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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Restructuring the Ruins for a New Year

This year I watched as several friends and colleagues either pulled back from their review commitments, or closed their book blogs altogether. In almost every case, burnout was cited as a primary reason, with the heavy burden of review obligations getting in the way of their reading pleasures.

As much as I've taken steps to lessen my own feeling of being burdened, I know I still took on more books than I should have this past year. There were too many books I raced through in pursuit of a looming release date, and too few that I took the time to enjoy. In addition, for every shiny new must-review title that caught my eye, another want-to-read title gathered a bit more dust on the shelves.

I can certainly see how some bloggers begin to feel like it's a job (and an unpaid one, at that). It's very easy to get sucked into the hype around new releases, to buy into the very same excitement we work so hard to generate ourselves. At the same time, it can be tough to turn authors away, to quash their hopes and decline to generate the same excitement around their latest releases.

So, for 2016, I'm going to take some preemptive measures to read less and enjoy more:
  1. Be far more selective in stacking the shelves, only requesting/accepting those titles that I would have eagerly purchased for myself before I began blogging.
  2. Strive for a better balance between those shiny new releases begging for reviews and those dusty shelves of books that I want to read for my own entertainment.
  3. Offer more opportunities for guest posts or interviews to those authors with review requests I don't have time to read, but who have me excited enough to host and share.
  4. Embrace my inner weirdness, engage my fellow freaks, and really let loose with my WTF Friday theme of twisted, bizarre, or otherwise odd reads.
  5. Share more news of my own writing, and use the blog as a means of holding myself accountable for making progress and moving from hoarding those pages to actually submitting them.
Reviews of new releases will continue to appear on release date Tuesdays; I'll keep featuring upcoming releases on Waiting on Wednesday; and the weirdness will once again lurk on WTF Fridays. Beyond that, I'm leaving things wide open for whatever catches my eye and excites me enough to share.

Hardly earth-shattering news, I know, but if I set expectations and put my thoughts out there, I can hopefully keep myself on track and look back this time next year on a successful 12 months. :)

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

MIND MELD: Our Favorite “New to Us” Authors We Read in 2015

I've had the great pleasure of guesting over at SF Signal again today - thanks to Rob H. Bedford for the invite - talking about our favorite "new to us" authors of 2015.

Also taking part this morning are fellow bloggers Kristen Bell (editor of Fantasy Café), Mieneke van der Salm (A Fantastical Librarian), Kallen Kentner (Geeky Library), Stefan Raets (Far Beyond Reality), Kat Hooper (managing editor at Fantasy Literature), and Sarah Chorn (Bookworm Blues).

Stop by and check it out . . .

MIND MELD: Our Favorite “New to Us” Authors We Read in 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Steampunk Review: Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper by David Barnett

Despite relying on the tired old trope of the amnesiac hero, David Barnett manages to concoct an entirely satisfying and thoroughly entertaining third adventure for our titular hero with Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper.

The legend of Jack the Ripper is something Barnett has been teasing since the first book, so it's nice to finally come back to it and find out what it's all about. It's not the identity of the Ripper that's most intriguing however, but how he fits into the lives of Gideon, Maria, Aloysius, Rowena, and the rest. There are layers upon layers of mystery here, with each revelation casting larger shadows on the others, and the final reveal a legitimately shocking twist.

Overall, this is a very different story than the first two books, almost more laid back and traditional - if any story featuring Jack the Ripper, an clockwork girl, and a T-rex in the sewers can be considered traditional. It's not nearly as over-the-top, doesn't add anything to the steampunk aspect, and remains firmly rooted in the streets of London. Having said all that, it's an incredibly tense tale, one that has Gideon Smith missing, Rowena Fanshawe on trial for murder, and Inspector Lestrade dealing with a prostitute strike on top of the Ripper's murders.

What we do get here is a great deal of character development, most of it revolving around questions of identity. Maria's search for humanity is a driving force of the story, fueled by her love for Gideon, and given surprising direction by Inspector Lestrade's secret love, who has identity issues of her own. Gideon's amnesia, of course, offers up another search for identity, both as a man and as Hero of the Empire, while the situation with Jack the Ripper forces Aloysius Bent to confront some aspects of his own identity. Most importantly, though, her arrest, trial, and resulting revelations about her past cause Rowena Fanshawe to completely redefine her identity, even if that's not necessarily good news for the empire.

As intriguing and mysterious as either of the first two adventures, what Gideon Smith and the Mask of the Ripper lacks in adventurous fun, it makes up for in its character development. We don't get a true cliffhanger this time around, but a wide open ending that leaves a lot of possibilities for Barnett to explore in future volumes.

Paperback, 384 pages
Published October 13th 2015 by Tor Books

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

Saturday, December 19, 2015

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

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


WTF Friday review of Sacrificing Virgins by John Everson

Fantasy Review of Damned Children of Naor by Justyna Plichta-Jendzio

Fantasy Review of The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston

Fantasy Review of The Winter Garden by Kara Jorgensen


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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.

For Review:

Road Brothers : Tales from the Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence
10 short stories from the lives of Jorg and his Road Brothers. Contains spoilers for the Broken Empire trilogy. 5 of the stories have previously been published in anthologies, Contains the short story 'Sleeping Beauty' that is also sold separately. A total of 43.000 words or just over half the length of Prince of Thorns.

