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Smashwords book reviews by Andrew Kuligowski
- A True Bizarre Story
on Jan. 23, 2013
Cannot condemn the author, cannot truly praise him, either. Middle of the road effort, would have benefitted from a firm hand of a 3rd party editor or equivalent that could have asked some questions and gotten answers before publication. That process can be painful, but it would have transformed a so-so effort into an excellent one.
The middle/end of the story is being told in the first person. The beginning - in the 3rd. Is it the same the narrator; does he have some insight into events, or have we (awkwardly) swapped voices?
What the h-ll is the leprechaun doing in a Hindu household?
etc. etc. (don't want the review to be longer than the book, don't want to risk spoilers)
On the plus side, the basic story is interesting, and the ending also leaves a question or two for the reader to answer based on their reading and their own experience / values.
- Biggle and Bee
on Feb. 09, 2013
A pleasant little read, reminding younger readers not to judge good or bad based on first impressions.
- Under A Painted Sky
on Feb. 28, 2013
“Under A Painted Sky” is the first novel in what is anticipated to be a series called “Spirit Warriors”. I believe it is also the first published novel by independent author Jenna Roads. Ms. Roads tells the story of Isabella Reed, a divorced young woman who accepts an invitation from her aunt to pursue an escape and new start in New Mexico. I don't believe it'll be much of a spoiler to say that she gets both.
Ms. Roads pacing is deceptive. My original thought was that the book is developing very slowly – until I realized I was quickly through ¾ of the text without realizing it! Perhaps it is because I don't read a lot of books that fit either the “romance” or “paranormal” category, let alone combines the two like this one does. (And they SHOULD be listed separately; they are two different aspects of the book. It's not like our protagonist falls in love with the ghost of a young Spanish conquistador or something to make it a “paranormal romance”!)
The strongest aspect of Ms. Roads' work is how her obvious love of Albuquerque pours out in her descriptions of the city and its various sites. I also loved what I saw of the city during a visit around 10 years ago, but haven't been able to back – until this week, when Ms. Roads took me by the hand and guided me to her favorite locales. Old Town, Sandia, El Pinto (perhaps my favorite restaurant in the US!), and more. I visited some of those sites, and others will have to be on my “to do” list for my next trip, whenever it is. Of course, I would ALSO like to see our young couple visit the Biological Park (Zoo, Aquarium, and Botanical Gardens) – maybe they'll do that in the next book?
First person narrative is a lot more difficult to successfully pull off than most folks – readers and writers – realize. You need to stay in character, but avoid too many verbal tics. The narrator can't reveal things that the character has no way to actually know (although this is not as much a problem if the book is told in hindsight). Ms. Roads' avoided the second trap, but did trip over the first issue on occasion. Most notable is when she lapses into a common trap of the 1st person narrative … “I” problems. “I walked in the door. I closed the door. I called for a pizza with peppers and olives. I paid the delivery guy. ...” A strong editor or courageous beta reader should be able to warn our author when these types of things show up before her next book is published.
The curmudgeon in me grumbles, “It's a work from a new author who needs an editor who'll do more than correct spelling and grammar.” But even that grouch side of my personality admits that there is a very strong base to work from. The fatherly side of me seriously wants to see her nurture and grow her storytelling abilities. After all, Ms. Roads has successfully accomplished two things that really hook me into a story: I LIKE the main characters, and the locale is important enough to the tale that it has almost become one of those characters!
One day in the not-too-distant future, successful author Jenna Roads will look back on this first work and say something like “Oh G-d, I can't believe I used to write like THAT.” In other households, there will be readers, looking at copies of this book, saying, “Dear G-d, I WISH I could write like THAT.”
DISCLOSURE: I was given a copy of this book by a friend, with the agreement that I would write an honest and unbiased review. (And that I would do so quickly!) Thanks, Tina!
