Saturday, November 27, 2010

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of Nov. 28

Posted by Simcha 4:00 PM, under | 7 comments

Black Wings
Christina Henry
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: November 30

As an Agent of Death, Madeline Black is responsible for escorting the souls of the dearly departed to the afterlife. It's a 24/7 job with a lousy benefits package.
Maddy's position may come with magical powers and an impressive wingspan, but it doesn't pay the bills. And then there are her infuriating boss, tenant woes, and a cranky, popcorn-loving gargoyle to contend with.
Things start looking up, though, when tall, dark, and handsome Gabriel Angeloscuro agrees to rent the empty apartment in Maddy's building. It's probably just a coincidence that as soon as he moves in demons appear on the front lawn. But when an unholy monster is unleashed upon the streets of Chicago, Maddy discovers powers she never knew she possessed. Powers linked to a family legacy of tarnished halos.
Powers that place her directly between the light of Heaven and the fires of Hell...

Bone Gods (Black London, Bk 3)
Caitlin Kittredge
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
Release Date: November 30

Witch hunts are on the rise and supernatural turf wars are reaching a boiling point. Then, just when it seems life couldn’t get any worse for Pete, Jack reappears—but he’s no longer the man she’s always known. Hell has changed him forever. And he’s brought back with him a whole world of trouble…
A cabal of necromancers are using ancient, unspeakable magic to turn the tide of war in their favor. Then, as the city is about to sink into chaos, Pete receives a chilling directive: To end the war, you must kill the crow-mage. Beset from all sides, Pete finds herself turning to an unholy source for help…even if doing so could destroy Black London—and life as she knew it—once and for all.

Counterfeit Magic (women of the Otherworld)
Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Subterranean
Release Date: November 30

Return to the world of Kelley Armstrong's best-selling novels Dime Store Magic and Industrial Magic for a long original novella.

The first rule of a supernatural fight club? Don't kill your opponent.

When the fighters come with lethal spells, werewolf strength and half-demon powers, that can be a lot tougher than it sounds. It's hard to attract talent if they know they might not leave the ring alive. So when fighters at a California club start dying -- it's bad for business.

Witch detectives Paige Winterbourne and Savannah Levine take the case. Going undercover in the power-heavy arena of the fight club is a welcome change of pace for Paige, relegated to the role of The Wife as her husband struggles to find his place in his family's Cabal--the corporate Mafia of the supernatural world.

As Paige is drawn deeper into new and dangerous corners of her world, she quickly discovers the greatest threat isn't the killer in her sights. It's something much, much closer to home. And this is one fight she can't afford to lose.

Devoured by Darkness (Guardians of Eternity, Bk 7)
Alexandra Ivy
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Release Date: November 30

They are the Guardians of Eternity, strong, skilled, seductive vampires chosen to protect—and to destroy. And they will risk anything to fulfill their duty, and satisfy their desires...

Tane is a Charon, sworn to hunt and kill rogue vampires. His new assignment seems like a waste of his talents—until he catches up with the jinn he's been sent to capture. Half human, half demon, Laylah has a vulnerable streak that strikes right through to Tane's cold heart. He should be furious when she uses her powers to bind them together, preventing him from dragging her before the Commission. Instead he welcomes any reason to stay close enough to touch, to taste, to seduce...

Laylah doesn't know why she was chosen to protect a child who may be the catalyst in a war between good and evil. But the mysteries of her past pale compared to the dangers approaching. Tane is devastatingly strong, breathtakingly sensual. And Laylah will have to trust in every ounce of that strength, because her enemies are drawing near, eager to destroy them both...

Eternal Flame
Cynthia Eden
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Kensington Publishing
Release Date: November 30

Cynthia Eden invites you into the world of the Others—supernatural creatures who are sexy, powerful, and more than human in every way...

No one that deadly should look that good. Hybrid demon Zane Wynter specializes in tracking the most lethal criminals, whether human or Other. But Jana Carter is nothing like his previous targets. She's an Ignitor, able to conjure and control fire. She's also sexy beyond belief—and used to playing dirty...

Jana knows she's being set up. She even knows who's responsible: Project Perseus, a secretive group that plans to rid the world of paranormals by any means necessary. From Louisiana's sultry swamps to its desolate cemeteries, Jana and Zane must race to destroy the mastermind behind Perseus before their world goes up in flames—and with it, a desire that burns too hot to resist...

Feathered Serpent 2012
Junius Podrug
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Forge
Release Date: November 30

December 21, 2012: The fabled Feathered Serpent begins his relentless ascent out of the bowels of the earth, escaping thousands of years of torturous confinement. Controversial astrobiologist and archaeologist Caden Montez—who believes Teotihuacan is the best site on earth to find alien life forms, such as the Serpent—is on his trail. While exploring this so-called “City of the Gods”—a place so eerie it terrified even the most ferocious Aztecs—she discovers that the Serpent has broken free.

