Sunday, February 28, 2010

Book Review: "Heavy Metal Pulp: Pleasure Model" by Christopher Rowley

Publisher's Weekly just doesn't understand pulp fiction. "Pulps were the successor to the penny dreadfuls, dime novels, and short fiction magazines of the nineteenth century. Although many respected writers wrote for pulps, the magazines are best remembered for their lurid and exploitative stories and sensational cover art. " ~Wikipedia Christopher Rowley, on the other hand, has a firm grasp of the genre. Pleasure Model by Christopher Rowley, the first book in the Netherworld Series, is a fast-paced, action oriented bit of pulp that doesn't pretend to be anything other than the light-weight, sexy piece of work that it is. Set in the mid-Twenty First century, "Pleasure Model" details a future in which the government is full of corruption and the police are just as likely to be treacherous. Rook is one of the few honest police detectives left and he finds himself running for his life soon after he begins investigating the murder of a retired General. But it's not Rook the killers are really interested in. Plesur, an illegally grown "mod"-- essentially a lab-grown human being designed for sex-- has been found in the General's home and she may know why the man was murdered. "Pleasure Model" is a book that can almost be read in one sitting. Only 240 pages and full of illustrations, it's literally fast and furious with a B-movie feel to it. Publisher's Weekly would have you believe this book is nothing more than a bunch of misogynistic nonsense, but I think they've got it wrong. No one that picks up a book called "Pleasure Model," a world in which genetically engineered women are designed to physically perfect but dumb so they can be sexually exploited, should be expecting a feminist manifesto. The female characters run the gamut from prostitutes, dominatrices and cops, and they might seem a little disposable; but they're also trying to survive in a brutal world. Think "Sin City" and you'll have a good idea of the kind of characters I'm talking about. "Pleasure Model" is as fun to read as it's cover suggests. It's not meant to be deep and it does have its dues ex machina moments; but the technology is cool and the action comes quick and with brutal efficiency. The cliff-hanger ending might annoy you a little-- but it will definitely leave you itching for the next book in the series.

NextRead Magazine Open For Short Story Submissions

Gav over at NextRead is looking to start an online magazine featuring short stories. I love this idea. It's one I've been flirting with; though I'd like to do some contests etc. Clearly Gav isn't as lazy as I am and he's getting his up and running. Right now he's accepting submissions for his first additions. You can check the submissions page for details. The theme of the first issue is Science Fiction Combined With Myth, and the deadline is April 14, 2010. I love this. I am sooo going to write something to submit.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Freebies & Giveaways

Who doesn't like free stuff? I know I do. Here's what's available right now. "The Summoning," the first book in Kelley Armstrong's new YA Darkest Powers series, is temporarily available online. If you haven't checked out the Suvudu Free Library, you NEED to. Free this month are "Star Wars: The Lost Tribe of the Sith" Paragon" by John Jackson Miller; "Sheepfarmer's Daughter" by Elizabeth Moon; and "City of the Dog" by John Langan. Fantasy Book Critic has a copy of "Horns" by Joe Hill for giveaway. Fantasy Dreamer has a copy of "Where Angels Fear to Tread" by Thomas Sniegoski up for giveaway. --Be sure to check her main page for other contests still up. Enchanted by Books has a copy of "and Falling, Fly" by Skylar White up for giveaway. (I'll be featuring this soon as well...) SciFi Guy has THREE copies of "Happy Hour of the Damned" up for giveaway. Hilarious book-- can't wait to read his newest one. The Neverending Shelf has a copy of "Spider's Bite" by Jennifer Estep (recently reviewed by our own Harry Markov) up for giveaway. Book Junkie has a copy of "Original Sin" by Allison Brennan up for giveaway. Tales of the Ravenous Reader has FIVE copies of "Token of Darkness" by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes up for giveaway. Patricia's Vampire Notes had FIVE copies of "Jordan" by Susan Kearney up for giveaway. Dark Faerie Tales has a HUGE contest up. Winners can get up to 5 free books. Really good titles here including "Angelology" by Danielle Trussioni and "A Local Habitation" by Seanan McGuire. Graeme's Fantasy Book Review has THREE copies of "Farlander" by Col Buchanan up for giveaway. This ends in a couple of days so be sure to enter soon. Enjoy and good luck!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Giveaway! "The Adamantine Palace" by Stephen Deas

