Friday, November 29, 2013

The Flight of the Griffin, C. M. Gray

The Flight of the Griffin by author C. M. Gray is a wonderful adventure for young teens but I enjoyed it a great deal, and think it is a great tale for readers of all ages.

The Blurb:

The Kingdom is dying…

The Darkness is coming… the balance between Order and Chaos is rapidly shifting and the world is falling towards evil and horror, and all the misery that Chaos will bring.

But there is hope…

Pardigan’s had enough, he’s only 12, but he’s breaking into the home of one of Freya's richest merchants... and he’s doing it tonight…

A burglary that will change their lives forever sets four friends upon a quest, a race against time, to locate three magical objects and complete an ancient and desperate spell.

Sailing their boat The Griffin, the crew are quickly pursued by The Hawk, an evil bounty hunter and master of dark sorcery, and Belial, King of Demons and champion of Chaos who seeks to rule the world of man… yet first he must capture the crew of The Griffin and end their quest…

My Review:

It is the end times for the world, and the tale opens when Pardigan, the boy- thief, steals a knife and a book from a merchant’s locked cabinet and sets the events into motion. Quint, the leader of his group of friends is the strongest and is a fighter. Loras is the boy-magician whose master died before Loras could learn what he needed to know and who’s magic never works right. Tarent is a dreamer, a storyteller and he keeps the other boys’ spirits up when times are hard.  Orphans all, they live on the abandoned boat, The Griffin.

Along with the knife and other loot from the merchant’s house, Pardigan has also gained a strange, magical talking cat named Mahra.  This cat who changes back and forth from a girl, to an owl, to a cat, depending on her mood, knows how to unlock the secrets of the magical knife and book. They do as they are told to and become the Magician, Thief, Priest and Fighter, four heroes with a task to right the balance of the world which must have equal amounts of Order and Chaos.  They have been chosen to be the Soldiers for Order and to oppose Chaos in a quest that pits them against magic, demons and ‘The Hawk,’ an evil hunter of men.

The four boys are real – they are written as boys are, unfinished and not quite men yet, but the promise of their adulthood is there in each of them.  Mahra is an old soul (literally hundreds of years old) and is written as such, but she is also young in many ways.

The travels and adventures the boys and Mahra have are well written and completely engrossing.  The scenery and the backgrounds against which the tale takes place are rich and yet not overdone.  It is the first book of a fantasy series, but it is a stand-alone book, and I would recommend this book to anyone who simply loves a good adventure.


Update Mar 17, 2017: Our friends at  tell us that Flight of the Griffin can now be found at

It has a new cover and we wish author C.M. Gray  and Flight of the Griffin well at their new home!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Elvis and Regrets, John A. Aragon

I made time in my NaNoWriMo madness to read a novella by indie author, John A. Aragon, and I was swept away. Elvis and Regrets, Adventures of a Hotshot Firefighter is a small book, but it is a timeless vision quest for the reader.

The Blurb:

A modern western and New Mexican Iliad in which a mystic firefighter plunges toward a dark showdown with God, the Devil, the potential of Rock 'n' Roll and the meaning of our lives.

My Review:

The beauty of some author’s prose is beguiling, like music for the eyes. It lures me, making me want to fall into writing in their style. Just to read their words is a treat for the eyes. One author whose work beguiles me is John A. Aragon.

Elvis and Regrets, Adventures of a Hotshot Firefighter. It is the tale of Jacobo, a young man who, in the 1970’s, is involved in fighting forest fires. What a beautiful, spiritual book! Opening with the day he first hears of the death of the king, Elvis Presley, this tale is an amazing journey into one man’s quest for spiritual knowledge and we are privileged to be along for the ride.

Jacobo and his companions are beautifully drawn with words, and rise clearly in my mind as I read his story. I can smell the scents of the fires, hear the sounds and feel the heat. There is an economy of words, each one important in its place, nothing to distract me from seeing the world Jacobo, Joe and Valkyrie are living in, see them on their vision-quest, seeking truth and God through fire and darkness.

It is a novella, only 63 pages, but it is a huge book, a fantasy and an epic quest for enlightenment. One cannot help but be changed by reading Jacobo's tale and that, to me, is the mark of a truly great book. Once again, quality trumps quantity.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Memory of Light, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

Yes, it is still November, and I am still busy with NaNoWriMo, so we are still revisiting the books I love the most this last year (or indeed ANY year).

A Memory of Light which was published by TOR Books on January 8, 2013, is the final installment in the epic fantasy saga, The Wheel of Time. Robert Jordan wrote the first eleven volumes in the series, nearly completing the final volume which was so huge it had to be divided into 3 books.  Unfortunately Robert Jordan passed away before the last book made it out of draft form, and after Jordan's death, Brandon Sanderson, who is famous in his own right for the epic Mistborn series, stepped in and finished the colossal undertaking, writing the final three volumes.

