Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Black Numbers, Dean Frank Lappi





One of my all-time favorite books by indie author Dean Frank Lappi, is his first one, a little thing called Black Numbers. 


But first the blurb:

In a land where true magic is based on the rare ability to use advanced mathematics to affect the physical world, those who can control such powers are part of a secret organization known as the Oblate. Over the millennia, they have directed the Korpor, a violent and sexual creature, to roam the land and search for the Aleph Null, the one prophesied to control the mysterious Black Numbers, a power beyond anything ever seen in the land.
Sid’s awakening sexuality and genius-level mastery of mathematics puts him on a collision course with the Korpor and the Oblate, and he soon finds himself on the run from powerful and mysterious forces intent on controlling him and his powers. His journey propels him to the center of an ancient struggle that he cannot understand and wants no part of.
But he is not alone, for the friendships that he forges along the way help him to navigate the dark and chaotic road he must travel.
Can Sid overcome the seductive darkness known as Black Numbers?

MY REVIEW:

This book is in many ways a traditional fantasy, but Lappi crosses the line into horror without losing the qualities that I love in an epic fantasy. We have a true Good vs Evil plot, a completely believable system of magic, incredibly frightening creatures and a plot that would make Clive Barker proud.

In Black Numbers, Lappi has created a character-driven plot with all the elements of the Hero's Journey that true fantasy incorporates, along with the atmosphere of fear that great horror evokes.

Magic is expressed both sexually and through mathematics. The central protagonist, Sid (Sidoro) is a young boy growing up with a hard, uncaring father. Sid's father teaches him how to use mathematics, believing with all his heart that Sid is the Aleph Null - a prophesied wielder of the Black Numbers who will rule The Oblate. However, the dreadful creature called the Korpor must test him, and sexually awaken his numbers.

This is not a story for the weak of heart. Sid's violent and frightening encounters with the Korpor are the stuff of nightmares. Many people want to see Sid dead, because of what he is. Fortunately for Sid, he attracts friends who are willing to protect him, one of whom is Crowdal, a giant of a man who is a member of a race called the Trith.

Lappi has created a tale that makes you both afraid to turn the page, and terrified not to. You want to see what will happen to Sid and Crowdal, and at the end, you are left wanting to read more: Lappi set it up beautifully for the sequel, Blood Numbers. I loved this book!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Magic, Mystery, and Mirth: Lindsay Schopfer


Today, I have the always-delightful work of indie author Lindsay Schopfer on deck in the form of a short volume, Magic Mystery and Mirth. This collection of short stories is a great read. The cover is one of the colorful and creative covers of the year.

But First, The Blurb:
Join fantasy author Lindsay Schopfer as he shares eight short tales of adventure and imagination, including…

A genie taken to court for giving bad wishes
A Strange Tales-inspired look at technology in modern society
A reimagining of the banshee myth
A steampunk tale of dirigibles and magic
A sword and sorcery spoof staring a burly wizard, a tall skinny dwarf, a toy dragon breeder, and a tailor
… and more.

Also included is a special sneak peak of Into the North, the upcoming sequel to the steampunk adventure novel The Beast Hunter.

My Review:
Let's face it--I love short story collections. Some of the best, most enduring works of fiction arrive in the form of the short story, and there are a couple of real jewels in this book.

The book opens with Sharp Sword Dull Sword. This particular tale was inspired by being told a contest he was thinking about entering did NOT want any tales involving talking swords.  What emerged from his rebellion is a witty little send-up of every D&D game ever played. If you are looking for snark, this tale is just what you ordered!

My personal favorite in this volume is Disconnected. In this tale, Schopfer voyages into literary, cerebral science fiction, and does it well. This is a thinking person's tale, and was rightfully selected as a finalist in PNWA's annual literary contest. In this tale he explores the place where modern technology and modern society merge.

As a bonus, he gives us a preview of Into the North, the sequel to The Beast Hunter. All the common sense and cold perserverance that Kelton Moore displayed in The Beast Hunter is back in full force in this snippet.

