Quantcast

Monday, August 31, 2015

Tor Books Presents Vienna by William S. Kirby (PROMO)

Vienna by William S. Kirby

Vienna is a unique and unforgettable novel. . . . Inspired by a classic Sherlock Holmes story, Vienna reimagines Holmes and Watson for the 21st century.

It started as nothing more than a one-night stand . . .

Justine is an A-list fashion model on a photo shoot in Europe. Adored by half the world, she can have whomever she wants, but she’s never met anyone like the strange English girl whose bed she wakes up in one morning.

Vienna is an autistic savant, adrift in a world of overwhelming patterns and connections only she can see. Socially awkward and inexperienced, she’s never been with anyone before, let alone a glamorous supermodel enmeshed in a web of secrets and intrigue.

When Justine’s current beau is murdered in the bathroom of her hotel room, she suddenly finds herself thrown into the middle of a deadly conspiracy focusing on a set of antique wooden mannikins—the same ones that are the centerpieces of the photo shoot.

What secret do the mannikins hide, and why is it worth killing over?

Drawn together by an attraction neither of them can explain, Justine and Vienna are pursued across Europe by paparazzi, tabloid headlines . . . and the mystery of Vienna’s own shadowy past, which holds the key to everything.


αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

About the Author

WILLIAM S. KIRBY has written for television, newspapers, and magazines. Kirby has traveled widely to such places as Great Britain, Fiji, New Zealand, France, Iceland, Belgium, Austria, Hawai'i, the U. S. and British Virgin Islands, Taiwan, Mexico, and the Canadian Rockies. Vienna is a direct result of his travels in Europe. Kirby lives with his wife in Louisville, Colorado.




αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

Saturday, August 29, 2015

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

A quiet week on pretty much all fronts, but still some interesting stuff going on (and coming in), including a big giveaway . . .


αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

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 bit of a mixed bag this week with 1 new review title, a pair of purchases, and a pair of Kindle freebies (because I don't already have enough books to read - LOL).


Vienna by William S. Kirby

Vienna is a unique and unforgettable novel. . . . Inspired by a classic Sherlock Holmes story, Vienna reimagines Holmes and Watson for the 21st century

It started as nothing more than a one-night stand . . .

Justine is an A-list fashion model on a photo shoot in Europe. Adored by half the world, she can have whomever she wants, but she’s never met anyone like the strange English girl whose bed she wakes up in one morning.

Vienna is an autistic savant, adrift in a world of overwhelming patterns and connections only she can see. Socially awkward and inexperienced, she’s never been with anyone before, let alone a glamorous supermodel enmeshed in a web of secrets and intrigue.

When Justine’s current beau is murdered in the bathroom of her hotel room, she suddenly finds herself thrown into the middle of a deadly conspiracy focusing on a set of antique wooden mannikins—the same ones that are the centerpieces of the photo shoot.

What secret do the mannikins hide, and why is it worth killing over?

Drawn together by an attraction neither of them can explain, Justine and Vienna are pursued across Europe by paparazzi, tabloid headlines . . . and the mystery of Vienna’s own shadowy past, which holds the key to everything.


The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

You know how all those old fairy tales take you through lots of scary adventures till you finally reach that inevitable line: "And they lived happily ever after..." Guess what? It's not true. Life in never-never land isn't all sweetness and light. Cinderella - whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (nee Danielle de Glas) - does marry Prince Armand. And (if you can ignore the pigeon incident) their wedding is a dream-come-true.

But not long after the "happily ever after," Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia - otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty - comes to the rescue (she's a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.

That's when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her very own Secret Service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy-duty flirting.

Can three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland's most nefarious villains?


Brutal Passions by J.E. Keep & M. Keep

“You don’t take it easy on a fella, do you?”

Ruki’s powerful. Strong. And she's on an adventure of her very own, seeking out greatness and tales worthy of song.

She thirsts for glory, and when she stumbles upon a pretty young man in the wreckage of a caravan, it's the beginning of the biggest challenge in her life. Can she save the boy or will she instead be tempted by the muscle-bound dragon-warrior that's in pursuit of him?


The Atomic Sea: Volume One by Jack Conner

Epic adventure in a strange world by bestselling author Jack Conner. A thousand years ago, the sea began to change, and the change spread. Now the boiling, toxic, lightning-wreathed Atomic Sea has encompassed every ocean on the planet, and the creatures that live in it have become mutated and unnatural. The sea's taint can infect any human who comes in contact with it or with unprocessed seafood, killing them . . . or altering them. No one knows why the sea has become this way or what it portends, only that it's irrevocably changed the world.

