Blog Tour: The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on Marie Rutkoski's The Winner's Kiss, the last book in her The Winner's Curse series. I am so excited about this book. This series has been so exciting and squeal-inducing and just lovely all around. To celebrate the release of The Winner's Kiss on March 29, bloggers around the interwebs have been sharing their favorite kisses from books new and old. I'll be sharing my own later in the post, but first, more about The Winner's Kiss.

The Winner's Kiss
by Marie Rutkoski

On Sale March 29th, 2016

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.
At least, that’s what he thinks.
In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.
But no one gets what they want just by wishing.
As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

About the Author

Marie Rutkoski is the author of The Kronos Chronicles, including The Cabinet of Wonders and The Celestial Globe. The Cabinet of Wonders, her debut novel, was named an Indie Next Kids’ List Great Read and a Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, among other honors. Rutkoski grew up in Bolingbrook, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago), as the oldest of four children. She attended the University of Iowa, where she took Writers’ Workshop classes and studied with Pulitzer Prize-winner James Alan McPherson. After graduating, she lived in Moscow and Prague. Upon receiving her Ph.D. from Harvard University, she held dual appointments as a lecturer there in both English and American Literature and Language, and History and Literature. Rutkoski is currently a professor at Brooklyn College, where she teaches Renaissance Drama, children’s literature and creative writing. She lives in New York City with her husband and cat. 

 

Now about that favorite kiss...

Hello, friends and strangers. Remember me? It’s been quite some time since I’ve truly written a post for WFTM. I could blame a job that is drowning me in madness. Or a wedding that I don’t have the faintest idea how to plan and yet somehow am planning anyway. Or just a general lack of apathy or time or patience. Or how everyone wants to hang out with me these days and I’m rarely home. Whatever the reason, I have been missing and I am sad about it.

But today! Today we talk about kissing! Now I’m not a mushy person. In fact I am best described by the following t-shirt graphic:

And yet there was once a day when I enjoyed a good kissing scene, especially if it were earned. Alas, my brain is now more swiss cheese than brain matter, and I don’t remember all the best ones. So I tried cheated. I looked at all the other wonderful bloggers who were part of the tour, except most of them chose books I’d never heard of or hadn’t read. That’s no help.

So I googled best literary kisses and that came up with… more books I’ve never heard of or hadn’t read. Then I despaired about all the amazing books I’ve never heard of or read and WHERE IS ALL THE READING TIME?

But finally I settled on my choice. And it was the first choice that came to mind at the thought of the topic, so I’m not entirely sure why I tried to cheat anyway.

What Book Is Your Favorite Literary Kiss In?

It’s not quite “literary”, but it’s going to be Soulless by Gail Carriger.

Who Is Kissing?

She of the soulless nature, one Alexia Tarrabotti, and the very uncivilized Lord Maccon.

Why Is It Your Favorite?

I am quite fond of love-hate relationships that turn into a happily romantic pairing between equals who respect one another, and the relationship between Alexia and Lord Maccon check all those boxes. I’m also fond of slightly rough make out sessions that take place in fancy libraries. Though this scene doesn’t tick the library box, I do get one of those later in the book.

So let me set up the scene: Alexia keeps attracting unsavory sorts who either want to kill her or recruit her. The latest was a weird man that snuck into her carriage. She’s escaped with the help of Lord Maccon, who demands she have a body guard type person with her at all times. She is infuriated and there is arguing, some flirty teasing and then some anger on the part of Lord Maccon. Then simply…

The earl grabbed Miss Tarabotti’s chin with one big hand and the small of her back with the other, pulling her toward him hard. He slanted his mouth over hers almost violently.
She jerked back. “What are you…?”
“Only way to keep you quiet,” he grumbled, taking her chin in a firmer grip and planting his mouth atop hers once more.
It was not the kind of kiss Alexia had ever experienced before. Not that she had been kissed all that frequently prior to this particular point in time.
The kiss itself was initially quite gentle: slow and soft. Alexia found it surprising given the violence of his embrace. She also found it faintly unsatisfying. She gave a little murmur of frustration and leaned in toward him. Then the kiss changed. It became harder, rougher, parting her lips with purpose. There was even, shockingly, tongue involved in the proceedings. Miss Tarabotti was not certain about that. It bordered on sloppy, but then again, the sheer heat of it … Her pragmatic preternatural self assessed the situation and realized that she could definitely learn to love the taste of him: like one of those expensive French soups, dark and rick. She arched her back. Her breath had gone all uneven, perhaps because her mouth was clogged with kisses. Alexia was just beginning to come to terms with the tongue concept and notice that she was now getting too warm to need the earl’s jacket, when he left off kissing, pushed the coat roughly down, and started nibbling on her neck.

