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Page-Turning Books with a Magical Twist

By Jennifer McClelland-Smith

Do you believe in magic? Summer is the perfect time to escape into a fun read with a magical twist. We’ve got great suggestions no matter what kind of reader you are!


South of the Buttonwood Tree by Heather Webber

Place holder  of - 42Fans of Heather Webber’s book club favorite Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe can tell you, no one does a sweet Southern story with a touch of enchantment like she does. Two women at a crossroads, an abandoned baby girl, and a very special Buttonwood tree that dispenses wisdom make this another heartwarming tale you’ll want to talk about. 

Other People’s Pets by R.L. Maizes

Placeholder of  -35A family story unlike any you’ve ever read. What to do when you’re an animal empath with an absent mother and criminal father? Rob the houses of pets whose maladies you can sense, naturally! Equal parts quirky and heartwarming, this book explores the very meaning of family and what we choose to hold on to or let go of. 

 

Empire of Lies by Raymond Khoury

Poster Placeholder of - 21Thriller fans will not be able to put down Raymond Khoury’s gripping adventure, which dashes across continents and centuries. It’s Paris in 2017: The Ottoman Empire was never defeated in 1683, and Islamic Europe is on the brink of war with the Christian Republic of America. Does a mysterious stranger who appears on the banks of the Seine have all the answers? An international thriller powered by time travel and alternate history, it’s a book that makes you see the world differently.

Or What You Will by Jo Walton

Image Place holder  of - 55Get ready for a real mind-bender. In this unforgettable novel, the main character is a character–no, really. He’s a character in the mind of Sylvia, an award-winning author who is nearing the end of her life. He’s been a scholar, a warrior, a lover, and a thief…now all he wants to do is survive. Will he convince her to take the ultimate risk and jump into immortality?  

Remembrance by Rita Woods

Image Placeholder of - 47Another compelling read that challenges the limits of time and space. Sweeping from Haiti in 1791 to New Orleans in 1857 to modern-day Ohio, this haunting novel tells the story of a safe haven on the Underground Railroad, the powerful thread that links generations and the magic women conjure when trying to protect their own. Fans of historical fiction and speculative fiction will not be let down by this utterly unique novel.

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Holiday Gifts for Every Reader

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

By His Own Hand by Neal Griffin

Poster Placeholder of - 80 The body of a young man has been found in the woods outside Newberg, dead from a close-range shotgun blast. The gun—his own—lies beside the body.

Certain things don’t add up for Detective Tia Suarez. Where did the fat envelope of cash in his pocket come from? Who called the police to report the body, then disappeared before the cops arrived?

Head On by John Scalzi

Image Placeholder of - 45 Hilketa is a frenetic and violent pastime where players attack each other with swords and hammers. The main goal of the game: obtain your opponent’s head and carry it through the goalposts. With flesh and bone bodies, a sport like this would be impossible. But all the players are “threeps,” robot-like bodies controlled by people with Haden’s Syndrome, so anything goes. No one gets hurt, but the brutality is real and the crowds love it.

Until a star athlete drops dead on the playing field.

NEW IN PAPERBACK

Avengers of the Moon by Allen Steele

Placeholder of  -15 Curt Newton has spent most of his life hidden from the rest of humankind, being raised by a robot, an android, and the disembodied brain of a renowned scientist. Curt’s innate curiosity and nose for trouble inadvertently lead him into a plot to destabilize the Solar Coalition and assassinate the president. There’s only one way to uncover the evil mastermind—Curt must become Captain Future.

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

Image Place holder  of - 21 They say it’s not the fall that kills you.

For Josette Dupre, the Corps’ first female airship captain, it might just be a bullet in the back.

On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat, a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble.

Night Magic by Jenna Black

Place holder  of - 52 Philadelphia is locked in the grip of an evil magic that transforms its streets into a nightmare landscape the minute the sun sets each night. While most of the city hunkers down and hopes to survive the long winter nights, Becket Walker is roaming the darkened streets having the time of her life.

Once, the guilt of having inadvertently let the night magic into the city—and of having killed her onetime best friend—had threatened to destroy her. But now she’s been Nightstruck, and all her grief and guilt and terror have been swept away—along with her conscience. So what if she’s lost her friends, her family, and her home? And so what if her hot new boyfriend is super-controlling and downright malevolent?

NEW FROM TOR.COM

The Atrocities by Jeremy C. Shipp

When Isabella died, her parents were determined to ensure her education wouldn’t suffer.

