The Exploding Spaceship Visits Bookmarks!

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The Exploding Spaceship travels to Winston-Salem for Bookmarks Festival of Books and Authors!

Bookmarks is a festival of books and authors held in Winston-Salem, NC. Lev Grossman, the featured fantasy author, drew us to the event because we had never heard him speak. The festival has indoor venues for author talks and outdoor space for food vendors and vendor and publisher tents. There was a photo booth in the theater lobby where you could dress up in funny hats and props to get a free strip of pictures and this was very popular. The Hanes Brand Theatre is where the events we attended were located. This is a nice venue for events on a stage, but the concessions booth is very expensive, even more extreme than movie theater prices, with some small snacks being four times the grocery store price.

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Lev Grossman had a very interesting talk about his new book The Magician’s Land (August 2014, Viking) and the universe in which the book is set. He comes at fantasy from a classical literary background and was raised by parents who were also traditional literature trained. Lev was always a fantasy reader even though by day he read other things. When he began writing fantasy he wanted a universe with a different take on magic. His main character has no advisor to guide him and so wanders around sort of lost and there are no straight-up evil guys, just characters who can be viewed as a darker gray. His stories try to address the question, “What is magic for?”

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Lev writes his fantasy in a contemporary American voice and humor is used frequently. His characters are normal people with drinking problems and a sex life to worry about. They do traditional epic fantasy things, like engage in single combat against a champion, but never say or do anything in the manner you expect. He writes to please the teenage version of himself, who wanted magic to be real, so the language including the slang and bad language all reflects modern society. This makes his fiction very approachable for those put off by the trappings of genre fiction.

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Maggie Stiefvater gave a very interesting talk about her fiction, and her life in a celtic band while dressing like a punk band member. Maggie is from Virginia and so she drove to the event. This enabled her to bring her daughter who was seeing her Mom’s writer talk for the first time. Nothing puts pressure on a speaker like an audience whom you see over the breakfast table every morning.  She is a great speaker though, particularly for the young adult audience. We had two young adult males with us for the event and they were very entertained.

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Maggie has written several fantasy series for Scholastic Press. Her most recent release, Sinner, is a volume which is almost general fiction but uses characters and background from her werewolf universe.  The setting is LA instead of Mercy Falls, and you see some of Maggie’s knowledge about bands being used in this volume. Her more traditional fantasy series is based on Welsh myth and is called the Raven cycle. The next volume of this comes out in October and is called Blue Lily, Llly Blue.

Both of these fantasy authors were extremely good speakers, even for young adults with short attention spans. Keep a look out for their appearances near you! Maggie has a book out October 14 so check for events near you on www.maggiestiefvater.com and via Twitter @mstiefvater . Lev can be found on www.levgrossman.com and on facebook as lev.grossman and on Twitter as @leverus.

Overall, Bookmarks was a good day out for us. The speakers were great and they all had signings. Note that the signings are under tents with the queues in the sun, so hats and sunglasses are recommended for those wanting books signed. This is an every year free event, so Your Humble Reviewers hope to see many of you there next time! Keep watch on www.bookmarksnc.org for next year’s event and author events around the area also sponsored by Bookmarks.


The Exploding Spaceship Recommends Some Good UK Books for US Holiday-goers

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This column features some good reads for all ages which are not currently available in the US.  Many US fans are traveling to the UK for conventions and holidays during the summer months so Your Humble Reviewers thought to provide some suggestions for book souvenirs and gifts.

For the middle grades, we highly recommend The Book of Beasts (paperback from Head of Zeus) by John and Carole Barrowman which is the third volume in their Hollow Earth trilogy. The first two books are available in the US, but volume three has not reached the American side of the Atlantic yet.  These books are very fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring twins who magically animate through their art. They are set on an island off the coast of Scotland (it doesn’t really exist but features of it come from real Scottish places).  The third volume sees the twins separated for most of the book, and so makes the characters change quite a bit and grow in unexpected ways. This is our favorite currently ongoing middle grades series.  The pacing and excitement make this a good choice for reluctant readers and since the twins are Emily and Matt, it is a good choice for either sex. Plotting is good enough that older teens and adults will enjoy it too. And yes, if you Doctor Who and Torchwood fans thought the name was familiar, that is the actor who plays Captain Jack Harkness and his older sister who write the series.

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For all ages over about ten years, we recommend the War-Fighting Manuals (small hardbacks from Gollancz), an interesting series of little handbooks set in a fantasy world where Orcs, Elves and Dwarves are constantly at war and the humans are sort of bystanders. Den Patrick has written 3 very engrossing little books called, Elves War-Fighting Manual, Dwarves War-Fighting Manual, and Orcs War-Fighting Manual. The manuals are from the viewpoint of a human named Sebastian Venghaus, who has extensively researched the three cultures by living with them for an extended period of time.  Each book talks about the weapons, armor, and culture of the race plus you get an idea of how the human is treated when he is a guest. The setting is very interesting, the writing humorous but clean and the books written in such a way that you can open the book to almost any section an enjoy reading from there. As pencil and paper roleplaying gamers since the 1970s, we immediately thought these looked like excellent reference material to run a fantasy adventure campaign, as well as providing some much needed fun reading as an escape from the difficult reading in many of today’s fantasy volumes. Read the rest of this entry »


The Exploding Spaceship Release Day Edition: Review of A Plunder of Souls by D.B. Jackson

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Review of A Plunder of Souls by D.B. Jackson (Tor hardcover, July 8, 2014)

This is the third novel in the Thieftaker Chronicles. We are back in Boston of 1769 where a minor smallpox epidemic has hit; enough people are sick that there are houses in every neighborhood with illness, but not so many as to overflow the hospital.

