Friday, December 28, 2012

Indie Book Covers of 2012


One of my favorite parts of posting book reviews is looking at the cover art, even on ebooks.  Some of the finest art out there is on Indie Books and I am well-known for buying a book for its cover!

 

One of the most beautifully illustrated books I have read in a long time is Ravenwild by Dr. Peter J. Plasse. The gorgeous illustrations are by the incredibly talented Michael Longenecker. Even if the book were a dud, I would recommend it just for Longenecker's richly detailed paintings and drawings which are sprinkled throughout the book! However, this book is a very good read. I spent a snowy day in March reading this tale, and I am now a confirmed fan.  This is definitely my cover of the year, and the artwork within is awesome.
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Hemlock and the Wizard Tower (The Maker’s Fire) by B. Throwsnaill. This was the best .99 that I have spent in a long while and the cover art was also fabulous.
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The Sum of All Men This book was first published in 1998, but for some strange reason I had never read any work by David Farland. That omission, however, has been rectified. He isn’t an indie, but I am now a drooling fan.
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Darkness Rising 3, Prism is the long awaited third installment in the sweeping Darkness Rising Series, by Dr. Ross M. Kitson. I love, love, love Hunor!
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FireseedOne by Catherine Stine – this was a guest review by Alison DeLuca. An awesome book!
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Northman is an excellent novel by an indie author. J.D. Hughes twists time and history into a paranormal page-turner that is one of a kind. The cover is simple and powerful, and caught my eye when I first saw it on his blog.
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‘The Time Weaver’ by indie author Thomas A. Knight was an excellent first novel, and I think it bodes well for his future efforts. He also opted for a simple cover design, one that is intriguing in its simplicity.
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Jeffrey Getzin’s breathtaking epic fantasy, Prince of Bryanae’ is exceptionally well covered, in a fabulous fantasy cover that is as fine as we could find on a Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson novel. I would have given this book my cover of the  year vote, if I hadn't fallen in love with Peter Plasse's Ravenwild.
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Alison DeLuca's wonderful Steampunk books, The Crown Phoenix Series has three amazing covers, all of which really catch the eye, but there is something about this cover that I just love. Maybe it is that she reminds me of Wednesday Addams, only sweeter...
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I was also fascinated by the simple yet intriguing covers on LornaT. Suzuki's and Nia Suzuki-White's wonderful Dream Merchant Saga. I felt compelled to pick them up and take a good look when I first saw them and I am so glad I did!
 
All of these covers prove that even ebooks need good covers on them, because every one of these books was a Kindle or Nook purchase, and as I said before, I usually buy a book for it's cover.

These are by no means all of the fine covers which were featured on the Best In Fantasy this year, but they were the ones with most quickly caught my eye and while I could go on and on, there is only so much you poor readers are going to put up with.

Sigh.

I always loved looking at the pictures as much as reading the books when I was young, and I'm no different now! 

 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Darkness Rising 3, Prism by Ross M. Kitson


Darkness Rising  3, Prism is the long awaited third installment in the sweeping  Darkness Rising Series, by Ross M. Kitson.

In Books 1 and 2 we met Emelia, Jem, Hunor, Marthir, Orla and Kervin.  After their escape from Goldoria, Emelia and her companions begin their arduous journey into the swamps of Ssinthor. A land ravaged by ancient sorcery, it is a place of secrets and danger. In fact, the land is in many ways poisonous, and while it affects Kervin, the toxic land affects the druid, Marthir most extremely. Emelia also undergoes a profound change, and the personal stresses between the companions threaten their cohesiveness as much as the evil which surrounds them.

Deep in the mists and unhealthy fogs of Ssinthor, an insane lizardman sorcerer wields the green crystal to devastating effect. As darkness threatens to tear the comrades apart they must somehow challenge the awesome power working against them.  It is in Ssinthor that Orla comes into her own, and we see the woman as the honorable warrior she is.

In Artoria far to the west, Aldred and his new comrades travel on a misguided mission to save his cursed father. A chance encounter with a seer throws them into a rash digression from their path, deep into the Emerald Mountains, where a terrible foe awaits. Now Aldred is set on a path, for good or ill, which affects everyone.

Hidden in the secret recesses of a ruined fort, a crystal of blackest sorcery awaits its former master, Vildor, Lord of the Ghasts. Vildor’s underlings are legion, and his reach is long. Vildor is as obsessive unforgiving as any immortal can be.

Kitson’s world is fully fleshed in both its history and social structure, but he doesn’t fall into the trap of overly descriptive prose.  The reader’s mind is allowed to absorb the tale, free to imagine the places and the people unimpeded.  We are drawn in and live the tale with intensity, feeling a sense of loss when the final pages arrive, and we emerge from the tale only to realize we must now wait until Mr. Kitson has written the next installment in this brilliant fantasy adventure.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Northman, by J.D. Hughes



Northman is an excellent novel by an indie author.  J.D. Hughes twists time and history into a paranormal page-turner that is one of a kind. 

