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Saturday, April 29, 2017

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

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



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

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


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


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



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, April 28, 2017

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

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



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

Kindle Edition
Expected publication: June 30th 2017 by PSE

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Fantasy Review: The Fathom Flies Again by James Walley

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday - The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Sci-Fi Review: Off Rock by Kieran Shea

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

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

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

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

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


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

Monday, April 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Saturday, April 22, 2017

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

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



My shelves runneth over this week, with a pair of digital additions from Rob Hayes & Terry West and a pair of physical titles from Titan Books.

Where Loyalties Lie by Rob J. Hayes
[May 26th 2017]
Where Loyalties Lie is the first book in the Best Laid Plans duology and is set in the same world as The Ties That Bind trilogy, continuing Captain Drake Morass' story where the trilogy left off.


Picaro by Terry M. West
[June 30th 2017 by PSE]
As two men travel the dusty road, their odyssey becomes a harrowing nightmare from which there is no escape. PICARO is a bloody road trip to Hell 


Off Rock by Kieran Shea
[April 18th 2017 by Titan Books]
A sardonic heist novel set in space, Off Rock is escapist adventure of the cruellest kind. Pass the popcorn.

The Dragon’s Legacy by Deborah A. Wolf
[April 4th 2017 by Titan Books]
A warrior would become Queen, a Queen would become a monster, and a young boy plays his bird-skull flute to keep the shadows of death at bay.


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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.

Juggling another pair of e-book of reads this week, with The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox & River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey, while I'm deep into my paperback of Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson.



What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

In Space No One Can See You Bleed . . . by C.T. Phipps (#scifi #guestpost)

In space no one can see you bleed...
By C.T. Phipps

One of the first reviews I ever got for my book, Lucifer's Star was one which confused me quite a bit. It said, "I absolutely love this book, great characters, great plot, and a great series of twists. However, it's way too dark so I'm going to give it two stars." I was like, "Hmm, you realize this was a dark science fiction novel, right? Then I realized, no, they probably didn't.

Later, I would continue this conversation with a friend who explained to me the problem wasn't I was writing a dark science fiction novel but I was writing a dark science fiction novel IN SPACE. "If you'd written it on Earth then you could have cyberpunk and everything is controlled by robots or it's a nuclear wasteland. In space, everyone expects things to have at least marginally gotten better. Space opera is meant to be happy don't you see?"

No I didn't.

My first space opera story was Dune, where the lesson wasn't, "Paul Atreides defeats the evil Harkonnens and builds a utopian space empire" but "Paul recruits a bunch of future Taliban who massacre billions in his name, he becomes suicidal, and his son becomes a giant worm." It's just Frank Herbert's editor wisely removed Children of Dune from the back of Dune since it wasn't the ending people were looking forward to.

I wasn't helped in this obvious misconception by also enjoying the universe of Warhammer 40K which was based on the fact the genocidal theocratic space fascists were the setting's Good GuysTM not because the authors agreed with their politics (being a bunch of 70s-80s British anarchist youth like the kind who gave us virtually every author I like in comics) but because the universe was that awful.

When creating Lucifer's Star, I made it as a deconstruction of something I loved. Which was the sanitized and heroic view of war in Star Wars. Having watched The Force Awakens, I was left with the uncomfortable feeling of, "You know, I would have done that differently." Less so than after the Prequels where all I would have kept was Qui Gon Jinn and Mace Windu but close. I wanted a universe where war was hell, the enemy really was as human as you, and space swords would draw blood.

Now, my final book wasn't anything close to Star Wars as it drew as much from Alien, Blade RunnerDune, and (if I'm being honest) Halo when it was still good. I wanted to tell a fundamentally different kind of space story than the kind I'd read. The idea of a universe where technology has grown exponentially but where human nature hasn't changed in the slightest or, if anything, has gotten worse because we've developed ever more efficient ways of killing one another.

This isn't a new idea as my references in the above paragraph show. I'm not the first person to come up with the idea of SpacePunk (to take advantage of the recent trend of applying "punk" to everything which annoys purists on the internet). Hell, it's not even new in Star Wars as Matthew Stover's Shatterpoint and Traitor novels prove. Some of my favorite authors have made a living transplanting the struggles of the past and present to the future. My favorite part of the Expanse series isn't the demonic alien fungus that threatens existence but the conflicts between Belters, Martians, and Earthlings over resources.

For me, I ended up writing a story that was based on my own experiences watching people deal with the consequences of returning home from war, the arbitrary labels we put on people, and the idea of generational conflicts. In my universe, the "Evil Empire" gets smashed to pieces by the "Good Guy" galactic power only to result in this causing people to lionize the destroyed Evil Empire as standing up to the imperialists. Veterans of the war who lost everything then recruit the next generation and fill their heads with nonsense nostalgia before sending them out to fight the next round.

I've read a lot of military science fiction over the years and while it tends to be harder than space opera, there's often a sense of 'rah, rah, rah' which accompanies the conflicts fought. Victory is usually complete in these stories with humanity's brave defenders crushing the aliens by virtue of our awesome and courage. The idea of never surrender and never give up is ingrained in the story. But, for me, I can't help but think, "What if giving up is the right decision and continued conflict is just more meat for the grinder over petty feuds?"

Food for thought.

The big thing I wanted to achieve with Lucifer's Star was to create a novel of deep contrasts. A world where mile long spaceships pound away at each other but each blast ends up causing people to be incinerated or suffocate in vacuum. A novel where a handsome prince type leads thousands into battle, only to deal with the consequences of the fact they were all killed thanks to his speeches. A place where we finally perfect androids and replicants ("bioroids") who can't rebel and then use them to fulfill every dark urge. You know, the fun sort of future we all imagined we'd experience.

Why do it in space? I dunno, I think there's just something to be said about human nature that points made about it are just more grandiose in the far future. I think we're eventually going to leave this planet but we're going to take everything with us.
Good and bad.

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About the Author

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles" (http://unitedfederationofcharles.blogspot.com/).

He's the author of The Supervillainy Saga, Cthulhu Armageddon, Straight Outta Fangton, and Esoterrorism.

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About the Book

Lucifer's Star 
by C. T. Phipps & Michael Suttkus

From the bestselling author of The Rules of Supervillainy:

Cassius Mass was the greatest star pilot of the Crius Archduchy. He fought fiercely for his cause, only to watch his nation fall to the Interstellar Commonwealth. It was only after that he realized the side he'd been fighting for was the wrong one. Now a semi-functional navigator on an interstellar freight hauler, he tries to hide who he was and escape his past. Unfortunately, some things refuse to stay buried and he ends up conscripted by the very people who destroyed his homeland.

LUCIFER'S STAR is the first novel of the Lucifer's Star series, a dark science fiction space opera set in a world of aliens, war, politics, and slavery.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday - The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Stephenson & Galland

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

The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neal Stephenson and Nicole Galland
Expected publication: June 13th 2017 by William Morrow

From bestselling author Neal Stephenson and critically acclaimed historical and contemporary commercial novelist Nicole Galland comes a captivating and complex near-future thriller combining history, science, magic, mystery, intrigue, and adventure that questions the very foundations of the modern world.

When Melisande Stokes, an expert in linguistics and languages, accidently meets military intelligence operator Tristan Lyons in a hallway at Harvard University, it is the beginning of a chain of events that will alter their lives and human history itself. The young man from a shadowy government entity approaches Mel, a low-level faculty member, with an incredible offer. The only condition: she must sign a nondisclosure agreement in return for the rather large sum of money.

Tristan needs Mel to translate some very old documents, which, if authentic, are earth-shattering. They prove that magic actually existed and was practiced for centuries. But the arrival of the scientific revolution and the Age of Enlightenment weakened its power and endangered its practitioners. Magic stopped working altogether in 1851, at the time of the Great Exhibition at London’s Crystal Palace—the world’s fair celebrating the rise of industrial technology and commerce. Something about the modern world "jams" the "frequencies" used by magic, and it’s up to Tristan to find out why.

