Sunday, November 29, 2009

Giveaway....

Head on over to my Giveaway Page for a chance to win a copy of the "Star Trek" memoir The View From the Bridge by Nicholas Meyer.

Anonymous Review of "Avatar" says it's "vomit inducing"

Sorry I haven't been around the last few days. I'm still recovering from my Thanksgiving food coma. But I came across this article that seems to have the same qualms about James Cameron's Avatar and it's heavy reliance on CGI. And it now appears that an anonymous reviewer who has seen large portions of the film doesn't like the computer generated effects either. I watch a lot of movies, and am especially obsessed with watching horrible films with inflated budgets. I was delighted to find that Avatar didn't disappoint in the absolutely horrible fetishizing of azure humanoids that James Cameron has obviously been drawing on the back covers of his notebooks since middle school and secretly getting off to in the gym locker room. The new technology they've been using to eliminate the headaches and sickness conducive to old 3D tech has not been used properly in the action scenes throughout Avatar. The problem is with cutting in between 3D focal points and perspective - the mind cannot adjust to it without a buffer - thus, Avatar is literally vomit inducing. But the movie itself, the story/acting/tone are alienating and weird. Of course there are very beautiful moments, with great editing/sound/art direction, but overall it's a horrible piece of sh**. The entirety of the Hollywood marketing machine is behind it, however, so it's going to make a boatload (eh I could slip a Titanic ref. whatever) of money. I don't know if this is the real deal. But if it is, the more than $200 million that has been spent making this movie could make Waterworld (Kevin Costner's mega bomb) look like a roaring success. We'll know soon enough.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Winners! "Mirrorscape" & "Sappire Sirens"

I'm going to be busy over the next couple of days. (Yaaa! Thanksgiving!) So I may be delayed until Friday in getting these shipped off, but I have the winners of two of my current contests. The winner of an ARC of Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks is.. Stacey Dempsey (Canada) and The winner of a copy of Sapphire Sirens by John Zakour is.. Sandro Pergameno (Italy) Congrats to both winners! I am in the process of picking the winners of the "Dark Void" contest I had up as well, I'm just confirming registration at the Dark Void site and when I have that I'll announce the winners.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Dr. Who" & "Torchwood" Giveaway!

I have a "Dr. Who" and "Torchwood" giveaway up on my GIVEAWAY PAGE. Be sure to head over to win and check out the contest being offered by BBC America--(They're offering up to $1000 worth of prizes for you and someone else-- just in time for Christmas).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The "Twilight" Wars are On!

I've made no secret of the fact that I'm not a big fan of the Twilight Saga, the huuuugely popular series by author Stephanie Meyer. So the release of the movie New Moon was kind of a non event for me. However I have noticed that for large numbers of young girls, and oddly, middle-aged women, "New Moon" is a biiig deal; and they will defend their love of the series to a surprising degree. Even more surprising is how vehement the opinions are of those who don't like the series. Opening night of "New Moon" was so huge that it looked as if it were going to break the record earnings "The Dark Knight" raked in; though ultimately the largely female audience couldn't match the broad appeal of Batman-- though it was a very, very close race. But huge revenue doesn't equal good reviews and the criticisms of the "Twilight Saga" have been harsh. Cracked.com has a article titled 7 Chick Flicks That Secretly Hate Women and "Twilight" comes in at #6 on their list... In Twilight, a boring-a** twitchy girl named Bella falls in love with a shiny vampire named Edward. And for some reason not explained by the movie, he loves her back. So just be your clumsy, mouth-breathing selves ladies. Someday, if you're skinny enough, someone exotic will love you for just being "you." And How Does This Hate Women? Take the vampirism from this movie and all you're left with is Ike and Tina right before Tina refuses to eat the cake. Edward stomps, broods, sneers and snidely tells his love interest to f*** off, but that's just the forbidden fruit angle Bella needs to stand around like a dumba** waiting for her stalker/boyfriend to confess his love/violent lust for her tasty blood. He'll confess a few MURDERS while he's at it. Bella sees his murderous lust and raises him a dead-eyed vacant stare and the flippant assurance that he'd never hurt her. This entire movie is one black-eyed-teen away from being a PSA from 1989. Ouch. "New Moon" doesn't fare any better on Rotten Tomatoes, garnering only a 29% favorable rating. Double ouch. Reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go pretty much as you'd expect criticism of a teen-angst film to run. If the first instalment of The Twilight Saga was a celebration of teenage sulkiness, then this sequel positively drowns in it. ~Digital Spy Pseudo-religious nonsense, with fangs. ~This is London Depending on your gender, age and Twihard-ness, this good-looking angst party is either a solid Meyer adaptation with quiver-worthy moments of hotness; or a wet, ludicrous, unintentionally-funny pile of steaming bathos. ~ Total Film Need I go on? But Twilighters will not be dissuaded. No amount of criticism will convince them that creator Stephanie Meyer is anything other than a genius. The movie is pure romance they say. I know this because voicing my opinion on the subject on other blogs has garnered a far stronger response than I every anticipated. And the most ardent supporters seem to be the older women who seem determined to find deeper meaning in the story. If you haven't seen or heard of this phenomenon, just go to TwilightMOMS and you'll see precisely what I'm talking about (though this particular site isn't exactly "deep" when it comes to content). It's surreal. What really boggles my mind is how polarizing a movie can be. I mean, those who love, really love it, and those who don't like it, hate it. There seems to be a determination on both sides to convince the other that their opinion is the right one. I can't tell you how many posts I've seen on my Facebook page from women who are giddy to see the movie and don't understand why anyone else wouldn't feel the same way. I pretty much stay mum on the subject. No need to lose friends over "Twilight." If I had to guess, I'd say the battle lines are drawn by the older women who are really into the saga. They claim they love the "romance" of the story while scoffing at the criticisms that it dismisses abusive behavior in young men. Younger women don't seem as invested in defending "Twilight" and I think it's because the older women are feeling a little defensive about getting into a teen romance-- teens have no need to defend being their age. Anyway. It's certainly an interesting phenomenon to watch. Since I don't have a stake in the argument, I've been reading the comments across the blogosphere with interest-- both pro and con, and the passion behind the opinions has been startling. So, what say you? Do you think this war will die down with all the bad reviews? Or do you think this is a phenomenon that will continue to defy the critics?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Bone Crossed" by Patricia Briggs

