Monday, September 1, 2014

Literary New York

Originally I was thinking of calling September's theme month "Autumn in New York." But then sense weighed in saying, while yes, September is the month autumn starts, I was technically going to be in New York in August, not autumn (plus the one time I was in New York in autumn, it wasn't very autumny)... plus, well, I shall never name a theme month after a lame Richard Gere movie, and that is my promise to you! So this theme month started when I was planning my trip to New York for this past summer. I was looking up all the places I wanted to go, ie, stalking long dead author's haunts, and inspiration struck! Instead of just doing this for fun, I could do it for my blog, which, technically means I was doing it for fun because that's what this blog is to me, besides a labor of love. But then I ended up not going to New York, long sad story, I've moved on; yet despite the trip being defunct now, I couldn't give up on this idea of "Literary New York" (which I had finally settled on as the name of the theme month). So I decided that I'd use this as more extensive planning for when I finally get back to New York, which will happen despite the fact that it appears that like The Doctor I am timelocked from the city.

Therefore I invite you to virtually stalk the artistic haunts of New York with me. Walk the streets that Dorothy Parker and Helene Hanff walked. Breath deep of the city that inspired the likes of Edith Wharton to put pen to page. Live in the shadows of some of the greatest American Authors the world has known. New York has always been a melting pot of genius and I hope with the few authors I have chosen to spotlight that you will see not only their greatness but also the breadth of their works, from playwrights to cartoonists, satirists to biographers, I tried to find a cornucopia of genres to explore. Also, I hope that if you are as lucky as I hope to be that one day you will be able to walk these streets for yourself. Until such a time I hope I can give you a flavor of that greatest of cities housing the spectres of those greatest of authors!

Tuesday Tomorrow

Shifting Shadows by Patricia Briggs
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: September 2nd, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 464 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Mercy Thompson’s world just got a whole lot bigger…

A collection of all-new and previously published short stories featuring Mercy Thompson, “one of the best heroines in the urban fantasy genre today” (Fiction Vixen Book Reviews), and the characters she calls friends…"

This might, just might, hold off the desperate need for a new Mercy book... just might mind you.

Maplecroft by Cherie Priest
Published by: Roc Trade
Publication Date: September 2nd, 2014
Format: Paperback, 448 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks; and when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one....

The people of Fall River, Massachusetts, fear me. Perhaps rightfully so. I remain a suspect in the brutal deaths of my father and his second wife despite the verdict of innocence at my trial. With our inheritance, my sister, Emma, and I have taken up residence in Maplecroft, a mansion near the sea and far from gossip and scrutiny.

But it is not far enough from the affliction that possessed my parents. Their characters, their very souls, were consumed from within by something that left malevolent entities in their place. It originates from the ocean’s depths, plaguing the populace with tides of nightmares and madness.

This evil cannot hide from me. No matter what guise it assumes, I will be waiting for it. With an axe."

Aside from the fact that I like Cherie Priest, even if I didn't know the author I would want this book because I'm a little obsessed with Lizzie Borden... ever since I saw Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched play her... but hopefully I won't get that darn catchy rhyme in my head.

Season of Storms by Susanna Kearsley
Published by: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: September 2nd, 2014
Format: Paperback, 512 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"A mystery trapped in time.

In 1921, infamous Italian poet Galeazzo D'Ascanio wrote his last and greatest play, inspired by his muse and mistress, actress Celia Sands. On the eve of opening night, Celia vanished, and the play was never performed.

Now, two generations later, Alessandro D'Ascanio plans to stage his grandfather's masterpiece and has offered the lead to a promising young English actress, also named Celia Sands-at the whim of her actress mother, or so she has always thought. When Celia arrives at D'Ascanio's magnificent, isolated Italian villa, she is drawn to the mystery of her namesake's disappearance-and to the compelling, enigmatic Alessandro.

But the closer Celia gets to learning the first Celia's fate, the more she is drawn into a web of murder, passion, and the obsession of genius. Though she knows she should let go of the past, in the dark, in her dreams, it comes back.."

Gothicy goodness!

