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Monthly Archives: October 2010

The YA Roundup (no longer so weekly)

While there have been lots of new Kindle releases over on Amazon, there have been very few available outside of the US, so I’ve been left with very little choice. This week, therefore, I ventured over to the main fantasy area and downloaded some of the new releases I found there.

Just to remind you… This is how it works:

  1. From Amazon I download samples of YA fantasy new releases
  2. I then read them all (to a greater or lesser degree)
  3. Finally, I decide which (if any) I would actually want to buy.

Let’s take a look at what the week had to offer:

  • The Dragons of Noor by Janet Lee Carey: It seems like an interesting concept but seven different characters and situations are introduce in the first few pages (Hanna, Tymm, Mother, a dragon, the Wild Wind, the Enness Island, and deya spirits) and I got lost. Sorry. Next!
  • Banished by Sophie Littlefield: I know that bullying at school and being excluded are important and horrifying (in fact I know this first hand), but having to go to school after being homeschooled isn’t traumatic enough for me to hold my interest as an opening for a novel. For someone else, highly likely, but for me, nope. Next!
  • Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride: If someone with a very high vocabulary is a drop out and works at what he insists on claiming is a dead-end fast-food job, I want to know why quickly. It might be an interesting slice of someone’s life, but for me it’s not a way to hook me into reading. Next!
  • The Dragon’s Apprentice by James A. Owen: It has a prologue and although I’m not against prologues as a rule, I do find that many times they manage to pull down the excitement of starting a new book instead of increasing it. This is just such a case.  Next!
  • The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett: Although it’s told in a slightly too-distant point of view for my taste, it actually held my interest long enough to read the sample. The characters and situation are presented in a way that intrigues me, and given that the setting is “genteel” the distance in the narration actually helps create the atmosphere. It’s a maybe.
  • Under the Green Hill by Laura L. Sullivan: Another book with a prologue, this time two rock trolls (?) talking about feeling the power that’s coming (cue ominous music). It feels a bit like a Greek chorus before a play setting the scene and letting the audience know what’s gone on before and what to expect. I don’t want to be told that something bad is coming. I want to see it and experience it. Next!
  • Echo City by Tim Lebbon: Another prologue. Are they all the rage now? Am I missing out on a trend here? “As it left the city, the thing did not once look back.” As a first sentence it does nothing to draw me in or get me wanting to find out more. If it isn’t looking back, neither will I. Next!
  • Shotgun Sorceress by Lucy A. Snyder: The reader is dropped right into action – saving a couple of people about to be crucified – so that’s good, but the language is a little overblown for my tastes (“The festering mob of meat puppets in their tattered Sunday best shambled aside as I rode Pal down Main Street toward the stark while columns and broad marble steps of the Saguaro Hotel.” Wow…) Next!
  • Maladrid by Jessica McHugh: The book starts with a young man dreaming and us being told about his dream and being told what he feels. Then he’s on a boat that’s attacked and given that the tense has gone from present to past, I’m not sure if it’s still a dream or not. And with that confusion, I’m outta here. Next!
  • City of Dreams & Nightmare: City of a Hundred Rows Book 1 by Ian Whates: This book opens with the background of someone’s life, all the preparation needed to become a guard and how he just qualified. No thanks… Next!
  • Book of Secrets by Chris Roberson: This one instead of opening with a summary of the past starts with a summary of philosophical discussion between two brothers about family. Oh wait. This isn’t the start of the book, it’s yet another prologue!

At Erin’s suggestion in the comments, I also gave Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld and Keith Thompson another try but it has the misfortune of being a girl-dressed-as-a-boy-to-survive book and I’m in the middle of reading another one of those right now (which in my opinion is better done), so Behemoth loses out in spite of maybe being an excellent book.

What are you reading right now?

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Posted by on October 28, 2010 in Book Reviews

 

Friday Flash: Space Boy

Linda from last week’s flash decided she had more to tell me… Enjoy!

*****

The meteor storm slashed by overhead filling the lounge with sharp shadows that flew across the floor. Karl screamed as he unsuccessfully tried to catch the dark shapes sliding around the room, reminding Linda of a dog chasing waves in the sea, unable to catch them and yet unable to stop himself from trying.

Not that she had seen a dog or the ocean in a long time. In fact the last one was about thirteen planets ago.

