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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Of Sorrows, Shuttles, and Silence - a Review Catch-up

While I've been doing a lot of reading lately, I haven't had much time to do any reviewing. Things have been crazy busy at the office, and after working early morning through late evenings (and sometimes even later nights), the last thing I often want to do is keep the laptop for another few hours. With that said, I do need to share my high-level thoughts before those reads get stale . . .


The Path of Sorrow by David Pilling & Martin Bolton 

This is a book I honestly lost track of, always keeping in my back pocket as my next read, following that next release-date review. It's inexcusable that I made David and Martin wait so long, especially since I enjoyed the first book so much. That said, it was well worth the wait.

Fulk and Naiyar are back at the heart of this tale, but so is a young boy named Sorrow - the lone survivor of a slaughtered tribe, hunted by knights, sorcerers, and pirates alike because of his unique powers. Once again, the world building is exceptional here, building upon the twin cultures of the first book, and adding even more depth to the world. There's no info dumping here, no long passages of exposition, just a natural reveal and explanation of things that feels natural to the reader. There's a scene midway through, where Naiyar talks of an elephant constellation changing, and it's such a simple, natural conversation, it's almost easy to miss just how much is being said.

Like the first, it's a heavy read, often very dark at times (although with moments of humor). There were so many occasions where I expected a last-minute reprieve, or a bit of deus ex machina to save the day, but Pilling and Bolton don't let their characters off easy. It's not just that they're not above tormenting their characters (and don't shy away from killing them, when the story demands it), but they're honest about the brutalities of war, including the "houses and shops looted; dead-eyed women brutally raped over and over; children slaughtered in the street."

What struck me most about this second volume, however, was the sheer narrative strength. Forget the tropes and the formulas, this is a story that stands on its own, challenging the reader at every turn, offering more than a few genuine surprises, and paying off with a perfect climax.


Into the Black by Rowland White

This was a long, dry read . . . heavy on detail, and even heavier on the technical specifications . . . but still entirely fascinating. I've always been enthralled by the Space Shuttle program, having seen it rise and fall all within my lifetime, so I was excited to forget about the disasters for a moment and reexamine the triumphs that started it all.

This is a book that explores the doubts, the fears, and the challenges of getting a new space program off the ground (no pun intended). Having been too young at the time of Columbia's launch to truly appreciate what a feat of scientific and political engineering it was, I was fascinated to see how it all came about. At the same time, it's sobering to know just how many of those challenges and risks they simply chose to accept, and to know (in hindsight) how they'd come back to haunt them years later.


Silent Hall by N.S. Dolkart

This was an interesting book, with some really outstanding aspects to it, but even more roadblocks to a good, solid read. I nearly gave up on it twice, but persevered to the end, although I will freely admit to skimming some chapters.

The good? I liked the concept, and I liked the characters. I was intrigue enough by the latter to want to know more, to read past those roadblocks, and entertained enough by the latter to trust in them (Narky and Bandu especially), even if I was questioning their journey.

The bad? The world building was muddled, with far too ambitious of a mythology for a single book. I read a lot of epic fantasy, and I like my stories to be well-detailed, but this was too much. Also, the plotting of the book leaves a lot to be desired. If never really felt like the storyline was moving forward, or approaching any sort of climax.


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of these titles from the publishers in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my reviews.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

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

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


WTF Friday: Motherf*cking Wizards by Leonard Delaney

Urban Fantasy Review: Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore


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

No new review titles this week, as I'm really trying to keep the stacks at a minimum while I delve deep into the shelves for some summer reading, but I did pick up a pair of Kindle titles and a few used paperbacks:

 

  

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With the long weekend having just passed, warmer weather here, and plenty of opportunities to hit the beach or go for a long hike, I've shelved the review titles for the moment and dug out some paperback pleasures . . .

Shock Wave by Clive Cussler
Nothing says summer quite like a Dirt Pitt adventure, and from the historical opening, to the massive death in the Antarctic, to Dirk's daring rescue of a wandering cruise ship, this is fantastic stuff already.