- Erin The Fire Goddess: The Beginning
on June 16, 2013
I thought that Lavinia Urban's “Erin, the Fire Goddess: The Beginning” was a good novel. First in a YA paranormal series, “Erin ... The Beginning” introduces a loner high school student, Erin, and her family as they begin a new phase of their lives – moving to a new town, and enrolling in a new school.
It has been a few years since my high school days – heck, it's been a few years since my daughter graduated high school! – but even now, I remember the emotions much, much more than the historic details. I'm sure that this aspect of school has not evolved greatly since MY grandparents were in school, and don't expect it to change in the next generation or two, either! Ms. Urban captures this feeling in her characters – our loner hero, her popular sister who has her own secret insecurities, and the other “types” that inhabit high schools. Further, Ms. Urban managed to hook me; I didn't know what was going to happen next. Predictability turns me off in a novel; “Erin ... The Beginning” sure had little to none of that!
Lest anyone believe I'm anointing this my favorite novel of the year, I must temper my earlier comments. I thought Ms. Urban's pacing, especially towards the end of the novel, to be of mixed quality. There were times I couldn't wait to see what happened next; there were other times I just wished SOMETHING would happen next – and soon! In addition, Ms. Urban's editor, if she employed one, did not do their job well. There were formatting errors, as well as problems with spelling, punctuation, and grammar – not as many as I have seen in some other independent efforts, but enough to be occasionally distracting to this reader.
I am looking forward to Ms. Urban's next effort.
I'd give it 3 1/2 stars, but it's fair and accurate to round up to 4.
DISCLOSURE: I was given a free copy of this book in return for an honest (and prompt) review.
- Army of Skeletons
on June 19, 2013
W. Freedreamer Tinkanesh's "Army of Skeletons" was good, great, and disappointing. Yes, all of those descriptions, and more, were accurate given the multiple themes of the short story.
A GLBT love story in the alternative London music scene? Check. Good, kept my interest.
A horror story / fantasy? Check-minus. Without going into details and risking a spoiler, we took an incredible and sudden style turn in this story. The premise and contents of what is provided whetted my appetite. Problem is, there WASN'T any more!!
Tinkanesh attempted to cram a novella - maybe TWO novellas - into a short story. Can't be done. I think this needed to be at LEAST 5 times as long as it is to even begin to flesh out what's provided.
3 1/2 stars, rounded down to 3.
DISCLOSURE: This story was available for free on Smashwords, where I grabbed it without condition. It was not a gift, no review was promised, etc.
on July 12, 2013
“Talented” is the title of a book by Sophie Davis, and an apt description of the author as well. The book aims at several potential sets of readers, and largely reaches the mark for most of them.
YA: Young woman coming of age – although her “learning to be independent” phase is partially replaced by “learning to be interdependent” with a team.
Romance: Boyfriend? Check. Potential conflict in that area? Check. Check. (A little too much emphasis on this aspect for my personal taste, BUT for others the book may have insufficient coverage of this area, so take my comment with a grain of salt.)
Science Fiction: The worlds' oceans and its surviving inhabitants have been damaged due to radioactivity leaks. The country has broken into two separate nations, based largely on their opinion of how to deal with those born with “talents” - what a large comic company would refer to as “mutants”. Transportation is handled via hover-cars. And I could go on.
Superhero: See “Science Fiction” above.
And those are just the major categories. There are nods to several others.
I LIKED this book. This book may not be easily categorized into only one category, but LIFE does not easily group itself into one category, either, so I consider that to be a major PLUS. The book, like so many others, is done in first person narration. Fortunately, unlike many other independent and small-publisher outputs, this narration does not suffer from “I”-disease. (“I awoke … I ate breakfast … I went to the john ...”) Ms. Davis properly recognizes that narration must describe the scene and the action, and how our protagonist is reacting those aspects is only one component of the job.
This is the first in a series. The second book, as well as a novella, are both out as well. I'm adding them to my TBR list.
