Tuesday, January 27, 2009

“The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick” by Bruce Hennigan

Title:The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick”
Author: Bruce Hennigan
Series: Steel Chronicles, Book 2
Pages: 320 pages
Publisher: Synergy Books

After defeating the thirteenth demon, Jonathan Steel and Josh Knight return to Dallas, Texas, to finish up Josh's family affairs. When they arrive, a mysterious assassin named Raven surfaces from Steel's murky, dangerous past. At the same time, Rudolph Wulf, the twelfth demon, has arrived from Romania with plans to fulfill a two-thousand-year-old promise to unleash an army of demonic creatures--creatures that will inhabit the bodies of his "vampyre" army. When Wulf kidnaps Josh, Steel must find them in time to save Josh from a violent death and to prevent Wulf from unleashing "vampyre majick" on the world.

Classification & Literary Class:
“The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick” is actually the second book in the Steel Chronicles with its predecessor being “The 13th Demon” and is labeled as urban fantasy for Christians. Usually I don’t go and review novels that are not the starter for a series, but in this case I was drawn in by the title. It is fair to say that the novel can be read as a standalone, since most of the highlights of the first have been included.

I tried to enjoy the novel. It has a hero with anger issues and amnesia, the group of weird misfits and then we have demons. I got my rocks off, so to say, a couple of times, but overall “The 12th Demon: Vampyre Majick” fails to deliver any real thrills. As much as I hate saying it, publishing books to make a living out of it is a business as much as it is an art form to write anything at all, so one must aim to polish his/hers project to perfection. I didn’t find this strive towards perfection, since prose and small details disturbed my focus.

For me there were passages that could have delivered more of an adrenaline rush, if they were to the point as for instance with the initial start. The hook so to say was irrelevant to the story and I could have been satisfied with a scene forward. The writing itself was okay, but dabbled in with some clichés and unnecessary adjectives such as “deadly sharpness” to characterize an assassin’s dagger. Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t like the modernized businessman villain using words such as “infernal” to curse the heroes. And yet last but not least, in the passages that deal with events happening 600 years B.C, I think ought to be authentic and expressions such as “around the clock” or adjectives such as “smug” didn’t exist. I think this is my nit-pickiest review yet, but as insignificant as these elements are, they sucked the joy out of reading it.

Characters & Depth: Character wise I think Hennigan tried a different road for the urban fantasy genre, which is always refreshing. I do like my super powerful babes, but diversity is always welcome in the form of more testosterone induced cast. Jonathan Steel is a rogue demon hunter and a former assassin with amnesia and a loose temper. A great character to explore for a long series and his actions speak are tied to his brash personality and short fuse. So far so good, but I am not exactly satisfied how his temper and amnesia have been handled. For one thing I think anger in that regard has been the most repeated word and does a very vague job, since a person with loose tempers usually have different degrees of anger and that should be shown. Just adding anger everywhere makes it seem that Steel is a Hulk undercover. And well amnesia is a complex illness to begin with and so far in the novel it’s not cleared to what degree the amnesia is to have these vital memories pop up at the most convenient of times. At any rate, the soul searching and interest in one’s own identity are just tapped and unfinished.

I can ramble on and on about every other character too, but as a unified opinion I would have to say that Hennigan has made interesting choices, but hasn’t found the formula for my entertainment to unlock the full potential of his characters. What bothered me most was how easily anyone could switch. You can be corrupted as easily as you can be condemned and all it takes is one act of goodness or a luring lie of evil. A particular example is Nosmo King [No Smoking and I think it’s cool], who from chef to cop to preacher has turned into a drug dealer to supply his wife with crack and after Steel feeds him a meal and shows him the Bible and speaks of goodness, the guy turns into a templar. The real world doesn’t work that way as much as I would like. The evil or the flawed won’t become Samaritans because they had a onetime freebie of kindness and vice versa you can’t corrupt a person with one promise of something alluring and sinful.

Worldbuilding & Believability:
Now this is the part I have to complement Hennigan about. I have a knack for polar opposites and the idea that Lucifer did a demented version of Christ’s twelve Apostles had me bouncing up and down. As the novel states after the epilogue, the guy has done his research on vampire societies in America, something I am not knowledgeable about, and on vampire lore himself, so his vampires might be something entirely different from most urban fantasy titles, but different cultures have different vampires. I respect the new look on the topic. From start to finish the darker part of the cast has been handled near perfection with the massive plan to create a demon army, claim territories and back stab each other. Then again I usually go with the enemies of the heroes, so go villains.

Now believability is another issue sadly and I do mean it overall. Comics, movies, TV series and novels of course have handled the story ‘defender of the law is submerged in paranormal world’ and we all know how cops, judges, detectives and so on react to the heroes explanations right. Here Hennigan just leaves these officials keep their mouth shut for pages as Steel and his crew talk about taking down demons without any sharp reaction apart from the usual comments “You are nuts” or “I don’t want any more of this demon crap”. This is convenient, yes, but not realistic.

The Verdict:
It was a rocky ride with this one. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. What I do believe is that Hennigan has a good basis for a series. It’s slightly more different than what we see on the market and I support diversity. The truth in my case is that the novel should have gone through more revisions, because it wasn’t the story itself that didn’t work for me, but the representation.

Monday, January 26, 2009

“The Deadline Dames” : Urban Fantasy Overload!

Each year brings us the promise of something new, incredible, wonderful, spectacular or simply optimistic. For every person there is a different adjective, but I ask. How do you classify the gathering of NINE urban fantasy authors together on one blog? I can see shrieking fans in ecstasy and grandeur unlike any other. Note that I didn’t choose this art randomly. It represents what happened when “The Deadline Dames” launched.

