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Friday, January 13, 2012

Haul of Books 2012: Books Received Vol. 1 (Post-Christmas Edition)

Everything you see below are books (and a movie) I got over Christmas, whether as presents or through spending my Christmas money.  Needless to say, I bought a lot of stuff.

Before you check out the books, though, I've got a few questions:
  1. What did you get for Christmas (or your particular winter holiday)?
  2. Which of the following books sound interesting to you?
Feel free to leave a comment with your answers.

Here goes (warning:  there's a lot of stuff in this post):
Mendoza in Hollywood by Kage Baker (Eos)
This is the third novel in what has become one of the most popular series in contemporary SF, now back in print from Tor. In the 24th century, the Company preserves works of art and extinct forms of life, for profit, of course. It recruits orphans from the past, renders them all but immortal, and trains them to serve the Company, Dr. Zeus. One of these is Mendoza the botanist. The death of her lover has been followed by centuries of heartbreak. She spends a period of time in early twentieth century Hollywood in the days of D.W. Griffith, and then Mendoza is in the midst of the Civil War, and runs into a man that looks disturbingly similar to her lost love. She is about to find love again, and be in more trouble than she could ever have imagined.
Synecdoche, New York directed by Charlie Kaufman (Sony Pictures Classics)
From Charlie Kaufman, comes a visual and philosophic adventure, Synechdoche, New York. As he did with his groundbreaking scripts for Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kaufman twists and subverts form and language as he delves into the mind of a man who, obsessed with his own mortality, sets out to construct a massive artistic enterprise that could give some meaning to his life. Theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is mounting a new play. His life catering to suburban blue-hairs at the local regional theater in Schenectady, New York is looking bleak. His wife Adele (Catherine Keener) has left him to pursue her painting in Berlin, taking their young daughter Olive with her. His therapist, Madeleine Gravis (Hope Davis), is better at plugging her best-seller than she is at counseling him. A new relationship with the alluringly candid Hazel (Samantha Morton) has prematurely run aground. And a mysterious condition is systematically shutting down each of his autonomic functions, one by one. Worried about the transience of his life, he leaves his home behind. He gathers an ensemble cast into a warehouse in New York City, hoping to create a work of brutal honesty. He directs them in a celebration of the mundane, instructing each to live out their constructed lives in a growing mockup of the city outside. The years rapidly fold into each other, and Caden buries himself deeper into his masterpiece, but the textured tangle of real and theatrical relationships blurs the line between the world of the play and that of Caden's own deteriorating reality. 
Slow River by Nicola Griffith (Del Rey)
She awoke in an alley to the splash of rain. She was naked, a foot-long gash in her back was still bleeding, and her identity implant was gone. Lore Van Oesterling had been the daughter of one of the world's most powerful families...and now she was nobody, and she had to hide. 
Then out of the rain walked Spanner, predator and thief, who took her in, cared for her wound, and taught her how to reinvent herself again and again. No one could find Lore now: not the police, not her family, and not the kidnappers who had left her in that alley to die. She had escaped...but the cost of her newfound freedom was crime and deception, and she paid it over and over again, until she had become someone she loathed. 
Lore had a choice: She could stay in the shadows, stay with Spanner...and risk losing herself forever. Or she could leave Spanner and find herself again by becoming someone else: stealing the identity implant of a dead woman, taking over her life, and creating a new future. 
But to start again, Lore required Spanner's talents--Spanner, who needed her and hated her, and who always had a price. And even as Lore agreed to play Spanner's game one final time, she found that there was still the price of being a Van Oesterling to be paid. Only by confronting her family, her past, and her own demons could Lore meld together who she had once been, who she had become, and the person she intended to be... 
A Practical Guide to Racism by C. H. Dalton (Gotham Books)
A look at the races of the world by a lovable bigot, capturing the proud history and bright future of racism in one handy, authoritative, and deeply offensive volume! 
Meet “C. H. Dalton,” a professor of racialist studies and an expert on inferior people of all ethnicities, genders, religions, and sexual preferences. Presenting evidence that everyone should be hated, A Practical Guide to Racism contains sparkling bits of wisdom on such subjects as: 
The good life enjoyed by blacks, who shuffle through life unhindered by the white man’s burdens, to become accomplished athletes, rhyme smiths, and dominoes champions 
The sad story of the industrious, intelligent Jews, whose entire reputation is sullied by their taste for the blood of Christian babies
A close look at the bizarre, sweet-smelling race known as “women,” who are not very good at anything—especially ruling the free world 
A crucial manual to Arabs, a people so sensitive they are liable to blow up at any time. Literally. 
Including a comprehensive glossary of timeless epithets, with hundreds of pejorative words for everyone from Phoenicians to Jews, A Practical Guide to Racism is an essential field guide for our multicultural world. 
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (Riverhead Books)
After more than 189 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list for The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini returns with a beautiful, riveting, and haunting novel that confirms his place as one of the most important literary writers today. 
Propelled by the same superb instinct for storytelling that made The Kite Runner a beloved classic, A Thousand Splendid Suns is at once an incredible chronicle of thirty years of Afghan history and a deeply moving story of family, friendship, faith, and the salvation to be found in love. 
Born a generation apart and with very different ideas about love and family, Mariam and Laila are two women brought jarringly together by war, by loss and by fate. As they endure the ever escalating dangers around them-in their home as well as in the streets of Kabul-they come to form a bond that makes them both sisters and mother-daughter to each other, and that will ultimately alter the course not just of their own lives but of the next generation. With heart-wrenching power and suspense, Hosseini shows how a woman's love for her family can move her to shocking and heroic acts of self-sacrifice, and that in the end it is love, or even the memory of love, that is often the key to survival. 
A stunning accomplishment, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love .
The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith (Anchor Books)
In the life of Precious Ramotswe–a woman duly proud of her fine traditional build–there is rarely a dull moment, and in the latest installment in the universally beloved No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series there is much happening on Zebra Drive and Tlokweng Road. Mma Ramotswe is experiencing staffing difficulties. First Mr. J.L.B. Mate-koni asks to be put in charge of a case involving an errant husband. But can a man investigate such matters as successfully as the number one lady detective can? Then she has a minor falling-out with her assistant, Mma Makutsi, who decides to leave the agency, taking the 97 percent she received on her typing final from the Botswana Secretarial College with her.
Along the way, Mma Ramotswe is asked to investigate a couple of tricky cases. Will she be able to explain an unexpected series of deaths at the hospital in Mochudi? And what about the missing office supplies at a local printing company? These are the types of questions that she is uniquely well suited to answer.
In the end, whatever happens, Mma Ramotswe knows she can count on Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni, who stands for all that is solid and true in a shifting world. And there is always her love for Botswana, a country of which she is justifiably proud.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (Perennial Classics)
One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston's beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston's masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published -- perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African American literature.
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy (Vintage)
Now a major motion picture from Columbia Pictures starring Matt Damon, produced by Mike Nichols, and directed by Billy Bob Thornton.
The national bestseller and the first volume in Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, All the Pretty Horses is the tale of John Grady Cole, who at sixteen finds himself at the end of a long line of Texas ranchers, cut off from the only life he has ever imagined for himself. With two companions, he sets off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes comic journey to a place where dreams are paid for in blood. Winner of the National Book Award for Fiction.
The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks (Night Shade Books)
It is 4034 AD. Humanity has made it to the stars. Fassin Taak, a Slow Seer at the Court of the Nasqueron Dwellers, will be fortunate if he makes it to the end of the year. The Nasqueron Dwellers inhabit a gas giant on the outskirts of the galaxy, in a system awaiting its wormhole connection to the rest of civilization. In the meantime, they are dismissed as decadents living in a state of highly developed barbarism, hoarding data without order, hunting their own young and fighting pointless formal wars. Seconded to a military-religious order he's barely heard of - part of the baroque hierarchy of the Mercatoria, the latest galactic hegemony - Fassin Taak has to travel again amongst the Dwellers. He is in search of a secret hidden for half a billion years. But with each day that passes a war draws closer - a war that threatens to overwhelm everything and everyone he's ever known.
Man Faces Extra-Terrestrial Life in Contact edited by Noel Keyes (Paperback Library)
We may not longer be alone in the universe -- perhaps we never have been... 
The ultimate possibility -- that life exists beyond Earth -- is no longer a fantasy but the subject of scientific experimentation.  Humans and extra-terrestrials beings may be making contact today -- certainly tomorrow. 
