The Wolves of Midwinter

Friday, June 29, 2012

Interview with D.B Jackson (Author of the upcoming historical Fantasy Book:Thieftaker)

1.FF:Within the fantasy genre, there seems to be a dearth of historical fantasy books. A fantasy book that is set during the time of the American Revolution is especially difficult to find. There are myriad number of fantasy books that are based off Arthurian legend or completely focused on elements of European History exclusively. Why did you  ultimately choose the "American Revolution" as the setting for the novel?

D.B Jackson:Well, part of my reasoning followed exactly the same lines as your question.  I had actually written this book first as an alternate world fantasy, and then, after discussions with my editor, decided to change it to a historical.  The original idea for the series came from something I had read about thieftakers operating in London, and so my editor suggested that I set the book there.  But my feeling was that there were already plenty of books set in England, and I wasn’t interested in writing yet another one.  So in a way, I was looking to be a bit different.

But I was also interested in, for want of a better phrase, writing what I know.  I have a Ph.D. in U.S. history, and though my dissertation was on the New Deal, I was always fascinated by the Colonial period.  And since that period was at least somewhat consistent with the time that saw the rise of thieftakers in England, the setting seemed to work well with the concept of the book.  I chose Boston because it was at the center of so much that happened in the lead-up to the Revolution, and because it had fallen a bit from its position earlier in the 18th century as North America’s leading city.  It had been surpassed by New York and Philadelphia; it was a bit seedy, a bit past its prime.  In that way, it was just like my lead character, and I liked that parallel.

2.FF: One of the fascinating parts of this novel was the historical details that supply the reader with a rich sense of realism. Whenever I have the desire to someday write a historical fiction/fantasy story, I am daunted by the prospect of doing thorough research for the novel. How were you able to strike the delicate balance between history and fantasy? Also, are there any tips that you have for aspiring historical fiction writers about the best way to make the research process not seem so overwhelming?

DB Jackson:Finding that balance you mention is absolutely crucial to the success of any work of historical fiction, be it fantasy, mystery, romance -- whatever.  And, of course, there is no formula for it.  Every book is different; every story demands a different blend of historical detail and narrative to make the tale work.  I spent a great deal of time doing research on everything from British/American politics, to city life in 1760s Boston, to the workings of flint-lock pistols, to the Salem Witch Trials of the 1690s (in my book, conjurers like my lead character are often accused of being “witches.”)  But even as I did the research I knew that ultimately my problem would not be having too little information, but rather having too much.  I couldn’t possibly include every relevant detail without drowning my narrative in “facts” and making it boring for my readers.  In the end, I chose to use only those details that did (at least) one of three things:  1) Directly influenced my plotting or character work; 2) enhanced my readers’ understanding of something crucial to the story; or 3) contributed materially to making my setting come alive WITHOUT detracting from the pacing of the book.

Now, that last one is pretty vague, but it’s one of those things where you know it when you see it.  Finding a detail that just makes the setting sparkle is actually tons of fun, and if I could slip in such a detail without having to take the time to explain it, then it stayed.  If I had to explain it to make it work, I cut it.

As to what advice I would give to other writers, I would start by saying don’t be overwhelmed by the research.  Chances are, if you’re interested in writing historical fiction, the stuff you find as you do research is going to fascinate you.  I would also say, don’t take what I said before about having too much information to mean that you should skimp on research.  Having more information than I needed made the history that I do include read as that much more authoritative.  In other words, knowing too much is a good thing.  Readers can tell when research is done on the cheap; do the extra work -- it will pay off in the writing.  And finally, have fun with it.  Look for creative ways to accomplish those three goals I mention above.  Seriously, you’re going to enjoy doing the research and making your setting come to life.

3.FF:In grade school, we were always reeducated about the American Revolution, but smaller, quirkier details about history were often still overlooked. I never learned about "thieftakers" for that very reason. How did you manage to find something about thieftakers? Also, are there any other unusual facts about the American Revolution that people commonly do not know?

DB Jackson:Okay, well the first thing I have to say, is that THIEFTAKER, while historically accurate in most respects, begins with two pretty huge historical fallacies.  First, my protagonist is a conjurer, and there were no conjurers in Boston in 1765.  Shocking, I know.  And second, there were no thieftakers in North America in the 18th century.  There were thieftakers in England at this time, and thieftakers made a very brief appearance in a few North American cities in the early 19th century, but there were no thieftakers in pre-Revolutionary Boston.  That is a fiction of my own invention.  It works for a couple of reasons.  First, as I say, thieftakers were common in British life, if not in the colonies.  And second, Boston had basically no law enforcement infrastructure at all at this time.  British troops had not yet come to the city (they began to occupy Boston in September 1768).  The Sheriff of Suffolk County was a man named Stephen Greenleaf, but he had no officers, no support staff of any sort.  And the night watch of Boston was made up of men who were incompetent, corrupt, or both.  So while there were no thieftakers, conditions were such that there COULD have been.  So I was able to fit my historical fallacy into circumstances that make it seem perfectly reasonable.

As for facts that people don’t usually know.  Well, most people don’t know that Samuel Adams was afflicted all his life with a mild palsy that made his head and hands tremble.  That’s kind of a cool tidbit.  And actually I find the stuff about Greenleaf and his essentially powerless position kind of interesting.  Also, there is a lot in THIEFTAKER about a guy named Ebenezer MacKintosh (real name) who was one of the street captains who led protests against the Stamp Act.  He is largely ignored in history books,  mostly because he was a working class guy whose influence was mostly over other working class guys, but he was an important figure.

4. FF:One of my favorite historical series was HBO's Rome, though I know many of the characters were fictitious. Another challenging element of historical fiction has to be creating minor characters, who still preserve some shred of historical accuracy. Are many of your characters in this story inspired by real historical figures, or are they intelligent fabrications that could easily have lived during this time?

DB Jackson:Um . . . Yes.  There are many characters who show up in the book who are real and who played some role, large or small, in historical events of the time.  Samuel Adams, James Otis, and Thomas Hutchinson are some of the better known historical figures who have a role in the book.  I’ve already mentioned Stephen Greenleaf and Ebenezer MacKintosh.  But then there are several minor characters -- Benjamin Church shows up at one point, as do a pair of ministers:  Henry Caner and John Troutbeck.  With these characters, I read as much as I could about them and then took a creative license or two when I needed to.  For instance, I found next to nothing about Reverend Troutbeck, except that he was the curate -- the second-in-command -- at King’s Chapel for many years and was passed over for promotion to rector a couple of times.  So I assumed that he might be a slightly difficult personality and drew him as such.

