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Thursday, May 31, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: You are a matchmaker — your goal, hook up two characters from two of your favorite books. Who would it be? How do you think it would go?

Yeah, I've got no clue on this one - I'm not now and have never been a matchmaker, so I can't even think of where to begin. I'd probably end up forcing a paring that is either uproariously funny, or completely inappropriate. :)

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

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TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.


Question of the Week: Issue Books: Which books have you found to be very rewarding when it comes to tackling tougher issues?


Wow, rough week for questions! I generally don't like "issue" books and tend to steer clear as soon as I realise that's where a book is headed. I read to be entertained, to be amazed, and to be amused - if I want to be preached at or hit over the head with a message, I'll watch a morning talk show. Actually, I doubt I'd ever watch one, but you get the idea. LOL

eBook Review: 77 Days in September by Ray Gorham


I've always been a huge fan of end-of-the-world, apocalyptic thrillers. I'd like to say that Stephen King's The Stand is responsible, but it's actually Isaac Asimov's The Last Man on Earth anthology that sticks in my head as my first exposure to the subject. In fact, I still have the tattered old paperback sitting on my shelf today!

Anyway, I've read a lot of apocalyptic tales over the years, some of which I've quite enjoyed, and others which have fallen flat. Generally, I find that I tend to be drawn more to the 'epic' stories, the massive doorstoppers that explore every aspect of the disaster. However, the stories that often work the best, the ones that resonate the strongest and stick with me the longest, are the more intimate tales.

That the niche into which Ray Gorham's 77 Days in September falls. It starts with an 'epic' feel, bouncing around between characters and settings, but only to establish the facts of what's happening . . . and to remove all doubt as to the scope of what's happened. The story really gets going with a plane crash that rivals just about anything on screen in terms of excitement and drama. It's set up nicely, making us care about the characters involved, and then is played out extremely well.

Once we get beyond the plane crash, however, our scope slowly begins to narrow until we really get to the heart of the novel - Kyle's long walk home (across a hostile, desolate America) and his wife's struggle to believe in his return (in a small town with its own hostilities). It's a story telling device that works particularly well, allowing us to follow that most intimate of tales, the struggle for one man's survival against the most overwhelming odds, while at the same time granting us some perspective on the overall situation, through a small-town microcosm of America.

Kyle and Jennifer are both well-developed characters, loving spouses who are suddenly confronted with a physical separation that mirrors their emotional distance of the last few years. Neither knows whether the other is truly alive, and both are faced with temptations throughout their ordeal. Even if Kyle does reveal a few personality flaws along the way, it's entirely unrealistic to expect anybody to be a candidate for sainthood after having spent months walking across the country. The subplot of Jennifer's stalker is, perhaps, a bit too typical of the genre, but it's handled well . . . and sets up a final resolution that really puts the emotional cap on the story.

If I had one complaint about the novel, it's the way in which the political sub-plot seems to just fade away. There's a significant focus early on around one US Senator that seemed to have some potential, but just when I thought she was being left behind like the other victims, she resurfaces for an oddly-placed scene, only to be forgotten again - this time for good. I would have liked to see more of her story, or else not go back to her at all that last time, but it's my only real quibble.

This was an exciting, fast-paced, nicely detailed story. Gorham never goes over-the-top in his descriptions of the horrors and the gore, which makes the darker elements all the more effective. He balances the emotions of the situation well, contrasting fear with courage, despair with hope, and animal lust with human love. The few human interactions Kyle encounters on his journey are nicely balanced as well, driving home the fact that the odds are truly against him, but also recognizing the fact that there are good people in any situation.

Definitely recommended.

GUEST POST: Living With Your Editor by Ray Gorham

As I came to the conclusion of the second draft of my book, I decided I had probably better have someone with better English skills than myself do a little bit of editing.  In school I had always been a good reader and decent speller, and strong in math and science, but for some reason the rules of English, beyond the basics, never made sense to me.  Fortunately, I have a very talented wife.

