Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: Shadow of a Dead Star

Shadow of a Dead Star
Shadow of a Dead Star by Michael Shean

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Science Fiction/Detective/Future Noir Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free eGalley from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Seattle, 2078. The future hasn't been kind to the spirit of humanity; commercial obsession and technological fetishism rules the day, religion and belief has died screaming in the fires of war, and what remains is moral decrepitude. Life in the future is hard on the soul.

As an agent of the Industrial Security Bureau, Thomas Walken knows that better than anyone. His job is to keep the worst kind of black-market technology out of the hands of citizens, technology born out of the shadowy nation nicknamed Wonderland. But the kind of fantasies that come out of that place aren't for the good people of the world. Wonderland technology is like black magic made real.

Walken's newest assignment starts out simply: intercept a smuggled shipment of Princess Dolls, little girls turned into sex toys, and bring them into custody. But when the girls are hijacked from federal custody and Walken gives chase, he finds a trail of bodies in their wake. Before he's through, Walken will find himself confronted revelations that will answer every question that the troubled lawman has ever had about himself and the world he lives in - but his mind and soul may not survive it.

My Thoughts: This is a very dark book – the world in 2078 is not a nice place at all. Seattle has completely changed – what used to be a quirky and artistic place has been replaced with corporate sterility, only the Verge standing between the New City and the Old City retains any of the original charm.

The book was well-written with good characterization and a smooth plot flow, but for some reason I just couldn’t get into it; my mind kept wandering away and I’d have to re-read a section and force myself to keep going. It makes no sense to me, because this is the sort of book I tend to like – science fiction mixed with thriller and police procedural. I almost didn’t finish it, but I pushed through and managed to do so. The last 8 percent of the story is pretty important to understanding the whole thing, so I was glad I did so. However, I just didn’t like the story all that much – nothing wrong with it, it just didn’t hold my attention. Maybe it was just too dark – because it was very, very dark. If you like dark fiction, you should check it out.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies

Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies
Ninja Versus Pirate Featuring Zombies by James Marshall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: YA Fantasy/Horror Satire Reading Level: YA (probably 16 on up due to language and sexual content)

Disclosure: I received a free eGalley from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: In a world where Zombies control banks and governments, only one young man sees the way things are and emerges from the Chaos and destruction: Guy Boy Man. While he tries to end human suffering worldwide and in his high school, Guy Boy Man meets a cute Pink-Haired girl named Baby Doll15 who has a Unicorn that follows her everywhere. An Epic Romance begins, but forces Beyond Their Control are intent on keeping the young couple apart. One of those Forces may - or may not be! - Guy Boy Man's closest friend, a handsome African-American Ninja named Sweetie Honey; another could be four Exotically Beautiful, genetically engineered and behaviorally modified Eastern European Girls; yet another, the principal of their High School ...not to mention an impending standardized test known as the Zombie Acceptance Test! Will Guy Boy Man find a way to be with Baby Doll15 in a World Where Everyone Is Doomed to become either zombies or zombie food?

My Thoughts: I just love a silly book, and the description of this one led me to believe this would be high up there on the silliness scale. Oana’s explanation as to why there were no hs or js in their names cracked me up. Actually, quite a lot of it cracked me up. James Marshall manages to provide a book that is wonderfully grammatic yet full of extra-long, run-on sentences. One of my favorite aspects of it was Guy Boy Man’s constant explanation as to what he really means whenever a sentence could be taken more than one way. The descriptions are hilarious. Guy Boy Man is one of the very few people who see that there are so many zombies – apparently most people don’t even notice that the people surrounding them are undead.

A sequel is in the works: Zombies versus Fairy featuring Albinos, which is scheduled for release later this year. You know I’ll be watching and waiting for it. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants a good laugh.

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Review: Phoenix

Phoenix by A.J. Scudiere

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Thriller Reading Level: Adult book available October 2, 2012

Disclosure: I received a free ebook ARC/eGalley from NetGAlley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Jason Mondy’s world is unraveling.

His seemingly secure job as a fire fighter is suddenly thrown into chaos. The bright spot in his week is that he rescued two children from a house fire, but he returns home that night to find all his furniture is missing. His girlfriend has left him without warning and his nightmares keep him from sleeping. Even just a simple trip home to find some rest leads his adoptive mother to sit him down and tell him that maybe his troubles aren’t quite as innocuous as they seem. Then his she divulges a secret she’s kept for over twenty-six years . . .

Jason has a brother he doesn’t remember existed.

He doesn’t remember his life before he was adopted at age seven. He only knows that he was rescued from the fire that took his birth mother’s life. But the story is deeper than that, and the foundation on which he built his world is now cracking. The brother he doesn't remember it out there somewhere, left behind.

Armed with only this stunning new piece of information, Jason embarks on a quest to find the truths buried deep in his past. As he searches, one by one the pieces of his life fall like dominoes. And the more he uncovers, the more everything he thought he knew about himself and his past begins to turn to ash.

His truth isn’t true at all . . .

My Thoughts: I have read – and loved – every single book by A.J. Scudiere; she is an amazing writer. I’ve been looking forward to this one for ages and was thrilled to get a chance to be an early reader/reviewer.

The first place I lived in Beaverton, OR (suburb of Portland) was right next door to the fire station. The firefighters had an apartment on that side of the complex to stay in during their shifts. It took awhile, but I eventually became accustomed to the sound of the bells and sirens and would sleep right through it. I can’t imagine having to be the one who has to constantly be alert to that ringing and have to go out and fight fires over and over again – or, that is, I couldn’t until I read this book.

An incredible amount of research went into this novel. I noticed on Scudiere’s blog that she spent a significant amount of time in a fire house, and went out on calls with them. She has created a very realistic environment for the firefighter characters in her book. She takes the time to give us information on each major character and several minor ones. Like all of her books, she does great characterization.

The only real problem I had with this story is there tends to be a lot of head-jumping. I think it might have worked better to maintain a consistent point-of-view, or somehow sectioned off each point-of-view in some way – either change at the chapter break, or put some sort of break indication within the chapter to signal the POV change. This is a very early ARC, though, so possibly there will be changes made to clarify that issue before publication in the fall.

Jason was not a particularly likeable character – he was obtuse, self-immersed and a bit of a jerk. However, once he had his nose stuck into a mess he made, he would do his best to fix it. His heart is in the right place, he’s just very much a man.

I think a variety of people would enjoy this book; there is a terrific mystery, suspense, some romance (but a bearable level), and a great day-to-day idea of what goes on in a fire house. Definitely check out this book.

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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Review: Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick - Double D Double Cross

Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick - Double D Double Cross
Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick - Double D Double Cross by Christa Faust

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Reading Level: , book available 4/13/12

Disclosure: I received in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Butch Fatale is a fast-talking, skirt-chasing, two-fisted lesbian private investigator with an insatiable appetite for two things — women and trouble.

It started off easy. A little lost femme, a heartbroken butch and fat roll of bills. But when the beautiful corpses start stacking up, Butch realizes she’s got enemies in high places and the Armenian mob measuring her for a plot in the Glendale Cemetery.

My Thoughts: I finished the Micky Knight mysteries in enough time to leave me time to read one more book this weekend, so I thought what the heck, make it a dyke dick theme weekend!

