Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Finds

Posted by Simcha 4:05 AM, under | 4 comments

This week I didn't come across any new books to add to my TBR list so instead I'm going to share with you some of those books that have been on the list for a while but I just haven't manged to get a hold of yet. If you've have read any of these books I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts on them.

This book just sounds really fascinating.

The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World, and the Way We Live Today
by Ted Conover

Roads bind our world—metaphorically and literally—transforming landscapes and the lives of the people who inhabit them. Roads have unparalleled power to impact communities, unite worlds and sunder them, and reveal the hopes and fears of those who travel them.

With his marvelous eye for detail and his contagious enthusiasm, Ted Conover explores six of these key byways worldwide. In Peru, he traces the journey of a load of rare mahogany over the Andes to its origin, an untracked part of the Amazon basin soon to be traversed by a new east-west route across South America. In East Africa, he visits truckers whose travels have been linked to the worldwide spread of AIDS. In the West Bank, he monitors highway checkpoints with Israeli soldiers and then passes through them with Palestinians, witnessing the injustices and danger borne by both sides. He shuffles down a frozen riverbed with teenagers escaping their Himalayan valley to see how a new road will affect the now-isolated Indian region of Ladakh. From the passenger seat of a new Hyundai piling up the miles, he describes the exuberant upsurge in car culture as highways proliferate across China. And from inside an ambulance, he offers an apocalyptic but precise vision of Lagos, Nigeria, where congestion and chaos on freeways signal the rise of the global megacity.

A spirited, urgent book that reveals the costs and benefits of being connected—how, from ancient Rome to the present, roads have played a crucial role in human life,
advancing civilization even as they set it back.

I can't remember where I came across this book but it sounds like a fun and enjoyable read.

All My Friends Are Superheroes
by Andrew Kaufman

All Tom’s friends really are superheroes. There’s the Ear, the Spooner, the Impossible Man. Tom even married a superhero, the Perfectionist. But at their wedding, the Perfectionist was hypnotized to believe that Tom is invisible. Nothing he does can make her see him. Six months later, she’s sure that Tom has abandoned her. So she’s moving to Vancouver. She’ll use her superpower to make Vancouver perfect and leave all the heartbreak in Toronto. With no idea Tom’s beside her, she boards an airplane. Tom has until the wheels touch the ground in Vancouver to convince her he’s there, or he loses her forever.

A funny, sweet story, All My Friends Are Superheroes will remind you the greatest superpower of all is love.

I really want to read this book, which I've heard great things about, though I have a tendency to shy away from books that may effect me emotionally, as I'm sure this one will. But hopefully one of these days I'll "man-up" and get myself to the bookstore to buy it.

To the End of the Land
by David Grossman

Ora, a middle-aged Israeli mother, is on the verge of celebrating her son Ofer’s release from army service when he returns to the front for a major offensive. In a fit of preemptive grief and magical thinking, she sets out for a hike in the Galilee, leaving no forwarding information for the “notifiers” who might darken her door with the worst possible news.

Recently estranged from her husband, Ilan, she drags along an unlikely companion: their former best friend and her former lover Avram, once a brilliant artistic spirit. Avram served in the army alongside Ilan when they were young, but their lives were forever changed one weekend when the two jokingly had Ora draw lots to see which of them would get the few days’ leave being offered by their commander—a chance act that sent Avram into Egpyt and the Yom Kippur War, where he was brutally tortured as POW. In the aftermath, a virtual hermit, he refused to keep in touch with the family and has never met the boy.

Now, as Ora and Avram sleep out in the hills, ford rivers, and cross valleys, avoiding all news from the front, she gives him the gift of Ofer, word by word; she supplies the whole story of her motherhood, a retelling that keeps Ofer very much alive for Ora and for the reader, and opens Avram to human bonds undreamed of in his broken world. Their walk has a “war and peace” rhythm, as their conversation places the most hideous trials of war next to the joys and anguish of raising children.

Never have we seen so clearly the reality and surreality of daily life in Israel, the currents of ambivalence about war within one household, and the burdens that fall on each generation anew.


I don't often add mysteries to my wishlist but this one sounds like one I might really enjoy.

Double Black (A Ski Diva Mystery #1)
by Wendy Clinch

First in a very cool (literally) skiing series that introduces a sleuth who has ditched grad school, along with her cheating fiancée, to become a ski bum

Twenty-something Stacey Curtis is living the life she’s always dreamed about—until she finds a dead body in the ski chalet. And after her new landlord turns out to be the local sheriff, her life contains a whole lot more suspense than she bargained for. Populated with quirky characters, loaded with New England atmosphere, and co-starring a handsome young hunk with nerve, a sense of humor about it all, and an enormous trust fund, Double Black is an exciting run down some mysterious and treacherous trails.

