- See more at: http://myblogrtricks.blogspot.com/2014/07/how-to-show-post-title-before-blog.html#sthash.p9yUfIwF.dpuf

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Amy Flint's Shadows in the Mist is Powerfully Fun

Antagonistic colleagues,

Restless spirits, 

and...

Angry, telekinetic mothers that teleproject?!

No worries. Porter Biggleswade is on the job and ready for anything.


Shadows in the Mist is the first book within the Porter Biggleswade series, paranormal fiction by Amy Flint.

So what's it about?

Porter Biggleswade has just accepted a position with the Paranormal Investigation Unit, or PIU, within All Saints University in York. A famous paranormal researcher, she's known for looking at each case with a careful eye, and being able to tell true hauntings from fictitious ones. 
Of course, a large part of that is due to the fact that she can actually see ghostly apparitions, plain as day. Called the Shadow Reader, Biggleswade is who you call when you've lost all hope of a more logical, reasonable explanation for strange occurrences. 
And with a jealous and ghostly author, a mean and unreasonable old woman, and some glow in the dark sheep on her hands, she has her work cut out for her.

The first word that comes to mind when I think about this ebook is fun. 

While Porter Biggleswade herself has a rather dry personality, she's surrounded by a wealth of interesting people that end up getting her into all kinds of crazy situations. A bit of a loner, and quite content to be one, very often she's dragged into social situations that end up becoming quite colorful.

Of course, that's the sort of thing that happens when you have a flatmate that sells magical crystals, a drunken mother, and a hostile colleague with a mind to make you as miserable as possible.

Biggleswade also has a fine assortment of cases to keep her busy. When she's not trying to figure out what's making Charlotte Bronte's bedroom into a disaster zone (Yes, that Charlotte Bronte), or why employees at a new development are being harrassed by visions of people within a quarry that had been filled in long before any of them were born, she's trying to discover why a living woman appears to be haunting her daughter.

And don't even get me started on the glow-in-the-dark sheep she has to investigate...

Yep. She's one busy person. Thankfully, she has a workaholic student intern to help her out. The dynamic between Porter Biggleswade and her intern, Clarice, is quite interesting. Often, Clarice appears to be the grounding force within Biggleswade's life, ensuring the investigator stays on task, while helping out with the overwhelming workload.

Flint created some amazing and entertaining characters, but more than that, they all had substance to them. I never once doubted that they were 'real.' Dialogue flowed smoothly, and felt very much like real conversation. Enough so that I think it's very possible she spoke each line before typing. 

Just to make sure it felt true.

Seriously. I didn't have to reread a single piece of dialogue so that I could feel where the inflection was supposed to be. I just knew. Nor did I ever think, "This person wouldn't say this." I didn't have to.

Each personality was unique, and nothing was misphrased.

Formatting, on the other hand, needed some work. I often discovered lines that didn't wrap appropriately. What I mean by that, is that instead of finding, say, the word 'there' on a single line, I'd find it chopped up with the 't' on one line, and 'here' on the next. Very distracting.

However!

In the author's defense, it may have just been a flaw in the copy I was reading - it was a free review copy, so there's a high chance that this error was fixed in the published version. If you read the amazon sample, you'll be able to see if that's the case.

I also felt that the story ended too abruptly, with a few too many loose ends. There is a sequel, of course, so I'm sure those loose ends will be tied up, but I would have appreciated it if things were tidied up a bit more than they were.

Or perhaps that's just my need for an end-of-story cooldown talking. It's possible.

Even with that, however, this book was well worth reading. I was never bored, and I felt as though I was listening in on true conversations as they happened. Flint's command of dialogue is superb.

Shadows in the Mist can be found on Kindle, and Nook.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ryan McSwain's Monsters All the Way Down Makes You Question Everything.

Imagine being accused of serial murders

That you know you didn't commit.

Now imagine questioning 

The veracity of your own knowledge.

Today we have science fiction Horror for Halloween!

image via http://ryanmcswain.files.wordpress.com/2014/06/monsters-all-the-way-down-cover.jpg

Monsters All the Way Down is a science fiction horror novel written by Ryan McSwain.

So what's it about?

All Brennan Wade had planned for the day was a simple DNA check that was required for the job he had finally landed. It's all he had planned, that is, until his DNA results pinged a crime database that showed him as the lone suspect for multiple grotesque and unsolved murders spanning decades. 
Now he's on the run, determined to prove that he's not the killer. It's strange, though, that his DNA was lifted from one of the crimes scenes. Even stranger that he truly was at each location at the times the murders were committed... 
 But how could he have committed murders that he has no recollection of? And who is this strange group that's hunting him down for them? Most importantly... who did murder all of these people?

I'm going to start by reminding you not to judge a book by its cover. 

This is definitely not my favorite cover art. I don't think it really gives a good impression of what's inside... but the story within is something worth treating yourself to.

See, one of those cardinal rules of humanity is to never, never, never, NEVER sympathize with a serial killer. So what did I go ahead and do?

Yep. I totally did that.

And who is the serial killer? Well, you won't know that until a long way through... and I'm not giving any spoilers.

But the story was written in such a manner that I repeatedly questioned what I thought I knew. I questioned who the 'good guy' was, and who the 'bad guy' was. I even questioned my own ideas about what good and bad truly mean.

In the beginning, I thought I had made a poor decision about this ebook.

You see, at first, it seemed more like a psychological thriller. It didn't seem to have the markings of a traditional horror novel, and definitely didn't feel sci fi or paranormal. It was quite good, but didn't fit in with my pre-conceived idea of what horror is.

I'm glad I kept reading.

Turns out, this ebook can be classified as both sci fi and paranormal. It has technology that one would expect from near-future sci fi, yet still produces some mind-boggling what-the-heck-is-that-strange-entity thrills. The blend of the two was well done, and allows the reader to have that "what if?" feeling throughout the story.