Courtesy of Penguin Books I have a copy of The Adamantine Palace by Stephen Deas to offer for giveaway. The power of the Realms depends on its dragons. With their terrifying natures, they are ridden by the aristocracy and bred for hunting and war. But as dangerous political maneuverings threaten the complacency of the empire, a single dragon has gone missing. And even that one dragon-returned to its full intelligence and fury-could spell disaster for the Realms... Just add your information to the form below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once the contest ends) and I will randomly pick a winner by Wednesday March 9th. No multiple entries please. All multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere. Good luck!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Review: "The Adamantine Palace" by Stephen Deas

Dragons have always been a staple in fantasy fiction. When I was a little girl I always associated dragons with tales of valiant knights who slay the dragon to save the fair princess. Kind of like "Shrek," but without the happy ending for the dragon. When I was in my late teens I stumbled across Anne McCaffrey's "Dragonriders of Pern" series and truly fell in love with the idea of intelligent dragons. And, over the years, have consistently gone back to the genre with authors like Naomi Novik and Mercedes Lackey. But the latest take on the dragon myth by Stephen Deas is like no other dragon tale I have read before. The Adamantine Palace is an incredibly fast moving book. It grabs hold from the first chapter and doesn't let go until the very end. Centering around the struggle for power in Realms, "The Adamantine Palace" primarily follows the machinations of Prince Jehal. Known as "the Viper," Jehal seduces, murders and poisons his way through various plots to control the Realms by becoming the Speaker of the Realms. Embroiled in the battle for control of the Realms is Queen Shezira, who not-so-coincidentally is Jehal's soon-to-be mother-in-law. One of the wedding gifts Shezira endeavors to bring to the wedding is a perfect white dragon. Dragons are power in the Realms. They used to wreak havoc on the people; burning settlements and killing people indiscriminately for food. But the alchemists of the Realms developed a potion that keeps the dragons under control and sedate enough to ride-- until someone tries to steal the perfect white and she comes out from under the spell of the alchemists' potion. "The Adamantine Palace" moves from the two congruent story-lines and each are compelling in their own ways. The maneuvering of Jehal is virtually endless and the plotting grows increasingly complex. You'll think you know where the story is going to take you only to be completely confounded as it finds another avenue. But what really sets the book apart is how Deas envisions his dragons. Snow, the perfect white, is our view into dragonkind. In fact, we're treated to an inside glimpse of Snow's perspective. But instead of making the dragon more relatable, it makes her terrifying. Once Snow starts coming out of her potion-induced stupor, she begins to remember a time when dragons were not enslaved by men. The more aware she becomes, the more determined she becomes to free the other dragons. Forcing a couple of mercenaries to help her, she begins her search for the stronghold of the alchemists so she can destroy the people responsible for controlling the dragons. Snow is not an empathetic dragon. She doesn't see humans as friends or allies. She sees them as food. She has the intelligence to use them to further her aims, but there is always the threat of violence as her control is much like that of a child. There's a lot of good storytelling going on in "The Adamantine Palace," though the action takes precedence over character development and world building. We know very little about the Realms as the geography, the people and the political structures are sketchily defined at best. The characters are slightly stereotypical and strangely there really aren't any heroes in Deas' fantasy. There are relatable characters, but we don't see moments of heroism as much as people just trying to survive. But still, it's a riveting book in it's own way. I wanted to see what Jehal was going to do next: what his plotting was really all about. I wanted to know if Snow was going to lose control and just kill everyone in her path. There might be a few weaknesses to "The Adamantine Palace," but overall I didn't care. It was a page turner to the end.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Book Review: M Is For Magic by Neil Gaiman

