Sunday, January 6, 2013

Some Catch-up

While I'm in the midst of editing Freedom Does Matter and working out a plot detail in Background Check that research proved isn't likely to happen the way I had written (damned research!) I thought I'd share some reviews that I've posted since the last time I did this. Again, these are in the order posted to Amazon.

Let It Snow by Red Tash and others

Let it Snow! Season's Readings for a Super-Cool Yule! (Christmas book 2012) is an interesting, not quite eclectic, group of ten stories in the spec fiction genre. If you're familiar with these authors, this will be a welcome visit to their worlds and characters at this special time of year. If they are new to you, these stories provide a mostly fun, sometimes touching introduction to the unique worlds these authors have created.

While to me these all fit well under the spec fiction umbrella, that's not to say that they are all similar; they are assuredly not. The common thread is the Holiday Season, as the Foreward begins:
"Happy holidays and welcome to our quaint little holiday collection of zombies, crazies, fairies and treasure-hunters (and more)!" And snow, because here in the northern hemisphere, Holiday Season comes with snow... or the thought of it. The quote should give you an idea of the breadth good spec fiction can encompass.

For me, I hadn't heard of any of these authors, and I was happy to have a chance to expand my experience. Of the ten stories, nine were what I'd hoped for in opening this file. While the tenth story fit the collection: a story in the author's world set at a holiday dinner party, it was out of my comfort zone. Even at that, I think, for readers familiar with the world it is set in, it will add to their understanding and answer questions so far unanswered.

In the other nine stories, the characters brought me into their authors' worlds, whether a landfill, a mental "hospital" (it seemed that insane asylum would be a more appropriate, though non-PC, nomenclature), a parking lot in Arizona or a research lab in Southern California, and made the experience wonderful. Add to those an egotistical, arrogant dragon; how can you go wrong?

I started the book and for the first couple of pages, I worried that I didn't know enough about the back story to enjoy the stories. By the time I read another four pages, that fear was gone; I was thoroughly into the Landfill in Laurents County. I read straight through the collection--I did take a break to get a glass of water--and was sorry when 100% showed up at the bottom of the window. I wish I had sufficient funds to buy everything these guys write; it is good, with brilliant characters and clear settings.

I read this both on the Kindle for Mac app, and on the Kindle. In the desktop app, the cover looks quite nice; on the greyscale Kindle, almost as good. In the copy I read, there were a few typos and such; I marked the ones I noticed and put them in an email. A pleasant response came back, along with a note that they had been corrected, so you won't have to worry about those! I would have liked the table of contents to have entries for each of the stories, rather than just the midpoint, but not enough to mark it down.

I recommend this collection heartily to those who have read one or more of the authors, and even more willingly to adult fans of spec fiction who want to find new worlds. Buy it, read it. You'll laugh, and you'll cry.

Five Stars

Youth by JE Medrick

I was a little unsure about Youth. The main character, Louise, is even older than I, so I was leery. If that's also you, rest assured that this is a well-paced, moving story, with conflict aplenty. Most but not all of the conflict is based in Louise's family relationships, with her husband, with her children and their relationships with her and, to a lesser extent, each other.

Don't be confused; this is Louise's story, and I found it heartbreaking, uplifting and probably more true to life than I'd like to imagine.

Other than being a love story, I'm unsure of the genre. It could be considered science-fiction, in that the necessary things could exist, though they don't yet. Or fantasy, if you believe they can't exist, have no scientific basis. Let's call it speculative fiction and say it is an excellent example.

Ms Medrick's descriptions are not lush; they are just right, not slowing the necessarily measured pace of the story, but providing sufficient clues that the reader's imagination can fill details in.

I won't spoil the conclusions. I'll just say that Medrick has enlivened the whole story with interleaved questions (I'm loath to call it a mystery), and the answers will hopefully surprise and please the reader. They did me.

I read Youth on a Kindle; there were a few formatting errors which did not take me out of the story. It's a small thing, but there is no table of contents. When I opened it on my Kindle for Mac, it was as good as the Kindle, except that the cover looked very good in color. However, on the Kindle, one chapter's formatting is quite difficult to read, and I've taken one star for that. In the desktop app, that same chapter is formatted the way I assume it was intended. Even with that problem on the Kindle, it is a wonderful read, and I recommend it highly.

Four Stars

The Puppet Master by Jessie Sturman-Coombs

This is the second book in the Poker Face Series, the first is Poker Face. Ms Sturman has created a little piece of her own world in a British setting, and the results are incredible. Unlike the first, this story plays more to Ruby's internal struggles, making it wildly different from the first one. I'm not sure what's left for Ruby to explore, though I'm sure Ms Sturman is!

This book has as much conflict as you could ever want in a thriller, legal or not. In The Puppet Master (Poker Face), there's little of the legal, but a boatload of conflict, almost all due to Ruby herself, though there are villains, more easily despised than dealt with, to spice up the mix. I found myself quite anxious through the middle of the book as Ruby, Danny and Alessi work through a major course correction for her, largely because I couldn't figure out how she would get through it. Also, I wondered what would happen next, since it was too early in the book for this to be anything but the appetizer.

The main course, so to speak, was fully satisfying, and relieved almost all my tensions, and the dessert was a wonderful strawberry shortcake with a dollop of whipped cream atop. You may substitute your own favorite; it will be as satisfying to you.

The cover by Ivan Waldock is great and helps tie the series together.

I read Puppet Master on my Kindle, where it was easy to read. Like Poker Face, there are British phrasings and word choices, hardly surprising given Ms Sturman's British heritage, but none of them were more than a small bump in the road, so to speak. There are some grammar issues, mostly missing commas, that may cause someone like me to notice them, but should not interfere with enjoying the story. I opened it using Kindle for Mac; it was fine there as well.

I recommend Puppet Master to any reader looking for an intriguing thriller. If you're looking at this after having read Poker Face, what are you waiting for? If you haven't read Poker Face, this story will still work, but references may not make as much sense, and the relationships will be murky, I think.

Five Stars

Of course, you don't need to take my word for it, read these yourself and come to your own opinion. But I hope these comments intrigue you enough to look at these and perhaps purchase them your self... or something else by these authors.

The links are for the Kindle editions; if you are not a Kindle person, have no fear, just drop a note in the comments section and I'll find an alternate option for you. Any other comments are welcome as well.

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