Friday 31 January 2014

Recommended Reading by Professionals... with Michael Rowe

In this series, I ask various publishing professionals (including authors, bloggers, editors, agents etc.) to recommend 2-3 authors or books they feel haven't received the recognition they deserve.

Today's recommendations are by Michael Rowe. Michael Rowe is an award-winning journalist and literary nonfiction writer. He created and edited the critically acclaimed horror anthologies Queer Fear and Queer Fear 2, has written numerous short stories, and published two horror novels: Enter, Night and the recently released Wild Fell.
If you’re like me, when you find a magnificent horror novel, you tend to keep it around. My shelves are groaning with the books I’ve read over the years that have stayed with me. Unlike most long ago loves, however, the books are always there, waiting for you with open arms when you find yourself wistfully reminiscing, especially on a stormy night when the power goes out and the house is lit with candlelight and shadows. Among the books I’ve loved are two particular favourites, one old and one new, shared here.
  1. Bernard Taylor’s Sweetheart Sweetheart is a classic English ghost story I read when it first came out in 1977, and a book that I have reread several times in the interim between then and now, and which has influenced my aesthetic as horror writer and as a reader. In many ways it’s a classic haunted house story set in the English countryside. It concerns problematic homecomings and the inexorable, deadly power of the past to assert itself into the present in order to settle old scores through supernatural agency. The vengeful ghost at the heart of Sweetheart Sweetheart is one of the most finely wrought examples of female supernatural malevolence in 20th century horror fiction, and I imagine that Rosa Blackmore, the ghost in my novel Wild Fell, owes more than a passing nod to Taylor’s influence. There’s a reason why the late Charles L. Grant, himself a master of “quiet horror,” picked Sweetheart Sweetheart as one of the 100 greatest horror novels.
  2. My favourite horror novel of 2013 was, hands down, The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice. The author of five New York Times bestselling thrillers, Rice made his supernatural debut this year with a southern gothic tale which, among other things, is about the potential effect of the annihilating rage of thwarted love. In Marshall Ferriot, the novel’s handsome, sociopathic antagonist, who acquires the power to completely and utterly take over the minds of his victims to devastating effect when he becomes infected by a mysterious parasite deep in the Louisiana bayou country, Rice has created the most terrifying sort of monster possible—the kind whose darkness is entirely hidden from view until things—and people—start to die around him. True to literary roots, Rice flavors The Heavens Rise with the mysterious disappearance of an entire family and the hunt for answers, as well as with a dash of social commentary on race, class, and gender. But make no mistake, The Heavens Rise is a ne plus ultra horror novel, a beautifully written one I’m not ashamed to say gave me a nightmare or two.
Stay tuned for the next post where we get more reading recommendations!

Thursday 30 January 2014

Books Received in January, 2014

I've been reading a TON of history books lately, which has been taking up my SFF reading time, though I've tried to keep a fiction book going on the side.  It means I'm rejecting more review requests (and will continue to do so until the bookstore where I work closes and I get laid off).  So my books received list is short - and more doable this month.

Conquest by John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard - I've wanted to read Connolly's The Book of Lost Things for years, but haven't had time.  This is a YA novel he's written with his wife, a journalist.

Earth is no longer ours. . . .
It is ruled by the Illyri, a beautiful, civilized, yet ruthless alien species. But humankind has not given up the fight, and Paul Kerr is one of a new generation of young Resistance leaders waging war on the invaders.

Syl Hellais is the first of the Illyri to be born on Earth. Trapped inside the walls of her father's stronghold, hated by the humans, she longs to escape.

But on her sixteenth birthday, Syl's life is about to change forever. She will become an outcast, an enemy of her people, for daring to save the life of one human: Paul Kerr. Only together do they have a chance of saving each other, and the planet they both call home.
For there is a greater darkness behind the Illyri conquest of Earth, and the real invasion has not yet even begun.

Where's Lolly by Stephen Henning - I've read this and will be posting my review of it soon.  Technically you can read it without having read the previous books - as it's an isolated story.  But the explanation of how she got to the state she's in includes somewhat spoilery aspects for book 2.  There's also some non-gratuitous sexual content (where the other books don't have any sexual content).

A Class Heroes Novella. This is Book 3 in the Class Heroes superhero novel series

Lolly Rosewood is 16 years old and she is on the run. She has arrived in London, penniless, alone and - worse still - she has lost her fearsome superpowers.
She is being hunted by the police and the Security Service, MI5. She has no friends and very few people who would want to help her.