Miasma (Star Trek: The Original Series) by Greg Cox
The Enterprise-A is transporting a party of diplomats when it picks up a mysterious alien signal emanating from a nearby world. The planet’s dense, impenetrable atmosphere makes it unclear if the beacon is a distress signal, an invitation—or a warning to stay away.

Barsk: The Elephants' Graveyard  by Lawrence M. Schoen
An historian who speaks with the dead is ensnared by the past. A child who feels no pain and who should not exist sees the future. Between them are truths that will shake worlds. In a distant future, no remnants of human beings remain, but their successors thrive throughout the galaxy.

Nebula Awards Showcase 2015 edited by Greg Bear
This anthology includes the winners of the Andre Norton, Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master, Rhysling, and Dwarf Stars Awards, as well as the Nebula Award winners, and features Ann Leckie, Nalo Hopkinson, Rachel Swirsky, Aliette de Bodard, and Vylar Kaftan, with additional articles and poems by authors such as Robin Wayne Bailey, Samuel R. Delany, Terry A. Garey, Deborah P Kolodji, and Andrew Robert Sutton



Kindle Freebies:

Ethereal Lust and The Crystal Phallus by Richard Pendragon
Business is lousy, and Charley Wolf, P.I., is about to close up shop. But on his final day in his office, a high voltage beauty named Ethereal Lust walks in the door, seizes his heart and plops a fat wad of cash in his hand. Ethereal’s father is an exiled Tibetan Lama, master illusionist and member of a secret Tantric sect; her mum is a star acrobat, trapeze-artist and mud-wrestler in an erotic circus; and she wants Charley to find an ancient relic that may be older than the earth itself - The Crystal Phallus. 

A BigBoobenstein Family Christmas by Jeff O'Brien
Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house, a family of undeads were reveling in the holiday spirit, getting wasted, stripping, and watching porn. But when they heard footsteps on the roof, it wasn't Santa.


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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 caught up on my release date reviews for 2015, so I'm diving into the finalists of Mark Lawrence's Great Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off. I'll be posting the reviews as I go, so here's hoping I can celebrate some awesome reads over the coming weeks.



What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, December 18, 2015

WTF Friday: Sacrificing Virgins by John Everson

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 always get a lot of press, and which rarely benefit from any prominent 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!

Despite having purchased several of John Everson's novels, Sacrificing Virgins actually proved to be my first taste of his work. Having finished it last night, I must say that it left me with one very important question - what the hell I was waiting for?

This is a collection that absolutely sucked me in, devoured my soul, and left me an undead husk, eager to be used and abused some more. The short stories here are wildly imaginative, darkly atmospheric, and seriously depraved. Alternately erotic and sadistic, they are sometimes full of the blackest humor, and other times completely barren of hope.

“She Found Spring” is a beautiful, yet sadly haunting sort of tale, a classic ghost story centered around the turning of the seasons. "Bad Day” is a terrifying, apocalyptic sort of tale that starts out with a bit of morbid humor, but which descends into hopeless terror as the plague of Luna Roaches begin breeding inside human skulls.

“Nailed” marks the first appearance of erotic horror in the collection, introducing us to a lonely woman and the stone sex toy she steals from a long-dead corpse beneath her garden, while "The Eyes" marks the first appearance of extreme horror in the collection, with a sadistic serial killer who has a fetish for eyes . . .

“Sacrificing Virgins” is where Everson completely won me over, putting a necrophiliac twist on the classic 'deal with the devil' story. This is one of those stories that repeatedly seems to reach a new depth of disgust, only to keep finding even deeper levels of debauchery. Somehow, “Whatever You Want” actually manages to push the envelope even further, with a slow-burning tale of erotic mutilation that just keeps getting darker and more perverse.

“Eardrum Buzz” merges elements of earlier stories, mixing music and bug in a blackly humorous story about the 'buzz' of a new band, the 'buzz' of a concert the day after, and the 'buzz' of something else. “Field of Flesh” is a companion piece to his erotic horror novel NightWhere (which I need to read next), involving a supernaturally kinky sex club, an all-too-eager detective, and the very dangerous temptations of sexual voyeurism.

“The Pumpkin Man” and “The Tapping” are stories where you know what's going on, and can guess the ending from the start, but they're so well told that you're content to enjoy the read. Both are distinguished by the uniqueness of their narrators, the creepiness of the atmosphere, and the ghost-story chills of the plot. “The White House” is a similar sort of tale where you can guess at the ending from page one, but it's the slow build of the tension, and the gradual reveal of the house's sins that make it so powerful.

“Star on the Beach” is another darkly erotic tale of 'harmless' necrophilia on a beach, while “Fish Bait” is a darkly humorous tale of a night in a redneck bar, but both are brutal reminders of the power of seemingly superstitious rituals of appeasement. “To Earn His Love” is another piece of erotic horror that touches on familiar themes, this time involving inappropriate student-teacher relations, guilty voyeurism, and poorly considered deals with the devil.

"The Hole To China” is a perfect closer to the collection, as beautiful and sadly haunting as the story that opened it. A tale of escape from the all-too-real horrors of domestic abuse, it relates the simple story of a boy digging his way to China, and the kindly woman next door who offers him a special shovel, along with some increasingly unsettling observations.