Feeling pretty good about my book, I approached her with a 2” stack of paper (I had managed to talk her into editing).   “Prepare to be amazed,” I said (or something equally witty, I’m sure).  She stuck her hand out for the manuscript.  “I’m pretty busy, but I’ll get to it as soon as I can,” she replied.  From the expression on her face, I could tell she wasn’t expecting to be amazed.

Being in need of affirmation after such a long project, I was very anxious to get her feedback.  It was probably only a week, but it seemed like a month before she announced she had the first chapter done.  I eagerly snatched the papers from her hand, expecting to see smiley faces on each page, an occasional missing comma fixed, and a mushy love note at the end of the chapter telling me how wonderful my writing was and how glad she was she married me.

She turned to go make dinner and missed seeing my legs buckle as I glanced down at the first page.  Red ink everywhere!  I stumbled to the bedroom and fell into my writing chair.  With shaking hands I fanned through the 20 or so pages in my hand, more red than black.  My head spun.  I had thought my wife was pretty smart, now I wasn’t so sure.

Commas, apostrophes, possessives, verbiage, wording—you name it, she nailed me on it.  I opened the document on my computer and started making corrections.  Okay, maybe I need a comma there.  I guess that word fits better.  I’ll trust you on this one.  By the end of the night the first chapter was done, and it was looking and sounding quite a bit better than it had hours earlier.

We did make it through the book, and the final product is much, much better than my original version.  We liked the process so much that we went through it two more times for the book (just kidding about the like part).  In my defense, I can proudly report that there were some pages towards the end of the book that didn’t need any editing, but they were few and far between.

I learned a few things from the process.  A second set of eyes on your work is essential, because no matter how thorough you think you’ve been, you’ll miss a ton.  Editing isn’t personal.  Rules are rules, and no matter how good I think something is, it needs to be said the right way.  Also, English can be learned—she’s been through part of my second book and has commented that I’ve improved greatly on the technical side of writing (hooray for me!).

Finally, I’ve realized why we never hear about people falling in love with their editor.  Agent?  Yes.  Bodyguard?  Yes.  Backup dancer?  Yes.  Director?  Yes.  Fans?  Yes.  Editor?  Not on your life.  I don’t think it is humanly possible to fall madly in love with someone who points out everything you do wrong.  Fortunately for me, I had fallen in love with her years before, so we didn’t have that hurdle to cross.  So my life, and my writing, is much better for it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ray Gorham was born in Calgary, Canada in 1966.  Prior to graduating college and settling in the United States in 1991, Ray had the good fortune to live in a variety of locations around the world.  Years in Australia, England, Lebanon, Japan, Canada, and the United States all helped to shape his background, worldview, and appreciation for other people and cultures.

Graduating with a degree in Accounting, he decided he couldn’t spend a future studying tax law and sitting in front of a computer all day, so he took a management position with Wal-Mart and spent the next 10 years in retail management where he had the opportunity to interact with hundreds of employees and thousands of customers on a weekly basis.  Growing tired of large corporations, Ray next tried opening and running a restaurant, but decided after a year that wasn’t for him either.  From there, he found a small log home business for sale in Montana in 2006 and settled in for what he hoped would be a long-term career.

When the construction industry slowed down in 2008, Ray knew he was going to have a lot of time on his hands, so he determined to cross off one of the items on his bucket list—writing a novel.  After thousands of hours of writing and editing he had the final draft of his first novel, a 108,000 word effort telling the story of a husband struggling to return to his family after a major terrorist attack.  While agents and publishers have passed on his efforts to this point, he has found significant success so far in digital format, selling over 10,000 copies of his work.

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ABOUT THE BOOK:
77 Days in September by Ray Gorham
On a Friday afternoon before Labor Day, Americans are getting ready for the holiday weekend, completely unaware of a long-planned terrorist plot about to be launched against the country. Kyle Tait is settling in for his flight home to Montana when a single nuclear bomb is detonated 300 miles above the heart of America. The blast, an Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP), destroys every electrical device in the country, and results in the crippling of the power grid, the shutting down of modern communications, and bringing to a halt most forms of transportation.

