The Corn is Back! – BLIGHTBORN by Chuck Wendig – Review

Blightborn 3D

Blightborn (The Heartland Trilogy #2) by Chuck Wendig
Genre: Young adult dystopian
Publisher: Skyscape
Release date: July 29 2014
Source: eARC from publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 528

four and a half

The nitty-gritty: A worthy and energetic sequel, with several new characters to love, filled with action, adventure, secrets, and danger. Jeezum Crow, people—read this book!

**Mild spoilers ahead!

I’m gonna kill Cael McAvoy.

Then I’m gonna get Gwennie back.

Another glimmering thought: I love her. I love her more than I love anything. More than this boat. More than Momma. More than me.

Love and hate.

Two strong tastes that sit bright and bitter on the back of his tongue, and next thing he knows he’s ditching the spyglass and reaching behind him to grab a corn sickle, the blade gleaming along its moon-silver curve. Felicity’s knife, once upon a time.

Before he even knows what’s happening, he’s running.

Hate carrying him headlong into the corn.

In a sea of “second in a series” books I’ve read so far this year—and might I say that many of them have been disappointing—I’m happy to report that Chuck Wendig’s Blightborn is a more-than-worthy follow-up to Under the Empyrean Sky. Not only are the stakes higher this time around, but the characters are even grittier, the bad guys (and gals) nastier, and the fighting more violent. This series is definitely for young adults who are closer to the “adult” side, as the graphic violence is a bit over the top at times.

The story picks up soon after the end of Under the Empyrean Sky, as the various characters have been scattered here and there by events at the end of the story—and you really should read Empyrean first because I don’t want to spoil it for you. Our three intrepid friends Cael, Rigo and Lane are on the run through the corn. Boyland is trying to find Cael and exact revenge because he thinks Cael killed his father. Wanda is trying to find Cael because he is her “intended.” Cael is trying to figure out a way to get up to the flotilla, a city that floats above the ground, and find Gwennie, the girl he loves. Boyland also wants to find Gwennie, because she’s his intended…and add into the mix a whole new slew of characters who are also out to get Cael. It seems like a mixed up, crazy plot—which is partly correct, but Wendig keeps things together by telling his story in short chapters that switch from character to character, allowing the reader to clearly grasp what’s going on.

This time around we get to see what life is like on Ormond Stirling Saranyu, the floating city where Gwennie and her family have gone to live, having won the lottery at the end of the last book. But life is not all roses and fancy parties. Gwennie learns some horrible truths about her new life, but she also meets a boy named Balastair who eventually becomes her ally. There is plenty of danger both in the air and on the ground, as the POV switches back and forth. Although it was fun to see the life of the privileged on the flotilla, I actually felt more invested in what was going on in the Heartland below a bit more. Cael is still my favorite character in this series, and because he spent most of his time on the ground, well, let’s just say my heart was in the Heartland.

If you’re looking for a page-turner, then you’ve definitely found one. Wendig writes like a cocaine addict—or maybe he’s just hopped up on coffee from his Chemex—in either case, Blightborn is fully of crazy shit, and it never really slows down. My only issue with the story is that it might be too much. Not only is the action non-stop, but there are a lot of characters in this story, maybe too many for my aging brain cells to remember.  But I did fall in love with a couple of new characters, especially Balastair, the scientific genius behind the Pegasus project, and his bird Erasmus; and a ten-year-old girl named Squirrel, who charmed the pants off me with her enthusiastic attitude and mad knife-throwing skills.

Despite all the action, there are some quiet and sweet moments, mostly between Cael and Lane, and Lane and Rigo, as they each feel the need to confess some very personal and life-altering secrets. One character in particular broke my heart—Cael’s sister Merelda, who ran away from home in the last book to hitch a ride on the flotilla, but unfortunately got more than she bargained for.

As usual, Wendig’s writing skills are top-notch. He’s one of the few authors I’ve read that really understands rhythm in prose writing—he knows when to hit the beats, and he knows when to pause. It’s the kind of writing you want someone to read out loud to you.

