Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Wrap-up

Well, here we are, perched upon the brink of yet another new year. 2012 was certainly a strange one, a busy year that had its shares of ups and downs.

The death of my Sony Reader (after almost 3 years) made for a rough last few months, putting me further behind in my reviews than I would have liked, but it did give me a reason to upgrade . . . even if other circumstances conspired to delay that replacement longer than I anticipated. In the end, though, I'm quite happy to have made the change to my Kobo Glo. It's faster in almost every respect (turning pages is almost instantaneous!), the lack of buttons allows for a larger screen, and the built-in light means I can get some reading done at night while the baby is getting ready for bed.

With my first full year of regular blogging behind me, I'm extremely grateful for the publishers with whom I have established relationships, filling my shelves and providing me with some advance reads. The gang at Seventh Star Press, Angry Robot Books, Abaddon Books, and Solaris Books have all been amazing, coming on board early, and consistently providing some great books over the course of the year. Tachyon Publications and Simon & Schuster Canada came on board this fall with some advance paperback reads, just in time to see me through my e-reader withdrawals, and Night Shade Books have been great with their giveaways.

On the book tour front, I experimented with several different tour companies this year, with very mixed results. There were a few companies where nothing beyond the original hosted title has been of interest to me, a few others where there just seemed to be no support (not even from the author!), and one where I just seem to keep falling off their radar. I suspect I'll be narrowing my list to 3 or 4 proven companies in 2013, based on those who most often matched my interests in 2012, and those who seem most invested in supporting their tours (with authors who share that enthusiasm).

The year has also introduced me to authors, bloggers, other readers with whom I've been fortunate to establish some lasting friendships. Rowena Cory Daniells was one of the definite bright spots of the year, stopping by for a guest post, couriering me signed copies of her King Rolen's Kin trilogy all the way from Australia, and just generally keeping in touch. On the blogger front I'm sure there are some obvious people I'm forgetting at the moment (sorry!), but Dezmond, Jessica, SQT, Dragana, Anya, and Alex all stand out as people I can rely on to stop by and comment regularly.

Another good friend I've made this year, whom you'll be hearing much more from in 2013, is Donald Armfield. We were originally introduced through the Bizarro Brigade, but have since chatted quite a bit about books, writing, and the juggles of caffeine addiction, parenthood, and dead-end jobs. He's going to be joining me as a semi-regular contributor for the new year, so keep an eye out for that.

Of course, none of us would be here if it weren't for the books, so I invite you to check out what I've deemed The Best (and Worst) to Grace My Shelves in 2012, and to take a peek at my Most Anticipated Reads of 2013.

To borrow a quote from the last-ever Calvin and Hobbes strip, "A new year . . . a fresh, clean start . . . a day full of possibilities! It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy ... let's go exploring!”

Happy New Year to all, and here's to a bigger and better 2013.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Fire Inside by Raymond M. Rose (REVIEW)

Jack King seems like a normal guy. He works at a bookstore, has a beautiful girlfriend, and loves photography. But he isn’t normal. Not by a long stretch. He could blow up half this city in the blink of an eye.

It was with this simple tease, just a few short lines, that Raymond M. Rose first captured his attention.Without knowing anything more about it, The Fire Inside immediately slipped into the depths of my towering review pile, just waiting for its chance to see the light of day - or, as the case may be, light of my new Kindle Glo!

Stylistically, the novel challenged me a bit, requiring a bit of persistence to get beyond the sometimes awkward dialogue, irregular word choices, and oddities of grammar. It felt like the manuscript could have used one more round of editing and polishing to smooth out the rough edges, but while it tried my patience early on, it (thankfully) never exhausted it.

Having said that, this was an exceptionally fun read, and one that pretty well captured the spirit of what a superhero novel should be. With many similar novels I've read over the last few years, the trend seems to have been to dress up, modernize, and rationalize all the joy out of the comic book inspiration. I think that's why I struggled so with Myke Cole's first Shadow Ops novel, ultimately relegating it to the DNF pile, while so many peers were gushing over it. I don't want a superhero novel that struggles to attain some level of plausibility - just accept that you've suspended my disbelief, and entertain me.

