31 July, 2012

Update - Bar and Babies and B-reading (Not read Breeding)

It's been a while since I've posted so I thought I'd do a quick update. I've taken the bar, so that's over at least. While I was still in California, my wife went into labor with our twins, so on Saturday at 3 am I was calling up United trying to change my flight from later in the day to "as soon as possible."

Luckily that worked out, made it to the hospital...only to wait and wait and then wait some more. Until Monday when we were discharged from the hospital and still no babies in sight, not even another contraction.

Now, we're still playing the waiting game, but we'll definitely be having them next week no matter what.

Reading Update:

During the time I've been away from the blog, I've got a couple books read/mostly read. I've already written most of a review for Acacia by David Anthony Durham, just needs polishing. I've finished Scourge of the Betrayer by Jeff Salyards and that needs a review. I'm almost done with Lucky Bastard by S.G. Browne, which has a great concept, definitely look this one up. Also started The Princess Bride by William Goldman on a whim and it's everything I ever wished it would be.

23 July, 2012

Review - This Dark Earth by John Hornor Jacobs

I picked this book up not because I'm a fan of a good zombie book (even though I am), but solely on the strength of the reviews of his debut novel Southern Gods.

I haven't read it, but I will now.

This Dark Earth [US] [UK] takes us from the beginning of the zombie apocalypse through the early development of a new civilization. Not treading a whole lot of new ground here are we?

And I think that's what's blowing me a way with this book is that it's nothing new, but at the same time it felt fresh and vibrant and I COULD NOT put it down. I guess that shows what kind of writing chops this author has.

We start out following Doc Lucy Ingersol's point of view as the first of the outbreak begins to show up in the hospital in which she works. The waiting room breaks out in what I can only compare to Draculas. All hell breaks loose.

She gets away, barely, and gets picked up by a trucker who goes by the name of Knock Out...just as the world is being blown to smithereens, or just well-placed nukes in every major city.

While this isn't a whole lot different from the normal zombie fair, I can say he does a few things differently, at least in my limited experience. The first, is the entire set up of the novel. It's only made up of 7 chapters, each, for the most part, is a different character and in first person. They're all interconnected somehow and thus, you're able to get really close to each of the main characters.

The characters are for the most part relatively serious, but of course there's quite a bit of tongue-in-cheek. I usually get annoyed by this sort of thing, especially when it's done constantly, but it fit so well and the humor was so spot on, it worked perfectly. Here's a favorite quote, from the engineer, that occurs later in the book although I've taken out any spoilers for the most part:
I've brained 170 zeds. Klein says he's at 180, but there's not a lot of time for talking now. I'd be hard-pressed to say who's Legolas and who's Gimli. I'm taller and gay, so I'll take the elf.
The second thing is that you can't trust what will happen with these characters. Obviously, this is a zombie novel and of course no one's really safe...but then, The Walking Dead still has most of the main characters, even Carl...wait...where's Carl!?!?!

Speaking of The Walking Dead, if you're a fan of the show, I think you'll really connect with this book. Some of the same themes show up here, such as the need to avoid cities with their huge populations.

Okay, I'll stop talking about The Walking Dead, as much as I love that show. This Dark Earth would definitely not be viewable on TV. The back cover of the book has a quote from S.G. Browne that says this book is The Road meets World War Z. While I haven't read WWZ, I have read The Road and I can kind of see where he's coming from. The people who have survived at 3 years out are some of the nastiest around. There are good people granted, but where would the fun be if only those existed.

While this book is much more on the pulp end of things, I can definitely see that this comparison to The Road makes sense. There are some truly poignant events that occur that had my emotions running high. I can also say that I don't think I've read anything more brutal than what happens to one of the characters and the whole time it felt like I was going through it. On that note, this book definitely isn't for the faint of heart. Lots of blood and guts fill the pages, not to mention some other uncomely acts.

All in all, if you're going to read a zombie book, you should read This Dark Earth. Once you start, you won't be able to put it down anyway, so start now.

4 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher

19 July, 2012

John Marco's Really Awesome Giveaway

This is too cool not to pass up posting about, even with my limited bar studying time left.

John Marco is running a giveaway of sorts in preparation for the release of his newest book coming out in November, The Forever Knight. He's giving away first edition hardcover copies of the second book in his Lukien trilogy, The Devil's Armor. I'll let the man himself explain the giveaway:
Anyone who purchases a copy of either the first Lukien book, The Eyes of God, or the third book, The Sword of Angels, will get one of these first edition hardbacks for free.  All you need to do is send me a receipt from a reputable book seller.  It doesn't matter what format you buy--paperback, Kindle, Nook, whatever. As long as the book was purchased today or afterwards, you're in--at least until I run out of books to giveaway.  Just send/forward a copy of your receipt to me at johnmarco@aol.com.  The rest is completely free--the book, the shipping, and the author's messy signature.
So, all you have to do is buy one of those books, no matter the format, send him your receipt, and he'll send you a nice, pretty signed hardcover while supplies last. That's a pretty good deal if you ask me.

These are easily some of my favorite covers.

