Monday, July 11, 2011

To England ~ again!


Union Jack 2

A trip to one of our favorite places on the planet ~ England!

Our bags are packed and ready to go – with house sitters and the like all scheduled. We can hardly wait.

As many of you know about us, with family in England and California, John and I are a solitary pair here in the Arizona desert. We are also very fortunate to be able to visit both places at least once a year. With a wedding to attend and loads of family members including 4 grandchildren (the smallest just turning 1 year last month) it is a wonderfully necessary luxury. Posting will be at a standstill but we will have a variety of stuff to update here on our return.

Till then below are several links for posts which include pictures from our England travels so that you may have a “vicarious trip” if you so choose:

Hope you all read a five star book and have some fun in the meantime. Until we return home - “Cheers my dears” to all our readers and friends!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Review: The Map of Time ~ by Felix J. Palma


final image - the map of time

Review by John for The Map of Time ~ by Felix J. Palma

A complex multi-layered historical fantasy that weaves real characters with fictitious ones in a story about time travel and the effects of changing history – with H. G. Wells as the central character.

About:   A rich and carefree bachelor falls madly in love with a poor East-end London prostitute, and is totally devastated when she becomes the last victim of Jack the Ripper. After years of despondency and a decision to commit suicide, his life is saved by his cousin who hatches a plot to save him by seeking the help of H. G. Wells to send him back in time to prevent the gruesome murder.

A rich London socialite is bored with her life and totally disinterested in the procession of suitors from which she is supposed to choose her husband. Meanwhile an enterprising company has set itself up to transport clients a hundred years into the future to witness the final battle between humans and automatons, and she becomes convinced that the only man for her is Captain Derek Shackleton – the man who is responsible for finally defeating the automatons. But it seems the only man who can help to foster their relationship is H. G. Wells.

H. G. Wells is horrified to find the opening words to his next (unpublished) novel written on a wall next to a man murdered by a weapon which is clearly from the future. It seems that someone from the future is trying to grab his attention, and Wells soon becomes embroiled in a fight to save his life and his destiny. He has a big decision to make as it becomes clear that there may be multiple futures and, indeed, multiple pasts.

the map of time uk

John’s Thoughts:   Rarely do you come across a story that is so complex and yet so thoughtfully well-structured. There are essentially three different plot lines, but they become ever more intertwined as the novel progresses and races towards its climax. For me the second of the three stories was a bit weaker than the other two, being a bit (actually a lot) more unbelievable, but the novel zips along nonetheless. The book has over 600 pages but it didn’t feel like it and I blew through it in a week, despite it being a very busy period at work.

Palma creates some really strong characters and tells a good story. Wells is clearly the lynchpin of the story, but you also get to meet Bram Stoker, Jack the Ripper, Henry James and Joseph Merrick (the Elephant Man) - among others. I loved that aspect of it, where you get to experience real-life Victorian characters. Whether or not their depictions are true to life – well, it kind of doesn’t matter; it feels like they might be.

In the end I found the complexity of the story both a strength and a weakness. I loved the detail and the nuances, but as things drew to a close I found myself re-reading sections time and again, trying to ensure I understood correctly everything that was happening. But I’m quibbling; this is a really good book. I’d rate it 4.5 stars and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good historical fantasy novel or indeed a good fantasy novel, period. Or are you a science fiction fan or a big follower of Victorian fiction? If so, give it a go. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

P.S. The book has an awesome cover which the image above can’t quite do justice to. Take a look in your local bookshop.

The Map of Time  ~ by Felix J. Palma; translated by Nick Caistor (June 28th 2011)  US|UK|Canada.

Related to and included in the pre-pub ARC package was a copy of The Time Machine – this text links to John’s review for this classic science fiction story.

As always John will be answering all comments for this book – it may be a bit slower than usual since our travel is coming into play here very shortly.

Have a great Sunday!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Review: The Inverted Forest ~ by John Dalton


final image - inverted forest

Review by Shellie for The Inverted Forest ~ by John Dalton

A perfect summer novel for those looking for something with a bit more depth in their reading. This novel has an idyllic summer camp setting in the Ozark Mountains, where an unexpected tragedy is set in motion through a series of complicated events. It is a heart wrenching and insightful story that has a diverse and unusual set of characters.

