Saturday, January 28, 2017

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

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


WTF Friday: Futanari Dino Riders of the Apocalypse by Bryce Calderwood

Fantasy Review: The War of the First Day by Thomas Fleet

Waiting on Wednesday: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

Fantasy Review: Death's Mistress by Terry Goodkind

What is your favorite line or paragraph? (Guest Post & Giveaway)


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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.

One new physical ARC in the mail this week:

The Heart of Stone by Ben Galley
Mercenary. Murderer. Monster. Every fighter faces his final fight. Even one made of stone


And a pair of digital additions to the review pile:

Mythos Christos by Edwin Herbert
A fast-paced, controversial novel that goes beyond Da Vinci Code to explore mythology, emotion, and faith versus fact

Cold Calling by Haydn Wilks
Other reviewers have called it way beyond gritty, not for the squeamish, and quite revolting


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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.

Not quite there yet, but I'm slowly catching up with the review pile:

Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose: An Alchymical Triptych by Storm Constantine
A stand-alone trilogy of connected novellas, are witness accounts that bring light to one of the darkest corners of Wraeththu history

The Veil (Testaments I and II) by Joseph D'Lacey
 The world has gone quiet - no electricity, no engines, most of the people gone - and, at night, the landscape glows with unnatural light



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, January 27, 2017

WTF Friday: Futanari Dino Riders of the Apocalypse by Bryce Calderwood

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.



With Bryce Calderwood having delivered 2 perfect WTF Friday reads last year (In the Arms of Love & One Good Turn), I've been eager to dig deeper into his den of depravity and see what other perversions he puts on the page. More specifically, in looking at his latest series, I wanted to see if he could do for dinosaurs what he's already done for vampires and tentacles.

In The Magpie, the first 'episode' of the season, Bryce Calderwood introduces us to the characters of his post-apocalyptic world. We aren't given a lot of background at this point, but we do know we're stuck on a post-apocalyptic future Earth that's largely regressed to a 19th century Wild West kind of society. What makes this future stand out is two things, both of which are remnants of ill-conceived 21st-century scientific engineering - the wild dinosaurs that roam the land, and the futanari beauties who tame them.

Xenia is an Old West style gunslinger with the attitude of an action hero, the manners of a thug, and the libido of a porn star. To put it bluntly, she fucks as well as she fights, and she does both exceptionally well. She comes riding into the town of Brooklyn on a ravenous T-Rex by the name of Roxanne, saves the lovely Mags from a gang of thieving locals, and wisely allows her mount to finish shredding a man's leg before attempting to tie her up for the night. With the action out of the way, the rest of the story is largely about Mags paying her back for the rescue . . . futanari-on-futanari style.

With the second episode, Bath Time Fun, the overall doesn't really advance anywhere, but it does reveal a few interesting details about the future, including the fact that bullets have taken over as the primary currency. What we do get is more sex - a lot more sex - alongside with some decent character development for both Xenia and Mags.

I loved the irony of making a sleazy tavern out of St. Patrick's church, and the introduction of Jada, the futanari barkeep who is (quite literally), hung like a horse was a fun twist. Her payment for a bed and a bath won't come until the next episode but, in the meantime, Xenia and Mags are more than happy to help one another get clean . . . before making a colossal mess of one another all over again.

There's not quite enough story or world-building (yet) in the first two episodes to classify it as another 5-star read (we'll see how season 1 plays out), but it certainly qualifies as imaginatively provocative erotica with a fun concept. Make no mistake, Futanari Dino Riders of the Apocalypse is most definitely hardcore, no-holds-barred, nasty-as-hell erotica, but it is also (very) messy fun.

Kindle Edition
Published August 18th 2016 & August 30th 2016

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Fantasy Review: The War of the First Day by Thomas Fleet

The War of the First Day is an epic fantasy novel that has something of a Mistborn feel to it, with the comic book sensibilities of a Dr. Strange or Green Lantern. The witches here are warrior-sorceresses, imbued with magic that gives them superhuman powers and abilities. Right from the opening scene, where Lilta bounces around the castle, using magical speed that would make The Flash raise an eyebrow in appreciation, you know this is not to be your typical fantasy novel.

To Thomas Fleet's credit, he establishes his concept early on and never strays from it. This is not just epic fantasy with extreme magic or stunning sorceresses as window-dressing. Magic permeates the tale, from beginning to end, and it drives the plot as much as it accentuates it. As for the sorceresses, they are both the heroes and the villains, locked in a rebellious conflict that began with an act of near-genocide, populating a story that is almost wholly female-focused.

