Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bastard Reaction: My Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowland

I've recently become a big fan of Diana Rowland reading all her Kara Gillian books, so when I saw that she was starting a new series featuring a white trash zombie I went and pre-ordered it right away. Diana Rowland came to my attention not long ago after I reading a review about how detailed and accurate her depictions of procedural and police matters were. Bought all the Kara Gillian books out at the time and really enjoyed them, and have been recommending it since.

That's not to say it was all smooth sailing for me. Those that know me are aware that I struggle through urban fantasy books that have a big focus on romance elements and on erotica. Particularly if they feature a love triangle. The Kara Gillian series had all of that, and the erotica portion is quite graphic. But I pushed on through and found myself immersed in what had brought me to the series in the first place; the procedural aspects and the mystery, and quickly became a fan despite the elements that I personally don't enjoy. Then My Life as a White Trash Zombie came along, and I thought, yep this will be right up my alley... and it didn't disappoint.

If you're looking for a fun narrator full of a sarcasm that finds herself in the oddest of situations and craving brain smoothies, then this is the right book for you. My Life as a White Trash Zombie is by and large an introspective book I thought, which makes sense since we're right there with Angel (how's that, a white trash zombie called Angel) going through the process of figuring out the changes that are occurring in her life. I don't know if this will be true going forward, I suspect not, but I think it's worth mentioning. I would like to see more dialogue myself as I'm a dialogue junkie in my urban fantasy reading.

The book has two major mysteries to take into consideration: figuring out what has happened to Angel and secondly dealing with a serial killer. Then add to that Angel re-defining herself both internally and externally, having a new job in a coroner's department, dealing with her old life,  family and friends, and trying to get clean of her drug vices and habits, and we pretty much have a formula for a very fun book. Which it was. Depending on what kind of reader you are, there's a high chance that you'll laugh out loud more than once.

As for the character Angel, she's a very likable character I thought and easy to identify with; even if you don't face the same type of problems she has faced throughout her life. You'll be rooting for her, particularly to get her shit together and overcome. That's pretty much what this book is about, overcoming. And funny shit.

Since I made it a point of talking about romance and erotica in Kara Gillian, I think it's only fair to address it in My Life as a White Trash Zombie. The romance subplot is very limited and there's no erotica to speak of so far, which is great for me. But I have my suspicions that we're going to have some fun sex scenes in the future; what can go wrong when zombies are going at it?

Diana Rowland is certainly a very talented author and seems to have lived a fairly interesting life. The authenticity of what a cop and a coroner is all about, as depicted in her novels, can be traced back to her real life experiences. It's nice to read something and get the feeling that the author knows what he/she is talking about.

Cover was done by Daniel Dos Santos and it's awesome in my opinion. It's even better in person. There's nothing cooler than going around with a pink colored book with a bloodied zombie in the cover.

You can buy My Life as a White Trash Zombie from The Book Depository.

For some reason my online bookseller sent me two copies of My Life as a White Trash Zombie, which I won't complain about. But it's one more than I actually need, so think I may plan a giveaway at some point, but don't hold me to it. Let me know if there's some interest though.

And for the doubters out there:

I've been told by a very reputable source that I have a "nice spread". Or something like that.

For more information on Diana Rowland and her books, please visit her website.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Mihir's Thoughts: The Better Part Of Darkness by Kelly Gay

While I have been reading a lot in the fantasy and thriller genres, in urban fantasy I often find myself looking to a couple of reader buddies to be my guiding lights. One such series was the Charlie Madigan “Darkness” series; Bastard has always praised it for its action, world building, and the authorial ruthlessness with characters. So while Bastard reviews the third book The Hour of Dust and Ashes. I’ll be reviewing the first two books here.

The first book The Better Part of Darkness opens the world of Charlie Madigan amidst the city of Atlanta to the reader. It is a world wherein our world now shares its status with two other worlds “Elysia” & “Charybdon”. These other worlds were discovered nearly thirteen years ago, and since then Earth has been awakened to the presence of extra-terrestrial entities from both worlds. The story opens directly with Charlie who’s an officer with ITF, the new task force formed with humans and Elysian beings. There has been a recent increase in drug cases and this new drug called “Ash” is causing its users to lose their lives or get addicted to it forever. Charlie and her partner Hank, who also happens to be a Siren, are given this case as the victim has ties to Charlie. The story setup is typically within the realms of most UF procedurals and similarly we are shown a person whose family life isn’t the best, and she focuses on her job as well as her child as a means to living a normalized life.

The story then speeds on to its eventual climax with several twists inserted to keep the reader hooked all the way till the end. The author has done a very good job with characterization, the main character cast lead by Charlie is very varied and the reader is shown many sides to each one. But the biggest plus point in my view was the world which was showcased in the books. The author has inserted various mythical races and given the background of the two parallel worlds of Elysia and Charybdon, there’s a lot of potential for further exploration. I’ll be looking forward to see how the author shapes the world of Atlanta and how much of the other worlds she unveils.