16 July, 2012

Giveaway! The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities - 3 Copies

Like I said in my last post, I've been having some fun with The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. It's just a great collection (at least so far) with some of the top authors around. I'm excited to give three people the opportunity to have a crack at it free of charge because I've got three copies to give away.

Giveaway Rules

If you are interested in getting your hands on the The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer , then follow the exceedingly simple instructions below.

E-mail me your name and address at onlythebestsff@[removethis]gmail.com, with "Thackery T. Goatsfoot" as the subject of the email (or at least something that lets me know what the email is about). This goes without saying, but double emails get you disqualified.

Snarky comments increase your chances of winning and win bonus entries for future giveaways. I'm sorry, but this is open in the US only as long as delivery doesn't require the mounting of an expedition into remote wilderness.

10 July, 2012

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities, Edited by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer

The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities comes out today so I thought I'd say a word or two about it. Every now and then a book comes in the mail that just gets me excited. This is one of those.

I first heard about this book a little while ago when the editors, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, were asking for submissions to be included in a glossary of sorts. In fact, the actual words went like this:

[W]e are having an open reading period, starting today, for a micro-fiction section in the back of the anthology, which will consist of a list, with descriptions, of items from Dr. Lambshead cabinet that are not described in the stories. (source)
At the time (continuing through to this time), I thought this was genius. The opportunity for random people to be included in an anthology such as this, with big names such as China Mieville, Alan Moore, Michael Moorcock, Tad Williams, and you get the point. How cool! I really wish I would have sad myself down to write a submission.

So of course I jumped at the chance to receive a copy from the publisher and you probably don't need too many chances to guess where I headed first. Sure enough, there's a glossary full of zany concoctions and made-up artifacts such as the South American Insult Stone, Tycho's Astronomical Support Garment, and don't forget Dracula's Testicles. All with their author's name following.

I haven't read too much and with the way I read anthologies (when the mood strikes and very slowly), not to mention other activities keeping me busy at the moment, you'll probably not see a review for a while. I just thought I needed to post about this because I find this anthology to be insanely awesome already. :D

Here's the blurb for those wondering:
For lovers of Steampunk, Dark Fantasy, and Eccentric Contraptions After the death of Dr. Lambshead, an astonishing cabinet of curiosities was unearthed at his house. Many of these artifacts and wonders related to anecdotes and stories in the doctor's personal journals, or the adventures of his friends. We are now proud to present highlights from the doctor's cabinet, reconstructed not only through visual representations but also through exciting stories of intrigue and adventure. Rumors that Dr. Lambshead never existed are scurrilous and should be ignored

05 July, 2012

Review - The Hollow City by Dan Wells

Dan Wells is my hero.

In his debut novel, I Am Not A Serial Killer (review), he takes on a protagonist who's a teenage sociopath. In The Hollow City [US] [UK], his protagonist is a schizophrenic mental patient. Both get you into their heads and both make you feel like you understand people a little bit better. Both are compulsively readable and impossible to put down.

I gotta hand it to Wells, that's quite a way to start a writing career.

The Hollow City is like Memento goes to the nuthouse. Not that it's told in a similar format, such as the whole starting at the end and ending at the beginning, but because your narrator is that unreliable. You really want to trust Michael Shipman, you want to believe that the "Faceless" men are chasing him, that all electronic devices are sending out signals and reporting on him (not just cell phones, but TV's and watches too), that the people he's talking to are all more than figments of his imagination.

But the facts are all there. Not only is he actually in a mental institution where all the doctors have him pegged as a schizophrenic, but he's got the typical narcissism that puts such a person at the center of every conspiracy that ever existed. Wells has obviously done a lot of research here, but it's not bogged down in any technical jargon.

And yet you can't help but think he might have something, he might be telling the truth about everything. What if he is? And then we find out that something or someone else Michael's seeing isn't real (or is it?). That wouldn't be annoying if I did that after every sentence would it?

The Hollow City is quite the trip.

Adding to the conspiracy and schizophrenia we see in Michael we are introduced to a mystery regarding a killer that's on the loose. In fact, the prologue takes us to one of a string of murders by one known as the Red Line Killer who's been not only killing people, but mutilating their faces. With no other leads, you begin to see why the police might be looking to Michael, a schizophrenic who's running away from "Faceless" men.

The jury's still out on the ending, though. I'm not sure whether I thought it was great or just so so. I liked it well enough, I think I just had too many other possibilities in my head that I was let down a bit. It's definitely fitting and the more I think about it, the more I like it. Given what happens at the end, it's actually a pretty cool idea ... and I'll stop there.

The Hollow City is pegged as science fiction, at least it's being marketed as such, but that only plays a minor part. I'm actually surprised they aren't marketing it as more mainstream, since most in the publishing biz try to distance themselves from the anathema that is SFF. So, cheers to Tor I guess. :)

I won't go into anymore detail for fear of ruining anything, I've done enough I'm sure. Let's just say that you should read The Hollow City if only to see this unique perspective, but also to get an incredibly unique experience. And once you're reading it, you won't be able to stop, I mean, it's Dan Wells.

4 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended!)

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher