Monday, April 30, 2012

May Monster Madness Blog Hop

I know what you're thinking, Halloween is still six months away, but that's all the more reason to celebrate the fact that we're already halfway there! So, on that note, I hope you'll join me all week for the May Monster Madness Blog Hop, hosted by Annie Walls.

I have a few interesting pieces already lined up, including a look back at some of my favourite vampire novels (we're talking real, supernatural, scary-as-shit vampires . . . no sparkly romantics allowed), a few stories and photos of my favourite haunted locations (hearkening back to my days of running the Haunted Ontario website), a piece on my favourite horror-themed bands/albums (because there's nothing like a little head-splitting to go with your head-banging), and recap of my favourite horror authors (some always reliable for a scary read, others just one-shot wonders).

Join me all week long, and while you're at it, check out some of the other monstrously macabre blogs taking part:

eBook Review: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

Stephen King begins The Wind Through the Keyhole with a nod to Robin Furth and the gang at Marvel Comics. It's a fitting dedication since, with the exception of a narrative framing piece, this really could have (perhaps even should have) been a story arc in the comic series.

That's not to say I disliked it, just that it really adds nothing of value or context to the overall Dark Tower saga. It's nice to revisit friends, and immeasurably comforting to fall back into the language of Mid-World (say thankee-sai), but it lacks the epic feel of the rest of the series. There's no advancement of the greater plot and, rather surprisingly, hardly anything in the way of meta-references or pop-culture trivia. It also suffers, of course, from being an after-the-fact addition to an already finished storyline - no matter how fantastic the Starkblast was, there was never any real sense of danger, since we know the characters all live through to the next book.

Having said that, it's still Stephen King, it's still The Dark Tower, and it's still an enjoyable read - regardless of how it's told.

Let's start with the framing narrative of Roland, Jake, Susannah, Eddie, and Oy. It's definitely nice to revisit the ka-tet in the days when it was whole and healthy, and comforting to spend some quality time alongside them. As for the Starkblast, it may have just been a convenient plot device to gather them together long enough for Roland to tell a story, but it's a force of nature worthy of Stephen King.

The first story-within-the-story is that of Roland as a youth, sent by his father to investigate the murderous rampage of a skin-man. It's an interesting enough tale, and does illuminate a little of Roland's mental state following the death of his mother, but it's also the aspect that most feels 'lifted' from the comics. The skin-man had definite potential as a King monster, but it never really gets its moment to shine. Yes, we get to see the carnage it's left behind (the scene with the children at the farmhouse is especially chilling), but it feels as if King wasn't that interested in the final confrontation. Again, much like the Starkblast, the skin-man is ultimately a plot device designed to give young Roland a chance to tell a story of his own.

It's this second story-within-a-story where the book really shines. Even though it has nothing to do with Roland or his ka-tet, it touches on several elements on the greater saga . . . and does, as the book's only real meta-reference, tie nicely to The Eyes of the Dragon. Part fairy tale and part epic quest adventure, Tim Southeart's tale could have carried the book on its own, with no need for the skin-man framing device. Here we get King's signature take on the family (and step-families) and the horrors of which human beings are capable. We also get an extended look into the more fantastic landscapes of Mid-World, it's mutated denizens, and the very real monsters living there (including faeries and dragons done as only King can do them). Tim's story also provides a new twist/tie to the Arthurian legends, finally weaving Merlin into the larger story in a scene that brings us back to the Starkblast, this time with a very real sense of danger to accompany it.

Overall, a solid book with one particularly great story contained within it . . . and one scene at the very end, between Roland and Susannah, that does add just a little to his character.

Thursday, April 26, 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: Have you had a character that disappointed you? One that you fell in love with and then “broke up” with later on in either the series or a stand-alone book? Tell us about him or her.

I'd have to go with Richard Rahl, of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth saga. For about three (maybe four) books, he was one of the strongest heroes in fantasy . . . and then he (or, more accurately, Goodkind) lost his innocence, lost his sense of purposed, turned all philosophical, and lost the qualities that made him the hero who originally won me over. By the time The Omen Machine rolled around, he was just plain boring.

