Zomblog by TW Brown

Zomblog was free when I downloaded it, but is now listed at $3.99

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The Queen’s Blade by T.C. Southwell

The Queen’s Blade was a quick, light, well-written read.  Taking place in a fantasy world it’s the story of two kingdoms caught in an ancient and on-going war.  One side (home of lush, fertile farmlands and valleys) has a queen, the other (a desert kingdom) has a king.

In order to end the war Queen Minna-Satu calls forth an assassin to kill the king and capture his heir.  While there are three main characters (Blade, Minna and the Prince) there is no forced love-triangle.  It’s well written, entertaining and had several points in its favor.

The first:  The world was presented with no tedious explanation.  No lengthy chapters detailing how everything came to be; instead, it just jumped right on in and let the reader get to the good parts.  The story.

Second:  The idea of animal familiars, while a little simplistic, was interesting enough that  I actually wanted some back story.  Everyone had one, everyone had a trait (the man with the boar familiar was big and stocky; the man with the fox familiar was said to be sharp featured and clever, etc;).

Third:  It was well-written and while reading it I had the sense that the author actually knew what they were doing.  Southwell had a backstory in mind that was hinted at and shaped the story without boring the reader with exposition.  The characters didn’t act like mindless puppets in a romance novel.  (Boy sees girl, loves her despite everything, gives in to every demand, etc;)  No swooning, only a little mooning.

All in all it was worth the downloading.  However, I’m not sure I was caught enough to want to spend $30 on buying the rest in the series, and another $8 on the two prequels.

I’d recommend it for fantasy fans who want a light take on familiar tropes.  However, be warned that while there are no explicit scenes (one fight scene and a handful of assassinations) there are adult subject matters dealt with in this book that deal with children, violence and mentions of abuse.  It’s never gone into in detail, but some people might be put off by it.

The Queen’s Blade is book one of an eight book series; none of the other seven books are free.  Her website can be found at:  T.C. Southwell Fantasy

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Halfway Point (Rant)

Sometimes a book just isn’t worth the time and effort it takes to read it.  Case in point:  Last Legends of Earth.  And no, it doesn’t warrant a link.  It’s one of my (if not the) most loathed of books I have read.

With free books it’s very much hit-or-miss.  Sometimes it’s a good idea, badly executed.  Sometimes it’s a boring idea but great writing.  Sometimes, sadly, it’s neither.  Sometimes it’s just a dud of a book.

At what point, then, is a book no longer worth the time it takes to read it?  Halfway in?  Less?  When do you review these books, and more to the point, how can you?  If you haven’t slogged it out to the very end, how can you justify a review?

There’s really no point to this except to whine.  I’m in the middle of two books (Congregation and the other one) and it’s hard to feel interested in either of them.  Indifferent characters, writing and plot … or maybe it’s just my mood, today, where the only books that I want to read are the ones packed up in boxes.

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The Congregation by Aric Mitchell

The Congregation was a hard book to get involved in.  In essence, it’s about monsters, single mothers, Cain and Abel and … killing?  Despite the title, the book had very little to do with religion, though the location did take place in a building that was briefly referred to as a church.

The basic plot involves a character who kidnaps and kills women, then turns their bodies into giant monster zombie-things that shamble around trying to kill other people.  In the middle of this we have a pair of brothers and their sister, a single mother, her child, and a cop (raised by a single mother).  While there are other people randomly thrown into the mix, they have little purpose.

In fact, this whole book felt very disjointed to me, like it was trying to be two or three different books at the same time, but not one of the three was developed enough to give the book a direction.  For a horror book it left me confused as to where the horror came from or what it was doing.

The characters we were introduced to were tissue-paper thin stereotypes … sort of.  The single mother was … a single mother.  The cop was a guy.  The two brothers were two guys.  Their sister was … there.  To be honest, that’s pretty much my review of the book.

It was there.

I don’t recommend it, I won’t keep it on my kindle, and I have the feeling that, given a week, I won’t even remember it.

The author has no other published works.  He can be found at Twitter as aricmitchell.