She turned back to watch more meteors and wished she could have shared this moment with Janelle. She had met the station girl on the last planet and what with repairs and a delay in shipping transfers Linda had been given four whole months to get to know Janelle. But now, six months later from Linda’s point of view it had been who knew how many years for Janelle. She was supposed to know all about relativity and the whole aging thing since she lived on a tradeship, but she never bothered. All she knew was that anyone she met planetside would be like a million years old before she ever made it back to see them again. Nothing else mattered.

A message notice buzzed in her ear and, blinking her com lenses into place, she opened it up, expecting one of her parents or maybe another crew member to want her to do something. Out here there would be no one else who could reach her.

Are you enjoying the meteor show?

She sat up and focused in on the sender: Space Boy. Who in the frozen skies was Space Boy? That was not a name anyone on the ship used. She called up the details of the message but there weren’t any. Which of course wasn’t possible. Someone must have been playing a joke on her, as unlikely as that was. She’d play along though and see what they were up to.

Not as pretty as some I’ve seen. The meteors of the Kilen system are way cooler.

She had never been to the Kilen system and didn’t even know if it had a meteor belt, but if someone was messing with her, she’d mess right back.

You’re lying, came the response. Kilen is crap. If you want to see a spectacular show you have got to go to the Popne system.

And now it was Space Boy’s turn to lie. The Popne system was on the other side of the galaxy. It was barely even explored.

As if you’d know, she answered.

I’m not spacing you. I can take you there if you want. Meet me in the fore elevator on deck three.

Linda was torn. She was supposed to watch Karl, but she had to find out who was tossing her a black hole. She glanced at her brother who was still occupied with his shadow chasing. A trip to the elevator and back would take no time at all and he wouldn’t even realize that she had left. After all, she would only be gone long enough to find out who the joker was and tell him what he could do with the Popne system.

“Um, Karl. I have to go to the head. Will you be all right for a minute on your own?”

Karl stopped his shadow hopping to glare at her.

“I’m not a baby, you know.”

I’ll be there in five. She would be there in three minutes but wanted to get there first.

“Don’t leave the room,” she told her brother, “no matter what. I’ll be right back.” She got up and after casually walking to the door she ran down the passageway. Which of the crew was it?

She skittered along hugging the wall, slowing up when she got to near her destination. Decomp it! The guy was already there, his back to her. She didn’t regonize him but that might have been just because he was wearing weird clothes, like some sort of fashion-victim pressure suit.Whoever was setting her up had done a lot of work to do so. Being crew on a trade ship could be boring mid-run, but Linda couldn’t believe anyone would get that bored. She stepped out into the open.

“Popne? From here? Yeah right.”

She would have gone on but the guy turned around and she didn’t recognize him at all. She didn’t know him and she knew everyone on the ship, had known them her whole life. And they were mid-flight, so no one new should be on board. She blinked her eyes to call up the intruder alarm, but hesitated. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to talk to him for a minute, maybe find out how he had gotten on board before turning him in. The hesitation had nothing to do with his cuteness. Not. At. All.

“Yeah, Popne. It’s way cool,” the guy said as if his being here wasn’t completely and utterly impossible. “Ready to go?”

“No, and know why? Because you can’t get to Popne in an instant. And besides, I don’t even know who you are. Why would I go with you?”

“We haven’t met yet?”

“Um, no.”

“Oops.” He checked some contraption on his wrist. “Nevermind then. We’ll um, yeah, we’ll see each other soon.”

“Whatever.” This guy was seriously weird and getting weirder by the moment.

“Could you do me a favor?”

“What?”

“Could you not mention this when we meet for the first time. I hate confusing myself that way.”

“Could I what?” But he was gone. She wasn’t sure how or where. One moment he was standing there, the next second he wasn’t.

She started back to the lounge and her little brother. The lights of the meteors must have put her in some sort of hypnotic state or something because what had just happened could no way be real.

Or could it?

 
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Posted by on October 15, 2010 in Friday flash, Online Fiction

 

Sunflowers Translation: Girasoles

A friend of mine has translated Friday’s flash fiction into Spanish. I feel so international! 😉

Linda deambulaba por el corredor, se dirigía al invernadero de la nave a buscar un girasol para su hermano pequeño. Creía que si tenía uno de los soles diminutos apretado en su mano mientras dormía, los monstruos no podrían alcanzarlo. Un niño raro, pero a ella no le importaba ir. Todo el mundo estaba cenando y, puesto que como de costumbre empezaron una de sus charlas súper aburridas sobre qué tipo de planeta sería el siguiente que iban a encontrar, Linda se ofreció voluntaria para ir y conseguir la flor de seguridad de Karl. Era mejor estar sola que escuchar a sus padres y a la tripulación cacarear.