Mad Science Institute, Sechin Tower





I have been catching up on my long-put off reading, starting with a book by fellow Northwest indie author Sechin Tower, Mad Science Institute . I had a great time reading this particular YA novel.


But first, The Blurb:


Sophia “Soap” Lazarcheck is a girl genius with a knack for making robots—and for making robots explode. After her talents earn her admission into a secretive university institute, she is swiftly drawn into a conspiracy more than a century in the making. Meanwhile and without her knowledge, her cousin Dean wages a two-fisted war of vengeance against a villainous genius and his unwashed minions. Separately, the cousins must pit themselves against murderous thugs, experimental weaponry, lizard monsters, and a nefarious doomsday device. When their paths finally meet up, they will need to risk everything to prevent a mysterious technology from bringing civilization to a sudden and very messy end.


My Review: This book totally lives up to it’s promise. Soap is a great character, and so is Dean. She is a little too adventurous in the laboratory, and things sometimes go awry. The story opens with her, and immediately shifts to Dean’s story, but shifts back again.


Dean is older, is a firefighter who loves his work, and has relationship issues, which launch him into the thick of things.


Soap is a feisty girl, who is launched into a series of immersive adventures. She’s a bit testy and awkward when it comes to interpersonal relationships.


The author, Sechin Tower, is a teacher in his real life, and I think he must be pretty awesome in the classroom, because the story contains a lot of historical information imparted in regard to Nicola Tesla and his scientific legacy, presented in such an entertaining way the reader doesn’t realize they’re learning.


All in all, I have three grandkids who would really enjoy this book–and Santa will be obliging this year!

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Tale of Two Cities - with Dragons by Charles Dickens and Steven DeWinter



A Tale of Two Cities - with Dragons
by Charles Dickens and Steven DeWinter--I was directed to this book by a friend who knows my love of all things Charles Dickens. When I first picked up the kindle download, I admit I was worried that it would be a mockery of the classic, but that is not the case.

But First the Blurb:

The #1 Bestselling Novel of All Time is back with all new illustrations and a twist to the ending that brings the story together in a brand new way. If you've never read A Tale of Two Cities before, this is the version for you. If you have read the original, you will love this one even more.

With over 200 million copies sold, and opening and closing lines among the most familiar in all of literature, A Tale of Two Cities (1859) is one of the best known and most widely-read books in all of literary fiction.

Revised and updated, A Tale of Two Cities with Dragons (2015), re-imagines that revolutionary tale where the power of the throne is maintained through the use of magic. But that magic is waning as the wizards’ (spelled wixard in this edition) powers are diluted through inbreeding and frivolous living. Humans have had enough at the hands of the supposed elite and rise up to defeat their oppressors through the creation of a horrifying machine powerful enough to rend the heads of wixards from their bodies.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES WITH DRAGONS is a fantasy novel about those who abuse power and those who rise up to overthrow them; with a love story tossed in for good measure! 


My Review:
DeWinter treats the original storyline with great respect. The prose is quite heavy and Victorian, and for that reason, some will find this a difficult read. However, if you love Dickens, and if you love magic, stick with it.

The original novel depicts the plight of the French peasantry demoralized by the French aristocracy in the years leading up to the revolution, the corresponding brutality demonstrated by the revolutionaries toward the former aristocrats in the early years of the revolution. It portrays many unflattering social parallels with life in London during the same period.

This retelling follows the threads with all the proper characters in the right places: Mr. Lorry, Dr. Manette, and the Defarges, along with Mr. Cruncher, the Lucies, and Carton.

The replacing of the old aristocracy with the different kind of abusive aristocracy of “wixards” was an intriguing twist, and one that works well.

All in all, while it is sometimes hard to follow with regard to the Victorian prose, that is in keeping with the original as told by Dickens, and as a result this retelling parallels the original well, with just enough differences to keep it intriguing.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Al-Kabar, By Lee French



I have to say, Al-Kabar by indie author, Lee French has one of the best covers I've ever seen.


The Blurb:

Without a Sultan, corrupt Fire Dancers and their pompous Caliphs abuse power and wage fruitless wars across the parched sands of Serescine.


