Saturday 28 February 2015

Books Received in February 2015

My thanks to the publishers who sent me books for review this month.  It's such a privilege.  And though I don't have time to read everything I get, I'd really really love to, because there are so many interesting books coming out.

Empire by John Connolly and Jennifer Ridyard -  This is the second book in the series that started with last year's Conquest, which I reviewed.  I'm curious to see what happens to the 4 teen protagonists, and how the alien and human politics develop.

She is the trophy of a civilization at war with itself.
He is its rebel captive.
Separated by millions of light years, they will fight to be united…
Earth has been conquered and occupied. The war is lost.
The Resistance still fights the invaders, but they are nothing more than an annoyance to the Illyri, an alien race of superior technology and military strength.
When caught, the young rebels are conscripted. Part soldiers, part hostages, they join the Brigades, sent to fight at the edges of the growing Illyri Empire.
Paul Kerr is one such soldier—torn from his home and his beloved Syl Hellais. She is the first alien child born on Earth, a creature of two worlds—and a being possessed of powers beyond imagining. Now both must endure the terrible exile that Syl’s race has deemed just punishment for their love.
But the conquest of Earth is not all it seems.
There is another species involved, known only as the Others, and the Illyri will kill to keep their existence secret.
Light years from Earth and millions of miles apart, Paul and Syl must find a way to reveal the horrifying truth behind the Empire, and save all that they hold dear from the hunger of the Others.
Even at the cost of their own lives…

Karen Memory by Elizabeth Bear - This book's been getting a lot of positive press, and the plot sure sounds interesting.

“You ain’t gonna like what I have to tell you, but I'm gonna tell you anyway. See, my name is Karen Memery, like memory only spelt with an e, and I'm one of the girls what works in the Hôtel Mon Cherie on Amity Street. Hôtel has a little hat over the o like that. It's French, so Beatrice tells me.”

Set in the late 19th century—when the city we now call Seattle Underground was the whole town (and still on the surface), when airships plied the trade routes, would-be gold miners were heading to the gold fields of Alaska, and steam-powered mechanicals stalked the waterfront, Karen is a young woman on her own, making the best of her orphaned state by working in Madame Damnable’s high-quality bordello. Through Karen’s eyes we get to know the other girls in the house—a resourceful group—and the poor and the powerful of the town. Trouble erupts one night when a badly injured girl arrives at their door, beggin sanctuary, followed by the man who holds her indenture, and who has a machine that can take over anyone’s mind and control their actions. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the next night brings a body dumped in their rubbish heap—a streetwalker who has been brutally murdered.

Bear brings alive this Jack-the-Ripper yarn of the old west with a light touch in Karen’s own memorable voice, and a mesmerizing evocation of classic steam-powered science.

The Eterna Files by Leanna Renee Hieber - A 20th Century mystery/spy novel.  Sounds cool.

London, 1882: Queen Victoria appoints Harold Spire of the Metropolitan Police to Special Branch Division Omega. Omega is to secretly investigate paranormal and supernatural events and persons. Spire, a skeptic driven to protect the helpless and see justice done, is the perfect man to lead the department, which employs scholars and scientists, assassins and con men, and a traveling circus. Spire's chief researcher is Rose Everhart, who believes fervently that there is more to the world than can be seen by mortal eyes.

Their first mission: find the Eterna Compound, which grants immortality. Catastrophe destroyed the hidden laboratory in New York City where Eterna was developed, but the Queen is convinced someone escaped—and has a sample of Eterna.

Also searching for Eterna is an American, Clara Templeton, who helped start the project after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln nearly destroyed her nation. Haunted by the ghost of her beloved, she is determined that the Eterna Compound—and the immortality it will convey—will be controlled by the United States, not Great Britain.

Of Noble Family by Mary Robinette Kowal - This is the final book in the Glamourist Histories and I'm sorry to see it end.  I've enjoyed the Jane Austen style romance with the addition of magic, and each book shows different parts of the world and has the protagonists deal with new situations and challenges.  And the covers are simply gorgeous.

Jane and Vincent have finally gotten some much-needed rest after their adventures in Italy when Vincent receives word that his estranged father has passed away on one of his properties in the West Indies. His brother, who manages the estate, is overwhelmed, and no one else in his family can go. Grudgingly, out of filial duty the couple decide to go.

The sea voyage is long and Jane spends enough time unable to perform glamour that towards the end of the trip she discovers that she is with child. They are overjoyed, but when they finally arrive at the estate to complete what they expect to be routine legal tasks, they realize that nearly everything they came expecting to find had been a lie. Also, the entire estate is in disarray, with horrifying conditions and tensions with the local slave population so high that they are close to revolt.

Jane and Vincent's sense of peril is screaming out for them to flee, but Vincent cannot stand to leave an estate connected with his family in such a condition. They have survived many grand and terrifying adventures in their time, but this one will test their skills and wits more than any they have ever encountered before, this time with a new life hanging in the balance. 

The Scull Throne by Peter Brett - Out March 31st, I've already read this book and it is definitely worth the wait.  While the books have some grimdark elements, there's such a feeling of hope in the books that they remind me of older fantasy books I read in my teens (think Brooks, Eddings, etc.). The story is complex and there's a great mix of characters from all walks of life.  I'm giving the synopsis for book 1, The Warded Man, so there's no spoilers for those who haven't read the other books.

