Tour’s Books Blog

February 21, 2014

Short reviews: eBooks and ARC’s of Humorous Mysteries and Paranormals

I HATE SNOW!  OK, let me modify that, I HATE WINTER!  There, that’s better.  I hate snow, ice, wind, cold, and short days.  And with snow almost up to my windowsills, I’ve had it with the white stuff.  I keep reminding myself that winter is almost over.  It could be worse.  We could have had all this crap since December. …………….. It’s not working.  Anyone foolish enough to send me a postcard with a beach and palm trees is getting wiped off the face of the Earth.  Not that I’m in a bad mood or or anything, but I HATE WINTER!

Maybe I am kind of in a bad mood, but jeeze, this has been one long, cold winter.  Now I know parts of the country have had it far worse than we have, but when the snow on your lawn is piled about 9 feet high, and your front walk is a sheet of ice, that’s not a lot of consolation.  That thaw scheduled for later this week better happen, because getting rid of all this crap will take a LONG time and it needs to hurry up and START NOW!

It has been good weather for reading, it being kind of the perfect indoor activity that requires no effort at all.  I’ve done a lot of it in the last 6 weeks.  Print and a surprising number of ebooks.  While I don’t much care for reading books on my old Kindle, the Kindle app for my laptop works well for me.  Plus I can get a lot of ‘throw away’ mysteries for low prices and most ARC’s (advance reading copies) are ebooks.  Frankly, I wouldn’t spend a lot on an ebook due to the sharing restrictions, but it is convenient.

So, one of my favorite ‘entertainment’ genres is humorous mystery, and I’ve reviewed the Diner series by Terri L. Austin, the Dirty series by Liliana Hart, and the Deadwood series by Ann Charles before.  This time its the Cueball series by Cindy Blackburn.  While not quite as good as Austin’s Diner books, there were a lot fun.

In addition to the Cue Ball mysteries, I also received 3 ARC’s of soon to be released paranormals and mysteries.  So this post will be all ebooks.  The new releases I bought will wait for a later post.  Now ARC’s have not been proofed, so I hope all the grammatical errors are fixed, but for once, no complaints about the books themselves.  Certainly, many of the self-published books have errors, but then I’m a bit more forgiving on them.  When I’m paying $10-$12 for a trade paperback, I get bit more critical.  SO here we go, new series, new installments, and and ending for one of favorite series.

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  Cue Ball 1  Cue ball 2  Cue Ball Mysteries  Cue Ball 4

In Playing with Poison, Ms Blackburn introduces the core set of characters for the series.  Police Captain Wilson Rye, has seen a lot in his years as a cop, but Jessica Hewitt is something else.  Well, really something else.  Divorced, a romance author of ‘near pornographic’ romances under pen name Adelé (pronounced Add-a-lay, homage to her writing style) Nightingale, and a pool shark taught by one of the best in the game, her late father Leon “Cue It” Hewitt.  Jessie is also briefly a murder suspect when her neighbor Candy’s fiance Stanley staggers into her apartment and dies on her sofa.  Candy is a slightly ditsy lingerie saleswoman, and very sweet girl.  Now Jessie involvement causes lots of unwanted publicity, thanks to obnoxious reporter Jimmy Beak, but that does nothing but cause her book sales to go thru the roof, making Geez Louise her agent very happy.  It also has Jessie playing amateur detective, much to the annoyance of Captain Rye, who is quite taken with Jessie, despite her being 5 years older.  Also in the small circle of friends of the recently divorced Jessie made is Karen, brilliant at woodworking and building custom furniture, and downstairs neighbor in the home turned condo she bought after her divorce.  The original owner of the building, an aged music teacher and cranky old man, Mr Henderson, has the first floor, and finally, bartender Bryce, perennial student and their good buddy from the local watering hole just across the street.

The plot of Playing with Poison is decent, the characters enjoyable and prose light and breezy in the Steph Plum mold, but with the OTT animal nonsense.  I’d give a C+ to B- (3.7*) and say it was worth $2.99 it cost.

Book 2 is Double Shot and it has Jessie going ‘undercover’ for Rye at a bar cum pool dive to investigate a murder.  Despite the far fetched premise, it was a decent read and Mr Henderson becomes is normal cheerful self now that his medications are straightened out.  Again, about a C+ (3.5*) and worth the $2.99 for entertainment.

Three Odd Balls finds everyone except Mr Henderson in Hawaii for a sudden Christmas trip – that Jessie planned for her and Rye, but ended up with not only the whole gang, but her 80-something mother and Rye’s teen son from his first marriage as well.  Strangely, they’re alone at a beautiful, if badly managed resort run by two brothers, one surly and unpleasant, the other cheerful, but none too bright or organized.  Of the four books, I thought this one the best plotted and with the best extra characters.  My score is B- (3.8*) and a suggested read.  At $2.99, it was the best buy.

While Three Odd Balls was the best, Four Play was the most annoying.  The plot was decent enough, but the dialogue was lame with way too many “She’s scary, isn’t she?”  Centered around the death of a much loved high school teacher, who’s body was found on Jessie’s car that she loaned to her former neighbor, now a high school junior.  Jessie also becomes the target of demonstrators who want to ‘ban’ her smutty books – too bad Jessie can’t seem to dredge up a single sex scene for her current novel set in the old West.  This one gets a C (3*) from me.  While all the books have diversions into what are supposedly Adelé’s lurid novels, this one kind of drove me nuts because it’s so focused on her ‘plot plight’ and Jimmy Beak.  The best part is the ending where she catches the killer on stage on camera.

Overall, the series was pretty good and well worth the $2.99 per ebook. I will follow this one.

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Bite Me Laurenston

Bite Me is due out March 25 and I got an advance ebook to read.  Shelly Laurenston writes a really funny apology for the cover art that’s a must read.  The story is one I looked forward to, the one of Livy, the honey badger friend of Toni Jean-Lousie Parker, and Victor Barinov, a bear-tiger hybrid that occasionally works with Dee Ann.  Both were introduced in Wolf With Benefits and, frankly, were the best part of that otherwise tedious story.

