Category: series


So this is a review that I did not feel entirely comfortable with the writing of. I did not read the first book, Echos, so things felt more than a little disconnected. I do want to thank the nice folks at Entangled Teen for sending me an ecopy of this for review. This is Alice Reeds’ Fractures. Enjoy!

Fractures cover

Miles and Fiona survived the island. Survived a bear. Their rescue by the FBI should have taken them to safety, a new home and new identities. Instead they were taken to a villa in Poland where everyone has strange expectations for them. Instead they find themselves on a freighter in the middle of the ocean with no food or water. If they want to survive and maybe even stop whoever is behind all of this, Miles and Fiona will have to work together and remember all that has been done to them.

I confess that I did not realize that Alice Reeds’ Fractures was the second book in a series until I was around a third of the way through. I had assumed that the aspects that made it feel like a sequel were a deliberate stylistic choice to leave the reader as lost as the main characters were. I was about it, it felt like a cool idea that could have paid off really well. For obvious reasons it did not pay off, this is the second in a series and that realization was part of what started my path towards losing interest in what was going on.

Fractures feels very like a middle book in that everything feels like set up for something later in the series. It moves very slowly with long spans of Miles worrying over his relationship with Fiona or angsting over his brother or how poorly his father thinks of him. Those stretches of internal concerns made Miles a protagonist I just could not get into, he felt so whiny and constantly down on himself that it felt difficult to keep reading at times, like he should have had another solid book worth of character development rather than just retreading the same beats over and over.

Having missed the first book, the antagonists here seemed like their whole plot was poorly worked out. What the protagonists, and thus the reader, find out is interesting but thin. We get an end goal but not much on how the process is meant to work or why. That could work on a level of keeping the protagonists on their back foot until everything came together. But then things never so much come together as the solution gets dumped into the protagonists’ laps less through their actions and more because the book needed to end. It feels like the plot boiled down to nothing and then tied up far too quickly and too neatly for things to actually be over.

There was a lot that could have been interesting here or well done if given a little more attention. Miles aside, the characters show promise. The antagonists are this huge organization that has been picking out and buying specific teenagers to do military experiments on and everything is shadowy and mysterious and so much could have been explained better. The antagonists could have been so much more threatening if the reader was given more reason to believe that the characters were in danger or if the villa felt more locked down than it did. Even the romance could have been better if the reader was shown Miles making the effort to show Fiona that he cares rather than just thinking about how much he loves her over and over. The bit with their files could have had a much bigger effect if it actually affected the characters rather than Miles just talking about how worried it made him and how it was clearly affecting Fiona too.

Fractures winds up having a lot of things that should have been minor issues adding up to something unenjoyable. I found Miles utterly worthless as a protagonist. The antagonists were bland and flatly villainous. It is the kind of book that I am certain would have been more enjoyable if I had read the first in the series, but I also have no intention of going back and reading the first book. I could probably be convinced to read Alice Reeds again later in her career but for now, Fractures gets a two out of five from me.

Selected

So, this came out later than intended. I admit, I kept putting both the book and the review aside for other things. It has been a fun weekend for me though. This one is thanks to the kind folks at Entangled Teen, here’s Barb Han’s Selected. Enjoy!

Selected cover

Easton Academy is a prep school for the elite of the elite in New Maine, the kind of school where Legacy students from old money families go to make connections before heading off to college and whatever their parents expect of them. Victoria Aldridge is not old money. Is not nouveau riche. Is not typical of the students that walk Easton’s hallowed halls.  She’s part of the new Selected program, lower class students with high IQs or brilliant athletic performance backed by rich patron families. As long as she does as well as expected, as long as she is the best, her family has food and a safe place to sleep and she has a shot at a bright future. At least that’s what she has been telling herself for the last three years. When one of her friends is caught passing her a mysterious note everything in her life at Easton starts to crack. If she wants to figure out what’s going on she’ll have to learn to trust the Legacy boy who’s started showing interest in her out of the blue. If she cannot, she might not make it out of Easton alive.

