Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Releases Today!

I'm sure I miss lots of great new releases of relevant books, but, at least at this time, I'm only showing the releases that I'm excited about, since I try not to promote crappy books and, if I'm not familiar with the author's work, how am I supposed to know whether it is suckish (as my kids say) or good?

Anyway, here are today's releases that I can't wait to read (blurbs blatantly stolen from Amazon, as usual):

The Reluctant Vampire: An Argeneau Novel (Argeneau Vampires)The Reluctant Vampire (Argeneau Vampires):  Has this immortal finally met her match?

Rogue hunter Drina Argenis (from the Spanish side of the Argeneau family) has been many things in her years as an immortal, but bodyguard/babysitter to a teenage vampire is something new. There's an incentive, however: the other vampsitter, Harper Stoyan, may be Drina's life mate.

Trouble is, having just lost a life mate, Harper is resigned to being alone. He's completely unprepared when sexy and unpredictable Drina bursts into his life to reignite his passions. Can Drina, with a little matchmaking help from their teen charge, tempt this reluctant vampire to take a chance?

Or will a dangerous, unseen renegade kill Drina and Harper's one chance at happiness?

Magic Slays (Kate Daniels, Book 5) Magic Slays (Kate Daniels, Book 5):
Plagued by a war between magic and technology, Atlanta has never been so deadly. Good thing Kate Daniels is on the job. 

Kate Daniels may have quit the Order of Knights of Merciful Aid, but she's still knee-deep in paranormal problems. Or she would be if she could get someone to hire her. Starting her own business has been more challenging than she thought it would be-now that the Order is disparaging her good name. Plus, many potential clients are afraid of getting on the bad side of the Beast Lord, who just happens to be Kate's mate.

So when Atlanta's premier Master of the Dead calls to ask for help with a vampire on the loose, Kate leaps at the chance of some paying work. But it turns out that this is not an isolated incident. Kate needs to get to the bottom of it-and fast, or the city and everyone dear to her may pay the ultimate price...

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Good and Evil of Anthologies

Dark and Stormy Knights 

Sometimes, I'll be deeply involved in reading a series and then notice I'm missing something.  The characters will refer to something that happened, sometimes repeatedly, that seems significant enough that it should have had a story of its own to tell it.  Sometimes it is just an interesting tale, but sometimes it is something like an important shift in a relationship or something that completely molds and changes a character, a change that just doesn't make sense without reading the story that goes with it.  I've noticed that when I get a feeling like that, it is because I missed a short story or novella in an anthology.

I hate that.

Magic Slays (Kate Daniels, Book 5)Other times, I miss a character or a world enough that I really wish there was a little sumthin'-sumthin' to hold me over until the next novel comes out.  I'm hoping that is more the case with what I'm currently reading, Dark and Stormy Knights.  I have only gotten a couple pages into it, so I don't know yet how good it is, but I'm definitely excited to be reading a Kate Daniels story to hold me over until Magic Slays comes out (okay, so it comes out tomorrow, but it will probably be a while before I can get it from the library!).  Plus, there is a Kitty Norville story that hopefully will keep me happy until Kitty's Big Trouble is released in July.
Kitty's Big Trouble (Kitty Norville, Book 9)
As for the rest of the stories in Dark and Stormy Knights, I don't know yet if I will read them.  Sometimes I do read the other stories in anthologies besides the one I get it for, sometimes I don't.  This time, I'm leaning toward not, since Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 11) is next on the reading queue and I'm pretty excited to see what Sookie is up to now. 
Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 11) 
What I usually do with anthologies is, starting at the beginning, glance at each story, maybe read a couple sentences and see if it looks interesting or if it is part of a series I haven't read.  If I haven't read the series that it is a part of, I won't read the story.  If it looks like an interesting story, I'll hunt down the first book in the series and start there, coming back to the story in the anthology if I still like the series enough to bother by the time I get there.  If it is a stand alone story, I'm likely to read it and, if I like it, I'll probably seek out full length books by the author.  I even sometimes will give the author a bit of a break if I only kind of like it and go ahead and look into their other work anyway, since short stories are almost never as good as full length books in my opinion.

So that's my opinion on anthologies.  What do you think of them?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Nature of Magic

Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock, Book 1)Ever notice how the nature of magic is different in different stories?  In some, like the book I'm reading now Skinwalker by Faith Hunter and the last book I read, Never Again by Michele Bardsley, magic was something someone was born with.  You were either a witch or wizard or you weren't.  You couldn't change it.

I don't think that's really how it works.