Like I said, this is a story with has a superhero feel to it, within an epic fantasy setting. It's predominantly focused on the war between two factions of witches - a war of attrition that's full of massive battles, covert operations, and scenes of torture and interrogation, complete with a villainess who likes to boast about her plans. It would have been easy to let the magic and the spectacle overwhelm the story, but Fleet keeps his characters at the forefront, developing them quickly and significantly throughout. There's also a lot of thought beneath the story, with some interesting themes on the power of knowledge, female empowerment, and a goddess-centric culture. Going back to those comic book sensibilities again, there's a lot of talk of math, logic, and even cryptography, not to explain away the magic, but to provide context and a deeper meaning.

Where some readers may stumble a bit is with the 21st-century sensibilities of the characters, including their speech patterns and attitudes. It makes it a more mature form of epic fantasy, but it never really seems out of place in the world Fleet has created. The writing is fluid, with some nice terms of phrase, and the dialogue is worth of the action, which is where this veers back towards epic fantasy and away from comic book clichés. I was hoping for a lot out of The War of the First Day, and I am pleased to say it delivered. My only regret, in fact, is that I let it linger on the shelf for so long.

Kindle Edition, 307 pages
Published October 6th 2014 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

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.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Thrawn by Timothy Zahn

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

Thrawn by Timothy Zahn
Expected publication: April 11th 2017 by Ballantine Books

In this definitive novel, readers will follow Thrawn’s rise to power—uncovering the events that created one of the most iconic villains in Star Wars history.

One of the most cunning and ruthless warriors in the history of the Galactic Empire, Grand Admiral Thrawn is also one of the most captivating characters in the Star Wars universe, from his introduction in bestselling author Timothy Zahn’s classic Heir to the Empire, through his continuing adventures in Dark Force Rising, The Last Command, and beyond. But Thrawn’s origins and the story of his rise in the Imperial ranks have remained mysterious. Now, in Star Wars: Thrawn, Timothy Zahn chronicles the fateful events that launched the blue-skinned, red-eyed master of military strategy and lethal warfare into the highest realms of power—and infamy.

After Thrawn is rescued from exile by Imperial soldiers, his deadly ingenuity and keen tactical abilities swiftly capture the attention of Emperor Palpatine. And just as quickly, Thrawn proves to be as indispensable to the Empire as he is ambitious; as devoted as its most loyal servant, Darth Vader; and a brilliant warrior never to be underestimated. On missions to rout smugglers, snare spies, and defeat pirates, he triumphs time and again—even as his renegade methods infuriate superiors while inspiring ever greater admiration from the Empire. As one promotion follows another in his rapid ascension to greater power, he schools his trusted aide, Ensign Eli Vanto, in the arts of combat and leadership, and the secrets of claiming victory. But even though Thrawn dominates the battlefield, he has much to learn in the arena of politics where ruthless administrator Arihnda Pryce holds the power to be a potent ally or a brutal enemy.

All these lessons will be put to the ultimate test when Thrawn rises to admiral—and must pit all the knowledge, instincts, and battle forces at his command against an insurgent uprising that threatens not only innocent lives but also the Empire’s grip on the galaxy—and his own carefully laid plans for future ascendancy.

As disappointing as it was when Disney jettisoned the expanded universe, it was a genuine surprise when it was announced that Thrawn would be appearing on Star Wars Rebels, and that Zahn would be writing a new book leading up to that appearance.

So, not only do we have Thrawn back in the Star Wars canon, we have a new story from the man who created him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

#Fantasy Review: Death's Mistress by Terry Goodkind

Let me be honest here. I've always had something of an awkward relationship with Terry Goodkind. I loved the first 3 Sword of Truth novels, and still count them among my favorite epic fantasy reads of all time. Sadly, I found the middle novels (with one notable exception) to be rather weak, increasingly repetitive, and weighed down with heavy-handed philosophy. While I did find that he redeemed himself exceptionally well with the final 2 books, I also found he got tirelessly repetitive again with the opening installment of the Richard and Kahlan series that followed.

That one notable exception I mentioned was The Pillars of Creation, a book that pushed Richard, Kahlan, and the Sword to the margins. It actually turned out to be one of my favorite books in the series, so when I heard Death's Mistress would do the same, telling a new story unencumbered by that core legacy, I was cautiously optimistic. Tentatively excited, even.

Let me just say, right now, that Death's Mistress more than delivered on that promise. This was a book that I thoroughly enjoyed, from the first page to the last. It's hardly anything new - in fact, it feels very much like a traditional 'quest' fantasy - but it breathes fresh life and real excitement into the world that Goodkind has created. Nicci and Nathan are allowed to carry the story here, taking us far beyond the known borders of the original books, and deep into lands never before mentioned.