Academically brilliant, but haunted by the memories of her dead lover, Kate Elliot struggles to find the joy in her chosen career. An archaeologist, she is assisting Dr. Weatherall at a dig near Repton, England.  An unexploded bomb left over from WWII has exploded and opened up the barrow of a Viking warrior, Thorkild, exposing his bones and that of an infant. 

The night she finds the infant’s skull, strange things begin to happen to Kate, and somehow she finds herself running though the archaeological dig, pursued by the malevolent spirit of the Viking who is determined to possess her. Rescued by Michael McLaren, a B-Movie director, Kate is troubled by several terrible events which all have a common thread – the Northman, Thorkild. Soon others are trapped in the same web of terror and together they are thrust back 1200 years into 9th century England to face the Northman.

Life and death, death and rebirth combined with an amulet that won’t stay put and a Norse god with an agenda make this book a thriller that is completely addicting from page one.  Visual, and violent, sexually explicit and definitely not for the faint of heart, Hughes’s characters draw you in, even Thorkild is fascinating, albeit in the same way a live grenade is fascinating. You can’t look away, and you have no idea where the next plot twist will take you.  I absolutely love the originality and the way Hughes combines Norse Mythology and archaeology to weave one of the best books of the year.

I gladly give this book five stars!

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Dream Land, Stephen Swartz


I have long been a fan of Stephen Swartz's writing. In The Dream Land, Long Distance Voyager he has ventured into the realm of science-fiction and fantasy, and done it with his own inimitable style.
The Blurb:
High school nerds Sebastian and Gina discover a doorway to a new world. Adventure-loving Gina falls in love with the world of Ghoupallesz and wants to stay, but studious Sebastian fears losing touch with Earth, so he returns alone. Nevertheless, he sneaks back time and time again for his own adventures before finally giving it up after too many lost loves, betrayals, and war.

Years later, working night shift at the IRS, Sebastian feels the cosmic pull once more. Gina is in trouble. Again. Of course he must return and save her! Perhaps this time, he hopes, they can remain together. Returning through the inter-dimensional doorway, Sebastian must first gather his old comrades from the war, cross the towering Zet mountains, and free Gina from the evil Zetin warlord’s castle.

Unfortunately, Sebastian finds there are more questions needing answers. Is his adventure on the other side real? Or is it just the dream of a psychotic killer? That’s what the police want to know when his friends and co-workers go missing.
My Review:
Stephen Swartz has once again created a unique and believable world—both the world we live in and the world of Ghoupallesz. As always, his characters are deep and not always possessed of good intentions. Sebastian is both naïve and worldly, and he is both young and old.  Gina was never naïve, with her own agenda and is not exactly straight with Sebastian (or indeed with anyone). 

This is most definitely NOT a simple tale of boy rescues girl and they live happily ever after. It is instead a complex, richly layered tale of lives and deaths experienced, and also of dreams versus realities and the blurred line between. It’s a tale of discovery and coming to terms with one’s choices. I found it to be intriguing and not surprisingly, I found myself unable to put this book down once I began reading it.

I am definitely looking forward to Book II, Dreams of Future’s Past.

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Crown Phoenix Series, Alison DeLuca


Today we enter the wild, wonderful world of Edwardian England, as we examine Alison DeLuca's magical, steampunk Crown Phoenix Series.

Alison DeLuca hits the ground running in the opening chapters of 'The Night Watchman Express', and the story never stops moving until the last page.This tale combines everything that makes for a good story: well crafted characters, good plot and great adventures.


Orphaned, and angry, Miriam is forced to accept her life has been given over to her new guardians, her father's business partners, the Marchpanes. The Marchpanes immediately move into Miriam's house, and take over her father's rooms. (Mrs. Marchpane is deliciously evil.) They make their attempt to gain full control of Miriam's money and her father's company.

Gradually, Miriam begins to find common ground with the Marchpane's son, Simon, and their other young `guest' Neil. A nanny who is both wise and skilled in certain magics is hired, and she saves the day, sort of. Mana is a woman who is of a race of people, who are considered to be second-class citizens, and contrary to the Marchpane's hopes, she turns out to be exactly what both Miriam and the two boys needed.

There is a reluctant camaraderie that develops between Miriam and the two boys. The three of them do a certain amount of exploring the grounds of the estate, and discover a strange machine that her father has constructed. Another interesting thread is also Miriam's strange emotional attachment to her father's typewriter-like machine, the Crown Phoenix, which she has claimed for her own since his death, and keeps hidden in her room.

The Marchpanes are not pleased by Mana's good influence on Miriam, and they fear her. They fire Mana and get rid of Miriam.

Nightly Miriam has heard the mournful Night Watchman Express, a mysterious train that passes close to her home, on its way to a sinister place called Devil's Kitchen where children are enslaved, and become subjects of evil experiments. Though she has never known where the train actually went, the sound of it has always terrified her.

