Friday, April 3, 2015

Dragons In Pieces, Lee French



Dragons in Pieces, book one of the Maze Beset Trilogy by indie author Lee French is a creative, modern take on the old superhero story.

But first, THE BLURB:

All Bobby wanted was a girl to come home to after a hard day of work. Like the last one said before she left, he was going exactly two places - no and where – and he was happy with that. But somebody had other plans for him. A murder. The Terrorist Watch List. For what? Underage drinking? Things couldn't possibly get worse. Right?

Oh yes, they could.

A lot.

He wouldn't believe superheroes were real if he wasn't one himself.

Tiny robot dragons send him chasing his humanity and his future, on the trail to discovering his past and a place to call 'home'. If he's lucky, maybe he can get a beer there.

MY REVIEW:

I have to say, I like Bobby a lot.  He is a bit of a dumb-ass, who  has been on a certain watch list all his life. He gets picked up for some stupid thing, and instead of Juvenile Detention, they take to a secret facility where they torture him and he goes to pieces--literally.  His physical body fragments in a cloud of tiny dragons the size of an American coin, the quarter.

There is a logic to his superpower. In this state he can think, he can free the others who've been kidnapped and tortured, and he can escape the facility. He can't lift anymore in that state than he can as a human being.  There are limits to his ability, which makes this improbable superhero so enjoyable.

Bobby's fellow inmates, Jayce, Alice, and Ai, all seem to demonstrate superpowers too.  The one other thing they have in common is their eyes are an odd shade of blue, leading them to some conclusions about their personal histories and why they are where they were targeted to be kidnapped by the government. 

Lee French writes well and clearly. Bobby's adventures, while completely improbable, seem perfectly reasonable when you're reading them. The logic behind the superpowers all four demonstrate is what keeps this entertaining book on track.

I highly recommend Dragons in Pieces as a great urban fantasy adventure, with wonderful, well-written characters. It's a complete departure from the usual urban fantasy fare.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Faces in the Water, Tonya Macalino



Today we are visiting one of the more creative post-apocalyptic novels I've ever read,  Faces in the Water (Shades of Venice Book 1), by indie author, Tonya Macalino.


But First, THE BLURB:
Who created that slide of silk across your skin as you reached for your cinematic lover? Who recorded the crushing weight of the grizzly as you fought for your life in the fictional wilderness? It is Lone Pine Pictures’ Alyse Kate Bryant who wraps your body in the story only your mind was privy to before.

A brilliant sensory immersion artist and a wild daredevil, Alyse will do almost anything for the perfect sensory file, but the violent death of her father has her teetering on the very edge of reckless sanity.

For just one night, Alyse seeks refuge in the arms of a beautiful stranger.

And her recklessness finally has consequences.

Now Alyse finds herself trapped in the flooded ruins of Venice, a quarantine camp for the carriers of Sleepers’ Syndrome. But it can never be that simple. Because the Sleepers’ Syndrome carriers who populate the camp are no longer as human as they seem.

The city of legend is bringing its legends back to life.

They come now, Alyse.

Run.

MY REVIEW: 
This book is gripping. Alyse is a complicated character, and her supporting cast is equally complicated. The culture of immersion-art as the TV of the future seems quite plausible, given the current penchant for reality shows. And Alyse is one of the most popular artists. She really is an adrenaline junkie.

The world Macalino builds in Venice is dark, mist-enshrouded and eerie--and what Alyse discovers there is disturbing. The plot keeps moving and the action never stops--always it is heading toward the final denouement.

Her experiences, shock, horror, anger--all are true and real. Alyse is one good, solid character. The reactions of her friends are all true too--loyalty, horror, abandonment--all reactions friends would have in varying and different degrees.

Vittoreo and Matteo are wonderfully drawn, sexy, and full of emotion and life Jurgen is exactly what he should be: powerful, charismatic and consumed with the conviction that he has the one final answer...he is a fabulous antagonist.

This is a dark, meaty, grownup novel for thinking people. I give it 5 full stars, because it stuck with me--I was thinking about Macalino's Venice all evening.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Mort, by Terry Pratchett




The great fantasy author, 
Sir Terry Pratchett, O.B.E died on March 12,2015--after suffering from a long battle with Alzheimers. One of the earliest influences on my sometimes smartassed style of writing was his watershed fantasy series, Discworld

Sir Terry took J. R. R. TolkienRobert E. HowardH. P. Lovecraft and William Shakespeare, and many other mythologies, folklores, and fairy tales, and mashed them up in this hilarious series of tales. There were 39 books in this trilogy! Talk about prolific.

