Thursday, January 29, 2009

Zombies and Elizabeth Bennet. How Could You Go Wrong?

Funniest thing I've seen all day. (( Check out the link-- it's for real)) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies -- Pride and Prejudice and Zombies features the original text of Jane Austen's beloved novel with all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action. As our story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet English village of Meryton—and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she's soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. What ensues is a delightful comedy of manners with plenty of civilized sparring between the two young lovers—and even more violent sparring on the blood-soaked battlefield as Elizabeth wages war against hordes of flesh-eating undead. Complete with 20 illustrations in the style of C. E. Brock (the original illustrator of Pride and Prejudice), this insanely funny expanded edition will introduce Jane Austen's classic novel to new legions of fans. Jane Austen is the author of Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Mansfield Park, and other masterpieces of English literature. Seth Grahame-Smith is the author of How to Survive a Horror Movie and The Big Book of Porn. He lives in Los Angeles.

Book Review: Grimspace, by Ann Aguirre

By all accounts, Sirantha Jax should have burned out years ago… As the carrier of a rare gene, Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace—a talent which cuts into her life expectancy, but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she's navigating crash-lands, and she's accused of killing everyone on board. It's hard for Jax to defend herself: she has no memory of the crash. Now imprisoned and the subject of a ruthless interrogation, Jax is on the verge of madness. Then a mysterious man breaks into her cell, offering her freedom—for a price. March needs Jax to help his small band of rogue fighters break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel—and establish a new breed of jumper. Jax is only good at one thing—grimspace—and it will eventually kill her. So she may as well have some fun in the meantime… -Description of Grimspace, By Ann Aguirre Sirantha Jax is a broken woman. As the description says, she possesses a rare gene that allows her to navigate ships through something resembling hyperspace and she is one of the best - and one of the longest surviving - navigators working for the Farawan Corporation. Unfortunately, a crash kills everyone aboard the passenger ship that Jax is navigating including Jax's partner/pilot/lover. Her recovery is hindered by sparse memory of the events, and the actions of the monopolistic Farawan corporation that seems hell bent on pegging the crash on Jax. When former soldier March shows up with a rag tag mercenary space ship crew ready to take Jax away, she has no choice but to accept their offer of employment. Matters are complicated by Jax's odd connection to her savior, cemented by the relationship established during Grimspace between a Jumper and her Pilot. Of course, it doesn't hurt that March is totally hot, and psychic! Frankly, I think half the reason I enjoyed this book was the steamy build-up between Jax and March. After they make their escape from Jax's former employers, they make their way to a frontier planet to meet her new employers. When Jax finally finds out the goal is breaking the Farawan corporations monopoly on Interstellar travel, Jax isn't exactly excited about the prospect, but she is resigned to her fate. Luckily, March is there to make it that much more enticing. Aguirre brilliantly hops the plot through seemingly disparate action sequences that only make sense in the context of the story. Though some instances seem a bit contrived, it's all driven by an ensemble of strong, quirky characters. Occasionally, I was bogged down by the amount of action that the story contained. Aguirre packs a whole hell of a lot of world building and character establishing in the 320 pages - Multiple Alien species, rival families, sinister space stations populated by slave trading smugglers - It's a lot to absorb, but I was completely sucked in by how well Aguirre told her story. What was disappointing about this novel is that it ended - Terribly. Everything was so strong that, up till the last few chapters, I was only disappointed that Aguirre didn't expand her ideas into more than one novel. Then the end hit and it was a huge let down. Everything that Jax and her new friends were working for was relegated to a footnote. I will grant you that my opinion has been slightly changed by the news that Aguirre has written follow up novels, but I think my original opinion is still valid - the story contained in the first book deserves more, and it appears from the description of the second book in the series, Wanderlust, that Aguirre hasn't given certain plot points the attention that I would like. However, don't let that keep you away from Grimspace. It is one of funnest Science Fiction's that I've read in a while and contains one of the best romances I've read in years. You may or may not like it as much as I did, but it's a good start to what is hopefully a strong series (I'll find out as soon as I can get to the bookstore).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Ads-- They May Help

Just a quick note-- since I mentioned it and all, the ads on my sidebar may help pay for shipping after all. I just put them up, but they're from a site that has to bid on the ads-- pennies usually-- and I only earned 10 cents yesterday. But the point is, if I can get just 50 cents a day that's $15 a month and that will cover one or two out-of-country shipping costs for a giveaway. That would be fantastic. And it would enable me to keep up the world-wide giveaways. So, for that, I hope you don't mind some slightly obnoxious ads on the sidebar. They may benefit all of us at one time or another. Thanks for your patience with all of this. Oh, and wish me luck. (You have to admit this is a great deal. With a little effort on my part I'm able to offer free books and get the shipping paid for. I don't know about you, but it makes me happy)

Giveaway! Wings of Wrath by C.S. Friedman (Magister Trilogy #2)

I just got this one today. I knew I had to offer it up for giveaway after reading Pat's review over at Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. From Pat's review: Wings of Wrath is C. S. Friedman writing at the top of her form. This series is head and shoulders above most of the competition on the market today. And if the final installment lives up to its promise, we may soon refer to the Coldfire trilogy as that other fantasy series written by Friedman. Yes, it's that damn good. Hard to put down. Wings of Wrath is definitely one of the fantasy books to read in 2009! Clearly this is a series we should all be checking out. Synopsis The dark and mesmerizing Magister saga continues...Wings of Wrath is the second novel in C. S. Friedman's Magister trilogy—a true high fantasy replete with vampire-style magic, erotic action, war, treachery, sorcerous danger, and one of the most terrifying dragon-like creatures in fantasy. Against a backdrop of knife-edged politics and fearsome prophecies, those who are sworn to protect the human lands must discover the truth that lies at the heart of ancient legends, and find a way to defeat an enemy that once brought mankind to the very brink of destruction. If this sounds good to you, then either leave a comment here or email me at sqt1969(at)gmail(dot)com under the header "Wrath" to enter. I will randomly pick a winner by Thursday February 12th. Please make sure I can reach you easily. If I cannot reach the winner within 48 hours I will pass the book onto another entrant. Multiple entries will be disqualified. This is a hardback so I will only be shipping within the U.S. (Sorry!). Good luck!

Winner! Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

Whew! I wish I had more copies of this one. Veeery popular contest. Anyway, I used random.org to pick a winner for my "Bone Crossed" contest and the winner is; Di Francis Congrats Di. I've been lucky enough to get some extra books this week, so I'll be putting some more giveaways up soon. Remember to enter the "Pick your title" contest. Some of the books on that list are duplicates too, so they might end up featured in contests in the future if they don't go out soon-- something else to look forward to.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