Lolly needs money and a place to lie low, while she formulates a plan to rescue Sir Michael Rosewood, her father, who is being held prisoner by the British Government at a secret location.
There is one person who may just agree to help Lolly. An old friend of her father. However, time is running out because the Security Service are hot on her trail...

Angry Robot Books' Ebook Bundling Comes to North America

From their Press Release:

In 2012, Angry Robot Books began partnering with Indie bookshops in the UK to offer free ebook bundling via the Clonefiles initiative. Angry Robot has been giving DRM-free ebook editions free as companions to all physical books sold at participating Clonefiles stores. Now, Clonefiles is coming to North America.
With BitLit as a fulfillment partner, Angry Robot has teamed up with leading independent bookstores McLean and Eakin Books and Prairie Lights Books to offer free ebook editions with all physical copies of Angry Robot Books sold at these two stores.
Angry Robot have always been champions of DRM-free eBook publishing and are been eager to experiment with new business and distribution models. A dual-format offering for Indies is a natural extension of Angry Robot’s customer-first ethos and a great way for Angry Robot to show some love for the USA’s fantastic Indie bookshop scene.
Upon purchase of physical book, customers will receive information on how to download the free BitLit app and use it to claim their free ebook edition of Angry Robot Books.

As someone who loves owning physical books but enjoys the convenience of ebooks, I'd like to see more SF/F publisher pick up on this idea.

Wednesday 29 January 2014

Video: Doctor Who Theme a cappella

The Warp Zone does a ton of fun music videos, including a cappella versions of some great TV shows. Like Doctor Who.

They've also done Game of Thrones (mildly NSFW), DexterSherlock, and Power Rangers.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Book Review: Between Two Thorns by Emma Newman

Pros: interesting characters, fully realized worlds

Cons: Catherine’s relationship with Josh didn’t feel real, book ends abruptly

Catherine Rhoeas-Papaver grew up in a powerful family of Aquae Sulis, the Nether version of England’s Bath.  But she ran away to Mundanus, hoping to build a life for herself away from the machinations and abuses of her family.  Now they’re bringing her back and forcing her to get married.

Meanwhile, the Master of Ceremonies has disappeared and a Bath Arbiter, charged with keeping the people of Mundanus safe from the fae and their Nether puppets, has uncovered corruption in the London Chapter.

There’s a lot going on in this book that isn’t said, due to Aquae Sulis rules of propriety and the mundanes that feature in parts of the story.  In many ways it makes things fun as you get to figure out aspects of society, the sorcerers, etc. organically.  Only a few things were a bit confusing and took time to figure out, like discovering that Patroon wasn’t a typo for Patron, but a separate office.

The different worlds were realized well.  I liked the amount of detail put into the Nether - the unchanging light, lack of wind, etc. and the glimpses of Exilium were perfect.

The characters were fun, though since we were only told about Catherine’s relationship with Josh, rather than allowed to see them together as a couple, I kept forgetting she was in love with him.  This becomes a problem because I found myself liking her intended groom in the Nether, who tries so hard to impress her.  Seeing her previous relationship in action, and getting to know Josh more, would have grounded that relationship and made her plight - forced to leave him and marry someone else - starker.

The main mystery of the story wraps up, but the book itself ends very abruptly.  I found myself turning the page, expecting more, only to find I was done.  You’ll want the next volume ready to go if you start these, because this book ends with several people in tight spots.

Sunday 26 January 2014

A Writer's Dream: Amalie Howard

Amalie Howard's first book, Bloodspell, debuted in 2011.  But after what must have been quite a flurry of writing and activity, she got publishing deals for 3 other YA books with 3 different publishers, two of which are now out and the last one's coming out on March 4th.  Alpha Goddess, for those looking for something different, is based on Indian mythology.


The spell was simple …
Cruentus Protectum. Defend the Blood.

But what do you do if your blood is your enemy?

Victoria Warrick has always known she was different. An outcast at school, she is no stranger to adversity. But when she receives an old journal for her seventeenth birthday, nothing prepares her for the dark secrets it holds—much less one that reveals she’s a witch with unimaginable power.

What’s more, when she meets the dazzling but enigmatic Christian Devereux, she has no idea how much her life is about to change. Enemies will hunt her. Friends will turn on her. The terrible curse that makes her blood run black will stop at nothing to control her. And Christian has a sinister secret of his own …

Without knowing whom to trust, can Victoria survive her blood’s deadly desires? Or will she lose everything, including herself?



Nerissa Marin hides among teens in her human form, waiting for the day she can claim her birthright—the undersea kingdom stolen from her the day her father was murdered. Blending in is her best weapon—until her father’s betrayer confronts Nerissa and challenges her to a battle to the death on Nerissa’s upcoming birthday—the day she comes of age.