I do believe in magic, real, true magic, but not like that.  I think magic is something anyone can learn to do.  I do think it is like any other subject in that some people will be more talented than others and seem to pick up on it enough that they may think of themselves as being a "natural witch" but I don't think it is any different than being a "natural reader" or a "natural mathematician" or a "natural scientist" or anything else like that.

And I don't think doing magic necessarily makes you "evil" like some people think about someone practicing magic or "witchcraft" any more than driving a car makes you evil or even shooting a gun makes you evil.  If you drive a car with the intention of running an innocent person over, that could be construed (and rightly so, in my opinion) as being evil.  If you drive that car in your daily life, I don't think that makes you evil.  If you shoot a gun to kill someone (outside of self defense or to protect others):  evil.  Shooting a gun to hunt to feed your family that might otherwise go hungry: not evil.  Practicing magic to improve your life without hurting anyone:  not evil.  Using magic to harm or influence others' free will:  evil.  I know some people would disagree with me on all of those, but that's my opinion, and I'm sticking with it. 

What do you think?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's Not the End of the World....

Well, if you were hoping to be taken up in the Rapture this weekend, sorry you were disappointed. If you were hoping that the Rapture would take place this weekend, but that you'd be left behind because it sounded more fun, sorry too. I can't say that I was surprised though. It was still fun to talk and joke about leading up to the non-event!

I love me a good post-apocalyptic or dystopian novel. I was debating whether to share all of my favorite novels of that sort, or just stick to the ones with a paranormal bent, given the topic of this blog.  I decided to stay on topic and started to put together a list, but then I realized that almost all of them were by the same author, so just decided to feature that author. It turns out no one, at least in my mind, does a better dystopian novel than Octavia E. Butler.

I could say a lot of things about Octavia E. Butler.  I could talk about her unique writing voice, stemming in part from the fact that she was an African-American woman writing something primarily considered science-fiction, a field no one would argue is strongly predominated by white men.  I could talk about the awards she won, Hugo and Nebula awards amongst many others.  I could talk about the positive influences her writing had on my life or how I wept when she died before her time.  But all of that would make a really, really long post.  Instead, I let her speak for herself and tell her own stories through her brilliantly crafted novels.  She wrote other books, not on topic for today's post, and I recommend them as well, but in keeping with the world not ending over the weekend, here are her post apocalyptic novels (I posted omnibus editions when available, since you'll want them all and it would save you a ton of money to get them that way!):

Lilith's BroodLilith's Brood:  The acclaimed trilogy that comprises LILITH'S BROOD is multiple Hugo and Nebula award-winner Octavia E. Butler at her best. Presented for the first time in one volume, with an introduction by Joan Slonczewski, Ph.D., LILITH'S BROOD is a profoundly evocative, sensual -- and disturbing -- epic of human transformation.

Lilith Iyapo is in the Andes, mourning the death of her family, when war destroys Earth. Centuries later, she is resurrected -- by miraculously powerful unearthly beings, the Oankali. Driven by an irresistible need to heal others, the Oankali are rescuing our dying planet by merging genetically with mankind. But Lilith and all humanity must now share the world with uncanny, unimaginably alien creatures: their own children. This is their story...

Seed to HarvestSeed to Harvest:  omnibus of the Patternist Novels:

Wild Seed:  Doro is an entity who changes bodies like clothes, killing his hosts by reflex -- or design. He fears no one -- until he meets Anyanwu. Anyanwu is a shapeshifter who can absorb bullets and heal with a kiss...and savage anyone who threatens those she loves. She fears no one -- until she meets Doro. From African jungles to the colonies of America, Doro and Anyanwu weave together a pattern of destiny that not even immortals can imagine.

Mind of My Mind:  For 4,000 years, an immortal has spread the seeds of a master race, using the downtrodden as his private breeding stock. But now a young ghetto telepath has found a way to awaken--and rule--her superhuman kind, igniting a psychic battle as she challenges her creator for her right to free her people.

Clay's Ark:  Asa Elias Doyle and her companions encounter an alien life form so destructive that they exile themselves to the desert to avoid contaminating others, but their compulsion to infect others is overwhelming and, in a desperate plea for help, kidnap a doctor and his two daughters.

Patternmaster: A telepathic race is ruled by the strong mind of the Patternmaster, but his ruthless son craves the ultimate power of the position and has murdered everyone who stands in his way except a final victim--his younger brother.

Parable of the SowerParable of the SowerParable of the Sower is a hopeful tale set in a dystopian future United States of walled cities, disease, fires, and madness. Lauren Olamina is an 18-year-old woman with hyperempathy syndrome--if she sees another in pain, she feels their pain as acutely as if it were real. When her relatively safe neighborhood enclave is inevitably destroyed, along with her family and dreams for the future, Lauren grabs a backpack full of supplies and begins a journey north. Along the way, she recruits fellow refugees to her embryonic faith, Earthseed, the prime tenet of which is that "God is change." This is a great book--simple and elegant, with enough message to make you think, but not so much that you feel preached to.