The “Deadline Dames” and like their smoldering heroines, these femme fatales in the hottest new genre to be at to kick ass. And they do. It has been a week since the official launch of the site and you can see incredible and ranging number of comments, swelling at each post in the range from 3 to about 200. Cosmic numbers for any blogger and quite the launch. But shall we cover why “The Deadline Dames” have achieved such success.

We have the founding holy trinity plus one in urban fantasy and namely Jenna Black, Keri Arthur, Lilith Saintcrow and Jackie Kessler. Then we move on to Rachel Vincent, my personal queen of shapeshifter novels; Toni Andrews and Devon Monk, whose debut has been released last year. Last but not least we have Karen Mahoney and Rinda Elliott, both amazing people as well as writers and by both being represented by Miriam Kriss, success is inavoidable. I like to call them Generation Next in the urban fantasy scene. For me this grouping in experience is going to add some diversity and unexpected dynamics in the blog.

Second, and I think as equally important to the fans, “The Deadline Dames” are generous party girls and in order to celebrate their smooth start, for two weeks they are giving fantastic prizes as well as their insight on a matter of topics: deadlines being on top of their priority right.

I also would like to speak a few words about the site itself. Stylish and fashioned with the trademarks of urban fantasy such as dark colors, knives, guns, tattoos and the necessary femme fatales, “The Deadline Dames” is easy on the eye in more than one way. We have a rotating schedule for weekly posting and several pages for the visitor to explore. All in all, as a reader and writer in the genre, I have to say pretty darn good.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

“The Third Dead Body” by Nina Kiriki Hoffman

Author: Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Title: “The Third Dead Body”
Anthology: "The Living Dead" [Title Post]
Position: 6
Length: 16 pages

Author Info: Nina Kiriki Hoffman is the author of several novels, including the Bram Stoker Award-winning The Thread That Binds the Bones, A Fistful of Sky, A Stir of Bones, Spirits That Walk in Shadow, and Catalyst, which was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award. Her short fiction has appeared in such magazines as Weird Tales, Realms of Fantasy, and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and in numerous anthologies, such as Firebirds, The Coyote Road, and Redshift. Her work has been nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the Nebula Award four times each.

Sheila wakes up one night, naked and numb, in a rural spot outside Seattle only to discover that she is a bit dead. She sets out to find Richie, the one to end her life, but not because of revenge, but curse laid by her grandmother demands Sheila to love the one thing that hurts her most. Along the way she hikes a ride from Marti, traveling to see her daughter’s show. As soon as Marti of Sheila’s predicament, a fact that has her running through the forest initially; she takes the dead girl’s problems to heart and tries to resolve them. An interesting ending enfolds.

Favorite Snip:
Her eyes were wide, her broad face pale under her tan.
“You need help,” she said.
“Hospital? Police?”
“Seattle,” I said.
“Medical attention!”
“Won’t help me now.” I shrugged.
“You could get infections, die from septicemia or something. I have a first aid kit in the car. At least let me—”
“What would help me,” I said, “is a mirror.”

“The Living Dead” as an anthology so far has covered violent deaths, bloodbaths and the perversions of the human mind. Everything has been wrapped up metaphorically in a bow and aims to present a very unpleasant mirror and reflection of our own spirit. Despite the fact that “The Third Dead Body” deals with a different predator, the serial killer, the feature that sets the story apart from all the rest is its sense of humor.

Hoffman does the impossible for me, raises a victim from the grave and through life’s irony to lace her journey with some pretty good jokes. First of all it is striking how the living undead are portrayed more like a conscious fabrication of Southern magic with the terminology and such as for instance the mentioning of goofer dust, which is the dirt surrounding a dead corpse, rumored to have some kind of power. And again out of context for zombies Sheila is incredibly normal and rational for a zombie. The situations she falls in while trying to deal with her new life after death involve some funny moments and throughout the most part, it’s still light hearted.

But as the poet has said “Many a true word is spoken in jest” and that is the general rule, which Hoffman uses to try and scratch the surface of a killer’s psyche and the trauma of a victim. As I view it this is the best approach for such a topic, since among from the interesting and outlandish reincarnation of the zombie in this piece and the jokes, the reader can catch a whiff off something deeper.

The human being is amazing in his complexity and identifies himself in various ways. One can use different roles in society and in life. Another through the periods in life and Hoffman chooses names. Sheila is an intertwined trinity of what she had been, was not so long ago and never had the chance to be. Mary Jefferson was the girl, which suffered after speaking for herself and Tawanda Foote was the woman, who had to work on the streets without any real power in her life, whilst Sheila is the strong woman, she always wanted to be. As the story progresses the reader sees the struggles and debates Sheila goes through to battle the curse, which is branded in hers and possibly in the heart of every victim’s heart, and break the psyche of being a victim and then go against her aggressor.

As a conclusion I do have to say that this is very well executed and entertaining to no end with an interesting moral as much as people don’t like taking advices.

Star Wars Retold? 03:43 Minutes of Laughs

I wanted to post this in a while to be honest. I don't regard myself as a great fan of the Star Wars movie saga, but I have watched all the episodes just so that I can be a part of popular culture and see what the hype is all about. You can say that I gew up with the re-runs of the oldest trilogy and I have a nice idea what goes on. But well I guess that other people don't. Cheack out the 3 minute special "Star Wars Retold":

Friday, January 23, 2009

Oh no, I am tagged...

These things happen too often these days. Kimberley at "Darque Reviews" has decided to play tag and I proved to be the hapless victim in her little game in the shadows. I have no choice, but to play.

So these are the Blog set of rules:
1. Be civilized enough to mention the person, who tagged you.
2. Write down six things that make you happy.
3. Post the rules.
4. Tag six others and let them know you did it.
5. Then tell the person when your entry is complete.