And of course, THE CORN is back. Corn plays a very special role in this series. It’s scary, it’s creepy, and it’s everywhere.  Not since Children of the Corn have I been so grateful that I don’t live near a corn field!

Under the Empyrean SkyThe story does end on a cliffhanger—and you know how much we all love those (not!)—so here’s hoping book three isn’t too far away from publication (although I can’t find any trace of it on Goodreads…) If you haven’t started this series, I highly recommend it. Just take a deep breath before you start reading: you’re going to need it.

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. Quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

Read my review of Under the Empyrean Sky here.

Find Blightborn here:

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Waiting on Wednesday (109) SHUTTER by Courtney Alameda

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books you’re excited about with other readers and bloggers.

In celebration of San Diego Comic Con, which begins TONIGHT, I’ve picked a book that I hope to get this week, and even better, author Courtney Alameda will be signing it! I’m very excited about this book:

ShutterShutter by Courtney Alameda. Releases in 2015 by Feiwel & Friends. This book sounds like fun, it’s about a girl who exorcises ghosts with a camera. Cool, right? And check out the creepy cover! Here’s what the story is about (from Goodreads):

Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat—a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She’s aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera’s technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn’t exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she’s faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

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Let me know what you’re waiting on:-)

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Quirky & Erudite: INVISIBLE BEASTS by Sharona Muir – Review

Invisible Beasts 3D

Invisible Beasts by Sharona Muir
Genre: Adult speculative fiction
Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press
Release date:  July 15 2014
Source: e-ARC from publisher via Edelweiss
Pages: 256

three stars

The nitty-gritty: A strange and magical look at some very unusual animals, a narrator with an insatiable curiosity, no plot to speak of, but beautifully written.

Imagine, however, some unlucky person who would die without ever having encountered a flower, a person whose footfalls regularly met cement, whose raised eyes bumped off a dead layer of clouds, whose hopes consisted of daily crusts, and whose fears were so familiar they couldn’t be bothered to wear faces. Smelling the Parfumiers’ honey, that sad soul would know precisely what a flower was and what it meant—the heart of change that makes hope possible. Our bees had become like the invisible sisterhood of the Muses: their honey was pure poetry.

Invisible Beasts is described as “fiction,” but honestly it felt more like non-fiction to me, a scientific and clinical look at our natural—and unnatural world. Muir has crafted a character named Sophie who comes from a family of people who can see invisible animals, and what sounded like an awesome premise for a story was instead a mostly dry observation about different types of invisible animals, all with their own odd names, as seen by a woman with an eye for very detailed descriptions. This book is meant to be a journal where Sophie writes down details of all the invisible animals she discovers, but unfortunately, there is no plot to this book at all. For a girl who loves a good story—I mean, who among us doesn’t?—it was a bit disappointing.

However, Muir is a lovely writer and I enjoyed many of her made-up creatures. I believe most, if not all, of these stories appeared in literary journals prior to being bundled together into this book, and on their own, some of them are perfectly crafted short stories. Sophie is a playful and wry character who infuses subtle humor into her observations of the creatures that only she can see. Her sister Evie is a biologist who knows her secret, and together they have many lively discussions about the natural world. And even though the talent of being able to see invisible beasts is supposed to skip a generation, Evie’s son Leif has the ability as well (although he only makes one appearance in the book).

Of all the creatures in this story—including the Fine Print Rotifer, the Wild Rubber Jack, the Glass Kraken, and the Feral Parfumier Bees—my favorites were the Truth Bats. Truth Bats are able to detect whether a person is telling the truth or not by the timber of their voice. They are small fuzzy creatures that hang around in honest people’s hair, but a lie will send them flying away. Sophie “loses” her Truth Bats when she lies to her sister, and the only way she can get them back is to tell her the truth.

I also loved the Grand Tour Butterflies, whose wings show beautiful designs of vistas and cities. When the butterflies flock, they can join together and mimic their surroundings just by changing the pattern on their wings. I found myself wishing that some of these creatures were real, so I could see them for myself, although some of them were just too strange and horrifying, and I wanted nothing to do with those.