The protagonist Charlie Madigan is a much complex character; on one hand her background as a mother is juxtaposed against the brutal reality of her job which has her dealing with danger at almost every turn. She nevertheless tries to keep both her personal and professional lives separate however events conspire to bring the twine together. These events will lead the readers to have a vein of sympathy for her; however I as a reader didn’t enjoy her viewpoint as much as I thought I would. The author has given Charlie a much deeper background than the rest considering she’s the protagonist and this is the first book. For me her character seemed a bit too hard and unforgiving. There’s visible trauma and pain in her life despite the person Charlie is, it just came across as a bit selfish, unforgiving and unfortunately hard-headed. This turned me off the book a bit however kudos to the author for writing such a brisk plot and keeping the story interesting through out. Even though I wasn't exactly enjoying Charlie’s viewpoint, I was riveted by the story and her struggles. There’s a mystery to this story which is explored via Charlie and the climax is a big one which does its part to satisfy the reader and demand that they remain for the sequel as well.

The story ends with a certain conclusion which can be partially guessed at, but here the authorial ruthlessness makes the first appearance and we are shown how this world operates. The ending while satisfying does make one curious to read the sequel as some threads are left for further explorations. The biggest negative in this book for me was the lack of explanations about the twin worlds of Elysia & Charybdon, the discovery is alluded to, but not specifically explained. The changes it brings to our world are again described very briefly; I would have liked to know more about the world as well. But all these points can countered by the fact that this is the first book and UF books rarely get to be WOT or ASOIAF sized ones. I’m hoping that the author does get around to explaining more about the worlds in the later books as I’ll be heartily looking to the next volume in the Charlie Madigan series.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bastard Word Challenge #1

So while me and Mihir finish up our next set of reviews/reactions, thought this could be a fun idea. Nothing complicated. The idea is that you guys suggest words you would like to challenge me (and if Mihir says he's up to it) to use in some manner in my next review (one I haven't started drafting yet), and I'll pick one arbitrarily. Unless there's an overwhelming consensus. Seems simple enough.

Rules? Only rule is that it has to be a word that is either in English or a word that could be reasonably used in an English sentence.

What do you think? Lame idea? Well I say screw it and start suggesting.

Mihir's review of The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay is coming up tomorrow.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bastard Promotion: Tim Marquitz the Author

One of the main reasons I decided to start this blog is to help promote books and authors I've enjoyed and one of them is Tim Marquitz. I mean his books, definitely his books... If I can't do that much, then all this effort would be a waste of my time.

Tim Marquitz came to my attention with his debut Armageddon Bound, first in the Demon Squad series, through a review from Mihir posted in Fantasy Book Critic in December 2009. This was all before Mihir and I became online buddies, or whatever lame descriptor you can come up with that signifies something that resembles online friendship. Went ahead and started a thread on  SFFWorld, where I'm usually found discussing books, to see if anyone had heard of it; they hadn't. And Tim being the sneaky metal-head ninja that he is, joined the convo and conned a few of us to try his books. Well needless to say that we all enjoyed it and became quite excited with the incredible level of comedy he provided in his book. He still prowls the forum discussing various books, which I think is great.

Now, let me just say if you're looking for a literary masterpiece, please look elsewhere. If you're looking for an action packed, roller-coaster, filled with witty dialogue, and well timed jokes, including some of the dirty and perverse variety, then you're in the right place. Because that's what he has to offer. The mine of great comedy lines alone are worth the price of admission regardless of what you may feel the strength and weaknesses of the book are. This is a different flavor from the usual Urban Fantasy you might encounter, amidst the familiar, and that alone should make it worth looking into.

I recently finished the sequel of the series titled Resurrection and really enjoyed it, easily one of my favorite reads so far this year. It also convinced me that Tim has arrived on the scene, what's left is getting the word around. More of that when I post my Bastard Reaction in a few days or so, but worth mentioning is that Marquitz has clearly been working on his writing craft and is becoming a more skillful writer.

Tim Marquitz's books are currently published by Damnation Books which is a small press. We all can appreciate how difficult is being part of a small press and finding success, so I say take a chance. He writes some urban fantasy, some horror, and most recently, some epic fantasy.

Here's a list of published books by Tim Marquitz:
Demon Squad: Armageddon Bound
Demon Squad: Resurrection
Sepulchral Earth: The Long Road
Sepulchral Earth: The Temple of the Dead
Dawn of War (Blood War Trilogy)

For more information you can visit his websiteblog, or twitter. He''s often online and likes to hear from fans, so make sure you drop him a line, he won't bite (unless you're into that sort of thing).

And lastly, there's a little girl out there part of a family Tim knows that could use your help as she battles Leukemia, please click here for details.

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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bastard Reaction: Spectyr by Philippa Ballantine

Last year I was seeing a lot of positive reaction to the book Geist first of Books of the Order series by Philippa Ballantine. I usually do a lot of research before deciding to buy a book, but I saw the cover and said "Oh, lions!" and thought it looked like it could be a very cool Urban Fantasy. I'm sure I'm not the only one that made that assumption (I hope I'm not).

