Friday, July 20, 2012

Fun Websites for Book Voyeurs

Posted by Simcha 6:07 AM, under | 2 comments

If you always want to know about what everyone else is reading then here are a couple of websites you're sure to enjoy:

Whenver I see someone reading in public I can't resist trying to casually get a look at the book's cover to see what they are reading. Apparently I'm not the only one who does this because there is a whole Tumbr site dedicated to pictures of people reading in the New York subway. It's facinating to go through it and see the different kind of books that are being read and the variety of people who are reading them.
This site been getting a lot of attention lately since it was recently mentioned in the Huffington Post. I followed a link to it from one of Brent Weeks' Tweet in which he points out that his book, The Way of Shadows, is being read in the featured photo.


Make sure that you visit this site when you have plenty of free time because, if you're like me, you'll be hard pressed to tear yourself away.

Each entry tells the story behind a book that someone had received and how the book had impacted them or their relationship. Some of the stories are romantic, others are whimsical or sad. Whenever I visit this site I think back to the books on my shelf and the stories behind some of them. Perhaps someday I'll submit one of my own stories to this site.

I’d seen this girl on the bus several times and thought she was pretty cute, but I was afraid to ask her out. She was always so engrossed in the books she brought on the bus, it seemed impossible to try to talk to her and so I put her out of my mind.

Over time, I started seeing her less and less on the bus. She was taking a different route, I supposed. Eventually, a few weeks had passed and I hadn’t seen her at all.

Finally, I saw her again. I was feeling pretty confident that day and before she was able to pull out her book, I introduced myself. We got to talking and even went to a nearby coffee shop and had a really great conversation. We talked mostly about books and she told me her favorite was Larry McMurty’s All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers. I’d never even heard of it, but she insisted it had one of the best endings in literature. I was about to ask her out when my boss called my cell wondering why I was so late for work. I had to leave before I could even get her number.

A few days later, I saw her again. She was getting on just as I was getting off, but she stopped me. She thrust a book into my hands and insisted that I keep it. I thanked her and started reading as soon as I got home.

All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers is now my favorite book. Not just because it’s incredibly well-written and interesting, but it’s something more: when I reached the end, taped to the last page was a note. It said how she’d kept seeing me on the bus and wished I’d talk to her. How she was so nervous, she’d hold a book in her hands like a shield, stealing glances whenever I wasn’t looking. And she was right, it had one of the best endings ever: her number.

We’ve been married for three years now.

    Tuesday, July 17, 2012

    Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3) by Kristin Cashore

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

    It's been ten years since Leck's reign of terror was brought to an end by Katsa's knife and the kingdom of Monsea is still struggling to pick up the pieces. Bitterblue, as the queen of Monsea,  feels that it is her job to get the kingdom back on its feet and help the citizens recover but her advisers seem determined to keep her on the sidelines. Frustrated by constantly being given the runaround, and with nothing else to do, Bitterblue decides to find out for herself what is going on in her city and why it is that everyone in the castle is acting so strangely.

    And so Bitterblue sneaks out of the castle dressed as a boy and sets out to explore the city of Monsea. What she discovers, and the people that she meets, opens up her eyes to the true state of the kingdom and a growing realization that the wounds inflected by Leck still run deep. Armed with this knowledge Bitterblue attempts to bring about some much-needed changes but someone else has different ideas about the way they want things done, and they are willing to kill to accomplish it. With her advisers behaving oddly and her friends occupied with their political activities Bitterblue is on her own in solving this mystery, though she must do so quickly because time may be running out.

    I had really enjoyed Kristin Cashore's previous two books, Fire and Graceling, and have been very much looking forward to continuing with Bitterblue's story in this new addition to the series. The story started off strongly with a sinister memory from Bitteblue's childhood of her father, Leck, and his Grace .
      WHEN HE GRABS Mama's wrist and yanks her toward the wall-hanging like that, it must hurt. Mama doesn't cry out. She tries to hide her pain from him, but she looks back at me, and in her face, she shows me everything she feels. If Father knows she's in pain and is showing me, Father will take Mama's pain away and replace it with something else.

