Friday, May 30, 2014

Review: Shadow's Edge

Shadow's Edge
Shadow's Edge by Brent Weeks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Dark epic fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Recommended for: fans of dark epic fantasy
Trigger Warnings: murder, killing, assassination, violence, rape, torture, mutilation, stealing, slavery, cannibalism, danger to child/kidnapping, sexual assault

My Thoughts: This second book in the Night Angel trilogy is much better edited than the first book, which is very strange; I guess maybe there was a different editor? Why they wouldn't have had an editor go through the omnibus edition to check for consistency I don't know but there it is.

Things move along very quickly in this book. Kylar learns more about his abilities and Talent, as well as the “extras” that the ka'kari provides him. I was very happy about some of the people who are disposed of in this book, and also intrigued by some of the new characters that show up. One this this author is very good at is creating characters that will cause a reaction in the reader, be it good or bad. There is a great deal of gray in the series, where the bad guys aren't really evil so much as twisted, and the heroes are often damaged in ways that make them less than perfect. I like this sort of thing.

If you like dark epic fantasy, with an antihero and lots of violence, check out this trilogy. Don't let the problems with the first book put you off; this one is better.

Series Information: The Night Angel Trilogy
Book 1: The Way of Shadows, review linked here
Book 2: Shadow's Edge
Book 3: Beyond the Shadows

Disclosure: I purchased the omnibus edition of the trilogy for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Kylar Stern has rejected the assassin's life. The Godking's successful coup has left Kylar's master, Durzo, and his best friend, Logan, dead. He is starting over: new city, new friends, and new profession. 

But when he learns that Logan might actually be alive and in hiding, Kylar is faced with an agonizing choice: will he give up the way of shadows forever and live in peace with his new family, or will he risk everything by taking on the ultimate hit?

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: The Way of Shadows

The Way of Shadows
The Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Dark epic fantasy
Reading Level: Young Adult
Recommended for: older YA, fans of dark epic fantasy who don't mind typical tropes
Trigger Warnings: murder, killing, assassination, violence, rape (mostly M/M), torture, mutilation, stealing, slavery, cannibalism, infidelity

My Thoughts: The beginning of this book is pretty typical epic fantasy fare, other than the fact that our hero is an antihero. But Azoth is an orphan, he's taken in against the odds by a powerful man who learns that Azoth is more than he appears, rising up from his poverty-stricken roots, etc. And, of course, the love interest that is forbidden. Still, once Kylar is on the scene, things heat up and I found myself tearing through the pages to find out what happened next. So don't let the typical trope throw you off from reading this book if it sounds like something in which you are interested.

However, I was astounded by the sloppy editing on this book. It was released through one of Hatchett's publishing groups, and editing errors were heavily scattered through the book. There is a part where Azoth calls another character by his first name in a familiar manner, even though he has not yet met that character and really doesn't know much about him. And there are a lot of missing words from sentences. I'm amazed that a professional editor working for a major publisher would be so sloppy. If that will bother you, keep it in mind.

Still I did enjoy the book, despite how dark it often is. If you like dark epic fantasy, antiheroes, and don't mind the typical tropes and editing problems, then check this one out.

Series Information: The Night Angel Trilogy
Book 1: The Way of Shadows
Book 2: Shadow's Edge
Book 3: Beyond the Shadows

Disclosure: I purchased the omnibus edition of the trilogy for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city's most accomplished artist. 

For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he's grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly—and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.

But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins' world of dangerous politics and strange magics—and cultivate a flair for death.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Review: The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities
The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities by Ann VanderMeer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Satire/speculative shorts
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Those who enjoy speculative fiction and clever storytelling

My Thoughts: I learned about cabinets of curiosities from reading the Pendergast novels by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. One of the novels is actually titled The Cabinet of Curiosities and it explains what these are. Basically, a cabinet of curiosities is a private collection of interesting and odd things, which were quite popular in the 19th century. Whatever the person putting it together is interested in would be collected. In this collection of short, speculative, essay-type stories, the various writers describe the stories behind the items in Thackery T. Lambshead's cabinet of curiosities.

This book is not as funny as the book of fake diseases I just read, but it is still wonderfully well done. The various authors have written of their assigned objects so convincingly that I often found myself thinking that I should look up more information on one thing or another, but of course the chances are that they were just making things up. However, there were some fairly funny stories, such as the story “Diminutions” by Michael Moorcock, in which some men decide to bring the Gospel to germs, and to receive some extra funding:
Bannister... persuaded the governors that, if a will to do evil motivated these microns, then the influence of the Christian religion was bound to have an influence for good. This meant, logically, that fewer boys would be in the infirmary and that, ultimately, shamed by the consequences of their actions, the germs causing, say, tuberculosis would cease to spread.” [p. 169]
I enjoyed the stories by Charles Yu and Garth Nix so much that I plan to look through their available works to find new books for my wishlist. So, yeah, I really enjoyed this one, too.

If you are interested in this book, or if you read and enjoyed it, then you should check out the earlier anthology, The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases (review linked here). And if you haven't read this one yet, definitely check it out; it's really fascinating and the stories are very well done.

Disclosure: I bought this book for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: The death of Dr. Thackery T. Lambshead in 2003 at his house in Wimpering-on-the-Brook, England, revealed an astonishing discovery: the remains of a remarkable cabinet of curiosities.

A carefully selected group of popular artists and acclaimed, bestselling fantasy authors has been assembled to bring Dr. Lambshead’s cabinet of curiosities to life. Including contributions from Alan Moore, Lev Grossman, Mike Mignola, China Miéville, Cherie Priest, Carrie Vaughn, Greg Broadmore, Naomi Novik, Garth Nix, Michael Moorcock, Holly Black, Jeffrey Ford, Ted Chiang, and many more.

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Friday, May 23, 2014

Review: The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases

The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases
The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric & Discredited Diseases by Mark Roberts

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Medical Guide Satire/Speculative fiction shorts
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Anyone who likes a laugh

My Thoughts: If you want to know what sort of lunacy to expect from this book, here is just a tiny taste.
Discussing Ballistic Organ Syndrome: “In rare cases, the Ballistitis virus infects the patient's entire body. Eventually, some event causes one or more cells to rupture, after which the patient's body is disrupted in an explosive ejection of all bodily organs. This manifestation of the syndrome frequently occasions the death of the patient; at best, the loss of all bodily organs will cause considerable inconvenience and distress (as set out in Doctor Buckhead Mudthumper's Encyclopedia of Forgotten Oriental Diseases).” [pg. 4]

Letter to Dr. Wexler, of whom the writers are not fond: “Dear Sir: Kindly send your anthrax-soaked missives elsewhere. And if you want to get serious about contagious letters, then invest in some smallpox like a normal person.” [pg. 286]
There are also a couple cookbooks mentioned that sound interesting: “French Cuisine with Codeine” and “Mousses with Morphine”.

I will point out that I would not say this book is lavishly illustrated. Each entry generally has only a single illustration; sometimes there is a second at the end of the section. Now, The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, which I'll be reading and reviewing next, does have a lot of pictures. But this one, not so much.

Still, if you like a laugh, you'll enjoy the clever way each author creates a “character” for themselves, and the creative uses of real information mixed with their own creations that fill this satirical book. I enjoyed it a lot.

Disclosure: I bought this book for myself. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: “Imagine if Monty Python wrote the Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, and you sort of get the idea. Afraid you’re afflicted with an unknown malady? Finally you have a place to turn!” —Book Sense

You hold in your hands the most complete and official guide to imaginary ailments ever assembled—each disease carefully documented by the most stellar collection of speculative fiction writers ever to play doctor. Detailed within for your reading and diagnostic pleasure are the frightening, ridiculous, and downright absurdly hilarious symptoms, histories, and possible cures to all the ills human flesh isn’t heir to, including Ballistic Organ Disease, Delusions of Universal Grandeur, and Reverse Pinocchio Syndrome.