Fables Vol. 20: Camelot by Bill Willingham
Published by: Vertigo
Publication Date: September 2nd, 2014
Format: Paperback, 256 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Rose Red finally and formally takes on the mantle of Paladin of Hope to heroically rally the Fables in the tragic aftermath of "Snow White." A new dark age calls for a new Round Table, with modern knights willing to take on a sacred quest to reassemble the shattered pieces of Fabletown.

Collects issues #130-140 of this 14-time Eisner-Award-winning series."

I unequivocally don't want this series to end.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review - Lish McBride's Necromancing the Stone

Necromancing the Stone (Necromancer Book 2) by Lish McBride
Published by: Henry Holt & Company
Publication Date: September 18th, 2012
Format: Hardcover, 344 Pages
Rating: ★★★
To Buy

Sam is having a hard time adjusting to his new life. If he could just have time to come to terms with what he is, then perhaps life would fall into place. But no, he has no such luxury. He hits the ground running and must come to terms with this new world he's been thrust into on the fly. His home being the home of his enemy whom he killed, if it isn't weird enough, apparently wants to kill him to return for the loss of their master. Then there's his new duties taking over from Douglas as the area Necromancer with a seat on the council, something Douglas loved and had decades to prepare for, thrust at a moments notice on Sam. Add in complications of being in love with a werewolf, trust issues with his family, and, well, it's not going to be easy. When the head of the local werewolf pack is murdered, as a man dealing in death, Sam is called in to solve the case. The death means he's lost a friend, his girlfriend, and, if he's not careful, his reputation and maybe his life. But Sam is getting very good at learning things as he goes... it's the only chance he has of survival.

People don't like change. This one fact is the only justification that I can latch onto for the tired old trope of the indestructible bad guy. At the end of every installment, be it book or movie, the erstwhile heroes triumph over evil by killing the baddie and saving the day. Or did they? Bad guys have a sad tendency not to stay dead. As Buffy says to Dracula at the end of the season five episode "Buffy vs. Dracula": "You think I don't watch your movies? Rolling her eyes. You always come back." I hate this trope. I don't care if you loved the bad guy and love the interaction with the hero and all that jazz, I don't want the bad guys to "always come back!" I want something new, something excited, not the same old villains again and again. This is why I hate daleks, cybermen, and Douglas! I despised Douglas in the first installment of Lish's Necromancer series, and even if he is stuck in that nebulous world between life and death and he's "different", well, it's not going to make me like her bringing him back, that's for sure!

Necromancing the Stone seems hell bent on trying to humanize Douglas, to make us have some empathy for him by fleshing out his backstory. Here's the thing, you can't humanize someone this evil. It's like saying that Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince humanizes Voldemort! No, it doesn't. The backstory gives us insight and knowledge, but it can never absolve evil. We can get origins of evil, never justifications for evil. There are some people, some acts, that no matter what we learn or what knowledge is imparted, what they did can never be forgiven. It would be like saying Hitler had his reasons and you can kind of get where he was coming from. No! Not only does Lish take a trope I hate but she uses that trope to try to empathize with evil. By hanging her narrative off this misshapen and ill conceived structure I can never fully embrace this book, it's tired, derivative (there might be more Harry Potter then I have previously hinted), and flawed. Also Lish really needs to add some mystery, because having a backstage seat with the bad guy means having everything laid out in front of you and gives the book no driving force and makes it all sadly inevitable.

The tired tropes aren't my only issue. Sometimes you get the feeling that author's aren't connected to the world around them. It's not that they don't get cultural references or jokes, it's that they are "out of time" if you will. What do I mean by this vague statement? I mean that the jokes are old. The characters in this book are in their late teens, early twenties, and they are making jokes that make sense for my generation, people in their thirties. There is NO WAY kids of today would get jokes about the "Care Bear Stare." Or Jerry Maguire! This isn't happening. Yes I have to admit that it would be hard to tap into this younger generation and make your jokes relevant, when you, as a writer, are probably totally amused by your own writing. The thing is, you are writing this book for an audience, and that audience isn't you. Yes, we could argue that all books are written for yourself, but let's not, let's look at the realities of publishing and the fact that this is a YA book for people who don't know about Care Bears or other 80s ephemera. Go find the teens, hang out with them for a minute and get out of your own youth. Lish, you're not the only author to suffer from this disorder, look to the Veronica Mars writers, just know that it should be addressed in future works.