“The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick” by Bruce Hennigan

Posted by Harry Markov

Title:The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick” Author: Bruce Hennigan Series: Steel Chronicles, Book 2 Pages: 320 pages Publisher: Synergy Books Summary: After defeating the thirteenth demon, Jonathan Steel and Josh Knight return to Dallas, Texas, to finish up Josh's family affairs. When they arrive, a mysterious assassin named Raven surfaces from Steel's murky, dangerous past. At the same time, Rudolph Wulf, the twelfth demon, has arrived from Romania with plans to fulfill a two-thousand-year-old promise to unleash an army of demonic creatures--creatures that will inhabit the bodies of his "vampyre" army. When Wulf kidnaps Josh, Steel must find them in time to save Josh from a violent death and to prevent Wulf from unleashing "vampyre majick" on the world. Classification & Literary Class: “The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick” is actually the second book in the Steel Chronicles with its predecessor being “The 13th Demon” and is labeled as urban fantasy for Christians. Usually I don’t go and review novels that are not the starter for a series, but in this case I was drawn in by the title. It is fair to say that the novel can be read as a standalone, since most of the highlights of the first have been included. I tried to enjoy the novel. It has a hero with anger issues and amnesia, the group of weird misfits and then we have demons. I got my rocks off, so to say, a couple of times, but overall “The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick” fails to deliver any real thrills. As much as I hate saying it, publishing books to make a living out of it is a business as much as it is an art form to write anything at all, so one must aim to polish his/hers project to perfection. I didn’t find this strive towards perfection, since prose and small details disturbed my focus. For me there were passages that could have delivered more of an adrenaline rush, if they were to the point as for instance with the initial start. The hook so to say was irrelevant to the story and I could have been satisfied with a scene forward. The writing itself was okay, but dabbled in with some clichés and unnecessary adjectives such as “deadly sharpness” to characterize an assassin’s dagger. Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t like the modernized businessman villain using words such as “infernal” to curse the heroes. And yet last but not least, in the passages that deal with events happening 600 years B.C, I think ought to be authentic and expressions such as “around the clock” or adjectives such as “smug” didn’t exist. I think this is my nit-pickiest review yet, but as insignificant as these elements are, they sucked the joy out of reading it. Characters & Depth: Character wise I think Hennigan tried a different road for the urban fantasy genre, which is always refreshing. I do like my super powerful babes, but diversity is always welcome in the form of more testosterone induced cast. Jonathan Steel is a rogue demon hunter and a former assassin with amnesia and a loose temper. A great character to explore for a long series and his actions speak are tied to his brash personality and short fuse. So far so good, but I am not exactly satisfied how his temper and amnesia have been handled. For one thing I think anger in that regard has been the most repeated word and does a very vague job, since a person with loose tempers usually have different degrees of anger and that should be shown. Just adding anger everywhere makes it seem that Steel is a Hulk undercover. And well amnesia is a complex illness to begin with and so far in the novel it’s not cleared to what degree the amnesia is to have these vital memories pop up at the most convenient of times. At any rate, the soul searching and interest in one’s own identity are just tapped and unfinished. I can ramble on and on about every other character too, but as a unified opinion I would have to say that Hennigan has made interesting choices, but hasn’t found the formula for my entertainment to unlock the full potential of his characters. What bothered me most was how easily anyone could switch. You can be corrupted as easily as you can be condemned and all it takes is one act of goodness or a luring lie of evil. A particular example is Nosmo King [No Smoking and I think it’s cool], who from chef to cop to preacher has turned into a drug dealer to supply his wife with crack and after Steel feeds him a meal and shows him the Bible and speaks of goodness, the guy turns into a templar. The real world doesn’t work that way as much as I would like. The evil or the flawed won’t become Samaritans because they had a onetime freebie of kindness and vice versa you can’t corrupt a person with one promise of something alluring and sinful. Worldbuilding & Believability: Now this is the part I have to complement Hennigan about. I have a knack for polar opposites and the idea that Lucifer did a demented version of Christ’s twelve Apostles had me bouncing up and down. As the novel states after the epilogue, the guy has done his research on vampire societies in America, something I am not knowledgeable about, and on vampire lore himself, so his vampires might be something entirely different from most urban fantasy titles, but different cultures have different vampires. I respect the new look on the topic. From start to finish the darker part of the cast has been handled near perfection with the massive plan to create a demon army, claim territories and back stab each other. Then again I usually go with the enemies of the heroes, so go villains. Now believability is another issue sadly and I do mean it overall. Comics, movies, TV series and novels of course have handled the story ‘defender of the law is submerged in paranormal world’ and we all know how cops, judges, detectives and so on react to the heroes explanations right. Here Hennigan just leaves these officials keep their mouth shut for pages as Steel and his crew talk about taking down demons without any sharp reaction apart from the usual comments “You are nuts” or “I don’t want any more of this demon crap”. This is convenient, yes, but not realistic. The Verdict: It was a rocky ride with this one. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. What I do believe is that Hennigan has a good basis for a series. It’s slightly more different than what we see on the market and I support diversity. The truth in my case is that the novel should have gone through more revisions, because it wasn’t the story itself that didn’t work for me, but the representation.

Monday, January 26, 2009

“The Deadline Dames” : Urban Fantasy Overload!

Posted by Harry Markov

Each year brings us the promise of something new, incredible, wonderful, spectacular or simply optimistic. For every person there is a different adjective, but I ask. How do you classify the gathering of NINE urban fantasy authors together on one blog? I can see shrieking fans in ecstasy and grandeur unlike any other. Note that I didn’t choose this art randomly. It represents what happened when “The Deadline Dames” launched.

The “Deadline Dames” and like their smoldering heroines, these femme fatales in the hottest new genre to be at to kick ass. And they do. It has been a week since the official launch of the site and you can see incredible and ranging number of comments, swelling at each post in the range from 3 to about 200. Cosmic numbers for any blogger and quite the launch. But shall we cover why “The Deadline Dames” have achieved such success.

We have the founding holy trinity plus one in urban fantasy and namely Jenna Black, Keri Arthur, Lilith Saintcrow and Jackie Kessler. Then we move on to Rachel Vincent, my personal queen of shapeshifter novels; Toni Andrews and Devon Monk, whose debut has been released last year. Last but not least we have Karen Mahoney and Rinda Elliott, both amazing people as well as writers and by both being represented by Miriam Kriss, success is inavoidable. I like to call them Generation Next in the urban fantasy scene. For me this grouping in experience is going to add some diversity and unexpected dynamics in the blog.

Second, and I think as equally important to the fans, “The Deadline Dames” are generous party girls and in order to celebrate their smooth start, for two weeks they are giving fantastic prizes as well as their insight on a matter of topics: deadlines being on top of their priority right.

I also would like to speak a few words about the site itself. Stylish and fashioned with the trademarks of urban fantasy such as dark colors, knives, guns, tattoos and the necessary femme fatales, “The Deadline Dames” is easy on the eye in more than one way. We have a rotating schedule for weekly posting and several pages for the visitor to explore. All in all, as a reader and writer in the genre, I have to say pretty darn good.

Book Review: Whitechapel Gods, by S.M. Peters

In Victorian London, the Whitechapel section has been cut off, enclosed by an impassable wall, and is now ruled by two mysterious mechanical gods. Mama Engine is the goddess of sentiment, a mother to her believers. Grandfather Clock represents logic and precision. A few years have passed since the Uprising, when humans fought the gold cloaks, the black cloaks, and even the vicious Boiler men, the brutal police force responsible for keeping humans in check. Today, Whitechapel is a mechanized, steam-driven hell. But a few brave veterans of the Uprising have formed a new resistance, and they are gathering for another attack. For now they have a secret weapon that may finally free them... or kill them. -Description of Whitechapel Gods, by S.M. Peters. I'm a huge fan of Steampunk, mostly because I think the clothing and tech mods are extremely cool and partially because I appreciate the Victorian aesthetic. Whitechapel Gods is everything that could go wrong with a Steampunk world. This debut novel from S.M Peters combines fantasy with science fiction to create a dark, gritty, smog filled world that is a caricature of the real Whitechapel's industrial and literary history - notable for its representation in Dickens's Pickwick Papers and as the haunt of Jack the Ripper. This novel is steeped in the socio-historical-cultural aspects of Whitechapel, with characters that are both original yet all too familiar. The denizens of this blackened London are ruled by the iron fist and burning heart of the mechanical gods, Grandfather Clock and Mama Engine. Their forces troll the streets sniffing out any dissent. This is where the fantasy plays heavily into the novel, and yet it remains largely unexplained. These are all-powerful, all-seeing gods whose worshippers give up heart and limb to become steam powered cyborgs. However, S.M. Peters neglects to fully explain where these gods came from and how they gained so much power. The powers that be outside of London have cut off Whitechapel in an effort to stem the influence of Grandfather Clock and Mama Engine, leaving thousands of people at the mercy of these ever hungry gods. I couldn't help but wonder though, if the skies are so choked with smog - where do they get food? Oliver Sumner, former leader of the failed Uprising, is desperate to redeem himself without the willingness to sacrifice any life but his own to set Whitechapel free. He is aided by a not-so-merry band of loyal followers who believe unfailingly in their guilt-ridden leader. Only one of them, Oliver's foster father, even remembers a Whitechapel that wasn't under the thumbs of totalitarian machines and most of the citizens of Whitechapel are, if not content, resigned to their fates. Aided by a schizophrenic prostitute with a dark past and hidden motives, a German hunter with his own dark secrets, and an oddly intelligent mouse - this motley band races to use a secret weapon against the gods before the thoroughly creepy John Scared can use it for his own gain or the mechanical disease known as the "clacks" turns them all into machines themselves. This book was an easy read as the plot line moved quickly. A few hiccups here and there did little to detract from the nightmarish imagining of Whitechapel. This novel is merely an extrapolation of what could have been (given the belief-suspending reality of mechanical gods) or what still could be. Rather like the Raccoon City of Resident Evil or the Scotland of Doomsday, the powers that be merely cut their losses, not so great considering the massive poverty and heavy industrialization already rampant in 19th century Whitechapel. All in all, Whitechapel Gods is a worthwhile read - particularly if you have an interest in the ever-expanding Steampunk genre. However, you may rethink a love for clocks and wood stoves after sitting under their watchful eye for a while.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Stardoe? The Castrated Viper Pilot?

