Category: fantasy


Hank Quense Guest Post

Hey all! We’ve got a returning author with a guest post for you today, Hank Quense. It’s a nice interview with the super patient and deeply professional Faux News Network reporter Marcia Hammerhead regarding his new novel, The King Who Disappeared. Enjoy!

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Author Interview:

This is Marcia Hammerhead.  I’m the cultural reporter for Faux News Network.  I love literary fiction and I love going to symphonies and ballets. My boss knows this, so what does he tell me to do?  Every time Hank Quense, an unknown scribbler of genre fiction, comes out with a new book, I have to interview him, but at least I don’t have to read and review the books.  Let’s get started.

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Marcia Hammerhead: Mr. Quense.  What is your latest atrocity?

Hank Quense: It’s a fantasy novel called The King Who Disappeared.  The main character is a king who spends two hundred years under a sleep spell.  When he awakens, he finds his nemesis is still alive and the king wants revenge. The book has a lot of political satire in it.

MH: It sounds just as dreadful as all your previous books.  I suppose it’s filled with silly fantasy creatures.

HQ: It is.  Besides humans, there are elves dwarfs, half-pints —

MH: Half-pints?  What’s a half-pint?

HQ: They are also called halflings.  Hobbits in other words, but I can’t use the word ‘hobbit’ because Tolkien’s estate trademarked the word.

MH: Why don’t you invent your own creatures instead of stealing other authors’ work?

HQ: I do.  The novel has dwelfs.  They’re half elf and half dwarf.  They tend to have all the bad features of both races and none of the good traits.  The story also has yuks in it.  Yuks are like orcs but aren’t as friendly.

MH: I’m getting a headache just thinking about these matters.  How many books have you foisted on the unsuspecting reading public?

HQ: I have 23 books on Amazon right now, both fiction and non-fiction.

MH: Good heavens!  You’re like a plague.  Fortunately, you’re almost completely unknown.  Otherwise civilization would be in a crisis mode from reading all your drivel.  Have you considered retiring from writing to do something useful?  Like delivering newspapers or pumping gas?

HQ: Nope.  I’m almost finished with the first book of a scifi series of three novellas.  I’m also writing a non-fiction book that integrates self-publishing and book marketing into a single project.

MH: I can’t stand the thought of interviewing you several more times. Maybe I should retire.  Well, I can’t go on.  That’s it for this interview.

HQ: Thanks for having me on again, Marcia.

M: Why is that whenever I interview you I have an urge to go out and buy a large bottle of wine?

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Hank Quense writes satirical fantasy and sci-fi. Early in his writing career, he was strongly influenced by two authors: Douglas Adams and his Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Joseph Heller’s Catch-22. Happily, Hank has never quite recovered from those experiences.

He lives with his wife in northern New Jersey, a mere 20 miles from Manhattan, the center of the galaxy (according to those who live in Manhattan). They have two daughters and five grandchildren all of whom live nearby.

For vacations, Hank and Pat usually visit distant parts of the galaxy. Occasionally, they also time-travel.

Besides writing novels, Hank lectures on fiction writing, publishing and book marketing. He is most proud of his talk showing grammar school kids how to create a short story. He used these lectures to create an advanced ebook with embedded videos to coach the students on how to create characters, plots and setting. The target audience is 4th to 7th graders. The book’s title is Fiction Writing Workshop for Kids.

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11th of Spring, Year 256

The human ambassador brought some goods to trade. Not much. Some linens and things. A little bit of furniture. And more importantly, alcohol. We finally have something other than mushroom beer even if it will have to be carefully rationed.

To take care of that, we’re going to be headed to the ambassador’s home city of White Hall, the closest major city they have, to see about setting up more steady trade with them. We have some goods of our own to offer them. Mostly things that weren’t quite to Churt’s standards, but that’s hardly a mark against them. And, of course, mushroom beer and a selection of our most recent harvest of mushrooms. It’s likely to be unfamiliar, novel, enough that we can get a good price on it.

At least, we should be able to get a good price on it if we can avoid diplomatic incidents.

Chonck related diplomatic incidents mostly.

I should have waited until Eclair returned before we set out. Or made certain that I watched my words more carefully. Or even if I had considered that Chonck wasn’t likely to know any of the more colorful language some of my fellows have tended to use in the past.