Paranormal fiction is a hit or miss genre for me. Most books fall into the vampire or werewolf sub-genres, though it's becoming increasingly common for authors to incorporate ghosts, demons and other fey creatures into an urban backdrop. Patricia Briggs brings them all and she's one of the most reliable writers in the field. Bone Crossed, Briggs' fourth book in the Mercy Thompson series, follows the story of a skinwalker named Mercedes (the VW mechanic) who was raised by werewolves. Skinwalkers, Native American's who have the ability to magically change into animal form, are rare and Mercy has spent most of her life not knowing much about her abilities other than the fact that she can change into a coyote. But skinwalkers have an unusual affinity for ghosts and, Mercy is discovering, some vampire hunting abilities as well. Mercy has never sought to put herself in the middle of vampire or werewolf politics, but both groups find her strangely compelling and whether she wills it or not, she frequently ends up in dangerous clashes between the two. The third book of the Mercy Thompson series was the darkest chapter in Mercy's experiences so far, and in this fourth installment, Mercy is coping with the aftermath just as she's being drawn into another deadly situation. Amber, one of Mercy's college friends and former roommate, shows up on her doorstep unexpectedly with a plea for help. Amber's son is being haunted and the situation is rapidly getting out of control. Knowing that Mercy can see ghosts, Amber begs Mercy for help. Wanting to gain some distance from recent events, Mercy agrees to go with Amber, but, once again, there's more to the situation than meets the eye. Complicating the situation is Mercy's relationship with the werewolf alpha, Adam, who has convinced Mercy to be his mate, even though many wolves in the pack don't like the fact that Mercy is a coyote. "Bone Crossed" is very much like the rest of the Mercy Thompson series in that it's very busy for a relatively small book-- just over 300 pages. Mercy bounces between the wolf-pack, various vampire attackers and her friend, all while trying to deal with some fairly heavy emotional baggage. But Briggs is good at dealing with multiple threads to the story and it never feels overly confusing. The main strength of the series is the character of Mercy Thompson. She's a well rounded and likable main character. She's someone who's used to being the outsider and she's tough and self-reliant. At the same time, she's vulnerable and gun shy when it comes to trusting others, but she never comes off as bitter or angry. In short, she's a relatable main character that's easy to root for. I also appreciate that this particular series continues to move forward and introduce new elements to the usual urban fantasy tropes. Like most paranormal fiction "Bone Crossed" isn't Shakespeare, but it's pretty darned entertaining if you're a fan of the style and Briggs continues to be one of the consistently better authors in the genre.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Killing Me With CGI

So the hype these days is all about James Cameron's Avatar. Honestly, I don't know much about it other than the trailers show a whole lot of computer generated imagery (CGI). Which I suppose is in keeping with the synopsis... Avatar is set during the 22nd century on a small moon called Pandora, which orbits a gas giant, and is inhabited by the tribal Na'vi, ten foot blue humanoids that are peaceful unless attacked. Humans cannot breathe Pandoran air, so they genetically engineer human/Na'vi hybrids known as Avatars that can be controlled via a mental link. A paralyzed Marine named Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) volunteers to exist as an Avatar on Pandora, falling in love with a Na'vi princess and becoming caught up in the conflict between her people and the human military that is consuming their world. But I'm skeptical. Haven't we learned from Jar Jar Binks? Done well, and sparingly, CGI can be a great thing. Off the top of my head I can think of some great CGI. The Abyss, one of my all-time favorite movies (and coincidentally a James Cameron film) has wonderful moments of CGI-- most notably the "water tentacle" that is controlled by the underwater alien life. Cameron also hit a home run with Terminator 2: Judgement Day. But even in the hands of a skilled director, CGI can kill a film. The Matrix is one of the most original films of the last decade. It had everything from an inventive plot, lots of action and terrific effects. When that movie ended I though I can't wait to see more of this... and then, they screwed it up with waaaay too many special effects. By the time Matrix Revolutions came around, I just wanted to be put out of my misery. And the list goes on. The Hulk brought us a ridiculously over-sized green monster that was never convincing on screen. Van Helsing made the Frankenstein monster look ridiculous. Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull... well, that was just torture topped with aliens. And do I even need to mention the wreck that George Lucas made of "Star Wars?" So the question becomes, can a movie, that isn't animated, survive being primarily CGI? Will this be a hit or a miss? ((The audio on this sucks on my computer. But it's the only new trailer I can seem to embed))

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

"Salt" Trailer

I love espionage films... Not sure this one offers anything new, but it looks fun enough.

