Monday, February 28, 2011

Guest Review: "Falling Under" by Gwen Hayes

Woo Hoo-- A guest review! Check out this review of Falling Under by Gwen Hayes, courtesy of Sara of Sara's Urban Fantasy Blog. When you're done with the review, be sure to check out Sara's blog for some more great reviews and giveaways.


Title: Falling Under ARC
Author: Gwen Hayes
Genre: Young Adult
Release Date: 03/01/11
Summary:
Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she's seen Haden before -- not around town, but in her dreams.

As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear.

And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia's not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul.

Plot: 3.5 Stars
Dreams and visions are not a very unique trope in Paranormal Young Adult novels, but the complexity and terrifying details to the dreams really set this novel apart. Although Haden was the focus of the dreams, there were many other creatures that were both intriguing and revolting at the same time. Even with these dreams, Theia accepted the fact that Haden was a demon much quicker than expected. And it didn’t turn her away; instead it seemed to make her attraction to him stronger. Even when he explains the demon dimension where he was born to her, she still continues to hang onto his every word. The biggest problem with this novel is that the demon dimension was ten times more interesting than the human world, but only a couple chapters take place in the demon dimension. There are even more horrifying creatures to contend with, and there was a lot of lost potential. The majority of the twists and turns of this novel took place in this dimension, but seemed rushed due to the lack of time spent exploring this other world.

Pace: 3 Stars
The beginning of this novel jumps right in. The main character and her friends are introduced, and the reader is easily swept up into Theia’s life. Then Theia’s odd dreams begin and the plot starts to unfold. Haden is introduced and Theia is immediately drawn to him, and he seems to be drawn to her. But then he starts to push her away. This plot line would’ve been fine, if it didn’t repeat itself throughout the middle of the book. Every other chapter Haden was either drawing Theia back in, or pushing her away again. This tug of war happened for at least one hundred pages, and caused the plot to stall to the point where it seemed to be moving about as slow as molasses. As the end of the novel drew near, the whirlwind plot drew the reader back in. The twists and turns were back to turn the reader upside-down. And then it ended. Just like that. There were a number of plot elements left wide open without explanation, and the conclusion of the novel seemed a touch lacking.

Characters: 3 Stars
Theia was an interesting character. She stood out from the other kids at school, but it didn’t bother her like it would most characters. Although she was swept up by Haden, it was refreshing to read about a young adult main character who wasn’t instantaneously obsessed by the bad boy. Theia was a bit sheltered by her father, which was never explained in its entirety. He was a bit absent and distant, and it all stemmed from her mother’s death years earlier. Although he tried to explain, there seemed to be a bit missing from the recollection. Theia’s best friends, Donny and Ame, were a great contrast which made the threesome a very enjoyable group of friends to read about. The touch of New Age and psychic ideas that Ame brought to the table not only came in handy, but helped with the world-building. It allowed the world to branch out beyond just demons, without having to include vampires, werewolves, and everything else in the paranormal bag. Haden failed as the love interest of this story. Whether he was pulling Theia to him, or pushing her away, he never seemed genuine. Something about the way the character was written made him come off as a bit robotic.

Cover: 3 Stars
This is an average cover. In the world of Paranormal Young Adult, this cover blends in with the crowd. The colors are a bit muted; even the red isn’t as bright as it could be. It also doesn’t tell the person browsing the shelves much about the novel. In order to know it’s a paranormal novel based around demons, the novel must be picked up off the shelf and turned over to read the back cover. But the cover model is an accurate depiction of Theia, especially the abundance of blonde curls. The red dress and the black roses in the background are both relevant to the plot as well, which is a nice touch. It just seems as if something is missing (possibly a little detailing around the otherwise simplistic title) that could really make this cover pop.

Overall: 3 Stars

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wanted: A Survival Guide to Online Narcissism and Incivility

When I started my blog back in 2006 I never gave much thought to what my motivation was. Why would I? Blogging was fairly new to me, though I know a few bloggers who started at least a few years earlier than I did. But the forum was new enough that when I said I had a blog, most people I knew had no idea what I was talking about.

Fast forward to today. Blogging is still popular but other forms of social media have also boomed and one need not go to that much trouble to find friends and relatives on Facebook and Twitter. My mom still doesn't know what a blog is, but she has a Twitter account.

The bigger the Internet community gets, the more extreme the behavior gets and I find myself dwelling more and more on what motivates me to continue to blog in an ever growing environment in which blogs like mine, rather than growing an audience, are losing steam as everyone jumps on the bandwagon in search of significance in whatever arena they choose. Remember when mommy blogs first started popping up? They used to consist of moms talking about their day while posting a few pics of the kids at preschool. Cute and harmless mostly. Now mommy blogs seem to have developed a hyper-competitive edge, at least in some quarters, and if there aren't multiple tabs for recipes, videos and giveaways, you're just not keeping up with the Joneses (pictures of the BMW in the driveway are optional but recommended).

And yes, the same seems to be true among book bloggers. I have tabs and giveaways.... What is happening to me?

Well, according to a Dr. Strenger of the Tel Aviv School of Psychology I may be suffering from a fear of insignificance brought on by the global information network and celebrity culture. Now that's a mouthful. In other words, television and the Internet have given us the means to compare ourselves to the most "significant" people in the world-- and we desperately want to be like them.

I don't even think this is a debatable point. Or a new one. When you look at the myriad of ways we can put our personal life on display, from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and weblogs, it's undeniable that a lot of us may be searching for our fifteen minutes of fame and we've been doing it for awhile. And if that was all that was going on with the glut of public displays of personal information it would be easy to shrug off. But the fact is, the culture has gotten mean. Really, really mean.

This also isn't a new issue. We've all seen Internet trolls attempting to stoke the anger of readers on various sites for their own entertainment and I think we're all savvy enough to know when we're being baited and not to "feed" the trolls. But trolling is moving moving beyond harmless flame-wars and seems to be taking on a life of its own.

Trolling, in my opinion, has a few different categories. I think deliberately inflammatory blog posts, like the now infamous (at least amongst our community) one posted by Leo Grin that stated that modern fantasy is nihilistic and pointless  are a trolling of sorts. If you look at the post, as a whole, it isn't built on much an argument in that it only cherry-picks a few authors to make the point-- most notably one successful author in particular who was bound to be noticed. And Grin's idea of why he is qualified to make the argument seems to rest on replies that consist of little more than I know more than Robert Howard than you so there. I debated on arguing the point here for awhile, but then I thought why bother? The author used to drum up attention already addressed the issue far better than I could and any commentary on my part is really just background noise. But what really decided me in the end was that I couldn't find the motivation to care enough about what one guy had to say about this particular issue. One guy.

We love controversy don't we? I read a lot of interesting replies to that particular post. Very erudite, well thought out replies that nonetheless took the opportunity to stir-the-pot as well-- which is all fair in this particular game. And no, I don't think the replies count as trolling. It's that first traffic-seeking commentary that catches my attention. This is a phenomenon I see a lot these days, especially among new bloggers. Not too long ago I wrote a post about a newbie blogger who decided to take the well-worn path of revisiting what rules we reviewer-bloggers should be following-- and it worked. Anger, controversy and blog-hits ensued. So--bravo to that guy. I'm am forever amazed at how people with no particular track record of achievement set out to declare that they are the new trend setters. Who are any of us who randomly set up a blog in any way qualified to tell anyone else what they ought to be doing? I can get on-board when a successful author, who has proven themselves in their chosen specialty, gives their thoughts on the genre. Though I will admit the politics can drive a wedge between us if I'm told I'm a mouth-breathing, flat-earther if I don't subscribe to a certain sets of beliefs. You'll forgive me if I don't buy your books in that case-- right?

Blogging isn't without its risks.

Unfortunately trolling doesn't stop at looking for blog hits. In fact the newest forms of trolling are so vile that it won't be long before we're nostalgic for the days of cheap shots aimed at us via other blogs. Facebook-- which appears to have the largest audience these days-- seems to also be the favored troll hunting grounds. I was very slow to pick up on this because I naively thought the "friending" process would weed out the riff-raff. Oh silly me.

The need to share personal information has gone from talking about what one is having for dinner to putting up memorial pages for lost loved ones. And I'm not talking about fluffy the cat. To some extent I can understand putting up information to share with family members regarding grandma's funeral, but I admit I'm not one who would put up a public page as a memorial. That's just me. But other well-intentioned individuals have taken to doing this and, sadly, have learned that nothing is sacred in the forum of public information-sharing. Unbelievable as it sounds people now troll memorial pages for attention. I won't go into detail here, but suffice it to say that the anonymity of the Internet has not brought the best out in people. At all. Clearly these nuts subscribe to the theory that negative attention is better than not attention at all.

It's not really shocking in a society that makes celebrities out of people who do little more than get drunk and punch each other on camera that people are becoming less and less civil to each other. When you think about it, it's hard to find examples of civility anymore. According to what I've read the main culprits of this kind of behavior are 20-something young men. I know a lot of people are going to tell me not to fret over the younger generation; that every generation looks at the one behind it and shakes their head. But in this case-- I think we might need to start worrying. A simple Google search on "narcissism" brings up many articles on the particular phenomenon of net narcissism and our collective penchant for perpetual status updates and Googling our own name.

And no. The irony is not lost on me that I have a blog as well as both Facebook and Twitter accounts. My kids, however, do not. I wonder if Narcissistic Personality Disorder has been pulled from the DSM because it's now just so darned common?