And it continues – quite scandalously for events happening in a Victorian street – until they’re rudely interrupted by Maccon’s associate with news of the latest threat to Alexia’s life. This is only the first – and probably tamest – kiss in the book, much less the series. I guess I like my love affair with a bit of self-deprecating humor and sarcasm.

Now What Kiss Do I Want to See in The Winner’s Kiss?

Well, Kestrel and Arin, of course. Those two need a happy ending after all their misunderstandings and standing on opposite ends of the battle field. I want happiness and joy and safety, though I have a feeling some more pain and suffering will be felt on all sides before everything comes to an end.

So what is your favorite kiss from a book? Share in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtag #TheWinnersKiss.


And regular activity at WFTM will start up soon. Hopefully? Maybe after this wedding? If anyone is still around?

Blog Tour & Contest: The Rule of Mirrors by Caragh M. O'Brien

Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on the blog tour for Caragh M. O'Brien's newest release, The Rule of Mirrors. This is the second book in her The Vault of Dreamers series, and it's nearly as bonkers as the last book. Thank you to Caragh and Roaring Brook Press for having us on the tour. They're providing a copy of the first book of the series, The Vault of Dreamers, or the newest book to one lucky WFTM reader. Stick around after the review for your chance to win!

If you haven't read The Vault of Dreamers yet, turn back. The blurb has spoilers! Read my review of the first book in the series over here instead.

The Rule of Mirrors

Caragh M. O'Brien

Released February 16, 2016
Roaring Brook Press
432 pages
YA / Science Fiction / Thriller

Find it on Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

The fast-paced, psychologically thrilling sequel to The Vault of Dreamers follows Rosie after her consciousness has been split in two.

The entire country was watching when Rosie Sinclair was expelled from Forge, the prestigious arts school that doubles as a reality TV show. But few know how Dean Berg was mining students' dreams in laboratories deep below the school. And no one, least of all the Dean himself, knows that when Rosie's dreams were seeded into the mind of another patient, Rosie's consciousness woke up in that body--a girl far from Forge, a girl with a completely different life from Rosie, a girl who is pregnant.

Told from alternating points of view between Rosie as she makes sense of her new identity and the shattered subconscious that still exists in her old body, this sequel to The Vault of Dreamers will keep readers on the edge of their seats and leave them hungry for more.

After the exciting events that culminated The Vault of Dreamers, I felt inclined to write the continuation of Rosie’s story myself. Thankfully, I didn’t have to as the author has returned with another bizarre sci-fi meets psychological thriller romp that balances on the edge of social commentary. Whereas The Vault of Dreamers had an element of analyzing the culture that turned realty television into an everyday occurrence and the effects it has on its maybe-not-so-willing stars, The Rule of Mirrors at times examines what actually makes us who we are as people.

Normally this is where I would put a warning about spoilers for the end of The Vault of Dreamers, but the blurb for The Rule of Mirrors provides plenty of spoilers on its own, so… perhaps that’s unnecessary.

As was implied at the end of the first book, Rosie’s consciousness has been split in two with only her internal voice left behind in her real body. The other half has now woken up thousands of miles away in an Icelandic clinic within the body of a pregnant teenager. Both face new challenges as they try to regain control of their lives and find some way to break free from the Evil Mastermind™ of Dean Berg at the Forge School and stop the dream mining that ruined their lives.

The book is told from both points of view with Thea’s chapters (Rosie’s consciousness in the body of the pregnant former coma patient) regularly focused on what makes a person who they are. Do your memories and mental thought patterns make you who you are? Or is it the scars on your body and the way people see you that determine your identity? Or maybe something in between? O’Brien only barely brushes the surface of these philosophical conundrums, but they’re the most interesting elements of Thea’s story until late in the book. The rest of her plot often feels anticlimactic and a running parade of side characters marching across the screen with little effect to the larger story overall.

