Slightly confused by my dystopian adventure

I generally don’t finish reading books that I don’t really like, and therefore, I don’t offer very many reviews on books that didn’t really take my breath away.

However, there was something about “The Cloud Seeders” by James Zerndt that kept me drawn into the story, even though I wasn’t “in love” with the book.

This science fiction/fantasy novel is the tale of two brothers who live in a dystopian America plagued by drought. “Water cops” run rampant, enforcing strict regulations on the conservation of water and energy. The story follows the two brothers’ journey to discover what has happened to their parents, accompanied by the older brother’s girlfriend.

From the beginning, I found myself feeling like the story, while compelling, was also a bit flawed in its logic. Near the beginning of the story, the reader is told that Jerusha (the girlfriend) and Thomas both know what has happened to the boys’ parents, which left me wondering for the entire remainder of the book what possible reason she had for accompanying them through these trials when Thomas said he was taking Dustin to find their parents.

There is a lot of profanity (this is noted in the description on Amazon), and there was one moment in the story that made me feel very uncomfortable and squeamish. I think that both of these situations were an attempt to portray the way Dustin had missed out on his childhood, and as such, were likely powerful literary devices to make that point, as they definitely evoked strong reactions.

Additionally, the book would benefit from some minor editing and proofreading. However, this doesn’t detract from the overall story.

Personally, if I had purchased this book for my own reading pleasure, I would likely have been disappointed and would possibly have returned it for my money back. However, as a free Kindle book, I felt like it was a powerful story and was definitely satisfied.

Although I didn’t feel like this story was “for me,” I find myself oddly interested in reading his other novel currently available through Amazon, “The Korean Word for Butterfly.”

I don’t recommend this book at the $2.99 price tag, but if you enjoy dystopian science fiction/fantasy, I’d definitely suggest keeping an eye out to see if this book pops up as a free offering once again. This book, and Zerndt’s other works, is also available to read for free for Kindle Unlimited members.

Loved it to Death!

Reading time is still coming at a valuable premium in my household, but I’m thankful for being able to find some really enjoyable free reading, when I do manage to find some coveted time with my Kindle.

Sunday I managed to finish my latest read, “Graveyard Shift,” by Angela Roquet, described on the cover as a “A Lovingly Sacrilegious Journey Beyond the Grave.” As promised, it simply didn’t seem appropriate to review this novel on a Sunday afternoon.

Although it may have been a bit rough around the edges, I found this first novel in the “Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc.” novels to be an enjoyable introduction to a new fantasy realm I had never imagined before. Harvey is a reaper, one of a series created from soul material to assist “Grim” himself (who actually doesn’t do the dirty work himself, anymore). A familiar cast of characters appear in a new light throughout the novel, from the archangel Gabriel to the god Horus to Holly Spirit (no, that’s not a typo, rather a correction).

After three centuries as a reaper who has gotten by flying just under the radar, Harvey learns that perhaps she was created for a purpose just a little bit more unique than her counterparts. This first story in the series sets the scene for the series as she reluctantly accepts her new role and finds herself in a bit more trouble than she could have ever imagined.

At first, I found reading just a bit slow. But I still felt like I’d hit upon something of value in my free reading. I’m much more likely to continue a series that I feel would be of interest to both myself and my husband (two readers for the price of one!) than to simply buy a book for myself.

But as I got into the real meat of the book, those thoughts were forgotten. Roquet has artfully created a new paranormal fantasy realm re-purposing familiar characters in new and delightful roles. She skillfully wove a tale full of intelligent conflicts and following through with sometimes surprising resolutions. Roquet left just enough stones unturned to leave the reader eager for another romp through Limbo City without feeling actively manipulated to buy the next book in the series.

With that said, the ending of this first novel also felt a slight bit stilted.

I do look forward to reading more in the “Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc.” series; and hope that Roquet has found that storytelling voice which provided such an enjoyable read in the heart of this novel and carries it through from beginning to end in future installments in the series.

This book won’t appeal to a very religious reader, but those who enjoy science fiction and paranormal romance are likely to enjoy the series. Covers of the second and third books compare the series to the “Sookie Stackhouse” novels or the “Undead” series, but I would draw a larger comparison to Jim Butcher’s “Dresden Files” novels.

Now off to get the husband hooked, so I can better justify buying the next books!

Grimm Thoughts

The 200th anniversary of the first publication of “Kinder-und Hausmärchen” by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm seemed to spark a great deal of interest. Their tales have inspired a TV series, “Grimm” as well as several series that prominently feature the characters brought to life by the Brothers Grimm.

I have had the fortune of finding introductions to two of the literary series available for free on my Kindle, “The Grimm Diaries Prequels” and “The Grimm Chronicles.”

My first read was “The Grimm Diaries Prequels,” Volumes 1 through 6, by Cameron Jace, which come as a set. This set is still free at the time of this blog post. The premise of these stories is that each is the diary of a character of myth, fairy tale or legend who is somehow involved with the characters of the Grimm brothers’ tales (while some are specifically the Brothers Grimm’s creations, other diaries are from the perspective of characters from other sources, which are then tied to the Grimm’s tales).

I am somewhat surprised at the skill with which Jace presents the “author” of each diary with their own unique voice. This collection really does not feel as though it is written by the same individual at all. With that said, this skill was such that I fell in love with some of these stories while there were others that I didn’t care much for at all. My two particular favorites were “Snow White Blood Red” and “Ladle Rat Rotten Hut.”

There are three more sets of prequels available for purchase through Amazon (rounding out to 18 individual tales in all), as well as some full-length diaries. I would be interested in trying one of the full-length diaries in my future reading, but it’s not likely something I would pay to read based on my feelings regarding Jace’s style. I do appreciate Jace’s skill and I’d recommend anyone who enjoys fantasy and fairy tale fiction to check out the first free prequels, as you might find them an immensely enjoyable series.

I was also fortunate enough to stumble upon the first volume of “The Grimm Chronicles” by Isabella Fontaine and Ken Brosky among my free reading. This book is currently available for purchase for $2.99, and appears to rotate in and out of the books available for free from Amazon. (As I was reading this first volume, I also managed to snag Volume 2 and Volume 3 as freebies!). I adored this series and look forward to continuing my adventures with Alice when I find some free time in my reading list.

The premise of “The Grimm Chronicles” is that the Brothers Grimm came to aquire a magic pen and paper which brought their characters truly to life. But over time, forced to re-enact their tales over eternity, these real-life fairy tales began to go mad, or become “Corrupted.” A Hero can see through the stories into their true identities and with the magic pen can kill the Corrupted. The Hero is assisted by trusty-sidekick “Br’er Rabbit,” who was also brought to life when his story was written with the magic pen and paper. The storyline is open that perhaps one day he, too, will be among the Corrupted that he currently helps to hunt.

The primary story begins with Alice discovering that she is the “Hero,” and that, much to her dismay, her too-good-to-be-true boyfriend really is “Prince Charming.” We meet a growing cast of the characters spun by the Brothers Grimm throughout the first three books of the series; some who are sick of the disruption their lives have caused in the world and resigned to their fate, others who won’t go down without a fight, and still others who will manipulate for more time.

Bonus features include a diary of a previous Hero which provides a little more background on the creations of the Brothers Grimm and more insight into what life is like for those who are chosen to erase the mistakes of the past. Also in the volume are a number of the original Grimm’s tales alluded to in the chronicles and stories of Br’er Rabbit.

I’d say that this first volume is a deal at the $2.99 price tag, but if you’re not ready to buy, you can probably keep an eye out and find it again for free sometime.

Bully for “Wool”-y

While researching free titles for this blog, I have come across a lot of promotion regarding “Wool” by Hugh Howey.

Apparently, this book is some sort of self-publishing phenomenon.

I recognized this title as one that I had downloaded in the early days of my addiction, but had not previously taken the time to read. But given the story’s seeming importance in the free e-book category, I felt I would be remiss if I didn’t get to it at the earliest opportunity.

I found the first chapter to be incredibly slow and overly descriptive. I very nearly quit reading. But I decided that if I had any dedication to this project, I could finish 49 (real page numbers) of this book. Because this blog isn’t simply about reviewing the books I read because I want, but reviewing books I’ve read because I got them for free.

After having finished the first installment of this series, however, I have had mixed feelings about my decisions to continue.

After the first chapter, Howey seemed to have found his voice, and the storytelling becomes more bearable.

However, I was still left with the staleness of an author who is trying too hard to build a level of suspense that will sell the next segments of his tale. After a first chapter where no detail is left unfinished and most are fleshed out in excruciating detail, the second chapter moves on to the plot, which creates 10 more questions for every 1 that it answers.