So, umm, wow – if you are in the least bothered by lesbianism, you might want to skip this one, because there are some rather *ahem* explicit scenes in it. If that doesn’t bother you, then go for it! The plot is fast-paced and the twists and turns just keep on coming, the plot as curvy as the women that Butch seduces in the course of the book. Faust does a great job of creating memorable characters, taking the time to give them each a personality and individual voice, while layering on the plot elements fast and furious. I really enjoyed reading this book and if it sounds like your sort of book, definitely check it out. Apparently there is a sequel in the works, and I’ll be looking forward to picking it up once it comes out.

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Review: Ill Will

Ill Will
Ill Will by J.M. Redmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Detective/Lesbian Noir Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free eGalley eBook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: First, do no harm. But as New Orleans PI Micky Knight discovers, not every health care provider follows that dictum. She stumbles into a tangle of the true believers to the criminally callous, who use the suffering of others for their twisted ends. In a city slowly rebuilding after Katrina, one of the most devastated areas is health care, and the gaps in service are wide enough for the snake oil salesmen—and the snakes themselves—to crawl through. First, her investigation is driven by anger, but then it becomes personal as someone very close to Micky uses her cancer diagnosis to go where Micky cannot, into the heart of the evil where only the ill are allowed. Micky is her only lifeline out. Can Micky save her in time to get to the medical treatment she desperately needs to survive?

My Thoughts: Some of the topics addressed in this book were very close to me – especially the problems with the high cost of insurance. I am chronically ill but have to pay all my medical expenses myself – or ask for charity care – because I can’t afford the insurance rates. I have also tried out various herbal remedies – while I know there are some that are scams, I think this particular book was a bit hard on the overall idea of herbal remedies; there are some that really do work, such as kava kava for anxiety, things that I have tried for myself. Also, I had a friend who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in the mid 1990s, so even that part of the story struck close to home.

This book doesn’t pull any punches – it is painfully realistic about the effects of living with someone with a potentially terminal illness, the sorts of thoughts that go through your head. It was at times very difficult to read, but I was unable to put it down and read it straight through without stopping. The mystery was more convoluted than in the previous books – I’ve always figured out whodunit early on in the previous books, but in this book it remained a mystery until the denouement. A terrific mystery, fast-paced, realistic and a book – and series – that I highly recommend. Get to know Micky Knight, dyke dick.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: Water Mark

Water Mark
Water Mark by J.M. Redmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Detective/Lesbian Noir Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free copy of book 7 in this series in exchange for an honest review. I purchased the rest of the books in the series myself, so am under no particular obligation, but am happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: It’s just one more body in one more destroyed house. I n New Orleans, a few months after Katrina, there are thousands of destroyed houses and hundreds of body yet to be found. Can one more matter? It does to Micky Knight as she takes on the quixotic search to find out who the woman was and why she might have died there. But is Micky searching for justice or just doing anything to avoid confronting the ways Katrina destroyed everything that had tied her to New Orleans? In a city that doesn’t even have working stoplights, there seems little need for a private investigator. Her friends are all struggling with their own disrupted lives, lost jobs, destroyed homes. And the woman Micky thought she’d be with forever, Cordelia James, hasn’t returned.

Micky’s investigation leads to a tangle of greed and deceit that stretches back generations. Someone is using the destruction wrought by the flooding to finish what was started a hundred years ago. To stop them Micky will have to risk not just life and limb, but any chance to reconnect with Cordelia and rebuild the life she had before Katina. But if she doesn’t stop them, a young Midwestern teenager whose only crime was wanting to help the destroyed city, will be the next body left in an abandoned house.

My Thoughts: I think this must be the best one yet. Post-Katrina New Orleans is a dark and desolate place, and Micky is just trying to make it day to day with her anger and hurt and ennui. The book is difficult to read – Micky has retreated back to her own self and is avoiding her friends, avoiding life. Redmann portrays the angst and anger and depression in such a realistic way that it was difficult to read, but at the same time it was so unflinching that you had to keep going and live what these people had experienced. Highly recommended.

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Review: Death of a Dying Man

Death of a Dying Man
Death of a Dying Man by J.M. Redmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Detective/Lesbian Noir Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free copy of book 7 in this series in exchange for an honest review. I purchased the rest of the books in the series myself, so am under no particular obligation, but am happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: New Orleans PI Micky Knight just had to get into a butch pissing contest with the journalist partner of a famous doctor working with her lover, Cordelia James. Micky's insistence that the skills of a reporter are of no use to a PI backfires, and now she's stuck with a drop-dead gorgeous assistant and the case of a dying gay man looking for a child he might have fathered. These chains of events-and an act of nature-will tear Micky's life apart in ways that may never be put back together. 

My Thoughts: This book takes place in 2005, and over 6 years after the events of the previous book. It focuses heavily on destruction and desperation: the destruction caused by Katrina, the destruction caused by trust betrayed, the desperation of people who are over their heads and trying to hold on. It is very much how I define noir – dark, difficult, and beautifully written.

Again, Micky’s friends are in the background, if they’re witnessed at all. Focus is placed more upon Lauren and Shannon and their interactions with Micky and Cordelia. With just two books left to read in this series, I’m hoping the focus will come back to Micky’s friends and their interactions and way of working together, but I guess we’ll see what happens. At any event, I enjoyed the book a great deal and if you enjoy romantic suspense and are not bothered by lesbian protagonists, then you should enjoy it too.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Review: Lost Daughters

Lost Daughters
Lost Daughters by J.M. Redmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Detective/Lesbian Noir Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free copy of book 7 in this series in exchange for an honest review. I purchased the rest of the books in the series myself, so am under no particular obligation, but am happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: Micky takes on the cases of a widowed mother looking for her daughter and a tough gay boy hunting for his biological mother. Together they stir in Micky a desire to search for her own mother, who abandoned her when she was a young girl.

When a young woman patient is murdered at her lover's clinic it seems to be just a bizarre coincidence. But when another woman, also a patient, is murdered, these events reveal the frightening possibility that they are more than just random chances. Even more alarming, the killer seems to know too much about the victims. As the killer circles ever closer to Micky -- and the lost daughter she is trying to reconnect to her mother -- the coincidences become a grisly reality: the one characteristic all the victims share is that they dare to love other women.

My Thoughts: This seems on the surface to share certain plot elements with book 2 – the murders occurring at the clinic being frighteningly similar to those made to look at botched abortions. However, the books are very different. The focus in the books is very much on reuniting mothers and daughters – Lorraine and her mother, Bourban St. Ann (a drag queen) with his/hers, and finally, Micky’s search for her own mother. It was rather poignant, as I’m adopted myself and have considered many times whether I should try to find my birth mother or not.

Micky’s friends were very much on the periphery again in this book, which takes place 3 years after the previous book – unlike the first three, which all take place within about a year. We don’t even see very much of Cordelia, who is very busy being a doctor. However, the book was riveting and I read it through as quickly as I could, only stopping for a brief nap when I got too tired to see straight. Highly recommended.

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Sea Lion Publishers presents Richard. A. Knaak "Cuchulainn"

Follow the below link to see the press release announcing Richard A. Knaak's Cuchulainn

Review: The Intersection of Law and Desire: A Mystery

The Intersection of Law and Desire: A Mystery
The Intersection of Law and Desire: A Mystery by J.M. Redmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Detective/Lesbian Noir Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free copy of book 7 in this series in exchange for an honest review. I purchased the rest of the books in the series myself, so am under no particular obligation, but am happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: Micky Knight is a lesbian detective who is a little too proud of her toughness. She takes on the case of Cissy, the daughter of a friend, who is believed to be sexually abused, not knowing that it will lead her on a dangerous and sexual odyssey. In Cissy's sleepless nights, Micky sees echoes of her own past that fuel an obsession to prevent other children from being abused. To discover what has frightened Cissy, Micky becomes caught up in a world where the lives of young girls are treated as commodities. While doing battle with a handful of seedy thugs, Micky confronts her own childhood sexual abuse and tries to hold on to her rocky relationship with Cordelia James, a striking doctor. She travels between the uptown opulence of the Sans Pareil Club, one of the most exclusive of New Orleans private clubs, and a tawdry hole of a bar near the Desire Projects. Evil exists in both places, and the mystery culminates where law and desire intersect.

