Thursday, March 29, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

* Quick note: Blogger seems to be flaky this morning, giving me a 'bX-tm5jc4' error every time I try to leave a comment but I am still following everybody back . . . I'll leave some comments whenever Blogger is fixed.*

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: Do you read one book at a time or do you switch back and forth between two or more?

Definitely switch back and forth between two or more. I'll usually have something from each genre (horror, fantasy, sci-fi, etc.) queued up on my e-reader to satisfy whatever mood I happen to be in that day. I know some people have trouble keeping all those characters and stories straight in their head at the same time, but I don't see it as any more of a challenge than being able to follow multiple TV shows in a week.

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I've taken part in the past two weeks. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.


Question of the Week: 
Book Blogger Retreat - If you could gather up a handful of book blogger friends to spend a weekend away talking books, where would you go? Tell us about it.

We'd go somewhere old and abandoned . . . maybe to the moss-covered ruins of a gothic castle or the vine-clad ruins of an 19th mansion . . . somewhere with an immense library still standing at the heart of the tumbled stones and rotted beams of oak. We'd have comfortable furniture, a generator, and some lighting installed ahead of our visit, of course, and hopefully an eccentric old local to regale us with tales of the library's haunted past.

eBook Review: The Traveling Dildo Salesman by Kevin L. Donihe

Bizarro is, as the publishers proudly proclaim, the genre of the weird. It's definitely an acquired taste, and while the more extreme or obscene elements may cause some readers to shy away, the sheer quality of the writing is often excellent, and the cleverness of the more surreal elements is always worth the read.

Kevin L. Donihe's The Traveling Dildo Salesman is a collection that definitely flirts with the boundaries of the genre, but which is deliciously understated in its obscenity. Rather than confronting the reader with his ability to shock and disgust, Donihe seduces you into the surrealism of his tale. The horror here is very cerebral, a creepy sort of hallucinogenic trip on the wings of imagination. That's not to say he doesn't toss in a moment or two of graphic depravity, but the focus is definitely on the weirdness of the experience.

The title story, The Traveling Dildo Salesman, is a very surreal tale of one man's journey through a kind of fetishistic purgatory. Ralph is a tragic hero straight out of Rod Serling's cruelest Twilight Zone episodes, lost in a perverse suburbia that would not be out of place in a Tim Burton film. Equally frustrating and inspiring, it's a story that refuses to play by the rules, and which ends on an oddly ambiguous note.

Milky Agitation is the second-shortest tale of the collection, and one that's strange simply for the sake of being strange. It's remarkable how many oddities Donihe is able to drop in so few pages, and how perversely amusing a shattered glass of milk can be. Two-Way Santa is the collection's nod to the obscene, with a tired, hopeless, homeless drunk restored to the mantle of Santa Claus by the belief of a creepy serial killer. The ending is twisted and dark, and will forever change how you think of candy canes.

In a return to the surreal, The Helen Mower offers us story that's reminiscent of Stephen King's Lawnmower  Man (the gory short story, not the abysmal virtual reality movie), but with a sweet necrophiliac twist. Living Room Zombies is, by far, the funniest entry in the collection, introducing us to the hospitality of two stoners on the night of the zombie apocalypse. The final entry in the collection, Revenge Of The Living Masturbation Rag, is as brief tale of abuse and revenge that ends in a rather chilling suggestion of horror continued beyond the page.

A nice sampling of what Donihe has to offer the Bizarro genre, this is a well-written collection of horror that could almost be called 'literary' were it not so deliberately perverse. Well worth the read.

Christopher Priest on How (NOT) To Win a Genre Award

Awards, literary or otherwise, are tricky things. To paraphrase the old saying: you can please some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not please all of the people all of the time.

Every author, every reader, and reviewer, and every critic has their own particular tastes and their own particular prejudices that they bring to a book. For every book that somebody loves, you can guarantee that somebody else despises it, somebody else thought it was passable, somebody else couldn't finish it, and somebody else just wasn't interested enough to pick it up.

