Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Winners!

Okay... Got some contest winners to announce here. I have randomly picked the winners of the following contests. One copy of Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire-- and the winner is: Rebecca Bradeen, Dorchester MA One copy of The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip-- and the winner is: Lesley Cheah, Singapore One Copy of Ice Land by Betsy Tobin-- and the winner is: David Dempsey, Centennial, CO Thanks to everyone who entered! I will be updating my Not Changing the Name contest to include some new books that have just arrived, so be sure to get your entry into that one before Saturday.

Book Review: Kell’s Legend by Andy Remic

Violent is really not the right word for this spare-no-detail fantasy monstrosity. Insane? Maybe. Really, the only way to describe Remic’s Kell’s Legend is with a phrase: a bloody, violent, fantastic journey through carnage, terror, and a downright epic tale that makes Underworld and every zombie movie look bad. That sounds about right. Kell’s Legend is the first is Remic’s Clockwork Vampire Chronicles. It follows Kell, a legendary warrior who has grown old, and a number of other characters, from his granddaughter Nienna to Anukis, a clockwork vampire-turned-exile in her own homeland. When strange, twisted albino soldiers descend upon the city of Jalder, Kell must take up his axe once again to defend his family. But with that action comes a flood of memories hinting at his dark past, at the Kell nobody remembers or everyone chooses to forget… Remic certainly managed a tour de force with Kell’s Legend. I’ve never read anything quite so unapologetic about its violence, but also brilliant in its brute force. Kell’s Legend is rough, for sure; at the same time, however, it’s entertaining and powerful, taking all that is wonderful about truly epic, adventurous fantasy and twisting it like Quentin Tarantino twists the movies. Remic is the Tarantino of fantasy (and science fiction, I presume), and if that isn’t a compliment, then I don’t know what is. Kell’s Legend isn’t just about action and brilliantly detailed fights. It’s packed full of amazing dialogue (and some clever witty banter to boot), and the characters are three-dimensional, something I think many fantasy writers of the more action-packed vein (including myself) have issue with. Remic has managed to put together a tale that pushes the boundaries while maintaining the necessary elements of a good fantasy novel (interesting characters, gripping conflicts, etc.). There were only two problems I had with Kell’s Legend: 1) Sometimes the action can be a bit much. For the most part it’s entertaining and propels the plot, but sometimes it feels overbearing; there aren’t a lot of breaks. 2) The language is outside of my comfort zone in one scene (and only one, as far as I can recall). If his language had kept in that vein for more than one chapter, then I would have tossed the book at the wall, but, thankfully, that is not what happened. However, if you cannot stand foul language in any form, this is not the book for you. Both of these problems are personal preferences and not indicative of any significant fault of the novel or Remic. If you aren’t bothered by these things, then this is definitely a book for you. If you’re already a Remic fan, then you’ll love Kell’s Legend. I look forward to the second book in the series. I’d love to know what happens with the Clockwork Vampires, Kell, his granddaughter, and some of the other characters. If you’d like to learn more about Kell’s Legend, check it out over at Angry Robot. Andy Remic can be found at his website. Kell’s Legend can also be found on Amazon or pretty much anywhere.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Rundown

Okay, my birthday weekend is officially over and I no longer have an excuse to procrastinate on my blogging. Before I go back to my regular programming though, I have to tell you about my weekend. I almost ended up with a new puppy... The weekend started out with my husband announcing that he was taking me away for a surprise trip on Friday with a mysterious activity planned for Saturday. Cool. I love surprises. So I pack my bags and we leave on Friday and end up in Napa. Great! I love wine almost as much as I love surprises. Friday night was mellow and we had dinner and margaritas at nice Mexican restaurant when hubby tells me that we have to be up at 5:00 the next morning. Uh. 5am you say? I am not a morning person, but hey, I'll go with the flow if it's in the name of a surprise. So I get my groggy behind out of bed the next morning, play a little Mafia Wars to wake up (it's a disease I tell you) and we end up at a little general store and I find out that we're going on a hot-air balloon ride. Sweet! I've had quite the list of airborne experiences, including a blimp and a KC-135 refueling stratotanker (for a story I did when I worked at "Real-TV), a helicopter--even para-sailing, but I had yet to go up in a hot-air balloon, so I was excited. It was a beautiful morning and the balloon ride was great. The sky was so clear you could see all the way into San Francisco and when we were done we headed back into town for a champagne brunch. We didn't stay to tour any wineries, though hubby offered, because I was tiiiiiired. I decided to nap at the hotel before heading home and then hubby surprised me with a party at my in-laws house-- including a martini bar. Nice. I don't tend to get hangovers, but I admit to feeling a bit queasy on Sunday. Monday morning, my official birthday, hubby offers to stay home so I can sleep in while he takes my daughter to school. Is he a man after my heart or what? My son is in kindergarten so he doesn't go to school until 11:00. Even I can drag my mildly hung-over rear end out of bed by then, so we took the little dude to school together and as we head back to the car I hear my husband exclaim "where did you come from" as he bends over and picks up a Yorkshire Terrier puppy. Oh my goodness. How could someone lose a Yorkie? The dog doesn't have a collar, and thinking at first that the puppy might have jumped out of someone's car, hubby and I wait around and see if someone claims the dog. Nope. Having found a few stray dogs in my day, I suggest we look around the neighborhood and see if there are any open gates and knock on those doors. We only find one open gate and no one is home. Not finding anyone who seems to know anything about the dog we go home and print off a bunch of fliers and go back and paste them all over the neighborhood-- even putting one under the doormat of the home with the open gate. We're sure that someone will call by the end of the workday. No one does. By this time hubby is starting to like the dog. He is a sweet puppy.... We call my mother-in-law, who just happens to have two Yorkshire Terriers already, and the first thing out of her mouth is "I'll take him!" But hubby tells her that if no one claims him, we're keeping him. News to me, but I can live with it. The dog is amazingly calm for a pup. My dog and cat aren't real sure what to make of the situation though, surprisingly there is no hissing or barking at the new arrival. My son likes the dog, though he is dismayed at the dog's tendency to "hug" him all the time. Yeah. Not neutered. Like all puppies, the dog is a lot like having a new baby around and it takes me awhile to get him settled, though I finally got him to sleep in my dog's kennel so I wouldn't have to worry about him wandering around all night. He yipped a bit, but ended up doing okay. My dog was pretty thrilled at being free for the night and began to consider the advantages of having another dog around. The cat was still not thrilled. Morning comes and still no phone call. I take the dog to the local vet to see if he has a microchip -- nope. Hubby begins to consider naming the dog. Then, around noon, I finally get a phone call from someone who sounds a lot like the owner of a lost dog. Yep, the description fits and I'm pretty sure I'm back to having one dog. Turns out, they live only 4 doors away from us, though the dog was a good mile away and had crossed some very busy intersections. The owner almost cried when she picked up the dog. She gave me a reward and when I tried to give it back she waved me off saying "most people would have kept the dog." She has no idea. Heck, I think I had half a dozen people offer to take the dog from me in just 24 hours. But it's all good karma and I'm glad the dog is back with his family. My son seems kind of relieved too. He keeps telling me "I don't want two dogs. I want two cats." Can't say I blame him. My cat purred and kneaded on me for at least an hour after the dog left. I swear I could hear her saying we don't need another dog..... My husband, who really isn't a pet person, misses the dog and is considering asking them if they're going to breed the dog. But I suspect this will pass. All in all a nice weekend (and isn't he cute? Real picture of the dog). I promise to announce the winners of some over-due contests tomorrow. Right now, I'm drinking the last of my birthday champagne, dreading the number of hours at the gym that will be required to work all this alcohol off. Oh well. You only turn 40 once.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Book Review: Land of the Dead by Thomas Harlan

