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Yearly Archives: 2012

Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire

Verity Price is a Cryptozoologist, someone who studies Cryptids (the things that science has yet to put a finger on), who moonlights in her cover identity as a competitive dancer. Her family broke away from the Covenant, and organization bent on wiping out the cryptids, a few generations back and has been studying and protecting them as best they can. This caused a bit of a vicious blood feud between the Covenant and Price family. Hence Verity’s cover identity- it wouldn’t do for a Covenant member to pin down her location.

Except one has. There is a Covenant member in her city, and Cryptid girls going missing. They must be connected.

Right?

I opened this book knowing I adore the author, all of her incarnations- from her music to Mira Grant. So I knew I was going to at least enjoy the read. Reading it at the same time as my partner added another level of enjoyment. We weren’t directly competing for page count, but at I got to use the phrase “Have you gotten to the waheela yet?” and chortle uncontrollably at his blank stare.

So I opened the cover and settled down knowing I was going to like what I saw, and I was not disappointed. Very is a fun character- simple as that. There is a wonderful lack of angst and emo to this urban fantasy chick. She is more concerned with the ass kicking and dealing with the loyal Cryptid mouse cult that has infested her apartment.

The first InCryptid offering is not as deep as, say, the Toby Daye books or her work as Mira Grant, but sometimes I want nothing more than I book I can just simply like reading, cover to cover. It is an excellent world build with some fascinating characters and dialog only Seanan could pull off. I laughed, I guffawed, I snorted various beverages ingested at poorly thought out intervals. All in all, it was a splendid good time. I will merrily say I had a blast and wait for the next book.

Nnedi Okorafor

This is an unusual post, as it is not a proper review by any means. But, as I was lounging this evening with warm beverage and a copy of Who Fears Death, I was struck again by how simply special Ms. Okorafor’s writing is. There is something starkly beautiful about her prose, about the stories she weaves with it.  So many books promise a strange and wondrous locale, but few bring along with them characters that are so much a part of their environment. And that is part of the magic for me. I am sometimes thrown off by books that go to great lengths to describe some place new and strange, I get distracted.

With Ms. Okorafor’s work, the place and the people are woven so tightly together that one cannot pay attention to one without noticing the other. It is part of what keeps me so enthralled. The strange and fascinating are described in ways that are so down to earth and mundane, because the reader is getting it all from the characters. There is no being pulled from the prose. And everything is all the more captivating as a result.

And the characters are truly wonderful. There is a vibrancy to them that is a rare find. I could spend time with these people- share thoughts, ideas, stories. I would consider myself lucky to do so.

There are no promises that everything will be okay, no easy win or way out. But there is the assurance that this too can be overcome- grit your teeth, gather your resources, and carry on. I gather those reassuring whispers close to me long after I have closed the book and have started the process of muddling through the day to day business of being an adult.

Her writing  just strikes me as so very important. I want more people to read it, both the adult and the young adult, and all the short stories in between. There is something so very essential in there, and I applaud Ms. Okorafor for capturing something to tenuous and giving it shape.

Of Blood and Honey by Stina Leicht

Liam has a talent for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and in Ireland during the Troubles this can be a fatal affliction. Having done his time for crimes he did not commit, Liam is finally driven to taking a political stance by being unwilling to take anymore. He volunteers with the IRA to get a job to support his new wife and to gain some measure of control over his life.

But Liam has never met his birth father, and it seems the man left him more than anyone could have imagined. Something dark and violent lurks within Liam, something the IRA is happy to have, but something that no one, least of all Liam, is able to consistently control.

Of Blood and Honey is historical fiction at its finest, taking into account the rich myth of Ireland and weaving in just enough of that magic to turn the book to please fantasy fans. It is a painful, loving tribute to those who struggled through the worst part of the Troubles. It is a book about family, in all of its permutations.

Liam struggles through conflicts with his stepfather, his wife, the priest who has all but raised him, the family he finds in the other Volunteers, and learning the truth of his birth father and the lineage that was kept secret from him. It is often a violent book, set during a violent time, and the wonder is the little joys and loves the characters find along the way.

And in the background of it all, a secret Order of the Church is engaging in a war with the Fallen, which followed them to Ireland. But their world view does not allow for the acceptance of Ireland’s Fey creatures as entities apart from the Fallen of their religion, and Liam has been in  precarious position since the moment he was born, and has never been aware of it.