As darkness falls after sunset, the corelings rise—demons who possess supernatural powers and burn with a consuming hatred of humanity. For hundreds of years the demons have terrorized the night, slowly culling the human herd that shelters behind magical wards—symbols of power whose origins are lost in myth and whose protection is terrifyingly fragile. It was not always this way. Once, men and women battled the corelings on equal terms, but those days are gone. Night by night the demons grow stronger, while human numbers dwindle under their relentless assault. Now, with hope for the future fading, three young survivors of vicious demon attacks will dare the impossible, stepping beyond the crumbling safety of the wards to risk everything in a desperate quest to regain the secrets of the past. Together, they will stand against the night.

Footsteps in the Sky by Greg Keyes - It's cool to see an SF book based around native culture.  The press release I got on the book states, "Greg Keyes was introduced at an early age to the cultures and stories of the Native Southwest when his father took a job on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona." This is the first book Keyes wrote and has been re-mastered for publication.

The pueblo people who landed on the Fifth World found it Earthlike, empty, and ready for colonization . . . but a century later, they are about to meet the planet's owners

One hundred years ago, Sand's ancestors made the long, one-way trip to the Fifth World, ready to work ceaselessly to terraform the planet. Descendants of native peoples like the Hopi and Zuni, they wanted to return to the way of life of their forebears, who honored the Kachina spirits.

Now, though, many of the planet's inhabitants have begun to resent their grandparents' decision to strand them in this harsh and forbidding place, and some have turned away from the customs of the Well-Behaved People. Sand has her doubts, but she longs to believe that the Kachina live on beyond the stars and have been readying a new domain for her people.

She may be right. Humans have discovered nine habitable worlds, all with life that shares a genetic code entirely alien to any on Earth. Someone has been seeding planets, bringing life to them. But no other sign of the ancient farmers has ever been discovered—until one day they return to the Fifth World. They do not like what they find.

Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman - This is the sequel to last year's Seraphina, which I heard a lot of good things about.

As Seraphina Dombegh travels the Southlands in search of the other half-dragons to help in the war effort, the dragon general Comonot and his Loyalists fight against the upstart Old Guard with the fate of Goredd and the other human countries hanging in the balance.

Thursday 26 February 2015

Shout-Out: Treasure Darkly by Jordan Elizabeth

Seventeen-year-old Clark Treasure assumes the drink he stole off the captain is absinthe… until the chemicals in the liquid give him the ability to awaken the dead.

A great invention for creating perfect soldiers, yes, but Clark wants to live as a miner, not a slave to the army—or the deceased. On the run, Clark turns to his estranged, mining tycoon father for help. The Treasures welcome Clark with open arms, so he jumps at the chance to help them protect their ranch against Senator Horan, a man who hates anyone more powerful than he. 
Sixteen-year-old Amethyst Treasure loathes the idea of spending the summer away from her bustling city life to rot on her father’s ranch, but when a handsome young man shows up claiming to be her secret half-brother, her curiosity is piqued. He’s clever, street smart, and has no qualms jumping into the brawl between the Treasures and Horans. Caught in the middle, Horan kidnaps Amethyst, and all she gets is this lousy bullet through her heart.

When Clark brings her back to life, however, the real action starts, and Amethyst joins him in his fight against the Horan clan—whatever the cost. Defeating the Horans may seem easy at first, but going up against men with the same fighting vengeance as Clark, and a Senator with power he’s obtained by brainwashing the masses?

Well, Amethyst’s boring summer at home has turned into an adventure on the run, chock full of intrigue, danger, love, and a mysterious boy named Clark.

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Video: Star Wars: Modern Lightsaber Battle

This is a great video by Mr.TVCow that uses - and surpasses - the new lightsaber design as a Jedi and Sith one up each other before a battle.

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Book Review: The Turnip Princess And Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales

Collected by Franz Xavier von Schönwerth; translated by Maria Tatar; edited by Erika Eichenseer

Pros: fun, wide variety, readable translation, interesting characters, informative introduction

Cons: commentary could have been more in depth

This is a collection consists of 72 of the lost tales Franz Xaver von Schönwerth recorded in the Eastern Bavarian region of Oberpfalz in the late 1850s.  Rediscovered recently and translated into English, this collection allows modern readers more insight into the Germanic oral culture of what we now call fairy tales.  

There’s a short forward by the historian who discovered the papers on how this volume came to be published.  The translator of the collection, the chair of folklore and mythology at Harvard, does the introduction and commentary on each of the stories.  The introduction explains where these stories fit with the other tales that have come down to us and points out that fairy tales morphed from stories told by and to adults into stories told more often by women (whether mothers or nannies) to children.  Which is why there are so many princesses and female rags to riches stories, and so few such tales about boys.  This book brings back several tales of ‘Cinderfellas’ and other disenfranchised young men.  The commentaries, coming at the very end of the collection, mention the similarities between these tales and others we’re familiar with.  There’s only room for a little explanation, so some of the commentaries are merely synopses while others have a bit more depth to them.

While some of the tales have morals and happy endings, several don’t have either, with some truly unscrupulous people getting away with horrible things and curses going unbroken.  And since these were oral tales you can expect a lot of twists out of left field, where the stories turn on previously unmentioned characters and events.  