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.


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: Reading Blues: We all get them from time to time. What helps you overcome those reading slumps when nothing seems to grab your attention?

Reading blues are why I always have 3 or 4 books on the go at a time. When the blues hit in one genre, and I just can't seem to settle into a read, I hop genres and read something completely different. When the blues hit hard, and nothing seems to hold my interest, I just lose myself in my writing.

eBook Review: Poseidon’s Children by Michael West

In keeping with the spirit (pun intended) of the Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon, I'm pleased to present my second horrific review of the week, a fun read entitled Poseidon’s Children by Michael West.

I first discovered Michael via one of the Seventh Star Singles I won in a giveaway sponsored by Seventh Star Press. It was an amazing story, and once I had a chance to read my first Michael West novel, Cinema of Shadows, I was well and truly hooked.

Poseidon’s Children represents a bit of a change of pace for Michael, being the first volume of his urban fantasy series, The Legacy of the Gods. Lest you think he's moved entirely away from the realm of horror, however, just check out that cover with its homage to the likes of Evil Dead and Jaws. This is urban fantasy in terms of scope (it's bigger than anything he's done before, with a ton more characters) and plot (it's a lot more layered and intricate than his previous work), but individual scenes are still drenched in the kind of horror we've come to expect . .  especially in the opening scene:

Susan Rogers had been right to fear the water. There were monsters lurking just below its churning surface. Now, they pulled her down into the dark depths; things with black and orange stripes, things with claws, with fangs like sharpened steak knives, and, unfortunately for her, they were not inclined to swallow her whole.

That last paragraph, right there, sums up so much of the book - yes, there's the horror and the gore, but also the sense of something far more sinister, intelligent, and calculating behind it.

This is a story about lost civilizations, mythological pantheons, and honest-to-gosh sea monsters, with enough contemporary elements (scientists, billionaires, artists, authorities, and hit men) to effectively anchor things and keep it at least plausible. It takes a while before we understand how all the characters fit into the story, and some of them only creep into the story to be dragged off in a frenzy of blood a few pages later, but it all works. The multiple viewpoints give it a cinematic feel, and the way in which Michael builds the characters ensures we're never at a loss as to who is dominating the scene.

Even with all the additional demands of setting up a multi-volume urban fantasy series, Michael still keeps the pacing tight and the storytelling sharp. There are moments of comedy and romance to help temporarily alleviate the tension, and enough awe-inspiring moments of mythological monstrosity to keep even the most jaded reader engaged.

I hadn't expected to enjoy this one as much as I did, but I am definitely looking forward to the next chapter, especially after that cliffhanger ending, which introduces another layer of horror to the fantasy.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Indignities of the Flesh & The Monster Hunters

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

In honour of this week's Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon, I have a paid of horror-themed "can't-wait-to-read" selections for you:

Indignities of the Flesh by Bentley Little

Bentley Little has forged a name for himself as one of the most startlingly original authors in contemporary horror. His subversion of genre tropes and talent for creating surreal, Boschian-like nightmares from the mundane is without parallel.

Herein you'll meet: the mischievous 'Rodeo Clown', who may very well be evil incarnate, or perhaps little more than an innocent bystander in a ring of coincidence; a man obsessed with dental hygiene to the point of stalking, in 'Brushing'; a cynic forced to tag along on an ill-advised trip to a faith healer in 'Documented Miracles'; a demented birthday girl whose equally demented birthday wishes are about to come true, in 'Happy Birthday, Dear Tama'; a family on the run from cartoonists in search of their god, in 'Loony Tune'; and a man who pays the ultimate price for circumventing a parking attendant in the never before published, 'Valet Parking'.

Rounding out the collection are 'The Black Ladies' and 'The Pinata', a pair of unsettling stories culled from childhood nightmares, and the surprisingly poignant 'Even the Dead', which documents the last days of a tender partnership between two friends, only one of whom is still alive.

