Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Review: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls was imagined by Siobhan Dowd and written by Patrick Ness.

Book Description
At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting— he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments. The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd— whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself— Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.

A Monster Calls is a beautiful, powerful, imaginative, and heart shattering tale of a thirteen year old boy coping with a seriously ill mother.

A Monster Calls is by far the best book I have read all year and in a really long time. In fact, it's one of the best books I have ever read in my entire life.

I got an egalley of A Monster Calls from Candlewick Press, but I just ordered a hardback copy for all of the brilliant illustrations.  I can't wait for it to arrive so I can read it all over again.

A Monster Calls is an absolute must read.  I cannot recommend it enough.

10/10: Awesome

Review copy provided by publisher

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Read-along: The Fellowship of the Ring (The Lord of the Rings #1) by J.R.R. Tolkien

I've decided to join in on the Little Red Reviewer and Geeky Daddy's read-along of The Lord of the Rings.  I read The Lord of the Rings quite a long time ago and really enjoyed it.  I felt pretty good about how much I had retained when the movies came out, but when I started trying to answer questions from those who had not read the books, I realized I hadn't retained as much as I thought.

I'm excited to finally reread The Lord of the Rings and revisit Tolkien's world.  I'm jumping into the discussions at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring so I'm posting all three discussion parts at once.

There are surely spoilers to be found here if you haven't read The Fellowship of the Ring and intend to.  If you have read Fellowship or you've seen the movie and want to discuss either, please join in in the comments with your thoughts (or join the read-along!).  Discussion is very welcome.

Part I

1. Hobbits seem to have songs for everything!  I didn't realize this was a musical. . . . how are you liking all the songs?

I have a tendency to skip quotes, songs, poems, dreams,etc. when I'm reading if it feels like filler.  The first time I read LOTR, I skimmed or skipped most of the songs, especially in the Tom Bombadil chapter.  This time around I appreciated the songs for being part of the story, and I actually enjoyed reading them.

2. I love that we learn about Gollum and his past so early on. It gives a dark and foreboding (dare I say, perilous?) feeling to the whole thing. Were you surprised that the story took a dive towards the dark and scary so quickly?

I didn't know what to expect the first time I read LOTR.  I read it based on a recommendation from a friend.  I was pleasantly surprised by all of the darkness in the book.  I was hooked after meeting Smeagal.  It's been so long since I first read Fellowship, I didn't remember just how fast Gollum appeared, so it was a little surprising all over again.

3. Tom Bombadil!  what and who is he???  If you met him in a forest, would you trust him?

I still don't have a clue what Tom Bombadil is!  He's obviously something ancient, but nothing like what I would expect an ancient forest dweller to be.  If I met him in a forest without knowing anything about him, I would trust him because he was so helpful.

4. What did you think when Pippin, Merry and Sam told Frodo about their "conspiracy", and that they pretty much knew what he was planning from the beginning?

I thought it showed a deeper side to the hobbits.  They aren't as simple as they seem.

5. What's your favorite part of the book so far?

At this point the Smeagal/Gollum stories are my favorite part of the book.

Part II

1. What was your initial thoughts of Strider/Aragorn when Hobbits met up with him in The Prancing Pony? Did you think that he was linked with the Riders?

This is a tough re-read question, but I do think the first time I read this I thought he was a bad guy and yes, probably linked with the Riders.

2.What was the biggest surprised to you during this section of the Fellowship of the Ring?

Frodo using the ring at The Prancing Pony.  He set out to stop his friends from revealing too much and revealed far more than they ever would!

3.Do you like that Tolkien goes in depth and tells the readers of the history events of the war that is upon the Fellowship?

It may be a product of already loving LOTR, but yes, I'm enjoying all of the history.

4. How far do you think you would have lasted if you were Frodo and nearly becoming a Rider?

I have a pretty strong will so hopefully I would have lasted!

5. As dangerous quest unfold to become, the other hobbits want to stick by Frodo til the end. Would you sacrifice yourself and stick with Frodo til the end?

If I were willing to endure the journey to Rivendell, I think I would be willing to see the quest through to the end.

Part III

Gandalf and the Balrog, just Wow.  Just a short scene, but oh so intense!  With their mentor gone, how will the group go on?  Even when they do reach Lothlorien, no one seems to know how to get where they are going.  They had been dependent on Gandalf making the decisions, and now he is gone.