I admit it. I'm slow. Despite the fact that I sort of have a fan site going on here, I never really troll the gossip sites. I rarely pop in on Perez Hilton, though I admit to taking a gander now and then. Not often though. Really. So I'm really late in reading this article written by Dirk Benedict back in 2006 regarding the new incarnation of "Battlestar Galactica" that we fondly call BSG around here. Here's a little of what Dirk had to say about the new show and the casting of Starbuck. Starbuck: Lost in Castration Once upon a time, in what used to be a far away land called Hollywood but is now a state of mind and everywhere, a young actor was handed a script and asked to bring to life a character called Starbuck. I am that actor. The script was called Battlestar Galactica. Fortunately I was young, my imagination fertile and adrenal glands strong, because bringing Starbuck to life was over the dead imaginations of a lot of Network Executives. Every character trait I struggled to give him was met with vigorous resistance. A charming womaniser? The "Suits" (Network Executives) hated it. A cigar(fumerello) smoker? The Suits hated it. A reluctant hero who found humour in the bleakest of situations? The Suits hated it. All this negative feedback convinced me I was on the right track. Starbuck was meant to be a lovable rogue. It was best for the show, best for the character and the best that I could do. The Suits didn't think so. "One more cigar and he's fired,"they told Glen Larson, the creator of the show. "We want Starbuck to appeal to the female audience for crying out loud!" You see, the Suits knew women were turned off by men who smoked cigars. Especially young men. (How they "knew" this was never revealed.) And they didn't stop there. "If Dirk doesn't quit playing every scene with a girl like he wants to get her in bed, he's fired!" This was, well, it was blatant heterosexuality. Treating women like "sex objects". I thought it was flirting. Never mind. They wouldn't have it. I wouldn't have it any other way, or rather Starbuck wouldn't. So we persevered, Starbuck and I. The show, as the saying goes, went on and the rest is history – for, lo and behold, women from all over the world sent me boxes of cigars, phone numbers, dinner requests, marriage proposals... The Suits were not impressed. They would have there (sic) way, which is what Suits do best, and after one season of puffing and flirting and gambling, Starbuck, that lovable scoundrel, was indeed fired. Which is to say Battlestar Galactica was cancelled. Starbuck however, would not stay cancelled, but simply morphed into another flirting, cigar-smoking, blatant heterosexual called Faceman. Another show, another set of Suits and, of course, if the A-Team movie rumours prove correct, another remake. There was a time – I know I was there – when men were men, women were women and sometimes a cigar was just a good smoke. But 40 years of feminism have taken their toll. The war against masculinity has been won. Everything has turned into its opposite, so that what was once flirting and smoking is now sexual harassment and criminal. And everyone is more lonely and miserable as a result. Witness the "re-imagined" Battlestar Galactica. It's bleak, miserable, despairing, angry and confused. Which is to say, it reflects, in microcosm, the complete change in the politics and mores of today's world as opposed to the world of yesterday. The world of Lorne Greene (Adama) and Fred Astaire (Starbuck's Poppa), and Dirk Benedict (Starbuck). I would guess Lorne is glad he's in that Big Bonanza in the sky and well out of it. Starbuck, alas, has not been so lucky. He's not been left to pass quietly into that trivial world of cancelled TV characters. "Re-imagining", they call it. "un-imagining" is more accurate. To take what once was and twist it into what never was intended. So that a television show based on hope, spiritual faith, and family is unimagined and regurgitated as a show of despair, sexual violence and family dysfunction. To better reflect the times of ambiguous morality in which we live, one would assume. A show in which the aliens (Cylons) are justified in their desire to destroy our civilisation. One would assume. Indeed, let us not say who are he guys and who are the bad. That is being "judgemental". And that kind of (simplistic) thinking went out with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and Katharine Hepburn and John Wayne and, well the original Battlestar Galactica. In the bleak and miserable, "re-imagined" world of Battlestar Galactica, things are never that simple. Maybe the Cylons are not evil and alien but in fact enlightened and evolved? Let us not judge them so harshly. Maybe it is they who deserve to live and Adama, and his human ilk who deserves to die? And what a way to go! For the re- imagined terrorists (Cylons) are not mechanical robots void of soul, of sexuality, but rather humanoid six-foot-tall former lingerie models who f**k you to death. (Poor old Starbuck, you were imagined to early. Think of the fun you could have had `fighting' with these thong-clad aliens! In the spirit of such soft-core sci-fi porn I think a more re-imaginative title would have been F**cked by A Cylon. (Apologies to Touched by An Angel.) ........... The article continues on in this vein for a while-- click on the link above if you want to read the rest. To be fair to Dirk, this was written in '06 and the show hadn't grown into what it is now. There are also those who suggest that this particular article was written by a bitter actor who saw his former co-star written into the new show while he was not given a part-- but I don't know the accuracy of that conjecture. And let me also state for the record that I cannot be fully objective regarding Benedict's particular view because I am a woman who was less than 10-years-old when the original show first aired; my world view doesn't exactly match Benedict's. But even with all the caveats I have to say, I think Dirk got it wrong. I was one of those people who, when the show first aired, thought the decision to cast Starbuck as a woman was a big mistake. Over the show's run I have gone back and forth over whether or not I think Starbuck should have been cast as she was in the new show. I like Kara Thrace and I like Katee Sackoff's portrayal even more. But whenever they throw a Lee Adama/Kara Thrace romance at us I cringe. I like the friendship between the characters in the original show and I viewed Kara and Lee as having a sibling-like relationship when the show first aired. The whole romance angle seems wrong to me somehow. But I don't agree that the casting was sort of a feminism-gone-wrong bit of stunt casting-- at all. The thing that Benedict's article really doesn't take into account is the fact that the shows have an almost twenty-five-year gap between them. The world of the original "Battlestar Galactica" doesn't really exist anymore and the TV shows of today reflect that. The fact is, the new BSG is a far more relevant show than the original "Battlestar" ever was. Despite the fact that I really liked it as a kid, the show only ran one season-- 24 episodes. I think it's easy to try to give the original more weight than it deserves since the re-tooled version has become an almost iconic show during it's own run. But the original "Battlestar" never garnered the following of a show like "Star Trek." In fact, I think the original show was viewed as being in the same basic realm as "Buck Rodgers." A fun show but not of earth-shattering importance. I don't know why Benedict thinks it's so important to remember the original Starbuck as the cigar chomping womanizer he was; I don't personally see sexual conquests as a measure of manhood-- but like I said before, I'm a woman. But Benedict likes to make the point that by taking away the womanizing aspect of Starbuck's character BSG has somehow caved to a feminist agenda and the show is nothing more than an example of male castration. But if that was indeed true then where does Gaius Baltar fit into the equation? If you want to see a womanizer, look no farther than Gaius Baltar. I think Baltar, as the resident male-slut, is a far more intriguing character than Starbuck ever was. Baltar, in his need to impress and conquer the opposite sex, brings humanity to its knees. But he isn't a cookie-cutter character. He's brilliant, crazy and magnetic. He not only seduces women from both the Cylon and human race, he seduces the remaining population of mankind into believing he can offer them a better life than a woman president. He ultimately fails, spectacularly, but he creates a whole new persona for himself as a cult-like leader who may actually believe what he is preaching. Benedict only wishes his Starbuck had that kind of charisma. Baltar has been more on the periphery in the last season but you could never, ever claim he has been an insignificant character. But just looking at Baltar does avoid Benedict's main point; that the new BSG is simply an exercise in male castration. Au contraire, mon frère. First, let's look at the whole Cylons just f***-you-to-death issue. The Cylons in BSG bear little resemblance to the machines of yesteryear. The new Cylons not only have a human-like appearance they have similar desires. But the Cylons have one crucial difference from humanity, they have, until recently, been unable to reproduce through normal means and continued the race through transferring their consciousness from one body to another-- rendering monogamy virtually meaningless. There are only 12 models so I imagine sex isn't exactly a unique experience for the Cylons unless it's of the human-Cylon variety; and monogamy would still seem like a completely unfathomable idea to a race that would have no need to rear children. And in the new show, as Cylons evolve into a race that seems to have made the evolutionary jump into a race that can bear children we are also seeing the characters evolve into more monogamous behavior-- a natural transition that I think is coming across as we see how Six and Sharon have reacted to motherhood. It's true that we have seen more of the female Cylons and their sexual behavior but it was part of the original plan to destroy humanity. It does make sense. We have also seen the lengths the Cylons will go to in order to succeed in breeding a human/Cylon hybrid so, in my mind, that further explains their sexual behaviors. But Benedict doesn't just take issue with Cylon sex, he takes issue with all the male/female portrayals. He does make some valid points as he brings up the modern man-is-a-clueless-idiot characters we see in modern comedy and even TV commercials. I completely agree with him on this point. But male-female interactions both on-screen and off may be somewhat in flux for awhile. Women have spent many years being marginalized in film and I think we may see a sort of super-aggression in our female heroes while we try to prove that we can, indeed, do anything a man can do. I think this may continue for awhile because the fact still remains that most of the "strong" female roles in Hollywood still feature prostitutes quite heavily (Charlize Theron in "Monster," Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman," Mira Sorvino in "Mighty Aphrodite," Kim Basinger in "L.A. Confidential," Jane Fonda in "Klute," Elizabeth Shue in "Leaving Las Vegas," Billie Piper in "The Secret Life of a Call Girl," Elizabeth Taylor in "Butterfield 8,".... and I could go on). I, for one, really appreciate the complex female characters that BSG has offered. Kara Thrace might have seemed to be a hyper-aggressive nut job in the early episodes but her character has gone through some real growth and her resilience and perseverance is amazing. I think Kara will come through the final episodes as one of the characters who are still standing strong because I think she is stronger than virtually everyone else. But that said, I don't think the male characters have gotten short-shrift. Admiral Adama, or the "Old Man," has been the bulwark of the show. He's flawed, strong, sensitive, angry, petty and pretty much everything we all are at one time or another. But I would never call him a weak character. Lee Adama, or Apollo for those of you who may not know the newer show, is a character that I am sometimes on the fence about. He's strong but not as fierce as Kara. He's steady. He's, generally speaking, the good guy. But does not being the "bad boy" make him weak? I hardly think so. I think Lee is a man who is always trying, if not succeeding, to do the right thing-- and that takes more strength than throwing an angry tantrum any day. Baltar, like I mentioned before, gets to be the "bad boy" of this show. If he doesn't have some illegitimate children floating around then we can only assume he's infertile. And I could go on and on. From Helo to the Chief-- we have excellent examples of men who make the tough choices and are perfectly able to stand up to the women in show just fine. Just because the women featured in the show are strong does not mean that the show is sexist. It just means that it's real. And if I may make a final point. Despite the fact that Benedict may feel that Starbuck, his Starbuck, was disrespected by being made into a female character, I have to strongly disagree. When you watch Kara Thrace smoke a cigar, throw back a shot of whiskey, play a game of poker or start a fight, you must realize that all of those things are an homage to the original Starbuck. I always saw it that way and I don't see my opinion changing anytime soon. The creators of the new show may have recast Starbuck and Boomer as women, but I don't think they ever lost sight of the original characters and how they were portrayed. In fact, I think they honored those portrayals. I'm sorry that Benedict doesn't see it that way. I think he's missing the point by coming to too many conclusions about the new show. I think BSG has been one of the most consistently great shows on TV since it first aired. I also think that you cannot miss the irony that the new show, the one with the female Starbuck, has far outlasted the original. It has received far more praise, both critically and commercially. Starbuck has had a much longer life as Kara Thrace. Obviously I think about the show and how it has been written but I think it deserves that kind of consideration. If every show on TV was given the same kind of attention that has been give to BSG, well, I'd be a much bigger couch-potato than I already am. So maybe it's a good thing there's a lot of crap on TV. So, while I love you still Dirk, this has to stand as my little bit of dissension. I understand where you're coming from.... but I must, respectfully, disagree.