In the course of her experiences, Miriam becomes a strong young woman, and her resourcefulness and courage make for a great adventure. Mana proves to be not just a governess, and the two boys have parts to play in the story.


 
 
In book two, The Devil's Kitchen we see just what those horrors are.
 
The book opens with Miriam and Simon on the terrifying train known as the Night Watchman Express. She is immediately thrown into a prison, the infamous `Devil's Kitchen' and forced to labor in horrible conditions. Simon is also held captive, in a prison of a very different sort, but one that is a prison nonetheless.


Miriam strength and courage make both friends and enemies for her in the frightening underworld of the Devil's Kitchen. She grows into a much more likeable, resourceful girl, while trying to maintain her sense of self and keeping her dignity while being forced to labor and live in the most the appalling conditions. Simon also is forced to find his courage and his strength and use his wits to survive the situation that he finds himself in.


Neil has found himself in a more comfortable but still extremely dangerous position in his effort to rescue Miriam, but has found support in Mana’s secret return and in an unexpected friend.

 
The 3rd book in the series, Lamplighter's Special is a wild journey to the islands, featuring Neil's sisters, Ninna and Lizzie. They too are caught-up in the dark world of those who search for the Crown Phoenix. While they are searching for their brother, they are forced into servitude, forming close friendships with the young men of the manor, Priam and Toby, despite the restrictions on such fraternization.  Everyone wants the Crown Phoenix which Miriam's father invented, and they will stop at nothing to gain it.

Lizzie's and Ninna's stories are told almost as if they were in a fairy tale, but it is a tale with a gritty steampunk quality that makes it a perfect rainy weekend read. There is danger, there is darkness, and suspense; there is a serious good vs. evil plot. I found that I was thinking about the characters at the end, and wondering what was going to happen next.

I LOVE this series!  I am buying this series in BOOK FORM (!) for my nieces and nephews.  They will love it as much as I do. You can also read Alison DeLuca's wonderful post on her characters Neil, Kyoge and Riki at my other blog, Life in the Realm of Fantasy.




Friday, November 9, 2012

Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams


 

First published in 1988 by the master of epic fantasy, Tad Williams, the watershed series Memory, Sorrow and Thorn begins with The Dragon Bone Chair. Just like the most enduring of marriages, this tale of three great and dangerous swords begins a bit slowly, but once you are into it, these books are sheer magic.

The main protagonist is Simon, a fourteen-year-old kitchen boy and servant in the great castle Hayholt. He is not really very enthusiastic in carrying out his duties as a kitchen-drudge in the last days of the long reign of King John Presbyter. However, he is happy when he finds himself apprenticed to Doctor Morgenes, the castle's healer and wizard. Simon alternates his time between his chores as a drudge and learning to read and write, taught by the good doctor. Upon the death of the great King John, his son Elias, whom many say is a pawn of the evil cleric Pryrates, becomes king.

Soon after he takes the throne, King Elias' brother Josua, whom Elias hates, vanishes and no one is sure if he went voluntarily or was murdered. Elias is blinded by his desire for power. He creates a pact with the undead Sithi ruler, the Storm King, who plots to regain his lost realm through a pact with one of human royal blood.

Simon accidentally stumbles into the castle dungeons and discovers that Prince Josua is being held captive. He and Morgenes conspire to rescue the prince. Simon and Morgenes are successful, and Josua escapes, but Elias' soldiers, led by Pryrates, storm Morgenes' office, and Morgenes is murdered by a dark magic. Terrified and confused, Simon is able to flee the castle through a secret passage at the back of the doctor's office. With only with his mentor's biography of the good King John for companionship, Simon is lost and despondent.

In the process of escaping the Hayholt, Simon witnesses Pryrates and Elias performing an evil ritual with some strange white demons.

Simon rescues a member of the Sithi from a trap, and receives a white arrow as a token. At the same time he is befriended by a troll, Binnabik, who travels with Simon to Naglimund where they hope he will find safety. While traveling they save a servant girl and her sister from wild dogs, and meet a witch who helps them escape the soldiers who are pursuing them.

Upon arriving at Naglimund Simon discovers that the serving girl whom they saved is actually Miriamele, the only child of King Elias. She has run away to join her uncle Josua.

Simon finds himself on a quest to recover the magical blade, Thorn which once belonged to the greatest knight in their history. In the process, he runs into the Sithi Prince that he had rescued from the trap, and Jiriki joins Simon in his quest.

The changes that Simon and Miriamele go through as they leave their childhood behind are both tragic and amazing. The ways they react to and are formed by the pressures they are under, and the strengths they both have make this series one of the most compelling character studies I’ve read.

There is a large cast of characters, but I found it easy to keep them straight because they are drawn with attention to their individual personalities. Each character is all the more real because they have individual flaws and weaknesses. They make bad decisions, and they do things which seem incomprehensible, but they are behaving the way people under stress behave. This is why this take on the age-old tale of the kitchen-boy who is really a hero remains fresh and wonderful twenty five years later. Of course, there is an Appendix in the back with the names and pronunciations of all the characters and places.

