Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Finds

Posted by Simcha 3:03 AM, under | 5 comments




Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

I love memoirs and I love Jenny Lawson's blog The Bloggess (which you are probably tired of hearing about from me) so Jenny's memoir Let's Pretend This Never Happened has me very excited, even though it doesn't come out until April.

There doesn't appear a book description yet on Goodreads for it so here is an excerpt from Jenny's blog:

I know I will never be Charles Dickens. I will never use a semi-colon correctly. Or know what a semi-colon is. I suspect it’s this thing : ; It looks like a sideways man who had half of his handlebar mustache shaved off when he passed out drunk at a frat house. But that’s not the point. The point is that I have story to tell and it’s filled with unpredictable raccoons and accidental stabbings and profanity and it is nothing like all the fancy books on my shelves…but maybe that’s what makes it special. And in all my talk about how strangely and beautifully unique each of you are, I never apply that same logic to myself which kind of makes me the biggest hypocrite ever. So starting today I’m going to start practicing not hating myself quite so much because then maybe when this book actually comes out I can say how proud I am of myself and it won’t be so much of a lie. Luckily for me, I have a long time to practice. Luckier for you, I’m about to shut up about my book and not mention it again until it comes out in 2012, which is coincidentally the same year that the Mayans predict that the world is going to end. I can’t help but suspect that these two things might be related.

I can't wait for this one, though I really hope it's better than Alan Alda's memoir Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I've Learned, which was far less entertaining than the title suggested it would be.

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I just found out that Mary Robinette Kowal has a new book coming out later this year and since I really enjoyed Shades of Milk and Honey I am very much looking forward to reading this one as well.

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal


In the tumultuous months after Napoleon abdicates his throne, Jane and Vincent go to France for their honeymoon. While there, the deposed emperor escapes his exile in Elba, throwing the continent into turmoil. With no easy way back to England, they struggle to escape. But when Vincent is captured as a British spy, Jane realizes that their honeymoon has been a ruse to give them a reason to be in Europe.

Left with no outward salvation, Jane is left to overcome her own delicate circumstances and use her glamour to rescue her husband from prison... and hopefully prevent her newly built marriage from getting stranded on the shoals of another country's war.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Low Town (The Straight Razor Cure) by Daniel Polansky

Posted by Simcha 5:17 AM, under | 5 comments

Drug dealers, hustlers, brothels, dirty politics, corrupt cops . . . and sorcery. Welcome to Low Town.


In the forgotten back alleys and flophouses that lie in the shadows of Rigus, the finest city of the Thirteen Lands, you will find Low Town. It is an ugly place, and its cham­pion is an ugly man. Disgraced intelligence agent. Forgotten war hero. Independent drug dealer. After a fall from grace five years ago, a man known as the Warden leads a life of crime, addicted to cheap violence and expensive drugs. Every day is a constant hustle to find new customers and protect his turf from low-life competition like Tancred the Harelip and Ling Chi, the enigmatic crime lord of the heathens.


The Warden’s life of drugged iniquity is shaken by his dis­covery of a murdered child down a dead-end street . . . set­ting him on a collision course with the life he left behind. As a former agent with Black House—the secret police—he knows better than anyone that murder in Low Town is an everyday thing, the kind of crime that doesn’t get investi­gated. To protect his home, he will take part in a dangerous game of deception between underworld bosses and the psy­chotic head of Black House, but the truth is far darker than he imagines. In Low Town, no one can be trusted.


Low Town is narrated by Warden, a drug dealer and addict who had grown up an orphan on the dangerous streets of Low Town and rose to become a valuable agent of the government's Secret Service department. But several years ago something happened that landed Warden back in Low Town on the other side of the law, now running the local drug trade with an iron fist. Somehow the brutal life that the Warden has lived has not yet hardened him completely and when a young girl is found savagely murdered he finds himself driven to hunt down the murderer. But once Warden identifies the girl's murderer he realizes the situation is a lot worse than he could have imagined and that a horror from his past may be about to descend on Low Town, unless he can stop it. Warden's former colleagues from the police force are also eager to bring a stop to the murders and they intend to use Warden to so do, and if he doesn't survive, all the better.

I'm not big on gritty stories detailing bloody acts of violence and scenes of misery and abuse so I was a bit apprehensive as to what I would find in the pages of this book, based on its description. But as soon as I started reading Low Town I forgot about my concerns because the casual writing style easily drew me into the story and kept my attention focused on the drama of the unfolding events.

Despite the Warden's reputation on the street and his unsavory occupation as a drug lord he's not an unsympathetic character. He's not as hardened as one would expect from someone in his position and his obvious care for his friends and his lack of casual violence or cruelty make him someone that readers can still connect with. The wry humor in which he expresses himself also helps his appeal. I actually found it a bit irritating at how willing Warden was to repeatedly take responsibility for reprehensible events that were not his fault but still laid at his feet. So I might actually say that I found him to be perhaps just a little too good to be believable, though I suppose if this wasn't the case it would have been a lot harder for readers to care about him.