Bite Me sees Laurenston back in her usual off-beat form with strong characters, a really good plot (something she usually wings), hot sex, a unique set of supporting characters, and plot twists to keep things interesting.  It’s almost impossible to give a plot synopsis without giving too much away, so I’ll just say a giant panda is added to the cast along a group of honey badgers that are memorable.

Now Livy and Vic Barinov are characters that many people won’t like.  I loved them.  They aren’t the usual type for Laurenston and she really seemed to enjoy writing this one.  Livy is more like one of her female leads in her GA Aiken Dragon Kin books – reminding me of Annwyl the Bloody.  If you like Dragon, Actually, then you’ll like Bite Me.  It worth reading for the visit to Honeyville and jousting alone.  It gets a solid B (4*) from me, in large part do to the well above average plot and unique characters.

I have the print book on order and I left it on order after reading the ARC.  Print is currently $9 on Amazon and I’d say it was a suggested buy for fans of Laurenston’s G. A. Aiken Dragon Kin books as they come closer to characters here than the bulk of her Pride series books do.

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White Magic five and dime

Steve Hockensmith is well known for his Holmes on the Range series of mysteries set in the 1890’s out West featuring Big Red and Old Red Amlingmeyer.  This contemporary series he co-authors with Lisa Falco, a new author, and apparently the reason the lead characters here are female.

Alanis McLaughlin made a new life for herself, free of her grifter con-artist mother, but her past comes back when a lawyer contacts her to let her know her mother died and she is named sole heir in her will.  It not an inheritance she wants, but she leaves her job the best the best loan seller in a Chicago boiler room operation that’s legit, and heads to a small town north of Sedona where tarot readers and general con-artists fleece willing tourists and locals alike.  Much to her surprise, her mom managed to settle down and actually OWNED The White Magic Five and Dime, a shop full of mystic junk with a room tarot readings where her mom made her real money.  But it’s apartment upstairs that holds the real shock, a young woman who live with

Weaving current events surrounding her mother’s less than legal activities and flashbacks to her unconventional childhood, the story unfolds.   While interesting, I never really connected completely with the characters.  The solution was very well done and unlike far too many mysteries, it was a surprise.  The setting, a small version of new age Sedona, was fairly well drawn and the many side stories had interesting characters.

The White Magic Five and Dime gets a C+ to B- (3.5*) from me.  While interesting and well paced, I never connected with Alanis the way I did with, say, Jonathan Gnash’s Lovejoy or other rather seedy lead characters.  Currently selling at $12-13.50 in pre-order, I can’t rate it a buy, but for lover’s of the Holmes books, it might be worth the price of a used copy or make sure the local library gets it in.  Due for release in July this year.

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Banishing the dar

Banishing the Dark is the final installment of the Arcadia Bell series, one of better and more original urban fantasy series out there, and at just 4 books, one of the shorter ones.  Due for publication late May, I had an ebook ARC.

When we left Cady in Binding the Shadows, she’d killed the head of the Hellfire Club and been dealing with her becoming scaly – complete with tail – and her mom planning on taking over her body, her baby, and ruling Earth.  Seriously, the woman is the biggest egomaniac ever!  She also had to tell her partner in the bar the truth about who she was.  Frightened of what she’s becoming, afraid of hurting Lon or his son Jupe, not to mention the coming confrontation with evil, and very powerful, mother, Cady plans to go it alone, but nether Lon or Jupe are going to let that happen.

Cady is thwarted at every turn.  The one leader who knew the truth of her existence and might offer clues on how to defeat her mother is dead.  Having killed the head of the Hellfire Club, she’s in deep trouble with the locals.  And somehow, she must unravel the complex spell her mother created when conceiving her, it’s the only way to stop the changes and to stop her mother from taking over the world.

The story is not just about events, but how you perceive them, the interpretation of what it means.  And to some extent, it is also about the power of love.  Banishing the Dark was a satisfying, if slightly predictable, ending to a really well written series.  I give it a B- (3.8*) and a must read for anyone who has enjoyed the earlier books, and the whole series is a recommended read for fans of urban fantasy.  I give Ms Bennett credit for a solid, well written, and original series with an equally solid wrap-up.  Too many times these things string past the point where they should end.  This one did not. Kudos.

October 30, 2013

Some Thoughts on Fall and Reviews

What is it about fall that makes us reflective?  Is it the knowledge that yet another year is slipping away?  That the cycle of our lives that crawled so slowly as children is suddenly speeding up, making us want to linger longer in the various seasons?  Spring lightens our hearts as the barren trees and gardens spring to life in a burst of green, pinks, white, purple with highlights of yellow.  Cool, soothing, young colors. Then summer sees all the local foods in farmer’s markets and gardens in full bloom and the smell of fresh cut grass.

Then fall comes ………………

Trees turn the colors of warm jewels, and I think the very fleeting nature of such amazing beauty is what makes it so memorable.  It also has a certain melancholy to it – fall is the final shining moment before winter closes in and shrouds our short days in cold and snow, or just leaves us barren trees and lifeless gardens till spring comes and begins the cycle with a riot of new colors.  Are the seasons a metaphor of life itself?  Maybe.  And maybe, as we grow older we appreciate just how truly fleeting perfect moments are, and how little we appreciated some in our past.  So on that perfect fall day, stop and remember and enjoy it.  Each day is unique and will not come your way again.

Fall also brings a surge of book releases, and not just the usual stuff.  This is when publishers release all those glorious ‘coffee table’ books intended as Christmas gifts.  When I was I kid, books like that were always on my Christmas list, but these days, fewer and fewer are printed.  Another victim of technology.  Cookbooks are still big sellers, reliably so.  But hey, Halloween is is almost here, so let’s do some paranormal and UF books!

Tempt the Stars

The Cassie Palmer series by Karen Chance is a good one, but with two huge drawbacks – first, it’s complex, yet lacks the subtle detail to fully flesh it out, and second, it’s a looooong wait between books.  So long, you’ve pretty much forgotten the characters and plot from the previous book!  Since each installment builds on a previous one, that’s a major stumbling block.

