Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2015: Fantasy April-June

2015Day two of my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2015. As usual I had so many fantasy books catch my fancy I had to split them into two posts. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!   Continue reading »

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Rachel Manija Brown & Sherwood Smith – Stranger

manijabrownsmith-strangerMany generations ago, a mysterious cataclysm struck the world. Governments collapsed and people scattered, to rebuild where they could. A mutation, “the Change,” arose, granting some people unique powers. Though the area once called Los Angeles retains its cultural diversity, its technological marvels have faded into legend. “Las Anclas” now resembles a Wild West frontier town… where the Sheriff possesses superhuman strength, the doctor can warp time to heal his patients, and the distant ruins of an ancient city bristle with deadly crystalline trees that take their jewel-like colors from the clothes of the people they killed.

Teenage prospector Ross Juarez’s best find ever – an ancient book he doesn’t know how to read – nearly costs him his life when a bounty hunter is set on him to kill him and steal the book. Ross barely makes it to Las Anclas, bringing with him a precious artifact, a power no one has ever had before, and a whole lot of trouble.

Stranger was one of the books I flagged in my anticipated books series six months ago and I did so solely on the basis of the above blurb. It sounded like an engaging post-apocalyptic adventure with a bit of a Weird West vibe, something that I’d enjoyed in several other books earlier in the year. And it was all of that, but it was even more than that. Because this book? This book could be the poster child for the We Need Diverse Books movement. The book features protagonists of colour, sexual orientations all over the spectrum, characters with disabilities, and none of these elements feel shoe-horned in to hit some sort of diversity quota. Instead, the story and its characters feel organic, set in a world that feels true and fully realised.  Continue reading »

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Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2015: Fantasy January-March

2015Welcome to the first post in my Anticipated Books series for the first half of 2015. As usual I had so many fantasy books catch my fancy I had to split them into two posts. For some of these I already have an (e)ARC or review copy, so they’ll definitely be read and reviewed. And for the rest, I’ll have to see whether I get the chance to get my hands on them!

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Tehani Wessely (ed.) – Phantazein

tehaniwessely-phantazeinYou think you know all the fables that have ever been told. You think you can no longer be surprised by stories. Think again.

With origins in myth, fairytales, folklore and pure imagination, the stories and poems in these pages draw on history that never was and worlds that will never be to create their own unique tales and traditions…

The next generation of storytellers is here.

Fairytales and folk tales are some of the most enduring forms of storytelling. It’s no wonder then that fairytale retellings remain a popular staple of speculative fiction. In Phantazein Tehani Wessely has brought together a set of stories that are as diverse as one can imagine, while all fit under the heading of fairytale (re)telling. Not all of the stories are re-imaginings of classic fairytales, some are based on folk tales or myths and some are original, but all of them are new and entertaining. In fact there wasn’t a story that disappointed, something that is rare for an anthology, as there is always at least one story that doesn’t work as well. Not so the stories included in PhantazeinContinue reading »

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Anticipated Books (Winter-Spring) 2015: Introduction

2015As another year draws to a close, it’s time for the annual tradition of my yearly wrap up. Like previous years I’ll be closing out December with my anticipated books posts for the first half of the coming year and with my favourite books for 2014. From today over the course of a week and a half I’ll be posting lists of my anticipated books, culminating in my most anticipated reads for the first half of 2015. I’ve chosen to just list the books alphabetically by author per month and divided over several genre categories. YA and MG have their own posts with all the genres mixed together, but they deserved a spot of their own. Fantasy, historical fiction, and YA had so many titles that caught my eye, they each get two posts.  Continue reading »

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Jamie Schultz – Premonitions

jamieschultz-premonitionsTWO MILLION DOLLARS…

It’s the kind of score Karyn Ames has always dreamed of—enough to set her crew up pretty well and, more important, enough to keep her safely stocked on a very rare, very expensive black market drug. Without it, Karyn hallucinates slices of the future until they totally overwhelm her, leaving her unable to distinguish the present from the mess of certainties and possibilities yet to come.

The client behind the heist is Enoch Sobell, a notorious crime lord with a reputation for being ruthless and exacting—and a purported practitioner of dark magic. Sobell is almost certainly condemned to Hell for a magically extended lifetime full of shady dealings. Once you’re in business with him, there’s no backing out.

Karyn and her associates are used to the supernatural and the occult, but their target is more than just the usual family heirloom or cursed necklace. It’s a piece of something larger. Something sinister.

Karyn’s crew, and even Sobell himself, are about to find out just how powerful it is… and how powerful it may yet become.

I love me a good heist story and Premonitions offers just that with the added bonus of a supernatural twist. Jamie Schultz takes us to an alternate LA where monsters are real, and they’re as often human as not, and deals with a devil are more common than you’d expect. Premonitions was a ridiculous amount of fun due to its twisty story with double and even triple dealing, a crew of miscreants that have great chemistry together and some genuinely bad guys gone worse.  Continue reading »

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Robert Sharp – The Good Shabti

robertsharp-thegoodshabtiThe Good Shabti is a story that spans thousands of years.

