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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Humor Review: Straight Outta Fangton by C.T. Phippsaq

I find humor, more than any other genre, to be dangerously subjective. While fantasy, horror, and urban fantasy can afford to have hit-or-miss elements, humor tends to be all or nothing. Fortunately, C.T. Phipps already struck my funny bone with The Rules of Supervillainy, so I was more than willing to give Straight Outta Fangton a read.

Not only is it a funny book, but it's a creepy vampire story, a kick-ass action novel, and an intriguing urban fantasy at the same time. There's a lot going on here, Phipps keeps it all under control and ties it all together in an entirely satisfying read.

First, let's talk funny. The humor here is subtle and clever, more knowing nods and amused chuckles than laugh-out-loud slapstick, and it works. Most of that humor comes from the dialogue, but there's some genuine laughs in the narrative as well. Peter and David are at the heart of most of that humor, with their master-servant interplay as awkward as it is entertaining.

As for the vampires, these are your vintage bloodsuckers, scary and powerful, with dark legacies and internal politics. Most of the humor comes from their integration into society, with the youngest of the breed struggling to juggle day jobs with nocturnal hungers. There are so many pop culture nods, from Buffy to Necroscope, it's almost hard to keep up, but it adds an air of authenticity to the story.

The action novel and urban fantasy are tied together, especially with the epic battle that closes out the novel, pitting vampires against vampire hunters, religious fanatics, and other vampires. That's also where the world building comes in, explaining how and why the vampires came to own/control so much of the world, and exploring the racism, bigotry, and religious intolerance that comes along with the new world order. There are elements of terrorism and vigilantism here, all combining in a pay-off that delivers all on the promise.

Like I said, humor is subjective, and as a hardcore vampire fan, I tend to be rather unforgiving of books that betray the classic ideal for sexy and sparkly. Straight Outta Fangton was everything I could have asked for, a novel that delivers on its promises.

Kindle Edition, 201 pages
Published August 18th 2016 by Crossroad Press

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the author in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday - Sleeping Beauties by Stephen & Owen King

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen & Owen King
Expected publication: September 26, 2017 by Scribner

In this spectacular father/son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men?

In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place... The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied? Or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is a wildly provocative, gloriously absorbing father/son collaboration between Stephen King and Owen King


While I didn't care for how Chizmar wrapped up Gwendy's Button Box, I do think King's collaborations with Straub (The Talisman & Black House) are some of the best work he's done, so I'm really excited to see what he and Owen do here. Hopefully, the proverbial apple hasn't fallen far from the tree!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Dan Jolley talks Superheroes (and Supervillains) in Gray Widow's Web

Years ago, when I was still hip-deep in DC Comics (both reading them and writing for them), I was a guest at a sci-fi/fantasy convention and wound up on a panel about superheroes and the law. I don’t think I was very popular on that panel, because as much as I love superhero stories, I think there’s one thing about them that, if you apply any kind of logic, becomes inescapable: superheroes and the law mix about as well as a bucket of kerosene and a lit match.

Let’s take Batman for example. Now, I love me some Batman. Who doesn’t? He’s the Dark Knight, the Caped Crusader, etc. etc. He’s smart, he’s cool, he’s the pinnacle of what a human being can achieve, right? He’s also a vigilante, and in the eyes of the law, vigilantes are criminals. Pure and simple. There aren’t many Batman stories I don’t enjoy, but a sure-fire way to lose me is to get into the concept of Batman and/or Robin getting deputized by the Gotham City Police Department. That’s where my willing suspension of disbelief gets all unwilling-like.

(In fact, not only are almost all superheroes technically criminals, I would go so far as to say most of them are conservative criminals. One of the basic tenets of conservative philosophy is the desire to limit the power of government and put the destiny of the people in the people’s hands, yes? Superheroes, at their core, are making a statement: The government is inadequate to the task. Therefore, I will take the law into my own hands.)

But I digress.

During the aforementioned panel, I brought up the massive collateral damage caused by Superman or the Hulk or Iron Man when they’re fighting some insanely powerful villain. Sure, it’s cool when Superman picks up a car and uses it to swat some bad guy through a building. But if we’re talking about real life, there’s going to be some poor schmuck who runs out of his apartment and screams, “That was my car, you alien jerk!” I mean, seriously, that guy needed his car to get to his job. Is Superman going to come and take him to and from work every day? Is Superman going to cover his expenses now that he’s unemployed? Is the insurance company going to take every opportunity to deny his claim? (No, no, and yes.) Superman just destroyed that guy’s property and damaged his livelihood, but won’t be held even a little bit accountable.

