Monday, August 31, 2009

What's in a Name?

I don't like the name of my blog..... I never have. I've mentioned it before, but I threw the name up when I created the blog. I'm not sure why I picked the name. Really, it was more of a description. I was trying to think of a type of blog to put up. Something that reflected my personality and something that I wouldn't, hopefully, get tired of too soon. I wrote a few posts and then, a funny thing happened, a few people visited the blog and actually commented! Like a lot of people I was mildly thrilled that people actually came to my site and commented on what I wrote. Wow! Significance! Crazily, I thought that changing the name would jinx things. I wanted people to return. I hoped to connect to other people who had the same interests-- but mostly I wanted people to come back. But the name.... It has just never sat well with me. I've tried playing with it without changing it too much, hoping to make it sound.... I don't know... less lame? Yeah. Still don't like it. And, the thing is, I'm looking for inspiration. Maybe some rejuvenation. I haven't been my old, creative self in awhile. Usually I change my template when I get bored, but I think I need more. I need a title that will hint at what this blog is really about-- News & Reviews isn't really that accurate since I've been awful at keeping up with anything resembling sci-fi related news-- though reviews do pop-up a lot. I like the freedom to meander with my posts. They're usually scifi/fantasy related, though I reserve the right to go off topic. Gosh, I sound high maintenance don't I? So what do you think? A name change? A contest perhaps? Granted, I can only offer books-- but I can offer a fairly decent pile of the winner's choice. Should I go for it? Maybe I'll have an official contest soon...

Giveaway! "Rosemary and Rue" by Seanan McGuire

I love it when I get extra copies of books by new authors to pass on. This new title, Rosemary and Rue, (Penguin group) by Seanan McGuire seems particularly promising. Singer-songwriter McGuire adeptly infuses her debut with hardboiled sensibilities and a wide array of mythological influences, set against a moody San Francisco backdrop. October Toby Daye is half-human, half-faerie, a changeling PI with a foot in both worlds. After spending 14 years as a fish following a botched assignment, she's desperate to avoid magic, but the dying curse of a murdered elven lady forces her to investigate the killing, with the price of failure being Toby's own painful death. Toby struggles with court intrigue, magical mayhem, would-be assassins and her own past, always driven by the need to succeed and survive. Well researched, sharply told, highly atmospheric and as brutal as any pulp detective tale, this promising start to a new urban fantasy series is sure to appeal to fans of Jim Butcher or Kim Harrison. To enter, just add your information to the form below (this form is for use in this contest only and is guaranteed to be confidential. All entries will be discarded after the contest is over) and I will randomly pick a winner by Tuesday September 15th. Multiple entries will be disqualified. Open everywhere. Good luck! **contest closed**

Friday, August 28, 2009

Winners! "Winds of Dune" String Bag & Book Contest

I'm soooo overdue on ending this contest-- so I apologize for that. But I did take entries right up until the very end, so more people did get a chance to win. Anyway, I have randomly chosen the 5 winners of this contest. The two grand prize winners will receive signed copies of "Winds of Dune" by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson as well as the string bags, and three second place winners will receive just the strings bags. The two first place winners of the signed books and string bags are: Nancy Sharpe of Lakeland, FL and Robert Williams of Cincinnati, OH And the three winners of the string bags are: Bruce Golden of San Diego, CA 92124 Mishel Zabala of Virginia Beach, VA 23452 Amanda Makepeace of Watkinsville, Georgia Thanks to everyone who entered. I'll be more timely with future contests-- I promise!

Review: "The Calling" by David Mack

Posted by Harry Markov

Title: "The Calling" Author: David Mack Pages: 336 Format: Novel Genre: Urban Fantasy [officially a supernatural thriller] Publisher: Pocket Books What you can expect: An urban fantasy with an unlikely protagonist by the genre’s standards and rules so far with a touch of Christian mythology and a CSI/Law & Order aftertaste. Pros: A protagonist that exists outside the urban fantasy male mold for danger boys; a decent albeit loose spin on Christian beliefs. Cons: Unmemorable and more often than not stale prose, which is a matter of taste really, but I can’t be dishonest with my dissatisfaction. Another kidnapping story without reinvention of the trope. Summary:

HEAR THE CALLING.
No one would guess by looking at Tom Nash that he's extraordinary, and that's just fine with him. A tall, broad-shouldered jack-of-all-trades from Sawyer, Pennsylvania, Tom has a knack for fixing things. He also hides a secret talent: he hears people's prayers. Stranger still, he answers them. Maybe it's because he's a handyman, but Tom feels compelled to fix people's problems. Which is all well and good -- until the soul-shattering plea of a terrified girl sends him on the darkest journey of his life....
SEEK THE TRUTH.
Heeding the call and leaving his home for New York City, Tom discovers a secret world beyond the range of mortal perception -- a world of angels and demons and those who serve them. With the guidance of a knowing stranger named Erin, Tom learns that he himself is one of The Called, born with a divine purpose and a daunting task: to help the powers of Heaven in the war against the agents of Hell, an army of fallen angels known as the Scorned. Thrust into an epic battle of the sacred and the profane, Tom Nash must find the girl who prayed for his help -- because her fate will determine whether humanity deserves to be saved, or damned for all eternity....
Characters: As you might have guessed already, I am not going to be as flattering as I would have liked to be with “The Calling”, but what can you do when a book doesn’t work for you other than share why it didn’t. As usual I will start with characterization and then move down to the other components. Surprisingly I had no issues with characters at large. There is no denying that David Mack is a veteran as his long list of accomplishments in tie-in fiction and scriptwriting speak for themselves. His experience shows through in the character department with protagonist Tom Nash, who as a choice for main character excited me. Not many UF titles have a middle aged handy man with a pregnant wife; a wife that actually earns more than him. At the same time Tom is devoted to following through with the tasks provided by his divine vocation to hear prayers without much fuss. There is no dangerous sex appeal or hormonal denial of one’s given stand in the paranormal world, which I find refreshing and as execution well-performed. From the support cast I enjoyed main villain Frank Kolpack, a dirty cop with a calculative mind and general fondness of big figure sums, and Anna Doyle, the kidnapped Phaedra’s mother. Frank is one of those Machiavellian characters that you can only admire in how they manipulate the elements around them and juice a situation for their own gain, while Anna is a very strong character. Her grief didn’t move me one inch, but her snappy anger-fueled repartee with her daughter’s kidnappers certainly made her one of my favorite characters from the whole novel. While I enjoyed the axe handle wielding Erin Sanchez, Mack’s attempt to embroider personal tragedy and emotional issues to her spunky and aggressively sunny personality failed and just stereotyped her along so many other urban fantasy heroines. A not-so-realistic character was twelve year old Phaedra and here the reasons are too many. For one it’s a pain-stacking task to create a psychologically believable twelve year old, since children at that age are still in the phase of maturing and caught between childhood and teenhood. Since the novel itself is not YA and the target audience consists of adults I felt challenged to think as a pre-teen and justify her actions and behavior. Story: “The Calling” as I already mentioned is an out-of-the-box project for urban fantasy as a genre and I praise the uniqueness that Mack brought to a world, where Good and Evil are represented by the Called and the Scorned, fractions that are built similarly. Each fraction has Seekers, who hear prayers, Sentinels, who have offensive abilities, and Sages, who are the generals above the foot soldiers in the ancient conflict. Members of both fractions are kept hidden from being captured or discovered by divine powers that work in subtle ways. So far so good, but the world this time is not enough to arouse my interest, when prose and plot border on dull. Yes, as far as my personal preferences go and experience with fiction and entertainment media, Mack produced a rather predictable and easily forgettable novel. His prose is what I would call Spartan and rather states than evokes imagery. Longer paragraphs listing the items in every new setting killed the mood so many times. I guess, it’s fair to mention that the kind of simplistic approach resonates with his protagonist’s personality, but it certainly acted off-putting to me. The instant I cracked the book open I knew that it would end on a positive note. We have a generally good-natured and untroubled character with the best possible intentions and a case, which involves a kidnapped by the bad guys child that can shift the balance. There is no mystery or suspense here that indicates that the good guy will fail or that he was in any peril, even while running from the Russian mob and the Scorned. I guess I am jaded in that department. The Verdict: Not bad a transition into a different genre. It could have gone way worse and I am glad Mack avoided the common combinations of tropes and devices in urban fantasy, but it’s not quite as much as I expected it to be and I expect it to fade altogether from my memory quite soon. Rating: 2 out of 5 shiny stars.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: Paul of Dune by Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert

With the recent release of The Winds of Dune by these same two authors, the subject of the Dune series has seen some recent commentary in various blogs. So let’s get some things out of the way right up front – Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert do not write the same way Frank Herbert (who wrote the original six books for all you heathens out there) did. Frankly, they don’t really try to mimic Frank’s prose style, and I doubt anyone could anyway. It wouldn’t hurt if the new authors could at times delve deeper into the Dune universe the way Frank seemed to do, but at the same time, Frank Herbert was not a perfect writer, and in fact was fairly weak when it came to action sequences. I love the original books, and I’ve liked and disliked my share of the more recent novels from Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert. Paul of Dune, which was also recently released in paperback, is one of those novels by them that I really enjoyed. About 50% of the novel takes place in between the original Dune and Frank Herbert’s sequel Dune Messiah. In this time period Paul Atreides is coming to terms with the vision of the future he has seen, and the path he must set humanity upon to see that it survives the dark time ahead. He has set in motion a Jihad, a holy war that has resulted in the deaths of billions – entire worlds razed so that all will fall in line under his rule. The people closest to him are questioning why he continues with this war, even as the former Emperor begins to plot to retake his throne. The other 50% of the book takes place prior to the original Dune (and after another sequel written by Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert, House Corrino). Here Paul is a young man, caught up in a War of Assassins between great Houses including his own. This event was briefly mentioned by Frank Herbert in one of his Dune novels, but here the details are laid out as sides are drawn and the war threatens to escalate to a level that Emperor Corrino cannot allow. By having part of this story told in flashback, it allows the reader to be led through the early stages of a plot to kill Paul Atreides – a plot that won’t be resolved until many decades in the future, during the other half of the novel. I liked how that particular story bridged the two time periods, even as other connections between the earlier war Paul’s father was involved in gets compared to Paul’s Jihad (Leto’s war in comparison was barely a skirmish). Here we see the difference between a boy who is horrified by the atrocities of war and a man who accepts losses on an unimaginable scale as a part of humanity’s course. Yes, there are probably flaws in this book, ways in which it doesn’t quite match up to Frank Herbert’s novels – but continuity is a malleable thing (for me) so long as I’m being entertained. Kevin Anderson and Brian Herbert tend to draw on minor characters from Frank’s novels and make them into more major roles – mostly because they were less defined and therefore more open to interpretation, and I think it works well for them. By having these characters who sit just outside the fringes of Frank’s main characters, it allows the reader to both get a new perspective on the universe, as well as have a vested interest in what might happen to these characters. It’s far more open, since the reader is very unlikely to know what fate befalls these minor characters through Frank’s original work. Paul of Dune is also the kind of novel that works well if you’ve only read the original Dune and nothing else. If Frank Herbert’s prose was a little too dense for you to continue with Dune Messiah, you might find Paul of Dune more to your liking – it’s got a little more of a modern, action/adventure sensibility to it, while being set in the familiar Dune universe. I know for some people it’s blasphemous to talk about Dune as action/adventure, but ultimately I think it’s all about reading what interests you. So ultimately, if you enjoy Space Opera with political maneuverings and some swashbuckling adventure thrown in, I’d definitely recommend Paul of Dune.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Preview: "Evil at Heart" by Chelsea Cain