Amid danger and the heartbreak of her missing mother, falling for a human boy is the last thing Nerissa should do. But Lo Seavon breaches her defenses and somehow becomes the only person she can count on to help her desperate search for her mother, a prisoner of Nerissa’s mortal enemy. Is Lo the linchpin that might win Nerissa back her crown? Or will this mortal boy become the weakness that destroys her?

The Almost Girl 

17 year-old Riven comes from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, a parallel world to Earth. A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory. Thrown out of her comfort zone but with the mindset of a soldier and in a race against time to bring Caden home, Riven has to learn how to be a girl in a realm that is the opposite of what she knows. Will Riven be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was designed to be?

Alpha Goddess

In Serjana Caelum’s world, gods exist. So do goddesses. Sera knows this because she is one of them. A secret long concealed by her parents, Sera is Lakshmi reborn, the human avatar of an immortal Indian goddess rumored to control all the planes of existence—Illysia (the Light Realm), Earth (the Mortal Realm), and Xibalba (the Dark Realm). Marked by the sigils of both heaven and hell, Sera’s avatar is meant to bring balance to the mortal world, but all she creates is chaos. A chaos that Azrath, the Asura Lord of Death, hopes to use to unleash hell on earth.

Torn between reconciling her past and present, Sera must figure out how to stop Azrath before the Mortal Realm is destroyed. But trust doesn’t come easy in a world fissured by lies and betrayal. Her best friend, Kyle, is hiding his own dark secrets, and her mysterious new neighbor, Devendra, seems to know a lot more than he’s telling. Struggling between her opposing halves and her attraction to the boys tied to each of them, Sera must become the goddess she was meant to be, or risk failing, which means sacrificing the world she was born to protect.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Chris Hadfield at the HRPA

I don't normally talk about the offsites I do with the store here, but as this one ended with Chris Hadfield's keynote address - which I got to see part of - I'm making an exception.  The World's Biggest Bookstore runs the bookstore booth for the HRPA (Human Resource Professionals Association)'s trade show. (Of course, next year another store will be taking over.)

Anyway, after setting up to sell books outside the hall were Chris Hadfield was speaking, I was able to stand at the back and take some photos and video clips of his talk.  As you would expect, the hall was packed.  I was surprised - and happy - to see that on either side of the large screens set up for the talk, were smaller screens where someone typed up the presentation for the hard of hearing to read.

The first clip is Mr. Hadfield describing what it feels like to launch into space.

Chris Hadfield: What it feels like to launch into space. from Jessica Strider on Vimeo.

In the second clip he describes what it's like to do a space walk.

Christ Hadfield talking about doing a space walk from Jessica Strider on Vimeo.

And for those of you who aren't Canadian, here's the Canadarm2, pictured on the Canadian $5 bill that he mentions in the video.

Because it was an event for HR professionals, Mr. Hadfield applied what he's learned to business and life principles.  For this clip he explains his life long dream - starting at the age of 9 - of going into space, and how achieving goals isn't the best way of determining success.

Chris Hadfield on measuring personal success from Jessica Strider on Vimeo.

And here's Mr. Hadfield signing one of a long, LONG, line of books for people.

Chris Hadfield is such an inspiration.  It's nice to see Canada involved in the space program and helping to inspire future astronauts.

Friday 24 January 2014

Link to Monsters

It's the last day of my offsite, so I thought I'd give you something special - monsters.  Here's an article by describing the Top Ten Monsters of the Middle Ages, namely:

Grendel + mother

While I agree with most of these I'm not sure Grendel belongs on this list.  He's only mentioned in one story, whereas all the others are mentioned by numerous sources.  He may be a monster modern audiences think of, but I'm curious how wildly known the story was in the middle ages.  I might have picked griffins for the 10th.

Anyway, enjoy. :)

Thursday 23 January 2014

To Interview Authors or Not To Interview Authors...

Should I keep interviewing authors is the question I'm still asking myself.  I've been doing a two pronged interview format, posting them online and putting up displays at the World's Biggest Bookstore.  But with the bookstore closing, there goes the practical - I'm physically selling copies of the books - aspect of my interviews.  My interviews are also based more on the 'get to know the author' rather than 'here are specifics about the book', making them more appropriate for browsers at the store, since I figured that not everyone who might be interested in reading about authors reads SFF.

So now my quandary is, should I keep interviewing authors on my blog?  My initial response was no. There are much more popular blogs, and interviews require a lot of time of authors, time that would be better spent writing books.

