Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Urban Fantasy Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle & Joe R. Lansdale

Posted by Simcha 5:07 PM, under | 6 comments

Urban Fantasy and I have a complicated relationship. While I really like the idea of Urban Fantasy there are very few books within this genre that I've actually enjoyed. In fact, most of those that I have read irritated me so much that I couldn't even finish them. After a while I gave up searching for those gems that I knew much exist somewhere in the Urban Fantasy book world, and just stuck with those few authors whose books I didn't want to throw on the floor and stomp on.

I probably wouldn't have paid much attention to The Urban Fantasy Anthology, with its traditional UF cover image of a tank-top clad woman covered in tattoos, if its wasn't for Peter Beagle's name displayed prominently on the front. But I figured that if someone like Beagle had a hand in this book then there is probably some merit to it. And after a quick search on the Internet which brought up several favorable reviews of the book, I was eager to give it a try myself.

The Urban Fantasy Anthology is divided into three sections: Mythic Fiction, Paranormal Romance and Noir Fantasy. Each of these sections is prefaced with an essay by an author, explaining a bit about the sub-genre and how it relates to them. Charles den Lint discusses his relationship with Mythic Fantasy, Paula Guran (who I admit to not being familiar with) talks about the development of Paranormal Romance and Joel R. Lansdale comments on Noir Fantasy and some of the authors who have influenced it.

Given my experience so far with Urban Fantasy I was a bit apprehensive about what kind of stories I would find in this anthology and I'm happy to be able to tell you that I enjoyed nearly all of them. 

In my mind Urban Fantasy has become synonymous with tough young women (with the aforementioned tattoos and tank tops) battling vampires and demons as they come to learn about their own inhuman abilities and/ or parentage and fall in-love (or in bed) with an equally tough and tattoo covered man. But this anthology reveled to me that there are so many other directions that an urban fantasy can take, and which might not involve any sex or tattoos at all (shocking, I know). It was a very eye-opening experience and through these stories I've come to a new appreciation of the genre, along with a list of new-to- me authors whose books I plan to seek out.

One of my favorite stories in this collection is not even an urban fantasy but since I enjoy people's true-life stories even more than their fictional ones, Neil Gaiman's piece about a visit to L.A, early in his writing career, really appealed to me.  Gaiman humorously accounts some of the absurd situations he found himself in, in Hollywood, dealing with writers, movie producers and cab drivers. Though it was Gaiman's interactions with the elderly grounds keeper of his hotel that was the real heart of the story. During his stay Gaiman was regaled by this gentlemen with stories of the many known, and not so well-known, movie stars who had passed through the hotel, and especially of one particular silent-film star of whom the old grounds keeper was still enamored, almost seventy years later.

Surprisingly, the stories that I enjoyed the most were the ones in the Paranormal Romance section, since I don't usually like Paranormal Romance. I think this was because the forced brevity eliminated those sections that annoy me so much and just left the stories and their characters which were a lot more satisfying than I had expected. 

In Companions to the Moon, by Charles de Lint, a woman suspects that her boyfriend of seven years is cheating on her. In order to find out the truth she decides to follow him one night when he heads out on a mysterious trip and ends up making a shocking discovery that will change everything.

In A Haunted House of her Own, by Kelly Armostrong, a couple buys a supposedly haunted coach house with plans of turning it into a inn. But after staying at the house for several days Tanya comes to suspect that the house may really be haunted, especially given her boyfriends strange behavior lately.

Since Patricia Briggs is one of the few Urban Fantasy authors that I read I was particularly looking forward to her story, Seeing Eye, which follows two minor characters from one of her Alpha and Omega books (though you don't need to have read them to appreciate the story). Moira is a young witch whose sight was destroyed years ago due to an act of deception. Tom is a werewolf whose brother has been captured by a dangerous witch coven, that no one is willing to go against. No one, that is, except for Moira. While Moira and Tom are suspicions of each other at first, the unlikely pair begin to develop feelings for each other as they work to track down Tom's brother.

In one of the darker stories in the collection, Boobs by Suzy McKee Charnes, a girl on the brink of puberty uses her new-found shape-shifting abilities to get revenge on a boy who has been harassing her at school.