Kyle narrowly escapes when his airplane crashes on takeoff, only to find himself stranded 2,000 miles from home in a country that has been forced, from a technological standpoint, back to the 19th Century. Confused, hurt, scared, and alone, Kyle must make his way across a hostile continent to a family he’s not even sure has survived the effects of the attack. As Kyle forges his way home, his frightened family faces their own struggles for survival in a community trying to halt its slow spiral into chaos and anarchy.

77 Days in September follows Kyle and his wife, Jennifer, as they are stretched past their breaking point, but find in their devotion to each other the strength to persevere.

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Be sure to stop back later this morning when I post my review of 77 Days in September. In the meantime, don't forget to check out the details of where Ray will be next.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Forge of Darkness by Steven Erikson

Steven Erikson returns to the Malazan world with the first book in a dark and revelatory new epic fantasy that tells the tragic story of ruin of a realm.

This is the story of the early years of Anomander Rake, and his brothers, Andarist and Silchas Ruin.

It is a tale that begins within the Age of Darkness and the Birth of Light and involves the forging of a sword unlike any other, and tells of the tragedy that was the collapse of the realm of the Tiste Andii.

It is the story of the devastating civil war that tore their world apart -- a story of bitter family rivalries, of jealousies and betrayals, of wild magic and unfettered power, of death and terriifying destruction.  

It is the story of a how the goddess of the Tiste, Mother Dark, abandoned her children and turned her back on her people. (Sept 18, 2012)


Although I'm still not happy with how The Crippled God wrapped up the Malazan Book of the Fallen, I'm more than ready for another shot of Erikson - with the pressure off and the comfort of a series that already has a definite end in sight. Plus, it never hurts that Anomander Rake was one of my favourite characters, so I'm anxious to explore his backstory.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday

Stacking The Shelves is a new weekly meme being hosted by Tynga over at Tynga's ReviewsStacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves - physical and virtual, borrowed and bought. Mailbox Monday, meanwhile, is a similar meme being hosted by Martha at Martha's Bookshelf this month (check out the Mailbox Monday blog to see who's hosting next month).


This weekend we hit the garage sales, where I managed to find a few hidden treasures that I'd been hunting for a while. Not a bad haul for $3.


Flesh by Richard Laymon
Demon Shield by Bruce King
Riptide by Preston & Child

This was a busy week for review titles as well, with the following all coming my way:

The Succubus Gift by BR Kingsolver

 
Vengeance Of The Wolf by Solitaire Parke

Cannibals of Candyland by Carlton Mellick III

How about you . . . what did add to the shelves this week?

Friday, May 25, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: Activity! Dream cast your current read.

I just finished reading Strindberg's Star, and since it reminded me so much of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,  I couldn't help but see a mix of two movie adaptions, with Daniel Craig in the lead role (from the American remake) and Noomi Rapace in the supporting role (from the original).

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I've taken part in the past two weeks. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

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TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.


Question of the Week: 
Show Me Your Cover - What are some of the worst book covers, but hold some of the best stories inside? Don't be embarrassed, show us your cover!

I can't think of any recent reads that had absolutely horrible covers, but I've always thought Dean Koontz could definitely benefit from a bit more thought and attention in creating shelf appeal:


Thursday, May 24, 2012

eBook ARC Review: Strindberg's Star by Jan Wallentin

I'm not sure I've ever had such an aggravating experience in reading a book. What I had was an electronic review copy with the editor's notes in the margins. Interesting, sure, but that meant an already unwieldy format (DRM protected PDF) was almost useless on my Sony. The text was too small to read at normal size, and once you zoomed in . . . not only did the lines break in awkward places (as PDFs tend to do), but the editor's notes merged into the body of the text, making for some really confusing passages.

With all that to consider, the fact that I persevered is testament to how engaging the story was. Despite the frustrations, I wanted to see where it was going next, and how it all would end.