DISCLOSURE: This book was offered for free download by the author to any and all interested. An honest review was requested in return, but not a requirement.
- Today Only
on July 23, 2013
A good conductor knows how to work the tools available to him or her. By allowing some things to be emphasized and others to be suppressed, he can make his audience feel a certain way. Then, can turn things around by changing the mix, and leading the audience to feel something totally different. By the time the concert is over, audience members have been through a rainbow of emotions.
Derinda Love crafts words in the way a conductor works with tones. “Today Only” is a love story about a woman dealing with cancer who finds her dream man has entered her life. Told from the alternating perspectives of the woman – Rye – and the man – Jett – with 3rd-person insights from Rye's mother and daughter interspersed, “Today Only” is an emotional symphony.
Ms. Love made me smile (she never quite succeeded in “laughing”, but I don't think she was really aiming for it). Ms. Love made me frown. Ms. Love made me gasp in surprise. Ms. Love made me – yes, I will admit it – cry.
If this is what she can do with a 98 page (in pdf format) novella, I would like to see what she can do with something longer – intermixing additional characters and subplots and such. What do you think, Derinda? Are you up for it?
Rating: 4.5 stars, rounded up to 5 since most rating systems don't allow fractions of stars.
- Pawn (Nightmares Trilogy #1)
on Oct. 06, 2013
It's tough to be graduating high school. To be crossing over that threshold from teenager to adult, from High School to college and/or the work force, to … to be haunted by dreams, to have some sort of electrical discharge that can short circuit small appliances and devices, to believe a mermaid-like creature has tried to drown you … OK, so Endora Lee Andrews, also known as “Eel” as both a play on her name AND for her electrical oddity, may be facing more issues than your typical graduating teenager.
Pawn is the second of Sophie Davis' books that I've read this year. I liked our protagonist, Endora, but I was suspicious of all of her friends and of the adults in this book. SOMETHING felt wrong … if this was the sensation that Ms. Davis was aiming for, it worked. However, I never shook the sense of paranoia that anyone, any time, could turn out to not be what they seemed. It's tougher to enjoy a book when you're constantly looking over your shoulder and that of the heroine.
RATING: 4 stars.
DISCLOSURE: To be honest, I don't recall if I got this for free or if I paid a nominal fee for it. Either way, I DID promise the author I would give it an honest review upon completion.
- The Descendant
on Oct. 06, 2013
Vampires. Cleveland. On the surface, the two go together like skateboards and horseradish. However, in the hands of a gifted novelist like Kelley Grealis, the two concepts marry quite nicely. (The former two; even Ms. Grealis couldn't succeed in pairing the latter two.)
In short, Allison Carmichael is feeling unfulfilled. She has always believed that she holds a special destiny, as did her parents, and she hasn't discovered it as yet. Compounded with strange symptoms which no doctor can tie to any sort of malady, her life is spiraling … into a traffic accident that will change her life, and introduce Vincent and his immortal clan into it.
I enjoyed this first look into Allison Carmichael's life, but I felt the book needed to move along a little bit faster. There was a lot of mood-setting; **A LOT ** of mood-setting. An exploration into truths, some of which appear to contradict. (Which, of course, means that not all “truths” turn out to be true – I don't think that's much of a spoiler.) A couple of limited action sequences were interspersed for a change of pace; the best of those coming towards the end.
By the time I reached the end of “The Descendants”, I felt that most of my questions were answered. A few were not; most of those, I believe, were intentionally left hanging. (OK, I AM still confused by the “children of Adam and Eve” – wouldn't that be ALL of us??) I have the sequel in hand; perhaps I shall learn more by reading “The Search”.
WARNING: The cover blurb, in my opinion, is too revealing – I suggest you NOT read it before tackling the book.
RATING: 3 ½ stars, rounded up to 4 where partial stars are not permitted.
DISCLOSURE: I received a copy of this book free of charge, with the request that I provide and post an honest review.