The story ends with an odd Epilogue that for me, strayed from the topic of animals and biology and dealt with the nature of love. It felt completely out-of-place, but then perhaps I just didn’t understand what the author was trying to say. By that time I had grown bored with Muir’s fascinating creatures and I was ready to read something else.

If you are the sort of reader who loves science, and animals in particular, I believe you will love this book. Don’t get me wrong—it was fascinating to read Sophie’s descriptions of “her” animals, especially when she delves into the stories of how they evolved. Invisible Beasts is a love letter to animals, and Muir’s poetic and fervent writing even made me see the beauty of spiders (at least as long as that chapter lasted!). The obligatory cautionary message about global warming and destroying our environment was subtle, and while I normal cringe at such “messages,” in this case I whole-heartedly agreed with the author. Quirky, odd, and at times beautiful, this is definitely a book that will make you think.

Many thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. The above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof, and may differ in the final version.

Find Invisible Beasts here:

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Over-Booked (6) – A Book Haul Post

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Welcome to Over-Booked, my version of the book haul! I’m linking up with Stacking the Shelves and The Sunday Post. Go visit their blogs for lots more book haul posts.

I have a small haul for the past two weeks, luckily. One is a book that I requested from NetGalley a month ago, and I was finally approved, and the other was an author request. Both are books I’m really looking forward to:

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters. Releases in October from Amulet Books. I just loved Cat’s first book, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, and this one looks equally rooted in history, which is this author’s strength. And, cool cover, right?

Color Song by Victoria Strauss. Releases in September from Skyscape. I reviewed Strauss’ first book Passion Blue a couple of years ago, and loved the way she incorporated art history into her story. This book looks like a sequel to the first, although Goodreads doesn’t categorize it that way. But the characters are the same, so I believe the story continues!

Next week is Comic Con International!! Where I anticipate acquiring a fairly good book haul. So expect a recap post two weeks from now:-) What goodies did you get this week? Link me up!

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Getting Free Books From Publishers – What’s Your Opinion?

Bookish Discussions

(Note: all quotes in this post are taken from the sites listed below, and are direct quotes. They have not been altered in any way. Quotes are included in this post as information to support this discussion, and do not reflect my personal opinions on this subject.)

There have been lots of discussion posts floating around the blogosphere lately about what publishers expect from bloggers when they send out ARCs (this and this) and what bloggers feel is their responsibility (or not) when they request ARCs. Everyone’s got an opinion, and with so many bloggers out there, you’re bound to see some of these opinions clashing. (And for purposes of simplicity and clarity, this discussion addresses ARCs that we as bloggers have specifically requested from publishers, not unsolicited books.)

I think we can all agree on a few points:

1. Bloggers don’t get paid for reviews, and therefore we aren’t legally obligated to provide reviews for publishers.

2. Publishers understand that not every ARC that is sent to a blogger will result in a review of said book.

And yet…

Consider these sites that offer free books “in exchange” for reviews:

Library Thing

1. Library Thing. LT is a Goodreads-like book organizing social platform. LT has monthly giveaways of literally hundreds of ARCs of upcoming titles in all genres. Once you sign up you can enter the giveaways and LT will randomly select winners at the end of each month.

When explaining their LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, the first thing you see is:

“Early Reviewers distributes advance readers editions of upcoming books from select publishers, in exchange for reviews.”

They later go on to say:

“You are not legally obligated to review books you receive through LTER. But subsequent LTER dispersal decisions may take your number of reviewed and unreviewed books into account.”

What they are saying, and what I have experienced myself, is that if you win a book or two and you never post a review for those books on their site, your chances for winning future books diminish. Even if your name is randomly selected, they will look at your account history and check to see if you’d reviewed other books won, and if you haven’t, they may decide to pick someone else’s name instead.  I missed a couple of reviews, but when I finally did read and review the books months later, I suddenly started winning a book almost every month. Lesson learned: if you win a book, read and review it in a timely manner if you want to continue winning books. And they do have some great ones every once in a while. I won Jay Kristoff’s Kinslayer last year!

goodreads banner

2. Goodreads. Most of you are familiar with Goodreads “First Reads” giveaways, where publishers and authors offer up books for giveaway on the Goodreads site. Easy to enter, right? Not so easy to win, however. Here is what Goodreads Giveaway Terms & Conditions says:

“If more people are interested in a book than there are copies available, we will pick the winners at our discretion. The factors that go into our algorithm are: randomness, site activity, genre of books on your shelves, current phase of the moon, and more.”

