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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Review: Knight of Swords + GIVEAWAY!

What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

Knight of SwordsTitle: Knight of Swords
Author: Sara Curran-Ross
Page Count: 281 KB (Kindle format)
Publisher: Hellfire Publishing
Genre: paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

Nathan Valancourt is young, stinking rich, a darling of London's social scene in 1893, and a notorious womanizer. He had never believed in the supernatural, but, when a vampire killer masquerading as a clergyman begins haunting his dreams, forcing him to endure visions of the murders of his previous female conquests, Nathan determines to amend his frivolous ways. 

When the killer turns his attention to Nathan's beautiful ward, Juliet, Nathan is anxious to protect her. As they battle the monster, Nathan and Juliet gradually realize that they share a psychic connection. This close bond triggers the discovery of their true heritage as descendants of human-vampire unions. Led to the gradual revealing of powers beyond their imagination, their bond offers them hope of victory. 
Knight of Swords is a unique book. It's a genre-bender, which seem to always catch my eye, and in this case the genres being bended are paranormal romance and historical fiction, two of my perpetual favorites.  This story is also unique in that it's told from the hero's point of view, even though, at first, he might not be the one we as readers might have chosen for a heroic role.

Nathan, Lord Valancourt, begins the story as a rake in the truest sense of the word.  If it wears a skirt and walks on two legs, it's fair game for his attention as far as he's concerned.  That all changes when his dreams begin to be haunted by a creeptastic guy dressed as a clergyman who horrifically and methodically kills Nathan's former lovers, one at a time, all while talking about a mysterious Juliet.  Nathan can't do anything to stop the murders- who would believe him if he tried to explain how he knew who the killer was, after all, and since marital status was not previously a boundary which Nathan respected, the police are vaguely considering him as a suspect as well.

Things go from bad to worse when Nathan realizes that Juliet is not only a real person, but is the young woman whom he takes on as a ward as a last request to his dying uncle.  When he goes to rescue her from the horrible abuse she's suffering at the hands of jealous relations, he opens a supernatural can of worms that make his horrible nightmares pale by comparison.

You see, Juliet and Nathan share a peculiar ancestry.  As unknowing descendants of relationships between humans and vampires, neither of them had any knowledge of the parallel supernatural world that was following them, just below the surface.  When the trauma Juliet was suffering forces the change on her and drags Nathan down as well, both have to learn to live as creatures that they previously thought were totally made up.  Add in some blossoming tingly feelings for each other and challengers from all sides who want Juliet for themselves, and these two find themselves in quite a sticky wicket indeed.

I know what you're thinking.  Sure, sure, another vampire book, another story of fated mates and overcoming tremendous-bordering-on-ridiculous odds, another series about to be launched. I'm happy to say that this story takes elements of traditional vampire lore and remixes them into something new and unique.  Juliet has powers and abilities far beyond what anyone expected, and all Nathan wants is to stand by her, which her followers and his advisers make exceedingly difficult.  With protectors like that, it seems like it might be more efficient to stand naked in the middle of the street with a sign that says "free to a good home."  They tried, they really did, but in the end it didn't help and Nathan is the one that has to make the tough choices.  Even at the end, where the ground is being prepared for the second book, a remark is made that everyone in attendance on Juliet would give their lives to protect her while Nathan leaves on another quest.  Hopefully they're willing to pay up if the first book is any indication.

Like I said, this isn't your typical vampire romance. It's different, which is a good thing, and I recommend it to everyone who loves the vampire subgenre but is ready for a different flavor.

Sara Curran-Ross has graciously offered up a digital copy of Knight of Swords to one lucky carnival participant!  Standard procedure applies- fill out the form below to enter.  Comment saying you entered this giveaway on the 7/1 Why Read Indie Books? post for an added shot at the $25 Amazon gift card.  Make sure you leave your entry comment in the correct place for it to count.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: Tales of Frewyn + GIVEAWAY!

What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

Tales from FrewynTitle: Tales from Frewyn
Author: Michelle Franklin
Page Count: 136 (pdf review copy)
Publisher: Red Willow Publishing
Genre: Fantasy, paranormal romance
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

The Haanta Series is the longest, ongoing, online romantic fantasy series. Thousands of readers visit the world of the Two Continents to enjoy the daily short stories featuring all their favorite characters from the Haanta Series novels. In between the business of the books, the commander, Rautu, Otenohi, Unghaahi, Leraa, Kai Linaa and Alasdair enjoy some time together in Diras Castle, but as the stories portray, mischief lies in every corner of the keep where spiders, chocolate pies, petulant giants and grouchy cooks abound.
I freely admit that I came into this book at a simultaneous advantage and disadvantage.  The disadvantage stems from this being a collection of short stories that are set in the world that serves as the setting for the entire series, which plays out at The Haanta Series, that is to say, this is not the first book in the series and therefore the characters and other elements of the story aren't formally introduced.  The advantage is almost a flip side of that- having had a little tease of the series in the form of this collection of short vignettes set in the world of the series I can be super cheerful about the fact that there are plenty more where these stories come from!

