Thursday, April 29, 2010

Syfy Channel seems to think Scifi isn't necessary...

In a thoroughly bizarre bit of programming, the Syfy Channel has announced that it has acquired WWE's "Friday Night Smackdown" as part of its programming. Um. Huh? Yes, it appears that the Syfy Channel has decided to move away from a science fiction oriented lineup. ~From Variety Magazine World Wrestling Entertainment's "Friday Night SmackDown" is moving to cable. The weekly two-hour series, which currently serves as the linchpin of MyNetwork TV, will premiere on Syfy beginning Oct. 1. and fill the 8 p.m. timeslot. "Caprica," "Stargate Universe" and "Sanctuary" will now shift from Friday to Tuesday, as a result. Syfy is ponying up close to $30 million in an annual fee to land "SmackDown," making the shift a hugely profitable one for the Connecticut-based WWE, considering MyNetwork paid around $15 million, sources close to the situation said. And according to MSNBC, it gets worse. Presumably fulfilling its post-rebranding promise to “Imagine Greater,” the former Sci Fi Channel — now known as Syfy — has imagined its way right out of the niche that made the cable network. Forget about space operas, tech dramas or B-movie monsters (except for “Mega Piranha” — never forget “Mega Piranha”), programming shake-ups reveal Syfy is ready to live up to its theme-less new name. If the recent announcement that “Top Chef” alum Marcel Vigneron would be joining the network for a cooking show called “Marcel’s Quantum Kitchen” wasn’t proof enough, Syfy’s acquisition of “Friday Night SmackDown” should be. The mind boggles. Not only is the Syfy Channel (will the name of this network be anything other than ironic anymore?) shoehorning in programming that most definitely does not fit the old theme of the network, but they're going to move the only original programming they have, series-wise, to make room for wrestling and cooking shows? What just happened here?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A look at 'Lost Planet 2'

I don't often feature video games on my site, but that may change as we've recently purchased a PS3. I am currently becoming acquainted with many of the first shooter games as my husband gleefully fires up the console after we put the kids to bed. I'm still not a gamer in any sense of the word, but I know how fun and engrossing they can be. Because of that, whenever I get a change to bring something to you that may involve free games--I'm all over it. Right now Capcom is gearing up to release Lost Planet 2, which will hit stores on May 11th. A decade has passed since the events of Lost Planet, and the face of E.D.N. III has changed dramatically. Terraforming efforts have been successful and the ice has begun to melt, giving way to lush tropical jungles and harsh unforgiving deserts. Players will enter this new environment and follow the exploits of their own customized snow pirate on their quest to seize control of the changing planet. Players control their heroes across 6 interconnected episodes, creating a truly unique interactive experience that changes depending upon the actions of the players involved. With this concept, players will have the opportunity to engage in the story in a much more dynamic way as plot threads evolve from different players' perspectives. Beyond the deep single player mode, Lost Planet 2 is loaded with extensive multiplayer modes. The intense and action packed campaign mode comes with the ability to form teams of up to 4 players online to clear mission objectives with friends. More Lost Planet 2 Info As part of the 'Lost Planet 2' roll-out, Capcom is offering lots of different ways to win 'Lost Planet 2' swag and Capcom games (soon to be featured here as well). Right now you can follow news about 'Lost Planet 2' on their community site, Facebook and Twitter, and each site will be running contests and posting updates on the game. I'll keep you updated as I have links or my own giveaways featuring 'Lost Planet 2' or any other Camcom games.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Giveaway! "Pinion" by Jay Lake

Courtesy of Tor Books, I have a copy of "Pinion" by Jay Lake up for grabs on my giveaway page. Be sure to CHECK IT OUT

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Movie Review: "Kick Ass"

Movie makers know that putting kids in adult situations will provoke controversy. It never fails. We've seen the cursing, adolescent Tatum O'Neil in "The Bad News Bears," the provocative Brooke Shields in "Pretty Baby," and the head spinning Linda Blair of "The Exorcist" and the various reactions they've gotten from critics and the movie-going public. Critics often shrug off the content of these films with talk about "context." But for some reason, the foul language and violence committed by Hit Girl in the new film Kick Ass has drawn some fire-- garnering a one star review from Roger Ebert no less (though he has fewer objections to child rape as depicted in Hounddog featuring Dakota Fanning-- go figure) because he doesn't see any context when it comes to the character of Hit Girl. I couldn't disagree more. I admit I was apprehensive about seeing "Kick Ass." I even voiced my reservations when I posted the red band trailer a few weeks ago. But I'm glad I gave the movie a chance. "Kick Ass" is based on a comic book written by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.. I don't know the source material, so I can't say how well it is translated to the screen-- I can only give my impression of how it holds up as a movie. Kick Ass, the superhero, is conceived by teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) who imagines being a superhero the way only a teenage boy can. Wanting to be something other a than an invisible, milquetoast kid who fantasizes about his English teacher, he wonders out loud why no one has actually ever tried to be a super hero. Acting on his newly conceived idea, he buys a costume, christens himself 'Kick Ass' and promptly finds himself in way over his head. Kick Ass somehow stumbles into a moment of vague heroism, one that just happens to be caught on camera, and he soon becomes an internet sensation. Doing what any teenage boy would do in the situation, Dave sets up a webpage and basks in his glory as Kick Ass. Still unaware of the danger he is putting himself in, even following a near-deadly beating, Dave tries to help his high-school crush (who happens to think he is gay) fend off a violent drug dealer and ends up being rescued by a pint-sized, foul mouthed bad-ass known as Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz). Hit Girl, whose real name is Mindy Macready, is a cold-blooded killer who happens to be 11 years old. Raised by her father Damon (Nicholas Cage), who gives himself the handle of Big Daddy, Mindy has spent almost her whole life being trained to be nothing more than a tool in her father's arsenal to get revenge on local crime boss, Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), who Damon blames for his wife's death. Unlike Kick Ass, Big Daddy and Hit Girl don't seek out media attention or seem interested in anything other than taking down D'Amico. Kick Ass's idea of crime fighting isn't particularly well thought out (he prefers to do his crime fighting on weekdays between 2 and 9-- or something like that). And getting caught in the trajectory that Hit Girl and Big Daddy are following brings him to the attention of D'Amico and his own socially awkward son (Chrisopher Mintz-Plasse--best known as McLovin' from "Superbad") who puts on his own costume and dubs himself Red Mist in an attempt to get close to Kick Ass. No one dons a costume with any real intentions of fighting crime; in the end it's all about personal gain. Or as Kick Ass attempts to sum it up--"with no power comes absolutely no responsibility." It's probably not coincidence that the most intriguing character is also the most controversial. Chloë Moretz is terrific as Hit Girl. Who knew a young psychopath could be so charismatic? A lot of attention is placed on the language used by Hit Girl and the incredible violence she commits-- with good reason-- but a lot of critics act like this character was just created for shock value and has no underlying story. Well, maybe shock value comes into play here, but there is context to the story as well. It would be simplistic to say Hit Girl has never had a childhood. This is a kid who's been trained in the art of taking a bullet by dear-old-deranged dad. Nicholas Cage brings his special brand of crazy to the role and somehow manages to convey a deep love for his daughter even as he cripples her ability to be a normal kid. We don't know at what age Damon set his mini-maniac loose on the objects of his vengeance, but she's a well established killer. Hit Girl can take down a room full of gun-toting bad guys, slicing and dicing her way through like a miniature Uma Thurman in "Kill Bill." There's a good reason the violence in "Kick Ass" is frequently compared to a Quentin Tarantino film. But we've seen this kind of language and violence before. What shocks us is the fact that it originates from the body of a young girl-- with the blessing and encouragement of her father. So why would I claim this movie has any redeeming qualities? What appealed to me about "Kick Ass" is that it seems to be an ironic statement about comic book heroes in the same vein as "Watchmen." Perhaps it's not as sophisticated as "Watchmen," but "Kick Ass" makes it plain that you probably have to be a little unhinged to put on a costume, give yourself a "cool" name, and start looking for crime to fight. Kick Ass's idea of heroism doesn't go much further than that of a teenager's daydream and he loses his desire as quickly as it appears; especially once he develops a life beyond his web-page. Big Daddy and Hit Girl also don't seem to have a plan beyond taking down D'Amico, so it's unclear whether they aspire to take their crime fighting beyond that point. The movie is violent in the extreme, but it's also funny and strangely endearing. All the actors do a great job but you have to really hand it to Nicholas Cage and Chloë Moretz as Big Daddy and Hit Girl. I love Cage's take on the character and the strange twist he puts on the endearments he uses with his daughter. I don't know how he does it, but he's creepy and touching at the same time. And if Moretz doesn't end up as the next big thing in child actors, I'll be shocked. And no matter how much fire the movie gets because of her foul mouthed vigilante, she makes the movie. Even as I cringed during the more violent sequences, I wanted to see more Hit Girl. "Kick Ass" is one of those movies that shouldn't really shock anyone because you know what you're getting before you go in; and frankly, I've seen video games more disturbing than this movie (one segment even seems to deliberately emulate first-person shooter games). No matter what Roger Ebert says, I think there's some redeeming value here, even if only as entertainment. And at least there is an attempt to put some reason behind the violence-- as opposed to some of the worst offenders in the video game realm. I think I'd rather my kids watch "Kick Ass" (though not anytime soon) than play some of the games I've seen. And, if nothing else, "Kick Ass" is a compelling movie, done well on a small budget. I definitely hope to see a sequel.