What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, May 27, 2016

WTF Friday: Motherf*cking Wizards by Leonard Delaney

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


A book called Motherfucking Wizards, written by the same guy who wrote Taken by the Tetris Blocks, that promises "an erotic mashup of explicit fucking and badass god damn sorcerers?" I had to give this one a read, even if just for shits and giggles.

The thing is, as perversely inappropriate Harry Potter parodies (or homages go), this was actually pretty good. Leonard Delaney may boast of "massacring good taste", but he's got a solid imagination and a decent writing style. Yes, it's crude and sophomoric at times, filled with names lie Pervert Drive, Hardrod, Argus Felch, but it's all done with a sense of honest fun and deliberate perversity that you cannot deny.

It also has a ton of amusing little details, like the leather-clad house ALFs, who are described as "ugly little bear-like creatures with patchy hair and pig-like snouts, rumoured to be from another planet." At no point do they try and eat a cat, but you get the idea.

Suffice to say, a wizard's staff takes on a whole new meaning here, and a reason the castle's towers are topped by mushroom-like tips. And while sex with teachers (sorceresses) may be inappropriate, sex with your childhood teddy bear takes on a whole new level of weird. The erotic elements are kind of silly and over-the-top, but a cut above a lot of similar stories. There is an actual story as well, one that parallels its literary inspiration, and the final letter home to the Dunkleys brings things full-circle while explaining the title, Motherfucking Wizards.


Kindle Edition, 53 pages
Published October 4th 2014 by Forest City Pulp

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Urban Fantasy Review: Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore

Secondhand Souls coverFalling somewhere between offbeat/quirky and silly/juvenile, Secondhand Souls was actually a much more enjoyable read than I anticipated. Clearly I've missed something by diving into the second book of a series, but Christopher Moore recaps previous events well (and often . . . a tad too often), so I don't really feel like I've missed anything.

What you have here is a world where people are 'chosen' to become Grim Reapers - yes, plural Grim Reapers, because it really is too big a job for one person. Charlie was a recipient of the Big Book of the Dead last around, had the recommended kitty calendar, carried around a #2 pencil, and ultimately sacrificed himself to stop a Celtic banshee from destroying San Francisco. Or, at least that's what the world believes. In reality, his Buddist nun girlfriend saved him from that fate, cobbling together a new body out of lunch meat and animal parts - a 14 inch body, with a 10 inch penis. Yup, and we're just getting started. There's also a seven-year-old daughter, who used to be princess of the Underworld, but whose powers have deserted her along with the hellhounds who protected her.

Suffice to say, since his replacement couldn't be bothered to actually collect any of the souls that came so conveniently penciled in on his kitty calendar, it falls to Charlie to save the world. Fortunately, he's not alone - aiding him in this insanity are the aforementioned horny Buddist nun and profanity-charged daughter, along with a tiny crocodile wizard, a gang of Squirrel People, a retired cop, a bridge painter, the weirdly eccentric Emperor of San Francisco, and a Goth girl turned inappropriate suicide hotline counselor . . . whose best line for getting a guy not to jump is to offer him a blowjob.

The plot itself is pretty basic, with your requisite dark powers trying to take over the world, but it's really secondary to the characters and the comedy. To be honest, I think we were halfway through the story before the villain even stepped onto the stage. It's a book that bordered on tedious or repetitive at times, but the frantic swing between satire and slapsitck, not to mention irreverence and (political) incorrectness, keeps you on your toes. Secondhand Soulsis a book that certainly owes a debt to Pratchett and Gaiman, but which seems tailored more for a Hangover or Neighbors generation. Funny, funny stuff, with scenes that will stick with you long after you forget what it was really about.

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About the Author



Christopher Moore is the author of fourteen previous novels, includingLamb, The Stupidest Angel, Fool, Sacré Bleu, A Dirty Job,andThe Serpent of Venice.



Find out more about Christopher at hiswebsite, connect with him onFacebook, and follow him onTwitter.




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About the Book

Secondhand Souls cover

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
• Paperback:368 pages
• Publisher:William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (May 10, 2016)

In San Francisco, the souls of the dead are mysteriously disappearing—and you know that can't be good—in this delightfully weird and funny sequel to theNew York TimesbestsellerA Dirty Job.