I usually try to avoid comparing works or authors, but the best way I can think of to describe Strindberg's Star is as a mix of Dan Brown and Clive Cussler, with a little Stieg Larsson thrown for good measure. It's a great adventure story with some deep mythology, a truly fascinating puzzle at the heart of it all, and a villainess/heroine in Eva Strand who rivals Lisbeth Salander in terms of darkness and diversity. It was so refreshing to read a Dan Brown type thriller that wasn't mired in Catholicism, and as much as WWII history is very much not my forte, what Wallentin does with the Nazis, their experiments, and (most of all) their symbolism is genius.

In some ways, this is a difficult read, in that it blurs the lines between good and evil. There is no one shining example to latch onto as a hero here. Instead, we have a lot of broken, damaged, tainted individuals who often do very bad things for very good reasons . . . and vice versa. Don Titelman is an interesting character, a drug-addicted ex-doctor who lacks only the biting sarcastic wit to be a proper homage to Gregory House. He's a hard man to admire, and an even harder one to like, but he does provide an interesting vantage from which to experience the story.

As for the central mystery of the ankh and the star, the oddly well-preserved body from which they're retrieved, and the bloody (but fascinating) history of their original discovery and loss . . . well, I won't say much at all, other than to promise it's a mystery/puzzle well worth investigating. Personally, I found it much more fascinating than anything Dan Brown or his clones have attempted, and it really made the book for me.

All-in-all, a solid read, and one that I'd very much like to revisit in a more manageable paperback format, without the headaches of the electronic arc. I rarely invest the time in rereading a book, but this is one I would like to sit down and enjoy all over again.

eBook ARC Review: Amped by Daniel H. Wilson

Although I've had a copy of Robopocalypse on my shelf since it was released last year, it never quite made it to the top of my TBR pile. That is an issue I plan to rectify soon, based on the fact that Amped turned out to be one of my favourite reads of 2012.

This is a book that works on two levels - it's both a thoroughly enjoyable adventure and a deeply thoughtful look at class warfare and social prejudice. Wilson has previously been compared favourably to Michael Crichton, and based on this, I can definitely say the comparison is warranted. Both gentlemen know how to spin a yarn that pairs scientific and technical concepts with philosophical and political ideals, all without boring the reader or coming across as preachy.

The science here is fascinating, a minor tweak to humanity designed to correct our flaws and failings. Originally intended to heal, the very first implants allowed the blind to see and the deaf to hear; it gave epileptics control over their seizures; it enabled children with birth defects or mental impairments to function 'normally'; and, when paired with some mechanical enhancements, it allowed the physically disabled to walk. However, the bio-mechanical implants have an interesting side-effect, enhancing other abilities along the way. Suddenly, amped children are not only functioning normally, but are proving to be super-intelligent; and amped adults are not only moving as if they'd never lost a limb or use of their body, but are proving to be super-strong and super-fast.

It doesn't take long before significant divides begin to form in society. with 'normal' humans feeling left behind, fearing a future in which they cannot compete. As the story begins, the Supreme Court has ruled that amped individuals are no longer human . . . no longer protected from harassment or discrimination . . . and no longer able to enter into contracts, own property, or have any legal standing. Bolstered by the hate-mongering of the Pure Human Citizens Council, society has turned on its amped neighbours, confining them to slums and trailer parks, just waiting for an excuse to exterminate them all.

Against that backdrop we have the story of one man, implanted as a child, who is only beginning to comprehend the extent of his abilities. As someone who never really considered himself to be fully amped, Owen acts as an intermediary for the reader, allowing us to truly appreciate what society has come to. As he explores his potential - and, ultimately, his choice to either preserve or destroy - we also get to explore what it means to be human, and what it means to be amped.

Surrounding Owen are some strong supporting characters, but if there's one failing it's that almost all of those  characters are amped. Normal humans are not portrayed positively at all (with one notable exception), presenting a rather one-sided view of the conflict. Much of that is due to Owen being the narrator, and it does help to drive home the message of how quickly and how thoroughly we can latch onto our differences and use them as excuses to hate one another, but it does make for a rather bleak and hopeless tale.

