Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday Snapshot Meme

Posted by Simcha 1:27 PM, under | 8 comments

Last week I began participating in Alice's Saturday Snapshots meme, at At Home With Books, in which bloggers post a photo that they have taken, along with a short explanation.

The below picture is a of my almost-three year old son who had fallen asleep while "reading". I was working in the computer room and suddenly realize that my son had been quiet for too long, which made me nervous. I went to check on him and found him sleeping under a pile of books that he had pulled down from the bookshelf to look at.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Fun Stuff From Around The Web

Posted by Simcha 7:49 PM, under | 6 comments

This compilation of popular movie catchphrases has me feeling nostalgic.

"Goonies never say die!"
"Beetle Juice,
Beetle Juice. Beetle Juice"
"Wax on, Wax off"
"Feed me Seymore!"
"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

I think it's time for a movie night.

via bits and Pieces

Another gem from one of my favorite sites Not Always Right, for all of you "weird" book lovers:

Judging By Their Cover
Bookstore | Augusta, GA, USA

(I’m stocking the front-of-store. A couple asks me for help.)

Wife: “Hi, we’re looking for a gift for a really weird friend of ours. He’s really hard to shop for.”

Me: “Sure, what sort of thing are you looking for?”

Husband: “No, he’s really weird. He actually likes to read books.”

Wife: “Hush, honey. He works in a bookstore. He’s probably weird too.”

I just discovered this online comic strip and Wonderella is now my favorite super hero (super heroine?)

And check out this fun demonstration by an actress who introduces herself in 21 different accents in just 2 1/2 minutes

Ok, now back to work...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Greyfriar by Clay Griffith

Posted by Simcha 6:08 PM, under | 5 comments

In the year 1870, a horrible plague of vampires swept over the northern regions of the world. Millions of humans were killed outright. Millions more died of disease and famine due to the havoc that followed. Within two years, once great cities were shrouded by the grey empire of the vampire clans. Human refugees fled south to the tropics because vampires could not tolerate the constant heat there. They brought technology and a feverish drive to reestablish their shattered societies of steam and iron amid the mosques of Alexandria, the torrid quietude of Panama, or the green temples of Malaya.

It is now 2020 and a bloody reckoning is coming.

Princess Adele is heir to the Empire of Equatoria, a remnant of the old tropical British Empire. She is quick with her wit as well as with a sword or gun. She is eager for an adventure before she settles into a life of duty and political marriage to man she does not know. But her quest turns black when she becomes the target of a merciless vampire clan. Her only protector is The Greyfriar, a mysterious hero who fights the vampires from deep within their territory. Their dangerous relationship plays out against an approaching war to the death between humankind and the vampire clans.

I’ve been feeling like a real spoilsport lately, frequently expressing my disappointment with books that so many other reviewers are raving about. Unfortunately I’m going to pit myself against the majority opinion once again, as I share with you my thoughts on The Greyfriar, the highly acclaimed new steampunk, vampire novel by Clay and Susan Griffith.

I admit that part of the problem is that my expectations of The Greyfriar were pretty high based on all of the five star reviews on Goodreads, and all of the praise heaped on it by my fellow book bloggers. Every aspect of the book is rhapsodized about, from the writing and the plotting to the characterization and the world building , and so I was expecting some pretty wonderful things from The Greyfriar. And so it’s no surprise, really, that after such a build up the book would fall short of my expectations in some regards, but after finishing it I was simply baffled that everyone was making such a fuss about this rather unremarkable book.

Don’t get me wrong though, The Greyfriar is not without its merits and for the most part I found it fun and entertaining. I enjoyed the way the book included vampires in this alternate history, steampunk setting and it was interesting to see the authors’ take on the vampires, which was far different from what you will find in most modern vampire books. The Griffiths also include some interesting additions to the vampire myths, such as the idea of baby vampires that nurse on their mothers’ blood, often killing them in the process, making motherhood a danger most vampires have come to avoid. Several of the traditional myths are dismissed here, like the idea of vampires not being reflected in mirrors or their ability to infect humans by biting them.

