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.

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.

Keller’s Therapy

kellers_therapyKeller’s Therapy‘ is a fairly interesting new addition to a short story series by Lawrence Block, and published by Mr Block via Amazon‘s KDP service.

That’s right, this is an ordinary indie review … of the man who brought us the grand adventures of one Bernie Rhodenbarr.

The Keller stories, I’ll be honest, I’ve never tried to get into until this one.  I picked it up on Amazon when I stumbled across the fact that it was on sale (no longer as of this writing, sorry).

It could use slightly better editing — the grammar and punctuation looks fine, but there’re occasional missing words.  Also, the cover is odd — it’s not about dogs.

The story is only 32 pages, so I’m not sure I can sum it up very well.  I suppose a few basics would suffice.  The stories are about one J. P. Keller, a professional hit man.  This particular one is about Keller’s sessions with a psychotherapist.

It’s simply a very engrossing tale.  Hard to put down, easy to finish:  an all-round fantastic read.  I will say, it’s drier and less fun than the Bernie’s, so if you know Block for them and are looking for more of the same you might be disappointed, if you simply are enamoured with Block’s overall style you’ll certainly dig it.

Galmour: Rae Wilder #1

GlamourWell, it was bound to happen sooner or later, and here it is. Our first non-awesome review.

This is the first book in a series by Penelope Fletcher, and is about a young woman who grew up thinking herself human and … learns otherwise.

I shan’t like to give away spoilers.  So I’ll pause a moment to share the book’s blurb and let Ms Fletcher tell you what it’s about:

Rae Wilder has problems. Supernatural creatures swarm the earth, and humanity is on the brink of extinction. Stalked by a handsome fairy who claims she is like him, demonkind, Rae thinks maybe it was a mistake breaking the rules by going over the Wall into demon territory. Plunged into a world of dark magics, fierce creatures, and ritual sacrifice, she is charged with a guarding a magical amulet. The changes to her mind and body are startling, but rather than accept her purpose she struggles against who she is destined to be. Throw in a big lust for a vampire who can’t keep his hands off her, and life starts to get complicated. Rae is forced to make the ultimate choice: to live and die human, or embrace her birth-right and wield magics that could turn her into something wicked, a force of nature nothing can control.

Honestly, it looked like a pretty good story.  And Ms Fletcher shows a good bit of talent.  This book might even qualify for awesome if it weren’t for two very unavoidable facts:

First, and most important — I must say the book is not terribly well edited.  Even one good ol’ fashioned read through before publishing and some very blatant mistakes would show up — for example, in a late chapter Rae is being carried, according to the text, by someone who is not present in the scene as stated a couple of very short paragraphs later.  Also some of the sentences and paragraphs were phrased in an awkward way that might have got tweaked if Ms Fletcher had found a good friend to read the book over carefully who also was a stickler for English.

The second is that it feels like it’s trying to be a twist on Twilight.  If Ms Meyer’s book is your bag of chips you might not see this as a problem, so let me explain.  Inspired by Twilight?  Well, that’s a tradition of fiction, to emulate your favourites — if Ms Fletcher is a Meyers fan, that’s all well and good.  The book might do well to look a bit like she’s a fan of the work, which would make sense.  But it’s the feel.  There’s a love triangle that forms and just seems an arbitrary attempt to parallel the whole Vampire/Warewolf/Bella thing (sorry, I’m not a fan of Meyers’ work and can’t recall the names and am too lazy to care enough to look them up).

All told I would say — hey, the first book is 100% free on all book stores.  Give it a look, you might like it, if you don’t you’re not out anything.  The sequels are not free, and I’m debating with myself if I shall be purchasing any of them.  I’ve got a sample of book 2 in my to-read list, so we’ll see.  Maybe Compel will see a review one day.

Kindle Edition – Nook Edition – iBooks Edition

Agatha H prose novel series

GirlGeniusAgatha H and the Airship City kicks off the Girl Genius novel series.

First off, I just say, don’t mistake this for just a prose version of the comic.  I mean, it is, from a certain standpoint, but Kaja and Phil tweak and change things along the way.  Same basic story, but just because something happened one way in the graphic novel/webcomic doesn’t mean that’s what’ll happen here.

The humour is fantastic and exactly what you’d expect from the Foglios if not more so.  The story is well told, and quite engrossing.  Believe me:  you’ll have a hard time stopping once you’ve got going.

There’s not a lot one can say about this.  A strong humour element, adventure, an imaginative setting.  As their website says:  Romance, Adventure, Mad Science!  The Foglios deliver as promised on all of these and in plenty.

