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Waiting on Wednesday: Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith

>>Thursday, March 29, 2012

Welcome back to another installment of Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Breaking the Spine. Sorry for the late post! Here's a new release from Smith, the author of Crown Duel which I read and loved. Love the cover for this one as well!

Banner of the Damned by Sherwood Smith
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2012
Publisher: DAW

From Goodreads:
Princess Lasva is about to be named heir to her childless sister, the queen. But, when the queen finally bears an heir, Lasva's future is shattered. Grief-stricken, she leaves her country of Colend and falls into the arms of Prince Ivandred of Marloven Hesea. His people are utterly different-with their expertise in riding, weaponry, and magic- and the two soon marry.

When the sensational news makes its way to Lasva's sister, the queen worries for Lasva at the hands of the Marlovens, whose king's mage is in league with the magical land of Norsunder-considered by Colendi to be their enemy. The queen orders Emras, a scribe, to guard Lasva. But it may be too late-Lasva is already deeply involved with the Marlovens and their magic. War wages on, and all are forced to redefine love, loyalty, and power...

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Attention GFC Followers!

>>Monday, March 26, 2012

Hey everyone! Recently Google Friend Connect has gone Blogger-only which doesn't make much difference for me since this is a Blogger blog. However, I think it's only a matter of time before Google eliminates GFC entirely.

Also, I'm going to be switching over to Wordpress sometime in the near future and I don't want you awesome followers to lose your feed. I'm asking you to please change the way you follow to my Feedburner RSS feed. It's super easy:

1. Click on my feed link here.
2. Under "Subscribe Now" chose the way you prefer to read my posts.
3. If it's Google Reader, click the Google button and then select "Add to Google Reader."

I'll be making another announcement when I finally switch over to to Wordpress, but I thought I'd give you guys plenty of time to switch over.

Thanks!

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Review: Wide Open by Deborah Coates

>>Saturday, March 24, 2012

Title: Wide Open
Author: Deborah Coates
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery
Publication Date: March 13th, 2012
Publisher: Tor Books
Rating: 8.5

Summary:
From Goodreads: When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days' compassionate leave, her sister Dell's ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.

The sheriff says that Dell's death was suicide, but Hallie doesn't believe it. Something happened or Dell's ghost wouldn't still be hanging around. Friends and family, mourning Dell's loss, think Hallie's letting her grief interfere with her judgment.

The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn't have to.

As Hallie asks more questions, she attracts new ghosts, women who disappeared without a trace. Soon, someone's trying to beat her up, burn down her father's ranch, and stop her investigation.

Hallie's going to need Boyd, her friends, and all the ghosts she can find to defeat an enemy who has an unimaginable ancient power at his command.


Why did I read this book? I've been wanting to read a good atmospheric paranormal fantasy novel for a while and this seemed like a good choice.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

My Review
This is Deborah Coates debut novel, set in South Dakota. It centers on Hallie Michaels, a sergeant in the army serving in Afganistan. She travels back home with ten days leave due to her sister’s death. Right from the get-go, Hallie is shown to be a tough, smart and courageous woman who is out to find the real truth about her sister’s death. Everyone is saying it was suicide but Hallie has reason to believe otherwise.

Oh, and she can see ghosts. After dying temporarily while in the field she woke up to find she could see the ghosts of the dead. She can’t communicate with them and can’t always tell what they want, but they are attracted to her and follow her around. One of them is her sister Dell, which probably stirs Hallie to be even more concerned about her death.

Slowly, weird things start to be revealed in her small county, about her sister Dell and her recent activities in a local weather research company. Hallie is guided by the ghosts and her own instincts, leading up to a big reveal.

I read Wide Open in one sitting, which is unusual for me since it takes quite a lot to pry me away from other things that I usually need to do in a day. I loved it and the more I think about the story, the more I think it’s one of my recent favorites. I was very impressed with Coates writing and how she handled the plot. The pacing was excellent; the mystery built up slowly, without those annoying scenes that are inserted to throw the main character off the trail in order to delay the conclusion. I think what helped this is that Hallie has only ten days before she has to go back to Afganistan to solve the mystery of her sister’s death and so the whole book takes place in that time period. Things move fast and while I did eventually guess the answer to the questions Hallie was looking for, there were also some twists concerning other characters that surprised me.