      He will say to Mama, "Darling, nothing's wrong. It doesn't hurt, you're not frightened," and in Mama's face I'll see her doubt, the beginnings of her confusion. He'll say, "Look at our beautiful child. Look at this beautiful room. How happy we are. Nothing is wrong. Come with me, darling." Mama will stare back at him, puzzled, and then she'll look at me, her beautiful child in this beautiful room, and her eyes will go smooth and empty, and she'll smile at how happy we are. I'll smile too, because my mind is no stronger than Mama's. I'll say, "Have fun! Come back soon!" Then Father will produce the keys that open the door behind the hanging and Mama will glide through. Thiel, tall, troubled, bewildered in the middle of the room, will bolt in after her, and Father will follow.
    In Graceling and Fire we learned a little bit about Leck and his powerful Grace that allowed him to controls other people's minds and emotions. In Bitterblue we find out just how deeply depraved Leck really was, thorough the memories of his daughter and the broken citizens of Monsea that he had left behind.

    Pretty early on in the book it's clear that this story was going to be different from the others. First of all the story is told in a much younger voice than in Fire and Graceling, and I got the feeling that it was meant for a younger audience, more of a middle-grade book than a YA. There really was no reason for Bitterblue to come across as younger and less mature than Katsa or Fire had been because her life was no less difficult than theirs. As the story progressed and new revelations were made about Leck and his horrifying habits I began to suspect that Ms. Cashore had gave the story a younger tone in order to keep it from getting too dark, which could have easily happened. So by the end I was actually impressed by how the author had managed to include all of the dark bits without making the story overwhelming, though it was also not quite as powerful as it could have been.

    This story was also a bit messier than the other two and it felt to me like there was a lot going on here that wasn't necessary to the story. For example, all the central characters from the previous books are here but they are all involved in political activities for the Council which didn't have much to do with the central story line.

    I also couldn't stop questioning why it was that Bitterblue was just now dealing with issues that she would have been confronting throughout the past ten years. She just suddenly, out of the blue, notices that everyone in the castle is acting strangely and that her kingdom is a mess? I would have liked Ms. Cashore to have made some attempt to offer a logical explanation for this. Perhaps Bitterblue could have been in another kingdom all of these years, training to become queen, or maybe she had pricked her finger on a spindle and fallen asleep. Any explanation would have been better than none. 

    And who leaves a ten year old girl to be raised on her own in a castle, without any family or anyone to teach her what she needs to know to become queen, because that is exactly what seems to have occurred here.  After Leck's death Bitterblue's uncle escorted her to the castle and left her there with Leck's old advisers and Katsa's old nursemaid. It's no wonder that she has no idea what's going on and that she falls-in-love with the first boy she meets. I'm just surprised it took her so long to start sneaking out of the castle.

    There were also a few other anomalies that bugged me, such as the way the the characters from Graceling were not acting very much in character. Every scene has Katsa wiping away tears and Po came across as kind of wimpy to me.  Though at least they were more interesting than the new characters that we meet, one of whom serves as Bitterblue's love-interest, because I did not feel an emotional connection with any of them. This was a far different experience than reading Fire and Graceling, where I loved the characters and thought about them frequently after finishing each book. you can probably tell I didn't enjoy Bitterblue as much as I had hoped to. I was actually tempted to give up on the story several times but I kept going because I was just as curious as Bitterblue was to find out what the reasons were for the strange events that were going on and what it was the Leck had been doing behind those locked doors.

    I think I might have enjoyed this book more had I not read Fire and Graceling first because I wouldn't have come to it with certain expectations about the story and the way it would be told. But not knowing anything about the events from the previous books would probably have made this story even more confusing, so perhaps that wouldn't have helped either. I'm now wondering which style Ms. Cashore will choose to tell the next story in and admit that I hope it will be close in style to her earlier books that to this one.

    Sunday, July 15, 2012

    New Scifi & Fantasy Releases: Week of July 15th

    Posted by Simcha 3:59 PM, under | 4 comments

    Science Fiction

    Earth Unaware
    Orson Scott Card & Aaron Johnston
    Publisher: Tor
    Release Date: July 17

    The mining ship El Cavador is far out from Earth, in the deeps of the Kuiper Belt, beyond Pluto. Other mining ships, and the families that live on them, are few and far between this far out. So when El Cavador’s telescopes pick up a fast-moving object coming in-system, it’s hard to know what to make of it. It’s massive and moving at a significant fraction of the speed of light.