Meanwhile, world war has erupted, and the small country of Ghenisa, like many others, is tottering on the brink of collapse under the onslaught of the Empire of Octung. Dr. Francis Avery, a middle-aged widower, is aboard a military whaling ship far out on the Atomic Sea when a series of murders onboard propels him down the rabbit-hole of danger and terror unlike any other. Soon he becomes aware of a spy on the ship, but that's just the beginning. With the help of the grizzled whaler Janx and a mysterious woman named Layanna, he will embark on an epic quest to save Ghenisa from Octung and unravel the secrets of the Atomic Sea. This is the opening volume of a multi-volume saga of adventure and high stakes in an awe-inspiring world unlike any you've ever seen before. Welcome to the world of the Atomic Sea.


Lost Oasis by T.M. Bown

An Ancient Persian army lost in the desert for 2,500 years...the fabulous, legendary lost oasis of Zerzura!

After he discovers a Persian gold coin deep in the Egyptian desert, geologist John Cavanaugh leads a team of archaeologists back to the site, unknowingly triggering the rebirth of a multitude of long forgotten horrors. But as the expedition approaches its goal, Cavanaugh realizes the worst: each of his crew members is along for a different reason. Fame, riches, love, and remnants of a dark past fuel their actions and lead them to individual fates that none of them bargained for.

Lost Oasis is a dark, fast-paced adventure thriller that takes the reader on two unique safaris 2,500 years apart, through a surreal, malevolent desert where they encounter friendship and betrayal, ambition and oblivion, discovery and loss, joy and terror, love and death.

TM Bown is a PhD consulting geologist who has participated on 48 overseas expeditions, including twenty-two seasons in Egypt and ten elsewhere in the Middle East. In addition to his geologic studies, he has co-authored four articles on the oldest road in the world (IV Dynasty of Pharaonic Egypt), and he was scientific consultant for the English Channel 4 TV Documentary Series “Ends of the Earth” on the 2002 program, entitled The Lost Army of King Cambyses. Dr. Bown lives near Denver, Colorado, where he is working on a second novel which also partly takes place in ancient Egypt.

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.

Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey continues to be my read of leisure, and while it had a slow start, I'm really enjoying where the story is taking us; The Crimson Corset by Alistair Cross has a more leisurely pace than I expected at the start, but it's a fascinating small-town vampire tale; and finally I've decided to throw caution to the wind, ignore release dates, and dive into Crimson Shore by Preston & Child simply because I can.


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, August 28, 2015

WTF Friday: Naked Serial Killers in Volkswagens by Catfish McDaris

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't get a lot of press, and which rarely get any retail shelf space.



They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

This week we're once again turning the WTF keys over to Donald, who reviews the funniest book he's read in a long time . . .


Catfish McDaris takes us on a cross country train ride in just because. Is this an "auto biography" with some slap stick, bizarro humor? If you know a few things about the man they call "Catfish McDaris" then you will actually draw a mental picture of his main character Barge. Along the way on this crazy adventure Barge comes across one of those famous serial killers naked in a different color Volkswagen, like a "Forest Gump" scene digitally placed into the moment.

A man named Barge - his friends call him Bag - is dubbed the one for a mission. After a tribe takes him under their wing and helps him defeat some strange man eating creatures, Barge starts his cross country train ride.....sex, drugs and just out of this world rock and roll.

Twin sisters who makes sandwiches wiping their bodily fluids on the bread, shaved armpit and vagina hairs, masturbating with vacuum attachments, A recipe for a party goer that won't go home, toilet paper soaked in hot pepper juices, dicks sliced off by a lawn mower and stitched back on. All this and much more and the ending question.....Whatever happen to Barge?

Read this humor, gut wrenching entertainment with cameos from David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy & Charles Manson (to name a few) in one helluva ride.


Paperback, 50 pages
Published August 15th 2015 by Weekly Weird Monthly

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: The Last Mortal Bond 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.

The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley
Expected publication: March 15th 2016 by Tor Books

The climactic third and final novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne

The trilogy that began with The Emperor's Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire.

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all--Valyn, Adare, and Kaden--come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.


Yes, we're looking ahead to next Spring already. Brian announced on Facebook last week that the book is finished and off to the copyeditor, 12 years after he began work on the trilogy. It's already available for pre-order, and the first 2 books were amazing, so what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fantasy Review: The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic (GIVEAWAY)

Although it shares the same world as The Iron Wolves and The White Towers, Andy Remic's first book in The Blood Dragon Empire is an entirely different. While those books were very much high-stakes epic fantasies, complete with massive battles and bloodshed, The Dragon Engine is more of a traditional quest tale - albeit one that subverts the usual tropes.