Brennan Wade, the protagonist, is a particularly interesting - and frustrating - character. When he decided to go into hiding while uncovering the truth, I often saw him do things that seemed absolutely ridiculous. Many times, I thought, "Oh, come on... how could they not catch him after that?"

Yet I kept reading.

Turns out, I was right to ask that question... each time I did. You see, Brennan isn't a criminal. He's the average, everyday guy. The average guy just doesn't know how to run from the law. So even though I wanted to strangle him for his ignorance, I kept reading. I kept wanting him to come out on top. To prove that he wasn't the murderer they claimed he was.

So how did he manage to elude law enforcement while making poor decisions about it? Well, you'll have to read the story to figure out how.

Ha!
(I'm kinda mean, aren't I?)

Seriously, though, this one was worth every moment I spent reading it. While I think I may have made plot discoveries before the author was ready for me to do so, the story ran with fluidity, and I happily read it to the very last word.

Monsters All the Way Down can be found on Kindle.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Halloween Treat! Four Free Snack-Sized Horror Stories!

At least once every Halloween season I think about how fun it would be to hand out tiny short stories to kids, instead of the normal candy...

But I quickly push that idea aside, realizing that while it may be fun for me, I'd also be likely to end up with a home decorated in tp.

You, on the other hand, are actually looking for something to read, so snack-sized horror stories... here we come!

In the trick-or-treat spirit, they're all free. It'd be crazy to make you pay for a Halloween treat, after all, right?

It began with twelve pages of ebooks.

I reduced that to nine.

I then chose the best four.

I went to Smashwords and did a search for Horror under 20,000 words (free). Wanting short-shorts, I ignored anything over 5,000 words (some looked really good), then went straight to reading the blurbs. The blurbs that I found most fascinating were the ones I selected to read, with the intent of choosing only four.

Why four? 

No reason. I just wanted to set a limit for myself. Because so much of my choice hinged on a well-written blurb, I'm including what that exact blurb, rather than giving my own. I'll also include word count, which ranges from a little over 1500 to a bit above 4000.

Snack-sized!

"Alright, already, Rebecca! Enough with the explanations. Just get on with it!"

First up, we have...

image via http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51KKgQhMgsL._AA160_.jpg

Release is a 2,420 word short-short written by Chuck Grossart.
A man perusing the wares in a vintage book store lifts a tattered volume from its shelf and begins to read. The book quickly becomes his most prized possession...and he, a willing accomplice to a darkness thirsting for release.
What reader doesn't enjoy a horror story that revolves around a book? This one appealed to the part of me that screams, "It could happen to me!" I imagine it'll be the same for you, as well.

Next, we have...

image via http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Xi23ZhdyL.jpg

Tower of Grief is a 3,480 word short written by K. Massari.
An abandoned McMansion and its eerie medieval tower were built on a gravesite by unscrupulous contractors. A former owner knows its darkest secrets, and uses them to her advantage.
 This one bends your mind a bit, which only adds to the horror. While it revolves around one former homeowner, we see into the lives of others, as well. This one is not for the faint of heart.

Number three on the list...

image via http://img1.imagesbn.com/p/2940045994606_p0_v1_s260x420.JPG
Mirror Mirror, at 1,610 words, is the shortest story I have for you today, and is written by Jennifer Waller.
Evelyn followed a rumor into the recesses of an unnamed catacomb in search of an ancient evil. However, once she finds it she quickly learns that escape is impossible.
We all know the dangers of heading out to cursed archeological digs. Unfortunately, someone forgot to remind the protagonist of that fact.

The mirror in the title, as well as the cover, was what drew me to this one. I used to be very uncomfortable around large mirrors, having an over-active imagination, so I'm naturally drawn to stories in which they play a key role.

And finally, we're on to the last - and my favorite of the four:

image via http://cache.smashwire.com/bookCovers/6c266e7d5e8b5f2a0dc1fcfb3d3f52b302422b5b-thumb

The Mirror Man is a 4,030 word short written by M.S. Dobing.
Steven Cree wakes up at the same time, every night. With every passing day, injuries appear on his body, cracks appear on his walls, and the trees that surround his estate seem to encroach upon his home.

But worst of all, it's the man in the mirror. The face that was himself, but is slowly changing into that of a stranger.
I know, I know... another one with the word 'mirror' in the title. It's a good one, though, so bear with me.

Everything within this story needed to be there: Every thought, every action, every word. The writing was exceptional. There was no flowery language, no extra narration. The writing was strong.

Even the dedication at the end fit well. It hit me like a truck, which could only happen with a powerful story.

If you read none of the others on this list, read this one.

But read them all.

Because they're all wonderful pieces of work. And they're free!

And snack-sized!!!

**As I only searched via Smashwords, these ebooks may also be available at the Kindle and Nook stores. My focus today was Smashwords titles, only.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mick Bogerman's How to Rid Your Swimming Pool of a Bloodthirsty Mermaid is Hypnotic!

Yesterday I talked about Slug Pie story #1, How to Navigate Zombie Cave and Defeat Pirate Pete, so now we're ready for part 2 of my Apology For Playing Hooky on My Birthday Double Pack! Same author, same series.

Sea-Monkeys.

A simple concept, really...

As long as you don't misfeed the little guys, that is.

image via http://sanfranciscobookreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/HOW_TO_RID_YOUR_SWIMMING_POOL_OF_A_BLOODTHIRSTY_MERMAIDHOW_TO_RID_YOUR_SWIMMING_POOL_OF_A_BLOODTHIRSTY_MERMAID.jpg
Cover art by Kat Powell

Slug Pie story #2, How to Rid Your Swimming Pool of a Bloodthirsty Mermaid, is a YA horror book written by Mick Bogerman.

So What's it about?