My Thoughts: I noticed that a lot of reviewers didn’t much care for this book. After reading it, I can sort of understand why, but I don’t agree. Much of the humor of the previous books is missing, but that is because this book deals with weighty and serious issues, namely pedophilia. An ugly, ugly thing, and Micky, being a victim herself, becomes obsessed with trying to cut oft the head of the snake, as she puts it. The title refers to the location of the seedy bar , Heart’s Desire, at which anything can be procured. This was a difficult book to read, and I imagine it was no picnic to write, but it was well-done – handling a very difficult topic with aplomb.

I found the first major plot hole in this book. Micky is thinking about the near-escape in the swamp and states that before Cordelia ran to the car, Micky kissed Cordelia and told her that she loved her. This did not happen – at the time, Cordelia was still engaged to Thoreau. It wasn’t until later that Micky and Cordelia spent the night together, in a carnal sense, and much later before Micky admitted she was in love. Other than that, I found no fault with this book. Recommended for those who enjoy their fiction dark.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Deaths of Jocasta

Deaths of Jocasta
Deaths of Jocasta by J.M. Redmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Detective Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free copy of book 7 in this series in exchange for an honest review. I purchased the rest of the books in the series myself, so am under no particular obligation, but am happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: Micky Knight had a pleasant evening to look forward to; she was running security at a swank party full of beautiful lesbians and gay men. A dead body ruins the affair. When more dead women are found the police target Dr. Cordelia James as the killer. The same Cordelia who broke Micky's heart. As Micky works to expose the killer she tries to keep her heart hidden. But the killer and Micky keep getting closer to Cordelia . . .

My Thoughts: This book reads more like romantic suspense – there are a number of sex scenes, for instance, although they’re fairly tasteful and realistic. The mystery is very complex and this addresses a very controversial topic – abortion, right to choose vs. right to life, and whether it is okay to murder someone in order to save a life. I imagine this created a firestorm when it was first published, not that the topic has become any less controversial. We learn more about Micky’s past, more about the damage that has been done to her, and start to peel back the layers on her complicated personality. We learn more about Ranson, too, and we meet the wonderful Emma Auerbach. I really wish I had a support group like Micky has – what a wonderful set of friends she has! While I didn’t much care for O’Connor when he first appeared, he grew on me. He and Micky could be great friends, I think, and I hope to see more of him in the future. It never hurts for a PI like Micky to have lots of friends on the force!

I’m definitely enjoying this series and looking forward to the next book, The Intersection of Law and Desire. If you like your detective novels with a bit of spice and a lesbian protagonist, then these books are definitely for you!

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Review: Death by the Riverside

Death by the Riverside
Death by the Riverside by J.M. Redmann

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Detective Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free copy of book 7 in this series in exchange for an honest review. I purchased the rest of the books in the series myself, so am under no particular obligation, but am happy to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: Detective Micky Knight, hired to take a few pictures, finds herself slugging through thugs and slogging through swamps while trying to expose a dangerous drug ring. Things turn personal when her own well-hidden past is exposed.

My Thoughts: This is the sort of book that makes me happy I like to read, because it is the whole package. Murder, mystery, adventure, a dashing heroine, sex and violence and … Beethoven’s 9th.

I was bemoaning the dearth of books with a lesbian protagonist when I found Ill Will, the 7th Micky Knight book, on NetGalley. I had a gift certificate left on Amazon, so I bought the rest of the series. I’m very happy I did. Micky is a complicated person – full of pain on the inside, full of snark on the outside. While she has a network of friends – Danny and Joanne Ranson included – she is always on the move, not ready to settle down, terrified to allow herself to fall in love. After her father died, she was forced to move in with her Aunt Greta, who was a bitter and ugly (inside) woman that treated Micky horribly. Her only reprieve was her Sundays with her Great-Aunt Harriet, and after she died, Micky closed herself off, afraid that anyone she loved with end up dead. She drinks too much, she sleeps around, and she barely makes enough to survive, but she tells herself she is happy. But when confronted with the happiness of her friends and their partners, Micky starts to question herself. Why? Why not? is her standard response to these sorts of thoughts, but after awhile she remembers the only essay that received an A in her philosophy class: Because.

We take a real journey with Micky in this first book, and I absolutely cannot wait to read the next book in the series, Deaths of Jocasta. So, let me recommend this book to those of you who are searching for something wonderful to read, with a lesbian protagonist and a wonderfully fast-paced storyline. You won’t regret your decision to give these books a try.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: Sirius Academy

Sirius Academy
Sirius Academy by Scott Rhine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: Science Fiction Reading Level: Young Adult

Disclosure: I edited this book; I am not receiving any payment based upon sales

Synopsis: At sixteen, Mira realizes her dream of attending the prestigious South Pacific UN astronaut school, Sirius Academy. Heiress, prodigy, pilot, and psi talent, Mira kicks butt from the first day. However, she can’t figure out how to make boys like her—making them cry is easy. To lead a team to the alien artifact that her mother discovered, Mira has to convince the Academy that she’s the only chance to unlock the alien secrets before they vanish. First, Mira has to overcome sexist students, narrow-minded faculty, kidnappers, and a tenacious aunt who wants her out of the program. Her adviser, Zeiss, can be useful when he isn’t plastering top-secret space photos on his ceiling or hunting terrorists.

Fans of Numbers and Ender’s Game will enjoy this face-paced sequel to Jezebel’s Ladder.

My Thoughts: Sirius Academy is a really fun book - I kept forgetting I was supposed to be editing because I would get so caught up in the action. Mira is a difficult character to love, as she's spoiled, self-indulgent, self-centered, and constantly needs to be the boss. But as you get to know her, you understand where she's coming from - this kid has not had an easy life, and she's under a great deal of pressure. She has to be the one to go to the Eye in the Sky - there is no other option - and she is aware of that; this is why she is always pushing. As is mentioned by one of the characters, Mira is missing some of the pack instinct that is necessary to get along with people, but inside she has a good heart.

Rhine is focused on the science - you can be sure that whatever he is writing about, he has researched and does his best to present in a realistic light. If you enjoyed Jezebel's Ladder, you won't want to miss this one. If you enjoy sci-fi and tech geek, you'll love it. Don't miss it - it's awesome!

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Giveaway #5 Winner

Giveaway #5 for an eBook from the Pact Arcanum series is now over. The winner (via virtual roll of a 20-sider die) is:

Kriss Morton

Congratulations Kriss! I'll be emailing you and Arshad Ahsanuddin so he can arrange your eBook for you!

Stay tuned for our next giveaway, coming up next week!

Cover Reveal: J Taylor Publishing presents "Make Believe" by J.A. Belfield et al

Make Believe
by J.A. Belfield, Jennifer M. Eaton, J. Keller Ford, Terri Rochenski, Kelly Said, Lynda R. Young
Release Date: December 3, 2012
Target Reader: Adult
Keywords: Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Romance

Back of the Book
Sacrificial Oath by Terri Rochenski

An impetuous act unwittingly makes Alesuela the fulfillment of the Sovereign’s Blood Oath to their Goddess. In five days, she’ll be forced to make the greatest choice of her life: become the virginal sacrifice already promised, or force the man she loves most to die in her place.