Like I said, this is very much a traditional quest novel, with no overarching conflict or political upheaval against which we're to struggle. Instead, it's a rather simple tale, with Nicci sent off to spread the word Richard's triumph over Emperor Jagang. There is one last prophecy to give the quest purpose, but it's more of a roadmap than a defining aspect of the story. Along the way, we get to visit new lands, meet new characters, and enjoy some fantastic battles that mix a sense of wonder with genuine danger.

At the same time, we get some real character development - both for characters old (Nicci and Nathan) and new (Bannon and Thistle). Nicci has always been cold, harsh, and somewhat one-dimensional, but here she has a chance to breathe and grow emotionally. As for Nathan, I generally loathe it when characters are stripped of their powers, but here it actually frees him to be something more than just the dangerous mouth of prophecy. Bannon is perhaps the greatest surprise in the book, a nuisance side character who develops alongside Nicci and Nathan, and who ultimately becomes a genuinely heroic character about whom we'd be happy to read more.

It genuinely feels as if Goodkind has rediscovered his love for the genre with Death's Mistress, and that bodes well for future volumes in the series.

Hardcover, 512 pages
Published January 24th 2017 by Tor Books

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, January 23, 2017

What is your favorite line or paragraph? (GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY)

What is your favorite line or paragraph? Why?


Heart of Brass by KJ Kabza
"He led her down the Long Hall, turning ever inward like the path of a nautilus shell, each subsequent leg shorter than the last. One right turn, and past the door to The Locomotive; another right turn, and past The Ouroboros; one final turn, to face a hallway that held no doors at all--save for one, on the right, at the end."
I was trying to evoke a sense of mystery and possibility here, with an undercurrent of ominousness. Why have a hallway that spirals inward? What's behind all those other doors? What's behind that final door? Why hide it inside such an architectural peculiarity? I was the one who wrote this passage, but I still wish I could go to this physical space and experience the eeriness firsthand.

The Facts in the Case of Miss Casimir by M.E. Litman
I have a hard time picking out a favorite part of my writing because I’m always such a harsh critic of my own work. But I always enjoy writing somewhat repressed characters who are just discovering their own sexuality, so Mr. Dalman’s guilty dream about Ms. Casimir is a part I particularly liked.

Lady Sally and the Automaton Horse by Slave Nano
“She noticed Lord Melchiot ogling her magnificent bust as she leaned over him with the sugar tongs. “One lump, or two?” she asked.”
I like this because it neatly captures the spirit of the character. There’s a comic element to Lady Sally; she’s aware of her assets, and knows how to use them! She is flamboyant and over the top; balancing the humour you can draw from this with the dominatrix side of her persona, which has her always coming out on top, is what defines her and, from the author’s point of view, makes her such a fun character to write.

Heat, Steam, and the Vital Machine by Alex Douglas
I love the last paragraph because I could sit on a beach and watch sunrise after sunrise and never get bored of seeing it, so there’s always something magical about a new day. Imagine what it would be like if you’d never seen it before.

The Most Perfect Sin by Slave Nano
“And doth it not follow, therefore, that God is in my cock and that God is in your cunt? And when my tail is stiff, is that not godly? For whatsoever is done with the spirit of God inside us, is that not good and godly? And when a prick doth penetrate a quim, are we not rejoicing in God’s love? For doth God not love his children unreservedly, sinning as well as praying. Indeed, art those most perfect which doth commit the greatest sin with least remorse!”
This paragraph is my favourite because it puts the Ranter argument so directly. It also sets up the premise for the rest of the story, which is whether Tobias Coppe, my Ranter preacher, can successfully use this argument to seduce the chaste Puritan maiden, Chastity Clarkson. Of course, the title of the story is drawn from the last line of this paragraph and is actually a direct quote from a Ranter pamphlet.

Infernal Machine by Elizabeth Schechter
“Gently, I eased my tool into the opening, easing my way down the tight passage. I made sure to restrain myself, knowing that as eager as I was, I might damage something if I simply rushed in. Instead I moved deliberately, seeking the treasures hidden within....”
That's the opening paragraph, and it is hands-down my favorite, just because it's not what you think.

Clockwork Dolls by R.W. Whitefield
I'm very pleased with the first two lines, where the reader is introduced to the idea of Mundus and the motif of Londinium Novum--a shining brass gear (suggested a planned, technocratic society) set onto a jeweler's case of green velvet (suggesting the ostentation and perfectionism of the society). Even before I started this particular story, it was very much a part of my steampunk world.