I'm not gonna lie. I'm finding it harder and harder to negotiate the online world. I'll occasionally post my thoughts in posts like this but it's a little like walking on eggshells. I'm a small fish and don't generally get too much attention-- on a good day-- so I don't get much troll traffic. And I'll be the first to admit I'd delete it if I did. Who needs that garbage? I don't want the angst. I'm not someone who can shrug off the snark and, I hate to say it, but even anonymous hate will give me an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Maybe I read too much into things, but I also wonder if our collective online obsessions aren't sucking the soul out us. I can waste a whole day online and I'm not proud of it. And I ponder, more and more frequently, the merits of getting a real life. One that doesn't consist of me sitting at my computer and setting a bad example for my kids.

Like I asked before-- why am doing this? It's not a job. I don't make any money. I do get the occasional blurb in books I review-- so that feeds the ego which in turn feeds the blog. But is that reason enough to keep doing it? I don't ask these questions because I want people to tell me to keep blogging; though I would have looked for that at one time. I ask because I am starting to wonder if being plugged in is actually making us more disconnected than ever. How good can it be when people are getting into car accidents because they can't quit texting long enough to drive to work? The answer to that is pretty obvious.

I think the real lesson though is that no one is paying as much attention to us as we are to ourselves. No one else cares about the status updates. Nor or they monitoring our blogs to see if we post everyday. The good news there is that I'm pretty sure I can find a real life and no one will know the difference. Did I tell you that I joined a real-life book club? You know, the kind that meets in person? Yep. I actually get more than one or two comments when I make an observation about a book these days. It's awesome.

I haven't reached the point at which I feel the need to walk away and stop blogging altogether. But I have decided it's time to be more productive offline because the online world is sucking me into a vortex of self-involvement that can only get more and more unhealthy. I don't have the wonderful ability to not care about the ugliness that seeps into my world via my computer; though maybe I should consider that a good thing. So I'm giving myself permission to chill out. To go slow and post only when I feel like it; not because I feel a weird obligation to post every day. Who knows. Maybe my next radical step will be to delete the Facebook account.

Gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Review: Knight Errant by John Jackson Miller

Around a thousand years before the Star Wars movies, in a time of a waning Old Republic which has been in a kind of “dark ages”, pulling back and allowing many warring Sith Lords to take control of outer-rim territories; Kerra, has been left behind enemy lines struggling to remember what it means to be a Jedi Knight. The story begins in the territory of one such Sith Lord, Daimon; and wow, is he one crazy lunatic. What a brilliant idea for a villain though; he literally thinks he's God. Everyone is a figment of his imagination, and they must all talk to him as though he already knows everything there is to know in the universe. But later on we get to see his frustration at not being able to directly control people - that Force persuasion isn't enough for him, he believes he should control it all. But he also believes that any obstacle is just something he himself, in his ultimate wisdom, put in his way of achieving his ultimate goal - whatever that is. His homeworld is a totalitarian state where the people believe the suns orbiting the world are their lord's eyes, watching them at all times. Statues of him speak at various points, proclaiming the dawning of a new day in Daiman’s name as well as summoning people to his presence. Kerra is trying to find a way to put an end to his tyranny, but it seems a near impossible task - until she happens across Narsk, a Bothan spy for Daiman's brother Odion. Narsk was in possession of a stealth suit, and once Kerra “acquires” it from him, she uses it to infiltrate Daiman's temple. It's here that both she and Narsk, who is now in Daiman's custody, learn of a trap that Daiman is setting for his brother - to draw him out and destroy him. Daiman recruits mercenaries to help him spring the trap, including Brigadier Rusher and the crew of the Diligence, a scorpion-like craft that is a merging of other ships into this one design. Through a series of misadventures, Kerra and Rusher wind up retreating from the battlefield together, along with a group of refugee children who were caught in the crossfire. Rusher flees into another sith's territory - hoping to find someplace safe to dump off his unexpected and unwelcome passengers. The Dyarchy seems like a good place until Kerra’s investigations show the people of the planet to be completely uncommunicative. A pair of Sith twins, reminding me of a twisted version of what might have happened to Luke and Leia if they had fallen into the hands of the Emperor, are behind it all – completely controlling the will of people and erasing any will of their own. But even as Kerra realizes that separating the twins removes their power over the populace, a newcomer comes on the scene – Sith Lady Arkadia. She is unlike any Kerra has met before; she seems almost normal, treating her people with respect and allowing them freedom to learn and have families, so long as their jobs are ultimately to the benefit of her society. On the frozen world of Syned, under domes which protect the people from the hostile airless void, they harvest a fungus which has many purposes, from a fuel and food source, to a deadly poison. Still, Kerra starts to believe that here her refugees will at least be safe there just looking to find a lesser of evils so she can get back to her real mission. But when Arkadia gives her the kind of intelligence she’s been looking for on why there are warring Sith factions, as well as a means to completely send all the Sith into disarray – will she take the mission even if it means going against her Jedi code? I absolutely loved Knight Errant, the latest Star Wars book release from Del Rey; everything about it from the writing and the characters to the setting and plot. The opening of the novel sets the right tone, introducing the reader to the hero in a very different way; as the one who's skulking around and only partially behaving as we have been trained to think a Jedi should. The ability to turn things on its ear is something that I feel like John Jackson Miller is especially good at. I found Kerra to be a very engaging Jedi Knight, not really at all like anything I feel like I've seen before. She's young and driven, not inexperienced per-se but still learning the difference between Jedi teachings and the realities of a universe where a person will need to decide what must be done, and also draw the line that they're not willing to go past to accomplish those ends. She’s focused on her task and less empathic towards others at the start of the book, but still a Jedi at heart. Mostly I just felt like I had to let go of some of my own preconceptions of what I thought a Jedi should be, or how I think a Jedi should respond to a given situation. The Sith Lords were endlessly fascinating; expanding on an idea I feel has only been touched upon elsewhere; that there were all different kinds of Sith Lords. To me, even though they've carried different names, they've all seemed relatively the same - but not so in Knight Errant. Each society is different, completely unique, and very compelling to read about. Another thing JJM really managed to do with this era was make me understand why and how the technology of the Star Wars universe winds up feeling like it remains the same from the The Old Republic era through to the movies. There is a massive stagnation brought about essentially by this Dark Ages period - the holonet throughout most of the outer rim has been taken down, Sith lords dominate many different areas, so much of the galaxy is in decline - and the Jedi aren't really doing more than holding the line. I can see how not only were things stagnant, in many ways the whole galaxy was moving backwards, losing the knowledge they previously had. The fleshing out of this whole time-period has been great so far, and I look forward to more. The action was what I expect from a Star Wars novel, with multiple battles and a spectacular final location; like a lightsaber battle taking place during the Hoth battle in Empire Strikes Back. If I were to have any complaints about Knight Errant, and they're really rather minor, I'd say they are these. First, I could tell that this story was based on a few arcs that the author had planned for the comic series - they play out very much like comic book arcs. I'm a big comic fan, so that didn't bother me, but it sort of leads into my second complaint. Sometimes it felt like information was being given to the reader of the book in a comic-book way. Like I was being told information that would have been "voiceover" work in panels showing me scenes from a particular world. This continued with conversations, where characters would be engaging in dialogue, only to have it switch to a description of what was being told to a character, instead of just having characters speak the words. I'm a fan of dialogue - so I'd rather see the characters interact with each other and play off of each other than have the information just passed along to me as expediently as possible. Still, none of those things kept me from completely enjoying Knight Errant. It's one of the best Star Wars books I feel like I've read in ages, very original, very different from anything else I've read any time recently. If I wasn't already completely sold on picking up the comic, I would be now, and I only hope that Miller is given a chance to write another book in this series.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Odds & Ends

Here are some things I meant to mention and/or post last week...

New Wonder Woman

From Fanboy.com~

Various outlets are reporting that Friday Night Lights star Adrianne Palicki has been cast as Diana Prince in NBC’s upcoming Wonder Woman television series. The joint venture between writer David E. Kelley and Jeffrey Reiner had a bumpy start, but after being passed on by a number of networks, NBC finally came to the rescue. Unfortunately, like rival network Fox, NBC is often quick to pull the plug if a show doesn’t hit the ground running. We’ll just have to hope that Palicki has the skills to match her striking looks — after all, anyone can dye their hair black, but handling that Lasso of Truth? Well, that remains to be seen.

I've never heard of Ms. Palicki before this announcement... Hope she's good.


New Thor Trailer





John DeNardo (SF Signal) has an article up at AMCTV.com (Way to go John)
Natalie Portman's Dirty Secret is That She Keeps Making Scifi Flicks (And She's Not Alone)

Borders Files Chapter 11-- Is Your Store Closing?
Here's the full list



Captain America Super Bowl Spot





Tom Hardy talks about playing Bane in "The Dark Knight Rises"


After it was announced that reruns of "Firefly" were finally going to be aired, Firefly fans launch a new campaing on Facebook. (Nathan Fillion is ready to go...)


According to Box Office Mojo--27 sequels are scheduled to air in 2011.



Pirates of the Caribbean Super Bowl Spot





Transformers 3 Super Bowl Spot

Sunday, February 20, 2011

"Wanted"...to Like It

A few summers ago the movie Wanted came out and, for whatever reason, I was never able to watch it in the movie theater. But it had all the ingredients needed, including Angelina Jolie in kick-butt mode and a ton of action, to keep me interested enough to pluck the video up as soon as it was released and settle in for an explosion laden evening.

And then a curious thing happened-- I didn't like it.