All in all, the story itself was interesting, but I finished it feeling a bit manipulated. While many of the free e-books I have read have been offered as a marketing strategy to pull you into a series or sample a particular author’s works, none of the others seemed to scream “Buy my next installment or you’ll go insane wondering what is happening in this story,” quite like this one. Because I was pulled into the story enough to wonder what happened, but not enough to buy the next books. Maybe enough to check out the series from the library; but who knows when that might occur in my small town, especially with an author who is mostly an e-book phenomenon (although he has sold print-only rights to these stories to a publisher, according to Wikipedia).

Well, Mr. Howey, I refuse to be derailed by not buying the next installment. After all, I can see that you’re a smashing success, and therefore, there are lots of people who have bought your works and can fill me in. And also according to Wikipedia, 20th Century Fox has already purchased movie rights. Although I’m probably too cheap to pay much to see it, there’s a discount movie theater in the student center of our local university, and maybe someday it will be on Netflix.

Hardcore fans of science fiction/fantasy will likely enjoy “Wool.” If you are looking to get into a new series and don’t mind buying further installments, you probably won’t be as irritated as I was by the unanswered questions. Getting the first installment for free on Kindle is a great way to try it out.

As for me, I’ll wait for the movie. Unless Liz Shannon Miller wants to tackle this.

How a casual relationship became an addiction, and “How to Succeed in Evil”

I don’t think my acquisition of free e-books reached the level of addiction until after I had read “How to Succeed in Evil” by Patrick E. McLean. (Unfortunately, no longer free, but very much worth $2.99 on Amazon.)

Something about the title of this book caught my attention (probably the super-coolness of it), although the genre/subject matter was not in my “normal” reading fare. It was one of my earlier Kindle downloads, and it sat on my Kindle for probably a good month or so before I got to it, amongst my much smaller e-book library which contained, at the time, only books that I truly think I would have at least picked up at the library knowing that I’d have to drive back and return them within four weeks if I didn’t like them.

And then, I found myself at the end of my very conservative list of purchased (for free) or library-loan e-books, and there was this one sitting there, gathering dust, so to speak. At that point, I wasn’t checking my e-mail lists of free books daily (since I did not yet have the addiction), so instead, I opened up this book.

I’m not a fan of super-hero fiction. And although I do enjoy humor, I’m generally very picky about the comedy I read.

However, for reasons I don’t quite understand, I LOVED this book.

This is not your stereotypical story of super-heroes and villains. Instead, it is the story of an “evil efficiency consultant,” Edwin Windsor, who helps scoundrels to see the best use of their villainy. Throw in a few characters that are less “Dr. Evil” than they are “Dr. Slightly-Maladjusted-With-Destructive-Tendencies” and you’re in for a rollicking romp through a world where super-heroes and their counterparts are an accepted phenomenon and you might just find yourself rooting for the bad guy. Unless you just feel so sad that the super-hero is such an inept pawn in the game of life.

When your work is so likely to involve major, cataclysmic events, obviously one will need the services of a “good” attorney (or should I say, “bad” attorney). Either way, he has an attorney, Topper, who might be kinda one of those things, I think. Several of the reviews on Amazon mention Topper as a highly irritating character and suggest that the book might have been better without him. I disagree. This was the character that I could most clearly see if this tale were to ever be made into a movie. Totally Danny DeVito, by the way. (And if any movie execs happen to be reading this blog: Please, please, please do make this movie!)

If you’re looking for a new author with extraordinary skill for the written word, this is not the book for you. However, if you’re searching for an exceptional storyteller, look no further, Patrick E. McLean will entertain and enthrall.

I have seriously considered purchasing all of McLean’s e-books. And probably will at some point, even with a seemingly endless free library of reading choices. The only reason I have not done so yet – because I am cheap, and I have been borrowing them from the Kindle Lending Library (using my gifted Amazon Prime account).

And while I wasn’t as enchanted by “The Merchant Adventurer” as I was by “How to Succeed in Evil,” I’m finding myself even more in love with the tales in “Stories I Told Myself.”

My verdict: These stories are worth the read, even if you do have to purchase them. I’m thankful to have gotten “How to Succeed in Evil” for free, because otherwise I would never have discovered these books. I’m also thankful to Patrick E. McLean for opening my eyes to a whole new way of looking at my Kindle reader – for the knowledge that a free e-book takes nothing more from me than a miniscule amount of my bandwidth and a few minutes of my time to peruse the first few pages, if I desire nothing more. And that small investment can pay off in hours of quality reading entertainment.

I’m also slightly mad at Patrick E. McLean for starting this new addiction. But mostly thankful.