Indignities of the Flesh is a superlative gathering of the kind of twisted, darkly humorous, and mind-bending stories for which Bentley Little is best known. (May 31, 2012)

The Monster Hunters by Larry Correia

Monster Hunter International, Monster Hunter Vendetta and Monster Hunter Alpha in one huge volume!  Two New York Times bestsellers in together for the first time, and the first three entries in Larry Correia’s blockbuster Monster Hunter series.

Monster Hunter InternationalFive days after Owen Zastava Pitt pushed his insufferable boss out of a fourteenth story window, he woke up in the hospital with a scarred face, an unbelievable memory, and a job offer. It turns out that monsters are real. All the things from myth, legend, and B-movies are out there, waiting in the shadows. Officially secret, some of them are evil, and some are just hungry. On the other side are the people who kill monsters for a living. Monster Hunter International is the premier eradication company in the business. And now Owen is their newest recruit.

Monster Hunter Vendetta: Accountant turned professional monster hunter Owen Zastava Pitt managed to stop the nefarious Old One’s invasion plans last year, but as a result made an enemy out of one of the most powerful beings in the universe. Now an evil death cult known as the Church of the Temporary Mortal Condition wants to capture Owen in order to gain the favor of the great Old Ones. The Condition is led by a fanatical necromancer known as the Shadow Man. The government wants to capture the Shadow Man and has assigned the enigmatic Agent Franks to be Owen’s full time bodyguard -- which is a polite way of saying that Owen is monster bait.  Fortunately, this bait is armed and very dangerous.

Monster Hunter Alpha:  Earl Harbinger may be the leader of Monster Hunter International, but he’s also got a secret. Nearly a century ago, Earl was cursed to be werewolf. When Earl receives word that one of his oldest foes, a legendarily vicious werewolf that worked for the KGB, has mysteriously appeared in the remote woods of Michigan, he decides to take care of some unfinished business. But another force is working to bring about the creation of a whole new species of werewolf. When darkness falls, the final hunt begins, and the only thing standing in their way is a handful of locals, a lot of firepower, and Earl Harbinger’s stubborn refusal to roll over and play dead. (May 29, 2012)

Bentley Little is one of those old-reliable, go-to horror authors for me, and Subterranean Press always does an amazing job on their Deluxe Hardcover Editions, so that's a no-brainer. As for Larry Correia, I've been curious about his Monster Hunter series for a while now, so an all-in-one omnibus edition is definitely a treat!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

eBook Review: Dirty Eden by J.A. Redmerski

In keeping with the spirit (pun intended) of the Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon, I'm pleased to present my first horrific review of the week, an intriguing read called Dirty Eden by J.A. Redmerski.

This is a book I likely would not have otherwise stumbled upon, had Jessica not sent me a message via Goodreads, and one I likely would have declined to review, had it not been for the previous reviews calling it intelligent, dark-minded, vulgar, and blasphemous. As much as I tend to shy away from books with religious themes, that blasphemous tag really did catch my interest, and the reviewers' talk of interwoven mythologies intrigued me enough to take a chance.

I'm glad I did, because this was one of the most original reads I've had the pleasure of experiencing in a long time.

Dirty Eden is a book that hooks you right from the first page, somehow managing to inject a little discomfort into the boring banality of an office commute. All it takes is a glimpse of a stiletto-heeled stranger to shake Norman's routine, and a stranger's offer of $500 to go back and talk to her is more than enough temptation to derail not just a commute, but a man's entire life.

That stranger is, of course, the Devil . . . and what he expects from Norman is far more than just your typical 'selling your soul' type of mythological transaction. As we soon discover, there are big stakes involved, with the fate of all Creation ultimately resting upon the shoulders of an otherwise unremarkable man who dared to ask himself “What can it hurt?"

