Saturday, January 15, 2011

Shattering the Glass Slipper Competition Update

Posted by Simcha 5:12 PM, under | No comments

The Shattering the Glass Slipper writing contest is underway and we are really excited by the wonderful submissions that we have been receiving.

If you haven't done so yet make sure to stop by here and read the entries which have been posted so far.

And if you are interested in submitting your own story you still have until January 31st to do so. Visit the Shattering the Glass Slipper blog for more details..

Just a few samples of the stories we have received....

Toe to Toe by Yaddi Shaw

He thinks I am lily. Or orchid or daisy. Or some other such sweetly affected, delicate flower, here for his pleasure. He thinks I am here for him to pluck from the weeds, sniff a few times then place in a plain crystal vase, plain less it outshine my radiance, then place high on a dais overlooking the royal throne where all who enter can see and admire and think him so lucky and duly blessed. He has never once asked me my real name. He does not know the name my mother on her death bed muttered to my papa. Rhoda, Rhoda. Rhoda is the name I hear in my dreams and open up to. I am a flower, see, just not one that my prince deems to call me by or knows exist. Truly, I think my life much misaligned from where it should be. Read More

Best Foot Forward by T. L. Sherwood

As the boot flew across the room, Manford wondered if the job market was truly as horrendous as his employer had informed him that it was. Personally, he didn’t know of anyone without a job that wished to have one. In fact, Mr. Charles had asked Manford if he knew of anyone else who would be suitable for the footwear position. Read More

Masque by Amy Allison

Something glittered deep inside the trunk. I reached for it, and shivering, drew it up from the bottom. “It’s a diamond necklace,” my mother said as she fastened it around my neck. I screamed. Its freezing grip terrified me. Read More

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

Posted by Simcha 3:30 PM, under | 7 comments

When Ariel Manto uncovers a copy of The End of Mr. Y in a second-hand bookshop, she can’t believe her eyes. She know enough about its author, the eccentric Victorian scientist Thomas Lumas, to know that copies are exceedingly rare. And some say, cursed.

With Mr. Y under her arm, Ariel finds herself swept into a thrilling adventure of love, sex, death and time-travel.

Whenever I get into a discussion about books with Israeli fantasy readers I recommend to them my favorite authors- Scott Lynch, Peter Brett, Patrick Rothfuss- none of whom they have ever heard of, and they inevitably insist that I read
The End of Mr. Y, which I had never heard of. These conversations have become so predictable that I decided it was high time that I read the End of Mr. Y so that I could at least change my response the next time the conversation takes place. I was also by now pretty curious about this book, which all Israeli fantasy fans seem to be so crazy about.

Luckily for me I recently came across
The End of Mr. Y at a second-hand book shop and the description on the back cover was sufficiently intriguing, so I went ahead and purchased it. During the bus ride home I took out the book to begin reading it and a female soldier in the seat behind me leaned over to provide her recommendation of the book. I’m pretty sure this was the first time I have ever had a stranger in Israel comment to me about a book that I was reading (and I read in public all the time) and so I was suitably impressed and quite eager to discover what was so special about The End of Mr. Y.

Ariel arrives at the university prepared to begin working on her PHD on thought experiments, with the supervision of Professor Burlem. But just as she settles in the Professor mysteriously disappears leaving no clues as to his whereabouts. Ariel is understandably irritated, unsure as to how to proceed without him, and so she continues her research as planned.

One day, while taking a new route home, Ariel comes across a used bookstore. She stops in to see if they might have any books that she can use for her research and to her astonishment finds an exceedingly rare copy of The End of Mr. Y. Ariel can’t believe her good fortune since there is only one other known copy of the book in existence. And despite the rumor that the book is cursed, and anyone who reads it dies shortly afterwards, Ariel doesn’t hesitate in jumping right in.

But Ariel’s life is forever changed by what she finds inside the book and Professor Burlem’s disappearance suddenly begins to make sense. Soon others find out about Ariel’s possession of The End of Mr. Y and they will do whatever it takes to get the book and eliminate Ariel and her knowledge of its secrets.

