Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

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

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin
Expected publication: August 15, 2017 by Orbit


The Moon will soon return. Whether this heralds the destruction of humankind or something worse will depend on two women.

Essun has inherited the power of Alabaster Tenring. With it, she hopes to find her daughter Nassun and forge a world in which every orogene child can grow up safe.

For Nassun, her mother's mastery of the Obelisk Gate comes too late. She has seen the evil of the world, and accepted what her mother will not admit: that sometimes what is corrupt cannot be cleansed, only destroyed.

The remarkable conclusion to the post-apocalyptic and highly acclaimed trilogy that began with the multi-award-nominated The Fifth Season.

This is yet another one of this trilogies I have been really excited about, but just haven't made time for in my schedule. Maybe knowing that the final book is out there will kick my butt into gear.

Monday, June 19, 2017

#Steampunk #Erotica Review: Mistress Of The Air by S. Nano

Steampunk adventure, bondage erotica, and pulp humour. The three shouldn't go together. Hell, they shouldn't even be in the same sentence, much less the same book. And yet, in so far as Mistress Of The Air is concerned, the combination works.

I've been in something of a reading rut lately, and it seems S. Nano was precisely what I needed.

Mistress Of The Air is the story of Lady Sally Rudston-Chichester (a rich, eccentric, well-connected Dominatrix), The Corseted Domme (the largest airship to ever take to the skies), the odd assortment of men who accompany her, and the even odder assortment of steampunk sex toys and bondage devices that bring them all together. It is an altogether ridiculous tale, full of slapstick pratfalls, running gags, Wiley Coyote-like equipment malfunctions, and daring escapes from impossible situations. Against that backdrop, the bondage erotcia should seem awkward and rather forced, but the sheer charismatic extravagance of Lady Sally makes it all work.

The straight man to this comedic entourage is Captain Wyndham, the only man aboard The Corseted Domme not to feel the bite of her whip. If this were a movie, he'd be Harrison Ford, channeling the most daring characteristics of Han Solo and Indiana Jones, only with a sexy C-3PO replacing Chewbacca as co-pilot. The steampunk elements are as inventive as they are erotic, and their tendency to malfunction beneath the over-enthusiastic hand of Lady Sally keeps the story from getting stale or repetitive.

For my first taste of S. Nano, Mistress Of The Air was actually rather delightful.So much so that I intend to pick up the original three Lady Sally short stories (contained in Beltane Fire, Fifty Shades of Green, and Of Passion and Steam - the last of which I'm actually overdue in reviewing) in short order.

Kindle Edition, 282 pages
Published April 21st 2017 by Excessica

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

Friday, June 16, 2017

Spotlight: Mistress Of The Air by S. Nano (#steampunk #erotica)


S. Nano

Genre: Comic, Steampunk, Erotica

Publisher: eXcessica

Date of Publication: 21st April 2017

ISBN: 978-1545250242

Number of pages: 270
Word Count: 79,000

Cover Artist: Kevin Blisse

Book Description:

Mistress Of The Air is a Comic, Steampunk, Erotic Adventure.

Lady Sally Rudston-Chichester owns a brass mine in Zanzibar, a Lapsang Souchong tea plantation in China, a rubber farm in Malaysia, trunk loads of corsetry, and the country’s largest collection of antique whips.

Larger than life, and itching to find new and inventive ways to punish her submissive gentlemen, the Edwardian dominatrix has a vision. Embracing the spirit of the age of aviation, she embarks on a series of adventures on her airship, ‘The Corseted Domme’, with her transvestite maid, Victoria, her airship pilot, Captain Wyndham, and her automaton sex-doll, Borghild.

A select group of submissive gentlemen, consisting of a duke, bishop, lawyer and banker, is invited to join Lady Sally so she can try out her dastardly, electric and steam-powered devices on them. She spanks, whips, and punishes her way across the Empires of Europe, dropping off to visit her aristocratic relatives and friends for afternoon tea.

But Lady Sally’s journey is not uneventful. War is threatening to break out and the Ministry of Aviation want to commandeer her airship for the war effort. And when ‘The Corseted Domme’ has a crash landing, Lady Sally realises there is a stowaway on board intent on sabotaging her airship.

‘Mistress of the Air’ is a genre-crossing comic, Steampunk, erotic adventure as Lady Sally delivers a BDSM kick up the back-side to the Edwardian country house novel.

Amazon UK     Amazon UK Print     BN



“Jolly bad luck on the final race, Wyndham. It was a daring move and deserving of greater

The captain’s face lit up at the compliment. He looked up but couldn’t help but be distracted by the sight of Lady’s Sally’s breasts. Her dress was cut daringly low, and the magnificent orbs of white flesh were pushed up enticingly by her corset and the cut of her gown.

