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? Um...no.

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.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Review: Vampire General- Intern with the Vampire by Kit Iwasaki


Vampire General- Intern with the Vampire by Kit Iwasaki was described to me as 'True Blood Meets Scrubs' and I have to admit, I was intrigued. I purchased the book myself without even contacting the author about a review copy!

The book pretty much lives up to its promise---well-written, brisk-paced, very readable. A human doctor finds herself swept up into the world of the supernatural when a mysterious patient costs her her job, and she accepts his offer to go work at his hospital, which services the 'transhuman' population. The two cases she follows involve a mermaid and a man with 'zombie genes' who needs help reanimating safely.

The story itself was overall great fun, but I have two complaints. Firstly, it's super-short. The word count listed at Smashwords is a respectable 30,000 and change, but the description fails to mention that a full 10% of this is a different story by another author. Had I known that the actual story I was paying for was so brief, I would probably not have shelled out $1.99 for it.

The other complaint was the characters themselves. Even our heroine admits that her new co-workers are mean and unappealing. It's such a fascinating premise the author has set up here, it's a shame to soil it with such nasty people. They hate the heroine for no apparent reason, dismiss her legitimate questions, tell her they don't really care when she raises a genuine medical issue and in short have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. I'm not quite sure why the author made this choice, either. There was plenty of danger, intrigue and romance just in the premise. Grey's Anatomy, but with vampires? Neato. So why did the author have to make all the characters so darned unlikeable?

I am giving this a 3.5/5 for clever concept and passable execution, but if it had been a little bit longer (or cheaper), and if the main characters had been in the slightest way appealing, this could have been an easy 5/5.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Review: Alien Murders by Stephen Goldin


Alien Murders by Stephen Goldin is a well-written set of two mystery novellas with sci-fi trappings. Deborah Rabinowitz is a literary broker who negotiates rights for Earth literature to alien cultures. In the course of this job, she becomes involved in the two cases presented in this short book. In the first, she is mid-teleconference with an alien on another world, when he is murdered in front of her. Since she only inhabited his virtual world, she did not see what happened in his real one. But as the only 'witness' she cannot help but be involved.

In the second story, she assists a friend who was accused of murdering an alien she had been collaborating with on a cookbook. The twist is that this alien world has a major taboo about public eating, so both the friend and her unfortunate collaborator are branded as moral corrupts, and this complicates Deborah's defense of her friend.

The near-future world of Deborah was well-drawn. The technology and world-creation was subtly woven in and not oppressive and the traits of the aliens were interesting. One of my favourite little throwaways was the part where Deborah must virtually visit a world where status is represented by the height of your body. The 'body rental' agency has to ask numerous questions to determine Deborah's status so they can loan her the appropriate-sized form for her visit. A subplot involving Deborah's directing an amateur Shakespeare production was also nicely implemented.

A few small quibbles; a nicer cover design would not be remiss, and although the book itself was free of errors, there is a distracting typo in the Smashwords blurb that might turn away potential readers. And the first few pages were a little confusing; Goldin over-plays Deborah's 'attitude' just a little and I very nearly shut the book on him. I am glad I stuck with it, though. As a mystery fan who doesn't generally enjoy a ton of sci-fi, this book struck just the right balance for me. I wish there had been more stories. A sequel, especially a novel-length one with a single story, would very definitely interest me and I have added this to my Indie Favourites List.

I rate this book a 4/5 and definitely recommend it.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Review: Desert Places by Blake Crouch


Desert Places is a gripping, well-paced quick read. It's been plugged---deservedly, I think---by The Almighty Konrath, among others and I read it straight through in one sitting.

The plot centers around thriller writer Andrew Thomas, who one day receives a shocking letter:

"Greetings. There is a body buried on your property, covered in your blood. The unfortunate young lady's name is Rita Jones. In her jeans pocket you'll find a slip of paper with a phone number on it. Call that number. If I have not heard from you by 8:00 p.m., the police will receive an anonymous call. I'll tell them where Rita Jones is buried on your property, how you killed her, and where the murder weapon can be found in your house (I do believe a paring knife is missing from your kitchen.) I strongly advise against going to the police, as I am always watching you."

Things progress from there to a battle of wits, among other battles, between Andrew and the murderer of the unfortunate lady, who has a connection to him I won't spoil. Suffice it to say that it certainly held my attention!

Parts of the book were very graphic, which might be an issue for some people. But if you like this sort of novel, I think this is an excellent specimen. The characterizations were nicely done (the killer's behaviour is 'explained' for those who seek such things, but the killer himself is ambivalent when this explanation is offered to him). I found that the main character was not as sympathetic to me by the end as he was when we started, and I think I was supposed to feel that way.

