Tuesday, October 30, 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:

Stung by Bethany Wiggins
Publisher: Walkers Childrens
Date: April 2, 2013
Pages: 304

There is no cure for being stung.

Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered—her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right hand—a black oval with five marks on either side—that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. She’s right.

Those bearing the tattoo have turned into mindless, violent beasts that roam the streets and sewers, preying upon the unbranded while a select few live protected inside a fortress-like wall, their lives devoted to rebuilding society and killing all who bear the mark.

Now Fiona has awakened branded, alone—and on the wrong side of the wall.


I don't know if this is a children's book or not (though the name of the publisher would suggest it is at least YA) but this sounds great regardless of what genre it's published in. It's has mystery, suspense and a zombie-ish like predators. What isn't there to love?

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

Fairest (vol 1)
Publisher: Vertigo
Date: November 27, 2012
Pages: 160

New York Times bestselling, award-winning creator Bill Willingham presents a new series starring the female FABLES. Balancing horror, humor and adventure in the FABLES tradition, FAIREST explores the secret histories of Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, Cinderella, The Snow Queen, Thumbelina, Snow White, Rose Red and others.

The first 6-issue tale follows the misadventures of Briar Rose immediately after the events of FABLES #107(collected in Fables Volume 16: Super Team), in which she was stolen away by the goblin army. Following this first collection, Willingham will serve as a consultant on all story arcs and introduce new writers from other mediums to the FABLES mythos.

Since this it outside the normal Fables series (like Wolves of the Heartland) I thought I'd feature it for anyone who might otherwise miss it. I'll admit I wasn't particularly intrigued by the teaser/prequel which consisted of a few pages of story in Super Team, but I -am- interested in learning more about all the characters this series plans to feature (and Sleeping Beauty happens to be one of my favorites, so I'm hoping this first volume makes me rethink my first impression).

Monday, October 29, 2012

Giveaway! "Red Country" by Joe Abercrombie

I don't do many giveaways anymore, but when a copy of  Red Country by Joe Abercrombie landed on my front doorstep (courtesy of Orbit Books) I knew this was a book I needed to feature.

They burned her home.
They stole her brother and sister.
But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she's not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb's buried a bloody past of his own. And out in the lawless Far Country the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust . . .


Just add your information to the form below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once the contest ends) and I will randomly pick one winner by Tuesday, November 13th. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere.

Good luck! **Contest Closed**

"Ironskin" by Tina Collins-- Good Gothic Fantasy, but Unevenly Paced

Classic Gothic literature like "Jane Eyre" has long lent itself to modern literary retellings.  "Ironskin" by Tina Collins adds a fey spin on the tale with some success, though it can't quite find the right kind of pacing to elevate it to the great story it has the potential to be.

Jane Eliot, scarred from a fey attack, wears an iron mask to hide her face. She works as a governess but her disfigurement makes her employers uncomfortable and she finds herself, again, in need of a job. When she learns that the eccentric artist Edward Rochart is in need of a governess for his strange daughter Dorie, she applies for the job in hopes that their mutual oddness will find them uniquely suited for each other.

However, when she arrives as Rochart's ruined estate and sees Dorie's eerie fey abilities in person, she fears she may not be up to the job. Yet she agrees to try to teach Dorie to be more human and tries to adapt to her new life.

It isn't long before she learns that Mr. Rochart hides more than his daughter at his rambling estate. Wealthy women also visit the reclusive artist and they walk out the door far more beautiful than they walked in. Despite the mystery of Mr. Rochart's art and the knowledge that he could never fall in love with a woman scarred like herself, Jane starts growing attached to him and his daughter Dorie. But the fey have been waging a war on humankind and Jane soon finds out that Mr. Rochart may be right in the middle of the fey's next offensive against mankind.

"Ironskin" is story that mostly succeeds on the merits of its great imagination. It's only very loosely based on "Jane Eyre" borrowing the Gothic flavor of Charlotte Brontë's tale of a young governess and her gruff, eccentric employer and their thorny love story. But Collins introduces a fantasy element in the mysterious fey who, though they have engaged in a war with humanity, have managed to keep their true form secret from the people they fight. Collins contrasts the war against the mannered society that Jane must navigate in her employment and her relationship with her flighty sister Helen and her uncouth, though wealthy, husband Alistair.

Jane is a generally good heroine. She's reserved, as her station in life and disfigurement would ensure, but she's also determined to be self reliant and strong. Her relationships with Edward and Dorie are not unrealistically idealized and that proves to be both good and bad as the payoff you hope for as a reader is as understated as the story itself and doesn't quite have the oomph you want from a love story. The interactions between Edward and Jane are also a bit confusing as, at one point, Jane suspects Edward of some duplicity but it's a plot point that is mostly skipped over in the rush to reunite the characters. There is some info-dumping done to explain the misunderstanding (in the form of an unrealistic fey monologue) but it only highlights how rushed the climax of the story is in contrast to the draggy middle portion.

Much of the story is spent at the rambling Rochart estate and Jane's attempts to draw out a reluctant Dorie are haunting at times, though the narrative gets a bit long winded and mired down in the daily minutiae of educating a young child. Collins attempts to add suspense by changing the setting and having Jane alternate her time between Helen's city house and the rambling Rochart estate, but the device doesn't add anything other than a certain unnecessary busyness. The secondary characters, from the half-dwarven butler to the spoiled socialites that Edward must entertain for business, add a lot to the portion of the story that is set at the Rochart estate. But the setting never feels as fully realized as the characters as Jane never seems to develop the kind of familiarity with the estate one would expect from a character who spends a significant amount of time in one location. It's a normally irrelevant detail, but one that I think could have enhanced the Gothic flavor of the book.

