Friday, April 30, 2010

[Excerpt] 'Tell-All' by Chuck Palahniuk

Before I go into my hiatus I am treating you to some teaser from 'Tell-All' by Chuck Palahniuk. I am quite stocked to get a hold of this one. I hope you find it just as exciting.

The man himself.

A C T I , S C E N E O N E

Act one, scene one opens with Lillian Hellman clawing her way, stumbling and scrambling, through the thorny nighttime underbrush of some German schwarzwald, a Jewishbaby clamped to each of her tits, another brood of infants clinging to her back. Lilly clambers her way, struggling against the brambles that snag the gold embroidery of her Balenciaga lounging pajamas, the black velvet clutched by hordes of doomed cherubs she’s racing to deliver from the ovens of some Nazi death camp. More innocent toddlers, lashed to each of Lillian’s muscular thighs. Helpless Jewish, Gypsy and homosexual babies. Nazi gestapo bullets spit past her in the darkness, shredding the forest foliage, the smell of gunpowder and pine needles. The heady aroma of her Chanel No. 5. Bullets and hand grenades just whiz past Miss Hellman’s perfectly coiffed Hattie Carnegie chignon, so close the ammunition shatters her Cartier chandelier earrings into rainbow explosions of priceless diamonds. Ruby and emerald shrapnel blasts into the fl awless skin of her perfect, pale cheeks. . . . From this action sequence, we dissolve to:

Reveal: the interior of a stately Sutton Place mansion. It’s some Billie Burke place decorated by Billy Haines, where formally dressed guests line a long table within a candlelit, wood-paneled dining room. Liveried footmen stand along the walls. Miss Hellman is seated near the head of this very large dinner party, actually describing the frantic escape scene we’ve just witnessed. In a slow panning shot, the engraved place cards denoting each guest read like a veritable Who’s Who. Easily half of twentieth-century history sits at this table: Prince Nicholas of Romania, Pablo Picasso, Cordell Hull and Josef von Sternberg. The attendant celebrities seem to stretch from Samuel Beckett to Gene Autry to Marjorie Main to the faraway horizon.

Lillian stops speaking long enough to draw one long drag on her cigarette. Then to blow the smoke over Pola Negri and Adolph Zukor before she says, “It’s at that heartstopping moment I wished I’d just told Franklin Delano Roosevelt, ‘No, thank you.’ ” Lilly taps cigarette ash onto her bread plate, shaking her head, saying, “No secret missions for this girl.”

While the footmen pour wine and clear the sorbet dishes, Lillian’s hands swim through the air, her cigarette trailing smoke, her fi ngernails clawing at invisible forest vines, climbing sheer rock cliff faces, her high heels blazing a muddy trail toward freedom, her strength never yielding under the burden of those tiny Jewish and homosexual urchins. Every eye, fi xed, from the head of the table to the foot, stares at Lilly. Every hand crosses two fi ngers beneath the damask napkin laid in every lap, while every guest mouths a silent prayer that Miss Hellman will swallow her Chicken Prince Anatole Demidoff without chewing, then suffocate, writhing and choking on the dining room carpet.

Almost every eye. The exceptions being one pair of violet eyes . . . one pair of brown eyes . . . and of course my own weary eyes.

Winners: The Angry Robot Giveaway

April has come and gone and with it the deadline for the Angry Robot Books as well. Here is what one lucky bastard will get:


There is a box. Inside that box is a door. And beyond that door is a whole world.

In some rooms, forests grow. In others, animals and objects come to life. Elsewhere, secrets and treasures wait for the brave and foolhardy.

And at the very top of the house, a prisoner sits behind a locked door waiting for a key to turn. The day that happens, the world will end…

Botanica is an island, but almost all of the island is taken up by the Tree.

Little knowing how they came to be here, small communities live around the coast line. The Tree provides them shelter, kindling, medicine – and a place of legends, for there are ghosts within the trees who snatch children and the dying.

Lillah has come of age and is now ready to leave her community and walk the tree for five years, learning all Botanica has to teach her. Before setting off, Lillah is asked by the dying mother of a young boy to take him with her. In a country where a plague killed half the population, Morace will otherwise be killed in case he has the same disease. But can Lillah keep the boy’s secret, or will she have to resort to breaking the oldest taboo on Botanica?

On the streets of Indianapolis, the ancient Arthurian cycle is replaying in the lives of rival street gangs. Told through the eyes of King, as he gathers like-minded friends and warriors around him to venture into the fastness of Dred, the notorious crime lord, this is a stunning mix of myth and harsh reality. A truly remarkable novel.


And that lucky bastard is:


You will be contacted.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Going Bovine by Libba Bray



Libba Bray’s Printz winning book pulls snippets from many other books I’ve read. the most obvious comparison is Rats Saw God by Rob Thomas (of Veronica Mar’s fame). Both books start with the premise of a teen boy smoking way too much pot and doing weird things. In Going Bovine, we meet Cameron, an under the radar weirdo whose about to start making a really big splash in the pool of weird.

Maybe weird things are a trend in young adult literature right now, because I sure have been reading a lot of books that would fall under that classification. But Going Bovine takes weird to a whole new level. It out the same “out there” level as ,Fade to Blue while still staying rooted in something the reader can connect to. I was never really clear what it was about Cameron that I did connect to. I didn’t really want to like him, but I did. And I wanted to go with him on his crazy adventure! Bray pulls her readers through the weird nonsense in a way that Fade to Blue failed to do. She combines humor with excitement for one wild ride.

In English class Cameron is resentfully studying Don Quixote. Little does he know that it will only be a matter of time before he is tilting at his own windmills. Even though this book is laced with drugs, language, and a touch of sex there is something about it that is unmistakably endearing. This isn’t just an adventure you with you were part of, Bray takes you with Cameron and Gonzo every step of the way.

And in the middle of his journey, Cameron even finds himself stumbling upon Utopia, where people make themselves happy by bowling! But if we’ve learned anything from Thomas Moore, the No Place of Utopia means this is no Utopia at all. The enemy of happiness? You guessed it, free thought. The vehicle for free thought, words. The Happy Utopia is over libba-brayrun by shouting revolutionaries headed by a leader reciting poetry.

“That, friend, is the beautiful sound of revolution.”
”Happiness is a fascist state!”
”I just don’t think happiness is a sustainable state. You can’t have it all the time.”

And the words of Hamlet;
”To be, or not to be—that is the question”

And that is just one taste of one moment of the adventures Cameron finds with his vertically challenged friend, Gonzo.

What makes this book so good?
Superb writing and knitting together of stories. You laugh while you turn the page and can't wait to find out what is going to happen next. Bray fully engrosses her reader, so it feels like you are in on the game, the story, the adventure, the whatever it is that is going on.

Are you ready for the challenge?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

[Promo] 'Tell-All' by Chuck Palahniuk

Before I dash into the setting sun after April 30th, I have decided to indulge myself in a week of content. I am sure you have all heard of Chuck Palahniuk [author of Fight Club]. I have yet to grab his bibliography and get acquainted with his work, but I know that he writes stuff I'd most certainly would love. Now I am going to show some promo material for his newest upcoming release "Tell-All". Enjoy.


“Palahniuk punctures our collective psyches with sharp darts of satire, subversion, and surprise. Fight Club (1996) created a mythology from the inner lives of alienated Gen X-ers, and Pygmy (2009) daringly tweaked fears of terrorism and school shootings, heedless of our jangled nerves. In an era of panic about pandemics, Rant (2007) likened celebrity to a plague. TELL-ALL retreats to the world of golden-age Hollywood, telling the tale of Katherine Kenton, aging star of stage and screen, and Hazie Coogan, Kenton’s maid, companion, confidante—and unlikely star-maker. Written … to evoke the boldface breathlessness of celebrity scandal sheets, TELL-ALL chronicles Kenton’s love affair with the inappropriately young Webster Carlton Westward III, a possible gold-digger, and Coogan’s increasingly desperate attempts to manage her mistress’ life. To be sure, Palahniuk stages some stunning scenes and pens some bawdily hilarious lines.”

