Monday, September 29, 2008

“City of Ashes” by Cassandra Clare

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what's normal when you're a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who's becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn't ready to let her go -- especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary's only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil -- and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings -- and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

In this breathtaking sequel to City of Bones, Cassandra Clare lures her readers back into the dark grip of New York City's Downworld, where love is never safe and power becomes the deadliest temptation.
City of Ashes resumes shortly after the events of City of Bones [2007]. As the book blurb shows there is no lessening of the action. All of the character relationships become more tangled. Now that Clary and Jace realize they are brother and sister they are struggling to come to terms with their mutual feelings for each other. Simon professes his long-standing love to Clary further complicating their difficult triangle. Jace is devastated by the new mistrust from his adoptive parents now that they know he is Valentine’s son. Alex begins a not so secret relationship with Magnus the Warlock. A new teenage werewolf called Maia is introduced to complicate Simon’s life.

The action this time around is much darker, the pace more relentless. Simon’s biting of the vampire while a rat in the last book turns out to have severe consequences. As if it is not enough that Jace’s evil father wants to bring him over to the darks side, the Shadowhunter Inquisitor also arrives to interrogate Jace with a personal agenda that may endanger them all.

Clary continues to learn more about the Runes of power and her own unique ability to create previously unknown runes. Using her new found skills she uses to them to their advantage in several crucial moments. The heroic band together struggle to solve the mystery of the murdered children and to locate Valentine and retrieve the Mortal Instruments before his power becomes too great.

Clare’s inventive imagination constantly surprises with graphic depictions of the various breeds of Valentine’s demons and delightful ideas such as the flying vampire motorcycles powered by demon energies. Action scenes are intense and detailed, especially the climactic battle on Valentine’s ship.

Despite all of the intensity there are moments of normality. In particular, I found a quiet interlude between Simon and Clary watching and discussing anime to be one of the funniest descriptions of the absurdity of the art form I have seen.
“Rule number one of anime,” Simon said “Never screw with a blind monk.”
“I know,” Clary said. “For some reason they ‘re always way better fighters than monks who can see.” She peered at the screen. “Are those guys dancing?”
“That’s not dancing. They’re trying to kill each other. This is the guy who’s the mortal enemy of the other guy, remember? He killed his dad. Why would they be dancing?”
“The guy with the hat,” she said. “He was the evil guy?”
“No, the hat guy was the dad. He was the magical emperor, and that was his hat of power. The evil guy was the one with the mechanical hand that talks.”
“More chibis,” said Simon gloomily. “I’m tired of this anime. I can’t tell what the plot is and no one ever has sex.”
“Of course they don’t,” Clary said. “Anime is wholesome family entertainment.”
City of Ashes propels the story arc to new heights setting the stage for what I am sure will be a rousing conclusion in the final volume of the trilogy, City of Glass, due for release in March 2009. Read and enjoy the first two books until then. Recommended.

Read the first chapter.

And here is a deleted scene cut from the ARC.

Listen to the SimonSays Podcast interviewing author Cassandra Clare about the book..

SciFiGuy review of City of Bones here.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

“City of Bones” by Cassandra Clare

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Their hidden world is about to be revealed....

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Clary knows she should call the police, but it's hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary.
Equally startled by her ability to see them, the murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. Within twenty-four hours, Clary's mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know....
City of Bones is Cassandra Clare’s debut YA urban fantasy novel and the first in a trilogy called ‘The Mortal Instruments’. One of the key ingredients I watch for in Young Adult novels is whether they can be appreciated and enjoyed by an adult readership. I am happy to report that City of Bones is smart, well-paced and an excellent read right to the end. It never talks down to its’ readers.

Clary is fifteen going on sixteen living with her single-parent mother. Clary and her mother have the usual mother-daughter spats and life is normal. In the course of just a few chapters, her life is plunged from this ordinary existence into the dark territory of Shadowhunters, demons and the Forsaken. Clare ratchets up the tension with each succeeding chapter. Clary barely has time to take a breath, but at ever turn and decision point, her reactions seem natural and true.

City of Bones is not a light-hearted adventure, but a dangerous and mysterious journey for Clary, her best friend Simon and new companions from the Shadowhunters - Jace, Isabelle and Alex. With a deft touch, darker moments are often leavened by dashes of humour. For example when Clary and Jace are riding in a glamoured coach that looks like a limousine -
“Just relax,” said Jace. “Enjoy the new-carriage smell.”
And again between Jace and Clary -
“There are demons in the White House?”
“I was just kidding,” said Jace. “I think.” He shrugged philosophically. “I’m sure someone would have mentioned it.”
Cassandra Clare’s narrative is descriptive and oft times quite expressive as shown by Clary during one of her introspective moments.
She felt as if her life had been built on a sheet of ice as thin as paper, and now the ice was beginning to crack, threatening to plunge her into the icy darkness below. Down into the dark water, she thought, where all her mother’s secrets drifted in the currents, the forgotten remains of a shipwrecked life.
Clary’s life is thrown into complete turmoil and just about everything she believed true about her life proves false. Her mother is an ex-Shadowhunter, her Uncle Luke as well. She discovers she is not an only child and her real father turns out to be the man most wanted by the Shadowhunters, a powerful and dangerous zealot. Valentine is a man responsible for many deaths, fomenting war and threatening the lives and security of her friends and family. Her very world changes as she comes to understand the supernatural is real, that demons exist, and that by blood she is a Shadowhunter too.

All of the key characters are forced to change and reevaluate themselves as long-buried secrets are revealed and events unfold. This strong characterization complements the frequently harrowing action scenes set amidst an inventive secret side of New York City. By the conclusion of this first installment, a great deal has been accomplished but much also remains undone.

City of Bones is an exciting urban fantasy adventure for readers of all ages and I highly recommend it. Tomorrow I will review the second book in the series City of Ashes.

Read the first chapter.

And here is the Prologue deleted from the final book.

Friday, September 26, 2008

David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy Announced


A new award for Fantasy has been announced and I have the details from the press release below. The folks over at Wonderlands are sponsors of the new website. Check it out.
From: Stan Nicholls - Chairman, DGLA Steering Group
Deborah J. Miller - Awards Administrator.


PRESS RELEASE: 22/09/08:
We are delighted to announce that preparations are underway to present the inaugural ‘David Gemmell Legend Award for Fantasy’ for the best Fantasy novel of the year (2008). The Award has the official support of Stella Gemmell, and has been instigated by friends and professional colleagues to celebrate David’s life and literary legacy.

Nominations are currently being sought from Editors of every major genre Fantasy list for full-length novels, in the English language, first published in 2008. The nominated novels must be deemed Fantasy in the spirit of David Gemmell’s own work. All nominated work will be added to the ‘Longlist’ – which will then be voted upon by the reading public on the Award website.

Voting will not be closing until March 2009, which will ensure readers a chance to read, and vote upon, all the nominees. The top 5 novels will go forward to the Shortlist phase, with the winner decided by a panel of Fantasy experts (to be announced on the website). The Award trophy - a replica of ‘Druss the Legend’s’ famous battleaxe, Snaga - will finally be presented in June 2009, at a ceremony in London. It is expected that the DGLA will soon become the most prestigious Award for authors working within the genre Fantasy field.

