Thursday, July 31, 2008

Retrospective - The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

With all the media hype that is likely to surround the pending Keannu Reeves remake of this classic picture, I thought it was appropriate to look back and pay tribute to what the American Film Institute ranks as the 5th best Scifi picture of all time.

Here are some highlights –

It is always important to recognize the literary roots of cinema. The movie is based on the short story “Farewell to the Master” by Harry Bates which you can read in its entirety here. It was originally published in Astounding in the October 1940 issue.

The movie was directed by Robert Wise whose varied career included helming two other popular science fiction films, The Andromeda Strain (1971) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979).

The picture starred Michael Rennie whose later scifi credits included appearances on TV episodes of Lost in Space, Time Tunnel and The Invaders as well as 3 other genre pictures The Lost World (1960), Cyborg 2087 (1966) and The Power (1968).

And of course it has the memorable quote “Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!“ which also spawned the Canadian Rock band Klaatu in the 1970’s as well as a minor tribute character in Return of the Jedi.

The musical score was by the incomparable Bernard Herrmann and you can hear a sample here.

Here are some variations on the original theater poster.


















And some lobby cards –

Watch the original trailer –



Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Breaking Dawn and Breaking Records

I know...I know...I'm contributing to the craziness, but just in case you haven't been around on planet Earth lately, Stephenie Meyer's final book in the Twilight saga - Breaking Dawn - is coming out on August 2. As with Harry Potter there are all kinds of hyped-up promotions going on with Midnight sales events (more appropriate for a vampire book then Potter in any case don't you think). It's a hefty one at 768 pages.



Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Book Releases for August

Here is a partial list of forthcoming Fantasy, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal books coming out in August. Hope to have reviews for some of these titles in the near future.

ANTHOLOGIES:
  • First Blood by Meljean Brook, Erin McCarthy, Chris Marie Green, Susan Sizemore
  • The Mammoth Book of Vampires by Keri Arthur, Karen Chance, Alexis Morgan, Lilith Saintcrow, Vicki Pettersson
  • Beyond Magic by Susan Kearney, Kassandra Sims, Elaine Cunningham
NOVELS:
  • Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Atlantis Unleashed by Alyssa Day
  • Bitten To Death (Jaz Parks #4) by Jennifer Rardin
  • Bound by Light (Dark Crescent Sisterhood #3) by Anna Windsor
  • Breaking Dawn (Twilight #4) by Stephenie Meyer
  • Dance of The Wolf by Karen Whiddon
  • Double Enchantment by Kathryne Kennedy
  • Gale Force (Weather Warden #7) by Rachel Caine
  • Hell And Earth (Promethean Age #2) by Elizabeth Bear
  • Into The Flame (Darkness Chosen #4) by Christina Dodd
  • Kiss of Fury (Dragonfire #2) by Deborah Cooke
  • Legacy (Anna Strong #4) by Jeanne C. Steine
  • Necking by Chris Salvatore
  • Path of Revenge by Russell Kirkpatrick
  • Pure Blood by Caitlin Kittredge
  • Sea Fever by Virginia Kantra
  • Servant: The Acceptance by L. L. Foster
  • Snow Shadow by Catilyn Hunter
  • Son of The Shadows by Nancy Holder
  • Storm Born by Richelle Mead
  • Tempt Me With Darkness by Shayla Black
  • The Dragon Earl by Jade Lee
  • The Fat And Back by Beverly Rae
  • The Redeeming (Immortals #5) by Jennifer Ashley
  • Underground (Greywalker #3) by Kat Richardson
  • Wanderlust by Ann Aguirre
  • Warrior by Marie Brennan
  • When Twilight Burns (Gardella Vampire Chronicles #4) by Colleen Gleason
UPCOMING SCIENCE FICTION TITLES:
Check out the Locus page for forthcoming titles. Coverage through March of 2009.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"The Fox" by Sherwood Smith

"The Fox" is the sequel to "Inda". The second in a promising series of books.

One of the threads throughout this novel is leadership. The ability to make command decisions, inspire loyalty and create successful outcomes. The main character Inda is a natural born leader and many of the characters around him realize their lack in this regard reflected in Inda's abilities. They see that Inda does not seek to have the leadership role, but his understanding of what's required in any given situation always brings him to the forefront. With this realization comes growth and as the story and the series progresses you can see the characters around Inda becoming more independent and leaders in their own right.

I found the "The Fox" less irritating than "Inda" with regards to character names. Within Inda's home country each character has both too many titles and names. This is less of a problem in the second book because most of the action in this book is not in Inda's home country and, as well, because Sherwood uses the nicknames established in Inda to better describe characters as she re-introduces them into the story i.e. in comes such-in-such, Cama's father.

At one point, inexplicably, Sherwood tells the story from one point of view for a paragraph or two then switches to another point of view and proceeds to go back and forth for an entire chapter. I am not sure why there was this break in style, but it was disconcerting and thankfully only showed up within the one chapter.

A couple of times she describes executions as the accused being shot or lined up against the wall which I immediately visualized as involving guns which are not part of Inda's world. A small point, but it interrupted the flow.

Still all-in-all "The Fox" was an enjoyable read and I look forward to the continuing saga of Inda.

"Inda" by Sherwood Smith

I originally saw this book at Chapters as a hardcover and was intrigued by its cover art, but as I find hardcovers very cumbersome to read (and somewhat pricey for the experience!) I awaited the paperback. Months later, when it became available, I made the purchase without even a prior check of the customer reviews on Amazon.com (something I don't often do - which when later checked were between 4 and 5 stars).

Basically, I enjoyed the book. It moved along well. I liked how the characters are very realistic in their motivations i.e. the bad guys are not really all that evil, the evil coming from their distorted world views and decisions. Most of the antagonists see themselves as rather benign.

"Inda" was the first Sherwood Smith novel I had read and there was one criticism I have about character names which was somewhat fixed in the second book in the series "The Fox" (see the "The Fox" review on this site). Within the book the country of the protagonist Inda has two languages; one used in war and the other in peacetime. This can get confusing when new characters are introduced or when characters are brought back into the story line as they are alternatively introduced with either their war titles, war names, peace titles, peace names or even nicknames. Definitively a recipe for confusion and it impacts the flow of the reading.

Still though, "Inda" is a good read and I will definitely continue with this series.

“The Invisible Ring” by Anne Bishop

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
In a world where magic is power and social status is everything, the color of the jewel you wear determines the course of your life…

Jared is a Red-Jeweled Warlord bound as a pleasure slave by the Ring of Obedience. After suffering nine years of torment as a slave, he murdered his owner and escaped—only to be caught and sold into slavery once again. The notorious queen who has purchased him, known as the Gray Lady, may not be what she seems. Soon, Jared faces a difficult choice: his freedom, or his honor…
The Invisible Ring is a welcome addition to Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels universe. The story occurs an indeterminate time prior to the events of the Black Jewels Trilogy. Dorothea, a Black Widow and High Priestess of Hyall is seeking to solidify her control of Terreille and all of the surrounding territories. The Grey Lady is a rival grey-jeweled Queen and one of the few that stands against her.