The collection is separated into seven categories: Tales of Magic, Enchanted Animals, Otherworldly Creatures, Legends, Tall Tales and Anecdotes, and Tales About Nature.  It’s a decent attempt to separate the stories, but the reality is that most of the stories can fit into several categories and that some stories with similar elements end up in different sections.  There are a few with overly Christian themes (including some tales with the devil as the antagonist), and some with more ’pagan’ themes.  There are a lot of dwarfs and witches/evil women, and a smaller number of elves, gnomes, mermaids and other fantastical creatures.  And curses.  Lots and lots of curses.

One story ended with a very modern idiom, which made me wonder what the original German said, but on the whole I thought the translation was great, immersive and entertaining.

The stories are only a few pages each and the collection as a whole is a quick and pleasant read.  While most of these wouldn’t be considered ‘children’s stories’, they’re not overly bloody or ribaldrous.  The collection is fantastic for the variety of tales told and for the ways they used the fairy tale tropes we’ve become familiar with.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Shout-Out: Then Frederick Ran by Nicholas Bugden

Don't quit your day job, sleep through it.

Would you give your manager complete control over your body to sleep through a day of work? Or spend a night at a sleep lab to get a video recording of your dreams? Then Frederick Ran is a collection of short stories that include a restless man who purchases a mask that lets him be anyone for a night; a bully who clones himself for a funeral to hear what people actually think about him; DNA analysis that thinks it can weed-out the violent at birth, leading to a difficult decision for a struggling mother; and 9 other distinct stories that take place in the near future.

Friday 20 February 2015

Ted talk: Why We All Need to Practice Emotional First Aid by Guy Winch

I saw this Ted talk a few days ago by psychologist Guy Winch, talking about how learning how to care for ourselves emotionally is just as important as learning how to care for ourselves physically.  As he points out, when someone breaks a leg you don’t tell them to ‘walk it off, it’s all in your leg’, so why do we tell people with depression to ‘get over it, it’s all in your head’?  

I’m posting this here for two reasons.

1. A lot of authors tend to be introverts, or, at least, tend to work in a solitary environment that can lead to loneliness and depression over time.  Winch mentions something that happened to him when he was living away from home for the first time.  He was away from his family and friends and waiting for his brother to call on their birthday.  When the call never came, he became depressed.  When asked the next day, why he hadn’t called his brother he didn’t know the answer.  But the answer, Winch explains, is that he was lonely and that sadness had created a block in his mind, making him believe that no one cared about him.  While depression has made some headway we don’t acknowledge how crippling loneliness can be, and how it can lead to depression.  Nor do we acknowledge that it’s easy to feel lonely in a crowd, nor how many other problems can stem from emotional pain that’s left unaddressed.

2. I think the insights he points out about emotional health would be beneficial to know/understand for writers.  Getting into the heads of your characters is important, as is knowing their psychological make-up.  Winch points out some interesting things that could make character development deeper.

My only complaint about the talk is that, though it makes its case about the importance of teaching and maintaining emotional hygiene, he doesn’t give any practical ways in which to go about it.  Either in learning how to develop emotional health/hygiene or teaching it to others.  Of course, a quick Amazon search shows he’s written a couple of books on the topic, notably Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts.  I’ll have to give it a read sometime. 

Thursday 19 February 2015

Shout-Out: The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

Monica Byrne bursts on to the literary scene with an extraordinary vision of the future. In a world where global power has shifted east and revolution is brewing, two women embark on vastly different journeys—each harrowing and urgent and wholly unexpected.
When Meena finds snakebites on her chest, her worst fears are realized: someone is after her and she must flee India. As she plots her exit, she learns of the Trail, an energy-harvesting bridge spanning the Arabian Sea that has become a refuge for itinerant vagabonds and loners on the run. This is her salvation. Slipping out in the cover of night, with a knapsack full of supplies including a pozit GPS, a scroll reader, and a sealable waterproof pod, she sets off for Ethiopia, the place of her birth.

Meanwhile, Mariama, a young girl in Africa, is forced to flee her home. She joins up with a caravan of misfits heading across the Sahara. She is taken in by Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. They are trying to reach Addis Abba, Ethiopia, a metropolis swirling with radical politics and rich culture. But Mariama will find a city far different than she ever expected—romantic, turbulent, and dangerous.

As one heads east and the other west, Meena and Mariama’s fates are linked in ways that are mysterious and shocking to the core.

Written with stunning clarity, deep emotion, and a futuristic flair, The Girl in the Road is an artistic feat of the first order: vividly imagined, artfully told, and profoundly moving.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Movie Trailer: Crimson Peak

I don't normally like teaser trailers as they're too short to really give you an idea of what's coming, but this one for Guillermo Del Toro's Crimson Peak, out in November, is amazing.  Creepy and atmospheric, it looks like a wonderful gothic horror story.  It stars Tom Hiddleston (Loki) and Jessica Chastain.   Here's the synopsis from IMDb.

In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds...and remembers.

Tuesday 17 February 2015

Book Review: Touch by Claire North

Pros: fast paced, complex, interesting morally ambiguous characters, thought provoking, several international locales

Cons: took a while to get into

When Josephine Cebula is gunned down at Taksim station, the ghost riding her flesh jumps to a new host in order to follow the man who, though obviously after the ghost and aware it left the body, for some reason made sure that Josephine died.  It’s quickly apparent that a secret organization is hunting ghosts, and ‘Kepler’ is their current target.