“You are not required to review the book if you win a copy. However, we encourage you do to so, as it’s the reason the publishers are giving us free books in the first place. People who review the books are also more likely to win more advance copies in the future.”

So, they aren’t coming out and saying “You have to review the book,” but they are warning you that if you don’t, you may never win a book again.

NetGalley

3. NetGalley. Is there anyone out there who isn’t familiar with NetGalley? Oh so easy to click that “request” button, and even easier to click the “download now” button if you are preapproved with a publisher. And then those digital ARCs stack up, and stack up some more, and before you know it, your “pile” is out of control. But what do these sites really expect from bloggers?

NetGalley has a pesky little thing where they let you know your “review ratio,” and they aren’t afraid to make you feel bad if your ratio is really low. I recently received a nasty-gram email from NetGalley, reminding me that I wasn’t doing so well in the ratio department. Has anyone else received one of these? This email stated:

“Dear Tammy,

NetGalley regularly reaches out to members to help improve their NetGalley experience.

You are receiving this reminder because you have not yet shared Feedback for a large number of your Approved titles. Although NetGalley members are never required to share reviews or feedback, publishers rely on your feedback to understand how you recommend books.”

They go on to mention that:

Publishers look at your Feedback stats when approving (or declining) requests, so they are more likely to approve future requests from you if they see that you’re actively sending feedback for titles you read via NetGalley.”

This is part of their “Wellness Challenge 2014.” According to this email, I am not well.

(Side note: I couldn’t find any kind of rules, official or unofficial, about bloggers submitting reviews on Edelweiss. Since Edelweiss is geared more towards book sellers and librarians, they don’t seem to be as concerned about what we bloggers are doing. If anyone has different information, please let me know.)

Blogging for Books

4. Blogging for Books. This fairly new program is attached to Crown Books, and promises “free books in exchange for a review.” In their site introduction, they state:

“Blogging for Books is brought to you by the friendly folks at The Crown Publishing Group. This program was designed for one purpose: Give out free books to bloggers in exchange for an honest review.

It’s a win/win really. Bloggers get free books (who doesn’t love a free book!) and The Crown Publishing Group gets bloggers talking about our books (we love it when people buzz about our books!).”

Blogging for Books clearly states that they are happy to send you a free book of your choice (from the titles available), but they will not send you another book until you have posted a review for the first book on their site. From their handy FAQ:

Q: Can I sign up for more than one review copy at a time?
A: No. You can only request one book for review at a time.

Now, call me crazy, but I quite like this rule. This means I can get a book for free, one I’ve been dying to read, so I want to read it, right? I want to read it, I request it, I get it, I read it. That’s the system. It’s pretty simple. Why would I request a book if I don’t want to read it? And I’m a book blogger, and part of my blog is writing reviews. So writing a review of the book I requested is not such a big deal. I write the review, I post it, I let them know, and I request another book. There is no other “approval” process, other than the fact that you have fulfilled your requirement of reviewing the first book. You don’t have to wait for the publisher to approve you.

Blogging for Books also connects you to Klout, and depending on how high your Klout score is, you may get a bigger selection of books to choose from.

What I like about Blogging for Books is that they seem to be openly honest about what they expect from bloggers. I recently received my first book from BFB (The Martin by Andy Weir), and I’m interested to see how the system works. I’ll let you know!

In conclusion, all of these sites have stipulations about posting reviews for the “free” books they hand out to bloggers. It is my opinion that as bloggers we fall into one of two categories:

a. Those bloggers who feel an obligation to read and review the books that publishers send them, and try their best to do so, or

b. Those bloggers who feel it is their right to refuse to review any book, even if it’s something he/she requested, because we don’t get paid to blog.

