Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

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

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

Days of Blood and Starlight by Laini Taylor

Publisher: Little, Brown
Pages: 304 pages
Date: September 18, 2012

In this stunning sequel to the highly acclaimed "Daughter of Smoke and Bone," Karou must come to terms with who and what she is, and how far she'll go to avenge her people. Filled with heartbreak and beauty, mysteries and secrets, new characters and old favorites, Days of Blood and Starlight brings the richness, color and intensity of the first book to a brand new canvas.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone was declared a "must read" by Entertainment Weekly, was named a Best Book of the Year by Amazon.com, and The New York Times called it "a breath-catching romantic fantasy."

I LOVED Daughter of Smoke and Bone and as soon as I saw that "Days of Blood and Starlight" had a release date I knew I had to put it on the list. I only wish I had the final cover to post and a more complete description-- but I urge anyone who hasn't read "Daughter of Smoke and Bone" to pick up a copy-- it was the best book I read last year.

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

 A Just Determination by John G. Hemry (Jack Cambell)
Publisher: ACE
Date: March 27, 2012 (reissue)
Pages: 272

Ensign Paul Sinclair is fresh out of the Naval Academy and assigned to the USS Michaelson as the ship's lone legal officer. The warship's mission is to patrol a very large volume of space, enforcing the U.S. claim on valuable transit routes and mineral rich asteroids.
When a South Asian Alliance ship trespasses into U.S. territory and runs from the Michaelson when approached, Captain Pete Wakeman decides to try and catch the intruding vessel before it leaves U.S. space. Wakeman's attempts at communication with the mysterious ship go unanswered, and when he fires a warning shot across the ship's bow, the ship changes its course and begins heading right for the Michaelson. Although the Alliance ship has no visible weapons, Wakeman takes no chances and fires on the ship, destroying it and everyone aboard.
When the Michaelson is ordered to return to port and the captain is court-martialed, young Sinclair must decide whether to keep quiet like everyone else or stand up for what he believes in -- a decision that could ruin his career as well as Wakeman's.

Despite my love of Jack Campbell's Lost Fleet series, I have yet to branch out and read any of the other novels he's written. This re-release (which was also done recently by ACE for his Stark's War series, but with a much worse cover design, looking like something out of the romance aisle) provides me a nice opportunity to correct that.

Books Received *Updated*

The Troupe by Robert Jackson Bennett

Vaudeville: mad, mercenary, dreamy, and absurd, a world of clashing cultures and ferocious showmanship and wickedly delightful deceptions.
But sixteen-year-old pianist George Carole has joined vaudeville for one reason only: to find the man he suspects to be his father, the great Heironomo Silenus. Yet as he chases down his father's troupe, he begins to understand that their performances are strange even for vaudeville: for wherever they happen to tour, the very nature of the world seems to change.

Because there is a secret within Silenus's show so ancient and dangerous that it has won him many powerful enemies. And it's not until after he joins them that George realizes the troupe is not simply touring: they are running for their lives.

And soon...he is as well.

Soulless: The Manga, Vol. 1 (The Parasol Protectorate (Manga)) by Gail Carriger

Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate. With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Or will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

Timeless by Gail Carriger

Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon, has settled into domestic bliss. Of course, being Alexia, such bliss involves integrating werewolves into London High society, living in a vampire's second best closet, and coping with a precocious toddler who is prone to turning supernatural willy-nilly. Even Ivy Tunstell's acting troupe's latest play, disastrous to say the least, cannot put a damper on Alexia's enjoyment of her new London lifestyle.

Until, that is, she receives a summons from Alexandria that cannot be ignored. With husband, child, and Tunstells in tow, Alexia boards a steamer to cross the Mediterranean. But Egypt may hold more mysteries than even the indomitable Lady Maccon can handle. What does the vampire Queen of the Alexandria Hive really want from her? Why is the God-Breaker Plague suddenly expanding? And how has Ivy Tunstell suddenly become the most popular actress in all the British Empire?

The Kingdoms of Dust by Amanda Downum

With her master dead and her oaths foresworn, necromancer and spy Isyllt Iskaldur finds herself in exile. Hounded by assassins, she seeks asylum in Assar, the empire she so recently worked to undermine.
Warlords threaten the empire's fragile peace, and the empress is beset by enemies within the court. Even worse, darkness stirs in the deep desert. Ancient spirits long held captive are waking - spirits that can destroy Assar faster than any army.

Accompanied by an outcast jinn, Isyllt must travel into the heart of the desert to lay the darkness there to rest once more. But her sympathies are torn between the captive spirits and the order of mages sworn to bind them. And whichever choice she makes could raze the empire to dust.