When the book arrived I realized that I was not reading an Urban Fantasy, but a secondary world fantasy, which  is all right with me as I enjoy those too. Keeping the story short, I enjoyed the book but was left with some reservations. I felt the world building wasn't all there, the magic though interesting needed a bit of work, and the romance subplot got a bit of too much focus for my tastes during some portions of the book. As I'm usually surrounded by people who like read Martin, Rothfuss, Lynch, Weeks, Abercrombie and those types of books (they're a picky bunch) I hesitated to recommend it even though there was plenty to like. It had compelling characters, some good twists, plenty of action, and an overall interesting plot and setting. Sorcha is one kickass/badass character. What I thought was going to be the endgame plot, was actually the "climax" of the first half of the novel which I found quite appealing, since more goodness was to be had. With that said, the book has resonated well with Urban Fantasy readers for some reason, so I made recommendations to UF readers to check this book out.

Moving forward, the sequel Spectyr came out a couple of months ago, and I just managed to read it last week. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Highlighting the improvements: the romance was more interesting, subtle, and subdued, the creepiness factor was increased exponentially (seriously, some very messed up scenes in here), the world building is much better as the world details are shaping up, and the twists keep coming with some cruel/cold execution. The action I thought was about the same as the first; quick paced plot. We even get a dosage of sci-fi which adds to the interest factor of world building. I still would like a better picture of the magic system, but I'm sure it'll come in time.

If I have one grivance with the Spectyr is that I wanted to see more Sorcha throwing her weight around and being more confrontational. Part of it is her partner, Merrick, reigning her in a bit, but I thought we didn't get that many scenes in which she had the option and opportunity to do so. I thought we could have used a bit less travel time and a bit more scenes of the investigation. But one thing's for sure, once the real action begins it's non-stop until the end and very violent. We're left with a bit of a cliffhanger and a great setup for the next book which I'm taking it to mean that Miss Ballantine wants Mr. Bastard to buy her next book. Well, I'm sure I'll fall into the trap as I'll be getting it and reading it for sure.

Spectyr has convinced me of Philippa Ballantine's skill as a writer and will surely recommend people to read her books. I have not read any of her other books, but I'm hearing good things about them. From what I can tell she has some sci-fi and steampunk books out there which have been well received. So if Books of the Order doesn't seem appealing to you, make sure to check her other material as I'm sure she has something for everyone.

Also, for those interested, congratulations to Jason Chan, who did the cover art for Geist and Spectyr,since he just won the 2011 Chesley Award for Best Cover Paperback Art for his Geist cover which I think is well deserved considering that it did its job in making me buy the book:

Where to buy:
Geist Mass Paperback from The Book Depository
Spectyr Mass Paperback from The Book Depository

Get more information of Philippa Ballantine by visiting her website. While we're at it, go take a look at Jason Chan's blog.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What should Bastard read next? And other random crap...

Still finishing up editing some reaction drafts, so while we wait for those I thought I should at least make a post to keep the blog content a bit fresh.

First of all I got a lot of books in my reading pile, but I narrowed down the list to 10 I might read soon. Just wondering if the three of you who follow this blog have any particular interest in learning my reaction to any of them to give them priority:

The Warlord's Legacy by Ari Marmell
No Hero by Johnathan Wood
Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep
Skulls by Tim Marquitz
The Soul Mirror by Carol Berg
Among Thieves by Douglas Hulick
The President's Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth
Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence
Black Prism by Brent Weeks
City of Hope & Despair by Ian Whates

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Also of interest, last night and today the essay titled Boys and Reading: Is There Any Hope? posted in the NY Times has raised a bit of a controversy. And although I don't agree with the essay as a whole, and he mentions a lot of misguided crap, I think he raises some good points that are quite valid and are worth considering. Yet, what I've found more troubling is the reaction to the essay, in part completely ridiculing the issue. It makes little sense to me, and completely devalues all the female authors who have lodged similar complaints, in other areas of fiction, and have struggled to position themselves as they are currently (and still do). I don't know, a lot of hypocrisy going around in my opinion, and that pisses me off more than what some ass-hat in the NY Times has to say. It's like no one is willing to do a bit of listening for understanding and the only interest is furthering selfish agendas using straw-man arguments, whatever they may be.

Here are some links of interest/relevance (had some others, but can't find them now damnit):
Through a Forest of Ideas
Sundra Mitchell's Blog

Currently reading Skeleton Crew by Cameron Haley and it's been quite good so far. More on that later.


And lastly, some George Carlin because I love him:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bastard Promotion: Twenty Palaces by Harry Connolly

Going to keep this short. Twenty Palaces by Harry Connolly is quite an awesome Urban Fantasy series, particularly those that are looking for something in the vein of The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher and Jesse James Dawson by K.A. Stewart. So if you enjoy either of those two, make sure to check Twenty Palaces out. There's mystery, suspense, lots of action, a lot of violence, and honestly some of the most messed up scenes I've read on Urban Fantasy.

Anyways, last week a pretty cool trailer for Child of Fire, first book in the series, hit the internet. So make sure you have a look a it:

The trailer script revealed
The full Twenty Palaces trailer is now live

Keep an eye out for the Bastard Reaction of the next novel in the series, Circle of Enemies, which is coming out on August 30. Borders cancelled my pre-order, so at the moment deciding from where to buy my new copy.

Where to buy:
Child of Fire Mass Paperback from The Book Depository
Game of Cages Mass Paperback from The Book Depository
Circle of Enemies Mass Paperback from The Book Depository

Make sure to check out Harry Connolly's website and his blog which is quite cool.