Before long we find ourselves accompanying Norman on an underworld journey which echoes those of Odysseus, Dante, and Chris Nielsen, but which adds its own unique spin on not just the journey, but the mythologies that overlap and combine to approximate the truth of our reality. It's a journey that's as fascinating as it it fearsome, through a landscape as gorgeous as it is grotesque. I think it was the moment that the naked, seductive fairy emerged from the forest, volunteering to have her wings ripped off as the price of Norman's passage across the Field of Yesterday, that I realized there was no escaping this book until I saw how it all would end.

This is a very dark book, and one that doesn't shy away from the darkness inside us all. Whether Norman is being confronted by the truth about himself, his family, or society at large, we're invited to bear witness to the worst acts of which mankind is capable - rape, murder, incest, adultery, theft, etc. There's not a lot of hope to the story, but there is a redeeming quality to Norman's personal growth that propels us along. It's also a very complex book, and one that is equally capable in delivering twists in plot as twists in mythology. Nothing is quite what it seems here, and the worst mistake you can make in reading the story is to assume you know what the Devil, Norman, or the author truly intend.

Having dreaded a literary betrayal, fully expecting a typically biblical end to the story, I was delighted to discover a climax worthy of the story that precedes it, an action-filled, suspense-laden, treacherous piece of storytelling that pulls together all of the various characters and themes into an entirely satisfying resolution. More than that, I have to applaud Jessica for a final twist that is as glorious as it is unexpected.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring into Horror Read-a-Thon

Yes, today is Day 1 of the Spring Into Horror Read-a-Thon, hosted by Michelle over at Castle Macabre.

This is a week long read-a-thon that's all about being laid back and getting some scary reading done. Anyone with a blog is welcome to sign up, or you can sign up using your Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook account. To follow along on Twitter, check out the #SpringHorrorRAT hastag.

I'm going to be starting my week with Dirty Eden by J.A. Redmerski before moving onto Poseidon's Children by Michael West, and then finishing up the week with an extreme horror collection, either Like Porno for Psychos by Wrath James White or Carnal Surgery by Edward Lee, Jr. (although there's an outside chance I may dip into my old-reliables and allow Richard Laymon's Fiends or Bentley Little's The Collection to usurp the extreme).

So, what will you be reading?

TOUR EXCERPT & GIVEAWAY: Socialpunk by Monica Leonelle

After playing God for six years with the world he created, he couldn’t control any of his subjects, none at all. Over the years, he had watched them evolve and become the sum of their own choices rather than the sum of his; and for that, he regretted ever giving them life.

A small, blinking red light from just inside his eyelid reminded him of the news they sent him earlier that morning. The company had cancelled his funding and would shut down his project within three months. According to them, the project cost too much and took up too much space, and the inconclusive results couldn’t be published reputably, now or in the future.
Six years of his work, tens of thousands of lives at stake—and he could do nothing to save any of it. He bowed his head, letting his chin rest on the rim of his breakfast smoothie. The smoothie reeked of powder—crushed pills—but he supposed he had better get used to it. He wouldn’t be able to afford the luxury of real food after they canned him.
He closed his eyes and called up the camera view of one of his favorites, number 3281. She fascinated him; he couldn’t deny it. When he had designed her, her pre-teen rebelliousness lit fire in her eyes. A survivor, he’d thought. He’d meant for her to have it all—to grow up, to get married to the love of her life, and to have a beautiful family of her own someday.
But he had only given her sadness so far. Instead of creating a strict father, he had given her an abusive one. Instead of creating a loving boyfriend, he had given her a friend who could never love her. And instead of creating a strong, proud mother, he had given her a meek one, who watched the whole thing unfold and did nothing about it.
He looked at his last and final creation sitting in the chair across from him—his own son, not awakened yet. The law forbade him to have any children of his own, so this boy would substitute.
But he had done the unthinkable with this creation—he had bestowed on it his own thoughts, emotions, and decision-making processes. He’d given the boy his own mind, his own physical characteristics, his own wants and desires.
He had never done so with any of the others because of the dangers of investing too heavily in any one of his subjects. But who could he kid? He had not stayed objective thus far, watching some of his subjects more closely than others, wishing for the happiness of some at the expense of others. He had become an abomination, a monster of his own doing, who had created subjects only to watch them suffer.
He couldn’t forgive himself; not now, not ever. His eyes lingered on the vial that sat next to his breakfast smoothie, that he’d stowed away for the day when they destroyed all his work, his entire world. He would save it, tuck it away for now, for as long as he could protect them. When things spun out of his control, he would drink it and end himself the way he had ended them.
In the ancient stories, gods frequently gave their sons as gifts. Now, he would give his son as a gift to her, number 3281. So she could be happy in her last months on earth, before they destroyed her with the rest of them.