The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan

India Morgan Phelps-Imp to her friends-is schizophrenic. Struggling with her perceptions of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about her encounters with creatures out of myth-or from something far, far stranger...

Carpathia by Matt Forbeck

It's Titanic meets 30 Days of Night.

When the survivors of the Titanic are picked up by the passenger steamship Carpathia, they thought their problems were over.

But something's sleeping in the darkest recesses of the ship. Something old. Something hungry.

Soul Bound by Mari Mancusi

Sunny McDonald and her vampire boyfriend, Magnus, are on the run-accused of treason and wanted alive...or undead. And her twin is the slayer sent to track them down.

Rayne would do anything to save her twin sister, Sunny, from the Vampire Consortium dictator who wants her dead. Instead, she's been commissioned by Slayer Inc. to find Sunny and Magnus and deliver them to the Consortium...which Rayne knows means certain death. She also knows that if she and her boyfriend, Jareth, disobey orders, they are signing not only their own death warrants, but also those of every vampire in the Blood Coven.

As a rival slayer with a personal vendetta moves in, Rayne and Jareth must do something to stop her. So they embark on their most dangerous journey yet, deep beneath the streets of New York City and through the Gates of the Underworld. But when a greedy god demands the ultimate sacrifice, will Rayne be forced to choose between her sister...and the vampire she loves?

Fair Game by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Mercy Thompson novels, "always enchants her readers." (Lynn Viehl, New York Times bestselling author) Now her Alpha and Omega series-set in a world of shifting shapes, loyalty, and passion- brings werewolves out of the darkness and into a society where fear and prejudice could make the hunters prey...

They say opposites attract. And in the case of werewolves Anna Latham and Charles Cornick, they mate. The son-and enforcer-of the leader of the North American werewolves, Charles is a dominant alpha. While Anna, an omega, has the rare ability to calm others of her kind.

Now that the werewolves have revealed themselves to humans, they can't afford any bad publicity. Infractions that could have been overlooked in the past must now be punished, and the strain of doing his father's dirty work is taking a toll on Charles.

Nevertheless, Charles and Anna are sent to Boston, when the FBI requests the pack's help on a local serial killer case. They quickly realize that not only the last two victims were werewolves-all of them were. Someone is targeting their kind. And now Anna and Charles have put themselves right in the killer's sights...

Vampire's Kiss by Veronica Wolff

As someone who has survived her first year as an Acari recruit, Drew's ultimate goal is to become a Watcher and be paired up with a Vampire agent. Except nothing is as it seems. The vampire Alcántara is as sinister as he is sexy, Ronan is more distant than ever, and it turns out there are other vampires out there. Bad ones. They've captured one of the Watcher vamps and are torturing him for information-and Drew is going undercover to rescue him.

But when their vampire prisoner turns out to be a gorgeous bad boy, Drew's first mission quickly turns into more than she bargained for...

Bridge of Dreams by Anne Bishop

When wizards threaten Glorianna Belladonna and her work to keep Ephemera balanced, her brother Lee sacrifices himself in order to save her-and ends up an asylum inmate in the city of Vision.

But a darkness is spreading through Vision, perplexing the Shamans who protect it. And Lee is the only one who can shed any light on its mysteries...

172 Hours on the Moon by Johan Harstad, Tara Chace

Everyone said sending teenagers into space would be their opportunity of a lifetime...

It's been decades since anyone last set foot on the moon. But three ordinary teens are about to change that--and their lives--forever. Mia knows this will be her punk band's ticket to fame and fortune. Midori believes it's her way out of her restrictive lifestyle in Japan. And Antoine just wants to get as far away from his ex-girlfriend as possible. But little do they know that something sinister is waiting for them on the dark side of the moon. And in the black vastness of space, no one is coming to save them... Strap yourself in for this chilling adventure from a young Norwegian author on the rise. You'll want to keep your lights on long after you've read the last page.

Wide Open by Deborah Coates

When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days' compassionate leave, her sister Dell's ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.
The sheriff says that Dell's death was suicide, but Hallie doesn't believe it. Something happened or Dell's ghost wouldn't still be hanging around. Friends and family, mourning Dell's loss, think Hallie's letting her grief interfere with her judgment.

The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn't have to. As Hallie asks more questions, she attracts new ghosts, women who disappeared without a trace. Soon, someone's trying to beat her up, burn down her father's ranch, and stop her investigation.

Hallie's going to need Boyd, her friends, and all the ghosts she can find to defeat an enemy who has an unimaginable ancient power at his command.

