Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review: Transcendental by James Gunn


Review by John for Transcendental by James Gunn.

John’s quick take:   Great science fiction story but a bad ending.

John’s description:   Long, bitter wars between Earth and several other civilizations within the galaxy have finally come to an end and an uneasy peace ensues. Now a new religious movement has arisen inspired by a secretive prophet who talks of transcendence and an enigmatic machine that can take sentient beings to a whole new level. A starship embarks on a pilgrimage to the galactic edge to try and find the machine, taking a group of beings of many diverse species on a dangerous trip to the far reaches of space.

Among the pilgrims on the voyage is Riley, a bitter, cynical human war veteran who is anything but a pilgrim. He has been sent by a mysterious power player to try and identify and destroy the prophet and to discover the whereabouts of the machine. But as the ship pushes on ever further into deep space, one passenger after another falls prey to foul play. It seems that Riley is not the only secret agent among the pilgrims - the rulers of the various galactic powers must fear the consequences if the prophet and the machine come to light, and they are desperate to maintain the current status quo.

As the violence and skullduggery unfold, some of the pilgrims start to share their personal stories and the stories of their own alien races, rather like the pilgrims in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. But who can be believed and trusted? Riley needs help but is surrounded by aliens who are unfathomable and may be hostile. He also starts to question his own motives and desires though his unknown employer seems to have left him no option but to complete his secret mission.

John’s thoughts:  This is an excellent plot which I loved. The story is complex, nicely detailed and unpredictable, and the characters - both human and alien - are well-developed and have real depth. Actually I really like how Gunn has created his aliens. The techy bits of the story are also credible and add to the story rather than get in the way of it. So what’s not to like? The ending sucks.

Did you ever take a school or college exam where you felt fully in control and thought you were doing brilliantly, only to realize that you only have two minutes left and still have a lot of ground to cover in your answer? Well, that’s a bit what it felt like reading this book or how I imagined the author felt writing it. As I got nearer and nearer to the end of the book I worried that there was still an awful lot of story that had to play out. Then in the last handful of pages everything is wrapped up in obscene haste with no apparent regard for the reader. Key pieces of the plot don’t come to a logical conclusion and some that are wrapped up are rushed and just don’t feel right.

I’m hard pressed to think of another book I’ve enjoyed so much but whose ending I disliked so much. Overall I’d have to rate this 2.5 stars. If you’re a diehard Gunn fan you may well love it. Otherwise, approach with caution, go with the flow and enjoy the story unfolding, but keep your expectations of the book’s finale really low.

Tor Books | 8/27/2013 | Hardcover | 304 pages

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Giveaway: The Shotgun Arcana by R.S. Belcher

The Shotgun Arcana - R.S. Belcher

Giveaway for The Shotgun Arcana by R.S. Belcher. We have one copy for a US resident.

John reviewed the first in the series The Six-Gun Tarot (read his review by linking on the book’s title) in 2013. Here’s John’s quick take for the book:  A clever and entertaining mash-up of cowboy Western, mysticism, mythology, urban fantasy, and horror – all set on the edge of the Nevada desert in the late 1860s, in the weirdest little town you can hope to imagine.

We also have a post where R.S. Belcher shares his thoughts on how and why he created the compelling setting that both The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana have in common (link on the previous text to read this post.)

About The Shotgun Arcana:  R. S. Belcher’s debut novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, was enthusiastically greeted by critics and readers, who praised its wildly inventive mixture of dark fantasy, steampunk, and the Wild West. Now Belcher returns to Golgotha, Nevada, a bustling frontier town that hides more than its fair share of unnatural secrets.

1870. A haven for the blessed and the damned, including a fallen angel, a mad scientist, a pirate queen, and a deputy who is kin to coyotes, Golgotha has come through many nightmarish trials, but now an army of thirty-two outlaws, lunatics, serial killers, and cannibals are converging on the town, drawn by a grisly relic that dates back to the Donner Party…and the dawn of humanity.

Sheriff Jon Highfather and his deputies already have their hands full dealing with train robbers, a mysterious series of brutal murders, and the usual outbreaks of weirdness.  But with thirty-two of the most vicious killers on Earth riding into Golgotha in just a few day’s time, the town and its people will be tested as never before—and some of them will never be the same.

The Shotgun Arcana is even more spectacularly ambitious and imaginative than The Six-Gun Tarot, and confirms R. S. Belcher’s status as a rising star.

R.S. BELCHER won the Grand Prize in the Strange New Worlds SF-writing contest. He runs Cosmic Castle, a comic book shop in Roanoke, Virginia, and is the author of The Six-Gun Tarot.

Tor Books | October 2014 | Hardcover |  400 pages

Please fill out the Google form to enter this contest.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Giveaway: The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey

The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey

We have one copy of The Bloodbound by Erin Lindsey for one US address as part of the Stuck in a Good Book Blog Hop. Hosted by I Am A Reader Not A Writer and Stuck in Books, the hop runs from September 20th to the 25th.

