Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Qwill's Best Books of 2014

The 4 books that top my list of Best Books of 2014 share similar attributes (as one would expect): 1) fascinating main characters that I cared about and wanted to linger with; 2) exceptional world-building; and 3) stories that kept me engaged and immersed. Without further ado:

Best Fantasy - Tie

City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

I am pretty much assured that I am going to really like a Robert Jackson Bennett novel. Bennett's writing and worldbuilding in City of Stairs is exceptional. There are mysteries, thrills, action and a city so askew and marvelous that it is often breathtaking. To cap it off, the main and secondary characters are captivating and interesting. Bennett mixes these wonderful characters with a fantastic mythology and a riveting story to create one of the best fantasies of 2014. I'm really looking forward to the sequel, City of Blades. (See Qwill's review here.)

Breach Zone by Myke Cole

Cole hit every note correctly with the third novel in his military fantasy Shadow Ops Trilogy. He's gone from strength to strength with this series. The magic system and magical world is wildly inventive and Cole puts you deep into the action as NYC is turned into a battle ground. Breach Zone also deals with issues of haves and have-nots (magical vs. non-magical). And while the novel deals with grand issues, it delves deep into the persona of the characters and is ultimately very moving. As I said in my review (here) "Breach Zone is a stunning novel." Fortunately I don't have long to wait for Cole's next novel - Gemini Cell, which is out on January 27, 2015.

Best Thriller

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

I utterly adore this novel. This is the best thriller I've read in ages and ages. Pilgrim is one of those characters that stays with you well after you've finished the novel. The plot is scarily believable but what really makes I Am Pilgrim shine are the characters. The story moves back and forth from Pilgrim to Saracen who are on a collision course throughout the book. After 600 pages I really was disappointed, not in the story, but that I wasn't going to be able to read about Pilgrim any more. This is a fabulous novel all around. Fortunately Hayes is penning a second novel in the series - The Year of the Locust (Sept. 2015). (See Qwill's review here.)

Best Science Fiction/Debut

The Martian by Andy Weir

It's not often that I want to peek at the end of a book, but The Martian almost made me look. Weir sublimely ratchets up the tension throughout the novel - will Mark Watney survive? Watney is an incredible character which is really good since he practically carries the entire book. He's intelligent (as you would expect of an astronaut) and funny and sarcastic. I loved listening to him think as he tries to figure out how to possibly survive being left behind on Mars. It's really hard to believe that this is a debut novel - it's so assuredly and beautifully written. The science is clearly explained without bogging down the story at all and that helps makes this novel so believable. Add this to a character that you just have to root for and you have a superb nail-biter of an SF novel.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Melanie's Best Books of 2014

 Melanie's Best Books of 2014

Dawn's Early Light by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

I absolutely love the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series and Dawn's Early Light was another fantastic instalment in this series. My favourite agents - Books and Braun - find themselves across the pond and joining fellow agents from the Office of the Supernatural and Metaphysical to stop the dastardly Thomas Edison and the evil House of Usher. This book (and series) has the perfect balance of action, character development and steampunky coolness. I also have a secret crush on Books so enjoy everything and anything to do with my favourite hero. (See Melanie's Review here.)

Gemsigns by Stephanie Saulter

Gemsigns was one of those big surprise books for me in 2014. I wasn't expecting to like it quite as much as I did. Saulter writes very convincing science fiction with likeable heroes and baddies who you aren't sure are going to get caught which makes it all the more gripping. This book is so well written and chapters that explain the 'science' are exceptional. It's hard to believe that this is Saulter's debut novel. (See Melanie's Review here.)

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews

Magic Breaks is the 7th in the Kate Daniels series and Andrews made a very brave decision. The authors' change the format and make some very bold decisions for their characters. I have enjoyed this series and some books are stronger than others but this one stands out for me not just for how it is written but for what happens to the characters. Kate is one of my favourite heroines and can hardly wait to find out what happens next. (See Melanie's Review here.)

Review: False Covenant by Ari Marmell

False Covenant
Author:  Ari Marmell
Series:  Widdershins Adventures 2
Publisher:  Pyr, June 26, 2012
Format:  Hardcover and eBook, 281 pages
List Price:  $16.95 (print)
ISBN:  978-1-61614-621-4 (print)
Review Copy:  Provided by the Publisher
Cover Illustration:  © Jason Chan

It’s been over half a year, now, since the brutal murder of Archbishop William de Laurent during his pilgrimage to the Galicien city of Davillon. During that time, the Church of the Hallowed Pact has assigned a new bishop to the city—but it has also made its displeasure at the death of its clergyman quite clear. Davillon’s economy has suffered beneath the weight of the Church’s displeasure. Much of the populace—angry at the clergy— has turned away from the Church hierarchy, choosing private worship or small, independent shrines. And the bishop, concerned for his new position and angry at the people of Davillon, plans to do something about it.

But a supernatural threat is stalking the nighttime streets—a creature of the other world has come to infiltrate the seedier streets of Davillon, to intertwine its tendrils through the lower echelons of society. Faced with both political upheaval and a supernatural threat to its citizenry, the local representatives of the Church are paralyzed and the Guardsmen are in over their heads.