The set-up of the story is also interesting, taking place 150 years after a vampire uprising in which the vampires conquered the Northern Hemisphere and the majority of humans fled to the South. All of the beauty and culture in the Northern lands was destroyed by the vampires, who have no interest or understanding of such things, and when Adele ends up in London we get a chilling description of the ruin this once-great city has become.

    The ramshackle airship descended, approaching the spires and domes and the horrid slate grey blocks of buildings. Adele saw dark mounds scattered on the avenues, streets and alleys. A closer examination revealed that the mounds were piles of dead bodies. The city’s wide circles and narrow courtyards were heaped with bones. The turgid river Thames was at low tide and, as the airship skimmed over it, Adele saw white femurs and rib cages protruding from the muck along the shoreline. Nealy all the glass windows in the city were smashed, except, amazingly, some of the stained glass of Westminsters. Green grass sprouted through the cobblestones while lush vines grew without restraint, hiding edifices and obscuring the statues of the formerly great humans. The airship glided over the collapsed roof of Parliament.

So The Greyfriar did show some promise and there were certainly elements of the story that I very much enjoyed but unfortunately the book never really develops beyond those glimmers of potential.

A large part of the problem was that most of the characters are disappointingly one-dimensional. I was particularity disappointed with the Greyfriar, who is the kind of character that I would normally love. He swoops in to defend the downtrodden and weak, cloaked in mystery by a mask that hides his real identity. But for some reason, although we get a glimpse into the heads of almost all the other characters, the Greyfriar’s thoughts remain closed to us until almost half-way through the book. And even then we don’t really get any insight into his thoughts and motivations which really stunted his development, as well as the development of his relationship with Adele. I was also disappointed with the fact the Greyfriar’s secret identity is revealed so early on in the story, both to the readers and to Adele. I think the story would have been much more exciting if the air of mystery surrounding the Greyfriar had been maintained.

I’m not going to go into too much depth about the other characters but they also remained unsatisfying flat, when they could have been so much more. Adele is the only one who had some real life to her.

I was also unimpressed by the writing and the use of phrases which are meant to be descriptive but don’t actually mean anything. For example, one character is describes as having 'bright eyes that showed he knew more than anyone around him,' which left me wondering how exactly his eyes accomplished this. Another character is said to be “making heroic small talk” after which I spent several minutes trying to figure out what 'heroic small talk’ might be, though I soon gave this up. But the fact that the writing distracted me enough from the story that I kept stopping to puzzle out what the authors were trying to say, was definitely problematic for me.

Despite my disappointment with The Greyfriar I still think that it's a book that might be enjoyed if you go into it without too many expectations. The story has its fun moments and the pace is lively enough to keep you reading. And while I don’t feel particularly driven to read the sequel I might pick it up out of curiosity, to see if the authors manage to bring out some of that potential that The Greyfriar hints at.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of February 20

Andy Remic
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Solaris
Release Date: February 21

Junks, an evil alien scourge, are flooding Quad-Gal with terror and Combat K are sent on a mission to find an elusive alien retrovirus which can be used against the enemy. SLAM-dropped to Cloneworld – a planet ravaged by violent civil war – not only are Combat K hunted by elite junk assassins, but they get caught in a global conflict between augmented mechanised war machines and genetically modified humans who have the ability to clone themselves. Combat K must fight their way to victory to save the Four Galaxies. But how can they possibly succeed, when their main foe are their own elite and deadly clones?

Darkness Becomes Her
Kelly Keaton
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: February 22

Ari can’t help feeling lost and alone. With teal eyes and freakish silver hair that can’t be changed or destroyed, Ari has always stood out. And after growing up in foster care, she longs for some understanding of where she came from and who she is.
Her search for answers uncovers just one message from her long dead mother: Run. Ari can sense that someone, or something, is getting closer than they should. But it’s impossible to protect herself when she doesn’t know what she’s running from or why she is being pursued.
She knows only one thing: she must return to her birthplace of New 2, the lush rebuilt city of New Orleans. Upon arriving, she discovers that New 2 is very...different. Here, Ari is seemingly normal. But every creature she encounters, no matter how deadly or horrifying, is afraid of her.
Ari won’t stop until she knows why. But some truths are too haunting, too terrifying, to ever be revealed.