About twenty minutes into the film I had had enough of the gratuitous violence and nonsensical plot, so I did something I rarely do with an Angelina Jolie actioner-- I turned it off.

But I have to admit, I've wondered if I being unfair as I sat down to watch "Wanted" the first time. Maybe I just wasn't in the mood... So I finally gave it another go-- and realized my first impressions weren't wrong.

The thing with "Wanted" is that it isn't really necessary to get into the general plot, because it's really only a cobbled-together bunch of nonsense delivered as an excuse for a bloody revenge fantasy. Supposedly based on a comic book series written by Mark Millar ("Kick Ass"), "Wanted" is the kind of pointless movie that makes the barest attempt at trying to find some kind of morality to make it palatable to a Hollywood audience. It mostly fails. I suppose I should give it credit for trying to rise above its source material, which appears in synopsis form to have fewer redeeming qualities than the movie, but I don't think anyone involved in the making of the movie cared much for rising above anything other than a meager box office.

Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy) is the "hero" of this story and I'd be hard pressed to think of one I find less compelling. He's meant to be a weaker version of your average everyman. He's the typical cubicle-dwelling worker bee, but he takes an atypical amount of harassment from an overbearing boss and a cheating girlfriend and his only coping mechanism is popping anti-anxiety pills and seething in silence. Into his less-than-average world comes salvation in the form of a gorgeous woman with the ultimately stereotypical name Fox (Angelina Jolie) who tells him that his weak-kneed nature is actually an expression of super-human abilities that make him the perfect candidate for a group of super assassins known as The Fraternity (which is the first thing I'd think of under the circumstances...) who want to enlist his help in hunting down his father's killer.

Gibson's initial show of reluctance is short lived once he inherits his father's fortune and he wastes no time in acting out the fantasies every emasculated wimp by verbally attacking his boss and using a keyboard to physically assault the guy who has been sleeping with his girlfriend-- naturally with the slow-motion close-up of his rival's teeth being knocked out by the impact.

Gibson then gets to learn what it means to be a super-assassin by training to shoot the wings off flies, curve bullets and other silliness like shooting dead bodies so he won't be squeamish when it comes to the real thing. The improbabilities continue from there as we learn that the leader of The Fraternity (Morgan Freeman) gets the targets for his group of assassins from the Loom of Fate-- a literal Loom that weaves fabric with a hidden binary code that translates into names. I know they're trying to be clever with the notion of Fate weaving her tapestry, but it's just ridiculous.

The biggest inherent flaw in "Wanted" is that it doesn't work as an anti-hero story. Gibson is meant to be the character we're supposed to relate to-- who hasn't wanted to tell their boss what they really think? But he's so quick to embrace the meaner side of his nature that he ends up a bully-- and a weaselly one at that. The casting of McAvoy seems to have been intended to reflect a Peter Parker kind of vibe; but in this world Peter Parker turns out to be a punk.

The movie never gets easier to like as it goes along as it seems to have been written from the point of view of someone perpetually disgruntled and dateless. The women are portrayed as either shrill or slutty. Angelina Jolie does what she can with the part but really seems to be playing a caricature of herself as she smolders and sneers her way through various stunts. She's the only person I marginally liked but I still found myself wondering why she felt this movie was worth her time-- same goes for Morgan Freeman.

I know it's kind of pointless for me to bother reviewing the film at this point as everyone who was mildly interested in it has probably already seen it. But I think it's worth mentioning because it's just so symptomatic of why movies are getting worse and worse. More time is spent on trying to make thing visually stimulating, though the clichéd use of the slow motion camera and spurting blood is anything but interesting or unique, and things like character development and plot are treated as barely necessary. It seems aimed at fans of soulless video games like Grand Theft Auto, and I'm sad to think it may have succeeded on that level. To me the whole thing just seemed like a colossal waste of time. There's nothing there that makes me think this was even a story worth telling-- and that's a really, really unusual sentiment for me. I wasn't entertained. I didn't feel the need to reflect on any deeper meaning somehow buried within. I can only describe it as an ugly mess that I wish I hadn't bothered finishing.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Audio Drama Review: Garro - Legion of One by James Swallow

On a desolate shell of a world ravaged by the war between the factions of humanity, the small group of cybernetic warriors Garro has brought together find themselves on a mission to uncover the last of the clues which will set them on their new Ghost Legion's calling. Among his group are Garro and Varon, both the only men from their own former Legions to remain faithful to the Emperor when all else turned traitor, as well as Rubio, who found himself outcast from his own Legion after using his physic powers to defend them. The world they find themselves on has suffered every kind of fallout; from nuclear, chemical to biological, and at first there's little more for them to find than the bodies of fallen comrades and the trinkets they've left behind. But soon they come across survivors, mostly made up of a group of soldiers lucky, or unlucky, enough to have been protected from the results of the battle - only to find themselves marooned on a world that cannot support them. Garro and his men decide the only course of action is for them to save these survivors, but first they will have to battle a mad creature called Cerberus. Cerberus hunts down anyone who remains, which is just the kind of fight these Astartes soldiers have been hoping for. But there's are secrets yet to be revealed on this world, ones which will turn everything on its head for Garro and his men. Garro: Legion of One takes place around a year after Garro: Oath of the Moment, though it is not necessary to have listened to that Audio Drama in order to enjoy this one. I did appreciate the connection though, as I felt I knew the characters of Garro and Rubio better because of it - though ultimately I felt Legion of One was the stronger story overall. There are a number of reasons why, though I'll warn that I'm going to reveal some of the secrets from above should you want to avoid those spoilers. First there's Cerberus - actually another Astartes cybernetic warrior, who was betrayed by his own brothers and left to die on this world when they turned traitor against the Emperor. He has gone mad from all that has happened to him, forgetting even who he was and living only to kill. But his targets are more than they seem as well - for the soldiers who were escaped the initial destruction have actually been infected with a disease of Chaos, the otherworldly energies which give magic-like powers and form demons and the like. This infection has turned them into undead creatures, not the innocents Garro and his men first assume them to be. Which puts them in the position of having to quickly move past their initial plans to kill Cerberus - a brother-in-arms, to working alongside him to destroy these creatures of darkness. And ultimately, they bring Cerberus back to himself - allowing him to see that the only traitors are those who would kill a brother, thereby setting a standard to live by for their own Legion. While I usually talk a bit about the sound-work in these dramas, I'm going to talk specifically about a few scenes that stood out to me in Legion of One. First, when Garro and Rubio seek out Cerberus in an abandonded cathedral, the echos of the large spaces and the dripping of water add such a depth to the scene, it completely immerses you in the telling of the story. Then, when the cathedral collapses and Varon and the soldiers are witness to it, as a large rubble-sandstorm races towards them - the sounds of the wind continue to build upon the previous scene. Finally, as the lost soldiers reveal their true nature as undead creatures, peeling off their skin, the moaning is so creepy as to make your skin crawl. It all added up to a great listening experience, earning this Audio Drama a place among the very best that I've listened to from The Black Library. As always I highly recommend these as great entertainment, even if you've never read a Warhammer 40,000 book, these are the kinds of things a fan of excellent science fiction would enjoy - and you'll never look at an audiobook the same way again afterwards.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guest Blog and Giveaway! Featuring Sarwat Chadda (U.S. Canada)

I haven't had the chance yet to read the "Devil's Kiss" series by Sarwat Chadda-- but I sure want to now. this post speaks to me. We've talked many times about how monsters need to be monstrous, and my guest author today actually gets it. Read on for a glimpse at Sarwat's newest book and a chance to win a set of the first two books in the "Devil's Kiss" series.

~SQT

OLD SCHOOL MONSTERS

Let’s face it; but bad guys are more fun. They get the best lines, the best outfits and the best accessories. Red-coloured lightsabers mean business. Double-headed red-coloured lightsabers mean it’s Jedi sushi time.

I know things go in trends and right now we’re in the carrying sharing monster state of affairs. You know exactly who I mean.

Enough already.

But there are old-school frights to be had, if you know where to look. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, for example, gives you zombies like the good Lord intended; shambling, infected, out to eat your brains.

I love monsters because they’re monstrous. They don’t play by human rules because they are inhuman. Dark angels have a contempt for mortals, vampires who see us as nothing more than blood-sacks and werewolves that just like to kill. There is no mortality in nature, so why should there be any in supernature?

I love werewolves. I love the rage and the conflict they embody, the restraints of humanity verses the freedom of the beast. Here’s an example from Chapter Two of Dark Goddess:

The Old Grey, snout and teeth red from its kill, moved warily in front of Pelleas, searching for an opening past his deadly steel. Behind it the Big Red had finished its own murderous work. A woman wearing a blood-washed dressing gown leaned against the coarse brick wall. Her eyes bore only the dimmest life. The Big Red seemed to be holding her up, its right paw pressed against her chest. Then it slowly pulled out its talons, each one coming free of her body with a wet, sticky slurp. The woman slid gently down the wall.

Dark Goddess is about the Beast Within, recognising the monster within us. My heroine, Billi SanGreal, is a warrior and all warriors must do terrible things for the greater good. But who knows what that greater good is? My monsters, the werewolves and their goddess, the ancient witch Baba Yaga, are trying to save the world. Baba Yaga has seen the damage humanity has done to the planet and realises the only way to save it is to rid it of mankind. As Old Grey, the leader of the werewolves asks “What species has prospered under the man’s dominion? Not one.”