Please be a reader or follower of Layers of Thought to enter this contest. For more on how to follow see the information below the book’s description.

Here’s a bit more about this fantasy novel:

Of all those in the King of Alden’s retinue, the bloodbinders are the most prized. The magic they wield can forge invaluable weapons, ones that make soldiers like Lady Alix Black unerringly lethal. However, the bloodbinders’ powers can do so much more—and so much worse…

A cunning and impetuous scout, Alix only wishes to serve quietly on the edges of the action. But when the king is betrayed by his own brother and left to die at the hands of attacking Oridian forces, she winds up single-handedly saving her sovereign.

Suddenly, she is head of the king’s personal guard, an honor made all the more dubious by the king’s exile from his own court. Surrounded by enemies, Alix must help him reclaim his crown, all the while attempting to repel the relentless tide of invaders led by the Priest, most feared of Oridia’s lords.

But while Alix’s king commands her duty, both he and a fellow scout lay claim to her heart. And when the time comes, she may need to choose between the two men who need her most…

Erin Lindsey likes her stories the way she likes her chocolate: dark, exotic, and with a hint of bitterness. She has visited fifty countries on four continents, and brought a little something back from each of them to press inside the pages of her books. Erin Lindsey is also the pseudonym for E.L. Tettensor, whose Darkwalker series is published by Roc.

Mass Market Paperback | 368  Pages | 30 Sep 2014 | Ace | Adult

Stuck in a Good Book Hop - Sept 20 to 25 2014

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Completely fill out the Google form to enter the contest:

By clicking on the blog titles below you can link to each of the other blogs offering bookish giveaways for this hop. Good luck and happy hopping!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: Afro-Vegan by Bryant Terry

Afro-Vegan - Bryant Terry

Review by Shellie for Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean and Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry.

Shellie’s quick take:   A fun, delicious, entertaining, and good-for-you cookbook that features plant-based foods that don’t contain meat or dairy products.

Description:   Bryant Terry “remixes the favorite staples, ingredients, and classic dishes of the African Diaspora to present wholly new, creative culinary combinations that will amaze vegans, vegetarians, and omnivores alike.” He is a “food justice activist” with food justice defined as “the basic human right to fresh, safe, affordable, and culturally appropriate food in all communities.”

Shellie’s thoughts:   Before I received this book I found Afro-Vegan’s recipe Tofu Curry with Mustard Greens in our local San Francisco Examiner’s Sunday food section. Needless to say it was delicious. And when Afro-Vegan became available for review I jumped at the chance. From there we have tried (I cook and eat, my husband just eats) a handful of recipes – such as Summer Vegetable and Tofu Kebabs with Pomegranate-Peach Barbeque Sauce, Stewed Tomatoes and Black-Eyed Peas with Cornbread Croutons, Glazed Carrot Salad (in its raw alternative form) and most recently watermelon juice and Sweet Pickled Watermelon Rinds and Jalapenos. All have been winners. And the best yet is that I have barely scratched the surface of what’s in this healthy treasure of a book.

I loved Afro-Vegan. It’s thoughtfully and logically organized, divided into sections like – Spices, Sauce and Heat; Soup, Stew and Tagines; Greens, Squashes and Roots; Cold Drinks, Tonics and Cocktails. It also includes gorgeous and colorful pictures throughout. With its small hardbound cover, it’s easy to hold and it stays open easily, so you can refer to it while cooking. Each recipe has a clearly outlined list of items needed for the cooking and easy to figure out instructions. I liked that every recipe has its own separate page, where Terry has added his entertaining thoughts and descriptions about the recipe; and there is even some fun non-foody content - he’s included music for each recipe to listen to while cooking or eating, as well as books for some of them. And, importantly, all the books and music included are created by black artists. The only thing I can say that was difficult about the book is that the recipes may be a little complex and time consuming. But I believe that after a few times cooking one of the recipes an experienced or determined cook will be able to make a few changes to make the dish easier for themselves.

Overall, the thing I liked best about Afro-Vegan is that the author has a wonderful and subtle sense of humor. Bryant Terry has added fun to the book by including recipes for some wonderful sounding cocktails such as the Amy Ashwood, the Black Queen and the Congo Square, all of which he suggests “will promote lively conversation, dancing, and frolicking.” And for more fun he’s included menu suggestions for celebrations and get-togethers for events like a Juneteenth Sweet-and-Savory Brunch and Saint Bob Marley’s Birthday. Best yet is the book is not preachy but is educational around the need for a plant-based diet to optimize health, as well as the inequalities of food access for a significant number of US citizens. A special book with delicious flavors that has health and social activism at its heart. It’s a 4.5 star for me.

Hardcover | April 08, 2014 | Pages: 224 | Ten Speed Press

This book was received from the website Blogging for Books which is hosted by The Crown Publishing Group. My complimentary copy of Afro-Vegan was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. If you are a blogger you can sign up too!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Giveaway: No Time to Die by Kira Peikoff

No Time to Die - Kira Peikoff

Giveaway for No Time to Die by Kira Peikoff. We have one copy for a US address.