Child of Fire  Game of Cages  Circle of Enemies

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mihir's Thoughts: Curran Volumes - Companion scenes to the Magic series

Hey everyone, I’m Mihir and I’ll be joining Bastard on this blog. Bastard is a person who according to his profile grew up hating reading and later on changed his mind. I on the other hand never knew anything else besides reading, first there were comics and mythological stories and since then it’s been a gradual progression to the current SFF genre. I’m hoping to complement Bastard’s thoughts, reviews and reactions with some of my own which will be in line with this blog’s theme and name “Bastard books and other crap”.

One of my favorite author pairs are Ilona Andrews, the husband-wife team of Ilona & Andrew Gordon who have shot up within the crowded ranks of the urban fantasy sub-genre. They did it by putting out one the best series currently being written, the Kate Daniels “Magic” series. There have been five books along with three short stories out so far. I have reviewed them previously and they can be found over at Fantasy Book Critic here, here, here, and here.

What I like about this series is it has a terrific main protagonist, great characterization which includes the large character tale cast, an awesome magical-post apocalyptic world & over all a mystery at the root of the saga. This series is now in my top three urban fantasy series and one which I will follow all the way to the end.

Now there have been several reviews all over the blogosphere about the books and the short stories but I’ll be focusing on a hitherto unspoken part of the series, the Curran Volumes. There are currently two of these volumes out currently and they have been written by Gordon Andrews exclusively. These pieces feature a fascinating look in to the mind of the one of the most ferocious and scary characters in the books, the Beast Lord Curran Lennart.

In Curran Volume I, the readers are given access to four pivotal scenes spread across the first four books. The first snippet is the one wherein Kate meets Curran for the first time; the second third and fourth ones are from the remaining three books at a certain pivotal time in each of the book. Now three of these scenes have already been read by the readers of the books albeit from Kate’s viewpoint but it is refreshing to re-read them from Curran’s viewpoint. Since we are privy to his thoughts certain plot points come to the fore much more quickly than in the case of the books wherein it occurs at a slower rate, lastly the fourth scene which is not featured in the books is a scene which happens off stage during the third book and helps Curran solve some of his doubts and gives clarity to the climax of that book.

In Curran Volume II: Fathers and Sons, a short story is featured which focuses on the climax of Magic Bleeds. It basically starts in tandem with the last few paragraphs of the book and then expands beyond the book to feature a very powerful scene which showcases why Curran is the beast lord and how powerful he truly is. This event is not shown in any of the books and is not referenced so far in the saga, however it is important for fans of the series to read it as the events which occur will have powerful implications in the pack setup and for the remainder of the saga.

Both these volumes aren't that long, the first volume is of 18 pages in PDF form while the second volume is 20 pages long but even though they are on the shorter side, for fans these stories are gold as they are completely devoted to Curran, his thoughts and his way of life. The first volume has very little action but focuses more on character interactions in each of the stories.

The second volume more than compensates for the action as it has an awesome action sequence and on an emotional level it was very fulfilling to read as well. The second volume in my opinion is the better of the two but that’s just me and I would heartily recommend that fans of the series get their hands on these two volumes as soon as possible.

Both the volumes are available on the author’s website over here and here. They are available in various formats for the reader’s preference and should you be so interested there’s also a 99 cent version available for people who want to reward the authors for their efforts on the same page. Lastly I would like to add the fact that these volumes are meant to be read after reading the books as otherwise new readers will be not be able follow much of what is happening.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bastard Reaction: Ghost Story by Jim Butcher

Ghost Story has to be this year's most anticipated Urban Fantasy novel, particularly after the excellent Changes and the cliffhanger ending it had. The bar had been set quite high and it seems like the consensus is that Ghost Story fell short. How short is where most disagree on.

Ghost Story is the thirteenth installment in The Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher, featuring one of the most awesome characters out there, Harry Dresden. Harry is my Jack Bauer of fiction literature; and we know Jack Bauer is god. After some concerns of whether Borders was going to ship me my pre-ordered book, it finally arrived late last week and spent two nights finishing it up. Regardless of your opinion on the book, it's apparent that it's still quite a page turner.

But once one finishes up reading Ghost Story, it's evident that the book was sub-par in The Dresden Files sequence. Part of the problem is that Butcher looked like he was very conscious of new readers and he was on recap mode on steroids throughout the whole novel, which surely drove fans of the series nuts. In a similar nature, the pacing was out of whack throughout the book due to too many back story and flashback scenes and the already mentioned recaps. But given the nature of ghosts in the book, it makes sense for these types of things to occur, though they still disrupt the energy and momentum of the book. While these were problematic, the book specific plot was not that engaging or interesting, so it created a perfect negative storm.

Those issues aside, I really enjoyed the book. The worst Dresden book to me is still much better than most Urban Fantasy novels I read, so while disappointed by the book not reaching the standards I come to expect of a Dresden novel, it's was still a very good read for me, and it's still one of my favorite Urban Fantasy reads this year.

Ghost Story was by enlarge and large a very introspective book as such, the wide awesome cast of characters of this universe get the short end of the stick in scene appearances, which will add to the disappointment to many. Still some minor characters stepped up to the stage and will surely become favorites to some. It balances out. Ghost Story is also clearly a new stage setter, a bridge novel, to what one can consider the second act of the series. As such, it felt like the second book of a trilogy, and those always seem to be the toughest to write and are often the weakest of the books.

