Thursday, 30 April 2015

Books Received in April, 2015

Many thanks to the publishers who sent me books for review this month.

The Ables by Jeremy Scott - I've already read and reviewed this book.  I loved that the book focused on a group of kids with both superpowers and disabilities.  The protagonist is blind, giving a unique point of view.

Philip Sallinger has just been informed about his genetically-inherited telekinetic abilities, and has no idea how his blindness will affect them. Tomorrow, he starts his first day at a high school exclusively for empowered kids, but he'll face adversity right out of the gate, as he finds himself segregated and ignored with the other disabled students in a superhero version of a Special Education class. As the entire city of Freepoint faces a devastating threat, and the town leadership chooses bureaucratic infighting over actual preparation, Philip and his friends must find a way to work together to maximize their powers and overcome their disabilities. A mysterious figure has begun making unannounced visits to Freepoint, kidnapping key figures, digging up ancient artifacts, and taunting Phillip's group of friends with tantalizing clues and maddening riddles. Will Phillip and company decipher the clues and solve the mystery before a dark shadow falls over the entire town and threatens to cover the entire planet in a permanent darkness?
The Great Bazaar and Brayan's Gold by Peter Brett - I've wanted to read these since they first came out, but getting the Subterranean Press editions in Canada wasn't easy, so I'm glad Tachyon Press is republishing them as a duology.  Then I just need to get a copy of Messenger's Legacy to have read everything in the Demon Cycle so far.  I LOVE this series, and while it's occasionally brutal, it's got a lot to recommend it to fantasy fans.

From the dangerous world of the Demon Cycle comes the early adventures of Arlen, Peter V. Brett's quintessential fantasy hero. These exciting origin tales follow Arlen as he learns to navigate a world where the elemental forces of evil conjure themselves from the earth each night. Humanity has barely survived a demonic onslaught by using magical wards that protect their cities and homes. Only a handful of mercenaries and explorers risk traveling after the sun sets. Arlen, seeking adventure and fortune, is barely protected by the warded armor upon which he has inscribed intricate defensive runes. From a journey ferrying a wagonload of dynamite to a mountain stronghold, to a dangerous mission to recover desert treasures, Arlen faces friends and enemies with a strong arm and a cunning wit.

The Murder of William of Norwich: The Origins of the Blood Libel in Medieval Europe by E. M. Rose - This is middle ages event that drastically - and tragically - affects much of the later interactions between Christians and Jews in Europe.  I'm very interested in learning more about what happened.

In 1144, the mutilated body of William of Norwich, a young apprentice leatherworker, was found abandoned outside the city's walls. The boy bore disturbing signs of torture, and a story soon spread that it was a ritual murder, performed by Jews in imitation of the Crucifixion as a mockery of Christianity. The outline of William's tale swiftly gained currency far beyond Norwich, and the idea that Jews engaged in ritual murder became firmly rooted in the European imagination.

E.M. Rose's engaging book delves into the story of William's murder and the notorious trial that followed to uncover the origin of the ritual murder accusation--known as the "blood libel"--in western Europe in the Middle Ages. Focusing on the specific historical context-the 12th--century reform of the Church, the position of Jews in England, and the Second Crusade--and suspensefully unraveling the facts of the case, Rose makes a powerful argument for why the Norwich Jews (and particularly one Jewish banker) were accused of killing the youth, and how the malevolent blood libel accusation managed to take hold. She also considers four "copycat" cases, in which Jews were similarly blamed for the death of young Christians, and traces the adaptations of the story over time.

In the centuries after its appearance, the ritual murder accusation provoked instances of torture, death and expulsion of thousands of Jews and the extermination of hundreds of communities. Although no charge of ritual murder has withstood historical scrutiny, the concept of the blood libel is so emotionally charged and deeply rooted in cultural memory that it endures even today. Rose's groundbreaking work, driven by fascinating characters, a gripping narrative, and impressive scholarship, provides clear answers as to why the blood libel emerged when it did and how it was able to gain such widespread acceptance, laying the foundations for enduring anti-Semitic myths that continue to the present.
Binary by Stephanie Saulter - I greatly enjoyed the first book in this series, Gemsigns (review here), and am currently reading this one.

Zavcka Klist has reinvented herself: no longer the ruthless gemtech enforcer determined to keep the gems they created enslaved, she's now all about transparency and sharing the fruits of Bel'Natur's research to help gems and norms alike.

Neither Aryel Morningstar nor Dr. Eli Walker are convinced that Klist or Bel'Natur can have changed so dramatically, but the gems have problems that only a gemtech can solve. In exchange for their help, digital savant Herran agrees to work on Klist's latest project: reviving the science that drove mankind to the brink of extinction.

Then confiscated genestock disappears from a secure government facility, and the more DI Varsi investigates, the closer she comes to the dark heart of Bel'Natur and what Zavcka Klist is really after-not to mention the secrets of Aryel Morningstar's own past...
The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey - This book sounds very interesting.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.
Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.
But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

Powerless by Tera Lynn Childs and Tracy Deebs - Another book that has me intrigued.

Kenna is tired of being "normal." The only thing special about her is that she isn''t special at all. Which is frustrating when you''re constantly surrounded by superheroes. Her best friend, her ex-boyfriend, practically everyone she knows has some talent or power. Sure, Kenna's smart and independent, but as an ordinary girl in an extraordinary world, it's hard not to feel inferior. So when three villains break into the lab where she interns, Kenna refuses to be a victim. She's not about to let criminals steal the research that will make her extraordinary too. But in the heat of battle, secrets are spilled and one of the villains saves her life. Twice. Suddenly, everything Kenna thought she knew about good and evil, heroes and villains is upended. And to protect her life and those she loves, she must team up with her sworn enemies on a mission that will redefine what it means to be powerful and powerless?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Video: Michael Jackson's "Thriller"

Michael Jackson was huge in the 80s when I was a kid, but since we didn't have cable I never saw the music videos that aired on MTV.  My husband did though, and he's recently shown me some of them.  I've seen clips of "Thriller".  Indeed, the zombie dance in the middle is so famous - and copied - that I imagine most people have at least seen a version of it.  But if you've never seen the full video, I highly recommend it.  It's basically a mini horror movie, using a lot of fantastic film techniques and make-up.  According to my husband it was the most expensive music video made up to that point (1983), and the video that convinced other pop singers to create videos for their songs too.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Book Review: The Ables by Jeremy Scott

Pros: highly unique pov, great cast of characters, dry sense of humour, 

Cons: several small errors ruined immersion, some aspects of the story were hard to believe

For Parents: some swearing, some violence

The day before starting grade 7 at his new school in Freepoint city, Philip Sallinger’s dad takes him aside for ‘the talk’.  But it’s not the sex talk Philip expected.  He, his parents, and most of the people in their remote city, are superheroes, or as they call themselves, custodians.  But Phillip’s blindness creates an obstacle with regards to using his power, and he finds himself in the special education class with others who have physical and mental differences.

