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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday - American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

American Elsewhere by Robert Jackson Bennett

Some places are too good to be true.

Under a pink moon, there is a perfect little town not found on any map.

In that town, there are quiet streets lined with pretty houses, houses that conceal the strangest things.

After a couple years of hard traveling, ex-cop Mona Bright inherits her long-dead mother's home in Wink, New Mexico. And the closer Mona gets to her mother's past, the more she understands that the people of Wink are very, very different ...

From one of our most talented and original new literary voices comes the next great American supernatural novel: a work that explores the dark dimensions of the hometowns and the neighbors we thought we knew. (Feb 12, 2013)


Bennett first caught my eye 2 years ago with Mr. Shivers, and while The Troupe didn't really have much appeal for me, this one has me excited.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Iceberg by Clive Cussler (REVIEW)

With my reading habits thrown off by a broken e-reader, I've been forced to delve into the towering stacks of paperbacks that clutter my shelves. It's not nearly as convenient, and has certainly put me a bit behind with those titles I've been sent for review, but it's kind of nice to catch up on some of my pleasure reading. That's not to say the arrival of a replacement e-reader wouldn't be a HUGE relief, but I'm coping.

Plucked from the dusty depths this weekend was Iceberg, a very early Dirk Pitt adventure by Clive Cussler. Notable for marking the transition to a more complex story line and a larger cast of characters than The Mediterranean Caper, it's also the only Dirk Pitt novel not to feature one of my favourite literary sidekicks, Al Giordino.

What immediately struck me about the novel (and I realize it was published in 1975), is how extremely dated and politically incorrect it is, almost to the point of parody. Dirk's attitude towards women is atrociously sexist, with a few comments directed towards Admiral Sandecker's secretary that actually left me gaping. In addition, there's an extended subplot where Dirk pretends to be a mincing, prancing, lisping 'faggot' (as he refers to himself) that hits on just about every flamboyant, over-the-top, gay stereotype. What's most perplexing about it all is the fact that a character who is revealed as transsexual in the last few chapters comes across very well, and is granted a significant amount of dignity and respect.

Social issues aside, this was a fun book. The ruse that Dirk pulls to commandeer the Coast Guard boat is played out perfectly, with some real moments of tension. The exploration of the burned-out hull of the luxury yacht, trapped as it is inside an iceberg, is creepy and claustrophobic. In terms of heroics, I'm not sure there's a scene in any of the subsequent novels that can compare with a brutally injured Dirk Pitt making his way across the frozen tundra, with only a homemade compass to guide his way. Also, as much as Cussler is know for his crazy climaxes, complete with elaborate settings and frantic action, the attempted assassinations and underground battles at Disneyland are a notch above his usual work.

There are some nice twists and turns to the book, with mistaken identities, betrayals, and double-crosses galore. It takes a while before the entire diabolical scheme is revealed, but even if it's a bit too elaborate to be entirely realistic, it's ambitious and exciting. I was a bit shocked by the brutal violence, which is more extreme than I can remember in any other Cussler novel, but it does set up that heroic tundra trek that I mentioned previously.

While it may not be the best Dirk Pitt novel, it's still a Dirk Pitt novel - and that always makes for a good read.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: What writing device or trick most irritates you when reading a book? For example, if an author employs an omnipotent narrator that is sometimes considered bad form.

The narrative trick that bothers me most is when authors use multiple first-person narrators within the same chapter or scene. It's a lazy, awkward means of story telling, putting the reader inside every head, and sharing every thought. There's no mystery to the story, and no art to the telling of it. Not to mention, it can get really confusing, really fast, especially when the POV shifts back and forth between the characters.

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

The Vampire Hunters by Scott M. Baker (REVIEW)

More than any other 'monster' in literary history, the vampire has experienced a significant evolution (not to mention bastardization) over the last few decades. It has been romanticized, eroticized, moralized, and humanized, until what was once a straightforward staple of horror fiction has become a genre all on its own. It used to be that you knew what to expect when somebody handed you a vampire book, but now you're just as likely to get a watered-down, young adult, faith-fuelled romance as you are a decent thriller.

Call me a traditionalist, but I'll take the good guys hunting bad vamps any day of the week - which is precisely where The Vampire Hunters comes in. In case you couldn't tell by the title, Scott M. Baker has crafted a 'classic' vampire tale, one where a pair of ex-cops and their ex-criminal sidekick must do battle with creatures from the wrong side of the crypt.

Drake and Alison are your typical vampire-hunter heroes, out-matched and out-muscled by their supernatural foes, and mistrusted and misunderstood by their human colleagues. They're well-developed, with just enough background details to carry the story along, and a solid working relationship that flirts with just the right amount of romantic tension. It's James who really brings the team to life, though, a late addition who fulfills the standard role of armourer/apprentice, but who has a back story worthy of its own book. There's even a mysterious benefactor, one with enough money and power to keep the team safe from police interference, and a crack journalist, slumming with a tabloid rag in search of her big break, to round out the human element.