Yet despite all these tropes and flaws and tired jokes there's something that I just can't resist in this book. Lish has a unique sense of humor and the times when Sam is just hanging at his house with his army of attack gnomes and his nymphs and minotaur playing Frisbee in the yard, everything is oddly quirky and right and you want to live there. It's the down time in the book that she's nailed. The vignettes that lend themselves to short stories or novellas. The interaction between James and his new "masters." The inconvenience of having a chupacabra as a pet. It's the little things that are so perfect that you want to somehow have Lish find a way to translate this small scale perfection to the larger structure of the book. If she could just expand on the little moments of bliss and not lose them in the translation to plot or large action sequences she could be a force to be reckoned with... sadly she is not yet there.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Book Review - Lish McBride's Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer (Necromancer Book 1) by Lish McBride
Published by: Square Fish
Publication Date: May 8th, 2012
Format: Paperback, 343 Pages
Rating: ★★
To Buy

Sam is nothing much. He's a skateboarding slacker who wasn't cut out for college and eeks out a living at the local fast food joint with his friends, most of whom crash in his minuscule apartment. Everything changes when he breaks a tail light of a swanky car in the parking lot during a heated game of spud hockey, wherein potatoes can do serious damage to vintage cars if you're a crappy shot. The owner of the car, Douglas, is not pleased, but even more, shocked when he encounters Sam, who has more in common with Douglas then he could ever imagine. Sam might not know it yet, but he's a Necromancer, and so is Douglas. Necromancers don't really reside near each other or play well others, and Douglas is quick to make this point to Sam when he delivers the head of Sam's friend Brooke to his shitty apartment's door. Sam now has to figure out the truth that has been hidden from him his whole life and hope that he will survive his run in with Douglas, as well as other varieties of beasties he thought only lived in science fiction.

It's not a good sign when the best part of a book is an amusing title. But even the title loses a bit of it's luster when the song title gag is repeated at the start of every chapter. I had not heard of Lish McBride when I went to one of the tour stops of the Fierce Reads Tour back in 2012. I will admit I was solely there to stalk Marissa Meyer, she of the Lunar Chronicles, but all four of the authors present made a good impression, Lish was perhaps the most memorable. She was amusing, sarcastic, laid back, and had an obvious love of sleep, which she was needing desperately, and that's something I could seriously relate to at the time being in the middle of an amazingly busy time in my life, so much so that even taking the day off to go to an author signing resulted in me getting hives. The event had me wanting to read all the authors books instantly, but Lish's more then any of the others.

I thought to myself, if she could just capture part of herself on the page then it would be a truly awesome read. Sadly the only place I could sense Lish's personality was in the "Go Fish: Questions for the Author" extra at the back of the book. The book wasn't bad, it wasn't good, it was just flat. It felt like the book had had the soul drained out of it. I'm not sure how it got to this state, perhaps through over editing as Lish's personality was systematically stripped out of the book so that it lacked anything recognizable from her. Sometimes too much editing can have this effect... but for such a memorable person she has written a very forgettable book that was Reaper meets Mercy Thompson with the head in the box from season two of Deadwood and the job prospects of Being Human with a little Kevin Smith and a few moments of unforgettable weirdness. Hello zombie panda!

The writing style of the book also really grated on me. I have issues when authors are being "cute" or "clever" with their narration. In other words, when they tend to waffle back and forth between 1st and 3rd person. For every instance that it works, Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus, there are hundreds of instances where it fails, I'm looking at you Scalzi and that crap ending to Redshirts! Here it fails. Not on the epicness of the Scalzi scale, but it still doesn't work. The only way for this technique to really work is for it to flow with the story, but Lish seemed to be forcing it. The switching up felt like it was a writing exercise, like homework, and seeing as this book started out as part of her thesis to graduate with an MFA in fiction... that's just what it is. Homework. Do you like reading other people's homework? I didn't think so.

