52Under2: Week 10 Shortlist

Week 10 of my 52Under2 book reviews.

It was a pretty good week for interesting-looking books on Smashwords this week; there were a lot to choose from in compiling my shortlist. These are the Top 5 books that caught my eye and I’ll be reviewing one of them in depth later in the week.

The Doorknob Society by MJ Fletcher
A girl finds that she can travel through dimensions just by turning a doorknob. In the wake of this discovery she is sent to a magic school to learn about herself and her powers.
I really liked the title design on the cover of this book. That coupled with the fact I noticed it was tagged ‘steampunk’ drew me in to adding it to my shortlist and reading the excerpt. However, over the course of the excerpt I didn’t see any steampunk elements. The novel starts in current day Paris, with the protagonist about to partake of some cat burglary. Presumably the steampunk goodness will emerge at magic school.

Vampire Music by Michelle de Paepe
When an anorexic girl’s former best friend comes back to town he wants nothing to do with her. Turns out he’s a vampire and a rock star.
What struck me first about the book was its strong sense of place, but the excerpt kind of lost me with how immature the characters are portrayed at age 14. (Collecting frogspawn to put on frog plays with?!) I found it interesting that the protagonist becomes anorexic, yet this isn’t the focus of the story. I would like to see how the author deals with and explores this issue.

Dead As Dutch by Rich Docherty
A student film crew wandering in the woods accidentally invoke a dead gangsters curse.
I really liked the sound of the premise of this book. It bills itself as horror/humour, which is a genre I enjoy in movies, though have yet to experience in a novel. The start of the book was fairly good. The language was punchy. The character descriptions were strong. Though as the excerpt was really short, I didn’t really get much more than character descriptions from it.
This book is available for free on Smashwords until 10th March 2012 as part of Read an Ebook week.

Prophecy of the Most Beautiful by Diantha Jones
Turns out that seeing things doesn’t make high school girl Chloe crazy, she’s really a powerful soothsayer, the Oracle of Delphi in fact.
I love the Greek myths. I’d be interested to see how the author works them into her story and to find out which of the Olympian gods is moonlighting as a rock star nowadays. This was another book with a fairly short excerpt, but even within the small bit I read the main character is already in trouble, both with school and with a sinister vanishing guy.
This book has 25% at Smashwords until the 10th March 2012 as part of Read an Ebook week.

The Sphinx Project by Kate Hawkings
A group of four genetically modified teenage girls escape from the military lab where they are held. But they aren’t the only things that escape…
The first thing I thought when I read the summary of this book, was that it sounded an awful lot like the TV show Dark Angel. When I started reading the excerpt I caught a few more similarities – most notable when the protagonist drops a mention of her feline DNA. While the setup is the same, the story promises to be different. The excerpt was pretty good. Action packed from the very beginning.
This is the book I’ll be reviewing this week. Let’s see how it stacks up against my memories of enjoying Dark Angel.

52Under2: Marked by Jennifer Snyder

The book I am reviewing this week for 52Under2 is Marked by Jennifer Snyder. It is about 51400 words long and is available on Smashwords for $2.99.

Congratulations to Jennifer Snyder on the release of her novel.

Marked is the story of Tessa, a girl in a relationship with a jealous, controlling guy. When new guy Jace walks into the diner where Tessa works things start looking up. But Jace has a secret that will change everything for Tessa.

I got into this book quite quickly because of the characters – they were believable and the interactions between them were compelling. The relationships developed through the book at a good pace; the paranormal aspects developed more slowly.

The book was well-written for the most part. At the 60% mark it seemed to suffer some proofreading fail, including a your/you’re mistake.

I enjoyed reading it. Though I found it a little unbelievable that Tessa was pretty quick to forgive Jace for forcing his will on her after finding the way her previous boyfriend tried to control her so unacceptable.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5.

52Under2: Week 9 Shortlist

Week 9 of my 52Under2 book reviews.

These are the Top 5 books that caught my eye on Smashwords this week and I’ll be reviewing one of them in depth later in the week.

Eternal Changes by Tiffany Berry
After her father’s death, a girl moves to a new town where she gets embroiled in the middle of a vampire war.
The excerpt is pretty good, though there’s a weird switch in how the protagonist refers to her mother early on. The book is well formatted and has an attractive cover.