Similarly, Ion and Toni are your typical vampires, centuries old lovers-turned-rivals who are more interested in vengeance than in self-preservation. It's their back story that really brings the story up an extra notch, establishing not just their supernatural existence, but their cruel behaviour. The early flashback where they escape a horde of WWII flamethrower-carrying soldiers, in a stolen Russian tank no less, is precisely where I went from reader to fan. Toni carries much of the present day action, but the spectre of Ion is always there, ready to rear his ugly head at the right moment.

In terms of action, this is a kick-ass tale that borrows from the best of action, thriller, and horror genres. The early chase scene, with Drake clinging tenaciously to the back of a vampire-driven tanker truck, is nothing but pulse-pounding fun until its fiery end. Not to be outdone, there is a crazy, claustrophobic, paranoid battle within a darkened theatre that concludes up the tale, one which probably carries on a bit too long, but which keeps the reader absolutely breathless until the sun comes up.

There were some definite twists to the story that surprised me but, for the most part, this was exactly what I was expecting - a solid, enjoyable tale of ordinary heroes out to exterminate the vampires preying upon their city. Violent, gruesome, and vulgar where it needs to be, The Vampire Hunters is clearly a book where the author had as much fun in the writing as we do in the reading.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born and raised in Everett, Massachusetts (just outside of Boston), Scott M. Baker has spent the last twenty-two years living in northern Virginia.  He has authored several short stories, including “Dead Water”, “Rednecks Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things”, “Cruise of the Living Dead”, “Deck the Malls with Bowels of Holly” (an alcoholic mall Santa battles zombie reindeer), and “Denizens.”  His two latest short stories – “The Last Flight of The Bismarck,” about steampunk zombies, and “The Hunger,” a tale of cannibalism during a zombie outbreak – will both be released later this year in anthologies being published by Knighwatch Press.

Scott’s first zombie novel, Rotter World, which details the struggle between humans and vampires during a zombie apocalypse, was released by Permuted Press in April 2012.  He has also authored The Vampire Hunters trilogy, which has been published by Pill Hill Press and received excellent reviews from Famous Monsters of Filmland and Fangoria, among others. Scott has finished his fifth novel, Yeitso, a homage to the monster movies of the 1950s set in northern New Mexico, which is currently with a publisher, and is wrapping up his sixth novel, Hell Gates, the first in a series of young adult novels set in a world in which the realms of Hell and earth have merged.

When he is not busy writing, Scott can either be found relaxing on his back deck with a cup of iced coffee, or doting on the four house rabbits that live with him.

Please visit the author’s website at http:\\scottmbakerauthor.blogspot.com.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sasha Plotkin's Deceit by Vaughn Sherman (REVIEW & GIVEAWAY)

With battles of wits rather than brawn, and clashes of personalities rather than gadgets, Sasha Plotkin's Deceit suggests a kind of literary authenticity. In telling his tale, Vaughn Sherman forgoes the big-budget action sequences, the crazy gadgets, and the overt sexuality of his cinematic peers to focus instead on the human element of covert espionage.

Set during the height of the cold war, this is a story of betrayal and blackmail played out on both an international scale and an intimate one. On the surface, it's the story of a reluctant CIA operative working to orchestrate the physical defection of a KGB agent, one with whom he has an uncomfortable history. Beneath that surface, however, it's also the story of one women attempting to prevent the emotional defection of her husband, and another that of her son. Chris, the CIA operative upon whom the story turns is a man caught between conflicting loyalties and expectations, in a world where he can afford neither.

Although the pacing was a bit slower than I have become accustomed to, the story does move along well. There's a lot of historical information to absorb, but I have to give Sherman for credit doing so as part of the story, rather than just info-dumping on the reader. Even if you're not old enough to remember the cold war, he recreates that world and deftly immerses the reader within it. The flashbacks were a bit awkward, and I found they pulled me from the story, but were necessary to establish the 'present' tension and to create some real mystery.

In terms of characters, they're all well-developed on an intellectual scale, but they seemed to lack something on an emotional level. Maybe it was the coldly detached manner of storytelling - which is completely appropriate to the genre - but I didn't find I ever came to truly care about them. Chris and Sasha intrigued me, and I really wanted to know how their tale would resolve itself, but Lisa and her mother-in-law were almost a distraction, despite the fact that their relationships help to define Chris.

Having said all that, this was a story that kept me reading right to the end, and which had me sincerely intrigued as to how it would all work out. The espionage elements were fascinating, as were the political aspects, and I quite appreciated how the story came around to its resolution. If you're a fan of the genre, or have an interest in the time period, it's definitely a book worth checking out.

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Vaughn Sherman’s career as a fisheries biologist was cut short when he was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency. He served long assignments in the Far East and Europe before doing a short tour in Vietnam. After taking early retirement Vaughn joined in numerous community activities, most involving the governance of non-profit agencies and community colleges.