Tempt the Stars starts more or less where Hunt the Moon left off.  Pritkin gave his life to save Cassie in the battle with Ares – not by dying, but by returning to his father’s court – he’s an incubus.  Las Vegas, especially the casino, suffered in some of the fallout, leaving quite a mess.   But Cassie made up her mind – and a Pythia’s mind if tough to change when she can move thru time and space – she’s getting Pritkin back!  It helps that’s she’s the daughter of Artemis.  But the magic the goddess worked so long ago shutting out her other gods and goddesses from access to Earth is breaking down, and Cassie needs to talk to her mother, which means she has to move thru space and time.

First she has to get rid of the witches that showed up demanding an audience.  Witches, vampires, and war mages are not a great mix, especially for a Pythia that never had formal training in any of the court etiquette required – thanks to Master Vampire and the ultimate manipulator – Micrea, who is oddly absent here.  Cassie is determined to rescue Pritkin from his father, but in doing so, frightens the rulers into thinking her mother, Artemis, may try and stage a comeback.  As usual, the whining Casanova provides comic relief as our daring trio journey thru Hell.

Lightweight entertainment, following the rather complex and scattered plot can be a challenge, but over all a decent read.    Tempting the Stars gets a C+ to B- (3.5*) from me and is decent fun for fans of the series.  The book was purchased from Books-a-Million for $5.39 and worth a read for series fans.

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deathandthegirlheloves

Darynda Jones’ final installment in her young adult Darklight trilogy about a teenage girl and her association with Death and saving the world.  Now understand, I’m not a huge fan of young adult books, but this series had a good start and a good middle, aimed as it was at older YA readers, not early teens.   While she has worked wonders with her Charlie Davidson books, here, book 3, Death, and the Girl He Loves, got off to what still seems a pointless and diversion to a private school in Maine where Lorelei McAlister makes one friend, acquires a male sidekick, and ends up under the watchful eye of what seems to be the school tough girl, Kenya.  Again we have a trio of students, a girl, and boy, and Lorelei, just like back in New Mexico, and then the local tough – this time Kenya.

Lorelei is struggling to adjust to her loneliness away from her grandparents and friends, but suddenly, everyone she touches triggers visions of death and darkness.  EVERYONE.  Plus, someone wants her dead and his killing her will start the Apocalypse.  She needs to get back to New Mexico and fix whatever is wrong.  Turns out Kenya is not bad but, but her guardian, raised by members of the group her grandfather leads and rescues her form a supposed friend and gets her safely back to New Mexico.  Well that was a complete waste of 75 pointless pages as only the Kenya character actually stays thru the book and the whole thing serves no other purpose.

And we’re back to the bickering Brooke and Glitch, the brooding Jared and testy Nathaniel and her loving grandparents.  Now that ‘the end’ is near, Lorelei has to figure out how to save the world.  This is when I have to start reminding myself this is YA paranormal, because frankly, the premise was a bit thin from the start, and the many shortcomings were hidden behind the facile charm of the characters.  Or maybe we are conditioned to the ‘Harry Potter Complex’ of an 18 year old saving the world.  The difference between the two, though, is Harry Potter suffered and grew wise beyond his years, but here, Lorelei solves it all in the nick of time without paying the price of her wisdom.

I am in a distinct minority in saying the ending just didn’t work for me.  The characters didn’t evolve in any meaningful way to earn insight and wisdom and Death should really have been the mentor – or at least a much more mature character given his age.  That was kind of creepy, even is Death appears as a teen, he ISN’T.

In many ways, the Darklight plot is pale shadow, suitably watered down for teens, of her darker and funnier Charlie Davidson story.  But for me, the ending didn’t work.  OK, I suppose within the context of the story it was acceptable, but my credulity broke and couldn’t be mended.  What should have been the strongest of the 3 books was the weakest redeemed, in part, only by the last few pages.

Death, and the Girl He Loves gets a C+ (3.5*) from me.  I was not impressed, but if you’ve followed the series, it is a must read.  I just think better ones are out there.  A ‘chick book trilogy’ in that teen girls will swoon.  Judging by the Amazon reviews, so did the moms, but I was still kind of astonished by the ‘ick factor’ that was seen as romance between ageless Death and a high school girl.  Did no one else get kind of creeped out by this?  Putting a character that existed since the beginning of time into an ‘apparent’ 18 year old body, does NOT make him 18.  EWWWWWWWW!

Death, and the Girl He Loves was purchased from Amazon for about $9-10.  I think it over priced, but then, I’m not a hormonal teen.

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Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger

OK, here is another Young Adult book aimed at younger readers – the 14 to 16 set.  No romance, just the further adventures of Sophronia Teminnick and her friends at Miss Geraldine’s Finishing Academy.  Finishing School is a very different kind of series from the Darklight books, focusing on the growth, curiosity, and indomitable Sophronia.  Shrewd, observant, and very intelligent, Sophronia had all the making of a spy and is given a scholarship of sorts to the floating school, a ‘finishing school’ for spies that protect England.

In book two, we are back to the problem of the device that went missing and what exactly that device can do.  It seems everyone wants it and Bunsen’s and Miss Geraldine’s are collaborating on building a replacement.  Boys on board!  And one young lord tries to ‘court’ Sophronia, which puzzles her no end as there are too many far more interesting things than boys.  Especially self adsorbed young lords.   The escapades that the girls get into while trying to unravel what’s going on move at a swift pace.  Sophronia is perfect lead character, oblivious to anything but her insatiable curiosity.  She does, however, recognize the value that good manners has in this kind of ‘war’ where battles can be won or lost in the drawings rooms of society.

With her classic wit and style, Ms Carriger spins a good tale here with lots of thrills and more than enough plot, but it is a very short novel.   Too short.  Yes, 14 year olds are not big on long stories, but I was left with the impression it would have been fleshed out more had there not been a rush to publish book 2 in the series.

