Welcome to the latest edition of my Book Haul, where I feature and talk about the books added to my library in the last two weeks. Great deals on Black Friday have caused my leaning tower of books to grow a few more inches, as well fortune has smiled upon me in the last fortnight:
Red Rising – received an ARC of this book, which has been getting a lot of positive buzz lately. And no wonder. Reading this one now and thus far it is so so so so so good!
Season of the Witch – YA novel, first book I ever received from Random Buzzers’ program, which finally arrived after a couple months.
Shadow and Bone – I had a coupon from Black Friday, and using it on this book was a no brainer. I’ve been waiting to read it for so long, after seeing all the good reviews.
The Waking That Kills – another giveaway win, this time with thanks to Solaris Books. I look forward to reading this one when I’m in the mood for a good horror.
Shift – finally, big thanks to Angry Robot Books for putting our humble blog on the shortlist for their Team Robot Blogger Award! It was such an honor just to be nominated, and I definitely look forward to another great year of AR books. The blogs that were short-listed got to choose a prize of three books from across all their imprints, and so myself and my co-bloggers each chose one. My choice was Strange Chemistry’s Shift by Kim Curran.
The ebooks and audiobooks:
The Grim Company – at the end of last month I realized I was only one book short of qualifying for a promotion that Audible had in November. I ended up going with The Grim Company out of all the other choices on my wishlist, and having listened to this one already I don’t regret that decision at all.
Ship of Magic – falling prey to Black Friday deals again. Couldn’t resist $5 audiobook deals and snagged this one, since I’ve had a hankering to read Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders ever since reading about the liveships in the books of her Rain Wilds Chronicles. I know I’ve been sort of reading her Elderlings series out of order…
Magic to the Bone – same Black Friday deal as above, but recall how I recently read Devon Monk’s newest book Hell Bent and only realized after I started that it was a spinoff of an earlier series. Magic to the Bone is actually the first book, which I did say I was curious about checking out.
The Waking Dark – a YA horror novel that I picked up for a good price, again during the week of all the big sales. I’ve heard a lot about this one from Random Buzzers. It sounds terrifying, actually.
Daughters of the Nile – I have been waiting for this book for what feels like ages. This is the third and final book to an amazing trilogy about Princess Selene, daughter of Cleopatra and Mark Antony. If you’re into historical fiction with a touch of magic, this is a great series.
Mitosis – a short story set in the world of Steelheart. I loved that book, so it was a pleasure to pick this one up to enjoy while I wait for Firefight, not to mention Sanderson’s work is always top notch, even his shorts.
Publisher: Action Lab Comics
Audiobook Publisher: AudioComics
Publication Date: October 2013
Author Info: www.jamaligle.com
Molly Danger is the world’s oldest 10 year old – that is, she’s been fighting bad guys and Supermechs and protecting Coopersville since her ship crash landed on earth twenty years ago. She now works for D.A.R.T. (Danger Action Response Team) and loves her job and her fandom, but what she’d love even more is to have a normal life. Sure she wears pink and pigtails, but she’s no mere prancing princess. She’s a feisty superhero that any young boy or girl (or grown up) can love and my daughters are now big fans.
We first met Molly Danger on Free Comic Book Day, but recently had the pleasure of rereading the story, accompanied by the very fun audio narration. I’m a big fan of audiobooks, but I had wondered how well narration would work for a comic book. Molly Danger Episode 1 removed all my doubts with a full cast narration, complete with sound effects. My girls initially read along with the comic in hand, but soon enough, they were happily acting things out themselves.
Huge praise goes to Olivia DuFord, the voice of Molly herself. The other voice actors did their part, but as the main character telling her own story, DuFord’s crisp an snappy delivery lifts the Molly right off of the page.
Genre: Steampunk, Western
Series: Book 4 of Weird West Tales
Date of Publication: December 10, 2013
The Doctor and the Dinosaurs is my first venture into Mike Resnick’s Weird West Tales, and actually my first exposure to the author, period. Like many kids growing up, I went through a phase in my childhood where I was just nuts for dinosaurs. I suppose a part of that love has stayed with me all this time, because when I saw the cover and description for this one I just couldn’t resist.
