Saturday, October 23, 2010

Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon

Posted by Simcha 4:12 PM, under | 2 comments

Lately, my job has provided me with a lot of opportunities for listening to audio books, while doing tasks that don't require much thought. I figured this would be a great chance for me to listen to some of those non-genre books that I have been wanting to read but haven't managed to find time for. One such book is Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon, a book that I have heard wonderful things about and have meaning to read for over a year now.

Publisher's Synopsis: The lives of three strangers interconnect in unforeseen ways–and with unexpected consequences–in acclaimed author Dan Chaon’s gripping, brilliantly written new novel.

Longing to get on with his life, Miles Cheshire nevertheless can’t stop searching for his troubled twin brother, Hayden, who has been missing for ten years. Hayden has covered his tracks skillfully, moving stealthily from place to place, managing along the way to hold down various jobs and seem, to the people he meets, entirely normal. But some version of the truth is always concealed.

A few days after graduating from high school, Lucy Lattimore sneaks away from the small town of Pompey, Ohio, with her charismatic former history teacher. They arrive in Nebraska, in the middle of nowhere, at a long-deserted motel next to a dried-up reservoir, to figure out the next move on their path to a new life. But soon Lucy begins to feel quietly uneasy.

My whole life is a lie, thinks Ryan Schuyler, who has recently learned some shocking news. In response, he walks off the Northwestern University campus, hops on a bus, and breaks loose from his existence, which suddenly seems abstract and tenuous. Presumed dead, Ryan decides to remake himself–through unconventional and precarious means.

From the very start of the book, where Ryan is being rushed to the emergency room by his father, with his severed hand lying in a cooler beside them, I was completely hooked. In bits and pieces we get to know Ryan, Lucy and Miles and how they each ended up in their current situations. The main pull of the story, though, is the mystery of how these seemingly unrelated stories could possibly be connected and I just kept "reading" in eager anticipation of making this discovery.

I had a difficult time connecting to, or even sympathizing with, any of the book characters because their choices and behaviors were so foreign to me. While I can understand the concept of wanting to reinvent oneself, the way that Lucy and Ryan callously abandon their families without any explanation really bothered me as well as the way that they passively let events pull them along, afterwards. I was a bit more sympathetic towards Miles, though I was frustrated by the way he kept putting his own life on hold to search for a brother who didn't want to be found, especially since it's unclear what he expects to happen if he does find him. The one character I did come to feel for is Miles's missing brother Hayden. We mostly get to know him through Miles's recollections of their childhood, and it is suggested that he may have taken part in heinous acts of crime, but he was the one I found myself rooting for the most. I really wanted him to be found and to get the help that he needed.

The end, when it came, was both satisfying and disappointing. As the story winds up the pieces start falling into place and the connection between all of the stories is cleverly revealed. But the individual stories are left unresolved, which I was disappointed with. When the book did end I was somewhat stunned at the abruptness of it and my mind scrambled to rearrange the events of the story in light of the new revelations. At that point I would have really liked to have had a physical copy of the book on me so that I could flip back and read certain parts of the book to reevaluate particular events.

Kirby Heyborne does a fantastic job narrating Await Your Reply and I very much enjoyed listening to him read this book. I had no trouble identifying each individual character, even though there were quite a few of them. As I mentioned, there were some instances when I would have liked to have a physical copy of the book and I think I might have missed out on some clues by listening to the book rather then reading it. This didn't really bother me but others might want to take this into consideration before deciding if they prefer to listen to or read the book.

From start to finish, I was completely absorbed by Await Your Reply and I really had to force myself to put it down in order to get other things done. The story just pulls you along and you want to keep reading in order to find out how it all ends. And despite my dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the book, I would still highly recommend it for anyone looking for a thrilling, unpredictable read.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Sorcery and Cecelia by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer

Posted by Simcha 7:13 PM, under | 9 comments

When Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer began exchanging letters as part of the Letter Game they had no idea of how far the game would progress. But after a few weeks of Caroline writing as Kate and Patricia as Cecelia, one letter a week wasn't enough. The two women had quickly become absorbed by the characters they had created, and the story that was coming together, and the letters between them became more frequent. Eventually, as the story headed to its conclusion, Patricia and Caroline took a look at all the letters they had written each other and realized that it would make an excellent book, and from those letters emerged Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot.