That's that Rose has done here with The Fire Inside, letting his characters (and their respective powers) shine, free of any artificial guilt restraint. Of course, it helps that they have a solid core story to work around, with a central mystery that invites the reader to play along and try to out-sleuth the characters. I suspect most readers will guess the identity of the supervillain before the characters, but that's all part of the fun. The liberal sprinkling of 'geek' nods is a bit of a distraction, in that it so often pulls you out of the story with either an ah-hah laugh or a knowing smirk, but it shows a love for the genre that can't be ignored.

Are the characters a bit too perfect, a bit too attractive, and bit too good to be true? Sure, but that's precisely what we want our superheroes to be. This is a comic book without the panel illustrations, but one that provides enough detail to allow the reader to imagine their own illustrations. Some readers may feel there's a bit too much exposition, with Rose struggling to pain too much of a picture which each new character introduction or scene change, but think of it in terms of a comic book, with those transitional 'blocks' of text to carry you through, and it all feels quite natural.

Overall, this is a fun, fast-paced, action-packed adventure with enough backstory and character development to really engage the reader. While not perfect - there are a few plot holes or inconsistencies that nagged at me - I'd more than curious to see where Rose takes the Sidekicks saga next.

Shades of Souls Passed by Teresa R. Andrews (REVIEW)

Shades of Souls Passed by Teresa R. Andrews is a slim little volume, with my original plan having been to pair a review with an author interview, but for some reason we never reconnected on that front. Halloween came and went, the seasonality of it kind of slipped from my focus . . . and, well, here we are playing catch up.

This was quite an entertaining read, offering up some real-life ghost stories that were well-told. The stories were straightforward, with no unnecessary embellishment, and with none of the annoying pseudo-scientific gadgetry or spiritual nonsense to oversell the 'reality' of the ghosts. I love a good ghost story, and am quite content to have it told to me as it happened - I really don't need to be convinced of 'evidence' to enjoy the chills.

Thanksgiving Weekend and Dark Night of the Soul were two definite favourites, both very different stories, about very different experiences, but with that all-important human connection. Hide and Seek was a cute departure from the usual thrills and chills, bringing forth a tinge of melancholy sadness that it later echoed by The Meadow. The Bonnie Brae Loch was a 'classic' ghost story in every sense, while Winter Storm most closely resembled my experiences over a couple summers of exploring supposedly haunted locations in Southern Ontario.

If there's one thing I would have liked to see paired with each story, it's a little background on the history or events behind the story. A simple paragraph as an intro or a conclusion, or even as an appendix, would have sealed the deal for me. While I don't care to be told what kind of psychic vibrations or EMP readings accompanied a ghostly experience, I d like the closure of a good story, one that at least suggests who may be behind the haunting and why.

That minor quibble aside, this was an interesting collection that flows very well, with a narrative voice perfectly suited to the telling.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Greatshadow by James Maxey (REVIEW)

Greatshadow, the first book of The Dragon Apocalypse by James Maxey, reminds me in so may ways of the TSR quest-driven novels I cut my fantasy teeth on so many years ago. More specifically, it reminds of Forgotten Realms adventures by the likes of R.A. Salvatore, Ed Greenwood, Troy Denning, and Douglas Niles. Before anybody takes that the wrong way, let me assure you that's absolutely not a criticism or a complaint - I have fond memories of those adventures, and Maxey rekindled that same kind of wide-eyed enjoyment.

The writing is fresh, the characters intriguing, the action frantic, and the story line deeper than you might originally suspect. I must admit, it took a while to get used to having a ghost narrate the novel, but there's purpose to Stagger's narrative role that goes far beyond mere novelty. He's a coward and a scoundrel, a greedy, drunken adventurer with questionable ethics, but one who is loyal and sincere where it counts. I definitely warmed up to him over the course of the novel, and I quite liked the way Maxey gave his story closure towards the end.