This week's fun image:

via Imgur

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Free Audio Books for the Summer

Posted by Simcha 7:05 PM, under | 4 comments

Each week throughout the summer Sync is offering two free audio books, which can be downloaded through their site. This week's titles are:

Revenge of the Witch (The Last Apprentice)
by Joseph Delaney

Capturing witches
Binding boggarts
Driving away ghosts

For years, Old Gregory has been the Spook for the county, ridding the local villages of evil. Now his time is coming to an end. But who will take over for him? Twenty-nine apprentices have tried–some floundered, some fled, some failed to stay alive.

Only Thomas Ward is left. He's the last hope; the last apprentice.

Can Thomas succeed? Will he learn the difference between a benign witch and a malevolent one? Does the Spook's warning against girls with pointy shoes include Alice? And what will happen if Thomas accidentally frees Mother Malkin, the most evil witch in the county ... ?

Beowulf - translated by Francis B. Gummere

" Tis better to die than to live in shame." The oldest existing story written in Old English, "Beowulf" is the classic tale of courage and honor. In the Great Hall of Hrothgar, King of the Danes, the warrior Beowulf, son of a Swedish King, wages battle with the monster Grendel.

Beowulf is an Old English heroic elegy, of anonymous authorship, assigned to the period 700-750, or to the time of composition of the only manuscript, circa 1010. At 3,183 lines, the poem is notable for its length. The poem is untitled in the manuscript, but has been known as Beowulf since the early 19th century. As the single major surviving work of Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry, the work — in spite of dealing primarily with Scandinavian matters — has risen to such prominence that it has become "England's national epos."

In the poem, Beowulf, a hero of the Geats, battles three antagonists: Grendel, who is destroying Heorot and its inhabitants in Denmark, Grendel's mother, and later in life (after he is King) a dragon.

Both books can be downloaded here

 And these are the titles that will be offered in the upcoming weeks:

Available July 21 - July 27

Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton
Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Available July 28 - August 3

Ashes, Ashes by Jo Treggiari
Rescue: Stories of Survival From Land and Sea by Dorcas S. Miller [Ed.]

Available August 4 - August 10

Immortal by Gillian Shields
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Available August 11 - August 17

Storm Runners by Roland Smith
The Cay by Theodore Taylor

For those of you who have never tried out an audio book before, this is a great opportunity to do so.

Galahad by Josh Ritter

Posted by Simcha 3:24 AM, under | 5 comments

I'd only heard of Josh Ritter recently, due the publication of his book Bright's Passage, which has been receiving phenomenal reviews. Out of curiosity about this singer-turned-author I looked him up online and listened to a few of his songs, which I ended up really enjoying. Though I've become enamoured with one of his songs in particular, called Galahad, and I just can't get it out of my head. There is just something about the story that's told, and the way that Ritter sings it, that I find really compelling.

Now I'm completely out of touch with what music is currently popular in America so it's possible that everyone knows this song but I'm just so hooked on it that I thought I decided to share it with you here (plus it gives me an excuse to listen to it again.)

I'm curious, though, if there is some kind of story behind this song about Galahad that I'm not aware of. If you know anything about it, let me know.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Legacy by Cayla Kluver

Posted by Simcha 8:09 PM, under | 5 comments

If I had known that Legacy had been written by a fifteen-year old I probably would never have picked it up. I just don’t have that much faith in a fifteen-year old’s writing skills. But now that I have found out this interesting piece of information about Legacy I have to admit that I’m impressed. Not only with Kluver for writing a pretty decent novel for someone of that age but also with her mother for having such faith in her daughter's book that she started her own publishing company just to help her promote it. Now that is some major parental support. Reading all of this about Legacy and Kluver has definitely made me feel more forgiving towards the book, and I no longer want to throw it against the wall. Which I guess give you some idea as to how I had felt about it at some point.

Legacy actually starts off strong, with a dramatic opening sentence that immediately reeled me in and left me eager to read more.

    The First boy disappeared on the day of his birth, on a night when the pale yellow moon that ruled the sky turned red and bathed the heavens in the ghastly color of blood, the same night the Empire of Cokyri abruptly ceased its merciless attack.