One of my favorite books in the series is "Mort." It is the 4th book and is the first to give Death the main storyline.

But First, The Blurb:
Terry Pratchett's profoundly irreverent novels are consistent number one bestseller in England, where they have catapulted him into the highest echelons of parody next to Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, Douglas Adams, and Carl Hiaasen.

In this Discworld installment, Death comes to Mort with an offer he can't refuse -- especially since being, well, dead isn't compulsory.As Death's apprentice, he'll have free board and lodging, use of the company horse, and he won't need time off for family funerals. The position is everything Mort thought he'd ever wanted, until he discovers that this perfect job can be a killer on his love life.


MY REVIEW:
As a teenager, Mort had a personality and temperament that made him rather unsuited to the family farming business. Mort's father, named Lezek, felt that Mort thought too much, which prevented him from achieving anything practical. Thus, Lezek took him to a local hiring fair, hoping that Mort would land an apprenticeship with some tradesman; not only would this provide a job for his son, but it would also make his son's propensity towards thinking someone else's problem.

The conversation between Lezek and his brother Hamish as they discuss Mort's future in the opening pages is hilarious and quite revealing in its simplicity. 

In this snippett, Lezek and Hamish are observing Mort as he attempts to frighten some birds away from the crop. "He's not stupid, mind" said Hamish. "Not what you'd call stupid."

"There's a brain there all right,"Lezek conceded. "Sometimes he starts thinking so hard you has to hit him round the head to get his attention. His granny taught him to read, see? I reckon it overheated his mind."


At the job fair, Mort at first has no luck attracting the interest of an employer. Then, just before the stroke of midnight, a man concealed in a black cloak arrives on a white horse. He says he is looking for a young man to assist him in his work and selects Mort for the job. The man turns out to be Death, and Mort is given an apprenticeship in ushering souls into the next world (though his father thinks he's been apprenticed to an undertaker).


Death is a great character, so completely human in his disenchantment with his career. He retires and Mort's apprenticeship takes off with some amazing ups and downs. 

Death's journey to happiness is one of the more hilarious of the Discworld tales.

I love the snarky way Pratchett took clich├ęs and ran with them. He grabbed the boring, bland, overdone themes of western literature by the tail and swung them. When he set them down they were SO much more fun to watch!

If you love fantasy with humor, and aren't afraid to poke fun at the wry facts of life, Sir Terry Pratchett's work might be for you!

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Belgariad and the Mallorean, by David Eddings

Pawn_of_Prophecy_cover
Two series of books by the late David Eddings  form the basis of a watershed empire in the fantasy pantheon. I have discussed this series several times on this blog--I tend to measure all fantasy books by this epic saga.

Pawn of Prophecy is the opening book in a 5-book series ultimately called The Belgariad. First published in 1982, I have read five paperback copies of these books to death. If you have never read the Belgariad, try the the first book, Pawn of Prophecy,  and if you love fantasy, you will be swept away. Be prepared to sit down and read, because this book is a truly great, immersive read.

I love the opening lines of the first chapter of the opening book in the series, Pawn of Prophecy"The first thing the boy Garion remembered was the kitchen at Faldor's farm. For all the rest of his life he had a special warm feeling for kitchens and those peculiar sounds and smells that seemed somehow to combine into a bustling seriousness that had to do with love and food and comfort and security and, above all, home. No matter how high Garion rose in life, he never forgot that all his memories began in that kitchen."
Queen of Sorcery
A chance visit by an old story teller, Mr. Wolf changes everything, and Garion finds himself and his Aunt leaving the farm in search of something which has been stolen; traveling in the company of Durnik the Smith, and Mr. Wolf.As they travel, they meet up with Silk, a Drasnian spy, and Barak, Cherek Warrior.  Garion soon finds out that no one is what they seem to be.  Silk is actually Prince Kheldar of Drasnia; and Barak is actually the Earl of Trellheim of Cherek.  Only Durnik is who he always was; a good honest man of Sendaria, who just happens to be in love with Pol.

In this first book, Garion doesn't discover who he is, but knowing who he is not is very important, and now he know he is not technically his Aunt Pol's nephew, as he had always believed. This knowledge shakes his world to its foundations, making him fear that he was unwanted. The anger he feels over having been lied to is well portrayed, as is his eventual acceptance of his true path in life.

