Thursday, October 17, 2013

Book Release: Secrets Kept

A friend of mine has a new fantasy book that just came out on the 15th.
It's called Secrets Kept.

From the back of the book:

"With a curse, she will build an army.
With the dagger, she will undo the last sacrifice.
But first the sorceress must find the secret keeper.
Torn from her homeland and thrust into a betrothal against her wishes, Ayianna learns her family has a deadly secret that now has her on the run. She joins forces with Kael, an embittered half-elf, and Saeed, an elderly High Guardian, to seek answers to her father’s death, the destruction of Dagmar, and the plains people’s bizarre behavior.
Ayianna discovers there is more at stake here than just her mother’s disappearance and her familial duty to her betrothed. The sorceress has cursed the plains people, and it is a race against time to release them before the sorceress resurrects an ancient evil."

Find it at Amazon and Goodsreads.

... you know what, I could tell you more about it, but instead I think I'll just post a bit of the novel. (Shh, don't tell anyone...)

“The curse of the forest?” Vian stared at the trees, and then the river. “But what about breakfast?”
“No time, carry what you can; leave the rest behind,” Kael said. He kicked dirt over the smoldering embers in the small fire pit.
“Preposterous! I can’t leave my robes and blankets!”  The prince lugged an armful of blankets and clothes onto his shoulders, a sleeve of a robe trailing behind him. “Any chance of someone carrying this for me?”
Kael raised his eyebrows. “What do you think?”
“Couldn’t hurt to ask.” Vian forced a fragile smile.
Kael turned away and buckled the sword belt around his waist. He, then pulled out a small orb from his knapsack and whispered, “Yetakoith taheza.” A light sprang to life within the orb like the morning sun pushing through a darkened horizon.
Desmond jumped back. “What sorcery of the Abyss do you bring down upon us?”
Kael shook his head and stepped away, scanning the ground for remnants of the Naajiso trail. What exactly was he looking for?
“If a small charm of the guardians bothers you, then perhaps you should go back.”
Desmond’s lip curled. “Caution isn’t wasted when one can’t distinguish friend from foe.”
“Perhaps you should figure that out first. We don’t have time for mistrust.”
“Don’t worry, Desmond, I appreciate your caution, even if it is a little misguided,” Vian said with a smile. He staggered under the awkward bundle of blankets and robes that he had managed to cram into large lumpy mess.
Kael rolled his eyes and turned away. A few yards away a sliver of polished black stone glinted beneath a layer of dead leaves. Above it, large twisted trees stood like sentries guarding the entrance to the Forest of Inganno. Grey mist hovered over the ground and clung to their crumpled bark.
It breathed of dark magic and death.
Kael looked over his shoulder. Vian stood behind him and stared up at the trees.
Vian sucked in his breath. “Let’s hope we don’t return horrified and stricken with disease.”
“Or never return at all,” Desmond said. He clasped the prince on the shoulder and glared at Kael. “People avoid this forest for a reason. I should know—this is my uncle’s land.”
“It belongs to no man.” Kael eyed the formidable trees. An ancient force lingered at the edges of the forest like the foul stench of a beast. The unseen vapors tugged at him, threatening, demanding. But what could a forest demand of him? He tightened his hand on the hilt of his sword, and words from the sacred text flitted through his mind. But to whom I belong, he abides in me. For he is the true one, and truth is stronger than he who abides in the world of lies.
Too bad he and Osaryn weren’t on speaking terms. If he even belonged to the elven god anymore. An overwhelming sense of hopelessness drowned his grief. No, he could not think like that. Not when he stood on the threshold of his demise. Kael took a deep breath. To enter the forest meant death, yet Kael was about to lead a spoiled prince, an arrogant merchant and a na├»ve girl through its dangers. And what was he?
“…a few days, nothing more…” Saeed had said. “Stay on the trail and no harm will come to you.”
Kael held up the orb and entered the forest.

*end excerpt*

Buy it here:

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For more information on the book, interviews with the author... and did I mention prizes?, check out the other stops on the blog tour!