Now as far as I am concerned this will definitely eat my time a lot in the long run, e-mailing seven people. Can you believe it? Anyways on with the six things.

Six things that make me happy:

1. The color green. I am obsessed with it and if Blogger had one good enough, I would have named my blog Forest Library Reviews and stuck with ivy green scenery.
2. Music. It's probably the sole art form that can keep me sane through the working week.
3. I hope nobody takes this as a lame attempt to get sympathy votes, but I do get very happy, when I know I have made my little sister laugh or smile or just feel okay.
4. The essential dose of culture really: art, literature, a great movie, dancing. I don't necessarily participate, but interaction with any art form makes me smile.
5. The people I have had the great fortune to be surrounded with. The number isn't spectacular, but those that I have are all I need.
6. Chocolate... Ah, well gluttony or no, I have to admit it's the best culinary invention in the world.

Six bloggers that I’m choosing to tag:
1. Meredith at Meredith Wood
2. Leisa at Fandoria
3. Chandra Rooney at Good Karma Reviews
4. Marcia at Marcia Collette
5. Kristopher at Kristopher Reisz
6. Mihai at Dark Wolf's Fantasy Reviews

"Vicky Christina Barcelona"

Title: “Vicky Christina Barcelona
Running time: 96 minutes
Genre: comedy, drama
Rated: PG-13
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Rebecca Hall, Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Chris Messina, Patricia Clarkson, Kevin Dunn
Director: Woody Allen

Woody Allen always manages to stir some kind of a commotion, whether it is about his work or personal life. Everything he does seems something quite out of the ordinary. I am not fully acquainted with his work, but I do know that he likes neurotic and quirky. His newest “Vicky Christina Barcelona” introduces love to new geometrical figures in quite an amusing way.

Vicky [Rebecca Hall] and Christina [Scarlet Johansson] decide to spend a magical summer in Barcelona. Even though both women agree on most things in life, when it comes to love they are complete opposites as stated by the narrator, Allen himself. Vicky has the dictionary definition of love written down and will soon marry her best choice to spend her life with. Christina on the other hand is clueless about her perfect relationship, but knows what she doesn’t want. One Juan Antonio [Javier Bardem] and a weekend in Oviedo later Vicky is unsure about her choices in love and life, while Christina engages in a peculiar relationship with Juan Antonio and his ex-wife Maria Elena [Penelope Cruz]. By the end of the summer Vicky and Christina return to the USA with some interesting experience, but initially where they began.

Genre wise “Vicky Christina Barcelona” is a love comedy ah-la Wooden Allan and yet an interesting survey of the human heart. The most distinguishable quality “Vicky Christina Barcelona” has is the narration. On one hand it kind of takes away the element of surprise, sharing what comes up and goes wrong and it also grinds everything seen into a consumable summary for the viewers, but on the other hand it’s quirky and humorous, it lightens up the mood and creates this small fairy tale atmosphere. The humor itself is intellectual without relying on music cues, bland physical comedy or the usual predictable acts. What the movie relies on is the actor’s performance in terms of body language and dialogue.

What however hooked me were the unconventional heart conditions. I mean in real life we never really know what we want, because the heart rarely stays at one place for too long. All great tragedies in life and on the screen possibly involve a love triangle and the possibility to love and adore more than one person. I like how different shades of love the hearts needs to sustain itself and in order for its bearer to prosper, as shown by Javier Bardem. Love is like alchemy and you need more ingredients to achieve its purest form. But who is able to find the real recipe and expose love’s true nature.

If you look closely at the characters, you will see that the great discovery of love lies within the artists. Bardem and Cruz are artists, while Johansson is a novice photographer. All free spirits, all emotional in different ways than the ordinary people with their planning and daily routines. Without any attempt to sound like an expert on the topic, I think what Allen is trying to point is that love is not a planned and practical commodity that once met a certain set of standards can make you happy for the rest of your life. That’s just not how it rolls.

As a conclusion, from start to finish “Vicky Christina Barcelona” is an enchanting movie with class performance. Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are chameleons and that is all that needs to be said. Rebecca Hall was a joy to watch fidget and stammer around, when things took interesting turns. And well Johansson is a different story for me personally, but nevertheless contributed her share to the movie as well. I definitely recommend this flick to anyone, who enjoys the genre.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

“Blossom” by David J. Schow

Author: David J. Schow
Title: “Blossom”
Anthology: "The Living Dead" [Title Post]
Position: 5
Length: 6 pages

Author Info: David J. Schow is a bit of a legend in zombie circles. He’s the author of the notorious story “Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy,” as well as several others, which have been collected in Zombie Jam. He’s also the author of the novels The Kill Riff, The Shaft, Bullets of Rain, and Rock Breaks Scissors Cut. His most recent novel is Gun Work, a hard-boiled crime novel due out in November. Schow co-wrote (with John Shirley) the screenplay for The Crow, and has written teleplays for TV shows such as Showtime’s Masters of Horror. As for non-fiction, Schow has authored The Outer Limits: The Official Companion, and a collection of essays called Wild Hairs.

Summary: One dinner date, two opinions. For the rich and older Quinn this is another triumph in seduction, while for the gold digger Amelia this is an enterprise. However one leather mask provided by Quinn and a serious respiration problem, Amelia dies only to come around a bit less dead and a bit hungrier. After a quick human snack and a room full of flowers, we find Amelia in search for more like her kind.

Favorite Snip: "...Her savaged dress dropped away. Swaying side-to-side she found her way into the room where they had dined when they were alive. Sparks of remembered behavior capered through her dead brain matter, evaporating for the last time. She began eating the flowers in their vases, in no hurry to begin her nightwalk. The flowers were alive, but dying every moment. Their life might become hers. When she stopped, all the bouquets had been stripped..."