In creating my fictional characters, from my lead character Ethan Kaille, down to the most minor of characters, I tried to draw upon everything my research had told me about the city and its people in order to make them as realistic and of their time and place as possible -- as you say:  intelligent fabrications.

5.FF:After your novel skillfully made me curious about historical fantasy books, do you have any recommendations? Are there any other historical fantasy novels that have a good balance of fantasy and history?

DB Jackson:Definitely!  If you’re interested in more fantasies set in the Revolutionary period, I strongly recomment C.C. Finlay’s Traitor to the Crown series (THE PATRIOT WITCH, A SPELL FOR THE REVOLUTION, THE DEMON REDCOAT) does a marvelous job of weaving magic with actual events during the Revolutionary War.  Guy Gavriel Kay, another of my favorite authors, writes a lot of what I would call hybrid historical fantasy, in that he bases his books on historical circumstances, but then places them in alternate world settings.  I can recommend, among other titles, the Sarantine Mosaic (SAILING TO SARANTIUM and LORD OF EMPERORS) and THE LAST LIGHT OF THE SUN.  Of course there is Harry Turtledove’s classic THE GUNS OF THE SOUTH, an alternate history that imagines what would have happened if the the Confederacy had been given access to automatic weapons.  There are many other titles as well; I couldn’t possibly list them all.  But historical fantasy is a growing and vibrant field -- THIEFTAKER is just one of many titles that are worth looking at.

FF:Thanks again DB Jackson for this interview opportunity.

DB Jackson:Thank you for the interesting questions.  I enjoyed it.

D.B. Jackson is also David B. Coe, the award-winning author of a dozen fantasy novels. His first book as D.B. Jackson, Thieftaker, volume I of the Thieftaker Chronicles, will be released by Tor Books on July 3. D.B. lives on the Cumberland Plateau with his wife and two teenaged daughters. They’re all smarter and prettier than he is, but they keep him around because he makes a mean vegetarian fajita. When he’s not writing he likes to hike, play guitar, and stalk the perfect image with his camera.

My Review of DB Jackson Thieftaker will be posted July 3rd, coinciding with the book's release date.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Comic Thursdays: Within Temptation's "The Unforgiving"

(Comic Adapted by Steven O'Connell, Romano Molenaar, Martin Montiel, Marco Galli, and Joel Seguin)
(Ideas for comic created by Within Temptation-A Highly talented Dutch Symphonic Rock/Metal Band)

 Who here are both huge fans of both comics and well-produced metal music? I'm definitely one of those avid fans of both genres that really are not polar opposites at all.  To my  surprise, Within Temptation's newest album last year was based off of a premise for a comic book that was planned to be simultaneously released. Excitingly, the comics have been released every several months because the story is certainly expansive and fascinating enough to warrant more than one volume. Knowing how terrible films based off video games are, I actually had very dim expectations of the comics. I presupposed that the terrible relationship between films and video games would be shared by a very different bond that is formed between music and comic books. Since Within Temptation mentioned that they were huge fans of eighties rock music and the comic books that they often read whilst listening to this music, wouldn't it be a grand idea to fuse both those loves and pay homage to it in their newest album?. I absolutely love their newest album,The Unforgiving, which does have very heavy eighties rock influences pervading the sound. What about the comics themselves? Are they on par with the album in terms of quality?

One of the songs featured on "The Unforgiving" focuses on the moral paradox of "righteous murder"

     To my surprise, the comic book itself was not at all bad, it was not necessarily a colossal masterpiece either. Throughout the first three volumes, there is special focus placed on a female cop named Janyce, who is ridden with grief over certain unfortunate circumstances in her life. Her character reminds me of the male version of Angel from Joss Whedon's infamous spin-off of his popular series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Janyce seems to be a very brooding character, as she is facing perpetual mental warfare over some grief in her life that underlies all her actions. She is often "a woman of very few words," and carries a stolid stare much like Angel. She is the rogue character that is not completely involved with the proceedings of her mundane life, rather her grief causes her to be detached because she cannot entirely deal with it.

     In the early pages of the comic, the dialogue sometimes feels a little stilted, as though the writers were still trying to seek out the right pace and correct way of allowing the plot to proceed towards the larger revelation that loomed over the reader throughout the first three volumes. Until the fourth volume, we are left wading through a lot of necessary exposition, while the main plot is still left out in the shadows. It was the fourth volume that really helped redeem the comic in my eyes. It was at that point when the entire comic started to make much more sense, and the early volumes had a bit more purpose because you can see how the first three volumes slowly developed towards the "big reveal." Normally, I find pilot episodes of television series to be laborious because we are not yet in the thick of the plot's substance. Within these comics, the first three volumes act as that slow pilot episode that does nothing but create impatience for a much more intriguing plot that the creators are purposely forestalling for suspense purposes.

   In terms of the art, it is not anything particularly special. If anything, it was adequate enough to help flesh out certain dynamics within the story.  There was a great range of darker and lighter colors used, which was meant to evoke the dichotomy between the mundane world where nothing beyond our comprehension happens or the criminal nighttime where the world is flooded with the undetectable supernatural or immoral forces. Wonderfully, the main plot surrounding a league of crime fighters that are "remorseful killers" prevents the plot from becoming simply "a moral tale of good versus evil." Ironically, there are still evil forces though within this comic; they are the killers who supposedly are not remorseful for what they've done. It is the aforementioned characters who are part of this league of ambiguously moral characters that the comic focuses mostly on; these characters reflect our own unfocused moral senses. They are what drives both our emotions and captivation with the comic.

   This dynamic is not something new for comic book heroes; Spiderman and Batman often struggle over their sense of morality all throughout their lives as heroes. Within Anne Rice's recent novel "The Wolf Gift," Reuben is constantly plagued with the question of whether or not his murderous actions are underpinned with good intentions; is there really a form of murder that is not definitively "good" or "evil?" Sinead, within the Unforgiving Comics, grapples with this very important philosophical question throughout Within Temptation's accompanying album, and in the comics themselves. Then again, Sinead does not come into the equation of the story till much later, so we are left lingering the first three volumes without fully delving into this metaphysical formula that has proved to be a very exceptional formula in any stories involving vigilantes that work outside any mode of governmental authority.