Gandalf's fall was very quick!  I wonder if Gandalf had remained with the group, if Frodo would have ever been compelled to go alone at the end of Fellowship.

Galadriel and her Ring. She knows the Ring of power must be destroyed, but with it's destruction comes the de-powering (is that a word?) of her Ring as well. The Elves must leave Middle Earth or forget who and what they are. For her, this is a no win situation. Frodo's success effectively means the banishment of the Elves in Middle Earth. I wonder if that makes him more likely to do everything in his power to succeed, or less? 

I think Galadriel's acceptance of Frodo's quest helps solidify how important it is for him to succeed.

Boromir - I didn't trust from way back at the Council at Rivendell. His conversation with Frodo at the end of Fellowship made him look like a know-it-all with a world view of colonialism and imperialism. Is this Tolkien taking a shot at the old fashioned British world view, or am I reading way, way too much into it? 

I think Boromir has in his heart already to find a powerful weapon against the enemy.  The Ring offers that power to him. 

After spending some time in Lothlorien, Sam realizes the Elves aren’t quite as scary or as strange as he first thought. I wonder if when he gets back to the Shire if he’ll realize the Hobbits in the next town aren’t quite as strange as he once thought.  I really don’t think this is an overt “message” story, but I do wonder if Tolkien didn't mind throwing in a little message of “those folks in the next valley aren’t as different as you think”.

It does seem every place they have traveled a misconception about hobbits, men, dwarfs, or elves is getting cleared up!  It is reasonable Tolkien had a message there.

I only stared reading fantasy a few years ago, and I keep running into this undercurrent of choice.  Bilbo has to choose to give up the Ring.  Frodo has to choose to take on the quest and be the Ring bearer. Even Boromir is choosing how he feels about the Ring and what it could bring him.  In the end, this is all coming down to how we choose to live our lives from moment to moment. 

Things may happen that are out of our control, but we always have the choice on how we will respond.

And the obligatory: what was your favorite part of this section?

This is a pretty dark answer, but I like where Boromir turns on Frodo.  I don't like that he did, but I love seeing how the ring is affecting those in its presence, and I love that it pushes Frodo to take this quest alone.

Another thing I love is how many quotes in the movie are taken straight from the book.  That's a beautiful thing.

Thank you LOTR read-alongers for having and participating in this read-along!  I can't express how much I'm enjoying the revisit to middle-earth.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Notable New Book Releases [Sept. 18 - Sept. 24]

These are the new releases from this week that caught my eye.  They are ordered by publication date.  Are any of these on your reading list?  What else are you excited about reading this week?

The Echo Man: A Novel of SuspenseThe Echo Man: A Novel of Suspense by Richard Montanari
Pub Date: September 19, 2011
Kindle

Tormented by the exquisite beauty of a concerto and the bloodcurdling cries of a dying woman, the Echo Man composes his own symphony in response: a string of artfully staged slayings—all of them linked to cold murder cases and designed to taunt the police of Philadelphia.

Detective Kevin Byrne hears sounds, too. They wake him in the night, haunt him by day, and remind him of the first homicide suspect he ever arrested: a gifted, beautiful classical musician who inexplicably went mad and became murderous. Now Byrne believes that Philly’s serial killings might be linked to that case. But his partner, Jessica Balzano, has too many bodies on her hands to worry about Byrne’s strange intuition or personal demons—until all the perfectly placed clues, all the evidence, all the deception point Balzano in one direction, and she discovers that the killer is closer than she could ever have suspected.



A Single ShotA Single Shot by Matthew Jones
Pub Date: September 19, 2011 [Reprint]
Amazon | Kindle

After the loss of his family farm, John Moon is a desperate man. A master hunter, his ability to poach game in-season or out is the only thing that stands between him and the soup kitchen line. Until Moon trespasses on the wrong land, hears a rustle in the brush, and fires a single fateful shot.

Following the bloody trail, he comes upon a shocking scene: an illegal, deep woods campground filled with drugs, bundles of cash and the body of a dead young woman, killed by Moon's stray bullet.

Faced with an ultimate dilemma, Moon has to make a choice: does he take the money and ignore his responsibility for the girl's death? Or confess?

But before he has a chance to decide, Moon finds himself on the run, pursued by those who think the money is theirs. Men who don't care about right and wrong and who want only one thing from John Moon: his body, face down in a ditch.



The Girl of Fire and ThornsThe Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Pub Date: September 20, 2011

Once a century, one person is chosen for greatness.