For starters, our heroes seem to be the typical gang of adventurers - complete with barbarian, archer, cleric, assassin, and more - but they're actually retired war veterans whose quest days are comfortably behind them. As it turns out, one of them is dying of cancer, one is drinking his sorrows away, and several are nursing broken hearts. While all but one would have turned down an adventure based solely on greed, they find a common purpose in seeking out a magical cure for their dying companion.

While you don't need any prior knowledge of the two Rage of Kings novels to enjoy this, fans will be pleased to discover that King Yoon is still in control, and as debauched as ever. He has serious competition for the most over-the-top, scene-chewing villain however, in the form of First Cardinal Skalg, High Priest of the Church of Hate. While the Dwarves here are hearty and stoic, as you'd expect, they're also sadistically prejudiced against the surface, exceptionally cruel, and on the brink of civil war. They're also presumed long-extinct, which poses a challenge for our heroes, who intend to help themselves to their forgotten treasures.

Where the story takes a sharp left turn in terms of both plot and tone is in the second half of the novel, following the heroes arrival beneath the mountain. What began a fun adventures becomes very dark, very quickly, as our heroes are taken captive. Without saying too much, the torture they endure at the hands of the Dwarves is not for the squeamish - it's cruel, it's painful, and it crosses lines that will make some readers very uncomfortable. What's important is that it's not done merely for shock value. Remic has established his heroes, exposed their faults and their flaws, and also pointed out their all-too-human weaknesses. It's important that they be tested, if not broken, if they're to shake off the complacency of retirement and become the heroes that the world needs once again.

The final chapters are some of the most powerful Remic has ever written, with the core conflicts coming together in a climactic clash. It is here that the true significance of the The Dragon Engine comes clear, leaving us with a cliffhanger that poses a dire threat for the world above. It is a very different story arc than the Rage of Kings, but readers who appreciate a more mature, more adult, no-hold-barred kind of fantasy that rivals any big screen R-rated action flick will once again find a lot to enjoy here.

Bring on Twilight of the Dragons!


ebook, 267 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2015 by Angry Robot

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 honest review.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

GIVEAWAY

Thanks to the awesome gang at Angry Robot Books, we have five (5) copies of The Dragon Engine to giveaway to some lucky readers (winner's choice of paperback or e-book). Enter below . . . and good luck!


Andy Remic on Unashamedly Edgy Fantasy (GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY)

Has there been a shift towards an edgier, sexier, more violent side of fantasy?

My fantasy novels are unashamedly edgy, often containing anti-heroes or downright villains as “heroes”. These characters are dangerous, realistic, violent, extremely violent, they often swear and fight and have copious amounts of sex. There are monsters who eat through spines, bite off heads, and are exterminated in bloody showers of bone, gristle and brain slop.

My own fantasy reading is currently David Gemmell, Joe Abercrombie and Richard Morgan. Abercrombie and Morgan especially are considered “edgy and violent”, and I’d argue Gemmell’s fantasy has its fair share of violent conflict – just look at dark characters like Waylander, Jarek Mace or even Druss. I’ve also recently been reading Monument by Ian Graham, which has a drunken vagrant as central protagonist (so hardly sexy, but definitely edgy and violent) and Richard Ford and John Gwynne also refuse to pull their punches in the edgy and violent stakes.

My childhood reading, the texts which influenced me to write fantasy during my formative years, began with Tolkien, followed by Magician by Raymond E. Feist, and these were soon superseded by Moorcock, Gemmell, and Peter Morwood’s The Horse Lord, The Demon Lord, The Dragon Lord and The Warlord’s Domain. I lapped up books like The War of Powers by Robert E. Vardeman and Victor Milan. I read the Split Infinity series by Piers Anthony, which flipped between SF and fantasy settings. There were the Spellsinger books by Alan Dean Foster, the Shannara books by Terry Brooks and the (now much criticised) Gor books by John Norman. I also imbibed the entirety of Howard’s Conan novels, and set about devouring anything by Robert Holdstock.

Now, some of my formative reading could be considered “tame” by today’s standards. What I’ve noticed predominantly is the change in language, with more explicit violence and definitely more explicit swearing. But are today’s novels really that much more edgy, sexier and more violent? Conan took zero crap from anybody, and his sword smashed enough skulls to bloody shards to give me violent excited dreams for months. Morwood’s books had the brooding, very dangerous (and very honourable) Aldric Talvalin as main protagonist, a man about as violent as one could write. As I mentioned, Gemmell’s work was filled with dark heroes and violence, the odd sex scene and some very edgy characters. Yes, the Shannara novels were as twee as the Tolkien books they so desperately wanted to be, but if you’ve read The Dancers at the End of Time by Moorcock you’ll know you can’t get much more decadent than the characters and situations therein.