We love Dracula because he’s so uncanny and weird. He has his own rules, but not ones that worries about humans. There’s a creepy dread about him, we don’t know quite what he is or what he can do. He creeps down walls, summons blue fires from nowhere and has the company of wolves. He slaughters with abandoned but hunts with a lover’s obsession. Alas since him vampires have become steadily defanged. They’re just superheroes who need to tank up on blood like some Pac Man, before launching off on their next escapade. They’ve become known to us, we know what they can do and what they can’t. What sort of monster is that? Monsters grew out of our fear of the shadows, the places unseen. Shadows change shape, they distort our perception, and are without real dimension. Shine a light on it, the shadow is destroyed. So is the mystery and the shiver you get when staring into the blackness.

What fun is there in knowing everything? We, as humans, revel in the wonder of the unknown. We are awestruck by what we don’t understand and can’t explain. Monsters embody that awe, and the more mysterious we keep them, the greater is our passion.

~Sarwat Chadda


You're interested now aren't you? I know I am. 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 March 3rd. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded (allowances will be made for mistakes requiring a double entry). Open in United States and Canada only (Sorry! I'll try to add an international contest later).

Good luck!



Devil's Kiss
There's Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself....And Billi SanGreal.
As the youngest and only female member of the Knights Templar, Bilquis SanGreal grew up knowing she wasn't normal. Instead of hanging out at the mall or going on dates, she spends her time training as a soldier in her order's ancient battle against the Unholy.
Billi's cloistered life is blasted apart when her childhood friend, Kay, returns from Jerusalem, gorgeous and with a dangerous chip on his shoulder. He's ready to reclaim his place in Billi's life, but she's met someone new: amber-eyed Michael, who seems to understand her like no one else, effortlessly claiming a stake in her heart.
But the Templars are called to duty before Billi can enjoy the pleasant new twist to her life. One of the order's ancient enemies has resurfaced, searching for a treasure that the Templars have protected for hundreds of years — a cursed mirror powerful enough to kill all of London's firstborn. To save her city from catastrophe, Billi will have to put her heart aside and make sacrifices greater than any of the Templars could have imagined.



Dark Goddess
New enemies, new romance, and new horrors,
Billi's back, and it seems like the Unholy just can't take a hint.
Still reeling from the death of her best friend, Kay, Billi's thrust back into action when the Templars are called to investigate werewolf activity. And these werewolves are like nothing Bilil's seen before.
They call themselves the Polenitsy - Man Killers. The ancient warrior women of Eastern Europe, supposedly wiped out centuries ago. But now they're out of hiding and on the hunt for a Spring Child — an Oracle powerful enough to blow the volcano at Yellowstone — precipitating a Fimbulwinter that will wipe out humankind for good.
The Templars follow the stolen Spring Child to Russia, and the only people there who can help are the Bogatyrs, a group of knights who may have gone to the dark side. To reclaim the Spring Child and save the world, Billi needs to earn the trust of Ivan Romanov, an arrogant young Bogatyr whose suspicious of people in general, and of Billi in particular.
Dark Goddess is a page-turning, action-packed sequel that spans continents, from England to the Russian underworld and back. This is an adventure of folklore and myth become darkly real. Of the world running out of time. And of Billi SanGreal, the only one who can save it.

**Contest Closed**

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Books Received Part III

I promise I won't wait so long to do this ever again. I promise I won't wait so long to do this ever again. I promise I won't wait so long to do this ever again. I promise...





Blackout by Rob Thurman

When half-human Cal Leandros wakes up on a beach littered with the slaughtered remains if a variety of hideous creatures, he's not that concerned. In fact, he can't remember anything-including who he is.
And that's just the way his deadly enemies like it...



River Marked by Patricia Briggs

Car mechanic Mercy Thompson has always known there was something different about her, and not just the way she can make a VW engine sit up and beg. Mercy is a shapeshifter, a talent she inherited from her long-gone father. She's never known any others of her kind. Until now. An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River-one that her father's people may know something about. And to have any hope of surviving, Mercy and her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, will need their help...



Daybreak Zero by John Barnes

A year has passed since the catastrophic event known as "Daybreak" began.

9 months since Daybreak killed seven billion people
8 months since Daybreak vaporized Washington
6 months since rival governments emerged in Athens, GA and Olympia, WA
4 months since the two governments of what was formerly the United States went to the brink of war
3 months since war was (barely) avoided
2 months since Athens and Olympia agreed to work together
1 month since they discovered that Daybreak isn't over...


Changes by Jim Butcher

The new novel in the #1 New York Times bestselling Dresden Files series. Long ago, Susan Rodriguez was Harry Dresden's lover-until she was attacked by his enemies, leaving her torn between her own humanity and the bloodlust of the vampiric Red Court. Susan then disappeared to South America, where she could fight both her savage gift and those who cursed her with it. Now Arianna Ortega, Duchess of the Red Court, has discovered a secret Susan has long kept, and she plans to use it-against Harry. To prevail this time, he may have no choice but to embrace the raging fury of his own untapped dark power. Because Harry's not fighting to save the world... He's fighting to save his child.



The Griffin's War by K.J. Taylor

After promising his allegiance to the Night God, Arenadd Taranisaii escapes death for the second time and vows to free his people. With the dark griffin Skandar by his side, Arenadd begins to gather an army and prepare for war using the power gifted to him by the Night God to move through the shadows. But even as Arenadd's strength grows his nemesis sets out for the Island of the Sun, seeking the one weapon that can truly kill Arenadd, the man without a heart.




Serpent's Storm by Amber Benson

Calliope just wants to make it big in the Big Apple like any other working girl. But Callie is also Death's Daughter, no matter how much she tries to stay out of the family business. And now her older sister has made a deal with the Devil himself to engage in a hostile takeover of both Death Inc. and Heaven-once they get Callie out of the way.





Dead Waters by Anton Strout

Simon Canderous, of the Department of Extraordinary Affairs, is used to fighting vampires and zombies. But the strange murder of a professor has everyone stumped. And it's making some people crazy. Literally.




Etched in Bone by Adrian Phoenix

Son of a fallen angel..Forged in vampire's blood. Sworn to a mortal woman. If Dante falls, the world falls with him. Three legacies etched in bone.
More beautiful and powerful than any creature the world has ever seen, Dante Baptiste has become the supreme target of the three worlds that spawned him. The mortal agents of the Shadow Branch have tried to control his mind through psychological torture. The vampire elders who guide nightkind society have plotted to use him in their bloodthirsty bid for power. And the Fallen have waited for millennia for Dante to claim his birthright as their Maker. But Dante belongs to no one—except the woman he loves. . . .Determined to face the Fallen and the world on his own terms, Dante hopes to piece together his shattered past and claim his future, with FBI agent Heather Wallace at his side. But in Heather’s human family awaits an unexpected enemy. One who could rip Heather from Dante’s heart and fill the holes with bullets. One who could force Dante to choose his darkest destiny—as the Great Destroyer. . . .


After Hours: Tales From Ur-Bar by Patricia Bray and Joshua Palmatier

Science fiction and fantasy readers have long shown an affinity for a good "bar story". Now some of today's most inventive scriveners have decided to tell their own tall tales-from an alewife's attempt to transfer the gods' curse to Gilgamesh, to Odin's decision to introduce Vikings to the Ur-Bar, from the Holy Roman Emperor's barroom bargain, to a demon hunter who may just have met his match in the ultimate magic bar, to a bouncer who discovers you should never let anyone in after hours in a world terrorized by zombies.


Hastur Lord by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Deborah J. Ross

Regis Hastur, lord of the most powerful of the seven domains of Darkover, learns that the Terran Federation's operatives are pressuring Darkover to give up its closed world status and become a full member of this intergalactic empire. But Regis knows that if Darkover joins the Federation his beloved home planet will become nothing more than a military hub, sapped of its resources and cultural heritage. Still there are those among Darkover's ruling families who are tempted by the promise of increased technology that membership in the Federation would bring. Meanwhile, Regis learns that he has an older illegitimate brother, Rinaldo. But his joy in finding his sibling is short-lived, as Regis's enemies try to force him to abdicate leadership of Darkover in favor of his older brother. They hope to manipulate Rinaldo into agreeing to join the Federation. But unbeknownst to anyone, Rinaldo has a plan of his own...




Late Eclipses by October Daye

October "Toby" Daye is half-human, half-fae-the only changeling who's earned knighthood. But when someone begins targeting her nearest and dearest, it becomes clear that Toby is being set up to take the fall for everything that's happening.





Xombies: Apocalypso by Walter Greatshell

A group of women have been discovered who are immune to the Agent X plague. The secret of their immunity can provide a cure for human and inhuman alike-unless the Xombies find them first.





Rogue Oracle by Alayna Williams

The more you know about the future, the more there may to fear.
Tara Sheridan is the best criminal profiler around—and the most unconventional. Trained as a forensic psychologist, Tara also specializes in Tarot card reading. But she doesn’t need her divination skills to realize that the new assignment from her friend and sometime lover, Agent Harry Li, is a dangerous proposition in every way. Former Cold War operatives, all linked to a top-secret operation tracking the disposal of nuclear weapons in Russia, are disappearing. There are no bodies, and no clues to their whereabouts. Harry suspects a conspiracy to sell arms to the highest bidder. The cards—and Tara’s increasingly ominous dreams—suggest something darker. Even as Tara sorts through her feelings for Harry and her fractured relationship with the mysterious order known as Delphi’s Daughters, a killer is growing more ruthless by the day. And a nightmare that began decades ago in Chernobyl will reach a terrifying endgame that not even Tara could have foreseen. . . .