It seems like only yesterday that Charlie Asher took on a very dirty job—collecting souls and keeping the Forces of Darkness at bay. The new gig came with theBig Book of the Deadand a host of other oddities: creatures under the streets, an evil trinity of ravenlike Celtic death goddesses, and one very bad Underworld dude attempting to conquer humanity. Along with a cohort of other oddballs, Charlie faced off against these denizens of darkness—and met his own end. But thanks to Audrey, his Buddhist-nun boo, his soul is still alive . . . inside a fourteen-inch-high body made from lunchmeat and spare animal parts. Waiting for Audrey to find him a suitable new body to play host, Charlie has squirreled himself away from everyone, including his adorable seven-year-old daughter, Sophie, who enjoys dressing up like a princess, playing with her glitter ponies, and—being the Luminatus—spouting off about her power over the Underworld and her dominion over Death.

Just when Charlie and company thought the world was safe, somereallyfreaky stuff hits San Francisco. People are dying, but their souls are not being collected. Someone—or something—is stealing them and no one knows where they are going, or why, but it has something to do with that big orange bridge. Then there's the Taser-wielding banshee keening about doom who's suddenly appeared while Sophie's guardian hellhounds, Alvin and Mohammed, have mysteriously vanished.

Charlie is just as flummoxed as everyone else. To get to the bottom of this abomination, he and a motley crew of heroes will band together: the seven-foot-tall, two-hundred-and-seventy-five-pounds-of-lean-heartache Death Merchant Minty Fresh; the retired policeman-turned-bookseller Alphonse Rivera; the lunatic Emperor of San Francisco and his dogs, Bummer and Lazarus; Mike Sullivan, a bridge painter in love with a ghost; a gentle French-speaking janitor named Jean-Pierre Baptiste; and former Goth girl LilyDarquewillow ElventhingSevero, now a part-time suicide hotline counselor.

With little Sophie babbling about the coming battle for the very soul of humankind, time is definitely not on their side. . . .

Irresistibly zany, rich in humor, heart, and spirit,Secondhand Soulsis vintage Christopher Moore.

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Saturday, May 21, 2016

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

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


WTF Friday: Ordeal by Wol-vriey

Fantasy Review: Red Tide by Marc Turner

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dragon Lords by Jon Hollins

Fantasy Review: The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence


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

For Review:

Night Things: Undead and Kicking by Terry M. West 
Expected publication: July 17th 2016 by Pleasant Storm Entertainment, Inc.

Imagine a world just like yours with one startling difference: every creature of legend has stepped forward from the shadow and they now exist shoulder to shoulder with humankind! New York City has become a macabre melting pot. Vampires, werewolves, zombies and ghouls are now the new immigrants and they are chasing the American dream. The Night Things have become part of the system. But many humans feel the creatures are dangerous ticking time bombs.

Carol Haddon is a former professional fighter living in New York City. Now a social worker, she has devoted her career and life to assisting the Night Things. She is killed after a senseless and brutal attack on her office. Carol is reanimated by the mad genius, Herbert West. West discovers that Carol carries a very unique DNA that could change things dramatically for the zombie population of the world. Johnny Stücke, the mysterious leader of the Night Things who has emerged in the media after Z Day, a citywide zombie attack a few months prior, takes Carol under his wing after her life as a mortal is stripped away. Carol’s creation has also attracted the attention of Herbert West’s greatest enemy, Edmund Wraight. An experiment of Herbert West’s gone horribly awry, Wraight is an ageless, violent, and hungry creature who was once known as the infamous Jack the Ripper. And he must stop West before the scientist unlocks the secret hidden in Carol’s blood.



The Taming by A.M. Rycroft
Expected publication: June 14th 2016 by Mighty Quill Books

A dark fantasy novella for fans of sword and sorcery, and non-mainstream vampyre fiction.

A friend’s death still haunts Thystle Moran. Through an informant with questionable motives, she learns that the events leading up to his tragic end were no accident. Driven by guilt, Thystle seeks vengeance, but an act of betrayal by a fellow vampyre and the distractions of a young woman threaten her quest. Can Thystle get her revenge before the killer gets her first?