In addition to Sasha’s Plotkin’s Deceit, he has written the memoir of a northwest mariner titled An Uncommon Life (1988). He has also published three books dealing with the management of non-profits.


You can find Vaughn on the Web at www.vaughnsherman.com or


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GIVEAWAY!

Want your very own copy of Sasha Plotkin's Deceit? Just leave a comment below (be sure to include your email address) for Vaughn or myself. For bonus points, let us know your favourite cold war thriller!


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DISCLAIMER
Every eBook received for review on the tours for Partners In Crime are given in exchange for an honest review. The eBooks are sole property (copyrighted) of the author and should not be sold, distributed to, or exchanged among other people not part of the tours, nor should they be listed on file sharing sites. Failure to comply with this disclaimer, will result in removal from all future tours.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday - Two Graves by Preston and Child

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Two Graves by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

For twelve years, he believed she died in an accident. Then, he was told she'd been murdered. Now, FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast discovers that his beloved wife Helen is alive. But their reunion is cut short when Helen is brazenly abducted before his eyes. And Pendergast is forced to embark on a furious cross-country chase to rescue her.

But all this turns out to be mere prologue to a far larger plot: one that unleashes a chillingly-almost supernaturally-adept serial killer on New York City. And Helen has one more surprise in store for Pendergast: a piece of their shared past that makes him the one man most suited to hunting down the killer.

His pursuit of the murderer will take Pendergast deep into the trackless forests of South America, to a hidden place where the evil that has blighted both his and Helen's lives lies in wait . . . a place where he will learn all too well the truth of the ancient proverb:

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. (Dec 11, 2012)


I'm a couple of books behind in this series, but it's always nice to see Preston & Child come out with another Agent Pendergast thriller.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: When you step out of your usual genre what do you read? Best books in that genre?

I generally stick with fantasy or horror, so when I step outside my usual genres, it's generally to read a thriller - anything by Preston & Child, Clive Cussler, or Vince Flynn.

     

Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

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18 and Over Book Blogger Follow is a weekly feature that begins on Fridays and runs through the weekend hosted by Crystal from Reading Between the Wines. This one is aimed primarily at bloggers and books for the 18 and over crowd.

Question of the Week: 
When you think of fur-friendly authors, which author do you think of first?

That's a tough one, since I've always been more of a wings-and-fangs type of reader, as opposed to a fur-and-fangs. Stephen King's Cycle of the Werewolf and Whitley Streiber's Wolfen are the first to come to mind as favourites, but Jeff Burke's Cripple Wolf is at the top of my werewolf to-read pile, along with Ray Garton and W.D. Gagliani.

     

Killing Down the Roman Line by Tim McGregor (REVIEW)

What do you do when a stranger shows up in your quaint little Canadian town to accuse your ancestors of a horrific act? What do you do when he holds you and your fellow citizens responsible for a murder that took place long before you were born? More importantly, what do you do when you begin to doubt the official history, and suspect that there may just be something to his demands for vengeance?

Such is the basic premise of Killing Down the Roman Line, a taut thriller about the prejudices, hatreds, and secrets of small town life, as told by Tim McGregor. Going into this already well versed with the tale of the Donnellys that inspire it, I was prepared to dismiss the book as a simple morality tale, and was dreading the inevitable change-of-heart that would expose the misunderstanding and redeem all involved. Much to my delight, that is most definitely not the tale that McGregor has set out to tell. This is a story of revenge, of the brutal pursuit of justice, with absolutely no mercy for those who stand in the way.

Will Corrigan is as rich, as arrogant, as self-righteous, and as pompous as they come. You can't help but sympathize with his desire for revenge, but you can certainly argue with his methods. He's a challenging character to put at the forefront of a story, but he has such a commanding presence that it works. Of course, it helps that he has absolutely not doubt as to the guilt of the townfolk, giving a false (perhaps) façade of legitimacy to his work.

As for the townspeople, they reminded me of the kind of characters you'd find in an old Stephen King short story, or perhaps in an episode of the Twilight Zone. They're odd, eccentric, and close-minded to a fault, but they're also vulnerable. As the story progresses, you almost begin to feel sorry for their predicament, but you can't get past their conspiratorial nature, nor their refusal to make any admission of guilt. These are people for whom secrets are to be kept, appearances maintained, and history (such as it is) preserved - at all costs.

Caught between the two is Jim Hawkshaw, a struggling farmer doomed as much by his own curiosity as his farm's proximity to that of the land Corrigan has come to claim as his own. Of course, the fact that he's long wanted that same land for his own casts some doubt upon his motives, but he really does end up being stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. As you might expect, things become personal, and in a way that's not good for anybody involved.