Ancient Mayan priests prophesied that when the God-King returned, he would open the gates to the End Time. Together with an ancient 1000-year-old Mayan warrior—who has crossed the Gulf of Time to save humanity from extinction—the outrageous and beautiful Caden must stop him. Scientists, political leaders, and journalists who have long ridiculed Caden’s theories have no one else to turn to. The Mayans’ Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse is on the move, and humanity’s survival hangs in the balance.

Hungry for You
Lynsay Sands
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: November 30

This vampire has been alone for far too long ...
As one of the most ancient in the Argeneau clan, Cale Valens has given up on finding a life mate. His friends and family, however, have not. In fact, they believe they've finally found his perfect match. Getting them together, however, requires one little white lie ...

Alexandra Willan is in a panic. Her restaurant is due to open in two weeks, but her chef just walked out. Then a highly recommended replacement arrives, an impossibly handsome culinary genius who sends electric tingles racing through her body ...

Except he can't cook. In fact, Cale hasn't eaten real food in two thousand years. Yet he's determined to prove to Alex his prowess in the kitchen ...and elsewhere. Because never has he hungered so for any mortal woman. And not just for a taste of her, but for the whole delicious feast!

In the Dark of Dreams
Marjorie M. Liu
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: November 30

She could never forget the boy with the ice blue eyes ...
She was only twelve when she saw the silver boy on the beach, but Jenny has never stopped dreaming about him. Now she is grown, a marine biologist charting her own course in the family business—a corporation that covertly crosses the boundaries of science into realms of the unknown ...and the incredible.
And now he has found her again, her boy grown into a man: Perrin, powerful and masculine, and so much more than human, leaving Jenny weak with desire and aching for his touch.
But with their reunion comes danger. For Perrin and Jenny—and all living creatures—their only hope for preventing the unthinkable lies in a mysterious empire far beneath the sea ...and in the power of their dreams.

Law of the Broken Earth
Rachel Neumeier
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: November 30

In Feierabiand, in the wide green Delta, far from the burning heat of the griffin's desert, Mienthe's peaceful life has been shaken. Tan - clever, cynical, and an experienced spy - has brought a deadly secret out of the neighboring country of Linularinum.

Now, as three countries and two species rush toward destruction, Mienthe fears that even her powerful cousin Bertaud may be neither able nor even willing to find a safe path between the secret Linularinum would kill to preserve and the desperate ferocity of the griffins. But can Mienthe?

And, in the end, will Tan help her . . . or do everything in his power to stand in her way?

Ally Condie
Genre: YA Dystopia
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: November 30

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.
The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Of Masques and Martyrs
Christopher Golden
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: November 30

Vampires in love and war? Of Masques and Martyrs, is Christopher Golden's hot new dark-fantasy thriller about vampires and their adversaries. Third in the Shadow Saga, which Golden began with Of Saints and Shadows, this new entry into the dark world of the night creatures is his best! Golden may just be one of the most prolific authors around; comics, novels, novelizations, nonfiction -- is there a nothing the guy can't do? Still, first and foremost, he's an imaginative and prodigious talent who never lets genre boundaries hold him back, and is new novel, Of Masques and Martyrs, is no exception. Horror novelist Douglas Clegg interviewed Golden about his new book, his future novels, and why vampires are so hot.

Silver Zombie (Delilah Street Series, Bk 4)
Carole Nelson Douglas
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: November 30

Zombies and Witches and Vamps . . . Oh, My!
What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas—at least that’s Delilah Street’s hope. With Sin City’s vampire and werewolf mobs wanting to cash in her chips once and for all, she’s retreating with her partner Ric Montoya and half-wolfhound Quicksilver to her Kansas birthplace. Unfortunately, when it comes to finding trouble, there’s no place like home. . . .
It doesn’t take long before Delilah realizes she’s not in Vegas anymore. Zombie cowboys and spectral cattle drives are kicking up dust, the local weather girls are total witches who forecast perfect storms, and some Hollywood fanatic is recasting zombies as the greatest stars of the silver screen. And speaking of silver, Delilah’s special affinity for the all-purpose monster-repellent leads her posse straight down a silver brick road—and into a notso- fun house of mirrors—putting her face-to-face with her dicey past and a mystery woman named Lilith, who’s a real dead ringer for Delilah. The key word being dead.