Stark Fujikawa ("Iron Man 2" Tie In Video)

Oh this is so cheesy, yet accurate. I went to school in Japan and this brings back memories for sure.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book Review: "The Warded Man" by Peter V. Brett

"There's our friend again," said Gaims, gesturing into the darkness from their post on the wall. "Right on time," Woron agreed, coming up next to him. "What do you s'pose he wants?" "Empty my pockets," Gaims said, "you'll find no answers." The two guards leaned against the warded rail of the watchtower and watched as the one-armed rock demon materialized before the gate. It was big, even to the eyes of the Milnese guards, who saw more of rock demons than any other type. While the other demons were still getting their bearings, the one-armed demon moved with purpose, snuffling about the gate, searching. Then it straightened and struck the gate, testing the wards. Magic flared and threw the demon back, but it was undeterred. Slowly, the demon moved along the wall, striking again and again, searching for a weakness until it was out of sight. Hours later, a crackle of energy signaled the demon's return form the opposite direction. The guards at the other posts said that the demon circled the city each night, attacking every ward. When it reached the gate once more, it settled back on its haunches, staring patiently at the city. Gaims and Woron were used to this scene, having witnessed it every night for the past year. They had even begun to look forward to it, passing the time on their watch by betting on how long One Arm took to circle the city, or whether he would head east or west to do so. "I'm half tempted to let 'im in just t'see what he's after," Woron mused. "Don't even joke about that," Gaimes warned. "If the watch commander hears talk like that, he'll have both of us in irons, quarrying stone for the next year." His partner grunted. "Still," he said, "you have to wonder..." ~Excerpt from The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett Peter V. Brett has gained quite a following in the last year since the debut of "The Warded Man," and as a lover of good, solid fantasy writing I have to add my name to the list of reviewers who think Brett may prove to be an exceptional talent. For hundreds of years humanity has been cowering in the dark against the relentless onslaught of the corelings-- demons who rise up through the earth as night falls and exist only to destroy human kind. As their numbers dwindle, the only defense people have against the corelings are magical wards that repel the demons. But the wards are often weak and the demons are relentless when it comes to pounding against the wards to get to their prey. Arlen has never known life without the constant threat of the demons. As a young man he knows he doesn't like cowering in fear and desires to fight back. But the fear of demonkind is so ingrained, it isn't until a tragic series of events occur that Arlen has a chance to test his resolve. "The Warded Man" follows the story of three main characters: Arlen; Leesha--a herb woman; and Rojer-- a young jongleur (minstral) who was maimed by the demons as a child. But "The Warded Man" is really Arlen's story and it's a coming of age story in many ways. What Brett does in "The Warded Man" is take a simple idea and develop it to the fullest extent. The corelings are an implacable enemy that could be vague in less skilled hands, but Brett somehow finds a way to give mindless destruction a personality. And every character has a compelling story. Arlen, Leesha and Rojer don't cross paths until well into the story, though you know that Brett is building that narrative for a reason. Rather than bog the story down, it gives each story a chance to flourish. But ultimately it's Arlen who intrigued me the most. Like most heroes in fantasy fiction he becomes a man with a legend and possibly a figure of prophesy. But Arlen isn't a character of convenient attributes or unusual magical talent. He's just a driven man who pushes himself harder than most would think humanly possible. And there's something really wonderful in that characterization. There are no shortcuts to Arlen's development and that makes him a particularly believable protagonist. Everything about "The Warded Man" is well thought out. The corelings, the wards and the world of Brett's creation are all described in detail and there are no moments where you feel as if there are gaps in logic. Brett proves that fantasy doesn't have to be overcomplicated and it doesn't have to follow fantasy tropes of sword and sorcery. It's just a great book that has everything you want; good heroes, believable villains, suspense and solid world-building. "The Warded Man" easily slips onto my 'most recommended' list.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"The Losers" Trailer

Hmmm, maybe I can catch this while the kids are in school Friday...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Upcoming Releases