October 16th
J. L. Mbewe: Release Day Kick-Off
The Writer’s Window: Meet the Characters Part 1
October 17th
The Wonderings of One Person: Meet the Villains
Lightly Salted: Guest Post
Aaron DeMott: Excerpt
October 18th
J. L. Mbewe: Top Secret Project Reveal
Anne Elisabeth Stengl: Meet the Characters part 2
Pauline Creeden: Dream Cast

Friday, October 4, 2013

Book Review: Amish Vampires in Space

Book Review: Amish Vampires in Space

From the back cover:

Jebediah has a secret that will change his world forever and send his people into space.
The Amish world of Alabaster calls upon an ancient promise to escape destruction. Then end up on a cargo ship bound for the stars.
But they are not the only cargo on board. Some of it is alive…or used to be.
Now, with vampires taking over and closing in on the Amish refugees, these simple believers must decide whether their faith depends upon their honored traditions or something even older.

Amish Vampires in Space. I'll just let that title sink in for a moment...

Seriously, what??

What nutjob would write a book with this title.... and and even bigger question, how could it possibly get published?

Obviously, it all started as a joke. From the forward to the book:

"It was March 2010 and Amish fiction was all the rage in Christian publishing. Entire novelists’ careers were being made in the “bonnet and buggy” genre. Publishers were telling writers, “If you don’t write Amish, don’t bother contacting us.” What had seemed like a fad a few years ago was looking more and more like a subgenre that was here to stay. And it just cried out for a roasting. I mean, I’m quite sure that many, maybe most, Amish folks are delightful, genuine, and dear believers in Christ. But the way Christian fiction readers were flocking to novel about them, and the way Christian writers and publishers were all but worshipping them, was perhaps a bit overblown.
Whatever the cause, Amish fiction was everywhere, and it sort of frustrated those of us who didn’t love it. So I came up with the comical title Amish Vampires in Space to poke fun at it all.
Then I showed the cover around to a bunch of my publishing friends, just for yuks. Fast-forward to August 2012. One of my Marcher Lord Press authors, Kerry Nietz, who had already written four novels for me at that point, contacted me and said that he’d come up with a plot idea for Amish Vampires in Space and did he have my permission to write that book. I reserved the right to not publish it until I could read it, but I told him to go for it. To my surprise, Kerry played the idea straight. Despite the humor implicit in the title (see, People Who Might Be Mad at Us, we intended this to be funny), he created a fantastic book with an altogether believable scenario in which Amish people might find themselves in space, confronted with vampires.

And yes, despite the B-Movie title, the book is a straighforward (well, as much as possible...) sci-fi work. I really did expect more of a Douglas Adams or Piers Anthony type work from the title, but, somehow, Mister Nietz has come up with a plausible way to get Amish and Vampires into a sci-fi novel in a way that makes sense.

Now, I must confess to not reading many Amish books. I think I've read two that were recommend to me, both by big-name authors (well, big name among those that write Amish books...) Both portrayed the Amish as fundamentalist, evangelical Christians, who just happened to live in a different society and ride horses. I've gathered, from talking to Amish Book fans, that just about all of them are that way. Which really does an injustice to the Amish. Kerry Nietz doesn't do that here. Somehow, despite quite possibly the most bizarre setting you've ever heard of, he portrays a more accurate refection of both Christianity and the Amish.

The books plotting is a combination of action/adventure and thriller, but it doesn't get overly gruesome. I have a fairly weak stomach, and I wasn't grossed out at all reading this (it was one of my worries, a lot of vampire books are pure horror).
(If you're curious, the 'how can vampires exist' question is handled in a straightforward way that other sci-fi books have already done. What makes it unique here is adding Amish, of all things, into the mix.)

The sci-fi element was great. The world building was spot on. A lot of thought obviously went into how everything works, and how such disparate groups could all exist in the same story universe.