The sequel Agatha H and the Clockwork Princess is out and is just as good, though I’ll admit I didn’t find it as well copyedited which can make the occasional sentence a bit confusing.  Despite that it’s just as endearing, entertaining, and capable of sucking you right in as the first.   Sadly the third book in the series isn’t out yet, and when you get to the end of this pair you may want a box of tissues handy when you realise that the third book’s title hasn’t even been announced yet, let alone a release date.


These books are available through all major and minor book retailers in hardcover edition as well as from Kindle, Nook, or iBooks.

Discount Armageddon

Discount Armegeddon by Seanan McGuire is a simply fantastic story and fabulous start to what is likely to become a seriously addictive series.

The characters are endearingly quirky and exceedingly well written, and when the action stops the humour starts, when the humour stops the action starts, and there’s a good chance that they’ll both happen at the same time.

Another reason to love the book? Two words: Aeslin mice. Don’t ask, just read.

The book doesn’t, I think, make any deep philosophical statements about Humanity, society, etc. It also doesn’t pretend to. If you’re looking for that, move along, but if you want a damned fun read that you won’t want to put down and will likely find yourself coming back to again and again, this will be a well spent us$7.

Available in paperback and eBook formats from all major retailers.

A Princess of Mars

A Princess of Mars, the first in a series by Edgar Rice Burroughs about the exciting adventures Barsoom.

There are nearly a dozen books in this series, though I’ll frankly say I’ve never read past the first six. 

The first three are about John Carter, a Virginian who, while prospecting, finds himself transported by mysterious means to Mars.  From there it is one exciting adventure after another as he learns to cope with the strange, brutal new world he’s found himself on and the strange, brutal people he’s found himself among.  There he meets the incomparably beautiful Dejah Thoris and the rest is history.

The next few books deal with his son, his daughter, and the daughter of Carter’s long-time friend among the Green Martians.  They’re good stories, but they don’t have the same feel as the earlier three and each one progressively seems to lack the lustre and wonder of the last.  Eventually you get to a book that feels like an attempt to rehash the first one with a new character.  I couldn’t finish it.

These stories are often credited with inventing the Speculative Fiction/Space Opera sub-genre of Planetary Romance.  The adventures of John Carter of Mars are deservedly engraved into the memory of SF, and their influence can be felt and seen in all but the newest stuff striving so hard to be unlike that which came before.  Ignoring the rest of the series I cannot recommend John Carter’s exciting adventures enough.  They’re truly timeless.  His chivalrous, honourable nature leaves him the kind of hero that will touch anyone in any era.  By all means, the later stories are a fun read, but more pulpy, and with less staying and wowing power.  But Princess of MarsGods of Mars, andWarlord of Mars will blow your mind or your money back.

Don’t believe me?  Follow this carefully crafted link over to Project Gutenburg and try it.  I swear if you don’t like them you’ll be refunded every penny.  Though I’ve a feeling that you will love them and cherish them and find yourself time and again flying out and away to that arid red globe with its white apes, faithful Woola, the fierce six-armed giants such as Tars Tarkas, the grand towers of Helium, and more.  This is like Princess Bride in space – sword fights, and fist fights, true love, and brave deeds, impossible odds, and dangerous beasts.

Awesome for the start, mediocre for the rest.


Dragondoom, by Dennis McKiernan may not be indie, but it tends to be a touch obscure. It was even out of print for a good while.

This is, frankly, one of my all time favourite fantasy novels. I nearly read the copy at my local library to death until I found a copy of my own at a used book store in the late nineties (this was during that unfortunate OOP phase), and have proceeded to reread that till parts of it are protected by tape.

I cannot recommend it highly enough. Mithgar keeps to the tropes of fantasy cleanly enough to be accessible, and easily understood by anyone who has ever heard of an elf, or a dwarf, warriors, and dragons. But imaginative too, there are subtle touches to make the setting his own; Tolkein’s ground work is clearly visible, but he’s built upon it to something definitely unique.

This story, by its tropes is a fantasy. Sword and sorcery, magic, prophesy, myth and legend all come alive. Yet it does defy genre a little, it’s a compelling story of love, friendship, honour, pride, and the consequences of these.

The story is told in back and forth fashion as it follows the quest of the main characters, Elyn of Jord, and Thork of Kachar, to slay a dragon that has besieged both their peoples. It tells the story of Prince Elgo of Jord and his quest fir glory which led to Elyn and Thork setting off in search of a legendary hammer. The switchback timeline is carefully done so not to confuse (chapters start by clearly telling you when the scene takes place), and arranged to maximise suspense and provide the best understanding of the total story.

If you want a great introduction to fantasy, this book is a fine alternative to The Hobbit, and if you already know and love fantasy you should add this book to your collection post haste. Hate fantasy? Give it another try with this fine story.

Where to buy:
Barnes & Noble
And many more.