    El Cavador has other problems. Their systems are old and failing. The family is getting too big for the ship. There are claim-jumping corporate ships bringing Asteroid Belt tactics to the Kuiper Belt. Worrying about a distant object that might or might not be an alien ship seems…not important.

    They're wrong. It's the most important thing that has happened to the human race in a million years. The first Formic War is about to begin.

    Edward M. Lerner
    Publisher: Tor
    Release Date: July 17

    No one expected the oil to last forever. How right they were….

    A geopolitical miscalculation tainted the world’s major oil fields with radioactivity and plunged the Middle East into chaos. Any oil that remains usable is more prized than ever. No one can build solar farms, wind farms, and electric cars quickly enough to cope. The few countries still able to export oil and natural gas—Russia chief among them—have a stranglehold on the world economy.

    And then, from the darkness of space, came Phoebe. Rather than divert the onrushing asteroid, America captured it in Earth orbit.

    Solar power satellites—cheaply mass-produced in orbit with resources mined from the new moon to beam vast amounts of power to the ground—offer America its last, best hope of avoiding servitude and economic ruin.

    As though building miles-across structures in space isn’t challenging enough, special interests, from technophobes to eco-extremists to radio astronomers, want to stop the project. And the remaining petro powers will do anything to protect their newfound dominance of world affairs.

    NASA engineer Marcus Judson is determined to make the powersat demonstration project a success. And he will—even though nothing in his job description mentions combating an international cabal, or going into space to do it.

    Empty Space
    M. John Harrison
    Publisher: Gollancz
    Release Date: July 19 (UK)

    We thought we had filled space with a civilization spread across the stars, held together by ships that warped reality.

    But there is a lot of empty space in the universe.

    The impossible empty space beneath a corpse floating in a dank, future alley way.

    The vast empty space inside every atom.

    The aching empty space between a mother and a daughter in a quiet west London suburb.

    The empty space of the Kefahuchi Tract, hanging above us, seething with strangeness and charm.

    And the empty space inside us. Somewhere to go. Somewhere to come back from.

    Somewhere haunted.

    Joanne Elder
    Publisher: Muse it Up Publishing
    Release Date: July 20

    Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but it can be changed. The chilling question for Dean Weston is: into what? By the time Dean comes face to face with the foreboding truth, it is too late. A mad man’s quest for ultimate knowledge and power has spawned true evil; an evil capable of tearing down moral barriers and leaving one thirsting for vengeance and retribution. As this evil consumes those closest to Dean, he becomes unknowingly vulnerable, leaving him and the woman he loves in immeasurable danger. Struggling to destroy a malevolent energy life form he barely understands, Dean finds his own humanity coming into question. As his moral fibers start to unravel, Dean grasps at one last thread of hope and does the unthinkable. 

    Kill Decision
    Daniel Suarez
    Publisher: Dutton
    Release Date: July 19

    Unmanned weaponized drones already exist—they’re widely used by America in our war efforts in the Middle East. In Kill Decision, bestselling author Daniel Suarez takes that fact and the real science behind it one step further, with frightening results.

    Linda McKinney is a myrmecologist, a scientist who studies the social structure of ants. Her academic career has left her entirely unprepared for the day her sophisticated research is conscripted by unknown forces to help run an unmanned—and thanks to her research, automated—drone army. Odin is the secretive Special Ops soldier with a unique insight into the faceless enemy who has begun to attack the American homeland with drones programmed to seek, identify, and execute targets without human intervention.

    David L. Golemon
    Publisher: Thomas Dunne
    Release Date: July 17

    In the tradition of works by James Rollins, Preston and Child and Matthew Reilly, Ripper is the latest in an action-packed series about the nation’s most secret agency—The Event Group. In 1887, the British Empire contracted brilliant American professor Lawrence Ambrose to create a mutant gene to turn an ordinary person into an aggressive fighting machine. But all too quickly, Ambrose was found to be behind a streak of vicious murders, and in a cover-up of massive proportions, Queen Victoria ordered the project, and Ambrose, terminated. Thus the legend of Jack the Ripper was born.

