Wednesday, August 31, 2011

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Giveaway! "Blood Rights" by Kristen Painter

Courtesy of Orbit Books I have a copy of Blood Rights by Kristen Painter to offer for giveaway.

Born into a life of secrets and service, Chrysabelle's body bears the telltale marks of a comarré -- a special race of humans bred to feed vampire nobility. When her patron is murdered, she becomes the prime suspect, which sends her running into the mortal world...and into the arms of Malkolm, an outcast vampire cursed to kill every being from whom he drinks.

Now, Chrysabelle and Malkolm must work together to stop a plot to merge the mortal and supernatural worlds. If they fail, a chaos unlike anything anyone has ever seen will threaten to reign.

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 Wednesday September 28th. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere.

Good luck!

**Contest Closed**

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

This blog meme is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

My Waiting on Wednesday selection is: Fate's Edge by Ilona Andrews (I LOVE this series)
Publication Date: Nov 29, 2011
384 pages
Ace Books

Audrey Callahan left behind her life in the Edge, and she's determined to stay on the straight and narrow. But when her brother gets into hot water, the former thief takes on one last heist and finds herself matching wits with a jack of all trades...

Kaldar Mar-a gambler, lawyer, thief, and spy-expects his latest assignment tracking down a stolen item to be a piece of cake, until Audrey shows up. But when the item falls into the hands of a lethal criminal, Kaldar realizes that in order to finish the job, he's going to need Audrey's help...

Book Review: "Awakenings" by Edward Lazellari

You might think, by looking at the cover, that Awakenings by Edward Lazellari is your standard paranormal fiction. But I was reminded of more traditional fantasy, in the vein of Terry Brooks in a modern setting, rather than something by Jim Butcher.

Cal McDonnell is a NY city cop who has no memory of his life prior to thirteen years ago. Despite his retrograde amnesia he has managed to carve out a meaningful life for himself that includes his job and a beautiful wife and daughter. Seth Raincrest also has no memory before thirteen years ago, but he hasn't had the same success in rebuilding his life. He ekes out a living as an amateur pornographer without forging any lasting relationships with anyone but his cat. But Seth and Cal share a past that is rapidly catching up with them as dangerous, and magic wielding, enemies from their former lives have found them and plan to attack before they can regain their memories.

Thirteen-year-old Daniel Hauer is the adopted child of Clyde and Rita and to say he grows up in an unhappy home is an understatement. Clyde is a mean drunk who resents being Daniel's stepfather and looks for any excuse to take it out on Daniel physically. But what neither Daniel or his parents know about is his noble heritage; one that ties him to Cal and Seth. But the same people that are hunting the others are now on Daniel's trail, and the people who want to keep him safe don't have any idea where he is-- or what name he goes by.

Edward Lazellari has a deft writing style which makes "Awakenings" a very absorbing book right from the start. Throw away characters are given a distinct personality in a just a few lines and the mystery surrounding Cal and Seth's amnesia certainly keeps you turning the pages. However there isn't a lot of mystery-solving that goes on as the story progresses. We do find where Seth and Cal come from and why they have amnesia, but much more time is spent on the set-up of the story that the reader is left with the feeling that they should know so much more.

"Awakenings" is also busy book, in part because there are at least five disparate story-lines that all connect at various points along the way. That alone wouldn't make "Awakenings" a confusing book, but throw in several interconnecting dimensions of varying magical and scientific resonance and some haphazard political machinations, and you have a book that can confound the most astute reader.

First, you have the p.o.v. of the three main characters, Cal, Seth and Danny, who are tied together by a mysterious past that is only partly explained throughout the book. Then you have the bad guys, led by the somewhat stereotypical Dorn who believes that a strong leader only uses fear as motivation. Then you have the good guys as initially represented by Lelani, a mysterious sorceress who tries to reach Cal and Seth before Dorn and his dangerous minions launch their attack. Adding to the various perspectives presented in the book are Cal's wife and a private detective hired to find Cal, Seth and Danny. It's amazing the book isn't more confusing than it is.

But if I had to pick the one thing that may have ruined the book for me, it's the fact that one of my literary deal breakers reared its ugly head several times in the book in the form of some politically slanted content. If I had to guess I'd say Lazellari is a very liberal guy. The first thing that jumped out at me was the fact that Cal's wife Cat seems somewhat fixated on her feminist values. Every time she muses on any situation that arises-- whether it's a crisis or not-- she definitely worries that her place in the world as a feminist is assured. Whether she goes back to work or ends up in the magical world Cal comes from-- she wants it known she's a feminist. And I have to say that, from my point of view, that even the most die-hard feminist isn't going to worry about such things when they're faced with life-altering problems: So it's not only unrealistic, but tiring. And heaven forbid you're a (gasp!) republican. Maybe it's me, but I find it strange to see more than one random comment regarding republicans pop-up in fantasy fiction: You'd think republicans don't read fantasy or something. Add to that a chapter that seems necessary only to insert some stereotypical slams against fundamentalist Christianity and you've come pretty close to a book that resembles Stephen King's recent work.

Another minor quibble I had with "Awakenings" was the issue of certain credibility gaps. For example, I'm pretty sure a four-hundred pound centaur isn't going to fit into the back of a Ford Explorer (with three or four other passengers). Maybe I'm just being petty, but I couldn't let that one go. Nor do I think the same centaur could get around a New York City apartment without knocking over a lot of furniture.

Despite the presence of some content that might normally make me walk away from a book, I finished "Awakenings" because the slant wasn't overwhelming and I wanted to see where the story was going-- so I have to say that Lazellari does a good job of keeping the reader interested. And I have to give credit to some really good writing when it comes to the action sequences. I thought the fight scenes were absolutely captivating. But in terms of payoff, there really isn't one where this book is concerned. Some of the back-story is sorted out but mostly the book reads like 350 pages of plot set-up. I really feel that the story could have been condensed into 200 pages, which would have allowed the narrative to progress more and prevent the feeling that you're only just getting to the meat of the story as the book ends.

The impression I was left with after finishing "Awakenings" was that Lazellari is a good writer who might benefit by toning down the politics, which might allow him to move the story more. Regardless of your political affiliation, it's distracting to have a story take unnecessary detours. To me it seemed as if he was pleasing himself by injecting some bias rather than writing to the story, and the book suffered for it.

3 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Book Review: Heaven's Shadow by David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt

When a Near-Earth Object – designated Keanu – comes closer and closer to the planet, esteemed astronaut Zachary Stewart is given the job of commanding a mission to the mysterious object. Little do we humans know, however, that Keanu is much more than what it appears.

Before receiving a copy of Heaven’s Shadow solely for the sake of reviewing it, I had never actually heard of the novel prior to picking it out of a list of books I could choose from. There were many contenders, all dueling to the death to decide which one would be the winner. Rain poured dramatically from the sky as combatants fought with endless vigor…

… okay, I’ll stop now. No, it wasn’t that sensational, but with Heaven’s Shadow looking like the most interesting one out of the whole bunch, I decided to give this science fiction novel a go – and boy, did I make the right decision. Even if you may not be hearing much about it, this novel is a must read for any sci-fi fan wanting something new to add to their bookshelves. But maybe I should explain a bit more.

Also, before I get on to the actual review, I’ll get this joke out of the way: Keanu. Near-Earth Object = NEO. Woah.