The book begins with a murder and catapults you through several countries in various bodies as ‘Kepler’ (named so by its hunters) tries to figure out who’s after it and why.  Flashbacks to earlier lives show other murder attempts, other lives, other ghosts and how they all deal with the flesh they wear.  

The idea of beings that can transfer between bodies isn’t a new one, but North does some great things with it.  I loved that the ghosts were all individuals, treating their flesh in different ways.  Some, like Kepler, are respectful, learning about them, and offering them money and improved circumstances for the time they lose.  Others are less concerned with the humans around them, wanting to glory in the achievements, beauty and wealth of others without putting any effort into learning the skills necessary to achieve anything of their own.  I liked that the ghosts can’t access the memories or abilities of their flesh, meaning they can pretend to be that person, but only with effort on their part to learn the habits and skills of their borrowed flesh.  I also liked that the people they take over have no memory of what’s happened to them.  This allows them to be tracked while also making what the ghosts do - stealing time from their hosts - more insidious.  Kepler argues at one point that most people don’t care - or are even happy - to lose an hour or two of their lives, especially when working or doing boring tasks.  Few people would even notice if they were taken over for a minute or two, long enough for the ghost to get lost in a crowd.  But consider the ghost that stays for 6 months or a year.  What about 10 years?  Or 30?  Who’d be ok with losing that amount of their lives? 

And what happens when you’re effectively immortal, but unable to have a home, loved ones, possessions?  What does that kind of lifestyle do to you after hundreds of years, when you’re constantly moving from body to body, running from hunters or just bored of who you are?  

The book asks some tough questions as none of the primary characters - except the main antagonist - is entirely good or evil.  There’s so much grey area and you really get to know - and like - the characters that it’s hard to remember that this all started with a murder, and that Kepler, who seems so kind and loving, has done some horrible things in its past - depending on your point of view.

Because there’s so much to learn about the ghosts, the killer and the plot, I found the opening slow.  Not in terms of things happening, but in terms of trying to get a handle on everything that was happening.  By the time I had a grasp on things I was thoroughly invested in Kepler and so drawn into the story that it was hard to put the book down.

I’d recommend this for book clubs as there’s a lot of discussion possibility here.  And if you like action and mystery with body hopping protagonists, give this a try.

Out February 24th.

Sunday 15 February 2015

Shout-Out: Dendera by Yuya Sato

When Kayu Saitoh wakes up, she is in an unfamiliar place. Taken to a snowy mountainside, she was left there by her family and her village according to the tradition of sacrificing the lives of the elderly for the benefit of the young. Kayu was supposed to have passed quickly into the afterlife. Instead, she finds herself in Dendera, a utopian community built over decades by old women who, like her, were abandoned. Together, they must now face a new threat: a hungry mother bear.

Out February 17th.

Friday 13 February 2015

Movie Trailer: The Age of Adaline

I got an email with the info for The Age of Adaline, a film about a woman who doesn't age.
After miraculously remaining 29 years old for almost eight decades, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) has lived a solitary existence, never allowing herself to get close to anyone who might reveal her secret. But a chance encounter with charismatic philanthropist Ellis Jones (Michiel Huisman) reignites her passion for life and romance. When a weekend with his parents (Harrison Ford and Kathy Baker) threatens to uncover the truth, Adaline makes a decision that will change her life forever.
Out in April.

Thursday 12 February 2015

Shout-Out: Cannonbridge by Jonathan Barnes

Something has gone wrong with history in this gripping novel about a lie planted among the greatest works of English fiction.
Flamboyant, charismatic Matthew Cannonbridge was touched by genius, the most influential creative mind of the 19th century, a prolific novelist, accomplished playwright, the poet of his generation. The only problem is, he should never have existed and beleaguered, provincial, recently-divorced 21st Century don Toby Judd is the only person to realise something has gone wrong with history.

All the world was Cannonbridge’s and he possessed, seemingly, the ability to be everywhere at once. Cannonbridge was there that night by Lake Geneva when conversation between Byron, Shelley and Mary Godwin turned to stories of horror and the supernatural. He was sole ally, confidante and friend to the young Dickens as Charles laboured without respite in the blacking factory. He was the only man of standing and renown to regularly visit Oscar Wilde in prison. Tennyson's drinking companion, Kipling's best friend, Robert Louis Stevenson's counsellor and guide - Cannonbridge's extraordinary life and career spanned a century, earning him a richly-deserved place in the English canon.

But as bibliophiles everywhere prepare to toast the bicentenary of the publication of Cannonbridge's most celebrated work, Judd's discovery will lead him on a breakneck chase across the English canon and countryside, to the realisation that the spectre of Matthew Cannonbridge, planted so seamlessly into the heart of the 19th Century, might not be so dead and buried after all...

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Cascade Writers

I got an email from the founder of Cascade Writers, a non-profit organization in the Pacific Northwest that's been putting on SFF writing events.  They're looking for publicity to help increase attendance at their events and increase funding so they can host more of them.  

They've got a free talk coming up on the 22nd in Renton Washington with Ken Scholes, Laura Ann Gilman and Heather Roulo.  They've also got a small - limited to 25 attendees - writing workshop this summer.  It costs $250 (there's a scholarship you can apply for), not including accommodations, etc, and they've got professionals (authors, editors) running the critique groups as well as speaking.

They're planning a free one-day workshop by John Scalzi this fall at the Tacoma Public library and partnering with other libraries for more events.  If you're in Washington state, sounds like they're doing awesome things.