Currently, there are a slew of edgy, sexy, violent novels, but there are also plenty of more traditional fantasy works, with authors like Juliette McKenna and Ian Irvine leaping specifically to mind. And that’s without mentioning the late, great Terry Pratchett, who achieved wonders in his books without “edge”, “sex” or even “ violence”. If this were a topic on a set of ancient weighing scales, I’d say the balance may well have tipped gently from one side to the other, but thankfully there are enough great writers out there to provide fantasy to satisfy everybody’s taste, no matter how much edge you want in your fantasy pie.

Andy Remic, August 2015

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

About the Author

Andy Remic is a British writer with a love of ancient warfare, mountain climbing and sword fighting. Once a member of the Army of Iron, he has since retired from a savage world of blood-oil magick and gnashing vachines, and works as an underworld smuggler of rare dog-gems in the seedy districts of Falanor. In his spare time, he writes out his fantastical adventures

Get closer to the mayhem at andyremic.com.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

About the Book

The Dragon Engine (The Blood Dragon Empire)
by Andy Remic

Five noble war heroes of Vagandrak get drunk one night and sign a contract – to journey to the Karamakkos in search of the Five Havens where, it is written, there is untold, abandoned wealth and, more importantly, the three Dragon Heads – jewels claimed to give unspeakable power and everlasting life to those who wield them.

But the Dragon Heads aren’t what they think, and the world has not encountered their like in generations!

Think Smaug was fierce? You ain’t seen nothing!


ebook, 267 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2015 by Angry Robot

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

GIVEAWAY

Thanks to the awesome gang at Angry Robot Books, we have five (5) copies of The Dragon Engine to giveaway to some lucky readers (winner's choice of paperback or e-book). Enter below . . . and good luck!


Saturday, August 22, 2015

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

A quiet week on pretty much all fronts, but still some interesting stuff going on (and coming in) . . .


αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

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.

Just one new addition to the review shelves this week, the 4th annual anthology of international speculative fiction from the gang at Apex.

The Apex Book of World SF 4
edited by Mahvesh Murad & Lavie Tidhar

Now firmly established as the benchmark anthology series of international speculative fiction, volume 4 of The Apex Book of World SF sees debut editor Mahvesh Murad bring fresh new eyes to her selection of stories.

From Spanish steampunk and Italian horror to Nigerian science fiction and subverted Japanese folktales, from love in the time of drones to teenagers at the end of the world, the stories in this volume showcase the best of contemporary speculative fiction, wherever it’s written.

"Important to the future of not only international authors, but the entire SF community."
—Strange Horizons

Expected publication: August 25th 2015 by Apex Book Company


As well, just one new digital editions to the must-read shelves, although I have some catching up to do on the first book.

Chasing the Phoenix
by Michael Swanwick

A science fiction masterpiece from a five-time Hugo Award winner!

In the distant future, Surplus arrives in China dressed as a Mongolian shaman, leading a yak which carries the corpse of his friend, Darger. The old high-tech world has long since collapsed, and the artificial intelligences that ran it are outlawed and destroyed. Or so it seems.

Darger and Surplus, a human and a genetically engineered dog with human intelligence who walks upright, are a pair of con men and the heroes of a series of prior Swanwick stories. They travel to what was was once China and invent a scam to become rich and powerful. Pretending to have limited super-powers, they aid an ambitious local warlord who dreams of conquest and once again reuniting China under one ruler. And, against all odds, it begins to work, but it seems as if there are other forces at work behind the scenes. This is a sharp, slick, witty science fiction adventure that is hugely entertaining from one of the best SF writers alive.

Published August 11th 2015 by Tor Books

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.

I finished The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic last night, so watch for my review (along with a guest post from Andy himself) next week. In the meantime, Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey continues to be my read of leisure, while The Crimson Corset by Alistair Cross has my full and undivided attention on the digital front.


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, August 21, 2015

WTF Friday: Muscle Memory by Steve Lowe

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't get a lot of press, and which rarely get any retail shelf space.



They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

I shoulda known something was up when the dog meowed at me.

As so begins a simple little tale that's more Twilight Zone or Tales from the Darkside than what you might expect from the Bizarro genre. Yes, Muscle Memory is fun, twisted, and just a tad perverse, but it's also a thoughtful, deeply reflective tale from the pen of Steve Lowe.

It starts off on a suitably surreal note, with a body swap discovered in bits and pieces, the clues slowly assaulting an already suffering mind. Billy has woken up in the body of his wife, Tina, a new mother suffering from postpartum depression and a strained marriage. The fact that it takes the intervention of his body-swapped neighbors to make him aware of those facts is sad, but the eventual discovery of why his wife lies dead upon their bed, trapped inside his body, is absolutely tragic.

