elf: Red & blue faces (Face Off)
[personal profile] elf
I was given a copy of this to read & review, and while it's been on my mind, it's taken me a long time to get around to it. It occurs to me that that's worth mentioning--months later, I'm still thinking about this book, mulling over scenes in my mind, contemplating how the characters would react in other situations. This one set down roots and sunk in deep.

From the description at Amazon: Three people lie in a prison cell. One is a murderer. Can his companions help him unlock the door to his own mind before his unreasoning rages claim their lives. The Hour before Morning explores a distant future in which the human heart is much the same. The Ash’torians see their conquest of the Outliers as a triumph of civilization. The Outliers see it as servitude. Their resistance takes many forms, from non-violence to terrorism. Yet one thing remains constant: though lives are shattered, compassion endures.

What I liked about it )
elf: Red & blue faces (Face Off)
[personal profile] elf
I took a chance on this a while back, and am very glad I did. I think it was on sale at the time; I have trouble believing I'd pay $3 for a book entirely outside of my normal genre choices. (Yeah, it's not much, but there are plenty of $3 books *in* my genre range that I'm not buying yet.)

From the description at Smashwords: Argus Ward is a former U.S. Secret Service agent who runs a protection agency catering to the rich and famous. His best-kept secret--which he shares with lawyers and doctors and even psychiatrists--is his status as a high-functioning paranoid schizophrenic. One day, with little warning, he turns psychotic for the first time in twenty years. He lands in a secure psychiatric facility, charged with the murder of his most famous client, high tech industry billionaire John Helms, the wealthiest man in America.

Also notes: Best Mystery Novel, Red Adept Annual Indie Awards 2010. Which is why I was willing to try it; I'm intrigued by anything focusing on non-neurotypical characters, and if it won an award, the writing must at least be decent.

I should look into more award-winning books, I think. )
elf: Petalwing, singing (Petalwing Singing)
[personal profile] elf
I bought this a few weeks ago, and dragged my feet on reading it, because I knew that (1) I'd love it and (2) then I'd be done, and the author doesn't have any more books for me. (Have read them all. They're all wonderful.)

Description from Smashwords: After escaping murderous bandits, Katherine says, "I jumped from the frying pan to the fire. Soon I’ll be dancing on coals." The thieves were the frying pan. The young Apache who saved her was the fire. The coals? Gaetan. Filled with rage and hate, Gaetan is Katherine's one chance to stay alive. When the struggle to survive forges a bond that turns to love, can he admit it?

Squee inside. )
elf: Emily the Strange: Misery loves company (Misery Loves Company)
[personal profile] elf
Because of the recent YAGay fiasco, I went looking at Smashwords for YA (or close to that) GBLT fic. I did my normal filtering... ignore anything over $6 and anything with cringe-inducing errors in the blurb and anything without a preview.

I found a promising-looking story: Familiar Scars by Christy Leigh Stewart; just under 30k words for $1. I clicked on the listing.

Stark black-and-white drawing of a girl in emotional distress with black-and-white wavy sections dividing the page around her. Title in gothic font. Compelling (or at least interesting) book cover art by Megan Hansen; I'm going to try to remember that name, because I like her art style.

I was disappointed in the text )
elf: We need a hero, son: A super-FREAKY hero. (Need a Hero)
[personal profile] elf
cover for Impulse Control by Susan Biscoff
Description from Smashwords: Talents, kids with supernatural powers, are taken from their families and forced into government research facilities called State Schools. At one such school, a group of Talents must work together to stop a dangerous experiment that’s already killed two of their peers and threatens others. If they’re caught they face Detention, and Detention at a State School has a whole different meaning.

Commentary inside )
elf: People magazine: Sexy men in love (Mainstream Slash)
[personal profile] elf
Notturno and its sequel Vigil center around an antique literature appraiser and his vampire lover. The books are hot, well-plotted with terrific characters, and professionally edited & produced. They are, however, solidly in the "gay vampire porn" category, and that's probably not a big draw for everyone. If you like that, these are terrific; if you've been considering dabbling in gay vampire porn, this is a great place to start.

