Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"John Carter" -- Official Trailer (Updated to Include Second Trailer)

Plot Synopsis: John Carter of Mars is inexplicably transported to the mysterious and exotic planet Mars, and becomes embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions and discovers that the survival of the planet and its people rests in his hands.

John Carter is a sweeping action-adventure set on the mysterious and exotic planet of Barsoom (Mars). John Carter is based on a classic novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose highly imaginative adventures served as inspiration for many filmmakers, both past and present. The film tells the story of war-weary, former military captain John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), who is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet, including Tars Tarkas (Willem Dafoe) and the captivating Princess Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins). In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes that the survival of Barsoom and its people rests in his hands.

I haven't read the series of books written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, on which this movie is based, but there's something to be said for a movie that has source material going back to the early 1900's. I hear that many movies made since then borrow from Burroughs' books, but I'll ignore all those other movies and try to enjoy this based on its own merits.

"Boneshaker" to Come to the Big Screen

Oh hell yeah!

Cherie Priest's steampunk sci-fi novel "Boneshaker" is coming to the bigscreen with Cross Creek Pictures, Exclusive Media Group and Hammer Films onboard.

The companies said Wednesday that Hammer has acquired the rights to the novel. Project will be co-produced by Hammer and Cross Creek Pictures and co-financed by Exclusive and Cross Creek.

John Hilary Shepherd ("Nurse Jackie") is writing the screenplay. Hammer head of production Tobin Armbrust is overseeing.

Priest's novel is set in an alternate version of 1880s Seattle, where the city has been walled in and a toxic gas has turned many of its remaining residents into "Rotters," more commonly known as zombies. A young widow hunts for her teen son in the Seattle underworld while dealing with airship pirates, a criminal overlord and heavily armed refugees.

The novel, published in 2009 by Tor Books, is the first in a series set in the period, which has Priest has dubbed the Clockwork Century. Second novel "Dreadnought" was published in 2010, and the third, "Ganymede," was recently released.

Click HERE to read more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to highlight upcoming books.

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

The Rook by Daniel O'Malley
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Publication date: 1/11/2012
Pages: 496

"The body you are wearing used to be mine." So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Chequy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Chequy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

I have a confession-- this isn't just a can't wait to read selection. I'm already reading it!. But I'm enjoying it so much that I had to feature it.

"Fate's Edge" by Ilona Andrews-- Fun, but Contrived

     I've been a fan of Ilona Andrews ever since I read On the Edge, the first book in "The Edge" series. Despite my sometimes finicky attitude toward paranormal fiction I like the genre when it's inventive and well written and I was really looking forward to Fate's Edge. But, like too many of my favorite urban fiction favorites, I fear the series is starting to buckle under the weight of too many contrivances.

     Audrey Callahan is a former thief with the magical ability to open locks-- an ability and a life she is trying hard to leave in the past. But when her father begs her to do "one last job" while wielding the all-powerful weapon of familial guilt as leverage, Audrey agrees to a heist that ultimately brings her to the attention of some very dangerous people.
     Kaldar Mar is a rogue, gambler and thief who has turned his less-than-legal talents to use as a spy. After Kaldar is assigned to track down the items stolen by Audrey he soon discovers that in the wrong hands they could be a powerful weapon, and the only way to get them back is to track down the thief who stole them in the first place.
     As in all books set in the world of "The Edge" Kaldar will have to travel between the magical realm known as The Weird, the non-magical world known as The Broken as well as the in-between world of The Edge where magic is unreliable at best. Only this time Kaldar has the unexpected complication of some uninvited guests...

     Kids and pets-- the old cliche in movie making is to avoid kids and pets. Maybe that should be the new caveat in writing fiction as well. I'm as likely as anyone to be charmed by precocious kids and anthropomorphic animals-- who wouldn't be after growing up on Disney films? But these tropes that can quickly become overused; especially if a book features more than one. "Fate's Edge" has new adult leads but brings back the youngsters featured in "On the Edge." This time around George, a young necromancer, and Jack, a young lynx changeling, stowaway on Kaldar's transportation as he leaves on his mission to find the stolen items. Naturally, they are prompted to leave home due to misunderstanding that has Jack convinced he'll be sent off to a particularly bleak military school and the kids go through the requisite growing-up experiences on their adventures-- including the rescue of a mistreated cat. And just in case one abused animal wasn't enough, Audrey also has an uncommonly loyal raccoon that follows her around after also being rescued in infancy. None of the story-lines become too cute but there is a small feeling that the book was somewhat written by rote with all the guaranteed ingredients thrown in to ensure its likability.
     And one has to look no further than the main characters to see more personalities that fit into cookie-cutter roles as well. Kaldar, as a former thief and notorious womanizer, is a leading man we've seen many times: the perfect fantasy for women who dream of being able to tame the bad boy.  Audrey is the woman we'd all like to envision ourselves as being: perfectly gorgeous and always ready with the quick comeback. Neither character is poorly written and they have a believable chemistry. The dialog is brisk and clever and it's a book you'll enjoy reading even if it feels slightly predictable.
     I hate to offer a negative review of an author (or team of authors in this case) that I really like, but if I'm impressed by an author at one point I am also someone who expects a certain level of quality in subsequent books. "Fate's Edge" has a certain style to it that should appeal to fans of Andrews' books but I was left feeling that this one was a half-hearted attempt. Not only were the characters somewhat stereotypical, but the plot didn't always flow from a logical progression and had a cut-and-paste feel to it. Characters that are known from previous books and built upon the foundation of familial loyalty are quick to abandon the main characters with the flimsiest of reasons and it's obvious it's only done to push the story to its climactic confrontation-- but it ultimately left me feeling disgruntled at the incongruity.
     I also felt that the setting, which was key in making the earlier books in the series special, was lacking in this installment. Whether the story existed in The Edge, with its tough, poverty-hardened characters, or The Weird, with its unpredictable magic, I was always interested to see what new creatures would show up next. But a lot of "Fate's Edge" takes place in The Broken and when the setting does venture into The Edge it's usually only as a device to allow the characters to use their magic with very little of the atmosphere that made the first two books so intriguing. There is a small segment that is set in The Weird but it's confined to a fairly mundane circumstance and nothing new about The Weird is revealed. Essentially the story could have taken place in any random magical setting.