Most awards programs try to compensate for this by having a panel of judges, ensuring that multiple opinions are represented. It's not a perfect system, but it generally results in a short-list of nominees that offer something for all tastes, even if the eventual winner divides the community.

If you're an author pursuing an award nomination, a little friendly competition is great, and there's nothing wrong with singing the praises of your own work, but denigrating the other nominees, insulting their readers, and criticizing the judges is definitely NOT going to help your cause in this year or any other.

Case in point, Christopher Priest. Wow.

In a post on his blog yesterday regarding the 2012 Arthur C. Clarke Award Nominees, Priest basically beat his chest, whipped it out and urinated all over the nominees, then squatted amidst the mess and defecated upon the soggy pages like a sullen child. I don't think I've ever read such a mean-spirited temper tantrum, and I can't recall the last time an author disgusted me enough to ensure my shelves remain bare of anything he's ever touched.

There are polite, professional, respectful ways to disagree with an award . . . and then there's this. 

Here's what Priest had to say of the six nominees:

China Miéville, Embassytown: "Although Miéville is clearly talented, he does not work hard enough . . . It’s lazy writing . . . I also find Miéville’s lack of characterization a sign of author indifference."

Charles Stross, Rule 34: "Stross writes like an internet puppy . . . goes on being energetic and egotistical and amusing for far too long . . . To think for even one moment that this appalling and incapable piece of juvenile work might actually be chosen as winner brings on a cold sweat of fear."

Greg Bear, Hull Zero Three: "There is little to say, except that it is capable in its own way . . . The paragraphs are short, to suit the expected attention-span of the reader . . . The important words are in italics."

Drew Magary, The End Specialist: "Another nostalgic effort is Drew Magary’s The End Specialist . . . Not bad precedents with which to be compared, perhaps, but this is not a literature of reminders, of retreads, of slightly updated versions of existing works."

Sheri S. Tepper, The Waters Rising: "How can one describe it? For f*ck’s sake, it is a quest saga and it has a talking horse. There are puns on the word ‘neigh’."

Even the one book he did seem to like, he can't allow to escape without criticism:

Jane Rogers, The Testament of Jessie Lamb: ""It is not to my mind a wholly achieved novel . . . to be fully realized as a work of speculative fiction it needs a wider canvas, a sense that larger events are mounting in the background."

Ultimately, Priest calls the 2012 Nominees a "dreadful shortlist put together by a set of judges who were not fit for purpose" and goes on to say it doesn't matter who wins "because all of them are deficient in the ways I have described." The fault, of course, lies with mainly with a panel of judges he calls "incompetent" and demands either "be fired, or forced to resign, immediately." Some of the fault must also lie with us, however, since he makes it clear the authors nominated are just pandering to our lack of ambition, short attention spans, and general illiteracy.

Wow. Classy guy, eh?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Apocalypse Codex by Charles Stross

In the world of the Laundry, there is One True Religion — and we know how to deal with cultists when we find them. When a prominent televangelist with connections to 10 Downing Street shows disturbing signs of being able to work miracles, it’s only natural for the Laundry, the secret service for dealing with occult threats, to take an interest. But there’s a fly in the ointment: the first rule of the secret services is, spying on the Prime Minister and their associates is forbidden. It’s time to send in the freelancers – except in the world of the Laundry, officially there’s no such thing…(July 3, 2012)

Despite having 3 titles on my shelf (Glasshouse, Rule 34, and Saturn's Children), I've yet to give Stross a read. Something about this one has really snagged my attention, though, so it may be time to catch up on some laundy . . . sorry for the bad pun. :)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme created by Kristi at The Story Siren. The idea of the meme is pretty simple - share the books you bought for yourself, won via a contest or first-read program, received as part of a book tour, or were provided with for the purposes of a review.