The End of Mr. Y
was nothing like what I had expected. The book blurb had put me in mind of The Shadow of the Wind, with its reference to a rare book and its mysterious author. But I wasn’t expecting the mental gymnastics that it put me through with discussions of quantum physics, theology, mathematics and philosophy- subjects that rarely crop up in my leisure reading. I suppose that I must have studied physics at some point but I felt completely in the dark whenever the characters would bring up Samuel Butler’s theories, Derrida or Schrodinger’s Cat (which happened quite often). Though when I did manage to understand what was being discussed I felt pretty proud of myself, if somewhat exhausted by the effort.

But even though the physics and science stuff mostly went over my head I was still easily caught up in the rest of the story which involved magic potions, sinister villains, time travel, alternate dimensions and even some romance.

Ariel was not an easy character for me to read about, with her frequent swearing, self-destructive tendencies and addiction to hard sex - for which she despises herself. But as the story progressed and it became clear that Ariel wasn’t as hardened as she first appeared, she became more sympathetic and real to me, and I became drawn into the story even more. Adam’s appearance helps to soften Ariel’s rough edges, with the new romantic possibilities that he offers as well as a relationship different than any other that Ariel has ever experienced.

Although a few days have passed since I finished
The End of Mr. Y and I’ve had some time to think about it, I’m still not sure what my feelings about the book are. I enjoyed the story, which was exciting and fast paced, and I really came to care about the characters, even some of those who only made brief appearances, but there was also a lot here that I didn’t understand. I’m not sure how much more satisfying the book would have been had I understood everything but I’ll probably give it another read at some point to see if I can pick up on some of the details that I missed the first time around. And I have to say that I have a heightened respect for Israeli fantasy readers seeing that this is the kind of genre book that is so popular here. No wonder none of them have heard of Scott Lynch of Patrick Rothfuss (- OK, just kidding. I do know some Israelis that enjoy classic fantasies as well.)

So if you are wondering if this is a book that you will enjoy, well- It’s hard for me to say. The answer would be a definite yes if you already have an interest in philosophy, quantum physics and thought experiments, though I don’t believe you have to be an expert on the topics to understand the discussions in The End of Mr. Y. If you enjoy having your mind bended and twisted around a bit then this would probably be a good book for you as well. At times it was like reading some of the crazier parts of a Jasper Fforde Thursday next book, but without the humor. I think that if the book blurb interests you I would probably urge you to give Mr. Y a try, even if you are like me and usually avoid books that force you to think too much while reading (yes, I do admit it. I mostly read just for fun and entertainment and not to have my mind expanded). But it’s refreshing to try something so vastly different every now and again and you might be surprised at how much you end up enjoying it, just as I was.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

SFF Books to Look-Forward to in 2011

Posted by Simcha 6:32 PM, under | 5 comments

The year 2011 has already started off with a bang, bringing with it a whole slew of fantastic new science fiction and fantasy releases. And this is only the start because this year we have some really exciting books to look forward to, including new books from many of my favorite authors, such as Patrick Rothfuss, Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson, Jasper Fforde, Patricia Briggs- just to name a few. And so I thought it would be interesting to ask a few different SFF book publicists which of the books coming out in 2011 they are particularly excited about...

From Justin at Tor

Thank you for this opportunity, Simcha! It’s always tough to come back in after the holidays, but Tor has a really exciting list this year and I’d love to share a few of the titles we’re psyched for in 2011.

For epic fantasy fans, the big news is that Terry Goodkind is returning to his Sword of Truth world with a new Richard and Kahlan novel:
The Omen Machine, out this summer, will start an entirely new story arc for those two beloved characters (and make a great jumping off point for new readers). But a newcomer to watch out for is Peter Orullian, whose debut novel The Unremembered (April) will begin a fresh, exciting new series in a stunning original fantasy world. Fans of Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, and Terry Brooks won’t want to miss it. And fans of Robert Jordan’s beloved Wheel of Time who can’t wait for A Memory of Light, the concluding volume in series, should check out the first two Wheel of Time graphic novel adaptations, News Spring (January) and The Eye of the World (September), from the talented writer/artist combo of Chuck Dixon and Mike Miller, who worked closely with Robert Jordan in adapting the comics run.

On the science fiction side, we have a number of exciting new titles coming out, including the series debut Hellhole by Brain Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson (March), Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi (May), and Children of the Sky by Vernor Vinge (October), the long-awaited sequel to his Hugo-Award winner A Fire Upon the Deep. Another new name to watch out for is Hannu Rajaniemi, whose debut SF caper novel The Quantum Thief has drawn rave reviews in the UK and will be out stateside in May. He has a Ph.D. in string theory so you know he’s really, really smart! J

We have many, many more books that I’d love to mention, but hopefully that gives your readers an idea of just how excited we are for 2011!!