For any further information, please check the website for frequent updates: http://GemmellAward.com

Or, contact the Awards Administrator on: dmin@GemmellAward.com


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Book Releases for October


Here is a partial list of forthcoming Fantasy, Urban Fantasy and Paranormal books to look forward to in October. Reviews coming as time and budget permits. Note I have included some items from September that I missed from last months list (flagged with an *).


S c i e n c e   F i c t i o n


Check out the Locus page for forthcoming titles. Coverage through June of 2009.



F a n t a s y ,   P a r a n o r m a l
&   U r b a n   F a n t a s y



ANTHOLOGIES:
  • Blood Lite by Jim Butcher, Charlaine Harris, Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Mysteria Lane by Gena Showalter, P. C. Cast, Mary Janice Davidson, Susan Grant
  • The Magical Christmas Cat by Lora Leigh, Erin McCarthy, Nalini Singh, Linda Winstead Jones
  • Wolfsbane and Mistletoe by Charlaine Harris, Keri Arthur, Patricia Briggs, Karen Chance, Carrie Vaughn
NOVELS:
  • All I Want For Christmas is a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks
  • Between Light and Dark by Elissa Wilds
  • Blood Memories by Barb Hendee
  • Chalice by Robin McKinley*
  • Intimate Beings by Jessica Inclán
  • Irreversible by Liz Maverick*
  • Magic and the Modern Girl by Mindy Klasky
  • Naughty or Nice by Sherri Erwin
  • Night Falls Darkly by Kim Lenox (Shadowguards #1)
  • Night’s Master by Amanda Ashley
  • Red Fire by Deidre Knight
  • The Chosen Sin by Anya Bast
  • Veiled Truth by Vivi Anna

SERIES NOVELS:
For those of you that like to follow series I have split off series novels separately from standalones.
  • Angel’s Pain by Maggie Shayne (Wings in the Night #2)
  • Backup by Jim Butcher, Mike Mignola [Harry Dresden Novella)
  • Bite The Bullet by L.A. Banks (Crimson Moon #2)*
  • Bond of Darkness by Diane Whiteside (Texas Vampires #3)
  • Brimstone Kiss by Carole Nelson Douglas (Delilah Street, Paranormal Investigator #2)
  • Caine Black Knife by Matthew Stover (Caine #3)
  • Cast In Fury by Michelle Sagara (Elantra #4)
  • City Of Jade by Dennis L. McKiernan (Mithgar series)
  • Crusade by Taylor Anderson (Destroyermen #2)
  • Dark Harvest by Lynda Hilburn (Kismet Knight #2)
  • Dead Reign by T. A. Pratt (Marlaverse #3)
  • Ex-Kop by Warren Hammond (Kop #2)*
  • Foundation by Mercedes Lackey (Valdemar series)
  • Half A Crown by Jo Walton (Alt History #3)*
  • Heart and Soul by Sarah A. Hoyt (Magical British Empire #2)
  • Hunter’s Prayer by Lilith Saintcrow (Jill Kismet #2)*
  • King of Sword and Sky by C.L. Wilson (Tairen Soul #3)*
  • Living With the Dead by Kelley Armstrong (Women of the Otherworld #9)
  • Mercury’s War by Lora Leigh (Feline Breed #16)
  • Midnight's Daughter by Karen Chance (Dorina Basarab #1)
  • Steelflower by Lilith Saintcrow (Steelflower Chronicles #1)*
  • The Black Dagger Brotherhood: An Insiders Guide by J. R. Ward
  • The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson (Mistborn #3)
  • The Knight of the Red Beard by Andre Norton & Sasha Miller (Cycle of Oak, Yew, Ash, and Rowan series)*
  • Two to the Fifth by Piers Anthony (Xanth #32)
  • Untamed by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast (House of Night #4)*
  • Up In Smoke by Katie Macalister (Silver Dragons #2)
  • Welcome to the Jungle by Jim Butcher (Harry Dresden #11)
  • Your Magic or Mine by? Ann Macela (Magic #3)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

“Hands of Flame” by C.E. Murphy

FROM THE BOOK COVER:
War has erupted among the five Old Races, and Margrit is responsible for the death that caused it. Now New York City's most unusual lawyer finds herself facing her toughest negotiation yet. And with her gargoyle lover, Alban, taken prisoner, Margrit's only allies—a dragon bitter about his fall, a vampire determined to hold his standing at any cost and a mortal detective with no idea what he's up against—have demands of their own.

Determined to rescue Alban and torn between conflicting loyalties as the battle seeps into the human world, Margrit soon realizes the only way out is through the fire.…
Hands of Flame is the smashing conclusion to the Negotiator trilogy which began with Heart of Stone [2007] and House of Cards [2008]. Visiting Murphy’s urban fantasy world of contemporary New York with its hidden Old Races is an exhilarating experience. Where else would you find the two main characters to be a lawyer and a gargoyle?

Margrit Knight is taking her new responsibilities as Negotiator to heart as she stands between the Djinn and the Selkies to forestall a war that could devastate their ranks and spill over into the human world. She also goes toe-to-toe with both Janx, the dragon, and his rival, Daisani, the vampire.

Hands of Flame moves along at a pell-mell pace answering most of the big questions and loose ends from the earlier books including the true nature of the vampires, the consequences of Alban’s killing of Ausra and Janx’s djinn second in command, and who Grace O’Malley really is. If I had to pick a theme for this novel I would say it is change – changing ways for the Old Races in the modern world, changing relationships and changing balances of power.

Our heroine Margrit Knight continues to be a delight. One of the qualities that Margrit exhibits that is so rarely seen in urban fantasies is her enduring sense of wonder at how lucky she is to have been invited into the supernatural community. This excitement sparkles on the page. Her reservations about giving up her mundane life to serve this new world quickly diminishes and her confidence and sense of place in the world matures.

There is plenty of action and drama. Two favourite action scenes are Alban’s trial for murder and a battle at the docks between the Djinn and Selkies. The trial of Alban by a jury of his gargoyle peers is held in Grace’s underground lair and attended by key members of the Old Races. It involves an old-fashioned 3 stage challenge between the accuser and the defendant and their seconds and has all the wonderful hallmarks of high theatre. A confrontation at the docks being mediated by Margrit turns into a full blown bloody battle that can only be described as pulse-pounding with a truly breath-taking conclusion.

There is a lot to like in Hands of Flame which fulfills the promise of the earlier books as the strongest of the trio. C.E. Murphy tells us in her afterward that she is returning to write a new installment in her Walker Papers series which is also good news. Hands of Flame nevertheless leaves new story opportunities wide open for the future and Murphy doesn’t dismiss the idea. The Negotiator series should be read in order for maximum pleasure.

Read an excerpt.

Monday, September 22, 2008

2008 British Fantasy Award Winners

The British Fantasy Society announced the winners of the British Fantasy Awards for 2008 at the awards banquet of Fantasycon 2008 in Nottingham on 20th September. Congrats to all the winners.

