Changes, both Voluntary and Forced

Due to changes to our “Social Media” policy at work, I am no longer able to pop in throughout the day and add comments. My site is not specifically blocked, but I’d rather not run afoul of this policy. Before, personal Internet use was permitted “within reason”, a policy that I was careful to not overuse. But apparently, others were not so careful.

Therefore, rather than posting at 6:AM, I will be scheduling all posts to go up at 3:00 PM. This way, I don’t have to watch conversations take place all day long (all comments go to my email, which show up in my phone) without taking part in them.

This affects my next planned Writer Wednesday, and I have emailed the author and offered him the possibility of either confining Writer Wednesday to Wednesday afternoon and evening (I can work an early shift to facilitate this) or make it Writing Weekend instead. What do YOU think?

Also, because of my new work policy, I’ll be blogging more on the weekends. I have more time on the weekends anyway, but historically my web traffic has been low on the weekends and I’ve arranged my posting around the best days. From now on, I’ll be posting without regard to web traffic. It’s funner that way, anyway. Oh, and I’ll simply post whenever I want to. I only use scheduled posting on weekdays.

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Since I’m to be an ebook author, it seems only reasonable that I start reading ebooks. Therefore, I have decided to buy the Kobo ebook reader when it becomes available in this country in a few weeks. Once I have the reader, I will start reviewing ebooks from selected publishers in the same genres that I currently read:

  • Fantasy
  • Science Fiction
  • Mystery
  • Historical
  • Christian
  • Literary

I don’t mind a little spice in my reading, but I am not an appropriate reviewer for erotica. The publishers I select will be ones who make their books from a wide variety of ebooksellers, like Fictionwise, Amazon Kindle and Kobo. I’m not sure if this is a reasonable policy or not, so it will probably morph over time. Let me know if you have any input.

My Novella to be Published!

I’ve made some changes around my site to reflect some thrilling news that came my way this week — Carina Press has offered to publish my novella, The Sevenfold Spell. Carina Press is an imprint of Harlequin, and they publish ebooks.

Needless to say, I’ve been so excited about this that I’ve had more time to blog, because I keep waking up at 3:30 in the morning.

I got The Call on Tuesday, just after a field trip with my husband and daughter. We were in a parking lot, ready to go into The Loop for some lunch when my cellphone rang. Since this is an unusual occurrence when I’m with my husband (who is the only one who calls that number 90% of the time), I took the call. I thought it was possible that it was someone in publishing, but it was more likely that it was that insurance company that mistakenly keeps wanting to put me through Medical Underwriting. The connection was bad, so I couldn’t really hear what the caller said until I heard the words, The Sevenfold Spell.

Yikes!

After several callbacks and more bad phone connections than I’ve suffered in months (it always happens!), I got the story. They want to publish it this fall!

Review: The Alchemy of Stone


The Alchemy of Stone

by Ekaterina Sedia
Prime Books
Trade Paperback – $14.95

Reviewed by Superwench83

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia introduces us to a world where the class lines are set in stone–in some cases literally. There are the Alchemists, whose draughts can heal and hurt; the Mechanics, whose engineering feats perform countless tasks and propel the city dwellers through the streets; and there are the gargoyles, who brought the city into being long ago and are in danger of becoming one with those buildings as their bodies become unmoving stone. The gargoyles believe that Mattie, an automaton and an Alchemist, can help them thrive once again. And there are others in the city’s shadows and hidden places who seek Mattie’s help as well.

As an automaton, Mattie had never belonged to a social class until she was freed and joined the Alchemists’ ranks. Unlike other automatons, Mattie can think and feel. Her maker, Loharri, has given her the ability to perceive both pleasure and pain, and he is often the cause of both. Imbued with such humanity but not part of that race, Mattie’s life is full of longing, of unfulfilled dreams, and of knowing she will never truly belong. Her one true aspiration is to win complete freedom from Lohari, who controls whether she lives or dies with the key to her clockwork heart. When a mysterious aquaintance of Loharri’s hires Mattie to mix her a potion, she sees this as an opportunity to take the key from Loharri and finally control her own destiny.