Barb Han’s Selected is a book that feels very much like it knows that it is the first in a series and so does not bother telling a compelling or complete story on its own. Which is a shame because the premise is really interesting. The nation is split in fifty countries and Maine has developed a rich/poor divide that would make a cyber punk dystopia salivate. Our protagonist has to be the best of the best at the fancy school she’s been selected to attend so that her family can have a better life, even as she’s the target of resentment from many of her classmates. But then the most attractive boy in school shows up and we toss that right out the window until the final third or so of the book. Let’s start there.

I feel like this is a case of the author having solid ideas but either not enough of them to give the story substance or she just really wanted to write a romance story and slotted the dystopian ideas around it. A fair amount of that is down to the protagonist, Tori. The reader is introduced to her in her Junior year of high school at Easton Academy and despite, as we are told her having a really high IQ and breaking the curve for all of her tests, she is desperately worried that she has not done well enough on a recent test. Fair enough, her family relies on her Selected status for a better life, but we never really see her struggle with her classes or her dancing in any meaningful way. Classes are easy, she’s brilliant. Tests are easy, she’s brilliant. Dancing is easy, she’s been doing it all her life.

Maybe the book was meant to focus more on her social struggles, her friends disappearing, but so much of the text focuses on her relationship with school golden boy Caius that her friends fade into the back ground. There wasn’t really time put into making the reader care about her friends or friendships, so when things started to go wrong it had no impact. Tori’s friends are, in fact, consistently pushed to the side either in favor of more focus on the romance aspect or because Tori just can’t talk to them about her feelings and what’s going on, they would never understand.  Similarly, so much focus was put on her relationship with Caius that it both seemed to swallow up everything else and left me hoping that something would happen just to get him off the page for a little while. Plus, there were enough moments of Caius talking about his feelings for Tori that just felt super uncomfortable and manipulative, not liking her having a male friend, repeated angry moments early on about her thinking a Legacy like him would have an easier life than her, and other more minor stuff. It made it really hard to buy in to the romance to start with.

If the romance was cut out of Selected it feels like all but around a third of the book would be gone.  This remaining third or so of the book, much like the setting, has some solid ideas and could have made for a really awesome book. Unfortunately, it takes half or more of the book for the plot to really get going and by that time I had long sense stopped caring about the characters or what happened to them. There are some moments from early on that, in retrospect, were setting up elements for a reveal later but they fell flat because the intervening text failed to support any of Tori’s friendships enough for the characters to feel like proper characters. It is frustrating. It is frustrating because there are so many ideas here that could have been good with a little more work, really good if some of the focus on that work was moved to letting the other characters be more rounded.

That is about all that I can say about Selected. There was a lot of potential in both the setting and the ideas behind the plot. But it got sacrificed for a frankly bland instant romance that had a lot of red flags early on. I will not be there for the next book in this series or, likely, the next several books Barb Han writes. Selected shows that she has solid ideas, but the writing lets them down badly.  It earns a two out of five from me.

I am so late getting this posted, but I can at least get it up on a day that isn’t stepping on any of the other stop’s toes. As ever, you should give them a check because each stop has something different to offer on the tour. This one’s thanks to David E. Dresner. Enjoy!

The Blighted Fortress cover

A Day in the Life of an Author

In writing this I came to think of myself as Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day. My days tend to follow each other like soldiers in a line.

Most of us are creatures of habit no matter how spontaneous we think we are. The best we can hope for is that we have more good habits than bad. I am definitely a creature of habit.

The serious habits got ingrained in me after graduate school. College and grad school permitted flexibility each day. Who didn’t cut a boring class to sleep late? Eating was fun and casual and done on an ‘as needed’ basis. Beer and pizza trumped the veggies most of the time.

My life habits changed dramatically after I decided to become an actuary. I was working full time at a consulting firm and had to find study time for the rigorous math exams. My everyday routine required getting up at 6 am to be in the office by 6:30 for two hours of study before work started.

Weekends followed the same timetable but with longer study hours.  After I passed the actuarial exams I found business required even more time. I was in the office every day by 7.

When I hit age thirty-three I made a big mistake. I got on the scales. My college swim weight of 165 pounds now started with the number 2. I refused to view the next two digits knowing it did not come from greater muscle mass. I became a late evening waddler, then jogger, and finally a runner.

With these habits fixed early in my adult life I am still locked into them. Here’s a typical day.

Every day starts around 7:30 with a real breakfast including fruit and a cup of Joe to get awake. No longer am I up at 6. It takes longer to get the various body motors up and running these days, but so what.