Here’s the publisher’s description:

In a Washington, D.C. research lab, a brilliant scientist is attacked by his own test subjects. At Columbia University, a talented biochemist is lured out of her apartment and never seen again. In the Justice Department's new Bioethics Committee, agent Les Mahler sees a sinister pattern emerging. . .

Zoe Kincaid is a petite college student whose rare genetic makeup may hold the key to a powerful medical breakthrough. When she is kidnapped, the very thing mankind has wanted since the dawn of time threatens to unleash our final destruction.

KIRA PEIKOFF is a writer based in New York City. She graduated with high honors from New York University in 2007 with a degree in journalism, after four years of various reporting internships: covering street crime for The Daily News, writing about Capitol Hill for The Orange County Register in Washington, D.C., reporting on business and technology for Newsday, and researching feature stories for New York magazine. After completing her first book, Living Proof, Peikoff worked for several years in the editorial departments at two New York publishing houses, which gave her an invaluable inside look at the publishing process and the rapidly changing industry. Peikoff is working on her third thriller, freelancing for a variety of major media outlets, and attending Columbia University's Master of Science program in Bioethics.

Paperback | 448 pages | August 26, 2014 | Pinnacle | first published January 1, 2014

Please complete the Google form to enter this contest. <

Friday, September 12, 2014

Five Reasons Frozen is the Best Fairy Tale Ever –Guest Post by M.C. Planck


We have a guest post from M.C. Planck whose latest novel, Sword of the Bright Lady, was published by Pyr on September 9, 2014.

Below he shares his thoughts on the wildly popular children’s movie from Disney - Frozen - and its connection to his fantasy novel.

Warning: you will have had to have watched or know a bit about Frozen to understand this post.

Five Reasons Frozen is the Best Fairy Tale Ever

5. Introduces kids to fantasy role-playing

My daughter acts out the entire movie several times a day, recruiting whoever happens to be standing nearby to play various roles but especially the sisters. She, however, is always “the one with the powers.”

I see great prospects of a D&D player there. Once she can read, that is.

Poor Kristen Bell. I think she (and Disney) thought she had the starring role; but my daughter only puts up with Anna because that’s how you get to the bits with Elsa.

Sword of the Bright Lady - M.C. Planck

4. You can’t marry a man you just met

Not only is this message delivered from trustworthy sources - the older sister and the love interest himself – it is reinforced by the narrative. The trolls actually attempt to perform a one-day wedding and the protagonists put a stop to it. This shows that the message is more than lip-service; it is baked into the plot.

3. There are no bad guys

Everyone is doing the best they can. No one is evil, merely mistaken or unfortunate. The King is trying to help his daughter, even if his approach of “conceal, don’t feel” is wrong; Elsa is trying to protect her sister, even if her silence is ultimately more harmful; Anna’s exposure of Elsa’s sorcery is likewise an innocent mistake. No one is tortured or abused by malevolent monsters; instead, Elsa’s classic fairy tale isolation in a tower is done by her own hand.

Now I know you’re going to say, “but what about Prince Hans!” The answer is that I have edited the film in my head and replaced the one scene that Disney messed up. In my version, Hans goes ahead and kisses Anna – and it doesn’t work. He sighs and explains that since he’s met her, he’s found something he loves even more: namely, being King. So although he’s very sad that he can’t help her, he’s going to go out there and do what’s best for Arendelle. This still makes him a cad who deserves to be sent back to his brothers in disgrace but does not make him a purely rotten villain who faked that entire love song.

2. Love is an action

Love is presented not as something you say or even feel; but as something you do. Elsa isolates herself for love of Anna and her parents; Kristof gives Anna up for her sake; Olaf risks melting for Anna; and at the end, Anna chooses to save her sister instead of herself.

1. Everyone saves themselves

Although friends and family are crucial to success, in the end everyone is responsible for their own salvation. The act of true love that saves Anna is her own, not something done for her.

Again this is built into the story. Olaf commits an act of true love, lighting the fire and risking his own destruction, even while he’s explaining how Kristof committed an act of true love by leaving Anna forever. Neither of these acts are sufficient to save Anna. She must be the one to commit the act. It is not enough that she be loved; rather, she must love.

Elsa also saves herself. Although her sister provides the example, Elsa must choose to let herself feel. Elsa must risk loving others even while she fears they will not love her because of her curse.

As I watch my daughter internalize every facet of this movie like a sponge thrown into the sea, I am grateful that Disney made a story that has so much worthy of keeping. So much so I’ll even overlook the reflexive deference to aristocracy (she turns the kingdom over to Hans because he is a prince? What happened to “You can’t turn a country over to a man you just met!”). Especially since that attitude fits in perfectly with the rules of the fantasy world in my own novel, Sword of the Bright Lady, where aristocracy is a dangerous and necessary job instead of an excuse to wear fancy jewelry on your head.