Out in the vast darkness between stars, in an area of space called the Land of the Dead, something ancient has been found. It tore apart a fleet of starships, ripping them to shreds and there seems to be no way to approach the object. Plus it has drawn the attention of humanity and the many alien races that share the galaxy with us, all hoping to secure whatever it is for their own benefit. With this science fiction backdrop, Land of the Dead then uses a very familiar story type – from the fantasy genre. A group of wildly different characters slowly gather together to go on a quest – in this case to uncover this ancient secret. There’s the former starship captain who took the fall for the loss of a battle that wasn’t his fault, looking for a chance to redeem himself. There’s also his former executive officer, who now commands a starship of her own and must deal with a prince who is commanding the fleet and believes he can do no wrong. There’s the brilliant archeologist fighting the racial prejudices stacked against her, because in this alternate history universe, the Japanese made contact with the Aztecs, and those races grew to preponderance on Earth – so being of European descent actually places you in the minority. Then there’s the enigmatic priest who may or may not know more about what they are going to face in the void. There are alien pirates, space battles and more intimate military style battles between the crews of as various ships are boarded and raided. The former captain has to face up to his reputation as he helps recover the escape pods from the ships destroyed at the very beginning of the novel, while the archeologist searches for a way into this treacherous part of space – so that they can finally learn the secrets therein. More than just Space Opera, Thomas Harlan’s Land of the Dead takes aspects of the Fantasy literature ‘quest’ and mixes it with the historical investigation more likely to be found in a modern adventure novel as well as the hard hitting action of a military thriller into a very satisfying combination. Yes, it’s a little too dependant upon Mayan legends and folklore, a little too connected to it’s own alternate history (I’m not convinced it needs to be BOTH a science fiction series set in the future AND have an alternate history past as well) – but even if you choose to ignore that aspect, it works well as a Science Fiction Adventure novel, and will keep you turning the pages to see where the story is going to go.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Book Review: Unholy Domain by Dan Ronco

Sometimes curious concepts and interesting characters smash against the wall of a terrible plot point and lose their connection with the reader. This is much the case with Dan Ronco’s novel, a thriller that pits fundamentalist religion against technology in a near-future Earth. I actually enjoyed the first seventy or so pages of this novel. While the concepts being introduced would have benefited from stronger world building and more thorough examinations of the characters, the story at least kept moving forward and was interesting. But characterization is precisely what dies in this piece. The relationships feel hackneyed at best, particularly for the main character, who magically falls in love with a woman he’s only met once. That’s not to say that such things don’t happen, but the way it was approached in Unholy Domain made the characters seem flat. The “love” came out of nowhere and seemed exceptionally trite. There were other issues too, though less glaring ones than the sudden, depth-less romance (they’re both magically in love, having exchanged little more than five sentences between one another). Some of the religious elements were over-the-top, to the point of being ridiculous. I managed to move past these, but they were relatively relentless, and this made for a story that lacked depth, power, and cohesiveness. These are all my personal opinions, though. If the book sounds like something you might like, then buy it and give it a read. For me, though, it was the kind of book that literally made me roll my eyes while reading it. That’s too much for me.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Book Review: The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett

Never before did I know the extent to which the antique/rare book world could come under threat by thieves. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I know that the Gutenberg Bible is worth a fortune, and that some other rare documents have quite a lot of value; the theft of such items doesn’t surprise me. But what does surprise me, and what was adeptly touched on in Bartlett’s journalistic monstrosity, is the extent to which people will go to collect even less-valuable items. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is about such a person—John Charles Gilkey. Bartlett takes a winding journey through collectors' and book lovers' obsessions and follows the trail of Gilkey, a notorious book thief, across the country to the various individuals once targeted by the book obsessed man. One central figure is Ken Sanders, who takes on the role of book detective to hunt down Gilkey (previously unknown), and to retrieve the stolen items to return them to their rightful owners. Bartlett follows the trail, putting together the pieces, digging into the mind of the book obsessed and, ultimately, the mind of Gilkey, to put together a book as addictive as its key characters. I mean that too. When I started reading this over a week ago I found myself swept into the astonishingly detailed, richly researched world that Bartlett was trying to recreate. The rare book sellers, buyers, collectors, and even the thieves: all of them kept me fascinated with the world they inhabit, yearning to know more. Bartlett’s novel, thus, became a journey that I was eager to complete and yet terrified to see go. The book is too short for its own good (about 260 pages, plus footnotes), but thoroughly enjoyable. It’s hard to go into any more detail here without spoiling the novel. The back cover pretty much says everything I’ve said here, but you really need to pick this one up, particularly if you love books as much as I do. Bartlett’s novel, while not fiction, is one of those books that all fiction lovers should read. It takes on the book we so love and puts its history into a new context; it makes the world we enjoy drastically more complex by expanding its history, by dreaming up from the den of facts the reality that the book world is not just a place of words and authors, but so much more. Maybe we already knew that, but now we have proof. Now, we can point and say, “See, books aren’t so boring, now are they?” You can find The Man Who Loved Books Too Much on Amazon or on Bartlett's website. You can also get it from your local bookstores. Go get it! P.S.: Books aren’t boring, at least not to me. I was simply illustrating a point that many people think they are.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Happy Birthday to Meeeee!

I'm turning 40 on Monday. Gulp. Hubby is whisking me away this weekend so I can drink away my sorrows. I have a contest overdue but I can't get shipping out until the beginning of the week-- so I'll announce the winners of a couple of contests all at once and get it all done in one fell swoop. Have a great weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side

I don't know about you, but I've always had a fairly rich fantasy life. As kids we're given a lot of conflicting messages about using our imaginations. It's great in creative writing class, not so good when daydreaming during a history lecture. Luckily, people like George Lucas didn't let the everyday grind of adulthood temper their imagination or we wouldn't have movies like "Star Wars" to take our minds off of our everyday lives. And I think it's the desire for escapism that draws me to fantasy instead of heavy dramas that explore painful family dynamics. I can't imagine that anyone wouldn't get enough of that in their daily lives. Even people who think they aren't fans of fantasy, scoffing at those of us who watch comic book movies, will watch Jennifer Aniston in a romantic comedy and think nothing of it-- and you can't tell me they're not imagining themselves as the heroine in their own romance. I think this is why authors like J.K. Rowling are so popular. They tap into the desire in all of us to have a secret life that is more exciting and heroic than the one we're already living. And if you take a close look into popular fantasy, you'll notice a lot of rabbit holes. The smartest authors of children's fiction understand the need for escapism. Even children with happy lives want to be somebody, which is why I think series' like The Chronicles of Narnia have endured for so long. I remember reading about the Pevensie children and imagining myself going through the Wardrobe to Narnia and having adventures in which no adult told me what to do. But more importantly, Narnia was a world far removed from my own and no one would know me, or have any expectations of me in a place like that. "Harry Potter" continues with the same theme by taking a young boy who is not only ordinary, but lives a virtually invisible existence when, suddenly, he learns of a whole new world in which he is not only special, but has power over his circumstances. As an adopted child, I think "Harry Potter" has special significance because there is always that secret desire to discover something special about where I come from-- though I hardly think I'm unique in that regard. But it isn't just children's fiction that taps into our desire to go through the looking glass. George Lucas understood that when he wrote "Star Wars," didn't he? Luke Skywalker lives the mundane life we all know too well when he is suddenly pulled into an epic battle that literally spans the universe-- and he integral to the story. "The Matrix" takes a milquetoast computer programmer, shows him a whole new world and he finds out that he is "the one." In my mind, the best fantasy is that in which we can insert ourselves. Comic book heroes have masks and it isn't too far a stretch to imagine ourselves behind them. TV shoes like "Heroes" offer up scenarios that take ordinary people who suddenly have extraordinary lives. Sure they're not always easy, but they're often heroic. I don't know that I'll ever have an extraordinary life. Maybe it will never be more than owning my own little corner of the blogosphere typing my thoughts on the page. But maybe... I'll find my path to something special. Until then...I think I'll read "Harry Potter" again.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Nathan Fillion....How Do I Love Thee

Okay, maybe love is a strong word. After all, I don't even know the man. But the new season of Castle started tonight and it's one of the few network shows I actually like. "Castle" isn't a scifi/fantasy show, but Nathan Fillion will be familiar to Joss Whedon fans who recognize Fillion as Mal Reynolds of Firefly. I still miss that show. Anyway, I just got done watching "Castle," and despite the fact that it is a fairly predictable TV show that could have been written by a hack like James Patterson, I still like it and that is almost entirely attributable to Fillion. The premise of the show is that pop fiction novelist Richard Castle is called in to consult on a case when a murder is committed that mimics a crime in one of his books. Castle then becomes intrigued by homicide Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic)and decides to write a new series of books loosely based on her. Using his influence as a very popular writer, Castle convinces the mayor to allow him to follow Beckett as she works and soon shows that he has a knack for solving crime himself. Hokey, I know. But it works because Fillion is so fun to watch. Lines that could totally fall flat or seem utterly ridiculous work because he's delivering them. For example: Beckett is called to a scene in which a homicide victim has had a portion of his internal organs removed and Castle, deadpan, says "someone hated his guts!" And I didn't groan. I know! So here's to Nathan Fillion. One of the few actors who can keep me interested in a weekly series. And the fact that he's good looking has nothing to do with it at all. Really.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Book Review: Last Days by Brian Evenson