I didn’t consider though, and Azurei took ill while we were en route to the village we were planning on staying in for the night, so she was in no shape to help. The elf, of course, did nothing but sit in the wagon and drink all out beer. Deeply helpful that. Never mind maybe helping the rest of the party. No, no, never mind that.

I digress. Chonck wanted to learn what his new word was. Before she had to leave to rest, Azurei offered to teach him once he was older. That did nothing to put him off it. Though a local farmer helpfully suggested that one of the village priests had confiscated such a book recently and perhaps Chonck could convince them to let him have it. I don’t question how the farmer overheard us, only why he saw fit to tell Chonck about this.

I keep coming back to the idea that things might still have been fine if any of us had thought to stop Chonck from going to the temple after we unharnessed him from the cart. Just, a suggestion that the priest had likely taken the book for a reason or and offer to find him a different book on the subject. Something to that effect.

But no. We got him unharnessed  and he charged off into the village chanting his new word the whole way. I had the cart about unloaded for tonight’s stop when he came back, still muttering the word, and happily talking about his new ‘sticky book’. He’s very happy about the pictures in the book, but still doesn’t understand the content and says they make him feel funny.

With Azurei ill and Eclair off on a mission from her patron and the elf busy doing absolutely nothing, I’ve made a number of otherwise easily avoided mistakes today. A good number of them. I’ve badly given a dwarc with no concept of his own age beyond probably more than two tens the talk. Confused him. Accidentally explained the concept of whores, badly. Confused him worse. And, I think, more or less convinced Chonck that he needs to be able to read books that have words instead of pictures before he’s allowed to have sex. As long as he never thinks to ask anyone else, that might hold up. Maybe.

I hope.

In any case, if this gets back to Churt or if our attempts at diplomacy go wrong because of it, I think I’m going to blame a wizard. Or that farmer. Or better still, I’ll blame the elf.

So, I’m late getting this posted, but it is still technically Wednesday. I’ve written and rewritten this at least four times. I think this one is as close to something I’m happy with as this is going to get. This series was one that I really enjoyed and I’m hoping to see more from Roberts in the future. This one is thanks to Curiosity Quills Press, here’s Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents You Believe Her cover

As part of the Inscrutable Machine Penny Akk, Bad Penny, has faced heroes and villains and threats from the very moons of Jupiter. She’s faced enemies turned friends and friends turned enemies. But when she was ready to face the thing she feared the most, telling her parents about being Bad Penny, she found herself trapped in a robot body by her own power. With her friends away and her parents believing the fake Penny her powers built instead of her, Penny will have to find new allies and pull off the biggest heist of her whole career. Bad Penny is going to have to steal her own life back. A super villain’s work is never done.

As would be expected of the last book in a series that I really enjoyed, I have thoughts on Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her. A number of them in fact. This is a book that was split between opening up the world it’s set in for later stories, giving the reader more on some of the side characters and how things work, and also tying up Penelope Akk’s story. That’s where I get a little bit frustrated.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her is the book it needs to be more than the book I would have hoped it would be. It’s the tie up novel. The place where Penny finally gets to shed Bad Penny for a chance to be a hero. But first she has to beat the most dangerous super villain she’s ever faced, herself. And yet, even with the stakes as high as they are for Penny, I found myself more interested in what was going on with Ampexia or Cassie or what was going on with the other Penny at the Akk household.

That’s actually something that I would have really liked to have seen with how far the other Penny takes things. How did Penny’s parents react to that? We see the Audit reject Bad Penny early on because she defaults to believing the flesh and blood Penny over robotic Bad Penny. Never mind that the Machine stubbornly sticks to Bad Penny. This drove me up the walls, because it feels like it should have been a bigger thing all around. Like, we get the letters from super villain camp that Penny writes to cope with what’s going on but I wanted to see more of the parents being worried of if they made the right choice. Which is an odd stand out, because we see her friends trying to split time between the Pennys.

But then there’s all the support Penny gets early on from, mostly new, side characters who deal with robots. She gets to team up with the mascot from her childhood favorite pizza place, Gerty Goat. Ampexia shows back up as a team mate and makes for some really enjoyable scenes of Penny getting to know  her and learning to take a chill between bouts of villainy.