The chapters told from Rosie’s point-of-view are the most interesting as the internal voice that often voiced her darkest thoughts in the first book now has control of the steering wheel. While Thea spends a good portion of the book bedridden, shackled by her parents’ restrictions, or fighting people’s dismissals of who she truly believed herself to be, Rosie travels across the country, crosses paths with familiar faces and has more action in her story.

It isn’t until the two eventually come together that the story really hits all cylinders and starts to gel. Most likely because this is the middle book in a trilogy, it doesn’t have the most satisfying conclusion and much of the last 60 pages or so feel rushed after the more languid first half, but so many doors have been left wide open for an exhilarating conclusion.

The Rule of Mirrors might be a bit slower than its predecessor, but some big ideas are touched along the way and some new tech is added to this odd little science fiction thriller. This series is unliked much of anything I’ve read in the YA sphere, so it will be interesting to see if Rosie is ever able to get her happy ending.

 

Sound like something you'd be into? Then enter below to win your choice of a copy of the first book, The Vault of Dreamers, or the newest book The Rule of MIrrors. Open to those with US mailing addresses only. The publisher will be providing the winner's prize. Contest ends on March 10 at midnight Central time. Good luck!

Visit the other blogs on The Rule of Mirrors blog tour below:

·  2/16: Ex Libris Kate

·  2/17: Fiction Fare

·  2/18: A Dream Within A Dream

·  2/19: Bibliophilia, Please

·  2/20: Book Briefs

·  2/21: Fiktshun

·  2/22: Once Upon a Twilight

·  2/23: Reading Nook Reviews

·  2/24: Seeing Double in Neverland

·  2/25: Working for the Mandroid

·  2/26: Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

·  2/27: Reads all the Books

Author Blog Tour & Contest: Teen Frankenstein by Chandler Baker - What's Your High School Horror Story?

Welcome to the Working for the Mandroid stop on Chandler Baker's blog tour for her new book, High School Horror: Teen Frankenstein. I'm really excited about this new series retelling classic horror stories by way of high school students. As part of the tour Chandler and members of the Feiwel & Friends team are sharing their own personal high school horror stories. The team over at Macmillan was kind enough to offer a space for me to share my own horror story, but I hated high school so much, I've actively repressed all memories of it.

We are also lucky to have a copy of Teen Frankenstein to give away to one lucky WFTM reader and an opportunity to win a special prize straight from the author herself. Stick around until after the horror story for instructions on how to enter.

So here is the high school horror story from one of of the Macmillan team with the request of anonymity. Enjoy the schadenfreude!

While I’ve always been relatively athletic, I’ve never been even remotely fast. It might be genetic: my mom’s nickname on her softball team was ‘Chariots of Fire’ (a reference to that scene where they run in slow motion). And perhaps because of my inherent lack of speed, I’ve always despised running, and coincidentally fell ill on the days of the so-called Elementary School ‘Fun Run.’ Given all this, you’d think that the last thing I would EVER do would be to join a cross country team.
Well…it started at the mall. One Saturday afternoon when I was in ninth grade, my friend Carly and I had just exited Bath & Body Works, reeking of Sun-Ripened Raspberry, when all of a sudden, we were greeted by a grade-A teenage hunk. Jake. I’d never seen him before. It turned out he went to private school and knew Carly from a county-sponsored cross country team. After a few minutes of discussion about who knows what (I think it may have involved Austin Powers), I was smitten. So I did the only logical thing: I asked Carly for information and convinced my parents to let me join the team.
I suffered through a few weeknight practices, trying my best to look attractive as I sputtered along behind everyone else, never getting even close to Jake, the fastest guy on the team. When the first meet came along, I was warned by the coach that I might not be ready- but I also knew through the grapevine that after meets, the team went out for pizza, and I knew that that might be my chance to win Jake’s heart. I signed up.
The meet was in the middle of nowhere. My parents gamely drove for 90 minutes to get me there, as I applied and reapplied Bonne Bell lipsmackers in the backseat. When we finally arrived, I joined the other runners in my division at the starting line and told myself that I just had to suffer through these three miles and then I’d be able to make my move. Well. The course was hillier than anything I’d run before and I quickly fell behind the pack. They became distant dots on the horizon. And then I couldn’t see them. I had to stop and walk several times. I was a red, sweaty mess. And by the time I finished, all the vendors were packing up their stands and most of the other teams had left. The only people left were my parents and my teammates who had all clearly finished ages ago, and were all clearly annoyed at having to wait. As I approached the finish line, they began a slow clap. Embarrassed at being such a spectacle, I then burst into tears and, with my eyes blurred, tripped and face-planted on the muddy finish line.  As I looked up, I could see Jake trying his absolute hardest not to laugh.
There was no redeeming this. I trudged back to my parents’ car, skipped the pizza party, and vowed to never again force myself into something just to impress a boy. (This lasted about a year, until I met the Morrissey-loving hipster, but that’s a story for another day…)