Book Review: Blackness Tower, by Lillian Stewart Carl

Lauren Reay had come to the end of the world. Across the sea she glimpsed the blue-tinted hills of the next. White gulls called. The wind and the waves whispered, The water is wide, I can’t cross o’er... Rational thought swam up from the depths of her mind, informing her she had only come to the northern end of Britain, and now stood on the coast of Scotland looking across to Orkney. Only? She was here at last. She seemed to be standing outside her own body. And yet she was very much in her body, hyperventilating with the excitement, with the jet-lag, with the fear of what would happen now. She should have followed the advice of her distant cousin and native guide, Emily, and waited until tomorrow to finish her journey. But Lauren could never have made Emily understand why she couldn’t wait another minute, let alone another day. Why coming here wasn’t finishing her journey at all. This day was still, the sun warm, the air moist, and a dark haze like a deep blue shadow hung low over the sea, so the smooth peaks of the islands seemed to be suspended in midair, unsupported as a dream. In her dream, Lauren had never smelled this north wind, scoured clean by salt and ice and yet, on this August afternoon, no more than a sigh against her cheek, soft as a lover’s caress. And perhaps as false. -Excerpt from Blackness Tower, by Lillian Stewart Carl Lauren Reay is a young woman from the United States who travels to Scotland to find the answers to family mysteries, and what those mysteries have to do with her constant dreams. At her family's ancient home, Blackness Tower, Lauren encounters Ewan Calder, an archaeologist searching for proof that a Spanish galleon wrecked nearby, Magnus Anderson, a television personality searching for proof of the paranormal, and David Sutherland, the current owner of Blackness Tower with his own personal demons to deal with. Lillian Stewart Carl combines historical mystery with the supernatural in this novel about unlocking the past in order to move into the future. Unfortunately, it fails utterly at being an intriguing read. Carl's intentions are difficult to surmise for the first hundred pages. The overuse of cliche is reminiscent of cheesy romance novels but the little romance you do encounter is devoid of passion. By the end of the first chapter you're overwhelmed by the flowery language, including the tendency of nearly every character to quote Shakespeare at the drop of a hat. Frankly, I didn't want to keep reading. The historical data is interesting, but so watered down by an insistence on the supernatural (rather than a subtle blending of such) that any facts are relegated to a questionable status. I usually enjoy historical fictions (Catherine Neville's The Eight is still in my top ten all time favorites), but Blackness Tower is a long, somewhat boring study of the past that fails to inspire. Meanwhile, the characters don't give enough to make you want to slog through the minutiae of history. As I mentioned earlier, the romance lacks passion but this is largely because the characters lack personality. Ewan Calder is probably the most authentic, his only goal is a detailed examination of the archaeological bonanza around Blackness Tower. Carl tries to set up some tension between him and all the other paranormal loving characters, and the possibility of romantic tension between Calder and Lauren - but neither tension has much ground to stand on. Magnus Anderson should have been a simple side character, but he too becomes conflict creating fodder for Carl's oh so convenient story-line. Finally, David Sutherland with the dark past is a weakly established ex-soldier suffering from nothing so much as guilt. Boo-hoo. Meanwhile, the heroine, Lauren Reay, is such a trite, insecure, and untrusting figure that you end up rooting for her failure in all things romantical and supernatural. These are not the type of characters that one should base a book on. They're weak at best, formulaic at the worst - but never, ever do you give a damn about their success. One of these days, I swear I'll be able to review a good book - but for now Blackness Tower is best left relegated to the 'do not read' pile.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Book Review: Seaborn by Chris Howard