And then there’s Widdershins. Who’s tried, and failed, to stay out of trouble since taking over Genevieve’s tavern. Who’s known to the Church and the Guard both, and trusted by neither. Who may, with some of her Thieves’ Guild contacts, have unwittingly played a part in the bishop’s plans. And who, along with her personal god Olgun, may be the only real threat to the supernatural evil infesting Davillon.

Brannigan's Review

A quick note: I had so much fun reading Thief’s Covenant, that I wanted to see what happens next to Windershins. My wonderful editor Sally and Pyr were kind enough to send me the other books in the series. I'm happily reading my way through them now, I'd just like to publicly thank them both.

I'm happy to say that False Covenant does not suffer from a sophomore slump, in fact, I enjoyed it more than the first book. It helps that I'm already familiar with the majority of the characters and the city setting. Ari Marmell is able to jump right into the story and he does just that. Our protagonist is still recovering from the events of the climatic battle in the first book. Widdershins lost some important people and I appreciated that Marmell didn't shy away or brush off their deaths quickly. It helped me connect with Widdershins as I saw her trying to recover. Even with these heavy emotions of loss, Marmaell is able to use humor to keep things from getting depressing. Marmell also introduces a love square, and, like the grief, he finds a nice balance in the romance.

For anyone worried this book is all emotions and no action, fear not. Marmell introduces three different antagonists in this book. Thankfully, they come and go so the story never feels too crowded. Normally, I would be bothered with so many villains, as I like to get to know the villain, but the nature of the main antagonist doesn't allow us to get into its back story, so by having a couple other antagonists we're able to connect to them while enjoying the originality and strangeness of the main villain. Marmell introduces the best villain/monster I've read in a long time. Iruoch is a living dark nursery rhyme. An evil branch of the fairy folk. One of the best things about Iruoch was the fact that Marmaell kept him mysterious and just a bit unknown. I don't want say too much about him, but I loved it when he was on the page. The city of Davillon continues to come to life in the second book as a rift between it and the church strangles trade going in and out of the city, leaving many of the citizens to lose their faith as they struggle to survive.

False Covenant is a spectacular second book in the Widdershins series. The books in this series are short and fun to read. Anyone can find the time in their busy day to read this book and they really should. I can't wait to dive into book three. There are acts of violence and language, so I would recommend it to older teens and adults. I would also recommend this book to anyone who likes a fast read, fans of a good rogue's tale, and, for this book in particular, anyone who likes a creepy villain.

Fantasy for Good: A Charitable Anthology

Fantasy for Good: A Charitable Anthology is a fabulous anthology with all proceeds going to The Colon Cancer Alliance. I can wholeheartedly recommend this anthology. So treat yourself to a copy of Fantasy for Good. You get a great read while being charitable! The Table of Contents is below - check it out.

From Sword and Sorcery to Paranormal Romance, from Weird Fiction to Fairy Tales, Fantasy For Good presents a wide range of exciting short fiction to accommodate every taste. In this collection of thirty stories, legendary authors (including NYT Bestsellers and World Fantasy Award winners) and great new up-and-comers in the genre spin tales of magic and mayhem.

Featuring brand new fiction from Piers Anthony, Michael Moorcock, Carrie Vaughn, Kelley Armstrong, Alan Dean Foster, Katharine Kerr, David Farland, Jane Lindskold, Nnedi Okorafor, Todd McCaffrey and many more, alongside classic tales from George R.R. Martin, Jay Lake, Kevin J Anderson & Rebecca Moesta, and Neil Gaiman.

Fantasy For Good also includes a classic tale by master novelist, Roger Zelazny, author of the Nine Princes in Amber, who passed away in 1995 after a battle with colorectal cancer. His son, Trent, provides a moving introduction.

All proceeds from the sale of this anthology go directly to The Colon Cancer Alliance, a charity dedicated to the prevention of this deadly disease, as well as funding research and supporting patients who suffer from it.

Table of Contents

Horseman, Pass By – An Introduction — Trent Zelazny
The Edge of Magic — Henry Szabranski
Annual Dues — Ken Scholes
The Kitsune’s Nine Tales — Kelley Armstrong
Elroy Wooden Sword — S.C. Hayden
In the Lost Lands — George R.R. Martin
Worms Rising From the Dirt — David Farland
Snow Wolf and Evening Wolf — James Enge
Knight’s Errand — Jane Lindskold
Languid in Rose — Frances Silversmith
Green They Were, and Golden-Eyed — Alan Dean Foster
Golden — Todd McCaffrey
Mountain Spirit — Piers Anthony
Moon Glass — Megan Moore
The George Business — Roger Zelazny
Only the End of the World Again — Neil Gaiman
Lenora of the Low — Marina J. Lostetter
Trufan Fever — Katharine Kerr
Undying Love — Jackie Kessler
Dancing With the Mouse King — Carrie Vaughn
Showlogo — Nnedi Okorafor
The Bluest Hour — Jaye Wells
Pandal Food — Samit Basu
Loincloth — Kevin J Anderson and Rebecca Moesta
Man of Water — Kyle Aisteach
Bones of a Righteous Man — Michael Ezell
Time’s Mistress — Steven Savile
Little Pig, Berry Brown and the Hard Moon — Jay Lake
The Grenade Garden — Michael Moorcock
Sand and Teeth — Carmen Tudor
The Seas of Heaven — David Parish-Whittaker

Press Release

Popular Authors in Fantasy Fiction Help Raise Money for Cancer Charity
The release of Fantasy For Good: A Charitable Anthology including stories from George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Piers Anthony, Kelley Armstrong, Carrie Vaughn, Todd McCaffrey, and many more. All proceeds go to The Colon Cancer Alliance.
PRLog - Dec. 9, 2014 - NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Writers are a charitable bunch by nature. In 2012, a number of well-known horror authors were asked to contribute stories to a charity anthology. The result was Horror For Good: A Charitable Anthology, which raised thousands and continues to raise more for amfAR. Now it’s Fantasy’s turn, and these writers have been no less generous with their time and their talents.