And then she started talking. If Wyndham was embarrassed about what to say to her, he didn’t need to worry. She commanded the conversation and Wyndham listened, bewitched and mesmerised at the vision she laid before him. There was no escape for him. He was pinned into the corner by Lady Sally’s heaving breasts with no escape. He tried to concentrate on what she was saying, conscious of the treatment meted out on Monsieur Le Blon, all the time urging himself to focus on her face not her chest, but it was an enormous effort of will when they were practically thrust under his nose. 

She spoke of her airship. She described how vast it was going to be, how fast, how powerful, and how high it would fly. She described how sumptuously it would be fitted out. She extolled the virtues of her ocean liner of the air. Wyndham nodded enthusiastically as her breasts swelled and subsided with every excited explication of her venture. She enthused about her designers and engineers who were working on it, of the technical challenges they faced and how they had overcome them. Wyndham stood trapped in the corner of the ballroom like a frightened rabbit in headlights all the time trying to distract himself from the sight of Lady Sally’s enormous décolletage as it heaved up and down in front of his eyes.

Then she proceeded to explain how, as he must certainly know, she was the foremost dominatrix of her age and described with great enthusiasm the dungeon that would be fitted out on the airship, and how excited she was about the adventures she would have, and the whippings, spankings and punishments she would administer to the carefully selected group of submissive gentlemen who would be accompanying her on the airship’s maiden voyage.

“It’s my ambition, Captain Wyndham, to be the Mistress of the Air, yes…a veritable Mistress of the Air, and I envisage you playing a vital role in fulfilling my vision.”

Wyndham’s ears pricked up at those words but he only had the slightest moment to interject with a nervous, “oh really,” before the enormous breasts backed him even further into the corner. Lady Sally continued by praising his aviation skills and the daring manoeuvres she’d witnessed at the flying meeting. Wyndham flushed with pride. She went on, much to the captain’s delight, to say how those French aviators were all show and no guts, and she needed somebody who would take risks for her, to serve her loyally and selflessly. Finally, she wound up her diatribe and came directly to the point.

 “Now Captain. I pride myself on my instincts and judgement of character. You see, the matter is I need an airship pilot. I need someone who can share my enthusiasm for air flight and is a skilled aviator. I believe you are my man Wyndham.”

Lady Sally continued extolling the excitement of the new age, how she was going to take her airship on a grand tour across Europe and how he, Wyndham, would be her pilot.
Finally, she concluded, “So that’s all settled then, Captain Wyndham. I can assure you the financial rewards will be considerable. It’s good to have you on board. I’m sure we will share many adventures together. You can report to my airship station at Howden in Yorkshire. My maid, Victoria, will give you all the details.”

With one dismissive wave of a lace-gloved hand she breezed off, leaving the hapless Wyndham gaping in astonishment. He had been swept away by her charisma. He had barely uttered a word. At no point had he agreed to the venture yet he knew in his gut he would accept the challenge. He felt strangely compelled to help Lady Sally fulfil her vision of travel in the largest and fastest dirigible ever to be built.


About the Author:

S. Nano is an author of erotic stories with dark and exotic content in fantasy, paranormal or historical settings, often drawing on the themes of female supremacy, BDSM and fetish but with a seam of quirky humour running through them as well.

His first full-length erotic novel, ‘Adventures in Fetishland’, a BDSM/fetish re-invention of Alice in Wonderland, was published by Xcite Books. His short stories and novellas have been published by Xcite Books, House of Erotica, Forbidden Fiction, Coming Together and Greenwoman Publishing.

His second novel, ‘Mistress Of The Air’, a comic, Steampunk, erotic adventure will be published by eXcessica on 21st April 2017.

Mistress Of The Air Facebook:

WTF Friday: The 3 H's by Brian Barr

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

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

Hats off to Brian Barr.... or should I say heads?

The Head is a short story of a talking head with a rather weird background. Elizabeth finds out the hard way when she brings the head to its body.

A simple read but creative and so I must read on....This is part one of the trilogy.

Paperback, 46 pages
Published February 2nd 2017 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Barr opens the doors to The House of horrors. Dropping the origins of the house's endless attic corridors and all the ladies who fell to the woo of the adorable head, (found in the garden).

This book takes awhile to sink in but you will learn that once you enter your trapped forever..... Or until?

The Hell should explain it all. This is the sequel to the trilogy....Read the next book!

Kindle Edition, 77 pages
Published March 30th 2017

The first two books in the series moved very nicely between scenes. I grew a strong liking to the "Head" found in the garden. The House had a nice entry to the deep dark corridors within the attic. And now.... The Hell.

Ghost hunters come into play and Barr gets deeper into the origins of the house. A lot of characters at this point came into play and I feel as though I got lost inside the house with them.

Susie (one of those Ghost Hunters) her character had a tough guy, tomboy attitude dropping F bombs. She made me laugh.

Overall Brian Barr has created a very interesting trilogy opening the doors to a Hell of a ride.

Try not to lose any body parts along the way!