There are a lot of new fantasy/scifi titles coming soon. Here are a few I'm looking forward to that will be hitting bookstores in the next month or so... Feed by Mira Grant (Orbit) The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beat the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. NOW, twenty years after the Rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them. Lord of the Changing Winds by Rachel Neumeier (Orbit) Griffins lounged all around them, inscrutable as cats, brazen as summer. They turned their heads to look at Kes out of fierce, inhuman eyes. Their feathers, ruffled by the wind that came down the mountain, looked like they had been poured out of light; their lion haunches like they had been fashioned out of gold. A white griffin, close at hand, looked like it had been made of alabaster and white marble and then lit from within by white fire. Its eyes were the pitiless blue-white of the desert sky. Little ever happens in the quiet villages of peaceful Feierabiand. The course of Kes' life seems set: she'll grow up to be an herb-woman and healer for the village of Minas Ford, never quite fitting in but always more or less accepted. And she's content with that path -- or she thinks she is. Until the day the griffins come down from the mountains, bringing with them the fiery wind of their desert and a desperate need for a healer. But what the griffins need is a healer who is not quite human . . . or a healer who can be made into something not quite human. Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay (Roc) In his latest innovative novel, the award-winning author evokes the dazzling Tang Dynasty of 8th-century China in a story of honor and power. Inspired by the glory and power of Tang dynasty China, Guy Gavriel Kay has created a masterpiece. It begins simply. Shen Tai, son of an illustrious general serving the Emperor of Kitai, has spent two years honoring the memory of his late father by burying the bones of the dead from both armies at the site of one of his father's last great battles. In recognition of his labors and his filial piety, an unlikely source has sent him a dangerous gift: 250 Sardian horses. You give a man one of the famed Sardian horses to reward him greatly. You give him four or five to exalt him above his fellows, propel him towards rank, and earn him jealousy, possibly mortal jealousy. Two hundred and fifty is an unthinkable gift, a gift to overwhelm an emperor. Wisely, the gift comes with the stipulation that Tai must claim the horses in person. Otherwise he would probably be dead already... A Taint in the Blood by S. M. Stirling (Roc) First in the new Shadowspan series from the New York Times bestselling "master of speculative fiction" (Library Journal). Eons ago, Homo Lupens ruled the earth. Possessing extraordinary powers, they were the source of all of the myths and legends of the uncanny. And though their numbers have been greatly reduced, they exist still- though not as purebreds. Adrian Breze is one such being. Wealthy and reclusive, he is more Shadowspawn than human. But he rebelled against his own kind, choosing to live as an ordinary man. Now, to save humanity, he must battle the dark forces of the world-including those in his own blood... Well of Sorrows by Benjamin Tate (Daw) An epic tale of a continent on the brink of war, and a deadly magic that waits to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world. Colin Harten and his parents had fled across the ocean to escape the Family wars in Andover. But trouble followed them and their fellow refugees to this new land, forcing them to abandon the settled areas and head into unexplored territory-the sacred grounds of a race of underground dwellers and warriors. It was here that they would meet their doom. Driven to the borders of a dark forest, they were attacked by mysterious Shadow creatures who fed on life force. Only Colin survived to find his way to the Well of Sorrows-and to a destiny that might prove the last hope for peace in this troubled land. Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris (Ace) The #1 New York Times bestselling Sookie Stackhouse series- the basis for HBO(r)'s True Blood-continues! After enduring torture and the loss of loved ones during the brief but deadly Faery War, Sookie Stackhouse is hurt and she's angry. Just about the only bright spot in her life is the love she thinks she feels for vampire Eric Northman. But he's under scrutiny by the new Vampire King because of their relationship. And as the political implications of the Shifters coming out are beginning to be felt, Sookie's connection to the Shreveport pack draws her into the debate. Worst of all, though the door to Faery has been closed, there are still some Fae on the human side-and one of them is angry at Sookie. Very, very angry... Ark by Stephen Baxter (Roc) With the discovery of another life-sustaining planet light years away, there is hope for a chosen few to leave the soon-to-be submerged Earth. Holle Groundwater is one of the candidates, having been trained for this purpose since childhood, when the ships Ark One and Ark Three were being built. But as Holle prepares to endure life aboard the Ark, she comes to realize that her attempt at escape may be more dangerous than trying to stay afloat on a drowning planet... Chimera by Rob Thurman (Roc) New from the national bestselling author of Roadkill A sci-fi thriller that asks the questions... What makes us human... What makes us unique... And what makes us kill? Ten years ago, Stefan Korsak's younger brother was kidnapped. Not a day has passed that Stefan hasn't thought about him. As a rising figure in the Russian mafia, he has finally found him. But when he rescues Lukas, he must confront a terrible truth-his brother is no longer his brother. He is a trained, genetically-altered killer. Now, those who created him will do anything to reclaim him. And the closer Stefan grows to his brother, the more he realizes that saving Lukas may be easier than surviving him... Revenant by Phaedra Weldon (Ace) The smart, sassy, single, and "highly original" (#1 New York Times bestselling author Patricia Briggs) Zoë Martinique is back- and she's seeking clues on the other side... Zoë Martinique's life hasn't been ordinary for quite awhile. First she developed the ability to travel outside her body at will-where she encountered some seriously weird things. Things that left her with powers that she didn't really want or need. Still, a person can get used to almost anything- even being a Wraith. Though more often than not, it plays serious havoc with her love life. But for once, Zoë is glad of her abilities. Bodies are showing up all over Atlanta, drained of blood. They're beings from another astral plane, called Revenants-and they're being stalked by her old enemy, the Phantasm. The Revenants are hardly the nicest of creatures-but to preserve the cosmic balance, Zoë will need to put everything on the line to save them... The Hollow Crown by Diana Pharaoh Francis (Roc) The fourth exciting installment in the tumultuous world of Crosspointe After the murders of the king and queen, the island empire of Crosspointe is on the verge of chaos. The ruthless Lord Chancellor has taken the throne and made slaves of most of the royal family. Now, in order to sabe the country they love, the king's heirs are determihed to rally whatever allies they have left and overthrow the Lord Chancellor- before the Jutras invade. Distant Thunders: Destroyermen by Taylor Anderson (Roc) The fourth thrilling adventure in the Destroyermen series. After the battle in which the men of the destroyer Walker and their Lemurian allies repelled the savage Grik, Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy is shocked by the arrival of a strange ship captained by one Commodore Jenks of the New Britain Imperial Navy-an island-nation populated by the descendants of British East Indiamen swept through the rift centuries before. With the Walker undergoing repairs, Reddy already has a great deal on his hands. For the Grik will return, and Reddy will need all hands on deck to fight them off when they next attack. But Jenks' uncertain loyalties make Reddy question whether he can trust the man. As tension between the Allies and the Imperials mount, Reddy will come to realize that his suspicions are not misplaced-and that a greater danger than the Grik is closer than he ever suspected... Lightborn by Alison Sinclair (Roc) The second book in the Regency-flavored fantasy trilogy of magic and manners from the author of Darkborn. The Darkborn aristocracy has rejected magic, viewing the pursuit of science as the only worthy goal. But Lady Telmaine Hearne does not have that luxury. She has kept her own powers secret, fearful of being ruined in