Found by Yana Guleva
A vampire-werewolf-human love triangle (though by different names) in Alaska. The Alaskan setting could be interesting. The excerpt has a couple of grammar errors and missing words. For the price – free – this book could be worth checking out.

Neophyte by Emmalee Aple
In a beach house on Earth, a girl grows into her new angel powers. Things take a turn for the dangerous when a gray-winged angel abducts her.
The excerpt was good, plunging straight into the jeopardy. Though I found the action a little confusing and a lot of characters were introduced very quickly.

ALTOR: The Shadow Rebellion by L J deVet
After a series of premonitions, a sorcerer finds his world changed and he has to confront a powerful enemy. I was interested in this book because the author produced both a UK and a US version. I wondered what was involved with that – whether it was a simple as flipping the dictionary used by the spellchecker or whether the author went through and localised idioms and words like trousers/pants.

Marked by Jennifer Snyder
The description made this one sound like a fairly standard werewolf romance. However, when I read the excerpt I was immediately hooked. It is well-written. You are plunged straight into the romantic conflict. The characters are immediate and vivid.
This is the book I’ll be reviewing later this week.

52Under2: Week 8 Shortlist

Week 8 of my 52Under2 book reviews and this week is going to be a skip week. I’m feeling a little inundated and don’t have time to read and review a book.

I’ve still had a look at the new releases in YA paranormal fiction on Smashwords and picked out 5 that look interesting. Give one of them a try.

Spell Check by Ariella Moon
A girl has to save her secret crush from a love spell cast by her supposed friend. This book comes from a small press so it’s well edited and formatted (though the HTML sample skips between fonts). It starts strongly, getting right into the meat of the story and setting up the major conflicts.

Dark Promise by Malcolm B Lambert
A teen witch gets attacked by demons on her 16th birthday. Then she gets sent to magical boarding school. I’ve seen a few ‘magic school’ books come by in the past few weeks – legacy of Harry Potter. I loved the manga style cover and the snappy book description. Excerpt lost me when I fell over a missing word in the second paragraph.

Kingdom Animalia by M D Jones
A zookeeper investigates the disappearances of exotic animals from his zoo with the help of an amulet that can transform animals into people. Excerpt starts quite well, but beware if you are sensitive to strong language – the f-word gets used twice in fairly short order.

The Dreaming Grove by Levi Melton
Two girls share their dreaming world. Things get scary when someone or something crawls in there with them. The excerpt is in the present tense and the dream world is described lyrically.

The Hollow of Mont Noir by Jennifer Krey
An animal empath moves to a new town in the wake of her brother’s disappearance. There she discovers the existence of supernatural creatures, one of whom is stalking her. The concept of animal empathy sounds interesting and it would be cool to see what the author does with it.

52Under2: Demons at Deadnight by A&E Kirk

The book I am reviewing this week for 52Under2 is Demons at Deadnight by A & E Kirk, a mother-daughter writing duo.  It is about 93000 words long and is available on Smashwords for $2.99.

Congratulations to A & E Kirk on the release of their novel.

Demons at Deadnight is the story of Aurora, a girl who has just moved back to her childhood hometown after a traumatic attack. She has a unique ability – the ability to sense demons – that leads to her having to fight them off at every turn. Then the Hex Boys turn up to ‘help’, though their help is often more of a hinderance.

Once I got into it, I enjoyed this book quite a lot. I say ‘once I got into it’ because I found the first act a struggle to read. It starts well, with an action-packed scene, but then becomes both a little repetitive and a little confusing.

Repetitive because almost all of the occurances follw this pattern: Aurora wanders off alone, Aurora gets attacked by demons (or teenaged boys), she gets saved – usually by Hex Boy or Boys.

Confusing because when they were all being introduced I found the various different Hex Boys difficult to keep straight, probably because new characters were being thrown at me thick and fast with little chance to differentiate them without detracting from the pace of the action.

However, once things slowed down a bit the different personalities of the Hex Boys began to come through, though I felt three were more strongly drawn than the others: the love interest, the minor antagonist, the comic relief. Other characters that were well done were the irritating younger siblings – as an older sister myself I identified with that character dynamic.

Aurora’s point of view and voice is very well done. Though there is one hacky moment where the authors want to have a character make a wisecrack in a location that the narrator has just left and have her imagining it happening. Hmmm. Didn’t work for me. But overall the voice is distinctive, conversational and easy to read.

