Let’s Go on a Blind Date!

abclogoOn a Blind Book Date that is. On November 22nd The American Book Center is throwing their first Blind Book Date Party. Last year, they started wrapping up books and setting them up for ‘Blind Dates’ where customers could pick them based on the keywords affixed to the wrapping. I often have a lot of fun trying to guess the titles when Tiemen tweets clues out, but he never wants to tell me whether I’m correct (so mean right?). Anyway to celebrate the fact that the Blind Book Dates have been an amazing success, ABC is throwing a Blind Book Date Party. Continue reading »

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Fred Venturini – The Heart Does Not Grow Back [Blog Tour]

fredventurini-theheartdoesnotgrowbackDale Sampson is used to being a nonperson at his small-town Midwestern high school, picking up the scraps of his charismatic lothario of a best friend, Mack. He comforts himself with the certainty that his stellar academic record and brains will bring him the adulation that has evaded him in high school. But when an unthinkable catastrophe tears away the one girl he ever had a chance with, his life takes a bizarre turn as he discovers an inexplicable power: He can regenerate his organs and limbs.

When a chance encounter brings him face to face with a girl from his past, he decides that he must use his gift to save her from a violent husband and dismal future. His quest takes him to the glitz and greed of Hollywood, and into the crosshairs of shadowy forces bent on using and abusing his gift. Can Dale use his power to redeem himself and those he loves, or will the one thing that finally makes him special be his demise? The Heart Does Not Grow Back is a darkly comic, starkly original take on the superhero tale, introducing an exceptional new literary voice in Fred Venturini.

I rarely read from the literary fiction shelves of the book store, not because I absolutely dislike it – though having to analyse oodles of the stuff for classes at university did put me off somewhat – but because there’s only so much you can read and my heart lies elsewhere. Yet when I was approached about being part for the blog tour for Fred Venturini’s The Heart Does Not Grow Back, the synopsis and the superhero angle hooked me right and proper—I’d say that whoever wrote that flap text did a very good job. Yet while Dale’s superpower is the motor of the narrative, the stuff that powers said motor is human emotion. Venturini’s debut novel, which was previously published as The Samaritan by Blank Slate Press and was a Kitchies finalist, is a strong effort and an interesting contemplation of the human condition.   Continue reading »

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In Your Ear: Genre on the Go – Take Three

InYouEarI cycle to work after I take Emma to school and I cycle home after dropping her off, which comes to about a 40 minute commute. A commute I spend listening to podcasts. Additionally, I have a hard time falling asleep at night and listening to fiction podcasts helps me unwind and actually drop off. So I get through a lot of podcast hours. In 2011 and 2012 I did In your Ear posts, recommending the podcasts I listened to on a regular basis. After skipping it last year, I thought I’d bring it back this year, since I’ve discovered a lot of new podcasts in the past two years! So for those of you unfamiliar with the wonderful world of genre podcasts or those looking or a new listen, I hope you find something of interest below.   Continue reading »

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Ripley Patton – Ghost Heart [Blog Tour]

ripleypatton-ghostheartIn the aftermath of a brutal tragedy, Jason and Passion are on the run. Marcus is lost beyond reach, and The Hold is in shambles. If that weren’t enough, Olivia Black has been taken by the CAMFers to be used as Dr. Fineman’s personal lab rat in his merciless quest to uncover the mysteries of Psyche Sans Soma once and for all. But only if he can break her.

They are scattered.
They are devastated.
They are ruined.

Their only hope is Olivia’s stubborn determination to thwart her captors and unlock the secrets of her ghost hand before Dr. Fineman can. Will she finally find the strength within herself to embrace the full power of her PSS?

And will it even matter if Marcus has already betrayed her?

