Saturday, July 17, 2010

New Scifi and Fantasy Releases: Week of July 18

Posted by Simcha 4:02 PM, under | 3 comments

It's another slow week for new releases but there are actually a number of books here that interest me. While I'm usually not much of an anthology reader, Lou Ander's compilation, Masked, and P. N Elrod's Dark and Stormy Knight both look pretty good to me. And while I haven't read Kage Baker's The Anvil of the World, her new release The Bird of the River makes me want to give this series a try.

How about you? Anything here that you will be adding to your reading list?

Hope you have a great reading week!




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Black Magic
Cherry Adair

Genre:
Urban Fantasy/ Paranormal Romance

Publisher:
Pocket Star

Release Date
: July 20


SHE HATES USING MAGIC . . .


Ever since the death of her parents, Sara Temple has rejected her magical gifts. Then, in a moment of extreme danger, she unknowingly sends out a telepathic cry for help—to the one man she is convinced she never wants to see again.

HE’S A POWERFUL WIZARD . . .

Jackson Slater thought he was done forever with his ex-fiancée, but when he hears her desperate plea, he teleports halfway around the world to aid her in a situation where magic has gone suddenly, brutally wrong.

THEY’VE BEEN CHOSEN TO SAVE THE WORLD . . .


But while Sara and Jack remain convinced they are completely mismatched, the Wizard Council feels otherwise. A dark force is killing some of the world’s most influential wizards, and the ex-lovers have just proved their abilities are mysteriously amplified when they work together. But with the fate of the world at stake, will the violent emotions still simmering between them drive them farther apart . . . or bring them back into each other’s arms?


Masked
Lou Anders
Genre: Fantasy and scifi Anthology

Publisher: Gallery

Release Date: July 20

Superheroes have come a long way since the “Man of Steel” was introduced in 1938. This brilliant new collection features original stories and novellas from some of today’s most exciting voices in comics, science fiction, and fantasy. Each marvelously inventive tale shows us just how far our classic crusaders have evolved—and how the greatest of heroes are, much like ourselves, all too human.

In “Call Her Savage,” MARJORIE M. LIU enters the dark heart of a fierce mythic heroine who is forced, by war, to live up to her own terrible legend.

In “A to Z in the Ultimate Big Company Superhero Universe (Villains Too),” BILL WILLINGHAM presents a fully-realized vision of a universe where epic feats and tragic flaws have transformed the human race.

In “Vacuum Lad,” STEPHEN BAXTER unveils the secret origins of the first true child of the space age—and disproves the theory that “nothing exists in a vacuum.”


In “Head Cases,” PETER DAVID and KATHLEEN DAVID blast through the blogosphere to expose the secret longings of a Lonely Superhero Wife.


In “The Non-Event,” MIKE CAREY removes the gag order on a super-thief named Lockjaw . . . and pries out a confession of life-altering events.


Also includes stories by Mike Baron • Mark Chadbourn • Paul Cornell • Daryl Gregory • Joseph Mallozzi • James Maxey • Ian McDonald • Chris Roberson • Gail Simone • Matthew Sturges . . . and an introduction by Lou Anders, “one of the brightest and best of the new generation of science fiction editors” (Jonathan Strahan, The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year).


The Bird of the River
Kage Baker

Genre
: Fantasy

Publisher:
Tor

Release Date
: July 20


In this new story set in the world of The Anvil of the World and The House of the Stag, two teenagers join the crew of a huge river barge after their addict mother is drowned. The girl and her half-breed younger brother try to make the barge their new home.

As the great boat proceeds up the long river, we see a panorama of cities and cultures, and begin to perceive patterns in the pirate attacks that happen so frequently in the river cities. Eliss, the girl, becomes a sharp-eyed spotter of obstacles in the river for the barge, and more than that, one who perceives deeply.
A young boy her age, Krelan, trained as a professional assassin, has come aboard, seeking the head of a dead nobleman, so that there might be a proper burial. But the head proves as elusive as the real explanation behind the looting of cities, so he needs Eliss’s help. And then there is the massive Captain of the barge, who can perform supernatural tricks, but prefers to stay in his cabin and drink.


Dark and Stormy Knights
P. N Elrod
Genre: Urban Fantasy Anthology

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: July 20


It was a dark and stormy knight, and nine dark defenders embarked upon a most perilous quest…. They’re the ultimate defenders of humanity—modern day knights who do dark deeds for all the right reasons.