Make no mistake, Sacrificing Virgins is not for everyone, but that's precisely why I enjoyed it so much. I have barely scratched at the surface here, but this is a book that had me covering my eyes, turning my head aside, and reading almost tentatively at times. Some of it is beautiful, and some of it is shocking, but it's all powerful.


ebook, 440 pages
Published December 1st 2015 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fantasy Review: Damned Children of Naor by Justyna Plichta-Jendzio

If you haven't yet had the chance to discover the world of Naor by Justyna Plichta-Jendzio, then you need to get reading. I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I can promise you these stories are as bad-ass awesome as that cover suggests. This is a series that is full of both dark and light, magic and monsters. There are definitely elements of both classic and pulp fantasy to it, but they are flavored by a darker, more mature outlook.

Damned Children of Naor can be read as a standalone novel, so don't feel as if you need to catch up to enjoy it, but the series definitely gets better the more you read of it. There is a lot of world building and mythology here, with different aspects revealed and explored in each book.

The first story here, Time of Storms, is easily the strongest of the three. Here we have an Arabic style and setting, with a young merchant's daughter chosen by the goddess of fate to join the royal harem of Prince Tarragon. Mists of Midalvan trades the darkness of slavery for that of vampirism, further developing the rather deep monstrous mythology of the first three books. The final tale, Spark of Truth, changes things up again, introducing us to a female mercenary and a young woman accused of being a fire demon.

While Justyna's writing has remained strong throughout the series, and the depth of her imagination astounds me with each new revelation, I think this may be her strongest book in terms of characterization. I can't put my finger on what it was about them, but the women here all came alive, demanding their place at the heart of the narrative, and driving the story forward. They represent a nice blend of traditional fantasy subject (they all reject the victim label) and more progressive fantasy heroine. These are strong, complex characters around whom the mythology takes shape.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay to these stories is that I always come away wanting more. That's not so say they're lacking in any way, or that there's something missing, I just literally want more - more stories, more mythology, and more world building. A part of me does wonder if there's a larger end-game lurking, a wider narrative framework that she is still waiting to reveal, but that takes nothing away from the stories themselves. The three stories of Damned Children of Naor are fantastic on their own, even stronger for being collected together, and something approaching majestic within the context of the series.


ebook, 261 pages
Published June 15th 2015 by Devine Destinies

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fantasy Review: The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston

Equal parts historical fiction, epic fantasy, and philosophical discourse, The Shards of Heaven is an altogether fascinating read. Opening with the assassination of Julius Caesar, the story details the war that took place between his heirs and allies, with Cleopatra, Marc Antony, and Caesarion (Caesar's son) on the side of Egypt, and Octavian (Caesar's great-nephew) and Juba (Caesar's adopted son) on the side of Rome.

It's with the role of Juba, however, that fiction begins to deviate from fact. Michael Livingston portrays Juba as a vengeful son, secretly plotting revenge against the world for his real father's defeat at the hands of Caesar. Further deviating from fact into fantasy, Juba has discovered the mythological trident of Poseidon, which also happens to be the equally mythological staff of Moses.

That, right there, is where the story really pulled me in. Anybody who has studied mythology knows that there are themes and stories that are common to faiths across the world. Livingston looks at the various mythologies of the ancient world - most notably those of Greek, Roman, and Jewish origin - and asks whether it is "possible that all the deities of the world were reflections of the same, single, united god?" Furthermore, in questioning why such a god allows bad things to happen, he suggests that god may actually be dead - an event that allowed The Shards of Heaven to fall to Earth, where they were harvested as magical talismans.

If that sounds a bit too cerebral, just wait until you see Poseidon's trident being used to raise up the seas and smash a ship to pieces with a massive watery fist. The power of the trident/staff terrifies Juba, and exhausts him in his attempts to control it, but it provides Octavian with the power to change the world. As terrifying as it is, however, the shard that became the Ark of the Covenant are speculated to be ever more incredible, with the power to destroy world. So, what we end up with here is a dual fantasy. On the one had we have a rather traditional bit of historical fiction that acknowledges the true powers of the ancient world, but which allows a cast of minor characters - historical footnotes, if you will - to drive the narrative forward. On the other hand, you have an epic fantasy that takes the seeds of faith and creates its own mythology. Everybody wants a shard of their own, as much for the mythological significance as the magical powers they contain, leading to a dual race against time as historians search and armies clash.

Definitely one of the most original fantasies I've read this year, The Shards of Heaven really does work on multiple levels. It's the mythology of the shards that intrigued me the most, and Juba who made me a fan of the story, but those looking for a solid historical tale of Egypt versus Rome will be equally satisfied.


Hardcover, 416 pages
Published November 24th 2015 by Tor Books

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

Fantasy Review: The Winter Garden by Kara Jorgensen

The Earl of Brass, the first book of The Ingenious Mechanical Devices, was a surprisingly solid, well-written, and enjoyable read. With it, Kara Jorgensen successfully launched a Victorian science fiction adventure that really delivered on its premise, with plenty of room for a sequel

That sequel,The Winter Garden, takes us back to the Victorian era, but swaps out some of the steampunk elements for something more paranormal. While a few characters from the first book make appearances here, the protagonists shift to Emmeline, a once-dead spiritualist, and Immanuel, the young scholar who resurrected her. Hard to like but easy to admire, Emmeline is a young woman dealing with a lot of issues, not the least of which is her death. Immanuel is a far more likable, bookish young man, which makes it hard to watch as he suffers his own share of violence. As I mentioned, there is a definite shift towards the paranormal here, but the mystical obsession with the spirit world is completely in keeping with the era.