Date of Publication: August 1, 2003
Coming on the heels of the first volume, Jack and Rose Red are serving community service for the stunt they pulled. Snow White takes her sister to The Farm, a place where fables who can’t blend with human society because of their looks are sent. Snow says the trip would give them some sister time to resolve their issues and that she thinks it’s important that Rose visit The Farm to see how others in their community live. Naturally, Rose is resistant to the idea. When they arrive at the farm, the sisters realize that things are a little off in the idyllic community, and soon find themselves embroiled in bitter politics.
In this volume, we see a naïve side to Snow. She believes that, because they try to make The Farm as comfortable as possible, there’s no reason for the fables that live there to be unhappy. She doesn’t look beyond the material assistance they provide the fables there. Therefore, she can’t see that some things aren’t made better by throwing money at it. There are things that are worth far more than things such as freedom, independence, and dignity. It frustrated me a little bit just how far the depth of her naïveté went. It took Snow an extremely long time to grasp that things were more than a little strange there. I could understand her not grasping what was happening at first, but as these troubling things continued to happen, she still didn’t get it. I just think Snow is smarter than that.
In a way, it’s a little ironic that Snow took Rose there in hopes of making her aware of this part of the community, but she is the one who leaves with a new awareness about The Farm and how the inhabitants feel about it. I hope that this aspect doesn’t just stop here because this adds an important struggle to their story. Every book doesn’t need to be about this, but this isn’t something that should promptly be forgotten. I think this will be something visited again in the future if I’m to judge by some of the panels.
This volume also adds another facet to Snow and Rose’s relationship. We learn a little more about how deeply these old hurts run. It was a relief to see that Charming wasn’t their main problem. I didn’t want this to be yet another story about women falling out because of a man. It’s too easy, so while Charming did play a part in their rift, the damage had been done long before him. (I will concede the main reason may be a bit cliché, as well, though.) Also, I appreciated that there’s acknowledgement that it’s going to take time for the two women to regain their former closeness instead of them hugging it out over ice cream in just one volume. I hope this relationship will truly be explored and restored over the course of the series.
I recently played the first episode of Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us (if you like interactive fiction type games, I highly recommend this and The Walking Dead Game by Telltale), which is based on these comics. I loved the direction the game took and decided to jump into the second volume of the series. However, I’m still not quite as taken with this series as I want to be. I think the idea of it and the characters are interesting, and I’m a big fan of imaginative retellings. But there’s something about the story that’s not quite engaging me as much as I feel it should. And I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. Hopefully, my feelings will change to be more positive as I continue to read the story. Wait, did I say that in my last review?
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Wendy’s Rating: 5 of 5 stars: Every time I thought I knew what was going on, Shusterman yanked the carpet out from under me so damn fast that it left my head spinning.
There are many stories about clones used for their body parts to save their original counterparts. We go along their horrendous journey with them as they learn the truth about their purpose and prove their humanity to the reader. Unwind twists all of that around by making the organ donors very human. Not grown in a vat. Not stored in a special facility. Real kids who live and breathe and grow up next door to you. All thanks to the Bill of Life that resulted from the pro-choice/pro-life war that tore the country apart. The Bill of Life tabled as a solution to the war permits the retroactive abortion of unwanted children between the age of 13 and 18. With revolutionary technology that allows their body parts to be used in all manner of ways, this is bill is hailed as a triumph and unwinding becomes the ideal solution for dealing with unwanted children and for saving lives. Win-win, right?
Unsurprisingly, few unwinds agree.
The moral of this story isn’t the answer to the pro-life/pro-choice debate. The overriding theme is organ donation. If more people donated their organs rather than letting the rot with their dead bodies, there would be no need for unwinds.
The unwinds tend to come in three forms: wards of the state, like Risa, for whom there just aren’t enough resources to take care of, delinquents, like Conner, whose parents willingly sign the unwind contract, and tithes, like Lev, who lovingly raise their tenth child as the the blessed ten percent that they will return to God.