Curtsies and Conspiracies gets a solid B- (3.8*) and might have earned more had it been more polished.  It’s a great series for young teen girls and anyone who enjoyed Harry Potter.  Sophronia is smart, likable character with quirks and a gift for observation and a shrewd mind that has just the right amount of over-active teen imagination that many lack.  I received a free ebook pre-publication copy of Curtsies and Conspiracies.  It’s current price on Amazon is $12, though it had been lower.  Frankly, I’d say stick with an ebook version as this one is too short a novel for the money being asked.

December 23, 2012

Christmas 2012

Christmas-Tree-Wallpaper-christmas-8142630-1024-768

Since the world did not end on 12-21-12, we’ll be seeing in Christmas next Tuesday.  I might have a slight chance of a white Christmas, but it can be a mild one and I’ll be content.  Yes, I have books for my family, I always do.  And the complete set of Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes movies.  Some things are predictable.  (Like the fact I’ll want to see some Charlie Chan movies on Christmas Day.)

Now I’ve been reading a ton of books, so before I leave for colder climes, here are very short reviews:

Trapped by Kevin Hearne picks up 12 years after Tricked ended and Atticus’ student, Granuaile, is about to be bound to the Earth as the first new druid in thousands of years.  But all of the ‘paths’ between the worlds and travel via Earth paths are suddenly closed.  The reason is soon clear – Loki is loose, and Ragnaock  seems to be starting a bit early – and the damn Olympians are involved.  Of course, the only spot Atticus can use for his binding is Mt Olympus, but the Greek Gods (and their Roman counterparts) want Atticus’ head – preferably served on a tray.

Moving between Tír na nÓ, Mt Olympus and eastern Europe, battling vampires, various gods, and nursing injuries, Atticus tries to finish binding Granuaile, for her own safety – and because deep down, he’s been denying their mutual attraction.  Various characters from earlier books put in cameo appearances and a number of Irish gods.  Lief shows up scheming again, and the Morrigan, but this is mostly the Atticus and Grabuaile show with the wonderful Oberon along offering comments that can crack the reader up.

Not his best, but a very entertaining read and a solid B (3.9*) and recommended read for any fan of the series.   It helps to at least read Tricked prior to Trapped, preferably the whole series, to understand Atticus’ complicated relationships with the gods.  Amazon 4-for-3 for $5.99 with discount and worth it.  A quick read.

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I also read the Ann Charles paranormal mystery series set Deadwood – Nearly Departed in Deadwood, Optical Delusions in Deadwood, and Dead Case in Deadwood.  Humorous, increasingly paranormal, Nearly Departed introduces Violet Parker, the single mother of twins who’s father never had any part of their life.  She lives with her artist aunt in Deadwood, SD in an effort to start a new life as a realtor.  Being new to real estate in a down economy has been slow going, but her boss Jane has given her an ultimatum, sell a house within the month or lose her job.  The condescending jerk male agent, Ray, makes her life a misery in his all out, underhanded effort to get his nephew hired for her job.  Mona is the other agent and hates Ray as much as Violet does.  The only characters that gets short shrift are Jane and Violet’s aunt, but the others come alive – love them, hate them, relax and be entertained by them.  From petty office games to trying to sell the house inherited by a handsome man who is attracted to her, and their new office neighbor, Doc Nyce, who hires her to help him find a house that ‘smells right’, to a feisty rancher who agrees to let Violet sell his place, but she has to have one meal a week with him until it’s sold.  His nephew is the humorless police detective that keeps running into Violet.  Pure entertainment.  B+ (4.1*)  This book came via a book swap site.  If you like the Steph Plum series, give this a try.

Optical Delusions includes a freaky ghost/demon.  The Sturgis motorcycle rally, the largest in the US, brings lots of business into Deadwood, SD, including a couple interested in buying a house.  Well, it so happens that Violet agreed to list a house where a murder happened – a house no other agency would touch.  The house is in the neighboring town of Lead and turns out to be a real charmer.  To bad the Carharts and the so-called ‘fiance’ of the deceased that are selling are anything but.  Oh, and it’s hunted.

Compounding Violet’s problems in life is her first listing, Harvey.  She got his listing with the caveat she takes to one meal a weel.  At breakfast, he tells her way too much about his lively love life – and warns her  if  she takes the listing, her career, a fragile bud, will be flushed down the drain.  Thing is, sleazy Ray Underhill, wants nothing more than Violet out and his nephew in.  Her failure will be his opening.  So Violet once again must get a haunted house sold and solve a murder to save her job.  Her boss Jane, of Calamity Jane’s Realty, is going through another messy divorce, so her help comes from fellow realtor Mona.  And Doc Nyce, who tries, unsuccessfully tries to get her to NOT take the listing – and Violet who wants more of Doc.

The ending is not as surprising in the ‘who done it’ way, but the sudden shift to dark magic and raising demons that was disconcerting.  Overall, the book is well done and the fast pace makes up for the flaws, but that right angle turn was a bit more than the crazy serial killer in book one.  Like every ebook, there are editing/proofreading errors that can be distracting, but that’s not a fault of the story.

As a result, Optical Delusions had a different tone that Nearly Dead in Deadwood, and the ending begins the move to horror side, but still enjoyable mystery/humor/horror read.  I give it a B- (3.8*)  Purchased the ebook for $3.99 from Amazon and at that price, it was worth it.  Print book price is about $11-12, so the ebook is a bargain.  Try getting the print used, though the used prices on Amazon are still high when including shipping.

The third book in this series is Dead Case in Deadwood – which I got for free for my Kindle.  Tough to beat free.  Taking place mostly in a neighboring town, Violet is still sneaking around hooking up with Doc because she hasn’t worked up the nerve to tell her BFF Natalie that the object of her fantasies of ‘happily ever after’ made other plans – her.  Nat is still staying with Violet – sleeping in her bed – and she’s a bed hog, driving Violet to the sofa – or Doc’s bed.