In this all-star collection, nine of today’s hottest paranormal authors bring us thrilling, all-new stories of supernatural knights that are brimming with magic mystery and mayhem.
John Marcone sets aside his plans to kill Harry Dresden to go head-to-head with a cantrev lord in Jim Butcher’s Even Hand. Kate Daniels is called upon for bodyguard duty to protect Saimen, a shifter she trusts less than the enemy in Ilona Andrews’ A Questionable Client. Cormac must stop a killer werewolf before it attacks again on the next full moon in Carrie Vaughn’s God’s Creatures. And in Vicki Pettersson’s Shifting Star, Skamar gets more than she bargained for when she goes after a creature kidnapping young girls—and enlists the aid of her frustratingly sexy neighbor.

When everything’s on the line, will these knights complete their missions and live to fight again another day? Find out in Dark and Stormy Knights!
Includes stories from: Ilona Andrews Jim Butcher Shannon K. Butcher Rachel Caine P.N. Elrod Deidre Knight Vicki Pettersson Lilith Saintcrow Carrie Vaughn

All That Lives Must Die (Mortal Coils, Bk 2)
Eric Nylund

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Tor

Release Date: July 20


Eliot and Fiona Post are twins caught up in an epic custody battle between their mother's and father's families. Their mother is the immortal goddess Atropos, the eldest Fate, and their father is Lucifer, Lord of the infernals, a diabolical fallen angel. The families have put them through rigorous, life-threatening challenges, and together they've risen to combat them in amazing ways. But now they are facing the greatest trial of all—high school.
Paxington Unviersity is no normal high school—it's a place where gods and goddesses, warriors and socerers learn to harness their power, where a debate in class can end in a duel, and your classmates aren't simply friends or enemies, but allies in battle or threats to your life. To flunk is to die--only the toughest graduate. As Fiona and Eliot struggle to keep up their grades by surviving the rigorous training, both families are watching. High school is bad enough, but imagine being caught in the midst of an immortal/infernal war...

Dead Space: Martyr

B. K. Evenson
Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Tor

Release Date: July 20


We have seen the future.
A universe cursed with life after death.
It all started deep beneath the Yucatan peninsula, where an archaeological discovery took us into a new age, bringing us face-to-face with our origins and destiny. Michael Altman had a theory no one would hear. It cursed our world for centuries to come. This, at last, is his story.


Imager’s Intrigue (Imager Portfolio, Bk 3)
L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Tor

Release Date: July 20


In Imager, the first book of the Imager Portfolio, we met Rhennthyl, an apprentice portrait artist whose life was changed by a disastrous fire. But the blaze that took his master’s life and destroyed his livelihood revealed a secret power previously dormant in Rhenn; the power of imaging, the ability to shape matter using thought. With some trouble, he adapts to the controlled life of an imager.
By Imager’s Challenge, Rhenn has become a liaison to the local law forces. He finds himself in direct conflict with both authorities and national politics as he tries to uphold the law and do his best by the people of his home city. Now, in Imager’s Intrigue, Rhenn has come into his own. He has a wife and a young child, and a solid career as an imager. But he has made more than one enemy during his journey from apprentice painter to master imager, and even his great powers won’t allow him to escape his past.


The Poison Diaries

Maryrose Wood

Genre: YA Fantasy

Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: July 20 (Hardback edition)

In the right dose, everything is a poison. Even love . . .
Jessamine Luxton has lived all her sixteen years in an isolated cottage near Alnwick Castle, with little company apart from the plants in her garden. Her father, Thomas, a feared and respected apothecary, has taught her much about the incredible powers of plants: that even the most innocent-looking weed can cure -- or kill. When Jessamine begins to fall in love with a mysterious boy who claims to communicate with plants, she is drawn into the dangerous world of the poison garden in a way she never could have imagined . .

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Random thoughts on Secret Doors

Posted by Simcha 3:17 PM, under | 13 comments

While scrolling through my Google Reader I came across a mention by The Bodacioud Pen of a secret library built by Holly Black , which immediately intrigued me. So of course I had to find out more and I followed a link to the blog The Steampunk Home which had a post about a library built by Holly Black that she hid behind a secret door, concealed as a book case.


At first I thought "how awesome!" What would be cooler then having a secret room? But that thought was quickly followed by my wondering, why would someone want to hide a library. While I love the idea of secret passages in a house or maybe a hidden laboratory filled with top-secret gadgets, a secret room sounds rather Anne Frank too me. And if I had a library as amazing at Holly Black's I certainly wouldn't want to hide it.