Ekaterina Sedia does a good job of making Mattie seem human, of displaying the many ways in which she is human despite her metal form. Mattie has all the emotions and desires of any other woman. She even has a woman’s sensibilities, show in one scene where she has to hold her skirts up to hurry after someone, and is self-conscious about the scandal of exposing her legs. A sympathetic and endearing character, Mattie experiences a range of emotions which many of the humans in her life seem to be without.

The Alchemy of Stone has a beautiful literary style and a plot full of intricacies. It’s an intriguing read, and it manages to make fresh the story of a robot who is human at heart. Reading scenes detailing Mattie’s scant romantic encounters with humans is a little strange, but these scenes further demonstrate how Mattie’s desires will never be in communion with her body of metal and porcelain and springs.

The Alchemy of Stone is a little…melancholy for my tastes, but a worthwhile read nonetheless, and I think a number of you would enjoy it. A well-written steampunk novel, this book will appeal to those who like a literary style in their genre fiction and who don’t mind endings which are bittersweet.

Debut Showcase – Two Fantasies and a Quirky Mystery


Black Blade Blues

by J. A. Pitts
Tor Books
Trade Paperback – 15.99

Sarah Beauhall has more on her plate than most twenty-somethings: day job as a blacksmith, night job as a props manager for low-budget movies, and her free time is spent fighting in a medieval re-enactment group.

The lead actor breaks Sarah’s favorite one-of-a-kind sword, and to avoid reshooting scenes, Sarah agrees to repair the blade. One of the extras, who claims to be a dwarf, offers to help. And that’s when things start to get weird. Could the sword really be magic, as the “dwarf” claims? Are dragons really living among us as shapeshifters?

And as if things weren’t surreal enough, Sarah’s girlfriend Katie breaks out the dreaded phrase… “I love you.”  As her life begins to fall apart, first her relationship with Katie, then her job at the movie studio, and finally her blacksmithing career, Sarah hits rock bottom. It is at this moment, when she has lost everything she has prized, that one of the dragons makes their move.

And suddenly what was unthinkable becomes all too real…and Sarah will have to decide if she can reject what is safe and become the heroine who is needed to save her world.

Deborah reviewed Black Blade Blues just last week, and she loved it. Check it out here!

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Song of Scarabaeus
by Sara Creasy
HarperCollins
MM Paperback – 7.99

The best cypherteck in the galaxy, Edie can reinvent planets with little more than a thought. Trained since childhood in advanced biocyph seed technology by the all-powerful Crib empire, her mission is to terraform alien worlds while her masters bleed the outlawed Fringe populations dry. When renegade mercenaries kidnap Edie, she’s not entirely sure it’s a bad thing… until they leash her to a bodyguard, Finn—a former freedom fighter-turned-slave, beaten down but never broken. If Edie strays from Finn’s side, he dies. If she doesn’t cooperate, the pirates will kill them both.

But Edie’s abilities far surpass anything her enemies imagine. And now, with Finn her only ally as the merciless Crib closes in, she’ll have to prove it or die on the site of her only failure… a world called Scarabaeus.

This looks like a complicated but engaging plot. It’s being compared to Ann Aguire’s science fiction, which I enjoyed, and I haven’t read any science fiction in a while. Allow me one critique–I do hate that cover. If she’s all that powerful, then why is she at that guy’s feet, clinging to his leg a la Princess Leia??? Crikey! I thought we were over covers like that!

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Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles

by Kira Henehan
Milkweed Editions
Trade Paperback – $16

Welcome to the off-kilter world of Finley, an investigator of indiscernible origins and prowess. Her assignment: the mysterious Professor Uppal and his puppets. The objective: impossible to say. But Finley is unassailable. She forges ahead with occasional assistance and hindrance from her colleagues Murphy, The Lamb, and Binelli, as well as the professor’s beautiful daughter and her sinister artiste boyfriend. In her meticulous and completely unbiased report, Finley tracks the investigation’s slow spiral back upon itself, as the clues she uncovers reveal questions that lead directly back to her own forgotten past.

No, this isn’t a self-published novel, just a novel with a quirky title. It won the Milkweed National Fiction Prize, which appears to be a contest run by the publisher.