Vignette is the best word I can think of to describe each offering in the book, as each story is a few pages long and features different characters, going about the business of being themselves.  I was reminded tremendously of the interludes in the Redwall series, not because of the similarities in the characters (I don't remember any chocolate-loving giants in the Redwall books and the talking mice in holy orders were absent here) but because of the focus on very small details that made the setting of the book fun and engaging without bogging things down.

The text of each story is simultaneously formal and wry- if you're not attending to each word, you'll miss something!  As I read and met the characters that populate this series I found myself really wanting to go back to the beginning and read in order so that I can come back to this collection and enjoy it even more than I did, for no other reason than I'll have some background to go with the great writing and the vivid details.  As a way to get readers interested in reading the rest of the series, Tales of Frewyn succeeds admirably.

Michelle Franklin has offered up a chance to pick up this series where it all began, with a digital copy of the first book in the series, The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu! Please fill out the form below to enter.  If you want an extra entry for the $25 Amazon gift card giveaway, leave a comment saying you entered the giveaway for The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu on the post from July 1st!  Make sure you leave your entry comment in the correct place for it to count.

Review: Death by Honeymoon + GIVEAWAY!

What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

Death by Honeymoon (Book #1 in the Caribbean Murder Series)Title: Death by Honeymoon
Author: Jaden Skye
Page Count: 170 pages (pdf format)
Publisher: self-published
Genre: mystery, romantic suspense
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

On the rugged, wild, eastern shore of Barbados, Cindy and Clint are enjoying their dream honeymoon, when paradise quickly turns into hell. Cindy finds her newly beloved taken away from her, drowned in a freak accident in the ocean. The local police are quick to declare it an accident, to insist that he was caught in a sudden riptide. But Cindy, left all alone, is not convinced.

Cindy must return to her and Clint’s now-empty home in New York and face her in-laws, who never wanted Clint to marry her, and who did everything to make her engagement and wedding hell. She must deal with all of these women’s backbiting, gossiping and unspoken accusations, while she tries to get a handle on her own grief and to get clear on what really happened to Clint.

Cindy is mailed an anonymous photo of a woman she had never met, addressed to Clint. As she tries to unravel the mysterious package, as she begins to dig deeper into Clint’s emails and files, she realizes how many secrets Clint had been hiding from his past. She realizes that she didn’t really know the man she loved. And she also realizes that Clint was murdered.

She digs deeper, into the depths of Clint’s massive corporation, DGB oil, and as she starts to unearth information she shouldn’t, she goes too far. Soon her own life is in peril. On the run, she realizes that the only way to get answers, and to save her own life, is to return to where it all began: Barbados. As she heads into the dark underside of the island, into the heart of the local villages, she is shocked to discover what really happened to her husband on their honeymoon.

But by then, it may already be too late.

Welcome to the final days of the giveaway carnival!  After work drama and spontaneous beach trips and all that have come to a close, I'm back to share a few more awesome indie books and giveaways with you and I hope you enjoy.

On the menu today is Death by Honeymoon.  The story opens with Cindy trying to deal with the devastating loss of her husband, who died on their honeymoon in Barbados.  Cindy's loss is even more devastating in the face of the obstacles she and Clint had to overcome to get married (his family did not approve, to put it mildly) and her extremely small support system (even though a lot of people came to visit in the days right after Clint's death, the only person looking out for Cindy was her sister, Ann.)  It's an extremely somber opening.

It becomes clear pretty quickly that there's something rotten on the island of Barbados, as Clint's repugnant family makes very clear when they come to allegedly pay their condolences and end up interrogating Cindy (Clint's widow, remember) instead.  Cindy's sister Ann is doing her best to help but comes across as kind of a bossy boots (I feel like if I were Cindy, every person that tried to tell me what I need or what would be best for me would just start getting punched in the face.)  Everyone wants to help but you can practically hear Cindy screaming inside to just get people to back off.

Anyway, Cindy has a lot of reasons for her Spidey senses to be tingling, although no one else seems to feel the same.  Just when Cindy finally caves and begins to attempt to put her life back together for the sake of other people who love her, it becomes alarmingly clear that her feeling that Clint's death wasn't an accident was right on the money.  Now she has to decide whether it would be better to just remember Clint in her heart forever and ride quietly into the sunset, or to try to uncover the truth, however ugly it may be.

