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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fantasy Review: Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb

Wow. I finished this over the weekend, and I am still struggling to find the right words to convey what a massive emotional impact it had on me. Assassin's Fate is everything I could have asked of Robin Hobb - an entirely satisfying conclusion to not just the story of FitzChivalry Farseer, but that of the entire Realms of the Elderlings and all its interconnected works.

This is a book of Farseers, Fools, White Prophets, Liveships, Dragons, are more. It's as if everything that Hobb has ever teased or hinted at before is finally realized here. Not content to merely rip out our hearts, she tears the entire world asunder, ensuring that no corner of the Six Duchies will rise from the ashes of Fitz's final story unchanged. Let there be no mistake, this is a book of endings. Yes, there are new beginnings to be found as well, but Assassin's Fate marks the end of so many characters and storylines that it's easy to miss some of them.

I will be honest, it hurt to see Fitz and the Fool at such odds in this series, and that pain only gets deeper here. The closer they get to realizing their thirst for revenge, the more fractured their relationship becomes. He's always known that the Fool lies, holds back, and plays things close to the chest, but it's only here that Fitz feels the true sting of well-meaning deception. What's more, as much as the loss of Bee has already driven a definite wedge between them, the discovery that she may still be alive only serves to splinter that wedge and drive it in deeper. There is a lot of guilt and sorrow here, on both sides, and the way Hobb finally resolves that conflict . . . well, I refuse to spoil it, but I will say it does a beautiful job of bringing the entire story full circle, with a climax that's quietly significant, rather than explosively tragic.

In reading this final volume, I find myself gaining a new appreciation for its first installment, a book I was rather hard on at the time. While I still feel Fool's Assassin had some pacing issues, I now understand what Hobb was doing with the characters. It was clear from the start that they had aged, changing drastically in the process, but it's taken three books to understand the how, the why, and the how much. The more we learn about Fitz, the Fool, and Bee . . . the more we understand how their fates intersect . . . the more recognize who they really are . . . the bigger their shared story becomes. I still feel as if Chade was set aside a little too easily, but I loved the way Hobb allowed Queen Kettricken and Thick to slip back into the story, all part of bringing so many things full circle. As for Bee, I resented her in the first book and barely tolerated her in the second, but here she becomes a heroine of note, still hard to like, but easy to admire.

Much of this story is a journey, but it's deeper than the waters of the Rain Wilds themselves. There's a dual significance to just about every scene, a story that we read upon the surface, and a story that we feel beneath the waves. I wish I could say more about the Liveships, the Dragons, and their connections to far-off Clerres, but that's something to be discovered in the course of the story. Like I said earlier, hints are exposed and secrets revealed, and done so in such a way that we almost feel as if we should have already guessed at them, yet cannot deny the skill with which Hobb uncovers each one. You don't necessarily need to have read The Liveship Traders Trilogy or The Rain Wilds Chronicles to enjoy this final volume, but you'll certainly miss out on some of the significance.

Robin Hobb books take a lot of patience, focus, and thought to appreciate. Her stories are not easy ones, and the emotions they provoke are not always the ones we'd like to take away from an escapist fantasy. Despite the dragons, the prophecies, and the magic of both Skill and Wit, these are human stories, well-grounded in the human experience. As such, Assassin's Fate is the final chapter in a long life, well-lived, a story that many of us have aged with, and while we never want to let go of friends, sometimes it's clear that it's time.

Hardcover, 976 pages
Expected publication: May 4th 2017 by Harper Voyager

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.

Saturday, February 25, 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.



I'm still trying to keep a tight rein on the review pile, but this week I finally picked up a long-awaited title from my P.O. Box; I was offered a thriller I couldn't turn down and a sequel I've been eagerly anticipating; and I requested a mid-summer release that caught my eye.

Skullsworn by Brian Staveley [April 25th 2017]
Brian Staveley’s new standalone returns to the critically acclaimed Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne universe, following a priestess-assassin for the God of Death


The Only Child by Andrew Pyper [May 23rd 2017]
radically reimagines the origins of Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula, in a contemporary novel 


The Tower of Zhaal by C.T. Phipps [January 22nd 2017]
the second novel of the Cthulhu Armageddon series, a post-apocalypse continuation of H.P. Lovecraft's popular Cthulhu Mythos


Dead On Arrival by Matt Richtel [August 1st 2017]
A mysterious disorder threatens to destroy the world in this high-concept thriller, which combines medical science, cutting-edge technology, and breathtaking suspense


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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.

A fresh start on the review pile this week, with Brian Staveley's Skullsworn a no-brainer for my next paperback read, and a trio of books jockeying for my digital attention - Kristopher Rufty's Something Violent, A.C. Wise' The Kissing Booth Girl and Other Stories, and by David Gibbins' Testament.



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, February 24, 2017

WTF Friday: Green Tea & Monsters at Closing Time

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.