Stuff This Week, Writer Wednesday, and a Question

This week I have been continuing a much-needed genre break and have been reading my beloved Gaslight Mysteries by Victoria Thompson. Over the last few days, I’ve read the seventh and eighth book in the series, and as I did before, I intend to do one review of three books. After this, I will review them one at at time because the latest books came out fairly recently. Check out my review of books 1 through 3, and books 4 through 6. I love this series! I munch them like candy.

I have invited an author to another Writer Wednesday session, and I will let you know if he accepts. I’m sorry, I’ll publicize the heck out of it if he accepts, so you’ll hardly be able to avoid it if you at all follow my online activities, which I assume, you do.

Katie has written a review of a fantasy novel, and I’ll post that on Thursday.

I’m also thinking of writing about a sensitive topic, but I might not. I’ve never been the type of blogger who writes to stir up controversy, and thus increasing reader numbers. So yeah. I might just keep silent and continue to have my small but friendly reader pool. If you have an opinion on this, please let me know.

Do you Twitter? With the help of my iPod touch, I’m fairly active on Twitter, at least as a reader. Every evening when I get home, I skim through the day’s tweets and follow links. Yeah, that’s my way of unwinding. Therefore, if you tweet your posts, I’m much more likely to read them. I’d love to find a timeline-like feed reader that works somewhat like Twitter (yeah, I know Google’s home page is much like that, but it’s not really the same), because I find it so convenient. So if you Twitter and would like to pick up a follower (or two!), please leave a comment with your twitter username. My username is tianevitt. (And yeah, I know I might pick up some followers as well.)

Review: Empire by David Dunwoody


Empire

By David Dunwoody (website)
Gallery Books
Trade paperback, $15.00

Reviewed by Raven

Blurb:

The year is 2112.

The crippled U.S. government and its military forces are giving up the century-long fight against an undead plague. Born of an otherworldly energy fused with a deadly virus, the ravaging hordes of zombified humans and animals have no natural enemies. But they do have one supernatural enemy: Death himself.

Descending upon the ghost town of Jefferson Harbor, Louisiana, the Grim Reaper embarks on a bloody campaign to put down the legions that have defied his touch for so long. He will find allies in the city’s last survivors, and a nemesis in a man who wants to harness the force driving the zombies—a man who seeks to rebuild America into an empire of the dead.

Empire was a super-quick read. I breezed through it in two days. It’s sort of a debut; it was David Dunwoody’s first novel, although this is the second edition. The hook for me was Death fighting zombies. His doing that makes sense, right? They’re defying him by being undead, and of course he finds it a tad annoying.

The story is a lot more complicated than just Death fighting zombies, though. There are human survivors fighting zombies and a human villain creating and controlling zombies. I wouldn’t even say Death is the main character, although he’s a major character. It’s basically a sprawling story that takes in all aspects of the zombie war in Jefferson Harbor. We even get to look through the eyes of some of the zombies.

If you like zombie novels, like gore, don’t mind explicit near-rape (I had to skim that scene), and are a fan of cinematic writing, you should like Empire. What do I mean by cinematic writing? Dunwoody’s style moves the story along fast, but he concentrates mainly on plot. There’s not a lot of room for character development, especially of minor players. Most of the human characters spend the book running away from zombies most of the time, and most of the zombie characters spend it running after dinner (humans) most of the time. It was like watching a zombie movie: the majority of it is about fighting zombies. Also, the cast of characters was so huge I couldn’t keep them all straight, especially since some of them had similar names.

I did manage to keep the plot threads straight, although I wouldn’t have minded more clarification of the human villain’s ultimate aims, which stayed nebulous. Of all the plot threads, I’d say I was most invested in three of the storylines, one of them being Death’s. Another one I enjoyed was about a cop who’s just trying to hold things together as well as he can. Given the number of zombies running around, it’s not well.

I’m guessing most people reading this book are looking for a fun romp with zombies, and they’ll probably find it here. Dunwoody’s pretty good at tackling all aspects of zombie-ism, including the impact on religion, although when he touches on that, he never makes a firm statement for or against the different characters’ beliefs. Various powers, animate and inanimate, seem to be hovering around, but it’s not clear who or what they are. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with his treatment of religion. I would have preferred to know what statement he was making.

