Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Giveaway Hop: Happy New Year 2012 ~ Dec. 30th to Jan. 3rd

giveaway hop new year

Welcome to the:  Happy New Year 2012 Giveaway Hop ~ December 30th to January 3rd. It is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (badge links to our host’s site) and is co-hosted by Babs Book Bistro.

What is a giveaway hop?   It’s where you can enter a ton of giveaways via a link up which will be at the bottom of this page.

Currently there are approximately 200 other blogs who will be hosting bookish giveaways for you to link up to. So as a reader it’s an easy way to increase your odds of winning, for blog owners it’s a way to find new readers and friends. Have fun hopping and ~ Happy New Year!

Our Giveaway is New Year Resolution related. It is on for offer for US|Canadian addresses.

Requirements are:

  1. Be a reader/follower to enter this contest.
  2. Fill out the Google form.

How to follow:

  1. Google: via the blog’s side bar (I will follow back if I can find your blog.)

Optional ways of “following/friending” or otherwise keeping up to date:

  1. Twitter (I will follow back, if your account is not protected.)
  2. Your Email Box.
  3. Feed Reader.

About the Book:

52 changes

52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier Healthier You ~ by Brett Blumenthal; 380 pages; AmazonEncore (January 3, 2012)

52 Small Changes addresses all areas of wellbeing, including nutrition, exercise, stress management, mental wellness, and even the health of one’s home environment. With weekly goals such as Taking Time to Stretch, Choosing Whole Grains, Spending Time in Nature, and Reducing Dust in Your Home, this enthusiastic guide to long-term wellness is a must-read for anyone ready to change their life for good. 

Brett Blumenthal is from Cambridge, MA and is co-founder and CEO of Be Healthy, Inc., a wellness promotion company whose mission is to create a healthier America, one city at a time. She is also founder of Sheer Balance and The Healthy Road Warrior, which provide information, classes, and seminars, along with wellness coaching, to educate and motivate individuals interested in living a healthy lifestyle.

Enter via the ~ Google Form:

This hop is now closed. Stay tuned for the next hop and/or giveaway coming very soon!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Incoming Books ~ December 22, 2011

sneaky santa with books

It’s our incoming book section ~ December 22, 2011.

It’s the last batch for the year of 2011. We can’t  believe it’s almost 2012. Can you? I hope you all are working on those new year reading resolutions?

Included here are new and recently republished books with their “truncated” descriptions, some book stats, and fun covers so that you can better choose. So let us know in the comments since we just love it when you - our friends and readers tell us:  

Which of these intriguing, fun, heart-pounding, thought expanding books, listed below - would you like Santa to bring you the most?

picture credit - carbonated

 Macmillan | Tor


Territory ~ by Emma Bull;  320 pages | Tor Books | December 2011 ( first published in July 2007) | World Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2008);  

Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 is the site of one of the richest mineral strikes in American history, where veins of silver run like ley lines under the earth, a network of power that belongs to anyone who knows how to claim and defend it.

When a failed stage holdup results in two dead, Tombstone explodes with speculation about who attempted the robbery. The truth could destroy Earp's plans for wealth and glory, and he'll do anything to bury it. Meanwhile, outlaw leader John Ringo wants the same turf as Earp. Each courts Jesse James as an ally, and tries to isolate him by endangering his friends, as they struggle for magical dominance of the territory.

bridge or years

A Bridge of Years ~ by Robert Charles Wilson;  384 pages | Orb Books | December 2011 (originally published | Hugo Award – Nominee | John W. Campbell Memorial Award – Winner;     

Tom Winter thought the secluded cottage in the Pacific Northwest would be the perfect refuge—a place to nurse the wounds of lost love and happiness. But Tom soon discovers that his safe haven is the portal of a tunnel through time. At one end is the present. At the other end—New York City, 1963.


mindscan 2

Mindscan ~ by Robert J. Sawyer;  304 pages | Tor Books | December 2011 (originally published April 2005) | John W. Campbell Memorial Award – Winner;

Jake Sullivan has cheated death: he's discarded his doomed biological body and copied his consciousness into an android form. The new Jake soon finds love, something that eluded him when he was encased in flesh: he falls for the android version of Karen, a woman rediscovering all the joys of life now that she too is no longer constrained by a worn-out body. Karen's son sues her, claiming that by uploading into an immortal body, she has done him out of his inheritance. Even worse, the original version of Jake, consigned to die on the far side of the moon, has taken hostages there, demanding the return of his rights of personhood. In the courtroom and on the lunar surface, the future of uploaded humanity hangs in the balance.


Cinder ~ by Marissa Meyer; 400 pages | Feiwel & Friends | Age 12 and up | January 2012 | (ARC)

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

Paranormal Thriller

book of lost fragrances

The Book of Lost Fragrances ~ by M.J. Rose;  416 pages | expected pub date March 2012 | Atria Books | (ARC)

Jac L’Etoile has always been haunted by the past, her memories infused with the exotic scents that she grew up surrounded by as the heir to a storied French perfume company. In order to flee the pain of those remembrances—and of her mother’s suicide—she moves to America, leaving the company in the hands of her brother Robbie. But when Robbie hints at an earth-shattering discovery in the family archives and then suddenly goes missing—leaving a dead body in his wake—Jac is plunged into a world she thought she’d left behind.

Back in Paris to investigate her brother’s disappearance, Jac discovers a secret the House of L’Etoile has been hiding since 1799: a scent that unlocks the mysteries of reincarnation.