Best Novel (The August Derleth Fantasy Award): Ramsey Campbell for THE GRIN OF THE DARK


Other nominees for Best Novel were –
  • Heart Shaped Box, Joe Hill (Gollancz)
  • The Intruders, Michael Marshall (HarperCollins)
  • The Servants, Michael Marshall Smith (Earthling)
  • The Taken, Sarah Pinborough (Dorchester)
  • The Terror, Dan Simmons (Little, Brown)
Other Award Category Winners
  • The Sydney J. Bounds Best Newcomer Award: Scott Lynch
  • BFS Special Award: ‘The Karl Edward Wagner Award’: Ray Harryhausen
  • Best Non-Fiction: Peter Tennant, WHISPERS OF WICKEDNESS WEBSITE REVIEWS
  • Best Artist:Vincent Chong
  • Best Small Press: Peter Crowther, PS Publishing
  • Best Anthology: Stephen Jones for THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST NEW HORROR 18
  • Best Collection: Christopher Fowler for OLD DEVIL MOON
  • Best Short Fiction: Joel Lane for MY STONE DESIRE (Black Static #1, TTA Press)
  • Best Novella: Conrad Williams for THE SCALDING ROOMS
Visit the British Fantasy Society for more information.

Harry Dresden Fans and Collectors Take Note

Subterranean Press has a trade edition of a Harry Dresden novella coming out in October and apparently it is about to be sold out. They advised - "Just a little advance warning to everyone. In the past week, we've received an unprecedented number of wholesale and online bookstore orders for Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novelette, Backup, so many that we may not be able to fill all of those orders when the book is shipping. (Everyone who has already ordered direct or does so before the book is published will be covered." So if you need your Dresden fix, order it now.
Backup
By Jim Butcher
Illustrated by: Mike Mignola
Trade: $20 (preorder--to be published in October)
ISBN: 978-1-59606-182-8
Length: 72 pages

Let's get something clear right up front.

I'm not Harry Dresden.

Harry's a wizard. A genuine, honest-to-goodness wizard. He's Gandalf on crack and an IV of Red Bull, with a big leather coat and a .44 revolver in his pocket. He'll spit in the eye of gods and demons alike if he thinks it needs to be done, and to hell with the consequences--and yet somehow my little brother manages to remain a decent human being.

I'll be damned if I know how.

But then, I'll be damned regardless.

My name is Thomas Raith, and I'm a monster.

So begins "Backup" a twelve thousand word novelette set in Jim Butcher's ultra-popular Dresden Files series. This time Harry's in trouble he knows nothing about, and it's up to his big brother Thomas to track him down and solve those little life-threatening difficulties without his little brother even noticing.

“Break of Dawn” by Chris Marie Green

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Hollywood: It can suck the life out of you...

After facing off against the lethal Vampire Killer, Hollywood stuntwoman Dawn Madison and her friends are reeling. But for Dawn, the pain is much more personal. She's learned more about her missing father and long-dead mother than she ever wanted to, and her conflicted feelings about both her enigmatic, never-seen boss, Jonah, and P.I. Matt Lonigan are only making things worse.

To save her father Dawn must enter the Vampire Underground, where she will encounter an unthinkable betrayal, and where the question of who is truly good and who is truly evil will become a matter of life, death—and undeath...
Break of Dawn is the concluding volume in the Vampire Babylon trilogy following Night Rising [2007] and Midnight Reign [2008]. The story resumes the morning after Breisi’s death with the team demoralized and in turmoil. Plotting next steps is furthest from their minds. But the Voice also makes it clear that events are escalating towards the final confrontation with the Underground.

Green does an admirable job of resolving many of the bigger mysteries surrounding the characters and the story arc. The true nature of the Friends and Jonah are revealed as well as the full back story of the vampire Masters. There are also many surprises including the ultimate fate of Dawns mother Eva, father Frank and especially Jonah himself, with numerous unpredictable plot twists.

Previous novels were about the mission and the team, but this third novel places the focus squarely on Dawn, on her relationships with Eva, Frank, Jonah and Matt and on Kiko’s prediction that she is the “key”. Consequently there is a lot more discussion and dialogue this time out and fewer action scenes.

Break of Dawn is not the strongest of the three books but I still found it to be an intriguing and satisfying wrap up for the trilogy and it nicely establishes lots of fresh opportunities for a new story arc. Aside from the main plotline, Green’s portrayal of the vampire Underground as the narcissistic, cult of beauty obsessed Hollywood is worth the price of admission alone.

Chris Marie Green reminds us in her newsletter that Break of Dawn isn’t the final book in the series. The action with Dawn and friends will start up again in March with A Drop of Red the beginning of another trilogy.

And while you wait, the brand new anthology First Blood contains a Vampire Babylon novella “Double the Bite”, It tells the story of Sorin’s missing vampire daughters and apparently has a tie in to Break of Dawn.

Read an excerpt.

View the creepy (in a good way) book trailer.



Sunday, September 21, 2008

“The Book of Lies” by Brad Meltzer

FROM THE BOOK JACKET:
Cain kills Abel in Chapter Four of the Bible. It is the world's most famous murder. But the Bible is silent about one key detail: the weapon Cain used to kill his brother. That weapon is still lost to history.

In 1932, Mitchell Siegel was killed by three gunshots to his chest. While mourning, his son dreamed of a bulletproof man and created the world's greatest hero: Superman. And like Cain's murder weapon, the gun used in this unsolved murder has never been found.

Until now.

Today in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Cal Harper comes face-to-face with his family's greatest secret: his long-lost father, who's been shot with a gun that traces back to Mitchell Siegel's 1932 murder. But before Cal can ask a single question, he and his father are attacked by a ruthless killer tattooed with the ancient markings of Cain. And so begins the chase for the world's first murder weapon.

What does Cain, history's greatest villain, have to do with Superman, the world's greatest hero? And what do two murders, committed thousands of years apart, have in common? This is the mystery at the heart of Brad Meltzer's riveting and utterly intriguing new thriller.
Hmmm. Superman and ancient religious objects of power. All of the elements for a good fantasy with a side dish of thriller and conspiracy. So I plunged in. Early on a conversation occurs between Cal and his co-worker Roosevelt that pretty much summarizes the absurdity of most conspiracy stories. Truth from the characters own lips so to speak.
"Roosevelt, I'm trying hard to not be paranoid. I really am. But now my long-lost father just happens to be bleeding in the one park that just happens to be on the homeless route of his long abandoned son, who just happens to've worked at the one place that just happens to be holding on to the one package that he just happens to be trying to pick up? Forget the designer shoes—that's a helluva lotta happenstance, with an extra-large order of coincidence."
And of course there is no coincidence. Chapter by chapter Meltzer carefully reveals the conspiracy, trickling out a detail here and a tidbit there. An ancient organization called Thule wants the ancient murder weapon that slew Abel for their own schemes, believing it to be an object of power. Scholarly details about the nature of the object are discussed, connections to the Nazi’s are made and of course the cornerstone event of how the death of the father of the creator of Superman ties in. It all adds up in a very tenuous way.

But we never really get to see into the heart of the Thule organization, other then a glimpse of a few individuals and a murky understanding of their ultimate agenda. In the end this diminishes the impact of their actions and thus the story, reducing it to little more then a scavenger hunt. There are no bigger then life characters to be found here. Just a few ordinary folks making the best of their lives and broken dreams. Even the bad guys and their delusions seem less than extraordinary.