Stories by some of the biggest names in Fantasy fiction fill this exciting new anthology, running the gamut from urban fantasy to sword and sorcery. Piers Anthony, Michael Moorcock, Katharine Kerr, Carrie Vaughn, Kelley Armstrong, Alan Dean Foster, Jane Lindskold and David Farland are just some of the contributors of original stories, along with classic stories from Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin and Roger Zelazny, whose son Trent provides a moving introduction to this collection.

All proceeds from the sales of this anthology will go directly to The Colon Cancer Alliance. For Jordan Ellinger and Richard Salter, the co-editors of this project, this was always a personal cause. “We chose the CCA because of the history of this terrible disease within the writing community,” says Ellinger. “Legendary author, Roger Zelazny, who wrote the Nine Princes in Amber series, died in 1995 after a colon cancer diagnosis, and much loved author Jay Lake, passed away this year after fighting this disease, during the making of this anthology.”

Monday, December 29, 2014

Cosplay is Cool; Especially at NYCC by TrinityTwo

Cosplay is Cool; Especially at NYCC
by TrinityTwo

One of the major reasons I love cosplay is that I look forward to seeing what wild, wacky, and wonderful characters con-goers have created or recreated. I love the way people showcase their creativity and at the same time pay homage to beloved characters, introduce us to new characters, or invent amazing mashups. This is my second year attending NYCC and since I attended all four days, I was able to spend more time interviewing and speaking with cosplayers. My experience to date has been that 99.9% of cosplayers are friendly, good-natured, polite and enthusiastic people. Of course, there is that .1% that just doesn’t seem to get it. NYCC has 0 tolerance for any type of harassment and as a reminder, these signs were placed throughout the convention; Cospplay IS NOT Consent.

From what I could see, everyone seemed well-behaved and it really looked like a fantastic time was being had by all.

There are varying degrees of detail that the cosplayer can choose to immerse themselves in. For example, take this Clark Kent and Lois Lane, simple yes, but also simply stunning!

On the other end of the spectrum was this crazy cool Mojo Jojo who’s inventive costume was spectacular. He totally cracked me up because he nailed the diabolical simian’s voice as he instructed “Bring me the Power Puff Girls!”

I admit to being a complete sucker for cosplayers who portray characters from my favorite fandoms. I have a soft spot for anything Studio Ghibli so this creative Calcifer, Sophie, and Turnip Head from Howl’s Moving Castle really touched me with its beauty and innovation. Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service shared a dazzling smile and I also was lucky enough to spot No-Face from the movie Spirited Away.

My newest fandom is Attack on Titan which just completed its first season on Funimation. In the past, I’d see these cosplayers at Comic conventions but I had no idea who or what they were. I researched the costumes, discovered the name of the anime and started watching the series. I can honestly say I became hooked on Attack on Titan because of conventions! Shown here are: Eren Jaeger, a phenomenal Female Titan and soldiers from the Scout Legion.

The gaming world’s Legend of Zelda series was represented in quality fashion as evidenced by these charismatic cosplayers.

I learned that some of the cosplayers go as different characters over the span of their time at Comic Con. This mean Mr. Freeze from Friday came back on Sunday as an interactive Doc Ock.

He stayed totally in character as Mr. Freeze but interestingly enough, later in the day I caught up with him removing his costume and that’s when he really blew me away. It seems that he feels cosplay is important because it helps the environment, or at least the way he does it. He has a knack for collecting items that would end up as land fill and figures a way to incorporate them into his different cosplays. Upcycling to the finest degree! Who would have thought that diabolical Mr. Freeze was so articulate? I was really impressed with this gentleman. He was a fan favorite for both his costumes and his interactions with con-goers and although he portrayed villains at NYCC, he is definitely a hero in my book.

The summer blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy was big this year. My favorites were Star Lord, this baby Groot, and of course this ready for action Rocket Raccoon.

Discovering these delightful (and one not so delightful) inhabitants of Middle Earth got me in the mood to shop at Weta Workshop.

I was thrilled to see that they brought Smaug with them. He was glorious to say the least, especially when he woke from his slumber, opened his eyes and the fire began to burn in his throat and chest.

Gollum, fish in hand and Azog the Defiler were also in attendance. The Weta Workshop staff couldn’t be friendlier. While purchasing a leather bracelet and some pins, I asked what the best time of year to visit New Zealand was. A staff member told us the best time of year was March or April and that we had to come to Wellington and visit the Weta Workshop Cave.

My daughter and I spent quite a bit of time there and enjoyed all the delightful sights. Weta Workshop displayed must have items like Gandalf’s hat, weapons, like this black Arrow from Lake Town and even the Two Towers.