Monica Leonelle is a well-known digital media strategist and the author of three novels. She blogs at Prose on Fire (http://proseonfire.com) and shares her writing and social media knowledge with other bloggers and authors through her Free Writer Toolkit (http://proseonfire.com/free-writer-toolkit).

Thursday, April 19, 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: Fight! Fight! If you could have two fictional characters battle it out (preferably from books), who would they be and who do you think would win?

Give me a battle of the underdogs - sickly Elric of Melniboné (Michael Moorcock), leprous Thomas Covenant (Stephen Donaldson), and sickly Raistlin Majere (Weis & Hickman). Depending on who has the strongest grasp on their sanity that day, and whether they're prepared to wield their magical talismans (sword, ring, or staff), it's anybody's battle . . . but I'd have to give Raistlin the edge for his experience with treachery.

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I always take part in. 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.


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 Influences - Has there been a particular book blogger who's influenced what you read? Share with us a review/book blog that convinced you to pick up a certain book.

For recommendations on new reads I always rely on The Steel BookshelfFantasy & SciFi Lovin' News & Reviews, and Graeme's Fantasy Book Review.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Get Jackie Gamber's Sela for FREE!

Get Sela for free on Kindle!

The second book of the Leland Dragon series from Jackie Gamber is available for free on Kindle today and tomorrow!

Peace was fleeting. Vorham Riddess, Venur of Esra Province, covets the crystal ore buried deep in Leland's mountains. His latest device to obtain it: land by marriage to a Leland maiden. But that's not all.

Among Dragonkind, old threats haunt Mount Gore, and shadows loom in the thoughts of the Red who restored life to land and love. A dragon hunter, scarred from countless battles, discovers he can yet suffer more wounds.

In the midst of it all, Sela Redheart is lost, driven from her home with only her old uncle to watch over her. As the dragon-born child of Kallon, the leader of Leland's Dragon Council, she is trapped in human form with no understanding of how she transformed, or how to turn back.

Wanderers seek a home, schemes begin to unfurl, and all is at risk as magic and murder, marriage and mystery strangle the heart of Esra. A struggle for power far older and deeper than anyone realizes will leave no human or dragon unaffected.

In a world where magic is born of feeling, where the love between a girl and a dragon was once transformative, what power dwells in the heart of young Sela?

Please share this link and spread the word!

Waiting On Wednesday: The Hammer and the Blade by Paul Kemp

"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 Hammer and the Blade by Paul Kemp

Egil and Nix, adventurers and swords for hire, are pulled into the dark schemes of a decadent family with a diabolical secret. 

Kill the demon.
Steal the treasure.
Retire to a life of luxury.

Sounds easy when you put it like that.

Unfortunately for Egil and Nix, when the demon they kill has friends in high places, retirement is not an option.

A fast paced adventure redolent with the best of classic sword and sorcery tales.. (June 26, 2012)

Sometimes you want to read a thousand page epic work of mythological fantasy, and sometimes you just want some old-fashioned pulp sword-and-sorcery. I think this may just be the fix I need.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

eBook Review: Web of the Spider Queen by John Grover

What do you get when you hand a horror author the skeleton keys to a fantasy kingdom already under siege by the forces of darkness? If you're lucky, you get a story like Web of the Spider Queen.

