Monday, January 2, 2012

Announcement: I am moving to Goodreads!

Some of you may have noticed that this blog has been quiet for awhile. I have had a lot on my personal plate as I finished out 2011, and now that I am setting myself up for 2012, I have come to the decision to move my reading stats, reviews and chatting over to Goodreads. I have many friends there, and it just seems simpler to keep all my reading stuff in one place.

I also have found that the initial impetus for this blog---to review books and help readers separate out the good from the bad---is not so compelling to me anymore. I am simply drowning in content---between library books, classic finds from the fine folks to Project Gutenberg, freebies from the Kindle store and so on, I have a to-read over 1000 books long. What this means, from a reviewing standpoint, is that I simply have not got the time to read books which are only so-so. If it doesn't grab me, and fast, I am moving on. So the act of slogging through a mediocre book just to review it does not appeal to me---and since Amazon and Smashwords, my two main stores, both offer generous sampling, I feel that any ebook reader is well-equipped to try before they buy. They don't need me to filter out the chaff for them as much.

I won't stop reading, and I won't stop offering my thoughts on the books I do read, both indie and otherwise. I will just be doing it at Goodreads now instead. Here is my profile. I have started with a clean slate for 2012 and will be adding---and reviewing---books as I read. I welcome you to follow me there! I have already posted my first review of the year. Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Admin Update

Hi everyone

With regret, I am shutting down the Indie eBook Hall of Fame. Delicious has screwed up its UI in their new redesign to the point where I can't keep track of what I have there anymore, and the results of the blog experiment, both in feedback and in hits/subscriptions, seem to indicate a lack of interest. I just don't have the time to maintain such a project given the traffic it generates. I hope that taking it off my plate will give me more time to review books here!

Apologies to anyone who is disappointed. I hope you'll stay with me while I try to improve *this* blog and add many quality reviews of indie and DRM-free books.

Stay tuned for a new review tonight!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Review: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

We Need to Talk About Kevin is a novel of literary fiction. The version I read was an ebook which was obtained at Amazon. The story itself was memorable, in spite of its inherent disagreeableness: Eva, the narrator, recites the novel as a series of letters to her estranged husband Franklin, wherein she deconstructs the unhappy life and eventual deadly rampage of their son Kevin. Kevin is disagreeable from birth, a classic 'bad seed' type. Eva is a cold and suspicious mother. I give Shriver props for the fairly deep and well-drawn characterizations. The battle of wills between Eva and Kevin, and her husband's stunning naivete, were clear and deep, and the stunning denouement inevitable.

However, the book loses some points on two fronts. Firstly, nearly every character in the book is massively unsympathetic. The 'nature vs nurture' debate Eva has with herself on whether she 'ruined' Kevin or not is hobbled by her descriptions of his life as a sociapathic-from-minute-one devil baby. And Eva, in spite of her tiger-mother love underneath it all, really is an egocentric, arrogant cold fish. There simply isn't anyone to root for here, and I think the book needed that.

The book is also filled with pretentious language, and I waffled between whether this was Shriver's choice as a means of characterization for Eva (who really would, I suppose, write that way) or whether it was simply that Shriver herself is the intellectual who just can't help showing off. There were times I groaned, and then had to admit that perhaps a smug mug like Eva really would use that word. And there were other times where I wanted to smack the author upside the head and remind her that real people don't talk that way.

Still, on the content side, it was a compelling read. I'm giving it 4/5, but it's a reluctant 4. It seems like it's worth more than a 3, but I'm not whole-hearted in singing its praises. It's memorable, and in parts very nicely done. But in other areas, it's trying too hard and I'm not sure what to make of it.

As for the book's formatting and presentation as an e-item, I am giving it a 3. The book did have some signs of poor e-proofing, mostly of the 'there should be a space between two words and there wasn't' sort. This is not the most deadly error in terms of the book's absolute readability, but it did occur often enough that I noticed it.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: Sex with Dead People by David Barker

Sex with Dead People by David Barker is a short story collection featuring 28 very short stories with an urban feel. One story takes place on the subway; another involves a newspaper. They are slight, quick little diversions.

Barker is a decent craftsperson as far as language issues go. There were no obvious editing mistakes, and some of the descriptive prose was quite lovely. The stories, however, were a little uneven. Many of them quite ably set up a premise and then delivered a kicker ending, but a few of the stories just kind of stopped. I recognize that in stories of this length, there won't be the build-up you would get with a longer piece. But even so, there has to be a point somewhere, or why are we reading? Some of the stories were just a little too slight and never delivered the payoff they should have.

It's a free book, so try it out if you like short stories. But I can't rate this one more than a 3/5, and that's perhaps a little generous. Some of the stories were great, but some of them just didn't work at all for me.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sample Review Roundup: Various Books

I'll be back this week with a new Smashwords review, but in the meantime, a sample round-up! These are books that I started but, for whatever reason, did not finish. I read the sample and it did not inspire me to read further. Ready?