Star Wars fans seemed to outnumber Star Trek fans this year, even with Star Trek: The Next Generation cast members in attendance, signing autographs, taking photographs, participating in a panel and being cosmically cool.

Maybe it’s the light sabers, or the fact that filming is underway for Episode VII, but no matter which universe you prefer; at NYCC there were only winners.

It wouldn’t be NYCC without Super Heroes and Villains. From the strongest to the smallest here are some of my favorites.

NYCC is a blast and I even found the time to ham it up with a few fun characters. I posed with a look a-like Adam West from the original Bat Man Television series, Boba Fett, a fan favorite, and the most adorable Padawan learner from the Star Wars universe.

Chris Hardwick from the Nerdist and AMC’s Talking Dead was on hand Friday afternoon to take selfies with fans. Chris was nice enough to stay on the floor for a good chunk of time, taking photo after photo. My excuse for the blurry shot is that this man was so full of energy, he stayed still only long enough to snap a pic, and then he was on to the next fan and their camera phone. I was pretty impressed with his positive and fun loving attitude.

There are so many facets to NYCC and cosplay is only one. I thought that to understand cosplay better, I should cosplay myself so I chose Sunday as it was my lightest work schedule. My daughter and I decided to be Katniss Everdeen and Effie Trinket, respectively from the Hunger Games franchise. I thought I would be the version of Effie as seen from the upcoming Mockingjay Part 1. My daughter was pretty easy to spot as Katniss, but not too many people had seen the drab, gray, District 13 Effie. So I went virtually unrecognized. People still asked for photos and a few even stopped to read my name tags: Effie Trinket on one side, District 13 on the other. Effie was a fun character to get my feet wet as a cosplayer and I received many positive comments, but I definitely plan to go bigger and better next year.

Upon reflection, I am even more impressed with NYCC than last year. It keeps getting better and better. The staff did a great job of keeping attendees safe and happy. My interviews with cosplayers increased my respect for their time and talent in creating these works of art. The cosplay at #NYCC2014 was all about wit, artistry, intelligence, and especially exuberance.

Can’t wait for next year, hope to see you then!

And excerpts from all the interviews:

You'll be able to see TrinityTwo's full interviews at The Qwillery YouTube Channel here.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Melanie's Week in Review - December 28, 2014

I can hardly believe this is my last Week in Review for 2014. Where has this year gone? I have read so many good books this year and a few not so good ones. So what did I read this week?

I was having a little trawl of my Amazon recommendations when I came across Monster by Carmen Caine which is the first in the Cassidy Edwards series. Cassidy is unique in the supernatural world. Her mother was turned into a vampire when she was pregnant with Cassidy and rather than drinking blood Cassidy sucks the life force out of her victims. Cassidy is on a mission, a mission to kill the vampire who turned her mother. Her path to revenge is not so straightforward as she takes a job for the hunky, warlock Lucian. She is joined on the mission by Lucian's quirky band a misfits including a happy go lucky werewolf, a firedrake with an attitude and a turmeric addicted imp.

I thought this book was OK, especially for a first in a series. Cassidy was not as irritating as I thought she could be but did think that the some of the explanation of her powers (or emergence of her powers) was a bit weak. In parts they seemed to more of a plot device rather than a well constructed supernatural being. I did think that Caine a few good surprises in store for Cassidy and it has made me want to continue with the series.

I also downloaded a free novel when I was checking out my recommendations. I can't remember it's
title and it was soo bad I only read 3 chapters and immediately deleted it from my Kindle. I am not sure why I decided to download it as I don't normally like romantic science fiction but this one ran more into erotica and the 'hero' was such a misogynist that it was low on the actual romance.

Lucky for me that High Stakes, the third in the Bo Blackman series by Helen Harper, had also popped onto my Kindle. This third instalment starts relatively soon after the end of book 2 where Bo was given the cure for vampirism, extricated herself from the Families and started a new job in a supernatural PI firm. Life as a vampire isn't an easy one as tensions are high between human population and the vampire Families. After begrudgingly taking on the case of an allegedly vampire dog Bo finds herself investigating the brutal rape of a young woman. The case is truly brutal and Bo soon discovers it may not be the first but one of the few where the victim escapes. Her maker and love interest Michael Monserrat is there to help her with the case and save her life ...again. Time is ticking on Bo's decision whether or not to take the cure and like Bo you are left guessing whether her new life as a vampire is better for her or not.

I think Harper could put us out of our misery with the 'will she/won't she' with Michael. There is teasing and slow burn romance but 3 books is time for our heroine to make a decision. Overall, the murder mystery was quite gory but I enjoyed the development of Bo as a character and I didn't guess 'who dunnit'.

That is it for me for this year and this year. I started Transmuted by Karina Cooper but I am not finished with it yet so will leave you guessing until 2015 as to what I think. Until next year...Happy Reading.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Guest Blog by Darin Kennedy, author of The Mussorgsky Riddle - December 27, 2014

Please welcome Darin Kennedy to The Qwillery as part of the 2015 Debut Author Challenge Guest Blogs! The Mussorgsky Riddle will be published by Curiosity Quills Press on January 12, 2015.