A clairvoyant that’s a dead ringer for Honest Abe walks in the agency and asks for her by name.  He wants to buy a haunted hotel, but before he does, he has to be sure there are ghosts, and that means a seance, one Violet MUST attend.  It ends in the appearance of a demon that scares the spit out of Violet.  Even worse, her client maintains that claims Violet is kind of a ghost magnet, a natural channeler for spirits.  This one gets more into the paranormal side than Nearly Departed, and takes on some of the edge of horror.  Doc and Violet have a sort of relationship, but he’s still busy hiding a lot himself and her BFF wants him for herself.  Problem is, Violet wants him …….. and Doc wants Violet.  In the middle of all this, Violet has the contact to sell the house of the very uptight police detective

The is a whole subplot involving the local funeral home and Ray moving caskets – and Nat and Violet getting caught spying on the two brothers who own and operate the business.  Vampires get mentioned and once again, the demon that appeared in Optical Delusions returns in larger part here.

The problem here is Ms Charles has so many story lines going at once, the plot gets a bit garbled at times.  Still, it had good entertainment value despite shifting even more to the dark side with supposed demon cultists and human sacrifice.  The ending has several layers, and a final shocker with Jane, the agency owner.  NOTE:  There is more sex in this book than usual for the genre, so keep that in mind if there are younger readers.

Dead Case in Deadwood was a good read, but was getting a much darker tone from book 1.  It took one some of the black humor I associate with the Sandman Slim books by Richard Kadrey.  It still earns a B- (3.7), and I’ll be interested to see where Ms Charles takes this series, but stick with the ebooks.  Not worth the price of the print books.  Once again, in print, it runs $11-12.  Too high for this series.

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Another new series is by Lexi George, Demon Hunting in Dixie and Demon Hunting in the Deep South is worth reading for fans of Molly Harper’s books.  This series follows more in in the paranormal romance genre. with a healthy does of humor.  Unfortunately, I’ve run out of time, so I’ll review them when I get back from my family Christmas celebration, along with a bunch of mysteries and some smut.  Nothing like a little quality smut by Eve Langlis!

In the meantime, everyone have a great Christmas holiday!  Travel safely and don’t drink and drive.

October 2, 2012

My Kindle 3G

Filed under: ebooks,Editorial — toursbooks @ 3:12 pm
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I promised I’d write about my Kindle, and here it is.  First, let me just be clear, NO, I do not have the ‘paperwhite’ Kindle.  I purchased the Kindle Touch 3G with both 3G and wi-fi and the 6″ screen about 6 months ago and have intermittently used it since.  I also bought the leather cover and the power adapter and by the time I was done, the whole package cost just a few cents under $199.00, not a big fat bargain.

The Kindle arrived in good condition, well packaged, and I immediately played with it a bit.  I found adjusting to the whole touchscreen thing annoying.  Also, I want a ‘go to’ and then a page number option.  There is a ‘go to’ feature – though mine seems reluctant to appear – but it does NOT provide a page number or chapter option.  Another feature is the ‘turn page’ by sweeping right to left or tapping the right side.  If you make the natural sweep motion, you’ll often highlight text for comment instead of turning the page.  I found that annoying.  I look to touch at paragraph breaks now.

I ended up on Amazon’s live chat feature when I couldn’t get a completed ebook to go back to the start.  I even did a reset using my laptop.  It was a very frustrating hour.  The tech rep on the chat line was very nice, but my Kindle seems a bit wonky.  It still does.

I started slow, reading free, inexpensive novellas.  For that, it’s perfect.  I did buy a long historical fiction book that is otherwise out of print, The Assyrian by Nicholas Guild, and a bunch of small press/Create Space books that were significantly less expensive in ebook vs print.  This included a bunch of ‘new to me’ authors and Brett Battles, who has, like other established thriller/espionage authors, tried eliminating the publisher and created a series in the Create Space platform that Amazon offers.  I have Create Space print books as well, and they are a nice quality, but mostly priced to encourage to purchase of the ebook.

Now, having read a number of novellas and short novels and kind of gotten the hang of the Kindle, I have some comments.

Screen contrast – As I said at the beginning, this is NOT the new ‘paperwhite’ Kindle, but the older one and the contrast is far from optimal.  The background is pale grey.  While certainly very readable, it has a vaguely ‘dirty’ look.

ebook pricing – This is an area I particular attention to.  Only when the ebook is a significant savings will I consider buying the Kindle in place of a print book.  In many cases, the ebook is MORE expensive because of Amazon’s promotional options on mass market paperbacks.  Most of the bargains are books published by Create Space, Samhain, Siren, and a few other small pubs.  Novellas remain somewhat overpriced, lots of freebies that are great, and you can ‘borrow’ one book a month.  It all adds up.  But is it enough?

Digital file quality – OK, we all know digital content can have gremlins that move words, leave long blank pages after one word, odd word spacing, all kinds of glitches epubs are famous (or infamous) for.  Yes, I’ve had a few, and the now universal problem with homophones that drives me nuts.  Problem is, large publishers now have the same issue, so it’s an invasion of crappy proof-reading and contagious digital content problem.  Sending it to print doesn’t add a quality step that corrects these mistakes, which are present even in best seller hardcovers.  (Publishers should be ashamed.)

Exclusive Digital Content – Yes, there are many novellas and short stories, as well a free books, that are digital content only and not available in print  This is a big plus, but the Kindle itself isn’t needed, just the Kindle app on your computer or smartphone.

Weight – This was kind of a mixed bag.  It’s a lot heavier than I expected.  Far heavier that a mass market paperback.  More significantly, it’s a lot harder to hold.  Without that leather cover I’d be hard put manage it easily.  Very heavy for a purse or pocket.  BUT – it’s is a lot lighter than the 40 or so books/novella loaded on it, so that’s the HUGE plus.  Plus, when traveling, it takes up far less space than even a paperback.

Battery life – Not as long as I’d like and it seems to take forever for the Kindle to fully recharge.  Amazon claims charging from your computer is the fsatest, but I have yet to compare it with the AC adapter speed.  It does hold a charge a long time when turned off.