With an impossible choice in front of her, she searches for ways to undo the oath, and in her quest, finds not everything in her life is as she expects.

The Amulet of Ormisez by J. Keller Ford

There is only one way to save Elton Fletcher’s brother from an insanity-ridden death.

After years away from home, fighting for his people, Elton returns to discover his only sibling, Cayden, possessed by greed and malice, and responsible for malicious, unthinkable deeds. Cayden, though, isn’t the only one afflicted by the Amulet of Ormisez, and Elton finds himself in yet another battle, where the price of failure could be his own life.

Birthright by Lynda R. Young

Christa can mask the pain and hide the scars, but running from a birthright is impossible.

She’s tried to escape her grief by fleeing to a small town in Florida. Much to her frustration, the locals think they recognize her even though she's never been there before. To make things worse, a man named Jack spouts outrageous theories about her.

Both spur Christa to bolt, to start fresh yet again, but there’s something about Jack that intrigues her enough to stay. The only problem? Someone else wants her to leave, and they won’t stop until she’s dead.

Petrified by Kelly Said

A mysterious storm has replaced summer with winter, devastating crops and smothering Castle lands in snow. Prince Sterling August stands alone as a leader, lost in personal grief as well as a desire to help his people but with an inability to do either.

The answers he needs await him, but without Lochlyn, a woman who’s just as isolated as Sterling, he’ll never see what stands before him, cloaked in illusion.

Last Winter Red by Jennifer M. Eaton

Emily is a Red, a woman whose sole purpose in life is to produce offspring. When her husband dies and leaves her childless, she risks her life and forsakes the safety of Terra—a disease-free city born after the nuclear holocaust. Beyond its boundaries, she knows, survives a man with whom she can be properly paired.

The Outside, though, holds secrets the government struggles to keep, and what Emily discovers on her quest for a mate will change her life forever.

Escort to Insanity by J.A. Belfield

From a charity auction, to a stroll in the park, to the craziest night of her life. Nicole Harrington can’t help but wonder how a simple event went so drastically wrong.

Of course, the male escort she booked is wholly to blame. Not only charming but shrewdly intelligent, Benjamin Gold drags Nicole into a platoon of unimaginable problems—ones from which she’ll have to find the courage just to survive.


Review: The Croning

The CroningThe Croning by Laird Barron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Horror Reading Level: Adult Read: started 5/17/12; re-started 5/20/12 and finished 5/21/12

Disclosure: I received a free eGalley (eBook ARC) from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Oops, forgot to rate this!

Synopsis: Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us.

Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly eighty years, leading a charmed life between endearing absent-mindedness and sanity-shattering realization. Now, all things must converge. Donald will discover the dark secrets along the edges, unearthing savage truths about his wife Michelle, their adult twins, and all he knows and trusts.

For Donald is about to stumble on the secret...of The Croning. From Laird Barron, Shirley Jackson Award-winning author of The Imago Sequence and Occultation, comes The Croning, a debut novel of cosmic horror.

My Thoughts: An author whose work I really like – Brett Talley of That Which Should not Be fame – wrote in his review of this book: “Barron writes like Hemmingway (sic) might have if he weren’t so boring.” He has a good point – Barron writes lush, evocative prose – for instance the phrase: The deepest cavern in the world is the human heart. – and is not afraid of creating portraits with words. I especially liked the drug-addled trip down the Yukon Don took in a rubber Zodiac in 1980. While it can seem a bit dense, especially if one is trying to read whilst sleepy, it is also very readable. I sometimes had to read something more than once – often because I was trying to skim through it as quickly as I normally read – but it was more because of the need to really revel in the beauty of the words than because it was hard to understand.

Let the dark blind you on the inside, Don. There are frightful things. Don has severe memory problems, and has tended to forget many of the most traumatic events of his life – as well as more prosaic things. I have similar problems and know how difficult it can make life. Don, once fluent enough in Spanish to have written in his journal in that language, has completely forgotten it – likely as a result of the events in the first chapter, events that took place in 1958 in Mexico City, seven years after he married Michelle. Most of the book, however, took place between “now,” when Don is in his 80s, and 1980, weaving the action back and forth between the present and the past. We eventually learn why Don has these troubles with his memory – and it’s creepy, just like so much else in here...

They Who Wait love you...: the whisper of a dying man. There are some seriously creepy moments in this book, which built slowly through the book, gradually increasing in tension; but I also loved the wry humor that went throughout the book. When Don was in Mexico looking for Melissa and sent to two mysterious, retired policemen named Ramirez and Kinder, and the two were described (which I won’t tell you about ‘cause that would be a spoiler), I laughed like crazy. Ramirez was also the first to reference Old Leech and an ancient Celtic tribe that worshiped him. I loved the character development as well, which tends to give us just enough information to form an opinion of the person and their character without it becoming overwhelming.

One thing that puzzled me was the frequent usage of British-English language – bloody, telly, old chap, jolly good, etc. – in a book that is set in Washington state and revolves around Americans. While it is true that there are those of us who affect Britishisms, due to one thing or another (overabundance of Britcoms in my wasted youth, for one thing), it’s not common here.

I was curious as to how they would eventually show a croning. In the traditions I follow, a croning is usually when a woman moves into menopause – transitioning from Mother to Crone in her lifecycle. I say “usually” because there are some women who move straight from Maiden to Crone, if they decide they don’t want to become a Mother, for instance, or if health circumstances occur, such as an early hysterectomy. The hints given early in the book seem to point to a much darker version of this being exemplified in this story. However, the ritual is never shown in any detail – just hints and winks. I found that to be much more satisfying, truth to tell – you could create the thing in your own head, which is generally scarier than anything a writer can explicitly state.

The text itself played tricks on my eyes – whenever I would defocus my eyes I would see pentagrams and flames and spikey-looking things. And this would happen a lot, since a) I was forced to read the book on my computer and b) I was often forced to re-read a passage more than once. It’s not that the book was necessarily hard, it was just dense and I really needed to focus, which brings me back to a) and the fact that incoming email or random thoughts of things I wanted to Google kept interrupting me. I wish I had received the proper Kindle file from NetGalley. Fortunately my computer decided it didn’t like the network connection and the WiFi wouldn’t work, so when it came time for me to try again to read the book (after taking a couple days to read some other books), I was able to focus without that distraction.

This is perhaps the point that it would be appropriate to complain about that. Generally once I see the file name on my Kindle list, I “accept” the title from NetGalley. Since it is difficult for me to remember to go back and post reviews on Amazon, I like to wait until close to or soon after the book release to read and review it, so I hadn’t actually opened the file on my Kindle until I sat down to read the story. As I read the first chapter, I was quite confused. “I thought this was horror, not epic fantasy?” I queried to myself. Finally I went to the book’s cover and saw that, while the file name from the menu at the top of the screen said The Croning, same as it did on the main list of titles, the text of the book itself was Scourge of the Betrayer. Probably not as different as it may seem, especially with the beginning of The Croning retelling Rumplestiltskin, but still – not what I expected. Fortunately I had later downloaded the file to my desktop, Adobe Digital, and got the correct one that time. Still, I’m two for two on bad NetGalley files this weekend! And speaking of things that irritated me ….

