Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday: Swarm and Steel by Michael R. Fletcher

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

Swarm and Steel by Michael R. Fletcher
Expected publication: August 22nd 2017 by Talos

To escape the hell she created, a woman must team up with a novice warrior and return to her homeland in this gritty epic fantasy where delusions are literally made real.

Zerfall awakens in an alley, wounded and unable to remember her past. Chased by an assassin out into the endless wastes of the desert, she is caught, disfigured, and left for dead. Her scabbard is empty, but the need for answers—and the pull of her sword—will draw her back to the city-states.

When Jateko, a naïve youth, accidentally kills a member of his own tribe, he finds himself outcast and pursued across the desert for his crimes. Crazed from dehydration, dying of thirst and hunger, he stumbles across Zerfall.

Hunted by assassins and bound by mutual need, both Zerfall and Jeteko will confront the Täuschung, an ancient and deranged religion ruled by a broken fragment of Zerfall’s mind. Swarm, the Täuschung hell, seethes with imprisoned souls, but where gods—real or imagined—meddle in the affairs of man, the cost is high.

In Swarm and Steel, the power of belief can manifest and shape reality, and for political and religious leaders, faith becomes a powerful tool. But the insane are capable of twisting reality with their delusions as well, turning increasingly dangerous as their sanity crumbles. It is here that a long prophesied evil will be born, an endless hunger. The All Consuming will rise.


Although I have yet to get around to The Mirror's Truth, I can honestly say Beyond Redemption was one of the most stunningly original fantasy epics I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The publisher is looking for blurbs by early June, so I'll be tackling this soon.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Urban Fantasy Review: The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox

The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase is a solid second entry in the literary annals of The Librarians, a fun follow-up by Greg Cox to last year's The Librarians and The Lost Lamp. Having already proven his grasp of the characters and their world, he's free to be a bit more playful this time around. It does lack the tension of the first, coming across as more a comedy of errors than a real life-and-death pursuit, but that's pretty much in keeping with the pacing of the series itself.

This time around, we discover that the original Mother Goose nursery rhymes were actually a dangerous spell book, one that was split apart and entrusted to three different descendants as part of the Mother Goose Treaty of 1918. A century later, it appears as if the planned demolition of a Mother Goose themed amusement park has prompted a return to the magic nursery rhymes.
"I don't plan, I act. I go by rhyme, not reason. I do as the spirit moves me. I am my own muse, the one true Mother Goose. No plans for me, only inspired flights of fancy!"
As a whole, the book is rather silly, but in an altogether clever way. Cox expands upon the verses we all know so well, going back to their darker, more sinister origins, and using them to serve as clues to a trio of treasure hunts. While all of this is going on, Colonel Baird and Jenkins are left to guard the Library itself from a hungry treasure chest, in a room-to-room battle that involves a lion, a unicorn, Excalibur, and more. As for Flynn, he's largely absent for this one, but the twist explaining why makes for an interesting finale.

If you're a fan, and can't wait for the new season to begin this fall, The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase is a great fix for riding out the wait.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published April 25th 2017 by Tor Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC 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.

Monday, May 22, 2017

#SciFi Review: Lucifer’s Star by C.T. Phipps

As opening scenes go, sci-fi doesn't get much better than this! Lucifer’s Star kicks off with a big, high-stakes, fast-paced battle that evokes memories of the most intense space battles from Star Wars or the original Battlestar Galactica. It's wild, frantic stuff, and it just keeps getting better as we watch one character after another come to a fiery end in pursuit of their suicidal mission.

Almost immediately, however, C.T. Phipps quickly leaps ahead from galactic space opera to something darker and grittier that reminded me more of the Deathstalker books than Star Wars, albeit with the cynicism and conspiracy of the rebooted BSG. There's actually a lot of philosophy to this, some deep thoughts and heavy ideas about the nature of good versus evil, family legacies, and right versus wrong. History is written by the victors, and one man's terrorism is another's rebellion.

While this absolutely nails the space opera spectacle, it also has plenty of world building, fantastic characters, byzantine plots, and equal parts wonder, horror, and humor. Our introduction to the crew of the Melampus will have your head spinning, with secrets and lies lurking under their skin. After that, you think you'd be prepared for the exploration of the Rhea, but toss in the issue of clones, and suddenly the secrets and lies are almost too deep to wade through.

It's those characters who make this such a fun read, though, with personalities to match their layers of deceit. Cassius is the perfect hero, damaged and flawed, and navigating his way through conflicting motivations. Ida reminded me a lot of Hetty from NCIS: LA (a scary sort of Yoda); Hiro is an intriguing, almost likable backstabbing scoundrel; and Clarice is a sexy sort of femme fatale, a good friend to have, and a terrifying enemy. I'll be honest, I didn't really care of Isla, and while I really did like Zoe, I hesitate to say too much without untying some of those treacherous knots of lies and conspiracies.