And the story that touched me the most is Gestella by Susan Palwick. This story is narrated in second person, with “you” being the protagonist, a young female werewolf in-love with a man name Jonathan. Jonathan had discovered the werewolf in the alps and brought her home with him, teaching her to live as a human while reveling in her inhuman abilities. Though as the years pass by, and her once-vivid beauty starts to fade, Jonathan begins to tire of his companion, who by now has become completely reliant on him, much to her detriment.

There are many other good stories in this collection and I believe The Urban Fantasy Anthology is a book that would be greatly enjoyed by regular readers of the genre as well as those who are new to it. 

Thank you to Tachyon Publications who supplied me with a copy of The Urban Fantasy Anthology for review.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

New Scifi and Fantasy Releases: Week of October 16

Posted by Simcha 1:04 PM, under | 8 comments

Sorry for being MIA last week. We are currently celebrating the holiday of Succot, which is seven days long and includes several days during which the use of electricity is prohibited.

I have to say that I've really come to appreciate that being an orthodox Jew requires me to go off-line for a 24 hour period each weekend, as well as several times a year, for the holidays. During these times I'm forced to turn off the computer, put away my iPhone and eReader (OK, that one's the hardest) and focus on spending time with my family. We have festive meals, play board games and invite friends to come over and hang out. Succot is particularly fun because it involves building a hut ( or Succah) which we then decorate with pictures, paper chains and flashing lights. We then take all our meals, and spend as much of our leisure time as possible in the Succah, and my husband and kids sleep in it as well (I prefer my bed).

Anyways, so that's why you haven't heard from me all week and may not hear from me for several more days, though perhaps I'll might manage to find the time to put together at least one review. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this week's list of new releases. Hope you have a great week!



Ashes of a Black Frost (Iron Elves, Bk 3)
Chris Evans
Publisher: Gallery
Release Date: October 18

In the bestselling traditions of Terry Brooks, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Bernard Cornwell comes the third novel in the acclaimed epic fantasy series following The Light of Burning Shadows.

Musket and cannon, bow and arrow, and magic and diplomacy vie for supremacy once again in this all-new epic adventure from acclaimed author Chris Evans. As the human-dominated Calahrian Empire struggles to maintain its hold on power in the face of armed rebellion from within, the Iron Elves’ perilous quest to defeat the power-hungry elf witch, the Shadow Monarch, now takes on greater urgency....

Packed with wit, high adventure, and political intrigue, Ashes of Black Frost will hook readers on this bold and exciting series.

Beauty and the Werewolf (Five Hundred Kingdoms, 6)
Mercedes Lackey
Publisher: Luna
Release Date: October 18

The eldest daughter is often doomed in fairy tales. But Bella— Isabella Beauchamps, daughter of a wealthy merchant—vows to escape the usual pitfalls.Anxious to avoid the Traditional path, Bella dons a red cloak and ventures into the forbidden forest to consult with "Granny," the local wisewoman.
But on the way home she's attacked by a wolf—who turns out to be a cursed nobleman! Secluded in his castle, Bella is torn between her family and this strange man who creates marvelous inventions and makes her laugh—when he isn't howling at the moon.
Breaking spells is never easy. But a determined beauty, a wizard (after all, he's only an occasional werewolf) and a little godmotherly interference might just be able to bring about a happy ending.…

The Shattered Vine (Vineart War #3)
Laura Anne Gilman
Publisher: Gallery
Release Date: October 18

Jerzy, Vineart apprentice and former slave, was sent by his master to investigate strange happenings—and found himself the target of betrayal. Now he must set out on his own journey, to find the source of the foul taint that threatens to destroy everything he holds dear. By Jerzy’s side are Ao, who lives for commerce and the art of the deal; Mahault, stoic and wise, risking death in flight from her homeland; and Ka├»nam, once Named-Heir of an island principality, whose father has fallen into a magic-tangled madness that endangers them all.

These four companions will travel far from the earth and the soul of the vine, sailing along coastlines aflame with fear, confronting sea creatures summoned by darkness, and following winds imbued with malice. Their journey will take them to the very limits of the Sin Washer’s reach . . . and into a battle for the soul of the Lands Vin. For two millennia the Sin Washer’s Commandment has kept these lands in order: Those of magic shall hold no power over men and those princes of power shall hold no magic. Now, that law has given way. And a hidden force seeks the havoc of revenge.