The Blurb:
Since 1990, when Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time® burst on the world with  its first book, The Eye of the World, readers have been anticipating the final scenes of this extraordinary saga, which has sold over forty million copies in over thirty languages.

When Robert Jordan died in 2007, all feared that these concluding scenes would never be written. But working from notes and partials left by Jordan, established fantasy writer Brandon Sanderson stepped in to complete the masterwork. With The Gathering Storm (Book 12) and Towers of Midnight (Book 13) behind him, both of which were # 1 New York Times hardcover bestsellers, Sanderson now re-creates the vision that Robert Jordan left behind.

Edited by Jordan’s widow, who edited all of Jordan’s books, A Memory of Light will delight, enthrall, and deeply satisfy all of Jordan’s legions of readers.

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and pass.
What was, what will be, and what is,
may yet fall under the Shadow.
Let the Dragon ride again on the winds of time.

My Review:

I confess, I had my copy on pre order for a l-o-o-ong time, just waiting and drooling for this final installment, so on January 8th I hit the ground running with this book.

First off, if you haven't read the first thirteen books in the series this book will make little sense to you as it is the culmination of many, many storylines. This book is no less complicated than the thirteen books that have preceded it, so I will not be giving you a plot summary.  Instead I am going to give you my impressions and say only that some of my dearly loved characters who should have lived, die, and some who should die, do not.

Each and every one of the main characters have matured and become the sort of leaders we knew they would have to be if they were to succeed at Tarmon Gai'don, the final battle with Shai'tan, who is the personification of evil. I liked that particular twist, and feel vindicated for having stayed with the series even when it went so far afield in The Path of Daggers. Most of the many threads are brought together in this volume although  some  threads are never resolved.

Rand, Mat, and Perrin each fight the battle from a different front, and their stories and unique skills are each central to the final resolution. Logain and Olver both play crucial parts in the last battle. Many minor characters have major parts to play in determining the outcome of Tarmon Gai'don.  The strong roles played by Elayne, Egwene, Nynaeve, Moraine and the other Aes Sedai in this final battle are clear and integral to the success of Rand's bid to win this battle.  Love, loss, sorrow and the immense will to survive are part and parcel of the tapestry Sanderson has woven from Jordan's notes in this very fitting end to a monumental series.

The final battle is nothing less than epic. This encounter between Rand and Shai'tan begins with a contest of morality tales, which in the end determines Rand's course of action.

I shed tears many times, but most especially at the deaths of two important characters in particular, believing they could have accomplished so much had they lived. Yet that is what makes this book and indeed this series so fantastic - the reader CARES about the characters, and this loss makes the outcome more poignant and meaningful.

I liked the way Demandred is finally exposed and introduced into Tarmon Gai'don, and I really enjoyed the plot twist in regard to Taim, now known as M'Hael, and the way he is ultimately dealt with. All of the Forsaken are dealt with in ways both creative and fitting.

In the end, the final resolution is satisfying, and was well worth the journey. There is a large contingent of people who are upset that the epub edition won't be released until April 9, 2013, but this was a choice made by Robert Jordan's widow. I don't buy too many hard copies of books, being a fan of the Kindle, but I did make an exception for this book.   For me, some books need to be in hard copy form and the Wheel of Time Series is one of them, as are the Harry Potter books.

Amazon's reviews are rife with trolls and nay-sayers who couldn't wait to emerge from the woodwork and have their say. Apparently very few of these people purchased the book, much less read it. That is the price of success and these days it's almost an honor to have so many haters just spoiling to knock you down. But their strident caws and self-important rants should have no effect on the true fans of this series. In my humble opinion this work is a masterpiece and is a triumphant finish to the series.

I love Brandon Sanderson's handling of this series finale, and feel I more than got my money's worth from this book, as I will definitely read it again and again; it's that good. If you love this series, you will love the way it ends!

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Dragonbone Chair, Tad Williams

Traditionally, November is my month of revisiting some of my all-time favorite books. I am heavily involved in NaNoWriMo, which means I don't have time to read, only to write. But while I am writing I think about the books that moved me, and consider why they moved me. Today I am going back to one of my favorite series, which I first reviewed in 2011.  Tad Williams's epic masterpiece, the Dragonbone Chair rocked my reading world, landing in my library with the power of an earthquake.