I also thought Coates nailed the setting. Since I tried, and failed, to read Graveminder by Melissa Marr, I’ve wanted to read a creepy, atmospheric contemporary fantasy. It takes place in the rural areas of South Dakota; there are lots of farms, cowboy hats and tractors. Since we see things from Hallie’s point of view, the ghosts are intermingled in her experience of her home and the weight of her sister’s death puts a cloud of darkness over everything. The creepy factor comes across very well.

Lastly I would have to say Hallie herself was an important part of my enjoyment of the story. She’s no no-nonsense, clever, determined, and desperate to find the truth about what happened to her sister. She doesn’t even back down in a bar fight against a few men. I also found her interactions with her old friends and her father to be entirely real; the different ways in which people grieve are deftly handled.

Rating: 8.5
Overall, I would definitely recommend Wide Open. It’s a great contemporary fantasy with a good mystery and a good take on the paranormal. It’s not your usual paranormal fare, with a sweet and unforced romance, and a subtle yet intriguing use of the supernatural. I hope Coates writes more fantasy as I would definitely like to see what she does next.

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Guest Post: I Don't Call It Rural Fantasy by Deborah Coates

I'd like to welcome Deborah Coates, author of Wide Open a new paranormal/fantasy novel released this month. Later today you'll get my review of Wide Open, so stay tuned!


I Don't Call It Rural Fantasy

by Deborah Coates

Which is...odd?  I guess?

In the best of all possible worlds, rural fantasy would be the underpopulated equivalent of urban fantasy.   But one of the things I write about are the parts of rural life that don't get touched on much.  Not transplanted New Yorkers or cottages by rivers or mountain folk who live up the hollow.  Those are all fine things to write about, but there's a lot more going on in the rural parts of this country (and I'm pretty certain in the rural parts of lots of other countries) and rural fantasy as a phrase doesn't feel to me as if it describes those other aspects of rural life.

I write about ranchers and farmers, about people who can't get jobs because there aren't any jobs to get, about tractors and ATVs and pickup trucks, about shotguns and hay balers and bison and cattle.  I write about flyover country, about the parts of the USA that people think they know but generally don't.

Did you know that 40% or more of all farmers in the USA are over 55?  That the average age of a farmer in Iowa is 58?  That the price of an acre of land in Iowa in 2011 was $6,708?  The average size of an Iowa farm is 330 acres which means that it would cost approximately (obviously, some acres are worth more than others) 2.2 million dollars just to buy the land for that average farm.

None of that is what many people think of when they think of rural or rural fantasy.  They think of 'Bubba,' of guys with missing teeth, of a woman in a flannel nightgown with a shotgun.  I know that's so because I see those images on the covers of books and I read about them in stories in magazines.  Do I think those people don't exist? Nope.  I know they do.  And frankly if you live in the country, you probably want a shotgun (rabid animals, predators).  But they're a small slice of the diverse people who live and work outside the urban and suburban US.

Are there serious problems in the rural US?  Yes, there are.  But they aren't the whole story and, in addition, many people don't understand what those problems actually are.

So, if I don't call it rural fantasy, what do I call it?  Well, I call it fantasy first.  Wide Open has ghosts.  It has several kinds of magic.  And I call it contemporary.  It is set today.  In our world.  For me, Wide Open is contemporary fantasy set in western South Dakota.

You can call it rural fantasy.  I don't.  Though maybe I should.

In Wide Open, Hallie Michaels comes back to western South Dakota after being gone for four years in the army:

Big Dog’s Auto sat on the western edge of Prairie City, a cornfield directly behind and prairie stretching to the west. The near bay held a red pickup on a lift; the far bay, two motorcycles, a car engine on blocks, multicolored fenders, and the hood from a vintage Thunderbird stacked against the wall. Cars were parked three deep along the side of the shop, two with the hoods raised and one jacked up and the right rear tire removed.

Brett came out of the office to the left of the garage bays while Hallie was rummaging in her duffel, digging out a jacket. The temperature had dropped another five degrees during the twenty-minute drive into Prairie City. The deputy—what had Lorie called him— Davies, was sitting in his car out on the road, like he didn’t have anything else to do, which he probably didn’t, because nothing ever happened in Taylor County. Other than Dell hitting a tree—and where was he then?

“It’s going to be at least two hours,” Brett said. “He’s got to run over to Templeton for a tire.”

“Jesus.” Hallie rubbed her hand across her eye.