My biggest problem, though? I concluded I’m not a fan of zombies. That’s no reflection on Empire. It’s purely personal. This novel was my first foray into the world of zombies (unless you count Shaun of the Dead), and my disbelief kept coming unsuspended. For some reason I can deal with vampires, who are also undead, but the idea of scores of zombies shambling around doesn’t seem to work for me. I didn’t put this book down, but I probably won’t read another zombie novel. But if you’re a fan of zombies and you’re looking for the fun romp I mentioned above, you might want to give Empire a shot.

Empire will be available on May 16th.

Comment Glitch

My apologizes if you tried and failed to post a comment on the review below. Apparently the implementation of OpenID that I’m using needs to be deactivated and uninstalled because not only can I not use it to log into other sites, but it is unfriendly for you guys as well. Another plug-in scheduled for deletion!

Anyway, if you’d like to comment on Black Blade Blues, you should be able to now.

Black Blade Blues


Black Blade Blues
by J. A. Pitts
Tor Books
Trade Paperback – 15.99

Reviewed by Deborah Blake.

One of the things I enjoy as a reader is coming across a book that is completely different from anything I have read before; whether it is plot, characterization, or worldbuilding. Debut author J. A. Pitts certainly achieved that in his urban fantasy, Black Blade Blues.

Sarah Beauhall is an unusual protagonist. A blacksmith by day and a props manager for low-budget movies by night, she spends her free time fighting with a medieval reenactment group. And she’s gay. I challenge you to find another heroine anything like her.

Sarah is already overwhelmed by juggling two jobs and her emotional issues about being in a relationship that her rigidly moral father would have disowned her for. Then her girlfriend uses the dreaded “love” word. And a sword Sarah brought to the set for use as a prop breaks during filming, so she must repair the blade. And therein hangs the tale.

Because the sword is actually Gram, the mystical dragon-slaying sword from Norse mythology. Soon Sarah is in way over her head, dealing with dwarves, dragons, trolls, and a truly frightening witch—who may or may not be on her side. She discovers that centuries-old dragons masquerading as wealthy businessmen control some of the largest cities in the Pacific Northwest. In the midst of all this action, Sarah fights her own self-doubt and self-loathing, alienates her allies, and brings her life to a screeching halt. In the end, she must learn to trust both herself and others, and fight to save all that she values.

Overall, I really enjoyed Black Blade Blues. I loved the realistic details of the smith-work and the movie set, thought the descriptions of the local scenery and the battle scenes were exceptional, and the mythology was woven seamlessly into the world of present-day Seattle. These things alone made it worth reading the book. I was also surprised to see (from reading the dedication) that the author was a happily married man; very different from the protagonist who provided the main point of view for the novel. [Just a side note: Pitts managed to switch from first-person point-of-view to a couple of different third-person view points without jarring or confusing the reader. As an author, I can tell you; this is extremely difficult to do. So kudos on that one!]

I only had one real complaint about the book, and that is probably a personal bugaboo rather than a true flaw in the novel. Sarah is, for the most part, a flawed and unhappy character. She is struggling to come to terms with her relationship with her lover and has problems making real connections with anyone. The character can be hard to like at times, although by the end of the book her journey is starting to transform her. It was often painful to watch her screw up repeatedly—although, to be fair, some of her problems were brought on by mood swings caused by possession of the magical sword. And the battle scene was brutal, so if you have a weak stomach, you may have a hard time with this one. It was well-written enough to be unpleasant to experience, even second-hand.

This is an impressive debut, and I look forward to seeing Sarah’s adventures continue in the next installment of this series. If you like Norse mythology, dragons, atypical characters, and non-stop action, you’re sure to enjoy the roller coaster ride that is Black Blade Blues.

Recent Debuts, or, My Debut Catch-Up Post

Mind Games by Carolyn Crane
Bantam/Spectra
MM Paperback – 7.99
Urban Fantasy

Justine Jones isn’t your typical kick-ass type – she’s a hopeless hypochondriac whose life is run by fear.