Much is made of the Mitchell Seigel/Superman genesis component of the tale. In his Acknowledgements and Author’s Notes (and website for that matter), Brian Meltzer takes great pains to point out the depth of his research. The Book of Lies fundamentally links the murder of Cain with the murder of Mitchell Siegel. The problem is some quick Wikipedia research easily reveals that Mitchell Siegel was not murdered but died of a heart attack during a robbery (read the article here) . Metzger acknowledges awareness of this, but selectively chooses to go with the rumours. Yes this is just fiction and I really don’t have a problem with authors selectively choosing facts that make for a better story, but then they shouldn’t trumpet the research as if it was truth.

Fantasy requires us to “suspend our disbelief” to be successful and a good conspiracy story is contrary, requiring us to have some small belief in the purported facts to carry us along. The Book of Lies is not a compelling case for either. There is also an awkward father/son parable presented as the stories subtext that didn’t quite work for me-an uneasy mix with the conspiracy framework.

Inevitably a comparison to other successful conspiracy novels with grand themes such as The Da Vinci Code must be drawn. Quoting Meltzers alleged grandmother, The Book of Lies gets a D+.

Read the first chapter.

View the book trailer. Not sure of how much of a put on this is but it sure is funny . . .



Saturday, September 20, 2008

“Dark Harvest” by Lynda Hilburn

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Denver psychologist Kismet Knight counsels vampires. Her life changed forever when she discovered a dark preternatural underworld and became involved with gorgeous, eight-centuries-old Devereux, the powerful leader of a vampire coven.

Still adjusting to her new role as an expert on all things paranormal—as well as her unexpected notoriety and new clientele—she schedules what she believes is simply another radio interview. She couldn’t be more mistaken. Not only does the radio host behave very strangely, but an ominous, on-air call turns Kismet’s world upside-down—again.

Shortly thereafter, Maxie Westhaven, a tabloid newspaper reporter in search of a juicy story, befriends Kismet, leading her into a bizarre world of role players, lost souls, and death. Enter Victoria Essex, Devereux’s building manager and resident witch, who discloses a startling secret of her own.

Meanwhile, Luna, Devereux’s hostile, femme fatale personal assistant recognizes a perfect opportunity to throw a wrench into her boss’s blossoming relationship with the human psychologist and, to complicate matters further, Kismet’s old boyfriend, self-absorbed psychologist Tom Radcliffe, shows up with his own outlandish request.
Dark Harvest is a follow-up to Hilburns’ debut novel The Vampire Shrink [2007]. This vampire urban fantasy is a much stronger book and thoroughly entertaining.

One of the refreshing things about the Kismet Knight character is that she is not an action hero. No knives, guns, swords or other accoutrements. Just her sharp mind and an independent spirit. These traits of course manage to get her into and sometimes out of trouble. Also refreshing is her easy acceptance of gifts from her vampire lover Devereux such as her new office space in his ultra-modern building and a flourishing wardrobe. Kismet doesn’t angst over these things, but saves her energy to counter Devereux’s old-world controlling and protective nature. The dynamic between the two is quite engaging.

Hilburn populates her series with fascinating, extroverted characters. Every scene with tabloid reporter Maxie is a treat and Victoria, the witch has hidden depths that invite exploration and of course the absurd egomaniacal sex-obsessed Tom is a hoot. The vampires surrounding Devereux are an eclectic bunch as well, from the doorman Ankh to Prospero.

In Dark Harvest, Hallow the oldest vampire on the planet has come to Denver and is fixated on Kismet. He is a slayer, killing other vampires merely for his own amusement, and is thoroughly evil and assuredly insane. He can exert incredibly subtle mind control over humans and is a master at manipulation. In other words a really, really nasty bad guy.

Targeted by his psychic attentions, Kismet’s personality becomes fractured. A more base, primal version of Kismet emerges – an aggressively sexual and uninhibited alter ego. Her struggle with her loss of control, her inner dialogue, and her actions make for some of the best passages in the story.

The author succeeds in making Dark Harvest a very dark and a frequently violent story but perfectly counterbalances it with just the right touch of humour. There is plenty of action and the climactic confrontation with Hallow is explosive. Sex, murder, mystery, vampire powers and thrills and chills make Dark Harvest one of the most interesting urban fantasy/paranormal romance reads this year. Highly recommended.

Read an excerpt here.

And for fun view the book trailer for The Vampire Shrink.



Friday, September 19, 2008

“Storm Born” by Richelle Mead

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Just typical. No love life to speak of for months, then all at once, every horny creature in the Otherworld wants to get in your pants…

Eugenie Markham is a powerful shaman who does a brisk trade banishing spirits and fey who cross into the mortal world. Mercenary, yes, but a girl’s got to eat. Her most recent case, however, is enough to ruin her appetite. Hired to find a teenager who has been taken to the Otherworld, Eugenie comes face to face with a startling prophecy—one that uncovers dark secrets about her past and claims that Eugenie’s first-born will threaten the future of the world as she knows it.

Now Eugenie is a hot target for every ambitious demon and Otherworldy ne’er-do-well, and the ones who don’t want to knock her up want her dead. Eugenie handles a Glock as smoothly as she wields a wand, but she needs some formidable allies for a job like this. She finds them in Dorian, a seductive fairy king with a taste for bondage, and Kiyo, a gorgeous shape-shifter who redefines animal attraction. But with enemies growing bolder and time running out, Eugenie realizes that the greatest danger is yet to come, and it lies in the dark powers that are stirring to life within her…
This is the start of a new series from the author of the “Succubus” urban fantasy books. Eugenie or Odile as she is most often referred to is a powerful shaman and spends most of her time free-lancing by exorcising demons and destroying pesky fae. Often the opening line of a novel speaks volumes about what is yet to come –
“I’d seen weirder things than a haunted shoe, but not many.”
Surprisingly there were fewer instances of this initial wry humour as the novel progressed. There is however lots of action with a little romance thrown in for good measure. Odile has several demon sidekicks available at her beck and call as backup on dangerous missions. Her search for the missing teenager takes her to the highly perilous Otherworld where previously she had only ventured for brief minutes. Odile learns she has a bigger then life destiny in the fate of both worlds. And everyone wants a piece of her – lovers and bad guys both.

Mead packs a lot of events, back story and character development into 374 pages but somehow I found myself suffering from deja vu. Her shaman character is likable enough and accumulates a variety of skills and powers with the promise of more to come, but just didn’t grab me or seem to standout from the crowded kickass heroine lineup available today. Storm Born’s Otherworld lacks a meaningful dark edge found in other sidhe/faerie portrayals and reminds me more of a rough and tumble old England with magic. It just doesn’t seem to measure up to the implied world-changing events yet to come.

Overall Storm Born is still a solid action urban fantasy but I cannot find a compelling reason to add it to my recommendation list.

Read an excerpt from Chapter One.

Friday Findings and Other Accumulated Goodies from the Week

True Blood
The TV series has been renewed for a second year after only 2 episodes which is good news. Good to see HBO is committed to the series. The tough part is only getting 10 episodes this season and having to wait until next summer for another 10. Sigh.

You can read the full press release on the True Blood site.

Orbit Books Contest

If you are a subscriber to their newsletter they are running a contest for three people to win a complete set of their September releases.
To enter the contest, simply send an email to orbit@littlebrown.co.uk (with the subject: 'September 2008 Orbiteer Sweepstake') and tell us the answer to the following question:

Q: What was the first Charles Stross title published by Orbit in the UK?
A: Accelerando
B: The Jennifer Morgue
C: Singularity Sky

The closing date for entries is Friday October 17th 2008, and the winners will be notified by email w/c October 20th 2008.