Now that I’ve got my head around all the characters and it is clearer what’s going on, I’d be interested to read the next book in the series. Quite a few tantalising series plot threads were started in this book to set up things that will play out later.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5.

52Under2: Week 7 Shortlist

Week 7 of my 52Under2 book reviews.

These are the Top 5 books that caught my eye on Smashwords this week and I’ll be reviewing one of them in depth later in the week.

Eternity by M. E. Timmins
Best friends Juliet and Jack go away to a magic school filled with a variety of creatures: wizards, vampires, witches, werewolves. Hints of a potential love triangle. For the bargain price of ‘free’ this seems like a pretty good book. Excerpt reads OK.

Foreshadow by Brea Essex
Loved the snappy, simple description and premise for this book: your boyfriend wants to kill you, the guy you never liked is actually your guardian angel. This novel, though the first by this author on Smashwords, was put out by a small press and has benefitted from copyediting.

The Singapore Werewolf by Thomas Mackay King
A guy gets bitten by a werewolf in the Australian outback and returns to Asia to wreak havoc across a Singapore, Hong Kong and Bangkok. After reading the description and some of the excerpt, I was surprised that this book is categorised under ‘Young Adult’. The protagonist has a job and his own place – so seems like he is older than the usual YA main character. The writing in the excerpt is not brilliant.

Vanish by Sonny Daise
A girl adjusts to normal life after a stay in a mental institute, where she was committed after being suspected to have somethign to do with her friend’s disappearence. I like the way this book starts with a mystery already established. Again the excerpt is not brilliant.

Demons at Deadnight by A&E Kirk
This novel was written by a mother-daughter duo. It starts off strongly with short, punchy sentences describing the protagonist running from a demon attack. Definitely caught my interest and this is the book I’ll be reviewing later in the week.

52Under2: Awake: A Fairytale by Jessica Grey

The book I am reviewing this week for 52Under2 is Awake: A Fairytale by Jessica Grey. It is about 95000 words long it is available on Smashwords for $2.99.

Congratulations to Jessica Grey on the release of her novel.

Awake was a fun and fast-paced read.

Alex and Becca are interning for the summer at a museum. One morning Alex discovers a her childhood friend Luke in an enchanted slumber in a cursed bed and an 800-year-old princess, Lilia, skulking in a storage cupboard. Alex, Lilia and Becca have to figure out how to break the curse, wake Luke up, and take on the malevolent fae who set the curse.

All three of the main characters (four if you count Luke) were well drawn. The portrayal of Alex, and her grossly inaccurate self-image, rang particularly true. I’d guess that a high percentage of girls (and women) sincerely feel the same way about themselves – refusing to believe the good feedback and taking firmly to heart the bad.

One thing that gave me pause was the fact that after building up the relationship between the three girls for the whole book and showing how strong they were when they worked together (in both the magical sense and the real-world sense), the action switched to just Alex – bolstered up by Luke. This seemed like a bit of a thematic switch from ‘sisters are doing it for themselves’ to ‘power of love’.

From reading the author’s website, I gathered that Awake is the first book in a trilogy. Three books, three girls – I’m hoping that I’ll get to see Becca and Lilia get their respective stand-alone kick-ass moments in future stories. I’ll definitely be reading the next one.

Overall, I’d give this book 4 out of 5.

52Under2: Week 6 Shortlist

Week 6 of my 52Under2 book reviews.

These are the Top 5 books that caught my eye on Smashwords this week and I’ll be reviewing one of them in depth later in the week

Heal by Kirsty James
A girl with the power to heal others’ ills moves to a small town in Suffolk. From the description this novel sounds like it is heavier on the romance than the paranormal aspects. The excerpt is almost conversational in tone, but there are a few grammar issues.

In the Wake of a Dream by Sasha Strack
A romance between an emotional scarred girl and a boy who can enter people’s dreams. I was drawn in by the attractive and professional-looking cover for this book. The excerpt reads really well, though the author goes a little crazy with italics. This is one of the better formatted self-published books I’ve seen. (Caveat: The formatting on the Smashwords HTML excerpts of novels is not exactly representative of the e-reader experience.)