Pensó en llevar a Karl una flor seca toda llena de pipas. Dejarlo dormir sobre las cáscaras puntiagudas toda la noche. Pero eso sería…

Las luces se apagaron y ella se quedó inmóvil.

Las luces nunca se habían apagado. Tenía que suceder algo verdaderamente malo. Sus años de simulacros de emergencia asumieron el control y mientras su parte consciente empezaba a entrar en un pánico tremendo su cuerpo ya se había acercado a la pared y a tientas encontró uno de los packs de emergencia de donde sacó una linterna y dejó el kit de respiración y el traje presurizado. Se negó completamente a barajar la posibilidad de que hubiera una brecha en el casco mientras encendía la linterna y volvió al centro de la nave casi corriendo. Lo que fuera que hubiese sucedido con las luces, no había agotado la electricidad de toda la nave porque todavía podía sentir el rumor del motor.

Giró a la izquierda en el primer cruce de pasillos y se dio de bruces con un cuerpo. Un cuerpo muy, muy largo. En frente de ella, el haz de luz de su linterna reveló un muro de carne viscosa. Cada vez que la luz tocaba la piel, esta retrocedía y la criatura emitía un rugido incluso más fuerte. Con un rápido movimiento la cosa se giró y la encaró. Bueno, encararse no es la palabra correcta. En realidad no tenía cara, solo una boca entreabierta llena de dientes de la que chorreaba más baba. Rugió y emitió un sonido siseante como si la luz le estuviera hiriendo y lanzó una dentellada en dirección a Linda.

Ahogó un grito y salió corriendo por el mismo camino por el que había llegado. La criatura se lanzó sobre ella mientras sus rugidos se convertían en resoplidos contenidos. Era un cazador y ella era la presa. Pero que la comiera no entraba dentro de su lista de prioridades. Quizá pudiera encerrarse en el invernadero y la cosa podría ir a buscar otra cosa con la que deleitarse.

Salvo que todos los demás era lo que le preocupaba. Quizá pudiera encerrarlo en el invernadero, llevarlo hasta allí y luego escabullirse y atrancar la puerta con una barra. Y con suerte, sería la única criatura en la nave, pero lo dudaba. Muy pocos invasores venían solos.

Para no ser más que un gusano gigante con dientes, se movía a toda leche y Linda tenía que darlo todo para mantenerse por delante de él. Se le pasó por la mente apagar la linterna para quizá confundirlo pero, puesto que parecía no tener ojos, la dejó encendida para evitar desorientarse o caer.

Consiguió llegar al invernadero con el tiempo justo para abrir la pesada escotilla y lanzarse al interior antes de que la cosa la siguiera dentro. Había planeado colocarse detrás de la puerta y salir pitando en cuanto la cosa entrara, pero entró tan cerca de sus talones que no tuvo tiempo de hacer nada más que precipitarse hacia delante.

Tal vez atraer a un bicho gigante a un jardín no era la mejor idea, pero ya era demasiado tarde. Necesitaba concentrarse en mantenerse con vida y en salir de ahí.

Siguió por los caminos pero la amplitud de estos le daba a la criatura espacio suficiente para desplazarse rápidamente y estaba ganándole terreno. La baba que chorreaba de su boca le cayó detrás una pierna y supo que tenía que hacer algo. Al diablo con las plantas, su vida tenía prioridad. Salió fuera del camino y entró en un campo diminuto de vete-tú-a-saber-qué plantas. Si pudiera perder a la bestia entre las plantaciones, sería capaz de llegar a la puerta y salir de allí. El invernadero era la zona más amplia de la nave así que tendría un montón de sitio para esconderse.

Sin embargo, en lugar de continuar, la cosa giró con ella, arrojándose sobre las plantas, yendo a por ella. ¿La seguía por el sonido, por olor? O tal vez sintiera su calor corporal. Tampoco es que importase, la verdad. Era capaz de perseguirla allá por donde fuera hasta que la atrapara y parecía estar decidido a hacerlo.