Analysis: It’s always the shortest stories that give you the hardest time when it comes to understanding them. They drift through like a sweet fragrance carried by the wind, give you an experience and then leave you clueless to their true nature. I can say the same about “Blossom”, which at six pages and a bloody ending remains an enigma.

If I am to quote the author on the story, then “Blossom” is to address the notion of what it was like in the big cities two nights before the spread of the zombie virus made survival he overriding issue. However the highly elevated and slick prose doesn’t exactly go hand in hand with the idea of simplicity. The male protagonist Quinn keeps talking about moments in our life, when we shine and moments, in which we stray from the dogmas of society. For me the story states that perhaps our most brilliant moment in life happens when we relish in our hidden secret, the thing we find forbidden, but feel so good at. When that period passes we seize to shine and passed the moment of revealing our full potential so to say. In “Blossom” the end comes with death and whatever Amelia could have been through manipulating men is now passed.

Even now I still think that there is something there that I can’t pinpoint exactly, a small grain of truth that remains hidden. And this air of mystery I find especially charming about story mixed with the bloody imagery the story provides and the intellectual undertone. As far as zombie stories go this one is definitely out of the box.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Title: “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”
Running time: 166 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Jarred Harris, Tilda Swinton, Taraji P. Henson
Director: David Fincher

I have a confession to make and I think that it shows so far, when it had come to movies. I am a total and utter sucker for dramas, heavy serious movies that have one goal only to make you feel like at a funeral, sophisticated studies on life or tear jerking love sagas that kind of go Shakespeare on the viewer. And Christmas has been quite generous with such productions, mainly for the Oscar awards and Golden Globes, as Theresa pointed out, but it’s like heaven for me, so I can’t complain, just wished that the reasons behind such films were nobler and seeking enlightenment.

“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” is based on a short story written by Francis Scott Fitzgerald, who sadly I seem to mistake for a woman due to that traitorous first name. That aside the story behind the movie revolves around Benjamin Button, who has been unfortunate enough be born as a 86 year-old baby. As the years go by he grows backwards, an idea that can easily cross the genre lines and be a subject of contemporary paranormal stories. During his life he faces the same problems as any human being such as finding love, sorting out his heritage, participating in World War ІІ and building a family, until he dies in his infancy.

The general concept won me over instantly. I prefer everything to be out-of-the-box and as twisted and incomprehensible as it can be. When it comes to art I want the “Now I have seen everything” effect and even if the cast and special effects for 200 million weren’t present I think I would have liked the movie. As far as the movie itself, I think I have never been affected by a motion picture before, the way “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” did, subconsciously and with the after taste that there is more to the story.

Ever viewer, from their own standpoint in life, can find something unique and universally valid about life that they can cherish as a secret between them and the movie. I got three universal truths from how I view the world. One way or the other you can’t escape death, because it’s the one constant thing in our lives. Whether you count up or down you will reach a moment, where no more time will be available to you. Getting younger and wiser at the same time won’t make anything easier. Take a note, shameless plastic youth fanatics. There is a time for everything. And lastly life knows how to complicate things no matter what life situation or strategy you choose, there always will be problems you will have to deal with and that if you are determined enough you can overcome them.

But yeah, the analytical yadda yadda aside, the sheer entertainment value “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” has is spectacular. Brad Pitt has never been one of my favorite actors despite making block buster after block buster, but the cinematographic and make-up induced journey through time from an almost unrecognizable elderly grandpa to the fit young man from the “Thelma and Louise” days. I think they did a good pick, since his voice has a very soothing air around it suitable for being a narrator and portray calm innocence slash wisdom. But Brad Pitt is not the only one to praise. As far as partnering goes Cate Blanchett did a formidable job as Daisy Fuller and is yet to disprove my opinion that she is one heck of a chameleon. Even Tilda Swinton made an impression on me for her half an hour presence in the movie.

Since “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” unravels as two parallel story arc, I am obliged to mention the one developing in the current time line. We have a dying Daisy Fuller introducing her daughter Carolina (Julia Ormond) to her true father Pitt via his own journal. I know that this technique can be somewhat irritating, but given the situation I think it’s the best solution to have a daughter learn and understand the truth behind her real father.

As conclusion this couch potato has been satisfied and urges fellow couch potatoes to watch and judge for themselves.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Six Shooter Interview with Chandra Rooney

January 13 marked the release date of one of the more interesting titles for 2009. “The Tarot Cafe” published by TokyoPop is paranormal romance from a totally new dimension. Inspired by the Korean style of comic books called the manhwa, not to be mistaken with manga, and based on a successful and translated into English seven volume series, carrying the same title, Chandra Rooney presents her take on Park Sang-sun’s story and characters.

About the Author: “Chandra Rooney can’t remember exactly when she got her first Tarot deck, but she can remember she wrote her first short story in grade five. In the years since, she’s graduated from high school, been an English teacher in Japan, studied both fine arts and design, and worked as a freelance graphic designer in Los Angeles. Presently, she’s probably writing. When she has her cards read, she likes to use the Queen of Wands as her signifier.”
About “The Tarot Café: Wild Hunt”:
Based on the best-selling manga!...Bryn McCallister's fiance, Jack, has gone missing. She has the nagging suspicion that something terrible--and otherworldly--has happened to him, a feeling that only increases when she has vivid visions of Jack being chased by a vicious hunter intent on owning Jack's soul. Always one to consult psychics, Bryn finds herself at The Tarot Cafe seeking a way to aid Jack in his spiritual struggle. But when she discovers what has happened to him, Bryn finds herself with an impossible choice between a life without love or an eternity of pain by her soul mate's side.