Since my wife already complains (good-naturedly, of course) about the bookshelves that have spread across two bedrooms, the pile on the floor by our bed, the pile on the stairs, and the pile in the living room, I try not to bring in too many new books, but here goes . . .

Old Man's War by John Scalzi 
Exogene by T.C. McCarthy
Laddertop by Orson Scott Card and Emily Janice Card (Graphic novel)
Seven Princes by John R. Fultz
Silver Skull by Mark Chadbourn 
Winds of Khalakovo by Bradley Beaulieu
Omen Machine by Terry Goodkind 



Purchased - just because I want to give it a read

The Steel Seraglio by Mike Carey, Linda Carey, Louise Carey, and Nimit Malavia


The Alchemist’s Secret by Scott Mariani
(only $0.99 at Kobo!)



Received for review (NetGalley)

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards



Received for review (via the Author/Publisher)

Web of the Spider Queen by John Grover


Dirty Eden by J.A. Redmerski


Poseidon's Children by Michael West


Thursday, March 22, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: What is the longest book you've read? What are your favorite 600+ page reads?

Oh, that's an easy one - Stephen King's The Stand (complete & uncut edition) and Clive Barkers Imajica (the massive illustrated edition).


Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I've taken part in the past two weeks. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.

Question of the Week: What are some bookish trends you are noticing in the literature world today? Is there a particular trend you'd like to see more of?

To be brutally honest, and I know a lot of readers might not like this answer, I'm annoyed and frustrated by what I see as the two biggest trends out there. The romanticizing of monsters (vampire, were, or zombie) is a betrayal of the bloodthirsty, remorseless,  villainous monsters I grew up with. As for the rise of YA literature, it's really just an expansion of the dusty library shelves I was anxious to escape in my elementary school days (and really have no desire to revisit).

I like books with some real teeth, stories with an edge, and authors who aren't afraid to push the limits of their imagination. Having said that, two trends I am excited about are the continuing rise (or resurrection - it's been done before) of steampunk, and the growing popularity of extreme horror (best represented by the bizarro genre).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

An unmissable milestone for fans of Sir Terry Pratchett: the first SF novel in over three decades in which the visionary inventor of Discworld has created a new universe of tantalizing possibilities—a series of parallel “Earths” with doorways leading to adventure, intrigue, excitement, and an escape into the furthest reaches of the imagination. The Long Earth, written with award-winning novelist Stephen Baxter, author of Stone Spring, Ark, and Floodwill, captivate science fiction fans of all stripes, readers of Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen, and anyone who enjoyed the Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman collaboration Good Omens. The Long Earth is an adventure of the highest order—and an unforgettable read. (June 19, 2012)

I don't read a lot of humour because I find that the story either suffers at the expense of a cheap joke, or the jokes fall flat in an attempt to tell a story. Terry Pratchett is one of the very few authors who can do humorous fantasy and do it well - his Good Omens with Neil Gaiman is an absolute classic, and I have high hopes for this.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

eBook Review: Cinema of Shadows by Michael West

Michael West's Cinema of Shadows is the most fun I've had between the pages of a book in a long time. I honestly can't remember the last time I felt so compelled to keep my wife awake for just a few minutes longer, so I could read just one more scene aloud, only to feel the need to finish just one more chapter.

It's just that kind of book.

This is supernatural horror at its darkest, wildest, and most unapologetic. It's a story populated by ghosts, poltergeists, demons, and psychic phenomena, and one that refuses to waste a single word in justifying itself to the skeptics. I found it so refreshing to become immersed in a good old-fashioned horror story again, to sit back and be entertained by the thrills and the chills, and not be preached at or reasoned with. It's pure popcorn horror, complete with a gallon of sugary soda to fray your nerves and stretch your bladder, keeping you physically and emotionally on edge until the very last page.