“Palahniuk's sendup of name-dropping and the culture of celebrity worship revolves around the fate of Katherine Kenton, a much-married star of stage, screen, and television, living in obscurity and searching for a comeback vehicle. Throughout, Palahniuk drops names from the famous to the head-scratchingly obscure, peppers the narrative with neologisms supposedly coined by famous gossip columnists (ex-husbands are “was-bands”), and styles the text so that nearly every name, brand name, and fabulous venue appears in bold.”
--Publisher’s Weekly

Monday, April 26, 2010

[Interview] J. Robert King -- Angel of Death

Who: J. Robert King

Bio: J. Robert King is the award-winning author of over twenty novels, most recently The Shadow of Reichenbach Falls and the Mad Merlin trilogy. Fifteen years ago, Rob founded the Alliterates, a cabal of writers in the Midwest and West Coast of the U.S. Rob also often takes to the stage, starring in local productions such as The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and Arsenic and Old Lace. He lives in Wisconsin with his lovely wife, three brilliant sons, and three less-than brilliant cats.

J. Robert King’s novels have exceeded his fingers and toes, which is reason to stop counting them. The novels—not the fingers and toes. When he got down to seventeen, he realized he should keep better track.

J. Robert King has always wanted to be either a novelist or an artist. He decided to become a novelist because he could buy a ream of paper for five bucks but couldn’t buy even a tube of paint for that much. At the time, he didn’t realize that artists get to work with naked models.

Works: Angel of Death, Mad Merlin Trilogy, Shadow of Reichenbach Falls

Why: Part of my undying Angry Robot Love Fest & because J. Robert King is a brilliant author I wanted to learn more about.


HM: Mister King, it is a pleasure to have you sitting in my cozy virtual chair here at Temple Library Reviews. Thank you for accepting my invitation, because I am in awe with ‘Angel of Death’. What triggered the lifelong addiction to sit in front of a screen and type pending LCD-induced hallucination?

JRK: Ah, Mister Markov, the pleasure is all mine.

I think you are onto something with the LCD addiction. First, I loved books. Fair enough. But then I got a paper cut, so I switched to ebooks. And then I thought, “I'm already reading a book on a computer. I might as well write a book there.” And then I published a book and got tweets from tweeps and found myself surrounded by efriends.

It's not that they aren't real friends. If I cut them, they will still bleed. But I can't cut them because they are sitting four thousand miles away at a seventy-three degree angle. I know, you're thinking—just get a sword that is four thousand miles and one foot long and cut them anyway. I thought of that, but you're forgetting about the curvature of the Earth. So that's the obsession that has led me to write books and have efriends—safety from cuts.

Also, of course, it's the cost savings. To read a book costs between $8 and $30, but to write a book costs nothing. So I write books. It's a way to scrimp. And if I say to a friend, “Hey, let me take you to a movie,” I could end up paying between $10 and $50 depending on the amount of popcorn. But for an efriend, I can say, “Hey, look at this movie:,” and I have taken that friend to a movie for no price at all. I've taken thousands of efriends out to the emovies and they must buy their own epopcorn.

Yes, I am very much like the Angel of Death in that we both are cheap bastards.

HM: Is your name really King or have you cleverly [and dastardly] taken upon this penname to lure unsuspecting readers to your books?

JRK: My name really is King.

It was confusing when I was young, because teachers would call the roll in the morning and come to my name and shout “King, John?” Of course, King John was the usurping idiot who was always pantsed by Robin Hood, so I was too embarrassed to say, “Here.” I tried to make up a cover story, such as, “He's off at the crusades.” The teacher then would glower at me and say, “Does he have a note?” I would reply coolly, “The Saracens gave him one, but it was all scribbles.”

The name King was also confusing because the neighbors had an old, arthritic dog named King. He would come over and stand in our gravel driveway and shudder. I would glance dubiously at my father, who had given me the name King, and ask if I could be something else—you know, Prince, Duke, Viscount, Exchequer—but he insisted on King. I said, “That's the name of that stupid old arthritic dog!” But my dad said, “Son, there was a time when the name King meant something. The king was the lord of the land. His rule was strong but gentle, and everyone loved him. But then he got fat and had a heart attack sitting on the toilet.” It was a sobering moment. Then I said, “Dad, can I be Presley?”

HM: Good one. On the more serious side, from ‘Angel of Death’ I see you have an interest in gore and some seriously fucked up deviations [I am pro-deviations]. Where did that interest stem from and who was your strongest influence?

JRK: On the more serious side, or perhaps the darker side, yes, I do have a fixation and fascination with some seriously fucked-up deviations. (Thank you for not calling me a 'deviant.' I'd've had to get out my four-thousand-mile-and-one-foot-long sword.)

The scary fact of the matter is that Tolkien and Lewis were my inspirations. They made these beautiful worlds because they felt that, deep down, underneath all the crap, the world was beautiful.

So I dug deep down, underneath the crap, and I found not just more crap but some truly terrifying thimgs. Some things that make Cthulhu look like a rubbery Godzilla monster. I couldn't just write beautiful worlds because that's what Lewis and Tolkien believed underlay everything (though I desperately wanted to—want to—believe they were right). I had to do what they did and write what I saw underneath it all.

And what did I see underneath it all? Well, if there are angels and demons, they have a lot more in common with each other than with us. The Christian tradition sells itself as a faith of comfort and love, but its central image is a man spiked to a scaffold to appease an angry father and a world visited by twenty-one apocalypses by that same God.

Maurice Broaddus, an author for whom I have high regard, recently said that faith lends itself quite easily to the horror genre. Perhaps that's because faith, as Lewis said, teaches you that the dufus sitting beside you is an immortal soul and that your actions toward said dufus have eternal consequences. But Maurice and I come down on opposite ends of that observation. If faith lends itself to horror, it is because at its core rests some very terrifying ideas. For there to be salvation, there must first (and predominantly) be damnation. Much of the horror in Angel of Death comes from making many biblical ideas literally true.

HM: It is like you are reading my mind. Although it seems quite Emo to state so: the world is very much a terrifying place and faith does add more fuel to the flames. On Twitter, you stated you felt quite uncomfortable giving your mother a copy of ‘Angel of Death’. What happened, when you did?

JRK: My mother is a saint, first of all, so thank you for asking after her health. She has read everything I have published—twenty-four books and counting—even though some of it was not what she would enjoy. As I said, she's the Mother Teresa of book critics.

But I knew Angel of Death would be too much for even my sainted mother. I've always been somewhat morose, and when I was a kid, I relied on my mom to be the well of optimism from which I could endlessly draw. I rely on my wife now for that—and she suffered her way through Angel of Death despite my warnings.

It's not a very sunny book.

There's an old saying that fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Well, the two angels in my life were justifiably worried about reading this novel, but as the perennial fool, I gave it to them anyway.

HM: You have published many novels in many genres, but I think ‘Angel of Death’ is perhaps the most provocative and daring. Did you have a hard time, making sure you do not a cross a certain line, namely the one between tasteful gore and meaningless torture porn?

JRK: That's a very good question. The fact was that when I set out to write Angel of Death fourteen years ago, I was planning it as a modern urban fantasy. A friend of mine, though, said, it had to be realistic. He recommended a number of books about actual serial killers and FBI profilers. What I read horrified and sickened me—but also educated me about what real monsters were.

