BOOK BLAST: Lycenea by Rory D. Nelson

About the Book:

Merlin returns to Lycenea a hero, victorious over the Visi-Gauls in a gruesome and exhaustive campaign that claimed the life of one of his men and saw the annihilation of the Visi-Gauls’ Southern Army.

Merlin’s peaceful reprieve is cut short however, as he must now find and expose the corrupt Senator who initiated the war in the first place and plots to subvert the Empire for himself. He is aided by the powerful sorceress, Morgana and Felinius, a former disgraced and condemned knight who knows the inner workings of the Brotherhood.

Merlin must also protect two of the captives he rescued during the war with the Visi-Gauls, one of whom is a boy named Dante, whose power has been prophesized to defeat Herod Antipaz, the corrupt Senator, and his deadly allies who threaten to destroy Gilleon.

Herod makes plans of his own for eliminating Dante. The boy’s problems continue to mount precipitously- for not only is he being ruthlessly hunted down by Herod’s minions, but he must also face down a brutal training program in Round Table Academy, where he faces elimination on a daily basis. Should he be eliminated, he will no longer be under the protection of Merlin and his Brotherhood and his death almost a foregone conclusion.

His only hope, his only salvation is Merlin- as is the country of Gilleon.

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Check Out Book One: Gilleon

Five hundred years after the death of King Arthur, a sadistic tyrant of Visi-Galia, attacks unprotected and vulnerable townships in Gilleon, igniting a deadly chain of events. Because he was unfairly denied a proper chance to compete for valuable mine rights and outbid by a Councilman from Gilleon, he reasons that he can invade Gilleon’s vulnerable townships and force the Council to negotiate with him.

Merlin, the lead knight in Lycenea, has foreseen just such a predicament. With the gifts of premonition, telepathy and intelligence, he and 9 of his most formidable knights go into battle against Jason and his force of nine thousand.
At stake is everything. The fate of the prisoners who are awaiting to be sold into slavery rests in the hands of the deadly knights. Specifically, two girls who were attacked in Missalia and are now orphaned, are at the mercy of the sadistic King. Will Merlin and his band of knights be able to rescue them in time?

Adele, the older sister, has plans of her own for escape. Will she prove successful or will her plans be foiled? If she is caught, what will become of her and her sister, Sylvia?

Dante, a boy from Coifen, is also now orphaned. He is the sole survivor of a brutal attack on his family. An unlikely heroine has come to his rescue- a mysterious white wolf. Unfortunately, the attack has left him blind. He and his guardian make their refuge in a remote cave. He clings desperately to the hope that God has spared him for a reason. Every night he goes to bed, he says a prayer to his talisman, the Merlin, a game piece that his father gave him before he was forced to abandon him. It was the last gift he received before all hell broke loose. Will he be rescued? Will he find a permanent haven? His fate also lies in the hands of the Merlin.

Merlin and his troupe lead the Visi-Gauls in a high stakes game of cat and mouse. Jason, though capricious, is not stupid. He uses every means at his disposal to eliminate Merlin. Who will prove the victor? Fighting a severe war of attrition, it seems at times that Jason will inevitably win; but don’t count the Merlin out. He is beyond slippery. Every time it seems that Jason has the gifted knight, he is thwarted yet again.

Book Links:
Goodreads * Amazon

Get Your Copy of Book One: Gilleon for FREE!

Character Study – Dante

He once lived a peaceful existence in the quaint little town of Coifen with his mother, Sophia, his father Lucian, sister Isabella and dog Mitz. That life is abruptly shattered when his father is  exiled and the rest of the family is plunged into a fight for their life. With assassins on their trail, they are eventually cornered and forced to defend themselves, along with the aid of their neighbors.

Tragically, Dante’s mother, sister and dog are brutally killed. He barely escapes with his own life, if not for the intervention of a mysterious white wolf, whom he named Cammilia. Together, they hole up in a remote cave for months until they are finally rescued by Merlin.

Though blinded in the attack that killed his family, Dante is brought to Round Table Academy by Merlin and given the choice to enter their school as a recruit. Feeling it is the only way he can regain some control over his life and maintain a safe haven, he accepts.