Kindle Edition, 132 pages
Published May 21st 2017

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dinosaur Princess by Victor Milán

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

The Dinosaur Princess by Victor Milán
Expected publication: August 15, 2017 by Tor Books

Knights riding dinosaurs…

Humans were abducted eons ago at a god’s whim. Empires have risen and fallen and now men ride into battle on Stegosauruses and their generals lead them on White Thunder T-Rexes. Welcome to Paradise, and the third volume in Victor Milan’s glorious alternate fantasy universe.

The ancient gods who brought mankind to Paradise have returned to judge their human experiment. The Grey Angels, fabled ancient weapons of the gods, have come to rid the world of sin.

And if humans are deemed unworthy, they will be scourged from the face of Paradise.

The Dinosaur Princess is the newest epic fantasy adventure set in a world where knights ride armored dinosaurs into battle, hailed by George R. R. Martin as "A cross between Jurassic Park and Game of Thrones."

“Milán skillfully crafts his characters, giving significant thought to just how knights might use dinosaurs…Readers who pick this up for the gimmick will relish it for the able storytelling.”—Publishers Weekly

I'm actually rereading the first book now (I felt as if I rushed through the original ARC), and hope to get the second read in time for release day.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

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

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

I haven't had a lot to share lately, mainly because we're neck-deep in boxes, and packing has consumed most of my time. 

I did pick up a whole bunch of adventure e-books from K.T. Tomb, since pretty much their entire catalogue seemed to be free this week, along with an adventure book from Sean Ellis. Hmm, I'm seeing a trend here . . .



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 haven't had much luck with my reads lately, but I'm enjoying The Dragon's Legacy by Deborah A. Wolfand I'm just starting The Legion of Flame by Anthony Ryan.


What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Tales from Harborsmouth Pre-Order Party

Have you been wanting to give the Ivy Granger series a try, or are you a mega fan wanting more stories from the monster-filled streets of Harborsmouth? You're in luck.

Tales from Harborsmouth, an Ivy Granger series anthology with two novellas and two exclusive short stories, is now available for pre-order. More Ivy, Jinx, Marvin, Sparky, Forneus, and Torn! Are you excited? We are, and we're celebrating with an awesome giveaway. So grab some cake and pull up a chair. It's time to party!

Tales from Harborsmouth Ivy Granger Psychic Detective Urban Fantasy

Tales from Harborsmouth (Ivy Granger Psychic Detective #0.5, #1.5, #2.5, #5.5)
by E.J. Stevens.

In Tales from Harborsmouth, readers get the chance to delve deeper into the award-winning world of Ivy Granger.

Ivy Granger is a psychic detective with ties to Harborsmouth's paranormal underworld. Too bad those ties tend to ensnare Ivy and her friend Jinx in the Machiavellian schemes of the city's teeming population of bloodsucking vampires and psychotic faeries.

  • FROSTBITE (Ivy Granger #0.5)

  • Everyone knows that there's no such thing as ghosts, but when a client claims that her house is being haunted, Ivy tries to keep her mind open and her weapons handy. If her psychic gifts and recent cases have taught her anything, it's that you're better off arming yourself for the unexpected. Anything is possible in Harborsmouth.

  • BLOOD AND MISTLETOE (Ivy Granger #1.5)

  • Holidays are worse than a full moon for making people crazy. In Harborsmouth, where many of the residents are undead vampires or monstrous fae, the combination may prove deadly.

    Holidays are Hell, a point driven home when a certain demon attorney returns with information regarding a series of bloody murders. Five Harborsmouth residents have been killed and every victim has one thing in common—they are fae. Whoever is killing faeries must be stopped, but they only leave one clue behind—a piece of mistletoe floating in a pool of the victim's blood. The holidays just got interesting.

  • CLUB NEXUS (Ivy Granger #2.5)

  • A demon, a human, an Unseelie faerie, and a vampire walk into a bar...

    These four intertwining short stories are set in Club Nexus, the hidden haunt of Harborsmouth's paranormal underworld.

    Iced: A bargain gone wrong leads a highborn Unseelie faerie to life as an enslaved bartender with a taste for revenge.

    Dusted: Being a highly skilled predator doesn't necessarily put you at the top of the food chain at Club Nexus. A southern vampire with a hankering for blood and wanton violence may have bit off more than he can chew.

    Demonized: The demon attorney we love to hate has his eye on a certain rockabilly human. Too bad she's brought a crossbow loaded with holy water dipped bolts for this night on the town.

    Jinxed: Just when Jinx needs a carefree girl's night out with Ivy, a smoking hot demon tries to buy her a drink. She really is the unluckiest human on the planet.

  • THRILL ON JOYSEN HILL (Ivy Granger #5.5)

  • Few places are as rife with opportunity or as fraught with danger as Harborsmouth's notorious Joysen Hill.

    Vampires own the real estate, and even the most ruthless human thugs won't venture out after dark, but when Torn gets stuck babysitting, he can only think of one place in Harborsmouth interesting enough to take a demon toddler, a teenage bridge troll, and a grouchy hearth brownie. What happens next substantiates the city's advertising slogan. No matter who or what you are, no matter how young or old, you can find your thrill on Joysen Hill.