Lavishly illustrated with cunning examples of everything that can’t go wrong with you, the Lambshead Guide provides a healthy dose of good humor and relief for hypochondriacs, pessimists, and lovers of imaginative fiction everywhere. Even if you don’t have Pentzler’s Lubriciousness or Tian Shan-Gobi Assimilation, the cure for whatever seriousness may ail you is in this remarkable collection.

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@RealJonLister @JTaylorPub #Giveaway BULLET ARC Giveaway

J. Taylor Publishing is giving away FIVE ARCs of Bullet by Jonathan Lister!

Check it out!

A father’s love doesn’t bend, so what happens when it breaks?
Corruption, dark truths, and a new Alpha mean Leon Gray’s days of running without a pack are over. At least, that’s what everyone but him believes.

He’d rather be helping his teenage daughter navigate the landmine life of a full werewolf, finish out his servitude as bodyguard to a former Demos City reporter and, in all honesty, not be taken advantage of by a beautiful woman who really only wants him for his body—figuratively and metaphorically.

Of course, the only way any of that might happen is if he’s dead. That’s likely given the information the reporter has unearthed and the territorial battles already underway between packs. If only Demos City’s corruption didn’t have such deep roots—older than the bones of the city or any of the werewolves who’ve decided to claim it. A city can only take so many power hungry mongrels invading it at one time, and Leon can only take so much knowing his daughter lives within its boundaries.

War has come to Demos City.

It’s up to Leon to fix … what’s most important to him.
Ready to see what trouble Leon Gray's getting into next? If you love werewolf goodness at its urban fantasy finest, then you are going to love this next addition to the Demos City Novels.
And J. Taylor Publishing is giving away FIVE ARC copies.
You don’t even have to be a book blogger!
Nope, so long as you are willing to leave an honest review* by June 16th 2014, you are eligible to enter.
Then just fill out the form and keep your fingers crossed.
You have until midnight of May 28th, 2014 to enter.
*A review should consist of your honest thoughts regarding a book, usually a few paragraphs long and around 150 - 500 (or more, if desired) words in length.

About Jonathan Lister:

Jonathan Lister is a full-time writer with work appearing in outlets of USA Today, The Houston Chronicle and many others. A graduate of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University, he’s waited an unspeakable amount of tables en route to having the career he wants, and the ability to the tell stories he loves. Crossroads is Jonathan’s first book-length work of fiction. He currently lives in the Philadelphia area and continues to drink too much coffee.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Review: A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire

A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire
A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities: Strange Tales and Surprising Facts from the World's Greatest Empire by J.C. McKeown

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Non-fiction, historical anecdotes
Reading Level: Any who can read it can learn some fun facts about Rome
Recommended for: Anyone interested in learning fun and interesting facts about the Romans

My Thoughts: There are a number of quotes from the book in the synopsis, but I just have to add a few of my own that I found funny, such as:
Romans on Dealing with Children:
Pliny states, in “Natural History”, “Putting goat dung in their diapers soothes hyperactive children, especially girls.” [pg. 5]

Romans on Solving Marital Discord:
Livy reports that about 170 women from leading families were convicted in 331 B.C. of poisoning their husbands. Other sources give even larger numbers. [pg. 8]

Romans' Preferred Animal to keep Watch:
Marcus Manlius Capitolinus saved the Capitol from the Gauls in the early 4th century B.C. when he was alerted to their approach by the cackling of Juno's sacred geese. [pg. 19]

Romans Naming Themselves:
Caracalla [ruled A.D. 211—217] called himself Germanicus after victories over the Germans, and it was said that he was mad enough and stupid enough to say that, had he conquered Lucania [a region in southern Italy], he would have claimed the title Lucanicus [which means not only “Lucanian” but also “sausage”]. (Historia Augusta Life of Caracalla 5). [pg. 21]

Romans on Successful Grape Cultivation:
Vines should be freed for a few days from the trees to which they were attached, and allowed to wander and spread themselves, and lie on the ground they have gazed at for the whole year. Just as cattle released from the yoke and the dogs after a hunt enjoy rolling about, so vines also like to stretch their lumbar regions.” (Pliny Natural History 17.209) [p. 60]

Romans on Useful Medical Treatments:
Touching the nostrils of a she-mule with one's lips is said to stop sneezing and hiccups” (Pliny Natural History 28.57).
Sexual intercourse is good for lower back pain, for weakness of the eyes, for derangement, and for depression” (Pliny Natural History 28.58). [p. 73]

Romans on Proper Disposition of Criminals:
A justification for vivisection: “It is not cruel, as most people maintain, that remedies for innocent people's ailments in all future ages should be sought through the sufferings of just a few criminals” (Celsus On Medicine Proem 26). [p. 77]

Romans on Making Friends Through Diplomacy:
Cats were regarded as sacred in Egypt. In the mid-1st century B.C., the historian Diodorus Siculus was an eyewitness when an Egyptian mob lynched a member of a Roman embassy who had accidentally killed a cat (The Library 1.83). [p. 121]

Romans on Treating Alcoholism:
People who drink wine in which eels have been drowned lose their appetite for drinking wine” (St. Isidore Etymologies 12.6.41). [p. 151]

Roman Graffiti:
Apollinaris medicus Titi Imp. hic cacavit bene” (“Apollinaris, physician to the emperor Titus, had a fine shit here”) (Corpus of Latin Inscriptions 4.10619, a graffito in the Casa della Gemma in Herculaneum). [pg 186]

Romans on being Scrooge McDuck:
By the end, Caligula had developed a passion for handling money; he would often walk barefoot over huge heaps of gold coin poured out in a large open space, and sometimes he even lay down and wallowed in them (Suetonius, Life of Caligula 42). [pg. 217]
If that isn't enough to pique your interest in this very entertaining book, then just consider the sorts of interesting things you might learn! Because this book is filled with stuff like I've given above, and the author has provided below. I highly recommend this book, and plan to seek out his other book about the Greeks.

Disclosure: This book was a gift from a friend. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Here is a whimsical and captivating collection of odd facts, strange beliefs, outlandish opinions, and other highly amusing trivia of the ancient Romans. We tend to think of the Romans as a pragmatic people with a ruthlessly efficient army, an exemplary legal system, and a precise and elegant language. A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities shows that the Romans were equally capable of bizarre superstitions, logic-defying customs, and often hilariously derisive views of their fellow Romans and non-Romans.

Classicist J. C. McKeown has organized the entries in this entertaining volume around major themes—The Army, Women, Religion and Superstition, Family Life, Medicine, Slaves, Spectacles—allowing for quick browsing or more deliberate consumption. Among the book's many gems are:
Romans on urban living
The satirist Juvenal lists "fires, falling buildings, and poets reciting in August as hazards to life in Rome." 

On enhanced interrogation
"If we are obliged to take evidence from an arena-fighter or some other such person, his testimony is not to be believed unless given under torture." (Justinian) 

On dreams
Dreaming of eating books "foretells advantage to teachers, lecturers, and anyone who earns his livelihood from books, but for everyone else it means sudden death" 

On food
"When people unwittingly eat human flesh, served by unscrupulous restaurant owners and other such people, the similarity to pork is often noted." (Galen) 

On marriage
In ancient Rome a marriage could be arranged even when the parties were absent, so long as they knew of the arrangement, "or agreed to it subsequently." 