The water followed her home from the library, water in the air slipping over her skin as if afraid to touch her without permission. The sound of water played in her ears--a child's laughter splashing, a creek burbling a mile down Atlantic Avenue--and the soft rain skipped in her footprints. Headlights broke over the hill behind her, and the wet air reacted. The water snapped flat and reflective on every surface until the car passed. The hiss of automobile tires faded into the whisper of rain and, in the distance, she watched a spray of pinpoint lights, shiny and heavy like mercy on the leaves that folded over the road. The car was gone and the water spoke to her, words that seeped and dribbled into her head. I will clothe you in mirror, my lady, shield you in ice, become the crown you already wear. She glanced around and walked faster, huddling under her backpack. "Leave me alone." The rain spat and crackled like angry cellophane, but warned her of another car approaching--miles away, a shiny black sedan pulling out of the North Hampton Police Station. She turned and walked backward along the edge of the road, staring into the dark, her three long brown braids winding around her throat like a noose. She waited a moment for the care to appear, biting her lip uncertainly, and then turned away, her sandals flipping mud behind her. "The rain's watching me, Prax." Praxinos, a voice inside her, answered with a deep thrum in her jaw. Of course it is, but its motives are rarely complicated. And you are the Wreath-wearer. It will obey, but you must learn to command. --Excerpt from Seaborn by Chris Howard Seaborn has taught me a valuable lesson: never underestimate Juno Books. For some reason I had assumed that Juno Books was a publisher of romance novels with a genre twist, but the reality is that Juno Books is not that much different from any other publisher of fantasy, except that they publish novels with strong female leads. And Seaborn certainly has a cast of strong female leads. Seaborn follows Kassandra, the granddaughter of the current King of the Seaborn and the Wreath-wearer, a person of extraordinary power. King Tharsaleos is a murderer and Kassandra wants revenge not only for the House of Rexenor, but for her family as well. As she gears up for war, she has to learn to control her newfound power. Then there is Corina, a California native who loves to scuba dive, but unwittingly releases Aleximor, last of an ancient line of seaborn sorcerers with the power to control the dead who was imprisoned by the Seaborn royalty. The problem, however, is that Corina has released Aleximor within her, and he's taken over, imprisoning Corina within her own mind. And Aleximor is also on a path to revenge. When his path crosses with Kassandra's, will they work together or will they become enemies? Chris Howard is someone I will be paying close attention to from this day forward. As a debut novel Seaborn succeeds where many others in the same class have not. It puts together a fascinating new world (within our own), drawing from Greek mythology and developing that into its own unique fantasy creation. Interesting too is that Howard has brought together two separate views of this fantasy world as a junction between the world as we know it and the world as Kassandra knows it. Corina is our outside connection, pulling us into the complexities and strangeness of the Seaborn as she is pulled into it. We are able to share our learning experience with her as her imprisonment draws her deeper into the Seaborn mythos. Not all of Howard's novel is centered on worldbuilding, though. Seaborn is an action-packed fantasy thriller with a touch of the macabre. My expectation of the slightly flowery romantic fantasy (the literary romance, not the genre) was shattered by Howard's unrestrained presentation of the darker aspects of his world. Kassandra is not a perfect being with untold power; she's flawed and struggles against factors that might drive most of us insane. Aleximor, likewise, is a cunning, twisted individual whose passions for the macabre offer to the reader a gruesome (though not overboard) visual of death and reanimation. Corina, who is perhaps the most sympathetic character of the novel, is the odd-girl-out, being the only one who is "normal" by our standards. Her development throughout the novel keeps this fantasy world connected to ours (this feat is also maintained through Kassandra, who does interact with us surfacers). If it isn't obvious at this point, I enjoyed Seaborn a great deal. The novel isn't perfect, as most debuts never are. Some of the names can be a pain in the butt to pronounce. I assume they are based on Greek mythology of some sort and unfortunately my Greek mythology is wholly insignificant to have caught all the references. Also, the ending did feel a bit rushed to me, although perhaps that has more to do with the fact that I enjoy a lot of description for scenes involving battles and the like. Regardless, the novel kept me entertained from start to finish and even snatched me up in the first few pages, which is something a lot of novels have failed to do for me in recent years. Seaborn never felt like a chore and often times surprised me in its presentation--Kassandra, especially. I look forward to reading more of Howard's work in the future. If Seaborn is what Howard can churn out as a debut, I suspect this may be the beginning of a long and fruitful writing career, with even greater novels finding their way into our libraries, personal and otherwise. If you're interesting in learning more about him, check out his blog. He's currently working on some other Seaborn related projects (and some not related) that might be of interest to current fans or future fans.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Opening Today

I'm surprised I haven't seen more promotion of this one. It looks great.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thanks for the Feedback Y'all

Thanks for letting me kind of let it hang out on my last post. I got myself a little worked up yesterday because my husband was stressing out a bit and I'm afraid we can wind each other up if we put our heads together. In the light of day I always regret putting the personal stuff up, but at the same time, the support I got from all you was really reassuring. I think for the time being I will try to refrain from using obnoxious advertising unless I get really desperate. I may try to experiment with ads on my sidebars and see if anything generates some small income-- I'm not counting on much, but even a little bit would make me feel like a big shot. Now I need to get my head together so I can do something productive. Um, yeah.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How Obnoxious Would it Be?

Gah. I hate to ask this. But here goes. I've had this blog up for about two and half years. Mostly I do it for fun. Sometimes it's hard to keep up on it and I slide into struggling to keep up with it every day, but I do my best. I've been really lucky in that I have managed to develop a relationship with some publishers and this has allowed me the opportunity to give away a lot of books-- something I'm happy to do. But then the economy collapsed. How does this affect a blog that doesn't cost anything to produce you ask? Not much for the most part. But my husband works for a company that has been hit hard by the financial crisis. His company was bought out by Bank of America and that seemed like a saving grace a few months ago but now BofA is struggling to stay afloat and despite the optimism everyone seems to be feeling with the Obama election, no one really seems to think the banks are going to recover overnight-- nor would I expect them to under any circumstances. You don't end up billions of dollars in debt for no reason and I for one don't think it should be the responsibility of the taxpayer to bail out a company that's going under due to it's own mismanagement. That said, we're feeling the pinch like everyone else right now. We haven't hit the point to where we would be in danger of losing our house but if the stock market continues to flounder it could get grim. In the last year the stock market tumbled nearly 50% and with it so went the earnings of everyone who had money in the stock market-- lots of my husband's clients for one. Fortunately my husband is pretty good at what he does and his clients have fared much better than the market in general-- no one has seen their savings cut by half. But a lot of people have been casualties of the downturn in other ways. The first hits came while gas prices were soaring and some of my husband's clients-- mostly the small business owners-- had to cut jobs to stay in business. Other clients, professionals that work in industries that are downsizing, have lost their jobs and had to pull their money out of savings just to pay the bills. Others still have lost their homes. Seeing all this carnage has been scary to say the least. We have tremendous empathy for what these people are going through and we also worry about what this is going to mean for our situation while the economy is in free fall. As my husband's clients lose their jobs my husband loses their accounts and makes less money each month. We have savings enough to last us a little while and no credit card debt-- thank God! But we're wary. We're starting to look at what expenses we can cut so we can stay ahead of the problem and hopefully not end up in danger of not being able to pay the bills. And the inevitable question of whether or not I should start looking for a job comes up. I don't mind going back to work but I'm not sure how employable I am anymore. I've been a stay at home mom for the last 9 years and the only thing I have done that resembles a job is post on my blog -- and that only pays in books. I've tried putting Google ads on my blog to see if that generates any cash and let me tell you-- it doesn't generate squat. Pennies per week, and that's not paying any bills. So then, the inevitable question becomes, what about Pay Per Post? I've known other bloggers to do this, and I admit, it's totally obnoxious. But I've also had people tell me that they earned some decent cash doing that. Several hundred dollars a month at least. That may not sound like much, but hey, if it covers a car payment it helps. If we were in a normal economy, I wouldn't do it. I have considered it in the past, mostly to pay shipping costs for giveaways, but always rejected it. Blogsnobbery and all that. But sometimes the time comes when you have to consider selling yourself out a little bit and if it means I don't have to get a job waiting tables, I'll totally sell my blog out. Totally and completely. So tell me. Would that drive you away? Or could I bribe you with the promise of continuing to give away books as I get them? Or do you have any better ideas? At this point I'm all ears. **Sigh** Friggin' Wall Street.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Pick Your Title Giveaway