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Movie Review: Silent Hill

Directed by: Cristophe Gans, 2006

Pros: atmospheric, scary, limited gore, some great acting, great special effects

Cons: father’s scenes detract from the overall feel, plot doesn’t make much sense

A woman brings her adopted daughter to the home town the girl has nightmares about: Silent Hill.  Meanwhile, her husband investigates the town and discovers some horrible things have happened there.

If you’ve played the Silent Hill video games you know what to expect from this movie: lots of fog, creepy monsters, a witch cult and hunting for clues in a deserted town.  The film is pretty linear, and while Rose (Radha Mitchell), the mother, does have to piece together a few mysteries, most of the clues fall into her hand with little effort.

I liked that the atmosphere of the city matched the game.  When the sirens call the town changes to its ‘hell’ variant, and it’s quite terrifying.  While the film doesn’t use all of the monsters in the games, it does a great job with the ones it does use.  They’re quite horrifying to look at.  

There’s a surprising lack of violence, given the game’s about bashing monsters with pipes and shooting them with ammo found lying around.  Rose has no weapons, so she ends up running a lot and/or being saved by one of the other characters roaming around.

I was impressed that Rose figured out Dahlia’s connection with her daughter.  Had I not seen the game I would have missed that completely, as the movie doesn’t really explain it.  The plot of the movie follows the first game pretty closely, except that Dahlia’s complicity is changed and the final twist - the reason the girl is burned - is completely different here.

The scenes with the husband (Sean Bean) were interesting, but the information gained may not have been worth breaking the atmospheric bubble that normally surrounds Silent Hill.  In other words, it may have been better to have Rose discover those things in the town rather than shifting the view from the town.

If you haven’t seen or played the games you may have trouble understanding the ending of the film, which - like the game - has a fair bit of exposition that somehow doesn’t clarify things.

Still, it was entertaining and had some great special effects.  It was also nice seeing several women playing major roles. 

Sunday 8 February 2015

Shout-Out: Finn Fancy Necromancy by Randy Henderson

Finn Gramaraye was framed for the crime of dark necromancy at the age of 15, and exiled to the Other Realm for twenty five years. But now that he’s free, someone—probably the same someone—is trying to get him sent back. Finn has only a few days to discover who is so desperate to keep him out of the mortal world, and find evidence to prove it to the Arcane Enforcers. They are going to be very hard to convince, since he’s already been convicted of trying to kill someone with dark magic.
But Finn has his family: His brother Mort who is running the family necrotorium business now, his brother Pete who believes he’s a werewolf, though he is not, and his sister Samantha who is, unfortunately, allergic to magic. And he’s got Zeke, a fellow exile and former enforcer, who doesn’t really believe in Finn’s innocence but is willing to follow along in hopes of getting his old job back.

Saturday 7 February 2015

Movie Trailer: Poltergeist (2015)

I rewatched the 1982 Poltergeist not that long ago and it really didn't hold up like some horror movies do.  So this trailer for the remake's pretty exciting.  I seems to keep the original story, just with better special effects and some more terrifying scares.

The film comes out July 24th.

Friday 6 February 2015

Blast From the Past: The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope

Before I started reviewing books online I loved rereading my favourite SF/Fantasy books.  Since I don’t have time to do that anymore, this column is a trip down memory lane, where I’ll rave about books I love to read.  And then read again.  These aren’t reviews, as I won’t necessarily mention criticisms, they’re my chance to fan girl about books I love and hopefully garner some interest in some older titles.

Kate Sutton is sent to live in a remote castle by Queen Mary, because her younger sister - who’s so beautiful she couldn’t have thought of these things herself - accused Mary of treating the Princess Elizabeth badly.  Kate, graceless, though intelligent, isn’t happy to be sent away from the princess she serves, especially due to her sister’s rudeness, but away she goes.  The Perilous Gard isn’t what she pictured, and when her guardian leaves, the mysteries of the castle, and the fairy folk who have sacred sites nearby, claim her attention.

This is a book that I luckily read during my ‘finish every book I start’ phase as a teen.  I say that because I found the opening of the book, Kate’s journey to the castle, extremely boring.  I didn’t really get interested the first time I read the book until Kate met the fairy folk, by which point I was quickly hooked by the action.

What really made me fall in love with the book though, was the romance that grows naturally between Kate and another character.  I’ve never been a fan of category romance novels because I find the contrivances that keep the characters apart irritating.  But I love good dialogue between men and women (or any hopeful romantic couple), especially when it’s humerous.  And this book had a LOT of great humour between the two.  By the time Kate realized she was in love, it seemed so natural that that was the case, given the circumstances of the novel, that I really wanted them to end up together.  The ending was so tense, with some unexpected twists, that I’ve read the book several times since.  

I should also mention that I’ve never felt bored reading the beginning of the book since that first time.  I imagine part of this is due to my anticipation of what’s coming and part’s due to my appreciation of how cleverly the author works minor clues into the text, many of which I missed the first time I read it.

I loved her interpretation of the fairy folk and their traditions and how Kate matures as a person.  She’s a feisty woman who stands up for herself, even though that often lands her in trouble.  

The book historical fantasy.  It takes place in the time just before Queen Elizabeth takes the throne, but has some potential fantasy elements added to it, depending on how you interpret things.  If you like Mary Robinette Kowal's books, you'll probably enjoy The Perilous Gard.  This is an older novel so it may be harder to find.