Parable of the TalentsParable of the Talents:  Lauren Olamina's love is divided among her young daughter, her community, and the revelation that led Lauren to found a new faith that teaches "God Is Change". But in the wake of environmental and economic chaos, the U.S. government turns a blind eye to violent bigots who consider the mere existence of a black female leader a threat. And soon Lauren must either sacrifice her child and her followers -- or forsake the religion that can transform human destiny.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse

My mom asked me fairly recently what my obsession was with zombies.  I wouldn't say that I'm "obsessed" with zombies, but it does come up a lot on my personal Facebook page, so I can see why she'd think that.  On my Facebook page, it has been a bit of a running joke amongst a lot of my friends and my minister (who I also count as a friend) to talk about zombies, ever since shortly before last Easter, when somebody referred to Easter as Zombie Jesus Day and then my minister (I totally <3 her, have I mentioned that?) posted a link to this video:

After she posted that video, I pointed out how awesome it would be if she mentioned zombies in her Easter sermon.  For some reason, she refused (even though it totally would have fit, since she talked about alternative explanations for the Jesus resurrection story!).  This was not the end.

Every year, our minister offers up a sermon topic as an auction item in the church auction.  Myself and several others decided that 2010 would be the year of the zombie sermon and pooled our money together to win it, which we did.  Even now, the zombie jokes and comments continue though, leading to my mom's puzzlement, wondering if it was part of some sort of game or something.

I explained to my mom the back story that I just shared with you, but then added that I like talking about zombies as a lighthearted way of getting people to think of preparedness issues as well.  People may not like to think of the possibility that their spouse could be injured and unable to work for a long period of time, possibly around the same time as the birth of their third child, like what happened to my family a couple years ago, so it is a great idea to have several months supply of food or whatever on hand.  People may not like to think about severe flooding like what is happening down south as something that could happen to them that they should have a plan to deal with.  They might not like to think about hurricanes, pandemics, or even a power outage lasting a few days or weeks, but these are all things that really could happen.  To anyone!

But a zombie apocalypse?  That is something more people seem to be willing to think about and possibly even prepare for.  I was overjoyed today to see that the CDC is taking the threat of zombies seriously.  From one of their sites:
There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for. Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.
If you aren't quite ready to take the zombie apocalypse seriously, here is a novel that I read about a zombie apocalypse that I really enjoyed:

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War  World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War:  The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, “By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as ‘the living dead’?”

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Shapeshifters and a Shaman

The Walker Papers (by C.E. Murphy) and the Mercy Thompson books (by Patricia Briggs) always strike me as being similar. I think maybe it is because they both are mechanics and the name of walker is in there (as Joanne's name and as what Mercy is) and there is a coyote involved somewhere.  I haven't read all of the Mercy Thompson books yet (so far, I've only read the first two) or the latest Walker Papers book, so maybe that impression will change as I continue reading them. 
Do you see similarities between the two or am I just strange? 
Urban Shaman (The Walker Papers, Book 1)Urban Shaman (The Walker Papers, Book 1)Joanne Walker has three days to learn to use her shamanic powers and save the world from the unleashed Wild Hunt.
No worries. No pressure. Never mind the lack of sleep, the perplexing new talent for healing herself from fatal wounds, or the cryptic, talking coyote who appears in her dreams.

And if all that's not bad enough, in the three years Joanne's been a cop, she's never seen a dead body—but she's just come across her second in three days.

It's been a bitch of a week.

And it isn't over yet. 

Thunderbird Falls (The Walker Papers, Book 2)Thunderbird Falls (The Walker Papers, Book 2)It's the end of the world…


For all the bodies she's encountering, you'd think beat cop Joanne Walker works in Homicide. But no, Joanne's a reluctant shaman who last saved mankind three months ago—surely she deserves more of a break! Yet, incredibly, "Armageddon, Take Two" is mere days away.

There's not a minute to waste.

Yet when her spirit guide inexplicably disappears, Joanne needs help from other sources. Especially after she accidentally unleashes Lower World demons on Seattle. Damn. With the mother of all showdowns gathering force, it's the worst possible moment for Joanne to realize she should have learned more about controlling her powers. Or to discover she's being lied to…

Coyote Dreams (The Walker Papers, Book 3)Coyote Dreams (The Walker Papers, Book 3): Instead of powerful forces storming Seattle, a more insidious invasion is happening. Most of Joanne Walker's fellow cops are down with the blue flu—or rather the blue sleep. Yet there's no physical cause anyone can point to—and it keeps spreading.