But Isabella’s parents had not informed her new governess of Isabella’s… condition, and when Ms Valdez arrives at the estate, having forced herself through a surreal nightmare maze of twisted human-like statues, she discovers that there is no girl to tutor.

Or is there…?

NEW IN MANGA

Monster Girl Doctor Vol. 2 Story by Yoshino Origuchi; Art by z-ton

Spirit Circle Vol. 3 Story and art by Satoshi Mizukami

Holiday Gifts for Every Reader

By Jennifer McClelland-Smith

When you were a kid, the holidays were simple. You got a gift for you family members, and maybe a gift for you bestie. Now you’ve got to get gifts for you family, bestie(s), close friends, and do those acquaintances deserve a gift, too? Probably. If there’s a significant other in the picture, well, they definitely need a gift, plus their family and friends, and don’t even get me started on coworkers…Figuring out who you need to get gifts for is a headache. But add in the pressure of figuring out what to get for everyone? Ugh, forget about it.

Fear not! Forge is here to help. Not with figuring out who in your life you need to give a gift to, you’re still on your own there. But when it comes to deciding what to buy for everyone, we’ve got your back. Our handy list of holiday gifts for every reader will definitely save you some shopping time!

Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber

For that friend who owns the comfiest robes, softest cookies and heartiest teas, invite them into this cozy read. Anna Kate returns to small-town Alabama to settle her grandma’s estate and finds herself drawn to quirky townspeople and the magic that abounds. Have snacks close by as you read… the descriptions of the scrumptious offerings of the Blackbird Cafe will be enough to keep every reader’s mouth watering.

48 Hours by William Forstchen

Got a survivalist on your list? Look no further than 48 Hours, the latest from William R. Forstchen, the master of apocalyptic potboilers. A huge solar storm shuts down the electrical grid and threatens humanity itself. A group of ordinary Americans band together to save humanity. It’s an unputdownable page-turner that will set your mind reeling.

 

Darkness at Chancellorsville by Ralph Peters

For your resident Civil War enthusiast…Take a front-row seat for one of the war’s most surprising battles. Ralph Peters is one of the top historical fiction writers out there, and this extensively researched and enthralling epic shows why. Get a fresh perspective on the battle that almost ended the Civil War and trace the steps that led Confederate general Robert E. Lee to embark on the Gettsyburg Campaign.

 

Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark

Sure, this is the obvious choice for your Murderino friend, but Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered is a great read for anyone looking for a fun, funny read full of advice only your older sister could give you. It’s a memoir disguised as a life manual. It’ll have you laughing until you cry. And crying while you laugh. And every combination of laughing and crying you can imagine.

 

Nottingham by Nathan Makaryk

Fill that Game of Thrones-sized hole in your favorite reader’s life with this fresh spin on the myth of Robin Hood. You’ll get to know his merry men and all of the characters that haunt Nottingham Castle in a whole new light. You think you know what to expect, but the twists and thrills in this study of power will keep those pages turning all the way through the thrilling conclusion.

 

A Dog’s Promise by W. Bruce Cameron

If you’ve got a dog-lover on your list, you’re no doubt familiar with the heartwarming works of W. Bruce Cameron. A Dog’s Promise is the follow-up to the wildly popular A Dog’s Purpose and A Dog’s Journey, both major motion pictures! It’s a new tale of Bailey, a very good dog who is joined by Lacey, another very special dog. Together, they show the love and loyalty only our canine friends can offer.

 

Empire of Lies by Raymond Khoury

It’s a time travel book. It’s an alternate history. It’s a sweeping thriller like you’ve never read before. If you’ve got a reader on your list who loves a book that will keep them thinking, this is the one. Set in a world where the Ottoman Empire conquered Europe in 1683, it’s a race through time for a member of the Sultan’s secret police force and the mysterious tattooed stranger he encounters. It’s a race through time to save the world, or destroy it.

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What If the Ottoman Empire Never Fell?

What would it take to change history?

In Empire of Lies, a sweeping thriller in the tradition of The Man in the High Castle, Raymond Khoury explores a world like and unlike our own, all based on a wild historical ‘What if?’: What if the Ottoman Empire survived one fatal mistake in 1683? What if it were the world’s biggest superpower today?

Empire of Lies is now available in paperback!


By Raymond Khoury

Image Place holder  of - 35In terms of days that could have changed history, Sept 12, 1683 ranks pretty high up there.

On the 14th of July 1683, an army that stretched for six miles—the largest army the world had ever seen—finally crossed the Danube and took up position around its target: Vienna, the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. The Habsburg emperor, along with his court and over fifty thousand of his citizens, had already fled the city, while terrified farmers and villagers had flocked in in their place, seeking safety behind its fortified walls.