And so the Department of Diachronic Operations—D.O.D.O. —gets cracking on its real mission: to develop a device that can bring magic back, and send Diachronic Operatives back in time to keep it alive . . . and meddle with a little history at the same time. But while Tristan and his expanding operation master the science and build the technology, they overlook the mercurial—and treacherous—nature of the human heart.

Written with the genius, complexity, and innovation that characterize all of Neal Stephenson’s work and steeped with the down-to-earth warmth and humor of Nicole Galland’s storytelling style, this exciting and vividly realized work of science fiction will make you believe in the impossible, and take you to places—and times—beyond imagining.


While there's no doubt that Stephenson is an amazing author, I also find him to be a challenging one. As fascinating as his books are, I have a hard time calling them enjoyable. For that reason, I am really curious to see what the addition of a co-author will do to make his prose a bit more accessible.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

#Fantasy Review: City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett

While I liked a lot about City of Miracles, I'm disappointed to say I didn't necessarily like the third book of The Divine Cities. It's imaginative and well-written, and bears all the hallmarks of Robert Jackson Bennett's other novels, but the more contemporary and civilized the series gets, the less compelling I find it.

Despite the magic, the swords, and the gods, this instalment is less epic fantasy and more action thriller. It's set in a city so advanced, it's almost recognizable as a contemporary second-world location, complete with highrise hotels. The technologies are far more advanced than in the first two books, right down to the public transit system that serves as a key set-piece for the action.

The other challenge for me here is that Sigrud is a bit cold/thin to be a lead protagonist. He made for a great silent sidekick in the first book, but he doesn't have the personality to drive a story on his own. That said, he fits the action hero mold very well, and would make for a far better cinematic protagonist, but here I found myself having a hard time really getting invested in his plight.

City of Miracles isn't a bad book, not by any means, it just wasn't the book I wanted following the five-star read that was City of Blades.

Kindle Edition, 464 pages
Expected publication: May 2nd 2017 by Broadway Books

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, April 15, 2017

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

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



I fell off the wagon hard these last two weeks, and my poor bookshelves are suffering for it. This week brings a long-awaited sequel that I *finally* got approved for, an awesome horror story, and a little "stabbing with space swords."

The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan
[June 27th 2017 by Ace]
Empires clash and a fell power stakes its claim in the second in a new series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Raven's Shadow Trilogy.


Just Add Water by Hunter Shea
[June 13th 2017 by Lyrical Underground]
Once the screaming starts, David and Patrick realize that their childhood pets really did come to life. With a vengeance. They’re enormous . . . and have a ravenous hunger for human flesh . . ..


Lucifer’s Star by C.T. Phipps
[October 13th 2016 by Crossroad Press]
The first novel of "A Space Saga", which is a dark science fiction space opera novel set in a world of aliens, war, politics, and slavery.


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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.

Juggling another pair of e-book of reads this week, with The Fathom Flies Again by James Walley (a long overdue read) and Owl and the Electric Samurai by Kristi Charish (releasing May 8th), while I've dug my paperback of Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson out of the stacks for a read.



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, April 14, 2017

WTF Friday: The Unmentionables by Lance Carbuncle

Well, another WTF Friday is upon us, which means we once again turn the Ruins over to those titles that are a bit odd . . . a bit different . . . a bit bizarre . . . and a bit freaky. These are books that don't always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent retail shelf space.



This week's literary diversions come courtesy of long-time contributor, Donald Armfield.

There is something going on in Findlay. A house of Unmentionable recreation lurks in a neighborhood of nosey neighbors.

There is something about the man who bops his way down the street to music only he can hear.

There is something about Greg, a bullied teenager who finally shows these schoolyard punks what it's like to be bullied . . . in means of death.