    Interestingly, this very magnetic theme of the harsh struggle of feeling like the rogue or outsider within society that has the pretense of being "completely pluralistic," is still very recurrent. While this equation has always been relevant, it has become more even more popular as society supposedly works to become less conformist. Perhaps, these comics or stories, featuring vigilantes, are trying to show us that we can never fully evolve ourselves past the confines of certain mainstay features of our humanity. Surprisingly, one of the songs by Delain,from their forthcoming album:We are the Others, must have been a bit inspired by some of the themes presented in Within Temptation's "The Unforgiving," though this song focuses less on superheroes and more upon the misunderstood social groups within our society that often identify themselves as "outsiders." While superheroes or violent moral crusaders might be a different type of outsider, there is still a certain element of their struggle that keeps reappearing in all types of various songs by metal or rock groups. It is an impermeable theme that I highly doubt that we'll ever overcome.

   Final Thoughts:   Anyways, I was really quite surprised that the comic based off Within Temptation's album was able to plumb such interesting philosophical topics,even if the first three volumes seem to stray a bit from entirely delving into the substance of the plot. If you remain patient though, the fourth volume truly rewards the reader who remains steadfast. I still have not yet read the fifth volume or sixth volume (Has that even be released yet???).  Eventually though, Ill have to purchase them from Within Temptation's online store, which for now seems like the only vendor that sells these comics.

       Links of Interest: Temptation's Official Site -Within Temptation's Official Store (Trustworthy vendor for the comics) - Within Temptation's Facebook Page - Within Temptation's Twitter Page
If you like the Delain song below, I highly reccomend these links:
Delain's Official Page-
A Very Good Delain Fan Page-
Place to Order new Delain Album (Released in NA on July 3rd,2012)
Delain's Facebook Page:

Here is the Delain song that was mentioned above towards the end of my review!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Upcoming Blog Features

Comic Wednesdays Becoming Comic Thursdays
*The formerly titled feature "Comic Wednesday," will not become "Comic Thursdays." If you have been wondering why there has been a peculiar lack of comic reviews, I have a lot of books to read through at the moment and review, thus its very hard to keep up with the weekly comic feature.

Upcoming Book Review For Next Week:

July 3,2012

Next week, I'm pleased to feature DB Jackson's Thieftakers  on this blog. I'm thrilled to review this book because it might be one of my favorite surprises thus far. Who would believe that we'd be getting a fantasy novel set during the American Revolution? It is very relevant, since the Fourth of July occurs during the week  this very exciting book is slated to be released.

On July 5th, I'll be hosting Sasha Summer's Medusa,  which has filled the Greek mythology void that has existed in my reading pile for far too long.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Propheticus Blog Tour-Revised Review/Promo Post

About Emma Daley     
At only the age of three, you could find Emma perched in the center of the dining table, a tape player in her lap, while the other kids gathered to listen to her recite her own creative version of her favorite tales like "Jack and The Bean Stalk" or "Peter Pan". Her imagination was fueled when she signed up for a high school Greek Mythology class. It was there in high school Mythology class that Emma found her dream. Her teacher recognized her talent, and encouraged her to pursue a career in the one thing that brought her imagination to life, writing. As a military wife and with life's fast pace and strenuous demands, it wasn't until she was 26 that she finally decided to pursue those long forgotten dreams. She started her very first novel Propheticus in November of 2008, which will be released in December of 2010 and is working on the 2nd and 3rd sequels, with several other book ideas on the shelf waiting to be dusted off and put into words.

Blurb about Propheticus:

This is a self published, sci-fi fantasy book set in an ancient universe. Four destined characters run into each other by chance and discover their pasts connect them in a prophecy to destroy some of the universes most gruesome creatures. The mystery of Aniah's past begins to unravel when she meets a stranger in the desert outside her ranch on the planet Delucia. Strange things start to happen around the ranch and Aniah experiences horrible nightmares of a dark creature the longer this stranger stays and the more she begins to question her fathers disappearance years ago. This story takes you to other worlds and although the first novel offers a little more romance and mystery with some thriller, the other novels in the series have more action and adventure in them as the characters travel the universe and visit incredible worlds. Sample from the book: There is something frightening about the way a hateful, unknown creature looks back at you. The way its beady red eyes snarl at you, and it's cheek curls with a hiss to reveal the greedy canines beneath. It is one thing to dream of this beastly creature, and it is another to have it inches from your face, its warm ungodly breath on your cheek, and its pallid gray bones reaching to devour you. My name is Aniah, and once my world was safe. But like many others throughout the universe-and here on the planet Delucia-fate would have me meet with the Mangitori de Sangue; an ancient army of blood-lusting creatures who have been frightening and devouring the inhabitants of the universe for decades. My fate brings me deep into their world. In fact, it is written somewhere-and the stories have been told long before I was ever born-of a prophecy wherein a young woman with the heart and soul of an angel will lead the universe in a victory against the Mangitori de Sangue. I am that woman. I just have to stay alive long enough to figure out how.

Author Links:
Propheticus Blog
Amazon Kindle
Amazon Paperback

Disclaimer:I decided to post this nonetheless because I really feel that this is not negative, but constructive! Above all, I implore the writer to keep working on her writer because I really feel that she has a lot of promise. 

   From the outset of the novel, it was a rather laborious, though subtly fascinating read. One of the strengths of this book was the author's ability to convey the rich detail of the varying tribes that were settled on the planet of Delucia, the main planet where much of the novel's action is centered. Also, the author allowed many of the characters to make hints about the greater width of the universe during many conversations between the two main characters, who are closely involved in a rather contrived romantic subplot. Overall, the story's complex universe itself was the best element of the novel, and was the only reason that I endured reading the rest of the novel, even when the problems associated with the romantic subplot began to temper with my enjoyment of the story's rich mythology.At the end though, things were starting to progressively improve. Hopefully, this means that the subsequent sequels are really good.