Elisa is the chosen one.

But she is also the younger of two princesses. The one who has never done anything remarkable, and can’t see how she ever will.

Now, on her sixteenth birthday, she has become the secret wife of a handsome and worldly king—a king whose country is in turmoil. A king who needs her to be the chosen one, not a failure of a princess.

And he’s not the only one who seeks her. Savage enemies, seething with dark magic,are hunting her. A daring, determined revolutionary thinks she could be his people’ssavior, and he looks at her in a way that no man has ever looked at her before. Soon it is not just her life, but her very heart that is at stake.

Elisa could be everything to those who need her most. If the prophecy is fulfilled. If she finds the power deep within herself. If she doesn’t die young.

Most of the chosen do.



Goliath (Leviathan)Goliath (Leviathan #3) by Scott Westerfeld
Pub Date: September 20, 2011
Amazon | Kindle

Alek and Deryn are on the last leg of their round-the-world quest to end World War I, reclaim Alek’s throne as prince of Austria, and finally fall in love. The first two objectives are complicated by the fact that their ship, the Leviathan, continues to detour farther away from the heart of the war (and crown). And the love thing would be a lot easier if Alek knew Deryn was a girl. (She has to pose as a boy in order to serve in the British Air Service.) And if they weren’t technically enemies.

The tension thickens as the Leviathan steams toward New York City with a homicidal lunatic on board: secrets suddenly unravel, characters reappear, and nothing is at it seems in this thunderous conclusion to Scott Westerfeld’s brilliant trilogy.



A Killer's Essence by Dave Zeltserman
Pub Date: September 21, 2011
Amazon

Stan Green is a New York City Homicide Detective who has seen better days. As his family life threatens to disintegrate and his work partner disappears, he is assigned to the most shocking case of his career-a strange and remarkably violent murder. Stan must look into the crime alone. He finds just one witness, a neurologically disabled recluse who sees through the souls of others as demonic hallucinations. As more murders occur, and he drifts further from his family and friends, Stan's suspicion and rage escalate. Soon he realizes that the deaths fall into the pattern of a serial killer--and starts to believe that his witness is not at all insane, but terrifyingly perceptive . . .



Petrified by Graham Masterton
Pub Date: Well, you can buy it on Amazon as of September 22, 2011. Official pub date is November 1, 2011.
Amazon

The latest from a “master of modern horror” - Braydon Harris is convinced God has it in for him. Although Suki, his little girl, seemed thrilled to be kidnapped from her mom’s parents’ house, an electric storm has hit, and it looks like the Lord isn’t going to make it easy for Braydon to get away. Braydon’s right. A huge truck jack-knifes in front of him, his car catches alight, and Sukie winds up in hospital with terrible burns – burns which only exacerbate the terrible nightmare she’s had for years about scary things flying through the sky, like shadows . . .

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Review: Thief (Icarus Helix #4) by J.E. Medrick

Thief is the fourth book in J.E. Medrick's young adult Icarus Helix series.

Book Description
Single parent household. One friend in the world. Father in jail for double homicide. Poor. Mute.

What would YOU do if you suddenly turned invisible?

15-year old Mason is dealing with just these problems. When he uncovers a crippling family secret that he blames on himself, he knows things need to change. He needs them to change. Not just for himself - but for his mother.

The ability to become a ghost just may be his answer...

Each Icarus Helix novella features a new teenager discovering a superpower. I never know how the next book will relate to the previous installment, but I always have the best time finding out.

Thief features a mute named Marcus who discovers the power to turn invisible. That would be a terrifying yet awesome power to possess! Maybe it's because I'm rereading The Lord of the Rings right now, but the more I think about it, invisibility is the power I would want.

Like the previous installments, Thief was a lot of fun to read. I enjoyed finding out more about the Icarus Helix origins, and as always loved discovering how Thief connected with the other Icarus Helix books.

If you haven't checked out the Icarus Helix series yet, check out my reviews for Cheat, Liar, and Coward. This is a great series to follow.

7/10: Recommended

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Notable New Releases [Sept. 11 - Sept. 17]

These are the books that caught my eye this week including a Halloween anthology I couldn't possibly live without.