I was turned on to Gaiman by a friend who, more or less, demanded I read Stardust after having seen, and loved, the movie. Since then, I’ve been interested in reading more of his work (because Stardust is brilliant). M Is For Magic is my first excursion in new Gaiman territory. M Is For Magic is a collection of short stories (and a poem) that showcases Gaiman’s unique and whimsical style. His stories have a tendency to manipulate classic fairytales until they no longer represent what they once were. This collection demonstrates Gaiman's expert ability to make the old look new and the new look like it had always been there before. In reading this collection, it is easy to see why Stardust functions so well as a novel; Gaiman’s expert use of familiar tropes from childhood and beyond makes for engaging reading both in form and content. Here it works to good effect, mostly. Below are some quick notes on each of the stories: The Case of the Four and Twenty Blackbirds A fun story about a detective trying to discover who killed Humpty Dumpty. The ending could have been stronger, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Troll Bridge One of my favorites from Gaiman’s book. A complete reworking of the troll under the bridge fairytale (as I remember it) about a boy who makes a deal with a troll to wait until he grows older before the troll eats him. The ending is both surprising and brilliant. Gaiman’s sparse style works well here. Don’t Ask Jack A brief story that never really develops about a jack-in-the-box. Gaiman was trying to do something interesting with this story, but I think it feel flat by being too short for its own good. How to Sell the Ponti Bridge The title says it all. A rogue tells the story of how he tricked a bunch of rich men to buy a bridge (which the rogue didn't own). Funny, clever, and ridiculous in all the right ways. October in the Chair The various months get together to tell stories. I didn’t much care for this one. There’s something brilliant here, but I don’t think it ever becomes fully realized in the story. Chivalry One of the best stories in this collection. It's about an old woman who discovers the Holy Grail in a thrift store and is then visited by a knight, who tries to buy it from her. The story is heartwarming and the depth in character development makes for a fascinating read. If you buy this collection for any one story, it should be for this one. The Price Another story that suffers from being too sparse on detail. I never really understood what was going on. Was the cat fighting the devil to protect the family? I don't know. The ending leaves too much unanswered. How to Talk to Girls at Parties A teenager goes with a friend to a party, which turns out to be the wrong party altogether and hosted by aliens who look like beautiful teenage girls. Strange? Yes, but also enjoyable. If only Gaiman could have made more of the story. It's good, but it's too brief. Sunbird A story about a group of food enthusiasts who have tasted everything in the world, except the mythical sunbird. Wonderfully dark and ridiculous. I almost feel like this should be a novel, but then I have no idea how Gaiman could manage that. Still, this story is one of the best in the collection because it takes a silly concept, twists it, and makes an adventure out of it. The Witch’s Headstone The precursor to The Graveyard Book. You know the story: a boy raised in a graveyard by dead people. I haven't read The Graveyard Book, but if "The Witch's Headstone" is any indication, it's bound to be good. Instructions A poem about how to survive in a fairytale. Fun and cute. See for yourself below: Personally, I think Gaiman’s style is better suited to the long form. While his short stories are mostly quite enjoyable, the stories seem sparse on detail—sometimes for good reason, and sometimes unnecessarily so. The result is that some stories feel stiff, while others, which benefit from a spartan narrative style, seem well-rounded re-imaginings or original fairytales. If you’re a fan of Gaiman’s work, M Is For Magic will be a welcome addition to your collection. Overall, it is thoroughly enjoyable, and very readable. His stories would work well at bedtime to be read to the little ones, or maybe for a quick, cute read. You can find M Is For Magic on Amazon.com or just about anywhere that his books are sold. More information about Neil Gaiman can be found on his blog.