The story moves a long at a brisk pace, with some big budget action scenes near the end that really work well. There are also a few interesting twists along the way, and even if I suspected the biggest one about halfway through, the way it played out was more than satisfactory. An all-around great summer read, Amped is a story that will open your eyes as it entertains you, and really make you think about how little it would take to turn us against one another.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Blood of the Emperor by Tracy Hickman

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Blood of the Emperor by Tracy Hickman

From the New York Times bestselling co-author of the Dragonlance novels...the stunning conclusion to The Annals of Drakis.

It appears that an ancient prophecy is about to be fulfilled as the human named Drakis—formerly one of countless warrior-slaves to the elves of the Rhonas Empire—returns from his quest in the North. Flying into the rebel camp with his surviving companions on the backs of the legendary dragons that were once humankind's most powerful allies, Drakis is hailed as the champion of all the slave races. 

But it is not a prophecy that drives Drakis in his war against the elves and their emperor. Rather it is his burning desire for revenge against the cruel ruler whom Drakis believes has stolen any chance he has for finding peace. And this hatred will set Drakis and his rebel army on a path that may not only bring down the emperor, but Drakis and his entire world as well... (July 31, 2012)


Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are the reason I first got into fantasy, going back to the days of the original Dragonlance Chronicles. I've only just started the first book in this series, Song of the Dragon, but I'm quite enjoying it. It still has that classic fantasy feel I've become accustomed to with Hickman, but some very nice twists that have already surprised me more than once.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Get Jackie Gamber's Redheart for FREE!

Get Redheart for free on Kindle!

The first book in the Leland Dragon Series from Jackie Gamber is available for free on Kindle today and tomorrow!

Enter the lands of Leland Province, where dragon and human societies have long dwelled side by side. Superstitions rise sharply, as a severe drought strips the land of its bounty, providing fertile ground for the darker ambitions of Fordon Blackclaw, Dragon Council Leader, who seeks to subdue humans or wipe them off the face of the land.

As the shadow of danger creeps across Leland Province, a young dragon named Kallon Redheart, who has turned his back on dragons and humans alike, comes into an unexpected friendship. Riza Diantus is a young woman whose dreams can no longer be contained by the narrow confines of her village, and when she finds herself in peril, Kallon is the only one with the power to save her. Yet to do so means he must confront his past, and embrace a future he stopped believing in.

A tale of friendship, courage, and ultimate destiny, Redheart invites readers to a wondrous journey through the Leland Dragon Series.


Please share this link and spread the word!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

TGIF - Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: Summer Break is upon us! What would be the perfect vacation spot for you to catch up on your reading & relax?

Assuming money was no object and I had an unlimited budget, I'd love to fly over to Egypt, descend into one of the pyramids, and read deep within the cold, lonely tombs, surrounded by history, art, treasure, and mystery.

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I've taken part in the past two weeks. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

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TGIF is another blog hop designed to provide much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by GReads, it's an interesting way to recap the week, pose a question, and find some exposure with a different audience.


Question of the Week: A Book Blogger is Born - What made you decide to start your very own book blog?


A number of things really. I was already posting reviews on my Goodreads profile, and I was following a number of book review blogs I'd discovered there, so it seemed like a natural extension to begin my own blog. Also, I felt there was a real niche of adult fantasy/horror fiction out there, amidst all the YA fiction and Romance, that wasn't being fully exploited. Since I knew I'd be focussing as much on the dusty old books pulled from the shelves as I would on the shiniest new releases cracked open on the way home from Chapters, I really felt I had something new and unique to offer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Ripper by David L. Golemon

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Ripper by David L. Golemon

In the tradition of works by James Rollins, Preston and Child and Matthew Reilly, Ripper is the latest in an action-packed series about the nation’s most secret agency—The Event Group. In 1887, the British Empire contracted brilliant American professor Lawrence Ambrose to create a mutant gene to turn an ordinary person into an aggressive fighting machine. But all too quickly, Ambrose was found to be behind a streak of vicious murders, and  in a cover-up of massive proportions, Queen Victoria ordered the project, and Ambrose, terminated. Thus the legend of Jack the Ripper was born.