As expected, these three are literally thrown together. Their lives become intertwined as they come to terms with their fate and try to survive. But after the soon-to-be legendary highway crash and hostage taking that results in their meet up and escape, nothing else goes as expected. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, Shusterman yanked the carpet out from under me so damn fast that it left my head spinning.
With two hours left on my audiobook, I met up with some friends and sang the praises of the book which had already leapt from four to five stars. One friend who had already read it in her book club warned me that I still had one very harrowing scene to go, which I ended up listening to on my drive back home. Um. Yeah. Bookflail happened as soon as I got off the road and Songza decided to play creepy tricks on me by offering the following themes for my listening pleasure:
This is a YA novel, but one I would recommend to any reader. I prefer my YA without obnoxious, petulent teenagers, and this one served me well. The three characters are still very much teens, making impetuous decisions and revealing their immaturity and emotions at times, but they are also intuitive and even wise. Shusterman presents teenagers respectfully, giving them credit for their status as young adults. Yes, they have their negatives, but they also have their positives, which for me, means the characters can be appreciated by both adults and teenagers alike.
Shusterman wastes nothing in this story and ensures that even the smallest detail will come back and haunt you later in the story. And I do mean haunt you. There are some really disturbing situations and concepts presented, such as the afterlife of an unwound child, the “storking” process and, of course, the unwinding itself, which my visual mind pictured in its chilling, clinical entirety.
“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that lets us feature upcoming releases that we can’t wait to get our hands on!
January 28, 2014 (Angry Robot)
It is the Black Dawn, a time of environmental apocalypse, the earth wracked and dying.
Meanwhile, the circus has come to town, but the Celtic dancers are taking their pagan act a little too seriously and the manager of the Olde Worlde Funfair has started talking to his vintage machines. And while the new acrobat is wowing the crowds, his frequent absences are causing tension among the performers.
Out in the city there are other new arrivals, immortals searching for an ancient power which has been unleashed, awakening something awful buried deep beneath the San Andreas fault… a primal evil which, if not stopped, will destroy the entire world.”
Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Series: Book 1 of the Hellbound Trilogy
Publisher: Rethink Press Limited
Date of Publication: November 28, 2010
Hellbound introduces us to Michael, one of Hell’s newest residents. Michael finds himself in the company of Asmodeus (also called Satan) without knowing or understanding how he got there. He doesn’t remember his life. He doesn’t remember his death. Michael’s story isn’t as simple as “Once upon a time, I woke up in Hell because I was very bad.” The readers aren’t treated to book that chronicles Michael’s downfall until he hits the point of irredeemable. Michael’s story begins in Hell.
Asmodeus, who is a glib devil always ready with a retort, ushers Michael around Hell introducing him to what his domain has to offer. This presentation of Satan as a charming deceiver isn’t a new one. He is supposed to be tempting and likable in order for people to trust him and do his bidding. I liked that Hawken explored this wittiness, though. He made Satan likable, even though you know something malicious is lurking there. Satan is equally forthright and vague. Yes, he’ll admit that he’s using Michael to his ends, but Satan twists his stories in his favor and omits what doesn’t suit his current purpose. Sometimes, it feels like it’s not so much of him twisting the truth than this is how he’s interprets the events. That whole two people getting two wildly different meanings from the same event, if you will.
Hawken’s concept of Hell is one that’s explored in universal reconciliation. Universal reconciliation asserts Hell isn’t a place for people to suffer endlessly, that all souls will be reconciled with God. Some souls may have to endure suffering in Hell for their sins for a while, but after the appropriate penance has been paid, they will enter Heaven. However, there is a major difference in Hawken’s version of this reconciliation. While universal reconciliation states that all souls will enter Heaven, in this book, that reconciliation is still a matter of free will.
Hawken’s paints Hell as a place that caters to any sinful desire you might have. There is some unbearable heat outside the buildings and there are a few souls burning in torment, but mostly it seems that vices are readily available for people to enjoy. From casinos to brothels, it’s a veritable playground for adults divvied up in districts according to sins. Why would anyone want to leave such a place? For all its amusements, this Hell is still a savage place where rules don’t apply and there is no real punishment for misdeeds committed against others in Hell. However, all Hell’s residents (unless exempted by Satan) suffer from “The Guilt.”