From the moment that Warden finds the body of the murdered little girl he is on a mission to find out the truth about what happened to her. Egged on by his friends, and threated by his superiors, Warden turns to his contacts for assistance and follows clues around the city until he determines who he believes the murderer to be. From that point on Warden is focused on finding the necessary proof to convict the suspected murderer of his crimes.

Low Town is probably best described as a detective noir story with a few fantasy elements mixed in, but not really enough to properly categorize it as a fantasy novel. I wouldn't call it a mystery either because we aren't really given any clues to help us determine the culprit but instead we tag along with Warden as he rushes from one contact to another without seeming to make any progress. I would have been completely surprised by the ending if Polansky hadn't shown his hand (a bit clumsily) a few chapters from the end, pretty much pointing out the culprit to us.

I was relieved to find that Low Town didn't include of scenes of brutal violence and torture a'la a Joe Abercrombie novel, though the danger and menace of the setting was a constant presence in the background.

For me what really set this book apart from other detective noir, fantasy stories was the writing. In addition to the casual narration style that made it so easy to slip into the story, I really just enjoyed the writing itself. I frequently reread certain sentences and passages just because I liked the way they were phrased, and not necessarily for any particular idea being expressed.

The only complaint I have about the book is that I would have liked to have gotten to know some of the secondary characters a bit better. These include Wren, a young street urchin that Warden takes under his wing, the Crane, an elderly wizard who befriended Warden in his youth, and Celia, a woman who Warden had saved from a childhood on the streets. Though the characters I would have really liked to have gotten to know better were Adolphus and his wife Adeline, who run the pub in which Warden lived. While the two do show up frequently in the story, usually serving Warden breakfast ( Adolphus) or chastising him for something ( Adeline) we only get a superficial look at them and their relationship with Warden, mostly through these interaction. Though there was one memorable scene between Warden and Adolphus that really made me wish Polansky had focused more on the relationship between the two, because it could have been a very powerful element in the story.

    I was so fixed on my purpose that I nearly rebounded off Adolphus, who stood at the foot of the steps, rendered nearly invisible by the low light and his own uncanny stillness. Beneath his heavy overcoat a ragged suit of studded leather stretched taut against his chest, and he'd dug up his old kettle helmet, the steel dented by five years of close calls. Apart from his dress he was also festooned with weapons, two short blades hanging at his side and a battle-ax strapped to his back.
    'What the hell are you wearing?' I asked, astounded. 
    The savagery in his eyes left me with no doubt that my comrade was quite serious in his choice of attire. 'You didn't think you were going alone? This isn't our first time over the top. I've got my eyed on your back, as always.' 
    Was he drunk? I sniffed at his breath- apparently not. 'I don't have time for this. Watch Adeline, I'll be back in a few hours.' 
    'Wren's my son,' he said, without affectation of aggrandizement. 'I'll not sit by the fire while his life is in danger.' 
    The Oathkeeper spare us from such pointless nobility. 'Your offer is appreciated, but unnecessary.' 
    I tried to squeeze by, but he put one hand against my collar and held me firm against he banister. 'It wasn't an offer.' 
    The streaks of gray outnumbered the black in his once charcoal hair. His pockmarked face was heavy. Was I that old? Did I look that foolish, my collar pulled up like a hoodlum, steel bulging from my pockets, a middle-aged man playing at adventures of youth?
    ...I brushed off Adolphus's hand and took a step back up the stairs, giving myself enough room to maneuver. 'You're fat- you were always big, but you're fat now. You're slow and you can't sneak, and you don't have it in you to kill a man anymore, not the way I'm going to do it. I'm not sure that you ever did. I've no time to flatter your vanity- every second you waste the boy gets closer to death. Get..out of my way.' 
    For a moment I thought I had overplayed my hand and he would knock my head off my shoulders. But then he turned his face to the ground and all the energy seemed to slump out of him, like a hole at the bottom of a jug. He turned away from the staircase, his collection of cutlery jangling. 
    'Look after Adeline,' I said. 'I'll be back in an hour or two.' 
    That was far from certain, but there was no point in saying so. 
    I slipped out into the night.