Whether he's suggesting something in the shadows, building up to a big reveal, or literally dragging you into Hell, West does an absolutely stellar job of describing the horrors. There are subtle moments of campfire ghost-stories born of urban legends, creepy scenes of Poltergeist like activity, and even some darkly comic moments that reminded me of movies like Ghostbusters or The Frighteners. Once the story really gets going, though, it's sheer paranormal insanity, kind of like an unrated version of the original The Amityville Horror, as re-imagined by Stephen King, and directed by Rob Zombie.

While it's the kind of story that could have succeeded quite well with a few nameless, faceless stock figures to serve as catalysts, West offers us a solid group of characters to humanize the experience and draw us even deeper into the horror. Kim, Tashima, Joss, and Kevin are the core group of students, called upon to investigate the haunted cinema before it faces demolition. There's a surprising amount of tension and maturity represented here, and enough familiarity to allow for some comic moments to relieve the tension. Although Professor Burke initially comes across as a little too stereotypical, he develops very nicely as his backstory is slowly revealed, and he really adds an extra element to the story. Tyler (Doctor Bachman) didn't make much of an impression on me, despite being a likeable enough character, but he does provide Kim with the all-important romantic hero.

I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Paperback Review: The Fermata by Nicholson Baker

Nicholson Baker's The Fermata is a strange read . . . awkward and hard-to-categorize, much less review. It's comprised of equal parts literature, science-fiction, romance, comedy, erotica, and memoir.

On the one hand, it absolutely deserves an five-star review for its sheer audacity, innovation, and mastery of language. This is a very clever, beautifully written novel that manages to deliberately meander without boring the reader. It's also a very humorous novel, not so much in a laugh-out-loud sort of way, but one which succeeds in delivering a smile (or more often a smirk) per page. When I allowed myself to become lost in Arno's voice, I quite enjoyed the read, even as I rolled my eyes and scoffed at his good-natured laziness. It's no wonder Baker gets far more attention as a purveyor of literature than as a genre author, but you get the sense that's entirely how he likes it.

Having said all that, this is a book that struggles to earn more than a single-star review for its plotting, pacing, and story-telling. It's is a story comprised of musings, observations, and asides, in which very little happens to advance the plot. Being a fictional memoir does excuse the narrative struggle to some extent, but the 'fictional' element does demand something more. There's a great concept at the heart of the story, with Arno able to freeze time and manipulate those around him, but his own odd sense of morality and decorum won't allow him to exploit it, while his own laziness holds him back from maximizing it. Of course, Arno and his failings are, essentially, the story, so it's hard to find him at fault. Still, it's a read that frustrated me to no extent because it adamantly refused to explore the concept.

Basically, the book comes down to this - Arno longs for women he can never have; freezes time in order to undress or gently molest them; and then restarts time and walks away without the possibility of emotional attachment. It's an interesting concept, and one that's definitely erotic in its application, yet which manages to avoid being obscene in its own cleverness. Arno is so disarming, his efforts come across as innocent and rather naive, good-natured in their thoughtfulness, when in reality they're rather personal assaults upon the women around him.

There's one chapter where he continually stops and starts time, adjusting pornographic images for one woman and adjusting a discreetly place sex-toy for another, which kind of sums up the entire novel. It's weirdly inventive and amusing, but the work required to secretly arouse the two women - with absolutely no payoff for Arno - is so far beyond absurd, it really strains the bounds of credibility.

If you're a fan of literate novels, one who favours concept over content, and one who appreciates narration over narrative, give The Fermata a shot. It is a fun read (taken in small doses) but the novelty does wear thin after a while. On the other hand, if you're at all intrigued by the concept, but (like myself) tend to lean more towards plot and characterization that storytelling showmanship, try giving Dean Koontz's Dragon Tears a read instead.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week:What is the best book you've read in the last month? What is the worst book you've read in the last month?

The best book of the past month would probably be The Scar by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko. Such a pleasant surprise, and such a unique voice in the fantasy genre. The worst book would definitely be Heaven's Shadow by David S. Goyer. Such a brutal disappointment.

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I've taken part in the past two weeks. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.

