Thursday, June 26, 2014

Review: The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger

The Divorce Papers - Susan Rieger

Review by Shellie of The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger.

Shellie’s quick take: A dramatic and messy high-profile divorce is told via documents which are facilitated by a twenty-something female attorney.

Shellie’s description:   Sophie Diehl is a young criminal defense lawyer who gets drawn into a high profile divorce case because the other lawyers who would normally cover family law are out of town. The wife from the wealthy couple seeking the divorce chooses Sophie even though the woman knows Sophie has no experience in family law. And the firm’s senior partner keeps Sophie on the case because the divorcing wife is the daughter of a favored and major client for the firm.

Told through emails, legal documents, personal correspondence, office memos, articles, and notes, the messy divorce, internal office politics, romantic entanglements and the main character’s personal growth dramatically unfolds.

Shellie’s thoughts:   This is one of those intellectual chic-lit books which was very compelling for me because I love epistolary novels and enjoy legal aspects in my fiction reads. This may be a problem for some readers since the book is in part told via a number of legal documents, which for some may become tedious and boring. For me, contrarily, it was a book that I found difficult to put down (even including the legal documents) and I devoured it in a few sittings.

It gets predictably messy between the divorcing wife and the husband, with egos and revenge working in the emotional soup from the fall-out of the break up and the fight for legal custody of their daughter. It’s one of those stories that features a train-wreck-and-I-can’t-look-away aspect for the reader. But what becomes a key theme for the story is the internal workings inside the main character’s mind as she works on the case. She begins to question her own relationships and experiences growth in unexpected ways. This gives the book its traditional chic-lit connection.

A fun read although I am not normally a chic-lit reader. I would imagine that the book is not going to be enjoyed by many typical readers of the genre. And from looking at the reviews available for the book it looks like it’s a book that the reader either really liked or hated. I am from the former camp, it was a 3.5 star read for me. I liked it a lot.

Crown/Random House | March 18, 2014 | Pages: 480 | ARC ebook via Edelweiss

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Top 5 (Redeemable) Villains by Lisa Jensen author of Alias Hook

Lisa Jensen

We have a guest post from Lisa Jensen whose book Alias Hook is to be published by Thomas Dunne Books in July.

It’s a story from the perspective of Captain Hook from the classic story Peter Pan. However, it’s got a twist. From the book’s description it sounds like Lisa Jensen has created a bit of a “redeemable villain” in Hook. Here she shares some of her favorites of the type.

Top 5 (Redeemable) Villains

When I was writing Alias Hook, it was so liberating to re-imagine the Neverland, Peter Pan and the Lost Boys from the perspective of Captain James Hook. What had he ever done to end up as the designated villain of that place? Recasting Hook as the sympathetic protagonist got me thinking about some other "classic" literary villains who might be due for an update—or at least a chance to tell their side of the story!

Satan (Paradise Lost)  Okay. He's the Devil. A character can't get any more villainous. But in John Milton's epic poem, he is also irresistibly introspective, wry, witty, and tragic. He's mounted an insurrection against the rule of God that failed, and now he's banished to Hell. Eternally. "Which way I fly is Hell," he tells us, "My self am Hell." So what's the worst that could happen, if he decides to get up to a few more shenanigans? Convinced that he has lost God's lover forever, and too proud (or too afraid of the answer) to beg forgiveness, he decides his only plan of action is to sabotage the Divine experiment going on in Eden. "Farewell Hope, and with Hope farewell fear."

Alias Hook - Lisa Jensen

In Alias Hook, James Hook sees himself trapped forever in the role of Satan in the boy's paradise of the Neverland. He and Stella Parrish, the grown woman who tumbles unexpectedly into the Neverland, have a conversation about the protagonist of Paradise Lost. "He only embraces Evil because he believes Goodness is denied him," says Stella. "In my world, we'd call him a hero with a tragic flaw."

"Well, he IS Satan," Hook points out.

Still, that doesn't mean he's beyond redemption—much like James Hook himself.

Circe (The Odyssey)  A naturalist branded a witch for her skillful use of herbs and potions—as so many women have been, in history and folklore—she is vilified for transforming Odysseus' crewmen into pigs. But she's only protecting her island home from unwanted invaders. She doesn't murder them by witchcraft, but behaves in a more humane way, turning them into animals who are not enslaved, but free to roam the island. All they have to sacrifice is the man shape that makes them warlike. (Get rid of those opposable thumbs and no more weapons can be drawn!)

In other Greek tales, her transformees are often depicted as tame lions and wolves. Also please note that she turns Odysseus' men into swine only after they spend a night in gluttony feasting at her table—so apparently, her "victims" become the animals they most deserve to be.

She is the daughter of the Sun (Helios) and the Sea (Perse, an Oceanid/sea nymph). As such, she is identified with the natural world, the cycles of Sun and Sea. She's not some petty witch with a grudge; she wields the Justice of Nature.

Beast (Beauty and the Beast)  Of course, Beast is not technically the villain in the beloved and enduring fairy tale. He's been transformed by dark magic into a creature so hideous to behold, it's assumed that no one could ever possibly love him. So he's already more of a tragic than malevolent figure. But the whole tale is skewed toward the challenge for poor Beauty to overcome her natural aversion to his hideousness and learn to feel something for him. In some versions, he's so bestial, he can't even speak; in others, he's incredibly eloquent and courtly. But all that ever matters to Beauty is the huge dealbreaker of his physical appearance.

I say, Beast already has it all—he's attentive, warm-hearted, generous and soulful. Why does he need to turn back into a handsome prince to be the hero?

Nimue (Legends of King Arthur)  In some versions of the Arthurian saga, the Lady of the Lake (who bestows Excalibur on Arthur) and Nimue are the same person. In other traditions, "The Lady of the Lake" is more like an office or title held by successive enchantresses. I refer here to the young woman—most distinctively called Nimue, but also known as Viviane or Nenyve—who seduces (or is seduced by) Merlin, learns his magic, and removes him from Arthur's court by shutting him up in (variously) a tree, a hawthorn bush, a cold stone tomb, or a magical glass tower.

But she's only a villain(ess) if we believe Merlin does not go willingly into the prison of magic she conjures for him. His powers of foresight showed him what lay ahead, so maybe he resigned himself to the inevitable truth of his vision, or maybe he wanted to go, out of love for his bright young apprentice. Or maybe he was tired in his old age and sensed that it was time to pass the torch to his most accomplished pupil. That she dared to learn the secrets of the court mage, even though she was a woman, would be enough to have her condemned by history; that she learned so well (and was so good at it) makes her even more worthy of censure by succeeding generations of (mostly male) balladeers.

Frankenstein's Monster (Frankenstein)  The so-called "monster" is the ultimate offspring who never asked to be born. But created he is in Mary Shelley's seminal 1817 novel, by a rash and feckless Victor Frankenstein too ambitious to harness the power of Science and eager to assume the role of Creator to consider the consequences of his experiment. Fashioned from mismatched spare parts and ghoulishly reanimated, the Creature come to life is so horrifying to behold, Frankenstein immediately flees.

