Saturday, April 29, 2017

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.

This summer's most highly anticipated new releases are starting to roll in, which has presented a bit of a challenge in terms of reading schedule, because every new arrival is the one I want to read first!

Tyrant's Throne by Sebastien de Castell
[June 6th 2017]
After years of struggle and sacrifice, Falcio val Mond, First Cantor of the Greatcoats, is on the brink of fulfilling his dead king's dream, but nothing is ever that simple

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams
[June 27th 2017]
New York Times-bestselling Tad Williams' ground-breaking epic fantasy saga of Osten Ard begins an exciting new cycle! - Volume One of The Last King of Osten Ard


It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

I'm all over the map this week. I'm still juggling The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox & River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey, but both got pushed aside when I started in on The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams, which has since been eclipsed by Tyrant's Throne by Sebastien de Castell.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, April 28, 2017

WTF Friday: Picaro - A Tale of EXTREME Horror by Terry M. West

Well, another WTF Friday is upon us, which means we once again turn the Ruins over to my dark half. As regular visitors will know, Foster Medina has a passion for messed up literary diversions - books that are bizarre, twisted, grotesque, and kinky - and he's only too happy to splatter them across the page.

Terry M. West's Picaro is the most insidious kind of extreme horror, a story that opens on a grotesque note, but which then lulls you into a false sense of complacency before allowing all Hell to break loose. There's actually a clever bit of misdirection within it, making you think you're reading a violent crime thriller before West pulls the rug out, revealing that trap door to Hell beneath it.
"I travel. I wander. I'm a sworn vagabond. Or picaro. I prefer that word. Nice ring."
A grotesquely massacred pimp/lover, a vicious gang, and a charismatic stranger all add up to trouble for Binh Pham, especially when coupled with uncontrolled bouts of narcolepsy. Paul, the charismatic stranger, is a mysterious character who seems too good to be true, but we're teased with precisely what kind of threat he poses for much of the story.
"You will never die. And neither will the hunger. Try not to forget your name."
Even when the story finally makes its bloody descent into Hell, West raises enough doubt that we wonder what is really going on. Picaro is an effective bit of extreme horror, people by a pair of intriguing characters, and told with bloody flair.

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: June 30th 2017 by PSE

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Fantasy Review: The Fathom Flies Again by James Walley

Something a bit different today, as Donald and I both offer our thoughts on the second Wink tale. Since Donald gave it a read first, we'll let him take the lead . . .

The Fathom Flies Again sticks to the high seas to live up to the first adventure from James Walley.

This time a chaotic bigtop has come to a small town. Officer Michael O'Riley is on the verge of giving up, with the clowns running amok, causing unwanted drama, with giant leprechauns stomping around, and with unicorn stampedes. He finds his way on the Fathom.

The Fathom's shipmates, including a new arrival - a cute little talking koala - battle in their own struggle with Peeper's army, clowns from another portal, and shadow monsters lurking the streets of the strange town that's "no stranger to sombrero wearing penguins, or the odd gorilla in a tutu."

Another rip roaring adventure of laugh out loud humor. Get aboard the Fathom and fly the skies again.

And now, if you'll pardon the indulgence, here are my thoughts on the latest comic fantasy adventure from Mr. Walley.

As the cover blurb says, it's time to wake up and smell the carnage! Like Forty First WinkThe Fathom Flies Again was fun, imaginative, and even more over-the-top. Marty and Kate return to once again save the world from Peepers, the evil clown, this time with the assistance of a pint-sized koala who steals every scene he's in.

Whereas the first book felt very much like one man's personal quest through dreamland, the stakes feel higher here. Maybe it's because we already know the characters and the concept, but the story feels fuller, and the threats more significant. That's not to say it's lost any of its madcap madness, but there's more to it that just out-loud laughs.

Half of the story here is in the narration, half in the dialogue, and half in the characters. Yeah, I know that doesn't add up for us mortals, but when you're in dreamland with booze monkeys, it all makes sense. I won't say much to spoil the conclusion to this madcap adventure, but I will say this - thirty story leprechaun, baby!

Paperback, 286 pages
Published January 10th 2017 by Ragnarok Publications

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday - The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams
Expected publication: June 27th 2017 by Daw Books

New York Times-bestselling Tad Williams’ ground-breaking epic fantasy saga of Osten Ard begins an exciting new cycle! • Volume One of The Last King of Osten Ard

The Dragonbone Chair, the first volume of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, was published in hardcover in October, 1988, launching the series that was to become one of the seminal works of modern epic fantasy. Many of today’s top-selling fantasy authors, from Patrick Rothfuss to George R. R. Martin to Christopher Paolini credit Tad with being the inspiration for their own series.