Once again, Jorgensen deftly weaves themes of gender, class, and sexuality into the tale, with Emmeline allowing for a little more feminism to slip into the story. Set against an era of awkward progress, both scientifically and sociologically, those themes fit very well. The story this time around also deals with themes of power, responsibility, and accountability, which serve to bridge science and society, bringing everything together. There's a lot of darkness, torture, pain, and death to the story, and it certainly weighs on the narrative, but it also serves to make for a very satisfying climax.

Narratively, it's just as strong a tale as the first, although some readers may be pleased to find it's not quite so wordy. Personally, I liked the heaviness of the original narrative, and felt it fit the times, but this is a more comfortable read. The frequent changes in point-of-view can be a bit jarring at times, but the characters are all strong enough and identifiable enough to make it work. The romance aspect developed rather quickly, but I found it natural that the characters would grasp at previously unthinkable attachments in the face of such suffering.


Paperback, 302 pages
Published March 11th 2015 by Fox Collie

Saturday, December 12, 2015

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

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


Most Anticipated Fantasy Reads of 2016

I Love My Dead Gay Daughter guest post by F. Wesley Schneider 

Fantasy Review of Heart of a Lion by Stephen Zimmer

Horror Review of The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King


Coming up this week, stay tuned for my Most Anticipated Fantasy Reads of 2016.

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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.

For Review:

City of Blades by Robert Jackson Bennett
Expected publication: January 26th 2016 by Broadway Books

A generation ago, the city of Voortyashtan was the stronghold of the god of war and death, the birthplace of fearsome supernatural sentinels who killed and subjugated millions.

Now, the city’s god is dead. The city itself lies in ruins. And to its new military occupiers, the once-powerful capital is a wasteland of sectarian violence and bloody uprisings.

So it makes perfect sense that General Turyin Mulaghesh— foul-mouthed hero of the battle of Bulikov, rumored war criminal, ally of an embattled Prime Minister—has been exiled there to count down the days until she can draw her pension and be forgotten.

At least, it makes the perfect cover story.

The truth is that the general has been pressed into service one last time, dispatched to investigate a discovery with the potential to change the world--or destroy it.

The trouble is that this old soldier isn't sure she's still got what it takes to be the hero.


Beholder by Graham Masterton
Published 2015 by Graham Masterton

“Once upon a time in a faraway land, a princess was born who was so beautiful that nobody was allowed to look at her for fear that they would be so jealous that they would try to harm her…. no mirrors could be hung in the palace because they would shatter into a hundred thousand pieces if she were to look into them…”

Fiona loved this fairytale, because she led a similar life. There were no mirrors in her house. She lived only with Mummy, who protected her little daughter from jealous eyes, and never let Fiona out of the house and patio. That’s why she couldn’t play with other children and spent her time with only Mummy and her doll Rapunzel, who had no face. "You don’t need a beautiful face to be beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," says Mummy. Fiona did not understand these words until one day she was home alone and noticed that for the first time ever her mum had forgotten to lock her bedroom door... (less)

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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.

Last week's read (the final ARC release of the year), turned out to be a disappointing DNF, so I've had a chance to catch up on some of my reading. As soon as I get a chance to sit down and collect my thoughts, look for reviews of The Winter Garden by Kara Jorgensen and Damned Children of Naor by Justyna Plichta-Jendzio coming later in the week. As for what I'm reading right now, I find myself bouncing back-and-forth between a really fascinating historical fantasy novel and an anthology of twisted horror stories.

The Shards of Heaven by Michael Livingston is a book I was really looking forward to, but it got 'lost' in the post, showing up more than a month late, in a torn and soggy envelope - kind of fitting, considering the trident of Poseidon (which may also be the staff of Moses) is central to the tale. This is an historical fantasy, set in Egypt after the death of Caesar, that considers the Greek, Roman, and Christian mythologies and asks whether it is "possible that all the deities of the world were reflections of the same, single, united god?" If that sounds a bit too cerebral, just wait until you see Poseidon's trident being used to raise up the seas and smash a ship to pieces. You'll be hooked.

Sacrificing Virgins by John Everson is a book I had planned to review earlier this month, but it's proven to be so deeply dark and depraved that I've been savoring it, one story at a time. Despite buying several of his books, this is my first taste of Everson, and it has me wondering what the hell I was waiting for. These short stories are wildly imaginative, darkly atmospheric, and seriously depraved. Alternately erotic and sadistic, they're full of the blackest humor, and completely barren of hope. I know it sounds ridiculous, but this is a book that has had me covering my eyes, turning my head aside, and reading almost tentatively at times. Some of it is beautiful, and some of it is shocking, but it's all powerful.


What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Most Anticipated Fantasy Reads of 2016

As we put one year behind us and begin marching into another, it's time to look ahead to the Most Anticipated Fantasy Reads of 2016.

It's already shaping up to be a magnificent stack of books from some of the biggest names in the genre, and these are only the titles with confirmed release dates.

There are plenty of other books we should see (Bradley P. Beaulieu, Mark Smylie, Michael R. Fletcher . . . we've got our fingers crossed), and several others I hope we might see in the coming year (Brandon Sanderson, George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss . . . we're looking at you), but rather than complain about what we don't have promised, let's take a look at what we do.


JAN-MAR

City of Blades, the 2nd book of The Divine Cities by Robert Jackson Bennett, hits the shelves on January 26th from Broadway Books. Critics have already hailed it as "astonishingly good" and a book that builds "beautifully upon the richly detailed world introduced in the first book of the series."