The Dresden Files has always been to me about having Harry Dresden as a narrator and it was still an enjoyable read, though expect many mixed reactions to the book. Even so, the stage has be set and now I'm very much looking forward to what comes next, Harry is back and it'll be interesting to see how his recent experiences are going to shape his behavior going forward. Next book in the series is apparently titled Cold Days coming out next year. New allies and enemies have been made, questions of trust are about, lots of mysteries still left undiscovered to us the readers, and Harry is here to kick some ass.

Now putting my fangirl hat on for moment, Harry + Murphy or Harry + Molly? Who you got? I don't know about you, even though I'm a big fan of Murphy, I kinda dig the HairyMole.

Here are some reviews that might be of interest:
Mad Hatter's Bookshelf & Book Reviews
Mihir from Fantasy Book Critic on Goodreads

Where to buy:
Ghost Story Hardcover from The Book Depository

Get more info on the series and author on Jim Butcher's website.

And lastly make sure to check out this interview from Patrick Rothfuss of The Name of the Wind fame to Jim Butcher, it's a very good one, though it contains some spoilers from Changes, so you're warned:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cash Back Update: Ebates

In a previous post about practices to improve buying books in a more affordable manner, I mentioned the use of cash back websites. I also mentioned that I had become a member of a cash back website called Ebates but didn't have confirmation if the site worked as I had just become a member.

Yesterday, my Paypal account received a payment of approx. $20 as a result of using their service to buy products online. And that amounts to my usage of only one month. I still have money pending for the next cycle, but at least I got something back so far. So now, that I at least show some confirmation that the service works, I hope more of you will put it to good use.

And this is not only for you book buying habits, they have a ton of online stores they provide cash back for in all different kinds of industries.

As for books, if you buy from stores like Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Abebooks, etc. very much worth looking into the service since at any given time you can get anywhere from 3% to 12% cash back.

They offered me a $10 B&N gift card for signing up, but I still haven't received it after 2+ months, so I'm going to email them soon to see what's up. But receiving it or not is immaterial since it cost me nothing to start using their service, just my email address.

Just make sure you read and follow their instructions properly to make sure your purchases qualify and you don't lose on a cash back opportunity for not following the steps correctly.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bastard Reaction: A Shot in the Dark by K.A. Stewart

A Devil in the Details was K.A. Stewart's debut novel last year in 2010, first in the Jesse James Dawson series; a very promising start to her career. I was a bit skeptical when I decided to read the book as the blurb and description didn't sound too appealing, but after a couple of chapters I could tell that this series would quickly become one of my favorites in the genre.

Let's forget plot for the time being, that can be hit or miss. The current main draw to the series is the compelling first person narrating voice Stewart has created, in many regards similar to that of Harry Dresden. And how many times haven't we stumbled upon people looking for something similar to Dresden? Well I finally found a series that I could endorse for fans of Dresden, particularly to those that enjoy that narrating voice. Keep in mind that I'm strictly recommending this on the merits of that aspect, nothing to do with plot, characters, setting, magic, etc. In Jesse James Dawson you'll find a honorable character, full of wisecracks and humor remarks, and also a flawed character which in many ways Dresden also is. And yes, he gets beat up quite badly on his way to kick just a little bit of ass.

In all, Stewart has created one of the best male first person narrators in the Urban Fantasy scene in my opinion, to the point that I thought the book was written by a man. Not because men are better writers than women, but because of how easy it felt to identify with the character me having two balls and a stick. It was a testament to how well the author wrote a character of the opposite sex, which is not an easy task.

Plenty of action, plenty of humor, a stable loving family, and a good mystery with its twists was a recipe for a successful novel.

A Shot in the Dark was released earlier this summer, and sequel to A Devil in the Details. Let me get this out of the way, did not enjoy it as much as the first one, but still very much enjoyed. It has more to do with my tastes more than anything. The second books was a bit more of a horror book in a secluded cabin scenario, which in all I'm not a fan of those. But that aside, everything that I enjoyed in the first one, was present in this one. The world keeps expanding and more dimensions get revealed.

With that said, the author needs to be commended for shaking things up and writing something slightly different from the first, keeping the world fresh and exciting. A bit slow in the beginning but once the action starts in this one it doesn't stop until the very last page. So in all, I really can't complain much about the secluded cabin scenario because it delivered many cool action scenes and those are most welcomed.

K.A. Stewart is an author to watch out for and very much looking forward to the next Jesse James Dawson installment. For a more comprehensive review, look for Mihir's in FBC (which I haven't read yet, but I stand by my statement).

Where to buy:
A Devil in the Details Mass Paperback in The Book Depository
A Shot in the Dark Mass Paperback in The Book Depository

You can get more info on the author and series from K.A. Stewarts Blog.

And as always, you can come and discuss the series over with me at SFFWorld forums.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Bastard Superpower, Kate Daniels Followup

Just here to provide you with unquestionable evidence of my superpowers. As such, I'm taking full blame for those fans that feel they got screwed over by the delay of Kate Daniels; which they shouldn't be.

Let me know if all of this is in my head, and am simply delusional. One can never tell. But, I promise to try and control myself just in case.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

No Kate Daniels Next Year?