There’s a lot of early on heist stuff, since Penny’s lost most of her gear. Between that and the bits with other characters that feel like they could have been expanded, kind of makes me wish that this had been split between two books. One with Penny adjusting to her robot body and gathering her allies and a second with the heists and the build up to the big fight with other Penny. It could make the expansion of characters and the whole robot deal feel like it had more room to breath while also allowing more space for Penny to deal with and question her current state of being. But, I also say that as someone who enjoyed the series and would really like to read more of it.

That’s really where I come down on this I think. It was an enjoyable book and it tied up the series exactly the way the series needed to be tied up for character stuff. But it also leaves room for more stories and showed a lot of characters who’s stories I’m really interested in reading. It’s the book that it needed to be, but that also leaves me wanting more from this setting. So, Please Don’t Tell My Parents You Believe Her gets a four out of five from me. I’m going to go find the prequel.

8th of Spring, Year 256

Okay, right. So, a week of drilling with the militia dwarves and scouting around to keep an eye on that encampment and things went about as expected. About as expected with the unexpected absence of Eclair, her patron required her and there was nothing to be done about it.

We collected our allotment of militia dwarves and were able to head directly towards the Goblins. Neither Chonck, nor the elf, nor the militia are any good at being quiet so it had to be fairly head on.

The good news is, there isn’t a Goblin encampment any more. A few got away, but that’s a few. Bad news is, we made an absolute mess of the place and probably seem absolutely barbarous now. Chonck remains good at charging into things but not so much at stopping or turning around. Between his attempts to help and Azurei’s spells, there weren’t many bodies left in recognizable condition.

If we could get the Yoyabo Goblins grouped tight enough then Azurei might be able to take the lot of them out herself. She’s probably the most reliable magic user we have just now. Given that Eclair can be called away at any time and that the half-elf’s magic seems rather hit or miss. I don’t know that I want to take my chances there.

I find myself concerned about our ability to work as a team in the long term. Chonck and Azurei are both willing to work together. Eclair seems willing, but we haven’t seen much of her in the field. The elf though, the sarcastic rude half-elf, she’s going to be trouble. How hard is it to look for anything of use when it’s suggested? But no, the elf couldn’t do that and instead chose to gesture about at the destruction and mouth off. Never mind that we found what was left of another five Goblins and their provision stores in what was left of the encampment’s hut. Or that Azurei found orders papers. No, clearly there was nothing to search.

After that, I set the elf to searching each of the remaining Goblins. If she’s going to refuse to help and treat me like I’m being unreasonable, then why not set her to doing grunt work? Because she made a mess of that too. Apparently “search” in common is “walk around stabbing corpses in the backside” in elf.

Right. Anyway, the papers that Azurei found, someone calling them self “E” ordered the emcampment’s placement to send Caskfire a message.

Knowing that some one is trying to send Caskfire a message, is threatening the fortress, I feel less bad about leaving the encampment as destroyed as we did. Mixing the Goblin pulp into their remaining rations might have been going too far. But if it scares them enough to stay away that’s worth it. If that doesn’t work then we also have a number of Goblins staked up on javelins thanks to Chonck and the suggestion of one of the militia dwarves.

Send a message in response to a message.

We’re going to plant them out behind the fortress. Churt was worried about the corpses worrying the human ambassador who should be arriving soon if we put them out front. I can’t see Churt being happy about having to deal with humans, but that’s part of leading the expedition. If nothing else, cousin Throckmorton is used to dealing with human traders for the inn. He’s definitely going to help her with them, so things should go smoothly.

That said, with the humans here things will likely be quiet for the next while. At least unless our Mr. “E” sends Goblins after us directly. More later either way.

Alright, so right after talking about being close to back to a schedule I’m late again. That’s all good though, it’s a day this time instead of months. This one was an enjoyable read for the most part, but it did feel a bit scattered. This one is courtesy of netGalley, here is John Dixon’s The Point. Enjoy!

The Point cover

Scarlett Winters is a screw up. A troublemaker. After blowing off her high school graduation and, unknowingly, the party her parents had planned for her she finds herself backed into a bad choice. Go to West Point, something she’s never wanted, or be blamed for a terrorist attack and be sent to jail. West Point isn’t what Scarlett expects though as she’s thrown in with other misfits. Other misfits with superhuman powers and backgrounds a lot like her own. Threats from the Point’s troubled past leave Scarlett with a choice, stay the same as she’s always been or buckle down and learn to control her ability to manipulate energy and help save the Point and her classmates.