Something that immediately jumped out at me as I read Heaven’s Shadow is how well characters are fleshed out, being portrayed with very human emotions. This may seem like something that’s fairly minor since decent characters are usually easy enough to come by, but come on; any fellow bookworm knows that for every one good author (or, well, “authors” in this case) who writes satisfying characters, there are ten Stephanie Meyers that come out of the woodwork. Let me make it clear, however, that by saying that I definitely don’t mean that all of the characters in the book are super enjoyable. No, some characters were annoying enough that sometimes, my desire to slap them was overpowering. But this was also mostly because people could sometimes be extremely bitchy or panicked, and this fact, in a way, makes the way characters are written even better. Because let’s face it, in the situation in the novel, who wouldn’t be on edge enough that they wouldn’t be in either of those mindsets? I somehow think that an alien starship coming into the Earth’s atmosphere and causing the death of some of our astronauts would make everyone just a little freaked out. Or, well. Except someone like… like… Samuel L. Jackson (what? When I think cool, I think Mace Windu!). Because he’s way too badass to be scared by monkey fighting aliens on this Monday to Friday starship.

But I digress. Very much so actually. Let’s move on.

Heaven’s Shadow throws surprise after surprise at you, even starting from practically the very beginning. It leaves you consistently wondering how the characters will get out of certain situations or just plain wanting to know what will come next since seemingly any character can die at any point. This offers a nice unpredictability to the mix, with things not always turning out how you would anticipate.

This does bring me to one point, though, that isn’t positive, but… not quite negative? Funny, maybe? Yeah, we’ll go with that. You know how, in the official blurb for Heaven’s Shadow, we find out that the aliens are in desperate need of the humans’ help with something? Well, guess what – we don’t find that “twist” out until near the very end of the novel, with up until then the authors building up suspense about what exactly the aliens do want with humans. See the problem here? The blurb spoiled the entire big surprise at the end, making it the only twist the readers can guess very easily (hell, you don’t even need to guess, it’s told to you from the very beginning!. Guys… just, guys. Come on. I’m not blaming the authors here – I can only imagine what you poor guys felt like when you saw that the jacket blurb pretty much ruined the ending – so I’ll direct this to whoever wrote that; if you’re good enough to be writing blurbs for a novel that at least a fair amount of people have/will read, you’re better than this. Seriously.

As far as the basic story goes, there really isn’t much I can say about it; it’s solid, if a bit generic, and I found that it pretty much always made sense (somehow, though, no one ever seemed to find the whole “aliens” thing surprising… That’s some damn good NASA training). It doesn’t exactly offer anything new to the table when it comes to alien plots, but it served its purpose well, and with the consistent twists and turns I’ve mentioned, that was enough to keep it exciting.

The writing was also a pretty high point of Heaven’s Shadow; it all flowed very smoothly, instantly drawing you in with the mood it set. Goyer and Cassutt definitely didn’t glaze over details that were even only a little important – everything, from peoples’ reactions and expressions to descriptions of the settings and environments, was covered very well.

I’m not sure out of the two authors – David S. Goyer and Michael Cassutt – which one did more of the work on Heaven’s Shadow (I’ll just assume for now that it was 50/50) but either way, a great job was done on this novel, with the solid story (even if that aspect was probably the weakest considering how generic it was), realistic characters and writing that had an unmistakeable flow to it. The worst part of this all? That the sequel doesn’t come out until July of next year (at least that’s before the end of the world though. *sigh of relief*). There may be plenty of other books out there with similar general stories, but that definitely shouldn’t prevent you from picking up Heaven’s Shadow for the other great little details.

You can see more of guest reviewer Opal Skoien's content at

Friday, August 26, 2011

Book Review: Leviathans of Jupiter by Ben Bova

The best laid plans and all that. As I had previously mentioned, I was planning on reading Dreadnaught (check), Nights of Villjamur, The Quantum Thief, and then something else as my goal for the summer. Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way. I wasn’t really getting into Nights of Villjamur, though it’s a book that went back into my reading pile – I’d like to revisit it when I’m more in the mood for a fantasy. I didn’t enjoy the writing of The Quantum Thief at all; I only made it through the first chapter or so before putting it down. That’s no offense to the author or the book, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I then tried The Dervish House and discovered much the same about that author. When I have 3 books in a row that aren’t working for me, I often find that’s when I go back to an author I know I enjoy – which is how I found myself reading Ben Bova’s Leviathans of Jupiter. Ben Bova over the past decade (and more as he ties in earlier works of his) has been creating a near-future history of our solar system, a fairly realistic look at how humans might explore the planets and the technological advances we might make over the next 100 years. Most of the books in this series are named after particular planets, and in this case we’ve got a semi-sequel to my favorite Ben Bova book, Jupiter. In Jupiter, which takes place approximately 20 years before Leviathans of Jupiter, human explorers discover giant whale-like creatures living beneath the waves of the planetary ocean which covers the surface of the planet. But because the trip is so risky (due to the extreme pressure created by the giant world) and the fact that it cost some of those prior explorers their lives, humans have not tried to make contact again. But Grant Archer, one of the original explorers and now Chief of the Space Station in orbit around Jupiter, believes that the Leviathans are intelligent – because one of the creatures helped their exploration craft escape the gravity of the planet. Now he has arranged it so that a new prototype craft has been built in secret around Jupiter, and he plans to send a new crew back to make meaningful contact with the Leviathans and prove they are intelligent. Among the crew going on this adventure is a cyborg trying to atone for the crimes he committed during the Asteroid Wars, when he was responsible for killing hundreds when destroying a space station. There’s also the spacecraft’s designer, who will find a connection with the mission controller as they both see the ship as their baby. Finally there are two scientists, one who has spent his life trying to develop meaningful communication with Dolphins, and one who has studied how micro-organisms behave – a gamble which Grant believes will pay off because he thinks these giant creatures biology behaves the same way as that tiniest of Earth life. But along with the crew’s arrival comes a representative from the Earth’s scientific advisory board, and she has a personal grudge against Grant, whom she blames for her sister’s death all those years ago. She will do anything she can to keep him from killing more scientists, even if she has to kill a few herself to ensure that no one else suffers the same fate. While Leviathans of Jupiter may not be as strong a book as the original Jupiter, that’s not really a fair comparison as I’ve mentioned it’s my favorite Ben Bova book. Because we (the reader) already know that the Leviathans exist (as opposed to wondering if the human explorers would actually discover them in the first book), it takes away some of the excitement and at times feels a little like treading water. But Bova wisely spends a large section of the book just allowing the reader to get to know this new crew – so that when they finally do descend into Jupiter’s Ocean, you are very attached to them and have a stronger connection to their mission and what it means to each one of them. I’ve mentioned in the past that Bova sometimes falls into the trap of making a psudeo-conservative religious conglomerate into the “bad guys” in these books, them having taken over most of the governments back on Earth – fortunately, he has stepped away from that here. It becomes a much more personal conflict by relating it to the prior mission, and more believable coming from a woman who has political ambitions and is afraid of the power Grant Archer might be able to wield should his mission succeed. Grant is one of Bova’s most fascinating characters, as a man of science and a believer in God, and it was nice in this book not to have him in some crisis of faith because he’s not trying to dispute belief because of the existence of other life in the universe. There is no conflict in him about science coexisting alongside faith, and by playing that down it actually works to the benefit of both the character and the author – there is no need for conflict and it makes him seem more reasonable, more human, than anyone taking a more extreme view of one side or the other. There may be better books to get started in Ben Bova’s Grand Tour series, but each book can really be read in any order, as they’ve been written out of sequence with books taking place all over the timeline (though I believe Leviathans of Jupiter may be the farthest out in the future so far in the series). That said it’s a great book, full of memorable characters (I’ve focused on Grant Archer in the review, but each of the crewmembers are as fully developed and make you enjoy the time you spend reading about them) and good old fashioned swashbuckling space adventures. Ben Bova has a particular style that I enjoy, a combination of the old-school Flash Gordon/Buck Rogers type of stories combined with the realism of near-future space exploration, like something NASA is just on the cusp of being able to do. If that kind of combination sounds appealing to you, I’d highly recommend picking up any of Ben Bova’s books, including Leviathans of Jupiter.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine

This weeks Waiting on Wednesday selection is:

The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe
Tor Books
304 pages
September 27, 2011

No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the mountains of East Tennessee. When the first Europeans came to the Smoky Mountains, the Tufa were already there. Dark-haired and enigmatic, they live quietly in the hills and valleys of Cloud County, their origins lost to history. But there are clues in their music, hidden in the songs they have passed down for generations. . . .