One of the major flaws of this novel was the forced nature of the romantic subplot. Even though, the element of curiosity created by the author's lavish descriptions of the story's highly detailed universe greatly impressed me and made me have a vested interest in this fictional world, the thinly developed romance element seemed to conspire against my enjoyment. Many times, the chapters even began with rather repetitious depictions of how Aniah or her mysterious love interest both felt a peculiar warmth when in the presence of each other. During their heated exchanges, there were many descriptions of "scarlet cheeks," and the excitement surrounding hugs that might follow a rather sobering story about the story's rich universe or the backstory of Aniah's mysterious love interest. Working through these romantic sequences become drudgery at points, and it really made the novel depreciate in pace, whereas the descriptions of the various tribes that are settled on the planet are wholly interesting. It was these well-written parts that made me wish that the author would have created a finer, more seamless balance between the romantic elements of this book and the mythological/world-building elements. The romance was not necessarily bad by any means; it felt very believable. There were just too much extraneous details that barred it from being subtly beautiful. It just needed a bit of fine tuning, much like other early portions of the novel. 

Another weakness of this novel was the clear lack of a real engrossing plot for the first half of the novel. Yes, there is a story surrounding the enigmatic stranger, whom Aniah finds and is greatly besotted with in sheer seconds after encountering the stranger with his electrifying physical features.  Most of the novel might depend too strongly on this character's backstory to the extent where the larger story that is alluded to through the early parts of the novel is largely missing towards the beginning, but does eventually come in towards the end abruptly and offers promise beyond this rather mediocre installment.

By the end, there were glimmers of hope of a story filled with depth and characters who had much more nuance than originally expected. I believe that the biggest problem with the story lies with organization. If the book had a bit more editorial work, the small glimmers of genius would become much more prominent and make for an even more enjoyable read. The problem lies with certain elements becoming too over-described, like the development of romance between the two main characters, to the point of feeling contrived. I urge Emma to keep writing, and it is a high possibility that I will try reading the sequels in hopes that the larger story  becomes far more expansive and better organized. Evidently, this is Emma's first novel, and I feel terrible for sounding too negative.  Its also a shame that the word positive doesn't connote constructive criticism or honesty for everyone.  Hopefully, no part of this review comes off as being sardonic. I mean the best for her, and she definitely has great potential at weaving highly believable fictitious worlds.  Her strength for now lies in constructing the world, where the characters inhabit. She needs to have more brevity now with her language, and allow the characters to become fully enlivened by the art of subtle writing.

  Originally, I was not going to post this review, but I felt that I was succumbing to the demands for something that was impersonal. I blog mostly because I want to engender deep appreciation for literature, and literature or art of any kind sometimes require careful thinking. This was a novel that I wrestled over, and I really believe that giving this book empty praise would not be sufficient for an author, who I think has innate talent and should be encouraged to grow as a writer and not simply languish into obscurity by never 
improving.  She has a keen eye for details, and a clear love of mythology. Anyone who reads "Propheticus" might actually not discern some of the flaws I saw because I am much too picky for my own good.
Overall, Propheticus certainly makes for a very intriguing read, and I wouldn't necessarily say that the novel is bad by any means. Instead, the tedious romance prevents this novel from being very good, and forces it to become a mediocre book overall. Again, I encourage readers to check out the book for themselves, and then decide whether or not this is the novel for them.

News about the Anne Rice Book Club


Anne Rice Book Club on GoodReads

  I've been waiting two months to unveil this group, which should interest any fans of Anne Rice's works. While Anne Rice's Facebook page is filled to the brim with enlightening conversation on a slew of topics ranging from metaphysical subjects to political ones, it is sometimes hard to have an organized discussion about Anne Rice's books, or have follow up discussions about books. This page is not meant to be something that replaces that page. It is something entirely different, and is much more focused on her books and any recommended books on her page. This page would exist, even without the Anne Rice Facebook page. Due to the rich conversations that Anne Rice's page foster, I felt that this page is even more appropriate than ever. I hope no one views this negatively or cynically. My bigger concern lies with a lack of interest, and that is why I am carefully organizing questions and future selections for this specific group.

   Anyways, the first book will be Anne Rice's "The Wolf Gift," (July 2012 selection) and discussion will mostly center on how much the story creatively follows some of the elements of Joseph Campbell's structure of the "monomyth."



Sunday, June 24, 2012

In the Shadow of Vesuvius Blog Tour: Young Adult Novel Reader

About the Author:Liz Carmichael

Although born in Scotland and spent time in other countries, Liz is now happily settled in Melbourne, Australia.

She is an editor as well as a writer and avid reader - especially historical fiction - who loves researching, though she can get so caught up in research she forgets about the story she's researching for.
Liz also draws and paints for relaxation, and will do illustrations for her books whenever possible. She walks her daughter's dog because both need the exercise.

She has a Dip. Art(Professional Writing and Editing), and taught writing and editing for two years until the need to concentrate fully on her own writing took over again.
Her favourite authors, in no particular order, are: Sue Monk Kidd, Sara Donati, Geraldine Brooks, Vanora Bennett, Sarah Dunant, Cormac McCarthy, Markus Suzak, Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Robert Harris. For Crime: Michael Connelly, Minette Walters, Jeffrey Deaver, and Dean Koontz for his crime with humour. Newest favourite authors are Anne Obrien and Pauline Gedge - writers of historical fiction, of course.
The book trailer for In the Shadow of Vesuvius was made by Chuck Pride of "American Pride Productions"

Author Liz Carmichael has stopped by today with an interview for In The Shadow of Vesuvius blog tour.
Question #1-FF-Is there anything particular about the history surrounding Mt. Vesuvius that intrigues you? 
LC:The area is particularly scenic, steeped in history, with fertile land because of Mt. Vesuvius eruptions. And it’s that fertility that brings people to build and rebuild even when the danger of another eruption is always there.

Question #2- FF:I've read Caroline Lawrence's wonderfully written Roman Mystery series, and there just seems to be a woeful lack of YA/Independent reader books that are set in the historical setting of Ancient Rome. What historical fiction books that are set in Ancient Rome have you read that you recommend?
As you say there are not that many, and Lawrence is hard to beat. Two I can name, with good recommendations, are: ATTICUS OF ROME - Barry Deneberg Getorix: The Eagle and The Bull - Judith Geary
Question#3- FF:What other historical periods fascinate you enough to write about?

