Archive for December, 2010

Review: Not Your Typical, Scantily-Clad Virgin Sacrifice

Not Your Typical, Scantily-Clad Virgin Sacrifice is a hilariously-named collection of short stories by H. Jonas Rhynedahll.  I picked up an .epub version from an author giveaway after the title attracted my interest.  It contains the following short stories:

  • Not your typical, scantily-clad virgin sacrifice
  • Virtue
  • Causality
  • Personal Space
  • Fred Was a Mutant
  • Science

The stories vary in length and style, from fantasy (Not your typical, scantily-clad virgin sacrifice; Virtue) to science fiction (Causality; Personal Space) and something in between (Fred Was a Mutant; Science).

Hblabanechalatooc repeated the sacred words and rang the sacred bell, which responded with a muted clank.
“Where’s the Sacred Golden Bell of the Moon Goddess, Morton?”
Morton looked apologetic. “Well, sir, the insurance company sent us a memo saying they thought that bringing the Sacred Instruments out of their cases was too risky, so we had to substitute this year.”

The author’s style strongly reminds me of Terry Pratchett in both style and themes, particularly Not your typical, scantily-clad virgin sacrifice, Virtue, and SciencePersonal Space managed to pull off a less in-your-face trying-hard-to-be-funny style without completely sacrificing a sense of humour, and is my favourite piece from the anthology.

While some of the stories, namely Causality and Science, weren’t quite my personal cup of tea, overall I enjoyed this collection.  Not Your Typical, Scantily-Clad Virgin Sacrifice is currently retailing on Amazon.com for the Kindle at $0.99, and is well worth the price.  Recommended.

twelve drummers drumming

Season's Greetings

via dryicons.com

The holiday season has been pretty quiet.  My shoulder is still giving me some trouble, and now I’m coming down with a cold.  But I do have some new books to read and review, which is always exciting.  And I do need to drag my husband to see TRON.

Have a great New Year!

The day I was blocked by Keith Olbermann

Today I got blocked on Twitter by Keith Olbermann.

I shall choose to look on this as an accomplishment.  Since some time Saturday, Keith Olbermann has been blocking feminist tweeters using the tag #MooreandMe and directing calls to Keith Olbermann (@keitholbermann) and Michael Moore (@mmflint) for retractions of and apologies for the deliberately inaccurate information they they aired via Twitter and cable T.V. to hundreds of thousands of their fans.

As of some point this afternoon, I got to join the illustrious company of People Keith Olbermann Has Blocked On Twitter.  We even have our own hashtag, #WeveBeenKOed.

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Review: Unveiled

Courtney Milan‘s Unveiled is the first in a new series about the Turner brothers.  Unveiled is due to be released in January 2011; its sequel, Unclaimed, starring Ash’s youngest brother Mark, is due out in Fall 2011.  I enjoyed Unveiled, and will definitely be keeping an eye out for the next one.Unveiled cover

Mr. Ash Turner is the  perfect stereotype of a self-made man, rising from an impoverished background to the pinnacle of wealth; he went to sea when he was a teenager, made his fortune overseas in India, and paid for his two youngest brothers to have the finest education money could buy.  And now he has his eyes set on a title – specifically the Duke of Parford’s.  Ash has waited decades for a chance to seek revenge on Parford, whose uncaring arrogance years before led to the dead of Ash’s younger sister, Hope.

The old duke is dying, and with both of his sons proved illegitimate, the Parford estate and the title must fall to the nearest male kin – Ash Turner and his brothers.  Satisfying though it was to embarrass Parford and his family in front of London Society and secure an even more advantageous future for his own family, Ash soon finds vengeance to be not nearly as satisfying as he had thought.  Perhaps he can find consolation in the arms of no-nonsense Margaret Lowell, Parford’s very attractive nurse…

I won’t just steal your title and your lands. I will run any bank that holds your funds into the ground. I will bribe your servants to slip nettles into your bed. I will hire trumpets to stand outside your home, every evening, where they will sound notes at irregular intervals. You will never have a solid night’s sleep again.

Unfortunately for his plans, Miss Margaret Lowell is better known as Lady Anna Margaret Dalrymple, Parford’s only daughter, and she has no interest in offering anything other than hatred.  Ash has ruined her family, her inheritance, and her reputation to settle a decades-old quarrel with her father, the Duke of Parford, proving the duke a bigamist and Margaret and her two older brothers illegitimate.  Whilst Richard and Edmund, Margaret’s brothers, attempt to gain support for a Bill of Parliament to grant them legitimacy, Margaret has been left at Parford Manor to pose as a nurse and care for her ailing father.  And to spy on Ash, when he arrives to survey his stolen inheritance…

This was a very interesting story.  The plot – disinheritance because of bigamy and attempted reinstatement by Act of Parliament – is not one that I’ve ever come across before, and I do love new concepts and settings.  The early Victorian era was a nice change from the generic Georgian Regency period that seems to be the historical romance setting of choice.

Ash was an interesting character, very determined to get his own way and have things go the way he planned.  Including having Margaret in his bed, even after he discovered who she was.  Might I just add that he has the best name I have ever seen on a Romance hero.