society...until her husband Balthasar draws her into a conspiracy to protect the archduke and his brother against a magical enemy. But who will protect them from her? Heavy Metal Pulp: The Bloodstained Man by Christopher Rowley (Tor Macmillan) Presenting Heavy Metal Pulp, a new line of novels combining noir fiction with fantastic art featuring the theme, story lines, and graphic styles ofHeavy Metal magazine. Following the explosive events of book one, Pleasure Model, Detective Rook Venner, Mistress Julia, and Plesur are on the run from the government troops trying to kill them and from a shadowy group that wants to capture Plesur alive for its own purposes. What secrets have been implanted in Plesur’s head—and why are they worth killing for? Caught between these two powerful rivals, the trio hides out in the lawless New Jersey territory. Betrayed by gang members looking to collect the bounty on Plesur’s head, the three are separated, and Rook and Mistress Julia find themselves in mortal danger. Julia, given as a prize to a gang member, finds herself in chains, but not without her own means of fighting back. Rook, forced to fight for his life in the gang’s bloodthirsty gladiatorial games, must stay alive long enough to rescue Plesur, but time is running out. The Bloodstained Man is a fast-paced, adrenaline-filled ride through a future where pleasure has a price, and Plesur holds the key to a secret that could rock the country to its very core. Speak to the Devil by Dave Duncan (Tor Macmillan) A new adventure of brotherhood and magic from beloved fantasist Dave Duncan In the Kingdom of Jorgary, the days of feudal chivalry are fading as national armies are formed. But Ottokar Magnus is still baron, and his host of brothers include Anton, an ambitious young soldier, and Wulfgang, an amiable teenager. Unable to seek his fortune as a knight errant, Anton has enlisted with the royal Jorgarian hussars and taken Wulf along as his servant. There is magic in Jorgary, but it is regarded as Satanism, rituals performed by Speakers who are in contact with the Devil. The Speakers, though, believe that the Voices they hear belong to saints. Anton is not a Speaker...but Wulf is. Anxious to impress the court, Anton exhibits spectacular horsemanship at a royal hunt, with a little boost from Wulf. Two nights later he is dragged before Cardinal Zdenek, the king’s chief minister. Zdenek offers him an earldom and anything else he could dream of if he will ride at once to a strategic fortress at Cardice and take command there. The count and his son have died, victims of both treason and witchcraft. The cardinal thinks that neighboring enemies are preparing to invade, using “modern” arms to capture the fort. Mortal resources alone will not suffice, but Zdenek knows that Anton’s improbable jump at the hunt was aided by supernatural power. Anton wants nothing to do with this mission, but Wulf’s Voices tell him that they should accept the charge. The result is a harrowing ride through limbo with astonishing results. Black Blade Blues by J.A. Pitts (Tor Macmillan) Sarah Beauhall has more on her plate than most twenty-somethings: day job as a blacksmith, night job as a props manager for low-budget movies, and her free time is spent fighting in a medieval re-enactment group. The lead actor breaks Sarah’s favorite one-of-a-kind sword, and to avoid reshooting scenes, Sarah agrees to repair the blade. One of the extras, who claims to be a dwarf, offers to help. And that’s when things start to get weird. Could the sword really be magic, as the "dwarf" claims? Are dragons really living among us as shapeshifters? And as if things weren’t surreal enough, Sarah’s girlfriend Katie breaks out the dreaded phrase… “I love you.” As her life begins to fall apart, first her relationship with Katie, then her job at the movie studio, and finally her blacksmithing career, Sarah hits rock bottom. It is at this moment, when she has lost everything she has prized, that one of the dragons makes their move. And suddenly what was unthinkable becomes all too real…and Sarah will have to decide if she can reject what is safe and become the heroine who is needed to save her world. The Pirate Hunters by Mack Maloney (Tor Macmillan) The pirate brandished an AK-47 And his band of desperate thieves and cutthroats is ready to take down a cargo ship containing a fortune in expensive cars . . . and ahundred fortunes in heroin and black market weapons. Zeke Kurjan has done this before, terrorizing the Somali coast, ransoming the crews and contents of ships for millions of dollars. But now they have to contend with Team Whiskey, a hard-bitten cadre of ex-Delta Force vets whose leader, Phil “Snake” Nolan, was given a dishonorable discharge for pursuing Osama bin Laden at Tora Bora. They might not be U.S. warfighters anymore, but Team Whiskey still cares about freedom and protecting the innocent. And they’ve got the know-how and the weapons to fight these pirate scum. Team Whiskey has the pirates in their sights, but their foes, fueled by greed and revenge, are hellbent on their own deadly mission. Whiskey’s in for a hell of a fight on the high seas! Blood Groove by Alex Bledsoe (Tor Macmillan) When centuries-old vampire Baron Rudolfo Zginski was staked in Wales in 1915, the last thing he expected was to reawaken in Memphis, Tennessee, sixty years later. Reborn into a new world of simmering racial tensions, the cunning nosferatu realizes he must adapt quickly if he is to survive. Hoping to learn how his kind copes with this bizarre new era, Zginski tracks down a nest of teenage vampires who have little knowledge of their true nature. Forming an uneasy alliance, Zginski begins to reach them the truth about their powers. They must learn quickly, for there’s a new drug on the street—a drug created to specifically target and destroy vampires. As Zginski and his allies track the drug to its source, they risk triggering a fifty-year-old trap that can destroy them all. . . . Legend of the Gun Years by Richard Matheson (Tor Macmillan) Together in one volume, the epic stories of two legendary gunfighters! Journal of the Gun Years Winner of the Spur Award for Best Western Novel Back East, they told tall tales of Marshal Clay Hauser, the steely-eyed Civil War veteran who became known as the “Hero of the Plains” for his daring exploits in the raucous cow towns of the frontier. But fame proves to be the one enemy he can never outdraw–and a curse that haunts him to his violent end . . . . The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok James Butler Hickok was a celebrity before there was a Hollywood. As a gunfighter and U.S. marshal, he carved out a legend greater than any fictional hero. Now read the unforgettable story of the man behind the myth. Angel by Garry Kilworth (Tor Macmillan) There is a citywide epidemic of arson in San Francisco, and Detective Dave Peters and his partner, Danny, are on the case. Their routine investigation becomes more and more bizarre as the fires seem more and more spontaneous and impossible. An astonishing scenario emerges: the War in Heaven, which takes place outside of time, is still being fought. Sometimes a minor demon drops out of that war and into time, on Earth, to hide—masquerading as human. Sometimes an angel is sent to Earth to destroy these evil beings. But an angel on such an errand may care nothing for human life. Those who die go to Heaven, or elsewhere—not the angel’s concern. Such an angel now stalks its prey in San Francisco—but it is newly fallen because it has begun to enjoy destruction. Dave and Danny, the only ones who believe in the angel, must track it down and, with the help of the Church, exorcise it. The Legions of Fire by David Drake (Tor Macmillan) From the Bestselling author of the Lord of the Isles. . . In this novel of magical menace to the survival of all humanity, David Drake introduces a new fantasy world, Carce, based on Europe during the later Roman Empire. Far in the north, a group of magicians perform a strange dance on a volcanic island intended to open a gateway for supernatural creatures that will allow them to devastate the whole Earth and destroy all life. Not knowing the cause, two young men, Corylus and Varus, and two women, Hedia and Alphena, each separately pursue the answer to mysterious and threatening happenings that prefigure disaster in the great city of Carce, the center of civilization. Through magical voyages in other realities where fantastic creatures, and even gods, help or hinder them, each of them must succeed or not just the city but the world will end in fire. The Legions of Fire is the first of a fantasy quartet set in the world of the city of Carce.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Giveaway! "Bitter Seeds" by Ian Tregillis