Raziel by Kristina Douglas

Kristina Douglas’s sexy new series introduces a realm of fallen angels and ruthless demons, where an eternal rebellion is brewing . . . and one unsuspecting woman can change the fate of the Fallen forever.
She was just an ordinary mortal . . .“You’re dead” is so not what Allie Watson wants to hear. Unfortunately, it explains a lot. Like the dark, angelically handsome man who ferried her to this strange, hidden land. The last thing she remembers is stepping off a curb in front of a crosstown bus. Now she’s surrounded by gorgeous fallen angels with an unsettling taste for blood—and they really don’t want her around. Not exactly how she pictured heaven.. . . until death catapulted her into a seductive world she never imagined. Raziel is unsure why he rescued Allie from hellfire against Uriel’s orders, but she stirs in him a longing he hasn't felt in centuries. Now the Fallen are bracing for the divine wrath brought by his disobedience, and they blame Allie for the ferocious Nephilim clawing at the kingdom’s shrouded gates. Facing impossible odds at every turn, the two must work together to survive. Raziel will do anything to defend his spirited lover against the forces of darkness—because Allie may be the Fallen’s only salvation.

A Brush of Darkness by Allison Pang

The man of her dreams might be the cause of her nightmares.
Six months ago, Abby Sinclair was struggling to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Now, she has an enchanted iPod, a miniature unicorn living in her underwear drawer, and a magical marketplace to manage. But despite her growing knowledge of the OtherWorld, Abby isn’t at all prepared for Brystion, the dark, mysterious, and sexy-as- sin incubus searching for his sister, convinced Abby has the key to the succubus’s whereabouts. Abby has enough problems without having this seductive shape-shifter literally invade her dreams to get information. But when her Faery boss and some of her friends vanish, as well, Abby and Brystion must form an uneasy alliance. As she is sucked deeper and deeper into this perilous world of faeries, angels, and daemons, Abby realizes her life is in as much danger as her heart—and there’s no one she can trust to save her.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde

The newest tour de force from The New York Times bestselling author of Thursday Next and Shades of Grey. Jasper Fforde's exuberant return to the fantastical BookWorld opens during a time of great unrest. All-out Genre war is rumbling, and the BookWorld desperately needs a heroine like Thursday Next. But with the real Thursday apparently retired to the Realworld, the Council of Genres turns to the written Thursday. The Council wants her to pretend to be the real Thursday and travel as a peacekeeping emissary to the warring factions. A trip up the mighty Metaphoric River beckons-a trip that will reveal a fiendish plot that threatens the very fabric of the BookWorld itself. Once again New York Times bestselling author Jasper Fforde has a field day gleefully blending satire, romance, and thriller with literary allusions galore in a fantastic adventure through the landscape of a frisky and fertile imagination. Fans will rejoice that their favorite character in the Fforde universe is back.


Across the Universe by Beth Revis

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules. Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next. Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.


XVI by Julia Karr

Nina Oberon's life is pretty normal: she hangs out with her best friend, Sandy, and their crew, goes to school, plays with her little sister, Dee. But Nina is 15. And like all girls she'll receive a Governing Council–ordered tattoo on her 16th birthday. XVI. Those three letters will be branded on her wrist, announcing to all the world–even the most predatory of men–that she is ready for sex. Considered easy prey by some, portrayed by the Media as sluts who ask for attacks, becoming a "sex-teen" is Nina’s worst fear. That is, until right before her birthday, when Nina’s mom is brutally attacked. With her dying breaths, she reveals to Nina a shocking truth about her past–one that destroys everything Nina thought she knew. Now, alone but for her sister, Nina must try to discover who she really is, all the while staying one step ahead of her mother's killer.

Nocture by Syrie James

When Nicole Whitcomb's car runs off a Colorado mountain road during a blinding snowstorm, she is saved from death by a handsome, fascinating, and enigmatic stranger.
Snowbound with him for days in his beautiful home high in the Rockies, she finds herself powerfully attracted to him. But there are things about him that mystify her, filling her with apprehension. Who is Michael Tyler? Why does he live alone in such a secluded spot and guard his private life so carefully? What secret--or secrets--is he hiding? Nicole has secrets of her own and a past she is running from--but Michael understands her better than anyone she has ever known. Soon, she is falling as deeply in love with him as he is with her--a profoundly meaningful experience that is destined to change their lives forever. As the sexual tension between them builds, however, the clues mount up. When Nicole learns her host's terrifying secret, there is nowhere for her to run but into the blizzard raging outside, and Michael may be the only one who can save her life.


Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Koschei the Deathless is to Russian folklore what devils or wicked witches are to European culture: a menacing, evil figure; the villain of countless stories which have been passed on through story and text for generations. But Koschei has never before been seen through the eyes of Catherynne Valente, whose modernized and transformed take on the legend brings the action to modern times, spanning many of the great developments of Russian history in the twentieth century. Deathless, however, is no dry, historical tome: it lights up like fire as the young Marya Morevna transforms from a clever child of the revolution, to Koschei’s beautiful bride, to his eventual undoing. Along the way there are Stalinist house elves, magical quests, secrecy and bureaucracy, and games of lust and power. All told, Deathless is a collision of magical history and actual history, of revolution and mythology, of love and death, which will bring Russian myth back to life in a stunning new incarnation.


Jack: Secret Vengeance (Young Repairman Jack Series) by F. Paul Wilson

Everyone loves senior Carson Toliver, the captain and quarterback of the football team, heartthrob of South Burlington County Regional High—especially the girls. Even Jack’s best friend Weezy has a crush on him. And unlike most of the popular kids at school, he’s not stuck up. Jack even sees him defending a piney kid who is being bullied in the hall. Which is why Jack is so surprised when Weezy tells him that Carson took her on a date and attacked her.
Jack tries to convince her to report Carson, but Weezy would rather just forget it ever happened. She begs him not to tell anyone, and Jack reluctantly agrees. But then Carson starts telling his own version of what happened that night and suddenly everyone is calling her “Easy Weezy.” Jack’s concern turns to rage. Carson needs to be taught a lesson. With the help of the pineys—reclusive inhabitants of the mysterious Jersey Pine Barrens who have secrets of their own—Jack finds a way to exact secret vengeance…
In F. Paul Wilson's third young adult novel, the teenage Jack demonstrates the skills that will serve him later in life as the urban mercenary known as Repairman Jack.

The Chaos Crystal by Jennifer Fallon


The Tide Lords have gathered in Jelidia and learn that in order for Cayal to die, they must open a rift to another world. Before they can do this, however, they must find the Chaos Crystal that brought them to this world. As they set off in search of it, they head to Glaeba, where Arkady has been captured by Jaxyn. She escapes and flees to Caelum to find Stellan, where she runs into Warlock and his family and learns that Elyssa, Warlock's cruel immortal mistress, knows the location of the Chaos Crystal. With every immortal on Amyrantha searching for the crystal, the stakes are very high. And when they find it and finally open the rift, only two questions remain… Will Cayal finally be able to die? And where will the rift take the survivors?


The Sea Thy Mistress by Elizabeth Bear

This third book in Bear’s Edda of Burdens series picks up immediately after the end of All the Windwracked Stars. Cathoair, now an Einherjar, is raising his and Muire’s son near Eiledon. But danger is coming in the form of the goddess Heythe, whose revenge will not be complete until Valdyrgard is finally a dead world.




Con and Conjure by Lisa Shearin

Raine Benares is a seeker who finds lost things and people. Ever since the Saghred, a soul-stealing stone that's given her unlimited power, has bonded to her, the goblin king and the elves have wanted to possess its magic themselves. Which means a goblin thief and her ex-fiancé-an elven assassin-are after her. To survive, she'll need the help of her notorious criminal family.



Among Others by Jo Walton

Publishers Weekly
World Fantasy Award winner Walton (Tooth and Claw) turns the magical boarding school story inside out in this compelling coming-of-age tale. Welsh teen Morwenna was badly hurt, and her twin sister killed, when the two foiled their abusive mother's spell work. Seeking refuge with a father she barely knows in England, Mori is shunted off to a grim boarding school. Mori works a spell to find kindred souls and soon meets a welcoming group of science fiction readers, but she can feel her mother looking for her, and this time Mori won't be able to escape. Walton beautifully captures the outsider's yearning in Mori's earthy and thoughtful journal entries: "It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books." Never deigning to transcend the genre to which it is clearly a love letter, this outstanding (and entirely teen-appropriate) tale draws its strength from a solid foundation of sense-of-wonder and what-if.

H.G. Wells Classic Collection I

The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon, and The Invisible Man are all collected in a stunning leather-bound omnibus.

Five of the best science fiction novels by the father of science fiction are collected in one volume. Unsurpassed in their timeless capacity to thrill and transfix, these are tales that reach to the heart of human ambition, fear, intelligence, and hope. The Time Machine was Wells' first major piece of fiction: a haunting vision of a far future earth orbiting a sun cooling to extinction. The War of the Worlds is still considered by many to be the best novel of alien invasion ever written. The terrible creations of The Island of Doctor Moreau continue to haunt the popular imagination. The House of Pain anticipated our terror of genetic engineering. The Invisible Man is the classic study of scientific hubris. In The First Men in the Moon: A Scientific Romance, a fantastical voyage reveals a dystopian nightmare. Acclaimed World Fantasy Award-winner Les Edwards contributes black and white illustrations before and after each story.

Winners!

Gotta wrap up the contests that have ended...