Because this is a relatively short story it has to get down to business fairly quickly, and there isn't a lot of time or space to devote to side stories or ancillary characters.  The plot is lean and streamlined, and we arrive at point B from point A fairly quickly.  We as readers can piece together the game that's afoot pretty quickly; watching Cindy figure it out and overcome the obstacles that have been put in her way is a different experience.  The ending, too, and the resolution of the story, require you to buy into the story as a reader.  Would people necessarily behave that way in real life? Probably not, but that's the great thing about fiction.  The author has created an environment where everything comes out in the wash and the stage is set for book 2, and that's okay by me.  

Jaden Skye has graciously offered up FIVE digital copies of Death by Honeymoon for participants in the giveaway carnival!  You know the drill by now- fill out the form below to enter, and leave a comment on the July 1st Why Read Indie Books post saying you entered the Death by Honeymoon giveaway for an added shot at the $25 Amazon gift card!  Make sure you leave your entry comment in the correct place so it will count.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Review: Port Errors + GIVEAWAY!

What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

Port of Errors (Born of Tyranny)Title: Port of Errors
Author: Steve V. Cypert
Page Count: 296 KB (Kindle format)
Publisher: self-published
Genre: adventure, historical fiction
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

Port of Errors is a pirate adventure of historical fiction set in the late seventeenth century in the Eastern Atlantic. Davy and Joseph grew up together in an orphanage where they became best of friends. But, when the orphanage was burnt down they were separated from one another, each following a separate course in life. Davy turned to lawlessness, becoming Black-Hearted, a ruthless pirate. Joseph pursued a life in the English Royal Navy, becoming Daniel Stirvin, a courageous captain determined to rid the waters of such pirates as Black-Hearted. Finally coming together for an epic battle, they each realize the others identity. Now committed to their separate causes and backed by their men, they are unable to back down and in the end only one man will stand. This is a bitter, yet uplifting tale of two friends, as close as brothers whose lives are followed closely to the end. You will come to love each character and discover new ones, like Scurvy Shaw, a clever and underhanded pirate; Darcy Wenham, a wealthy business man; and Isabel Shaw, a woman who captures Black-Hearted's eye. With new and exciting fictional and historical locations, this is an epic journey of adventure, love, war and betrayal.
It's kind of hard at this point to review anything historical and pirate related without coming up with some similarities between the story in question and Pirates of the Caribbean. I mean, similarities are bound to jump out, even if they are the most basic ones of being set in the past and featuring pirates as the main characters.  Port of Errors does call to mind the famous franchise, but only in the way that every book set in a boarding school or featuring magic calls to mind Harry Potter.

No, while reading Port of Errors I was reminded much more strongly of the narrative style of The Princess Bride.  The book isn't a comedy, so it wasn't that that triggered my memory, but instead it was the way that the story felt like it was an oral tale that had been written down.  It was like someone was telling stories around a campfire, or settling kids down for bed with an adventure story that was told in installments, night after night.

The Amazon synopsis sums the plot of the story up pretty efficiently.  After spending their formative years in an orphanage, best friends Davy and Joseph take dramatically different life paths.  One becomes a respectable Navy captain, and the other becomes a notorious pirate.  Eventually, they have to confront the fact that these different life paths mean they're pretty much total enemies, with all associated implications.  To make matters worse, it's not just a private battle for these two; now they have full crews on each of their ships depending on them for their livelihood and survival.  It's not pretty.

There are epic sea battles and acts of courage as well as side plots involving the side characters that all come to a head at the end of the book.  Much like a good bedtime story, this is a good candidate to digest in small bits and pieces in order to absorb what's already happened and be ready for what happens next. 

Steve Cypert has graciously offered up one print copy of the book to one lucky giveaway carnival participant! Due to shipping costs this is a U.S. only giveaway. To enter, just fill out the form below.  Then, don't forget to navigate to the July 1st post entitled Why Read Indie Books? and comment saying you entered the giveaway for Port of Errors for an added shot at the $25 Amazon gift card!  Make sure you leave your comment in the right place for it to be counted.  Good luck!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Review: Cameo The Assassin + GIVEAWAY!

What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

Cameo the Assassin (Trilogy of Shadows Book 1)Title: Cameo the Assassin
Author: Dawn McCullough-White
Page Count: 320 KB (Kindle format)
Publisher: Claypipe Press
Genre: paranormal, fantasy
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

The Kingdom of Sieunes is rife with taverns, dirty streets, and clay pipe smoking citizens all toiling to feed their families and keep themselves in something little better than rags. With a foiled revolution just ten years prior still burning in the hearts of many, the royals enlist the aid of assassins to keep things in order.