     Ultimately it seems as if "The Edge" series is prioritizing itself as romance oriented as each book is geared toward creating another idealized couple-- and there's nothing wrong with that. The series is fun to read and perfect if you're looking for some light fiction to pass the time. But "Fate's Edge" didn't quite have the oomph or originality that drew me to the series in the first place. I'll certainly come back for the next installment; I'll just hope for a return to the old formula in the future.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giveaway! "The Alloy of Law" by Brandon Sanderson

Courtesy of Tor Books I have a copy of The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel by Brandon Sanderson to offer for giveaway.

Fresh from the success of The Way of Kings, Brandon Sanderson, best known for completing Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time®, takes a break to return to the world of the bestselling Mistborn series. Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds. Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion.

Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice. One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.

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 Friday, December 16th. No multiple entries please. All multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere.

Good luck!

**Contest Closed**

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to highlight upcoming books.

This weeks can't wait to read selection is:

Doubletake: A Cal Leandros Novel by Rob Thurman
March 6, 2012
352 pages

Half-human/half-monster Cal Leandros knows that family is a pain. But now that pain belongs to his half-brother, Niko. Niko’s shady father is in town, and he needs a big favor. Even worse is the reunion being held by the devious Puck race — including the Leandros’ friend, Robin — featuring a lottery that no Puck wants to win.

As Cal tries to keep both Niko and Robin from paying the ultimate price for their kin, a horrific reminder from Cal’s own past arrives to remind him that blood is thicker than water — and that’s why it’s so much more fun to spill.

I gave the last book in this series a so-so review, but this is still my favorite paranormal series. I have high hopes that "Doubletake" will be a return to form.

R.I.P Anne McCaffrey

So sad to hear this. I've read McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern so many times I've lost count.


Prolific science fiction and fantasy author Anne McCaffrey died Monday at her home in Ireland shortly after suffering a stroke. She was 85.

McCaffrey published nearly 100 books in her lifetime and was best known for her popular “Dragonriders of Pern” novels. In her bio on her website, McCaffrey shared the following insights about her approach to writing and her first novel, which was published in 1967:

“Her first novel, ‘Restoree,’ was written as a protest against the absurd and unrealistic portrayals of women in s-f novels in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. It is, however, in the handling of broader themes and the worlds of her imagination, particularly the two series ‘The Ship Who Sang’ and the fourteen novels about the ‘Dragonriders of Pern,’ that Ms. McCaffrey’s talents as a story-teller are best displayed.”

McCaffrey was born in Cambridge, Mass., and moved to Ireland in 1970. In the late 1960s she became the first woman to win a Hugo Award for a work of fiction and the first woman to win a Nebula Award. She was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2006.

Click HERE to read more.

We'll miss you Anne.

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Dead of Night" by Jonathan Maberry-- Never Lets Go

     I thought I had an idea of what Jonathan Maberry's new book Dead of Night would be like after reading his other zombie-themed novel, Patient Zero, but Maberry surprised me by going beyond your standard action fare by offering a powerhouse of a horror novel.

     When two small town cops, Desdemona (Dez) Fox and her partner JT Hammond, respond to a disturbance at the local funeral home they never imagine the world will be changed forever. As horrifying as the blood-spattered scene is, the true nightmare doesn't begin until they realize the dead aren't staying dead.
     Dez's ex-boyfriend Billy Trout, a reporter for the local newspaper, is on the trail of a juicy story about Homer Gibbon, a serial killer who just received the lethal injection. While trying to find Gibbon's next of kin Trout begins to piece together a story going all the way back to the Cold War and something known as Project Lucifer.
     Herman Volker, a defector from communist Russia, is a scientist with a mad obsession and the creator of Project Lucifer. While continuing his research in secret at a small town prison Volker unwittingly unleashes an unbelievable horror and, as the government tries to stop the plague from spreading, the entire town may have to be sacrificed to keep the whole disaster secret.