General Fiction

legacy of eden

The Legacy of Eden ~ by Nelle Davy;  400 pages | MIRABooks | February 2012 (ARC);

For generations, Aurelia was the crowning glory of more than three thousand acres of Iowa farmland and golden cornfields. The estate was a monument to matriarch Lavinia Hathaway's dream to elevate the family name - no matter what relative or stranger she had to destroy in the process. It was a desperation that wrought the downfall of the Hathaways - and the once prosperous farm.

Now the last inhabitant of the decaying old home has died - alone. None of the surviving members of the Hathaway family want anything to do with the farm, the land, or the memories.


A Good American ~ by Alex George;  400 pages | February 2012 | Penguin Group USA, Inc (ARC);

It is 1904. When Frederick and Jette must flee her disapproving mother, where better to go than America, the land of the new? Originally set to board a boat to New York, at the last minute, they take one destined for New Orleans instead (What's the difference? They're both new"), and later find themselves, more by chance than by design, in the small town of Beatrice, Missouri. Not speaking a word of English, they embark on their new life together.

Beatrice is populated with unforgettable characters: a jazz trumpeter from the Big Easy who cooks a mean gumbo, a teenage boy trapped in the body of a giant, a pretty schoolteacher who helps the young men in town learn about a lot more than just music, a minister who believes he has witnessed the Second Coming of Christ, and a malevolent, bicycle-riding dwarf.

our man in the dark

Our Man in the Dark ~ by Rashad Harrison | 320 pages | Atria Books | November 2011; 

Feeling underappreciated and overlooked, John Estem, a bookkeeper for Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), steals ten thousand dollars from the organization. Originally planning to use the money to seed a new civil rights initiative in Chicago, he squanders the stolen funds.

To the bookkeeper’s dismay, the FBI has been keeping close tabs on Dr. King and his fellow activists—including Estem—for years. FBI agents tell Estem that it is his duty, as an American and as a civil rights supporter, to protect the SCLC from communist infiltration. The FBI offers Estem a stipend, but in case he has any thoughts about refusing the assignment, they also warn him that they know about the stolen money.

Playing informant empowers Estem, but he soon learns that his job is not simply to relay information on the organization. Once the FBI discovers evidence of King’s sexual infidelities, they set out to confirm the facts to undermine King’s credibility as a moral leader and bring down the movement.

Tyrus Bookshurt machine

Hurt Machine ~ by Reed Farrel Coleman; 300 pages | Tyrus Books | October 2011 | Moe Prager #7;

At a pre-wedding party for his daughter Sarah, Moe Prager is approached by his ex-wife and former PI partner Carmella Melendez. It seems Carmella's estranged sister Alta has been murdered, but no one in New York City seems to care. Why? Alta, a FDNY EMT, and her partner had months earlier refused to give assistance to a dying man at a fancy downtown eatery. Moe decides to help Carmella as a means to distract himself from his own life and death struggle. Making headway on the case is no mean feat as no one, including Alta's partner Maya Watson, wants to cooperate. Moe chips away until he discovers a cancer roiling just below the surface, a cancer whose symptoms include bureaucratic greed, sexual harassment, and blackmail. But is any of it connected to Alta's brutal murder?


El Gavilan ~ by Craig McDonald;  432 pages | Tyrus Books | December 2011 (first published November 18th 2011);

The news is full of it; escalating tensions from illegal immigration, headless bodies hanging off bridges, and bounties placed on lawmen on both sides of the border. New Austin, Ohio, is a town grappling with waves of undocumented workers who exert tremendous pressure on schools, police, and city services. In the midst of the turmoil, three very different kinds of cops scramble to maintain control and impose order.

But the rape and murder of a Mexican American woman triggers a brutal chain of events that threatens to leave no survivors.El Gavilan is a novel of shifting alliances and whiplash switchbacks. Families are divided and careers and lives threatened. Friendships and ideals are tested and budding love affairs challenged. With its topical themes, shades-of- gray characters, and dark canvas, El Gavilan is a novel for our charged times.

Getting Lucky

Getting Lucky ~ by D.C. Brod; 336 pages | Tyrus Books | December 2011 (first published November 18th 2011;

When a young reporter is killed in a hit and run accident, freelance writer Robyn Guthrie agrees to finish one of the stories the reporter had been writing for the local newspaper. But nothing is as simple as it seems when she finds out about shady land deals, an old high school nemesis, and Robyn's aging mother.



Ancient Canada Cover

Ancient Canada ~ by Clinton Festa; SynergEbooks | October 2011:

Ancient Canada sweeps through the alternate Arctic as Lavender and Marigold visit Svalbard, Jan Mayen Island, Thule (Greenland), and the Siberian peninsula.

Marigold serves as the lead narrator, opening and closing the story.  Between are chapters written by a revolving narrator, each sharing their personal backgrounds, beliefs, and wisdom as they see fit.  Not all are human, precisely.  You may not agree with what each of them has to say.  In fact, Marigold herself detested one of them, and another tried to kill her.


Love Sick ~ by Spencer Seidel;  pages 272 Publishing Works | ebook October 2011 | paperback estimated pub date February 2012 | (ARC)

Late one night out on the Eastern Promenade Trail in Portland, Maine, the police discover an incoherent teenager sitting in a pool of blood, holding the body of his best friend and the murder weapon. The girl
they both love has been missing for weeks.

The kid’s jealousy clearly drove him to murder. He says the missing girl is the love of his life. She also happens to be the girlfriend of the murder victim.
It’s an open and shut case, or so most of Portland thinks. 

52 changes

52 Small Changes: one year to a happier healthier you ~ by Brett Blumenthal; 380 pages | AmazonEncore | January 2012

Whether as New Year’s resolutions, birthday wishes, or daily promises, most everyone vows at some point to make a major life change. But change is easier said than done, especially when it comes to better managing our wellness amidst the chaos of everyday living. Fortunately, wellness coach and award-winning writer Brett Blumenthal has devised a way to inspire and motivate her readers to live healthier and make positive changes in their lives.

That’s all folk for the year of 2011. So tell us we all love to know: Which of these wonderful books would you like to get from Santa? (that is only if you have been really good!)

Happy Almost Holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Guest Post and Giveaway: Dance on Fire ~ by James Garcia Jr.


James Garcia Jr., author of ~ Dance on Fire, is here for a guest post and giveaway. Two international ebooks and one signed copy for a US address.

This post is about “dreams”. I like that. What is special about James and his book is, as you will see, it took him a long time to complete this first novel. Which says something to all those would-be published authors out there. Also unusual is that James’s first novel has a unique combination of themes. It is definitely horror, and has a good splattering of police procedural, but here is the clincher: it has a Christian thread.

Welcome James!


It took me twenty years to complete my first novel, Dance on Fire. Shocking, isn’t it? I have no problem revealing that particular tidbit for two reasons: first, because it’s true; and secondly, because it enables me to encourage others - especially young people. I particularly enjoy signing a book for them, looking them in the eye, grabbing their attention and promising them that dreams still come true if they put in the effort. They certainly did for me.

I developed an affinity for horror novels while in my formative teenage years. I enjoyed the thrill of the chase, the mystery surrounding the whodunit or whatdunnit, and perhaps the darkness of the evil as it did battle with the good. Eventually, I tried my hand at crafting scary stories. My first attempts were brilliant! I recall writing part of a slasher story during summer vacation one year and being very satisfied. A year later, during the next summer vacation, I whipped out that great American novel, dusted it off, gave it a quick look and then exclaimed, “Who wrote this garbage?” *grins*

Of course, writing is a process. It takes many skills, much practice and, perhaps equally important, a well-read knowledge of not only who is writing today, but those who came before.

That’s a bit of an oversimplification on my part, but I want to focus this post on other things. You see, I can’t blame the fact that my writing got pushed to the back-burner because of family, career, etc., etc, etc. That process that I mentioned also took a maturity that I did not have in my youth. I recall needing two hours or more or I wasn’t even going to attempt to sit and write. Eventually, you come to a place where you proclaim, “I’ve got 30 minutes!” and you quickly start writing.

My novel went through a maturation process of its own. I had never set out to write a crossover vampire story. Originally, I was writing a horrific crime novel. How blood-thirsty creatures of the night ended up attacking people in the body of my prose, I’ll never know, but I am grateful, because many reviewers have liked the work. Another thing that transpired was my R-Rated novel filled with gore, sex and rough language soon morphed into something more PG-13. Going to church had much to do with that, but did not remove the thrill that I get from reading about such things. I draw the line at splatter-porn and the like, or whatever they call it now. I’m firmly on record as being a Silence of the Lambs kind of guy. The edge of my seat is where I like to be; walking out of the theater is not.


About: Dance on Fire

Each May, the Central California town of Kingsburg celebrates its Swedish heritage with the annual Swedish Festival: a weekend event where the town puts on its traditional dress, culminating with a dance around a Maypole on Friday, and a Swedish pancake breakfast and parade on Saturday. The town with a population of over 11,000 residents draws thousands more to the event. This year, two uninvited guests also converged upon the unsuspecting town.

Nathaniel is a vampire. He wandered into town, bothering no one; feeding upon stray cats and other vermin, wanting nothing more than to have a place to rest his head. Vincent is a second vampire, and the one responsible for making Nathaniel. He has been searching for his long lost “son” for well over two centuries. Vincent’s goal is to take Nathaniel home or kill him. Nathaniel has often wished for death, wondering why God ever allowed this punishment: to walk the earth undead and unable to be redeemed. Does God remember the little boy from Romania who watched his parents die, was raised by the murdering vampire, only to become one himself? What does God think of Nathaniel and could there yet be redemption for one outside of heaven?

Ten days before the start of the Swedish Festival the most tumultuous week in the history of Kingsburg has begun with two vampires leaving death and destruction in their wake. Kingsburg Police Detectives Mark Jackson and Michael Lopez, Barbara and the entire Lopez family find themselves drawn into something that threatens to destroy them all or leave them scarred forever.

In a marriage of the classic horror story and the Christian themes of good conquering evil and redemption, Dance on Fire is the account of characters being drawn into the fire and the supernatural forces around them watching as they burn.

Now the Giveaway:

To enter this giveaway you do not need to do anything (no need to be a follower) but enter the Google form below.

Since 2 copies are ebooks they can be sent anywhere!  Best yet is we have a 3rd paperback copy for one US address which will be signed.

James Garcia Jr. is the author of the vampire novel, Dance on Fire, (Smashwords purchase link – it’s only $2.99) and a writer for Kings River Life Magazine. You can find out more about him at the links below:

Good luck! 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Giveaway: Mid-Winter’s Eve Blog Hop ~ Dec. 21-27th

midwinters eve

Welcome to the second annual Mid-Winter's Eve Hop ~ Dec. 21st to 27th. This hop is hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (badge links to blog) and co-hosted by Oasis For YA and The Daily Harrell.

What is a blog hop?  It’s a way for a bunch of blogs to come together to offer book”ish” giveaways all in one place. Each blog is listed via a link up which is at the bottom of this post. What is great is that readers can win stuff and bloggers may get a few new readers. It’s a win win situation. Come and join in the fun!

We have 1 book up for offer ~ US|Canadian addresses.