Chains of the Heretic, the final book of Bloodsounder's Arc by Jeff Salyards, arrives on February 2nd from Night Shade Books. Take my word for it when I tell you this one rips the world wide open and shoves us headlong into a heap of betrayals

Dragon Hunters, the 2nd book of The Chronicle of the Exile by Marc Turner, storms into port on February 9th from Tor Books. I've had good luck with second volumes blowing me away of the past two years, and I have a feeling this will continue the trend.

The Last Mortal Bond, the final chapter in the Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne by Brian Staveley, swoops in on March 15th from Tor Books. As we reach the epic conclusion, war engulfs the Annurian Empire.




APR/MAY/JUNE

Saint's Blood, the 3rd Greatcoats book by Sebastien de Castell, is scheduled for release on April 7th by Jo Fletcher Books (UK). How do you kill a Saint? Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are about to find out, because someone has figured out a way to do it and they've started with a friend.

Fall of Light, the 2nd book of The Kharkanas Trilogy by Steven Erikson, is scheduled for release on April 19th from Tor Books. Prequel sagas are always a tricky thing, but there's a wealth of mythology here to be explored.

Dancer's Lament, the 1st book of Path to Ascendancy by Ian C. Esslemont, arrives on April 21st from Tor Books. Another prequel saga, this one explores skilled assassin Dancer and mage Kellanved, founders of the Malazan empire.

Children of Earth and Sky, the latest epic by Guy Gavriel Kay, is destined to dominate the shelves on May 10th from NAL (USA) and Penguin (Canada). This time around the story is inspired by the conflicts and dramas of Renaissance Europe, featuring a young artist and a fiercely intelligent, angry spy.

King of Ashes, the 1st book of The War of Five Crowns by Raymond E. Feist, appears to be on the books for May 15th from HarperCollins Publishers (but it's already been delayed a few times). It's to be a non-Midkemia book influenced by medieval history and Arthurian legend.

Stranger of Tempest, the 1st book of new series from Tom Lloyd, is coming our way May 19th from Gollancz. This one features a brilliantly likeable mercenary who signs up with a new company who may not be as well-intentioned as he would like.

A Blade of Black Steel, the 2nd book of The Crimson Empire by Alex Marshall, is scheduled to march onto shelves on May 26th from Orbit. Five villains. One legendary general. A battle for survival.

The Wheel of Osheim, the 3rd book of The Red Queen's War by Mark Lawrence, is set to roll on June 7th from Ace. The Wheel of Osheim is turning ever faster, and it will crack the world unless it’s stopped.

In the Shadow of the Gods, the debut novel from Rachel Dunne, arrives on shelves on June 21st from Harper Voyager. A dark epic fantasy in which a mismatched band of mortals, led by violent, secretive man, must stand against a pair of resentful gods to save their world.

Age of Myth, the 1st book of The Legends of the First Empire by Michael J. Sullivan, will be revealed to world on June 28th from Del Rey. Inaugurates an original five-book series, the Age of Myth is over and the time of rebellion has begun.






JULY/AUG/SEPT

The Dragon Round is the first novel by Stephen S. Power, coming on July 5th from Simon & Schuster. A swashbuckling adventure and a timeless tale of revenge, with a dark side, for fans of George R.R. Martin and Naomi Novik.

The Dinosaur Knights, the 2nd book of The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán, also stampedes into bookstores on July 5th from Tor Books. In a world where armored knights ride dinosaurs to battle, the dreaded Grey Angels have come to rid the world of sin...including all the humans who manifest those vices.

The Devil's Evidence, a surprise follow-up to last year's The Devil's Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth, crawls up from the dept of Hell on July 5th from Del Rey. This time Thomas Fool must investigate bodies appearing in Heaven, a place where no crimes are committed, and where perfection may only be surface deep.

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell, the epic Holmes/Hellraiser crossover from Paul Kane, invites us to solve the puzzlebox on July 12th from Solaris. Sherlock Holmes faces his greatest challenge yet when he meets the Cenobites, the infamous servants of hell.

The Dragon Lords: Fool’s Gold by Jon Hollis hits bookstores in July from Orbit. A ragtag group of adventurers plan a heist to steal a dragon’s gold in a book with Guardians of the Galaxy-style wisecracking.

Assassin's Fate, the 3rd book of The Fitz and The Fool Trilogy by Robin Hobb, looks to be scheduled for July 14th from Harper Voyager. There's no cover or synopsis available at this point, but it should be epic. Robin Hobb has indicated that we're likely waiting for Spring 2017 for this now.

Twilight of the Dragons, the 2nd volume of The Blood Dragon Empire by Andy Remic, explodes into the wild on Aug 2nd from Angry Robot. This time our, our heroes makes dangerous bargains in order to overthrow the dragonlords.

Spiderlight, the latest from Adrian Tchaikovsky, crawls under your skin and onto shelves Aug 2nd from Tor Books. A great prophecy, a band of misfits, the Dark Lord Darvezian, and an artifact stolen from the merciless Spider Queen.

Infernal, the debut by Mark de Jager, awakes on Aug 11th from Del Rey. An anti-hero with no memories sets out across a landscape torn apart by a ten year war in a book that's being called a magical blend of Jason Bourne and Jack Reacher.

The Obelisk Gate, the 2nd book of The Broken Earth by N. K. Jemisin, lands on August 16th from Orbit. This is the way the world ends . . . for the last time.