Which side are you on? Both sides certainly have valid opinions. I personally fall on the side of feeling an obligation to authors and publishers, because otherwise, why request books in the first place? Looking at this from the standpoint of the publisher, who has to pay for printing ARCs and mailing them out to bloggers, wouldn’t you want to “get” something out of that? I’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments, and I hope you’ll take my poll as well:

 

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Guest Post with Max Gladstone + Enter to Win a Copy of FULL FATHOM FIVE!

Author Guest Post

I’m so excited to have the extremely talented Max Gladstone visiting Books, Bones & Buffy today. I had originally asked Max to write a post about the role that gods and idols play in his books. But what I got back was something much more interesting, an endorsement, if you will, from a character who’s been to the island of Kavekana (from Full Fathom Five) and has partaken in their particular trade. He’s going to explain what’s going on there, and why sacrifice isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…(and keep reading, because there’s a giveaway at the end of this post!)

Max Gladstone

Sacrifice is rough on a business.

Let’s be realistic about it for a second: there are gods all over the world, and wherever there isn’t a god it’s because something godlike took its place.  What’s the practical difference between a voice speaking out of the wilderness demanding you bleed out a dozen aurochs (aurochses? auroxen?) on a particular stone and a necromancer in a pinstriped suit stretching out his skeletal hand for a cut of what’s yours?  The distinctions are cosmetic.  They both want something.

It used to be reasonable!  People didn’t travel as much, and if they did it was an event, you know, long caravans and legions of guards, so big they seemed like cities on wheels or water.  A merchant might have to sacrifice to a few local gods on the way for protection, but most of the business was done at origin and destination.  Serving two masters sucks, but it’s manageable.

These days, though.

I mean, don’t get me started.  Let’s say we have a concern that makes something really simple—paper, maybe.  It’s cheaper to grow trees in one part of the world, mill them in another, and of course we want to sell paper everywhere.  We can’t settle for making paper to serve one city, or even ten.  It’s a business of scale.  We want school-age kids in the Shining Empire taking notes for their high-stakes tests on paper with our watermark.  We want the Dread Lord of Zur signing treaties with steppe-lords on high-bond You And Me brand extra strength eggshell white, now imbued with real griffin blood!  (Which means, shit, we have to go find griffins, which are native to the highlands in the Southern Gleb, so that’s another set of gods we’ll have to deal with.)

Every place we go, every place we sell, someone wants a sacrifice. How can you live like that?  Let alone do business.

This is where godhavens come in.  See, gods have a good thing going—they respect one another, more or less, and now the God Wars are over, while they might not actually trust or like human wizards, there’s at least some grudging tolerance between the sides.  Or whatever it is you call that wavy truce you get between two bare-knucks boxers trying to catch their breath in round 37.  Gods don’t ask other gods’ priests to sacrifice to them.

Yes, I know, you don’t want to get ordained.  I mean, the whole idea here is to give you fewer obligations, right?  Seems priesthood would be the last thing you might want.

You would think that.

See, what if you could be a priest of something that just looked a lot like a god?  No faith, no distortion of behavior, no precepts or confession.  Just a sort of bloodless obligation that meant you never had to sacrifice anything again.

Check out these guys.  Kavekana’s a little island in the Skeld Archipelago, sent their gods to the Wars and they never came back.  They just—vanished.  Shit like that happened a lot back then.  Gods’ disappearance, as I’m sure you can imagine, puts the local priesthood in a tizzy.  What’s a priest to do without gods?  They started celebrating ancestor spirits at first, as a kind of stopgap—then they got good at building rituals, telling consistent myths, praying to stuff they’d never prayed to before.  And somewhere along the line, a bright kid saw the future.

Idols made to order, for folk like you and me.  Salt of the earth, engines of trade, just trying to enjoy our profits and prophets both without bad guys taking them from us.  Go to Kavekana.  Talk with a priest about your problems.  Hang out on the beach sipping those little, whatchyacallm’s, drinks with umbrellas in, sorta pink.  They’ll give you a few prayers to say, some salt you and your employees have to scatter before bed or whatever, and bam.  Some goddess wants her cut?  Tough.  You’ve got a Lord and Master already.  Convenient for you he only, you know, sort of exists.