LC: I have plans to write, in the not too distant future, a novel set in the time of Gilgamesh, one set in ancient Britain. Going further back I’m considering doing one on the first migration out of Africa.

Question#4-FF:What was the last film that you watched, and did you like it or absolutely hate it?

LC: The last film I watched was on TV: Seven Pounds, with Will Smith. That was my third time, and I still cried at the end. I guess that proves I loved it. Thank you, Justin, for being a host on this book tour, and for coming up with such interesting questions.  

 Author Links: Website Purchase on Amazon for Kindle Purchase on Amazon in Paperback Purchase on Barnes & Noble

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review of Talulla Rising



I received a complimentary copy of this from Netgalley via Knopf Doubleday. This was a very difficult review for me to write. Its hard to write reviews of books that you have conflicted feelings about.  

There is something amoral about Glen Duncan's books, which is not necessarily a bad thing. His last book, The Last Werewolf,  was exceedingly cynical to the extent where the book became a very onerous read. Except, each time I tried to read it; there would be intervals of feeling slight awe at the writer's impressive prose, and the sheer realism of the werewolf's perspective. Eventually, the book quickly became bloated with some truly nauseating details about the werewolf's insatiable lust problems. These details were very gratuitous and often became very convoluted at parts. At this point, I find myself once again wrestling with the novel: Do I really enjoy this? Believe me, I'm definitely not a prude, and I can handle sexual content that ultimately serves an artistic purpose. I do think the term "gratuitous" is applicable to both The Last Werewolf and its sequel Tallula Rising. Both books ultimately are very taxing reads that leaves the reader feeling very disenchanted. I never reviewed the first one because I felt deeply ambivalent about the book, and this is even more difficult. There is something markedly absent in Glen Duncan's writing that keeps me from feeling fully engaged with his stories.

    One of the strong points of this book lies again with the prose, which reflects an author who can easily envisage the complexity of the psyche of a werewolf with preternatural senses. Except, reading Tallulla Rising  quickly becomes drudgery, once the author begins tackling a rather contrived plot that is not anywhere near as interesting as the paradoxical ruminations of the werewolf characters. In this book, Tallula realistically dwells over the implications of being pregnant with Jake's baby, her deceased werewolf lover. Both the confused grief surrounding his death, and the anxiety over whether she can emotionally provide for her werewolf offspring combine to provide truly tense, contradictory feelings about the impending birth. It is this deep character development that I feel Glen Duncan is a master at and it was these small pockets of genius that made me wish that the overall plot was not so lackluster. It was these moments that made me say "Wow!" to myself, and it made me keep reading in hopes that these peaks of genius would return.

   Nonetheless, most of the book kept me imprisoned in the apathetic zone. I feel like the main werewolf characters are in fact too prodigious that the thin plot cannot sustain them, and the auxiliary characters quickly become mere utilities to help expedite the main character's journey.  Moreover,the sex descriptions are also very tiresome and puerile as well; they don't seem to serve some ultimate purpose of further developing the characters or plot. Maybe, my main problem with the writing is that I'm not a very big fan of books that are often far too limited by one perspective. I really do need some kinda of balance in order to fully enjoy a novel.

   Again, I'm sure there are many fans of this book that are in disagreement: this book just might not be my type of read. I normally like a book with a bit more panache or witticism; I love plots that are equally as complex as the characters themselves. That is a very hard balance for any author to strike. Again, it is very commendable of Glen Duncan to treat werewolves as a literary creature that is worthy of sophistication. This author is definitely a very erudite individual, and some of his insights about the human psyche are similar to that of Dorris Lessing. (I don't really like Dorris Lessing's books, but I love her short stories and insights into the human psyche. Her writing is ponderous...) I would cautiously recommend this book by saying that it really is not meant for everyone, but you might find yourself liking it. If you like werewolves, that is really not a good enough reason to really like this book. I don't normally like recommendations based solely on such petty considerations anyways. Personally, I think there are many stronger werewolf books that  have much more interesting plots and less convoluted prose out there. For those who end up enjoying this, I hope you're able to find something that I didn't seem to find while reading this. In the end, I find myself desiring to read an Anne Rice book for her excellent plots that always compliment her deeply developed characters. (Both authors are not exactly comparable at all writing style wise ,therefore; its not a very fair comparison) I implore you to read it for yourself, and decide whether this book is for you or not!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blood Guilt Bewitching Book Tour:

(Blood Hunters, Book 1) 
By Marie Treanor
eBook coming 5th June 2012

The first of a new vampire romance series, a sequel to the Awakened by Bloodtrilogy.

Natural enemies, deadly attraction…

Mihaela, a fearless vampire hunter secretly haunted by loneliness and childhood tragedy, finds it difficult to adjust to the new world order where vampires are not always the bad guys. She's taking a much needed vacation in Scotland when she sees a little boy being chased through the streets of Edinburgh. Rescuing him brings bigger problems - two vampires from her past: Gavril, who killed her family; and the reclusive and troubled Maximilian, gifted Renaissance artist and one-time overlord of the most powerful undead community in the world. Maximilian once saved her life and now needs that favor returned.

The earth moves for Mihaela in more ways than one. From Scotland to Budapest and Malta, she  races against time to prevent a disastrous, vampire-induced earthquake and save an innocent yet powerful child – all while fighting a dreadful attraction to Maximilian, her only ally, whom she can’t afford to trust. For Maximilian, the hunter becomes a symbol of renewed existence, as he struggles to accept his past and rediscovers his appetite for blood and sex - and maybe even happiness.

Author Bio:

Marie Treanor lives in Scotland with her eccentric husband and three much-too-smart children. Having grown bored with city life, she resides these days in a picturesque village by the sea where she is lucky enough to enjoy herself avoiding housework and writing sensual stories of paranormal romance and fantasy.

Marie Treanor has published more than twenty ebooks with small presses, (Samhain Publishing, Ellora’s Cave, Changeling Press and The Wild Rose Press), including a former Kindle bestseller, Killing JoeBlood on Silk: an Awakened by Blood novel, was her New York debut with NAL.

