Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Rape in Fiction-- How Perceptions May Vary by Gender

Last week I put up a post about Literary Deal Breakers. I was inspired to put the post up due to a strong reaction I had as I tried to read Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence and the conversation that followed made me think of how men and women react to literary content differently-- especially when it comes to the delicate subject of rape.

Whenever this topic comes up, it's inevitable that someone will say something along the lines of murder is worse than rape and walk away from the subject as if that was some kind of conversational coup de grâce. End of discussion. I win. You lose.

Except it's not the end of the conversation if you're a woman.

Now, I'm not arguing that rape is worse than murder. But I am arguing that it is something that is, unfortunately, a real threat to most women-- more than it could ever be to most men. And that makes it harder to read about than most anything-- even murder.

When I read fantasy fiction, it's not unusual to read about murderers and thieves. Assassins are frequently main characters and, against all common sense, they can be written to be sympathetic characters. But rapists? They don't engender any sympathy in my opinion. So why the difference?

I can only answer that from a woman's perspective-- and one woman's at that. But something tells me I won't be alone in my thinking.

Where to start?

Being female means knowing that we have physical limitations when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex. This is something we become aware of very young. I had three older brothers and learned how to throw a good right-hook before I knew how to ride a bike. But I was never under the illusion that I was going to beat them at arm-wrestling. Your average feminist will hate me for saying it, but men are women are different. Simple as that. As I got older, gender differences became more pronounced for obvious reasons and I learned to be wary of men who exuded a certain aura. My caution has served me well. I've been stalked (before anyone knew the meaning of the word) by someone who called into my job and described what I was wearing on a daily basis-- but I've never been attacked. I'd be interested to know how many women out there have similar experiences-- and how many men really understand the feeling of vulnerability that comes so naturally to my gender.

So how does this translate to fiction?

When we read stories about murder and mayhem it's usually in some kind of hyper-reality. It might be in the context of a horror novel or an epic fantasy, or maybe a cable drama about a serial killer. But there are usually clear lines between fantasy and reality because most people have a natural aversion to casual criminality. If we are meant to sympathize with a killer, the set-up often includes a thread of vigilantism in which the 'victims' are the type of people we can tell ourselves have it coming. We also know that these are not scenarios we'd accept in the real world.

But rape cannot be introduced into a story as easily because it's impossible to say that a character deserves to brutalized in such a way. And no matter how repugnant a character is-- the person performing the act has to be worse in this situation. No way around it. So it's nearly impossible to make a rapist a sympathetic character. And seeing someone we like forced into the situation is so close to our own fears is extraordinarily hard to read. In the rare instance that a male character is similarly attacked it's often framed in the context of a prison-yard attack and, much like reality, it's about establishing a very ugly power structure and we're not likely to have any empathy for the instigators in that situation either.

Does that mean I think rape should never be addressed in literature? Of course not. But it's a minefield like no other. If it presented as almost a passing thought, a throwaway scene, it has a high likelihood to offend because it will appear to a female reader that the writer not only doesn't "get" the weight of this crime, but also that they don't care.

It's just a book...What's the big deal?

The thing with rape is that it is primarily a crime against women. There are still cultures that blame the woman if she is victimized. Even worse, there are societies that know women will be rejected by their family if they are raped, so it becomes a very effective tool of war. Women know that every man has the power to victimize her in a very particular way and that we cannot know when this threat will surface. We can't walk to our cars at night free of worry and we have different standards for safety when it comes to our sons and daughters because of it--how many sons have to be told to guard their drinks when going to a bar against date-rape drugs? This is the bogeyman of a lot of women's nightmares.

And the trickiness of the topic doesn't just end with the crime, it continues with the aftermath. How is it possible to convey the proper gravity or sympathy for the character? How long is the victim supposed to dwell on the act before the reader is satisfied? How long before we say get over it already? Or do we have the right to say that at all?

I'm not sure why anyone would want to tackle this monster.

I can understand the desire to stay true to the integrity of a story and include rape as part of the storyline if it is important to the narrative. But it's the kind of thing that can't be handled casually in my opinion. I do see it more in popular fiction as the popularity of urban fantasy increases along with the number of leading female characters who throw themselves in harm's way. But whether or not it's a wise decision to make it part of the story is debatable in my opinion.

Ultimately I think it's something that can't be viewed equally by men and women because it's going to resonate as a more realistic threat to women and no one likes to be reminded of their vulnerabilities--or worse, have them dismissed too easily.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How Did I Get Talked Into This?

My dear husband is a HUGE fan of the band Kiss. Somehow I agreed to go to a concert this evening.

I hope my ears survive.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Book Review: Star Wars - Conviction by Aaron Allston

Unlike some of the other Star Wars books I’ve reviewed recently for this blog, Aaron Allston’s Conviction is not really a good book for newcomers to just hop in and read. This is the seventh book in the Fate of the Jedi series, which in itself takes place decades after Return of the Jedi and assumes the reader has some knowledge of all that has transpired since (such as Luke Skywalker getting married and having a son of his own). I’m not going to spend any time in this review going over all the plots that have brought the series to this point, instead just focusing on the three main plotlines of this specific novel and the pluses and minuses of the story. The main action takes place on the city-world of Coruscant, and it’s easily the best part of this story. It is here that the Jedi are putting into motion a plan to overthrow the government, deciding that former Imperial Admiral Daala (and current Chief of State of the Galactic Alliance) is a danger and must be forcibly removed from power. Ironicially, there are other conspirators looking to take down the weakened Daala, and they find themselves as strange bedfellows in the aftermath of the coup. Also on the line is the result of the trial of former Jedi Knight Tahiri, accused of murder while under the influence of the Sith. With the Jedi taking control of the government what kind of backlash might she see in the courtroom – where her death sentence is all but confirmed. Former Jedi Knight and former Chief of State will find themselves teaming up with Boba Fett in order to escape their Conviction. Because of their actions on Coruscant, the Jedi are looking for a way to do some damage control – and they find it in the form of trying to help the slave revolts going on throughout the galaxy. Han and Leia, along with their granddaughter Allana, are sent to Klatooine to throw their support behind the most prominent revolt. Meanwhile Luke and his son Ben, along with the Sith girl Vestara, continue to track the dark side creature Abeloth through to the planet Nam Chorios. They wind up getting involved in solving the mysterious death of a scientist investigating various uses for the Death Seed plague, found only on this one planet in all the galaxy, figuring it will lead them to Abeloth herself. Most of this plot is really well done, and had me anticipating what would happen next each time the plot turned to another set of characters. Unfortunately, I feel like Tahiri’s trial get’s a bit of a short shrift – after all the set-up and build-up in prior novels, the trial just comes to an immediate resolution in a very short amount of time. I understand the reasoning behind it, so it’s not a case where I think the author made a poor decision, but I rather wanted to see the Star Wars justice system really take the forefront in this book, instead of it playing just this minor part. I couldn’t help but feel that the Klatooine story was almost tacked on to the end of the book. The bulk of the action has already taken place, the main plot as it were, before the reader is ever taken to Klatooine. The slavery plot has seemed a bit like filler in some of the prior books of this series, and it’s not a lot different here. For the most part, I enjoyed Conviction thought I’m not sold on the fact that both in this book and in Backlash the author revisited planets from older Star Wars books that I didn’t find all that interesting the first time around. In general it may just not have been a very interesting idea to have this “revisiting the past” thing that Fate of the Jedi is doing as the over-arching idea behind the series, but that isn’t necessarily the fault of any one particular author. I look forward to seeing some of these plot lines begin to wrap up in Ascension (the next book in the series), so in any case, the novel achieved its objective in ramping up my anticipation for the next Fate of the Jedi book. Even more, I look forward with great anticipation to reading Aaron Allston’s return to the X-Wing novels with a new book in that series in 2012.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Giveaway! "Nerd Do Well" by Simon Pegg (U.S. Only)

I don't typically do autobiographies as giveaways, but when the people at Gotham Books asked if I was interested in doing a giveaway for Simon Pegg's new book, Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy's Journey to Becoming a Big Kid, I knew I had to make an exception. Pegg is one of those guys who seems to get geek mindset because he lives it. ~And he was in Shaun of the Dead.

The unique life story of one of the most talented and inventive comedians, star of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Star Trek.

Zombies in North London, death cults in the West Country, the engineering deck of the Enterprise: actor, comedian, writer and self-proclaimed supergeek Simon Pegg has been ploughing some bizarre furrows in recent times. Having landed on the U.S. movie scene in the surprise cult hit Shaun of the Dead, his enduring appeal and rise to movie star with a dedicated following has been mercurial, meteoric, megatronic, but mostly just plain great.
From his childhood (and subsequently adult) obsession with science fiction, his enduring friendship with Nick Frost, and his forays into stand-up comedy which began with his regular Monday morning slot in front of his twelve-year-old classmates, Simon has always had a severe and dangerous case of the funnies.