Infidel, his magically endowed, super powered partner in crime seemed a little thin at first. She reminded me too much of the characters at the heart of the Runelords saga, a series where the novelty wore thin long before the final pages of the first book. Fortunately, Maxey has an entertaining backstory for her that is slowly unveiled over the course of the novel, slowly adding layers of humanity to her impervious exterior. Of course, it helps that she's entirely aware of her role as a sex-object within the genre, something she takes great joy in subverting. There's a scene where Infidel explains to Aurora, high priestess and frost giantess extraordinaire, just how deep her superhuman strength runs, and why she could never doom a man to the throes of orgasm, that will leave you laughing and crossing your legs at the same time.

Where Maxey breaks away from the style of those Forgotten Realms adventures of 20+ years ago and cements his place alongside his genre contemporaries is in his sheer unpredictability. This is one of those novels where nobody is safe, where good and evil are not absolutes, and where truth and lies are simply a matter of perspective. For such a small band of adventurers, a lot of main characters die along the way, and not all of them in the grand, heroic fashion you might expect. There's an element of realism here - or, as much as there can be within a swords & sorcery tale - that acknowledges the fact that things don't always work out simply because we want them to.

One final note on this book, I thoroughly enjoyed Maxey's take on religion. The Church of the Book is an interesting concept, both a satiric parody of organized religion and an almost logical mythological construct. The idea of a Book that contains the complete story of the universe, but which cannot be read except by the arrival of long-anticipated Omega Reader, is brilliant in its absurdity. Similarly, the duelling magics of Father Ver and the Deceiver is both ridiculous and inspired, with the magical outcome of their respective 'truths' and 'lies' dependant solely upon the belief of those around them.

It's been a long time since I've had the pleasure of enjoying a good, old-fashioned, straight-up quest adventure, complete with magical artifacts, inhuman races, and truly epic dragons. He amused me, entertained me, and amazed me on several occasions. Much to Maxey's credit, he maintained both my interest and my smiles the whole way through, more than ensuring I'll be back to discover what happens with Hush.

Tall Tales with Short Cocks Vol. 2 from Bizarro Press (REVIEW)

Like most short story collections in the Bizarro genre, Tall Tales with Short Cocks Vol. 2 is uneven, but always original. There are tales that are bizarrely told, which are generally my least favourite, and those that are more traditionally told, but about bizarre things, which is where I find the appeal.

The 'hits' for me in this collection included:

The Ballad of Billy the Squid by Eirik Gumeny merges two individually bizarre ideas - a boy with a squid for a head & the fetish oddity of tentacle porn - and fashions them into a story that's more complex and entertaining than you might expect.

A Hand Walks Into a Bar by John McNee is a darkly humorous tale of the macabre that reminded me of Clive Barker's The Body Politic in that not only manages to make a character of a dismembered hand, but actually makes it interesting.

Princess Di’s Mercedes and the Dead Man’s ASL Chimp by Jon Konrath is a story that never manages to be quite as controversial or in-your-face offensive as the title would suggest, but which thoroughly entertains with its truly inventive technological and sociological twists.

The Apple of My iPhone by Danger Slater is one of my favourites in the collection, a story of technological obsession and integration that's certainly been told before, but never quite like this, and never with quite such a satisfying twist ending.

Walkin’ After Midnight by Donald Armfield is a strangely inventive, almost surreally entertaining, tale of well-timed pop culture references, psudeo-mythological dreams, and the oddest hit-list in hired killer history.

Clear Skies Today, God Willing by Christy Leigh Stewart is an extremely short, satirical take on religion and instant-gratification that amused me to no end.

365 Yesterdays by Wol-vriey is one of the strangest end-of-the-world tales I've ever read, but completely entertaining in its cruel ingenuity regarding alien motives and human wish-fulfillment.

Bread Alone by David Raffin is a twisted tale of just how far (and how easily) isolation can drive one to madness, especially when surrounded by penguins!

Laser Tits by Justin Grimbol is almost as awesome as the title suggests, a story of personification, obsession, and sexual excesses that tries a bit too hard, but which manages to embed the surreal so deeply within the tale that it almost seems normal.