“Sorry,” Brett said. She tilted her hat up and stepped back on the heel of her boot. Hallie remembered that Brett liked things to work and to keep on working. Sometimes she convinced herself to ignore things that didn’t fit with what she wanted, like that her car was old and parts wore out. “Lorie’s getting a ride with Jake when he gets off work,” Brett continued, “but that’ll be, like, an hour. Maybe your dad can—”

“I can give you a ride.”

Hallie turned and looked at the deputy, who had approached as she and Brett were talking.




You can follow Deborah Coates on Twitter or Goodreads.

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Last Princess by Galaxy Craze

>>Thursday, March 22, 2012

Welcome back to another installment of Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Breaking the Spine.

The Last Princess by Galaxy Craze
Publication Date: May 1st, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown

From Goodreads:
Happily ever after is a thing of the past.
A series of natural disasters has decimated the earth. Cut off from the rest of the world, England is a dark place. The sun rarely shines, food is scarce, and groups of criminals roam the woods, searching for prey. The people are growing restless.
When a ruthless revolutionary sets out to overthrow the crown, he makes the royal family his first target. Blood is shed in Buckingham Palace, and only sixteen-year-old Princess Eliza manages to escape.
Determined to kill the man who destroyed her family, Eliza joins the enemy forces in disguise. She has nothing left to live for but revenge, until she meets someone who helps her remember how to hope--and to love--once more. Now she must risk everything to ensure that she not become... The Last Princess.

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Review: Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

>>Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Title: Discount Armageddon
Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: InCryptid #1
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Pages: 368
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publication Date: March 6th, 2012
Publisher: DAW
Rating: 6.5

Summary:
From Goodreads: Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night... The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity-and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...

Why did I read this book? This book caught my eye through the awesome premise and cover and I prompty added it to my most anticipated releases of 2012 list.

Source: Bought

My Review
Discount Armageddon is a very fun and flirty beginning to a new urban fantasy series. McGuire hits all the major points on creating a great new series: good world building, a strong female heroine, and clever and entertaining dialogue. However, I did have some issues with the novel.

I’ll start with what I really enjoyed. The worldbuilding in this is some of the strongest I’ve seen for urban fantasy. Basically, supernatural species and creatures (called cryptids) exist in our world and are hunted by an old secret organization known as the Covenant of St. George. Verity Price, the protagonist, descends from a family line that defected from the Covenant when they found out that the decimation of the unicorns caused cholera to spread, greatly hurting humanity. Apparently the Covenant thought it right to destroy a species of low danger due to their doctrine, with no care for the cost to humans. Verity’s family disagreed and moved to America to lead their own lives, helping the cryptids and learning about them as much as they could.

The creativity really comes in through the cryptids. Each species is unique and I found myself pleasantly surprised by all of it. Of course, one of my favorites is the Aeslin mice, a colony of mice that lives with Verity and is very, very religious. They celebrate many holidays, mostly revolving around key moments in Verity’s life, such as “Month of Do Not Put That in Your Mouth!” I laughed many times then wished I had some of my own. Another great cryptid are the Dragon Princesses, women who are fireproof and live with dragons. Or they did, until dragons went extinct thanks to the Covenant. They still collect a lot gold and have a lot of mystery about them. But I won’t that spoil here.

Verity herself is a great lead character and a tough young woman. She’s very Buffy-esque, without the superpowers. By day she’s a ballroom dancer and by night she’s a waitress in New York City and cryptozoologist. She likes to run on rooftops and shoot guns. She’s also wisecracking, resourceful and generally cares a lot about the cryptids.

The things that really bugged me about Discount Armageddon were some aspects of the writing. I quickly got tired of hearing how dancing makes a great fighter (I don’t even know if I agree) and how much dancing Verity does while not seeing very much of it. Also, I found it hard to suspend my disbelief, not with the supernatural aspects of the story, but with Verity, the human. Who would run and climb over rooftops in New York City in stilettos and a miniskirt? On the way to work? Don’t you end up sweaty and gross and tired? I felt like a lot of believability was sacrificed for the coolness factor. It’s just so cool to have a ballroom-dancing, gun-carrying human running around in stilettos and skimpy clothing, but it doesn’t make much sense.

There’s also a romance with, you guessed it, the two people from opposite sides of the cryptid situation. It’s very predictable, but I didn’t fault it too much since I liked the love interest, Dominic.