The townsfolk entertain themselves by dreaming of better times to come and regaling in stories of the undead said to walk the graveyards at night... and of Cameo the killer with corpse-like eyes... Scarred and jaded Cameo is one of the most effective assassins in the employ of the Association, moving from one mission to the next as long as the alcohol keeps flowing.

Her acceptance of the murder-for-hire lifestyle is thrown into doubt when she meets a local highwayman with a penchant for fine clothes and women, and then she begins to think about breaking with the company but no one ever breaks with the Association under good terms.
Cameo the Assassin is, for lack of a better or more descriptive term, fun.  It's an adventurous fantasy with lots of traveling, highwaymen, assassins, and political mysteries and drama that plague our characters' every steps.  I was reminded of the Poison series, not necessarily because of similarities of plot or characters, but because of the sense of scale of the story.  I definitely got the feeling with this story that there is truly a whole world to be explored and that we're only seeing a small part of it, the part that's immediately important.

Cameo has, by all accounts, had a terrible life.  Attacked and left for dead at a young age, she's been making her living as an Association assassin, and is frightfully good at her job.  That all comes crashing down when she's ordered to kill Black Opal, a highwayman who happened to rob the stagecoach she was on on her last job.  When she's saddled with a "partner" who happens to be the worst, most despicable person she could be forced to work with, she eliminates him, which eliminates her protection under the Association in the process.

Forced on the run, Cameo ends up joining forces with Opal and his partner in crime, Bel.  Their journey takes them all over the countryside, trying to avoid detection and their own assassinations.  To make matters worse, Cameo has a few secrets of her own, stemming from her vicious childhood, that she wants hidden.  She feels like it's enough of a miracle that anyone wants to associate with her and help her and that revealing all of her secrets would be extremely unwise.

Going into this story knowing it was a planned trilogy was a big help in sorting out which details were immediately important versus which ones may be important in the next two installments.  Cameo is in the unfortunate predicament of having to serve two masters, and while they're both unhappy with her, life is very difficult indeed.

I also enjoyed the hint of romance and attraction between Cameo and Opal.  We see just a little, enough to wonder if they're going to make a go of it or just leave it as another thing both of them want but can't have.  I'm interested in how things develop between these two in the next few books.

I'm always on the lookout for fun fantasy novels with adventure, romance, good details and world building, and I was very satisfied after reading Cameo the Assassin.  

Dawn McCullough-White has graciously offered up signed copies of Cameo the Assassin as well as the second book in the trilogy, Cameo and the Highwayman!  Entries are U.S. ONLY for this giveaway.  To enter, please fill out the form below.  Then, head to the 7/1 post entitled Why Read Indie Books? and comment saying you entered the Cameo the Assassin giveaway for an added shot at the $25 Amazon gift card!  Make sure you leave your comments in the correct place so they can be counted!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: The Undertaker + GIVEAWAY!

What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

The UndertakerTitle: The Undertaker
Author: William F. Brown
Page Count:  624 KB (Kindle format)
Publisher: self-published
Genre: thriller
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review- check out his blog at Bill Brown Writes Novels

Pete Talbott is a California native and harried Boston computer wonk still grieving over the death of his wife Terri, when he found himself at the wrong end of Gino Parini's .45 reading his own obituary torn from that morning's newspaper. Talbott figured it was all a big mistake until Parini showed him his wife's obituary too, and this was a mystery Talbott couldn't leave alone.  From a funeral home in Indiana, to car chases on the Dan Ryan, a bloody Back Bay townhouse, snipers in New York City's Washington Square, sleazy lawyers, corrupt County sheriffs, mafia hit men, the FBI, an army of Chicago cops, and that unforgettable scene in the upper berth of an Amtrak Train, "The Undertaker" is a thrill ride with a touch of humor and romance.  Someone with a penchant for sharp scalpels and embalming tables is planting bodies under other people's names; and if Talbott doesn't stop them, he and his quirky new girlfriend, Sandy Kasmarek, will be next on the Undertaker's list.

This story was delicious.  Snarky and wired, cynical and funny, it was everything a good mob thriller should be and more.  For me as a reader, a thriller needs to be able to make me forget that the violence is actually violence and that crappy people are just that and make me want to see how all the elements come together; The Undertaker certainly delivered on that promise.

Pete Talbott has the unfortunate problem of people never seeming to grasp that he's not dead. He was falsely reported as dead in a car crash in Mexico, and just when that was sorted out, he was reported as dead again, this time in a hospital in Ohio.  Still reeling a year after his wife truly did die of cancer and with nothing else really keeping him going, he travels from Boston (where he now works) to Ohio to figure out what is going on and why this problem keeps popping up.