Along with his new friends, Phillip must overcome the prejudices of those around them, and help protect the city from a dangerous enemy.

The novel is told from Phillip’s point of view and while much of the book includes visual clues to what’s happening, there are a lot of auditory and other sensory descriptions as well.  The book takes Phillip through a variety of challenging experiences and it’s great watching him grow up, even if he does make a lot of mistakes.    

The group of kids on the whole was excellently written.  They’ve each got a disability (two are blind, one's in a wheelchair, one has down syndrome, one has extreme asthma and one has ataxic cerebral palsy), but they’ve obviously learned to adapt and end up doing a large number of remarkable things throughout the book.  The author never forgets that certain things are more challenging for them, but also shows that those challenges are surmountable by determined individuals.

I really appreciated the book’s dry sense of humour, especially Phillip and James’s so called ‘blind humour’. 

There were a number of problems with the novel, some of which are probably not things regular readers will notice or care about.

For example, we’re told early on in a mini history lesson that a pre-Biblical group of superheroes, who faced off with a supervillain, called themselves “the Ables”. This made no sense to me.  We’re given the etymology for the use of the term ‘custodians’, so it struck me as wrong that a late middle English word would be used to describe an ancient group (especially by themselves).  Yes, you could argue that it’s the modern translation of the word they would have used, but then why not use that word, or at least tell us that word?  English didn’t exist as a language when this group was alive, and it would have made the superhero world’s history sound more authentic if an older word had been introduced with it, a la: “They called themselves ‘ipa’, which is Aramaic for ‘having the means to accomplish a task’.  We call them the Ables.”

Occasional imprecise use of language kicked me out of the narrative.  By which I mean that something was implied in the text that’s later explicitly refuted.  There’s a scene where something embarrassing happens and Phillip wakes up wondering what rumours would be circulating.  The impression I got from the scene - from the language used - was that this was the next morning after the event happened, but a few pages later I learned that several weeks had passed.  I was left wondering why he’d be worrying about rumours that he must have heard by now and were likely dying down by this point.  Each time this happened I found myself rereading the earlier section to figure out if I’d read it properly and/or had missed something.  On one occasion I realized that Phillip had assumed something that turned out to not be true, but on others the text really did contain a contradiction.

I also spotted a few minor continuity errors, but these didn’t impact the story at all.

There were some aspects of the story that I didn’t really believe.  There’s only been one death in a SuperSim over numerous years - despite the variety of powers on display and lack of training many of the kids apparently had - and that one death was caused by an inability to see?  the SuperSim seems like the kind of activity that would, at the least, injure several people each year, regardless of how careful everyone tried to be.  I was surprised that grade 7 students were allowed to participate at all, considering they were just gaining their powers and hadn’t had much training yet.  The kids in the book learn so much more about their powers outside of school than inside of it that I wondered what official superhero training they were receiving, beyond history lessons, that would even prepare them for the superhero life. 
I thought that the fallout from Donnie’s accident was overblown, considering his down syndrome had nothing to do with what happened, though this was pointed out by Phillip in the text.

Certain aspects of the plot were a little predictable, but on the whole the book went in directions I didn’t expect, with the SuperSim and other actions.

Despite these issues, the writing for the most part was smooth and entertaining.  There’s a lot of variety in the action and the book is never boring.  There are a few swear words used - in a realistic context - at the end of the book and minor violence a certain points in the book.

While I enjoyed the book, particularly the unique point of view and characters, the number of times I was jolted from the story due to small errors decreased my immersion.  There’s a lot to like here - especially protagonists not generally seen in fiction at all, let alone a superhero story, and I do recommend it.  Just try not to read it, as I had to, with a critical bent.  

Out May 1st

As a side note, Jeremy Scott does the amazing Cinema Sins videos.  If you haven't checked them out, you really should.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Shout-Out: The Edge of the World by Michael Pye

Michael Pye's The Edge of the World is an epic adventure: from the Vikings to the Enlightenment, from barbaric outpost to global centre, it tells the amazing story of northern Europe's transformation by sea.

This is a story of saints and spies, of fishermen and pirates, traders and marauders - and of how their wild and daring journeys across the North Sea built the world we know. When the Roman Empire retreated, northern Europe was a barbarian outpost at the very edge of everything. A thousand years later, it was the heart of global empires and the home of science, art, enlightenment and money. We owe this transformation to the tides and storms of the North Sea. The water was dangerous, but it was far easier than struggling over land; so it was the sea that brought people together. Boats carried food and raw materials, but also new ideas and information. The seafarers raided, ruined and killed, but they also settled and coupled. With them they brought new tastes and technologies - books, clothes, manners, paintings and machines. In this dazzling historical adventure, we return to a time that is largely forgotten and watch as the modern world is born. We see the spread of money and how it paved the way for science. We see how plague terrorised even the rich and transformed daily life for the poor. We watch as the climate changed and coastlines shifted, people adapted and towns flourished. We see the arrival of the first politicians, artists, lawyers: citizens. From Viking raiders to Mongol hordes, Frisian fishermen to Hanseatic hustlers, travelling as far west as America and as far east as Byzantium, we see how the life and traffic of the seas changed everything. 

Drawing on an astonishing breadth of learning and packed with human stories and revelations, this is the epic drama of how we came to be who we are. ''A closely-researched and fascinating characterisation of the richness of life and the underestimated interconnections of the peoples all around the medieval and early modern North Sea. 

Friday, 24 April 2015

Publisher Spotlight: Unsung Stories

Unsung Stories is a newer publisher based in the UK that's looking for "genre fiction that defies categorisation. We want to tell stories that you'll never forget. Start with science fiction, fantasy, horror, speculative, steampunk and everything strange. Blend to a smooth consistency. Season to taste."  

In addition to publishing short fiction, which is free to read on their website or sent straight to your inbox if you sign up for their mailing list, they've also published three novels so far.

Deja Vu by Ian Hocking

In the year 2023 Saskia Brandt, detective with the European FIB, comes back from holiday newly single, tired and full of sadness. Heading straight back to the office she finds no peace, only her receptionist dead and no suspects. Given only 12 hours to clear her name she sets to work on unravelling the mystery, one that proves greater than the sum of its parts.

David Proctor is just an academic eating his breakfast until he gets a phone-call telling him the prototype computer - Ego - he has been loaned is now the only one left. Meanwhile someone has broken into his house, someone who wants him to go back to the lab where his wife died in a bomb attack 20 years before.

As the mysteries and intrigue envelop Saskia and David they are forced to unpick their own pasts. Because in Déjà Vu you find that things aren't as they seem, truth is a matter of perspective and that the past can change just as quickly as the future.

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley

Somewhere away from the cities and towns, a group of men and boys gather around the fire each night to listen to their stories in the Valley of the Rocks. For when the women are all gone the rest of your life is all there is for everyone. The men are waiting to pass into the night.

The story shall be told to preserve the past. History has gone back to its aural roots and the power of words is strong. Meet Nate, the storyteller, and the new secrets he brings back from the woods. William rules the group with youth and strength, but how long can that last? And what about Uncle Ted, who spends so much time out in the woods?

Hear the tales, watch a myth be formed. For what can man hope to achieve in a world without women? When the past is only grief how long should you hold on to it? What secrets can the forest offer to change it all? 
Discover the Beauty.

Dark Star by Oliver Langmead

The city of Vox survives in darkness, under a sun that burns without light. In Vox’s permanent night, light bulbs are precious, the rich live in radiance and three Hearts beat light into the city. Aquila. Corvus. Cancer.

Hearts that bring power to the light-deprived citizens of the city of Vox whilst ghosts haunt the streets, clawing at headlights. Prometheus, liquid light, is the drug of choice. The body of young Vivian North, her blood shining brightly with unnatural light, has no place on the streets.

When Cancer is stolen, the weaponisation of its raw power threatens to throw Vox into chaos. Vox needs a hero, and it falls to cop Virgil Yorke to investigate.

But Virgil has had a long cycle and he doesn’t feel like a hero. With the ghosts of his last case still haunting his thoughts, he craves justice for the young woman found dead with veins full of glowing. Aided by his partner Dante, Virgil begins to shed light on the dark city’s even darker secrets.

Haunted by the ghosts of his past and chased by his addictions, which will crack first, Virgil or the case?
Their fiction is available in numerous marketplaces and if you're interested in submitting, here are their guidelines for stories and novels.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Shout-Out: The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality by Gahan Hanmer

Here's a novel for everyone who's always wanted to leave the real world behind and live in a pseudo-medieval world.

Welcome to Albert Keane’s beautifully designed medieval kingdom nestled in a completely isolated river valley in the Canadian wilderness. Peaceful, happy, and prosperous, it takes nothing from the modern world, not so much as a single clock.

There is a castle, of course, and a monastery. There is even a pitch dark, rat-infested dungeon – because you simply have to have one if you are trying a rule a feudal kingdom!

Farmers work the land, artisans ply their trades, monks keep school and visit the sick, and nobody (well, almost nobody) misses the modern world at all.

So why has Jack Darcey – actor, wanderer, ex-competitive fencer – been tricked and seduced into paying a visit? And why hasn’t anyone told him that the only way to leave is a perilous trek across hundreds of miles of trackless wilderness without a compass or a map?

Because a tide of fear and violence is rising from the twisted ambitions of one of King Albert’s nobles, and Albert’s fortune teller believes that Jack could turn the tide – if he lives long enough.

Seamlessly blending medieval and modern elements, The Kingdom on the Edge of Reality serves up a heady brew of action, humor, romance and satire in a kingdom set apart in time and space where reality is the dealer’s choice.

Gahan Hanmer enjoyed a colorful career in the theater as an actor, director, designer and technician. He now lives in the high chaparral desert of California.  He's currently doing a blog tour for The Kingdom of the Edge of Reality.  You can find all the stops on the tour here if you scroll down the page. If you want the chance to win an Amazon giftcard/Paypal cash (for international winners) and a copy of the book, there's a rafflecopter entry form there as well.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Video: The X-Cats

What would you get if you crossed cats with the X-Men?  The X-Cats.  Kaipotainment only has a few of these right now but I'd love to see them make more.  They've got origin videos for Cyclops and Wolverine, as well as regular videos for Wolverine, Professor X and Magneto.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Book Review: Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal

Pros: considerate treatment of several… delicate issues, wonderful depiction of a loving relationship, interesting plot

Cons: last of the series

Vincent receives word of his father’s demise.  His brother, the new Earl of Verbury, has suffered a recent accident and requests that Vincent go to Antigua to deal with affairs on their estate there and look for a possible updated will.  Reluctantly Vincent and Jane take ship, where Jane becomes increasingly ill.  It’s soon apparent that she’s with child.  It’s equally apparent, when they arrive on the island, that affairs on the plantation are not as they expected.

You’ll want to refresh your memory of the events of the previous books, particularly book three, Without a Summer, before reading this one, as Vincent’s family plays an important role and his childhood and other events from his past are revisited.  Similarly, Jane’s problems from the end of book two, Glamour in Glass, are brought up a lot with regards to her pregnancy.

Kowal writes with consideration about the treatment of the slaves on the plantation, showing Vincent and Jane’s ignorance and reaction to what’s going on, from disciplinary measures and substandard housing to the ever present threat of rape from their owners and overseers.  There are a few scenes that are uncomfortable to read in the way that it’s easier to look away than to face the realities of the past, even when delivered through fiction.  This is equally true with regards to some of the difficulties Jane faces with her pregnancy.

It’s such a pleasure seeing a loving marital relationship in a fantasy book depicted with such intimacy (by which I mean openness, not graphic content).  The way they know each others habits and can understand their moods based on small gestures and noises is wonderful to see in print, as is their honest desire to help each other cope with the difficulties they face.

It’s sad to see such a wonderful series end.  I really enjoyed the touch of magic Kowal brought to the Regency period and can’t wait to see what she does next.