I’m not entirely sure what to do with John Dixon’s The Point. Left to itself, the book is a bit of a mess that jumps between having really well done moments and leaving me wondering how it reaches certain points. This is largely a matter of character motivation feeling lacking or just strange. The Point itself feels like a good place to start.

The Point doesn’t entirely seems certain if it wants its military element to be a balancing force in Scarlett’s life or a force for negative over all. There’s a fair amount of talking up all the good being at the Point has done for Scarlett in helping her get a handle on herself and making her feel like part of something more than herself, at least in the second half of the book. But then the cadets of the Point were nearly all brought in as opposed to being incarcerated. All of them were forced to go through normal West Point initiation before inevitably losing their tempers and failing out. And they’re kept in line through threat of what amounts to literal torture in addition to hazing from older cadets. And we don’t really see much of Scarlett building towards feeling like being at the Point is a good thing. She spends time getting tormented by this one older Cadet and his flunkies, then her powers are finally triggered and suddenly she’s moved into a better room and being treated much better. She’s suddenly got friends and a degree of freedom if she sneaks out. It’s that combination that helps her start dealing with things at the Point, but not really the Point itself.

Nothing really progresses from there until the antagonists make a move. Then it’s go time, things are personal for Scarlett so she absolutely wants to figure out how to use her power to be allowed to fight these guys. And it feels disjointed here, because you have to wonder if Scarlett would have cared enough to get serious if it hadn’t been personal. But it’s like flipping a switch, that’s how the troublemaker who only just chose the Point over prison is brought in line. That’s how we get from Scarlett barely treading water to Scarlett digging in her heels and pushing herself further and further.

The characters are, by and large, static. Scarlett changes some, but it feels forced. It’s the same for the student that’s supposed to be mentoring her. The love interest starts off hating Scarlett for being given special treatment, but he’s so obviously the love interest that that hardly counts. But then, that’s about it. Her fellow cadets are at best sketches of characters.

I would have liked to see more of the antagonists throughout the book. Just, more of them building towards their plan and letting it feel as dangerous as it’s supposed to be. It makes it hard to care about most of what’s going on because the stakes feel non-existent. Like, in the very lead up to the final confrontation, we get told that the big bad is super powerful and amazing and the most dangerous man to have come out of the program prior to the Point being cooked up. Everyone is just super doomed. But the reader hasn’t really been shown how good this guy is, it was touched on at the beginning and then he just sort of disappears until the climax. There’s this big confrontation at the end. It’s huge and flashy, like summer blockbuster flashy, but the impact is lost because it’s just so out of place. It took me out of the book in a bad way with just how badly out of place and over done it felt. More than that, I found myself asking why I should care about the chaos that was happening.

So, conclusions here, The Point has some scenes that work really well but it has a number of issues with character work and pacing. I’m left feeling like this was originally meant to be the start of a series, but then Dixon changed his mind and just didn’t go back and account for that. I would have liked to have seen more done with the characters overall. I think I would have also liked to have seen more of Scarlett and her fellow cadets daily stuff rather than the romance sub plot. That said, I would read John Dixon again, which leaves The Point with a three out of five.

I return! This is one of the books from Odd Voice Out’s Kickstarter back in December and I was lucky enough to be invited to review it. So with a big thanks to the awesome folks at Odd Voice Out publishing, here is K. C. Finn’s Fallow Heart. Enjoy!

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Lorelai Blake was on the way to work when she was attacked by the creature with the massive antlers and breath that stank of rotting meat. She should have died. With something demonic growing within her and a murderer on the loose Lori will have to learn everything she can about what’s happened to her. Will she decide if she can trust the organization that supposedly treats conditions like hers, the DC, or if she should follow Kasabian, the mysterious fellow who seems to have escaped his demon? Something is stalking Lori, waiting to harvest her. Can she control her burgeoning demonic powers in time to find out what’s going on? Can she escape it?

K. C. Finn’s Fallow Heart is a solid supernatural story with some really nifty ideas. The concept of people being infected by demons, like it’s a cousin to lycanthropy, is particularly cool. Plus I like the idea of the various groups that are trying to deal with the demon problem.