I'm a huge fan of the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, second only to Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files as my favorite Urban Fantasy series.

A bit of bad news for Kate Daniels fans, there will be no new book in the series until February 2013. There will be though a spin-off featuring Andrea next year instead, which should alleviate some of the pain. Also, it has been confirmed that Kate and Curran will indeed appear in the spin-off. Story wise, the spin-off takes place between Magic Slays and the next Kate Daniels book.

For myself, the Andrea-Raphael story-line hasn't been of much interest to me. But I have to admit that I'm quite curious on what the authors have planned for the spin-off, so a bit excited for that.

Anyways, you can read the full details in Ilona Andrews' blog. And please, don't give them too much shit since they seem like very awesome people.

For those Urban Fantasy fans who haven't tried this series yet, well you should be ashamed of yourselves. And if you did and didn't like the first book, then read the second one, it's much better, trust me.

Bastard Reaction: Secrets of the Sands by Leona Wisoker

Secrets of the Sands is Leona Wisoker's debut novel, first of the Children of the Desert series. Book came out last year in 2010, and it's published by Mercury Retrograde Press. Secrets of the Sands was one of my favorite reads last year, and if there's one book out there that I think should be read, or at least tried, by more people it's this one.

The most important aspect of this book is that it was quite evident that Leona Wisoker is a very talented and skillful writer. But don't take my word for it since where it really matters, I don't know shit about writing. Yet, when you stumble upon a skillful writer you can just tell they're good. The second most important thing of this book is that once you're done with it, you can tell that a lot of care has been put into it's creation. The paperback felt of high quality, and at the end of the novel the author includes a bunch of extra material to enrich the world building.

"Cafad Scratha, a powerful desert lord with a persecution complex, believes everyone is lying to him. When his obsession collides with the king's efforts to rebuild the shattered realm, the orphaned street-thief Idisio and the king's emissary Alyea become pawns in their multilayered game. The secret world into which Idisio and Alyea are drawn will not only change their lives: it will change them."

I don't know if the offer is still there, but when I bought the paperback, it came with an option to "buy" a free electronic copy of the novel, so that should interest some.

Don't have much more to say at the moment since I read it last year and the details are quite fuzzy, but here's a better detailed review by Fantasy Book Critic which should be more useful. In all, the book should have something for everyone a bit of action, a bit of romance, some political intrigue, magic, mystery, suspense. And while the plot itself might not work for everyone, I think I can almost guarantee that at the very least you will go away thinking that you read something well crafted in some manner.

By the way, the cover art above was done by Michael Sullivan (if not mistaken), who has become quite the interesting success story with his own writing. Haven't read him yet, but many have done so, so also worth the look.

The sequel to Secrets of the Sands came out earlier this year, titled Guardians of the Desert, but I haven't read it yet. Here's the cover:
Guardians of the Desert

Where to buy:
Secret of the Sands Paperback on The Book Depository
Guardians of the Desert on The Book Depository

You can get more info on Leona Wisoker's website.

Here's the SFFWorld discussion thread:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Bastard Reaction: Poison Sleep by T.A. Pratt

About five months ago I read the Blood Engines by T.A. Pratt, first in the Marla Mason series. Don't remember well the details, but overall I enjoyed the read even though the book didn't grab me as it could have.

I just finished Poison Sleep, the second in the Marla Mason series, and I was thoroughly entertained by it. Can't tell why Poison Sleep worked for me more than Blood Engines, but it did. Full disclosure, I've never been a big fan of 3rd person narrative and multiple POV when I read Urban Fantasy. It simply hasn't worked that well for me, and this series is written from that perspective. Regardless, Poison Sleep hit all the right spots I was looking for.

The book is filled with what I call "what the fuck" magic, as in anything goes and weird magic (and shit) abounds. It's fast moving with some amusing dialogue and quite humorous at times. The key to reading the series is just to sit back and enjoy the ride, and not take it too seriously. Really like Marla Mason as a character, she's quite badass and has her own set of morals and priorities; she's a law (or government as she mentions in Poison Sleep) unto herself. Another thing I liked is that you're constantly switching on who you're rooting for, majorly because of the different POV and there's a lot of gray area to work with. There's no shortage of fun characters either.

My main complaint is that I felt like there wasn't a good exposition of Marla's magic in this book, something that I thought worked very well in Blood Engines. She was more of a hack and slash chick this time around. Another is that due to the nature of multiple POV, some of the twists that occur throughout the novel were spoiled.

Other than that, Poison Sleep was a very enjoyable book for me, and will certainly keep reading the series. As for whom to recommend the book to, I think non Urban Fantasy readers might find the book more approachable than what is usually out there in the paranormal spectrum, and one series I think is comparable in the nature of magic and tone of the books is Simon R. Green's Nightside series, which I know many have been entertained with.

Oh, and the cover is quite nice and very fitting.

Where to buy:
Poison Sleep Mass Paperback on The Book Depository

You can get more info in the Tim Pratt's website and on a site dedicated to Marla Mason.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bastard Promotion: The Whitefire Crossing by Courtney Schafer

Rock climbing and magic, seems like a winner combination to me. The Whitefire Crossing is the debut novel by Courtney Schafer, first in The Shattered Sigil series. She's a rock climber herself, so quite curious on how it'll come about in this fantasy novel.