In terms of immediate well-being, it would have been much better for Peter to just go home and eat a coffee cake and take a nap.  If he hadn't started down that road and started asking questions that made a lot of very powerful people very uncomfortable and sort of itchy, he never would have had about a million problems.  He also never would have met Sandy; some might argue that the coffee cake was still a better option, and then Sandy would kick them.

Turns out there's something seriously rotten in the state of Ohio, as Peter Talbott is not the first person to die there under the circumstances set out in his (second, and also incorrect) obituary.  Peter can't let sleeping dogs lie and goes to the library to do some research, and from asking the right questions he's able to piece together a rough sketch of the situation fairly quickly.

This quickly gets him into trouble with people who'd rather their extracurricular activities remain under the radar and sends him on the lam (I always wanted to write that!) and leads him to Chicago, where he hopes to gather more evidence to prove exactly what he thinks is going on.

That's where Sandy enters the picture.  Sandy is one of my favorite characters in the story. She's funny, loyal, a total smartass, and not afraid to alternately take care of people or kick their teeth in, depending on what the situation requires.  Sandy brings an emotional depth and hint of romance to a story that would have been adventurous but a whole lot of running around otherwise.  Depth is good!  Seeing these two hurting people overcome adversity (both internal and external) and figure out what they really wanted out of life was excellent.  The ending was better than I could have hoped for, too.  Just saying.

There is plenty of adventure to be had as we we careen towards the ending of this story; the author is firmly in command of the direction of the and nothing is left to chance.  Every detail is important, and I caught myself doing the reader fist pump when I correctly figured out how a piece of the story fit into the bigger picture.  I was sucked in as a reader and wasn't released until the story was over.
Bill Brown has graciously offered up THREE digital copies of The Undertaker to three lucky winners here at the giveaway carnival!  To enter, just fill out the form below.  Then, don't forget to navigate to the July 1st post entitled Why Read Indie Books? and comment saying you entered the giveaway for The Undertaker for an added shot at the $25 Amazon gift card!  Make sure you leave your comment in the right place for it to be counted.  Good luck!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Review: The Doppelganger Song + GIVEAWAY!

What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

Title: The Doppelganger Song
Author: Caitlin Sumer and Bill Shears
Page Count: 215 pages (pdf review copy)
Publisher: InfinityBound
Genre: paranormal mystery/thriller
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

SynopsisWith their long relationship on the verge of collapse, security consultant Frank and psychologist Holly team up as paranormal investigators. A teacher at an old private girls’ school in The Bronx, NY, has been severely injured. Was it a suicide attempt or is the teacher’s double causing trouble? Frank and Holly sort the eerie from the merely strange.

Content Warning: This story contains elements, including an attempted suicide, that may be troubling or triggering for some readers.  Discretion is advised.

Paranormal is one of those genres that can be fused with just about any other with generally positive results.  It allows for concepts and ideas to be combined in new ways while never eliminated plain old white bread everyday phenomena from causing an event or series of events.  The Doppelganger Song uses this notion extensively and the end result is a mystery that takes its time in revealing each of its many details and secrets.

Psychologist Dr. Holly and her security consultant paramour, Frank, are an unlikely team of investigators.  They've been romantically involved for eleven years (never married, though, don't make the mistake of assuming) and both are secretly wondering if it might be time to pack it in.  When Holly is asked to consult on a case by a, let's call her a friend, Dr. Rose Steiner, she and Frank work the case together, combining his investigative skills with her psychological knowledge.

The case is a complex one- a young teacher, Emma, is in Bellevue after going out the window at the boarding school where she lives and works.  The police are satisfied that it was a suicide attempt, and indeed, in the moments leading up to the actual fall, Emma was contemplating suicide- her life was going nowhere, the guy she thought she was madly in love with has dumped her like yesterday's news, and this seemed like the only way out.  The thing is, she backed away from the ledge, but somehow ended up on the ground and in the hospital anyway.  Who pushed her? Was she pushed? Is there anything to investigate here at all?

Dr. Steiner thinks there is, and that's where Holly and Frank come in.  Strange things have been happening at the school, including other people having seen someone, or something, that looks exactly like Emma on the school grounds.  A doppelganger by definition is a ghostly double or a twin; therefore the paranormal connection becomes evident.