     There has been a lot of buzz going around about "Dead of Night" and it is definitely well deserved. I am a big fan of zombie themed fiction and willingly read it in all of its incarnations whether it's comedic or something soulful, but the main attraction is always the underlying horror of the story-- something Maberry conveys very well. The narrative builds quickly as the story jumps right into the action and deftly weaves together the varying story lines into a cohesive whole and before you're halfway through you're hooked.
     Most of the story follows the two main characters and each represent a part of the discovery process. Dez is on the front line of zombie attacks and she and her partner J.T. witness the early carnage as they try to sort out what is happening. Billy Trout represents the investigative process as his digs into the origins of Project Lucifer and draws out the truth of why it was created in the first place and how it was unleashed. When the story does deviate into other p.o.v.'s it's usually to flesh out the story-- so to speak-- as Maberry takes great care to create a back story that explains the origins of the zombie plague and give it a credible scientific spin.
     The characters are interesting and, while I wouldn't call them stereotypes, they are people we've seen before. Dez reminds me a lot of Kara Thrace from BSG:  a seriously damaged badass with abandonment issues who chases away anyone who tries to get close. Maberry doesn't shy away from making Dez a character that is hard to like, but she's compelling and definitely someone to root for. Billy Trout is too much of a bad boy to be the Lee Adama to Dez's Kara Thrace, though their relationship does have a lot of baggage, and he has a strong understanding of what makes Dez tick-- and loves her anyway. J.T. fills the role of mentor and friend to Dez who gently tries to nurture Dez's relationship with Billy.  Herman Volker is a good villain because he isn't one-dimensional. What he does is wrong, evil even, but he is driven by a tragic past and never intended for Project Lucifer to escape beyond the strictest boundaries.

     There are a lot of things that make "Dead of Night" a better-than-average zombie story. It is genuinely suspenseful and the small-town setting really drives home the horror as the characters are routinely confronted with situations in which their friends and neighbors are overtaken by the plague. These zombies aren't the slow, shambling kind either and thanks to the genetic tweaking of Project Lucifer they aren't entirely unaware of their circumstances-- as we learn through the eyes of one of the infected characters. The added uncertainty of the military being sent to keep the situation secret, rather than save the town, also adds another layer of dread as it is a situation that is too easy to imagine; and one that feeds into the basic fear of not being able to trust those who promise to come to our rescue.
     There might be a glut of zombie fiction out there but Maberry offers something that stands out in a crowded field. "Dead of Night" isn't some lightweight offering nor is he trying to turn the zombies into some kind of tragic hero (as some authors are now inexplicably trying to do). This is a horror novel-- like zombie fiction should be.

4 1/5 out of 5 stars.

Movie Review: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark

In one of the most iconic films of the early 80s, Harrison Ford defies death, the Third Reich and, most importantly, the Star Wars curse as he battles to obtain one of the most sacred artifacts of the Western World.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Review: Star Wars – The Old Republic: Revan by Drew Karpyshyn

Prior to Revenge of the Sith, it was rare to see anything resembling a tragedy in a Star Wars book, and even since then when it occurs it is usually in terms of a secondary character – not the one who the book is named after. I’m not complaining about this move, it makes for a very different reading experience than what you’ll most often find in a Star Wars story – but I also felt it was important to note in a review that might be read by fans who only occasionally check out a Star Wars book.

 If you’re looking for your standard Star Wars action adventure, you’ll find some of that herein (just as you might in Revenge of the Sith) but mostly the sense of foreboding that you might feel when reading it is justified – things are not going to go well for Revan. Revan is a Jedi who turned to the dark side, was mind-wiped by the Jedi Council and ultimately came back to the light to defeat his own apprentice. But he’s a hero that can’t be trusted, because no one knows why he turned to the Dark Side in the first place – a question even he doesn’t know the answer to. He is having visions of a storm covered planet, where he believes a threat exists which may hold those answers.

 Leaving his pregnant wife behind, Revan along with the Mandalorian named Canderous and his loyal astromech droid T3, will head into the unknown regions of space. The first clue lay on the planet hiding the mask of the leader of the Mandalorian people when he was defeated in single combat by Revan. Here Canderous will face his own demons. His people are in search of the mask in order to unite again and wage war against the Republic, a war they lost and one which would only result in more bloodshed on both sides. Canderous might be the leader his people need having worked with a Jedi, but it’s just one more betrayal to add to his having abandoned them in their time of need.

 Meanwhile, an unknown Sith Empire has slowly been amassing power in the unknown regions of space – but threats to one of the inner circle of advisors to the Emporer, and suspicions of a greater rebellion brewing have forced them to call upon a relative outsider, Darth Scourge, to investigate. Because he has not been a part of the machinations of the various Sith Lords, he may be able to unravel the plot against Darth Nyriss – if her own advisors and security officers don’t destroy him first. It’s seen as a betrayal of their trust that an outsider should be brought in to do their jobs, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep him from succeeding – or is that because they are a part of the conspiracy themselves. The answers to these questions will give Scourge cause to question his own understanding of the Force as well as his loyalty to the Emperor.

 As years pass and Revan’s wife Bastilla raises their child alone, a message finally comes in the form of the returning droid T3, who was found by the Jedi Exile Meetra. Revan’s last known whereabouts were on a world in the unknown regions, where it appears two Sith took him into custody. Bastilla cannot leave her young child to go in search of her missing husband, but Meetra was his most trusted general during the Mandalorian War and she is more than willing to take up the quest. Her journey will take her into the heart of the secret Sith Empire, and into a final confrontation that may secure a peace for generations to come – but at a heavy price.