Requirements are:

  1. Be a reader/follower to enter this contest.
  2. Fill out the Google form.

How to follow:

  1. Google: via the blog’s side bar (I will follow back if I can find your blog.)

Optional ways of “following/friending” or keeping up to date:

  1. Twitter (I will follow back, if your account is not protected.)
  2. Your Email Box.
  3. Feed Reader.

About the Book!

book cover 2

Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans ~ by Robert Louis Smith; Medlock Publishing; October 1, 2011

An epic fantasy with over 70 illustrations that tells the story of a 15 year old boy named Elliott, a bullied kid with deformities on his hands and feet who is uprooted from his home after his mother falls gravely ill.

When they move to New Orleans so his grandfather can help care for her, Elliott learns that the old man's eighteenth century mansion hides an ancient secret. From a dungeon-like basement far beneath the estate, Elliott strays through an ancient doorway into Pangrelor, a tumultuous parallel world full of bizarre creatures and warring races. Unable to return home, he discovers wondrous abilities he never dreamed he possessed, and an abiding connection to the primitive, alien world that will forever change him.

Robert Louis Smith, serves as an interventional cardiologist at the Oklahoma Heart Institute. He is married and the father of two young children. He began writing Antiquitas Lost in 2003 while studying at Tulane University in New Orleans. For more information please visit

Here are 4 examples of the drawings included within this fun book:

Anitquitas Lost 1Anitquitas Lost 2

Anitquitas Lost 3Anitquitas Lost 4

Please enter via the Google document:

This giveaway hop is now closed. Another is coming very soon!

Review: The Hermetica of Elysium ~ by Annmarie Banks

Hermetica of Elysium

Review by Shellie for: The Hermetica of Elysium ~ by Annmarie Banks

A historical fantasy set in 1494 Barcelona during the Spanish inquisition. It’s an exciting novel that contains a strong intelligent heroine and a magical book that has esoteric knowledge which everyone is literally dying to possess.

About:  Nadira, is a tiny young woman who barely looks her age. Although in her 20’s she appears 17. Of Muslim descent (and called Moorish during this time period), she arrives in Spain as a small child. Abducted from her desert home as the proceeds from war she is sold as a slave along with her mother to a Spanish master.

Amazingly, before leaving her homeland her mother taught her to read and write in their native tongue. Even more unusual is that Nadira’s new owner, a once Jewish man, trains her in various other languages. Giving her extraordinary abilities as a reader of Ancient Greek, Latin, Arabic and Hebrew which makes her among the few who have the skills needed to read a controversial and blasphemous book - the Hermetic of Elysium.

When Nadira is “taken” again but now from her new Spanish master by the English lord - Baron Montrose, she is at first resistant. But things change for her rather quickly when she realizes this man is of good character and swears to protect her with his life, if only she will help him avenge his brother’s death and decipher the contents of this esoteric book.

Thoughts:  An easily read novel that I did not want to put it down, it has a strong female character (my favorite), a strong and likable male lead, and a scattering of interesting side characters which creates an interesting and colorful ride. I particularly liked that there was only light sexual references and romance.

The story feels like it’s historical fiction with a thread of the fantastical (which is turning out to be one of my preferred type of fantasy). With writing that is intelligent, imbued with literary and philosophical knowledge, including key issues around human nature, what is good and evil, and a solid definition of ignorance and knowledge. All the while presenting a way for readers (like me) to get some world history without even realizing it. Considering it happens during an intriguing and volatile period there is plenty of opportunity for some very nasty bad guys – the Black Friars, to do horrible inquisition type things.

What didn’t I like about this book? Absolutely nothing, since it was just one of those great reads that gave me a needed escape. It’s a 4.25 star in my opinion since I could not decide which way to go; 4 star or 4.5 stars. Kudos to this author who apparently self published the book under a different title before finding its current home. But the best yet is there is a sequel coming soon, which I will be excitedly waiting for.

Pages 396 | Knox Robinson Publishing | December 2011Necromancers Grimoire

The sequel will be published under the title: The Necromancer’s Grimoire. Book two of the Elysium Texts series is where Nadira travels to Istanbul to search for something the Templar Knights lost 200 years earlier. There she begins to study with the last priestess of an ancient religion. This novel has an estimated publishing date of September 2012.

I can’t wait! 

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Review: The Conference of the Birds ~ by Peter Sis

conference of birds

A review by Shellie: The Conference of the Birds ~ by Peter Sis

A lovely hardbound book that is mostly art and a bit of written poetic philosophizing. It’s a rendition of a twelfth-century Sufi poem and is done in predominantly fall colors with a mix of ancient and modern styles.

About:  A conference of birds is led on a quest by a poet who has turned into a hoopoe bird after a disturbing dream. Gathering them together, he wishes to know the reason for all the wrongs in the world and a way to change them. But to do so they must find the king – Simorgh.

As they travel a long and arduous distance, the birds come to realize that each of them is but a tiny piece of an immense and larger whole. Flying through the daunting terrain (valleys of tribulations and mazes) to reach their goal, most will not survive the trip. But those that do will receive a gift - a realization that what they are seeking from their quest can be found inside each of them.

Thoughts:  Read several times over, allowing the art and poetry to settle, this book gets better with each subsequent read. It’s deep message is told metaphorically, visually, and simply, with a spiritual twist that transcends religion. A tale which moves us to know we are all on a journey to one place, a trip which many may not entirely understand.

It has only a small amount of writing but mostly images that appear to be tempera paint and carved block print on beautiful thick colored paper (I would love to see the author’s originals). The images are done in warm earth tones except for the culmination of the story where Peter Sis uses cool and vivid colors to give the crescendo a significant visual meaning. Importantly the art work feels both ancient and modern giving the impression that it is an old story told in a new way.