Question of the Week: Social Networking - do you use Twitter or Facebook to promote your blog?  How has it benefited your book blogging experience? If not, how do you promote your blog? Share your twitter handle and/or Facebook link!.

I use Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ to promote my blog. Of the three, I seem to get the most benefit out of Google+ (it just works really well for me), although Twitter has probably introduced me to some of the best new connections. As for Facebook, I'll admit that I don't use it as often or as well as I should, mainly because I get so frustrated having to scroll through dozens of game updates, requests for tokens, and other 'crap' just to get to the one post that actually interests me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris

Evildoers beware! Retribution is at hand, thanks to Britain's best-kept secret agents!!

Certainly no strangers to peculiar occurrences, agents Wellington Books and Eliza Braun are nonetheless stunned to observe a fellow passenger aboard Britain's latest hypersteam train suddenly vanish in a dazzling bolt of lightning. They soon discover this is not the only such disappearance . . . with each case going inexplicably unexamined by the Crown.

The fate of England is once again in the hands of an ingenious archivist paired with a beautiful, fearless lady of adventure. And though their foe be fiendishly clever, so then is Mr. Books . . . and Miss Braun still has a number of useful and unusual devices hidden beneath her petticoats. (May 29, 2012)

The first Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences novels, Phoenix Rising, was one of those books I picked up on a whim and ended up breezing through in a weekend. Kind of a steampunk take on the old Avengers TV show with Patrick Macnee & Diana Rigg, it was fun, fast, and clever enough that I'm eager to take on the sequel.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Hardcover Review: The Scar by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko


The Scar is one of the most original and most intriguing fantasy novels I've read in quite some time. It's a shame that the cover blurb tries so hard to compare it to the likes of Robin Hobb and Michael Moorcock, because the comparison really does the novel a disservice. I love them both, but they are truly unique authors with a style that's almost entirely their own. If you make the mistake of reading The Scar with those expectations, you're bound to be disappointed. However, if you go into it expecting only that Sergey & Marina Dyachenko will deliver a uniqueness that's all their own, you'll come away entirely satisfied.

Considering this is a novel that begins with an entirely unlikable protagonist - rude, crude, brash, arrogant, condescending, and pitiless in his casual disregard for the feelings of others - it's surprising that the read so that immediately captures your attention. There's not a lot going on in the opening chapters, but the writing is so fluid and poetic, and the characters so well established, that you find yourself drawn in. This is a world that's dark and bleak, with a shadow of gloom that hanging over all, but it's also one in which people can be good or bad, not because of their environment, but in spite of it.

The speed and depth of Egert's fall from grace is almost as stunning to behold as it is chilling to experience. I can honestly say I have never before seen an author do such a compelling job of detailing a character's rank cowardice. To see the fearless, arrogant young captain reduced to whimpering against the coming of night, fainting from a fear of heights atop his horse, and nearly soiling himself at the slightest sound outside his door, is stunning. By the time his cowardice is exposed to those around him, and Egert is quite literally shamed out of his home, you're beginning to feel sorry for taking such delight in his comeuppance.

Really, above all else, this is the story of Egert's fall from grace, his grudging acceptance of his new place in the world, and (ultimately) his hope for redemption. Had this been a typical fantasy novel, that redemption would likely have come about halfway through the story with the breaking of the curse, sending a once again brash young hero out to avenge his fate. Instead, Sergey & Marina leave their protagonist to cope with his bleak situation, with only the beautiful Toria around to provide any semblance of hope or joy. I honestly wasn't sure, until the very last page, whether or not Egert would ever find redemption, and I loved that uncertainty.

A few brief words on the love Toria - while it's initially a little too convenient that the same woman who gave Egert reason to deserve the curse should also give him reason to escape it, the connection between the two develops naturally throughout the novel, entirely justifying the cycle they represent.

