Saturday, August 29, 2015

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

A quiet week on pretty much all fronts, but still some interesting stuff going on (and coming in), including a big 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.

A bit of a mixed bag this week with 1 new review title, a pair of purchases, and a pair of Kindle freebies (because I don't already have enough books to read - LOL).


Vienna by William S. Kirby

Vienna is a unique and unforgettable novel. . . . Inspired by a classic Sherlock Holmes story, Vienna reimagines Holmes and Watson for the 21st century

It started as nothing more than a one-night stand . . .

Justine is an A-list fashion model on a photo shoot in Europe. Adored by half the world, she can have whomever she wants, but she’s never met anyone like the strange English girl whose bed she wakes up in one morning.

Vienna is an autistic savant, adrift in a world of overwhelming patterns and connections only she can see. Socially awkward and inexperienced, she’s never been with anyone before, let alone a glamorous supermodel enmeshed in a web of secrets and intrigue.

When Justine’s current beau is murdered in the bathroom of her hotel room, she suddenly finds herself thrown into the middle of a deadly conspiracy focusing on a set of antique wooden mannikins—the same ones that are the centerpieces of the photo shoot.

What secret do the mannikins hide, and why is it worth killing over?

Drawn together by an attraction neither of them can explain, Justine and Vienna are pursued across Europe by paparazzi, tabloid headlines . . . and the mystery of Vienna’s own shadowy past, which holds the key to everything.


The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

You know how all those old fairy tales take you through lots of scary adventures till you finally reach that inevitable line: "And they lived happily ever after..." Guess what? It's not true. Life in never-never land isn't all sweetness and light. Cinderella - whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (nee Danielle de Glas) - does marry Prince Armand. And (if you can ignore the pigeon incident) their wedding is a dream-come-true.

But not long after the "happily ever after," Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia - otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty - comes to the rescue (she's a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.

That's when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her very own Secret Service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy-duty flirting.

Can three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland's most nefarious villains?


Brutal Passions by J.E. Keep & M. Keep

“You don’t take it easy on a fella, do you?”

Ruki’s powerful. Strong. And she's on an adventure of her very own, seeking out greatness and tales worthy of song.

She thirsts for glory, and when she stumbles upon a pretty young man in the wreckage of a caravan, it's the beginning of the biggest challenge in her life. Can she save the boy or will she instead be tempted by the muscle-bound dragon-warrior that's in pursuit of him?


The Atomic Sea: Volume One by Jack Conner

Epic adventure in a strange world by bestselling author Jack Conner. A thousand years ago, the sea began to change, and the change spread. Now the boiling, toxic, lightning-wreathed Atomic Sea has encompassed every ocean on the planet, and the creatures that live in it have become mutated and unnatural. The sea's taint can infect any human who comes in contact with it or with unprocessed seafood, killing them . . . or altering them. No one knows why the sea has become this way or what it portends, only that it's irrevocably changed the world.

Meanwhile, world war has erupted, and the small country of Ghenisa, like many others, is tottering on the brink of collapse under the onslaught of the Empire of Octung. Dr. Francis Avery, a middle-aged widower, is aboard a military whaling ship far out on the Atomic Sea when a series of murders onboard propels him down the rabbit-hole of danger and terror unlike any other. Soon he becomes aware of a spy on the ship, but that's just the beginning. With the help of the grizzled whaler Janx and a mysterious woman named Layanna, he will embark on an epic quest to save Ghenisa from Octung and unravel the secrets of the Atomic Sea. This is the opening volume of a multi-volume saga of adventure and high stakes in an awe-inspiring world unlike any you've ever seen before. Welcome to the world of the Atomic Sea.


Lost Oasis by T.M. Bown

An Ancient Persian army lost in the desert for 2,500 years...the fabulous, legendary lost oasis of Zerzura!

After he discovers a Persian gold coin deep in the Egyptian desert, geologist John Cavanaugh leads a team of archaeologists back to the site, unknowingly triggering the rebirth of a multitude of long forgotten horrors. But as the expedition approaches its goal, Cavanaugh realizes the worst: each of his crew members is along for a different reason. Fame, riches, love, and remnants of a dark past fuel their actions and lead them to individual fates that none of them bargained for.