As promised by his headmaster, Germanicus, the training is brutal, the academics grueling and mentally demanding. In addition, he faces elimination bouts nearly everyday. Should he fail in even one of his tests or lose an important match, he will be expelled from the school- most are. Almost fifteen hundred boys enter Academy, but only a dozen or so make it to knighthood. So the odds are not in his favor.

Yet he toils on with an indefatigable spirit and inadvertently makes a powerful enemy- Maximus, the start recruit and only son of King Menelaeus. He is everything Dante is not- over-privileged, spoiled, arrogant. He has an ingrained sense of self-entitlement and it is reinforced by his stellar performance as a recruit.

Despite this, he feels threated by Dante and makes it his mission to see that Dante is removed from the Academy- at all costs. And he is not above resorting to dirty tricks and subterfuge to achieve it.

Dante’s problems continue to mount precipitously. Not only is he in danger of being removed from the school since being targeted by Maximus, but he also faces the looming threat of the man that ordered his death. Little does he know that Herod, the man who seeks his demise and the dissolution of the Brotherhood is right under his nose. And he has put his own plans into action, leveraging the rivalry between Dante and Maximus.

Dante is resourceful, intelligent and relentless, but will it be enough to thwart the pressures that seem to be closing in on him like a coiled serpent? He has the support of his newfound companion, Cammilia and Merlin. He clings to them desperately like a raft in the middle of the ocean, but will they be enough to stop the machinations of Gilleon’s most powerful senator and his vast resources? Only time will tell.

About the Author:

Author Rory D Nelson is an accomplished actor and has been seen in several high school productions of “Oedipus Rex,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Little Shop of Horrors.” He owns a window cleaning business in the Sacramento area, enjoys wine tasting, snowboarding, traveling and working out. Rory D Nelson is an eclectic and prolific writer, having written numerous comedy skits, commercial parodies, and ghost-written many humorous t-shirts. He has the most unusual imagination of any fantasy author, since he also brings his deranged sense of humor into play in his books.

Contact the Author:
Website * The Brotherhood of Merlin * Facebook * Twitter 

 

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The Bone Keeper by Luca Veste: When an Urban Legend becomes Urban News

The Bone KeeperThe Bone Keeper

by Luca Veste

Paperback, 421 pg.
Simon & Schuster, 2018

Read: April 17 – 19, 2018

One, two, Freddy’s coming for you
Three, four, better lock your door
Five, six, grab your crucifix
Seven, eight, gonna stay up late
Nine, ten, never sleep again

(that’s not from this book, it’s from The Nightmare on Elm Street movies — but you’re so clever, you probably didn’t need me to say that)

I’ve never been a horror movie guy — but I watched a couple of the Elm Street movies as a kid, mostly because my younger sister was obsessed by them. Still, if I sang this song, played a bit of either The Fat Boys or DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s songs about the movies (the musical bit), she would get freaked out. Something about that song immediately tapped into the fear of that movie for her (and made it very easy for her older brother to torment her).

I mention that because the Bone Keeper — an Urban Legend, a bogeyman story — has his own song that kids throughout all of Liverpool know and have known for decades/generations. He’s a supernatural being, living in the woods near/around the city who captures kids and adults, kills them and keeps their bones (hence the name). Clearly just a story to be told around campfires, etc. Right? One more way for older brothers, cousins, etc. to torment their younger friends and relations.

But when an injured, bleeding, and disoriented woman comes stumbling out of the woods singing that song, everyone (police, media, social media users) starts wondering — is the Bone Keeper real after all?

DC Louise Henderson and DS Paul Slater are officially skeptical (okay, more than skeptical) about the Bone Keeper’s involvement in the attack on the woman as they begin their investigation. Finding bodies in the area near where she was probably attacked (and inexplicably escaped), with strange symbols carved into nearby trees only fuels the speculation — and perhaps gets at least one of the detectives thinking that maybe they were too quick to write off the “out of the box” suspect.

As the investigation continues, the options are (at least for the reader, even if Henderson and Slater can’t think this way): there’s a deranged serial killer out there taking advantage of the Bone Keeper legend to mask his crimes; there’s a deranged serial killer out there that thinks he’s a supernatural creature, killing people; or there’s a supernatural being out there killing people. Veste writes this in such a way that every option is a valid conclusion up until the moment he has to make it clear just what’s been going on.