Margaret felt rather passive at times, and a little overwhelmed by her domineering father and her affection for her brothers versus her growing attraction to Ash.  I very much enjoyed the way she eventually shook off their hold – including Ash’s – and took her future into her own hands.

Both Ash’s brothers and Margaret’s brothers came across as ungrateful, rather spoiled brats.  I’m not sure if that was intentional, or my own prejudice against bratty younger siblings.

Overall, I enjoyed Unveiled a great deal, and will be looking forward to the sequel.  If you enjoy a determined hero, a unique plot and a refreshingly different setting, do make sure to pick this one up.  Recommended.

sand ninjas

Shoulder is acting up again.  I think I overdid the whole ‘actually using my arm’ thing.

Will hopefully be back this weekend with reviews.  Or at least another demotivator.

Review: Hidden Fires

Hidden Fires by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel is a science-fiction tale set in a future where mankind has populated many other solar systems, and inter-system travel taking years or decades is positively common-place thanks to scientific advances.  Hidden Fires is the third book in a series, following Fire Sanctuary and Fires of Nuala, and was re-released as an ebookk in December 2010.Hidden Fires cover

Garth Kristinsson’s parents died long ago, somehow caught in the backlash of a scam gone awry, and he has spent all his time since attempting to to track down the mysterious Silver, his father’s former partner and the one person still living who might be able to give him the answers he seeks.  After over a century of searching and travelling in the technological wonder of Cold Sleep (a form of hibernation that seems to prevent the body from aging during extended space journeys), Garth’s quest takes him to the strange planet of Nuala, a harsh world that is poisonous to those not native or acclimatised to its deadly radiation.

Once he arrives Garth soon locates Silver, who has spent the past decade living on Nuala as Darame Daviddottir, wife of the co-ruler of the Nualan tribe of Atare, far away from the outside galaxy and her former life.  While Darame seems pleased to meet the son of her childhood friend Lisbet, she is ignorant of Lisbet and Kristin’s deaths, and her warm welcome throws Garth off his guard.  Before he can decide whether to pursue his initial plans to make Silver pay, Garth finds himself drawn into the machinons of the young nobles of Atare’s rival clan Dielaan.  A plan intended to make a (relatively) harmless political statement goes badly awry, and Garth soon finds himself fleeing the civilised city of Amura to escape his former co-conspirators.

I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely sure what to think about this book when I started it.  I wasn’t terribly gripped by the opening, and put off reading past the first chapter for a while; the opening line, while obviously intended to grip the reader’s interest, seemed rather ponderous and melodramatic, which combined with the immediate stream-of-consciousness monologue to rather put me off.

I was wrong.

While the first few chapters felt a little slow to me, once the action actually began and we met the mysterious Silver, it quickly changed into an interesting and complex tale of adventure and political intrigue.

I wasn’t fond of Garth to begin with, but he did grow on me as the story progressed, and I liked Lucy and Darame from the start.  Even the ‘villain’ of the piece was more than just a flat cardboard figure, though he fit the ‘selfish megalomaniac’ stereotype a little too neatly for my taste.  Both major and secondary characters seemed to be well-written, and the author resisted the urge to have the token child character talk in ‘baby-talk’, which was very much appreciated.

This is the third book in the world of Nuala, and it definitely shows.  The world’s culture and history is rich in detail and fairly complicated, and a lot of the concepts are explained only briefly; while the world itself is obviously well fleshed-out behind the scenes, it seemed to presume that the reader was already familiar with Nuala through the previous two books and the events they contained, and I felt lost at times without that frame of reference.

Having managed to get past my initial negative impression of Hidden Fires I found that I very much enjoyed this story, and will be adding one of its prequels, Fires of Nuala, to my wish list.  Recommended.

Darkness called… but I was on the phone, so I missed him

Evil is afoot; if only it used the metric system

What makes a good villain? Evil corporations are always fun, of course, but they often lack the personal touch that a single bad guy brings.  But then with a single villain, the temptation is to give them a mental illness or make them irredeemably evil (J.K. Rowling, I’m looking at you).  My favourite villains are the ‘shades of grey’ bad guys – those who are just doing their job, or who are heroes from their side’s point of view.

There are also the sympathetic villains and the empathetic villains, the villains you love to hate, and the villains you just feel pity for.  And let’s not forget those who start off as Good Guys and fall down the Slippery Slope of Evil, and their opposites, Bad Guys who either redeem themselves or are revealed to have some kind of justification for their actions.

And then there are some obviously bad Bad Guys who are just plain fun.

It seems to be more difficult to produce a likeable or empathetic villain in literature than it is in movies or television shows; a T.V. series obviously gives much more room for character development, but why movies and not books?  Or am I just not reading the right books?

My favourites would have to include Al from Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series, Batiatus from Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Darth Vader from Star Wars, Grendel’s mother from Beowulf, Magneto from X-Men, Mayor Wilkins from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mayor Wilkins from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Scar from The Lion King, and the Sheriff of Nottingham from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

Who are your favourite villains?

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