I really didn't expect the tale to come full-circle as it did, but I appreciated the literary irony involved. It's not a happy ending, but it's a fitting one . . . and one that lingers long after you've turned the last page. No matter whose story you believe, or whose side you chose to take, you can't help but come away from the story feeling a little dirty.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday - Earth Thirst by Mark Teppo

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Earth Thirst by Mark Teppo

The Earth is dying. Humanity — over-breeding, over-consuming — is destroying the very planet they call home. Multinational corporations despoil the environment, market genetically modified crops to control the food supply, and use their wealth and influence and private armies to crush anything, and anyone, that gets in the way of their profits. Nothing human can stop them. But something unhuman might. Once they did not fear the sun. Once they could breathe the air and sleep where they chose. But now they can rest only within the uncontaminated soil of Mother Earth—and the time has come for them to fight back against the ruthless corporations that threaten their immortal existence.

They are the last guardians of paradise, more than human but less than angels. They call themselves the Arcadians. We know them as vampires. . . . (Jan 8, 2013)


Sure, vampires and post-apocalyptic dystopias have been done to death, but there's something about this one that intrigues me. Here's hoping Teppo can satisfy my thirst.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Shudder by Harry F. Kane (REVIEW)

Take the most thrilling season of Law & Order: SVU, combine it with the darkest episodes of Criminal Minds, add in a few sci-fi touches (à la J.D. Robb), and give it all a social-media sort of consciousness, and you just might begin to get an idea of what to expect from Shudder by Harry F. Kane.

In Kane's near-future world, humanity is sustained (to an extent) by an artificial environment, protected (I use the term loosely) by an outsourced police force, and comforted (if you can call it that) by a society where fetish has become the new mainstream. It's a very strange, very disturbing society, and one which says a lot about the present, and where we're headed. Not to give anything away, but the true identity of the murderous sex doll at the heart of the secondary story line is just dripping with pornographic social relevance. In fact, that social commentary is a substantial element of Shudder, in that it's a book where the ideas are just as important as the events.

I don't read a lot of mystery/detective novels myself, mainly because I'm a puzzle-fiend at heart. I either lose patience with a mystery I've already solved, or become frustrated with a puzzle that's ruined by the last-minute addition of pieces that simply don't fit. Fortunately, Shudder came to me with an unusual hook that played straight into my morbid curiosity. For me, the procedural element of the story was exceptionally strong, keeping me engaged throughout, and nicely balancing that sense of mystery with some rather graphic revelations of gore. There are twists, and it does demand the willing suspension of disbelief in places, but Kane never cheats the reader . . . even if his characters don't get off so easily.

The pacing was a bit slow for my tastes, but the narrative was interesting enough to carry me through. In fact, I quite liked the language of the tale, and appreciated the way in which Kane allowed the narrative to periodically wander. In most cases, that would have tried my patience, prompting me to either skip ahead or relegate the book to my DNF pile, but I was honestly interested in what he had to say - and if I didn't always agree with him, that was all part of the appeal.

As for the characters . . . well, if you want safe, admirable, heroic characters, you're best off looking elsewhere. Kane is an author who clearly believes in balance, and in creating human beings with human flaws and human vices. His characters are deeply troubled (as are most people in this near-future society), but they're also sincere. I never really warmed up to Natalie, mostly because she seemed so deliberately helpless to address her psychological problems, but she does play a crucial role . . . and one that works. On the surface, Dave is the typical solider-for-hire, one with a string of abandoned careers behind him, but he has some very dark places in his soul as well. Anton, the albino Amazon, was by far the most intriguing character for me, as much because of what he does (managing social morale for the government) as who he is.

As for Joshua, the latex-clad serial killer at the heart of all the darkness, it's no wonder he held such an attraction. His actions may be atrocious, his morality revolting, and his thoughts disgusting, but his depth of emotion is almost enviable. His perverse glee is the only real happiness to be encountered in the story, which makes for a deliciously uncomfortable reading experience.

Dark, edgy, and provocative, Shudder is definitely one of the more interesting literary discoveries I've made this year. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about the ending but, in a perverse sort of way, I'm actually excited by that uncertainty - a story this dark shouldn't end up all tidy, clean, and happy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Interested in collaborating with Clive Barker? Hell yeah!

From the official Clive Barker Facebook page:

Calling all writers, poets and filmmakers. Here's your chance to collaborate with Clive Barker. Take a look! Submissions begin next week!

http://techgnotic.deviantart.com/journal/Odyssey-II-with-Clive-Barker-331804956

400 Word Submissions
60 days
16 Deadlines
8 Chapters
8 Works of Art
6 Short Films
3 Poems
1 Incredible Story

Clive Barker starts us off with the Prologue for Odyssey II and selects the submissions for the final books. The ultimate creative challenge to produce the ultimate deviantART book.


Say all you want about Barker's erratic work ethic (there are several long-gestating works-in-progress he's teased that I would kill to read), but this is a cool concept. As the site says, only *CliveBarker’s prologue has been revealed. Deviant artists, writers and filmmakers are now called upon to conjure the rest of this story to life.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Little Green God of Agony - Free Online Stephen King Comic

FROM STEPHENKING.COM:

Noted comic artist Dennis Calero (co-creator of X-Men Noir and Devil Inside) has adapted Stephen's "The Little Green God of Agony" for serial instalments to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next eight weeks beginning October 15th!