I haven't read the book myself, but I certainly plan to get it in the near future. A couple of reviewers whose opinion I've trusted (Robert from FBC and Justin from Staffer's Musings), have given some high praises for this debut, so I thought it was worthwhile to help a new author get a bit of freebie promotion. I very much like the book, looks pretty sweet.

Book is published by Night Shade Books. Not sure about the publishing date as it was supposed to come out mid August, but it seems like online sites already have it in stock. There's already a planned sequel with the title The Tainted City which looks to be published at some point next year.

 The Whitefire Crossing description:
"Dev is a smuggler with the perfect cover. He's in high demand as a guide for the caravans that carry legitimate goods from the city of Ninavel into the country of Alathia. The route through the Whitefire Mountains is treacherous, and Dev is one of the few climbers who knows how to cross them safely. With his skill and connections, it's easy enough to slip contraband charms from Ninavel - where any magic is fair game, no matter how dark - into Alathia, where most magic is outlawed.
But smuggling a few charms is one thing; smuggling a person through the warded Alathian border is near suicidal. Having made a promise to a dying friend, Dev is forced to take on a singularly dangerous cargo: Kiran. A young apprentice on the run from one of the most powerful mages in Ninavel, Kiran is desperate enough to pay a fortune to sneak into a country where discovery means certain execution - and he'll do whatever it takes to prevent Dev from finding out the terrible truth behind his getaway.
Yet Kiran isn't the only one harboring a deadly secret. Caught up in a web of subterfuge and dark magic, Dev and Kiran must find a way to trust each other - or face not only their own destruction, but that of the entire city of Ninavel."

Here are some samples of the book:
Short Excerpt
First 6 chapters on PDF

You can order The Whitefire Crossing from The Book Depository or whatever your online bookstore of preference is.

More info on Courtney Schafer's site:

Anyone read it yet or plans on reading it?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Where and How to Buy Your Books

I don't know about you guys, but I'm always in the hunt to buy books as affordable as possible. I'm only familiar with US stores (online), so this won't apply much for people in Europe for example. Over the last couple of months I've been doing most of my buying online from Borders, and since they're practically dead now, I'm on the hunt for a new online store. Don't know which to use yet, but I seem to be leaning towards Books-A-Million. Still trying to familiarize myself with them.

Over the past couple of years I've been using Bookdepository as my go-to seller, but starting late last year the price increased quite a bit in some cases so I started looking for other stores to find cheaper books. Pre-Orders on mass paperbacks are still well priced, $5.99 or $5.39 with a 10% coupon. I still buy quite a bit from them, but not at the rate I used to.

Everywhere I go around the net you'll see people claiming that no one can beat Amazon prices, and that's simply not true. Initially it might seem true because their sell price, the one they show all customers, is usually among the lowest, if not the lowest. So for convenience sake and for those that don't want to do a bit of work to find best prices, Amazon seemingly seems to have them.

One of my biggest regrets recently is that I came very late to learn how to work the system; the usage of good coupons in combination with memberships and cash back websites. And this has been particularly true for me in the last couple of months with Borders. I barely became a Rewards Members Plus two months ago, and it cost me $20. Waste of money right? Well no, I also got $10 worth of Bonus Bucks just for signing up, and then saved a lot of money throughout the next two months re-organizing my pre-orders, plus I got another $5 worth in Borders Bucks. So I more than covered the membership charge. I was buying mass paperbacks in the range of $4.23-$5.15 in a consistent basis, find me a retail store who could match that.

Anyways, let's get on with the program, some hints and tips:

1. Shipping Policies:

If you live in continental US you probably won't have anything to worry about, but if you live in one of the US territories/protectorates (Puerto Rico) or in a state outside the continent (Hawaii and Alaska) then you have to pay attention.

Amazon, for example, will ship a book in the US for $3.00, but if you live in Puerto Rico, Hawaii, or Alaska they'll charge you $5.00 for the shipment, which is criminal particularly when USPS considers some of these destinations as domestic which is the same shipping rate as any other state. I don't know about you, but I'm not a fan of my money being stolen because of crappy policies. At least they offer Free Super Saver Shipping to Hawaii and Alaska for orders of $25+, but other destinations are still screwed.

Barnes & Noble has a similar problem. Their non-membership is a good one, even through all states and some US territories, which includes $25+ purchase with free-shipping. The problem comes when you become a member. They offer free Express Shipping to members with no minimum purchase to continental states (excluding Alaska). They still offer free-shipping to Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, but only if you order $25+ worth. So that left me scratching my head, why become a member then? You'll be getting the same service as a non-member pretty much if you don't live in the continental US. And the major problem here comes when you want to use coupons, but more on that later.

Bookdepository has free-shipping throughout the world, so it's a matter of studying which countries are excluded. No need to go into detail.

Books-A-Million has the same thing for members and non-members, buy $25+ and get free-shipping, which includes Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Alaska (I still need some confirmation though). Not much of a benefit here, but the way their coupon system works it becomes a bit of a non-issue.

2. Cash Back Websites:

Still don't know how legit these websites are, but they seem so to me. You basically subscribe to these websites, click on a link to the online store you want to buy from which will open a new window. In that new window you place an order and you'll get a cash back on that order. You can get anywhere between 3%-8% cash back on your order.