Thursday 5 February 2015

Shout-Out: Uprising by Jeremy Robinson

Freeman is a genius with an uncommon mixture of memory, intelligence and creativity. He lives in a worldwide utopia, but it was not always so. There was a time known as the Grind—when Freeman's people lived as slaves to another race referred to simply as "Master." They were property. But a civil rights movement emerged. Change seemed near, but the Masters refused to bend. Instead, they declared war.

And lost.

Now, the freed world is threatened by a virus, spread through bites, sweeping through the population. Those infected are propelled to violence, driven to disperse the virus. Uniquely suited to respond to this new threat, Freeman searches for a cure, but instead finds the source—the Masters, intent on reclaiming the world. Freeman must fight for his life, for his friends and for the truth, which is far more complex and dangerous than he ever imagined.

Robinson's lightning fast, cutting-edge novels have won over thriller, horror, science-fiction and action/adventure fans alike, and he has received high praise from peers like James Rollins, Jonathan Maberry, and Scott Sigler. Uprising is a wildly inventive zombie novel with a high-tech twist that will keep readers guessing until the very last sentence.
This is a reprint of the novel XOM-B.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Video: The Hole

I discovered TomSka's stuff a while ago and binge watched most of it.  It's... weird.  If you like quirky British humour, you'll probably love his stuff.  He's got a decent amount of SFF style things (alternate realities, aliens, etc.) but he's also got a lot of, well, weird regular stuff and weird animated stuff too.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Book Review: Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton

Pros: realistic characters, interesting plot, interesting background, fast paced

Cons: don’t see the scene the entire book revolves around, Alastair’s accent comes and goes

For Parents: some non-graphic violence, minor sexual content, drug abuse

Fifteen year old Quin is nearing the day when she, her cousin (well, third cousin but one of their relatives remarried so they’re really only half third cousins), and John, the boy she loves, are initiated as Seekers.  They’ve been training for this for years, learning how to fight to make the world a better place.  But John knows that Quin’s father is more brutal than she understands.  And the Seekers are no longer the noble warriors that she’s been taught they are.

The book is split into 3 parts.  The first segment deals with the teens’ hopes before the initiation and the immediate aftermath of the ceremony.  The second segment deals with events some time later, as the protagonists have tried to move on from what’s happened.  The third brings the players together again to decide whether their futures will be determined by the choices of their past.

I loved the characters.  As events unfold each protagonist makes decisions that deeply affects the rest of their lives.  Subsequent decisions aren’t necessarily good ones, even though each does their best to move on.  I especially liked learning more about Maud and the history of the Dreads.  I hope more of this history will be revealed in future books.

Quin starts off fairly naive, but ended up going in directions I hadn’t expected.  At first I thought she was wrong about John and how he would deal with the knowledge he was looking for, but as the book progressed I slowly realized that she was right and that his quest was destroying him.  At the same time, I liked John, sympathizing with his plight, as a youth.  But time and decisions make him less noble.  Shinobu has the most startling transformation between the first and second sections of the book.  Here too, his reasons for his actions are completely understandable, even if his decline is not pleasant to read. 

This is brought up by a character in the book, but it seemed bizarre that both Quin’s mom and Shinobu’s dad try to warn them away from their initiation but refuse to explain why.  It’s impossible to make an informed decision without information and these two know for a fact that their children don’t understand what they’re making an oath to do.  Similarly, lightly warning the kids off only made the kids more determined to take their oaths.

Alastair, Shinobu’s father, is a big, red-headed, Scottish man.  Sometimes he speaks with a Scottish accent (cannae, etc.), and sometimes he doesn’t.  There doesn’t appear to be a reason why his accent comes and goes.

My main complaint with the book is that the pivotal moment of the book, the scene the entire book turns on, the scene where Quin and Shinobu go on their first mission to become Seekers, is never properly described.  We’re given a few glimpses, enough to know it was horrible, but not enough to properly understand what Quin and Shinobu actually did on the mission.  And this knowledge is essential to understand and sympathize with their following actions.  Their despair, depression, Quin’s bout of OCD, their extreme hatred of her father (but not so much Sinobu’s) all come down to what happened in that scene.  I think retaining this scene would have increased my emotional attachment to Quin and Shinobu as well as made John’s mission more sympathetic, but I also understand that the scene would have been dark and bloody and the author probably wanted to keep a younger rating for the book.  

Ultimately I really enjoyed the book.  It’s well written, fast paced and at times thought provoking.  It’s got an interesting magic element underlying how the Seekers can do what they do.  It’s got some characters who really go through the wringer.  Can’t wait for the next book.

Monday 2 February 2015

Shout-Out: Deadeye: The Mutant Files by William Dietz

In the year 2038, an act of bioengineered terrorism decimated humanity. Those who survived were either completely unaffected or developed horrible mutations. Across the globe, nations are now divided between areas populated by “norms” and lands run by “mutants”…

Detective Cassandra Lee of Los Angeles’s Special Investigative Section has built a fierce reputation taking down some of the city’s most notorious criminals. But the serial cop killer known as Bonebreaker—who murdered Lee’s father—is still at large. Officially, she’s too personally involved to work on the Bonebreaker case. Unofficially, she’s going to hunt him to the ends of the earth.