Given all the mental and emotional turmoil, and the focus on Egert's cowardice, the climax of the novel could not have been better played. Shadowy cults, the threat of the black plague, double-crossing deals, and blackmail all add up to a situation that would test the best heroes, much less one so cursed by his own words and deeds. Definitely one of the most satisfying conclusions to a novel I've read in quite some time, it's also an ending that's as unique as the The Scar itself.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Q: Have you ever looked at book’s cover and thought, This is going to horrible? But, was instead pleasantly surprised? Show us the cover and tell us about the book.?

As a genre fan, I tend to like my covers big and bold, with artwork that dominates the page. For me, Draculas had a horribly lazy cover, but was a really fun read, while Ready Player One had another very minimalist cover that bordered on cheesy, but was another great read.

    

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I've taken part in the past two weeks. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.

Question of the Week: Is there a particular author you wish got more recognition? Pick one author & tell us why we should read their work.

On the horror side, I'd have to go with Brian Lumley - yes, he's won a number of awards, and yes, he's reasonably well-known to horror aficionados, but he lacks the kind of mainstream acceptance that books like his Necroscope saga deserve. On the fantasy side, I'd go with David B Coe - again, he's reasonably well-known to hardcore fantasy fans, but he doesn't get the widespread recognition that epics like The Winds of the Forelands deserve.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Waiting On" Wednesday: Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

Many tales are told of the Syldoon Empire and its fearsome soldiers, who are known throughout the world for their treachery and atrocities. Some say that the Syldoon eat virgins and babies-or perhaps their own mothers. Arkamondos, a bookish young scribe, suspects that the Syldoon's dire reputation may have grown in the retelling, but he's about to find out for himself.&nbsp

Hired to chronicle the exploits of a band of rugged Syldoon warriors, Arki finds himself both frightened and fascinated by the men's enigmatic leader, Captain Braylar Killcoin. A secretive, mercurial figure haunted by the memories of those he's killed with his deadly flail, Braylar has already disposed of at least one impertinent scribe . . . and Arki might be next. Archiving the mundane doings of millers and merchants was tedious, but at least it was safe. As Arki heads off on a mysterious mission into parts unknown, in the company of the coarse, bloody-minded Syldoon, he is promised a chance to finally record an historic adventure well worth the telling, but first he must survive the experience! 

A gripping military fantasy in the tradition of Glen Cook, Scourge of the Betrayer explores the brutal politics of Empire-and the searing impact of violence and dark magic on a man's soul. (May 1, 2012)

I haven't heard much advance buzz surrounding this one, but the cover looks great, and there's just something about the cover blurb that really appeals to me. Looking forward to a new author discovery.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Probability Angels by Joseph Devon

I'll be completely honest - I've become rather jaded with the whole angels-among-us theme, and have generally lost patience with the concept of dead loved ones watching over us. It's a story that's been done to death, and usually with such heavy-handedness, and such intimate ties to matters of faith, that I lose interest long before the end.

Imagine my surprise, when Probability Angels turned out to be, quite possibly, one of the most original additions to the theme that I've read it many years. It's definitely not an easy read, either in terms of the telling or the ideas within, but it's a rewarding one . . . provided you're not so tied to those aforementioned matters of faith that you can't allow of an entirely new and different philosophy.

Here, the dead are not so much loving protectors, but curious souls who have been rewarded for their selfless choices with an eternity of . . . well, call it human experimentation. Alone, and emotionally disconnected from their memories, these probability angels make it their mission to find human beings with the potential for greatness, to analyse their possible futures, and to then push them towards the one they feel best serves humanity. Think of them as the forces of fate, but with a bit more backbone, and little regard for their target's happiness. It's an unsettling idea on several levels, and one that's not without its flaws, but it makes for an engaging story.

As you might expect from the title, it's also a book that's liberally sprinkled with mathematical and scientific concepts. Rather than drag the story down, though, they add something new to the telling, taking the place of the more generic spiritual metaphors and similes. It's a book that forces you to step back from the page and think on a regular basis, one that raises the questions, but doesn't necessarily give you the answers.