R.I.P. Edward Woodward 1930-2009

Edward Woodward is one of those actors who hit quite a bit before my time. But I'll always know his name from The Equalizer, an 80's vigilante-themed TV series that found its way to our television set every week. But if you look at his resume, he was an actor with an impressive range starring in everything from Breaker Morant, the original Wicker Man to a featured role on the television series La Femme Nikita. The Time Online goes into some detail on his career in their obit: His greatest commercial success came almost two decades later in the American series The Equalizer in which he played Robert McCall, a former secret service agent turned urban vigilante. In 1973 Woodward earned a place in cinematic history with a starring role in the horror movie The Wicker Man, in which he played a devoutly Christian police sergeant called to investigate the disappearance of a young girl from a sinister paganist community on a remote Scottish island. The film, in which Woodward played alongside Christopher Lee and Britt Ekland, quickly achieved the status of cult classic. Its director, Robin Hardy, said of Woodward today: "He was one of the greatest actors of his generation, without any question, with a broad career on American television as well as British film. "He was an absolute star of The Wicker Man. He was an extremely nice human being." Woodward had been suffering from various illnesses, including pneumonia, and died in hospital, said his agent, Janet Glass. She said: "Universally loved and admired through his unforgettable roles in classic productions such as Breaker Morant, The Wicker Man, Callan, The Equalizer and many more, he was equally fine and courageous in real life, never losing his brave spirit and wonderful humour throughout his illness. Rest in peace Edward.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Winner! "ArchEnemy" by Frank Bedor

Where does the time go? I am so late on finishing this contest. But I gotta get around to it sometimes, right? Luckily, I'm much more punctual when it comes to shipping off the prizes. I have randomly selected a winner to receive a copy of "ArchEnemy" by Frank Bedor and the winner is... Hailey Miller of East Stroudsburg, Pa Congrats Hailey!

"A Mage of None Magic" by A. Christopher Drown

Title: "A Mage of None Magic" Author: A. Christopher Drown Pages: 276 Genre: High Fantasy Series/Standalone: Book 1 of the Heart of the Sisters Publisher: Tyrannosaurus Press I received “A Mage of None Magic” courtesy of Mister Drown himself as an ARC, which I am happy to report tickled my reviewer ego. I mean who doesn’t love receiving an ARC? I also feel quite guilty for neglecting this title, even though I have completed it in August. It was a rather busy period that summer, so this must have fallen through the cracks. Thankfully I had scribbled down the essence for the review, but first let’s visit the story, summarized in the official blurb:
Folklore tells how magic came to be when evil gods shattered the fabled gem known as the Heart of the Sisters. Those same stories speak of the Heart being healed and unleashing a power that will bring the end of humankind. While travelling to begin his magical studies , young apprentice Niel suddenly finds himself at the center of the Heart’s terrifying legend. Caught in a whirlwind of events that fractures the foundation of everything he’s believed, Niel learns his role in the world may be far more important than he ever could have imagined, or ever would have wished. A Mage of None Magic begins an extraordinary adventure into a perilous land where autocratic magicians manipulate an idle aristocracy, where common academia struggles for validation, and where after ages of disregard the mythical refuses to be ignored any longer.
“A Mage of None Magic” is based on the principle “what you see is what you get” in sense that no shocking surprises jump at your imagination and the epic world saving quest genre hasn’t moved an inch. Drown revisits the old as the world itself tropes, polishes them a bit and then rearranges them into the story every traditional fantasy reader has been brought up with. Let’s revisit the recipe. Unlikely young hero, who has been thrown into the big frightening world with responsibilities, both hidden and known? Check. Prophecy? Check. The quest to save the world from an ancient evil? Check. Motley crew of adventurers, who have are bound to stay together with dark pasts, funny antics and humorous group dynamics? Check. As you can see Drown is juggling with many clichés and I gather that for the readers that would be in search for the gritty, new and uncharted territories this book won’t appeal to them. But then again why not return to the more lighthearted, positive and humorous tradition quest fantasy? Yes, gritty, dark and tensed stories is where most genres have redirected themselves, but every once in awhile it would be nice to be involved with a story that has that happy spark you get to experience a bit of wonderment and some jokes. I think that this is what Drown has in mind and relies on. I enjoyed the prose, which was above average and had a melodious quality to it throughout the whole novel. Dialogue left me with mixed feelings, since there were genuinely good ones that enamored me in the story and then there were snippets, where the magic whisked out and I lost connection a bit. Good natured humor and verbal swashbuckling came naturally into the adventurers’ group dynamic, which is harder to achieve that one would suppose. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that each character manages to steal some spotlight and reveal a well crafted background. My personal favorite still remains Ennalen, the College magistrate, who after coming in possession of a Heart’s shard transforms from morally bound academic into a plotting, scheming and deluded Machiavellian character with her own theories about the mythology of the Heart and the Mage of None Magic. There are naturally certain aspects that I didn’t enjoy. The insufficient length has affected the world building and environment explanations and descriptions. I wish I would have a further glimpse into the Galiiantha, their ways, their history and their magic and sense their culture in its entirety. I also wouldn’t mind some insight into the College magic system in greater detail as well as some traveling notes that would give me sceneries to imagine. I’m also not buying how easily Niel has been accepted and trusted into the group. There is no transition from an outsider to an insider and although I do think the ending was action packed and tensed it reached its climax a bit too fast for my liking. As a conclusion I would have to say that “A Mage of None Magic” makes a good beach read and certainly will be a great choice for the nostalgic high fantasy with a quest reader that will leave you charged for a few days.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Servant of a Dark God by John Brown

Servant of a Dark God – by John Brown Like the previous book I reviewed (The Magicians), Servant of a Dark God had many similarities. An awesome book cover, heaps of early fanfare before its release and also being highly recommended by many established authors. One thing is for sure, Servant of a Dark God is a complex detailed epic fantasy read that brings you on a mazy and rollercoaster-esque ride.

Synopsis from Publisher’s Weekly “In Brown's engrossing debut, the first installment of the Dark Gods saga, one of the mysterious Divines, godlike rulers capable of harvesting a person's life force, has vanished. Young Talen's relatively idyllic life is turned upside down when his family is accused of being soul-eaters who worship a twisted god. Pursued by fearful clansmen and a nightmarish earthen monstrosity known only as Hunger, Talen begins to investigate his latent world-changing abilities. Soon he learns of his family's extensive role in the enigmatic Order, whose mission is to break the yoke of the Divines, and the nature of the dark power that hunts them. Brown's narrative takes a few hundred pages to get up to speed, but the latter parts are breakneck-paced and action-packed. Patient readers will be rewarded with a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy adventure.”

