Monday, November 26, 2012

A Hiatus-- Sort of....

I never know if I should mention that I'm taking time off from blogging. Does anyone really pay that much attention to what another blogger is doing?

Anyway. I've been struggling to keep up with my posting over the last couple of weeks (mostly due to Thanksgiving) and tomorrow I have to report for jury duty. Ugh. Needless to say I may not be able to post anything for a week or so, and my posting may be sparse until after the Christmas holiday. Don't give up on me though. I'll try to get back to regular blogging as soon as I can.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books. This week we're featuring picks chosen by SQT and Jim.

SQT's can't wait to read selection is:

Frozen by Kate Watterson
Publisher: Tor
Date: December 24, 2012
Pages: 384
In Kate Watterson's thrilling suspense novel Frozen, Bryce Grantham wants a quiet vacation at his family’s cabin. On his first night in town, he meets a lovely girl at a bar and gives her a ride home. The next day, he finds her cell phone in his car. When he tries to return it, Bryce discovers that the young woman has vanished, leaving behind only a bloody shoe.

Suddenly Bryce Grantham is the primary suspect in a murder investigation.

Detective Ellie MacIntosch has a serial killer on her hands, but without a body, she has few leads and the stalled investigation has her on edge. Bryce Grantham seems to be the perfect suspect.

Eighteen months have gone by without a clue, and yet Grantham starts reporting stumbling across the bodies of the missing women with unbelievable frequency. The evidence against him is almost irrefutable…but Ellie’s gut tells her the case is not so cut and dry.

Before Ellie compromises the investigation, her career, and possibly her life in order to prove Bryce’s innocence, she must determine whether he is a manipulative, cold-blooded killer…or the victim of a madman playing a sickening game.

Normally I pick genre-specific titles, but I also have a weakness for thrillers (especially the serial killer variety) and "Frozen" caught my eye because of the cat-and-mouse aspect.

Jim's can't wait to read selection is:

Alabaster: Wolves
Publisher: Dark Horse
Date: Feb. 26, 2013
Pages: 136

Dancy Flammarion may look like a frail teenage girl, but her journey through the swamps and byways of the American South brings her into battle with werewolves, monsters, and grotesque secrets, armed only with a knife and a mission to destroy the deadly creatures that lurk in shadow. Award-winning author Caitlin R. Kiernan brings one of her most enduring and popular creations to comics!

Continuing my recent trend in featuring comics comes this one, which I've been talking about and anticipating since it was first announced about a year ago. This is a continuation/reimagining of a character from Kiernan's fantasy novels, and looks to be a really unique comic/story. I read the preview in Dark Horse Presents which only teased at the possibilities of a girl who can see the horrible things just outside our normal vision of the world.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Giveaway Winner! "Red Country" by Joe Abercrombie

I have randomly selected the winner of the giveaway for a copy of "Red Country" by Joe Abercrombie-- and the winner is:

Antonios Matakos: Serres; Greece

Congrats Antonios! The book is on its way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books. This week we're featuring picks chosen by SQT and Jim.

SQT's can't wait to read selection is:

City of Dark Magic: A Novel by Magnus Flyte
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication date: 11/27/2012
Pages: 464

Cosmically fast-paced and wildly imaginative, this debut novel is a perfect potion of magic and suspense

Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood.

Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to get arrested, to have tantric sex in a public fountain, and to discover a time-warping drug. She also catches the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide.

City of Dark Magic could be called a rom-com paranormal suspense novel—or it could simply be called one of the most entertaining novels of the year.

~My Thoughts
Tantric sex in a public fountain? Who wouldn't want to know what that's all about?

Jim's can't wait to read selection is:

Higher Earth vol 1
Publisher: BOOM! Studios
Date: January 1, 2013
Pages: 128

When the final frontier proves to be a desolate wasteland, mankind turns its sights toward exploring -- and conquering -- a different sort of territory: alternate Earths. HIGHER EARTH, written and created by Sam Humphries, takes place in a universe of interconnected Earths, with many falling under the empire of the titular throne world.

I think I've mentioned this graphic novel before in one of my Raves, but it's got an interesting premise. At least one of the main characters is from a "lesser" Earth, one of those under the rule of Higher Earth, and therefore essentially a non-citizen. Are there others who feel as helpless and hopeless, and is there anything they can do against such an advanced empire?

"Sanctum" by Sarah Fine- Deep Themes, Problematic Execution

**Some Spoilers Included**

~Official Synopsis

"My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple."