Dead Waters
Anton Strout
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: February 22

Simon Canderous, of the Department of Extraordinary Affairs, is used to fighting vampires and zombies. But the strange murder of a professor has everyone stumped. And it's making some people crazy. Literally.

Gideon’s Sword (Gideon Crew #1)
Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: February 22

Introducing Gideon Crew: trickster, prodigy, master thief


At twelve, Gideon Crew witnessed his father, a world-class mathematician, accused of treason and gunned down.

At twenty-four, summoned to his dying mother's bedside, Gideon learned the truth: His father was framed and deliberately slaughtered. With her last breath, she begged her son to avenge him.

Now, with a new purpose in his life, Gideon crafts a one-time mission of vengeance, aimed at the perpetrator of his father's destruction. His plan is meticulous, spectacular, and successful.

But from the shadows, someone is watching. A very powerful someone, who is impressed by Gideon's special skills. Someone who has need of just such a renegade.

For Gideon, this operation may be only the beginning . .

Elizabeth Bear
Genre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Spectra
Release Date: February 22

At last the generation ship Jacob’s Ladder has arrived at its destination: the planet they have come to call Grail. But this habitable jewel just happens to be populated already: by humans who call their home Fortune. And they are wary of sharing Fortune—especially with people who have genetically engineered themselves to such an extent that it is a matter of debate whether they are even human anymore. To make matters worse, a shocking murder aboard the Jacob’s Ladder has alerted Captain Perceval and the angel Nova that formidable enemies remain hidden somewhere among the crew.

On Grail—or Fortune, rather—Premier Danilaw views the approach of the Jacob’s Ladder with dread. Behind the diplomatic niceties of first-contact protocol, he knows that the deadly game being played is likely to erupt into full-blown war—even civil war. For as he strives to chart a peaceful and prosperous path forward for his people, internal threats emerge to take control by any means necessary.

Green-Eyed Demon (Sabina Kane, Bk 3)
Jaye Wells
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: February 22

The clock is ticking for Sabina Kane. She has to save her sister from her mysterious captors. And in order to do that, she has to broker a deal between the mages and the vampires before all hell breaks loose.

But as much as Sabina is focused on surviving the present, the past won’t be ignored. Before she can save those she cares about, she’s got to save herself from the ghosts of her past. Because the past is haunting her. Literally


The Griffin's War
K.J. Taylor
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Ace
Release Date: February 22

After promising his allegiance to the Night God, Arenadd Taranisaii escapes death for the second time and vows to free his people. With the dark griffin Skandar by his side, Arenadd begins to gather an army and prepare for war using the power gifted to him by the Night God to move through the shadows.

But even as Arenadd's strength grows his nemesis sets out for the Island of the Sun, seeking the one weapon that can truly kill Arenadd, the man without a heart.


How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf (Naked Werewolf, Bk 1)
Molly Harper
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Simon & Schuste
Release Date: February 22

Northern Exposure
Even in Grundy, Alaska, it’s unusual to find a naked guy with a bear trap clamped to his ankle on your porch. But when said guy turns into a wolf, recent southern transplant Mo Wenstein has no difficulty identifying the problem. Her surly neighbor Cooper Graham—who has been openly critical of Mo’s ability to adapt to life in Alaska—has trouble of his own. Werewolf trouble.
For Cooper, an Alpha in self-imposed exile from his dysfunctional pack, it’s love at first sniff when it comes to Mo. But Cooper has an even more pressing concern on his mind. Several people around Grundy have been the victims of wolf attacks, and since Cooper has no memory of what he gets up to while in werewolf form, he’s worried that he might be the violent canine in question.
If a wolf cries wolf, it makes sense to listen, yet Mo is convinced that Cooper is not the culprit. Except if he’s not responsible, then who is? And when a werewolf falls head over haunches in love with you, what are you supposed to do anyway? The rules of dating just got a whole lot more complicated. . . .