After his brother nearly drowns in the ocean, Mick decides that it's time to give Finley swimming lessons. As luck would have it, he knows the perfect place to teach him: The home of wealthy P.J., a boy that will happily agree to let the brothers use his pool... as long as Mick agrees to mow his ginormous yard for him. 
Things should have went well. Sure, the work is tiring, but the pool is amazing. Unfortunately, when the boys see a note from P.J. asking them to feed his Sea-Monkeys, telling them that the food is in his father's Bentley, they grab the packet out of a silver cylinder -  
From the wrong car. In goes the "food," which turns the Sea-Monkeys' water a strange, cobalt blue. 
And that's only the beginning of the changes that occur....

As with Slug Pie story #1, this ebook is written with sections broken into "steps" rather than chapters, written in first person, and includes a list of materials the boys will want to have the next time something like this happens.

And yes, I'm still in love with that overall story structure.

It makes it feel personal.

What I forgot to mention in the first ebook's review, however, is that there's one more bit thrown into these works at the very beginning that I thoroughly enjoy: Mick Bogerman's Warning Note to Parents. It includes fun statements such as, 

"As far as romance, you will find absolutely none in this story,
Because that would be stupid."

Both Slug Pie stories have these preview notes. How'd I possibly forget about that?! Well, all of you know that I'm incredibly scatter-brained, so let's just leave it there, shall we?

Bloodythirsty Mermaid flows even more smoothly than How to Navigate Zombie Cave did. The storyline grabbed ahold of me and kept me reading, and at an even faster rate than book 1. I thought a zombie infested cave with a rising water table was cool, but a bloodthirsty mermaid with hypnotic abilities, creepy red skin, and a strange case of overwhelming modesty? Priceless.

I was in love, I tell you. Love.

This one was a... 

Treasured Tome!!!

And I was aware that this would be the case by about 30% through the book. At least, I think that was the point that I became aware of the fact. You see, the mermaid had me so enthralled that I didn't really pay attention to how far I had gotten.

I was completely under her spell. 

Sure, she had razor sharp teeth and a mouth large enough to swallow a person's head in a single bite, and sure, she devoured rotten vegetables and loads of fish and spam. She pulled a few people under water and kept them there, and yes, the thick, brackish water that her mere presence caused was rather unattractive...

But I love her just the same.

She isn't your standard mermaid. Cruel, animalistic, and definitely not beautiful, she's a far cry from the normal idea of a mermaid that we're accustomed to. And that's ok.

Awesome, even.

Now, before you get too excited, please remember that this is a YA horror novel, and it's written for readers in around 4th to 6th grade. Don't expect something written for people accustomed to rated R horror movies, because you won't get it.

Even a bloodthirsty mermaid can turn out to be scary for young readers, but not too much so, and Bogerman did an excellent job of ensuring that it fit the age group. 

Indeed, I was so impressed with this ability that I'm planning on recommending that the librarian at my daughter's elementary school look into making a copy available for students. I think it's something that she'd like to add to the collection. This story is one that I would have pointed out to kids looking for scary books back when I worked in school libraries.

It feels like the kind of book that would get a reluctant reader interested in reading more of their own accord, and that goes a long way.

How to Rid Your Swimming Pool of a Bloodthirsty Mermaid can be found on Kindle and Nook.


***And don't forget to check out the review of book 1!***



Monday, October 20, 2014

Mick Bogerman's How to Navigate Zombie Cave Teaches Us The Necessities Involved in Zombie Survival

Since I elected to take my birthday off, I promised to double up on the awesomeness I've found in my hunt for Treasured Tomes. Today is part one of that promise. Tomorrow you'll see part two.

Conveniently, this one fits right into the theme I've been working on this week: Horror for Halloween!!!

Pirate Treasure,

A zombie curse,

And an... old cheese cracker?

Welcome to a day in the life of Mick Bogerman: Big brother and wild adventurer!

image via http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51c4wmfOHcL.jpg

How to navigate Zombie Cave and Defeat Pirate Pete is a YA horror, and story #1 of  the Slug Pie Stories, written by Mick Bogerman.

So what's it about?

After Mick gets his hands on the one and only map through Zombie Cave, the map that leads to Pirate Pete's treasure, he grabs his miner's hat and a pitchfork and heads off to make the discovery of a lifetime. 
But first he has to keep his little brother safely out of the way. And so, being the good big brother that he is, he ties young Finley to a stake on the beach to keep him from tagging along - above the high tide line. Don't worry. Good big brother, remember? - and heads out to search for the pirate gold. 
Unfortunately, once he gets there he discovers that trekking through a dark cave infested with zombies is rather difficult... especially when you forget to place the treasure map in a plastic baggie to protect it from the water, discover that Pirate Pete is stronger and smarter than the average zombie, and find the tide rising, thereby causing frigid water to rise around you. 
And then there's that zombie parrot...

Writing under the nom de plume of Mick Bogerman, the author tells these stories from the first person perspective - and it works beautifully.

Mick is a smart kid, and has enough curiosity and ingenuity to take us with him on several adventures. We see this from the very beginning, as he tells us about his very well thought out decision to tie his brother to a stake, as well as his ability to get a friend to allow him to borrow a treasure map from the museum that employs the boy's father.

The map written in the 1700s that basically disintegrated because he forgot to keep it watertight.

Oops.

Throughout this ebook, there's a wonderful blend of humor, horror, and quick thinking in the face of danger. From chapter one I knew this was a good one.

Mick felt real

He made decisions that were smart, but also decisions that were irrational, due to high stress. I mean... zombies! I don't know about you, but I'd probably make some really weird choices, too, if I was trying to keep from being mauled by the undead. 

And the structure of this story?

Definitely not the norm. You won't find "chapters" in this book. Instead, sections are called steps. The first chapter, for example, is 
Step 1 
Find Zombie Cave

If you ever need to survive a zombie infested treasure hunt, this would be a good ebook to have with you. And bonus! As an ebook, it has a backlight. Very useful in dark terrain.

What?! I'm just saying... it may be a good supply to have with you.

And speaking of supplies...

At the end - don't worry... I'm not giving out spoilers, here - there's a list of materials that Mick and his brother Finley came up with... you know, so that they know what to bring along the next time they have to get through Zombie Cave.

Next time? 

Well, you never know, right? I mean, they're a little older and wiser now...

This book feels like it would be a spectacular read for 4-6th grade readers. It's not long, having a page length roughly equivalent to a Goosebumps story.

Don't worry - I'm not comparing it to Goosebumps. 

Mick Bogerman's work is a unique entity that doesn't need to be compared to anything to stand out as something a young reader would enjoy... and ask for more of. I've even been flirting with the idea of buying the paperback version and holding onto it so that my daughter can read it when she's old enough.

While I didn't make this one a Treasured Tome, it was a breath away. 

And you really need to read this one, because it gives a lot of background knowledge that will be welcome when you decide you want to get the next story in the series: How to Rid your Swimming Pool of a Bloodthirty Mermaid, which you'll see the review for tomorrow... 

...and which just might get awarded Treasured Tome status... not that I'd actually be hinting or anything. Would I do that?  ::wink wink::

How to Navigate Zombie Cave and Defeat Pirate Pete can be found on Kindle and Nook.





Saturday, October 18, 2014

The Twenty-Year Promise

We all have our quirks.

Some are a little more annoying than others.

Take mine, for example...

Since my very first job, back when the trilobites ruled the earth during the PreCambrian,

image via http://fc04.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2011/150/1/d/trilobite_love_by_fourmapleleaf-d3hnt1w.gif
Artwork snagged from FourMapleLeaf's DeviantArt page.
Go check out her work!

I've successfully managed to not work on my birthday every year. I've begged it off, put in for the time early, and even played sick. Complete with making some very realistic vomiting noises.

This would mark year twenty of not working on my birthday. A nice, round number that echoes with the loud joy of accomplishment.

It's also a Saturday, which means I'm supposed to be posting a review.

But twenty years! the big two-oh! Can I really face myself after having to explain to the world that I've managed to go nineteen years without working on my birthday, only to bug out before the huge twenty year achievement? No, not a twenty year achievement... more like a thirty-eight year, lifelong achievement! People get awards for that sort of thing! Can I possibly duck out of that? Break that promise to myself?

I don't think so.

I'm far too much in love with my own birthday to do that. I've decided, then, that there won't be a review today.

But!

I promise to have one tomorrow.

And!

I'll even go a step further, and do a two-book combo. I have two different ebooks by the same indie author, and I'll be sure to write about them both, either on the same day or two days, back to back. They're good, they fit the Great-Things-To-Read-For-Halloween theme I started with the last review, and they're YA, so they'll give us a good variety.

Hopefully, this will make up for your wait. I have a twenty year long promise to keep to myself, after all!



Thursday, October 16, 2014

Brian Martinez's Shallow Veins is a Halloween Must-Read!

With Halloween fast approaching, I decided that it's time to unearth a few indescribable horrors.

Creatures from the dark beyond.

Great, powerful entities

Capable of decimating human society.

I was surprised when I actually found that very thing!

image via http://i.imgur.com/ZzdwHoY.jpg

Shallow Veins is the first book within the Obscured series, a horror/ dark fantasy written by Brian Martinez.

So what's it about?

Newly divorced, alcoholic officer Franklin Butcher has transferred to Shallow Creek in hopes of getting as far away from his ex-wife, and the pain attached to their divorce, as possible. Becoming a small town cop is the perfect way to accomplish this - or so he thinks. 
But there's more to Shallow Creek than he knows. When the owners of a recently bought house call the police to complain about a missing plumber - one that seems to have vanished without a trace - Butcher marks the incident as nothing important. Just a neurotic couple adjusting to their new surroundings. 
But then his partner disappears, as well, and Butcher begins to realize that the town of Shallow Creek is is riddled with more secrets than he ever could have dreamed.

I'm going to start out by giving one simple statement:

Holy crap, this ebook rocks!!!

Not just a little, either. I very nearly ended up making my daughter late for school, because I was so deeply entrenched in this novel that time seemed to move at a much faster rate than normal. I'd swear that only 5 minutes had passed while I was reading...

If it wasn't for the fact that my clock said it was fifteen.

As I'm sure you've already guessed, I've finally found another

A Treasured Tome!!!!
Treasured Tome!!!

This one had me in its grip from the first chapter. It's not often that a writer can get my heart beating rapidly and cause me to hold my breath within the first chapter. Add to that the fact that I had absolutely nothing to be scared of, something I discovered before the chapter ended.

Seriously. All I'm going to say about that is... Dumb grasshopper.

I'm still embarrassed about that one.

I do need to warn you, though, that this ebook is graphically violent. It's not something I'd recommend for anyone with a weak stomach. The creature - creatures? - within this novel are disturbingly grotesque.

Martinez has a talent for timing and pacing, and his ability to lead the reader from one chapter to the next without coming up for air is absolutely skillful. I found that I didn't just want to keep reading - I needed to keep reading. Martinez is not one to waste words, choosing each one with care.

The funny part?

I didn't expect to enjoy this one so much. I liked the first few paragraphs enough to give Shallow Veins a shot, but I figured it would just be, well, 'kind of good.' I thought it'd be a book that would make me say, "Yeah, this is nice, but I was expecting more."

I tend to do that with books that I would classify as horror.

I tend to roll my eyes at the cliches, internally throttle the characters that always make the same stupid decisions, and scream at them, seeing every choice they make as completely useless, remarkably ignorant, and overused.

Martinez, though, seems to realize that. Every time a character did something that I'd be frustrated with, he'd point that very fact out in some way, thereby making what would normally seem ridiculous appear to be the only option.

I flipping LOVED that.