 Revan is a character introduced in the original Knights of the Old Republic videogame for the X-Box and PC, in fact he’s the character you play as while you become the redeemed hero described above. Likewise Meetra is the main character from the sequel to that game, and though you need not have played either to enjoy this book it is helpful as a reader already familiar with these characters will feel more strongly attached to them. Because Drew Karpyshyn was one of the writers of the original game, and a writer of the new The Old Republic MMO, Revan comes off as the strongest character in the narrative. He is driven to uncover his memories – convinced it is the only way he can keep his child from knowing the horrors of war. He’s a powerful Jedi, far more like those of Luke Skywalker’s era where to have a better understanding of the Force, they must not fear the Dark Side. Meetra comes off a little weaker in characterization, only driven by her desire to help Revan whatever the cost to herself – but without any real reason other than loyalty to him. Drew Karpyshyn has a tendency to turn Star Wars stories slightly on their ear, like in making the Sith the more relatable characters in the Darth Bane series, and he does so again here with the Sith Empire.

This is the most complete picture readers of The Old Republic novels have gotten yet of this side of the conflict, and I’m always intrigued by how differently the people who live by that set of rules thinks. There are multiple layers of plots, turning villains into unknown agents who may hold the key to victory or defeat. I enjoyed Revan, but ultimately I have some mixed feelings on it as well. I love Drew Karpyshyn’s Bane novels, and while Revan is a good book, I don’t think it’s quite at the level of those novels. Perhaps it’s the nature of it being a tragedy – which isn’t necessarily to my taste in a novel. Maybe it’s because, more than the prior The Old Republic books, this actually feels like a prequel or “set-up” to the game. It seems obvious to me that a number of the plots left dangling at the end of this book will be picked up by players once the game is released. That’s not to say that the book does not tell a complete story, it does – it just isn’t resolved in a way that was very satisfying for me.

At the same time, I loved visiting again with these characters (as I’m one who actually got to play the Knights of the Old Republic games) – though I did wish that more of the characters had made appearances instead of just being name dropped. Honestly though the author made the right choice with regards to that, as it would have just been catering more to the hardcore fan than serving a purpose in the story. I love The Old Republic setting for this new series of novels associated with the videogame, it tends to be very accessible to new fans and has resulted in some nice surprising twists on what I’d normally expect from a Star Wars story – and Revan continues to live up to that expectation. It’s not necessarily the best book to begin a journey into The Old Republic era (I’d still recommend Fatal Alliance as the best place to start, even though Revan is chronologically first) but it’s a welcome addition to the series and I look forward to Drew Karpyshyn’s recently announced next book in the series.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Green Lantern Week Part 5: Green Lantern: The New Guardians.

Wow, this article took a while to come out. I hope it's worth it, as this is the comic that has the potential to be my favorite of them all. Green Lantern: New Guardians took the ideas that a lot of readers found most compelling about Geoff Johns's run in Green Lantern and Blackest Night, namely the emotional spectrum and the seven Corps. While these aren't the "New Guardians" as I believe they were described during Brightest Day (Hal Jordan, Sinestro, Atrocitus, Indigo-1, Carol Ferris, Larfleeze and Saint Walker), this group is made of the same basic concept: one member of each Corps. As of issue 2, Saint Walker is the only returning member of the group, with New York Comic-Con hints lending to Larfleeze's catching up with his rogue ring in issue #3.
For those unfamiliar, the "emotional spectrum" is the foundation that life and emotion are built on in the Green Lantern universe. It was founded by seven entities (who were secondary to Entity, the personification of life, and Nekron, the personification of death), each of which created a powerful energy source and tied in to a certain emotion. These emotions and energy sources were Rage (Red), Avarice (Orange), Fear (Yellow), Will (Green), Hope (Blue), Compassion (Indigo) and Love (Violet). From each of these power sources, an almost omnipotent ring-wielding corps was formed, the members of each corresponding with their ring's guiding emotion. Each Corps has its own strengths and weaknesses, many of which have been explored, but most of which have not.
Let me give you some insight into my own tastes, and you might see why I love this concept so much. Some of the shows I enjoyed as a child: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Sailor Moon, Captain Planet, even Care Bears and My Little Pony. What do these all have in common? A group of individuals, each with similar yet subtly different powers, that would combine these abilities in order to combat a threat. Of course, you get this with any group dynamic, but it's usually exaggerated to epic proportions in this kind of team, and so is the enjoyment factor in watching it.
And then of course, you get things like this:
By your powers combined, I am Captain Planet!
There are so many tropes and shows based around this kind of combining powers that I couldn't do the topic justice in this post. Generally, it's awesome whenever it happens, and it's pretty much the premise that New Guardians was based on. While we still don't know why six extra rings sought out Green Lantern Kyle Rayner, the indication is that we're getting ever closer to a true answer, and an ultimate upheaval of the balance of power in the universe. Unless this series takes a grave misstep at some point in the future, it's something that I'm going to look forward to on the last week of every month.

Waiting on Wednesday

This is a blog meme hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine to spotlight upcoming books.