Review: From the synopsis, it would be easy to classify this as another run-of-the-mill epic fantasy novel, that has all the usual elements: coming-of-age protagonist, the Evil in the world that needs to be overcome, etc. Fortunately, John Brown gave enough variation to this familiar Epic Fantasy theme to make it his own. Personally, I appreciated the dark tone that the book was written in. I also almost thrust my hand in victory when I realized that that would be no quest involved. The real value proposition though is the highly detailed and complex world that John Brown as managed to create. A bad habit of mind when I plough through books, is to quickly bring to mind books in similar veins. In John Brown’s case, the epic-ness of the world he created bears similarities to that of the late Robert Jordan. And for fans of intricate magic systems like that of David Farland, I think that Servant of the Dark God will be a book that you would enjoy immensely.

With all the praises I have heaped on this book, it is quite obvious that there are many rough edges to the story. While reading, I found the pacing a problem which made me having to gloss over many sections. Above that, the highly complex and rich world that John created sort of got away from him. I felt confused on numerous occasions and was thankful for the glossary at the back. For fans of stories centered around world building, this just might be your cup of tea. In terms of character development, I felt that John did a decent job. I felt emotional attachment to the characters and loved certain portions of their interactions. In summary, I felt slightly disappointed by John Brown’s execution. The book had so much potential, but it did not really live up to my expectations. That said, the book did just enough to pique my interest and I will definitely be picking up the sequel to give it another shot.

7/10

Reviewed by Ben

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Looking for Some Help in Picking the Best Book Covers...

I got a fun email from All Things Urban Fantasy asking for some nominations for the best urban fantasy book covers and I thought I'd throw the question out to the urban fantasy fans out there. Because I'm a blog owner who primarily focuses on topics related to fantasy, I get to add my 2 cents to the nominations. The problem is that my taste runs in so many directions that I'm sure I'll overlook tons of covers. Mostly, though, I think the categories are a hoot, so I'd love to see what everyone else comes up with. Nominated books must meet the following eligibility terms: 1. Have been/will be released between January 1st and December 31st of 2009 2. Categorized as Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Dark Fantasy, Paranormal YA, or contain paranormal elements • Best Foreign (non US) Cover 1. 2. 3. • Best Anthology Cover 1. 2. 3. • Best Partial Body Cover 1. 2. 3. • Best YA Cover 1. 2. 3. • Best Chic-Lit Style Cover 1. 2. 3. • Best Male Only Cover 1. 2. 3. • Best Female Only Cover 1. 2. 3. • Best Duo Cover 1. 2. 3. • Best Male/Female with Animal Cover 1. 2. 3. • Best Floating Head Cover 1. 2. 3. • Most Unique Cover 1. 2. 3. • Best Debut Cover (a new author, or a new series/standalone for an established author) 1. 2. 3. • *Best Covers in a Series (Books published prior to 2009 may be nominated) 1. 2. 3. • *Most Anticipated Cover for 2010 (published between Jan 1st and Dec 31st 2010) 1. 2. 3. Let me know if you have any nominations I can add to the list, and I'll pass them on. If you happen to be a writer and have a cover you'd like to submit-- please do!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Magazine Review: Interzone #224

As a new subscriber to Interzone, I have to say that I am very pleased with my first delivered issue. #224, while certainly not perfect, is definitely a prime example of why Interzone gets as much hype as it does from those who have been with the magazine for a while. From its beautifully illustrated cover to its illustrated interior and delicious content, #224 is certainly a good start for a new subscriber. #224 contains five short stories, a handful of book reviews, and a relentlessly critical movie and TV review section. The stories are, for the most part, quite good, with “Sublimation Angels” by Jason Sanford, “Shucked” by Adrian Joyce, and “The Festival of Tethselem” by Chris Butler taking the cake for most enjoyable. “No Longer You” by Katherine Sparrow and Rachel Swirsky and “The Godfall’s Chemsong” by Jeremiah Tolbert are both interesting stories, but were not my favorites here. Fiction Sanford’s tale, while not as weird as some of his other shorts, is unique in that it continues his tradition of secluding the reader (and characters) from a definitive past; “Sublimation Angels” is also a prime example of what happens when you mix interesting SF concepts with a dash of weird. “Shucked” by Adrian Joyce will likely keep cyberpunk fans grinning. What stuck with me about Joyce’s piece was its nod to those annoying email advertisements we all get, only in a far more futuristic setting; I don’t know if anything has been done like this before, and if not, well, kudos to Joyce. “The Festival of Tethselem” is a strange, but unique story that disrupts any notion of linear history. It’s hard to describe Butler’s piece without ruining it. There are a lot of interesting concepts running through “The Festival of Tethselem,” and the way things end up was not only a surprise, but pretty cool (in my book). “No Longer You,” was, to me, the weakest of the stories in this issue. Half the story is spent setting up the character, but, for me, I need that flash of something fantastic in the first page or so before I get bored. The result? I was bored until the end, when the fantastic elements started to come together and give me something more. “The Godfall’s Chemsong,” however, was an imperfect, but intriguing story that had a really interesting idea; I’d like to see Tolbert write more in this world, because I think there are more stories to tell. The Rest My favorite non-fiction section would have to be the movie and TV reviews by Nick Lowe and Tony Lee. Both are phenomenal at making reviews entertaining. They’re not just reviews, but little stories told through criticism. Both Lowe and Lee have unique review styles and I had a lot of fun reading through their biting remarks. I can’t say this is true of any other review section in any magazine. I rarely read the reviews in Realms of Fantasy or Analog (or any others I happen to get from time to time), but I know that I will always go to this section first when reading Interzone. Overall, Interzone #224 is a damn good set of stories and other goodies. I have to admit that I was surprised that I would enjoy it as much as I did. I am a picky reader, so the fact that I finished this issue in a couple days amidst all my other duties as a graduate student should indicate how good the magazine is. I suppose it helped that my first issue contained a story by Jason Sanford, who had earlier become one of my favorite short-form authors. We’ll see what happens with the next issue! For now, if you’d like to learn more about Interzone, head on over to their website. Subscriptions are actually quite reasonable and you should definitely give them a good look!

