Saturday, September 29, 2007

'Agents of Light and Darkness' by Simon R. Green

ISBN: 0441011136
ISBN-13: 9780441011131
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 233pp
Publisher: Ace /Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $6.99

John Taylor has a new case in Agents of Light and Darkness, the second book in the Nightside series by Simon R. Green. When the Unholy Grail turns up it’s only a matter of time before the people living in the Nightside think of John Taylor and his gift for finding things. But it isn’t only the major and minor players who are looking for this evil object; the forces of light and dark are after it as well. Heaven and Hell will turn the Nightside into a battleground looking for the Unholy Grail unless John can find it first.

Contracted by a mysterious priest by the name of Jude, John sets out to recruit some help. He finds Suzie Shooter vegetating on her couch, her apartment a mess, but when he mentions work she brightens up and suits up in her signature studded black leather. Suzie, by the way, has a poster of Emma Peel on her wall with ‘My Hero’ scrolled in lipstick underneath it. I just love that.

So with Suzie by his side, John sets out to find the Unholy Grail. But things aren’t always what they seem, this is the Nightside after all, and nothing is going to be easy. When it is always 3am and the bad guys don’t have to wait for dark you never know what you might find around the corner. But he’s John Taylor, I mean come on, they know better than to take him on. That doesn’t stop them from trying though.

Besides the gruesome, graphic, utterly wonderful horror, there is a lot of humor here: dark, bitter, twisted smiles that curve the corners of broken lips as the grin-wearing fool wipes blood out of his eyes. I guess the phrase would be darkly comic. Well, Simon R. Green has mastered it and makes it seem effortless.

Razor Eddie, the Punk God of the Straight Razor, is back as well. From John and Suzie to Cathy, The Collector, and the gang at Strangefellows, how can you not love these characters? And with details like The Little Sisters of the Immaculate Chain Saw and Nasty Johnny Starlight, you have something that is so far beyond amazing it borders on insane. Yes, insane.

I read a lot, I think I read more than is good for my brain sometimes, and these books stand out like a decapitated body in a church. Read them.

You can purchase an electronic version of Agents of Light and Darkness straight from the publisher here. While you are at it check out the tribute site to Simon R. Green, Blue Moon Rising.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Beyond Bounds: The Paranormal and Fantasy with Katie

My first weekly feature is up over at Blogcritics! I'm going to be doing a weekly feature on paranormal and fantasy news, reviews, and interviews from now on. I'll be posting a link here for anyone that wants to check it out. I wanted to say thanks to SciFiChick for the permission to link to her interview with Jennifer Rardin. I did this weeks feature on her debut book.

Check out the feature and tell me what you think!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

'Territory' by Emma Bull

ISBN: 0312857357
ISBN-13: 9780312857356
Format: Hardcover, 320pp
Publisher: Tor
Price: $24.95

Like all good westerns Territory, Emma Bull’s latest offering to the world of fantasy, starts with a lone man riding into a small town. Or rather a man who has been shot being carried into town by a stolen horse, which is even better. That this town just happens to be Tombstone and the characters that pop up some of the most famous men in Western history only add to what becomes an unforgettable tale of magic and men.

‘Wyatt Earp. Doc Holliday. Ike Clanton. You think you know the story. You don’t.’ Most people know about the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral, that part of the story doesn’t need to be explained. In a lot of ways the end doesn’t matter because the most fascinating part is how it started, where it all began and who was really involved.

Trouble breaks out for the Earp brothers when a stage coach is almost robbed and two men killed in the attempt. The youngest Earp, Morgan, was involved and even though Doc Holliday tries to keep it quiet, Wyatt finds out. Wyatt is the head of the clan, from his brothers to their wives and families; he is the man that they turn to. There is something special about Wyatt, almost a sixth sense; he is able to find the outlaws that no one else can, it seems as if he is able to read minds. To protect his little brother and his family from the scandal that the truth would cause Wyatt takes matters into his own hands.

Jesse Fox comes into town dusty and footsore, following his stolen horse, and with his arrival trouble follows. He first meets Doc Holliday, disrupting his game of poker, in a saloon. Jesse is just passing through; he never would have come to Tombstone if his horse hadn’t been stolen, and has plans to leave as soon as possible. But when he finds Lung, a friend of his from San Francisco living in Chinatown, he decides to stay on for awhile.

Mildred is a widow living and working in Tombstone. When her husband passed away a year ago she could have moved back east, but she stayed, proving to be made of sterner stuff than most. Working at one of the local papers by day as a typesetter, spending her nights penning serial stories for a sensational magazine, she is content. When Jesse walks into The Nugget to pick up a paper she is caught off guard, but then, so is he.

As the battle for Tombstone whirls around the residents, Jesse with his knack for finding trouble and Mildred with her newspaper eye get to know each other, discovering that there might be a reason they have been drawn together. Wyatt Earp, busy manipulating people, is sure that his way is best. Whatever the means might be they justify the end in his eyes; if he has to use his family and friends to make peace a permanent part of life in Tombstone he plans to do so.

From the main street of Tombstone to the exotic smells of Chinatown you are presented with clear cut images; a dark brush stroke figure against a light sky, a flooded river rolling boulders downstream, a fire licking and eating the buildings as it spreads through Tombstone. As each layer is peeled away, magic slowly blossoming around the characters, dark secrets and hidden truths are revealed. Emma Bull has woven a spell binding story.