Shallow Veins is billed as a dark urban fantasy, and I agree with that choice, though it would appeal to a larger group of readers, as well, since it shares some classic horror traits:
  • a house with a mysterious background
  • a priest that sees the truth while everyone else is oblivious
  • dark, evil creatures
  • Unending suspense that causes a reader to hold his or her breath
  • The dumb woman that makes bad choices
Yeah... I had to add that last one in. Let's be realistic - women making stupid choices is a pretty big staple of the horror genre. There's a reason that spoofs all use that to their advantage, after all.

And before you push the idea of reading this ebook aside because of it, I want to remind you of what I mentioned earlier: he made ridiculous choices appear to be the only necessary ones.

Also... the dumb woman I refer to actually has some pretty good reasons for the stupid choices she makes, making her the, uh... well... not-so-dumb woman? I really liked her.

Just trust me.

Or don't.

But do read this one. It has mention of cruel gods from other realities within its pages, complete with their descendants, which would satisfy those of us that enjoy dark fantasy, and it has grotesque and terrifying creatures with the ability to destroy an entire town, which makes horror fans smile with satisfaction.

It's a win-win situation.

And it's a Treasured Tome. Don't forget that part. I haven't selected one of those for a while. This one is a Must-Read.

And it's just in time for Halloween. It's even set during the days right before Halloween, which makes it a perfect choice. So get this ebook. Read it. Enjoy it.

Yes, I'm being pushy.

But I really flipping loved this one! And that's what a Treasured Tome is: an ebook that I can't stop trying to get people to read.

Because it's that good.

And because I'm that crazy about it.

Shallow Veins can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.








Tuesday, October 14, 2014

T. Murphy's Legend of the Outsider Leads Us into Another World

A blocked off passage,

Sudden upheaval,

Then a strange new world...

This YA fantasy leads us off from our own world and into another.

image via https://imgv2-2-f.scribdassets.com/img/word_document/234419443/original/2bb279c959/1412815389
Cover design by Christine Barber

The Castle of Change: Legend of the Outsider is a YA fantasy written by T. Murphy.

So what's it about?

Will has had an absolutely boring summer, and is dying to have some sort of adventure to break the monotony. When he heads off through the family's church with his friend Dougie, he sees a blocked off passage, and recognizes his chance to do something different. Dragging Dougie with him, the boys wander through this passage until a sudden earthquake shakes the area, trapping them inside. 
Working themselves free of the rubble, they finally manage to find a way back out... and into a whole new world. The boys are catapulted into a magical world with catlike inhabitants, and discover that as outsiders they hold the ability to shake the current structure of this strange new world.

I don't know about you, but I've always dreamed of finding a secret entrance into a fantastic new world.

And this one truly was unique.

Murphy created a world that felt very Wonderland-ish. A person could easily lose their way in a blink of an eye, because the entire environment changed at a rapid rate. Running down a busy street in the marketplace, somebody could suddenly find themselves in an area devoid of people entirely. Nothing in this world is as it seems.

The residents are ruled by a man that calls himself The Master. This man is loved by some, and hated by others, just as all rulers, but in his case, something is... off. Since he began his reign, the castle has been closed off to the public. Everything he does is shrouded in mystery.

And now he has his sights set on Will and Dougie.

All the boys want is to find their way home, but they're being hunted. You see, they are outsiders, and the population has been told that outsiders from another world will bring about change. Society, the very world, could collapse. Outsiders are not to be trusted under any circumstance. Rather, they should be gotten rid of.

Will wanted adventure, but not this kind of adventure.

As you can see, the storyline is very intriguing. The world details, mixed with the high stakes - get out before things get really ugly - make this something that produces high interest.

The theme, though, was what really caught my interest. It can be summed up quite simply: Live in the present, rather than dwelling on the future. Relax and really see what's happening around you. To do otherwise is to miss out on the great adventure called life.

We all know this.

The reality, though, is that while we understand it on an intellectual level, we tend to fall short on truly understanding what this means, and following through on it.

I speak from experience.

So the moral is quite important. It's something that we could all learn from. Indeed, many of the ways characters that interact with them use are methods you'd see in mindfulness training, or in meditation.

No, they don't have the boys take up the lotus position. Nothing like that. Rather, they constantly force them to see things as they are, rather than by judging or by viewing situations through their own past experiences.

That was pretty awesome.

Unfortunately, I had a few problems with this ebook that would keep me from giving it a stellar rating. The story was good, and the characters were enjoyable. However, grammar and style issues caused me to have to force my way through quite a bit of the story.

Spell Check was obviously used. There wasn't a single spelling error at any point. Unfortunately, it felt as though an organic readthrough never took place. I found issues with verb tense, proper forms of pronouns, and sentence structure.

I realize this makes me seem like a grammar fiend, but it made a huge difference. It increased the time it took me to read this wonderful story, many times having to reread a sentence in order to understand what was happening.

Paragraph length was another issue.

When paragraphs were properly broken up, I flew through the story, taking in every last word. But quite a few of those paragraphs were way too long. On a few occasions, paragraphs lasted a full page and a half on my ereader. While this may work out for an epic length adult novel - maybe - it doesn't work for a YA novel geared toward middle school readers.

I ended up skipping through a great deal whenever that occurred, which caused me to become frustrated with myself: What did I miss?

So while the story itself was absolutely well structured, and while I completely loved the world, I couldn't enjoy it nearly as much as I would have if an organic readthrough had been done.

But this author has talent. One round of proofreading would make this into something spectacular. It's currently free on both Nook and Smashwords, so I'd suggest downloading this work from one of them and waiting to see if the author updates it in the future.

Seriously.

The story structure is phenomenal. An organic readthrough would make this work amazing.

Castle of Change: Legend of the Outsider can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.



Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Hutchissons' Full Moon Rising Presents a Seldom Used Concept

Cruelty and Evil,

The dangers of a full moon,

And loyalty...