I mentioned Cthulhu earlier. People like to lift him up as the hardest core evil one can encounter—an Elder God. But just today, I was watching a funny video (sent by an efriend for free) about a bunch of other plush dolls accidentally opening a box that released the plush Cthulhu. This was funny because Cthulhu is an inconceivable evil.

True evil lurks around us. It does unspeakable things daily. Worse, as you discovered in Angel of Death, true evil lurks within us. And, in some ways, the comfortable fantasies we weave about the nature of evil allow true evil to grow and thrive.

I made a choice fourteen years ago when I wrote the first draft, and then repeatedly over the intervening years with revision after revision I upheld the choice, that I was not going to shy away from depicting evil as it is. It's not because I like it, but because I hate it. And I want readers to recognize that evil is not a video game boss or a golf star caught cheating.

Yes, I've written an appalling book about an appalling topic.

HM: What is ‘Angel of Death’ genre-wise? I have a hard time placing it. My picks are urban fantasy and paranormal horror, but I bet the answer is inconclusive.

JRK: Inconclusive is a good answer. There was a reviewer I read who seemed to like the book other than that she couldn't figure out its genre. Another reviewer complained that the book wasn't sure what genre it was.

I'm guilty on both counts. Angel of Death is actually three books, as you know, divided by the main character's own thinking about himself. In that sense, it is a very schizophrenic work, and you aren't supposed to be able to lock it down.

HM: While reading, for a moment I did believe that Samael was indeed human and that he had these delusions. It was messed up and intense, because I did not know what to believe in that middle. Did this effect surface on its own or was it planned?

JRK: Those who have had a bit of literary theory will say that my book has an unreliable narrator. They are right, of course, but what they are missing is that every narrator is unreliable. The idea of a reliable narrator is like the idea of unbiased media. All media has a bias, and all narrators are unreliable.

What I was trying to do in Angel of Death is show how all of us are trapped in our own minds, and thus are unreliable narrators of our own lives. As such, we weave our own interpretations of what is happening to us. In that sense, Angel of Death covers a lot of the same ground as Shutter Island. The main difference is that people who read or watch Shutter Island get to come away with their minds intact, feeling as if they are looking at the insanity from outside. People coming away from Angel of Death are looking at insanity from the inside.

HM: What is the appeal behind cross-genre? When the reader hears fantasy for instance, he/she knows what their signing up for, but for cross-genre it’s not so simple.

JRK: You're absolutely right. Genres are invented by the book industry to make consumption of ideas easy. Genres are like intellectual fast food. What do you want? McDonalds? Pizza Hut? Taco Bell? It doesn't matter which McDonalds or Pizza Hut or Taco Bell, because in these franchises, everything is pretty much the same, store to store. You know what you're going to get. It's standardized. Mechanized. Industrialized. In fact, if you're eating a Big Mac in London and I'm eating one in Chicago, we're probably swallowing parts of the same cow, mixed with a hundred thousand others and spread out across the globe in a layer of ground-up animal one-patty thick.

The cross-genre approach is a little different. Say you happened into this weird, one-of-a-kind greasy spoon cafe that's got this brilliant cook. He makes the most amazing things. He makes foods you never tasted before. But you're never quite sure what you're going to get because he only works with whatever he can get fresh and he's not very good at keeping a running stock of stuff. Oh, and he's a freak.

But the food is incredible.

All right, so where do you want to eat? You can have fast food. It will be fine, tasty, high-calorie, government-regulated—and exactly what you expect. Or you could have whatever the hell that crazy fuck at the cafe wants to cook, knowing you'll never have tasted something like this and you never will again?

Unfortunately, our society is geared toward Big Mac novels instead of real thought experiments. Fortunately, every reader still gets to decide what she or he will eat.

HM: Angels are on the rise right at the moment. What is your take on the fad? What did angels have to push attention away from vampires and demons? Also what prompted you to pick them as a subject?

JRK: I'd like to say that I consciously selected the angel trope from the current zeitgeist and wove a fitting story around it. In fact, since this book started fourteen years ago, I more accurately created something at exactly the wrong time and held onto it until exactly the right time.

That they are on the rise at the moment makes me supremely glad. As to how angels usurped vampires and demons, let's face it: They're all the same. Beautiful, immortal, inhuman, unforgiving. It's not an accident that the vampire/demon love interest in Buffy was named Angel. These archetypes are that close.

HM: I dig serial killers and the Son of Samael was a thrilling character to read. How many hours did you invest in your research to bring such realism to the image of a serial killer?

JRK: I read quite a few true-crime books—bloody and horrible—and then channeled the rest of it. It was alarming to me how easy it was to slip into the serial-killer mindset. You would think that that thought process would be totally alien to a normal human being, but it is not. Here's a little thought experiment that will make all of your readers think like a serial killer with just the substitution of one word.

All right, here's the normal-person passage:

“I couldn't believe it. I spread my towel out on the beach, and there was this super-hot woman sitting on a towel near mine. She looked at me. I could tell she was into me. I smiled, and she pulled down her bikini top, showing me her tan line and a little more. I got up from my towel and sat down on hers to find out what I could give her.”

Now, here's the psycho passage, with just word substituted.

“I couldn't believe it. I spread my towel out on the beach, and there was this super hot woman sitting on a towel near mine. It looked at me. I could tell it was into me. I smiled, and it pulled down its bikini top, showing me its tan line and a little more. I got up from my towel and sat down on its to find out what I could give it.”

You see, changing her to it dehumanizes the other person. When the main character perceives another person in the story as a thing, all interactions become monstrous. Sadly, this very thing happens not just in the minds of serial killers but also in those of politicians and scientists and businesspeople and your next door neighbor. That's what this book is about.

HM: This seems to be a new direction horror has taken. Today, monsters rarely make us shiver [since urban fantasy and paranormal romance has objectified them into sexual fantasies, though I am not complaining], but the human element in horror is much more potent.

JRK: We all want to be the hero of our own story. That drive is so primal that we will invent elaborate fictions in order to keep ourselves heroic and blameless. So, for everyone, the heroic quest rings true. I'm a misunderstood and undersized hero pitted against villains who far exceed me in every way, but I will win, because the universe likes me.

This is a comforting perspective, but I'm convinced it is also the thought process that leads to Columbine shootings and suicide bombings. Those kids (let's face it, they all were kids) who thought that the horrific acts they did were justified did not see themselves as villains. They saw themselves as heroes attacking an irredeemably corrupt world.

The problem is that all the rest of us live in this world. And when you attack it, you kill us.

So, the only thing more horrible than a high school shooter or a suicide bomber is one of these idealists realizing that he isn't the hero but the villain. It's a miserable place to be, but it is also the next step on the heroic journey.

HM: What is your current writing project?

JRK: So glad you asked. I just finished a novel called Death's Disciples, which is a follow-on to Angel of Death but is not nearly as soul-rending. Death's Disciples is plenty dark, of course—a romp through the biblical apocalypse, but it is much lighter in mood. In Cohen brother's terms, Angel of Death is No Country for Old Men, while Death's Disciples is Burn After Reading. Yeah, the sensibility is still black, but the outcome is laughter instead of tears.

I'm also working up two new novel ideas, one that follows the lineage of Death's Disciples and another that follows the lineage of Angel of Death. I'm hoping my robot overlords like one of the two. Those guys are awesome to work with, and I'm itching to get writing.

HM: Now let’s shift the focus to Angry Robot Books. As you might know I have an imprint crush, so to say, on these guys [plus the authors, always the authors] and I want to know how the authors see their publisher. What’s the best thing to come to mind about Angry Robot Books?