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm not just a fan of fantasy or scifi, I love suspense too. One of the best series' to come along in awhile is Chelsea Cain's books about serial killer Gretchen Lowell. There's a very Hannibal Lecter/Clarice Starling vibe going on here with Lowell and Detective Archie Sheridan-- a man she attached and tortured, but let live. I've really enjoyed the first two books in the series, Heartsick and Sweetheart and I'm really looking forward to the third installment titled Evil at Heart, due to be released September 1st. For those who have been eagerly waiting for Cain's newest book (like me) I have a sneak peak at the first two chapters of "Evil at Heart." If you haven't read Chelsea Cain before, check out the excerpt. You might find yourself a new favorite author.
C H A P T E R
1
The rest stop off I-84 on the Oregon side of the Columbia River was vile, even by rest- stop standards. Graffiti covered the white subway- tile walls; the paper- towel and toilet- paper dispensers had been emptied, their contents now strewn on the concrete floor. Two of the metal stall doors were pulled off their top hinges and hung at odd angles. It smelled like a parking- garage stairwell, that peculiar marriage of urine and cement. Eighteen miles from the nearest bathroom, and they end up at a rest stop trashed by hooligans. There was no alternative. Amy put her hands on her hips and stared at her eleven- year- old daughter.
“Come on, Dakota,” she said.
Dakota’s blue eyes widened. “I’m not going in there,” she said.
This is what the whole road trip had been like. They had been making the annual drive up from Bakersfield to see Erik’s family in Hood River every summer since Dakota had been a toddler. She had always loved it. This year she had spent the whole trip texting friends and listening to her iPod. Maybe if Dakota hadn’t been such a little jackass for the last two days, Amy would have been more sympathetic.
“Just squat over the bowl,” Amy said.
Dakota bit her lip, leaving a glob of pink lip gloss on her front
tooth. “It’s gross,” she said.
“Want me to see if the men’s room is any better?” Amy asked.
Dakota’s cheeks flushed. “No way,” she said.
“You said you had to go,”
Amy said. In fact, after not going in the restaurant they had stopped at for dinner, Dakota had quickly begun insisting that her bladder was going to burst and that if it did she was going to use it to seek emancipated minor status under California law. Amy didn’t even know what the fuck that was, but it seemed serious. So here they were, at a rest stop in the middle of nowhere. There was a banging at the door.
“What are you guys doing inthere?” Erik called.
They were twenty minutes from his sister’s house. If they didn’t get there soon, Amy knew that Erik was going to lose it. He had already been white- knuckling the wheel for the past ten miles. Who was she kidding? She was the one who was going to
lose it.
“She doesn’t want to use any of the toilets,” Amy called to her husband.
“Then come outside and go behind a tree,” Erik called back.
“Dad!” Dakota said.
Amy pushed open the door to the last stall. It was cleaner than the rest, or at least less filthy. Toilet paper in the dispenser. No visible human waste. That was a start.
“What about this one?” Amy asked her daughter. Dakota took a few tentative steps up behind her and peered into the toilet bowl.
“There’s something in there,” she said, pointing limply to the pale pink water in the bowl.
Amy didn’t have time to explain to her daughter the effect of beets on pee.
“Just flush it,” Amy said. She turned and walked over to the row of white sinks and waited. She heard the toilet flush and felt a little bit of the tension bleed from her shoulders. They would
be on the road soon. Erik’s sister would have wine waiting. Erik’s sister always had wine waiting.
“Mom?” Amy heard her daughter ask.
What now? Amy turned and saw her daughter standing in the stall, the
metal door swung open. Dakota’s face was white, blank, her hands balled into fists. The toilet was overflowing, water spilling over the lid onto the floor, forming a puddle that seemed to almost have a tide. Only there was something in the water. It swirled with veins of red. It looked almost menstrual. And for a second Amy thought, Did Dakota get her period?
The bloody water streaked down along the outside of the white toilet bowl, onto the floor, under Dakota’s sneakers, and toward where Amy stood frozen. There was something in the toilet, something that had bobbed to the surface and now sat at rim level. A piece of
something raw. Flesh. Like some maniac had skinned and drowned a rat. It sat on the edge of the bowl for a moment and then slopped onto the floor and slid forward, skimming Dakota’s sneaker and disappearing under the next stall. Dakota shrieked and scrambled forward out of the stall into Amy’s arms, not even looking back when her iPod slipped from her hands and landed at the base of the toilet with a deadening splash. Amy forced herself to swallow the warm saliva that rose in her throat, marshaling her will not to gag. It wasn’t a rat. It was definitely not a rat.
“Mom?” Dakota said.
“Yes?” Amy whispered. The iPod was still playing. Amy could hear some tinny pop song coming out of the half- submerged white earbuds. Then, just like that, it stopped.
“I don’t have to go to the bathroom anymore,” Dakota said.
C H A P T E R
2
Detective Henry Sobol lifted the evidence bag out of the rest- stop bathroom sink. The contents, four fistfuls of severed flesh, three of which had been plunged from the toilet, glistened under the clear plastic. It was heavier than it looked— dark, almost purple— and the large medallions of flesh were frayed, like they had been cut with a serrated blade. Blood and toilet water formed a triangle of pink juice at the corner of the bag. It didn’t have the sanitized look of the clean, plump, pink meat under Saran Wrap at the supermarket; something had been killed for this. Or someone had tried to make a kebab out of roadkill.
“Tell me again where you found this?” Henry said.
The state cop who’d called him stood next to Henry with his “Smokey Bear” hat in his hands. The bathroom’s fluorescent lights gave his skin a pale green sheen.
“The john,” the state trooper said, tilting his head toward an open stall.
“Got a nine- one- one call. Family reported some blood in the bathroom. I responded.” He shrugged.
“Plunged it. That came up.” Maybe it wasn’t the lighting, Henry thought. Maybe the trooper was green because he was sick to his stomach.
“You have to call him,” Claire said again.
Henry looked back up at the wall. Hundreds of tiny hearts, executed perfectly with what looked to be a red Sharpie. They covered everything, obliterated everything. The heart was Gretchen’s signature. She carved it on all of her victims. She’d carved it on Archie.
And now she was back.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Guild - Season 3 + Do You Wanna Date My Avatar

The new season of the popular web series The Guild premiered on Xbox Live today. It will be available online Sept. 1st if you're not an Xbox Gold member. I got hooked on the show a few months ago and it's hilarious, especially if you're familiar with gaming and general geekdom.
<a href="http://videoguide.msn.com/play/?g=7d9ab599-724c-413d-8afe-5999b05caec1" target="_new" title="The Guild Season 3 - Trailer">Video: The Guild Season 3 - Trailer</a>
And in case you missed their viral music video here it is:
For all things Guild related visit their official website at www.watchtheguild.com

Monday, August 24, 2009

Book Review: "The Red Tree" by Caitlin Kiernan

Have you ever read a book and couldn't decide right away whether you liked it or not? That's how I initially felt about The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan. "The Red Tree" is one of those books that seems to be one thing, but after finishing it you realize it is something else altogether and it's something that lingers with you, asking you to read it again so you might be able to put the pieces together and fully resolve the mystery. Sarah Crowe is a writer who won't tell you to read her work. She's prickly and insecure and mostly despises her own writing. After the suicide of her lover, whom she refers to as "Amanda" in her fiction, Sarah retreats to an old house in Rhode Island to be alone and try to write the book her publisher has been after her to finish. Not long after Sarah arrives at her new home she finds out that suicide is something that seems to follow her as the home's previous occupant hanged himself from the massive Red Oak that sits on the property; a tree that was the subject of a book the man was writing before he died and the half-finished manuscript for which Sarah finds hidden in the basement. The tree, after which the book is named, has been the talk of local legend for generations, or so the manuscript Sarah reads and quotes from tells her. As she delves into the mystery of the tree, she begins to experience dreams and strange occurrences that soon have her wondering whether or not the more outrageous legends about the tree might not be true after all. "The Red Tree" isn't a suspense novel. Not really. It's a psychological one. Sarah isn't a particularly easy character to like, but she is easy to relate to. Most of Sarah's story takes place in her head as she writes her story on the old typewriter that was left in the basement with the unfinished book she reads from. She does have a roommate in the house with her, but the tree casts a shadow on the house and soon both women are enveloped in their own strange kind of co-dependent isolation. Sarah writes her story in prickly, profane fashion. The language is occasionally brutal and it isn't unusual for the word c**t to be thrown out as part of her narrative though it becomes clear over time that Sarah uses that language to be deliberately provocative. All in all, "The Red Tree" ends up being a hard book to describe because it's incredibly difficult after one reading to determine what's real and what takes place in Sarah's head. The intro to the book lets us know part of the ending in advance, but it doesn't give us clues as to what part of Sarah's path is real and what is imagined. Irritating tics in Sarah's personality, like throwing out references to classical fiction, might seem initially a pretentious conceit, but really reveal a deep insecurity in her character. Plot points that seem convenient on the surface take on a wholly different complexion when the book is finished. In the end, all I can say is that author Caitlin Kiernan is a writer of great subtlety. While I'm not sure I'd give the book the 5 star rating that so many reviewers are giving it on Amazon, I would say it's the work of a gifted writer who knows how to write in a way that gets under the skin and picks at you like an old Hitchcock movie that leaves you both entertained and disturbed.