Today we have an ebook that focuses not only on the concepts of good and evil, but on their several shades of gray, as well.

image via http://i91.photobucket.com/albums/k289/lauraoflurking/COVER_zps3c5dbada.jpg

Full Moon Rising, a fantasy novel,  is the first installment of the Trilogy of the Wolf by J.A.J and J.L Hutchisson

So what's it about?

When Constin, an Elder Priest of Heartfield, is given a prophecy regarding his daughter, he seeks to save her from it. He has been told that she'll be in danger that only a werewolf can save her from. Werewolves are vile beasts that take take special pleasure in massacring humans - especially children - and Constin refuses to believe one of these creatures could possibly be his daughter Olesa's only hope for survival. Racing off to hide her from this terrible prophecy, he finds that his actions only lead the prophecy closer to fulfillment. 

And there is much more to worry about than just a werewolf...

We're used to the idea of werewolves that are reviled, then shown to be more human than characters within a story believe them to be. That's not the seldom used concept I referred to in this review's title. While the authors of this piece focus a great deal on the werewolf Draikin and his relationship with the child Olesa, there's another concept that I found myself drawn to:

The bloodthirsty and depraved elves.

Don't get me wrong. We've all seen evil elves within literature. This is nothing new. Dark elves are a staple.

But these were different.

You see, regardless of the number of evil elves we find within the pages of books, they all share a few common traits. They're beautiful, they have a complex and even elegant society, and they make evil seem sexy.

Not these, though.

The elves within the pages of Full Moon Rising were beautiful, yes. They were also intelligent, as is the norm.

But they were revolting.

Their hatred of humans was so intense, brutal, and single minded that I felt more like I was reading about beautiful trolls then elves. I had absolutely no desire to get to know them. I knew they were beautiful, and I saw that they were graceful... yet my disgust with these creatures was so complete that I saw zero redeeming features within them.

Yet I kept hoping I was wrong about them. I held out hope for one elf in particular, dreaming that he'd be more human than the others.

The werewolf, on the other hand, I had no doubts about.

He was good, through and through. That is, as long as you overlook the fact that he can smell human blood over a mile away... and craves it. Or that in his wolf form he loses all ability to control his desire to rip people to shreds and eat to his heart's content. These things can be a bit problematic...

And yet, I still found that I could trust him.

Funny, that.

The humans, as well, had interesting qualities. They were always standing on the gray line between good and evil, trying their best to make decisions that they could live with.

Kinda like the rest of us.

Many times, the decisions were poor ones. Other times, they were surprisingly good. These people had to battle against the concepts of prejudice, hatred, greed, and cowardice. Sometimes they won, and sometimes they lost. Each action held consequences.

The story itself was very well thought out, and the intricacies of the world this husband/wife team created were a joy to discover. The world of Full Moon Rising felt real.

Unfortunately, the characters themselves weren't quite so well fleshed out.

While I did enjoy them, I found myself frustrated by the amount of information I was told, rather than shown. There was, for example, a discovery of love between two characters that that weren't at all the romantic type.

I think I would have enjoyed seeing these two make the discovery: their confusion, their frustration. The many ways that these two un-romantic people could have screwed things up for themselves. It would have endeared them to me. I'd like, in a sense, to make that discovery through witnessing the steps that led to their revelation.

Instead, I was told that they realised they were in love. Not nearly as fulfilling.

Even so, I read through to the end. The world is what makes this one worth reading. I enjoyed the rules and environment of this world so much that I was able to get past my frustration about being told about things, rather than having them shown to me.

Full Moon Rising can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Jack Reyn's Imago Examines What Being Rational Really Means

The Imago Sanctarissima:

Nothing is more important.

But where and what is it?

In a battle between rationalists and religionists,

Who will prevail?

Today we have a novel set in a world where pivotal historical events had different outcomes, making current society vastly different.

image via http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1409363199l/22839294.jpg

Imago is a mystery set within an age of steam, written by Jack Reyn.

So what's it about?

With his final breath, a priest sends bounty hunter Freyja Barrett on a quest for an ancient relic. 
Arriving on the scene of a murder, ORI agent Julian Harvey finds himself pitted against a dangerous cult that seeks domination. 
On the night before her initiation, a religious authority tests the loyalty and faith of Orcus aspirant Zoe Rousseau.

These vastly different individuals are all faced with choices that affect a world on the brink of war. Dangerous groups are searching for the imago sanctarissima, a relic which is said to give ultimate power to whoever holds it, and Barrett, Harvey, and Rousseau must do anything it takes to keep it out of the wrong hands. 

The biggest problem though, is that nobody knows where it's located, or even what it looks like.

Imago focuses on a world in which society is divided between  rationalists (those who live by logic and rational choices) and religionists (those who live by faith in a dogma). Laws are created that keep religionists and rationalists from mixing together. Entire countries are divided in this manner, and this deep division keeps the world constantly on the brink of war.

With a world so deeply divided, there are very few people who can see coexistence as a possibility. 

This ebook does more than take us on a quest to find an ancient relic, enshrouded with mystery. It takes us on an exploration of the human mind.

What does it mean to be rational?

Every moment, every step that we take that leads us closer to the Imago, we're confronted with mystery. Not just the mystery inherent in a quest to discover a hidden relic, but the mystery of the human mind.

Is it possible to believe so strongly in the necessity of logic that we begin to turn it into a religion in and of itself? A sort of faith? And if so, has the rational become... irrational? Have we stopped asking the questions required in order to come to logical conclusions?

Would that, in turn, transform a rationalist into a religionist?

You can see that this ebook brings up a lot of questions.

I enjoyed that quite a bit. While I was reading an entertaining work of fiction, I also got a lesson in the art of thought. Reyn doesn't bludgeon us over the head with his own answers to these questions, but invites the reader to draw his or her own conclusions, instead.

While at the same time giving us enough action to keep our eyes glued to the page.