My one quibble? I had some formatting complaints. There were numerous sections of interior monologue which were not marked off by quotations or by italic formatting, as per standard. I found it distracting to have them inserted into bits of dialogue or distraction and not be marked off somehow. There were at least two other sections were italics were used, so the author clearly knows how to use them from a technical 'formatting of the book' standpoint. I have to assume that his decision not to use them elsewhere was a stylistic one, and it didn't work for me.

So, minus half a point for that. I am giving this a 3.5/5, but it would have been a solid 4 otherwise, and that's the highest mark I give a genre book. If you like cat-and-mouse suspense, and you have a tolerance for a little gore here and there, this is a book that'll keep you up to finish reading. Recommended.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Fun With Statistics

Just for some pre-long-weekend fun, some stats to entertain you :)

I currently have 283 ebooks tagged in Delicious. This represents full-length books only; if I count magazines and other ephemera, my total 'ebooks read' are 348.

Of those 283 books, 51 of them have been tagged a 'favourite.'
  • 11 of these are commercial DRM'd titles
  • 17 of them are indie DRM-free titles from Smashwords and Fictionwise
  • 19 of them are classics in the public domain
There are currently 57 ebooks listed in the Indie eBook Hall of Fame. These are books which are available DRM-free and have received at least three positive reviews from independent bloggers.

There are 124 books currently listed in the eBacklist Collection. These are books which were formerly published in print by a mainstream publisher and are being re-released independently by their own authors as the rights have reverted back to them. All of the listed books are DRM-free as well. And I know there are more out there! Authors with eligible listings are invited to check out the submission instructions here.

So, what do these statistics mean for you?

IF YOU ARE A READER

Good news! You can get a ton of content which is free of DRM (and hence can be converted easily for use on any of your devices) and in some cases free of cost as well. You could read for years off some of these links!
  • If you trust my judgment, you can start with my indie and public domain favourites. That's 36 books right there, and I have personally read and vetted every one of them.
  • If you'd rather a group blogger's consensus, the Indie eBook Hall of Fame awaits you.
  • If the stamp of approval from a mainstream, traditional publisher is important to you but you still want to avoid DRM, check out the Ebacklist Collection.
  • If you avail yourself of all three options, you'll have over 300 books to choose from which have all been vetted and reviewed by someone---yet are DRM-free!
IF YOU ARE AN AUTHOR

Good news! I offer you some self-promo opportunities, even if you write outside the genres I review or write inside those genres but don't wish to submit your book to me.
  • If your book has received three reviews by independent bloggers (i.e. not Amazon reviews, paid-for reviews, Goodreads reviews or those appearing on PR or aggregation sites) then you can submit your information for inclusion in the Indie eBook Hall of Fame. Note that there may be a delay in getting your book posted, as I do all the work myself and have to verify and enter each book manually!
  • If you are an author whose book was published once upon a time by a real paper publisher, you can submit your book to the Ebacklist Collection. You don't need to wait for me to add the listing; you can do it yourself. I urge you to please read and follow the submission guidelines carefully, however. I do moderate the entries, and incomplete information (such as forgetting to indicate where it was once published) or excessive/incorrect tagging takes me more time than you'd imagine to correct, and leaves me less time for reviewing and other worthy pursuits!
Have fun browsing this growing index of great DRM-free books!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Review: The Redemption of Mr. Sturlubok by Rudolf Kerkhoven & Daniel Pitts


The Redemption of Mr. Sturlubok is the second choose your own adventure ebook by Kerkhoven and Pitts; I previously reviewed their other title and found it fun, but a bit on the farcical side. This new entry is more of the same, but the farce is a little more credible this time. Mr. Sturlobok is a school principal, and his position of authority relative to the janitor of the previous book is more credible a comic hero-slash-villain. I also work in a school myself, so I found some of the school-related details resonating with me more than they might have otherwise.

A book like this is not read for its literary merit. The authors are witty and the book is a lot of fun, but this is definitely a book-toy, and if you understand that going in, you'll definitely enjoy it more. It's like those people who panned the live-action Scooby Do movies because they tried to evaluate them as serious films instead of the screen candy they were intended to be. If you want a serious film, don't watch Scooby Do. If you want a serious book, look elsewhere.

