Backlist Burndown Review: GENERATION V by M.L. Brennan

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Welcome to my April Backlist Burndown review! Thanks to Lisa @ The Tenacious Reader, on the last Friday of each month we get to link up with other bloggers who are participating. The goal is to read a book from an author’s backlist that you’ve been meaning to read, but just haven’t been able to get to. I could honestly spend all my time reading backlist books, since I’m so behind, LOL! But trying for one a month is a good start.

This book is also part of my Women of Genre Fiction challenge, hosted by Worlds Without End.

This may not technically be considered a “backlist” book, but it is the first book in a series I haven’t started reading yet, not to mention it’s one I’ve had on my TBR pile for quite some time, so I decided this was a good excuse to finally read Generation V. I almost skipped it, though, because I’ve had a pretty tough April as far as blogging goes. I’ve been sick for almost two weeks, and then I lost an entire weekend due to my daughter’s choir competition out of town. So April’s been a big fail for me as far as getting review books read:-( And it took me A WEEK to read this book! Seriously. But in all fairness to myself, I have been very sick and tired and every time I try to read I start to fall asleep:-D

BUT I’m so glad I read it! What a fun start to a series I know I’ll keep up with.

Generation V

Generation V (Generation V #1) by M.L. Brennan
Genre: Adult urban fantasy
Publisher: Roc
Release date: May 2013
Source: Purchased paperback
Pages: 312

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A kick-ass, hysterically funny story with a unique vampire mythos and the best dialogue I’ve read all year!

“Keep one thing in mind, Fortitude,” she hissed, low and dangerous. “I’m not some were-critter. I’m not a woman who can turn into a fox when she feels like it. I’m a fox who can become a woman. Try to remember that.”

After reading many glowing reviews of Generation V, I knew I could not miss out on this series, and now I’m wondering why I waited so long! M.L. Brennan has some of the best and funniest dialogue I’ve come across, and that’s saying something, because I’ve read several books with some pretty amazing dialogue in the past few months, and I think I even mentioned in my reviews that they were the best dialogue I’ve ever read. (I think I need to compile a top ten list of books with awesome dialogue!). So far, Brennan wins this prize, hands down. It takes a lot to get me to laugh out loud, and I spend a great deal of time doing just that while reading this book.

Aside from the snappy dialogue, however, Brennan has created a very cool world of vampires with some ideas that I’ve never run across before. Some of her world building is a bit on the complicated side, so I did have a few moments of trying to picture exactly how vampire hosts are made and how babies are conceived. Even now I’m not sure I understand exactly how that works, but who the hell cares? This story was so much fun, from the self-deprecating voice of Fort, our main character, to the flirty and vivacious Suzume the fox woman, to the scary and complex relationships between Fort and the members of his family.

Fortitude Scott is a twenty-six year old vampire who hasn’t actually become a full-fledged vampire yet. He lives with a deadbeat roommate named Larry, who refuses to pay his half of the rent, and he works in a dead-end job in a coffee-house. His “girlfriend” Beth is cheating on him with Larry, and to make things even worse, his family is highly disappointed in him because he hasn’t yet evolved into a true vampire. Life is pretty bad for Fort, but things are about to get even worse, when the body of a young girl turns up nearby, and Fort connects her to a visiting vampire friend of his mother’s. When another girl goes missing, Fort decides it’s up to him to try to find her, before any of his vampire acquaintances can get their hands on her. With the help of his new bodyguard Suzume, a shape-shifter that can turn into a fox, Fort sets out to do some sleuthing of his own.

What I loved about this book is that the vampire mythos that Brennan has created is so different from everything else I’ve read—and believe me, I’ve read lots of vampire stories—and I appreciated how she brought something new to the table. These vampires are not immortal, and they are not “made” by being bitten by another vampire, but rather they are incubated inside a “host” and born in the usual way, except that they’re fed blood in the womb. Also, it takes some time before a vampire transitions into a full-fledged vamp. Even at twenty-six, Fort still hasn’t done that, so it was interesting to see this “half” vampire who really struggled with his life. It’s a far cry from the supremely powerful beings that we’re familiar with in other stories in the genre.

I would have liked more world-building, however, because as I mentioned before, some of the details were hard to get a firm grasp on. But I’m sure with at least three more books in the series, Brennan will have plenty of time to fill in the details.

I did love Fort, our main vamp character, even when he seemed like a loser who could barely hold a job or a girlfriend. Once he meets Suzume, though, I liked him even more, because some of that loser personality disappeared. Suzume is now one of my top favorite female characters in genre fiction. She’s a fox that can turn into a woman, and I loved the way she tormented Fort by flirting with him. Some of their most wonderful scenes together—aside from the funny banter—were the times when Suzume slipped back into her fox persona and curled up in Fort’s arms, just like a cat. It was confusing in a way, because you can see the sparks flying between the two when she’s in her human form, but I loved those sweet moments. Brennan definitely taunts us with a possible future romance between the two, but luckily she doesn’t cross over that line in this book.

The action scenes were well written and had plenty of blood and guts to appease the horror lovers out there, but despite some very graphic moments, I still came away from reading Generation V with a smile on my face. I honestly can’t wait to start the next book, Iron Night. If you haven’t started this series yet, and you’re a fan of humorous urban fantasy, then what are you waiting for? Get a copy and get cracking!