Interview with Marie Treanor
  MT=Marie Treanor FF=Fantastyfreak

1. FF:While I know this has been probably asked millions of times, What about vampires intrigues you?

MT:I don’t mind being asked again. I ask this of lots of other people too! For me, it’s a combination of things. Partly, their different-ness. Although they look like humans, they aren’t, although they may magnify certain attractive aspects of humans: male strength, sexuality, beauty, protectiveness etc. They’re more powerful than mere human characters and have a different agenda, perhaps even a different morality like my vampires.
The best vampires for me are sexy vampires - partly that’s a “power” thing too, and partly it’s the neck biting J. Then, having lived so long, there’s the attraction of wisdom and all the history they must have witnessed – or even caused! And immortality, of course, which adds to the god-like power again – and in the case of vampire romance, a lover who’ll never die is irrestible.

2. FF:What is your favorite fictional vampire? More specifically, do you think there is a certain vampire novel that is inimitable? (Personally, I think there won't be another "Interview with the Vampire")
MT:Well, I’d have to agree with you there J. I think the two vampire novels which have influenced me most are, not surprisingly, Dracula, and Interview with the Vampire. For me Dracula is still a fantastic character: a massive presence, evil, powerful and sexually mesmerizing.
When I was a teenager, I fell in love with Louis from Interview with the Vampire. If I read the latter now for the first time, I might prefer Lestat, but it’s too late - I can’t give up on Louis and his tragedy. Interview was the first vampire book I read told from the vampire’s point of view – it blew me away, and I think it opened the door for the numerous vampire romances out there now. Including mine J.

3. FF:Normally, I ask this of any author who writes books featuring vampires and zombies. Why do you think vampires or zombies even have so much renewed appeal now?
MT:Hmm, I think it’s escapism. A fantastic world full of fantastic beings and exceptional love, is perhaps especially popular in times of difficulty and economic hardship. And then with violent crime increasing, at least in people’s perceptions, whatever the reality of the various statistics, I think there’s a certain charm in imagining a being capable of more effective violence on your behalf, or even an otherwise ordinary human honed to such a degree that he or she can take on whatever evil violence is flung at them, and win. 
I can understand the appeal of zombie stories too – saving the world from a terrible plague is obviously heroic - but as romantic leads, zombies give me, personally, more difficulty. I understand that vampires and zombies are both dead, but…  While blood drinking can be described so that is seems sexy, brain eating is just messy!

Thanks to Marie Treanor for the  great answers for Bewitching Book Tour's help in coordinating this interview!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Serenya's Song:Bewitching Blog Tour

Serenya’s Song
Tallenmere Book Two
by Mysti Parker


In the fantasy world of Tallenmere, no one ever said love was easy...

Serenya Crowe may be a half-elf commoner, but she's no ordinary woman. With the ability to interpret dreams, and a birth defect that forces her to wear gloves, she’s endured small-town gossip and the cruelty of her husband, Sebastian, The Earl of Summerwind. All she's ever wanted is to live a quiet life and raise a family. When she meets the new stranger in town, her world and her heart, are turned upside down.

Wood-elf Jayden Ravenwing is an ex-secret agent who wants nothing more than to forget matters of the heart. He left the bustle of Leogard and his failed marriage to make a fresh start in Summerwind. He never planned to fall in love again, especially with the enchanting Serenya Crowe.

When a strange portal opens on the Crowe property at the edge of town, Jayden is thrown into an investigation, knowing that if he fails, Serenya and everyone in Summerwind may die.

Together, he and Serenya must overcome an ancient evil, and their own inner demons, to save Summerwind and find the love they've always dreamed of.

Author Bio:
Mysti Parker is a full time wife, mother of three, and a writer. Her first novel, A Ranger’s Tale was published in January, 2011 by Melange Books, and is the first in a fantasy romance series. Mysti reviews speculative fiction for SQ Magazine and is the proud writer of Unwritten, a blog voted #3 for eCollegeFinder’s Top Writing Blogs award.


Twitter: @MystiParker

Serenya’s Song: Melange Books, Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Charter for Compassion: About to Reach 100,000 signatures


On the Brink of Reaching 100,000 signaturesWant to add your signature? Well, here's your opportunity: Click Here.
Also, there's Facebook page for the "Charter for Compassion" as well!

Yes, a Charter for Compassion or even Karen Armstrong's recently released book "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life sound very insipid. Is that our gut reaction though to a world where we often suffer the malaise of compassion overload? We are told in insistent voices often about the importance of being compassionate, without fully understanding the implications of the rigor of having true compassionate for someone else than your own self. I personally never really understood the term till I stopped letting my Christian faith become too insular/too dependent upon my own salvation. The end result was that I not conventionally Christian, neither am I particularly religious either. The honest face of my doubts has no strict religious countenance. Why should anything not bound to facts become something unimaginative and legalistic?

     Anyways, I was overjoyed to hear recently that the Charter is nearing 100,000 signatures. I highly recommend that all my blog readers check out the site. Believe me, these things are totally easy to ignore, and pass off as trite. Except, I don't necessarily find Karen Armstrong's analytical studies about compassion to be trite by any means. In July, I will be featuring books that I think have the subtle power to enhance our ability to empathize deeply with others. No, these are the preachy, didactic books/media that produce the internal disgust we show towards any superficial representation as something as deeply impacting as true compassion. No, these are books that have the power to edify, but also the primary goal is to make us emotionally invest ourselves in the fate of characters that are strangers from the beginning. Reading high-quality literature or watching well-produced films can sharpen our empathetic senses.

    Again, throughout July, I'll be trying to recast the face of compassion in a far more sophisticated light. Hopefully, everyone's ingrained belief that compassion is something unsophisticated and is the "party pooper" element. Believe me, Compassion is much more than  feeling pity/ooshy-gooshy feelings for someone. Those things are not exactly compassion. Compassion requires more vigor.

    If you haven't seen this brilliant video where Karen Armstrong speaks about her proposed "Charter for Compassion," project, I highly recommend it. Sometime in July, I will be doing a thorough review of her book that accompanies her project, "Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life."