Smallville Season 9 Preview

If you're still invested in Clark Kent's journey on Smallville then you'll want to check out this preview trailer for season 9. Brian Austin Green is in the mix, playing Metallo. What would you like to see happen on Smallville this year?
The new season premieres on Friday, Sept. 25th @ 8 p.m. For a quick video review of what happened in season 8, click here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

pay offs

I have been thinking about what works and what doesn't work in horror films. I'm no fan of overt gore, for instance, but I don't shy away from it either. I think the thing that is most important to me in horror is the setup. If someone pops out from behind a bush and you're distracted, then that's just another distraction. A dangerous one, but still a distraction. On the other hand, if you stand on the sidewalk and stare toward the shrubs, wondering if that shadow is just a shadow or something else, then you have the beginning of something. With your heart beginning to beat faster, you start forward, slowly, waiting...waiting...waiting.... The greatest example of setup, for me anyway, is The Blair Witch Project. Allow me to direct you to the last scene in the film. It stays with me. As I type this, I think about it and fight to urge to look over the shoulder. In case you don't remember (and I'm not talking about the film's general merits), the heroine goes through a deserted house in the woods in search of one of her friends who has gone missing. As the tension builds and the shadows twist, she finds him in the basement, standing with his face to the corner. That's it. That scene. No blood. No resolution. But with the setup and the final image which is suggestive and understated, there is a moment of true dread. By not answering the questions that the scene delivers, the audience is unfortunately left the fill in the blanks. If you're interested...here is a link to the last scene. or if that's not your cup o tea...here is a reinterpretation of the ending...

Friday, August 21, 2009

"The Wolfman" trailer

This has potential. Anthony Hopkins, Benicio Del Toro, Emily Blunt and Hugo Weaving star.

Winner! "The Wars of Light and Shadow" by Janny Wurts

I have to apologize. I am so late in getting this up. But I have picked a winner to receive the first three books in Janny Wurts' "The Wars of Light and Shadow" series and the winner is: Alessandra Cusatelli of Italy Congrats! I'll post the winners to the "Winds of Dune" contest later today. Thanks for being patient!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Official Trailer for James Cameron's Avatar

Just in case you haven't seen it already...
I'm officially excited!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Crunch Time...

It's that time.... Reviews are almost due and I've got my head down trying to get them done. This month is pretty good though. I'm reading a book right now that I'm really enjoying (review to follow soon) and I just received a pretty rare opportunity--one I've been trying to get for over two years now. If you're a fan of paranormal fiction, vampire fiction specifically, then you've probably heard of Charlaine Harris, author of the Sookie Stackhouse series that the TV show True Blood is based on. Whew. That's a mouthful. Anyway. I tried to get an online interview with Charlaine when I first started getting into doing reviews for this site. At the time I asked she said she was too busy. If I'm not mistaken, "True Blood" was in the early production phase and I think that was taking up a lot of her time. Not to mention the fact that she writes at least 3 different series' of books (2 of which I read the minute they hit my doorstep). So when I got an email from her publicist a few weeks ago I jumped all over it. But it gets better. I've mentioned that I've been doing review for the Sacramento Book Review. Well, I just happened to do a review of the latest Sookie Stackhouse book when it came out a few months ago and it appears I am the resident Charlaine Harris expert at the Review-- and they were offered the chance to interview Charlaine for an audible interview via Skype-- and guess who they asked to do the interview? Me! Me me me me me. How great is that? Well, I'm excited even if you're not. The schedule hasn't been hammered out yet, so I don't know when the interview will take place-- so I'm not nervous yet. I think it'll be sometime toward the end of October. Hopefully I won't sound like too much of an idiot because I'll be posting the interview on this blog when it goes up. And let me just say-- if you have any suggestions for interview questions, I'm all ears (so to speak).

Monday, August 17, 2009

"9" Movie Prize Pack

In anticipation of the release of the new movie 9, produced by Tim Burton, I have been given the opportunity to offer some "9" prize packs. Movie Synopsis An action-packed adventure, director Shane Acker’s animated fantasy epic 9 is the feature-length expansion of his Academy Award-nominated 2004 short film of the same name. The screenplay for the feature is by Pamela Pettler (Monster House); directors Tim Burton (Beetlejuice) and Timur Bekmambetov (Wanted) are among the feature version’s producers. The time is the too-near future. Powered and enabled by the invention known as the Great Machine, the world’s machines have turned on mankind and sparked social unrest, decimating the human population before being largely shut down. But as our world fell to pieces, a mission began to salvage the legacy of civilization; a group of small creations was given the spark of life by a scientist in the final days of humanity, and they continue to exist post-apocalypse. Another of their own, #9 (voiced by Elijah Wood), emerges and displays leadership qualities that may help them survive and possibly even thrive. The conflicted but resilient tribe already includes #1 (Christopher Plummer), a domineering war veteran and the group’s longtime leader; #2 (Martin Landau), a kindly but now-frail inventor; #3 and #4, scholarly twins who communicate nonverbally and mostly with each other; #5 (John C. Reilly), a stalwart and nurturing engineer; #6 (Crispin Glover), an erratic artist beset by visions; #7 (Jennifer Connelly), a brave and self-sufficient warrior; and #8 (Fred Tatasciore), the none-too-bright muscle and enforcer for #1. With their group so few, these “stitchpunk” creations must summon individual strengths well beyond their own proportions in order to outwit and fight against still-functioning machines, one of which is a marauding mechanized beast. In the darkness just before the dawn, #9 rallies everyone of his number to band together. While showcasing a stunning “steampunk”-styled visual brilliance, 9 dynamically explores the will to live, the power of community, and how one soul can change the world. Watch the trailer and other clips HERE. To get you revved-up for the release of "9" I have 5 prize packs to offer, including: · Official Soundtrack · Book (covering the "backstory" of "9"-- similar to version distributed at Comic-Con) · Mini-Poster · Trading Cards (features all characters) If this sounds like something you'd be interested in, just leave your information in the form below (all information will be discarded after contest and will not be used for any other purpose than this contest-- absolute confidentiality guaranteed) and I will pick 5 winners by Tuesday September 8th-- just in time for the movie. This contest is open in the U.S. only and P.O. Boxes will not be accepted. Multiple entries will be disqualified. Good luck! ** Contest Closed **