My favorite aspect of "Ironskin" is the overlapping genres. There's a genteel feel to the story and it works when combined with the fantasy elements. Collins brings a lot of imagination to this particular bit of world building and it's what carried me through when the narrative got bogged down in its unfortunately uneven pacing. Mostly I enjoyed "Ironskin" though I might have wished for a tighter, more congruent feel to the overall story structure. The originality is what won me over and will inspire me to pick up the sequel when it finally arrives.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Short Takes

I’m going to use this general header for my thoughts on books I either just didn’t quite get through, or for some other reason just won’t wind up with a full review. It won’t get used all that often, as I mostly do full reviews, so when you do see this it’ll likely gather up a whole bunch of things from a few months worth of reading. This time around I’m going to talk briefly about:

Greatshadow by James Maxey – I read around 100 pages of this before moving on. It’s not that it’s a bad book, but it’s much more Fantasy-based fare than Maxey’s Bitterwood series (which is much more science-fictiony than it would first appear to be). I thought Greatshadow had a really unique way of creating a 3rd-person omniscient narrator by killing a main character and then having his ghost essentially haunt the others – following them through the story and relaying the story to the reader (thought there are hints that this dead character may yet find a way back to life). It seems as if this book is meant to be a raid on a Dragon’s lair, to steal it’s treasure – but there is also a fair amount of world-building going on, so it seems to be a book that could be a nice stand-alone adventure while also being the start of a larger storyline. But as I mentioned, it’s very much rooted in traditional fantasy, and that just wasn’t something I really felt compelled to continue reading.

The Emperor’s Might: Warriors of the Imperium – this is an art book from the Warhammer 40,000 universe, featuring the art from – well, I’m not entirely sure really. Some of it is definitely art from book covers. Some of it could be art from inside game guides and player handbooks. It’s unfortunate because I’d love to know more, but this book is not the place to find out. There are no descriptions to tell the reader what they’re looking at, who the characters might be or even what book the artwork was featured on. With any description, I might have been able to overlook some of the obviously early art from the Warhammer universe – stuff that just doesn’t come close to comparing to the art currently being used for the series. Some of the early stuff is just downright poor – though I imagine that for anyone who has nostalgia for their early days of playing the game they might get more enjoyment out of it. For me, I wanted way more out of this book – and it’s devotion to art at the expense of everything else just didn’t work for me at all.

The Clone Wars: The Sith Hunters – this was a pretty forgettable bridge story taking place between the season finale of The Clone Wars TV series from last year (where Darth Maul returns) and the season premiere this year. The Jedi decide to put together a task force to track Maul and his brother Savage, and remove him as a threat. Shockingly, the kung-fu Jedi Master who no one has ever heard of before this story is the guy that gets killed by Maul before the adventure is over. Not worth seeking out, for completists only.

X-Men/FF – another forgettable graphic novel, this time featuring the X-Men (pre-Avengers vs X-Men) and the FF (the in-mourning for Johnny Story Fantastic Four) as they travel to another dimension to seek out some long-forgotten ancillary characters from both books who have wound up in a Savage Land-like prehistoric world which of course also happens to have two opposing highly advanced civilizations warring for control of the world – one of which wants to use the portal to invade Earth. It’s all really predictable, brings absolutely nothing new or exciting to the table, and is marred by the presence of an issue at the beginning of the book that has absolutely nothing to do with the crossover (and I assume was only included because they didn’t know where else to collect it).

Tale-telling by Lawrence Santoro (Tales to Terrify)

Tales to Terrify is a weekly horror-themed podcast hosted by award-winning horror writer, Lawrence Santoro. Tales... is produced by Tony C. Smith, the owner-host of the Hugo Award winning StarShipSofa.


Tale-telling

If you’re a listener to Tales to Terrify on the District of Wonders Network, you’ve heard the first part of this story. My grandfather, Pop-pop, read to me when I was a kid; he perched me on his lap and read stories, poems, whatever.  Not kid stuff, he was a high-octane reader of dark things, things by Lord Byron, Stevenson, the occasional Lovecraft piece, others.  He was particularly fond of Poe and, until I learned better, poetry was so-called because those rhyming tales were written by Edgar Allan Poe.

Earlier though—and this may have been the first tale he told to me—he read, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” “Listen, my children and you shall hear/Of the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere…” that one?

Longfellow's simple patriotic piece scared the pants off me and did so not only as it was being told, but the images it raised followed me into sleep and into the morning and through the light of day.
Take a look. Imagine this, steeped in a three-year-old’s ignorance, about our hero’s friend who…

“…climbed the tower of the Old North Church
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the somber rafters, that ‘round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,
--By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all…”

“Stealthy tread…belfry chamber…somber rafters…trembling ladder…moonlight flowing over all.” Imagine this as read by an old man whose glasses glowed in the porch light as crickets chirped their metallic calls and perhaps some lightning, which may have flickered over the mountain; not even to mention, the muffled oars as Paul Revere rows past the British ship in the harbor—“a phantom ship…a huge black hulk magnified/by its own reflection in the tide,” and other things of dark and night…

Well, in my head, the British are not just soldiers of a king; to three year-old me they are that which IS the darkness, creatures who swarm like shadows from this vast black hulk in the bay and march with ominous tread across the world.