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Clumsy is not a personality! (Rant)

I just did a review on UnEnchanted, one of many Twilight inspired books – and certainly better written than it’s muse.  However … it has one glaring flaw, a flaw that sets my teeth on edge.

Clumsy is not a personality!

Neither is:  Laughing at jokes, drinking tea, eating cereal for breakfast, or sitting in chairs.  It’s female authors who seem to be the most blind when it comes to this problem.  I don’t know why they feel obligated to do this to their own gender.

Take your main character (a girl) and make her unpopular … but wait!  She’s still stunningly beautiful and no less than two or three jaw-droppingly gorgeous guys want to have her … and then, lacking any other personality trait … make her clumsy.

If a male author did this to a female character we’d comment on his misogyny.  So why do female authors think they can get away with it?  And if they honestly don’t care enough to give their characters a personality, can they at least switch it up?  Maybe instead of being clumsy she’s fond of wearing shoes only every other day?  Or she gets hiccups all the time?  Oh, how about she has black hair.  That’s a personality, right?

Have a little respect for yourself, your characters, and your readers, female authors.  Give your heroines personality traits that are personality traits, at least, and not comedic defects.  Even Heinlein managed that.  (See Podkayne of Mars for a girl with a personality written by a true misogynist.)

Just because every cartoon you watched as a kid had only one girl character per show (whose personality was “Girl”) doesn’t mean you have to enforce this stereotype to the next generation.  Don’t be afraid to write strong, compelling and even – heaven forbid – normal, un-clumsy girls.

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UnEnchanted by Chanda Hahn

UnEnchanted is a YA novel and is one of the better written attempts to cash in on the Twilight craze.  Throw in a bit of Grimm (the TV series), faeries, fairy tales gone wrong and you have a mildly entertaining book.

The basic plot isn’t that complicated:  Our heroine Mina Grime – with the tried and true Bella Swan personality of clumsy! and unpopular! – discovers she’s the descendant of the Brothers Grimm who were tricked by ancient fairies to fill a magic book (a Grimoire, of course) with captured stories.

But the stories aren’t your typical fairy tales.  They’re been shifted, adapted and turned into modern re-tellings, some of which are actually clever.  In the first book we see Hansel and Gretel as well as Red Riding Hood.  Chandra’s clever twist in the Red Riding Hood story caught me rather nicely by surprise!

However, there are flaws with this book.  The main character is a better done Bella, but it’s still a wincingly obvious un-character who has flashes of being her own, interesting and flawed person … only to be shoved back into being Bellamina Grimm.

I enjoyed this light little YA romp enough to buy the sequel, Fairest which takes on Cinderella in a cleverly twisty fashion.  UnEnchanted is worth the read and worth the price.

The author has three published books, two in the UnEnchanted series, with a fourth coming out soon.  Her website is:  Chandra Hahn: Books

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What’s in a review?

Reviewers use different means of rating their books.  Stars, hearts, thumbs, knees and elbows, even smilies.  For myself, my rating system is a bit less (okay, a lot less) organized.

If I like a book it’s either okay, good, fun, worth a read, or great.

If I don’t like a book it’s either okay, bad, horrible, terrible, or worthless.

For me, the true test of a book comes to three questions:  Would I read it again?  Would I recommend it?  Would I keep it?

I’ll read just about anything once.  Reading it twice means there was something a little extra to the book that stuck in my head, something that brought me back to it.  It might be as little as liking a name, or how an author described something.  Who knows?  Just that little spark of something extra.

However, just because I’ll read something doesn’t mean I think it’s worth inflicting on other people.  If it’s a book worth sharing, I’ll share.  More rare, unfortunately, is a book that has to be shared even if the other person has no interest in the genre or author simply because it’s that good.

And then there’s the question of keep or not to keep.  I’m easy going about keeping books and even easier about donating them to the library or good will.  If it’s not worth keeping, it’s not necessarily that the book was bad.  It just wasn’t good enough.

Maybe I should switch to stars … that made no sense at all, did it?

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