That said, Fallow Heart is very focused in on its protagonist, so let’s talk about Lori.  A lot of the early stuff in the book involves Lori being bothered by the fact that she’s over weight, it affects her self esteem deeply.  She thinks of herself as being ugly a number of times. This is, in fact, something that one of the murder victims uses when he’s bullying her. It’s something mentioned in the blurb and I admit that I was concerned that it would be over used, but Finn did a really good job with it. It isn’t a constant thing, but does crop up when Lori is already second guessing herself. It isn’t the sole non-demon issue Lori has, and it doesn’t eclipse the other issues. It does make the bits where she’s clever and resourceful or confident, feel more solid. The balance makes Lori feel more real.

The flip side of the focus on our protagonist is that since Lori is out of her depth things can feel confusing or disjointed. We’re introduced to everything from Lori’s point of view and follow things with her biases. So if she isn’t interested in or can’t follow up on something, that’s not going to be explored. I’m hoping that a lot of what was introduced here will be built on in later books.

There’s some really good horror elements here. Finn does an excellent job with atmosphere. There’s this really good emotional feel for some of the places, a low creeping fear. I’m hoping for more of that too.

Honestly, the only thing I have an issue with is the ending. I’m not going to go into spoilers. It was just something that’s fairly common to stories that are billed similarly to Fallow Heart that I really hoped wasn’t going to be the end point. A thoroughly expected disappointment if you will.

So overall, I’m left with a really positive experience with Fallow Heart. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series and reading K. C. Finn again. It does lose a little for the ending just because I feel like more could have been done there within the theme. That leaves Fallow Heart with a four out of five. Check it out if you get the chance.

1st of Spring, Year 256

Right.

Right, right, right, right!

The new batch of adventurers should be arriving today with the new caravan. I know they’re going to have job jobs, but it’ll help having other around to keep things safe for the civilians living here.

Caskfire’s coming along alright, basic, but alright. It’ll be nice for it to start growing more, especially if that means we can start getting personal quarters. Or at least some work space that doesn’t double as a table at the inn. Soon enough on that I guess. Maybe with better security we could attract some artisans. That’d be nice.

Churt doesn’t seem too happy about this lot, but Churt never seems happy about anything. Well, money aside. It does leave me hoping that I’ll at least get along with them. Wouldn’t that be terrible? Fighting off the Goblin hordes with companions I couldn’t stand? As long as they keep the fortress safe though, I’ll need to work with them.

That’s right! I heard that one of them is supposed to be a librarian and that they’re bringing some books with them. A library could be really nice, there isn’t a lot to do here aside from working and drinking  as of yet. We would still need to set it up in the inn, but still, there should be space. And one of the other new comers is supposed to be a bard, so that should be something else to make Caskfire feel more like home.

More later though, I’ve got to finish getting ready. They’ll be here soon!

 

1st of Spring, Year 256

Things could have gone worse?

I don’t know that this is going to work. The warlock and the bard seem fine, personable, willing to communicate, willing to wait on the rest of the group. That’s great, I can’t wait to work with them. I can’t wait to try more of Eclair’s baking.

The half-elf though. She doesn’t seem like she’s going to be willing to work with the rest of the party. Charged right past where I was having the adventurers group up to be filled in on things before meeting with Churt for the first time, didn’t even stop for hello, and when we got to the inn she had her feet on the table. On the table! People eat there! But no, no, never mind that, put your gross boots right where the plates go.

Also our new librarian, Chonck, seems nice enough. But he’s also near completely illiterate and won’t be separated from the books he brought with him. The books he brought with him in a massive sack. At least he stopped trying to take any other books he saw after being warned about Churt’s ledger. Maybe we can teach him to read once things have settled a bit?

We’re going to go scouting the area around the Yoyabo Goblin pit tomorrow. Wish us luck.

We’re going to need it I think.

 

2nd Spring, Year 256

Things went better than expected. I saw some of what the new team is capable of when we ran into a small Goblin patrol. I got around to the far side of them and took two out before they could close on the party. Not my smartest plan given that it got me stabbed, but it gave me a good vantage on what the others did.

It looks like the half-elf and the warlock both have some kind of attack spell, though since they both missed I’ve got no idea what they do. The bard though, Azurei might scare me a little, since she pulped the Goblins I didn’t get all at once, weapons and all.

It also seems that she and the half-elf have healing abilities. Not unexpected, but good to confirm and useful to keep around.

And our warlock, Eclair, seems to need to sacrifice organs from defeated enemies to her patron in addition to baked goods. Definitely worth keeping in mind. What kind of being is her patron that it would have such requirements? She doesn’t seem willing to talk about it.