Avanzó dando traspiés, su linterna le proporcionaba la luz suficiente para saltar sobre las plantas más pequeñas y poder colarse entre el resto. Luego algo grande y amarillo pasó por delante del rayo de luz. ¡Girasoles! Si al menos la extraña idea de Karl fuera cierta. Si al bicho no le gustó el haz de luz de una mera linterna, ¿cómo reaccionaría ante la enorme energía de unas plantas que imitaban al sol?

Un hormigueo en la parte posterior de su cuello le hizo caer al suelo cuando el bicho gigante volaba por encima de ella arrancando las cabezas de varios girasoles. Apagó la luz de la linterna, se enroscó en un ovillo e intentó hacerse lo más pequeña que pudo. Sabía que todo había acabado, pero no se lo iba a poner tan fácil a la cosa. Tendría que trabajar duro para encontrarla tan quieta.

Pero no sucedió nada. Todavía podía oír a la bestia, pero no estaba haciendo los mismos sonidos que antes. Sonaba más angustiada. Se desenroscó un poco y encendiendo la linterna, alumbró el punto de donde procedían los ruidos. El bicho se estaba retorciendo y parecía que le costaba respirar. Se arrastraba y se impulsaba a si mismo en su dirección, pero llegando a mitad del camino se derrumbó y dejó de moverse totalmente. Linda esperó cinco minutos para ver si se movía, luego empezó a recolectar girasoles.

Tenía una nave que salvar.

Translation by Miguel Moclán Arpa.

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2010 in Ficción española, Online Fiction

 

Despicable Me (Or Gru: My Favorite Villain in Spanish)

Last night we went out for some mindless movie-time and ended up nearly peeing our pants with laughter.

Yes, the movie has all the expected pieces: someone who has never felt love finds that his heart isn’t as hard as he expected, three little girls who are cynical, weird and cute and lots and lots of physical humor. But the way they put it all together makes all the difference and it’s one of the better animated movie I’ve seen in a while.

Of course any movie with a horde of minions can do little wrong in my books.

Instead of giving you the trailer (which in my opinion always give away too much of the movie), here’s the music video for the title track by Pharrell Williams.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2010 in General Babblery

 

Friday Flash: Sunflowers

Linda meandered down the corridor to the ship’s greenhouse to get her little brother a sunflower. He believed that if he had one of the “mini-suns” in his fists as he went to sleep the monsters wouldn’t be able to get him. Weird kid, but she didn’t mind going. Everyone else was eating dinner and given that as usual they had started one of their super-boring talks about what sort of planet they would find next, Linda had volunteered to go and get Karl’s security flower. Better to be alone than listen to her parents and crew natter on.

She considered getting Karl a dry flower all full of seeds. Let him sleep on the sharp shells all night. But that would be–

The lights went out and she froze.

The lights never went out. Something had to be very wrong. Her years of emergency drills took over and while her conscious mind was building up to a good panic, her body had already made its way to the wall feeling for one of the emergency patches where she got herself a flashlight but left the breather pack and pressure suit. She flat out refused to consider the possibility of a hull breach as she flicked on the light and started moving at a near run back towards the center of the ship. Whatever had happened with the lights, it hadn’t killed the power to the ship altogether because she could still feel the rumble of the engine.

At the first intersection of corridors she turned left and slammed into a body. A very very large body. Her flashlight beam slid over a wall of slimy flesh in front of her. Wherever the light touched the skin, it recoiled and an ever louder growl came from the creature. With a heave the thing turned to face her. No, face was the wrong word. It didn’t really have a face, just a gaping tooth-filled mouth that dripped more slime. It growled and hissed as if the light was hurting it and snapped its teeth in Linda’s direction.

She bit back a scream took off at a run, heading back the way she had come. The creature plunged after her its growls changing to contented snuffles. It was a hunter and she was the prey. But being eaten wasn’t high on her list of desires. Maybe she would be able to shut herself into the greenhouse and the thing could go find something else to munch on.

Except everyone else was someone she cared about. Maybe she could trap it in the greenhouse, lead it in then sneak back out and bar the door. And if they were all lucky it would be the only beast on the ship, but she doubted it. Few invaders come alone.

For being nothing more than a giant slug with teeth, it moved at a good clip and Linda had to push hard to stay ahead of it. She considered turning off her flashlight to maybe confuse it but since it didn’t seem to have eyes, she left the light on to keep herself from getting dioriented and falling.

She made it to the greenhouse with only enough time to haul the hatch open and dive inside before the thing followed her in. She had planned to get behind the door and sneak out as it came in, but it had entered too close on her heels and she didn’t have time to do anything but plunge onwards.