    Pre-Order Available Now:


    How's the cake? Ready to win some great prizes?

    Tales from Harborsmouth Pre-Order Party Giveaway

    We are giving away an Ivy Granger Prize Pack, including a $25 Amazon Gift Card and *signed* collectible Passport to the World of Ivy Granger.

    To enter, please use the Rafflecopter from below. This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL. Giveaway ends June 13th midnight EST.

    In the Ivy Granger prequel story FROSTBITE, Ivy's client claims that her house is haunted. Do YOU believe in ghosts?

    Wednesday, June 7, 2017

    Waiting on Wednesday: The Unholy Consult by R. Scott Bakker

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

    The Unholy Consult by R. Scott Bakker
    Expected publication: July 11th 2017 by The Overlook Press

    The highly anticipated and explosive finale to the master of grimdark R. Scott Bakker’s acclaimed high fantasy series

    In this shattering conclusion to The Aspect-Emperor books, praised for their “sweeping epic scale and detailed historical world building” (Grimdark Magazine), R. Scott Bakker delivers the series’ feverishly harrowing and long-awaited finish.

    Not much of a blurb, I know, but some books just sell themselves - especially when the author has such a devoted following a Bakker. I've some catching up to do with this series, but I'm excited to see how it all ends.

    Tuesday, June 6, 2017

    Brief Reviews From The DNF Pile

    Some readers feel compelled to finish everything they read - and I applaud them for that - but life is too short to waste on books you're not enjoying. I give everything a fair shot, both in terms of time and pages, waiting to see if one might fit a changing mood, but eventually you just have to say farewell and move onto the next book on the shelf.

    Maybe it's the stress of packing and preparing to move. Maybe it's the headache of trying to budget so far into the unknown. Maybe it's the melancholy weather or the misery of seasonal allergies. All I know is that I'm in a reading rut lately.

    Swarm and Steel by Michael R. Fletcher
    This is one I may come back to later, but I will likely give The Mirror's Truth a read first to see if I can recapture the excitement I felt while reading Beyond Redemption. I don't know whether it's a case of the novelty having worn off, or if the characters here just aren't as interesting as in Fletcher's first Manifest Delusions book, but I simply wasn't enjoying it. That first book was about as dark as fantasy gets - violent, cruel, and morally disturbing - but it was also insanely fun. I wasn't getting that sense of fun here, and I wasn't connecting with any of the characters.

    The Witchwood Crown by Tad William
    With this one, it's less a Did-Not-Finish and more a Definitely-Finish-Later scenario. As excited as I was to land a digital ARC of this, the 'digital' part is the problem. When I read a massive epic fantasy like this, I need to feel it . . . to experience it . . . to hold it in my hands. There are some genres that simply work better in a physical format, and this is one of them. Unless a surprise physical ARC lands on my doorstep in the coming weeks, I will be waiting to pick up a copy of the hardcover for myself on release day.

    The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter S. Beagle & Jacob Weisman
    Unless they're connected by a theme, I tend to be hesitant about multi-author anthologies like this, especially when I've only really heard of two of the authors. The first four stories did nothing for me, but "A Kiss With Teeth" by Max Gladstone was fantastic - quite a bit better, and rather more accessible, than his Craft Sequence novels. The next two fell flat as well, but then along came "The Practical Witch’s Guide to Acquiring Real Estate" by A. C. Wise, which was just as much fun as I expected of her. When the three following stories disappointed, despite having some of the most intriguing titles in the collection, I decided I was done.

    Mona Lisa's Secret by Phil Philips
    I went into this expecting a grand Dan Brown type adventure, with a good bit of history and backstory, but it was a rather silly and superficial contemporary heist. Even as I tried to enjoy it as a mindless pulp adventure instead, I found it too cheesy and unrealistic to really hold my interest.

    Dead On Arrival by Matt Richtel
    This was not at all what I expected, with far too much sci-fi nonsense and far too little biological plague creepiness, not to mention a narrative style that jumps around far too much. The characters were thinly painted, with no real personalities, and that is a definite problem when the whole point of the book is to root for their survival. I did finish this, but only by skimming large sections of it and skipping ahead just to see how it ended - and it was disappointing.

    Broken Wizards by Jeffrey Bardwell
    The narrative was poorly constructed, with more tell than show, and the whole thing was in serious need of an editor to reign in the run-on-sentences and introduce some much-needed structure. I found myself confused and impatient with the early chapters, which can be effective if there's a moment of clarity coming where the story explodes into action, but no matter how far I skimmed ahead, that moment just didn't seem to be there.

    Wednesday, May 31, 2017

    Waiting On Wednesday: The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson

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

    The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson
    Expected publication: August 1st 2017 by Doubleday

    An ingenious new thriller that weaves a path through history, following a race of human-like machines that have been hiding among us for untold centuries, written by the New York Times bestselling author of Robopocalypse.

