Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review: Deadline (Newsflesh Trilogy, #2) by Mira Grant

Have you read Feed by Mira Grant?  If not, then don't read this review 'cause there are some pretty big spoilers below and I'd hate to ruin it for you. In fact, if you haven't read Feed, go out and get a copy right now.  It's great.  Good world building, vivid characters, and an engrossing story. Total A read.
What are you waiting for?  Go!  Go!

So... I'm not a big fan of horror but I am a big fan of Seanan McGuire, aka Mira Grant, and Feed ending up being a super surprise.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and having to wait a whole year for Deadline, the second book in the trilogy, was excruciating.  I was giddy when I saw Grant would be signing copies at BEA and showed up an hour before the signing to make sure I nabbed a copy.  (Ok, Yes. I was asked to leave and come back closer to the appointed signing time but I was there.  I was there.)

Deadline picks up about two years after Feed.  Shaun Mason is now head of the news blog, After the End Times, as the previous editor, his sister George, was murdered.  George had been deliberately infected with Kellis-Amberlee, the virus that causes zombie-ism and Shaun was forced to shoot her dead.  Something like that takes a toll on a guy. Since then, Shawn has been going through the motions, marking time, and acting a little crazy.  He's bitter and angry and he spends most of his time talking to George. What makes this cuckoo bananas is that George talks back to him.  Wherever Shaun goes, no matter what he is doing, there is a constant dialogue in his head between the two.  It was heartbreaking to have George die at the end of Feed and I’m glad her presence is a part of Deadline – even if it is really just part of Shaun’s crazy. When a CDC researcher shows up at Shaun’s home in Oakland with news that George’s death may have been a smaller piece of a far greater conspiracy, Shaun is once again thrust into danger.  Forced to go on the run, Shaun and the After the End Times crew race to uncover the truth behind the Kellis-Amberlee virus and bring vengeance to those responsible for George’s untimely death.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Upcoming Books I'm Excited For

So, one of the benefits of attending BEA 2011 was learning about upcoming titles.  I picked up dozens of publisher catalogs and picked through them so you don't have to.  Here's a look at some of the books I can't wait to get my greedy hands on.

September 2011

The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.
True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

(I couldn't manage to snag a copy at BEA but I have heard fantastic things about this one.  Plus, a fun fact about me: I collect circus/sideshow/carnival books.  It's a small collection, made up books I have randomly discovered over the years, but it is one of my prize possessions.) 

One Salt Sea -Seanan McGuire 
October "Toby" Daye is settling into her new role as Countess of Goldengreen. She's actually dating again, and she's taken on Quentin as her squire.      
So, of course, it's time for things to take a turn for the worse. Someone has kidnapped the sons of the regent of the Undersea Duchy of Saltmist. To prevent a war between land and sea, Toby must find the missing boys and prove the Queen of the Mists was not behind their abduction. Toby's search will take her from the streets of San Francisco to the lands beneath the waves, and her deadline is firm: she must find the boys in three days' time, or all of the Mists will pay the price.      
But someone is determined to stop her-and whoever it is isn't playing by Oberon's Laws...        

(I am loving this series.  The previous book took things to a new level and I can't wait to see what happens next.)

Ganymede - Cherie Priest
The air pirate Andan Cly is going straight. Well, straighter. Although he’s happy to run alcohol guns wherever the money’s good, he doesn’t think the world needs more sap, or its increasingly ugly side-effects. But becoming legit is easier said than done, and Cly’s first legal gig—a supply run for the Seattle Underground—will be paid for by sap money.
New Orleans is not Cly’s first pick for a shopping run. He loved the Big Easy once, back when he also loved a beautiful mixed-race prostitute named Josephine Early—but that was a decade ago, and he hasn’t looked back since. Jo’s still thinking about him, though, or so he learns when he gets a telegram about a peculiar piloting job. It’s a chance to complete two lucrative jobs at once, one he can’t refuse. He sends his old paramour a note and heads for New Orleans, with no idea of what he’s in for—or what she wants him to fly.
But he won’t be flying. Not exactly. Hidden at the bottom of Lake Pontchartrain lurks an astonishing war machine, an immense submersible called the 
Ganymede. This prototype could end the war, if only anyone had the faintest idea of how to operate it…. If only they could sneak it past the Southern forces at the mouth of the Mississippi River… If only it hadn’t killed most of the men who’d ever set foot inside it.
But it’s those “if onlys” that will decide whether Cly and his crew will end up in the history books, or at the bottom of the ocean.

(Priest plans on doing a book tour for this one.  Check her website later in the summer to see if she'll be coming to a bookstore near you.)