This first parental rejection has the usual result. The Creature (variously referred to as "monster," "wretch," and "fiend"), fated to be shunned with fear and loathing by every human to whom he tries to reach out, inevitably develops a grudge against humanity. In the face of such ongoing negligence, no wonder the Creature has to act out to get his parent's attention. (In the meantime, on his own, he also manages to learn French, German, and English, and teach himself to read, so it's not like he has no redeeming attributes.)

Yes, his crimes against the innocent are brutal, but we can't help but feel if Frankenstein had had the sense to stage an intervention early on, the Creature's story might have turned out very differently.

Lisa Jensen is a veteran film critic and newspaper columnist from Santa Cruz, California. Her reviews and articles have appeared in Cinefantastique, the Los Angeles Times, and Paradox Magazine. She also reviewed books for the San Francisco Chronicle for 13 years, where her specialty was historical fiction and women's fiction.

Her swashbuckling historical novel, The Witch From The Sea, was published in 2001. Her fantasy novel, Alias Hook, is due out in July, 2014.

Lisa lives in Santa Cruz with her husband, artist James Aschbacher, and their two tortie cats. Find more about Lisa Jensen:

About Alias Hook:   "Every child knows how the story ends. The wicked pirate captain is flung overboard, caught in the jaws of the monster crocodile who drags him down to a watery grave. But it was not yet my time to die. It's my fate to be trapped here forever, in a nightmare of childhood fancy, with that infernal, eternal boy."

Meet Captain James Benjamin Hook, a witty, educated Restoration-era privateer cursed to play villain to a pack of malicious little boys in a pointless war that never ends. But everything changes when Stella Parrish, a forbidden grown woman, dreams her way to the Neverland in defiance of Pan’s rules. From the glamour of the Fairy Revels, to the secret ceremonies of the First Tribes, to the mysterious underwater temple beneath the Mermaid Lagoon, the magical forces of the Neverland open up for Stella as they never have for Hook. And in the pirate captain himself, she begins to see someone far more complex than the storybook villain.

With Stella’s knowledge of folk and fairy tales, she might be Hook’s last chance for redemption and release if they can break his curse before Pan and his warrior boys hunt her down and drag Hook back to their neverending game. Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen is a beautifully and romantically written adult fairy tale.

Thomas Dunne Books/Macmillan | 7/8/2014 | Hardcover | 368 pages

Friday, June 20, 2014

Giveaway: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

The Book of Life - Deborah Harkness

We have one copy of The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness for a US address. This giveaway is part of the Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop, with more information below.

Also included in the giveaway the winner will receive:

  • a holographic button
  • a commonplace book (shown below)

The Book of Life is book three of a popular historical fantasy trilogy, and is scheduled to be released in just under a month. So the winner will receive his/her book, holographic button, and commonplace book after July 15th. Which gives you time to read the first two books in the series if you haven’t already.

Here’s more about the books:   The series began with A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night and ends with The Book of Life. To read the first chapter of this latest and last book online or download it in pdf format link below (Warning: the excerpt contains spoilers for the first two books!)


About The Book of Life:  

The highly anticipated finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

With more than one million copies sold in the United States and appearing in thirty-eight foreign editions, A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night have landed on all of the major bestseller lists and garnered rave reviews from countless publications. Eagerly awaited by Harkness’s legion of fans, The Book of Life brings this superbly written series to a deeply satisfying close.

Hardcover | 576 Pages | 15 Jul 2014 | Viking Books


Not included in the giveaway but in case your interested here’s the publisher’s description of the first book in the series - A Discovery of Witches:

Deborah Harkness’s sparkling debut, A Discovery of Witches, has brought her into the spotlight and galvanized fans around the world. In this tale of passion and obsession, Diana Bishop, a young scholar and a descendant of witches, discovers a long-lost and enchanted alchemical manuscript, Ashmole 782, deep in Oxford’s Bodleian Library. Its reappearance summons a fantastical underworld, which she navigates with her leading man, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont.


And for the second - Shadow of Night:

J. K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Anne Rice—only a few writers capture the imagination the way that Deborah Harkness has with her New York Times–bestselling All Souls trilogy. A Discovery of Witches introduces reluctant witch Diana Bishop, vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and the battle for a lost, enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night takes Diana and Matthew on a trip through time to Elizabethan London, where they are plunged into a world of spies, magic, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the School of Night. As the search for Ashmole 782 deepens and Diana seeks out a witch to tutor her in magic, the net of Matthew’s past tightens around them, and they embark on a very different—and vastly more dangerous—journey.

Midsummers Eve Hop

In honor of the start of the season we have the Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader Not A Writer (link to our host’s site by clicking on the badge to the left.)

The contest and blog hop runs from June 21st to 30th.


Please be a follower/reader of this blog to enter the giveaway. See the ways you can follow below.

Ways to “Follow”

  1. Facebook (For blog updates in your feed add me as a friend.)
  2. Your Email Box
  3. Feed Reader
  4. Twitter
  5. Google+
  6. Pinterest
  7. Goodreads (Add me as a friend. However there are no giveaway updates here only reviews.)

Fill out the Google form to enter the contest:

Now for the other blogs that are offering bookish giveaways for this hop. Click on the blog title to leave this site and enter their giveaway. Happy hopping and good luck!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: Mandarin Gate by Eliot Pattison

Mandarin Gate - Eliot Pattison

Review by John for Mandarin Gate by Eliot Pattison.

John’s quick take:   An elegant and literary whodunit, set against the backdrop of China’s brutal crushing of Tibetan society and beliefs.

John’s description:   Shan used to be a police inspector in Beijing, but was imprisoned in a remote Tibetan jail after he ran afoul of a powerful figure in the Chinese Government. After being unofficially released, he has to remain in Tibet without status or official identity, unable to return home to Beijing. He now lives among outlawed Buddhist monks, who he comes to admire and love.

While doing menial work as an inspector of irrigation and sewer ditches, he comes across a horrific crime scene, two unidentified men and a Tibetan nun murdered and displayed in a strange tableau in the grounds on an old Buddhist temple. Unable to prevent himself from getting involved, he soon realizes that the Chinese police seem more intent on covering up facts rather than solving the crime.

When the evidence leads Shan to a new internment camp for Tibetan dissidents, he finds himself in grave danger. While trying to find justice for the victims, he now has to navigate between the people running the camp, a local criminal gang, various different Chinese police and army factions, and the Chinese governments’ rabid pacification teams who are trying to stamp out local Tibetan customs and belief systems.

John’s thoughts:   This was a very good read, a combination of a complex and interesting whodunit and a damning indictment of China’s treatment of Tibet and its people. Set in the remote and beautiful Tibetan countryside, you also get to learn a lot about Tibet’s traditional and gentle Buddhist communities.