Speculative Horizons
Patrick St-Denis
Genre: Anthology
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Release Date: November 30

Speculative fiction is wide in scope and styles, and Speculative Horizons showcases the talent and storytelling skills of five of the genre's most imaginative voices:

In C. S. Friedman's 'Soul Mate,' it's love at first sight for Josie at the arts and crafts festival when she meets the handsome Stephan Mayeaux. It all sounds too good to be true until her newfound boyfriend starts to act strangely and unexplained occurrences begin to take place around her.

In Tobias S. Buckell's 'The Eve of the Fall of Habesh,' contragnartii Jazim must carry out one final assignment before the armies of the Sea People lay waste to the city he loves.

L. E. Modesitt, Jr. returns to the universe of his bestselling Recluce saga in 'The Stranger.' A young herder's existence will be forever changed by the unexpected arrival of the black-clad man recounting tales of angels living on the summit of the Roof of the World.

In 'Flint,' Brian Ruckley introduces us to a young and inexperienced shaman who must venture into the spirit world to discover the source of the sickness which afflicts his tribe before they are all wiped out.

Talk to any cop working for Homicide, Narcotics, or Vice, and they'll tell you that they get the worst cases imaginable. But in Hal Duncan's 'The Death of a Love,' you realize that they have nothing on Erocide.

The Bone Palace
Amanda Downum
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: November 30

Death is no stranger in the city of Erisín-- but some deaths attract more attention than others.

When a prostitute dies carrying a royal signet, Isyllt Iskaldur, necromancer and agent of the Crown, is called to investigate. Her search leads to desecrated tombs below the palace, and the lightless vaults of the vampiric vrykoloi deep beneath the city. But worse things than vampires are plotting in Erisín...

As a sorcerous plague sweeps the city and demons stalk the streets, Isyllt must decide who she's prepared to betray, before the city built on bones falls into blood and fire.

The Spirit Eater (Legend of Eli Monpress Series, Bk 3)
Rachel Aaron
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: November 30

With the pressure on after his success in Gaol, Eli Monpress, professional thief and degenerate, decides it's time to lie low for a bit. Taking up residence in a tiny seaside village, Eli and his companions seize the chance for some fun and relaxation.
Nico, however, is finding it a bit hard. Plagued by a demon's voice in her head and feeling powerless, she only sees herself as a burden. Everyone's holiday comes to an untimely close, though, when Pele arrives to beg Eli's help for finding her missing father.
But there are larger plans afoot than even Eli can see, and the real danger, and the solution, may lie with one of his own and her forgotten past.
If only Nico could remember whose side she's on.

Vampires Not Invited
Cheyenne McCray
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Release Date: November 30

Vampire attacks are on the rise in the city that never sleeps. So why is half-human, half-Drow private eye Nyx tracking down Sprites? Sure, these “young bloods” are causing mischief all over town—like painting the Statue of Liberty’s toenails neon pink. But it’s not until Nyx finds herself at the Pit, Manhattan's hottest nightclub for paranorms, that she understands what she’s really up against…

Seems Master Vampire Volod has a plan—and the Sprites are in on it. By targeting the weaknesses of every paranorm in the city, from Elves to Shifters to Zombies, Volod and his fang gang aim to rule the night once and for all. Over Nyx’s dead body. She loves a good challenge—and she will seduce danger at every turn to throw Volod off course. It’s time for Nyx to enter the beating heart of this dark conspiracy…before driving a stake through it.

Vicious Grace
M.L.N Hanover
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: November 30

When you’re staring evil in the eye, don’t forget to watch your back . . .
For the first time in forever, Jayné Heller’s life is making sense. Even if she routinely risks her life to destroy demonic parasites that prey on mortals, she now has friends, colleagues, a trusted lover, and newfound confidence in the mission she inherited from her wealthy, mysterious uncle. Her next job might just rob her of all of them. At Grace Memorial Hospital in Chicago, something is stirring. Patients are going AWOL and research subjects share the same sinister dreams. Half a century ago, something was buried under Grace in a terrible ritual, and it’s straining to be free. Jayné is primed to take on whatever’s about to be let loose. Yet the greatest danger now may not be the huge, unseen force lurking below, but the evil that has been hiding in plain sight all along—taking her ever closer to losing her body, her mind, and her soul. . . .

The Exorsistah: X Returns
Claudia Mair Burney
Genre: YA Paranormal
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: November 30

Now that Emme Vaughn is finally eighteen, she's ready to strut her devil-whooping diva boots into Saint Dymphna's Psychiatric Hospital and spring her mama out. Only problem is a lady named Jane Doe beat her to it...two years ago. Jane is as mysterious as her name, but she holds the key to saving Emme's mama and revealing exactly how Emme got into this evil-fighting business — if Emme can find her. To complicate matters, hottie Francis wants her to be his girlfriend, but Emme's not about to come between her man and God's plan. No, the Exorsistah is on a mission that even a scary three-headed demon can't stop (and the Lord knows it is trying). With a lot of prayer, a couple of archangels, and the help of some new soul-friends, X is armed for battle against a malicious force that will do anything to destroy her. But when she needs His Word the most, will she know where to find it?