OCT/NOV/DEC

The Wield, a new book from Dan Abnett, is heading our way Oct 20th from Gollancz. It's said to be a dynamic heroic fantasy adventure, packed with vivid action and bloody battles, flawed but engaging characters, and a clever twist.

The Wall of Storms, the highly anticipated 2nd novel of The Dandelion Dynasty by Ken Liu, is scheduled for an Oct release from Simon & Schuster. Emperor Ragin, once known as Kuni Garu, has unified Dara under the banner of peace, but the hearts of men and women are never peaceful.


Is there a title that I've missed? A must-read epic that you're looking forward to? Let us know below!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I Love My Dead Gay Daughter by F. Wesley Schneider (author of Pathfinder Tales: Bloodbound)

Pathfinder Tales: Bloodbound
I Love My Dead Gay Daughter
F. Wesley Schneider

Every vampire story gets compared to Dracula. Whether a stalker or a sparkler, a bloodsucker’s got to measure up to our nebulous—equal parts Stoker, Lugosi, and Lee—vision of the count. Some undead don’t compare well, others are carbon copies, but adhering to or defying the Dracula-standard looms large. But does meeting our expectations of what makes a Dracula doom us to a single, century-old flavor of undeath?

I love Stoker’s classic vampire—for style and tension, it’s hard to beat. I’m also a huge fan of the audacious bloodsuckers of ’80s and ’90s film. Glittery vampires can also be fine… especially if there’s a Rifftrax commentary playing. It’s rare, though, to see a story in Stoker’s tradition that casually twists his tropes. Often, bucking Dracula is the whole shtick, giving us vampires akin to zombie hordes, that drink pseudo-blood cocktails, or that have great abs. Just because I enjoy Stoker’s novel doesn’t mean I need to read it again, though. And wanting something different doesn’t need to mean outright rebellion.

As one of the creators of the Pathfinder world, I’ve spent a lot of time considering how fantasy can be more inclusive—more welcoming to audiences of every stripe. Working on Bloodbound, I wanted to apply the same questions I ask when I’m telling fantasy stories to a work of gothic fiction.

You don’t need to look any further than Bloodbound's cover to see I’m a Robert E. Howard and Hideyuki Kikuchi fan. My novel was always going to feature a vampire hunter in a wide-brimmed black hat. Solomon Kane, Vampire Hunter D, Blade, Alucard, and others nimbly lined up for the role. And using them as placeholders for an outline was fine, but that’s a starting point, not the end. Everything’s worth reexamining and, if it makes a story more interesting, tweaking to taste. Larsa, Bloodbound’s actual protagonist, certainly isn’t the first woman vampire hunter, but as soon as the character shifted from being a Solomon Kane clone to being her own woman, she got much more interesting. Her role didn’t change, the challenges of a half-vampire or a vampire hunter didn’t either, but her chances of walking an entirely familiar path plummeted. Stoker or Howard might not have made their vampire hunters women, but there’s no reason not to today. Rather, there’s every reason to today.

In a gothic horror story I want atmosphere—the haunted hero, the creepy castle, the arch villain. At no point do I think those elements have to have a proscribed heritage, gender, sexuality, race, age, or other experience. We might hold expectations based on what’s come before, but that doesn’t necessarily make them fundamental features. If the question at the heart of imaginative storytelling is “what if,” then Bloodbound asks how a modern lens might refocus classic gothic horror tropes? What if Van Helsing and Solomon Kane were women? What if Lucy Westerna was a guy? What if Dracula’s bride was a queer man? What if Quincy Morris was Middle Eastern? What if no one pursued Dracula? Bloodbound’s a playground for these questions and plenty more, but it’s still a gothic tale. And, hopefully, one that creeps you out whether you hate Dracula or love it.

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About the Author

F. WESLEY SCHNEIDER has published countless gaming products for both Pathfinder and Dungeons & Dragons, and is a former assistant editor of Dragon magazine. Bloodbound is his first novel.

Twitter: @FWesSchneider

Tumblr: wesschneider



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About the Book

Pathfinder Tales: Bloodbound
by F. Wesley Schneider

Larsa is a dhampir-half vampire, half human. In the gritty streets and haunted moors of gothic Ustalav, she's an agent for the royal spymaster, keeping peace between the capital's secret vampire population and its huddled human masses. Yet when a noblewoman's entire house is massacred by vampiric invaders, Larsa is drawn into a deadly game of cat-and-mouse that will reveal far more about her own heritage than she ever wanted to know.

From Pathfinder co-creator and noted game designer F. Wesley Schneider comes Bloodbound, a dark fantasy adventure of murder, intrigue, and secrets best left buried, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Role Playing Game.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

GIVEAWAY: The Chronicles of Xannia by M.J. Moores

Title: Cadence of Consequences (The Chronicles of Xannia Book 2)
Editor: M.J. Moores
Publisher: Infinite Pathways Press
Genre: Science Fiction

She risks losing her life above-ground, in the city she loves, and for what? Possibly harming the innocent if she remains hidden below...

Trapped in a foreign Underground world, Taya battles inner demons and alienation as the man she promised to protect... to love... remains firmly planted in the government’s cross-hairs; hell bent on fulfilling his destiny to change the world. Constantly accosted by a fanatic sect of the Followers of Light, praising her as a false goddess in a religion she never truly believed in, Taya searches for something to return a sense of meaning and purpose in her life. As her skepticism for the impending coup grows so too does Gerrund’s lack of trust, undermining not only her sense of self-worth but their ability to overthrow a corrupt government.