Now, twenty-four years after the conclusion of Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, Tad returns to his beloved universe and characters with The Witchwood Crown, the first novel in the long-awaited sequel trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard.

More than thirty years have passed since the events of the earlier novels, and the world has reached a critical turning point once again. The realm is threatened by divisive forces, even as old allies are lost, and others are lured down darker paths. Perhaps most terrifying of all, the Norns—the long-vanquished elvish foe—are stirring once again, preparing to reclaim the mortal-ruled lands that once were theirs....

Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn was one of those pivotal fantasy sagas of my youth, and The Heart of What Was Lost certainly served to whet my appetite for more. As luck would have it, I landed the ARC last night . . . and started reading it right away. :)

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sci-Fi Review: Off Rock by Kieran Shea

A quirky sci-fi heist tale, Off Rock by Kieran Shea manages to cram a lot of action and drama into its efficient packaging. Kind of like a spaceship, in fact, or a deep space mining shaft. It has a bit of a Red Dwarf feel to it, crossed with The Stainless Steel Rat, with a touch of Office Space . . . in space.

Jimmy Vik isn't a bad guy, but he lacks ambition, isn't good with relationships, and has a tenuous grasp on morality. When he stumbles across a vein of gold while planting charges for a demolition, he suddenly sees a way out of his dead-end job. It's dangerous, but the payoff is worth it. The only problem is he's going to need help - and not the kind that can be easily trusted.

The quirky factor here comes in the form of the characters, including your stock smuggler with a gambling problem, a deliberately stereotypical third-world grunt with a candy fetish, and a blonde bombshell assassin. Beneath all that quirkiness is a sharp-edged corporate satire that rides the coattails of Jimmy's relationship with Leela, his ex-girlfriend and now-supervisor.

Like any great heist caper, of course, where Off Rock gets good is when everything goes bad. To say that nobody can be trusted and that everything goes spectacularly wrong is an understatement. It's a slow-burning tale for the most part, but the final third races along to an explosive conclusion. I burned through it in an afternoon, and the twists at end were brilliant.

Paperback, 309 pages
Published April 18th 2017 by Titan Books (UK)

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Urban Fantasy Review: Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish

The third book in The Adventures of Owl is, in a word, the most significant entry in the series to date. So much of what's been hinted and teased comes to the forefront here with a story that offers up equal measures of character building, world building, and plot development. Kristi Charish has really upped the ante here, and it pays off.

The first thing you'll notice about Owl and the Electric Samurai is that it is neither as frantic nor as fun as its predecessors. This is a slower, more deliberate tale, and one that carries a heavy weight in terms of its stakes for all involved. For that reason, it's also neither as friendly nor as romantic. Sure, the usual cast of supporting characters is there, namely Rynn and Carpe, but there is an emotional distance between them all that is borne out of fear, paranoia, and desperation.

Not only does Owl have lingering tensions with Lady Siyu to deal with, but International Archaeology Association (IAA) is playing hardball, the elves have put her in an impossible position, and the cursed (possibly sentient) armor know as the Electric Samurai has placed its own claim on our heroine. Placed in an impossible situation, it seems as if any action she takes to deal with one issue only increases the pressure of the others.

In terms of world-building, Owl and the Electric Samurai has a lot to offer. We get insights into Rynn's past, as well as his history with the elves; we learn more about supernatural politics than you'd ever imagine possible; and we get some significant revelations about World Quest and its creators. Readers who have been waiting for answers will find many of them here but, of course, they will also find new - and often bigger - questions as a result. The real-life archaeological set-pieces are a bit simpler this time around, but they are balanced with the fantastical details of Shangri-La. Heavy the story may be, full of plots and threats around every corner, but Charish never loses her ability to astound.

The climax here is everything fans could hope for, but it comes at a steep price. There are hard choices and real threats in the final chapters, all leading up to a major development for one character, and an even bigger cliff-hanger. Owl and the Electric Samurai may promise a lot, juggling all its myriad conflicts, but it also delivers. This volume feels like a real game-changer, and I suspect the upcoming Owl and the Tiger Thieves will take things even further.

ebook, 416 pages
Expected publication: May 8th 2017 by Simon & Schuster

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.