On health care
Pliny caustically described medical bills as a "down payment on death," and Martial quipped that "Diaulus used to be a doctor, now he's a mortician. He does as a mortician what he did as a doctor."
For anyone seeking an inglorious glimpse at the underside of the greatest empire in history, A Cabinet of Roman Curiosities offers endless delights.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Review: Fight Club

Fight Club
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Literary fiction
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: those who liked the movie, those who like very violent stories that are twisty
Trigger Warnings: violence, those with arachnophobia beware, making soap out of human collagen, murder, suicidal ideation

My Thoughts: One of the keywords used to describe this book is “nihilism.” I think this is particularly appropriate. Over and over the narrator repeats things like, “Maybe self-improvement isn't the answer... Maybe self-destruction is the answer.” Or, “At the time, my life just seemed too complete, and maybe we have to break everything to make something better out of ourselves.” Or, “It's only after you've lost everything... that you're free to do anything.” It reminds me of a line in a GWAR song: “Sometimes you have to burn everything down so you can have nothing at all.”
I felt I could finally get my hands on everything in the world that didn't work... Nothing was solved when the fighting was over, but nothing mattered.

Me, with my punched-out eyes and dried blood in big black crusty stains on my pants, I'm saying HELLO to everybody at work. HELLO! Look at me. HELLO! I am so ZEN. This is BLOOD. This is NOTHING. Hello. Everything is nothing and it's so cool to be ENLIGHTENED. Like me.
So, as you can see it is not a subtle message, but indeed one that is pounded into the reader over and over, like punches in the face. It's actually rather brilliant, but ultimately depressing if you take it too much to heart. There is much discourse over the ultimate meaning of this book. To put it out there, I think this book is about modern man's search for his place in the world. Men evolved to hunt and fight, and nowadays are more likely to be hunting for a paperclip and fighting for a good parking spot. It has left them at loose ends (thus the wars), and this book is about men seeking a way to turn the tide back to the times when they were providing more meaningful services to humanity.

I've read a few books by Chuck Palahniuk and enjoyed them all, but this one is the best. Which is ironic, since it's also the first book he had published. I've talked to a lot of people who say his earlier work, such as this book, is brilliant, but that it loses a lot of that brilliance in later books. After having read this one, and considering the other books I've read by him, I can see where that comes from. I should re-read those books and see what I think now, if I can find my copies! Anyway, if you saw and liked the movie, or if you like books that will seriously twist your brain, then check this book out. It's a mind-warper.

Disclosure: This book was a gift from a friend. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: The first rule about fight club is you don't talk about fight club.

In his debut novel, Chuck Palahniuk showed himself to be his generation's most visionary satirist. Fight Club's estranged narrator leaves his lackluster job when he comes under the thrall of Tyler Durden, an enigmatic young man who holds secret boxing matches in the basement of bars. There two men fight "as long as they have to." A gloriously original work that exposes what is at the core of our modern world.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Review: Saga, Volume 1

Saga, Volume 1
Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Science fantasy graphic novel
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Those who enjoy graphic novels, those who enjoy this type of story
Trigger Warnings: murder, violence, those with arachnophobia beware, war, slavery, pedophilia

My Thoughts: I was intrigued by this. Having seen other work by Brian Vaughan, I wanted to see more, and this graphic novel looked like it showcased his writing skills well. The illustration did a bang-up job, just beautifully done. It was an interesting choice, I thought, to have the daughter telling the story, especially since it was obvious she was telling it from some point well into the future.

The rich diversity of races in this galaxy is wonderful, and I really like that not all of them look like humans at the base. In fact, humans are few and far between. I was amused in the early part of the first chapter that the grease monkey was, literally, a monkey. And The Stalk is one of the freakiest things I've ever seen. If you suffer from arachnophobia, be aware that she will be a major trigger.

This is an enjoyable read, with wonderful art. I will definitely want to continue this series. It was left on a bit of a cliffhanger. In fact, if those two people are supposed to be Marko's parents, why are his horns so different? I'd like to know more about the Wreathe natives overall. Volumes 2 and 3 are out, taking us up to issue 18, although it appears there have been 20 issues released so far, so it might be awhile before we see Volume 4. Still, I plan to pick up the next two volumes as soon as I can. If this sounds like someone you would like, don't hesitate to do so as well.

Disclosure: This book was a gift from a friend. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. 

This edition collects issues 1 – 6 of the graphic novel series.

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@dbjacksonauthor #Review THIEFTAKER by D.B. Jackson

Thieftaker review
Author: D.B. Jackson
4 out of 5 stars

Picked this one up at Dragon Con (read all about Dragon Con 2013 here), and since the author was there, I was able to have it signed! Check it out.

Book Info: Genre: Historical urban fantasy/mystery
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: those who enjoy historical fiction and urban fantasy
Trigger Warnings: murder, violence, torture
Animals: dog is killed

My Thoughts: This is a wonderfully twisty mystery, set in a fantastical version of history where magic and mayhem combine in an explosive manner. While Ethan didn't necessarily figure things out as quickly as I did, it's probably because I was seeing things from the outside and not being beaten up every few hours. That has to be a bit distracting, I would think.

While I saw complaints that Ethan didn't spend more time trying to track down the conjurer, I thought it was made pretty clear that the attempts he did make showed the conjurer to be too powerful to be tracked by normal means, and therefore probably not someone he wanted to confront before he was completely ready. I also saw complaints about Sephira's apparent lack of follow-through on her threats to kill Ethan, but again I thought it was made fairly plain that despite her attempts in anger, she actually found him to be valuable and preferred to have him around.

I really enjoyed the mixture of historical events with fantastical elements and a juicy mystery to solve. These sort of cross-genre books are always a lot of fun to read. While not perfect, it was all-in-all an entertaining and enjoyable read. If you like historical fiction, urban fantasy, and mysteries, then you should enjoy this blend of the three.

Series Information: The Thieftaker Chronicles
Book 0.5: A Spell of Vengeance
Book 1: Thieftaker
Book 2: Thieves' Quarry
Book 3: A Plunder of Souls, expected publication 7/8/2014 by Tor Books

Disclosure: I purchased this book for myself at Dragon Con 2013 and had it signed there. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Boston, 1767: In D.B. Jackson's "Thieftaker, "revolution is brewing as the British Crown imposes increasingly onerous taxes on the colonies, and intrigue swirls around firebrands like Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty. But for Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker who makes his living by conjuring spells that help him solve crimes, politics is for others... until he is asked to recover a brooch worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent family.

Suddenly, he faces another conjurer of enormous power, someone unknown, who is part of a conspiracy that reaches to the highest levels of power in the turbulent colony. His adversary has already killed—and not for his own gain, but in the service of his powerful masters, people for whom others are mere pawns in a game of politics and power. Ethan is in way over his head, and he knows it. Already a man with a dark past, he can ill afford to fail, lest his livelihood be forfeit. But he can't stop now, for his magic has marked him, so he must fight the odds, even though he seems hopelessly overmatched, his doom seeming certain at the spectral hands of one he cannot even see.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Review: Retribution

Retribution by A.J. Scudiere

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: fans of suspense/thrillers
Trigger Warnings: murder, violence

My Thoughts: “What does not kill me had better start running.” After five years, just as Sin and Lee are starting to relax into their roles as Diana and Will, it all starts to unravel. Personally, I had trouble with this on a suspension of disbelief level, because Sin and Lee were so deeply buried, I don't know how anyone managed to figure out who they were, let alone find them. However, I didn't have a lot of time to think about it, because...