I'm still not very familiar with this system, as I recently became a member of one of them to test it out, so don't hold me to it. I'm an Ebates member at the moment, and in August 15 they should Paypal me a certain amount of my accumulated cash back, so I'll know more on that date. But keep it mind, do your own investigation.

Worth noting though, that none of the cash back services I've seen offer Amazon or Bookdepository as store. Let me know if you know of one.

I've only used Fatwallet (barely) and Ebates so far (here's a non-referer Ebates link for those who care about such things). But I've yet gone through a cycle in which I got payment owed, so I don't know if they work. I suspect they do, and since I didn't have to enter much personal information or credit card numbers, the risk seems very low. So, nothing to lose at the moment by trying them. I think you only need to provide an email address to sign-up, but I might be mistaken. In two months I've accumulated about $40 dollars in cash backs among various sites (not all on books), so hopefully it does work.

Make sure you read the details and instructions of these sites well as any wrong step might prevent you from getting cash back on an order. In all, don't count on the cash back when placing your order, as it's fairly immaterial to your buying decision, but consider it a welcomed surprise when they do happen.

When I signed-up on Ebates I got an offer for a $10 B&N Gift Card, though they told me it'll take anywhere from 4-8 weeks after qualifying for it. I'm still waiting for it. But whatever, not going to lose any sleep over it at the moment.

3. Look for coupons and offers:

Very important, learn how to use coupons, how they work on a particular site, how frequent do they come about, how can you can combine them with shipping policies, etc.

Bookdepository often has 10% coupons about very often. Not easy to find, unless it's a big promotion, but some are posted in some forums around the net at any given time.

Barnes & Noble has decent coupons, many of them apply to purchase prices. Main problem is that you can only use one coupon per order, and most coupons that come about are for one item only. And here's where the shipping policy explained above comes to bite you in the ass if you're not in continental US. Since you can't get free-shipping without minimum amount of purchase, then the coupons don't come that handy, since you'll still be forced to buy books that might not be at a good price range just so that you can get to the $25 minimum. Another problem with B&N coupons is that they usually don't apply for pre-orders, which is a crappy policy if you ask me.

Books-A-Million has a weird coupon system. Most of their coupons come in the nature of $10 off a $50 order, or $20 off a $100 order. So depending on your spending habits, this could either be of great use or a hindrance  But with the right combination of books, you should be able to get some great pricing on your purchase, particularly when combined with their Club Membership discounts. The key here is to buy as closely to the $50 mark as you can and with as few books as possible. I would say an adequate target would be 5 total books with a mixture of hardcovers, mass paperbacks, and paperbacks.

Amazon, well I really haven't seen any coupons just those 4-for-3 promotions that don't seem that useful to me.

4. Memberships and Make a Plan

This is the real question isn't it? Which site should I pay $20 to become a member (well in Amazon's case you'd have to pay a lot more for Prime Membership, so I'm not going to bother)?

First thing to consider is how many books do you plan on buying in a year? If the answer is anywhere between "quite a bit" and "a lot" then you should really consider becoming a member of some store.

So how to chose? Well that really depends on the needs and benefits the membership brings you in combination with everything I've explained above. There's no one-size fits all here, so you'll have to make your mind for yourself.

Before deciding on a membership, you really have to make a bit of a plan and anticipate what you'll be buying. Learn your buying habits well. Have a look at catalogs and see what is going to be released throughout the year. If you make the correct decision, then you should be able to save quite a bit of money, and remember if you buy a membership make your you plan on buying from that store the majority of the time to make it worthwhile.

At the moment I'm leaning towards becoming a Books-A-Million member. If I did my math correctly, and using the right coupon and with the Club Discounts for being a member, right now I could save between $7-$8 in one order buying two mass paperbacks, one hardcover, and two paperbacks vs. what it would have cost me buying the mass paperbacks in Bookdepository and the rest from Amazon.

So I figure that 3 or 4 orders of this nature in a year and I would cover the membership charge, and the rest will be pure savings.

5. Used Books

You can find some good value with used bookstores. The downside is that authors don't see a penny from you buying used books, so I find it better practice to find cheap new books than buying used books when there's an opportunity. But the choices are still out there. Won't spend much time here since there's a lot of used book sellers out there, so you'll just have to look for yourself. At the moment I've found the best prices in Abebooks, so I say try to used that. Plus cash back websites do offer cash back for purchases through Abebooks.

Well as you can see, you have options out there to get more value for your money. You'll end up either buying more books with your money or saving in what books you do decide to buy. It's all about doing a bit of work.  And I know it's a bit time consuming, but the benefits should be worth it.

This has been my experience so far buying online. If I'm mistaken in any of the details I've provided let me know so I can make the post more accurate, or if you have some pointers for myself I'll welcome them. Sorry for it being so long, I honestly mean to write a few short pointers and be done with it.

Hope you found the post helpful in some manner and you can start buying in a more affordable practice. For those looking for hints on eBooks, then you're looking in the wrong place since I don't know shit about the eBook system. Worth mentioning though that Books-A-Million seems to also work under the Nook system, so worth looking more information on for Nook owners.