An interactive story like this must be a huge amount of work to put together. The authors were careful, and I caught no mistakes. To be careful and to make it fun to boot is no small feat. If you are in the mood for some light, comic book-play, this is the title for you. One complaint: I had to double-check the spelling on the title several times int he process of downloading, reviewing and bookmarking this title. A small complaint, but even so :) 4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sample Review: Hazel Wetherby and the Elixir of Love by Bill Defelis

Hazel Wetherby and the Elixir of Love is a YA novel that was pitched to me as 'Nancy Drew meets Men in Black.' It sounded adorable. Hazel seemed like a spunky heroine, and the fairly straightforward mystery (parents go missing, bad guys are involved) seemed like we'd get a simple narrative with some good character moments.

The book was highly reviewed on both Amazon and Smashwords. All of those reviews said that it was a great story for kids. I have to agree with that assessment---it would be good for kids. For this adult reader, it missed the mark a little, I'm afraid.

Defelis writes well and the story seems polished and well-edited. But he jumps around a lot between several groups of characters, and I found that a little distracting at first. And my suspension of disbelief meter was working overtime here. Hazel manages to do such things as rent an office building and hire a housekeeper on her own, for instance. And she decides to be a detective to find her parents, then basically sits around waiting for a 'client' rather than going out and actually detecting. When she does get clues about her parents, they pretty much fall into her lap by dumb luck.

A younger reader might be less bothered by such details. As for myself, I probably could have finished this book and mildly enjoyed it. But I just have so much else on my to-read list right now. If a book is only okay, I just don't have the time.

Verdict: did the sample make me want to read more?
No, but it was a close one. If I didn't have so much else to read, I might have finished. This would be a better book for the younger reader for whom it is intended.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Announcement: Introducing the eBacklist Collection!

I have launched a new'curated collection' site to allow readers to easily find ALL Smashwords titles which were once print books published by a paper publisher. ANY book which is a backlist title the author is re-releasing is eligible for inclusion, provided it is available on Smashwords OR through a DRM-free vendor.

The best part? I have set up the site so that I don't have to do any of the updating myself! Authors can add their books directly! Do you have an eligible book? Here's how to add it:

1) Launch Smashwords or your vendor site, find the book. Copy the URL.
2) Open a new window; launch Delicious
3) Log in as 'ebacklist' (password is coker2011)
4) Choose the 'save a new bookmark' link in the right margin
5) Paste in your URL and then fill in the title, author and description
6) Add some tags for easy browsing
7) As a thank you, please consider adding my blog to your RSS feed :)

I have added one book to start things off. I hope all self-promo-loving backlist repubbers will go in this week and take 5 minutes to add their stuff. Remember, if it was once published by a publisher, and you have now put out the ebook, and it is DRM-free and ready to read by discerning readers, it is eligible for inclusion, and you don't need to wait on me. Authors can add to this collection any time they want to.

I'll go through once a week and clean up anything that looks messy. If you have any problems, email me and I can help you out.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Review: The Demise of the Soccer Moms by Cathryn Grant


The Demise of the Soccer Moms is a promising debut from Cathryn Grant, an apparently seasoned short fiction writer. It involves a close-knit group of suburban moms whose lives start unraveling when a quirky newcomer arrives.

It turns out that the unraveling isn't strictly free-spirit Charlotte's fault. Amy, the core mom of the little group, is battling some demons that are finally catching up with her. Somehow, she latches onto Charlotte as a fixation, and things escalate from there.

I had a few small nitpicks with the story---Grant doesn't seem to offer any explanation for Amy's immediate hatred of Charlotte other than 'she's crazy' for instance---but overall, it was a solid read. The story was well-paced and kept me turning the pages, and I thought that Rachel especially was well-written as a character. She struggles with balancing her well-meant loyalty to her friend Amy, and with trying to deal with her growing feelings of alarm as things escalate. Her snail-loving son Trent was one of the more fully realized child characters---the rest, save perhaps Charlotte's daughter Meadow, exist in the story as mere names.

Small quibbles aside, this was a readable and entertaining little drama, and well worth a read. Recommended!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sample Review: Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf


Sample Reviews are a new feature I am starting as on now! For each review, I'll choose a book that's been languishing on my To-Read list, and read the sample. Then write a short review that answers this question: did the sample make me want to pull the trigger on the rest of the book? Why or why not?

For my first sample review, I checked out Who Censored Roger Rabbit? by Gary K. Wolf. This book was the basis for the very good Disney movie; I enjoyed that movie and was delighted to learn that the author of the book has joined the backlist re-publishing crowd on Smashwords. Both books in the series were free during Read an Ebook Week, so I got them then and was curious to read them.