The story is fast-paced and relentless. There is also a bit of despair evident, especially in Will/Lee.
We aren't clean... We won't ever be clean again. We're as dirty as they come, and our reasoning and our beliefs never changed our willingness to pull the trigger. We were judge and jury on those souls and—while I still think we were in the right—even 'vigilante' is too tame a term for what we were. We'll never truly scrub that off. You have to know that.
The plot is full of twists and turns, and there are a lot of discoveries made regarding family through the story. I have to wonder if the author had planned this from the beginning, or if she decided later to turn this into a trilogy and added in all the wrinkles to help move the pace along.

The editing on this is really quite good. The only spelling error I noticed was the use of “discrete” when “discreet” should have been used. There are some issues with punctuation and capitalization, but nothing the average reader would necessarily catch. I was very happy to see the improvement over earlier books. The only thing that hit my “pet peeve-o-meter” was the use of the phrase “another thing coming.” This should be “another think coming” and is something that just drives me nuts.

This is another fabulous book from A.J. Scudiere, and one which I can recommend to anyone who enjoys thrillers and suspense novels. There is a lot of violence, so keep that in mind, and of course there are murders. There is also an extremely twisty plot and lots of revelations to be seen, so if that sounds like your sort of thing, definitely check this out.

Series Information: The Sin Trilogy
Book 1: Vengeance, review linked here
Book 2: Retribution
Book 3: Justice, release date TBA

Disclosure: I purchased this book for myself as I'm a fan of the author. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Will and Diana Kincaid have left their pasts behind. They've even discarded their identities as Sin and Lee, but the past will never leave them.

When the body of mafia leader Ivan Kurev turns up in her district, Diana is forced to take a hard look at how well she has—or hasn't—covered her tracks. It turns out, no matter what she does, it isn't good enough. A stronger generation of Kurevs is growing out of the wasteland she left behind and the Kurev sons have a memory that is long . . . and angry.

In the past, the fight and the choices that go with it would have been easy. But now there are friends to protect, a home she doesn't want to leave, and a boss she likes, even if she's more than a little suspicious of him.

It's hard to choose sides when Diana can't even determine what the sides are anymore. She can't run, she can't stay and she can't protect what she fought so hard for, not when a newer, more dangerous breed of assassin waits around every corner . . .

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Friday, May 16, 2014

@EJStevensAuthor #Cover Reveal + #Giveaway: "Burning Bright" by E.J. Stevens

It's time for a cover reveal!  Feast your eyes on the cover for BURNING BRIGHT, the third full-length novel in the Ivy Granger urban fantasy series by E.J. Stevens.

Keep reading for a chance to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card!

Cover Reveal

Burning Bright (Ivy Granger #3) by E.J. Stevens.

Burning down the house...

Things are not going well at the offices of Private Eye. Jinx is having demon problems, the city is overrun with pyromaniacal imps, and Ivy's wisp powers are burning out of control, attracting the attention of both the Seelie and Unseelie courts.

Along came a faerie queen... It's the worst possible time for the Green Lady to call in a favor, but Ivy's bound by her deal with the glaistig. Too bad there's no wiggle room in faerie bargains.

Ivy must rid the city of imps, keep Jinx from murdering her one solid link to Hell, and fulfill her bargain with the Green Lady--with sidhe assassins hot on her tail.

Just another day's work for Ivy Granger, psychic detective.

Release Date:  June 17, 2014
Genre:  Paranormal, Urban Fantasy
Add to Goodreads.

Previous books in this series: Shadow Sight (Ivy Granger #1), Blood and Mistletoe (Ivy Granger #1.5), Ghost Light (Ivy Granger #2), Club Nexus (Ivy Granger #2.5).

Burning Bright Cover Reveal Giveaway

We are giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card to one lucky winner! 

To enter, please use the easy peasy Rafflecopter form below.  This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL. 

Giveaway ends May 30, 2014.

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About the Author

E.J. Stevens is the author of the Spirit young adult series and the bestselling Ivy Granger urban fantasy series. When E.J. isn't at her writing desk she enjoys dancing along seaside cliffs, singing in graveyards, and sleeping in faerie circles. E.J. currently resides in a magical forest on the coast of Maine where she finds daily inspiration for her writing.

Connect with E.J. on Twitter, GoodreadsAmazonPinterest, and on her Blog.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Review: Vengeance by AJ Scudiere

Vengeance by AJ Scudiere
Vengeance by AJ Scudiere by A.J. Scudiere

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Please note: Originally read 9/14-15/2011; I am re-reading the book before I read the 2nd book in the series, Retribution. I received the original file from JKS Communications in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Book information: Genre: Suspense
Reading Age: Adult
Trigger Warnings: torture, murder, rape (not on page, historical), suicide (historical)
Animals: Several guard dogs are killed; deer is killed for food

My Thoughts and synopsis: Vengeance is exactly my kind of story. That is probably the most important thing I can say about it – it is a thriller, very well-written and filled with well-defined characters that are unique and interesting. Essentially the plot revolves around two people who have lived through terrible things and are, as a result, out for vengeance. Thus the catchy title! Each of them has been after people of the same general ilk, removing the scum from society – but they’ve started running across one another and duplicating their efforts. When an attempt to divide and conquer goes awry, they decide to join forces. We also spend some time with an FBI agent who is trying to track them down – while he is sympathetic to their cause and doesn’t mourn the people they’ve taken out, he feels compelled to track them down anyway, due to his need for answers.

Added Thoughts from May 2014 Re-Read: The nice thing about re-reading books is you catch things you might have missed the first time around. In my case, I first read an uncorrected proof/ARC, so I couldn't really comment on editing issues anyway. This copy I'm reading though is the final edition, one which I picked up on Amazon during a sale. I have noticed that the spelling used is inconsistent. It's running about half and half between the correct duffel (bag) and incorrect duffle (which is a type of heavy coat). The correct discreet is used a couple of times, but more often the incorrect form discrete (meaning singular) is used. T-shirt is all over the place, and always incorrect, as tee shirt, tee-shirt, t-shirt... When discussing clothing, it's T-shirt, V-neck, that sort of thing: capitalized. A lot of these wouldn't be noticed by anyone but pedants like me, but... they are there.

Recommendations: This was the 2nd book I read by Scudiere and I continue to be impressed. She has a great style and paces her story well. I truly enjoyed reading this book and look forward to the next one. You should definitely pick this book up if you are a fan of thrillers and suspense.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

#Cancer Journey - Mixed News from Latest Visit

So, my fifth chemotherapy appointment was yesterday.  Last Friday I had new scans done of my chest, abdomen and pelvis to see what was going on in there with the treatments, and yesterday was the day I was supposed to learn about it. However, the doctor who read the scans did a really piss-poor job of writing his report. He didn't say anything about my chest/lungs, no mention of the tumors in my abdomen, around my intestines/bowel/uterus, etc. Nothing! He did mention that my pancreas and spleen looked good. He also said there were three 7 cm, fluid-filled sacs in my abdomen. We aren't really sure what those are, but the doctor said as long as I'm not having any problems, we'll just leave them be for now. I have a small fatty tumor on my kidney, but it's benign; I actually have a couple of those here and there and have for a number of years, so it's nothing to worry about.

What he focused on was my liver, but even then he was unclear. He compared the new scans to the scans made in November when I first went to the ER with complaints and was told it was 'just colitis'. He said he saw the liver tumors in those scans (medical malpractice suit, anyone??) and that they were larger in the new scans, but he didn't say by how much. My doctor said if it was just a few mm then it was nothing to worry about, but if more, then we'd need to make changes. So, she went to call the guy, but couldn't reach him, so she compared the new scans to the MRI we did prior to the liver biopsy and found that between then and now the liver tumors have doubled. That sounds bad, but that is from 1 cm to 2 cm, give or take a few mm. So not a huge change, but enough that the doctor wanted to change one of my medicines to a second-line medicine to see if that will work better.