After breakfast it’s time to check all the email stuff and the news. The news is always bad news and I get rushes of adrenaline to jolt me into the day.

Now fully awake I head out for an hour’s fast-paced hike in the countryside. My knees can’t take the pounding of running but I hike 3-5 miles every day. I add weights three times a week to the exercise routine.

Back home I cool off, check the mail again, shower and start to write on the current series book. I find that I’m productive between two, but rarely more than, three hours a day. Somebody throws a switch in my brain and I’m done.

A lot of my writing time happens after I finish a first draft. The first draft takes maybe 5 months to complete the whole story. Then months of rewrites start. The final review, prior to submission, is grammar, punctuation, and story line editing. My wife Nancy does the heavy lifting on grammar and punctuation and is comfortable giving me critical feedback on the story.

After the day’s writing is over, all the other stuff required to be alive such as paying bills gets taken care of. Finally, I enjoy my friends and this is fun time for us to socialize. Dinner is typically early, either late afternoon or early evening.

My free time starts around 7. I enjoy consuming junk entertainment on TV. I watch a wide variety of movies and certain series. One favorite series is Supernatural. Once in bed I read until Morpheus shuts me down. I sleep extremely well, lucky me.

The next day starts over again. I can almost hear Sonny and Cher singing, “Put your little hand in mind…I’ve got you babe.”

David E Dresner author picture

David E. Dresner was born and raised in rural Ohio. He was an Eagle Scout and later high school president in both his junior and senior years. The social mores, the friendships, and the rivalries of his youth were character building and era defining and have stayed with him into adulthood. Dresner studied physics and mathematics at Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon, earning a B.S. and M.S, before training to become an actuary. Dresner enjoyed considerable professional success, working at major business consultancy firms at CEO and COO level before taking early retirement and starting a family. He has since dedicated himself to giving back to his community, supporting small businesses, churches and schools by developing their strategic plans, as well as tutoring children in core academic studies. Having travelled extensively and lived in France, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, today David and his wife Nancy live in a rural part of Virginia, near Charlottesville. He is currently working on the fourth instalment of The Allies of Theo series; he will publish his third novel in 2020.

The Blighted Fortress Banner

So, this wasn’t the review I intended to post this week, but I really didn’t like the idea of not posting one at all. This is one that I picked up awhile back after enjoying the first one and just didn’t get to until recently. In any case, here’s Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Worship. Enjoy!

Heroine Worship cover

It’s been months since Aveda Jupiter and her best friend/personal assistant turned co-heroine Evie Tanaka saved Los Angeles and the world from a demonic invasion and subsequent apocalypse. Months with no demons. No monsters. No need for Aveda Jupiter, especially with how in love with Evie’s fire powers the people of LA are. Months of feeling more and more like she’s obsolete. A sudden rush of rampaging bridezillas and Evie’s engagement might be just the thing to help Aveda set herself back to rights. At least it might if it doesn’t destroy her first.

Sarah Kuhn’s Heroine Worship feels very much like a middle book. The stakes feel a lot lower than in the previous book, Heroine Complex, and things feel much more focused on characters’ feelings and Aveda as a conflicted person rather than a diva boss. It’s a needed slow down, but one that made the book go a little slow in places for me.

So, a big issue with my reading Heroine Worship was that I didn’t really like Aveda Jupiter for a big slice of it. A part of that is a holdover from Heroine Complex, where she’s this complete diva and more than kind of a control freak. That’s not the greater share of things though, in that book it was a little tiring that she was like that but she was also this larger than life character versus Evie being a normal person forced to become extraordinary. Here though, Aveda is the protagonist and the stakes feel so much lower so there’s more focus on who she is as a character. This is Aveda’s story about coming back to herself from being just Aveda Jupiter the super heroine diva perfectionist and learning to embrace the parts of herself that are Annie Chang the regular woman.