From Jill at Pyr

In the Spring-Summer of 2011...

In March, Mark Hodder’s second Burton & Swinburne steampunk adventure,
The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man, follows the acclaimed The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack.

We continue our success in the steampunk arena with a new series by Andrew Mayer, The Society of Steam, which already has over 1000 fans on Facebook. Book One is called The Falling Machine and it arrives in May.

We also welcome two exciting new authors to the Pyr fold - Erin Hoffman and Ari Marmell. In March, Marmell's
The Goblin Corps introduces the few, the proud, the obscene. In June, Hoffman's Sword of Fire and Sea (The Chaos Knight Book One) is a fast-paced adventure fantasy on an epic stage - with gryphons!

In May, we revisit Boss and her crew in City of Ruins, the second novel set in the Diving universe of Asimov's reader favorite Kristine Kathryn Rusch. (Diving Into the Wreck was the first.)

5. Justina Robson's
Quantum Gravity finally closes in August 2011 with Book Five, Down to the Bone. We discovered at DragonCon that many readers are still unaware of this awesome sci-fantasy series so we hope to use the final book as a means to bring additional awareness to the entire Quantum Gravity quintet.

There are some very exciting surprises in store for Pyr's Fall-Winter 2011 that I don't want to divulge just yet, so I'm stopping my sneak peak at August!

From Jack at Orbit

These are the books I would definitely suggest, at least for the first half of 2011 (if that could be specified) – we have just too much goodness forthcoming!

The Heroes, Joe Abercrombie(Feb)

2009’s Best Served Cold introduced Joe Abercrombie to a far wider audience, bringing his one of a kind, humorous yet deadly fantasy to readers too long used to too-familiar tropes. The Heroes is funny, compelling, exciting, and when it comes to the cutting edge of fantasy – The Heroes cuts bone-deep.

The Dragon's Path, Daniel Abraham (Apr)

Critically-acclaimed Daniel Abraham is poised to make his breakthrough with this riveting adventure with a difference – these are characters who have more on their minds than swords, armies, and magic (though none of those are ignored – far from it!) – they know philosophy; they know history; they know the world of banking, and economics and the secret life of commerce. No other epic fantasy this year will cover so much ground, so well.

Deadline, Mira Grant (June)

The followup novel to last year’s spectacular debut, FEED, the all too believable tale of a worldwide zombie outbreak: scientifically based, politically aware, and employing blogging as a narrative technique like no other author has done, so well.

Leviathan Wakes, James Corey (June)

Four words: kick-ass space opera. Additional words: extremely fine, mind-expanding, politically hip and utterly compelling space opera, the way it should be written and the kind that reminds SF readers exactly why they fell in love with the genre in the first place.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of January 9th

Posted by Simcha 4:16 PM, under | 6 comments

After last week's crazy long list of new releases it was a nice break to have only a few books to put together for this week's list. While none of these titles are must-reads for me there are a few that I might be interested in trying, such as Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch and Nell Gwynne's Scarlet Spy byKage Baker and J.K Potter. Across the Universe also sounds like it might be a fun read and I look forward to reading some reviews of this book to see what the reviewers have to say about it.

But I'm not currently looking to add more books to my shelves anyways since I'm already in the middle of several different books including The End of Mr. Y, The Iron Duke and Kabul Beauty School- plus I just received Orson Scott Card's newest book in the mail, which I look forward to starting on soon. So I'm happy to say that I have enough books to keep me busy for a while

Hope you have a great reading week!

Across the Universe
Beth Revis
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Release Date: January 11

A love out of time. A spaceship built of secrets and murder. Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules. Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone-one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship-tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next. Now Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

All Just Glass (Creatures of the Night, Bk 2)
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 11

Sarah Vida has given up everything for love. From a legendary family of vampire-hunting witches, Sarah was raised to never trust a vampire, to never let her guard down, and to avoid all tricky attachments of the heart. But now Sarah IS a vampire—changed by the boy she thought she loved. Her family has forsaken her, and Sarah herself is disgusted by her appetite for blood. Aida Vida is Sarah's older sister, the good, reliable sibling who always does her family proud. But when Aida's mother insists that Sarah be found and killed, Aida is given the one assignment that she may not be able to carry out. Taking place over just twenty-four hours, ALL JUST GLASS tells the story of a game-changing battle that will forever change the world of the Den of Shadows. And at its center is the story of two sisters who must choose between love and duty. Dark, fully-imagined, and hard to put down, ALL JUST GLASS will thrill Amelia's fans—old and new.