Low Town is a very impressive debut novel that I would highly recommend. I can't wait to find out what Daniel Polansky has in store for us next.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of November 13

Posted by Simcha 6:26 PM, under | 3 comments

Fantasy



The Dragon Arcarna
Pierre Pevel
Publisher: Gollancz
Release Date: November 17

The swashbuckling adventure, perfect for fans of THE THREE MUSKETEERS continues! This is Paris. This is 1633. This is a world under attack from dragons. Cardinal Richelieu is on his guard against the greatest danger he, or France, has faced. A secret society known as the Black Claw is plotting in the shadows. They have already struck twice, and with their third blow they mean to finish their task. Unless the Cardinal's Blades can stop them. They are all prepared to risk their lives for the Crown, this time the question is not whether they will need to . . . it's whether or not they will survive. Who are the Dragon Arcana, what secret are the Chatelaine nuns trying so hard to protect, and if an ancient dragon is unleashed on Paris will the Blades really stand a chance against it . . . ?

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Urban Fantasy


Tricks of the Trade (Paranormal Scene Investigations #3)
Laura Anne Gilman
Publisher: Luna
Release Date: November 15

WHEN MAGIC GOES WRONG, WHO ARE YOU GOING TO CALL?

The name’s Torres, Bonnie Torres, and I’m a paranormal scene investigator—rooting out the truth about crimes of magic. It’s dangerous and boring and scary and fascinating. Though not everyone in the Cosa Nostradamus is happy we’re around, which can make things…tricky.

Working two cases—looking into a murder for the NYPD, and a rich man’s break-in—should be well within our
abilities. But when things start getting weird in the Electric Apple, Private Unaffiliated Paranormal Investigations is stretched to the limits, trying to keep one step ahead and out of trouble. Add in rumors
of a powerful creature gunning for us and it’s not just our rep on the line this time—if we don’t solve this case,
everyone will suffer.

Fortunately, around here, when the going gets weird, the weird hire us.…

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Young Adult


Death Watch
Ari Berk
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Release Date: November 15

They say the dead should rest in peace. Not all the dead agree.
One night, Silas Umber's father Amos doesn’t come home from work. Devastated, Silas learns that his father was no mere mortician but an Undertaker, charged with bringing The Peace to the dead trapped in the Shadowlands, the states of limbo binding spirits to earth. With Amos gone, Silas and his mother have no choice but to return to Lichport, the crumbling seaside town where Silas was born, and move in with Amos’s brother, Charles.
Even as Silas eagerly explores his father’s town and its many abandoned streets and overgrown cemeteries, he grows increasingly wary of his uncle. There is something not quite right going on in Charles Umber’s ornate, museum-like house—something, Silas is sure, that is connected to his father’s disappearance. When Silas’s search leads him to his father’s old office, he comes across a powerful artifact: the Death Watch, a four hundred year old Hadean clock that allows the owner to see the dead.
Death Watch in hand, Silas begins to unearth Lichport’s secret history—and discovers that he has taken on his father’s mantle as Lichport’s Undertaker. Now, Silas must embark on a dangerous path into the Shadowlands to embrace his destiny and discover the truth about his father—no matter the cost.




Immortal Darkness (The Phantom Diaries #3)
Kailin Gow
Publisher: theEDGEbooks.com
Release Date: November 15

The highly-anticipated third book in the Phantom Diaries series, a modern supernatural re-telling of Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera.  Who will Annette choose, and will she have to give up everything for the choice she makes?



Lightbringer
K. D. McEntire
Publisher: Pyr
Release Date: November 15

The Never is a place of greys, a world a breath beyond our own, layered just past the memories of yesterday and the fleeting present moment. It is here, in this dismal limbo, that ghosts such as Piotr, Lily, and Elle must sort out an existence, both protecting the children called Lost and themselves from the walking darkness that is the army of rotting Walkers.

Caught between her duty to her calling as the Lightbringer and her concern for her new ghostly friends, Wendy must walk the line between the two worlds, aiding Piotr in his fight against the Walkers as well as searching out the wandering soul of the one who means the most to her. Time, however, is running out and in the end... who will she choose?




Molly O'Brien and The Mark of the Dragon Slayer
Kathleen Damiani
Publisher: Larson Publications NY
Release Date: November 16

When Molly meets Sophia (Queen of Wisdom!), adventure begins! The mysterious dragonslayer mark on Molly's thigh calls for an education few receive. Sophia enlists her into an urgent mission: saving Earth from imminent destruction by Ialdobaoth, the Great Dragon of crystallized thoughts from humanity's past. Sophia leads Molly to where possible futures are created and undone.



The Pledge
Kimberly Derting
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry
Release Date: November 15

In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.




Shatter Me
Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: November 15

Juliette hasn't touched anyone in exactly 264 days.

The last time she did, it was an accident, but The Reestablishment locked her up for murder. No one knows why Juliette's touch is fatal. As long as she doesn't hurt anyone else, no one really cares. The world is too busy crumbling to pieces to pay attention to a 17-year-old girl. Diseases are destroying the population, food is hard to find, birds don't fly anymore, and the clouds are the wrong color.

The Reestablishment said their way was the only way to fix things, so they threw Juliette in a cell. Now so many people are dead that the survivors are whispering war-- and The Reestablishment has changed its mind. Maybe Juliette is more than a tortured soul stuffed into a poisonous body. Maybe she's exactly what they need right now.