In a different part of the discussion, someone else tried to make the point that, if superheroes existed, then it naturally follows that supervillains would exist as well. I further damaged my popularity, with the crowd in general and with that guy in particular, I think, when I said, “No, that doesn’t naturally follow, I wouldn’t say. If a superhero exists, and a supervillain then pops up, it’s because someone like me put that supervillain there.”

It’s all fiction. We just make it all up. The question becomes, how close to the real world do we want to make our fiction adhere? Are we writing stories in which Batman runs down a street carrying a big Snidely Whiplash-style bomb with a sparking fuse? Or stories in which the Punisher unloads an AK-47 at a group of bad guys, and a stray bullet punches through a wall and kills a four-year-old?

In the first book of the Gray Widow Trilogy, Gray Widow’s Walk, protagonist Janey Sinclair declares herself the protector of the city of Atlanta. A few years earlier, Janey mysteriously gained the power to teleport from one patch of darkness to another. She also developed the ability to see in total darkness, and her strength increased to roughly that of three very fit men. Janey eventually steals a suit of prototype military body armor, and decides to use her gifts to try to prevent other people from experiencing the heartbreak and trauma that she has.

That determination leads Janey to make a surprise visit to a television studio and record a statement, part of which goes like this:

“The general public has branded me a criminal. I can’t argue with that. What I’m doing is illegal. However—and I say this with the utmost respect for the law enforcement community—I don’t care. No one can stop me. No cell can hold me. Atlanta belongs to me, and I will see that it stays protected. … There is a new law in Atlanta. The Gray Widow’s Law. It’s easy to remember: do unto others as you would have them do unto you…or else.”

It’s a nice sentiment. Comforting, even, depending on your viewpoint of the world—the thought that someone is out there, lurking in the shadows, watching out for the little guy. Too bad it’s utterly, wholly incompatible with the law. Societies have laws—that’s just the long and the short of it. If we start ignoring the law, the civilization we’ve put together can’t hold and will eventually collapse.

So where does that leave Janey? Well, characters grow and change and learn new things (or at least they’re supposed to), and in Book 2, Gray Widow’s Web, Janey Sinclair learns in a hurry that the world she thought she knew is just one tiny part of a much, much, much larger whole. Janey is left with little choice but to amend the way she looks at everything around her. Especially when extraterrestrials who view humans as little more than raw material make their presence felt.

I hope you’ll join her, and see where she—and the rest of the human race—end up.

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About the Author

Dan Jolley started writing professionally at age nineteen. Beginning in comic books, he soon branched out into original novels, licensed-property novels, children’s books, and video games. His twenty-six-year career includes the YA sci-fi/espionage trilogy Alex Unlimited; the award-winning comic book mini-series Obergeist; the Eisner Award-nominated comic book mini-series JSA: The Liberty Files; and the Transformers video games War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron. Dan was co-writer of the world-wide-bestselling zombie/parkour game Dying Light, and is the author of the Middle Grade Urban Fantasy novel series Five Elements. Dan lives somewhere in the northwest Georgia foothills with his wife Tracy and a handful of largely inert cats.

Learn more about Dan by visiting his website, www.danjolley.com, and follow him on Twitter @_DanJolley.

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About the Book

JANEY SINCLAIR never knew how or why she gained her ability to teleport. She never wanted it, and for years tried her best to ignore it. But when horrible violence shattered her world, she vowed to use her mysterious talent to protect the citizens of Atlanta, in an effort to prevent anyone else from suffering the kind of agony she had. Wearing a suit of stolen military body armor, Janey became known to the public as the GRAY WIDOW.

But now the extraterrestrial source of her “Augmentation” is about to reveal itself, in an event that will profoundly impact Janey’s life and the lives of those closest to her—

TIM KAPOOR, who barely survived the assault of twisted, bloodthirsty shapeshifter Simon Grove and still struggles to pull himself together, both physically and mentally.

NATHAN PITTMAN, the teenager who got shot trying to imitate Janey’s vigilante tactics, and has since become obsessed with the Gray Widow.

SHA’DAE WILKERSON, Janey’s neighbor and newfound best friend, whose instant chemistry with Janey may have roots that neither of them fully understand.

And Janey’s going to need all the help she can get, because one of the other Augments has her sights set on the Gray Widow. The terrifying abomination known as APHRODITE LUPO is more powerful and lethal than anyone or anything Janey has ever faced. And Aphrodite is determined to recruit Janey to her twisted cause…or take her off the field for good.

Unrelenting ghosts of the past clash with the vicious threats of the future. Janey’s destiny bursts from the shadows into the light in GRAY WIDOW’S WEB, leaving the course of humanity itself forever changed.