The first, explosive, grappling instant encounter between Man and Alien is the subject of this extraodrinary journey of man's imagination into the unknown, by the masters of Science Fiction:  Ray Bradbury, Harry Walton, Robert Sheckley, Murray Leinster, Ian Williamson, Howard Koch, Fredric Brown, Fritz Leiber, Peter Philips, Howard Fast, Clifford D. Simak, and Isaac Asimov.
The Jewels of Aptor by Samuel R. Delany (Ace)
One of the most universally acclaimed first novels in science fiction--by the man who become one of the most stellar writers in the genre's history. On the orders of Argo, the White Goddess, an itinerant poet and his three companions journey to the island of Aptor. Their mission: to seize a jewel from the dark god Hama and bring it back home. With this precious stone Argo may defeat the malign forces gathered against her and the land of Leptor. But, as the group presses deep into the enigmatic heart of Aptor, easy distinctions between good and evil blur, and somehow the task seems less straightforward. For Argo already owns two of the jewels, and possession of the third would give her unqualified power.
And, as the four friends already know, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Only Revolutions by Mark Z. Danielewski (Pantheon)
Sam: They were with us before Romeo & Juliet. And long after too. Because they’re forever around. Or so both claim, carolling gleefully: We’re allways sixteen. Sam & Hailey, powered by an ever-rotating fleet of cars, from Model T to Lincoln Continental, career from the Civil War to the Cold War, barrelling down through the Appalachians, up the Mississippi River, across the Badlands, finally cutting a nation in half as they try to outrace History itself. By turns beguiling and gripping, finally worldwrecking, Only Revolutions is unlike anything ever published before, a remarkable feat of heart and intellect, moving us with the journey of two kids, perpetually of summer, perpetually sixteen, who give up everything except each other.
Hailey: They were with us before Tristan & Isolde. And long after too. Because they’re forever around. Or so both claim, gleefully carolling: We’re allways sixteen. Hailey & Sam, powered by an ever-rotating fleet of cars, from Shelby Mustang to Sumover Linx, careen from the Civil Rights Movement to the Iraq War, tearing down to New Orleans, up the Mississippi River, across Montana, finally cutting a nation in half as they try to outrace History itself. By turns enticing and exhilarating, finally breathtaking, Only Revolutions is unlike anything ever conceived before, a remarkable feat of heart and intellect, moving us with the journey of two kids, perpetually of summer, perpetually sixteen, who give up everything except each other.
Alone Against Tomorrow by Harlan Ellison (MacMillan)
Third printing (1976) paperback. This is a 1971 collection of stories from this winner of more awards for imaginative literature than any other living author - including multiple Hugos, Nebulas and Edgars. CONTENTS: Introduction: The Song of the Soul (1970); I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1967); The Discarded (1959); Deeper Than the Darkness (1957); Blind Lightning (1956); All the Sounds of Fear (1962); The Silver Corridor (1956); "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman (1965); Bright Eyes (1965); Are You Listening? (1958); Try a Dull Knife (1968); In Lonely Lands (1959); Eyes of Dust (1959); Nothing for My Noon Meal (1958); O Ye of Little Faith (1968); The Time of the Eye (1959); Life Hutch (1956); The Very Last Day of a Good Woman (1958); Night Vigil (1957); Lonelyache (1964); Pennies, Off a Dead Man's Eyes (1969).
Viewpoints Critical by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (Tor)
This is the first story collection ever from bestselling fantasy and science fiction writer L. E. Modesitt, Jr. Modesitt began publishing short fiction in the SF magazines in the 1970s, and this collection includes a selection of stories from the whole of his career. Some of the early stories are kernels for his early SF novels, others display the wide range of his talents and interests, from satire to military adventure.
This book also contains three new stories that have never been published before: “Black Ordermage,” set in Modesitt’s bestselling Recluce series; “Beyond the Obvious Wind,” set in his Corean Chronicles universe; and “Always Outside the Lines,” which is related to the Ghost of Columbia books. Viewpoints Critical is an excellent introduction to the work of one of the major SF and fantasy writers publishing today.