But the idea of concealed rooms did fire my imagination so I followed the link to hiddendoors.com where they have pictures of all the different concealing doors that they have available.


Now I really want want one but I can't think of what I would actually hide behind it. In the TV show Webster there was a grandfather clock that hid a secret passage, and I would totally go for something like that. It could be great for sneaking out of the house without my kids noticing...

This line of thought brought me to the website of another company, Creative Home Engineering, that builds some of the coolest secret doors and passageways. They even build staircases that lift up at the touch of a button, revealing another room behind it.

I also found this really interesting video that shows how the people at Creative Home Engineering build these concealing doors and includes a demonstration of how some of their products work, including a fireplace which opens up by placing the pieces on a nearby chess board in particular positions. Very Indiana Jones and very cool. There is even a bookcase that opens with the help of a Harry Potter Book.





So what do you think? Would you want a secret door or passageway in your house and if so, what would you want to hide behind it?


Audio Book Review: Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

Posted by Simcha 2:43 PM, under | 5 comments

In my continuous quest to understand the wide popularity of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden books, I decided to listen to the second book in the series, Fool Moon. In my review of Storm Front I had mentioned my several unsuccessful attempts to get through this book and how I finally decided to give the audio book a try, which I found surprisingly enjoyable. But even with my enjoyment of the Storm Front audio book, I still didn’t see what it is about these books that has captured such a large audience of readers. So I was hoping that perhaps listening to Fool Moon would help shed some light on this great mystery of mine.

Business for Harry Dresden has slowed down to a crawl since the events of the last book and it’s been weeks since the local police, Dresden’s main source for work, have thrown a case his way. But just as Harry is wondering how he is going to pay for his next meal, he gets approached by Murphey who reluctantly admits that his help is needed in solving a series of murders. Each of the murders have taken place on the night of a full moon and each of the mutilated corpses found on the scene have been surrounded by bloody paw prints. Despite Murphey’s lingering anger at Harry she realizes that he may be the only one able to solve this case and help catch the murderer before he strikes again.

Fool Moon starts off slowly with a series of events that rather closely mirrors the beginning of the previous book. An angry encounter with Murphey, a confrontation with Marcone, disparaging behavior from the local cops and some humorous interactions with the skull, Bob, all stuff we already experienced in Storm Front. The pace does pick up about halfway through the book at which point I found myself getting caught up in the story, but my enjoyment was frequently interrupted by certain aggravating aspects of the storytelling.

I think what irritated me the most were Murphey’s frequent angry attacks against Dresden, which came across as irrational and unprofessional, as well as Dresden’s constant self-recrimination, which I quickly got tired of. I found myself wondering why these issues are just coming up now between Murphey and Dresden if the two of them have been working together for years.

I was also annoyed by Dresden’s need to repeatedly rehash the current situation, unnecessarily reminding us of the fact that it’s up to him to protect Murphey and why. Nor did I appreciate Dresden’s long-winded reflections on magic or good and evil just when things were getting heated up. And rather than sounding philosophical I thought these monologues just sounded cheesy; like he was trying too hard to come across as deep and sensitive.

My magic. That was at the heart of me. It was a manifestation of what I believed, what I lived. It came from my desire to see to it that someone stood between the darkness and the people it would devour. It came from my love of a good steak, from the way I would sometimes cry at a good movie or a moving symphony. From my life. From the hope that I could make things better for someone else, if not always for me.


There's more magic in a baby's first giggle than in any firestorm a wizard can conjure up, and don't let anyone tell you any different."

I admit that Fool Moon was a step up from Storm Front, in terms of the story being more interesting and exciting, but I’m still not seeing what it is about these books that are drawing so many readers. The writing is not particularly impressive and the only character that I found remotely compelling is the crime lord, Marcone. I’m not sure if I could have gotten through the book without the help of James Marster’s dulcet tones and I'm not particularly tempted to pick up the next book in the series. So as far as I can see, the mystery of Harry Dresden's appeal still remains a mystery.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Favorite Fictional Character: Chrestomanci

Posted by Simcha 9:41 AM, under | 5 comments

Favorite Fictional Character
Hosted by Ryan at Wordsmithonia

If you are a regular reader of my blog than you are likely to have noticed that I've been reading a lot of Diana Wynne Jones's books lately, and you might have also picked up on my great affection for one of her characters in particular, The Chrestomanci.

