Saturday, March 6, 2010

Winner of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms Giveaway

Posted by Simcha 3:31 PM, under | 2 comments

I want to apologize for taking so long to announce the winner of my Hundred Thousand Kingdoms giveaway, I was just waiting to hear back from the winner, but after waiting for a few days I went ahead and selected a new winner.

And so... congratulations to Tea and Tombs for winning a copy of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Please email me with your mailing address so that I can send you the book.

And thank you to everyone who participated and told me about the books that everyone else, but you, loved. I just have to say to all those Twilight haters, there are a lot more of you then you seem to think, though I personally rather enjoyed the book.

I did mention that the winner of the contest has to agree with my opinion of the book, right?
(OK, I'm just kidding. Kind of.)

Friday, March 5, 2010

Interview with Donna from Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings

Posted by Simcha 12:00 PM, under | 2 comments

Welcome Donna! I'm a big fan of your blog and I'm delighted to have the chance to interview you and to get to know more about you and your blog, Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings.

Can you please start off by telling me a little bit about your blog, and what makes it unique?

Hi Simcha! Thank you for inviting over to your place. Well, I keep things on my blog centered around the books I'm currently obsessing over. Lately, my taste for books runs in the Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Romance and YA Fantasy genres dabbling a little still in High Fantasy. As for what makes it unique, tough question. I don't know that there is anything that makes my blog unique.

Oh, you’re just being modest! I guess I’ll have to point out my favorite aspects of your blog then, which include
great book reviews, an attractive and easy-to- navigate layout, helpful links to additional reviews at other sites, weekly listings of new releases, and, of course, the special effort that you make to interact with every visitor who leaves a comment at your blog.

So when did you start your blog and what led you to do so?

I started my blog at the beginning of last year on a whim. I wanted a place to blog about books and I don't think it ever occurred to me that anyone would be interested in what I had to say. So you can imagine my surprise when I realized how big book blogging community actually was.

You mention on your blog that you have been an avid reader most of your life. Can you recall the book that first sparked your interest in reading?

Early on, I could tell you exactly which book first sparked my interest in reading but I do have fond memories of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. But later as a teenager, I remember my dad bringing me all sorts of books to see which would catch my interest. I remember it was a Victoria Holt book but I can't recall what the title was. I just remember how the goth atmosphere, mystery and romance pulled me in so well that I was soon scouring the military's base library trying to find every book Holt had ever written at the time.

Oh, I loved The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe! That was the very first fantasy series that ever read.

Do your children have that same enthusiasm for reading that you do? If so, did you do anything in particular to encourage their interest in reading?

Yes, they do. My son and I share a love for R.A. Salvatore and Barb & J.C. Hendee's books. And my stepdaughter loves to read YA Fantasy, especially the ones like Vampire Diaries. I didn't really do anything to encourage them, it was just something we all do. Who knows? Maybe it has something to do with me carry a book around with me everywhere I go?

What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t reading or blogging?

I like going to movies with my family, going for long walks and finding new restaurants to try. And I love to cook, especially bake. So, I'm always on the look out for a new recipe to try, much to my husband's dismay (I think the man has only 5 taste buds).

You have such a content rich blog, with book reviews, book releases and news and reviews from other blogs, how much time do you put into your blog in order to accomplish all this?

For awhile I was putting in about 3-4 hours a day into my blog but having a full time job and a family, I soon realized this was an unrealistic pace to set for myself. So, I've gotten to where I spent about an hour or so a day now. It's a pace that my family and I can live with.

What is your favorite part of running a book blog?

Meeting new people who share the same love for books as I do. I didn't realize there were so many people out there with the same passion for books.

And what do you find to be the most challenging aspect of running a book blog?

Writing reviews. A lot times I will write a review then rewrite it several more times from scratch. I'm definitely a reader and not writer so I have a hard time trying to say what I want and how I want it to be presented. Plus, I abhor spoilers, so I try so hard to avoid those like the plague. I hope one day I'll get to where I'm comfortable writing reviews.

Have you ever received a negative response from an author regarding a review you wrote about their book? If so, how did you handle it?