Out April 28th.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Cover Reveal: Binary, ®evolution book 2, by Stephanie Saulter

I really enjoyed the first book in Stephanie Saulter's ®evolution series, Gemsigns (click here for my review).  The book focused on the plight of genetically altered humans, and what rights - if any - they deserved now that they were no longer owned by the companies that engineered them.  

I'm pleased to present the US cover of book 2, Binary.  Binary hits stores in North America May 5th and is already out (with a different cover) in the UK and Australia.

Zavcka Klist is no longer the ruthless gemtech enforcer determined to keep the gems enslaved she once was. She’s now all about transparency and sharing the fruits of Bel’Natur’s research to help gems and norms alike.
Or is she?
Neither Aryel Morningstar nor Dr. Eli Walker are convinced by this change, but the gems have problems that only a gemtech can solve. In exchange for their help, digital savant Herran agrees to work on Klist’s latest project: reviving the science that drove mankind to the brink of extinction.
Then confiscated genestock disappears from a secure government facility, and the more Detective Varsi investigates, the closer she comes to the dark heart of Bel'Natur and what Zavcka Klist is really after—not to mention the secrets of Aryel Morningstar's own past.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Shout-Out: Black Dog Summer by Miranda Sherry

In this extraordinary debut novel reminiscent of The Lovely Bones and Little Bee, a mother watches from the afterlife as her teenage daughter recovers amidst the startling dysfunction of her extended family.

A small, bright thread of a story weaves out from the moment of my passing and seems to tether me to this place. Perhaps this is why I have not left yet. Perhaps I have no choice but to follow the story to its end.
Compulsively readable and stylistically stunning, Black Dog Summer begins with a murder, a farmstead massacre, in the South African bush. Thirty-eight-year-old Sally is but one of the victims. Her life brutally cut short, she narrates from her vantage point in the afterlife and watches as her sister, Adele, her brother-in-law and unrequited love Liam, her niece Bryony, and her teenage daughter, Gigi, begin to make sense of the tragedy.

A suspenseful drama focusing on marriage and fidelity, sisterhood, and the fractious bond between mothers and daughters, Black Dog Summer asks: In the wake of tragedy, where does all that dark energy linger? The youngest characters, Bryony and Gigi, cousins who are now brought together after Sally’s murder, are forced into sharing a bedroom. Bryony becomes confused and frightened by the violent energy stirred up and awakened by the massacre, while Gigi is unable to see beyond her deep grief and guilt. But they are not the only ones aware of the lurking darkness. Next door lives Lesedi, a reluctant witchdoctor who hides her mystical connection with the dead behind the façade of their affluent Johannesburg suburb.

As Gigi finally begins to emerge from her grief, the fragile healing process is derailed when she receives some shattering news, and in a mistaken effort to protect her cousin, puts Bryony’s life in imminent danger. Now Sally must find a way to prevent her daughter from making a mistake that could destroy the lives of all who are left behind.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Video: Women's Makeup Throughout History

While it's not a truly comprehensive look at how make-up changed by place and time, this short film by BuzzFeed does give some great ideas.  When making up a world - or a future - consider how styles and views of beauty change.  What are men and women (generally of the upper classes, assuming your story has classes) doing to look cool, fashionable, sophisticated, beautiful?  Consider what features are considered important and are therefore emphasized.  What characteristics (clear skin, large eyes, rosy cheeks...) are they emphasizing?  Do the women wear make-up?  Do the men? These are the little background tidbits that can help make your world feel more real.

BuzzFeed also has a video on women's ideal body types throughout history which is also worth a watch.  Because women's sizes with regards to beauty has also changed over time/place.  Consider how these extremes in different body types can affect the plot: 1) having a larger bodied upper class with a thin, starving lower class because food on the whole is very expensive and/or scarce.  2) If healthy foods are expensive and only processed foods are cheap enough for the lower class to afford it, giving a thin, fit upper class with an unhealthy, overweight lower class.  The first example could easily describe a medieval manor - with only nobles being able to afford a variety of foods and plenty of meat.  The lower classes in this case might be malnourished and try to find alternate sources of food (poaching, etc).  The second example is close to what we're developing in the Western world today.  Plentiful food, but the cheaper stuff - and easier to acquire - is making us unhealthy.  Knowing the economics of food/weight in your book could explain the fitness/size of your protagonists.  Is your detective thin but malnourished, making it hard for her to run after suspects?  Is your princess overweight but healthy because she can afford a variety of foods in her diet?  Is your rogue slowly starving to death because he can't find enough work and therefore can't afford food due to high prices?  

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Book Review: Quintessence by David Walton

Pros: great world-building, entertaining

Cons: surprisingly swift resolution to numerous problems 

The Western Star returns to England from the edge of the world purportedly carrying treasures untold, but the hold is full of barrels of dirt, rocks, and seawater, and the crew has mysteriously died.  Stephen Parris, physic to the ailing King Edward VI, attempts to increase his knowledge of the human body by dissecting corpses, an act that would mean his execution if discovered.  The most recent body he examines, from The Western Star, is remarkably preserved and has some bizarre characteristics.  Christopher Sinclair is an alchemist, determined to find the elixir of life, and believes the tales of wealth the admiral of The Western Star told before he died.  He convinces the king to finance a second mission for the repaired ship and persuades Parris to accompany him on his voyage of discovery.

This book is set in a world very similar to our own where the Earth is, in fact, flat, and a mysterious substance called quintessence - the fifth element, the essence of life - is found in creatures that live close to the world’s edge.  The book, consequently, has a lot of fantastical creatures, starting with a beetle that can fly through walls and a manticore that can speak mind to mind using its tail as a connection port.  Learning about the different creatures and their miraculous properties was highly entertaining.

I’m currently learning about the history of science so it was a real pleasure to see Aristotelianism argued against atomism (not to be confused with the modern atomic theory). 

The book doesn’t pull any punches with regards to what life was like, either with England in its time of tribulation (with the succession), shipboard life, or the challenges of learning about a new land.  I especially appreciated that the Spanish inquisition was used accurately - as a way to wipe out heresy, not a series of witchcraft trials.  Again, the horror of the institution isn’t toned down at all, and the true targets, conversos (Jews and Muslims who professed conversion to Catholicism while retaining their beliefs in secret), are briefly shown in focus.  Witchcraft does come up, but in the contexts of body snatching and magic.