A relevant rendition that is just as meaningful today as it was a thousand years ago. I can see this book sitting on an office or home table, or in front of a comfortable chair or sofa, since it is a relaxing read. This is a terrific holiday gift for a special person, professional, or family. I give this book a 4 star rating. I loved it and will read it again.

160 pages | 27 Oct 2011 | The Penguin Press | 18 - AND UP

Author Bio:   Born in Brno, in the former Czechoslovakia, in 1949, Peter Sís is an internationally acclaimed illustrator, author, and filmmaker. He is the author of twenty children’s books and a seven-time winner of the The New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Book of the Year. He lives in the New York City area with his wife and children. Visit Peter at his website.


This book is part of a tour. Please click on the badge to find more information and reviews for this book. For your convenience here are 3 recent reviews for this book.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Review: The Immortality Virus ~ by Christine Amsden


Review by John for:  The Immortality Virus ~ by Christine Amsden (2011)

A dark, dystopian detective novel that puts an interesting spin on the perils of immortality.

About:    In the middle of the 21st century, the world’s population suddenly stops aging. For the relatively wealthy this is a boon, with long and healthy lives, but for the masses it soon results in overpopulation, lack of work, dramatically changing social structures, starvation, desperation and violence.

Fast forward four hundred years and Grace Harper, a discredited private investigator, is hired by an incredibly rich businessman to find the man responsible for “the Change”. The man she goes looking for might be dead (he was old four hundred years previously); he was certainly wanted for murder and he had no intention of being found.

Grace soon finds herself in an investigation where she has deadly enemies on all sides. Even the man who hired her has questionable motives and likely wants her dead, whether or not she succeeds in her quest. In no time at all she is immersed in corruption, slave labor farms, torture, an underground world, a rebellion against the powerful cities and war – not to mention potential love interests that threaten to eat away at her cynical, hard-bitten attitude towards personal relationships.

John’s thoughts:   This was an enjoyable read and more thought-provoking than I’d anticipated. It begs some questions: How might society evolve if everyone stopped growing old? Would a possible nirvana inevitably be corrupted by man’s greed and selfishness? Who has the right to impose long life or immortality on society? What happens to people when they have little or no possibility of a better life? What is wrong with growing old gracefully? Why is death such a bad thing? Not that the book sets out to answer all of those questions, but it does make you noodle on them as you read what is essentially a futuristic, fast-paced, detective thriller.

Interestingly, Grace Harper is  a cynical, humorous character that develops as the novel progresses. While she has some typical hero/heroine characteristics, she is also all too fallible and comes to realize that she cannot survive without help and companionship. She lives in a harsh world that Amsden does a great job of creating and vividly describing. It really is quite awful, but all too believable if you accept that the immortality virus could strike.

I liked this book and I’d rate it 3 stars. It’s based on a fresh idea and it’s a bit different from anything else I’ve seen out there. Give it a go if you like a bit of dystopia or a strong female lead in a detective thriller.

The Immortality Virus ~ by Christine Amsden; 272 pages; Paladin Timeless Books (June 15, 2011) US|UK|Canada. Science Fiction.

For more information see our incoming books post including this book. 

As always John will be responding to any comments around his review. Please don’t forget to check the follow up box for his reply.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

US Civil War 2011 ~ Three Movies

US Civil War 2011

Three Movies Watched: for the War Through the Generations - Civil War Challenge 2011. 

The time has come for us to play “mad catch-up” for all our challenges.

As part of a challenge ~ War Through the Generations (badge links to host’s site), we watched several movies which are US Civil War related.  Here are short reviews for three of them - Seraphim Falls, Gettysburg, and Amistad. Also included is a related update on a possible upcoming Steampunk/Civil War movie based upon a book published by Tor.

Seraphim Falls

Seraphim Falls ~ (2006); R; Action|Drama|Thriller; Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson and Anjelica Huston

An action packed movie with a somewhat surreal ending. We are thinking that it perhaps depicts the disassociation with reality soldiers experience after they are no longer in battle? It definitely is a decent flick with great visuals and a good cast. Set after the civil war it is about two men who fought against one another and were involved in an accidental atrocity. Now one of them is out for revenge and he will stop at nothing as he remorselessly tracks down his old enemy.

We enjoyed this movie. It depicts the actual horrors of war only in several short parts, and it’s main them is the aftermath, a battle of wills and survival in a harsh environment. We rated this at 3.5 stars.


Gettysburg ~ (1993); PG; Drama|History; Stars: Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen and Stephen Lang 

This is a long movie about the significant battle of Gettysburg, which was a turning point in the war. It is based upon the novel The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (links to John’s review). What is interesting is that you can see some of the reasons why the Union won and the Confederacy lost; while some of it was based upon luck you can see how the personalities of some of the leaders played a big part. You also get to see in great details what the battle was like for some of the troops.

We really enjoyed this detailed movie – it had a very realistic feel to it. On the downside we thought the beards on the actors looked a bit hokey and the music should have been actual songs from the Civil War era instead of the lilting dramatic score. John did prefer the novel but we still give this flick 4 stars. It felt historically accurate and did portray both factions without any preferential treatment.


Amistad (1997) TV Drama; History|Mystery;  directed by Stephen Spielberg; Stars: Djimon Hounsou, Matthew McConaughey, Morgan Freeman, and Anthony Hopkins

A good movie based around the emancipation of a group of slaves abducted from Africa and then transported on the ship Amistad. These abductees take over the ship in an act that is considered piracy. Once they are captured and brought back to a Northern US port, a legal battle ensues. The slaves ownership becomes a key issue and a fight for their freedom evolves into a courtroom drama. Set prior to the Civil War when tensions were building, the North allowed the legal drama since it did not want to incite antagonism from the South.