Territory has also given us wonderful characters to love. Jesse Fox is brilliant. Mildred with her eccentricity and solid good manners all rolled into one is enchanting. Ms. Bull’s Doc Holliday is truly inspired. The Earp brothers and their wives are by turns human and something so much more. This is everything a good fantasy novel should be and I cannot recommend Territory highly enough.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Stephen King Fans?

Stephen King has a new book coming out in a January. Check out Mel Odom's Adventures in Writing for the latest news about it.

Digg Me!

Anyone out there have a Digg account? Please go and vote for Romancing the eBook!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Romancing the eBook

I’ve been doing reviews for almost a year now and in that time I have had more requests for eBook links to the novels I have reviewed than I can count. For one reason or another some readers do not have access to the book in its traditional format. I know that in India only the big names and bestsellers from America make it there. Sure, you can order a book online from the States or the UK but the shipping costs are enormous. If you could buy it online in an electronic format and spend less, why wouldn’t you?

Harlequin recently announced that all new titles from their publishing house will be available as eBooks. Harlequin is the first major publisher to offer their entire front-list in this easy and accessible format. Harlequin, known for their romances of every kind, publishes more than 120 titles a month. And besides all the titles that will be in print Harlequin is also doing eBook exclusives.

The Harlequin imprints include Silhouette, Spice, Mira, HQN, Kimani Press, Steeple Hill, Red Dress Ink, Luna, and Worldwide Library. What I really love about Harlequin is that they offer everything to fit any kind of taste. Whether you want something a bit steamier, a love story that will make you search your soul, paranormal romance or fantasy, or even an action adventure that engages your mind — Harlequin really does it all.

I’ve recently read some of Harlequin’s releases and I’ve got nothing but good things to say about what they are printing. The Reincarnationist, M.J. Rose’s latest suspense offering based around the idea of reincarnation, was a fantastic read. I’ve also read a novel from their Bombshell line, Storm Force by Meredith Fletcher and it was great. The Rogue Angel series by Alex Archer, published under Worldwide Library, is another series worth looking into. If you’re looking for some kick butt action, look no further than Destiny, the first of the series.

You will never run out of things to read with Harlequin and now that they are offering their novels in an electronic format they are only more accessible. So if you can’t get the titles you want in their traditional format or just need something for your Palm Pilot, look no farther than their eBook Boutique.

Monday, September 24, 2007

An Interview with Alma Alexander, Author of the Worldweavers Trilogy

I recently read Gift of the Unmage by Alma Alexander, the first book in her Worldweavers trilogy. Galethea Winthrop, Thea for short, is the main character in this great new young adult series about a girl who has lived her whole life under the shadow of magical expectations. But with the failure to come into her magical ability, whole new worlds open up for Thea. Ms. Alexander took the time to answer some questions about her series, writing, reading, and even the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention.

In a market that is dominated by fantasy books that have central characters who are powerful magic users you have created a character who is magic-less to an extent. What is Thea’s appeal?

My editor once said that she is EveryTeen. I think her appeal lies in the simple fact that she is not a superheroine from the word go. She is, on the contrary, a complete misfit in her world - or at least so it seems, on the surface. This is something that most kids will resonate to - there are times that even high school clique queens feel lonely and outcast, it is part of being a teenager, your moods and your hormones and your world views change with the moon (or so it appears to the outside world) and that's fine, it's normal, it's expected, it's all a part of growing up and growing into an adult personality and form. Thea doesn't get presented with her solutions on a silver platter -- she has to work to first understand her problems, and then on how best to make things better -- but although she is given help along the way it is she herself who eventually makes her own choices and solves her own problems. Sometimes being a powerful magic user just isn't enough - you have to learn something first, often something hard, before anything you do or think or feel has importance or weight or meaning.

In Worldweavers you have done such a wonderful job of weaving into your story Native American myths and legends. What drew you to those myths vs. the traditional European myths that most stories use for a base?

Few people know about them. I guess that's a double-edged sword because readers will instinctively gravitate to the familiar, and the well-trodden paths of European mythology are far easier to travel on than the thorny thickets of the unknown. But American kids are not European kids, and America has its own treasure box of mythology, and it's been barely cracked; and there are so many wonderful tales here, so many extraordinary characters, so much joy and drama and tragedy. All this is all the more powerful because it is so new and unknown - but also, there is the added bonus that these myths and legends are far more a part of an American young reader's heritage than Rumpelstiltskin is. Or they should be, anyway. This is what this country's mythological roots are.

Having said that, however, I do weave in a few Eastern European folk tales into these books towards the end, too. It is a big, wide, wonderful world out there, and it's full of stories.

How did you get started writing young adult fiction? Do you prefer it to adult?

These particular books had their start when I attended a YA panel at the 2002 World Fantasy Convention in Minneapolis. At the time I had no plans to enter the YA market, and certainly no ideas in that field, but the panel had several writers on it whom I really like reading and who do write YA fiction - Charles de Lint was one of them, and Jane Yolen another. Some five or ten minutes into the panel, someone from the audience brought up Harry Potter, and Jane Yolen sighed and said, "I was wondering how long it would be before that particular elephant walked into the room." She said she wasn't entirely happy about the way that the Potter books treated girls... and I was off and running. I didn't really hear the rest of that panel, I was too busy getting to know Thea in my head, and thinking about the Last Ditch School for the Incurably Incompetent to which she would be sent because she was not the Boy Who Lived but instead the Girl Who Couldn't.

