Penny Palabras – Episode 04: Disappearing Acts

Penny Palabras coverThree words:  Shit gets real.

Not the most clever assessment, nor the most original, but it really fits this.

James B. Willard and Patrick K. Beavers continue to impress and amaze.

The plot thickens, someone we’ve come to appreciate over the series so far will leave us, and the 24-page format continues to be milked for all it’s worth.

As ever, the issue ends on a cliffhanger that leaves you — even if only for a moment — contemplating just how much you need that immortal soul thing you have laying around and if the authors would accept it in exchange for the rest of the story, or at least as a down payment on what comes next.

The story continues to be a bit dark, spooky, and heavily dosed with WTF (a good WTF, but WTF nonetheless).  It’s not for everyone.  If you’re an Archie’s fan, borrow a copy from a friend first or something to be sure you want to drop your $3, but otherwise I feel it’s very much worth the read.

Penny Palabras – Episode 1

Penny Palabras 001James B Willard has given me the opportunity to take a look at the first issue of his Penny Palabras story — available through Amazon (just click the cover, as usual) — and I must say, it’s very interesting.

Now, I will admit, it’s hard to decide what to say about a single issue of a larger story.  I don’t have the whole plot, after all.  But each issue does have a job:  it has to establish some stage of the larger plot; in this case, it needs to introduce everything.

This does very well.

Let’s start with the fun stuff in graphic media:  the art!  Patrick K Beavers does a wonderful job.  The comic is in greyscale, and this was a great stroke, I think, in maintaining the somewhat … let’s use creepy, creepy’s a good word, tone of the overall story.  The lines are crisp — despite the monochromatic scenery, you can distinguish features; this puts this lightyears ahead of some of the offerings I’ve seen from DC or Marvel at times.

The story itself, an introduction to, well, as the blurb says:

Penny Palabras, 17, has experienced the paranormal for years. She knows that things aren’t always what they seem. Now, she’s tormented by a malevolent entity called the Straw Man. As she searches for ways to banish him from her life, she’s haunted by more than ghosts. Her nightmares won’t let her sleep, her friends and family can’t understand, and the Straw Man is getting more powerful every day.

The setting, the characters, the story, all leave you wanting more — leave you needing that second issue.  In this it does its job well.  I’m not personally a fan of the issue-by-issue story arc format usually called “writing for the trades” and will lean more quickly toward the old-school episodic issues with occassional multi-issue stories, or just a good ol’ graphic novel.  But, that’s me, and the comic universe right now is this.  So who am I to judge?

If you’re looking for something light-hearted and silly, I’d say stay clear of this.  But if you want a good bit of paranormal thriller, with some suspence thrown in … or maybe that’s the other way around … whichever, you should certainly give this a read.  Hell, it’s worth the $2.99 sticker price just for the artwork!

The Mine

TheMine1John A Heldt has done a fantastic job with this story.

Great characters, amazingly interesting plot, excellent mix of emotions, terrific sense of humour. It’s all here.

Frankly I had exactly three complaints about this novel:

  1. There is no TOC for the eReader to work with.  I suggest remembering to use your reader’s bookmark function whenever you have to walk away, I’ve yet to find a reader or app that doesn’t sometimes forget your place on the next load.  Better safe than sorry with a book this long.
  2. The chapter layout was very strange.  Mostly it was a lot of very short chapters, but now and then there’d be longer ones with scene breaks.  I’d chalk this up to a stylistic thing, but I couldn’t quite fathom a rhyme or reason to when it’d be a three page chapter, or a chapter with three three page scenes.  Too, I find lots of little chapters a distraction because when I hit chapter 35, I don’t like discovering I’m only something like a third of the way through the book.
  3. The story mostly takes place in 1941, and the history is very well researched.  Usually, when I thought that an anachronism had cropped up, it turned out it was truth if rather obscure and unexpected.  There is one blatant exception and one nitpicking one.  The former:  he has one character driving a shiny new Plymouth of a model that was not first produced until the year after WW2 ended, yet this story takes place in the half-year leading up to America‘s involvement in that particular chapter of history.  The nitpicking?  It’s 1941 and he referred to “saddle-shoes” – according to my fashion expert it’s an incorrect usage so common as to beg the question of just how much longer it’ll be incorrect; it’s peeking around the corners of linguistic drift.  All-in-all, big deal.

I especially loved the end, it left tears in my eyes.  This story, most assuredly, deserves an Awesome!  

Don’t believe me?  It’s us$2.99 on Amazon.  Go.  Take a look.  You’ve nothing to lose except the cost of a … is that even the cost of a laté anymore or have those hit $5?

UPDATE: It turns out that, despite my very desperately looking for a 1941 Plymouth Deluxe Special, because I’m a HUGE fan of 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s era cars I could not find anything anywhere that said the line existed prior to 1946, but the author has kindly send me information on that very year model of Plymouth.  A perfectly stunning car:

The saddle shoes comment – I will apologise if I give the impression John was not diligent in his historical research.  I mean, even the car thing could easily have been a mistake (glad to know it wasn’t, such a pretty thing!) and the saddleshoes is really not a profound difference either.  From what I can gather the shoes in question for the characters in question are often, and this is considered incorrect to Fashion People but is common usage for The Rest of Us, called saddleshoes.  There’s debate if they were called that in the 1940s or if, indeed, anything was called that back then.  My fashion sources do say that the shoes existed before the 50s, though when exactly isn’t given, but Good Girls didn’t wear them till the 50s/60s and that it refers specifically to the types of shoes you’ll see on the Bobby Socksers in a good movie set in the 1950s.  John kindly provided the source for his side of things “saddle shoes”, but even trying to confirm it with people who were teens in the era got mixed answers.  Lending to a belief that, possibly, it is a regional thing to some extent.  History is a slippery subject because truth is such a tricky and confusing thing.  Facts, even facts within living memory, are not always perfect.  I know someone who bought toys in middle Tennessee in the 1980s from a common department store that all accounts of say was never sold in America.  So … please, do not misunderstand me.  one fashion reference and one year make of a car should never condemn a historical novel – we all make mistakes, and in Mr Heldt’s case, he didn’t even do that, Goggle merely failed me.