Private Bronwyn Hyatt, a true daughter of the Tufa, has returned from Iraq, wounded in body and spirit, but her troubles are far from over. Cryptic omens warn of impending tragedy, while a restless “haint” has followed her home from the war. Worse yet, Bronwyn has lost touch with herself and with the music that was once a part of her. With death stalking her family, will she ever again join in the song of her people, and let it lift her onto the night winds?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein

Some books walk the line between fantasy and reality. I think stories told from the point of view of a dog fit into this category because, until we find a way to read minds, we have to imagine what goes on behind the soulful eyes of mans -best-friend. My most treasured book when I was little was 101 Dalmations by Dodie Smith; I carried that book with my everywhere. I can remember, before the days of seat-belt laws, being ensconced in the very back of our station wagon with a pillow, blanket and my beloved book all settled in for a long road trip. That story was magic to me long before I ever grew to love the Disney version.

So when my book club chose Garth Stein's The Art of Racing in the Rain as this month's selection I was interested, but ambivalent, about a grown-up story told from a dog's point of view.

Enzo is a lab/terrier mix who becomes the beloved pet of Denny, an aspiring race-car driver. Enzo is the audience's window into Denny's life from bachelorhood, to marriage and the unfortunate illness of his wife. As Denny's circumstances spin further out of control, Enzo is always there to offer quiet encouragement and the occasional well-placed "accident."

Enzo's greatest wish is to be human and he frequently laments his lack of opposable thumbs. His philosophy on life is based a great deal on racing, having spent hours watching racing videos with Denny, and the old racing rule-- that we go where our eyes go-- figures a lot into Enzo's view of the world. He's an old soul, well educated from watching lots of television, and has a keen insight into the world around him. He's so human that he's sure he's ready to come back in the next life as a human being.

As you'd expect "The Art of Racing in the Rain" is a sweet, charming book. Having a dog as a main character, as long at it's written with some skill, is as close to a sure-fire method to having a likable main character as you could possibly get. And Enzo is endearing no matter what he does because his motives are so pure and unencumbered by matters outside his family. He's a dog so his focus is predictably narrow and uncomplicated. The method of using a dog as a narrator is fun from the aspect of seeing the world through the eyes of an animal that has quite a bit of access to the lives of those he observes. He drifts in-and-out of conversations and picks up information that would be very useful to the people he loves-- if only he could manipulate his long, slippery tongue around the words he so desperately wants to say.

But the book falters when the story goes from Enzo's pontificating and dwells on the ups-and-downs of Denny's personal life. And here's where I throw in a few spoilers. For a race-car driver, Denny is a really passive guy. There are things that happen outside of Denny's control, like that of his wife's illness; but Denny doesn't make her go to the doctor, even when she is incapacitated by pain. When she dies and her parent's hatch a plan to take Denny's daughter, he doesn't see it coming even though it's starkly evident. And that's pretty much the pattern for the whole book: Bad things happen while Denny seems clueless as to what's going on. I didn't even like Denny for the first half of the book.

I understand that the whole book is written as a metaphor for a race. The mantra you go where your eyes go is repeated frequently and Enzo speaks often of Denny's determination and faith that he will never quit until the race is finished. But the circumstances that are thrown at Denny to make the long-haul of the endurance race necessary (as a metaphor) seem contrived. I've been known in the past to say that a story lacks tension because the solutions are too conveniently found, but in this case the problems are too predictable and too easily avoided to be convincing. And the result of such a rote, by-the-book story is that we're never surprised by anything.

It could be that I'm not the kind of person who should be reading "The Art of Racing in the Rain." Maybe my early years of infatuation with "101 Dalmatians" has left me with a desire for whimsy that can't be presented in a book that deals with cancer, accusations of sexual misconduct, death and grief. My expectations of what a doggy narrator means to a book were definitely confounded by this book. That isn't to say it isn't a good book, though I don't think it lives up to the hype. I think the problem, for me, is that "The Art of Racing in the Rain" is still too Oprah Book Club for my taste.

3 out of 5 stars.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Movie Review: Blade: Trinity (2004)

But everyone knows the movies are full of crap. The truth is, it started with Blade, and ended with him,” the Narrator says as Blade: Trinity opens. “The rest of us were just along for the ride.” This can’t be more true. Why the hell are all these other imbeciles in this movie?

What would you think if you watched a movie start out with the need to introduce a strobe effect into a situation that could never possibly have a strobe as the opening scene of the movie? If you thought that they were out of tricks before the movie even started, you’d be right. Blade: Trinity wants to grow up to be Blade but it’s just not there yet.

That’s really all there is to say: a poor rehash of the original, with new names and famous faces such as Triple H, Jessica Biel and Patton Oswalt. You’ve got the dumb, muscle guy a la Quinn played by Triple H, the relatively genius leader with extra immunities like La Magra and Nomak, and you’ve got the vampire bitch, who is actually incredibly psychotic and possibly a hermaphrodite. There you go, it’s got all the markings of a Blade movie. Except for a plot, direction, and a half-assed love interest.

In fact, you can even judge this one by its cover: Blade, Abigail and Hannibal just scream “generic action sequel”. That’s really all it is. What’s unique about this movie? The sexually ambiguous comic relief third main character? The way the “perfect” Dracula feels the need to imitate Frost and throw a helpless baby in the air to escape Blade? It certainly wasn’t the fact that every time someone was told “no one’s gonna help you now”, the cavalry showed up. Wait, I figured it out: it’s the fact that there was sunlight in a vampire interrogation room!

The film starts off with a prologue in which Triple H and Parker Posey, two of the new vampire leaders, among others, are acting way over the top as ignorant thugs as they enter a pyramid in Iraq. They find traces of a body, which proceeds to reach through the ground and pull the tech guy’s face off. Naturally, the headless tech guy promptly explodes.

Cue pointless strobe effect.

Right off the bat we can tell that the effects and at least some of the action here are shot for shot on par with the original. It’s still the opening credits, of course, but so far it gives a positive indication of what’s to come. We learn that Blade is being set up, but in the process we learn something even more important: [*censored for SFW version*]! That’s right, Blade: Trinity has Tourette’s Syndrome. Every scene that is intended to be dramatic, comedic, or just there, somebody needs to swear at the top of their lungs. Although I have to agree with the familiar that spouts, “Why aren’t you smarter… DUMB S***!” because that really applies to anybody who’s watching this movie.