Rating: 6.5
Overall, I enjoyed Discount Armageddon for its great world building and fun story. I believe people will enjoy this as well as it’s a good start to an urban fantasy series. I’d watch out for some cheesey fight scenes and situations and the lackluster romance, but if you like that sort of lightness, then you’ll have no problem here. I’m going to be continuing with the sequel because I really want to see how far McGuire takes this. Also, there’s a great cryptid Field Guild on McGuire’s website that is worth checking out.

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Movie Review: John Carter (2012)

>>Thursday, March 15, 2012

Title: John Carter
Director: Andrew Stanton
Format: 3D
Runtime: 132 min
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: March 9, 2012 (US & Canada)
Production Co: Walt Disney Pictures
Rating: 8

My Review
John Carter (2012), based on the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, is a planetary romance mixed with some historical fiction. It’s really quite awesome as it takes place during the American Civil War, following a southern cavalryman named John Carter on the hunt for his big break – gold. After a run in with a group of Apache men, he escapes into a cave with mysterious markings. Somehow, with the help of a medallion, he is transported to another world. The natives call it Barsoom but we know it as Mars. While trying to find out where exactly he is and how to get back home, he runs into a woman named Dejah who is trying to save her people in a one-sided war. Carter, being the southern gentleman that he is, agrees to help her.

I have never read Burroughs’ series, although I have heard of him through his famous Tarzan novels. I was skeptical going into this because the idea of a science fiction novel written in the early 1900s being adapted to film in our time seemed like a daunting task. Fortunately, my fears were scrapped just within the first 30 minutes of the film. Carter, played by Taylor Kitsch (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), is highly likeable and I became immediately connected to him. As soon as he arrives on Mars he is confronted by Tharks, a native species. He is cordial yet doesn’t bother trying to hide that he’s not to be messed with. His goal is to get off this planet and go home to his gold. However, this doesn’t mean he treats the Tharks without respect or compassion. In particular, the bond his forms with the Thark Sola becomes one of my favorites of the movie.

The other main character, Dejah Thoris, played Lynn Collins (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), appears as a damsel in distress but as Carter soon finds out, can handle herself. Despite the bikini armor she tends to wear, she’s an accomplished scientist and fighter. Of course they develop a romance, which I thought felt rushed and borderline insta-love, they made a great team. I particularly enjoyed the scenes where Dejah explained life of Mars and what the culture is like there.

The only real issues I had with the movie were the insta-romance and the extremely rushed ending. I felt like the ending was sped through to provide some sort of closure, otherwise it would have been a major cliffhanger. I understand this, but they should have dedicated a little more time to the big reveal and conclusion.

Rating: 8
Overall, I loved John Carter. I saw it in 3D and while I’m not a huge fan of 3D, I thought the quality was good. I also loved the special effects and the design of Barsoom. It’s a perfect action, science fiction movie that I encourage anyone to check out.

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Waiting on Wednesday: Redshirts: A Novel with Three Codas by John Scalzi

>>Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Welcome back to another installment of Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Breaking the Spine. This novel looks just absolutely hilarious.

Redshirts by John Scalzi
Publication Date: June 5th, 2012
Publisher: Tor Books

From Goodreads:
Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn’t be better...until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed. Not surprisingly, a great deal of energy belowdecks is expended on avoiding, at all costs, being assigned to an Away Mission. Then Andrew stumbles on information that completely transforms his and his colleagues’ understanding of what the starship Intrepid really is...and offers them a crazy, high-risk chance to save their own lives.

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Review: Fair Coin by E.C. Myers

>>Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Title: Fair Coin
Author: E.C Myers
Series: Coin #1
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 250
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Publication Date: March 6th, 2012
Publisher: Pyr
Rating: 6.5

Summary:
From Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more disturbing: she thought she’d identified Ephraim’s body at the hospital that day.

Among his dead double’s belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin—a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he’s liked since second grade. But the coin doesn’t always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people’s lives as easily as it rebuilds his own.

The coin could give Ephraim everything he’s ever wanted—if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.


Why did I read this book? The premise sounded really awesome and it was blurbed by two authors I love: Sarah Beth Durst and N.K. Jemisin.

Source: Publisher

My Review
Let’s start by saying how much I enjoyed reading a smart young adult novel that wasn’t a dystopia and didn’t have the usual love triangle. The story follows Ephraim Scott, whose life changes when he finds a coin with Washington’s head facing the wrong way commemorating the state of Puerto Rico. He discovers that when he makes a wish a flips the coin, it comes true. Or close to true.