    Present day: When a young anthropologist specializing in ancient technology uncovers a terrible secret concealed in the workings of a three-hundred-year-old mechanical doll, she is thrown into a hidden world that lurks just under the surface of our own. With her career and her life at stake, June Stefanov will ally with a remarkable traveler who exposes her to a reality she never imagined, as they embark on an around-the-world adventure and discover breathtaking secrets of the past…

    Russia, 1725: In the depths of the Kremlin, the tsar’s loyal mechanician brings to life two astonishingly humanlike mechanical beings. Peter and Elena are a brother and sister fallen out of time, possessed with uncanny power, and destined to serve great empires. Struggling to blend into pre-Victorian society, they are pulled into a legendary war that has raged for centuries.

    The Clockwork Dynasty seamlessly interweaves past and present, exploring a race of beings designed to live by ironclad principles, yet constantly searching for meaning. As June plunges deeper into their world, her choices will ultimately determine their survival or extermination. Richly-imagined and heart-pounding, Daniel H. Wilson’s novel expertly draws on his robotics and science background, combining exquisitely drawn characters with visionary technology—and riveting action.

    I never did get around to reading Robopocalypse, but I thought Amped was a fantastic read, and I've been eager to read more of Wilson's work . . . and this sounds like it could be my chance.

    Friday, May 26, 2017

    WTF Friday: Covenant by John Everson

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

    While I had purchased several of John Everson's novels over the years - most notably Covenant and NightWhere - it wasn't until the release of Sacrificing Virgins that I realized what I had been missing and became a hardcore fan. With Redemption out now to finish up The Curburide Chronicles, I decided to go back to the beginning and read my way through to the finale.

    Originally published back in 2004, Covenant was the debut novel by John Everson . . . and there's a damned good reason it won the Stoker Award for best first novel. This is dark, sexually charged, brutally violent, supernatural horror. It's a book with a great backstory, a twisted sense of history, and some fantastic characters.

    At the core of Covenant is a classic ghost story involving an old lighthouse, a demonic presence, a history of suicides, and a small town that refuses to talk about it. At first, Joe Kieran suspects a murderous small-town cult, but the deeper he digs into the mystery, the more he finds it harder to deny the threat of the supernatural. Even his darkest fears, however, can't compare to the truth of what lies beneath the cliffs.

    This is not a story for weak stomachs or sensitive souls. There are multiple scenes of rape and molestation, all driven by supernatural forces. Nobody is safe from the town's curse, with men and women compelled to act out their darkest desires, made to crave the shame, and forced to enjoy it - at least in the heat of the moment. As if that weren't enough, the sex is often bloody as well, adding to its occult nature. There aren't too many authors who can move from erotic spectacle to emotional trauma in the space of a paragraph, but Everson does it, and does it well.

    While the climax is hardly a surprise, I did like the way the story came full circle, and am anxious to move onto Sacrifice next.

    Paperback, 296 pages
    Published September 1st 2008 by Leisure Books (first published 2004)

    Thursday, May 25, 2017

    #Horror Review: Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar

    Gwendy's Button Box was one of those long-abandoned stories that Stephen King had never been able to finish, so he gave Richard Chizmar a crack at it, and they collaborated on the final product.

    To be honest, I wish he'd just stuck with it and allowed his imagination to tackle it alone. While King's endings seem to be a source of disappointment for many readers, I have always loved how brutally dark they can be, with even victories that feel sad and sorrowful. Don't get me wrong, he's done a few silly ones (Under the Dome and Tommyknockers immediately come to mind), but for the most part I like his endings.

    Not here. After a fantastic beginning involving Castle Rock, the Man in Black, and a mysterious box; followed by an equally exciting middle involving some very creepy explorations of power and responsibility; we get a soft ending that is all whimper and no bag. King and Chizmar completely side-step what should have been an epic climax. Not only that, but they offer up a weak closing that is entirely out of character for the Man in Black.

    For a book that had so much promise early on, and which had me devouring pages at a frantic pace, I came away thoroughly disappointed.

    Since I felt like there was a clear distinction in the text where King handed off the literary baton, with the whole style of the narrative changing, I do feel as if I got a fair taste of Chizmar's writing - and it's not bad. He's a solid writer who did a fantastic job of capturing the essence of Gwendy, and who contributed story elements that feel very much in keeping with King's style. I suspect he wasn't sure how to end it either, where to take such massive stakes without ending the world altogether, but certainly the two of them could have come up with something better than this.

    Gwendy's Button Box certainly starts out as a vintage King story, hitting all the right buttons and getting the reader excited, and it plays very well with the mystery of that box, but it's timid refusal to confront a true ending undoes much of that potential.

    Kindle Edition, 175 pages
    Published May 16th 2017 by Cemetery Dance Publications

    Wednesday, May 24, 2017

    Waiting On Wednesday: Swarm and Steel by Michael R. Fletcher

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

    Swarm and Steel by Michael R. Fletcher
    Expected publication: August 22nd 2017 by Talos

    To escape the hell she created, a woman must team up with a novice warrior and return to her homeland in this gritty epic fantasy where delusions are literally made real.