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance – hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone – she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t – the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

I really wanted to like this book. The idea of a female friendship so strong that a girl would forge a path through hell (or something very similar to it) to save a friend is story that needs telling as often as possible. But, as too often happens, angsty teen-romance ends up taking over the narrative and shoves aside anything that could have been meaningful in this story and reinforces the basically sexist assumption that anything can be fixed if a girl can only find the right boy. 

"Sanctum" is a book that attempts to deal with some dark themes. Both rape and suicide figure heavily into the narrative and Fine tries to deal with the subjects as sensitively as possible. Lela starts off as a very sympathetic character as she has overcome a lot in her short life. Shuffled from one foster home to another, she has suffered the worst kinds of abuse from the people who should have been protecting her. Lela almost succeeds in killing herself after being repeatedly assaulted by foster parent but is able to overcome her past with the help of the unexpected friendship of Nadia. 

Nadia is the golden-girl as far as the outside world is concerned. She's beautiful, popular and grows up with the kind of affluence most kids can only dream of. But she and Lela are kindred spirits thanks to dysfunctional homes and their unlikely friendship, while baffling to the outside world, makes sense to the two girls. Lela feels an uncommon loyalty to Nadia because she goes against the in-crowd pressure to only maintain friendships within her own clique and pushes Lela to hope for more in life than just getting-by. 

But Nadia, like many other teens, gets bogged down in despair and after finding that numbing herself with drugs doesn't work, she takes her own life. Lela doesn't intentionally follow Nadia into the afterworld, but after a fatal accident sends her to the afterlife she recognizes the Suicide Gates from her own suicide attempt and, instead of drifting into the quiet ease of an undefined paradise, she runs into the dreary Shadowlands in hopes of saving Nadia. 

If "Sanctum" has stayed with the story described in the synopsis, it could have been a great book. But after the initial set-up, one that happens to be pretty good, Fine drops the ball and moves on to a very Twilight-ish romance that undermines everything I had liked about the book up to that point. My main issue with "Sanctum" comes from the fact that Lela is so traumatized by her rape that she can't stand to have anyone touch her- until she meets Malachi.

Malachi, the love interest, fits the mold of the teenage dream: the good looking bad-ass who happens to be oh-so sensitive to the needs of a damaged young woman. Malachi is also, despite looking like a teenager, much older than Lela. The love story doesn't quite follow the mold of the Edward-Bella dynamic but I was very much bothered by the fact Lela's problems could be essentially cured by the insta-love storyline. Lela flashes back to her rape often. Every time she is touched by anyone, including Nadia, she freezes up in panic. I can appreciate these moments because they have the ring of authenticity to them, even though I do think they could be triggering to any rape victim that reads the book.  So it's problematic that her aversion to touch could be overcome shortly after meeting Malachi (at least when he touches her) even when she cannot tolerate a hug from a friend she'd literally go to hell for.  Much is made of Malachi's sensitivity to Lela's fear of being touched, but the fact that Lela's trauma is mostly overcome by her desire for Malachi does not do justice to the emotional journey of a rape victim in my opinion.  

"Sanctum" isn't just about the grim topics of rape and suicide; Fine also tries to tackle the nature of the afterlife. I've read a number of books that have tried to address the notion of where a soul goes after a person commits suicide and Fine's version, while not totally unique, has its own flair. Instead of demons her afterlife is populated by creatures known as "Mazikin" (demons by another name really) and her not-quite-purgatory (the "Shadowlands" in this case) has an interesting mix of hope and despair. In some respects I liked this part of the story because it had something to say about setting aside superficial concerns and focusing on the things that really matter. But much of the story is told in an info-dump fashion and the clunkiness of the writing tends to detract from the overall flow.

Another thing that never really makes sense is how Malachi came to be the captain of the Shadowland Guards. He's human, they're not, and the how and why he came to lead them or why they don't like him isn't particularly clear. Fine offers one explanation here:
     "Was it just me, or did the Guards at the Station seem less than eager to help him?" I wondered because he'd come to rescue me after what I'd done.
      Raphael somehow read my mind. "Don't worry, it's not you. Malachi is a controversial character among the Guard. He is their Captain, but he is not one of them. They were created to function as a unit, but he often operates alone or with Ana, who is human like him. He is the most merciless of them all but also the most principled. He has changed some policies for dealing with the Mazikin in recent years, and the other Guards do not like it. He comes from a different place then they do, and his future is different from theirs. As it has been with all their human leaders, it is hard for the other guards to understand him, and some of them don't try."
I don't know about you, but that last paragraph was too vague to be compelling, or convincing, to me and I couldn't help but roll my eyes at the "most merciless" and "most principled" part of that quote.