She’s lured into a restaurant, Mongolian Delites, by tortured mastermind Sterling Packard, who promises he can teach her to channel her fears. In exchange, she must join his team of disillusionists – vigilantes hired by crime victims to zing their anxieties into criminals, resulting in collapse and transformation.

Justine isn’t interested in Packard’s troupe until she gets a taste of the peace he can promise. Soon she enters the thrilling world of neurotic crime fighters who battle Midcity’s depraved and paranormal criminals.

Eventually, though, she starts wondering why Packard hasn’t set foot outside the Mongolian Delites restaurant for eight years. And about the true nature of the disillusionists.

I’ve briefly mentioned this novel before, but here is the full treatment. Such as it is. I remember a lot of you liked the idea of “disillusionists”, so consider this a little reminder for you. Carolyn runs a hilarious and popular blog called The Thrillionth Page.

Master of None by Sonya Bateman
Pocket Books

Read the First Chapter (pdf)

Paperback – 7.99
Urban Fantasy

Gavyn Donatti is the world’s unluckiest thief. Just ask all the partners he’s lost over the years. And when he misplaces an irreplaceable item he was hired to steal for his ruthless employer, Trevor—well, his latest bungle just might be his last. But then his luck finally turns: right when Trevor’s thugs have him cornered, a djinn, otherwise known as a genie, appears to save him.

Unfortunately, this genie—who goes by the very non-magical name of “Ian”—is more Hellboy than dream girl. An overgrown and extremely surly man who seems to hate Donatti on the spot, he may call Donatti master, but he isn’t interested in granting three wishes. He informs Donatti that he is bound to help the thief fulfill his life’s purpose, and then he will be free. The problem is that neither Donatti nor Ian has any idea what exactly that purpose is.

At first Donatti’s too concerned with his own survival to look a gift genie in the mouth, but when his ex-girlfriend Jazz and her young son get drawn into the crossfire, the stakes skyrocket. And when Ian reveals that he has an agenda of his own—with both Donatti and the murderous Trevor at the center of it—Donatti will have to become the man he never knew he could be, or the entire world could pay the price. . . .

This one should look familiar, too. I reviewed it last month, and I’ve seen it pop up on some of your blogs since then. This novel is hilarious. Now, if we can only get Sonya to start a blog.

The Case of the Missing Servant by Tarquin Hall
Simon & Schuster
Trade Paperback – 14.00
Mystery

Portly, persistent and unmistakably Punjabi, Vish Puri cuts a determined swathe through modern India’s cheats, swindlers and murderers.

In hot and dusty Delhi, where call centers and malls are changing the ancient fabric of Indian life, Puri’s main work comes from screening prospective marriage partners, a job once the preserve of aunties and family priests.

But when an honest public litigator is accused of murdering his maidservant, it takes all of Puri’s resources to investigate. How will he trace the fate of the girl, known only as Mary, in a population of more than one billion? Who is taking potshots at him and his prize chili plants? And why is his widowed “Mummy-ji” attempting to play sleuth when everyone knows mummies are not detectives?

With his team of undercover operatives — Tubelight, Flush, and Facecream — Puri ingeniously combines modern techniques with principles of detection established in India more than two thousand years ago — long before “that Johnny-come-lately” Sherlock Holmes donned his deerstalker.

I must have this one. Must. I took a trip to India once, and it was unforgettable. This reminds me of the playful African-based mystery series, No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, which is also written by a British white guy.

Imaginary Jesus by Matt Mikalatos
BarnaBooks
Trade Paperback – $14.99
Christian (I think)

Imaginary Jesus is an hilarious, fast-paced, not-quite-fictional story that’s unlike anything you’ve ever read before. When Matt Mikalatos realizes that his longtime buddy in the robe and sandals isn’t the real Jesus at all, but an imaginary one, he embarks on a mission to find the real thing. On his wild ride through time, space, and Portland, Oregon, he encounters hundreds of other Imaginary Jesuses determined to stand in his way (like Legalistic Jesus, Perpetually Angry Jesus, and Magic 8 Ball Jesus). But Matt won’t stop until he finds the real Jesus-and finally gets an answer to the question that’s haunted him for years. Be warned: Imaginary Jesus may bring you face-to-face with an imposter in your own life.