Dorothea sets Lord Krelis, her Master of Guards the task to capture or kill the Grey Lady. The plan is to ambush the Grey Lady during her annual trip to Raej to purchase slaves. Jared, a red-jeweled Warlord and Queen-killer is bought along with a motley crew of other slaves, one of which unknown to the Grey Lady is a spy for Dorothea. Circumstances conspire and the traveling group constantly evade Krelis’ clutches even though they are unaware they are being targeted. For Jared and the Grey Lady it is both a harrowing physical journey and a life-defining passage of personal discovery.

You don’t have to have read any other Black Jewels stories to appreciate this fine standalone effort. Daemon a main character from the Trilogy puts in a minor cameo appearance. At heart this is a great love story and a grand quest. The magical system, culture and gender roles rank among the most original and imaginative in fantasy. This is very much a “can’t put it down” reading experience leading to a desire for more…more…more… Fortunately another Black Jewels tale is planned for next year called The Shadow Queen.

Read the Prologue and first few Chapters here.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

“Marseguro” by Edward Willett

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Marseguro, a water world far distant to Earth, is home to a small colony of unmodified humans known as landlings and to the Selkies, a water-dwelling race created by geneticist Victor Hansen from modified human DNA. For seventy years the Selkies and the unmodified landlings have dwelled together in peace, safe from pursuit by the current theocratic rulers of Earth—a group intent on maintaining human genetic and religious purity.

Then landling Chris Keating, a misfit on any world, seeks personal revenge on Emily Wood and her fellow Selkies by activating a distress beacon taken from the remains of the original colony ship. When the Earth forces capture the signal and pinpoint its origin, a strike force, with Victor Hansen’s own grandson Richard aboard, is sent to eradicate this abomination.

Yet Marseguro will not prove as easy to conquer as the Earth force anticipates. And what Richard Hansen discovers here may alter not only his own destiny but that of Marseguro and Earth as well...
Marseguro is very much a traditional science fiction space adventure with all that that entails – alien planets, genetics, advanced technology, conflict and a mix of interesting characters. Marseguro or “mars seguro” as we learn later in the book is Portuguese for “safe sea”, the planet intended to be a haven for the genetically modified humans created by Victor Hansen.

Mankind has spread to the stars, partially abandoning the planet to preserve humanity thinking that Earth will be destroyed by a huge asteroid. During this impending event a religious zealot dealing in genetic purity called The Avatar of God uses his political savvy to take advantage of the situation and ruthlessly assumes power and control of all planetary governments. The disaster is averted, another occurrence that is leveraged by the Avatars organization as an example of the will of God that they humanity’s intended saviours. Now several generations later the Avatars forces are pacifying the various star colonies and bringing them under Avatar rule all except for the secret location of Hansen’s Selkie world.

Power–hungry disciples of the Avatar discover the location and a mission is launched to eradicate the Selkie’s and bring the human colonists under the yolk of the Body Purified. We get to see all sides of the conflict through the alternating viewpoints of characters from each faction, Emily Wood a young Selkie, seeking to defend her way of life and avenge the harm done to her family, Richard Hansen the conflicted clone of Victor Hansen, Cheveldioff, the Archdeacon master manipulator leading the Avatars forces, and Chris Keating the native Marseguroite traitor to his people.

Taut well visualized action sequences abound and the main story is drawn to a satisfying conclusion but leaves the door open for next years’ sequel Terra Insegura. Readers of series such as Julie Czerneda’s Species Imperative should enjoy this intelligent SF adventure.

Read the first two chapters on his website.



Saturday, July 26, 2008

Terry Goodkind Fantasy Series Comes to TV

The popular Sword of Truth fantasy series by Terry Goodkind is coming to television this fall. There will be a 22 episode run with a two-hour premier. The show is shot in the now required location for all fantasy films, i.e., New Zealand, and is directed by veteran horror meister Sam Raimi. The first season story arc is supposed to cover the events of the first novel Wizard’s First Rule. The story of Kahlan and Richard is a dark and harrowing one so it may be a challenge to retain those essential ingredients as the show is slated to appear on network television. Let’s hope they succeed and don’t dumb it down or dilute it too much. Be sure to read the books first.

Visit the website here.

Friday, July 25, 2008

True Blood at San Diego ComiCon

The Futon Critic has an interesting report from a panel at the San Diego ComicCon for HBO's upcoming True Blood series adapted from the Charlaine Harris Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire novels. All of the actors, Alan Ball and Charlaine herself were on hand to talk about the show and answer questions. Check out the report here.
OTHER LINKS WITH COVERAGE:

"Command Decision" by Elizabeth Moon


Book #4 of Elizabeth Moon's enticing Vatta’s War series.

The one thing I like about books by Elizabeth Moon is that they keep the reader so utterly engaged inevitably you finish reading them in single day.

The one thing I hate about books by Elizabeth Moon is they are always one day wonders...

When you read series sometimes you forget what has happened in earlier books, especially if there has been a significant amount of time between publishings. With Elizabeth Moon's Vatta War series even though it has been a couple years since reading the last book in the series (Marques and Reprisal), all of the feelings and plots came back to this reader quite readily.

I would not hesitate to recommend this series to those other readers out there who enjoy well written, fast paced space opera science fiction.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

New Tor.com Website Launches

Tor.com launched yesterday announcing itself as the website for Science Fiction. Fantasy. The Universe. And related subjects. It looks pretty darn good. An interesting blog, stories by name authors (John Scalzi and Charles Stross for starters), an art gallery and community sections. It states, “Its aim is to provoke, encourage, and enable interesting and rewarding conversations with and between its readers.”

And until Sunday, July 27th they are offering free downloads of some pretty darn good ebooks in PDF, HTML and Mobi formats. See the list below and click here for the download page. Get them while they are available.
  • Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
  • Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
  • Spin by Robert Charles Wilson
  • Farthing by Jo Walton
  • The Outstretched Shadow by Mercedies Lackey & James Mallory
  • Crystal Rain by Tobias Buckell
  • Lord of the Isles by David Drake
  • Through Wolf's Eyes by Jane Lindskold
  • The Disunited States of America by Harry Turtledove
  • Reiffen's Choice by S.C. Butler
  • Sun of Suns by Karl Schroeder
  • Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest
  • Spirit Gate by Kate Elliot
  • Starfish by Peter Watts
  • Touch of Evil by C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
  • A Shadow in Summer by Daniel Abraham
  • Orphans of Chaos by John Wright
  • In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker
  • In the Midnight Hour by Patti O'Shea
  • Battlestar Galactica by Jeffrey A. Carver
  • Flash by L.E. Modesitt, Jr.
  • Soul by Tobsha Learner
  • Darkness of the Light by Peter David
  • Three Shadows by Cyril Pedrosa

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

“Night Shift” by Lilith Saintcrow

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Not everyone can take on the things that go bump in the night.

Not everyone tries.

But Jill Kismet is not just anyone.

She’s a Hunter, trained by the best - and in over her head.

Welcome to the night shift…
Lilith Saintcrow recently wrapped up her excellent 5 book Dante Valentine series and here she introduces her newest female heroine in Book 1 of the Jill Kismet series. If you like kick-ass female protagonists, Jill is your ticket. She kicks demon butt in a no-holds barred fashion. In fact I found Jill to be the most uber violent of the many paranormal, vampire/demon/werewolf hunter characters in recent memory. Sometime it is good to just let it all out. Not to say that Jill doesn’t have vulnerable side. She does.