This weeks can't wait to read selection is:

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
DAW Hardcover
February 7, 2012
448 pages

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, land of djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, Khalifs and killers, is at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings:

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, "The last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat," just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame's family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter's path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla's young assistant, a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety, is eager to deliver God's justice. But even as Raseed's sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the Lion-Shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man's title. She lives only to avenge her father's death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father's killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince's brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time--and struggle against their own misgivings--to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

This just sounds so exotic and interesting to me. I'm really in the mood for some good, inventive fantasy right now and this looks perfect.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Short Story Collection Giveaway (4 books!)

Courtesy of Penguin Books I have a collection of short stories-- 4 books worth-- to offer one lucky winner.

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

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

Courts of the Fey Edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Russell Davis

Fantasy, whether classic or contemporary, has always been based on the conflict between the forces of Light and Darkness. Now some of the genre's most inventive authors bring readers into the Seelie Court, where all serve the Queen of Air and Light, and the Unseelie Court, where the forces of Darkness hold sway.

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

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

Zombiesque Edited by Stephen L. Antczak, James C. Bassett and Martin H. Greenberg

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

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 November 29th. Open everywhere.

Good luck!

**Contest Closed**

New Trailer-- "The Hunger Games"

This looks so good!

Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains.

Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

THE HUNGER GAMES is directed by Gary Ross, and produced by Nina Jacobson’s Color Force in tandem with producer Jon Kilik. Suzanne Collins’ best-selling novel, the first in a trilogy published by Scholastic that has over 16 million copies in print in the United States alone, has developed a massive global following.

Lionsgate will release THE HUNGER GAMES on March 23, 2012.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Guest Review: "The Shadow Reader" by Sandy Williams

One thing we bloggers do is share books. I think of it as a kind of pay-it-forward kind of thing and I've been the lucky recipient of this more than a few times. This time around I sent my copy of The Shadow Reader to Sara at Sara's Urban Fantasy Blog and she graciously wrote a review for me to post in return.

Title: The Shadow Reader ARC
Author: Sandy Williams
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Release Date: 10/25/11
A Houston college student, McKenzie Lewis can track fae by reading the shadows they leave behind. For years she has been working for the fae King, tracking rebels who would claim the Realm. Her job isn't her only secret. She's in love with Kyol, the King's sword-master-but human and fae relationships are forbidden. When McKenzie is captured by Aren, the fierce rebel leader, she learns that not everything is as she thought. And McKenzie must decide who to trust and where she stands in the face of a cataclysmic civil war.

Plot: 4.5 Stars
Normally, I’m not the biggest fan of a kidnapping plot line, but somehow this novel was different. The kidnapping in this novel wasn’t nearly as malevolent as it could have been which definitely helped me enjoy the novel. Aren and the rebels wanted to sway McKenzie to their side of the war, show that things may not be as black and white as she thought. There’s a bit of a tug-o-war for McKenzie and her ability, and she soon found herself in sticky situation after even stickier situation. The author’s take on the Fae was also very intricate and unique. Faerie novels don’t always work for me outside of Young Adult, but this one really stood out. If I had one complaint about the plot, it would be that McKenzie doesn’t use her ability of shadow reading enough. She actually sat down and did it only a handful of times, and although she mentioned it a couple other times when she saw Fae going through rifts, I would’ve liked to learn a bit more about it. Especially since the novel was named after the ability. But this one small thing barely takes away from this fantastic debut.

Pace: 4.5 Stars
This novel was non-stop action. There were multiple captures of multiple characters. There were multiple escapes attempted by McKenzie, most unsuccessful. She shifted between realms more often than she ever had before, and it started to take its toll. There was never a dull moment, and never really a time when the characters sat around waiting for the next attack. They were constantly in motion, constantly planning new attacks and escapes, constantly scheming and it was a lot of fun to read. There were so many twists and turns at just the right moments, keeping me on my toes.

Characters: 5 Stars
McKenzie was a very interesting Urban Fantasy heroine. She has been helping the royal Fae with her shadow reading skill since she was a teenager. Although she doesn’t know everything about the realm, including the language, she isn’t completely lost. After being captured by the rebels, a lot of her beliefs are thrown for a loop and it was very interesting to watch as she tried to put things back together. She often fought against what she was being shown and didn’t always take new information in stride. This stubbornness made her feel more like a real person. Aren was a very interesting bad guy. After kidnapping McKenzie, he treats her very well and legitimately wants to help her see the rebel cause. He even goes as far as teaching McKenzie the language of the Fae. On top of that, he stirred up some confusing feelings for McKenzie, which she had to deal with on top of everything else. Kyol isn’t seen much until the second half of the book, so the reader mostly learned about him through McKenzie in the beginning. He isn’t as open and forthcoming as Aren due to his position in the royal court, and is pulled in different direction by both the court and McKenzie. The dynamic of these three main characters was very interesting, and it was definitely more complex than your typical “love triangle.”