A pair of reviews to mark the final Friday of February, both featuring frequent faces in the Ruins.

Told in the present-tense, with short, simple sentences that give it a sense of urgency, The Green Tea Heist is a story that starts weird, and then only gets weirder. Donald Armfield mixes mob heist with zombie horror and splatterpunk erotica, creating a twisted tale that's more than just a guilty pleasure.

It all begins with a truck load of toxic waste, a distracted driver, and a crooked sheriff. The story then shifts to incorporate a modern day pirate, a mob family, and the scientists who connect them all. Stealing a rare diamond from a cruise ship should be easy, but toss in a zombie plague, and suddenly you've got yourself a story.

The Green Tea Heist is a crazy-ass story - violent and disgusting, with sex-crazed zombies who feel no pain, and who will go to any extreme to satiate their taste for the most tender of human flesh. If you ever doubt that Donald (or certain parts of human anatomy) could go there . . . oh, they do indeed.

Kindle Edition
Published February 5th 2017 by Riot Forge


Right down to the title, which could have been lifted from a lost episode, Don't The Monsters All Get Scarier At Closing Time reads like a darker, more violent episode of the Twilight Zone. You know there's a bit twist coming, right from the start, but watching the story develop through its two characters is where the magic happens.

"Could you love something so hideous and offensive that it made you ill to look at it?"

Terry M. West opens the story with that strange, simple question, and keeps coming back to it over the course of the story. Every time Violet asks the question, the tension builds, and every time Russell delays an answer, the dread builds along with it. I won't say anything more about the story itself, but I will say that the climax pays off perfectly, with just the right amount of horror, gore, and monstrosity.

Kindle Edition
Published February 19th 2017 by Pleasant Storm Entertainment

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cover Reveal: Summerwode by J Tullos Hennig

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

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

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

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


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About the Book

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

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Or find J Tullos Hennig on Goodreads or Facebook

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Stories have power.

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

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


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

Monday, February 20, 2017

Fantasy Review: Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

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

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



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

    


Edifice Abandoned by Scott Michael Decker


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

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



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, February 17, 2017

WTF Friday: Awaken Me Darkly by Gena Showalter

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Skullsworn by Brian Staveley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Saturday, February 11, 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.



With the stress of selling/buying a house and being rendered effectively homeless by the endless viewings, I've temporarily closed the Ruins to unsolicited review titles, but I did have one request fulfilled this week:

Assassin's Fate by Robin Hobb
[May 9th 2017 by Harper Voyager]
The final book in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy. 'Nuff said.


New additions to the WTF Friday shelves this week included:

Green Tea Heist by Donald Armfield
A body horror, Splatterpunk, Zombie, Erotica that will give a whole new meaning to HIT THE DECK!


Deadman's Tome No Safe Word
No Safe Word might just be the most deplored and debaucherous piece of filth Deadman's Tome has ever released


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

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



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, February 10, 2017

WTF Friday: Battering the Stem & That F'N Guy

Well, another WTF Friday is upon us, which means we once again turn the Ruins over to those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.



This week's literary diversions come courtesy of long-time contributor, Donald Armfield.

Take the movie Clerks, throw it behind a restaurant counter, ask 'em what kind of condiments they would like in your best urban street talk, and you kinda have Battering the Stem in a nutshell.

Urban crime over the counter of a restaurant tastes so good until all it's secrets are revealed. Bob Freville's book is packed with dark comic, raw street dialect and an ending that sneaks right out the backdoor. Get your order in before all hell breaks loose.

Paperback, 125 pages
Published December 5th 2016 by Bizarro Pulp Press


That Fucking Guy guy can't seem to get a break. From the start of his day until the end of this story you'll just see how bad a day can go. The mutant armies have an interesting battle within them and the sensitive culinary sea creatures I found to be rather funny.

Kent Hill has made bizarro adventurous madness into a not so good day, but the laughter and bad penis joke/chokes holds it ground and That Fucking Guy is on the other side of the weirdness to come.

Paperback, 138 pages
Published September 2nd 2016 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Catching up with the review pile . . .

I used to feel bad about these catch-up posts, but I've actually come to like them. There's a definite appeal in getting straight to the point and talking about my reaction to the text. What's more, I have a lot going on right now, not the least of which is trying to clean/fix/sell our house while looking for a new one, which means my free time is severely limited.

If not for these catch-up posts (which have been generally well-received), I'd have to give serious thought to putting the blog on hiatus for a few months, and I'd rather not go that far.


The Feast of All Souls by Simon Bestwick
This was a decent, old school horror novel, complete with supernatural scares and creepy kids. It was genuinely unsettling at times, and that's exactly what I look for in a horror novel. I loved the depth of background behind Alice's house and mystery of the town surrounding it. Not all of the supporting characters worked for me - sometimes the small town quirkiness felt forced - but they played their roles well.