Ghost Heart is the third book the in the PSS Chronicles and not – as I expected – the last, but only the next instalment in the series. In fact it is not an ending at all. Rather it is very much a beginning, of the next phase in the battle against the CAMFers and the Hold and of a new life for our protagonists. Discussing a third book in any series without giving spoilers is hard, but in the case of Ghost Heart it is almost impossible, so out of necessity, this review will contain minor spoilers and will be less extensive than usual.   Continue reading »

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Jaym Gates & Andrew Liptak (eds) – War Stories

gatesliptak-warstoriesWar is everywhere. Not only among the firefights, in the sweat dripping from heavy armor and the clenching grip on your weapon, but also wedging itself deep into families, infiltrating our love letters, hovering in the air above our heads. It’s in our dreams and our text messages. At times it roars with adrenaline, while at others it slips in silently so it can sit beside you until you forget it’s there.

Join Joe Haldeman, Linda Nagata, Karin Lowachee, Ken Liu, Jay Posey, and more as they take you on a tour of the battlefields, from those hurtling through space in spaceships and winding along trails deep in the jungle with bullets whizzing overhead, to the ones hiding behind calm smiles, waiting patiently to reveal itself in those quiet moments when we feel safest. War Stories brings us 23 stories of the impacts of war, showcasing the systems, combat, armor, and aftermath without condemnation or glorification.

Instead, War Stories reveals the truth.

War is what we are.

Conflict is part of the human condition. In every age, at any moment, conflict has been present in our history. Be it on a large or a small scale, people have always picked sides against each other, whether on political or religious grounds. And conflict unfortunately turned to war more often than not. War is devastating on many levels; whether it’s material damage like shot-up buildings, physical damage such as war wounds for both civilians and combatants, or psychological trauma for those involved, no human is unchanged by the experience of war. As such, it’s unsurprising that war and conflict are huge wellsprings of inspiration for authors in any field, not least that of SFF. Ranging from military SF, such as David Weber’s works, to fantasy, like Erikson’s Malazan series, from the epic to the intimate, war is told in many guises. But it’s easy to glorify war and violence and not think beyond the adrenaline of battle. In War Stories, Jaym Gates and Andrew Liptak do just that. They chose stories dealing with the human cost of war, with the aftermath, and with those left behind. This doesn’t mean there aren’t battle stories here or those showing the brotherhood of soldiers, because there are, but they aim to go beyond the usual and look to the human element of war.   Continue reading »

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Author Query – Edward Cox

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edwardcox-therelicguildLast year Gollancz announced Edward Cox’s The Relic Guild to be published this autumn. Intrigued by the premise, I followed the author’s Twitter account and ever since Ed has been a steady presence in my time line. He was also one of the first people I ran into last year in Brighton on which occasion I got one of his patented Ed-Hugs. Fast-forward eleven months and The Relic Guild has been released and I’m really looking forward to picking up a copy when I go to London next week and to get the chance to finally read it. Meanwhile I thought I’d ask Ed some questions on the occasion of the publication of his book and the following Author Query is the result.   Continue reading »

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Alix Christie – Gutenberg’s Apprentice

alixchristie-gutenbergsapprenticeIn the middle of the 15th century, scribe Peter Schoeffer is dismayed to be instructed by his father to give up his beloved profession of illuminating texts in Paris. Instead he is to travel to Mainz in Germany to be apprenticed to Johann Gutenberg, an entrepreneur who has invented a new process for producing books – the printing press. Working in conditions of extreme secrecy, the men employed by Gutenberg daily face new challenges both artistic and physical as they strive to create the new books to the standard required by their master. In a time of huge turmoil in Europe and around the world, Gutenberg is relentless in pursuing his dream and wooing the powerful religious leaders whose support is critical. Peter’s resistance to the project slowly dissolves as he sees that, with the guidance of a scribe such as himself, the new Bibles could be as beautiful in their way as the old. Today we can see that beauty in some of our museums, but few know the astonishing tale of ambition, ruthlessness and triumph that lies behind it.