JRK: All right, let me tell you the truth about Angry Robot Books and about myself. These guys spent a lot of time working on tie-in fiction for various groups, and so did I. They did great work, and so did I, on properties that belonged to someone else. And then, at last, someone said—”How about an imprint of your own, in which you could publish only the stuff you really love?” And Marco and Lee and Chris passed it along to us authors and said, “How about an imprint of your own, in which you could publish only the stuff you really love?” I've written and published over twenty novels, and I've been waiting for someone to speak those words to me.

And that's why this is such a great match. Marco and Lee are seasoned enough to recognize what an incredible opportunity this imprint provides, and so am I. We all want to make sure it works. These two guys have turned out to be nearly prophetic in deciding what titles will work. Their authors, too, have risen above themselves to provide the works they'd always hoped someone would want.

Angry Robot is a dream come true not only for editors and authors but also for readers. You strip away all that corporate crap that keeps churning out crap, and you get real writers communicating with real readers. How could you ask for more?

HM: Can you tell our readers how you became an Angry Robot author? Submission process, proposals, the whole nine yards.

JRK: I am so lucky in that regard. A friend and editor of mine was a friend of Marco and knew he was looking for cool titles. My friend, Jim Lowder, also knew I had a supernatural thriller that had recently been cancelled by Wizards of the Coast because it was not appropriate for a game publisher such as Hasbro. Well, Jim wrote to me, saying that Marc was looking for urban fantasy, but was not that interested in horror. He said, “How much does Angel of Death lean toward horror?” I told him that not only did it lean, but it fell in with a red splash. He asked me to send it anyway, and I did, and Marco and Lee loved it. So, I got in because I knew one cool guy who knew two others, but also because I wrote a novel that did what they were looking for.

HM: What is the experience to work with Lee Harris?

JRK: Lee is terrific. I panicked just before Angel of Death came out. I saw what I considered spurious information on Amazon Australia, which seemed to indicate that instead of coming out in August of 2009, it would come out in January of 2009—a date that had already passed. It also indicated that the book would be about $20 Australian. I wrote to Marco in a panic, and Lee answered gently, reminding me that English and Australian folk put the day before the month (something I had known), and so I had misread the release, and that Australians pay a shitload for books (something I had no known). In the end, I was very glad Lee was there to talk me down from the ledge.

In fact, I was so glad, I named a character in homage to him in Death's Disciples.

HM: These days publishing is a war front carried out between publicists, where the marketing campaign equals military strategy [exaggerated, but good analogy, me thinks]. Do you mind sharing a bit of inside information about how the marketing for your novel progressed? Did you work closely with the imprint and what was the strategy?

JRK: These days, marketing is not glossy ads in Publishers Weekly. These days, marketing is engaging the audience in a one-for-one way on social media. This was a new lesson for me. I not only launched a new website, but also became a frequent presence on Twitter, connecting to fans and other tweeps.

The marketing strategy is simple: create buzz. Now, certain gorgeous personalities can do so by pulling up in a red convertible and stepping out in a miniskirt without underwear. I tried that strategy once, and the fourteen days I spent in lockup told me I needed a different marketing approach.

All right, so here it is the thousandth time for people who aren't paying attention: Social media is about being social. It's a big party, and the point is to meet as many people as possible and talk with them about what they are doing. If one of those people asks what you're doing, don't be shy. Let them know. But you've got to mingle. You've got to hang out. You've got to be there so when the great conversation happens, you're part of it.

I tell you, folks, Twitter is The Moveable Feast on steroids. Hemmingway and Pound are there. Show up, and you can talk with them.

HM: While on the subject, I have been reading from authors, agents and editors that if one plans to succeed as an author, one must have a strong platform. Very Zen and also a notch challenging. Do you methodically pursuit exposure as a professional in order to generate sales and what are the tools you use?

JRK: A platform is very wise for politicians and anyone who wants to be popular. The problem is that most writers are the brainy type that shunned student council elections.

I'm an old guy at 43. That means, I've got 25 published novels, and five or six unpublished ones that keep getting no's. I have written high fantasy and gritty science fiction, Victorian mystery and spatter horror. Each of these is a platform, more for publishers than for writers. It convinces them that they can sell the book.

But writers don't care much about platforms. They care about characters and stories. If the characters and story aren't working, the platform doesn't matter. If the characters and stories are working, the platform doesn't matter either. So, in a way, the platform is just the wooden pallet that holds the ideas of a story.

Having said that, there are some very successful writers who have found a clear platform—one story that they like and their fans like, and they tell that same story over and over. Their fans know just what to expect. Some stars are the same way. They're always themselves—Jennifer Aniston, I'm talking about you—and people come to see Jennifer Aniston.

Other stars, however, are always someone else. They don't have an identifiable platform. Johnny Depp played Edward Scissorhands and Gilbert Grape and Ed Wood and Hunter S. Thompson—each time making himself somebody completely different. These were terrific characters in terrific films, but Depp had only a cult following. Then he played a terrific character in an okay film. Captain Jack Sparrow struck gold for him, but the whole time he was making the film, he had to fight Disney, who said he was ruining the movie.

He doesn't have to fight anybody anymore.

So, not having a platform can take a lot longer to build up a following. It also requires the happy accident of having one book hit in just the right way, at just the right time. But once such a book hits, the future is wide open. You've made it not because of one character or one story, but because of sheer talent, so you aren't pigeonholed writing one story over and over.

That would be like being chained to a rock and having eagles pluck out your liver every day.

HM: Modern culture is brimming with paranormal retellings [desecrations, really] of well known stories and biographies of iconic figures. I am speaking about Queen Victoria: Demon Killer and Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. There is even a movie about DaVinci in the making in the same vibe. You have written an Arthurian fantasy trilogy with well known characters, which roughly translates to what this current trend is all about. I digress a bit, but what I am getting at is whether you personally tolerate these renditions of history and well known works or do you tisk?

JRK: I haven't actually read any of the examples you give, but I'm not particularly inclined to tisk. There are no sacred cows, as far as I am concerned.

You mention my Arthurian trilogy, which was a matter of taking on twelve hundred years of story telling and fifteen hundred years of history. But Geoffrey of Monmoth's Arthur was not Malory's Arthur was not White's Arthur was not mine. Everybody has to invent his or her retelling, and everybody has to make this ancient and brilliant story also completely modern and relevant.

So, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies doesn't diminish Austen's accomplishment. It only amplifies it. I'd love if, in two hundred years, people were riffing off my books. We'll see if I make anythng that lasts that long.

HM: To keep the mood light and funny, which historic figure would make for a good read in an alternative demonic history?

JRK: There was something supremely spooky going on at the turn of the twentieth century. There was twelve-tone music and Dada art and this almost demonic rejection of order—all of it clustered around The World War, which was, in a way, a demonic eruption. It was almost as if Satan had done some cruel calculus, trying to find the one murderous act that could trigger millions of others, and he found it in the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. The Black Hand—are you kidding me? How Satanic is that? Then there's trench warfare and mustard gas and millions dead. And cap it all off with an influenza epidemic made possible by the crowding of soldiers in camps and the shipping of soldiers from place to place. Yes, I think a demonic history of World War I would not have to stray that far from actual events.

HM: What is the most important thing you have learned as a writer?

JRK: Writing is itself the most important thing you can do. If you write—I mean really work at it and keep going—all other obstacles will fall before you. You will improve. You will learn what works and what doesn't. You will create crap but also brilliance, and you can always cut out the crap. If you write, you will get your mind moving, and you will discover things you would never have thought otherwise. The physical and mental work of writing is the miracle itself.