The winner of "Trouble and Her Friends" by Melissa Scott is:

Ray Pratt: Burlington, VT


The winner of "King of the Crags" by Stephen Deas is:

Ivonne Alvarado: Weslaco, TX


The winner of "Farlander" by Col Buchanan is:

Dwayne Whiteway: Canada


And the winners of "Messiah" by S. Andrew Swann are:

(For a signed copy) Daniel Burton: Holladay, UT

and

(For the worldwide, non-singed entry) Carla Ribeiro: Portugal


Congrats to all the winners!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Movie Review: "Gnomeo and Juliet"

Some films pop out at you as "must see" movies and others fly under the radar. Gnomeo and Juliet was one of those 'under the radar' films for me; but at the request of a 7-year-old that doesn't often ask to go see anything at the theater, we thought we'd give it a go.

As the name suggests "Gnomeo and Juliet" is a riff on William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" -- with garden gnomes. I swear I'm not making that up. The gnomes in this story inhabit the gardens of two feuding neighbors (the Montagues and the Capulets naturally) and are divided into the "reds" (Capulets) and the "blues" (Montagues). The feud fought among the gnomes mostly takes the form of garden sabotage and lawn mower races.

Gnomeo (James McAvoy) is the son of Lady Blueberry (Maggie Smith), the head of the blue gnomes. After losing a lawnmower race to Tybalt (Jason Statham), the champion of the red gnomes, Gnomeo plans a late-night excursion into the neighboring yard for some midnight vandalism. In the course of his travels he runs into Juliet (Emily Blunt), the overprotected daughter of Lord Redbrick (Michael Caine), the head of the red gnomes. Neither Gnomeo or Juliet initially know that they come from opposing families and it doesn't take long for their verbal sparring to turn into an attraction that allows them to mostly overlook their familial affiliations.

Despite being based on a Shakespearian tragedy "Gnomeo and Juliet" is a pure kid's film and we're told right from the start not to expect the traditional ending; though I'm not sure anyone would have expected that anyway. But that's not the only thing that's kind of different (strange?) about "Gnomeo and Juliet." I suppose it was intended to be a cute, Valentine's Day themed film aimed at a crossover audience of kids and adults, but the notion of centering a story around garden gnomes is hard to understand beyond the cutesy play on the name of a main character. Let me put it this way-- we weren't five minutes into the film before I was trying to explain to my kids what a gnome is. The only one they had ever seen were from the Travelocity commercials. But I digress. Additionally, the gnomes didn't end up being as unique as one might think after seeing three installments of "Toy Story;" the only real difference is that the gnomes are significantly more breakable.

But the real problem with "Gnomeo and Juliet" is that it's not made by Pixar or Disney. There's just no competing with those two giants of animated film. It's not that "Gnomeo and Juliet" is a bad movie-- it's not. But it just doesn't have the oomph of the powerhouses put out by the other studios. It doesn't have the original music, instead relying on a soundtrack that heavily features Elton John (of course it includes "Don't Go Breaking My Heart") with a version of "Hello Hello" sung by Elton John and Lady Gaga that didn't really stand out enough to be remarked upon. Another obviously lacking ingredient is the amazing visuals we've become so used to, and spoiled by, in recent years. It's colorful and well done, but I wasn't dazzled.

Mostly "Gnomeo and Juliet" is a pretty standard kids' film that features all the requisite ingredients: lots of quick banter; many recognizable voices (Ozzy Osbourn is surprisingly intelligible and fun in this); some minor cliff-hangers; some sentimental moments; and the expected moral lessons about getting along. Overall it's a nice movie that doesn't stand out in any way. The famous voices added to the film don't add as much dimension as one would hope. Perhaps "Gnomeo and Juliet" suffers because it has the poor fortune of being compared to "Tangled" since that was the last movie I saw in the theater, but I suspect that it would be forgettable against any of the major animated releases. It's a likable movie, but one that can definitely wait to be watched at home.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Neil Gaiman on eBook Piracy (His View May Surprise You)

Most authors frown on ebook piracy, but Neil Gaiman has a unique view that states ebook piracy is a good thing.



H/T SF Signal

Friday, February 11, 2011

Graphic Novel Review – Atomic Robo vol 1

Imagine a wise-cracking robot who leads a team of specialists on X-files like cases against Doctor Who villains with Douglas Adams-like absurdity, and you’ve just barely scratched the surface of what Atomic Robo and the Fighting Scientists of Testladyne is like. I’ve been wanting to read Atomic Robo for some time, but I was a little fearful – sometimes hearing good things about a book can actually make my expectations be set a little too high – but I need not have worried, I was laughing out loud within pages. We start with a flashback to WWII, where Robo is sent on a mission to capture German scientist Helsingard. Upon arriving in his secret base (via a bomb-like capsule) Robo proceeds to start reading off the atrocities for which Helsingard is being placed under arrest. Then he starts flipping through the many pages of atrocities, commenting on how many there are as well as the fact that he doesn’t even know what some of them mean – that was really my first hint that I was really going to enjoy this. Or there’s the nick-name Robo gives Helsingard, “Baron Von blabs about his only weakness”. Helsingard will come back a few times within this volume, as will flashbacks to WWII, but what’s interesting is how there’s always some direction completely unexpected where the story can and will go next. There’s the giant bugs that Robo’s team has to defeat – who cares where they came from, they’re eating a town. Then there’s the Great Pyramid, which has sprouted legs and decided to walk off – despite the fact that the Egyptian government has told it repeatedly to get back in place. They’ll allow Robo’s team to investigate, so long as they don’t do what they usually do on these missions – which is blow things up. And you can guess exactly what it is that Robo winds up doing too. There’s also the history of how Robo came to be the first robot to go to Mars, the insanely boring journey he took in getting there, and why he hates Stephen Hawking. If this kind of off-the-wall stuff sounds like something you might enjoy, you’re probably right. If this sounds like something you wouldn’t enjoy, you must not have a pulse. This is probably one of the easiest comic books to get into; it requires absolutely no knowledge of any comic book heroes, just an ability to enjoy pictures with words. Do yourself a favor and give it a try. If not for you, think of the undead robotic mummies.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Giveaway! "Among Others" by Jo Walton

After reading Carl's review of Among Others by Jo Walton over at Stainless Steel Droppings, I knew it was a book I had to have. I am so blessed to get to many good books that I rarely hesitate to rush out and grab a new book when I hear about something interesting-- it's the least I can do to support the writers who give me so many hours of good reading. Even better, my favorite books are only a few clicks away thanks to my Nook, and so I bought "Among Others" right as it became available. I think it might have been as soon as the next day when the actual hard copy of "Among Others," courtesy of Tor Books, showed up in my mailbox.

You know what that means right? GIVEAWAY!

I have not had a chance to read "Among Others" yet, but the buzz is very good. If you get a chance, read Carl's review as he has added a few quotes from still other reviews saying nice things about Jo Walton's book.

Publishers Weekly
World Fantasy Award winner Walton (Tooth and Claw) turns the magical boarding school story inside out in this compelling coming-of-age tale. Welsh teen Morwenna was badly hurt, and her twin sister killed, when the two foiled their abusive mother's spell work. Seeking refuge with a father she barely knows in England, Mori is shunted off to a grim boarding school. Mori works a spell to find kindred souls and soon meets a welcoming group of science fiction readers, but she can feel her mother looking for her, and this time Mori won't be able to escape. Walton beautifully captures the outsider's yearning in Mori's earthy and thoughtful journal entries: "It doesn't matter. I have books, new books, and I can bear anything as long as there are books." Never deigning to transcend the genre to which it is clearly a love letter, this outstanding (and entirely teen-appropriate) tale draws its strength from a solid foundation of sense-of-wonder and what if?



Just add your information to the from below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once contest ends) and I will randomly pick one winner by Wednesday February 23rd. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded (allowances will be made for incomplete entries that have to be re-submitted). Open everywhere.

Good luck!

**Contest Closed**

Monday, February 07, 2011

Books Received Part Deux

Still catching up on the list....Oh, and the book at the top of the list? It's there for a reason.  Buy it when it comes out-- it's awesome. ;)



Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick

Death around the corner …
Ildrecca is a dangerous city, if you don’t know what you’re doing. It takes a canny hand and a wary eye to run these streets and survive. Fortunately, Drothe has both. He has been a member of the Kin for years, rubbing elbows with thieves and murderers from the dirtiest of alleys to the finest of neighborhoods. Working for a crime lord, he finds and takes care of trouble inside his boss’s organization—while smuggling relics on the side. But when his boss orders Drothe to track down whoever is leaning on his organization’s people, he stumbles upon a much bigger mystery. There’s a book, a relic any number of deadly people seem to be looking for—a book that just might bring down emperors and shatter the criminal underworld. A book now inconveniently in Drothe’s hands…


Play Dead by John Levitt

Mason used to be an enforcer, ensuring that those magic practitioners without a moral compass walked the straight and narrow. But now he just wants to keep his head down, play guitar, and maintain a low profile with Lou, his magical canine companion. But Mason is down on his luck, and when a job with a large payout comes along, he finds the offer hard to resist-not knowing it might mean sacrificing what both man and his best friend hold most dear.