The book is filled with many complex and interesting characters, starting with Shan himself who is torn between his personal beliefs, seeking justice, protecting his new-found Tibetan friends and trying not to endanger his imprisoned son. Among others featured in the story are peaceful monks, one of whom mysteriously commits suicide, Chinese intellectuals who have been banished to Tibet, and a Chinese Lieutenant who starts to help Shan despite the dangers involved.

The plot twists and turns and you cannot see how things are going to develop; though if I do have one small grumble about the book, the ending is almost too neat. But I’m being a bit churlish – this is a good read and I’d thoroughly recommend it to anyone who likes complex whodunits and/or anyone with an interest in Tibet and what is happening to the beleaguered country. I’d rate this book four stars.

Minotaur Books | November 2012 | Hardcover | 320 pages

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Giveaway: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert

In honor of its paperback publication we have a giveaway for The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. There is one copy available for a US winner.

Since the book has a theme that is related to botany, Penguin is having another contest associated with the book’s release that many of you may be interested in - “Enter for a chance to win a beautiful plant every month for a year!—delivered to your home direct from White Flower Farm.” Link on the previous text to see more information and enter.

You also may want to take a look at this fun THE SIGNATURE OF ALL THINGS reading guide, which, among other things, includes reading group discussion questions and a Q&A with the author.

Now for the publisher’s blurb for the book:

A glorious, sweeping novel of desire, ambition, and the thirst for knowledge, from the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love and Committed

In The Signature of All Things, Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction, inserting her inimitable voice into an enthralling story of love, adventure and discovery. Spanning much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the novel follows the fortunes of the extraordinary Whittaker family as led by the enterprising Henry Whittaker—a poor-born Englishman who makes a great fortune in the South American quinine trade, eventually becoming the richest man in Philadelphia. Born in 1800, Henry’s brilliant daughter, Alma (who inherits both her father’s money and his mind), ultimately becomes a botanist of considerable gifts herself. As Alma’s research takes her deeper into the mysteries of evolution, she falls in love with a man named Ambrose Pike who makes incomparable paintings of orchids and who draws her in the exact opposite direction—into the realm of the spiritual, the divine, and the magical. Alma is a clear-minded scientist; Ambrose a utopian artist—but what unites this unlikely couple is a desperate need to understand the workings of this world and the mechanisms behind all life.

Exquisitely researched and told at a galloping pace, The Signature of All Things soars across the globe—from London to Peru to Philadelphia to Tahiti to Amsterdam, and beyond. Along the way, the story is peopled with unforgettable characters: missionaries, abolitionists, adventurers, astronomers, sea captains, geniuses, and the quite mad. But most memorable of all, it is the story of Alma Whittaker, who—born in the Age of Enlightenment, but living well into the Industrial Revolution—bears witness to that extraordinary moment in human history when all the old assumptions about science, religion, commerce, and class were exploding into dangerous new ideas. Written in the bold, questing spirit of that singular time, Gilbert’s wise, deep, and spellbinding tale is certain to capture the hearts and minds of readers.

Paperback | 512  Pages | 24 Jun 2014 | Penguin Books | Adult

To enter please fill out the Google form:

ELIZABETH GILBERT is the acclaimed author of five books of fiction and nonfiction. Her 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, was a #1 New York Times bestseller; it has been published in more than thirty languages and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, and in 2010 was made into a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts. Gilbert’s debut novel Stern Men was a New York Times Notable Book; her short story collection, Pilgrims, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award and her most recent work, Committed—a memoir of marriage—was a # 1 New York Times bestseller. In 2008, Time magazine named Gilbert one of the most influential people in the world.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Q and A with Ian Rankin coauthor from Faceoff

Ian Rankin

Question and answer from Ian Rankin, the Scotland-based author and creator of the Rebus thriller series.

It’s in honor of the recent publication of the anthology Faceoff, edited by David Baldacci, which features twenty-three authors and eleven stories. There’s more about the book below.

The quick question and answer from Ian Rankin (pictured left) is regarding his short story collaboration with UK based co-author Peter James (pictured below). Together they paired their two main characters, Ian Rankin’s John Rebus and Peter James’s Roy Grace, in the short story “In the Nick of Time”.

Peter James - credit Gareth Ransome

What was it like collaborating with Peter James on In the Nick of Time?

It was fun, as well as challenging. Peter and I have known one another for years. Our biggest problem was how to bring together two quite different cops who work 500 miles apart in different countries! Once we had nailed that, the ride got more comfortable.

The characters Roy Grace and John Rebus are like night and day. Was it difficult to create a connection between two very different people?

Rebus and Grace come from different backgrounds, have different philosophies of policing, so we knew they wouldn't exactly be best buddies when they met. But that is always interesting - as a writer you want relationships that provide sparks. Of course, they share one crucial imperative - they want to put away the perpetrators. Doesn't matter where your cops are from or in what ways they differ - they'll have that in common.

Explain why you chose Brighton as the setting for the story.

Well, we had to get Rebus to Grace's jurisdiction or vice versa. Brighton made sense because Rebus is a big fan of The Who and in their album Quadrophenia they sing about the fights that used to take place in Brighton in the early 1960s between rival gangs. That gave us the inkling of a plot, and we found a way to make it work!

Ian Rankin:  Born in the Kingdom of Fife in 1960, Ian Rankin graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1982, and then spent three years writing novels when he was supposed to be working towards a PhD in Scottish Literature. His first Rebus novel was published in 1987, and the Rebus books are now translated into twenty-two languages and are bestsellers on several continents.

For more information on the author link to:

Peter James: Born in Brighton, Sussex, England Peter James is an international best selling thriller author of the Roy Grace series.

For extended information about him link to:

Faceoff - edited by David Baldacci

FACEOFF edited by David Baldacci

For the first time ever the world’s greatest thriller characters meet head-to-head in 11 electrifying stories.

Where else will you be able to read about Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme meets John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport? Fans of Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone and James Rollins’ Gray Pierce have waited for years to see those characters together. Then there’s Lee Child’s Jack Reacher meeting up with Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller in a bar in Boston. Steve Martini’s Paul Madriani becoming entangled with Linda Fairstein’s Alex Cooper. Plus, you can’t forget the ever-odd Aloysius Pendergast coming face to face with the scary world of R.L. Stine.

In an unprecedented collaboration, twenty-three of the world’s bestselling and critically acclaimed thriller writers have paired their series characters in an eleven-story anthology curated by the International Thriller Writers (ITW). Edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci, FACEOFF is a who’s who of not only the most beloved contemporary thriller writers, but also their iconic characters—putting them head-to-head with their most worthy opponents.

As worlds collide, the characters you think you know best are thrown into unpredictable situations and partnered with, pitted against, and, in some cases, romantically entangled with, characters you’d never suspect—and some that you would. With introductions to the stories that describes the writers, their characters, and a bit about the story’s creation, FACEOFF is truly a treasure trove for thriller fans.