Chuck Palahniuk
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: October 18

“Are you there, Satan? It’s me, Madison,” declares the whip-tongued thirteen-year-old narrator of Damned, Chuck Palahniuk’s subversive new work of fiction. The daughter of a narcissistic film star and a billionaire, Madison is abandoned at her Swiss boarding school over Christmas, while her parents are off touting their new projects and adopting more orphans. She dies over the holiday of a mari­juana overdose—and the next thing she knows, she’s in Hell. Madison shares her cell with a motley crew of young sinners that is almost too good to be true: a cheerleader, a jock, a nerd, and a punk rocker, united by fate to form the six-feet-under version of everyone’s favorite detention movie. Madison and her pals trek across the Dandruff Desert and climb the treacherous Mountain of Toenail Clippings to confront Satan in his citadel. All the popcorn balls and wax lips that serve as the currency of Hell won’t buy them off.

This is the afterlife as only Chuck Palahniuk could imagine it: a twisted inferno where The English Patient plays on end­less repeat, roaming demons devour sinners limb by limb, and the damned interrupt your dinner from their sweltering call center to hard-sell you Hell. He makes eternal torment, well, simply divine.

Mercury Rises
Robert Kroese
Publisher: AmazonEncore
Release Date: October 18

Jaded religion reporter Christine Temetri and Mercury, a renegade angel, have just thwarted two diabolical plots to destroy the world. But their work isn’t finished yet: mysterious powers outranking even the Heavenly bureaucracy seem intent on keeping the Apocalypse on track. While the world is plagued by natural disasters and nations prepare for war, crazed billionaire Horace Finch plots to use a secret device hidden beneath the African desert to discover the deepest secrets of the Universe—even if he has to destroy the Universe to do it. Meanwhile, unassuming FBI investigator Jacob Slater tries in vain to find a rational explanation for the mysterious destruction of downtown Anaheim—a quest that ultimately brings him to Kenya, where he meets Christine and Mercury. Together, the three must stop Finch from activating the device and tearing reality to pieces. Uproarious and wildly entertaining, Mercury Rises proves that the devil is in the details.

The Iron Jackal (Tales of the Ketty Jay #3)
Chris Wooding
Publisher: Gollancz
Release Date: October 20

Vardia is descending into chaos. It's a great time to be a freebooter. The Archduke has evidence that incriminactes the Awakeners, a powerful religious sect, and he's determined to use it to bring them down. If they don't surrender their Imperators - half-confessor, half-inquistor, and just possibly half-daemon as well - then he has threatened to ban their religion, and have their Imperators executed on sight. But that Awakeners won't give up without a fight, half the country is on their side, and there's more than a hint of civil war in the air. Never one to miss an opportunity, Captain Darien Frey has hit on a lucrative plan: robbing Awakener temples, and selling their relics back to them through the feared pirate, and former finacee, Trinica Dracken. Things are finally looking good for the Ketty Jay and her crew! ...until the Shaklemores, bounty hunters to the artistocracy, catch up with them, anyway. They kidnap Crake, one of Frey's most valued crewmen, and vanish with him. Crake is wanted for murder - he has been for years - but is his kidnapping in the name of justice or is something altogether more sinister going on behind the scenes? If Captain Frey wants his man back, he and the Ketty Jay are going to have to find out - even if the quest leads them into the heart of the civil war, to the treason and invasion threat beyond.

Urban Fantasy

Aloha from Hell (Sandman Slim, Bk 3)
Richard Kadrey
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Release Date: October 18

Supernatural fantasy’s greatest anti-hero goes back to hell!
In Sandman Slim Stark came back from hell for revenge.
In Kill the Dead he tackled both a zombie plague and being Lucifer’s bodyguard.
Once again all is not right in L.A. Lucifer is back in Heaven, God is on vacation, and an insane killer mounts a war against both Heaven and Hell.
Stark’s got to head back down to his old stomping grounds in Hell to rescue his long lost love, stop an insane serial killer, prevent both Good and Evil from completely destroying each other, and stop the demonic Kissi from ruining the party for everyone.
Even for Sandman Slim, that’s a tall order. And it’s only the beginning.