Friday, February 19, 2010

[Review] 'Spider's Bite' by Jennifer Estep

Title: Spider’s Bite Writer: Jennifer Estep Pages: 395 Genre: Urban Fantasy Standalone/Series: First in the Elemental Assassin Books Publisher: Pocket Books Bodies litter the pages of this first entry in Estep's engrossing Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series. In the corrupt Southern metropolis of Ashland, weather witches mingle with vampires, giants, and dwarves. A mysterious client hires assassin Gin Blanco, known as the Spider, to murder a whistle-blowing financial officer named Gordon Giles. Then the client attempts a double cross and brutally kills Gin's mentor. Now Gin, a stone elemental with a hard-boiled attitude, a closely guarded heart, and a penchant for throwing knives, has to join forces with one of the few honest cops in Ashland, sexy detective Donovan Caine, who hates her for killing his partner. ‘Spider’s Bite’ has received quite the attention of late in the urban fantasy circles, which did prod my curiosity. Thanks to Pocket Books, I can confirm or to disprove the claims that this is a pretty good novel. At first ‘Spider’s Bite’ presented more pet peeves than reasons to turn the pages, but the novel grew on me at a slow, but steady pace to the point, where I was adamant to reach the end and see the bloody culmination. But, let’s not get ahead of ourselves now, shall we. What lured me in and kept me intrigued by Estep’s venture into Urban Fantasy were the worldbuilding decisions. I believe that this is the first urban fantasy, where the supernatural has gone mainstream and integrated with our own world. In these pages the reader will find an asylum for the magically insane, a nightclub owned by a vampire with sexual services provided by vampires and a beauty salon/healing spot run by a socialite dwarf with Air Elementalism. The setting is extraordinary in the sense that there is no secrecy, which has been a staple in the urban fantasy genre. In Ashland, however, humans walked among, befriended and even fornicated and married giants, dwarves and vampires. Estep introduces ideas I had longed to see developed, but despite the originality I wished I had been given a more detailed look into this society. I imagine it logical to not spend too many words on demographics, when the focus of the story falls elsewhere, but I would have liked more depth and background on this world. Were the magic races ever hidden? What is this new brand of vampires that does not fear the sunlight? What were the rules to becoming an elemental, since all the races have demonstrated the ability to harbor some of that power? Are there any more races? I am counting on the author to tackle on these issues in more detail in the upcoming installments of this series. Gin Blanco alternated between a character I loved and a character I hated. As the Spider, Gin is different from many a female tough chicks. She is not an enforcer; she does not stand up to fight wars against a world-threatening enemy; she does not have morals. She’s paid to kill and she does that without mercy, regret or second thoughts. Gin is an assassin and knows it. This amoral nature makes her a grey area character, although most of the assassinations hold an altruistic streak. In this regard I can say that Estep is holding back, because all the victims had earned their murder. However, in general Gin is a tomboy alpha, who is primal in her urges and gets what she wants. This is most evident in the romantic subplot with detective Donovan Caine, where Gin shows aggressive sexual predator instincts and keeps the man under her thumb. So far in urban fantasy, the female protagonist falls in love in a man, who is super and ahead in the supernatural dealing, which makes her dependent of him. The situation here is vice versa. However, I do have several issues with Gin. For starters I do not think that a character should be broken and battered by a family tragedy and/or tortured to become dangerous fighters in a cruel world. The trope gained popularity with Batman, but I see it overused. Nevertheless, it would have worked for me, if the devastating events that shaped Gin as an assassin were not pushed into my face right from the start and at an inappropriate moment as well. Sure, readers must know more about the protagonist and establish a connection with him/her, but the way Estep handles it is intrusive and feels like a trick trigger to make me feel something, when in reality she is breaching Gin’s character integrity. As one of the best assassins, I imagine Gin keep her head in the game and reminisce after completion and not see her scars and start a trip down memory lane. It seems illogical, because she has those scars for 17 years and by that time the memory associated with those should not pop during a job, because Gin would have trained her brain better. But of course, this is my take on assassins. A different pet peeve involves the prose. Estep is fond of word pairs and word groupings and I was treated to a lot of ‘silverstone knives’, ‘chicory coffee’, ‘regret and guilt’ and listing her usual arsenal. I can imagine that while writing a novel the time elapsed between uses of these phrases seems sufficient, but to me it just popped up a little two frequent and in greater detail than it would be needed. As far as the story goes, I give props to Estep for the entertaining plot and adventurous story of vengeance. There really is nothing worse than a killing-machine woman scorned and the determination with which Gin tracks down Fletcher’s murderer is admirable. You can expect a lot in ‘Spider’s Bite’. Tracking suspects, black mailing accomplices, gathering information from private contracts, spying on the enemy, hostage situations, uncovering conspiracies and a growing body count. All is accounted for and the fans of these tropes and ideas will have a field trip. Verdict: [B--] I am still a bit on the fence. While ‘Spider’s Bite’ offered moments that I loved and kept me reading, there were too many pet peeves and unexplained aspects of the world for me to keep reading onward. But I can’t say that there are enough reasons to say that this is a bad novel either, because what I did not like as execution may be only a matter of personal taste.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review: "Duplicate Effort" by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