Free Ebooks at Tor.com
Tor.com is offering a new free ebook each month for registered members and they are kicking off the program with two offerings – Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks and Will Shetterly’s Dogland. Check them out here.

Kelley Armstrong Darkest Powers Newsletter
The first issue of The Darkest Powers newsletter came out this week devoted to her new YA series about Chloe Saunders that started with The Summoning. There is a sneak peak available of the sequel The Awakening if you go to www.ChloeSaunders.com and click “My Locker” and then click the “uncorrected proof” sheet.. If you missed the newsletter you can get it here.

New Cherie Priest Novel from Subterranean Press

Those Who Went Remain There Still
Release Date: December 2008
Illustrations: Mark Geyer
Trade: fully cloth-bound hardcover edition $25
Limited: 200 signed numbered copies, with a chapbook of additional exclusive material $40

Heaster Wharton is dead, and his passing might mean an end to hostilities between the Manders and the Coys. If the the elderly patriarch showed the kindness and foresight to split his land cleanly between his feuding descendants, then a truce could be arranged.

But his final request is a strange one, delivered across the country to the straggling remnants of his tribe. Representatives from both families must visit a cave at the edge of his property in the hills of Kentucky. There, he promised, they would find his last will and testament.

But there's more than paperwork waiting underground, as vindictive old Heaster was well aware.

In 1775, Daniel Boone and a band of axe-wielding frontiersmen struggled to clear a path through the Cumberland Gap into the heart of Bluegrass country, and they did not work unopposed. Hounded and harried by an astonishing monster, the axe-men overcame the beast by sheer numbers and steel. They threw its body into a nearby cave.

It was not dead.

And now, it is not alone.

Crippled and outraged, for 100 years something terrible has huddled underground, dreaming of meat and revenge. But its newest callers are heavily armed, skeptical of their instructions, and predisposed to violence.

With their guns and their savage instincts, Heaster's grandchildren will not make for easy pickings.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

2008 Sunburst Awards Announced

Congratulations to the winners of the 2008 Sunburst Awards that were announced yesterday. For adult speculative fiction the winner was Nalo Hopkinson for The New Moon’s Arms.A new category for the best Young Adult novel was awarded to Joanne Proulx for Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet.The Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic is a prized and juried award presented annually. It is based on excellence of writing and awarded to a Canadian writer who has published a speculative fiction novel or book-length collection any time during the previous calendar year. Named after the novel by Phyllis Gotlieb, one of the first published authors of contemporary Canadian speculative fiction, the award consists of a cash prize of $1,000 and a hand-crafted medallion which incorporates a "Sunburst" logo, designed by Marcel Gagné.

For the full details visit the Sunburst Award website.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

“Hunter’s Prayer” by Lilith Saintcrow

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Another night on the Nightside...An ancient evil looms over Santa Luz. Prostitutes are showing up dead and eviscerated. And Jill Kismet just might be able to get her revenge against an old enemy.

There's just one problem. Someone wants Jill dead--again. And if they have to open up Hell itself to kill her, they will.

Sometimes, even when you're Jill Kismet, you don't have a prayer...
Hunter’s Prayer is the second book in the Jill Kismet series following Night Shift [2008] less than 2 months ago. I love it when series books come out so close together. In this newest book Jill action-laden adventures resumes a couple of years after the events of the previous book. Jill and her were lover Saul are now partners.

Jill continues her work as a demon exorcist and protector of Santa Luz with Saul as backup. Together they have been battling the dark side for months without reprieve and a new implacable supernatural threat materializes leaving a trail of brutally murdered victims. The unravelling of the mystery of the murderers’ identity and its’ allies delivers a taut thriller.

With Saul at her back, Jill becomes even more of a force of nature as a kick-ass take-no-prisoners heroine. Unbelievably the action is ratcheted up even more then it was in Night Shift. Each fight scene and confrontation is presented in cinematic style. Jill’s obligations to her demon benefactor Perry becomes even more contentious this time around and by the end change dramatically.

Saintcrows’ characters are very vivid. Jill is complex and at turns violent and yet compassionate. You get a glimpse of the deepening relationship between Saul and Jill, but the author teases us by keeping them so busy they keep deferring plans for personal time. There is a strong sense that the next Jill Kismet book will move things to the next level.

The richness of the world-building in Hunter’s Prayer continues to expand as we delve deeper into the various preternatural cultures from demons, to the Sorrows and the weres. Hunter’s Prayer is urban fantasy on steroids. If you haven’t read the series previously, I recommend you pick up the first book. Highly recommended.

Read an excerpt here.

Read my review of the first Jill Kismet book, Night Shift here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

“Sucks to Be Me” by Kimberly Pauley

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
Mina Hamilton's parents want her dead. (Or undead to be precise.) They're vampires, and like it or not, Mina must decide whether to become a vampire herself. But Mina's more interested in hanging out with best friend Serena and trying to catch the eye of the too-hot-for-high-school Nathan Able than in the vampire training classes she's being forced to take. How's a girl supposed to find the perfect prom date and pass third-year French when her mom and dad are breathing down her neck--literally?

Sucks to Be Me is the debut novel from young adult author Kimberly Pauley. Each chapter is prefaced with a delightful little tag describing an essential Myth/Truth of Pauley’s version of vampire reality. Also scattered throughout the book are notepad lists Mina makes for herself such as “Why It Sucks to Have Parents Who Are Vampires”. Overall the book is visually creative and engaging and benefits from these “extras”.

Most of the central themes are familiar, dating, boys, and high school. Mina and her friends are likable characters and of course there are the traditional rivals and cliques. But not much new ground is broken in this area. I found at times that the 17 going on 18 year old Mina seemed somewhat more vanilla than I would have expected of a 21st century teenager.

The twist of course is that Mina’s parents are vampires and she is human. Her parents have been hiding this fact from the Vampire Council and have been caught out. Now she must attend remedial night classes on learning to be a vampire and within weeks must decide to be turned or have her memory of vampires erased and lose her family. Her classes fill her in on many of the intricacies of vampire culture she didn’t know. On the surface this is quite an intriguing opportunity for a coming of age/life lessons story. Choosing to be a vampire should have far-reaching implications right? Well Pauley’s vampires, can still eat, are only mildly effected by the sun, don’t have to sleep, have enhanced appearance once turned and have no discernible cravings. When all was said and done, given these factors is Mina’s choice that difficult? Of course you will have to read the book to find out.

The story moves along quite nicely and is easily read in a sitting. In my opinion it leans a little towards the Young side of the YA label and older readers may not find it as satisfying as other YA offerings such as Meyers’ Twilight series, P.C. Cast’s House of Night, L.J. Smith’s Vampire Diaries, or Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires.

A sequel Still Sucks to Be Me is planned.

Download a sample chapter here.

P.S. And yes Mina is full aware of the irony of being named after a character from Bram Stoker's Dracula. There are also quite a few interesting references and observations on the literary Dracula.



Saturday, September 13, 2008

George R.R. Martin Options "A Game of Thrones" for TV

I missed this announcement over at George R.R. Martin's blog earlier this week. Seems there is a chance we may get to see some of the Song of Ice and Fire saga come to television some time in the future and if it does it will be HBO which has a reputation for quality productions.
I have some exciting news to share.