Cover: 4.5 Stars
This cover’s color scheme is what originally drew my eye. It’s not very often I come across a pink novel, especially in the Urban Fantasy genre. Somehow, the artist was able to make the pink look sassy instead of too girly. It probably has something to do with the large sword on the cover model’s back. The cover model herself is a good representation of McKenzie. The swirling hair brings the focus to the model and her weapon. And her outfit works really well. The cover model is in normal clothes because McKenzie spends most of the novel in normal clothes. I’m glad the Urban Fantasy genre is moving away from every cover model dressed in barely there black leather. A girl can kick just as much ass in some jeans. The swirls of color add a nice touch to the cover as well. They mimic the lightning that runs across a human’s skin when in the Fae realm, or a Fae’s skin in the human realm. The setting of the cover is also reminiscent of a scene in the beginning of the novel.

Overall: 4.5 Stars

Friday, November 11, 2011

Green Lantern Week Part 4: Green Lantern Corps

This is going to be the shortest part of Green Lantern week, because there is a fairly limited amount that I have to say about Green Lantern Corps. Like Green Lantern, the third volume of Green Lantern Corps is being written by the same man as volume two, in this case Peter Tomasi. While the previous edition of Green Lantern largely ignored John Stewart before the new volume expanded the role of Sinestro, however, Green Lantern Corps was always a tale of both partners and an ensemble cast.

While the new volume hasn't really had a chance to test out the ensemble- other than leaving it clearly evident that the new rookies introduced in volume 2 are around in the altered timeline, another aspect that I feel weakens the sacrifices of Green Lanterns who had previously been said to have worked with Hal Jordan for many years- the partnership dynamic of the two Earth Lanterns has very clearly changed.

In Volume 2, John Stewart and Hal Jordan were the two Green Lanterns of Earth, while their cohorts Guy Gardner and Kyle Rayner were each elevated to the role of Honor Lantern, effectively making them third and fourth in command of the Green Lanterns. In Volume Three, the Honor Guard is effectively removed, a mystery that I'm content to let the story tell or leave as something erased by the "de-aging" of the universe, and Guy and John are instead the Green Lanterns of Earth, though they're clearly senior lanterns who are called upon in times of need, much as Sinestro was in some incarnations of the story.

Green Lantern Corps has been known to tackle threats to the entire Corps, and that is what the first two issues of the new volume have done. After the deaths of several lanterns, Guy and John lead a team of lanterns to face the threat, who we will later learn are called the Keepers and we have seen wield the green light of will.

I mentioned on Monday that Green Lantern Corps was the most effective #1, explaining some degree of the differences in the reboot as well as introducing the concept of the new series. I also feel Green Lantern Corps has long been the more boring of the GL titles, showing a lot of emphasis on life as a Lantern (which is not quite as exciting as life as a space marine, being able to return home easily between missions). This being a space opera story rather than a superhero story, the characters need to be extremely fleshed out and interesting in order to have the same effect, because that is what the emphasis of the genre is. This has been achieved to varying levels of success in the past- I care very little for Isamot and Vath, with Guy, Kyle and Soranith being very successful characters for me. Some other characters that did little for me may or may not return, and Arisia, a long-time beloved character, is equally up in the air. Suffice it to say that so far, this series has kept my attention very well. Only time will tell if it remains as strong.

Audiobook Review: The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley

I always label these things as “Audiobook Reviews” but I tend towards the audio dramas, and this was no exception. Despite being a life-long fan of Zorro (I was dressing as Zorro for Halloween fairly consistently as a child) somehow I have managed to have never read the original book, Curse of the Capistrano – otherwise known as The Mark of Zorro. Upon discovering that there had been a recent audio dramatization of the book, I immediately sought it out to fill the time in my driving commute. My only reservation was in the casting of Val Kilmer as Don Diego – I’ve found his performances to be inconsistent in the past (sometimes great, sometimes terrible). I’m happy to say my fears were completely unfounded, in fact I’m not sure that I’ve have really recognized it as Val Kilmer without having been told it up front.

The presentation of this story is a large part of the appeal – if you like the way the old serials were, or the way some popular movies have managed to capture the feel of those serials (like Indiana Jones) – this should feel very familiar. The narrator is the owner of a tavern in Los Angeles, who brings the listener up to speed with some of the recent exploits of the masked man named Zorro. Is he fighting for the people, or is he a menace? At this point, not too many people really know – from the nobility (the Dons) on down to the lowest of people. But Sergeant Gonzales intends to end his rein of terror – right after he finishes his meal and drink. Zorro of course surprises him and manages to overpower him without difficulty, scratching his mark upon the man’s face – though a running gag will continue as those who match blades with Zorro will increasingly fabricate outlandish stories as to why Zorro didn’t fight fair and couldn’t possibly best them without resorting to cheating.

 Meanwhile, Don Diego has been set a task by his father – find a wife or forfeit his family’s position. Diego seeks out Lolita, the daughter of a family who have long been friends of theirs – but who have also fallen out of favor with the governor of California. Lolita can’t stand the lazy Diego, who shows little interest in anything, least of all defending her honor when she is accosted by the Commandante who wants to force her to marry him. But of course, it is Zorro who comes to her rescue – and Zorro whom she falls in love with. And through a series of adventures their paths will continue to cross, ultimately leading to a small revolution in which Zorro shall play a pivotal role. Through subtle hints the listener is able to determine that Don Diego is Zorro, despite the fact that it is never revealed within the story, which I found to be another interesting aspect of this particular tale.