Also, I've written about Karen Armstrong's remarkably thought-provoking memoir,Spiral Staricase,  before. If you feel disillusioned with religion that is doctrinal/belief obsessed, I highly recommend this. It is perfect for the doubters that feel left out, and without a secure category.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Comic Wednesday: Channel Zero

Click the link above to access this on Dark Horse's webpage!
Channel Zero Review

     Awhile ago, Dark Horse Comics allowed me to access another of their recently released titles, this time it was a republished volume of an "oldie, but goodie." I never really understood that slang phrase because it makes it sound like anything that is slightly aged has depreciated in quality. Based on what I read of Channel Zero though, it has not become decrepit to the point of being irrelevant. Conversely, the premise of the comic seems shockingly much more relevant than when it was published.

     Intriguingly, the comic has a dystopian mood and was written in the late nineties, around the advent of the invention of the internet. In this fractious world, particularly in the United States, ultra-conservative Christians have dominated the political scene in America, and have essentially taken advantage of the destabilized status of the American Government. Within this comic, there are fascinatingly no colored images, rather there are a bevy of black and white images that are curiously drawn in a manga style. Normally, manga reads though from right to left, while this comic reads from left to right because it is an American comic.

There are cyber rebels in this comic, who utilize the power of primordial dial-up connections
    Anyways, the main antagonistic force within this comic is interestingly politicized, fundamentalist Christianity. It is not a comic that is insidiously targeting Christianity as a whole. It is not blithely unaware of the deep complexity of Christianity, which is a religion that can hardly be defined as "monolithic." Anyone who lives within America though should find this theocratic religious model to be a very frightening reminder of the behavior of our own Christian fundamentalists. Essentially, this comic preceded the dawning of "Fox News," but the theme was still pertinent in its time because the fundamentalists gained much more traction politically around the seventies. They were basically a reaction to the excessive liberalization of our country at the time. Naturally, a counter force always constructs itself as a reaction to great renovation. Some people cannot adapt themselves to a world where all the values they were formerly complacent with have become obsolete. Beneath the facade of being "religious," the fundamentalists are just a reactionary group that works to revert the conditions of our country that offers them the security they once thrived on. Within all ideological groups, the predominant thing, beyond the face of political parties and religious sects, that everyone desires is commodious structure. Otherwise, the "God" or "Gods" throughout time being invoked are merely theatrical acts meant to implore the ardent followers of religion to invest their energy to supporting a specific political movement. 

     This comic expertly illustrates this wild political scene that is recurrent throughout historical civilization. In the meantime, there are always renegade groups/rebels, much like the aptly named "rebels" within the original Star War Films. In "Channel Zero," they are the rebellious group that works to regain their voice in a society where there are restrictive rights in relation to what type of political message can be broadcast. Basically, the world has been overrun by "Fox News" in the contemporary sense;any group that supports their message or an Evanglical one basically are the only accepted group. The rebels are working for true democracy,and anyone reading the comics will hopefully cheer for this group throughout the comics, even those who might ally themselves with the fundamentalists who have control. Again, its not an Anti-Christian comic. There is an interesting quote ironically from the Pope within the comic, who decries American Evangelism for essentially being "American totalitarianism in disguise." If you ever study the Christian fundamentalist movement, it is always surprising to see that  a extreme form of capitalism is worshiped over "God." American Evangelism is not truly interested in spiritual goals, just like any institutionalized religion that effectively becomes subsumed into the political scene of the time. I think the comic offers a very substantive message about the dangers of this form of politicized religion. It is not against those who are humble, inquisitive followers of any religion. This is a distinction that might be muddled in the minds of people who read this brilliant comic.

     Essentially, this is a perfect time for this comic to be reprinted by "Dark Horse Comics," because the message continues to be very relevant. Also, the illustrations, while they are colorless, help evoke the loss of "color" and dynamic opinion in a world where these things are easily manipulated or restrained. Anyone who likes scifi punk shows like Dark Angel will ultimately love this because the mood of the comic is distinctly scifi punk. I really enjoyed this comic overall because it is highly relevant and very thought-provoking; it is another example of comic books that are written with intelligence.

I obtained a complimentary of copy of this from Dark Horse Comics via Netgalley.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Magical June:Review of Night Circus

Night Circus Review: A Literary Indulgence


Book attained at the Random House Booth at BEA: Thanks for providing a copy of this spellbinding novel!
(I'm striving for more concise reviews btw!)

       This book is a hard one to pin down because describing my enjoyment of it relies upon so many ineffable adjectives, or just adjectives of awe that might be a bit too overblown for a professional review of any sort. Additionally, it doesn't fit any genre specification perfectly; it majestically transcends genre markers. More importantly, the story has a sense of lightness and a lack of melodrama; it consists of another type of literary substance; an appeal to rich aesthetics or the sensory experience of viewing an shadowy circus through the light of different eccentric perspectives. What does this "dark circus" that is hardly cavernous have in store for us? How does one read a book, where the setting itself becomes its own mysterious character set in the same enigmatic shadows as its crew of  colorful characters?

   Its a very difficult book to evaluate for this reason because I kept wondering why particular characters felt a bit detached from the narrative. This is a completely different type of story that relies upon mystery to keep us entranced with the whole awe-inspiring sight of the interior and exterior of the circus. There are many auxiliary characters in the story who further add more depth to the mystery of the novel. Creatively, the whole book is assembled not as your standard sleuth mystery, but one of inquiring about the purpose of this circus, and why are the two main characters being forced into a fierce magician duel. More importantly, Why are we not yet seeing their romance become spontaneously consummated like many other novels with romantic elements? (The author is so good at tastefully developing this very rich romantic subplot) The book is slow with this evolution, but it never becomes tedious. Its not drudgery at all to read about the dizzying descriptions of the circus' attractions, or the Midnight Dinner that reads like something out of a Lemony Snicket novel.  Essentially, the whole book felt like a rich, impressible experience of being so dazzled with the sights of the circus that it was sometimes hard to completely pinpoint the seemingly invisible moments of character and plot development. This is not a criticism,rather its praise for a novel that separates itself from the pack of novels that are so clear about fulfilling certain quotas for how the standard novel works. Conversely, this novels engulfs us with its air of rich mystery, and it becomes a fairy tale filled with artful imagery and very mysterious, yet endlessly intriguing characters.