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About the Book

Of Passion and Steam: Affairs of a Curious and Sordid Nature

Herein you will discover, presented for your amusement and edification, a varied and unique assortment of tales to awaken the senses and tantalize the imagination. In your very hands, or perhaps within your pocket analytical engine, you hold twelve tales of desire and adventure, the contents of which include but are not limited to desire outside matrimonial bounds, the miracles of modern medicine, theatrical pursuits both on and off the stage, and forbidden love across lines of class and propriety!

Within the pages of this volume are heroes and villains, lovers both requited and not, all seeking their satisfaction amid the smoke and mysteries and miraculous automata of the age of Passion and Steam!

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Blog Tour & Giveaway

Head on over to the Of Passion and Steam Blog Tour for full details, and enter to win a free e-book edition of the book!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

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

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


WTF Friday: The Queen of Swords by Alana Melos

Waiting on Wednesday: Tyrant's Throne by Sebastien de Castell

#NonFiction Review: Fascist Lizards from Outer Space by Dan Copp

Vampires, Zombies, and Necromancers: Catching up with the review pile . . .


Coming up this week, a steampunk themed guest post from the gang at ForbiddenFiction.

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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.

A handfull of digital additions to the review pile this week:

Of Passion and Steam: Affairs of a Curious and Sordid Nature
heroes and villains seeking their satisfaction amid the smoke and mysteries and miraculous automata of the age of Passion and Steam

The Angel Alejandro by Alistair Cross
townspeople are changing in outrageous and appalling ways, and it's up to a young woman, a man without a past, a psychic, and a local priest to save them



River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
alternate history with man-eating bayou hippo mayhem

Something Violent by Kristopher Rufty
a couple who kidnap their marriage counselor to rekindle their love of killing together


My alter-ego, of course, did pick up one potential WTF Friday read:

Pervikar (The Adventures Of Pervikar Book 1) by John Evans
a half-ogre farm-boy journeys across the strange, magical world of Provost, righting wrongs and bedding women


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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.

Not quite there yet, but I'm slowly catching up with the review pile:

Death's Mistress by Terry Goodkind
Nicci & Nathan tangle with street life, fight lethal battles on the high seas, and face a vast magical confrontation far from home

Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose: An Alchymical Triptych by Storm Constantine
A stand-alone trilogy of connected novellas, are witness accounts that bring light to one of the darkest corners of Wraeththu history

The War of the First Day by Thomas Fleet
When the King of Taxis invades the witchlands, witch apprentice Lilta is ordered to kill the King and capture his infant son



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, January 20, 2017

WTF Friday: The Queen of Swords by Alana Melos

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.



After my introduction to Alana Melos with The Erotic Worlds of the Janus Key Chronicles, I was eager to sample her other series. I was actually debating between the Rock Hardin: Agent of A.S.S. series or her Delilah Devilshot books when I remembered that I had audiobooks of the first two Villainess stories sitting on my phone. With the gym beckoning, I decided to take Caprice along with me. Good choice.

The Queen of Swords was dark, decadent, depraved fun. The Villainess series is what I would classify as erotic sci-fi adventure, a tale of supervillains and monstrous freaks. Caprice is one such villainess - a violent, antisocial telepath. As dangerous as she is beautiful, she can get inside people's minds, read their thoughts, influence their emotions, and even exert a little old-fashioned mind control. When that's not enough, she can also manipulate them physically, throwing them across the room with a thought while she mentally dodges their bullets.

While the storyline in this first installment is pretty standard comic book stuff - invade the impenetrable fortress, kill the good guys, steal the secret technology, and get out - the execution is what makes it so much fun. Caprice is not just a kick-ass character, she's a fun narrator. She's arrogant, self-absorbed to the point of conceit, and not at all shy about sharing her darkest desires, but she also has a great sense of humor, and can manage witty banter with the best of the comic book world.

The action here is top-notch, equal parts brutal and frantic, with supervillains, metahumans, and a vampire all thrown into the mix. Think Batman, crossed with The Matrix, by way of The Expendables, and you get the idea. As for the erotic element, it's really only suggested or teased in the first few chapters (although her telepathic banter with her vampire accomplice is pretty explicit), but Melos definitely delivers the goods in the second half of the book, complete with a femdom/bondage session that is completely-over-the-top when experienced through Caprice.

As for the audiobook experience, this is probably the first listening experience I can say I genuinely enjoyed. Rebecca Wolfe does a fantastic job of reading the story, and of capturing Caprice's voice. She has just the right attitude, and just the right personality to pull off both action and erotica, maintaining the excitement without ever sounding cheesy. I already looked ahead, and I'm glad to see she narrates The Prince of Cups as well.

If you're up for a solid mix of sociopathic supervillains, metahumans, monsters, action, mayhem, and erotica . . . if you watched Deadpool and wished it was a little darker, and a little kinkier . . . then you'll get a genuine kick out of The Queen of Swords.