    The killings stopped as suddenly as they had begun—but not because Ambrose was caught. Instead, he escaped and returned home to America where he and his formula faded into history. But in 2012, a raid against a Mexican drug lord uncovers a small cache of antiquated notebooks containing long-buried instructions to create blind killers out of normal men. Enter the Event Group and Col. Jack Collins, who are desperate to stop one of their most feared enemies. When the formula is loosed in the underground halls and vaults of the Event Group complex itself, brother will battle brother, and for the first time in many men’s brave lives they will understand the true meaning of fear.

    Together, McKinney and Odin must slow this advance long enough for the world to recognize its destructive power, because for thousands of years the “kill decision” during battle has remained in the hands of humans—and off-loading that responsibility to machines will bring unintended, possibly irreversible, consequences. But as forces even McKinney and Odin don’t understand begin to gather, and death rains down from above, it may already be too late to save humankind from destruction at the hands of our own technology

    Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury
    edited by Sam Weller & Mort Castle
    Publisher: William Morrow
    Release Date: July 17

    Under a joint imprint, Gauntlet Press and Borderlands Press will publish a limited, signed, and numbered edition of SHADOW SHOW a tribute anthology to celebrate the career of Ray Bradbury. In SHADOW SHOW, editors Sam Weller and Mort Castle have assembled short stories from 26 of the most celebrated authors today to honor Ray and his contribution to the literary canon. Also included is an Introduction in the form of a personal essay "Second Homecoming", written by Ray Bradbury, specifically for for the book.


    Sam Weller and Mort Castle - Introduction
    Ray Bradbury - Second Homecoming
    Neil Gaiman - The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury
    Margaret Atwood - Headlife
    Jay Bonansinga - Heavy
    Sam Weller - The Girl In The Funeral Parlor
    David Morrell - The Companions
    Thomas F. Monteleone - The Exchange
    Lee Martin - Cat on a Bad Couch
    Joe Hill - By The Silver Water Of Lake Champlain
    Dan Chaon - Little America
    John McNally - The Phone Call
    Joe Meno - Young Pilgrims
    Robert McCammon - Children Of The Bedtime Machine
    Ramsey Campbell - The Page
    Mort Castle - Light
    Alice Hoffman - Conjure
    John Maclay - Max
    Jacqueline Mitchard - Two Of A Kind
    Gary Braunbeck - Fat Man And Little Boy
    Bonnie Jo Campbell - The Tattoo
    Audrey Niffenegger - Backwards In Seville
    Charles Yu - Earth: (A Gift Shop)
    Julia Keller - Hayleigh's Dad
    Dave Eggers - Who Knocks?
    Bayo Ojikutu - Reservation 2020
    Kelly Link - Two Houses
    Harlan Ellison - Weariness


    K.J. Parker
    Publisher: Orbit
    Release Date: July 17

    For the first time in nearly forty years, an uneasy truce has been called between two neighbouring kingdoms. The war has been long and brutal, fought over the usual things: resources, land, money...

    Now, there is a chance for peace. Diplomatic talks have begun and with them, the games. Two teams of fencers represent their nations at this pivotal moment.

    When the future of the world lies balanced on the point of a rapier, one misstep could mean ruin for all. Human nature being what it is, does peace really have a chance?

    The Coldest War (Milkweed Triptych #2)
    Ian Tregillis
    Publisher: Tor
    Release Date: July 17

    Someone is killing Britain's warlocks.

    Twenty-two years after the Second World War, a precarious balance of power maintains the peace between Great Britain and the USSR. For decades, the warlocks have been all that stand between the British Empire and the Soviet Union-- a vast domain stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the shores of the English Channel. But now each death is another blow to Britain's security.

    Meanwhile, a brother and sister escape from a top-secret research facility deep behind the Iron Curtain. Once subjects of a twisted Nazi experiment to imbue ordinary humans with extraordinary abilities, then prisoners of war in the vast Soviet effort to reverse engineer the Nazi technology, they head for England.

    Because that's where former spy Raybould Marsh lives. And Gretel, the mad seer, has plans for him.

    As Marsh is drawn back into the world of Milkweed, he discovers that Britain's darkest acts didn't end with the war. And as he strives to protect Queen and country, he's forced to confront his own willingness to accept victory at any cost.