A big thank you to Sally ‘Qwill” Janin for inviting me to guest blog on The Qwillery site and also for inviting me to be a part of The Qwillery 2015 Debut Author Challenge. It is one minute to midnight on Christmas Day as I begin to write, and if I’m a little punchy, know that Steven Moffat has just run me through the emotional roller coaster of “Last Christmas” followed by a rerun of “The Time of the Doctor” – many of you know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, you’re missing out.

A quick introduction: I’m Darin Kennedy and my debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, is due out January 12th, 2015 from Curiosity Quills Press. The last nine months have been a whirlwind of activity since my acceptance at this awesome press (CQ treats its authors very well and produces a quality book) with the various revisions from three different editors, the long process of cover design and redesign, the inspection of final layouts and proofs, the initiation of the book’s marketing plan, and the scheduling of various conventions / signings / conferences / interviews. And the funny thing? That’s the condensed version. And now, we’re less than three weeks from the launch of my very first novel. Pretty exciting times. But it took a long time to get here.

Growing up, I always heard about mountaintop experiences. Many times, this metaphor was something I heard about in church, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s actually become a pretty apt metaphor for life in general. Right now, with a book coming out, interviews being done, signings being scheduled, etc. – this is a mountaintop experience. I’m at the top of Mt. Mitchell and looking east as the sun rises through the fog on a crisp September morning. This does not change the fact that I hiked for hours to get to this point, froze my butt off through the rainy night, and wore a blister on my left heel. Right now, it’s all about the view. It won’t last forever, so I should enjoy it while I can. And then what? Time to hike again.

To all the writers out there. You’re not always going to be on the mountaintop. Many times you’re down in the valley of agent rejection or climbing the hill of “Why can’t I make this chapter work?” Sometimes it seems like you’ll never see the sky again, much less the horizon, on your little walk through the woods. The pack can get heavy, your feet sore, your back tired.

My advice? Keep hiking. If you have a story to tell, tell it. If you don’t know enough about writing to tell it the way you want to, learn. If the first agent / editor / publisher doesn’t bite, send it to another one. If the first book doesn’t sell, write another one. When my first book never found a home despite the fact that book was the one that landed me an agent, it would have been easy to pack up and go home, but a very smart writer (who specializes in YA zombie novels) told me five years ago that the people who don’t succeed in this business are the ones who stop trying. So, to all you aspiring writers out there: Keep trying. Keep learning. Keep getting better until you’re the best writer you can be. And most importantly, keep writing!

The Mussorgsky Riddle
Curiosity Quills Press, January 12, 2015
Trade Paperback and eBook, 350 pages

Psychic Mira Tejedor possesses unique talents that enable her to find anything and anyone, but now she must find a comatose boy wandering lost inside the labyrinth of his own mind. Thirteen-year-old Anthony Faircloth hasn’t spoken a word in almost a month and with each passing day, his near catatonic state worsens. No doctor, test, or scan can tell Anthony’s distraught mother what has happened to her already troubled son. In desperation, she turns to Mira for answers, hoping her unique abilities might succeed where science has failed.

At their first encounter, Mira is pulled into Anthony’s mind and finds the child’s psyche shattered into the various movements of Modest Mussorgsky’s classical music suite, Pictures at an Exhibition. As she navigates this magical dreamscape drawn from Anthony’s twin loves of Russian composers and classical mythology, Mira must contend with gnomes, troubadours, and witches in her search for the truth behind Anthony’s mysterious malady.

The real world, however, holds its own dangers. The onset of Anthony’s condition coincides with the disappearance of his older brother’s girlfriend, a missing persons case that threatens to tear the city apart. Mira discovers that in order to save Anthony, she will have to catch a murderer who will stop at nothing to keep the secrets contained in Anthony’s unique mind from ever seeing the light.

About Darin

Darin Kennedy, born and raised in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is a graduate of Wake Forest University and Bowman Gray School of Medicine. After completing family medicine residency in the mountains of Virginia, he served eight years as a United States Army physician and wrote his first novel in 2003 in the sands of northern Iraq.

His debut novel, The Mussorgsky Riddle, was born from a fusion of two of his lifelong loves: classical music and world mythology. His short stories can be found in various publications and he is currently hard at work on his next novel.

Doctor by day and novelist by night, he writes and practices medicine in Charlotte, North Carolina. When not engaged in either of the above activities, he has been known to strum the guitar, enjoy a bite of sushi, and rumor has it he even sleeps on occasion.

Website  ~  Facebook  ~  Twitter @DarinKennedy

Friday, December 26, 2014

New York Comic Con 2014 - Thoughts and Giveaway 3

Happy Boxing Day to those who celebrate or Happy Day After Christmas or Happy Friday! 

Since you've all been very good readers in 2014 we have one more big giveaway for you. These are lovely books and items that we picked up (mostly) at New York Comic Con. The literary 'track' at NYCC features books for all ages so if you are a teenager or middle schooler you'll find books, comics, and much more that will appeal to you. Make sure to pay attention to the schedule so you know who is where when. Better - prepare ahead of time. Much of the information is on the NYCC site will ahead of the Con. Publishers generally post schedules of signings and have printed information about their signing schedule for the Con. Wander around and you'll find books available for sale or for free. Many of the sale books have been signed by the authors.

The lines can be long sometimes but are well handled. I've found that 99.99% of the time the people on line with you are super to chat with while waiting. The authors are extremely nice. I really can't emphasize how much fun it is to meet a favorite author! But you already know that.