The intertwined stories of Simon and Miriamele are told in a way that is detailed and very real. Williams has painted his world with such detail that reader feels as if Osten Ard is a real place, and you feel as if you know it well. This series is so well drawn and plotted that I found myself dreaming about it when the books ended.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fireseed One, Catherine Stine


 

 

Fireseed One by Catherine Stine  - guest review by Alison DeLuca

 

Fireseed gripped me from the start. Stine introduced the action, the concept, and the characters right away, and I loved all of them. Varik, the son of an agar farmer who has to shoulder responsibilities too large for anyone, let alone an adolescent, is strong and intelligent. More than that - he is REAL. He makes bad decisions and gets crushes, and I thoroughly related to him right away.

Marisa, the girl who breaks into the precious seed discs that keep Varik's agar farm going, is also real. Yes, she is beautiful with long, red hair and a gorgeous figure. yes, she is rich, and she is also brave and intelligent. But she also makes mistakes, and it is those fatal flaws that make her and Varik so human. Marisa has been "seduced" (in every sense of the word) by a political group. This compels much of the action.

No one, except for Varik, realizes how important the seed discs and the agar crop are. When the whole farm nearly is destroyed, it puts the entire world in jeopardy of starvation, since food no longer grows in the "Hot Zone" which is most of the US.

Varik's father developed something called Fireseed years before the action begins, and it is this mysterious plant that Marisa is after. When the farm is nearly shut down, Fireseed becomes the last hope for the human race.

This may sound very serious and grand-scheme, but Stine also focuses on the relationship between Varik and Marisa, which is touching and also very real. The arcs of the story ebb and flow perfectly, like the waves around Varik's farm, and I breathlessly followed all of them.

Add to this Stine's lovely prose, and the book is very compelling. I had to ration it out because I loved reading it so much, but at the end I just couldn't stop.

Beyond that, in this installment Stine has presented a complete adventure. However, at the end, there is a twist that makes me long for the next book. That is a very difficult thing to do, and the writer has pulled it off brilliantly.

I highly recommend Fireseed One.


Today’s guest reviewer is Alison DeLuca, blogger and well known author of the Steampunk ‘Crown Phoenix’ series. Alison can also be found blogging at Fresh Pot of Tea.


 

 

Friday, October 26, 2012

72 - hours to Crack the Universe’s Code, Mark O'Brien




72 - hours to Crack the Universe’s Code by indie author Mark O'Brien is a novel of political intrigue, mathematics, passion and underlying it all, an imperative directive to humanity with dire galactic overtones. I first reviewed this book for a blog which deals with novels more in the area of political intrigue, thrillers and mysteries, but I always planned to review it here.

Somewhat like the Illuminati, the Mathematika is a mysterious Greek society founded long before Christianity. The reason for its existence is to bring mankind ‘that which they know but cannot understand’ and was created to ‘safeguard the truths until mankind was ready to understand them’.

Now the time has come, and the Mathematika is now ruled by the dark fanatic, Alexander Kepler – who believes ethical lines were drawn so you would know where to cross them. Yet, although he is extremely violent, murderous and obsessive, Kepler is a family man, and his relationship with his wife is one of the lighter parts of the tale. This most violent and evil of men is also a romantic, tender lover. However, the time has come for the world to know some basic truths about the Universe, and it is Kepler’s task to insure they are made public.

To this end, he kidnaps a renowned Muslim leader, Ibn Qurra. His henchmen also kidnap the renowned Rabbi Jacobi, and Father George Pappus, president of the Vatican Observatory Foundation - all three at 10:45 am on the same day.

Not all of Kepler’s heavies are 100% behind him, one is a traitor, and another considers him to be insane. All the heavies are individuals, which makes reading them enjoyable.

Ransoms are sent: a series of 3 mathematical equations which all must be solved one per day within 72 hours. If one equation is wrong, all three of the kidnapped men will die.

The protégé of George Pappus, Clancy Sylvester, astrophysicist and mathematician, is determined to get his mentor back. The author has researched all three of the religions represented by the three kidnapped leaders, and also the cultures they represent. The author also appears to have a firm grasp of mathematics, as I do NOT; but on the positive side he did not make me have to do the thinking so the math was fine. Clancy’s friend, Jules Hadamard (female, despite the name) who is a math genius explains it all. All of the characters are distinctly individual, and if some are over the top, well that is part of the fun.
While O'Brien goes a little heavy on the descriptions at times, over all this is a compelling read. There are moments of humor and also of pathos, and the action is non-stop. All in all, I found this to quite entertaining, and well written. This is a good read, and I do not hesitate to recommend it!

 

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Dream Merchant, book 3 – The Crack’d Shield by L.T. Suzuki in collaboration with Nia Suzuki-White


 
The Dream Merchant, book 3 – The Crack'd Shield is written by Canadian author L.T. Suzuki in collaboration with her daughter, Nia Suzuki-White. Lorna Suzuki is the author of the classic Imago series.