The story is twisty and layered, and is an investigation on the part of the reader.  The details are there, but admittedly they do require a lot of digging to uncover.  Everyone has secrets. I literally mean everyone, as even our intrepid investigative duo have some things that they need to share with one another, and the sooner, the better.  Their relationship is up in the air and remains so throughout the story, which was an interesting and unique element.  Typically you see a couple that's either steadfast and committed, thoroughly broken up, or broken up and considering reconciliation; I don't recall any other story where I've come across a leading couple in that gray pre-breakup-but-then-maybe-not area.

The Doppelganger song isn't a police procedural, and it isn't a rip 'em tear 'em thriller.  It takes its time getting from point A to point B and isn't afraid to make some stops in between, but if the reader stays focused and true to the end, it's definitely worth getting to.
Caitlin Sumer has offered up a Smashwords coupon for a free digital copy of The Doppelganger Song in the winner's choice of formats!  To enter, just fill out the form below.  Then, be sure to leave a comment on the July 1st Why Read Indie Books? post for an added shot at the $25 Amazon gift card!  Make sure to leave that comment in the correct place so your entry can be counted.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Giveaway Carnival Week Three Giveaway Roundup!

What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

Please note: this post is not a giveaway in and of itself: this is just the list of what's open so far.  Please head to the individual posts to enter for the individual prizes. Thanks!

The list of giveaways keeps getting longer- check these out for lots of chances to win great indie books!

Why Read Indie Books? $25 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway
Win digital copies of What Ho, Automaton! and Medium Dead
Everyone's a winner- score your own copy of The End of Marking Time- Seriously, everyone who fills out the form on the review post is getting a free digital copy of the book!
Win a SIGNED copy of Solid!
Win a signed print or digital copy of Last Exit in New Jersey
Win a digital copy of Up a Dry Creek
Win one of two PERSONALIZED digital copies of Scourge
Jared Sandman's BlogBuster 2011 tour- comment on this post for a shot at a bunch of Amazon gift cards at the end of the tour!
Win a Founder prize pack- open internationally!
Win a full digital set (International) or a full signed print set (U.S.) of the Rowan Gant books
Win a Kindle-compatible copy of Rotten Apple- You don't have to own a Kindle to be eligible as free Kindle readers for PC and other devices are available from Amazon.
Win a digital copy of Too Many Witches
Win a pair of handmade earrings from the author of Divine City
Win a PNR title from Edie Ramer's backlist!
Win one of 10 digital copies of Doodling!
Win one of two digital copies of Predators of Darkness: Aftermath!

Review: Two and a Half Dead Men + GIVEAWAY!

What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

Two and a Half Dead Men(For fans of Jim Butcher and the TV show Supernatural) (The Grym Brothers)
Title: Two and a Half Dead Men
Author: Jason Krumbine
Page Count: 665 KB (Kindle format)
Publisher: One Stray Word
Genre: urban fantasy
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

People die every day. 

But not all of the souls can or want to move onto the afterlife. 

That’s where the brothers Thane and Mort Grym come in.

Thane and Mort are bounty hunters for dead souls. They inherited the job from their father and they’re two of the best in town.

But when there’s a double homicide at the Kirkland Motel the Grym brothers end up with more than they bargained for. In a world without vampires, zombies or the undead, one of their bounties might not be as dead as he’s supposed to be.
For those joining us late, there are a ton of great indie urban fantasy stories out there, and today's offering, Two and a Half Dead Men, is just the latest example of that extremely happy trend.  If you like snarky narrative, hilarious sibling rivalry, and an interesting story with lots of one-liners, then you've definitely come to the right place.

Thane and Mort Grym are the the kind bounty hunters you'd get if Jake and Elwood Blues had to finally find new jobs.  One does the thinking, one does the drinking, and somewhere in the middle each manages to not completely irritate the other and occasionally wrangle a reluctant soul into the afterlife.  This time, they're after (how apropos) two fully dead guys and one...half dead guy.  There's a new reaping agency in town, too, that's trying to muscle in on the market, and that just makes things complicated for our two leading dudes.

This story was the perfect length to not only get the ball rolling and wrap up the story in this volume, but also to make me want to read future installments.  What's up with Mort and Thayne's dad? Did their mom and dad really play favorites?  Will Mort ever remember Jeanie the stripper's phone number?  How are things going to turn out with the fancy new reaping outfit from LA?  I'm totally on board with future installments in this series after finishing volume one.

The deadpan tone and supremely quotable text make this a story I'll definitely come back to, as well.  Check out this gem right off the bat from the first chapter, when Thayne and Mort are trying to convince a recently departed guy that he is completely living impaired:
“You’re saying I’m dead?” he asks again. 

“Buddy,” Mort cuts in again, “you’ve got your legs violently separated from the rest of your body. I can see parts of your entrails on the fireplace. It is not possible for you to get any deader.”
 Further evidence that, as they say, reapin' ain't easy.  I mean, I'm not sure who exactly "they" is, but you get the idea.