Whether recounting his experience working as a lifeguard at the city pool, going to Comic-Con for the first time and confessing to Carrie Fisher that he used to kiss her picture every night before he went to sleep, or meeting and working with heroes that include Peter Jackson, Kevin Smith, and Quentin Tarantino, Pegg offers a hilarious look at the journey to becoming an international superstar, dotted with a cast of memorable characters, and you're rooting for him all the way.

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 one winner by Thursday June 9th. No multiple entries-- all multiple entries will be disqualified. Open in the U.S. only.

Good luck.

**Contest Closed**

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Literary Deal Breakers...

I may have talked about this before. I did a quick search of my blog and couldn't find any specific posts that talk about what I call literary deal breakers, but we've often spoken of politics in fiction and at whether or not that affects our decision to read a certain author.

But what other things will derail you from reading a book?

I ask because I just picked up Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence and made it about two chapters before I put it down for good. I'm surprised I made it that far.

I don't want to pick on Lawrence's book, but his main character is a deal breaker for me. He's an unrepentant rapist and murderer and it doesn't matter what kind of turnaround there is later in the book-- I despise the character as he exists in the early chapters. Years ago I tried to read "Lord Foul's Bane" and couldn't make it past the rape committed by the main character. "Prince of Thorns" makes that depiction seem beyond mild in comparison.

I can't do it. I can't read through the beginning while waiting for some kind of turning point. It's that stomach-turning in my opinion.

What about you? What are your literary deal breakers?

I have a few. Murder and rape by the main character are certainly issues, as are politics that clearly come from the author's point of view and leap out of the context of the story. I'm also not a fan of stories that take cheap shots at religion. I'm all for questioning the hypocrisy of people who use religion to manipulate others, but using that context to insult the general belief in God or mainstream religion is a definite turn off for me. Stephen King has become someone I have a hard time reading because he likes to take ham-fisted shots at religion and the military-- which is a shame because I loved his earlier work. (I have family that have served in Vietnam and friends who have served in Afghanistan, so the military thing is kind of personal for me).

It's a fine line sometimes. I don't pick and choose authors based on their personal politics. I read many authors that don't share my politics, but it doesn't derail me from reading their work if I feel confident that I won't be sucker-punched along the way. If I do feel sucker-punched I stop buying their books--who wants to pay to be offended?

What are your hot-button issues?

**Quick Note** Be sure to read the comments on this post for some good input on "Prince of Thorns" and what themes the author may be trying to convey.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Books Received

Trying to keep up....

The Watchtower by Lee Carroll

What secrets are hidden in her past . . . ?
Jewelry designer Garet James is still coming to terms with the astounding revelation in BLACK SWAN RISING that she is the last in a long line of women sworn to protect the world from evil. Now she has received a sign from Will Hughes, the 400-year-old vampire who once helped her defeat the evil threatening to destroy New York City. Hughes, tortured by his own violent history which is vividly reenacted here, has asked her to join him on a quest to rid himself of his curse of vampirism. While looking for Will in Paris, Garet encounters a number of mysterious figures-an ancient botanist metamorphosed into the oldest tree in Paris, a gnome who lives under the Labyrinth at the Jardin des Plantes, a librarian at the Institut Oceanographique, and a dryad in the Luxembourg Gardens.
Each encounter leads Garet closer to finding Will Hughes, but she realizes that she’s not the only one who’s trying to find the way to the magical world called the Summer Country. As Garet struggles to understand her family legacy, each answer she finds only leads to more questions—and to more danger.…

Working Stiff by Rachel Caine

Bryn Davis is new on the job as a funeral director, but even she knows that once you’re dead, you ought to stay that way. But Fairview Mortuary has a hidden backroom business: reviving the dead for profit, at extortionate rates.

Finding out may cost Bryn more than her life ... it may just take away her death, too.

Home Improvement: Undead Edition Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

The editors of the New York Times bestselling Death's Excellent Vacation bring home a new collection...with a never-before- published Sookie Stackhouse story!

There's nothing like home renovation for finding skeletons in the closet or otherwordly portals in the attic. Now, for any homeowner who's ever wondered, "What's that creaking sound?" or fans of "how to" television who'd like a little unreality mixed in with their reality shows, editors Charlaine Harris and Toni L. P. Kelner return with an all-new collection of the paranormal perils of Do-It-Yourself.

Sookie Stackhouse resides in these pages, in a never-before-published story by #1 New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris. And New York Times bestselling authors Patricia Briggs, James Grady, Heather Graham, Melissa Marr, and nine other outstanding writers have constructed more frightening and funny fixer-upper tales guaranteed to shake foundations and rattle readers' pipes.

The Neon Graveyard by Vicki Pettersson

Once she was a soldier for the Light, the prophesied savior who would decide the outcome of the eternal conflict raging unseen in the dark corners of her glittering hometown. Now Joanna Archer is just another mortal—still born of an impossible union of Shadow and Light . . . still hunted by both—and carrying the unborn child of a lover held captive by a depraved demon goddess. Joining forces with a band of rogue Shadow agents, Joanna's ready to storm the stronghold of her demonic foe, risking everything to enter this ghastly, godforsaken realm where the price of admission is her eternal soul. Because in a world that has stripped her of her power, identity, and fortune, Joanna has nothing left to lose—except her baby, her future, and the epic war poised to consume the city.

The Snow Queen's Shadow by Jim C. Hines

When a spell gone wrong shatters Snow White's enchanted mirror, a demon escapes into the world. The demon's magic distorts the vision of all it touches, showing them only ugliness and hate. It is a power that turns even friends and lovers into mortal foes, one that will threaten humans and fairies alike.

Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews

Kate Daniels has quit the Order of Merciful Aid, but starting her own business isn't easy when the Order starts disparaging her good name. And being the mate of the Beast Lord doesn't bring in the customers, either. So when Atlanta's premier Master of the Dead asks for help with a vampire, Kate jumps at the chance. Unfortunately, this is one case where Kate should have looked before she leapt.

Shadowflame by Dianne Sylvan

It’s been three months since musician Miranda Grey became a vampire and married David Solomon, Prime of the South. As Queen, Miranda must quickly come to terms with her new role and learn how to negotiate the treacherous waters of Signet politics, inevitably making dangerous enemies along the way.

As if complicated vampire politics and a rising music career weren’t enough, an enigmatic but powerful force from David’s past appears, leaving a wake of chaos and uncertainty for the Pair’s fledgling relationship. Miranda begins to realize how little she really knows about her husband. But when an assassin begins targeting her friends and allies, the Pair must track down the killer, even as their lives hang in the balance…

The Deadliest Bite by Jennifer Rardin

I have two choices. Carve Brude's name into Hell's bile-encrusted gates. Or lose my soul.
After an assassination attempt on Vayl, I find myself pulled into a tangled web that takes the gang to Romania. So how will I save a ghost, rescue a demon, and cheat the Great Taker out of a soul he's slavering for while defeating my nastiest foe yet so that Vayl can, at last, cherish a few precious years with his sons? With careful planning, major violence, and one (hopefully) final trip to Hell.

Hit List by Laurell K. Hamilton

Anita is upstate with Edward as US Marshals, trying to catch a serial killer that is killing Were Tigers across the country. Anita and Edward both know that the Harlequin still loyal to the Queen of Darkness are killing the Were Tigers, but they can't tell the police because they know that anyone who mentions the Harlequin without being invited, will be hunted down and killed and there are too many secrets from the other police. Anita can't explain everything, but because the Harlequin met each other masked, even the Harlequin on her side don't have faces or names to give to the police.
Anita and Edward know everything and nothing that will help catch the killers. Edward begins to think that the killers are a trick to try and lure Anita away from Jean-Claude and all his bodyguards, so that the Mother of all Darkness can either have her kidnapped try and takeover her body, or kill her. Edward will propose to set a trap to lure the Harlequin in to try and take Anita. He bets that he, Anita, some guards from home and other Marshals will be better than millennium old vampire assassins. The vampires call Anita the executioner and Edward death but can even death and the executioner win against the Harlequin?

Hex by Allen Steele

The two-time Hugo Award-winner expands the universe of his Coyote saga.

The danui, a reclusive arachnid species considered the galaxy's finest engineers, have avoided contact with the Coyote Federation. Until, that is, the danui initiate trade negotiations, offering only information: the coordinates for an unoccupied world suitable for human life-a massive sphere, composed of billions of hexagons.

But when the Federation's recon mission goes terribly wrong, the humans realize how little they know about their new partners...

Always the Vampire by Nancy Haddock

It's not easy being a dutiful maid of honor when you're a vampire in the Sunshine State...
Cesca Marinelli has been slacking on her duties as a vampire princess, but she will be the best maid of honor ever for Maggie's Victorian wedding. However, when her mostly-human honey, Saber, falls ill due to a magical construct called the Void, she knows she'll have to go beyond the call of bridesmaid duty...
The Void is affecting every supernatural being in Cesca's afterlife, including her shapeshifter ex, Triton. To counter the Void's reign of terror, Cesca must fully summon her vampire powers-which may lead to her own doom.