    Zerfall awakens in an alley, wounded and unable to remember her past. Chased by an assassin out into the endless wastes of the desert, she is caught, disfigured, and left for dead. Her scabbard is empty, but the need for answers—and the pull of her sword—will draw her back to the city-states.

    When Jateko, a naïve youth, accidentally kills a member of his own tribe, he finds himself outcast and pursued across the desert for his crimes. Crazed from dehydration, dying of thirst and hunger, he stumbles across Zerfall.

    Hunted by assassins and bound by mutual need, both Zerfall and Jeteko will confront the Täuschung, an ancient and deranged religion ruled by a broken fragment of Zerfall’s mind. Swarm, the Täuschung hell, seethes with imprisoned souls, but where gods—real or imagined—meddle in the affairs of man, the cost is high.

    In Swarm and Steel, the power of belief can manifest and shape reality, and for political and religious leaders, faith becomes a powerful tool. But the insane are capable of twisting reality with their delusions as well, turning increasingly dangerous as their sanity crumbles. It is here that a long prophesied evil will be born, an endless hunger. The All Consuming will rise.

    Although I have yet to get around to The Mirror's Truth, I can honestly say Beyond Redemption was one of the most stunningly original fantasy epics I have ever had the pleasure of reading. The publisher is looking for blurbs by early June, so I'll be tackling this soon.

    Tuesday, May 23, 2017

    Urban Fantasy Review: The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox

    The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase is a solid second entry in the literary annals of The Librarians, a fun follow-up by Greg Cox to last year's The Librarians and The Lost Lamp. Having already proven his grasp of the characters and their world, he's free to be a bit more playful this time around. It does lack the tension of the first, coming across as more a comedy of errors than a real life-and-death pursuit, but that's pretty much in keeping with the pacing of the series itself.

    This time around, we discover that the original Mother Goose nursery rhymes were actually a dangerous spell book, one that was split apart and entrusted to three different descendants as part of the Mother Goose Treaty of 1918. A century later, it appears as if the planned demolition of a Mother Goose themed amusement park has prompted a return to the magic nursery rhymes.
    "I don't plan, I act. I go by rhyme, not reason. I do as the spirit moves me. I am my own muse, the one true Mother Goose. No plans for me, only inspired flights of fancy!"
    As a whole, the book is rather silly, but in an altogether clever way. Cox expands upon the verses we all know so well, going back to their darker, more sinister origins, and using them to serve as clues to a trio of treasure hunts. While all of this is going on, Colonel Baird and Jenkins are left to guard the Library itself from a hungry treasure chest, in a room-to-room battle that involves a lion, a unicorn, Excalibur, and more. As for Flynn, he's largely absent for this one, but the twist explaining why makes for an interesting finale.

    If you're a fan, and can't wait for the new season to begin this fall, The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase is a great fix for riding out the wait.

    Paperback, 288 pages
    Published April 25th 2017 by Tor Books

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

    Monday, May 22, 2017

    #SciFi Review: Lucifer’s Star by C.T. Phipps

    As opening scenes go, sci-fi doesn't get much better than this! Lucifer’s Star kicks off with a big, high-stakes, fast-paced battle that evokes memories of the most intense space battles from Star Wars or the original Battlestar Galactica. It's wild, frantic stuff, and it just keeps getting better as we watch one character after another come to a fiery end in pursuit of their suicidal mission.

    Almost immediately, however, C.T. Phipps quickly leaps ahead from galactic space opera to something darker and grittier that reminded me more of the Deathstalker books than Star Wars, albeit with the cynicism and conspiracy of the rebooted BSG. There's actually a lot of philosophy to this, some deep thoughts and heavy ideas about the nature of good versus evil, family legacies, and right versus wrong. History is written by the victors, and one man's terrorism is another's rebellion.

    While this absolutely nails the space opera spectacle, it also has plenty of world building, fantastic characters, byzantine plots, and equal parts wonder, horror, and humor. Our introduction to the crew of the Melampus will have your head spinning, with secrets and lies lurking under their skin. After that, you think you'd be prepared for the exploration of the Rhea, but toss in the issue of clones, and suddenly the secrets and lies are almost too deep to wade through.

    It's those characters who make this such a fun read, though, with personalities to match their layers of deceit. Cassius is the perfect hero, damaged and flawed, and navigating his way through conflicting motivations. Ida reminded me a lot of Hetty from NCIS: LA (a scary sort of Yoda); Hiro is an intriguing, almost likable backstabbing scoundrel; and Clarice is a sexy sort of femme fatale, a good friend to have, and a terrifying enemy. I'll be honest, I didn't really care of Isla, and while I really did like Zoe, I hesitate to say too much without untying some of those treacherous knots of lies and conspiracies.