Sparks Fly by Katie MacAlister

The First Dragon has Ysolde de Bouchier in his sights demanding
that she right past wrongs. So, with the help of some familiar friends, Ysolde sets into motion an elaborate plan that will have repercussions throughout the mortal and immortal worlds. But when a member of her family is held hostage, no one is safe from the fire of her rage...

Dark Magic by James Swain

Peter Warlock is a magician with a dark secret. Every night, he amazes audiences at his private theater in New York, where he performs feats that boggle the imagination. But his day job is just a cover for his otherworldly pursuits: Peter is a member of an underground group of psychics who gaze into the future to help prevent crimes.

No one, not even his live-in girlfriend, knows the truth about Peter—until the séance when he foresees an unspeakable act of violence that will devastate the city. As Peter and his friends rush to prevent tragedy, Peter discovers that a shadowy cult of evil psychics, the Order of Astrum, know all about his abilities. They are hunting him and his fellow psychics down, one by one, determined to silence them forever.

Songs of the Earth by Elspeth Cooper

The Book of Eador, Abjurations 12:14, is very clear: Suffer ye not the life of a witch. For a thousand years, the Church Knights have obeyed that commandment, sending to the stake anyone who can hear the songs of the earth. There are no exceptions, not even for one of their own.

Novice Knight Gair can hear music no one else can, beautiful, terrible music: music with power. In the Holy City, that can mean only one thing: death by fire—until an unlikely intervention gives him a chance to flee the city and escape the flames.

With the Church Knights and their witchfinder hot on his heels, Gair hasn’t time to learn how to use the power growing inside him, but if he doesn’t master it, that power will tear him apart. His only hope is the secretive Guardians of the Veil, though centuries of persecution have almost destroyed their Order, and the few Guardians left have troubles of their own.

For the Veil between worlds is weakening, and behind it, the Hidden Kingdom, ever-hungry for dominion over the daylight realm, is stirring. Though he is far from ready, Gair will find himself fighting for his own life, for everyone within the Order of the Veil, and for the woman he has come to love.

Touchstone by Melanie Rawn

Cayden Silversun is part Elven, part Fae, part human Wizard—and all rebel. His aristocratic mother would have him follow his father to the Royal Court, to make a high society living off the scraps of kings. But Cade lives and breathes for the theater, and he’s good—very, very good. With his company, he’ll enter the highest reaches of society and power, as an honored artist—or die trying. Cade combines the talents of Merlin, Shakespeare, and John Lennon: a wholly charming character in a remarkably original fantasy world created by a mistress of the art.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cover for "Mockingbird" Revealed

Joey Hi-Fi returns with some more beautiful artwork to compliment Chuck Wendig's awesome series.

Miriam is trying to keep her ability – her curse – in check.

But when Miriam touches a woman in line at the supermarket, she sees that the woman will be killed here, now.

She reacts, and begins a new chapter in her life – one which can never be expected to go well.

Book Review: Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds

Advocates of steampunk say that it is a trend you can not “do wrong”. The marriage of the Steam Age (also known as the Victorian Era in Europe) and Science Fiction is one where as long as a true love of any one of these spouses exists, any infidelities can be forgiven. A novel need only recognize the science behind steampunk, give it things to adapt, and recognize the impact that Victorian fashion has on the trend, in order to be a successful member of the movement. It is in this way that someone who has no interest in fashion, little interest in the social aspects of history, and no desire to turn away from electricity-inspired Science Fiction, can still be recognized as a steampunk fan, due to my fannish love of seeing characters and events adapted to other universes- Dungeons and Dragons versions of Star Wars characters, Star Wars RPG adaptations of slasher movie monsters, and in this case, steampunk renditions of those self-same characters.

It is in this same manner that Terminal World by Alastair Reynolds has been deemed “a steampunk novel”. I held off on reading this for a long time despite curiosity, concerned that it would be an extremely niche novel, written with a prose style matching the incredibly difficult to read Twelfth Enchantment, the last independent universe novel I reviewed.

For any with similar concerns about steampunk novels, let me address your concerns. Terminal World has angels, lasers, cyborgs, and sentient mechs. It also has a fleet of zeppelins, a place called “Steamville”, horse-drawn carriages and a nod to Steampunk fashion. I would call this novel an introduction to steampunk, because that's what it was to me: something to test the waters, to see it in action in a novel that doesn't beat it over your head, sets up a universe in which Steampunk is a necessary alternative to traditional technology, and most importantly, tells a compelling story.