As pictured, they were bigger than Pop-pop or daddy, larger even than uncle Jim. They were hulking shadow with fangs and a stench of rotted meat (why that? I don’t know but once, I smelled some hamburger that had gone off in the back of our fridge and made a stink as rotten as any monster, so...). And they grunted in the thousands as they trod the streets of the town. Our town. Of course.

In the poem, Revere rides the night, rouses the country folk and the story is over and I’m put to sleep. And still, I hear the tread of the British and see the sparks struck as Revere’s horse flies before the wind into the countryside to wake every Middlesex, village and farm and I know those sparks will breed a fire that will burn to light the night and then…

…and then I’d sleep. And sleep embraced my fears, drew them closer, turned them to dreams from which day delivered me. And even then, I’d hurry past the side hall outside my room, the dark passage that led to the darker attic where I knew they waited, those British did. And, most important, were kept in place because I knew them there. Ha!

Next story time, I’d ask for the “British one” from Pop-pop. He’d ask, “British? What story’s that?” And I’d say, “Listen my children and you shall hear.” And maybe he’d read it again. And I’d run back to the dark, past the side hall, to meet them, and the other holy terrors of tale-telling, in my dreams again where, again, they were defeated.

Later, of course, the “British” became just people. A disappointment survived.

Still, to this day, I carry inside me two versions of “the British.” In one, they are just dwellers in a lovely land in which once I lived. The other? You know what they are.

So, thank you Pop-pop. See? It's not just the story, it's the story-telling that I hope we bring to “Tales to Terrify.” And I hope you’ll become regular listeners. I hope too you’ll consider picking up a copy of “Tales to Terrify, Volume 1” when it comes out this Halloween.

May they all breed pleasant dreams.

LAWRENCE SANTORO:

Award-winning writer and narrator, Lawrence Santoro began writing dark tales at age five.

In 2001 his novella “God Screamed and Screamed, Then I Ate Him” was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. In 2002, his adaptation and audio production of Gene Wolfe’s “The Tree Is My Hat,” was also Stoker nominated. In 2003, his Stoker-recommended “Catching” received Honorable Mention in Ellen Datlow’s 17th Annual “Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror” anthology. In 2004, “So Many Tiny Mouths” was cited in the anthology’s 18th edition. In the 20th, his novella, “At Angels Sixteen,” from the anthology A DARK AND DEADLY VALLEY, was similarly honored.

Larry’s first novel, “Just North of Nowhere,” was published in 2007. A collection of his short fiction, DRINK FOR THE THIRST TO COME, was published in 2011. He lives in Chicago and is working on two new novels, “Griffon and the Sky Warriors,” and “A Mississippi Traveler, or Sam Clemens Tries the Water”.

Stop by Larry’s blog, At Home in Bluffton(http://blufftoninthedriftless.blogspot.com/), and his audio website, Santoro Reads (http://www.santororeads.com/Home.html), you can friend him on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/lawrence.santoro).

GAME: You can be one of the lucky 10 people to win a PDF copy of our anthology. All you have to do is find us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/TalesToTerrify?ref=hl) or Twitter (@TalestoTerrify) and answer the following question: What scares you most? The most creative responses will receive the coveted PDF copy and will be featured in our second November show.

The game will end on October 31st, the book's official launch date. A like and a follow will be appreciated, but are not a prerequisite to enter the competition.

You can follow the blog tour on the following dates and sites:

October, 22nd: Innsmouth Free Press
October, 23rd: Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews (http://darkwolfsfantasyreviews.blogspot.com/)
October, 24th: Kaaron Warren (http://kaaronwarren.wordpress.com/)
October, 25th: Sci fi & Fantasy Lovin' News and Reviews (http://sqt-fantasy-sci-fi-girl.blogspot.com/)
October, 26th: Fantasy Book Critic (http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/)
October, 29th: Wag the Fox (http://waggingthefox.blogspot.com/)
October, 30th: Angela Slatter (http://www.angelaslatter.com/)
October, 31st: Graeme's Fantasy Book Review (http://www.graemesfantasybookreview.com/)

Tuesday, October 23, 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 Archived by Victoria Schwab
Publisher: Hyperion Book CH
Date: January 22, 2013
Pages: 336 pages

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often-violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn't just dangerous-it's a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da's death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.


This has such in interesting premise. My only regret is that it's YA because the subject being described here, the lines between life and death, seem like they need an adult setting to be fully explored. That said, a lot of YA doesn't shy away too much from adult themes, so I'll definitely be checking this out.

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

Edge of Infinity ed. Jonathan Strahan
Publisher: Solaris
Date: November 27, 2012
Pages: 384

"One giant leap for mankind". Those were Neil Armstrong’s immortal words when he became the first human being to step onto another world. All at once, the horizon expanded; the human race was no longer Earthbound. Our destiny would now be to reach out to eternity. 