Ethan is called upon by the local minister to investigate a case of grave desecration, but it soon becomes clear that more is going on because shades of the dead are hanging around their last places of residence and not passing on. In most cases the shades have the same type of damage as their desecrated bodies.

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Ethan’s relationships with Kannice, Janna and Sephira continue to change and mature. Janna meets both the other women in Ethan’s life in this book and those encounters are both very enlightening. As Ethan ages and continues to get beaten up for doing his job, getting another type of employment looks better and better. Read the rest of this entry »


The Exploding Spaceship New Release Edition: Reviews of Deadly Curiosities and The Blasted Lands

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Review of Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z Martin (Solaris Books, June 24, 2014, mass market)

This is a new urban fantasy series set in Charleston, South Carolina. The center of the adventures is an antique shop called Trifles and Folly, which is currently owned by Cassidy Kincaide and her vampire silent partner Sorren. She has a former history graduate student/martial artist named Teag Logan who helps run the place. His boyfriend Anthony is a lawyer from an old Charleston family, who is occasionally enlisted to help find information. Read the rest of this entry »


The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Enoch the Traveler, Cauldron of Ghosts, Morningside Fall, Treasure Planet, Sea Without a Shore, A Case of Spontaneous Combustion and Peacemaker

Review of Enoch the Traveler: Tempestas Viator by Lady Soliloque (World Castle Publishing, January 9, 2014)

This novel is the story of Enoch, a character who is mentioned in the Bible, but we are told nothing about him. Lady’s Soliloque uses the ideas of parallel universes, locations outside of time and space, and great beings to explain the Christian idea of God and angels. Like some other fantasy and science fiction which uses ancient religious ideas with a new twist like Marvel’s versions of Odin or Thor, this science fiction world explains the universe as Christians from our world see it.

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Enoch has traveled around a great deal and caused some problems (see previous books with main character Heather, sister to Violette the main character in this volume), so at the beginning of this volume he meets Violette when she gets him out of trouble, and they go on adventures together, running from some beings who want to end Enoch, and exploring places to explain the multiverse to Violette. Some of Heather’s friends appear on the scene because they are concerned about Violette and soon after Alastair and Annie are brought into the adventures. They bring their boss, Deacon, into the group and this allows them to access all of Deacon’s knowledge and cool technology. Read the rest of this entry »


The Exploding Spaceship’s Geeky Travel Special Edition!

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In this column Your Humble Reviewers take a look at a couple of recent conventions, and a look forward to some coming up, focusing our attention on writing tracks and family activities near the convention site, which can be used to turn a weekend getaway into a longer vacation. Featured are some of the smaller conventions in the Southeast from Virginia to Louisiana which are family-friendly and offer tracks for aspiring writers.

Timegate: Centered mainly on the Doctor Who and Stargate television shows, this Memorial Day Weekend convention in Atlanta, Georgia boasts a strong writers’ track. The dealer room is well organized and not crowded and has a wide variety of merchandise, with a particularly heavy lean toward Doctor Who items, much to the detriment of our wallet. Other British shows are also strongly represented here.

The Doctor Who guests this year were Terrance Dicks, who wrote for the classic TV series from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, and Gareth David-Lloyd, of Torchwood fame. Writer guests of note were Lee Martindale, Lady Soliloque and Gillian Summers.

This year featured a special announcement by North Carolina author Lady Soliloque that her book Enoch the Traveler will be made into a TV series by a cable network. Filming will be in North Carolina in the Fall for broadcast in 2015. See review of the novel here.

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A Teenage Girl Goes on a Science Fiction Adventure – The Exploding Spaceship Reviews Recent YA Science Fiction: Glaze, Salvage, These Broken Stars and Earth Star

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Female SF authors write teenage girls having science fiction adventures – a type of read I wanted as a teen but wasn’t available!

The last few months have seen several great new teen science fiction adventures come into our review pile, all featuring a female lead character (although one really has a male as co-lead) and all written by female authors. Given the rarity of female focused science fiction adventure and female science fiction writers work being reviewed, I thought it was proper to give them a column all their own. A special thanks goes to Flyleaf Books for their panel in April called Girl Power! where we got to meet the authors of two of these books.

Review of Glaze by Kim Curran (Jurassic-London, May 22, 2014)

This is the story of Petri, a 15-year-old girl from London whose mother thought the name was a good way to tell everyone that her daughter’s father was a petri dish. Petri does have a father figure in her life, Max, her mother’s boss at the company which controls all the hardware and software of the biggest social media company on the planet. You can’t have the hardware installed until you are sixteen, so Petri can’t join her classmates in using the network, called Glaze. Read the rest of this entry »


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