My primary goal has always been story - and that doesn't change with the level of the intended reading audience. I believe that the YA readers deserve, and want, stories that are just as complex and layered as an "adult" book - and I believe that these young minds are quicker, more agile, and far better equipped to actually deal with a certain amount of complexity. I have no interest in providing something simplistic, or characters who have only two dimensions and would flap in the wind like so many flags. I want real characters, real people. The fact that I have magic in my story doesn't make my characters any less real, it just gives them a different set of problems.

I don't prefer either genre to the other. They complement each other, rather than square off as antagonists.

What was one of your favorite books growing up? Do you think that it has affected your writing?

One of my favourite books? ONE of? That's hardly fair, asking a question like that of someone who spent her formative years buried between book covers of many many MANY books. I'd have to put Tolkien's Lord of the Rings up there - but then I'd have to ignore authors like Ursula le Guin, and Madeleine L'Engle, and Lloyd Alexander, and CS Lewis, and... look, see what you've done now?...

Reading has affected my writing, the fact that I read a lot and widely and that I am completely, wholly and incurably in love with language and with story. Reading told me early on that I wanted to write, too, because I wanted to create more of these worlds which held me so spellbound when they flowed from other minds and other visions. Reading a lot and reading widely is probably the best basic education that a child can get. God bless libraries everywhere.

I know that recently you were in Japan for the World Science Fiction Convention. What was that like?

Japan was weird and wonderful and I came back with 800+ photographs, ranging from the bizarre to the astonishingly beautiful; I'd highly recommend going to a truly alien place at least once in a person's lifetime, it definitely stretches your horizons.

There are parts of Europe that are staggering under the weight of their history, and the same is true in Japan, where you wander around temples and palaces built not hundreds but thousands of years ago, and the idea that there were once these people so far removed from us in time who lived and loved and worked and fought and played within these walls and in these gardens is eerie, enigmatic, and one that fills me with awe and curiosity. One of the gardens I was in had in it a weirdly-shaped pine that once been a Shogun's cherished bonsai and which had been planted into the ground some 600 or so years before when the Shogun died - it's quite a feeling, watching this centuries-old tree and wondering what tales it could tell if only it could talk...

Modern Japan is utterly confounding - it was the first time I had ever been to a country where I was functionally illiterate without benefit of translation or at least transliteration on signposts and information boards, and that was disconcerting. But the Japanese are resigned to wandering foreigners who look lost and bewildered and somehow knowing how to say "hello" and "thank you" and a lot of sign language gets you almost everything you need without any major dramas. And people bow to each other. A lot. And it's catching; upon our return home, a friend I was traveling with informed me that she had given that formal little Japanese bow to a completely astonished British bank teller, and I offered one of my own to the quietly amused passport checkpoint official when I stepped off my flight on my return to the United States.

The second book in the Worldweavers trilogy hits stores March 2008. Can you give us a little hint about Spellspam and what the future holds for our favorite characters?

What happens if the spam that hits your inbox on a regular basis isn't just annoying - but carries live and potentially dangerous magic spells which affect you if you so much as read the spam message? What happens if the spam message offering you "the clearest skin you could ever imagine" turned your skin... transparent? (Well, actually, that's the first scene in Spellspam - when you read the book, you'll find out exactly what transpires...)

An epidemic of such spellspam sweeps Thea's world, affecting the one thing that has been thought until then to be completely impervious to magic - the computers. And since Thea seemed to be the first person ever to have been able to actually use computers in her own magic (something that's explored in Gift of the Unmage), she now needs to find out where this spellspam is coming from because it can only mean that there is someone else out there who is not that much different from herself. There are some hard choices for Thea to make in the course of this book, which takes her further along the road of discovering who she really is, and how truly extraordinary her gifts are. But where this road will ultimately take her... is another story, one which concludes the Worldweavers trilogy, and which will follow Spellspam in the spring of 2009.

The future is wide open for Thea, actually. There are far more things that begin to be possible for her now than she has ever dreamed of. These stories may yet be told, if she finds friends who want to know more about her.

Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions!

'An Infamous Army' by Georgette Heyer

ISBN: 1402210078
Format: Paperback, 436pp
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Incorporated
Price: $14.95

An Infamous Army, originally published in 1937, is centered around the famous battle of Waterloo, the final battle of the Napoleonic Wars. This historical novel gives you an amazingly detailed account of the final battle in which Wellington and his allied forces lost 22,000 of their troops and the French losses totaled over 25,000. Leading up to that point Georgette Heyer (1902-1974), author of over 50 novels set in the Regency period, paints a vivid picture of life in Brussels, a city that is just a few miles away and living life to the fullest with the threat of war looming on the horizon.

The novel takes its title from a famous quote of Wellington’s, “I have an infamous army; very weak and ill-equipped, and a very inexperienced staff.” But despite this crusty remark the battle was won, and the war was won with this infamous army of his.

Lady Barbara Childe, Bab for short, is as gorgeous as she is wicked. A widow known to be rather infamous herself, Bab is referred to as ‘the incomparable, the dashing, the fatal Barbara’ because wherever she goes she leaves a trail of broken hearts in her wake. But despite this, or because of it, Colonel Charles Audley, Wellington’s aid-de-camp, falls madly in love with her at first sight and soon proposes.

With the backdrop of the coming war Bab and Charles announce their engagement to the disbelief of many, including Charles’s sister Judith, though it is not a surprise to her husband, Lord Worth. As the weeks pass and Napoleon marches closer, Bab cannot seem to drop the wild aspects of her personality. She does everything she wishes, everything that exposes herself and her newly betrothed Charles to gossip, including almost breaking up the marriage of the close friend of the Worth family.