After traveling through the eyes of a one-chapter opening character, we follow the path of Quillon, your standard half-breed Space Elf character. Quillon is the reliable narrator because his physical modifications and profession of choice allow him to go places most characters couldn't- at least, and remain coherent enough to narrate the story. Through his eyes, following the less specialized but more experienced Meroka, we're introduced to this world and all of the ins and outs of it. Quillon is an intelligent enough character to ask the questions the audience does, but not intelligent enough to know all of the answers before the audience can get so much as a clue. This might make his story arc somewhat more thoughtful than some readers like- it's not a “sit back and relax” type of story unless you don't mind being somewhat ignorant of the details.

While Quillon is a meek, incidental supersurvivor, Meroka adds a bit of color by being a foul-mouthed, gun-loving mercenary woman with a history. It's this history that draws the most attention from me- mainly, because we don't learn much about it. Much like the true ending and results of the events in this story, the history of Meroka and similar characters is left entirely to the readers' imagination. While in some ways this helps build the atmosphere of the novel, its status as a standalone novel really hurts some of these details. The story is incomplete, and there are no follow-ups to fall back on.

In those areas where the setting is complete, it is a masterful effort to introduce an individual to Steampunk writing. This is a world where technology such as our own exists- we're told of a place known as "Circuit City", and there are places where carnivorous cyborgs rule the roost. We don't see these places, because observing them first hand would make the rest of the book too hard for most of us to maintain our suspension of disbelief.

The world of Terminal World is besieged by The Mire, a terrible natural phenomenon that separates regions of land, air and presumably water by how complex something inside it- most notably technology, but anything with molecules is effected- can be inside them. We first open up in Neon Heights, a zone where some electricity works, but it's a lower technology zone different enough from the 21st century to avoid the problems I just mentioned.

Throughout the early chapters of the book we're taught things about Steamville. We learn about zone sickness, the side effect of traveling between zones, and that electricity doesn't work in Steamville. Before we ever make it to the zone, we see a wealthy family in Victorian era dress that made the trip because their zone doesn't allow the usage of X-rays. It's those details that tell us pretty much all we need to know about the differences between Neon Heights and Steamville, and once Quillon and Meroka make the trip, we've learned what we can expect about traveling for the rest of the novel.

Without learning about anyone's history other than Quillon's, not learning the true nature of the angels or their wars with regular, “prehumans”, and being left hanging as to whether or not the actions of the main characters actually did any good in the short-term future of the planet or the city of Spearpoint, finishing the book feels as though you've just dedicated hours of your life to filler. It's very entertaining filler that makes you think and invest in the world it describes to you, but ultimately, without further novels in this universe that's all it is. Still, if you've been looking for a first experience with Steampunk or just have a ton of time to kill and need a book to read, Terminal World will fit the bill, as long as you don't mind Meroka's mouth.

Bill Silvia is a regular contributor at Fantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews. You can find more of his content at http://www.MiBreviews.com

Friday, February 24, 2012

Rants & Raves

My kids are off from school this week, and I just wasn’t ready to have another review up, so instead you get a new Rants & Raves. Which is fine actually, as there’s been a few things I’ve been thinking about and wanted to put down on paper.

Rant – ah the scifi/fantasy book blogging (reviewing) community. In the span of one day, among the same group of twitter feeds from our community I see bloggers complaining about how scifi/fantasy books get no respect in book awards – and then go on to talk about how they’d never lower themselves to read a tie-in book. You know, harboring the same attitude that those same book awards are showing towards science fiction and fantasy literature. It actually makes me want to actively go out an only read and review tie-in fiction for an entire year – which I’ll consider doing just as soon as some of my favorite authors stop making new original fiction that I really want to read.

Rant – So Gabe at Penny Arcade decided to have a little rant about Star Wars literature a few days ago. I’ve got my own problems at times with Star Wars lit (and I don’t completely disagree with his point about a recent series being somewhat lackluster – that being Fate of the Jedi)… BUT, his big gripe, the one that made him turn away in disgust, is the name Darth Andeddu (because it’s pronounced Undead U or something). This was a name so out of left-field when we’ve had the likes of Darth Maul, Tyranus, Sidious and Bane – such unobtrusive Sith names giving no obvious sign of the meaning behind them. That’s sarcasm folks, when you’re a fan of Star Wars you’ve got to go with the flow on the names thing – George Lucas started that whole trend way back when with names like Luke Skywalker and Solo.

Rave – It can be difficult to find books for my second grader that I feel are both of interest to him as well as actually being worth reading. He’s a big fan of the Thor movie, but we’ve been disappointed to find not too many novels featuring him (and most of the ones that do are just movie adaptations). However, Marvel recently announced a series of Young Readers novels which gives me hope. The series is starting with Spider-Man, but I have hope that if it winds up being a success (as well as the expected success of the Avengers movie) that it will expand into books featuring other characters shortly.