Harry: So Chandra, January 13, will mark debut in the writing. The synopsis above shows only as much for people who are already acquainted with the manga “The Tarot Cafe”. Can you add a bit more about the world and your own story?

Chandra: The Tarot Café is a seven volume dark paranormal romance manhwa (Korean comic) by Sang Sun Park. Pamela, a Scottish woman cursed with immortality, uses her psychic abilities to aid her customers. During the day, she helps humans. At night, she greets her Midnight Visitors—all sorts of paranormals who need her guidance. Each story unfolds along the frame of the Tarot card reading. Park does a fantastic job of weaving western fairy tales and mythology with her own take on dragons and devils to create a multilayered dark fantasy world. As the series unfolds, we learn more of Pamela and her tragic past… including how she became immortal and the bargain she’s made to end that immortality.

With the novel, we’re adding a fresh story to the collection. Bryn is a contemporary Londoner poised on stardom, but her happy moment is ruined by the disappearance of her fiancé. Through circumstance, or Fate if you like, she finds her way to Pamela. Pamela and Bryn have a lot in common, emotionally, and Bryn’s reading dredges up some of the nasty bits of Pamela’s past. By drawing events from the comic and blending them with this new vignette, I think we’ve managed to create something that rewards the fans of the comic without alienating new readers.

H: As a debut author, I can imagine that you feel pretty stressed and/or excited at the upcoming release date. What are your expectations at just one step before crossing the line and do you think it will be a debut to be reckoned with?

C: Mostly, I’m relieved. Which is not to say that I’m any less stressed and excited than any other debut author, but I’m just grateful to know the book has made it. TOKYOPOP has been on a bit of roller coaster this past year and I really want this book to do well for them and Park. We’ve all worked so hard on it, and it’s gratifying to be able to see that work pay off.

Now, that it’s available the true anticipation begins as we wait for the fandom’s response.

H: How did you strike a deal to do a sort of collaboration with the original manhwa creator Sang Sun Park? As far as I understand you are bringing new characters and situations in her world and the light novel itself features illustration by Sang. Can you reveal more behind working with the artist?

C: TOKYOPOP already owned the rights to produce The Tarot Café comics in English. From what I understand, Park was approached about the possibility of a prose tie-in series. She agreed, so they sought to hire a writer for the project. After that is when I was contacted by Jenna Winterberg, the Senior Prose Editor, who had found my blog. She asked if I was interested in working with TOKYOPOP, and if I had any writing samples she could look at. When she was confident that the samples displayed the narrative voice and style that would fit the project, TOKYOPOP made an offer.

As for bringing in new characters… when we discussed the concept for the novel, Jenna and I agreed that we did not want to do an adaptation of an existing story. We wanted to create a new story that could serve as a welcome to the world for readers who were unfamiliar with the comic.

Park’s involvement was to approve the outline and sample chapter of the novel and to create ten original illustrations to accompany the prose. All of my dealings with her were on a removed scale—our correspondence went through my editor, translators and Park’s representative.

H: As far as genres go I understand that this is a light novel, which is a special Japanese format, but on the other hand it has fit American genre standards. Is it safe to say that this is going to be Japanese approach to fantasy translated into current urban fantasy?

C: “Japanese” only in how the time I’ve lived and spent in Japan, added to my exposure of Japanese story-telling, has influenced the way I approach fantasy. Which is probably a great deal more than I realize.

One of the things that I admire about Park’s series is that it is so accessible to a Western reader. This a woman who knows her English folklore and fairy tales and has mastered the art of reworking them.

However, I wouldn’t say The Wild Hunt is an urban fantasy. I would classify it as a dark paranormal romance, because the relationships in the novel are what drive the plot. The spooky hunters and immortality and devils are background elements to the emotions of the characters.

H: Can you share a bit about the process of writing the novel? Which was the hardest moment for you to write and cope and where do you feel exceptionally proud of?

C: This was the first time I’d worked with a professional editor from concept to completion, so I wasn’t used to having the feedback or the collaboration that Jenna provided me. Through working with her, I came to understand how you need the right editor because she has an incredible influence on the quality of the final product. Jenna is perfect for this project.

The hardest moment in the process of writing The Wild Hunt was coming to terms with the fact that what I was writing didn’t belong to me. I was an invited guest in another author’s world. If I was writing Bryn’s story as a standalone young adult novel, it would have been different from what it is. Not “better” or “worse,” mind you, just different. Ergo, the flipside of the coin is when I realized this and ego ceased to matter. I could concentrate on just creating the best addition to Park world. Being able to remove myself from the writing and see it objectively doesn’t just benefit this work-for-hire project, it means I’ll be able to do that when comes time to work with an editor on my own manuscripts.

Proudest moment so far—aside from completing the contract—was finding the Sequential Tart review. It’s an incredible thing to see a fan of the source material respond so positively to what you’ve helped produce.

H: And as a finally, is “The Tarot Cafe” going to be the first novel within a series or is it a stand alone? What are your future plans? I mean you have agent Miriam behind your back. You can’t go wrong.

C: At this time, I’m unable to confirm either my involvement or any sort of release schedule for the rest of the volumes. However, I would suspect that so long as The Wild Hunt is well-received, TOKYOPOP will go ahead with their plans for a series.

Miriam sent my adult novel, THE TALE OF ARIAKE, out on submission a few months ago. We’re waiting to hear back from several houses, and it’s all very exciting. That’s the first of a proposed three book adult contemporary fantasy series that adapts Japanese fox lore and Western fae in a North American setting. Much like The Wild Hunt, it involved a great deal of research and care to get the details right and the setting realistic. I should imagine within a few months I’ll be starting to write the second book, THE BELOVED OF INARI.