If you don't write, you aren't a writer, just as if you don't lift weights, you aren't a weightlifter. Thinking about writing isn't writing any more than thinking about lifing weights is weightlifting.

HM: Thank you so much for keeping up with this invasion into your privacy. Please conclude with your own words.

JRK: Last words are so difficult, so I will not rely on my own. Instead, I will quote the Bard of Avon, who said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.” I will also quote the Bard of Knoxberry Farms, who said:

Pointy birds, oh, pointy pointy!

Anoint my head. Anointy nointy!

[Review] 'Angel of Death' by J. Robert King

Title: Angel of Death
Editor: J. Robert King
Pages: 286
Genre: Horror / Dark Fiction
Series/Standalone: Stand-alone with a sequel planned
Publisher: Angry Robot Books

The angel of death in Chicago oversees all people in the megalopolis, making sure their deaths fit their lives. Though most deaths naturally do, those that result from serial murder do not, so the angel spends much time trailing a serial killer in his patch.

On the trail of one such man, he encounters a cop and falls in love with her. When he is assigned to kill her, though, he has to make a choice between divinity and humanity.

An astounding new story from the critically-acclaimed J Robert King.


I am at a loss of words recently, when it comes to reviews, so writing this one has been an exceptionally challenging task. I suspected “Angel of Death” would be brilliant, because after all we are talking about Angry Robot Books, but “Angel of Death” rocketed pas preconceived expectations and made the reading experience hard to express with words.

As I said, I am at a loss of words. “Angel of Death” is the book you hold, no clutch, until your eyes smart, you can’t really focus on the words and you are not sure whether you are making any progress, because it’s way past your bedtime, but it’s too good to put the book down. It’s the fever that gets you slowly, the first pages spreading the infection. Then you begin to sweat as the suspense solidifies the breath in your lungs. You shiver as the good parts creep in, a bit too macabre, a bit too monstrous, a bit like watching something you morally shouldn’t be, but you are and, guess what, you love it, because it’s crass, forbidden and perverted. And because it is safe to. After all, this is fiction.

“Angel of Death” is that type of book. It’s not exactly horror it’s not exactly urban fantasy. It’s not concreted or defined, but it’s powerful. It has presence, much like “Slights” by Kaaron Warren. It possesses the same genre ambiguity, but delivers a chilling story with a narrator monster, which is far from us, the readers, but entrances us nevertheless.

Sure, I can talk book specifics about “Angel of Death”. The plot can be best described as an episode of Criminal Minds meets Hannibal Lector. The reader observes Samael, Angel of Death, assigned to the Chicago-Milwaukee area. He governs over accidental deaths as well as over the murders of the serial killers, working on his turf. Death here is pretty much a given. There are graphic details, but they read like grim poetry most of the time. Samael arranges the deaths, according to how the victims have lived their life. They are fitting and deserved. With a hidden meaning, only Samael understands.

Samael’s though process is fascinating to read, because it is alien, but also because it is as close to realistic as it can come. Looked from an angle, Samael is God’ serial killer and as the angel travels around Keith McFarland, the real world serial killer, the reader can see the parallel between the two characters.

What I further enjoyed in “Angel of Death” is the wide range between POV use. For Samael, King uses first person point of view. When the focus came on Keith, the POV switches to an ominous second person. Later when Detective Donna Leland becomes of importance, her chapters are written in third person point of view. This adds flavor and was not at all confusing for me, although it could very easily be.

Speaking of Donna Leland, she is the central to the story as much as Samael is. She turned the angel human, then the human into a monster. She is a small town cop, recently promoted to detective. She is alone, doesn’t feel pretty, but is overworked. She wants to do good, do the right thing and instantly becomes someone to relate to, because the instinct to help others is incredibly strong within her.

I give King high praise for the romantic plotline, which never entered the saccharine or the too-steamy-to-be-real territory. There are no candy kisses or spicy dialogue. No, you read about two people, who are in love. Two people, who shouldn’t be in love, because one is not human and for once, this theme of the forbidden inter-species love [because Donna & Samael’s relationship cannot be called romance] works.

Here I will stop. Of course, there is much, much more. Christian mythology. The fall from the divine to the demonic. Damnation. Salvation through murder. The quality of writing and storytelling, where you could only guess which is real and which is the delusion.

Grade: [A+] A must-read. Preferably late at night and with the right music font. Ingenious, daring and an uncomfortable journey through the psyche of a monster, which is also divine.

Friday, April 23, 2010

[Anthology Reviews] Dead Souls Part 4

Title: Dead Souls
Editor: Mark S. Deniz
Pages: 286
Genre: Horror / Dark Fiction
Anthology: 25 Stories
Publisher: Morrigan Books

Dead Souls contains twenty five stories that will only ensure the darkness without enfolds you in its cold embrace…beware…be ready…be damned! Before God created light, there was darkness. Even after He illuminated the world, there were shadows — shadows that allowed the darkness to fester and infect the unwary. The tales found within Dead Souls explore the recesses of the spirit; those people and creatures that could not escape the shadows. From the inherent cruelness of humanity to malevolent forces, Dead Souls explores the depths of humanity as a lesson to the ignorant, the naive and the unsuspecting. God created light, but it is a temporary grace that will ultimately fail us, for the darkness is stronger and our souls…are truly dead.


Bernie Mojzes The Collector
T. A. Moore Licwiglunga
Carole Johnstone The Blind Man
Tom English Dry Places
Sharon Irwin Begin with Water
Robert Holt In the Name
William Ward When they Come to Murder Me
Chris Johnstone The Unbedreamed
Elizabeth Barrette Goldenthread
Catherine J. Gardner When the Cloak Falls
Anna M. Lowther The Price of Peace
James R. Stratton Your Duty to your Lord
Kenneth C. Goldman Mercy Hathaway is a Witch
Lisa Kessler Immortal Beloved
Lisa Kessler Subito Piano
Michael Stone The Migrant
Robert Hood Sandcrawlers
Reece Notley Tatsu
L. J. Hayward Wayang Kulit
Rebecca Lloyd Contaminator
Ramsey Campbell The Dead Must Die
Stephanie Campisi The Ringing Sound of Death on the Water Tank
Paul Finch June
Gary McMahon A Shade of Yellow
Kaaron Warren The Blue Stream


“Dead Souls” does a follow-up on humanity and civilization. Each section examines a slice of the human condition and its fears in context of the literary form of the day; myths, fairy tales, urban legends and so on.

“The Beast Without” returns the reader to the familiar present with the drone of technology in the background and the emotionally barren silence within the cacophony and daily rush. Here the fears are closer to the reader, perhaps, hiding in our own closet in numerous variations and all sizes. “The Beast Without” is also the thickest segment with seven stories in total, and as such has proved to be a mixed bag of blessings.

"The Dead Must Die" by Ramsey Campbell, although competently executed, from what I read, pushed the wrong buttons, because of the fanatic Christian element. The concept behind the deformation of faith into something inhuman and monstrous has always fascinated me, but at the same time makes reading any story with it grossly uncomfortable. "The Ringing Sound of Death on the Water Tank" by Stephanie Campisi did not capture my interest. I couldn’t establish any connection with the prose and my reading was a dotted line of stutter starts and pauses.

"Contaminator" with fears of invading the personal space and the paranoia associated with diseases and "A Shade of Yellow", the post-traumatic stress of war, both fit the segment concept-wise and do so with a great understanding of how modern society has evolved into. Both stories have no faults in the prose department. I was impressed with the prose in "A Shade of Yellow" & Gary McMahon has morphed the consequences of the negative social opinion into a frightening meltdown, but both stories did not evoke an emotion in me. Maybe, because I thought "Contaminator" would be speculative fiction, but the mysterious narrative did not deliver, and maybe because "A Shade of Yellow" centered on modern warfare.