This laugh-a-minute farce continues the adventures of prickly, persnickety Princess Rose and her unwilling personal knight, Tag on their quest to retrieve, the Dreamstone which began in TheMagic Crystal.  When The Silver Sword, the second book in the series, ended Rose and Tag were trapped in the lair of a dragon, bickering as usual but were about to set out to rescue their old friend Cankles from the evil Sorcerer Dragonite.   Tag has sacrificed his most precious possession to save Rose.

Now, a cave-in has separated Rose and Tag, but their friends the elves, Denatheen, Ayden, Roen Aldus digging them out.  Dragonite has kidnapped Cankles, but he really wants Princess Rose, although they aren’t really sure why.  Soon, Silas Agincor, the Dream Merchant and Lord Rainus Silverthorn, leader of the elves rejoin them.

The adventures really heat up, and we learn a great deal of Cankles’s history, which is grim and sad; but also noble and brave. Also, we see that all is not exactly peachy-keen in the working relationship of Dragonite and his rebellious minion, the pooka (a sort of a fairy) Loken.  Somehow two evil geniuses in one lair just don’t get along as well as you would think they would, what with all the jockeying for position and one-upping that goes on. Their interactions are frequently hilarious; Loken is not a good and loyal minion at heart. However, Sorcerer Dragonite does possess something Loken wants badly enough to justify pretending to be the underling in this venture. And Dragonite, whose awesome army is composed of Mimes (!!!) is sadistic, where Loken does not enjoy being cruel but does it out of necessity.

The history between the evil Dragonite and Cankles looms large in this tale. Dragonite is responsible for Cankles’s amnesia.  He is also responsible for brutally torturing him a decade before. Now poor Cankles is once more his prisoner, and we discover what it is that really binds Loken to Dragonite.

Now things get really interesting, as if they weren’t already!

I love this whole series, and The Crack’d Shield is a fitting and satisfying conclusion to this 3-volume tale.  The characters are vivid, and colorful; their personalities are unique and distinctive.  I cared about Rose and Tag and absolutely cherished Cankles. I laughed and cried all the way through their adventures, and I love, loved, loved the ending.

All in all, the three volumes of the Dream Merchant Saga combine all the elements of epic high-fantasy with intense drama and hilarious dialogue, creating a real masterpiece. The Crack'd Shield is a breathtaking finish to a truly awesome tale!  I highly recommend purchasing all three volumes, because you will want to read them all.



 
 
 
 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Heart Search, Carlie M.A. Cullen




Heart Search is a first novel for UK author Carlie M.A. Cullen. This is most unashamedly a paranormal romance novel. I usually never read romance novels, but the plot, as depicted in the blurb for this book, intrigued me. I was most certainly NOT disappointed!

Two weeks before their wedding, Remy’s fiancé, Joshua, hurts her physically. Although he doesn’t know why, he is changing and not for the better. Joshua hates himself for what he’s done. As he changes, so do both his state of mind and his perceptions. He disappears a few days before the wedding.



After a brief descent into an emotional breakdown, Remy heeds advice from her identical twin, Becky, to fight for Joshua. She finds a diary which leads her to believe something strange happened to her fiancé and suspects it was something he had no say in. She resolves to find him, and sets off on a long, lonely journey around the country. As the days turn into weeks, then months, she has to fight through emotional turmoil and find an inner strength just to keep going. Strange things begin to happen to Remy and she questions her sanity.

Cullen takes you into the minds and the eyes of her characters. Her descriptions are thick with visuals and layered with emotion. Joshua is sexy and compelling even though he is not always likeable, but he is a vampire so there you go. His coven is the same way. Samir, his maker is loving and caring for his ‘children’ and they in turn adore him. As individuals they are inherently selfish and uncaring of anyone but their own society, and Cullen portrays this well.

This story is as much about Remy coming to terms with the way her life has been changed and learning who she is as much as it is her search for Joshua. It is also a story about Joshua learning how to live his new life, which is well drawn and drew me in.

She portrays Joshua’s society very clearly, introducing the various factions and power struggles well, and shows how Remy becomes a central element in the vampires’ internecine battles. The unforeseen changes which occur in Remy's life are also depicted well.

I admit I found the author's style of heavy descriptions a bit daunting at first, but I quickly got into the swing of things. I really enjoyed the story and cared about the characters; so much so I couldn't put the book down until I'd finished it. Cullen tells this story in two parallel threads, which I most definitely liked. You get a good view of both Joshua and Remy as they experience their lives through this crisis and other crises which loom.

I give it a solid four stars for an original plot, interesting characters and a unique delivery! The book is clearly a set up for a second book, which I am looking forward to and will definitely buy.  I recommend it for those who read and enjoy a good paranormal romance novel. Carlie M.A. Cullen is an author to watch!