The books initially suffered from some fatal formatting flaws. I contacted the author, who was very friendly and attentive; the books were re-formatted and uploaded again within a day. Unfortunately, they could still benefit from a good copy-edit. These books are old enough that I suspect the author had to OCR them, and there are a few misplaced line breaks and punctuation issues. Not fatal, as the other issues were, but somewhat irritating.

Onto the story though, things were pretty smooth. The premise involves a world where cartoons are sentient beings who live side by side among humans. Eddie Valiant is a human private eye in the grandest of noir traditions who is hired by Roger Rabbit to investigate a simple labour dispute, and winds up in over his human head in the seamy underside of Toontown.

I enjoy a good noir mystery, and I enjoy a little quirk, so this should have been a slam dunk for me. Ultimately, however, I found the book a little flat. It is such a visual, exciting world the author has created. It was a little TOO visual, though. I felt the way I have felt before when I tried to read steampunk novels. I was interested in the world they were creating, but too many times, the action would slow down for an explanation of a sight gag that would have been better in a more visual medium. I am sure I would enjoy a steampunk comic book, just as I enjoyed the movie version of this very imaginative story. But as a novel, it wasn't quite as interesting. I got a little tired of reading explanation for where the speech bubbles go when a toon finishes talking.

I do see this as a book with appeal for the mystery fan, especially the noir mystery fan. With all due respect to Mr. Wolf, he has created an extremely imaginative and well-thought-out world for his stories, and I give him credit for the deserved traffic the movie version will likely drive his book's way. But for me, it worked better as a movie, I'm afraid :) With so much else on my plate right now, I passed on reading the rest of the novel.

Verdict: did the sample make me want to read more?
With no disrespect to Mr. Wolf and his clever story, no it didn't.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Read an Ebook Week, Days 6 & 7

Hi everyone! Time to wrap up Read an Ebook Week! Some last-minute todos...

1) Go to a Best Buy, Future Shop or other local chain and see what's on the offer. Maybe there is something on sale and you'll get lucky! Or maybe you are happy with the reader you have but it's just cool to play with a different gadget...

2) Last chance to take advantage of the Smashwords specials! This time, try a genre you don't normally read from and see if anything strikes your fancy.

3) Do you have a blog, or did you join a message board this week? Write a post about your RAEW adventures and submit it!

Happy reading, everyone!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Read an Ebook Week, Day 5

Hello again!

How is Read an Ebook Week going? Are you finding any good books out there? Here are some todos for Day 5.

1. Set up a Google Alert with your favourite author's name so that you can find out news about their new releases, places they are being reviewed and talked about, and coupon codes to get deals on their books. If you are an author, set up a Google Alert on yourself!

2. Sign up for the e-newsletter at your favourite book vendor, like them on Facebook or follow their twitter account. Kobo and many other ebook stores often post coupon codes and special deals in these places.

3. Have a friend or family member who reads ebooks too? Some stores allow you to gift one of your books to someone else, or to purchase a gift card for them. Share the love and send someone in your life an ebook gift.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Read an Ebook Week, Day 4

Hi again everyone! Here are your todos for today:

1. Have a favourite author from the big pubs whose works you enjoy in ebook form? Google their official website address, then send them an email or leave them a comment letting them know you are an ebook buyer and that you appreciate their embracing of the digital age.

2. Do you only read Big Pub authors? If so, how about investigating an indie mecca today? Browse your favourite genre at a site like Smashwords or Feedbooks and pick up an indie read that strikes your interest. Not sure where to start? The Indie eBook Hall of Fame has genre listings of books which have at least three positive reviews from independent bloggers.

3. Remember the forum you joined yesterday? See if it has a poll section. Then look at some polls and cast your vote an an ebook-related topic which interests you. Have fun!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Read an Ebook Week, Days 2 and 3

Oops! Forgot to post yesterday. Making up for it with a double post today. Here are your todos:

1. Sign up for a forum where you can learn about ebook deals and new releases. Mobile Read or Kindle Boards are both good ones.

2. Read an article at Teleread or another ebook-centric blog and leave a comment. Make your feelings known to those who lead the debate on ebook issues!

3. Still looking for some ebook freebies? How about a great classic from the public domain? Project Gutenberg is the uber-portal for public domain freebies. Feedbooks and Manybooks are also great places to bookmark, especially if you want to download other formats.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Read an Ebook Week, Day 1

Welcome to Read an Ebook Week! I will be posting some special to-dos every day for the next week, to get you in the 'read an ebook' spirit. Here are your to-dos for day 1!

1. Smashwords has a special area of free and discounted books for this promotion. Check it out and download a few books.

2. Have you submitted reviews for the ebooks you have most recently enjoyed? If not, spend a few minutes adding some ratings and a review or two at the vendors you patronize.