Set in contemporary times, Jill is a demon hunter and protector, working with local law enforcement agencies to protect human society from preternatural and demon predators. The general populace is unaware of this supernatural presence in their midst but law enforcement officials are aware and work quietly with the demon hunters.

This initial installment of the story established much of Jill’s backstory without sacrificing the stories momentum. Lots of action, murder and mayhem, but even so there is time for a little romance. Well written fight scenes and inner dialogue make for a great read. Despite her tough Hunter persona Jill is a likable character and I look forward to her continued adventures in Hunter’s Prayer. Recommended.

Read a sample chapter here at Orbit Books.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

“A Match Made in Hell” by Terri Garey

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
A brush with death and a brief trip to the hereafter left vintage clothing store owner Nicki Styx an unwilling ghoulfriend to the dead. She can see and hear spirits, and boy, do they want to be heard! Luckily, her new boyfriend, sexy doc Joe Bascombe, is there to help, especially when Nicki faces her latest ghost, a woman in pink sequins who holds the key to some family secrets.

Unfortunately for Nicki, it turns out that there are more skeletons in the family closet than she thought, including a twin sister and a mysterious house full of spirits and surprises. Things go from bad to worse when the devil himself shows up, determined to lure Nicki from Joe's side. Will she give in to temptation and sell her soul (or someone else's) for one incredible night?

Demons may be a ghoul's best friend, but with this particular hottie, it could be a match made in hell!
This is the second installment of the reluctant Nicki Styx "ghoulfriend" after last years Dead Girls Are Easy. “I see dead people” is a phrase we have all become familiar with either through The Sixth Sense, Medium or Ghost Whisperer. A Match Made in Hell is surprisingly fresh and fun. Set in Little Five Points, Georgia, it has an amiable southern atmosphere. There are plenty of twists and turns making this an enjoyable page-turner. The introduction of Nicki’s twin sister and her secrets is a welcome addition and should add depth to future stories. The “devilish” subplot (pun intended) brings a nice dark twist beyond the usual ‘help the nice dead people’ theme and from the ending this will also be continued in the next volume. Recommended.

Volume 3 in the Nicki Styx series, You’re the One That I Haunt will be out next April.

To read an excerpt from A Match Made in Hell from Terri Garey’s website click here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

“Twilight Fall” by Lynn Viehl

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Immortal Darkyn Lord Valentin Jaus and landscape artist Liling Harper are two lost souls. Brought together by fate, bound together by passion, Valentin and Liling find solace in each other's arms. But the ties that bind them are deeper—and more dangerous—than either of them can possibly imagine...
This the sixth book in Lynn Viehl’s successful Darkyn series continues to advance the story arc of the ongoing conflict between the Brethren and the Darkyn. The Brethren are a secret cabal within the Catholic Church dedicated to eradicating the Darkyn, former Knights Templar turned vampire. The Brethren have another more secret agenda yet to be fully revealed.

As with other installments of this paranormal series, the central theme features one of the Darkyn lords finding and meeting their future sykenesis, or mate. In this case Valentin Jaus first introduced in Private Demon is still recovering from his loss of Jema and the loss of the use of his arm until he meets Liling. Liling has a secret with hidden connections to the Brethren and has been hiding but now is exposed and being tracked by a merciless assassin. On a flight from Chicago to Atlanta Jaus’ private airplane crashes in the Florida wilderness and both he and Lily fight for survival. The countdown is on while the assassin, Darkyn rescuers and other Brethren factions all search to find them first.

Alexandra and Cyprien play a role as they have in all previous installments as Alexandra continues her investigation of the secret of the Darkyn infection that makes them vampire and searches to unravel the connections between her past, the Brethren and the other recently turned sykenesis’ of the other Darkyn lords including Liling.

Lots of other subplots abound leaving plenty of fodder for the next book in the series Stay the Night in January 2009. Recommended for fans of paranormal romance with a large dash of action and adventure.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

“The Iron Hunt” by Marjorie Liu

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Silver smoke winds around my torso, peeling away from my ribs and back, stealing the dark mist covering my hands and lower extremities…tattoos dissolving into demon flesh, coalescing into small dark bodies. My boys. The only friends I have in this world. Demons.

I am a demon hunter. I am a demon. I am Hunter Kiss.

By day, her tattoos are her armor. By night, they unwind from her body to take on forms of their own. Demons of the flesh, turned into flesh. This is the only family demon hunter Maxine Kiss has ever known. The only way to live—and the very way she’ll die. For one day, her demons will abandon her for her daughter to assure their own survival—leaving Maxine helpless against her enemies.

But such is the way of Earth’s last protector—the only one standing between humanity and the demons breaking out from behind the prison veils. It is a life lacking in love, reveling in death, until one moment—and one man—changes everything…
The Iron Hunt is the start of a new fantasy adventure series called Hunter Kiss. A novella featuring the main character was first introduced in the 2007 anthology Wild Thing. If you are not familiar with her work, Marjorie Liu has another major series “Dirk and Steele” which I would portray as paranormal Tom Clancy. Complex characters, exotic locations and intricate plots characterize those stories. Very engaging reads. The Iron Hunt promises more of the same. The opening line alone is worth the price of the book – “When I was eight, my mother lost me to zombies in a one card draw. “ Ominous and evocative narrative creates an atmosphere that is darkly delicious –
“Slogged backward in the dull silence of snow and the endless winter bones of the white forked trees. My mother carried me on her back. I can still see: silver clouds of my breath engulfing the tattoos on her neck; that lazy red eye, Zee, tracking my face in his dreams. I can still feel the bulge of knives beneath her black wool coat, too light and short for a blizzard, for anyone but a woman who did not feel the cold. I can hear, always hear, the song she sang over the crunching beat of her boots on the empty road. Folsom Prison Blues. Voice like sunshine and the rumble of a slow train."
Maxine Kiss is from a long matriarchal line of demon hunters and perhaps the last of her kind because it appears the final battle is almost upon her. Maxine thought she understood her purpose and abilities but as events progress finds her awareness only scratched the surface of her potential. Allies and enemies begin to align and it is clear that future installments will be action packed and suspenseful.

While marketed as paranormal there is also a strong nod to science fiction threaded into the story. The existence of alternate worlds, the prison veil and many other abilities are explained in terms owing as much to quantum physics as magic. A subtle and welcome blend. Recommended.

Read an excerpt from the first chapter on her website and check out a longer description of the novel featured in an interview with Marjorie Liu on the publishers’ website.

Friday, July 18, 2008

“Accidentally Dead” by Dakota Cassidy

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Nina always loved the nightlife.
It’s a lousy first day on the job for dental assistant Nina Blackman when a patient, loopy from the anesthesia, bites her. At least he was cute. But for real drama she can’t beat the next morning. Nina wakes up with a set of razor sharp fangs, bionic vision, super sonic hearing, and a taste for blood. There must be a good explanation. There is. It’s her patient, Greg Statleon.