Fakhira wishes her family could afford to solve their problems with magic. Sometimes, wishes come true. In the worst possible way. A simple peasant, she'll have to find the strength to survive and shoulder her fate before the desert is bathed in the blood of innocents.


The Fires blaze in dozens of wild, capricious Dancers.

The Waters anoint only one champion, one Al-Kabar to serve--and save--the people of the desert.



My Review:

This is a complex tale about complex characters. Fakhiri has many layers, and is made of stronger stuff than she imagined. Al Kabar teeters on the brink of becoming that which he fights to over throw, and Tahjis the Rat tries to hold everything together. Korval becomes what he always believed he was, but not without a struggle.

The setting is vivid, and the action is pretty much non-stop. There are several places where twists I hadn't seen coming made their appearance, which made it a real reading adventure.

This is a good, immersive, stand-alone fantasy novel. I give it 5 stars and look forward to reading more novels by Lee French.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Husband's Secret, Liane Moriarty


Today we talk about The Husband's Secret, by Liane Moriarty. This is not fantasy by any means, but it is an excellent read, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. Released in 2013 by Berkley, and Penguin in the US, this book is currently a #1 bestseller at Amazon, and Moriarty is listed in the top 100 authors there. 

First the Blurb:
At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read

My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died. . .

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

My review: This book is about loss and grief in Sydney, Australia--but it could easily have been set in Seattle or London and it would still feel true. These women are people you feel you know, and while they are not always likable, they are always true to who they are.

Several characters in the book have secrets they hold on to that they eventually reveal. The concepts of guilt and betrayal loom large in this tale, driving it to the shocking conclusion. Ethics and morality shift and bend under the stress, and three good women do things they consider heinous, and each finds ways to justify it.

The Berlin Wall is referred to throughout the novel as Cecelia’s daughter, Esther, works on her school project. And in fact, we learn that Cecilia met John-Paul on the day the Wall finally came down. The Wall is symbolic of many things in this tale, as Tess also has a connection to it.

Rachel is pinched and afraid to love anyone but her grandson. Her son is devastated by the loss of his sister and hurt by his mother’s distance. No matter how he tries, he can’t get close to her.

These are complicated women, faced with an unbearable situation. The actions and the final resolution is completely true to the characters. This is a slow-moving tale action-wise, but it literally tears through the emotional gamut. I give The Husband's Secret four and half stars.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Masks (The Lord Jester's Legacy Book 1) by E.M. Prazeman




I first ran across this book when I was working the NIWA table in the dealers' room at NorWesCon 2015, and fell in love with the gorgeous, intriguing cover. I had to run home and buy a Kindle download, and was I ever glad I did. Masks, book 1 in the Lord Jester's Legacy series by E.M. Prazeman is my kind of book--full of compelling characters and vivid settings.

But First, THE BLURB:

When Mark Seaton's father disappears and his mother is murdered, he becomes a pawn in a deadly world of nobles, masked courtiers, and mysterious beings that whisper in his mind.
The only way a pawn can survive is to gain position and power.
The only way Mark Seaton can be free, is to become a player.


MY REVIEW:

Mark Seton is a terrific character.  Abused, and unsure of himself, Mark does something he knows is dangerous and fool-hardy, embarking a journey that is fraught with peril, some clear and some hidden.

As his alter-ego, Lark, Mark has courage and strength. But in order to bring Lark's true powers to fruition, Mark must decide who he is, and grasp that chance, despite the fact that it will both make and destroy him.

The other characters are well conceived--Lord Jester Gutter is intriguing and sinister. Obsidian is also a mystery--Colonel Rohn Evan is confusing, hard to know, yet compelling. You like and dislike him. The motives of the players are never what they appear.

The setting is rich, opulent and slightly degenerate. The underlying themes of this book bode well for the rest of the series, as do the characters that were introduced. 

If this book has a flaw it is in the proof-reading. It is clearly an indie production, editorially. But the characters and the story drew me back in every time I was knocked out of my reading reverie by a glaring cut & paste error, or some other thing that could have been caught before publication. 

I am definitely buying the next installment on this series, Confidante. I must say, Prazeman's covers are good representations of what lies within.