We enjoyed this movie and were particularly impressed by the main African “slave” actor. He was an absolute star in this movie, in our opinion. It’s a 3.5 stars as it became slightly too drawn out and somewhat silly in parts.


Interesting News:  The steam punk fantasy novel Boneshaker (which is set during the US Civil War) may be made into a movie. We are vey excited about this since the special effects and costumes could be so much fun. For more information on the book:

For more information about this potential movie:

As always thanks for reading.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Review: The Uncertain Places ~ by Lisa Goldstein


Review by Shellie: The Uncertain Places ~ by Lisa Goldstein

“…he thought they only showed themselves in what he called the uncertain places. Where the sea meets the land, for example… or inside meets outside… or at dawn or twilight…”  page 171

About:  Set in early 1970’s California within the now famous wine growing region of Napa Valley, our narrator Will is studying for his degree at UC Berkley when he meets Livie, one of the Feirbrand girls. It’s almost “love at first sight”. However, Will  notices something odd about Livie’s family. Something just below the surface and uncertain – inconsistencies, weird happenings, secrets between the Feirbrands, and most significantly their unbelievable prosperity.

When things start to become imbalanced, as they tend to do, and the truth about the reason for the family's wealth begins to percolate out, Will must act to save Livie from an uncertain faction. Termed “those people” they are obviously not completely of our world, and are tricky. Just how conniving Will does not completely understand until things become uncontrollable and they take a trip through the figurative “rabbit hole” into this other realm.

Thoughts:   So who are “those people”? There is a clue; the book is based upon one of the lost stories of the Brothers Grimm - the Bondmaid’s tale. So fairies it is. And with this author’s take they are a blend of images from a variety of sources and not one single shape or size. There is definitely an “Alice in Wonderland” quality to this story.

It’s an adult novel that I think older teens may like it too, since the main characters move from early college into adulthood. And of course it’s perfect for those interested in “fairy stories” or retellings. The only niggle I had is that while reading it I noticed a difference in the writing style from one section to another. For me it was page turning in areas while in other parts reading it was a slight struggle.

However there is no denying the book has an incredible premise and is jammed packed with amazing and creative details. I consider it a very worthy read, especially for readers interested in a non-fantastical primary setting since the story contains some historical details. While set mainly in the 1970’s the text travels from prohibition era through till the mid 1980’s, with a great bit where the Golden Gate Bridge had yet to be built. I liked that a lot, but my favorite part is the ending which culminates in the reason why there is less magic in the world today. I give this story a 3.5 stars. It has a fabulous setting and I enjoyed the read. It’s a perfect book for readers who enjoy “modern-ish” fantasy containing “those people”.

The Uncertain Places ~ by Lisa Goldstein US|UK|Canada. 240 pages; Tachyon Publications (June 15, 2011) For more information please see our incoming books post including The Uncertain Places. 

Mini Bio:  Lisa Goldstein is the author of a bundle of speculative fiction novels, collections, and short stories. She has been the finalist for various important awards in the field such as the Nebula, Hugo, and World Fantasy Awards. She lives in the Northern California bay area.

This book will be included in: the Basics Challenge – where I explore speculative fiction.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Review: Fleet of Worlds ~ by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner

fleet of worlds2

Review by John for:  Fleet of Worlds ~ by Larry Niven and Edward M. Lerner; 2007 (Trade paperback edition – 2011)

Another ambitious and excellent galaxy-spanning novel from Niven and Lerner – one of the prequels to the award-winning “Ringworld”.

About:   Fearing the consequences of a supernova chain reaction at the core of the galaxy, the Citizen race (better known as Puppeteers) are fleeing, taking their home planet with them. Not only are they taking their home world on a voyage across the galaxy, but in order to feed the teeming masses of Puppeteers they are taking five agricultural planets with them – forming the Fleet of Worlds.

One of the agricultural planets is home to a colony of humans who gratefully serve the gentle Puppeteers, believing that they saved the humans from a dying starship several hundreds of years previously. In exchange for protection and nurturing, the humans are in effect slaves – though they have never known a different life and the concept of slavery has no meaning to them.

While the Puppeteers are highly developed with access to amazingly advanced technologies, they are essentially all cowards who will do anything to avoid risks. So they use the best and brightest of the humans as scouts to seek out any dangers that the Fleet of Worlds might encounter. But the Puppeteers’ reactions to a new alien race they encounter make the human scouts question the benevolence of their masters. They also start to question where humans came from originally and wonder why there is absolutely no data available about their history prior to the discovery of the doomed starship. What might the Puppeteers be hiding and why?

As the humans strive to uncover a hidden past, political tensions and personal ambitions are in danger of dividing the Citizen race.

John’s Thoughts:   A long time ago during my student years I read Ringworld, a tremendous book which deserved the many accolades that it garnered. Last year I got around to reading Betrayer of Worlds (link to 2010 review), which was one of a series of four Ringworld prequel novels written by Niven and Lerner from 2007 to 2010. That too was a great read so we jumped at the opportunity of getting our hands on this first trade paperback edition of Fleet of Worlds.

Chronologically speaking, I’m reading these totally back to front, but each one is a standalone novel with a proper start and a proper end, so what the heck. As with the other two books, I totally enjoyed this read. Niven (and Lerner) spin great stories that have complex plots, intrigue, strong characters, a creative foundation of believable technology and really well constructed worlds and races. They clearly give a lot of thought to the alien races that they create, and the attention to detail adds a lot to the stories.