But Lady Barbara, as the reader and Charles know, has a good heart beneath all her wild behavior. She is a strong character, likable and vibrant. Charles in turn is everything you would expect of an English gentleman and the interaction between the two is delightful. When the battle finally does break out, Bab rises to the occasion, doing everything she can helping wounded men and showing a strength and gentleness of character you always knew was there.

From the beginning to the end, what makes An Infamous Army so easy to read is the flawless style. Each moment is brought out and shown to the reader in all it’s brutal glory. Every episode is mesmerizing: The men leaving a ball when the news arrives that Napoleon is just a few miles away, the soldiers forming their ranks and calling out their battle cry, the sound of the cannons heard for the first time by the residents of Brussels, and even the small conflicts between the characters as they must learn to live with or without each other.

Never has history been more exciting than within the pages of An Infamous Army. The social drama with its romance lightens the almost overwhelming details of which general commands which regiment, troop movements, and battle strategies. The final chapters dedicated to the battle itself are horrific as well as heart-wrenching as the deaths of the soldiers and their horses are described. I have never read a better or more powerful piece of historical fiction.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

This is the to to be read pile next to the bed. See! It really does go all the way to the ceiling. Unfortnately this is only one of many stacks around my house. And that's my cat Newt. But since it's been a slow weekend I thought I would share. What do you have in your to be read stack right now?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Posts Worth Reading Today

Over at Blogcritics there are two reviews worth taking a look at. Jill Hart read and reviewed Just Jane- A Novel of Jane Austens Life by Nancy Moser. Then Gorden Hauptfleisch read and reviewed Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo.

Other places that have good posts today include Nothingman, although his is a post from Saturday it's still worth reading, Eyes of the Dodo.

Sevenine has a review up of Seeing Redd, the second book in The Looking Glass Wars.

And if you have never wandered over to The Trouble Clef today is the day to do so. Roo is such a great writer and at the moment he is covering some of his favorite bad music videos of all time.

SciFiChick has a review up of a science fiction novel called Ragamuffin, I have not read it myself but it does look good.

And if your still looking after that go here: Nouveaublogger, MiniJonB, Dingobear Photography, and PostSecret. All of these by the way are on the blogroll and there are many other sites and blogs worth checking out. Don't stop at the links above, go out and explore.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Return to Me

ISBN: 0425215415
Format: Paperback, 272pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $14.00

I was browsing online and this cover caught my eye. It's a great cover, the black and white with the deep red is fantastic. Then I read the little blurb and caught the word vampire. Now I have to read it!

From the Publisher:

Betrayed by her uncle, the magically inclined Lady Gabrielle Wentworth has been sold into a betrothal with a man who will surely be her ruin. To survive-and to avoid being labeled as a witch-she must accept the help of a five-hundred-year-old vampire who's as dangerous to her chaste body as he is to her fragile heart.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Quiet Girl

ISBN: 0374263698
Format: Hardcover, 424pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (October 30, 2007)
Price: $26.00

I saw this one while looking around today. It sounds like it might be pretty good. It is the same author that wrote Smilla’s Sense of Snow which I've heard all sorts of good things about but never read. Anyone read that one?

From the Publisher:

Set in Denmark in the here and now, The Quiet Girl centers around Kaspar Krone, a world-renowned circus clown with a deep love for the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and an even deeper gambling debt.

Wanted for tax evasion and on the verge of extradition, Krone is drafted into the service of a mysterious order of nuns who promise him reprieve from the international authorities in return for his help safeguarding a group of children with mystical abilities—abilities that Krone shares.

When one of the children goes missing, Krone sets off to find the young girl and bring her back, making a shocking series of discoveries along the way about her identity and the true intentions of his young wards.

The result is a fast-paced, philosophical thriller blending social realism with the literary fantastic and pitting art and spirituality against corporate interests and nothing less than the will to war by the industrialized world. The Quiet Girl is a masterful, inventive novel that marks the triumphal return of one of the great writers of the international literary world.

I'm 164 pages in to the 485 pages of An Infamous Army by Georgette Heyer. If you are an Austen fan then this would be perfect after you've set down Emma. It's a little hard to get into it but once you start it is just so hard to put down. The cover says it is a novel of 'love, war, Wellington, and Waterloo' and it's great. First published in 1937 this latest reprint is being done by Sourcebooks.

The main romance centers around Lady Barbara Childe, a wild widow and Colonel Charles Audley, a very proper upstanding gentleman. He proposes to her almost as soon as he meets her and she finds that she can't resist him. Oh, be still my beating heart!

speaking of vampires

Here is the cover for the third instalment of the Gardella Vampire Chronicles by Colleen Gleason. Pretty isn't it? But this series isn't just about pretty book covers. From the kick butt and take no prisoners heroine to the brooding dark and handsome vampire hunter this series is different from most of the other vampire fiction you are going to come across. In this series the vampires really are the bad guys, no ifs ands or buts about it. The release date for this one isn't until Feb. 5, 2008. More than enough time to catch up on the rest of the series while your waiting.

