is inexplicable. I've had women literally look their noses down at me and say, that's the only genre I don't read... If I get one more quizzical brow with a vague that's nice.. I'm going to scream. And it's not just the world of high finance that doesn't seem to "get" me. I have the same issue with suburban moms.

Let me just say this though. I love the moms I have met who live in my area. The moms at my son's preschool are the nicest people you'd ever want to meet-- so that's not an issue. But none of them blog. Not one. And it was became really clear to me when I went out on my "mom's night out" that I really don't have anything in common with anyone I know. As I was sitting there listening to the other moms talk about shopping, clothes, jewelry and other assorted "girly" things I realized I cannot relate to these people at all. I literally could care less about the things that make up these women's lives and they couldn't be less interested in anything I do. That sucks.

 But what's really got me down today is that my husband doesn't "get" the things I do either. I am so jealous of couples who actually have similar interests. My husband is a great guy but he isn't really the creative type. He doesn't share my taste in books and he'd rather watch "The Godfather" than "The Dark Knight." And he doesn't understand blogging at all. I tried to get him into it, or at least to read what I post, but I couldn't scare up any interest. He likes that I get free books for review-- one less thing he has to pay for-- but no real excitement beyond that. So he went to the Christmas party alone today. He really couldn't get out of it and I wouldn't expect him to try since it's for an old friend. But I'm a little sad that I couldn't feel more at ease around the people he socializes with. I wish just one person wouldn't give me strange looks when I tell them I like sci-fi and fantasy. Goodness knows how they'd react if I said I dressed up like a Borg and spoke Klingon. Okay, I don't. But what if I did? Would that be so bad?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Winner! Orcs by Stan Nicholls

I have randomly picked a winner for a copy of "Orcs" by Stan Nicholls and the winner is... W. Masters. Congratulations! For everyone else who entered, be sure to check out all the contests still listed on my sidebar and enter to win!

Giveaway! Zen and the Art of Vampires by Katie MacAlister

For my last giveaway of this Christmas holiday I'd like to offer another great title that Penguin Books has generously given to me to offer for giveaway. Zen and the Art of Vampires by Katie MacAlister. Product Description Is it possible to love two vampires at the same time? Pushing forty and alone, Pia Thomason heads to Europe on a singles tour, hoping to find romance. What she finds are two very handsome, very mysterious, and very undead men. And she learns that where vampires are concerned, love isn’t the only thing at stake. Same rules apply as usual. To enter, either leave a comment here or email me at sqt1969(at)gmail(dot)com under the header "Zen" and I will randomly pick a winner by Friday, January 9th. Be sure I can reach you easily. If I can't reach the winner within 48 hours I will pass the book onto another entrant. Please no multiple entries. Open everywhere. Good luck!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Isn't She Lovely?

Meet my new computer. I love her. Almost as much as the husband who bought her for me. I hope your Christmas was as merry as mine. I may never log off.

Giveaway! Just Another Judgement Day by Simon R. Green

Thanks to Penguin Books I have another awesome book to add to my holiday giveaways. If you are a fan of Simon R. Green's "Nightside" series then you should be really excited about this one. Synopsis There's a new sheriff in town, and he's got the Nightside's rich and powerful quaking in their boots. He's The Walking Man, and it's his mission to exorcise sinners-with extreme prejudice. Problem is, the Nightside was built on sin and corruption, and The Walking Man makes no distinction between evildoers and those simply indulging themselves. He'll leave the place a wasteland unless someone stops him, and P.I. John Taylor has been handed the job. No known magic or science can affect The Walking Man, and if John can't discover his weakness, he'll be facing the very Wrath of God . . . You know the drill... To enter either leave a comment here or email me at sqt1969(at)gmail(dot)com under the header "Judgement" and I will randomly pick a winner by Thursday, January 8. Make sure I can reach you easily. If I cannot reach the winner within 48 hours I will pass the book onto another entrant. Please no multiple entries. Open everywhere. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Giveaway! The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

Today's giveaway is such a fun book. I read this already (review to come soon) and I really enjoyed it. I know a lot of people like Jim C. Hines' "Jig the Goblin" series, and if you're one of them, I guarantee you'll love this one. Product Description What would happen if an author went back to the darker themes of the original fairy tales for his plots, and then crossed the Disney princesses with Charlie’s Angels? What’s delivered is The Stepsister Scheme—a whole new take on what happened to Cinderella and her prince after the wedding. And with Jim C. Hines penning the tale readers can bet it won’t be “and they lived happily ever after.” If you'd like to enter for a chance to win, just leave a comment here or email me at sqt1969(at)gmail(dot)com under the header "Scheme" and I will randomly pick a winner by Wednesday, January 7th. Please make sure I can reach you easily. If I can't reach the winner within 48 hours I will pass the book onto another entrant. No multiple entries. Open everywhere. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Giveaway! The Black Ship by Diana Pharaoh Francis