Rave – I was thrilled when a review copy of Uglies: Shay’s Story showed up at my door. Despite having heard great things about this scifi book series, I haven’t had the chance to check it out. But Shay’s Story, as a graphic novel, just jumped up to the top of my reading pile. It made me realize that I wish more books would make the jump to comic adaptations – and if comic companies themselves won’t do it (and they are), then I’m glad the book publishers have started to try it out for themselves. Speaking of which, it may be time for me to start checking out the graphic novels of The Wheel of Time, Elric, and Drizzt – all stories I’m otherwise unlikely to ever read in prose form. Got any other novel-to-graphic novel adaptations to recommend to me?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Two Minutes from Pixar's "Brave"-- Merida Shoots for Her Own Hand

Wow. I can't wait for this to come out.

Meme Time!

Anime Wookie over at My Gallery of Words has tagged me in a meme. Because it's so much more fun to talk about myself than write a review I've decided to participate. But I'm going to be a bad participant and not forward the meme-- unless I get a few requests in the comments. If that happens then I will follow the rules and write up a unique set of 11 questions to pass on. In the meantime- here are my answers. 

1. If you could describe your life in a color, what would it be and why?
My first impulse is to say beige but then I want to quash that because it sounds so boring. But... I think I will go with beige-- and here's why. I'm not a person who's given to extravagant displays of anything. I'm calm from an emotional standpoint and pretty sensible from every other angle, but I go with just about anything. I'm not spontaneous by nature, but I can go with the flow like nobody's business.

2. Do you have any pets? If so, what are they, their name/s and why do they fit your personality?
I have a Maltipoo (Maltese Poodle) named Sassy and a black cat (pound rescue) named Mimi.  My cat fits my personality because she's aloof and doesn't need me fussing over her too much, but she's also incredibly easygoing and a little bit of a klutz. My dog is a spaz, even at eight-years-old, but she's also super friendly and wouldn't hurt a fly-- she's also a klutz (see a theme here?). What I love best about my pets is that my kids can manhandle them with impunity and I don't have to worry about a scratch or a bite-- best pets ever.

3. Where did you fit in in high school...jock, band geek, popular crowd...etc?
I'm not sure that I fit into a particular group. I kinda-sorta fit with the geeks due to my geeky interest in fantasy literature, but I was also able to drift into the popular crowd because I was on the drill team. My first boyfriend would have been considered part of the "goth" crowd, though the term hadn't been coined yet (boy did his friends hate me for the pastel color-palate of my clothes). I've always thought of myself as someone who floated between groups without solidly landing in any of them.

4.How do you react in an emergency...fight or flight, go get help, the calm one???
I'm definitely the calm one. I tend to assess the situation and then act. I'm probably more likely to call for help if it's a big situation, like a car accident. If it's a smaller emergency I'll help if the fast-acting types haven't beat me to it (if I'm in a crowd of ditherers I'll probably be the first to jump in).

5. If they were making a movie of your life, who would you chose to play you... why?
Well, first you'd have to presume I'd be interesting enough to base a movie on (not even close), but if I were I'd pick someone like Rachel Weisz or Kate Beckinsdale-- I mean, who wouldn't?

6. Why is your best friend your best friend, what makes them so special?
My husband- no contest. Ever since we met (17 years ago) it's like we knew each other already. He's the only person I've ever met who honestly understood how I think. Don't get me wrong, we bicker, but I still think he's the most awesome person I know.

7. If money was no object, and you were going to buy yourself something completely frivolous, what would it be, and why?
That's tough because I'm so literal. For example, I'd love to pick a really expensive, luxurious car-- okay expensive for me (like a BMW). But then my rational brain starts thinking but after I pay for it I have to maintain it-- and repairs are expensive! But then I start thinking really big-- like a house! Then I think but I'd have to heat and furnish it... This is a real rabbit hole for me. Maybe I'd just get a Macbook because spending over $1,000 on a laptop seems pretty extravagant to me-- and I don't have to worry about paying for anything after the fact.

8. Three words that describe your personality?
After the last question-- literal comes to mind. I'm also honest to a fault (just ask my friends) and very sensible (some might say boring-- but I ignore those people).

9. Who was your favorite teacher and how did they influence you?
Professor Dorman- one of my journalism teachers in college. Despite the bad reputation journalism has these days (mostly deserved IMHO) he really tried to stress objectivity as the main thing to focus on as a journalist. I remember writing a 15-page paper for his class comparing media coverage between the New York Times and the Christian Science Monitor during the Vietnam War--he wasn't interested in pushing an agenda, he was trying to teach us to see the agenda; especially when it was being pushed by the media. He was very approachable to us students and even wrote a recommendation letter for me when I applied to go to school in Japan (I got into the program).