Jane and the Raven King
Stephen Chambers
Genre: Children Fantasy
Publisher: Sourcebooks,
Release Date: December 1

The Spiderwick Chronicles meets Alice in Wonderland
Jane is the only one who notices all the strange things happening: like a squirrel packing a suitcase, a blind man who can drive, and that adults, including her parents, appear to be hypnotized by technology.
When Jane is attacked by a man with raven black wings, she escapes with her younger brother to a magical land at the center of the world called Hotland. With the help of a cat-person called Gaius and a dragon named Finn, Jane learns that she is the only one who can defeat an evil King bent on destroying civilization.
Praise for Hope's End:
"Once you begin reading, you don't care if it was written by a sophomore or a senior citizen: you just keep reading." -Chicago Tribune
"Chambers's debut seethes with ideas." -Kirkus

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings
Helene Boudreau
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Release Date: December 1

First zit. First crush. First...mermaid's tail?
Fourteen-year-old Jade feels like a freak-of-nature when she finally gets her first period while trying on an XL tankini at the mall. It gets worse when she runs into handsome Luke Martin in the feminine products aisle while her dad Googles 'menstruation' on his BlackBerry. But "freak-of-nature" takes on a whole new meaning when raging hormones bring on another metamorphosis-complete with scales and a tail. When Jade learns she's inherited her mermaid tendencies from her late mother, it raises the question: if Mom was a mermaid, how did she drown?

The Wolven
Deborah Leblanc
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: December 1

Someone—or something—is systematically murdering the members of Danyon Stone's werewolf pack. As Alpha, he knows that finding and punishing the murderous entity is his responsibility, and he's not about to rest until he sees justice done. But to stop the slayings he has to accept help from the most unlikely source—a wickedly sensual mortal woman.
Mystic-shop owner Shauna MacDonald has a special interest in the recent string of otherworldly deaths. As the Keeper of the werewolves, it's her duty to guard and protect the packs. Working by Danyon's side to stop an unknown killer—and trying to deny the potency of their illicit attraction—poses a threat to her heart unlike any she's ever known, ;and if she becomes the killer's next target, it could be the death of her….

Wolf Fever
Terry Spear
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Release Date: December 1

She may be his destiny, but she's not his first choice...
Hospital nurse and newly turned red werewolf Carol Woods is being pressured by her pack leader to find a mate, but he's the only guy in the pack who remotely attracts her.
Why is he playing so hard to get?
The fate of the pack rests on his shoulders...
Gray pack leader Ryan McKinley doesn't want anything to do with Carol unless she's willing to embrace her wolf nature-no matter how beautiful she is.
But when a virus infects the local lupus garou pack, Ryan realizes just how wrong he's been not to seize the moment with the woman he's come to love. And now, it may be too late...

The Casting Trilogy
Pamela Freeman
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: December 2

A thousand years ago, the Eleven Domains were invaded and the original inhabitants were driven onto the road as Travelers, belonging nowhere, welcomed by no one.

Now the Domains are governed with an iron fist by the Warlords, but there are wilder elements in the landscape that cannot be controlled and that may prove the Warlords' undoing. Some are spirits of place - of water and air and fire and earth. Some are greater than these. And some are human.

Bramble: A village girl whom no one living can tame, forced to flee her home for a crime she did not commit.

Ash: A safeguarder's apprentice who must kill for an employer he cannot escape.

Saker: An enchanter who will not rest until the land is returned to his people.

As their three stories unfold, along with the stories of those whose lives they touch, it becomes clear that they are bound together in ways that not even a stonecaster could have foreseen - by their past, their future, and their blood.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You're Invited to the SFF Chat Chanukah Party

Posted by Simcha 5:11 PM, under | 9 comments

Dear Readers,

You are cordially invited to attend my awesome, fun-filled Chanukah party, here at SFF Chat, which will begin next Thursday and will last for eight days. There will be presents, virtual sufganiot (which are not quite as good as the real ones but a lot less calories) and celebrity guests.

Yes, you heard right. Each day this humble blog will be visited by a different Jewish celebrity personality from the SFF world who will provide a guest post or interview. These will include Jane Yolen, Kate Elliott, David Brin, Ari Marmell, Lavie Tidhar, Rachel Swirsky and Ann Vendermeer (and perhaps one more author, who I am still waiting to hear a confirmation from). And on each day I will also be giving away one book written by the author featured on that day.