"It rocks most righteously," Stephen says of Calero's finely-drawn adaptation. Calero's take: "I have been a huge Stephen King fan for as long as I can remember. To be able to work on ANYTHING with him is an honor."

Tune in. Stay tuned.

Check it out here, starting tomorrow!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Feature & Follow Friday

Feature & Follow Friday is a blog hop that is designed to provide some much-appreciated exposure to the bloggers participating, and to expand their following. Hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read, each of whom feature a chosen blog for the week, it's an interesting way to get to know one another.

Question of the Week: What book do you think would make a great Halloween movie? Please explain in graphic detail of goriness…

Without a doubt, Brian Lumley's first Necroscope novel. I mean, you've got a hero who can not only speak to the dead, but call them from their cold, dusty graves for revenge; a Soviet spy who is able to divine the secrets of the dead by violating their corpses - an act from which he derives far too much sadistic pleasure; and a race of  truly monstrous vampires so utterly horrific that you will never again be able to see a vampire in a romantic light.



Parajunkee also hosts a Social Hop for Facebook and Twitter, which I regularly take part in. So, if you're one of those people who aren't on Blogger, or who just don't like Google Friend Connect, it's a great way to keep in touch and follow one another.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kingdom by Anderson O'Donnell (REVIEW)

Part near-future dystopian science fiction thriller, and part cult horror novel, Kingdom is a chilling journey through the underworld of Tiber City. It's a story about greed, debauchery, idealism, and the shaky foundations of even our best intentions. Politics, science, and humanity - none of it is safe from the dirty, distorted lens that Anderson O'Donnell allows to peek into every darkened alleyway, and behind every closed door.

Told through three perspectives, the story takes us into the minds of a rich playboy, a fallen geneticist, and corporate guru, and forces us to witness the world through their eyes. Having multiple perspectives that are so very different from one another is a challenge, but Anderson handles it well. His characters aren't particularly deep, and it's hard to form any sort of emotional attachment to them, but they're distinct, powerful, and effective. They're neither likeable nor admirable, but they do demand a certain degree of sympathy, if not compassion.

Where the story really shines is in its world-building and atmosphere. Portraying such a dark and gritty dystopia only a few years into the future is another risk, but it lends the story a sense of immediate consequence that really grabs hold of the reader. The designer drugs, the genetic engineering, and the body modifications are just a part of the package. Ironically, since I'm far more interested in the science and the technology, I would have like more detail about the order of monks and what led them to their soul experiments, but maybe that will come out more in subsequent books.

The writing itself isn't just solid, it's superb in its use of language. The dialogue is stronger than I've encountered in quite some while, with several quotes and conversations that would definitely become part of pop culture had this been a movie. O'Donnell's voice is dark, and highly opinionated, but that's one of the charms of the book. If he has one flaw, it's that he tends to ramble on a bit a times. The story could have been a bit leaner in places, but I'm not sure it'd be as easy to maintain the overall tone without his commentary, so it's a hard choice to make.

Unique, original, and exciting, Kingdom proves that O'Donnell is an author to watch.

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Anderson O’Donnell presents a biopunk, dystopian noir-esque thriller in this amazing read, KINGDOM. Most people are familiar with the term “cyberpunk,” but “biopunk” is harder to nail down. In many ways, biopunk is similar to the cyberpunk genre, and shares many of the same themes and archetypes: the dystopian future; the overreliance on technology; mega-corporations; a constant and overwhelming flow of data; the anti-hero—these elements are integral parts of both genres.

Both genres are fueled, to some extent, by the sense of rebellion and desire for individual freedom expressed by the original punk rock revolution. But the main difference—the most important difference—is that while cyberpunk focuses on invasive technological modification of the human body, biopunk explores the dehumanizing consequences of biological modification, of re-arranging our DNA in the pursuit of perfection.

Anderson lives in Connecticut with his wife and 2 sons. Anderson himself deems Kingdom as “a thrill-a-minute, bio-punk myth that manages to wrestle with the most pressing issues of the new millennium. O’Donnell has crafted a kickass novel of tomorrow night, when the big party gets raided by the monsters we’ve been building for the last half-century.”

His debut novel, Kingdom, a dystopian, biopunk thriller, is now available in paperback and ebook format. Kingdom is the first part of the Tiber City Trilogy. Look for part two, Exile, in the summer of 2013.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book for review from First Rule Publicity from the author as part of a virtual book tour. I was not compensated nor was I required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Waiting On Wednesday: Tears in Rain by Rosa Montero

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

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

Tears in Rain by Rosa Montero

Death is inevitable. Especially when you have an expiration date.