At one point Kurt is bitten by a rat while sleepwalking, at which point he is said to need “X-rays, tetanus and rabies shots.” This is spreading the misunderstanding that rats can carry rabies, which is untrue. Rats are small and have a very swift reaction to things – in the event of being bitten by a rabid creature, rats are most likely to be killed outright. If they were to survive, somehow, then the fast spread of the disease through their system would kill them too rapidly for them to become infectious. Additionally, rabies is spread through saliva being injected into a bit, and rats – due to the structure of their mouth – deliver a “dry” bite; there is no saliva present in a rat bite, so even in the extremely unlikely scenario where a rat would survive a rabid-animal attack, and live long enough with the disease to become infectious, the chance of a bite causing rabies is very remote. That was your public health information for the day, you’re welcome! ☺

However, overall this was a wonderful horror novel – creepy, spooky, atmospheric – psychological rather than gore, which is what I prefer. Nothing wrong with a gorefest, but I don’t find them particularly scary or spooky, whilst a psychological horror book will tend to leave me sleeping with the lights on. Highly recommended.

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Review: That Which is Nameless

That Which is Nameless
That Which is Nameless by Chris Salch

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Horror Reading Level: Adult Read: from 5/19-5/20/12

Disclosure: I picked up a free ebook version on Amazon back in January; recently the author contacted me to offer me a copy in exchange for an honest review. Since I already had it, I said I’d be happy to provide feedback.

Synopsis: "There is a somewhere in the middle of nowhere that is everywhere at the same time. In that place, time is a fluid that flows around you, and the very fabric of reality seems to twist and stretch," said the old man with a sly grin on his face. There was a glint in his eye that all talented storytellers have when they are reciting some particularly enticing bit. From the way he spoke, you would wonder if he drank one too many and followed it with the worm. Of course, the fact that this particular conversation happened to be taking place in a retirement home, without an ounce of liquor in sight would, normally, seem to preclude that possibility.

"I've been there once myself. Years and years ago when I was a much younger man. Of course, nowadays I doubt you could find it again. It may be impossible to get there with all this newfangled technology around, Mapping every last inch of the world so that everything has a name to it," he spat out the last words with a disgusted grimace, "Of course, that's the way things have to be. If we didn't explore every last inch of our planet, we would be a dead race. That's the thing, you see. We have to keep moving out farther and farther to stay alive, but we destroy the mystery when we do. Curiosity doesn't always kill the cat. Sometimes . . . sometimes it doesn't kill anyone. Sometimes, it just closes the door and walks away."

My Thoughts: The author tells me the book has been re-edited and provided to Amazon to update; although I downloaded a fresh copy right before reading it, I don’t think I received the re-edited copy, as there are a number of typos and grammatical errors in the text I have. It’s not a problem for me, but please make sure you have the latest edition of this book.

That said, the synopsis is actually the first two paragraphs of the story. The basic idea is that there are powers that control the world, and you can reach them by the path mentioned by the old man. Most of the story is The Nameless, who controls The Book, trying to understand his power and survive, basically. It’s an interesting idea, and it’s obvious that the writer has some talent and ability, but the story itself needs a great deal of polish. I ran across at least one major plot hole, which I can’t mention or I’ll add a major spoiler to the story here. The characters had a certain level of development, but it ended at the point where their position in the story was set – the interviewer, the old man, the nurse (Melanie), Jack the drunk. Then there was The Nameless and Tabitha. At any rate, it’s not a bad story – it’s highly entertaining while one is reading it – but it doesn’t have that polished finishing touch that needed to turn a good idea into a great story. That said, fans of horror should find it entertaining.

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cover Reveal: LK Rigel Presents "Bride of Fae"

Bride of Fae by LK Rigel - coming soon...

Review: The Best Horror of the Year

The Best Horror of the Year
The Best Horror of the Year by Ellen Datlow

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Anthology: Horror Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free eGalley – eBook uncorrected proof/ARC – in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: The first three volumes of The Best Horror of the Year from Nightshade books have been widely praised for their quality, variety, and comprehensiveness.

Now, for the fourth consecutive year, editor Ellen Datlow, winner of multiple Hugo, Bram Stoker, and World Fantasy awards, has explored the entirety of the diverse horror market, distilling it into the fourth anthology in the series and providing an overview of the year in terror. With tales from Laird Barron, Stephen King, John Langan, Peter Straub, and many others, and featuring Datlow's comprehensive overview of the year in horror, now, more than ever, The Best Horror of the Year provides the petrifying horror fiction readers have come to expect-and enjoy.

Fear is the oldest human emotion. The most primal. We like to think we're civilized. We tell ourselves we're not afraid. And every year, we skim our fingers across nightmares, desperately pitting our courage against shivering dread.

A paraplegic millionaire hires a priest to exorcise his pain; a failing marriage is put to the ultimate test; hunters become the hunted as a small group of men ventures deep into a forest; a psychic struggles for her life on national television; a soldier strikes a grisly bargain with his sister's killer; ravens answer a child's wish for magic; two mercenaries accept a strangely simplistic assignment; a desperate woman in an occupied land makes a terrible choice...

What scares you? What frightens you? Horror wears new faces in these carefully selected stories. The details may change. But the fear remains.

Table of Contents:
The Little Green God of Agony - Stephen King: A paraplegic millionaire hires a priest to exorcise his pain
Stay - Leah Bobet – can a woman with no medicine stop Raven and keep a wendigo human?
The Moraine - Simon Bestwick – a failing marriage is put to the ultimate test
Blackwood's Baby - Laird Barron – hunters become the hunted as a small group of men ventures deep into a forest.
Looker - David Nickle – a young man at a party meets a girl with extraordinary eyes
The Show - Priya Sharma – a psychic struggles for her life on national television
Mulberry Boys - Margo Lanagan – villagers produce silk for a living, but what price have the villagers paid for this income?
Roots and All - Brian Hodge – a soldier strikes a grisly bargain with his sister's killer
Final Girl Theory - A. C. Wise – a film made 40 years ago fascinates a man, and when he thinks he sees one of the actresses on the street he follows her home, because he has to know: was it real?
Omphalos - Livia Llewellyn – family togetherness was never meant to be like this.
Dermot - Simon Bestwick – the Special Projects department of a police station requires the help of Dermot to locate the creatures that prey on the town; but is his help worth the price they pay him for it?
Black Feathers - Alison J. Littlewood – ravens answer a child's wish for magic
Final Verse - Chet Williamson – to what extreme would you go in order to find the answer to a long-held question?
In the Absence of Murdock - Terry Lamsley – where did Murdock go and why has no one seen him in days?
You Become the Neighborhood - Glen Hirshberg – mother and daughter reminisce about the event that drove the mother mad, and about the events that led up to it.
In Paris, In the Mouth of Kronos - John Langan – two mercenaries accept a strangely simplistic assignment
Little Pig - Anna Taborska – a desperate woman in an occupied land makes a terrible choice
The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine - Peter Straub – love and pain and pleasure and surrealism

My Thoughts: Stephen King is still the master – by the end of his story, “Little Green God of Agony,” I was actually tensed up and waiting for a blow – maybe because I’ve dealt with pain for years now, I don‘t know, but wow that story got to me. “The Moraine” is a creepy story that is enough to make you nervous about walking over rocks ever again. “Blackwoods Baby,” about hunting an enormous stag, was incredibly disturbing. “The Show” was another weird one, with a woman acquiring a spirit guide in a very strange way. “Roots and All” was about the price one needs to pay – which is inevitably a steep one, as is “Little Pig”. Omphalos was extremely disturbing, and highly strange.