In tight prose the prologue describes the mysterious disappearance of infant boys throughout the kingdom of Hytancian, and the discovery of the infants’ bodies a short time later. But just as the king was forced to take notice, the kidnappings stopped. When the bodies were counted up all of them were accounted for but one, the son of a wealthy noble family. No one ever discovered who was behind these murders, but the king was so relieved by the peace that followed that the matter was never fully investigated.

Seventeen years later princess Alera faces her upcoming birthday with dread. Within a year she must announce the name of the man she will marry, the man who will be king, and the only candidate who her father approves of is an obnoxious noble that Alera detests. Even though the women of Hytancian have no power it is traditional for the princess to choose her own husband and Alera is desperate to find an alternative to the horrid, but handsome, Lord Steldor. To placate her father Alera agrees to allow Steldor to court her, all the time dreading each moment forced to spend in his company.

When a young Cokyri intruder is discovered within Hytancian and taken captive, Alera finds something new to occupy her attention. Tensions are suddenly high but no one will tell her, a mere woman, anything of any importance. But Alera finds her own way to maneuver around the shields around her, and eventually comes into direct contact with the Cokyri boy, Narian. Narian is different from anyone that Alera has ever met and she is fascinated by him and by the foreign culture he grew up in, where women actually hold power over men. Slowly the two grow closer and Alera finds herself falling for this boy that she knows she can’t be with.

While Alera struggles with the difficult decision that she knows she needs to make the kingdom begins gearing up for a possible war with the Cokyri, all of which somehow involves the boy Narian, and the startling secrets of his past.

So as I mentioned, the story started off pretty strong and for the first couple of chapters I had some high hopes for this book. Unfortunately they came crashing down pretty quickly, mostly around the time that I decided I wanted to strangle princess Alera. That girl just drove me crazy. At first I felt sympathetic towards her. Steldor did seem like an arrogant brat and I could understand why Alera wouldn’t want to marry him and why she would be frustrated by her father’s pressure to do so. But for some reason (which doesn’t really make much sense in a kingdom where women are considered to have no have no brainpower) Alera has the option to choose someone else to marry, but instead of actually making an effort to find another suitable man all she does is whine about how much she dislikes Steldor. And then when Alera gets asked if there is anyone else she can suggest instead, she answers no. So pretty quickly any sympathy that I had for Alera vanished and I started feeling bad for Steldor at having to try to court her.

The story also moved forward much too slowly. I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the story, based on the book blurb, but I was still interested in seeing how it plays out. But it just took way too long to get anywhere. There are a lot of descriptions of clothing and of meetings between Steldor and Alera, most of which were pretty repetitive. Meanwhile I was impatiently waiting for the appearance of Narian, who I knew was supposed to be at the center of the story,  but he doesn’t come along until half-way though the book. And then he doesn’t even stick around long enough to really get to know him.

While I had a hard time connecting with any of the central characters I do think that Kulver did a pretty good job in building her secondary characters, which is an area that many authors neglect. But I really enjoyed getting to know the king’s guards, especially those assigned to the princesses, and they came to life for me in a way that few of the other characters did.

There were also several instances where the dialogue was so ridiculously unrealistic that I had to set the book aside. Unfortunately most of it attributed to Alera's guard, Lincoln, who I really liked and it kind of messed things up for me when he spoke like a ten year old child instead of a member of the king's elite guard. 

I will say this about the book, it definitely did not head in the direction that I had expected it to. Several times I was tempted to give up on it but I kept reading because I just wanted to know how all the knots would be untangled, and the story resolved. And while I usually enjoy surprise endings, this one I did not. Perhaps if the story had actually ended there I would have been satisfied and maybe even pleased at the unexpected resolution, but it’s just a jagged cliffhanger that left me teetering at the edge, confused and irritable. I felt like my efforts to finish the book were not paid off because all the knots were still there, along with some new ones.

On her web page Kluver mentions that she did a bit of editing to the book when it was accepted by Harlequin for publication, and I did get the sense that some parts of the book were more polished then others. For this reason I’m curious to see what kind of story-telling Kluver is capable of now and this curiosity might tempt me to pick up another one of her books, written more recently. I don’t think it will be this series though.

While Legacy did not work out for me I think that younger readers, perhaps in their mid-teens, will probably enjoy the story and its angsty protagonist more than I did. Teens will likely also be charmed by the young author and the interesting history of Legacy.