"Tatsu" shines as an exceptionally concept piece, observing a human behavior, all too familiar not to recognize. The protagonist is empty. He is misguided hunger, avarice and ambition to surpass himself. He fills the void through a whole body tattoo, turning his skin into a canvas in hopes to become something more through something, which does not come from within. His end is most deserving and though quite bloody in the story, the protagonist’s death serves as a metaphor for what happens to these people on a pure emotional level.

"June" is the longest piece. A plot driven, fast paced stomper, taking place in a no-go riot zone in the UK, where aggressive and violent behavior from the youth is a real problem. Violence has taken a more physical shape and the reader is treated to the best elements of the cop under genre along with gothic, almost Lovecraftesque supernatural dealings, which lead back to certain human sacrifice practices performed in June.

"Wayang Kulit" brings the reader back to the realm of myth, this time in exotic India. What starts as an innocent puppet show, imbued with religious mystery and charm, morphs into a life imitates art situation, where the narrator is treated to an ultimatum and a chance to reach spiritual revelation and alter his own behavior. This is an obvious story, but the beauty comes from the anticipation, the language and the satisfaction from the deserved fate to a conceited, materialistic person.

The anthology ends with "Blue Stream" by Kaaron Warren, an author I respect for her creativity. She looks ahead into the future, where teens are forced into the Blue Stream, where they hibernate until they reach adulthood. The story follows the integration society of the first Streamer generation through as witnessed by a young girl. It is a numbing journey, through a dystopian utopia of stale politeness, depriving the youth of life, leaving hollow men and women in the process. But it also ends on a positive note, which adds a power to the story.

Verdict: [B+] Diverse, well arranged and edited. You can’t make a wrong decision with this anthology.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

[Anniversary] TLR is two years old

On this day, two years ago, I clicked on the orange PUBLISH POST button and Temple Library Reviews beeped on the virtual heart monitor. One year later, and I wrote my very first post to celebrate the date. Right now, I am happy that as small and mid-list as TLR is that it has come to survive everything thrown at it, including the inability to pick a fairly easy to manipulate blog template.*

I had a blast all the time. Sure, I wasn't active much in the summer, but when time opened up I had a blast. I read and reviewed so many amazing books. I interviewed authors and reviewers alike and I am even known as a tough interviewer**, which always boosts morale. Most of all however, through TLR I managed to introduce myself to new people, forge new friendships, get accepted into new projects and generally feel at home in the virtual world. So, thank you all. I am not doing the naming thing, really, because it will take a lot of time and I have many people to be grateful to, so let's just say that if you have ever been nice to me, you get a heartfelt*** Thank You.

Last year, I celebrated with the launch of "Reviewer Time", the feature, in which the fans sat on the virtual chair and talked about themselves. A concept, which caught on with other bloggers as well. This year, I wanted to host an extravagant giveaway, but because I am not working as I've planned to that won't happen. Instead I am doing the sabbatical hiatus I mentioned a few posts earlier. I'd like for Temple Library Reviews to mature, shift focus and break out of the box, so that I am a lot more confident with what I am doing and why I am doing it. Selfish, eh? But in the end, the content will be my gift for you & I am perfectionist as far as that goes.

* - You should ask the people harassed to get the blog this look. They will have pages to write about.
** - Gav, you better continue make jokes about me being a monster at asking questions.
*** - I am also thinking about a single tear out of the corner of my eye. Is that too much?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

[REVIEW] Pleasure Model by Christopher Rowley

Title: Pleasure Model
Author: Christopher Rowley
Series: Netherworld 1
Paperback: 240 pages
Cover art: Gregory Manchess
Illustrations: Justin Norman
Genre: Heavy Metal Pulp | Science Fiction Noir
Publisher: Tor Books, Feb 2, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780765323880
ISBN: 0765323885
Reviewer: Ove Jansson
Copy: Bought it myself

Rook Venner bring the evidence home, said evidence being Plesur, a pleasure model with long golden hair, deep blue eyes, a pert little nose and large mouth loaded with heavy lips that works like triggers on the heterosexual male mind all packed into a gorgeous young body, to protect her from rape. Only to wake up in the middle of the night by a phone call telling him to get out NOW!
Presenting Heavy Metal Pulp, a new line of novels combining noir fiction with fantastic art featuring the themes, story lines, and graphic styles of Heavy Metal magazine.

In Pleasure Model, the first book in the Netherworld trilogy, down-and out police detective Rook gets a big break when he’s assigned to a bizarre and vicious murder case. The clues are colder than the corpse and the case looks like it’ll remain unsolved—until an eyewitness is discovered. But the witness is a Pleasure Model, an illegal gene-grown human. Plesur’s only purpose is to provide satisfaction to her owner—in any way. When the murderer targets Plesur in order to eliminate the one witness, Rook takes her into hiding to protect her. Thus begins a descent into the dark world of exotic pleasure mods and their illicit buyers and manufacturers. Rook frantically looks for clues, struggling to stay one stop ahead of those looking to kill them both. But is Rook falling under Plesur’s spell….?

Christopher Rowley is a prolific writer of science fiction and fantasy including the Compton Crook Award-winning “The War for Eternity”, “Starhammer”, “Bazil Broketail”, the Books of Arna trilogy, etc. He also co-wrote two television animated series by Robert Mandell, and is the author of the illustrated novel “Arkham Woods”. Rowley lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

The story is fast paced with quite a few improbable but convenient twists in true style with pulp fiction. It starts out simple as a murder investigation but turns out as something much much bigger and more complex.

The plot starts with the vicious and mysterious murder of former military operative Sangacha while the dominatrix Mistress Julia/Angie hides under the sink in the bath room. She hears the killers, and think they finally caught up with her after 25 years on the run. Her boyfriend was killed 25 years ago before warning her to run, and she has been hiding ever since.

Sangacha was a man riddled with guilt, he had Julia there to whip him on a regular basis to atone for it. What kind of secrets does he hide? Why was he killed? And what was he doing with the pleasure model hiding in the closet? Where the men there for him, Julia or the pleasure model?

Rook Venner is the cop assigned to the case. He and his partner discover the pleasure model, she and a fuzzy photo of Julia/Angie as she flees the scene are the only clues they have. The Feds are also on the case, and Feds here are like nothing you have seen before, they even have a armored robot soldier accompanying them to the crime scene, and they are not the good guys. Rook sets out to solve the case any way he can, but its not easy being a knight in not so shiny armor with an oversexed not so bright pleasure model to protect while the other sides do their best to capture it and kill him and they have resources he couldn’t even dream of.

The book is a delightfull heavy metal mix of pulp fiction, noir crime, cyberpunk and erotica. The format is 240 pages divided in 21 chapters with fantastic illustrations by Justin Norman on about two thirds of the pages, see example below.

The story is told in 3rd person with either Rook or Angie as the voice.

I would guess there is quite a few people, a lot of them women who have a problem with this book which clearly caters to men with men being men, women being objects, at least on the surface. The story is a bit randy and explicit but not more than the usual romance novel. All of it is gritty enjoyable noir.

The cover is made by Gregory Manchess. The cover perfectly recovers the look and feeling of pulp fiction while being relevant to the story. Please visit his website and have a look at his illustrations.

Justin Norman [his deviantart page]made the inside illustrations, they add another dimension to the text, especially in the action sequences they seems to speed up the action. I enjoyed the illustrations a lot, though there was a few places they where out of sync with the story. They add a movie feel to reading the book.