I enjoyed the fact that the tales of the Native peoples of the extreme northern areas of North America, the tribes called Dene or Inuit, were incorporated into “Stay.” Of course, the wendigo myth is common to many tribes across North America, but it was still refreshing to see these native peoples in a new light – we hear very little about them in mainstream media. There is the smallest hint of medicine in the tale “Black Feathers,” as well – it also features Raven and emphasizes that you should be careful what you wish for... because you just might get it. Then, “In Paris in the Mouth of Kronos” we get a hint of the Greek gods, to balance things, while “The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine” gives us a touch of Amazonia.

In “You Become the Neighborhood,” I was amused by references to a wolf spider spinning a web over the apartment door every night, and the people living there carefully knocking down the web each morning so they could get out of the house. There are a lot of overly ambitious spiders around my neck of the woods and this sort of thing happens all the time.

Straub is one of my favorite authors, but the story of his in this anthology really bothered me. I liked it, don’t get me wrong – it’s typical Straub, in that it’s dreamlike, surreal and haunting. However, it is also inconsistent. The character Sandrine’s age changes constantly. She is born in 1957, is 15 in 1969, is 19 in 1976, is 25 in 1982 and is 49 in 1997. Ballard is described as being both 44 and 38 in 1982.

I haven’t commented on every single story, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t all good – in many cases, there’s just no way to comment on them without spoiling the story – which is a real problem when reviewing an anthology.

The introduction was really long – 12% of the book – but very interesting. I ended up with a long list of books that I need to check out now (oops – like I needed more books to read!)

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Just My Type: A Book About Fonts

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts
Just My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received a free ARC eBook galley from NetGalley in return for an honest review

Synopsis from NetGalley: Fonts surround us every day, on street signs and buildings, on movie posters and books, and on just about every product that we buy. But where do they come from, and why do we need so many? Who is responsible for the staid practicality of Times New Roman, the cool anonymity of Arial, or the irritating levity of Comic Sans (and the movement to ban it)?

Typefaces are now 560 years old, but we barely knew their names until about twenty years ago when the pull-down font menus on our first computers made us all the gods of type. Beginning in the early days of Gutenberg and ending with the most adventurous digital fonts, Simon Garfield explores the rich history and subtle powers of type. He goes on to investigate a range of modern mysteries, including how Helvetica took over the world, what inspires the seemingly ubiquitous use of Trajan on bad movie posters, and exactly why the all-type cover of Men Are from Mars, Women Are From Venus was so effective. It also examines why the “T” in the Beatles logo is longer than the other letters and how Gotham helped Barack Obama into the White House.

A must-have book for the design conscious, Just My Type’s cheeky irreverence will also charm everyone who loved Eats, Shoots & Leaves and Schott’s Original Miscellany.

My Thoughts: I find fonts fascinating; I love to use unusual fonts in personal correspondence (although I prefer Times New Roman for other uses), and I love to learn about fonts and typesetting, which leads me to read the little bit at the end of many books that tells about the font being used in it. Therefore, I was very interested in reading Just My Type. However, I quickly found that the e-ARC was a mess and completely unreadable. I had wanted the book anyway, so I bought it and read the physical copy. Lesson one learned: don’t try to read graphics-intensive books on an e-reader. It just won’t work...

One thing I would have loved to have seen was a section that showed the various fonts side-by-side – sure, there were words and letters in the different fonts here and there – even entire chapters written in a different font while its history was told – but not a section dedicated to showing as many of the fonts as possible side-by-side. I would have really enjoyed that – but several books where people can take a look at fonts are mentioned, so I’ll be checking that out.

Garfield makes a discussion of fonts and typography amusing, filled with anecdotes and quirkiness. I especially got a kick out of Chapter 18: Breaking the Rules – mostly because the use of multiple fonts within a single page (sometimes as often as every paragraph) is something I have often done while writing letters to friends. It’s unfortunate that it is so difficult to use fonts effectively within the on-line world in some ways – in other ways, it’s probably for the best. For those who are interested in typography, fonts or the history of writing, this is a must-read.

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Richelle Mead interviews

If you like Richelle Mead, then you'll want to check out a couple interviews she just gave!

Interview with USA Today books

Interview with Comic Booked Podcasts

And just for fun, you can find my reviews of the graphic novelization of the first four issues of Storm Born here:
Storm Born issue 1
Storm Born issue 2
Storm Born issue 3
Storm Born issue 4

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review: Moonlight

Moonlight by Arshad Ahsanuddin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Note: I am re-releasing this review as this book is free today only on Amazon.

Disclosure: I received a free eBook copy of the first edition of this book in exchange for an honest review. The book has been revised and re-released in a new edition with some content changes, but the essential plot remains the same.

My Synopsis: When an attack on Toby and Andrea Daniels (the President’s daughter) results in the death of Toby’s AI, the AI’s internal government – The Nexus – unveils itself to the Armistice, and humanity, demanding retribution. The resulting backlash by humanity causes the development of an organization called Organic Underground, devoted to the destruction of The Nexus and establishment of the AIs as being under the control of organics. Toby agrees to serve as liaison between The Nexus and the Armistice, leaving him in great danger as OU attempts repeatedly to assassinate him. How do they keep finding him? Who is the traitor in their midst?

Additionally, in this book, we see the relationship between Toby and Layla growing, and a surprising result of their union. Nick and the group of people we spend most of our time with in the first two books are more in the background in this one, as the Armistice moves into its second generation of mortals.

My Thoughts: After an intense three days reading these books, I’m left rather adrift – these are so well-crafted that one is completely inside the world while reading them, and there is a resounding silence in my ears now that they are done. I don’t know how it is I am going to wait until the next book in the series comes out – it is due sometime in 2012. Edit: Starlight: Book 4 in the Pact Arcanum, as well as two novellas, is currently available. That should not stop you from buying the first three books in the series and immersing yourself in this world – it will just make it all the more enjoyable when you reintegrate yourself with the next installment. That should encourage you to grab the full set now available and hope for another installment soon! End edit I am Katy Sozaeva, and I approve this message ...

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Movie Review: Hot Fuzz

from Jan. 2009...
Hot Fuzz movie review
5 out of 5 stars

When Sgt. Angel arrives in sleepy Sanford, he is absolutely appalled - the very first night he rounds up "most the town, there" as underage drinkers, a drunk-driver and other petty behaviour occurs around him, and he tramps them all into jail. Heralding his own arrival in this manner does not necessarily grant him an easy entrance into the camaraderie that the rest of the force share, especially "the Andies" (played by Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall), who constantly twit him and smart off to him and generally make his life miserable (and do those guys REALLY talk like that, or were they just making a silly voice for this movie?). The drunk driver (Nick Frost), yclept Danny, turns out to be the son of the Inspector (Jim Broadbent), and, of course, Danny wants to be just like this "big city" policeman. For Danny, watching buddy-cop movies is his passion and pass-time, so he has somewhat skewed perceptions of the reality of police work in the "big city."

However, shortly after Angel arrives, bodies start to show up. It certainly appears they are accidental deaths, but Angel - being the suspicious sort - isn't very trusting, especially when it comes to that sort of thing - and begins to get suspicious. His suspicions are especially aroused by the owner of the local supermarket (Tim Dalton), who is always wandering around making creepy small talk to people; for instance "Why, I bet if we took your head off, we'd find all kinds of interesting things inside ..."

He becomes even more suspicious as the "accidents" become more and more unlikely. Finally, he discovers that things in the sleepy 'burg of Sanford are not at all as they seem ... but is it too late for him?