Thanks to Penguin Books I have an awesome, and large, collection of books to offer for giveaway. Unfortunately I can't afford to ship the whole collection, but I can pick THREE winners for the book of their choice. Check out the selection and then skip to the end for instructions on how to enter to win... Airs of Night and Sea by Toby Bishop Driven by insane jealousy, Duke William is determined to found his own flying school, where the valuable flying horses of Oc will learn to bond with well-born young men—instead of arrogant women. Now, Larkyn Hamley and her beloved Black Seraph must gather all of their allies from the air to the ground. For if they do not soar now, none will ever see the skies again. Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre Broke and unemployed, “Jumper” Sirantha Jax accepts a diplomatic mission for the government— only to find herself up against Syndicate criminals, man-eating aliens, and her own grimspace weakened body. Lear's Daughters by Marjorie B. Kellogg Set in the future on a distant world, Lear’s Daughters tackles the issues of global warming, pollution, exploitation of resources, and disastrous climate change. Long out of print, it has been completely rewritten by the authors to reflect the cutting-edge knowledge and research on environmentalism of the twenty-first century. We Think, Therefore We Are Edited by Peter Crowther Fifteen original stories about our fear of and fascination with artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence has captured the imaginations of writers, readers, and scientists alike, from Karl Capek’s R.U.R. to Isaac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, from Robby the Robot to The Terminator and The Bicentennial Man, and—of course—Arthur C. Clarke’s Hal 9000. Now some of the most innovative thinkers in science fiction offer an intriguing variety of tales featuring the many forms of AI, from frightening to funny. These authors confront one of contemporary mankind’s deepest concerns—what do we do when the machines we created evolve beyond us? Regenesis by C.J. Cherryh (Hardback) The direct sequel to the Hugo Award- winning novel Cyteen, Regenesis continues the story of Ariane Emory PR, the genetic clone of one of the greatest scientists humanity has ever produced, and of her search for the murderer of her progenitor—the original Ariane Emory. Murder, politics, deception, and genetic and psychological manipulation combine against a backdrop of interstellar human societies at odds to create a mesmerizing and major work in Regenesis. Who did kill the original Ariane Emory? And can her personal replicate avoid the same fate? Those questions have remained unanswered for two decades—since the publication of Cyteen. Now in Regenesis those questions will finally be answered. Peacekeeper by Laura E. Reeve Fifteen years ago, Ariane Kedros piloted a ship on a mission that obliterated an entire solar system. Branded a war criminal, she was given a new identity and a new life in order to protect her from retribution. But now, twelve of Ariane’s wartime colleagues are dead— assassinated by someone who has uncovered their true identities. And her superiors in the Autonomist army have placed her directly in the assassin’s line of fire on a peacekeeping mission that will decide the fate of all humanity… The Flaxen Femme Fatale by John Zakour The last freelance P.I. on earth, Zach Johnson has been hired to track down a young beauty who happens to be a deadly secret weapon for the World Council. Figuring girls just want to have fun, he follows Natasha to various vacation destinations, but she eludes him, leaving a trail of destruction in her wake. Zach, however, isn’t surprised to discover that things aren’t what they seem, and to save the world, he’s going to have to find a way to team up with the woman he’s supposed to destroy... The Clone Elite by Steven L. Kent 2514 A.D.: An unstoppable alien force is advancing on Earth, wiping out the Unified Authority’s colonies one by one. It’s up to Wayson Harris, an outlawed model of a clone, and his men to make a last stand on the planet of New Copenhagen, where they must win the battle and the war—or lose all. The Scourge of God by S.M. Stirling (Hardback) “A stunning continuation”(Diana L. Paxson, author of Ravens of Avalon) of the New York Times bestselling author’s “splendid saga” chronicling an alternate world without technology. Rudi MacKenzie continues his trek across the land that was once the United States of America. His destination: Nantucket, where he hopes to learn the truth behind The Change that rendered technology across the globe inoperable. During his travels, Rudi forges ties with new allies in the continuing war against The Prophet, who teaches his followers that God has punished humanity by destroying technological civilization. And one fanatical officer in the Sword of The Prophet has been dispatched on a mission—to stop Rudi from reaching his destination by any means necessary. Mean Streets: Jim Butcher, Simon R. Green, Kat Richardson, Thomas E. Sniegoski From four of today’s hottest fantasy authors—all-new novellas of dark nights, cruel cities, and paranormal P.I.s. The best paranormal private investigators have been brought together in a single volume—and cases don’t come any harder than this. New York Times bestselling author Jim Butcher delivers a hard-boiled tale in which Harry Dresden’s latest case may be his last. Nightside dweller John Taylor is hired by a woman to find something she lost—her memory—in a thrilling noir tale from New York Times bestselling author Simon R. Green. National bestselling author Kat Richardson’s Greywalker finds herself in too deep when a “simple job” goes bad and Harper Blaine is enmeshed in a tangle of dark secrets and revenge from beyond the grave. For centuries, the being that we know as Noah lived among us. Now he is dead, and fallen-angel-turned-detective Remy Chandler has been hired to find out who killed him in a whodunit by national bestselling author Thomas E. Sniegoski. The Vacant Throne by Joshua Palmatier The thrilling final novel in a remarkable fantasy trilogy. Ruled by the Mistress of the Skewed Throne, the city of Amenkor has just survived a devastating invasion by the mysterious Chorl, paying a terrible price both in the loss of lives and destruction in the city itself. Yet perhaps the most crucial loss is the throne of Amenkor—the true seat of power in every sense—now totally drained of the magic, knowledge, life force, and memories of previous rulers. The citys only hope lies with its sometime ally, the city of Venitte, home to the only throne that is twin in power to Amenkor’s... Outcast Season, Book One: Undone by Rachel Caine (ARC) A brand new series from the author of the "Weather Warden" novels, who's as “Swift, sassy, and sexy as Laurell K. Hamilton.” (Mary Jo Putney) Once she was Cassiel, a Djinn of limitless power. Now, she has been reshaped in human flesh as punishment for defying her master—and living among the Weather Wardens, whose power she must tap into regularly or she will die. And as she copes with the emotions and frailties of her human condition, a malevolent entity threatens her new existence... Dragon Strike by E.E. Knight The author of the national bestselling Vampire Earth series continues the saga of the world’s last dragons. Three dragon siblings are among the last of a dying breed, and the final hope for their species’ survival. AuRon, Wistala, and Copper find themselves at odds over the coming human war. AuRon thinks dragons should have no part in the affairs of humans. Wistala believes dragons and man can peacefully co-exist. And Copper has designs of his own on the world. And the civilized humans who have turned to Copper for assistance against their savage enemies have just given him the perfect opportunity to fulfill his plans… Princep's Fury by Jim Butcher (Hardback) From the New York Times bestselling author of Captain’s Fury and the Dresden Files novels. Tavi of Calderon, now recognized as Princeps Gaius Octavian and heir to the crown, has achieved a fragile alliance with Alera’s oldest foes, the savage Canim. But when Tavi and his legions guide the Canim safely to their lands, his worst fears are realized. The