“The Guilt” is basically visions of things people did in their earthly life. Guilt is felt more acutely in Hell. The weight of it is absolute. It’s painful and heavy to endure. It tears away at the mind, and it happens often. “The Guilt” isn’t meant just to act as punishment, though. There is no rationalizing sin in Hell as often done in life, and this allows the condemned to scrutinize their actions without the pretense. Guilt is a powerful feeling, and one that is often overlooked when discussing powerful emotions. To quote Satan: “Don’t underestimate the power of a guilty mind.” Going back to this “choice” to leave Hell, these visions allow them to evaluate and decide for themselves if they’ll seek absolution or if they’ll continue to endure Hell.
As Asmodeus chauffeurs Michael around, Michael begins to remember important parts of his life through “The Guilt.” He remembers his past and all the ups and downs he faced as an orphan who became a bare-knuckle fighter. Most importantly, though, he remembers his love for his wife, Charlotte, and their horrible deaths. However, while Michael went to Hell, his wife’s soul is stuck in Limbo where it will stay until this wrong is corrected. Yeah, I know it sounds like I just described something that should be in The Crow, but I swear I’m not doing the story justice. This is the moment when Asmodeus strikes and his interest in Michael is revealed as he offers to direct Michael on the path that will correct that. Michael realizes Satan has much to gain from his success, but that’s a trifling matter when compared to what he hopes to achieve for Charlotte.
Honestly, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I started reading this book. I wasn’t even sure what to expect for nearly the first half of the book. I was soaking up the details of Hell during that time while being on guard for when Asmodeus would finally reveal what he wants. You don’t get a personal tour of your new home from Satan without there being some catch. Then, I learned how Michael died, which ended the first section of the book called “Damnation” and led into the second section titled “Revelation.” And it was quite the revelation. That was the “There it is!” moment when I knew that the rules of engagement were about to be spelled out, and what a fascinating, thought-provoking journey Michael took from that point.
This book had the power to make me laugh one moment and to be deeply contemplative the next. Michael was an interesting character who you can’t help rooting for in all his flawed glory, and his story–the person he was, the person he was becoming–really struck a chord in me. You could really feel the depth of the various emotions he displayed–the pain, the uncertainty, the anger, all of it. There were some little nitpicky things I had with the book, but they were mostly just some of my weird nitpicks and don’t really warrant spending time complaining about. I was much more fascinated with the theories Hawken set forward than the things I didn’t like.
Overall, this novel was an enjoyable blend of horror, theology, and philosophy with a twist of humor that dared to tackle ideas such as the Hell paradox and the idea of destiny existing in a nonlinear fashion. If you’re not a fan of stories that play with the idea of Divine Providence, stories that turn theological ideas inside out, this is likely not the story for you. Hawken presents some very fresh ideas in this story about God, Satan, and how everything fits together in this grand scheme. It also explored the depth of love and how sometimes you’re willing to do anything for those who matter the most. Look out for my review of book two I Am Satan soon!
What an exciting start to the week! Today I’m pleased to bring you an interview with E.L. Tettensor, whose new book Darkwalker was released last week. If you haven’t seen my 5 star review of it yet, be sure to check it out. The book is a fantastic mix of mystery and paranormal, and is the promising start to the new Nicolas Lenoir series. I simply loved it, and it was an honor and a pleasure to chat with the author!
Also, be sure to stick around at the end of the interview and enter our Darkwalker giveaway for your chance to win a print copy of this great debut. Good luck, and enjoy the interview!
Let’s get this party started!
E.L. Tettensor: Thanks for having me!
Mogsy: Before we begin, I think congrats are in order on the release of your novel Darkwalker, which is the first book of a new paranormal series. How would you describe the book to someone new to your work?
E.L. Tettensor: I sort of think of it as Sherlock Holmes meets X-Files, featuring the Crow. Arrogant detective, paranormal investigation, raven-haired spirit bent on revenge. It’s a very dark novel, to the point where I almost picture it all happening in black-and-white, like those movies where the cobblestones are always shining wet and there’s steam rising from the sewers.