No Rest for the Wicca by Toni LoTiempo: Witch books are fun, but I am over the vampires. A few pages of clumsily introduced backstory and I realized this book wasn't for me.

Sweet Mysteries by Connie Shelton: I guess I am just not a 'cozy mystery' person, since I didn't like this much more than I did her previous series. I had to stretch my suspension of disbelief muscle a little too far in the sample I read. The sheriff leaves her, unsupervised, in an unchecked crime scene, she messes it up, and then he both deputizes her and asks her out on a date?

Next Move, You're Dead by Linda Lavonne Barton: The author has a comma usage problem. As in, she doesn't use them. When I start getting my 'world's biggest slushpile' tingle, I bail. Sorry!

Web Secrets by Ronnie Dauber: I read one page of very overwrought description before deciding this was not the book for me.

Color Me Grey by J.C. Phelps: I am a sucker for 'first book in the series' things, but I read through about 10 screens of a whole lot of tell and not any show, and got bored. Next!

Tyger Lilly by Lisa Trusiani: It's YA fantasy. Why on earth did I download that one? Apologies to the author, but this is just not my genre.

Deadly Engagement by Lucinda Brant: I think I downloaded this one because it was free during Read an eBook Week, and I have spoken to the author online and she seems like a really nice person. But, as I said for the book above---this is just not my genre, and no amount of 'author being a nice person' is going to change that. I just don't enjoy this kind of book. Sorry!

Six Days to Midnight by Kat Duncan: See above. Political thrillers just aren't my thing.

The Scavenger's Daughter by Mike McIntyre: Another book where the blurb alone failed to alert me to a genre mismatch. As soon as I read the phrase “S&M plain slut” I bailed.

As a sidenote, I wanted to put in a plug for an indie book I enjoyed which is sadly not available at Smashwords, and hence ineligible for review here, but is a great $0.99 read for those with Amazon accounts. Twists and Turns is an anthology edited by the fine folks at Red Adept, who sponsored a contest of short stories with a 'twist' ending. The quality of stories varied somewhat, as they always do with multi-author anthologies (there was one pure fantasy story which I outright skipped) but enough really good stuff to make this well worth the buck.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Website for Authors and Readers

I have consolidated some of my on-line projects into a single handy website: the e-Finds Book Pages! It's your central gathering place for the eBacklist Collection, the best of my Teleread Articles and more! The site comes in two flavours:
  • The Author Page has info, articles, books and web links of interest to indie ebook authors
  • The Reader Page has links to reviews, curated collections and blogs of interest to readers
Comments, suggestions and feedback is very welcome. And please, spread around the links to any message boards or blogs that you frequent!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sample Review: Powerless: The Synthesis by Jason Letts

Powerless: The Synthesis is a young adult novel from Jason Letts. It's the first of a five-part series, and has been reviewed positively elsewhere. The story involves a teenaged girl named Mira who lives on a world where everyone has a special power. Mira herself does not have a power, which makes her unusual, and potentially in danger.

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I love the concept, and I give Letts credit for creating an interesting world and an engaging storyline. It did keep me reading, and I felt that the book was fun and creative. I do think a young reader would enjoy it.

But here was my issue---it stopped me reading even though I enjoyed the story, and it prevents me from recommending it. It has some noticeable errors in grammar, punctuation and language usage. Absent a professional editor to do it for him, the author needs to do some work to clean it up. And to me, this was a fatal flaw.

In a novel intended for adults, I could excuse the occasional mistake and the slight diamond in the roughness of it. I would note it in my review and recommend the book on the strength of its story and interest. BUT---this novel is intended for younger readers, and to me, that means it has to hold itself to a higher standard. Young readers learn about language and writing and grammar from what they read. I simply could not in good conscience turn them loose on a story---no matter how fun---which had obvious errors that even a half-decent editor could fix. I would not want them learning, the wrong way, from a book like this when there are professionally edited alternatives.

I feel badly about this. I was really having mixed feelings about posting this review. I really did enjoy the story, until I reluctantly gave up because I knew what my recommendation would have to be. I do think this is one of those 'internet slushpile' finds that, were it 'discovered' by the big boys, has the potential to be a huge commercial hit. A professional publishing house could smooth out some of the grammar nitpicks, clean up some of the redundant usages (the few negative reviews on Amazon mark the story down for the same reasons I do and cite examples) and make this book really shine. But as it stands now, it's still more rough than diamond. And that's excusable when you're writing for grown-ups who can shrug and no better. But when you're writing for kids? Hell, no. You've got to do it properly.

Sorry, Mr. Letts. I did really enjoy your creative story and think it has huge potential. But I can't recommend it until you find someone to take that potential and really make it shine.