The killings stopped as suddenly as they had begun—but not because Ambrose was caught. Instead, he escaped and returned home to America where he and his formula faded into history. But in 2012, a raid against a Mexican drug lord uncovers a small cache of antiquated notebooks containing long-buried instructions to create blind killers out of normal men. Enter the Event Group and Col. Jack Collins, who are desperate to stop one of their most feared enemies. When the formula is loosed in the underground halls and vaults of the Event Group complex itself, brother will battle brother, and for the first time in many men’s brave lives they will understand the true meaning of fear.

The next heart-stopping chapter in the New York Times bestselling Event Group series, Ripper takes readers to new levels of suspense, where death could be hiding around any corner on this non-stop thrill ride. (July 17, 2012)


I have yet to give Golemon a read, despite having Event and Legacy sitting on my shelf, but this sounds like the perfect summer read. Being mentioned in the same breath as James Rollins, Preston & Child, and Matthew Reilly certainly doesn't hurt either!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Get H. David Blalock's Angelkiller for FREE!

Get Angelkiller for free on Kindle!

The first book in the Angelkiller Triad from H. David Blalock is available for free on Kindle today and tomorrow!

Why do bad things happen to good people? Simple. In the ancient war between the Angels of Light and Darkness, the Dark won. Now it is the job of an undercover force simply known as The Army to rectify that.

Using every tool available, The Army has worked to liberate our world from The Enemy for thousands of years, slowly and painfully lifting Mankind out of the dark. On the front of the great Conflict are the Angelkillers, veterans of the
fight with centuries of experience.

Jonah Mason is an Angelkiller, and his cell is targeted as part of plot to unseat a very powerful Minion of The Enemy. Mason and his troop are drawn into a battle that stretches from real-time to virtual reality and back. The Conflict is about to expand into cyberspace, and if Mason is unable to stop it, The Enemy will have gained dominion over yet another realm.

Please share this link and spread the word!

Monday, May 14, 2012

eBook ARC Review: The Long Earth by Pratchett and Baxter

The Long Earth is a concept Terry Pratchett first developed back in the mid-80s, around the same time that he was finishing up the third Discworld book, Equal Rights. The novel was a victim of Pratchett's own success, getting left behind when the Discworld series proved to be so successful. Sadly, as much as I wanted to like it, and as promising as the first few chapters were, it really does feel like a book that was written 25 years ago, handed off to somebody else, and then rushed into print. Nothing against Stephen Baxter, who is an amazing author on his own, but this is an awkward collaboration that really adds nothing to my Pratchett shelves.

The concept here is definitely intriguing, even if it's not quite fully explained. Basically, humanity has discovered the ability to 'step' between parallel worlds. There are those among us who have always been able to do so naturally, without really understanding what they've done or how, but one man's eccentric experiments have bestowed that ability upon anybody willing to construct one of his little 'stepping' boxes. Suddenly, humanity has access to an infinite number of pristine worlds, as ripe for exploitation as they are for exploration.

There are some interesting catches, of course - stepping makes most people violently ill, nothing made of iron can move between worlds, and stepping from atop a skyscraper to a world without buildings is a really bad idea - but the possibilities are endless. What makes the first half of the book so interesting is the unexpected consequences of stepping. Criminals suddenly have easy access to even the most impenetrable places on Earth, forcing governments and banks literally underground. Greedy explorers invest everything they own to replicate the gold rush on other worlds, only to find that everybody else had the same idea, and that gold has been rendered worthless. Immigration is pretty much a thing of the past (why apply for visas and passports when you can just 'step' somewhere new), and governments are left scrambling to keep the infrastructure and economy running smoothly with half the population suddenly gone.