Quick Note--

I have now been informed by a certain advertiser that I cannot have giveaways unless they are coupled with a review on this page. *Sigh* I may take this advertising off. It doesn't pay well enough to muck up my page. While I'm thinking about it, I'll leave all my giveaways on the Giveaway Page. The ones I have going currently are: "The Sapphire Sirens" by John Zakour "Mirrorscape" by Mike Wilks The Dark Void video game contest and "ArchEnemy" by Frank Bedor-- which is due to end. Thanks everyone.

The Magicians - Lev Grossman

Hi everyone! I've recently joined Teresa's team and this is my very first post! I reside in Singapore and have been reading fantasy books since the age of 11. For my very first review, this was a book that was released not long ago. Hearing good things about it, I went down to Borders to get myself a copy of The Magicians by Lev Grossman. Synopsis (from Publishers Weekly): 'Harry Potter discovers Narnia is real in this derivative fantasy thriller from Time book critic Grossman (Codex). Quentin Coldwater, a Brooklyn high school student devoted to a children's series set in the Narnia-like world of Fillory, is leading an aimless existence until he's tapped to enter a mysterious portal that leads to Brakebills College, an exclusive academy where he's taught magic. Coldwater, whose special gifts enable him to skip grades, finds his family's world mundane and domestic when he returns home for vacation. He loses his innocence after a prank unintentionally allows a powerful evil force known only as the Beast to enter the college and wreak havoc. Eventually, Coldwater's powers are put to the test when he learns that Fillory is a real place and how he can journey there. Genre fans will easily pick up the many nods to J.K. Rowling and C.S. Lewis, not to mention J.R.R. Tolkien in the climactic battle between the bad guy and a magician.' Review: The Magicians by Lev Grossman was an engaging read. A hybrid of Harry Potter meets Narnia with a good pinch of societal/ teenage angst, I could not help but be pulled into both worlds (the 'real world' and Fillory) that Grossman created. I understand that people keep refering to this as an Adult Harry Potter book. I vehemently disagree. In fact, the only similarity I found was that Quentin, like Harry Potter, went to a wizard school. And that is where the similarities end. In fact, for some strange reason, the cynical depressing undertones and attitude of the characters in the story reminded me more of Hancock in how added powers need not necesarily add up to greater happiness. The Magicians tells the tale of people being thrust into something they thought they would like, but finding out that what they wanted doesn't really mean a lot and it doesn't solve all the other problems and temptations that young adults face. Drugs, alcohol and even relationships. It's something that most people can relate to and that is what makes the story so interesting. In short, it's not a coming of age story. But a moral story selling the idea of being careful for what you wish for, you just might get it. This is definitely a novel that I'd be happy to read again. I enjoyed the writing and I like how Grossman separates different story arcs into different books. I found the pacing excellent and even the ending could not take away the awe i had for this book. Lev Grossman is certainly a talented writer, and The Magicians is a great novel. One of my top 10 reads of the year. 9/10. A must read Reviewed by Ben

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Contest Glitch--- Dark Void & Mirrorscape

I'm not sure what happened, but the forms I used for my Dark Void and Mirrorscape contests had stopped working and they were deleted from the site I get my forms from. I think I may have logged in incorrectly somehow -- so the error is mine. What that means is that I need anyone who had entered the contests to re-enter their information into the forms I have reposted on the contest posts. I have to go on the honor system regarding the Dark Void contest, so if you had answered the question on the page for an extra entry, please just put a +3 in the entry form so I know to add extra entries for you. I'm so sorry for any inconvenience. I will not throw out any multiple entries for these contests (as longs as we're not talking many, many entries). I just want to make sure that everyone who entered has a chance to win their prizes.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Giveaway! "The Sapphire Sirens" by John Zakour

Let's hear it for some of the best covers in sci-fi fiction! Thanks to Penguin Books I have the latest in the Zach Johnson sci-fi/noir detective series by John Zakour up for grabs. The Sapphire Sirens Zach Johnson, the world's last freelance detective, has been man-napped by the beautiful sapphire-haired Amazon Kiana. She's brought him to her home island of Lantis-where the women dominate men with their words-to discover who killed her mother, the Queen. But to save the day this time, Zach and his holographic A.I. sidekick HARV have to tangle with not just one gorgeous superwoman, but four. Each of Kiana's three sisters could have the motive and the means to pull off the crime-and now that you mention it, Kiana could too... To enter, just add your information into the form below (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once the contest ends) and I will randomly pick a winner by Tuesday November 24th. No multiple entries. Open everywhere. Good luck! **Contest Closed**

