Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Bit of Online Window-Shopping

Posted by Simcha 5:13 PM, under | 3 comments

Just doing some on-line "window shopping" and I now realize that my life will never be complete without this alien-abduction lamp.
I wonder what's going to happen to that poor cow when she makes it up there.

And I NEED one of these...

At least cheap toothbrushes are easily attainable, so I'll be able to make some of these cool toothbrush bracelets with my kids.

Friday, March 11, 2011

River Marked (Mercy Thompson, Bk 6) by Patricia Briggs

Posted by Simcha 5:48 AM, under | 2 comments

Car mechanic Mercy Thompson has always known there was something different about her, and not just the way she can make a VW engine sit up and beg. Mercy is a shapeshifter, a talent she inherited from her long-gone father. She’s never known any others of her kind. Until now.

An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River—one that her father’s people may know something about. And to have any hope of surviving, Mercy and her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, will need their help…

When Mercy and Adam head off for a week-long camping trip together, they look forward to enjoying some time alone with each other, far from the pack. But their romantic vacation is interrupted when a deadly creature appears in the Columbia River, and people start disappearing. After Mercy discovers a badly injured man in the river she is brought into contact with some of the leaders of the local Native American tribe, whose help she will need to defeat the evil monster. Mercy will also come to lean more about her father, who died before she was born, and her Native American heritage.

River Marked has a different feel to it then the other books in the series. The pace is more relaxed and the story is largely focused on Mercy and Adam’s relationship, placing them in a secluded setting where we get to see them in a different light. I was a bit disappointed that we don’t see much of the secondary characters from the previous books, though we do get to meet some interesting new ones.

The dangers that Adam and Mercy face also feel less intense than in the previous books, although they are are described as being just as deadly. I think there just wasn’t enough tension built up to make me feel anxious about the dangers, even when Mercy and Adam are in life-threatening situations. I kind of got the sense that this monster Mercy was fighting wasn’t as central to the story as were all of the Native American elements that gave Mercy a chance to discover more about herself and her father.

Now that Adam and Mercy are officially together the romantic tension between them is no longer present, and I missed it. While I’m glad that they are now a couple (and I don’t think Briggs could have put it off any longer,anyways) the story lacks some of the zing that their heated interactions provided. Their romantic exchanges are sweet but not particularly exciting.

All-in-all, while I did enjoy reading River Marked it wasn’t my favorite book of the series.
I enjoyed the Native American elements, which made the story fresh and different from the others in the series, and it was great seeing Adam and Mercy as a real couple. But because of the slow pace and lack of tension I wasn’t as caught up in the story as I usually am. River Marked felt like an interlude between books, a chance for Briggs's protagonists to develop a bit on their own, and I look forward to seeing what direction the rest of the series will now take.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Brief Encounter With a Childhood Friend

Posted by Simcha 5:56 PM, under | 7 comments

When I was about 5 years-old my favorite book was about a group of rabbis who take on a coven of evil witches, and rids the nearby village of their wicked tormentors. But while I loved having the book read to me as I looked at the watercolor illustrations, each night I would have terrifying nightmares about the witches from this book. Most of the nightmares ended with my being dangled miles above a boiling cauldron, and then let go, and I would wake up screaming while I fell. In other dreams I would be chased by a witch through a maze, eventually waking up when I got caught.

My father tried to help me conqueror my nightmares by suggesting that I pour water on the witches, causing them to melt, as the rabbis in the book did ( I guess that’s where Dorothy got the idea from). But the idea of spilling water on my bedroom carpet bothered me enough that I was never willing to try it. Eventually the nightmares stopped, though I still remember them pretty vividly.

Recently I was at a second-hand bookstore when I came across a slightly battered copy of Rabbi and the Twenty-Nine Witches. I was delighted at unexpectedly running into my old childhood friend and I picked it up and leafed through the familiar pages. There are few things that I love more than getting the chance to introduce to my children some of my favorite books from when I was a kid, and I was eager to add this new find to my collection. But then I hesitated and thought back to the nightmares that this book induced. While it seemed unlikely to me that my kids would have the same reaction as I did to the story, I didn’t think I really wanted to risk it. So reluctantly I put the book back on the shelf, for someone else to take home.

Unfortunately, sometimes your childhood friends are best left in the past.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Matched by Ally Condie

Posted by Simcha 5:20 PM, under | 11 comments

My introduction to dystopian fiction through forced readings in high school of Brave New World and 1984, convinced me that this was not the genre for me. But reading The Hunger Games last year was an eye-opening experience that suddenly had me eager to read all of the dystopian books that I could get my hands on, both YA and adult. Since then I have discovered some other wonderful treasures in this genre, though I’ve also sifted through quite a bit of junk. With the recent popularity of these books there is now an onslaught of stories featuring teenagers in controlling futuristic societies fighting against some kind of government injustice, and the books that stand out are those that add a really unique element to this formula.