Forbidden (The Books of Mortals)Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee
Pub Date: September 13, 2011
Amazon | Kindle

[Read my review of Forbidden]

Many years have passed since civilization's brush with apocalypse. The world's greatest threats have all been silenced. There is no anger, no hatred, no war. There is only perfect peace... and fear. But a terrible secret has been closely guarded for centuries: Every single soul walking the earth, though in appearance totally normal, is actually dead, long ago genetically stripped of true humanity.

Fleeing pursuit, with only moments to live, a young man named Rom stumbles into possession of a vial of blood and a piece of cryptic writing. When consumed, the blood will bring him back to life. When decoded, the message will lead him on a perilous journey that will require him to abandon everything he has ever known and awaken humanity to the transforming power of true life and love.

But the blood will also resurrect hatred, ambition, and greed.

Set in a terrifying, medieval future, where grim pageantry masks death, this tale of dark desires and staggering stakes peels back the layers of the heart for all who dare to take the ride.



The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
Pub Date: September 13, 2011
Amazon | Kindle

[Picked up a copy of this yesterday.  Sounds so enchanting!]

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.



FrostFrost by Marianna Baer
Pub Date: September 13, 2011
Amazon | Kindle

Leena Thomas’s senior year at boarding school starts with a cruel shock: Frost House, the cozy Victorian dorm where she and her best friends chose to live, has been assigned an unexpected roommate—confrontational, eccentric Celeste Lazar.

What Celeste lacks in social grace, however, her brother, David, a recent transfer student, makes up for in good looks and charm. But while he and Leena hit it off immediately, Leena finds herself struggling to balance her growing attraction with her fear of getting hurt.

As classes get under way, strange happenings begin to bedevil Frost House—frames mys-teriously falling off walls, doors locking by themselves, furniture toppling over. Celeste blames the housemates, convinced they want to scare her into leaving. And while Leena tries to play peacekeeper between her best friends and new roommate, soon the mysterious happenings in the dorm, an intense triangle between Leena, Celeste, and David, and the reawakening of childhood fears all push Leena to take increasingly desperate measures to feel safe. But does the threat lie with her new roommate, within Leena’s own mind . . . or in Frost House itself?



HalloweenHalloween edited by Paula Guran
Pub Date: September 13, 2011
Amazon

[I cannot wait to start reading this one!]

Shivers and spirits... the mystical and macabre... our darkest fears and sweetest fantasies... the fun and frivolity of tricks, treats, festivities, and masquerades. Halloween is a holiday filled with both delight and dread, beloved by youngsters and adults alike. Celebrate the most magical season of the year with this sensational treasury of seasonal tales - spooky, suspenseful, terrifying, or teasing - harvested from a multitude of master storytellers.



What Fears Become: An Anthology from The Horror Zine
Pub Date: September 13, 2011
Amazon

From classic horror and pure suspense to Twilight-Zone-style dark fantasy, WHAT FEARS BECOME relentlessly explores our basic fears and leaves you with twisted endings that will make your skin crawl… This spine-tingling, international anthology contains contributions from the critically acclaimed online horror magazine, The Horror Zine, and features bestselling authors such as Bentley Little, Graham Masterton, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale, Elizabeth Massie, Ronald Malfi, Cheryl Kaye Tardif, Melanie Tem, Scott Nicholson, Piers Anthony, Conrad Williams, and many more. Edited by Jeani Rector of The Horror Zine and featuring a foreword by award-winning, bestselling author Simon Clark, it also contains deliciously dark delights from morbidly creative writers, poets and artists who have not yet made it big--but will very soon. Come and discover… WHAT FEARS BECOME



Ghost on Black Mountain by Ann Hite 
Pub Date: September 13, 2011
Amazon | Kindle

ONCE A PERSON LEAVES THE MOUNTAIN, THEY NEVER COME BACK, NOT REALLY. THEY’RE LOST FOREVER.
 
Nellie Clay married Hobbs Pritchard without even noticing he was a spell conjured into a man, a walking, talking ghost story. But her mama knew. She saw it in her tea leaves: death. Folks told Nellie to get off the mountain while she could, to go back home before it was too late. Hobbs wasn’t nothing but trouble. He’d even killed a man. No telling what else. That mountain was haunted, and soon enough, Nellie would feel it too. One way or another, Hobbs would get what was coming to him. The ghosts would see to that. . . .
 
Told in the stunning voices of five women whose lives are inextricably bound when a murder takes place in rural Depression-era North Carolina, Ann Hite’s unforgettable debut spans generations and conjures the best of Southern folk-lore—mystery, spirits, hoodoo, and the incomparable beauty of the Appalachian landscape.