Now this was a good thing, because the medicine she took me off of was Oxaliplatin. This medication had the potential to cause permanent nerve damage. It caused my hands and feet to cramp and spasm, and also gave me pins and needles in my hands, feet and lower legs. It made me super sensitive to cold. I couldn't even reach into the refrigerator without gloves, and I could not drink anything that was too cold. If I tried, it felt like broken glass sliding down my throat. This kept me away from some of my favorite things: popsicles! So, I was very very happy to be rid of that particular medication. The one added is known as CPT-11. It does have side effects, but they are mostly just more of the same. In fact, if you are interested in learning some of the side effects that people undergo through chemotherapy, just put up a great educational piece about the side effects of chemotherapy, and you can learn more about them by following this link. Obviously not everyone has every side effect, nor will people that are on the same therapies even have the same side effects, but it's a great article and I encourage you to check it out.

The only new side effect I've experienced was extreme hot flashes and sweating. I mean extreme! I had to take off my headscarf; I was just too hot to keep it on! And sweating - wow, I was sweating like a horse. I soaked through two paper towels trying to wipe down my face and head. Fortunately it cleared up during the night and I had a fairly restful sleep.

So, that's where I'm at right now. I'll call up my doctor, probably tomorrow, and see if she managed to talk to the guy who read my scans to find out more information. I think next time I'm in the vicinity of St. Mary's I'll go ask for copies of the scans on CD-ROM or the actual film, whatever they will provide, so I can take them with me when the topics might come up. My doctor gave me a copy of the report yesterday, not that it will be very helpful for anything but a medical malpractice suit for them not picking up the tumors in that scan back in November... I'm still trying to drink two to three quarts of fluids every day to avoid dehydration. All in all I feel okay this week; last week I was not feeling very well at all, so I"m happy to have a good week. Thanks again to everyone for their support, encouragement, and well-wishes, be they prayers, good vibrations, long-distance hugs, what have you. It is all appreciated and much love to you all!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

@JTaylorPub @AlexNaderWrites #Cover Reveal "Burdin of Choice" by Alexander Nader

Burdin of Choice

Release Date: November 10, 2014
Target Reader: Adult
Keywords: Urban Fantasy
Back of the Book

Ty Burdin is back. Back to drinking and back to avoiding demons. He is, of course, the leading expert in his field. In both subjects.

That’s probably why, when a customer offers him way too much money just to locate a missing car and some mysterious cargo, he readily agrees. The dude is human after all—Ty’s prime target client base.

Along with the money comes a slew of disappearances which Ty tries to ignore while tracking down that car, because, of course, those missing people might be demon related, and as he’s said before, that’s agency business. Not his. Period.

Until today.

Ty Burdin is to back drinking as well as everything he vowed never to get involved with again.
Question is, which one will kill him first? The booze, the demons, or the Agency?

Monday, May 12, 2014

@AuthorRSBelcher #Review THE SIX-GUN TAROT by R.S. Belcher

The Six-Gun Tarot review
Author: R.S. Belcher
5 out of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Weird Western
Reading Level: Adult (although one of the main characters, Jim, is 15 and his coming-of-age is part of the story, I still think it's more of an adult story)
Recommended for: Fans of Lovecraftian literature, Weird Westerns, urban Fantasy
Trigger Warnings: murder, domestic violence against wife and daughter, slavery (during the part set prior to the civil war)
Animals Injured: Horse injures leg badly, had to push on through desert with no water for days (she's okay); two coyotes killed after they attack

My Thoughts: While at DragonCon 2013, I spent a good bit of time in the dealers' rooms looking at books and talking to authors. One of the books I noticed was The Six-Gun Tarot, a steampunk-influenced Weird Western with strong Lovecraftian ties. As it turned out, the author—R.S. Belcher—was there at the time and took a few moments to talk to me about the book. While I didn't buy a copy right then (as I've been spending profligately enough and my bag was full to bursting), I did note it and put it onto my wishlist as soon as I came home that night. Finally I picked it up this winter with some of the many gift certificates various friends sent me to help cheer me up after my cancer diagnosis.

Some of the imagery in this is pretty amazing (especially the Lovecraftian bits), like this rant from a madman:
You don't know what they do up there on that mountain, do you, Sheriff? It's tossing and turning. It eats the heart of the world, like a worm burrowing an apple! Maybe the preacher's right and my faith is just shivering, weak—is it wrong for me to try to keep them from hollowing me out from inside? I should just blow all of you stupid bastards back to Kingdom Come, while it's still there! Before they burn down Heaven and feast on the corpse. Maybe we should all die now, better that way!
Then we have Gran Bonny, whose ideas are blasphemous and often extremely funny, like this one:
Guns are like men—only useful for a little while. They can go off at a moment's notice when you don't want them to and they make a lot of damn fool noise doing it.
The blasphemous part comes here:
The tyrant-father of Heaven, the one who created, hated and drove out the first woman, yoked men with a horrible curse, far worse than any imagined to have been handed down to Eve. Men were told they were masters of this world, of their mates, of the beasts and fish, of the land and sea and sky. How ridiculous! That's like telling a little boy he's in charge of the house when his da is gone. It's silly!

"And like that little boy, men have tried to live up to the unreasonable demands of their mute, wayward, celestial father. They have enslaved and dominated, conquered and killed, all in the name of shepherding, of protecting, of ruling the world. They spend their lives trying to do what they think is right, what their father on high would want of them. The bastard.”
I really like the use of Lilith in the history of this world, and the idea of the Load. I wish we had spent more time with Gran Bonny, heard more of her stories. That would actually be a pretty cool spin-off series—give us Gran Bonny's life story! But I digress...

As I said, I really liked how Lilith is presented in this book, and the handing down of Her secret purpose (the Load) over the generations as protectors of the Earth and the Mother. “I am the Mother's blade, the Mother's wrath... You have poisoned her, raped her and her children. Left her to die. Now you will suffer, you will die.” Really hardcore stuff, you know?

This is set in Nevada shortly after the Civil War. There is (of course) a lot of strife with the Native American peoples, and the Mormon/Latter Day Saints were a fairly new religion. Most of the more wealthy people who live in Golgotha in the book are Mormons, and I was startled by how much and how often most of the ones we spend any time with in the story drank. The only character who paid any respect to the rules was Sarah, who offered Harry coffee, even though it was a sin. My understanding is that Mormons are not supposed to drink alcohol or caffeine, or smoke, or otherwise pollute their bodies with drugs of any kind. That doesn't necessarily mean that is what happens, of course, but a lot of the drinking was being done by fairly high-ranking and prominent individuals and it surprised me that they didn't at least try to hide it. While this is the first book in the series, events from the past are frequently referred to (and I hope someday the author will write some of these prequels). It is also obvious that people who live in Golgotha are aware of the weirdness and danger in the area, especially the sheriff. Check out his armory:
He [Jon] cleaned and oiled the collection of rifles, scatterguns and pistols that were caged in iron bars behind his desk. He also made sure the other objects locked in the gun cage—wooden stakes, silver bullets, various Indian and Chinese charms and amulets, a crucifix and several vials of holy water, blessed by the Holy Father himself all the way from Rome—were all in equally good condition.
As you can see, Jon is ready for just about anything the town can throw at him, and I for one would love to know some of the stories of how and why.

For those readers who are familiar with the tarot, each chapter heading is a card's name, and either refers to a person or event in that chapter. I think it would be cool if a tarot deck was created to match this universe. As it is, those familiar with the cards and their meanings can have some fun by working out how the specific card applies to any given chapter.