The King of the Crags by Stephen Deas

In his "utterly fascinating" (Book Smuggler) debut, The Adamantine Palace, Stephen Deas "restored [dragons] to all their scaly fire- breathing glory" (Daily Telegraph). Now, as the Realms teeter on the brink of war, the fate of humanity rests in the survival of one majestic white dragon. Prince Jehal has had his way-now his lover Zafir sits atop the Realms with hundreds of dragons and their riders at her beck and call. But Jehal's plots are far from over, for he isn't content to sit back and watch Zafir command the earth and sky. He wants that glory for himself- no matter who he must sacrifice to get it. The one thing Jehal fears is that the white dragon still lives-and if that is so, then blood will flow, on all sides...

Unseen by Rachel Caine

After Cassiel and Warden Luis Rocha rescue an adept child from a maniacal Djinn, they realize two things: the girl is already manifesting an incredible amount of power, and her kidnapping was not an isolated incident. This Djinn-aided by her devoted followers-is capturing children all over the world, and indoctrinating them so she can use their strength for herself. With no other options, Cassiel infiltrates the Djinn's organization-because if Cassiel cannot stop the Djinn's apocalyptic designs, all of humanity may be destroyed.



Forest Moon Rising by P.R. Frost

Tess Noncoiré, successful fantasy writer and Celestial Blade Warrior, has made a deal with the Powers That Be, forfeiting her own dreams in order to save those nearest and dearest to her. Having survived this unprecedented experience, Tess, along with her imp Scrap, is determined to hunt down a demonic intruder from another dimension, the Norglein, who seems bent on ravishing young women, leaving them pregnant, and waiting for the proper time to steal their babies away for his own purposes.


License to Ensorcell by Katherine Kerr

Psychic Agent Nola O'Grady isn't sure returning to San Francisco, and living near her unusual family, is a good idea. Her job, with a psychic agency so obscure even the CIA doesn't know it exists, can be perilous, and she's afraid of the relatives getting involved. Then the Agency saddles her with Israeli secret agent Ari Nathan, and she has a bigger problem on her hands, because tact and compromise are not Ari's strong points. Their mission is to track down a serial killer obsessed with werewolves. He sees them everywhere and shoots whenever he thinks he has one in his sights. Ari assumes the man's psychotic, but in truth he's murdering actual werewolves. Nola should know. Her younger brother Pat, a lycanthrope, was the first victim. Can Nola's psychic talents and Ari's skill with guns keep them alive long enough to unravel the greater mystery behind the killings? Can they save the werewolves and the world while stopping Nola's family from running headlong into danger?


Messiah: Apotheosis: Book Three by S. Andrew Swann

The last stand against the self-proclaimed God, Adam, has retreated to the anarchic planet Bakunin-a world besieged by civil war. Humanity's last hope lies with Nickolai Rajasthan, a Moreau who believes that the human race that created his kind is already damned beyond redemption.



Zombieaque by Stephen L. Antczak (Editor), James C. Bassett (Editor), Martin H. Greenberg (Editor)

From a tropical resort where visitors can become temporary zombies, to a newly-made zombie determined to protect those he loves, to a cheerleader who won't let death kick her off the team, to a zombie seeking revenge for the ancestors who died on an African slave ship-- Zombiesque invites readers to take a walk on the undead side in these tales from a zombie's point of view.


Blackveil by Kristin Britain

The long-awaited sequel to Green Rider, First Rider's Call, and The High King's Tomb.

Once a simple student, Karigan G'ladheon finds herself in a world of deadly danger and complex magic, compelled by forces she cannot understand when she becomes a legendary Green Rider-one of the magical messengers of the king. Forced by magic to accept a dangerous fate she would never have chosen, headstrong Karigan has become completely devoted to the king and her fellow Riders.
But now, an insurrection led by dark magicians threatens to break the boundaries of ancient,
evil Blackveil Forest-releasing powerful dark magics that have been shut away for a millennium.


Trouble and Her Friends by Melissa Scott

India Carless, alias Trouble, managed to stay one step ahead of the feds until she retired from life as a hacker and settled down to run a small network for an artist’s co-op.
Now someone has stolen her pseudonym and begun to use it for criminal hacking. So Trouble returns. Once the fastest gun on the electronic frontier, she has been called out of retirement for one last fight. And it’s a killer. Less than a hundred years from now, the forces of law and order crack down on the world of the internet. It is the closing of the frontier. The hip, noir adventurers who got by on wit, bravado, and drugs, who haunt the virtual worlds of the shadows of cyberspace are up against the edges of civilization. It’s time to adapt or die.

The Dragon's Path by Daniel Abraham

Summer is the season of war in the Free Cities.
Marcus wants to get out before the fighting starts. His hero days are behind him and simple caravan duty is better than getting pressed into service by the local gentry. Even a small war can get you killed. But a captain needs men to lead — and his have been summarily arrested and recruited for their swords. Cithrin has a job to do — move the wealth of a nation across a war zone. An orphan raised by the bank, she is their last hope of keeping the bank's wealth out of the hands of the invaders. But she's just a girl and knows little of caravans, war, and danger. She knows money and she knows secrets, but will that be enough to save her in the coming months?
Geder, the only son of a noble house is more interested in philosophy than swordplay. He is a poor excuse for a soldier and little more than a pawn in these games of war. But not even he knows what he will become of the fires of battle. Hero or villain? Small men have achieved greater things and Geder is no small man. Falling pebbles can start a landslide. What should have been a small summer spat between gentlemen is spiraling out of control. Dark forces are at work, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon's Path — the path of war.


Night School by Mari Mancusi

After their parents' shocking revelation about their fae heritage and an attack on their lives, the McDonald twins are forced to hide out deep in the Swiss Alps at Riverdale Academy, a secret vampire slayer training facility. And with no way to contact their vampire boyfriends for rescue, they're going to have to play nice with the locals.

But when Sunny starts acting strange, Rayne realizes that there's more to fear at Riverdale than getting staked by the student body-leading to a showdown in Fairyland that may cost the twins their lives.



Hellforged by Nancy Holzner

A demon is stalking Vicky's dreams-just as several of Deadtown's zombies are viciously attacked and become really dead. And when Vicky realizes she is the only connection between the victims, she suspects that the demon is somehow working through her dreams to become Deadtown's living nightmare.



Hexbound by Chloe Neill

Lily Parker is new to St. Sophia's School for Girls, but she's already learned that magic can be your best friend-or your worst enemy. That's why Lily has to learn how to control her newly discovered paranormal abilities while fighting the good fight with her best friend Scout as they take on Chicago's nastiest nightlife-including the tainted magic users known as Reapers...



Mercy Blade by Faith Hunter

Jane, a shapeshifting vampire-hunter-for-hire, crosses paths with a stranger who has arrived in New Orleans, enlisted to hunt vampires who have gone insane-or so he says...




Or Truth and Beasts by Barb and J.C. Hendee

Publishers Weekly
In the capable ninth Noble Dead installment (after 2010's Through Stone and Sea), young sage Wynn determinedly pursues proof of her theories of a coming attack by the legendary "Ancient Enemy." Accompanied by telepathic wolf Shade, loyal vampire Chane, and secretive dwarf Ore-Locks, Wynn seeks an ancient dwarven stronghold described at the end of the possibly apocryphal Forgotten History, a chronicle recorded by the long-lived vampires known as the Noble Dead. There Wynn hopes to find one of the Enemy's magical orbs. Trailed by a black wraith and the mysterious elf Chuillyon, Wynn's party uncovers unexpected and potentially deadly secrets. Once again the Hendees deliver a crowd-pleasing mix of intrigue, epic fantasy, and horror. The pace occasionally slows, but there's more than enough mystery and suspense to keep it moving.

City of Night by Michelle West

 Quire Demonic activity has escalated in both the Undercity and the mortal surface level city as the worshipers and servants of the Lord of the Hells strive to complete the rituals that will return their god to the mortal realm. As Rath joins with mages and the Twin Kings' agents to wage a secret battle against this nearly unstoppable foe, he gives Jewel Markess and her den of orphans the opportunity to escape the chaos by providing them with a note of introduction to the head of House Terafin, where Jewel will discover her destiny.

Secrets of the Demon by Diana Rowland

Homicide detective Kara Gillian has a special talent: she can sense the "arcane" in our world, and there's quite a bit of it, even in Beaulac, Louisiana. She's also a summoner of demons, and works on a task force that deals with supernatural crimes. Her partners are attractive and smart FBI agents, but they're not summoners, and they're not telling Kara why they are on this special force with her. To make things worse, Kara has pledged herself to one of the most powerful of demons-a Demon Lord-who helped save her partner's life, but now expects things in return. Meanwhile, she's trying to solve a string of murders that are somehow tied together by money, sex, rock music and...mud. But how can she concentrate on the case when she's not even sure who-or what-her partners are?


Boondock's Fantasy by Martin H. Greenberg and Jean Rabe

From vampires in the Appalachians and leprechauns in the Smokies to mermaids in the Mississippi and bloodthirsty trolls in an Alabama trailer park the South makes a unique setting for the 20 stories in this anthology of redneck vampires, werewolves, wizards, elves, and other creatures.
Featuring original stories by Gene Wolfe, Timothy Zahn, Chris Pierson, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Steven Savile, Elizabeth A. Vaughan, Jay Lake, Anton Strout, and many more.


The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card

Danny North grew up in a family of gods - the poor remnants of the mages who once went by names like Odin, Thor, and Freya. When the gates that led to their home world of Westil were closed by Loki in 632 a.d., they lost much of their power. When Danny realizes that he is a gatemage, he has to flee the family compound in western Virginia and make his own way in the world, at least until he learns how to control his gift and reopen a gate between the worlds. Not only does he face the ordinary dangers of a teenager trying to survive on his own in America, and the mages who would kill him if they realized what he was, but also, if he ever succeeds in opening a gate to Westil, he can expect to be stripped of all his power by the Gate Thief, who seems determined to keep all gates closed.