The rest of the book follows in much the same vein as the previous paragraph with a lot of generalized explanations that don't really flesh out the story. And, unfortunately, Lela loses a lot of her good qualities as the book goes on in her determination to do things her way. Part of the idealization of Malachi's character requires him to cater to every whim of Lela's, no matter how pointless, and much of the story seems aimless as a result. The ending only adds an extra level of silliness with a deus ex machina twist that only serves to set up the story for a sequel rather than follow the narrative to a logical conclusion.

If Fine had kept the story primarily about Lela and Nadia I think "Sanctum" could have been something special--though some tweaks to the writing would have also been necessary. I'd hoped for a story about an unbreakable friendship, but Fine unfortunately chooses to toss an interesting concept and instead write another generic teen romance.

2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, November 08, 2012

"World War Z" Trailer

Wow. This looks really good. I'm definitely going to read this book immediately.


Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Women in Horror by Mercedes M. Yardley

Women in Horror: Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch?

by Mercedes M. Yardley 

It’s inevitable. Somebody asks me what I do. I smile sweetly and say that I’m a writer.

“Oh, that’s wonderful. What do you write?” They ask. “Do you write romances?”


“Children’s books or YA?”

“No. I write horror.”

Wait for it. Wait for it.

Wide eyes. A brief pause. A puzzled expression. “But you seem so nice!”

Yes. I am nice. Very nice. I bake muffins. I have three little kidlets. I write stories that sometimes make people cry. Being nice doesn’t have anything to do with it. In fact, most horror writers that I know are incredibly nice.

The confusion stems not from the fact that I write horror, but because I’m a woman writing horror. Even in this day and age, women are considered to be fair and gentle. The idea of a beautiful thing conjuring up dark fantasies, well! That isn’t what women do!

Unless, of course, it’s an evil woman. We’re all familiar with Lilith. Then there’s also Grendel’s mother, Medusa, the wicked 13th fairy, and Baba Yaga. Throw in Hera and a few of the other jealous goddesses. Delilah. A plethora of stepmothers and queens. These are wicked women who are generally beautiful, jealous, and murderous. They bring about horror. They certainly aren’t known for being nice.

So it makes sense that there’s this disconnect and perhaps a little fascination about female horror writers. We should either be nice and good, or wicked and dark. Nice and dark can be a bit jarring. It isn’t what we see in literature or television. You’re either a good witch or a bad witch; it’s that simple.

Horror is also generally known as a genre dominated by men. It may appear that we’re awkwardly encroaching on the Good Ole’ Boy’s Club, when in all actuality female horror writers slide into the genre as easily as a villain into an acid bath. I find male horror writers to be genial and welcoming. Editors are usually pleased to see women in their lineup. And the other female horror writers are brilliant and inspirational. I haven’t run across any jealousy or catfights. You won’t see us at a conference rolling around on the floor and yanking each other’s hair. We’re too secure in our own skin for that. We’re too nice.

Not to mention that women come by horror naturally. I wrote a post addressing that on Damien Walters Grintalis’ blog.  ( Damien is also one of my favorite horror writers. She’s stunning. Oh, and a woman. A talented, nice one.

There are more female horror writers than ever. We don’t have to choose between being a good witch or a bad witch. We can have our devil’s food cake and eat it, too.

Mercedes M. Yardley wears red lipstick and poisonous flowers in her hair. Her first short story collection, BEAUTIFUL SORROWS, was just released and is available on Amazon. Mercedes works for Shock Totem Magazine. You can contact her at or follow her on Twitter as @mercedesmy.

There is a place where sorrows pile up like snow and rest in your hair like cherry blossoms. Boys have wings, monsters fall in love, women fade into nothingness, and the bones of small children snap like twigs. Darkness will surely devour you--but it will be exquisitely lovely while doing so.

Mercedes M. Yardley’s Beautiful Sorrows is an ephemeral collection encompassing twenty-seven short tales full of devastation, death, longing, and the shining ribbon of hope that binds them all together. You can purchase this collection at store at on Amazon.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books. This week we're featuring picks chosen by SQT and Jim.

SQT's can't wait to read selection is:

The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher
Tor Books
368 pages

Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker’s wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone’s business, may know more about the town’s true origins than he’s letting on.

A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn…and so will all of Creation.

Praise for The Six-Gun Tarot

“Against the backdrop of Chinese and Mormon mythology and the Civil War, with a bit of Frankenstein for color, the mix of theology, frontier justice, and zombies is merely cover for an intense and irreverent exploration of good, evil, and free will.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A jaw-dropping first novel that explodes across genre lines. Wild, gritty, insanely inventive and a hell of a lot of fun!”
—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times bestselling author of Dust & Decay andAssassin’s Code

“A steampunk'd romp through a Mythic West drenched in blood and magic.”
—Rosemary Edghill, coauthor of The Shadow of Albion

“If you want to see what Weird Westerns are all about, there’s no better place to start than The Six-Gun Tarot.”
—Mike Resnick, award-wining author of Santiago

The early reviews are what really caught my attention here (especially the one from Publisher's Weekly). It sounds very Wild West steampunk and that's always a good thing.