She just never expected to be the nightlife.
A visit to his Long Island castle hardly results in a cure. Greg claims there isn’t one. Unfortunately, Nina isn’t wild about her lifestyle change¬or the danger that goes along with it. She’s determined to prove this infuriating vampire wrong. It’s a shame he’s so irresistible. It’s a bigger shame that he’s dead. On the other hand, they’re perfect for each other ¬if Nina’s willing to commit to one man for eternity.
In The Accidental Werewolf we were introduced to Marty, Nina and Wanda. Marty was accidentally infected and became a werewolf. Hijinks ensued and it was a mildly entertaining pararomcom (paranormal romantic comedy). In this follow up novel, Dakota Cassidy sustains the theme. Now it’s Nina’s turn, to be turned that is. She is accidentally made vampire. Unfortunately Nina’s character is over-the-top abrasive, irritating and whining by degree. The reasons for these personality quirks are eventually explained, but not before traumatizing the reader. Additionally not much really happens other then Nina trying to cope with her new circumstances, and a minor subplot with Greg’s neighbour and his vampire sire which are brief and too quickly resolved. While the concept is clever, the execution is weak in this particular outing. I expect Wanda is in for some difficulty in the next installment.

Read the first chapter on Dakota Cassidy’s website and decide for yourself if this is your cup of tea.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

“Dragon Wytch” by Yasmine Galenorn

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
We're the D'Artigo sisters: savvy--and sexy--operatives for the Otherworld Intelligence Agency. But being half-human, half-Fae short-circuits our talents at all the wrong times. My sister Delilah shapeshifts into a tabby cat whenever she's stressed. Menolly's a vampire who's still getting the hang of being undead. And me? I'm Camille, a wicked-good witch, trying to juggle faulty magic, gorgeous men, and the demonic war in which we're embroiled. Sometimes, it's hard to know just who we can trust...

"The Equinox is coming, and mayhem rules. A crown-prince unicorn offers us a legendary gift, but it vanishes. Goblins and trolls swarm the streets of Seattle. And now Smoky, the sexiest dragon alive, decides to stake his claim--on me. Overshadowing it all, the third spirit seal surfaces and Shadow Wing's after it. But I've discovered a secret that could change everything. A new power is rising--a dangerous force from the past--one that intends to restore balance to the worlds...whether we like it or not...
This is the fourth outing in the Sisters of the Moon series. Each novel has featured one of the sisters as the central character beginning with Witchling (Camille), followed by Changling (Delilah) and Darkling (Menolly). There is an overall story arc so it is helpful to have read previous volumes although not critical. With Dragon Wytch we return to Camille’s viewpoint.

A lot is happening in Camille’s life in this installment. The war with the Subterranean Realm is expanding - previously unknown powerful demons have been discovered to have been in Seattle for some time establishing their base and plans and seeking the third spirit seal. New unpoliced portals have opened into Otherworld and all kinds of unsavory fae are pouring into the human world causing mayhem and havoc. The Prince of unicorns presents Camille with a weapon - the horn of the black unicorn which expands the power of her magic but puts her life at risk – everyone is seeking to take it away from her. One of Camille’s lovers – Trillian – is sent on a mission and may be at risk of torture or even death causing additional stress. And Smoky calls in his debt with Camille, which may or may not be a good thing.

Morgaine and Titania, Queen of the Seelie Court put in a return appearance and there is the chance that the Queen of the Unseelie Court may be resurrected after millennia. Power is shifting everywhere and in the centre of it all are Camille and her sisters.

Can Camille cope with all of these overwhelming demands? And in the end can she go through with a final life-changing decision? An action-packed story that doesn’t neglect to take the time to further explore the personal side of Camille and the people in her life. Recommended (but make sure you read the earlier books).



Tuesday, July 15, 2008

“Clockwork Heart” by Dru Pagliassotti

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Taya soars over Ondinium on metal wings. She is an icarus — a courier privileged to travel freely across the city’s sectors and mingle indiscriminately among its castes. But even she can’t outfly the web of terrorism, loyalty, murder, and intrigue that snares her after a daring mid-air rescue. Taya finds herself entangled with the Forlore brothers, scions of an upperclass family: handsome, brilliant Alister, who sits on the governing council and writes programs for the Great Engine; and awkward, sharp-tongued Cristof, who has exiled himself from his caste and repairs clocks in Ondinium’s lowest sector. Both hide dangerous secrets, in this city that beats to the ticking of a clockwork heart…
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The world-building is rich, delightful, fresh and fascinating. The republic of Ondinium is named after the metal it mines and that is responsible for its success and prosperity. Ondinium is a Wellsian type metal like Cavorite, lighter then air, and allows the icarii to fly using mechanical wings fashioned from the material. The city’s ruling council uses the Great Engine, a giant steam powered mechanical computer that literally fills the hollow mountain on which the city is built, as a mechanical advisor in the governance of the nation. It is what gives Ondinium its advantage over rival nations. And rival nations want both the metal and the secret of the difference engines.

Ondinium society consists of three separate classes, Exalteds (elite ruling class), Cardinals (professionals) and Plebeians (working class) that in general do not mix or intermarry. They also live in different sectors of the city. Icarii are couriers who through the nature of their jobs have need and reason to cross all of the boundaries and mix with everyone.

During a routine flight Taya performs a daring rescue of an Exalted and her child from the wireferry, the city transportation system (think cablecars) when it is damaged by a terrorist bombing. And thus Taya’s adventure begins. All of the main characters are unique and interesting and even the minor characters have substance.

Fans of solid fantasy, steampunk or writers like China Miéville (though not quite as intense or quirky) will like this. Highly recommended.

For a preview check out the first chapter of the novel here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

“Dark of the Moon” by Susan Krinard

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
His iron hand once kept the warring vampire clans of decadent 1920s New York from one another's throats. But now, outcast from his own kind, Dorian Black haunts the back alleys of the city alone.… Until the night he meets reporter Gwen Murphy and feels something stir within him for the first time in centuries.

Gwen has stumbled upon the story of a lifetime—a mysterious cult of blood drinkers—and she'll do anything to uncover the truth and make her mark…despite the danger. Unaware of Dorian's involvement and sensing his loneliness, she offers him kindness and friendship—and eventually, her heart.

But in order to protect Gwen, Dorian will soon be forced to do the unthinkable.…

In this follow up novel to last years Chasing Midnight, Susan Krinard again returns to her world of the strigoi (vampires) in 1920’s Manhattan. Gwen Murphy intrepid reporter for the Sentinel is investigating some dockside murders that resemble deaths attributed to a “blood cult” using notes left to her by her deceased father. Gwen is rescued by Dorian a former enforcer for the now dead strigoi crime boss of the city. A turfwar is taking place between two surviving factions and a third unknown secret strigoi society called the Pax is manipulating everyone.

Gwen is slowly drawn into the world of the strigoi and in a bid for mutual survival and in the face of overwhelming odds Dorian is forced to “Convert” Gwen. A story of betrayal, love and mystery, set in a simpler time provides an entertaining blend for this paranormal romance.