dreaded Vord—the enemy of Aleran and Cane alike—have spent the last three years laying waste to the Canim homeland. And when the Alerans are cut off from their ships, they find themselves with no choice but to fight shoulder to shoulder if they are to survive. For a thousand years, Alera and her furies have withstood every enemy, and survived every foe. The thousand years are over… The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia A. McKillip (Hardback--but small so can ship worldwide) Brand new from the World Fantasy Award-winning author of Solstice Wood. Sealey Head is a small town on the edge of the ocean, a sleepy place where everyone hears the ringing of a bell no one can see. On the outskirts of town is an impressive estate, Aislinn House, where the aged Lady Eglantyne lies dying, and where the doors sometimes open not to its own dusty rooms, but to the wild majesty of a castle full of knights and princesses… Break of Dawn by Chris Marie Green The vampires of Hollywood are back for the conclusion of this “gritty [and] dark”(Best Reviews) trilogy. Hollywood can really suck… After facing off against the lethal Vampire Killer, Hollywood stuntwoman Dawn Madison and her friends are reeling. But for Dawn, the pain is much more personal. She’s learned more about her missing father and long-dead mother than she ever wanted to, and her conflicted feelings about both her enigmatic, never-seen boss, Jonah, and P.I. Matt Lonigan are only making things worse. To save her father Dawn must enter the Vampire Underground, where she will encounter an unthinkable betrayal, and where the question of who is truly good and who is truly evil will become a matter of life, death—and undeath… Now, I just know that there are at least three titles among this group you could choose to win, so I want you to pick your top three choices and let me know what you want in the order that you want them. Either list your choices in the comment section here or email me at sqt1969(at)gmail(dot)com under the header "Pick Your Title" and I will choose three winners by Tuesday February 3rd. The first place winner will get their first choice; the second place winner will get their first choice unless it's already been picked by the first place winner-- then they will get their second choice; the third place winner will be awarded the same way as second place on down to their third choice pick. I hope that makes sense. Be sure I can reach you easily. If I cannot reach a winner within 48 hours I will pass the prize onto another entrant. I will open this contest worldwide, but I can only ship paperback books outside the U.S. due to shipping costs. I have labeled the hardback titles-- so ideally entries outside the U.S. will be limited to paperback entries. Good luck!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Book Review: Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Tristran Thorn, at the age of seventeen, and only six months older than Victoria, was half the way between a boy and a man, and was equally uncomfortable in either role; he seemed to be composed chiefly of elbows and Adam's apples with a constellation of acne-spots across his right cheek. His hair was the brown of sodden straw, and it stuck out at awkward, seventeen-year-old angles, wet and comb it howsoever much he tried. He was painfully shy, which, as is often the manner of the painfully shy, he overcompensated for by being too loud at the wrong times. Most days Tristran was content--or as content as a seventeen-year-old youth with his world ahead of him can ever be--and when he daydreamed in the fields or at the tall desk at the back of Monday and Brown's, the village shop, he fancied himself riding the train all the way to London or to Liverpool, or taking a steamship across the grey Atlantic to America, and making his fortune there among the savages in the new lands. But there were times when the wind blew from beyond the wall, bringing with it the smell of mint and thyme and redcurrants, and at those times there were strange colours seen in the flames in the fireplaces of the village. When that wind blew, the simplest of devices--from lucifer matches to lanter-slides--would no longer function. --Excerpt from Stardust by Neil Gaiman Most of you probably know about Stardust by now. You have either read the book or seen the movie (while different, both mediums portray the same basic points, with some minor deviations). Stardust is the story of Tristran Thorn, an inhabitant from the town of Wall whose mysterious birth is only the beginning of an exciting, cross-generational adventure. You see, Tristran's mother isn't from the town of Wall, or from anywhere you and I have ever been. She's from beyond the wall that lies on the edge of Wall, from a world of magic and fantasy. Tristran, however, is very much from our world, in love with one Victoria Forrester (who is far less of a stuck up wench as she is in the movie), and generally not at all hero material. But, as young love usually goes, Tristran makes an outlandish promise to Victoria after a shooting star lands beyond the wall: in exchange for his Heart's Desire he will bring back that fallen star and present it to her. And thus begins the adventure. Something tells me I should have read this book a long time ago--my fiance will claim credit, because she rightly deserves credit for getting me to read this book. Stardust is a modern fairytale that merges the dark reality of the Grimm Brothers with the charming feel that comes with the territory. Another way to describe it is to say that it's a novel that tries to bring the frivolity of fairytales into the modern world by making it much more than just a story. Tristran's journey is one into manhood as he goes from being a pimply, shy youth to a full-grown, well-into-his-own young man. But I don't think Tristran is all that makes this novel so charming. True, his journey is wonderful--meeting Yvaine, falling in love, growing up to become a better person, etc.--but coupled with Tristran and Yvaine is the fantastic world that Gaiman has created. This is a world of unicorns, witches, evil kings and princes, and flying ships. The depth provided in such a small book (194 pages) is really quite astonishing. Gaiman has pulled together a fantasy world that feels real despite its leanings towards the fairytale feel. I think this is particularly admirable considering what Gaiman's novel is trying to do: bring the fairytale into the modern. To some extent you can say that Gaiman's novel isn't even a single tale, but a connection of multiple tales. After all, there are multiple stories going on behind the scenes: the witch story, the Stronghold story, and the story of Tristran's mother. These stories have their own conclusions, some of them directly related to Tristran, and some not, but all interconnected with Tristran either through his mother or through Yvaine (the star). Of course, the conclusions to these alternate stories are left out of the movie, or altered to be more interesting to a visual audience, but in the novel they add different elements to an already fascinating story--some of alterations make sense and others make you realize that the book really is quite better (but the movie was still darn good for what it was, which is more than I can say for other movies based on books, *cough* Eragon *cough*). With all that said, all the dark, somewhat macabre imagery, the fairytale feel, the characters, and even the love story (especially the love story, for personal reasons) drove this one home for me (home being that place where books I will always remember go). It's a beautiful story and for someone who hasn't read Gaiman I think it is a great introductory novel. I see now why Gaiman is such a fantasy visionary. Stardust is simply a fantastic novel, no pun intended, and if you haven't read it, I recommend you do. There's not much else I can say to praise this one enough. I can't even say I see anything necessarily wrong with the novel, because once you get into it, everything else seems to fall away and it feels almost as if you're actually there, watching from above as everything goes on below you. Too bad Gaiman's world isn't real, because I would love to ride on a unicorn myself.