    Lucifer’s Star is space opera for a grimdark generation, an action-packed story that doesn't forego character building or ethical dilemmas in delivering on the fun. It's not a feel-good story, and will likely leave you needing a shower, but it is effective storytelling.

    Kindle Edition, 300 pages
    Published October 2016 by Crossroad Press

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

    Saturday, May 20, 2017

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

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

    A quiet week this time around, with a pair of review titles sneaking their way onto my e-reader.

    Scourge: A Darkhurst Novel by Gail Z. Martin
    [July 11th, 2017]
    Epic new fantasy from the bestselling author of The Summoner. In a city beset by monsters, three brothers must find out who is controlling the abominations.

    Strange Weather by Joe Hill
    [October 24th, 2017]
    A collection of four novellas tells stories involving shards of sharp crystals that inexplicably begin to fall from the sky, a parachuter suddenly marooned on a solid cloud, a mentally unhinged security guard, and a camera that erases memories.


    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.

    Gwendy's Button Box by Stephen King & Richard Chizmar is my digital read of the moment, but I'll be back into The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams as soon as I'm done. 

    On the physical front, I've just cracked the spine on The Dragon's LegacyI was already excited about this, but having been friend with Deborah A. Wolf on Facebook for a few weeks . . . well, let's just say I really like her style!

    What's topping your shelves this week?

    Friday, May 19, 2017

    WTF Friday: Beware by Richard Laymon

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

    Although often problematic, with serious consistency issues, and even bigger flaws of logic, Beware is the kind of over-the-top horror that only Richard Laymon can deliver. It's gratuitous in both sex and violence, and once again plays to his fetish for rape, but it is cruel fun from beginning to end.

    What makes it so much fun, as is so often the case with Laymon, is the depth and creativity of his villain. While his protagonists are usually stock characters plucked from the roster of horror clichés, his bad guys are bestowed with well-developed backstory, personality, and motivation. Hoffman is a monster, no doubt about it, but he's amusing one. He's obsessive, violent, psychopathic, and (best of all) completely invisible. While he could be out robbing banks or overthrowing governments, all he wants to do is make a sexual slave out of his high school obsession - oh, and escape the evil cult goddess who made him invisible in the first place.

    Yes, there are two parallel plots here, the first involving that cult goddess and her orgies of blood and sex, and the second involving that girl from high school and her attempt to stop a murderer. To be honest, it feels as if Laymon just mashed two short stories together, relying on a lot of coincidence and deus ex machina to make them fit, but the combination does make for a suitably explosive, gore-soaked climax. I would have loved to see the evil sex cult explored in greater depth (we never do get to know what their purpose is), and there is so much more our invisible villain could have done (something akin to Body Rides), but Laymon tends to go on too long, so I guess I shouldn't complain that he reigned it in here.

    While Beware is far from his best, it is still an entertaining read, so long as you don't think about it.

    Published November 1st 2008 by Leisure Books
    (first published September 30th 1985)

    Wednesday, May 17, 2017

    Waiting On Wednesday: Blackwing by Ed McDonald

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

    Blackwing by Ed McDonald
    Expected publication: July 27th 2017 by Gollancz | October 3rd 2017 by Ace Books

    Set on a postapocalyptic frontier, Blackwing is a gritty fantasy debut about a man’s desperate battle to survive his own dark destiny...

    Hope, reason, humanity: the Misery breaks them all.

    Under its cracked and wailing sky, the Misery is a vast and blighted expanse, the arcane remnant of a devastating war with the immortals known as the Deep Kings. The war ended nearly a century ago, and the enemy is kept at bay only by the existence of the Engine, a terrible weapon that protects the Misery’s border. Across the corrupted no-man’s-land teeming with twisted magic and malevolent wraiths, the Deep Kings and their armies bide their time. Watching. Waiting.

    Bounty hunter Ryhalt Galharrow has breathed Misery dust for twenty bitter years. When he’s ordered to locate a masked noblewoman at a frontier outpost, he finds himself caught in the middle of an attack by the Deep Kings, one that signifies they may no longer fear the Engine. Only a formidable show of power from the very woman he is seeking, Lady Ezabeth Tanza, repels the assault.

    Ezabeth is a shadow from Galharrow’s grim past, and together they stumble onto a web of conspiracy that threatens to end the fragile peace the Engine has provided. Galharrow is not ready for the truth about the blood he’s spilled or the gods he’s supposed to serve…

    I was fortunate enough to nab a UK ARC of this, so I won't be waiting until October. I must say, it looks like a fantastic read, and I can't wait to get started.

    Monday, May 15, 2017

    Populating a Universe is Hard . . . by C.T. Phipps (#scifi #guestpost)

    Populating a Universe is Hard ...
    By C.T. Phipps

    This is, of course, something every writer of fantasy or science fiction will agree on. Urban fantasy has the benefit of usually taking place in "our" world but other types of settings often require the author to do massive info-dumps in order to give us a sense of who is what, where, why and who. Star Wars: A New Hope is probably the most famous for the fact it managed to make an opening crawl epic enough no one complains it's explaining an entire setting's worth of details and recent history. Rebellion, Empire, Death Star, plans, Princess Leia, etcetera-etcetera.