While we are discussing the swearing, let’s talk about how EXTREME this movie is. Blade: Trinity is like a 90s movie made in the 2000s. That means that not only must everything be over-the-top, balls-to-the-wall, “kill ‘em all let God sort ‘em out”, but it also must be offensive to black people (and those aware of black people), and swear at the top of its lungs at all times. Perhaps these are the “improvements” made in the Unrated version, in which case, they weren’t needed.

The acting is all over the place. Wesley Snipes comes off as a griping old man, complaining about things like “look at the way you’re dressed”, despite berating Whistler for being an old man who worries too much earlier on. Kris Kristoffserofsf… Whistler himself stumbles over his lines at times, almost as if he’s not sure what to make of the script. The series is obviously past its prime, giving true meaning to the film’s tagline, “Where it began so shall it end.” This film should have ended where it began, too.

The newcomers range from Triple H, to Jessica Biel, to Patton Oswalt. They were really going all over the place to bring in a hip, young crowd to watch this movie. Triple H’s performance is ridiculous and laughable on its own, but when you add in the way Ryan Reynolds (with no super strength or anything like that, by the way) wrestles him into submission… this really was not a good career move for him. Jessica Biel is dressed decidedly boyish for the vast majority of the film, and this has to be the only unrated movie in all of history to include Biel in a shower scene and not show any more skin than any other movie would show while she was fully dressed.

As for Patton Oswalt, you can’t help but feel sorry for him watching his scenes. I can just imagine how it went:

Hey, Patton, you want to be in the next Blade movie?” “Yeah, sure, that sounds like it kicks ass. Of course I want in on that!” “Okay, here’s the script.” “Um… I thought I was the standup comic here.” “Just read the lines.” “Um… okay…”

He really looks like he is trying his best to make garbage sound like roses. Of course, he fails horribly at it, but you can see he’s trying. The other leads, Ryan Reynolds as Hannibal King and Parker Posey as Danica Talos, are both primarily comedy relief. Honestly… the movie could have gone without both of them. Actually, the movie could have done without the vast majority of characters. Really, the movie would have been far better if they couldn’t find a cast… wishful thinking…

I almost forgot the villain, Dracula. Sorry, “Drake”. Drake is what you would get if you mixed a Yautja from the Predator films, Darth Maul, and Twilight together. He wears tight pants and shows more cleavage than every female character in this film put together, including that cashier from the Hot Topic knock-off (that scene, by the way, apparently exists only because there’s not enough footage of Drake doing anything remotely intimidating in the rest of the film).

Drake is something else. Or rather, he’s not. Like the first film, we’re faced with such a credible villain that he needs to use a hostage, an infant thrown into the air, to get away from Blade, despite all his talk about respecting honor. This might make sense for the average villain, but this guy is being built up as the most dangerous thing since the Big Bang. Not to mention that one of the most common symbols to be found in the modern day, the cross, hurts Drake, and apparently only Drake… except when he is the one wearing it. Dracula is, in fact, a little girl.

Speaking of which, this film is riddled with sexual commentary, without any of the “hot” sexual scenes of the first (although there is an orgasm in mid-feed). Not only do vaginal dentata earn a referential appearance, but sexual jokes (you know, like when the eleven year old you called the kid on the other side of the bus “gay”, with about the same level of comebacks) seem to be about the maturity level here. It is strongly implied that Danica has a penis, but if she does, it seems to be a rather small one, as she declares herself to be suffering from penis envy. Doctor Vance asks Blade if drinking blood gets him sexually aroused, to which Blade should have responded “only if it’s my mother’s”. Drinking his serum, in fact, does not arouse him, as a close-up on Blade’s crotch shows us.

When we’re not making dick jokes, the tone of the movie is set by slow motion and strobe effects. Matrix ripoffs are not infrequent, and just like the Matrix, anybody who sees a vigilante in shades shooting up a street and appears to honestly believe him to be a sociopath (which, of course, Blade actually is) is actually connected to vampires. Because, you know, nobody in their right mind would see a man walking around shooting people while raving about vampires and think “maybe somebody should stop that…”

To sum it all up… no. If you watched Blade, you’ve watched Blade: Trinity, without having to go through the embarrassment that is Blade: Trinity. It barely pretends to be a movie. I guess it wasn't until the Batman films that Goyer learned to do something other than write the same movie over again.

The Man in Black is a regular reviewer at Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews. More of his content can be found at Man in Black Reviews.

Friday, August 19, 2011

New Photos From the Set of "The Avengers"

Now we just need some shots of Tony Stark!

"Underworld: Awakening" Trailer

Ooooh. I'm ready for an "Underworld" marathon.

Giveaway! "Shadow Kin" by M.J. Scott

*Quick Note About Giveaways* I haven't been as diligent about posting the winners of the blog giveaways as I should. But I do keep up on picking winners and sending off books. If you win a book, you will receive an email and the book should arrive in the mail shortly thereafter.

Who doesn't love discovering new authors? I know I do. So I'm happy to have the opportunity, courtesy of Penguin Books, to offer the first book in a new series for giveaway.

Shadow Kin by M.J. Scott

On one side, the Night World, rules by the Blood Lords and the Beast Kind. On the other, the elusive Fae and the humans, protected by their steadfast mages...
Born a wraith, Lily is a shadow who slips between worlds. Brought up by a Blood Lord and raised to be his assassin, she is little more than a slave. But when Lily meets her match in target Simon DuCaine, the unlikely bond that develops between them threatens to disrupt an already stretched peace in a city on the verge of being torn apart...

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 Tuesday, September 6th. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere.

Good luck!

**Contest Closed**

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Hexed: The Iron Druid Chronicles" by Kevin Hearne-- Still Fun

I hauled open the door and beheld a slim Native American man in the street. Straight black hair spilled passed his shoulders from underneath a cowboy hat, and he was dressed in a white sleeveless undershirt, blue jeans, and scuffed brown boots. He held a grease-stained brown paper bag in his left hand, and he a smirk on his face.

He waved leisurely with his right hand and said in a slow friendly voice, "Evening' Mr. Druid. I reckon you know who I am?

I relaxed and fell into the rhythm of his speech. By speaking like him, I would make him relax as well, and he'd be more likely to trust me. It was the first rule of fitting in: Talk like a native. As soon as people hear a foreign accent, it's like ringing the doorbell of xenophobia. They immediately classify you as the other instead of as a brother, and it was this fundamental aspect of human nature that Leif had seemingly forgotten. It applies to dialects and regional accents as well, which is why I'm obsessed with mimicking those properly whenever I can. Ask any Boston Yankee what happens when they get pulled over by the police in the Deep South, and they'll tell you that accent matters. So I took my time with my reply, as if I had all day to get to the end of a sentence, because that's the way my visitor spoke. "I surely do, Coyote. One question is which tribe you're callin' from this time."

~Excerpt from Hexed by Kevin Hearne

Good paranormal fiction is like brain candy.  Done the right way it stimulates the brain like a decadent treat. It's sweet, easy to swallow and maybe makes you feel a little guilty for not ingesting something more substantial. But it's also nourishing to the soul in that it takes your mind off more serious matters if it's absorbing enough to suck you into the world within the pages.

I find the world of The Iron Druid Chronicles very absorbing in a brain candy kind of way.

"Hexed" is the second novel in The Iron Druid Chronicles. Following the clash with Aenghus Óg, and his subsequent victory, Atticus finds that being the hero isn't exactly what he expected as his reputation as a god-killer has a lot of people checking in on him to make sure he isn't targeting them next-- or they're trying to hire Atticus to take care of their problematic gods. But the last thing Atticus is looking for is another battle with the gods; he's more interested in cleaning up the mess from the last one.

