Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fun web discoveries

Posted by Simcha 5:51 PM, under | 4 comments

Just some fun things that I came across on the web this week...


This sign cracked me up. I tried to find out where this picture was taken but I didn't have much success.

The Lion Masseur

I love this picture of a lion getting a foot massage. It just looks like a big playful cat lolling around on its back. You can read more about the lion tamer who caters to these lions here.

The North Skirt...
As someone who only wears skirts (it's a religious thing) I thought this was pretty cool. The designer, Meredith Scheff, used soft circuits to create a skirt that lights up on whichever side faces north, so that the wearer will always know which direction is north. Admittedly. I don't usually have a need to know where north is, but in case I ever did, I would certainly like to be wearing this skirt at the time. You can read more about this skirt here as well as watch a demonstration of how it works.


"A Typical Conversation With My Mom" Tales Of Mere Existence



I thought this was really funny because I had very similar conversation with my grandmother, who I lived with when I was in high school, and who kept trying to get me to each fish even though I kept telling her I don't like fish, no matter how healthy it is or how smart it will make me.



Fun quiz: Which Fairy Tale Character are You?

I found this fun quiz through Layers of thought and immediately ran off to do it, because this stuff is important to know, right?
So according to the quiz I am the Gingerbread Man, which is kind of
disappointing because I really rather be a princess or an an evil queen then an edible confection. But oddly enough, the description it provides is somewhat accurate: (at least on those days when my kids don't make me feel like I got run over by a bulldozer)

You are so animated that it sometimes is exhausting just to keep up with you! You are always running around from one place to the next and you usually have about three thousand projects on the go at one time. You love to gab with anyone who will listen and you are always the person to ask when you want to catch up on the gossip. Sometimes you can be a bit of a tease, and you love to fool around and have fun. In fact, if something isn't making you happy you stop doing it!

To find out which fairy tale character you are take the quiz
And if you enjoy these kind of quizzes you might also want to try the Which Fantasy Writer Are You? quiz

Send your love to Diana Wynne Jones

Posted by Simcha 4:07 PM, under | 3 comments

I was saddened to recently hear that one of my favorite YA authors, Diana Wynne Jones, has been battling cancer for the past seven years, and has now decided to terminate her chemotherapy treatments, which did not appear to be helping.

According to her physician, Diana now only has months left, though she has been feeling somewhat better since discontinuing chemotherapy and has regained her sense of smell and taste and is even now working on another book.

I've been a fan of Diana Wynne Jones since I first read The Lives of Christopher Chant when I was thirteen and I immediately went on to read all of the other books in the Chrestomanci series, and anything else of hers that I could get my hands on. Although it has been years since I last read one of Diana's books many of the characters still stand out clearly in my mind, particularly Chrestomanci who was the first really interesting magician that I encountered in a book, and also one of my first book character crushes ;)

I've decided that next week I'm going to try to read and review as many of the Diana Wynne Jones's books as I can, particularly the newer ones that I have missed out on.

And if you are also a fan of this wonderful author, now would be a good time to tell her so.
You can send Diana an email at
meredithxyz@googlemail.com, though it is requested that you not send any questions, but good wishes are more then welcome.


The information I shared with you here is from Diana's mailing list and website


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The City & The City by China MiƩville

Posted by Simcha 6:01 PM, under | 3 comments

I have always avoided murder mystery novels though lately I seem to reading quite a few of them as so many fantasies are now creeping over the genre line to mingle in other categories. Had I come across The City and the City in a bookstore and read the back cover, I would never have even bothered cracking it open as the story it described, of a detective and a murder, is not one that particularly appeals to me. But what the book blurb fails to mention, and what I found out about in a review, is the uniqueness of the city in which the murder takes place, and that is what has had me anxious to get a hold of this book.

Early one morning the body of a young woman is found near a skateboard park, in the European city of Beszel. Inspector Tyador Borlu is summoned to the scene where he begins the investigation of what appear to be a routine case, until he discovers that the woman was recently a student in Ul Qoman, making this possibly a crime of Breach

No one knows who Breach is or where they come from, but it’s the job of Breach to maintain the strict laws keeping Beszel and Ul Qoman separate. Although the two cities exist in the same geographical space as each other and there are areas where the two interlap it is strictly forbidden for the citizens of each city to acknowledge that the other is there. From a young age, Beszel and Ul Qoman children are taught how to “unsee” the people and places around them, in the “other city,” so that they will never be guilty of violating Breach, the most feared crime of all.