Lost Oasis is a dark, fast-paced adventure thriller that takes the reader on two unique safaris 2,500 years apart, through a surreal, malevolent desert where they encounter friendship and betrayal, ambition and oblivion, discovery and loss, joy and terror, love and death.

TM Bown is a PhD consulting geologist who has participated on 48 overseas expeditions, including twenty-two seasons in Egypt and ten elsewhere in the Middle East. In addition to his geologic studies, he has co-authored four articles on the oldest road in the world (IV Dynasty of Pharaonic Egypt), and he was scientific consultant for the English Channel 4 TV Documentary Series “Ends of the Earth” on the 2002 program, entitled The Lost Army of King Cambyses. Dr. Bown lives near Denver, Colorado, where he is working on a second novel which also partly takes place in ancient Egypt.

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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.

Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey continues to be my read of leisure, and while it had a slow start, I'm really enjoying where the story is taking us; The Crimson Corset by Alistair Cross has a more leisurely pace than I expected at the start, but it's a fascinating small-town vampire tale; and finally I've decided to throw caution to the wind, ignore release dates, and dive into Crimson Shore by Preston & Child simply because I can.


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, August 28, 2015

WTF Friday: Naked Serial Killers in Volkswagens by Catfish McDaris

Every once in a while, as the mood strikes me, I like to indulge in those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't get a lot of press, and which rarely get any retail shelf space.



They're often an underground of sort of literature, best shared through guilty whispers, and often with embarrassed grins. These are our WTF Friday reads!

This week we're once again turning the WTF keys over to Donald, who reviews the funniest book he's read in a long time . . .


Catfish McDaris takes us on a cross country train ride in just because. Is this an "auto biography" with some slap stick, bizarro humor? If you know a few things about the man they call "Catfish McDaris" then you will actually draw a mental picture of his main character Barge. Along the way on this crazy adventure Barge comes across one of those famous serial killers naked in a different color Volkswagen, like a "Forest Gump" scene digitally placed into the moment.

A man named Barge - his friends call him Bag - is dubbed the one for a mission. After a tribe takes him under their wing and helps him defeat some strange man eating creatures, Barge starts his cross country train ride.....sex, drugs and just out of this world rock and roll.

Twin sisters who makes sandwiches wiping their bodily fluids on the bread, shaved armpit and vagina hairs, masturbating with vacuum attachments, A recipe for a party goer that won't go home, toilet paper soaked in hot pepper juices, dicks sliced off by a lawn mower and stitched back on. All this and much more and the ending question.....Whatever happen to Barge?

Read this humor, gut wrenching entertainment with cameos from David Berkowitz, Ted Bundy & Charles Manson (to name a few) in one helluva ride.


Paperback, 50 pages
Published August 15th 2015 by Weekly Weird Monthly

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Waiting On Wednesday: The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley

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

The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley
Expected publication: March 15th 2016 by Tor Books

The climactic third and final novel in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne

The trilogy that began with The Emperor's Blades and continued in The Providence of Fire reaches its epic conclusion, as war engulfs the Annurian Empire.

The ancient csestriim are back to finish their purge of humanity; armies march against the capital; leaches, solitary beings who draw power from the natural world to fuel their extraordinary abilities, maneuver on all sides to affect the outcome of the war; and capricious gods walk the earth in human guise with agendas of their own.

But the three imperial siblings at the heart of it all--Valyn, Adare, and Kaden--come to understand that even if they survive the holocaust unleashed on their world, there may be no reconciling their conflicting visions of the future.


Yes, we're looking ahead to next Spring already. Brian announced on Facebook last week that the book is finished and off to the copyeditor, 12 years after he began work on the trilogy. It's already available for pre-order, and the first 2 books were amazing, so what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Fantasy Review: The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic (GIVEAWAY)

Although it shares the same world as The Iron Wolves and The White Towers, Andy Remic's first book in The Blood Dragon Empire is an entirely different. While those books were very much high-stakes epic fantasies, complete with massive battles and bloodshed, The Dragon Engine is more of a traditional quest tale - albeit one that subverts the usual tropes.

For starters, our heroes seem to be the typical gang of adventurers - complete with barbarian, archer, cleric, assassin, and more - but they're actually retired war veterans whose quest days are comfortably behind them. As it turns out, one of them is dying of cancer, one is drinking his sorrows away, and several are nursing broken hearts. While all but one would have turned down an adventure based solely on greed, they find a common purpose in seeking out a magical cure for their dying companion.

