Tag: Rachel Neumeier


Farewell to Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A

Posted 20 June, 2014 by Nikki in General, Giveaways / 60 Comments

I was really sad and shocked today when I was scrolling through twitter and saw this sudden announcement from Angry Robot:

As you will be aware, Angry Robot Books has a history of innovation and we continue to go from strength to strength. We’re constantly trying out new concepts and new ideas, and we continue to publish popular and award-winning books. Our YA imprint Strange Chemistry and our crime/mystery imprint Exhibit A have – due mainly to market saturation – unfortunately been unable to carve out their own niches with as much success.

We have therefore made the difficult decision to discontinue Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, effective immediately, and no further titles will be published from these two imprints.

A few links:
The announcement
A former intern’s farewell
Gwenda Bond’s reaction post
Kim Curran’s post
The Bookseller’s article
The Bookseller reports on potential sales from Osprey
Commentary from Fantasy Faction
Kameron Hurley’s post
Sean Cummings’ post
Laura Lam’s post
Laura Lam giveaway (INT)
Rachel Neumeier’s post
Strange Chemistry book giveaway (INT)
Blog hop

That’s not all that’s out there by a long shot, but that should give everyone an idea of the fanbase those imprints had out there, and how shocking the news was for everyone. I’ve been a fan of Angry Robot and everything they do for a while, especially since I won the Robot for a Day competition (where I met the staff and the blogger who was at that point their intern, Leah @ Uncorked Thoughts). I have a huge backlog of their stuff to read, from all three imprints, but I think I might spend this weekend finally getting round to books by Kim Curran, Laura Lam, Gwenda Bond, etc.

The good news is, the books already published will still be supported by Angry Robot, and rights for future books are reverting to the authors. The bad news is that various books that were slated to come out in the next few months won’t be, some series aren’t going to be finished (at least not with Strange Chemistry), and some authors don’t know where they can go next.

I’m going to follow the example of one of the posts linked above and do a giveaway of some of my favourite Strange Chemistry books. Comment with which you want to be entered for, and I’ll pick at random on the 1st July. You can enter for multiple books, but you will only win one. If you would prefer ebooks, we can probably arrange something, but the idea is that I will buy copies via The Book Depository and send them straight to you. I want to encourage new readers to get their mitts on these books and generate some buzz that might help the authors place future books with publishers! And yes, this is international.

So, without further ado, the giveaways:

  • Martha Wells, Emilie & The Hollow World.
  • Sean Cummings, Poltergeeks.
  • Rachel Neumeier, Black Dog.
  • Cassandra Rose Clarke, The Assassin’s Curse.
  • Winner’s choice of any book from Strange Chemistry or Exhibit A.

And honestly? I wish it could be more. I have so much sympathy with all the authors and staff affected. Let’s give them a good send off!

ETA: So, the winners! Grace won Emilie & the Hollow World; majoline won Poltergeeks; Erin won Black Dog; ameliazane won The Assassin’s Curse; Jessica won the winner’s choice (and chose Gwenda Bond’s Blackwood). All of them have been emailed and all of them responded already, so the books have been ordered and are en route.

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Review – Black Dog

Posted 28 March, 2014 by Nikki in Reviews / 0 Comments

Cover of Black Dog, by Rachel NeumeierBlack Dog, Rachel Neumeier

I quite liked this one. I had the author on my blog for a blog tour post a while ago, here, and I was sure I’d finish this in no time. But, life happened, I got a job, and this lingered tantalisingly on my Kobo, just waiting for me to finish it off and put together my thoughts.

So, I originally requested it because of the comparisons to Robin McKinley’s Sunshine, which I think are actually fairly apt. It has an interesting take on werewolf mythology, in the same way that McKinley did something a bit different with her vampires, and a magic system and world building that work well together. There’s even hints of a magic-related disaster where vampires run amok.