Younger kids will also love NYCC especially on kid's day which is traditionally the final day of NYCC each year (on a Sunday). But every day at NYCC is fun for all ages of fans!

On to the giveaway:

Please note that this is a mix of YA and Adult books!

  1. Red Rising (Red Rising 1) by Pierce Brown (Con edition);
  2. An Exclusive 3 Chapter Preview of Atlantia by Ally Condie;
  3. Seeker (Seeker Trilogy 1) by Arwen Elys Dayton (ARC);
  4. Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands 1) by Sarah Fine;
  5. Chaos (Guards of the Shadowlands 3) by Sarah Fine;
  6. Prepublication Excerpt of Endgame by James Frey and Endgame Collectors Cards;
  7. The Name of the Star (The Shades of London 1) by Maureen Johnson (signed);
  8. The Shadow Cabinet (The Shades of London 3) by Maureen Johnson (signed) (ARC);
  9. The Mark of the Tala (The Twelve Kingdoms 1) by Jeffe Kennedy;
  10. The Queen is Dead (Immortal Empire 2) by Kate Locke (signed);
  11. Sabriel (Old Kingdom / Abhorsen 1) by Garth Nix;
  12. Clariel (Old Kingdom / Abhorsen 4) by Garth Nix;
  13. Various pins and temporary tattoos pictured.

The Giveaway and Rules

What:  One entrant will win the Books, pamphlets and pins pictured.

How:   Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When: The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on January 10, 2015. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change without notice.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014

Tracey/Trinitytwo’s Favorites of 2014

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Trilogy: The Royal Imperial Boxed Set by Ian Doescher is my top choice for humor. The gorgeous set, which was released this October, includes Verily a New HopeThe Empire Striketh Back, and The Jedi Doth Return. This series delivers laughs along with a few tugs on your heartstrings. Who would have thought iambic pentameter combined with Star Wars would be the books you’re looking for? (See TrintyTwo's reviews of the Star Wars Trilogy here.)

My favorite sci fi for 2014 is The Enceladus Crisis by Michael J. Martinez. Why is it a standout? It’s smart and exciting with the added bonus that Martinez created characters I care about. I really enjoyed its unique historical fiction meets sci fi element. (See TrinityTwo's review of The Enceladus Crisis here.)

Looking for exceptional adventures? You’re in luck as I have two in the fantasy category. Tower Lord by Anthony Ryan and The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley are such brilliant fantasies that I simply must mention both. Staveley and Ryan are both wonderful world builders and although I give Tower Lord a slight edge, The Emperor’s Blades is an extremely close second. (See TrinityTwo's reviews of Tower Lord here and The Emperor's Blades here.)

I’d like to give honorable mentions to three more books that I really enjoyed this year: White Heart of Justice by Jill Archer (review), Night Owls by Lauren M. Roy (review) and Phoenix Island by John Dixon (review) . I think I am bending Sally’s rules a bit but I read a lot of really good books. If you haven’t done so already, get out there and buy a book! You deserve it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2015 Debut Author Challenge Update: Unbreakable by W.C. Bauers

The Qwillery is pleased to announce the newest featured author for the 2015 Debut Author Challenge.

W.C. Bauers

Tor Books, January 13, 2015
Hardcover and eBook, 368 pages

The colonists of the planet Montana are accustomed to being ignored. Situated in the buffer zone between two rival human empires, their world is a backwater: remote, provincial, independently minded. Even as a provisional member of the Republic of Aligned Worlds, Montana merits little consideration—until it becomes the flashpoint in an impending interstellar war.

When pirate raids threaten to destabilize the region, the RAW deploys its mechanized armored infantry to deal with the situation. Leading the assault is Marine Corps Lieutenant and Montanan expatriate Promise Paen of Victor Company. Years earlier, Promise was driven to join the Marines after her father was killed by such a raid. Payback is sweet, but it comes at a tremendous and devastating cost. And Promise is in no way happy to be back on her birthworld, not even when she is hailed as a hero by the planet's populace, including its colorful president. Making matters even worse: Promise is persistently haunted by the voice of her dead mother.

Meanwhile, the RAW's most bitter rival, the Lusitanian Empire, has been watching events unfold in the Montana system with interest. Their forces have been awaiting the right moment to gain a beachhead in Republic territory, and with Promise's Marines decimated, they believe the time to strike is now.

Unbreakable by W.C. Bauers is character driven, military science in the tradition of John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War.

Brannigan's Top Three Books of 2014

Brannigan's Top Three Books of 2014

For my top three books of 2014, I wanted to break them out by genre. After making my list and thinking about what I wanted to say about each one, I realized they all share three things that I enjoy and value most in a good story—well developed characters, worlds that feel fully fleshed out, and something unique that helps it stand out from all the others.

My favorite science fiction book of the year is Hollow World by Michael J. Sullivan. It's a thought-provoking and entertaining time traveler's tale. I read and reviewed this book back in January, and yet it's still fresh in my mind and has stayed my number one science fiction book of the year. Ellis and Pax are great characters that help Sullivan progress the plot and pose questions for the reader to spend time with. I hope Sullivan finds time to revisit this wonderful world in the future, I, for one, would love it. (See Brannigan's review here.)