For the first half of the novel, Ephraim uses this newfound power to take care of all the things gone wrong in his life. His mom’s a drunk and he likes a girl named Jena. Of course, this magic coin ends up being used on girls. Things start to go wrong when other things in Ephraim’s world changes along with his wish. People become different, events rearrange themselves.

I felt like there was a lot of this “discovery” phase for Ephraim – nothing particular happening for quite a while except making wishes and seeing how they turn out. Not until he shares this power with his best friend Nathan does things really start to go downhill. Actually, the whole story changes in that it becomes a science fiction thriller with a very human bad guy with a gun.

There are a lot of things to like about Fair Coin. All the characters: Ephraim, Nathan, Jena feel like real teenagers. Their minds are preoccupied on their crushes and other shallow things – I wanted Ephraim to do something selfless with the coin but he never quite gets there. On top of that, I felt like Ephraim didn’t have any real feelings for Jena other than her being cute and smart, and still he bases almost all his choices on her.

Towards the end we get the big reveal – I thought it would be the end of the story, but it actually opens up a whole new plot with scary villain and some intriguing science. I felt the story had two sides and it didn’t always flow between each other. This also caused a lot of the end to be rushed since we had to resolve the conflict with the big bad and also tie up the loose ends with the coin.

Rating: 6.5
Overall, I did enjoy Fair Coin and appreciated it for what it was: a different kind of young adult novel with a great science fiction story. There are some bumps along the way, the plotting, the pacing and some of the character’s lackluster choices when given power that is practically omnipotent. The end does wrap things up but I hear there’s a sequel coming out sometime next year. I’d be curious to see where Myers takes it. For one, I know I’d be interested in seeing more about the origins of the coin and the effect it has on the world.

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In My Mailbox #27

>>Sunday, March 11, 2012

Welcome to another edition of In My Mailbox hosted by The Story Siren! I've definitely had a good couple weeks since I last posted an IMM. I even bought a book!

For Review:

Fair Coin by E.C. Myers
I already started reading this one and am liking it a lot so far! Stay tuned next week for the review.

Sixteen-year-old Ephraim Scott is horrified when he comes home from school and finds his mother unconscious at the kitchen table, clutching a bottle of pills. The reason for her suicide attempt is even more disturbing: she thought she’d identified Ephraim’s body at the hospital that day.

Among his dead double’s belongings, Ephraim finds a strange coin—a coin that grants wishes when he flips it. With a flick of his thumb, he can turn his alcoholic mother into a model parent and catch the eye of the girl he’s liked since second grade. But the coin doesn’t always change things for the better. And a bad flip can destroy other people’s lives as easily as it rebuilds his own.

The coin could give Ephraim everything he’s ever wanted—if he learns to control its power before his luck runs out.


Wide Open by Deborah Coates
I'm going to be part of another blog tour for Wide Open, with a guest post from the author on March 24th. Can't wait!

When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days' compassionate leave, her sister Dell's ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.

The sheriff says that Dell's death was suicide, but Hallie doesn't believe it. Something happened or Dell's ghost wouldn't still be hanging around. Friends and family, mourning Dell's loss, think Hallie's letting her grief interfere with her judgment.

The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn't have to.

As Hallie asks more questions, she attracts new ghosts, women who disappeared without a trace. Soon, someone's trying to beat her up, burn down her father's ranch, and stop her investigation.

Hallie's going to need Boyd, her friends, and all the ghosts she can find to defeat an enemy who has an unimaginable ancient power at his command.


Eyes Like Leaves by Charles de Lint
I cannot wait to read this fantasy by de Lint. I just love the cover!

Taking a delightful departure from his more common urban-fantasy settings, this epic tale from acclaimed author Charles de Lint weaves elements of Celtic and Nordic mythology while bringing sword and sorcery to the forefront.

Summer magic is waning in the Green Isles, and the evil Icelord is encasing the lands in a permanent frost while coastal towns are pillaged by snake ships. Mounting one last defense against the onslaught, a mysterious old wizard instructs his inexperienced apprentice in the art of shape-changing. Mercilessly pursued by the Icelord's army, this newfound mage gathers allies—a seemingly ordinary young woman and her protective adoptive family—and they flee north in a desperate race to awaken the Summerlord.

Time is running short for the Summerborn, especially when a treacherous family betrayal is discovered


Bought:

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire
I'll be reading this one asap. It's currently on my Most Anticipated Books of 2012 list!