Mogsy: That’s actually exactly how I saw the setting. But let’s talk about the main character for a bit. I have to say, Lenoir came off as such a grump and surly guy at the beginning, though I know now that it’s by design. I think I even wrote in my review that reading the first chapter made me want to punch him in the face! Was that the sort of reaction you were going for? What were the challenges to writing a character like him?
E.L. Tettensor: I think it’s a stretch to say that I was going for “punch him in the face”, but I was definitely conscious of the fact that I was writing an antihero, and not a very likable one at that. When we first meet Lenoir, he’s this cynical know-it-all who has really lost his way, personally and professionally, and he lashes out at everyone around him. At its heart, Darkwalker is really about Lenoir’s journey back to the light, but not everyone will want to take that journey. Some readers might not give Lenoir the chance to redeem himself. For those who do, I hope their faith is suitably rewarded. But it’s definitely a risk, especially for a debut novel.
Mogsy: I do tend to react strongly to main characters’ actions and personalities, but Lenoir definitely redeemed himself in my eyes. So what is it about detective stories that draw you in? Obviously, I’m a big fan of all types of speculative fiction but it’s always great when I see mystery thrown into the mix too, which is why I enjoyed this book so much. What were some things that inspired you or made you decide to write a series combining mystery with fantasy & paranormal?
E.L. Tettensor: To be honest, I didn’t consciously set out to write a mystery. The concept for the book started with the Darkwalker himself, with this idea of a vengeful spirit who hunts down those who have sinned against the dead. I toyed with a few different ideas about the types of people who might come into the Darkwalker’s crosshairs, and the notion of a corrupt homicide detective started to take root. Once you’ve decided on a detective for a protagonist, you’re pretty much locked into mystery mode, especially if you’re trying to create something deliciously creepy. As for the fantasy side of things, that was really about giving myself the flexibility to create, to tell the story I wanted to tell without being locked into any particular parameters. I really enjoy historical fantasy, but for this book, I wanted to colour a little farther outside the lines.
Mogsy: Reading Darkwalker also got me really curious: who is your favorite fictional detective, whether from a book, movie, TV show? Inquiring minds want to know!
E.L. Tettensor: You’re going to laugh, but I think the first detective I ever really fell for was Eddie Valiant (from Who Framed Roger Rabbit). Even as a kid, I was drawn to this broken-down, self-loathing character who was just going through the motions, waiting for someone to reignite that inner spark that once made him great. Later, I got into the source material for that – Philip Marlowe and Sam Spade and whatnot. But my heart still belongs to Eddie.
Mogsy: Haha, hey, Eddie has his charms! Anyway, one thing I loved about this book: the Adal. They play such a big role in this novel, and I am amazed at so many of the details – their magic, their history of being persecuted, their way of life, etc. Anyway, you’ve created a very rich history and culture for a society of people here, and I imagine you must have drawn inspiration from the real world when you wrote about them. Can you tell me more about that process of creating the Adali?
E.L. Tettensor: I definitely drew inspiration from the real world, including my own experiences. Adali culture borrows from a few different sources, but especially from the pastoralist societies of northeast Africa. In these cultures, cattle are the foundation of the economy – of everything, really – and that’s a way of life that has always fascinated me. It’s a fragile system in some ways, and when it bumps up against a fundamentally different way of life, as it does in Darkwalker, that can result in serious friction on both sides. The Adali also share features with cultures found elsewhere on the continent, especially when it comes to magic. People familiar with juju, vodun, or muti will recognize similarities with khekra (Adali magic).
So that’s where the bone structure of Adali culture comes from. Once I’d decided on that, the process of fleshing it out was really about imagining how a pastoralist culture with deep roots in the occult would interact with a European-style society on the cusp of industrialism. How they would adjust and adapt to survive, and the conflict that would create, both between societies, but also within them.
Mogsy: Another thing I loved (okay yeah, there are a lot of things I loved about this book) is the idea of the Darkwalker. It’s probably going to be tough to talk about this vengeful spirit without giving away too many spoilers, but I just have to ask! How did you come up with the concept of something that hunts those who have committed crimes against the dead?