I’ve done it a couple times.  Lots of people in our line of work do.  It’s not just sacrifice avoidance, either—it’s easier to operate this way, less paperwork, fewer demon uprisings.  Really good for estate planning, too, if you ever intend to die.

Trust me.  You’ll love it.

Find Max: Author Website | Twitter | Goodreads

Read my reviews: Three Parts Dead | Two Serpents Rise | Full Fathom Five

About Full Fathom Five:

The third novel set in the addictive and compelling fantasy world ofThree Parts Dead.

On the island of Kavekana, Kai builds gods to order, then hands them to others to maintain. Her creations aren’t conscious and lack their own wills and voices, but they accept sacrifices, and protect their worshippers from other gods—perfect vehicles for Craftsmen and Craftswomen operating in the divinely controlled Old World. When Kai sees one of her creations dying and tries to save her, she’s grievously injured—then sidelined from the business entirely, her near-suicidal rescue attempt offered up as proof of her instability. But when Kai gets tired of hearing her boss, her coworkers, and her ex-boyfriend call her crazy, and starts digging into the reasons her creations die, she uncovers a conspiracy of silence and fear—which will crush her, if Kai can’t stop it first.

Thanks to Tor Books, I have one finished copy of Full Fathom Five to giveaway to a U.S. winner (with apologies to my international friends!) All you need to do to enter is fill out the form below. One entry per person, please! A winner will be randomly selected on July 31st. Good luck!

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Waiting on Wednesday (108): RED QUEEN by Victoria Aveyard

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share the upcoming books we’re excited about with other readers and bloggers. This week I’m really looking forward to this:

Red Queen

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Releases February 2015 by HarperTeen. I love the simplicity of the cover, and I’m dying to know why that bloody crown is upside down! Here’s what Goodreads says:

Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army, she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a superhuman ability she didn’t know she had.

Except . . . her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a budding Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince and Mare against her own heart.

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I’ve been hearing lots of buzz about this title, and I’m super curious to see what it’s all about. The story synopsis sort of reminds me of Red Rising, but I hope it’s different…

What are you waiting on this week?

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Book Review Giveaway! Win a Book I Reviewed in June

 

Book review giveaway button 2014 copy

I wanted to give a little more love to the books I read each month, so I started this monthly giveaway where you can enter to win one of the books I reviewed the previous month. I only reviewed seven books in June, but some of them were amazing. It’s quite a broad selection this month, so there’s something for everyone! The giveaway is international, provided The Book Depository ships to your country, and it ends July 31st. You can help spread the word (and get more entries!) by posting the giveaway button on your blog (if you’re a blogger).

My favorite book of June? The Girl with All the Gifts. But you may select any of these seven books if you win. Click on the titles below to read my reviews!

five stars
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

five stars
Darkness Bound by J.T. Geissinger

four and a half
The Merciless
by Danielle Vega

four and a half
The Savages
by Matt Whyman

four stars
Deadly Curiosities
by Gail Z. Martin

four stars
The Source
by J.D. Horn

three and a half
Dark Metropolis
by Jaclyn Dolamore

If you’d like to grab the giveaway button, simply copy the code below and paste into your sidebar:

 

Books, Bones & Buffy
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Ready to enter? Click the Rafflecopter button now!

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Grrrl Power: FULL FATHOM FIVE by Max Gladstone – Review

Full Fathom Five 3D

Full Fathom Five (Craft Sequence #3) by Max Gladstone
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Tor Books
Release date: July 15 2014
Source: ARC from publisher
Pages: 368

five stars

The nitty-gritty:  A world that shimmers with magic, female characters that do wonderful and impossible things, and a layered story that will keep you riveted.

They fell through space and worlds, following that unseen beacon. They did not slip from realm to realm so much as burst through. The color of the sea changed, wine-red and spreading. Constellations danced and transformed.

The volcano’s mouth approached. At its bottom, pinhead small but growing larger, lay the pool, another sky into which they could fall forever. The size of a cherry now, a fig, lemon orange apple pineapple watermelon—

She braced herself for impact, too late.