Even as Taya desperately works to establish a communication network spanning the Deserts in an effort to keep a promise she never should have made, her past interferes causing any sense of the future to spiral out of control. It is up to Taya to fix herself and her fractured relationships in order to embrace her destiny and help two very different men attempt to alter the course of history.

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About the Editor

M. J. Moores began her career as an English teacher in Ontario, Canada. Her love of storytelling and passion for writing has stayed with her since the age of nine. M. J. relishes tales of adventure and journeys of self-realization. She enjoys writing in a variety of genres but speculative fiction remains her all time favourite. M.J. is a regular contributor to Authors Publish Magazine and she runs an Emerging Writers website called Infinite Pathways where she offers editing services and platform building opportunities. Her debut novel Time’s Tempest is currently available in print and e-book with book2, Cadence of Consequences recently launched in September.


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Monday, December 7, 2015

Fantasy Review: Heart of a Lion by Stephen Zimmer

Equally throwback and progressive, Heart of a Lion (the first book of Stephen Zimmer's Dark Sun Dawn saga) was a fantasy novel that reminded me of the pulp fantasies of the past, but with a moresophisticated twist. Rayden Valkyrie is a fantasy heroine who can stand tall and proud alongside Red Sonja (Robert E. Howard), Jalav (Sharon Green), Estri (Janet E. Morris), Raven (Richard Kirk), Morgaine (CJ Cherryh), Paks (Elizabeth Moon), and - of course - Xena.

In terms of storytelling, this felt a lot like one of those episodic pulp sword-and-sorcery novels, with Rayden journeying from one adventure to another, picking up (and discarding) sidekicks and partners along the way. It's a violent story, full of both torture and warfare, with some exceptionally well-choreographed battles along the way. There's more than a few touches of monstrous horror to it as well, further reinforcing that pulp feel. While there is some humor to the story, it's well-placed and restrained, and while Rayden has friends and allies, there are no scenes of romance to unnecessarily soften her character.

In terms of mythology and world-building, this is one of those stories that straddles two worlds, pulling equally from real-life history and from Stephen Zimmer's imagination. Despite it's episodic feel, there is a larger story that pulls it all together, with some intricacies of plotting that you only truly appreciate in hindsight. If you're up for a solid sword-and-sorcery novel with a kick-ass protagonist, a lot of imagination, and some quality writing, Heart of a Lion is well worth the read.

Kindle Edition, 234 pages
Published February 2nd 2015 by Seventh Star Press

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Horror Review: The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

A long time ago, I got into a staring match with this ugly tabby cat. It wasn't a real cat, but one plastered on the cover of a book. It was a thick book, the kind of book my mother might read, by some guy who misspelled the word 'cemetery' on the cover. Eventually, I won the staring contest, picked up the book, and read the back cover. Holy hell, this sounded awesome! After about 10 minutes of pleading with my mother, we actually went home with 2 copies of Pet Sematary in the shopping bag. She wasn't too thrilled about the idea of a 9 year old reading such a book, and wanted to read it herself to make sure it was suitable.

It, of course, was far from suitable. My mother gave up halfway through, but I read that sucker cover-to-cover. I lugged it everywhere, including the schoolyard, and took a perverse sort of pride in people being shocked by it. It was the first 'adult' book I read, and it took me months to do so, but it started a lifelong obsession with Stephen King.

While we've had our differences over the years, and I've been critical of some of his work over the past decade or so, it's always exciting when he puts out a new collection of short stories. Even if they never manage to rival the likes of Night Shift or Skeleton Crew, those collections are always a must-read. His latest such collection, of course, is The Bazaar of Bad Dreams . . . and it's a pretty solid body of work.

The opening tale, Mile 81, is vintage Stephen King. Here you've got a daring young kid, an abandoned rest stop, and a very hungry, very sinister automobile. This is the kind of story that could get real silly, real fast, but King holds a tight reign over the narrative, keeping it painful and creepy right through to the end.

Given it's quiet, subtle sort of nature, I'm surprised by how much I enjoyed Batman and Robin Have an Altercation. Having just lost my father this summer, I found myself deeply invested in this tale of an awkward lunch and an unfortunate accident.

The Dune was another classic King tale, more about the telling than the tale itself, with a final twist that the reader sees coming . . . and is completely okay with that.

I didn't enjoy Bad Little Kid quite as much as I thought I might, but it's still an effective tale of horror that has you wondering whether the condemned man is making it all up - at least until that cheesy, outdated little propeller hat makes a final appearance.

Morality was interesting, but too heavy handed to really work as anything more than an obvious morality tale.

Back in the day, I nearly bought a Kindle just so I could read Ur, but Amazon weren't shipping them to Canada at the time. While the story might have lost a bit of its novelty factor, it's still a fun read that touches on some classic King questions of fate and the future.

Herman Wouk is Still Alive was just depressing, with a pair of entirely unlikable women at its heart.

Blockade Billy I read back when it was released as a standalone story, and I enjoyed it just as much the second time around. King knows horror and King knows baseball, and he frames the story the way a catcher frames a pitch.

That Bus is Another World is just altogether odd. It's far too short, completely leaves the reader hanging, and is entirely surreal. Despite that, it's intense, it's exciting, and it probably got my heart racing more than any other story here.