 

 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Moon Dance, J.R. Rain (Vampire for Hire series)

 
 

In ‘MoonDance’, book one of the ‘Vampire for Hire’ series, northwest author J. R. Rain has created an urban world visually parallel to ours which rocks, in my humble opinion.  This is complex a murder mystery with a paranormal twist.  In this tale, Vampires, were-wolves--they are not only possible, they affect the course of Samantha Moon's life.


Six years ago federal agent Samantha Moon was the perfect wife and mother, your typical soccer mom with the minivan and suburban home. Then the unthinkable happens, an attack which changes her life forever. And forever is a very long time for a vampire.

Now the world at large thinks Samantha has developed a rare skin disease, a disease which forces her to quit her day job and stay out of the light of the sun. Her husband, Danny Moon, can no longer deal with the emotional baggage that being married to a dead-woman who just can’t die brings up. He has become a stranger to her. She is in danger of losing her children to his disaffection, so vehemently against her has he become.
 
She can go out in the light of day as long as she takes appropriate measures, but it is difficult and dangerous for her to do so. Still, she does whatever she has to, to be there for her children and the husband who no longer wants her. Heart broken, and frustrated by her inability to change what happened to her through no fault of her own, she struggles to make lemonade from the lemons she’s been given.

Working the night shift as a private investigator, Samantha is hired by Kingsley Fulcrum to investigate the murder attempt on his life, a horrific scene captured on TV and seen around the country. As the case unfolds, Samantha discovers a deep attraction to Kingsley, who isn't exactly what he appears to be either. After all, there is a reason why he survived five shots to the head!

I love Samantha Moon!  She is not a weak, whining poor-me sort of a woman. Samantha is passionate and strong, and is determined to survive whatever life (or death) throws at her. Kingsley is dangerous, sexy and a bad-boy—just what I like in a mysterious client and possible lover.  Her husband, Danny Moon is a consummate jackass and has always been that, but when Samantha was still human he’d hidden it well. Now she is a creature of the night his true colors are showing, but she is still making excuses for him and trying desperately to make their marriage work, despite her attraction to Kingsley.

Samantha finds both allies and enemies everywhere. Some of her allies are surprising; a policeman who suspects her true nature but respects her as a detective and an honorable person; her former partner. Her enemies are more subtle—the arrival of a package with a medallion bearing the same symbol as that worn by her original attacker shocks her. She’d thought the attack was random but now, six years later she knows it was not.

There is a crisp rawness to Rain’s delivery.  Samantha is a keen detective and once she accepts a case, she follows it to the end, no matter what comes of it. Kingsley’s case is not simply the assassination attempt gone awry it appears to be on the surface; it is far-reaching and drags Samantha into even more danger than she is already in.  All the seemingly disparate threads of Kingsley and Samantha’s relationship, both business and personal, weave a tapestry that sizzles with sexual tension and urgent possibility, but it is not the central piece of this tale. 

I liked this novel so much, I bought the 6 book boxed set from Barnes&Noble for Nook for the highly affordable price of $9.99! The series gets better with each book, and I am completely hooked.


Not only that, but I can't wait to get my teeth into his Jim Knighthorse series!

 

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Great Book of Amber, Roger Zelazney




Today I am going back to one of the best, most enjoyable series of books I ever read, and that is a series of books by Roger Zelazney called 'The Great Book of Amber'. I started reading this series with the first book, Nine Princes in Amber back in 1970 when it was first published. He was a man ahead of his time, who believed that if there exists an infinite number of worlds, then every world that can be imagined must exist, somewhere. He wrote his tales based on that conviction, and this series explores that hypothesis more clearly than any other of his works.

This is a big, sweeping fantasy, and is definitely a macho take on the current mores of the1970s. Machismo aside, this is one of the best fantasy series ever written, and modern writers would do well to read Zelazney's work. The series begins with the classic, 'Nine Princes in Amber.'

Told in the first person, a man wakes up in a private hospital, knowing that he is not as injured as the nurses say he is, and that he is being drugged into cooperating. Suffering from amnesia, he removes the casts on his legs, beats up an orderly who is out to stop him from leaving at any cost, steals the orderly's clothes and forces his way into the physician-in-charge's office, where he demands to be released.  The Dr. refuses and pulls a gun on him.  Our hero swiftly and efficiently disarms the doctor.  He discovers he is booked into a place called 'Greenwood Private hospital' under the name of Carl Corey.  He has apparently been booked there by his sister, a Mrs. Evelyn Flaumel. Both names feel false to him.

Desperate to discover his past Carl 'settles out of court' with the doctor who has been holding him against his will, and travels to 'Evelyn's' address which was listed in his file. She is surprised to see him, and drops hints that suggest she thinks he has regained his memory. Hiding his lack of knowledge about what she is saying, he convinces her to let him stay. In a desk in her library he locates a set of customised Tarot cards— called the Trumps—whose Major Arcana are replaced with images which he recognises as his family. As he looks over the cards he remembers all his brothers and sisters: sneaky Random, Julian the hunter, well-built Gérard, the arrogant Eric, himself, Benedict the master tactician and swordsman, sinister Caine, scheming Bleys, and the mysterious Brand. He also views his four sisters: Flora who offered him sanctuary, Deirdre who was dear to him, reserved Llewella, and Fiona, whom Carl (who now knows his name is Corwin) hated. Still, his memory is very spotty, and he has no idea what is really going on or how he ended up in the hospital.