The eleven stories included in this anthology:

  • Dennis Lehane’s Patrick Kenzie vs. Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch
  • Ian Rankin’s John Rebus vs. Peter James’s Roy Grace
  • R.L. Stine’s Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy vs. Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Aloysius Pendergast
  • M.J. Rose’s Malachai Samuels vs. Lisa Gardner’s D.D. Warren
  • Steve Martini’s Paul Madriani vs. Linda Fairstein’s Alexandra Cooper
  • Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme vs. John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport
  • Heather Graham’s Michael Quinn vs. F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack
  • Raymond Khoury’s Sean Reilly vs. Linwood Barclay’s Glen Garber
  • John Lescroart’s Wyatt Hunt vs. T. Jefferson Parker’s Joe Trona
  • Steve Berry’s Cotton Malone vs. James Rollins’s Gray Pierce
  • Lee Child’s Jack Reacher vs. Joseph Finder’s Nick Heller

Simon & Schuster | 384 pages | June 2014 | Hardcover

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

7 Favorite Sci Fi Books from Kieran Shea author of Koko Takes a Holiday

Kieran Shea

We have guest post from Kieran Shea whose debut novel Koko Takes a Holiday has just been released by Titan Books.

Below he shares some of his favorite science fiction books, because as you can guess his book is science fiction. However it has a twist. I have yet to read Koko Takes a Holiday but it has been described as Cyberpunk and the author has a history of writing Noir. Sound interesting?  There’s more about his book and him at the bottom of this post.


The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

This was likely the first science fiction book I ever read. Only when I was much older did I come to appreciate the genius of holistically articulating a theme via a series of stand-alone vignettes. Slim, sleek, and aridly precise, I re-read it again earlier this year.

Market Forces by Richard K. Morgan

When people talk of Richard K. Morgan’s works inevitably they think of the Takeshi Kovacs novels. However, for me Market Forces is much more compelling tale. With its near future slant, the novel succinctly satirizes the frightening perils of free-enterprise globalization and vulture-profiteering. I swear, the action sequences alone will leave you gob-smacked—Wall Street meets The Road Warrior.

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Let me simply say this—whenever I encounter someone who admits they haven’t read this book (or its sequels for that matter), I immediately throw up my hands and walk away. My God, what’s wrong with you people?

The Drowned World by JG Ballard.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the prophetic climate change novel circa 1962. A powerful writer and social commentator, Ballard took environmental collapse to the extreme and supercharged the psychological metaphor. Just thinking about the book makes me all clammy.

1984 by George Orwell

Forget all the required reading hoo-ha and take a moment to really think about the importance of this book. Imagine the coarsened guts it took to write it. Timelessly brilliant and politically prescient, 1984 is the quintessential line in the sand by which we measure the lunacy of our modern world.

Death's Head by David Gunn

Like your military science fiction hardboiled? Me too. Meet Sven Tveskoeg—ex-sergeant, drafted enforcer, and interplanetary killer extraordinaire. For my money, Sven is the perfect hardcore anti-hero, and Gunn’s black humor is absolutely priceless.

Koko Takes a Holiday - Kieran Shea

Here’s more information on Koko Takes a Holiday:

Five hundred years from now, ex-corporate mercenary Koko Martstellar is swaggering through an easy early retirement as a brothel owner on The Sixty Islands, a manufactured tropical resort archipelago known for its sex and simulated violence. Surrounded by slang-drooling boywhores and synthetic komodo dragons, Koko finds the most challenging part of her day might be deciding on her next drink. That is, until her old comrade Portia Delacompte sends a squad of security personnel to murder her.

Titan Books | Paperback | 336pp | 10 June 2014

KIERAN SHEA’s fiction has appeared in dozens of venues including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Thuglit, Dogmatika, Word Riot, Plots with Guns, Beat to a Pulp, Crimefactory, and Needle: A Magazine of Noir well as in some beefy-looking anthologies most of which will make you question the tether of his shiny, red balloon. To his self-deprecating astonishment he's also been nominated for the Story South’s Million Writers Award twice without sending the judges so much as a thank you note. He co-edited the satiric transgressive fiction collection D*CKED: DARK FICTION INSPIRED BY DICK CHENEY and his debut novel KOKO TAKES A HOLIDAY is forthcoming from Titan Books in June. Kieran divides his time between 38°58′22.6″N- 76°30′4.17″W and 39.2775° N, 74.5750° W.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Giveaway: The Chronicle of Secret Riven

The Chronicle of Secret Riven - Ronlyn Domingue

We have one copy of The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue for a US address. The book is a stand alone sequel to The Mapmaker’s War and is fantasy with fairytale elements.

For an interesting interview from the author that gives more information on the book as well as an excerpt of the first chapter for a taste of the author’s writing style link on the texts below.

About THE CHRONICLE OF SECRET RIVEN: An uncanny child born to brilliant parents, befriended by a prince, mentored by a wise woman, pursued by a powerful man, Secret Riven has no idea what destiny will demand of her or the courage she must have to confront it in the breathtakingly epic, genre-spanning sequel to The Mapmaker’s War.

One thousand years after a great conflict known as The Mapmaker’s War, a daughter is born to an ambitious historian and a gifted translator. Secret Riven doesn’t speak until her seventh year but can mysteriously communicate with plants and animals. Unsettled by visions and dreams since childhood, she tries to hide her strangeness, especially from her mercurial father and cold mother. When her knowledge of an esoteric symbol brings unwelcome attention, gentle, watchful Secret finds acceptance from Prince Nikolas, her best friend, and Old Woman, who lives in the distant woods.

When Secret is twelve, her mother, Zavet, receives an arcane manuscript to translate from an anonymous owner. Zavet begins to suffer nightmares and withdraws into herself. Secret sickens with a fever and awakens able to speak an ancient language, discovering that her mother is fluent as well. Suddenly, Zavet dies. The manuscript is missing, but a cipher has been left for Secret to find. Soon, Secret will have a choice to make: confront a destiny tied to an ancient past or deny it, never to know its whole truth.

A spellbinding story, rich with vivid characters and set in a fascinating world, The Chronicle of Secret Riven explores the tension between love and hate, trust and betrayal, fate and free will.

Atria Books | May 20, 2014 | 416 pages

Please fill out the Google form to enter this giveaway:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Giveaway: The Magician’s Kit

The Magician's Land - Lev Grossman

Giveaway for The Magician’s Kit which is in honor of the highly anticipated finale to Lev Grossman’s critically acclaimed, New York Times bestselling Magicians trilogy THE MAGICIAN’S LAND.

The Magician’s Land is set to be released in August. Giving newer readers a few months to read the first two books in the series.