In a cross between What's Eating Gilbert Grape & A Mad Scientist, comes an animal ballistic tale of bizarre happenings and revenge. Dr. Reverend Lance Carbuncle has returned from a coffin with a trail of reanimated fetal pigs, flying piss monkeys, and fierce raccoons. Get your paraphernalia hats on . . . you're in for a heck of a ride.

Kindle Edition
Published April 5th 2017 by Vicious Galoot Books

WTF Friday: Touch No One by Joseph Hirsch

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.



Touch No One is a book that lulls you into a false sense of security with its familiar detective-noir narration, and then challenges you with the inclusion of cyberpunk sci-fi elements, before completely unsettling you with the ever-darker, and increasingly more complex, plot developments. What Joseph Hirsch has attempted here is rather bold and audacious, but it works surprisingly well.

On that detective-noir, front we have the tired old cliché of a retired police detective turned private investigator, all cranky and suitably jaded, who agrees to take on an attempted murder investigation for the money. On the cyberpunk front, we have a world where body augmentation is standard, artificial intelligence abounds, and neural connections allow brains to serve (essentially) as discreet smartphones. On the plot development front . . . well, that's where things get interesting.

This is a story involving augmented prostitutes, adult nursing, opium-laced lactation, freaky parasitic infections, the worship of ancient gods, conspiracies, and murder. Every time I figured the story had reached the pinnacle of weirdness (the giant crib with the freaky fetish totem breastpump was an early highlight), a new character or a new wrinkle was introduced. Hirsch takes his time with each development, drawing out the story between them, so it's not an assault upon the senses, but rather an infection of its own that keeps worming deeper and deeper into your brain. It is often creepy and gross, making you crave a Touch brand cuddle when you're done, but it (smartly) never crosses the line of eroticism.

If you have an imagination broad enough to encompass the ideas, and don't need to be spoon-fed explanations for everything, Touch No One can be a dangerously addictive read.

Published February 23rd 2017 by Black Rose Writing

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday - The Black Elfstone by Terry Brooks

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

The Black Elfstone: The Fall of Shannara by Terry Brooks
Expected publication: June 13th 2017 by Del Rey Books

The first book of the triumphant and epic four-part conclusion to the Shannara series, from one of the all-time masters of fantasy.

Through forty years of New York Times bestselling Shannara novels, Terry Brooks always had an ending in mind: a series that would bring it all to a grand conclusion. Now that time is here.

The Four Lands has been at peace for generations, but now a mysterious army of invaders is cutting a bloody swath across a remote region of the land. No one knows who they are, where they come from, or what they are after—and most seem content to ignore these disturbing events. The only people who sense a greater, growing threat and wish to uncover the truth are society’s outcasts: an exiled High Druid, a conflicted warrior, a teenage girl struggling to master a prodigious magic . . . and a scrappy young orphan, improbably named Shea Ohmsford.


Like the Riftwar Cycle, my literary wanderings have taken me far from Shannara over the years, but I'm hoping this 'final' series proves to be just as satisfying as Feist's Chaoswar Saga.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

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

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



Okay, despite my better judgement, I (temporarily) lifted the freeze on new review titles, accepting two electronic copies for review, with an additional surprise arrival in the mailbox.

Swarm and Steel by Michael R. Fletcher
[August 22nd 2017 by Talos]
To escape the hell she created, a woman must team up with a novice warrior and return to her homeland in this gritty epic fantasy where delusions are literally made real. 


Broken Wizards by Jeffrey Bardwell
[April 6th 2017 by Twigboat Press]
Join the fantasy steampunk brawl of metal vs. magic where sorcery is bloody, science is greasy, and nobody's hands are clean.


Ten Dead Comedians: A Murder Mystery by Fred Van Lente
[July 11th 2017 by Quirk Books]
A marvel of literary ventriloquism, with hilarious comic monologues in the voice of every suspect, and an ingeniously plotted puzzler with a twist you’ll never see coming


And, just because I was on a roll, I also allowed my alter ego to add a new title to the WTF Friday stacks.