Check out my review of the first book in the series, The Rest Falls Away, and the second book, Rises the Night. Also I got a chance to speak with Ms. Gleason right before her second book came out and you can read that interview here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Morganville Vampires

ISBN: 0451222385
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 256pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $5.99

I'm a sucker for anything with a vampire in it. (Get it? Sucker? Ok, I know I'm a weirdo)I've been reading The Morganville Vampire series by Rachel Caine. It's a young adult series and while it isn't Twilight it still makes for pretty good reading. The third book in the series will be out in October and try as I might I can't seem to find a contact to get a free copy. Darn it. I guess I'll just have to break down and buy my own.

Read my reviews of the first two in the series. Glass Houses and Dead Girls' Dance.

From the Publisher:

Claire Danvers's college town may be run by vampires but a truce between the living and the dead made things relatively safe. For a while. Now people are turning up dead, a psycho is stalking her, and an ancient bloodsucker has proposed private mentoring. To what end, Claire will find out. And it's giving night school a whole new meaning.

Monday, September 17, 2007

'Seeing Redd' by Frank Beddor

ISBN: 0803731558
Format: Hardcover, 384pp
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Price: $17.99

All the characters from The Looking Glass Wars are back in Frank Beddor's sequel, Seeing Redd. When we last saw Alyss, Dodge, Hatter, Molly and everyone else, they were all settling in happily to a Wonderland with out the tyranny of Redd, who escaped through the Heart Crystal with her deadly assassin, The Cat.

But all is not well in Wonderland when we return. Even with Redd out of the picture, Alyss has enemies. There will always be a few who prefer Black Imagination over White and those few are making trouble for Alyss. Not to mention King Arch of the Borderlands, who with his masculine superiority, believes that no woman, least of all Alyss, is fit to rule a kingdom.

After a mysterious explosion in the Crystal Continuum, Wonderland's form of transportation, Alyss is informed by King Arch that her bodyguard, Molly, has been taken hostage. King Arch claims to be only an intermediary for the real criminals, but Alyss suspects the truth. Arch explains that Hatter Madigan is to come out and negotiate Molly's release. Despite Alyss' direct order that he is to stay in Wonderland, Hatter makes his way into Borderland intent on freeing Molly.

Meanwhile, Redd and The Cat have made it to Earth through the Heart Crystal where Redd gathers an army made of ex-Wonderland citizens and those few Earthlings that have powerful Black Imagination. There she picks up a few shudder-worthy characters including Alistaere, a mad doctor who performs autopsies on people before they die, Siren, a women who can cripple people with the force of her voice, Sacrenoir, a man able to raise flesh eating skeletons, and Vollrath, a member of the tutor species that took a dark turn. With these and many others in tow Redd makes her way back to Wonderland to reclaim the throne from Alyss.

With all this going on around her, Alyss is desperate to make time for Dodge. Most of the hate and bitterness that colored Dodge's life before is gone and Alyss is determined to protect him from the destructive nature of his emotions. Their romance has blossomed and they are just as in love with each other as they were when they were young. But as determined as Alyss is to protect Dodge, he is just as determined to have his revenge on The Cat for killing his father.

With enemies pouring in from all directions at once Alyss must make a difficult decision, Hatter Madigan must deal with his personal life, Dodge must learn to conquer his emotions, and all Redd wants to do is take over the kingdom. Since this is the second in a trilogy there is a bit of a cliffhanger ending. A sort-of tie is called in the final battle and the fight postponed for a later date. What does the future hold for our favorite and not-so-favorite characters? I guess we will have to wait and see.

Seeing Redd moves just as quickly as The Looking Glass Wars. Constant action and intrigue move the reader forward at a break-neck pace. It is just as bloody and gruesome as the first, if not more so. The fight for Wonderland continues, the game hasn't changed, and the players are all more determined than ever to come out on top.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Love Affair with the Novel

One of my favorite memories is of my Dad reading The Lord of the Rings to me when I was about five. Of course the images I formed in my imagination didn’t match up once I read it on my own seven years later. But sitting quietly, listening to the soothing rhythm of my Dad’s voice as he read and peeking over his hands at the page, it was the start of one of the most positive things in my life.

Of course like all love affairs, it's had its ups and downs. In school they diagnosed me with a reading disability and I spent years sitting through classes meant to help me improve my reading level; most of the time I was bored and unhappy.

The schools also had a program called Accelerated Reader which listed certain books for points; you took a test once you finished reading and were awarded points according to your test score. As part of the reading program in elementary and junior high school you had to have a minimum of points each month. I hated that program because the books I enjoyed were never part of it and I had a hateful teacher who wouldn’t accept anything that wasn’t on the approved list.

My affair with the novel also suffered through high school as I found that reading cut into my extracurricular activities. Wonderful things such as sneaking out to parties, getting drunk, and ditching school left me little time to enjoy a good book. But when I found myself grounded I would always turn to an old favorite. Jane Austen, Anne McCaffrey, Patricia C. Wrede, Oscar Wilde, and J.R.R. Tolkien were stacked next to my bed. Even if I wasn’t reading much I carried a book in my purse, nestled next to my diary. I was armed against the world that way, prepared for doctor's waiting rooms and bus stops.

I found myself reading much more as I got older, past the hormonal rages of my teens. It didn’t drive me crazy any more to sit at home on a Friday night and read like it once had. I devoured novels: fantasy, mystery, horror, science fiction, the classics, chick-lit, histories, fiction, memoirs, and biographies. I started to read three and four a week, always on the hunt for the next good thing.

The problem with my love affair at the moment is that it has started to border on the obsessive, which is never healthy. I’ve filled the tiny apartment I share with my husband and two cats with books. Stacked three deep on bookshelves, piled on table tops, flowing along the top of the dresser, and piled so high on my bedside table, they reach the ceiling. I have a lot of books.