I really liked Parris and his inquisitiveness, as well as his daughter Catherine, and her desire to learn more about the natural world and avoid marriage for the time being.  I felt that Catherine grew over the course of the book, though mostly at the end, when the consequences of her actions throughout the book become clear.  Parris too grows to some extent.  

Sinclair is pretty interesting as a character, though he’s not very likeable.  I found his experiments cool, but his willingness to manipulate people to get his way became disturbing as the book wore on.

Most of the action in the book was predictable but there were some interesting twists, mainly concerning the creatures encountered and revolving around the ending of the book.

The ending came rather suddenly and wrapped things up a little too neatly.  A number of people mastered powers too quickly to be believable.  I did, however, appreciate that there was no cliffhanger leading to the next book in the trilogy.


Just to clarify my comments about the ending for those who have read the book, I understood that Catherine could - under duress - figure out that she has powers due to the influx of quintessence in her, but I object to her mastering it in 5 minutes.  The explanation behind it seemed to boil down to the idea that humans master all sorts of skills and never have to consciously think about them again.  But many (most?) of those skills have to be learned in infancy/childhood.  And if you suddenly acquire an ability in adulthood that you lacked before, you have to learn how to do it (even if it’s a skill you had and lost for a period of time, like walking again after breaking a leg).  Even more egregious is Parris’ ability to watch Sinclair perform the resurrection ceremony once and be able to perfectly modify it to give others the same quintessence powers Catherine got.  Sinclair practiced on animals, not enough to truly understand what he was doing, but even he failed on his first try on a human.  But Parris manages to get it right 5 times in a row with no prior experience at all.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Shout-Out: Paradox by A. J. Paquette

Survive one world. Save another.
Ana wakes on a barren alien world. The instructions in her pocket tell her that she must survive a trek across Paradox in less than 28 hours.
Mission? Check.
Weapons? Check.
Memory? Missing. . . .
Meeting up with three other teens—including one boy who seems strangely familiar—Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth. They’re fighting some sort of disease, and the situation is critical. What’s the connection between Ana’s mission and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure it out when she can’t remember anything?

Friday, 10 April 2015

Movie Review: Silent Hill Revelation

Directed by: Michael Bassett, 2012

Pros: atmospheric, little gore, great special effects, good acting

Cons: protagonist ends up exactly where she needs to be, Vincent understand normal life despite his upbringing, plot changes from the game make less sense  

Heather and her dad have moved to another new town.  When a detective warns her that he’s revealed her location to people looking for her, she’s forced to go to Silent Hill.

This movie nails the special effects.  The monsters and buildings look awesome and the amusement park is brilliantly done.  I loved the transition between the regular world and the ‘hell’ world.  The film really captures the look of the video game.

I found that Heather moved around the town in a surprisingly linear way.  Despite crawling out of an air duct at one point she somehow emerged in front of the building she needed to get to.  With the exception of the drive to Silent Hill, every scene pretty much cuts to where she needs to be, even though the game is all about exploring and discovering the path.  Similarly, keys are easy to find and the correct doors properly marked.

Heather uses a gun once, but never uses a metal rod or anything else to fight with, the way her character did in the games.  On the plus side, this meant there was little in the way of gore (in comparison to the games).  On the down side, it felt like things were too easy, with her either defeating things quickly or not fighting them at all.  Having said that, the scene with the nurses in the asylum was brilliantly creepy.

Because the first film changed the plot from the video game, this film also has to modify the plot.  An unfortunate consequence of that is that the climax isn’t particularly climactic.  There’s a great fight scene, then the film is over.  There’s an even bigger fight scene at this point in the third game, with a plot twist the movie doesn’t go into.  As with the first film, if you think about the plot too much it doesn’t make much sense.

Some of the characters’ motivations make no sense, specifically that of Harry - and his constant moving around - and Vincent.

My husband pointed out that Harry (Sean Bean) didn’t see what happened in Silent Hill in the first film, so what is he running from/protecting his daughter from?  He didn’t see the cult, didn’t see the monsters, doesn’t know what she is or anything.  I assume she could have explained stuff to him, but she was a child during all of that, and what adult takes children’s nightmares seriously?  

Vincent.  I really liked him in the film.  I think Kit Harington was an excellent choice to play him and I think the role was well done.  Having said that, how did he learn so much about the regular world?  He can drive, he signs up for school, has decent clothes, has money…  And he trusts Heather after knowing her for about 30 minutes, despite a lifetime of brainwashing.

That’s a lot of complaints, but I did find the film really enjoyable to watch.  I prefer horror films with more thinking and less gore, and this fit the bill.  I also enjoy the creepiness of the Silent Hill games, which this embodied well.  I think the actors did a great job and I would watch it again.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Shout-Out: Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia

A decade dead, Jacob Campbell is a preservationist, providing a kind of taxidermy to keep his clients looking lifelike for as long as the forces of entropy will allow. But in the Land of the Dead, where the currency is time itself and there is little for corpses to do but drink, thieve, and gamble eternity away, Jacob abandons his home and his fortune for an opportunity to meet the man who cheated the rules of life and death entirely.

According to legend, the Living Man is the only adventurer to ever cross into the underworld without dying first. It’s rumored he met his end somewhere in the labyrinth of pubs beneath Dead City’s streets, disappearing without a trace. Now Jacob’s vow to find the Living Man and follow him back to the land of the living sends him on a perilous journey through an underworld where the only certainty is decay.

Accompanying him are the boy Remington, an innocent with mysterious powers over the bones of the dead, and the hanged man Leopold l’Eclair, a flamboyant rogue whose criminal ambitions spark the undesired attention of the shadowy ruler known as the Magnate.

An ambitious debut that mingles the fantastic with the philosophical, Dead Boys twists the well-worn epic quest into a compelling, one-of-a-kind work of weird fiction that transcends genre, recalling the novels of China Miéville and Neil Gaiman.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Video: Sesame Street: Game of Chairs (Game of Thrones Parody)

This is a rather hilarious (and safe for kids), if disturbing ('cause it's SUCH an adult show) Game of Thrones parody done by Sesame Street in the mode of musical chairs.  Puppets Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark, Cersei Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen are all vying for a seat on the royal throne. Having seen the show I was surprised at the order in which people were disqualified.  I'd assumed people would be kicked out of the game in the order they'd died in the show. There are some great in jokes though.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Book Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Pros: fascinating premise, interesting protagonists

Cons: limited plot

400 years ago the Blast wiped out most of humanity.  Now everyone is born as twins.  One child, the Alpha, is perfectly formed.  Alphas teach that the second child, the Omega, is born of the poisons that haven’t entirely dissipated from the Blast, thereby explaining their deformities: a missing limb, an extra eye, the inability to speak.  Visions.  The Omegas, unpleasant to look at and more prone to disease, are sent away, but kept in decent enough conditions because when one twin dies, so does the other.