Touch No One by Joseph Hirsch
Body Modification, a fetish subculture, weaponized breast milk, and half-monster/half-machine bloodsucking parasites


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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.

While I wait on a pair of paperback ARCs that I know are on the way, I'm juggling a pair of e-book of reads with City of Miracles by Robert Jackson Bennett (May 2nd release) and The Fathom Flies Again by James
Walley (a long overdue read).


On the WTF Friday front, my alter-ego has a few reads on the go as well, so watch for reviews of the Of Passion and Steam Anthology and The End Is All We See by M.F. Wahl & A.J. Brown.


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, April 7, 2017

WTF Friday: The Room by Brian C. Copper

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.



I appreciate it when a story surprises me, playing against all expectations, and keeping me on my toes. When Brian C. Copper sent me a copy of The Room for review, I thought I knew what I was in for, but those expectations barely scratched the surface.

This has an odd sort of feel to it, more like a quirky cult drama than a bondage-themed erotic novel. David is a mysterious gentleman, unfailingly polite, friendly, and charitable . . . yet someone you most certainly do not want to cross. He is also powerful, confident, and self-assured. I'm not sure if Copper was deliberately trying to play against some of the darker stereotypes of mainstream fiction, but if this was a prime time drama, you'd almost expect him to be revealed as a serial killer. He's not - don't worry, this is not that kind of story - but there's a heavy atmosphere of mystery and secrecy that's often unsettling.

The structure of the novel was a bit jarring a first, but once you settle in and understand how it's being told, it flows quite nicely. The primary plot thread involves the slow seduction and mastery of Max, a policeman stranded by the snowstorm, but there other men (and other relationships) woven into the story as we go along. These side-sessions, so to speak, do as much to build upon the mystery as they do to reveal anything about David. It soon becomes apparent that he is a man with a wide influence, and one who is just as adept at casually dominating in public as erotically dominating in the well-equipped basement dungeon.

This is what I would call erotica for the mind, a story that plays with thoughts and emotions, but which is half over before there's any actual sex. There is a lot of sensuality before that point, all wrapped up in a heavy power-exchange, but it's not the kind of whips-and-chains domination you might expect. Again, a lot of what David does it all in the head, testing his subjects' senses to see what they are willing to endure in his name. For instance, there is a prolonged scene that involves nothing more than extremes of temperature, but it is powerfully done. The Room itself is far more than just a dungeon playroom, it is also something akin to an interrogation room or a cell, albeit one where cruelty and compassion are intimately intertwined. Again, it plays against expectations, making you question your assumptions about these encounters, but its influence creates some genuine romance and long-lasting friendships.

Make no mistake, this is an erotic novel involving heavy-duty scenes of bondage-and-domination between men. However, it is so well-written, so well-plotted, and so carefully narrated, that you don't need to be aroused by it to appreciate it. As a story, a character study, and a drama, The Room is surprisingly engaging.


Published February 29th 2016 by Smashwords Edition

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

#IWSG: A to Z Challenge

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a once-monthly blog hop aimed at sharing our doubts and concerns, while encouraging one another with assistance and guidance. As the lighthouse image suggests, it’s a beacon in the dark and a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

This month's IWSG Question: Have you taken advantage of the annual A to Z Challenge in terms of marketing, networking, publicity for your book? What were the results?

Not so much for marketing, but I did participate in the A to Z Challenge for 3 years running as a network opportunity for the blog. It was a fun event, but one that required a lot of planning, and a lot of dedication to make it work for the whole month. These past 2 years I just haven't had the time.
With a house sold and a house bought, I finally have some time for myself again. I haven't been writing as often as I should be, but I am back at it, working on something completely different - a wild, crazy, pulp adventure tale that has me excited to be writing again. Brainstorming has been pretty much nonstop, with pages and pages of notes on characters, backstory, plot, settings, etc, Actually writing it is, of course, the hard part, but I have a few pages in the can already,