As a replicant, or “techno-human,” Detective Bruna Husky knows two things: humans bioengineered her to perform dangerous, undesirable tasks; and she has just ten years on the United States of Earth before her body automatically self-destructs. But with “anti-techno” rage on the rise and a rash of premature deaths striking her fellow replicants, she may have even less time than she originally thought.

Investigating the mysterious deaths, Bruna delves into the fractious, violent history shared by humans and replicants, and struggles to engage the society that fails to understand her—yet created her. The deeper she gets, the deadlier her work becomes as she uncovers a vast, terrifying conspiracy bent on changing the very course of the world. But even as the darkness of her reality closes in, Bruna clings fiercely to life. (Nov 27, 2012)

This is one of those titles I literally stumbled across while browsing Amazon. The original Spanish edition has received some great ratings on Goodreads (not that I can read most of the reviews!), so I'm definitely curious to check it out.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bone Wires by Michael Shean (REVIEW)

With Bone Wires, Michael Shean weaves a story that pays homage to multiple genres and tropes, creating a whole that is definitely more than just the sum of its parts. On the surface, this is a police procedural played out against a science fiction backdrop. Beneath the skin is an alternately shiny/gritty surface is an undercurrent of horror, backed by its serial killer atrocities, marked by a throbbing vein of socio-political commentary, centred around the privatization of law enforcement.

In a world where justice and profits are interchangeable, the investigation of a murder is considered a low-priority task, with little profit involved. Up the stakes with a string of gruesome serial murders, however, marked by the removal of the victim's spinal cords, and suddenly the detective involved is not just a celebrity, but a poster boy for the corporation. Suddenly, a seemingly simple investigation is complicated by the need to appease the shareholders as well as the public at large.

Shean's narrative style is well-suited to the mix of genres, coming across as a hard-boiled detective thriller with a strong sense of technological self-awareness. The story itself is paced well, and even when the action lags, there are enough ideas being explored to keep the reader engaged. In terms of detail, this is a book that's both gruesome and vulgar, but never to the point of being excessive.

More importantly, especially for the police-procedural genre, the characters are well-drawn, well-rounded, and well-executed. You can not only 'see' the characters as Shean describes them, but you can 'hear' them as well. They seem to exist beyond the page, bringing life to the story while also maintaining a sense of significance or consequence when they're out of sight.

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Michael Shean was born amongst the sleepy hills and coal mines of southern West Virginia in 1978. Taught to read by his parents at a very early age, he has had a great love of the written word since the very beginning of his life. Growing up, he was often plagued with feelings of isolation and loneliness; he began writing off and on to help deflect this, though these themes are often explored in his work as a consequence. At the age of 16, Michael began to experience a chain of vivid nightmares that has continued to this day; it is from these aberrant dreams that he draws inspiration.

In 2001 Michael left West Virginia to pursue a career in the tech industry, and he settled in the Washington, DC area as a web designer and graphic artist. As a result his writing was put aside and not revisited until five years later. In 2006 he met his current fiancee, who urged him to pick up his writing once more. Several years of work and experimentation yielded the core of what would become his first novel, Shadow of a Dead Star (2011). Michael is currently signed with Curiosity Quills Press, who has overtaken publication of Shadow of a Dead Star and the other books of his Wonderland Cycle.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson (REVIEW)

As much as I've enjoyed the Mistborn saga, The Way of Kings, and his work on the final Wheel of Time novels, Elantris is one of the few works by Brandon Sanderson that I have yet to read (along with Warbreaker).

Fortunately, while The Emperor's Soul is set in the same world as Elantris, it is a completely separate story, and doesn't require any advance knowledge of the world Sanderson has created.

Clocking in at under 200 pages, this lacks the intense world-building of his other work, but still manages to cram in a significant amount of detail regarding his magic system. A bit more philosophical in nature, the magic of forging, involving the use of soulstamps and essence marks, is absolutely fascinating to explore. Sanderson does a masterful job of taking something simple, yet impossible, and making it a wondrously imaginative act of creation. Here, the system of magic is revealed not through narrative exposition, but through conversations between Shai, the Forger, and Gaotona, her captor. It means a slow unveiling of what she does and how she does it, but the means of that unveiling is an integral part of the tale.

Shai herself is an interesting character, more admirable than heroic. She is a character with whom we can sympathise, but one who does not prey on our sympathies. Less a victim than an opportunistic captive, she forges the means of her escape long before the end, but cannot bring herself to flee without satisfying her curiosity as to whether her greatest forgery will work. After all, it's one thing to forge great pieces of art, or to temporarily alter one's self . . . it's another thing entirely to forge a complete stranger's soul.

It's a shame that this is such a short work, told almost exclusively from Shai's point of view, because I would have liked to see the character of Gaotona better explored. He is intriguing, a man transparent in his emotions, but rather reserved in his motivations, and one who work as both a foil and a friend to Shai. Given the restrictions of the story, he is never really developed beyond the stern, compassionate, grandfatherly character we so often encounter in fantasy, but he is given a chance to shine in the final chapters . . . one that makes us want to know more about him.