Brought to you by the creators of Engineering Infinity, Edge of Infinity is an exhilarating new SF anthology that looks at the next giant leap for humankind: the leap from our home world out into the Solar System. From the eerie transformations in Pat Cadigan’s “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” to the frontier spirit of Sandra McDonald and Stephen D. Covey’s “The Road to NPS,” and from the grandiose vision of Alastair Reynolds’ “Vainglory” to the workaday familiarity of Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s “Safety Tests,” the thirteen stories in this anthology span the whole of the human condition in their race to colonise Earth’s nearest neighbours. 

Featuring stories by Hannu Rajaniemi, Alastair Reynolds, James S. A. Corey, John Barnes, Stephen Baxter, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Elizabeth Bear, Pat Cadigan, Gwyneth Jones, Paul McAuley, Sandra McDonald, Stephen D. Covey, An Owomoyela, and Bruce Sterling, Edge of Infinity is hard SF adventure at its best and most exhilarating.

What's this doing coming out in the fall - I like my short story compilations in the summer! Despite that, this book has a great list of contributors, pursuing a subject matter that I particularly love in science fiction - near future exploration of our solar system.  

"Break My Heart 1,000 Times" by Daniel Waters-- Good Horror Story, but Slightly Undermined by YA Elements

Ghost stories and Halloween go hand-in-hand and when I saw Break My Heart 1,000 Times by Daniel Waters I was excited at the prospect of a book that heavily featured this spooky staple. But my enthusiasm was stifled a bit by YA elements that detracted from was otherwise an excellent horror story.

Set in a nebulous near-future world "Break My Heart 1,000 Times" envisions a world after a vague "Event" kills millions of people and and many of their ghosts return to haunt the living. Veronica Calder wakes up every morning to see her father's ghost at the breakfast table drinking his coffee and reading the paper. The visitation, like most others, only lasts a short time and revisits the same moment over and over. No one knows if the hauntings are actual spirits or simply ghostly images of a person's life that play back like a recording.

Reactions to the ghosts vary. Veronica is intrigued while her best friend is scared to death--others still are driven mad by the apparitions. Veronica doesn't know it, but a man obsessed with the idea of bringing his dead daughter back to life has decided Veronica is the perfect vessel for her resurrection. Soon it will be February 29th, a time when the veil between this world and theirs is at it's thinnest, and that's when her stalker plans to strike.

"Break My Heart 1,000 Times" is very good when it goes for the creepier elements. The ghosts are never a fully explained phenomenon, which is frustrating at times, but when they deviate from their set patterns it is genuinely chilling. Waters adds the unusual element of telling part of the story from the perspective of one ghost and, while it is an interesting device, it doesn't offer any insight into the ghostly visitations and feels somewhat wasted in the overall narrative-- and that's a shame because the ghosts are the most intriguing part of this story.

Veronica is an uneven protagonist. In the beginning she's generally a likable character. She's a flirt, but also a loyal friend. She dates a lot of boys but never develops a bad reputation because she's good at keeping them at arms-length. She's also smart and inquisitive. But when the story hits its stride and Veronica finds a boy she might really like, she becomes petulant and spoiled when she doesn't get her way. Not only did it make her less likable, but it detracted from the story because I couldn't tell if her behavior was meant to evoke genuine personality characteristics or if it was only a narrative device to move the story in a certain direction. Her relationship with Kirk, the love interest, is slightly unsatisfying because she seems more interested in the young boy who haunts her bathroom and essentially treats Kirk as a convenience.

Waters did score points with me in how he dealt with the adult characters. Instead of making them stupid or out-of-touch, he gave them distinct personalities that varied from awkward to terrifying. Like most YA the adults are somewhat out-of-sync with the younger characters, but Waters gives them credit for being astute even when they're annoying or downright evil.

"Break My Heart 1,000 Times" succeeds when it focuses on the ghosts, but loses momentum because the "Event" that brought them into the waking world in such a big way is never explained. The Event is referred to quite a bit but it appears the author chose to keep the details to a minimum in order to focus on how the characters react to the ghosts. However, it is such an integral part of the story that letting it remain a mystery doesn't appear to serve any purpose other than to frustrate the reader. Waters also touches on the the idea of an afterlife, wisely avoiding too much navel-gazing over that issue, and tantalizes readers with ghostly behavior that sometimes seems aware of the mortal world while implying that not all of the ghosts have some kind of consciousness. I liked that particular aspect because it allows the reader to come to their own conclusions and doesn't try to offend any particular belief system.

I liked many things about "Break My Heart 1,000 Times" but can't say it's a great book because there are too many gaps in the narrative to leave the reader with a feeling of completeness when they turn the last page. I wish Waters had taken a broader look at the ghostly phenomenon and at at least explained how the Event occurred and how it effected the world beyond the small town where Veronica lives. The inconstancies in Veronica's personality also has the affect of jarring the reader outside of the story and doesn't allow for any real connection to her. The ghost story itself is great and I wanted more of it. The book is somewhat open-ended and could allow for a sequel, though there aren't any real loose ends that require more of the story to be told. If Waters does choose to make the book into a series I would definitely read the next installment with the hope of seeing The Event more fully defined.

3 and 1/2 out of 5 stars

"Iron Man 3" -- Full Trailer

I am so in..

.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

"The Croods" Trailer

Surviving in a volcanic world is tough enough, but caveman Grug (Nicolas Cage) gets a rude awakening when an earthquake forces him to leave behind the only world he knows. With his family in tow, he ventures out into the volatile world in search of a new home. The situation becomes even more complicated when Grug's family — in particular his oldest daughter, Eep (Emma Stone) — falls for a nomad (Ryan Reynolds) they encounter on their dangerous journey. This quirky, imaginative stranger's search for 'tomorrow' is at odds with Grug's reliance on the traditions of yesterday.

