Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cover Reveal: Summerwode by J Tullos Hennig

The Summer King has come to the Wode...
Yet to which oath, head or heart, shall he hold?

Once known as the Templar assassin Guy de Gisbourne, dispossessed noble Gamelyn Boundys has come to Sherwood Forest with conflicting oaths. One is of duty: demanding he tame the forest’s druidic secrets and bring them back to his Templar Masters. The other is of heat and heart: given to the outlaw Robyn Hood, avatar of the Horned Lord, and the Maiden Marion, embodiment of the Lady Huntress. The three of them—Summerlord, Winter King, and Maiden of the Spring—are bound by yet another promise, that of fate: to wield the covenant of the Shire Wode and the power of the Ceugant, the magical trine of all worlds. In this last, also, is Gamelyn conflicted; spectres of sacrifice and death haunt him.

Uneasy oaths begin a collision course when not only Gamelyn, but Robyn and Marion are summoned to the siege of Nottingham by the Queen. Her promise is that Gamelyn will regain his noble family’s honour of Tickhill, and the outlaws of the Shire Wode will have a royal pardon.

But King Richard has returned to England, and the price of his mercy might well be more than any of them can afford....


About the Book

SUMMERWODE is now available for preorder with DSP Publications - EBOOK & PAPERBACK - and soon through other retailers. Release date 16 May 2017.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox
Expected publication: April 25th 2017 by Tor Books

The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase, an original novel based on the hit television show, The Librarians by New York Times bestselling author, Greg Cox.

For millennia, the Librarians have secretly protected the world by keeping watch over dangerous magical relics. Cataloging and safeguarding everything from Excalibur to Pandora’s Box, they stand between humanity and those who would use the relics for evil.

Stories have power.

In 1719, Elizabeth Goose published a collection of rhyming spells as a children's book, creating a spellbook of terrifying power. The Librarian of that age managed to dispose of all copies of the book except one, which remained in the possession of Elizabeth Goose and her family, temporarily averting any potential disaster.

Now, strange things are happening around the world. A tree-trimmer in Florida is blown off his elevated perch by a freak gust of wind, a woman in rural Pennsylvania is attacked by mutant rodents without any eyes, and a college professor in England finds herself trapped inside a prize pumpkin at a local farmer’s market. Baird and her team of Librarians suspect that the magic of Mother Goose is again loose in the world, and with Flynn AWOL—again—it is up to Cassandra, Ezekiel, and Stone to track down the missing spellbook before the true power of the rhymes can be unleashed.

Greg Cox absolutely nailed the tone of the first book, so I'm anxious to read his second Librarians tale. Although I landed an ARC earlier this month, the publisher has asked that reviews be held until 2 weeks before the publication date, so I am waiting patiently . . . kind of. :)

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fantasy Review: Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

Kings of the Wyld is a book I'd seen kicking around on social media - mostly in the circles of grimdark - but one to which I really hadn't paid much attention. However, when an unexpected copy arrived in my mailbox, complete with a Canadian flag sticker on the front, the promise of "brazen fun and a rock & roll sensibility" from Sebastien de Castell on the back, and a cover blurb with a definite Expendables / Taken ring to it . . . well, I was suddenly intrigued.

While I can see the grimdark angle, I'm thinking we need a new category of fantasy for the likes of Andy Remic, Mark Smylie, and (now) Nicholas Eames. I'm going to coin it maturesmirk and see if that sticks.

What I'm talking about is an evolution of the epic fantasy novel, with characters, stories, and an overall tone that have grown up alongside long-time readers like myself. The teams of adventurers are still there; the enchanted forests are still prevalent; magical weapons still abound; and there are still elves, centaurs, dwarves, and dragons to be found. Unlike the stripped-down stories of grimdark, however, everything that defined epic fantasy in the 80s and 90s is still there - just with a new perspective. These maturesmirk stories never descend into parody or mockery, but they do poke fun at their own tropes and clichés, winking-and-nodding to the reader, even as they demonstrate a fearless, almost manic urge to be edgy, violent, profane, and sometimes even a bit kinky.

Kings of the Wyld does everything right. It has a solid story, fantastic characters, real imagination, and a killer sense of humor. Instead of being a save-the-world or complete-the-quest kind of story, it's a simple tale of a washed-up mercenary who is desperate to get the old band back together to rescue his daughter from a monstrous horde. Although Rose represents a goal or a destination, the story is more about the band, their shared history, and their relationships with one another. It's a story of friendships, alliances, and even betrayals, with a band of men driven by loves lost, broken, and distant. Gabriel is desperate to rescue his daughter and avoid his ex-wife, while Clay is heartbroken to be leaving his own wife and daughter behind. Moog is still haunted by the loss of his husband, while Matrick is eager to escape his cuckold harpy of a wife. As for Ganelon, the only reason he doesn't have a wife or daughter driving him is because he was abandoned by his friends years ago, a man-of-stone in a Gorgon prison.

In many ways, this is the equivalent of an epic fantasy road trip, an often-funny experience of male bonding and opportunistic heroics. Sure, the band gets robbed (twice) by an all-female gang of thieves and falls prey to an awkward band of cannibals, but they also take down a monstrous chimera, an angry dragon, and a legitimate giant. Along the way they hitch a ride on a magical airship, suffer through Moog's misfiring magic, and get hooked up with a remnant (most certainly not a zombie), a winged bounty hunter (with a split-personality), and a two-headed ettin (one of which lies to keep up the spirits of its blind brother).