(But please, guys and gals, don't get TOO excited. This is what it is, and so far that's all it is, so don't make any assumptions).

HBO has just exercised its option, and purchased the television rights to A GAME OF THRONES.

For those of you who don't know Hollywood, an option gives a production company the right to buy a property (a book, a screenplay, whatever) at a certain agreed-upon price for a certain period of time (a year, six months, whatever). When that time runs out, they can let the option lapse, renew the option, or exercise the option and buy the property. The last is what HBO has just done.

What they have NOT done is greenlight the project. A GAME OF THRONES remains in development. They're still budgeting, still looking at locations (Spain and the Czech Republic at present, I hear). No decision has been reached, so any celebration would be premature. In Hollywood it is always best not to assume something is going to happen until it actually happens.

Even so... this is a very encouraging sign, and one that suggests a continued high level of enthusiasm and commitment for A GAME OF THRONES at HBO.

So keep your fingers crossed.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Friday Findings

Authors On Air
Blog Talk Radio has a new interactive forum for the fantasy and science fiction community called The Beyond. It hosts live talks with authors, editors, movies and TV. Archived shows include a discussion of Urban Fantasy with Kim Harrision and Neal Stephenson discussing his new novel Anathem. The next live broadcast is coming October 2 and features Battlestar Galactica.

Free E-Book
EOS' free E-book of the month is Odalisque: Book One of The Percheron Saga by Fiona McIntosh. Odalisque is set in the famed harem of an exotic palace and infused with forbidden love, treachery, betrayal, and possession. Get the E-book here.

Free Elizabeth Bear Story at Tor.com
Newly-published on Tor.com is "The Girl Who Sang Rose Madder" an original contemporary fantasy story by Elizabeth Bear, illustrated by Brad Holland.

Drawing for Copy of The Engine's Child by Holly Phillips
To enter the drawing for an early copy of The Engine's Child send your name and address in the body of an email with the subject heading ENGINE'S CHILD by September 19th, 2008 to delrey@randomhouse.com. Winners, chosen at random, will be notified by email.

This ambitious novel describes the shadowy world of the rasnan, an island afloat in a vast ocean. This island is the last refuge of mankind. But a mysterious group seeks to return to the old homeland. Three people may determine the future of humanity: Aramis, a young engineer; the Lady Vashmarna, a powerful leader with a deep secret; and Moth, a novice from the tidal flats, who holds a strange power over the fabled Engine...

Phillips' first book, In the Palace of Repose, won the 2006 Sunburst Award for Canadian Literature and was nominated for two 2006 World Fantasy Awards. She lives with her cat in British Columbia.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is Becoming a Graphic Novel
Check out this inside look at the new Outlander graphic novel being scripted by Diana Gabaldon and artist Hoang Nguyen.

Drawing for Dragon Wytch at Media Blvd Magazine
To win an autographed copy of Dragon Wytch, the fourth book in the Sisters of the Moon series, along with a poster of “Maggie” (one of the characters from the book series), send an email with your name and mailing address to contest@mediablvd.com, with DRAGON WYTCH in the subject. The contest ends on September 15, 2008 after which the winner will be chosen randomly and notified via email. Only one entry per mailing address.

Check out their interview with the author.


Contest for Chosen Sin by Anya Bast

Thursday, September 11, 2008

“Hotter Than Hell” by Jackie Kessler

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Daunuan was never the ambitious type. There’s so much to love about his job just the way it is—mind-blowing sexual prowess, the power to seduce any human, excellent dental plan. But now Pan, the King of Lust, has offered to make Daun his right-hand incubus—a position other demons would give their left horn for. All he has to do is entice a soul destined for heaven into a damnable act of lust. Should take, oh, seven minutes, tops.

Then he meets his target, Virginia Reed. She’s cute. Funny. Smart. Unfathomably resistant to his charms. He can’t understand it. But Daun has centuries of seduction to his credit. He’s the best there is. Sooner or later he’ll transform this polar icecap of a female into a pool of molten desire, and every instinct tells him she’ll be worth the effort.

Meanwhile, he has to deal with a plague of rogue demons Hell-bent on taking him down, sent by an unknown enemy with a serious grudge. And one other problem: the dawning realization that he’s falling in love—that unholiest of four-letter words—with the woman he’s about to doom for all eternity…
Hotter Than Hell is the third book in the Hell On Earth series following Helle’s Belles [2007] and The Road to Hell [2007].

Hotter Than Hell delivers not just a paranormal romance and dramedy, but an emotionally satisfying love story too. And what makes this a charming achievement is that Ms. Kessler has taken her main incubus character Daunuan, who is a reprehensible, manipulating, irredeemable demon albeit with a touch of charm, and successfully shown his transformation into a vulnerable and believable suitor. However there is still a surfeit of rough humour and insensitive observations reflecting Daunuan’s nature as an incubus and his disdain for humanity. You'll either chuckle or grimace.

The stakes continue to rise in Hell which has been in turmoil since many of the old rules have been tossed out or turned upside down. After all Angels are now serving as succubi. Daunuan has been “offered” an unwanted promotion to Prince of Lust provided he succeeds in seducing and taking the soul of Virginia Reed which is destined for Heaven. The problem is Daunuan’s powers don’t work on pure souls and Pan will kill him if he doesn’t succeed. And he’s on a deadline while demons from the other Sins are out to terminate him for reasons unknown.

Hotter Than Hell nicely intertwines Virginia’s seduction story with the ongoing obsession Daunuan has for Jessie from the earlier books. All of these events lead to a dramatic finish and a poignant HEA, especially for Virginia. In the end I am not sure Daunuan deserves his happily ever after. Read it and decide for yourself. Hotter Than Hell offers a pleasing blend of erotica, action, romance and humour. A little something for everyone.

Read the first chapter.

And view the book trailer…



Wednesday, September 10, 2008

“Bitten to Death” by Jennifer Rardin

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
Jaz Parks here. My latest mission has taken me to the ancient Greek city of Patras; but instead of soaking up its splendor, I'm here to infiltrate a Vampere Trust. Only two vamps have ever escaped the tightly bound communities and lived to tell the tale: Edward "The Raptor"Samos, the most reviled criminal mastermind in recent memory, and Vayl, the CIA's number one assassin who also happens to be my boss.

The Raptor is trying to take over Vayl's former Trust. Unfortunately the Trust's new leader has her own plans.

This job is going to be the death of me.
Bitten to Death is the fourth book in the Jaz Parks series after Once Bitten, Twice Shy [2007]. Another One Bites the Dust [2007] and Biting the Bullet [2008]. For those unfamiliar with the series, it is set in a contemporary alternate universe where vamps, werewolves and other creepy crawlies exist, but are unknown to the general public. The government, however is fully aware, and has established special squads to deal with the baddest of the bad. In the first volume we are introduced to this special CIA team -
I’m Jaz Parks. My boss is Vayl, born in Romania in 1744. Died there too, at the hand of his vampire wife, Liliana. But that’s ancient history. For the moment Vayl works for the C.I.A. doing what he does best—assassination. And I help. You could say I’m an Assistant Assassin.
Jaz herself is human, but more so. She has died twice and been reborn courtesy of higher powers and her spirit guide. She has shared blood with Vayl and is his avhar, connected by a rare mystical vampire bond. Her only edge is heightened perceptions and awareness of supernatural creatures.