There are a lot of recognition from noir crime novels in the character types the strong silent hero, the unreliable boss, villains, femme fatales etc

I like to have well thought out characters with interesting backgrounds, and characters that grows and are changed by events in the story. Here the characters have the look and feel of pulp fiction but they all have interesting backgrounds that makes you want to learn more. They also grows as the story progresses some more than others, a lot more. More character development is found outside the book, on Rowley’s homepage, the story there is sligtly different but more fleshed out.

What is not explained so well is Rooks motivation for being a good guy. Not that it hurt the story much but it would be nice to have more on his background to explain this. And again, there is more on the web, whole chunks of the story that never made it to the book.

World building
The not explained major Emergency (luckily it is explained somewhat on his homepage) that seems to have formed the world is a frustrating lapse in an otherwise well built world. It feels believable if twisted as New York 2060, with bio-engineered humans (pleasure models), robots, enhancement chips and an assortment of spiffy and useful gadgets. I especially like Ingrid, Rook’s Nookia Supa an AI with charming personality . It is immensely competent for a personal assistant slash telephone. Left to its own devices, at night, it read 19th century literature and fought bitter doctrinal battles on the Strindberg forum on Newsnet.

I never quite get their current social structure, they used to have some kind of military dictatorship, now they seems to live in something different, or not? After reading the web project Netherworld on Rowley’s homepage I realize most of the world building I lack used to be there but where designed out of the book. Pity, It would have made this book excellent if they left more of the world-building parts there in my opinion.

My view
The book doesn’t end with a Cliff hanger but leaves enough unresolved that I long for the next volume. I enjoyed the fast paced illustrated action packed spicy Pleasure Model immensely. It is a good read. It lacks somewhat in depth that can be remedied by checking out Rowley’s homepage. I would recommend it to any adult science fiction fan. I myself can’t wait until I have read the next two Netherworld books.

Book two: Bloodstained Man will be out June 8, 2010.
Book three: Money Shot will be out November 9, 2010.

Rowley’s homepage contains a Netherworld Web Project with 28 slightly different chapters (the book has 21). The texts are without the delightfully noir illustrations. There is also world building notes in the ‘Need to Know‘ section

Rating: 9/10

Sunday, April 18, 2010

REVIEW: An Accidental Goddess by Linnea Sinclair

Title: An Accidental Goddess
Author: Linnea Sinclair
ISBN-10: 0553587994
ISBN-13: 978-0553587999
Paperback: 434 pages
Publisher: Bantam (29 Aug 2008)
Genre: Science Fiction/Romance
Series: Standalone
Reviewer: Cara
Copy: Bought myself

On the back cover: Gillaine Davre is wonderingwhere the last three hundred years have gone. Waking up in an unknown space station, the last thing the Special Forces captain remembers is her ship being attacked. Now it seems that while she was time-travelling, she was ordained a goddess. But if she’s to survive, she can only hope no one notices.

Admiral Mack Makarian suspects Gillaine may be a smuggler. But he can’t even begin to imagine the truth. For the ethereal beauty is now Lady Kiasidira, revered by countless believers, including Mack – an irresistibly commanding man who inspires feelings in her that are far from saintly… Feelings that are clearly mutual. But when a longtime enemy attacks the station – again – can Gillie stop the invasion without revealing her ture identity and losing the man she loves?

This book had been sitting on my TBR pile since last summer, so when I felt the need to read something light and frothy, An Accidental Goddess was an obvious choice. Billed as a romance, the relationship between Gillie and Mack grows as the threat of invasion by the old enemy, the Fav’lhir, becomes real.

An Accidental Goddess is set on a space station, Cirrus One, in the Khalaran sector. It has strategic importance in that it is due to serve as the primary terminus for the critical Rim Gate Project. We learn early on that Gillie was originally assigned to the Khalaran Confederation to help them develop the technology needed to build a space station, explore space and to resist the threat of the Fav’lhir, some 342 years previously. She is a Raheiran Special Forces captain, something we do not understand the significance of until later on in the book, but has to hide her true identity on finding that in the intervening years, she has been deified as the Lady Kiasidira by the Khalarans.

Gillaine Davre is a feisty and independent heroine, one who is strong enough to carry the book. She is helped by Simon [Sentient Integrated MObile Nanoessence], a kind of AI advisor and companion. The science elements felt real to me, and the addition of magic, as used by both the Fav’lhir and Gillie, was in keeping with the world created by Linnea Sinclair. One thing that amused me were the parrots in the main atrium of the space station, hundreds of them flying free, oblivious to the annoyance caused to Mack in particular. But parrots aside, the space station setting seemed familiar, reminding me of Star Trek DS9 in many ways. The friction between military and station personnel, security versus religious priorities, and a space station with key strategic importance… these themes are present throughout, and while being somewhat tired tropes, they work well in An Accidental Goddess as a setting for the romance between Gillie and Mack.

Luckily, the romance element of the book is not over done. The relationship progresses as expected – initial attraction tempered by suspicion on Mack’s part, and Gillie’s knowledge of who she really is adds tension to the developing attraction. There are no real surprises here, however, the Fav’lhir plotline balances out the romance story, and for me, was more interesting and engaging. Both Gillie, as a Raheiran, and the Fav’lhir character are sorcerors, their powers being determined by their mage bloodlines. I enjoyed the magic aspect, despite it being a clear good against evil battle. Telepathy is a gift enjoyed by both protagonists and the ethics surrounding it’s use are explored to good effect.

This is not a book to read if you want grand themes and deep philosophical thinking. It is basically a romance, but set in a well-developed science-fiction setting which adds something extra to the attraction between Mack and Gillie. Both plotlines have predictable outcomes, although this did not detract from my enjoyment of An Accidental Goddess. I wanted a light, entertaining read that did not require too much concentration on my part, and Linnea Sinclair delivered exactly that.

Rating: 6/10

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hiatus Again, Oh the Joy

I’m taking on a hiatus again. The longest one I’ve decided on. Call it soul searching, getting my grove back or recharging the batteries. It’s not because I can’t arrange my day or chop up every task into easy to swallow bits. I am a decent juggling act, even though time is sparse. It has to do more with stress than with anything else. Having to think about what to read next, by which date to have it read and reviewed for whatever reason, see which new book is due to hit the shelves, which author/editor/blogger to interview.

This is the tiring part. Thinking up new ways to entertain and provide quality content. I admit to being a perfectionalist. When I immerse myself into something I am in love with, I feel the need to shine everywhere. Some bloggers comment on cover art. Others post insightful reviews. Others arouse discussions and there are those inquisitive people, who produce captivating interviews. I try to embody all and as you might assume the result is less than inspiring and even if it is good enough to read, it is most certainly no fun to maintain. In my attempts to achieve perfection, push through, span out, reach the stars I have discarded the allure. I have burnt completely out.

I don’t rush to complete reviews upon reading a novel. I am also not particularly fond of how I approach reviews in general. I am not as eager to read other review blogs, something which I had great pleasure in doing. Not a long while ago, James from Speculative Horizons talked on the motivation and reasoning behind starting a review blog. In his post he discussed that there is no point in starting up a review blog, if you are in for the review copies and the perks that are bound to come up. Mark Charan Newton commented on the self-inflicted pressure and the fixation on the newest releases. Last, but not least my dear friend Tyhitia from Obfuscation of Reality talked with me about how blogging is not her priority as a writer and how writing has to come before reviewing.

I have been doing exactly the opposite, although I’ve to say I never saw how the reasons that pushed me further switched places. I am now blogging at an accelerated pace, because more or less I want to be relevant, I want to be competitive, better than others, set stat records and in doing so I read and review what I have as review TBR, always pushing for the newest to be released. I want to read in other genres as well: literary fiction, the mainstream classics and vintage SFF and non-fiction, which I don’t have the time for. I want to use reading as a base for my writing and right now the situation is either reading or writing.