Cassandra is a seer, a rare Omega with no distinguishing features but the ability to sense things about the world around her.  Raised with her twin brother Zach longer than usual, due to her unblemished appearance, both their lives are impacted.  Zach’s fear of Omegas and the rejection of his peers causes him to have ambitions that will change the lives of Omegas everywhere, starting with Cass.

I find myself somewhat conflicted about this book.  I really liked the premise surrounding the twins and the political and ethical questions regarding the treatment of the Omegas, but there’s very little plot.  Most of the book is about Cass running away from her brother.  That’s not to say that the book isn’t interesting, the characters pass through a cross-section of the world, and it’s a very interesting world.

While I liked Cass and Kip - a fellow hunted Omega - I didn’t end up with the emotional connection to them that I expected given the character driven nature of this book.  I go more into my thoughts on their relationship in the spoiler section below.

I liked that Cass had the idea that Alphas and Omegas shouldn’t be considered separate groups, especially given their death connection, but the few times she brings it up her idea is shot down by others.  I recognize how hard changing such ingrained beliefs would be and kind of hoped to see the author tackle it by having Cass bring it up more often, wearing her compatriots down or finding new and more concrete ways of getting her views across to more people.  I’m wondering if book 2 will deal more with this.

The book was enjoyable to read but left me wanting more from it than I got.


While I understood that Cass and Kip came to care for each other I was left unsure of how close their relationship ultimately became.  There’s mention of kisses, but nothing beyond that and while they share a lot of close contact, there wasn’t much in the way of intimate discussion (and yes, I recognize that his amnesia would make that more difficult there are still ways of sharing hopes and fears that don’t depend on explaining your past).  The event at the end had no impact on me, which came as an unpleasant surprise.  I’d thought I’d cared for the characters more than that and I’ll often cry when horrible things happen to characters I love.  Here, my reaction was to shrug and turn the page.

And I understand that there would have been negative consequences for Zach had his twin been found at the silo, but I still find it hard to believe that he let her go completely.  Couldn’t he have locked her in his office or something?  Not the best plan, sure, but better than letting her go where he’d have to hunt her down again and wonder all the time if she’s about to die.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Shout-Out: The Fated Blades series by Steve Bein

Daughter of the Sword

Mariko Oshiro is not your average Tokyo cop. As the only female detective in the city’s most elite police unit, she has to fight for every ounce of respect, especially from her new boss. While she wants to track down a rumored cocaine shipment, he gives her the least promising case possible. But the case—the attempted theft of an old samurai sword—proves more dangerous than anyone on the force could have imagined.

The owner of the sword, Professor Yasuo Yamada, says it was crafted by the legendary Master Inazuma, a sword smith whose blades are rumored to have magical qualities. The man trying to steal it already owns another Inazuma—one whose deadly power eventually comes to control all who wield it. Or so says Yamada, and though he has studied swords and swordsmanship all his life, Mariko isn’t convinced.

But Mariko’s skepticism hardly matters. Her investigation has put her on a collision course with a curse centuries old and as bloodthirsty as ever. She is only the latest in a long line of warriors and soldiers to confront this power, and even the sword she learns to wield could turn against her.

Year of the Demon

Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro has been promoted to Japan’s elite Narcotics unit—and with this promotion comes a new partner, a new case, and new danger. The underboss of a powerful yakuza crime syndicate has put a price on her head, and he’ll lift the bounty only if she retrieves an ancient iron demon mask that was stolen from him in a daring raid. However, Mariko has no idea of the tumultuous past carried within the mask—or of its deadly link with the famed Inazuma blade she wields.

The secret of this mask originated hundreds of years before Mariko was born, and over time the mask’s power has evolved to bend its owner toward destruction, stopping at nothing to obtain Inazuma steel. Mariko’s fallen sensei knew much of the mask’s hypnotic power and of its mysterious link to a murderous cult. Now Mariko must use his notes to find the mask before the cult can bring Tokyo to its knees—and before the underboss decides her time is up....

Disciple of the Wind

When Tokyo falls victim to a deadly terrorist attack, Detective Sergeant Mariko Oshiro knows who is responsible, even if she doesn’t have proof. She urges her commanding officers to arrest the perpetrator—an insane zealot who was just released from police custody. When her pleas fall on deaf ears, she loses her temper and then her badge, as well as her best chance of fighting back.
Left on her own, and armed with only her cunning and her famed Inazuma blade, Mariko must work outside the system to stop a terrorist mastermind. But going rogue draws the attention of an underground syndicate known as the Wind. For centuries, they have controlled Japanese politics from the shadows, using mystical relics to achieve their nefarious ends—relics like Mariko’s own sword and the iron demon mask whose evil curse is bound to the blade. Now the Wind is set on acquiring Mariko.
Mariko is left with a perilous choice: Join an illicit insurgency to thwart a deadly villain, or remain true to the law. Either way, she cannot escape her sword’s curse. As sure as the blade will bring her to victory, it also promises to destroy her…. 

Friday, 3 April 2015

Video Game Review: Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa)

Never Alone was made by Upper One Games who:

... paired world class game makers with Alaska Native storytellers and elders to create a game which delves deeply into the traditional lore of the Iñupiat people to present an experience like no other.
Never Alone is our first title in an exciting new genre of “World Games” that draw fully upon the richness of unique cultures to create complex and fascinating game worlds for a global audience.

The story is based around a traditional tale and features a young huntress named Nuna, who goes in search of the cause of a series of blizzards that is causing problems for her tribe.  An arctic fox helps her on her journey.

Chapters start with that segment of the tale narrated in Iñupiat (with subtitles) and illustrated with traditional art. The gameplay itself deals with a variety of dangers - a polar bear, a manslayer, the reaching hands of spirit children manifesting as the northern lights, etc.  Helpful Spirits are often there to aid in Nuna’s quest. The play animation is beautiful, reminiscent of Studio Ghibli style art.