Fans of Lovecraftian stories, Weird Westerns, and urban fantasies should enjoy this book. I really enjoyed reading it; it held me engrossed right to the end, and I highly recommend it to anyone who might be interested.

Series Information: Golgotha Series
Book 1: The Six-Gun Tarot
Book 2: The Shotgun Arcana, expected publication October 7, 2014 by Tor

Disclosure: I bought this book for myself after seeing it and talking to the author about it at DragonCon last fall. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Buffy meets Deadwood in a dark, wildly imaginative historical fantasy

Nevada, 1869: Beyond the pitiless 40-Mile Desert lies Golgotha, a cattle town that hides more than its share of unnatural secrets. The sheriff bears the mark of the noose around his neck; some say he is a dead man whose time has not yet come. His half-human deputy is kin to coyotes. The mayor guards a hoard of mythical treasures. A banker’s wife belongs to a secret order of assassins. And a shady saloon owner, whose fingers are in everyone’s business, may know more about the town’s true origins than he’s letting on.

A haven for the blessed and the damned, Golgotha has known many strange events, but nothing like the primordial darkness stirring in the abandoned silver mine overlooking the town. Bleeding midnight, an ancient evil is spilling into the world, and unless the sheriff and his posse can saddle up in time, Golgotha will have seen its last dawn… and so will all of Creation.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Review: Curiosity Quills: Primetime

Curiosity Quills: Primetime
Curiosity Quills: Primetime by J.R. Rain

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Anthology, dark fantasy
Reading Level: Adult unless otherwise noted in specific story review
Recommended for: People who like odd/unusual/creepy/strange and wonderful stories.
Trigger Warnings: Story 1: necrophilia, suicide, mention of child molestation; Story 2: violence, killing; Story 4: suicide, murder both in historical context; Story 5: violence, murder, almost domestic violence situation with MC being terrorized; Story 6: mention of murder in historical context; Story 8: murder, suicidal ideation; Story 10: murder; Story 11: murder, violence, mutilation; Story 12: violence; Story 15: violence, killing, murder; Story 16: murder of the entire royal family (almost), destruction of the planet and tyranny by invaders, killing, violence; Story 17: several simulations are put to the character to test his integrity, including temptation to mass murder and rape, torture; Story 18: suicidal ideation, suicide, murder, rape (in past); Story 19: suicidal ideation, suicide, drug abuse/overdose, child molestation, rape (m/m), violence, statutory rape, implied murder
Language Trigger: Story 11: “cunt”

My Thoughts: “There is much to this world that we don't understand.” (“Dark Orb” by Tony Healey, pg. 55) That quote fairly well encapsulates what these stories are all about. A number of my favorite authors have stories in this anthology, so where applicable I'll be making links to reviews of their other work. I will also say that there is some really sweet artwork scattered through this book and I desperately want a paper copy so I can see them better.

The first short story, “And Death Shall Have no Dominion,” is in the Nick Englebrecht universe, stories by K.H. Koehler, including The Devil You Know (review linked here), The Devil Dances (review linked here), and The Devil's Companion: A Guide to Nick Englebrecht's World (review linked here). This is a super creepy story, please note trigger warnings above.

The second short story, “Cyber Cowboy,” is set in James Wymore's Fractured Earth universe from The Actuator (review linked here). Wymore's imagination again comes into play with this fun short. I see a lot of books he's written that look good, and I have a few more of his that I have and need to read, so I'll need to do a marathon one of these days.

The third short story, “Dark Orb,” by Tony Healey, hit me right in the feels. I see Healey has a number of published works, but this is the first thing I've read from him, and it was a gut punch since it deals with cancer. Nicely done story about coming of age, and coming to terms with death. I did notice that, while the story is set in the US, a lot of Britishisms are used, such as “garden” rather than “lawn” or “yard” and saying “Cheers” rather than “thanks.”

The fourth short story is “Ephemera” by Gerilyn Marin. I have not read any of her works before, and it appears she writes romance, so it's unlikely I will. However, this is a delightfully creepy short story, especially if dolls give you the wiggins. This is a galley (uncorrected proof), so I'm assuming the typos I've seen will be fixed, but there was one in this short that made me laugh: “Something was washing her harm.” (pg. 69) It just made me giggle picturing someone washing harm. Then I thought, "I hope whomever is washing her harm doesn't shrink it; those things are a bitch to replace..." Those with the final copy probably won't have this to chuckle over: an unintended benefit to uncorrected proofs, I guess.

The fifth short story, “The Fridge” by J.R. Rain, has a surface resemblance to Mark Rayner's Fridgularity, only this story veers off more into the creepiness of an AI refrigerator rather than the ludicrous aspects thereof. And it was very, very creepy. I have a number of books and stories by this author to read, and now I'm more interested than ever in doing so.

Story six was “Ghostplacers, Inc.” by Nina Post, of whom I'm quite a fan. Most of her stories include slightly surreal humor, and I was not disappointed in this short story, in which the competitors in the ghost displacement business simply “exterminate” the ghosts with toxic chemicals, while Ghostplacers, Inc. uses the more eco-friendly relocation technique... Still, overall this story was more creepy than funny and a great little piece. It made me wonder what happened 10 years ago to make ghosts so suddenly prevalent in Chicago. Maybe if we ask nicely she will write the full story? Note to author: Please write the full story!

The seventh story, “Gothic Gwen” by A.W. Exley, is a departure from the other stories in that it is obviously a young adult, paranormal romantic fantasy. The main character is almost laughably Mary Sue-ish, and the tropes used are uninspired. A sour note in an otherwise entertaining anthology, although I'm quite certain this character and series of books (if there is such) probably has lots of devoted fans. It's just not the sort of thing I like.

How I Killed the Drama” by Mike Robinson is the eighth short story in this collection. A very weird little story where a man ends up in a position he never expected. I've also read The Prince of Earth (review here) and Negative Space (review here) by this author, and quite like his style.

Story nine is “Mad Science” by Sharon Bayliss. Sharon Bayliss recently released her second novel, Destruction: book 1 in the December People series, which I have and plan to read and review in the future. This short story has made me more eager to do so, as it is very well written and awesomely creepy.

A wonderfully twisted science fiction story, “On the Rocks” by William Vitka, is story ten. What if, in Earth's mad quest for resources, we reach too far? Absolutely chilling story.

Michael Shean builds on his Wonderland Cycle with the eleventh story in this collection, “Razor Child”. The Seattle of the late 21st century is divided by the Verge—the glittering inner city full of the rich and powerful, and the outskirts where living is done by one's bootstraps and wit. Novels in this series are Shadow of a Dead Star (review here) and Redeye, as well as related book Bone Wires (review here).

Sinergy” by A.E. Propher and Grace Eyre is story twelve. This short is written in present tense, which any writer will tell you is one of the most difficult ways to write. At least it was third person point of view—I think the only thing worse than present tense would be present tense in first or second person! There are tons of levels to this story, which makes me think this is set within a universe where other books are available and written, which I now must find, because the writing on this is just gorgeous, such as, “...despair is akin to lethargy, the kind that sets in when all hope is lost.” It also contains the Polish name for Christmas—Holy Szczepan Day—and that alone led to long moments of amusement as I tried to a) figure out how to say that and b) say “Holy Szczepan Day, Batman!” Yes, I'm easily amused. Unfortunately, it appears that A.E. Propher has only written short stories for Curiosity Quills Anthologies—this one, and and the After Dark one.

Randy Attwood's “Tell Us Everything is the thirteenth story (lucky 13!) in this anthology. I've actually read this one a couple times, but I really enjoy it, so I read it through again. I was bothered by the fact that the artwork looks like a punk guy rather than a gothy woman, but that doesn't take away from this story about truths and how they affect the inhabitants of one small town named Peculiar. It can also be found in Three Very Quirky Tales, which is where I first read it (review linked here).

