Oh wow! It’s giveaway time again!!

This time, up for grabs is a set of THREE BOOKS!

The first is Awakening: The Art of Halo 4. I reviewed this book a while back before my blog crashed…but the data was lost afterwards. In my review, I mentioned how awesome the artwork is and how the concept art is simply stunning. This book is courtesy of Titan Books and retails for $34.95.
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The second book is Resident Evil: Retribution, the official novelization of the movie. I have not read this, nor have I seen the movie, but I have high expectations for it. This is also courtesy of Titan Books and retails for $7.99.
Resident_Evil_Retribution_-_The_Official_Movie_Novelization

The third and final book is Supernatural: Rite of Passage. This is a tie-in book to the CW television show. I also have not read this one, but I have heard good things. As with the other two books, this is courtesy of Titan Books and retails for $7.99.
Supernatural_Rite Of Passage

Here is how to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As you can see, entering this giveaway is easier than any I’ve had before; the official rules are below. [Contest ends on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at midnight CST]

OFFICIAL RULES

1. Only one entry per person. Multiple entries will result in removal of all your entries, therefore removing all your chances of winning!

2. Contest is scheduled to end in TWO WEEKS, on Wednesday, February 27, 2013.

3. Contest winner will be chosen by random.org and must agree to let me post their name in a separate post stating who won the prize.

4. Due to shipping costs, contest is open to U.S. Residents only. Thank you for your understanding.

If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at msb@matthewscottbaker.com.

Thanks and good luck!!

MSB

Book Review – The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin, books 1 – 3 by Rowena Cory Daniells (2010)

The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin, Books 1 – 3
by Rowena Cory Daniells
Release Dates:
The King’s Bastard: June 29, 2010
The Uncrowned King: July 27, 2010
The Usurper: August 31, 2010
Publisher: Solaris Books

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WOW…I just finished the third book in THE CHRONICLES OF KING ROLEN’S KIN trilogy and I have to say: I am blown away. Author Rowena Cory Daniells is an amazing storyteller and builds a world both vivid and believable. I don’t think I’ve read epic fantasy this, well, ‘epic’ since the last Forgotten Realms novel I read, which would have been around 1996. Whatever you do, pick up these three books as soon as possible.

If you are not familiar with THE CHRONICLES OF KING ROLEN’S KIN, here is the overall plot synopsis courtesy of the Solaris Books website:

Cloaked in silent winter snow the Kingdom of Rolencia sleeps as rumours spread of new Affinity Seeps, places where untamed power wells up. Meanwhile, King Rolen plans his jubilee unaware of the growing threat to those he loves.

By royal decree, all those afflicted with Affinity must serve the Abbey or face death. Sent to the Abbey because of his innate Affinity, the King’s youngest son, Fyn, trains to become a warrior monk. Unfortunately, he’s a gentle dreamer and the other acolytes bully him. The only way he can escape them is to serve the Abbey Mystic, but his Affinity is weak.

Fiercely loyal, thirteen year-old Piro is horrified to discover she is also cursed with unwanted Affinity. It broke their mother’s heart to send Fyn away, so she hides her affliction. But, when Fyn confesses his troubles, Piro risks exposure to help him.

Even though Byren Kingson is only seven minutes younger than his twin, Lence, who is the king’s heir, Byren has never hungered for the Rolencian throne. When a Seer predicts that he will kill Lence, he laughs. But Lence Kingsheir sees Byren’s growing popularity and resents it. Enduring loyalty could be Byren’s greatest failing.

If you’ve never read high fantasy before, now is the time to start. This is a master of the genre at her finest. I have only read these three books of Daniells’, but I will tell you right now that I am a life-long fan. I will certainly be reading whatever else she writes.

Daniells writes with a simplistic yet efficient style. Her prose in THE CHRONICLES OF KING ROLEN’S KIN is smooth and flows in effortless waves, right off the page. I found myself mesmerized by her story and never once stopped because of a wording snafu, awkward sentence structure or anything similar. This is, in short, a joy to read.

The characters are also well written. They are vibrant and alive, ready to leap out of the story and into your room. This again is a true testament to how well Ms. Daniells can convey and illicit emotion with the written word.

If I were forced to find a flaw with THE CHRONICLES OF KING ROLEN’S KIN, I simply could not. The story is full of intrigue and action, the characters are both likable and hatable, and each book leaves you craving more. This is a series to be reckoned with, for sure.