Blood and Other Cravings edited by Ellen Datlow
Pub Date: September 13, 2011
Amazon | Kindle

When we think of vampires, instantly the image arises: fangs sunk deep into the throat of the victim. But bloodsucking is merely one form of vampirism. For this brilliantly original anthology, Ellen Datlow has commissioned stories from many of the most powerfully dark voices in contemporary horror, who conjure tales of vampirism that will chill readers to the marrow.

In addition to the traditional fanged vampires, Datlow presents stories about the leeching of emotion, the draining of the soul, and other dark deeds of predation and exploitation, infestation, and evisceration…tales of life essence, literal or metaphorical, stolen.

Seventeen stories, by such award-winning authors as Elizabeth Bear, Richard Bowes, Kathe Koja, Margo Lanagan, Carol Emshwiller, and Lisa Tuttle will petrify readers. With dark tales by Laird Barron, Barry Malzberg and Bill Pronzini, Kaaron Warren, and other powerful voices, this anthology will redefine the terror of vampires and vampirism.



The Detachment by Barry Eisler
Pub Date: September 15, 2011
[Paperback release: October 18, 2011]
Kindle

When legendary black ops veteran Colonel Scott “Hort” Horton tracks Rain down in Tokyo, Rain can’t resist the offer: a multi-million dollar payday for the “natural causes” demise of three ultra-high-profile targets who are dangerously close to launching a coup in America.

But the opposition on this job is going to be too much for even Rain to pull it off alone. He’ll need a detachment of other deniable irregulars: his partner, the former Marine sniper, Dox. Ben Treven, a covert operator with ambivalent motives and conflicted loyalties. And Larison, a man with a hair trigger and a secret he’ll kill to protect.

From the shadowy backstreets of Tokyo and Vienna, to the deceptive glitz and glamour of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and finally to a Washington, D.C. in a permanent state of war, these four lone wolf killers will have to survive presidential hit teams, secret CIA prisons, and a national security state as obsessed with guarding its own secrets as it is with invading the privacy of the populace.

But first, they’ll have to survive each other.



The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, 2011 Edition edited by Paula Guran
Pub Date: September 15, 2011
Amazon

Welcome to the dark. It comes in more colors than you may have imagined. Quiet blue shadows, a glimpse of ghostly white, a once-dim corner deepening to stygian black, the sudden scarlet stain in the basement, the flash of flesh turning to fur, crumbling ash-gray memories, deep jungle greens, mottled-glaucous full moons, the brown of fresh-turned earth, a cutting slash of silver, the tempting glint of gold, bruising purple, alien orange, urban neons, the iridescent shimmer of colors the human eye cannot always see...Find them all in the words of these masterful storytellers.

The best dark fantasy and horror from 2010: more than five hundred pages of dark tales from some of today's best-known writers of the fantastique as well new talents. Chosen from a variety of sources, these stories may help you see the many colors of the dark.

What books caught your eye this week?

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Release Week Giveaway: Dreamland by Alyson Noël

Zeighost Media and Macmillan Publishing are continuing to rock our world here at Book Den.  Alyson Noël's Dreamland was released this week, and Macmillan is giving away a copy to one lucky Book Den reader!

Description of Dreamland by Alyson Noël

Riley’s finding that the afterlife can be a lonely place when all you do is focus on work. So she goes to the place where dreams happen, hoping to find a way to contact her sister, Ever. She meets the director, who tells her about the two ways to send dreams. As a Dream Jumper, a person can jump into a dreamer’s dream, share a message, and participate. As a Dreamweaver, an entire dream can be created in a studio and sent to the dreamer. But Dreamweaving was outlawed decades ago, and the studio was boarded up. Thinking it’s her only way to reach out to her sister, Riley goes in search of the old studio. There she finds a ghost boy, who’s been creating and sending nightmares to people for years. In order to stop him and reach out to Ever, Riley is going to have to confront and overcome her own fears.






To enter, simply fill out the form below with your name and email address. I will leave the contest open through Friday, September 23. A random winner will be contacted on Saturday, September 24 to provide a valid mailing address. For more information, please see my contest policy.

*Only open to US/Canada

Update: This contest is now closed. Congratulations Emilie D!

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Follow Friday: Favorite Imaginary World

Today's Follow Friday question over at Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read is:

It's that pesky magic book fairy again! She has another wish: What imaginary book world would you like to make a reality?