M.C. Planck is the author of The Kassa Gambit. After a nearly-transient childhood, he hitchhiked across the country and ran out of money in Arizona. So he stayed there for thirty years, raising dogs, getting a degree in philosophy, and founding a scientific instrument company. Having read virtually everything by the old masters of SF&F, he decided he was ready to write. A decade later, with a little help from the Critters online critique group, he was actually ready. He was relieved to find that writing novels is easier than writing software, as a single punctuation error won't cause your audience to explode and die. When he ran out of dogs, he moved to Australia to raise his daughter with kangaroos.

Visit his website:

About Sword of the Bright Lady:  Christopher Sinclair goes out for a walk on a mild Arizona evening and never comes back. He stumbles into a freezing winter under an impossible night sky, where magic is real-but bought at a terrible price. 

A misplaced act of decency lands him in a brawl with an arrogant nobleman and puts him under a death sentence. In desperation he agrees to be drafted into an eternal war, serving as a priest of the Bright Lady, Goddess of Healing. But when Marcius, god of war, offers the only hope of a way home to his wife, Christopher pledges to him instead, plunging the church into turmoil and setting him on a path of violence and notoriety.

To win enough power to open a path home, this mild-mannered mechanical engineer must survive duelists, assassins, and the never-ending threat of monsters, with only his makeshift technology to compete with swords and magic.

But the gods and demons have other plans. Christopher's fate will save the world…or destroy it.

440 pages | Trade Paperback | Pyr | September 2014

M.C. Planck was interviewed here on Layers of Thought in 2013 close to the publication date of his debut science fiction novel The Kassa Gambit. To read the interview with M.C. Planck link on this text. And to read John’s review for The Kassa Gambit link on this text.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Incoming Books: September 10, 2014

Dreamer's Pool - Juliet Marillier

We have our Incoming Books feature for September 10, 2014.

Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

In exchange for help escaping her long and wrongful imprisonment, embittered magical healer Blackthorn has vowed to set aside her bid for vengeance against the man who destroyed all that she once held dear. Followed by a former prison mate, a silent hulk of a man named Grim, she travels north to Dalriada. There she’ll live on the fringe of a mysterious forest, duty bound for seven years to assist anyone who asks for her help.

Oran, crown prince of Dalriada, has waited anxiously for the arrival of his future bride, Lady Flidais. He knows her only from a portrait and sweetly poetic correspondence that have convinced him Flidais is his destined true love. But Oran discovers letters can lie. For although his intended exactly resembles her portrait, her brutality upon arrival proves she is nothing like the sensitive woman of the letters.

With the strategic marriage imminent, Oran sees no way out of his dilemma. Word has spread that Blackthorn possesses a remarkable gift for solving knotty problems, so the prince asks her for help. To save Oran from his treacherous nuptials, Blackthorn and Grim will need all their resources: courage, ingenuity, leaps of deduction, and more than a little magic.

ARC/Hardcover | 448  Pages | 4 Nov 2014 | NAL | Adult

Species Imperative - Julie E. Czerneda

Species Imperative by Julie E. Czerneda (Omnibus of Survival, Migration, and Regeneration)

A threat to entire worlds. Where on that scale does one woman fall?

Dr. Mackenzie “Mac” Connor’s goal in life is to be left in peace to study her salmon and their migration. She has no interest in the Interspecies Union, space travel, or the mysterious Chasm, an expanse of dead worlds filled with the ruins of alien civilizations. The only cloud on Mac’s horizon is having to meet with the Oversight Committee to defend any research intrusions into the protected zones on shore.

But what Mac wants no longer matters. There’s another, darker, migration underway, this time across space. What created the Chasm has awakened once more, to follow its imperative to feed on living worlds. How can it be stopped?

Aliens have asked Mac to find that answer. She knows it may mean sacrificing all she loves, including Earth itself. She’s determined to find another way.

But, first, she must survive.

The Chasm of the past was only a trial run, for this species intent on replacing all life with its own. And they’ve learned her name.

Paperback | 1024  Pages | 2 Sep 2014 | DAW | Adult

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic - Emily Croy Barker

The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

Earning comparisons to wildly popular fantasy novels by Deborah Harkness and Lev Grossman, Emily Croy Barker’s enchanting debut offers an intelligent escape into a richly imagined world. And with an appealing female protagonist, cinematic storytelling, wry humor, and wonderfully clever literary references, The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic is sure to capture the imaginations of readers everywhere.

During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, eager to forget about her disastrous breakup and stalled dissertation, Nora Fischer wanders off and somehow finds herself in another realm. There, she meets glamorous Ilissa—who introduces Nora to a decadent new world—and her gorgeous son Raclin. But when the elegant veneer of this dreamland shatters, Nora finds herself in a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. And the only way she can survive is by learning real magic herself.

Paperback | 576  Pages | Jul 2014 | Penguin Books | Adult

The Midnight Queen - Sylvia Izzo Hunter

The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter

Gray Marshall and his friends from Oxford’s Merlin College, a school for magic theory and practice, went out into town around midnight when carelessness and drunk townspeople struck, resulting in a dead student. Suspended from the College that summer, Gray is under the watchful eye of the domineering Professor Callender. Until one afternoon, while working in the professor’s garden, he meets his daughter.