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Pick Your Sequel Giveaway

Ahhh! So busy. Had a birthday party for my husband today and the kids are starting school tomorrow-- so getting a real post up right now is pretty much out of the question for my frazzled mind. Luckily, I have books to offer. I have two sequels sitting on my shelf that are vastly different from each other-- one sci-fi and the other paranormal. Since I know that not everyone is into both, I'm going to give you a chance to pick your preference-- though you are welcome to enter twice for a chance to win both books. Book #1 Vanished by Kat Richardson (Greywalker Series #4) Harper Blaine was your average small-time P.I. until she died—for two minutes. Now Harper is a Greywalker—walking the line between the living world and the paranormal realm. And she's discovering that her new abilities are landing her in all sorts of "strange cases." But for Harper, her own case may prove the most difficult to solve. Why did she—as opposed to others with near-death experiences—become a Greywalker? When Harper digs into her own past, she unearths some unpleasant truths about her father's early death as well as a mysterious puzzle. Forced by some very demanding vampires to take on an investigation in London, she soon discovers her present troubles in England are entangled with her dark past back in Seattle—and her ultimate destiny as a Greywalker. Book #2 Enigma by C. F. Bentley (sequel to Harmony) The world of Harmony, along with its close-knit colony planets, has been isolated from the rest of the universe for many generations. Now, Harmony's High Priestess Sissy and Confederated Star System Agent Jake have traveled to space station Labyrinthe VII, otherwise known as The First Contact Café, where they hope to establish diplomatic relations between the Harmonic Empire and the wider universe. But when an alien ship crashes into the Harmony Diplomatic Wing of Labyrinthe VII, the precarious balance Sissy and Jake have established begins to dissolve. Simply fill out the form below to enter-- just be sure to specify which book you want in the space provided-- and I will pick two winners by Monday August 31st. (Entries will be discarded after the contest is up and will not be used for any other purpose than to make sure the books get to the winners) Two entries are also allowed if you'd like a chance to win both books. Open everywhere. Good luck! **Quick note** I'm overdue on picking a winner for my Janny Wurts contest. I will accept entries until the end of the day Monday August 17, and will post a winner Tuesday. **Contest Closed**

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Open Thread - Thoughts on District 9

Last night I finally saw the super-hyped District 9. It seems like people have been buzzing about this film for at least a year and even more when Peter Jackson made his Comic-Con appearance. So instead of doing a long review on what I thought, I'm curious to see what everyone else is thinking. Chime in with your thoughts! Was D-9 a hit, miss or do you plan on skipping it? One thing...I will say that I enjoyed the film. I'll share the reasons why in the comments section.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Milla Jovovich stars in 'The Fourth Kind'

Any Alaskans familar with the findings of psychologist Dr. Abigail Tyler? If so, you've already got an edge on this "fact-based thriller" at least that's what Universal Pictures is calling it.
The Fourth Kind tells the story of an ongoing unsolved mystery in Alaska, where one town has seen an extraordinary number of unexplained disappearances during the past 40 years and there are accusations of a federal cover up.
I'm all for a good conspiracy theory, especially one starring Milla Jovovich so I'll be seeing this come November 6th.
[photo via SciFi Wire]

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Two Trailers: Legion and Zombieland

If you're into kick-butt, end of the world, good-versus-evil flicks then you'll want to check out these trailers... 1. Legion
2. Zombieland
Zombieland has cult following written all over it, mostly because of Woody Harrelson's one-liners. Anyone else plan on giving these films a try?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"The Light of Burning Shadows" by Chris Evans

Posted by Harry Markov
Title: "The Light of Burning Shadows" Author: Chris Evans Pages: 384 hard copy Genre: Epic/Military Fantasy Standalone/Series: Book Two of the Iron Elves Publisher: Pocket Books
What you can expect: “The Light of Burning Shadows” manages to keep up with the buzzed up enthusiasm that “A Darkness Forged in Fire” ignited in me as a reader and elevated the world and the bigger story to further, epic scales.
Pros: As the Calahrian Empire’s military force reaches to the far away corners of its territory the reader is introduced to more of the same haunting world building. New ancient forces are introduced and several characters take an interesting turn in their development.
Cons: My curiosity regarding the further enriched world remains unsatisfied and I feel that I have to interrogate the author to extract what I need.
Summary: "They might be doomed, damned, and buggered for all eternity, but that didn't mean they couldn't sparkle like a diamond in the sun and grin like a skull in the moonlight on their way to oblivion."Musket and cannon, bow and arrow, and magic and diplomacy vie for supremacy once again in this second epic fantasy adventure from acclaimed author Chris Evans. As the human-dominated Calahrian Empire struggles to maintain its hold on power in the face of armed rebellion from within, the Iron Elves' perilous quest to defeat the power-hungry elf witch, the Shadow Monarch, takes on greater urgency.
The Iron Elves, shunned by their own people for bearing the mark of the Shadow Monarch, and desperately wanting to forever erase this shame, became legendary for their prowess on the battlefield as the Calahrian Imperial Army's elite shock troops. But when their commanding officer, Konowa Swift Dragon, murdered the Viceroy of Elfkyna, he was exiled, and these brave elves were banished to a remote desert outpost, doomed and leaderless, their honor in tatters.
Recalled to duty to reform his regiment from the dregs of the Imperial Army, Konowa thwarted the plans of the Shadow Monarch at the Battle of Luuguth Jor -- ensuring that the fabled Red Star, a source of great natural energy, did not fall into Her hands. Now Konowa must cross storm-tossed seas to seek out the lost elves and the prophesied return of another Star somewhere in a desert wasteland roiling with mysterious power, infernos of swirling magic, and legends brought back to life in new and terrible ways. And the fate of every living creature will come to depend on a small band of ragged and desperate soldiers, whose very loyalty to the Empire they have sworn to serve is no longer certain. When death is but a temporary condition, a terrifying question arises: who is the true ally -- and fearsome enemy -- in a growing conflict that threatens all?
Characters: Reading the second installment in this series clarified a few things that puzzled me regarding “A Darkness Forged in Fire” and characterization.
First, this is a series, which is story-driven rather than character-driven and as such the level of characterization is of an acceptable degree, by which I mean that one can overlook the sparse details concerning key figures. Second, Evans uses POV characters as observational tools to showcase the strengths and diverse personal traits of his secondary cast. Ample examples here include Yimt Arkhorn and Rallie Synjyn, who in the sequel more levels than I anticipated and their unmasking so to say is revelaed through the narratives of Alwyn Renwar and Visyna Tekoy. It’s a unique approach that surprised me completely and added a very distinct sub-flavor to the entire story.
This being covered I also enjoyed the development in some of the lead characters and their importance to the story. As “The Light of Burning Shadows” developed Konowa stepped down and the weight of the story was carried off to Alwyn Renwar. As the sole elf in the regiment, marked by the Shadow Monarch and responsible for the curse upon the newest incarnation of Iron Elves, I expected him central to further installments. In terms of using the frost fire, the magic tied to it and communicating with the Darkly Departed, the part of the regiment made from the ghosts of the dead Iron Elves, Alwyn excels with an uncanny ease.I can only speculate where Evans plans to steer the story to after the cliffhanger ending and who will grow to be the power juggernaut, which is perhaps the best quality, regarding his characters. In critical moments, which, clichéd as it sounds, are of the life and death variety, each figure can surprise with unsuspected qualities, woven organically within the plot.
Story: Apart from growth in scale and acceleration in pace, “The Light of Burning Shadows” does not offer a different breed of story. I find this relaxing as I immediately feel at home with its rhythm and can predict what is to come. Personally I don’t mind the repetition in the story formula as long as the novel doesn’t claim otherwise. Plus what we have is a military story and in times of invasion and war, regiments are assigned a mission. Regiments head towards their designated target, fight the enemy and return victoriously or die. It’s what happens in the real world and as such is ought to happen in this series as well.
Unsurprisingly, it was world building, which won me over completely once again. I couldn’t imagine frost fire being countered, until the ancient power of the desert manifested through the white fire came into play. As a quest destination the desert seems an ageless classic and I instantly recalled all the Arabic fairytales I read as a child as well as the mystifying and adventurous atmosphere of Disney’s Aladdin. Reading about a swallowed in the sands library of power, dragonish beasts breathing fire in the dunes as well as skeletal soldiers subjugated to a mad mage returned the spark to my imagination once again. From a rather enthusiastic standpoint when it comes to world building I’m excited to read that magic branches, although not structured, clarified and explained, spring from the different regions of the land such as the desert in this case or the Shadow Mountain as the case with the frost fire is. From my reading experience power from the land is not uncommon, but not represented in such a rendition.The
Verdict: It’s a must-read. “A Darkness Forged in Fire” hooked me entirely and “The Light of Burning Shadows” only cemented my opinion that the Iron Elves series has been a wise reading decision