It’s been a long, long time since I read Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Star Wars: The New Rebellion, which is my first and only exposure up to this point with this author. I remember enjoying that book – it wasn’t particularly amazing, but it was definitely among the better offerings in the Bantam era of Star Wars books. I remember a good portion of the book being devoted to the investigation behind the bombing of the Senate building – and with Duplicate Effort I got a very similar vibe. This is the seventh book in Rusch’s Retrieval Artist series – best described as Law & Order/CSI in space. I’ve had no prior experience with this series before this book so I'll discuss not only what I thought about it but also how approachable it was. Like any good Law & Order episode, Duplicate Effort starts with a murder. But the science fiction trappings are in place from the very beginning, as this murder takes place in a domed city on the moon, in a park that is self cleaning (and therefore removing all evidence of the crime). Called to the scene is a recently returned-to-duty cop named Nyquist, and the last thing he really wants is to be involved in a high profile case – which is exactly what this murder is going to be. Because the woman who’s dead is reporter Ki Bowles, and she had just released the first in a new expose series uncovering the truth behind a prestigious law firm and its corrupt policies. The information she had been given about this law firm came from Miles Flint, a Retrieval Artist (who’s job is to find missing persons) – and now he’s worried that whomever targeted her may also target his family. And his family consists of the 13 year old clone of his dead daughter, as well as a group of other 15 year old clones of the same – all adopted and unaware that their lives may be at risk. Meanwhile, the senior officer of the law firm itself sets out to solve the murder – because he knows he will be high on the list of suspects. My first problem with Duplicate Effort is the fact that what I’ve described in the paragraph above takes over 200 pages to happen in the book. Earlier I described this book as being like Law & Order, but let’s be clear – it’s like the first half hour of that show dragged out so that you’re following nearly minute by minute the lives of the various characters (and there are more than I’ve already mentioned, like Nyquist’s reluctant partner, Flint’s lawer, the OTHER two dead bodies, the bodyguard suspect, the head of the moon police, the aliens…). I believe the murder happened in the morning, but I had no idea that this would take place over only a 24 hour period. My second problem is the fact that a lot of the characters seem to contemplate the same information, to the point that for the reader it gets repetitive. I understand that each character is going to think about the impacts of the murder and how the media is going to respond – but I don’t need to hear each of their thoughts on the subject. It just felt like it was unnecessarily slowing down the novel. Because there are lots of good things about the book as well. I had hoped that it would be fairly easy to join this series even though it’s book #7 – and it was. Each character’s motivations are well spelled out, even their prior histories through what I assume are the previous books are effectively introduced in this story without becoming info dumps. The characters are also well developed, with strong personality traits easily differentiating them. Flint’s 13 year old daughter Talia acts like a teenager; strong willed, a little rebellious, but also looking for her father’s approval. As we get to see the investigation from different sides, the reader actually begins to see the larger picture before the characters in the book do. Talia and her sister clones are actually a key part of the murder – 15 years ago (when Flint’s daughter died and when the first clones were made) there were power outages reported throughout the Moon dome – strange occurrences that no one was ever able to explain. Now those same power fluctuations are happening again – only the people with each piece of this puzzle aren’t currently working together to solve the case. The title seems derived from this idea – duplicate effort both in terms of these multiple parties all working separately to solve the same mystery, and also in terms of the clones being duplicates – created in an effort to avoid punishment mandated by an alien law, one that has now come back to haunt those who weren’t responsible for the crime committed. I can’t say that I strongly recommend Duplicate Effort, but I also wouldn’t call it a failure either. I think I would have preferred a book in this setting to be styled a little more pulpy, a little quicker with more action and suspense. But that’s not what this book (or I assume this series) is – it is a strongly detailed detective novel in a near-future setting, as realistic as a science fiction novel about law enforcement can be. I’m certain there’s an audience for this type of book, but don’t go into it expecting Space Opera. I do think Rusch a very capable author, and this book seems to fit well into my prior experience with her writing. I think by now you should be able to tell if this is a book you would enjoy, but as for myself I don’t think I’ll be revisiting this series.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Magic Kingdom Awaits

My kids are out of school this week thanks to budget cuts and furlough days. What a perfect excuse to go to Disneyland! I'll be gone until the end of the week. See you soon!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Divine Inspiration