Jim's can't wait to read selection is:

Mecha Rogue by Brett Patton
Publisher: Roc
Date: December 4, 2012
Pages: 368

Matt Lowell is the hottest new recruit in the Universal Union’s select group of pilots. Their job—control the supremely powerful biochemical robotic avatars known as Mecha. Now, the Prime of Universal Union herself has offered him an unprecedented opportunity: return to Earth to train a new elite force for a covert mission that’s imperative to the future of the Union.

When he and his team embark on their mission—on a border world that may be a target for the anarchical Corsairs—Matt finds that everything is not as it seems. The world is home to a dark secret that underlies the very foundation of the Union itself, and suddenly Matt doesn’t know which side he and his mighty Mecha should be fighting for—or against.

This is the second book in this series, and I have the first waiting on my TBR pile. It's got that giant robot/Robotech vibe which I just love - so I know I'll be reading it eventually.

Almost Over....

I voted. It's out of my hands- and almost over. Thank goodness.

 This dog looks how I feel...

Monday, November 05, 2012

An Open Letter to Johnny Depp...

Dear Mr. Depp,

You don't know me, but I've been a fan of yours for a very long time. I was a child of the 80's and when "21 Jump Street" came out I was smitten by your side-swept hair. The air of danger when they put a gun in your hand was so preppy-punk that hordes of teenage girls were driven to put your poster on their ceiling so they see your image as they drifted off to their sweet Depp-oriented dreams. I wasn't precisely one of those girls, yet, but I noticed you-- oh yes, I knew you were there.

But what really sold me on your appeal was the fact that you were smarter than your average pretty-boy actor. You paid your dues on the small screen but quickly moved on to quirky roles in films like "Edward Scissorhands" and "Benny & Joon" to "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and went from being cute to really, really cool.

I won't say I fell in love with you. I mean, we don't even know each other. But when you went on to star in movies like "Donnie Brasco" I knew you were the real deal and a crush-worthy actor if ever there was one.

But then a strange thing happened: Disney got their hands on you. When I heard that you had been cast in the movie adaptation of "Pirates of the Caribbean" I was skeptical. I was used to you as the guy who showed up in smallish films like "Chocolat" and the occasional collaboration with Tim Burton and a big-budget, tent-pole summer film seemed so....mainstream. But I pushed aside my doubts and saw "Pirates" during its opening week and was won over by your swishy, foppish Jack Sparrow. I found out later that you based your character on Keith Richards from The Rolling Stones and felt like I was in on an inside-joke. All was well with the world.

Disney had their blockbuster and you kept your oddball credibility-- or so I thought. But over the next few years some doubts began to creep in. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" was the first sign that something was amiss. I was willing to cut you some slack for another collaboration with Tim Burton; I did love "Sleepy Hollow." But I grew up with the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka and didn't know that we needed a new version of his masterpiece of sarcasm. Turns out- we didn't.  I don't know if it was your idea to give Willy that strange gray pallor and overly-exaggerated smile or if that decision was Burton's, but it did nothing for you.

But, okay. It's not like any of these roles defined you. Right?

At least I thought so. Then you did THREE more "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies! Holy hell- it makes my head hurt to type that. I could understand two "Pirate" movies... maybe. I can also understand the appeal of living forever as part of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland-- who wouldn't want that? But between making the last of the Pirate movies you continued with the theme of heavy make-up and also starred in "Sweeny Todd" "Alice and Wonderland" and "Dark Shadows;" and I have to ask myself-- what happened to your career? (cough*Tim Burton*cough) The Johnny Depp of my youth would never have consented to do the gawd-awful Futterwacken dance at the end of "Alice in Wonderland."

I'm wracking my brains here. There are glimmers of hope, now and then, with films like "Public Enemies" but the old Johnny hasn't really made an appearance in awhile. Though it occurs to me, after seeing pictures of you out-and-about in real life that you might be a Halloween-is-everyday kind of guy.  Or maybe you're an everyday-is-Jack-Sparrow-day kind of guy. I'm not sure. But clearly you're more comfortable in costume than out.

Which is the only explanation I can find for this...

No offense, but I'm over my crush now. 

Friday, November 02, 2012

Kindle Book Deals

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller ($3.99)

The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch ($2.99)

The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman ($2.99)

The Centaur's Daughter by Ellen Jensen Abbott ($1.99)