That actually lands the book in an interesting place for me. The reader sees Aveda trying so very hard to shed her diva tendencies and to be a good friend to Evie, just on the terms she understands. We see her being bad at communication and making assumptions about what’s best and a hundred other things, and that’s so frustrating even as it does a really good job of humanizing her. We also get the occasional mini chapter seeing what other people think of her behavior, and the outside perspective is also frustrating because of course the characters from these bits don’t have the whole story and of course they’re written as being extra antagonistic. As frustrating as some of this was, especially her running off assumptions, it all made me like Aveda a lot more. All the frustrations and the trying to do the right things and wanting to be her best self but not having the best handle on who that is, that worked really well for me. It baked in the understanding that Aveda and Evie’s friendship wasn’t magically all fixed up after the last book. It baked in that Aveda needs to learn to let herself be a person instead of always a super heroine. It filled out the cast a little, giving Aveda other characters to work with and react to. All that I really liked.

Honestly, the only thing that bothered me and kept me bothered was the romance. Even then it was, more than anything, a combination of second hand embarrassment from Aveda clearly not knowing what to do with feelings  and just feeling like it was there just for it to be there. The love interest, Scott, was a perfectly decent character, the surfer dude spell caster who’s been friends with Evie and Aveda since childhood. But, I feel like I’d have wanted to see Scott and Aveda end things moving towards acknowledging their mutual attraction rather than that being a thing that ate so many words where it didn’t need to. They’re clearly good for each other and I could have been totally behind it, if it hadn’t felt quite so wedged in and if it hadn’t largely followed Heroine Complex in using sexual attraction to short hand the characters being romantically into each other.

Heroine Worship is an interesting one for me to review. I’m already planning on reading the final book in the trilogy, but there are absolutely aspects that I’m expecting to roll my eyes over when I reach them. I mean, the romance issues are pretty set in the series so far. But it was also a book that I legitimately enjoyed the majority of. While at the end I think I remember the things that I didn’t like more than the things I did enjoy, those same things are absolutely bits that other readers are probably going to be here for. So, I think I tend towards giving Heroine Worship a three out of five. I don’t know that it isn’t better than that, I’m certainly going back for more after all,  but there are certainly aspects that are just not for me.

Hey all, as promised, I’ve got a guest post for you all from Nick Lovelock. He’s talking about his favorite parts about being an author. Enjoy!

Gemenicia

My Favourite Things About Being An Author

I’ve always been a very imaginative and creative person, which more often than not has caused problems especially in school when at which time I was supposed to be studying American Political Change after the Civil War. However my margins were full of doodles of steam tanks, Gatling guns and l sorts of Steampunk ideas that started my journey of bringing it all to life. These doodles the prologue of the illustrations that appear throughout Gemenicia, and so far I have worked through over thirty A5 notebooks that are filled with ideas and practice pictures. I love the idea that I can be working non-stop on every different aspect that makes up one of my novels, or in this case the fifteen novels I have planned for the future.

Being an Author was something that I never envisaged myself doing from an early age, as I went through a few phases that began with wanting to be a lepidopterist, then an Archaeologist, and finally a musician. However nothing has come so naturally to me than writing, it’s something that I find incredibly easy, to come up with an idea from simply thinking or looking at something new. Filling up one of my notebooks which I carry around with me at all times with notes that will come up with or doodles that will one day become the illustrations that feature throughout my future novels.

The influences I have for the most part seem to be relatively obscure to others of my generation, and I love the fact that I am able to bring new life to them through homage’s and parodies, giving them a chance to reach a wider audience. World building has always been a major passion of mine, beginning with sand castles and moving to Lego Kingdoms. I loved to mix medieval with futuristic and build extremely complex models that would remain as they were for about a week, then another influence would come along and I would start trying to imitate that. However building with Lego has its limitations, and now that I have the chance to build an infinite world through being an Author, and that is a feat only possible through such a creative outlet, that and being an artist or film maker.

Being an Author gives me the opportunity to create characters that are given much more opportunity to grow and mature than others are with an hour and a half of screen time. It’s a challenge to give them a multi-coloured personality through the media of writing, but it’s a challenge that I find very fun to attempt. My first major change in the way I approached Steampunk fiction came when I was exposed to David Lynch’s masterpiece Twin Peaks, and it gave me the idea for which the following three novels after Gemenicia will feature. The idea of a great fantasy world having real people that have real life problems, that a small amount of fantasy that they can’t really comprehend will give all the story I need. This opportunity to put my theory into action is what I find to be the best part of being an Author.