There are most definitely patented moments of Bizarro humor here - Tucker's far-too-long bathroom break of self-exploration, the neighbor who has seemingly confirmed everyone's suspicions by waking up as one of his sheep, and the odd afternoon of drinking among familiar friends in unfamiliar faces at the bar - but they're not the focus. For much of the story, Lowe leads along in search for answers as to how/why it all happened, but that's not the focus either. Ultimately Muscle Memory is a story about what Billy did to deserve it . . . and what he'll take away from the experience.

Paperback, 62 pages
Published October 13th 2010 by Eraserhead Press

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tough Travels with . . . Major Discoveries

Every Thursday, Nathan (over at Fantasy Review Barn) leads the gang in touring the mystical countryside, looking for fun and adventure. His Tough Traveling feature picks one of the most common tropes in fantasy each week, as seen in The Tough Guide to Fantasyland by Diana Wynn Jones, and invites us to join in the adventure. All are invited to take part, so if you're joining the journey late, no worries . . . we'll save you a spot in the caravan.

This week’s tour topic is: Major Discoveries

JWhile often the people of Fantasyland seem stuck in a time warp occasionally a major discovery can shock the land into changes.  Be they new lands, new peoples or new technologies fantasyland thrives on having something to jump start the next age.

I haven't had the time or the opportunity to enjoy our Tough Travels over the past month, and I'm a bit rushed this morning as well, but I couldn't let this one pass me by!
  • The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist: there are several big discoveries in the series, but I'm not sure any compare to the discovery of the Tsurani, the psudeo-Oriental conquerors from another world beyond the Rift.
  • The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence: a key plot device in all three books is the discovery of ancient Builder technology from before whatever apocalyptic event ushered in the world of Jorg Ancrath and his crew.
  • The Dark Tower by Stephen King: the entire quest of Roland and his ka-tet revolves around the search for - and ultimate discovery of - the mysterious Dark Tower that stands at the intersection of worlds.
  • The Realms of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb: although it takes a while for the discovery to happen, and we don't really understand the full implications until later in the saga, the discovery of dragons drives the saga and changes the world.
  • The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan: Given how many times they're found at just the right moment to allow Rand to save himself (and the world), I think you have include the Sa'angreal and Angreal as major discoveries.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight

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

Swords and Scoundrels by Julia Knight
Expected publication: October 6th 2015 by Orbit

Two siblings.
Outcasts for life.... together.
What could possibly go wrong?

Vocho and Kacha are champion duelists: a brother and sister known for the finest swordplay in the city of Reyes. Or at least they used to be-until they were thrown out of the Duelist's Guild.

As a last resort, they turn reluctant highwaymen. But when they pick the wrong carriage to rob, their simple plans to win back fame and fortune go south fast.

After barely besting three armed men and a powerful magician, Vocho and Kacha make off with an immense locked chest. But the contents will bring them much more than they've bargained for when they find themselves embroiled in a dangerous plot to return an angry king to power....

Swords and Scoundrels is the first book in The Duelist's Trilogy -- a tale of death, magic, and family loyalty.


Admittedly, I don't know much about Knight, other than the fact that she seems to have built her career on period fantasy, but this sounds like a lot of fun - and I like the fact that the entire trilogy is done, ready to go, and scheduled to publish over the last 3 months of the year.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Sci-Fi Review: Dragon's Destiny by Alex J. Cavanaugh

At the request of a fan who wanted a happier ending to Dragon of the Stars (which I reviewed back in February), Alex J. Cavanaugh actually sat down and crafted a 4,500 word epilogue to provide a little additional closure.

The story itself is not for sale, so don't go looking for it on Amazon. Instead, it's available free of charge to anybody who read the book. You can check out Alex's blog post for more details, but I think it's a very cool sort of 'gift' for the fans.

Dragon's Destiny is not a story I can really review without getting deep into spoiler territory for the book before. After all, you need to understand the dark, bittersweet ending there to appreciate what Alex has done here. I will say, however, that he manages to write a convincing, uplifting epilogue that doesn't take away from the sacrifices that led us to this point. It's a complete shift in tone, of course, but that's entirely the point.

As Alex says at the start, Dragon's Destiny is "for those who believe in happily ever after..."

The Ultimate Zombie Warrior

In a follow up to our posts on Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse and How to Zombie Proof Your Apartment, we've got another cool infographic . . . just in time for new Walking Dead!

We all know killing zombies is no easy task. According to popular films, TV shows and books, the undead can be quite resilient. It’s best to aim for the head and decapitate the undead. To do this, you need an effective melee weapon, many of which are available on Amazon, possibly eBay or even in your local hardware store. Here are the ones used by your favorite movie heroes, along with a kill count analysis that helps us determine just who is the Ultimate Zombie Warrior.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

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

Another busy week of reading and reviewing, with a few fantastic titles!


αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

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 to balance out last week's haul, with only a few new digital titles . . .