The Worst Thing by Aaron Elkins

For Bryan Bennett, designing hostage negotiation programs is the perfect job-as long as he keeps a safe, theoretical distance. What he can't do is deal directly with kidnappers or their victims, as a result of his own abduction and imprisonment as a small boy. Thirty-some years later, intense nightmares still plague his sleep, and a fear of enclosed spaces prevents him from attempting to travel.
So when Bryan's boss asks him to fly to Reykjavik, Iceland, to teach his corporate-level kidnapping and extortion seminar, he automatically says no. But the CEO of GlobalSeas Fisheries, Inc. has specifically requested Bryan-or no one else. Bryan finally relents...
For decades he's treaded gingerly around the edges of his deepest terrors. Now, on this trip, Bryan's taken hostage again and must face his fears full-on. Will he realize that in this battle of will and nerve, he is his own greatest enemy? Or has this fight already been lost, years and years ago?

Demon: The Fallen by Kristina Douglas

Once the Fallen’s fearless ruler, a grieving Azazel must find the legendary siren meant to take his lost lover’s place . . . and kill her.
He’s a devil of an angel.
Azazel should have extinguished the deadly Lilith when he had the chance. Now, faced with a prophecy that will force him to betray the memory of his one true love and wed the Demon Queen, he cannot end her life until she leads him to Lucifer. Finding the First is the Fallen’s only hope for protecting mankind from Uriel’s destruction, but Azazel knows that ignoring his simmering desire for the Lilith will be almost as impossible.
She’s an angel of a demon.
Rachel Fitzpatrick wonders how Azazel could confuse her with an evil seductress. She’s never even been interested in sex! At least not before she set eyes on her breathtaking captor. And now she can’t think about anything else—besides escape.
Angels and demons don’t mix.
Rachel stirs a carnal need in Azazel that he never thought he’d feel again. Falling for a demon—even if she has no idea she’s the Lilith—means surrendering his very soul. But if he lets her go, he risks abandoning his heart, his dangerous lover, and possibly all of humanity, to Uriel’s deadly wrath.

Dead on the Delta by Stacey Jay

Once upon a time, fairies were the stuff of bedtime stories and sweet dreams. Then came the mutations, and the dre-ams became nightmares. Mosquito-size fairies now indulge their taste for human blood—and for most humans, a fairy bite means insanity or death. Luckily, Annabelle Lee isn’t most humans. The hard-drinking, smart-mouthed, bicycle-riding redhead is immune to fairy venom, and able to do the dirty work most humans can’t. Including helping law enforcement— and Cane Cooper, the bayou’s sexiest detective—collect evidence when a body is discovered outside the fairy-proof barricades of her Louisiana town.
But Annabelle isn’t equipped to deal with the murder of a sixyear- old girl or a former lover-turned-FBI snob taking an interest in the case. Suddenly her already bumpy relationship with Cane turns even rockier, and even the most trust-worthy friends become suspects. Annabelle’s life is imploding: between relationship drama, a heartbreaking murder investigation, Breeze-crazed drug runners, and a few too many rum and Cokes, Annabelle is a woman on the run—from her past, toward her future, and into the arms of a darkness waiting just for her. . . .

Concrete Savior by Yvonne Navarro

A fallen angel in human form, Brynna is trying to earn another chance at heaven. So far, her road to redemption is littered with casualties, especially since Lucifer’s minions are intent on dragging her back to hell. And being mortal only got more complicated since Brynna became involved with Detective Eran Redmond.
Still, Brynna’s relationship issues—like the fact that one glimpse of her can drive men crazy with desire—may have to wait. A mysterious “hero” is saving Chicago’s citizens from certain death, with strange and sinister consequences. Brynna knows too much about demonkind to believe in coincidences. Some dark force is at work here, and Brynna may be the only one who can stop it. . . .

Timecaster by Joe Kimball

Chicago, 2064: Talon Avalon is a timecaster-one of a select few peace officers who can operate a TEV, the Tachyon Emission Visualizer, which records events (most specifically, crimes) that have already happened. With crime at an all-time low, Talon has little to do except give lectures to school kids and obsess on his wife's profession as a licensed sex partner. Until one of her clients asks Talon to investigate a possible murder. When Talon uses the TEV to view the crime, the identity of the killer is unmistakable-it's him, Talon Avalon.

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

A stunning fantasy debut from a major new talent!

When he was nine, he watched his mother and brother killed before him. By the time he was thirteen, he was the leader of a band of bloodthirsty thugs. By fifteen, he intends to be king...

It's time for Prince Honorous Jorg Ancrath to return to the castle he turned his back on, to take what's rightfully his. Since the day he was hung on the thorns of a briar patch and forced to watch Count Renar's men slaughter his mother and young brother, Jorg has been driven to vent his rage. Life and death are no more than a game to him-and he has nothing left to lose.

But treachery awaits him in his father's castle. Treachery and dark magic. No matter how fierce, can the will of one young man conquer enemies with power beyond his imagining?

Flying Blind by Deborah Cooke

The next generation of shape-shifting dragons from the popular author of the Dragonfire novels.

Zoë Sorensson is perfectly normal, except she's been told she's destined for great things. Zoë's the one female dragon shapeshifter of her kind. But Zoë is at the bottom of the class when it comes to being Pyr and her powers are AWOL, so she's sent to a Pyr boot camp.

Zoë quickly realizes that she has to master her powers yesterday, because the Pyr are in danger and boot camp is a trap. The Mages want to eliminate all shifters and the Pyr are next in line-unless Zoë and her friends can work together and save their own kind.

Hunt the Moon by Karen Chance

In the fifth entry in Karen Chance's Cassandra Palmer series, Cassie is busier than ever preparing for her upcoming coronation as Pythia, the world's chief clairvoyant. But someone doesn't want Cassie to become Pythia---and will go to any lengths to make sure the coronation ceremony never happens.

Downpour by Kat Richardson

Harper Blaine is on the mend, but evil never rests-in the latest novel from the national bestselling author of Labyrinth.
After being shot in the back and dying-again- Greywalker Harper Blaine's only respite from the chaos is her work. But while conducting a pre-trial investigation in the Olympic Peninsula, she sees a ghostly car accident whose victim insists that he was murdered and that the nearby community of Sunset Lakes is to blame.
Harper soon learns that the icy waters of the lake hide a terrible power, and a host of hellish beings under the thrall of a sinister cabal that will use the darkest of arts to achieve their fiendish ends...

Unnatural Issue by Mercedes Lackey

A brand-new Elemental Masters novel from the national bestselling author Mercedes Lackey.

Richard Whitestone is an Elemental Earth Master. Blaming himself for the death of his beloved wife in childbirth, he has sworn never to set eyes on his daughter, Suzanne. But when he finally sees her, a dark plan takes shape in his twisted mind-to use his daughter's body to bring back the spirit of his long-dead wife.

Thistle Down by Irene Radford

Dusty Carrick lived in the small town of Skene Falls, Oregon, her entire life. And, like many of the local children, she played with "imaginary" Pixie friends in Ten Acre Woods.
But the Pixies are not imaginary at all, and Ten Acre Woods is their home. Now, the woods are in danger, and if it falls, the Pixies too will die. Only Thistle Down, exiled from her tribe and trapped inside a mortal woman's body, can save her people-as long as she can convince Dusty Carrick to help her before it's too late.

Hot and Steamy: Tales of Steampunk Romance, Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Jean Rabe

From the co-editor of Steampunk'd comes an all-new collection of adventure and romance amid Victorian steampunk settings. Sparks fly in these original stories of a steam-driven airship searching for a lost city, a crazy inventor in a powered wheelchair with a plot to take over the world, and a love story set in an alternate history version of America. Adventure abounds in these stories of love, loss, and danger- and there is plenty of steam!

The Golden Key by Melanie Rawn, Kate Elliott and Jennifer Roberson

In Tira Virte, art is prized for its beauty and as a binding legal record of everything from marriages to treaties. Yet not even the Grand Duke knows how extraordinary the Grijalva family's art is, for certain Grijalva males are born with the ability to alter events and influence people in the real world through that they paint. Always, their power has been used for Tira Virte. But now Sario Grijalva has learned to use his Gift in a whole new way. And when he begins to work his magic both the Grijalvas and Tira Virte may pay the price.

A Soldier's Duty by Jean Johnson

Ia is a precog, tormented by visions of the future where her home galaxy has been devastated. To prevent this vision from coming true, Ia enlists in the Terran United Planets military with a plan to become a soldier who will inspire generations for the next three hundred years-a soldier history will call Bloody Mary.

The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011, Edited by Kevin J. Anderson

Library Journal
This volume presents the 2010 short fiction nominees for the Nebula Awards (winners to be announced May 21), voted on annually by the membership of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). The strong and varied selections include James Patrick's bittersweet tale of a young girl growing up with an absent space-traveling mother and an AI room for a "nanny" ("Going Deep"), Rachel Swirsky's elegant and moving interpretation of the brief life of Agamemnon's daughter ("A Memory of Wind"), Kage Baker's award-winning novella "The Women of Nell Gwynne's," and a rambunctious comic story by 2010 SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master Joe Haldeman ("A !Tangled Web"). VERDICT Taking over the publishing reins from New American Library's ROC imprint, Tor has reformatted this annual as a fiction-only collection and also includes the 2009 short fiction winners (announced in May 2010). Along with its Nebula Award-related lists, including the winners in each category from 1955 to the present, this serves as a top-notch introduction to the genre for newcomers and seasoned readers alike.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Random Thoughts...