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 Tour Schedule and Activities
7/19/17            Jordan Hirsch  Review
7/19/17            I Smell Sheep  Top Ten's List
7/20/17            SpecMusicMuse Author's Interview
7/21/17            Sapphyria's Book Reviews  Top Ten's List
7/22/17            http://bookishlyme.blogspot.com/  Review
7/22/17            The Seventh Star Blog   Author's Interview
7/22/17            StoreyBook Reviews   Guest Post
7/23/17            Sheila's Guests and Reviews  Guest Post
7/24/17            Infamous Scribbler   Author's Interview
7/25/17            Beauty in Ruins   Guest Post
7/26/17            Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Mystery and More!   Author Interview

7/26/17            Jeni's Bookshelf, Reviews, Swag, and More!  Review

Saturday, July 22, 2017

From the Shelf to the Page: This Week in the Ruins

Stacking The Shelves and Mailbox Monday are a pair of weekly memes that are about sharing the books that came your way over the past week, and which you've added to your shelves - whether they be physical or virtual, borrowed or bought, or for pleasure or review.



Just the one new title this week, but one I've been looking forward to - The Mongrel Mage by L. E. Modesitt Jr. 



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Weekly Recap

Fantasy Review: Scourge by Gail Z. Martin

Waiting on Wednesday - The Dragon Lords: False Idols by Jon Hollins

Coming up this week, a guest post from Dan Jolley, author of Grey Widow's Web.


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It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is another weekly meme, this time focused on what books are spending the most time in your hands and in your head, as opposed to what's been added to your shelf.

On the e-reader, I just starting Straight Outta Fangton by C.T. Phipps, and in hardcover, I'm deep into The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams.

   

What's topping your shelves this week?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Fantasy Review: Scourge by Gail Z. Martin

Few authors can pull off the delicate combination of horror and fantasy. It's something of an awkward dance of genres, even when you're stretching the definition of fantasy with something like the grimdark movement. When you're talking heroic/epic fantasy, it becomes even more of a challenge, and yet Gail Z. Martin has done it again.

Scourge: A Darkhurst Novel is a book that opens with the exorcism of a violent, vengeful spirit, and then immediately leaps into a lynch mob extermination of a nest of undead, fast zombie-like monsters. It is almost like an urban fantasy in epic fantasy clothing, with some contemporary influences (like Buffy & Supernatural) that I'm sure many readers will catch along the way, but regardless of genre, when your heroes are undertakers, you know you're in for an unusual read.

This has all the hallmarks of a Gail Z. Martin novel. First of all, you have strong, complex characters with personalities, involved in real, often messy relationships. The Valmonde brothers are at the heart of it all - with all the bickering, infighting, and brotherly camaraderie you'd expect - but they're surrounded by an equally strong cast of supporting characters, and one of the more entertaining villains you are likely to come across in Lord Mayor Machison.

Second, you have a full, deep mythology, complimented by some exemplary world-building. The supernatural here is only half the story, but it is a fantastic half that delivers on all the promise of ghosts, ghouls, monsters, and more. On the more mundane side, it has the familiar flavor of a medieval fantasy, but with a strong political aspect involving merchant princes and trade guilds of Ravenwood. There is a little bit of info dumping, but it is crucial to the plot, even if it does drag the story down a bit.

On that note, there are some pacing issues with the book that may bother some readers. While it has a frantic, kick-ass opening, there are some prolonged lulls in the middle of the book, and the conclusion feels rather sudden. Part of that is due to the narrow focus, keeping the three brothers at the heart of the action. While a few more POV characters may have helped with the pace, they would have felt out-of-place in a story that belongs to Corran, Rigan, and Kell. Really, so long as you remember that this is the opening chapter of a new series, the pacing (and info dumping) is completely understandable.

If you're okay with swapping dragons for monsters and armies for merchants, with a family of undertakers as your unorthodox heroes, Scourge is a fun read that does something unique within a crowded genre. Well worth a read.

Paperback, 400 pages
Published July 11, 2017 by Solaris

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. This does not in any way affect the honesty or sincerity of my review.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday - The Dragon Lords: False Idols by Jon Hollins

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, originally hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

The Dragon Lords: False Idols by Jon Hollins
Expected publication: August 29, 2017 by Orbit

Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Hobbit in this rollicking fantasy adventure series.

The Dragons who once ruled over the land are dead.

The motley crew that stumbled through that revolution are rich and praised as saviors.

Everyone gets to live happily ever after, right?

Right?

Well, it might have worked out that way if the dragons in Kondorra had been the only ones. If they hadn't been just the tip of the spear about to fall upon the whole world...


Okay, so I still need to catch up with The Dragon Lords: Fool's Gold, but the paperback is sitting here beside me, waiting patiently for its turn. How can you resist "Guardians of the Galaxy meets The Hobbit"?