The invention of the printing press with movable type was arguably one of the biggest impulses that brought about the advent of the Renaissance and one of the biggest change agents in civilisation.The ability to print texts in large quantities quickly and at a markedly reduced cost changed medieval society in much the same way as the advent of the internet did ours. As an English Lit major specialising in book history, Gutenberg is naturally a person of interest to me, so when I saw Alix Christie’s Gutenberg’s Apprentice on the Headline site I knew I had to read it. Within its covers I found a riveting tale of a man driven by vision and ambition and the apprentice who was pressed into his service against his desire.  Continue reading »

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Nick Pengelley – Ryder [Blog Tour]

nickpengelley-ryderAyesha Ryder bears the scars of strife in the Middle East. Now her past is catching up to her as she races to unravel a mystery that spans centuries—and threatens to change the course of history.
 
As Israeli and Palestinian leaders prepare to make a joint announcement at the Tower of London, an influential scholar is tortured and murdered in his well-appointed home in St. John’s Wood. Academic researcher Ayesha Ryder believes the killing is no coincidence. Sir Evelyn Montagu had unearthed shocking revelations about T. E. Lawrence—the famed Lawrence of Arabia. Could Montagu have been targeted because of his discoveries?
 
Ryder’s search for answers takes her back to her old life in the Middle East and into a lion’s den of killers and traitors. As she draws the attention of agents from both sides of the conflict, including detectives from Scotland Yard and MI5, Ryder stumbles deeper into Lawrence’s secrets, an astounding case of royal blackmail, even the search for the Bible’s lost Ark of the Covenant.
 
Every step of the way, the endgame grows more terrifying. But when an attack rocks London, the real players show their hand—and Ayesha Ryder is left holding the final piece of the puzzle.

Ryder by Nick Pengelley is a compelling read, but it is one that may not please everyone, both due to its format and due to its content. To start with the content, Ryder is very much a story in the vein of The Da Vinci Code and The Rule of Four; academic thrillers that work as a sort of treasure hunt following the clues to solve the mystery. It’s the aspect I enjoyed most about Brown’s Langdon books, so I enjoyed it here, but if that is not your thing, then this might not be the book for you.  Continue reading »

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Author Query – Scott K Andrews

scottkandrews-timebombLast month I reviewed Scott K Andrews latest novel TimeBomb. A YA novel featuring, time travel, Roundheads and Cavaliers, fabulous characters, and oodles of fun. Yet after finishing the book I did have questions. Luckily for me Scott was willing to answer some of them. Today is the release day for TimeBomb and to celebrate I get to share Scott’s answers to my Author Query with you. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

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Let’s start with the basics. Who is Scott K. Andrews?

Writer, geek, dad, husband, dogsbody, wage-slave, anarchist, surrealist, narcissist, distruster of ists.   Continue reading »

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Laird Hunt – Neverhome

lairdhunt-neverhomeShe calls herself Ash, but that’s not her real name. She is a farmer’s faithful wife, but she has left her husband to don the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. Neverhome tells the harrowing story of Ash Thompson during the battle for the South. Through bloodshed and hysteria and heartbreak, she becomes a hero, a folk legend, a madwoman and a traitor to the American cause.

Laird Hunt’s dazzling new novel throws a light on the adventurous women who chose to fight instead of stay behind. It is also a mystery story: why did Ash leave and her husband stay? Why can she not return? What will she have to go through to make it back home?

In gorgeous prose, Hunt’s rebellious young heroine fights her way through history, and back home to her husband, and finally into our hearts.

Women disguising themselves as men to be able to do things or go places denied them by societal conventions due to their sex is an age-old phenomenon, in life and in literature. From Shakespeare’s Rosalind, Viola, and Imogen, to Tolkien’s Eowyn, Martin’s Arya, and Pierce’s Alanna, we can find many different versions of and motives for the phenomenon. But one of the most common motives seems to have been so that our main character can take up arms, be it as a vocation as Alanna, to save a beloved family member as Mulan does, or to escape from her pursuers unseen as Arya does. Those are all fictional examples, but there are many historical ones too: Joan of Arc and Hannah Snell come too mind, but as Kameron Hurley points out there are many more. In Neverhome Hunt focuses on just such a woman who takes up arms to keep her husband from going to war, because she wants to see places, because she is just more suited to it, and because she believed in the cause.   Continue reading »

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