Trust me, you don't want to miss this.

So mark your calendars for December 2nd to ensure that you are here for this exciting Chanukah celebration

The doors are open all day long and everyone is invited.

Can't wait to see you there!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Posted by Simcha 5:06 PM, under | 5 comments

In her early thirties, Elizabeth Gilbert had everything a modern American woman was supposed to want- husband, country home, successful career- but instead of feeling happy and fulfilled she felt consumed by panic and confusion.
This wise and rapturous book is the story of how she left behind all these outward marks of success, and of what she found in their place.

Following a divorce and a crushing depression, Gilbert set out to examine three different aspects of her nature, set against the backdrop of three different cultures: pleasure in Italy, devotion in India and on the Indonesian island of Bali, a balance between worldly enjoyment and divine transcendence.
I really didn't know anything about this book before I read it, other than it's a best-seller and it involves a woman's year-long journey to three different countries. And since I love reading about people's travels and their experiences in other countries I thought this might be a book I would enjoy.

Eat, Pray Love is divided into three sections. In the first part Gilbert travels to Italy where she immerses herself in the culture, makes new friends and tries to put behind her the difficulties of her recent divorce. The second section finds Gilbert traveling to India where she remains in an Ashram searching for G-d and spirituality. In the final section of the book Gilbert arrives in Bali in order to reconnect with a Guru that she has met there two years ago, because he had predicted her return.

My feelings about Eat, Pray Love are mixed. I really enjoyed the first section where Gilbert describes her time in Italy, the people that she befriends there and her delight in the Italian cuisine, which she lovingly describes. But interspersed throughout, Gilbert reflects
in a more sober tone about the broken life she left behind, the depression that she is trying to escape from and her hopes for the future. And while I wouldn't say that I'm at all similar to Gilbert some of what she said did resonate with me and I frequently found myself lost in thought due to some comment or observation that she made.

Not all of these thoughts were particularly deep though.

One of Gilbert's favorite ways of finding a place to eat in a foreign country is to randomly stop a stranger and ask them what eatery they would recommend. And without fail Gilbert would end up in some little shack somewhere eating the best food of her life. This gave me a bit of a mental panic since I have no idea what I would say if a stranger came up to me in Jerusalem and asked me for a restaurant recommendation. I would probably end up sending them to some mediocre falafel stand where they would determine that Israeli food is unimpressive. I came away from these first chapters with a determination to find out what the best place to eat is in Jerusalem, in case I ever am in the position to offer an on-the-spot recommendation to a tourist.

After Italy, Gilbert flies to India to reconnect with her spiritual side. And to be honest, Gilbert lost me almost as soon as she entered the Ashram. I pretty much skimmed through the whole second section of the book since it's full of overlong descriptions about meditation and Yoga and whole passages of Gilbert's silent conversations with herself (which I totally didn't get). Her triumphs of finally meditating successfully or of properly chanting certain songs held no meaning for me and I was relieved when Gilbert finally left the Ashram for Bali. That's not to say that there wasn't anything within these hundred pages that I found worth reading, as she does meet some colorful characters there, but I didn't enjoy it quite as much as the previous section.

In Bali Gilbert tracks down the Guru that she had met two years ago in order to take him up on his offer of having him move in with his family. Unfortunately though, when she does find him he has no idea who she is. Gilbert overcomes this unexpected hurdle and quickly settles into life in Bali, renting for herself a cottage and making new friends. This final section of the book has elements of both the previous sections and entertainment-wise, I judged it to be in-between the two. It had the kind of descriptions that I like about the local culture and populace but there was also quite a bit of the meditation and yoga stuff that I could have done without.

I particularly enjoyed reading about the interesting people that Gilbert meets in Bali and I really appreciated the excellent job she does in bringing them to life for readers. I came to like Gilbert's Guru a lot more than I had expected to and I loved Gilbert's description of how the Guru's distrustful wife slowly warms up to her. And I easily felt Gilbert's sympathy and pain for her friend who wants more than anything to return to his life in NY which he was forced to abandon due to new immigration laws.

Eat, Pray, Love
was a different kind of book than I was hoping for but there was certainly here a lot that I liked. I really enjoyed Gilbert's clever and humorous writing style and if she ever writes a travelogue I would definitely buy it.

As I previously mentioned, Gilbert did go on a bit too much for my taste about her meditation and spiritual quest, as well as about her broken marriage, which she frequently rehashes but only partially explains. But I probably would have been better prepared for this if I had bothered to find out more about the book before I read it. So while there were parts of the book that I really liked there were others that I skipped completely, which is unusual for me, and for this reason I ended up glad that I had borrowed the book rather than bought it.