10. What do you consider true strength?
Doing the right thing-- even in the face of personal risk.

11. What is your favorite game? (video, board, card...any kind)
I'm a puzzle person. On my computer that might take the form of Mahjong or Tetris (though I haven't played those in ages). Not too long ago I got into a game on my iPad called Escape Rosecliff Island-- which is all about finding hidden objects within a picture. I finished the game in a weekend.

12.What season do you love the most, why?
Autumn. I live in Northern California, which can get really hot in the summer, so the Fall coolness is always a nice relief. But what I like most are the Fall leaves-- so beautiful. Also, the older I get the more I enjoy spending the holidays with my kids and Autumn is the starting point of a fun time of year for me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

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

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

Libriomancer by Jim C. Hines
Publisher: DAW
Pages: 400
Date: August 7, 2012

Isaac Vainio has spent the past two years working at the Copper River Library in northern Michigan, secretly cataloguing books for their magical potential, but forbidden from using that magic himself . . . except for emergencies. Emergencies like a trio of young vampires who believe Isaac has been killing their kind, and intend to return the favor.

Isaac is a libriomancer, brilliant but undisciplined, with the ability to reach into books and create objects from their pages. And attacking a libriomancer in his own library is never a good idea.

But vampires are only the beginning. This was merely the latest in a series of attacks against members of Die Zwelf Portenære, a secret organization founded five centuries ago by Johannes Gutenberg to protect the world from supernatural threats. Among the casualties is Ray Walker, Isaac’s friend and mentor in magic.

Complicating matters further is the arrival of a dryad named Lena Greenwood. Lena packs a pair of wooden swords and proves to be quite adept at helping to beat down various magical threats. She also seems to be a little too interested in Isaac . . . not that he minds. Yet Lena’s nature could make her a greater threat than any vampire.

Along with a neurotic fire-spider named Smudge, Isaac and Lena set out to find and stop whoever is behind the attacks. But things are worse than Isaac imagined. An unknown killer of unimaginable power has been torturing and murdering humans and vampires alike. And Gutenberg, now more than six hundred years old, has disappeared.

As Isaac searches for Gutenberg and the murderer, hoping they aren’t one and the same, he uncovers dark secrets about magic’s history and potential. Secrets which could destroy Die Zwelf Portenære and loose a magical war upon the world. If Isaac is to have any hope of preventing that war, he will have to truly master the magic of libriomancy.

Assuming he doesn’t lose control and wipe himself from existence first.

I've became a fan of Jim C. Hines after reading The Stepsister Scheme and if "Libriomancer" has any of the charm of that series (and I'm sure it will) then it's a guaranteed winner.

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

The Devil's Nebula by Eric Brown
Publisher: Abaddon (Solaris)
Date: May 29, 2012
Pages: 320

Best-selling author Eric Brown has created a brand new shared world for Abaddon Books: Weird Space. This thrilling space-opera series will begin in June 2012 with the release of The Devil's Nebula by the best-selling author of Helix, Engineman and The Kings of Eternity.

In the first book in this epic new series, Brown will introduce readers to the human smugglers, veterans and ne’erdowells who are part of the Expansion – and their uneasy neighbours, the Vetch Empire. When an evil race threatens not only the Expansion, but the Vetch too - an evil from another dimension which infests humans and Vetch alike and bends individuals to do their hideous bidding, only cooperation between them means the difference between a chance of survival and no chance at all.

Brown has meticulously created a massive shared world of interstellar potential, which other writers will explore with each new book.

Space-opera shared universe from the fine folks at Solaris. And just look at that cover - drool worthy for the scifi fan. I haven't read anything by Eric Brown as yet, but I'm thinking this is going to be my first try at his stuff.

"Discount Armageddon" by Seanan McGuire-- Light Urban Fantasy Done Right

Verity Price was raised as a Cryptozoologist-- someone who studies non-human creatures known as cryptids. She knows all about bogeymen, chupacabras and ghouls, though she'd rather be dancing the rumba. Verity negotiates a compromise with her family that allows her to live in New York City and pursue a ballroom dancing career as long as she agrees to monitor the local cryptid community.

And life in New York is certainly interesting for Verity. Between living in a barely-legal sublet, owned by a Sasquatch, to working as a cocktail waitress in a cryptid strip-club, she just manages to squeeze in enough time to prowl the rooftops and watch over the local cryptids. What little time she has left, and it isn't much, is used for her beloved dance competitions.

