Saturday, November 27, 2010

Review: Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder

At last, a real Smashwords gem! After several weeks of promising--but-needing-a-good-edit indie reads, I was delighted to find Soul Identity. It's a fun, original and utterly entertaining adventure story. Scott Waverly is a security expert---the opening prologue has him cheekily confounding airport security in order to help them improve their weak spots---who finds himself mixed up with an unusual organization that claims to track souls into their subsequent lifetimes and allow people to transfer their wealth to their future incarnations. He at first writes them off as quacks, but a heartfelt plea from his lonely neighbour, who is an aspiring member, leads him to take them up on a temporary job offer. Once inside the lion's den, he finds a well-meaning majordomo in over his head, a gorgeous computer expert who steals his heart, and a nefarious conspiracy that's out to destroy them all...

The action moves briskly from India to Venice and beyond, and the more philosophical parts are handled deftly without slowing down the action. The characters, especially the two leads, are well-drawn and Scott especially, with that little bad-boy glint in his eye, were fun to read about. Perhaps the villain was a little too obvious and cartoon-ish---might have been nice to see more of him as a character before he was outed as the bad guy---but this is a small quibble. The book was excellent and I heartily recommend it.

I had trouble loading this onto my Kindle for some reason---I read it on the iPad and didn't even notice the Kindle troubles until later. But my sister says it loaded fine on hers. I see too that Mr. Batchelder has a sequel out on a 'pay what you want' price. I will definitely be picking it up and sending a tip the author's way.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Review: The Demon Queen and the Locksmith by Spencer Baum

This engaging (and free!) YA novel was a treat! The story is about three teens in a mystery-plagued New Mexico town who stumble upon a supernatural-ish adventure involving a strange mountain, a missing radio announcer and mystery forces of evil, and something else entirely.

The first two thirds of the novel were excellent. It was a pleasure watching Jackie, Joseph and Kevin come to terms with the powers they were tapping into, and begin their little teen gumshoe routine. Toward the end, the story got a little too bogged down in the technical stuff, however. I started wanting to skip ahead a little.

That said, I did feel this was one of the better Smashwords books I've read---reasonably polished, entertaining and very original. Sort of across between early Dean Koontz and later Neil Gaiman. Very worth a read, if you like the horror genre. 3.5/5.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Review: Deadly Gamble by Connie Shelton

Like many of the reviewers who posted at Smashwords about this book, I obtained it during Read an Ebook Week last year. It's a solid, well-edited little mystery and the ten others in the series promise more good reading for those who enjoy this sort of story.

Charlie is an accountant who works for her PI brother, and when he is out of town and an old friend drops by with a seemingly simple lost item retrieval case, Charlie goes off on her own to find Stacy's stolen necklace. But when the thief turns up dead, it's a full-on mystery that Charlie may not be ready for.

The book was of a high quality for a Smashwords title, free of amateur errors and well put together. I am avid mystery reader and this was exactly the type of book I normally like. But something was missing for me. I kept taking breaks from this one, forcing myself to read one more chapter in between rounds of Plants vs Zombies :) I can't quite put my finger on what it was, but I suppose it came down to not enough stakes for me. When I think back to the series I follow most devoutly, they usually involve protagonists with very interesting jobs (Kay Scarpetta is a coroner, Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter) or with super-compelling backstories (Kinsey Millhone is an orphan with a murky past, Eve Dallas is a former foster child who doesn't even know her real name and is married to a zillionaire). Charlie Parker, in comparison, was kind of blah. It wasn't so much 'J.D. Robb' as ' Carol Higgins Clark' for me, and I hated *those* books!

That said, I do think this is a solid and very polished mystery series for those who read more in the cozy vein, and for some reason I am disinclined to mark it down too much just because I didn't love it. I do think this book (and the others in the series) have potentially wide appeal and are quality entrants in a genre that, let's face it, is under-represented in the indie world both in quantity and quality. If it had that extra zip that felt, to me, to be missing, it would have been a 4/5 for sure. As is, I am going to decline to rate this one. Not my favourite, but it may well be a favourite for others, so go ahead and enjoy if you are a mystery fan.