Story fourteen is “The Caw” by Eliza Tilton. I see that I have her book Broken Forest in my files to read, and featured it on my blog, linked here. This is a strange little story, lots of teenagers making googly eyes and freaking each other out in a cemetery. I never did quite figure out what it was all about, or at least what the crow was all about, but if you like ghost stories, this one might amuse you. It's another YA story, only the 2nd so far in this anthology.

The fifteenth story, “The Damned and the Dangerous”, is by young up-and-comer Michael Panush, of whose pulp stories (The Stein & Candle Detective Agency and the Jurassic Club; there are five books, too many for me to link in here, but you can easily find them where reviews are found) I'm quite a fan. This is listed as a “Rot Rob” short. This is a new series that features a “zombie gearhead” who helps solve crimes. Like all of Panush's stuff, this is pulp fiction, high action, low introspection, mostly telling and very little showing. Enjoyed for what it is, it's very fun. I was somewhat weirded out by the fact that Betty always smiles “weakly” for some reason.

The Last Carnivale” by Vicki Keire is the sixteenth story in the anthology. It is a very dark science fiction, post-apocalyptic, dystopian story, not easy or pretty, but beautifully written. I would love to see more stories from this author.

Story seventeen is “The Milgram Battery” by Matthew Graybosch, a story in his Starbreaker universe, as developed in his book Without Bloodshed (review linked here). There are a number of triggers in here due to the nature of the “experiment” being run on Stormrider. I also love his oath as Adversary: “I swear eternal hostility towards every form of tyranny over the human mind.

Randy Attwood's “The Notebook” is number eighteen in the anthology. This is another of his I've read multiple times and still am chilled by it. His writing is something that really needs to be experienced. For instance: “I... watched her stare off into space. I knew the space into which she gazed. The middle ground of emptiness, where people search for answers when they don't even know how to frame the questions.” It can also be found in Three Very Quirky Tales, which is where I first read it (review linked here).

The Pearl” by Rand Lee is number nineteen. There are a lot of triggers in this story, so be warned. I'm not certain what to make of this story. It actually has left me quite befuddled. The fact that it makes me think and wonder is a terrific thing. It also ends with a message of inclusiveness that I find intriguing in it's completeness and lack of judgment. The story is described as “unsettling.” I agree with that term.

The final, twentieth story, is “Trevor" by Nathan Yocum. This science fiction short will, I think, end up giving me nightmares. I think this is probably the ultimate fear of any deep-space traveler, or should be. That said... I want to know what happens next. I have read a couple of Yocum's books previously, Automatic Woman (review linked here) and The Zona (review linked here) and find him eminently readable.

I very much enjoyed most of the stories in this anthology, and it appears that it will lead me to other, new books by several of the authors. There were a couple stories about which I was ambivalent, and one I just downright didn't care for, but I still think it's fair to give the anthology itself, overall, four stars. I know this has been an incredibly long and detailed review and I thank you for your time. There are synopses for each individual story below if you want to read them, but otherwise there is no need for you to continue past the “Please Note” section below as the same information can be found on the book page. I recommend this anthology to fans of the odd and unusual and creepy and downright strange.

Disclosure: I received an ARC in PDF format from one of the authors in this anthology in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Please Note: 10% of every purchase will go straight to animals in need. The CQ team has selected humane societies on both the East and West coast that spend well and do not stray from their “no-kill” policies. 

Synopsis: Curiosity Quills Press brings together bestselling authors like J.R. Rain, Tony Healey, A.W. Exley, and more to create a spine-tingling, mind-blowing, quirky collection of short stories in their first ever, annual Curiosity Quills: Primetime Anthology. Included Short Stories:

And Death Shall Have No Dominion - K.H. Koehler
Sometimes dead really is better... but not always attainable. A Nick Englebrecht short.

Cyber Cowboy - James Wymore
An accountant, separated from the woman he loves, must decide if he has what it takes to save her from the horrible fate dealt when the Actuator turns her half of the city into a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Dark Orb - Tony Healey
It's 1985 and young George is going to encounter some of the darkness that people face in their lives, and come to understand how they manage to live with it... if they are able to.

Ephemera - Gerilyn Marin
While touring a house for signs of a paranormal activity, amateur psychic consultant Giselle Boudreaux has a frightening encounter unlike anything she's experienced before.

The Fridge - J.R. Rain
A man buys a top-of-the-line kitchen appliance and watches, horrified, how it quickly puts his life on ice. But when he wins and manages to put himself out of its reach by what most would call spectacularly losing, the FRIDGE has the last laugh.

Ghost Placers - Nina Post
When the owner of a ghost relocation service gets the chance to land a lucrative contract that would change his life forever, he must decide if achieving the success he's always dreamed of is really worth the cost.

Gothic Gwen - A.W. Exley
It's not the constant taunts from the other kids driving sixteen-year-old Gwen bat-shit crazy, but the white-hot pain spiking through her brain. Seeking refuge in her small sanctuary, she wants to know why, just for once, can't the cosmos cut a girl some slack?

How I Killed the Drama - Mike Robinson
A traveling salesman, staying overnight in an out-of-the-way hotel, stumbles upon the astonishing secret of humankind's every teardrop and every turmoil, and resolves to take advantage.

Mad Science - Sharon Bayliss
Nothing can stand in the way of Heather marrying her true love. Even her fiancé's death. Both love and science are best when done madly...

On the Rocks - William Vitka
In the quest for Earth's resources, there is space... and there is madness in the black.

Razor Child - Michael Shean
In a society so glittering, it feels like shards of ice cutting through tender skin, there arises a Mother that feeds Her Razor children enough of a pap of truth and lies to make them do anything with a madman's smile. Literally anything.

Sinergy - A.E. Propher & Grace Eyre
Antoine DeLongville, once a high-ranking member of the Catholic Church, flees from the secretive Order after he discovers their plot to target the only woman he's ever loved. His journey is marked with both extreme danger and remarkable fortune, as if unseen forces are waging a war over his fate.

Tell Us Everything - Randy Attwood
Goth girl connects her piercings to perceive the truths around her and starts broadcasting the news.

The Caw - Eliza Tilton
Lena's plan is to spend one perfect night with Johnny Ridge; regardless if it's in a creepy cemetery, but as the night twists, and her best friend disappears, Lena discovers some things are more terrifying than the dead.

The Damned and the Dangerous - Michael Panush
La Cruz looks like an average Southern California small town, but it has some dark secrets—and it has its guardians. They are the supernaturally adept drivers of Donovan Motors, including zombie greaser Roscoe, who stand between La Cruz and chaos with only their wits and some fast hot rods to help them.

The Last Carnivale - Vicki Keire
Roaming the forbidden surface of her burnt and twisted world, the princess of ash and cinders finds hope one day too late.

The Milgram Battery - Matthew Graybosch
Obedience isn't always a virtue, and defiance isn't always a sin.

The Notebook - Randy Attwood
College professor returns to his student apartment to see if a notebook he left in the attic is still there; some truths are better left untold.

The Pearl - Rand B. Lee
Fantasy lovers are inexorably drawn to the borderlands of consensus reality. In this story, Rand B. Lee explores the twilight realm between death and afterlife from the viewpoint of one of society's most despised castoffs.

Trevor - Nathan Yocum
Cargo Specialist Trevor Ponsi wakes up for his shift—just like any other day. Oddly enough, the crew has vanished, the vessel is wildly off-course, and the ship's AI insists on holding Trevor hostage until he can win a round of tic-tac-toe. What exactly happened while he was asleep?