Cold Fire - Kate Elliot
Cat and her cousin are key players in a drama of dragons and politics. Everyone wants something from them – including the warlord who’s conquering all Europa and the Cold Mages who dare defy him. But the Master of the Wild Hunt is most dangerous of all. He will command Cat’s loyalty using what she holds most dear.
In a world where science and magic are at war, one girl must save those she loves, or lose everything.

Spiders's Revenge (Elemental Assassin #5) - Jennifer Estep
Old habits die hard. And I plan on murdering some one before the night is through
Killing used to be my regular gig, after all. Gin Blanco, aka the Spider, assassin-for-hire. And I was very good at it. Now, I’m ready to make the one hit that truly matters: Mab Monroe, the dangerous Fire elemental who murdered my family when I was thirteen. 
Oh, I don’t think the mission will be easy, but turns out it’s a bit more problematic than expected. The bitch knows I’m coming for her. So now I’m up against the army of lethal bounty hunters she hired to track me down. She also put a price on my baby sister’s head. Keeping Bria safe is my first priority. Taking Mab out is a close second.
Good thing I’ve got my powerful Stone and Ice magic — and my irre sistible lover Owen Grayson — to watch my back. This battle has been years in the making, and there’s a chance I won’t survive. But if I’m going down, then Mab’s coming with matter what I have to do to make that happen.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Review: Graveminder by Melissa Marr

Graveminder, the next book to be reviewed for zombies month, turns out to not actually have zombies in it.  Or maybe it does.  I’m a little unclear on that.  See, the risen of this world are not referred to as zombies but as the Hungry Dead.  The Hungry Dead feast on the flesh and the blood of the living but unlike typical zombies, a bite will not infect the living.  It just really friggin hurts.  (Which totally makes sense since having parts of your flesh torn out is supposed to hurt.)  The more the Hungry Dead eat of the living, the more they come back to themselves – remembering who they were, where they are and how they came to be dead.  These are zombies who, when not dealing with their hunger, are able to think beyond "Brains!  Must eat brains!" and have complex thoughts.  So are they actually zombies?  The one time the subject comes up, the reader is told the Hungry Dead are not zombies, just “dead folk who crawl out of the graves.”  I’m not sure why this doesn’t make them zombies, especially since once out of the grave, these zombies want to snack on delicious, delicious humans.  They sure sound like zombies. 

Anyway, centuries ago, a gate between the living and the land of the dead was opened in the town of Claysville.   In order to stop the newly dead from returning, a bargain was struck between Mr. D, the ruler of the shadowy realm, and the town.  Two residents would work in tandem to keep the newly dead from returning.  The Graveminder tends to the dead providing food, drink and nourishment in order to keep them safely in the ground.  The Undertaker protects the Graveminder and opens the way to the land of the dead.  When the Hungry Dead return, it is up to the Undertaker to open the path so the Graveminder can escort the dead to their proper place.  The Graveminder has always been a Barrow woman, just as the role of the Undertaker has always been filled by one of the Montgomery men.   When Maylene Barrow, the current Graveminder, is murdered, Bek, her heir and granddaughter, must return to Claysville and assume the mantle.  Too bad no one has ever explained to Bek the town’s unique history or the role she is meant to assume.  Also kept in the dark is the future Undertaker, Byron Montgomery.  Together these two will have to figure out their new jobs, return the Hungry Dead to the shadowy realm, solve the mystery of Maylene’s death and work out their own troubled relationship.   

Friday, June 10, 2011

Link Love

First of all, in keeping with the zombie theme for this month, here's another article from a couple of years ago on 5 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Apocalypse Could Actually Happen.  I'm not too worried - as we've already learned, zombies have many issues that will keep them from succeeding.  We have bigger things to worry about.  Like the robot revolution.

Something I like to muse over - Should it matter when awful people create great art?  Should someone's personal life effect how their art is viewed?  In general, my answer is no. But in
reality, it is sometimes hard to not let bad behavior color how a piece of art is viewed.  That's why there are artists whose work I adore, yet I hope never to meet .  I don't want to know too much about them.  I don't want to see their feet of clay.  Over at Salon, Laura Miller has a piece on When Bad People Write Great Books and dealing with disappointment when you find out your favorite writer has personal flaws.    

Inspired by Miller's piece, Flavorwire came up with A Collection of Wonderful Books by Morally Questionable People. Make sure to click on the link on the Roald Dahl page to read a fascinating article on the shittiness of the author.