    Wonderfully, this book is an unconventional departure from the known formula of books that must have a specified climax. It is nonlinear, and it can be crushingly disorienting at moments.At the same time, the task to try to discern the story is part of the fun, as we are overstimulated by the well-written descriptions of this whimsical circus. I really loved the novel as a whole, and just greatly appreciated the author's bravery in doing something different and achieving a novel that subtly develops a deep sense of richness of its universe. This novel will slyly effect you, by having you dream long dreams of mysterious circuses and puzzling clocks that are illustrative of the hidden complexities of this novel. If you are desirous of a book that is so different that it might turn off some people who are strict fans of the conventional novel, I highly recommend it then to those courageous people who are unafraid of something so unconventional that you'll long be suffering a deep, burning desire for the dream of the Night Circus to become manifest in our own reality.

Side Note: Weirdly enough, the book reminded me of one of my favorite Tim Burton film's, Big Fish, in the way that the story reads like a modern fairy tale. Some people might scoff at fairy-tales, but I find that I need them because they are a very refreshing reprieve from the many books that can be  far too depressive. I love those novels, but sometimes we need some fairy-tales to give us an ounce of levity and mystery to our mundane lives.

Book Blogging 101: Premise Deception

At least, you know that this is probably a sex-laden book!
Premise Deception
(When books about vampires, elves, and mermaids are really one big literary sex romp/cheesy love story)

   Why do I commonly feel like the only blogger facing this woeful dilemma of premise duplicity? How many of you have signed up for book reviews, based on the enticing premise and cover alone, only to discover the book was utter crap? Then, you are expected to write honest, constructive reviews, which aren't entirely negative or snarky. I've written my slew of snarky review before because some books are very worthy of snarky reviews. I think bloggers often view the field of pre-published books in a largely exaggerated, glorified form. We are only given the terse excerpts, fleshed out merely for the purposes of insuring a purchase from a prospective buyer. We are given that same faulty deception, which quickly transforms to deep regret upon finding that we really do not like the book we are reading. Wait... Didn't we just promise the author in an email that we were willing to review their book??

        How can a blogger safely disentangle themselves respectfully from this mess?

     I'd suggest relying on NetGalley or authors that you normally feel very safe with. I always hear fellow readers bemoan those who never step outside their safe haven of "approved authors." As a blogger and even a reader, I definitely have my safe structure of writers that I feel aren't going to write drivel. In the past, I once was given an offer to review a "vampire book" with a premise that sounded very magnetic. Of course, it was devoid of any suggestive details that the book might be "smut." I didn't discover that until ten pages into the book, the main couple was already tearing their clothing off without any development. The worst is when every cosmetic detail of these characters are glittered with adjectives of sheer perfection (well-shaped lips, finely formed torso, blue eyes, blonde hair....Arayan porn). Yes, these books usually go the way of becoming Nazi love stories by relying on the whole underlying message that  "blue eyes and blonde hair" are inherently perfect....

    Have you noticed that these books are becoming much more expertly disguised as your standard fantasy/scifi novel? It is only twenty pages into the book, and fifty references to bedroom eyes, that you are then forced to read agonizing sex scenes, that hardly are sexy since the characters are normally cardboard thin. In real life, who really just jumps into the proverbial sex bed ten minutes after meeting someone. Where is the wrongly placed, unflattering pimple. Seriously... why are there not some behavioral problems/ a shred of some form of imperfection??? These books are just too unrealistic for me, and I think publishers love to disguise them as normal fantasy&scifi books for the naive public. We didn't know we were subjected to a whole different kind of fantasy; something that creates body heat.

Why Netgalley/the publisher is much more trustworthy than other sources?
Anyways, I just find myself reading through so many mediocre books as a blogger that I'm becoming a bit more of a solid NetGalley user. NetGalley lets you view something before committing to a review. At the Random House Breakfast, one of the representatives from the company even mentioned that this was a great asset to this site for both the publisher and the blogger. As bloggers, we are assailed with requests for books that sound very promising, but often aren't. Also, subject matter is hardly a good judge. I think the label of being a "science fiction/ fantasy" blogger sometimes garners some of the same badly written books that any blogger, with or without certain genre preferences, are given. Premises, genres, and covers are very inept judges for evaluating a book, but they have become the standard trio used by prospective writers looking for bloggers.

    In an ideal world, we shouldn't have to "commit" before receiving the full text of the book, or partial text. If you do commit and happen to honestly hate the book, you should be given the right to negatively review it. Lying is not something I think should be promoted, but I often think book bloggers find themselves in an uncomfortable situation,where they feel they must write a "positive" review. Some blog tours will even require you to write only "positive" reviews. Does "positive" allow room for constructive critcism? How much nuance can we have in our reviews, or are bloggers only expendable bots? Reviewers are criticized all the time by the public for writing negative reviews of popular films. As someone who reviews things, you are bound to detest something. There really are a fair number of bad books that sadly are very readable. Many of the books that I read are in the "unreadable," "blaughh" category. They are ones that are tedious. The same thing happens with "Blaughhhh.." tv shows, where you closely watch the clock more-so than the tv-show. Its really hard to write coherent, honest reviews of something that you feel nothing but apathy for. I've yet to see someone write a book blog review that says, "Honestly, this book was pure drudgery.." I've felt like writing that so many times as a book blogger.

Conclusion to my "Rant"
                      You're so "facetious, and unfair.." Yes, some people might claim that I'm one of those two things by writing this. I sometimes need space to rant  as a blogger. I quite love this little "profession" of mine, but some things just don't sit well with me. Part of any job involves frustrations, and the important element is to learn from them. From now on, I'm trying to be much more judicious when planning to "commit" to reviews because a lot of my book review commitments turn out to be books that I really dislike. Some of them are well-written, but the writing itself is laced with so much contrived sexual content that I can't help but "roll my eyes." I have no problem with reading books with romantic elements, but I find that there are a bevy of these books that are far too unrealistic. If I see one more of these romances with  "blue eye, blonde hair" women or men with well-shaped lips/ well-constructed torso; I will literally stab my eyes out! Also, I must repeat it again: "Any book with a sex scene with these dull characters in the first five pages are worthy of going to the incinerator." *Metaphoric Flames only*

                      Anyways, I do happen to get some very good books once in a while and for those requests, I am a very happy person!! Moreover, I hope that I learn my lesson to carefully research a book before committing to it on the basis of premise/cover duplicity.