So in conclusion, while Eat, Pray Love was not the kind of book I was hoping it would be I did still enjoy it, largely because of the way I chose to read it. I didn't pass any judgment on Gilbert and the decisions that she made and I chose to read the sections that I enjoyed and skip those that I didn't. I could see how this could be a meaningful book, though, to anyone who has experienced some of the difficulties that Gilbert has, and to them it might offer some relief and hope.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Free Fall by Anna Levine

Posted by Simcha 4:53 AM, under | 4 comments

Aggie is eighteen and getting ready to do her service for the Israeli Army. She could get a cushy assignment—maybe pushing paper somewhere—or she could just take her chances. Only, Aggie isn't like that. Despite her small size and the fact that she needs to gain weight to even make the grade, and despite the total disbelief of her entire family (except her grandmother, who is an old freedom fighter and don't you forget it), Aggie is trying out for an elite combat unit.

Ben—Aggie's crush of the moment—isn't at all convinced that she's making the right choice. Shira, Aggie's best friend forever, is bewildered (and perhaps a bit too interested in Ben). Then there's Noah. And the serendipitous snow. And a good-bye kiss that turns into, well, a real kiss.

Luckily for Aggie, her backbreaking, sand-in-mouth, completely-lost-in-the-desert training produces an unlikely dividend: friends. The kind she never imagined she could have. The kind you'd go to war with—and for.
Aggie has just graduated high school and is preparing to step into the world of adulthood and do her part in serving her country. The only problem is that she doesn't know what she wants to do. Her best friend Shira want to join the entertainment corps and Ben and Ron are eager to get into the army's elite units. Hilla, Aggie's older sister, wants Aggie to join her in the National Service working at schools and hospital and her parents are pushing her to get a nice desk job where she will be far away from any danger. Uncertain about where she fits in but determined to prove herself, Aggie impulsively announces at dinner one night that she will be trying out for the women's elite combat unit. When her family reacts with disbelief, and even laughter, Aggie resolves that she will show her family and friends that she is tougher than they think.

Aggie's uncertainties are not limited to decisions about her future because a surprising kiss from Ben has her wondering if their friendship is heading in a new direction. Or maybe it's Shira that Ben really likes. Aggie herself is suddenly drawn to Shira's brother Noah, who seems to understand her in a way that no one else does.

As Aggie heads off for her first army training session she discovers in herself a reservoir of strength she didn't know she had. New friends and a new romance make life even more interesting though it's the sobering events of the Lebanon War that force Aggie to really prove her mettle and stand up for herself and the choices she has made.

Freefall is a sweet coming-of-age story about a teenage girl who struggles to define herself and find her place, in a country where kids are forced to face adult responsibilities at an early age. This is a story that will resonate with anyone who remembers the uncertainties and awkwardness of being a teenager, despite the foreign setting of the story.

Aggie is a strong and likable heroine who is easily believable and is surrounded by a colorful cast of side characters who are each memorable figures in their own right. Aggie's grandmother is former freedom fighter who glories in telling tales about how the country used to be. Lily, Aggie's new friend from field training, uses humor and sarcasm to get herself through the grueling military testing. And there is Noah, the quiet, guitar playing soldier who has attracted Aggie's interest and is so different from his theatrical sister Shira, Aggie's best friend. Each of these characters felt solid and real and left me wanting to know more about their individual stories.

Though I particularly liked Freefall for the personal reason that it so perfectly reflects the Israel that I know and love and wish that everyone else also recognized. People have all kinds of strange ideas as to what it's like in Israel and they focus on the terrorist attacks and the gun-totting soldiers, as if it's a constant war zone here. But Israel is a beautiful country made up of an exotic mix of cultures and for the most part life here is the same as anywhere else (except that we don't have Sundays off, which is real drag). Those gun-totting soldiers are really just teenagers who deal with the same issues and anxieties as teenagers world-over, which Levine so well demonstrated through Aggie, Lily, Noah and their friends. And while the wars and terrorist attacks are devastating these are also the times when people's best qualities are brought out, as Levine demonstrates as well.

The only complaint I have about freefall is that I wish it were longer and and I do hope that Levine plans to continues Aggie's story in another book. It's a pretty light and easy read, one that I finished in just a couple of hours (during which time I didn't put it down at all) but left me fully satisfied. I particularly enjoyed the ending because it reminded me of something similar that had once happened to a friend of mine.

Freefall is a book that I would highly recommend to both teens and adults. It's charming and entertaining and offers readers a unique glimpse into the life of an Israeli teenager.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Break From Genre Reading

Posted by Simcha 6:27 AM, under | 6 comments

I've decided that it's time for me to take a short break from my usual genre reading to catch up on some of the other books that I've had my eye on for a while. So for the next couple of weeks you can expect only reviews of non-scifi and fantasy books here, which I hope you won't mind too much.