Lucifer’s Star is space opera for a grimdark generation, an action-packed story that doesn't forego character building or ethical dilemmas in delivering on the fun. It's not a feel-good story, and will likely leave you needing a shower, but it is effective storytelling.

Kindle Edition, 300 pages
Published October 2016 by Crossroad Press

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

Saturday, May 20, 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.



A quiet week this time around, with a pair of review titles sneaking their way onto my e-reader.

Scourge: A Darkhurst Novel by Gail Z. Martin
[July 11th, 2017]
Epic new fantasy from the bestselling author of The Summoner. In a city beset by monsters, three brothers must find out who is controlling the abominations.


Strange Weather by Joe Hill
[October 24th, 2017]
A collection of four novellas tells stories involving shards of sharp crystals that inexplicably begin to fall from the sky, a parachuter suddenly marooned on a solid cloud, a mentally unhinged security guard, and a camera that erases memories.


αωαωαωαωαωαωαω


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.

Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar is my digital read of the moment, but I'll be back into The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams as soon as I'm done. 


On the physical front, I've just cracked the spine on The Dragon's LegacyI was already excited about this, but having been friend with Deborah A. Wolf on Facebook for a few weeks . . . well, let's just say I really like her style!


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, May 19, 2017

WTF Friday: Beware by Richard Laymon

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.


Although often problematic, with serious consistency issues, and even bigger flaws of logic, Beware is the kind of over-the-top horror that only Richard Laymon can deliver. It's gratuitous in both sex and violence, and once again plays to his fetish for rape, but it is cruel fun from beginning to end.

What makes it so much fun, as is so often the case with Laymon, is the depth and creativity of his villain. While his protagonists are usually stock characters plucked from the roster of horror clichés, his bad guys are bestowed with well-developed backstory, personality, and motivation. Hoffman is a monster, no doubt about it, but he's amusing one. He's obsessive, violent, psychopathic, and (best of all) completely invisible. While he could be out robbing banks or overthrowing governments, all he wants to do is make a sexual slave out of his high school obsession - oh, and escape the evil cult goddess who made him invisible in the first place.

Yes, there are two parallel plots here, the first involving that cult goddess and her orgies of blood and sex, and the second involving that girl from high school and her attempt to stop a murderer. To be honest, it feels as if Laymon just mashed two short stories together, relying on a lot of coincidence and deus ex machina to make them fit, but the combination does make for a suitably explosive, gore-soaked climax. I would have loved to see the evil sex cult explored in greater depth (we never do get to know what their purpose is), and there is so much more our invisible villain could have done (something akin to Body Rides), but Laymon tends to go on too long, so I guess I shouldn't complain that he reigned it in here.

While Beware is far from his best, it is still an entertaining read, so long as you don't think about it.

Published November 1st 2008 by Leisure Books
(first published September 30th 1985)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Waiting On Wednesday: Blackwing by Ed McDonald

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

Blackwing by Ed McDonald
Expected publication: July 27th 2017 by Gollancz | October 3rd 2017 by Ace Books

Set on a postapocalyptic frontier, Blackwing is a gritty fantasy debut about a man’s desperate battle to survive his own dark destiny...

Hope, reason, humanity: the Misery breaks them all.

Under its cracked and wailing sky, the Misery is a vast and blighted expanse, the arcane remnant of a devastating war with the immortals known as the Deep Kings. The war ended nearly a century ago, and the enemy is kept at bay only by the existence of the Engine, a terrible weapon that protects the Misery’s border. Across the corrupted no-man’s-land teeming with twisted magic and malevolent wraiths, the Deep Kings and their armies bide their time. Watching. Waiting.

Bounty hunter Ryhalt Galharrow has breathed Misery dust for twenty bitter years. When he’s ordered to locate a masked noblewoman at a frontier outpost, he finds himself caught in the middle of an attack by the Deep Kings, one that signifies they may no longer fear the Engine. Only a formidable show of power from the very woman he is seeking, Lady Ezabeth Tanza, repels the assault.

Ezabeth is a shadow from Galharrow’s grim past, and together they stumble onto a web of conspiracy that threatens to end the fragile peace the Engine has provided. Galharrow is not ready for the truth about the blood he’s spilled or the gods he’s supposed to serve…

I was fortunate enough to nab a UK ARC of this, so I won't be waiting until October. I must say, it looks like a fantastic read, and I can't wait to get started.