If anything, I enjoyed this book more than Betrayer of Worlds. With “Betrayer” and other Niven books that I’ve read, there tends to be a long cast of characters and in order to stay on top of the plot I found myself referring back to the cast list a lot and having to reread sections of the story - the complexity was both a strength and a source of difficulty. This time around the cast was a lot shorter and the story somewhat more straightforward – still meaty enough to be interesting and thought-provoking, but easier to read.

I’d rate this book 4 stars. I’d certainly recommend it to anyone who enjoys hard science fiction; I’m sure it won’t disappoint. For anyone who hasn’t got into science fiction but is tempted to give the genre a go, this might be a nice place to start.

For more information on this book link to our incoming books post and/or check out Macmillan/Tor’s page for the book.

As always John will be addressing any comment on his review. Please remember to click the follow up button to get his reply.

Have a great Thursday.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Headers for two sci-fi and fantasy blogs!


Headers for two sci-fi and fantasy blogs!

Edi’s Book Lighthouse ~ Last year I created this header for Edi with a light house theme. Stop by and say hello since he is an excellent blogger. He has hilarious, off-beat, and jammed packed posts which include movie, music and more in addition to books.


fantasy stamp 950 x 494 favorite 1 cooler

The Stamp - of Approval ~  These action hero stamps are perfect for Seak‘s blog since he loves fantasy. As a full time student, father and husband he still manages to maintain reviews and more. Check out his thoughtful and intelligent updates.


I love finding these fun pieces of artwork that are so wonderful and then making useful things for friends.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray (audio) ~ by Oscar Wilde

dorian gray

Review by Shellie of: The Picture of Dorian Gray (in audio) ~ by Oscar Wilde; read by Simon Vance

A classic gothic tale which has “Faustian themes”. The story can be seen as questioning character and its relationship to youth and beauty within the setting of upper class Victorian London.

About:   Dorian Gray is a wealthy young Englishman who has an angelic handsomeness. His beauty is such that he is believed to possess exceptional character too.  When he becomes a subject for a painting by a local artist everything changes. As the gorgeous Dorian’s painting is finished, the artist realizes it has become the best work of his career – so much so that it contains an essence of himself including a piece of the artist’s soul.

When viewing the final version of himself on canvas, Dorian realizes how extraordinary he is physically – but this has sad consequences too, since Dorian’s vanity becomes warped; particularly when he realizes from one heartless act that the painting reflects his rightfully earned ugly expression:

The quivering, ardent sunlight showed him the lines of cruelty round the mouth as clearly as if he had been looking into a mirror after he had done some dreadful thing. ~ Chapter 7

For Dorian the picture becomes an obsession, an intrigue, a game around how the picture will look as he descends into debauchery and cruelty. He watches the changes with a twisted intrigue and curiosity:

For there would be a real pleasure in watching it. He would be able to follow his mind into its secret places. This portrait would be to him the most magical of mirrors. As it had revealed to him his own body, so it would reveal to him his own soul. ~ Chapter 8

Thoughts:  Listened to in audio, the proper English accented reader does a nice job of rendering a classic story so that it is easy to listen to. With various accents and changes in gender as well as its old fashioned writing this is a perfect book for an “audio read”.

Written over 100 years ago this is Oscar Wilde’s only published novel. It was first printed in a magazine and then published in various other versions over the years with parts removed and replaced, since the book was not without controversy. As a know gay author, his homosexuality is reflected lightly in this novel, as well as his subversive opinions around upper class Victorian life-style. Perhaps he was imparting an important message around beauty, character, and more? I am certain he was. One which is also appropriate for today.

In addition to the historical details and interesting cultural information from Dorian’s world travels, I found that there is a syndrome named after the main character. Although not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), it is called Dorian Gray Syndrome:

A cultural and societal phenomenon characterized by an excessive preoccupation with the individual's own appearance accompanied by difficulties coping with the aging process and with the requirements of maturation. ~ Wikipedia

I liked that little piece of pseudo-medical geeky-ness quite a lot actually, as it says something about human nature along with this horror story and Wilde’s point. 

The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of those novels that can be discussed at length, analyzed and rehashed and then some. I am happy to say it was not a forced read as a young adult in college or high school, otherwise it would have ended up in the pile of books I disliked. The language is of course antiquated and perhaps a bit drawn out by today’s standards. However as an adult I enjoyed it in this specific audio reading. It has an amazing premise and a strong message. I give this classic piece of literature a 3 stars. I liked it.

Unabridged; Blackstone Audio, Inc. 7 hours, 44 minutes; Feb 13, 2008; Awards: Audio Award Nominee - Audio Publishers Association

This book will be included in the Basics Challenge – where I explore speculative fiction; Historical Tour de Genre Reading Challenge;  and the Fill in the Gaps 100 Book Project. Link to our 2011 Challenge List.

For access a free copy in many types of readable forms; including online and e-readers - link to:

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Incoming Books ~ December 3rd, 2011

book lights

Welcome to our ~ Incoming Books ~ feature, December 3rd, 2011! 

As you will see we have some great books here all “lit up” within this post for your perusal and enjoyment – with book covers, publishing dates and truncated blurbs so you can choose one or more to imagine reading when we ask all you book lovers the “question of the day”: Which of these books would you read first?

dark victory


Dark Victory ~ by Michele Lang; Tor Books; Jan, 2012; Historical Fantasy;    Magda Lazarus was a reluctant witch until the dire threat of Nazi Germany convinced her to assume the mantle of her family’s ancient powers. But though this young, beautiful Jewish woman has fought off Hitler’s SS werewolves and the demon who would rule through the Führer, she has been unable to prevent the outbreak of World War II.


eyes like leaves


Eyes Like Leaves ~ by Charles de Lint; Tachyon Publications; Feb 2012;  An epic fantasy which departs from the author’s traditional modern fantasy and 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. Time is running short for the Summerborn, especially when a treacherous family betrayal is discovered.

well tempered clavicle


Well-Tempered Clavicle ~ by Piers Anthony; Tor Books, November 2011; A humorous epic fantasy which is the 35th in the 37 book series and can be read as a stand alone.

Picka Bones and his sister Joy’nt are off in search of adventure with three creatures newly arrived from Mundania--and not the sort of creatures you might expect! Join them in a madcap quest, in this 35th tale of the land of Xanth. 

Enter the world of Xanth, where every citizen has their own unique Talent—or magical ability—and centaurs, demons and dragons abound.

book cover 2


Antiquitas Lost ~ By Robert Louis Smith; Medlock Publishing; October  2011; Young Adult Epic Fantasy;    Peppered with more than seventy eye-popping illustrations by Marvel Comics legend Geof Isherwood this epic fantasy tale tells the story of a boy named Elliott, a lonesome kid with deformities on his hands and feet who is uprooted from his home afAnitquitas Lost 2ter his mother falls gravely ill. While checking out some eerie old paintings and strange relics in the basement, Elliott strays through an ancient doorway into a tumultuous parallel world, full of bizarre creatures and warring races.

To the right you can see some of the artwork which is included in this text filled book. Incredible I think.


bed bugs


Bed Bugs: a novel ~ by Ben H. Wilson; Random House Inc; Sep 2011; Horror;    Susan and Alex Wendt have found their dream apartment. Susan soon discovers that her new home is crawling with bedbugs . . . or is it? She awakens every morning with fresh bites, but neither Alex nor their daughter Emma has a single welt. An exterminator searches the property and turns up nothing. Susan fears she’s going mad—until a more sinister explanation presents itself: she may literally be confronting the bedbug problem from Hell.

half in love


Half in Love ~ by Linda Gray Sexton; Counterpoint; January 2011; Memoir;  Despite experiencing the agony of witnessing her mother’s multiple suicide attempts, the last of which was successful, Linda Gray Sexton found herself gripped by the same strong tentacles of mental anguish. Falling into the familiar grooves of her mother’s relentless depression, but unlike her mother, hers is a story of triumph. Through the help of family, therapy, and medicine, Sexton confronted deep-seated issues, outlived her mother, and curbed the haunting cycle of suicide she once seemed destined to inherit.

Burried cover


Buried (#2 Serenity Series) ~ by Marissa Farrar; Paranormal Vampire Romance;  Four years after the horrific murder of her husband, Serenity is living a new life and finally putting the terrifying events behind her. Though a stronger pAlone2 (2)erson, her heart still craves the vampire who gave her the strength to change her life. But rumors are abound of something unnatural existing, something with the strength of a vampire but that can walk in the light...

Alone (#1) I just loved the first in this romantic vampire tale with its cover linking to Shellie’s review.

These two books by an indie author can be purchased at Smashwords.



Fables for Japan ~ various authors; 2011; Graphic Novel, Poems, Fables; This is the first in a trilogy; the second book is scheduled for released soon and the third to be published in 2012. All proceeds go to the Red Cross in the effort to help Japan in its recovery from recent catastrophic events.

For more information take a look at a copy of the press release for the series. 




The Black Shard ~ by Victoria Simcox; December 2011.  Two Harbors Press; October 2011; Tween Fantasy;  Kristina’s stay at summer horse camp is horrible to say the least. When Hester’s cruel prank goes terribly wrong, it sends them back to the magical land of Bernovem.

For more information see our - no longer available -giveaway post for this second book in this tween fantasy series.


ghost at stallions gates


A Ghost at Stallion’s Gate ~ by Elizabeth Egan-Cox; Cambridge Books; November 2011; Historical Mystery; Shannon Delaney gets caught up in a web of deception, intrigue and a ghostly haunting as she delves into a cold-case mystery from Hollywood’s glamorous decade of the 1920s.

Book #4 in this mystery series can be read as a stand alone.


in the lion's mouth


In the Lion's Mouth ~ by Michael Flynn; Tor Books, January 2012; Science Fiction;    A complex space opera with a Celtic flare set in the colonized planets of the far future world of the Spiral Arm. It chronicles the adventures of Donovan buigh, a scarred amnesiac whose mind has been shattered into more than ten quarreling personalities by Those of Name—the rulers of the Confederation of Central Worlds.

Book #3 in this space opera series can be read as a stand alone.

 fleet of worlds

Fleet of Worlds ~ by Larry Niven and Eward M. Lerner; Tor Books; November 2011; Science Fiction;  Taking a closer look at the Human-Puppeteer (Citizens) relations and the events leading up to Niven's first Ringworld novel. Set 200 years before the discovery of the Ringworld.

Kirsten Quinn-Kovacs is among the best and brightest of her people. She gratefully serves the gentle race that rescued her ancestors from a dying starship, gave them a world, and nurtures them still. If only the Citizens knew where Kirsten’s people came from….

If you find a book you would like to purchase please do so at your local independent book store. Most do special orders if they do not have them in stock. Help keep these stores open and the money in your local communities.

Now we ask the “best-ish book-ish question for the day”:   Which one (or more) from this collection of interesting books would you pick up and read first?

Thanks for reading. 

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