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Waiting on Wednesday [145] THIS MONSTROUS THING by Mackenzi Lee

WOW 2014 copy

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine, and is a fun way to share upcoming books we’re excited about with other bloggers and readers. Let’s hear it for debut authors! This week I’m featuring:

This Monstrous Thing

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee. Releases in September 2015 from Katherine Tegen Books. I do love me a good Frankenstein re-telling, and this one fits the bill perfectly! And check out the creepy and atmospheric cover. Here’s the Goodreads description:

In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

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I love books about books. So the fact that this is a Frankenstein-inspired story and it references the book Frankenstein, just makes it more appealing.

What are you waiting on this week?

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Blog Tour Review + Giveaway: THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough

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Welcome to my stop on The Game of Love and Death blog tour, hosted by Rock Star Book Tours! I’m very happy to bring you my review of this book, which I really loved. Keep reading to the end, because there is a tour-wide giveaway of FIVE COPIES of the book (U.S. only)! Not familiar with this book? Here’s a little more about it:

The Game of Love and DeathTitle: THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH
Author: 
Martha Brockenbrough
Pub. Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)
Pages: 352
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, The Game of Love and Death is a love story you will never forget.

Find the book:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

My review:

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A beautifully written story that does a great job incorporating racial and sexual diversity, with a touch of a fairytale to it.

It would simplify so much if he wanted Helen. But while her skin was pale and creamy, and her elegant collarbones were visible over the neckline of her dress, the sight only reminded him that she had a skeleton beneath her flesh. He wanted love, and when he looked at her, he could only think of death.

What if Love and Death were friends and had known each other for thousands of years? What if they decided to use humans in a game in order to entertain themselves? Martha Brockenbrough has imagined just that scenario in The Game of Love and Death, where Love and Death are able to take on any guise they want to—including a cat and a sparrow—in order to slip into their roles as directors in the game of life.

Love and Death select Flora and Henry as their next players when they are but wee babes in their cribs. Death selects Flora and Love selects Henry, and Death bets Love that the two won’t fall in love, or he’ll claim the life of his player, Flora. Love agrees, and when they turn seventeen, the game begins. Henry and Flora are thrust together in different ways over the course of several months, with Love and Death manipulating their chance meetings and actions. Love poses as the “mayor” of the homeless community known as Hooverville, while Death takes over the body of a woman named Helen who is sent to stay with Henry and his family in the hopes that they will marry, thus taking Henry out of the game.

But despite the conniving of the two entities, Henry and Flora discover that they have much in common, and soon Henry is making excuses to see Flora when she performs at her jazz club. Love is blossoming, but with so many obstacles in their path, one wonders exactly how this game will turn out. Brockenbrough keeps the readers guessing up until the very end and throws in a twist or two which makes the story exciting.

There are many things to love about this book. First of all, you should know that Flora is African-American and Henry is white, and because the story takes place in 1937, you know that right off the bat their relationship will be an uphill battle. Segregation is in full swing (the story’s location is Seattle) and these two are not even supposed to be seen talking to each other. The way the author handled this part of the story was so well done. Flora is the one who protests her growing affection for Henry, while Henry does everything in his power to keep running into Flora.

And despite their differences on the outside, these two have lots in common—they are both skilled musicians. Henry is a bass player who is forced to squash his love of music in order to work a “real” job at a newspaper, while Flora has inherited her father’s jazz club and sings on stage in addition to running the club. I loved the role that music played in this story, and I appreciated that even though both Henry and Flora are talented and fiercely dedicated to their music, they still have trouble accepting that sparks are starting to fly between them. When their music should be bringing them together, it ends up keeping them apart.

Brockenbrough gives us not one, but two gay characters, who added another juicy layer to the story. Henry’s best friend Ethan (he lives with Ethan’s family because he’s an orphan) hasn’t come out yet—it would destroy his strict and very traditional father—but he’s secretly in love with Henry. He finds solace with James Booth, the self-proclaimed mayor of Hooverville but keeps the relationship a secret. Meanwhile, Ethan’s cousin Helen comes to stay for a while (she has been cast out of her family because of an affair with another woman), ostensibly as a possible future wife for Henry, but the twist is that Helen is Death, and she weasels her way into their lives and tries to ruin everything.

Everything is deliciously and intricately connected together, and you can practically see the strings attached to all the players, as Love and Death maneuver them into place for a final showdown.

Lots of real historical moments that happened in 1937 make an appearance, like the burning of the Hindenburg and the crash of Amelia Earhart’s plane, as the author suggests Love and Death are responsible for all great moments like this.

This is not your typical “happily ever after” story. Lots of dark things happen to these characters. Just when you think things are going well for Henry and Flora, Death pulls the rug out from under them. Still, this story is a fascinating exploration of how the world turns, how people stand up for and love each other, no matter what the obstacles.

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

About the author:

MarthaMartha Brockenbrough (rhymes with broken toe) is the author of two books for adults and five books for young readers.

She’s the founder of National Grammar Day (every March 4), and she’s written game questions for Cranium and Trivial Pursuit. The former editor of MSN.com, Martha has interviewed lots of celebrities, including the Jonas Brothers and Slash (his favorite dinosaur is the diplodocus). Her work has been published in a variety of places, including The New York Times. She also wrote an educational humor column for the online encyclopedia Encarta for nine years.