An absolutely wonderful movie, lots of wonderfully dry British humour - the sort of thing you have to just sit back and goggle over, it's so wonderful. The scene with the woman who owns the nursery is so wonderfully funny that I have to wonder how many takes it took to get it right, because she and/or Pegg had to have been cracking up every few sentences, with so many "God rest him/her/thems" scattered throughout it. A fun game to play (no fair looking at IMDB to find the answers!) is "Spot the uncredited, hidden celebrity in the extras!" Can YOU find Cate Blanchett? Peter Jackson? Steve Coogans? Peter Wild? Garth Jennings? etc. ...

So ... get this movie. Watch it repeatedly until you can quote it at length in your sleep. Love it like your child. It will be your friend when you have no other friends (probably because all you do is watch this movie and forget to bathe, but ... meh ... who needs friends when you have Hot Fuzz, right??)!

Tell me Something Tuesday

Tell me Something Tuesday is a weekly meme from the Cambria Hebert blog. If you decide to play along, do be sure to stop by and fill out the Mr. Linky here.

This week's TMST question is:
Tell Me Something:

If you could be any animal, which would you be?

As Cambria says in her blog, it's not an easy question - there's so many things I would love to experience. But based on my own observations, I think my choice would be:

A Housecat! Housecats don't have to worry about hunting - they have food and water provided and are pampered and coddled (or at least mine are!).

They get to lay around all day and not worry, plus sometimes they get catnip!!

There you have it! Plus several pictures of my own adorable cats. Finally, Fluff says: Don't worry, be happy!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Giveaway featuring Pact Arcanum by Arshad Ahsanuddin

It's giveaway time again!! This week Arshad Ahsanuddin is offering an eBook copy of one of his Pact Arcanum books! If you have never read these, I can tell you that I love these books and think they are the most fascinating idea to come along in the vampire genre in ages. And if you win, you can get the first book in the series, Sunset - or if you already have some of the books, you can request whichever other one in the series you need next.

Before I go on, in order to sign up for this giveaway, simply make a comment and please include your e-dress so I can contact you!

OK, now that we have that out of the way, let me point you to some information on the Pact Arcanum to get you warmed up!!

The books are:
Sunset Book 1
Sunrise Book 2
Radiant Burn (a novella, 2.5)
Moonlight Book 3
The Best of Times (a novella, 3.5 - the link takes you to the Goodreads page, 'cause my review is spoilerific...) and finally,
Starlight Book 4
Click on the name of the books and you'll go straight to my review, from which you can go and check out more info about the book. The link on the first mention of the book will take you to the Amazon page and from there it will be easy to go check out the other books in the series as well.

For those who want another chance to win this book, starting 5/17 you can check The Hop Against Homophobia as Arshad will also be providing a copy of a book from the Pact Arcanum in that giveaway as well.

Also, as an extra bonus, Arshad is offering the books in the Pact Arcanum on a staggered giveaway through the month of May. He started with Sunset on Saturday, and today it is Sunrise that is available free on Amazon, so if you're in a hurry, you can pick it up now and select the next book in the series if you win! In the meantime, watch Amazon through the month for a chance to get the rest of the books in the series.

Sign up; the giveaway will end next Monday, May 21 whenever I get up and pick a winner randomly!

J Taylor Publishing Presents: Darkness & Light (A Holloway Pack Story) by JA Belfield

Cover Re-Reveal Date : Monday, May 14, 2012

Darkness & Light
A Holloway Pack Story
by J.A. Belfield
Release Date: July 1, 2011
ebook Re-Release Date: June 1, 2012 (with bonus scene content!)
Target Reader: Adult
Keywords: Paranormal Romance, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Werewolf

Back of the Book

Jem Stonehouse, a housewife with a neurotic husband bent on keeping her in line, dreams about werewolves in, what she believes, is a bid to escape boredom.

Sean Holloway is a werewolf, living a charade within the human race, whose mind drifts to a bond he shares with a woman he hasn't met — at least, not in this lifetime.

Apart, the two are safe but live unfulfilled lives.

Together, they'll become prey to rival packs just as they have been for hundreds of years.

When their worlds collide, and not for the first time, instinct takes over. Dreams become reality. Futures are uncertain. To keep history from repeating itself, Sean must teach Jem about his heritage, convince her of her role, and win her love.

Can Jem accept her destiny before it's too late, or is her inner wolf buried too deep to save her future with Sean?

The re-release of the Darkness & Light ebook will include three bonus scenes from Sean Holloway's perspective.

Double Bonus!
For the month of June (June 1 - 30, 2012), Darkness & Light will be on sale for just $.99 USD.


Other Books in this series include:
Instinct (#0)
Eternal (#0.5)
Blue Moon (#2)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Book review: "guilt: Stories" by Ferdinand von Schirach

guilt: Stories review
Author: Ferdinand von Schirach
Translator: Carol Brown Janeway
5 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: True Crime Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free Uncorrected Proof/Advance Reader’s copy from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: On a sweltering day in August, a small town drunkenly celebrates its six-hundredth anniversary with a funfair when an anonymous tip leads police to find a young woman brutally beaten, raped, and thrown under the floorboards of the very stage on which her attackers had just played a polka. An eight-member brass band composed of respectable family men with respectable day jobs is charged with the crime. A neophyte defense lawyer, still wet behind the ears and breaking in his attaché case, takes on the trial, only to lose his innocence in the process.

So begins Guilt, Ferdinand von Schirach’s tense, riveting collection of stories based on real crimes he has known. In these brief, succinct tales, von Schirach calls into question the nature of guilt and the toll it takes—or fails to take—on ordinary people. In “The Illuminati,” the popular mean crowd at an all-boys’ boarding school wages a vicious attack against an outsider schoolmate, and ends up accidentally killing the boy’s beloved teacher. Attempting to hurdle through a midlife crisis, a housewife begins to steal trivial things no one will miss, an act that gives her a rush and staves off depression in “Desire.” And in “Snow,” an old man whose home is used as a way station for a heroin ring agrees to protect the identity of the lead drug runner, who receives his comeuppance in due course.

Compassionate and seen with the same cool, controlled eye that propelled Ferdinand von Schirach’s debut collection, Crime, onto best-seller lists,Guilt is a stunning follow-up from one of Germany’s finest new writers.

My Thoughts: I started reading this late on a Sunday because it was short and comprised of short stories, thinking I’d probably end up carrying it into my editing week - I didn't, because I sat and read it straight through as fast as I could. I hadn’t remembered exactly what it was about and was shocked by the monumental brutality of the first story. Make no mistake, these stories are shocking, often brutal, and absolutely mesmerizing to read – like a beautiful train wreck. They all flow smoothly and are like reading velvet over knives – you never know when the knife will slip through the velvet and cut you. However, among all this sharpness, there were two stories – The Key and Secrets – that made me laugh, so it’s not all darkness. But it is all about guilt – who has it, who should have it, who gets away without ever experiencing it. A very odd but interesting set of stories. Highly recommended.

Book review: Into the Black: Odyssey One by Evan Currie

Into the Black: Odyssey One
Author: Evan Currie

5 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Military Science Fiction – Space Opera Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a free uncorrected proof/advanced reader’s copy from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: Beyond the confines of our small world, beyond the well of our star, lies a galaxy, and universe, larger and more varied than any of us can imagine. Assigned the task of blazing man's first trail into that great unknown, Captain Eric Weston and the crew of the NAC Odyssey launch on a mission destined to make history.

Past the bounds of comfort, they encounter horrors and wonders beyond their imagining, with people and monsters beyond reckoning.