Seeking to simplify his life, and hoping to have a home he can inhabit permanently, Atticus agrees to sign a non-aggression treaty with the local coven of witches. As good as the sounds, it turns out to be a problem when other supernatural threats, including a group of Bacchants and a scary coven of strangely glam-rock witches, decide that they want to make Arizona their new territory-- and they'll go through Atticus to stake their claim if they have to.

I mostly only have good things to say about "Hexed" because the series is such a fun diversion. The sense of humor is, as in "Hounded," one of my favorite things. Atticus is such a breath of fresh air compared to the dour, maudlin heroes that usually come with a story about a very long-lived protagonist. Instead of the moody snark that is so frequently served up, Atticus chooses instead to mix his philosophical ramblings with a healthy dose of good humor.

"Hexed" isn't just a re-tread of "Hounded." A lot of the same characters show up for this second installment, but the focus widens to include figures from other religious pantheons, including one incarnation of Coyote, the trickster god of the Native American Indians, as well as the Virgin Mary. Hearne doesn't invent the notion that deities gain power through the belief of their followers, but he does add his own twist to the notion by using that belief to show them in corporeal form. And I like the idea that Atticus could conceivably sit down and have a beer with Jesus in the near future. (Not to mention his ability to really *know* the answer to What would Jesus do?)

One minor complaint I have about "Hexed" is that the light tone does tend to permeate the entire story and plot-points that should have more weight, like the death of someone close to the main character, are glossed over and it's hard to care too much about the characters when their passing elicits so little reaction from those who should
care. Clearly Atticus saves his emotional attachments for his dog Oberon. Additionally Atticus has such a convenient ability to heal when he's in contact with the earth that he's probably more bulletproof than he should be: It's tough to worry about your hero when most injuries are minor inconveniences.

Despite my few critiques, I still maintain that The Iron Druid Chronicles is one of the better paranormal series' that I've had the pleasure of reading. It does everything it should as far as delivering action, humor and an inventive story. It has likable characters and the consistency and follow-thorough that I often complain is lacking in light-weight fiction. Definitely a series I will continue reading.

4 out of 5 stars.

"The Woman in Black" Trailer

Waiting on Wednesday

This meme is hosted by Jen over at Breaking the Spine

This week's Waiting on Wednesday selection is:

Awakenings by Edward Lasellari
Tor Books
352 pages
Publication Date: August 30, 2011

Cal MacDonnell is a happily married New York City cop with a loving family. Seth Raincrest is a washed-up photographer who has alienated even his closest friends. The two have nothing in common—except that they both suffer from retrograde amnesia. It’s as if they just appeared out of thin air thirteen years ago, and nothing has been able to restore their memories. Now their forgotten past has caught up to them with a vengeance.

Cal's and Seth’s lives are turned upside down as they are stalked by otherworldly beings who know about the men's past lives. But these creatures aren't here to help; they're intent on killing anyone who gets in their way. In the balance hangs the life of a child who might someday restore a broken empire to peace and prosperity. With no clue why they're being hunted, Cal and Seth must accept the aid of a strange and beautiful woman who has promised to unlock their secrets. The two must stay alive long enough to protect their loved ones, recover their true selves—and save two worlds from tyranny and destruction.

Awakenings launches a captivating fantasy saga by an amazing and talented new storyteller.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Books Received

Tears of the Sun by S.M. Stirling

Rudi McKenzie-now Artos, the High King of Montival-must fulfill his destiny. He wields the sword crafted for him before he was born. He has made friends of his enemies. He has won the heart of the woman he loves.
And now he must defeat the forces of the Church Universal and Triumphant, knowing he may lose his life in the final battle...

The Unincorporated Woman by Dani Kollin & Eyan Kollin

There’s a civil war in space and the unincorporated woman is enlisted! The epic continues.
The award-winning saga of a revolutionary future takes a new turn. Justin Cord, the unincorporated man, is dead, betrayed, and his legacy of rebellion and individual freedom is in danger. General Black is the great hope of the military, but she cannot wage war from behind the President’s desk. So there must be a new president, anointed by Black, to hold the desk job, and who better than the only woman resurrected from Justin Cord’s past era, the scientist who created his resurrection device, the only born unincorporated woman. The perfect figurehead. Except that she has ideas of her own, and secrets of her own, and the talent to run the government her way. She is a force that no one anticipated, and no one can control.
The first novel in this thought-provoking series, The Unincorporated Man, won the 2009 Prometheus Award for best novel.

Mercury Rises by Robert Kroese

Jaded religion reporter Christine Temetri and Mercury, a renegade angel, have just thwarted two diabolical plots to destroy the world. But their work isn’t finished yet: mysterious powers outranking even the Heavenly bureaucracy seem intent on keeping the Apocalypse on track. While the world is plagued by natural disasters and nations prepare for war, crazed billionaire Horace Finch plots to use a secret device hidden beneath the African desert to discover the deepest secrets of the Universe—even if he has to destroy the Universe to do it. Meanwhile, unassuming FBI investigator Jacob Slater tries in vain to find a rational explanation for the mysterious destruction of downtown Anaheim—a quest that ultimately brings him to Kenya, where he meets Christine and Mercury. Together, the three must stop Finch from activating the device and tearing reality to pieces. Uproarious and wildly entertaining, Mercury Rises proves that the devil is in the details!

The Urban Fantasy Anthology Edited by Peter S. Beagle and Joe R. Lansdale

Star-studded and comprehensive, this imaginative anthology brings a myriad of modern fantasy voices under one roof. Previously difficult for readers to discover in its new modes, urban fantasy is represented here in all three of its distinct styles—playful new mythologies, sexy paranormal romances, and gritty urban noir. Whether they feature tattooed demon-hunters, angst-ridden vampires, supernatural gumshoes, or pixelated pixies, these authors—including Patricia Briggs, Neil Gaiman, and Charles de Lint—mash-up traditional fare with pop culture, creating iconic characters, conflicted moralities, and complex settings. The result is starkly original fiction that has broad-based appeal and is immensely entertaining.

The Magic of Recluce (reissue) by L. E. Modesitt Jr.

From Publishers Weekly
The battle between good, denoted by order, and evil, represented by chaos, underlies this promising coming-of-age fantasy. The youth Lerris, a skeptical misfit, is sent on a journey designed to determine whether he will ever be capable of serving his native land, Recluce, a haven of perfection surrounded by chaos. During training, Lerris is told he is a potential order-master, a possible high-level wizard, who must probe his inner self and discover his powers before he can return home. In war-torn Candar, he finds himself hunted as a rogue wizard and narrowly escapes destruction at the hands of the evil wizard Antonin. Apprenticed to a woodworking genius, Lerris comes to the aid of his ailing master, rebuilding his business and arranging the future of the family. Lerris's acceptance of responsibility and respect for order enable the development of his powers, and his use of order-magic against Antonin leads to a confrontation between the two. Modesitt ( The Ecolitan Matter ) creates a complex world based on a plausible system of magic and peopled with engaging and realistic characters.

Kitty's Greatest Hits by Carrie Vaughn

The first-ever story collection from the New York Times bestselling author, including two all-new works!