When Kate is taken to London for the season, along with her beautiful younger sister, her cousin Cecelia is disappointed at being left behind. But Kate has promised to regularly write to Cecelia everything about her London debut and in return Cecelia will keep Kate up-to-date on the news back home, in Essex. What neither Kate or Cecelia expected was to get embroiled in a sinister plot involving a magical chocolate pot and the Mysterious Marquis. But when Kate nearly gets poisoned by a witch and Cecelia befriends an enchanted young woman with an evil stepmother, both girls tumble headlong into the adventures of their lives. Through regular correspondences, Kate and Cecelia share the details of their individual escapades, which they soon come to realize are connected. And so it is up to Kate and Cecelia to pool their resources together and come up with a way to save a certain marquis from a tragic end, because you can never count on men to get things done properly.

Sorcery and Cecelia includes all of my favorite fantasy book elements; feisty and intelligent heroines, magic, adventure, and a dash of romance. I loved the characters of Kate and Cecelia and by the end of the book wished that I could adopt them as my best friends. Both girls are clever, witty and sensible though they are not above getting into the occasional bit of mischief or in bending the rules when something needs to get done. And when it becomes apparent that the Marquis and his friend are making no progress in defeating the witch and her cohort, Kate and Cecelia step in to take things in hand and get the job done right.

While I usually avoid books written in a letter format in this case I really enjoyed it. For most of the book two different stories are being recounted, one of Kate's adventures in London and the other of Cecelia's in Essex. Both girls comment on each others stories, offering advice and commiseration, and eventually the events in London and Essex begin to intertwine. I really liked the explanation, in the back of the book, of how the story came together through real letters written by Patricia and Caroline, and I thought it gave the book an authentic feel (or as authentic as a fantasy book can get).

It's been years since I last read a book by Patricia Wrede and Sorcery and Cecelia makes me wonder why I've waited so long. It was a delightfully charming book that I had a lot of fun reading and which I'm sure I will be returning to many times. It was a wonderful break from some of the darker books that I've been reading lately and I'm now determined to seek out any other books of Patricia Wredes that I've missed out on (and Caroline Stevermer as well, as I've never heard of her before). After finishing Sorcery and Cecelia I was pleased to discover that it is followed by two more books featuring Kate and Cecelia, and I look forward to reading those books as well.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Free e-Book: Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Posted by Simcha 3:26 PM, under , | 2 comments

To help promote Kill the Dead, the recently released sequel to Sandman Slim, Eos is offering free downloads of the Sandman Slim ebook. Downloads are available for the Sony e-reader, Kindle and Nook, though anyone can download the free software for these readers to read the book on their PC.

Book Description: Supernatural fantasy has a new antihero

Life sucks, and then you die. Or, if you're James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.

Now Stark's back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you'd expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.

Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.

Darkly twisted, irreverent, and completely hilarious, Sandman Slim is the breakthrough novel by an acclaimed author.

This offer is available for two weeks only. Visit Eos for more information.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of October 17

Posted by Simcha 2:23 PM, under | 6 comments

The problem with putting together this list of new releases each week is that I'm constantly discovering new books that I just can't find the time to read. And then, before I know it, I find myself compiling a list including the sequels to those original books, and I'm once again reminded of all the books that I still have not gotten around to reading.

One such book is Celine Kiernan's The Poison Throne, which I have heard great things about but haven't yet read. Though if you have read and enjoyed this book then you have probably been looking forward to this week's release of The Rebel Prince, the final book in the trilogy.

Connie Willis's Blackout has also been on my list of books to read and this week its sequel, All Clear, will already be available. Reading the synopsis of All Clear has inspired me to push Blackout to the top of my TBR list.