Legacy was provided for me by NetGalley for review

Sunday, July 10, 2011

New Scifi and Fantasy Releases: Week of July 10

This is the week that George R.R Martin fans have been impatiently waiting for, for years. Finally, after six years, readers of A Song of Ice and Fire will get their hands on the long-awaited conclusion to the series, A Dance with Dragons. Unfortunately I haven't yet gotten around to reading this series, or watching the show, so I'm untouched by all the frenzy, but I hope that all of you Martin fans will find the book to be everything you have been hoping for.

There are a couple of books from this week's list that I really want to read, one of which is The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. I have heard so much about this book, as well as listened to a couple of interviews with Duncan, that I've become quite eager to read it for myself (yes, I totally fall for the hype). 

The other book that I have my eye on is The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities from Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, because how could I not want to read a book with such a title. I bet there are some fantastic illustrations inside, and the  author lineup is amazing as well. 

How about you? Are any of this week's books on your must-have book list?

Hope you have a great reading week!


A Dance with Dragons
George R.R. Martin
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Bantasm
Release Date: July 12

In the aftermath of a colossal battle, the future of the Seven Kingdoms hangs in the balance once again--beset by newly emerging threats from every direction. In the east, Daenerys Targaryen, the last scion of House Targaryen, rules with her three dragons as queen of a city built on dust and death. But Daenerys has three times three thousand enemies, and many have set out to find her. Yet, as they gather, one young man embarks upon his own quest for the queen, with an entirely different goal in mind.

To the north lies the mammoth Wall of ice and stone--a structure only as strong as those guarding it. There, Jon Snow, 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, will face his greatest challenge yet. For he has powerful foes not only within the Watch but also beyond, in the land of the creatures of ice.

And from all corners, bitter conflicts soon reignite, intimate betrayals are perpetrated, and a grand cast of outlaws and priests, soldiers and skinchangers, nobles and slaves, will face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Some will fail, others will grow in the strength of darkness. But in a time of rising restlessness, the tides of destiny and politics will lead inevitably to the greatest dance of all. . . .


Blood Work: An Original Hollows Graphic Novel
Kim Harrison
Genre: Graphic novel
Publisher: Del Ray
Release Date: July 12

When Ivy met Rachel, the result wasn’t exactly love at first sight. Sparks flew as the living vampire and the stubborn witch learned what it meant to be partners. Now Kim Harrison, the acclaimed author of Pale Demon and Black Magic Sanction, turns back the clock to tell the tale—in an original full-color graphic novel.

Hot-as-hell, tough-as-nails detective Ivy Tamwood has been demoted from homicide down to lowly street-crime detail. As if rousting trolls and policing pixies instead of catching killers wasn’t bad enough, she’s also been saddled with a newbie partner who’s an earth witch. It’s enough to make any living vampire bare her fangs. But when a coven of murderous witches begins preying on werewolves, Rachel Morgan quickly proves she’s a good witch who knows how to be a badass.

Together, Ivy and Rachel hit the mean streets to deal swift justice to the evil element among Cincinnati’s supernatural set. But there’s more to their partnership than they realize—and more blood and black magic in their future than they bargained for.


Dragon's Oath (House of Night Novellas #1)
P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: July 12

The first in an enthralling new mini-series of novellas from the #1 bestselling authors of the House of Night, Dragon's Oath tells the story behind the House of Night s formidable fencing instructor the love that will transform him, and the promise that will haunt him.

Long before he's a professor at the House of Night with Zoey and the gang, in the early 19th century, Bryan Lankford is a troublesome, yet talented human teen. He thinks he can get away with anything until his father, a British nobleman, has finally had enough, and banishes him to America. When Bryan is Marked on the docks and given the choice between the London House of Night and the dragon-prowed ship to America, he chooses the Dragon and a new fate.

In 1830's St. Louis, the Gateway to the West, Dragon Lankford becomes a Sword Master, and soon realizes there are dangerous challenges and beautiful perks. Like Anastasia, the captivating young Professor of Spells and Rituals at the Tower Grove House of Night, who really should have nothing to do with a fledgling But when a dark power threatens, Dragon is caught in its focus. Though his uncanny fighting skills make him a powerful fledgling, is he strong enough to ward off this new darkness, while protecting Anastasia as well? Will his choices save her or destroy them all?


Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: July 12

The thrilling conclusion to #1 bestselling Shiver trilogy from Maggie Stiefvater


When Sam met Grace, he was a wolf and she was a girl. Eventually he found a way to become a boy, and their love moved from a curious distance to the intense closeness of shared lives.


That should have been the end of their story. But Grace was not meant to stay human. Now she is the wolf. And the wolves of Mercy Falls are about to be killed in one final, spectacular hunt.