Aversion by Kenechi Udogu

This review may contain spoilers.

Today I read Aversion, which is the first book of the Mentalist Series by Kenechi Udogu. It’s about a girl named Gemma who has the ability to see an occasional glimpse into a person’s future, and the power to insert a thought into their mind in an effort to avert the disasters she sees in her vision, allowing the person to continue on through the life they are meant to have. She is part of a secret society that uses this power for the good of mankind. Imagine if your guardian angel was one of the Men in Black, and he protected you from your own mistakes instead of aliens.

Aversion is a novella, so it’s naturally a short read. It’s got a pretty nice cover that is actually related to the story. There are a couple of typos, but nothing serious. I felt as if the writing was a bit clinical- I could see the emotions, but they mostly seemed to have been expressed in a passive manner. Despite the tone, the unique angle to the story drew me in anyway, and eventually I ceased to notice it.

There’s plenty of things going on. Gemma’s in high school, but also finishing the training her father has spent her entire life preparing her for, and now it’s come to the final test. Mistakes are turning into forbidden romance, until the villain’s come to town and it’s time to pack up and leave. That part was a little abrupt. I was trying to read carefully but I missed the part where they actually moved and had to flip back a couple of pages.

The pacing up to this point has been pretty good, but now things are happening faster as the secrets are being revealed.

Here’s where the world starts to tilt: Forbidden is turning into fate as she unexpectedly runs into her love interest, and I find this to be the most emotional scene in the book. He wasn’t aware he was even searching for her, but the villains knew and the cast is finally forced into a confrontation.

Which is great. You can’t run forever and expect that to be a satisfying story.

The exposition here got a little thick, throwing definitions and teasing you with a partial infodump, but it was still more information than we’ve been able to pry out of anyone else. The villains don’t get a lot of time to develop a characters, but they have believable motivations, and the new information ties everyone together in a way that makes sense. It isn’t just a conflict between good and evil- the villains have a good reason for their actions, but you can’t just let someone hurt your family.

I appreciate that nobody’s perfect here. Real people aren’t perfect, either.

It looks like the villains are going to win the day, but Gemma is a quick study and observes a familiar relationship between the villains, and uses that knowledge to her advantage. She overcomes her ignorance with ingenuity, and displays a remarkable maturity when she leaves well enough alone after her family is safely free.

I like to think she was able to see both sides of that situation.

In the end, it’s back to square one, except now Gemma’s all grown up and ready to face the world on her own. But the villains aren’t done with her yet, and the secret society is watching. Her love interest returns as well. I am only left with questions: Is her relationship doomed, or only just beginning? Are the Averters and Sentients two different secret societies, or factions within the same one? Is the association between the villains sanctioned?

I want to know. Please write the next book.

Despite its flaws, which turned out to be trivial for the most part, I give this book a rating of awesome! It’s wonderful for the first installment of a young adult series.  You can purchase Aversion on Smashwords.

No review this week?

As a matter of fact, yes, there should be.

There’s no big press item this week. And as soon as I can get a moment to give it the attention due I plan to review a pair of novels and another webcomic.

There is also another author who is working on a review of some self-published items she’s recently finished reading but she’s an author herself and one of her own stories has engrossed most of her attention of late.

So bear with is for a bit and there will be more coming.

Also there’s the matter of submissions! We could use them. We’re all readers here and could spend a year or two going through our bookshelves reviewing those, but we’d much rather review stuff we’ve never seen before. So, come on, don’t be shy.

Genre doesn’t matter, nor length. Poetry, scifi, westerns, mysteries, romance, it doesn’t matter we want to see it. Published already or coming soon doesn’t matter. Just so long as we can give a date it’ll be on shelves or a link to where it can be bought today we’re good.

Here we are!

Welcome to Indie Fic Reviews!

We’re new. How new? Well, we’re still looking for works to review. In the mean time we’ll just review things we’ve been reading and really liked.

Are you an author? Are you a small, indiepress publisher? Submit your titles!

Who are we?

We’re normal blokes (and ladies). We’re artists, techies, writers (one of us has a published book! Indie, of course), we’re people. We’re the same sorts of people who would be buying your book off the shelf, except you don’t have a big corporation backing you to let people know it’s on any shelf. We’ll tell them how wonderful you are.

We will try to avoid negative reviews. Now this doesn’t mean every book will receive glowing praise. More like if we read it, and we like it, we will say so. If we don’t like it, we will examine if it was our own personal tastes or the book’s quality that was responsible. If the former we will try to review the book on its merits, personal bias be damned. If it’s the latter we will reply back to you, privately, to say that we will not be reviewing your book, unless you select to allow us to post a negative review. Why do we avoid negative reviews? Because you’re small, indie press. You’ve got enough stacked against you. We may not like your stuff, but someone will, and we’d rather not sway that person’s opinion away from you. No press, for you, is (in our default opinion) better than bad press — if you disagree, that’s what the checkbox is for.

Happy reading!