Then I talked to an author at the store who mentioned that interviews are easier for authors to respond to than writing up guest posts.  And guest posts require them to come up with a topic and make it interesting and polish it up - like writing an essay. Whereas an interview is a conversation, and faster to complete.

The other consideration is, if I do keep interviewing authors, should I change my questions and format? Should I keep the focus on the writing life or make things more about the new book they're promoting?

So I ask you, my readers, do you like author interviews?  Do you read them and enjoy learning more about the authors?  If I keep doing interviews, what kinds of questions would you like to see me ask?

And authors, do you agree with the comments above, that interviews are easier for you and worth doing for promotion?  And what kinds of questions do you like answering?

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Rosetta - ESA's Comet Studying Spacecraft

I'd doing an off site for the store this week, so I'm working more than usual.  I this week's posts together earlier and had to dig around for ideas on what to post.

That's when I came across this.  Rosetta is a spacecraft built by the European Space Agency for the purpose of researching 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a comet it will intercept around Jupiter's orbit and attempt to land on it to perform various experiments, later this summer.  A few days ago the spacecraft, which was put into deep space hibernation about 2 1/2 years ago, was woken up, in preparation for the last leg of its mission.

You can learn more about Rosetta on the ESA's website and see more videos about the mission on youtube.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Myths & Legends: Robin Hood by Neil Smith and Illustrated by Peter Dennis

Pros: summarizes several stories, mentions scholarship about historical possibilities for Robin Hood’s identity

Cons: repetitious, Maid Marion’s origin story left out

This is another volume from Osprey’s Myths & Legends series.  Like the others, it summarizes the stories involved as well as gives historical information on where the legends came from.

This book is separated into the Legend of Robin Hood (the earliest stories, mostly from A Gest of Robyn Hode), the Myth of Robin Hood (the populist stories added from the 15th C, influenced by the May Games) and Robin Hood’s World (historical information).

Peter Dennis’s artwork is great, though there are a lot of historical artwork reproduced as well.  I did find it strange that the explanation boxes for his illustrations gave short summaries of the stories they illustrate.  Since they appear after the longer story summaries, it’s unnecessary repetition.  The exception to this being the one on Robin and Friar Tuck, where he mentions a lot of background information about the story and the location it takes place in.  Rather than the summary I’d have appreciated more information on his artistic choices, which only gets minor treatment.

Given the book’s size and the amount of material to cover, there’s a lot left out.  The most glaring omission to the book is the story of how Maid Marion joins the Merry Men.  While it’s mentioned that she was a later inclusion to the mythos and how her story morphed over time, I was disappointed that one or two of her stories weren’t included to show how she evolved as a character.  It’s bizarre considering her importance to Robin Hood’s modern tales and the fact that the author summarized Friar Tuck’s story, which dates from the same period as Maid Marion’s.

Ultimately, this is a great starting point for those interested in learning more about Robin Hood. 

Sunday 19 January 2014

Shout-Out: Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkowski

I got a publicity email about this YA novel coming out in March.  Alas, my reading schedule's tight right now, so I couldn't accept the review request, but the book does sound interesting.  According to the publicist, "it’s about an expansionist civilization which has just conquered a new country and is having to deal with the acclimatization process. The main character is a girl from the imperialist country who is now living in that new country, in a house built by the conquered people, while they remain there as their slaves".

The Book's official dust jacket summarizes it this way:

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love As a general's daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin's eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him--with unexpected consequences. It's not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined.

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

Friday 17 January 2014

Recommended Reading by Professionals with Jessica Strider (x2)

In this series, I ask various publishing professionals (including authors, bloggers, editors, agents etc.) to recommend 2-3 authors or books they feel haven't received the recognition they deserve.

I don’t intend to do this often, but with working extra for Christmas and everyone being busy, I wasn’t able to get all the recommended reading posts that I’d hoped. So here I am, filling in a gap.