Creepy. Dark. Twisted. Insane. Those are some words I would use to describe Brian Evenson’s macabre detective novel. There are other words I would use, but unfortunately such terms are not appropriate for a review. Don’t misunderstand me, though; I mean these terms in the most complimentary of ways. Evenson was sure as hell striving for a creepy, dark, twisted, insane, and macabre detective novel. And he succeeded, practically from page one. Last Days is about a fellow named Kline, a brutally dismembered detective who is unwittingly drafted into a bizarre cult of amputees to solve a murder. The more involved he becomes in the investigation, and the crazed cult of amputation-revering individuals, the more lies, deceptions, and threats are thrown his way. Soon he realizes that the only way he can escape this bizarre world and get his life back on track is to do something that will rely on sheer will…something drastic and possibly just as insane as the cult that has forced him into their service… Does that description paint a good picture of how creepy and twisted this novel is? I hope so. Last Days is one of the most twisted books I have ever read, and yet it is strangely addictive, almost infectious—much like a cult, actually. Each chapter progresses the plot at a rapid pace. This novel is not one that takes the time to slow down and let you settle it. It wants you to be on the edge of your seat, wondering what will happen next, who will come popping out of the wood works to screw things up for Kline. The fast-paced feel of the novel is precisely what makes it so infectious; each chapter made me want to know what would happen next, and how Kline would manage to get himself out of whatever new pickle had come his way. The only problem I have with Last Days is that it could have been somewhat longer to give Kline a bit more space to develop as a character. While I certainly rooted for Kline, I wanted to know more about who he was and where he had come from. Thankfully this flaw does not ruin the overall entertainment of the novel. If you’re into the macabre or need a twisted detective novel, then this is certainly for you. Or, if you just want something weird and twisted to read, then start with Last Days. It’s short, sweet, and does a fine job of making sure you’re uncomfortable, like going to a horror movie and knowing that the bad guy with the butcher knife is right around the corner and the main character doesn’t realize it… You can find out more about Last Days at Underland Press. If you’d like to learn more about Brian Evenson and his other books, then feel free to check out his website. Last Days is also available on Amazon and can probably be ordered from your local bookstore.

The Name Remains the Same...

Do you ever have those moments when you feel like you've received a sign? Some strange occurrence, or coincidence that tells you which plan of action you should take? I think I had one of those today; albeit of a minor sort. I've been toying with the idea of changing the name of the blog-- more than toying with it in fact as is obvious by the contest I put up asking for help in picking a new name. But something happened today that changed my mind. An excerpt from one of my reviews was included in a book! Now, I'm not normally a superstitious person, but now I'm afraid to mess with the name. The funny thing is, no one told me an excerpt was going to be included in the book. I did a review of Barb Hendee's Blood Memories last year and got a nice email from the author thanking me for the nice review-- which was very cool-- and thought no more about it. This week I got a copy of the sequel, Hunting Memories, and immediately picked it up since I did enjoy the first book-- and low and behold-- there was the name of my blog! Oh my goodness, I almost feel important. Significant even. Now I can't mess with name... However, I did start a contest and I do appreciate the attempts to help me out, so I am going to continue to offer the books I had up in the previous contest only I'm going to change the structure of the contest-- just a tad. Instead of asking for a name-- or anything else-- all you have to do is enter to win 2 books from the original list and I'll pick 2 winners, first and second place. First place gets their first choice of 2 books and second place can choose from the remaining choices. Technically, I'm not supposed to have a contest this size on this page (due to advertising), though I bent the rules the first time I had this up. This time though, I need the advertising to cover shipping, so I'm going to stick with the rules and put this on my giveaway page (click here to go to official contest). So head on over to enter!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Giveaway! "Ice Land" by Betsy Tobin

Here's the next of this week's giveaways... I have one copy, courtesy of Penguin Books, of Ice Land by Betsy Tobin to offer for giveaway. From Publishers Weekly Tobin's second novel (after Bone House) is set in Iceland, A.D. 1000, just as Christianity is taking a foothold and the volcano Hekla is growing restive. In this slick re-imagining of Norse myth, humans, dwarves, giants and gods differ superficially but suffer life's trials equally and are susceptible to love, loss, violence and even the weather. The central character, Freya, is an Aesir (a god), who is essentially human but for her ability to fly and her address: she notes that her kind occupy the space that men create for something larger than themselves. (In Freya's case, she occupies the tainted realm of love.) Among numerous subplots, Freya's story follows her quest for a powerful gold necklace, the Brisingamen, accompanied by a love-torn human teenager named Fulla. Tobin's rich understanding of the source material, backed up by deft historical touches—beds made of moss and skins, turf-roofed houses, earthenware cups—brings the narrative to life. Though women take center stage, Tobin sketches the thoughts of both male and female characters with skill. With an introspective dwarf, the god Odin and a fearsome band of giants, Tobin has this one aimed squarely at the Mists of Avalon audience, and she hits big. Just enter your information in the form below to enter and I will randomly pick a winner by Wednesday September 30th. (All information entered will be discarded immediately following the contest and will not be distributed or used for any purpose other than this giveaway). The rules-- no rules. Enter as often as you like. Open everywhere. Good luck. **contest closed**

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Discombobulated...