Chicago Comic-Con: Michael Hogan

If you haven't been to the Chicago Comic-Con, I'd say give it a try. You get to meet great sci-fi actors like Michael Hogan from BSG. In the following interview Hogan talks about his upcoming projects (hint-hint Joss Whedon) and guess what phrase I got him to say!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Book Review: Terra Insegura by Edward Willett

One of the hardest things for any writer to do is to write an adequate sequel to an already well-written novel. Too often sequels fall short of the previous novel, and fans are left pleased, angry, or disappointed. But this is not true of Terra Insegura. The sequel to Marseguro, published last year by DAW, Terra Insegura is an action-packed thrill-ride that outshines its predecessor. Terra Insegura begins where Marseguro left off. The plague released by Dr. Christianson-Wood to fend off the Holy Warriors on the planet Marseguro has been accidentally sent back to Earth by the infected, but immunized, traitor Chris Keating. Richard Hanson, clone of the late Victor Hanson, who created the Selkies and whisked them away to Marseguro to protect them from the fanatical, purity-obsessed Body, heads to Earth on a mercy mission, hoping to stop the plague before it wipes out mankind. But the Body is not so easily weakened, even back home on Marseguro, and Richard will soon find out how well the Body can bounce back, even from a plague designed to kill pure humans. Terra Insegura is a novel with a few tricks up its sleeve. Plot twists, surprise characters, and well-drawn action make this novel both enjoyable and a prime example of why science fiction is still awesome. I find it difficult to complain about this novel, because I had problems putting it down. Terra Insegura has just enough action to keep me fixed to the page, and plenty of suspense (and even a little romance) to make this more than just another book of explosions and space battles. It’s a novel that knows it is good science fiction and isn’t afraid to show it. My only criticism is that the ending, while a good one, could have used a few more pages of development. Most of the ending works perfectly, but one tiny part needed a tad more to feel less rushed. But this criticism seems small compared to all that is great about this novel. If you’re a science fiction nut, you should pick this book up. Terra Insegura is science fiction at its best, and hopefully we’ll be seeing much more from Mr. Willett in the future. If you’d like to find out more about Terra Insegura, you can check out DAW’s website here. Edward Willett can be found at his website. The novel can be found in bookstores and online at Amazon. If your local store doesn’t have it, tell them to get it!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Chicago Comic-Con: Edward James Olmos

This was a pretty cool moment for me, getting to meet and briefly interview Admiral Adama (Edward James Olmos). I'm a big Battlestar Galactica fan and everything about that series was top-notch.
Also, Olmos told me that he'll be working on the Green Hornet film.