Terrible cover art but the book is recommended.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

“Mad Kestrel” by Misty Massey

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
A rip-roaring pirate romance and mystery In a world where infants with magical powers are torn from their parents to be raised by the mysterious and powerful Danisoba, who have a monopoly on magic, Kestrel has managed to keep her abilities concealed--and herself free. First hiding in back alleys as a street urchin, she hid when they killed her parents, and then served as a young tavern maid before escaping to sea, where magic is cancelled by water. Now an adult, as the quartermaster of a pirate ship, Kestrel loves the freedom of living on the seas. But her way of life could end if anyone on board learns her closely guarded secret--that she has magical control over the wind. One day a black ship appears, and her life changes. Its captain is a handsome rogue of whom Kestrel is strangely, constantly aware. When Kestrel's captain is led into a trap and is arrested, she gathers her crew and sets sail in relentless pursuit. . . .
I am really stymied about exactly what to say about this book. The action is pretty much pell mell, the narrative and main character well drawn but… most of the remaining cast are one-dimensional and in some cases outright caricatures (wenches, blue-coats, henchmen, etc). The whole package came off as a sort of PG rated Disney interpretation of a pirate fantasy. Kind of like old Errol Flynn swashbucklers with wonderful fight and battle scenes where people die but nobody bleeds. Almost like a serious Saturday morning cartoon except even then there are seemingly comic moments that I am not sure were intended to be comic. A scene with the dastardly prince near the end comes to mind. Does anyone believe a pirate actual says “land lubber”?

If this had been written as a pastiche or comic homage a la Princess Bride I would get it. Perhaps this was intended originally as a YA novel that the publisher decided to put in the adult market instead. Whenever the bad guys came on stage I felt like blowing a raspberry in their face and saying “Oh you are so scary!” Not. I liked the book but it simply lacked any edge whatsoever and surely a good pirate fantasy deserves more. Recommended for the kids and very kind gentle souls.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

“The Summoning” by Kelley Armstrong

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
After years of frequent moves following her mother’s death, Chloe Saunders’s life is finally settling down. She is attending art school, pursuing her dreams of becoming a director, making friends, meeting boys. Her biggest concern is that she’s not developing as fast as her friends are. But when puberty does hit, it brings more than hormone surges. Chloe starts seeing ghosts–everywhere, demanding her attention. After she suffers a breakdown, her devoted aunt Lauren gets her into a highly recommended group home.

At first, Lyle House seems a pretty okay place, except for Chloe’s small problem of fearing she might be facing a lifetime of mental illness. But as she gradually gets to know the other kids at the home–charming Simon and his ominous, unsmiling brother Derek, obnoxious Tori, and Rae, who has a “thing” for fire–Chloe begins to realize that there is something that binds them all together, and it isn’t your usual “problem kid” behaviour. And together they discover that Lyle House is not your usual group home either…
The Summoning is Kelley Armstrong’s first YA novel and the beginning of a new trilogy called The Darkest Powers. Kelley is known for her Women of the Otherworld series of urban fantasies (I am a big fan) and it seems that this series will share the same world view that includes the possibility of half-demons, sorcerers, necromancers, shamans and shape shifters. Chloe is of course unaware of this secret preternatural community and is devastated by her looming future of mental illness. The story introduces us to her cast of characters at a slow leisurely pace filling in their back stories and relationships. Slowly crumbs of the truth emerge about the nature of Lyle House and its residents.

This is very much a setup novel preparing the way for others in the series. The Summoning is left at a huge cliffhanger that makes the novel up to that point seem a mere preamble to the main event. Not sure if this was Ms. Armstrong’s intent or the publishers forcing her to split a larger story for the usual economic reasons. I’d hate to think it was because they think the attention span of a YA audience is limited. I would recommend waiting for the next companion volume (Book 2 – The Awakening) to be released and read them together.

A special website just for this series has been created at www.chloesaunders.com.Here is a commercial promoting the book.

“Real Vampires Get Lucky” by Gerry Bartlett

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
After 400 years, you’d think that by now I’d be able to know trouble when I smelled it…

Blood. Type B. Human. Coming from the alley behind my shop. A female loan shark named Lucky had been attacked and left for dead. To save her, I Glory St. Clair, did something I never wanted to resort to. I turned a human into a vampire. It’s not that I regret changing Lucky. I had no choice. I will say though, eternity would have been safer without her.

Vamps prefer a low profile. Not Lucky. So what if she has a sexy rock star ex-boyfriend and great shoes? Who died and made her Queen of the Damned? Her flamboyant behavior is not only drawing every vampire hunter within miles-its bringing her would-be killer out of hiding too.

Good news is, Lucky’s mobster father is offering a big reward to catch him. Bad news is, underworlds are about to collide- and the odds aren’t exactly in my favor.
This is the third outing for Glory St. Clair and I believe the best in the series so far. I was unsure how to adequately describe the style of these paranormal romances, until I came across Jayne’s review (over at Dear Author) of an earlier book in the series which she describes as Vamp Lit – Sex in the City style. Thanks Jayne. Of course Jayne’s review was way less then positive, but hey, call me shallow I love these books. And the covers and titles are great too. Glory continues to grow as a character and take charge of her life. I find her first-person dialogue funny, her personality at times artless but always endearing. Some new characters are introduced and are likely to be recurring. Recommended.

The next volume comes out early next year and is called Real Vampires Don’t Diet.

Friday, July 11, 2008

"Demon's Kiss" by Eve Silver

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
The Compact of Sorcerers, a brotherhood sworn to guard the wall between the human world and the demon realm, have relied only on one another for centuries. But now there's a traitor in their midst...Struggling medical student Clea Masters knows she's unique. Ever since her parents'' death, she's been kept safe by an inexplicable force inside her that knocks back any threat. But when a demon attacks her, Clea is launched into a dangerous world she never knew existed. Her only ally is a lethal, seductive man who arouses a hunger stronger than anything she has ever imagined...Compact of Sorcerers member Ciarran D'Arbois will not let harm befall Clea. In her, he sees a strength he admires and a body he longs to caress. Yet demons are determined to break down the portal Ciarran has sworn to protect, using Clea as their key. Now as a rogue sorcerer leads the enemy ever closer, Ciarran and Clea have only one hope. Both must surrender to their darkest passions--and unleash their most dangerous, untested desires.
Somehow I expected more from this paranormal then was delivered. Although Clea’s character is aware she is different, her transition into full awareness of the supernatural world happens quickly and her actions and reactions simply did not seem true or believable. Throughout the novel Ciarran and Clea are constantly describing each other in numerous variations of “a hunka hunka burnin’ love”. Now a certain amount of this is to be expected in a paranormal romance but I found it to be over the top here. Looks to be the start of a series as the ending is left with an obvious entry point for a follow-up story. Overall the style is a bit pulpish and purple, but if that’s your thing, then by all means give it a read. I doubt I will be buying the sequel.

 

"Pandora's Box" by Natale Stenzel

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
All Pandemina Dorothy Avery ever wanted was to be beautifully, blessedly normal, with a stable career and a love life leading to a white picket fence and a happily-ever-after. That seems impossible now. Penniless and parted from her unfaithful boyfriend, unfairly shunned by her coworkers, not even Mina’s recent inheritance can help—especially not when it amounts to a ten-pound rock box and guardianship of the horny, devious puca she released from inside. His name’s Riordan, and he ain’t no Harvey.

What’s a puca, you ask? A tricky faery-type, whose magic not only includes shape-shifting into a magnificent black stallion and a snarky mutt, but the ability to manipulate human perceptions. And Riordan is hardly shy of manipulation: Wasn’t that why he was imprisoned in the first place? He seems set upon making Mina’s life harder than ever, whether it be with Jonathon Teague, the handsome contractor who wants to work on more than her house, or Mina’s penitent ex-boyfriend. But as Riordan’s very existence proves, things are not always what they seem, and what stepped out of that box might be the key to her dreams.
The central premise upon which this paranormal romantic comedy is constructed turns out to be somewhat illogical. Neither as funny or as romantic as it needed to be and the fantasy elements just don’t quite work. Mina’s internal dialogue is often well-done but is not enough to save the book. Not recommended.