But the delicate balance Verity has managed in her life comes to a screeching halt when she encounters a member of The Covenant. Many generations before Verity was born The Price family split from The Covenant over a difference in how to treat the cryptid community: the Prices believe in living in harmony with them while The Covenant believes they should all be destroyed. And if butting heads with The Covenant isn't enough, there are also rumors of something big, very big, living in the sewers of New York -- and cryptids are disappearing in large numbers.

I've been hearing good things about Seanan McGuire for awhile and Discount Armageddon proves that McGuire is a writer that only gets better with each book. When I first read the description for "Discount Armageddon" I wasn't sure about the idea of a heroine who happens to be infatuated with ballroom dance, but it's a idea that works surprisingly well. Verity has an unusual upbringing as someone who grows up in a family of experts on monstrous creatures and is trained to defend herself from childhood. Unlike her siblings, who demonstrate a love of bombs and booby-traps practically from infancy, Verity learns to incorporate her love of dancing into her martial-arts training-- and as a martial artist who has preached for many years that dancing and fighting are very complimentary I heartily approve of this particular plot point.

But Verity's dancing is only a small part of a particularly well constructed story. I love the concept of a community of creatures, known as cryptids in this case, that live alongside an oblivious humanity. It's not a new idea but the mythology here is done so well. McGuire takes urban legends, fairy tales and her own creations and melds them into a fresh, fun concoction. And creatures that we think we know, like the Gorgon or the boogeyman, are tweaked just enough to put them into the story as secondary characters and it works.

And critiques I have for "Discount Armageddon" are really minor. The main one would be that the initial antagonist in the book, the member of The Covenant that Verity meets, isn't really antagonistic enough.  He and Verity have a believable chemistry but I think I would have liked to see a little more of the push-and-pull that comes with that particular story line--the moment when he must challenge his inbred loyalties is a bit anticlimactic because he never appears to fight them that hard.

But as a work of light paranormal fiction "Discount Armageddon" is a nearly perfect example of what the genre should be. The world that is constructed here is nicely complex without being overly complicated. The characters, especially Verity, are well developed and convincingly original and there's never that moment where you feel bombarded with names or struggle with remembering who's who. The story moves briskly with lots of humor thrown in but the balance of action is right on the money and McGuire proves adept at making sure the story never gets too busy. Even the romance angle is well integrated and never steals too much from the overall narrative. If you're a fan of urban fantasy that is light on the angst and drama and strong on action and fun, then I can easily recommend "Discount Armageddon."

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Giveaway! "The Scar" by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko

Courtesy of Tor Books I have a copy of The Scar by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko to offer for giveaway.

Reaching far beyond sword and sorcery, The Scar is a story of two people torn by disaster, their descent into despair, and their reemergence through love and courage. Sergey and Marina Dyachenko mix dramatic scenes with romance, action and wit, in a style both direct and lyrical. Written with a sure artistic hand, The Scar is the story of a man driven by his own feverish demons to find redemption and the woman who just might save him.

Egert is a brash, confident member of the elite guards and an egotistical philanderer. But after he kills an innocent student in a duel, a mysterious man known as “The Wanderer” challenges Egert and slashes his face with his sword, leaving Egert with a scar that comes to symbolize his cowardice. Unable to end his suffering by his own hand, Egert embarks on an odyssey to undo the curse and the horrible damage he has caused, which can only be repaired by a painful journey down a long and harrowing path.

Can't wait to read this one myself...

Just add your information to the form below to enter (all information is guaranteed confidential and will be discarded once the contest ends) and I will randomly pick one winner by Tuesday February 28th. No multiple entries please-- all multiple entries will be discarded. Open everywhere.

Good luck!

**Contest Closed**

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Series Commentary: Power Rangers: Samurai

When Power Rangers: Samurai was announced, the hype was huge. Saban was taking over Power Rangers again, and they were moving to Nickelodeon. On top of that, it was a whole team of freakin' samurai! We counted down until the big reveal, and then the Rangers came.

They had no introductions, already seemed to know each other, and the Green Ranger, on whom the first episode was focused, was completely annoying. Samurai got a little better. The characters would develop some, an "honorable villain" was introduced, and... yeah, that's about all I've got.

Here's the thing with Samurai- they're afraid to take chances. The villains have no menace to them, because they're constantly cracking jokes. At 23 episodes, Power Rangers: Samurai was the shortest season of Rangers yet, and for all the development the characters get, it shows. The most developed character is... yeah, I got nothin'. Probably the Blue Ranger, because we know all there is to know about his character: He's deadly serious, is 100% focused on training, and has no time or interest for anything else. There could have been a more developed character. Farkas Bulkmeyer, veteran of seven Power Rangers seasons returns- but Saban couldn't have that. They've mentioned in interviews that this is an alternate universe version of Bulk, along with his pupil, Spike Skullovich. Cee Lo Green sums up my response to that in two words.