"A Darkness Forged in Fire" by Chris Evans

Posted by Harry Markov

Title: "A Darkness Forged in Fire" Author: Chris Evans Pages: 615 soft copy Genre: Epic/Military Fantasy Standalone/Series: Book One of the Iron Elves Publisher: Pocket Books What can you expect: I can state with a great deal of personal conviction that “A Darkness Forged in Fire” is a strong and stable debut, which is a seldom find. Bordering between traditional fantasy, which is centered on a quest and the greater balance between good and evil, and military fiction as a hybrid it can easily secure a mixed audience. Pros: Straight-forward and dynamic story, which is a fine break from winding plot lines caught in a maze. Unconventional portrayal of decades old cannons in fantasy literature. Good natured and organically tied humor to both story and dialogue. Cons: The author’s attempt to veil the characters’ and world’s more interest-gauging details and aspects hinders the introductory purpose of a first novel in a series. As a result one can feel certain shallowness, when it comes to world building and characterization. Also the romance portions feel forced. Summary: In an unforgiving world of brutal conflict—where musket and cannon, bow and arrow, magic and diplomacy are all weapons in the Calahrian Empire—there’s no denying that Konowa Swiftdragon, former commander of the Empire’s Iron Elves, could be looked upon as anything but ordinary. He’s murdered a Viceroy, been court-martialed, seen his beloved regiment disbanded, and finally been banished to the one place he despises the most—the forest. Now all he wants is to be left alone . . . but for Konowa, nothing is ever that simple. A falling Red Star in the east heralds the return of magic long vanished from the earth, sparking a frantic race within the Empire to reach it first. Now Konowa is recalled to duty and asked to reform the Iron Elves—only the soldiers he gets aren’t quite what he was expecting. And worse, their key adversary to obtain the Star is none other than the dreaded Shadow Monarch—a legendary elf-witch whose machinations for absolute domination spread deeper than Konowa could ever imagine… Characters: Characterization is brittle ice over a frozen February lake. It breaks with relative ease and can single handedly drag a story beneath the cold. Chris has conjured a strong and versatile cast, at least on theory. We have the dark redeemer outcast in the face of Konowa Swiftdragon and the coming of age character in Private Alwyn Renwar. There is the nature concerned humanitarian mage as Visyna Tekoy and even the twisted antagonist’s henchman as Viceroy Faltinal Gwyn. In theory these character’s narratives combined should elevate the story and breathe in a specific essence. As I have already mentioned because Evans keeps information about his characters, these never fully spring to life. Despite the fact the narratives themselves are reasonably written, I couldn’t connect with the protagonists. What’s peculiar is that my affections fell on the supporting cast, Her Majesty’s scribe Rallie Synjyn and Private Yimt Arkhorn, who effortlessly stole the spotlight with lively antics and original jokes. I understand that perhaps Chris has plans for his leading cast in further installments and chooses to be modest with their pasts, but in the end there is not enough substance to explain their drive and motivations. As of right now I am not impressed by the characterization, but the sequel might prove to be otherwise. The Story: Here is the part, where “A Darkness Forged in Fire” shines and compensates for most issues with characters. My weakness is world building and the slightest even remotely original or encountered by me design has the ability to erase all the elements that don’t work with me and so is the case here. Chris Evans is a genius to take the traditionally accepted environment of many races and to propel its development several centuries ahead and right into an authentic Napoleon era, where black powder and musket fire kept peace, forged alliances and conquered enemies. I stray away from military fiction, but the extra bits around a soldier’s everyday life, the importance of his kit, marching, ceremonies and of course battle strategy immersed me as a reader. Although the author expects the readers to know this and that about warfare in general the novel is written in an accessible manner. What adds more is the fact that I am spared the brutal reality of male aggression, gritty dark moments and obscene language. The grittiness expected is censured and instead a more light-hearted and romanticized concept takes center stage. Outside the army, the world is entertaining enough to explore as well. With the unusual everyday fauna and flora, there are mythical beasts and dark forces that twist the natural order and provide countless enemies from rakes, dog spiders to blood trees and dark elves. There are some fascinating takes on the traditional environment, which kept my attention with expectance that something else might pop up with no warning. Yet, where there are strengths there are faults as well. In the world building department I thought that perhaps a bit more could have been explained about the mythology and mechanisms behind magic. The world itself is rich, but manages to be vague and there is an absence of rules to frame it. In the end I had compiled questions upon questions about everything. For a thick book I can argue that “A Darkness Forged in Fire” rests on a rather simplified search-and-retrieve mission, so readers shouldn’t expect a labyrinth of winding and deceptive subplots. I find this refreshing, because sometimes my mind tires with keeping track with intricate plotting and demands a what-you-see-is-what-you-get story. The Verdict: I loved it. Despite all the kinks, which I perceived as unimportant enough to ruin my experience, the story and its charged took over my critical approach as a reviewer and I enjoyed it successfully. You should definitely read it and you shouldn’t let the technicalities frighten you, when content and entertainment value exceed all expectations.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Book Review: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The post-apocalyptic genre seems to have made a comeback in recent years, with loads of video game franchises and “original” productions filling the visual void, and novels like The Road taking up the mantle of literature to finally offer a bit of fresh blood into the post-apocalyptic gene pool. That said, The Road is both an example of good and bad things coming together, with many of its issues being caused by its hype. The Road follows an unnamed man and his unnamed son as they trek across a devastated, hostile landscape in search of a safe haven near the ocean. We’re not told exactly where this safe place is, and we’re led to believe that the man doesn’t really know either. Their travels lead them on an emotional journey through illness, ambushes by less-than-savory characters, and horrid weather. It’s hard to describe the plot of The Road, because this is not a piece driven by plot. Instead, McCarthy’s novel is one that wants us to know the characters, even if we never find out who they really are, where they came from, etc. They are, in a way, anonymous, and, perhaps, for good reason. Some metaphors could certainly be gleaned from McCarthy’s approach to his characters, but ultimately this novel is less about metaphors and more about a father and son defying the odds. Being a character piece, The Road does not spend time explaining how the world ended up the way it did, nor providing many answers to how things fell apart after the end times began. Leaving these questions unanswered might be difficult to understand for most genre fans. Regardless, it’s hard not to enjoy The Road, because despite its failures to show us the world, it managed to capture me on an emotional level, which few books are able to do. Still, The Road is not without faults. As much as I enjoyed The Road, I have to admit that it was not the book I had expected it to be. Critics and Oprah’s followers have proclaimed it one of the best books in recent years, and the novel has, as a result, won several prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer. In all honesty, The Road may be good, but it is not the best of its brand. What it creates in emotional efficacy and hopeless willpower does not draw away from the reality of its roots: it is not, by a long shot, original to the post-apocalyptic genre. This is a story that has been told before, and to greater effect by authors present some decades ago. Hailing The Road as a piece of literary genius misses the mark. The Road is entertainment, and while there is nothing wrong with literature as entertainment, there is something wrong with claiming a book to be something it is not. This would be like calling a Nicolas Spark novel “the next Pride and Prejudice.” Despite this criticism, however, I thought The Road was an excellent novel that captured the emotion it needed to in order to create a dark, hopeless post-apocalyptic world. Sometimes entertaining literature is good enough as that, and since I tend to read literature to be entertained, this one did its job ten-fold. If you’d like to learn more about The Road, check out its RandomHouse page here. You can find out more about Cormac McCarthy at his website. The Road can be found pretty much everywhere. I’d be surprised if your local bookstore didn’t have it seeing how it’s now a major motion picture.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Book Review: Turnskin by Nicole Kimberling

Forbidden love, it seems, is a favorite theme of the authors published by Blind Eye Books. Last year I reviewed Wicked Gentlemen by Ginn Hale, also a forbidden love tale, and the similarities are rather striking. Unlike Wicked Gentlemen, however, Turnskin avoids the religious overtones and instead focuses on people from very different walks of life in a world that divides species not just by their genetic origins, but by family as well—think Romeo and Juliet, if you will. Turnskin introduces us to Tom Fletcher, a Shifter living in the boonies who has aspirations to become a playwright and actor. But then he strikes up a less-than-casual relationship with a local police officer and finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place: his officer friend is more than who he says he is, and the more Tom gets involved, the more he finds himself caught in something he can’t escape. Turnskin’s forbidden love story is both flawed and well-drawn. Tom’s personality fits well with his small town roots, and it is his personality that makes him such a sympathetic figure, even if some of the things he does are relatively stupid. Shifter culture, while not fully developed, complicates the nature of the world, because it divides human from Shifter in much the same way as race divides human from human. And, as some of you know, I like these sorts of things within science fiction and fantasy. A thorough, or at least novel attempt at examining the human condition is what the genres should be about, even on a minor level. Turnskin places some focus on its human/Other issues, which serves to make this story more than just one about a forbidden love. Still, the human/Other issues are left somewhat undeveloped, and instead the love story takes center stage. Perhaps in future novels this will change. The biggest flaw in Turnskin is in its pacing. By the time you reach the climax, there are little more than twenty pages to solve what amounts to a monumental problem. The result is that the ending feels not only rushed, but incredibly weak, leaving one to wondering why the characters didn’t try that in the first place if it was going to be so easy. I also found certain sections of the book, particularly the intimate ones, to be unnecessarily “erotic.” This may be a personal preference, however, and not something that would bother more casual readers of these kinds of books. Overall, Turnskin is a good read, despite its flaws. While it may not be a complex piece, in comparison to other novels dealing with similar versions of the forbidden love theme, it does manage to weave not only a good love story, but an entertaining foray into a world one step to the left of our own. If you’d like to learn more about Turnskin, check out its page at Blind Eye Books. You can find out more about Nicole Kimberling at her website. Turnskin can also be found on Amazon or possibly at your local bookstore.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