My favorite fantasy book of the year is The Lascar's Dagger by Glenda Larke.  It's a refreshing take on a lot of different fantasy tropes. She added interesting aspects to her world, and the characters were fun to spend time with. I'm really excited the book is the first book in a, hopefully, long series. I really can't wait to spend more time with my new favorite priest/spy Saker Rampion. (See Brannigan's review here.)

Last, but not least, just to throw in something different, my favorite Thriller/Horror/Adventure/All Around Fun book is Five Ghosts Volume 1: The Haunting of Fabian Gray by Frank J. Barbiere and Chris Mooneyham. It's an amazing graphic novel. Now, I know this blog doesn't review comics, but I can't stress how much fun this book was to read. It has it all: thrills, adventure, a little mystery, and a dash of horror all wrapped up in a homage to the great adventure tales of the 1940s and 50s. I'm talking about the serials you'd see at the beginning of movies and on the radio, after each issue in my mind I heard an announcer say, “Will Fabian Gray make it out alive? Tune in next week to find out!” Each issue, or chapter, depending on your preference, usually has a self-contained story while still having an overall series plot.

If you really want to make someone happy, give them one of these three books, if you want to be nice to yourself, buy all three.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Interview with Terry Newman, author of Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf - December 22, 2014

Please welcome Terry Newman to The Qwillery as part of the 2014 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf was published on December 18th by Harper Voyager.

TQ:  Welcome to The Qwillery. You've written for film, TV and radio and more. How does all that influence (or not) your novel writing?

Terry:  Thank you very much for the invitation, Sally. And can I just say that I love what you’ve done with the place. I’ve never seen so many swan feathers in one place.

That’s a very good question and I should probably explain that the only reason I initially pursued writing for radio and stage, then TV and film, was to get some contacts to help find a home for my book. I blush at my naivety, but I sort of assumed all these people lived in the same world – one that was just labelled ‘non-scientists’. Of course, the ‘other writing’ then became more important after I hung up my microscope and this definitely fed back into the novel writing. I’d have to single out radio and TV comedy writing as having the most influence, mostly because this craft teaches you about word economy – make each one count if you can.

TQ:   Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Terry:  I do a lot of scriptwriting and a lot of good scriptwriting is about structure. Maybe it’s my science training but that side of it does really appeal. However, when it comes to book writing, part of the joy is the freedom to be led by your characters, so I enjoy the pantsing side there enormously. I guess I always know where I am going though, which would make me a pretty pantsy plotter.

TQ:  What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?

Terry:  Stopping. Stopping is very tricky. I usually take the bruised fingertips and the bleeding eyes as a hint; otherwise I might overdo it. Actually I can write anywhere, trains, buses, you name it. I always carry a notebook – you have to don’t you? However, my writing is appalling and my typing is poor too. I would never have got anywhere without the Word Processor. Let us praise the Word Processor and the Toshiba Libretto. Before Netbooks this little gem ran Word and was the size of large paperback book. I wrote just about everywhere on my Libretto, especially the N49.

TQ:  Who are some of your literary influences? Favorite authors?

Terry:  Hmm, my favourite things, eh? I feel a song coming on!

Heinlein and Hammett and Chandler and Butcher
Most Douglas Adams and some Arthur Koestler
Lloyd Biggle junior Lord of the Rings
These are a few of my favourite things

Forward and Pratchett and Kerr’s Bernie Gunther
Patricia Highsmith and lyrics by Lerner
Then Robert Holdstock and Easy Rawlings
These are a few of my favourite things

Asimov’s robots and Dalziel and Pascoe
Shardlake and Sam Spade and Umberto Eco
Dragons that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favourite things

When the orc bites
When the blade swings
When I’m bleeding bad
I’m simply remembering my favourite things
And so I don’t feel too bad.

TQ:  Describe Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf in 140 characters or less. 

Terry:  Tolkien meets Chandler in a seedy underworld bar run by a defrocked Wizard.

TQ:  Tell us something about Detective Strongoak that is not in the book description.

Terry:  Nicely makes an excellent 5-egg omelette (it’s the nutmeg). The book is actually a real who-done-it so ‘No Spoilers’ please.

TQ:  What inspired you to write Detective Strongoak?

Terry:  I was broke in Hamburg without a return ticket. It focuses the mind somewhat. (Not as exciting or intriguing as it sounds).

TQ:  What sort of research did you do for Detective Strongoak?

Terry:  I read non-stop from the age of five – often when walking. I’m surprised more people don’t walk and read. Not recommended so much if you live in a big city, but anywhere with decent pavements, and not much traffic.

TQ:  In Detective Strongoak who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?

Terry:  The easiest to write was, of course, Detective Nicely Strongoak as he had been talking to me for so many years. After him all the other characters sort of did what they were told. He has that type of personality.

TQ:  Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery lines from Detective Strongoak.

Terry:  Special 3 for the price of 2 offer this week on favourite lines:

“The elf was dancing the full length of the surfboard, poised between the wind and water. Despite myself, I couldn’t help but be impressed. If only the whole exercise wasn’t so, well, wet.”

“She stretched like some large cat. She was wearing a dinner dress that was cut by a master. It must have been magic that held it together, because there was little enough material. She filled it to perfection, more curves than a dragon’s tail.”