The Iron Thorn
Caitlin Kittredge
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: February 22

In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.
Aoife Grayson's family is unique, in the worst way—every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.


Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Sausages
Tom Holt
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: February 21

Tom Holt is back with a hilarious tale of magic, real estate, and a very important pig.
Polly is a real estate solicitor. She is also losing her mind. Someone keeps drinking her coffee. And talking to her clients. And doing her job. And when she goes to the dry cleaner’s to pick up her dress for the party,
it’s not there. Not the dress – the dry cleaner’s. And then there are the chickens who think they are people. Something strange is definitely going on – and it’s going to take more than a magical ring to sort it out.

Pale Demon (The Hollows #9)
Kim Harrison
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Eos
Release Date: February 22

Condemned to death for black magic and shunned, Rachel Morgan has three days to somehow get to the annual witches convention in San Francisco and clear her name. If she fails, the only way she can escape death is to live in the demonic ever after . . . for ever after.

Banned from the flight lists, Rachel teams up with elven tycoon Trent Kalamack, headed for the West Coast for his own mysterious business. But Rachel isn’t the only passanger along for the ride. Can a witch, an elf, a living vampire, and a pixy in one car survive for over 2,300 miles? And that’s not counting the assassin on their tail.

A fearsome demon walks the sunlight, freed after centuries of torment to slay the innocent and devour souls. But his ultimate prey is Rachel Morgan. While the powerful witch with nerves of steel will do whatever it takes to stay alive, even embracing her own demonic nature may not be enough to save her.


The Raven Queen
Jules Watson
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Spectra
Release Date: February 22

In this dazzling retelling of one of Ireland’s most stirring legends, acclaimed author Jules Watson brings to life the story of Maeve, the raven queen, who is as fierce as she is captivating.

She was born to be a pawn, used to secure her father’s royal hold on his land. She was forced to advance his will through marriage—her own desires always thwarted. But free-spirited Maeve will no longer endure the schemes of her latest husband, Conor, the cunning ruler of Ulster. And when her father’s death puts her homeland at the mercy of its greedy lords and Conor’s forces, Maeve knows she must at last come into her own power to save it.

With secret skill and daring, Maeve proves herself the equal of any warrior on the battlefield. With intelligence and stealth, she learns the strategies—and sacrifices—of ruling a kingdom through treacherous alliances. And to draw on the dangerous magic of her country’s oldest gods, Maeve seeks out the wandering druid Ruan, whose unexpected passion and strange connection to the worlds of spirit imperil everything Maeve thought true about herself—and put her at war with both her duty and her fate.


Serpant's Storm (Calliope Reaper-Jones, #3)
Amber Benson
Genre: Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: February 22

Calliope just wants to make it big in the Big Apple like any other working girl. But Callie is also Death's Daughter, no matter how much she tries to stay out of the family business. And now her older sister has made a deal with the Devil himself to engage in a hostile takeover of both Death Inc. and Heaven-once they get Callie out of the way.

This Side of the Grave (Night Huntress, Bk 5)
Jeaniene Frost
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: February 22

Danger waits on both sides of the grave.

Half-vampire Cat Crawfield and her vampire husband Bones have fought for their lives, as well as for their relationship. But just when they've triumphed over the latest battle, Cat's new and unexpected abilities threaten to upset a long-standing balance . . .
With the mysterious disappearance of vampires, rumors abound that a species war is brewing. A zealot is inciting tensions between the vampires and ghouls, and if these two powerful groups clash, innocent mortals could become collateral damage. Now Cat and Bones are forced to seek help from a dangerous "ally"—the ghoul queen of New Orleans herself. But the price of her assistance may prove more treacherous than even the threat of a supernatural war . . . to say nothing of the repercussions Cat never imagined.


Xombies: Apocalypso (Xombies, Bk 3)
Walter Greatshell
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: February 22

A group of women have been discovered who are immune to the Agent X plague. The secret of their immunity can provide a cure for human and inhuman alike-unless the Xombies find them first.


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