But even then, he's taken the time to ensure that we can put Imago down whenever we please. See, one of the really awesome things about this work is that Reyn has divided something that's longer than I usually review into something with bite-sized chapters.

Seriously. Bite-sized. 

While some people may have a problem with chapters that are only about 2-4 pages each, feeling that scenes are broken up too short, I loved this. I can read whenever I want, and still get everything done. 

Heck, I could watch television, and simply pick up the ebook during each commercial break without feeling like I've missed anything. Cooking dinner? I could read then, too. "I have to set this to simmer. That'll take about 2 minutes. YES! I can read a chapter while I wait!"

Yeah. That made me happy.

I also enjoyed the steampunk feel of this one. While it didn't fit the classic Victorian-fashion-wearing, blocky-robot-using storyline that I'm so fond of, steam was the primary power source, and Reyn did a spectacular job of making this work. He followed through with the research, ensuring that the proper limitations inherent in steam use were accounted for, as well as the changes they would create in society as a whole.

If you like alternate realities, mysteries, steampunk, or ebooks that really make you think about thought itself, this is an ebook worth reading. 

And if you really want something to read while recovering from doctor prescribed steroids that keep you from focusing on anything for more than a few moments? Take it from me... you'll strongly want to read this. 

Bite-sized chapters, remember?

Imago can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Back on Track!

Good news, everyone!

It looks like Undiscovered Tomes will finally be back on its normal schedule, beginning tomorrow.

Yippee!!!

Not having the normal reviews posted for you has been driving me nuts... and I'm sure you feel the same. We want books, darn it! Thankfully, I'm finally at the point where things are falling back into place, so we can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Just a heads-up:

Tomorrow's review will cover an ebook set in an alternate timeline - one in which society is vastly different, both socially and technologically. We've got another piece written in the age of steam!

WeeeEEEEEeee!!!

Yep. I love my steampunk. In fact, I discovered some pretty decent steampunk costume attire at a nearby store, which means I'll have the chance to get one awesome Halloween costume!

And speaking of Halloween costumes...

What are you planning on? Do you have a staple costume that you wear every year? Does it match your favorite genre? Are you planning on dressing as a favored character? If so, which character? Which book?

As you may have guessed, I'm a pretty big Halloween buff. I live for this time of year! How about you?

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Tale of Two Ebooks

Yesterday, I mentioned on the Undiscovered Tomes Facebook page that I'd talk about the book that cemented my decision to begin reviewing indie ebooks.

I then realized that I couldn't do that.

Because there wasn't one.

There were two.

Two ebooks caused me to wake up from my big publishers are best haze, and realize that there are many magnificent indie authors out there with amazing talent for storytelling, and an eye for grammatical detail... or at least a knowledge of where to go to ensure their grammar is well done.

Prior to these two ebooks, I believed good indie writing to be rare. Sure, you can write a good book as an indie writer, but with so many bases to cover, how could your average writer - even a talented one - manage to polish off a perfectly good, well written, professional-looking work? It had to be a rarity.

Boy, was I wrong...

See, it began with a free ebook called Burning Girls, written by Veronica Schanoes. This is not an indie novel. Not even close. It's a short story published by Tor (Macmillan).

image via http://www.capriciousreader.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Schanoes-1024x703.jpg

So why in the heck do I mention it, then?!

Because this is where my journey began. Burning Girls, a dark urban fantasy based on a fairy tale, opened my eyes to ebook publishing. Specifically, it showed me that I could find amazing works that have no print format available.

I picked it up as a Free Friday book via Nook. At the time, it didn't have any reviews. A week later, I finished this ebook that had my imagination firing, and that I couldn't stop thinking about, and went to review it.

Only four reviews.

Say what?!

This well-researched historical piece set my mind on fire, had me demanding that every single person I knew must read it, and it only had four reviews??? What's wrong with this world?! This is good stuff, darn it! I should have seen loads of reviews. I mean, the ebook was FREE. I knew plenty of other people read it, so what in the world was going on?

I was actually... angry.

How could a big publishing house possibly not give such a deserving work the sort of marketing attention it needs to get noticed and reviewed? Then it hit me.

Oh, yeah... it's free. Macmillan isn't exactly going to make much money off of a free ebook, is it?

Then I thought,

"Hmmm... if big publishing houses ignore their own authors, what other works are out there that I'm missing, simply because Big Publishing isn't directing my attention toward them?"

I had a quest. I was going to find great work that didn't have the Big Publishing seal of approval.

And then, I found Lindsay Buroker, author of The Emperor's Edge, a free steampunk high fantasy that I fell in love with.

image via http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/918ZLGTPJGL._SL1500_.jpg

This is not an ebook that I can review on Undiscovered Tomes. Buroker's title has umpteen bizillion reviews on both Kindle and Nook... far beyond the allowable ten reviews within the Undiscovered Tomes guidelines.

But it was golden.

And I don't just mean the cover's color scheme. Buroker self-published The Emperor's Edge, and did all the required marketing to acquire readers and build an audience. Buroker wrote something spectacular that not only caught my interest, but held it. It was all done without the need for Big Publishing.

Proof positive. Indie authors can do amazing things.

Successful marketing isn't everything, of course. I've read plenty of ebooks that have sterling reviews, and are considered highly successful. Some of those, quite frankly, aren't worth reading, in my opinion. They're dry, boring, and not something that I would suggest to others. Ever.

Lindsay Buroker, however, fits the awesome-authors-that-people-should-read bill. I read The Emperor's Edge, which was somewhere around 750 pages on my ereader, in a single day.

It was fabulous.

The Emperor's Edge was an action-packed, emotionally engaging, page-turning piece of brilliance set in the age of steam. I loved it so much that I headed over to Buroker's website so that I could find other titles.

And I found more than that. Buroker's website is full of ebooks, advice, links to other authors, editors, and illustrators, a kitchen sink, and...