 The acting, music, sound effects and narration were all used to wonderful effect in this audio drama – it felt like I was listening to a radio program of old. At the same time, the story didn’t feel dated to me – perhaps it’s been adapted some for this new performance, but it seems to me a classic enough story that it likely didn’t need many changes. I hope more of these older Zorro stories get the same treatment, I understand there are a few more Johnston books featuring the character and I’d love to have the opportunity to hear them all this way. But for anyone who may be like me and always wondered what the first story was like – it’s well worth checking out The Mark of Zorro.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Snow White & the Huntsman" Trailer

This may get pulled (a lot of the links are getting shut down). If it does you can also see the trailer HERE at i09.

This looks like it may be a good one. I'm just not sure that I buy the part where Kristen Stewart will surpass Charlize Theron as the fairest of the them all.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Books Received

The Shape of Desire by Sharon Shinn

For fifteen years Maria Devane has been desperately, passionately in love with Dante Romano. But despite loving him with all of her heart and soul, Maria knows that Dante can never give all of himself back-at least not all the time.

Every month, Dante shifts shape, becoming a wild animal. During those times, he wanders far and wide, leaving Maria alone. He can't choose when he shifts, the transition is often abrupt and, as he gets older, the time he spends in human form is gradually decreasing. But Maria, who loves him without hesitation, wouldn't trade their unusual relationship for anything.

Since the beginning, she has kept his secret, knowing that their love is worth the danger. But when a string of brutal attacks occur in local parks during the times when Dante is in animal form, Maria is forced to consider whether the lies she's been telling about her life have turned into lies she's telling herself...

Giant Thief by David Tallerman

Meet Easie Damasco, rogue, thieving swine and total charmer.

Yet even the wicked can’t rest when a vicious warlord and the force of enslaved giants he commands invade their homeland. Even then, Damasco might get away in one piece – if he’d only stop at stealing a giant and keep his hands off the warlord’s treasure.

Damasco’s spent his whole life on the run, living by his wits. But can even he outwit an enemy who’ll stop at absolutely nothing to regain the priceless artificact he’s stolen from the warlord?

Empire State by Adam Christopher

THE EMPIRE STATE IS THE OTHER NEW YORK. A parallel-universe, Prohibition-era world of mooks and shamuses that is the twisted magic mirror to our bustling Big Apple, a place where sinister characters lurk around every corner while the great superheroes that once kept the streets safe have fallen into dysfunctional rivalries and feuds. Not that its colourful residents know anything about the real New York… until detective Rad Bradley makes a discovery that will change the lives of all its inhabitants.

Playing on the classic Gotham conventions of the Batman comics and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, debut author Adam Christopher has spun this smart and fast-paced superhero-noir adventure, the sort of souped-up thrill ride that will excite genre fans and general readers alike.

Supervolcano: Eruption (Supervolcano Trilogy) by Harry Turtledove

A supervolcanic eruption in Yellowstone Park sends lava and mud flowing toward populated areas, and clouds of ash drifting across the country. The fallout destroys crops and livestock, clogs machinery, and makes cities uninhabitable. Those who survive find themselves caught in an apocalyptic catastrophe in which humanity has no choice but to rise from the ashes and recreate the world...

Human for a Day Edited by Martin H. Greenburg and Jennifer Brozek

Here's an anthology that examines what it means to be human in all its positive and negative aspects. If you were an intelligent robot, would the opportunity to become human for a day be worth the risks? If a magic spell switched the bodies of a vampire and a teenage girl, would both savor the experience or search for a way to undo the enchantment? What tests would an angel face if transformed into a mortal for a day? These are just a few of the inventive stories-some humorous, some sad, many thought-provoking, and all unique-to be found in Human for a Day.

City of the Lost by Stephen Blackmore

Joe Sunday has been a Los Angeles low-life for years, but his life gets a whole lot lower when he is killed by the rival of his crime boss-only to return as a zombie. His only hope is to find and steal a talisman that he learns can grant immortality. But, unfortunately for Joe, every other undead thug and crime boss in Los Angeles is looking for the same thing.

Under the Vale and Other Tales of Valdemar Edited by Mercedes Lackey

In March 1987, a young author from Oklahoma published her first novel, Arrows of the Queen. This modest book about a magical land called Valdemar was the beginning of a fantasy masterwork series that would span decades and include more than two dozen titles. Now readers can travel to the world of Valdemar with Tanya Huff, Mickey Zucker Reichert, Fiona Patton, Rosemary Edghill, Judith Tarr, and others in these original stories, including an all-new novella from Mercedes Lackey.

Alien Proliferation by Gini Koch

Alien Super-Being Exterminator Kitty Katt is expecting her first baby. But the alien attacks are getting more dangerous, and now Kitty and her Alpha Centaurion husband, Jeff, have to find out who's behind the conspiracy to kill Kitty's secret agent mom and what caused Kitty's transformation into a superhuman-and they've got to do it all before the baby shower...

Fate's Edge (The Edge, Book 3) by Ilona Andrews

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...

Endurance (Green Universe 2) by Jay Lake

Green is back in Copper Downs. Purchased from her father in sunny Selistan when she was four years old, she was harshly raised to be a courtesan, companion, and bedmate of the Immortal Duke of Copper Downs. But Green rebelled. Green killed the Duke, and many others, and won her freedom. Yet she is still claimed by the gods and goddesses of her world, and they still require her service. Their demands are greater than any duke’s could have been.