Kindle Freebies:

  

  

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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With my beta-read all wrapped up, it's time to dive deep into the stacks and catch up on my reading. Right now I'm juggling a few titles for review over the next 2 weeks:

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay [May 10th 2016]
After giving up on the digital pre-press ARC that just wouldn't format for my e-reader, I picked up the hardcover this week, and I'm starting from page 1 so I can enjoy it properly.

The Fireman by Joe Hill [May 17th 2016]
So far, this is fantastic. As much as I loved the idea of the Dragonscale plague, I wasn't sure Hill could sustain nearly 800 pages, but his father's influence is strong in this one.

Freeze/Thaw by Chris Bucholz [May 17th 2016]
The Shade, a set of micro-satellites designed to stop global warming, worked. A little too well. With a tagline line that, I'm definitely excited to see where this goes.

 

What's topping your shelves this week?

Friday, May 20, 2016

WTF Friday: Ordeal by Wol-vriey

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


Is there anything sweeter in this world than poetic justice? Anything more deeply fulfilling than watching some despicable human being get their just deserts? Anything more satisfying than seeing some piece of garbage get what's coming to them? Well, the moral of Ordeal is more cautionary then celebratory, but it still makes for one hell of a guilty pleasure.

Wol-vriey tells us the story of a man named Jack and a woman named Gina, two lonely lovers who meet beneath the street corner lights. Jack is a monster who likes to watch women suffer, getting off on the terror in their eyes when he rapes and murders them. His plans for the hooker with the movie star looks are just about as dark as you'd expect . . . but child's play compared to what she has planned for him.

This is a dark and twisted real, full of despicable violence and pain. Jack is a simple man with simple tastes, a monster and a villain without a single redeeming quality. As such, it's hard to feel even an ounce of compassion or sympathy for what he is forced to endure. As for Gina, she may be a monster and a villain herself, but she is also a complex human being. Her obsessive-compulsiveness is both unnerving and humorous, but it's her desperate need for love that makes her truly fascinating.

I won't spoil the fun - it's free, so give it a read yourself - but this is a book of layers, one with a really interesting contrast between order and chaos, and some deeper significance beneath the violence. It's a fun, brutal read that will also make you think.


ebook, First Edition, 20 pages
Published June 29th 2015 by Wol-vriey

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Fantasy Review: Red Tide by Marc Turner

I had the great pleasure of being a beta reader for Red Tide, the third book of The Chronicles of the Exile, and I can honestly say it is Marc Turner's best book yet. Normally I wouldn't share a review so far in advance of the publication, but I wanted to capture (and share) a few of my thoughts while they are still fresh in my mind.

Look for a more comprehensive review closer to the publication date.

Taking place almost immediately on the heels of Dragon Hunters, this is a story that reaches back to connect with some of the characters and stores of When the Heavens Fall. It's the book in the series where everything begins to come together, and where we begin to see hints of the bigger picture into which all the pieces will eventually fit.

My first impression of Red Tide was that it's a more human tale, less about gods and monsters than first two books, which fits with the conflict at the heart of the story. Pacing wise, this was a pretty even book. The first chapters are a bit slow, but there are a lot of characters to bring together, and several story lines (both new and existing) to connect. Once the story hits the half-way mark, it just barrels along, carrying the reader with it. In terms of narrative, it's a smoother book as well, with cleaner transitions between scenes and points-of-view that just better, giving the story a truly seamless feel.

For a series that has just gotten stronger and more entertaining with each installment, Turner has set the bar high for a fourth novel . . . and I cannot wait to see what it brings.


Hardcover, 544 pages
Expected publication: September 20th 2016 by Tor Books

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the author as part of a beta read opportunity. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: The Dragon Lords by Jon Hollins

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

The Dragon Lords: Fool's Gold by Jon Hollins
Expected publication: July 19th 2016 by Orbit

Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Hobbit in this rollicking fantasy adventure.

It's not easy to live in a world ruled by dragons. The taxes are high and their control is complete. But for one group of bold misfits, it's time to band together and steal back some of that wealth.

No one said they were smart.

From the press release:

Jon Hollins has created a world where dragons run the show, enforcing their strict laws and collecting taxes. Fighting against this oppression is a group of misfits that has banded together to reclaim as much of the taxed gold as they possibly can without getting themselves burnt to a crisp. Or starting a revolution.


It's a book that's being marketed to fans of The Hobbit, Michael J. Sullivan, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Ocean's Eleven . . . and that's enough for me right there. Knowing that Orbit has bought 3 books in the series has me even more excited.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fantasy Review: The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence

Like any great story, The Wheel of Osheim is a book of lies . . . a story of lies . . . a very mythology of lies. Names, people, places, memories, histories - all damned lies. I'm treading on the edge of spoiler territory here (I can see the gaping chasm to my left) but, as we come to discover late in the tale, the entire story of Jalan Kendeth actually hinges on a single lie that's too painful to even contemplate here.

In wrapping up his third and final chapter of The Red Queen's War, Mark Lawrence has truly outdone himself. I would actually go so far as to say that this is his best book, hands down, and that is no lie.

While he's used a number of different framing devices in spinning his tales of Jorg and Jalan, Lawrence's approach here is perfectly suited to the shaping of lies. The book opens with Jalan's comic escape from the bowels of Hell, seemingly robbing us of a resolution to the cliffhanger that ended The Liar's Key. It's several chapters later before we get the first fragment of Jalan's journey through (and escape from) Hell. As for Snorri's own journey, his is a tale that must wait until the closing chapters of the tale, a story to be shared as a distraction from the living lies that surround the Wheel of Osheim itself.

There's a lot of overlap here with The Broken Empire, with some of Jorg's darkest acts there having a major bearing here - not just on Jalan's journey, but on the world around him. Even more so than in the first two books, we really get to see Jorg's influence on the world from a different perspective, one that's shaped by the lies of those who would interpret his methods and motives for themselves. What we know to be entirely human acts of Builder brutality are reimagined here as divine acts of the gods, who are themselves an entirely different sort of lie . . . but I won't say any more on the score.

A big part of what sets this book (and this series) apart for me is the character arc of Jalan. Here is a character who has grown, evolved, matured, and emerged from his own lies as the story has progressed. We still get the drunken, cowardly fool of the first two books, a young man who repeatedly resorts to liquor-fueled lies to hide from the cruelties of the world. He's just as amusing as he was before, but much less exasperating. At the same time, we also get the hero of Aral Pass, a soldier and a leader who overcomes the lies Jalan used to shield himself from responsibility. He's still largely a reluctant hero, but also a motivated one.

Once again, Builder technology plays a significant role in the story, but it's the lies told about it and the mythologies created to explain its magics that really drive things. Lawrence throws a lot of gadgets and set pieces at the reader, veering closer to the edges of science fiction than ever before, but it's the slow unveiling of the truth that makes this so exciting. It is story that's as clever as it is exciting, with the climax surrounding the Wheel of Osheim entirely worth the three books that it's taken to realize. There are so many little details in the last hundred or so pages, it's worth rereading to see how carefully Lawrence constructed the lies of Loki and his key.

While I won't say much about them (at risk of spoiling things), the Red Queen, the Silent Sister, and Lady Blue finally get their moments to shine here. They've been built up so much over the course of the books that I really wondered what Lawrence could possibly do with them, but it all pays off. As for Snorri, he doesn't get a lot of page time here, but the role he plays in Jalan's quest, and the way his own is finally resolved, will satisfy even the most jaded of readers. Lawrence isn't an author who indulges in needless sentimentality, but there is significant emotional impact to Snorri's last, lonely steps through Hell that will resonate with even the most jaded of readers.

The Wheel of Osheim is an epic book in every sense of the word. In terms of scope, imagination, and significance it actually feels bigger than the trilogy that came before it. It's a book that captures the spectacle that Lawrence does so well, but also the human aspect. Even as we face off against some of the biggest, darkest monsters we've seen yet, those lies are slowly unraveled, allowing us to see the true face of danger . . . and the man destined to end it.