You ever have those times when you feel like you're going 20 different directions but getting nothing done? That's where I'm at. I hate to neglect the blog, but I know we all have times when other things take priority-- and I know I have wonderful people who comment here who understand when those times pop up. Since I am feeling scattered right now I'm going to throw up a contest and I'll probably put up a few more this week since I have a lot of duplicates going on in my book collection. It's no substitute for decent blog content-- I know that. But I'm sure a week will be all I need to get myself back in gear. To start the week... The Bell at Sealey Head by Patricia McKillip An "elegant" (Library Journal) fantasy 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 the one truly great house, 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... To enter, just add your information into the form below and I will randomly pick a winner by Monday September 28th. (All information entered into the form will be discarded after the contest and I guarantee it will remain confidential). Go ahead and enter multiple times! What the heck. ;) Open everywhere! Good luck! **contest closed**

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Vampire Diaries-- Timing is Everything

Whether it's Buffy or Bella, young girls seem to like the combination of teenage angst and vampires-- though I've known many a soccer mom with a copy of "Twilight" in her purse. So it's not shocking that the CW has it's own high school vampire story in The Vampire Diaries, which premiered Thursday night. These days paranormal entertainment seems to be all-vampires-all-the-time. Some of it is gritty and adult, like True Blood, some is full of youthful snark like Buffy the Vampire Slayer; though the newest breed, best exemplified by Twilight, plays heavily on the romantic angle. Initially I was under the impression that "The Vampire Diaries" was a blatant riff on "Twilight" trying to cash in on the newest vampire craze, but it turns out, "Diaries" started out at a a series of books that predates "Twilight" by several years, but ends up suffering by coming second to "Twilight" in hitting the public consciousness. "The Vampire Diaries" is the story of Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev), a beautiful high school student who catches the attention of brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore (Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder) who happen to be vampires. Stephan comes back to the small town of Mystic Falls to be closer to Elena, who is a ringer for a woman he used to love, and Damon follows Stefan with the sole purpose of tormenting his brother. Like a lot of good-vampire vs. bad-vampire stories Stephan is the suffering blood sucker who refuses human blood while Damon has no qualms about feeding and terrorizing his victims. Elena is the sweet, pretty and almost perfect heroine who keeps a stiff upper-lip after the death of her parents and tries to prevent her brother from succumbing to a nasty drug habit. The school has its normal assortment of jocks, prom queens and outcasts and the drama associated with high school. So far, pretty cookie-cutter. As of right now, the show hasn't had a chance to establish itself though, fair or not, it falls directly in the shadow of "Twilight," since that's the style it seems to emulate. Stefan even seems to be a day-walking vampire, like Edward Cullen, though there exists a credible explanation and thankfully, no shimmering vampires seem likely to make an appearance. Because the show is so Twilight-esque, at this point, I'm not sure that much personality is coming through. I also consider myself spoiled for TV vampires due to the cleverness of "Buffy" and "Angel" so "The Vampire Diaries" hasn't wowed me with anything original. Which is a shame for a franchise that could very well have been the inspiration for "Twilight." I have no doubt that this show will appeal to teen audiences waiting for their next "Twilight" fix, but I'm not sure adult audiences will latch on to "Diaries."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Winners! "9" Movie Prize Pack

Now that 9-9-09 is here I can announce the winner of the 9 movie prize pack. I have randomly picked 5 winners and they are: Elizabeth Murray -Suffern, NY Ben Stanley -Raleigh, NC Linda George -Napa, CA Crystal Broyles -Williamsburg, KY and Jeremy Keplinger -Ogden, UT Congrats everyone! I hope you enjoy your prizes.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Book Review: "Dawnthief: Chronicles of the Raven" by James Barclay

The Raven are a group of mercenaries who live by the motto "Kill But Never Murder." But age is catching up with them and they begin to consider retirement after a member of the group is killed in their latest mission. However, their retirement is brought up short when a member of the group comes face to face with a dragon and learns that their world overlaps alternate dimensions and a terrible weapon, known as the Dawnthief, exists that could destroy all of their worlds. Several stories alternate with that of The Raven, from that of an abducted mage and the group of warriors who follow her trail, to a mage-spy who travels deep into enemy territory to see if an ancient evil known as the Wytch Lords has escaped their imprisonment. Dawnthief is one of those books that has a lot going on; some of it is really good, and some of it is really bad. "Dawnthief" succeeds in its imagination. Barclay takes old-school fantasy with dragons, elves and magic and merges the genre with alternate dimensions and a well developed political structure. It's a book that grabs your attention early on with the promise of turning into something really unique. And it's this potential that makes the missteps in the book that much more frustrating. Where "Dawnthief" fails is in character development and a clear lack of commitment on the author's part to fully develop characters who will later be killed off. It doesn't take long for the doomed characters to become obvious because they completely lack personality. One member of The Raven isn't even given a physical description, much less a personality, so it's not only predictable that he's going to die, it's expected and it has no impact on the reader at all. And what characterizations there are, mostly concerning The Raven, are not consistent. the Raven are supposed to be a sort of best-of-the-best fighting force, but nothing in their exploits demonstrates this. Granted, they are supposed to be past their prime, but we're told, not shown, that The Raven are special and it never seems convincing. "Dawnthief" is one of those books I would have loved to get my hands on prior to publishing and tweaking. There is a lot to work with and Barclay seems to have an understanding of what makes good fantasy, but the consistency and character development are so lacking that what could be a great book ends up settling for mediocrity.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Winners! Pick Your Sequel Contest

Gosh, I'm late again! I'm such a flake these days. I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. Now that I have to get the kids back in school, I can't lounge around eating barbecue. Darn! So, to ease me back into the business of blogging, I have randomly picked the winners of my "Pick Your Sequel" contest and they are: The winner of a copy of Vanished by Kat Richardson is Dawn Miers, Hominy OK and the winner of a copy of Enigma by C. F. Bentley is Craig Scott, Auckland, New Zealand Congrats to the winners!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Book Review: Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont

Following the success of Erikson’s Malazan series, Night of Knives is a prequel that packs a punch. With interesting cast of characters, a lot of action, and some creepy imagery make this a fun read. Night of Knives draws upon events hinted at in the prologue of Erikson’s Gardens of the Moon. It follows Kiska, a young girl who wants to escape the city of Malaz, and Temper, a war veteran trying to escape his past, as they witness the chaotic events of the Shadow Moon, a once-in-a-generation event that threatens to tear down the Malazan Empire. This is the night that Emperor Kellanved is prophesied to return, but there are some who will do anything to prevent that from happening. Kiska and Temper must survive as the various factions within the empire struggle over the imperial throne and forces from beyond the veil spill over into the normal world… I must admit that I have not read any of Erikson’s novels, though I have certainly heard a great deal about them. This poses a challenge for me, because many of the things I felt needed better explanation are probably explained in the numerous novels that take place later in the timeline. Regardless, I did enjoy Night of Knives. It’s rare to see fantasy novels of this nature these days, what with all the vast, epic stories spanning five or more volumes flooding the bookshelves. Night of Knives is more or less an action-packed fantasy monster that happens to fit into a bigger story. But you don’t have to read that story to enjoy this book. That, I think, is Esslemont’s strong point here. Night of Knives chronicles events that take place over one night, meaning that it is not only fairly short, as far as fantasy novels go, but particularly action-filled, with plenty of creepy critters and tense moments to keep things interesting. I only have two complaints: 1. There were certain things that I didn’t quite understand that I suspect are better explained in the Erikson novels, particularly in regards to events that occur at the tail-end of Night of Knives. I don’t think this will be an issue for people who are already fans of the novels, and probably won’t be too big a deal for those that are not. The novel largely stands on its own anyway, with a few minor elements that could have been strengthened by better explanation or foregrounding. 2. I had the lingering sense, while reading Night of Knives, that there was something wrong stylistically with the piece. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. This is likely nothing more than a personal quirk, or perhaps an issue with being unfamiliar with the world or with this style of fantasy novel (i.e. action-y fantasy). Overall, Night of Knives was a lot of fun to read. I enjoyed the action and the imagery was well drawn and sometimes gorgeous and creepy. At some point I will read the Erikson novels; Night of Knives has sparked my curiosity for all things Malazan. If you’d like to learn more about Night of Knives you can check out Tor’s website. The novel can be found at your local bookstore or Amazon, or just about anywhere.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Book Review: Mind Over Ship by David Marusek

To say that Marusek’s follow-up novel to Counting Heads is high-concept, complex science fiction would be an understatement. Any attempt to describe the intricacies of his futuristic vision would take at least a dozen blog posts, because one cannot possibly understand how detailed his world is without actually reading the books and being immersed in it. That said, Mind Over Ship is the answer to all those that think science fiction has run out of ideas, because Marusek sure as hell is not short on them at all. Having said that, I am going to use the blurb from the jacket of the book to describe Mind Over Ship, because I can’t describe the book any better without going on for a week: The year is 2135, and the international program to seed the galaxy with human colonies has stalled as greedy immortal power brokers park their starships in Earth’s orbit and begin to convert them into space condos. Ellen Starke’s head, rescued from the fiery crash that killed her mother, struggles to re-grow a new body in time to restore her dead mother’s financial empire. And pre-Singularity AIs conspire to join the human race just as human clones, such as Mary Skarland and her evangeline sisters, want nothing more than to leave it. Marusek has earned his place in my book of amazing science fiction writers with this piece. While Mind Over Ship is not an easy read, once you get past the initial “culture shock” it is truly gorgeous in its design. The story itself is remarkable in how it can be both insanely complex, but yet approachable and fascinating. The characters, each of them with unique plot arcs, all woven together like a fine carpet, are each equally interesting. Many of them are actually clones, a fact that seems to complicate every inch of the story as they deal with issues of “clone fatigue” or “flaws.” The way Marusek weaves all of this together is indicative of his talent as a novelist. Less skilled writers would end up with a garbled mess of jumping POVs and confusing futuristic nonsense. Perhaps the only issue with Mind Over Ship is that for casual science fiction fans it may be too difficult to get into. For seasoned readers, or readers with tastes for complicated and unique universes, Marusek’s novel is a welcome retreat from the perceived death of science fiction as an ideas-genre. Mind Over Ship is what I would call a contemporary answer to Dune. Once you grasp the way Marusek’s world works, it’s not all that hard to follow him to the end of the story. Having said all of the above, I’d recommend this novel to anyone interested in high-concept, complex, far-future science fiction. If you’re looking for amazing ideas and unique perspectives on our future, then you need not go farther than Marusek’s Mind Over Ship. It’s brilliant in its complexities and one of the few novels that does everything that good, serious science fiction is supposed to do. You can take that term “serious” however you like. If you’d like to learn more about Mind Over Ship, check out Tor’s website. You can learn more about David Marusek at his website.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Official "Name That Blog" Contest