No, I haven't. At least not directly. An author linked to my review and made a few comments I didn't agree with. But I didn't do anything about it since the author didn't actually comment on my blog. Just like I'm entitled to my opinion, the author is entitled to his/hers. So I just ignored it.

As a successful blogger with over 250 followers and a regular stream of visitors, I was wondering if you might have any suggestions for other bloggers on building a successful blog

I think the key to any successful blog is to be friendly. In my opinion, when comments are left on your blog, you should comment back. People like to know that you read their comment and that you took the time to respond to them. Also go out and make friends with other bloggers by commenting on the blogs that you like. Everyone likes comments. Comments let others know that people are actually reading what they have to say. And most of yourself.

Thanks for the great advice!

And for your final question... you mentioned that you love to cook, so if you could choose one book character to have over over for dinner who would you choose and what would you cook for them?

Hm, I had to think on this one but I'd pick Gin Blanco from Spider's Bite to have over for dinner. Since I can identify with Gin in the pleasure she gets from cooking. For dinner, I would cook my homemade spicy Chili, and for desert I'd would whip up some Pumpkin Bars with whipped cream on top.

Mmm...lucky Gin, those pumpkin bars sound especially good.

Thank you again Donna for joining me here and I really enjoyed getting to know more about you and your blog,
Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Friday Quotes

Posted by Simcha 6:25 PM, under | 1 comment

I read some great books this week, including Peter Brett's The Desert Spear (which I'll talk about a bit next week) and my old favorite, Villains by Necessity and I'm currently in the middle of listening to Red Seas Under Red Skies on audio, which I'm really enjoying. And so here are a few of my favorite quotes from this week's reads:

Red Seas Under Red Skies
(Scott Lynch)

  • "I'd lay even odds that between the people following us and the people hunting us, we've become this city's principle means of employment."
    Jean Tanne to Locke after another assassination attack

  • "Has anyone ever tried to cut out that disgustingly silver tongue of yours, Master Kosta?'"
    "It's become a traditional pastime in several cities I could mention."
    Madam Durenna to Lock Lamora (posing as Master Kosta)

The Desert Spear (Peter Brett)

  • "They do you a great honor. In Krasia, if no one is trying to kill you, it is because you're not worth killing." - Abban

Villains by Necessity (Eve Forward)

  • "If you hear me screaming, run away."
    "You never scream, Sam," corrected the Barigan...Sam smiled
    "That's why you'd run away."

  • If Sam were a hero, tracking down a villain, he would, at this point, have said a few choice dramatic words along the lines of Mizzamir being his now, or perhaps a suggestion for the mage to make preparation to meet whatever deities he favored. But as it was, Sam was a villain and didn't mess about with such things.

  • "It would be nice just to slip in there and set a few things ablaze," said Valerie wistfully. " I bet all that dry wood would go up like a--"
    "Save the world first, my fellows, and you can come back to enjoy it later," interrupted Kaylana.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer

Posted by Simcha 8:18 AM, under | 3 comments

The Kosher Guide to Imaginary AnimalsKeeping kosher can be tough sometimes, particularly when you are desperately hungry and a mythological creature suddenly crosses your path when you just happen to have a perfectly sharpened knife on you (a requirement for a kosher kill) - but you hesitate, not knowing if this creature would be considered kosher. And so, due to your ignorance you are forced to allow your only source of food (if you are really far from home) to lumber by untouched as you remain hungry. Well, thanks to Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, and The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals, you will never be faced with this unpleasant situation again.

The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals is a handy, pocket sized booklet that lists and describes a variety of imaginary animals from around the world and provides a verdict as to the creature’s kosher status. The animal’s kosher status is provided after a brief dialogue between Ann and Evil Monkey (Jeff Vandermeer’ blogging alter go) in which they consider the different aspects of each creature that would qualify or disqualify it from being kosher.

    Aigi Kampos (half fish half goat):

    Ann: It’s a kind of hippocamp, which generally aren’t kosher- the fish tail part is good, the horse part, not so much.

    Evil Monkey: But in this case the horse has been replaced by a bull!

    Ann: That’s true, so yes, that would be kosher because it has cloven hooves, chews its cud, and has fins and scales.