Each novel is a high octane action/thriller with a dash of romance. Over the course of the series Jaz and Vayl have accumulated their equivalent of the A-Team or Scooby Gang consisting of Cassandra (a thousand year-old seer), Cole (ex Private Eye and crushing on Jaz), Cam (quirky genius and Q for the group) and David (Jaz’s brother and military special ops).

Ms. Rardin has drawn from familiar spy and paranormal sources and created a blend that is fresh and uniquely her own. In Bitten to Death, their mission leads them towards a final takedown of their arch-nemesis The Raptor. The secondary characters play much smaller roles this time around, with the exception of David, so Jaz and Vayl see lots of action.

The former head of Vayl’s old Trust (a territorial vampire collective) has requested their help to stop the Raptor’s takeover of the Trust and thus presents an ideal opportunity to finally eliminate him. On arrival, they discover the former leader is dead and a rival within the Trust has assumed control. It just happens to be the only vampire Vayl has ever sired and she has her own nefarious agenda. Although physically the Trust is only a group of vampires and a collection of buildings in a private compound, it manifests a powerful psychic component absorbed from the long history of its’ vampire membership. It too has its own agenda.

Bitten to Death delivers plenty of action, but also gives us an excellent mystery story in the secrets of the Trust. Jaz is still reeling from all the hits her life has taken to this juncture but nevertheless seems confident and in control to a new degree. Vayl and Jaz’s romantic relationship continues with its ups and downs but shows promise of new progress.

This paranormal action/thriller series is top notch entertainment and consistently delivers strong stories with a touch of humour, excellent world-building and engaging characters. Not to be missed. I leave you with a final relevant quote from Jaz –
I glanced at Vayl. He gave me a nod and the slight lift of his lips that passed for a smile. Warped souls that we are, we kinda love it when our odds dip. Because that’s when the real fun begins.
One More Bite, the fifth book in the series is out in January 2009 and Ms. Rardin has just announced on her website that she has signed with Orbit for three more Jaz Park novels. Wowza!

Read an excerpt here.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Urban Fantasy Books of Note

Subterranean Press and its’ Far Territories imprint have announced several books that may be of interest to urban fantasy and paranormal readers. These include a limited hard cover edition of Jim Butcher’s first Harry Dresden novel Storm Front, and trade paperback editions of Cherie Priest’s novella compilation Dreadful Skin, Brian Lumley’s short story collection A Coven of Vampires and Caitlin R. Kiernan’s short story collection Alabaster.

Storm Front
By Jim Butcher
(preorder -- to be published this fall)
Limited: $60
ISBN: 978-1-59606-201-6

Subterranean Press is proud to announce the first of Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novels, in a deluxe collectable hardcover, meant to give a lifetime of enjoyment.

Our edition of Storm Front will be printed on 80# Finch Opaque, our preferred paper for higher-end limited editions, with a number of full-page interior illustrations, as well as a full-color dust jacket.
      












Given the size of the print run, we expect Storm Front to sell out well in advance of publication. The only way to guarantee you'll receive a copy is by ordering direct from Subterranean Press.

Limited: 500 signed numbered hardcovers
Dreadful Skin
By Cherie Priest
Illustrated by Mark Geyer
Trade paperback: $14.95 (preorder--due October 2008)

Jack Gabert went to India to serve his Queen. He returned to London a violently changed man, infected with an unnatural sickness that altered his body and warped his mind.

Eileen Callaghan left an Irish convent with a revolver and a secret. She knows everything and nothing about Jack's curse, but she cannot rest until he's caught. His soul cannot be saved. It can only be returned to God.

In the years following the American Civil War, the nun and unnatural creature stalk one another across the United States. Their dangerous game of cat and mouse leads them along great rivers, across dusty plains, and into the no man's land of the unmarked western territories.

Here are three tales of the hunt.

Reader, take this volume and follow these tormented souls. Learn what you can from their struggle—against each other, against God, and against themselves.
A Coven of Vampires
By Brian Lumley
Trade paperback: $14.95 (preorder--due October 2008)

Our edition of A Coven of Vampires will repeat the original volume's table of contents, as well as the original cover.

Table of Contents:
  • What Dark God?
  • Back Row
  • The Strange Years
  • The Kiss of the Lamia
  • Recognition
  • The Thief Immortal
  • Necros
  • The Thing From the Blasted Heath
  • Uzzi
  • Haggopian
  • The Picknickers
  • Zack Phalanx is Vlad the Impaler
  • The House of the Temple
Alabaster
by Caitlin R. Kiernan
Dust jacket and interior illustrations by Ted Naifeh
Trade paperback: $14.95 (preorder--due in April 2009)
ISBN: 978-1-59606-223-8

An albino girl wanders the sun-scorched backroads of a south Georgia summer, following the bidding of an angel or perhaps only voices in her head, searching out and slaying ancient monsters who have hidden themselves away in the lonely places of the world. Caitlín R. Kiernan first introduced Dancy in the pages of her award-winning second novel, Threshold (2001), then went on to write several more short stories and a novella about this unlikely heroine, each a piece of what has become an epic dark fantasy narrative. Alabaster finally collects all these tales into one volume, illustrated by Ted Naifeh (Gloomcookie, How Loathsome, Courtney Crumrin, Polly and the Pirates, etc.).

Alabaster will include:
  • An introduction by the author.
  • The Well of Stars and Shadow
  • Alabaster
  • Waycross
  • "Le Fleurs Empoisonnées" (originally published as In the Garden of Poisonous Flowers)
  • Bainbridge (previously unpublished, the "last" Dancy Flammrion story, a 16,000 word novella)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

“Knight’s Fork” by Rowena Cherry

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:
The Queen Consort of the Volnoth needs a sperm donor, and only one green-eyed god has the right stuff. Little does she know she has pinned all her hopes on the crown jewels of the fabled Royal Saurian Djinn. Not only is he the son of her greatest enemy, but he has taken a vow of chastity.

The Saurian Knight is caught between a problem father who has all the moral integrity of a Mafia Don, and a married Princess who would stop at nothing to have his seed in her belly. No matter which way he turns, he’s “forked.”

Taking the wrong lover…in the wrong place, at the wrong time…is dangerous. And when the High and Mighty intervene, it can be fatal. Can true love and a pure White Knight’s virtue triumph, when society loves a right royal scandal?
Knights Fork is billed as a futuristic romance and is the third book in the Gods of Tigron trilogy after Forced Mate and Insufficient Mating Material. I knew as soon as the prologue opened with a principal character issuing the statement Carpe Scrotum (seize life by the testicles) that I was in for an unusual read.

This novel is many things; a story of political intrigue, a quest, and a comedy of manners. Not having read the previous volumes, I initially had some difficulty understanding the various familial relationships integral to the story. Fortunately there is a family tree chart provided. To fully appreciate and comprehend some of the back story, I suspect reading the earlier books might be beneficial.

Set in contemporary times, the action takes place variously on a pleasure moon, assorted Royal spacecraft and even England on Earth. All of the key players are in one manner or another, important members of royalty, or the ruling class of one galactic faction or another.