Okay, I'm going to do it. I'm going to rename the blog. Now the hard part begins-- picking a name. Since I am not that good at coming up with clever names (which is why I am changing the blog name in the first place) I am going to put it out there to the readers of this blog to help me rename my home online. I'm going to run this contest in two parts. First, I'm going to ask that you submit your ideas into the comment section of this post. Then, after a few days, I am going to pick my top five choices and those will go re-posted as a poll to be voted on by the readers of this blog. The winner will get to choose 4 books from the list below (I'd do the whole pile but shipping costs prevent me) and if I get any new titles to add to the list, I will add them before the contest ends so that the winner will have as many new titles to pick from as possible-- so expect the book list to expand. So here goes... Help me name my blog! The Dame by R. A. Salvatore The vast road network of Honce, completed a decade before, had brought great optimism to the people of the land. Commerce could travel more freely and so could armies, and those armies, it was hoped, would rid the land at long last of the vicious, bloody cap dwarfs and goblins. For the first time, the many individual kingdoms, the holdings of Honce, would be brought closer together, perhaps even united. For the last few years, those promises had become a nightmare to the folk, as two powerful lairds fought for supremacy of a hoped-for united kingdom. Bransen Garibond, the Highwayman, held little real interest in that fight. To him the warring lairds were two sides of the same coin. Whichever side won, the outcome for the people of Honce would be the same, Bransen believed. A journey north, however, taught Bransen that his views were simplistic at best, and that some things--like honor and true friendship-- might truly matter. In The Dame, Bransen’s road becomes a quest for the truth, of Honce and of himself, a quest to put right over wrong. That path is fraught with confusion and fraud, and a purposeful blurring of morality by those who would seek to use the Highwayman’s extraordinary battle skills and popularity among the commonfolk for their own nefarious ends. Traitor's Gate by Kate Elliott In Spirit Gate and Shadow Gate, Kate Elliott took readers to the fascinating world of the Hundred, a land teeming with an array of cultures, gods, and conflicts blighted by the shadow of chaos and destruction. Now, with the same intensity and dramatic sweep that has brought this epic to life, Elliott returns to the exquisitely crafted cities and landscapes of the Hundred, in a thunderous conclusion to the saga. In the darkness of war and destruction, forces gather to reclaim the peace: Those immortal Guardians who still serve justice seek a means to end the devastating reign of one of their own; a hired outlander army struggles to halt the advance of the horde that has despoiled vast lands and slaughtered countless people in its murderous wake, while still guarding against a burgeoning threat from an aggressively expansionist empire; and the eagle reeves who have long been the only law enforcers of the Hundred struggle to reorganize after a devastating massacre has decimated their numbers. But even as these forces give hope to those who would live in peace, a terrible danger looms: a traitor with Imperial ambitions, the most dreaded, least anticipated threat of all… The United States of Atlantis by Harry Turtledove As England tightens its control over the Atlantean colonies, Victor Radcliff and his band of revolutionaries resolve to make the English pay for each and every piece of land they dare to occupy and will stop at nothing to preserve the liberty of their people as a new nation is born—a nation that will change the face of the world... The Empress of Mars by Kage Baker When the British Arean Company founded its Martian colony, it welcomed any settlers it could get. Outcasts, misfits and dreamers emigrated in droves to undertake the grueling task of terraforming the cold red planet--only to be abandoned when the BAC discovered it couldn't turn a profit on Mars. This is the story of Mary Griffith, a determined woman with three daughters, who opened the only place to buy a beer on the Tharsis Bulge. It's the story of Manco Inca, whose attempt to terraform Mars brought a new goddess vividly to life; of Stanford Crosley, con man extraordinaire; of Ottorino Vespucci, space cowboy and romantic hero; of the Clan Morrigan, of the denizens of the Martian Motel, and of the machinations of another Company entirely, all of whom contribute to the downfall of the BAC and the founding of a new world. But Mary and her struggles and triumphs is at the center of it all, in her bar, the Empress of Mars. Based on the Hugo-nominated novella of the same name, this is a rollicking novel of action, planetary romance, and high adventure. Fish Out of Water by MaryJanice Davidson Fred the Mermaid has taken the bait and chosen to date Artur, Prince of the Black Sea, over human marine biologist Thomas. And just in time. The existence of the Undersea Folk is no longer a secret, and someone needs to keep them from floundering in the media spotlight. Fred has all the right skills for that job, but has a hard time when her real father surfaces and tries to overthrow Artur’s regime. Crystal Healer: A Stardoc Novel by S. L. Viehl Genetically engineered interstellar surgeon Dr. Cherijo Torin, her husband Duncan Reever, and a handpicked crew journey to the planet oKia to locate a strange black mineral that is the source of an intergalactic epidemic. When one of the crew members becomes infected, his body slowly begins to crystallize. While Cherijo races to save the crew member, mercenaries arrive in the oKia system, wanting Cherijo's genes-and her near immortality. It will take all of her abilities to elude the mercenaries and discover the black crystal's secrets before it's too late. Strange Angels by Lili St. Crow Dru Anderson has what her grandmother called “the touch.” (Comes in handy when you’re traveling from town to town with your dad, hunting ghosts, suckers, wulfen, and the occasional zombie.) Then her dad turns up dead—but still walking—and Dru knows she’s next. Even worse, she’s got two guys hungry for her affections, and they’re not about to let the fiercely independent Dru go it alone. Will Dru discover just how special she really is before coming face-to-fang with whatever—or whoever— is hunting her? Cape Storm by Rachel Caine Weather Warden Joanne Baldwin and her new husband, the Djinn David, are running from a malevolent hurricane bent on destroying her. Joined by an army of fellow Wardens and Djinn onboard a hijacked luxury liner, Joanne has lured the storm into furious pursuit. But even their combined magic may not be enough to stop it—nor the power-mad ex-Weather Warden controlling it... Demon Inside by Stacia Kane Hanging out with demons can be hell....It's been three months since psychologist Megan Chase made the stunning discovery that the world is filled with demons, and once more the situation is too hot to handle. Ironically, Megan -- the only person in the world without a little personal