Hardcover, 656 pages
Expected publication: June 2nd 2016 by Harper Voyager

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

Saturday, May 14, 2016

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

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


Waiting On WednesdayThe Dinosaur Knights by Victor Milán

Urban Fantasy Review: The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish

Horror Review: Night Show by Richard Laymon


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

For Review:

Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore
Published August 25th 2015 by William Morrow

In San Francisco, the souls of the dead are mysteriously disappearing—and you know that can't be good—in New York Times bestselling author Christopher Moore's delightfully funny sequel to A Dirty Job.

Something really strange is happening in the City by the Bay. People are dying, but their souls are not being collected. Someone—or something—is stealing them and no one knows where they are going, or why, but it has something to do with that big orange bridge. Death Merchant Charlie Asher is just as flummoxed as everyone else. He's trapped in the body of a fourteen-inch-tall "meat" waiting for his Buddhist nun girlfriend, Audrey, to find him a suitable new body to play host.

To get to the bottom of this abomination, a motley crew of heroes will band together: the seven-foot-tall death merchant Minty Fresh; retired policeman turned bookseller Alphonse Rivera; the Emperor of San Francisco and his dogs, Bummer and Lazarus; and Lily, the former Goth girl. Now if only they can get little Sophie to stop babbling about the coming battle for the very soul of humankind...


Kindle Freebies:

 


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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

The Vagrant by Peter Newman [May 10, 2016]
It's rather perplexing that it's taken this book a full year to make its way to North American shelves, but that just means there plenty of advance press to stoke my interest.

Freeze/Thaw by Chris Bucholz [May 17th 2016]
The Shade, a set of micro-satellites designed to stop global warming, worked. A little too well. With a tagline line that, I'm definitely excited to see where this goes.

The Fireman by Joe Hill [May 17th 2016]
Stephen King's son hasn't blown me away like he seems to have so many others, but I love the idea of the Dragonscale plague. Just hoping it can sustain nearly 800 pages. Yikes!

 

What's topping your shelves this week?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday - The Dinosaur Knights by Victor Milán

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

The Dinosaur Knights by Victor Milán
Expected publication: July 5th 2016 by Tor Books

Paradise is a sprawling, diverse, often cruel world. There are humans on Paradise but dinosaurs predominate: wildlife, monsters, beasts of burden, and of war. Armored knights ride dinosaurs to battle legions of war-trained Triceratops and their upstart peasant crews.

Karyl Bogomirsky is one such knight who has chosen to rally those who seek a way from the path of war and madness. The fact that the Empire has announced a religious crusade against this peaceful kingdom, the people who just wish to live in peace anathema, and they all are to be converted or destroyed doesn't help him one bit.

Things really turn to mud when the dreaded Grey Angels, fabled ancient weapons of the Gods who created Paradise in the first place come on the scene after almost a millennia. Everyone thought that they were fables used to scare children. They are very much real.

And they have come to rid the world of sin...including all the humans who manifest those vices.

THE DINOSAUR KNIGHTS is the second in Victor Milan's lush, exotic tale about knights. Knights riding dinosaurs.


The first was an historical fantasy, with all the religious and political conflicts of 14th century Europe, told with both brilliant snark and violent flair, regaling the reader with the exploits of dinosaur-mounted knights. I wanted more . . . and we've got it.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Horror Review: Night Show by Richard Laymon

While it is still a decent horror read, Night Show is a rather average, middle-of-the-stacks title from Richard Laymon that does nothing to showcase the man's true splatterpunk madness.

The novel's best scenes are dumped in opening chapter, which sees beautiful young Linda abducted by a carload of teenage punks and left tied up inside the haunted Freeman house, where she is all-too briefly terrorized. There's so much potential here, both in the house and in Linda's slow-burning desire for revenge, but it's left largely unexplored as we switch to the main story. Anticipating King's Misery by almost a full year, it's the story of a Hollywood special effects queen who is stalked by a crazed teenage fan. The problem is, the Chill Master is more sad than scary, and more embarrassment than threat. Despite what little page time she gets, Linda is the far more terrifying of the two.