Kitty Norville, star of a New York Times bestselling series, is everybody’s favorite werewolf DJ and out-of-the-closet supernatural creature. Over the course of eight books she’s fought evil vampires, were-creatures, and some serious black magic. She’s done it all with a sharp wit and the help of a memorable cast of werewolf hunters, psychics, and if-notgood- then-neutral vampires by her side. Kitty’s Greatest Hits not only gives readers some of Kitty’s further adventures, it offers longtime fans a window into the origins of some of their favorite characters.

In “Conquistador de la Noche,” we learn the origin story of Denver’s Master vampire, Rick; with “Wild Ride,” we find out how Kitty’s friend T.J. became a werewolf; and in “Life is the Teacher,” we revisit Emma, the human-turned-unwilling-vampire who serves the aloof vampire Master of Washington, D.C.

This entertaining collection includes two brand-new works: “You’re On the Air,” about one of Kitty’s callers after he hangs up the phone; and the eagerly awaited “Long Time Waiting,” the novella that finally reveals just what happened to Cormac in prison, something every Kitty fan wants to know.

Stands a Shadow by Col Buchanan

In Farlander, the first book of the Heart of the World series, readers met Ash, an aging master assassin of the famed order of Roshun, and his apprentice Nico, a boy who always managed to be in the wrong place at the right time. Ash and Nico, one with failing health and the other with little training, were sent on a suicidal mission to fulfill a contract against the favored son of the Holy Matriarch, the ruler of Mann. The assassination of the Matriarch's son maintained the honor and reputation of the Roshun, but further destabilized a nation already beset by strife. For Ash, fulfilling the contract came at an enormous personal cost.
Now in Stands a Shadow, driven by grief and anger, Ash embarks on a journey that takes him through the Free Ports and towards the embattled city of Bar-Khos. He arrives at the city as the Holy Matriarch of Mann orders her forces to breach the walls of Bar-Khos and bring it under her control. Renouncing the ways of the Roshun, Ash disguises himself among the Mannian soldiers, determined to go to any lengths to have his revenge against the Matriarch. . . .
The Heart of the World series is an epic adventure that, through the lens of its vibrant and unique world and engaging characters, asks intriguing questions and illuminates the humanity at the core of both hero and villain. Stands a Shadow is the second book in the series.

The Realms Thereunder by Ross Lawhead

Uncover a land that has been hidden for over a thousand years.
Beneath the land of Britain, a great army is sleeping. On a visit to an old church, Daniel Tully and Freya Reynolds awaken two ancient knights from a centuries-old slumber. They are kidnapped and taken to an underground city that stands in peril, besieged in all directions by a vicious warhost. Nidergeard is the only thing protecting the upper world's blissful ignorance of mythical forces that have been held at bay since the creation of the world. In order to return home, Daniel and Freya must strike at the heart of the opposer's power.
Fast forward eight years. Daniel, now homeless, still wages what he believes to be a righteous war against those he judges to be evil. Freya has tried to put the past behind her and concentrate on getting an education, a job, and a life. When they reconnect in Oxford, unseen forces begin to ally against them. Daniel is pulled through a portal and into another world. Freya is abducted by someone-some thing-posing as her professor and drugged to keep her in a delusional state. After they finally break free, neither can deny the truth . . . they must return to Nidergeard and resume the battle.
With a thrilling narrative that draws heavily upon British mythology, The Realms Thereunder will quickly establish Ross Lawhead as a major new voice in fantasy.

The Bone House by Stephen R. Lawhead

An avenue of Egyptian sphinxes, an Etruscan tufa tomb, a Bohemian coffee shop, and a Stone Age landscape where universes collide …
Kit Livingstone met his great grandfather Cosimo in a rainy alley in London where he discovered the reality of alternate realities.
Now he's on the run - and on a quest, trying to understand the impossible mission he inherited from Cosimo: to restore a map that charts the hidden dimensions of the multiverse while staying one step ahead of the savage Burley Men.
The key is the Skin Map - but where it leads and what it means, Kit has no idea. The pieces have been scattered throughout this universe and beyond.
Mina, from her outpost in seventeenth-century Prague, is quickly gaining both the experience and the means to succeed in the quest. Yet so are those with evil intent, who from the shadows are manipulating great minds of history for their own malign purposes.
Across time and space, through manifest and hidden worlds, those who know how to use ley lines to travel through astral planes have left their own world behind in this, the second quest: to unlock the mystery of The Bone House.

The Moon Maze Game by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes

The Year: 2085. Humanity has spread throughout the solar system. A stable lunar colony is agitating for independence. Lunar tourism is on the rise...
Against this background, professional “Close Protection” specialist Scotty Griffin, fresh off a disastrous assignment, is offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to shepherd the teenaged heir to the Republic of Kikaya on a fabulous vacation. Ali Kikaya will participate in the first live action role playing game conducted on the Moon itself. Having left Luna—and a treasured marriage—years ago due to a near-tragic accident, Scotty leaps at the opportunity.
Live Action Role Playing attracts a very special sort of individual: brilliant, unpredictable, resourceful, and addicted to problem solving. By kidnapping a dozen gamers in the middle of the ultimate game, watched by more people than any other sporting event in history, they have thrown down an irresistible gauntlet: to “win” the first game that ever became “real.” Pursued by armed and murderous terrorists, forced to solve gaming puzzles to stay a jump ahead, forced to juggle multiple psychological realities as they do...this is the game for which they’ve prepared their entire lives, and they are going to play it for all it’s worth.

Blood Sacrifice by Maria Lima

All’s fair in blood and war. . . .
Talk about wedding crashers from hell. Keira Kelly and her sexy vampire king, Adam, are about to tie the proverbial knot—sort of—when an uninvited blood relative shows up to cast a long, dark shadow over the happy occasion. Adam’s brother Gideon comes bearing the one-size-fits-all gift of bad news: an ancient, convoluted Challenge thrown down upon the entire Kelly clan. It seems the dreaded forces of the Dark Fae have declared war on Keira’s family, and at stake is the land that is rightfully theirs. But while the Kellys gather their troops in a historic San Antonio hotel to strategize, there’s mayhem back in Rio Seco. The old cemetery is vandalized, fires break out, and—worst of all—the Kelly clan matriarch and leader, Keira’s great-great-grandmother Minerva, goes missing. Should Keira risk breaking the Challenge rules by returning to her beloved home, or should she continue the waiting game that seems the only other option? With everything she loves and maybe even her life on the line, she has only one chance to get the answer right.

The Truth of Valor by Tanya Huff

Having left the Marine Corps, former Gunnery Sergeant Torin Kerr is attempting to build a new life with salvage operator Craig Ryder. Turns out, civilian life is a lot rougher than she'd imagined. Torin is left for dead when pirates attack their spaceship and take Craig prisoner. But "left for dead" has never stopped Torin. Determined to rescue Craig, she calls in her Marines. And that's when her mission expands to stopping the pirates from changing the balance of power in known space.

The Sookie Stackhouse Companion by Charlaine Harris

The #1 New York Times bestselling author presents the definitive guide to the world of Sookie Stackhouse.
Charlaine Harris has topped the bestseller charts and has become a nationwide phenomenon, thanks to the unconventional-and otherworldly- life of Sookie Stackhouse. Now, readers will have the opportunity for an in-depth look at Sookie, her family, friends, enemies, adventures, and-of course-the lovers who set her world on fire.
Readers will:
• Tour Bon Temps via the detailed map in the book, the one created by Charlaine herself!
• Read transcripts of Eric and Bill's private conversations
• Examine all the branches of Sookie's family tree
• Learn the fine points of the distinctions between vampire, shifter, and fae
• Get must-have Bon Temps recipes, including Caroline Bellefleur's famous chocolate cake
• Test themselves with trivia questions from the series

Blood Spirits by Sherwood Smith

Everyone's favorite sword-wielding California girl returns-from the author of Coronets and Steel.