 

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"With Every Breath" by Lynn Kurland

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
When medieval laird Robert Cameron pounds on Sunny Phillips's door, he isn't paying a social call. He's braved a trip onto enemy soil to fetch the MacLeod witch, a crone renowned for her healing powers. But the woman who opens her door to him is enchanting and young... and not from his century.
Not having read anything by Lynn Kurland previously, I chanced upon a few positive reviews giving it the nod and decided to give it a shot. I was not aware that it was part of a larger series “The Books of Macleod” but it doesn’t require you to have read other volumes and stands on its own. However appreciation for the back story and other characters would probably be improved with greater familiarity of the other volumes.

I would classify this novel as part of subgenre sometimes referred to as Highlander Time Travel Historical Fantasy. OK that’s a mouthful. Diana Gabaldon with her sophisticated and historically rich Outlander series (all of which are excellent by the way) almost single-handedly created the genre and is it’s best example. I consider Lynn Kurland’s story an example of what I would call Gabaldon lite. Don’t take that as a criticism. It is not near as rich in historical detail and spends more time with characters in the present then the past by comparison. For a quick enjoyable read this can be a plus. A small caveat is that at times the plot twists are telegraphed a little early and are sometimes too predictable. Nevertheless a good beach read or guilty pleasure.

"Falling Upwards" by Kassandra Sims

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
NEVA JONES IS ON A QUEST But she's not quite sure what she's questing for. A crow told her to take off all the iron she was wearing, a stag told her to get a lock of pale hair and a lock of dark, and an owl told her to jump into a lake. Neva is a businesswoman in the New South, not a character in some fairy tale -- but she'll take on this quest if it means no longer feeling like she''s going insane. So she dives right into the lake and into a crazy dream-world where nothing makes sense, giants speak in riddles, surfers throw tea parties, and there''s ocean as far as the eye can see. One thing seems certain: the hottie she met on a business trip in Wales is here, and needs to be saved from living the cycle of a curse over and over. Neva's saved herself plenty during her thirty-one years; she figures she can save a dark-haired, blue-eyed Welshman by solving a bunch of riddles. And then, if this really is a fairy tale, they'll be together forever.
This is a fairly short novel at a little over 200 pages but is quite captivating. Neva is on a business trip to Wales brokering a pharmaceutical partnership. While there she catches some local colour and a visit to a pub results in a chance encounter with a young man, March who is more then he seems. She makes an unwitting remark in his presence which unleashes a mystical bond which is the start of her quest unknown to her. She returns home feeling increasingly disconcerted and out of synch with her surroundings, family and friends. Leaving the city for the countryside she returns to her grandparents farm and finds herself diving into a pond on their property and emerges into a mystical place. The quest she is thrust into is imaginative and surprisingly gentle - no dark fantasy here, but nevertheless a fun journey. Recommended.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

"Ink Exchange" by Melissa Marr

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Unbeknownst to mortals, a power struggle is unfolding in a world of shadows and danger. After centuries of stability, the balance among the Faery Courts has altered, and Irial, ruler of the Dark Court, is battling to hold his rebellious and newly vulnerable fey together. If he fails, bloodshed and brutality will follow.

Seventeen-year-old Leslie knows nothing of faeries or their intrigues. When she is attracted to an eerily beautiful tattoo of eyes and wings, all she knows is that she has to have it, convinced it is a tangible symbol of changes she desperately craves for her own life.

The tattoo does bring changes—not the kind Leslie has dreamed of, but sinister, compelling changes that are more than symbolic. Those changes will bind Leslie and Irial together, drawing Leslie deeper and deeper into the faery world, unable to resist its allures, and helpless to withstand its perils. . . .
This followup to last years' excellent urban fantasy Wicked Lovely is a dark and harrowing tale of a young womans search for identity, independence and lasting peace from her dysfunctional family. Leslie a minor character in Wicked Lovely is now the central focus this time around. As was her best friend Aislinn in the previous book, Leslie is slowly ensnared in the fae world despite her friends efforts to keep her safe.

The portrayal of the seemingly immoral and inhuman fae, particularly the dark court as they seduce mortals for their own purposes, creates a constant atmosphere of menace and pressing inevitability especially as it is portrayed in a contemporary urban setting. Leslie's spiralling loss of control of her fate and the ultimate results are not quite what you would expect. At one point Niall, one of her Summer Court protectors says to her, "Sometimes all you can do is survive.". Indeed this is a tale of survival and worth the journey. Recommended.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

"Midnight Never Come" by Marie Brennan

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
England flourishes under the hand of its Virgin Queen: Elizabeth, Gloriana, last and most powerful of the Tudor monarchs. But a great light casts a great shadow.In hidden catacombs beneath London, a second Queen holds court: Invidiana, ruler of faerie England, and a dark mirror to the glory above.In the thirty years since Elizabeth ascended her throne, fae and mortal politics have become inextricably entwined, in secret alliances and ruthless betrayals whose existence is suspected only by a few. Two courtiers, both struggling for royal favor, are about to uncover the secrets that lie behind these two thrones.When the faerie lady Lune is sent to monitor and manipulate Elizabeth''s spymaster, Walsingham, her path crosses that of Michael Deven, a mortal gentleman and agent of Walsingham''s.His discovery of the "hidden player" in English politics will test Lune''s loyalty and Deven''s courage alike.Will she betray her Queen for the sake of a world that is not hers?And can he survive in the alien and Machiavellian world of the fae?For only together will they be able to find the source of Invidiana''s power -- find it, and break it . . . .A breathtaking novel of intrigue and betrayal set in Elizabethan England; Midnight Never Come seamlessly weaves together history and the fantastic to dazzling effect.
I picked this period fantasy up on the strength of Marie Brennan's previous works which I quite liked. A previous duology Doppleganger and Warrior and Witch was original and I highly recommend them as well. This newest offering is everything the cover blurb says. Using alternating points of view, the story is told through Deven's and Lune's eyes giving us a view of the machinations of Elizabeth's court and Invidiana's Onyx Court. Never over the top, Brennan deftly weaves her imaginative hypothesis without compromising the march of real historical events as we know them. An excellent read and highly recommended.

SciFi Cinema

A few items of interest I have come across this week.

Lost Footage of Metropolis Found
Apparently 20-25 minutes of lost footage for the Fritz Lang film Metropolis (1927) was found in Argentina recently. The footage is mostly of scenes involving secondary characters. With this find it seems there is only about 5 minutes of the original film to be still be located. Restoration is said to likely take years as the footage is not in great shape.

Link to Edmonton Journal article.
German newspaper Die Zeit has an article online with a gallery of images from the recovered print.

The Next Big Thing After Battlestar Galactica
Brian Sullivan over at The Futon Critic has profiled a 2008-9 Fox scifi show called Virtuality that is in development that he absolutely is hyped about. As it is in development there is of course no guarantee it will make it to air but it does sound intriguing. The full profile can be found here.