Teen Frankenstein
Chandler Baker

Feiwel & Friends
Released January 12, 2016
368 pages
YA / Horror / Classic Retellings

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

High school meets classic horror in this groundbreaking new series.

It was a dark and stormy night when Tor Frankenstein accidentally hit someone with her car. And killed him. But all is not lost--Tor, being the scientific genius she is, brings him back to life...

Thus begins a twisty, turn-y take on a familiar tale, set in the town of Hollow Pines, Texas, where high school is truly horrifying.

Enter to Win a Copy of Teen Frankenstein

Macmillan and Chandler Baker are offer a hard cover copy of High School Horror: Teen Frankenstein to one lucky winner. Enter through the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win. The contest will run until midnight January 31. Winner must have a US or Canada mailing address.

If you're brave enough, submit your own high school horror story in the comments below and Chandler herself will be reading each story. She'll pick a few of her favorites from all the blog tour stops and will provide a very special prize to each of those winners. Your high school misery could finally get you free stuff!

About the Author

Chandler Baker got her start ghostwriting novels for teens and tweens, including installments in a book series that has sold more than 1 million copies. She grew up in Florida, went to college at the University of Pennsylvania and studied law at the University of Texas. She now lives in Austin with her husband. Although she loves spinning tales with a touch of horror, she is a much bigger scaredy-cat than her stories would lead you to believe. 

You can find Chandler as the books contributor on the YouTube channel Weird Girls.

  • Add High School Horror: Teen Frankenstein to your to-read list on Goodreads.
  • Join in on social media with #HighSchoolHorror
  • Visit Chandler's website and follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

Visit the Other Stops on the Tour!

11-JanFierce Reads

12-Jan  Good Books and Good Wine

13-Jan  Jana's Book List

14-Jan  Booki Emoji

15-Jan  Sci Fi Chick

16-Jan  Novel Novice

17-Jan  Word Spelunking

18-Jan  XPresso Reads

19-Jan  Working for the Mandroid

20-JanKatie's Book Blog

Author Guest Post: Worldbuilding Magic University by Cecilia Tan

Working for the Mandroid is happy to welcome Cecilia Tan, author of the sexy fantasy Magic University series. The fourth and final book in the series, Poet and the Prophecy, just came out this past Tuesday. We're happy to welcome Cecilia to the blog to discuss the world building that went into the series as it comes to a conclusion. Take it away, Cecilia!

Back to School: Worldbuilding Magic University

by Cecilia Tan

Worldbuilding is fun, no doubt about it. I love creating magic systems and societies for my novels, and part of me hearkens back to my days as a teenage dungeonmaster, creating places and surprises for old Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. While writing the Magic University books, though, I had some interesting challenges in creating a magical college campus.

For one thing, I had to create the curriculum. What would the courses of study be at Veritas? In the books themselves I end up naming about a dozen departments, including alchemy, ritual arts, conjuration, and metaphysics. "Esoteric arts" is the name given to the study of sex magic because just calling it sex magic was too much for the founders of Harvard.

Yes, Harvard--my magical university is a part of Harvard, existing as a school within a school, with its own deans and degree programs. This meant my worldbuilding got to include a lot of funky facts about Harvard, like the fact that Lowell House rents out their dining hall to other houses (including magical ones) for parties and functions.

In fact I borrowed the Harvard house system to make four magical houses. Yes, that's also a direct nod to J.K .Rowling's Harry Potter series, but I also ended up with four because the "sorting" is done with tarot cards, and which suit you pull determines which house you end up in. Kyle draws the Ace of Swords which lands him in Gladius House. The fact that the sorting is basically random, despite each house having a "character," was also a commentary by me on the flaws of Hogwarts-style sorting based on personality traits. If you want, you can believe that a card draw is "fate," but really, it's just a one-in-four chance, ensuring even distribution over time.