About:  When Wyatt Hudy is accepted as a camp counselor for the summer term at the Kinderman Forest Summer Camp at the very last minute, he believes he will be working with children. However, he has not been informed that for the first two week session he and the other new and impromptu counselors will be taking care of disabled adults that are wards of the state. A significant fact is that Wyatt could be mistaken for one of the campers due to a physical deformity he inherited at birth. As a series of seemingly unrelated events occur, there is an incredible build up a for a completely surprising and uncontrollable tragedy; and it does not stop there. What enfolds is at once heartbreaking yet understandable, leading the reader to think about areas that can be viewed as morally and legally ambiguous.

My Thoughts:  This novel made me think and feel a great deal of unexpected emotions. The author's densely descriptive and beautifully accessible language helped me to believe that I was there in the mountains in this summer forest setting. But the best part is that the story includes developed, unusually flawed, complex and diverse characters. There are entirely unexpected personality aspects for the characters -counselors, staff, and the campers especially - creating a realistic and often shocking mix. One character could be even classified as the quintessential psychopath of the most insidious kind – one that charms and which most would not remotely suspect. With the questions that this novel will naturally create for its readers, I think The Inverted Forest will be perfect for discussions, though it may bring some heated conversations to the table.

I devoured every moment of the book, kept thinking about the characters, keep thinking about them still even weeks after finishing it. I enjoyed being immersed in the forest setting, one that most Americans will relate to and which is imbedded in our national psyche as a seasonal event – attending or counseling at a summer camp. This is a 4.5 stars and comes very highly recommended for contemporary fiction readers. For me it was the perfect summer setting and a powerful read. It almost made a rare five star status for me.

For pre-purchase - US|UK|Canada; 336 pages; Scribner (July 19, 2011)

John Dalton is the author of the novel, Heaven Lake, winner of the Barnes and Noble 2004 Discover Award in fiction and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is currently a member of the English faculty at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, where he teaches in their MFA Writing Program. John lives with his wife and two daughters in St. Louis.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Incoming Books ~ July 8th, 2011


black and white books

Our Incoming Books ~ Before we set off to England, (yep we are traveling again in a few short days) here are our recent incoming books. A few re-released in paperback and some new, all up for review. Included here are the gorgeous covers, purchasing links and short snippets to catch your attention. So that you can answer the best question of the day:   

Which of these wonderful books would you read first?

the revisionist


The Revisionists ~ by Thomas Mullen US|UK|Canada.  448 pages; Mulholland Books (September 28, 2011)

Time travel, political intrigue…Zed is an agent from the future. A place where all of the world's problems have been solved. No hunger. No war. No despair. His mission is to keep it that way. Even if it means ensuring every cataclysm throughout history runs its course, especially one just on the horizon.

in the sea


In the Sea There are Crocodiles ~ by Fabio Geda Howard Curtis (Translator) US|UK|Canada. 224 pages; Doubleday (August 9, 2011)

Based on a true story and translated from Italian…….Enaiatollah's mother tells him three things: don't use drugs, don't use weapons, and don't steal. The next day he wakes up to find she isn't there. At only ten-year-old he is left alone in Pakistan to fend for himself. The author describes the boy’s remarkable five-year journey from Afghanistan to Italy where he manages to claim political asylum at age fifteen.

knowledge or good and evil

The Knowledge of Good and Evil ~ by Glenn Kleier US|UK|Canada.  416 pages: Tor Books;  (July 19, 2011)

Soon to be published action adventure, author interview coming up…..In 1968, theologian Father Louis Merton visited the ancient Dead City of Polonnaruwa, in Ceylon where it’s claimed he found a backdoor to the Afterlife. Years later, psychologist Angela Weber and her fiancé, Ian Baringer, are on the hunt for Merton’s long-lost journal and its door to the Afterlife. Together, they plunge into a global chase, pursued by a shadowy cult, dead bodies and destruction.

de la cruz family danced

When the de la Cruz Family Danced ~ by Donna Miscolta US|UK|Canada. 342 pages; Signal 8 Press (June 28, 2011)

Themed around the immigrant experience a new contemporary novel…..Johnny de la Cruz, succumbs to a quick sexual encounter with the ever attractive and beguiling Bunny. Years later, nineteen-year-old Winston Piña has barely finished eulogizing his recently deceased mother Bunny, when he finds letters she wrote, but never sent to Johnny de la Cruz, leading him into the lives of the de la Cruz family – a family to which he might or might not belong.