Either piece could have been interesting as a short story, but they're unnecessarily padded out and awkwardly forced to converge in a climax that's neither as entertaining nor as clever as you'd expect from Laymon. There are several moments of gore, a handful of potential frights, and the requisite amount of sex, but it all feels too basic, too generic. Night Show reads like a standard 80s horror novel, which may be fine for some has-been authors, but Laymon has done much better. If you don't believe me, check out The Cellar, The Stake, or (my personal favorite) One Rainy Night.

Kindle Edition, 214 pages
Published May 3rd 2016 by Samhain Publishing, Ltd. (first published 1984)

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

Saturday, May 7, 2016

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

In case you missed it, here's what happened in the Ruins this week . . .


Thriller Review: The Revelation Code by Andy McDermott

Fantasy Review: The Emperor's Railroad by Guy Haley

Waiting On Wednesday: The Devil's Evidence by Simon Kurt Unsworth

Fact vs Myth: Docta Bones guest post by Melissa Robinson

Gothic or Go Home guest post by Bob Freeman


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

For Review:

An interesting batch of review titles this week, including one from my Aurora Awards voting packet, and a UK title that we're finally getting a look at in North America.

The Ghost Rebellion by Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris
Expected publication: June 10th 2016

The chase is on! After rescuing Queen Victoria from the clutches of the Maestro, Agents Eliza D Braun and Wellington Books are in hot pursuit of Dr Henry Jekyll. While he continues his experiments on the aristocracy of Europe, he leaves a trail of chaos and despair in his wake. However when Eliza and Wellington run him to ground in India, they are forced to come face to face with ghosts from the past, and the realities of empire.

Meanwhile Ministry agents Brandon Hill and Bruce Campbell travel deep into Russia hunting down a rare ingredient to save Queen Victoria's life. Amid the cold they uncover a threat from the revitalized House of Usher that comes directly from their new Chairman.

All in the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences will find their allegiances in question, and their mettle tested as a new dastardly era of international intrigue dawns.


It's A Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad World by Curtis M. Lawson
Expected publication: June 13th 2016 by Black Pyramid Books

When the Vatican’s top assassin, a Rhodesian merc, a pair of serial killer lovers, a dirty cop, and a professional sadist compete in a mad race for a pair of priceless magical artifacts, betrayal, theft, and murder are just the opening moves in a game of death.

Curtis M. Lawson is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association. He lives in Salem, MA with his wife and their son.


Crimson Souls by William Holden
Expected publication: June 14th 2016 by Bold Strokes Books

In 1920, Phineas Nathanial Roberts fought back against the "Secret Court" of Harvard's elite and their unjust purge of homosexual men. The members of the court, fearing his influence, attacked him and threw him off a bridge to look like a suicide. As Phineas lay in the river dying, he was given the chance of eternal life, a life that would allow him to seek out the men who had murdered him. He accepts the offer and becomes Nate, The Midnight Barke, a shadower ruling over the dark realm of his Netherworld. Now, over eighty years later, Nate has tracked down the last remaining descendants of the members of the Secret Court, and for one night will gather them together for a final confrontation of lust, desire, and revenge.


The Waking Fire by Anthony Ryan
Expected publication: July 5th 2016 by Ace

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from the veins of captive or hunted Reds, Green, Blues and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that give fearsome powers to the rare men and women who have the ability harness them—known as the blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate's last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered blood-blessed, who finds himself pressed into service by the protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted territories in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin, facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an ironship, whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war, or drown in its wake.


Kindle Freebies:




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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

With my beta-read all wrapped up, it's time to dive deep into the stacks and catch up on my reading. Right now I'm juggling a few titles for review over the next 2 weeks:

Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay [May 10th 2016]
It's taken every ounce of self-control I possess to hold off on this one, but I'm ridiculously excited to be diving into a new GGK title. One to savor, not devour.

The Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish [May 10th 2016]
I'm already a fan of Kristi's work, so I'm really curious to see how she transitions to a new character, new series, and new setting. I got a paperback of this to replace my digital ARC, which just had me even more excited.