Like the Elm Street movies, The Bone Keeper isn’t my kind of book — but I gave it a shot anyway. I’m so glad I did. It was gripping, it was addictive, there are many other adjectives I could use here, but they don’t seem to be adequate. Let’s say that it’s the kind of book you read in the waiting room of your doctor’s office and hope that he’s running late (I was able to read enough to get to an acceptable stopping point so I didn’t resent him being pretty much on time).

I cannot talk about this book the way I want to — I’d ruin everything. I’ve deleted several sentences (or at least the beginnings of several sentences) already — and I’ve not typed a few others. Take the premise above and imagine the best way to tell that story — that’s precisely what Veste has given us.

The opening chapter is one of the creepiest that I can remember reading — and things only move quickly from there until the action-packed conclusion and almost-as-creepy coda. Haunted characters, haunted families, haunted woods — in at least one sense. The Bone Keeper‘s characters and setting are rife with opportunity and material for Veste to use to tell his story of a literal walking nightmare. A police procedural that brushes up against the horror genre — this is a thriller that’ll stay with you for a while (I’m not sure how long it’ll stay with me, but I can tell you I’m avoiding places rich with trees for the foreseeable future).

—–

4 Stars

Independent Bookstore Day 2018 – April 28!

You like books, right? Otherwise, why are you here? You like bookstores, too, right? Nothing against Barnes & Noble or any of the dozens of great online booksellers — but there’s nothing like a good Independent Bookstore. Staff who know their wares; possibly get to know your tastes; care about books, writing, etc.

(and better for the local economy than chains, too, but that’s out of my wheelhouse to discuss)

Basically, they’re great resources, community centers, and places to spend your money. To celebrate/promote them, 400 Indie Bookstores around the country are celebrating Independent Bookstore Day this Saturday. Go, check a local store out — see the exclusive items just for the day. If you’re in Southwest Idaho, Rediscovered Books in Boise is the place to go (there are a couple of other decent shops in the area, but not as good, IMHO).

Happy (Belated) Shakespeare Day!

There was some sort of mis-communication between me and the good people at Invaluable so this is going up a day late (totally my fault). I didn’t even know that Shakespeare Day was a thing (but of course it is). Still . . . no matter what day it is, this is fun:

Happy Shakespeare Day! What better way is there to celebrate the life and legacy of William Shakespeare than looking back at some of his most famous insults? You are in luck, because Invaluable created a Shakespearean insult generator just in time for Shakespeare Day. The generator includes 70+ of Shakespeare’s snarkiest insults from his most famous works. Whether you wish to insult a friend, enemy, or your significant other, one of these insults is guaranteed to be perfect!

Here’s a couple of samples:

Jimbo Yojimbo by David W. Barbee is strange, bizarre, funny, tragic and will make you say “ew” a lot.

Jimbo YojimboJimbo Yojimbo

by David W. Barbee

Kindle Edition, 154 pg.
Eraserhead Books, 2018
Read: April 14 – 16, 2018

           “Ready to make it official?” said his father.

Jimbo closed his cuttlefish eyes and prayed the revenge vow.

Let me kill ‘em, he thought. Let me exist only to punish them that wronged me, for such is the pain of my life that only the pleasure of their death will weigh it equal. Amen.

“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” his dead father said.

Who doesn’t like a good revenge story? Especially one featuring swords and blood and gladiator-like battles, and surgically-enhanced hybrid warriors, and warlord chefs, and . . . oh, man. I don’t know how to summarize this one, I really don’t. So let me just steal from the publisher:

           From the author of Bacon Fried Bastard and A Town Called Suckhole, comes a countrified samurai epic in the vein of Squidbillies if directed by Akira Kurosawa.

A flood of frogs drowned the cities and gunked up all the guns. Now an evil restaurant chain called the Buddha Gump Shrimp Company rules a finger-licking shogunate of seafood mutants and murderous redneck swordsmen like Jimbo Yojimbo. Jimbo wants revenge on the Company for killing his family and stitching a cuttlefish to his face. After a daring escape, he will hack his way through hordes of crawdad soldiers, a church of quacking gun nuts on a jihad, and Bushido Budnick, the master chef who rules them all. But with every step he takes, Jimbo Yojimbo’s sweet revenge will surely begin to taste like shit gumbo.