The Day the Earth Stood Still - Again
The 1951 classic film is being remade with Keannu Reeves filling Michael Rennie's shoes. Already the movie is in trouble. Michael Rennie brought a certain gravitas to the role of Klaatu, while Keannu is quite likely the most wooden actor of the last 20 years. Should'nt he be playing the role of Gort given his range of expression (or non-expression)?

The last decade has seen a rash of remakes of classic scifi films including Planet of the Apes, The Time Machine, War of the Worlds and most recently The Omega Man (I Am Legend). None of these hold a candle to the originals. What part of "classic" don't they comprehend. Unless there is a compelling way to re-tell the original stories, to show something new, then they are doomed from the start. Unfortunately it is the recognition factor and money to be made that drives Hollywood. Check out the trailer and see what you think.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Thomas M. Disch (1940-2008)

from Houari Boumedienne Flickr site taken Jne 3, 2008It was reported on the weekend that science fiction writer and poet Tom Disch commited suicide on July 4th. Rest in peace.

I first became familiar with Tom Disch through his early novels that appeared in Ace Doubles and Berkley such as The Genocides and Mankind Under the Leash. He followed these over the years with much critically acclaimed work and accumulated a Hugo Award, a John W. Campbell Award, two more Hugo nominations and nine Nebula Award nominations. He garnered some commercial success when his novella The Brave Little Toaster was made into a Disney animated film.

For more comments about Thomas Disch's passing from SF pros and the general public visit Making Light,Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden's blog.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Hubert Rogers (1898 - 1982) – Underappreciated Canadian Artist

Recently, I became aware that one the most prominent cover artists for Astounding magazine, Hubert Rogers, was Canadian. I decided to do a little digging and discovered to my surprise that he had a long and illustrious career and body of work outside of the science fiction community. Born in Alberton, Prince Edward Island, Hubert Rogers' art encompasses everything from black and white charcoal sketches, brash and colourful science fiction pulp magazine covers to P.E.I. landscapes and striking portraits of the famous and not-so-famous.

He received schooling in Boston for a year, followed by a year at West Kent School in Charlottetown and a year at Acadia in Wolfsville, Nova Scotia. Rogers was encouraged by a teacher at Toronto Central Technical School to pursue his talent for art.

After serving in the First World War, he returned to Alberton, working on catalog designs for Holmans in Summerside, P.E.I. where he designed their first cover in 1922. Rogers returned to Boston for four years to study at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School. He remained in the U.S., working for newspapers, including the New York Herald Tribune, and the New York Times (night art editor).

During the depression years, Rogers worked in the American southwest doing magazine covers and portraits of the Pueblo Indians. Several of Rogers’ pieces from this time period now reside in the Smithsonian Institute.

Rogers found his fame as one of the foremost science fiction magazine illustrators in New York, a period spanning the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. His paintings and drawings appeared in the magazine Astounding Science Fiction at the moment that a group of writers who would become famous and influential around the world began to publish their earliest and most important works. Among the classic science fiction works he illustrated were Methuselah’s Children by Robert Heinlein, Slan and The World of Null-A by A.E. van Vogt, “Nightfall” and Foundation by Isaac Asimov, Grey Lensman by E. E. “Doc” Smith and Final Blackout by L. Ron Hubbard (later founder of the Church of Scientology). Rogers created both original color paintings which were published on the covers of the magazine and black and white illustrations for the interior pages.

During World War II, Rogers returned to Canada to create art for posters (Men of Valour series) and other publications to support the war effort. He also painted the 1943 Quebec Conference which features 34 portraits including Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and William Lyon Mackenzie King. The Quebec Conference painting hangs in the National War Museum in Ottawa. Other significant Canadian artists also produced designs for the Wartime Information Board, including A.J. Casson, Laurence Hyde, A.Y. Jackson, Harry Mayerovitch, and Marion Scott.

Later in his career, he became one of Canada'’s most prominent portrait artists. Rogers’ portraits included the painting of all of the commissioners of the RCMP for the RCMP museum in Regina. A painting of Muriel Murtagh, the first woman senator hangs in the Senate and a painting of Viscount Alexander of Tunis hangs in Government House in Ottawa.

In later years, Rogers produced many landscapes and oil paintings of Atlantic Canada locations many of which are prominently displayed in the Canadian Club in New York City.

Friday, July 4, 2008

2008 Science Ficiton Hall of Fame Inductees

On Saturday, June 21, the Science Fiction Hall of Fame held its' 2008 induction ceremony. Those honored this year were Betty and Ian Ballantine (Literature Category), William Gibson (Literature Category), Richard M. Powers (Art Category), and Rod Serling (Film, Television and Media Category.)

All are excellent choices, although of course they hardly need my stamp of approval. The Ballantines launched the Ballantine imprint in 1952, publishing simultaneous hardcovers and paperbacks, original and reprint fiction by authors whose names are now household names such as Bradbury, Clarke and Pohl. Many of the covers were graced by Richard Powers covers some of which I have shown here.

On the basis of his novel Neuromancer and coining and fathering the concept of cyberspace, for that alone William Gibson belongs in the Hall.

And more then anyone else in television and film, Rod Serling brought science fiction into mainstream homes with his Twilight Zone and his opening line - "You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Twilight Zone!"

Thursday, July 3, 2008

"One with the Shadows" by Susan Squires

SYNOPSIS:
Kate Malone makes her living reading Tarot cards and fleecing society's elite. With no prospect of independence, her own fate looks bleak. But Kate's fortunes change when she steals a magnificent emerald—and is soon confronted by a mysterious stranger. Kate is sure that the striking gentleman's attention is a ruse to retrieve the gem. But his presence awakens her to passions she never dreamed of…and to powers she never knew she possessed.

Gian Urbano is bound by honor to retrieve the mystical stone that can drain a vampire's power—and drive humans to madness. The willful, stunning Kate has no idea of the emerald's dark magic, or the lengths Gian's enemies will go to retrieve it. But soon Gian discovers in Kate a desire more compelling than duty—one that could save them both, or lead them to their downfall…
Previously I had read Susan Squires' One with the Night, a paranormal historical regency novel. Her characters are always complex and her historical settings rich and thoroughly researched so I expected much the same with this novel and was not disappointed.

The novels share a common background and some shared unifying events but each story stands on its own. Her take on vampirism (Companions) is interesting and original. The adventure takes our lead characters from Rome to Florence to Ravena and on to North Africa all the while being hounded by Gian's vampire enemies. A thoroughly entertaining and gripping read and highly recommended if you like period romance adventures.

I have One with the Shadows the next in her Companion universe and will review it here in the near future.

"Tempted in the Night" by Robin T. Popp

SYNOPSIS:
The Winslow family has been vampire slayers for centuries and knows how vampires are created. When a human is bitten by the legendary Chupacabra, the venom from the bite kills the victim and brings him back to life as a vampire. When there is not enough venom in the animal’s bite the human becomes a half vampire or changeling with all the advantages of a vampire and very few of the disadvantages.