Godslayers have come to the Stone Coast, magicians whose cult is dedicated to destroying the many gods of Green’s world. In the turmoil following the Immortal Duke’s murder, Green made a God out of her power and her memories. Now the gods turn to her to protect them from the Slayers.

Jay Lake brings us an epic fantasy not "in the tradition of Tolkien," but, instead, sensual, ominous, shot through with the sweat of fear and the intoxication of power.

Scholar: A Novel in the Imager Portfolio by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Hundreds of years before the time of Imager, the continent of Lydar is fragmented. Years of war have consolidated five nations into three--Bovaria, Telaryn, and Antiago. Quaeryt is a scholar and a friend of Bhayar, the young ruler of Telaryn. Worried about his future and the escalating intrigues in Solis, the capital city, Quaeryt persuades Bhayar to send him to Tilbor, conquered ten years earlier by Bhayar’s father, in order to see if the number and extent of occupying troops can be reduced so that they can be re-deployed to the border with warlike Bovaria.

Quaeryt has managed to conceal the fact that he is an imager, since the life expectancies of imagers in Lydar is short. Just before Quaeryt departs, Bhayar’s youngest sister passes a letter to the scholar-imager, a letter that could well embroil Quaeryt in the welter of court politics he had hoped to leave behind. On top of that, on his voyage and journey to Tilbor he must face pirates, storms, poisonings, attempted murder, as well as discovering the fact that he is not quite who he thought he was. To make it all worse, the order of scholars to which he belongs is jeopardized in more ways than one.

The Space Between by Brenna Yovanoff

Everything is made of steel, even the flowers. How can you love anything in a place like this?

Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped - and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible. Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie's whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.

This second novel by rising star Brenna Yovanoff is a story of identity, discovery, and a troubled love between two people struggling to find their place both in our world and theirs.

Saints Astray (Santa Olivia) by Jacqueline Carey

Fellow orphans, amateur vigilantes, and members of the Santitos, Loup Garron-the fugitive daughter of a genetically engineered "wolf man"-and Pilar Ecchevarria grew up in the military zone of Outpost 12, formerly known as Santa Olivia. But now they're free, and they want to help the rest of the Santitos escape. During a series of escapades, they discover that Miguel, Loup's former sparring partner and reprobate surrogate brother, has escaped from Outpost 12 and is testifying on behalf of its forgotten citizens-at least until he disappears from protective custody. Honor drives Loup to rescue Miguel, even though entering the U.S could mean losing her liberty. Pilar vows to help her.

It will take a daring and absurd caper to extricate Miguel from the mess he's created but Loup is prepared to risk everything... and this time she has help.

Immortal Rider (Lords of Deliverance) by Larissa Ione

The signs are everywhere...disastrous world events. Evil rising up, unleashed upon the innocent. The prophecies were there...but no one listened. Until now. The time has come for those who can either usher in Doomsday...or prevent it. They are here. They ride. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Arik Wagner, a soldier with the U.S. Army's paranormal unit, the R-XR, kissed a girl and liked it. And then he went to hell as punishment. Where he's spent weeks being tortured...and plotting revenge.

Limos, Horsewoman of the Apocalypse, isn't your average girl. She's immortal, dangerous, and her fiancé is Satan himself. In a moment of weakness, she gave in to her desire and kissed Arik, triggering her fiancé's wrath - and his claim on her. In order to save Arik, and the world, Limos must make a dangerous pact with her recently turned evil brother, Pestilence. A deal that might just cost her her soul...and her heart.

Bad Blood (House of Comarré) by Kristin Painter

Samhain approaches, bringing with it the final melding of the mortal and othernatural worlds. No one knows just how much power the night holds...

Violent murders occur in Paradise City as counterfeit comarré are systematically hunted. The police and the Kubai Mata have more than enough trouble to keep themselves occupied. As war erupts at home, Malkolm and Chrysabelle head to New Orleans to recover the Ring of Sorrows. Chrysabelle is forced to make a life and death decision and will realize that her relationship to Malkolm may have fatal consequences.
The clock is ticking . . .

The Alloy of Law: A Mistborn Novel by Brandon Sanderson

Three hundred years after the events of the Mistborn trilogy, Scadrial is now on the verge of modernity, with railroads to supplement the canals, electric lighting in the streets and the homes of the wealthy, and the first steel-framed skyscrapers racing for the clouds.

Kelsier, Vin, Elend, Sazed, Spook, and the rest are now part of history—or religion. Yet even as science and technology are reaching new heights, the old magics of Allomancy and Feruchemy continue to play a role in this reborn world. Out in the frontier lands known as the Roughs, they are crucial tools for the brave men and women attempting to establish order and justice.

One such is Waxillium Ladrian, a rare Twinborn, who can Push on metals with his Allomancy and use Feruchemy to become lighter or heavier at will. After twenty years in the Roughs, Wax has been forced by family tragedy to return to the metropolis of Elendel. Now he must reluctantly put away his guns and assume the duties and dignity incumbent upon the head of a noble house. Or so he thinks, until he learns the hard way that the mansions and elegant tree-lined streets of the city can be even more dangerous than the dusty plains of the Roughs.