It has to be magical, Joanne figures. But what's up with the crazy dreams that hit her every time she closes her eyes? Are they being sent by Coyote, her still-missing spirit guide? The messages just aren't clear.

Somehow Joanne has to wake up her sleeping friends while protecting those still awake, figure out her inner-spirit dream life and, yeah, come to terms with these other dreams she's having about her boss….

Walking Dead (The Walker Papers, Book 4)Walking Dead (The Walker Papers, Book 4):   For once, Joanne Walker's not out to save the world. She's come to terms with the host of shamanic powers she's been given, her job as a police detective has been relatively calm, and she's got a love life for the first time in memory. Not bad for a woman who started out the year mostly dead.

But it's Halloween, and the undead have just crashed Joanne's party.

Now, with her mentor Coyote still missing, she has to figure out how to break the spell that has let the ghosts, zombies and even the Wild Hunt come back. Unfortunately, there's no shamanic handbook explaining how to deal with the walking dead. And if they have anything to say about it which they do no one's getting out of there alive.

Demon Hunts (Walker Papers, Book 5)Demon Hunts (Walker Papers, Book 5): Seattle police detective Joanne Walker started the year mostly dead, and she's ending it trying not to be consumed by evil. Literally.

She's proven she can handle the gods and the walking dead. But a cannibalistic serial killer? That's more than even she bargained for. What's worse, the brutal demon can only be tracked one way. If Joanne is to stop its campaign of terror, she'll have to hunt it where it lives: the Lower World, a shamanistic plane of magic and spirits.

Trouble is, Joanne's skills are no match for the dangers she's about to face—and her on-the-job training could prove fatal to the people she's sworn to protect….

Spirit Dances (Luna Books)Spirit Dances (Walker Papers, Book 6): For Seattle detective Joanne Walker, spring is about new beginnings. She's mastered her shamanic abilities (mostly), survived a cannibalistic serial killer (barely) and now she's facing the biggest challenge of her career—attending a dance concert with her sexy boss, Captain Michael Morrison. But when the performance—billed as transformative—actually changes her into a coyote, she and Morrison have bigger things to deal with.

And there's more. Homeless people are disappearing, a mystical murder puts Joanne way out of her jurisdiction and with the full moon coming on, it's looking like the killer is a creature that can't possibly exist.

But Jo could probably handle all of that, if one ordinary homicide hadn't pushed her to the very edge….
Moon Called (Mercy Thompson)Moon Called (Mercy Thompson): Mercy Thompson's life is not exactly normal. Her next-door neighbor is a werewolf. Her former boss is a gremlin. And she's fixing a VW bus for a vampire. But then, Mercy isn't exactly normal herself.
Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson, Book 2)
Blood Bound (Mercy Thompson, Book 2): Mechanic Mercy Thompson has friends in low places-and in dark ones. And now she owes one of them a favor. Since she can shapeshift at will, she agrees to act as some extra muscle when her vampire friend Stefan goes to deliver a message to another of his kind.

But this new vampire is hardly ordinary-and neither is the demon inside of him.

Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson, Book 3)
Iron Kissed (Mercy Thompson, Book 3): When her former boss and mentor is arrested for murder and left to rot behind bars by his own kind, it's up to shapeshifting car mechanic Mercy Thompson to clear his name, whether he wants her to or not. And she'll have to choose between the two werewolves in her life-whether she wants to or not.

Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson, Book 4)
Bone Crossed (Mercy Thompson, Book 4):  Marsilia, the local vampire queen, has learned that Mercy crossed her by slaying a member of her clan. Now, she's out for blood. But since Mercy is protected from direct reprisal by the werewolf pack-and her relationship with its sexy Alpha-it's not Mercy's blood Marsilia is after...

Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson, Book 5)
Silver Borne (Mercy Thompson, Book 5): Mechanic and shapeshifter Mercy Thompson never knows what the next day (or night) may bring. After all, her world is inhabited by witches, werewolves, and vampires. But now a book of fae secrets has come to light, and Mercy's about to find out just how implacable-and dangerous- the fae can be.

River Marked (Mercy Thompson, Book 6)
River Marked (Mercy Thompson, Book 6): Car mechanic Mercy Thompson has always known there was something different about her, and not just the way she can make a VW engine sit up and beg. Mercy is a shapeshifter, a talent she inherited from her long-gone father. She's never known any others of her kind. Until now.

An evil is stirring in the depths of the Columbia River-one that her father's people may know something about. And to have any hope of surviving, Mercy and her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, will need their help...