I am continuing with my holiday giveaways with a personal favorite of mine. The Black Ship by Diana Pharaoh Francis. I read and reviewed the first book in Francis' Crosspointe series, The Cipher and really enjoyed it. I am almost done with "The Black Ship" and I can say it's a worthy successor to "The Cipher." But I didn't want to wait until I was finished with the review to offer "The Black Ship" up for giveaway since I think it's a great book to include in my Christmas-week contests. This is also a book that can be read independently of "The Cipher;" so if it sounds interesting to you--- sign up to win! Product Description Thorn is a member of the Pilot’s Guild—those who possess the magical ability to navigate Crosspointe’s deadly seas. When a malevolent master within the Guild bans him from the sea, it seems his life is over. Then he is kidnapped and forced to serve aboard the rogue ship Eidolon—pitch black from bow to stern—and Thorn finds himself battling a mad captain, a mutinous crew, and the terrifying magic of the sea. But there is a saboteur on board, trying to make sure the Eidolon never arrives safely in port. Thorn begins to realize his kidnapping may have been no mere chance— and that the cargo the black ship carries may seal his doom… To enter, either leave a comment here or email me at sqt1969(at)gmail(dot)com under the header "Ship" and I will randomly pick a winner by Tuesday, January 6th. Please be sure I can reach you easily. If I cannot reach a winner within 48 hours I will pass the book onto another entrant. No multiple entries. Open everywhere. Good luck!

Monday, December 22, 2008

"Interrogate the Author: Starring Jocelynn Drake"

Posted by Harry Markov

Tonight we have the pleasure to bathe in the moonlight presence of Jocelynn Drake, a new priestess of vampire fiction. I was excited to take the opportunity to dissect the secrets of yet another author. As it turned out Jocelynn was willing to thrust the scalpel in my hand and guide me along the path of all her confessions. There is pretty much nothing she doesn't discuss with flare and great detail and this is exactly how we like our authors... chatty, not dissected. So let's give a warm welcome to Jocelynn, without whom I wouldn't have been able to interrogate yet another person. Harry: I thank you whole heartedly for taking a seat in my virtual chair this evening and will be answering some of my questions. Shall we cut to chase and begin immediately? As we all know “Nightwalker” has been released several months ago. First how does it feel to be the newest in the new generation of UF writers and does the experience amount to your expectations? Jocelynn: How does it feel? Thrilling, exciting, overwhelming and more than a little intimidating. To be included in such a fun genre is both thrilling and exciting – like being invited to an exclusive party. Yet, at the same time, I’m following in the footsteps of some amazing writers, forcing me to live up to some extremely high standards if I want to please my readers. So far, the experience has surpassed my expectations. Nightwalker received a very warm welcome from both readers and reviewers. I hope that I am able to maintain this kind of excitement through the rest of the books in the series. H: So let’s dig a bit in your writing career and start at the very beginning. What motivated you to pursue writing as a career and what was your first encounter with the art form? Also how did your family and friends receive the news of your decision that you wrote and planed to make money off it? J: I started writing when I was about 12 years old. I spent one summer rewriting the story of Robin Hood so that it now included a strong female lead to match Robin Hood. That officially got me hooked. From there, I have been constantly writing, jumping from one genre to the next, following whatever caught my attention at that moment. In college, I reluctantly changed my major from engineering to English when my parents had a talk with me about pursuing what would make me most happy in life. To me, engineering insured that I had a solid financial future, while writing did not. However, after a single miserable semester of calculus, I decided it was time to pursue my dream of writing. I was terrified that I would spend the rest of my life as a starving artist since I was already aware of exactly how hard it was to get published. But the novelist part of my life came several years after college. For the past 8 years, I have been a stock market analyst and financial writer, which has allowed me to write every day about the craziness of the stock market. If I can’t spent my day with my vampires, I have no problem spending it with Wall Street, as long as I get to write. H: Was “Nightwalker” your first manuscript and if not can you describe what you have been writing before that? Did you take any courses or classes in creative writing during your days before getting published? J: In college, I graduated with a degree in English with a minor in journalism, with a focus on creative writing. I’ve also attended the University of Iowa summer creative writing program (which I highly recommend). I’ve also toyed with the idea of going back to school to get my MFA in creative writing. Even after getting published, there still more things that I could stand to learn. Nightwalker is not my first full manuscript, but it is the first one I ever tried to get published. Prior to publication, I wrote whatever occurred to me. In high school, it was silly romantic tales of high school love. By my senior year, I had moved on to traditional fantasy, which I am hoping to return to some day. By college, I was onto poetry and short stories in the Raymond Carver vein along with some more contemporary literature. The vampires didn’t really start to show up until about 5-6 years ago, and they appeared in all forms – short stories, poetry, and finally novels. Happily, I think the vampires are here to stay for a while. H: As we trod into the matters at hand, can you share why did you choose vampires as the leading species in the Dark Days series? What was the quality for you that set them apart from all the rest for you? Hopefully that won’t involve Anne Rice or sexy aura. J: Ha! I read Anne Rice. I read Laurell K. Hamilton, and Kim Harrison, along with Charlaine Harris, Christine Feehan, and dozens others. Naturally, I also read Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I liked the darker vampires the most, those where their humanity was just a veneer. For me, the fun part of the vampire is taking something that was once human with human memories, but giving them super-human powers and the instincts of a deadly predator. You end up with a creature in constant turmoil as it struggles to reconcile the two sides. Is it still human? Is it more animal? Is it something else above what is human? It’s something that Mira struggles with, particularly when she is around others of her own kind. H: Your Mira is quite the contradiction. How did it occur to you to add her fire powers and does it stand as a symbol for you hidden from the reader? Also doesn’t there exist the threat she can get herself burned by the fire she manipulates? For some reason, Mira was always the Fire Starter in my mind. It was how she was born in my brain. I’m not exactly sure of the “how” beyond that. I know the “why,” though. It is linked to her lineage, which will come up in more detail in later books. Can she get burned? Not while she’s conscious. Unconscious? I’m honestly not sure. H: To what degree did research get involved in constructing you vampire society, its ties between one another and the hierarchy and what was fiction? Due to the Triad I think it was hinted that vampires have some sort of other magical skills, perhaps even their own vault of spells based on their peculiar nature. Can we expect some spell casting power from vampires? J: I didn’t do any specific research for my vampire society. I just tried to imagine how they would act according to the destruction of their human morals, and the general need for control within the chaos. You will meet more of the vampire hierarchy and its working in Dayhunter. The Coven, which rules the nightwalker world, is a dark, manipulative group. My vampires will never be major spell casters. There will be the occasional spell and some are very specific to their race. Others are just powers they gain with age. Jabari, my oldest nightwalker, can disappear and reappear over vast distances. Sadira can use telekinesis and fly. H: Speaking of making up things your new races naturi and bori are the hot topic among reviewers. What are your plans for them and will we be able to witness more of their power, magical and their history? How did you decide to involve these races, are there any guidelines you are following or reinventing the whole archetype and how did their names come to be? J: The naturi and the bori will remain major plot topics for quite some time within the series, even though there are a few other things that I would like to tackle. We will be able to see more of their history and their abilities with each book that is released, but I’m reluctant to give away all my secrets here. Dayhunter will give you a closer look at Rowe and his abilities along with his past with Mira. Meanwhile, Book 3 will give a closer look at the naturi hierarchy. I created them because I needed a powerful villain for the nightwalkers and I didn’t want their natural enemy to be the shapeshifters, so I essentially had to come up with my own race. Furthermore, I believe in keeping things in balance. The naturi were created first, but they needed a polar opposite to keep them in balance, so I also created the bori. The naturi name was created because I needed a creature linked to nature. The bori name was taken from some old mythology out of Africa. H: Danaus is one of a kind man and has captivated me with his unusual scent as Mira has described it, his mysterious part, origins and power. Quite frankly I have been using boiling blood in a project of mine, so I am very interested to know what intentions lurked in your head to give him such an ability and whether there are other like him as type of being? J: And I thought I was the first to use boiling blood! Just teasing. I needed a creature that could stand up to Mira and put a little fear in her. Why not a creature just as deadly from a distance as her? I can say with complete confidence that there are no other creatures like Danaus. I promise you find out about his unique heritage in Dayhunter. H: As you know great minds think alike, so boiling blood shouldn't be an issue. *grin* “Nightwalker” left the two mortal enemies, Mira and Danaus, closer as allies. I can feel the budding seed of something more than an alliance. Could you confirm any actual romance in the following novels or is it just going to become a strong friendship? J: Ha! You do want all my secrets! I am building the book so that it can actually go in either direction. The characters have a lot of respect for each other’s sense of honor and sense of duty, which I think is important for any kind of relationship. However, there are still some pretty massive barriers standing between them. IF they do end up more than friends, it is undoubtedly going to be a rocky road for them. H: From your blog stats I see that you are working intensely on new titles in the Dark Days series. How far do you think the series will reach, how many books is your contract for and how many do you think you can keep writing for the coolness of the world? Do you have any other ideas for series? J: I recently was offered a second contract for another 3 books by HarperCollins, so the series is looking at least 6 books, but I would like to go much farther than that. It’s hard to say how many books, but it will be a while before I tire of Mira and Danaus. I do have an idea for a shorter series that would run parallel to the Dark Days series. It would involve the same world, but completely different characters – though there would be the possibility for Dark Days character to make cameo appearances. However, it may be a few years before I can get about to working on that series. I have a few other books in other genres that I would like to finish first. H: Your day job involves close work with the stock market. With the recent crisis over at Wall Street how are things developing to handling the crisis and do you have any involvement in saving the financial world as we know it? I can already hear the puns “Financial Woman is here to raise your economic benefit”. J: LOL. No, I’m not currently in a position to save the financial market, but at least I can also say that I am not the cause of our problems either. I am just an observer of the market. I write my observations for a website and I am pleased to say that that is the extent of the damage I can cause. H: Now around the Black Wednesday that the publishing industry is suffering, how much in danger are new authors such as yourself? It is true that you had a really strong debut, a debut that turned in an instant bestseller at position 117 from 150 spots is quite an achievement, but do you have to fear anything regarding your books. J: I am pleased to report that I appeared on both the New York Times and USA Today Bestseller list, and stayed there for 4 weeks, positively stunning my publisher. I think that helped to win me a second contract. But even with that second contract in hand, there is always that fear that you will be next on the chopping block. I think most writers have that fear right now as book sales slow. It just forces you to make sure that your next book is better than the last. It demands that you are more aggressive in your self-promotion. For me, the greatest fear is being forgotten between books. Luckily, 2009 will be a busy year with the release of Dayhunter, the anthology short story, and then Book 3 in the fall. In the end, you just keep plugging along, being the best writer that you can be. H: So let’s cut with the more serious questions. How does one writing day pass for Jocelynn Drake with maintain both a professional and personal life? J: Typically, I’m in the office before 7:30 in the morning, reviewing the market news and beginning to prep my stories for the day. I work straight through until about 5. I’m home again by around 6:30 in the evening. I try to give myself about an hour to eat dinner and relax a bit. Then for the next few hours, it’s catching up on email, blogging, and a little light writing until bed. My heaviest writing days tend to be on the weekend, where I work all day with little to distract me. H: Who would you like to have Mira or any other character from your book fight in a death match, if you could choose from all popularized characters from all mediums, meaning games, comic books and etcetera? J: Wow! That’s a good question and a hard one. For fear of showing my geekiness, I would love to see Mira in an all out death match with Sephiroth from SquareEnix’s Final Fantasy 7 video game. He probably one of the best villains – and best conflicted villains—ever created. He also has some mad skills. I would love to give Mira the opportunity to just get into a fight and totally get dirty and violent, which is what Sephiroth would offer. H: Oh, I did watch AdventChildren so I know that one. He would be an interesting one to fight and be killed by Mira. Can you tip young writers all around the world with some writing advice that has been accumulated through your own experience? Reading and writing and then some are all very fine and dandy, but there is a lot more to the craft to expect in the advice department. J: For me, the devil is in the details. And I mean that mostly when it comes to characters. Know your characters inside and out. Their motivations, their hopes, their fears, their dreams, and their naughty, naughty thoughts. You have to know things that will probably never hit the written page. That kind of depth makes your characters so real and so alive to the reader. Give them faults that you know all too well. Make them fallible and broken. It’s something every reader will be able to understand.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Giveaway! Busted Flush: Edited by George R. R. Martin

I'm feeling the Holiday Spirit. So I'd like to pass on some great books this week that I've gotten from the fabulous publishers who so generously send me books for review and giveaway. Today's book is Busted Flush, graciously sent to me by Tor Books. Publisher's Weekly: The sequel to 2008's Inside Straight, a revamp of the shared Wild Cards universe, features crises ripped directly from today's newspaper headlines and summer blockbusters. A burgeoning gas shortage has sparked an invasion into the Middle East; New Orleans is hurricane-beset and zombie-ravaged; someone has set off a nuclear explosion in Texas; and genocide rages in Nigeria. The conflicts between the compellingly human superheroes on the U.N.'s Committee shape this fast-paced alternate history. Veteran contributor and now assistant editor Melinda M. Snodgrass pens standout chapters featuring British triple-agent Double Helix, who drives the plot while posing as both seductive Committee member Lilith and Middle Eastern assassin Bahir. While those unfamiliar with the Wild Cards mosaic novels will flounder, the clever twists on today's political landscape and the unique powers of several new "aces" will lure back past readers. Contributors to this volume are: Melinda Snodgrass Caroline Spector Carrie Vaughn Walton Simons & Ian Tregillis John Jos. Miller Victor Milan Stephen Leigh Kevin Andrew Murphy To enter, simply comment here or email me at sqt1969(at)gmail(dot)com under the header "Busted" and I will randomly pick a winner by Monday, January 5th. Please be sure I can reach you easily. If I cannot reach the winner within 48 hours I will award the book to another entrant. No multiple entries please. Open everywhere. Be sure to check in this week for further holiday contests! Good luck!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Book Review: Ha'Penny by Jo Walton

"Was it terrorists?" shouted a man in a beige raincoat, beginning a barrage of questions, impossible to distinguish individually. Carmichael stopped and held his hand up for silence. Royston scuttled through as they closed in on Carmichael. "...same as in Wales?" one last journalist trailed off, embarrassed. "I don't know any more than you do. When I know anything, I'll come out and make a statement," Carmichael said. "Oh, be a sport and give us a quote," a woman said, smiling at him under a dripping hat. "You're the same Inspector Carmichael who solved the Thirkie murder, aren't you?" asked a sharp-nosed man half-leaning on a little red Austin. "Yes," Carmichael said, scowling. Flashbulbs popped. "When I have a statement to make, I'll see you're given it." "Can you confirm that Miss Gilmore has been killed?" the woman asked. The rest was lost in the clamor as they all began to shout again. Carmichael ducked around the barrier and joined Royston on the far side. "It's number thirty-five," the bobby said, indicating a set of steps leading up from the street through a grass bank to a garden gate. "Go around the back." --Excerpt from Ha'Penny by Jo Walton Last year I reviewed Walton's Farthing and was thankful to have the opportunity to read Ha'Penny. Ha'Penny takes place after the events that occurred in Farthing, in the same alternate reality in which World War Two ended with a peace between Great Britain and Nazi Germany and England, during the events in Farthing, slipped into the same fascist dictatorship that made Germany so terrifying. Ha'Penny begins with a mysterious bomb explosion in London, followed by the assignment of Carmichael to the case--the same Carmichael in Farthing, in case you're wondering. As Carmichael begins to investigate, he uncovers a conspiracy to murder Normanby--the new dictator of England--and Adolf Hitler, and finds himself in an even more compromised position than at the end of Farthing, where those with power and who know Carmichael's secrets begin to push Carmichael into the exact place they want him, even if it's against his will. One of the things that I found enjoyable in Farthing, and even more enjoyable in Ha'Penny, was the old-time detective novel feel that Walton manages to produce. I find myself being reminded of all the old Hardy Boys that I used to read as a kid. Granted, Walton's novel is far more complex, dark, and powerful than the Hardy Boys, but this novel still awakens a little of that inner child with its nod to thirties detective fiction. Think of it as Sherlock Holmes for the alternate history crowd! Ha'Penny continues Walton's "tradition" in a big way by taking the story further into the darkness of a world converted to fascism. Many of the complaints I had with Farthing seem to have been put in their place with Ha'Penny, because I now get a greater sense of the hopelessness that Walton has created in this alternate past. I haven't read the third book yet, but I wonder if things will get any better for characters like Carmichael. The interesting thing about Ha'Penny (and something I'm seeing somewhat more of lately) is the focus on morality in the characters we're supposed to be rooting for. Carmichael inevitably has to make a difficult, if not morally questionable, decision to save his own life and the life of his lover. But I don't blame Carmichael; in fact, I completely understand why Carmichael does what he does. Perhaps it was something I failed to acknowledge in Farthing, but Carmichael literally has little choice in the matter. There are other characters who have to make horrible choices as well, such as Viola, who is put into a compromising situation where she will be killed if she doesn't agree to help a group of domestic terrorists--fronted by members of her own family, no less. Walton intentionally gets us (the readers) to question morality by positioning her characters in situations where they have to make decisions that make us cringe. Should Carmichael fight against authority and risk being destroyed along with his lover, or should he agree to the terms forced upon him and hope he can at least affect some change and save a few lives? What about Viola? Is it wrong to commit an act of terrorism in the name of a dead ideal or even an ideal that is not your own? These are the questions that come up for me. Like V For Vendetta, Ha'Penny follows the actions of desperate and methodical individuals on both ends of the spectrum, each trying to get a piece of the political pie for entirely different reasons. Above all these dark images and moral quandaries, however, is a well written piece of literature that reads much as if it had been written in a much more stylistically eloquent era of modern literature. Walton's prose style, thankfully, does not draw too much from that older era, however. Her prose is a mixture of eras, with enough of today's more invigorating flavors to keep an older era at bay--lest it overwhelm the story with description and bits that would otherwise be edited out. This is perhaps a testament to Walton's ability with mimicry, or at least to her natural prose styling. And, as if that wasn't enough, Walton has managed to create a generally realistic persona in Viola: one of those artistic and successful individuals that tend to be rather annoying at times, but still sympathetic. Perhaps the only weak part of Ha'Penny is Viola's romance with Devlin, which feels somewhat overshadowed by much of the book to the point where it feels less like a true romance and more like something contrived or too obvious. Still, I suppose in hindsight I can see what Walton was attempting to do with that relationship; it makes some sense, but I had hoped for more from it than what was given. The end of the book, which I won't utter here, succeeds in keeping my interest. I expect things will get even worse in Half a Crown, the next book in the series. One thing I would like to see in future installments is the return of some other familiar characters, such as the Kahns and Viola. Carmichael is, I think, the main character of Walton's novels, but some of these other characters have had more lasting impacts on me and I would like to see what happens to them. If you liked Farthing, then you're bound to enjoy Ha'Penny. If you've read neither, however, and you enjoy some cleverly written alternate history, then I suggest you check out Walton's novels and see what it's all about. Nothing like some good, elaborate, and well written WW2 alt-hist for a nice evening of reading!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Review: One For Sorrow by Christopher Barzak

I didn't know where I was going at first, but by the time I reached the edge of the woods, I'd figured it out. The rain still fell steadily, and the win crooned through the trees like a song I'd heard my grandma once since. Some song from the old country about a black bird that plucked a baby from its mother's arms and carried it away to the land of the dead. Leaves fell around me, red and gold stars falling through the mist. I pushed my way through the brambles until I could see a wall of twilight ahead where the woods broke and I could almost see the old railroad tracks. His breath was on my neck before I could reach the spot though. I knew it was him before he even said a thing. I felt his breath on my neck, cold and damp, and then his arms were around my stomach like mine with Gracie and before I knew it he had climbed up on my back. "Keep going," he whispered holding tight, and I carried him like that all the way to the place where Gracie found him. --Excerpt from One For Sorrow by Christopher Barzak Barzak's debut novel is a heavy hitter. It's a story of being a teenager in a dysfunctional family, going through the trials of the teenage life, of falling in love and having one's heart ripped out, of being confused about the world and about where you're supposed to be. It's about the emotional roller coaster that is the teenage years, dead friends, first loves, and trying to understand one's place in the world. It's the story of Adam, a fifteen-year-old boy who becomes friends with Jamie, someone much like Adam, but who has been brutally killed. But the longer Adam holds on to his friend, the more he seems to lose his touch with everyone around him. Thus begins an adventure of the emotional and the physical. Perhaps what I most enjoyed about One For Sorrow is the fact that it is different from most everything I have read before. I found the story engrossing and the characters fascinating. I wanted to know from the very start what was going to happen to Adam, what he was going to do to survive it, and how it would all turn out. Essentially, I became emotionally invested in Adam's well being, which is almost always a good thing. I also particularly enjoyed the low-level genre content. The characters took over the story, not the fantastic elements (ghosts, floating out of one's own body, etc.). Most genre work these days is heavily plot oriented, which is great, but it is nice to see some writers pushing the boundaries in the genre. Barzak is certainly pushing the boundaries here by taking genre to a different place from his contemporaries. I found few things to complain about with this book. Sure, it's not perfect. There were times when I literally had to yell at the characters as if they were real people, because they were absolutely driving me nuts with their realistic stupidity. But that's not necessarily a complaint. The only thing I can say might be a problem for some potential readers is that One For Sorrow doesn't pull punches. There's language and graphic scenes of a sexual nature--though not on the same level as erotica. If you're the type of reader that likes stories that sit more on that line of purity, then this isn't a book for you. Neither is it a book for people that like stories where everything is happy, or where the conflict is simplistic or easy on the emotions. One For Sorrow literally goes into the darker points of teenage existence, but not in that "emo" way: it's all disturbingly real and terrifying. These are things to consider when wondering if this book is the right one for you. Then again, I recommend reading it even if you are a bit on the sensitive side; pushing one's boundaries is always a good thing. It's a gloriously complicated story, though. So much so I was rather surprised to find that this was a debut novel rather than a fifth or sixth novel. Barzak has a knack for deep character stories--stories that do what all fiction should be doing: discussing the human. Adam is a character you can root for, because even as things go horribly wrong and he makes loads of mistakes, you can't help wanting everything to turn out okay. Does it? You'll have to read the book to find out exactly what happens, but I would say that you should not expect tidy endings for this novel. If you want a story where the end is all flowers and puppies, this book isn't for you. But if you like leaving things a little open, for good reason, then One For Sorrow may be right up your alley. One For Sorrow is almost like life: the end of every great adventure is the start of another.

Giveaway! 2 DVD Copies of Death Race!

I just made your Friday didn't I? Call me silly, but I like action movies that don't require any more of me than I sit back, relax and be entertained. Something tells me there are a few more of you out there just like me. If so Death Race is just the ticket for a lazy holiday evening and thanks to Universal Home Studios Entertainment I have TWO copies to giveaway. SYNOPSIS: Terminal Island: The very near future. The world’s hunger for extreme sports and reality competitions has grown into reality TV bloodlust. Now, the most extreme racing competition has emerged and its contestants are murderous prisoners. Tricked-out cars, caged thugs and smoking-hot navigators combine to create a juggernaut series with bigger ratings than the Super Bowl. The rules of the Death Race are simple: Win five events, and you’re set free. Lose and you’re road kill splashed across the Internet. International action star Jason Statham leads the action-thriller’s cast as three-time speedway champion Jensen Ames, an ex-con framed for the murder of his wife. Forced to don the mask of the mythical driver Frankenstein, a Death Race crowd favorite who seems impossible to kill, Ames is given an easy choice by Terminal Island’s ruthless Warden Hennessey (Joan Allen): Suit up and drive or never see his little girl again. His face hidden by a hideous mask, he must win the insane three-day challenge in order to gain freedom. But to claim the prize, Ames must survive a gauntlet of the most vicious criminals—including nemesis Machine Gun Joe (Tyrese Gibson)—in the country’s toughest prison. Trained by his coach (Ian McShane) to drive a monster Mustang V8 Fastback outfitted with 2 mounted mini-guns, flamethrowers and napalm, an innocent man must destroy everything in his path to win the most twisted spectator sport on Earth. If you're feeling revved up and want to win one of two copies of "Death Race," then either leave a comment here or email me at sqt1969(at)gmail(dot)com under the header "Race" to enter. Be sure I can reach you easily. If I cannot reach the winner within 48 hours I give the prize to the next entrant. Winners will be randomly chosen by Friday, January 2nd. Open in the U.S. only. Good luck!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Links

I am so behind on my links. There is so much great stuff out there. Not just giveaways, but podcasts, trailers, short stories and excerpts from books due to be released next year. I have been wanting to link to the 6-Shooter Film Series for awhile now. Magnet Releasing, the arm of Magnolia Pictures that releases genre films, has a new series of movies coming out that have unique paranormal twists. The first film that's going to be released is Let the Right One in, which is based on the book "Let Me In" by John Ajvide Lindqvist and was reviewed on my book review blog here. Other titles include Special (starring Michael Rappaport), Timecrimes, "Big Man Japan," "Donkey Punch," and Eden Log." The whole series of films look really unique and amazing. Justin Gustanis, author of the exceptionally well received book Black Magic Woman has a sequel coming out at the end of the month called Evil Ways and you can read a full chapter of the new book HERE, courtesy of Fantasy Book Spot. There is also a new fan-site out there for all you sci-fi lovers, only this one has a unique twist. Planet Origo has a lot of great movie reviews and sci-fi news, but they also have an extensive music section. I am so not in the know when it comes to new and cutting edge music so this is a fun site if that happens to be your particular interest. Tor.com has a short story by Brandon Sanderson up on their site titled "Firstborn." This is the first full on sci-fi story published by Sanderson, who is a well known up-and-coming fantasy author. I am a huge fan of Sanderson and if you haven't checked him out already, you might want to read this short story and see what you've been missing. I'm way late in getting this giveaway up, but MentatJack has a signed ARC of "Spell Games" by T.A. Pratt for giveaway. You have to get your entry in by tomorrow, so hurry on over and enter. Nerds Do it Better has a fun list of video games your girlfriend will like. Good luck with that. Lady Vampire's Lair has a great Christmas Contest going on. I'm not going to list all the prizes here... You're going to have to head over and check out the list for yourself-- and enter! Marie Brennan has a podcast up of her short story "Swan Tower." Sci-fi Signal has a list of The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Art by Artists You've Never Heard Of. I'm also scheduled to be a part of Sci-Fi Signals Mind Meld featuring our favorites of 2008. Be sure to be on the lookout for that. (As if I wouldn't let you know...) CIO interviews Larry Niven, Robert J. Sawyer, Nancy Kress, and Charles Stross. Hope you enjoy the links. I'll be sure to add updates and let you know if any more interesting stuff comes my way.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If I'm Gonna Pay $10.50, Then I Better Be Stinkin' Drunk

Ah, mom's night out. I currently get about one night a month to go out with the other mom's at my son's preschool and it's a lot of fun. You might think once a month doesn't seem like much but when you're chasing after two kids the time flies by pretty fast. We usually pick a local restaurant and get dinner, drinks or dessert. Last night we went to The Cheesecake Factory. Did you know they charge $10.50 for a mixed drink? Neither did I. 10 friggin' dollars! No wonder restaurants like that are going out of business. Do these people realize we're in a recession? WTF? Like most restaurants they don't list the prices for their drinks on the menu but like an idiot I thought they'd charge the same general price as most local restaurants do for a foo foo martini drink. But $10.50? And I didn't even get a buzz. Let's be real here. I could buy a bottle of the cheap vodka they used to make the drink and a bottle of juice for what they charged me. And I bet I would have a better time. I mean, I don't even have a good I got drunk and did this stupid thing story.... For $10.50 I should be able to at least get a little stupid. Right? $10.50... Fume. Don't buy drinks at The Cheesecake factory folks. It's a rip off. Just thought I should let you know. Back to the Bailey's.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks

Everyone swung about to face the collapsed wall, prods coming up defensively. They stood motionless for a moment, listening. Nothing happened. No movement, no sounds. The seconds ticked away, and the basement seemed to grow stuffy and warm. Finally, knowing he had to do something, Hawk started forward to take a closer look. Candle grasped his arm instantly, pulling him back. "Don't go in there!" Hawk looked at her in surprise. "What is is?" She shook her head. Her face was pale and drawn, and her eyes wide with fear. She could barely make herself answer him. "We have to get out of here. We have to get out right away." The way she said it made it clear that she felt there was no room for argument. Hawk looked at the others. "Go back up the stairs, right now." "Wait a minute!" Panther was right in his face, his voice angry. "We came all this way across town to turn tail and run? You want us to leave the tablets behind?" "Go back up the stairs." Hawk repeated. "Go back up the stairs yourself!" Panther snapped and wheeled away. As the others watched in disbelief, he started toward the back of the room and the deep shadows, ignoring the looks directed after him, oblivious to Candle's hiss of warning. Hawk started to follow, then stopped as he realized he could not turn Panther around without risking a confrontation that would likely do more harm than good. Not knowing what else to do, he swung the thin beam of his torch after the retreating figure to help light his way. Panther reached the piles of crates and move through them, neither hesitating or hurrying. Then abruptly, he disappeared from view. ~Excerpt from Armageddon's Children by Terry Brooks Before picking up "Armageddon's Children" by Terry Brooks I hadn't read a book from the Shannara universe in almost 15 years. Terry Brooks was one of the first fantasy authors I ever read and his style of writing had a lot to do with laying the foundation for what I think of as "real" fantasy writing. I liked the original Shannara series quite a bit when I was in my teens though my interest waned as I got older and I sought out new authors with newer ideas. Now though, I find myself returning the beginning. "The Genesis of Shannara" is the latest series of books by Terry Brooks. "Genesis" starts with "Armageddon's Children" and it ties together the story of our world with that of the Shannara universe. I haven't read the original books in years, but now I find myself wanting to go back and see if there are hints that Shannara is built upon the ruins of a post-apocalyptic Earth. At any rate, it's an intriguing story. Earth has been torn asunder by the recklessness and greed of world leaders. All of our worst fears about nuclear, biological and chemical warfare have come true and humanity is barely hanging on. But underneath all the mundane reasons that mankind might have used to tear itself apart is a larger battle between good and evil. In another series of books, Terry Brooks had introduced the concept of "The Word & The Void" to describe where good and evil exist. I haven't read that series (though you can read "Armageddon's Children" quite easily without having read the "The Word & The Void" series) but it's pretty easy to extrapolate that "The Word" is good and "The Void" is evil and that demons get their power from the Void. Logan Tom is a Knight of the Word. His mission is to try to save the remnants of humanity from the Demons and Once Men who hunt down and enslave the survivors of the holocaust. For most of his life Logan has been fighting a losing battle and trying to find a reason to keep fighting when he is told of a magical being called "The Gypsy Morph." He is told that he needs to find The Gypsy Morph and protect it because the Morph is the last best hope for the survival of humanity. A street kid, known only as Hawk, is the leader of a makeshift family that lives in the ruins of Seattle Washington. Hawk has visions of a better life-- literal visions, and the other kids who follow him believe he will lead them to a better place and a better life. But living on the streets is beyond dangerous. The fallout from nuclear war and the various plagues that have befallen humanity have filled the world with mutated versions of mankind that prey on the rest of the survivors. Food and water are scarce and dangerous and everyday is a battle to survive. Adding to the already considerable challenges is the fact that Hawk is The Gypsy Morph. Hawk doesn't remember his childhood so his destiny is unknown to him. But the demons that are looking for him have started to narrow down where he lives and Hawk soon finds himself in even more danger than before. Angel Perez is also a Knight of the Word, though she finds out she has a different quest entirely. She is to track down the remaining elves, hidden in the hills of the Pacific Northwest, and help them save The Ellcrys, a tree that holds up a barrier between the demon world and our own. I really enjoyed going back to one of the authors who initiated my interest in fantasy in the first place. When reading "Armageddon's Children" I kind of felt like I was reading "old-school" fantasy because the feel is so different from much of what I read now. The story in this book could very easily fit into the paranormal category if it wanted to-- but it doesn't. Mostly I put that down to style. Much of what I think of as paranormal fiction has a formula that involves a lot of sarcastic dialogue and the villains/heroes might be demons, though they're just as likely to be vampires or werewolves. Despite the presence of demons here, the feel is definitely not in the urban fantasy or paranormal category. "Armageddon's Children" is good, old-fashioned fantasy. The magic is a lot like what you might find in "The Lord of the Rings" or anything by David Eddings. It's sorcery that comes from within the user. It's a burst of light that can harm or heal. Overall, the story is pretty good. Terry Brooks has been writing fantasy for over 30 years and it shows. I know that some of his older books could get a bit repetitive, but this one is fairly unique, especially since it's the first in the series. The story-lines do contain a lot of the mentor-student relationships that I have seen in earlier books by Brooks, but the mentors here are mostly realized in flashbacks and the heroes spend most of their time on their own. And the blending of apocalyptic fiction with high fantasy is a very interesting combination. The only thing that struck me as a definite negative about the book was that it is one of those books that stops mid-action. A total cliff-hanger. Fortunately, all three books in the series have already been published and I already have a copy of the last two books. Whew! If you have enjoyed Terry Brooks in the past then I think it's a sure thing that you'll like this book. For me, it had all the good aspects of a Brooks' book without the predictability I had come to expect from some of the Shannara series. If you haven't read Brooks and you like high fantasy, or even dystopian fiction, you might give this a try. It's not as gritty as some of the more recent publications like authors like E. E. Knight's "The Vampire Earth," but for someone like me, who doesn't always like stories that are too grim, that's a good thing.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I am literally speechless with excitement...

Monday, December 15, 2008

Winners! The X-Files: I Want to Believe Giveaway!

I have selected the winners of the Blue Ray and DVD copies of "The X-Files: I Want to Believe" giveaway and they are: Stewart Sternberg: Blue Ray Cynnie: DVD and Kevin McCloskey: DVD Thanks everyone for playing along. Make sure you send me your snail mail addressess and I'll make sure these get sent right off to you. Until next time...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Review Site Meme

John from over at Grasping for the Wind has a review site meme going around and I meant to link to it days ago... Be sure to add to this list if you don't see yourself linked already. ~ From John's site. My list of fantasy and sf book reviewers is woefully out of date. I need your help to fix that. But rather than go through the hassle of having you send me recommendations or sticking them in comments, what you can do is take the following list and stick it on your website, then add yourself to the list, preferably in alphabetical order. That way, I will be able to track it across the web from back links, and can add each new blog to my roll as it comes along. So take this list, add it to your blog, and add a link to your blog on it. If you are already on the list, repost this meme at your blog so others can see it, and find new blogs from the links others put up on their blogs. Everybody wins! Be sure to send the list around to others as well. There is an easy to copy window of all the links and text at the bottom of this post to make it even simpler to do. I would be ever so grateful if you would help me out. The Accidental Bard A Dribble Of Ink Adventures in Reading The Agony Column The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent. Barbara Martin Bibliophile Stalker Bibliosnark BillWardWriter.com Blood of the Muse Bookgeeks Bookslut Bookspotcentral The Book Swede Bookrastination Breeni Books Cheryl's Musings Critical Mass Dark Wolf Fantasy Reviews Darque Reviews Dave Brendon's Fantasy and Sci-Fi Weblog The Deckled Edge Dragons, Heroes and Wizards Dusk Before the Dawn Enter the Octopus Eve's Alexandria Fantasy Book Critic Fantasy Cafe Fantasy Debut Fantasy Book Reviews and News Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin' Blog The Fix The Foghorn Review From a Sci-Fi Standpoint The Galaxy Express Galleycat Graeme's Fantasy Book Review Grasping for the Wind The Green Man Review Highlander's Book Reviews io9 Jumpdrives and Cantrips Literary Escapism Michele Lee's Book Love Monster Librarian Mostly Harmless Books My Favourite Books Neth Space NextRead OF Blog of the Fallen The Old Bat's Belfry Outside of a Dog Pat's Fantasy Hotlist Piaw's Blog Post-Weird Thoughts Publisher's Weekly Reading the Leaves Realms of Speculative Fiction Rob's Blog o' Stuff ScifiChick SF Diplomat SciFiGuy Sci-Fi Songs [Musical Reviews] Severian's Fantastic Worlds SF Gospel SF Reviews.net SF Revu SF Signal SF Site SFF World's Book Reviews Silver Reviews Speculative Fiction Junkie Speculative Horizons Sporadic Book Reviews The Sword Review Tangent Online Temple Library Reviews Tor.com [also a publisher] The Road Not Taken Un:Bound Urban Fantasy Land Vast and Cool and Unsympathetic Variety SF Walker of Worlds Wands and Worlds The Wertzone WJ Fantasy Reviews The World in a Satin Bag WriteBlack

Foreign Language (other than English) Cititor SF [Romanian, but with English Translation] Elbakin.net [French