And as a further reminder of another author whose books I have yet to satisfactorily explore is 80! Memories & Reflections on Ursula K. Le Guin, a compilation of essays and stories put together by LeGuin's friends. Unfortunately I haven't read enough of LeGuin's books to properly appreciate such a book but I'm sure there are many other scifi and fantasy readers who will.

Some YA book releases worth noting are Hunger by Morse Kessler, Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick and Nightshade by Andrea Cremer.

Hope you have a great reading week!


80! Memories & Reflections on Ursula K. Le Guin
Karen Joy Fowler & Debbie Notkin, eds
Publisher: Aqueduct Press
Release Date: Oct 21

A private gift to Ursula K. Le Guin becomes a gift to all readers, an exciting chance to enjoy someone else's birthday present. In 2009, for the momentous occasion of Ursula K. Le Guin's 80th birthday, Karen Joy Fowler and Debbie Notkin put together a volume of tributes and appreciations, as a birthday present. The project, known in academic circles as a ''festschrift,'' or ''celebration book,'' resulted in a single copy, handbound in green leather, which Karen presented to Ursula a few days after her birthday in October. The original idea came from Kim Stanley Robinson, who also contributed an essay to the book. With Ms. Le Guin's kind agreement, Aqueduct Press is delighted to share this unique celebration with Le Guin's readers and fans. The book contains poetry, personal essays, academic essays, biographical information about Le Guin, as well as fiction, including previously unpublished fiction by Andrea Hairston and John Kessel. Publication will coincide with Le Guin's 81st birthday. Contributors include Eleanor Arnason, Brian Attebery, Richard Chwedyk, Karen Joy Fowler, Molly Gloss, Eileen Gunn, Andrea Hairston, Jed Hartman, Gwyneth Jones, John Kessel, Ellen Kushner, Nancy Kress, Sarah LeFanu, Vonda N. McIntyre, Pat Murphy, Julie Phillips, Paul Preuss, Kim Stanley Robinson, Nisi Shawl, Lisa Tuttle, Elisabeth Vonarburg, and Jo Walton, among others.

All Clear
Connie Willis
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Spectra
Release Date: October 19

In Blackout, award-winning author Connie Willis returned to the time-traveling future of 2060—the setting for several of her most celebrated works—and sent three Oxford historians to World War II England: Michael Davies, intent on observing heroism during the Miracle of Dunkirk; Merope Ward, studying children evacuated from London; and Polly Churchill, posing as a shopgirl in the middle of the Blitz. But when the three become unexpectedly trapped in 1940, they struggle not only to find their way home but to survive as Hitler’s bombers attempt to pummel London into submission.

Now the situation has grown even more dire. Small discrepancies in the historical record seem to indicate that one or all of them have somehow affected the past, changing the outcome of the war. The belief that the past can be observed but never altered has always been a core belief of time-travel theory—but suddenly it seems that the theory is horribly, tragically wrong.

Meanwhile, in 2060 Oxford, the historians’ supervisor, Mr. Dunworthy, and seventeen-year-old Colin Templer, who nurses a powerful crush on Polly, are engaged in a frantic and seemingly impossible struggle of their own—to find three missing needles in the haystack of history.

Against All Things Ending (The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Book 3)
Stephen R. Donaldson
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Release Date: October 19

The long-awaited sequel to The Runes of the Earth and Fatal Revenant returns readers to the Land-and unravels some of the mysteries haunting Covenant and Linden Avery.

Thomas Covenant is alive again, restored to his mortal body by the unimaginable combined force of his own white gold ring, Linden Avery's Staff of Law, and the ancient dagger called High Loric's krill. His resurrection is Linden's defiant act of love, despite warnings from mortals and immortals that unleashing this much power would destroy the world. She brought his spirit back from its prison in the Arch of Time, and revived his slain body, so that Covenant lies whole on the cool grass, and the world seems at peace. But the truth is inescapable: The thunderclap of power has awakened the Worm of the World's End, and all of them, and the Land itself, are forfeit to its devouring. If they have any chance to save the Land, it will come from unlikely sources- including the mysterious boy Jeremiah, Linden's adopted son, whose secrets are only beginning to come to light.