"Iron Man 3" Teaser Trailer

Very, very short....

 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Audiobook Review – The Ascension of Balthasar

Just when I think I’ve grown accustomed to how great these audio drama’s from Black Library are, I get reminded by listening to a audio book from some other company. I’ll save that review for a Short Take on another date, but suffice it to say that it was a pleasure to return to a Black Library production with The Ascension of Balthasar by C.Z. Dunn.


I have a fondness for the Space Marines Battles books, as my first book in the Warhammer 40,000 universe was one from this series – and I have to say that it seems to me to be the perfect match for audio drama adaptation. A complaint I’ve seen leveled at this book series is that it’s just focused on a particular battle, without being a very deep book otherwise – well, that sounds like the perfect story to be adapted into an action packed listening experience. While this isn’t an adaptation of an already published novel, if the purpose was to experiment with doing future adaptations of other books in the series, I’d say the result from this one makes it a clear winner.

The Dark Angels, a loyal contingent of Space Marines to the Emperor, receive a psychic message that one from their order who participated in the betrayal against the Emperor during the Horus Heresy has been found – and he can be found at the planet Stern’s Remembrance. There Balthasar’s squad descend to the surface to locate the betrayer and bring him to justice, but what they find are cities empty of people, billions missing, and cathedrals the size of skyscrapers filled to bursting with their dead bodies.

In one of these cathedrals’, in statis, is the traitor – but he is only bait, luring the Dark Angels into a trap for a massive wave of Chaos cultists intent on their destruction. Now Stern’s Remembrance has become a battlefield, where the Dark Angels will have to decide if they can once again trust the traitor from their ranks to fight alongside them in a battle where all their lives are at stake.

One of the things I loved about this story were the references to The Horus Heresy, and the fact that this traitor is a secret the Dark Angels have kept from all others after all these centuries. No one knows of this particular marine’s betrayal – and it happened after the defeat of Horus, adding to the stain this particular event has on the Dark Angels. They have hunted him ever since, looking to redeem their order with his death – and now instead they find that they must choose to fight alongside him if they are to survive, especially against the giant Chaos beast sent to finish them for good.

The audio drama does a great job of describing Stern’s Remembrance, it’s winding streets and dedication to worship of the Emperor – it felt like a very real place, something that can at times be a struggle in some of these audio books (as the character interaction takes precedence over description). It may also help that a map was included in the flap of the case, and also on the second disc as well (which also included some artwork, wallpapers, audio excerpts from other books and the original script for The Ascension of Balthasar). At this point I hardly have to talk about the quality of the sound effects, the acting or the music, but they are all top notch and kept me engaged throughout. This ranks up there for me as one of the best Audio Dramas I’ve had the pleasure of listening to from The Black Library, an engaging story with intriguing twists and engaging characters. As I said near the beginning of this review, I hope they continue to do more Space Marines Battles Audio Dramas, I think it’s the perfect fit for this kind of story.

Items Received

Crooked Arrows (DVD)

A multiracial Native American connects with his proud heritage by coaching his reservation's scrappy lacrosse team to the state finals in this inspirational sports drama starring Brandon Routh. Joe Logan (Routh) wants to give his reservation a modern makeover. But the locals don't trust him, and they're happy with the way things have always been. Meanwhile Joe's father, the Tribal Chairman, senses that his son has lost his way. In order to get him back on the right path, Joe's father puts him in charge of the reservation's high school lacrosse team on the eve of a big match against their most fierce rivals. When Joe proves a better coach than anyone could have anticipated, his team soon realizes that they may have a chance of beating their most fierce rivals - an athletically-gifted prep school team - in the annual championship game. In the process, cynical Joe learns that some traditions are worth holding onto.

Dark Currents: Agent of Hel by Jacqueline Carey

Jacqueline Carey, New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Kushiel’s Legacy novels, presents an all-new world featuring a woman caught between the normal and paranormal worlds, while enforcing order in both. Introducing Daisy Johanssen, reluctant hell-spawn…

The Midwestern resort town of Pemkowet boasts a diverse population: eccentric locals, wealthy summer people, and tourists by the busload; not to mention fairies, sprites, vampires, naiads, ogres and a whole host of eldritch folk, presided over by Hel, a reclusive Norse goddess.

To Daisy Johanssen, fathered by an incubus and raised by a single mother, it’s home. And as Hel’s enforcer and the designated liaison to the Pemkowet Police Department, it’s up to her to ensure relations between the mundane and eldritch communities run smoothly.

But when a young man from a nearby college drowns—and signs point to eldritch involvement—the town’s booming paranormal tourism trade is at stake. Teamed up with her childhood crush, Officer Cody Fairfax, a sexy werewolf on the down-low, Daisy must solve the crime—and keep a tight rein on the darker side of her nature. For if she’s ever tempted to invoke her demonic birthright, it could accidentally unleash nothing less than Armageddon.