She lives in Seattle with her family. Her favorite kind of food is Indian, although Thai runs a close second. Besides writing, she likes board games, playing music with the family band, travel to places far and near, drinking lots of coffee, and working out really hard at the gym.

Find Martha: Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook |Pinterst | Tumblr | Goodreads

Follow the rest of the tour:

Week One:

4/20/2015- Alice Marvels– Interview

4/21/2015- Books, Bones & Buffy– Review

4/22/2015- A Glass Of Wine– Guest Post

4/23/2015- Jump Into Books– Review

4/24/2015- IceyBooks– Interview

Week Two:

4/27/2015- Fiction Freak– Review

4/28/2015- Nerdophiles– Guest Post

4/29/2015- The Starry-Eyed Revue– Review

4/30/2015- Seeing Double In Neverland– Interview

5/1/2015- Winterhaven Books– Review

And now for the giveaway! FIVE lucky U.S. winners will receive a finished copy of The Game of Love and Death! Simply enter the Rafflecopter below to enter:

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Over-Booked [23] – A Book Haul Post

Over booked banner

Welcome to Over-Booked, my twice-monthly book haul post. I’m linking up with Stacking the Shelves over at Tynga’s Reviews and The Sunday Post at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer. Check out their links and you can see other book hauls!

I’ve had another two-week period of a more-than-usual influx of new books, and I’m not complaining at all! I’m just worried about when I’ll be able to read them all, LOL:-D I have a great mix of review books, purchases and contest winnings, so let’s get started:

Physical review books:

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The Best Horror of the Year, Volume Seven, edited by Ellen Datlow. This arrived unexpectedly from one of my new fave publishers, Night Shade Books, and I’m so glad it did! I’m a big Ellen Datlow fan, and I’m looking forward to these stories. Thanks Night Shade!

The Memory Painter By Gwendolyn Womack. Another unexpected arrival from Picador, I have honestly never heard of this book until now, LOL! But it looks pretty good. Time permitting, I’ll give it a shot. Big thanks to Picador:-D

Alias Hook by Lisa Jensen. This is the new paperback release of the book, and I was very happy when a publicist from Thomas Dunne Books offered me a copy.

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough. I’m part of the blog tour for this book, and my stop is this coming Tuesday. Stop back here to see what I thought about it, and enter a cool giveaway!

OB2 4-18

So, a few months ago I signed up to be an Ace Roc Star, which is Ace & Roc’s new street team. I really thought I had a snowball’s chance in hell in getting in, but for some reason, they selected me. My first package just arrived this week, with an interesting mix of books. (Fellow blogger Lisa and I have been analyzing the contents in minute detail!) You can’t see it in this photo, but there’s a short excerpt from Jim Butcher’s upcoming The Aeronaut’s Windlass, which is weird because that’s an Orbit book. Hmmm. Nevertheless, I’m excited to be part of this team! So glad to have Lisa from Tenacious Reader and Jessica from Rabid Reads to dish with:-D Big thanks to Ace/Roc Books!

Digital review books:

Curses to HarperCollins and all their “Download Now” deliciousness that popped up this week!

I was pretty good and only chose four of them for review. Chuck Wendig’s latest from Harper Voyager also popped up, and I’m very happy to have been approved for Zeroes. And what can you say about Alice Hoffman? If you read this blog, you know I’m a huge Hoffman fan, and even though her latest doesn’t appear to have the usual magical realism elements, I’m still excited to read it.

Walk the Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson. I haven’t read this author before, but I know lots of bloggers who love her. Can’t wait:-D

The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett. This parallel world story has been getting some good reviews.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. I was so excited to see this up on Edelweiss, I didn’t think twice before clicking the “download” button.

Zeroes by Chuck Wendig. Duh.

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman. Duh again.

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee. This Frankenstein retelling sounds perfect for me, I’m really looking forward to it.

Thank you to Greenwillow Books, HarperTeen, Harper Voyager, Simon & Schuster, and Katherine Tegen Books!

Won:

ob3 4-18

So yeah, I won a bunch of stuff! It happens, I go a year without winning any giveaways, then suddenly, boom!

The Undying by Ethan Reid. Big thanks to Kristin at My Bookish Ways! I believe the second book in this series comes out soon. This looks like a bound galley, it’s pretty cool. Thanks Kristin!

Half Wild by Sally Green. I haven’t read book one yet, but it’s a series I’ve been dying to start, so this will give me a reason to find Half Bad. Big thanks to MaryAnn at Chapter by Chapter!

Touch by Claire North and Age of Iron by Angus Watson. Won from Anya at On Starships and Dragonwings. Thank you Anya! I got to choose two ARCs from her collection. I was THRILLED to see Touch listed, as it’s on my “must read soon” list. And I’ve heard really good things about Age of Iron.

Purchased:

ob4 4-18

Some of my pre-orders that I’ve been waiting for came in, and I couldn’t be more excited!

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant. This is a lovely little hard cover, only 128 pages, and I plan to knock it out next week in between review books.

Saga Volume One by Brian K. Vaughn. I’ve read so many great reviews of this graphic novel, so when I needed to bump up my Amazon order to get free shipping, this book went into the cart.

Vermilion by Molly Tanzer. Another highly anticipated pre-order, just look at all the swag Word Horde sent with the book! Includes a signed bookplate, sticker and bookmark!