Odyssey One is the first voyage of the NAC Odyssey and its crew, and the beginnings of a Military Science Fiction Epic that combines both old school space opera, and modern storytelling in one great, exhilarating adventure.

My Thoughts: Military science fiction and space opera is a bit of an acquired tasted, but once one has acquired that taste, one tends to devour these sorts of books. I got started with the amazing Honor Harrington books by David Weber, and was hooked. Soon I was reading Eric Flint, Timothy Zahn, John Ringo and every other book of its ilk I could find.

Bug Eyed MonsterOne of my favorite things in the mil sci-fi/space opera genre is the anticipation of seeing how the BEMs (Bug-Eyed Monsters) will be described. Among my favorites are the Posleen – a reptilian Centauroid – created by John Ringo and, of course, these wonderful Drasin created by Currie – a truly repugnant BEM that seem to be based somewhat on the nasties from Heinlein’s Starship Troopers (just one of the ways that homage is paid to Heinlein in this book).

As anyone who reads this books will likely agree, one of the things I really enjoy about a good BEM is when we get an idea of their motivations, and maybe even a slightly sympathetic view of them – Ringo, for instance, after giving us several books of Posleen atrocities, suddenly wrote a book from their point of view – an entire book! It was glorious! Weber gave us a terrific cat-like warrior race as a BEM that in the next book became an ally against an even worse BEM in one of his earliest series (which I can’t remember the name of right now, sorry!), written with David Drake. This is something that is somewhat missing in this book, but since it is only the first book of the series, that is OK – one rarely gets an inside look at the BEM in the first book of a series. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I will say that we may or may not see the Drasin again; however, I am quite certain that there is more to them than we see in this book.

Now the only major complaint I have about this book is one that is, admittedly, about an issue that is tricky. A good military sci-fi/space opera will have a staggeringly large cast of characters due to the sheer size necessary for a space vessel designed for war, and it is important that each character be made as memorable as possible, often within a short period of time. Currie, apparently in an attempt to cut the cast down, frequently reverts to a sort of non-entity when talking about characters that won’t have a major role – in an early scene in the doctor’s office, a crew member is not even assigned a gender, just referred to as a generic crew member the few times he or she is mentioned. This occurs many times – maybe not to the extent that the character is not even assigned a gender, but there are many generic crew members that aren’t assigned names or distinguishing characteristics. This was frustrating for me – while it can be equally frustrating to have dozens of characters to keep track of, I would rather have more information than less. The characters that are named, however, are nicely developed.

As is the plot itself – very well developed and fast-paced. Unlike space battles – long periods of boredom relieved by short periods of sheer terror – this whole book is designed to keep the reader reading as quickly as possible. It is a long book – most editions are close to 600 pages – but written in such as way as to seem much shorter.

Ordinarily I like to read as much as a series as possible all together, but since the 2nd book in this series is not yet published (The Heart of the Matter: Odyssey One is scheduled to be released 9/25/12), I am forced to go about this the slow way. I will be watching for the next book in this series – despite any flaws I may have mentioned, the book is good enough to have snagged on my meter of stories I want to continue reading, which means I would definitely recommend it to you, too, if this sounds like your sort of book.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Review: Against the Light by Dave Duncan

Against the Light

3 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Fantasy Reading Level: Young Adult (15+)

Disclosure: I received a free ARC (uncorrected proof) from the Vine program in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis: The Hierarchy, high priests of the religious order the Light, has installed King Ethan as the monarchical figurehead, ruling both the magical kingdom of Albi and its predominant religion. Scattered throughout the land, worshipers in the old ways of the Earth Mother are persecuted as heretics. And when young missionary student Rollo Woodbridge returns home to Albi, he is immediately arrested for heresy and treason, setting off a chain of events that plunges the land into utter chaos.

My Thoughts: As I’m someone whose spirituality involves honoring the Feminine Divine, I was interested to see how such belief systems would be treated in this novel. I hadn’t realized how many books Duncan had written and became a bit concerned that maybe this was part of a series like so many others, but I discovered that this is indeed a standalone novel.

One thing that struck me was the fact the author didn’t know much about Earth-based or Goddess-based religions, and kept the Children of the Earth and their beliefs in many ways structured on known ideas – praying on one's knees, hierarchy, arbitrary moral codes. Those who have some experience with the belief systems in question realize that matriarchal-type systems are rarely hierarchical in nature; while there will be a High Priestess or Elders, the job or jobs are shared and changed around. Most Goddess worshipers also will not kneel or pray – these are strictures put on by more jealous deities that feel the need for worship rather than fellowship. It’s hard to explain if a person has no basis in this, but the design of the Children of the Earth is not a realistic representation of a Goddess or Earth-based religion.

I also spent a large part of my time absolutely infuriated with the Legions of Light and their high-handed arrogance and self-importance. People who are willing to lie, cheat, murder, torture, etc. in the name of their god grant me nothing but contempt, and this book was full of the type. It was perhaps a bad time to read this one, but by the time I realized exactly how angry it would make me I was so far in I felt it better to stay the course the finish the thing. It turned out that many of the Children of the Mother weren’t much better, which didn’t help things in the end. Like any group of people there were some that were good and some that were bad, but it seemed that this book focused inordinately upon the bad.

I would say that this is probably a love-it-or-hate-it type of book, since the story revolves around a religious conflict of this type. I see a lot of very positive reviews, so it is possible that I’m seeing this from a different perspective than a lot of people. I wouldn’t say I disliked the book – it was mechanically well-written, surprisingly well-edited for being an uncorrected proof, and has a smooth plot flow and character development that show the author knows what he’s doing. The story itself is depressingly realistic about politics, religion and life in general, so don’t expect some shiny-happy sort of fantasy. I doubt I’ll be reading it again, but one never knows - I said the same thing about the Thomas Covenant: Unbeliever books, but ended up buying and reading them again anyway. If this sounds like your sort of book, I would say go for it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: Matters of Mortology

Matters of Mortology
Matters of Mortology by T.M. Camp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Horror Reading Level: Adult

Disclosure: I received a signed paperback copy in a giveaway from the Alchemy of Scrawl blog; although there was no expectation, I think it is only fair to provide an honest review.

Synopsis: Alone in a crumbling manor, an aging undertaker recounts a horrifying episode from the early days of his career. When an unspeakable monster trespasses the border between life and death, the undertaker finds himself in a struggle to save the village he has sworn to serve – even if it means sacrificing his own family and faith in the process.

My Thoughts: First of all, thanks to Coral Russell, who runs the blog Alchemy of Scrawl, for the giveaway in which I won this fascinating book; and thanks to the author for providing a signed copy of his book for this giveaway. If there is one thing I love to collect, it is signed copies of books!

This book is very strange. As I read the book, I wondered where it was supposed to be set – my final thought on that matter is that while the world is very similar to our own, it is not, in fact, the world in which we live. Another thing that confuses me is how, if morticians are not supposed to have contact with women who are of child-bearing years, did the narrator’s father end up with two children? Because it is specifically mentioned that his children were born after he became a mortician... I suppose there must be some sort of rituals involved, as the narrator later discusses some of the reasons he chooses to remain alone rather than find a wife.

What I can say is that while the book is strange, it is also strangely beautiful, the language often very much like poetry, and with a building sense of dread. The small village setting very realistically creates the feeling of a small-town environment – something with which I am very much familiar, having grown up in such a place. I loved the book; if I hadn’t been busy editing for most of the week, I probably would have devoured it in just a few hours – you were right, Coral! Horror aficionados will love this; those who enjoy a beautifully written book will likewise. Highly recommended.

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