Ghoulies. Ghosties. Long-legged beasties. Things that go bump in the night... The Price family has spent generations studying the monsters of the world, working to protect them from humanity-and humanity from them. Enter Verity Price. Despite being trained from birth as a cryptozoologist, she'd rather dance a tango than tangle with a demon, and is spending a year in Manhattan while she pursues her career in professional ballroom dance. Sounds pretty simple, right? It would be, if it weren't for the talking mice, the telepathic mathematicians, the asbestos supermodels, and the trained monster-hunter sent by the Price family's old enemies, the Covenant of St. George. When a Price girl meets a Covenant boy, high stakes, high heels, and a lot of collateral damage are almost guaranteed. To complicate matters further, local cryptids are disappearing, strange lizard-men are appearing in the sewers, and someone's spreading rumors about a dragon sleeping underneath the city...

Read more...

Waiting on Wednesday: The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny

>>Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Welcome back to another installment of Waiting on Wednesday, hosted by Breaking the Spine. I've been feeling historical lately, so here's a book set in 16th century Italy that caught my eye.

The Book of Madness and Cures by Regina O'Melveny
Publication Date: April 3rd, 2012
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company

From Goodreads:
Gabriella Mondini is a rarity in 16th century Venice: a woman who practices medicine. Her father, a renowned physician, has provided her entrée to this all-male profession, and inspired in her a shared mission to understand the secrets of the human body.

Then her father disappears and Gabriella faces a crisis: she is no longer permitted to treat her patients, women who need her desperately, without her father's patronage. She sets out across Europe to find where-and why-he has gone. Following clues from his occasional enigmatic letters, Gabriella crosses Switzerland, Germany and France, entering strange and forbidding cities. She travels to Scotland, the Netherlands, and finally to Morocco. In each new land she probes the mystery of her father's flight, and open new mysteries of her own. Not just mysteries of ailments and treatments, but ultimate mysteries of mortality, love, and the timeless human spirit.

Filled with medical lore and sensuous, vivid details of Renaissance life, The Book of Madness and Cures is an intoxicating and unforgettable debut

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Review: Redemption in Indigo by Karen Lord

>>Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Title: Redemption in Indigo
Author: Karen Lord
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 188
Genre: Fantasy
Publication Date: August 1st, 2010
Publisher: Small Beer Press
Rating: 7

Summary:
From Goodreads: Karen Lord’s debut novel is an intricately woven tale of adventure, magic, and the power of the human spirit. Paama’s husband is a fool and a glutton. Bad enough that he followed her to her parents’ home in the village of Makendha—now he’s disgraced himself by murdering livestock and stealing corn. When Paama leaves him for good, she attracts the attention of the undying ones—the djombi— who present her with a gift: the Chaos Stick, which allows her to manipulate the subtle forces of the world. Unfortunately, a wrathful djombi with indigo skin believes this power should be his and his alone.

Bursting with humor and rich in fantastic detail, Redemption in Indigo is a clever, contemporary fairy tale that introduces readers to a dynamic new voice in Caribbean literature. Lord’s world of spider tricksters and indigo immortals is inspired in part by a Senegalese folk tale—but Paama’s adventures are fresh, surprising, and utterly original.


Why did I read this book? It's February's pick for Calico Reactions Theme Park book club!

Source: Library

My Review
I’ve wanted to read Redemption in Indigo for quite a while, especially after reading The Book Smuggler’s review on it not too long ago.

On the whole, I enjoyed this book. It has elements of fantasy that I love: mythology, god-like beings (in this case the djombi) interacting with humans, a folklore-feeling to the story. One of the surprisingly pleasant aspects of the novel was humor invoked by the narrator. From the very first pages and the story of Paama’s glutton husband, I found myself smiling all the way through. I felt that after the first part of the book the tone changed a bit and because more serious, more ethereal. We are meant to follow Paama and her journey with the Chaos Stick to learn some sort of lesson or to have some sort of revelation.

At that point I had some trouble connecting with the story. Lord has some of the most entertaining and eloquent writing contained in this book, along with great fantastical ideas. In particular, I loved the sisters and their magic and the Trickster character. However, I’m not really a fan of the narrated story, one that appears as if it was told orally at some point. Also, following Paama in her fable-like adventure wasn’t enough to sustain me. I wanted answers, action, and some kind of major conflict. One could argue that Paama receiving the Stick was the major conflict, but I felt it was too metaphorical for me, or too easily meant to happen in order for her to grow.