Nell Gwynne's Scarlet Spy
Kage Baker and J.K Potter
Genre: Steampunk
Publisher: Subterranean Press
Release Date: January 11

Lady Beatrice was the proper British daughter of a proper British soldier, until tragedy struck and sent her home to walk the streets of early-Victorian London. But Lady Beatrice is no ordinary whore, and is soon recruited to join an underground establishment known as Nell Gwynne's. Nell Gwynne's is far more than simply the finest and most exclusive brothel in Whitehall; it is in fact the sister organization to the Gentlemen's Speculative Society, that 19th-century predecessor to a certain Company...and when a member of the Society goes missing on a peculiar assignment, it's up to Lady Beatrice and her sister harlots to investigate.

Rivers of London
Ben Aaronovitch
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher:  Gollancz
Release Date: January 10

My name is Peter Grant and until January I was just probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service (as the Filth to everybody else). My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit - we do paperwork so real coppers don't have to - and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Leslie May. Then one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from someone who was dead but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.

Now I'm a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fifty years, and my world has become somewhat more complicated: nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames, and digging up graves in Covent Garden . . . and there's something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it's falling to me to bring order out of chaos - or die trying.

Alexandra Monir
Genre: YA
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: January 11

When tragedy strikes Michele Windsor’s world, she is forced to uproot her life and move across the country to New York City, to live with the wealthy, aristocratic grandparents she’s never met. In their old Fifth Avenue mansion filled with a century’s worth of family secrets, Michele discovers a diary that hurtles her back in time to the year 1910. There, in the midst of the glamorous Gilded Age, Michele meets the young man with striking blue eyes who has haunted her dreams all her life – a man she always wished was real, but never imagined could actually exist. And she finds herself falling for him, into an otherworldly, time-crossed romance.

Michele is soon leading a double life, struggling to balance her contemporary high school world with her escapes into the past. But when she stumbles upon a terrible discovery, she is propelled on a race through history to save the boy she loves – a quest that will determine the fate of both of their lives.

Maurissa Guibord
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: January 11

Tessa doesn't believe in magic. Or Fate. But there's something weird about the dusty unicorn tapestry she discovers in a box of old books. She finds the creature woven within it compelling and frightening. After the tapestry comes into her possession, Tessa experiences dreams of the past and scenes from a brutal hunt that she herself participated in. When she accidentally pulls a thread from the tapestry, Tessa releases a terrible centuries old secret. She also meets William de Chaucy, an irresistible 16th-century nobleman. His fate is as inextricably tied to the tapestry as Tessa's own. Together, they must correct the wrongs of the past. But then the Fates step in, making a tangled mess of Tessa's life. Now everyone she loves will be destroyed unless Tessa does their bidding and defeats a cruel and crafty ancient enemy.

If You've Been Avoiding Non-Fiction, Try These

Posted by Simcha 2:45 AM, under | 7 comments

A while back there had been a meme about reading habits that many different book bloggers participated in, including myself, and I had really enjoyed reading everyone's responses. But I was surprised by how many of the participants commented that they don't read much non-fiction.

I personally love reading non-fiction books, particularly memoirs and humorous travelogues, and many of my favorite books fall into these categories. For me, someone's real-life account of their adventures or personal experiences are often more exciting and fascinating than a fiction novel (though I obviously enjoy those as well). And although this is predominately a blog about speculative fiction books I've decided to also begin offering recommendations of non-fiction books that I've enjoyed in the hope that you will give them a try as well. I think I'm going to set aside my weekend posts (since I don't usually post then anyways) to do this.

This week I'm going to begin by listing a few of my favorite non-fiction books, along with just a short description. These are books which I'm continentally recommending to my friends and frequently reread myself.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: Anyone that knows me is familiar with this book because it's one one of all-time favorites and I insist that all my friends read it, even if I have to force my copy on them. Bill Bryson is known for his ability to write about any subject in an interesting and humorous manner and he outdoes himself in this account of his hike through the Appalachian Trail with his friend, Stephen Katz. This book is so funny that it's a danger to read in public but it's also interesting and informative and so well-written that you will imagine that you yourself are tramping around the woods with Bryson and Katz.

Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin: I read this book about five years ago but it was such a powerful and moving story that it has stayed fresh in my mind over the years.

This is the memoir of Li Cunxin who was raised in extreme poverty during the Cultural Revolution in China. When Madame Mao decided to start up a dance company Li was determined to be chosen by the delegates who were combing the schools for potential recruits. Due to his willingness to have his body bent into all kinds of painful positions, young Li was accepted to the dance academy and sent to the city for rigorous training. The book follows Li's rise to fame as a world-renown ballet dancer who later escapes to the US and marries a fellow dancer.

My Sergei by Ekaterina Gordeeva: I was never a big follower of the Olympics and so I wasn't familiar with the story of Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov before I read this book. If I had been I might have avoided it, knowing the sad events that take place towards the end, and so I'm glad that I didn't, because it's such a wonderful book.

My Sergei Ekaterina Gordeeva tells the story of how she and Sergei met when they were paired up as children by their ice skating instructors and how through years of training together became best friends, and then fell-in-love. Just thinking about their story, which is both beautiful and heartbreaking, always makes me tear up a bit (and I'm not much of a crier). If you love a good romance then I highly recommend you read this book, even if it doesn't have the Happily Ever After of a fiction novel. But it still ends off in a hopeful tone and is a wonderful commemoration of a talented skater and a beautiful romance.

All Rivers Run to the Sea by Eli Wiesel: This memoir by Eli Wiesel always leaves me feeling awed and inspired. It's not so much a book about Wiesel's experiences during the Holocaust but about his life before and after, though it does touch upon his time in the the Concentration Camps. Though it's mostly about his homelife, his friends and his experiences in Paris and America, after the war. And what always amazes me when reading this book is how frequently Wiesel's path is guided by events of happenstance and coincidence. Like the way he gets a job writing, when he has no previous experience, which later leads to a successful career. Or when he gets hit by a car and is given a blank check by a stranger to pay for his hospital bills.But after everything Wiesel had been through he certainly deserved each windfall that came his way, it just amazes me of how many such events there were.

But it's also an inspiring account of a man who had lost everything he had in the world and somehow manged to pick himself up and continue forward, becoming the well-known and respected man that he is today.

We Shook the Family Tree by Hildegarde Dolson: This is an older book which belonged to my mother, until I snuck away with it, and so I'm not sure how easy it would be to find a copy. But if you do come across it then you must read it because it's wonderfully fun.

humorous memoir is a collection of stories told by Hildegarde Dolson about herself and her family, from her youth in the early 1900's until she goes away to New York to become a writer. Some of these stories had me laughing so hard that I had tears running down my face, such as Hildegarde's account of the time she experimented with a beauty mask, for which she had saved up all of her allowance money, but then left it on so long that she couldn't get it off.

And now that I've gotten to thinking about this book I think I'm going to go read it now...

Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl: I had gotten this ebook out of the library a couple of weeks ago and was enjoying it so much that when I saw the paperback version in a bookstore I immediately bought it. And then when I finished it I ran out the next day to buy her memoir, which I had remembered seeing on the bookshelf as well. So to say I liked it would be a bit of an understatement.
Garlic and Sapphires includes almost everything that I like in a book, descriptions of food, recipes, disguises and secret missions (of the food-related kind). It was just such a fun book that I never wanted it to end.

When Ruth Reichl first arrived in New York to take up the post as a New York Times food critic she discovered that word of her arrival had preceded her and all the restaurants were on the lookout out for someone of her description. And so Reichl went undercover with a series of disguises which allowed her to dine at the restaurants unrecognized. Each of Reichl's disguises had a story to them and Reichl was surprised to find her personality adapting to the guise that she wore, and sometimes the results were more pleasant than others. I loved reading about each of Reichl's dining experiences as well as the reviews that she wrote up afterwards and recipes that she included of her favorite dishes, some of which I even made myself. This is definitely a book that I will be frequently rereading.

So these are just a few of my favorite non-fiction books and perhaps next week I'll list some more of them for you. I hope that you will enjoy these books as much as I did and if you have any of your own to recommend I'd love hearing about them.


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