Thanks to Tor Books, I have a copy of "Bitter Seeds" by Ian Tregillis to offer for giveaway. Head over to my giveaway page and CHECK IT OUT.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Book Review: "The Hunger Games" by Suzanne Collins

What if the television show "Survivor" was a fight to the death rather than a contest for a million dollars? That's, more or less, the premise of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

 Aptly described by Publisher's Weekly as part Death Race 2000, "The Hunger Games" is set in a dystopian future in which the United States has been divided into twelve districts and each year two tributes, between the ages of 12 and 18, are required to participate in the Hunger Games and all the contestants are thrown in an arena and required to fight to the death. The games are essentially a demonstration of the control the Capitol exerts over the twelve districts as every citizen is requires by law to watch the games unfold on live television.

 Katniss is a seventeen-year old from District twelve who has been taking care of her sister and mother since she was child. So when her sister's name is picked as the female tribute to be sent to the Hunger Games, Kantiss doesn't hesitate to take her place. But being from a poor district, she's at a distinct disadvantage against the well-trained, well-fed tributes who train their whole lives for the games. And it isn't just the games Kantiss has to worry about. The male tribute being sent to the Capitol with her is a boy from her childhood that she feels indebted to, and he seems to show feelings for her as well. But Kantiss doesn't know whether the affection he is showing is all part of a plan to soften her resolve to fight to be the lone survivor of The Hunger Games.

 "The Hunger Games" has been a huge success for Suzanne Collins, even being optioned by Lion's Gate films, and somehow I had never heard of it until a friend mentioned the title to me. YA titles just don't end up on my radar that often but the premise of this one was intriguing enough that I grabbed a copy--and thoroughly enjoyed it.

 Suzanne Collins does pretty much everything right in this book. It would be so easy to overdo the action with this premise but Collins really understands pacing and never overwhelms the reader with pointless activity. And, truth to tell, the real story isn't about the games as much as it is about the society that inflicts the games on its citizens. The games came into being after a citizen uprising fractured the country into thirteen districts-- with only twelve of those left standing-- and they exist to remind the citizens they are completely at the mercy of the Capitol. Each tribute is tested and scored so that they may be eligible for sponsorship in the games. Essentially they are a kind of modern gladiator games in which each competitor is marketed to the best advantage for ratings. And given the still-rabid fascination so many people have with reality-television, the story here isn't all that far-fetched.

 Kantiss isn't a particularly charismatic lead character, her life hasn't been easy enough for her to worry about trivialities. So putting on a public persona to attract sponsors is a huge hurdle for her and she is increasingly drawn into the bigger game of manipulating the audience. And as time goes on, she has a hard time separating her own feelings from the performance she is forced to give for the benefit of nationwide following. Collins touches on so many themes, from overwhelming government control to cynical media exploitation, and does it all very well. Because it's young adult fiction, the violence is never graphic and the author also walks that line with precision. She somehow even manages to draw an emotional response from the reader without repeatedly going down the cheap, manipulative route that would be so easy with characters that have to die. I was very, very impressed with "The Hunger Games" and would much rather spend my time with this series than with anything from the "Twilight" universe. I've already got a copy of Catching Fire ordered and on its way.

Book Review: Harbinger by Jack Skillingstead

I have to admit to my general disinterest in tales of immortality, which is absolutely a product of the cultural obsession with all manner of vampiric critters, glittering or otherwise. But when an author takes on the astonishingly difficult task of trying to tell a story through the eyes of a character who is essentially immortal starting from the moment of discovery and ending many hundreds of years later, it's hard to ignore.
Harbinger follows Ellis Herrick, a teenager who has lost his mother and brother and who has a crush on his neighbor Nichole. But when a serious car crash dismembers him and puts him in the hospital, he discovers that he has an astonishing power: the ability to regrow any part of his body. Ellis, however, isn't the one most interested in this turn of events. Langley Ulin sees Ellis as the fountain of youth and wants to use the young man to keep himself alive forever. What follows is a decades long tale of Ellis' life on Earth, in space, and across the stars, a life filled with love, vengeance, pain, and wonder.
As a love story, Harbinger functions in a most unusual manner. The relationship between Nichole and Ellis is rocky and complicated, not just because of Ellis' rather immature and confused actions, but also because of the fact that he doesn't age. The way Ellis deals with this problem differs from other novels of this kind: he moves around throughout life, never fixed to a position. The somewhat cosmopolitan (or rhizomatic, if you want to get theoretical) nature of Ellis' character is something to take note of as you read, because the conclusion of the novel directly comments upon this issue.
Interesting too is how Ellis goes through life. Due to his condition, he is sought after by all manner of curious people, from those who want to use him as a medical experiment to those who are interested in telling his story, and so on. But Ellis, as previously mentioned, never stays fixed to any of these positions, sometimes on purpose, and other times due to various catalysts in his life (death is a prominent one). It might be difficult to understand at first, because he makes a lot of decisions that would seem stupid, but when put in the perspective of one being immortal and intentionally and unintentionally stuck in a position of independence by his "freak" nature, his life starts to make sense. There is a veritable gold mine of interesting analyses to be made about Ellis and the world that Skillingstead has set out to design here (perhaps someone will take on that task one day).
Ellis is not hopeless, however. His character progresses in unusual ways, but he also acts as a particularly effective mirror for looking at ourselves. You could argue that Ellis lives many lives, and that each one is a reflection of our mortality. Like Ellis, we only get a handful of shots to pursue our greatest passions, and while Ellis certainly has more opportunities than most of us, he still suffers from his failures, because nothing is forever. Perhaps, in a way, by looking at Ellis, we can begin to understand why we are mortal in the first place, because to live through all that Ellis does would seem like a nightmare. Maybe I'm reaching, but it is something worth thinking about.
Skillingstead has absolutely hit the nail on the head with Harbinger. While not a perfect novel, the very fact that Skillingstead has taken on such a daunting narrative task and succeeded in creating an engaging novel is worth noting. Harbinger never drags and each jump forward feels like a natural progression in terms of the narrative itself, which produces a kind of episodic, connected storyline leading to an uncertain conclusion. Perhaps Harbinger's greatest fault is that uncertainty; the conclusion leaves quite a lot of questions and does boggle the mind, which I found particularly problematic considering the clarity of everything preceding it--we understand everything from the motivations of the characters, the world built around them, and so on up until the end. I suspect that some aspect of this uncertainty was intentional, maybe as a way of trying to express the natural confusion one has when exposed to the cultures of people outside of one's generation (think of your great-grandparents trying to grasp the rapid-pace world of the Internet). Still, there's much to love about Harbinger, and I would recommend it for readers and fans of lighter flavors of science fiction.
If you'd like to learn more about Harbinger, please check out Fairwood Press. Jack Skillingstead can be found on his website.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Can Science Fiction be Fused With Anything... and Still be Considered Sci-fi?