I tried to be as consistent as possible within my magic system, but given that this is a university setting I left room for there to be debate about how certain parts of magic works, the same way scientists or economists or historians sit around and debate their subjects with each other. Also like with non-magical subjects, some classes require lab work, some tests, some term papers, and some subjects are easier than others.

Just like in any university, some of the degree programs have prerequisites or placement tests. To join the Department of Esoteric Arts, scholars have to prove they're bisexual, since ritual sex with partners of any gender might be required. At first Kyle isn't sure he can pass all of the tests to get into Esoteric Arts but it's really not a spoiler to tell you that he has what it takes to pass with flying colors. (In fact, he gets good at flying, too.) It is somewhat inconvenient when he has to practice to do his sex magic homework, though, and his roommate never goes out...

One of the subplots that runs through the books is that the departments of Applied Enchantment and Conjuration are being merged into one, something that happens in real-life universities around here (in the Boston area) all the time, wreaking havoc on the faculty and students. In the end Kyle may be able to save the world, but nothing can save the university administration from budget cuts!

The Poet & The Prophecy (Magic University #4)
Cecilia Tan

Ravenous Romance
Released September 22, 2015
318 pages

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Kyle Wadsworth has mastered sex magic, dreamwalking, his bisexuality, and even poetry in his years at Veritas. But in this conclusion to the Magic University series of new adult paranormal fantasy romance, Kyle begins his senior year full of doubt. Will the dire ancient prophecy he has been studying come true if Kyle cannot find true love? The signs of the Burning Days seem to be everywhere—odd storms, earthquakes, and people losing their magic—and though Kyle has many loving friends and eager acquaintances, he has no true love in sight. The only person in Kyle's heart is Frost, and the last time they laid eyes on each other, it didn't end well.

Frost has a troubled past and deep secrets. Kyle begins to hope, though, when it appears he and Frost will be in a class together. A poetry class. Maybe Frost will start to thaw after all, though Kyle has a long way to go from nemesis to lover. If the prophecy speaks true, our hero will need love to keep the world, his friends, and himself from losing magic forever.

About the Author:

Cecilia Tan is "simply one of the most important writers, editors, and innovators in contemporary American erotic literature," according to Susie Bright. RT Magazine awarded her Career Achievement in Erotic Romance in 2015 and their prestigious Pioneer Award. Tan's BDSM romance novel Slow Surrender (Hachette/Forever, 2013) also won the RT Reviewers Choice Award in Erotic Romance and the Maggie Award for Excellence from the Georgia Romance Writers chapter of RWA. She lives in the Boston area with her lifelong partner corwin and three cats. 

Website | Twitter

WFTM Podcast Episode 13: Because Boomerangs!

Due to a scheduling conflict, Leslie and Fernando recorded Episode 13 a day earlier than usual. They attempt to describe the first photos from American Horror Story: Hotel, discuss the finales of Syfy’s Defiance and Dark Matter, the start of CW Seed’s animated Vixen, whether episode 2 of Documentary Now changed Fernando’s mind about the series, being stuck in a dome for a year because of Mars, the first volume of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye (Because Boomerangs!), and much more.

Download it from the iTunes store here!

We’re now on Stitcher as well!! If Stitcher is your chosen app of podcasting choice, listen to the Working for the Mandroid podcast here

So what’s in Episode 13?

News:

First Pictures from American Horror Story: Hotel

Six People Were Just Sealed Into a Dome for a Year Because Mars.

First Image of Michael Fassbender in Assassin’s Creed Movie

Straight Outta Compton wins 3 straight week at box office:

What We’re Watching:

Documentary Now episode 2 – have Fernando’s feelings changed?