Sophie Callender wants nothing more than to be educated in magic, even if being a female student is unheard of in the community. But secretly, against her father and society’s wishes, she has spent countless lonely hours studying the ancient volumes on the subject.

Now, with the arrival of the lanky, tall, and yet oddly charming Gray, she finally finds someone who can encourage her interest and awaken new ideas and feelings. Between them, they forge a beautiful and touching relationship that sets off a series of events that begin to unravel secrets about one another.

Paperback | 432 Pages | 2 Sep 2014 | Ace | Adult

We have an interview for the author – Sylvia Izzo Hunter about here debut novel The Midnight Queen that you can access by linking on this text.

The Mythology of Grimm - Nathan Robert Brown

The Mythology of Grimm by Nathan Robert Brown


NBC’s hit television series Grimm pits modern detective Nick Burkhardt of the Portland Police against a cast of terrifying villains—lifted directly from the pages of classic fairytales. In the world of the show, the classic stories are actually a document of real events, and Nick himself is descended from a long line of guardians, or Grimms, charged with defending humanity from the mythological creatures of the world.

From The Big Bad Wolf to Sleeping Beauty, The Mythology of Grimm explores the history and folkloric traditions that come into play during Nick’s incredible battles and investigations—tapping into elements of mythology that have captured our imaginations for centuries.

ARC/Paperback |  368  Pages | 30 Sep 2014 | Berkley | Adult

House Immortal - Devon Monk

House Immortal by Devon Monk

One hundred years ago, eleven powerful ruling Houses consolidated all of the world’s resources and authority into their own grasping hands. Only one power wasn’t placed under the command of a single House: the control over the immortal galvanized….

Matilda Case isn’t like most folk. In fact, she’s unique in the world, the crowning achievement of her father’s experiments, a girl pieced together from bits. Or so she believes, until Abraham Seventh shows up at her door, stitched with life thread just like her and insisting that enemies are coming to kill them all.

Tilly is one of thirteen incredible creations known as the galvanized, stitched together beings immortal and unfathomably strong. For a century, each House has fought for control over the galvanized. Now the Houses are also tangled in a deadly struggle for dominion over death—and Tilly and her kind hold the key to unlocking eternity

The secrets that Tilly must fight to protect are hidden within the very seams of her being. And to get the secrets, her enemies are willing to tear her apart piece by piece.…


Mass Market Paperback |  368  Pages | 2 Sep 2014 | NAL | Adult

Sleeping Late on Judgement Day - Tad Williams

Sleeping Late on Judgment Day by Tad Williams

Where does an angel go when he’s been to Hell and back?

Renegade angel Bobby Dollar does not have an easy afterlife. After surviving the myriad gruesome dangers Hell oh-so-kindly offered him, Bobby has returned empty-handed – his demon girlfriend Casmira, the Countess of Cold Hands, is still in the clutches of Eligor, Grand Duke of Hell. Some hell of a rescue.

Forced to admit his failure, Bobby ends up back at his job as an angel advocate. That is, until Walter, an old angel friend whom Bobby never thought he’d see again, shows up at the local bar. The last time he saw Walter was in Hell, when Walter had tried to warn him about one of Bobby’s angel superiors. But now Walter can’t remember anything, and Bobby doesn’t know whom to trust.

Turns out that there’s corruption hidden within the higher ranks of Heaven and Hell, but the only proof Bobby has is a single feather. Before he knows it, he’s in the High Hall of Heavenly Judgement – no longer a bastion for the moral high ground, if it ever was, but instead just another rigged system – on trial for his immortal soul…

Sleeping Late on Judgement Day is the third installment of Tad Williams’ urban fantasy Bobby Dollar series!

Hardcover | 320  Pages | 2 Sep 2014 | DAW | Adult

Sword of the Bright Lady - M.C. Planck

Sword of the Bright Lady by M.C. Planck

Christopher Sinclair goes out for a walk on a mild Arizona evening and never comes back. He stumbles into a freezing winter under an impossible night sky, where magic is real-but bought at a terrible price.

A misplaced act of decency lands him in a brawl with an arrogant nobleman and puts him under a death sentence. In desperation he agrees to be drafted into an eternal war, serving as a priest of the Bright Lady, Goddess of Healing. But when Marcius, god of war, offers the only hope of a way home to his wife, Christopher pledges to him instead, plunging the church into turmoil and setting him on a path of violence and notoriety.

To win enough power to open a path home, this mild-mannered mechanical engineer must survive duelists, assassins, and the never-ending threat of monsters, with only his makeshift technology to compete with swords and magic.

But the gods and demons have other plans. Christopher's fate will save the world…or destroy it.

440 pp | ARC | September 2014 | Pyr

Antigoddess - Kendare Blake

Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

The Goddess War begins in Antigoddess, the first installment of the new series by acclaimed author of Anna Dressed in Blood, Kendare Blake.

Old Gods never die…

Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health.

Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god. 

These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning. 

Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out. 

Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.

The Goddess War is about to begin.