demon sitting on her shoulder -- has become the leader of a demon "family," but now some unknown arcane power is offing her demons in a particularly unpleasant fashion. And while her demon lover Greyson Dante is still driving her wild with desire, he's also acting strangely evasive. Then there's the truth about Megan's past -- the truth she's never known. Caught between personal problems and personal demons, Megan is having one hell of a hard time. Will the help of her Cockney guard demons and her witch friend Tera be enough so that Megan can finally resolve the past, survive the present, and face the future? Brimstone Kiss by Carole Nelson Douglas From Publishers Weekly Starred Review. Filled with kisses and kick-ass action, the second installment of this campy series (after 2007's Dances with Werewolves) finds paranormal investigator Delilah Street taking on her first case in an alternate 2010 Las Vegas. When Delilah and her boyfriend, ex-FBI agent Ric Montoya, find the bodies of two teens killed in Sunset Park in 1946, the girl's ghost appears and claims the killer was her father, werewolf mobster Cesar Cicereau. Vampire mogul Howard Hughes hires Delilah to learn the identity of the girl's vampire companion, and she also comes under pressure from albino vampire rocker Snow; television producer Hector Nightwine; and the Invisible Man, a zombie merged with Claude Rains's black-and-white film character. Douglas's dishy style compliments the twisty plot, and she helpfully includes references for the numerous nods to the silver screen, Egyptology and cocktails. Matters of the Blood If you thought your family was strange...Try being Keira Kelly. A member of a powerful paranormal family, Keira elected to stay among humans in the Texas Hill Country when the rest of the clan moved (lock, stock, and grimoire) to Canada. But family duty means still having to keep an eye on cousin Marty — a genetic aberration who turned out 100% human, poor guy. And recently Keira's been having violent dreams — or are they visions? — featuring Marty as the victim of a vicious murder. Something sinister seems to be brewing in little Rio Seco. Can Keira get to the bottom of it all while avoiding entanglement with her former lover, Sheriff Carlton Larson? And what does she plan to do about the irresistible and enigmatic Adam Walker? When this old friend shows up as the new owner of a local ranc and wants to get better acquainted, Keira is more than happy to be welcoming...until she suspects that Adam could be intimately connected to the dangerous doings in Rio Seco. The Stars Blue Yonder by Sandra McDonald Chief Terry Myell died and became a god. Now he’s back to life, careening around space and time at the behest of a voice that told him to save all of mankind. Helping and hindering this quest are his elderly wife, his young wife, grandchildren who haven’t been born yet, romantic rivals he hasn’t even met, a descendant from two thousand years in the future, and an alien nemesis who calls itself the Flying Doctor. Life in the military has never been so complicated. Commander Jodenny Scott would agree. She’s seven months pregnant and trying to come to peace with her husband’s death. When Myell reappears with tales of time travel, she’s not sure what to believe. But with an invading army bearing down on Earth’s last fleet of spaceships, there’s not much time for debate. When the dust clears Jodenny is stranded in an Australia she never imagined, and Myell’s more desperate than ever to rescue her—from aliens, from treachery, and from history itself. Intelligent Design by Denise Little (Editor) These ten original stories explore one of the most heatedly debated topics today. From a tale that examines whether life on Earth is an out-of-control science project, to one which reveals which species will inherit the planet, to a portrait of a scientist determined to discover the truth about God, the stories in this anthology tackle the big questions in ways that range from startling to satirical—and are always entertaining. The Sword of the Lady by S.M. Stirling The New York Times bestselling author continues his "epic of survival and rebirth" (Library Journal), chronicling a modern world without technology. Rudi Mackenzie has journeyed far across the land that was once the United States of America, hoping to find the source of the world-altering event that has come to be known as The Change. His final destination is Nantucket, an island overrun with forest, inhabited by a mere two hundred people who claim to have been transported there from out of time. Only one odd stone house remains standing. Within it, Rudi finds a beautifully made sword waiting for him-and once he takes it up, nothing will ever be the same... Land of the Dead by Thomas Harlan It’s a small change in our history: imagine that the Japanese made contact with the Aztec Empire. Instead of small-pox and Christianity, they brought an Imperial alliance, samurai ethics, and technology. By the time of these books, the Emperor in Mexico City rules not just the entire planet Earth, but a growing interplanetary Empire. But the Galaxy is not a hospitable place, and there are other powers, both new and very very old, who would stop the spread of the power in Anuhuac. A weapon of the Old Ones, from the time of the First Sun, has been found in a region of space. It must be investigated, then tamed or destroyed to keep it from the hands of opposing powers. Gretchen Anderssen, freelance archeologist and specialist in First Sun artifacts, has been hired by her old mentor Green Hummingbird, agent of the Mirror Service, to join him in the study. They will be joined by old friends, and some old enemies as well. The Storm Witch: A Novel of Dhulyn and Parno by Violette Malan The new fantasy adventure featuring Dhulyn and Parno. Mercenary Partners Dhulyn Wolfshead and Parno Lionsmane have returned to their Mercenary House to clear themselves of accusations of kidnapping and murder. But before they can resolve these charges, old friends are taken hostage by the Long Ocean Nomads, and they are forced to come to the rescue. And as they set sail, Dhulyn is convinced they are journeying to Parno's death, which she has foreseen in numerous visions of a drowning at sea. Flight of the Renshai by Mickey Zucker Reichert Prejudice against the Renshai is growing rapidly, fueled by their old enemies in the Northlands, who have convinced a faction in Erythane that the Renshai lands were stolen from them, forcing the King to banish the Renshai from the Westlands. Shunned by Westerners and hunted by Northmen, the Renshai will face many trials before rallying together against a common enemy determined to destroy them once and for all.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Too Busy to Blog....

I hate it when I can't post every day. It makes me feel like a flake. I've had some stuff come up, some family related and some just to do with the kids getting back in school, that has put me behind this week. I'm going to try to get up a "Name the Blog" contest up by the end of the day today with hopefully some good bribes prizes to encourage some entries. Something official should make an appearance later today. Thanks!