  1. I noticed K. M. Ruiz’s Mind Storm when it first came out in 2011. It’s the first book of a duology completed in Terminal Point and recently reprinted as an omnibus edition under the title Strykers. The novel’s set in a post-apocalyptic future where only ‘clean’ genes, untainted by the radiation that’s mutated humanity and given some people psychic powers, are valued. The majority of psychics are either controlled by the government or are part of the Stryker Syndicate, led by a politician the world believes is a clean gene’d human. It’s a tightly written novel with a lot of action and some great political intrigue.
  2. M. J. Locke (aka Laura Mixon)’s book Up Against It blew me away. It’s set on an asteroid cluster which depends on methane ice shipments for water, air, and energy. When it’s most recent shipment is destroyed in an explosion, the colony’s resource manager scrambles to figure out what happened and find a new source of ice before their mayor sells them out to the Martian mob. There’s an AI, a transgendered character, lots of intrigue and decent amounts of action. I can’t understand how this book slipped under the radar.
  3. One series I really enjoyed is Chris Evans’s Iron Elves trilogy, starting with A Darkness Forged in Fire. It’s set in a fantasy world where one nation has discovered gun powder and invaded and enslaved several others. A falling Red Star marks the return of dark magic, fostering rebellion. So the Empire sends the reinstated Iron Elves (named after a disbanded regiment that now suffers from a lack of actual Elves) led by disgraced Elf Konowa Swift Dragon, to find the pieces of the star before other interested parties do.
Stay tuned for the next post where we get more reading recommendations.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Get a Class Heroes eNovella Free today!

Class Heroes is a series by Steve Henning, and while this novella takes place after books 1 and 2, it's self contained and can be read without knowing what's happened in those stories.


Lolly is on the run. She has arrived in London, penniless, alone and – worse still – she has lost her fearsome superpowers.

She is being hunted by the police and the Security Service. She has no friends and very few people who would want to help her. She needs money and a place to lie low, while she formulates a plan to rescue Sir Michael Rosewood, her father. He is being held prisoner by the British Government at a secret location.

There is one person who may just agree to help Lolly. An old friend of her father. However, time is running out because the Security Service are hot on her trail...

I've read the first two books and they're quite fun.  This novella is on my to be read pile.  Here's where you can get the eNovella, today*, for free:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Amazon Canada

* At the time of posting all the links had the book listed for free.  Check before buying to confirm that's still the case.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

I, Frankenstein Trailer

When I first heard of this film I wasn't that interested, then I saw the trailer.  Gargoyles, shape-shifters and Frankenstein's monster.  Looks pretty awesome.

The official synopsis:
200 years after his shocking creation, Dr. Frankenstein's creature, Adam, still walks the earth. But when he finds himself in the middle of a war over the fate of humanity, Adam discovers he holds the key that could destroy humankind. 

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Book Review: Control by Lydia Kang

Pros: interesting plot, awesome protagonist 


For Parents: minor swearing, drug use (but not by protagonists), off page sex, minor violence

Set in 2150, after the collapse of the United States into smaller colonies, Zelia and her younger sister Dylia, are devastated when an accident leaves them orphaned.  When her blood test shows she has a special, and illegal, trait, Dylia is taken by an underground organization that exploits their differences.  Zelia meanwhile, is taken in by an opposing organization where she discovers that her Ondine’s curse isn’t the only thing that sets her apart from others.  As she grows closer to her new family, she also becomes more determined to rescue her sister, regardless of the cost.

Despite most of the characters having special powers/mutation of some sort, this isn’t a superhero book.  There are a few fist fights, but that’s about it for violence and action.  This is a female coming of age story about growing into yourself and trying to protect the people you love from harm.

Zelia is a great protagonist.  She starts off timid and obedient to her controlling father, but when push comes to shove she discovers she won’t back down from making difficult choices in order to get her sister back.  And while I didn’t like all the decisions she makes (and she makes a few terrible ones), all of her actions make sense given her age (she’s 17) and the traumas she’s been through.  She’s never whiny as she works hard to find her sister.  I loved her personality as she becomes quite snarky and bad ass as time goes by.

The plot’s pretty interesting.  You keep learning more about where these powers are coming from and what Zelia’s father was really up to.  There’s a touch of romance coming into the final third of the book, including off page sex.  There’s also some drug use at the club that appears in 2 scenes.

This is a book carried by it’s protagonist and her quest.  It was a hard book to put down and I really enjoyed it.  It’s open ended enough for a sequel but can also be read as a stand alone.

Sunday 12 January 2014

Shout-Out: The Game by Anders De La Motte

The Game is the first book of a Swedish trilogy, recently translated and published in English.  It continues in Bubble and Buzz.  The synopsis sort of reminds me of Erebos, which I really liked.  Or the film, The Game, with Michael Douglas, which I also liked.  Not sure if there's any SFF content, but it still sounds cool.

Aimless young Henrik "HP" Petterson finds a cellphone on a Stockholm train that invites him to play a game: in no time, he's embarking on daring, high-stakes missions that turn his ordinary life extraordinary. HP loves the thrill, and the rewards, but is there a sinister side to the seemingly innocent contest?
Meanwhile, ambitious Detective Rebecca Normén is moving up the career ladder in the Swedish Secret Service but is troubled by the handwritten notes she keeps finding in her locker. Whoever writes them knows way too much about her past. HP's and Rebecca's worlds inevitably collide. But if reality is just a game, then what is real?