So, my hiatus is a way to say ‘screw the stats, the newest releases and the need to dominate’ and get back to basics, to the starting grounds. I have currently written a few reviews and after a certain anthology I want to read and review, along with interviewing several people. After I am done with those, I am leaving you all to my ever talented contributors to keep the fires on. In the mean time, I will study, work and write. Taking it easy, you know, easy on the schedule for me.

See you in September. Have fun people. It’s why we are doing it.

Skinned by Robin Wasserman

This book is the first in a series. I listened to it on audio and I am waiting for the library to get more of the series. Skinned is a great story about a girl who wakes up in a new body, a mechanized version of herself. Her brain and memories are what they were before, but her body and even voice are different. She needs to learn how to move and function in this new veriosn of herself.

In an interview with author Robin Wasserman explained how a person is "skinned".

How does the process work—downloading the human consciousness into the computer mind?

The brain is frozen, cut into thin slices, scanned, and then mapped onto a computer. (As it turns out, there are scientists who speculate about the best ways to do this, so I cobbled together the procedure from their research.) Memories are periodically backed up, so that if necessary, the brain can always be downloaded into a new body. Externally, the body mimics human bodies—it’s anatomically correct and covered in a synthetic flesh that looks and feels nearly real.

Earlier in the year I read The Adoration of Jenna Fox, which tells a similar story in a completely different way. Pearson uses a more lyrical style to express Jenna's disconnect with her indenity. While Robin Wasserman's character remains a caustic teen. Lia has one advantage over Jenna Fox, she was able to keep her memories. Lia is able to move forward with the rememberance of who she once was. But maybe this is worse because she isn't the same person. Even though she feels like the same person on the inside, everyone else is struggling with who she is on the outside. It is easy for Lia to forget that she looks different. But the people looking at her have the constant reminder that she isn't who she used to be. That she is different, that she is artificial. Whether it is pity, fear, or anger, she is treated in a way she never was before. Lia used to be popular, she never knew the scorn of her classmates. Now the looks that used to be filled with envy are now filled with distane.

Both books deal with the moral and ethical issues surrounding these kind of procedures. I enjoyed the world of Skinned more than that of Jenna Fox. I liked the way the story unfolded in Skinned, but I did not particularly like the character of Lia. She was abrasive, self centered and annoying even when she was giong through her self awakening. Jenna had a nievity that was appropriate but kind of annoying as well, but between the two of them I like Jenna better. Both books deal with fascinating aspects of future technological and medical avancements and question what it is to be human. The authors both did an excellent job exploring these elements.

Also in her interview with Wasserman shares her experience delving into a new genre.

This is my first real science fiction novel, and I was pretty intimidated by that at first. I’d decided to set it in the near future, without stopping to think what kind of challenge that would pose. When you set a book in the distant future, you can create whatever kind of world you like—but since this book is set within the twenty-first century, I felt bound to construct something that would seem somewhat realistic. I wanted this world to feel like a natural outgrowth of our own.
On the Simon and Shuster website, Robin shares:

My life in 8 words:
"Chaos punctuated by boredom (or sometimes vice versa)."

Look for the next book in the series, Crashed, out now.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Gimme Some Good Old TV

Apart from being a notorious reader and a self-proclaimed movie fanatic*, I indulge myself in a wide plethora of TV shows. I watch pretty much everything from pointless comedy shows [I had a thing for Samantha Who?] to medical dramas [Private Practice anyone?], but what I am utterly in love with are the wicked, in-between and daring shows, which flip the bird to rules and morals and just go with it.

I start with United States of Tara. Multiple Personality Disorder is an attractive psychological disorder** and it was high time, someone did something memorable with it. Spielberg spotted the sheer brilliance in this disorder and now we have Toni Collette as an artist-mom off her meds, altering between the personalities of a horny teen party girl, a 50s model housewife and white trash redneck***. Written by Diablo Cody, United States of Tara is about the modern dysfunctional family, the meaning of having MPD and how it affects the lives around you. It is endearing, funny, dramatic and intense. The cast is strong and the second season picks up the ante and quality of the storytelling.

Nurse Jackie. Where do I start with Nurse Jackie? Jackie is a drug addict. Jackie cheats on her husband. She hides that she has a family from her medical staff. Jackie loves messing up the life of Doctor Cooper, a freshly baked doctor from university. All in all, Jackie is not saintly and most of what she does is appalling, but damn, Edie Falco is mind-blowing. Nurse Jackie is not a good person, but I continue to root for her, feel for her, hope she doesn’t get caught as she snuffs her dose. And I am completely against addiction and infidelity. Yeah, Falco is that good in her role. But the full experience comes after meeting Brit chick and fashion victim Dr. O’Hara, mean faced head nurse Eucalyptus, fidgeting and goofy Dr. Cooper and the weird nurses. It’s superb.

Ugly Americans comes last, because this is a fresh show from Comedy Central with only four episodes so far, but has proven to be much entertaining. It’s an alternative NYC with monsters and other creepy crawlies all living along. Hell is an easily reached destination, an escalator away, and NYC needs social workers to help ‘others’ integrate into society. Enter Mark Lilly, the very human social worker, trying his best, though futile, to help. Social workers in general have a tough life, but Mark has to watch out from becoming a snack for his zombie roommate Randall, mind his behavior around his aggressive demon girlfriend and immediate boss Callie and help unfortunate ‘others’ along with his always drunk wizard Leonard. This is bizarre to the point of addiction.

* Minus the excessive trivia, which I sometimes envy in individuals.
** And for the love of god, this is not schizophrenia. Get your act together, people.
*** You know, the truck driving, beer drinking variety.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Slow Sunday

Being at work sounded a dream come true, because I got the money and the real work lasted for about4-5 hours total from the 12 hour shift. However, as with all brilliqant pre-planned theories, I did not account for the chaos, colder than outside lobby and Tom Jones' Very Best [read that as 50 songs for a third consecutive day, read that as 36 hours total] as a music background. This kinda make me think happy suicide thoughts rather than be creative. So I give you my inner state of mind in this pictures:

[I am the flock & the man with the helmet is Tom Jones; god, how I hate What's New Pussycat]

Friday, April 9, 2010

[Video] Soul Stealers by Andy Remic

Today, I have a special treat for you guys. The Angry Robot love fest continues with a promotional video from Andy Remic for his newest release 'Soul Stealers'.

“The film was a helluva lot of fun to make, you can see me grinning like an idiot on the sword-fighting scenes. It also stars Nicole Willis, a brill little actress, and my mate Ian Graham, author of MONUMENT ( Sword/axe fighting in the snow was a real giggle, right up to the point I nearly shoved my sword up through Ian’s lower jaw and thus skewered his brain (it was a real steel blade, incidentally). I really did nearly kill the guy! But then we should all suffer for our art, yes?”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

[Art Pick] Bizarre Victorian Animal Portraits

Surrealism is foreign to me. I have seen some surrealistic art, which did not capture my eye or had to do little to inspire me in any way. Which is to say that I have no understanding or knowledge of the genre and what can be achieved with it, until I came across the New Victorian Gods series by Joseph Larkin, who captured my little black heart. The elegance and sophistication stems not only from the superior technique used to render the images, who are so lifelike, but it is imbued in the frames themselves. For Larking finding the right frame is an art form on its own and gives the enchanting and magnetic quality in his works. Here are some highlights.

"Phoebe Smoke"


"Dear Prudence"

"Dead Avian Gorgon"
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