Science Fiction

Dean Crawford
Release Date: October 18


When archaeologist Lucy Morgan uncovers a seven-thousand-year-old tomb holding remains alien to our world, she realizes she has stumbled upon something important—something with the potential to rewrite history. But before Lucy can retrieve the remains, she’s abducted.
A former war correspondent in Iraq and Afghanistan, Ethan Warner has seen much action in the line of fire. Now back home in Chicago, he’s hoping to finally pick up the pieces of his broken life and begin to lead a more normal existence. But when called upon by Lucy’s family to help find her, he knows he cannot let them down. Especially since he knows firsthand what it’s like to have a loved one go missing. 

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., detectives Nicola Lopez and Lucas Tyrell are called to an abandoned building to check out a possible homicide. What at first glance appears to be the bodies of overdose victims in a crack den is instead something more sinister. How is it possible that these emaciated, naked bodies—rotting in the sweltering heat of August—show signs of hypothermia? 

Working independently, Ethan and the detectives each discover that a shadowy corporation may have something to do with Lucy’s disappearance and the mysterious bodies. And Ethan soon realizes that it’s not just Lucy’s life that’s at stake but the fate of the world, and he must risk everything to stop those willing to alter the course of history, before it’s too late.

Zone One
Colson Whitehead
Publisher: Doubleday
Release Date: October 18

In this wry take on the post-apocalyptic horror novel, a pandemic has devastated the planet. The plague has sorted humanity into two types: the uninfected and the infected, the living and the living dead. Now the plague is receding, and Americans are busy rebuild­ing civilization under orders from the provisional govern­ment based in Buffalo. Their top mission: the resettlement of Manhattan. Armed forces have successfully reclaimed the island south of Canal Street—aka Zone One—but pockets of plague-ridden squatters remain. While the army has eliminated the most dangerous of the infected, teams of civilian volunteers are tasked with clearing out a more innocuous variety—the “malfunctioning” stragglers, who exist in a catatonic state, transfixed by their former lives.
Mark Spitz is a member of one of the civilian teams work­ing in lower Manhattan. Alternating between flashbacks of Spitz’s desperate fight for survival during the worst of the outbreak and his present narrative, the novel unfolds over three surreal days, as it depicts the mundane mission of straggler removal, the rigors of Post-Apocalyptic Stress Disorder, and the impossible job of coming to grips with the fallen world.
And then things start to go wrong.
Both spine chilling and playfully cerebral, Zone One bril­liantly subverts the genre’s conventions and deconstructs the zombie myth for the twenty-first century.


Young Adult

The Scorpio Races
Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: October 18

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen

Beautiful Chaos
Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: October 18

Ethan Wate thought he was getting used to the strange, impossible events happening in Gatlin, his small Southern town. But now that Ethan and Lena have returned home, strange and impossible have taken on new meanings. Swarms of locusts, record-breaking heat, and devastating storms ravage Gatlin as Ethan and Lena struggle to understand the impact of Lena's Claiming. Even Lena's family of powerful Supernaturals is affected - and their abilities begin to dangerously misfire. As time passes, one question becomes clear: What - or who - will need to be sacrificed to save Gatlin?For Ethan, the chaos is a frightening but welcome distraction. He's being haunted in his dreams again, but this time it isn't by Lena - and whatever is haunting him is following him out of his dreams and into his everyday life. Even worse, Ethan is gradually losing pieces of himself - forgetting names, phone numbers, even memories. He doesn't know why, and most days he's too afraid to ask.
Sometimes there isn't just one answer or one choice. Sometimes there's no going back. And this time there won't be a happy ending.

Dearly, Departed
Lia Habel
Publisher: Del Ray
Release Date: October 18

Love conquers all, so they say. But can Cupid’s arrow pierce the hearts of the living and the dead—or rather, the undead? Can a proper young Victorian lady find true love in the arms of a dashing zombie?
The year is 2195. The place is New Victoria—a high-tech nation modeled on the manners, mores, and fashions of an antique era. A teenager in high society, Nora Dearly is far more interested in military history and her country’s political unrest than in tea parties and debutante balls. But after her beloved parents die, Nora is left at the mercy of her domineering aunt, a social-climbing spendthrift who has squandered the family fortune and now plans to marry her niece off for money. For Nora, no fate could be more horrible—until she’s nearly kidnapped by an army of walking corpses.