If the murder involved Breach then naturally the case should be passed over to the Breach unit who would track down and punish the culprit in their own mysterious ways, but new evidence suddenly appears forcing the case back into Inspector Borlu’s hands. Now Tyador Borlu will be forced to cross the border into the city that he “unsees” every day in order to solve a crime that is far more dangerous and complicated then he could have ever imagined.

The
City and the City was just a really cool book. It offers a story that is fresh and unique, though readers of detective noir novels will probably find much that is familiar to them here.

What I particularly liked about this book was how Mieville manages to make the impossible situation of the two cities seem natural and believable. While we learn about the situation, its history and its effect on every day life, this actually isn’t the focus of the story. Information about the two cities is provided as a part of the background, and often as part of the investigation, but it never takes over the story, making the situation seem as acceptable to the reader as it is to the book characters.

    An Elderly woman was walking slowly away from me in a shambling sway. She turned her head and looked at me. I was struck by her motion, and I met her eyes. I wondered if she wanted to tell me something. In my glance I took in her clothes, her way of walking, of holding herself, and looking.

    With a hard start I realized that she was not on Gunter-Strasz at all, and that I should not have seen her.

    Immediately and flustered I looked away, and she did the same, with the same speed. I raised my head towards an aircraft on its final descent. When after some seconds I looked back up, unnoticing the old woman stepping heavily away, I looked carefully instead of at her in her foreign street, at the facades of the nearby and local Gunter-Strasz, that depressed zone.

Though occasionally an outsider will enter the scene, expressing their independent thoughts on the Beszel/ Ul Qoman situation, and the reader will be reminded at how bizarre the whole thing really is.

And while I really enjoyed The City & the City I will admit that I often got distracted by the overly complex sentences that Mieville seems fond of and which had me rereading some of the same sentence several times in order to understand what they were saying. The dialogue was also not as good as it could have been, which was particularly noticeable in the interactions between Borlu and the female police office who was assisting him, Corwi. Although Borlu seems to view Corwi as a smart and intelligent police officer who he could rely on in times of crisis, she doesn’t actually make any intelligent comments to back this up, which made me wonder why Borlu thought so highly of her.

I was pleased to find The City & the City to be a wonderfully told story with a tightly woven and well paced plot that had me completely engrossed the whole way through. My months of waiting to read The City and the City were definitely worth it and I’m now looking forward to trying out more of Mieville’s other books.

___________________________________________________________________
This review counts towards the Once Upon A Time Challenge reading challenge

Sunday, June 6, 2010

New Scifi and Fantasy Releases: Week of June 6

Posted by Simcha 12:21 PM, under | 6 comments


From this week's selection of new releases it's Patricia Wrede's new novel, A Matter Of Magic, that I am particularity looking forward to reading. Though from the description it sounds like a number of other fantasies that I have read before, since it's Wrede I'm giving her the benefit of the doubt and I expect that it will be just as wonderfully fun as all the other books of hers that I've read. Other than that, there are a couple of other books here that pique my interest, including John Scalzi's short story compilation Metatropolis and Meg Cabot's new vampire novel Insatiable.

How about you? Any of this week's new releases that catch your fancy?

Have a great reading week!



*************************************************************************************

Blood Song
Cat Adams
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: June 8
Description: Bodyguard Celia Graves has definitely accepted her share of weird assignments, both human and supernatural. But her newest job takes the cake. Guarding a Prince from terrorists and religious fundamentalists is hard enough, but it seems like the entire supernatural world is after this guy too. When she is betrayed by those she is employed to help, and everything goes horribly wrong, Celia wakes to find herself transformed.

Neither human nor vampire, Celia has become an Abomination—something that should not exist—and now both human and supernatural alike want her dead. With the help of a few loyal friends—a sexy mage, a powerful werewolf, and a psychic cop—Celia does her best to stay alive. On the run from her enemies, Celia must try to discover who is behind her transformation…before it’s too late.


The Anvil of the World
Kage Baker
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: June 8
Description: The Anvil of the World is the tale of Smith and his feud-prone people, the Children of the Sun. Smith, formerly a successful assassin, is trying to retire, hoping to live an honest life in obscurity in spite of all those who have sworn to kill him. But when he agrees to be the master of a caravan from traveling from the inland city of Troon to Salesh by the sea, trouble follows.