The Uncertain Places


The Uncertain Places ~ by Lisa Goldstein US|UK|Canada. 240 pages; Tachyon Publications (June 15, 2011)

Set in Northern California in the late 1970s this one should make me feel right at home…….A fresh retelling of a classic fairy tale. Will Taylor is introduced to the mysterious Feierabend sisters, and he quickly falls for enigmatic Livvy. But the family is behaving strangely and seem to believe that luck is their handmaiden, even though happiness does not necessarily follow.

sleight of hand

Sleight of Hand ~ by Peter S. Beagle US|UK|Canada. 288 pages; Tachyon Publications (March 1, 2011)

Stories new and old from this acclaimed fantasy author…….These are tales of quiet heroism, life-changing decisions, and determined searches for deep answers, this extraordinary collection of contemporary fantasy explores the realms between this world and the next.

promises to keep pb



Promises to Keep ~ by Charles De Lint US|UK|Canada. 192 pages; Tachyon Publications (May 15, 2011)

For the first time in paperback this stand alone urban fantasy set in the fabled town of Newford…..With the help of a mentor and an anonymous benefactor, Jilly Coppercorn has overcome abuse, addiction, and a stint in juvie. Temptation comes knocking, however, when her best friend from the bad old days rides in on a motorcycle and takes Jilly to a beautiful, mysterious city full of wonderful opportunities.

the first days

The First Days ~ by Rhiannon Frater US|UK|Canada. 336 pages; Tor Books; First Edition edition (July 5, 2011)

A very readable and action packed zombie story that was originally self published and the first in her trilogy……The morning that the world ends, Katie is getting ready for court and housewife Jenni is taking care of her family. Less than two hours later, they are fleeing for their lives from a zombie horde.




Gateways ~ edited by Elizabeth Hand US|UK|Canada. 416 pages; Tor Books; (July 5, 2011)

New out in paperback a collection of sci fi shorts stories all in honor of Frederik Pohl…….An anthology of new, original stories inspired by Frederik Pohl. Written by Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, Ben Bova, David Brin, Cory Doctorow, Neil Gaiman, Joe Haldeman, Harry Harrison, Larry Niven, Vernor Vinge, Gene Wolfe, and more, a book for sci fi lovers of all tastes.

Goodness knows what we will have waiting for us when we return home. It will be like Christmas in August. So much fun!

In the meantime: Which book(s) would you choose to read first?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Reviews: “A Memory of Wind” ; The Penelopiad (in audio); and Troy - beyond the movie


a memory of wind

A Trio of Mythic Reviews ~ all set in ancient Greece and Troy.

Included reviews of:

      1. The short 2010 Nebula finalist story – “A Memory of Wind
      2. The audio book by Margaret Atwood – The Penelopiad;
      3. The DVD – Troy: Beyond the Movie.

Review by Shellie for “A Memory of Wind” ~ by Rachel Swirsky

This is the sad tale of Iphigenia, the daughter of King Agamemnon. She is sacrificed by her father to the Goddess Artemis in order to create wind so that  they (the Greeks) might sail to Troy - all to avenge the “kidnap” of the unhappily married Helen of Troy (or rather her elopement with Paris - the prince of Troy).

What is so special about “A Memory of Wind” is that unlike other stories around this particular Myth, in this telling Iphigenia is not marginalized. Her death is not taken as an insignificant part of the bigger picture as in the traditional tale. Told in the first person by Iphigenia herself, we see the horror of a teenage girl who thinks she is to be married to the warrior Achilles yet instead is sacrificed. As Rachel Swirsky aptly states in the Nebula Awards Showcase in the preface to the story:


From a certain perspective, Iphigenia is an unsuitable main character. She has minimal agency. She is young and trapped and sad and passive and dying…. But sometimes we are are the ones who are trapped. Sometimes we are the ones who can’t change our fate. Those stories are also important.

Heartbreakingly, after her death our narrator attempts to understand her fate as we hear her speaking to her father - questioning his reasoning for this horrific decision. It is a lovely tale, done well with a light poetic style and an effective ending. 4 stars for this feminist take on a piece of an ancient myth.

This short Nebula nominated story/novelette is available in ebook format and is also included in the paperback edition Nebula Awards Showcase 2011. The ebook includes the above gorgeous cover, and is available at the Macmillan web site for ninety nine cents.; Amazon Kindle US.

Included in - The Nebula Awards Showcase 2011 ~ edited by Kevin J. Anderson; 416 pages; Tor Books; (May 24, 2011) US|UK|Canada. (Cover links to the incoming post for the book).

The Penelopiad - audioThe Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus (in audio) ~ by Margaret Atwood;  Laural Merlington (Reader); Canongate Myths series # 2.