Not too long ago Stewart Sternberg put a post up on his blog predicting the resurgence of angels in popular culture. Literally within a week I started receiving angel-themed books in the mail for review. Who knew Stewart was such a prophet of popular culture? But I can't complain. I love religious themes in fantasy fiction. I don't particularly mind whether the author chooses to follow a path of revering or reviling religion as long as it's thoughtfully done. Stereotypically bashing religion, as Stephen King chose to do in his new book, doesn't appeal because it's too easy. But give me something new and I'm hooked. Currently I have Angelology by Danielle Trussoni in my happy hands and if the rest of the book is as good as the first 150 pages, it could end up as one of my all-time favorites. A thrilling epic about an ancient clash reignited in our time- between a hidden society and heaven's darkest creatures "There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them." Genesis 6:5 Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim. For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria. Rich in history, full of mesmerizing characters, and wondrously conceived, Angelology blends biblical lore, the myth of Orpheus and the Miltonic visions of Paradise Lost into a riveting tale of ordinary people engaged in a battle that will determine the fate of the world. So far Trussoni's book is outstanding. Mixing scripture with suspense and juxtaposing it with events that occurred during WWII, Trussoni has a real flair for setting up a story. I believe this is her first foray into fiction (her last book was a memoir) and she is a natural. Film rights for the book have already been purchased and apparently a director has already been assigned to the film. I can't wait. Another angel-themed book to cross my path this week is and Falling, Fly by Skyler White. I haven't had a chance to start this one yet, but the good news is that I have an extra copy--so you'll be seeing that in a giveaway soon. In a dark and seedy underground of burned-out rock stars and angels-turned- vampires, a revolutionary neuroscientist and a fallen angel must put medicine against mythology in an attempt to erase their tortured pasts...but at what price? Olivia, vampire and fallen angel of desire, is hopeless...and damned. Since the fall from Eden, she has hungered for love, but fed only on desire. Dominic O'Shaughnessy is a neuroscientist plagued by impossible visions. When his research and her despair collide at L'Otel Mathillide-a subterranean hell of beauty, demons, and dreams-rationalist and angel unite in a clash of desire and damnation that threatens to destroy them both. In this fractures Hotel of the Damned, Olivia and Dominic discover the only force consistent in their opposing realities is the deep, erotic gravity between them. Bound to each other finally in a knot of interwoven freedoms, Dominic and Olivia-the vision-touched scientist and the earth-bound angel, reborn and undead-encounter the mystery of love and find it is both fall...and flight. One recent release managed to sneak in some angelic characters through alternative dimensions; The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay. Atlanta: it's the promised city for the off-worlders, foreigners from the alternate dimensions of heaven-like Elysia and hell-like Charbydon. Some bring good works and miracles. And some bring unimaginable evil.... Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. She's recently returned from the dead after a brutal attack, an unexplained revival that has left her plagued by ruthless nightmares and random outbursts of strength that make doing her job for Atlanta P.D.'s Integration Task Force even harder. Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim -- but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined? I need to finish this one (I got sidetracked by some books I had to read for review purposes) because it's pretty darned good for your run-of-the-mill paranormal fiction. I'm not sure if the mythology of the off-worlders is explored as much as I would like, but the main character is more grown-up than what I'm used to seeing in this genre--having both a child and real-world responsibilities. I found myself really drawn to her as much as the angelic storyline. A book by Thomas Sniegoski also landed on my porch this week. Sniegoski appears to also be as prescient as Stewart when it comes to resurgence of angels in paranormal fiction as Where Angels Fear to Tread is the third book in his Remy Chandler series. Six year-old Zoe York has been taken and her mother has come to Remy for help. She shows him crude, childlike drawings that she claims are Zoe's visions of the future, everything leading up to her abduction, and some beyond. Like the picture of a man with wings who would come and save her-a man who is an angel. Zoe's preternatural gifts have made her a target for those who wish to exploit her power to their own destructive ends. The search will take Remy to dark places he would rather avoid. But to save an innocent, Remy will ally himself with a variety of lesser evils-and his soul may pay the price... For me, this is a fairly pedestrian series when it comes to an intriguing topic. I tried to get into it but it seemed like it was trying to be a Harry Dresden novel rather than anything seriously exploring its biblical inspiration. If this is any indication, angels might rival vampires in popular fiction before long. I know they outnumbered the vampires this week. But will it be well done? I'm willing to bet it'll be about as reliably well done as it has ever been seen in the past-- which is to say that "Angelology" will probably be the best attempt at mixing scripture with pop-culture as I'm likely to ever see. So while I won't hold my breath, I might cross my fingers in hopes that I'm wrong. Bring on the Seraphim. Which reminds me of another series....

Thursday, February 11, 2010

"The Auralia Thread" Giveaway....

I have TWO sets of "The Auralia Thread" by Jeffrey Overstreet to offer for giveaway on my giveaway page. Be sure to CHECK IT OUT.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

"The Last Airbender" Trailer-- aka We Couldn't Call it "Avatar"

I don't know if I can trust a movie directed by M. Night Shyamalan...

ARC Giveaway...

I have an ARC copy of "Finch" by Jeff Vandermeer up for giveaway on my giveaway page. CHECK IT OUT

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Can Christopher Nolan Save the "Superman" Franchise?