A Satan Carol by Alan Steven Kessler

Consider a Satan who is less of an incarnation of evil unto itself and more a  victim of his situation. Satan was the favored one until Jesus came along, and he has never gotten over the change in his circumstance. Like any child who has been neglected, Satan has taken to…acting out. He has fathered a child to act as his prophet, but his child has no soul and Satan must manipulate within the rules of free will to lure a precious Golden Soul to his son.

I am generally not a fan of overtly religious works, but there was something utterly fascinating about Kessler’s take on Satan. Absentmindedly cruel and vulgar, yes. But it was a far cry from indiscriminate evil. There was a motivation behind Satan’s actions, a need to be noticed and recognized and appreciated that made him a more palatable character.

There are a lot of characters to keep track of, but it is well worth the effort as Kessler deftly pulls them all together. There are no loose ends leaving a reader dissatisfied-instead I was inclined to raise a glass in appreciation as characters I had forgotten about, or had simply written off as a one-time mention, came back into play in well thought out ways.

Satan is the great manipulator of the book, acting behind the scenes to play human off of human so as to be still working within the rules of free will to get the results he wants. It turned the book into a well thought out, oft times horrifying, look at human nature and motivation. It is not always a comfortable book, but it is an honest one.

Auraria by Tim Westover

Holtzclaw is a respectable man, trying to conduct respectable business and purchase properties in the valley of Auraria for his employer Shadburn. He does not know what Shadburn want’s the land for, but he has seen the man’s magic touch when it comes to turning purchases into profit. Unfortunately, Auraria is not a laid back lady ready to give up her land and citizens easily. It is an unruly valley, filled with fish that can be fished out of thick mist instead of water, moon maidens, ghosts, an ethereal princess, and gold. The entire valley is haunted by gold, the potential for the next big strike. Holtzclaw will need every trick in his book to convince landowners to sell, all the while trying to decide whether to hold onto what he knows is real and sane or to fall into the wonder that is Auraria.

Auraria is a bit of historical whimsy, facts folded so neatly into folklore that it is impossible to pry one from the other. I loved the almost off hand manner in which elements of the fantastic were described to the reader- they were presented as a fact of life for Auraria, nothing remarkable. And as a reader, that air became infectious. Even as Holtzclaw became accepting of ghosts and moderately sentient fruit, the reader is drawn along with him into the brilliant madness that is Auraria. It is a wonderful meld of history with folk culture, ghost stories, and tales told grandparent to grandchild on cold nights before a warm fire.

The story itself is a thoughtful move through conflicts of mundane and mystical, of belief and what drives us to do the things we do on a daily basis. It is about loyalty and love and the roots we have to our hometowns. For the historically minded, it is an original look at the tourism industry that drove resorts to pop up across the country like weeds. I spent much of my childhood in the Adirondacks, where my family has it’s roots, so reading Auraria was almost like visiting old neighbors. We didn’t have the drive for gold, but we had some of the same quirky characters and were in an area obsessed with attracting tourists.

Whether your are a fantasy reader, a fan of historical fiction, or just looking for something new and brilliantly unique to read, give Auraria a shot.

Auraria will be out in July from Q & W Publishers. You can sample the first chapter here.

 

Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood wants to grow old drinking tea in his beloved city of Dhamsawaat. Unfortunately God has other ideas. For Adoulla is a ghul hunter, a servant of God against the Traitorous Angel, and something dark and dangerous is stalking Dhamsawaat. Accompanied by Raseed, a holy Dervish, and Zamia, a Badawi tribeswoman who has been gifted with the ability to take a lions shape, Adoulla will struggle through the rebellion and death that threaten his home.

I am exceedingly fond of Ahmed’s narrative style. The book flows like the best of the old tales, accessible and entertaining with a honed edge of danger that kept me turning pages. It stands out from much of the other fantasy I have read recently, it’s people and setting forming something atypical of the genre and it’s carriage a good part Arabian Nights.

Adoulla is a wonderful character- fond of luxury, sharp of tongue, and willing to do everything in his power to keep his people safe. Even Raseed, a rather pious and stilted fellow to begin with, flows and evolves with the story, growing on the reader. Zamia was the hardest for me to grow attached to- a bit too stubborn and set in what felt almost like an archetype of a girl as opposed to a living breathing entity, but that let up as I read on and she grew with the story.