If you're a fan of the Bizarro genre, then there is plenty here to enjoy, much of it from authors you've likely sampled before. If you're new to the genre, then this is a great place to start, offering up small samples of the quirks and oddities found within it, at least one of which is certain to catch your interest.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday - Most Anticipated Reads of 2013

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. Instead of highlighting a single "can't-wait-to-read" selection this week, I thought I'd take the opportunity to highlight my 10 Most Anticipated Reads of 2013:

A Memory of Light by Jordan and Sanderson
January 8th

With the hardcover release only weeks away, I'm anxious to see how Sanderson will lead us into the final chapters, but I'm even more anxious to read those final scenes, drafted by Jordan before his death. I've been invested in this series for the better part of a decade, and despite a few soft spots where I really doubted whether the saga had a final destination in mind, I've enjoyed every page.

Ice Forged by Gail Z. Martin
January 8th

I've been meaning to give Martin a read for several years now, and have the first two volumes of her Chronicles of the Necromancer saga sitting on my shelf. As much as I'd like to get caught up on that series first, there's always something attractive about diving into a new saga alongside other fans, new and old alike.



Elsewhens by Melanie Rawn
February 19th

After her long absence from the world of fantasy, Rawn returned to publishing with the first 2 books of what would be an unfinished urban fantasy saga. I'm quite excited to see her having returned to the world of fantasy, and even if I'm a book behind, I'm glad to see Tor continuing to support her.


Magicians End by Raymond E. Feist
May 14th

I've fallen way off the rails with Feist's work, with The Serpentwar Saga being my last dip into the world of Midkemia, but the final Riftwar novel has me excited . . . and not just for the ominous title. I've got 2 books to read before this, but I may just have time to catch up.



Quintessence by David Walton
March 19th

A new book from a new author, this is one of those accidental discoveries that immediately captured my attention. It sounds like an interesting read, with a good mix of ideas and entertainment, so here's hoping it's worth the wait.

The Marching Dead by Lee Battersby
March 26th

This is one of those books where I plan to sequester myself away from the world, to find a comfortable spot on the couch, and just chuckle my way through the second chapter of the undead adventures of Marius and Gerd. I'm not sure anything can top the freshness of The Corpse-Rat King, simply because it was such a pleasant surprise, but I'm sure it'll be worth the wait.


River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
April 2nd

I kind of drifted away from my fellow Canadian for a few years, but coming across a chance mention of the Fionavar connection in his urban fantasy, Ysabel, I've been happily back on board. Under Heaven has been my bedside paperback pleasure read for a while now, and I'm anxious to follow the story through a few more generations.


Unfettered by Shawn Speakman
May (tentative)

With an all-star cast that includes the likes of Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, Tad Williams, David Anthony Durham, Michael J. Sullivan, and more, this is a stunning collection being put together for a good cause. Judging by the table of contents, this is one collection I suspect I'll be reading from cover-to-cover.



The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan
August 1st

I'm on the fence as to whether I'll read this one right away, or whether I'll take the time to get caught up on the The Riyria Revelations first. Sullivan has promised the two series can be read in any order, and that exploring the history of Hadrian and Royce won't spoil anything, but I'll have to wait and see.



Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
September 24th

While The Shining has never been my favourite King novel (I blame that on having seen the movie long before reading the book), I'm curious to see how he'll catch up with Danny Torrance all these years later. I may be reading too much into a cover blurb, but I have a feeling there will be another tie to the Dark Tower saga here.



There are a few others that I'm hoping to see in 2013, like The Last Dark from Stephen R. Donaldson, Highprince of War from by Brandon Sanderson, and King Breaker from Rowena Cory Daniells, but right now they're just glimmers of hope on the horizon, with no firm release dates in sight.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Twisted Tinsel Tales with Steve Rossiter (INTERVIEW)

Welcome to a bonus edition of Twisted Tinsel Tales!

Earlier this month we put a horrific / humorous twist on the season, featuring book reviews, interviews, top 13 lists, guest posts, and odd facts about the holiday. It was all very twisted and terrible, and definitely not traditional, but all in good fun. If you enjoyed our daily antidote to the sugary spiritual sweetness of the season, then I hope you'll enjoy one last guilty pleasure.