    When I set down to do Lucifer's Star, I had my own severe challenge ahead as I was faced with filling up not only one world but an entire arm of the galaxy as well as the history of humanity which has stretched so far into the future they wouldn't know anything about the present day. Modern 21st century Earth is ancient history there and I couldn't throw in my usual pop culture quips or references. I might as well have been doing a fantasy setting.

    It was also complicated by the fact I was writing with the decision I wanted to do a more complicated and darker universe than your typical space opera. I couldn't just point, "Commonwealth good", "Archduchy bad", "Go!" Instead, I envisioned a whole complicated universe of imperialist democracies, traditionalist dictatorships, corporate states, and so on. I made a whole notebook full of information ranging from how faster-than-light travel worked to the history for the past thousand years. Then I realized I couldn't use most of it.

    I was glad to have the information in the back of my head but I realized I couldn't do anything with it. It would be boring as hell to just pour out all of that information onto the reader. They came here for a rocking space adventure of pew-pew, starfighters, and energy swords. They might stay for the politics, moral ambiguity, and complicated world-building but that was a side-dish on the menu. No, I had to figure out how to introduce them to my world as a complete stranger without overwhelming them.

    In the end, I had to keep in mind the universe isn't the adventure but the place the adventure takes place. I wasn't going to go the A New Hope route of viewing the universe through a naive everyman, no; I wanted it through the viewpoint of someone who was already heavily invested in the situation and the world around them. It would be harder, maybe even impossible, but I had faith in my readers' intelligence. Also, I believe there's merit to the idea that if a story is good that it'll illustrate any details about a universe better than stopping to explain.

    For me, everything which occurs in my book is in service to the plot. When two sides are fighting it out, I give enough information to let the readers know about the characters feel about them rather than try to give an objective lesson about who is what. By carefully dispensing such knowledge only from an in-character perspective, I can also pull the rug out from under the readers as well as the characters in-universe by revealing things which the main characters don't know about the universe.

    Even so, I still had the process of trying to figure out how to make the universe sufficiently rich even with all the notes I had. One of the things which separated Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, and even Star Wars all benefited from there being a story behind it all. For me, it occurred to me there were several "cheats" I could use which I think other authors can and should benefit from.

    The first of these was "stereotyping in-universe." Basically, if I was to meet a guy from one of my fantasy/sci-fi cultures then what would be what other people would think of him? Do they have any kind of reputation? Is it true? Klingons certainly come with some cultural baggage. How about elves? Knowing what these stereotypes are and whether they're true or not adds a layer of authenticity, even if I'm essentially just making my characters a wee bit racist.

    Next is, oddly enough, what does the universe tastes like. I mean this in a literal sense as I sat down to imagine what kind of food they ate in the 3rd millennium. Establishing oddball combinations of pasta, Chinese food, and weird alien fish gave a sense of relevancy to the place. It also made me imagine what things smelled like and felt like. Describing things like a planet's humidity and the stench of bad air filters brings to life a location which might normally feel antiseptic or just dry.

    Finally, this is something I enjoy doing as a matter of habit but it's important to give your character opinions on other characters and their quirks. This, of course, means making characters which have quirks. Does X race hate Y? Is there a habit of C race wearing gaudy jewelry? Does the lead really-really hate the current style of music on this world? Throwing these little details into the planet can make everything jump off the page. It can also turn a meeting with a merchant in a kiosk for fuel into an encounter with a six-armed alien who talks at length about how all Xerxes are thieves despite the protagonist being one.

    After all, the Earth is a weird-weird place, why shouldn't space or another world be the same way?


    About the Author

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

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


    About the Book

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

    From the bestselling author of The Rules of Supervillainy:

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

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

    Saturday, May 13, 2017

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

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

    A quiet week this time around, with just the one review title landing on my doorstep, and a single digital purchase.

    The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis
    [May 7th, 2017]
    In the tradition of Honor Harrington and the high-flying Temeraire series, Bennis’s THE GUNS ABOVE is an adventurous military fantasy debut about a nation's first female airship captain. 

    The Lady Who Loved Bones by Jack Hazen
    [January 23rd, 2017]
    The wild west just got wilder with the widow Hannah Monroe, a beautiful blonde paleontologist from Philadelphia, and the enigmatic Hex Hawkins, mountain man, former spy during the war, and owner of a secret gold mine.


    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 received a finished paperback of The Librarians and the Mother Goose Chase by Greg Cox in the mail this week, so I'm currently devouring that. With Tyrant's Throne done, I'm back on track with The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams for my fantasy fix, and C.T. Phipps is feeding my sci-fi hunger with Lucifer's Star (and he'll be feeding yours with a guest-post on Monday!).

    What's topping your shelves this week?