Chrestomanci is actually the official title for the powerful sorcerer who is employed by the government to supervise all of the world's magic users. But only those rare magicians with nine lives are powerful enough to someday take on the position of Chrestomanci. The Chrestomancis' are usually discovered by the current Chrestomanci when they are just children and by then they have often unknowingly used up many of their extra lives.

There is actually no one book that provides the full story of the current Chrestomanci, Christopher Chant, though each book in the series adds a little bit more to the picture of who the Chrestomanci is, slowly piecing together a memorable and unique character.

We first meet Chrestomanci as an adult, in the book Charmed Life, where he managed to make a real impression on me even though his role in that book is rather limited. Though it is there that I fell in love with his unintentional humor, his penchant for fancy robes and his deceivingly vague manner that belies his quick wits and vast intelligence. Plus he is handsome too. And whenever there is a crisis the Chrestomanci can be summoned by having his name called three times, at which point he will wander into the scene in a bewildered manner that confuses those who have called him for help, though he does quickly take charge of the situation, solving the current disaster.

In books two and three, the stories take place in other worlds where the Chrestomanci is often called upon to help with a crisis. But then in the fourth book, The Lives of Christopher Chant, we finally get to know the Christomanci as a child , eager for attention from his family and oblivious of his own magical abilities. Then in Conrad's Fate we re-encounter the Chrestomanci as a teenager, who is now looking more like the adult Chrestomanci that we have gotten to know, though young and cocky but with an endearing streak of mischief and unlimited loyalty towards his friends.

Even though the Chrestomanci as a characters is offered to readers in bits and pieces in the course of several different books, he still just really comes alive for me, making him one of my favorite and most memorable of fantasy book characters.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

White Cat by Holly Black

Posted by Simcha 5:13 PM, under | 5 comments

Cassel comes from a family of curse workers -- people who have the power to change your emotions, your memories, your luck, by the slightest touch of their hands. And since curse work is illegal, they're all mobsters, or con artists. Except for Cassel. He hasn't got the magic touch, so he's an outsider, the straight kid in a crooked family. You just have to ignore one small detail -- he killed his best friend, Lila, three years ago.

Ever since, Cassel has carefully built up a façade of normalcy, blending into the crowd. But his façade starts crumbling when he starts sleepwalking, propelled into the night by terrifying dreams about a white cat that wants to tell him something. He's noticing other disturbing things, too, including the strange behavior of his two brothers. They are keeping secrets from him, caught up in a mysterious plot. As Cassel begins to suspect he's part of a huge con game, he also wonders what really happened to Lila. Could she still be alive? To find that out, Cassel will have to out-con the conmen.


I had picked up this book on a whim, not really knowing what to expect as I haven’t read anything by Holly Black before, and was pleased to find myself almost immediately engrossed by the story. I actually ended up staying up late into the night just so I could finish it. The story is refreshingly unique and full of unpredictable twists that kept surprising me until the very end.

The one fault I found with White Cat is that it contains very few likable characters. It took me a bit of time to warm up to Cassel, who is not the most engaging guy, though compared to most of the other book characters, he is downright lovable. The characters seem to fall into two categories, those who are bullying and manipulating others and those who are being and manipulated and bullied, and even those characters who are meant to be neutral seem to fall into this pattern, which started to really annoy me after a while. I particularly disliked how Cassel kept allowing himself to be pushed around by others, even claiming at times to enjoy it, which made him less appealing to me.

I really did enjoy reading this book though, probably more than I had anticipated, and I'm sure that those who generally read YA books will enjoy it as well. I look forward to picking up the sequel, Red Glove, when it comes out next May.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Free read for Ilona Andrews Fans: Curran: Volume I

Posted by Simcha 4:24 PM, under | No comments

Fans of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews will be delighted to hear that Ilona and Gordon are offering their readers some tasty tidbits to tide them over until the release of the next book in the series.

Now hear Curran's side of the story...

Ebook Description:
This isn't a short story or a novella. This is a collection of scenes written by Gordon Andrews as a companion to our Kate Daniels series of books. These scenes illustrate the point of view of Curran, the Beast Lord of Atlanta and are provided in gratitude to our readers for all of their support. This collection isn't meant to stand on its own as an independent work of fiction.

Just follow this link to read Curran: Volume I for free.

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