And that’s a wrap! Excuse me while I crawl into my hole and read for the next, um, five years or so! Let me know if you’ve read any of these:-D

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A Different Kind of SF: EVENSONG by John Love – Review

evensong2

Evensong by John Love
Genre: Adult science fiction
Publisher: Night Shade Books
Release date: January 2015
Source: eARC from publisher
Pages: 352

 four stars

The nitty-gritty: An unexpectedly unique story with some very unusual relationships, and an emotional ending that completely took me by surprise.

He’d read somewhere that birds weren’t singing when daylight dimmed, they were screaming: screaming because they didn’t know the dark would ever end. Chaos seethed under every serene surface: the grassy slopes where small chitinous things ate or were eaten, the silver and white interiors of the New Anglicans, even the impeccable quiet control of Rafiq. He thought of the figure in Munch’s The Scream, clamping its hands to its head under a red streaky bacon-rasher sky while all the world screamed its underlying chaos.

You know when you start reading a book and you realize very quickly that this book is something different and special? Well, Evensong was one of those books for me. I should have known from the unusually beautiful book cover that my reading experience was going to turn out to be unique. It’s very hard to describe exactly why I felt this way, because my reactions to the characters and plot and writing weren’t always specific reasons that I can put in a book review. “I loved the characters.” And yet—I didn’t always love the characters. “I loved the setting.” And yet—the setting was foreign and made me feel off-kilter while I was reading. “I loved Love’s writing.” And yet. I did love it, but he also had some weird writing quirks that annoyed me a bit. But looking back on the book as a whole, I’m so glad I decided to read it, and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Love’s next venture into fiction.

Here’s the gist of the story, although I am certainly doing it a disservice, because this synopsis barely scratches the surface. Anwar Abbas is one of the elite members of The Consultancy, or The Dead as they are also called.  Consultants are super enhanced humans whose bodies have been surgically altered to make them better, stronger, faster (Cue The Six Million Dollar Man theme!) Anwar and his fellow Consultants have been given physical and neurological enhancements that make them nearly indestructible and deadly killing machines (although their primary function is not to kill, but to disable). On the very first page of the story we’re given an example of this, as Anwar is systematically breaking his finger bones in order to practice suppressing his pain receptors and keeping all expression off his face. (I know, yikes! It might make you feel better to know that his bones immediately start to regenerate.)

Anwar’s boss has just asked him to take on a new assignment: acting as a bodyguard for the Archbishop of the New Anglican Church, an acerbic and dreadfully unappealing woman named Olivia del Sarto. Anwar takes the job, although he’s not too happy, since he feels it’s below his position. Soon he arrives in Brighton, England, the location of an upcoming UN resources summit, where Olivia will be speaking. It is at this summit that she believes someone will make an attempt on her life, which is why she’s requested a Consultant for protection.

But as Anwar tries to determine where the threat might be coming from, someone—or something—is killing Consultants. Are the two events tied together? As Anwar gets closer to Olivia, the mysteries keep piling up, as the summit looms ever closer. With the clock ticking down, Anwar must do everything he can to eliminate the threat to Olivia before the summit comes to an end.

Evensong is a dense and complex story, full of politics, religion, murder plots, sex and lots more. If you love thrillers and police procedurals, you’ll love this book. It’s not the sort of story you can breeze through, and you wouldn’t want to rush, because the language is the sort you’ll want to savor. He lovingly describes the architectural details of buildings (a Consultant named Levin is an architect in his “normal” life), as well as Olivia’s outlandish clothing (she wears velvet ball gowns as a general rule!) I did run across sections that seemed a bit too repetitive that could have benefited from a little more editing, but overall I enjoyed Love’s writing style.

One of the most interesting aspects of Evensong was the relationships between Anwar and Olivia. Olivia is a sex fiend with the most voracious sexual appetite I’ve ever seen on the printed page. She and Anwar are immediately attracted to each other, and within the first ten minutes of their first meeting, they’re going at it on the kitchen table. Both of them acknowledge that their “relationship” is purely physical, especially since Olivia really doesn’t like Anwar very much, and so these trysts become nothing more that feeding a hunger. Except. Later in the story, Olivia’s personality shifts slightly, and it becomes clear that she might be interested in more than just sex with Anwar. This dynamic was unexpected and created an emotional bond between the two that was very exciting.

I also loved the relationship between Anwar and Olivia’s bodyguard Gaetano. It’s another one of those “love hate” relationships, since Gaetano thinks Anwar is taking over his job. But the two are forced to work together and they eventually begin to (grudgingly) respect each other. Until they don’t, but that’s a part of the story I won’t go into, because of spoilers!

There are some truly scary bad guys in Evensong, the quiet and subtle type that you don’t see coming until it’s too late. These characters kept the tension high and my heart beating just a touch too quickly. Love is so good at creating suspense. From the moment Olivia and Anwar meet, to the summit itself, where you just know things are going to go bad, the author keeps you on your toes.

And then there’s the ending, in which something surprising is revealed—a twist, I guess—and the reader must go back and reevaluate everything she’s read up to that point. Not very many books make me cry at the end, but this was one of them. Love bludgeons the reader with some unexpected and raw emotions that make this story rise above your general science fiction fare. This was a remarkable reading experience, and I can’t wait to see what Love does next.

Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy.