Audiobook Edition
Published December 17, 2015 by Alana Melos Erotica

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Tyrant's Throne by Sebastien de Castell

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

Tyrant's Throne by Sebastien de Castell
Expected publication: April 6th 2017 by Jo Fletcher Books

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: Aline, the king's daughter, is about to take the throne and restore the rule of law once and for all.

But for the Greatcoats, nothing is ever that simple. In the neighboring country of Avares, an enigmatic new warlord is uniting the barbarian armies that have long plagued Tristia's borders--and even worse, he is rumored to have a new ally: Trin, who's twice tried to kill Aline to claim the throne of Tristia for herself. With the armies of Avares at her back, led by a bloodthirsty warrior, she'll be unstoppable.

Falcio, Kest, and Brasti race north to stop her, but in those cold and treacherous climes they discover something altogether different, and far more dangerous: a new player is planning to take the throne of Tristia, and with a sense of dread the three friends realize that the Greatcoats, for all their skill, may not be able to stop him.

As the nobles of Tristia and even the Greatcoats themselves fight over who should rule, the Warlord of Avares threatens to invade. With so many powerful contenders vying for power, it will fall to Falcio to render the one verdict he cannot bring himself to utter, much less enforce. Should he help crown the young woman he vowed to put on the throne, or uphold the laws he swore to serve?


The Greatcoats is one of those series that just keeps getting better. I have no idea how he can possibly top Saint's Blood . . . but I'm anxious to find out.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#NonFiction Review: Fascist Lizards from Outer Space by Dan Copp

I was 9 years old when the original V miniseries debuted. Having grown up on Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers (at the time, Star Trek was just that old show my parents watched), I was absolutely blown away. I was allowed to stay up long enough each night to watch the first hour, and then had to watch the rest on VHS the next day. I was just as hooked on V: The Final Battle when it aired, and I remember being completely devastated (as only a kid can be) when I missed the final episode of the short-lived TV series due to a poorly time sleepover.

I read the novelization by A.C. Crispin (still one of my all-time favorite reads), all of the tie-in books, and the entire DC comics series. The only reason I didn't have the lone 12-inch Visitor figure is because it never seemed to make its way to Canada. If you're ever stuck for a gift idea, one of those figures would be awesome. Just leaving that out there . . .

Anyway, that's a long sort-of introduction to Fascist Lizards from Outer Space: The Politics, Literary Influences and Cultural History of Kenneth Johnson's V. The moment I spotted that digital ARC on NetGalley, with the familiar image of the jackbooted Visitor standing before the graffiti'd poster, I knew I had to give it a read.

What struck me most in reading Dan Copp's book is just how little I understood about the phenomenon back then. To me, it was just an action-packed sci-fi spectacle, full of cool ships, awesome lasers, and kick-ass aliens with hidden reptilian faces. Don't get me wrong, I did understand the holocaust references, but I had no idea how deep its political commentary on fascism ran. Similarly, living in a pre-internet age where TV Guide and Starlog were the sum total of my pop culture knowledge, I had no idea that Kenneth Johnson's involvement ended with the first miniseries, and I had no concept of the budget constraints that contributed to the franchise's demise.

Now, looking back with Fascist Lizards from Outer Space as a roadmap, it's astounding to realize how and why the franchise changed. With the departure of Kenneth Johnson, the intelligent political themes were dropped, the dark social commentary was torn away, and things descended into cheesy sci-fi clichés. I remember being disappointed in the bad effects, reused footage, and character deaths in the TV series, and I didn't quite understand why Diana swapped out her sexy uniform for soap opera gowns, but now it all makes sense. In the span of just a few years, a brilliant sci-fi themed story of fascism became a cheap soap opera . . . and don't even get me started on the lame 2009 reboot that completely missed the point.

I'm glad Dan talks about Kenneth Johnson's personally penned sequel to the original miniseries, V: The Second Generation, because it was in reading that book that I first understand what happened to the franchise. Dan, of course, goes into much greater detail, and paints a much broader picture of the influences and inspirations, outside forces, and critical reception. Although the book repeats itself in places, and probably could have been a bit shorter, it's still a fascinating read. I can honestly say I have a better understanding and a greater appreciation for the saga, and a deeper sense of remorse over what could have been. Even if you were never a fan, this is a must-read for any fan who has ever wondered about how and why broadcast television destroys so many of our beloved genre franchises.

Paperback
Expected publication: April 1st 2017 by McFarland & Company

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.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Vampires, Zombies, and Necromancers: Catching up with the review pile . . .