Sunday, November 08, 2009

So Bad, I'm Insulted

Lately I've been wondering if my ability to distinguish from good and bad entertainment has gone askew. It seems like, lately, I like pretty much everything. All the books I read are entertaining and all the tv shows are well written. Not necessarily a good thing if you're trying to pass on recommendations and keep your credibility. As an example, I wrote a positive review of the tv show "V," and then read some comments on another site that pointed out some holes in the plot a mile wide. And I thought, he's right. How did I miss that? Then again, "V" is one of those shows that can close the plot holes over the next few weeks and my thumbs-up reaction may be justified. But still, I've been wondering-- until I tried to watch G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and I was forcibly reminded of what a really, really bad movie looks like. Let me just state, beforehand, that I didn't finish the movie. I didn't even come close. What a full on piece of crap this movie is. It's so bad I can't believe it got a 37% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. I wasn't a faithful watcher of G.I. Joe as a kid, so I'm only loosely acquainted with the overall plot of the cartoon this movie is based on. I do know that the movie is a bastardized version of the original show, which had been called "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero." Apparently Americanism is not something that is considered fashionable anymore since the G.I Joe team is now some sort of international fighting force based in North Africa. Normally a movie that incorporates this kind of theme wouldn't bother me in the slightest, but the original cartoon had the words a real American hero in the title. Why bother to make the movie if you're not interested in following the story as it was intended? Obviously the producers of the movie were hoping to cash in on the nostalgia that made the first "Transformers" movie such a hit (I'll address the train wreck that was "Transformers II" in a second). But I'm always game when it comes to anything that resembles a comic-book hero movie, so I gave it a chance. Only who knew that a movie with such horrible acting and writing could make it to the big screen? I'll be honest, I didn't really try to follow this mess. The lead actor of the film Channing Tatum, who plays Duke-- the original field commander of the original G.I. Joe series-- has got to be one of the worst actors. Ever. Every line he delivers is wooden and unconvincing. I swear, you could see him reading off of the cue cards. And as the movie continued I began to wonder if the real problem was the acting or the directing. Even Dennis Quaid (General Hawk) seemed as if he was still rehearsing the script-- and I know he's a decent actor. So what gives? Just last year one of the best, if not the best, superhero films was released and "The Dark Knight" solidified the genre as a bona fide moneymaker-- if it's done right. And "Iron Man" continued the trend. But Hollywood just can't seem to understand that audiences are smart enough to know quality when they see it and they persist in insulting our intelligence by pumping out crap like "G. I. Joe" and the latest "Transformers" movie. Where do I start with "Transformers?" I was one of those people who was able to enjoy the original "Transformers" movie even though parts of it were stupid beyond belief. Seeing Bumblebee pee oil on John Turturro was puerile at best, but I could watch the movie with my kids and that becomes a plus when you're used to only going to the theater to watch cartoons. But what was the saving grace of the first movie was completely destroyed when Michael Bay (and are we really surprised here?) decided to aim for the lowest common denominator when he made Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I couldn't finish this one either. "Transformers" doesn't suffer from bad acting as much as "G. I. Joe" does. I mean, the actors do what they can with an abysmal script. No, where this one goes wrong is by pandering to the tastes of 14-year-old boys (no offense to any 14-year-old boys who may be reading this). You've got humping dogs, a really stupid parent who unwittingly ingests pot-laden brownies when she should have known better and a so-so looking guy who won't tell his incredibly hot girlfriend he loves her. Oh, and a robot that lives in the garage who destroys the house on a moment's notice. Add to that an incomprehensible script and pointless action, and you have yet another classic Michael Bay film-- only worse than usual. Yeah, maybe I'm being mean. But I resent the heck out of such sloppy movie-making. Clearly, Hollywood has decided we're all a bunch of morons who are willing to pay an exorbitant amount of money to spend two hours in a movie theater eating greasy popcorn and mindlessly watching whatever they put on the screen. If the studios aren't already going bankrupt, they will be soon at this rate. And the new Christopher Nolan Batman movie hasn't even started filming yet... I could weep.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Book Review: Angel of Death by J. Robert King

I'm not sure what it is as of late, but I have become a magnet for the strange, and by that I mean those novels that contain something so twisted and freakish that you start to wonder if maybe the author is a little too close to these characters and that you should be worried. But then you remind yourself that the author doesn't have your address, just the publisher, and that means you can move before anyone finds out where you live and comes knocking. Maybe that's just my paranoia talking. Angel of Death is one of those strange novels: twisted and detailed in ways that make you uncomfortable, stylistically gripping, and otherwise a romping good read. And dare I say that J. Robert King has put together something that makes all those movies and books about angels look like child's play? Yes, I dare say. Angel of Death is hard to describe. The story opens with a serial killer and a metaphysical figure who directs the gruesome killings and accidental deaths of the day--an angel of death, if you will. But when he meets Donna Leland, lead investigator/detective on the serial killer's case, this angel of death finds himself thrust into the real world, rejected by the angelic home he once was a part of. What follows is a dark, terrifying fall into madness and an uncomfortable reminder of how fragile the human condition really is, especially for one who might never have been human before. Angel of Death is the second book from Angry Robot Books that I have read and loved, though for entirely different reasons. What is most striking, for me, is how King puts you into the mayhem, into the minds of serial killers, the detectives who hunt them, and the innocents who suffer as a consequence. From the start you are thrust right into the mind of death itself, a disconcerting experience for sure, but a memorable one. The result is that King has managed write a thoroughly enjoyable story despite being in a genre that I normally would not find all that appealing (detective mysteries). His twisting of convention, if such a thing is fair to say, has resurfaced all those old, long-forgotten childish joys resurface. I want more of these dark murder mysteries. King's novel is somewhat like reading a novelization of one of the Saw movies, but with a splash of the fantastic (or seemingly fantastic). A lot of what makes this novel so much more than just another story about fallen angels is that King fiddles with reality in such a profound way that by the end you're not entirely sure what is real and what is imagined. Philip K. Dick did this well, but King is somewhat more subtle about it, despite the characters having very little in the way of subtlety attached to them. The only problem with Angel of Death is that it takes some time to get into the gritty, page-turning stuff. The first part of the novel is entertaining, but it is the last two-thirds that changes everything. That first third had me curious, and when I ventured into the unknown territory of part two, I couldn't put the book down--someone probably saw me walking and reading on campus over the last few days. Those who are fans of dark murder mysteries, Andy Remic, the Saw movies (the early ones, not the last three or four), and other twisted tales will certainly enjoy Angel of Death. If you're not one for serial murders and the macabre, even in a powerful form as presented in King's novel, then you should find something else. Angel of Death is a book for those who want that dark edge. You can learn more about Angel of Death at Angry Robot Books. J. Robert King can be found at his website and Angel of Death is available online through Angry Robot Books or Amazon.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Winner! "Red Claw" by Philip Palmer

I have randomly selected the winner of my "Red Claw" (by Philip Palmer) giveaway and the winner is-- Lindsay Frost, Portland OR Congrats Lindsay! I hope you enjoy the book.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Survival By Storytelling Mag, Issue One Released!