His brother Random calls Flora's house via telephone and is dumbfounded when Corwin answers it.  Corwin promises to give him protection, although he has no idea from what or whom. Random arrives, pursued by mysterious spined, bloodshot-eyed humanoid creatures, and the combined efforts of Corwin, Random, and Flora's dogs ultimately defeat them. This is only the beginning of Corwin's struggle. He and Random set out on a ride (Random still doesn't know he is faking his memory).  There are more battles with strange beasts and in the end Corwin is shown and walks the Pattern, a labyrinth inscribed in the dungeons of Castle Amber which gives the multiverse its order. He can't get to Amber, but he instead walks the one in in Rebma, the first shadow away from Amber.

These books comprise a sweeping tale of the lust for power and the way absolute power corrupts.  There is intense love, brotherly hate and sibling against sibling vying for the crown of their missing father, Oberon, King of Amber. 

Every sort of evil brothers can do to each other, these nine princes do, and yet they love/hate each other obsessively.  The entire family is split into several groups, two of whom are vying to claim their missing fathers throne; one group is backing Corwin; and the other group is backing his older but slightly less legitimate brother Eric, and the third switching sides when it looks more profitable for them to back Eric rather than Corwin.  Corwin is considered to be a cruel and selfish man, and indeed he has been exactly that. His oldest brother Benedict doesn't trust him to rule Amber well, as he once ruled a shadow called Avalon poorly when he was very young and is remembered there as a despot.  Corwin wants to convince Benedict he has changed, but it is a losing battle, as things keep happening that make him appear to be murderous and power mad.

If you are looking for sheer adventure which makes no apologies for it's blatant misogyny, this is the series for you.  I loved it, but then I freely admit to being fatally attracted to the bad boys of the world. I have read every book Zelazney ever wrote before his untimely death in 1995.   Other books which were landmark books for me were 1971's immortal 'Jack of Shadows' and 1979's classic tale of a road-trip gone to extremes,  'Roadmarks'.



Friday, September 21, 2012

Darkness Rising 2 -Quest; Ross M Kitson

 

 As are most fantasy addicts, I love a good series; something I can get my teeth into. But I also like to know there will be some resolution, at some point and Ross M. Kitson has delivered on all points so far with his Darkness Rising Series. 

In Darkness Rising book 1 - Chained,  by indie author Ross M. Kitson, we met Emelia. Born with strange silver-grey eyes, Emelia is trapped in servitude to uncaring and haughty masters. Technically she is a ‘hired servant’ and not a slave, but the family who ‘employs’ her and others like her, own her body and soul.   It is a harsh and unforgiving life for a girl who hears voices which counsel rebellion; a girl who who frequently crosses the line and forgets her place through no fault of her own.  Even so, she has friends and loved ones within the servant community, and even a wistful romantic interest. Because of her eyes, she is called ‘Star-Eyed’, and it is suspected that one of her ancestors was actually a ‘Subaquan’ or a merman. Events happen to Emelia and she finds herself caught up in them, unable to control them or to avoid the punishments that surely follow.

The family that employs her, the Ebon-Farrs are members of an elite and highly-placed nobility with many important connections. They are also possessed of an item, a Crystal that the Arch-mage, Inkas-Tarr desires and plans to steal. Inkas also desires to possess Emelia, and he makes a bargain with the Ebon-Farrs to purchase her. Arch-mage Inkas is the highest ranking Elemental master and he sees something in her that he wishes to have at his enclave to study.

Before that can happen, she inadvertently runs afoul of Uthor Ebon-Farr, the arrogant son of the house, and strange powers emerge within her, but she is unaware of what has happened, only that strange things are happening to her, and that she is punished severely for the events that she had no control over.

On the night that she makes her escape from her masters, Emelia meets two men, Hunor and Jem, who are attempting to steal the very crystal that Arch-mage Inkas has also sent a thief after. Things begin to really go awry, but it turns out that Emelia is a Wild Mage, and is the antitheses of the Elemental Mages.

It turns out that the crystal is actually a dangerous and powerful magical artifact, one of the Prisms of Power - ancient artifacts made by a long dead race containing terrifying magic.

Once she is embroiled with Hunor and Jem, she embarks upon an epic adventure to find the Prisms. The Prisms are necessary to defeat the lord of the ghasts, the undead mages who are unequivocally evil.  No wishy-washy maybe-they-are evil here!!!  The Lord of the Ghasts is Evil. Emelia holds the key to their location but the Wild-magic comes at a dire cost...that of her mind.