I used to feel bad about these catch-up posts, but I've actually come to like them. There's a definite appeal in getting straight to the point and talking about my reaction to the text. Not that they'll ever replace my regular review format, but I find that they've freed me to read more, and that I'm enjoying more of what I read as a result - which is awesome for all involved.


Zombies in the East End by Roxanne Dent

Although it had a strong start, it felt like the story just sort of sloughed off all the quirky elements about halfway through, squandering a lot of its potential in the process. What's left is a decent period-era horror story, but it could have been much more.

Billie is an interesting character, a kick-butt heroine who is completely unnerved by her first zombie encounter, but she's somewhat overshadowed by Callie, the older, more sophisticated woman with more personality and more of a back story. Their romance is sweetly awkward, but a little too convenient to ring true.

The story opens with a lot of steampunk goodness, including Billie's robotic hand, airships, and more, but all of that is forgotten by the end. In fact, the best weapon in the book is a hooked chain, which is about as homespun basic as it gets. The zombies are probably the best part of the book, fast, violent, hungry monsters with a dangerous secret. It was a fun read, something to be breezed through in a single sitting, I just wish the steampunk quirks had been maintained.


The Dead Seekers by Barb & J.C. Hendee

As much as I enjoyed the first few Noble Dead books, this just didn't have the same hook for me. It's well-written, with a story that flows easily across the page, lending itself to a very quick read . . . but that's also the problem. The story was just too light for my tastes, without the kind of character depth, world-building, and atmosphere that I was looking for.

It opened strong, and I liked the characters of Tris and Mari, but I didn't care so much for the telling of the tale. It was very heavy on flashbacks and info dumps, and I found the character interactions a bit stilted.

I suspect I might have enjoyed this more, had I not previously read the Noble Dead Saga.


Wise Phuul by Daniel Stride
A fun story that throws the reader right into the midst of things, with no introduction, info-dumps, or hand-holding offered. It gets right to the story, and lets the characters lead us on our way.

Magic, faith, and politics all play a part in a book that's far more complex than I expected. This is one of those books I wish I could have read in paperback, with the glossary of names and places a bit more readily accessible. The story itself is a bit different from the usual epic fantasy narrative, with Phuul providing an intimate view of a conflict he's neither destined nor equipped to shape.

I liked the characters here, the word-building, and (perhaps most importantly) the necromantic aspects. Not just window dressing, the dead are an integral part of the world and its story. It's a gritty world and a gritty story, with some genuine drama and tension, but there's also ample humor to keep it from getting too bogged down in gloom.


Blood Fiends' Bane by William Stacey

Despite several stabs at it (no pun intended), I'm afraid this just wasn't to my tastes.

If I had to peg it down, I'd say there were two areas where expectations and experience just didn't connect. Firstly, I found the story to be too much Vikings and too little Vampires, and I'm simply not that excited about Viking-era fantasy. Second, I found it to be too focused on conflict and too little on the quest, where I was hoping for the opposite.

Don't get me wrong, it certainly had potential, with some solid writing and some decent character building, and from what I read of it the action was well done, but the story just didn't hold my interest.


Thirteen Hours by Francis Gideon

This one just didn't work for me. It felt disjointed, as if too many story threads were forced together, and the logic of the story fell apart early on when I found myself on the side of the academic bad guys. As much as the country longs for a cure to the ongoing zombie crisis, turning them into immortal cyborgs hardly seems like the best idea.

For a book that was advertised as the story of Hans, his wife, and her lover, it's really the story of Hans, his scientific discovery, his hurt feelings, and his infatuation with a dead man, a stranger whom he inexplicably wants to wake up and love him.

Character motivations didn't feel genuine to me, and the story shifted too often to make sense.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

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

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


#Adventure Review: Pirate by Clive Cussler & Robin Burcell

Waiting on Wednesday: Spymaster by Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes

#Fantasy Review: The Last Sacrifice by James A. Moore


Coming up this week, the first review catch-up post of the year.

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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.

Just the one new additions to the review pile this week:

Death's Mistress by Terry Goodkind
Nicci & Nathan tangle with street life, fight lethal battles on the high seas, and face a vast magical confrontation far from home 


My alter-ego, of course, did pick up some potential WTF Friday reads:

The Dark Molly Trilogy by C.S. Anderson
A Master Vampire, his coven of Dark Adepts, a failed experiment, and a rampage of revenge 

Vampire: Origin of the Species by Don-Paul Shaeffer
Murderous vampires develop into a predatory species with a blood lust matched by unquenchable desire for sexual pleasures of the flesh, pornography and sexual domination

A Carnival of Phantasms by Leona D. Reish
An exclusive party shrouded in mystery and decadence, where fantasy and reality blur into a night of pleasure and terror alike


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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.