From Deadline Hollywood EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros is trying to ready its DC Comics stalwart Superman to soar again on the Big Screen, and the studio has turned to Chris Nolan to mentor development of the movie. Our insiders say that the brains behind rebooted Batman has been asked to play a "godfather" role and ensure The Man Of Steel gets off the ground after a 3 1/2-year hiatus. Nolan's leadership of the project can set it in the right direction with the critics and the fans, not to mention at the box office. Besides, Nolan is considered something of a god at Warner Bros and has a strong relationship with the studio after the success of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Though he wasn’t obligated to do so, he gave the studio first crack at his spec script Inception, and Warner Bros was able to buy it before other studios even got a sniff. While Nolan completes that Leonardo DiCaprio-starrer for a July 16th release, he's also hatched an idea for Warner Bros' third Batman installment. Now his brother and frequent collaborator Jonah Nolan, and David Goyer who co-wrote Batman Begins and penned the story for The Dark Knight, are off scripting it. (See 'FlashForward' Showrunner Exits For Features). Let us emphasize that Superman 3.0 is in the early stages of development. And we doubt Nolan would direct. This wouldn't be a sequel to Superman Returns but a completely fresh franchise. As one of our insiders reassures: “It would definitely not be a followup to Superman Returns." Nolan coming on board follows a hiatus period for Superman after that 2006 reboot as the studio tried to figure out whether or not to make a sequel to that version starring Brandon Routh directed by Bryan Singer. As recently as this summer, Warner Bros was still contemplating how to proceed. We were told that "Bryan or Brandon are not completely out of it yet. But Warner Bros doesn't have a handle yet on it, either. [Producer] Jon Peters is trying to make something happen since he stands to benefit financially. But they [the studio] need to hear a great story that makes sense." Another insider explained to us, "We know what we don't want to do. But we don't know what we want to do. We learned a lot from the last movie, and we want to get it right this time." Read the rest of the article HERE I got really excited when I first saw this article, then I realized that Nolan is going to "mentor" the film, not direct. What does that mean exactly? I LOVE Christopher Nolan. I think his retread of Batman is nothing shy of genius. So, in my perfect world, I'd have him directing the newest attempt to bring back Superman. I mean, does this mean he'll have input, but there's still the possibility that we could see someone like McG (shudder) helm this thing? I could weep at the thought. Please tell me that "mentoring" means he'll eventually sign on to direct. Anyone?

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Lest We Forget...

My cousin just got back from Haiti. He went there with a medical team to get out supplies and aid to the earthquake victims. I live in California and remember the San Francisco and Northridge quakes really well-- obviously those were nothing compared to Haiti. But seeing the pictures really brings it home. My cousin is already planning a trip back next month with my aunt's boyfriend to help the rebuilding effort. Those guys are my heroes.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Book Review (Sorta): An Idle King by J. W. Benford

It’s uncommon for me to have problems finishing a book. I’ve disliked several books over the years for various reasons: a silly premise, an ending that leaves too much open, or the more common “this really isn’t my kind of book” excuse. But last year there were a handful of books that I gave up on entirely because the writing was so utterly wretched I couldn’t get through the first chapter without wanting to hurt someone. An Idle King is one of those books. Benford isn’t a bad writer, per se; he manages to write clear, coherent sentences, his paragraphs are logical and the pacing is not overwhelmed by poor transitions or downright poor plotting. The problem, however, is that Benford demonstrates precisely why every writer needs to learn the golden rule. You know the rule I'm talking about. It's so oft repeated that its repetition makes people cringe. The dreaded "show, don’t tell." The first chapter alone is a monument to ignoring the age old rule. Each page is littered with random explanations of, well, stuff, whether they be attempts to explain why someone acts a certain way, or how someone feels who isn’t the central POV. When I say random, I mean random. The first chapter, for instance, revolves around the main event: some strange attack occurs on the main character’s home world, and he is whisked away from destruction or something to somewhere else (the past, if I recall correctly). But what might have been really interesting is lost in a two-page description of a city (the first two pages, actually), the characters recollecting past events in a way that allows the author to justify a reaction by those characters, random descriptions of things, feelings, etc. for no apparent reason than to make them seem like more than they actually are, or to demonstrate the author’s interesting world-building skills. There’s a reason why we talk about the “show, don’t tell” rule so much in the writing world: if you don’t listen to it and learn how to manipulate it, you end up with stories that tug the reader all over the place in a way that isn’t beneficial to the reading experience. I can forgive the occasional jump from one POV to another or the somewhat ridiculous use of fantasy world-building conventions in a science fiction “epic.” I can even forgive a little bit of telling, as most of us do whenever we read a book. Most of the novels we read today do have a sizable amount of telling, but what makes them work has more to do with timing and authorial finesse than anything else. But, I can’t forgive a book that willfully dismisses the “show, don’t tell” rule to the extent that the actual story (the plot) is marginalized. That’s not a novel; we call that a personal world-building wiki. That might make for interesting reading in the same way that Tolkien’s notes might be interesting today, but engaging fiction it is not. There are other problems with this particular novel, but this one point seemed sufficient enough, for me, to drop the book completely. P.S.: I'm willing to admit that being a graduate student and a reviewer makes reading time rather limited, resulting in a particularly high standard when it comes to how much time I'm willing to spend reading. Others may be less stringent.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Book Review: "State of Decay" by James Knapp