Enchanter's_End_Game_coverThis is a vivid series of books, written from the heart. What David Eddings does in the first chapters of this book is truly magical. He immediately drew me in and within two paragraphs I was immersed in this world--I could smell the smell scents of the kitchen and visualize the people who worked there so companionably in the generous employ of Farmer Faldor. I felt I knew them, and I felt I knew that farm.

These books were comforting right off the launching pad. 

Wikipedia described it as "picaresque" that is, of a genre of prose fiction depicting the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society. But just for the record--Wikipedia got it all wrong. It's a coming-of-age story. the tale of a boy  growing up through the events that shape him, becoming a man with strengths and weaknesses, and it is the story of the people he met on that journey.

Guardians of the WestThe Malloreon is a five-part fantasy book series written by David Eddings, which follows The Belgariad. The Malloreon is set in the same world as The Belgariad, but expands on several aspects of the setting, especially the eastern continent of Mallorea. At the end of The Belgariad, Garion has slain the evil god Torak and expects lasting peace.

Things being what they are in a fantasy universe, he does not get it.
The book opens on a peaceful world. The  foundling, Errand, has become Polgara's ward, and he has grown up on the farm with Polgara and Durnik, as their son. The first half of the first book deals with some really humorous situations, as everyone settles into a somewhat peaceful existence.

After eight years as King of Riva, Garion learns that he is still a figure of prophecy and bears the responsibility of defeating Torak's successor, the "Child of Dark." His son is kidnapped, and the next five books of the Mallorean detail the task of getting him back.

This is just as gripping a series of books as the Belgariad.

Belgarath_coverMany times I see authors try to force an exact, detailed picture of their world on the reader, and it ruins the story for me. An author doesn't have to beat me over the head with minute detail; that sort of thing bores me. David Eddings never fell into that trap. Eddings had the ability to convey a sense of place in a few well-chosen words.

David Eddings freely admitted that he wrote all his books with his wife, Leigh Eddings, and in later books of this series she is credited as his co-author.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Heart Search Book Three: Betrayal, by Carlie M.A. Cullen




Today we are looking at the third and final volume in the Heart Search Trilogy by Carlie M.A. CullenHeart Search  book three: Betrayal. I have to say, I love the cover--it really represents the story well, and the book beneath that cover does not disappoint in any way.

BUT FIRST, THE BLURB:
One bite started it all . . .

Joshua, Remy, and the twins are settled in their new life. However, life doesn’t always run smoothly. An argument between Becky and her twin causes unforeseen circumstances, an admission by Samir almost costs him his life, and the traitor provides critical information to Liam. But who is it?

As Jakki’s visions begin to focus on the turncoat’s activities, a member of the coven disappears, and others find themselves endangered.

And when Liam’s coven attacks, who will endure?

Fate continues to toy with mortals and immortals alike, and as more hearts descend into darkness, can they overcome the dangers they face and survive? 

MY REVIEW:
Where to start? It is the third book in the trilogy, and so it picks at the end of the previous book, of course–but a new reader could start with this book and be intrigued.

For me, this book is a roller-coaster of events and emotion, as Samir’s and Joshua’s covens prepare to defend themselves from an upstart rival’s attempted takeover. The disappearance and kidnapping of one of their own casts suspicion on several people, and the discovery of a traitor in their midst is an unpleasant monkey-wrench tossed into the works, making it difficult for Samir and Joshua to know who to trust.

This book has many, many threads that are woven together to create a compelling story of intrigue, Stockholm Syndrome, and the arrogance that comes with immortality. It is filled with strong characters and inventive plot twists—some creepy, some chilling, and some downright horrifying.

Phoenix, the hidden traitor in their midst is an arrogant, self-absorbed twit. We don't find out until nearly the end just who Phoenix is, man or woman. This traitor claims to care for the person handed over as a hostage, but does it anyway, knowing the hostage will not be treated well. Phoenix manages to cause nothing but trouble before their identity is finally revealed.
Their enemy, Liam, is a low-class thug who has no problem starting the equivalent of a gang-war within the vampires’ society. His heavy-handed bullying of his subordinates and cruelty to his victims is evidence of that. His second in command, Max, is a much smarter vampire, a man who could have been quite decent under other circumstances and isn't quite sure that his maker is all that sane.

