Wednesday, January 25, 2012

If Shakespeare wrote The Three Little Pigs

Posted by Simcha 5:50 PM, under | 2 comments

A really funny rendition of the Three Little Pigs told in the style of Shakespeare.

I have to admit that this skit particularly appealed to me at this time because I'm currently reading Jasper Fforde's The Big Over Easy, which involves a law-suit against the three pigs for premeditated murder of the wolf. Good stuff.



Free Read: Northanger Abbey and Angels and Dragons by Vera Nazarian

Posted by Simcha 5:38 PM, under | 3 comments

If you've been enjoying the recent spate of book mashups then this one is for you:


From the author of Mansfield Park and Mummies...
NORTHANGER ABBEY AND ANGELS AND DRAGONS

Dragons in the skies of Regency England!

Gothic horrors collide with high satire in this elegant, hilarious, witty, insane, and unexpectedly romantic supernatural parody of Jane Austen's classic novel.

Young and naive Catherine Morland is constantly surrounded by angels only she alone can see. Leaving her country home for the first time, to embark on a grand adventure that begins in fashionable Bath, our romantic heroine must not only decrypt the mystery of the Udolpho Code but win her true love Henry Tilney.

Meanwhile she is beset by all the Gothic horrors known to Impressionable Young Ladies -- odious demons, Regency balls, elusive ghosts, pleasure excursions, temperature-changing nephilim, secret clues, ogre suitors, and a terrifying ancient Dragon who has very likely hidden a secret treasure hoard somewhere in the depths of Northanger Abbey.

This ebook is currently available for free on Amazon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spellbound (Spellwright #2) by Blake Charlton

Posted by Simcha 5:49 PM, under | 6 comments


Francesca DeVega is a healer in the city of Avel, composing magical sentences that close wounds and disspell curses, but her life is thrown into chaos when a newly dead patient sits up and tells her that she must flee the infirmary or face a fate worse than death. Now Francesca is in the middle of a game she doesn’t understand—one that ties her to the notorious rogue wizard Nicodemus Weal and brings her face-to-face with demons, demigods, and a man she hoped never to see again.

It has been ten years since Nicodemus Weal escaped the Starhaven Academy, where he was considered disabled and useless, where he battled the demon who stole his birthright and murdered his friends. Unable to use the magical languages of his own people, Nico has honed his skills in the dark Chthonic languages, readying himself for his next encounter with the demon. But there are complications: his mentor suffers from an incurable curse, his half-sister’s agents are hunting him, and he’s still not sure what part Francesca DeVega will play. He certainly doesn’t know what to make of Francesca herself….



I really hadn't intended to read Spellbound. While the first book in the series, Spellwright, was enjoyable enough it wasn't quite what I had hoped for and it didn't leave me wanting more. But after reading an interview with the book's author, Blake Charlton, and watching a video of a reading that he did at a bookstore, I had a change of heart. A couple of weeks later I was in possession of a copy of Spellbound (thank you Tor!) and I was ready to plunge back into Blake's world of magical words.

There were two main reasons for my sudden eagerness to read Spellbound. The first had to do with my finding out that this story takes place ten years after the events in Spellwright, and  features a different protagonist. One of the problems that I had with Spellwright was that I didn't particularly care for Nicodemus Weal, the book's hero, and so my interest was piqued when I found out that the sequel features a new protagonists, and a female one, at that. And the excerpt that Blake read at his book signing made think that this was a woman that I would definitely like to read more about.

The second reason has to do with Blake Charlton himself. It's common knowledge among his readers that Blake struggles with dyslexia, which makes the fact that he's published two book very impressive, especially since he wrote them while in medical school. I really don't know much about dyslexia and discovering that an author whose book I read has this reading disability made me curious to learn more about it.  So I was intrigued when I read an interview in which Blake talked about how he incorporated some of his emotional struggles with dyslexia into Spellbound in the form of the book's villain. While all authors put a part of themselves into their books it's unusual to find a fantasy book that reflects a real-life disability in this way, and which gives readers a better understanding of it, through the story.

    “Are you alright?” Deirde asked without looking up.
    “Oh, I'm cheery as the kitten who ate the cream,” Francesca said as casually as she could, “but my eyes won't...won't...” She couldn't think of the word that started with f and meant “concentrate” or “direct” or “converge.”
    Deirde swore and grabbed Francesca's hand and made her walk across the room. “Stay calm. You're aphasic. The Walker is closer...”
    Something was bubbling out of the minaret's shaft. When she tried to look at it....she couldn't. It was as if she went blind as she looked at the tendrils of twisting nothingness. She stumbled backward.


As it turns out I'm really glad that I decided to go ahead and read Spellbound. Many of the faults that I found with Spellwright seemed to have been ironed out of this book and I found it to be much smoother and more entertaining read. The writing was tighter, the characters more engaging and three-dimensional and the dialogue was far more interesting. Francesca was a character that I very much enjoyed getting to know and I loved her sarcastic humor and witty repertoire. And while Nicodemeus was no longer the central character he did have a role to play here as well, and he came across as much more complex and appealing than in the last book.