Unfortunately Matched doesn’t succeed in doing this and if you are a regular reader of dystopian fiction then many of the details in this book will probably already be familiar to you

The story takes places in a future where every aspect of a person’s life is fully controlled by the governing party, referred to as the Society. From the moment of birth to the hour of their death, not a single activity of an individual's life is left to chance or choice. Obviously this also includes marriage, and at the age of 16 each teenager is notified of the person who they will one day marry, at a special celebratory dinner.

Cassie is excited about her Matching Ceremony and can’t wait to find out who the Society has chosen as her perfect match. When her best friend, Xander, is announced Cassie is thrilled. But later her euphoria turns into confusion when Ky Markham’s face flashes onto her screen as her match, as well. Cassie has never paid too much attention to Ky but suddenly she can’t stop thinking about him. And after receiving a forbidden piece of poetry from her grandfather, urging her to to “rage against the dying of the light" Cassie also finds herself questioning if she should be raging against all of the Society’s restrictive rules that she had always passively accepted.

While many of the concepts in the book are not original the story could still have succeeded if it hadn't been so narrowly focused on Cassie’s romantic dilemmas. Should Cassie choose Xander or Ky? Xander is nice and handsome but Ky is exciting and different. Frankly, I got tired of Cassie’s “difficult” romantic predicaments and wished the story would have explored some other elements of this world instead. While Cassie’s parents have a very happy marriage, what about other matched couple? How has this system worked out for other families? And how did this society develop and who governs it? When I finished reading Matched I had more questions than answers and I really wished the book had focused on some of these other aspects, rather than giving the whole story over to Cassie agonizing over which boy to choose.

The story also lacks the tension and turbulence of many other dystopian books, making it a rather bland reading experience. While I could imagine how unpleasant it would be to live in a society where every aspect of my life is controlled, the world that Cassie lives in doesn’t really seem that bad. Cassie has a happy family, good friends, a wonderful boyfriend and fantastic employment opportunities. So what exactly is she raging against? Through Ky we get a brief glimpse at what life is like for those less fortunate than Cassie, but that glimpse is so brief and uninformative that it doesn’t leave much of an impression.

Young adults who are new to dytopian fiction might find Matched to be enjoyable and exciting story; a gentle introduction to the genre. But for anyone who has already read some of the fantastic YA dystopian books available, such as The Giver, The Hunger Games or The Knife of Never Letting Go, Matched will have little to offer.

"waiting Sucks"- Footage from True Blood, Season 4

Posted by Simcha 4:06 PM, under | No comments

While this isn't the most informative preview it does at least tell us that Season 4 of True Blood will be based on the fourth book in the Sookie Stackhouse series, Dead to the World. This is the book in which Eric gets amnesia and is forced to rely on Sookie to care for him, and it's by far my favorite book in the series. I'm now really excited for the upcoming season of True Blood, especially after the last season was such a disappointment.

While I usually enjoy the way Alan Ball reworks each book to make the story his own, in this case I really hope he stays as close as possible to the original plot, without making too many modifications.

Recent Scott Lynch Interview

Posted by Simcha 3:46 PM, under ,, | 2 comments

There is an interesting audio interview up at the Orion website (which I discovered via Fantasy Book Review) with the somewhat-reclusive fantasy author, Scott Lynch. I'm really excited about Lynch's upcoming release of The Republic of Thieves, the third book in his Gentleman Bastard series, and I listened to this interview in the hope of finding out more about this much-anticipated book.

Lynch does talk a bit about what we can expect to find in The Republic of Thieves; most importantly, he confirms that Sabitha will finally make an appearance and there will be flashbacks back to her and Locke's teenage days so that we can learn more about their relationship with each other. Lynch also speaks a bit about the depression that he has been battling and how it has effected him, a situation that many of his fans are probably aware of since he has been pretty candid about addressing it on his personal blog.

To listen to the interview visit the Orion Website

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of March 6

Posted by Simcha 2:48 PM, under | 6 comments

Yay, Thursday's back! Jasper Fforde's newest Thursday Next book is being released this week and I can't wait to get a hold of it. If you haven't yet checked out this series then I highly recommend that you do so because it's just so much fun. I can't recommend these books enough.

Oh, and there are some other new releases here as well...

Have a great reading week!


Afterlife (Evernight, Bk 4)
Claudia Gray
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: March 8

Destiny awaits Bianca and Lucas . . .

Bianca and Lucas have always believed they could endure anything to be together. When a twist of fate not only transforms Bianca into a wraith but also turns Lucas into a vampire—the very creature he spent his life hunting—they are left reeling.

Haunted by his powerful need to kill, Lucas can turn to only one place for help . . . Evernight Academy. Bianca is determined to remain with him. But with the vampire leader of Evernight waging a war against wraiths, her former home has become the most dangerous place she could be, despite the new powers her ghostly transformation has given her.