With the man she loves set to marry a look-alike princess, Kim Murray returns to California from the magical country of Dobrenica to heal her broken heart. But family politics soon have her leaving for London, where she is forced into a duel with a Dobrenican nobleman. He reveals that her great sacrifice, leaving Alec, was a disaster. To fix her mistake, Kim returns to Dobrenica, but what she finds there is far more shocking and dangerous than she ever imagined. Not just politics and personalities but ghosts and magic, murder and mystery, await her as she struggles to understand the many faces of love. Once again Kim has to take sword in hand as she tries to make peace and learn the truth. Only, whose truth?

Legacy of Kings by C.S. Friedman

The young peasant woman Kamala has proven strong and determined enough to claim the most powerful Magister sorcery for herself-but now the Magisters hunt her for killing one of their own. Her only hope of survival lies in the northern Protectorates, where spells are warped by a curse called the Wrath that even the Magisters fear. Originally intended to protect the lands of men from creatures known only as souleaters, the Wrath appears to be weakening-and the threat of this ancient enemy is once more falling across the land.

Book Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

I’m not in a good mood. My personal life is full of PO'ed people, I’m PO'ed by work, I’m stressed out, and I’m too distracted to read or sleep. I want something to tear apart, to grind to pieces, to throw into the inferno and cause great weeping and gnashing of teeth. I want to shatter a DVD, to burn a cartridge, to tear a book from its binding and tell its creators and publishers to go screw themselves.

So it is to my great chagrin that I do none of these things, because the book I am reviewing today is Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence. I might be able to burn down one or two trees, but the forest is so damned solid I’m liable to take an arrow to my neck before I get the chance to set it ablaze with a torch made of bone and tar. A reference to something, I’m sure, but why anybody else would use such a poor choice of torch is beyond me.

Prince of Thorns is about the teenaged leader of a group of bandits of the worst sort. He also happens to be heir to the throne of a small kingdom- one that happens to be one of a hundred fighting over the scraps of what used to be a great empire. If you haven’t quite pieced it together, this is a piece of Medieval Fantasy. Prince of Thorns makes use of the Fantasy aspect of its setting to set aside a new era of history, new kingdoms and fiefdoms to fight over. It’s historical fiction without any of the boring details, not the least of these “sacrifices” being the distinguishing between English, French and Spanish. We’re very clearly somewhere in Europe, somewhere between the fall of Rome and the Renaissance… or are we?

When Jorg- the titular Prince- sets off an atomic bomb with the expectation of releasing a poison among the inhabitants of a great castle- we find ourselves in that odd category that’s not quite post-apocalyptic, but only because after the great, thriving civilization was wiped out, enough time passed for an entirely new and somewhat familiar one to take its place. Give up trying to place this on our own timeline yet? Good, because that’s precisely the sort of attempt this book denies you.

The existence of empowered shamans, necromancers and monsters (later proved to be the result of radiation-poisoned water), provide the Fantasy setting, one that plays little role in the beginning of the novel (other than that I’ve mentioned earlier) but one which it becomes very clear is going to play a much greater part when Jorg discovers its true extent himself. It’s sort of like a story where Boba Fett spends his life looting and pillaging and killing those such as Jabba the Hutt, until he realizes Darth Vader and the Emperor are really out there pulling strings.

As for the characters, well, Prince Jorg isn’t quite as noble as the aforementioned bounty hunter, and he’s had an even more tragic past. I mentioned he led a group of bandits- by the tender age of thirteen, he turned himself from his quest of vengeance for the rape and murder of his mother and brother to become the most vicious and deadly of a group of bandits that includes a man that could take Hagrid in a no-holds-barred hand to hand fight- and was previously led by his bigger, smarter brother.

The novel opens off with a shock-value sequence designed to tell you exactly what you’re looking at. If you can’t stand to see Jorg glory in the murder of innocents, the pillaging and burning of their village, and the raping of their daughters, this novel isn’t one for you. And it’s not one for your kids. No, seriously… your fifteen year old isn’t ready for this, no matter what he or she just told you.

I partially say this because of the glorification of violence. It’s very clear that nobody thinks Jorg is a good person- not the author, not Jorg himself, not even his love interest, who wishes to see him publicly disemboweled. Nevertheless, Jorg is a tragic figure, and his tenacity is of the sort that you empathize with him and want to see him succeed. The problem here lies with any reader who starts to emulate characters who have admirable traits such as Jorg’s unlimited tenacity. To put it frankly, this novel in the wrong hands could turn a small town into a blood bath. If you found yourself buying a red lightsaber because Darth Vader was an inspiration to your aspirations of badassery, you’re liable to be taken in by this character more than is healthy. This is a testament to the author’s skill, and I don’t hold that against him- I just advise actual restraint from the consumer, a commodity that is rarely found in modern days.

Descriptions are vivid, and characters are, if not fleshed out at the very high level that I prefer, very distinct. More often than not, you’re very vividly aware who it is that Jorg is killing. Because more often than not, characters die, and more often than not, Jorg is what kills them. Some characters survive, after a fashion, and some characters are killed by other people, but by and large, you’re reading this book to see Jorg killing people. It’s a cathartic novel, that just happens to have some quiet messages about free will, determination, enough morals to make you ask a question, and so forth. Our anti-hero is a learned man, but he doesn’t have the patience to deal with most of this; like most protagonists used to action, his response to the possibility of somebody manipulating him is to kill. Since the story is told from his point of view (first person, in fact), it’s no surprise that the narration is much along this same path. The only downside to this approach is that one or two issues are touched upon in only the most shallow manner: mainly the fact that Jorg doesn’t bother to make a connection between the rape of his mother and the ones he commits and permits (thankfully off-screen), and the fact that racial relations are touched on, but Jorg doesn’t really have any thoughts on them.

Prince of Thorns is a fast read, and if you grew up listening to Slim Shady and other forms of likable horrible people, it’s your kind of book. There’s nothing redeeming about it, but that’s where the fun lies. Obviously, the appeal of this book lies only for a very specific subset, mainly adult males who can overlook horrendous actions on the part of their protagonist, but for this specific subset, I think you’re going to be looking forward to the rest of the trilogy when you finish this.