We have one kit for a US entrant. The Magician’s Kit contains:
  • An excerpt booklet containing Chapter 1 of THE MAGICIAN’S LAND
  • Clock-face buttons in 3 different designs (shown below)
  • A set of 4 postcards featuring Magicians fan art by Christopher Shy



Here’s more about this third book in the trilogy: 

Quentin Coldwater has lost everything. He has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams that he once ruled. Everything he had fought so hard for, not to mention his closest friends, is sealed away in a land Quentin may never again visit. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him. Meanwhile, the magical barriers that keep Fillory safe are failing, and barbarians from the north have invaded. Eliot and Janet, the rulers of Fillory, embark on a final quest to save their beloved world, only to discover a situation far more complex—and far more dire—than anyone had envisioned.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young magician with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. His new life takes him back to old haunts, like Antarctica and the Neitherlands, and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers buried secrets and hidden evils and ultimately the key to a sorcerous masterwork, a spell that could create a magical utopia. But all roads lead back to Fillory, where Quentin must face his fears and put things right or die trying.

The Magician’s Land is an intricate and fantastical thriller, and an epic of love and redemption that brings the Magicians trilogy to a magnificent conclusion, confirming it as one of the great achievements in modern fantasy. It’s the story of a boy becoming a man, an apprentice becoming a master, and a broken land finally becoming whole.

Hardcover | 416  Pages | 5 Aug 2014 | Viking Books | Adult

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Incoming Books: June 5, 2014

Fearful Symmetries - ed. Ellen Datlow

It’s our Incoming Books post for June 5, 2014.

Fearful Symmetries edited by Ellen Datlow

From Ellen Datlow, award-winning and genre-shaping editor of more than fifty anthologies, and twenty of horror’s established masters and rising stars, comes an all-original look into the beautiful, terrible, tragic, and terrifying.

Wander through visions of the most terrible of angels, the Seven who would undo the world. Venture through Hell and back, and lands more terrestrial and darker still. Linger a while in childhoods, and seasons of change by turns tragic and monstrously transformative. Lose yourself amongst the haunted and those who can’t let go, in relationships that might have been and never were. Witness in dreams and reflections, hungers and horrors, the shadows cast upon the wall, and linger in forests deep.

Come see what burns so bright. . . .

Fearful Symmetries was funded on Kickstarter. In addition to sixteen stories specifically solicited for the anthology, Ellen Datlow chose four stories submitted during the month-long open reading period, adding some excellent new writers to the mix. So in addition to award-winning and/or bestselling writers such as Brian Evenson, Jeffrey Ford, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Pat Cadigan, and Michael Marshall Smith, there are a few names with whom readers might not yet be familiar—yet. Writers such as Siobhan Carroll, Catherine MacLeod, and Carole Johnstone. Each writer in this book has a unique voice, and this multitude of voices has created a symphony that will continue to be appreciated for many years to come.

Ebook | 400 pages | ChiZine | May 27, 2014

The Door in the Mountain - Caitlin Sweet

The Door in the Mountain by Caitlan Sweet


Lost in time, shrouded in dark myths of blood and magic, The Door in the Mountain leads to the world of ancient Crete: a place where a beautiful, bitter young princess named Ariadne schemes to imprison her godmarked half-brother deep in the heart of a mountain maze, where a boy named Icarus tries, and fails, to fly—and where a slave girl changes the paths of all their lives forever.

Ebook | 300 pages | ChiZine Publications | October 21, 2014 | YA 

The Qualities of Wood - Mary Vensel White

The Qualities of Wood by Mary Vensel While

The house brought them together, but secrets will tear them apart.

When Betty Gardiner dies, leaving behind an unkempt country home, her grandson and his young wife take a break from city life to prepare the house for sale. Nowell Gardiner leaves first to begin work on his second mystery novel. By the time his wife Vivian joins him, a real mystery has begun: a local girl has been found dead in the woods behind the house. Even after the death is ruled an accident, Vivian can’t forget the girl, can’t ignore the strange behaviour of her neighbours, or her husband. As Vivian attempts to put the house in order, all around her things begin to fall apart.

The Qualities of Wood is a novel about secrets. Family secrets. Community secrets. And secrets between lovers, past and present. And all of these secrets have their price.

Harper Collins | Trade Paperback | 320 pages | 6/17/2014

Valour and Vanity - Mary Robinette Kowal

Valour and Vanity (#4 Glamourist History) by Mary Robinette Kowal

Acclaimed fantasist Mary Robinette Kowal has enchanted many fans with her beloved novels featuring a Regency setting in which magic—known here as glamour—is real. In Valour and Vanity, master glamourists Jane and Vincent find themselves in the sort of a magical adventure that might result if Jane Austen wrote Ocean’s Eleven.

After Melody's wedding, the Ellsworths and Vincents accompany the young couple on their tour of the continent. Jane and Vincent plan to separate from the party and travel to Murano to study with glassblowers there, but their ship is set upon by Barbary corsairs while en route. It is their good fortune that they are not enslaved, but they lose everything to the pirates and arrive in Murano destitute.

Jane and Vincent are helped by a kind local they meet en route, but Vincent is determined to become self-reliant and get their money back, and hatches a plan to do so. But when so many things are not what they seem, even the best laid plans conceal a few pitfalls. The ensuing adventure is a combination of the best parts of magical fantasy and heist novels, set against a glorious Regency backdrop.

Tor Books | April 2014 | Hardcover | 416 pages

People of the Morning Star -  W & K Gear

People of the Morning Star (North America's Forgotten Past Volume 21) by W. Michael Gear and Kathleen O’Neal Gear

Bestselling authors and archaeologists Michael and Kathleen Gear begin the stunning saga of the North American equivalent of ancient Rome in People of the Morning Star.

The city of Cahokia, at its height, covered more than six square miles around what is now St. Louis and included structures more than ten stories high. Cahokian warriors and traders roamed from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. What force on earth would motivate hundreds of thousands of people to pick up, move hundreds of miles, and once plopped down amidst a polyglot of strangers, build an incredible city?

A religious miracle: the Cahokians believed that the divine hero Morning Star had been resurrected in the flesh. But not all is fine and stable in glorious Cahokia. To the astonishment of the ruling clan, an attempt is made on the living god’s life. Now it is up to Morning Star’s aunt, Matron Blue Heron, to keep it quiet until she can uncover the plot and bring the culprits to justice. If she fails, Cahokia will be torn asunder in warfare, rage, and blood as civil war consumes them all.

Tor Books | May 2014 | Hardcover | 496 pages

The Dark Between the Stars - Kevin J. Anderson

The Dark Between the Stars (The Saga of Shadows #1) by Kevin J. Anderson

A new trilogy in the Universe of The Saga of Seven Suns.

Twenty years after the elemental conflict that nearly tore apart the cosmos in The Saga of Seven Suns, a new threat emerges from the darkness. The human race must set aside its own inner conflicts to rebuild their alliance with the Ildiran Empire for the survival of the galaxy.

In Kevin J. Anderson's The Dark Between the Stars, galactic empires clash, elemental beings devastate whole planetary systems, and factions of humanity are pitted against each other. Heroes rise and enemies make their last stands in the climax of an epic tale seven years in the making.

Tor Books | 6/3/2014 | Hardcover | 672 pages

Dead Man's Hand - John Joseph Adams

Dead Man’s Hand edited by John Joseph Adams

From a kill-or-be-killed gunfight with a vampire to an encounter in a steampunk bordello, the weird western is a dark, gritty tale where the protagonist might be playing poker with a sorcerous deck of cards, or facing an alien on the streets of a dusty frontier town.