These are a few of the books that I've already finished and will be reviewing shortly:

Free Fall by Anna Levine (hopefully I'll get this review up later today)
Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Hands of My Father: A Hearing Boy, His Deaf Parents, and the Language of Love by Myron Uhlberg

And these are some of the books in my TBR pile which I hope to read:

One Day by David Nicholls
The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise: A Novel by Julia Stuart
Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India by Madhur Jaffrey
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
Marley & Me by John Grogan

I have several other books on-hold at the library and which I hope will be available soon so that I can squeeze them in as well.

iPhone Autocorrect Mistakes- Really Funny

Posted by Simcha 5:56 AM, under | 10 comments

This site is so funny that I actually had tears rolling down my face while reading some of the hilarious auto-corrections made by iPhone.

Check out more of them here

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of November 21

Posted by Simcha 4:41 PM, under | 4 comments

Wow, I can't believe those Xanth books are still being churned out. This week the 34th Xanth book, Knot Gneiss, is being released and once again I'm tempted to revisit the series, prodded by fond memories of Xanth from my youth. But then I just remember how awful the series has become and I quell that temptation.

But I still say that if I ever had to choose a fantasy world to live in it would be Xanth, hands down.

Hope you have a great reading week!


Above His Proper Station
Lawrence Watt-Evans
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: Nov 23

Anrel Murau, a simple scholar, is secretly the notorious revolutionary Alvos the Orator--the Empire's most wanted man. On the run and nearly penniless, Anrel finds himself forced to seek refuge in the capital city's Pensioner’s Quarter, a den of thieves, murderers, and con men. Barely scraping out an existence on the fringe of respectable society, Anrel never forgets his demands for justice, nor the love of the woman he left behind.

The civil unrest that has long been simmering in the Empire is beginning to boil over into violent protests and Anrel's enemy, Lord Allutar, continues to corrupt the Grand Council.

But Anrel's alter-ego, Alvos the Orator, has taken on a life of his own and many factions of the Grand Council seek a way to harness his followers' political might for their own ends. Which means they need Anrel to take on a surprising new role and gain access to one of the Empire's greatest secrets to stop the rampant evil.

The adventure of Alvos the Orator continues with more action, more intrigue, and more suspense than ever before as Anrel seeks to at last clear his name and seek retribution against his old enemy once and for all.

Disciple of the Dog
R. Scott Bakker
Genre: Crime Thriller/Paranormal
Publisher: Forge
Release Date: Nov 23

“And you wonder why I’m cynical. I’ve literally ‘seen it all before.’ The truth is we all have, every single one of us past the age of, say, twenty-five. The only difference is that I remember.”
No matter how hard he drinks, gambles, or womanizes, Disciple Manning simply cannot forget: not a word spoken, not an image glimpsed, not a pain suffered. Disciple Manning has total recall. Whatever he hears, he can remember with 100% accuracy. He can play it back in his head for an infinite number of times without a single change. This ability makes him a dangerously unorthodox private investigator.
When a New Jersey couple hires Manning to find their daughter, who joined a religious cult before vanishing in a small rust-belt town called Ruddick, he finds himself embroiled in a mystery that will pit his unnatural ability to remember against his desperate desire to forget.

Hull Zero Three
Greg Bear
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: Nov 22

A starship hurtles through the emptiness of space.
Its destination-unknown.
Its purpose-a mystery.
Its history-lost.
Now, one man wakes up. Ripped from a dream of a new home-a new planet and the woman he was meant to love in his arms — he finds himself, wet, naked, and freezing to death. The dark halls are full of monsters but trusting other survivors he meets might be the greater danger.

All he has are questions– Who is he? Where are they going? What happened to the dream of a new life? What happened to the woman he loved? What happened to Hull 03?
All will be answered, if he can survive. Uncover the mystery. Fix the ship. Find a way home.
HULL ZERO THREE is an edge of your seat thrill ride through the darkest reaches of space.

Knot Gneiss (Xanth, Bk 34)
Piers Anthony
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: Nov 23

Wenda Woodwife has a knotty problem--her mood swings have sent her beloved husband, Prince Charming, off on Adventure. She seeks the cure from the Good Magician Humphrey, only to discover that he has a knotty problem of his own and that only Wenda Woodwife can help him.

She’ll need Companions. Luckily, in Xanth magical companions are never far away, and all roads lead to Adventure.