(SQT was kind enough to let me post this here; thanks so much!) I wanted to let you all know about a new magazine called Survival By Storytelling. We recently released our first issue and are trying to let as many people as we can know about it! Survival By Storytelling features fiction, articles, and poetry by young authors (25 and under). Our first issue is packed full of stories spanning a wide range of genres, from fantasy to just plain strange. On top of that, we have commissioned articles from published authors. Here's the cover blurb:
Survival By Storytelling Magazine is dedicated to publishing fiction, poetry, and non-fiction by young authors. Included in this volume are twelve short stories, seven poems, and one article, all by authors under the age of twenty-five. In addition, authors Paul Genesse (The Golden Cord and The Dragon Hunters) and T. M. Hunter (Heroes Die Young) have contributed two articles on the publishing industry and writing. From vampires struggling with identity to guilty lovers trying to raise the dead to humorous and dark tales of life, the first issue of Survival By Storytelling is sure to tingle the senses and remind us all that age has nothing to do with a good story!
The magazine is an extension of Young Writers Online, a web community and writer's workshop for young writers, and several members of YWO are actually in the first issue. It is also non-profit. All proceeds go to paying the contributors, and a small cut goes to funding YWO, which is also non-profit. SBS is on sale through Lulu and will soon be up on Createspace and Amazon (the latter two require a different process for publication, so it has taking us a bit of extra time to get things settled there). The magazine is in print ($9) and digital formats ($5) through Lulu. We're also holding a sale throughout the month of November. When you enter the code GREATBOOK at checkout, you will save 10% off the book. It expires at the end of the month, but since all proceeds go to the contributors or YWO, it's worth the few bucks to snatch up a copy now! If you're interested in learning more about SBS, feel free to check out our release notes or our website. Any questions regarding the magazine can be left here in the comments or directed to me at sbsmag[at]yahoo[dot]com. We're (hopefully) going to have a "Letters to the Editor" feature in the next issue, so any thoughts you have about SBS are greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Series Premier Review: "V"

**Spoilers Included in Review** I'm at the age when shows I grew up with are now being remade with some regularity. Sometimes it works out well, BSG-- good, other times not so much, Bionic Woman-- bad. I was in high school when "V" the miniseries first aired and it was love the first time I saw the alien leader Diana eat a live rat. Yeah, I was always this weird. But there was a lot to love about the original series. It wasn't just the aliens, but the social commentary. There was an intentional subtext to the show that drew strong parallels to Nazi Germany including everything from SS-style uniforms to a pseudo-Hitler Youth. Intertwined with all the special effects was the cautionary tale of becoming too enamored with anyone offering anything that seems too good to be true. So the question in my mind was whether or not the revamped version of the original show stayed true to the original. Turns out, the newest series seems to have a few things to say about our current political climate. The first thing we see as the show opens are the words "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" "Where were you on 9/11?" and "Where were you this morning?" as the alien ships come into view. Scattered all over the world, the alien ships make their presence known through the tremors that shake the Earth and the military jets that fall from the sky. As panic begins to spread a giant image of the alien leader, Anna (Morena Baccarin from "Firefly"), appears on the bottom of the giant ships with a message of peace. Shockingly, they look just like us. Saying that they need resources that are plentiful on Earth, the aliens offer to trade advanced technology in return for our help. Predictably, people on Earth react with either varying degrees of adoration and suspicion to the "Visitors" as they become known. FBI Counter Terrorism Agent Erica Evans (Elizabeth Mitchell from "Lost") is one of the skeptical ones and notices almost immediately that one particular terrorist cell is unusually active when the aliens arrive. As Agent Evans tracks down information on the terrorist cell her son Tyler (Logan Huffman) becomes increasingly enamored of the Visitors, visiting their ship and vandalizing property with the large red "V" that has come to symbolize their presence. The Visitors work to ingratiate themselves with humanity as quickly as possible with their medical technology that cures many previously incurable diseases. But there is still a feeling of unease that permeates the population, as Father Jack Landry (Joel Gretch from "The 4400") quickly notices as his church experiences a sudden boom in attendance. Father Landry has his own doubts about where the aliens fit within his preconceived notions of God, but is told by his superiors to embrace the alien presence-- which only further increases his feelings that something is wrong. The show moves at a pretty good pace since it has to establish itself quickly but does a good job at laying a solid foundation. But, by far, the most intriguing thing about the show is the political subtext. The Visitors are determined to be portrayed as benign and helpful. As noted by a reporter soon after their arrival, they are uniformly attractive and many people are quickly drawn to the beautiful mystery they represent. The Visitors quickly try to make themselves indispensable by pushing their miraculous medical technology-- with the same reporter asking with some unease-- "you're proposing universal health care?" As the populace becomes more divided among supporters and protesters, Anna insists on giving an interview to be broadcast across the globe with one stipulation-- no questions can be asked that will portray her in a negative light. What was a commentary about Nazi Germany in the original series could now be construed to be a jab at what many call Obamamania. Given the context of the original series I don't think "V" is going to have any drawn out anti-Obama message. I think it's merely trying to expand on the message of the earlier show by skewering any over-blown adoration of a public figure, which, given the "Peace Ambassador" program, designed to appeal to the world's youth, is likely to return to the reminders of Nazi Germany. Additionally, the Visitors are represented by one leader, but she isn't enough on her own to create the kind of devotion given to them, as they all display a kind of strange disconnect to human emotion. Yet the allusions to current U.S. politics are impossible to miss. And frankly, I admire any show willing to take on that hot potato. Unlike most political leaders, they don't make promises so much as immediately deliver what appears to be the cure to all our problems. And like pretty-much all political maneuvering, the cost of the solutions are not revealed until after we're already on the hook. And if the premier is any indication, I don't think there are going to be any sacred cows as far as the show is concerned-- with Father Landry being the voice in our head that wonders what in our religious pantheon covers alien invasions. I liked the show a lot. I think it's the best premier I've seen so far this season. I know my opinion is somewhat swayed by my nostalgia toward the old series but I think this updated version succeeds quite well. Seeing old favorites from "Firefly" (Baccarin as well as Alan Tudyk) was great and it's been rumored that regulars from the original series might be making an appearance in future episodes. I also know that the show's producers have promised to include some of the memorable events from the original show -- with some twists of course-- into this new incarnation. So there's a lot to entice me to keep watching. And you know I will.