Here are twenty-three original tales—stories of the Old West infused with elements of the fantastic—produced specifically for this volume by many of today’s finest writers. Included are Orson Scott Card’s first “Alvin Maker” story in a decade, and an original adventure by Fred Van Lente, creator of Cowboys & Aliens.

Other contributors include Tobias Buckell, David Farland, Alan Dean Foster, Jeffrey Ford, Laura Anne Gilman, Rajan Khanna, Mike Resnick, Beth Revis, Ben H. Winters, Christie Yant, and Charles Yu.

Paperback | 432pp | 30 May 2014 | Titan Books

Blood Red - Mercedes Lackey

Blood Red by Mercedes Lackey

Rosamund is an Earth Master in the Schwarzwald, the ancient Black Forest of Germany. Since the age of ten, she has lived with her teacher, the Hunt Master and Earth Magician of the Schwarzwald Foresters, a man she calls “Papa.” Her adoptive Papa rescued her after her original Earth Master teacher, an old woman who lived alone in a small cottage in the forest, was brutally murdered by werewolves. Rosa herself barely escaped, and this terrifying incident molded the course of her future.

For like her fellow Earth Masters of the Schwarzwald Lodge, Rosa is not a healer. Instead, her talents lead her on the more violent path of protection and defense— “cleansing” the Earth and protecting its gentle fae creatures from those evil beings who seek to do them harm.

And so Rosa becomes the first woman Hunt Master and the scourge of evil creatures, with a deadly specialty in werewolves and all shape­shifters.

While visiting with a Fire Master—a friend of her mentor from the Schwarzwald Lodge— Rosa meets a pair of Elemental Magicians from Hungary who have come looking for help. They suspect that there is a dark power responsible for a string of murders happening in the remote countryside of Transylvania, but they have no proof. Rosa agrees to help them, but there is a catch: one of the two men asking for aid is a hereditary werewolf.

Rosa has been taught that there are three kinds of werewolves. There are those, like the one that had murdered her teacher, who transform themselves by use of dark magic, and also those who have been infected by the bite of these magical werewolves—these poor victims have no control over their transforma­tive powers. Yet, there is a third kind: those who have been born with the ability to trans­form at will. Some insist that certain of these hereditary werewolves are benign. But Rosa has never encountered a benign werewolf!

Can she trust this Hungarian werewolf? Or is the Hunter destined to become the Hunted?

Hardcover | 320  Pages | 3 Jun 2014 | DAW

Elisha Barber - E. C. Ambrose

Elisha Barber (#1 of the Dark Apostle) by E. C. Ambrose

England in the fourteenth century: a land of poverty and opulence, prayer and plague…witchcraft and necromancy.

As a child, Elisha witnessed the burning of a witch outside of London, and saw her transformed into an angel at the moment of her death, though all around him denied this vision. He swore that the next time he might have the chance to bind an angel’s wounds, he would be ready. And so he became a barber surgeon, at the lowest ranks of the medical profession, following the only healer’s path available to a peasant’s son.

Elisha Barber is good at his work, but skill alone cannot protect him. In a single catastrophic day, Elisha’s attempt to deliver his brother’s child leaves his family ruined, and Elisha himself accused of murder. Then a haughty physician offers him a way out: come serve as a battle surgeon in an unjust war.

Between tending to the wounded soldiers and protecting them from the physicians’ experiments, Elisha works night and day. Even so, he soon discovers that he has an affinity for magic, drawn into the world of sorcery by Brigit, a beautiful young witch…who reminds him uncannily of the angel he saw burn.

In the crucible of combat, utterly at the mercy of his capricious superiors, Elisha must attempt to unravel conspiracies both magical and mundane, as well as come to terms with his own disturbing new abilities. But the only things more dangerous than the questions he’s asking are the answers he may reveal.

E. C. Ambrose writes with a razor’s ruthless precision, and draws new blood from the medieval world you thought you knew.

Mass Market Paperback | 400  Pages | 3 Jun 2014 | DAW

On the Steel Breeze - Alastair Reynolds

On the Steel Breeze (Poseidon’s Children #2) by Alastair Reynolds

The award-winning author of Blue Remembered Earth continues his saga as the next generation of the Akinya family crosses interstellar space seeking humanity’s future…

Chiku Akinya, great granddaughter of the legendary space explorer Eunice and heir to the family empire, is just one among millions on a long one way journey towards a planet they hope to call their new home. For Chiku, the journey is a personal one, undertaken to ensure that the Akinya family achieves its destiny among the stars.

The passengers travel in huge self-contained artificial worlds—holoships—putting their faith in a physics they barely understand. Chiku’s ship is called Zanzibar—and over time, she will discover it contains an awesome secret—one which will lead her to question almost every certainty about her voyage, and its ultimate destiny…

Hardcover | 496  Pages | 3 Jun 2014  | Ace

The End - G. Michael Hopf

The End by G. Michael Hopf

What would you do to survive?

Young Gordon Van Zandt valued duty and loyalty to country above all, so after 9/11, he dropped out of college and joined the Marine Corps. This idealism vanished one fateful day in a war-torn city in Iraq. Ten years later, he is still struggling with the ghosts of his past when a new reality is thrust upon him and his family: North America, Europe and the Far East have all suffered a devastating Super-EMP attack, which causes catastrophic damage to the nation’s power grid and essential infrastructures. Everything from cell phones to cars to computers cease to function, putting society at a standstill.

With civilization in chaos, Gordon must fight for the limited and fast dwindling resources. He knows survival requires action and cooperation with his neighbors, but as the days wear on, so does all sense of civility within his community—and so he must make some of the most difficult decisions of his life in order to ensure his family’s safety.

For readers of Going Home by  A. American, Lights Out by David Crawford, Lucifer’s Hammer by Jerry Pournelle and One Second After by William Forstchen.

Paperback | 384 Pages | 7 Jan 2014 | Plume

Faceoff - edited by David Baldacci

Faceoff edited by David Baldacci

Edited by #1 New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci and including stories by Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Jeffery Deaver, and more, this one-of-a-kind anthology pulls together the most beloved characters from the best and most popular thriller series today. Worlds collide!