For the most part, this is a straight-forward fantasy tale, one that dispenses with the preliminaries and launches right into the heart of the story. As readers, we're dropped into a hopeless situation, with the elves, fairies, and amazons of Orum on the cusp of defeat at the hands of Sinnia, the Spider Queen. It's a grim situation, marked by overwhelming odds, a seemingly limitless supply of monsters, and an all-powerful villainess who is (almost) justified in her supreme arrogance.

It's here where Grover's horror roots come through, with a more detailed exploration of the monsters and their carnage than is generally found in fantasy. In establishing the nightmare horrors of his world, he provides all the gory, grisly, gratuitous details for which a reader could ask. This is definitely not a tale for the squeamish, especially once the heroes head underground, but one that will definitely satisfy those readers with a taste for the grotesque.

This is not just a story of monsters and carnage, however. The heroes here are surprisingly well-developed for such a short novella, and we get just enough background on their races to truly appreciate their situation. In addition, while most of the story takes place on the blood-soaked battlefields and in web-strewn caverns of Sinnia's realm, Grover smartly takes us into the beauty of the last remaining forest of the elves, providing us with a brightly illuminated symbol of what the world has lost to the spiders and their Queen.

Fast-paced and full of action, the novella follows parallel storylines, switching between the glorious last stand of armies upon the battlefield and the desperate quest of the heroes throwing themselves into the heart of darkness. The sense of impending doom is tangible, but it never descends into the realm of bleak helplessness.  While we, as readers, may not be so optimistic, there's a strong feeling of hope shared among the characters (complete with a little flirting-in-the-face-of-death) that really holds it all together.

While the ending is pretty standard for the genre, there are some interesting revelations that provide for a very nice twist. It's clear there's just as much history behind Web of the Spider Queen as there are new stories to be told, so it will be interesting to see how Grover balances the two in future instalments. Whichever way he goes - forwards or backwards - I'm definitely up for another song of the ancestors.

Monday, April 16, 2012

eBook ARC Review: Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards

I actually finished Scourge of the Betrayer last week, but it's taken me a few days to decide precisely how to approach a review. It's such an oddly structured novel, and one that forgoes so many genre cliches, I wanted to give myself time to separate the novelty of the reading experience from the story itself.

Most fantasy novels begin with a very clear explanation of who the characters are, what the story is about, and where the story is going; the author immediately defines a goal, a destination, or an objective against which to measure progress; and then leads us to the discovery of a monster, a villain, an empire, or a philosophy to be defeated as the ultimate measure of success.

With Scourge of the Betrayer we get none of that. We're introduced to the characters by name, given a few vague hints and clues as to their roles within the world, and then we're off. Much like Arki, the scribe who provides our focal point into the world, we're kept in the dark as to where we're going, why we're going there, and what it is we hope to accomplish. More than that, we're denied any insight into the significance of events, and robbed of the opportunity to play along and estimate where we are on the journey.

It's a dangerously ambitious way to tell a story, and one with as much potential to alienate readers as to engage them. Fortunately, Salyards know just how to pace his clues, creating a sense of drama and anticipation that wouldn't otherwise be found in what is ultimately revealed to be a rather straightforward tale. Instead of driving towards a goal or a destination we, as readers, are driving instead towards an understanding of who Captain Braylar is and what, exactly, his Slydoon are up to.

The fact that  Salyards tells such a stark, brutal, realistic tale certainly helps - had this been a lighter or brighter fantasy, the storytelling likely wouldn't have worked so well. Instead, the edginess of the storytelling plays well against the edginess of the characters and their world, actually serving to draw the reader in. Make no mistake, it's a literary tease, and one that's often frustrating, but it somehow all comes together.

Of course, every story must have its end, and every mystery must have it's big reveal. The big reveal here is less of a "WOW!" and more of an "hmm . . . okay" moment, but it's in keeping with the rest of the story. While I was looking for something a bit more grand, something with a bit more significance, I can't really say I was disappointed. The reveal, and the casual way in which it takes place, just seem to fit. Besides, in a story that is so character-driven, it's only fitting that the most significant moments be saved for the characters themselves, not their journey.