While you don't need any prior knowledge of the two Rage of Kings novels to enjoy this, fans will be pleased to discover that King Yoon is still in control, and as debauched as ever. He has serious competition for the most over-the-top, scene-chewing villain however, in the form of First Cardinal Skalg, High Priest of the Church of Hate. While the Dwarves here are hearty and stoic, as you'd expect, they're also sadistically prejudiced against the surface, exceptionally cruel, and on the brink of civil war. They're also presumed long-extinct, which poses a challenge for our heroes, who intend to help themselves to their forgotten treasures.

Where the story takes a sharp left turn in terms of both plot and tone is in the second half of the novel, following the heroes arrival beneath the mountain. What began a fun adventures becomes very dark, very quickly, as our heroes are taken captive. Without saying too much, the torture they endure at the hands of the Dwarves is not for the squeamish - it's cruel, it's painful, and it crosses lines that will make some readers very uncomfortable. What's important is that it's not done merely for shock value. Remic has established his heroes, exposed their faults and their flaws, and also pointed out their all-too-human weaknesses. It's important that they be tested, if not broken, if they're to shake off the complacency of retirement and become the heroes that the world needs once again.

The final chapters are some of the most powerful Remic has ever written, with the core conflicts coming together in a climactic clash. It is here that the true significance of the The Dragon Engine comes clear, leaving us with a cliffhanger that poses a dire threat for the world above. It is a very different story arc than the Rage of Kings, but readers who appreciate a more mature, more adult, no-hold-barred kind of fantasy that rivals any big screen R-rated action flick will once again find a lot to enjoy here.

Bring on Twilight of the Dragons!


ebook, 267 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2015 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 honest review.

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GIVEAWAY

Thanks to the awesome gang at Angry Robot Books, we have five (5) copies of The Dragon Engine to giveaway to some lucky readers (winner's choice of paperback or e-book). Enter below . . . and good luck!


Andy Remic on Unashamedly Edgy Fantasy (GUEST POST & GIVEAWAY)

Has there been a shift towards an edgier, sexier, more violent side of fantasy?

My fantasy novels are unashamedly edgy, often containing anti-heroes or downright villains as “heroes”. These characters are dangerous, realistic, violent, extremely violent, they often swear and fight and have copious amounts of sex. There are monsters who eat through spines, bite off heads, and are exterminated in bloody showers of bone, gristle and brain slop.

My own fantasy reading is currently David Gemmell, Joe Abercrombie and Richard Morgan. Abercrombie and Morgan especially are considered “edgy and violent”, and I’d argue Gemmell’s fantasy has its fair share of violent conflict – just look at dark characters like Waylander, Jarek Mace or even Druss. I’ve also recently been reading Monument by Ian Graham, which has a drunken vagrant as central protagonist (so hardly sexy, but definitely edgy and violent) and Richard Ford and John Gwynne also refuse to pull their punches in the edgy and violent stakes.

My childhood reading, the texts which influenced me to write fantasy during my formative years, began with Tolkien, followed by Magician by Raymond E. Feist, and these were soon superseded by Moorcock, Gemmell, and Peter Morwood’s The Horse Lord, The Demon Lord, The Dragon Lord and The Warlord’s Domain. I lapped up books like The War of Powers by Robert E. Vardeman and Victor Milan. I read the Split Infinity series by Piers Anthony, which flipped between SF and fantasy settings. There were the Spellsinger books by Alan Dean Foster, the Shannara books by Terry Brooks and the (now much criticised) Gor books by John Norman. I also imbibed the entirety of Howard’s Conan novels, and set about devouring anything by Robert Holdstock.

Now, some of my formative reading could be considered “tame” by today’s standards. What I’ve noticed predominantly is the change in language, with more explicit violence and definitely more explicit swearing. But are today’s novels really that much more edgy, sexier and more violent? Conan took zero crap from anybody, and his sword smashed enough skulls to bloody shards to give me violent excited dreams for months. Morwood’s books had the brooding, very dangerous (and very honourable) Aldric Talvalin as main protagonist, a man about as violent as one could write. As I mentioned, Gemmell’s work was filled with dark heroes and violence, the odd sex scene and some very edgy characters. Yes, the Shannara novels were as twee as the Tolkien books they so desperately wanted to be, but if you’ve read The Dancers at the End of Time by Moorcock you’ll know you can’t get much more decadent than the characters and situations therein.