I’ll worry about that later. On a more immediate note, we found a Goblin encampment. It looked like there was forty of them, maybe as many as fifty, maybe more. It’s close enough to be a serious concern. So we’ll need to pull from the fortress’ militia. Probably need to run some drills with them to make sure the adventurers know how to work with and around them.

Probably won’t have the chance to update until this is taken care of. Going to need to keep an eye on that encampment and the militia drills. Hope the half-elf doesn’t take a wagon out and draw every Goblin in the woods to our front door.

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a review, hasn’t it? With any luck it won’t be another long skip before the next one. I’ve really enjoyed these books though, so it’s a little odd that I haven’t been talking about them super animatedly. In any case, this one’s thanks to the folks at Curiosity Quills Press. Here’s Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Have a Nemesis. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents I Have A Nemesis cover

After dealing with heroes and villains and upper level math it’s summer time for Penny Akk and the Inscrutable Machine. Well, maybe, she’s still got homework thanks to her parents finally giving in and showing her the super hero ropes. Too much of that and they’ll catch up before she can shed her Bad Penny persona and confess. Add to that an angry Jovian, a sniveling villain wanna be, and a ghost seeking a future and things get a little complicated. Penny has a lot of threads to tie up before she can go full hero but where there’s a will, and a body swapper, there’s a way.

The penultimate book in the Please Don’t Tell My Parents series is a pretty solid setup to the finally and generally does a good job of tying up loose ends. We get the return of previous characters and wrap up for their stories. Things that have been hinted at are coming to fruition. It works.

A lot of this comes from the fake Bad Penny plot line getting dealt with and the return of the Apparition. This one ties into Penny’s need for emotional growth and more attention to empathy. She wants to do the right thing, but can get really wrapped up in the things she wants to do or being given attention for her power. Our favorite tiny mechanic from beyond the asteroid belt, Remy, has followed Penny and company back to Earth to deal with their villainy once and for all. She can’t trust Penny due to their friendship being broken, but she also really wants to trust the friend she nearly had. The Apparition wants a full life again, to go back to being Polly Icarus and experience the world properly again. It’s a good moment seeing Penny try to step up for both of them even as she fumbles some to do so.

I do feel like Penny’s solution to her Bad Penny problem and all its odd complications are a reflection of the same sort of emotional immaturity that Remy’s issues with her come from. Just, deciding that literally fighting herself would be easier than telling them is such a fantastic young protagonist thing. She’s so nervous about how her parents would react and what they’d think that that is the easier solution. It drags a little in places, but it’s a fantastic character note. Bonus, when her robot double shows some of the same issues she does while also feeling like she’s the more good Penny.

Heart of Gold is really interesting to me because of how very not Penny she can be. She’s like this paladin of heroism, detached from human worries and conflicts, just this force driven to do good regardless of her own safety. More conflict between Penny and Heart of Gold could have been awesome, give time and space to build things up to their big fight. Let Heart of Gold’s conflict show more.

That’s sort of a thing with the series, conflict doesn’t tend to feel like it’s quite simmered long enough so things can feel like they’re coming out of nowhere. It’s usually in service to the plot, but it can feel like a mini in medias res moment. The other character knows where they’re coming from but neither Penny nor the audience has caught it. The flip side to this is that the reveal for the book is fantastically built up. It isn’t something I would have expected, but it worked and was well supported. I do feel like the mechanism for it is a little iffy though. Again, a sort of weak spot in service to a really good plot point.

I continue to enjoy this series and really want to see what comes next. There are bits I wish were a little more ironed out. Penny’s weirdness over Cassie’s crush on her is something I could do without. Little things mostly, things that are understandable from a character stand point but not something I’m here for. Nothing that would make me not want to keep reading. I really want to see some of the side characters expanded on, possibly getting their own series. The world seems big enough for it. Overall, Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Have a Nemesis does a good job gathering things together for the finally and tying away the bits that have reached their conclusion. It gets a four out of five.

I’ve mentioned something that I’m super excited about a few times in the past couple of weeks. This is that. See, there were a number of books this year that I really enjoyed and really want to share with you all. So, three readers are going to win one of three books that I’ve either reviewed this year or that come from a series I’ve reviewed this year.

Cool, right? Let’s make it even more fun, all three books are going to be signed by the author. So, what are the books I’ve decided excited me the most this year, the books I am so ready to share with all of you?