To help wrap things up, please allow me to introduce you to Steve Rossiter, twisted editor/contributor of the Ho Ho Horror anthology.

Q. With its melting pot of mythologies, its fractured folklore, and its crass commercialism, Christmas is certainly seeded with dark potential. What was it that inspired you to plant those seeds and pull together your own collection of twisted tinsel tales?

A. It started with a short story called Ho Ho Ho by Gordon Reece. I met Gordon in March 2011 at the opening night of the Somerset Celebration of Literature, an annual high school literature festival held on the Gold Coast. We got talking and after the festival Gordon sent me a story to see if I could use it online, along with a note warning the story was "nasty". I liked the story, but it was definitely best suited for readers who would have some idea of the kind of story they would be getting. So I came up with Ho Ho Horror as a collection of Christmas horror stories and put out a call for submissions.

Q. Of all the stories in Ho Ho Horror, was there one that shocked/surprised you, or really stood out as embodying the 'spirit' of the collection?

Ho Ho Ho by Gordon Reece could fit that description, since it was the inspiration for the collection. Gordon's story treads the fine line between a child with a vivid imagination and a truly disturbed child who is a danger to others. There are numerous points in the story where I think many readers would be shocked by where the story goes - or delightfully surprised if they are horror fans.

Let It Snow by Sam Stephens explores the boundary between sanity and insanity for a father on a Christmas getaway at a secluded North American wilderness cabin retreat. Unwanted Gift by Belinda Dorio features an ex-lover's return at Christmas with an unwanted gift. Naughty or Nice by Cameron Trost is a play on the idea of Santa's list of who has been naughty or nice and the lengths to which one naughty boy will go to be on the nice list.

I read in your recent review, Bob, that you especially liked the story Satan Claus by Keith Mushonga. The spirit of the collection is twofold; firstly, the spirit of exploring horror stories and Christmas subject matter in original and engaging ways, and, secondly, serving as a vehicle for writers to get their stories read and go some way to helping writers move toward bigger things. Keith was living in a village near Harare, Zimbabwe when Ho Ho Horror was published and since then he has taken up a scholarship to study writing at university in the United States. This embodies the spirit of using a collection like Ho Ho Horror as a stepping stone on the way to bigger things.

Q. With the possible exception of Easter, Christmas is the holiday most often viewed as being 'off-limits' for such twists. Did it take much for you to overcome that sentiment, or was the idea of it being 'sacred' a temptation all on its own?

A. Such sentiments did not factor one way or the other because the horror treatment is not a commentary on the holiday itself. All holidays would be equally up for grabs for to receive a horror treatment. The stories don't take on the 'sacredness' of Christmas in any sort of religious sense. The stories are more focused on Christmas as a festive holiday and gift-giving season including customs involving the character of Santa.

The idea of Christmas horror was fun because so many people are familiar with a broad range of Christmas customs and this helps trigger a myriad of story possibilities that will connect with readers.

Q. Whether it’s on the page or on the screen, Christmas lends itself to parody as often as it does horror. Do you feel one is easier to pull off than the other, and which do you prefer as either a reader or a viewer, as opposed to a writer?

A. I don't feel that either is necessarily easier or more difficult than the other.

I tend to prefer non-parody stories to parody stories. Parody stories tend to rely on set opinions about something else for their emotional and intellectual value whereas non-parody stories tend to rely on what's shown in the story for their emotional and intellectual value and do not require the reader or viewer to accept set opinions to appreciate the story.

Q. Is there a weird, unusual, or downright strange Christmas memory that lurks somewhere in the dark recesses of your mind? Not necessarily something that influenced your writing, but one that compels the occasional shudder or maniacal grin?

A. No, I'm free of strange Christmas memories.

Q. Finally, before we let you get back to your shopping (or grinching, or scrooging), what one book would you be most tempted to bribe Santa into slipping under the tree for fantasy/horror fans?

A. It by Stephen King is an enduring favourite. I remember first reading it in primary school and feeling like I was being treated as an intelligent horror reader and not just presented with the child-friendly horror-themed imagery and stock situations I had experienced in 'horror' books recommended for my age.