But, it’s also got an intriguing cast of characters who, gasp, are not all white. Natividad and her brothers are great, and their relationship seems more important than the other relationships in the book. Natividad doesn’t automatically fall for Tall, Dark and Sexy, and in fact there’s a lot of issues around that which have to be worked out.

My only problem with Black Dog is that I did have trouble picking it back up once I put it down. It builds tension well, but it’s hard to jump back in at that point when you’ve been busy. It then starts to feel quite slow. Still, very enjoyable and, importantly, something a bit different. I don’t know about the YA label — goodness knows I hardly ever agree with people about that — but it’s a good story.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 6 February, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
The Universe Versus Alex Woods, which made me cry. It starts off misleadingly quirky, and then I went and fell in love with it, and the ideas it articulates. I almost want it to be a surprise in the same way for everyone who reads it (if you’d like the surprise, don’t read my review), because I love the way it developed. I’ve got to keep an eye out for Gavin Extence’s other work.

What are you currently reading?
I still haven’t finished reading Rachel Neumeier’s Black Dog. When I do read it, I’m biting it off in big chunks, but I don’t just want to nibble at it — which is hard, when I’ve had a lot of work on, and nibbling books are what I need at the moment.

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings, by Caspar Henderson, is my currently ‘nibbling’ book, though I’m nearly finished with it. It’s a type of modern bestiary, which I think has confused lots of people who expected something encyclopaedic and mostly scientific, whereas this draws from the medieval tradition of articulating philosophical/moral concepts through talking about mythical/little-known creatures.

I’m also reading The Iron Wyrm Affair, by Lilith Saintcrow, which is so far too blatantly drawing on the Sherlock Holmes tradition for me to be too interested, although it does feature a female main character who seems to have a fair amount of agency and power without being perfect, so we’ll see how that goes on.

What do you think you’ll read next?
I have Secret Chambers, by Martin Brasier, next on my pile. I’m in a non-fiction mood at the moment, so that’s been calling me. Also maybe Cosmos, by Carl Sagan, because of my astrobiology and astronomy classes.

Fiction-wise, I should just be working on my backlog of books/series started and not yet finished. The Assassin’s Curse, by Cassandra Rose Clarke, is next on my pile in that sense.

And now I’m going to go off and draw for the winner of my giveaway for Black Dog!

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Rachel Neumeier Blog Tour!

Posted 30 January, 2014 by Nikki in Giveaways, Interviews / 9 Comments

Cover of Black Dog, by Rachel NeumeierI’ve been a supporter/fan of Angry Robot and their sister companies, Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A, since… well, early on, really. So I’m glad that the second author I get to host here on this blog is Strange Chemistry’s Rachel Neumeier, promoting her new book, Black Dog. I haven’t finished reading it yet, but my review will be coming up soon: for now I’ll just say I’m intrigued by the Mexican-American heroes and heroine, and I think Neumeier is doing something fascinating and new here.

Anyway, I came up with a whole list of topics Rachel Neumeier might like to post about. I’ll let her introduce herself now!

“Thank you, Nikki, for inviting me to post at The Bibliophibian – it’s a pleasure to be here!

I liked the idea of picking out a Top Ten list of werewolves, but quickly discovered that ten was beyond me . . . I simply haven’t read enough UF or paranormal to manage a top ten list, yet.  I know that’s kind of shocking. I haven’t read anything by Eileen Wilks yet – though I want to, and have her first book on my Kindle.  I haven’t read Nalini Singh.  I’ve heard great things about NIGHTSHIFTED by Cassie Alexander, but I just haven’t found the time, yet.

I will say, any werewolf story that is more horror than fantasy isn’t likely to make my Top Ten list.  I like the modern shapeshifters of urban fantasy and paranormal much better than the old-fashioned horrific werewolves.

Let me start with werewolves and then move on to other shapeshifters – including at least two that I bet have never before appeared on “best shapeshifter” lists, though they totally qualify.