Perhaps bringing a giant slug into a garden was not the best idea, but it was too late now. She needed to focus on staying alive and on getting out.

She stuck to the paths but the wide paths gave the creature enough room to move quickly and was gaining ground. Slime from its mouth dripped onto the back of her leg and she knew she had to do something. Plants be damned, her life had priority. She dove off the path into who-knew-what mini-field of plants. If she could lose the beast in amongst the crops, she would be able to get back to the door and sneak out. The greenhouse was the largest space on the ship so it gave her plenty of room to hide herself.

Instead of continuing on though, the thing turned with her, diving into the plants after her. Was it following her by sound or by smell? Or maybe it sensed her body heat. Not that it mattered, of course. It could track her wherever she went until it caught her and it seemed intent on doing so.

She stumbled on, her flashlight giving her just enough light to jump over the smaller plants and to squeeze between the rest. Then something big and yellow slipped through the beam of light. Sunflowers! If only Karl’s weird sun-idea was right. If the slug thing didn’t like the beam of a palty flashlight, how would it respond to the full power of a field of sun-copying sunflowers?

A prickle at the back of her neck sent her dropping to the ground as the giant slug flew over her and snapped the heads off a few of the sunflowers. Linda turning off the flashlight, curled into a ball and tried to make herself as small as possible. She knew it was over but didn’t want to make it too easy for the thing. It would have to work to find her still.

But nothing happened. She could still hear the beast, but it wasn’t making the same noises as before. It sounded a lot more distressed. She uncurled a bit and flicking on the flashlight she ran the beam over the spot where the noises were coming from. The slug was writhing and seemed to be gasping for air. It then heaved and thrust itself in her direction, but made it only halfway where it collapsed, and stopped moving completely. Linda waited five minutes to see if it would move, then started snapping off sunflowers.

She had a ship to go save.

The idea for this story came from a Basque tale about the sun, the moon and sunflowers.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Friday flash, Online Fiction

 

The Weekly YA Roundup

How this works:

  1. From Amazon I download samples of YA fantasy new releases
  2. I then read them all (to a greater or lesser degree)
  3. Finally, I decide which (if any) I would actually want to buy.

Let’s take a look at what the week had to offer:

  • Cosmo & the Secret Spell by Gwenyth Rees: No sample available. Next!
  • Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld: The first line uses the phrase “On guard” when a fencing expert starts a practice match. And while, yes, that’s the English translation of “En garde” the latter is the official fencing term which an expert would know. It’s the little errors that ruin the suspension of disbelief. (Which reminds me, I’m going to have to get a boating person to read my current novel-in-edit before I release it into the wild.) Next!
  • Nightpool, The Ivory Lyre & The Dragonbards by Shirley Rosseau Murphy: The first book starts with a very distant description of someone swimming then climbing rocks. Not my style, so didn’t try the other two. Next!
  • iDrakula by Bekka Black: Cute conceit. It seems like it’s Dracula told in text messages and email messages. But I don’t like the Dracula story enough to want to read it in a new format.  Next!
  • Magician’s Muse by Linda Joy Singleton: First person narrative where the teenage girl protagonist tells me a whole bunch of things in the few few pages. I don’t want to be told things. I want to see them. Next!
  • The Charlatan’s Boy by Jonathan Rogers: This book could very well be excellent, but the first person narrator talks like Albert Finney/Ewan McGregor in Big Fish and while that works for me listening, I can stand reading it. Next!
  • The Blending Time by Michael Kinch: Dystopian society seen from the point of view of a teenager with a deadline of getting a job soon or ending up what seems like a indentured servant to the state. These types of novels need to grab me right away or I’m gone. This one didn’t.

In three weeks I’ve found one book that interests me enough to read. You might think that I go into these samples looking for reasons not to like them, but that’s not true at all. I want to like them all. Maybe I’ll have better luck next week.  There is a book I really want to read, but it’s not (yet?) available for the Kindle (pout!): Magic Below Stairs by Caroline Stevermer – who cowrote with Patricia C. Wrede one of my all-time favourite books: Sorcery & Cecilia.

What are you reading right now?

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2010 in Book Reviews

 

Running Envy

I’ve started running again and am merely happy that I can do it without any pain, but I have dreams of being able to do this, although I’d likely kill myself trying.

Madonna also liked what she saw and used Parkour in her Jump video…

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2010 in General Babblery