I've learned something over the last couple of days. I am not good at trying to force certain elements of a story together. I have been trying to write a short story for the online magazine that Gav over at NextRead is trying to launch, and my story suuuuucks. The submissions had to fit within a certain theme and this issue's theme was science fiction fused with myth. Sounds easy right? And given the latest trend of fusing fantasy & sci-fi, you'd think I'd have plenty of inspiration. But it just wasn't working out. The problem I had was my own interpretation of myths. My favorite kind has always been good old Greek mythology. I've been fascinated with it ever since I was a kid. I remember picking up books on mythology as early as fifth grade. I can't tell you how many times I watched the original "Clash of the Titans" growing up. And even though they were completely mythologically inaccurate, I was a bit of a "Hercules" and "Xena" addict. So I naturally gravitated toward Greek myth when trying to write my short story, but I really got caught up when trying to add sci-fi elements. How do you put a gun in the hand of a god? Or give them a reason to need optical implants? Or space crafts? I know I didn't have to put the constraint on myself that the characters I was working with actually be gods, but I thought I could make it work. Only not really. Science fiction isn't my strong suit. I'm kind of weird in that I like to read fantasy and watch science fiction, so I don't speak the language in print. Occasionally books with sci-fi elements will tickle my fancy. I really liked State of Decay by James Knapp, a book that put a really good spin on the zombie genre but was firmly grounded in science. But when I try to add a modern twist to a very old mythology, I end up with urban fantasy. So it leaves me wondering whether science fiction can really be fused with other genres and still remain true to form, and not just something out of a "Star Trek" episode. I have so many books right now that cross genres. I have a giveaway that is a mash-up of "Jane Eyre" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" for Pete's sake. But nearly all of the books that I can think of that incorporate fantasy & sci-fi elements fall under the urban fantasy umbrella. I'm probably over-thinking this as usual. But it was grinding at me as I was writing the story. I didn't know if Gav was going for urban fantasy and I kept thinking that I needed to keep the sci-fi elements more crisp while staying true to the mythology. Is that even possible? Well, of course it is...but can you still, really, call it science fiction? I probably have way too much time on my hands if I'm dwelling on this.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Book Review: "Silver Borne" by Patricia Briggs

Silver Borne is the fifth installment in the very popular Mercy Thompson series by Patrica Briggs. Mercy, the VW mechanic whose proper name is Mercedes, is a skin-walker who turns into a coyote. Being raised by werewolves has left Mercy naturally wary of the brutes of the were-community, but she hasn't been able to fight her attraction to the local pack alpha and she has finally taken the position as his mate and fully accepted the pack bond. Unfortunately many of the werewolves in Adam's pack do not like a coyote in a dominant position and are using the pack bond to manipulate Mercy and drive a wedge between her and Adam. But that's the least of Mercy's problems. Her roommate, and lone wolf, Samuel is growing tired of living and his wolf has taken over. And as Mercy fights to save Sam's life, she gets a mysterious phone call regarding a book she borrowed from a local fae book dealer, and she may be the target of those who would kill to get their hands on the book. Like most popular paranormal fiction "Silver Borne" has a lot going on. A whole lot. And at times it can be confusing. But I have picked up a lot of paranormal fiction lately, trying to find a new author to love, and it's tough to find one that has Brigg's gift for pacing and characterization. I find that a lot of writers try to cram too much action up front and too much unrealistic "romance" (which really translates into heavy breathing at the first site of the romantic interest), and the results are a mixed bag at best. Paranormal fiction is also one of those genres where you generally know what you're going to get going in. They're light entertainment, full of action and magic, and typically quickly devoured. That said, we all still want something compelling in our fantasy fiction and it's not unusual for a series to get tired as it goes along. Fortunately "Silver Borne" seems to have what it takes to keep the series alive and interesting. Where "Silver Borne" succeeds is with the characters. Mercy has always been a great character. Not your stereotypical beauty, you still get the sense that she's compelling and tough. The romance between her and Adam flows naturally and never feels contrived and the obstacles they face actually make sense-- which is rare in any kind of romance. Briggs also is smart enough to keep a regular cast of characters and has continued to develop their story-lines over the course of the series; and Samuel's story is particularly poignant. Where "Silver Borne" stumbles in this go-around is with the action. The borrowed-book thread is the only part of the book that feels a bit forced. I like that Briggs has always introduced different types of fae in each of her books and has never relied solely on the typical vampire/werewolf shortcut to attract an audience. But this time around the fae don't draw our attention as much as the wolves and I wanted to linger on that storyline instead of some tangential action. Also, we don't see Mercy spend much time as a coyote in this book, and I kind of missed that. "Silver Borne" isn't the best book in the Mercy Thompson series but it's still a good book. Like any book that's written as part of an established series, it's for people who already know and love the characters. It'll satisfy those craving a new installment even as it seems somewhat transitional and doesn't have a lot wow moments. I know I enjoyed it and still consider this to be one of the best paranormal series' in print.

Debut Giveaway!

I have three fantasy-debuts up for grabs on my giveaway page. Be sure to CHECK IT OUT

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Autopilot

You ever watch a movie or read a book and feel like the writer/director is just phoning it in? I've been having that feeling a lot lately. I think I first became aware of this as I was reading "Under the Dome" by Stephen King. I already went on a rant over his use of stereotypes, so I won't belabor the point. But lately it seems like whenever I try to read something by a favorite author, or even watch a movie by a director who is usually reliable, I am ho-hummed to death. Is it me? Or does it seem like once a certain level of success is achieved, people just stop trying? I started musing on this topic after trying to read Grave Secret by Charlaine Harris. I've been a fan of Harris ever since her first Sookie Stackhouse book came out. She was one of the first to really tap into the paranormal romance market and Sookie is still a unique character in a market littered with spunky female heroines. Harris parlayed that success into several other directions with a cable television show and another series of books featuring another unusual lead character-- and I've been enjoying all of it; until now. The Harper Connelly Mysteries, Harris' other paranormal series, is slightly controversial in nature in that the main character (spoiler warning) engages in a sexual relationship with her step-brother. I don't particularly object to this as a plot-line, I'm all for taking risks and letting the story go where the author wants it to go. But in reading this book I noticed that Harris has started treading familiar ground with her writing by letting religion be the requisite bad guy. I have a real love-hate relationship with religion in fiction. I love it when authors play with biblical lore, but I hate it when authors use religious fanatics as the go-to villain; it's just too easy and it's been done to death. Where Harris went wrong with her book is that she falls back on a bible-thumping relative to be the voice of disapproval when it comes to the step-sibling relationship when, let's face it, most people, regardless of religion, are going to raise their eyebrows when confronted with that information. No matter how you broach that topic, there is an ick factor that can't be denied. I'm thinking Harris could have found many diverse ways to deal with the prejudice the characters felt directed at them without even needing to deal with religious disapproval. I doubt it would have even been that hard to do. And, the thing is, Harris has done this before. Anyone who has read her Sookie Stackhouse books, or watched the series "True Blood," knows that Harris worked in the religious-fanatic storyline by creating a church devoted to the destruction of the vampires who populate that series. And while I'm willing to acknowledge that that's a pretty realistic avenue to go down-- what church wouldn't declare vampires are an abomination? I'm probably considered a bad person by some just for reading about it. But I'm also willing to bet that the public at large would freak out if vampires and werewolves turned out to be more than figments of the imagination. I know sometimes I'm scared of swimming in the ocean because I'm not at the top of the food-chain when I tread those waters--so seeing fangs paired with human intelligence would worry me profoundly. But I guess dealing with those issues makes it hard for the vampire to be the romantic leading character doesn't it? I guess Harris' autopilot steers at religion. But I can't fault Harris too much. She's got it right to a point. And she's not nearly as guilty as others when it comes to working on autopilot. I've really been enjoying the videos posted by Red Letter Media on YouTube that deconstruct the "Star Wars" prequels and movies like "Avatar." Those of us who grew up on the original "Star Wars" trilogy know that the prequel movies don't hold up and after watching the Red Letter Media critiques it's pretty obvious that George Lucas tried to get away with a re-hash of his earlier films with jazzed up visuals. James Cameron pretty much does the same thing with "Avatar"-- who needs more than a superficial plot when you have pretty pictures flitting across the screen? Lately it's very hard to find entertainment by an established name that works as hard as they did when they were establishing themselves. Tim Burton barely seemed to lift a finger with "Alice in Wonderland"-- it's very Burton-ish in appearance but very forgettable. So I guess Lucas, Cameron and Burton all have autopilots that steer toward dazzling the eye but not the mind. I could go on listing examples but something tells me that you know exactly what I'm talking about. I'm bored with the entertainment I've been presented with lately... I think I'll go watch "The Dark Knight" again and pray that Christopher Nolan keeps on caring about Batman.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Vegas Experience