Well, there’s the first book in a series I talked about a bunch of times back during the Fall Into Books challenge. K. C. Alexander’s Necrotech. I still want to talk about these books anytime I’m given the chance and probably will.

Necrotech cover

And, as much as I enjoy a good cyberpunk story, let’s add a ghost story to this list. Let’s talk about a hitchhiker who’s been wondering America’s roadways since she was killed, the girl in the green silk gown. Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire, a book that left me hunting the sequel through a number of bookstores.

Sparrow Hill Road cover

Then let’s follow up the ghost story with a nice Saturday morning cosmic horror story. Those kids and their dog have been waiting an awfully long time to solve that last mystery, the one that split them up and left them broken. Edgar Cantero’s Meddling Kids. This is another one that I still want to talk more about, so look forward to that.

Meddling Kids cover

So, rules and whatnot. How can you get your hands on one of these awesome stories?

Sometime between now and when the giveaway closes at midnight central time on December 31st, you’ll need to follow this blog and then comment below.

As to what you should comment about, let’s make it thematic. The year is coming to a close, tell me about your favorite reads of the year. And, of course, which book you want or your order of preferences on which books you want.

You’ll also need to live in the continental US and be comfortable with sending me your mailing address after winners are announced. I’ll be using random.com to choose winners for the sake of fairness and that announcement is going to come January 1st by midnight.

Good luck!

I return! I’m pretty happy with this one, hopefully I’ll be just as happy with the next one. This one’s thanks to Curiosity Quills Press, here is Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen. Enjoy!

Please Dont Tell My Parents Ive Got Henchmen cover

Teen super villain Penny Akk has bested adult heroes and villains, been to Jupiter, and caused a super hero to start heroing just to stop her. She’s super successful at villainy. But it isn’t what she wants. When she takes up a classmate’s challenge in an attempt to solidify herself as a hero she fails but opens the doors for her classmates to reveal their own powers. Suddenly it seems that every super powered kid wants to join the club Penny and her friends started to cover for their Inscrutable Machine activities or fight her, sometimes both. With a ton of kids suddenly looking up to here, a wanna be rival sparking for a fight, and a relationship building it’s going to be an odd semester.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen returns to the familiar world a super hero inhabited Earth and to the closer setting of the characters’ middle school. This works massively to the book’s advantage though as it gives a good basis for the characters to know each other and interact, putting the new characters on a solid footing right from the start. It also brings things back to the level of Penny worrying about her parents discovering her secret identity while trying to work out a way to ditch Bad Penny for good.

That’s a bit of a double sided thing here. It feels in a lot of ways like the Audit, Penny’s mom and retired hero, is either willfully deluding herself or not nearly as perceptive as she’s meant to be. But it’s still fun to see Penny interacting more with her parents again after not seeing them for most of the last book. Plus it sort of feeds into this family aspect that’s started off early on with the Inscrutable Machine being called on to help convince a retired villain to rejoin his family and be the father he wants to be.

A lot of things sort of echo down in this one and let the reader in on more of Penny figuring out who she wants to be. Her parents forbid super activity early on, leading to her also being unable to do things as Bad Penny, which slows things down a little. It also gives us this fun space for development though. We see Clair getting more into her cat burglar thing, following in her mother’s footsteps, and Ray is working out what he wants to do with himself and his powers.

There’s also this fantastic thing with the other super powered kids, they want what it seems like Penny has. They want to be able to practice with their powers and not to have to hide them. So, suddenly the club that our protagonists started to hide their super villainous exploits is full of all these kids who have seen what they’ve done and want to learn. That gives us room for all these scenes with these characters first seeing things like the Chinatown super villain weekends or even just meeting some of the various supers for the first time. It’s a nice reminder of how awestruck Clair and Ray were back in the first book as well as being a cool way to introduce some of these new characters’ personalities and abilities.

That said, there are a few weird characterization moments where it sort of feels like this one character wasn’t meant to be antagonistic but then part way through just sort of remembered that she really didn’t like Penny. It’s a little jarring. There was also this bit towards the beginning regarding super villains Rage and Ruin’s relationship that felt super awkward and unnecessary, it didn’t add anything or do much for the scene.

Those bits were really the only things that took away from my enjoyment of the book though. I really enjoyed the new characters and want to see more done with them in future books. And it left me excited to see what’s going to happen next. So, that earns Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’ve Got Henchmen with a four out of five.