Those side-tales, however, are also part of what's wrong with the book later on. Pratchett and Baxter spend  far too much time relating stories of the new explorers when, in the grand scheme of things, they really add very little to the story. Similarly, as interesting as it is to reexamine some urban legends by imagining the participants were natural steppers, they go back to the well far too often, and the stories that were so entertaining early on just become annoyances later. Unfortunately, it turns out these asides are necessary to keep things moving, since the central storyline just isn't strong enough or interesting enough to carry a whole novel.

As for that storyline, we have a natural stepper who has become something of a reluctant celebrity because of his heroic actions the night the rest of the world learned to step. We also have a sentient computer who believes himself to be the reincarnation of a dead human, and a shadowy organization who employs them both. The two set out on a mission to explore their way to the heart of the Long Earth (assuming there is such a thing), stepping across hundreds of thousands of worlds on their journey. If you've ever watched a child flick through the channels on TV, stop every once in a while to watch a few minutes of a show, and then keep flicking again, you've basically shared the experience of the book. They do have some adventures, and do discover some interesting facts about how we're not alone in these parallel worlds, but there's far too much filler between the facts.

In the end, this felt very much like a young-adult novel that wants to be more, the kickoff to a series that really seems to have no clear direction ahead. It comes across as somewhat lazy and haphazard, with flashes of brilliance, but an overall dullness that left me skimming chapters by the end.  Not even a surprising act of anti-stepper terrorism at the end can rescue the overall story.

While I didn't expect a Discworld level farce, Pratchett's trademark absurd humour is largely missing here, aside from a few quirky (but unusually subtle) bits. It's a shame, because that might have helped to carry the story. The Discworld novels are not exactly the most amazingly plotted works of epic fantasy ever to grace the shelves, but they are fun reads that understand how to continuously engage the reader. That engagement, more than anything else, is what is missing here, leaving us with a story that doesn't live up to the concept, and characters who are too one-dimensional to carry one Earth, much less hundreds of thousands.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday

Stacking The Shelves is a new weekly meme being hosted by Tynga over at Tynga's ReviewsStacking The Shelves is all about sharing the books you've added to your shelves - physical and virtual, borrowed and bought. Mailbox Monday, meanwhile, is a similar meme being hosted by Martha at Martha's Bookshelf this month (check out the Mailbox Monday blog to see who's hosting next month).


This week I hit the Book Riot, a charitable used book sale that runs for 4 days every May. Wasn't really expecting much, but I discovered some great finds that have been on my 'want' list for a while now:


To Wake The Dead by Richard Laymon
Thirst by Michael Cecilione
Barba Slaver by Dael Forest
Neveryóna by Samuel Delaney


The Last Ship by William Brinkley
Dragon Hunter by Charles Gallenkamp
Celestis by Paul Park

Overkill by Steven L. Shrewsbury was a Kindle freebie this week.

 

And, finally, N.K. Jemisin's The Killing Moon was a new purchase.


How about you . . . what did add to the shelves this week?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

VBT Feature: Demon Vampire by Virgil Moore

Virgil Moore's Demon Vampire asks the question, if given the choice to have power, grace, and immortality at the cost of your soul, what would you do? 

What if the choice was easier than you think? Small incremental segments of you childhood for a boost in strength? The ability to protect your loved ones for the corners of your mind that you don't often use? Regeneration for the traits that make you who you are? 

If faced with a grave decision of morality, what would you choose?

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EXCERPT

  His eyes closed. The red apparition somehow soothed and calmed him. It was speaking directly now. It was murder. He could hear it above the raging storm coursing through him. It forced upon him glimpses of her dead body, a sight of torment.  “The vast ocean of power I can grant you. The encompassing absolution of being I offer, to walk without equal as an abomination among monsters. To be feared as no other.” The voice sighed inside him. It's breath warm on the back of his thoughts. “Am I truly so disgusting? Is this not what you asked for? Do I not tempt you? Offer you what you need? Do I not wet your tongue with my invitation?”

 Fear swept him, his choices were not sovereign. His gut knotted in indecision. The hot blanket of seduction that had cloaked him was convincing. It was generously welcoming. He hesitated, not knowing the demon's destination or his own. He could feel his soul slipping, a grip once tight, now failing him.