Rating: 7
Redemption in Indigo is a deftly written and wholly unique book by an author that will definitely remain on my radar. I feel like it just wasn’t entirely for me due to the type of narration and story. I would recommend this to those interested as I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. The ending is quite good as well, which was a major bonus for me.

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Interview: Tobias S. Buckell, author of Arctic Rising

>>Thursday, March 1, 2012

Earlier today I reviewed Mr. Buckell's latest release, Arctic Rising. It was a fun, exciting thriller on the effects of global warming set in the near future. I had the pleasure of interviewing him about his inspirations, insights surrounding this eco theme.


Tobias S. Buckell is a Caribbean-born New York Times Bestselling author. His work has been translated into 15 different languages. He has published some 50 short stories in various magazines and anthologies, and has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Prometheus, and Campbell awards.



Lisa: Anika is a very independent, strong female character. What was your inspiration for her?

I don't know if there was any one inspiration. This is always a tough question to wrap my head around because it's really a stew of lots of different things that keep bubbling on until interesting things pop to the surface and I snag them. I know with Anika I started with her name, because I stumbled across it in a baby name book. From there I began asking questions about who I thought Anika would be, how she would react, and kept answering those questions as I wrote the first draft.

Lisa: In the acknowledgements, you said this novel formed from conversations with Karl Shroeder and Paolo Bacigalupi. How did you three come to talk about these ecological themes?

Karl and I have been talking about interesting near future ecological quirks since we first met. Karl's always full of stunning ideas, and we collaborated together on a short story back in 2006 or so called Mitigation, set in an ice-free polar north. It got the idea of playing with near future ideas in my head. Karl and I were basically surprised that fewer writers weren't exploring this area in near future science fiction.

Paolo Bacigalupi writes just that, of course. We were expecting more writers like Paolo! He writes this amazing stories about this arena, and is also full of ideas. When I met Paolo we first started talking about how sail power might return in shipping, as well as all sorts of other stuff.

Between video chats and conferences where I would get to chat with both of these authors, I had a lot of ideas floating around in my head.

Lisa: The effects of global warming can change the entire world, but Arctic Rising takes place exclusively in the north. What made you decide to set the book there?

Well, the Arctic faces one of the nearest and most dramatic changes. The ice cap is melting right now, and it keeps melting faster than scientists predict, each time we find a new reason why that stacks on top of the other. And once it is gone, or mostly gone, or even just gone in the summer, it changes a lot! People can ship over the north. Resources will be exposed and can be gained. There will be a lot of attention and a bit of a rush to exploit all that. I see that actor Lucy Lawless was just detained for protesting aboard a Shell exploration ship that was headed for the Arctic. They're heading up there because oil companies also have projections that show ice melting, so they're all actually lining up to be able to get there first. There've been a flurry of filings for claims up north.

Lisa: In the book a corporation tries to engineer a solution to global warming, rather than a government or political body. Is this something that you can see happening in reality, where a private group takes climate change into their own hands in a dramatic way?

I think if politicians keep dragging their feet a company might try something. I saw a proposal by one company to use boats to spew water mist into the air to try and counter some affects.

Lisa: Can you recommend any further reading for those who enjoyed Arctic Rising?

Of course. I'd read Seed by Rob Zeigler, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Metatropolis, edited by John Scalzi, Kim Stanley Robinson's Forty Signs of Rain, and maybe Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling.

Lisa: The ending left room for more, will there be a sequel?

Well, it's a bit too early to tell to be honest. I have a couple other projects to get finished first, and then I'd like to come back to writing another ecothriller like Arctic Rising.

Lisa: Lastly, would you like to tell us about any upcoming projects?

I'm working on another science fiction adventure directly for my fans at my website called The Apocalypse Ocean. That's the big one! Thanks for asking, and for having me over for these questions!

Lisa: Thank you for stopping by!

Arctic Rising

From Goodreads:
Global warming has transformed the Earth, and it's about to get even hotter. The Arctic Ice Cap has all but melted, and the international community is racing desperately to claim the massive amounts of oil beneath the newly accessible ocean.

Enter the Gaia Corporation. Its two founders have come up with a plan to roll back global warming. Thousands of tiny mirrors floating in the air can create a giant sunshade, capable of redirecting heat and cooling the earth's surface. They plan to terraform Earth to save it from itself—but in doing so, they have created a superweapon the likes of which the world has never seen.