Blood Trinity ( Belador Bk1)
Sherrilyn Kenyon
Genre: Paranoral Romance, Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Pocket
Release Date: October 19

Supernatural warriors bound by an extraordinary code of honor face an ultimate test of loyalty in the exciting new paranormal thriller from New York Times bestselling authors Sherrilyn Kenyon and Dianna Love.Atlanta has become the battlefield between human and demon. All her life, Evalle Kincaid has walked the line between the two. Her origins unknown, she’s on a quest to learn more about her past . . . and her future.When a demon claims a young woman in a terrifying attack and there’s no one else to blame, Evalle comes under suspicion. Now she’s on a deadly quest for her own survival. Through the sordid underground of an alternate Atlanta where nothing is as it seems to the front lines of the city, where her former allies have joined forces to hunt her, Evalle must prove her innocence or pay the ultimate price.But saving herself is the least of her problems if she doesn’t stop the coming apocalypse. The clock is ticking and Atlanta is about to catch fire. . . .
All day.

Crescendo (Hush, Hush, Bk 2)
Becca Fitzpatrick
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Release Date: October 19

Nora should have know her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch (who, title aside, can be described anything but angelic), and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home.
The farther Nora delves into the mystery of her father's death, the more she comes to question if her Nephilim blood line has something to do with it as well as why she seems to be in danger more than the average girl. Since Patch isn't answering her questions and seems to be standing in her way, she has to start finding the answers on her own. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even im

Diving Mimes, Weeping Czars, and Other Unusual Suspects
Ken Scholes
Genre: Anthology
Publisher: Fairwood Press
Release Date: October

Return to Ken Scholes' Imagination Forest in this second collection of quirky, off-beat stories. These 17 tales range from his first published story in 2000 to his most recent in 2009, including two stories set in his Psalms of Isaak series. You'll encounter cynical Santas and explore the dating woes of superheroes. You'll join God and Satan in the bar for a glass of merlot and watch the hyjinx unfold as Reverend Sparkle Jones leads his rag-tag gang of misfits across a post-apocalyptic America in search of the holy grail to stem the tide of an alien invasion. You'll meet the Lady of the Lake in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl and bump into Abe and his backup singers as they do their part to save the world. So settle in for the ride and keep your hands inside the vehicle at all times. Here in the Imagination Forest, you never know who — or what — you'll come across.

Jackie Morse Kessler
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Graphia
Release Date: October 18

"Thou art the Black Rider. Go thee out unto the world."
Lisabeth Lewis has a black steed, a set of scales, and a new job: she’s been appointed Famine. How will an anorexic seventeen-year-old girl from the suburbs fare as one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?
Traveling the world on her steed gives Lisa freedom from her troubles at home—her constant battle with hunger, and her struggle to hide it from the people who care about her. But being Famine forces her to go places where hunger is a painful part of everyday life, and to face the horrifying effects of her phenomenal power. Can Lisa find a way to harness that power—and the courage to fight her own inner demons?
A wildly original approach to the issue of eating disorders, Hunger is about the struggle to find balance in a world of extremes, and uses fantastic tropes to explore a difficult topic that touches the lives of many teens.

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future: The First 25 Years
Kevin Anderson
Genre: Scifi and Fantasy Anthology
Publisher: Galaxy Press
Release Date: October 19

This book holds between its pages the best new science fiction and fantasy stories and illustrations of the year, discovered by the judges of the Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contests—a veritable who's who in the field of speculative fiction writing and illustrating.

Pock's World
Dave Duncan
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy
Release Date: October 15

Pock’s World, long settled by humankind, is accused of being infected by humanoid aliens. It has been quarantined and may have to be sterilized. Five people are chosen to go there and examine the evidence: saintly but ruthless Father Andre; Ratty Turnsole, a muckraking reporter ripe for romance; ambitious politician Athena Fimble; manipulative bureaucrat Millie Backet; and shady billionaire Linn Lazuline. Some of them carry grudges - all have their own agendas.