All summer, fierce fighting raged along the city’s fortifications, the sultan’s sappers digging tunnels and exploding mines under its walls while his artillery pounded its heavily outnumbered, starving and diseased survivors. One of the most ferocious, blood-soaked sieges in history finally came to an end on the morning of September 12, when a relief army, put together by the pope and led by the King of Poland, rode in and saved the city. It was the beginning of the end of the Ottoman Empire.

But what if the sultan’s men had exploded that final mine at dusk on September 11, as they’d debated, and not waited until the next day—by which time it was too late? The city would have fallen. And with it, potentially, the rest of Western Europe.

The last three centuries of history, as we know it, would have changed in ways we can only imagine—which, to an author of fiction, is an irresistible proposition. The question is: how might it have changed? And what would the world look like today, if it had?

I had initially pictured my 21st century, present-day Ottoman Europe to be a bit like the crumbling USSR of the 1970s and 1980s, left behind by the more technologically advanced and modernizing, open societies of the West. But I quickly realised it would be far more interesting, and relevant, to go down a different path: make it modern, make it the world’s leading superpower, but give it the worst aspects of our present-day Western world: let it be suffering under a rise of demagogues, intolerance, nativism, state surveillance, the crumbling of free speech, the eroding of hard-won attitudes towards others and towards the environment, and the blatant prevalence of lies.

So my Ottoman Europe of 2019—and, specifically, Paris, where most of the story is set—is different from the Paris we know in that while it looks and feels more like present-day Istanbul, Tehran or Jeddah, a closer look would reveal that the main issues facing its people aren’t that different from those we face in the US or in Europe today.

The challenge in all this, however, was to make it believable. How would the Ottomans have not just conquered, but held onto, Western Europe? Militarily, logistically, politically—it all needed to be researched heavily and mapped out credibly, drawing on the advice of as many expert Ottomanists and historians that I could reach.

This was the easier task, as it involved tactics and strategy: how to exploit the weaknesses of a strongly-divided Europe at the time; where and when to strike at Rome and Paris; how to set up supply lines to keep a massive army fully functional when it’s thousands of miles away from its home; how to control conquered, occupied populations. For all these matters, I could turn to our history and study how it had been done, or at least, attempted; sadly, our history has no shortage of such tragedies, right up to our present time.

Beyond the strategic questions lay the bigger, longer-term issues: how would they have dealt with the Enlightenment that had just begun, the burgeoning aspirations of freedom and equality? How would they have thwarted the inevitable rise of nationalist thinking that our world witnessed in those centuries? Would the big, world-changing revolutions—American, French, Russian—have still happened? And how would all the technological advances we’ve seen have affected the empire’s evolution? Would they have allowed the internet?

Although the Ottoman Empire lasted until shortly after the end of World War I, I couldn’t really model my version of it on anything we know about its last three centuries or so, simply because after its defeat outside the walls of Vienna in 1683, the Ottoman Empire began to weaken and fall behind while Europe did go through all of the above—the Enlightenment, various revolutions that would topple monarchies, and the Industrial Revolution. In our real history, the Ottoman Empire spent its last three centuries playing catch-up, falling behind while desperately trying to implement various reforms that mimicked what was happening in the West. I couldn’t use any of that since, in my world, the Ottomans conquered Europe long before any of these monumental events took place. My Ottomans would be the standard bearers. They’d be the ones forging history, setting the example and laying down the rules. There was no Europe for them to mimic—they had conquered it.

I’d have to start from scratch.

But not completely from scratch. Because I did have a secret weapon. A guru, a covert advisor, a highly-educated, well-read expert on manipulation who knew everything about our history and would put all that knowledge to use in helping the sultan and his successors conquer—and hold—all of Europe.

This wasn’t a historian I managed to get through to; it wasn’t some secret government agency official I had access to. No, this was Ayman Rasheed, a figment of my imagination, a character I created for the book. A character who, in a world-shattering twist of fate, discovered something in a crypt under an ancient temple in Palmyra, in present-day Syria. Something that would allow him to go back and change history and mould it to his liking. Someone who would deploy all the foresight of a time traveller to guarantee the empire’s technological supremacy by grabbing inventors and visionaries before they made their great discoveries, someone who would defuse potential threats before they could materialize by sending out assassins to kill great thinkers in their infancy, before they could change the world with their words and their writings.

In other words, one hell of a fun character to create.

The possibilities were mind-boggling—but huge fun to imagine. I hope you enjoy them too.

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