In the meantime, duty calls when the daughter of Bishop Screed, head of the Church of Human Purity, is kidnapped by mutants and taken into the red zone to be used for breeding. Assigned to rescue her, Lee must trust her new partner—mutant lawman Deputy Ras Omo—to guide her not only through the unfamiliar territory but through the prejudicial divisions between mutants and norms…

Sunday 1 February 2015

Science Fiction and Fantasy Books Coming in March, 2015

As usual, this list was compiled from the Canadian Amazon site's listings.


Dark Intelligence – Neal Asher
Vision in Silver – Anne Bishop
Voyage of the Basilisk – Marie Brennan
The Skull Throne – Peter Brett
Prudence – Gail Carriger
Into the Maelstrom – David Drake & John Lambshead
Ancillary Sword – Ann Leckie (reprint)
Harrison Squared – Daryl Gregory
The Fire Sermon – Francesca Haig
Star Wars: Heir to the Jedi – Kevin Hearne
The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
The Collected Stories of R. A. Lafferty v.2: The Man With the Aura – R. A. Lafferty & John Pelan, Ed.
The Crow of Connemara – Stephen Leigh
Into the Fire – Peter Liney
Old Venus – George Martin & Gardner Dozois, Ed.
Icefall – Gillian Philip
Poison – Sarah Pinborough
The Suicide Exhibition – Justin Richards
Forgotten Realms: Vengeance of the Iron Dwarf – R. A. Salvatore
The Boy Who Lost Fairyland – Catherynne Valente
Persona – Genevieve Valentine
Grand Crusades – Jack Vance & Terry Dowling
Doctor Who: Time Trips – various

Trade Paperback:

Operation Arcana – John Joseph Adams, Ed.
The Exile – C. T. Adams 
Son of the Morning – Mark Alder
The Engineer Reconditioned – Neal Asher
The Mermaid’s Child – Jo Baker
Blood Matters – Aviva Bel’Harold
Desert Sonorous: Stories – Sean Bernard
Doctor Who: Amorality Tale – David Bishop
Wisp of a Thing – Alex Bledsoe
Mars, Inc. – Ben Bova
Less Than Hero – S. G. Browne
Ragamuffin – Tobias Buckell (reprint)
The House of War and Witness – Mike Carey & Linda Carey
Path of the Dark Eldar – Andy Chambers
The Burning Dark – Adam Christopher
Probably Monsters – Ray Cluley
Edge of Dark – Brenda Cooper
Doctor Who: Human Nature – Paul Cornell
Hammer and Bone – Kirby Crow
The Fall of Fair Isle – Rowena Cory Daniells
Werewolves: A Hunter’s Guide – Graeme Davis
Path of Power – H. O De Jonge
The Realignment Case – R. J. Dearden
The Key – Sara Elfgren & Mats Strandberg
The Doors You Mark Are Your Own – Okla Elliott & Raul Clement
Alliances – S. Usher Evans
Claimed – Sarah Fine
Wild West Exodus: The Jesse James Omnibus – Craig Gallant & C. L. Werner
Doctor Who: The Roundheads – Mark Gatiss
Doctor Who: Dead of Winter – James Goss
Afterparty – Daryl Gregory
Warhammer 40K: Defenders of Mankind – Guy Haley & David Annandale
Thorn Jack – Katherine Harbour
Witch Upon a Star – Jennifer Harlow
Dead Ever After – Charlaine Harris
Irenicon – Aidan Harte
Dark Detectives: An Anthology of Supernatural Mysteries – Stephen Jones, Ed.
The Gathering Storm – Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson (reprint)
No Man’s World: Omnibus – Pat Kelleher
Valour and Vanity – Mary Robinette Kowal
Smiler’s Fair – Rebecca Levene
Doctor Who: Witch Hunters – Steve Lyons
Warhammer 40K: Nightbringer – Graham McNeill
Wolves of the Northern Rift – Jon Messenger
The Bionics – Alicia Michaels
Throne of Darkness – Douglas Nicholas
The Mermaid’s Sister – Carrie Anne Noble
The Usurper – John Norman
Reluctantly Charmed – Ellie O’Neill
The Midnight Witch – Paula Prackston
Turtle Recall: The Discworld Companion… So Far – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Briggs
Hyperion – Jackson Radley
The Forever Watch – David Ramirez
A Brief History of the Hobbit – John Rateliff
Doctor Who: The Stone Rose – Jac Rayner
Doctor Who: The Shadow in the Glass – Justin Richards & Stephen Cole
Doctor Who: The English Way of Death – Gareth Roberts
Wild West Exodus: Anthology – Brandon Rospond, Ed. 
Veil of the Deserters – Jeff Salyards
Warhammer: Archaon – Rob Sanders
Lockstep – Karl Schroeder
Before and During – Vladimir Sharov
A Quantum Mythology – Gavin Smith
Shadow Study – Maria Snyder
Dead Boys – Gabriel Squalia
The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn – Boris Strugatsky & Arkady Strugatsky 
Thirteen: Stories of Transformation – Mark Teppo
The Mechanical – Ian Tregellis
Fusion Fire – Kathy Tyers
Crescent City – Chariss Walker
Beast Charming – Jennifer Wardell
The Summer Palace – Lawrence Watt-Evans
Robogenesis – Daniel Wilson
Anti-Hero – Jonathan Wood
Warhammer: The Fall of Altdorf – Chris Wraight

Mass Market Paperback:

The Goblin Emperor – Katherine Addison
Elisha Magus – E. C. Ambrose
Rogue Angel: Bathed in Blood – Alex Archer
The Feminine Future: Early Science Fiction by Women Writers – Mike Ashley, Ed.
Deathlands: End Day – James Axler
Arrow: Vengeance – Oscar Balderrama
The Diamond Conspiracy – Pip Ballantine
Shipstar – Gregory Benford & Larry Niven
Star Trek: Enterprise: Uncertain Logic – Christopher Bennett
The Aylesford Skull – James Blaylock
Transhuman – Ben Bova
Rising Fire – Terri Brisbin
Balance Point – Robert Buettner
Skin Game – Jim Butcher
1920: America’s Great War – Robert Conroy
Alien Resurrection – A. C. Crispin (reprint)
Unwrapped Sky – Rjurik Davidson
Lords of an Empty Land – Randy Denmon
Mother of Demons – Eric Flint
Quick Fix – Linda Grimes
Midnight Crossroad – Charlaine Harris
Shattered – Kevin Hearne
Firestorm – Nancy Holzner
Jack Cloudie – Stephen Hunt
Son of No One – Sherrilyn Kenyon
Immortal Muse – Stephen Leigh
Artemis Awakening – Jane Lindskold
The Assassin’s Blade – Sarah Maas
A Dance With Dragons – George Martin (reprint)
Dragonsinger – Anne McCaffrey (reprint)
Pocket Apocalypse – Seanan McGuire
Stolen Crown – Dennis McKiernan
Of Silk and Steam – Bec McMaster
Star Wars: A New Dawn – John Jackson Miller
Cyador’s Heirs – L. E. Modessitt, Jr.
Infinity Bell – Devon Monk
Nexus – Ramez Naam
The Buried Life – Carrie Patel
Words of Radiance – Brandon Sanderson
Flex – Ferrett Steinmetz
Dark Lightning – John Varley
The Iron Jackal – Chris Wooding
The Curse of the Wendigo – Rick Yancey


Adamant – Emma Adams
MERCS – Jay Allan
Land of the Giants – D. M. Almond
Gentle Chains – Nazarea Andrews
Dragons Lost – Daniel Arenson
Jungle of Dream Bodies – AuthorX1
Sea of Stars – Amy Bartol
Flayed – S. A. Barton
Dark Alchemy – Laura Bickle
Centralis – Amanda Bridgeman
The Darkside War – Zachary Brown
Users II – Stacy Buck & Jennifer Buck
Chaos Station – Jenn Burke & Kelly Jensen
Scars of Tomorrow Omnibus – Tom Callen
The Bite of Forest Dark – Simon Cantan
Amulet of Asami – Samantha Carlisle
Sarina, Sweetheart – Megan Carney
Deities of a Dinosaur World – Adam Carter
A Key, an Egg, an Unfortunate Remark – Harry Connolly
Ruthless – Robert Crane
Halo: New Blood – Matt Forbeck
Refractions of Frozen Time – Marcha Fox
The Argent Star – Emerson Fray
Ravagers 2 – Clint Gleason
The Great Protectors – Clint Gleason
Star Trek TOS: Shadow of the Machine – Scott Harrison
Outland – Tony Healey
Out of the Bright – Jules Hedger
Longshot – Kevis Hendrickson
Extraordinary – K. M. Herkes
Quaternity – Kenneth Mark Hoover
Lioness of Kell – Paul Horsman
Hunting Season – Nikki Jefford
The Void – Timothy Johnston
Saira and the Queen’s Scroll – Moira Katson
Saira and the Sea’s Treasure – Moira Katson 
A Fistful of Clones – Seaton Kay-Smith
The Last Quarrel – Duncan Lay
Lament the Blade – Elizabeth Lund
Awakening – Ophelia Madden
The Ragnarok Chronicles – Nicki Markus
Thief’s Gambit – Scott Marlowe
Event Nova – Kevin McCarthy
Ruling Esland – H. M. McQueen
Phoenix in my Fortune – R. L. Naquin
Fall of Night – Joseph Nassise
The Planet Thief – J. C. Nathans
Water Rites – J. R. Pearse Nelson
Son of Tesla – Eli Nixon
Secrets of a Warrior – C. H. Noel
The Ark – Laura Liddell Nolen
The Forgotten: An American Faerie Tale – Bishop O’Connell
Bite Me – Alex Owens
Fourth Son – Monica Poole
Nexxus of Shadows – Alan Riehl
Absence of Mind – H. C. H. Ritz
Traitor – Edward Robertson
Ascending Descent – Johnnie Ruffin
The Peyti Crisis – Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Escalation Force – Carl Sinclair
Orbs III: Redemption – Nicholas Sansbury Smith 
Apollo’s Apprentice – J. E. Spatafore
Seems Familiar – Anthony Steele
The Curse Keepers Collection – Denise Grover Swank
Dream of a City of Ruin – Selah Tay-Song
Regeneration – Paul Teague
Resignation – Amanda Thome
Wielder – Mark Tyson
Never Sleep – Cady Vance
Creep: A Collection of Poetry and Flash Fiction – various
Bound to Justice – James Vernon
War of Wizards – Michael Wallace
Sing Me Your Scars – Damien Angelica Walters
Critical Strike – Darren Wearmouth & Colin Barnes
Werewolves – Kate Whitaker
Echoes – T. D. Wilson
Lifemaker – Dean Wilson
Daughters of the Circle – Lenore Wolfe