Most importantly, the villain here was genuinely evil and suitably menacing. There weren't a lot of surprises surrounding him (horror fans will find the story predictable at times), but I will admit that the ending pulled a few twists that I didn't see coming. Complex and creepy, this is definitely worth a read.


Eric Olafson, Space Pirate by Vanessa Ravencroft
The premise of this sounded fantastic, and the early reviews were all overwhelmingly positive, but I honestly couldn't get beyond the first few chapters. Something about the style of writing clashed with my brain. I suspect it was meant to sound quirky and odd, but it just came across as unpolished and awkward. Try as I might, and I even skimmed a few chapters deeper into the story, I just couldn't find my way into the text. Like I said, it has some good reviews, and it was an Inkitt 'Story Peek' winner, so don't let my experience discourage you, but I just couldn't finish this.


The King's Tournament by John Yeo Jr.
With the promise of "a rogue, a gorgon, a lusty centaur woman, a barbarian, a deformed lunatic, a professional henchman, a disgraced aristocrat and a beautiful slave girl," I went into this with some rather high hopes, and I'm pleased to say I enjoyed it accordingly. It's a rather simple tale at its heart, with a grand tournament at its heart, but there is a depth to the characters and their backstories that lends it significance.

Personally, I found Gorman (the henchman) and Terrance (the rogue) the most entertaining of the lot, but it was Oira (the gorgon) and Cyrus (the lunatic) who intrigued me the most with their tragic stories and unorthodox role in such a grand tournament. Overall, I'm pleased to say the story was actually deeper and more developed than I expected, a legitimate fantasy, rather than just the pulp adventure I assumed was before me.


Dead on the Bones: Pulp on Fire by Joe R. Lansdale
Much to my disappointment, this was another DNF collection for me. I've never actually read any of Lansdale's stuff, despite my best intentions, so this seemed like a perfect entry into the pulp side of his world (which interests me far more than his more popular Hap and Leonard tales). With influences ranging from Burrough & Howard to Poe & Lovecraft, this should have been a perfect read for me, but everything I read fell flat. They were dry, humorless stories that simply tried too hard to recapture that classic sense of pulp. I found myself bored, and struggling harder each time to pick it back up and try another story, until I finally gave in an accepted that it wasn't for me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

An Introduction to Mythos Christos by Edwin Herbert (Guest Post)

When the email request for Mythos Christos arrived in my inbox, I very nearly deleted it. At a glance, the subject line was far too reminiscent of recent pitches for books like Nonsense of a High Order - The Confused World of Modern Atheism, but its careful syntax caught my eye - particularly its emphasis on the "Facts of History" and "Face of Religion."

So, I opened it, and gave it a read. The promise of a fast-paced, controversial, Da Vinci Code-reminiscent work centering around the Library of Alexandria intrigued me; the cover blurb excited me; and the publicist's listing of its key themes sold me. Watch for my review in the coming weeks but, in the meantime, please allow me to introduce the author, Edwin Herbert.


MYTHOS CHRISTOS
by Edwin Herbert

The year 391: Roman Emperor Theodosius issues a decree that only one religion would hence be recognized—Christianity. Pagan worship will no longer be tolerated. Even to move one’s lips to a false idol is deemed a criminal offense. At the behest of Alexandria’s archbishop, the Christian mob swarms the city, gleefully destroying all things pagan.

When the Neoplatonist philosopher and teacher Hypatia of Alexandria witnesses the razing of the Serapeum, a seven-century-old temple to the Greco-Egyptian god Serapis, she wonders if the Great Library of Alexandria will suffer a similar fate. Much of the amassed knowledge there, after all, flew in the face of Christian dogma.

Hypatia takes measures to preserve selected scrolls and codices from any subsequent purges, especially what the Church considered forbidden knowledge—certain telling documents concerning the hidden origins of Christianity. In order to prevent the uninitiated from discovering her trove of manuscripts, she sets up a series of burials governed by actual linguistic and geometrical riddles which must be solved to gain access. Only a philaletheion, a truth-seeker steeped in Platonist mysticism and Pythagorean mathematics, could hope to solve her sequence of puzzles.

21st century: A young American Rhodes Scholar and student of paleography, Lex Thomasson, is asked to join a team of Vatican archivists to help them advance through what they came to realize was Hypatia’s long dormant treasure hunt. Utilizing a cipher known as gematria, Lex demonstrates his unique talents by unlocking the secrets along the trail. Soon, however, Lex becomes suspicious of the group’s motives and flees, only to find them and a hired cabal of assassins converging on the final cache. The archaeological adventure continues from Alexandria to Eleusis, Delphi, and finally Heliopolis.

Mythos Christos is really two tales in one, and the scene alternates between the timelines. The reader will be intrigued to learn some curious mathematical relationships that exist in the very names of the Greek gods and, weirdly, even within some of the Gospel narratives themselves!