Okay, I discovered my all-time favorite werewolves in MOON CALLED by Patricia Briggs.  And my favorite little coyote, too, of course.  I totally fell in love with Bran Cornick not to mention Samuel and Charles.  And Adam, of course.  Scarily competent always works for me.

It’s hard to overstate how important the Mercy Thompson series was to me – without this series, it’s very unlikely I would ever have written BLACK DOG.  I would have stuck to straight secondary fantasy and maybe branchedCover of Iron Kissed, by Patricia Briggs out into SF, but UF or paranormal?  Very unlikely.

Is it cheating to pick two books in the same series?  But it’s my favorite series, so I think I will go with it.  IRON KISSED, the third Mercy Thompson book, is a really powerful story and made me really love Ben as a character.

Even though I haven’t even begun to read All The Things, I think the best wolves in UF/Paranormal are probably found in BITTEN, by Kelly Armstrong.  I don’t mind when werewolves don’t act a bit like real wolves no matter what form they’re in – but I am not so keen on werewolves that are supposed to act like real wolves, but don’t.  I really love the way the werewolves in Armstrong’s series act so much like real wolves when they are in wolf form.  Armstrong does by far the best job of capturing the playfulness and joie de verve of wolves.

The very first werewolf book I ever read was BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE by Annette Curtis Klause.  This story hits all the werewolf tropes – and it does it very well, too.  It’s easy to get pulled along by the new, shiny titles as they hit the shelves, and of course we all have ever-expanding TBR piles – but this one is well worth looking up.

I’ve read other werewolf stories, of course, but none that would make a Top Ten list.  Instead, I’m going to expand the parameters to other kinds of shapeshifters and see if I can fill out the rest of a Top Ten list that way.

And that leads me to an obvious choice, because, hey, Ilona Andrews!  For me, the Kate Daniels series did not hit its stride until the third book, MAGIC STRIKES.  Everyone insisted I should keep going, and I’m glad I did, because with the third book, everything pulled together and the series stepped up from “okay” to “can’t miss.”  Now Ilona Andrews Cover of Magic Strikes, by Ilona Andrewsis an auto-buy author (s) for me.  Because, Kate!  And Curren!  And their amazing chemistry.  Everyone needs to read this whole series just so they can appreciate the “Oh, sorry, we broke your rock,” line in MAGIC RISES.  There are probably other werelions out there, but I bet no one else does it as well as Ilona Andrews.  And, of course, there are also some fine werewolves in this series as well.

Another story which has werewolves, but I love the cat better, is DEFINITELY DEAD by Charlaine Harris.  Quinn!  I can’t even imagine.  What an amazing creature a weretiger must be.  I was sorry it didn’t work out between him and Sookie.

There are no werewolves at all in WAR FOR THE OAKS by Emma Bull, but every single person who loves UF should give this one, published in 2004, a try.  Because the Pooka is amazing.  And, hey, a Pooka who turns into a big, shaggy, black dog is sort of werewolf-like, right?

While we’re on the subject of black dogs, the ones in Deb Coates’ DEEP DOWN are not shapeshifters, so they don’t count.  Yet this is an UF . . . well, a rural fantasy . . . that readers who love the genre might not want to miss.  The black dogs in this one are not a bit like mine, being instead the classical harbingers of death.  If you’re the sort of person who can see ghosts, you may find these black dogs following you around and chatting with you, which may be a bit disconcerting.

Returning to shapeshifters, but departing from anything even vague dog-like, one of my favorite shapeshifters in fantasy is found in THE GREY HORSE by RA MacAvoy.  You will surely have no trouble guessing what kind of shapeshifter we find in this story, a beautiful, quiet fantasy first published back in 1987, set in Ireland.  I’m delighted to see that this one is now available on Kindle, though I have to say, I definitely preferred the original cover.Cover of Dun Lady's Jess by Doranna Durgin

And, while we’re on the subject of shapeshifter stories that also make the horse lovers among us happy, DUN LADY’S JESS by Doranna Durgin approaches the concept of shapechanging from the other direction:  a horse that is turned into a woman.  This story is actually a portal fantasy, clever and beautifully written, and anyone who ever went through a horse-crazy period (or is still horse-crazy now) should definitely look it up.