I’m also working on a far-future young adult urban fantasy series. It’s something that’s captured me completely, and I’m so excited to be writing it. The influences are largely the manic tone and adventurous plots of the new Doctor Who series with various reoccurring fantasy and technological elements of anime and manga. Mirim and I have revised the first manuscript, FRAGMENTS, and I’m finishing the second, SHARDS.

Despite the common association most paranormal romances evoke in reader’s minds, this one promises to be something different and by the sound of it Chandra Rooney is a brand new name that in time will could be to look for eagerly. Be sure to check her blogs: Dreaming in Red and Good Karma Reviews. For those, who are really excited, you can order from AMAZON.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Premio Dardos

I usually get these things done late, but what the hey, it counts that I get around to doing them. First stop is the very first award “Temple Library reviews” gets [as far as I know of] and hopefully not the last. The kind and generous behind this act of coolness is none other than Mihai, my neighbor by countries, who runs the famous to all “Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews”. So with that covered I send in my eternal gratitude, since I like posting about these events in the blogosphere.

So on to the award itself. The award "Dardos" appreciates the merits - culturally, literary and individually- of every blogger who expresses him/herself on his/her blog. Yes, that is definitely me in there, so it was logical I got this sooner or later. Now let’s move to the conditions to keep this award on your site and then give some.

1. be tickled pink ;) [I actually went with green, but it’s a check in the box]
2. copy and paste the award picture to your blog [Done that]
3. write down the regulations [In the Middle of It]
4. link the blog who bestowed you the Award [Okay, done with that one too!]
5. and finally nominate 15 blogs for the Award [Blah, here comes the hard part]

I think my head exploded, but here my nominees for best Blog Action…, oops wrong awards. Note that these numbers do not mean anything, god knows how hard it is to pick up the first top 15 blogs you love. I am leaving Mihai out of the mix, because it would be rather stupid to make him post the whole thing again.

1. Fantasy Book Critic
2. Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin’ Blog
3. Urban Fantasy Land
4. The Bookswede
5. Initial Draft
6. Dolce Bellezza
7. Marcia Collette
8. Karen Mahoney
9. In Spring it is The Dawn
10. Darque Reviews
11. Confessions of a Book Whore
12. Meredith Wood
13. Fandoria
14. The Eyeball Afterlife
15. Stainless Steel Droppings

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"The Unholy Domain" by Dan Ronco

Title: "The Unholy Domain"
Author: Dan Ronco
Series: Brown Trilogy, Book Two
Pages: 352
Publisher: Kunati Inc.

Author Information: “I was sitting in my office at Microsoft, frustrated by a couple of emerging problems: the increasing number of virus attacks on my client’s systems and the ongoing litigation with the DOJ. The more I thought about these problems, the more frustrated I became. I was General Manager for consulting in the East Coast, having joined Microsoft after years of leading information technology consulting practices for other hi-tech firms. Suddenly the obvious solution hit me – get out of this business and write a novel.”

Set in the year 2022, Ronco's techno-thriller continues the premise established in his first book, PeaceMaker. In 2012, the PeaceMaker virus, supposedly designed by madman software expert Ray Brown, shut down the Internet, resulting in worldwide devastation. Since this cataclysm, the government has curtailed new technology. Those who would see the government limitations overturned are known as Technos; opposing them is a group of dangerous religious extremists, the Church of Natural Humans. Several events have brought these two warring factions head-to-head: the creators of illegal technology, the Domain, has decided to take over the government, and Ray Brown's son, David, has undertaken an investigation in an attempt to clear his father's name.

Classification & Literary Class: Labeled as sci-fi thriller “Unholy Domain” throws David Brown in the middle of a power struggle between two dangerous forces in the future world. Expectancy level is high, you expect a fast paced chilling race for survival and uncovering the biggest conspiracy of the modern world, which has marked you as the son of the worst man alive. However the drum roll should be changed to a funeral march, since it failed to deliver what the premise promised.

Dan Ronco presents his story as a paper version of a Blockbuster thriller movie with all the secondary characters, playing a role that ties them to a bigger picture. I understand the motivation behind that decision, but does it help the novel overall to be the fast paced gripping work. No it doesn’t. sure having every other person be either connected with the bad guys or hiding information to stay alive has a certain charm as to show that nothing in this life can remain unconnected to a bigger picture. But it didn’t work for me.

For one thing “Unholy Domain” has strong coming-of-age elements. David Brown sets in the big bad world to become in his own right and simply has to grow up from his leisurely life as a sheltered rich man. To fully witness such a metamorphosis the tools used are not proper. Another problem that takes away what “Unholy Domain” could have been is the prose itself. Although technically correct, Ronco’s style is nothing spectacular. In a thriller words have to have a special sort of power, to skirmish your nerves and excite you. Good prose is the back bone for stories that are supposed to have you in their grip as a reader and here the prose is easily forgettable, ordinary and offers no imagery or lines that can brand themselves in your memory. The natural highs and lows in terms of suspense are missing and for me as an individual read like a straight line from point A to point B.

Characters & Depth: Partly because the focus of the novel moved too frequently for my taste from head to head and the issue with the prose, the cast remained rather one dimensional for me. Sure, the idea behind each character sounds promising the delivery is nowhere to be found this leaving these characters with labels. I admit characters can be tricky. They have to sound and be three dimensional, real, living and extraordinary individuals. They have to grow and above all their feelings have to become our own. Having a larger cast makes this even harder to achieve and I can’t really blame Ronco for not succeeding.