Death's Rival: A Jane Yellowrock Novel by Faith Hunter

Jane Yellowrock is a shapeshifting skinwalker you don’t want to cross—especially if you’re one of the undead…

For a vampire killer like Jane, having Leo Pellisier as a boss took some getting used to. But now, someone is out to take his place as Master Vampire of the city of New Orleans, and is not afraid to go through Jane to do it. After an attack that’s tantamount to a war declaration, Leo knows his rival is both powerful and vicious, but Leo’s not about to run scared. After all, he has Jane. But then, a plague strikes, one that takes down vampires and makes their masters easy prey.

Now, to uncover the identity of the vamp who wants Leo’s territory, and to find the cause of the vamp-plague, Jane will have to go to extremes…and maybe even to war.



Rain & Fire: A Companion to the Last Dragon Chronicles by Chris & Jay D'Lacey

A fascinating and comprehensive companion to the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling series, the Last Dragon Chronicles!

While the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling Last Dragon Chronicles has come to a close, husband and wife Chris and Jay d'Lacey have collaborated on RAIN & FIRE, a fabulous companion to the series. Fans will be able to explore d'Lacey's fiery world one last time as they uncover secrets behind all seven books and gain insight into the characters they thought they already knew. Revealing the inspiration behind the dragons and full of fun facts, little-known tidbits, informative glossaries, and never-before-seen images, RAIN & FIRE is sure to be a crowd-pleaser -- the perfect treat for devoted fans of the series who are hungry for more!


Dark Shadows: Angelique's Descent by Lara Parker

Two of the most popular Dark Shadows characters, Barnabas Collins and Angelique, were eternally bound by love and hate. Now, actress Lara Parker, Angelique herself, tells how it all began.

A passion born in ecstasy...

The dashing heir of a New England shipping magnate, Barnabas Collins captured the heart of the exquisite, young Angelique amidst the sensual beauty of Martinique, her island home. But Angelique's brief happiness is doomed when Barnabas cruelly deserts her and becomes engaged to another. Little, though, does Barnabas know of the evil his betrayal will unleash...

And destroyed by jealousy and betrayal

For Angelique is no ordinary woman. Raised in the mysterious black art of voodoo witchcraft, she has long ago pledged her soul to darkness and become immortal. Vowing to torment and destroy Barnabas, a vengeful Angelique damns him to eternal life as a vampire—a companion to accompany her forever. Little, though, does Angelique understand the depth of Barnabas's fury...

Vividly imagined, grippingly written, each Dark Shadows novel is filled with the eroticism, supernatural suspense, and spellbinding storytelling that has made this classic daytime serial a timeless hit.

Author Biography: Lara Parker was born Mary Lamar Rickey, and grew up in Memphis, Tennessee. She attended Vassar College and University for Iowa Graduate School where she majored in drama. Shortly after arriving in New York City she was cast as the with, Angelique, on the classic cult soap opera Dark Shadows, a role she played for five years. Since moving to Los Angeles she has been a successful film, television, and stage actress and has begun a newcareer as a writer. She is pleased to be launching this new series of Dark Shadows novels. Lara lives in Topanga Canyon, California, with her husband, Jim, and her daughter, Caitlin.


Dark Shadows: The Salem Branch by Lara Parker

Dark Shadows continues with the full measure of spellbinding suspense and gripping storytelling that made the original television series a timeless hit.

Freed from his vampire curse, Barnabas Collins is ready to embark on a new life and marriage with his savior, the virtuous Dr. Julia Hoffman. But when Antoinette, a beautiful flower child with a shocking resemblance to the immortal witch Angelique, rebuilds the Old House, his past returns to haunt him. Discovering a grisly corpse in the basement—where his old casket once lay—Barnabas realizes another vampire has invaded his domain. His fight to protect his family from this new threat will take Barnabas back through time to an evil moment in America's history: the corrupt witch trials of old Salem.




The Bloodlight Chronicles: Redemption by Steve Stanton

Presenting the thrilling culmination of the epic sci-fi series, this novel revisits a world where global economic activity is carried out in a virtual-gaming realm. A new blood-transmitted virus has become a black market staple due to its rejuvenating effects, forcing infected “Eternals” into a tightly knit underground where they must hack the “V-net” for food and shelter. When the leader of the Eternals, Helena Sharp, begins to lose her immortality, she flees to an old lover for strength and solace as the entire Eternal community is thrown into chaos. 

Meanwhile, the young clone Niko discovers the truth about her gifted daughter, who carries the future heritage of humanity in her augmented DNA. This knowledge forces Niko to confront her progenitor, Phillip Davis, with a litany of experimental abuse—only to discover that Phillip has fully integrated his persona with the AI Beast who controls V-space. With the aid of the charismatic avatar Philomena, he embarks on a program of manipulation and control that will redefine the boundaries of death and consciousness. Advancing the post-cyberpunk genre into new territory, this compelling series delves into intriguing questions of religion, God, family, and the universe’s central source of life.

Merge / Disciple: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley’s talent knows no bounds. Merge and Disciple are but two of six fragments in the Crosstown to Oblivionshort novels in which Mosley entertainingly explores life’s cosmic questions. From life’s meaning to the nature of good and evil, these tales take us on speculative journeys beyond the reality we have come to know. In each tale someone in our world today is given insight into these long pondered mysteries. But how would the world really receive the answers?