The author’s website is a bit scanty of information (like a blurb, which was surprisingly hard to find), but his blog is pretty funny — the current post is about how Amazon is classifying this novel. For example, Imaginary Jesus is ahead of C.S. Lewis: “Ah, C.S. Lewis.  Allow me to take a moment to say IN YOUR FACE, C.S. LEWIS! Imaginary Jesus is totally rocking The Screwtape Letters.” Anyway, if the blog is any indication of the novel, then it’s probably pretty zany.

Mistress of Rome by Kate Quinn
Berkley Trade
Trade Paperback – $15.00
Historical Fiction

Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, passionate, musical, and guarded. Purchased as a toy for the spiteful heiress Lepida Pollia, Thea will become her mistress’s rival for the love of Arius the Barbarian, Rome’s newest and most savage gladiator. His love brings Thea the first happiness of her life—that is quickly ended when a jealous Lepida tears them apart.

As Lepida goes on to wreak havoc in the life of a new husband and his family, Thea remakes herself as a polished singer for Rome’s aristocrats. Unwittingly, she attracts another admirer in the charismatic Emperor of Rome. But Domitian’s games have a darker side, and Thea finds herself fighting for both soul and sanity. Many have tried to destroy the Emperor: a vengeful gladiator, an upright senator, a tormented soldier, a Vestal Virgin. But in the end, the life of the brilliant and paranoid Domitian lies in the hands of one woman: the Emperor’s mistress.

I like stories that take place in Rome, but I’m not sure about this one. She has a blurb by the fabulous Diana Gabaldon, so maybe I would like it.  However, Domitian is one of the more horrible Roman emperors, and my interest in Rome is more in the Republican era, not the Empire. I do think this is worth checking out if you like historical fiction.

The Alchemy of Murder by Carol McCleary
Forge Books
Hardcover – 24.99
Mystery

The world’s most famous reporter, the intrepid Nellie Bly, teams up with science fiction genius Jules Verne, the notorious wit and outrageous rogue Oscar Wilde, and the greatest microbe-hunter in history, Louis Pasteur. Together, they must solve the crime of the century.

They are all in Paris—the capital of Europe and center of world culture—for the 1889 World’s Fair. A spectacular extravaganza dedicated to new industries, scientific discoveries, and global exploration, its gateway is the soaring Eiffel Tower. But an enigmatic killer stalks the streets and a virulent plague is striking down Parisians by the thousands. Convinced that the killings are connected to the pandemic, Nellie is determined to stop them both… no matter what the risks.

This kind of sounds like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but with historical figures rather than fictional. It has already been shortlisted for an International CrimeFest Award.

Shadow Prowler by Alexey Pehov
Tor Books
Hardcover – 24.99
Fantasy

After centuries of calm, the Nameless One is stirring.

An army is gathering; thousands of giants, ogres, and other creatures are joining forces from all across the Desolate Lands, united, for the first time in history, under one black banner. By the spring, or perhaps sooner, the Nameless One and his forces will be at the walls of the great city of Avendoom.

Unless Shadow Harold, master thief, can find some way to stop them.

Epic fantasy at its best, Shadow Prowler is the first in a trilogy that follows Shadow Harold on his quest for a magic Horn that will restore peace to the Kingdom of Siala. Harold will be accompanied on his quest by an Elfin princess, Miralissa, her elfin escort, and ten Wild Hearts, the most experienced and dangerous fighters in their world…and by the king’s court jester (who may be more than he seems…or less).

Wow. A debut epic fantasy that features elves! It was first published in 2002 in Russia, so that might explain it. Or maybe it is still possible to sell an epic fantasy with elves. This novel sold in the US for six figures.

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I’m posting this on Sunday instead of Tuesday because these have all been out for a while. I’m going to try to put these out weekly — like I used to — and in smaller chunks. Also, please notice that I’m only including novels of genres that interest me. It’s hard to muster up enthusiasm for novels that I have no interest in. In fact, I’d rather not have to muster up enthusiasm at all. I’d rather it came naturally.

I hereby certify that any and all enthusiasm in the posts above came naturally.

So what did you think? Any of these float your boat? Any you’d like to cuss and discuss?