This story is also from the perspective of “the other” -  a marginalized female character in the myth. It is told in the first person by Penelope, wife of Odysseus and cousin to Helen of Troy.

Interestingly Atwood tells this in an usual and layered way. Penelope is in Hades as she tell the story and pieces are conveyed in poem format at the beginning of each chapter, from the perspective of Penelope's 12 maids. These maids are sacrificed by Odysseus on his return after his 20 year of travels in the Mediterranean after the Trojan war. Needing a “scape goat” to keep his honor in tact, all twelve are hanged for mingling with Penelope’s suitors - who where hoping that Odysseus would not return so that they could take over his household and wealth. Through this story we see the perspective of a women’s life via Penelope’s modern voice re-telling.

Highly creative, Atwood has crammed an amazing amount of information in this story which is only three hours long. It has some interesting scholarly theories around a goddess cult which was believed to have included the 12 maids. Her perspective is light with a humorous thread, but nevertheless is understandably dark, as are most myths. This was my first Margaret Atwood book and I truly enjoyed it and am now a big fan. Highly recommended at 4 stars.

MP3 CD Published October 21st 2005 by Brilliance Audio US|UK|Canada.

Beyond the Movie - Troy

Beyond the Movie: Troy ~ National Geographic; April 27, 2004; 60 minutes; US|UK|Canada.

To tie in the two books with some “real” historical information (which I am notoriously lacking in), John and I watched this National Geographic archeological documentary about the mythical city of Troy. We enjoyed it, however we thought that the reenactment scenes of the myth felt “unrealistic” - feeling ridiculously clean and modern, white shiny and groomed.

In contrast the archeological research information was done well and felt authentic and culminated in the the supposition that Troy actually existed. We rate it at 3 stars. It certainly helped me fill in the empty spaces around the mythical and historical Trojan story.


All three of these items  – a short story, audio book, and history DVD are myth related and will be included in the Read a Myth Challenge.

The badge links to our host site if your interested in joining in this intriguing challenge.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: Galore ~ by Michael Crummey



Review by Shellie for Galore ~ by Michael Crummey

Historical fiction and a multi-generational tale, set in the freezing Newfoundland seaside town of Paradise Deep. Layered with snippets of the resident’s lives containing a touch of myth and small tastes of paranormal.

About:  Galore is a complex and page-turning book, set in an area and time where living is bleak – a frigid seaside town in the mid 1800’s. Sadly the locals are starving, so when a dying whale swims into the harbor the town folk eagerly wait for the animal to take its last breath. All are lurking on the beach, with their knives and buckets and plans to use every part of its body for sustenance; to their surprise when removing its stomach they discover the body of a man. Thinking it’s a corpse they plan to bury it, but are shocked to find that he is still alive. Judah, as they name him, is at first feared due to the nature of his arrival, his unusual appearance, a lack of apparent ability to speak, and a very strong odor. However, in time he is thought to be the reason for an increase in the fish being pulled in by their once empty nets and other improvements in the relative comfort of the remote community.

My Thoughts:  The above is only a short description of the very first part of the book; the rest contains interwoven stories around the numerous characters developed within the text. The author skillfully and incredibly weaves together the complex personalities of the resident’s lives in an earthy, heartbreaking, and at times starkly hilarious way. It includes some interesting twists, a full circle and an appropriate ending. The story is a take on a universal theme of a man being swallowed by a whale - this is a myth which is found in various cultures, religious text, and folk stories. Although Galore does not have an ancient setting and it is also not religious, it does contain a strong thread containing two Christian factions and several colorful local clergymen.

Michael Crummey is an exceptional writer with an unusual style that is at once page-turning and complex. With so many tangled threads it’s a good thing there are two genealogy trees located at the beginning of the book; it is needed. Highly recommended for historical fiction lovers, those who enjoy a mythic theme, and those who love complex colorful characters in their reads. I rate Galore at 4 stars; I loved it and now know why this author has won so many awards.

US|UK|Canada Paperback: 352 pages; Other Press (March 29, 2011 - first published September 8, 2009). For more publisher’s and author information see our expired giveaway post for Galore.

A review for Galore was ready to be published some time ago. However, the original version was lost in our “Gremlin attack”.  It now seems like things are not retrievable without considerable expense so this is it’s re-written version. I am thinking of writing a post on “how to torture a gremlin” and am currently looking for any suggestions from anyone who has any experience in doing so – preference will be given to particularly painful ones.

This book will be included in the Read a Myth Challenge, and perhaps several others too.

Thanks for reading.

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