For readers who want something more recent, Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King, a novel by Jack Ketchum or his short story collection Peaceable Kingdom, or, for those after something Australian, Mice by Gordon Reece, or a novel by Greig Beck or Jaye Ford.

Great answers, Steve! Thanks for the Ho Ho Horror read, and for stopping by to share your holiday twists.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Decembrists by Kimberly Richardson (REVIEW)

Kimberly Richardson's The Decembrists is a Gothic tale in the contemporary tradition (or spirit, if you'll pardon the pun) of Anne Rice's Mayfair Witches and Clive Barker's Galilee. The former had the potential for a fascinating story, but buried it deep within a tedious romance, while the latter was a gorgeous tale of magic and mystery.

Richardson falls somewhere in the middle.

I'm not sure what it is about Gothic romances, but it seems as if there's a long-standing tradition of weak, flawed, distasteful characters that is carried through here. Sophie has the potential to be an interesting character, an independent, intelligent woman about to make her mark in the publishing world. If only she could have resisted the urge to dabble in a little celebrity hero-worship. Her relationship with Hilliard starts out well, an interracial romance that crosses lines of both age and class. He's a man who becomes more and more unlikable as the story moves on, however, ultimately revealing himself to be an arrogant, emotionally abusive elitist who exists solely to serve his own purposes.

This is largely a character study, a work of ideals, but it also has a intricate, long-gestating plot to carry it along. The plot depends upon three significant developments that serve to twist the tale, the first of which puts a melancholy spin on the darkness, the second of which adds just a hint of the supernatural, and the third of which brings the first two together. There's an entirely distasteful family secret at the heart of it all, a mystery wrapped in odd behaviour, impossibly lucid dreams, and suicidal urges.

Ultimately, it's a story that could benefit from some editing early on, as the lead-up to the first twist takes far too much time to achieve any sort of significance. While I understand why the story had to end the way it did, that didn't make it any more satisfying. Sophie had the opportunity to redeem herself, to free herself from the elitist world in which she became trapped, but that opportunity is wasted. Despite all that, it's a story well-told, with some intricately crafted passages that approach the level of being poetic.

It's likely a story that will appeal more to those whom identify (or at least sympathize) with Hilliard, but still offers something interesting and beautiful for those of us who are proudly to objects of his scorn . . . or disregard.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω


αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

After found as an infant crawling among books in an abandoned library, Kimberly Richardson grew up to become an eccentric woman with a taste for jazz, drinking tea, reading books, speaking French and Japanese, playing her violin and writing stories that cause people to make the strangest faces. Her first book, Tales From a Goth Librarian, was published through Kerlak Publishing and named a Finalist in both the USA Book News Awards for Fiction: Short Story for 2009 and the International Book Awards for Fiction: Short Story in 2010. Ms. Richardson is also the Editor of the award winning Steampunk anthology Dreams of Steam, the award winning sequel, Dreams of Steam II: Of Brass and Bolts, and the upcoming Dreams of Steam III, all published through Kerlak Publishing. Other short stories and poetry by Ms. Richardson have been published through Sam’s Dot Publishing, Midnight Screaming and FootHills Publishing. Her first full-length novel, The Decembrists (Kerlak Publishing), will be out in 2012. Her other book, Mabon and Pomegranate (Kerlak Publishing), will be out in 2012 as well.

Website
Facebook
Blog

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Darkside by T.A. Miles (REVIEW)

It's hard to describe Darkside without making comparisons to other works. It is a story that immediately stuck me as having a Blade Runner type feel to it, but which ultimately put me in mind of a dark, sci-fi twist on something like The Fast and the Furious . . . complete with the alternative sensibilities of a Nicola Griffith and Melissa Scott.

T.A. Miles has done a superb job here, crafting a tale that stands on its own, despite drawing those comparisons. It's a cross-genre, cross-culture kind of read that plays entirely by its own rules. Don't expect it to head in any particular direction, and don't look for the usual genre cliches - unless its to discover how Miles avoids them.