The Renegade by Amy Dunne

In this post-apocalyptic world, you have a choice: survive as a slave or fight for your freedom.

The Red Death pandemic wiped out most of the human population, and the world that remains is dangerous and unforgiving. Survivor Alex Clarke and her companions are rescued after a vicious attack and welcomed into the Rapture’s Haven Camp. Although given medical treatment, food, shelter, and protection, Alex senses something sinister lurking beneath the camp’s friendly exterior.

Camp medic Evelyn Bennett is instinctively drawn to Alex and warns her that the camp is a dangerous cult and the women are slaves. While planning to escape, their secret relationship is discovered. Escape is no longer possible. They must fight for their freedom—or die trying.


Boston Corpse by Wol-vriey

MAGIC CAN BE MURDER!!! 

Drag queen Lucy Tang is back in Boston, and is hell-bent on settling her vendetta against casino owner Sookie Ling. And suddenly, Bud Malone, PI, has the case of his life to resolve.

When Boston's robot police force are baffled by a mind transfer case, they come to Malone for help.

The one person who can likely help Malone out here is the witch Soledad Bathory. But Soledad seems to know a lot more than she's telling him.

It's a case not made easier when Malone meets Soledad's beautiful cousin, Josephine 'Slave' Bailey. Slave has her own plans for Malone, most of which involve teaching him BDSM and making him her new Master.

Oh, and Rick Rogers owes Sookie Ling a whole lot of money, a gambling debt that's going to be literally Hell to pay!

Boston Corpse--Not your average detective novel!


We did hit Chapters-Indigo this weekend, where I picked up a few titles and, thanks to my awesome wife, a Nightmare Yahtzee set. A Crown for Cold Silver didn't work for me as a digital review title, but I wanted to give it a second chance as a physical book - fantasy always works better when I can feel the heft of it. The Fifth Season is a must-read that I was unable to land as a review title, while Property of  Lady Faire was a pure impulse buy.


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.

Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey continues to be my read of leisure, the paperback I reach for when sitting on the deck or watching my little guy at the park. On the e-reader front, I have 2 titles competing very nicely for my attention - The Crimson Corset by Alistair Cross is turning out to be exactly the dangerously sexy vampire thriller I was hoping for, while The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic is turning out to be unrelentingly violent epic fantasy I've come to expect.


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, August 14, 2015

WTF Friday: The Future of Sex by Lexi Maxxwell

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't get a lot of press, and which rarely get any retail shelf space.



They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!


In the hyperconnected and artificial-intelligence-enhanced future, sex is like a cyberpunk video game: a realm where no desire is left unexplored, and even the unimaginable is possible.

For a book that's literally titled The Future of Sex, Lexi Maxxwell's initial slice of sci-fi erotica (the first in a series) is surprisingly human. There is some very cool technology involved, and some interesting details about our recovery from a post-apocalyptic future, but it all hinges on one very human (yet very special) young woman.

There's no doubt Chloe Shaw has potential, and may develop more in future installments, but she's a cold protagonist for such a sensual tale. She might as well be some impossibly sophisticated sex doll for all the personality she exhibits, but there's no doubt that her thoughts, emotions, and experiences are of the flesh-and-blood variety. Only a few years removed from being a virgin, with more dances than dalliances under her belt, she uses her mother's legacy to get herself a 'spa girl' interview, and is set up for testing. Against all odds, she not only reader her client perfectly, but demonstrates an intuitive grasp of an ultra-secret new sexual technology that surpasses even those trained on it.

It's the conflicts between human and machine, and between what's in our had and what's between our legs that drives the tale. Chloe makes use of the technologies available to enhance the experience and truly deliver for her clients, but she succeeds because of her intuitive ability to read them, read the situation, and determine exactly how far to push them (and in what direction). She's no laid back, submissive sex worker, but a strong, independent, confrontational young woman. She goes against everybody's expectations, dregs up painful memories, insults her clients, and challenges them to interact with her on a personal level . . . before taking her seductive talents to grasp the emotions so deftly exposed.

As for the technology and the world-building, it's thoroughly entertaining. O Corporation is a company built on sex, porn, and pleasure. Doors, walls, ceilings, and floors are all transparent, allowing for the most intimate of observations. Executives in three-piece suits sit around a conference table, surrounding by sex acts just a pane of glass away, and discuss the business side of pleasure. Gene therapy and physical enhancements make it impossible to know what anybody truly looks like, while synthetic implants and nanobots combine to enhance every nuance of the sexual experience.

The Future of Sex asks a lot of questions and sets up more than a few mysteries, suggesting there is plenty left to be explored. It's a sexy slice of sci-fi and a smart slice of erotica, clinical at times and sensual at others. Worth the read if you're at all curious.