Anika Duncan is an airship pilot for the underfunded United Nations Polar Guard. She’s intent on capturing a smuggled nuclear weapon that has made it into the Polar Circle and bringing the smugglers to justice.

Anika finds herself caught up in a plot by a cabal of military agencies and corporations who want Gaia Corporation stopped. But when Gaia Corp loses control of their superweapon, it will be Anika who has to decide the future of the world. The nuclear weapon she has risked her life to find is the only thing that can stop the floating sunshade after it falls into the wrong hands.

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Review: Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell

Title: Arctic Rising
Author: Tobias S. Buckell
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304
Genre: Science Fiction, Thriller
Publication Date: February 28th, 2012
Publisher: Tor Books
Rating: 7

Summary:
From Goodreads: Global warming has transformed the Earth, and it's about to get even hotter. The Arctic Ice Cap has all but melted, and the international community is racing desperately to claim the massive amounts of oil beneath the newly accessible ocean.

Enter the Gaia Corporation. Its two founders have come up with a plan to roll back global warming. Thousands of tiny mirrors floating in the air can create a giant sunshade, capable of redirecting heat and cooling the earth's surface. They plan to terraform Earth to save it from itself—but in doing so, they have created a superweapon the likes of which the world has never seen.

Anika Duncan is an airship pilot for the underfunded United Nations Polar Guard. She’s intent on capturing a smuggled nuclear weapon that has made it into the Polar Circle and bringing the smugglers to justice.

Anika finds herself caught up in a plot by a cabal of military agencies and corporations who want Gaia Corporation stopped. But when Gaia Corp loses control of their superweapon, it will be Anika who has to decide the future of the world. The nuclear weapon she has risked her life to find is the only thing that can stop the floating sunshade after it falls into the wrong hands.


Why did I read this book? I never read a book like this before, a science fiction thriller with a theme of climate change.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

My Review
I was a little apprehensive about reading Arctic Rising once I got the book in my hands, mainly because I haven’t read a book of this genre before (ecological thriller) and also because I was afraid of what it had to say about climate change would hit too close to home. Then I knew I had to read this book.

The Earth of Arctic Rising is a familiar one but with some major differences. The polar ice caps have all but melted away and it’s created a dramatic shift in politics, economy and ecology. Canada has an advantage, since they claim a lot of land in the Artic. There’s now a passageway that wasn’t possible before because of ice and this has caused people to take advantage of the vast waters. That’s where Anika comes in, the main character of the story. She’s a pilot of an airship that monitors the ships passing through – specifically to monitor for radioactive material being transported or dumped.

Then the unthinkable happens: Anika’s ship is shot down by a radioactive vessel and her partner is killed in the crash. As she tries to find out why this unjustified violence happened, a conspiracy emerges when the vessel’s crew and cargo all but disappears into the system. Worst of all, Anika becomes a suspect and finds herself a liability because she’s the only living witness to what went on that day she was shot out of the sky.

I was intrigued from the beginning of Arctic Rising, and once Anika went on the run from both the government and unknown assailants looking to kill off a witness, it was a fast ride. Arctic Rising has a very cinematic quality; there’s a good flow to the plot and many action-packed scenes. I could picture each scene and how it would be shot in a high budget movie, and that’s a good thing. However, like with all mysteries, I felt like until I got to the parts were we start getting the slow reveal of what’s going on, it was a bit hard to connect to the story. But about a third into the book, it really picked up and I was hooked.

One of the things I liked most is Anika. From her early appearances she solidified as a pretty awesome woman. After being attacked and almost murdered, she figures out who might be behind all this, and instead of running away she doesn’t hesitate and goes straight after them for answers. How many times does that happen in books? She’s a heroine that takes her fate into her own hands and does what she’s got to do.

Of course, what is a science fiction book without world building? In this future we see how global warming has altered the planet. The arctic is now a hub of activity and controversy. There are people trying to profit from it, but also those who are trying to reverse the damage. We also see the effects on other parts of the world through the character of Roo, a man from an island in the Caribbean. His island was flooded and sunk by the rising waters.

Rating: 7
Overall, after the first 50 pages or so, I was really into Arctic Rising. The mystery was good; I really didn’t know what was going to happen until the end. There’s a lot of action and it’s definitely a fast read. Most of all, I enjoyed the speculation on what the world would be like after global warming melts the arctic ice. I’d recommend this book to those looking for an exciting ecological thriller.

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