This is the third book in Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence, and as much as I loved the last two books, I think this may be his best yet. Each book in this series can easily stand on its own, so reading the first two books first isn’t necessary—but why would you want to miss out on them? Gladstone’s world is full of gods and idols, sea monsters and Craftswomen, nightmares and pools where you can remake yourself. Each detail is painstakingly melded into the story so that you feel as if you are right there with the characters. Things that we are all too familiar with—job security, market shares, salesman-client relationships—are cheekily disguised as fantasy elements, which makes them much more interesting.

In Full Fathom Five, idols are molded and created by the Order for pilgrims. But when Kai, a priest with the Order, witnesses the death of an idol named Seven Alpha, she makes a risky decision to jump into the pool to try to save her. But Kai nearly dies in the rescue attempt and is later fired by her boss for attempting something so risky. It is only after she meets a street kid named Izza and a poet named Margot that Kai realizes Seven Alpha’s death is only part of a much bigger scheme. With her friends, new and old, to help out, Kai must get to the bottom of what’s really happening to the idols, keep her distance from the murderous Penitents, and try to get her old job back, before anyone else dies.

The biggest surprise for me this time around was the fact that most of the main characters in Full Fathom Five are women. In fact, just about every male in the story is a side character or a bad guy. Not that I don’t love me some strong male characters, too, mind you, but it was a nice change of pace to see a male writer taking the time to create such interesting, strong and utterly human female characters, who are all flawed in one way or another, yet possess the strength to rise above those flaws. I think my favorite character was Izza, a fifteen-year-old thief who is distraught when her goddess the Blue Lady dies. Izza takes care of a rag-tag group of street kids who look up to her to tell them stories about the Blue Lady and restore their faith in the world—much like Wendy Darling telling tales to the Lost Boys.

I also loved Kai, who nearly dies from trying to save Alpha Seven, yet never gives up hope that she will figure out the truth of what’s going on. We also have two characters who make a return appearance from Three Parts Dead, Mrs. Kevarian and Cat (who along with vampire Raz was my favorite character of that book). Unfortunately, Raz is nowhere to be found in this story, but that’s ok, because all the other characters are so amazing. Each woman goes through pain (and sometimes torture), loss and disappointment, yet never do they lose their faith in the gods and idols they worship.

Gladstone’s brilliant writing skills are hard at work, as usual. His lush and poetic prose is one of the things that keeps drawing me back to his books, and it just gets better and better. And as far as the world-building goes, you don’t get much better than this. The island city of Kavekana (think Honolulu, Hawaii) is completely different from ours, yet there are moments of odd familiarity, like when Kai stops at a corner store to buy frozen yogurt. At its heart, this is a mystery story, as Kai tries to figure out who is killing the island’s idols. The pace is not the rip-roaring action-packed sort, but rather the slow-building kind that surprises you when you realize you’re in the middle of some desperate action and you can’t pinpoint exactly when you got there.

The scary monsters this time around are the Penitents, gigantic human-shaped creatures made of stone that patrol the city and keep order. The kicker, however, is that their bodies act as prisons for the city’s criminals, humans who have been caught and placed inside a Penitent, where their bodies and wills are bent to perform the duties of a Penitent, until their sentence is over and they are released. What a truly terrifying way to be punished!

The ending was perfect, and I wasn’t expecting to tear up like I did. But Gladstone hit all the right notes, both emotional and plot-wise, and I couldn’t imagine a better ending. Whether or not another Craft Sequence book is in the works remains to be seen, but I for one certainly hope Max isn’t done with this fabulous world.

Many thanks to Tor Books for providing a review copy. I was not compensated in any way and all opinions in this review are mine and mine alone. The above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version of the book.

Check back later this week, because Max himself will be stopping by with a guest post!