The Man in Black is a regular reviewer at Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews. More of his content can be found at Man in Black Reviews.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Book Review: Star Wars - Ascension by Christie Golden

Ascension by Christie Golden is the penultimate novel in the Fate of the Jedi series, and it lived up to my expectations as such by raising the stakes and delivering enough twists and turns to have me anxious to see how the final book will provide resolution. It is impossible at this point to separate out Ascension from the rest of the Fate of the Jedi series and evaluate it on its merits as an individual novel. I felt like Aaron Allston’s Conviction made a valiant effort at trying to be inclusive enough that a newcomer might be able to pick it up – but Ascension is only for those who have been with the series all along. The early part of the book is devoted to The Lost Tribe of the Sith, and the creature Abeloth’s first meeting with them and interactions with them on their world. On the one hand, it was very fitting, as the Tribe really feels more like Golden's creation (since she introduced them in Omen) and I just feel like she really knows how to write them and has a very clear view of their world and society. It's a great return for her to this plotline, even if they then proceed to disappear for a good portion of the middle of the novel. I liked how Golden (through the Tribe) admits that "we" still don't know what Abeloth's goal is. She does provide a very nice link by peeking at Abeloth's past, showing how she was betrayed by someone who loved her (or didn't love her, when she loved him/it) - in my mind that showed a direct connection between her past and her actions against Luke Skywalker (who she might see as an embodiment of her betrayer, hence choosing many of his former loves as her targets in order to punish him). But by the end of Abeloth’s visit to them, she has destroyed the Lost Tribe’s capital city and Gavar Khai and his fleet have sided with this creature against his own people. The political maneuvering is one of the highlights of this book, with the aide to the former Chief of State, Wyn Dorvan, continuing to be a very sympathetic character. He’s filling in as Chief of State as best he can, but knowing that he really doesn’t want the job. A number of other politicians make their rise in this book as well, a Klatooine rebel named who had been introduced in Conviction, and two new characters to this book, an inspirational female former slave turned senator, and Senator Suldar who will soon reveal his true nature. We get a return to the conspiracies against Jagged Fel, current Head of the Imperial Remnant in this novel as well. Meanwhile Luke, Ben, Vestara and Jaina are trying to track Abeloth, leading them to a number of different Sith worlds and various forms of traps. Vestara will have to face her father and make a choice about her future – but even if she chooses to go down the path of a Jedi, can she maintain that way of life after so many years as a Sith. The finale builds to a number of different tense conflicts – with Luke and his Jedi Order facing off against a powerful Mind Bomb trap meant to destroy the greatest threat to Abeloth’s rise to power, while the creature itself and the Lost Tribe of the Sith amass power as the new rulers of the Galactic Alliance on Coruscant. Ascension also delivers what I thought was a rather epic space battle – Imperial vs Imperial with some surprise guests and a few new tactics that rank among some of the more inventive I’ve seen in a while. There are some problems with Ascension, though they were not enough to prevent me from enjoying the book. Abeloth betrays the Lost Tribe at the beginning of the book, only to work together with them again at the end to amass power (and it seemed way out of left field for Abeloth to become Chief of State of the Galactic Alliance as well). There was also a red herring in terms of a planet that is introduced early in the novel which seems important – and a bunch of characters appear to be on a crash course to meet there – only it never happens. Even so, Ascension is still one of my favorite novels in the Fate of the Jedi series (up there with Abyss, Omen and Vortex). The real issue in Ascension is that the misstep is an obvious set-up for the final book, so how much of that is actually Golden’s fault as opposed to it just being what was needed to be set up for the finale? Because it functions as this kind of bridge novel, taking the characters (and the reader) from where the story left off at the end of Conviction and setting up the story for the finale in Apocalypse, it’s hard to criticize some of the plot choices that were made in this book. This is a large Star Wars book, with lots of plots and in my opinion fairly consistent personalities for these characters (and a return to proper characterization for some like “crazy Daala”). I -still- say that Golden is the "find" of Fate of the Jedi. She has done the heavy lifting in terms of developing the Lost Tribe and in general her books do carry the plot forward. Ascension rises to the level of true epic in terms of the cast of characters and the culminations and ramping up of so many disparate plot points. I was willing to overlook some of my annoyances with the plot because of the scope of the book, and as I said at the very beginning, I look forward to seeing how this all gets resolved in the final Fate of the Jedi novel.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

"The Odd Life of Timothy Green" Trailer

I get the feeling this one is going to make me cry...

"In Time" Trailer

"The Darkest Hour" Trailer

"I Wanna Be a Magician" Fan Song by Parry Gripp (Tribute to "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman)

Am I big geek for liking this? Ah, who cares...

If you're also a big fan of "The Magicians," you can send a postcard from Fillory HERE.

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a blog meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine

This week's "can't wait to read" selection is:

Ganymede by Cherie Priest
Publication date: September 27th 2011

The Clockwork Century series has been my birthday present to myself for the last two years-- here comes number three!

The air pirate Andan Cly is going straight. Well, straighter. Although he’s happy to run alcohol guns wherever the money’s good, he doesn’t think the world needs more sap, or its increasingly ugly side-effects. But becoming legit is easier said than done, and Cly’s first legal gig—a supply run for the Seattle Underground—will be paid for by sap money.

New Orleans is not Cly’s first pick for a shopping run. He loved the Big Easy once, back when he also loved a beautiful mixed-race prostitute named Josephine Early—but that was a decade ago, and he hasn’t looked back since. Jo’s still thinking about him, though, or so he learns when he gets a telegram about a peculiar piloting job. It’s a chance to complete two lucrative jobs at once, one he can’t refuse. He sends his old paramour a note and heads for New Orleans, with no idea of what he’s in for—or what she wants him to fly.

But he won’t be flying. Not exactly. Hidden at the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain lurks an astonishing war machine, an immense submersible called the Ganymede. This prototype could end the war, if only anyone had the faintest idea of how to operate it…. If only they could sneak it past the Southern forces at the mouth of the Mississippi River… If only it hadn’t killed most of the men who’d ever set foot inside it.

But it’s those “if onlys” that will decide whether Cly and his crew will end up in the history books, or at the bottom of the ocean.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Giveaway! "The Urban Fantasy Anthology" Edited by Peter S. Beagle & Joe R. Lansdale

Courtesy of Tachyon Publications I have an awesome anthology of urban fantasy to offer for giveaway.

The Urban Fantasy Anthology Edited by Peter S. Beagle & Joe R. Lansdale

Urban fantasy, one of the fastest-growing categories of fiction, is finally fully defined and showcased in this comprehensive star-studded collection. Previously difficult for readers to discover in its new modes, urban fantasy is represented here in all three of its distinct styles, including the playful new mythologies of Charles de Lint, the sexy paranormal romances of Patricia Briggs, and the gritty urban-noir of Neil Gaiman. Whether they feature tattooed demon-hunters, angst-y vampires, supernatural gumshoes, or pixelated pixies, these authors mash-up traditional fare with pop culture, creating iconic characters, conflicted moralities, and complex settings. The result is starkly original fiction that has broad-based appeal and is immensely entertaining.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Peter S. Beagle

Mythic Fiction
Introduction: “A Personal Journey into Mythic Fiction” by Charles de Lint
Emma Bull, “A Bird That Whistles”
Charles de Lint, “Make a Joyful Noise”
Neil Gaiman, “The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories”
Jeffrey Ford, “On the Road to New Egypt”
Peter S. Beagle, “Julie’s Unicorn”

Paranormal Romance
Introduction: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Urban Fantasy” by Paula Guran
Charles de Lint, “Companions to the Moon”
Kelley Armstrong, “A Haunted House of Her Own”
Norman Partridge, “She’s My Witch”
Carrie Vaughn, “Kitty’s Zombie New Year”
Patricia Briggs, “Seeing Eye”
Bruce McAllister, “Hit”
Suzy McKee Charnas, “Boobs”
Francesca Lia Block, “Farewell, My Zombie”

Noir Fantasy
Introduction: “We Are Not a Club, but We Sometimes Share a Room” by Joe R. Lansdale
Thomas M. Disch, “The White Man”
Susan Palwick, “Gestella”
Holly Black, “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown”
Steven R. Boyett, “Talking Back to the Moon”
Joe R. Lansdale, “On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert with Dead Folks”
Tim Powers, “The Bible Repairman”
Al Sarrantonio, “Father Dear”

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 Wednesday August 24th. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere.

Good luck!

**Contest Closed**