Juliet McKenna asks some thoughtful questions on why there are so few women who write science fiction and how things can be improved.  "This is the vicious circle women SF writers are faced with – publishing is about what sells and white men write SF that sells. So white male SF is published. So that’s what sells... It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy."   Women Being Published in SF - an issue for all genre readers

Wow, Danielle Steel is the 8th best selling author of all time.  She's sold over 800 million books.  With sales like that, naturally, she's on Forbes' 10 Most Powerful Women Authors.

Damien G. Walter sounds the cry for more critical reviews of genre fiction.  "And some of that crap is very popular. Some of the crappest books in genre are some of the most popular. They may well be fun crap, or effectively escapist crap, or crap branded with the latest sci-fi franchise, but they are still crap. Crap sells.
But if genre wants to gain the respect it deserves in the world at large, we need to get better at telling the world who our best and brightest are." 
I could not agree with this more.  Check out Genre Needs to Stop Applauding Crap  

Every year, I tell myself - Next year I'm going to Wiscon.  It sound too awesome, I can't miss another one.  Now in it's 35th year, Wiscon is the foremost feminist science fiction convention in the world, with a focus on feminist, gender, race and class issues within the genre.  It is always held on Memorial Day Weekend which is also the weekend of my dad's birthday.  So as much as I would love to attend, when it comes down to it, I can't miss my dad's big birthday BBQ.  At least I can read the blog reports from those who were present.  Here's a smattering of posts about Wiscon 35:
Black Souls in Shawl's Deep End
WisCon 2011: The Ongoing Conversation
The Self-Reflective Revolutionary
Sean's Wiscon Report
E-Publishing Wisdom from WisCon 35
Magical Realism & Diaspora Literature
WisCon Highlights and Observations Part 2

And Just For Fun:
Justin Somper's Top 10 Pirate Books
Wave At the Bus
"Domestic Superheroes"

Monday, June 6, 2011

Review: The First Days by Rhiannon Frater

The First Days will be released on July 5, 2011

So I joined Goodreads about a month ago and entered a bunch of contests.  Much to my surprise, I actually won a giveaway and received an ARC of Rhiannon Frater's The First Days from the publisher, Tor. The First Days originally began as a short story Frater published online.  The response was quite favorable and soon she began expanding the story, posting it online, chapter by chapter.  Because of the story’s popularity, Frater attempted to find a publisher for her story and when none materialized, she self published it in 2008.  It snowballed from there and in 2010 she received an offer from Tor to reissue the book as well as its two sequels

From the first page, the reader is plunged into a terrifying but riveting nightmare.  We meet battered wife and mother of two, Jenni, as she stands on her front porch, watching in stupefied horror as her youngest child squeezes his little baby fingers under the gap of the closed door, attempting to reach his mother.  The three year old (thanks to his no-goodnik father), is one of the newly dead, a zombie, and very, very hungry.   Waking up to find your zombie husband eating your child’s entrails is enough to freak the ever lovin’ shit out of anyone.  When said baby reanimates as a zombie and attempts to eat you, well it’s no wonder Jenni is near catatonic with shock. Fortunately for Jenni, zombies don’t know how to open doors.  
Unfortunately, they can smash windows and are not deterred by broken glass if it means chowing down on living flesh.  As her husband and older son break through the front window, Jenni is rescued by a woman with a shotgun and a pickup truck and together, the two flee the overrun suburb in search of safety.  The woman is Katie and together they head out into Texas hill country, stopping to rescue Jenni’s teenage stepson, who is off on a camping trip.  From there the trio continue on in a desperate attempt to find refuge from the zombie horde.  They find a semblance of safety in a small, isolated town with a group of fellow survivors who have had the presence of mind to fortify and secure the area from the encroaching throng of walking dead.  (Actually, these zombies are the fast moving kind so I guess they are more of the running dead.)  It’s not known what precipitated this world wide catastrophe but what is known is that things are only going to get worse.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Thought about Zombies

Earlier in the week, some very hot weather and some improperly refrigerated salsa led to my tummy and toilet getting together for a fiesta.  Consequently, I'm a little behind in posting my review of Rhiannon Frater's The First Days.  I should have it up by Monday at the latest.      
That hasn't stopped me from having zombies on the brain though, - I guess it's better than zombies eating my brain, am I right? - and I started thinking about how the greatest threat zombies must face are flies.  Specifically, egg laying flies.  Maggots eat dead flesh.  Zombies are dead flesh.  So it stands to reason that flies would view zombies as a walking buffet.
So I did a search on it and found this article from Cracked that came out awhile ago.  Looks like we don't have to fear zombies as much as we thought.
7 Scientific Reasons a Zombie Outbreak Would Fail

Friday, June 3, 2011

Link Love

ETA: I was asked to do a Q & A on being a book blogger over at The Book Base. You can see it here.  Take a look around.  It's part of a series so there are lots of other bloggers to discover.