3G service – Works like a charm.  No issue at all.  While I do live in a rural area, it’s at the edge of a big metro area and I do get regular ATT cell service these days.  I can’t speak to the  wi-fi as I have’t used it.  (NOTE:  By choice, I use a hard wired connection on my laptop.)

Reading – This is where the rubber hits the road.  Yes, legibility is good as is the contrast.  Text is clear. BUT ……. I am a fast reader and when you have so few words per page and only 1 page visible at a time, you’re CONSTANTLY turning pages. It isn’t smooth.  Easy to go too far and then you’re flipping back.  You want to check a detail 2 (or is it 3?) chapters back, no easy way to scan to what you want. It simply isn’t as easy, or as fast, as flipping through the pages of a book.

The Book Rating Pop-up – OK, this feature is ANNOYING, seriously, stunningly, ANNOYING.  On the last page, before you navigate away, it wants you to rate the damn book/novella.  Well guess what, you MUST be hooked into wi-fi to rate a book!  I HATE THAT DAMN THING!  Then you have to fumble around to make it stop.  Did I mention I HATE THAT DAMN THING?

Compared with Acrobat on Laptop – I have hundreds of ebooks purchaed in pdf (non-DRM) on my laptop.  I compared reading the same ebook on my laptop and on the Kindle.  I actually like the ease of the laptop better.  Acrobat allows me to move from page to page very at a natural reading speed, so I find it more comfortable, I have more words visible, and easy navigation.  I have Acrobat Pro, so I do have features not available in the free reader software, but I don’t think that matters all that much.

FINAL DECISION – Is the Kindle worth the price?  hummmmm ………. Yes and no.  If I was on the road the way I was 10 years ago, it would be a simple YES!  If you think you’ll save money, then the answer is no, especially if the majority of your reading is mass market paperback.  The instant gratification of getting a book is offset by the many device limitations.  Yes, there are some savings to be had on hardcovers, but a $2-4 per book, that’s a lot of hardcovers before you hit a beak even on the cost of the device.

The majority of computer users have notebooks, net books, or tablets.  All can carry the Kindle app for reading or you can read from your Amazon Cloud account.  Smartphones do as well, but the tiny screens must drive any fast reader insane.

The Bottom Line – If you always travel with a computer or smartphone, consider the battery life issue first.  If you want to save your battery for work, games or movies, then by all means, Kindle is a good idea.  If you have a desktop, then it’s an ever BETTER idea, but consider the Kindle Fire instead.  A great compromise between a heavy laptop and the limited option ereader only.  If you have a smartphone, them we’re back to the whole battery life thing.  The simple Kindle ereader has far better battery life than the power hungry color screen tablets, airbooks, and smartphones.  So if you have long flights or want audio books, it’s the way to go.  The greater the flexibility, the flashier the display, esp, color screens, the shorter the battery life.  That makes it a very personal decision that every makes for themselves.

If you don’t want the Kindle, get the Kindle App for your computer and you’ll get all cool extra free stuff and cheap ebooks for some titles, then buy the print when it makes sense.

Many books I buy I know will go to someone else.  Very often 4-5 others before moving to some Goodwill shelf somewhere.  Print books are much easier to pass along.  Yes, you can lend Kindle books, but it’s a nuisance compared with passing around a print book.  If you’ve come of age in the digital era, then this seems silly.  If you over 40, and not a ‘gadget’ person, it doesn’t.  I guess what bothers me most is that digital content can disappear, a print book can still be read by people 100 years from now.  I’ve been dealing with computers since the early 80’s, so I’ve had a lot of different operating systems and software ‘state of the art’ stuff become passé in year or two.  None have lasted 5 years.  With ‘new’ kindles and Kindle Fire devices out and newer ones already in development, the other question becomes one of money.  It will be another expensive toy that gets replaced every 3 years or so.  My laptops are for work, and I plan on their being replaced every 3 years.  It’s part of the cost of doing business – and not that much more than a Kindle, it’s just not as convenient.  The Kindle has nothing to do with business.  So it’s something to keep that in mind when deciding on buying a device.  If the money is meaningless, enjoy.  More importantly, if the convenience matters, it’s a great choice.

As for me, well, I expect the print book vs ebook balance to 90/10.  Print suits my current life better.  For me, the Kindle is a toy, not an essential.

April 16, 2012

The DOJ and ebook Pricing

Filed under: Editorial — toursbooks @ 12:56 pm
Tags: ,

If you’ve been breathing and reading the headlines these past few weeks, you’ll know the DOJ (Department of Justice) has, as threatened, brought an anti-trust suit against a number of publishers and Apple computers for price fixing and collusion on the pricing of ebooks.  No shock.  They had been telegraphing their intentions for some time.  Their main cheering section is composed of Amazon management and Kindle owners.  (By the way, I just got a Kindle and I’ll give you my opinion in another post.)  A number pf publishers named in the suit caved and settled with DOJ, but Apple and several larger publishing houses will go to court.

These pricing agreements that Apple created to keep the cost of ebooks artificially high haven’t hurt the growth of the ebook market – or so it seems, but it has certainly angered customers and frequent readers.  When I can buy yet-to-be-released and hot-off-the-press mass market paperbacks for LESS in print than as ebooks, there’s really something wrong with this picture.  How could a hard copy – that includes free 2 days shipping to arrive at my door on the release date – cost $2.00 LESS than electronic copy that arrives via wi-fi or 3G?  Makes no sense.  Except if you’re a publisher or book seller looking to make a major money grab.

It will be interesting to hear the justification for the price fixing – and no mistake, that’s EXACTLY what it was.  That Apple made 30% off the top is nearly obscene.  How can a small bookseller with high overhead compete against a pure profit ebook seller?  If there is a ‘convenience surcharge’ that ebooks will pay, well, they should know upfront they are funding the annual bonuses for the various businesses for the privilege of reading an often far from perfect ebook.  Road warriors and technophiles won’t care.  Some people will.  I can tell you I look at pricing before deciding between ebook and print no.  In the 10 days I’ve owned the Kindle, I bought 3 ebooks and 18 print books, mostly pre-order.