Seeing the final product for which I have worked so hard on a feeling that doesn’t come around very often, and holding the first produced copy of Discoucia and then Gemenicia is what the magic of being an Author is all about.

NL v1.2

Nicholas Lovelock lives in a small village in Oxfordshire and has already published Discoucia, the first part of the Alavonia Series which spans multiple novels set to be released in the future. He enjoys riding around the countryside as well as illustrating his own works, as can be seen in his second novel Gemenicia. These Illustrations in stark black and white provide a glimpse into the world of Alavonia and how he sees it, as well as showcasing the different locations and characters that make up the Alavonia series universe.

He is a keen musician capable of playing the electric guitar as well as the acoustic and the piano, often trying to play like his musical heroes David Gilmour, Jimmy Page and Jeff Lynne. His coin collection has transformed from a hobby to a passion and obsession as he attempts to collect one of every issued coin in Great Britain. He is over halfway in that respect collecting such treasures as a 1675 Charles the Second Crown and an extremely rare Edward the Seventh Half Crown of 1905, and has begun metal detecting in an effort to tick some boxes in the Hammered Coinage section.

His love of Steampunk literature and cinema has been with him from a young age when he first saw the film ‘Wild Wild West’, sought out the original series and discovered a world of fantasy that he has painstakingly tried to pay homage to in his novels, to bring the wild west to an English setting and to create something that has never been done before.

History has always been a major passion of his as he makes many references in his literature, from characters whose personalities resemble those of eccentric historical characters or monarchs. The ability to change history through literature was one of the things that attracted him to become an author in the first place, to create similar timelines and put a unique spin on the mundane.

Nicholas Lovelock

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.

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 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.

Guest Post Hank Quense

Hey all, I’ve got a guest post for you today from Hank Quense, author of the Zaftan Troubles series of sci-fi/fantasy novels. Today, he’s provided us a totally non-fictional interview courtesy of Margaret Hammerhead and the Faux News Network. Enjoy!

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Faux News Network Interviews Author Hank Quense

 

My name is Marcia Hammerhead and I’m the literary reporter for FNN.  Once again, my boss insists that I interview a scribbler of fantasy and science fiction stories. My boss KNOWS that I prefer epic poetry and literary works and that I despise genre fiction.  But, here I am about to interview Hank Quense who has penned yet another novel despite the lack of success of his previous works and his apparent lack of talent.  Mr Quense, tell us what trash you are about to unleash on the unsuspecting reading public.

Hank Quense: Hi Martha. Thank you for the warm welcome.

MH: It’s Marcia, not Martha.

HQ: My new series, Zaftan Troubles, consists of seven ebooks and describes what happens when an alien explorer ship discovers Gundarland, a world populated by humans and fantasy creatures.  The zaftans are a vicious race who believe treachery and assassination are social skills.

MH: Good heavens!  You mixed science fiction and fantasy together?  Have you no shame?

HQ:  The two genres work well together.

MH: What’s the point of writing such a mishmash?  Are you indecisive to the point you can’t chose a single genre?

HQ: The point is entertainment and satire.  And the mixing of genres was a conscious decision, Margaret.

MH: Martha, not Margaret. Tell us about the characters?

HQ: In the first four books, the main characters are MacDrakin, a dwarf miner and Leslie Higginbottom, a constable.  The two have a budding relationship that is torn apart about the appearance of the aliens and their explorer robots.  The government orders Higginbottom to protect the robots while MacDrakin declares war against the robots and the aliens.

The next three books occur many years later when the Gundies (as they’re called) confront the zaftans in outer space.  The two main characters are Sam, an android with an organic brain and Klatze, a young zaftan naval officer who is determined to succeed using her ability rather than murder.

MH: What!  How can you write this nonsense?  Do you do drugs?  Booze? it is not possible to come up with this stuff without using some sort of stimulants.

HQ: Sorry, Marcia. I don’t do that stuff.  My stories come from unstimulated brain.

MH: This has to be some sort of anti-genius.  It should be declared illegal.  I suppose the novel uses the obsolete technique called plots?

HQ: It sure does.  The series has a number of plots and subplots.

MH: Did it ever occur to you to write stories about normal, human people, the kind of stories that comprise true literature.

HQ: Nope.  Sounds too boring.