3. Join a challenge or book club! Goodreads is full of them. Mobile Read is another good starting point. Or, just do it yourself. Read 100 ebooks this year. Read 50 classics. Whatever you want!

Check back tomorrow for more Read an Ebook Week todos. Happy reading!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Review: Jenny Pox by JL Bryan


Jenny Pox came highly recommended to me, with numerous commendations by several indie bloggers. It's a well-written young adult fantasy novel about a girl whose touch can kill. Inevitably, she meets and falls in love with the one boy out there with the power opposite to hers, a healing touch. And just as inevitably, he is connected to the novel's villain, who may have powers of her own...

The story's simple, almost predictable structure actually works in its favour, ratcheting up the tension a little as Jenny and Seth move toward the Carrie-esque ending we all know is coming. Jenny is characterized very well; Seth a little less well, and Ashleigh, not much at all beyond
'she's evil.' As a non-young adult, I confess I would have been happy to spend less time at the Halloween parties, abstinence meetings and church groups these teen characters spent much of their time on, but I think that's my problem and not the fault of the author.

I did find, overall, that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would because it was a little too grim and gloomy for my taste. Jenny has a miserable, joy-less life and her burgeoning love for Seth just made it even more gloomy because I knew it couldn't end well. I can see why others rated this book so highly. It's original, creative, hits the right buttons for a teen audience etc. But it was just such a sad book to me. I have to mark it down for that.

3/5, but if you have more gothic and tween-age tastes, feel free to bump that up a little.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Review: The Chosen by John Hartness


This book is described on Smashwords thusly: "A cross-country road trip with angels, demons, immortals, smart-aleck waitresses and a whole lot of whiskey. Great for fans of Christopher Moore and Kevin Smith." It pretty much lives up to this promise. An immortal Adam (yes, THAT Adam, the biblical one) tries to save the world with the help of Cain, Eve, the devil and a few other people. The book is at times super-funny (the 'voice' for Adam is great---snark, but measured, grown-up snark) and the interplay between some of the other characters is very well done.

The book did feel a little bit talky at times. There were a few Grand Speeches to explain Important Things, and a few contortions to make the 'canon' of the biblical narrative work with what the author was trying to do. In particular, I found Cain a little confusing. At times, he pontificates as if everything he's known for was all part of this grand, misunderstood sacrifice, yet at other times he jokes about it and comes across as a huge jackass. And the portrayal of Eve was a tiny bit sexist---Hartness sets up her 'fall' from the garden as part of the grander cosmic interplay which underpins the novel's central conceit, which is nice, but then she's a stripper and possibly an alcoholic too, and I'm not sure that agrees with me.

There were a few late-appearing typos were not deal-breakers for me. But overall, this was a fairly polished Smashwords word. This wasn't quite a 4 for me---almost, but not quite. A little more action and less mytharc, a little more consistency in some of the characterizations and a little less retconning to make the canon fit, and it would have pushed it up there. I'm going to say 3.5/5, but with that said, I definitely think that readers who enjoy this sort of story will enjoy this book a lot.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I have been Indie-viewed!

I have been "indie-viewed" by Simon Royle! The interview is at his blog here. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Review: Travels in Ghana by Marie McCarthy


Travels in Ghana is a simple but charming account of a woman's travels in Ghana in 2009. I found it via an announcement on another blog, and was sufficiently pulled in by the sample to want to read the full book. It took some effort locating the author's email address (note to authors: it helps to include this information in your Smashwords profile!) but I was able to track down her contact info via some Google-Fu and get a review copy.

The book is a quick, but interesting read full of interesting characters. The author's driver, Stanley, was especially well described and it was great fun following them across the countryside together. Each chapter dealt with a different phase of the trip and many of the chapters included photographs. Cultural details about life in Ghana were incorporated when necessary and did not detract from the narrative or overwhelm it in any way.

Ghana is a country many people would not think to visit on their own. I was interested to learn more about it and really felt like I was right there along with the author on her trip. The book ended with a short chapter on tips for travelers that was a helpful bonus.

Overall, a brisk, fun read and definitely recommended if you enjoy travel or are in the mood for a memoir-type selection. 5/5.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Interview with GraceKrispy

GraceKrispy from the excellent review blog MotherLode has been interviewed by Simon Royle here. It's a great little write-up! GraceKrispy and I are somewhat kindred spirits on the indie book review game (although I read a lot of non-indie stuff too so she seems to get through more books than me!) I enjoyed reading her thoughts on indie writing and publishing.