Fast paced with scathing wit and monstrous danger, Throne of the Crescent Moon is a wonderful book, and I look forward to more by the author.

What Sweet Music They Make by Nerine Dorman

Terisa is a talented musician with the misfortune of having walked in on her boyfriend and best friend enjoying each other behind her back. She also has the misfortune of attracting the attention of some powerful vampire Lords due to her talent, a spark of potential that hovers around her.

Severin is ordered to play an engagement party by the vampire to whom he owes fealty, and in the process cunning manipulated into Terisa’s path. Their mutual enthrallment is immediate and inescapable, and Severin has to decide whether to abide by vampire politics or his own heart.

‘What Sweet Music They Make’ is a vampire story, but above and beyond that it is a praise of music. It revels in the way music can make your blood pump, your feet dance, and your spirit sing. Ms. Dorman’s appreciation for music shines through her writing, weaves through every scene. This is not another vampire novel riddled with the familiar tropes. It is an enthusiastic expedition into the lives and emotions of two individuals who cross paths and find themselves changed by the experience.

Ms. Dorman’s vampires are sleek and dangerous, a wonderful juxtaposition between human and predator and everything I could want from a vampire. ‘What Sweet Music They Make’ was a phenomenal read- I will definitely be seeking out more from this author.

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

“My name is Sunny Nwazue and I confuse people (Akata Witch, pg 3).”

Sunny is a young girl who is a kaleidoscopic of impression and definition. She was born in America, though the rest of her family was born in Nigeria, where they relocated back to when she was nine. She has African features covered with an albino’s complexion. She loves soccer, but can only play at night with her brothers, her skin far too sensitive for the sun and other boys her age would not let her join in regardless.

Sunny sees the end of the world in a candle flame one evening, and soon her life is changing. She finds out she is a Leopard Person, a person gifted with abilities and part of an ancient society as a result. Soon she is living two lives, one of a normal girl her age with normal schooling and another involving learning the juju and culture of the Leopard People.  In the background, a deadly killer stalks the bush, and it will be up to Sunny and her Leopard friends to stop him.

I was excited to read Akata Witch. A fantasy novel so rich with African culture is a rare treat and I loved every page. I read so much fantasy, most of it taken from European roots, Akata Witch serves to refresh the genre, adding something brilliantly unique to the mix. There are familiar themes of being the odd man out but they are taken in a brilliant new context- an albino in Africa, an American in Africa, a Leopard among Lambs. If you like your fantasy rich with culture, bright and alive within its setting, Akata Witch is not a book to miss.

Beyond that, the characters were endearing in their humanity. Never infallible, not always likable, but always human. Even with a juju knife in hand or calling their spirit face forward, each character sparkled with humanity. These are people I would like to meet, to chat with, to learn from.

Akata Witch, simply put, is a beautiful book and not to be missed. Young or old, this book has something for you.

The Freedom Maze by Delia Sherman

Sophie is a young girl who can do nothing to fill the shoes her mother has set out for her. Not that the shoes are a particularly good fit, but Sophie bows her head and takes her mother’s sharp comments in silence. When her mother has to move for schooling and work, Sophie spends a summer with her aunt and grandmother on what is left of the familial plantation in Louisiana. There she meets a mysterious, magical entity that sends her back in time. But Sophie quickly learns that adventure isn’t as grand as books generally make it seem, and that family has as much to do with emotion and experience as blood.

The Freedom Maze is an absolutely stunning book. I was honestly unable to pull myself away, needing to know how Sophie would survive her unexpected change in circumstance. Ms. Sherman obviously put an immense amount of time and love into researching for her story- the setting is heavy with life, the characters all effortlessly settle into a seamless whole. Unlike many books that deal with the issue of slavery in the South, The Freedom Maze is less concerned with the slavery itself, focusing instead on the people slavery made- how each side of the equation reacted and acted within the circumstance of their birth and skin color. Sophie is a unique entity, a young girl who when thrown into the past is mistaken for a mixed blood accident of an influential white male and a slave woman, not entirely because of her skin but because of her demeanor. She is so used to deferring to her mother it is impossible for her to pass as a young lady of proper birth in the past she finds herself in.