I’ve read a little over half and the rest are titles that I saw in bookstores, thrift stores, garage sales, antique malls, and anywhere else I can find them — I just had to have them. I buy them and plan to read them, and I will read them I tell myself firmly, but there is always another cover that catches my eye; another story line that seems to grab my attention.

The saying is true, so many books and so little time. Depending on your beliefs there is an afterlife. Can we read once we are dead? I sure hope so.

Friday, September 14, 2007

'The Devil’s Right Hand' by Lilith Saintcrow

ISBN: 0316021423
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 391pp
Publisher: Orbit
Price: $6.99

Dante is back in The Devil’s Right Hand, the third book in the Dante Valentine series by Lilith Saintcrow. After everything Dante has faced, the horrors of Rigger Hall, the death and rebirth of Japhrimel, and the very final passing of Jace Monroe, you would think that things couldn’t get any worse. But you would be wrong.

The Devil isn’t done with Dante. He’s been calling her for a long time and he’s tired of waiting for her answer. Dante has spent time recovering from her final battle in Rigger Hall away from Saint City, Japhrimel never very far away. She’s had time to relax and isn’t walking around with her sword in her hand all the time, an amazing thing for her. But when the Devil calls, you can’t ignore him forever.

The Devil contracts Dante as his new Right Hand. She has seven years to hunt down and kill four demons that have escaped from the bowels of hell. In return Japhrimel is given back his full demon powers and the Devil promises protection for Dante for all eternity. But he isn’t called the Father of Lies for nothing.

As Dante gets her first taste of battle since her near defeat by Mirovitch she realizes that she might be in over her head. She has become a pawn in the Devil’s game and he wasn’t kind enough to share the rules first. But it isn’t like Danny Valentine to back away from a fight and at the end of the day it is still one of the things she does best. With a new blade at her side, the first one lying broken at the bottom of the ocean, Dante wonders if she carries a blade that could kill the Devil.

One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed so far about this series is that with each book you get to see Dante and Japhrimel’s relationship evolve. All along Dante has treated Japhrimel like a human, no different from how she treats everyone else in her life. Dante seems to forget that Japhrimel is not a man but a demon and she receives a grim reminder of this fact.

Dante is also haunted by her past. Jace’s voice echoes through her mind, she sees his ghostly figure in a bar that he never visited in life, and once faced with a grown Eve all Dante can think about is her deceased friend and lover Doreen. It is a hard, hurtful past that she can’t put behind her, something that makes her more human despite the fact that she isn’t quite human anymore.

While you could pick this one up and enjoy it out of sequence with the rest of the novels I would recommend you start with Working for the Devil, the first book in the series. At this point there is just too much story, and while you would be able to pick it up along the way, wouldn’t you rather get to know Dante and Japhrimel from the beginning?

SciFiChick read and reviewed this one as well as Book Fetish

Thursday, September 13, 2007

who is your favorite young adult author?

A recent survey posted over at The Guardian shows that Roald Dahl is the favorite young adult author among people ages 16 to 34. While I have to admit to having a certain fondness for Dahl and his wonderful creations, C.S. Lewis, for me at least, will always hold the number one spot in my heart.

I remember reading A Horse and His Boy for the first time and how I longed to have a talking horse take me for an adventure. The list below is the top ten authors from the survey, is your favorite among them? What books did you read and love growing up?

  1. Roald Dahl
  2. C.S. Lewis
  3. J.M. Barrie
  4. J.K. Rowling
  5. Anthony Horowitz
  6. Jacqueline Wilson
  7. Dr. Seuss
  8. Philip Pullman
  9. Francesca Simon
  10. Enid Blyton

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Re-releasing Jane Austen

Lately Jane Austen has been everywhere. Her novels, which have always been well loved, have experienced a sort of comeback. Of course I never thought they went away. But with the recent movie based on Jane Austen's life, which didn't follow her life very closely I'm told, and the titles that have been released using her characters or even just loosely based around her novels seemed to fill the summer. It seems as if anything Austen is golden at the moment.

This month Vintage/Anchor, an imprint of Knopf and Random House, got in on the game by releasing the classic novels with new covers. Gav did a post that was similar the other day, Vintage is releasing old titles with new covers in the UK as well. But I thought I would share the new Austen covers with you. They are lovely, similar in style to a 1800's fashion plate, which they could very well be.

ISBN: 030738683X
Format: Paperback, 256pp
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Price: $6.95

ISBN: 0307386848
Format: Paperback, 512pp
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Price: $7.95

ISBN: 0307386880
Format: Paperback, 496pp
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Price: $6.95

ISBN: 0307386856
Format: Paperback, 272pp
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Price: $5.95

ISBN: 0307386864
Format: Paperback, 384pp
Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
Price: $7.95

Monday, September 10, 2007

'Something from the Nightside' by Simon R. Green

ISBN: 0441010652
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 230pp
Publisher: Ace
Price: $6.99

Something from the Nightside is the first in Simon R. Green’s Nightside Series, a group of books based around John Taylor, a private detective that has a gift for finding lost things.

John has been living in London for five years when Joanna Barett, a rich business woman, asks him to find her missing daughter Cathy. She has one clue, Nightside. John left the Nightside, swearing never to go back, but he’s a sucker for someone in need and agrees to find the girl for a hefty price. The one condition Joanna has is that she gets to go along.