The world Mary Malone stayed in during The Amber Spyglass!  The Amber Spyglass is the last book in the His Dark Materials trilogy from Philip Pullman.  I absolutely loved that world and really wanted to stay there forever!

If you've never the His Dark Materials series, I highly recommend it.  I wish I could read it again for the first time.

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Review: Iron Butterflies Rust by Lee Thompson

A new Lee Thompson! Iron Butterflies Rust was released last week as part of the awesome novella series from Delirium Books.

Book Description:
Three years after Frank Gunn's wife pulled his service pistol at the local carnival and set events in motion that stained everyone involved with an eight-year-old boy's blood, Frank's life has fallen apart around him—he is on voluntary leave from the police department, the media has made him look like a fool, and his marriage has gone to hell. Worst of all, the boy, Jeremy Chambers, lies in a coma and Frank is the only person who feels a responsibility to visit him.

Haunted by nightmares that increasingly bleed into his waking life, Frank finds himself once more on a collision course with the boy's murderous father, not to mention a phantom he feels he should somehow know. Whether this trail of blood and tears will redeem him, or end in his damnation, Frank cannot know until the last mile has been traveled.

Lee Thompson has this great way of pulling the reader in and out of darkness. I love that about his writing.  Not only does he write about supernatural darkness, he also delves into the darkness of human emotion. Thompson's characters are often flawed (in a great way) and filled with something gritty and raw.

Iron Butterflies Rust explores what happens when tragedy strikes.  Lives and relationships often fall apart, but sometimes the darkness manifests. 

I really can't get enough of Lee Thompson's fiction.  I recommend Iron Butterflies Rust not only to those who like dark fantasy and suspense, but to those who enjoy an authentic tale.

Other Lee Thompson reviews here at Book Den:
Crooked Stick Figures
Before Leonora Wakes
Nursery Rhymes 4 Dead Children

Review copy provided by publisher

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review: Forbidden by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

Despite his multiple appearances on my wish list, Forbidden is the first book by Ted Dekker I have read. I didn't realize Forbidden was going to be the first book of a series, but that happens to me a lot.

Book Description
Many years have passed since civilization's brush with apocalypse. The world's greatest threats have all been silenced. There is no anger, no hatred, no war. There is only perfect peace... and fear. But a terrible secret has been closely guarded for centuries: Every single soul walking the earth, though in appearance totally normal, is actually dead, long ago genetically stripped of true humanity.

Fleeing pursuit, with only moments to live, a young man named Rom stumbles into possession of a vial of blood and a piece of cryptic writing. When consumed, the blood will bring him back to life. When decoded, the message will lead him on a perilous journey that will require him to abandon everything he has ever known and awaken humanity to the transforming power of true life and love.

But the blood will also resurrect hatred, ambition, and greed.

Set in a terrifying, medieval future, where grim pageantry masks death, this tale of dark desires and staggering stakes peels back the layers of the heart for all who dare to take the ride.

Forbidden starts out with a classic quest premise: the main character learns of a secret family past and is forced to step into his destined role to save the world. I love a great quest, and Rom's journey is full of danger and suspense from the very beginning.

Forbidden is set in a post-apocalyptic dystopian society where humans have been stripped of all emotion with the exception of fear. In his quest, Rom manages to awaken his emotions and those of his companions. As it turns out, Forbidden is more a book about love than it is about fear.

I enjoyed the adventure and the fast paced story, but I struggled a bit with not being able to lose myself in the oxymoronic "medieval future" Dekker and Lee created. I also had a hard time connecting with characters who were introduced in a state of no emotion.  I think these issues are sometimes inherent in the first book of a series and may not carry over into future releases.

Overall, Forbidden was a good dystopian fantasy read, and I look forward to continuing with the second book in the trilogy, Mortal.

6/10: Good Read

Review copy provided by publisher

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Guest Post and Giveaway: Kathryn Leigh Scott, author of Dark Passages

I'm so excited to welcome Kathryn Leigh Scott to Book Den today! Be sure to check out the awesome giveaway where one lucky reader will have a chance to win a copy of Dark Passages!

Dark Passages is my debut novel, my first fiction. I’ve written many nonfiction books, including several about Dark Shadows, the 60s-era soap in which I played Josette DuPres, the doomed fiancé of vampire Barnabas Collins. In fact, I recently filmed a cameo in the new Warner Bros. production of Dark Shadows starring Johnny Depp, directed by Tim Burton.