For starters, the lead male, David Brown’s life, journey and metamorphosis should have been the biggest tear jerker in the whole book. He is a young man, who bears the sins of his father, can’t get rid of his presence and is hollow on the inside and wants inner peace. These personal issues alone or in a random combination exist in people and many, if not all readers should be able to relate to him. I certainly hope that they do relate, but I couldn’t, because David wasn’t present enough for me. I couldn’t trace his change and growth through the story and was left unsatisfied. This was the situation with the rest of the characters as well.

Nevertheless the lead antagonist Dianne Morgan became a personal favorite. Perhaps I have a thing for an always plotting resident bitches with no moral codex, but the cold constructed plans. My reason to like her as a character is that Dianne is the main mechanism behind the story. In geek terms she is the game master at a D&D gaming session and is motivated to whack everyone off the table. Such consistency and the ability to remain one step ahead of everyone else is quite interesting, plus she is also conflicted on her past and is shown as a more shades in grey villain.

Worldbuilding & Believability:
I liked “Unholy Domain” because it’s set not so far in the future and paints a pretty sinister outcome from our strive to evolve with technology. The world is already walking a very thin line after the industrial revolution and one small step astray can lead to poverty, black markets, armed resistance to the changes in government that aim to secure the reigning class and the rise of fanatics.

The more sci-fi elements such as the rise of sophisticated androids, chips that allow an imitation of telepathy and all the other small details also enrich the dark world with the posing threat of submitting entirely to technology. As a response to this drastic trend, the need of faith and restoring the past comes in the face of the Church of Natural Humans, which counteracts the Technos [as the technology developers are called]. We a modern witch hunt with explosives and laser guns, which even though is not my taste, I respect as an accomplishment. People in masses, stripped from any hope can be easily swayed into a sect and give their lives for the causes of one sole man. It’s disturbing and brought to the extreme.

The Verdict:
Truth be told, I am happy that Dan Ronco has been received positively around the virtual reality. It is a great thing that people find professional realization with a novel idea. For me “Unholy Domain” wasn’t an experience anywhere close to what reviews on the web are saying, more like a bore. Nevertheless the novel makes you think about certain topics that may become a reality quite soon and ask yourself the important questions about technology and how far should be let it in our lives.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

“Ghost Dance” by Sherman Alexie

Author: Sherman Alexie
Title: “Ghost Dance”
Anthology: "The Living Dead" [Title Post]
Position: 4
Length: 10 pages

Author Info: Sherman Alexie is the author of many books, including The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which won the National Book Award and made several best of the year lists, including being named a New York Times notable book. Other books include Flight, Ten Little Indians, Indian Killer, and Reservation Blues. A collection of interconnected stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, served as the basis for a screenplay called Smoke Signals, which was made into a film in 1998. Alexie’s short work has appeared in a number of anthologies, including Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and O. Henry Prize Stories. In addition to being an accomplished author and screenwriter, Alexie is also world-renowned for his poetry, for which he was awarded an NEA Fellowship.

Summary: Two cops in Montana drive during a hot summer night up to Little Big Horn. Their cargo in the trunk is two Native Americans, which the cops intend to kill. The reason is simple: vendetta for the slaughtering of the 7th Cavalry. However the malign act mutates into a full sized horror show, when awakened by the Indian blood the two hundred and fifty six buried soldiers dig out of their graves and start feasting on human flesh. At the same time FBI agent Edgar Smith dreams the death of the 7th Cavalry leader George Armstrong Custer and as he studies the Little Big Horn case, discovers that has a connection with the dead troops.

Favorite Snip: "...He blasted the skull off one soldier, shot the arms off two others and the leg off a third, had six bullets pass through the ribs of a few officers and one zip through the empty eye socket of a sergeant. But even without arms, legs, and heads, the soldiers came for him and knocked him to the ground, where they pulled off his skin in long strips, exposed his sweet meats, and feasted on him. Just before two privates pulled out his heart and tore it into halves, the little cop watched a lieutenant, with a half-decayed face framing one blue eye, feed the big cop’s cock and balls to a horse whose throat, esophagus, and stomach were clearly visible through its ribs..."

Analysis: The bloodbath and carnage atmosphere is evident in the small snip I provided and until the end, it remains as a basic feel as the zombies separate into groups and hunt down anyone unfortunate enough to stand in their way. For 10 pages a lot killing goes on. It pacts quite the punch and lets your mouth slight agape, which is never a bad thing. I view it as homage towards the popular icon zombie: the zombie with no diet plan. These soldiers are back, they are hungry and almost nothing can stop them. It’s old horror delight.

Here to make the difference is the Native American essence fused within the story from the method of raising the corpses to perhaps the spiritual unity between the protagonist and Custer, although I am not certain for the latter, since I have had no experience with Native American culture in depth to be certain. But apart from the strictly analytical aspect, the whole experience to hop from one location to another was executed flawlessly. I like the zooming effect from one mortal situation to another and then the speed and intensity picking up. Another great delight.

Last but not least, the story explores racism. At least the beginning of “Ghost Dance” handles the topic, which has quite a few dimensions. People these days don’t restrict themselves to hating color only and they certainly don’t restrict themselves to words when it comes to showing their opinion. The story portrays a situation, which is a frightening reality not only in the US; police officers abuse the power given them by the state or country to punish them for the deeds of their forefathers as it is in this current situation. For one thing this is rather stupid since historically speaking the settlers dealt deeper wounds on the Native Americans. I am not judging, but rather pointing that out. So exact vendetta against a loss, for which history also points out that it was a great ambition, is irrational and so is hating individuals because statistics and stereotypes labels a community as such, such and such. That is why we have the term individual.