The book is about watching Sophie grow aware of, and grow out of, her self-imposed slavery. It is a beautiful book, and one everyone would benefit from reading.

Guest Post- Nerine Dorman

With her new book, What Sweet Music They Make,  coming out from Lyrical Press January 23rd, I invited Nerine to introduce herself and her work.

“The Children of the Night…

One of the most common questions an author is asked is “Where did the idea for this novel come from?” I don’t think I can give a definite answer for What Sweet Music They Make. All I can say is that the story is inextricably bound with my love for music, my stomping ground—Cape Town—and vampires. Of course the title is a conscious nod to the vampire genre, for those in the know, and a bit tongue in cheek, really.

One of the reasons why I wrote What Sweet Music They Make is because I’m tired of reading stories about the high-powered individuals so popular in urban fantasy and paranormal romance nowadays. I continued with what I started in The Namaqualand Book of the Dead, and found characters who were ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances; pawns in others’ games.

Most of my stories take place in Cape Town. It’s a location that will be exotic to most of my foreign readers, but with enough touchstones of the familiar, while for my local readers, they get the thrill of seeing the Mother City through a different lens. I guess it helps that I regularly do travel writing for a newspaper publisher, so I’m glad to generate that sense of excitement to visit new places. My overactive imagination has always wanted to put forward a home town where vampires wander. And trust me, they don’t sparkle. Some of them are hundreds of years old, and are rather devious non-humans. There’s no sucking on blood bags or hunting animals. They might appear civilised on the surface, but they’re still monsters, and have no qualms about killing.

The protagonists in What Sweet Music They Make are Severin and Tersia. Severin is the epitome of new romantic turned vampire, during the early 1980s. A big David Bowie and Bauhaus fan, he has had his prodigious musical talent smothered over the years that he has been in service to his highly arrogant sire. He is little more than a skivvy in vampiric terms but has no idea how to break those bonds.

Tersia, on the other hand, is still mortal, but she has an otherness about her and her musical talent that the elder vampires of the city are keen to exploit. Up until the point where she meets Severin, her life has been rather disappointing, with a bad relationship and a dissatisfying job teaching music at a school. Her only joy thus far has been playing fiddle in an Irish band.

I’ve always had a great love for Irish music. One of my friends used to play fiddle in an Irish band here in Cape Town, and she started teaching my husband to play. We’d regularly go out to the restaurants where they played on Thursdays, and it was amazing seeing how they really livened up the guests. There’s something wild and magical about Irish folk, and the way it always makes one forget about the cares of the world. Also, a recent trip to Ireland definitely whet my appetite.

All in all, What Sweet Music They Make is a way for me to share my love of some of my favourite things with my readers. The story is somewhat bittersweet in places—definitely not your standard paranormal romance—and fits within a larger setting that overlaps with some of my other published works. I always love leaving little Easter eggs for those who’re familiar with my work, and this story is no exception, even though it stands on its own.

Feel free to step into my world. It’s magical. There’s some humour to counterbalance the seriousness, and you’ll meet some fascinating people.”

Nerine is kind enough to offer a copy of  What Sweet Music They Make to a lucky reader. As it is a book about music, comment and let me know what song highlights a landmark moment in your life and how do you feel when you hear it now? Winner will be chosen from the comments- be creative in your responses!

For me, its ‘Lea Halalela’, sung by Khululiwe Sithole/’Shadowland’ (Lion King Musical). We performed this at my high school graduation. It was just…so different than any other choral performance I had been a part of, and it mean’t so much. To all of us. It still makes me smile like a madman and gives me goosebumps when I hear it/sing along now, years and years later.

Useful links:

What Sweet Music They Make in a variety of non-DRM formats: http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=484

Nerine’s other titles at Lyrical Press: http://www.lyricalpress.com/store/index.php?main_page=authors&authors_id=107

Writing erotica as Therése von Willegen: http://www.bookstrand.com/therese-von-willegen

Blood and Fire, A recent collaboration with Carrie Clevenger: http://www.amazon.com/Blood-and-Fire-ebook/dp/B006SD3F2S/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1326463325&sr=1-1

Follow Nerine on Twitter @nerinedorman

Like Nerine’s Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nerine-Dorman-author/173330419365374