MH: You said this series has seven ebooks in it.  I hope that’s the end of it.  I shudder to think that still another of your books will test our sanity.

HQ: Right now, Martha, Im working on books 8 through 10 for the Zaftan Troubles.

MH: It’s Marcia, not Martha. The very thought of you continuing this rubbish is giving me a headache.  I can’t stand any more of this genre trash.

HQ: Thanks for the great interview, Martha.  Good-bye.

MH: It’s Marcia.  Roll the wrap-up music.  I need a drink.  Where’s my bottle of merlot?

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Author bio: Hank Quense writes humorous and satiric scifi and fantasy stories. He also writes about fiction writing and self-publishing. He has published 18 books and 50 short stories along with a few dozen articles. He often lectures on fiction writing and publishing and has a series of guides covering the basics on each subject.
He and his wife, Pat, usually vacation in another galaxy or parallel universe. They also time travel occasionally when Hank is searching for new story ideas. To learn more, visit http://strangeworldspublishing.com/wp/.
Hank recently published Books 1 and 2 of his 7-part satirical fantasy series, the Zaftan Troubles, about an advanced alien species who steal resources from other worlds for profit. They’re available on Amazon:
Book 1: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F8352QC/  and https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F883MW9  and the rest of the series is scheduled to publish later this year.
You can see the video trailer here: https://youtu.be/NHMJ_XRzrtI

This came out later than planned. This one’s thanks to the awesome folks at Curiosity Quills Press. Here’s Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon. Enjoy!

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Bad Penny and the rest of the Implacable Machine are bored out of their minds. Going back to school after a break full of super villainy and fighting heroes both their own age and grown up will do that. So of course they jump at the chance to visit Jupiter and see things no human has before. No human except the ones who already live there. With a homemade space ship and the help of a giant spider the Implacable Machine will see everything from alien invaders to robot overlords and the colonies trapped between them. With any luck, they’ll be able to help the rebels and their new friend get their homes back and be on their way towards heroism.

Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon follows Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain pretty directly with the Implacable Machine trying to settle back into day to day school lives. It’s got a really strong start there, giving the reader a taste of how dull things are after Penny and company have gone toe to toe with some of the best of the best but then have to go back to being just kids. It gives the reader one of a number of good reasons why the team is so ready to take up Spider’s offer to see what lies beyond the asteroid belt first hand. But it also pulls back a little to anchor things back in the reality of the setting, which is good because the book goes way out there.

This one feels a lot slower than the previous book, largely due to the necessity of doing all the world building for the Puppeteers and the Jupiter colonies and, and, and. This is unfortunate because it slows the book down just enough that it makes it easy to put down. There are all these places being introduced and their rules and culture and it leads to things feeling a little flat. The Puppeteers are scary aliens that can take over people and force them to do whatever. One of the colonies is very steam punk flavored and people are constantly being told what to do by the automatons that functionally rule the place. It feels sketched out but not quite filled in.

There’s a similar problem with some of the characterization. The new friend character bounces between being totally cool with Penny’s powers and how they work and then freaked out about it and jealous over how her brothers and everyone else react to Penny’s power. It’s like a switch flips when Roberts felt the situation demanded it. It doesn’t tend to feel like it fits, like there should have been more build for it and more awareness on Penny’s part. The final boss of the novel has a similar issue, though I can’t really go into that without spoilers.

There are parts that are a ton of fun, especially early on before they reach the Jupiter colonies. The whole bit surrounding the Red Herring being built is a lot of fun. Plus the little bits of Penny and company in class and their classmates’ reactions to Penny’s power manifesting make for a couple of nice notes that what she’s got going on is out of the ordinary. I’m also interested in seeing how the workings of her power continue to develop, given the way Mourning Dove reacts to it and how much it seems to be capable of when given free reign. I’m really excited to see more of all that as the series continues.

As and over all thing, I enjoyed Please Don’t Tell My Parents I’m a Super Villain more than Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon. While both needed world building it flowed much better for me in the first book, likely due to being set in our world but with supers.  I would have liked to see more put into the new characters introduced, but I feel like at least a couple of them are going to show up again later, so it seems pretty reasonable that they would get more development then. Please Don’t Tell My Parents I Blew Up The Moon is nowhere near a bad book though and I am very much looking forward to reading the next one, so it gets a three out of five.