Nicholas Eames knows how to write and, more importantly, he knows how to pace and structure a novel. He mixes action and humor in equal measure, and weaves genuine emotion into the heroics. It's a fun novel, but one where sorrow and melancholy are always lurking just under the narrative. I almost hate to say it, but it's a kick-ass rollercoaster of epic fantasy heroics . . . with heart. I loved the characters, loved the journey, and even loved the climax (where, all too often, grimdark falls short for me). As maturesmirk epics go, Kings of the Wyld is a fantastically fun read, from beginning to end, and I am already looking forward to the sequel.

Paperback, 544 pages
Expected publication: February 21st 2017 by Orbit

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

No review titles this week, just some Amazon purchases (a few of which, I'm sure, will show up on a future WTF Friday):


Edifice Abandoned by Scott Michael Decker


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

This week's e-book read is Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb, with Bradley P. Beaulieu's With Blood Upon the Sand temporarily on hold, while my paperback pleasure (and I'm enjoying this immensely) is Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, February 17, 2017

WTF Friday: Awaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter

Well, another WTF Friday is upon us, which means we once again turn the Ruins over to my dark half. As regular visitors will know, Foster Medina has a passion for messed up literary diversions - books that are bizarre, twisted, grotesque, and kinky - and he's only too happy to splatter them across the page.

Okay, so this is going to be a bit of a different WTF Friday selection, in that the WTF element is less about the content of the book and more about the fact that I read a paranormal romance. Yes, I actually read a paranormal romance. I'll just let you digest that for a moment . . .

Well, anyways, I'd had the Alien Huntress series recommended to me a while back, and while I was curious, I didn't really pay it much attention until I found a copy in a used bookstore over the holidays. The cover had a dangerously sexy vibe to it, with some very stark red lettering, and I liked the contrast of the knife against the dress - the way it looked almost dull against the shiny black material. What ultimately won me over, however, was the blurb about “Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Alien Nation.”

Even if it just became a hate-read to destroy that cover blurb, there was no way I could pass up such an intriguing homage to my teenage addictions.

Let me just come right out and say it - Awaken Me Darkly was a damned good read. Gena Showalter more than delivered on my expectations, with a story that hooked me from the opening scene. It was exciting, it was mysterious, it was action-packed, it was sexy, and (yes) it was even dangerously romantic.

Mia is definitely one kick-ass heroine, and I liked the fact that she fully embraces her role (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer comparison is completely valid). There are no whiny moments of guilt, no lovelorn angst, and no bitching about past regrets. She knows what she has sacrificed for her career as an alien huntress, and she’s okay with it. Even when Kyrin begins to draw out the woman inside the huntress, she fights it all the way, and not because she’s afraid of her emotions (it never feels like Showalter is just playing to the will they/won't they trope) but because she knows they’ll interfere with her judgment.

For a book that's promoted as a paranormal romance, this struck the perfect balance. The romantic elements weren’t just tacked on to broaden the appeal beyond a genre audience, but they also didn’t overwhelm the telling of a good story. I thought the pacing was very good, providing the reader with a few chances to breathe, but otherwise keeping the story racing towards a conclusion. Sure, the mystery surrounding Mia’s origins was tad thin, but I don’t think a big reveal was ever the point.

For the first book in a series, Showalter deftly introduces the concept of aliens among us (the Alien Nation comparison is also completely valid), and easily passes off sci-fi elements like pyre guns, self-driving cars, and water-less showers as common-place, with no need for her characters to comment on how cool and advanced their technology is. I hope that, at some point, she explores the back story of our first alien contact, but I'm equally glad she didn’t bog down this first volume with such necessary details.

The next book in the series (Enslave Me Sweetly) has an even kinkier bondage-themed cover, which makes me wonder about that balance I mentioned, but I did glance at the opening chapter, and it's pretty solid sci-fi action. Plus, I'm curious about the fact that cyborgs (Savor Me Slowly) and vampires (Seduce the Darkness) enter the series later, so all-in-all I'd say I'm definitely up for giving Showalter another read.

Paperback, 306 pages
Published March 1st 2006 by Downtown Press

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Expected publication: April 25th 2017 by Tor Books

Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death.

“Brilliant.” ―V. E. Schwab, New York Times bestselling author

From the award-winning epic fantasy world of The Emperor’s Blades

Pyrre Lakatur is not, to her mind, an assassin, not a murderer―she is a priestess. At least, she will be once she passes her final trial.

The problem isn’t the killing. The problem, rather, is love. For to complete her trial, Pyrre has ten days to kill the seven people enumerated in an ancient song, including “the one who made your mind and body sing with love / who will not come again.”

Pyrre isn’t sure she’s ever been in love. And if she fails to find someone who can draw such passion from her, or fails to kill that someone, her order will give her to their god, the God of Death. Pyrre’s not afraid to die, but she hates to fail, and so, as her trial is set to begin, she returns to the city of her birth in the hope of finding love . . . and ending it on the edge of her sword.

"A complex and richly detailed world filled with elite soldier-assassins, mystic warrior monks, serpentine politics, and ancient secrets." ―Library Journal, starred review, on The Emperor's Blades

Technically, I'm no longer waiting on this, since it's sitting in my P.O. Box at the moment, just waiting for me to drive over the river and pick it up, but it's driving me crazy that it's so close, yet not in my hands. :)