  • Okay. I'm going to go ahead and say it. What the heck was Arnold Schwarzenegger thinking? I know it's not uncommon for famous men to cheat-- and even have kids out of wedlock. But the housekeeper? No one is shocked that Arnie was a scumbag. I think we're all just a little shocked he has such bad taste. Damn. 
  • So, it's late Sunday and it appears that the Rapture didn't occur on Saturday. Which is awesome because "Game of Thrones" is on tonight. 
  • Speaking of "Game of Thrones...." I always watch shows like that and wonder if that much nudity is a good stepping stone in an acting career. What do the auditions look like when they try to get their next role?  See, I'm really good at doing on-camera sex faces. You'll really think I'm doing the nasty! Oh, the part is for a schoolteacher? Is it a nasty schoolteacher? 
  • I'm not really interested in seeing the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie. I've already seen about 8 hours worth of Johnny Depp doing his swishy Keith Richards impersonation, so I think I've got the premise. I don't know that adding mermaids is going to make it seem like a whole new experience. 
  • When I see the term "geek chic" I wonder who actually thinks it's fashionable to be geeky. Are there really people out there trying to dress like Bill Gates? Or are we talking about pseudo geeks who think they're being edgy by wearing plastic eyeglass frames and striped scarves? Because no one I know thinks I'm particularly chic, nor are they rushing to throw up a sci-fi blog. 
  • Does anyone really learn a foreign language by listening to it on your MP3 player? I lived in Japan for four months (with a Japanese family!) and I'm pretty sure they were talking about me the whole time-- but who can for sure because I barely understood a word they said even after two years of language courses. My language skills were obviously not that good but I seriously doubt listening to the whole Rosetta Stone library would have made me more fluent than I was. 
  • I love watching cooking shows and often think that it would be really awesome to be a guest judge on Iron Chef. But with my luck I'd be there on the night that brussel sprouts was the featured ingredient. 
  • Is there a more quotable movie than The Jerk? My husband just turned it on and I'm having a really hard time writing this because I keep stopping to hear what Steve Martin is going to say next. So I'm going to leave you with a few quotes:
Navin R. Johnson: Huh? I am *not* a bum. I'm a jerk. I once had wealth, power, and the love of a beautiful woman. Now I only have two things: my friends, and... uh... my thermos. Huh? My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin' on the porch with my family, singin' and dancin' down in Mississippi...

Mother: Navin, it's your birthday, and it's time you knew. You're not our natural-born child.
Navin R. Johnson: I'm not? You mean I'm gonna STAY this color?

[a sniper keeps missing Navin and hitting cans of motor oil]
Navin R. Johnson: He hates these cans! Stay away from the cans!

Navin R. Johnson: I know we've only known each other four weeks and three days, but to me it seems like nine weeks and five days. The first day seemed like a week and the second day seemed like five days. And the third day seemed like a week again and the fourth day seemed like eight days. And the fifth day you went to see your mother and that seemed just like a day, and then you came back and later on the sixth day, in the evening, when we saw each other, that started seeming like two days, so in the evening it seemed like two days spilling over into the next day and that started seeming like four days, so at the end of the sixth day on into the seventh day, it seemed like a total of five days. And the sixth day seemed like a week and a half. I have it written down, but I can show it to you tomorrow if you want to see it.

[Stan Fox's eyeglasses keep slipping off]
Stan Fox: Damn these glasses son.
Navin R. Johnson: Yes, sir.
[to the glasses]
Navin R. Johnson: I damn thee.

Navin R. Johnson: You have great skin. Are you a model?
Marie: No. I'm a Cosmetologist.
Navin R. Johnson: A Cosmetologist? Really? Wow. Must be tough to handle the weightlessness.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: The Dark Tower – The Journey Begins

Having read the entire Dark Tower book series by Stephen King, and also being a comic book reader, I knew from the first announcement that I’d be interested in checking out the new series from Marvel. The initial stories were one part adaptation of some of the earliest stories in the Dark Tower timeline, from Roland becoming the youngest Gunslinger to his first trial in Wizard and Glass. But eventually the comic moved on and began to fill in the missing pieces of Roland’s youth, finally bringing the story to the critical Fall of Gilead and Battle of Jericho Hill. This story moves ahead to where The Gunslinger book opens, with Roland on the trail of the man in black. He stops at a shack in the desert inhabited by a solitary man, and there he tells of another story from his younger days, in the immediate aftermath of Jericho Hill. Roland’s friend Aileen asks him to bury her with her father back at Gilead, and so his quest is delayed as he fulfills her last request. Along the way he does battle with mutants and some of Farson’s men, before the story comes back to the present and Roland continues on his pursuit of Marten and ultimately The Dark Tower. I had one major problem with this book, and a few minor ones as well. The major issue is that in the middle of the flashback story about the aftermath of Jericho Hill, Roland has a second flashback (that’s a flashback within a flashback) when he is confronted by the ghost of Gilead’s cook. Now as I was reading this I was aware that this story, from when Roland was a boy and overheard the cook plotting to kill the Gilead’s children in his service to John Farson, I was aware that I’ve read this part before – I’m not sure if it’s actually from The Gunslinger book or from some other novel in the series, but it’s there. The real issue is that it was a flashback within a flashback, which should really be the touch of death to any author – stay well back from the area. Besides that, there just wasn’t all that much interesting that needed to be told in this series. The Gunslinger works as an introduction to the character and the world, but now that this comic series has already done that (in telling earlier stories) it’s not as needed, and it means that the comic creators should have breezed past this and onto other things. The artist is serviceable but not particularly memorable, not anywhere in the same league as Jae Lee (who has done all the art chores up to this point). I’ll continue to read at least through the next book, since it’s an adaptation of The Little Sisters of Eluria which is one of the rare Dark Tower stores I’ve never read – but after that, this series is going to have to do a lot more to grab my attention when I could just as easily re-read the books instead.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Giveaway! "The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011"

Courtesy of Tor Books I have a copy of The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011, edited by Kevin J. Anderson, to offer for giveaway.

Library Journal
This volume presents the 2010 short fiction nominees for the Nebula Awards (winners to be announced May 21), voted on annually by the membership of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). The strong and varied selections include James Patrick's bittersweet tale of a young girl growing up with an absent space-traveling mother and an AI room for a "nanny" ("Going Deep"), Rachel Swirsky's elegant and moving interpretation of the brief life of Agamemnon's daughter ("A Memory of Wind"), Kage Baker's award-winning novella "The Women of Nell Gwynne's," and a rambunctious comic story by 2010 SFWA Damon Knight Grand Master Joe Haldeman ("A !Tangled Web"). VERDICT Taking over the publishing reins from New American Library's ROC imprint, Tor has reformatted this annual as a fiction-only collection and also includes the 2009 short fiction winners (announced in May 2010). Along with its Nebula Award-related lists, including the winners in each category from 1955 to the present, this serves as a top-notch introduction to the genre for newcomers and seasoned readers alike.

Just add your information to the form below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once contest ends) and I will randomly pick one winner by Thursday June 1st. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere.

Good luck!

**Contest Closed**

Winner! "Sati" by Christopher Pike

Time to announce the winner of a copy of "Sati" by Christopher Pike--

And the winner is:

Cherry Mischievous; United Kingdom


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review: "Divergent" by Veronica Roth

"They don't want people to listen, they want people to agree[...] And you shouldn't bully people into agreeing with you."

~Divergent by Veronica Roth.

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Debut author Veronica Roth bursts onto the literary scene with the first book in the Divergent series—dystopian thrillers filled with electrifying decisions, heartbreaking betrayals, stunning consequences, and unexpected romance.

I always say I don't read much YA fiction-- and that's true-- but it seems that every year one YA title manages to captivate me-- and this year's book is "Divergent" by Veronica Roth.

Dystopian themes seem to be fairly hot in YA fiction but "Divergent" doesn't spend a lot of time dealing with the end-of-the-world aspects of the story. The collapse of society as we know it is the set-up, but what really impressed me about this book was the way Roth takes topics that are very common in YA fiction, like the conformity of cliques and finding one's individuality, and giving them uncommon depth.

We don't know what precipitates the decline of modern civilization, but the solution presented in "Divergent" involves dividing people into groups based on their most prominent personality traits with the intention of creating the ever impossible Utopian society. As always happens in this kind of scenario the various factions become suspicious of each other and the plotting begins.