The Goddess War begins in Antigoddess,

Tor Teen | August 2014 | Trade Paperback | Young Adult Fiction | 352 pages | Age Range: 12 to 18 | Grade Range: 7 to 12

The Quantum Thief - Hannu Rajaniemi

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi

Jean le Flambeur gets up in the morning and has to kill himself before his other self can kill him first. Just another day in the Dilemma Prison. Rescued by the mysterious Mieli and her flirtatious spacecraft, Jean is taken to the Oubliette, the Moving City of Mars, where time is a currency, memories are treasures, and a moon-turned-singularity lights the night. Meanwhile, investigator Isidore Beautrelet, called in to investigate the murder of a chocolatier, finds himself on the trail of an arch-criminal, a man named le Flambeur....

Indeed, in his many lives, the entity called Jean le Flambeur has been a thief, a confidence artist, a posthuman mind-burglar, and more. His origins are shrouded in mystery, but his deeds are known throughout the Heterarchy, from breaking into the vast Zeusbrains of the Inner System to stealing rare Earth antiques from the aristocrats of Mars. In his last exploit, he managed the supreme feat of hiding the truth about himself from the one person in the solar system hardest to hide from: himself. Now he has the chance to regain himself in all his power—in exchange for finishing the one heist he never quite managed.

Hannu Rajaniemi's The Quantum Thief is a breathtaking joyride through the solar system several centuries hence, a world of marching cities, ubiquitous public-key encryption, people who communicate via shared memory, and a race of hyper-advanced humans who originated as an MMORPG guild. But for all its wonders, The Quantum Thief is also a story powered by very human motives of betrayal, jealousy, and revenge. It is a stunning debut.

Tor Books | August 2014 | Trade Paperback | 5.44 x 8.18 inches, 336 pages

Severed Souls - Terry Goodkind

Severed Souls by Terry Goodkind

From the far reaches of the D'Haran Empire, Bishop Hannis Arc and the ancient Emperor Sulachan lead a vast horde of Shun-Tuk and other depraved "half-people" into the Empire's heart, raising an army of the dead in order to threaten the world of the living. Meanwhile, far from home, Richard Rahl and Kahlan Amnell must defend themselves and their followers from a series of terrifying threats, despite a magical sickness that depletes their strength and which, if not cured, will take their lives...sooner rather than later.

"Richard saw the point of a sword blade sticking out from between the man’s shoulder blades. He spun back toward Richard after throwing the woman out of the opening, ready to attack. It seemed impossible, but the man looked unaffected by the blade that had impaled him through the chest.

It was then, in the weak light from the fire pit off to the side, that Richard got his first good look at the killer.

Three knives were buried up to their brass cross-guards in the man’s chest. Only the handles were showing. Richard saw, too, the broken end of a sword blade jutting out from the center of the man’s chest. The point of that same blade stuck out from the man’s back.
Richard recognized the knife handles. All three were the style carried by the men of the First File.

He looked from those blades that should have killed the big man, up into his face. That was when he realized the true horror of the situation, and the reason for the unbearable stench of death."

From Terry Goodkind, author of the Sword of Truth series, comes a sweeping new novel of Richard Rahl, Kahlan Amnell, and their world.

Tor Books | August 2014 | Hardcover | 560 pages

Warrior Lore - Ian Crumpstey

Warrior Lore by Ian Cumpstey

Warrior Lore is the second collection of Scandinavian folk ballads translated into English verse by Ian Cumpstey, following Lord Peter and Little Kerstin. These narrative ballads were part of an oral tradition in Scandinavia, and were first written down around 1600. Included in this book are stories of heroes and fighters, Vikings, and trolls.

The legendary hero Widrick Waylandsson comes face to face with a troll in the forest. Thor resorts to cross-dressing in a bid to recover his stolen hammer. The daughter of the King of Sweden is abducted from a convent in the Swedish countryside. A young fighter has to show off his prowess in skiing and shooting for King Harald Hardrada. And more...

All the ballads included are: Widrick Waylandsson's Fight with Long-Ben Reyser; Twelve Strong Fighters; Hilla-Lill; Sir Hjalmar; The Hammer Hunt; The Stablemates; Sven Swan-White; The Cloister Raid; Heming and the Mountain Troll; Heming and King Harald.

Ebook | 76 pages | May 2nd 2014 | Skadi Press

How to Build a Girl - Caitlin Moran

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran

The New York Times bestselling author hailed as “the UK’s answer to Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, and Lena Dunham all rolled into one” (Marie Claire) makes her fiction debut with a hilarious yet deeply moving coming of age novel.

What do you do in your teenage years when you realize what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes—and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, fourteen, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde—fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer. She will save her poverty-stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer—like Jo in Little Women, or the Bröntes—but without the dying young bit.

By sixteen, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all the kinds of sex with all kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less.

But what happens when Johanna realizes she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters, and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease. How to Build a Girl is a funny, poignant, and heartbreakingly evocative story of self-discovery and invention, as only Caitlin Moran could tell it.