Check out another cool Evensong cover (not sure if this is UK or not):

Evensong3

Find the book:

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Tough Traveling: Awesome Displays of Magic

tough-traveling

Tough Traveling is a weekly feature, created and hosted by Nathan at the Fantasy Review Barn, in which participants come up with a list of books that follow the fantasy tropes that can be found in Diana Wynne Jones’ The Tough Guide to FantasylandEach week, Nathan picks a new subject. This week’s topic was a little harder for me than last week’s, but I think I came up with some good examples. In all of these books, magic practically jumps off the pages, begging to be noticed:

AWESOME DISPLAYS OF MAGIC: Sometimes magic can be subtle. Who wants that? Big explosions or acts of creation, death and destruction or acts of awe-inspiring wonder. If your world has magic then why not show it off?

U.S. cover, Tor Books

U.S. cover, Tor Books

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. Schwab’s latest is filled to the brim with awesome magic. In this insanely creative example of world-building, there are four different Londons: Red London, where magic is vibrant and used for good; White London where cruel rulers have made life dangerous and harsh; Grey London where magic has all but disappeared; and mysterious Black London that may or may not exist anymore. When the magic of Black London was about to lose control, Red London stepped in and magically sealed off the doors to Black London for good.

California BonesCalifornia Bones by Greg van Eekhout. There are lots of awesome, big magic in van Eekhout’s world, but one example is magician Gabriel’s special brand. Gabriel is a water mage, and he is powerful enough to control all the water in Los Angeles. He doesn’t lose control and do anything terrible to the city’s water supply, but the fact that he could is enough for me to include him on this list. From the canal systems that run through the city like freeways, to the pipes full of water that weave throughout houses and

City of StairsCity of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. This book is filled with big magical displays! When the Gods of the city Bulikov were killed by a powerful group of magic wielders, an event called The Blink occurred—an event that literally changed the city forever. Buildings were magically reconstructed and stairways that go nowhere suddenly appeared. And in another awesome display of magic, Shara inadvertently releases a powerful monster named Urav, who is set loose in the sea and begins to terrorize the city.

The Mirror EmpireThe Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley. Here’s another example with a potentially awesome display of magic. In a world where people obtain their magic from the stars, the rising of the star Oma portents tragedy and world war. Oma hasn’t been seen in many years, and many people don’t believe it exists. But the presence of Omajistas, those who get their magic from the star Oma, are preparing for it to rise.

Two Serpants RiseTwo Serpents Rise by Max Gladstone. All of Gladstone’s books have great examples of magic gone crazy, but I thought I’d use this book to illustrate—once again—the potentially destructive kind of magic that needs to be stopped before it turns deadly. In this story, a powerful craftswoman named Malina Kekapania wishes to wake two powerful and deadly serpents, asleep deep in the ocean, who will destroy the world once they wake up.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some obvious examples, can you think of any good ones?

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Book Review Giveaway: Win a Book I Reviewed in March!

BRG March 2015

Welcome to my monthly Book Review Giveaway! I love sharing the wonderful books I read, and what’s better than giving one of them away? One winner will be randomly selected to win one of the following books (winner’s choice). This giveaway is international, provided The Book Depository ships to your country. Please keep in mind that I reserve the right to select the edition of the book you choose. That means it might be a hardcover, or it might be a paperback. It really depends on the price. Also, the cover might be different from the one displayed in this post.

Please congratulate last month’s winner!

Szelina B. chose A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

March was a really great reading month!  Here are the books you can choose from if you win. You can click on the titles to read my reviews:

dead boys

five stars

Dark Star by Oliver Langmead

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

four and a half

We Are All Completely Fine by Daryl Gregory

Harrison Squared by Daryl Gregory

Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters

four stars

We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Duplicity by N.K. Traver

Unchained Memory by Donna S. Frelick

Vostok by Steve Alten

three and a half

Dead Boys by Gabriel Squailia

Bloggers can grab the giveaway button and add it to your sidebar for extra points:

Books, Bones & Buffy

Ready to enter? Simply use the Rafflecopter form below. Good luck! 

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Interview with Stefan Mohamed, Author of BITTER SIXTEEN + Giveaway!

Author interview

Last week I reviewed the highly entertaining Bitter Sixteen, by UK author Stefan Mohamed, and today, Stefan has graciously agreed to visit the blog and answer some of my questions. Plus, Salt Publishing is offering two copies of the book (to UK residents only!), so if you’re eligible to enter, keep reading to the end of this post.

Please give a warm welcome to Stefan! Welcome to the blog, Stefan!

Hi! Thanks for having me!

How long have you been writing, and how did you get your start in publishing?

I’ve been writing since I was young – it’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. I first started writing stories in school, then when I was about seven I was given a creaky old Amstrad word processor and started using that to write stories at home. I’d always make huge plans for epic fantasy and science fiction trilogies, then write maybe half a (terrible) chapter, get bored and write something else. I’m a bit more disciplined now.

It took a while to get a foot in the door in publishing. I won the Sony Reader Award, part of the Dylan Thomas Prize, for an older draft of Bitter Sixteen back in 2010, not long after I graduated from my university creative writing course, and managed to get a literary agent off the back of that – he’s been utterly invaluable. I thought at the time that everything else – publishing deal, film rights, world domination etc – would fall into place immediately but it didn’t quite pan out like that. At this point, though, I think the extra time was a good thing. It’s allowed me to get the story in shape, write plenty of other things, and generally mature as a writer and as a person! And we’ve ended up with a very supportive, understanding and dynamic publisher in Salt.