Tris grows up largely unaware of the tensions that exist between groups because she has grown up mostly isolated within the faction of her birth. But she does know that she isn't sure she belongs in Abnegation even though she has spent her whole life there. When Tris does choose a faction (a spoiler I won't reveal here) she not only learns a lot about the political rifts that have developed between groups, but also that conformity to one's chosen traits is a matter of life and death.

When I first started reading "Divergent" I was tempted to try to compare it to other books. I looked at the factions that Roth describes and began to think Harry Potter. Are the Dauntless supposed to represent Gryffindor? I mused. But those comparisons fade as the depth of the narrative becomes clearer. What I liked best about Divergent" is that while each group could potentially stand-in for the cliques we remember from high school (the geeks, the jocks, the rebels etc.,) they are also very relatable to the adult reader as surrogates for the political jockeying and misinformation we see blasted out the cable networks everyday. The story quickly goes from just entertainment to a pointed reminder that it's not whether or not we're willing to challenge the assumptions of other people that matter, but whether we're willing to challenge our own. "Divergent" also had me tempted to make comparisons to "The Hunger Games" because Tris was such a strong character. But Tris is a fully realized heroine and easily stands up the best characters to show up in YA fiction.

"Divergent" isn't a perfect book. While the action is well paced there were a few times I was forced to admit that the confrontations between the heroes and the villains were very stereotypically written. One sequence in particular has that James Bond flavor of setting the scene in which the hero is put into a fairly silly, over complicated trap reminiscent of tying Bond to a table and aiming a laser at him-- while the villain walks away. Like that. I also wished that Roth had gone into some detail as to what led to the breakdown of society and how widespread it was as the story is set in Chicago and makes no mention of whether or not it is the only city left standing- but I do have hope that this part of the story may be expanded upon in the future.

But "Divergent" is one of those books that has such a huge emotional payoff that you don't mind the flaws in the narrative. Roth takes messages that are often inserted into YA fiction and makes them relevant to any reader. I loved how she showed that any kind of behavior, no matter how rebellious it seems, can be a type of conformity-- and how dangerous that is. And that making assumptions about people as a "type" makes it so easy to make them an enemy. Honestly, most adults I know need to be reminded of these things more than any teenager I've ever met.

I couldn't put "Divergent" down. It's just a very satisfying read that leaves you hungry for the sequel.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Veronica Roth Website (Quick aside-- I just read that Roth is 22 years old! I am seriously impressed.)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"The Sorcerer's Apprentice" -- Liking a Mediocre Film

Watching films, and reviewing them, is always subjective. What I think makes a good movie isn't always going to match anyone else's opinion-- and what I think may change over time and vary according to my circumstances.

For example: I watched two films this week that I had not seen in a while. The first, Ever After, is a Cinderella story featuring Drew Barrymore that was released in 1998-- and I loved it when it first came out. I hadn't watched it in years and wasn't sure if I would feel the same watching it now as I had watching it then. I still love it. Is it a good movie? Well, I certainly think so. It has the kind of rom-com sensibility that I favor in that it has romance, humor and sentimentality in huge quantities. And Angelica Huston is hilarious.

However, the second film I re-watched this week, "Transformers," failed to impress me this time around. Granted, I had some reservations about this movie the first time around, but after sitting through it a second time with kids who are older (my daughter was 7 the first time she saw it, and is now 11) I realized how cringe-worthy some of the content is. I thought it was idiotic to have Bumblebee "pee" oil on one character the first time I saw it, but waiting for the inevitable questions after Sam's mother inexplicably asks him if he was masturbating during one particularly dumb sequence is uncomfortable to say the least. Who are they trying to appeal to here? Little kids who still think potty humor is the height of comedy or teenagers who're probably just as uncomfortable watching Sam dodge his embarrassing mom as I am? I know, I know, it's Michael Bay. Believe me, I'll take that into account before I pay to see the next "Transformers."

Because my kids are past the stage where they are oblivious to film content, movie going has a lot of land-mines these days. The only films I trust right now are animated ones by Disney and Pixar. But it's not just language and adult themes that are the issue. Finding a film that appeals to pre-teen kids and adults is harder than I imagined. The "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" movies are cute enough, but had me sneaking a peek at my smart-phone pretty regularly. And sitting through anything featuring Jack Black is even harder in my opinion. (I read that Kathy Griffin's mom said Black has "serial killer eyes" and now that's all I see when I look at him...)

Which brings me to The Sorcerer's Apprentice.

Now, I know "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" isn't a great film. Like most everything that comes out of Hollywood it's big on special effects and light on plot. Jay Baruchel, while likable enough, sounds like he spent most of his high school years perfecting his Christian Slater impersonation in drama club and I'm pretty sure I don't need to expound on the mystery that is Nicholas Cage's career or his choice in naming his child Kal-El (seriously?). I do, however, like Cage in a Christopher Walken kind of way.

But here's the thing. For the first time in a long, long while, both my kids were glued to the screen. My 11-year-old did not want to watch this movie and she was the first one to turn to me when it was over and exclaim that was awesome! There wasn't any noticeable language to be wary of (believe me-- my kids point it out) and no unexpected injections of adult content. Awesome indeed.

As I watched "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" I went from composing a review in my head that checked-off the good and bad qualities of the film to just appreciating the fact that it had so many breath-easy qualities. Eventually I ended up wanting to write a love letter to Jerry Bruckheimer and Jon Turteltaub for making such a kid-friendly film. And, truth is, it was pretty entertaining taken as a whole.

I know it's a sad state of affairs when I will sing the praises of a film that could realistically be called cliché only because it doesn't embarrass me or my children. But the days of "Mary Poppins" don't seem to be coming back any time soon-- if ever. So, for once, I'm taking my 'critic' hat off and allowing myself to like a movie for what it means to me as a parent and nothing else. Sometimes it's nice to give the critic a day off...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Graphic Novel Review: Avengers Prime

I mentioned last week that I continued to seek out Thor stories in anticipation of the release of the movie, and one of the best that I’ve read wound up being in an innocuous place – Avengers Prime. Oh sure, Thor is one of the main Avengers, and half the point of these Marvel movies is to prepare for the Avengers movie next summer – but at the same time, I had no idea how focused this story would be on the Asgardian god.

The Siege of Asgard has ended, and though the Avengers won the battle, the city that is the realm of the Norse gods has fallen to ruin. The bridge that connects the 9 realms (including Midgard or Earth) is damaged, and there’s no telling what sorts of havoc might be occurring. Thor has an immense amount of pressure piled upon him in the wake of this disaster, and only adding to his troubles is the fact that his two best friends, Tony Stark (or Iron Man) and Steve Rodgers (the former Captain America), have not yet buried the hatchet from the superhero Civil War they fought on opposite sides of just a short time ago.

But when they go to investigate the collapsed bridge for themselves, all three are transported away to another unknown realm – a kind of blending or merging of what had once been separate distinct realms. It is here that Hela, the goddess of death, is plotting the final demise of Thor – and her own rise in his wake as ruler of a new realm of her own creation. Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America have been separated across this strange landscape where the dead rise up to fight and nothing may be as it seems. They’ll each have to forge alliances with unknown potential allies, hoping to find each other again in time to destroy this new world before it takes over the one they left behind. But there are some allies who might not want to see this new world destroyed…

There are lots of things to like about this story, and very little of detriment. On the negative side, this is a story that’s been building for quite some time, between the references to Marvel’s Civil War and Siege events, it is helpful if you’re familiar with those stories. At the same time, the story does its best to get the reader up to speed quickly, and at its heart this is really a story about reconciliation between friends – and a fantasy-style beat-down. As I said at the beginning, this is really a Thor story, with the trappings of his corner of the Marvel Universe; gods and goddesses, mythical creatures and spells, armor and bladed weapons. I loved seeing how Captain America and Iron Man wound up reflecting both their well-known costumes as well as injecting them with a medieval flavor through the course of the story.

And part of the reason it all works so well is because of the art of Alan Davis. I make no apologies for being a big fan of his work, despite the fact that some of his women wind up appearing much alike (I’m looking at you Megan and Enchantress). He is at least half the reason I sought out this book, and perhaps judging from what you see here you’ll agree. But the story is also one that I’ve been looking forward to for some time, as the epilogue of sorts to these other big Marvel events. What I didn’t expect however was such a good Thor story out of Avengers Prime – this is the kind of thing people looking for something to read after the Thor movie should seek out. I’m glad I did.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

What Responsibility Do We Have as Bloggers? (Re-post)

**Note** Blogger lost this post and the comments. I was able to retrieve the post and the comments from a cache on Bing. I'm going to copy the comments and repost them in the comment section. Freaking Blogger...

It's been over 15 years since I graduated college with what is now a completely useless degree in journalism. At the time I could never have imagined a world in which news would be disseminated via computer and anyone could brand themselves writers by virtue of putting up a blog and declaring themselves citizen journalists-- or reviewers. The internet was in its infancy and people still relied on newsprint and network television for information. Boy, how things have changed.

I can't help but think about how the world has shifted as I sit with my laptop, composing my own self-important thoughts and click on the "publish post" button without the benefit of another set of eyes to catch my flaws in reasoning or grammar.