Currently, there are a slew of edgy, sexy, violent novels, but there are also plenty of more traditional fantasy works, with authors like Juliette McKenna and Ian Irvine leaping specifically to mind. And that’s without mentioning the late, great Terry Pratchett, who achieved wonders in his books without “edge”, “sex” or even “ violence”. If this were a topic on a set of ancient weighing scales, I’d say the balance may well have tipped gently from one side to the other, but thankfully there are enough great writers out there to provide fantasy to satisfy everybody’s taste, no matter how much edge you want in your fantasy pie.

Andy Remic, August 2015

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About the Author

Andy Remic is a British writer with a love of ancient warfare, mountain climbing and sword fighting. Once a member of the Army of Iron, he has since retired from a savage world of blood-oil magick and gnashing vachines, and works as an underworld smuggler of rare dog-gems in the seedy districts of Falanor. In his spare time, he writes out his fantastical adventures

Get closer to the mayhem at andyremic.com.

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About the Book

The Dragon Engine (The Blood Dragon Empire)
by Andy Remic

Five noble war heroes of Vagandrak get drunk one night and sign a contract – to journey to the Karamakkos in search of the Five Havens where, it is written, there is untold, abandoned wealth and, more importantly, the three Dragon Heads – jewels claimed to give unspeakable power and everlasting life to those who wield them.

But the Dragon Heads aren’t what they think, and the world has not encountered their like in generations!

Think Smaug was fierce? You ain’t seen nothing!


ebook, 267 pages
Expected publication: September 1st 2015 by Angry Robot

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GIVEAWAY

Thanks to the awesome gang at Angry Robot Books, we have five (5) copies of The Dragon Engine to giveaway to some lucky readers (winner's choice of paperback or e-book). Enter below . . . and good luck!


Saturday, August 22, 2015

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

A quiet week on pretty much all fronts, but still some interesting stuff going on (and coming in) . . .


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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 one new addition to the review shelves this week, the 4th annual anthology of international speculative fiction from the gang at Apex.

The Apex Book of World SF 4
edited by Mahvesh Murad & Lavie Tidhar

Now firmly established as the benchmark anthology series of international speculative fiction, volume 4 of The Apex Book of World SF sees debut editor Mahvesh Murad bring fresh new eyes to her selection of stories.

From Spanish steampunk and Italian horror to Nigerian science fiction and subverted Japanese folktales, from love in the time of drones to teenagers at the end of the world, the stories in this volume showcase the best of contemporary speculative fiction, wherever it’s written.

"Important to the future of not only international authors, but the entire SF community."
—Strange Horizons

Expected publication: August 25th 2015 by Apex Book Company


As well, just one new digital editions to the must-read shelves, although I have some catching up to do on the first book.

Chasing the Phoenix
by Michael Swanwick

A science fiction masterpiece from a five-time Hugo Award winner!

In the distant future, Surplus arrives in China dressed as a Mongolian shaman, leading a yak which carries the corpse of his friend, Darger. The old high-tech world has long since collapsed, and the artificial intelligences that ran it are outlawed and destroyed. Or so it seems.

Darger and Surplus, a human and a genetically engineered dog with human intelligence who walks upright, are a pair of con men and the heroes of a series of prior Swanwick stories. They travel to what was was once China and invent a scam to become rich and powerful. Pretending to have limited super-powers, they aid an ambitious local warlord who dreams of conquest and once again reuniting China under one ruler. And, against all odds, it begins to work, but it seems as if there are other forces at work behind the scenes. This is a sharp, slick, witty science fiction adventure that is hugely entertaining from one of the best SF writers alive.

Published August 11th 2015 by Tor Books

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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.

I finished The Dragon Engine by Andy Remic last night, so watch for my review (along with a guest post from Andy himself) next week. In the meantime, Kushiel's Chosen by Jacqueline Carey continues to be my read of leisure, while The Crimson Corset by Alistair Cross has my full and undivided attention on the digital front.


What's topping your shelves this week?