Hey, according to the Wall Street Journal, fantasy and science fiction accounted for 10% of adult fiction sold last year.  Three hundred and fifty-eight fantasy novels hit the best seller list in 2010.  This has not gone unnoticed by the industry and more and more "literary" fiction authors are wading into the fantasy pool. You can read all about it at The Season of Supernatural.

io9 had a piece a few weeks back on Why do so many cyberpunk authors now write dark fantasy.  

Kim Harrison Says, 'Excuse Me, You Got Your Romance in My Urban Fantasy'.  I read a lot of urban fantasy but I haven't noticed "...that the kick-ass protagonists were melting into damsels more worried about getting their man than the big-bad-ugly..." Hmmm, maybe we're not reading the same books.  Most of the commenters agree with her but there are a few dissenters that make some good points.  Like this one from Jaye Wells:
The problem I have with claiming that romance is diluting UF is that you'd not see those claim if, say, books started containing what some feel is too much mystery or thriller elements, for example. For some reason, romance makes people edgy.
Personally, I like romance in my urban fantasy.  When it doesn't work for me it is usually because it was poorly written or the story was unbalanced.  Yet, it is the romance aspect that often takes the rap when instead it should be blamed on bad writing.  Romance gets no respect.  

I am easily distracted by the way women characters are costumed on television - and I don't mean in the wow-what-cute-shoes way.  I mean in the what-the-fuck-is-she-wearing way.  I am often befuddled to see female detectives rocking massive cleavage in tight, low-cut blouses while conducting interrogations.  Good cop/bad cop is effective. Good cop/naughty cop... not so much.  And CSIs in three inch heels? - this does not seem like a practical way to dress at a crime scene. Then there are the superheroes.  God bless, 'em but a lot of those ladies are expected to fight super villains while wearing little more than two bandaids and a thong.  So Noah Berlatsky's post, Wonder Playmate, about the changing erotic focus of Wonder Woman's costume was of great interest to me.  

I Just Wanted to Read Stories Where the Women Didn't Embarrass Me - Former Batgirl writer Barbara Randall Kesel is interviewed over at DC Women Kicking Ass.  I liked this bit:
"’s not just about having the women be good characters: it’s about ALL characters having personality and distinctive voices. I wasn’t just advising how to make the women better, but the men too. They can all be eye candy; they can all also be interesting on the inside. My point was that if the creators invested a little of themselves in their stories and maybe spent some time in the company of someone who was different, they’d make better comics."

Looking for books to fry your brain while you fry your body at the beach?  Wired has a list of 10 Books That Will Fry Your Mind This Summer.

Oh Ursula K. Le Guin, you are too fucking funny.  If I had heroes, you'd be on that list.  To Save Free Enterprise, Books Must Die.

This also cracked me up.  Vladimir Putin as a superhero?  And Dmitri Medvedev as his bear suit wearing sidekick?  Who thinks of this shit?  You know what.  I don't care.  I just want more.  Super Putin, the Vladimire Putin comic the world's been waiting for.    

Gail Carriger on the whimsical side of Steampunk, Bustlepunk, Mannerspunk, New Steampunk and Feminine Frivolity  

So Many Names Say the Same Thing - Paul Jessup on new ways of labeling the genre.

Cheryl Morgan on How Not to Write a Trans Character

SF Mistressworks Project is looking to create a resource for books authored by female SF writers.  They are looking for volunteer reviewers. (hat tip Cheryl Morgan)

It’s a problem.  Not because we view male and female, Caucasian and minority characters differently.  But because we have a hard time NOT seeing them differently.  A female or minority character automatically comes with more baggage, both good and bad.  And it’s that baggage that shows an innate flaw in the way we view stories.  A. Lee Martinez on Monsters, Women, and Other Strange Creatures

A few more BEA 2011 Links:
A Better Vibe at BEA 2011
BEA Numbers Are In
Deadbeat Dorchester at BEA

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Quick & Dirty Reviews, Dystopian Style

Apparently, the hot new sub-genre in YA fiction is dystopian. At least that's what I hearing around the internets.  From The Hunger Games to Feed, The Forest of Hands and Teeth to The Uglies and many, many, many more, dystopian is the new black paranormal.  Don’t believe me?  Author Julianna Baggott hit pay dirt with PURE, her dystopian trilogy, not only scoring a major publishing deal from Grand Central Publishing but selling the film rights to Fox 2000.   And check out What’s Behind the Boom in Dystopian Fiction for Young Readers that appeared in The New Yorker last summer.  If The New Yorker has noticed, why it must be true.  Below are a couple of reviews of some of the latest in YA dystopian fiction.