Sam would do anything for Grace. But can one boy and one love really change a hostile, predatory world? The past, the present, and the future are about to collide in one pure moment - a moment of death or life, farewell or forever.


Kings of Morning (The Machat, Bk 3)
Paul Kearney
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Solaris
Release Date: July 14

For the first time in recorded history, the ferocious city-states of the Macht now acknowledge a single man as their overlord. Corvus, the strange and brilliant boy-general, is now High King, having united his people in a fearsome, bloody series of battles and sieges. He is not yet thirty years old. A generation ago, ten thousand of the Macht marched into the heart of the ancient Asurian Empire, and fought their way back out again, passing into legend. Corvus’s father was one of those who undertook that march, and his most trusted general, Rictus, was leader of those ten thousand. But he intends to do more. The preparations will take years, but when they are complete, Corvus will lead an invasion the like of which the world of Kuf has never seen. Under him, the Macht will undertake nothing less than the overthrow of the entire Asurian Empire.

Kings of Morning is the thrilling conclusion to Paul Kearney's Macht trilogy.


The Last Archangel
Michael D. Young
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Bonneville Books
Release Date: July 14

Xandir has been exiled to earth until the end of time. But when his cherub trainee disappears, Xandir makes a deal with rogue angels and giants that could restore life to the mortal woman he loves and end his assignment as a destroying angel in exchange for helping them bring about the end of the world and all of mankind.


The Last Werewolf
Glen Duncan
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: July 12

Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you’d never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you—and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.

Jake’s depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide—even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive.

Here is a powerful, definitive new version of the werewolf legend—mesmerising and incredibly sexy. In Jake, Glen Duncan has given us a werewolf for the twenty-first century—a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way deeply human.

One of the most original, audacious, and terrifying novels in years.


Love Struck (Kindle edition)
Melisssa Marr
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: July 12

When Alana gets more or less accidentally entrapped by a selchie she is forced to revise all of her previous rules.


Stands A Shadow (The Heart of the Word, Bk 2)
Col Buchanan
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release Date: July 15

Still grieving the death of her son, the Holy Matriarch of Mann has ordered her troops to embark on a mission to the Mercian Free Ports. Riding at the head of her army she plans to finally conquer the city of Bar-Khos, whose walls have kept them at bay for ten long years. Ash has other plans for her. The old R shun warrior is determined that he will have vengeance for the crimes she has committed. But such a course of retribution is in direct opposition to everything he has lived for - this isn't a R shun vendetta - it's personal. While Ash battles with his conscience, Che, the Matriarch's personal Diplomat and assassin, is questioning his own path. Watching as the Mannian army slaughters their way across the world, he wonders whether he believes any of the doctrine he has been taught to follow. As the battle for Bar-Khos intensifies, more and more lives are affected: Bahn who leaves all he loves in the city to try to protect it from the ravening Mannian empire, Bull the murderer who senses a chance to make things right, and Curl, the young prostitute who is determined to seek her own retribution on the field of battle. When the two armies clash - all looks set to be decided. But it's not sheer force that will win this battle. But the tormented determination of one man seeking redemption...


The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities
edited by Ann VanderMeer & Jeff VanderMeer
Genre: Anthology
Publisher: Harper Voyager.
Release Date: July 12

All-new stories and art from the doctor's wondrous collection

After the death of Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead at his house in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England, a remarkable discovery was unearthed: the remains of an astonishing cabinet of curiosities. Many of these artifacts, curios, and wonders related to anecdotes and stories in the doctor's personal journals. Others, when shown to the doctor's friends, elicited further tales from a life like no other.

Thus, in keeping with the bold spirit exemplified by Dr. Lambs­head and his exploits, we now proudly present highlights from the doctor's cabinet, reconstructed not only through visual representations but also through exciting stories of intrigue and adventure.

A carefully selected group of popular artists and acclaimed, bestselling authors has been assembled to bring this cabinet of curiosities to life.

Contributers include Holly Black, Greg Broadmore, Ted Chiang, Rikki Ducornet, Amal El-Mohtar, Minister Faust, Jeffrey Ford, Lev Grossman, N.K. Jemisin, Caitlín R. Kiernan, China Miéville, Mike Mignola, Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore, Garth Nix, Naomi Novik, James A. Owen, Helen Oyeyemi, J.K. Potter, Cherie Priest, Ekaterina Sedia, Jan Svankmajer, Rachel Swirsky, Carrie Vaughn, Jake von Slatt, Tad Williams and Charles Yu.


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