Dark Matter

Defiance

Vixen Episode 1

What We’re Reading:

Hawkeye Volume 1 by Matt Fraction and David Aja

School for Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough

What We Predict For the Next Week:

Fernando: He will love the season finale for Mr. Robot

Leslie: She will also love the season finale for Mr. Robot, love Gotham Academy Volume 1 by Becky Cloonan and Brendan Fletcher), and be driven notes by the slang in The Scorch Trials by James Dashner


Follow us on Twitter @WorkforMandroid and @fernborrego

Email your questions, concerns, thoughts and comments to WorkingfortheMandroid@gmail.com


Intro & Outro Music is “Robot Army” by Quiet Music for Tiny Robots, provided via freemusicarchive.org through a Creative Commons License

Review: Lazarus Volume 1: Family & Volume 2: Lift by Greg Rucka & Michael Lark

Lazarus Volume 1: Family
By Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Image Comics
Released October 9, 2013
106 pages
Comics / Dystopia / Badass Ladies

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

Eisner-winning team of Rucka and Lark's critically acclaimed new series about Forever Carlyle, the Lazarus of the Carlyle Family. 

In a dystopian near-future, government is a quaint concept, resources are coveted, and possession is 100% of the law. A handful of Families rule, jealously guarding what they have and exploiting the Waste who struggle to survive in their domains. Forever Carlyle defends her family's holdings through deception and force as their protector, their Lazarus. Shot dead defending the family home, Forever's day goes downhill from there...

Collects LAZARUS #1-4 and previously only-available-online, four-page short, "Family: Prelude.”

Lazarus Volume 2: Lift
By Greg Rucka and Michael Lark

Image Comics
Released June 24, 2014
106 pages
Comics / Dystopia / Badass Ladies

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

While Forever keeps watch on her sister Johanna, she finds hints of rebellion brewing in LA. 

At the same time, the Barrets, a family of "Waste," lose their home and land, and must pursue their only chance for a better life - a 500-mile journey to Denver in the hope that one of their family will be noticed by the Carlyles and "lifted" to Serf status. 

Collecting LAZARUS #5-9

I think Greg Rucka is solely responsible for getting me into comics as an adult, particularly superhero comics. I’d heard awesome things about his short run on Batwoman and took a chance. I adored it, not only for the badass action, but the subtle character moments that made Kate Kane a human besides a crazy vigilante. Also JH Williams III’s art was beyond mesmerizing. So I picked up some more comics. Some were hits, but many were misses, especially the ones revolving around a female protagonist.

But I could also go back to Greg Rucka and trust that he would make fully formed women, whether it be in Queen & Country or Lady Sabre & the Pirates of Ineffable Aether or something else. So I was really happy when our local comic book club picked a series of his I hadn’t ever read because it was still an on-going title and a fairly young one at that.

Lazarus takes place in a dystopian future where the world has been carved out amongst all-powerful families. These families control the world’s resources – money, food, transportation, the ability to better yourself in the world, everything. Each of the ruling families has a Lazarus, someone of the family who has been given genetic modifications to become the protector and bodyguard, maintaining the family’s security and power. Forever is the Lazarus of the Carlyle family, who controls all the land west of the Mississippi River and possibly the country’s food supplies.

Volume 1, titled Family, introduces use to Forever and her family of conniving siblings and her father. Forever is a strong woman, able to take on gangs of men in hand to hand combat, while also having a tactian’s head on her shoulders. She’s also near immortal, capable from recovering quickly from gunshot wounds and what would otherwise be mortal wounds. When her family’s seed storage is attacked, she’s tasked by her father to get to the bottom of it and make a deal to prevent future attacks, while some of her siblings have nefarious plans of their own.

The second volume, Lift, brings in a concurrent story line regarding a Waste family – poor farmers in the Midwest who lose everything to flooding. They travel hundreds of miles to attend a Lift ceremony hosted by the Carlyle family in hopes their children can obtain a better station in life. Meanwhile Forever is facing challenges to the family’s honor from the inside and out.

Michael Lark’s art brought the story to life for me. There’s entire spreads of fight sequences with no dialogue and no pesky sound effects. Rather than be lifeless, this lack of cheesy “Smacks”, “Kablaams” and “Whomps” made the images flow more freely for me, turning these sequences into silent movies in my head. It’s not often I read an action comic where I can read it so quickly because the words and the art merge so seamlessly into one another.

The world building Lazarus is a bit sparse in these first two volumes, though a lot of extra material seems to be in the omnibus version, including a time line of how the world got this way. I hope to see that additional information built into future volumes though because it’s an interest political situation that Rucka has created that could have rich story telling through flashbacks. Meanwhile the plot of these two volumes zips by and makes me want more. The characters are compelling, though some of the Carlyle children are a bit difficult to tell apart (though possibly on purpose).