And that’s ten!  Werewolves, werelions and weretigers, pookas and black dogs, and a couple of wonderful horses:  a shapeshifter menagerie.  At the moment, I don’t plan to ever write shapeshifter stories set in any world other than that of BLACK DOG – but who can say?

Thanks to Rachel Neumeier for stopping by on her blog tour. Don’t forget to check out her site, and if you’re interested in Black Dog but haven’t got your hands on it yet, I’m doing a giveaway! Just use the Rafflecopter linked below to enter, and I’ll contact you if you’re the lucky one!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

And in case you’re not sure, here’s a summary:

Natividad is Pure, one of the rare girls born able to wield magic. Pure magic can protect humans against the supernatural evils they only half-acknowledge – the blood kin or the black dogs. In rare cases – like for Natividad’s father and older brother – Pure magic can help black dogs find the strength to control their dark powers.

But before Natividad’s mother can finish teaching her magic their enemies find them. Their entire village in the remote hills of Mexico is slaughtered by black dogs. Their parents die protecting them. Natividad and her brothers must flee across a strange country to the only possible shelter: the infamous black dogs of Dimilioc, who have sworn to protect the Pure.

In the snowy forests of Vermont they are discovered by Ezekiel Korte, despite his youth the strongest black dog at Dimilioc and the appointed pack executioner. Intrigued by Natividad he takes them to Dimilioc instead of killing them.

Now they must pass the tests of the Dimilioc Master. Alejandro must prove he can learn loyalty and control even without his sister’s Pure magic. Natividad’s twin Miguel must prove that an ordinary human can be more than a burden to be protected. And even at Dimilioc a Pure girl like Natividad cannot remain unclaimed to cause fighting and distraction. If she is to stay she must choose a black dog mate.

But, first, they must all survive the looming battle.

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What are you reading Wednesday

Posted 29 January, 2014 by Nikki in General / 0 Comments

What did you recently finish reading?
Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire, by Simon Baker, which was okay but not wondrous. And before that, Jo Walton’s What Makes This Book So Great, which is wondrous and a joy to read — it distracted me from work, a lot (or made work easier to handle).

What are you currently reading?
Slow Fall to Dawn, by Stephen Leigh. It’s one of the books I found in Belgium that I’d never heard of before. Apparently it’s from the 80s, but it doesn’t seem too dated, probably because the author sensibly decided to set it after a civilisation crash (and rebuild). I’m enjoying it: at times, the writing seems a little clunky (like introducing a tiny detail and then two pages later, in the next chapter, bashing you over the head with the This Is Plot Relevant mallet).

Aaand Black Dog, by Rachel Neumeier. I’m taking my time with it, really. I’m quite enjoying that it doesn’t feel like YA, aside from in having adolescent protagonists — the characters aren’t instantly falling in love, they’re wary around each other, things aren’t easy, sibling bonds are more important than most other things… Rachel Neumeier’s blog tour swings by my blog tomorrow, so look out for that if you’re interested. There’s a giveaway as well.

What do you think you’ll read next?
Well, so far this year I’ve followed a fairly steady pattern of working on books I’ve already got started while reading one new, recently bought book that I obviously thought was shiny, while it’s fresh in my mind. So after Slow Fall to Dawn, I’ll probably read the two sequels, and after that… I might get round to Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen.

As for finishing books I’ve already got started, I think Katharine Beutner’s Alcestis and Gillian Bradshaw’s Render Unto Caesar are my next targets.

And I’d like to note that I haven’t bought any books since the Jo Walton, yet. I’m expecting an ARC and I won a LibraryThing giveaway, but I’ve been restrained.

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