But fate is just getting started with Nora. Catapulted from her world of drawing-room civility, she’s suddenly gunning down ravenous zombies alongside mysterious black-clad commandos and confronting “The Laz,” a fatal virus that raises the dead—and hell along with them. Hardly ideal circumstances. Then Nora meets Bram Griswold, a young soldier who is brave, handsome, noble . . . and dead. But as is the case with the rest of his special undead unit, luck and modern science have enabled Bram to hold on to his mind, his manners, and his body parts. And when his bond of trust with Nora turns to tenderness, there’s no turning back. Eventually, they know, the disease will win, separating the star-crossed lovers forever. But until then, beating or not, their hearts will have what they desire.

In Dearly, Departed, romance meets walking-dead thriller, spawning a madly imaginative novel of rip-roaring adventure, spine-tingling suspense, and macabre comedy that forever redefines the concept of undying love.

The Warlock's Shadow (The Thief-Taker's Apprentice, Bk 2)
Stephen Deas
Publisher: Gollancz
Release Date: October 20

Berren is not enjoying himself. Trapped in a temple, forced to learn how to read, how to write and how to recall the histories of the Saints, all he wants is to be given a sword. As a thief-taker's apprentice he imagined a world of daring night-time chases, glorious victories and a life of excitement. His dreams aren't quite coming true. So when a prince - the first and last prince he'll ever see - hires the thief-taker as a bodyguard, Berren is thrilled. When he hears that a troupe of Dragon Monks - exotic warriors and the best swordsmen in the world - are visiting, he sees an opportunity to learn how to fight. When one of the Monks turns out to be a girl of the same age, his future suddenly seems a lot brighter. But when a shadowy figure launches an attack on the life of Prince Sharda, Berren finds himself plunged into a world of danger, intrigue and terror. He may discover that being trained with a sword isn't enough - sometimes, you have to know who to fight.

Swear (Swoon, Bk 2)
Nina Malkin
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: October 18

It’s been six months since ghost-turned golem bad-boy Sin confessed his love, stole Dice's heart, and disappeared from Swoon, perhaps from existence. Despite the hurt, Dice has been moving steadily toward ordinary. Dreams of Sin still plague and pleasure her sleep, and the mark Sin left remains on her skin, still sore, six months later. But Dice has been throwing herself into music, finding solace in song and sometimes even in the arms of her band mate, Tosh. Life seems almost…normal. The last thing Dice wants is to mess with anything remotely supernatural. But when her best friend’s boyfriend goes missing, Dice has no choice but to be very much involved. She knows that his disappearance was no accident, and it somehow has everything to do with Sin. Because Dice can feel it: Sin is back. And the promises and deceptions he left in his wake have returned to haunt him.
What do you do when an oath of devotion threatens to destroy the one you love?

Half Blood
Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Release Date: October 18

The Hematoi descend from the unions of gods and mortals, and the children of two Hematoi-pure-bloods-have godlike powers. Children of Hematoi and mortals-well, not so much. Half-bloods only have two options: become trained Sentinels who hunt and kill daimons or become servants in the homes of the pures.Seventeen-year-old Alexandria would rather risk her life fighting than waste it scrubbing toilets, but she may end up slumming it anyway. There are several rules that students at the Covenant must follow. Alex has problems with them all, but especially rule #1:Relationships between pures and halfs are forbidden.Unfortunately, she's crushing hard on the totally hot pure-blood Aiden. But falling for Aiden isn't her biggest problem--staying alive long enough to graduate the Covenant and become a Sentinel is. If she fails in her duty, she faces a future worse than death or slavery: being turned into a daimon, and being hunted by Aiden. And that would kind of suck.

 Paranormal Romance

Lord of the Wolfyn (Royal House of Shadows, Bk 3)
Jessica Andersen
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: October 18

Once upon a time…the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden.
To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance.
Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs…and time is running out.…
For practical Reda Weston, nothing could explain how reading a sexy version of "Little Red Riding Hood" catapulted her into another realm—face-to-fang with the legendary wolf-creature who seduced women. A wolf who transformed into a dark, virile man….
Dayn cursed the Sorcerer that turned him wolfyn and damned him to a lonely fate. As a beast, he mated with women to gain strength.
Strength he needed to rescue his royal parents. But as a man, he craved Reda's heated, sizzling touch. With little time left, Dayn had to either embrace his wolf to save his kingdom…or fight it to save his woman.


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