As always, Baker's approach is charmingly distinctive. Smith's adventure is certainly the only fantasy featuring a white-uniformed nurse, gourmet cuisine, one hundred and forty-four glass butterflies, and a steamboat.


Raised by Wolves
Jennifer Barnes
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: EgmontUSA
Release Date: June 8
Description: Adopted by the Alpha of a werewolf pack after a rogue wolf brutally killed her parents right before her eyes, fifteen-year-old Bryn knows only pack life, and the rigid social hierarchy that controls it. That doesn't mean that she's averse to breaking a rule or two.

But when her curiosity gets the better of her and she discovers Chase, a new teen locked in a cage in her guardian's basement, and witnesses him turn into a wolf before her eyes, the horrific memories of her parents' murders return. Bryn becomes obsessed with getting her questions answered, and Chase is the only one who can provide the information she needs.

But in her drive to find the truth, will Bryn push too far beyond the constraints of the pack, forcing her to leave behind her friends, her family, and the identity that she's shaped?



Insatiable
Meg Cabot
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release date: June 8
Description: Sick of hearing about vampires? So is Meena Harper.
But her bosses are making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn't believe in them.
Not that Meena isn't familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you're going to die. (Not that you're going to believe her. No one ever does.)
But not even Meena's precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side. It's a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire hunters, would prefer to see him dead for.
The problem is, Lucien's already dead. Maybe that's why he's the first guy Meena's ever met whom she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena's always been able to see everyone else's future, she's never been able look into her own.
And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare.
Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future…
If she even has one.


Dragon Soul
Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Spectra
Release Date: June 8
Description: With just two novels under their belts, young writers Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett have established themselves as two of the hottest new stars in fantasy. Havemercy introduced readers to a brilliantly realized world riven by an intractable war between the kingdoms of Volstov and Ke-Han—a war in which the great dragons of Volstov—deadly hybrids of machine and magic—and their equally fierce human riders were all that kept the dark sorcery of Ke-Han at bay. In Shadow Magic, Jones and Bennett brought the common humanity of the opposing sides to life in an adventure that showcased once again their talent for creating not only fantastic settings but vivid characters to inhabit them.

Now Jones and Bennett are back with their most accomplished novel yet, featuring the return of two beloved characters, the brothers Rook and Thom. When the war was at its height, there was no fighter on either side who could match Rook for sheer arrogance and skill. Only Rook could ride the great dragon Havemercy, whose savagery and bloodlust matched his own. Thom could not be more different. Bookish, diffident, reserved, he yearns for his brother’s approval—yet fears he can never earn it.

With the war over, and an uneasy truce holding between Volstov and Ke-Han, it seems the perfect opportunity for the long-lost brothers to forge a bond by taking a trip together. At least, that’s how it seems to Thom. Rook hasn’t given a rat’s ass about anything since the end of the war, his brother included, and he’s not about to start now. Not when the one thing he loved in the world—Havemercy—lies scattered in pieces across Ke-Han.

Then Rook and Thom discover that someone is buying up bits of the fallen dragons, including Havemercy. Though the dragons are dead, the magic that powered them is not—and if that magic and the technology created to harness it should fall into the wrong hands, the fragile peace could shatter. An agent from Ke-Han, a sorceress from Volstov, and a group of desert tribesmen are all in the race, and the future rests on whoever gets there first. But all that matters to Rook is that someone is desecrating his girl, so he vows to leave no stone unturned in laying her to rest—and taking his revenge.


Ancient Shadows: Dark Tales of Eldritch Fantasy
William Jones
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Elder Signs Press
Release Date: June 4 in UK (July 10 in US)
Description: Presenting an eldritch dimension that is familiar and unsettling, this anthology of alternate-history tales touches upon a dark mythos unseen beneath the surface of the real world. Conducting a journey into a timeless universe of what might have been, this collection of stories contains narratives composed by today’s most popular Cthulhu Mythos authors. Ideal for sword and sorcery aficionados and written in the authentic style of traditional dark fantasy, this compilation is a must-have for fans of Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, and H. P. Lovecraft.