I highly recommend this series and suggest you check it out soon. There are three follow-up books after this trilogy, although I’m not sure how they fit into the equation just yet. This series is available now, so snatch them up.

MSB

Book Review – Bowl of Heaven by Gregory Benford & Larry Niven (2012)

Bowl of Heaven
by Gregory Benford & Larry Niven
Release Date: October 16, 2012
Publisher: Tor Books

BowlOfHeaven

Author Larry Niven is a member of a three-writer collaborative team-up responsible for one of my favorite books of all time: THE LEGACY OF HEOROT. Along with authors Steven Barnes and Jerry Pournelle, Niven helps to shape one of the greatest series’ in science-fiction history. So when I heard he was teaming up with another legend in science-fiction, Gregory Benford, to create another new series, I knew I had to give it a look. Although BOWL OF HEAVEN is not perfect, it is an exciting and fun jaunt into first-contact territory.

If you are not familiar with BOWL OF HEAVEN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Tor Books:

A human starship crew overtakes an immense bowl-shaped structure hurtling through interstellar space. Cupping a star to itself, the bowl moves by using the star’s jet to propel itself toward the same target star as the humans. A landing party reaches the vast lands of this spinning world, only to be captured. But some escape the gigantic inhabitants to see answers as to what this place means. Who built it? Where? When? Why? Their discoveries transform human understanding of our universe and imperil our destiny.

When you have two icons of science-fiction working together like this, you know you’re in for a treat. The combined minds of Benford and Niven give readers a wonderful, mysterious scenario and then plunge them deep into the heart of its intricacies. Only two masters such as these could offer such depth.

As expected, the writing in BOWL OF HEAVEN is smooth and fluid, with strong wording and sentence structure. The prose is strong and flows at a perfect pace with a fine voice and plenty of spirit. The story itself is presented well for the most part and moves at a nice clip. I do see some inconsistencies with continuity in regard to the plot, however; I will not go into full detail because this might actually be on purpose. My gut tells me there will be future volumes in this universe, and they could potentially explain what happened in this one.

The characters are fleshed out nicely, and there are no stereotypical science-fiction cliches within them. This is of particular note because stock characters seem to abound in the genre these days. Originality, even within the cast, is extremely important in a market that is overrun with new authors trying to carve a name for themselves.

BOWL OF HEAVEN is entertaining on many levels, and I highly recommend it to fans of science-fiction. Benford and Niven are two writers who have navigated the story-telling waters for many years and their expertise shines in this collaborative debut. Give this one a look for sure.

MSB

Movie Review – Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead (2011)

Mimesis: Night of the Living Dead
Directed by Douglas Schulze
Courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment
Original Release Date: 2011
Release Date: February 12, 2013

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I’ve said this before, but I’ll reiterate it again: unique horror movies will always win me over in one way or another. Any genre film that can conjure an original plot and entertain me is a definite winner. MIMESIS: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD does both of these things and gives a 90 minute romp into gore-filled fun!

If you are not familiar with MIMESIS: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the Anchor Bay press release:

What begins as a horror convention after-party for a group of fans will quickly become a genuine flesh-and-blood nightmare: Trapped inside an isolated farmhouse, they must now survive attacks by hordes of hungry zombies while desperately attempting to escape. But is this gore-soaked siege a twisted prank, an elaborate trap, or has NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD actually come to undead life?

I saw on IMDB.com that 154 users had reviewed this film and only gave it 3.7 out of 10 stars. This absolutely floors me and I have no idea what film these folks were watching, but it must not have been MIMESIS: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. This film is made well and it’s a heck of a lot of fun to watch.

The story in MIMESIS: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is original, which is one major draw for me. A group of folks wake up to find themselves possibly inserted into a classic piece of horror cinema…or are they? I mean come on…how can you NOT be intrigued? I sure was and I’m glad I took a chance.

The special effects are great, especially when you consider the estimated budget for this film is around $500,000. The production team definitely used the money they had wisely. There’s plenty of throat-ripping gore in here and the carnage does flow nicely.

The film is shot well and even the acting is pretty good. Overall, I can’t really find a fault with it. MIMESIS: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD even has zombies reminiscent of Romero’s originals: slow, lumbering flesh bags that can’t move too well. What more can you ask for?

I highly recommend MIMESIS: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and suggest every horror fan check it out, especially if you enjoy Romero’s work. The homage done to him in this movie is overwhelming, and I would wager he is honored with it as a result. The film hits store shelves on Tuesday, so make a note to give this one a look.