Bitter Sixteen

One of my favorite characters in Bitter Sixteen is Daryl the talking dog. What made you decide to feature a talking dog in your story?

He seems to be the break-out star of the book, definitely! To be honest I can’t remember exactly where he came from – I’d love to say he just walked fully-formed into my brain, or that I saw a beagle and then watched Casablanca and a lightbulb went on over my head, but it’s getting on for ten years since I wrote the first draft and some of the creative decisions are buried in some neglected filing cabinet at the bottom of my brain. I was sixteen so I probably just thought it was cool! Actually, to be fair, I still often include things because I think they’ll be cool. You just have to be prepared to jettison cool stuff if it’s not working narratively, which is always painful.

In terms of the purpose Daryl serves in the story, as Stanly is a loner with few if any human friends, I think it makes sense for him to have someone to talk to at home, someone to sound off to. And I like that Daryl’s presence is both ultra weird and kind of normal – he’s obviously a totally fantastical, bizarre character, but in a way he keeps Stanly grounded in the real world, which is a contradiction I enjoy. It is odd that I would have chosen to make him a dog, though, ‘cos I’m definitely a cat person.

Ha ha! Well, I’m a dog person, so I adored Daryl:-D The word “Bitter” in the title seems to be an underlying theme in the story. Would you say some of Stanly’s experiences in school—being bullied, having a hard time making friends—come from personal experience?

There is an element of personal experience, yes. I didn’t have too much trouble making friends at school, luckily – I was not a cool, enigmatic loner, I desperately wanted people to like me! – but I did have lots of problems with bullying. School is a hard, cruel environment, especially for odd shy kids, outsiders. It’s a cliché to say that every day feels like a battle, but it really does – kids can be so awful to each other. And I suppose in a way Stanly represents how I would have liked to have dealt with things – he takes bullying in his stride, shrugs it off with a quip, then if necessary punches people. Whereas I tended to just keep my head down. There were a few times when I stuck my head up above the parapet and fought back, but I nearly always regretted it afterwards, for one reason or another.

Bitter Sixteen is full of pop culture references, and Stanly and Daryl both love genre movies and TV shows. What are some of your favorite things that you geek out over?

Well, Buffy obviously! All of Whedon’s stuff, actually – I think Angel is a hugely underrated series, as is Dollhouse. And Firefly obviously is a perfect little gem. Lots of other TV – Veronica Mars, Person of Interest, Community, Rick & Morty, Breaking Bad. I’m a big Star Wars geek too, and I’ve come back to Star Trek in recent years, having dismissed it as naff for a while when I was a teenager. I love Terry Pratchett’s books and was really sad when he passed away recently. Comics like Preacher, Saga, Ms. Marvel, Rat Queens. I’m also a massive music nerd.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I’m an absolute Joss Whedon fanatic as well:-D There are lots of superhero stories out there. How is Bitter Sixteen different from all the others, and what can readers expect from this story?

One of the main things I wanted to achieve with the story – and this is one of the reasons I wrote it as a novel, and not as a film script – was really getting into the psyche of someone discovering their superpowers, and exploring their effects and consequences with some psychological depth. I’m not saying that films or comics lack psychological depth, of course, but the kind of internal monologue that I work with in Bitter Sixteen is something that’s very unique to prose, I think. You can get really close to the character, get inside their thought processes. And while it is a hyper-real version of our reality, I wanted to explore the ramifications of discovering crazy stuff in a recognisable world, and play the fantastical elements and the mundanities of everyday life off one another. I find those juxtapositions really fun to play with.

It’s also very much written with fellow geeks in mind – but as with Spaced, another TV series I adore, the references are there for those who want to pick up on them but hopefully don’t detract from the story if you don’t!

You also don’t get many Welsh superheroes…

I understand you are working on (or have already written) two follow-up books to Bitter Sixteen. How exciting! Can you tell us a little about what’s in store for Stanly and Daryl and the gang?

Let’s just say things escalate quite dramatically! While there is an overarching story being told, each of the books is quite different in terms of tone and pacing. Bitter Sixteen is smaller scale, more personal, and very much a traditional origin story in many ways; I wanted a fairly self-contained narrative in which to set up Stanly, his world, his friends etc. The sequels expand the world, the threats, the consequences of the powers. Stanly will be pushed to his limits. Maybe beyond…

Since I’m a huge Buffy fan, and I know Stanly is too, I have to ask you this question. What is your favorite Buffy episode?

Tricky one! Very tricky. There are so many different types of Buffy episodes – brilliant comedy ones, heartbreakingly emotional ones, awesome action ones, weird conceptual ones. So it’s kind of hard to pick one that sums up the whole series. If I were going to do that I might pick Becoming Part 2, because it ticks all of the above boxes…

But actually I’m going to go for The Body. It’s not a fun episode by any means – in fact it’s probably one of the most harrowing pieces of television I’ve ever seen. But its impact, and the fact that there are hardly any supernatural elements to it, is a testament to the strength of the characters, the relationships that have been built up between that family of people, and between them and the audience. And ultimately I think that’s why people connect with Buffy so strongly, and why it’s still so adored now. Cool fighting, epic mythology and snappy dialogue are all great, but they’re no substitute for a set of characters you love like they’re your own family.