Midsummer Night
Freda Warrington
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: Nov 23

A sensuous, suspenseful modern fantasy of love, betrayal, and redemption

Decades ago, in a place where the veil between our world and the world of the Aetherials—the fair folk—is too easily breached, three young people tricked their uncle by dressing as the fey. But their joke took a deadly turn when true Aetherials crossed into our world, took one of the pranksters, and literally scared their uncle to death.

Many years later, at the place of this capture lies a vast country estate that holds a renowned art facility owned by a visionary sculptor. One day, during a violent storm, a young woman studying art at the estate stumbles upon a portal to the Otherworld. A handsome young man comes through the portal and seeks shelter with her. Though he can tell her nothing of his past, his innocence and charm capture her heart. But he becomes the focus of increasingly violent arguments among the residents of the estate. Is he as innocent as he seems? Or is he hiding his true identity so that he can seek some terrible vengeance, bringing death and heartbreak to this place that stands between two worlds? Who is this young man?

The forces of magic and the power of love contend for the soul of this man, in this magical romantic story of loss and redemption.

Night of the Vampires
Heather Graham
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: HQN Books
Release Date: Nov. 23

As a soldier, Cole Granger fights to restore peace to a world divided by war and evil. His extraordinary talents are enlisted to prevent the president's horrific premonition from becoming reality. Nothing—and no one—will stop him from fulfilling his duty. Especially the mysterious young woman who claims to be his comrade's sister. Enemy or ally, he can't yet determine. But one thing he knows for certain is that he must keep her close. Very close.

Megan Fox's quest to uncover a family secret leads her to the center of vampire riots in West Virginia. To find the answers she needs—and clear herself of suspicion—she must join forces with Cole. They work undercover to bring justice, but they can't disguise the potent attraction and need that draw them together. Yet trust doesn't come easily for Cole…and when Megan unearths the grim, dark truth, can she trust him to believe her?

Orson Scott Card
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: Nov 23

A powerful secret. A dangerous path.

Rigg is well trained at keeping secrets. Only his father knows the truth about Rigg's strange talent for seeing the paths of people's pasts. But when his father dies, Rigg is stunned to learn just how many secrets Father had kept from him--secrets about Rigg's own past, his identity, and his destiny. And when Rigg discovers that he has the power not only to see the past, but also to change it, his future suddenly becomes anything but certain.

Rigg’s birthright sets him on a path that leaves him caught between two factions, one that wants him crowned and one that wants him dead. He will be forced to question everything he thinks he knows, choose who to trust, and push the limits of his talent…or forfeit control of his destiny.

Surrender to the Will of the Night
(Instrumentalities of the Night #3)
Glen Cook
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: Nov 23

Piper Hecht’s first and greatest secret is that he knowshow to kill gods. What’s not a secret is that he knows how to win wars

Piper Hecht’s secrets make him dangerous, but his skill and his reputation put him in danger—from his enemies, who fear what he might do, or who want revenge for what he has already done; and from his friends, who want to use his military gifts for their own purposes. His sister Heris and his living ancestor Cloven Februaren, the Ninth Unknown, have made Hecht part of their fight against the return of the dark god Kharoulke the Windwalker. At the same time, the half-mad Empress Katrin wants him to lead the armies of the Grail Empire eastward on a crusade against his old coreligionists the Praman.

Meanwhile, all around them, the world is changing. The winters are growing longer and harder every year, and the seas are getting shallower. The far north and the high mountain ranges are going under the ice, and fast. The Wells of Power, everywhere, keep getting weaker. And the old evils, the Instrumentalities from the Time Before Time, have begun to ooze back into the world. As ever, the genius of Glen Cook’s storytelling lies in his common touch: in soldiers who are like real soldiers, in men and women who love and laugh and sweat, with real hopes and real fears, united only in their determination to face the oncoming night.

Wild Cards
George R.R Martin
Genre: Anthology
Publisher: Tor
Release Date: Nov 23

Back in print after a decade, expanded with new original material, this is the first volume of George R. R. Martin’s Wild cards shared-world series

There is a secret history of the world—a history in which an alien virus struck the Earth in the aftermath of World War II, endowing a handful of survivors with extraordinary powers. Some were called Aces—those with superhuman mental and physical abilities. Others were termed Jokers—cursed with bizarre mental or physical disabilities. Some turned their talents to the service of humanity. Others used their powers for evil. Wild Cards is their story.

Originally published in 1987, Wild Cards I includes powerful tales by Roger Zelazny, Walter Jon Williams, Howard Waldrop, Lewis Shiner, and George R. R. Martin himself. And this new, expanded edition contains further original tales set at the beginning of the Wild Cards universe, by eminent new writers like Hugo–winner David Levine, noted screenwriter and novelist Michael Cassutt, and New York Times bestseller Carrie Vaughn.


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