Kindle Edition, 68 pages
Published December 18th 2014 by Sterling & Stone

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Horror Review: The Fifth House of the Heart by Ben Tripp

When it comes to a great read (as opposed to a good one), timing can be everything. I tend to be a somewhat moody reader, and there are times where I'll put something aside until I feel like I'm in the right mood for it. Such was the case with The Fifth House of the Heart. I started in on it back in July, and it just wasn't working for me, but gave it another shot last week . . . and was completely blown away.

At the risk of sounding pretentious, this is just a marvelous read!

Forget what you know about vampires or the urban fantasy genre, because Ben Tripp isn't interested in covering the tropes or playing to your expectations. This is a fiercely original horror-themed adventure that doesn't make the mistake of feeling like a deliberate attempt to subvert the genre. Instead, it comes across as a natural, fun sort of evolution of the original concept, one that rides the crimson wave of the character personalities.

Asmodeus “Sax” Saxon-Tang, protagonist and narrator, is the heart of the novel - and a study in human contrasts. He's a kindly, greedy, cowardly old man who is fiercely protective of both his loves and his acquisitions. Sax is a man who trembles at the prospect of danger, but who stands tall in the face of it. He proudly embraces the stereotype of the gay antique dealer, but his honest flamboyance is also a means of compensating for the fact that he's too old to play the game of seduction. Sax has lived a long and lustful life, and enjoys dropping names of his celebrity conquests, but has been reduced to idle dreams and half-hearted teasing of his "piece of Italian beefcake." He's embarrassing, amusing, and very often exasperating, but he's also a sincerely good man who you can't help but befriend through the page.

For a novel that's as much a horror story and vampire hunt as a tomb-raiding heist comedy, the supporting cast of characters are suitably diverse. Paolo is the young, innocent, virginal monk whom the Vatican assigns to help the old, sexually experienced gay man hunt down the vampire. Yes, it's a deliberately exaggerated odd couple scenario, but one that's . . . well, heart-warming and entertaining. Min is their Korean vampire killer with a tragic past, while Nilu is the Bollywood dancer (and vampire victim) with a tragic future. Rock is the gang's tough guy, a well-armed, well-muscled man who is far friendlier than his appearances would suggest, while Gheorghe is their hired thief, a Romanian burglar who is as cold and crass as you'd expect a man like Rock to be. Abingdon is a late-comer to the party, but he was a favorite character - "a drunken, sword-swinging medieval womanizer" who is as adept in the forge or on the field of mock battle as he is in bed. The only character who rang false for me was Emily, the impossibly beautiful, naive young niece of Sax who serves more as a plot device than a necessary member of the team.

Although Sax may be about as far from an Indiana Jones or Dirk Pitt character as you can get, nobody raids a tomb (or haunted castle) as well as he does. The frantic, panicked chase through the booby-trapped mansion of the mysterious Madame Magnat-l’Étrange may be the most fun I've had in the pages of a book in years. Sax is all too aware of the clichés, and calls them out along the way, but that does nothing to protect them from the guillotine windows, crashing chandeliers, and hidden passageways. The excavation of Prince Křesomysl's underground lair is suspenseful, claustrophobic, terrifying - and gorgeous. The fully furnished cave mansion is such a cool sort of setting, completely out of place so deep underground, but the uncapped well and rushing swamp waters beneath are even more exciting to explore. Finally, the climactic infiltration, attack, and escape from the hilltop castle Mordstein in Germany offers up some of those intense, exciting moments of the novel. It's probably the most classic looking and feeling vampire lairs we encounter - at least until Tripp throws one last twist our way.

I'd be remiss, of course, if I didn't say a few words about the vampires of Tripp's world. They are not just bloodthirsty, undead humans, but an older, primordial sort of monster that takes on the aspects of its food. Those who feed regularly upon humanity look and act the most human, but their gender is determined solely by those on who the feed - and can change over time if they switch their victim preferences. As for those locked away in subterranean tombs, denied access to humanity . . . well, they are the true monsters of the story. The spider vampire from Rock's past is absolutely terrifying, and if the idea of a giant toad vampire sounds amusing, then you haven't seen it bite off the heads of your friends and allies with a single snap of its mouth. Although they've no mortal origin or religious weakness, the watching, tracking, and extermination of the falls to a secret arm of the Catholic church - the Ordine dei Cavalieri Sacri dei Teutonici e dei Fiamminghi, Special Branch.

From beginning to end, The Fifth House of the Heart is just a perfect novel that adeptly blends genres and mythologies. It's guaranteed not to be the novel you expect, and that's a big part of its charm. It's terrifying, humorous, adventurous, and charming, but most of all it's entertaining. Allow Sax to draw you into his tale, chuckle and gasp alongside him, and be sure to thank Tripp for the introduction.