Keep an eye on this in the news.  It will give users of e-readers a look into the mindset of those who want to use them as cash cows.  I’m sure their justification will be based on “the cost of developing technology” and the costs of keeping the system.  Like printing presses and UPS delivery comes free.  I guess it’s a good thing I won’t get called for THAT jury. 🙂

Read on!

March 1, 2012

The New e-reader War

Filed under: Editorial,Musing on life,opinion — toursbooks @ 2:43 pm
Tags: ,

3-8-12 Here’s an update.  Don’t know how long the link will work DOJ Takes on Apple & Publishers in Price Fixing

 

With days getting longer and temperatures getting warmer, my nose running and eyes watering, it sure does feel like spring is coming.  The other sure sign, no football.  SIGH!  It’s the only sport I actually watch, so when the season ends, it’s withdrawal time and weekends are not fun.

I was reading an article on the web about the revolt that’s slowly happening among ebook reader owners.  I often whine about the lack of value for the money with ebooks, especially those from small press publishers.  $5.50-$5.99 for a novella is just plain silly.  The vast majority of books I’m reading these days are purchased thru Amazon on the 4-for-3 plan.  I do buy some just released hardcovers by favorite authors, and I also buy used hardcovers and trade paperbacks.  With the 4-for-3 promotion, I’m paying $5.99 for a full novel – and many are 300+ pages and 120,000+ words!  Why I should pay  $5.50-$5.99 for 35,000 words of a badly done novella?  Is convenience worth that kind of money?  Makes no sense to me.  But the big problem with e-reader owners seems to lay with the price of of the ebook version of newly released hardcovers.  Not having a dedicated e-reader, and still reading most of my books in print, that hasn’t been a personal issue, but I do feel they have a point.

Americans love gadgets.  Especially electronic gadgets!  Smartphones are the hottest of the hot – until the cell providers start charging by usage, or throttling speeds on those who suck up too much capacity.  By 2013, air time will be really rationed as demand outstrips capacity, despite the FCC making more frequencies available.   But how cool is it to watch a movie on a smartphone?  Apparently, very cool.  Well, e-readers, Apple’s I-pads, and now Amazon’s Fire and B&N new Nook don’t call friends, but they are doing battle in the ebook and entertainment wars. Welcome to the brave new world – you can pay silly prices for little gadgets and watch movies on business card sized screens, or lose the phone and watch them on slightly bigger screens (Kindle Fire and Nooks), or join Apple I-pad and get the biggest screen.  Bottom line – what do you want, what will you pay upfront, and how much are willing to go on paying over the useful life of the product?  (Life expectancy being only slightly longer than that of the average fruit fly.)

In the beginning, the purpose of e-books was to eliminate printing, physical storage and distribution, bricks and mortar stores, and all the associated costs for the infrastructure and personnel.  OK, makes sense.  A HUGE chunk of the book cost just went away. (Yes, yes, I know there’s all the formatting crap for various software packages, but I do that all the time in my work.  It’s a pain, not brain surgery, so publishers spare us the drama queen act.)   The big plus for owners of e-readers remains the convenience of being able to carry hundreds of hardcover and paperbacks in a device that weighs less than a small paperback.  (The durability of such devices is a whole different issue I’m simply avoiding here.)  A win-win, right?  NO!  Seems basic human greed has entered into the equation.  It usually does.

Ebook readers were sold on the basic premise that ebooks would cost less than print and Amazon promised bestsellers for $9.99.  Makes sense. Early e-readers certainly had a hefty price tag, but cheap ones are out there these days.  It might just be a break even on cost, but the convenience is worth it, especially for those who travel a lot.  When Amazon introduced the Kindle, I ran the numbers on book pricing and figured it would take me 5 years to save enough to pay for the nearly $400 device – or 3 years longer than the device would last.  Well, now they sell (a MUCH smaller version) for as little as $79.  At that price, yes, you can get it back in savings if you read a lot of hardcovers, reap the convenience of an e-reader, but lose the ability to ‘send it on down the line’.  Now it’s just a question of personal preference.  Many people will pay for the convenience factor – and publishers are loving them!

From the beginning, my reason for not getting a e-reader had less to do with price than with value derived from sharing books.  Passing on the pleasure of a book to another.  Amazon tried to address that by allowing owners of ebooks to ‘loan’ their ebook for a limited amount of time.   Of course that other person would need a Kindle AND have to be in range of a cell signal.  (Hummmmm – that leaves my brother out!)  Well, I don’t want to be a librarian – despite the fact that I worked several happy summers in libraries in my youth.  I want to give my books away.  I want, “Bye Bye!  Have a good life where ever you go!”  Not, “So long.  See you in a few weeks!”

No question, in the convenience race, ebooks win hands down.  My house if littered with piles of books – and piles of corrugate from Amazon that needs recycling. My hundreds of ebooks sit unnoticed in computer hard drive.  But I can send the print books to my brother, and if his wife wants to read them she can.  Then they go to their friends or to PBS for swapping!  Or they head to a book sale as a fund raiser.  I give books to a neighbor who lets other neighbors select what they wants and takes the rest to the Friends of Library sale.  That works for me.  But all of that is work.  I spends hours each week wrapping and shipping books, packing books to be given away, and re-stacking the ever growing mountain of to-be-read books.  All that clutter would disappear with ebooks.  But then, so would all the third, fourth and fifth readers the books have, readers I’ve never even met.  Readers who can’t afford used books, much less e-readers and ebooks.

All my own warm, gooey sentiment for print books aside,  it’s the owners of e-readers that resent the current pricing structure – one that publishers control, not Amazon or B&N.  Understandable.  That Amazon 4-for-3 promotion that has me buying books like crazy does NOT extend to ebooks!  And take a look at the price of ebooks for current hardcovers.  It’s not the $9.99 that everyone thought they would be.  Publishers see ebooks as a premium service where their profits are larger. “You can afford an e-reader, well be prepared to pay!”  And Amazon is now selling more ebooks than hardcovers.  As long as that happens, it’s unlikely prices will come down any time soon. Publishers want their cash cow alive, well, and all theirs!   Some authors are getting clever and doing end runs.  The Detachment by Barry Eisler was released 6 months early in ebook prior to the print copy – from a indie publisher.  Welcome to publishing’s new frontier, well known authors going indie.  Can you blame them?  The only ones raking in more money on ebook price gouging are the publishers, not the authors.  And it’s readers who get their pockets picked.