The Late Lamented Molly Maryx
Sally Koslow
Genre:
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: June 8
Description: The circumstances of Molly Marx’s death may be suspicious, but she hasn’t lost her joie de vivre. Newly arrived in the hereafter, aka the Duration, Molly, thirty-five years old, is delighted to discover that she can still keep tabs on those she left behind: Annabel, her beloved four-year-old daughter; Lucy, her combustible twin sister; Kitty, her piece-of-work mother-in-law; Brie, her beautiful and steadfast best friend; and, of course, her husband, Barry, a plastic surgeon with more than a professional interest in many of his female patients. As a bonus, Molly quickly realizes that the afterlife comes with a finely tuned bullshit detector.
As Molly looks on, her loved ones try to discern whether her death was an accident, suicide, or murder. She was last seen alive leaving for a bike ride through New York City’s Riverside Park; her body was found lying on the bank of the Hudson River. Did a stranger lure Molly to danger? Did she plan to meet someone she thought she could trust? Could she have ended her own life for mysterious reasons, or did she simply lose control of her bike? As the police question her circle of intimates, Molly relives the years and days that led up to her sudden end: her marriage, troubled yet tender; her charmed work life as a magazine decorating editor; and the irresistible colleague to whom she was drawn.
More than anything, Molly finds herself watching over Annabel--and realizing how motherhood helped to bring out her very best self. As the investigation into her death proceeds, Molly will relive her most precious moments--and take responsibility for the choices in her life.
Exploring the bonds of fidelity, family, and friendship, and narrated by a memorable and endearing character, The Late, Lamented Molly Marx is a hilarious, deeply moving, and thought-provoking novel that is part mystery, part love story, and all heart.




The Double Human
James O'Neal
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: June 8
Description: The world has been shattered. Disease and war have ravaged the earth. A resurgent Germany once again threatens Europe, and the US is engaged in the Middle East while New York has been left an empty, radioactive ruin. The city of Miami has become a virtual prison, home to the worst life has to offer. Tom Wilner lives on the outskirts of this forsaken realm. He's what this future passes off as a police officer.

Amid the chaos, where crime and murder happen in a breath, Wilner stumbles into the path of wild and brutal adversary. Forced to go undercover in the most frightfully ravaged corners of the Miami Quarantine Zone, Wilner uncovers something he hasn't seen in decades...a serial killer. But the path that this killer has razed is not like any other--it appears that he has been active for nearly fifty years without any repercussions. People call him "the Vampire." Indeed, this serial killer is not human...and neither are his victims.


Hylozoic
Rudy Rucker
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: June 8
Description: In Rucker's last novel, Postsingular, the Singularity happened. Life on Earth has been transformed by the awakening of all matter into consciousness and telepathic communication. The most intimate moments of your life can be experienced by anyone who cares to pay attention, or by hundreds of thousands of anyones if you are one of the Founders who helped create the Singularity.

The small bunch of Founders, including young newlyweds Thuy, a hypertext novelist, and Jayjay, a gamer and brain-enhancement addict, are living a popular live-action media life. But now alien races that have already gone through this transformation notice Earth for the first time, and begin to arrive to exploit both the new environment and any available humans. Some of them are real estate developers, some are slavers, and some just want to help. But who is to tell the difference? Someone has to save humanity from the alien invasions, and it might as well be reality media stars Thuy and Jayjay. They have the problems of soap opera stars, and are still propelled through adventures in time and in other universes, a long strange trip indeed.


Wicked City: The Other Side (Wicked City, Book 2)
Hideyuki Kikuchi
Genre:
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: June 8
Description: The classic anime Wicked City is based on a series of novels by master horror writer Hideyuki Kikuchi. Tor/Seven Seas is pleased to present these novels to the North American audience for the first time, featuring cover art by Christian McGrath (The Dresden Files).
The Black Guard, whose job it is to protect the boundary between our mortal world and the demonic Dark World, has succeeded in preserving the tenuous peace treaty between the two worlds, averting an all-out war. Now a new threat from the Dark World terrorizes humanity, a monster that invades people’s dreams and causes them to commit murder.
Black Guard agents Taki, a hardboiled human, and his sexy demon partner, Makie, must work alongside legendary Black Guard agent Miyuki if they are to defeat the creature and save the world.
Like author Hideyuki Kikuchi’s well-known and critically-acclaimed Vampire Hunter D novels (Dark Horse), Wicked City is an epic ten-volume tale of supernatural horror and high-octane action.