Friday 10 January 2014

Blog Stats and 2013 Favourites

I've been doing my blog stats for a couple of years now to see what my reading trends are. (Here are my numbers for 2012.)

This year I included the novellas I read (3) in with my novels but left out comics and non-fiction (which I read more of).

Total novels included: 51

Books by men: 26
Books by women: 25

Science Fiction: 17
Fantasy: 12
Urban Fantasy 2
Horror 7
Other (mystery with sf elements) 1
YA 12 (10 sf, 2 fantasy)

Again, I was low on reading urban fantasy but I did increase the number of horror novels I read last year.  I've been trying to read more books by women, which obviously paid off.  Still, I'm surprised by how close my male/female ration is.  It's usually higher on the male side.  I read a lot more new releases this year and fewer classic SF, which might account for that.

Here are some of my favourite books from last year, in the order that I read them.  It was a good year for me.  Narrowing this list to 13 books was hard (I had to leave off several great books).

Etiquette and Espionnage by Gail Carriger
Daylight War by Peter Brett
Terminal Point by K. M. Ruiz
Every Day by David Levithan
Up Against It by M. J. Locke
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Love Minus Eighty by Marie Brennan
Play or Die by Jen Cole
All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill
Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer
Two Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Control by Lydia Kang

I haven't posted my reviews for Ancillary Justice and Control yet (as I read them both in December), but they're coming.

Here's to another year of awesome reads.  :D

Thursday 9 January 2014

Robots for Humanity

This is an amazing TED talk about how science is progressing into the realm of science fiction as an aid for the disabled.  I've embedded the talk, but blogger's been giving me grief lately, so in case it doesn't show up you can find the talk, by Henry Evans here.  You can find out more about their project, Robots for Humanity, here.

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Blog Resolutions 2014

It feels weird to be back blogging again.  I'd set up most of my December posts in advance to go automatically and, in the haze of overwork over Christmas, lost track of what went up when.  I'm still somewhat exhausted, so this week will be on the lighter side for blogging.

I managed to read several books on my commute downtown, so you can expect to see one of those each week, as usual.  I'm not sure how much this will affect the blog, but I'll be reading more history books in the coming month (making use of Toronto's library system while I still have access to it).  They're mostly medieval or related history books, so you may find a lot of non-fiction reviews in February and March as well as some Stranger Than Fiction posts about some of the things I learn.

The downside of this is that I won't be accepting any new review requests for a while, at least until my store closes.  I'll still have books received posts for anything that shows up in the mail, but I won't be asking for new books until I have time to read them again.  And, as usual, I'd like to work on the backlog of books I've been sent that I haven't had time to read.

I'm considering a new feature where I research different mythologies and post information about strange creatures I find.  I've got several mythology books, a medieval bestiary, The Encyclopedia of Things That Never Were (sadly out of print but an amazing resource if you can find it) and a dictionary of symbolism.  It feels like fantasy is stuck on a few common creatures and it's been cool seeing some authors diverge from that, particularly Max Gladstone's Two Serpents Rise, which used Mesoamerican mythology, Saladin Ahmed's Throne of the Crescent Moon, which used Arabic mythology, and Shana Mlawski's Hammer of Witches, which used a mix of Arabic and Jewish mythologies.  There are so many interesting creatures in the mythologies of the world it seems a shame that so many are ignored.

I'm looking forward to this new year.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

Book Review: Wild Fell by Michael Rowe

Pros: highly descriptive & immersive writing, some terrifying scenes

Cons: wraps up very quickly

Jaime Browning tells a true ghost story by relating scenes from his childhood when he had a powerful ‘imaginary’ friend.  As an adult things come to a head when he buys an island with an old manor house called Wild Fell, where, unknown to him, several people have died in the past.

It took me a few pages to get used to the highly descriptive writing the author used - being more comfortable nowadays with the sparse prose that’s become popular.  But the book is incredibly immersive, making this character driven story fascinating and hard to put down.

The first scene is told from a young woman’s point of view, and Rowe does a phenomenal job with it.  Most of the book details common events of childhood: bullying, first love, etc., which makes the terrifying elements, when they appear, that much starker by comparison.  And some of the scenes are really scary.

I found the finale a little abrupt, but it’s a ghost story so you do expect a quick wrap up.  It’s a modern ghost story (as opposed to This House is Haunted, which is set in the 1800s), so it’s easier to relate to on a personal level.

Sunday 5 January 2014

Shout-Out: The Path of Anger by Antoine Rouaud

The cover of this book looks awesome.  And it sounds pretty interesting.