My only complaint is that this feels like less of a complete story and more of a first arc in a longer book, the kind of opening instalment that catches your interest but leaves you wanting to reserve judgement until you know more. Having said that, it's an intriguing enough first arc to make me want to read more, and there's no better recommendation I can offer than that.

Thursday, April 12, 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 one book that you would be nervous to see a movie adaption of because you think the movie could never live up to the book?

As much as I have high hopes for the highly ambitions Dark Tower adaptation planned (with movies and a TV series in between), the complexity of the books worries me . . . that`s a lot of imagination to translate to the screen.

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I always take part in. 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.


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: If you could read a book about any song, which song would you love to see written down in story form?

I'm a big fan of old-school heavy metal and prog-rock concept albums, so I'd love to see one of them translated to the page. That's probably why I'm so excited about Rush's upcoming Clockwork Angels album, which is being novelized by Kevin J. Anderson, and why I have 2 copies of The Gospel of Filth, which provides the background stories behind Cradle of Filth's albums.

GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY: Three Steps to Writing a Dystopian Novel by David Kubicek

Please extend a warm welcome to David Kubicek, who has wandered into the ruins today to talk about his book, A Friend of the Family.


Three Steps to Writing a Dystopian Novel: Balancing World-Building with Character-Building
by David Kubicek

Occasionally I’ve heard science fiction writers complain that in order to create a future world or alternate reality they have to sacrifice characterization; to create a world and to create characters would take too long, be too wordy, and might bore the readers.

That is crap. It’s an excuse used by 1) lazy writers who don’t want to bother with characterization, and 2) inexperienced writers who haven’t yet learned to “show, don’t tell.”

Ray Bradbury created an unfamiliar world populated with well-defined characters in Fahrenheit 451, as did Margaret Atwood in The Handmaid’s Tale, as did Suzanne Collins in The Hunger Games, as have many other science fiction and fantasy writers.

You don’t need to waste lots of words describing your futuristic world; a few well-chosen words will do. In one of his stories, Robert A. Heinlein has doors that operate like camera shutters; they open and close automatically when someone passes through them. To communicate this concept to his readers, as his character approaches a door, Heinlein writes three words: “The door dilated.”

Similarly, don’t waste words describing your characters; show them in action. The best way to engage your readers is to create characters who are like them, characters who want the same things and who react emotionally in the same ways. This establishes an emotional bond between your characters and your readers.

To create a dystopian world, find something that may be slightly wrong in our contemporary society and exaggerate it so that it is has caused your future society to be seriously out of whack. For example, Ray Bradbury took censorship to the next level in Fahrenheit 451 when he envisioned a future in which firemen seek out illegal collections of books and burn them.

So you have characters to whom your readers can relate, and you have a society in which something is broken. Now combine the two.

Remember that, although the characters have an emotional tie to contemporary readers, their thoughts and actions must be consistent with the society in which they live. In Fahrenheit 451, for example, at the front of the characters’ minds all the time is the knowledge that possessing a book is a serious crime. They know also that speeding 100 miles per hour down the freeway and trying to hit anything that moves is a good, and accepted, form of recreation.

That’s it in a nutshell. Writing a solid dystopian story is as easy as writing a contemporary story if you follow these three guidelines:

  • Create characters of the future to whom contemporary readers can relate
  • Exaggerate a flaw in contemporary society until you’ve created a world that is seriously broken
  • The thoughts and actions of the characters must be consistent with the society in which they live

Good Luck!


Want to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card? Of course you do!
Just leave a comment for David below to be entered.
One lucky comment from the tour (see the other stops here) will be selected to win.
Yup, it's really that easy . . . so leave a comment today!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Get Michael West's Poseidon's Children for FREE!

Get Poseidon's Children for free on Kindle!