How can this be a good thing?

Well, that's the question isn't it? Is it a good thing that any random schmuck cough*PerezHilton*cough can put up a blog that is little more than sophomoric scribbles over celebrity images and become very wealthy doing it?

And am I qualified to answer that question?

I'm pretty sure I agonize over trivial things more than the average person, but I do wonder what my responsibility is as a blogger-- or whether I have any obligation other than to please myself?

I'll be the first to admit that I love the information age. I think the Internet and the explosion of citizen journalists, reviewers etc., is a great thing. But there's no denying that with the flow in information comes an even greater flow of disinformation where rumor can (and will) be accepted as fact-- and setting the facts straight after-the-fact is nearly impossible. When I worked in television it seemed as if we spent as much time with the lawyers as we did with the subjects of our interviews-- I was frequently reminded that nothing was too trivial to be sued over. I haven't worked in TV in quite a while, so I can't speak of the legal standards that are enforced today, but I suspect they haven't changed much. But blogging?

I've heard of a few instances of bloggers being sued for libel, usually in relation to political content. But I have to admit I'm amazed at how much protection our free speech laws allow when it comes to blogging. Though I shouldn't be surprised considering we're a society that will allow the abomination that is The Westboro Baptist "Church" and their psychotic rantings-- but I digress. I suspect that a lot of laws are trampled on pretty regularly by bloggers, mostly because we don't know any better. How many images do I use that need to be properly attributed? Heck if I know. I honestly didn't think of these things when I slapped up the blog. And how much content is being plagiarized? I know I've actually seen articles and reviews I've written show up on other sites with no attribution-- but what am I supposed to do about that? Sue? Yeah right.

Though, if I'm being honest, I don't care that much about simple carelessness. We're all guilty of it. But it's unfortunately common for bloggers to become downright malicious. Stories of cyber-bullying, and stalking, are becoming more common and, as usual, our laws haven't caught up to reality. And I have no idea what we do about that.

There are so many ways in which average people have managed to insinuate themselves into the "celebrity" culture. Social networking and reality shows have made it seem perfectly normal to put our lives on display whether there's profit involved or not. I don't really fear video games anymore-- but YouTube scares the heck out of me. The world has become so strange that celebrities have begun competing with the rest of us and now use Twitter in ways I never imagined-- though I won't lie, if the real Christopher Walken is Tweeting, I want to know about it. That's just bizarre enough to cut through my prejudices on the matter.

Maybe I'm strange, (That's rhetorical-- no need to chime in here) but I feel a certain responsibility as a blogger. I used to worry about things like blog traffic, posting every day and generally fretting over whether I was interesting. When I started this blog about five years ago there weren't that many people doing what I'm doing, but now... We're everywhere. The Internet is like the Wild West, only in this case the it isn't the gunslingers we have to worry about. People wear anonymity like a shield even as they flaunt their every move to anyone willing to watch. And the incivility is rampant.

The online world is a society without boundaries and I doubt there will ever be a day when it will be something that can easily be controlled by lawyers. One only has to look at what has, so far, been a futile effort to stop the online piracy of music, books and movies. So it is incumbent on us to set the boundaries-- the hard part is going to be getting people to agree on where the lines should be.

For my part I think the immortal words of Bill and Ted sum up my hopes for the future of blogging, and online interactions in general, as I pray that we all learn how to be excellent to each other.

Monday, May 09, 2011


I have randomly selected the winners of a couple of giveaways I had up on the blog-- and the winners are:

For a copy of "Shadow Raiders" by Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes, the winner is--

Eric Hammond; Scottville, MI

And the winner of a copy of "Spellcast" by Barbara Ashford is--

Ray Pratt; Burlington, VT

Congrats to the winners!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Review: Thor & Loki – Blood Brothers

The title of this is a little misleading, as this story is far more about Loki than it is about Thor, but as I find my interest in the title characters on the rise due to the movie’s release – I thought I would give this book a try. The story starts out with Loki in the position of having defeated Thor, and finding himself ruling Asgard. As Loki contemplates a future without his adopted brother, he flashes back to stories from their youth, showing the seeds of how their relationship came to be so strained and why they wind up opposing each other. If that sounds like it’s not a lot of detail about this story, that’s because there honestly isn’t a lot more to tell. I’m going to dig a little deeper and talk about the good and the bad of this book (and there is both), but there’s going to be very little in the way of spoilers, because there’s hardly any to really give away anyway. First, the artwork by Esad Ribic is amazing. It looks like a combination of the photo-realistic style of Alex Ross combined with an artists painting – it’s very appealing and will have you turning the pages just to see how gorgeous the next piece will be. This story also serves as a nice introduction to the world of Asgard and the Norse-gods who inhabit the world of Marvel’s Thor. You’ll see the woman Thor loves, Sif, as well as the woman who loves Thor but knows she cannot have him (the Enchantress). Thor’s father Odin as well as others of the court make various appearances throughout. Unfortunately, I found the story itself to be kind of a tired old thing that I’ve read too many times before. Loki acts the way he does because Thor made him that way, because he felt he wasn’t as good as Thor and could never earn their father’s love. Combine that past with the story of Loki realizing that he doesn’t want to kill Thor in the present, because a villain is nothing without his hero to oppose, and again it just seems like a tired old cliché. There’s a few additional items in this collection, a couple of Stan Lee written issues of Thor/Journey into Mystery featuring Loki, as well as a very interesting story from the current run of Thor showing the Loki of the present travelling into the past in order to set his younger self on the path that will lead him full circle. Storywise, this was probably the most interesting in the entire book, because it shows Loki before he was adopted by Odin and felt less clichéd. Similar to The Mighty Thor vol 1, this book can work as an introduction to some of the additional characters you can expect to see in the Thor movie, but it’s not the most compelling of Thor stories. Fortunately, I continued to be interested in Thor and sought out some additional tales, but those are reviews for another time.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon" Trailer

Now that Michael Bay has admitted "Transformers 2" was crap...

"The real fault with [Transformers 2] is that it ran into a mystical world," he explains. "When I look back at it, that was crap. The writers' strike was coming hard and fast. It was just terrible to do a movie where you've got to have a story in three weeks."
He adds, "I was prepping a movie for months where I only had 14 pages of some idea of what the movie was. It's a BS way to make a movie, do you know what I'm saying?"

Dare we hope this might be any better?

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Items Received

Falling Skies Press Kit and Premier Screening Copy (TNT)

FALLING SKIES opens in the chaotic aftermath of an alien attack that has left most of the world completely incapacitated. In the six months since the initial invasion, the few survivors have banded together outside major cities to begin the difficult task of fighting back. Each day is a test of survival as citizen soldiers work to protect the people in their care while also engaging in an insurgency campaign against the occupying alien force.

At the center of the series is Tom Mason (Noah Wyle), a Boston history professor whose family has been torn apart. His wife was killed in the initial attack, and one of his three sons has been captured. Determined to get his son back and to ensure the safety of his other two sons, Tom must put his extensive knowledge of military history to the test as one of the leaders of the resistance movement known as the 2nd Mass, because of their location in Boston, Mass. They are constantly trying to gain intelligence about the aliens in order to one day outsmart and overtake them and hopefully rebuild their lives.

Moon Bloodgood (Terminator Salvation) co-stars as Anne Glass, a pediatrician who works with the surviving children to help them cope with the traumatic upheaval in their lives. Will Patton (Armageddon, TNT's Into the West) plays a fierce leader of the resistance, Weaver. The series also stars Drew Roy (Secretariat) as Hal, Tom's oldest son and a growing fighter in the resistance movement; Maxim Knight (Brothers & Sisters) as Matt, Tom's youngest son; Connor Jessup (The Saddle Club) as Ben, Tom's son who was captured by aliens; and Seychelle Gabriel (Weeds) as Lourdes, an orphaned teenager who helps Anne in the group's makeshift medical clinic. Colin Cunningham (Living in Your Car) is John Pope, the leader of an outlaw motorcycle gang and Sarah Carter (Shark) is Margaret, a wary survivor of Pope's gang.

FALLING SKIES focuses on the resilience of the survivors and their determination to maintain their humanity when all else has been destroyed. It is a tale of endurance, commitment and courage in which everyday people are called upon to become heroes. They may be outmatched, outnumbered and outgunned, but nothing can beat the human spirit. Most of all, the series is about the ties that bind people together in the most difficult of circumstances.

The aliens in the series are mighty, mysterious and merciless. They are highly intelligent and use military-like tactics, which makes them an overwhelming force against the 2nd Mass. There are two types of aliens that the human survivors have named Skitters and Mechs. Combining live action and special visual effects, the Skitters have spider-like bodies and incredible strength and agility. The deadly, robotic Mechs stand upright and can shoot bullets from their arms. The aliens control captured children, like Tom's son Ben, through bio-mechanical harnesses but have yet to reveal their ultimate plan for them.

