W is for Winters

This one is a little overdue! I finished the book a little over a week ago, but with the Christchurch earthquake, regular life was disrupted for a little bit and so was my writing/reading/reviewing.

Back to business now!

Zoe Winters is probably one of the better known indie publishers around at the moment. She is passionate about the movement, honest about her experiences and has a lively blog which has some excellent reading on it.

I’d heard about her from various sources, and been reading her posts for a while before I decided to try out her books – paranormal romance is not really my thing, but I’m trying to broaden my horizons.

Save My Soul:

All he’s asking for is her soul.

After buying the antebellum home she’s fantasized about since childhood, Anna Worthington discovers Luc, a dangerously seductive incubus who has been trapped in the house by a fifty-year-old curse. To rid herself of her problem house guest she’ll call on a priest, gypsies, ghost hunters, and the coven of witches from lust bunny hell. All she has to do is resist him long enough to break the spell so they can go their separate ways. If she doesn’t, she could die. And that would be the best case scenario.

For the most part, I enjoyed this book. The dialogue was snappy, the characters fun, and I could picture the house and environment really easy. Winters really brought the town where her novel is set to life with a whole cast of characters that scream ‘small town!’ in that way where everyone knows you, and wants to know what you’re up to. I can relate to that. I’ve lived in small towns.

Obviously I can’t relate to having an incubus falling for you and wanting your soul… but Winters does a good job of writing this difficult plot line – difficult in that traditionally romance novels shouldn’t have their main male lead sleeping with people other than the female lead. It’s called for in this book, and I really liked the way the female lead struggled with her emotions over how she feels about his need to feed from others in order to survive. Her progression through her feelings towards the climax of the book was quite realistic, even though it happened over a very short amount of time. (Never fear, there is good reasoning behind that but I won’t tell you why!).

I don’t want to say much more, because it would be easy to give away spoilers with a book like this. If you enjoy paranormal romance, then I imagine that you’ll want to get your hands on this book.

Next up for this challenge I’ll be reading Pax Corpus, by Ryan S. Fortney. I just have to finish the book I am reading, and wrangle it onto my Kindle in some form or another, and then I can get stuck in!

Indie Reading, two months in

(well, almost)

We’re getting close to the end of February, and so far I have read six indie pieces for my reading challenge. I have a couple more novels lined up, and still need to review one, but all in all am making excellent progress.

When I signed up for this challenge over at Anna’s blog, I thought it would do two things for me. A) it would make me read at least 24 books this year and B) it would expose me to self published works again.

Some of you might remember that awhile back now, gee, 2009 I think? I was part of the group of readers at the e-fiction book club. We were exposed to quite a variety of work, but mostly? It wasn’t great. It left me thinking that indie reads sucked. That the people who were self publishing were in some instances delusional about the quality of their work – and ultimately, that the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing industry were NEEDED.

Skip forward in time to 2010/11 – I know things have changed. I’ve read traditionally published books that I thought were complete rubbish. I know that there are a lot of good writers going the Indie route, but I really needed to dive in and explore what was out there for myself. Which is where this challenge has come in handy.

So far I have been pleasantly surprised. Only 1/6 of the stories has been really not great, in my opinion, the rest have ranged from good to fantastic. This is probably about the same ratio I have found in the traditionally published books I’ve read over the same period of time. Hell there was one trad published book I couldn’t even finish because it was so bad – I’ve not stopped reading any of the indie books.

I think it is this – this similarity of quality – which has really pushed me closer to going indie myself. Up until now I have been planning to release the novella myself, and other novellas, but haven’t committed to self publishing a novel (let’s be honest here – I don’t know what novel I will be working on in the near future. I have so many options, and right now, I just can’t make up my mind!). But you know what? When I figure out what it is, chances are very high that I won’t even bother submitting it to agents/publishers. It makes way more sense to me to release things myself, to retain control and ultimately be responsible for my own success or lack of.