ARC | Harper | 09/23/2014 | Pages: 352

The Way Inn - Will Wiles

The Way Inn by Will Wiles

Up in the Air meets Inception in this smart, innovative, genre-synthesizing novel from the acclaimed author of Care of Wooden Floors—hailed as “Fawlty Towers crossed with Freud,” by the Daily Telegraph—that takes the polished surfaces of modern life, the branded coffee, and the free wifi, and twists them into a surrealistic nightmare of infinite proportions.

Neil Double is a “conference surrogate,” hired by his clients to attend industry conferences so that they don’t have to. It’s a life of budget travel, cheap suits, and out-of-town exhibition centers—a kind of paradise for Neil, who has reconstructed his incognito professional life into a toxic and selfish personal philosophy. But his latest job, at a conference of conference organizers, will radically transform him and everything he believes as it unexpectedly draws him into a bizarre and speculative mystery.

In a brand new Way Inn—a global chain of identikit mid-budget motels—in an airport hinterland, he meets a woman he has seen before in strange and unsettling circumstances. She hints at an astonishing truth about this mundane world filled with fake smiles and piped muzak. But before Neil can learn more, she vanishes. Intrigued, he tries to find her—a search that will lead him down the rabbit hole, into an eerily familiar place where he will discover a dark and disturbing secret about the Way Inn. Caught on a metaphysical Mobius strip, Neil discovers that there may be no way out.

ARC | Harper Perennial | 09/16/2014 | Pages: 352

Sea Creatures - Susanna Daniel

Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel

In Sea Creatures, a riveting domestic drama by Susanna Daniel, a mother must make the unthinkable choice between her husband and her son.

When Georgia Qullian returns to her hometown of Miami, her toddler and husband in tow, she is hoping for a fresh start. They have left Illinois trailing scandal and disappointment in their wake, fallout from her husband’s severe sleep disorder. For months, their three-year-old son has refused to speak a word.

On a whim, Georgia takes a job as an errand runner for a reclusive artist and is surprised at how her life changes dramatically. But soon the family’s challenges return, more complicated than before. Late that summer, as a hurricane bears down on South Florida, Georgia must face the fact that her decisions have put her only child in grave danger.
Sea Creatures is a mesmerizing exploration of the high stakes of marriage and parenthood.

Paperback | Harper Perennial | 09/02/2014 | Pages: 336

Insurrections of the Mind - Franklin Foer

Insurrections of the Mind by Franklin Foer

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of The New Republic, an extraordinary anthology of essays culled from the archives of the acclaimed and influential magazine.

Founded by Herbert Croly and Walter Lippmann in 1914 to give voice to the growing progressive movement, The New Republic has charted and shaped the state of American liberalism, publishing many of the twentieth century’s most important thinkers.

Insurrections of the Mind is an intellectual biography of this great American political tradition. In seventy essays, organized chronologically by decade, a stunning collection of writers explore the pivotal issues of modern America. Weighing in on the New Deal; America’s role in war; the rise and fall of communism; religion, race, and civil rights; the economy, terrorism, technology; and the women’s movement and gay rights, the essays in this outstanding volume speak to The New Republic’s breathtaking ambition and reach. Introducing each article, editor Franklin Foer provides colorful biographical sketches and amusing anecdotes from the magazine’s history. Bold and brilliant, Insurrections of the Mind is a celebration of a cultural, political, and intellectual institution that has stood the test of time.

Contributors include: Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, George Orwell, Graham Greene, Philip Roth, Pauline Kael, Michael Lewis, Zadie Smith, William Faulkner, Ralph Ellison, James Wolcott, D. H. Lawrence, John Maynard Keynes, Langston Hughes, John Updike, and Margaret Talbot.

Paperback |  Harper Perennial | 09/16/2014 | Pages: 608

A Murder Country - Brandon Daily

A Murder Country by Brandon Daily

The nineteenth century looms just a few years away, bringing with it the belief in progress and a new world. But for Josiah Fuller, William Corvin, and the Rider in the Appalachian backwoods and small towns of the late nineteenth century, there is nothing but a world where bloodshed is paid for in blood, and violence is the ultimate law of the land.
When seventeen-year-old Josiah Fuller comes home to find his parents hanged and mutilated and the family house burned to the ground, he sets off to find the man responsible for their murders and avenge their deaths. His journey takes him through new towns and wildernesses he has not seen before. He meets people who show him the realities of living in a violent world, forcing Josiah to decide what is most important to him: vengeance or grace.

Years after running away from home as a young boy, William Corvin returns with his new bride to take over the family's coal mining operation. Though he is haunted by the violence of his past, he sets out to live a peaceful life and start a family there. However, Corvin's hopes of peace are challenged when a horrible act of violence causes him to revert back to the man he once was.

After being visited by an angel in a dream years earlier, the Rider has become a man with violence in his blood, believing himself to be appointed by God to collect the souls of sinners. He travels around on his horse, killing whoever he feels is deserving of God's wrath and vengeance. These three men move along their own individual paths, their stories intersecting with one another, continually searching for an understanding of the violent world in which they live and their own actions within that world.