In an unprecedented collaboration, twenty-three of the world’s bestselling and critically acclaimed thriller writers have paired their series characters—such as Harry Bosch, Jack Reacher, and Lincoln Rhyme—in an eleven-story anthology curated by the International Thriller Writers (ITW). All of the contributors to FaceOff are ITW members and the stories feature these dynamic duos:

  • Patrick Kenzie vs. Harry Bosch in “Red Eye,” by Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly
  • John Rebus vs. Roy Grace in “In the Nick of Time,” by Ian Rankin and Peter James
  • Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy vs. Aloysius Pendergast in “Gaslighted,” by R.L. Stine, Douglas Preston, and Lincoln Child
  • Malachai Samuels vs. D.D. Warren in “The Laughing Buddha,” by M.J. Rose and Lisa Gardner
  • Paul Madriani vs. Alexandra Cooper in “Surfing the Panther,” by Steve Martini and Linda Fairstein
  • Lincoln Rhyme vs. Lucas Davenport in “Rhymes With Prey,” by Jeffery Deaver and John Sandford
  • Michael Quinn vs. Repairman Jack in “Infernal Night,” by Heather Graham and F. Paul Wilson
  • Sean Reilly vs. Glen Garber in “Pit Stop,” by Raymond Khoury and Linwood Barclay
  • Wyatt Hunt vs. Joe Trona in “Silent Hunt,” by John Lescroart and T. Jefferson Parker
  • Cotton Malone vs. Gray Pierce in “The Devil’s Bones,” by Steve Berry and James Rollins
  • Jack Reacher vs. Nick Heller in “Good and Valuable Consideration,” by Lee Child and Joseph Finder

So sit back and prepare for a rollicking ride as your favorite characters go head-to-head with some worthy opponents in FaceOff—it’s a thrill-a-minute read.

Simon & Schuster | 384 pages | June 2014 | ARC Edition

Baudelaire's Revenge - Bob Van Laerhoven

Baudelaire’s Revenge by Bob Van Laerhoven

Winner of the Hercule Poirot Prize for Best Crime Novel

It is 1870, and Paris is in turmoil.

As the social and political turbulence of the Franco-Prussian War roils the city, workers starve to death while aristocrats seek refuge in orgies and séances. The Parisians are trapped like rats in their beautiful city but a series of gruesome murders captures their fascination and distracts them from the realities of war. The killer leaves lines from the recently deceased Charles Baudelaire’s controversial anthology Les Fleurs du Mal on each corpse, written in the poet’s exact handwriting. Commissioner Lefevre, a lover of poetry and a veteran of the Algerian war, is on the case, and his investigation is a thrilling, intoxicating journey into the sinister side of human nature, bringing to mind the brooding and tense atmosphere of Patrick Susskind’s Perfume. Did Baudelaire rise from the grave? Did he truly die in the first place? The plot dramatically appears to extend as far as the court of the Emperor Napoleon III.

A vivid, intelligent, and intense historical crime novel that offers up some shocking revelations about sexual mores in 19th century France, this superb mystery illuminates the shadow life of one of the greatest names in poetry.

Hardcover | 04/15/14 | Pegasus | 256 pages

Midnight - Mari Adkins

Midnight by Mari Adkins

Samantha Clark has always known she was different.

Brought up in a loveless household, she can almost forgive herself for turning to an abusive boyfriend to help her give her the roots and love she desperately needs. But that solution turns violent, and Sami is on the run, turning to a college friend who offers her a new hope at 'family'.

Set in rural Kentucky in 1985, Midnight is the inward journey of Sami's self-loathing, self-reflection, and eventual self-acceptance. Through the love of her friends and the mysterious Michael, Sami not only heals from the scars given earlier in life, she also finds her personal strength.

Ebook | 234 pages | Apex Book Company | April 21, 2014

Paradigm- Ceri A Lowe

Paradigm by Ceri A. Lowe

What if the end of the world was just the beginning?

Alice Davenport awakens from a fever to find her mother gone and the city she lives in ravaged by storms – with few survivors.

When Alice is finally rescued, she is taken to a huge underground bunker owned by the mysterious Paradigm Industries. As the storms worsen, the hatches close.

87 years later, amidst the ruins of London, the survivors of the Storms have reinvented society. The Model maintains a perfect balance – with inhabitants routinely frozen until they are needed by the Industry.

Fifteen-year-old Carter Warren knows his time has come.  Awoken from the catacombs as a contender for the role of Controller General, it is his destiny to succeed – where his parents failed.

But Carter soon discovers that the world has changed, in ways that make him begin to question everything that he believes in.  As Carter is forced to fight for those he loves and even for his life, it seems that the key to the future lies in the secrets of the past…

Ebook | June 13, 2014 | Bookouture | 382 pages | YA

There’s some great summer reading on this list. We hope you’re enjoying the last few weeks of Spring!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Excerpt: The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Doningue

The Chronicle of Secret Riven - Ronlyn Domingue

Excerpt from The Chronicle of Secret Riven by Ronlyn Domingue. It’s the stand alone, second book in a planned trilogy and it’s fantasy with fairytale elements.

Chapter I - The Babe Born Evensong Riven

Moments after her birth, three birds swept into the room through an open window. The pigeon, the dove, and the sparrow circled the newborn three times, widdershins, lit upon the wooden sill, and settled their feathers. They turned to one another in conference, or so it seemed to the baby’s father, who saw their heads bob and heard them coo and chirp. He had respect for the uncanny and, believing the birds’ council to be that indeed, watched them come to their enigmatic conclusion.

The meeting adjourned. The sparrow fluttered toward the infant, snatched a wispy hair from her head, and guided the dove and the pigeon into the autumn twilight.

Her father would one day tell her this, and about how he walked to the window to decide what to name her. He hadn’t expected the dark tiny creature she turned out to be. She was third born but an only child. Two brothers, born blue, had preceded her. Her father looked to the sky at the crescent moon and the bright star rising at its side. She was named Evensong, for the time of her birth, but she would be called Eve, then become Secret soon enough.

She was an odd little thing with black hair, tawny skin, and eyes the colors of night and day. Except for the occasional cry or laugh, she would be mute until her seventh year, skilled with only one mother tongue until her fourteenth. From Secret’s first breaths, the girl was hushed with a silencing hiss, a sound of menace, not comfort, by her own mother.

The child became a watchful being.

Secret remembered the room where she spent the days of her first three years. The door to the room was always closed, and she was penned off by a guard of wooden slats with a soft pallet and toys on the floor. She occupied herself with colorful blocks, leather balls filled with sawdust, and dolls stuffed with wool. Secret took pleasure in the crawling things in her space. She wiped her hand through webs to watch the spiders build again. Beetles danced on their backs if knocked off their feet. Ants marched in lines to carry off crumbs she left for them. She was glad to have the insects to amuse her because they helped her feel less lonely.

Out of reach, in a corner of the same room where the windows faced east and south, sat her mother. There, Zavet bent over manuscripts and books, often muttering and burbling, caught in a rushing stream of words.

Madness? No.

Zavet was gifted with the languages of the entire known and ancient worlds. She did not, and could not, explain the mystery of her many tongues. Whatever language she heard or read, she grasped instantly, as if she remembered rather than learned it. She spoke all of them like a native without the accent of her own. The words burbled out of her as if from a deep, hidden spring. She dammed them with her work as a translator, but the flood could only be slowed to a trickle.