Night Mares in the Hamptons by Celia Jerome

Graphic novelist Willow Tate is a Visualizer, able to draw images of beings from the realm of Faerie, bringing them from their world to ours in the process. After a ten-foot-tall red troll follows her from Manhattan to Paumanok Harbor in the Hamptons, Willow realizes that many of her relatives and their neighbors possess psychic talents-truth- knowing, scrying, weaving wishes, picking lucky numbers, and more.

So when magic and mayhem return to Paumanok Harbor, and Willow is called upon to rescue the town, she enlists the local talent. Three magical mares are searching the Long Island village for a missing colt, and their distress is causing sleeping nights, bad tempers, and dangerous brawls among the gifted but peculiar residents.

Though the Department of Unexplained Events sends Willow a world-famous horse whisperer, Texan Ty Farraday seems more interested in whispering in her ear than in rescuing the kidnapped colt whose terror only Willy can feel. Even with help, she still has to struggle with snakes, drug dealers, tourists, hidden caves, a mad scientist-and the almost overwhelming distraction of that sexy cowboy...

Blood Rules by Christine Cody

After the man named Gabriel came to the Bloodlands, Mariah Lyander was forced to face her true nature, and the horrible things she had done. To redeem herself, she embarks on a quest to find a rumored cure for her were-creatures hoping to recover her own humanity-and Gabriel's love.

Bloodlands by Christine Cody

It was called the New Badlands, home to the survivors of a cataclysm that altered the entire nation. Then the vampires arrived, and it was rechristened the Bloodlands. Not because of the vampire, but because of the gun-for-hire who'd decided to slay every monster in the country by any and every means necessary.

Green Eyed Envy by Jaye Wells

Jealousy can be a killer...

As a Fury, Marissa Holloway belongs to an Arcane race that has meted out justice since time immemorial. As Boston's chief magical investigator, it's her duty to solve any crimes committed by or against supernaturals.

Months have gone by since Riss discovered some unwelcome truths about her past--and managed to stop a supernatural war. Since then things have been quiet. Too quiet. But that all changes when the bodies of Bastai, shapeshifters also known as Cats, begin piling up in Boston's magical underbelly--even though the legendary shifters are supposed to have ninety-nine lives.

One common thread ties the victims together: all were old flames of FBI Agent Harper Cruz. And since Harper and Riss's lover Scott Murphy enjoyed a one-night stand before he and Riss reunited, the Fury has twice the incentive to crack the case wide open, before the killer's green-eyed gaze turns in Scott's direction...

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi

Jack Holloway works alone, for reasons he doesn’t care to talk about. Hundreds of miles from ZaraCorp’s headquarters on planet, 178 light-years from the corporation’s headquarters on Earth, Jack is content as an independent contractor, prospecting and surveying at his own pace. As for his past, that’s not up for discussion.

Then, in the wake of an accidental cliff collapse, Jack discovers a seam of unimaginably valuable jewels, to which he manages to lay legal claim just as ZaraCorp is cancelling their contract with him for his part in causing the collapse. Briefly in the catbird seat, legally speaking, Jack pressures ZaraCorp into recognizing his claim, and cuts them in as partners to help extract the wealth.

But there’s another wrinkle to ZaraCorp’s relationship with the planet Zarathustra. Their entire legal right to exploit the verdant Earth-like planet, the basis of the wealth they derive from extracting its resources, is based on being able to certify to the authorities on Earth that Zarathustra is home to no sentient species.

Then a small furry biped—trusting, appealing, and ridiculously cute—shows up at Jack’s outback home. Followed by its family. As it dawns on Jack that despite their stature, these are people, he begins to suspect that ZaraCorp’s claim to a planet’s worth of wealth is very flimsy indeed…and that ZaraCorp may stop at nothing to eliminate the “fuzzys” before their existence becomes more widely known.

A Shot in the Dark by K.A. Stewart


Jesse James Dawson is a Champion, putting his life on the line for those foolish enough to bargain with demons and fighting to save their souls. But even a Champion needs some downtime, so Jesse takes his annual camping trip to Colorado for some male bonding over friendly games of paintball.

Unfortunately, the fun and war games are interrupted by a pack of creatures summoned up from the very depths of hell by an entity Jesse prayed he'd never see again. With the lives of his friends and a teenager's soul on the line, Jesse's only hope may lie with an even more dangerous enemy--his personal demon, Axel...

Grave Dance by Kalayna Price

After a month of down time, Grave Witch Alex Craft is ready to get back to solving murders by raising the dead. With her love life in turmoil, Alex is eager for the distractions of work. But when her new case forces her to overuse her magic, it might be the last mystery the Grave Witch ever gets to solve...

Spectyr by Philippa Ballantine

Though one of the most powerful Deacons, Sorcha Faris has a tarnished reputation to overcome, which is why she jumps at the chance to investigate a string of murders in the exotic city of Orithal. But it is there that her lover, the shapeshifting rival to the throne, is targeted by a cruel and vengeful goddess, unwittingly unleashed by the Emperor's sister.

Black Night by Christina Henry

Madeline Black is an Agent of death, meaning she escorts the souls of people who have died to the afterlife. Of course, not everyone is happy to see her...

If obstinate dead people were all that Maddy had to worry about, life would be much easier. But the best-laid plans of Agents and fallen angels often go awry. Deaths are occurring contrary to the natural order, Maddy's being stalked by foes inside and outside of her family, and her two loves-her bodyguard, Gabriel, and her doughnut-loving gargoyle, Beezle-have disappeared. But because Maddy is Lucifer's granddaughter, things are expected of her, things like delicate diplomatic missions to other realms.

Promises to Keep by Charles De Lint

With the help of a mentor and an anonymous benefactor, Jilly Coppercorn has overcome abuse, addiction, and a stint in juvie. Though she still struggles to stay clean, she has found safety and love in a newly formed family that includes her loyal best friend, a lovely artist, and her caseworker. Temptation comes knocking, however, when her best friend from the bad old days rides in on a motorcycle and takes Jilly to a beautiful, mysterious city full of wonderful opportunities. It seems perfect at first, until Jilly discovers that it was a one-way trip—and she still has unfinished business in Newford. At turns playful and serious, this urban fantasy introduces de Lint’s most enduring character and grapples with the realities of life-changing choices.

Buried Prey by John Sandford

A house demolition provides an unpleasant surprise for Minneapolis-the bodies of two girls, wrapped in plastic. It looks like they've been there a long time. Lucas Davenport knows exactly how long.

In 1985, Davenport was a young cop with a reputation for recklessness, and the girls' disappearance was a big deal. His bosses ultimately declared the case closed, but he never agreed with that. Now that he has a chance to investigate it all over again, one thing is becoming increasingly clear: It wasn't just the bodies that were buried. It was the truth.

Phoenix Rising: A Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

Evil is most assuredly afoot—and Britain’s fate rests in the hands of an alluring renegade . . . and a librarian.

These are dark days indeed in Victoria’s England. Londoners are vanishing, then reappearing, washing up as corpses on the banks of the Thames, drained of blood and bone. Yet the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences—the Crown’s clandestine organization whose bailiwick is the strange and unsettling—will not allow its agents to investigate. Fearless and exceedingly lovely Eliza D. Braun, however, with her bulletproof corset and a disturbing fondness for dynamite, refuses to let the matter rest . . . and she’s prepared to drag her timorous new partner, Wellington Books, along with her into the perilous fray.

For a malevolent brotherhood is operating in the deepening London shadows, intent upon the enslavement of all Britons. And Books and Braun—he with his encyclopedic brain and she with her remarkable devices—must get to the twisted roots of a most nefarious plot . . . or see England fall to the Phoenix!

Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

With her knack for being in trouble's way, Sookie witnesses the firebombing of Merlotte's, the bar where she works. Since Sam Merlotte is now known to be two-natured, suspicion falls immediately on the anti-shifters in the area. Sookie suspects otherwise, but her attention is divided when she realizes that her lover Eric Northman and his "child" Pam are plotting to kill the vampire who is now their master. Gradually, Sookie is drawn into the plot-which is much more complicated than she knows...

Dead Iron: The Age of Steam by Devon Monk

Welcome to a new America that is built on blood, sweat, and gears...
In steam age America, men, monsters, machines, and magic battle for the same scrap of earth and sky. In this chaos, bounty hunter Cedar Hunt rides, cursed by lycanthropy and carrying the guilt of his brother's death. Then he's offered hope that his brother may yet survive. All he has to do is find the Holder: a powerful device created by mad devisers-and now in the hands of an ancient Strange who was banished to walk this Earth.

In a land shaped by magic, steam, and iron, where the only things a man can count on are his guns, gears, and grit, Cedar will have to depend on all three if he's going to save his brother and reclaim his soul once and for all...

Central Park Knight by C.J. Henderson

Professor Piers Knight is the Brooklyn Museum’s very own Indiana Jones. His specialties include lost civilizations, arcane cultures, and more than a little bit of the history of magic and mysticism. What his contemporaries don't know is that in addition to being a scholar of all these topics, he is also proficient in the uses of magical artifacts.