This is a fitting climax to a wonderful series. It’s a paranormal romance, so some graphic sex and a great deal of violence make this book definitely an adult read.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Darkness Rising Book 5: Broken, by Ross M. Kitson





Darkness Rising Book 5: Broken is the long awaited fifth installment in the sweeping  Prism Series, by Ross M. Kitson.  I LOVE this series! Book 5: Broken does not disappoint! It has all the hallmarks of classic high fantasy, with unique, gut-wrenching twists that, in this book, take the reader down dark paths.

But first, THE BLURB:


Beneath the veneer, beneath the beauty, there is always the coldness of stone.’

Tragedy has torn apart Emelia and her companions, a terrible betrayal instigated by the Darkmaster, Vildor. A devastated Jem struggles to control the fearful power of the crystals, becoming distant from his closest friends. Hunor and Orla are tested by a secret from the past, a revelation that will change everything between them. In the Dead City, Emelia begins a search for her past, a journey that will plunge her deeper into the darkness of Vildor and his twisted schemes.
Desperate to seek aid in their battle against Vildor, the companions travel north to Belgo, capital of North Artoria. But everything is not what it seems in the palace, and danger lurks in every shadow, whether cast by friend or foe. Separated and alone, can Emelia, Jem and Hunor hope to prevail? Or will the evils of the present and the past overcome them at last?

MY REVIEW:
What I love most about this series is the way Kitson gets into the heads of his protagonists. Each one is individual and unique in their own right. There are many intriguing characters in this tale, and the evil ones, such as Vildor, are truly horrendous. There is no depth to which he will not sink to achieve their goal, that of gaining all the prisms.

Several times during this book I had the urge to throttle certain characters. Emelia makes some astounding decisions, as does Lady Orla. I felt like slapping both of them.

For me, Hunor's story in this particular episode is deeply compelling. Jem also faces some tough realities, and grows stronger from them. Marthir does have a role in this book, but only toward the end.

Kitson weaves his tales with the hand of the master. Each of the many story-lines is dealt with, and done in such a way that it was hard to put the book down, and hard to say good by to the book at the end. 

The next book will be the final book of the series, and I can't wait to get it! I have to know how this ends!!! Mr. Kitson--please finish writing book six NOW.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Metanoia, by Rachel Tsoumbakos



Australian indie author Rachel Tsoumbakos is known for her dystopian fiction, love of all things a bit twisted, and stark settings. Metanoia does not disappoint in any way!

But first THE BLURB:
METANOIA

Definition: n. a spiritual conversion or awakening; a fundamental change of character

Etymology: Greek 'change one's mind, repent'

Marli Anderson has just one task: assassinate Oscar La Monde, the man she once loved.

As assassin for hire for the prestigious Merrick’s Inc., she is sent back to her home town to kill the man she now loathes beyond all others—her husband. Considering they are on opposing sides of the uprising, Marli anticipates an easy task; ‘closure’ they call it. The fact that she can exact her revenge for his past discretions is just the icing on the cake.

When she arrives, the town has changed. The man she hated is unexpectedly welcoming. And the town’s folk—well, they’re just… different. Someone or something has transformed them all into a bunch of zombies. They appear to be harmless - but are they?

As she begins to uncover details of who may be behind the townsfolk’s’ metamorphosis, Marli is left fighting for the truth. Will she and Oscar be able to unravel the web of deception before it’s too late?

Should she trust her heart or her head? Which is less likely to get her killed?

Either way, METANOIA is a heart-stopping zombie apocalypse adventure that will keep you guessing at every twist and turn until the very end.

MY REVIEW:
Let me just say at the outset: this thing starts off with a bang and keeps on going. I don’t normally read books about Zombies, unless the plot is about more than a rehash of lurid B-movies. This is a book about the hard realities of life on the edge, politics, and murder. And contrasting with these dark themes is tenderness, love, and loyalty.

Marli is a strong woman, a loner, and confused in many ways, but she has a backbone and she's not afraid to use it. Oscar is also a strong character, as are the others who make appearances in this tale.

I love the way that just when you think this book is going in one direction, it makes a sharp turn for the intriguing. The stress of life in that society, the environment, and the opposing agendas of the antagonists keep this this tale moving along at a real clip.

The society she places Marli and Oscar in is intricate and eerily possible, and is all the more frightening because it is so possible. All together this book took me away for two days of in-depth reading--mainly because I read it twice, back to back.

I strongly recommend this book to fans of dystopian fiction.