Vampires and werewolves have been all the rage for awhile but zombies are rapidly becoming the "it" thing in paranormal fiction. Most zombie fiction is typically envisioned in the style of Night of the Living Dead, in which the shambling undead attack the living in an attempt to assuage their insatiable hunger. James Knapp's new book, State of Decay, takes all the familiar tropes of zombie fiction and gives them a real world spin that is both convincing and plausible. Nico Wachalowski is an FBI agent; a first tier citizen who has gained his status by both his military service and his continued work for the government. While investigating a revivor sex ring, Nico stumbles across a much larger conspiracy and discovers that military grade revivors are being smuggled into the country. Revivors are zombies in the sense that they are the reanimated dead. In "State of Decay" becoming a zombie is voluntary and a frequent means for a person to move up in caste. Legal revivors are generally used as soldiers, but their use is controversial and they are kept away from general populace. But someone is smuggling illegal revivors and using them commit a bizarre series of murders. "State of Decay" moves very quickly and introduces the main characters in separate chapters in which each character is presented in the first person viewpoint-- with Nico as the common thread. There are many strong points to Knapp's story; my favorite being his re-imagining of the zombie tale. It's not hard to envision a society where the dead could be brought back to life to use as cannon fodder. The ethical dilemmas could be pushed aside as long as the living person volunteers to give up their body in exchange for higher status in a caste oriented society. Simple idea that has more depth than you'd think at first. Naturally the next progression is the black-market use of the revivors in the sex trade. Technology has made sure that the natural hunger of the revivors can be controlled and since revivors can't feel-- no harm done. Unless, of course, the revivors can feel human emotion. Something we get to find out as Knapp gives us the first person perspective of a revivor-- pure genius that. "State of Decay" isn't perfect though. The plot tends to be somewhat convoluted and not enough time is spent on exploring the tier system. The characters are terrific but they're written as if they were characters in a movie and not given a lot of background. In fact, the whole book reads like a well developed screenplay and I could envision it as a really good movie. But when I read a book I like to see more depth. Knapp's writing style is really interesting. He manages to pull you into the story very easily and manages to convey a lot of ideas very quickly. But when I finished the book I still had some nagging questions. I want to know more, I want to understand more about this world he has created. I'm genuinely intrigued and vaguely dissatisfied. So the dilemma is whether to recommend the book or not...I'm going with a thumbs up because I was really drawn to the world Knapp created. Yeah, there might be plot holes, but as I was reading I kept thinking this book is cool. Not a deep reason for a recommendation, but a valid one nonetheless. There's just something here, stylistically and story-wise, that I find appealing. I do hope that Knapp fills in the gaps in the sequel that's sure to come because I'd like to visit this story again.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

I'm a Gettin' There...

I feel so flaky. I mean to post something and then I get distracted and.... Well, you know. I'm finishing up a very cool zombie-themed book (they're all the rage you know) and I plan on getting the review up by tomorrow. I just know that I'll be up until two in the morning if I try to do it now. I can be a slooooow writer sometimes. In the meantime. How about an experiment? Remember the post I had up about the pictures that drew a bunch a traffic to the blog? Well, let's see how another pretty lady affects my numbers. It's a bit cynical I know. But hey, I have postage to pay for....

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The "I'm Back" Giveaway

I haven't had a chance to put together a real post yet, but I do have a giveaway up featuring the first two books in Laura E. Reeve's Major Ariane Kedros series. Be sure to CHECK IT OUT.