Dun-Cadal has been drinking his life away for years. Betrayed by his friends - who turned their back on their ideals in favour of a new republic - and grief stricken at the loss of his apprentice, who saved his life on the battlefield and whom he trained as a knight in exchange, he's done with politics, with adventure, and with people. But people aren't finished with him - not yet. Viola is a young historian looking for the last Emperor's sword, and her search not only brings her to Dun-Cadal, it's also going to embroil them both in a series of assassinations. Because Dun-Cadal's turncoat friends are being murdered, one by someone who kills in the unmistakable style of an Imperial assassin...

Friday 3 January 2014

Stranger Than Fiction: The Black Death in the Middle East and Europe talk

A column dedicated to pointing out interesting tidbits of history, some of which would be cool to see in a fantasy novel or two.

This is a lecture by Stuart Borsch, an assistant professor from Assumption College's history department.  It was given at the "Epidemics Then and Now: Infectious Diseases Around the World" conference held at the University of Chicago in June of 2006.

I saw it on the Medievalists website.  The talk is fascinating, especially if you don't know much about Egypt in the middle ages, as its economics and irrigation system are what Borsch focuses on in his talk.  I'd encourage you to watch the talk, but if you don't have time you can peruse my point form notes below.  Questions start at the 39 minute mark.

- information and images of the Nileometer a critical structure for judging the extent of the flooding and knowing how the harvest would therefore go

- the Nileometer was closely watched by government officials, if the water level was too low they wouldn't get enough water for the winter crops, if too high the flooding would waterlog the crops and cause possible famine

- silt deposits from the Nile meant Egyptians didn't need to leave land fallow or add fertilizer the way other countries did, so a small area could feed a large population

- Mamluk Egypt, Mamluk was a political system whereby non-Muslims were purchased as slaves mainly from the Caucases and brought in to serve as soldiers.  Highly trained, their army was the only one to repel mongol invaders

- the Mamluk's took over Egypt in 13th C. and rulers had partial landholdings in various places (ie, no direct feudal connection with their land or people)

- irrigation system led by Coptic Christians that had agents in the villages

- loss of up to 50% of the population of villages due to the Black Death meant peasants had to work harder to do all the work while landholders demanded the same revenues they received before the plague

- in Europe landlords were forced over time to change their terms as peasants left areas that weren't economically viable and moved to areas with lower rents and higher pay

- because Egypts landowners were removed from their lands, they raised rents, not seeing the problems firsthand

- the irrigation system began to decay due to lack of upkeep, which in turn lowered revenues, etc..  Lack of incentives to make repairs led to a breakdown in the irrigation system which devastated the Egyptian economy.

- areas of parching and waterlogging led to failure of crops

- post-plague was better for the peasantry that survived in most of Europe as labour was redistributed in more efficient ways

- in Egypt however, due to the repression of the peasants by the aristocracy, many of the peasants fled to major cities, rather than settling lands that were still properly irrigated.  So things didn't improve much for them.  They saw prices rise and wages decrease.

About the Black Death and why it was so lethal in the 14th C.

- it had struck several times in the past in the Mediterranean (5th, 6th, 7th Centuries)

- diseases are successful if they mutate, spread easily and don't kill the host (so it can spread the disease).

- one of many theories of the origin of the Black Death is that there was an isolated reservoir of the disease that was spread exclusively between rodents and flees (the primary carriers) and evolved and mutated outside of humans.  In other words, the plague never went away but from the 7th to 14th C. it had adapted itself to humans (so it didn't kill them).  The theory goes that one strain was isolated from humans, mutating it over time in ways that it was not adapted to human bodies and become more lethal to humans but ultimately self-defeating (since it killed its hosts and killed them quickly, thereby killing itself over time when it could no longer spread).

Thursday 2 January 2014

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in February, 2014

Since I was working so much I had to compile this list quite early, so I apologize if I've missed something.  It reflects Canadian release dates, as taken from


Born – Julianna Baggott
Chiliad: A Meditation – Clive Barker
Conquest – John Connolly & Jennifer Ridyard
The Waking Engine – David Edison
1632 (Leatherbound Editiion) – Eric Flint
City of Lost Dreams – Magnus Flyte
Dreamwalker – C. S. Friedman
The Undead Pool – Kim Harrison
The Ape Man’s Brother - Joe Landsdale
Moth and Spark – Anne Leonard
The Crimson Campaign – Brian McClellan
Stolen Crown – Dennis McKiernan
The Flight of the Silvers – Daniel Price
To Sail a Darkling Sea – John Ringo
Twenty Trillian Leagues Under the Sea – Adam Roberts
V-S Day – Allen Steele
Influx – Daniel Suarez
Archtype – M. D. Waters
Like a Mighty Army – David Weber
The Martian – Andy Weir
Three Princes – Ramona Wheeler
The Judge of Ages – John Wright