JIMBO YOJIMBO is [a] fast-paced post-apocalyptic redneck samurai tale of love, revenge, and a whole lotta mutant sumbitches.

I’ve read plenty of imaginative works over the last couple of years where I asked myself “what did I just read?” Typically, that was because as imaginative as the novel might have been, the author didn’t relay the information too well and I just couldn’t follow it (I usually didn’t feel like I missed much). With this book, every time I asked something like, “Did he just say this cult was called the Holy Quackers?” I’d have to answer with, “Giant figures, wearing tattered camouflage kimonos and rubber boots, with giant duck bills on their face? Yup, he did say that.” As strange, as out there, as bizarre as the trappings got — the story made complete sense. It wasn’t overly complicated, it wasn’t overly messy, it was really a straight-forward revenge tale. Just one that felt like it was the offspring of any two randomly selected sentences from My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist.

Strip away everything and you’re looking at a tale of a guy who was betrayed by his wife and watched his father be butchered by a megalomaniacal dictator, who just wants to rescue his daughter from that dictator’s clutches (and, sure, maybe overthrow the government while he’s at it) while being pursued by his wife and his arch-enemy (who happens to be fixated on his wife, too). It’s a basic story, decently developed and told — effective enough to entertain. But, once you add in the humor, the voice, the panache, the multiple cults, the hybrid warriors, the very strange world all this takes place in — and the tale becomes dazzling.

And you buy it — you buy all of it. Including the fact that Bushido Budnick can create entirely new species in his lab, but can’t figure out how to take guns work anymore because science is hard or something. I’m not even sure it’s that your disbelief is suspended, the book’s just so cool that your disbelief says: “Who cares? I’m not Neil deGrasse Tyson. Just turn the page ‘cuz I want to see what’s next.”

The fight scenes are disturbing, and bloody and . . . you’ll say “ew” frequently. There’s one fight near the end that just might be the grossest thing I read in 2018. There’s another that’s as close as you’ll get to the Bride v the Crazy 88s in The House of Blue Leaves in print (just with robots, warriors with crawdad claws for hands, a samurai with sea anemones attached to his head in place of hair, and so on).

I’m tempted to just list off some of the stranger and/or cooler ideas that are given life in these pages, like the cult that “worshipped ideas and facts, and their relics were strange, ancient items that had mostly turned soggy in the flood: books. . . building a small army of highly literate and lethal fanatics dedicated to discovering and protecting that which would outlive them all: the untouchable truth of knowledge.” But I won’t — just trust me, there are plenty. This book is like the Mos Eisley cantina scene — something strange and interesting to look at everywhere, with a bit of violence and a bit of business going on in the midst of it all.

I’m in danger of going on too long here and I’m pretty sure I’m repeating myself — if you like bizarre settings, stories told with panache and boldness, and don’t mind a good bit of violence along the way — get this. David W. Barbee is the real thing, I’ve got to get more of his work soon.

Disclaimer: I was provided a copy of this in exchange for my honest opinion — I greatly appreciate it (the book wouldn’t have appeared on my radar if not for that), but it didn’t make an impact on my opinion (beyond giving me something to have an opinion about).

—–

4 Stars

Saturday Miscellany – 4/21/18

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Born to the Blade by Marie Brennan, Cassandra Khaw, Malka Older and Michael R. Underwood — a serialized fantasy novel from a heckuva group of writers, I’m almost done with episode 1 and it’s a strong start. Look into this one.
  • The Real-Town Murders by Adam Roberts — I’m not even going to try to sum this up, click the link to get more info, and then probably go buy it somewhere.

The Plea by Steve Cavanagh is a dynamite legal thriller

The PleaThe Plea

by Steve Cavanagh
Series: Eddie Flynn, #2

Hardcover, 358 pg.
Flatiron Books, 2016 (2018 for US Edition)
Read: April 10 – 12, 2017

Lawyers don’t usually question whether or not a client is telling truth. That way lies madness. You do what you have to and trust the system. So, the guilty plead guilty. The innocent fight their case and the jury decides. If a by-product of that process is the emergence of the truth, then so be it, but the truth is not the aim of the process. The verdict is the aim. Truth has no place in the trial because no one is concerned with finding it, least of all the lawyers or the judge.