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Guest Post: Jason Sizemore’s Top Ten Horror Novels

Author Guest Post

I’m thrilled to welcome Jason Sizemore to the blog again! In case you don’t know, Jason is the editor for all things Apex, including Apex Publications and Apex Magazine. I interviewed him last year about his roles at Apex, and this time around we’re getting a peek into what Jason loves to read. I recently reviewed Irredeemable, his book of short stories from Seventh Star Press, and today he’s written a Top Ten list of his all time favorite horror books, a subject that is near and dear to my heart!  I’m happy to say I’ve read several of these, and the rest I’m eager to check out. So please help me welcome Jason to Books Bones & Buffy…

Jason Sizemore’s Top Ten Horror Novels

As a reader of horror, I’m often asked two questions. How can you read all that twisted stuff (the real question here is “Are you a sicko violent person because you like horror?”)?  and What is your favorite horror novel?

I answer the first question with the creepiest smile I can manage. The second question always stumps me. Having read hundreds and hundreds of horror novels, many of them great, how the heck can a person pick just one novel as his favorite?

Instead, I’m going to list ten horror novels. Each of them appeals to me in certain ways that make them special. Each of them affected me as a reader, writer, and publisher. And, most importantly, each of them entertained me.

The Rising by Brian Keene – I’ve read a lot of zombie novels in my lifetime. Probably too many, to tell the truth. I consider The Rising to be the best of the lot by a country mile. Like any good zombie novel, the zombies are the background to the real horror. The undead simply raise the danger and the stakes. The Rising is a story about a father trying to reach his son. It’s powerful and moving, and may have a lot to do with the zombie invasion we’ve dealt with the last few years.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – Never has a book been a more entertaining CHORE to read than House of Leaves. Danielewski uses every trick he can manage with prose and the physical book form to get under your skin. This one chilled me in much the same way a good found footage film does.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill – This collection of mostly horror short fiction stands as one of my favorite books regardless of the genre. Joe Hill nails all the right emotional chords in all the stories.  As a writer, it is a book I visit from time to time for inspiration on how to do it right.

The Long Walk by Stephen King – While technically a novella, it deserves a spot because it is such a horrifying, gut-wrenching work. It hits the emotional chords that works like Battle Royale and The Hunger Games hoped to approach.

The Troop by Nick Cutter – This is probably the most recent novel on my list. The Troop is a rare breed because it is one that I nearly couldn’t finish. I’m far from squeamish, but The Troop pushed me to the limits of what I could stomach. A small troop of boy scouts are trapped on an island with their troop leader. When an escapee from a nearby pharmaceutical lab finds his way to the island, bad things happen. Really bad things.

November Mourns by Tom Piccirilli – This book, while not your typical horror novel, will linger in your mind for years and years with its horrific imagery and ruthless characters. Set in Appalachia, it reads like a surreal dream. I consider it Piccirilli’s best work, and considering the strength of his bibliography, that should read as high praise!

City of the Dead by Brian Keene – This is the sequel to The Rising and is every bit as good. Things go from bleak to bleaker by the end of this novel. Keene brings his characters to life and you’ll mourn the loss of each one as the inevitable happens to most of them (zombie chow!).

Mama’s Boy by Fran Friel – Okay, another novella, and worse yet, one that is out of print. Mama’s Boy was a limited edition book by a now defunct press. It impressed me so much that I begged Fran Friel to allow Apex Publications to reprint it in a collection of her work. It’s a bit like Silence of the Lambs, except more intense and concentrated…and dare I say more twisted?

The Road by Cormac McCarthy – Thanks to Oprah, everybody knows about this book. It is a post-apocalyptic tale about a father and his son as they traverse a stark landscape. The writing is raw and sparse, and the story is unrelenting in its bleakness.

Preacher by Garth Ennis – This is my wildcard pick. I could go with The Walking Dead here…but why not something grittier and better. Preacher is a graphic novel series about a man on a quest to kill God. Along the way, God sends some bad things after him. If you’re a fan of horror or dark fantasy, you have got to give Preacher a read.

Thank you Jason! Out of his list, I’ve read House of Leaves, 20th Century Ghosts, The Long Walk, and The Road, all worthy contenders for a Top Ten list.

earbudsJason Sizemore is a writer and editor who lives in Lexington, KY. He owns Apex Publications, an SF, fantasy, and horror small press, and has been nominated for the Hugo Award three times for his editing work on Apex Magazine. Stay current with his latest news and ramblings via his website and his Twitter feed.

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