Jason Krumbine has graciously offered up two digital books for one lucky winner here at the carnival- a copy of Two and a Half Dead Men as well as a copy of the second book in the series, The Dead Couple!  This is a winner take all giveaway, so one person will win both books!  To enter, simply fill out the form below.  Don't forget to comment on the Why Read Indie Books? post from July 1st saying you entered the Two and a Half Dead Men giveaway for an added shot at the $25 Amazon gift card!  Make sure you leave the comment in the correct place so your entry can be counted.  

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Review: Universal Genius + GIVEAWAY!

What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

Universal Genius: Collected Fiction of Erin LaleTitle: Universal Genius: Collected Fiction of Erin Lale
Author: Erin Lale
Page Count: 91 KB Kindle format; 84 page review copy MS Word format
Publisher: Time Yarns
Genre: science fiction
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

A Time Yarns Universe Book

Most of the stories in this collection are reprinted from magazines that are currently out of print.

Short stories in this anthology:

The Timelessness Machine
(reprinted from The Sterling Web)
Hard sf

Alternate history

In the Beginning Was the Microchip
(reprinted from The Science Fiction Store Club Magazine)
Hard sf / cyberpunk

The Betrayed
(reprinted from Mythic Circle)

Stopover on Monta Colony
(reprinted from The Science Fiction Store Club Magazine)

(reprinted from Collector’s Club Newsletter)

Russian Sauna
(reprinted from Shadowlane)
Magical realism

Infinity is a Function of This Universe
Hard sf


I think one of my favorite developments that's come out of the self-/indie publishing movement is that out of print or limited print run stories and books that would have been unattainable are easily accessible to new readers now.  This is especially true for short stories and inclusions in anthologies; I confess that I'm not a huge magazine reader so I would have completely missed out on all the stories included here if not for this collection.

As the synopsis indicates, a variety of genres that fall under the wider "science fiction" umbrella are included here, so not every story is going to be for everybody, but that's okay! The best thing about anthologies is being able to discover something that may normally not fall into one's purview.  It's good to try new things, you know?

I'll say at the onset, my favorite story was Obamaphone, an alternate history gem that's short, sweet, biting, and hilarious all at the same time.  Seriously, this is how I envision decisions being made.  The dance between bloggers, traditional media, and the world around us certainly doesn't escape unscathed either.  I giggled.  I giggled a lot.

The other stories represent a variety of other subgenres, as well, but Obamaphone was really the breakout of the bunch.  There is something for everyone lurking in here, though, so don't be afraid to give other new genres a shot.  

Erin Lale has graciously donated a digital copy of Universal Genius to one lucky carnival participant!  To enter, just fill out the form below.  When you're finished, head on over to the July 1st post, Why Read Indie Books?, and comment saying you entered the Universal Genius giveaway for an added shot at the $25 Amazon gift card!  Make sure your entries are on the correct post for them to be counted!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: Predators of Darkness: Aftermath + GIVEAWAY!

What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

Predators of Darkness: AftermathTitle: Predators of Darkness: Aftermath
Author: Leonard D. Hilley II
Page Count: 536 KB (Kindle format)
Publisher: self-published
Genre: science fiction, thriller
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review


Fear What Lurks In The Shadows

The desolate streets of downtown Pittsburgh in 2073 are a reminder of the missile attack that forever changed the lives of the surviving scientists and students hidden in the fallout shelter of Helmsby's Genetic Research Center. Believing themselves to be the only survivors, they station themselves inside the center until food supplies near depletion. Thinking the fallout has lessened, they emerge three years later to discover strange creatures patrolling the streets in search of human flesh and blood. The creatures possess the ability to shift their genomes and alter their appearances by realigning their genetic sequences. Daniel Hutchinson, their leader, teams with Lucas Ridale and together they set out to scavenge the area for food and supplies with the hope to find other survivors. But Daniel's most recent journey uncovers mysteries more frightening than the shifters. He discovers the tip of Pittsburgh has been fenced off from the rest of the area. Low-flying helicopters observe the streets, making him ponder the question: Were the shifters released as simply part of a military experiment with humans being their prey?

Have you ever read a book that, when you finished it, you had to check all the doors and windows? Reading Predators of Darkness: Aftermath was like that.  It's a post-apocalyptic thriller where nightmarish creatures hunt human survivors in the streets and nobody knows where their next meal or breath is coming from.