If that’s not cynical enough for you, try this:

I saw through Dell’s game. It was a familiar one. It’s a game the justice system plays every single day in America–because sometimes it simply doesn’t matter if you’re really innocent of the crime; the only smart move is to plead guilty and make a deal for a lesser sentence.

“You want me to read the new evidence and tell David that irrespective of his innocence, he will definitely be convicted and his only choice is to plead guilty and make a deal to cut his sentence.”

“Bingo,” said Dell.

Happens all the time. I’ve done it myself. Innocent people often don’t want to take the chance of losing and doing fifteen or twenty years when they could make a deal and be out in two. It’s mathematics–not justice, but that’s the reality.

Don’t worry — this book is not a diatribe about the shortcomings of the American judicial system (as appropriate as one might be), little comments like that are just a little bit of flavoring accenting the story, grounding it in the real world despite the craziness filling the book.

Eddie Flynn, for those new to the character, is a con man who went straight and then went to Law School. Following that, he made a couple big mistakes — one cost him the career he had built, the other cost him his family. He’s in the process of rebuilding both — no easy task — but you have to root for the guy trying to recover.

Eddie’s approached (okay, ambushed) by the FBI, who wants Eddie to take on a new client, David Child. Child’s a tech billionaire accused of murdering his girlfriend, and the FBI wants Eddie to convince him to plead to the charges. Then he needs to convince Eddie to help the FBI take down the law firm that currently represents him — and is laundering money on a mind-boggling scale. If Eddie refuses? The FBI has enough evidence to put Eddie’s ex away for a long time (did I mention that she works for the aforementioned firm, totally unaware that she’s incriminated in the laundering?).

So, somehow Eddie has to separate Child from his current counsel, replace them, and then persuade Child to work with the FBI — within a couple of days. No easy task. Then Eddie becomes convinced that Child is innocent. Which complicates things tremendously. So how does Eddie clear Child, keep his wife out of jail and help the FBI take down the laundering lawyers? Well, it’ll take every bit of his old tricks, and maybe a few new ones.

I’m not a huge legal thriller guy — never read a Grisham — but when you give me a compelling character (particularly a defense attorney) like Eddie Flynn, I’m in. Watching Eddie navigate through the tricky waters of the system — including jail guards, court staff, judges, prosecutors — is a blast. This was like a serious version of the Andy Carpenter books. I would like to see Eddie take on a client he because he wanted to for a change, but that’s not a complaint about this book, it’d just be nice to see.

Sure, it’s your appreciation for Eddie Flynn that’ll determine if you like this book or not, but he’s not the only character to focus on — there’s David Child himself, who is interestingly drawn — he’s a fairly typical computer-genius character, socially awkward, etc. Typical, yes, but used well. My only complaint about Child’s associate, Holly, is that we didn’t get more of her (not that Cavanagh could’ve easily fit more of her in). The villains? Nasty, vile people — believable (with one possible exception, but I liked him enough I don’t care) — all of them were well used, well drawn and just what the doctor ordered.

The Plea isn’t perfect: I figured out the whodunit almost instantly, but it took a little while to get the details of the howdunit right — and Cavanagh fooled me a little bit on that one. But that didn’t detract from the book at all — the fun is in watching Eddie and the rest scramble to survive this horrible situation and figure things out. The plot moves at a relentless pace — which is a cliché, I realize, but I challenge you to come up with another way to describe this plot. Eddie can barely get a moment to rest and think, and when you’re reading this, you feel like you can’t either.

Characters you can’t help but root for (or, in some cases, against), a fast-moving plot, with just enough twists, turns and hurdles. This one’ll grab you by the collar and drag you along as it rushes to the dramatic conclusion (not that you’ll be fighting against it, but the dragging will help you keep up). Keep yours eyes peeled for Steve Cavanagh and Eddie Flynn, they’re something to watch.

—–

4 Stars