Blake's creative magic system is what had drawn me to the series in the first place and he's developed it even further in Spellbound where we get to see how words are used for healing, air-flight and combat. Each of these different activities is performed by using the body and its muscles in a specific way and I once again enjoyed the vivid descriptions of how this was done. In the case of Francesca, who is a physician, we get to see some of Blake's medical knowledge at work.

There is a lot going on in this book and Blake keeps the story moving swiftly along as the mysteries pile up and the tension builds.  The story gets off to an exciting start as Francesca accidentally kills her patient, who turns out to be a woman possessed by a demon,  with a message for Francesca about the upcoming war. Francesca is then forced to escape the hospital as it is attacked by enemies, which throws her into the path of her ex-boyfriend, Cyrus. Together, Cyrus and Francesca go looking for the rouge wizard Nicodemeus in the hope of getting some answers. Along the way they run into a powerful woman who is also looking for Nicodemeus through Cyrus and Francesca aren't sure who she is and if she be trusted. Eventually they find Nicodemeus, who after years of hiding is now in search of the demon who stole his power to spell so he could restore his powers and save his dying friend. There is also political scheming, werewolves and a lost ghost looking for its owner.

At times I did feel like there was a little too much going on and I had some trouble keeping track of the different political factions as well as some of magical terms.

Since most of the characters in Spellbound were first introduced in the previous book I wouldn't recommend it as a stand-alone novel. Several times I had to go back to Spellwright and look up certain terms, events or characters that I had forgotten and which were pertinent to the current story. But I will say that if you read Spellwright and are on the fence about reading the sequel, I would highly recommend that you do so. Spellwright was good and Spellbound is even better and I now can't wait to see what book three will have to offer.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of January 22

Posted by Simcha 3:25 PM, under | 5 comments


Science Fiction


Boneyards
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Publisher: Pyr
Release Date: January 24

When multiple Hugo Award winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch decided to put her stamp on classic space opera, readers wanted more. Now Rusch's popular character Boss returns in a whole new adventure, one that takes her far outside her comfort zone, to a sector of space she's never seen before.

Searching for ancient technology to help her friends find answers to the mystery of their own past, Boss ventures into a place filled with evidence of an ancient space battle, one the Dignity Vessels lost.

Meanwhile, the Enterran Empire keeps accidentally killing its scientists in a quest for ancient stealth tech. Boss's most difficult friend, Squishy, has had enough. She sneaks into the Empire and destroys its primary stealth tech research base. But an old lover thwarts her escape, and now Squishy needs Boss's help.

Boss, who is a fugitive in the Empire. Boss, who knows how to make a Dignity Vessel work. Boss, who knows that Dignity Vessels house the very technology that the Empire is searching for.

Should Boss take a Dignity Vessel to rescue Squishy and risk losing everything to the Empire? Or should Boss continue on her mission for her other friends and let Squishy suffer her own fate?

Filled with battles old and new, scientific dilemmas, and questions about the ethics of friendship, Boneyards looks at the influence of our past on our present and the risks we all take when we meddle in other people's lives.

Boneyards is space opera the way it was meant to be: exciting, fast moving, and filled with passion.
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Fantasy



The Lake
Banana Yoshimoto and Michael Emmerich
Publisher: Melville House
Release Date: January 24

While The Lake shows off many of the features that have made Banana Yoshimoto famous—a cast of vivid and quirky characters, simple yet nuanced prose, a tight plot with an upbeat pace—it’s also one of the most darkly mysterious books she’s ever written.

It tells the tale of a young woman who moves to Tokyo after the death of her mother, hoping to get over her grief and start a career as a graphic artist. She finds herself spending too much time staring out her window, though ... until she realizes she’s gotten used to seeing a young man across the street staring out his window, too.

They eventually embark on a hesitant romance, until she learns that he has been the victim of some form of childhood trauma. Visiting two of his friends who live a monastic life beside a beautiful lake, she begins to piece together a series of clues that lead her to suspect his experience may have had something to do with a bizarre religious cult. . . .

With its echoes of the infamous, real-life Aum Shinrikyo cult (the group that released poison gas in the Tokyo subway system), The Lake unfolds as the most powerful novel Banana Yoshimoto has written. And as the two young lovers overcome their troubled past to discover hope in the beautiful solitude of the lake in the countryside, it’s also one of her most moving.
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Steampunk



Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon (Burton &  Swinburne, #3)
Mark Hodder
Publisher: Pyr
Release Date: January 24

It is 1863, but not the one it should be. Time has veered wildly off course, and now the first moves are being made that will lead to a devastating world war and the fall of the British Empire.