These creatures that are so problematic and endemic in the story are referred to as shifters, but don't let that term imply some kind of cuddly secret society or misunderstood group of dudes looking to be understood.  These are genetic experiments gone horribly wrong, and they want to eat you and leave nothing left.  One of the critical elements in this story involves the human survivors and one of their leaders, Daniel, having to figure out for themselves if all of these creatures are truly "bad," if anything that exists purely on instincts can be viewed that way, or if there's something more to the story.

With enemies at the gates and a conspiracy afoot (just how did the shifters manage to start running the streets of Pittsburgh anyway, and what if it wasn't an accident?) the few survivors living in a bomb shelter under a genetics lab have enough to worry about, but they have their own infighting and drama to deal with too.  Each character is struggling to keep body and soul together in the face of ever-worsening odds, and just like in any high pressure situation, some people rise and some people fall, and true colors are shown all around.  Everyone assumes that they're the only ones with ulterior motives or the only ones running a con; needless to say, that's not the case.

I admit that I found the struggles against the environment and the bigger conspiracy to be way more interesting than the infighting and maneuvering for position that occurs inside the bunker.  Daniel and Lucas, our fearless leaders, don't always think with their big heads, if you know what I mean, and it leads to some bad decisions and convenient ignoring of the facts that in turn cause some big problems for our motley crew.  The character Lydia, especially, should have raised some questions for everyone, and indeed a few people do question what's going on with her, but the folks in charge don't see important details right away for sure.

The plot thickens, and thickens quickly.  Spies have infiltrated the bomb shelter.  More dastardly genetic experiments are in the works.  What seems true may not be, on the inside or the outside.  There is a talking cat.  Through it all, the reader has to keep alert to keep up with the twisting, turning plot and the incredible detail.  It bears mentioning that this is the first story in a trilogy, so not all details get wrapped up tidily here at the end, and questions about morality and its origin are raised; it will certainly be interesting to see how these questions get answered in future installments.

This is a seriously creepy book, with the perfect combination of "they're coming to eat you" creature feature with "don't go in the basement" horror.  The best post-apocalyptic or dystopian stories for me are the ones that strike as truly plausible, so if you don't mind, I need to go make sure the doors are locked again.

Leonard Hilley II has graciously offered up two digital copies of Predators of Darkness: Aftermath to two lucky participants in the giveaway carnival!  To enter, fill out the form below.  Don't forget to comment on the July 1st Why Read Indie Books? post for an added shot at the $25 Amazon gift card!  Make sure you comment on that specific post to have your entry counted towards the giveaway (use the links on the sidebar to navigate there.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Review: Doodling + 10 Copy GIVEAWAY!


What Book Is That Giveaway Carnival!

DoodlingTitle: Doodling
Author: Jonathan Gould
Page Count: 28 pages
Publisher: self-published
Genre: comic fantasy
Copy for review provided by the author in anticipation of an honest review

Synopsis: Neville Lansdowne fell off the world.

Actually he did not so much fall off as let go. The world had been moving so quickly lately and Neville was finding it almost impossible to keep up.

Doodling is an engaging comic fantasy which relates the events that befall Neville after he finds himself abandoned by the world and adrift in the middle of an asteroid field. Douglas Adams meets Lewis Carroll (with just a touch of Gulliver’s Travels) as Neville wanders through his new home, meeting a variety of eccentric characters and experiencing some most unexpected adventures.

I don't think I've ever described something as a "romp" before, but the word definitely applies to the experience of reading Doodling.   As a lifelong fan of Douglas Adams and The Phantom Tollbooth and that style of writing and sense of humor, Doodling was a true joy to read. 

That in and of itself is high praise, but the wry humor and deadpan delivery were spot on, and I laughed from the beginning of the book until the end.  Through all the laughs, though, is a message that definitely rings true- as chaotic and fast-moving as life can be sometimes, we can slow it down by focusing on little things that make us happy.

The hero of our story is Neville and the repercussions of his decision to get off the world.  From starting his own country on an asteroid (and leaving it when he realizes that a rock is simply not a proper president) to discovering a colony of people who worship toasters to ultimately having to save the world from its own breakneck pace, Neville finds himself in the thick of things.

I've read other reviews that say that this would make an excellent illustrated book and I wholeheartedly agree.  Despite being a very short story, the descriptions of the people and events were vivid and I could totally imagine some of my favorite illustrators having a field day.

This is the perfect story to unwind with after a long, trying day.  Short, sweet, and to the point, there's a lot to love here.

On to the giveaway!  Jonathan Gould has generously offered up TEN DIGITAL COPIES to participants in the carnival!  To enter, simply put your information in the form below.  There will be ten winners of this giveaway!  Once you've done that, don't forget to leave a comment on this post saying you entered the Doodling giveaway for another crack at the $25 Amazon gift card!

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