MSB

Book Review – The Last Dragon of the North by Tony Chandler & Virginia Chandler (2011)

The Last Dragon of the North
by Tony Chandler & Virginia Chandler
Release Date: November 4, 2011
Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing

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I should definitely read more fantasy; after all, I cut my teeth on it when I was a young teen. From DragonLance to Dungeons & Dragons, I loved it all, and I read everything I could find in the genre. So it’s no wonder that dragons hold a special place of honor in my heart. When author Tony Chandler approached me about reviewing THE LAST DRAGON OF THE NORTH, I said ‘Yes!’ before I even know the book’s plot. I’m glad I took a chance on it, too…this book is full of everything that makes fantasy so much fun!

If you are not familiar with THE LAST DRAGON OF THE NORTH, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Double Dragon Publishing:

Owain Armstrong has been hired to hunt down a red dragon that is killing livestock across Wiltshire . The only evidence is a bloody patch on the ground and the head of the dead animal. Owain begins to track this nocturnal predator when news of another dragon comes – a much bigger dragon. During his journey, Owain meets up with the famous dragonslayers of the Northern Band: Katja is a beautiful blonde with a deadly crossbow; Erik, a massive man that is short in temper but eager to fight; Lars, a man who is equally as cunning as he is strong and Edlund, their leader.

When meeting Owain, the band of weary slayers long had been on a quest to kill the last dragon of the north. But then word comes to them from the Green Dragon Inn about a monster – another dragon – that lives inside the neighboring mountains.

The quest begins again…

This book really surprised me; not because I thought it was going to suck or anything…but because the story is epic in scope for being such a simple plot. The Chandlers do an amazing job of world building and then seeding it with characters and creatures both terrifying and interesting.

THE LAST DRAGON OF THE NORTH is written very well and flows smoothly. The action is intense, the story is engaging, and there’s plenty of things in here that will capture even the most decadent of readers. In essence, there’s something for every fantasy fan in this book.

I particularly enjoy the characterization in this book. Each character is bold and vibrant, given a healthy dose of realism so as to make them spring to life from the page. My favorite has to be Owain Armstrong himself. He starts off as a bit brash and overly self-sure, but his travels with the other dragonslayers takes him on a journey of self-discovery as well.

THE LAST DRAGON OF THE NORTH is a hearty, robust fantasy adventure brimming with action and fun. I highly recommend this book and am greatly looking forward to the next tale the Chandlers bring. Give this one a look for sure.

MSB

Graphic Novel Review – Wasteland by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten (2011)

Wasteland, Book 01: Cities in Dust
by Antony Johnston & Christopher Mitten
Release Date: November 11, 2011
Publisher: Oni Press

Wasteland

This series was originally published back in 2007, but it is definitely worth looking at again, even six years later. WASTELAND is one of those comics that you can read again and again…it is almost ageless. And I’m saying all of this after reading it for the first time just last week!

If you are not familiar with WASTELAND, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Oni Press:

A hundred years after the Big Wet, Earth has been left a broken, infertile world of rock and sand. The town of Providens is like many others on the post-Big Wet planet – small, mostly illiterate and struggling for survival. But while most communities are like Providens, not all the cities that survived the Big Wet are. Some are like Newbegin, burgeoning metropolises that combine pieces of past societies with the new status quo. When Providens welcomes a stranger named Michael into its midst, will the quiet man lead them to the better world of Newbegin or shatter what little order still exists?

This is post-apocalyptic fiction at its finest. Oni definitely found a real gem when they published this series. I’m not sure if it is still going on, but I’m going to find out and start collecting it, if so.

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WASTELAND is written well and the illustrating is tight, although I have to admit that this is one comic I would like to see in color. Still, the black and white can pack a powerful punch when needed. It also has great characterization, complete with a sordid and mismatched cast.

For me, the best thing about WASTELAND is the story itself. One of the descriptions on the back of the cover states, “Part Deadwood, part Dune, and all kick-ass…” This is a perfect way to describe it. This graphic novel has mystery, intensity, major science-fiction, and a whole lot of brass.

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The WASTELAND series is available now, so give it a look for sure.