Las Vegas is one of those towns that has a mystique about it. It's Sin City for sure, but it also immediately brings to mind The Rat Pack and countless Hollywood movies like "Viva Las Vegas," and "Casino." So when my husband and his friend got a wild hair to go to Vegas to see Wayne Newton (I know, Wayne Newton) I decided I had to go. Here's what I learned about Vegas. It sucks a lot more to drive to L.A. We decided to drive to Vegas and I was anticipating a 10 hour drive-- it's almost 600 miles to Vegas from where I live. We would have flown but tickets were ridiculously expensive (Spring Break no doubt) so we hit the road at 6 am and found out the drive is not as ugly as the drive to Disneyland. We drove an extra 150 miles in the same 8.5 hours it takes to make it to Disney. The Tropicana is a dump. We didn't research hotels when we booked our trip-- and we should have. We thought it would be less hassle to stay at the same hotel as the show we were going to see but had no idea that the Tropicana had not been remodeled since the 80's. In their defense they are remodeling right now, but currently the rooms have no mini-fridges or wifi and the televisions are tiny. Next time we're staying at Mandalay Bay-- we had dinner there the second night and it's nice. The Hash House a Go Go is the best friggin' restaurant in town. We love to watch Man vs. Food and my husband remembered a place that had been featured on the show called the Hash House a Go Go. Oh my lord. We had to walk almost 2 miles and wait an hour to eat-- it was worth it. I didn't want to eat anything too heavy (lost some weight recently and I don't want to gain it back) so I opted for a scrambled egg dish with sun-dried tomatoes and it was heavenly. My husband really went for it and had the signature Man vs. Food dish-- the fried chicken benedict, and it was something else. It goes something like this-- mashed potatoes, biscuits, fried cheese (it's actually fried on the grill), fried chicken, eggs, bacon, tomatoes, bacon and a chipotle creme sauce. Oh my. And to top it all off, the portions are huge and very reasonably priced. Best meal of the trip. Wayne Newton has pretty much lost his voice-- but he can still play a mean fiddle. I still have no idea why my husband and his friend decided they wanted to see Wayne Newton. But hey, why not? Turns out, it was Wayne's 69th birthday the night we went and saw him and it appears the years are catching up with him. Newton has had some well publicized financial problems, so I expect he's doing shows because he has to, not because he wants to, which is a shame. He mentioned in passing that he has asthma, so maybe we caught him on a bad night. But a lot of the show was choreographed so that Wayne didn't have to sing too much, so I think he's been struggling for awhile. They did play some old clips of him performing with Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr., which was fun and he showed that he can still whip out the fiddle, the guitar and the banjo and play them fairly well-- especially the fiddle. We had a good time and that's not the Long Island ice tea talking. You don't want to bring your kids to Vegas. Vegas is a party town, no doubt about it. So I can't help but wonder why so many people brought their kids. Seriously. Vegas is all about gambling, drinking, shows and pornography. At least that's how it seems to me. And the porn is kind of overwhelming. It's not just the magazine stands every few feet that have nude women proudly displayed up front, it's the people shoving pornographic cards in your face advertising "escort" services every time you turn around. I wonder what's it's like being a vice cop in Vegas? I mean, it's a futile effort at best. And it's really loud on the strip. I saw a lot of crying babies who didn't like the music that was blasting the whole time and a lot of bug-eyed adolescents trying to get a better look at the porn littering the sidewalk. Once you've seen one casino, you've seen 'em all. I don't gamble. I'm way too cheap. So we didn't hang around our hotel casino once we checked out the place. We didn't know what attractions were available elsewhere, so we walked, a lot, and we saw some cool stuff. There's a lion exhibit at one place and a gondola at another. But the casinos all look the same. And after awhile, you get tired of having to go through these massive casinos, and they are huge, just to get to the shops. Vegas isn't glamorous. Maybe I've seen too many old movies, but I thought Vegas would be a little more upscale. It's really like an old whore-- cheap and dirty. I'm sure it's not all like that. But the strip sure as heck doesn't seem like a place that Frank Sinatra used to frequent. Nowadays it seems like the shows consist primarily of Playboy playmates and magicians and the patrons are drunk frat boys-- though the crowd could be unusually skewed by the Spring Break crowd. It's sucks going to Vegas with a cold. I meant to write a post about Vegas right when we got back, but I have had a vicious head cold for the last week. Suuuucks to try to walk the strip when you're sick. But I did it. I walked my butt off. And my head has been paying me back for the last two days. Not fun to drive home with a stuffy head either. Maybe some good came of it though-- I didn't drink that much. My husband might argue that that is not a good thing though. Anyway. I'm feeling better now and I'm glad to be home. Vegas definitely falls under the fun to visit but wouldn't want to live there category. Sorry I don't have some wild stories to tell, but I'm not a wild person I'm afraid. Seeing Wayne Newton is about as nutty as I get...