I've loved ZA Maxfield's other ebooks; I was hesitant to try these (this, really; I tried Notturno first and got hooked) because paranormal erotica is outside of my normal reading range. The erotica's fine; I hate reading botched paranormal concepts, and a lot of the genre isn't well-thought-out. These have paranormal/otherwordly politics that unfold slowly because they're running through the filter of the human's perceptions, and he doesn't want to believe any of this is going on at first, and then doesn't want to believe there's any real dangers.

They're both available at Fictionwise from MLR Press:
Notturno )

Vigil )
elf: We have met the enemy and he is us. (Met the enemy)
[personal profile] elf
At some point, hopefully soon, I'll write a squee-filled rec for Sing My Name by Ellen O'Connell, and exhort all my friends who have any hint of interest in historical romance to go read it, and hey look, if you're not sure it's to your tastes, you can download & read the first 50,000 words to decide if it's worth paying $3 for the rest. (It's worth it. I've never read a romance novel with slashy subtext minor characters before, and now I want fanfic for Beau and Roddy.) (I will be asking for this book at Yuletide. Really.) O'Connell has two other books; I've read one and it was great (this is better) and I've now bought the third, which doesn't say "romance" but I've decided I no longer care. She goes on the short list of "just buy it all."

This isn't that squee. This is a raised-eyebrows, look-over-the-glasses, oh-no-he-didn't look at a different ebook: The Berlin Sex Shop Episode, by Mister Average, which I suspect is a pseudonym. I found this one by browsing recent uploads to Smashwords (because that's about the only way to find anything at Smashwords) and I was just... boggled.

He (there's no rule that says "Mister Average" has to be a he, of course, but I'm going with the standard conventions here for pronoun use) has 6 other "ebooks," which average about 4000 words, and each of which are priced at $2.99. That's right; he wants $2.99 for this 4150 word short story, just like O'Connell wants $2.99 for her 135,000-word epic.

What this means for me as a reader )
elf: Quote: She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain (Fond of Books)
[personal profile] elf
Author: Jose Rodriguez
Title: Melanie (Smashwords link)
Genre: Fiction, Drama
Topic: Memory loss, personal identity, race identity

Copyright Status: "This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes, provided the book remains in its complete original form."
Content Notes: Contains plot-device amnesia

The description intrigued me enough to download and read this one:
A middle aged and lonely Melanie wakes up with no recollection of her past. Her lack of personal memories forces her to impersonate the old Melanie, a person who she now dislikes and cannot understand. The new Melanie proceeds to fool the world into thinking that nothing has changed while trying to recover her memories but also trying to reinvent herself as a new and improved person.
The book is heavy on introspection and self-identity issues, and those parts were enjoyable, if a bit long. The "adult" rating is justified; there's sex and nudity and crude behavior, but it's not gratuitous or overwhelming, except for the occasional sensory overload when Melanie concentrates on physical sensations because she has no past to connect to. Several times, she realizes she *should* have memories to connect to this-or-that act, but does not.

Not a bad book, just not quite good enough to recommend, unless you really like that kind of thing. )
elf: Life's a die, and then you bitch. (Gamer Geek)
[personal profile] elf
Author: Al Bruno III
Title: The Binder Of Shame Presents: The RPG.net Rants (Link to Smashwords listing)
Genre: Nonfiction, more-or-less. I believe (gods, I hope) there's some exaggeration and/or embellishment going on here.
Topic: RPG Gamers. Specifically, 80's tabletop games with bags of differently-sided dice.
Copyright Status: Effectively CC BY-NC-ND; disclaimer says "This free ebook may be copied, distributed, reposted, reprinted and shared, provided it appears in its entirety without alteration, and the reader is not charged to access it."
Content Warnings: this book contains instances of homophobia, sexism, ableism, fatphobia, various other -isms I'm probably blocking out, and outright gross & disgusting behavior. However, the narrator seems like a genuinely nice guy (not a creep who claims to be nice) who is working against all those things.

I recommend skipping the Smashwords version (well, except to drop a note to the author) and downloading the RTF I put at Google Docs instead. I cleaned it up.

It needed fixing, and it was totally worth it. If you did gaming in the 80's, especially if you bounced between systems looking for that perfect one that would allow *everyone* to enjoy every game, you need to read this book.

Bad formatting, bad grammar, bad fonts; could not stop laughing long enough to care. )
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