MSB

Book Review – A Dark Autumn by Kristopher Rufty (2013)

A Dark Autumn
by Kristopher Rufty
Release Date: January 1, 2013
Publisher: Samhain Publishing

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Believe it or not, a man can be raped by a woman or a group of women. Don’t believe me? Check your local police reports; it doesn’t happen often, but I’ve seen it. An interesting way to start off a review, eh? Well, it’s actually very pertinent, considering it is the basis for Kristopher Rufty’s excellent novella A DARK AUTUMN.

If you are not familiar with A DARK AUTUMN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Samhain Publishing:

He’s a writer seeking solitude. They are four women on vacation looking for fun and relaxation. But when they meet, they will find only terror. An appalling crime will lead to an unthinkable, gruesome revenge. In the deep woods of Mountain Rock, no one will hear the screams, the agony, the mayhem. No one will hear them die.

Do I have your attention now? I figured I would after reading that plot description. A DARK AUTUMN is a unique spin on the familiar rape-revenge scenarios that were made popular in grindhouse films. This time, however, it’s a man doing the revenging. And let me tell you: it is very entertaining.

I enjoyed this book so much that I literally read it in a single day; it is that good. It is a fast-paced, no-holds-barred trek into maniacal justice. What makes this book truly unique is that you, as the reader, are honestly not sure whether to feel bad for Ricky Myers (the main character) or cheer him on. I found myself liking him…and then hating him…and then feeling compassion for him. It’s truly fun riding this whirlwind of emotional change.

A DARK AUTUMN is written well with simple prose and flowing dialogue. I think the simplicity of the writing is what makes this story move so well; any other author could have crammed long, heavy sentences into the story, all rife with description and metaphor. Doing so would have bogged the piece down. But author Kristopher Rufty chooses substance over page length and presents a riveting tale that will keep you enthralled until the last page.

My sole complaint about this book is that it is only offered in digital e-book format. I was lucky enough to have gotten a galley copy from the publisher (since I do not have an e-reader), but everyone else will have to download their versions. Still, this is no reason not to buy the book, especially as I am labeling it as a Must Read for 2013.

I am highly recommending A DARK AUTUMN and suggest you check it out soon. But be warned: some of the scenes are rather graphic, so if you are easily shocked you might want to sidestep this one. But if you’ve got the fortitude to do so, give this one a look for sure.

MSB

Movie Review – The Caretaker (2012)

The Caretaker
Directed by Tom Conyers
Courtesy of MVD Visual
Release Date: December 12, 2012

The Caretaker

In a culture filled with sparkling vampires and teen-angst-romance-ridden vamp literature, it’s nice to see that horror fans can still find solace in new and unique vampire films. When I first heard about THE CARETAKER and how dark it was, I thought to myself, “Now there’s a vamp film that I need to check out!” The fine folks at MVD Visual sent me a copy to review, and I’m proud to announce that they have a sure-fire hit on their hands. THE CARETAKER is an excellent addition to the vampire genre, and it’s one that horror fans should snatch up quickly.

If you are not familiar with THE CARETAKER, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of the MVD Visual website:

As a wave of vampirism sweeps across the world, a small but discordant group hole up in a rural house. There, they discover a vampire has also taken refuge. He offers them a deal: if they protect him during the day, he’ll protect them from other vampires at night. So begins an uneasy alliance which soon threatens to tear apart.

THE CARETAKER is a bold and visionary film that gives us a gritty, realistic look at how an epidemic could possibly overtake society. This realism is one aspect that makes the film so appealing, and I am particularly impressed with how filmmaker Tom Conyers manages to pull it off. What starts off as mild concern amongst the population turns into full blown panic as the vampire virus starts affecting more and more people.

I wish I knew what the budget was for this film, however IMDB.com does not list an estimation. It is shot well (although some of the lighting could have been better) and the production value looks fairly high. The acting is good overall and, thankfully, there are no stereotypical or hammed-up characters.

The special effects in THE CARETAKER are also well done and look great onscreen. I don’t recall any majorly gory parts, although there’s plenty of bloodshed when the epidemic first sets in and people are attacking/eating other people. These scenes are also some of the most intense…it’s truly chilling to see what society can be reduced to in the event of a catastrophe.

My sole complaint about the film is that some of the scenes are a bit too dark for my tastes. But that is the only negative aspect I can find. THE CARETAKER is entertaining, scary, and fun, just like a horror movie should be.

I highly recommend THE CARETAKER and suggest it for anyone that is tired of hearing about teens that fall in love with wannabe fangers. The film is available now, so give it a look.

MSB