Those who choose to read the eBook version of Mythos Christos may wish to first visit my website at www.MythosChristos.com and download the printable gematria key to help you understand the solutions to the riddles.

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About the Author


Edwin Herbert is president of his local freethought society, has been a regular op-ed newspaper columnist on topics concerning science, skepticism and the mythical roots of various religions.


He has a busy optometry practice in southwestern Wisconsin, where he lives with his wife in their empty nest. Mythos Christos is his debut novel.


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About the Book

Mythos Christos by Edwin Herbert
Published January 1st 2016 by BookBaby

Alexandria, Egypt / AD 391 - When the great temple of Serapis and its library annex are destroyed by the Christian mob, the Neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia becomes concerned the Great Library might suffer the same fate. She vows to save as much of the ancient knowledge as she can, especially certain telling documents concerning the origins of Christianity. But rather than merely hiding the heretical scrolls and codices in desert caves and hoping for the best, Hypatia contrives a far more ingenious plan. She sets up an elaborate sequence of burials, each of which is governed by actual ancient linguistic and geometrical riddles which must be solved to gain access. Only one steeped in Platonic mysticism would be capable of finding and unlocking the buried secrets.

Oxford, England / June, 2006 - American Rhodes scholar Lex Thomasson is sent to Alexandria to aid a mysterious Vatican group known only as "The Commission." They require a specialist in ancient languages to solve a sequence of Greek Mystery puzzles in what soon becomes evident is Hypatia's ancient treasure hunt. The Oxford paleographer demonstrates his unique talents by unlocking the secrets along the trail. It does not take long, however, for him to become suspicious of the Commission's true motives, and the trail becomes a trial fraught with danger.

The scene alternates between the two time periods. In both, assassins lurk and fanatics abound. And all along, religious Faith and historical Truth struggle for supremacy.

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Saturday, February 4, 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.



With everything going on at home and in the office, I've temporarily closed the Ruins to unsolicited review titles, but I did have one request fulfilled this week:

The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox
[April 25th 2017 by Tor Books]
the magic of Mother Goose is again loose in the world, and the Librarians must track down the missing spellbook before the true power of the rhymes can be unleashed


I also landed a physical ARC of Mark Lawrence's upcoming series kick-off, which probably means I should get reading!

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
[April 4th 2017 by Ace]
The international bestselling author of the Broken Empire and the Red Queen’s War trilogies begins a stunning epic fantasy series about a secretive order of holy warriors...


Crashed America by Dylan Orchard
After crashing in Alabama Joe finds himself caught up in the prelude to the End of Days, with the Devil on one side, a Hillbilly clan on the other and the whole spectrum of crazy in between


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

This week's e-book read is With Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu (second in the Song of Shattered Sands series), while my paperback pleasure is Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames (first in a new series from a fellow Canuck).


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, February 3, 2017

WTF Friday: Cold Calling by Haydn Wilks

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.



Cold Calling was an odd little novella. A few pages in, and I honestly wondered what I was reading, and how long I would stick with it. That it was coarse and crude wasn't a problem, and neither was its total lack of tolerable (much less likable) characters. Instead, it was the staccato, stream-of-consciousness, rambling narrative that bothered me the most. It reminded me of authors like Ellis, Palahniuk, or Welsh. I've never finished a single novel by any of them, and I doubt I ever will.

What kept me reading was a shared sense of call center camaraderie and an honest curiosity about what made other reviewers so horribly squeamish and disgusted. And then, all of a sudden, Haydn Wilks drops a single, game-changing paragraph that's almost easy to miss. In fact, I was a few paragraphs past it before I started to question what was going on, how we got there, and what I missed.

Suddenly, what started out as a story of boring banality - a mind-numbing tale of a dead-end job, endless smoke breaks, annoying roommates, and internet porn - becomes something freakish and filthy. From that single paragraph arises a tale of murder, infanticide, cannibalism, and more. It's bleak, black humor, told with a bit of hidden wit, but it's also subject matter that will be distasteful to many readers. It's not just the story that changes, however, it's also the storytelling. It still has that rambling, stream-of-consciousness aspect to it, but it becomes less abrupt and more prolonged. Sentences become longer, thought begin to pile upon thoughts, and the short, 4-or-5 line paragraphs stretch out to fill a page. The story doesn't just get inside your head, it drags you inside the narrator's.

Cold Calling is a hard story to enjoy. In fact, if you take any enjoyment from it at all, then you should likely self-register with the authorities as a potential serial killer. It is, however, a storytelling effort to admire, a literary excursion that takes you far outside your comfort zone and then dumps you on the curb, naked, wounded, and scarred.


Kindle Edition, 89 pages
Expected publication: February 3rd 2017 by Dead Bird Press