Friday, January 16, 2009

BSG is on Tonight!!!

I cannot believe I almost forgot until Shaun (S.M.D) mentioned it. It's literally on in ten minutes (my time). I'm going to go do a happy dance now and then kick my husband off of the TV. Sorry hubs, but BSG is way more important than "Shatner's Raw Nerve."

Star Wars Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it)-- Thanks John


Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Six Shooter Interview with Chandra Rooney

Posted by Harry Markov

January 13 marked the release date of one of the more interesting titles for 2009. “The Tarot Cafe” published by TokyoPop is paranormal romance from a totally new dimension. Inspired by the Korean style of comic books called the manhwa, not to be mistaken with manga, and based on a successful and translated into English seven volume series, carrying the same title, Chandra Rooney presents her take on Park Sang-sun’s story and characters. About the Author: “Chandra Rooney can’t remember exactly when she got her first Tarot deck, but she can remember she wrote her first short story in grade five. In the years since, she’s graduated from high school, been an English teacher in Japan, studied both fine arts and design, and worked as a freelance graphic designer in Los Angeles. Presently, she’s probably writing. When she has her cards read, she likes to use the Queen of Wands as her signifier.” About “The Tarot Café: Wild Hunt”:

Based on the best-selling manga!...Bryn McCallister's fiance, Jack, has gone missing. She has the nagging suspicion that something terrible--and otherworldly--has happened to him, a feeling that only increases when she has vivid visions of Jack being chased by a vicious hunter intent on owning Jack's soul. Always one to consult psychics, Bryn finds herself at The Tarot Cafe seeking a way to aid Jack in his spiritual struggle. But when she discovers what has happened to him, Bryn finds herself with an impossible choice between a life without love or an eternity of pain by her soul mate's side.
Harry: So Chandra, January 13, will mark debut in the writing. The synopsis above shows only as much for people who are already acquainted with the manga “The Tarot Cafe”. Can you add a bit more about the world and your own story? Chandra: The Tarot Café is a seven volume dark paranormal romance manhwa (Korean comic) by Sang Sun Park. Pamela, a Scottish woman cursed with immortality, uses her psychic abilities to aid her customers. During the day, she helps humans. At night, she greets her Midnight Visitors—all sorts of paranormals who need her guidance. Each story unfolds along the frame of the Tarot card reading. Park does a fantastic job of weaving western fairy tales and mythology with her own take on dragons and devils to create a multilayered dark fantasy world. As the series unfolds, we learn more of Pamela and her tragic past… including how she became immortal and the bargain she’s made to end that immortality. With the novel, we’re adding a fresh story to the collection. Bryn is a contemporary Londoner poised on stardom, but her happy moment is ruined by the disappearance of her fiancé. Through circumstance, or Fate if you like, she finds her way to Pamela. Pamela and Bryn have a lot in common, emotionally, and Bryn’s reading dredges up some of the nasty bits of Pamela’s past. By drawing events from the comic and blending them with this new vignette, I think we’ve managed to create something that rewards the fans of the comic without alienating new readers. H: As a debut author, I can imagine that you feel pretty stressed and/or excited at the upcoming release date. What are your expectations at just one step before crossing the line and do you think it will be a debut to be reckoned with? C: Mostly, I’m relieved. Which is not to say that I’m any less stressed and excited than any other debut author, but I’m just grateful to know the book has made it. TOKYOPOP has been on a bit of roller coaster this past year and I really want this book to do well for them and Park. We’ve all worked so hard on it, and it’s gratifying to be able to see that work pay off. Now, that it’s available the true anticipation begins as we wait for the fandom’s response. H: How did you strike a deal to do a sort of collaboration with the original manhwa creator Sang Sun Park? As far as I understand you are bringing new characters and situations in her world and the light novel itself features illustration by Sang. Can you reveal more behind working with the artist? C: TOKYOPOP already owned the rights to produce The Tarot Café comics in English. From what I understand, Park was approached about the possibility of a prose tie-in series. She agreed, so they sought to hire a writer for the project. After that is when I was contacted by Jenna Winterberg, the Senior Prose Editor, who had found my blog. She asked if I was interested in working with TOKYOPOP, and if I had any writing samples she could look at. When she was confident that the samples displayed the narrative voice and style that would fit the project, TOKYOPOP made an offer. As for bringing in new characters… when we discussed the concept for the novel, Jenna and I agreed that we did not want to do an adaptation of an existing story. We wanted to create a new story that could serve as a welcome to the world for readers who were unfamiliar with the comic. Park’s involvement was to approve the outline and sample chapter of the novel and to create ten original illustrations to accompany the prose. All of my dealings with her were on a removed scale—our correspondence went through my editor, translators and Park’s representative. H: As far as genres go I understand that this is a light novel, which is a special Japanese format, but on the other hand it has fit American genre standards. Is it safe to say that this is going to be Japanese approach to fantasy translated into current urban fantasy? C: “Japanese” only in how the time I’ve lived and spent in Japan, added to my exposure of Japanese story-telling, has influenced the way I approach fantasy. Which is probably a great deal more than I realize. One of the things that I admire about Park’s series is that it is so accessible to a Western reader. This a woman who knows her English folklore and fairy tales and has mastered the art of reworking them. However, I wouldn’t say The Wild Hunt is an urban fantasy. I would classify it as a dark paranormal romance, because the relationships in the novel are what drive the plot. The spooky hunters and immortality and devils are background elements to the emotions of the characters. H: Can you share a bit about the process of writing the novel? Which was the hardest moment for you to write and cope and where do you feel exceptionally proud of? C: This was the first time I’d worked with a professional editor from concept to completion, so I wasn’t used to having the feedback or the collaboration that Jenna provided me. Through working with her, I came to understand how you need the right editor because she has an incredible influence on the quality of the final product. Jenna is perfect for this project. The hardest moment in the process of writing The Wild Hunt was coming to terms with the fact that what I was writing didn’t belong to me. I was an invited guest in another author’s world. If I was writing Bryn’s story as a standalone young adult novel, it would have been different from what it is. Not “better” or “worse,” mind you, just different. Ergo, the flipside of the coin is when I realized this and ego ceased to matter. I could concentrate on just creating the best addition to Park world. Being able to remove myself from the writing and see it objectively doesn’t just benefit this work-for-hire project, it means I’ll be able to do that when comes time to work with an editor on my own manuscripts. Proudest moment so far—aside from completing the contract—was finding the Sequential Tart review. It’s an incredible thing to see a fan of the source material respond so positively to what you’ve helped produce. H: And as a finally, is “The Tarot Cafe” going to be the first novel within a series or is it a stand alone? What are your future plans? I mean you have agent Miriam behind your back. You can’t go wrong. C: At this time, I’m unable to confirm either my involvement or any sort of release schedule for the rest of the volumes. However, I would suspect that so long as The Wild Hunt is well-received, TOKYOPOP will go ahead with their plans for a series. Miriam sent my adult novel, THE TALE OF ARIAKE, out on submission a few months ago. We’re waiting to hear back from several houses, and it’s all very exciting. That’s the first of a proposed three book adult contemporary fantasy series that adapts Japanese fox lore and Western fae in a North American setting. Much like The Wild Hunt, it involved a great deal of research and care to get the details right and the setting realistic. I should imagine within a few months I’ll be starting to write the second book, THE BELOVED OF INARI. I’m also working on a far-future young adult urban fantasy series. It’s something that’s captured me completely, and I’m so excited to be writing it. The influences are largely the manic tone and adventurous plots of the new Doctor Who series with various reoccurring fantasy and technological elements of anime and manga. Mirim and I have revised the first manuscript, FRAGMENTS, and I’m finishing the second, SHARDS. Despite the common association most paranormal romances evoke in reader’s minds, this one promises to be something different and by the sound of it Chandra Rooney is a brand new name that in time will could be to look for eagerly. Be sure to check her blogs: Dreaming in Red and Good Karma Reviews. For those, who are really excited, you can order from AMAZON.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Giveaway! Bone Crossed by Patricia Briggs

I love love love Patrica Briggs' Mercy Thompson series and I can't tell you how happy I am to have an extra copy of the first book in the series to be released in hardback. Product Description New in the #1 New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series. Mercy Thompson is back and better than ever in BONE CROSSED the highly anticipated fourth installment of Patricia Briggs’s phenomenal urban fantasy series. Shape-shifting mechanic Mercy Thompson has chosen the powerful alpha werewolf Adam as her mate. But Mercy is not a werewolf, and not everyone in the pack is eager to welcome her. Mercy doesn’t have time for werewolf politics, though—Marsilia, the local vampire queen, has discovered who really killed her vampire Andre, and she couldn't be less pleased. Mercy’s garage has been marked with crossed bones, as a sign to the paranormal community that she is no longer under the vampires’ protection—and fair game for all. On top of that, an old friend suspiciously shows up on Mercy’s doorstep, asking for help with a ghost problem. When Mercy investigates, though, she uncovers something truly evil: a vampire with dark powers unlike any other. This vampire, whose power rivals Marsilia, has a grand plan where Mercy’s only chance for survival is to trust in herself and her friends before it’s too late. Sounds good doesn't it? To enter, the rules are the same as usual. Either comment here or email me at sqt1969(at)gmail(dot)com under the header "Crossed" to enter. I will randomly pick a winner by Wednesday, January 28. Please make sure I can reach you easily. If I cannot reach the winner within 48 hours I will pass the book onto another entrant. Multiple entries will be disqualified. Open in the U.S. only (Sorry! Shipping outside the States is too expensive for hardbacks). Good luck!

Book Review: Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathia B. Freese

Down to a Sunless Sea is a small book that packs one heck of a punch. You'd think a book of a minuscule 134 pages would be severely lacking in detail, but Freese's style never waivers and never fails. Down to a Sunless Sea is a short story collection following a variety of characters who have been broken for one reason or another. Each of the stories is unique from the characters down to the writing style. I should mention that I do not consider myself much of a reader of literary fiction. While I have certainly encountered a fair share of literary fiction--being in college does that to you--I generally do not consider myself much of a fan. My main problem with literary fiction is that it tends to wonder or be plot-less, which is very much present within Down to a Sunless Sea. Most of the stories do not have discernible plots and many of them do seem to wander almost like stream of consciousness (without the written style). Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn't, and I would venture to say that my opinions on the individual stories of this slim volume should be held accountable to personal taste and not to any sort of absolutist opinion. Freese's collection beings with the title story Down to a Sunless Sea, followed by I'll Make It, I think and The Chatham Bear. The first two were written well, but I found them somewhat long-winded and without any clear point; the latter I thought was more interesting, though the ending left something to be desired. After these three stories, Freese seems to come into his own with each added character, in my opinion. I felt better about the latter bulk of the book than the initial pages. It should be noted that none of the stories within Freese's collection are poorly written: Freese has a strong and clearly defined authorial voice and the words seem to drip off the page rather than fall flat. Personal favorites include Herbie, which reminded me somewhat of Gunter Grass; Alabaster, which had a slight magical flavor to it and drew me in more than any other story in the book; Little Errands, an accurate story of last minute obsessions (Did you forget to turn off the oven?); Arnold Schwarzenegger's Father Was a Nazi, for reasons that have little to do with the title and more to do with how strangely realistic and yet bizarrely comical the actual story was; and Echo, which beautifully portrayed the illogical breaks in friendships and how the main character deals with and contemplates it. The only story I actually disliked was Nicholas. The problem with Nicholas was that the author attempted to recreate the character's slang in the exposition, but ended up creating a story that was mostly unreadable. I appreciate the use of slang in any novel (Clockwork Orange, for example), but Freese used the exposition to show the character's ignorance of the English language by portraying the misuse of words and misspellings within the exposition itself. My honest opinion about slang is that one should only use actual alternate pronunciations, rather than misspellings and internal misuses of words. Overall, I can say that I did enjoy Freese's work. While not all of the stories were to my liking, those that were kept me interested (plus, I finished the book, which is always good). The biggest flaw in this work happens to be due to my own neutral position on literary fiction. I suspect if you are a literary person, this collection will be right up your alley, but if you exclusively read speculative fiction, you may find this collection somewhat difficult. There are elements of magical realism, but on the whole Down to a Sunless Sea is a literary endeavor and deserves recognition as such. You can find Mathias B. Freese on his website. He is also the author of The i Tetralogy.