The Nightside is a square mile in the middle of London, except that it’s bigger than that, and it’s always three in the morning. All kinds live there: myths, monsters, dreams, and a few seemingly normal people just passing through. It’s where you go to find the things that can only live in the dead of night.

John, who’s name is still spoken of in the Nightside, goes back to one of his old haunts to collect some information on the missing girl. In Strangefellows, a bar that has been open since the beginning of time, John runs into one of his old friends, Razor Eddie, the Punk God of the Straight Razor. Except that in the Nightside things are not always what they seem and friends are not always friends. From there, it’s a wild ride through the dark streets in search of Cathy.

Simon R. Green fills the book with characters that really stand out. From Razor Eddie to Suzie Shooter, better known as Shotgun Suzie, and even John himself; these characters are never quite what they seem, just like the Nightside. John’s past is hinted at, but nothing really solid comes through. I’m hoping in the future books you learn more about his past and why his name is remembered, for one reason or another, by everyone in the Nightside.

Something from the Nightside is a quick horrific novel. From insects exploding out of a man’s body to faceless men with hypodermic needles for fingers, this novel is filled with images straight from your darkest nightmares. Throw in a little noir style and dark rich atmosphere, and you have one heck of a read.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

'Dead Man Rising' by Lilith Saintcrow

ISBN: 031600314X
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 380pp
Publisher: Orbit
Price: $6.99

When I finished Working for the Devil I immediately picked up Dead Man Rising, the second book in the Dante Valentine series. It picks up with Dante and Jace almost a year after the events of the previous book.

Dante has thrown herself into tracking down bounties with the death of Japhrimel still haunting her. The mark on her shoulder, Japhrimel’s name branded into her skin, has started to burn again after the long period of cold. Jace, who followed her back to Saint City from Nuevo Rio after she finished the Santino case, is working with her and trying to keep her alive. The real reason he is there remains unspoken between them — his love for her, despite the fact that she is still in love with a dead demon.

With the changes made to her body when Japhrimel changed her, Dante isn’t aging like the people around her. She sees the signs in Jace’s eyes with their crow's feet and dark circles, the few strands of grey running through Gabe’s dark hair, and lines around Eddie’s mouth. Dante wonders if once they are gone, once there is no one to remember how she was before, if she will be dead then, too.

When Gabe, one of Dante’s closest friends and a fellow necromancer, contacts her about a case, Dante can’t refuse. She feels honor-bound to help Gabe out despite the fact that she would rather not pick at old wounds. Psions, people with magical ability, are being brutally murdered and the one clue they have to go on leads to a past that Dante doesn’t want to remember.

Rigger Hall, the place of long buried memory, is somehow connected to the recent deaths. Dante grew up in Rigger Hall, an orphanage and school for those gifted with magical ability, which was run by the sadistic headmaster Mirovitch. That was years ago; Rigger Hall is closed and Mirovitch long dead, but deep down Dante knows the past isn’t going to stay buried.

With Jace refusing to leave her side and Japhrimel’s voice echoing in her head, Dante faces the horrors of her past. The Devil makes another appearance and asks a question that sparks hope in Dante, “Can it be you have not resurrected him?” But Dante knows better than to trust the Devil, the Father of Lies, and pushes his question away to concentrate on the killer roaming Saint City.

There is a lot of depth to these books. They aren’t just straight, mindless fantasy; the characters are dark, broken, and then sewn together with pure determination. Dante’s childhood, which she must face, is practically gruesome although there are other characters who have had it worse.

Dead Man Rising is dark, gritty, urban fantasy at its best. But what made it even better is the fact that it is the continuing tale of a character who is unforgettable. If you read these out of order you would completely miss the building momentum, the small things that add up to create a series that is truly fantastic.

Friday, September 7, 2007

'Working for the Devil' by Lilith Saintcrow

ISBN: 0316003131
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 384pp
Publisher: Orbit
Price: $6.99

Working for the Devil is the first in a five book series covering the life and times of Dante Valentine.

Dante, Danny for short, is the kind of character you can really sink your teeth into. A katana-wielding Necromancer, Dante doesn't take crap from anyone. Tough, smart, and deadly, she's built a reputation for herself in Saint City. She's one of the best, maybe even the best, and that is why one rainy day the Devil asks for her help.

The Devil has a job for Dante and he isn't going to let her refuse. A demon has escaped from hell with something very precious - an egg that, if opened, could mean an apocalypse for Earth. For Dante the job is even harder to turn down once she learns that the demon she will be hunting is the same one that almost killed her a few years before. The demon, Santino, had also killed her friend Doreen and Dante feels honor bound to hunt him down. Japhrimel, the Devil's right hand demon and most deadly assassin, is made Dante's familiar and protector.

Driven by a dark past that is only hinted at in Rigger Hall and the brutal murder of Doreen, Dante checks with her contacts in Saint City for any sign of Santino. Japhrimel is always a few steps away and at first Dante is uneasy about having the demon shadowing her. But after awhile the feel of his dark aura and his cinnamon smell become as familiar to her as her own skin.

Dante gets help, whether she wants it or not, from her Necromancer and cop friend Gabriele, Gabe's hedgewitch boyfriend Eddie, and ex-lover Jace who just happens to have ties to the Mob. Not to mention the demon. They follow Santino to Nuevo Rio where the hunters become the hunted.