Book of Secrets by Chris Roberson (Angry Robot Books)
Reporter Spencer Finch is a journalist embroiled in the hunt for a missing book, encountering along the way cat burglars and mobsters, hackers and mysterious monks. At the same time, he's trying to make sense of the legacy left him by his late grandfather, a chest of what appear to be pulp magazines from the golden age of fantasy fiction. Following his nose, Finch gradually uncovers a mystery involving a lost Greek play, secret societies, generations of masked vigilantes - and an entire hidden history of mankind. It's like The Da Vinci Code retold by the Coen brothers in this blockbuster blur.
The World House by Guy Adams (Angry Robot Books)
Combining the puzzle box of Hellraiser with the explorartion of Tad Williams' Otherland series, this is the perfect blend of fantasy and adventure, an exceptional modern fantasy debut.
In some rooms, forests grow. In others, animals and objects come to life. Elsewhere, secrets and treasures wait for the brave and foolhardy.
And at the very top of the house, a prisoner sits behind a locked door waiting for a key to turn. The day that happens, the world will end...
Reality 36 by Guy Haley (Angry Robot Books)
SOMETHING IS AMISS IN THE RENEGADE DIGITAL REALM OF REALITY 36. Richards - a Level 5 AI with a PI fetish - and his partner, a decommissioned German military cyborg, are on the trail of a murderer, but the killer has hidden inside an artificial reality. Richards and Klein must stop him before he becomes a god - for the good of all the realms.
The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar (Angry Robot Books)
A masked terrorist has brought London to its knees -- there are bombs inside books, and nobody knows which ones. On the day of the launch of the first expedition to Mars, by giant cannon, he outdoes himself with an audacious attack.
For young poet Orphan, trapped in the screaming audience, it seems his destiny is entwined with that of the shadowy terrorist, but how? His quest to uncover the truth takes him from the hidden catacombs of London on the brink of revolution, through pirate-infested seas, to the mysterious island that may hold the secret to the origin not only of the shadowy Bookman, but of Orphan himself...
Like a steam-powered take on V for Vendetta, rich with satire and slashed through with automatons, giant lizards, pirates, airships and wild adventure. The Bookman is the first of a series.
City of Dreams and Nightmare by Ian Whates (Angry Robot Books)
City of Dreams & Nightmare is the first in a series of novels set in one of the most extraordinary fantasy settings since Gormenghast - the ancient vertical city of Thaiburley. From its towering palatial heights to the dregs who dwell in The City Below, this is a vast, multi-tiered metropolis, and demons are said to dwell in the Upper Heights...
Having witnessed a murder in a part of the city he should never have been in, street thief Tom has to run for his life. Down through the vast city he is pursued by sky-borne assassins, sinister Kite Guards, and agents of a darker force intent on destabilising the whole city. Accused of the crime, he must use all of his knowledge of this ancient city to flee a certain death; his only ally is Kat, a renegade like him, but she has secrets of her own...
Embedded by Dan Abnett (Angry Robot Books)
HE'D DO ANYTHING TO GET A STORY. When journalist Lex Falk gets himself chipped into the brain of a combat soldier, he thinks he has the ultimate scoop - a report from the forbidden front line of a distant planetary war, live to the living rooms of Earth. When the soldier is killed, however, Lex has to take over the body and somehow get himself back to safety once more... broadcasting all the way.
Heart-stopping combat science fiction from the million-selling Warhammer 40,000 author.
Nemesis Worm by Guy Haley (Angry Robot Books)
A standalone novella featuring the 22nd century's greatest detectives, The Nemesis Worm sees Richards & Klein involved in another high stakes investigation. Corpses are showing up all over Old London, and the finger of suspicion points right at Richards himself. Forced to clear his name, Richards and Otto uncover a fanatical group whose actions threaten the relationship between human and AI with destruction.
Way of Shadows by Brent Weeks (Orbit)
For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art-and he is the city's most accomplished artist.
For Azoth, survival is precarious. Something you never take for granted. As a guild rat, he's grown up in the slums, and learned to judge people quickly - and to take risks. Risks like apprenticing himself to Durzo Blint.
But to be accepted, Azoth must turn his back on his old life and embrace a new identity and name. As Kylar Stern, he must learn to navigate the assassins' world of dangerous politics and strange magics - and cultivate a flair for death.