Even a year ago I would have been scared by that, but not now. There is so much positive energy going around at the moment, and it’s impossible not to want to be a part of that. I feel empowered, and encouraged – something I never felt when I was sure I had to do this the traditional way.

Just because something is traditionally published, it doesn’t mean it’s good. Just because something is indie published, it doesn’t mean it’s bad. There are amazing books out there, waiting to be read, and I am thankful that those indie authors I know and are becoming familiar with are working so hard to raise the bar. Professional covers, well edited books, and a wider range of stories available. Great stuff!

Anyways, better get back to my own writing huh? If I want to get this novella done and out into the world, I need to work hard and make sure it’s the VERY BEST that it can be! Exciting times, folks. Exciting times.

L is for Lewis

I’ve had this novel sitting on my computer for awhile now, had been saving it for this challenge and also for when I got my Kindle. For some reason, it didn’t show up when I transfered it initially, but once it was there, I launched right into it and devoured it in a couple of days! Here is the blurb from Amazon:

The dream that was Mars has become a nightmare for the children born there.

Asher Radescu was the last human to come to Mars, but he didn’t find the romance and adventure he craved. Instead, he lives in a truck delivering supplies to frontier habs and secretly builds neural clones to keep civilization from collapsing. When an android bounty hunter discovers that Asher is one of the people responsible for the dangerous cloning technology, the entire population of Mars is threatened with annihilation. With the help of underground cloners, resurrected colonists, android defectors, and one gorgeous racing celebrity, Asher must end the first war on Mars before the violence consumes them all.

Doesn’t that sound fun?? Well, it IS. I think the world building for this book is fabulous – I can really picture life on Mars as Lewis has imagined it. I love that the characters aren’t inherently good or evil; they have pasts, they have made mistakes, they are all just people.

Or not.

There are humans, clones, and androids. All sentient, all intelligent beings – but what makes someone a person? Where is the line? I love this question and stories which bring it up, and I enjoyed how Lewis dealt with it in his book. In the same way that his characters are all a little grimy, so are the distinctions between the three beings in the book.

There is a lot of action in this book including car chases and fights, lots to get you pumping, and people die. I love it when an author doesn’t shy away from killing of characters when the story line calls for it. It makes perfect sense in the world Lewis has created and I appreciate that a lot.

This is a great read. Fast, and gritty, and engaging and just plain fun (in a violent kind of way). I gave it 5 stars on goodreads, as I believe in rating up when you’d give half a star. It definitely fell somewhere between ‘it was really good’ (4 stars) and ‘it was amazing’ (5 stars) for me.

At the moment, Joe is giving away 100 copies of his two books out over at his blog, if you’ll do him the favour of an honest review (I nabbed myself his second one – yay!). If you get in quick, he might still have some available.

Next on my list is Save My Soul, by Zoe Winters. I grabbed it mostly because I saw on twitter that she was putting up the price, so thought it was now or never lol I’ve heard great things about her novels though, so am looking forward to trying something new.

H is for Harte

Disclaimer: I’ve known Anna for awhile now through the wonders of the internet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t give an honest review of her work ;-) I am pretty sure that even if I didn’t know her, I’d have wanted to read this collection of short stories. Zombies. ’nuff said.

My fourth read for the ABC Indie Reading Challenge was Anna’s recent release ‘Hungry For You’ which combines zombies and romance in various interesting, and original ways. From her site:

Love is horrible. It’s ruthless, messy, mind-altering, and raw. It takes no prisoners. It chews you up and spits you out and leaves you for dead. Love is, you could say, very much like a zombie.

In this haunting short story collection, anything is possible—a dying musician turns to tea for inspiration; a police sergeant struggles with a very unusual victim; a young wife is trapped in a house hiding unimaginable evil….

With Hungry For You, A.M. Harte explores the disturbing and delightful in an anthology that unearths the thin boundary between love and death.

There is a lot to like in this collection. It’s a nice length, each story can be devoured quickly, and then mulled over, she re-imagines zombies in many different ways, some of which I can’t say I’ve ever seen before. Which is saying something. Zombies have been done to death (‘scuse the pun), rehashed in so many ways, but often using the same old bits and bobs. You know – meteors, folks rising from the dead, brain eating, that kind of thing. I love that it explores some new angles, and blends two things you might not think to bring together as the focus point for a collection: love and zombies.

I actually wish I had this in paperback – and that’s the first time I’ve had that thought since my Kindle arrived. I think perhaps collections such as this are more fun in paper book form though, because you can easily flick through, jump from story to story, read it in any way you want to. I am still a newbie Kindle user, but it seems easiest just to read from start to finish on the thing, and not so easy to flick through a text.

This is a book I would like to flick through. I’d have an easier time picking my favourites if I could. There are a couple in there that really tickled my fancy, and when I figure out which ones they are (I’ll be reading it again, I have no doubt!), I’ll make sure I come back and post them. I think for now it’s enough to say that there are some really fantastic stories in there, and the ones that aren’t as fantastic are still good stories. A really entertaining read. I gave it 4/5 stars.

Next on my list is Heirs of Mars, by Joseph Robert Lewis. I’m about 1/4 of the way through and really enjoying it so far!

And as a special treat, later on today I have a guest post by the wonderful Amy Rose Davis, who will be dispelling some indie myths.

B is for Burkinshaw

Well, the year has started and so has the ABC Indie Reading challenge. Strangely, we’re 4 days in and I’ve already ticked the letter B off my list! It’s not like me to get started so quickly.

On the second of the month I read the entire serial of Alice and Kev, by Robin Burkinshaw, a link that Anna provided. It’s free (which is a great way to start the year!), and while I looked at the 60 part list and wondered how I would get through it, I was finished before I realized.

Alice and Kev is more of a story in images than a story in words. From the site:

This is an experiment in playing a homeless family in The Sims 3. I created two Sims, moved them in to a place made to look like an abandoned park, removed all of their remaining money, and then attempted to help them survive without taking any of the game’s unrealistically easy cash routes. It was inspired by the old ‘poverty challenge’ idea from players of The Sims 2, but it turned out to be a lot more interesting with The Sims 3′s new living neighborhood features.

I have attempted to tell my experiences with the minimum of embellishment. Everything I describe in here is something that happened in the game. What’s more, a surprising amount of the interesting things in this story were generated by just letting go and watching the Sims’ free will and personality traits take over.

Now, I haven’t played the Sims 3, or the Sims 2 either – I vaguely recall playing the first Sims back when it was initially released, but I get the feeling that a whole lot has changed since then. As I’m not a follower of the game, I wasn’t sure I’d have any interest in the serial, but decided to give it a shot anyways.

And you know what? It was a good ‘read’. I felt quite drawn to the main character, Alice, and even her deadbeat Dad near the end had some redeeming qualities. He provided some light comic relief throughout, but was also the major source of pain in Alice’s life. I really felt for her. I don’t know whether it was the images, or the combination of images and words but they seemed like they could be real people.

I was surprised, and stunned, by some of her decisions. I won’t go into any details here, because if you’re interested you should check it out yourself. It’s a very quick read, and you might be surprised at just how ‘human’ and unpredictable these game characters can be at times.

It actually made me interested in checking out the game – though I’ll try and avoid that. I don’t need any more distractions from writing! lol

I’m entirely unsure how I feel about the piece as a ‘story’, but like I said, it was interesting, and I felt drawn into what was going on. The writer is fairly unobtrusive for the most part, which I can appreciate, and the images almost tell the story by themselves. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and knowing that it’s finished, I feel a sense of loss. I’d really like to know how Alice got on.

I’m not going to give a rating, because I’d have no idea what to rate it. But if you like the Sims, or are interested in seeing how a story like this works, why not check it out?

Next on my list is His Robot Girlfriend, by Wesley Allison. Also free. I’m starting to build the rest of my list, and will add a new page for it soon.

I’m feeling good about branching out and trying things I might not otherwise.

What are you reading this year?