    Evil Monkey: Well then, answer me this- why is it that the reason it’s kosher have to do with the gross icky bits you wouldn’t ever eat?

    Ann: Why don’t you ask G-d and see how that works out for you?

The creatures listed range from the Japanese Abumi-Guchi (not kosher) and the Chilean Camahueto (Kosher) to the Argentinian Borges (undecided) and the Leviathan (very Kosher, but only for the righteous). At the end of the book, Duff Goldman, from the Food Networks’ Ace of Cakes, discusses the best way to cook and serve some of these imaginary creatures and even suggests appropriate wines to go with each dish. Included with the book was a recipe for Grilled Mongolian Death Worm Maki, which actually sounds quite delicious but unfortunately is not kosher.

manticoreThe Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals is a fun and entertaining book to read through, particularly since it has some wonderful illustrations and includes many creatures from folklore and fantasy that I have never heard of before. I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t more recipes included, since Goldman’s cooking instructions were some of the best parts of the book. But I certainly feel secure now, knowing that if I ever encounter a Wookie, while hungry, broke, and far from home (and carrying a sharp knife, of course) I can go ahead and assuage my hunger.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Villains by Necessity by Eve Forward

Posted by Simcha 5:46 PM, under | 6 comments

What happens after the forces of evil are finally vanquished and the victorious heroes bring peace and harmony to the land? The classic epic fantasies end with the defeat of the villains and a land that is now a better place, filled with peace and harmony- but is that really the happy ending that it seems to be? Perhaps too much goodness and light can, in fact, be deadly, and only those who live in the shadows can see that the world is on the brink of destruction.

Sam, Arcie and Valeriana appear to be the only remaining villains in the land, after their friends and family have all been killed or mysteriously reformed. One is a deadly assassin, the other an untrustworthy thief and the third, a dark creature of the night who feasts on human flesh. Nothing could convince this unlikely trio to work together, except that if they don’t they might all soon be dead, along with the rest of the world.

Following the druid, Kaylana- whose purpose is to keep the balance of light and dark in check- Sam, Arcie and Valeriana must uncover the broken pieces of the key to the portal and bring evil back into the world, restoring it to it’s former state. Along the way they are joined by a mysterious, silent knight and a young minstrel centaur, each of whom joins the quest for their own secretive purposes.

But the heroes who had valiantly battled to destroy all evil, will not stand by as these villains attempt to wreck all of their hard work. The handsome and heroic Prince Fenwick gleefully gets his group of adventurers back together in order to hunt down the villains (and perhaps romance the pretty druid). From his tower, the “kindly” and powerful Wizard Mizzamir uses his magic to track the questing group and turn them towards a purpose of his own.

As the villains struggle to find the keys to the dark portal before it’s too late, they are hounded at every step by the good citizens of the land who will do whatever it takes to stop the evil villains, because that is what heroes do.

I had first read Villains by Necessity many years ago and loved it for its fresh and unique take on the standard epic fantasy and I decided to read it again to see if it’s as good as I remembered. I’m pleased to report that I enjoyed this book just as much now, as I did back then. Eve Forward successfully turns the classic battle of good and evil on its head in fun and interesting ways, forcing the heroes to be the antagonists, and the villains to be the heroes.

This is particularly interesting when you find yourself cheering for the vicious, sharp toothed cannibal or wishing for the death of the do-gooder unicorn who keeps trying to kill the protagonists. Every so often there will be an overly-sentimental scene in which one of the villains will give a cheesy "we must work together to save the world" speech or an unnecessary explanation of how they are not really as evil as they may seem, which the author seemed to have inserted in order to gain reader's sympathy for the villains. But these, along with a few other slight flaws, are forgivable because the rest of the story is so enjoyable.

Villains by Necessity is a great book for anyone who enjoys fun and humorous fantasy. Though, after reading it you might be disappointed to discover that Eve Forward has only published one other book after this one, back in 2001. Considering the great potential that Villains by Necessity hints at for this author, this seems to me a great shame, but hopefully Forward will make a reappearance someday, and in the meantime you can enjoy this gem of a book.


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