Dog Blood
David Moody
Genre: Science Fiction/ Post Apocolypse
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: June 8
Description: On the heels of Patient Zero and Pride and Prejudice with Zombies— the electrifying sequel to Hater where humanity fights itself to the death against a backdrop of ultimate apocalyptic destruction

The Earth has been torn into two parts by an irreversible division. Whether due to nature, or the unknown depths of the mind itself, everyone is now either Human or Hater. Victim or killer. Governments have fallen, command structures have collapsed, and relationships have crumbled. Major cities have become refugee camps where human survivors cower together in fear. Amidst this indiscriminate carnage, Danny McCoyne is on a mission to find his daughter Ellis, convinced that her shared Hater condition means her allegiance is to people like him. Free of inhibitions, unrestricted by memories of peace, and driven by instinct, children are pure Haters, and may well define the future of the Hater race. But, as McCoyne makes his way into the heart of human territory, an incident on the battlefield sets in place an unexpected chain of events, forcing him to question everything he believes he knows about the new order that has arisen, and the dynamic of the Hate itself.



Metatropolis
Edited John Scalzi
Genre: Science fiction compilation
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: June 8
Description: Five original tales set in a shared urban future—from some of the hottest young writers in modern SF

A strange man comes to an even stranger encampment...a bouncer becomes the linchpin of an unexpected urban movement...a courier on the run has to decide who to trust in a dangerous city...a slacker in a "zero-footprint" town gets a most unusual new job...and a weapons investigator uses his skills to discover a metropolis hidden right in front of his eyes.

Welcome to the future of cities. Welcome to Metatropolis.

More than an anthology, Metatropolis is the brainchild of five of science fiction's hottest writers—Elizabeth Bear, Tobias Buckell, Jay Lake, Karl Schroeder, and project editor John Scalzi—-who combined their talents to build a new urban future, and then wrote their own stories in this collectively-constructed world. The results are individual glimpses of a shared vision, and a reading experience unlike any you've had before.

Android Karenina
Ben H. Winters
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Quirk Books
Release Date: June 8
Description: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters co-author Ben H. Winters is back with an all-new collaborator, legendary Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, and the result is Android Karenina an enhanced edition of the classic love story set in a dystopian world of robots, cyborgs, and interstellar space travel.

As in the original novel, our story follows two relationships: The tragic adulterous love affair of Anna Karenina and Count Alexei Vronsky, and the more hopeful marriage of Nikolai Levin and Princess Kitty Shcherbatskaya. These characters live in a steampunk-inspired world of robitic butlers, clumsy automatons, and rudimentary mechanical devices. But when these copper-plated machines begin to revolt against their human masters, our characters must fight back using state-of-the-art 19th-century technology and a sleek new model of ultra-human cyborgs like nothing the world has ever seen.

Filled with the same blend of romance, drama, and fantasy that made the first two Quirk Classics New York Times best sellers, Android Karenina brings this celebrated series into the exciting world of science fiction.


A Matter of Magic
Patricia C. Wrede
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: June 8
Description: When a stranger offers her a small fortune to break into a traveling magician’s wagon, Kim doesn’t hesitate. Having grown up a waif in the dirty streets of London, Kim isn’t above a bit of breaking-and-entering. A hard life and lean times have schooled her in one lesson: steal from them before they steal from you. But when the magician catches her in the act, Kim thinks she’s done for. Until he suggests she become his apprentice; then the real trouble begins.

Kim soon finds herself entangled with murderers, thieves, and cloak-and-dagger politics, all while trying to learn how to become both a proper lady and a magician in her own right. Magic and intrigue go hand in hand in Mairelon the Magician and The Magician’s Ward, two fast-paced novels filled with mystery and romance, set against the intricate backdrop of Regency England.


The Evil Within: A Possessions Novel
Nancy Holder
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: June 10
Description: In this sequel to New York Times bestselling author Nancy Holder’s Possessions, Lindsay finds out that she, too, is possessed, and must return to creepy Marlwood Academy in order to rid herself of the spirit. Lindsay’s afraid of what the spirit is telling her to do—kill Mandy! But the secrets of Marlwood go much deeper than Lindsay thought. Sometimes the girls who seem like enemies are actually on your side. And the voices you trust the most—the voices that come from within—are the ones that want you dead.

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