The first book of the Legacy of the Gods series from Michael West is available for free on Kindle today and tomorrow!

Try out a great writer and new urban fantasy book that features artwork from the award-winning Matthew Perry. Like the Cthulu mythos? This one's definitely for you! Download for free right now for your Kindle or Kindle App.

Please share this link and spread the word!

Michael West is one of my favourite new authors of 2012, and I can tell you this is definitely worth the read. If you don't believe me, stop by next week when I post my review!

Waiting On Wednesday: Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

"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:

Amped: A Novel by Daniel H. Wilson

Technology makes them superhuman. But mere mortals want them kept in their place. The New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse creates a stunning, near-future world where technology and humanity clash in surprising ways. The result? The perfect summer blockbuster

As he did in Robopocalypse, Daniel Wilson masterfully envisions a frightening near-future world. In Amped, people are implanted with a device that makes them capable of superhuman feats. The powerful technology has profound consequences for society, and soon a set of laws is passed that restricts the abilities—and rights—of "amplified" humans. On the day that the Supreme Court passes the first of these laws, twenty-nine-year-old Owen Gray joins the ranks of a new persecuted underclass known as "amps." Owen is forced to go on the run, desperate to reach an outpost in Oklahoma where, it is rumored, a group of the most enhanced amps may be about to change the world—or destroy it.

Once again, Daniel H. Wilson's background as a scientist serves him well in this technologically savvy thriller that delivers first-rate entertainment, as Wilson takes the "what if" question in entirely unexpected directions. Fans of Robopocalypse are sure to be delighted, and legions of new fans will want to get "amped" this summer. (June 5, 2012)

While I have yet to read Robopocalypse (it's sitting in my TBR pile, I promise!), I'm really excited for this one. Technically,  I'm not really waiting, since I got the ARC last week, but I am anticipating the read.

Sunday, April 8, 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 . . .

Received for review

Socialpunk by Monica Leonelle

The Hammer and the Blade by Paul Kemp

Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine

Thursday, April 5, 2012

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Isadora Daystar by P.I. Barrington

Isadora DayStar is grim and gritty tale, one that creatively challenges the conventions of genre storytelling. Its central character is a broken young woman who has been reduced to the life of crime in order to support her drug habit. We first meet Isadora as a failed assassin, become mired in her drug addiction, and then watch helplessly as she prostitutes herself for another hit. As immediately unlikeable as she is, there’s something indefinable about her that drags you into the story, despite your better judgement. Part of the appeal is the compulsion to understand what brought her so low, but a larger part of it is the deft plotting and cleverly construction narrative that comprises her tale.

While it’s not quite a stream-of-consciousness tale, the first half of the novel almost reads as if it were written by a drug-addicted young woman on the run. The main narrative is constantly interrupted by fragmented memories and snippets of dreams that first drag down our opinion of her even further, before building the context we need to understand the choices that brought her to her situation. Once she hits rock bottom, however, the story begins to turn, although it’s abundantly clear that salvation is to be hard-earned.

Eventually, Isadora manages to become a sort of awkward, conflicted, flawed anti-hero. While the full revelation of history does a lot to explain (if not necessarily justify) her situation, it’s her connection to Iphedeiah that ultimately demands our forgiveness for what she’s done. Their relationship is a tenuous one, brought about entirely by circumstance, but it serves to reveal Isadora’s humanity . . . even if she’s never fully redeemed or repaired.

There’s a nice contrast in the story between grit and gloss, between humanity and technology, that drives the story along. Remarkably fast-paced and action-packed, it’s a story that never loses sight of the fact that it’s the characters who matter, and with whom the reader feels connected. Given its already dark beginnings, it sounds harsh to say that it gets even darker before the end, but there’s a thread of hope and humanity to cling to that carries you through the darkness.

An unusual novel, to be sure, but one that’s well-worth the read.


Check out the tour page for Isadora Daystar over at Close Encounters with the Night Kind and enter to win a copy for yourself!