E.L. Tettensor: The Darkwalker is sort of a mélange of two classic elements of paranormal literature: the vengeful ghost and the ancient curse. Like a ghost, he was once mortal, but is now damned to an eternity of restless wandering. And what drives him is not unlike the sort of curse triggered by disturbing a grave, or trespassing on an ancient temple. The Darkwalker is the embodiment of the curse, but instead of protecting a specific object or place, he’s the champion of the dead in general.
I think the most interesting thing about him is that he’s in some ways a tragic character. He’s essentially a slave, with no will of his own – at least none he can exert – condemned to an eternity of servitude as some sort of cosmic hitman. He actually reminds me a little of Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap: ripped from place to place, life to life, compelled by some unseen force. Except instead of righting wrongs, he’s, you know, flaying flesh.
Mogsy: I suppose another thing about Nicolas Lenoir that is by design is the mysterious nature of his past. You don’t go into a lot of detail about his history, though you do drop tidbits of delicious information along the way, leading readers to speculate about the kind of nightmares he must have seen in his past. Is that something you plan to explore further in future books of this series?
E.L. Tettensor: Darkwalker is in a lot of ways a story of redemption, but Lenoir still has a long way to go, and he’s always going to be haunted by his past. We’ll definitely learn more about him as the series progresses, but don’t expect it to happen all at once. Lenoir wants desperately to put the past behind him. The only way he’ll look it in the eye is if he’s forced to. Those moments won’t come along often, but when they do, they’re going to shake him up – and the reader too.
Mogsy: By the way, how do you feel about the cover? Personally, I really like it; well-dressed man with a cane practically screams detective, and the misty cobbled streets definitely set that dark, mysterious tone. It really caught my eye, and I was just wondering what you think about it.
E.L. Tettensor: I love it!
I was initially quite apprehensive about the cover. I’d been warned early on that it was the “least democratic part of the process”, and I tend to be really hard on covers (especially Spec Fic covers). So when I saw the artwork, I was thrilled. It was exactly how I’d imagined it, evoking just the right mood. I’ve had a lot of compliments on the cover – a lot – so I think they did a fantastic job.
Mogsy: So when a new author blows me away with their book, I always want to find out more about them. Who is E.L. Tettensor? What are your hobbies when you’re not writing? And what might be something readers will be surprised to learn about you?
E.L. Tettensor: Hobbies when I’m not writing?
I used to have hobbies. Really, I did. Like reading. And playing music, and painting. If I end up writing full-time one day, I’m sure there’ll be a tearful reunion with my guitar. Until then, it’s pretty much writing and work. I’m lucky, though – my day job is interesting and rewarding. I live and work in Africa (Burundi), in the development/humanitarian field, so that really takes up most of my time. Fortunately, it’s also great fodder for storytelling.
Mogsy: That’s pretty incredible, the place you live and the work you do. It’s great you are getting some time in for writing though. Is there anything you can tell us about the next Nicolas Lenoir book at this point? And are there any other projects on your plate currently or in the near future, either writing or non-writing related?
E.L. Tettensor: I’m just wrapping up the sequel to Darkwalker now. It was a lot of fun to write, because the characters are starting to wear in like a good baseball glove, including some minor characters from Darkwalker who take on much more important roles in the sequel. I can’t say much at this stage, except that there’s more of everything: the mystery, the occult, the world-building. That, and Lenoir has found his mojo. Good thing, too – he’s gonna need it.
Mogsy: Ooh, sounds great! Once again, I appreciate you stopping by the blog, I was very excited when I found out I would be getting the opportunity to find out more about you and your book. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions!
E.L. Tettensor: Anytime! It was a pleasure. And if you or your dear readers have any more, you can always drop me a line at http://www.eltettensor.com!
And now for the giveaway! Up for grabs is a print copy of Darkwalker and entering is easy! All you have to do is leave a comment below with which includes a way for me to get in touch with you (email, twitter, etc.) by midnight Eastern time on Monday December 16th. This giveaway is open to residents of US and Canada only. So what are you waiting for? Win a copy of this amazing book! Good luck!