When Jessica Winslow is chasing a vampire in the park she is stopped by Detective John Boehler who thinks she is crazy carrying a sword and intending to use it. He locks her up but before he can get some information from her, Simon Brody, who walked away a free man from a murder trial, is found killed in the park with John’s badge near him. Because of the threats he made against Simon, John is suspended. He frees Jessica and takes her to his cousin’s home where he admits that he knows the rash of killings of criminals is the work of the vampire. He wants to help them in their fight but first they must stake Simon before he turns and kills indiscriminately just like he did in life. They fail and he develops an obsession for Jessica, a notion that fills John with fear because he cares deeply for her. When she goes to New Orleans to investigate a house filled with chupacabra, John follows her as does Simon.
This is the third book in Robin Popps' Night Slayer series. I have not read the previous installments but fortunately while the series shares a common background each novel stands on its own. Both of the main characters are engaging and well-realized and the vampire mythology surrounding the Chupacabras is fresh and different from many of the genre stereotypes. The action is fast and frequent and overall the story quite satisfying.

Recommended for a leisurely afternoon read. I have the next book in the series, Lord of the Night on my shelf and will review it in the near future.

Tarrying with a Tardis

Heard about this today over on BoingBoing and just had to share. Apparently in Britain they have a website devoted to Garden sheds and not only that they have a National Shed Week. As the website says - "Welcome to readersheds.co.uk, this website is about garden sheds. National Shed week starts on July 7th."

The website is running a "Shed of the Year" contest and believe it or not so far among the entires there are 22 Tardis garden sheds. You heard right. Twenty-two freakin' Doctor Who Tardis garden sheds. The mind boggles. And consider further that only a small percentage of people with garden sheds probably enter the competition. So imagine, there may be hundreds or even thousands of Tardises (Tardi?) spread around British gardens. Now thats a tribute to a scifi show.

Check out their Tardis page here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

"The Brass Bed" by Jennifer Stevenson

SYNOPSIS:
Chicago is being overwhelmed by magic seemingly being blown everywhere. The mayor orders his subordinates to conceal what is going on insisting he fears a panic. Chicago Department of Consumer Services investigator Jewel Heiss is unhappy with her boss with all the goings-one he assigns her to perform surveillance of his wife, who happens to be her best friend.

Her surveillance introduces Jewel to Clay Dawes, who claims his magical brass bed will cure all female sexual problems by simply taking a nap in it. Jewel is upset with the scoundrel who charges an exorbitant fee, but takes him up on his challenge of testing the bed free of charge as long as he is in it with her. However, his brass bed also contains an incubus cursed in the nineteenth century for being a crappy lover while a genie is turning the city into a magical mystery mayhem tour.

The speed is hectic from the onset, but fans of urban investigative romantic fantasies will hop onto THE BRASS BED for the wild ride. Though at times wordy, the lighthearted story line has a lot going on so it bewilders the audience as it does the investigative heroine who must decide between sexual curse and sexual fraud either way she wants to test first her hand (and a few other body parts).
Harriet Klausner

I had planned to review this novel with its' followup The Velvet Chair, but after finishing this I decided to pass on the sequel until later. Why? Well this romantic comedy is built pretty much on the single idea of Jewel pursing her sex demon from the Brass Bed. While at times this leads to all kinds of hijinks the scenes are never as funny or engaging as they should be. Jewel does have some good snappy dialogue, both internal and external, but the supporting characters struck me as too cardboard. I had added this to my reading list based on the reviews I had read of her first book Trash Sex Magic which was nominated for both a Nebula and on the Locus Reader Poll for Best First Novel.

And a note to Harriet, perhaps we are carrying the genre categorization a little too far with "urban investigative romantic fantasies". Wow.

EDIT:
After I completed this review I came across a marketing piece promoting the book which is actually well done. Kind of reminds me of those movie trailers that appear to promise a great movie but once you've seen the movie you discover the trailer was better.

"Like a Charm" by Candace Havens

SYNOPSIS:
From the acclaimed author of Charmed & Dangerous comes a sassy new paranormal romance about a gorgeous librarian who sees dead people.

Kira Smythe never thought she'd end up back in her hometown of Sweet, Texas. But now that her high-powered job, along with her five-year plan, have gone right out the window, she's back where she started, staying with her hippie, tofu-obsessed parents-except that somehow she's inherited the local library. At least there's a gorgeous guy in town who seems quite smitten with her. So what if he's got a few secrets up his sleeve? After all, Kira's got her own secrets. Like the dead people who won't stop talking to her. Or the magical books on the shelves. Or the fact that someone who's very much alive seems determined to push her over to the other side.
As with many of the books I select to read, I decided to pick up this Candace Havens paranormal based on a number of positive reviews that I had come across. The story is very leisurely paced (laid-back perhaps?) and Kira is an engaging and likeable character. However despite the above description there really isn't much happening. The big dramatic moment is very low-key and short-lived and the "seeing dead people" really doesn't play a significant role in the story. On the whole Like a Charm reads like the setup and back story for a longer series. Perhaps future installments will have more spice.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Who Is Scott Sigler?

I had not heard of Scott Sigler until a I read a great review of his newest science fiction/horror hybrid book Infected in the June issue of IROSF (The Internet Review of Science Fiction). I decided to check it out at Amazon and add it to my Wishlist. I came across a podcast of Scott talking about this novel which I have included here. Apparently Scott is somewhat of a Podcast wunderkind being among the first to serialize original novels as podcasts on his website. Check out the YouTube video. Interesting stuff.

The Otherworld Newsletter

Received my copy of Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld newsletter today. Kelley is the fabulous author of The Women of the Otheworld urban fantasy series. Lots of updates on works in progress and a couple of contests to win copies of upcoming books. You can get a PDF copy of the newsletter here.

"The Cipher" - by Diana Pharoah Francis


As is says on her website, Diana Francis writes high fantasy adventure and indeed she does. Her first book in a new series "A novel of the Crosspointe" is called The Cipher. I found her world building to be original, her characters engaging and the plotting fast-moving and intriguing.

For a summary of the plot I refer you to Harriet Klausner's review -
As a member of the royal family Lucy Trenton hides her skill from her relatives in order to remain safe. Besides the scandal that would devastate the Rampling even if she is so distant from the throne that she should not matter and the connection seems nebulous she fears she would be a pawn if anyone learned she can detect magical artifacts and mages.

Occasionally she errs by using her talent to locate missing magical items, but normally recovers fast enough to conceal what she did. When she finds the missing Cipher, however this time she cannot cover up her activity that may lead to a magical disaster for the royals, the kingdom, and at a minimum her. She must hide the Cipher and herself with her only hope being the assistance of her current suitor, Marten Thorpe, but Lucy does not trust this ship captain as she assumes he has an agenda and if he learns what she harbors he will betray her yet she desperately turns to him.

Lucy as a woman in peril turns this intriguing fantasy into a delightful read. She mentally beats herself up for her error in judgment as she has spent her life hiding her skills to avoid being the center of a scandal. She knows she might become the Butterfly of Chaos Theory. The romance between her and the grumpy Trenton is atypical as his wooing techniques fail, but his seafaring skills make him her only hope to weather the storm and prevent it from turning into a tsunami. Genre fans will enjoy Diana Pharaoh Francis’ fine character driven saga as Lucy learns any “Path” she chooses is at best personally disastrous.

The next two installments have been written titled The Black Ship (Nov 08) and The Turning Tide (2009). I look forward to both. Diana also has another trilogy called The Path Series which I will check out in the near future.

Star Trek Keeps on with the Laughs

I came across this YouTube video while preparing my review of Diana Francis' The Cipher. She had it posted on her blog and I had to share. One of those compilation videos set to some fun music. Watch and laugh.