 “Let it happen, give yourself to me. All you ever have to do, is acknowledge me. Your soul will satisfy my desires, my requirements.” The voice was commanding. It spoke as a god dwelling in the recesses of his senses. It continued. “Rip, tear, rend, and swallow the blood like milk.” The demon inside beckoned with a sadistic suggestion.

 He was unsure, the deal was tempting, even acceptable in a sick flight of fancy. The power was enthralling. His confliction was disturbing, he was not a murderer. He knew as much, as he doubted his own integrity. It was tempting, wet in his mouth, keen on his fingertips. Absolute strength on a level unrivaled. The knowledge that no other being would ever be able to contest him. It was a spectacular promise. It was seductive.

 The voice posed its question a final time. Its confidence was unrelenting. “Is my simple price so steep, so dire, costly, that you would die a fool's death to deny me the path fate has allowed me to etch in the stars?”


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Virgil Allen Moore has been writing for seventeen years. He began as a poet and eventually turned to long fiction. In his words "My pen wields visceral morality as I write. I use my poetic knowledge to woo and satiate the minds of the world." His books are written for their vivid imagery and well defined storytelling. He blends old world refinement with a modern feel in a way that gives strength to the core of his novels. With his books, you are left not just with a sense of accomplishment, but a moral choice. The reader has choice over how they feel through the story. The ordeals of the characters are transmuted to the reader, lending a direct sensation of emotion that only the best novels can evoke. When you read his words, you will be rewarded. As he says, "If you enjoy vampires, you will be enthralled by mine."


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Iron Gray Sea by Taylor Anderson

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Iron Gray Sea by Taylor Anderson 

War has engulfed the other earth. With every hard-won victory and painful defeat, Matt Reddy and the Allies encounter more friends — and more diabolical enemies. Even in the arms of the woman he loves, there is little peace for Reddy. The vast sea and scope of the conflict has trapped him too far away to help on either front, but that doesn’t mean he and USS Walker can rest — and man and four-stacker must risk everything against a bigger ship.

Elsewhere, the long-awaited invasion of Grik “Indiaa” has begun, and the Human-Lemurian Alliance is pushing back against the twisted might of the Dominion. The diplomatic waters seethe with treachery and a final, terrible plot explodes in the Empire of New Britain Isles. (July 3, 2012)

This is a series that I have yet to give a read, but I'm always up for a good alternate history tale, especially one that involves alternate realities. The series begins with a WWII destroyer fleeing Japanese battleships, heading into a storm front, and coming out the other side to find a world full of monstrous fish, grazing dinosaurs, and not just one, but two species who overtook humanity in the evolutionary race. Definitely looking forward to diving into the series . . . no pun intended. :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Get Steven Shrewsbury's Overkill for FREE!

Get Overkill for free on Kindle!

The latest Gorias La Gaul adventure from Steven Shrewsbury is available for free on Kindle today and tomorrow!

Deliverance will come... A great flood once wiped clean the earth, destroying everything upon it. Before the deluge, in a time now forgotten, the world was a place of warriors and witches, conflicts between kingdoms, and, until their extermination, dragons. In this world, men may live centuries, fallen angels have begotten terrifying spawn, and sometimes, the best hope can be found in a brothel. 

In the land of Transalpina, a new religion spreads, and important men are dying mysteriously, slain by what can only be the fire of dragon breath. Summoned by the Queen Garnet, the legendary warrior Gorias La Gaul returns to the place where he once saved the queen's young granddaughter from treachery and enslavement. The Princess Nykia is gone, and soon others may try to claim the throne. The queen has little choice but to turn to the only man who ever told her no. 

With the aid of one of the queen's elite guard, the battle maiden Alena, and the young palace servant Orsen, the old mercenary will face pirates and traitors, monsters and foul magic in the quest to find the missing heir and learn the truth behind the disconcerting murders. Deliverance will come for Gorias La Gaul, but for now there are women to love, secrets to discover, and killing that needs doing.

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