Like a great play, the world here is largely relegated to a single room, and the characters are limited to a handful of key players. The drama all takes place on the stage, in plain view, relying on our connection to the characters, as well as our own curiosity, to keep us in our seats. In essence, just as we come to sympathise with Shai, we also come to share her curiosity about this impossible abomination which which she has been tasked.

While there is some significant action towards the end, with those magically-augmented battles that Sanderson writes so well, this is largely a story of ideas. It flows along at a leisurely pace, but has more than enough wit and wonder to keep the reader engaged. All-in-all a fine read for Sanderson fans new and old, and one that has put Elantris back near the top of my to-read pile.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Donors by Jeffrey Wilson (REVIEW)

The Donors is one of those rare books that manages to challenge, and indeed alter, your perceptions. I started the book in complete sympathy with the 'lizard men', so much so that I looked forward to their appearance on the page. It made me feel guilty, and a bit dirty, but I took no small amount of pleasure in the pain they inflicted upon the human monsters of the tale.

Until, that is, the course of the story began to change, and the certainties that I held were not only challenged, but ultimately proven wrong. It takes a skilled storyteller to build up that kind of monstrous allegiance, and then to tear it down - without coming across as a cheat - but Jeffrey Wilson deftly manages it. If you've ever thought that, just maybe, the end does sometimes justifies the means . . . and wondered what might be at the bottom of that slippery moral slope, then this book gives you a lot to think about.

What immediately struck me about the book is just how well Wilson immerses us in the voices of his characters. Dr. Gelman hits all the right notes in drawing the reader into his world of long hours, difficult decisions, and painful histories. You really get the sense that this is a man stretched thin, but passionate about what he does. Similarly, Nathan is pitch-perfect in creating the literary illusion of childhood, portraying a sense of vulnerability, innocence, and child-like wonder.

As for the lizard men, Wilson smartly keeps them shadowy and creepy, never quite putting them all the way out there for the reader to dissect. It's a gamble, but it maintains the suspense, and really helps sell that twist in perception I mentioned earlier. What they really are and where they come from isn't important. What is important is the role they play in the shared experiences of Dr. Gelman and Nathan. It takes a long time for that role to become clear, for their connection to prove itself, but it sets up a climactic battle that works as a climax, rather than just as a means of tying up the storylines.

Creepy and suspenseful, with definite heart, this is a horror story that keeps you engaged, builds a relationship with you, and ultimately allows you to exit with a smile of contentment upon your face. I find my greatest struggle with most horror novels is that the end never quite lives up to what has come before, but Wilson succeeds here where so many others have failed. Definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Alpha Wolf Bent Me Over by Donald Armfield (REVIEW)

I first got to know Donald Armfield as a sergeant in the Bizarro Brigade, so I knew that whatever he sent me to read wasn't going to be your average, run-of-the-mill, mainstream bit of fiction. I expected it to be a bit strange, to toy with some taboos, and to dispense with any sort of rigid narrative structure.

Well, The Alpha Wolf Bent Me Over is pretty much exactly what I expected, the literary equivalent of an 80s slasher flick, but with the sex gratuitous and the violence suggestive, rather than the cinematic reversal.

Miranda is a sexually frustrated virgin, the kind of good girl who usually finds herself at the centre of these tales. Her best friends are a pair of sexually liberated twin girls, so exaggerated in their promiscuity that they'll sleep with anything that moves - including one another. Much of the story revolves around the sisters expressing themselves, leaving Miranda's frustrations to mount alongside them.

Eventually, we get to the heart of the tale, a campfire urban legend about an Alpha Wolf who stalks the woods, looking for a young virgins to abduct and abuse. There's an old diary, found buried in the dirt, to corroborate the tale, along with the standard sole survivor who came back to tell the tale of those who had gone missing before her. Where the twist comes in is that, instead of cowering in their cabins, terrified of the big bad Alpha Wolf, Miranda decides to don her best little Red Riding Hood outfit and traipse off into the woods, looking for it.

Perverted, and deliberately over the top, The Alpha Wolf Bent Me Over is an interesting read for anybody who watched those 80s slasher flicks and groaned every time the camera panned away from the 'good parts'.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Wicked and Wild Halloween Scavenger Hunt


BTS Tours and Wild Child Publishing are proud to present the Wicked and Wild Halloween Scavenger Hunt

37 blogs have linked together to allow you to hunt for 37 different words that will be hidden in each post so, at the end of the hunt, you will have 37 answers to plug into the Rafflecopter. Please DO NOT leave your answers in the comment section. We want this to be fun for everyone, and not take the challenge out of the game.

So this is how it works.

All the blogs listed below will post their game piece on their allotted date. You are looking for one word (related to Halloween) to plug into the Rafflecopter as your answer. For example, if you are on Close Encounters with the Night Kind and find your word (clues will be provided for you in the banner), you must log into the Rafflecopter form and place your answer in the box marked Close Encounters of the Night Kind.