The second half of the book stumbles a bit, sacrificing the novelty of the opening chapters for a more generic good vs evil storyline involving angels and zombies, but not so much that it kills all momentum. It's still a great story, full of equal parts inspiration and entertainment, and the ending (while it may not be to everyone's tastes) completely lives up to the promise of the original concept.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

GIVEAWAY: For a chance at winning either a print copy of Probability Angels (US, UK, and Canada only) or an eBook copy (Global), simply leave a comment below. Let me know if you've liked my review on Goodreads, or marked my review as being helpful on Amazon, and I'll even throw in a bonus entry. Joseph's tour ends on the 15th, so be sure to leave a comment before then to be entered.

INTERVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Probability Angels by Joseph Devon


Please extend a warm welcome to Joseph Devon, who has wandered into the ruins today to talk about his book, Probability Angels. Stick around for my review, and be sure to read through to the end for details on today's giveaway.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

Beauty in Ruins: If you could exchange lives with any of your characters for a day which character would you choose and why?

Joseph Devon: Do I get to have their bodies and such? I’ve got a samurai named Kyo that’s a master swordsman and tactician. It would be amazing to feel as tough and confident as he does. If I have to actually do my own thinking then I think I’d stay away from him. I’m not as smart as he is and nowhere near as quick and he harbors too much pain to make that swap worthwhile.

BiR: Is there a piece of advice that you have received that has really stuck with you? If so, what was it?

JD: Faulkner’s famous advice: “Kill all your darlings.” I didn’t really get it until I started treating rewriting as seriously as I did my first drafts. Now not only does it make sense but I see shades of it in tons of other advice. Like: “A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away,” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Same thing. You obviously can’t cut all of your words and expect your reader to figure things out from a blank sheet of paper, but there’s a paring you do during rewriting where you get rid of as much fluff as you possibly can but still keep your impact. It’s perfect writing advice.

BiR: If you could select one book that you could rewrite and add your own unique twist on, which book would that be and why?

JD: Shardik by Richard Adams. I loved Watership Down and was really excited to read another one of his books but it turned out to be one of the few books I have put down and never finished. That’s rare for me. So I’d want to rewrite it just because it was horrible and I had such high expectations for it and I want to make it better. I could improve on it, like by having a point, or a plot, or interesting scenes.

BiR: You just woke up in an alternative universe. Can you describe what it would look like and tell us what your first reaction would be.

JD: How do I know I’m in an alternate universe? Is it crazy different from ours? Now I’m worried. Did I wake up in an alternate universe this morning? If I walk outside will Central Park be gone? Will the sun not set tonight, or will there be two moons? Who did this?! Was it you? WHY???

BiR: Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover? If so, what book?

JD: I tend to read based on recommendations from friends, so I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book based on a cover. Actually, that can’t be true. I’m sure as a kid I fell in love with the covers of some adventure books and bought them. I know I fall for a lot of covers of video games that turned out to be awful. So yes I have purchased books based on their covers, but that was back in my salad days. Now I’m much more mature and I only buy video games based on their covers.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

GIVEAWAY: For a chance at winning either a print copy of Probability Angels (US, UK, and Canada only) or an eBook copy (Global), simply leave a comment below. Let me know if you've liked my review on Goodreads, or marked my review as being helpful on Amazon, and I'll even throw in a bonus entry. Joseph's tour ends on the 15th, so be sure to leave a comment before then to be entered.

Monday, March 5, 2012

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a great way to plan out your reading week and see what others are currently reading as well. Hosted by Sheila over at Book Journeyit's a weekly meme with the added incentive of contest for those who visit 10 or more of the participants and leave a comment telling her how many you visited.

The idea of the meme is to first post the book(s) you read last week, and then the book(s) currently being read and books you plan on finishing this week.


Last Week I Read . . .



This Week I'm Reading . . . 

Probability Angels by Joseph Devon


The Scar by Sergey Dyachenko


The Fermata by Nicholson Baker