R.I.P. John Hughes

A piece of my youth died today. John Hughes, writer and director of such iconic 80's films as Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Sixteen Candles and Weird Science died on August 6th from a heart attack. Though Hughes was not known for doing sci-fi, with the possible exception of "Weird Science," he could definitely be said to be a master of teenage fantasy. Perhaps I'm biased, but Hughes defined the 80's for me. I saw all of his teen-angst movies while they were in the theater and could relate to every one of them. The man had a gift for understanding that nothing was too small for the teenage mind to obsess over. Just saying the name John Hughes brings back a flurry of images: the geek holding up a pair of underwear in front of his geek friends; a group of teenagers admitting their fears and secrets during a day in detention; a high school boy playing sick so he can skip a day of school; the most popular boy in school asking the average girl out on a date... Hughes didn't only do teen films. He was also responsible for movies like Vacation, She's Having a Baby, Home Alone and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and I loved them all. Hughes understood human nature and had a knack for making it funny. Maybe I'm strange, but the passing of John Hughes makes me feel old. Like my teenage years must be farther behind me than I realized if he's gone. But like so many people, he was taken too soon. I'll miss you Mr. Hughes and I won't forget about you

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Giveaway! "The Winds of Dune" by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson ->->5 String Backpacks & Two Autographed Copies of the Book!<-<-

Thanks to Tor Books I have a unique giveaway to offer as part of their promotion of the new book in the "Dune" universe, The Winds of Dune. Not only do I have TWO signed copies of "The Winds of Dune" by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, but I also have FIVE string backpacks to pass on to some lucky winners. So the breakdown is--TWO grand prize winners will get autographed copies of "The Winds of Dune" and a string backpack, and THREE winners will receive only the backpacks. Book Description With their usual skill, Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson have taken ideas left behind by Frank Herbert and filled them with living characters and a true sense of wonder. Where Paul of Dune picked up the saga directly after the events of Dune, The Winds of Dune begins after the events of Dune Messiah. Paul has walked off into the sand, blind, and is presumed dead. Jessica and Gurney are on Caladan; Alia is trying to hold the Imperial government together with Duncan; Mohiam dead at the hands of Stilgar; Irulan imprisoned. Paul’s former friend, Bronso of Ix, now seems to be leading opposition to the House of Atreides. Herbert and Anderson’s newest book in this landmark series will concentrate on these characters as well the growing battle between Jessica, and her daughter, Alia. If you'd like a chance to win a backpack and a signed copy of "The Winds of Dune" just enter the form below (all information will ONLY be used for the purposes of this contest and will be discarded immediately after) and I will randomly pick five winners by Thursday August 20th. The first and second place winners will receive both the string backpack and autographed copies of "The Winds of Dune." The third, fourth and fifth place winners will receive a string backpack. Multiple entries will be disqualified. Contest is open in the U.S. and Canada only. Good luck! **Contest Closed**

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Winners! "Wireless" by Charles Stross and "Harry and the Pirates" by Brian Lumley

I have randomly picked the winners of two of the contests currently running-- The winner of a copy of "Wireless" by Charles Stross is Karen Bovenmyer of Ames, Iowa and the winner of a copy of "Necroscope: Harry and the Pirates" by Brian Lumley is Greg Lincoln of Sausalito, California. Congratulations to the winners! I have another contest I'll be posting Wednesday--I'm just trying to nail down the specifics with the publishers-- so check back everyone. And thanks to everyone who entered.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Book Review: "Fire" by Kristin Cashore

Fire by Kristin Cashore Imagine something so beautiful it staggers people in their tracks, fogs the mind and drives them mad with desire and the need to possess the beautiful thing they see. This is the kind of reaction Fire, the namesake of Kristin Cashore's new book, can spark with the merest glimpse of her face. Fire is a monster. In The Dells monsters are the most colorful, gorgeous and dangerous creatures alive. Most monsters are of the animal variety; they might be a bright green horse or a pink cat. The one thing they all have in common is the ability to stun their prey by their sheer beauty and the power to capture the mind. Smaller monster creatures, like bugs, are not so powerful, but a human monster is the most captivating of all and Fire is the only living human monster in existence. Named for her glorious red hair, Fire has grown up in a world in which people either react to her with overwhelming awe or suspicion. Men want to possess her and because unrequited desire so often turns to hate, Fire is in constant danger. But Fire's incredible beauty isn't the only thing that puts her in harms way. Part of her power is the ability to enter the mind and control the thoughts of others. She is loath to use this power because she saw how her father abused this talent and nearly drove the kingdom to ruin before his death. But the world is on the brink of war and she agrees to use her power to stop the war and save the man she loves. "Fire" is the sequel to Cashore's very successful debut novel Graceling. I had not read the first book by Cashore, but "Fire" is written as a prequel to "Graceling" and doesn't require any knowledge of the story before picking it up-- and am I glad I didn't let its "sequel" status stop me. I don't read a lot of "teen" fiction but "Fire" is the kind of book that is easily accessible to teens and adults alike. Sweetly romantic, imaginative and engaging, the pages literally turn themselves as the story unfolds. "Fire" is one of those books that is like comfort food for the brain and hits the sweet spot for the romantic in all of us. Cashore definitely has a gift for creating wonderful characters that live and breath on the page. "Fire" isn't flawless, there are moments when the resolution of certain situations have a dues ex machina feel but emotion trumps logic when you read a book like "Fire," and that's why I'll be going back and reading this book again and again. It's brain candy, but I'm not embarrassed to say I thoroughly enjoyed the story. In fact, I'm currently on the hunt for a copy of "Graceling," because anything else will seem disappointing after reading "Fire."

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Save Me From Myself...

Oh boy. I did not know I could become addicted to computer games, but apparently I can. I get nothing done these days because I'm too busy playing Mafia Wars and Vampire Wars on Facebook. But the vampire avatar is cool. No? Walking away from the computer now....