Alexie has the same opinion on the matter and in his universe he is free to punish such behavior, by having the cops eaten by the very people they were trying to avenge. There is this fine dark irony in how the universe can counteract to such acts with catastrophes of equal amount of disgust. And I have to mention that zombies are the opposite of racism. As stated in Kelly Link’s story they do not judge by color, social status, occupation, salary, age or body type. They are satisfied with whatever comes and treat everything that moves equally. At least this is how I draw my conclusions.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2009: The New Frontier [Sounds like a movie]

In the spirit of renewal and starting on a clean slate, I am posting another side note on what the New Year will bring for the blog. I am all in the mood for changes and experiencing more from the fantasy and sci-fi world, not restricting my horizons to literature only.

Events: January 1st – February 28th, two whole months to experience sci-fi with the “Sci-Fi Experience” 2009, hosted by Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings. The great thing about this event is that it isn’t a reading challenge, but as pointed out in the name an experience. Time of the year, when it’s cold to sit by the fireplace [if you are lucky enough to have one] and travel through space and drink tea with aliens. For some reason I have been neglecting my sci-fi, which isn’t healthy and although that means that there will be some rescheduling of my review list, I am determined to get in touch with my inner sci-fi fan. Within two months I doubt I will tackle as many novels as I hope to, but here are the four must reads:

“Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi [because any Hugo Award nominee is worth reading, plus this one came highly recommended]
“Dispossessed” by Ursula LeGuin
“The Word for World is Forest” by Ursula LeGuin [because these are the only novels that remained from the Hainish Cycle that I didn’t read already]
“Crystal Rain” by Tobias Buckell [because I liked the cover art...]

Reviews: I have been meaning to change the format of the reviews themselves. Freestyle is the best solution, when you can remember everything you want to say and when it comes to me writing, the universe likes to interrupt me. More structured reviews aren’t a bad thing, even though everyone will start pointing fingers that I stole Robert’s formula. In my opinion it should be widely use by people with short attention spam. Depending on the genre the structure will be different, but you will have to wait and see until the premiere.

Features: Mihai and I have been talking about interviewing fantasy artists and showcasing fantasy art on our blogs, since we are both very fascinated with this kind of craft. He actually beat me to it and his interviews are entertaining and are rich in information about the style and the artist themselves. It’s pleasant to read. My Artist Corner project is probably going to launch next month, but it’s pretty much the same with me posting some of my favorite art and commenting of course.

Interview-wise I have another pet project that premiered a few posts back: The Six Shooter promo interviews. I like human contact with authors [more like stalking, but that is a variation of interpretation] and hopefully the trend will catch on with the blog. They are short and straight to the point in introducing the reader to the work of the author or the author as an unbiased bystander.

Misc: In and Out, more and more ideas will surface to test the ground for possible interest, but I am certain that the themed weeks and rank lists will be in the constant mix. You can expect everything and anything. 2009 will be the official year to experiment.

Friday, January 2, 2009

New Year: Time for a Recap.

New Year brings new luck and with it new beginnings. “Temple Library Reviews” has been around for almost around a whole year. It was a shaky year for several reasons. Life doesn’t always allow you to work up on a steady schedule and follow it throughout and 2008 has been a rough year on a personal level. But overall most of the troubles are now dealt with.

Apart from these issues it was hard to establish connections with publishing houses, when you are a non-native speaker and are located as far away as possible from America. Despite all I couldn’t be more satisfied with what I have achieved, the titles I have had the pleasure of reading and the authors that I managed to interview and communicate with.

Also I never had any initial design, regarding the blog. I just wanted to review books and “Temple Library Reviews” came into being. Later on I caught on the idea that I needed a trademark to set me apart from all the rest, a PR image so to say. Yet all year long I couldn’t set my mind on what I wanted to do. I am all over the place, the kid in a candy store that wants it all and doesn’t appreciate any restrictions. Too many genres and mediums peak my interest to restrain myself into only one. In the end I decided that I like being everywhere, wherever that takes me.

As cheesy as it may sound I would like to thank the people behind my back for this year and I fear this paragraph is going to resemble like a very long Oscar acceptance speech. Feel free to skip to the parts you would like to read. First in the list is the ever tedious and industrious Robert [Fantasy Book Critic], who I guess can be referred to as the root of all blogging. He is a friend, example of a reviewer and the initial inspiration behind “Temple Library Reviews”. Without him I would have gone unsuspecting of my reviewer side.

Theresa otherwise known as SQT [Fantasy and Sci-fi Lovin' Blog] deserves a throne in this list for being the kindest person on the planet. Apart of being a great deal of fun to e-mail with, she provided my very first titles to review, came with the tips and the position on her blog for me to expand my web presence. If this was a Disney Production, she would be the Fairy Godmother and won an Oscar.

Mihai [Dark Wolf’s Fantasy Reviews] is practically my neighbor, geographically speaking he is from Romania and I from Bulgaria. Being from almost the same cultural background I definitely bonded to him and together we have had some interesting conversations about blogging, books, life, etc. and mainly we have been moral support through times to times.

Most of my reviews center on urban fantasy these days, a healthy appetite inspired by Kimberley [Darque Reviews] and Lindsay and Lisa [Urban Fantasy Land]. With the former time spent online is never dull, while with the latter we explore the genre together. As seen I am all over the place with blogs as well.

I can name more people like Chris from The Book Swede, who has been surprising me all year long with facts about Britain; Graeme, who shocked me out of my skull, when he sent me Truancy; Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings, who expanded my horizons by light years; Dolce Bellezza and her crowd of book lovers that only intensified my interest towards mainstream and many more. If you had a brief contact with me, then I thank you all, especially the authors that requested me.

PS: The first piece is called "Happy Ox Year" and comes from Andrey, a Russian photographer and digital artist. The poster comes from the Singapore artist, who calls himself Paper Box over at DeviantArt.
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