The prime minister, Lord Palmerston, believes that by using the three Eyes of Naga—black diamonds possessing unique properties—he’ll be able to manipulate events and avoid the war. He already has two of the stones, but the third is hidden somewhere in the Mountains of the Moon, the fabled source of the Nile.

Palmerston sends Sir Richard Francis Burton to recover it. For the king’s agent, it’s a chance to redeem himself after his previous failed attempt to find the source of the great river. That occasion had led to betrayal by his partner, John Hanning Speke. Now Speke is leading a rival expedition on behalf of the Germans, and it seems that the battle between the former friends may ignite the very war that Palmerston is trying to avoid!

Caught in a tangled web of cause, effect, and inevitability, little does Burton realize that the stakes are far higher than even he suspects.

A final confrontation comes in the mist-shrouded Mountains of the Moon, in war- torn Africa of 1914, and in Green Park, London, where, in the year 1840, Burton must face the man responsible for altering time: Spring Heeled Jack!

Burton and Swinburne’s third adventure is filled with eccentric steam-driven technology, grotesque characters, and bizarre events, completing the three-volume story arc begun in The Strange Affair of Spring Heeled Jack and The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man.
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Young Adult



Everneath
Brodi Ashton
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 24

Last spring, Nikki Beckett vanished, sucked into an underworld known as the Everneath, where immortals Feed on the emotions of despairing humans. Now she's returned- to her old life, her family, her friends- before being banished back to the underworld... this time forever.

She has six months before the Everneath comes to claim her, six months for good-byes she can't find the words for, six months to find redemption, if it exists.

Nikki longs to spend these months reconnecting with her boyfriend, Jack, the one person she loves more than anything. But there's a problem: Cole, the smoldering immortal who first enticed her to the Everneath, has followed Nikki to the mortal world. And he'll do whatever it takes to bring her back- this time as his queen.

As Nikki's time grows short and her relationships begin slipping from her grasp, she's forced to make the hardest decision of her life: find a way to cheat fate and remain on the Surface with Jack or return to the Everneath and become Cole's...



Forbidden
Syrie James and Ryan M. James
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release Date: January 24th

Claire Brennan has been attending Emerson Academy for two years now and she’s desperate to stay put for the rest of high school. So there’s no way she’s going to tell her mom about the psychic visions she’s been having or the creepy warnings that she’s in danger. Alec MacKenzie is fed up with his duties to watch and, when necessary, eliminate the descendants of his angelic forefathers. He chose Emerson as the ideal hiding place where he could be normal for once. He hadn’t factored Claire into his plans... Their love is forbidden, going against everything Alec has been taught to believe. But when the reason behind Claire’s unusual powers is revealed and the threat to her life becomes clear, how far will Alec go to protect her?



Havoc (Deviants #2)
Jeff Sampson
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release Date: January 24

Emily Webb thought life would return to normal after the death of the man who attacked her and her fellow “Deviants.” Or as normal as it could be, after discovering that she has nighttime superpowers . . . and she’s a werewolf. But when Emily awakes one night to find an otherworldy Shadowman watching her, she knows the danger has only just begun.

So Emily and her pack-mates set out to find the people who made them what they are, and why. But as they get closer to the truth, they realize they aren’t the only ones in town with special powers: The most popular girls in school might just have a secret of their own–and they might just have it out for Emily.

With shadowy beings stalking them, a mysterious company doing all it can to keep the truth hidden, and the secrecy of her new identity in jeopardy, life threatens to spiral out of control for Emily. Soon these dangers will come together in one terrifying confrontation that may force her to make the toughest choice of her life . . . so far.


 
The Way We Fall
Megan Crewe
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Release Date: January 24th

When a deadly virus begins to sweep through sixteen-year-old Kaelyn’s community, the government quarantines her island—no one can leave, and no one can come back. Those still healthy must fight for dwindling supplies, or lose all chance of survival. As everything familiar comes crashing down, Kaelyn joins forces with a former rival and discovers a new love in the midst of heartbreak. When the virus starts to rob her of friends and family, she clings to the belief that there must be a way to save the people she holds dearest. Because how will she go on if there isn't?
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Paranormal Romance



Darker After Midnight (Midnight Breed, Bk 10)
Lara Adrian and Hillary Huber
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: January 24

In the dark of night, a blood war escalates within the hidden world of the Breed. After existing in secret for many long centuries, maintaining a fragile peace with the humans who walk beside them unaware, a single act of retaliation has put the entire vampire nation at risk of discovery. It falls to the Order-a cadre of Breed warriors pledged to protect their own and humankind alike-to stop Dragos, the power-mad vampire at the center of the conflict, before his push for domination can explode into catastrophe.At the center of the Order's quest is Sterling Chase, once a morally rigid enforcer of Breed law, now a warrior fallen from grace, whose biggest battle is the one he wages against his own savage nature. With addiction beckoning him toward eternal darkness, Chase's path to redemption has never seemed more out of reach-until he finds himself drawn to a beautiful young woman who may be something much more than she seems .

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