Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review: The Emperor's Edge

The Emperor's EdgeThe Emperor's Edge by Lindsay Buroker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genre: steampunk fantasy adventure

Publisher: indie/self-published

Where I got it: Smashwords

Warnings: violence

The review (spoilers past this point):
Amaranthe Lokdon is an Imperial Enforcer who excels at her job. She's also a woman, which means her tubby, slacker partner is far more likely to get a promotion than she is.

A routine night on the job soon turns into anything but, as Amaranthe foils a robbery, uncovers a startling series of murders and attracts the attention of someone that changes the course of her life entirely.

To my knowledge, I've never read anything that might be considered "steampunk", but because I love the author's blog, I decided to pick up all of her novels. I started with The Emperor's Edge and I'm so glad I did.

The word I'd use to describe this book is "fun". Everything struck the right cord for me. The plot is excellently constructed with foreshadowing and minor details coming to play later in surprising ways. The main conflict is resolved, but the "tag" at the end, promises much more adventure and danger, and I, for one, will be following along for the ride.

The characters are a joy. Every one of them has strengths and flaws that bring them to life in cinematic flavour. Their interactions with each other are wholly believable and endearing. In fact, most of what made this such an enjoyable book is their interplay.

I could quite easily picture this story transformed into a screenplay and brought to life on the big screen. It's not a text that wastes any time, and that makes it perfect for those of us who are more visually minded. Plus, it has, I thought, an extremely strong female character that outshines most "strong" female characters on-screen these days, simply because she utilises her own strengths, rather than tries to mimic a man's.

The style of writing is crisp and easy to get sucked into. It was, as another of my beloved on-screen characters might say, electromagnetic candy. Read it when you're having a bad day, and it will certainly perk you up.

Final word
A fun, well-planned romp that introduces an intriguing fantasy world and a curious grouping of characters.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Great INDIE Summer Read Giveaway 2011

Unless you've been living under a rock - entirely possible on my chilly side of the equator - you'll have noticed all my tweets about the Great Indie Summer Read Giveaway, currently hosted on

In a coffee bean shell, this fabulous giveaway is highlighting a stack of indie authors who have also been generous enough to donate their eBooks. I think it has just about every genre covered, including non-fiction. Plus you'll find a couple of my favourite indie discoveries, Vicki Keire and Kait Nolan. 

If you're too afraid to dip your toe into indie waters, then this great giveaway presents the perfect opportunity for you to wade in without fear. I've discovered some great indie books this year, and am happily looking forward to all the other pearls I might uncover. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Review: Every Last Kiss

Every Last Kiss (The Bloodstone Saga, #1)Every Last Kiss by Courtney Cole

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Genres: historical fantasy romance

Publisher: indie/self-published

Where I got it: Smashwords

Warnings: minor swearing here and there

The review (spoilers past this point):

Magic and mayhem abounds as a creepy priest abruptly interrupts the life of a normal, depressed teen dealing with a cheating boyfriend and sends her back to one of her past lives.

Only... she doesn't have an ordinary past life. All her past lives are directly connected to very important people that she must influence for the good of Fate. In this instance, she's Cleopatra's companion, Charmain, and she must ensure that history plays out exactly the way it is meant to... again. It is a task Charmain finds harder and harder to follow with once she's back in the arms of the man she loved in this life, Hasani.

At first glance, Every Last Kiss appears to be a time-travelling romance. I actually found it to be something else entirely. While Hasani is the almost-perfect romantic icon with good looks and heroic tendencies, the story, to me, was about Girl Power.

The regal queen and loyal hand-maiden team up to tackle repulsive villains, restore Charmain's "birthright" and ensure their own terrible deaths. They do this, knowing that their decisions will also mean the deaths of the people they love. Not an easy choice to bear or share, but by sharing, the book's strongest relationship takes the fore (more so than the romantic relationship).

Having the lead character begin the story as a modern-day teen is an ingenious way to explore a historical era and characters without having to be terribly true to the language of the time. This makes it easy to follow the characters themselves, but can be a little jarring from time to time when Cleopatra says something distinctly modern in phrasing. The brain takes a moment to adjust and get back into it.

The flavours and scents of Ancient Egypt are quite engaging here. I fully expect to be googling for a while to discover more about the people and places mentioned here. The author does note some artistic licence in the acknowledgement, though I don't think I'm too off target by thinking that Egypt is a deeply passionate subject for the author.

I suspect that the next book in the series, will be a prequel (in parts), as we'll probably get to explore the beginnings of a "new" old love, and that, I imagine, is a romantic tale I'll enjoy more. With Fate itself involved, the past was almost set in stone. The present has risks and unseen dangers, and thus greater dangers. It's always the devil you don't know...

Final word
Every Last Kiss could easily leave out the "kiss" and still be a subtle showcase of stoic female characters and the bonds of friendship.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Rooney Rating System

Reader reviews seem to be a can of wiggly worms these days. In the past few months, I’ve seen writers blow up nastily at reviewers, writers pretend to be gushing reviewers of their own work, and yes, even someone who plagiarised reviews for no obvious motivation that I could see.

With all that madness, I decided to be as plain and boring as possible.

Credit: Dimitri_C at
I don’t review books I don’t like. When I read, I read for fun, so there is little point in being a grump about it. If you ask me to read something, and I don’t like it, you’re probably just going to get a private message or email with my reasoning.

If I finish a book, it means it did something right- it compelled me onward. So while getting a 2 might not be the greatest ego boost, anything rated 3 and above means I was happy to read the book and it met my general pre-requisites for quality.

3 is always the best I hope for. Anything above that is an unexpected treat. I do admit that I am more likely to give 4s and 5s in my favourite genres.  These are the books I re-read, and I’m far more likely to stay in familiar territory for that.