Another Video Game Gets The Movie Treatment

I don't play video games -- other than Guitar Hero (and that phase has really passed) so I'm not familiar with The Prince of Persia game. But it must be popular since it now has a movie, due to be released in the Summer of 2010 and stars Jake Gyllenhaal. The trailer doesn't look half bad though. Better than many video-game flicks. (( Totally unrelated. But is anyone else looking forward to watching "V" tonight? ))

Sunday, November 01, 2009

"On the Edge" by Ilona Andrews

"Hurry, child." Mémère's voice urged Georgie up the ladder. He squirmed up the steps into the attic and scooted aside, offering her his hand. She climbed up, carrying one of Grandpa's guns. They pulled the ladder up and the trapdoor shut with a slap. Mémère slid the latch closed. It wouldn't help. The beasts would find them. They both knew it. "It will be fine." Mémère murmured. "It will be fine. We're going to cast a spell..." "They eat magic Mémère," Georgie said softly. "They like it." She stopped. "That's what Rose said." Porcelain shattered downstairs. Icy alarm shot through Georgie. He jerked. Mémère's arms closed about him. Another dish crashed. Something was moving through the kitchen. "Be very silent, child." Mémère whispered in his ear. "Quiet like a mouse." Silence reigned. A long minute passed. Around them the attic lay dim, empty except for a few boxes. A fine layer of dust covered the floor. Barely any light penetrated through the wooden slits of the closed shutter that guarded a single tiny window. Georgie felt the hounds' magic. It hovered on the edge of his senses, waiting quietly and patiently, waiting for them to use their power so it could pounce. The eerie sound of claws scratching at the walls nearly made Georgie jump. He clung to Mémère. She bit her lip and hugged him closer. He couldn't let the hounds get her. Not Mémère. But if he opened his mind, their magic would get him. Terror squirmed though Georgie. Claws skittered on the roof. Something bumped downstairs, directly under them. The beasts knew where they hid. Georgie shivered. His teeth chattered, his fingers and toes gone ice-cold. He couldn't let them get Mémère. ~Excerpt from On the Edge by Ilona Andrews Sometimes I really like to read paranormal fiction, but it can be one of the hardest cravings to satisfy. For some reason paranormal fiction has been largely morphed into the paranormal-romance genre and it's not uncommon to stumble onto some really bad, bosom heaving fiction. But every once in awhile, you find a little gem of a book that offers something original and entertaining-- like the newest one by Ilona Andrews. Rose Drayton lives in a world known as the Edge. It lies between the mortal world, known as the Broken, and a magical world known as the Weird. Edgers, as the people like Rose call themselves, are able to use magic to a limited degree, though they are not typically as strong as magic users that come from the Weird. Life in the Edge is hard because Edgers cannot stand living in the Broken for too long, which makes getting a good education, or a well paying job, very hard. After the death of her mother and the abandonment of her father, Rose has been eking out a living as a house cleaner and raising her two younger brothers, Georgie and Jack. Among Rose's challenges are the talents of her brothers. Georgie can bring the dead back to life, though it costs him his own life energy, and Jack is a shape shifter. Like her brothers, Rose is uncommonly powerful and it sets her apart from the other residents of the Edge, and makes her particularly attractive to men from the Weird; though they tend to look at her as good breeding stock rather than a human being. One day, out of the blue, a nobleman named Declan Camarine shows up on Rose's property. Sure that he's another man looking for her as a means to breed powerful children, Rose rebuffs his attention. But a strange threat is running through the Edge in the form of dark creatures that seem to feed on magic and Rose is forced to accept that Declan can offer protection to her and her family. So Rose accepts Declan's presence and sets up a series of challenges to him to force him to prove he can be trusted-- though she will have to accompany him to the Weird if he succeeds. I had not read anything by Ilona Andrews before "On the Edge," so I was pleasantly surprised by the complexity they (Andrews is a pseudonym for a husband and wife writing team) were able to draw from the characters and put into a book that's less than 350 pages. Paranormal fiction is often lightweight and brimming with werewolves and vampires, so it's refreshing to read a story that fits neatly into the urban fantasy mold, but has a unique magic system and mythology. Andrews also has a knack for including really strong back stories for all the characters, with the really poignant ones saved for Rose's little brothers. If I wanted to, I could come up with a few little nick-picky things to critique about the book-- Declan's decision to "court" Rose, for example, doesn't really make sense as it's explained. But really, that's a small complaint and doesn't take anything away from the story. In fact, I would say that "On the Edge" is quite a good example of the genre and easily stands up next to books by Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris and Rob Thurman. I consider Andrews my newest "find" and a great way to satisfy my paranormal cravings.

Winners! Book Giveaway Contests

I have a few contests that finished up this last week and I need to announce the winners. "Bite Marks" by Jennifer Rardin -- Contest winner Catarina Santos, Portugal Short Story Collection (#7) -- Contest winner Karen Witkowski, Pompano Beach, Fl and Traitor's Gate by Kate Elliott-- Contest winner Cameron Wagner, Baraboo, WI Congrats everyone. Hope you enjoy your books!