For fans of the early show, Bulk's presence on Samurai was like Tommy Oliver's presence on Dino Thunder: A character who had completed the Hero's Journey coming back as a mentor figure to impart their experience on a new generation. Obviously, no one expected Bulk to be killing Moogers left and right or teaching the rangers, but we expected the Bulk we've come to know and love over the better part of a decade; the Bulk who, along with his best friend, stood up to the invasion of Earth by the United Alliance of Evil. Saban's comment? "Sorry, not him." At that point, all but the most devoted fans (read: reviewers who feel compelled to slog through this crap) said, "Sorry, not my show".

Sure, the action is okay, and there are some interesting dilemmas dealt with, but this show is too shallow for anyone outside the target age range to really like. Samurai was split into two seasons for some ridiculous reason. The real end of Season 1 was Episode 18, in October. Episodes 19 and 20 were the first two episodes, displaced from the beginning of the season for no reason that anyone seems to be able to figure out, followed by a Halloween clip-show that does nothing but make fun of the Season in what has to be the worst Halloween Special I've seen in Power Rangers History, a crossover with the previous season that was yanked from future continuity, and then a Christmas-special-slash-season-finale that is another clipshow. In other words, twenty episodes, a basically non-canon special two parter, and two clipshows. Frak this season. What really cements my anger at this season, though, is the fact that it was cut in half as a cheap marketing ploy. On the 18th of this month, the second season, Super Samurai, starts. Let it ease my anger at the way this season ended and give me something fond to remember it by. Oh, and here's the trailer for Super Samurai:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Graphic Novel Review - The Mighty Thor vol. 1

Thor was my favorite Marvel movie of last year, and my interest in his comics quickly followed. When this new series was announced I was already thinking it was set up nicely for me to start as a relatively new reader to this character – and then with the added bonus of a scifi element (with the addition of the Silver Surfer and Galactus), well I just knew I couldn’t miss this first arc of The Mighty Thor.

Asgard, the home of the Norse Gods, has fallen to Earth and nearly destroyed in a war waged by the forces of the Dark Avengers. The fallout of that battle is still being felt, as the World Tree (a cosmic connection between worlds of Asgardian myth) has broken and revealed a powerful artifact called the Seed. Odin sends Thor and Sif to retrieve the vulnerable Seed before someone takes it’s power for their own, but the energy spike has caught the attention of one whose hunger never ceases.

Galactus comes to Earth, but this time not to devour the planet (as has been chronicled in the past with his battles against the Fantastic Four) but this time to battle the Asgardians and take the Seed. The Asgardians for their part are unwilling to part with their sacred object, and prepare for a war against Galactus and his herald the Silver Surfer. Even though Earth is not the object of Galactus desire, with two Godlike races locked in a battle, how soon will it be before the Earth itself and all life upon it is razed in the collateral damage?

Set against this backdrop of cosmic proportions are a number of smaller intertwined tales. Thor was wounded by the Seed as he was retrieving it, and the resulting wound is unlike any he has ever had before. His Asgardian friends are well represented in this book as well, from his dalliances with Sif, to his brother Loki who has been reborn as a child. Loki is trying to do right by his brother and his people, but after everything he has done in the past (despite not remembering any of it) few really trust him – and Thor’s trust will be tested most of all. Meanwhile, the Silver Surfer is faced with a moral choice where he may not be on the right side. Is it right to allow the destruction of the Earth and all its inhabitants in order to ensure that Galactus is sated for all time?

Of course the battles are spectacular in this book, when you’re dealing with two powerful heroes like Thor and Silver Surfer fighting on opposite sides things are bound to seem larger than life. The art style fits the story perfectly, I never had any trouble understanding what was going on (though there are a few confusing moments in the story that never quite gelled for me, of course this being an ongoing series, it’s possible those are threads to be revealed in future issues). The resolution to this tale was spot on, not only was it a great way to end the story, providing the only stop-gap solution that makes any sense, but it also provides lots of opportunities for future stories to spin out of this, as well as maintaining a sense that at any moment the war could begin anew. I like that kind of balance in the story, knowing that things aren’t necessarily wrapped up in a nice bow even as the current story arc comes to a close.

In case I haven’t been clear enough, I thought this first volume of The Mighty Thor was great. I’d highly recommend it to anyone whose interest was raised in the character by the recent movie, it does a good job of bringing readers up to speed with the current status of Thor and his companions in the Marvel universe, and presents an excellent story with revealing character moments all accompanied by beautiful artwork. What more could you ask for in a graphic novel?