I can sit back and watch the whole war play out.  I don’t have a dog in this fight, so let ’em rip.  Amazon and the DOJ vs Apple and old line publishers.  The poor readers are forgotten.  Steaming about cost, and poor quality, they find themselves paying more than they ever thought for the privilege of convenience.  I read the Amazon reviews for a book and I am amazed at how many have blistering negatives not about the book content, but the ebook and pricing/quality issues!  That has got steam the authors.  The other side effect of this ‘luxury pricing’ attitude is the fact escalating ebook costs have cut deeply into my willingness to read novellas and short novels from small press pubs and new authors.  I’m a small scale user of ebooks, so I doubt I’m much missed, but I do try new authors all the time and I’m happy to promote the good ones here, on PBS and elsewhere.  Now, I’m reluctant to send the price of a discounted new print book for a novella or short novel in electronic format that I can’t pass on to friends.  I have to believe there are others out there like me.  Books are my one big vice, but even I have have my limits.  Plus ebooks are up against Amazon’s 4-for-3, PBS swaps, and used books, so they aren’t essential for my entertainment.   I’m good.  I don’t know for how long, but right now, I’m OK.  Let the ebook wars rage.  And may the consumer FINALLY win one!  Then I’ll buy an e-reader!  Maybe.

February 12, 2012

Recent Reads – A Mixed Bag of Brief Reviews

I’ve been hauling in deliveries from Amazon almost daily – like a true book addict looking for fix.  I have no defense, some authors are ‘must have’ even at hard cover prices, and many trade paperbacks would take forever to get through a book swapping site, then there’s the lure of the 4-for-3 promotion that extends to unreleased titles on pre-order.  What can I say, I’m just weak.

For the first time in awhile, I read some erotic romance.  With so many of the ebook authors moving from small press publishers to major print houses, I ended up trying 3 new to me authors at Siren.  Keep in mind, the current popularity of m/m, f/f, and BDSM books cuts way back on what I might read.  Not opposed to them and many good ones have m/m or BDSM elements, they just don’t have a lot of interest for me.  With what I did buy, the results were not encouraging.  In print, yet another anthology came up, meh!, another a cut average thanks to good wring – and there were two winners – Cipher by Moira Rogers and Jory Strong’s Inked Magic!  YEAH!!!!!   I had other winners too –  in the mystery category Boca Daze by Steven M. Forman, in the historical cozy category The Cocoa Conspiracy by Andrea Penrose, and in the noir Urban Fantasy category Aloha from Hell by Richard Kadrey.

First up are the Erotic Romance ebooks and print books:

  • Title:  Cowboy Commandos Seduce Their Woman (Wyoming Warriors 3)
  • Author: Paige Cameron
  • Type:  Contemporary erotic romance
  • Genre: ménage
  • My Grade: C (3.0*)
  • Rating:  NC-17
  • Length and price:  Short/ Category Novel – under 60,000+ $5.99
  • Where Available:  Available online at Siren
  • FTC Disclosure: purchased through an online publisher bookstore

I know, the title should have been a dead give away.  I bought it anyway.  Actually, it was the pick of the litter, even though the shopworn plot has one used so many times, by so many authors, it embodied trite.  Still, the characters had some personality and  for a short novel, it managed a beginning,  middle, and end.  The sex was OK, but not really pulse racing. (more…)

March 26, 2011

Short Reviews: New Release Paranormals, Romantic Suspense, Erotic Romance, Cozy Mystery

Talk about a disappointing group of books.  YEESH!  Not one really good one in the whole lot!

  • Title: Accidentally Catty
  • Author:  Dakota Cassidy
  • Type:  Humorous paranormal romance series
  • Genre:  A vet gets infected my a mountain lion that’s really a shifter and must deal with the paranormal reality
  • Sub-genre:  Normal human gets involved with vamps and shifters and an insane scientist
  • My Grade: C  (3.0*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 100,000+ $8.50-10 with list of $15.00
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)

March 11, 2011

Short Reviews: Paranormal, Erotic Romance, Mystery, Action Thriller

My tastes in reading range far and wide, but mostly, I just like a good read.  Some here were, some weren’t.  Consider this a snapshot of my TBR mountain.

  • Title: Under Wraps
  • Author:  Hannah Jayne
  • Type:  Humorous paranormal with an UF edge and a mystery
  • Genre:  A magic resistant human gets involved in investigating a serial killing with a handsome detective
  • Sub-genre:  Quirky blend of ordinary woman in a paranormal world who’d love to kick ass, but lacks the instincts and skills
  • My Grade: C-  (2.8*)
  • Rating:  PG-13
  • Length and price:  Full novel – about 80,000+ $6.99
  • Where Available:  Available at most bookstores
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)

January 10, 2011

eBooks: Three Recent Releases from Samhain

Well, I caught up on some ebook purchases from December and one new release this week in a series I really like, the Southern Arcana series by Moira Rogers, and really good and rather hot paranormal series that’s been a little uneven, but hit well on this entry.

  • Title: Deadlock (Southern Arcana Book #3)
  • Author:  Moira Rogers
  • Type:  Paranormal – shifters, witchcraft; Power struggles, family betrayal, and a second chance at love
  • Genre:  Werewolf society, internal political strife, involves the wrong person
  • Sub-genre:  An alpha werewolf is pushed to where he”ll risk all for change and progress
  • My Grade: B- (3.6*)
  • Rating:  PG-13 to NC-17
  • Length and price:  Full novel 90,000 words for $5.50 for ebook
  • Where Available:  Available online on the Samhain site
  • FTC Disclosure:  purchased from online bookstore (more…)
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