Tomorrow’s Child by Starr West
I was in two minds about including this book on this weeks shortlist. Mostly because the short description, with its overload of ellipses, was bad. But when I clicked through to the long description I was much more intrigued. This is a pagan-flavoured, post-apocalypse story – a combo that’s fresh and new to me. The prologue is well-written and dramatic, if a little expositional, and the first chapter feels similar in tone. The story proper seems to kick off in Chapter 2.

Wicked Hungry by Teddy Jacobs
The author tags this book as ‘twilight for boys’. It sounds like the tale of a boy dealing with being a freshman and becoming a werewolf. The description reminds me a little of Teen Wolf, where being a werewolf leads to school popularity. The opening excerpt is OK, but didn’t really pull me in.

Awake: A Fairytale by Jessica Grey
Three heroines, one a fairytale princess, band together to break an ancient curse. A modern take on the Sleeping Beauty tale. The cover and descriptions for this book were the best of this week’s shortlist. The excerpt was easy to read and a good pace. This is the novel I’ll be reviewing later in the week,
 

52Under2: River Demon by Maki Morris

The book I am reviewing this week for 52Under2 is River Demon by Maki Morris.  It is about 47700 words long it is available on Smashwords for $2.99.

Congratulations to Maki Morris on the release of her novel.

River Demon is the story of two very different sisters on a quest to save their parents from a curse. On the first night of their journey they fall foul of a river demon and must escape before the sun rises.

It was a good story with a good pace. I felt the book go by very quickly, though in a good way. There were no slow bits.

The text had a few spelling mistakes in it, but not enough to be a distraction.

What I did find a little distracting was the unsubtle over-emphasis on the role of women in feudal Japanese society. OK, OK, ‘second-class citizens’, ‘seen but not heard’ – we get it already. Stop beating us over the head with it.

This lack of subtlety carries over into how the characters are drawn. One sister is too hysterical, the other is too cold and bitchy, one of the guys is too unbending and outraged. These characteristics do mellow over the course of the book as the characters develop, but at the start I couldn’t really believe in any of them.

Another thing I didn’t believe in was the clandestine romance between two of the high-born characters. The girl is too strict about propriety to risk dishonouring her family by going to her marriage not a virgin or with her virtue in question.

Some parts of this book were unclear or unexplained, but I could tell that they were being set up to be explained in later books.

This novel was very well set up to be the first episode in a series of adventures. There is an over-arcing quest that is the journey and the curse to be lifted. There are also individual obstacles to be overcome at each stage of the journey.

Much as I enjoyed this book I probably wouldn’t try the next in the series; I found none of the characters to be particularly deep or likable.

Overall, I’d give this book 3 out of 5.

52Under2: Week 5 Shortlist

Week 5 of my 52Under2 book reviews.

These are the Top 5 books that caught my eye on Smashwords this week and I’ll be reviewing one of them in depth later in the week.

The Day of First Sun by Sheryl Steines
The description makes this book sound like an interesting mix of fantasy and contemporary elements. The cover art for this book is the most professional looking of this weeks picks. However, the excerpt left me cold. The description promises a magical murder, a crime to be solved, yet instead of starting with the crime, it starts with fairly bland childhood backstory of one of the main characters.

Twitch by Mark Bailen
Though this book professes to be for teens the cover art seems to be aimed at a younger market. The book descriptions are jargon heavy, which makes it a little confusing. The excerpt starts strong with energy and action and the jargon is easier to get along with in the progress of the story.

The Proximity Power by Carrie Ann Maxwell
Ugliest of the covers on this weeks shortlist. The description sounded interesting. The excerpt I found difficult because of the abrupt fast forward that carries the reader from backstory establishment to the inciting incident. I felt like the backstory of the protagonist’s relationship didn’t really add much at that point and would be better later.

Talented by Sophie Davis
This novel’s cover is the second one this week with a weird shaped female silhouette on the cover. That’s this week’s theme. The description makes the story sound compelling and multi-stranded. The excerpt goes straight into action and is well-written.

River Demon (Daughters of Amaterasu) by Maki Morris
I liked the sound of this book’s setting: feudal Japan. I’ve read and enjoyed Lian Hearn’s books set in this period, so I look forward to reading something in the same vein. The description promises a book written in ‘the lyrical style of the time’ – personally I found that a little off-putting. I had no idea what the style of the time is like, but I know that I get along better with the more modern prose style. However, the excerpt proved very readable.