The Wheel of Osheim by Mark Lawrence [June 7th 2016]
After the cliffhanger ending of the second book, I was dying to get my hands on this final installment, and I can proudly declare that it has not disappointed.


What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Thriller Review: The Revelation Code by Andy McDermott

While the Nina Wilde & Eddie Chase novels may not exactly be great literature, and are in no great danger is winning Andy McDermott a Pulitzer Prize, they are fantastic escapism adventures. Combining a little bit of Jack Bauer, Indiana Jones, and Dirk Pitt, they're globetrotting treasure hunts with the fate of the world at stake.

The Revelation Code is actually the 11th installment in the series, but they're all written with enough background detail to make them work as stand-alone adventures. As this point in their careers, Nina and Eddie are enjoying early retirement, awaiting the birth of their first child, and generally just trying to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, trouble has a knack of finding them, and they soon find themselves kidnapped by a religious cult leader and a disgraced US President.

McDermott invests an impressive amount of effort in taking mythological stories and artifacts, creating a plausible history for them, and allowing the reader to get involved in the thrill of the chase without having to believe in the stories surrounding it. He never entirely discounts the possibility of faith, but I will say that his portrayal of Cross and his End of Days cult is the harshest condemnation of organized religion that we've come across in the series. These guys are scary, and their plans for the world are almost - I say, almost - as despicable as those of the ex-President.

There are plenty of big set pieces here, taking us around the world in the search for the angels (statues) of Revelation. True to form, there are also some big action sequences, with epic gunfights, helicopter attacks, and even a climactic encounter with a massive blimp. My only complaint about the book is that the climax is so clearly foreshadowed and so heavily teased in the opening chapters, although the execution of it is still a lot of fun.

The Revelation Code is a fun, frantic read that moves along at a breakneck pace, even through heavy scenes of torture, religious insanity, and political posturing. It's not the best in the series - Nina's pregnancy puts some unfortunate restraints on the story - but it's still big time popcorn adventure fun, complete with a dose of history and humor.

Kindle Edition, 512 pages
Published April 26th 2016 by Dell

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Fantasy Review: The Emperor's Railroad by Guy Haley

Falling somewhere between King's The Dark Tower saga and Brooks' Shannara series, as seen through the achingly vibrant lens of Discovery's Life After People, The Emperor's Railroad is a remarkably unique approach to post-apocalyptic fantasy. While I felt the choice of a 12-year-old narrator put some unfortunate constraints on the tale, and held it back from realizing its true potential, I am genuinely excited to see where Guy Haley goes with his Dreaming Cities series.

Here we find some of the best post-apocalyptic world building I have come across in quite some time. Every step of the journey reminds us of what's been lost, and what remains of our 'modern' civilization. It's not just window dressing, either - in addition to the visual scenery we have a cultural shift in society, a very different sort of political era, and a whole new world of monsters and mythologies. There's so much depth to it that you almost feel the series could continue on indefinitely.

As much as I would have preferred to experience the tale through the eyes of Quinn, Knight of the Dreaming City of Atlantis, the narration itself is my own quibble with young Abney. He is, in fact, a very well developed young man, in a story that captures his fears just as well as his sense of wonder. His relationship with his mother rings true, and it's through her that we really get a sense of just how much the world has shifted in terms of culture and society. Yes, there is a sentimental aspect to the tale, but it's an honest one, and it helps ground the sense of the fantastic that surrounds Quinn. He's a quiet man, confident and self-assured, with a clear purpose in life, but not so focused on the epic quest that he cannot lend himself to a mother and her child.

The story starts out slowly, allowing us to become comfortable in the vast concept that is the Dreaming Cities, but quickly begins to pick up pace once we get moving along The Emperor's Railroad. It's a story that has a tarnished sort of faery tale feel to it, with architectural ruins, mechanical monstrosities, swords, guns, zombies, angels, knights, and dragons. Yes, dragons. Clearly, there's a much larger story being told here, but this chapter is a complete story in and of itself, entirely satisfying, with real closure for Abney and his mother. With The Ghoul King coming this summer, and introducing a little more sci-fi to the mix, the Dreaming Cities is a series to get hooked on now.

Published April 19th 2016 by Tor.com

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