Not quite there yet, but I'm slowly catching up with the review pile:

Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose: An Alchymical Triptych by Storm Constantine
A stand-alone trilogy of connected novellas, are witness accounts that bring light to one of the darkest corners of Wraeththu history

The War of the First Day by Thomas Fleet
When the King of Taxis invades the witchlands, witch apprentice Lilta is ordered to kill the King and capture his infant son


What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

#Adventure Review: Pirate by Clive Cussler & Robin Burcell

Every reader has their literary crack, that one author they turn to for reliably mindless entertainment. For my wife, it's James Patterson. For me, it's Clive Cussler. Yes, his books are formulaic and clichéd, devoid of any real tension, and rely far too much on coincidence. There's very little real science or archeology to them anymore, and the bevy of co-authors means the new characters lack the consistent depth of Dirk Pitt. Despite all that, the books are a ton of fun, and an easy read to breeze through in a couple of sittings.

Pirate is my first adventure with Sam and Remi Fargo since The Tombs (and my first with Robin Burcell as co-author), but it was precisely what I was craving. There's a missing royal treasure, a cypher wheel MacGuffin for decoding the hidden map, a couple of easily-looted shipwrecks, rich bad guys with guns, a visit to Oak Island, abandoned castles, and even some digging into the Robin Hood myth.

Everything happens at a breakneck pace, with an 800-year old mystery solved far too easily, and more eye-rolling at coincidences than I'm accustomed to, but it still provided the entertaining diversion I craved.

Hardcover, 387 pages
Published September 13th 2016 by G.P. Putnam's Sons

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Spymaster by Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes

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

Spymaster by Margaret Weis & Robert Krammes
Expected publication: March 21st 2017 by Tor Books

A bold new swashbuckling fantasy adventure set in the land of the exciting Dragon Brigade trilogy.

Politics, court intrigue, and piracy combine in this gripping fantasy adventure. On a world already riven by the ancient hatred between the Rosian and Freyan empires, privateers of each nation have long preyed on the ships of the other. What few realize is that a sinister cabal controlled by a rogue dragon is not only behind this piracy, but is organizing criminal enterprises all over the world.

As one privateer and her dragon corsairs try to keep their enterprise afloat, they are caught up in a conspiracy hatched by the cabal . . . and threatened by a mysterious magic crafter who works in the shadows.

Freya, in turmoil because of the accidental death of the heir to the throne, is also deeply in debt. Sir Henry Wallace, their master spy, is charged with replenishing the treasury by inviting dragons from Travia to make Freya their home—a decision that will have disastrous consequences for everyone involved.

In a riveting novel of pulse-pounding suspense, the ruthless conspiracy of humans and dragons plots against Sir Henry and the Dragon Corsairs.. And waiting in the wings, planning to throw everything in turmoil, is a young man known as Prince Tom, who claims to be Freya's true and rightful king.


Swashbuckling fantasy from Weis and Krammes? Count me in - happy to have a new series to look forward to.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#Fantasy Review: The Last Sacrifice by James A. Moore

A dark tome of grimdark fantasy, The Last Sacrifice is a story that begins with the kind of epic journey that would end any other book. Instead of taking an entire novel to breach the forbidden lands, confront the servants of the gods, and reclaim his family, Brogan McTyre does all that in the first few chapters. That his quest doesn't end well shouldn't come as a surprise, but just how much damage his intervention causes is staggering.

James A. Moore offers up a story where the threat of divine retribution is a foregone conclusion. Having been denied their sacrifice, the gods immediately set about destroying the world, erasing one land after another in a catastrophic torrent of storms, earthquakes, floods, and landslides. All they want is the men who foiled them for a replacement sacrifice, and the servants that were stolen from them. Unfortunately, Brogan and his men aren't about to give themselves up, and the slavers to whom they sold the servants aren't about to give up their high-priced goods.

This is a fast-paced, violent, imaginative read with some deep philosophical roots. It's not blatant or heavy-handed, but there are questions of ethics and morality throughout. Good people do horrible things for good reasons, and more than once we're forced to confront the laws of man versus those of the gods. Just about everybody understands why Brogan broached the forbidden lands, and even kings admire him for defending his family. Similarly, not even the doomed family who helps them can blame the two slaves who escape their divine captivity. As unfortunate circumstances lead to difficult choices, however, the story gets rather muddy.

The characters here are all well-drawn, carefully constructed individuals with real personalities and genuine motives. Even the servants of the gods are permitted 'human' roles, forcing us to sympathize with both sides of the battle. As for the wraith-like Undying, they are a supernatural horror to be reckoned with, monstrous forces of divine wrath who are fully-fleshed characters on their own. Although we never see fully within their cowls, what we do see, hear, and feel is enough to add a very Cthulhu-like edge to the horror side of fantasy.