Merge

Raleigh Redman loved Nicci Charbon until she left him heartbroken. Then he hit the lotto for twenty-four million dollars, quit his minimum wage job and set his sights on one goal: reading the entire collection of lectures in the Popular Educator Library, the only thing his father left behind after he died. As Raleigh is trudging through the eighth volume, he notices something in his apartment that at first seems ordinary but quickly reveals itself to be from a world very different from our own. This entity shows Raleigh joy beyond the comforts of twenty-four million dollars….and merges our world with those that live beyond.

Disciple

Hogarth “Trent” Tryman is a forty-two-year-old man working a dead-end data entry job. Though he lives alone and has no real friends besides his mother, he’s grown quite content in his quiet life, burning away time with television, the internet, and video games. That all changes the night he receives a bizarre instant message on his computer from a man who calls himself Bron. At first he thinks it’s a joke, but in just a matter of days Hogarth Tryman goes from a data-entry clerk to the head of a corporation. His fate is now in very powerful hands as he realizes he has become a pawn in a much larger game with unimaginable stakes—a battle that threatens the prime life force on Earth.


Tomorrow, the Killing by Daniel Polansky

Once he was a hero of the Great War, and then a member of the dreaded Black House. Now he is the criminal linchpin of Low Town.
His name is Warden.

He thought he had left the war behind him, but a summons from up above brings the past sharply, uncomfortably, back into focus. General Montgomery's daughter is missing somewhere in Low Town, searching for clues about her brother's murder. The General wants her found, before the stinking streets can lay claim to her, too.



Polterheist: An Esther Diamond Novel by Laura Resnick

Struggling actress Esther Diamond's latest Manhattan misadventure leads her into the twisted realm of greedy heirs battling over a retail empire, a series of heists pulled off by invisible thieves, and inanimate objects that grow fangs and fly through the air to attack a poor actress who's just trying to earn enough money to pay her rent.

Realizing that magical mayhem is afoot, Esther joins forces with her pal Max, a 350 year old sorcerer whose day job is protecting the Big Apple from Evil. Together they investigate the terrifying manifestations at Fenster & Co., where Esther is working overtime as an underdressed elf.

Meanwhile, Esther's tumultuous almost-romance with NYPD's Detective Connor Lopez runs hot and cold and increasingly strange as he investigates the perplexing heists at Fenster's. Semi-retired hit man Lucky Battistuzzi is also nosing around, since the mob deeply resents being implicated in these thefts which they didn't commit—well, not this time, anyhow.

As an ancient Evil prepares to unleash hell on a night when darkness prevails and dimensional barriers crumble, Esther Diamond battles to save her friends from deadly peril, protect her city from demonic disaster, and collect her paycheck in time to make rent.


The Shattered Dark (A Shadow Reader Novel) by Sandy Williams

McKenzie Lewis has a gift. It allows her access to a world few have seen, and even fewer can comprehend. It’s her secret. And it exists in the shadows…

McKenzie was a normal college student, save for one little twist: she’s a shadow reader, someone who can both see the fae and track their movements between our world and the Realm. It’s a gift for which she has been called insane, one for which she has risked family and friends—and one that has now plunged her into a brutal civil war between the fae.

With the reign of the king and his vicious general at an end, McKenzie hoped to live a more normal life while exploring her new relationship with Aren, the rebel fae who has captured her heart. But when her best friend, Paige, disappears McKenzie knows her wish is, for now, just a dream. McKenzie is the only one who can rescue her friend, but if she’s not careful, her decisions could cost the lives of everyone she’s tried so hard to save.


The Dragon Men: A Novel of the Clockwork Empire by Steven Harper

As China prepares to become the ultimate power in an era of extraordinary invention and horror, Alice Michaels’ fate lies inside the walls of the forbidden kingdom….

Gavin Ennock has everything a man could desire—except time. As the clockwork plague consumes his body and mind, it drives him increasingly mad and fractures his relationship with his fiancĂ©e, Alice, Lady Michaels. Their only hope is that the Dragon Men of China can cure him.

But a power-mad general has seized the Chinese throne in a determined offensive to conquer Asia, Britain—indeed, the entire world. He has closed the country’s borders to all foreigners. The former ruling dynasty, however, is scheming to return the rightful heir to power. Their designs will draw Gavin and Alice down a treacherous path strewn with intrigue and power struggles. One wrong step will seal Gavin’s fate…and determine the future of the world.


Guardians of Stone (The Relic Seekers) by Anita Clenney

Kendall Morgan is a human bloodhound. Spending her childhood hunting relics with her ambitious archeologist father, she knew the two of them shared a sixth sense for the history and location of objects—sometimes even people. What she didn’t know was that their paranormal gift could ultimately be their undoing.

After the tragic plane crash that killed her father as well as her childhood best friend, Kendall dedicated her life to finding and protecting relics. When mysterious, sexy billionaire Nathan Larraby hires her for his latest expedition—the search for four powerful relics —she’s thrown into a world of high-octane danger. He sends brooding mercenary Jake Stone to watch Kendall’s back, but he may have created danger of a different kind.

As the team chases down clues, a man called the Reaper makes a play for the artifacts and will stop at nothing to put them to his own sinister use. What’s worse is that Nathan hasn’t told the whole story, and the dark secrets he’s keeping could cost them the mission…and their lives.