A battle between wraiths and vampires looms, and Bianca and Lucas face a terrifying new reality. They've overcome every obstacle life has thrown at them, but is their love strong enough to survive the challenges after life?


Dante Valentine (Omnibus)
Lilith Saintcrow
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Orbit
Release Date: March 7

Necromancer. Bounty hunter. Killer. Dante Valentine has been all three in her life. But in the beginning, she was a Necromancer for hire. And while she was choosy about her jobs, there are just some you can’t turn down. Like when the Devil shows up at the door and offers her a deal. Her life – in exchange for the capture and elimination of a renegade demon. It’s an offer she can’t refuse. But how do you kill something that can’t die? Dante Valentine, one of urban fantasy’s hottest heroines, is compiled into one volume for the first time. Included in this omnibus edition are: Working for the Devil, Dead Man Rising, The Devil’s Right Hand, Saint City Sinners, and To Hell and Back.


Evercrossed (Kissed by an Angel, Bk 4)
Elizabeth Chandler
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: March 8

It’s been a year since Ivy’s boyfriend, Tristan, died. They’ve both moved on—Tristan to the other side of the afterlife, and Ivy to sweet, dependable Will. Now Ivy’s heading to Cape Cod, hoping to leave the horror of last summer behind. She wants nothing more than to lie on the beach, sip lemonade, and hang out with her friends.

But then a car crash ends Ivy’s life.

As she floats to the beyond, looking down on the life she’s left behind, Tristan breathes life back into her with a passionate kiss. She wakes up in the hospital, surrounded by Will and her family, but all she can think about is the love that she lost.

But memories aren’t all that’s come back from the past. And this time, Ivy’s not sure love will be enough to save her.


The Hunt of the Unicorn
Chris Humphreys
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Release Date: March 8

Elayne thinks the old family story that one of her ancestors stepped through a tapestry into a world of mythical beasts makes a great fireside tale. But she lives in the real world. In New York City. And she's outgrown that kind of fantasy.

Until she finds herself in front of a unicorn tapestry at the Cloisters museum and sees her initials woven into the fabric. And hears a unicorn calling to her. And slips and falls—into that other world.

Suddenly the line between fantasy and reality isn't so clear. But the danger is real enough. Almost before she can think, Elayne is attacked by a ferocious beast, rescued by a unicorn, and taken prisoner by a tyrant king. Each of them seems to have an idea about her—that she's a hero, a villain, dinner!

But Elayne has a few ideas of her own. She wants to overthrow the king; she wants to tame the unicorn. She wants to go home! And she's willing to become both hero and villain to do it.


Immortal with a Kiss
Jacqueline Lepore
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Publisher: Avon
Release Date: March 8

Born by blood to be Dhampir—a vampire hunter—Emma Andrews nearly lost her life and everyone she loves at Dulwich Manor. Now something evil is preying on students at a northern Lake District girls' school—the same school Emma's mother attended years ago. Drawn as much by the desire to learn more about her family's secrets as the possibility of vampires, Emma finds the schoolgirls in the grip of a terrible legacy—the ageless evil of the Cyprian Queen, a dark goddess of ancient legend. Now Emma must tread a careful path—along with her old friends Sebastian, Father Luke, and the mysterious and dashing Valerian Fox—deeper into the darkness to face her most paralyzing fears . . . and perhaps come one step closer to the Dracula himself.


One of Our Thursdays Is Missing
Jasper Fforde
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Viking
Release Date: March 8

Jasper Fforde's exuberant return to the fantastical BookWorld opens during a time of great unrest. All-out Genre war is rumbling, and the BookWorld desperately needs a heroine like Thursday Next. But with the real Thursday apparently retired to the Realworld, the Council of Genres turns to the written Thursday.

The Council wants her to pretend to be the real Thursday and travel as a peacekeeping emissary to the warring factions. A trip up the mighty Metaphoric River beckons-a trip that will reveal a fiendish plot that threatens the very fabric of the BookWorld itself.

Once again New York Times bestselling author Jasper Fforde has a field day gleefully blending satire, romance, and thriller with literary allusions galore in a fantastic adventure through the landscape of a frisky and fertile imagination. Fans will rejoice that their favorite character in the Fforde universe is back.


The Vespertine
Saundra Mitchell
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Release Date: March 8

It's the summer of 1889, and Amelia van den Broek is new to Baltimore and eager to take in all the pleasures the city has to offer. But her gaiety is interrupted by disturbing, dreamlike visions she has only at sunset—visions that offer glimpses of the future. Soon, friends and strangers alike call on Amelia to hear her prophecies. However, a forbidden romance with Nathaniel, an artist, threatens the new life Amelia is building in Baltimore. This enigmatic young man is keeping secrets of his own—still, Amelia finds herself irrepressibly drawn to him. When one of her darkest visions comes to pass, Amelia's world is thrown into chaos. And those around her begin to wonder if she's not the seer of dark portents, but the cause.


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