    Queen's Hunt (River of Souls, Bk 2)
    Beth Bernobich
    Publisher: Tor
    Release Date: July 17

    Ilse Zhalina has left to start a new life in a garrisoned fort, leagues from her estranged lover, Raul Kosenmark. The violent quarrel that ended Ilse and Raul's relationship was quite public. And also, quite fake. They hope to mislead Kosenmark's enemies so that he can continue to influence the politics of the kingdom in an attempt to stave off an ill-advised war, while keeping Ilse safe from royal assassins who would kill anyone Raul is close to. Ilse longs for Raul, but is set on her own quest to find one of the three fabled jewels of Lir. One of the jewels is held by King Dzavek, sworn enemy of Veraene, who has used the jewel's power to live for centuries. Ilse seeks one of the other stones to counterbalance Dzavek's efforts to destroy her country. 

    In her search, she encounters a shipwrecked prisoner from another land, a woman who has a secret of her own...and the second jewel in her keeping. The two women become allies in their quest for the third jewel, because finding and controlling these stones could mean salvation for both of their nations. And their failure the ruin of their peoples.

    21st Century Dead: A Zombie Anthology
    Christopher Golden
    Publisher:  St. Martin’s Griffin
    Release Date: July 17

    The Stoker-award winning editor of the acclaimed, eclectic anthology The New Dead returns with 21st Century Dead, and an all-new lineup of authors from all corners of the fiction world, shining a dark light on our fascination with tales of death and resurrection... with ZOMBIES! The stellar stories in this volume includes a tale set in the world of Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse, the first published fiction by Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter, and a tale of love, family, and resurrection from the legendary Orson Scott Card. This new volume also includes stories also from other award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors, such as: Simon R. Green, Chelsea Cain, Jonathan Maberry, Duane Swiercyznski, Caitlin Kittredge, Brian Keene, Amber Benson, John Skipp, S. G. Browne, Thomas E. Sniegoski, Hollywood screenwriter Stephen Susco, National Book Award nominee Dan Chaon, and more!

    Young Adult

    The Wishing Spell (The Land of Stories, #1)
    Chris Colfer
    Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
    Release Date: July 17

    Alex and Conner Bailey's world is about to change, in this fast-paced adventure that uniquely combines our modern day world with the enchanting realm of classic fairytales.

    The Land of Stories tells the tale of twins Alex and Conner. Through the mysterious powers of a cherished book of stories, they leave their world behind and find themselves in a foreign land full of wonder and magic where they come face-to-face with the fairy tale characters they grew up reading about.

    But after a series of encounters with witches, wolves, goblins, and trolls alike, getting back home is going to be harder than they thought. 

    The Unquiet
    Jeannine Garsee
    Publisher: Bloomsbury
    Release Date: July 17

    Sixteen-year-old Rinn Jacobs has secrets: One, she’s bipolar. Two, she killed her grandmother.

    After a suicide attempt, and now her parents' separation, Rinn and her mom move from California to the rural Ohio town where her mother grew up. Back on her medications and hoping to stay well, Rinn settles into her new home, undaunted by the fact that the previous owner hanged herself in Rinn's bedroom. At school, her classmates believe the school pool is haunted by Annaliese, a girl who drowned there. But when a reckless séance goes awry, and terrible things start happening to her new friends—yet not to her—Rinn is determined to find out why she can’t be "touched" by Annaliese...or if Annaliese even exists.

    With the help of Nate Brenner, the hunky “farmer boy” she’s rapidly falling for, Rinn devises a dangerous plan to uncover the truth. Soon reality and fantasy meld into one, till Rinn finds it nearly impossible to tell the difference. When a malevolent force threatens the lives of everyone she cares about--not to mention her own--she can't help wondering: who should she really be afraid of?

    Annaliese? Or herself?

    The Girl With Borrowed Wings
    Rinsai Rossetti
    Publisher: Dial
    Release Date: July 19

    Controlled by her father and bound by desert, Frenenqer Paje’s life is tediously the same, until a small act of rebellion explodes her world and she meets a boy, but not just a boy--a Free person, a winged person, a shape-shifter. He has everything Frenenqer doesn’t. No family, no attachments, no rules. At night, he flies them to the far-flung places of their childhoods to retrace their pasts. But when the delicate balance of their friendship threatens to rupture into something more, Frenenqer must confront her isolation, her father, and her very sense of identity, breaking all the rules of her life to become free.


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