A Hard Day's Knight by Simon R. Green

John Taylor is a P.I. with a special talent for finding lost things in the dark and secret center of London known as the Nightside. He's also the reluctant owner of a very special-and dangerous-weapon. Excalibur, the legendary sword. To find out why he was chosen to wield it, John must consult the Last Defenders of Camelot, a group of knights who dwell in a place that some find more frightening than the Nightside. London Proper. It's been years since John's been back-and there are good reasons for that.


Mad Skills by Walter Greatshell

Unconscious for fourteen months after a debilitating accident, Maddy Grant awakens at the Braintree Institute, where scientists have successfully implanted her with a radical technology designed to correct her brain injury. But Maddy is more than cured. Her intellect has been enhanced to process information faster than a computer-an ability that's sending her emotions into overdrive. To monitor her condition, the institute sends Maddy to the nearby village of Harmony, where she will be free to interact with the community. But Braintree's scientists are not only monitoring her behavior, they're modifying it, reprogramming her personality to become someone else. A killer.

Songs of the Dying Earth by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Amazon Best Books of the Month, December 2010: Sixty years ago, in The Dying Earth, Jack Vance introduced his own version of the distant future, where the sun has become a red giant, powerful wizards fight over the scraps of ruined civilizations, and a handful of colorful and eccentric characters insist on having a few adventures before oblivion descends. In Songs of the Dying Earth, 22 sci-fi and fantasy writers, from newcomers like Liz Williams and Byron Tetrick to established names like Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin, each offer their own snippets of Vance's Dying Earth. In one story, an apprentice architect stumbles into a duel between two powerful mages, for example, while in another a poet-philosopher tries (and fails) to forget the coming apocalypse in a drunken haze. Some stories capture Vance's style and inventiveness, while others recreate his perfect combination of black humor and creeping dread. Songs of the Dying Earth is both a respectful homage to a sci-fi master and a whirlwind tour of a world that readers will want to revisit.

Passion Play by Beth Bernobich

Ilse Zhalina is the daughter of one of Melnek’s more prominent merchants. She has lived most of her life surrounded by the trappings of wealth and privilege. Many would consider hers a happy lot. But there are dark secrets, especially in the best of families. Ilse has learned that for a young woman of her beauty and social station, to be passive and silent is the best way to survive. When Ilse finally meets the older man she is to marry, she realizes he is far crueler and more deadly than her father could ever be. Ilse chooses to run. This choice will change her life forever. And it will lead her to Raul Kosenmark, master of one of the land’s most notorious pleasure houses…and who is, as Ilse discovers, a puppetmaster of a different sort altogether. Ilse discovers a world where every pleasure has a price and there are levels of magic and intrigue she once thought unimaginable. She also finds the other half of her heart.


King's Justice by Maurice Broaddus

FROM THE DRUG GANGS OF DOWNTOWN INDIANAPOLIS, THE ONE TRUE KING WILL ARISE.

Guided by the crazed visions of his advisor Merle, King knows that he must unite the opposing factions, before the streets erupt in all-out war. But how can he preach peace when even his own warriors are plotting against him? A heart-stopping mix of ancient myth and powerful gang action, from the author of King Maker.

King Maker by Maurice Broaddus

The King Arthur myth gets dramatically retold through the eyes of street hustler King, as he tries to unite the crack dealers, gangbangers and the monsters lurking within them to do the right thing. From the drug gangs of downtown Indianapolis, the one true king will arise. The King Arthur myth gets dramatically retold through the eyes of street hustler King, as he tries to unite the crack dealers, gangbangers and the monsters lurking within them to do the right thing. Broaddus' debut is a stunning, edgy work, genuinely unlike anything you've ever read.

Towers of Midnight by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

The Last Battle has started. The seals on the Dark One’s prison are crumbling. The Pattern itself is unraveling, and the armies of the Shadow have begun to boil out of the Blight. The sun has begun to set upon the Third Age. Perrin Aybara is now hunted by specters from his past: Whitecloaks, a slayer of wolves, and the responsibilities of leadership. All the while, an unseen foe is slowly pulling a noose tight around his neck. To prevail, he must seek answers in Tel’aran’rhiod and find a way--at long last--to master the wolf within him or lose himself to it forever. Meanwhile, Matrim Cauthon prepares for the most difficult challenge of his life. The creatures beyond the stone gateways--the Aelfinn and the Eelfinn--have confused him, taunted him, and left him hanged, his memory stuffed with bits and pieces of other men’s lives. He had hoped that his last confrontation with them would be the end of it, but the Wheel weaves as the Wheel wills. The time is coming when he will again have to dance with the Snakes and the Foxes, playing a game that cannot be won. The Tower of Ghenjei awaits, and its secrets will reveal the fate of a friend long lost. This penultimate novel of Robert Jordan’s #1 New York Times bestselling series--the second of three based on materials he left behind when he died in 2007--brings dramatic and compelling developments to many threads in the Pattern. The end draws near. Dovie’andi se tovya sagain. It’s time to toss the dice.

Pretty Little Dead Things by Gary McMahon

Thomas Usher has a most terrible talent.
Following a car crash in which his wife and daughter are killed, he can see the recently departed, and it's not usually a pretty sight. When he is called to investigate the violent death of the daughter of a prominent local gangster, Usher's world is torn apart once more. For the barriers between this world and the next are not as immutable as once he believed.
Mashing together the grittiest British police procedural with dark supernatural terror, author Gary McMahon creates a refreshingly new take on horror fiction.

Harbinger of the Storm by Aliette de Bodard

Death, magic and intrigue in this hotly-anticipated follow-up to Servant of the Underworld. A sumptuously-detailed Aztec world, which will appeal to fans of magical fantasy, historical drama, political intrigue and murder mysteries.
THE AZTEC EMPIRE TEETERS ON THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION.
As the political infighting starts within the imperial court, Acatl, High Priest for the Dead, makes a macabre discovery in the palace: a high-ranking nobleman has been torn to pieces by an invocation - and it looks like the summoner belongs to the court itself...

Surrender to the Will of the Night by Glenn Cook

Return, in this sequel to The Tyranny of the Night and Lord of the Silent Kingdom, to the adventures of Piper Hecht—formerly a spy from the East, now a champion of the Patriachy with a new religion, a new family, and old secrets.



Uprising: Vampire Federation by Sean McCabe

A gruesome ritual murder has stained the Oxfordshire countryside. It's just the first incident in a chain of events awakening Detective Inspector Joel Solomon to his worst nightmare-and a dreadful omen of things to come. Because Joel has a secret: he believes in vampires.
Alex Bishop is an agent of the Vampire Intelligence Agency. She's tasked with enforcing the laws of the global Vampire Federation, and hunting rogue members of her race. A tough job made tougher when the Federation comes under attack by traditionalist vampires. They have a stake in old-school terror-and in an uprising as violent as it is widespread.
Now it's plunging Alex and Joel into a deadly war between the living and the unloving-and against a horrifying tradition given new life by the blood of the innocent.

The Sworn by Gail Z. Martin

Summoner-King Martris Drayke must attempt to meet this great threat, gathering an army from a country ravaged by civil war. Tris seeks new allies from among the living - and the dead - as an untested generation of rulers face their first battle. Meanwhile, the legendary Dread are stirring in their burrows after millennia of silence and no one knows what hand wakes them and whom they will serve when they rise.
Now, Drayke turns to the Sworn, a nomadic clan of warriors bound to protect the Dread. But even the mighty Sworn do not know what will happen when the Dread awake. All are certain, though, that war is coming to the Winter Kingdoms.
THE SWORN is the beginning of a new adventure set in the world of The Chronicles of the Necromancer.

Of Masques and Martyrs by Christopher Golden

Vampires in love and war? Of Masques and Martyrs, is Christopher Golden's hot new dark-fantasy thriller about vampires and their adversaries. Third in the Shadow Saga, which Golden began with Of Saints and Shadows, this new entry into the dark world of the night creatures is his best! Golden may just be one of the most prolific authors around; comics, novels, novelizations, nonfiction -- is there a nything the guy can't do? Still, first and foremost, he's an imaginative and prodigious talent who never lets genre boundaries hold him back, and is new novel, Of Masques and Martyrs, is no exception. Horror novelist Douglas Clegg interviewed Golden about his new book, his future novels, and why vampires are so hot.

Dragon's Deal by Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye

New York Times bestselling author Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye up the ante in the latest tale of dragons in the Big Easy!
As head dragon and owner of a successful gambling operation in New Orleans, Griffen McCandles has a lot on his plate. Especially since the Krewe of Fafnir-a society of dragons-has asked him to be the king of their Mardi Gras parade. Being the king is a huge honor, and despite the extra responsibilities, Griffen can't resist the Krewe's offer to lead the biggest party of the year.
But not everyone is happy with Griffen's new leadership status. A group of powerful dragons is out to bankrupt his business, from the inside out. And when a young dragon in Griffen's employ is murdered, it becomes clear that certain dragons will stop at nothing to dethrone the new king...

Eureka: Brain Box Blues by Cris Ramsay

Even the brightest of Eureka's residents can't read someone else's mind. Then Global Dynamics develops the Brain Box: a device capable of capturing and storing human thoughts. When the Box starts messing with people's minds, Sheriff Jack Carter will have to keep his thoughts to himself if he's going to save the town from going out of their heads.