There was a lot of character driven interaction here too. Conflict between the different groups, and spiritual and moral dilemmas for Amish and Englisher characters over how to relate to one another, and how to deal with the vampire threat.

The one thing I felt was missing is the humor. With a title like that, I, personally, would have preferred campy humor. Puns, jokes, ridiculousness just for the fun of it, that sort of thing. Amish Vampires in Space has none of those.
In spite of that, the book is still funny. The humor, in this case, is supplied solely by the reader. There were moments when I was caught up in the tale, stopped, blinked a few times and thought "This is crazy, and yet it works..."

As long as you accept some standard sci-fi conventions, there aren't any plot holes that make the tale not believable. And for that, I think Kerry Nietz has firmly established himself as a mad genius.

I debated giving this four stars, for the lack of slapstick humor and such, but on the other hand, with a title like "Amish Vampires in Space", it's MUCH harder to do a straight sci-fi tale, and still make it good.

So, five stars!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Book Review: Steel Lily

Book Review: Steel Lily

From the back of the book:

AVERY PIKE is a commodity. No, more than a commodity. Her existence is guarded at all costs.
She's a water Elementalist, the strongest of her dwindling kind. She creates steam to provide energy to fuel Dome Four: the only thing standing between humanity and an earth ravaged by World War III. No steam, no Dome. No Dome, no life.
Or so she thinks.
That is, until a mysterious man offers her a way out of having to donate steam. A way to escape the corrupt government of Dome Four. While the offer seems too good to be true, Avery is intrigued. But when she arrives to her new home, she realizes the grass isn't any less dead on this side of the fence. Instead, the lies are just hidden better.
...Which means digging deeper.
When Avery enlists the help of her friends to uncover the truth, she learns that while some secrets are better left concealed, humankind was never meant to live in a cage. And when you can control the most sought after resource, you can learn to control anything...including the fate of your world.

The review:

I've been looking for some more steampunk to read (yeah, I know, Lady of Devices is on my list...), and I happened to win an ebook of this in a contest. (Probably on the authors facebook page, hint, hint). Anyway.

I'm not terribly fond of dystopyan, and this definitely is. That said, it had a more hopeful feel to it. Right from page one, you (and the main character) know there isn't something right in the world, and yup, sure enough, we learn that all is not as it seems. This is great setup for a larger, yet similar plot twist later on in the novel, that you see coming, yet not at all in the way you expect.

The characters manage to stay mostly positive in spite of their surroundings, and the ending has a nice hopeful feel to it.

There are a few minor issues with the world-building. Why steam? (duh, because it's steampunk! Oh, an in-universe reason, that makes real, practical and economic sense? Sorry..) However, it's minor, in spite of a lack of reason for steam that satisfies me, the tech works well in the world setting.

I sound like a broken record when discussing characters, yet they're always my favorite part of a book that I like. (If I don't like the characters, the highest your getting is a three star...) Anyway, Alice is probably my favorite character. She's kinda "the normal one" stereotype, but she refuses to let the author confine her to that role. She's possibly the most balanced character, and mostly tries to keep Avery out of trouble... mostly...

Four stars.
(It would have got five, except for some minor world-building issues, and mostly a spoiler-related reason. Spoiler: her mom dies, for mostly no other reason than no one else had, yet - End spoiler)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Book Review: A Star Curiously Signing

Book Review: A Star Curiously Signing

From the back cover:

Sandfly is a debugger. He is property. Bought and paid for by his master. But now he’s been called into Earth orbit. Apparently the masters have a new spacecraft and the only robot on board went mad and tore itself limb from limb.

The Bad:

The setting of the world is a little depressing.

Also, the viewpoint is first-person-present tense. First person is probably my least favorite viewpoint...

The Good:
Despite being depressing, the book is fairly humorous, but in a subdued manner. The way the tech works, and how different characters interact with it is really engaging.
The plot moves right along and hooks you fairly quickly.

I give it four stars.

If dystopian is one of your favorite genres, and first-person-present doesn't want to make you throw things through the nearest window, you'll probably give it five stars.