Yet I think, seeing as this is a first book, I could have been forgiving, I could have overlooked a lot of the flaws if it weren't for Douglas. Every book does need an antagonist. They're the stock villain that our hero must fight and whose downfall we root for. But just because you're the bad guy doesn't mean that you can just skate through the book. Oh no! A bad guy has to be just as dynamic for a book to be balanced. And I don't think my hatred of Douglas is based on the fact that his sections of the book where the ones in third person... though that did annoy me. On second thought though, just the fact that the villain has his own chapters annoys the hell out of me because it takes away the mystery knowing what he's up to, knowing his motives, and knowing how he plans to mess with Sam. In fact that might be just a general issue with this book, not having mystery makes you not in a rush to get to that last page but slowly amble in a way that you could stop or start at any time.

But really, I meant to be talking about Douglas. He's unrepentant evil. There is nothing interesting about him. He is not compelling, he is not dynamic, he is just evil. Sometimes the most fun in a book is gotten in uncovering a back story, finding a grain of goodness, where good turned evil. But the only person that Douglas reminded me of was Patrick Bateman in American Psycho... a comparison that isn't in Douglas's favor. Because of the structure of American Psycho, by being in Bateman's mind we get a depth, even amongst the evil. Douglas was just flat, blah, evil. Evil for evils sake and nothing more. I just hated him outright. In fact, I hated him so much I didn't want to read any part of the book he was in. If you're reading a book the worst thing that could happen is to have a character that makes the book so unenjoyable that you would rather put the book down then read another line about them. While Sam was meh in my opinion, just a few lines in a Douglas chapter and I was begging for Sam's return! I just hope Douglas stays dead, but via horror conventions, I know he's not. Douglas is truly sapping my will to pick up Necromancing the Stone...

Monday, August 25, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

Ever After Hight: A Wonderlandiful World by Shannon Hale
Published by: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 26th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"At Ever After High, everyone is expected to sign the Storybook of Legends, pledging to follow in their fairytale parent's footsteps. But when Raven Queen came along, things became fairy, fairy confusing. Now no one's destiny is certain, not even for the most royal of them all, Apple White.

When a mysterious being from Wonderland begins to infect Ever After High with a strange magic, everything goes topsy-turvy. The students transform into animals and objects, palace mice talk, and the beautiful green grounds on campus fade to black-and-white. Lizzie Hearts, Wonderland's future queen, Cedar Wood, daughter of Pinocchio, and Madeline Hatter, heir to the Mad Hatter's Hat and Tea Shoppe, seem to be the only ones who haven't completely lost their heads. It's up to them to save their best friends forever after from a curse that threatens to give their school-and their lives-a very unhappy ending."

Um... yeah, I might now have a doll to this series...

The Revenge of Seven by Pittacus Lore
Published by: HarperCollins
Publication Date: August 26th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The fifth and penultimate book in the New York Times bestselling I Am Number Four series! The Garde have suffered an unbearable loss. Number Five has betrayed them. Eight is gone forever. Ella has been kidnapped. The others are now scattered.

In Chicago, John makes the unlikeliest of allies: Adam, a Mogadorian who turned his back on his people. He has invaluable information about Mog technology, battle strategies, and weaknesses. Most important, he knows where to hit them: their command base near Washington, DC. During the assault, however, John and Adam learn the unimaginable truth: it is too late. The Mogadorians have commenced their ultimate invasion plans.

With a front-row seat to the impending invasion, Ella finds herself in the hands of the enemy. For some reason she's more valuable to them alive, and they'll stop at nothing to turn her.

Meanwhile, Six, Nine, and Marina make their way through the Florida Everglades, hot on the trail of the traitorous Five. With the development of a new Legacy, Marina finally has the power to fight back—if her thirst for revenge doesn't consume her first.

The Garde are broken and divided once again, but they will not be defeated. As long as one still stands, the battle for Earth's survival is not lost."

For my friend Moxie. You can start bracing yourself now for the end.