My ratings

1 – I'll try not to do that
I’ll never review a book that I give a 1 – even if someone asks me to. In fact, I probably won’t even finish it and it will go in my “gave up” pile. It usually means that the book offered me no enjoyment and very little in the way of learning. Well, other than “don’t do that” when writing.

2 – I finished it
2s are books that were okay. The best I could say about them was that I finished them. I might review a 2 if I feel the book has opened up an interesting stream for discussion or has presented an intriguing notion.

3 – Good distraction
I enjoy 3s. It means they’ve distracted me from my life for a few hours, which always make me happy. 3s are well-written and high quality works and are always worth the read.

4 – Rewind and repeat
4s usually have an extra kick that makes me want to re-read them. It could be cute and cuddly gimmick, one of those epic fight scenes were the underdog gets his day, or even something as simple as a character that makes me smile/cry/cheer. They’re either epic in scope or just make me feel good.

5 – Master crafted
5s are much like 4s in terms of how much I enjoyed the book, but they also excel in one more thing: they’ve taught me something valuable about writing. These are the books that I’ll re-read as a writer.

So in a nutshell (for the authors):
1 or 2 – not a fabulous rating to get
3 to 5 – shiny ratings; nothing unreadable here
4 or 5 – you’re in my preferred genre; you’re teaching me how to become a better writer; or you created a quirky side-kick whose name is a number

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Review: Strange Little Band: Two psychics. One mega-corp. All-around bad behavior.

Strange Little Band: Two psychics. One mega-corp. All-around bad behavior.Strange Little Band: Two psychics. One mega-corp. All-around bad behavior. by Nancy Brauer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Authors: Nancy Brauer and Vanessa Brooks

Genre: erotic urban science fiction

Publisher: indie/self-published

Where I got it: Smashwords

Warnings: language, sex (and plenty of that)

Disclaimer: I found this a very difficult book to rate as it’s not within my usual genres (young adult, skewed towards fantasy). I don’t tend to read romance or books with many erotic elements, so that is also affecting my rating somewhat.

The review (may contain spoilers):
Strange Little Band is a Strange Epic Duck. It’s a very difficult book to label and categorise. On the one hand, it’s an epic sexy romance, peering into a huge chunk of the lives of some very, well, bad people. On the other, it’s a hybrid science fiction and fantasy introducing a world that blends science, the paranormal, the alien and magick. Oh, and one foot is firmly aimed at being a solid family drama too.

We start off with two leads. The beautiful but, shall we say, testy psychic Addison, and the equally terse and inhuman Shane. They both work in the fairly evil Triptych Corporation. I don’t really know what they do or why, but they do seem to want to own the lives of all their employees. Case in point: both of Addison’s children are basically experiments. The leads are not nice guys. Addison is not averse to imposing her will on or humiliating her employees. Shane occasionally kills and resurrects people, or drives someone – literally - insane. It’s a match made in heaven, if they can just get over the cruel machinations of their employers.

Later, two more leads appear in the form of Addison’s daughter, Ashlynn, and her son, Jake. Shane is Jake’s father – through artificial insemination, of course, though this pair does end up having copious amounts of skin-on-skin action. Both kids are gifted psychics and geniuses, which is just as well, because when the plot kicks into hyperdrive, these two shine as the heroes.

The writing is impeccable. It’s almost Dickensian in scope. Originally written as a weekly web serial, it easily surpasses the length of many books in either of its genres. On the surface, this works with and against the book.

It works with the book, because you don’t miss any character development. You can see and feel the moment the two leads finally start seeing each other as equals, partners, something other than bugs to be crushed. It’s palpable in every little thing they say and do.

It works against the book, because it almost feels like the book could have easily been split into shorter separate volumes, with the overriding mythology and peril fleshed out and amped up in each instalment. A lot of the plot happens in the last quarter of the book, and while the threads were set up earlier, there’s just so much to contend with, that I forgot the finer details.

Final word
Strange Little Band is an interesting, unique tale that could do with some further exploring.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kindle international surcharge – save some moola!

If you’re an international Amazon Kindle book customer, you’ll no doubt have noticed two things: a) the regional restrictions imposed by publishers, b) an additional $2 on the price of all books (to my knowledge, the UK and Australia don’t have to pay it).

To be fair, most international folk probably wouldn’t notice if it weren’t for sales or newsletters that display the American price. I don’t have any real problem with the surcharge (data costs are fairly expensive in my country), But for those of who want to save a few pennies, there are a few options available.

Books in the public domain
There are quite a few books on Amazon that can be found for free elsewhere. These books are usually out in the public domain – that is, their copyright has expired. In addition to older titles, there are also creative commons titles of new authors offering a sampling of their writing.
The books found at the above sites are generally DRM-free, so you should be able to convert them to your preferred eReader format with a program like Calibre.

Self-published authors
Smashwords is the indie store I’m most familiar with. Multiple formats are available, and they are all DRM-free. The best feature is the coupons. Occasionally authors will release discount codes for their books, saving you even more money.  I tend to get recommendations for the books on Amazon first, before I look for them here. There are a LOT of books on this site.

Traditionally published books
Sadly, I do not know many publishing houses that release eBooks that a) accept international credit cards, b) don’t have regional restrictions, or c) actually have a Kindle format (or DRM-free format to convert) without simply linking you to Amazon. However:

Angry Robot Books – promise DRM-free books, but their pricing is in UK pounds, so it might be cheaper simply to get the books from the US Amazon Kindle store.

Tor – gave away free PDFs a few years ago of some of their popular authors (who knows, they might do it again). I’ve also won a set of books from them, which makes me a fairly loyal follower.

Your thoughts:
Are you an international eBook reader? Have you discovered ways to get more book for your buck?