The_Body-004

And of course I’m going to chime in and say my favorite episode of Buffy is probably Conversations With Dead People. It’s simply brilliant! Please tell us three things about yourself that can’t be found on the internet.

I love carrots. I’m about the same height as James Marsters (i.e. not tall). And I once played the part of Bugsy Malone in a school production (I also played Romeo once, but – weirdly – that was after having written Bitter Sixteen).

Talking with you today has made me ravenous for a Buffy and Angel series-rewatch-binge! Thank you so much, Stefan!

Stefan MohamedSTEFAN MOHAMED is an author, poet and sometime journalist. He graduated from Kingston University in 2010 with a first class degree in creative writing and film studies, and later that year won the inaugural Dylan Thomas Prize for New Writers for BITTER SIXTEEN.

Stefan lives in Bristol, where he works as an editorial assistant, writing stories and performing poetry in his spare time.

Find Stefan: Twitter | Goodreads | Den of Geek

And now for the giveaway: Salt Publishing is kindly offering up two copies of Bitter Sixteen to anyone from the UK! I know this is an unusual demographic for a giveaway, at least for this blog, but the publisher is located in the UK, so it makes sense. So, UK readers, please enter below and spread the word!

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Tammy’s Top Ten Favorite Quotes from Books

Top Ten Tuesday new 7-14 copy

It’s Top Ten Tuesday over at The Broke and the Bookish! This week we’re listing favorite/inspiring quotes from books. Luckily, I usually include a favorite quote from every book I review, so coming up with this list wasn’t too difficult (maybe I should say it was too easy!) I wouldn’t call these inspiring, necessarily, but they’re all beautifully written, and it’s no coincidence that many of these are from my favorite books. It just wasn’t possible to trim this down to ten quotes, so please enjoy these fifteen twenty twenty-one favorite quotes of mine (in no particular order):

When you set out to find the answers to your questions, you have to be prepared to be surprised by what you discover.  – Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

If you can’t be honest with your best friend’s Vampire Boyfriend, who can you be honest with?  – Get In Trouble by Kelly Link

“Maybe next time? I’ll bring my shotgun. It’s got a taste for the blood of monstrous men.”  – Atlanta Burns by Chuck Wendig

In the end, forgiveness is like letting go of a rabid cougar you had by the tail.  – Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

I took the gun out, a familiar .38 purchased at our local Super Wal-Mart. At first, I kept it under the middle couch cushion and didn’t bring it out for weeks at a time. I’ve since warmed up to the prospect of holding it, watching the light die in the matte finish of the barrel. When you fondle a gun, it starts out cool and warms up, getting friendly in your hands. Hold one long enough and pretty soon, the urge to shoot something takes on a life of its own. – The Heart Does Not Grow Back by Fred Venturini

But first there’s this moment, this lamp-lit room: Miranda sits on the floor beside Elizabeth, whose breath is heavy with wine, and she leans back until she feels the reassuring solidity of the door frame against her spine. Elizabeth, who is crying a little, bites her lip and together they look at the sketches and paintings pinned to every wall. The dog stands at attention and stares at the window, where just now a moth brushed up against the glass, and for a moment everything is still. Station Eleven is all around them.  Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

“It’s true, you know. In space, no one can hear you scream like a little girl.”  The Martian by Andy Weir

What she thinks is: this could have been me. Why not? A real girl, in a real house, with a mother and a father and a brother and a sister and an aunt and an uncle and a nephew and a niece and a cousin and all those other words for the map of people who love each other and stay together. The map called family.  – The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

When you find yourself tied up in the chem lab supply closet, surrounded by jars of formaldehyde, about to be maimed by a microscope-wielding thug, it’s a pretty good indication that something in your life has gone wrong. – High & Dry by Sarah Skilton

He stopped in the center of the market square, stepping up on a small fountain. “Perhaps I should introduce myself,” he called. People stopped to look at him. He were wrapped in violence as if it were clothes, his cloak like death, his armor like blades. His hair were shaggy as an animal’s and it looked like the Devil were trapped in his head. –  Scarlet by A.C. Gaugin

A person shouldn’t talk too much, Ella realized. With writing, you could construct a whole world, but talking too much could demolish it. – The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen

You were free with your body, but your heart you guarded like pirate’s treasure, locked tight behind a thousand closed doors. – The Last Vampire by J.T. Geissinger

Persimmon Gaunt was even paler, but she was near to bursting with a barbarian baby-to-come. Her frame spoke of action and theft and generosity and narrow escapes. Her eyes spoke of tombs and flowers and elegies and inevitable decay. Her voice spoke of all these things and the glimmer of a silver thread that bound them. –  The Scroll of Years by Chris Willrich

So Helen remained and discovered in her sister’s absence what love and the loss of it is; she discovered both at the exact same time. It’s not just a feeling; it’s a real thing inside of you made of a paper-thin glass, and when it breaks the shards move through your blood and cut you to pieces. –  The Kings and Queens of Roam by Daniel Wallace

The wind was a lonely, howling voice between teeth of stone, a thread-bare wail singing of death and the hunger of wolves. In it, he could hear the voices of his dying brothers. In her eyes, he could see an ending. The ending of all things. And he was afraid. –  Kinslayer by Jay Kristoff

All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight. – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

She pulled away enough to hold him with her cold blue eyes. He could see the devil in them, silver-tongued and cunning, and Eli thought, not for the first time, that he should have killed her when he had the chance. – Vicious by V.E. Schwab