In the twilight days of Pharaoh Mentuhotep, a slave stumbles into the path of imperial ambitions. And in contemporary times, a brilliant scientist and her ruthless companions come close to achieving the impossible: the revivification of an ancient mummy. The two stories weave together in a tale that combines science and myth, anticipation and horror…

I only discovered an appreciation for a good mummy tale with last year’s Jurassic London anthology The Book of the Dead. I still think it is their best anthology to date and I absolutely adored it. So when I received this novella by Robert Sharp for review, I was immediately enthused, because yay more Jurassic mummies, which is less anachronistic than it sounds. The Good Shabti also featured a cool and unexpected mix of historic fantasy and SF. Unexpected because I hadn’t expected to find SF mixed in with traditional Egyptian mummies.  Continue reading »

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Kelly Barnhill – The Witch’s Boy

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kellybarnhill-thewitchsboyWhen Ned and his identical twin brother tumble from their raft into a raging river, only Ned survives. Villagers are convinced the wrong boy lived. But when the Bandit King comes to steal the magic that Ned’s mother, a witch, is meant to protect, it’s Ned who safeguards the magic and summons the strength to protect his family and community.

Meanwhile, across the forest lives Áine, the daughter of the Bandit King. She is haunted by her mother’s last words to her: “The wrong boy will save your life and you will save his.” When Áine’s and Ned’s paths cross, can they trust each other long enough to make their way through the treacherous woods and stop the war about to boil over between their two kingdoms?

First of all before I start talking about this book, I just want to say: That cover, you guys! I really love that cover and if anything, it was that cover that first drew me to give Kelly Barnhill’s The Witch’s Boy a closer look. I loved the play with the big shadows and those tiny little figures, and the sense that they were at the edge of the world. It is very fitting to the setting of the book and the villagers’ belief that there is nothing beyond the forest-clad mountains. But mostly it just made for an arresting visual. And all this was even before I read the blurb. When I opened the book and started reading I was sold, as Kelly Barnhill managed to break my heart twice in the span of two chapters, which meant I was in for a treat.  Continue reading »

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William Peak – The Oblate’s Confession [Blog Tour]

williampeak-theoblatesconfessionSet in 7th century England, The Oblate’s Confession tells the story of Winwaed, a boy who – in a practice common at the time – is donated by his father to a local monastery. In a countryside wracked by plague and war, the child comes to serve as a regular messenger between the monastery and a hermit living on a nearby mountain. Missing his father, he finds a surrogate in the hermit, an old man who teaches him woodcraft, the practice of contemplative prayer, and, ultimately, the true meaning of fatherhood. When the boy’s natural father visits the monastery and asks him to pray for the death of his enemy – an enemy who turns out to be the child’s monastic superior – the boy’s life is thrown into turmoil. It is the struggle Winwæd undergoes to answer the questions – Who is my father? Whom am I to obey? – that animates, and finally necessitates, The Oblate’s Confession.

While entirely a work of fiction, the novel’s background is historically accurate: all the kings and queens named really lived, all the political divisions and rivalries actually existed, and each of the plagues that visit the author’s imagined monastery did in fact ravage that long-ago world. In the midst of a tale that touches the human in all of us, readers will find themselves treated to a history of the “Dark Ages” unlike anything available today outside of textbooks and original source material.

In the materials I was sent along with The Oblate’s Confession there was a mention of a connection to the work of the Venerable Bede. This link to Bede, whose work featured in some of my Old English classes at university drew me to this work. Yet it wasn’t the straight historical fiction novel I was expecting. Instead it included a huge amount of philosophical passages about the nature of prayer and faith. It made for an interesting, yet at times slow, read. I do have to say that I think that the book would have worked better for me if I’d gone in with different expectations. I expected an interesting, politically driven or at least struggle for dominance-driven plot and I got a character study interlaced with theological and philosophical reflections. Had I known this before-hand, I would have probably not picked up the book, but I’m not sorry that I did. Winwæd’s tale is interesting and there where parts of the book that were compelling.  Continue reading »

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Author Query – Storm Constantine

stormconstantine-moonshawlToday I get to welcome Storm Constantine to the blog. Storm has been publishing books for years and her short story Do As Thou Wilt in Jonathan Oliver’s Magic anthology was one of my favourites in it. So when I was asked about being part of Storm’s tour for her new novel The Moonshawl, the latest entry in her Wraeththu Mythos, I was very pleased to accept. I’m hoping to review the book at some point in the new year as well – so keep an eye out for that – but for now enjoy this Author Query with Storm!

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Let’s start with the basics. Who is Storm Constantine?

I’m a writer, publisher and teacher, with over 30 books in print and dozens of short stories. I began writing professionally in the 1980s, and my first novel was ‘The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit’, which is the opening volume in the first Wraeththu trilogy. I’ve since written many novels across several genres, including fantasy, science fiction, horror, dark fantasy and slipstream.   Continue reading »

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