View all my reviews

Friday, May 9, 2014

#Cancer journey: "It's a lot of food for a little person."

Taken 4/27/2014
You know, I've never, ever thought of myself as a “little” person. It's true that I'm not terribly tall at 5' 3”, but my build has always been—shall we say—stocky. In my hometown, the “attractive” girls were either zaftig or willowy, neither of which has ever described me—I was always somewhere in the middle. I spent years on the diet wagon, fighting to maintain a certain weight (mostly based on my mother's urgings and society's standards; that weight was about 10 pounds less than I weigh now, give or take five or six) and miserable about myself. I was constantly receiving mixed signals from my mother: “You need to lose weight. You need to clean your plate. You're a little heavy, dear. Here, have some more pancakes.” You know the type. Fans of the TV show Absolutely Fabulous might remember one of the “flashback” episodes of Eddie and Pats in school. Patsy has come over and Eddie's mother feeds her a huge plate of food, saying, “You don't want to be a skinny balliny long legs, big banana feet,” and then hands Eddie some oatmeal or something and says, “Or a roly poly pudding that no one wants to meet.” This is just so typical of how women are taught in our society. We are never okay the way we are, we always need to change something. And it's a bunch of bullshit.

What brought this on? This morning I went for CT scans of my pelvis, abdomen and chest to check on how well the chemotherapy is working, to see if the tumors infesting my abdomen—intestines and uterus and ovaries and liver—have been affected at all, slowed down, shrunken. And to see if any have made their way into my chest. I'd had a rough week between one thing and another. Colon cancer causes one to walk a fine line with their digestive system, trying to maintain a balance, and I was out of balance most of the week.  One medication will cause this side effect, another will cause the opposite and you pray that they will just cancel each other out, but of course it never works that way.  I was nauseated when I tried to eat because things weren't moving through the way they should, and just generally miserable, and I lost in the vicinity of eight of my carefully regained pounds. Today, for the first time in almost a week, I was actually hungry. So, after the scans, we stopped off at IHOP. I ordered a bacon and cheese omelet with sourdough toast and ate about half of it. Those omelets are big, and my stomach was shrunk, but I thought I did fairly well eating that much, and I know I felt a lot better for the nutrition. As the server cleared the dishes and brought me a box, she said, “It's a lot of food for a little person, isn't it?”

Taken 7/5/2013
A little person. Me. I'm now a little person, because due to the problems I've faced between the original blockage and now the chemotherapy side effects, I've lost a lot of weight and am actually almost down to what society thinks I should weigh (which means I think I'm dangerously close to too thin). In the past year, give or take, I've lost 50 pounds, mostly since September. I am continually complimented on how great I look, how pretty I am (even with a shaved head). And it worries me.

Don't misunderstand me: it is definitely nice to receive the compliments. However, not everyone who comments knows why I'm suddenly so much thinner. Will they think I'm actually concerned about that sort of thing? Will they think they need to lose weight to fit into societal standards? I hope not. Because let's be honest: fashion designers are designing clothes that would look good on a willowy boy's body. And then trying to force women to look like that. That's not how we're supposed to look, my friends. We are the bearers of the future of the Earth in our broad hips. We nurture the ongoing growth through our bountiful breasts, and we bring forth new life from our wombs (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively), and we should never, ever be ashamed or unhappy about how we look, whether it is because we think we need to “just lose five more pounds” or just gain a couple pounds” or “just have my breasts increased by one cup size”...

Well, of course, even if I hadn't already decided to not have children long ago, it would be impossible now. Once the tumors are shrunken enough for a surgery, my uterus and at least one ovary are coming out. But you catch the gist of it, right? Women are life and bounty, but we're being forced to try to make ourselves disappear. Don't stand for it. Take up that space! Spread out, be comfortable.  And know that you are beautiful.

So, that's where my head has been all day, thinking these sorts of thoughts while I go through my e-mails and follow along to see what my friends are up to.  Happily, most of the women I know are comfortable with themselves (which is probably why we're friends) and don't worry overly much about society and its standards.  So, let's all go out and try to infect at least one girl each with our "bad attitudes," shall we?

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Review: The Zaanics Deceit

The Zaanics Deceit
The Zaanics Deceit by Nina Post

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book Info: Genre: Thriller/Conspiracy
Reading Level: Adult
Recommended for: Fans of thrillers involving conspiracy theories with a touch of humor and surreality
Trigger Warnings: murder, violence

My Thoughts: Nina Post comes through again, writing in a completely different style to give her readers a thriller they won't soon forget. Working with David J. Peterson, a language creator, she has made the Vænyne Zaanics language an integral part of the story.

Plenty of the humor we've come to expect from Nina Post is sprinkled throughout the book, mostly in really random comments apropos of nothing. In this little scene, Cate tries to convince Noah to play along in an attempt to distract his brother by asking him for assistance that might end up saving Noah's job.
“And everyone knows the job market is crap, so you probably won't be able to find another job."

"Actually, I'm really good at what I—"

"And then you'll start missing your rent payments, and the collection agencies will start calling, and you'll start robbing check-cashing places to get money for drugs, and the next thing you know, you're wearing a set of gold fang dentures."

Wow, that deteriorated rapidly...
A great example of the sort of non sequiturs that Cate comes out with is made during this conversation with Benjamin, who strongly disapproves of her chosen field of work.
“You just finished a job, as you refer to it. You must be tired and I can only imagine the enervating quality of an added threat of the state pen."

"California's state pen is Fisher," Cate said. "It can write upside down, but I think a pencil works better for that."
I really liked Cate, and not just for those sorts of crazy comments. This is good, because the book is intrinsically about her and her connection to the language and her family as she learns secrets that will astound and amaze her, and keep her turned back on the path to being a Lyr again. Her sisters are both quite the pieces of work, as is Jason, Romane's husband (creepy!). I feel like we haven't seen the last of Phillip, Gaelen's husband—I think he has more of a role to play. I have to wonder how it is that Cate turned out so differently. Hopefully that will be one of the questions answered during the course of the series.

This is the first book in a series, and there are a lot of questions left open and unanswered. However, the overall theme of the first book—Cate's return to being a Lyr—is wrapped up nicely. I am quite looking forward to continuing this series (though there is no indication to be found as to how many books will be in it, or when the next one will be out)! I think people who enjoy a good thriller, involving various conspiracies and plots and just a touch of surreal humor will find something to enjoy here.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this e-book from the author as a gift since I was ill. No review was requested, but I am happy to post an honest review nonetheless. All opinions are my own.

Synopsis: Exiled from her wealthy San Francisco family five years ago, Cate Lyr has struggled to build a new life for herself halfway across the globe. But when her vengeful sisters take control of the family empire and threaten to expose the secrets that her ancestors have safeguarded for centuries, Cate must learn the family's constructed language, evade dangerous secret societies, and team up with a childhood friend to set things right.

About the Book and Series: Taking the reader on a journey from modern-day Istanbul to plague-stricken 14th century Paris, from San Francisco's financial district to the tropical islands of Micronesia, The Zaanics Deceit is the first in a series of novels featuring Cate Lyr and the Væyne Zaanics language. As the first book in this series, inspired by Shakespeare's King Lear, The Zaanics Deceit introduces the reader to the origins and usage of the language, including a functional character set, English pronunciation, and translation.

Co-developed by David J. Peterson (creator of the languages from HBO's Game of Thrones and Syfy's Defiance) and Nina Post (author of five previous novels including Danger in Cat World), Væyne Zaanics is a constructed language with its own grammar and lexicon. Inspired by Latin, Middle English and Old French, the language was designed to be passed on from generation to generation within the Lyr and Severn families, and plays a prominent role within the fictional universe of the series.

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