Well, ok... Maybe there's no kitchen sink. But the rest of it is all there. I ended up bookmarking Lindsay Buroker's site and heading back frequently.

And then I began Undiscovered Tomes. 

Because there are so many amazing indie authors that have published incredible ebooks that haven't reached the level of attention that Buroker's books have. They don't know how to get to that point, or perhaps they do, but they don't know how to juggle everything.

But their work is wonderful.

And they deserve recognition for it.

This is why you never find a "bad" review on Undiscovered Tomes. That's not what this blog is about. Anything that would receive a bad review... doesn't get reviewed. It gets set aside until a later date, when I'll pick it up and try again. It may never hit the blog at all... but then again, it might.

My quest is to find undiscovered indie treasures, and give them the recognition they deserve. 

This never would have happened without the two ebooks that changed my entire mindset: A spectacular short story that felt virtually ignored by its publisher, and a successful steampunk novel that proved there are plenty of indie gems out there.

Schanoes and Buroker helped me break away from the publishing stereotypes I had grown up believing, and opened a new world to me.

Their two ebooks helped make Undiscovered Tomes possible.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

I, Vampire

A plague slowly takes root in your body.

You fight a desperate battle for control.

Shortness of breath. Lethargy. Inability to concentrate on daily issues.

Sunlight severely burns your skin.

Sounds like the beginning of a vampire novel, right?



I wish...

Sadly, I got better after dealing with a nasty illness, but then ended up getting sick all over again. Don't worry - I won't be starting the zombie apocalypse, nor am I turning into a vampire. Good thing, too, because vampirism really wouldn't work well with my personality.

I just have a pain-in-the-butt illness that won't go away, and that's affecting my ability to get any reading done.

So there's no review again today. I apologize for that. 

I'm working hard at healing, and soon I'll be back to my normal self again, with reviews aplenty. I just need to allow myself the time to heal... and stay out of the sunlight. One of my darned medications causes major sunburns if you go out into the sun.

Of course, that just means I have plenty of first-hand research if I ever decide to write a vampire novel, right?

But speaking of vampires...

I just noticed that my post shares a title with a book I read decades ago, one that I really enjoyed. It's not indie, so I won't ever review it, but if you're in the mood for a good vampire novel, Michael Romkey wrote I, Vampire, along with a few other vampire novels that are definitely worth a read.

I mean, I remembered it while sick and unable to concentrate. That has to mean something, right?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Suzanne Lilly's A Thousand Little Secrets Shows Nothing Can Remain Hidden

Just one wrong move,

And you're cursed

With knowing too much.

Imagine that. Claircognizance sounds fun, but is it, really?

image via http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Dsb16TRqL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_.jpg
Cover design by KJ Jacobs

A Thousand Little Secrets is a YA paranormal romance written by Suzanne Lilly.

So what's it about?

All Marin wants is a normal life. Being claircognizant, however, makes that pretty much impossible. See, any time she touches someone whose emotions are high, she has a chance of hearing everything they're thinking. To most people that would seem like a benefit. But what happens when you 'hear' about a crime being planned, and have no way of explaining how you know about it?

Brock is the new guy in town, and Marin is his school ambassador. Her job is to show him the ropes and make sure he can find all of his classes. Marin doesn't quite know what to think of him in the beginning. Slowly, though, she begins to realize that there's more to Brock than his shallow appearance would suggest. When Marin discovers a plot to swindle the people of Olympus, Brock ends up being the only person she trusts to help her save the town.

Imagine what it would be like to know people's secrets - the ones that they've told no one.

It sounds like fun. That is, it sounds fun until you realize that some things aren't said for a reason. We wouldn't just hear the cool stuff... we'd hear the sad, the angry, and the boring things, as well.

Not only that, but we'd feel responsible for fixing some of these situations we hear about. That is, unless we suffer from clinical narcissism, which I assume the majority of us don't. When we see people in trouble, we want to help. Basically, this knowledge would be draining.

In Marin's case, she learns that a shell company is threatening the livelihoods of several people in town. She has no proof, of course. She knows this simply because she heard somebody else thinking about it.

So much for telling the police, right?

Lilly takes us through this dilemma, showing us the uncertainty, confusion, and frustration that Marin feels as she tries to do something about a crime that hasn't yet been committed. Naturally, she runs into one barrier after another, and even ends up placing herself into uncomfortable situations that cause people to doubt her character.

And then there's Brock.

The new guy in town, Marin is forced to spend time with him, since her high school places her in charge of getting him accustomed to his new environment. In the beginning, she's unimpressed with him - he's just some annoying, shallow guy that's gotten the attention of the popular crowd.

But at least she only has to deal with him for a few days...

Soon, though, she realizes that he's not annoying. Or shallow. Indeed, she finds herself trusting him more than anyone else after only a short amount of time. So much, in fact, that she

Tells. Him. Her. Secret.

Yep, he learns about her claircognizance. While he's unsettled at first, soon he's helping her try to save the town that he's so new to.

This ebook flows beautifully, leading the reader through Marin's world. Lilly did a spectacular job with character development, making us understand the difficulties that Marin and Brock face. While there were times I wanted to strangle them for making really bad decisions, I can't complain about this - we all make decisions that make sense in a given moment, but in hindsight, were really, really stupid. This is normal. Frustrating, but normal.

And real.

I did, however, feel that there was one glaring loose end that went nowhere. One of the characters mentioned a Society (capital S), but I never really discovered what that Society was. This appeared important, but no explanations were given, turning an interesting mystery into a red herring.

If you're interested in dialogue, however, the conversations were highly readable. I smiled quite a bit over the humor within some of the conversations, and shook my head in frustration when people refused to believe things Marin told them. Dialogue was extremely well done.

If you're looking for a light paranormal romance with a bit of amateur detective work mixed into it, A Thousand Little Secrets would be a good choice.

A Thousand Little Secrets can be found on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.