A war fueled by the dark powers of sorcery is about to engulf the peaceful land of Osten Ard--for Prester John, the High King, slayer of the dread dragon Shurakai, lies dying. And with his death, an ancient evil will at last be unleashed, as the Storm King, undead ruler of the elvishlike Sithi, seeks to regain his lost realm through a pact with one of human royal blood. Then, driven by spell-inspired jealousy and hate, prince will fight prince, while around them the very land begins to die. Only a small scattered group, the League of the Scroll, recognizes the true danger awaiting Osten Ard. And to Simon--a castle scullion unknowingly apprenticed to a member of this League--will go the task of spearheading the quest for the solution to a riddle of long-lost swords of power...and a quest that will see him fleeing and facing enemies straight out of a legend-maker's worst nightmares!

Tad Williams's epic masterpiece, the Dragonbone Chair is the first book in the epic fantasy series, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn.  I first read this book when it came out in 1988 and had to re-read it again immediately upon finishing it. This book and indeed the whole series had a profound impact on me and on my children when they became older teens.

Just like the best and most enduring of love affairs, The Dragonbone Chair begins a bit slowly, as the author establishes the background to the tale. However, once you are into it, this book is 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 royal household during last days of the long reign of King John Presbyter. However, he is overjoyed 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 tool of the evil cleric Pryrates, becomes king.

A series of very bad things happen and Simon accidentally stumbles into the adventure of a lifetime although, in his misery, he doesn’t realize it.  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.

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

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.  The characters are all the more real because they each have flaws and weaknesses.  That is why this take on the age-old tale of the kitchen-boy who is really a hero is fresh and wonderful.
This is sweeping tale, one that takes you all over the world of Osten Ard and immerses you in the cultures of the people. The intertwined stories of Simon and Miriamele are told in a way that is detailed and very real, yet left my mind free to envision the world for myself. 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 story is so well drawn and plotted that to this day I find myself thinking about it when I am not reading it.   

It is clearly book one in a larger series, Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and Simon's adventures are absorbing and exciting.  The beasts are fantastic as are the representatives of the various races who come to Simon's aid. Their magics and their cultures are clearly drawn and logical. The story line is the most compelling and addictive and stands out as one of the great moments in fantasy. I had to get the rest of the books in the series downloaded to my Kindle, as I couldn't wait to re-read the whole series.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Confessions of a D-List Supervillain, Jim Bernheimer

Today I am pulling out one of the books I’ve reviewed in the past.  One of my favorite, almost anime-style books is by indie author, Jim Bernheimer. Published in 2011,  Confessions of a D-List Supervillain hits all the marks as a sometime hilarious read that makes you go hmmm….

The Blurb:
“Being a supervillain means never having to say you’re sorry … Unless it’s to the judge or the parole board. Even then, you don’t really have to. It’s not like it’s going to change the outcome or anything.”

Those are the words of Calvin Matthew Stringel, better known as Mechani-Cal. He’s a sarcastic, down on his luck armored villain. Follow his exploits as he gets swept up in a world domination scheme gone wrong and ends up working for this weak willed, mercy loving heroes. Immerse yourself in his epic battles and see what it’s like to be an outsider looking in at a world that few have ever experienced.

Climb into Cal’s battlesuit and join him on his journey. Will he avoid selling out his principles for a paycheck and a pardon? Can he resist the camaraderie of being on a super team? Does he fall prey to the ample charms of the beautiful Olympian Aphrodite? How will he survive the jealous schemes of Ultraweapon, who wears armor so powerful it makes Cal’s look like a museum piece?

See the world of “righteous do-gooders" through the eyes of someone who doesn’t particularly care for them.

And remember - Losing an argument with a group of rioters isn’t a good excuse to start lobbing tear gas indiscriminately at them. You’ve only got so many rounds and it’s going to be a long day, so make sure you get as many as possible with each one.

My Review
I enjoyed this take on the age-old hero vs villain story. Bernheimer has created a dystopian world where mankind relies on superheroes to save them, and the most popular superheroes are The Olympians - 12 common people who were chosen to wield the powers of certain of the Gods of Olympus.

Conversely there are the supervillains, and Cal `Mechani-Cal' Stringel is, by his own assertion, not one of the more successful of them, but he gets by.

The world has been taken over by bugs the size of grasshoppers that have attached themselves to everyone's necks, reorganizing the world into a hive society of junkies addicted to the bugs in the desperate way that a junkie is addicted to heroin. Because he works inside of his mechanical suit, Cal has managed to avoid this fate. Out of necessity, he finds himself trying to get the `good-guys' back on their feet and back to saving the world like they are supposed to be doing.

As superheroes go, The Olympians are as unlikeable and evil a bunch of shallow, self-serving stars as you could ask for. The supervillains, on the other hand, are actually the better human beings, because they are honest about their motives.

I don't normally like first person, present tense point of view in a story, because I find it difficult to get into into the story. But once I got past that initial issue I have to admit, this story captured and held my interest.

The adventures that Cal has as he tries to re-hab the Olympians and save the world are quite entertaining. There are some adult themes, but though there is nothing graphic I recommend this as a fun adult read.