The characterization is strong here, although it does take a while for some of the central characters - Calen and Luka, specifically - to begin showing any significant development. I had some early concerns regarding both, but once the other elements of the story began to be layered upon one another, their own inner layers began to be revealed. As for the setting, I suspect there's greater detail to be revealed in subsequent volumes, but what's established here makes for an interesting backdrop.The dual themes of alienation and occupation play well against one another, so well in fact that you tend to forget we're reading about human resettlement of an occupied alien world.

While there were a few scenes that felt oddly crafted for YA appeal, this is a far more mature novel than they would lead one to expect. Miles does not shy away from the darkness with her characters, telling a tale of their struggle for survival against increasing odds. Well-paced, with a nice scattering of action and horror, it's a great novel that establishes promise for the series to come.

αωαωαωαωαωαωαω

Get your Kindle copy for free, today only, over on Amazon - courtesy of Raventide Press.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Stacking The Shelves & What I'm Reading

Stacking The Shelves is a weekly meme being hosted by Tynga's Reviews, while Mailbox Monday is being hosted by Suko’s Notebook this month (see Mailbox Monday for each month's host). Both memes are all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves - physical and virtual, borrowed and bought. It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey, and it's focused on what's in your hands, as opposed to what's on your shelf.


The wife bought me a Kobo Glo this week (understanding that reading can't wait for an arbitrary holiday), so I am back in business and catching up. New additions for review this week include:

The Darwin Elevator by Jason M. Hough
In the mid-23rd century, Darwin, Australia, stands as the last human city on Earth. The world has succumbed to an alien plague, with most of the population transformed into mindless, savage creatures. The planet’s refugees flock to Darwin, where a space elevator—created by the architects of this apocalypse, the Builders—emits a plague-suppressing aura. Skyler Luiken has a rare immunity to the plague. Backed by an international crew of fellow “immunes,” he leads missions into the dangerous wasteland beyond the aura’s edge to find the resources Darwin needs to stave off collapse. But when the Elevator starts to malfunction, Skyler is tapped—along with the brilliant scientist, Dr. Tania Sharma—to solve the mystery of the failing alien technology and save the ragged remnants of humanity.


A World Apart by David M. Brown
Demetrius makes his first mistake when he lets his best friend Halcyon marry Eleyna, the love of his life, without saying a word. On the day of the wedding, he walks away from the Elencheran town of Dove's Meadow and joins the army. He makes his second mistake when the pirate Black Iris tricks him into letting dozens of men, women and children die in a fire. Demetrius is imprisoned in grief and disgrace. But he can atone. The Black Iris is dead. The Ivory Rose has risen to the top of the pirates and is leading brutal raids on the coast. If Demetrius can capture and kill her, he'll win his pardon. And then Demetrius discovers the Ivory Rose is Eleyna. He must decide which will be his third mistake: losing his last chance at a pardon or destroying the one woman he's ever loved.


Bring Down The Furies by Parker Francis
Sherman's troops burned it the first time. Now a serial arsonist threatens a small South Carolina town and private investigator Quint Mitchell is caught in the backdraft. When Quint follows the "Heartthrob Bandit" to the hamlet of Allendale, he finds himself in the crossfire of an ugly cultural war between an ultraconservative minister and the scientist who may have discovered proof of the oldest humans ever found in North America. As the heat grows more intense, arson turns to murder, and Quint is embroiled in a growing firestorm that threatens to destroy Allendale for the second time. A media frenzy surrounding the clash of faith and science whips emotions to a fiery crescendo. With time running out, Quint is the only man standing between a vicious killer with nothing to lose and his plan to bring down the furies on Allendale and Quint.


As for what I'm reading, I have a few book tours coming up, as well as a little pleasure reading to catch up on:

   

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Stalkers Drink Free by Mike Ronny (REVIEW)

A quick, darkly humorous read, Stalkers Drink Free puts a contemporary spin on a familiar tale . . . one that I won't mention for fear of spoiling the story. Fortunately, even looking back, it's easy to see where Mike Ronny strayed from the source material, turning the story back on itself to make it his own.

In Ronny's version, we experience the sinister plot through the eyes of the victim, giving the whole scenario an edgy, paranoid feel. In fact, it's not until the very end that we realize what exactly has happened, a twist reveal that brings it all home. Really, it's a story that could have worked with any public figure or profession, but making John a stand-up comedian gives the whole story a self-referential, sarcastic bite.