Cherry’s humour is eclectic. Frankly I have never read a novel so packed with entendres (single, double or triple), euphemisms, sexual innuendos (“crown jewels”, he’s “forked”), and “pun”ishing pop culture references. Here are a few samples -
She’d exhaled in a breathy ejaculation of premature triumph. Her flighty hand alighted on his leg again. “Thank you.”

“Of all the Djinn groins…in all the towns...in all the Communicating Worlds…” An insolent drawl cut the silence.
Everything is played for the sly smile and silent chuckle (or groan), so all you can do is go along for the ride. Obviously Ms. Cherry constructed this series with tongue firmly in cheek. The opening chapters of the story begin slowly with “drawing room” style conversations laying down the various characters and their motivations with the action picking up midway through. However the other implied “action” never actually materializes until the final HEA chapters. Characters discuss, dream and plot sex but never actually have any. In a sense this is one long tease, so if you are looking for an erotica quotient, this is not your ticket. There is a romance at the heart of the story between Electra and ‘Rhett, however unusual it may seem.

Knight’s Fork is not quite science fiction, nor is it paranormal romance. I can only quote Monty Python when I say – “and now for something completely different…

Read an excerpt from the Prologue.

View the trailer from Insufficient Mating Material.



Saturday, September 6, 2008

Anticipating True Blood

SUNDAY NIGHT 9:00 P.M.
And of course of you have missed any of Charlaine Harris' excellent Sookie Stackhouse stories be sure to pick them up. There have been eight so far.

    #  TITLE
  1. Dead Until Dark [2001]
  2. Living Dead in Dallas [2002]
  3. Club Dead [2003]
  4. Dead to the World [2004]
  5. Dead as a Doornail [2005]
  6. Definitely Dead [2006]
  7. All Together Dead [2007]
  8. From Dead to Worse [2008]
Also check out the new HBO Wiki for True Blood if you can't get enough of a fix.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

“Sea Fever” by Virginia Kantra

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:

A desire for life...Regina Barone knows something is missing from her life. She spends her days working in her mother's restaurant on the Maine island of World's End and her nights caring for her young son. When the island's only eligible bachelor marries another, Regina realizes that the love she yearns for isn't just going to appear by magic. Or is it?

A denial of blood...Dylan Hunter has returned to World's End for his brother's wedding, but he is troubled by his human ties. Years ago, he chose his life as a selkie - an immortal being of the sea - over the fragile and treacherous emotions of humanity. The same emotions that destroyed his family, and that will strike at his very heart...

A danger to both...Neither Regina nor Dylan can control their attraction to each other - or foresee its disastrous consequences. But their destiny has been foretold, and their fate will be decided in the stormy tides of water and fire, where only love can save them - and the world!
Sea Fever, the middle book in the Children of the Sea trilogy resumes where Sea Witch left off. It begins with Cal and Maggie’s wedding. Cal’s selkie brother Dylan attends the wedding. An encounter with Regina generate some sparks.

This potent love story was a pleasure to read and concluded all too soon. Kantra seems to write effortlessly of the intricacies of the human heart and observing Dylan’s blossoming infatuation and eventual consuming love for Regina is splendidly done especially given the mismatched pair they are in the beginning.

Dylan arrives on the island on a mission for his selkie Prince because of the ongoing presence of the demons on World’s End and the need to uncover their intent. The situation becomes more desperate when we learn that there is an age-old prophecy about the Hunter siblings mother. It predicts that a granddaughter would be destined to forge a new balance between the children of earth, fire, air and sea.

Regina becomes pregnant by Dylan and suddenly she and her unborn child are a target. Several scenes in which Regina is victimized by a demon possessing innocent island residents are absolutely mesmerizing. In a particular sequence occurring in a cave, the passages are so descriptive you can almost taste Regina’s terror and claustrophobia.

Both Cal and Maggie from Sea Witch continue to play important roles in the story and additional clues are revealed about Lucy to tease us for the trilogies upcoming conclusion. This series should be high on the radar for anyone that enjoys paranormal romance.

Read the first chapter.

Sea Lord is Lucy’s story and concludes the Children of the Sea trilogy. It's coming in May 2009.

Read my review of Sea Witch from last month.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Coming to the Big Screen

Laurell K. Hamilton one of the major early influences on the paranormal genre announced over the weekend at Dragon Con that there is a movie/TV deal in the works for the Anita Blake novels.
"I’m thrilled to announce that we have joined forces with a first class Writer, Producer, and film studio. The rumors are true - a movie and a possible TV show based on the Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter 16-book series is in the works. Stay tuned to the website for updates and details."
Read her complete comments about the announcement on her blog here.

So now of course the speculation will begin. Who would be your ideal cast list for the main Anita Blake characters? Leave us your thoughts.

“Kiss of Fury” by Deborah Cooke

FROM THE BOOKCOVER:

Scientist Alexandra Madison was on the verge of unveiling an invention that would change the world—then her partner was murdered, their lab burned and their prototype destroyed. When recurring dragon-haunted nightmares threaten to land her in a psychiatric hospital, Alex knows she has to escape to rebuild her prototype in time. But first she must return to her ruined lab…

Handsome, daring, and impulsive, Donovan Shea is more than willing to do his part in the Pyr/Slayer war and save The Madison Project. Assigned to kidnap Alex, Donovan is shocked when her presence ignites the firestorm. He has no desire for a destined mate, but when Alex is attacked by a Slayer, Donovan finds himself meeting fire with fire in her defense. Won over by Alex's intelligence and determination, Donovan fights to rebuild her invention in a race against time. By the time the Slayers close in on their prey, Donovan knows he'll surrender his life to protect Alex, --but will have to lose his heart to possess her...
Kiss of Fury is the second in the Dragonfire series after Kiss of Fire earlier this year. The Wyvern has prophesied that three of the Pyr dragons are destined to experience the firestorm that will mark them as key players in the ultimate fate of mankind and the planet. This paranormal romance series is set in contemporary times and establishes the Pyr as the good guys and ironically the slayers as the bad guys. The firestorm signals that a Pyr has found his one true mate which is the true heart of each story. In the first book Quinn and Sara consummated their firestorm.

In Kiss of Fury the action scenes abound as the Pyr constantly stave off attacks by the slayers on Alex and members of her family; as they seek to destroy or disrupt her environmental project – a project that could restore health to the earth. As I read, it struck me that the slayers are somewhat inept as they were consistently trounced. Boris the leader of the slayers confirms this when he states to one of his minions –
“Of course.” Boris knew he sounded bored. “My ideas are always both devious and brilliant; it’s their execution that is the persistent problem.”
Maintaining secrecy is deemed paramount by the Pyr and they must beguile human memories when exposed. I was a trifle disappointed by the many illogical instances during battles in public venues where humans most certainly must have become aware without action taken by the Pyr. Ultimately this is not important to the main thrust of the story so it was best to just go with it.

However, the core relationship story is the touchstone of the piece. Alex and Donovan’s reluctant romance is artfully depicted. Alex in particular is a stand out character – playful, strong and charismatic. The give and take between her and Donovan is both entertaining and heartfelt. Following Alex and Donovan’s firestorm alone is worth the price of admission to Kiss of Fury.

February next year brings, I assume, the final book in the trilogy - Kiss of Fate which is Eriks’ story.

Read the Prologue.