Forever is a badass, but flashbacks to her childhood add great depth and emotion to her as a person. She’s not an adroit killing machine, despite implications that she might not be completely biologically created. In a short time, she feels fully formed, but still with a lot of mystery to who she truly is. Some of her decisions seem a little strange, but I have confidence that Rucka has his reasons rather than just for convenience of plot.

Lazarus is a definite winner for anyone that enjoys comics about women who are three dimension with emotions while still kicking ass. These first two volumes are quick reads with intriguing characters and I definitely look forward to reading more about them and this brutal world that they live in.

Review: A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge

A Fire Upon the Deep
Vernon Vinge

Tor Books
430 pages
Science Fiction / Space / Aliens

Find it on Goodreads

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indie Bound

A Fire upon the Deep is the big, breakout book that fulfills the promise of Vinge's career to date: a gripping tale of galactic war told on a cosmic scale.
Thousands of years hence, many races inhabit a universe where a mind's potential is determined by its location in space, from superintelligent entities in the Transcend, to the limited minds of the Unthinking Depths, where only simple creatures and technology can function. Nobody knows what strange force partitioned space into these "regions of thought," but when the warring Straumli realm use an ancient Transcendent artifact as a weapon, they unwittingly unleash an awesome power that destroys thousands of worlds and enslaves all natural and artificial intelligence.
Fleeing the threat, a family of scientists, including two children, are taken captive by the Tines, an alien race with a harsh medieval culture, and used as pawns in a ruthless power struggle. A rescue mission, not entirely composed of humans, must rescue the children-and a secret that may save the rest of interstellar civilization.

If you’ve listened to any of the last three episodes of the Working for the Mandroid podcast, you’ve probably already heard about how much I did not like this book. Perhaps I wasn’t in the mindset to read a densely written and oddly plotted sci-fi adventure mixed with weird medieval alien worlds. Or maybe there was never a time that I would have enjoyed this entirely too long novel.

A Fire Upon the Deep is two stories in one: that of two children who find themselves captives of an alien race on a distant planet, caught between two warring clans in a medieval style war, and another story of a woman traveling across the universe in an attempt to get the one thing that will destroy a catastrophic being before it devours half the galaxy while facing obstacle after obstacle trying to stop her. Either of these stories could have been interesting on their own, but smooshing them together made the story feel unfocused as it meandered to the point that the big frightening catastrophic being became much of an afterthought halfway through the book.

I was so unengaged with this book that I honestly can’t remember many of the characters’ names, including the main ones. None of them are very dynamic or become much more than one dimensional place holders for more interesting people. By the end, when the big battle occurred, they could have all died in a firy crash and I would have been happy the book was finally over. I never cared about anyone, especially not the dog-like packs of animals that were the main alien race on the medieval style world. They all had very similar voices with the exception of one or two that I had difficulty telling them apart.

Large plot points that attempted to seem significant could have been removed whole sale with little effect on the end results of the story, which is partly because the big bad sentient something or other was sidelined so early on. I kept expecting events that seemed like set up for bigger turns in plot to result in something, only for more nothing to happen.

There is one compelling scene when Relay, a base built through anti-grav material above the atmosphere of a distant planet, starts to disintegrate. I began to have home for this story, but as that action sequence came to a conclusion, more nothing returned. The final battle was mildly interesting, but ended with multiple whimpers. The rest just made me fall asleep. I honestly could barely make it 20 pages in this book at a time before I found myself nodding off, which is not something that usually happens to me.

Other members of my book club found elements of A Fire Upon the Deep to enjoy, but I found this book to be an incredible disappointment and a general waste of time that made me not want to read at all. That’s not even mentioning how confusing the beginning of this book is because Vinge decides to wait several chapters before explaining his complex alien creatures (who all have multiple bodies though he doesn’t explain that up front so I floundered trying to figure out what the heck was going on), only to then go into far too much detail with pages upon pages of information about alien anthropology. This might appeal to someone with far more patience for dry world building and willingness to overlook unnecessary plot lines that might take several books to come to any fruitful conclusion. That, however, is not me, so I’m going to pretend that I’ve never heard of this book and move on.