Child of Fire by Harry Connolly (Random House)
Ray Lilly is living on borrowed time. He's the driver for Annalise Powliss, a high-ranking member of the Twenty Palace Society, a group of sorcerers devoted to hunting down and executing rogue magicians. But because Ray betrayed her once, Annalise is looking for an excuse to kill him-or let someone else do the job.
Unfortunately for both of them, Annalise's next mission goes wrong, leaving her critically injured. With the little magic he controls, Ray must complete her assignment alone. Not only does he have to stop a sorcerer who's sacrificing dozens of innocent lives in exchange for supernatural power, he must find-and destroy-the source of that inhuman magic.
Child of Fire was named to Publishers Weekly's list of Best 100 Books of 2009.
Shaman's Crossing by Robin Hobb (HarperCollins)
Nevare Burvelle was destined from birth to be a soldier. The second son of a newly anointed nobleman, he must endure the rigors of military training at the elite King's Cavella Academy—and survive the hatred, cruelty, and derision of his aristocratic classmates—before joining the King of Gernia's brutal campaign of territorial expansion. The life chosen for him will be fraught with hardship, for he must ultimately face a forest-dwelling folk who will not submit easily to a king's tyranny. And they possess an ancient magic their would-be conquerors have long discounted—a powerful sorcery that threatens to claim Nevare Burvelle's soul and devastate his world once the Dark Evening brings the carnival to Old Thares.
Rides a Dread Legion by Raymond E. Feist (HarperCollins)

The remnants of the Clan of the Seven Stars are returning to their long abandoned homeworld . . . but not as friends. The elves, led by the conjurer Laromendis, flee the relentless demon hordes sweeping through their galaxy—and the conquest of war-weary Midkemia is the Clan's sole hope for survival . . . if the Dread Legion does not pursue them through the rift.
The magician Pug knows what horrors will surely follow the elven invasion, for slaughter alone will sate Demon King Maarg's minions. For the death tide to be turned, Midkemia's constant defender must somehow unite bitter foes and vengeful former lovers—because failure to do so will mean annihilation.
Den of Thieves by David Chandler (HarperCollins)
Born and raised in the squalid depths of the Free City of Ness, Malden became a thief by necessity. Now he must pay a fortune to join the criminal operation of Cutbill, lord of the underworld—and one does not refuse the master . . . and live.
The coronet of the Burgrave would fulfill Malden’s obligations, though it is guarded by hungry demons that would tear the soul from any interloper. But the desperate endeavor leads to a more terrible destiny, as Malden, an outlaw knight, and an ensorcelled lady must face the most terrifying evil in the land.
Heir of Night by Helen Lowe (HarperCollins)
If Night falls, all fall . . .
In the far north of the world of Haarth lies the bitter mountain range known as the Wall of Night. Garrisoned by the Nine Houses of the Derai, the Wall is the final bastion between the peoples of Haarth and the Swarm of Dark—which the Derai have been fighting across worlds and time.
Malian, Heir to the House of Night, knows the history of her people: the unending war with the Darkswarm; the legendary heroes, blazing with long-lost power; the internal strife that has fractured the Derai's former strength. But now the Darkswarm is rising again, and Malian's destiny as Heir of Night is bound inextricably to both ancient legend and any future the Derai—or Haarth—may have.
Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey (HarperCollins)
Life sucks, then you die. Period.
Unless you're James Stark, a hitman in Hell for eleven years before escaping back up to Hell-on-earth L.A.—looking for revenge, absolution . . . love, maybe.
But Hell's not through with Stark.Heaven's not either.
Earth Strike by Ian Douglas (HarperCollins)
The first book in the epic saga of humankind's war of transcendence
There is a milestone in the evolution of every sentient race, a Tech Singularity Event, when the species achieves transcendence through its technological advances. Now the creatures known as humans are near this momentous turning point.
But an armed threat is approaching from deepest space, determined to prevent humankind from crossing over that boundary—by total annihilation if necessary.
To the Sh'daar, the driving technologies of transcendent change are anathema and must be obliterated from the universe—along with those who would employ them. As their great warships destroy everything in their path en route to the Sol system, the human Confederation government falls into dangerous disarray. There is but one hope, and it rests with a rogue Navy Admiral, commander of the kilometer-long star carrier America, as he leads his courageous fighters deep into enemy space towards humankind's greatest conflict—and quite possibly its last.
And there you go!  Phew...

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