The novel examines the power and fragility of belief and conviction within humans, showing how one small act often leads to consequences that reach far beyond anyone's imagining.

September 9, 2014 | 192 pages | Knox Robinson Publishing | Ebook

Friday, September 5, 2014

Review: Ringworld: The Graphic Novel by Larry Niven

Ringworld - Larry Niven

Review by John for Ringworld: The Graphic Novel, Part One. Based on the novel by Larry Niven – adapted by Robert Mandell; illustrated by Sean Lam.

John’s quick take:   Niven’s classic award-winning 1970 science fiction story turned into a graphic novel.

John’s description: It is 2850 and space adventurer Louis Wu is celebrating his 200th birthday. Thanks to boosterspice he still has the physique and mental agility of a twenty year old, and he has wealth that allows him to do almost anything that he wants. But he feels like he has done it all already and he is bored.

Enter Nessus, a two-headed alien Pierson’s Puppeteer. He offers Louis the chance to join him on a mysterious and dangerous mission well beyond the boundaries of Known Space, using a secret new ship that can travel thousands of times faster than anything humans have experienced. Louis cannot refuse. They are joined by two additional carefully selected crew members, a fearsome catlike warrior Kzin and a human that has been genetically bred for good luck.

Initially they travel to Nessus’ home world where they are told that the mission’s destination is a strange ring-shaped world that circles a star. They are to explore the artificially created ringworld that is some 600 million miles in circumference and a million miles wide. The flat inner surface of the world is equivalent to some three million Earth-sized planets and it may potentially be habitable.

When their space ship crash-lands on the ringworld and they are apparently stranded, their adventures have only just begun.

John’s thoughts:   Where to start with this one? I’d have to say that this graphic novel version of a classic science fiction story has probably not been created with me in mind. I’ve read the original book and loved it – and the graphic novel can’t really add anything. Indeed, one of the great things about the original was the depth and the detail of the story. In this format there is no chance of replicating that depth and many parts of the story leap ahead far too quickly for my liking.

I’d also have to say that the graphic representation of Nessus is quite disappointing – though goodness knows he is near impossible to satisfactorily translate into graphic form. I think he is one of those creations that just works better in your imagination than it possibly can in pen and ink. Louis Wu too doesn’t jive at all with how I pictured him.

That being said it is a great story and I’m sure that many newcomers to Niven’s novel will enjoy it. I’d rate the book 3 stars and recommend it to anyone who likes science fiction in graphic novel format; I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who has read the original. Any potential readers should be warned that this is only “part one” and covers just the first half of Ringworld. It isn’t a standalone story so don’t expect any logical conclusions to the plot at the end of this book.

A closing thought – I do love some graphic novels (Watchmen and Britten and Brulightly are two of the most highly-rated books that I have ever reviewed), but reading a graphic novel version of something you’ve already read in full and loved is probably not a great idea. It seems to me that you’re always going to be left wanting more.

Tor/Forge | July 2014 | Trade Paperback |  272 pages

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Review: The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Signature of All Things - Elizabeth Gilbert

Review by Shellie for The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert.

Shellie’s quick take:  A wonderful, engaging historical fiction novel that has the science of botany as a key element. It has an amazing strong female character and an encompassing theory on the nature of all things.

Shellie’s description:   When Alma Whitaker is born in Pennsylvania, USA in the year 1800, her exceptionally wealthy British father Henry is pleased. Alma will be his only natural child, will receive an education uncommon for women, and will want for almost nothing for her entire life. Alma is not a beautiful woman, but her strengths lie in her brilliant scientific mind and her excellent constitution. She spends her childhood days categorizing plants and reading in her father’s huge library. As an adult Alma becomes one of the first women to publish within the field of botany.

This is the richly imagined life story of Alma Whitaker, her driven father whose interest and dedication to botany build him a fortune, and her stalwart and complex family. It is set relatively soon after the American Revolution, during the civil war, and while the theory of evolution was taking form.

Shellie’s thoughts:    There’s a lot to like about this book. From the very start it becomes apparent that Elizabeth Gilbert is an expert story teller. I was entirely swept away with writing that flows and that captured me from the first page until the last. I particularly like that the characters are well developed and complex with a lot of back story. The book also has some famous historical characters which adds to the richness of the story line - such as Charles Darwin and Captain James Cook, who where significant contributors to science and botany - giving the book an authentic historical feel. There are some interesting settings within the novel which may intrigue readers, such as Kew Gardens, a botanical garden in London established in 1756 that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Tahiti, where the author goes into a good deal of depth about the culture and the setting.

As the title suggests one of the book’s major themes is a grand sweeping theory about the nature of humans and life in general, and since it is one that I agree with it made me like the book even more. My only quibble would be a strong and slightly embarrassing sexual thread that runs through the novel, which was a bit much for me. If this particular element had been a little lighter the book would have rated higher in my opinion. However, it’s a terrific novel and comes highly recommended. I would say one of my favorites this year at 4.5 stars.

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

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