I also wrote The Bunny Years about the 25-year history of Playboy Clubs, the rights to which have been acquired by Imagine Television for potential use in upcoming episodes of the new NBC drama, “The Playboy Club.”

So it wasn’t too much of a surprise when my agent asked me if Dark Passages wasn’t, in fact, memoir. “No!” I said. “It’s complete fiction.” Not a single thing that happens to Meg Harrison happened to me in my own life, but I did write about a period of time and a world I know well.

True, I was raised on a farm, went to New York with dreams of becoming an actress, worked as a Playboy Bunny to support myself until I got my "big break," which was a role on Dark Shadows. But all of that is background and setting -- and I did want to capture that intense period of great change and discovery that I experienced when I left my home town in Minnesota and went to the big city. The story is really about Meg Harrison’s very secret life as a vampire living among mortals.

The early 1960s was not only a time of great change for me but also for our country, which is why I chose to bookend my story with two significant events: the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 and the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, just a year and a month later. That time frame also marked my first year in New York.

I’m steeped in Dark Shadows and vampire lore, but I still had to do considerable research when I decided to incorporate paranormal elements into my story. I took my cue from Jonathan Frid, who created the iconic character of Barnabas Collins. He made the vampire his own, and I knew I would be creating my own vampire world with Meg Harrison. I enjoyed the process of writing Dark Passages so much that I am now well into work on the sequel.

Kathryn Leigh Scott can also be found at www.kathrynleighscott.com.

If you would like a chance to win a copy of Dark Passages, be sure to fill out this form!  (This contest is limited to US only.)  I will leave this contest open until Saturday, September 17.  The winner will be contacted on Sunday, September 18 to provide a US mailing address.

Update: This contest is now closed. Congratulations K. E. Bergdoll!

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Monday, September 12, 2011

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

As a movie loving child of the 80's who grow up with a Commodore 64, Atari 2600 and so on, not a moment of Ready Player One was lost on me.  What a fantastic, nostalgic read!

(Huge) Book Description
At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, READY PLAYER ONE is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut—part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

It’s the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets.

And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune—and remarkable power—to whoever can unlock them.  

For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday’s riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes’s oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig.

And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle.

Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt—among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life—and love—in the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape. 

A world at stake.
A quest for the ultimate prize.
Are you ready?

I read Ready Player One over the Labor Day weekend.  It was the PERFECT book for a long weekend.  I found myself slowly savoring all the nostalgic elements in the book and reminiscing about my childhood.

It's one of those books where there may be problems with the story, but who cares?!  You didn't care that the pixelated dragon in Adventure looked more like a deformed duck*.  You had fun playing it anyway!  And Ready Player One was a fun read!  It was an adventure quest much like the movies I watched over and over again until the VHS tapes diminished into snow and no amount of "tracking" was enough to fix them.

If you ever geeked out in the 80's, Ready Player One will take you home again.  If you didn't geek out in the 80's, I have a lot more recommendations for you than just Ready Player One!

*I totally stole that deformed duck reference out of Ready Player One.

Were you an 80's geek?  Spill it!  What movies/games were on your most played list?

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Notable New Releases [Sept. 4 - Sept. 10]

These are the new releases that caught my eye this week including a new Lee Thompson and a tome of an anthology Ghosts by Gaslight! 

Notable New Releases

Iron Butterflies RustIron Butterflies Rust by Lee Thompson
Pub Date:  September 5, 2011
Horror Mall | Kindle

[Read my review of Iron Butterflies Rust]

Three years after Frank Gunn's wife pulled his service pistol at the local carnival and set events in motion that stained everyone involved with an eight-year-old boy's blood, Frank's life has fallen apart around him—he is on voluntary leave from the police department, the media has made him look like a fool, and his marriage has gone to hell. Worst of all, the boy, Jeremy Chambers, lies in a coma and Frank is the only person who feels a responsibility to visit him.

Haunted by nightmares that increasingly bleed into his waking life, Frank finds himself once more on a collision course with the boy's murderous father, not to mention a phantom he feels he should somehow know. Whether this trail of blood and tears will redeem him, or end in his damnation, Frank cannot know until the last mile has been traveled. 



Ghosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural SuspenseGhosts by Gaslight: Stories of Steampunk and Supernatural Suspense edited by Jack Dann, Nick Gevers
Pub Date: September 6, 2011
Amazon | Kindle

[So excited about this one!]