Pock’s World surprises them all. Nothing is what they expect. Quickly entangled in love, politics, religion, and deceit, they discover that the clock is already ticking and the fate of humanity itself is at stake.

Andrea Cremer
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Philomel
Release Date: October 19

Calla Tor has always known her destiny: After graduating from the Mountain School, she'll be the mate of sexy alpha wolf Ren Laroche and fight with him, side by side, ruling their pack and guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But when she violates her masters' laws by saving a beautiful human boy out for a hike, Calla begins to question her fate, her existence, and the very essence of the world she has known. By following her heart, she might lose everything--including her own life. Is forbidden love worth the ultimate sacrifice?

The First Book of Grimm
Shiloh Walker
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: October 19

Once upon a mission…

Candy Houses
Now that Greta is a Grimm—guardian angel and official paranormal ass-kicker—romance is hard to find. There’s only one man who makes her heart race, a fact that scared her right out of his arms. But now she needs a hand.

The last woman Rip expected to see on this dangerous mission is the one who rejected his love. Faced with a danger neither of them saw coming, the question is which is the greater danger—the one threatening their lives, or their hearts?

No Prince Charming
With days spent trolling for demons and nights with a sometime lover, Elle thinks she’s finally gotten over her so-called Prince Charming. But now, on the eve of her most dangerous mission, he’s back—the man who broke her heart.

Michael jumped at the chance to become a Grimm, though he knew Elle would never forgive him. It looks like she’s doing just fine without him, but he’s ready to use every weapon in his not-so-charming arsenal to save her, if necessary. Kill for her, live for her, die for her…

Warning: Dark, sexy, a little bit scary—these twisted fairy tales are only for grownups and are best saved for bedtime.

The Rebel Prince (The Moorehawke Trilogy, Bk 3)
Celine Kiernan
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: October 18

Wynter Moorehawke has braved bandits and Loup-Garous to find her way to Alberon-the exiled, rebel prince. But now that she's there, she will learn firsthand that politics is a deadly mistress. With the king and his heir on the edge of war and alliances made with deadly enemies, the Kingdom is torn not just by civil war - but strife between the various factions as well. Wynter knows that no one has the answer to the problems that plague the Kingdom - and she knows that their differences will not just tear apart her friends - but the Kingdom as well.

Weight of Stone: Book Two of the Vineart War
Laura Anne Gilman
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Gallery
Release Date: Oct 19

An island nation has vanished. Men of honor and magic have died unnatural deaths. Slaves flee in terror. . . . Are the silent gods beginning to speak? Or is another force at work in the Lands Vin?
Laura Anne Gilman’s critically acclaimed, Nebula Award–nominated Flesh and Fire introduced a brilliantly imagined world where the grapevine—cultivated by the Vinearts who know the secrets of wine magic—holds together disparate lands. Now, confusion, violence, and terror are sweeping over the Lands Vin. And four people are at the center of a storm.
Jerzy, Vineart apprentice and former slave, was sent by his master to investigate strange happenings—and found himself the target of betrayal. Now he must set out on his own journey, to find the source of the foul taint that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear. By Jerzy’s side are Ao, who lives for commerce and the art of the deal; Mahault, stoic and wise, risking death in flight from her homeland; and Ka├»nam, once Named-Heir of an island principality, whose father has fallen into a magic-tangled madness that endangers them all.
These four companions will travel far from the earth and the soul of the vine, sailing along coastlines aflame with fear, confronting sea creatures summoned by darkness, and following winds imbued with malice. Their journey will take them to the very limits of the Sin Washer’s reach . . . and into a battle for the soul of the Lands Vin. For two millennia the Sin Washer’s Commandment has kept these lands in order: Those of magic shall hold no power over men and those princes of power shall hold no magic. Now, that law has given way. And a hidden force seeks the havoc of revenge.


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