Paperback, 400 pages
Published July 28th 2015 by Gallery 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 honest review.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea

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

Koko the Mighty by Kieran Shea
Expected publication: August 25th 2015 by Titan Books

With an outstanding Ultimate Sanction bounty still on her head, Koko Martstellar (ex-mercenary and saloon madam extraordinaire) and Jedidiah Flynn (former orbital sky-cop) have narrowly escaped death in paradise.  Rescued during a storm, Koko and Flynn are taken in by what amounts to a self-sufficient outlander cult. To save Flynn’s life, Koko barters her warrior skills and assists the de-civ group in fending off their most imminent threat: a horde of genetic-mutant raiders. However, even with the group’s foes bested and their idealist lifestyle somewhat enticing, being among the outlander de-civs doesn’t sit well with Koko.

In spite of  the de-civ group’s hospitality and Flynn’s arguing that they have it pretty good, Koko suspects something is amiss. People within the outlander group’s interlocking compounds keep disappearing with flimsy explanations—people like the girl who died on the cliff before Koko and Flynn’s rescue—and soon the group’s leadership assesses Koko as a threat to their secret agenda. As the mystery unfolds, Koko’s limits and loyalties—perhaps even her love for Flynn—will be tested.

And as if that isn’t enough, bounty agent Wire has managed to track down Koko and, after a little politicking, is preparing to lead an army of genetic-mutant raiders in a last-man-standing battle against the cult . . .


I finally picked up a paperback copy of the first book a few months ago, so we'll have to see if I can get caught up in time. It sounds like precisely the kind of over-the-top, kick-ass diversion I need.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Fantasy Review: Twelve Kings in Sharakhai by Bradley P. Beaulieu

Being a late-comer to the Lays of Anuskaya (the trilogy is still on my TBR list), Twelve Kings in Sharakhai serves as my first real introduction to the work of Bradley P. Beaulieu - and I was not disappointed.

Initially, I was a bit hesitant about the book, based not on Beaulieu's reputation, but on the book's setting. I'm a traditionalist at heart, with a love for the sprawling forests and towering mountains of epic fantasy, so the recent trend towards desert fantasy has presented something of a challenge. Fortunately, Beaulieu knows precisely what to do with that setting, and exactly how to develop it.

The world-building here is quite remarkable - beginning with the sand-locked ports. Yes, he has developed an entire system of sand-sailing ships that skim across the desert, tacking against the wind, and riding out the storms. He pockets the desert with magical oases, populates them trees and flowers that have almost magical herbal properties, and protects them with a mysterious monster known as the asir. As for Sharakhai, it is a proper city, complete with slums, bazaars, royal gardens, fighting pits, and even hilltop castles. It's a setting that's entirely new, but which still feels familiar. In terms of culture, politics, and mythology, the world-building is equally remarkable. It takes a while for those aspects to really develop, but the mystery of the Twelve Kings and their monstrous asir carries much of the story, and I quite liked the slow reveal of the humanity beneath the legends.

World-building aside, this is Çeda's story - and she is one of the most intriguing protagonists to cross the page in years. We first meet her as a masked fighter in the pits, before following her home to a life of feigned age and weakness in the slums. She's a study in contrasts, playing up (or down) her strengths and weaknesses as the situation dictates. Weighed down by a tragic past and a difficult life, she lives to avenge her mother's death and take down the Twelve Kings who caused it. Ironically, that single-minded pursuit lives under the shadow of a vision that's promised her the sword of a Blade Maiden - those who protect the Twelve Kings themselves. I guessed at some of the truths behind that impossible mystery, but still appreciated the way Beaulieu brought us to the reveal . . . and developed the story beyond it. She's not alone in carrying the story - Ramahd and Meryam are particularly fascinating additions to the story - but reader reactions will hinge on how they take to her.

If I were to have one complaint about the book, it would be the pacing. The story has a very slow beginning; it often wanders off on tangents (that, while fascinating, do distract from the narrative); it hits a lull around the mid-point; and it makes frequent use of flashbacks (not just scenes, but entire chapters). All of that does present a bit of a challenge for a reader. It's a book of layers upon layers, and everything eventually settles together, allowing the reader to see through (and between) those layers to appreciate the significance of each. Patience is ultimately rewarded, but there's a risk some readers may be lost along the way.

Twelve Kings in Sharakhai is a story that's dark in theme, ambitious in scope, and intricate in plotting. There are two particular twists that work very well to unsettle the reader, and the emphasis on Çeda's perspective keeps things intimate, even within an epic framework. All-in-all, a solid work of epic fantasy that doesn't just settle for doing something different, but makes those differences relevant.


Hardcover, 592 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2015 by DAW

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 honest review.