‘Now goblin, let’s try again: who are you working for?’
‘What’s the magic word?’

TQ:  What's next?

Terry:  There is another ‘Detective Strongoak’ adventure well underway and a very different type of fantasy novel currently with Harper Voyager as well. No dwarfs or elves at all, but equally close to my heart. In a different sphere of endeavour, I am writing ‘the book’ for a musical called ‘Resurrection’ for a brilliant songwriter name of David Alter. He’s got a top show with knockout songs, full of imagination, which I believe will be an absolute winner when we find the right home. Plus, there’s a couple of sit coms written that I’m very excited about – so fingers crossed for an exciting 2015.

TQ:  Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.

Terry:  The pleasure was all mine, thank you for the invitation and the feathers.

Detective Strongoak and the Case of the Dead Elf
Harper Voyager (UK), December 18, 2014

Private eye Nicely Strongoak is your average detective-for-hire, if your average detective is a dwarf with a Napoleon complex. In a city filled with drug-taking gnomes, goblins packing heat and a serious case of missing-persons, Strongoak might just be what’s needed.

But things are about to turn sour. When on the trail of the vanished surfer, Perry Goodfellow, Nicely receives a sharp blow to the head, is burgled by goblins and awakes in a narcotic-induced haze on the floor of a steamwagon with an extremely deceased elf, who just happens to have Nicely’s axe wedged in his head.

Nicely must enter the murky world of government politics if he is going to crack his toughest case yet. He’ll have to find Perry, uncover who the dead elf is and leave no cobblestone unturned…

About Terry

Terry Newman is a biomedical research scientist who used to spend most of his day in the dark in front of an electron microscope. Then he started writing comedy for the BBC and ended up as full time scriptwriter. Whether this represents a turning to or from the Dark Side is debatable. He has a weakness for linen suits and spotty dogs. He lives at, which is being redecorated.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Melanie's Week in Review - December 21, 2014

In the run up to the Christmas holiday I have had lots of extra commuting time which means extra time to get through a few books. Even with the extra time I only managed to read 2 books and a short story. I am hoping Santa brings back my reading mojo and leaves it in my stocking as I would like to get a bit closer to hitting my Goodreads reading challenge. So what did I read?

I started the week with a nice short, short story. The Lightning God's Wife by Grace Draven is a story within a story and starts with Martise from Draven's Master of Crows series. Martise recounts the tale of Revida, an outcast rain priestess, a long drought and what happens when Revida rescues a man and his young children. I don't want to say too much as this story is very brief and I could easily give the whole plot away in a few sentences. What I can say is that I enjoy reading more of the characters from Master of Crows even if only in a few paragraphs.

The first full length book I read this week has turned out to be one of the best books I have read this year. If you haven't heard of The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North then I urge you to get to your local book story or find it online, post haste! Harry is the orphan of a young woman who had the misfortune of being the servant of a wealthy, damaged and violent man. His mother dies during his birth and Harry is adopted by the gardener of his natural father. His life turns out quite uneventful as a series of events keep him poor and relatively uneducated. Well...that was his first life anyway. Harry is a 'kalachakra'  - someone who is re-born, time and time again, in the same place, in the same year and all his memories intact. The story actually starts in Harry's 11th life when a young girl is waiting by his death bed with an urgent message that the world is ending and its up to Harry to save it. North takes us back and forth through Harry's lives as he tries to solve the puzzle of who and what he is and what he needs to do to stop the destruction of not just the world but of his timeline (think Back to the Future).

This is a 'can't put down' book and engaging from the first page. North manages to make Harry likeable even when he has to do some of the most unlikeable things. As the story moves back and forth through his lives you are never too sure what will happen next, or what could happen next. I felt quite sorry for Harry in many ways for having to re-live his life over and over even though he was able to make use of his mnemonic memory to make money, learn a variety of languages and have several different careers from mechanic to doctor. This is a great book and a must read which I can't do justice to in this mini review. I hope you find out for yourself.

The final book I have to tell you about this week is Walking the Labyrinth by Lisa Goldstein. I received this book from the publisher (via NetGalley) following my review of The Red Magician which I really enjoyed. Goldstein tells the story of Molly who was orphaned (another orphan) at a young age and raised by her eccentric aunt Fentrice. Its not until a private investigator tracks her down that she discovers she comes from a magical family who used to travel across the States as a vaudeville act. It's not long before she uncovers a number of skeletons in a number of closets and the extent of her family's magical powers.

I was looking forward to this book and after the first few chapters I thought it showed real promise. Midway through I was however, a tad disappointed. During the first few chapters I thought this book was going to be a bit of a cross between The Night Circus and The Troupe and perhaps this was why I found it disappointing. I didn't feel that Goldstein adequately developed her lead characters - specifically Molly. I didn't engage with her and therefore, didn't emphasize with her or her situation. I liked the idea of the labyrinth but I didn't feel the other magical elements were constructed sufficiently. The magical abilities of certain characters started out as straightforward mind reading and ended up being able to create complex illusions including manipulating people and events. There didn't seem to be an explanation for how or why this happened which made this novel feel like the development of the plot had been rushed. Overall disappointing but it wouldn't put me off reading other books by this author.

That is it for me this week. I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas have a great holiday and that Santa leaves you some fantastic books under the tree. Until next week Happy Reading and Happy Christmas.