Now and again, this strangeness happened in front of other people. With Secret comfortable in a little wagon, Zavet went to market or for afternoon walks, and sometimes Zavet would mutter aloud softly. Some people seemed to try to ignore her, but Secret observed the suspicious glances from others. She saw them lean close, eyes narrow, fingers pointing. She rarely heard what they said, but she could sense their scrutiny. This is how she knew her mother was not quite right, and perhaps neither was she. Zavet and Secret did not look like their neighbors and, between her mother’s muttering and her silence, did not sound like them either. Still, the other women were polite toward Zavet, and she was polite but cool toward them, and they allowed their children to play within view as they filled their baskets and remarked about the weather.

As for Secret’s father, Bren was often gone while it was light but home when it was dark. Now and then, Bren went away for long periods of time but always came back. When he returned, he brought presents. Secret remembered a set of thick cards marked with colors, shapes, images, and symbols. Glad for the attention, she sat on his lap as he named them. She learned quickly and delighted him with the deft accuracy of her pointing finger when he asked her to identify the images for the words he spoke.

Her mother was always surrounded by books, but her father was the one who filled her with stories. Zavet taught her respect for the texts, which Secret was allowed to look at but not touch. What Bren gave her she was allowed to handle, with care. She turned the pages and, with his voice, he guided her into other worlds, slowly reading with his finger under the symbols that became words, and the words became images. Many of the books had illustrations, but they couldn’t compare to what emerged in her mind as she listened.

Although she was very young, Secret discovered she, too, could divine the symbols again and conjure what they told. What marvelous tales of wonder, adventure, and possibility! Her father found her concentration unusual and tested to see whether she understood what she read on her own. He gave her books he had never read to her. He asked her questions to answer yes or no, which she did with nods and shakes of her dark head. My mute little prodigy, he called her.

Secret knew her mother possessed this magic as well, but Zavet was parsimonious with its use in regards to her daughter. Some of the books her father brought he couldn’t read and promised that her mother would. She rarely did. With those, Secret sat in silence—such a good, obedient child was she —and studied the mysterious marks on the pages. She wondered what they meant, what tales they told.

One ordinary day, Zavet gave her coloring sticks and used paper with which to draw. The little girl sat on the floor and marked the page with all manner of symbols like ones she had seen. As she wrote the unintelligible words, Secret’s heart pounded. Her tiny hand gripped the coloring stick as her head flooded with images. There, within her, was a story she could not yet tell. One she must reveal herself. All at once, she felt its burden, its danger, and its redemption.

Secret cried out with wonder and dread, unable to understand what had opened in her but fully able to feel its power.

From the sunny corner, her mother hissed long and harsh. The noise startled the girl, and she spilled a half-empty cup of water with a jolt of her hand. Her mother hissed again, louder. The girl felt a tight knot at her navel loosen into a heavy force, which spread through her belly and chest. She held

her breath, kept her glare to the ground, and pushed the hot feeling deep into her body, coiling it back to where it lived. Secret struck the page with thick black marks, but quietly, quietly.

“This spill is but an accident, yes, little scourge,” Zavet said under her breath as she wiped the floor clean.

Copyright © 2014 by Ronlyn Domingue. With the permission of the publisher, Atria Books.


An uncanny child born to brilliant parents, befriended by a prince, mentored by a wise woman, pursued by a powerful man, Secret Riven has no idea what destiny will demand of her or the courage she must have to confront it in the breathtakingly epic, genre-spanning sequel to The Mapmaker’s War.

One thousand years after a great conflict known as The Mapmaker’s War, a daughter is born to an ambitious historian and a gifted translator. Secret Riven doesn’t speak until her seventh year but can mysteriously communicate with plants and animals. Unsettled by visions and dreams since childhood, she tries to hide her strangeness, especially from her mercurial father and cold mother. When her knowledge of an esoteric symbol brings unwelcome attention, gentle, watchful Secret finds acceptance from Prince Nikolas, her best friend, and Old Woman, who lives in the distant woods.

When Secret is twelve, her mother, Zavet, receives an arcane manuscript to translate from an anonymous owner. Zavet begins to suffer nightmares and withdraws into herself. Secret sickens with a fever and awakens able to speak an ancient language, discovering that her mother is fluent as well. Suddenly, Zavet dies. The manuscript is missing, but a cipher has been left for Secret to find. Soon, Secret will have a choice to make: confront a destiny tied to an ancient past or deny it, never to know its whole truth.

A spellbinding story, rich with vivid characters and set in a fascinating world, The Chronicle of Secret Riven explores the tension between love and hate, trust and betrayal, fate and free will.

Atria Books | May 20, 2014 | 416 pages

For more about Ronlyn Dominigue and The Chronicle of Secret Riven see an interview with the author by linking on this text.

We also have a giveaway for the book coming next week.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: Invasive Species by Joseph Wallace

Invasive Species - Joseph Wallace

Review by Shellie for Invasive Species by Joseph Wallace.

Shellie’s quick take:  An apocalyptic horror/thriller that has a parasitic insect at the core of the story.

Shellie’s description:   Trey Gilliard is a loner, a researcher who prefers his forays into the wilderness more than relationships. When the story opens he’s working for ITC – International Conservation Trust – in Senegal, West Africa. The horror begins when Trey hears screams and follows a trail of blood leading him to a local clinic.

He finds an examination room, where a local doctor and his headstrong daughter are guarding a dead soldier. The soldier’s midsection is a mass of shredded fabric and flesh. Although desperate to know what is happening, Trey is refused any information by the doctor and escorted out of the building. Later when informed by ITC that he’s no longer welcome in the area and told he must immediately report to Dakar, a city many miles away, Trey begins to believe that his encounter with the body must be the cause.

A man never to follow orders, Trey does the opposite and drives directly to an area in the local forest that caught his attention on his latest plane trip over the forest canopy, where he noticed unusual deforestation. He suspects that this may be the key to the apparent cover-up. There he has his first encounter with the bug.

With a heart-raising pace Trey and his team try to find other clues to this intelligent insect and what appears to be a grand global cover-up to a dangerous and world-altering threat.

Shellie’s thoughts:   This is a well thought out and easy to follow read. It has great pacing and an interesting parasitic insect that will frighten most readers. It’s entertaining and is one of those nice small paperbacks with decent sized print that’s easy to read and carry, especially if you’re traveling. It fit easily into my carry-on bag and was easy to pick up and start reading where I left off.

I particularly liked that the story has some interesting science and has an in-depth take on what constitutes the concept of the insect hive-mind. So if you like biological thrillers with environmental themes and science fiction, this will probably interest you. Since it’s mostly action based with light gore and ends hopefully, the book will also intrigue readers looking for thrillers or mild horror.

My only quibble is that I did not get enough of the invasion. There just wasn’t enough information detailing the spread of the insect. It felt like the bug propagated all over the world in a matter of months, which felt unrealistic to me. But since I love science-based fiction and horror I enjoyed Invasive Species. A lot actually, so it comes recommended at 3.5 stars.

Paperback | 496 pages | 03 Dec 2013 | Berkley

For more about author Joseph Wallace take a look at his website:

Excitingly there is a sequel to Invasive Species in the works called The Slavemakers!

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