Monday, April 05, 2010

Star Wars Episode 2-- Attack of the Clones Review (Part 2 of 9) **Language Warning**

This has been making the rounds, but it's so worth passing on. Great analysis of why "Attack of the Clones" sucks-- and it's funny too (I just spent the last 90 minutes watching all 9 parts and it's hilarious). You can catch the rest of the 9-part review HERE. ((Part 1 appears to be down, but part 2-- and the rest are still up for now))

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Book Review: "The Hand of Fate" by Lis Wiehl and April Henry

I know, I know. This is a scifi/fantasy site. But I have a weakness for detective fiction and sometimes I'm approached to review books for the site outside its specified genre and I can't help but accept. This one had the additional draw of being co-written by a television personality and I was really curious to see if it would live up to the hype... Jim Fate, a combative right-wing radio talk show host based in Portland Oregon, is killed by the release of a poison gas in his studio. Rumors of Sarin gas panic the city, fueling rumors of a terrorist attack. Investigating the crime is the "Triple Threat" club consisting of Federal prosecutor Allison Pierce, FBI agent Nicole Hedges and TV reporter Cassidy Shaw. It doesn't take long when reading The Hand of Fate to realize it's a blatant rip-off of James Patterson's "Women's Murder Club" series; and since I wasn't a fan of Patterson's series, it's hard to get on board with the "Triple Threat" idea. The book suffers from a lot of problems both in plotting and execution. It tries to be too many things at once including elements of chick-lit, detective fiction, suspense and even inspirational fiction, but not doing any one thing very well. It's clear that co-author Lis Wiehl knows her way around a newsroom, but every other aspect of the book can only be described as derivative. It was a good idea to use the current political climate, and the popularity of polarizing radio personalities as inspiration, but there isn't a single story-line that is followed through to a credible conclusion. Real life events, such as the suicide of a controversial politician on live TV, are also used as fictional fodder but they're thrown in as an attempt to be topical and simply fall flat because they're not inventive-- they're simply included. Personal dramas of the three main characters were also added but it's done in a rote, sequential fashion and while they could have added depth to the story, they end up feeling calculated to draw an emotional response from the reader. Nothing in "The Hand of Fate" feels organically created. It seems like little more than an attempt to cash in on a moderately famous name, backed by the "recommendations" of her industry co-workers. I'm not politically for or against anything this book has to say. In fact, I'd say the writers tried to bend-over backward to avoid the impression of partiality to a liberal or conservative agenda. No. It isn't politics that undermined this book. It was its derivative, uninspired writing and plotting. The only way this series can work is that it needs to find an identity of it's own.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

"The A-Team" Trailer

My inner 15-year-old is so psyched right now. Woooooo hooooooo!

Guest Post & Giveaway Featuring James Knapp

When I reviewed "State of Decay" by James Knapp, I said it was a "cool" book-- and I meant it. So I was really excited when Knapp contacted me and offered to sponsor a giveaway for THREE signed copies of the book. And he let me talk him into a guest post too! It doesn't get much better than that... Love for the Editor by James Knapp When I was younger, I read a short story I loved that involved an editor (I think I would love it more now, but have never been able to track it down). In the story, a writer makes a pact with the Devil, who makes him successful. The only catch is that the writer must, before the appointed time, convince an editor to publish a ‘Pact with the Devil’ story. It is told entirely in the form of proposal and rejection letters, as the editor politely (and continuously) explains to the author that ‘Pact with the Devil’ stories are played out, and will not be published. When the writer finally fails, he is whisked off to Hell, doomed to eternally try and sell ‘Pact with the Editor’ stories to the Devil, who eternally rejects them. That was my first exposure to the concept of an editor. Other than reject stories, I had no idea still what they really did. I had on occasion, before getting published myself, read books that left me thinking "I liked it, but that guy/gal could use a good editor". When I said that, I would mean that I thought the book had indulged in too many irrelevant (though maybe interesting) tangents. When I said that, I also still had no real idea what an editor actually did. My first novel STATE OF DECAY has now been published, and as I wrap up the first round of edits on the second book in the trilogy THE SILENT ARMY, I understand more the true role, and value, of an editor. My current editor's name is Jessica Wade, and she works over at ACE/ROC. She juggles a stable of other authors (that's where they keep us) and it's actually amazing to me that she provides the same services she provides me to a bunch of others. I use the word 'amazing' because I realized something this go around, and I'll try and explain it as best I can: I'm sure every author is different, but for me the process involves writing, sketching out story arcs, walking around talking to myself, and rewriting. As I do this, I decide to change things, get new ideas, scrap other things, until the pieces fall into place and click. I've yet to write a book that didn't leave me with 30K words or so of scenes I cut out, and I've never done less than three rewrites, but still...there's always some little nagging items, some little nagging details that didn't *quite* click. I'm usually pretty whipped by the end of that last draft, and if the test readers didn't identify them as problems, I tuck them away thinking 'maybe this is just some sort of writer's neuroses' after all, I could always find *something* to change if I stare long enough. I tuck them away, but I don't forget them. Jessica then reads the manuscript, and immediately zeros in on those things. She spots them (along with other things), calls them out, and then having had some time away from the book, I suddenly am able to see the answer that I couldn't see before. That's not all she does, of course. You'll note I used the phrase 'first round' of edits back there; there are multiple rounds. The first round she makes both small suggestions (this is the part where she finds the things that bothered me, the things that I missed, and the things that need further (or less) explaining, etc), and big suggestions. The 'big' suggestions are what I think of as 'shaping the story'. Not in a 'could Chapter Three be Chapter Six?' kind of way, but in more of a broad sense...she understands books and story structure very well, and knows when a story arc has drifted or doesn't land as well as it could. She doesn't micromanage; I never feel like she's trying to turn the book into something I didn't intend, we have a common goal - we both want the book to be the best it can be. Therefore she is very honest...very nice (her tone sometimes suggests to me that editors might be used to authors freaking out) but very honest, and an honest opinion from a professional who is also nice is a good thing. After the first round, there's a second round, and then copy edits (although someone else does those)...the process takes months and months, but in the end, the book is better than it started. The point is, behind every writer is an editor, and that editor contributes a lot to the books you and I read. Their name doesn't go on the cover, and most readers have no idea who they even are, but the editor (and copy editor, and cover artist, and publicist, etc) are the team in the author's corner who give them the best shot at succeeding in an arena where success is not guaranteed. They're in the sometimes (I imagine) unenviable position of crushing dreams, stepping on raw nerves, and basically banging on an artist's finely assembled contraption with a rubber mallet to shake out the loose pieces, but they do it, usually with a smile, and no one ever writes a wiki about them. So, it used to be when I thought 'editor' I imagined that cigar-chomping guy that always yells at Peter Parker. I don't *think* my editor chomps cigars, but I don't actually know that for a fact. I do know she doesn't yell at Peter Parker because she works for Penguin and he works for The Daily Bugle. Also, he is fictional. I will now get back to editing, though, as not to provoke her into channeling her inner Jonah Jameson – editors keep an eye on deadlines, too. Thanks James! There are a lot of writers, who aspire to be published, that frequent the review blogs (myself included) so it's always interesting to get a glimpse at real-world publishing and I know I appreciate the insight. For everyone else, if you haven't yet gotten your hands on a copy of State of Decay, now you have a chance to win one of THREE SIGNED COPIES that James has graciously offered to giveaway. 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 THREE winners by Friday April 23rd. No multiple entries-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open in the U.S. and Canada. Good luck! **Contest Closed**