By far my favorite tale here, Obits, is the story of a wannabe journalist who settles for writing mean-spirited obituaries for a TMZ kind of site. When a spiteful preemptive obituary results in the death of his editor, he discovers just how much power the written word can have. The way King twists this one, magnifying the horror, is really quite brilliant.

Summer Thunder ends the story on a very melancholy note, but it's a powerfully emotional story. With the world well on its way to an end, two sick old men and an even sicker dog decide to tackle death on their own terms.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams isn't a perfect collection, and I'll freely admit to skipping over the poetry, but those stories that really work - Mile 81, Batman and Robin Have an Altercation, Obits, and Summer Thunder - are worth the price of admission.


Hardcover, 495 pages
Published November 3rd 2015 by Scribner

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

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


WTF Friday review of Bank Owned by J. Joseph Wright

Best of 2015: A 5-Star Year in the Ruins

Review Teaser of Chains of the Heretic by Jeff Salyards

(Guest) Fantasy Review of The Untold Tale by J.M. Frey


Coming up this week, stay tuned for my Most Anticipated Fantasy Reads of 2016.

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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.

For Review:

Phantom Effect by Michael Aronovitz

Jonathan Martin Delaware Deseronto is a six-foot-five serial killer with a problem. He’s stuck out on I-476 in a heavy November rainstorm with two flat tires and the dead bodies of a cop and a co-ed named Marissa Madison in his trunk. Desperate to get off the highway, he drives his car on its back rims towards Exit 6. The car stalls on the ramp and Deseronto uses the last of its momentum to plunge over the crest of a steep slope and crash into a length of concrete pipe below. The car comes to rest on the edge of a construction site where machines are positioned to tear down an old Motel 6.

For Deseronto, the worst is yet to come. Marissa Madison had been a psychic of sorts while alive, using her ability to assist people in their personal journeys. Now, the ghost of Marissa will utilize her strange gift, trapping Deseronto in the abandoned motel, and forcing him to live the last, fatal week of her own life as a passive passenger in her body . . . Soon, Deseronto will experience something truly horrific: the mind-numbing terror of being stalked by himself.


The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again by A.C. Wise

When the world is endangered, there's no point in sparing the spangles, spilling the drinks, or withholding the glitter. In this collection of whimsical stories of fierce femmes and brave butches, the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron is a phone call away...

The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again is a collection of inter-linked short stories featuring the sparkliest, bravest, most bad-ass women you are ever likely to meet. Any old hero can save the world, but these ladies can do it all in glitter and high heels, and still make it home in time for tea (and cocktails, or course).

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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.

The Relic Master: A Novel by Christopher Buckley

From New York Times bestselling author Christopher Buckley, “one of the funniest writers in the English language” (Tom Wolfe), a compelling and hilarious adventure featuring a sixteenth-century relic hunter and his best friend, Albrecht Dürer, who conspire to forge the Shroud of Turin.

The year is 1517. Dismas is a relic hunter: one who procures “authentic” religious relics for wealthy and influential clients. His two most important patrons are Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony and soon-to-be Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz. While Frederick is drawn to the recent writing of Martin Luther, Albrecht pursues the financial and political benefits of religion and seeks to buy a cardinalship through the selling of indulgences. When Albrecht’s ambitions increase his demands for grander and more marketable relics, Dismas and his artist friend Dürer conspire to manufacture a shroud to sell to the unsuspecting noble. Unfortunately Dürer’s reckless pride exposes Albrecht’s newly acquired shroud as a fake, so Albrecht puts Dismas and Dürer in the custody of four loutish mercenaries and sends them all to steal Christ’s burial cloth (the Shroud of Chambéry), Europe’s most celebrated relic.

On their journey to Savoy where the Shroud will be displayed, they battle a lustful count and are joined by a beautiful female apothecary. It is only when they reach their destination that they realize they are not alone in their intentions to acquire a relic of dubious legitimacy. Filled with fascinating details about art, religion, politics and science; Vatican intrigue; and Buckley’s signature wit, The Relic Master is a delightfully rich and intelligent comic adventure.

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, December 4, 2015

WTF Friday: Bank Owned by J. Joseph Wright

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!

Although it feels a little rushed, with a few awkward transitions that made me wonder if something were missing in the text, Bank Owned is still a powerfully compact horror story. J. Joseph Wright puts a contemporary spin on the classic haunted house tale, contrasting the mundane horrors of infertility and infidelity with the more monstrous horrors of torture and temptation.

Right from the start, when a slimy realtor pressures Brian and Angela into a massive down payment on the Castle at at the end of Pebble Creek Road, we know something is off. Wright doesn't waste any time ratcheting up the supernatural tension, as Angela finds herself hearing the sounds of a baby somewhere in the house, while Brian keeps hearing the sounds of her having sadomasochistic sex with another man. Their individual obsessions eventually lead them to the discovery of a hidden room beneath the basement, but I won't spoil the contradictory secrets there.

It's a suitably uncomfortable, claustrophobic sort of tale, and Wright does a good job of chasing the thrills. Part of me wishes he'd spent a bit more time exploring the bank's role in everything, but sometimes less is more, and sometimes an author can ruin the suspense by revealing too much. Fortunately, if you're in the market for a Bank Owned castle, it should be coming on the market again real soon.


Kindle Edition, 69 pages
Published January 4th 2013 by JKWright Publications