Flame of Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier

Bestselling author Juliet Marillier’s Sevenwaters series has been praised as a “magnificent saga” (Alernative Worlds) that is a “gripping tale of enduring love” (Publishers Weekly). Now, Marillier returns to Sevenwaters with the story of a young woman destined to unlock the secrets of the Otherworld…

Maeve, daughter of Lord Sean of Sevenwaters, was badly burned as a child and carries the legacy of that fire in her crippled hands. After ten years, she’s returning home, having grown into a courageous, forthright woman with a special gift for gentling difficult animals. But while her body’s scars have healed, her spirit remains fragile, fearing the shadows of her past.

Sevenwaters is in turmoil. The fey prince Mac Dara has become desperate to see his only son, married to Maeve’s sister, return to the Otherworld. To force Lord Sean’s hand, Mac Dara has caused a party of innocent travelers on the Sevenwaters border to vanish—only to allow their murdered bodies to be found, one by one.

When Maeve finds the body of one of the missing men in a remote part of the woods, she and her brother Finbar embark on a journey that may bring about the end of Mac Dara’s reign, or lead to a hideous death. If she is successful, Maeve may open the door to a future she has not dared to believe possible…


The Silvered by Tanya Huff

From the author of the bestselling Blood books, a brilliant new tale of shape-changers, mages, soothsayers,and a power-mad emperor.

The Empire has declared war on the small, were-ruled kingdom of Aydori, capturing five women of the Mage-Pack, including the wife of the were Pack-leader. With the Pack off defending the border, it falls to Mirian Maylin and Tomas Hagen—she a low-level mage, he younger brother to the Pack-leader—to save them. Together the two set out on the kidnappers’ trail, racing into the heart of enemy territory. But with every step the odds against their survival, let alone their success, grow steeper...
Revenant Eve by Sherwood Smith

Kim Murray is happily planning her wedding when she finds herself pulled two centuries back in time. It's 1795, the rise of Napoleon, and Kim is now a guardian spirit for a twelve-year-old kid who will either become Kim's ancestor . . . or the timeline will alter and Kim will vanish, along with the small, magical European country of Dobrenica. What? Yes, the child called Aurelie de Mascarenhas must get to Dobrenica, or more than just one family will vanish.

Kim hates time travel conundrums, and knows nothing about kids. How is she going to guide a kid born on Saint-Domingue, with whom she has nothing in common?

From Jamaica to England to the Paris of the early 1800s, Kim and Aurelie travel, sharing adventures and learning more about Vrajhus, the Blessing, and the Nasdrafus than is known in Dobrenica's modern times. Along the way to wedding bells or annihilation, Kim makes a shocking discovery . . .


Bitter Blood (Morganville Vampires, Book 13) by Rachel Caine

Thanks to the eradication of the draug, the vampires of Morganville have been freed of their usual constraints. With the vampires indulging their every whim, the town's human population is determined to hold onto their lives by taking up arms. But college student Claire Danvers isn't taking sides, considering she has ties to both humans and vampires.To make matters worse, a television show comes to Morganville looking for ghosts, just as vampire and human politics collide. Now, Claire and her friends have to figure out how to keep the peace without ending up on the nightly news . . . or worse.




Bowl of Heaven by Gregory Benford and Larry Niven

In this first collaboration by science fiction masters Larry Niven (Ringworld) and Gregory Benford (Timescape), the limits of wonder are redrawn once again as a human expedition to another star system is jeopardized by an encounter with an astonishingly immense artifact in interstellar space: a bowl-shaped structure half-englobing a star, with a habitable area equivalent to many millions of Earths…and it’s on a direct path heading for the same system as the human ship.
A landing party is sent to investigate the Bowl, but when the explorers are separated—one group captured by the gigantic structure’s alien inhabitants, the other pursued across its strange and dangerous landscape—the mystery of the Bowl’s origins and purpose propel the human voyagers toward discoveries that will transform their understanding of their place in the universe.

Only Superhuman Christopher L. Bennett

2107 AD: A generation ago, Earth and the cislunar colonies banned genetic and cybernetic modifications. But out in the Asteroid Belt, anything goes. Dozens of flourishing space habitats are spawning exotic new societies and strange new varieties of humans. It’s a volatile situation that threatens the peace and stability of the entire solar system.

Emerald Blair is a Troubleshooter. Inspired by the classic superhero comics of the twentieth century, she’s joined with other mods to try to police the unruly Asteroid Belt. But her loyalties are tested when she finds herself torn between rival factions of superhumans with very different agendas. Emerald wants to put her special abilities to good use, but what do you do when you can’t tell the heroes from the villains?

Only Superhuman is a rollicking hard-SF adventure set in a complex and fascinating future.



Rapture: A Novel of the Fallen Angels by J.R. Ward

Out of the wickedly inventive imagination of #1 New York Times bestselling author J.R. Ward comes a world where sin and salvation collide in a battle for the future of mankind—where a cynical fallen angel struggles against the seven deadly sins and a demon’s lure over seven chosen souls…

Mels Carmichael, reporter for the Caldwell Courier Journal, gets the shock of her life when a man stumbles in front of her car outside the local cemetery. After the accident, his amnesia is just the kind of mystery she likes to solve, but she soon discovers they’re in over their heads with his past. Over their heads with passion, too...

As shadows walk the line between reality and another realm, and her lover’s memory begins to come back, the two of them learn that nothing is truly dead and buried. Especially when you’re trapped in a no holds barred war between angels and demons. With a soul on the line, and Mels’s heart at risk, what in Heaven—or in Hell—will it take to save them both?