Follow along the entire Scavenger Hunt and collect all 37 clues. We will be drawing for 4 $25 dollar Gift Certificates to Wild Child Publishing. Happy Hunting!!!

Your Beauty in Ruins clue is as follows . . .


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Title: The Last Battleship
Author:  Joseph J Christiano
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing    .
Length:   Novel
Sub-Genres:   Murder, Mystery
               
BLURB:
In 1944, the USS Louisiana is torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine. There is a single survivor. Four decades later an expedition embarks to locate and document the wreck. Joining the expedition as honored guests are the Louisiana's sole survivor, Ensign Robert Sayles (USN retired) and his daughter, Jill. As the search escalates, Jill begins a tentative romance with a member of the expedition, a man named Kevin Reese.

The wreck is located, and things begin to go wrong aboard the research vessel. Several crewmen are found murdered, and the radio and engines are sabotaged. Sayles begins to experience the pain of the wounds he received during his escape from the sinking ship. With a fierce South Pacific storm bearing down on them, the survivors must find a way to repair their vessel and discover the identity of the murderer in their midst...a murderer with direct ties to the night the last battleship was sunk.

EXCERPT:
The ship groaned long and loud from somewhere deep within, and that got him moving again. Sayles braced both feet against the bulkhead around the hatch cover, and pulled for all he was worth. He felt the hatch move, maybe an inch or two, but it was enough to make him double his effort. He took a deep breath and strained against the hatch cover again. He felt a muscle tear in his right shoulder, and the pain was excruciating. He screamed, quite involuntarily. But through the agony, a single thought: If I stop now, I’ll never make it out alive. He put all he had into one final pull against the hatch cover, and it sprung open.

His surprise that it worked was surpassed only by the pain in his back, shoulder and head as he flew backward. He crashed into the port bulkhead, felt his right arm snap, and slid to the deck. He sat there, half on the deck, half on the bulkhead. For a moment he forgot where he was. His left hand moved on its own to the back of his head, and it came away bloody. He stared at the blood with little interest as to where it had come from or what it meant for him.

It was the firelight from outside that drew him back to full consciousness. Sayles realized he was sitting almost entirely on the port bulkhead now. The open hatch was before him and he lifted himself toward it. He pulled himself through with his left arm; his right arm hung useless at his side. He could neither feel the appendage, nor control its movements.

The ladder on the other side of the hatch presented a problem. The ship was almost entirely on her side, which meant the ladder had become a horizontal obstacle. He pulled himself along the ladder until he reached what used to be the deck above. The main deck. Freedom. Life.

He positioned himself beneath the hatch leading to the outside world. It was directly above his head. He leaped, his left arm outstretched, and grabbed hold of the hatch frame. His boots struggled to find purchase on what had until recently been the deck but was now a bulkhead. Somehow, he managed to pull himself up. He emerged from the ship onto the main deck and rolled away from the open hatch. He lay there, exhausted, his breathing quick and ragged. His heart felt like a trip hammer in his chest. For a moment, he could hear nothing but the blood pounding in his ears.

Slowly, other sounds began to intrude into his world. He heard the ship groan again, as if in protest of its fate. He also became aware of the shouts and screams from all around him. He opened his eyes, and saw the night sky above him. The moon was full and it bathed the area in ghostly light. The firelight was all but gone, doubtless snuffed out by the power of the Pacific. He didn’t see or hear enemy planes in the air. Either they had done their job to their satisfaction, or else they had never been there. It didn’t really matter which. “I’m not going down with ya.” This he would remember saying, although not until much later.


BUY LINKS:

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
I have been a lifelong reader of both fiction and non-fiction. My favorite genres in fiction are mystery, suspense, horror, and science fiction. My non-fiction affinity is for history books. My favorite and most influential authors are Stephen King, Alan Moore, Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson, Stan Lee, Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Neil Gaiman, and Michael Jan Friedman (who used me as a character in one of his Star Trek novels).

My premiere novel, The Last Battleship, was published by the fine (and intelligent) folks at Wild Child Publishing in March 2012. My second novel, Moon Dust, is scheduled for release December 2012 by Crescent Moon Press.

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Schedule:
October 3 - Riverina Romantics
October 4 - Book Swagger
October 6 - Book Devotee Reviews
October 7 - BookSpark
October 9 - House Millar , Read 2 Review
October 10 - Literal Addiction
October 11 - S.J. Maylee
October 12 - Fictional Candy
October 13 - Sweet Southern Home
October 15 - Salacious Reads
October 18 - Full Moon Bites
October 19 - The Bunny's Review
October 21- The Jeep Diva
October 23 - Beagle Book Space , Pippa Jay
October 24 - All She Wants and More
October 25 - Ex Libris
October 26 - Close Encounters with the Night Kind          
October 28 - Noracast
October 29 - TBR
October 31 - Speculative Friction