Nicely paced, with some good dialogue, and a small cast of supporting characters, Stalkers Drink Free makes the most of its length by keeping the story (and the tension) tight.

Mayan Prophecy Averted Giveaway!


We survived! Let's celebrate! (courtesy of Night Shade Books)

Well, we can add the Myan end of the world prophecy to the long list of things that didn't happen. And while it's probably no surprise to most of us that we woke up as per usual, we think it's still worth celebrating! Plus, its the Winter Solstice! Double trouble! So let's nestle into the longest night of the year with some free reading, shall we?

Here is how it works:

Email StillHere@nightshadebooks.com and you'll receive an auto response from us with a username, password and link to our download site where you'll be able to download the .epub or .mobi files of some of our most exciting and appropriately apocalyptic titles:

          

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Best (and Worst) to Grace My Shelves in 2012

Well, it's just about that time again . . . time to be inundated with obligatory end-of-year lists. :)

For my year-end wrap, I thought I'd take a few moments to talk about both the best and the worst books to grace my shelves (digital and physical) over the course of 2012. While the introduction of a baby boy into the household and the death of my e-reader did conspire to curtain my reading a little bit this year, I still managed to consume my fair share of pages.

The Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby was my one-and-only 5 star review of the year. You can find my full review here, but I can sum it up by saying I have never found so much sheer enjoyment in a novel, right from the narrative itself, to the character building, to the story line. Ask my wife, and she'll only be too glad to tell you about the odd glances and weird looks she bestowed upon me as I laughed aloud throughout the tale.

Magic: An Anthology of the Esoteric and Arcane, edited by Jonathan Oliver, was the strongest short story collection I read all year. Again you can check out my review here, but all you really need to know is that it was creative, original, and even inspired, with a solid mix of stories and styles. Gail Z. Martin's Button was worth the price of admission alone, but Sarah Lotz, Thana Niveau, and Gemma Files were definite standouts.

     

Under the heading of pleasant surprises, you can put The Duchess of the Shallows by Neil McGarry & Daniel Ravipinto and The Scar by Sergey & Marina Dyachenko. You can check out the reviews here and here if you're interested as to why. I really didn't expect much out of either, one being a small-press release and the other a foreign translation, but both ended up being 4 star reads.

     

Strangely, I didn't read a lot of pure horror this year, but Spook House by Michael West was the best of the batch for me. Check out all my Micheal West reviews here and stock your shelves!


Despite a few flaws, Amped by Daniel H. Wilson was probably the strongest science fiction novel I read all year. You can read the review here. I still have yet to give Robopocalypse a read, so I can't make the comparisons others have done, but it's on the shelf.

Alternate steampunk histories were all the rage again this year, with The Constantine Affliction by T. Aaron Payton and The Janus Affair by Philippa Ballantine & Tee Morris coming out on top for me. Both were just good, solid, well-told reads that will keep me coming back for subsequent volumes. On top of that, my review of the latter was my first to be selected as featured review on Edelweiss, which is immensely satisfying.

         

While it fell shy of being one of my favourite reads of the year, Scourge of the Betrayer secured Jeff Salyards a spot as the author I'm most curious to watch in 2013. The book didn't work for me on all levels (check out my review here), but there was so much promise there, so many glimpses of the talent beneath, I am looking forward to the follow-up.


Biggest disappointment? Without a doubt, The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter. The waste of their talent was only equalled by the waste of my time. You can get right to the point and check out the review here. The only reason it beats out The Omen Machine is that I don't expect much from Terry Goodkind at this point (despite this original trilogy being one of my all-time favourites), so relegating it to the DNF pile was almost a foregone conclusion.

    

What about you? What were your best/worst reads of 2012? Is there a ground-breaking, earth-shattering volume I need to catch up with in 2013? Armed with my new Kobo Glo (thanks to a wife who understands reading cannot wait for Christmas), I am ready to get caught up on that towering TBR pile . . . and open to the possibility of adding to it.