Juliette has to make a choice: Be a weapon. Or be a warrior.



The Space Between
Brenna Yovanoff
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: November 14

Everything is made of steel, even the flowers. How can you love anything in a place like this?

Daphne is the half-demon, half-fallen angel daughter of Lucifer and Lilith. Life for her is an endless expanse of time, until her brother Obie is kidnapped - and Daphne realizes she may be partially responsible. Determined to find him, Daphne travels from her home in Pandemonium to the vast streets of Earth, where everything is colder and more terrifying. With the help of the human boy she believes was the last person to see her brother alive, Daphne glimpses into his dreams, discovering clues to Obie's whereabouts. As she delves deeper into her demonic powers, she must navigate the jealousies and alliances of the violent archangels who stand in her way. But she also discovers, unexpectedly, what it means to love and be human in a world where human is the hardest thing to be.

This second novel by rising star Brenna Yovanoff is a story of identity, discovery, and a troubled love between two people struggling to find their place both in our world and theirs.



Void (Hex, Shadows, Ghosts)
Rhiannon Lassiter
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: November 15


The CPS, a secret government agency, is on a mission to seek and destroy the Hex - human mutants with supercomputer minds. They are young. They look like normal teens. They must never be allowed to grow up.

But the CPS hasn't discovered Raven. Soon they will feel her power and know her rage.

Raven and her brother, Wraith, must use Raven’s Hex powers and Wraith’s street ski
...moreThe CPS, a secret government agency, is on a mission to seek and destroy the Hex - human mutants with supercomputer minds. They are young. They look like normal teens. They must never be allowed to grow up.

But the CPS hasn't discovered Raven. Soon they will feel her power and know her rage.

Raven and her brother, Wraith, must use Raven’s Hex powers and Wraith’s street skills to save first their long-lost sister, and then the entire Hex community. But before they start, Raven must overcome her mantra: work alone and think only of herself. Even then the challenges don't stop as they must crack the top-secret and high-tech security of the CPS, ally with a political-terrorist group, and then ultimately take down the evil European Federation.

And even the best laid plans can go awry.


Wherever You Go
Heather Davis
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Release Date: November 14

Seventeen-year-old Holly Mullen has felt lost and lonely ever since her boyfriend, Rob, died in a tragic accident. The fact that she has to spend most of her free time caring for her little sister and Alzheimer’s-stricken grandfather doesn’t help. But Holly has no idea that as she goes about her days, Rob’s ghost is watching over her. He isn’t happy when he sees his best friend, Jason, reach out to help Holly with her grandfather—but as a ghost, he can do nothing to stop it. Is his best friend really falling for his girlfriend?
    
As Holly wonders whether to open her heart to Jason, the past comes back to haunt her. Her grandfather claims to be communicating with the ghost of Rob. Could the messages he has for Holly be real? And if so, how can the loved ones Rob left behind help his tortured soul make it to the other side?
    
Told from the perspectives of Holly, Jason, and Rob,Wherever You Go is is a poignant story about making peace with the past, opening your heart to love, and finding the courage to move forward into the light.

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Paranormal Romance


Knight of Runes
Ruth A. Casie
Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: November 14

England, 1605

When Lord Arik, a druid knight, finds Rebeka Tyler wandering his lands without protection, he swears to keep her safe. But Rebeka can take care of herself. When Arik sees her clash with a group of attackers using a strange fighting style, he’s intrigued.

Rebeka is no ordinary seventeenth-century woman—she’s travelled back from the year 2011, and she desperately wants to return home. She poses as a scholar sent by the king to find out what’s killing Arik’s land. But as she works to decode the ancient runes that are the key to solving this mystery and sending her home, she finds herself drawn to the charismatic and powerful Arik.

As Arik and Rebeka fall in love, someone in Arik’s household schemes to keep them apart, and a dark druid with a grudge prepares his revenge. To defeat him, Arik and Rebeka must combine their skills. Soon Rebeka will have to decide whether to return to the future or trust Arik with the secret of her time travel and her heart.


Lord of the Abyss
Nalini Singh
Publisher: Harlequin
Release Date: November 15

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.…

As the dark Lord who condemns souls to damnation in the Abyss, Micah is nothing but a feared monster wrapped in impenetrable black armor. He has no idea he is the last heir of Elden, its last hope. Only one woman knows—the daughter of his enemy.

Liliana is nothing like her father, the Blood Sorcerer who’d cursed Micah. She sees past Micah’s armor to the prince inside. A prince whose sinful touch she craves. But first she has to brave his dark, dangerous lair and help him remember. Because they only have till midnight to save Elden.

Just for fun: Sesame Street does Glee

Posted by Simcha 6:00 PM, under | 1 comment

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