At this point I have no idea where The Last Sacrifice is headed, or how Moore can possibly resolve all the conflicts without betraying the sacrifices involved . . . and I love it. This is a story that turns the genre story arc on its head, mixes up the motives of heroes and villains, and muddies the waters of divine intervention. A fantastic, surprising start to a major new series.

Paperback, 400 pages
Published January 3rd 2017 by Angry Robot

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.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

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

In case you missed it, we had quite a kick-off to the new year . . .


WTF Friday: Oysters and Pearls: Collected Stories by Mitzi Szereto

Fantasy Review: Recluce Tales by L.E. Modesitt Jr.

Horror Review: Little Heaven by Nick Cutter

Fantasy Review: The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams


Coming up this week, a review of The Last Sacrifice by James A. Moore.

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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.

One big new ARC added to the shelves this week, and a pair of novellas that intrigued me:

With Blood Upon the Sand by Bradley P. Beaulieu  [February 7, 2017]
the second book in the Song of Shattered Sands epic fantasy trilogy, featuring elite warriors, devastating secrets, covert missions

Zombies in the East End by Roxanne Dent [January 18th, 2017]
a woman with a robotic hand, the woman she secretly loves, and a hospital for prostitutes overrun with the walking dead

Thirteen Hours by Francis Gideon [January 4th, 2017]
a scientist, his wife, and her lover scour the back alleys of London for a body on which to perfect an untested cure for an ongoing zombie crisis



Nothing new for the WTF Friday shelves this week (shocking, I know), but I did make one new purchase:

Pirate by Clive Cussler and Robin Burcell
husband and wife treasure hunters, a secret map, and the search for an historic fortune


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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.

Not quite there yet, but I'm slowly catching up with the review pile:

The Dead Seekers by Barb Hendee & J.C. Hendee
an engrossing mix of intrigue, epic fantasy, and horror, where the destinies of two hunters shaped by the shadows of their pasts are about to collide

Blood Fiends' Bane by William Stacey
a mystical weapon waits for a hero . . . but evil stirs . . . in a a thrilling dark fantasy twist on vampire and Norse mythology

Wise Phuul by Daniel Stride
walking corpses, black-market liquor, a gothic monstrosity of an Empire, secret police, and a Necromancer/Library Clerk



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, January 6, 2017

WTF Friday: Oysters and Pearls: Collected Stories by Mitzi Szereto

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.



You wouldn't suspect it from the cover (or even from the cover blurb), but the Collected Stories of Oysters and Pearls have some real bite to them. It's a subtle bite, one that nibbles away at your senses, before drawing blood in a final twist, and I'm pleased to say familiarity doesn't dull the oyster's edge at all.

The Blood Moon Kiss was a fictional take on the vampire soap opera, full of atmosphere and some real drama, despite guessing early on where the story was headed.

It's All Right, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) was the first story that shocked me with its ending, a sadly humorous tale of an aging marriage, with a quiet twist dropped in at the end.

Leaving on Kyoto Time was one of those stories that opens with the promise of cross-cultural romance, but which gradually sours, until the sadness resolves itself in another quiet final bite.

Mrs. Atropos was one of my favorite stories in the collection, perhaps because I clued into the mythological connection so early on. There's a lot of subtle hints and clues here as to how it will all end, with some amusing and arousing reminiscing along the way.

Moonburn was perhaps the most erotically charged story in the collection, a nocturnal tale with an exhibitionist goth fetish, while My Zombie, My Lover and Hell is Where the Heart is were even darker tales with sensual surprises, yet none of them went quite where I expected them to, which I loved.

Escape was another favorite for me, a story that worked as well as a slice of erotica as a sword-and-sorcery story, with a definite sense of drama and suspense to the titular escape.

The Dracula Club and My Lover were a pair of fantastically dark, dangerous tales, one that plays with a supernatural tease, and another that embraces the paranormal wholeheartedly - intensely erotic and full of atmosphere.

I already knew that Mitzi Szereto was a talented editor, having put together collections like Red Velvet and Absinthe & Thrones of Desire, but this was my first opportunity to read her work in an isolated setting. She is a remarkably varied author, with stories that cross genres and geographies, but what stands out most is her unique way with words. These stories are that are as well polished as a pearl, romantic and sensual, flowing so easily across the page that it's all-too-easy to be surprised time and time again by that bite I mentioned earlier.

Kindle Edition, 168 pages
Published November 3rd 2016 by Midnight Rain Publishing