Finding owls throughout the game unlocks short videos that impart cultural knowledge about the Iñupiat and life in Alaska.

The game can be played solo, with you switching between Nuna and the fox, or in co-op mode where one player controls Nuna, and the other the fox.

Some short cut scenes occur throughout play, rendered using the game engine, without any obvious visual cue to differentiate them from game play.  As a result, it wasn’t always clear when you were in control again, meaning it’s sometime easy to die not realizing that the cut scene was over.  But death simply rewinds to the nearest check point, which are so numerous you don’t lose much progress or become too frustrated if you have to replay a spot several times to get the actions right.

Early in the game, Nuna is provided with her main weapon, the bola, which is a traditional string weapon with several weighted ends that is thrown at prey to bring it down by having the cords entangle the target.  I personally found the bola hard to aim and fire, but I’m in no way an experienced gamer, so I expect that more practiced players will have no problem with the controls.  Having said that, the game was otherwise very easy to play, with the controls feeling very natural and responsive.

The game took about 1 1/2 - 2 hours to play all the way through, and was a fun experience.  It was really cool, afterwards, to watch the videos about the Iñupiat and see what life was and is like for them.  This seems to be an excellent way to learn about a different culture, and I’d love to see more games like this.

The game is available on Xbox One, PS4, and Steam (for Mac and PC).  My review was done playing the Mac version in co-op mode using a pair of bluetooth connected PS3 controllers.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Shout-Out: Beta-Life Edited by Martyn Amos and Ra Page

Computers are changing. Soon the silicon chip will seem like a clunky antique amid the bounty of more exotic processes on offer. Robots are changing too; material evolution and swarm intelligence are creating a new generation of devices that will diverge and disperse into a balanced ecosystem of humans and ‘robjects’ (robotic objects). Somewhere in between, we humans will have to change also… in the way we interact with technology, the roles we adopt in an increasingly ‘intelligent’ environment, and how we interface with each other.

The driving motors behind many of these changes will be artificial life (A-Life) and unconventional computing. How exactly they will impact on our world is still an open question. But in the spirit of collective intelligence, this anthology brings together 38 scientists and authors, working in pairs, to imagine what life (and A-Life) will look like in the year 2070. Every kind of technology is imagined: from lie-detection glasses to military swarmbots, brain-interfacing implants to synthetically ‘grown’ skyscrapers, revolution-inciting computer games to synthetically engineered haute cuisine. All artificial life is here.

Featuring scientific contributions from: Martyn Amos, J. Mark Bishop, Seth Bullock, Stephen Dunne, James Dyke, Christian Jantzen, Francesco Mondada, James D. O'Shea, Andrew Philippides, Lenka Pitonakova, Steen Rasmussen, Thomas S. Ray, Micah Rosenkind, James Snowdon, Susan Stepney, Germán Terrazas, Andrew Vardy and Alan Winfield.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in May, 2015

As usual, this list was compiled using Amazon Canada's website.  If something's missing, mention it in the comments and I'll add it in.  There are some great books coming out in May.  I've put stars next to books that caught my interest while putting the list together.

I've been considering retiring this column as it's a lot of work to put together and I'm not sure how useful it is for others.  I looked in to adding photos and/or links, and it's just too much work (I know SF Signal has a column like this with links and photos, but I also know they've got a program from Amazon that lets them enter the titles/authors and does the rest of the work for them).  If you like this column, please mention it in the comments.


Straits of Hell – Taylor Anderson
The Water Knife – Paolo Bacigalupi
Long Black Curl – Alex Bledsoe
Corsair – James Cambias
Leviathan – Jack Campbell
* The Catalyst – Helena Coggan
1882: Custer in Chains – Robert Conroy
* The Hanged Man – P. N. Elrod
People of the Songtrail – W. Michael Gear & Kathleen O’Neal Gear
Warhammer – Gotrek & Felix: Slayer - David Guymer
Day Shift – Charlaine Harris
* The Gospel of Loki – Joanne Harris
Radiant State – Peter Higgins
Eighth Grave After Dark – Darynda Jones
Born of Defiance – Sherrilyn Kenyon
Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah Maas
* Uprooted – Naomi Novik
The Book of Phoenix – Nnedi Okorafor
Trial of Intentions – Peter Orullian
* Beauty – Sarah Pinborough
Hannu Rajaniemi: Collected Fiction – Hannu Rajaniemi
Archangel – Marguerite Reed
Where – Kit Reed
* Binary – Stephanie Saulter
Sword of the North – Luke Scull
Seveneves – Neal Stephenson
Perdido: A Fragment – Peter Straub
Arcadia – James Treadwell
* When the Heavens Fall – Marc Turner
Oracle – Michelle West
* Cash Crash Jubilee – Eli William
A Long Time Until Now – Michael Williamson

Trade Paperback:

Warhammer 40K: Ghostmaker – Dan Abnett
The Sighting – Patricia Anthony
Mother of Eden – Chris Beckett
Mirror Sight – Kristen Britain
Sly Mongoose – Tobias Buckell
Professor Challenger – J. R. Campbell & Charles Prepolec
Thief’s Magic – Trudi Canavan
Gateway to Never – A. Bertram Chandler
Strange Country – Deborah Coates
Cibola Burn – James Corey
A Dance of Chaos – David Dalglish
Dreams of Shreds and Tatters – Amanda Downum
Entwined in Midgard – Nicola Dyson
End of Days – Susan Ee
Writers of the Future, vol 31 – David Farland, Ed.
* Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions For a Better Future – Ed Finn & Kathryn Cramer, Ed.
Lord of Ashes – Richard Ford
Wild West Exodus: Family Blood – Craig Gallant
Extinction Game – Gary Gibson
Warhammer: The Rise of the Horned Rat – Guy Haley
The Book of Life – Deborah Harkness
Gallow: The Fateguard Trilogy – Nathan Hawke
Seraph: The Guardian Angel – James Hicks
The Line of Departure – G. Michael Hopf
Alias Hook – Lisa Jensen
Footsteps in the Sky – Greg Keyes
A Question of Counsel – Archer Kay Leah
Myths & Legends: Odin, The Viking Allfather – Steven Long
Hallow Point – Ari Marmell
State of Decay & Ruin (2-in-1) – Peggy Martinez
The Venusian Gambit – Michael Martinez
Mage Wars: Nature of the Beast – Will McDermott
Jackson’s Rangers: The Volunteer – Diana Miller
Corum – Michael Moorcock
Apex – Ramez Naam
Boundary Crossed – Melissa Olson
The Boy Who Wept Blood – Den Patrick
The Returned – Seth Patrick
* The Bees – Laline Paull (reprint)
Dead Shift – Richard Phillips
The Originals: The Resurrection – Julie Plec
The Causal Angel – Hannu Rajaniemi
The Wild West Exodus Anthology – Brandon Respond, Ed.
Wild West Exodus: Marshals – Brandon Respond
Twenty Trillion Leagues Under the Sea – Adam Roberts
Gemsigns – Stephanie Saulter
The Guild of Saint Cooper – Shya Scanlon
The Ables – Jeremy Scott
Sacrati – Kate Sherwood
Phoenix in Shadow – Ryk Spoor
Robot Overlords – Mark Stay
The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, vol 9 – Jonathan Strahan, Ed.
Defiant – Karina Sumner-Smith
* Tomorrow and Tomorrow – Thomas Sweterlitsch
Salome’s Daughters – Jane Tatam
Guns of the Dawn – Adrian Tchaikovsky
Exigencies: A Neo-Noir Anthology – Richard Thomas, Ed.
The Fall of Arthur – J. R. R. Tolkien
Sisters of the Revolution: A Feminist Speculative Fiction Anthology – Ann Vandermeer & Jeff Vandermeer, Ed.
Pathfinder Tales: Forge of Ashes – Josh Vogt
My Real Children – Jo Walton
The Dark Arts of Blood – Freda Warrington
United Nations Frontier Service 2: The First Generation Ship – John Wells
Unholy Science – Lynda Williams
* Points of Departure: Liavek Stories – Patricia Wrede & Pamela Dean

Mass Market Paperback:

Deadly Shores – Taylor Anderson
Rogue Angel: Day of Atonement – Alex Archer
Death Lands: Forbidden Trespass – James Axler
Outlanders: Hell’s Maw – James Axler
The Boost – Stephen Baker
Shadows – E. C. Blake
Wake of the Bloody Angel – Alex Bledsoe
Earth Awakens – Orson Scott Card & Aaron Johnston
Spell Blind – David Coe
The Savior – Tony Daniel & David Drake
Deep Time – Ian Douglas
Unseemly Science – Rod Duncan
The Waking Engine – David Edison
1636: Commander Cantrell in the West Indies – Eric Flint & Charles Gannon
World of Warcraft: War Crimes – Christie Golden
Moonlight and Diamons & the Vampire’s Fall (2-in-1) – Michele Hauf
The Merchant Emperor – Elizabeth Haydon
Witches With the Enemy – Barb Hendee
Beauty and the Beast: Some Gave All – Nancy Holder
Black Ice – Susan Krinard
Prince of Fools – Mark Lawrence
The Dhulyn and Parno Novels, vol 2 – Violette Malan
The Iron Ship – K. M. McInley
The Waterborne Blade – Susan Murray
Chasers of the Wind – Alex Pehov
Vicky Peterwald: Survivor – Mike Shepherd
Star Trek TNG: Armageddon’s Arrow – Dayton Ward


Alien Sky – Daniel Arenson
Fury – Krista Ball
The Ninth Key – E. B. Brown
Users: The Superhero Sobriety Trilogy – Stacy Buck & Jennifer Buck
Lonely Shore – Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen
The Dinosaur that Wasn’t – Adam CArter
Fantasy of Flight – Kelly St. Clare
Moon Rise – Kate Danley
Feirons Justice – Devin Earhart
A Bodyguard of Lies – Raymund Eich
Seven Dreams – Charlotte English
Empath – S. Usher Evans
Veiled Empire – Nathan Garrison
Sapphire Kingdom – S. R. Gibbs
Wolfskin – W. R. Gingell
The Tabit Genesis – Tony Gonzales
The Primary Protocol – J. M. Guillen
The Lost Voyager – A. C. Hadfield
Black Nova – Tony Healey
Far From Home: The Complete Third Series – Tony Healey
Valiant – Tony Healey
What Time Has Buried – Keegan Hennis
Radiant State – Peter Higgins
White Walls – John Hope
River of the Damned – Aiden James
The Brass Giant – Brooke Johnson
Saira & the Golden Cave – Moira Katson
Saira & the Lost Children – Moira Katson
Volare Omnibus – Treyci Kay
The Last of Our Kind – Marc Kelly
Bane of the Warforged – V. Lakshman
No Horns on These Helmets – Erin Lale, Ed.
Unexpected Rain – Jason LaPier
Lay of Runes: Valkyrja – M. L. Larson
Devil in the Wires – Tim Lees
School of Deaths – Christopher Mannino
Guardians of the Crystals – K. D. Martel
Trigon Daze – M. R. Mathias
Melancholy episode 3 – Charlotte McConaghy
Set in Stone – Frank Morin
The Prometheus Diversion – Scott Nicewonger
The Magical Isles Trilogy – Edwin Page
Elementals: A Paranormal Fantasy Romance Anthology – Anne Parks, Annie Rose Welch, Lashell Collins & Dina Haynes
Across Our Stars: Victor – A. Payne & N.D. Taylor
Revision – Andrea Philips
Blackthorn Rising – Michael James Ploof
Dragon Fire – Mark Brandon Powell
All But Human – Kris Austen Radcliffe
Crossfades: A dystopian novella – William Todd Rose
Gifts of Darkover – Deborah Ross
* Starbase Human – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Snatched – David Saperstein
Daughters of Shadow and Blood – J. Matthew Saunders
Equilibrium: Episode 4 – C. S. Sealey
Guardians & Dragons (quintet) – Robert Stanek
The Guardians of the Dragon Realms – Robert Stanek
The Kingdoms and the Elves of the Reaches Tetralogy – Robert Stanek
Draven’s Light – Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Loki’s Rage – Colin Taber
Ossard Rising – Colin Taber
Forgotten Suns – Judith Tarr
Forgotten – Brian Thompson
Faery Forged – Donna Joy Usher
Among Wolves – Nancy Wallace
Auberon – Blaze Ward
The Shadow of Elysium (novella) – Django Wexler
Arcane Awakening – J. T. Williams
Guardians of Time – Sarah Woodbury

Circuit Heart – D. S. Wrights