The school devours privacy, and rumors are like drops of blood in an ocean full of predators. – Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn

There he is. The Boss. Looking small and crumpled. Like an origami tiger on the seat that somebody sat on without realizing. – The Blue Blazes by Chuck Wendig

They went into his room and she climbed backwards onto his bed, the bed he never slept in because he did not need to sleep, and pulled him on top of her. She took off his shirt, kissed his pale, hairless chest. He had no heartbeat but she could hear something spinning inside of him. She was entranced by it. Like white noise, like the recorded sound of stars. – The Mad Scientist’s Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The knives hummed from her hand like angry hornets, straight toward her daughter’s heart. –  The Six-Gun Tarot by R.S. Belcher

So, which of these is your favorite?

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THRONE OF DARKNESS by Douglas Nicholas – Review

Throne of Darkness

Throne of Darkness (Something Red #3) by Douglas Nicholas
Genre: Adult historical fantasy
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Release date: March 31 2015
Source: eARC from publisher via Edelweiss
Pages: 352

four stars

The nitty-gritty: A beautifully written story, full of historical ambiance, just a touch of magic, and characters who you will want to call friends.

“At the doors, I was saying, even through all the wood of the doors and the further wood that had been nailed on, we could hear the whuff of creatures sniffing at the joins, and horrendous scratching at the planks, like the dogs of Hell, and laughing and tittering, very high, and growling, very low. I cannot think what they must look like, but the sound was the sound of Satan and his vassals.”

I adored Nicholas’ first book in this series, Something Red, and I had every intention of reading book two, The Wicked. But as things sometimes go in blogland, my review pile was too much for me and I had to let some things slip through the cracks. The Wicked was one such book that I just couldn’t get to, but I was determined to read the third book in the series anyway, Throne of Darkness. And I needn’t have worried too much about skipping around. Throne of Darkness is a fully formed story, and even though the characters are the same in all three books, and there is an over-arching storyline, I quite easily slipped back into Douglas Nicholas’ world. Nicholas is a careful and detailed storyteller who does not always rely on violent action scenes and a frenetically-paced story to entertain his readers. Rather, he is more of what I would call a “quiet” writer, taking his time to describe the sights and smells of the world he has created and to carefully build up his characters, so that the reader finishes the story having gotten to know some precious friends whom they can’t wait to meet again.

He does this all in a lilting speech that recalls the medieval time period in which his story takes place, and so the reader is immersed in the music and language and dangers of the time. The year is 1215 and takes place in England, during the reign of King John Lackland. Molly and her traveling troupe of friends are on the run, mostly because Molly has “the touch” and can sense the intangible and cure illness with homemade potions, and because of her skills she is afraid of being branded a witch. She has trained her granddaughter Nemain (pronounced “Nevan”) in the craft, and together they can both heal, as well as kick some serious ass, since Molly has also taught Nemain to fight. With Molly’s lover Jack and Nemain’s husband Hob, the group keeps to themselves as much as possible, traveling from town to town and posing as musicians in order to earn their bread.

But something evil has come to England, and at the request of a priest named Monsignor da Panzano, they have been tasked with finding and killing a dangerous band of lupi mannari, or were-hyenas. In return, da Panzano vows to someday arrange for Molly to return to her home in Ireland. They agree to the perilous task and very soon locate an evil sorcerer named Yattuy, who has the power to control the hyenas. Now Molly must use all her skills and bravery in order to rid York of these evil creatures.

I love the characters in this series! Molly is an unusual protagonist, because she is middle-aged and has a grown granddaughter. But she’s extremely strong and in tune with the universe, and pulls off some unbelievably cool feats in this story. (I won’t tell you my favorite, because it comes at the end, and it’s how Molly ends up conquering the hyenas.) Nicholas adds a wonderful message of sisterhood to his books, since Molly and Nemain are connected to something in the universe that the men will never be part of. Most of Molly’s character development takes place in Something Red, so by this time the author assumes you’re familiar with her character. For that reason I do recommend reading Something Red first, although it definitely isn’t necessary in order to understand this story.

I also loved Hob and his relationship with the animals that travel with the group. Milo the ox is completely devoted to Hob and follows him everywhere, even saving him at one point in the story. They also have a jackass named Mavourneen an a horse named Tapaigh, and I so enjoyed the way they took time to care for and talk to their animals.

History fans will love all the detail that Nicholas adds to the story. I’ll admit I had to look up several unfamiliar words, like “caltrop,” which is a spiked metal ball that ruffians throw in the path of people they wish to rob or kill (horrible, right??). There was a lively section where Molly and the gang are hired as musicians to perform for King John, and those scenes had the feel of a Renaissance Faire to them that I thoroughly enjoyed.

But don’t let the quieter, innocent scenes fool you. There is an underlying terror to Throne of Darkness, and Nicholas doesn’t flinch from describing some horrifying moments between the ravenous hyena-men and their victims. I truly feared for the characters’ lives more than once, especially since I was so fond of them. A couple of things near the end—one of Molly’s visions, as well as a surprise announcement from Nemain—leave some dangling threads for Nicholas to pick up in the next book (and I did hear there will be a book #4).

History, horror, magic and even moments of tenderness, Throne of Darkness is chock full of good stuff. Highly recommended!

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

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