Havoc by Mary Ann Aguirre
Published by: Ace
Publication Date: August 26th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 320 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The Conglomerate’s most dangerous convicts have made the prison ship Perdition their home. And they will defend it…

Perdition is under siege. Mercenaries have boarded the station with orders to take control of the facility—and execute the prisoners. Their commander is offering full pardons to the first five inmates willing to help the mercs complete their mission.

Dresdemona “Dred” Devos hasn’t survived hard time just to surrender to the Conglomerate’s armored thugs. Leading a ragtag army of inmates, Dred and her champion, Jael, wage a bloody guerilla war of chaos and carnage against impossible odds. But no matter how dire the outlook, the Dread Queen never backs down…"

Because one (aka me) can never get enough Ann Aguirre.

Louisa May Alcott: Worj, Eight Cousins, Rose in Bloom, Stories and Other Writings by Louisa May Alcott
Published by: Library of America
Publication Date: August 26th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 900 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Pioneering feminist novels and rare stories from the author of Little Women: After the success of her beloved masterpiece Little Women, Louisa May Alcott brought her genius for characterization and eye for detail to a series of revolutionary novels and stories that are remarkable in their forthright assertion of women’s rights. This second volume of The Library of America’s Alcott edition gathers these works for the first time, revealing a fascinating and inspiring dimension of a classic American writer. The first of a trio of novels written over a fruitful three-year period, Work: A Story of Experience (1873) has been called the adult Little Women. It follows the semi-autobiographical story of an orphan named Christie Devon, who, having turned twenty-one, announces “a new Declaration of Independence” and leaves her uncle’s house in order to pursue economic self-sufficiency and to find fulfillment in her profession. Against the backdrop of the Civil War years, Christie works as a servant, actress, governess, companion, seamstress, and army nurse—all jobs that Alcott knew from personal experience—exposing the often insidious ways in which the employments conventionally available to women constrain their selfdetermination. Alcott’s most overtly feminist novel, Work breaks new ground in the literary representation of women, as its heroine pushes at the boundaries of nineteenth-century expectations and assumptions. Eight Cousins (1875) concerns the education of Rose Campbell, another orphan who, in her delicate nature and frail health, seems to embody many of the stereotypes of girlhood that shaped Alcott’s world. But with the benefit of an unorthodox, progressive education (one informed by the theories of Alcott’s transcendentalist father Bronson Alcott) and the good and bad examples of her many crisply drawn relations— especially her seven boy cousins—Rose regains her health and envisions a career both as a wife and mother and as a philanthropist. Further advancing Alcott’s passionate advocacy of women’s rights, Rose insists that she will manage her own fortune rather than find a husband to do it for her. This Library of America edition includes several noteworthy features. All three novels are presented with beautifully restored line art from the original editions and are supplemented by seven hard-to-find stories and public letters (two restored to print for the first time in more than a century), an authoritative chronology of Alcott’s life, and notes identifying her allusions, quotations, and the autobiographical episodes in her fiction."

Firstly, holy freakin' synopsis... have they heard of paragraph breaks? Other then that, can someone just buy all of the Library of America for me? Seriously, these editions are so lush I want them all, so far I've only picked up a handful...

Friday, August 22, 2014

That Summer Read Along Discussion *TODAY*

Today is the day! Today all the discussion questions I have toiled and fretted over shall be actually discussed! But more importantly all these burning questions I have will be talked about amongst you, my fellow readers! I'm so excited it's like a book lover's Christmas! So come join me over on the That Summer Read Along Event on Facebook, I will be there all day, meaning, ungodly early for me because my night and day are somewhat reversed to other peoples... but that doesn't matter when there's a book to discuss! Also, it makes it even more like Christmas when you'd wake your parents up before there was even a sun in the sky. So I shall be a gracious hostess and try not to fall asleep on my keyboard... as if I could!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