One of the things that really stood out about this book was the world. The technology is advanced (think Blade Runner) and the mix of floating cars and laser guns with ancient Egyptian gods and swords fit perfectly. It's complicated and not everything is explained in depth. Things are just mention in passing, thrown at you and either you catch it or you don't. But this isn't a problem, it only adds to the feeling of reality, as Dante fights her way toward Santino and the egg.

Based in a world full of advanced technology and ancient magic, Working for the Devil is a dark urban fantasy that reaches out and grabs you by the throat. It is one kick butt start to what I'm sure will turn out to be one of the better series around. If Dante Valentine isn't on your reading list, you're missing out.

SciFiChick read and reviewed this one too...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

writing murder...

Have you heard about the Polish author that was jailed for killing his ex-wife's lover? Yep. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Want to know how they found out about him killing this guy? He wrote about the murder in one of his books.

read the article at The Guardian...

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

I read and reviewed Shoko Tendo's memior Yakuza Moon a few months ago. It is a book I still think about. I don't think that anyone, once they had read it, could forget it.

Yesterday I came across an article at entitled Gangter daughter sheds light on Japan underworld. The whole article isn't about Ms. Tendo but parts of an interview she gave is used for it. There is also a great shot of her gorgeous tattoo. It's worth taking a look just for that.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

'The Looking Glass Wars' by Frank Beddor

ISBN: 0803731531
Format: Hardcover, 384pp
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
Price: $17.99

The Looking Glass Wars is a twist on Lewis Carroll's classic stories Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. With whimsical elements and a boost of modern technology, and playing on the idea that Wonderland is a real place, the author introduces us to Alyss Heart.

Alyss is the future Queen of Wonderland and is celebrating her seventh birthday when her evil aunt Redd attacks the Wonderland palace. The fight is bloody and soon Redd is in control of the kingdom.

With her mother's bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, Alyss escapes into the Pool of Tears, which takes her to 18th century London. Along the way Alyss and Hatter are separated. Alyss lives on the streets with a group of urchins, then in an orphanage, before finally finding a home with the very proper Liddells.

Along the way Alyss must come to terms with the idea that maybe she never was a princess; maybe Wonderland is a place she dreamed up after all.Alyss grows up and attracts the attention of Prince Leopold, whom she agrees to marry, but on the day of the wedding Queen Redd sends her deadly assassin, The Cat, through the Pool of Tears and into Alyss's new world.

Alyss is saved in the nick of time by her Wonderland childhood love Dodge Anders, and whisked back to Wonderland, only to find it changed under Redd's tyrannical rule. Alyss slips easily back into being a part of this magical world, something she tried so hard to deny in Britain, and is soon leading a band of rebels against the evil queen.

The Looking Glass Wars moves quickly, with almost constant action. From Wonderland to 18th century Britain Alyss faces dangers and one complicated situation after another. It's a hard book to put down, as something new is always happening, and it's original even with its basis in the classic story.

Alyss's adventures in Wonderland continue with Seeing Redd, the second in the series, which just hit shelves.

Monday, September 3, 2007

'The Reincarnationist' A Novel of Suspense by M.J. Rose

ISBN: 0778324206
Format: Hardcover, 464pp
Publisher: Mira Books
Price: $24.95

With the The Reincarnationist, M.J. Rose has crafted a novel that is as interesting as it is entertaining. The idea of reincarnation is the backdrop in this thrilling story that blends mystery and suspense together for a gripping read. M.J. Rose has studied and based her story as much as possible on fact; she even provides a reading list once you've finished her haunting novel.

When we first meet Josh Ryder, a photographer on assignment in modern Rome, he is on the verge of surviving a terrorist explosion. Josh witnesses a security guard arguing with a woman pushing a stroller when his world disappears in a bright flash of light. He survives, barely, but the bombing changes everything about his life. Suddenly he can remember past life experiences; a pagan priest in Ancient Rome and a young man in the 1900's of New York City are suddenly tantalizingly familiar to him.

With his present in ruins Josh has become obsessed with figuring out a past that haunts him. He becomes a member of the Phoenix Institute, a group of researchers that collect evidence of past life experiences from children. One of more prominent members, Malachai, offers to help him in return for his services as a photographer. Josh becomes a sort of pet project for Malachai, who has never had past life experience himself and to a certain extent is jealous of Josh.

As a member of the Phoenix Institute Josh returns to Rome less than a year after the explosion to photograph a freshly discovered tomb. In the tomb are the mummified remains of a woman, a Vestal Virgin, who Josh remembers. She is the woman who has been haunting him and in a flash of memory he knows her name and remembers her scent. But who was Sabina?

Julius is the priest from Ancient Rome whose life Josh has been remembering. With those memories comes Sabina. Lovely and vivacious Sabina, even as a memory, over shadows all other women for Josh. Julius, however, is living in a time when Christianity is overthrowing the pagan religions that Rome has lived with for so long, and he has found a little happiness in Sabina's arms. Despite that, Josh feels as if there is some tragedy tinting these episodes.

Through the tomb Josh meets Gabriella Chase, a woman he is drawn to, and he wonders if she has some connection to his past. When the tomb is robbed of a precious artifact that can help a man remember his past, Josh is pulled into the race to recover it.

As the story unfolds the connections between the past and the present are revealed. M.J. Rose uses the idea that we reincarnate to make right the mistakes of previous lives to propel her characters forward; to make connections where someone else might only see coincidence. As a result, The Reincarnationist is an unforgettable novel that will leave you with questions about the mysteries of the soul.