Knight receives a chilling message from Tian Lu, a former lover and an agent for the Chinese government. Years ago, they made a frightening discovery at an archeological dig when out of the depths rose… a living, fire-breathing dragon. Now, the dragons are waking from their slumber before their scheduled time. And one particularly diabolical dragon is set on eliminating the others and taking over the world.

As civilization plunges into panic, Knight, Lu, Knight’s seventeen-year-old techie intern George Rainert, and an untrustworthy dragon ally must use all their resources— magical and otherwise—to stop the destruction before it’s too late.

The Dark Zone by Dom Testa

With the help of the mysterious alien force known as the Cassini, the teenage crew of Galahad has managed to navigate safely through the minefield of the Kuiper Belt. But just as they exit the Belt, they are confronted by their next challenge: a group of incredibly fast and maneuverable organisms waiting in their path—like vultures. With no way of knowing if the organisms are friends or foes, Triana and her Council decide to push forward, setting into motion a chain of events that will lead to the opening of a wormhole (a shortcut across space and time), and the first death aboard Galahad….

Sati by Christopher Pike

I once knew this girl who thought she was God. She didn’t give sight to the blind or raise the dead. She didn’t even teach anything, not really, and she never told me anything I probably didn’t already know.

On the other hand, she didn’t expect to be worshipped, nor did she ask for money. Given her high opinion of herself, some might call that a miracle.

I don’t know, maybe she was God. Her name was Sati and she had blonde hair and blue eyes.
For all who meet her, Sati will change everything. Sati may change everything for you.

The Season of Passage by Christopher Pike

Dr. Lauren Wagner was a celebrity. She was involved with the most exciting adventure mankind had ever undertaken: a manned expedition to Mars. The whole world admired and respected her.
But Lauren knew fear. Inside—voices entreating her to love them. Outside—the mystery of the missing group that had gone before her. The dead group.

But were they simply dead? Or something else?

A haunting and unforgettable blend of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and suspense from one of America’s bestselling writers. A novel you won’t soon forget.

Shadow Chaser by Alexy Pehov

Saddened because they have left one of their number in a grave in the wilderness, Harold and his companions continue their journey to the dreaded underground palace of Hrad Spein. There, knowing that armies of warriors and wizards before them have failed, they must fight legions of untold, mysterious powers before they can complete their quest for the magic horn that will save their beloved land from The Nameless One. But before they can even reach their goal, they must overcome all manner of obstacles, fight many battles…and evade the frightful enemies on their trail.

Shadow Chaser is a novel of intricate plots, surprising twists and finely drawn characters that will not leave you when you put the book down. Shadow Chaser is truly something different in the world of fantasy, something special; it is something truly Russian, a fantasy that is gripping and haunting, fascinating and imaginative.

Born of Shadows by Sherrily Kenyon

In a world where the League and its assassins rule, where betrayal and treachery are everywhere . . . the only survivors are those ones who are . . .


For Caillen Dagan, a defiant soldier of fortune, survival isn't a right, it's a brutal daily battle. Moving through the Ichidaian universe like a wraith, his brushes with the law and death are legendary. But when an act of rare heroism reveals his hidden birthright, he's forced into a world much more dangerous and cold-hearted than the bloody streets where he was raised-one of obscene wealth and lethal politics.
Ferocious and determined, Desideria serves as an official bodyguard for her queen. Born of questionable genetics, she will do anything to prove herself worthy of the weapons she carries and the position she's won by combat. But when she uncovers a ruthless plot to assassinate the queen and overthrow her country's government, Desideria is caught in the crosshairs.
With assassination contracts out on both of them, Caillen and Desideria must learn to fight together or die alone. And if they fail, their governments will fall into the hands of an unimaginable evil.

The Rogue by Trudi Canavan

Discover the magic of Trudi Canavan with her brand new novel in the Traitor Spy Trilogy...

Living among the Sachakan rebels, Lorkin does his best to learn about their unique magic. But the Traitors are reluctant to trade their secrets for the Healing they so desperately want.
Meanwhile, Sonea searches for the rogue, knowing that Cery cannot avoid assassination forever. The rogue's influence over the city's underworld, however, is far greater than she feared.
And in the University, two female novices are about to remind the Guild that sometimes their greatest enemy is found within...

The Traitor Spy Trilogy, which began with The Ambassador's Mission, is the new series set in the world of the international bestselling Black Magician Trilogy.

Gods & Monsters by Lynn Benedict

Sylvie Lightner is no ordinary P.I. She specializes in cases involving the unusual and unbelievable. When she finds the bodies of five women in the Florida Everglades, Sylvie believes them to be the work of a serial killer and passes the buck. But when the bodies wake and shift shape, killing the police, Sylvie finds herself at the head of a potentially lethal investigation.

The Cold Kiss of Death by Suzanne Mcleod

When sidhe-blooded Genny Taylor's friend is murdered and all evidence points to her, she goes on the run. But she's being pursued by some of the most powerful supernaturals in town-and one of them is most certainly the killer.

Uncertain Allies by Mark del Franco

After a night of riots and fires, the Boston neighborhood known as the Weird is in ruins. And when a body is found drained of its essence, ex- Guild investigator Connor Grey is drawn into the case against his will. And he has reason to be wary. Because the case will lead to an explosive secret that threatens to tear apart the city-and the world.

Almost Final Curtain by Tate Hallaway

Craving the spotlight is in her blood.

Ever since high school student Anastasija Parker discovered she was vampire royalty, her life has been sort of crazy. The half-vampire- half-witch just wants some normalcy, and trying out for the spring musical seems like the perfect fix.
But when the ancient talisman that stands between vampire freedom and slavery to witches is stolen, Ana has to skip rehersal and track down the dangerous artifact before someone uses it to make this year's curtain call her last...

Bite Club by Rachel Caine

After discovering that vampires populate her town, college student Claire Danvers knows that the undead just want to live their lives. But someone else wants them to get ready to rumble.

There's a new extreme sport getting picked up on the Internet: bare- knuckle fights pitting captured vampires against each other-or humans. Tracking the remote signal leads Claire- accompanied by her friends and frenemies-to discover that what started as an online brawl will soon threaten everyone in Morganville...

Hard Bitten by Chloe Neill

Chicago is beset by supernatural tensions, and Merit-vampire protector of a safe haven called Cadogan house-is worried that the humans will be reaching for their pitchforks any minute. It doesn't help that yet another vampire rave is broken up by the mayor, and a new inhibition- reducing drug is circulating through the community.
It's up to Merit to put her house in order-literally. And if that takes getting a little blood on her hands, so be it.

The Lost Fleet: Dreadnaught by Jack Campbell

The Alliance woke Captain John "Black Jack" Geary from cryogenic sleep to take command of the fleet in the century-long conflict against the Syndicate Worlds. Now Fleet Admiral Geary's victory has earned him the adoration of the people-and the enmity of politicians convinced that a living hero can be a very inconvenient thing.

Geary knows that members of the military high command and the government question his loyalty to the Alliance and fear his staging a coup-so he can't help but wonder if the newly christened First Fleet is being deliberately sent to the far side of space on a suicide mission.

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

Jean le Flambeur is a post-human criminal, mind burglar, confidence artist, and trickster. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his exploits are known throughout the Heterarchy— from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. Now he’s confined inside the Dilemma Prison, where every day he has to get up and kill himself before his other self can kill him.

Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turnedsingularity lights the night. What Mieli offers is the chance to win back his freedom and the powers of his old self—in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.
As Jean undertakes a series of capers on behalf of Mieli and her mysterious masters, elsewhere in the Oubliette investigator Isidore Beautrelet is called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, and finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur….
The Quantum Thief is a crazy joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people communicating by sharing memories, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as MMORPG guild members. But for all its wonders, it is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, revenge, and jealousy. It is a stunning debut.

The Unremembered by Peter Orullian

The gods, makers of worlds, seek to create balance—between matter and energy; and between mortals who strive toward the transcendent, and the natural perils they must tame or overcome. But one of the gods fashions a world filled with hellish creatures far too powerful to allow balance; he is condemned to live for eternity with his most hateful creations in that world’s distant Bourne, restrained by a magical veil kept vital by the power of song.

Millennia pass, awareness of the hidden danger fades to legend, and both song and veil weaken. And the most remote cities are laid waste by fell, nightmarish troops escaped from the Bourne. Some people dismiss the attacks as mere rumor. Instead of standing against the real threat, they persecute those with the knowledge, magic and power to fight these abominations, denying the inevitability of war and annihilation. And the evil from the Bourne swells….

The troubles of the world seem far from the Hollows where Tahn Junell struggles to remember his lost childhood and to understand words he feels compelled to utter each time he draws his bow. Trouble arrives when two strangers—an enigmatic man wearing the sigil of the feared Order of Sheason and a beautiful woman of the legendary Far—come, to take Tahn, his sister and his two best friends on a dangerous, secret journey.

Tahn knows neither why nor where they will go. He knows only that terrible forces have been unleashed upon mankind and he has been called to stand up and face that which most daunts him—his own forgotten secrets and the darkness that would destroy him and his world