Now in Darkness Rising Book 2 - Quest, Emelia, Hunor and Jem’s adventures continue. Wounded by a demon, Emelia is taken by her comrades, Jem and Hunor, into the dangerous Silver Mountains where they seek an old friend. A chance encounter propels them into a quest to find artifacts of awesome power.

Joining their quest is Lady Orla Farvous, a knight of the air, and member of the family which ‘owns’ Emelia. Her honor is put to the test as she finds herself fighting alongside people she despises. Also joining the group is Marthir, a druid and a thorn in Emelia’s side; Kervin (a tracker); and Mek-ik-ten, Jem’s mentor.

The Lord of the Ghasts, Vildor, has risen and lays a trap that may end their quest before it begins.  Emelia struggles to learn what she must and to do what she must, all the while fighting her personal demons.  In Thetoria, Aldred Enfarson, begins an investigation into a horrific murder. As he starts to unravel the events surrounding the appearance of a vampyr, he discovers a shocking truth which threatens all he holds dear.

Kitson has created a world that is fully fleshed in both its history and its social structure, and built a system of magic that is logical and is fully believable.  I love all the different races of sentient people; everything from lizardmen to mermen people this tale. The details are slipped into the story in such a way that you absorb them without realizing it.  Kitson's world is rich with the sounds and smells of another place and time; and I become fully immersed in the lives of Emelia, Hunor and Jem when I read his work.

I am positively over the moon knowing book three will soon be released, because I REALLY love this series.
 
 

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Storm in Tormay, by Christopher Bunn


 

A Storm in Tormay is a compilation of a three-book series. The first section, The Hawk and His Boy by indie author Christopher Bunn is book one of The Tormay Series, all three of which are comprised in this book. The tale opens with an orphan boy, Jute, undertaking a ‘chimney’ job for his cruel master, The Juggler. He climbs the wall, using his skills to quiet the wards on the wall. He is worried, because the Knife of the Thieves Guild has insisted he do this job, and only a fool would refuse The Knife anything. Jute wonders why The Knife needs a child for this job, since children were not real thieves, only cut-purses and pickpockets.

He senses the object he seeks in the dark house somehow ‘knows’ him, a thing that intrigues him as he has no idea of his real name or where he really belongs; only that he is an orphan and bound to The Juggler, an unsavory, greedy abusive thief. The box calls to him so clearly he hears it as if someone had spoken his name. The box was the length of his forearm, made of black oak and fastened with a catch and hinges of silver.  A carving of a lifelike hawk, his head staring right at Jute, with the moon and sun rising behind it completed the box.   Despite having been threatened with death if he did so, Jute opens the box. What he finds is an old knife, which seems to be nothing special. He accidentally cuts himself, and sucks the blood away as it wells from his finger. When he closes the box, the carving is no longer lifelike, nothing but a crude carving at best.

Terrified at what he has done, he flees the room. After giving the box to The Knife, the assassin pushes Jute over the edge of the chimney, a failed effort to kill him. Injured, he wakes up with the owners of the house trying to decide what punishments to inflict on his pain-wracked body.

Ronan of Aum, called ‘The Knife’. He holds no malice toward the boy, indeed he feels a bit sorry for him, but he has a job to do. He just wants to earn enough money to escape the city of Hearne and the Thieves Guild.

The Duke of Mizra has asked for the hand of a young noblewoman who is so much more than an ordinary woman, Levoreth.  Besides her obvious secret, she has a mysterious talent for melding her mind with the horses, causing her stablemen to consider her with awe.

Fen, a girl who ‘knows things’ has narrowing escaped the slaughter of her entire family by a creature of evil, becoming horribly injured in the process.  She is rescued by traders, passing through her family’s land.

Nio, the dark wizard who owns the box, pries the information of who had arranged for the theft out of Jute, and then gives him to his horrible creature to kill, but The Voice in Jute’s head helps save his life. Using magic he doesn’t really understand, but believes he does, Nio has created a creature of magic, called a wihitt, which something between a Golem and a demon. He created it from Darkness and the Four Elements to be his servant, and fed it with his own blood. He used it to get information on The Juggler and Ronan, The Knife. The wihitt frightens him somewhat, and he plans to unmake it.

Nio is one of four scholars who seek knowledge of the Gerecednes, a lost book written by a people known to have great knowledge and power over the elements.  One of the other scholars, Severan, knows Nio is up to no good and that he wants Jute. Severan finds Jute and takes him to the ruins of the university to hide him from all who now seek him and want him dead.

The threads of these characters are woven together to form a tapestry which is compelling and absorbing. This is a deep tale, and is frequently heart-rending.  Bunn’s narrative is reminiscent of Tad Williams’s style, making this series an immersive experience to read.  I highly recommend buying the compilation at the outset, because once you have begun reading this series, you won’t be able to stop.
Christopher Bunn can be found blogging on his website, Scribbles and Tunes for the Modern Human.  I must say, I spent a whole morning reading and enjoying his commentary on life and the world in general.

His books are available either through his website or at amazon.com and also Barnes & Noble; and at many other fine bookstores.