Trade Paperback:

Warhammer 40K: Horus Rising – Dan Abnett (reprint)
Honor’s Knight – Rachel Bach
Half Past Human – T. J. Bass
Halo: Silentium – Greg Bear
Handsome Devil: Stories of Sin and Seduction – Steve Berman, Ed.
A Natural History of Dragons – Marie Brennan
A Draw of Kings – Patrick Carr
Deep Down – Deborah Coates
Gateway of the Saviours – A. J. Dalton
Viral Execution – Amanda Davis
Reave the Just and Other Tales – Stephen Donaldson
Traveler’s HOT L – C. R. Downing
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead – Patricia Eimer
Freaks in a Box: The Myths of Media – Paul Di Filippo
Star Trek: Her Klingon Soul – Michael Jan Friedman
The Door Into Summer – Robert Heinlein (reprint)
Mammals – James Robert Hernson
Wolfhound Century – Peter Higgins
To Honor You Call Us – H. Paul Honsinger
The Line – J. D. Horn
The Bloody Cup – M. K. Hume
ParaSpheres 2: Extending Beyond the Spheres of Literary & Genre Fiction – Ken Keegan & Rusty Morrison, Ed.
Red Delicious – Caitlin Kiernan
Carusel Sun – Sharon Lee
The God Tattoo – Tom Lloyd
The Best of All Possible Worlds – Karen Lord
Wild Cards III: Jokers Wild – George Martin, Ed.
The Anxiety of Kalix the Wolf – Martin Millar
The Tesla Gate – John Mimms
Wild Things – Chloe Neill
Song of Ireland – Juliene Osborne-McKnight 
Orbital Kin – James Parsons
Dead Americans – Ben Peek
The Memory of Sky – Robert Reed
Whatever Happened to Billy Parks – Gareth Robert
Adam Robots: Short Stories – Adam Roberts
Demon Wars: First Heroes (Omnibus edition containing The Highwayman and The Ancient) – R. A. Salvatore
Warhammer 40K: Path of the Eldar Omnibus – Gav Thorpe
Annihilation – Jeff Vandermeer
Empire of Man – David Weber & John Ringo
Warhammer: Wolf of Sigmar – C. L. Werner
Dryad-Born – Jeff Wheeler

Mass Market Paperback:

Broken Homes – Ben Aaronovitch
The Eldritch Conspiracy – Cat Adams
Hammer of Angels – G. T. Almasi
Circle of Death – Keri Arthur
The Gate Thief – Orson Scott Card
London Falling – Paul Cornell
Star Trek TOS: No Time Like the Past – Greg Cox
The Book of the Crowman – Joseph D’Lacey
James Decker – Fallout
The 400 lb Gorilla – D. C. Farmer
Fire With Fire – Charles Gannon
Impulse – Steven Gould
Only the Good Die Young – Chris Marie Green
Blades of the Old Empire – Anna Kashina
Battlemind – William Keith (reprint)
Jackers – William Keith (reprint)
Netlink – William Keith (reprint)
Rebellion – William Keith (reprint)
Symbionts – William Keith (reprint)
Warstrider – William Keith (reprint)
Necessity’s Child – Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
Labyrinth of Stars – Marjorie Liu
Nexus – Ramex Naam
Grimm: The Chopping Block – John Passarella
Sword Bound – Jennifer Roberson
Angel Seduced – Jaime Rush
Forgotten Realms: The Companions – R. A. Salvatore
The Human Division – John Scalzi
A Clockwork Heart – Liesel Schwarz
To Do or Die – Mike Shepherd
Blood2Blood – Susan Sizemore
Shadows of Falling Night – S. M. Stirling
The Happier Dead – Ivo Stourton
Definitely Maybe – Arkady & Boris Strugatsky
The Clockwork Wolf – Lynn Viehl


Dr. Who: Keeping Up with the Joneses – Nick Harkaway
Wall of Spears – Duncan Lay
Blood and Ashes – Scott James Magner
Confluence Omnibus Edition (includes Child of the River, Ancients of Days, and Shrine of Stars) – Paul McAuley
Star Trek Absent Enemies – John Jackson Miller
Escorter – Christine Millman

This Place is Death – Denise Grover Swank

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Happy New Year's!

Alas, I'm working today, so no late partying last night.  Hope you all have a great day. :)