Seventeen all-new stories illuminate the steampunk world of fog and fear!

Modern masters of the supernatural weave their magic to revitalize the chilling Victorian and Edwardian ghostly tale: here are haunted houses, arcane inventions, spirits reaching across the centuries, ghosts in the machine, fateful revelations, gaslit streets scarcely keeping the dark at bay, and other twisted variations on the immortal classics that frighten us still.



Those Across the RiverThose Across the River by Christopher Beuhlman
Pub Date: September 6, 2011
Amazon | Kindle

[Read my review of Those Across the River here]

Failed academic Frank Nichols and his wife, Eudora, have arrived in the sleepy Georgia town of Whitbrow, where Frank hopes to write a history of his family's old estate-the Savoyard Plantation- and the horrors that occurred there. At first, the quaint, rural ways of their new neighbors seem to be everything they wanted. But there is an unspoken dread that the townsfolk have lived with for generations. A presence that demands sacrifice.

It comes from the shadowy woods across the river, where the ruins of Savoyard still stand. Where a longstanding debt of blood has never been forgotten.

A debt that has been waiting patiently for Frank Nichols's homecoming...



Shelter: A Mickey Bolitar NovelShelter by Harlan Coban
Pub Date: September 6, 2011
Amazon | Kindle

Mickey Bolitar's year can't get much worse. After witnessing his father's death and sending his mom to rehab, he's forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools.

A new school comes with new friends and new enemies, and lucky for Mickey, it also comes with a great new girlfriend, Ashley. For a while, it seems like Mickey's train-wreck of a life is finally improving - until Ashley vanishes without a trace. Unwilling to let another person walk out of his life, Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that this seemingly sweet, shy girl isn't who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey's father. Soon, Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it makes high school drama seem like a luxury - and leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.



The Book of CthulhuThe Book of Cthulhu edited by Ross E. Lockhart
Pub Date: September 6, 2011

Amazon

The Cthulhu Mythos is one of the 20th century''s most singularly recognizable literary creations. Initially created by H. P. Lovecraft and a group of his amorphous contemporaries (the so-called "Lovecraft Circle"), The Cthulhu Mythos story cycle has taken on a convoluted, cyclopean life of its own. Some of the most prodigious writers of the 20th century, and some of the most astounding writers of the 21st century have planted their seeds in this fertile soil. The Book of Cthulhu harvests the weirdest and most corpulent crop of these modern mythos tales. From weird fiction masters to enigmatic rising stars, The Book of Cthulhu demonstrates how Mythos fiction has been a major cultural meme throughout the 20th century, and how this type of story is still salient, and terribly powerful today.

What books caught your eye this week?

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Friday, September 9, 2011

Release Week Giveaway: All These Things I've Done by Gabrielle Zevin

I have another exciting Macmillan giveaway this week! Macmillan is offering one lucky Book Den reader a copy of All These Things I've Done.

All These Things I've Done is the first book in a new series from Gabrielle Zevin called Birthright.

Book Description
In 2083, chocolate and coffee are illegal, paper is hard to find, water is carefully rationed, and New York City is rife with crime and poverty. And yet, for Anya Balanchine, the sixteen-year-old daughter of the city's most notorious (and dead) crime boss, life is fairly routine. It consists of going to school, taking care of her siblings and her dying grandmother, trying to avoid falling in love with the new assistant D.A.'s son, and avoiding her loser ex-boyfriend. That is until her ex is accidently poisoned by the chocolate her family manufactures and the police think she's to blame. Suddenly, Anya finds herself thrust unwillingly into the spotlight--at school, in the news, and most importantly, within her mafia family.



To enter, simply fill out the form below with your name and email address. I will leave the contest open through Friday, September 16. A random winner will be contacted on Saturday, September 17 to provide a valid mailing address. For more information, please see my contest policy.

*Only open to US/Canada

Update: This contest is now closed. Congratulations Mimi Valentine!

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Blog Hops: Winning Villian

Today's Follow Friday question over at Parajunkee's View and Alison Can Read is:

Have you ever wanted a villain to win at the end of a story? If so, which one?

There is an out of print book by Bentley Little called The Mailman that I just love.  If you ever see it in a used bookstore, grab it up!

It's a horror book where the new mailman in town is completely (and wonderfully) creepy.

Sometimes I can help but root for the totally creepy.  ;)

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