That Summer Read Along Dream Casting

It's time to have some more fun over on the Facebook Event Page for Lauren Willig's That Summer Read Along! This week I've taken over the reigns as moderator from the lovely Christina and Ashley and prepare the discussion for our final week next week with CĂ©line where all your burning questions will finally be answered! But this week, besides leading the discussion, it's time to talk Dream Casting! I adore playing "what if" games with the characters in books and That Summer is no exception. This painting by John Everett Millais entitled "Mariana" is the basis for the fictional Gavin Thorne's picture of the same name with added sewing box that upsets Imogen at the RA Show. Now I want you to think about what actor could portray an artist capable of painting such beauty and a young actress who could capture the hurt upon seeing her life laid bare on a canvas. Think of who could portray the modern generation finding another painting not on a gallery wall but hidden in the back of a dresser. I know who I think is perfect, but I'd love to hear your opinions too. So head on over to the Facebook Discussion and add your two cents!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Tuesday Tomorrow

Bittersweet by Colleen McCullough
Published by: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: August 19th, 2014
Format: Hardcover, 3284 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"In her first epic romantic novel since The Thorn Birds, Colleen McCullough weaves a sweeping story of two sets of twins—all trained as nurses, but each with her own ambitions—stepping into womanhood in 1920s and 30s Australia.

Because they are two sets of twins, the four Latimer sisters are as close as can be. Yet these vivacious young women each have their own dreams for themselves: Edda wants to be a doctor, Tufts wants to organize everything, Grace won’t be told what to do, and Kitty wishes to be known for something other than her beauty. They are famous throughout New South Wales for their beauty, wit, and ambition, but as they step into womanhood, they are not enthusiastic about the limited prospects life holds for them.

Together they decide to enroll in a training program for nurses—a new option for women of their time, who have previously been largely limited to the role of wives, and preferably mothers. As the Latimer sisters become immersed in hospital life and the demands of their training, they meet people and encounter challenges that spark new maturity and independence. They meet men from all walks of life—local farmers, their professional colleagues, and even men with national roles and reputations—and each sister must make weighty decisions about what she values most. The results are sometimes happy, sometimes heartbreaking, but always . . . bittersweet.

Rendered with McCullough’s trademark historical accuracy, this dramatic coming of age tale is wise in the ways of the human heart, one that will transport readers to a time in history that feels at once exotic and yet not so very distant from our own."

I have family members that were major obsessed with The Thorne Birds, personally, this looks better, more Downtonesque.

Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box by George Mann
Published by: Titan Books
Publication Date: August 19th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 336 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"Summer, 1915. As Zeppelins rain death upon the rooftops of London, eminent members of society begin to behave erratically: a Member of Parliament throws himself naked into the Thames after giving a pro-German speech to the House; a senior military advisor suggests surrender before feeding himself to a tiger at London Zoo; a famed suffragette suddenly renounces the women's liberation movement and throws herself under a train.

In desperation, an aged Mycroft Holmes sends to Sussex for the help of his brother, Sherlock."

How excited am I for a new George Mann book? Very. Very is the answer.

The Ripper Affair by Lilith Saintcrow
Published by: Orbit
Publication Date: August 19th, 2014
Format: Paperback, 416 Pages
To Buy

The official patter:
"The enthralling conclusion to the Bannon and Clare trilogy from New York Times bestselling author, Lilith Saintcrow.

Sorcery. Treason. Madness. And, of course, murder most foul...

A shattering accident places Archibald Clare, mentath in the service of Britannia, in the care of Emma Bannon, sorceress Prime. Clare needs a measure of calm to repair his faculties of Logic and Reason. Without them, he is not his best. At all.

Unfortunately, calm and rest will not be found. There is a killer hiding in the sorcerous steam-hells of Londinium, murdering poor women of a certain reputation. A handful of frails murdered on cold autumn nights would make no difference...but the killings echo in the highest circles, and threaten to bring the Empire down in smoking ruins.

Once more Emma Bannon is pressed into service; once more Archibald Clare is determined to aid her. The secrets between these two old friends may give an ambitious sorcerer the means to bring down the Crown. And there is still no way to reliably find a hansom when one needs it most.

The game is afoot..."

Totally didn't realize this is a trilogy... good, because I totally liked but forgot what happens in the first book so now I can quickly read them all!

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